I want to clarify and expand on the response I wrote in 1998 to reflect what I reiterate in so much of my writing, that recovery is not black and white – there are multiple levels to everything, including our motives.
“Codependence is a disease of reversed focus – it is about focusing outside of ourselves for self-definition and self-worth. That sets us up to be a victim. We have worth because we are Spiritual Beings not because of how much money or success we have – or how we look or how smart we are. When self-worth is determined by looking outside it means we have to look down on someone else in order to feel good about ourselves – this is the cause of bigotry, racism, class structure, and Jerry Springer.
The goal is to focus on who we really are – get in touch with the Light and Love within us and then radiate that outward. I think that is what Mother Theresa did. I can’t know for sure because I never met her, and it can be difficult to tell looking from the outside where a person’s focus is. Mother Theresa could have been a raging codependent who was doing good on the outside in order to feel good about herself – or she could have been being True to her Self by accessing the Love and Light within and reflecting it outward. Either way the effect was that she did some great things – the difference would have been how she felt about herself at the deepest levels of her being – because it does not make any real difference how much validation we get from outside if we are not Loving ourselves. If I did not start working on knowing that I had worth as a Spiritual Being – that there is a Higher Power that Loves me – it would never have made any real difference how many people told me I was wonderful.” – The codependency movement is NOT ruining marriages! Chapter 1
I believe that Mother Teresa probably accessed the Truth within her and started focusing on that – which led her to do for others. What is typical of a Spiritual Path in the beginning of awakening to consciousness, is that maybe 10% of the levels of our motives are focused on Higher Truth – our intuitive guidance – and 90% about stopping the pain. As I said in an early chapter we don’t just wake up one morning and say, “Hey, I think it would be fun to do some emotional healing today.” We start our healing process because we are in pain.
As we commit to following our Spiritual Path wherever it leads – to our own Higher Self being True – that percentage increases over time because having the faith to commit to following a Spiritual Path produces miracles which increase faith. If Mother Teresa was a Truly Enlightened being, maybe by the end of her life her focus was 90% on serving her Soul, the Higher Truth she had accessed through her inner channel – and only 10% of the levels involved in her motives still coming out of damaged human ego self, out of trying to earn Love, to prove worth.
I am just kind of pulling those percentages out of thin air, in order to try to make a point that recovery is about progress not perfection. We make gradual progress in becoming more conscious and focusing on higher purpose rather than the baser / humanly selfish levels. We were never doing things completely out of ego selfishness, we just had to lie to ourselves about it because we were taught it was shameful. It is not a black and white dynamic. Our motives are never just codependent – we do care. It was because we were taught that it is shameful to be selfish that we had to learn to be dishonest with ourselves. It is because we are not owning all the levels of our motives – including the selfish, self serving ones – that we are not seeing ourselves clearly. Codependency in relationships starts with our relationship with our self. It is our relationship with ourselves that is dysfunctional – which causes us to be dishonest and manipulative with others.
When I was being nice to people while still completely unconscious to my disease, it was in part because I am a good person, a nice person – a being with a True heart connection. But I was blinded to my True Self by all the dysfunctional messages I had gotten in childhood. Those messages were both directly stated – by my parents and teachers, by the Spiritually abusive lies of a shame-based religion, by other people, including other children – and indirect from: the role modeling of the adults in my life; from fairy tales, books, movies, songs, etc.; from the interpretations of my undeveloped mind based upon how it felt to be a human child. I suffered emotional trauma because of the behavior of the wounded human beings around me. So my perspective of myself – as a physical, emotional, spiritual being – was distorted and warped. I could not see myself clearly – so could not see life and other people clearly.
So, I was doing nice things for other people in part because of who I Truly am – but I had to lie to myself and tell myself that the only reason I was doing those things was because I was a nice person. I was dishonest with myself about the fact that I had expectations of getting something in return – that I was in part at least, being manipulative. That dishonesty led me to feeling like a victim of other people not doing what I wanted them to. (see Serenity and Expectations.)
It was this dishonesty with self that kept me being a victim, a negative co-creator in my life. When I got into recovery is when I started to make a transition to being a positive co-creator in my life.
unhealthy selfish vs healthy selfish
“The Twelve Step Recovery process is so successful because it provides a formula for integrating different levels. It is by recognizing that we are powerless to control our life experiences out of ego-self that we can access the power out of True Self, Spiritual Self. By surrendering the illusion of ego control we can reconnect with our Higher Selves. Selfishness out of ego-self is destroying the planet. Selfishness out of Spiritual Self is what will save the planet.
