“We learned about life as children and it is necessary to change the way we intellectually view life in order to stop being the victim of the old tapes. By looking at, becoming conscious of, our attitudes, definitions, and perspectives, we can start discerning what works for us and what does not work. We can then start making choices about whether our intellectual view of life is serving us – or if it is setting us up to be victims because we are expecting life to be something which it is not.” – quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls
In the course of writing a chapter for an online book some years ago, I realized that though I talked a lot about the importance of emotional honesty in my writing, I probably had not given a lot of down to earth, easily understood examples of what the term means to me. I wrote the following for that online book as an example of one of the ways in which I learned about emotional honesty – and am adding this excerpt from that online book to this book.
It was focusing on the dynamic of expectations that was the key for me in starting to get emotionally honest with myself. Starting to understand the cause and effect relationship between my emotional reactions and my expectations was essential for me to start understanding why my relationship with life was so dysfunctional. I, of course, in my codependency, had swung between the extremes of feeling, and believing, that it was all my fault because of my shameful defective being – and being angry and resentful at other people, the system, something or someone external to my being.
The twelve step recovery application of the disease model in the treatment of alcoholism – the concept that I had been powerless over my past behaviors because I had a disease – helped me to take enough shame out of my perspective of myself to start seeing my life with a little bit of objectivity. The spiritual approach of the twelve step program – that there is a Power greater than myself that is on my side, The Force is with me – helped me to shift my intellectual paradigm enough to start to see life as something other than a test I could fail by doing it “wrong.” The definition of insanity that I heard in my first days of recovery – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results – caused me to start focusing on cause and effect.
It was the concept of powerlessness that led me to start becoming empowered to take responsibility for my life. Instead of viewing life through a perspective that was black and white – either I had to be perfect or I was shameful – I was able to start to see what my part had been in how painful and miserable my life experience had been. How I had some responsibility – how I was creating cause in my life that had negative consequences – but that it did not mean that there was something inherently wrong with me. I started seeing that my relationship with life was dysfunctional, was not working, and that I could take some action to change that relationship.
Insane Expectations – Road Rage
The specific area that opened me up to a new perspective on my insanity, was starting to understand what my part was in the road rage I was experiencing driving on the streets and freeways of Los Angeles. Looking at the cause and effect relationship between my expectations and the rage I was feeling at all the stupid blankety blank drivers in Southern California greatly accelerated my process of becoming emotionally honest with myself – and opening up my mind to a Spiritual Awakening, a paradigm shift in consciousness. (In that online book I use a longer quote from the article below – but since I included that article as an earlier chapter of this book, I will just use a short reference here.)
“I had to learn to be honest with myself about my expectations – so I could let go of the ones that were insane (like, everyone is going to drive the way I want them to), and own my choices – so I could take responsibility for how I was setting myself up to be a victim in order to change my patterns. Accept the things I cannot change – change the things I can.” – Serenity and Expectations – intimately interrelated
Expecting other drivers to drive the way I think they “should” is absolutely, incredibly insane. Talk about egotistical and arrogant. I, being an excellent driver myself (how many people do you know that don’t think they are excellent drivers?), knew how people should drive – I was right and anyone who didn’t drive the way I thought they “should” was wrong. I felt extremely, righteously justified in ranting and raving and cussing out other drivers – sometimes cutting them off and giving them the finger, while wishing I had a laser mounted on the roof of my car so that I could just vaporize them. Luckily, this was in the days before people started shooting each other on the Freeways, or I may not have ever made it into recovery. Actually, this was something I continued to do into my first few years of recovery.
Detaching enough to look with some objectivity at how I was relating to driving a car in L. A., allowed me to awaken to how insane it was to allow my emotions to be dictated by such a ridiculous expectation. Then I was also able to look at my emotional reactions and get in touch with how dishonest I was being emotionally in relationship to other drivers.
What I came to understand about my emotional experience of driving, was that one of two things was happening. One was, that other drivers were scaring me. The way they were driving – either too slow or too fast, cutting me off, swerving back and forth between lanes, etc. – was causing an actual fear of survival reaction. That kind of primal human emotional response that is generated by a sudden loud noise or any perception of a threat of physical harm.
When something scared me, and I reacted to the fear with anger – that was emotionally dishonest. (Getting angry when we are scared is a human survival mechanism – one that has caused a lot of violence in the history of humanity.) I wasn’t owning my true feelings. In reaction to the jolt of fear energy that shot through me, I became the angry, self righteous victim of the other drivers “idiocy.” The reality that this happened almost every time I drove on the freeway, just proved to me how many idiots there were out there – because I was relating to the experience from a victim perspective. It was impossible for me to have any serenity because I was giving other drivers the power to throw me into anger – which often triggered the suppressed rage I was carrying at how unfair, unjust, and painful life was.
Once I started to look at what my part was in those emotional reactions, at how I was setting myself up with my expectations, then I could start to take responsibility for changing that which I have the power to change. I learned to accept the thing I cannot change – other drivers – and change the thing I can, my attitude towards other drivers. It was when I realized that this anger was emotionally dishonest, and what my part in empowering that emotional reaction was, that I was able to start taking back the power over my feelings that I was giving to those “idiots.”
After that, when something another driver did scared me, I would own the fear. I would say out loud, “That scared me.” Then I would say a prayer for the other driver. I would ask that the other driver be helped to become happy, joyous, and free (knowing that the process of them opening up to that possibility would involve having their denial ripped away so they were not so unconscious – a prayer both Spiritually aligned and humanly selfish 😉 – and would offer up the incident as an amends for one of the thousands of times I had done something while driving that scared other drivers.
