““We need to start observing ourselves and stop judging ourselves. Any time we judge and shame ourselves, we are feeding back into the disease, we are jumping back into the squirrel cage.” quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls
The first requirement in any healthy problem solving situation is awareness that a problem exists. Until there is awareness that a condition exists which is causing some adverse effect, no positive, proactive action can be taken to change the situation for the better. (I am referring to “healthy” problem solving and “positive, proactive” action as opposed to unconscious, negative, reactive action – such as blaming, scapegoating, focusing on symptoms instead of cause, killing the messenger, etc.)
This is true in any dynamic involving human beings – personal inter- or intra-action, family, company, society, etc. The tools and techniques, method and process, laid out in this book are based upon principles of dynamic human interaction which could be applied to any level of human interaction – up to and including international. The “problems” in any system involving human interaction are merely reflections of dysfunction in the internal human process. The “problems” are the result of some part of the dynamic that is not working – that is dysfunctional – in furthering the goals, meeting the needs, of the system as a whole. This is true rather the system involved is an individual human being or a society.
The individual human being is a fully contained system involving multiple interrelationships within multiple levels. This is easy to see, and understand, when looking at the physical level. The interrelationship of the organs to each other, to the blood, to the skin, to the nervous system, etc. – is a dance of grand, and compelling, complexity.
Just as grand, and compelling, is the complexity of the dance of interrelationship between the mental, emotional, and spiritual components/levels that dynamically interact to form the make up of the individual being – the persona, personality, consciousness, of the self. The more awareness is acquired about the different levels of the self, and the interrelationships between those levels, the easier it becomes to diagnose the dysfunctional interaction dynamics.
As I stated, the first requirement in any healthy problem solving situation is awareness that a problem exists. It is only through detaching from the unconscious reactive condition of codependency that we can stop seeing ourselves from the critical parent / judge / prosecuting attorney perspective we learned in childhood and start to see our self, life, and other people with more clarity. Detachment is technique that fosters awareness.
Detach 1. To unfasten and make separate; disconnect; disunite.
Detachment 1. A detaching; separation.
(New Illustrated Webster’s Dictionary)
“The goal of this dance of Recovery is integration and balance. That means celebrating being a tree while also glorying in being a part of the forest. Recovery is a process of becoming conscious of our individual wholeness and our ONENESS with all.”
The healing process is full of paradox and irony on multiple levels. One of those paradoxes is that in order to get in touch with our ONENESS with everything, we must first be able to define our self as separate from others. And in order to become an integrated whole being, we must first separate and own all of the different parts of our self within. As long as we don’t have clear boundaries between our self and others, we cannot know where we end and someone else starts – we cannot get clear on what is our stuff and what is theirs. As long as we don’t have clear boundaries within ourselves, we are set up to be the victim of our own thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
Detachment is a vital technique in starting to see our self and others more clearly.
Most people who have any experience with twelve step programs will associate the term ‘detachment’ with Al-Anon. In Al-Anon terms detachment means to let go of believing that one has the power to make an alcoholic drink – or not drink. To stop taking an alcoholics behavior personally. It means to let go of feeling responsible for another persons feelings and behavior.
Detaching from feeling responsible for the feelings and behavior of other people is one of the initial stages of any codependency recovery. We learned in childhood that we had the power to make our parents happy or sad, angry or scared. We experienced painful consequences when our behavior was not what the adults around us considered acceptable. Some of us came from families where being a human child was not acceptable behavior. Some of us came from families afflicted with alcoholism or mental illness, in which case the definition of acceptable behavior varied wildly from one day to the next. Some of us came from families where as children we were allowed to have the power and be in control – which is terrifying and abusive to a child. Some of us came from families where no one in the family had permission to be human. None of these environments taught us how to relate to self and life in a healthy way.
We grew up getting the message that we were responsible for other people feelings and behavior. And we were taught to give other people or outside agencies power over how we felt about ourselves. We learned to do life backwards.