It is because there is more than one level of reality that life is paradoxical in nature. What is True and positive on one level – selfishness out of Spiritual Self, can be negative on another level – selfishness out of ego-self. What a caterpillar calls the end of the world, God calls a butterfly.
Humans have always had expressions that describe the paradoxical nature of the life experience. Every ending is a beginning. Every cloud does have a silver lining. For every door that closes, another door does open. It is always darkest before the dawn. Every obstacle is a gift, every problem is an opportunity for growth.”
(Quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls)
One of the messages that most of us got in childhood growing up in a codependent society was that it was bad to be selfish. We all have within us an archetypal inner child that is completely self centered and wants immediate gratification. What I call the king/queen baby. “I want what I want and I want it now.” It comes in the stage of early childhood development where we are developing a sense of individual identity. A couple of the big words at that age are “no” and “mine.”
Because the societies we grew up in were stuck in a polarized view of life, we got the message that selfishness was wrong, bad – and that unselfishness was good. Since one of a child’s jobs is to manipulate his/her environment to survive, we learn to manipulate to get what we wanted. Since we got the message that it was not OK to be emotionally honest – both from direct and indirect messages, and from the role modeling of the emotionally dishonest adults in our life – we learned to be emotionally dishonest with ourselves in order to cover up our “shameful” selfishness.
All of us are human, and – as I talked about in my January 2002 Update – have levels of motivations that are selfish and self serving on a human level.
“Awakening to my responsibility as a co-creator of my life so that I could align with the process of reprogramming my ego defense, was made possible by the dawning realization that I wasn’t the only one suffering in an emotional hell – that maybe my reality was not being caused by some inherent defect in my being. That maybe, just maybe, being human wasn’t shameful – and that being imperfect and selfish was a natural, normal part of being human.
I need to keep reminding myself of the fundamental motives – of my need to focus on me and my process, remember I am not doing something for you – so that I can keep aligned with the selfishness of Spiritual Self that is at the heart of the recovery process. (One of my phone clients suggested that I coin a new word to get away from the negative connotations of selfish – Soulfish, was her suggestion.;-)
In my understanding, the Truth that resonates in the phrase “To thine own Self be True” is about being True to Spiritual Self – the part of me that Knows I am connected to everyone and everything in LOVE – in order to escape the tyranny of unconsciously reacting out of wounded, dysfunctionally programmed ego self. Ego self is reacting to programming that is trying to keep us separate from others so they do not find out how shameful we are. (If you are not clear on what I am talking about here see Powerlessness & Empowerment – why the 12 steps work.)” – January 2002 Update Newsletter
Being honest with our self about selfishness out of damaged ego self – owning it, learning to accept it without shame and judgment – is what allows us to start taking power away from it so that we are not letting it dictate and define our life today. Denying that we have base ego centered motives is part of the dishonesty of codependency – is a reaction to toxic shame about being human. One form of codependency is deluding ourselves into thinking that we are doing things for other people just out of the kindness of our hearts and are not expecting any payoff for what we are doing – it is emotionally and intellectually dishonest.
“In order to get clear on how to connect to others in a healthy way we must first realize and define how we are separate from others. On the level of our physical being, our ego-self, we are separate and need to own that before we can open up to consciously experiencing how we are connected to everyone and everything. We need to see our relationship with ourselves clearly in order to see our relationships to others clearly.
One of the things that I had to get clear on in order to start learning who I am was selfishness. I had been taught that it was bad to be selfish and that I should do things for others. I learned to steal energy from others through what I was telling myself were unselfish acts. I was just being a “nice guy” and did not expect anything in return – Bull. I always had expectations – I just was not being honest with myself about them – because I had been trained and conditioned in childhood to be dishonest with myself emotionally and intellectually.
I had to come to a realization that there is no such thing as an unselfish act. If I rescue a stranger from a burning car wreck, it does not have anything to do with the stranger – it has to do with my relationship with myself. I believe that every thing a human being does has a pay off – and it was a very important part of my growth process to start looking for those pay offs. I had to learn to get honest with myself and stop buying into the illusion that anything I did was for some one else. I had to stop looking outside for the energy boost I got from doing something nice so that I could own that the energy boost came internally.