(During my years pursuing an acting career in Hollywood – the role of suffering artist being perfect for both my alcoholism / addiction and my codependent martyrdom – I lived out the romantic vision of the struggling actor by making my living by waiting tables and parking cars and driving a taxi. Driving a cab for several years – often stoned – really built up the number of driving amends I owe. Seeing those incidents as Karmic – what goes around comes around – also played a part in helping me to stop buying into the belief I was being unfairly victimized on the freeway.)
The second thing that I realized was happening, had to do with fear also. This was the fear that caused me to try to control life. That fear caused me to be very self obsessed. I was getting angry because those people were getting in my way. The immature, self centered perspective of life which was dictating my relationship with life, caused me to think and act as if I was the only person who was important. I reacted out of an ego selfishness that told me these idiots should get out of my way because I had places to go and things to do that were much more important than anything they were doing.
This ego driven, self centered fear was directly related – both as cause and effect – to my unconsciousness, my inability to be present in the moment. I was always caught up in the past or the future, and related to driving in traffic as a great inconvenience that was slowing me down. (Which, also, sometimes led to me driving too fast and cutting between lanes.)
The society I grew up in taught me that reaching the destination was what I should focus upon, was the thing that was vitally important. I was always striving to reach the destination where I would be fixed, where I would be respected and loved. When I reached that destination (college degree, fame and fortune, the right relationship, the Academy Award, etc.) then I would live “happily ever after.”
I was forever in pursuit – either of the illusive “happily ever after,” or for something to distract me from, or kill the pain of, feeling defective because I had not already reached the destination. I was always bouncing between the extremes: trying to figure out how to control my life, how to do the “right” things, to get “there” – or working on going unconscious (with alcohol, drugs, obsession, rumination, food, whatever) to escape the pain of being “here.” Being “here,” being present in the moment in my own skin, was too painful because I had a dysfunctional relationship with my own emotions – and was carrying a ton of suppressed grief energy.
And it was so painful emotionally because the subconscious intellectual paradigm that was dictating my relationship with self and life, was insane, delusional, and dysfunctional. I could never relax and enjoy life (without some chemical help, either from a substance or from an illusion/fantasy about love or success that would affect my brain chemistry) because wherever my life was at that point – according to the critical parent voice in my head – was not good enough and was my fault, or their fault. I was always feeling like a victim.
I needed to start letting go of that destination programming and start learning how to be in the moment. To actually be present and conscious while driving my car. (What a concept!) To start relating to driving as being a perfect part of my journey, a classroom – a wonderful arena for Spiritual growth.
When the rush hour traffic was disrupting my plans of getting someplace by a certain time, I would practice my Spiritual program. I would take some deep breaths to get into, and conscious of, my body. Then I would thank the Universe for this wonderful opportunity to practice patience and acceptance. I would take some steps to let go of the urgency I felt – the inner child’s fear of doing it “wrong,” the feeling that the world would come to an end if things did not go the way I had planned them. I would remind myself that life was a journey, and that this moment was a perfect part of that journey. I would talk to my inner children and tell them it was okay – that if I was going to be late, that was a perfect part of God’s plan. I would let go of my picture of how I thought things have to unfold for me to be okay. I would affirm that I am Unconditionally Loved and am being guided on my journey.
I would look around me, to see if there was something the Goddess wanted me to see – and that perhaps, was the reason I was stuck in traffic. I would remind myself that it was possible that this delay was really a wonderful gift. That perhaps because I was being delayed: I would not be in a traffic accident later that day: or the timing would be perfect for me to run into someone I needed to see, that without the delay I would have missed; or something to that effect.
I would remind myself that I am not in control of life, I am not writing the script, so:
I need to surrender the illusion that I am in control;
remember that I have a Loving Higher Power who is in control;
and be willing to accept reality as it was being presented to me, and take whatever action I could to make the best of the situation – to align with God’s will so I could flow with the Universal plan. (Work steps 1, 2, & 3.)
That action may just be to relax, be in the moment, and do some prayer and meditation (talk and listen to The Great Spirit – which can certainly include expressing my irritation for the delay.) The action may be to figure out an alternate route, get off the freeway at the next opportunity and take surface streets – but not with that feeling of life and death urgency, rather with sense of adventure. “This is an interesting twist, let’s see how this unfolds.”
I started to learn to take responsibility for my feelings – to own the things I have some control over. Learning how to be emotionally honest with myself allowed me to start becoming empowered to take responsibility for my life and stop empowering insane expectations. By focusing on letting go of the belief in victimization that was caused by my attitudes and perspectives – the mental level of my being – I could greatly decrease the feelings of victimization, the amount of emotional energy that was being generated on an emotional level. I still had some feelings of being victimized, but I could be nurturing and Loving in relationship to those feelings – and set some Loving boundaries with my inner children who were reacting out of the immediate gratification urgency of a child. (I am just going to die if I don’t get what I want!)
I learned to develop an observer self – a mature, recovering adult with a Spiritual perspective – that could tell the critical parent voice to shut up with all the shame and fear messages, and assure my inner children that everything was going to be okay because there is a Higher Power in charge of my life.
(This an excerpt from my online book Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life – which I am going to start getting ready to publish after I publish this Book 1)” – Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light Book 1 Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing Chapter 14 Emotional honesty
I actually did not start to prepare Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life for publication after finishing Book 1 but went onto two other books. I will eventually publish Book 2 – but for now it is only available in the subscription area of my site called Dancing in Light A subscription to that area of the site is currently for sale on this page;
Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light Book 1 Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing
I am in the process of publishing my eBooks through Smashwords which will allow me to make them available through many more outlets, including: Apple iBooks, Kobo, Scribd, Oyster, the Diesel eBook Store, Aldiko. Hopefully I will be able to figure out the formating and get my old reluctant computer to comply enough to get that done in the next week or so.