“I spent most of my life doing the Serenity prayer backwards, that is, trying to change the external things over which I had no control – other people and life events mostly – and taking no responsibility (except shaming and blaming myself) for my own internal process – over which I can have some degree of control. Having some control is not a bad thing; trying to control something or somebody over which I have no control is what is dysfunctional. It was very important for me to start learning how to recognize the boundaries of where I ended and other people began, and to start realizing that I can have some control over my internal process in ways that are not shaming and judgmental – that I can stop being the victim of myself.
I spent most of my life being the victim of my own thoughts, my own emotions, my own behaviors. I was consistently picking untrustworthy people to trust and unavailable people to love. I could not trust my own emotions because I was incapable of being honest with myself emotionally – which made me incapable of Truly being honest on any level.
I had to become willing and open and honest enough to start becoming conscious of the dysfunctional attitudes, the dysfunctional perspectives. I had to become willing to learn discernment in order to make choices about the changes I needed to make in my perspectives – especially my perspective on my own emotional process.”
As I talk about in the last chapter, developing a detached objective observer / witness perspective is vital to changing our perspective of ourselves enough to start seeing ourselves with some clarity – instead of looking through the shame filter of the disease programming. Both developing a detached observer perspective and starting to see our self/Self as separate from the disease, are vital components in learning to practice discernment – the “wisdom to know the difference” between the things we have the power to change and the things we do not have the power to change.
“For anyone who is not familiar with the Serenity Prayer, here is the commonly accepted version of it – followed by my own personal adapted version.
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
(The Serenity Prayer is generally thought to have been written by Reinhold Niebuhr)
God / Goddess / Great Spirit, please help me to access:
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (life, other people),
the courage and willingness to change the things I can (me, my own attitudes and behaviors),
and the wisdom and clarity to know the difference.
This is such a powerful, simple, and functional formula for living life that references to it comes up in my writing quite often.” – Discernment – The Wisdom to Know the Difference in Serenity Prayer
Codependency is a condition that causes us to live the Serenity Prayer backwards. The Serenity Prayer is, I believe, a mystical formula for how to do life successfully. Recovery is learning to apply the Serenity Prayer in our lives so that we can learn to live life in a way that works – in a way that aligns with how life really works. Learning to live the Serenity Prayer in our life is what will help us learn how to be our own best friend instead of always feeling like a victim of our self, feeling like our own worst enemy.
I am going to include here a short exercise on detachment that I wrote some years ago for my Journal.
One way to start developing the observer self, the witness, is to start paying attention to your own body language.
How are you standing? How are you sitting? What gestures are you making? Are your arms crossed in a defensive position? Are you making eye contact with the person you are talking to?
The dynamic of interactions, the process of what is happening, is just as important – if not sometimes more important – than the content of what is being said. To quote the old song: “Games people play now, every night and every day now, Never saying what they mean, never meaning what they say.” That is how codependence works. We were taught to be dishonest, we were trained and traumatized into keeping up appearances and hiding what was really going on inside of us. So was everyone else.
In a group, pay attention to the dynamic. Who is trying to get the attention? Who is hanging back being invisible? Who interrupts? Who changes the subject when they are uncomfortable? What is their body language? Who feels a need to be in control?
Starting to really pay attention to the dynamics of interactions is a very important part of learning to listen. Listening in communications is about much more than just hearing what is being said. Does what a person is saying match their body language? Is someone talking just to hear themselves talk? Are they paying any attention to what is going on with me? Does it seem like they even care if I am listening?
There are people who are always humming or whistling or singing – that is not because they are happy, it is because they can not stand silence. They can’t stand silence because it leaves them alone with them self – so they talk or whistle or have the television on or have music playing in order to not be alone in the silence.
I have learned to really cherish silence. One of the ways that I know whether or not someone is a safe person for me to be emotionally intimate with is if they are comfortable with silence. If someone is not comfortable with silence it tells me that they have not yet learned to listen fully. Someone who does not know how to listen is not someone I am going to choose to be emotionally intimate with.
Silence can really be golden. In the silence of the moment is where it is easiest to tune into ourselves, and others, emotionally.
Pay attention in the moment. You can tell if someone is listening to you by watching their eyes. “If they are not listening then why am I talking?” – is a good question to start asking ourselves.