The power / energy / juice that we need comes from within – not from outside. People, places, and things can sometimes help us to access the power that is within us – but they are not the source of that power. The source is within!” – The True Nature of Love, Part 4 – Energetic Clarity
We access the Source Energy, are connected to our Higher Power, internally – through our inner channel. The outer / external dependence, the reversed focus of codependency, causes us to think that treating another person with respect and kindness earns us worth – proves to our self and others that we have worth. This is reversed and dysfunctional in my opinion.
What I believe is healthy and functional is owning that we have worth as Magnificent Spiritual Beings having a human experience – and then we can see and honor other people because they are also Magnificent Spiritual Beings who have been wounded by this human experience. It is by consciously owning that we have worth inherently – that we are children of God / The Goddess, part of The Great Spirit, extensions of The Universal Force – that we start treating others with respect and kindness because they are also manifestations of the Divine.
And Loving other wounded humans, treating them with respect and kindness, includes setting boundaries with them if their behavior is abusive. We can Love their being while protecting our self from their behavior. Allowing another human being to treat us with disrespect out of their unconsciousness is not Loving – it is enabling them to stay unconscious. We demonstrate respect for their Spiritual Self by respecting our inherent worth (which comes from the same place their inherent worth comes from) enough to set boundaries with them about their codependent behavior.
“True self-worth does not come from looking down on anyone or anything. True self-worth comes from awakening to our connection to everyone and everything.
The Truth is that we are like snowflakes: Each individual is unique and different and special and we are all made from the same thing. We are all cut from the same cloth. We are all part of the Eternal ONENESS that is the Great Spirit.
When we start looking within and celebrating the Truth of who we Truly are, then we can celebrate our unique differences instead of judging them out of fear.”
If I do something nice for another person, the payoff is that I feel good about myself because I am acting out of my higher nature, my True Self – it helps me tune into higher vibrational frequencies and thus get an internal energy boost. When we are in the moment tuned into higher vibrational transcendent emotional energy is when we feel like our spirit is soaring – is when we are accessing Love and Joy energy from the Source. Treating another being with respect and dignity is an affirmation of my inherent worth, and my connection to them – and helps me to plug into higher vibrational frequencies, recharge my spiritual batteries as it were. It is also, often, a way to settle Karma – which is another payoff that serves selfish motives on a higher level.
Treating another kindly out of codependence, in order to prove to myself I have worth, is a reaction to the judgments and shame I feel about myself – and often I am judging the other person as being less than me because I am acting better than them. If I delude myself into thinking I am being nice to them just for their sake, then I will feel like a victim if they are not nice in return.
“We were taught to be caretakers instead of care-givers. That is, to take our self-definition – our ego-strength – from what we do for others, rather than giving to others out of our Self as an expression of Love.
This is a matter of focus: Codependence is a disease of reversed focus. If you are taking your self-worth from what you are doing for others, you are going to end up being the victim, because they are not going to do what you want them to do in return. (“After all that I’ve done for you!”)
If you are giving as an expression of self-worth then you do not need anything in return – and that is when you really get the gifts.
Giving should be an expression of the Love we have accessed within – not a way of gaining ego-strength by helping people whom we are judging to be less than us.”
A key difference between healthy behavior and codependent behavior – as I talk about in my article about setting boundaries (Setting Personal Boundaries) – is that we let go of the outcome. If I am setting a boundary to try to get a certain outcome – that is being controlling and manipulative. If I am nice to another person to get something in return without owning my selfish motive – that is codependent. I set a boundary to protect myself and let go of the outcome. I treat people with dignity and respect because it feels good. I am being True to my Self by doing so – and I let go of taking how they treat me in return personally. (This means not allowing the external to define us – rather it is positive or negative. If they affirm and validate me, that does not prove my worth – just as, if they abandon and abuse me that does not prove my defectiveness.)
And again, this is a relative process. If I set a boundary, of course I may want a certain outcome – that is human – but I let go of thinking that I need that outcome to be okay. In my recovery I have learned to set a boundary because it is the kind thing, the Loving thing, to do for me – and I am willing to accept the outcome that is presented, which often includes owning my sadness that I didn’t get what I wanted. Often in my interactions with other people I want something in return, that is natural and normal – the point is to be direct and honest about it, not indirect and manipulative.
Part of the paradox and irony of recovery is that the more we let go of trying to get external validation to prove our worth, the more external validation we receive. As long as we think we need that external validation to prove our worth, it won’t work to meet our needs – as I said in Chapter 4 when I was talking about ego self image.
