Chapter 3: Emotional honesty

The Dance

“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.” – (Text in this color is used for quotes from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls)

In the course of writing this article – which seems to be turning into another online book – I realized that though I talk a lot about the importance of emotional honesty in my work, I probably do not give a lot of down to earth, easily understood examples of what the term means to me.  So, I decided to start this Chapter 3 with an example. 

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.

“There is an old joke about the difference between a neurotic and a psychotic. The psychotic truly believes that 2 + 2 = 5.  The neurotic knows that it is 4 but can’t stand it.  That was the way I lived most of my life, I could see how life was but I couldn’t stand it.  I was always feeling like a victim because people and life were not acting in the way I believed they “should” act.

I expected life to be different than it is.  I thought if I was good and did it “right” then I would reach ‘happily ever after.’  I believed that if I was nice to people they would be nice to me.  Because I grew up in a society where people were taught that other people could control their feelings, and vise versa, I had spent most of my life trying to control the feelings of others and blaming them for my feelings.

By having expectations I was giving power away.  In order to become empowered I had to own that I had choices about how I viewed life, about my expectations.  I realized that no one can make me feel hurt or angry – that it is my expectations that cause me to generate feelings of hurt or anger.  In other words, the reason I feel hurt or anger is because other people, life, or God are not doing what I want them, expect them, to do.

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.  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. (Empowerment and Victimization – the power of choice)

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 – the dance of recovery.)

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. (Learning to Love our self)

Twisted and Distorted is the Dance of the Emotional Cripple

“We are set up to be emotionally dysfunctional by our role models, both parental and societal.  We are taught to repress and distort our emotional process.  We are trained to be emotionally dishonest when we are children.”

Early in my recovery, it was vital for me to start realizing how emotionally crippled I had been by the role modeling and messages I had experienced growing up in an emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional culture.  I had to become conscious of how dysfunctional my relationship with my own emotions was, in order to start healing the dysfunction in my relationship with my self and life.

The single most important influence in the development of a person’s relationship with their own emotions is role modeling.  Mom and Dad were our primary role models for how a male emotional being and female emotional being behave, for how they relate to, and express, their emotions.  (As well as for how male and female relate to each other.)  The cultural role models that we were exposed to – through books, movies, television, etc., – play an important factor also, but our primary role models were our parents.

The direct messages we got – both verbal (big boys don’t cry, little ladies don’t get angry, there is nothing to be afraid of, etc.) and behavioral (punishment for expressing emotions) – and indirect messages (the ways we interpreted and internalized the behavior of other people – parents, teachers, peers, etc. – as being personal punishment, as being our fault) we got both from our parents and from society play a part in that development, but role modeling has the greatest impact.

“In order to find out who we are, we have to start being emotionally honest with ourselves.  And in order to be emotionally honest with ourselves, we have to start changing our perspective on our own emotional process.

As a child, I learned from the role modeling of my father that the only emotion that a man felt was anger.  From my mother, whose definition of love included the belief that you cannot be angry at someone you love, I learned that it was not okay to be angry at anyone I loved.  That left me with very little permission to feel anything.  That did not mean that I did not have feelings – it meant that I was at war with my own emotions, that I could not be honest with myself about having them.  As long as I could not be honest with myself emotionally there was no way I could know who I was.  Until I started owning the grief and rage from my childhood, the sadness and hurt and fear that I had denied all of my life, I was incapable of being honest with myself, incapable of knowing who I Truly was.”

I remember very distinctly the thoughts I had in one of my first AA meetings when several people at a podium spoke of being afraid.  My thought was, “Who are these people – talking so much about being afraid.  I was never afraid.  They stuck guns in my face and it didn’t scare me.”

I did not have permission from my self to acknowledge that I felt fear, because I had learned growing up that real men do not feel fear.  I was emotionally crippled because I did not have permission to own my fear – or my pain or sadness.  I had no permission to be emotionally vulnerable – “weak.”  So, like the manly man I was trained to be, instead of owning that I was afraid or hurt, I got angry.