It is very important to start paying attention and listening to ourselves. Early in my recovery, I discovered that a lot of the time I was telling stories. Stories that were part of my self image, part of the way I wanted to portray myself. They were stories that had grown over the years, that I had embellished to make more interesting – and they didn’t have much to do with who I was now. They were part of my codependent defense system.
Once I started observing myself, I could start becoming aware in the moment, could start Truly being present for the first time in my life.
I would suddenly become aware of the fact that I was telling an old story and the other person wasn’t really listening – so I would stop myself.
I would become aware that I wasn’t really listening to what the other person was saying – I was just waiting for them to pause long enough for me to jump in with my story.
I would actually catch myself in a 12 step meeting speaking to a room of 150 people and stop and say “No, you know what, that is bull shit. That is not what is really happening. What is really happening is I am scared,” or whatever.
The more we get aware of ourselves the more we can start getting honest with ourselves. The principle that is the foundation of recovery, that is necessary for personal growth and healing of our codependence, is self honesty. We need to start getting honest with ourselves – to start pealing away the layers of denial that we had to adapt to survive.
The challenge is to have compassion for ourselves. The disease will try to get us to judge ourselves for the awareness we are gaining. The more we can develop a little detachment, a witness self that can have some compassion, the more we can start getting to know who we really are – with Love, instead of allowing the critical parent/disease voice to shame and beat us up for our self discovery.
Think of the witness as a scientific observer studying the behavior of a fascinating species. Observe yourself and others from a place of impartial neutrality – “Oh, isn’t that interesting the way that person started to attack me when I said that.” With a little detachment we can start to have choices about how to respond instead of reacting. When we react by going on the defensive and taking other peoples behavior personally than we are off and running in the soap opera – playing out our old roles, repeating our patterns.
That will happen often as we learn to observe ourselves – it is important to have compassion for ourselves in retrospect. To look back on something that just happened and say “Well, I certainly reacted there. What was the dynamic that took place?” And do a little detective work. That’s when we start realizing things like: when the person wagged their finger at me it felt like being lectured by Dad; the tone of voice the person was using was the same kind of condescending tone Mom used to use; and such things as that. That is the gold. Those are the keys to changing our behaviors – figuring our what is triggering our reactions. It is good news to get in touch with these things – not something to judge and shame ourselves for.
Being in the observer also helps us to start watching our own thoughts. Start paying attention to your thought patterns. Watch for any “should”s, “have to”s, “ought to”s, – for any black and white perspective: “always”, “never” – these are sure signs the disease is talking to us. And of course, any name calling – stupid, loser, fool, idiot, etc., – is not coming from the Spirit, it is coming from the critical parent.
Someone once told me that I had 7 seconds to take back a negative thought or statement before it went out into the Universe. Whether there is any Metaphysical Truth in that or not, it was very useful for me to help me start paying attention to what I was saying and thinking. Instead of having a negative reactive thought – and then judging myself for the thought, I started saying “Cancel! Cancel!” I started trying to catch those thoughts and statements and change them from negative to positive. I would catch myself calling myself stupid and change it to silly. (I couldn’t go from calling myself stupid to calling myself a Magnificent Spiritual Being in one jump – it took little steps to change the programming.)
Start acting as if you have 7 seconds to recall negative thoughts or statements and see if it doesn’t help you start being more self aware, more detached. Becoming detached is vitally important in increasing self awareness. Self awareness is necessary for self honesty. Self honesty is the foundation that recovery is based upon.
Start paying attention to your thoughts, your body language, your communication, your defensive reactions – and start doing it from at least a neutral observer place so that you can start taking the shame and judgment out of your internal process by not giving power to the disease, by telling the critical parent voice to shut up.
That is the way to start being Loving to our self.” – Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light Book 1 Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing Chapter 6 Detachment
Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light Book 1 Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing is available through Joy2MeU.com (personally autographed copy) or through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
March 15, 2015 – Joy to You & Me Enterprises & Robert Burney are very proud and happy to announce the production of an Audiobook of Robert Burney’s Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light Book 1: Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing (aka A Formula for Spiritual Integration and Emotional Balance) available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.
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