“I could not truly accept / take in / own the external validation because I thought I was living a lie. I thought I was a fraud and was fooling you when you liked me.” – Chapter 4: False Self Image
There is nothing wrong with external validation – it is codependent to buy into the illusion that we need that external validation to prove our worth. This is something I talked about in my Update for October 2000 where I tried to explain how we achieve some balance between different levels:
“In case you are wondering about whether – in the instances above – I was giving too much power to outside validation, I thought I would talk about that a bit. There is nothing wrong with enjoying validation, affirmation, and recognition from other people or outside sources. It is if we define ourselves by that outer validation, and think we have to have it to be OK, that we are being codependent. It is when we jump through hoops in an attempt to get that validation from people that we are being manipulative and dishonest – which is, of course, what many of us learned to do in childhood.
As with all aspects of codependence recovery – it is a question of balance. Life and recovery occur in the gray area between black and white. What we are trying to do is maintain some kind of sense of balance in relationship to this dance we are doing. That involves, as I tried to communicate in the later articles in the Recovery Process for Inner Child Healing series I just finished, being conscious of multiple levels simultaneously – or as close to simultaneously as possible. And being able to have internal boundaries so that I am choosing how I respond rather than reacting out of the old programming.
Example: There have been instances, over the years, where I have had the opportunity to be in close proximity to someone that had been a client of mine while they were talking to someone else. These opportunities have given me a chance to hear the former client use words in describing some aspect of the recovery process – that were the same words I had said to them – as if it were a revelation they had arrived at themselves. This gives most of me a great deal of satisfaction because I have worked hard over the years to find the best ways of helping people discover the Truth within them in ways that help them not feel dependent on me. But at the same time, my ego reacts in a negative way saying “hey wait a minute, I told you that.”
In my recovery, I have gradually over the years been able to turn down the voices coming from the ego/from the wounded inner child places/from the disease – and turn up the volume of the small quiet voice of the Spirit. I have learned how to realign myself with the Spirit instead of giving so much power to the disease – the old wounds and old tapes, the damaged ego. But if I were to maintain to myself or to you that I never have those reactions, that would be denial.
. . . . . . . This is a relative process. Progress not perfection. We can gradually increase the percentage of the time our conscious awareness, our attitudes and mental focus, are aligned with recovery instead of with the disease. We do not get to wipe out the old ways of thinking and emotional reactions completely – what we do is gradually disempower them.” – Joy2MeU Update – 10-20-2000
As I say in the quote from 1998, it can be hard telling where a person’s focus is while looking from the outside. It is what is going on within, in our relationship with ourselves, that determines rather our motives are more about being healthy than about reacting codependently. As we become more conscious of, more aligned with, Spiritual Self, we start owning our inherent worth more and looking outside for validation less.
That is when we can start to Truly Love our neighbor as our Self – and stop letting the fear and shame programming of ego self dictate how we see, and relate to, both our self and other wounded humans / Magnificent Spiritual Beings. It was vital for me to start getting honest with myself about my selfish motives so that I could take power away from the levels that were in reaction to my damaged ego programming. As long as I was denying my human selfishness out of a false sense of shame, I was doomed to keep myself trapped on the codependent merry-go-round – looking outside for the solution to a conflict that exists within.
Looking externally to try to heal my wounded soul is what caused me to be trapped in a self perpetuating squirrel cage of self defeating behavior. The dynamics of codependency – the fact that I was energetically drawn to people who felt familiar, who resonated emotionally with what I experienced with my parents growing up – dictated that I was attracted to people who would not treat me with kindness and respect in return, thus reinforcing the toxic shame, the feeling that there is something wrong with me.
“In our disease defense system we build up huge walls to protect ourselves and then – as soon as we meet someone who will help us to repeat our patterns of abuse, abandonment, betrayal, and/or deprivation – we lower the drawbridge and invite them in. We, in our Codependence, have radar systems which cause us to be attracted to, and attract to us, the people, who for us personally, are exactly the most untrustworthy (or unavailable or smothering or abusive or whatever we need to repeat our patterns) individuals – exactly the ones who will “push our buttons.”
This happens because those people feel familiar. Unfortunately in childhood the people whom we trusted the most – were the most familiar – hurt us the most. So the effect is that we keep repeating our patterns and being given the reminder that it is not safe to trust ourselves or other people
Once we begin healing we can see that the Truth is that it is not safe to trust as long as we are reacting out of the emotional wounds and attitudes of our childhoods. Once we start Recovering, then we can begin to see that on a Spiritual level these repeating behavior patterns are opportunities to heal the childhood wounds.
The process of Recovery teaches us how to take down the walls and protect ourselves in healthy ways – by learning what healthy boundaries are, how to set them, and how to defend them. It teaches us to be discerning in our choices, to ask for what we need, and to be assertive and Loving in meeting our own needs. (Of course many of us have to first get used to the revolutionary idea that it is all right for us to have needs.)”
As I discuss in my January 2002 Update, it was my base human level of motivation – wanting to stop the pain, stop living in an emotional hell – that caused me to open up to starting to become conscious of Spiritual Truth. Becoming sick and tired of being sick and tired brought me to a point where I surrendered to learning how to live life differently. Once I surrendered some of my ego definitions that were keeping me in bondage I started to listen to my intuition – started tuning into Truth from my Higher Self / Power.
Then I could start looking at myself with more clarity and start seeing how dysfunctional my behavior patterns had been. Then I could start seeing, that yes I am a nice person, but most of the levels of my motives for behaving in the ways I was behaving towards other people was coming from my childhood programming.
Then I started to realize that a very large part of what I was calling being “nice” to others was based upon protecting myself, on selfish human motives. I was rationalizing when I told myself that I was behaving in a certain way to protect other people’s feelings. It was important to get honest with myself so I could start seeing how I was taking ego strength from my rationalized concern for others – it was part of how I tried to convince myself that I was worthy, that I was a good person.
I needed to get honest with myself in order to see the selfish motives. Then I could start to see that the reason that I was being nice to someone was not just because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings – it was much more about protecting myself. It was what I learned to do in childhood to: avoid confrontation; keep someone from getting angry with me; keep from being abandoned; try to earn love; etc. My defense system was set up to protect me from doing things that I thought would cause me pain – like: setting boundaries; speaking my Truth; asking for help; being vulnerable; etc. So, there was a level of my motives that was about caring for others – but there were more levels that were selfish, were part of the survival programing my ego had adapted in childhood. My behavior patterns were being driven by the emotional wounds and programming of childhood but I had to rationalize my behavior as only being about the level where I did care about others.
I needed to realize that, yes those people who I was judging for not being nice, were very often abusing me out of the selfishness of their wounded ego – but that in allowing myself to be abused I was also reacting out of ego selfishness. Both the abuser and the abused are reacting to the programming of their wounded ego. Both are being a victim of their codependency. Both the bulldozer who is running over other people and the doormat who gets run over are being selfish out of damaged, dysfunctionally programmed ego self.
I needed to get honest with myself in order to own that it was okay to be selfish and protect myself, but that the ways I was doing it were dysfunctional, dishonest, and unhealthy. Then I could start to learn new, healthier ways to protect myself and try to get my needs met.
Levels of Motivation
We always have multiple levels to our motives for doing something. What we need to do is learn how to see ourselves with more clarity so we can be honest with ourselves intellectually and emotionally – and can be discerning in our choices of behavior. By recognizing how the conditioned programming and emotional wounds of our childhood have dictated our lives, by becoming aware of the ways in which we have been limited and powerless in our relationship with our self and life, we can start becoming empowered to change that programming and heal those wounds. By accepting our human imperfection, our selfish and self centered ego driven motives, we can stop that level of our being from dictating our life. We are allowing ourselves to be run by the dysfunctional survival drive of the damaged ego – by the instant gratification needs of the king/queen baby – rather we are rationalizing that instant gratification out of arrogant self righteousness or denying it because of our shame. There can be no balance as long as we are reacting to extremes.
We need to learn to be discerning about our motives so that we can pick the baby out of the bath water. Then we can change and disempower the dysfunctional levels and honor the “right on” levels.
“What I have found is that in many instances even though the levels that I can see, that I am conscious of, are mostly dysfunctional – arising out of the false beliefs and fears of the disease of Codependence – on deeper levels there are “right on” reasons for behaviors for which I was judging myself.
. . . . . . . As another, more universal example, when I started to learn about Codependence, I used to really beat myself up because I found that I was still looking for “her,” even though I had learned about some of the dysfunctional levels of that longing.
I had learned that as long as I thought that I needed someone else to make me happy and whole I was setting myself up to be a victim. I had learned that I was not a frog who needed a princess to kiss me in order to turn into a prince – that I am a prince already, and just need to learn to accept that state of Grace, that princeness.
I had come to understand that those levels of my longing were dysfunctional and Codependent – and I judged and shamed myself because I could not let go of the longing for “her.”
But as my awakening progressed I realized that there were “right on” reasons for that longing, for that “endless aching need” that I felt.
One of those “right on” levels was that the longing was a message concerning my very real need to attain some balance between the masculine and feminine energy within me – which begets dysfunctional behavior when it is projected, focused, outward as I had been taught to do in childhood.
And on a much deeper level I came to understand that I am – and have been, ever since polarization – looking for my twin soul.
As I become discerning I could learn to pick the baby out of the bathwater, that is, not judge and shame myself for longing for “her” – and throw out the dirty bath water, that is, not take action based on, or give power to, the dysfunctional belief that I am a frog who cannot be happy until I find my princess.
By learning discernment we can begin to become conscious of the reasons that are dysfunctional and based on Codependent beliefs and fears (the dirty bathwater) so that we can change the way we react to those levels, can stop giving them power, and we can honor that there are “right on” levels by not shaming or judging ourselves (the baby) even if we are not sure what those reasons are.”
The Universe used my “looking for her” longing to teach me some very vital lessons in my recovery in the later part of 1988 and through much of 1989. This was a crucial time in my codependence recovery after I had gone through a 30 day treatment program that spring. I was living in Taos New Mexico and didn’t have a car for almost a year. It was actually quite an enjoyable year not having a car – it made winter a completely different experience for me because I was walking everywhere I needed to go instead of having to worry about the car starting, scraping ice of the windshield, and such things.
At that time, I was desperately trying to get clear on how to discern the difference between my intuitive guidance and the impulsive reactions of my codependent ego programming and emotional wounds – between my will and God’s will. I had realized by that time that when I met someone who felt like my soul mate, it was much more likely to be an attraction based upon familiarity – i.e. someone who was unavailable in a way that would fit my codependent patterns. I was selfishly trying to get clearer on how to know God’s will so that I wouldn’t set myself up to get hurt.
That summer had given me a huge wake up call that caused me to see that life wasn’t going to be all sweetness and light now that I had been through treatment and learned how to do my grief work. I had spent most of that summer in Sedona Arizona, and had gotten a very interesting warning from the Universe when I first moved up there. One day I was walking in the desert surrounded by the beautiful red rock mountains of that area. I was thinking about how wonderful it was going to be now that I had done so much deep emotional work and learned so many new tools. I was day dreaming about how exciting it was going to be able to have healthy relationships. All of a sudden from out of the underbrush burst this mad looking dog barking and snarling and hurtling right at me – and then right past me. I hadn’t even caught my breath after that scare when the strong odor of skunk wafted by.
The message from the Universe: I may be a lot healthier, but I still need to watch out for mad dogs and skunks. The mad dogs in my understanding are the abusive, aggressive codependents – and the skunks are the martyr, victim codependents. In other words I needed to learn to be discerning about who I open up to, who I invest time and energy in, because the world is full of wounded people – including, as I already knew, some that claim many years of recovery. I realized that day that recovery was going to be on ongoing adventure – not some stroll through the park. And that it was very important for me to stay conscious and pay attention so that I didn’t set myself up with insane expectations, so I didn’t allow the magical thinking inner child to lead me into believing that I had reached happily-ever-after.
Only a short time later I had an experience that really showed me how important it was to be discerning and trust my intuition. A milestone experience that revealed to me my Karmic mission in this lifetime – that changed my life and altered my path in the direction it has been on since.
It was shortly after that milestone experience in August of 1988 I moved to Taos. My first few months in the area I lived in a friends ski cabin on Taos Mountain – as I mentioned in the last chapter. With winter approaching I moved down to a casita – a little studio apartment heated by an adobe fireplace – just a block from Taos Plaza. Shortly after that I surrendered my car because I couldn’t make the payments. A walking winter it was to be.
In the latest installment of the personal journal I share in my Joy2MeU Journal, which tells the story of my recovery and spiritual growth process, I wrote about this very vital lesson. Here is an excerpt from the The Path of one Recovering Codependent – the dance of one wounded soul.
“. . . . . . In his cabin on the mountain, and during the rest of the time I was in Taos, many mystical, miraculous, and magical things happened to help me to better understand the process, the dynamics, my path, everything. It was in that cabin that I started writing what became the Trilogy.
One of those magical things happened one day as I was out for a walk. The cabin I was staying in was at 11,000 feet, which was above the ski area of Taos Mountain. In those days there was an off season in Taos – a time when there were very few tourists around. There were actually two off seasons. One in the spring after the ski resort closed until summer started, and one in September, October and early November before the resort opened on Thanksgiving. What that meant was that I was about the only person on top of that mountain on that day as I was walking.
I was walking along wondering if I would ever have a loving relationship, and probably complaining to God about it a bit. (One of my phone counseling clients shared an insight he had in an Al-Anon meeting recently – one that I like a lot. He said he had this image of himself as a child on a trip in the car, asking, “Are we there yet?” “How long until we get there?” etc. Anyone who has ever taken a trip with a kid knows this one. The insight was this: that pestering, irritating, impatient complaining is probably exactly what it feels like to God when we are constantly wanting to know about the future. Sounds pretty accurate to me. Except, of course, the Goddess is quite amused by this, as are we on a higher level – since we are part of the Great Spirit.;-)
Anyway, as I am walking along asking “When am I going to have a relationship?” – all of a sudden a woman comes riding up on a horse. A beautiful woman that looked enough like the image of my dream woman to really get my attention. We started talking and discovered that I had gone to high school with some of her cousins in the little town I grew up near. It seemed like an answer to my prayers. Hurrah.
Well, it was a message for sure – but not what I thought it was. Even then, I was far enough on my path to realize that it probably wasn’t what I wanted it to be.
I got her phone number, and in one of our first phone conversations, the topic of what was called Taos Furniture came up. A type of furniture made in Taos that I thought was really uncomfortable and impractical. I voiced that opinion. It turned out that she made Taos Furniture.
I already knew by that time that there are no mistakes. I knew that the foot in the mouth statements I made were a perfect part of the plan somehow. I realized that this woman’s appearance on the mountain at the specific time she had ridden up was a message from my Higher Power. Something to this effect:
“Pay attention. A miracle can happen any time, any where. I work in mysterious ways. You don’t get to know the timing or the reasons. Yours is to follow where you are lead and keep the faith. Know that I am with you always.”
This message got reinforced over and over again after I moved off of the mountain into town before the winter set in. During the rest of the year that I lived in Taos that time, I was really focusing on learning how to follow where I was lead. I knew that I needed to pay attention to what got my attention. I came to understand that my HP would get my attention in the way that worked best – which in many cases, was my deprivation issues – my search for Her, my dream woman.
I was without a car that winter (Miracles) so would walk everywhere I needed to go. As I was walking I would keep asking my HP, at every corner, should I go this way or that way. I was following whatever path it felt like I should follow to get to wherever it was that I was going. Often as I was walking through the Plaza, or along the street, I would see what appeared to be an attractive woman across the way, go into a certain store.
That had gotten my attention, so I would go into that store. It would never be about the woman I saw go in there. There was always something else, someone else, I needed to see. There was always some other reason for me to make that detour – even if it was to get the timing of my arrival at the post office just right so I ran into someone I needed to see there.
I got the message real clearly: that sometimes the Universe uses something, or someone, to get my attention so I alter my path slightly on a different heading – but that I needed to let go of any expectations or projections of where that heading was going to take me. I learned that I got directions to veer off on a different heading not to get me where I thought I was headed, but rather to get me to a point a little farther down the path where the Universe would once again get my attention and say, “Okay, now come this way for a while.” I needed to keep following where I was led while letting go of the outcome – letting go of projecting any fantasies about the destination I was headed towards.
A wonderful lesson to learn. Follow the guidance and let go of the outcome.” – My Unfolding Dance 14 – posted July 2002
An invaluable, priceless lesson. My job is to show up for life today and pay attention. Pay attention to what gets my attention without judging and shaming myself. The Universe uses whatever works to get my attention and to motivate me to follow where it wants me to go. The things that get my attention most effectively usually have to do with my human desires, with longings and unfulfilled needs – that is not shameful, it is human. Follow where I am led and let go of the outcome. Let go of assuming, interpreting, fortune telling, projecting my fantasy of where I was going to end up because of what got my attention.
It was absolutely vital for me to get honest with myself so that I could discern between different levels of my motives – so that I could see my self with more clarity. As I explained in the earlier chapter about ego self image, as long as I wasn’t being honest with myself about my human selfishness, my behavior did not match how I was seeing myself. This caused me to be dishonest and manipulative. This prevented me from having any true, healthy emotional intimacy with another human being – because I wasn’t being emotionally intimate with myself. I had to learn how to be emotionally and intellectually honest with myself before I could start to see other people with any clarity. That is why the process of learning how to practice discernment internally so I could set internal boundaries (which I will talk about in a later chapter) was so vital to my recovery.
Empowerment comes from seeing reality clearly and then owning that I have choices about how to make the best of reality as it is being presented to me. It was impossible for me to see reality – internally or externally – with any clarity until I was able to get past the toxic shame I was carrying to see, own, and accept the base, ego centered, selfishness that is an inherent part of being a human being who grew up in a dysfunctional environment. Once I owned it, I could start to take control of some of the things I can have some control of – my own attitudes and behaviors.
“The higher purpose, the Spiritual motive for making recovery the number one priority in my life is intimately connected to the human motive. Our human motives are not bad or wrong. There is nothing shameful about being human. It is vital to stop judging ourselves based upon the belief that being human is shameful. Codependence is a defense system adapted in reaction to the feeling that it was somehow shameful to be human – to be me.
It is self perpetuating because we react to that core feeling of toxic shame out of a polarized intellectual paradigm that judges us and our behavior as right or wrong. Our ego relates to life as if it is a test which we can fail by being wrong. And being human is wrong and shameful according to the beliefs, attitudes and definitions we learned in early childhood.
The more I can take the shame out of my relationship with being human and start changing the dysfunctional intellectual paradigm I learned in childhood – the easier it becomes for me to align with higher purpose, to align ego self with Spiritual Self, to surrender my will and accept God’s will. I can learn to accept being human, and see how my human motives are connected to my Spiritual purpose so that I can find some balance in life. So I can start relating to life as a growth process instead of a test that I am doomed to fail.” – January 2002 Update Newsletter
Recovery / Spiritual growth is a process of realigning our ego self with Spiritual Self so that, from our human perspective, life is less painful and more enjoyable. No matter how enlightened we become, the bottom line to the human part of us is that recovery is the most functional way to make life less painful, to find some meaning and purpose in life. Aligning with higher purpose, with Love, is what will meet our selfish human needs as well as serve the Divine Plan and help us reconnect Spiritual Self. Accepting our human selfishness is piece of the puzzle that allows us to integrate Spiritual Truth into our human experience.
“We need to let go of the illusion that we can control this life business. We cannot. We never could! It was an illusion. And we need to let go of the false beliefs that tell us that we are bad and shameful. We cannot become whole as long as we believe that any part of us is bad or shameful.
That includes the ego – that bloated out-of-balance dragon within. Thank God for our egos, they are what allowed us to survive. Thank God for Codependence, without it we would not be alive. But now is the time to get things into balance – the time to bring ego-self into alignment and balance with Spiritual Self.
That is the transformation which is known as “the death of the ego.” To quote the St. Francis Prayer, “It is through dying that we awaken to eternal life.” It is not referring just to physical death, it is referring to the death of the ego which allows us to awaken to the Truth of eternal life.
The death of the ego is not an event – it is a process. It is not an act of violence – it is an act of Love. A process of learning to Love.
We are bringing ego-self into alignment with Spiritual Truth. We are reconnecting with our Spiritual nature and Spiritual purpose so that we can find some fulfillment and happiness in life.” – Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life Chapter 7: Multiple levels of selfishness
Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life is available in a subscription area of the Joy2MeU website entitled: Dancing in Light
A special offer for that subscription (as well as for the Joy2MeU Journal) is available on this special offers page.
The first two chapters of this online book is available through my regular website: Chapter 1: The codependency movement is NOT ruining marriages!
I have published some other chapters of this work as blogs including: Chapter 4: False Self Image, Chapter 8 Codependents as Emotional Vampires and Chapter 13: Changing the Music: Love instead of fear and shame.
Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life is the third book of what I think of as the Wounded Souls Trilogy along with Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls A Cosmic Perspective on Codependence and the Human Condition and Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light Book 1 Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing. (This is different from The Dance of the Wounded Souls Trilogy Book 1 – “In The Beginning . . .” which is a Magical, Mystical Adult Spiritual Fable that was in fact the first book I wrote – but have never finished.)