The Truth, as I soon came to understand it, is that I had really been scared of everyone and everything.  I was scared because I knew I was not perfect, and I was sure that other people would discover what a shameful loser I was.  Scared that I would fail the life test – that I would never reach “happily ever after.”  Afraid that I would never find someone to Love me.  The little boy inside of me was scared that god would punish me for being unworthy – scared of being condemned to burn in hell forever.

While pursuing an acting career, I would pontificate to other actors, sharing my wisdom about the key to building a true character – which was to understand the characters gut level fears.  I maintained that all people were driven by their gut levels fears, and that any other levels of motivation were in reaction to that level of fear.  I was a very good actor.  I could really make characters come alive because of my insights into the human emotional process.  However, I personally was not afraid of anything.

Talk about emotional dishonesty.  The power of denial is truly awesome.  I could see other people with some degree of clarity, but I did not have a clear perspective of my my self.

What is so insidious about codependency, is that it is entrenched in our core relationship with self and life.  The intellectual paradigm that determines our perspective of our self – and therefore how we behave in relationship to life and other people – is subconscious until we get into recovery and start becoming conscious enough to stop being the victim of false beliefs, of delusional and insane expectations.  Until we start becoming conscious, we are powerless over our behavior because we cannot see our self with any objectivity.  Since the only choices in the polarized perspective of life (that was imposed upon me in childhood) were right or wrong – and wrong was shameful – my ego tried to protect me from the toxic shame I felt at the core of my being with denial and rationalization.

To own the incredible pain and shame I felt at the core of my being, the self hatred I felt towards myself for being imperfect and unlovable, felt like a threat to my survival.  So, my ego kept me in denial of any feelings which were not acceptable to the perspective of being a man I learned in childhood.

The subconscious beliefs that were dictating my relationship with self, told me that fear was not an acceptable emotion for a man – so I had to deny that I had any fear.  My subconscious intellectual paradigm, the beliefs that were defining my relationship with my own gender and emotions, severely limited my perspective of myself.

As long as I had a distorted and twisted perspective of my own emotions it was impossible to see my self with any clarity.  I was powerless to understand my self and my behaviors until I started to get emotionally honest with my self.  It is not possible for a person to be honest in relationships until they start getting emotionally honest in their relationship with self.

Control and fear – thinking to avoid feeling

Attempts to control are a reaction to fear.  I attempted to control life because I was so afraid.  As I explain in my book Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls, human beings have been doing life backwards due to a condition of reversity in the planetary energy field of Collective Human Emotional Consciousness.  One of the effects of this condition, is living life focused externally – trying to control things over which we have no control – while simultaneously judging and shaming ourselves because the way we are living life is not working.

“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 had to deny any emotions that were not acceptable to my subconscious programming in order to feel that I had some control of my life.  Since the only acceptable emotion to the definition of being a man I had learned growing up was anger – and even anger was only acceptable to feel in relationship to other men – I had to deny almost all of my feelings.

As a child I had to learn to disassociate, to not be present in the moment in my own skin, because the emotional pain was too great.  The primary way I learned to be unconscious early on was to be in my head to avoid the feelings.  Later on, I would use drugs and alcohol to escape being present “here” – in my body in the moment – but even then being in my head was my primary defense against feeling my feelings.

I would fantasize, intellectualize, and analyze.  I would focus on something or someone outside of myself – and was always caught up in the past or future.  I was not capable of being present in my own skin in the moment because it was not okay to feel my feelings.  Because I was living in so much fear – at the same time I could not acknowledge that I felt any fear – I had to put a great deal of energy into denying that fear.

I would escape from my emotional reality by thinking about the future – creating grandiose fantasies of a positive nature (rehearsing my Academy Award acceptance speech, or fantasizing about the unavailable woman I was currently obsessing about) or of a negative nature (worry, impending doom, financial insecurity) – or ruminating on the past, either beating myself up for something “stupid” I said or did, or wallowing in resentment and self pity about how someone had victimized me.  This is very dysfunctional because it generates more emotional energy.

“Worry is negative fantasizing.  It is a fantasy that is being created in reaction to feeling fear.  It is not real – it is something that is being created because my mind has slipped into the old familiar rut of right and wrong thinking.  Worry is not a feeling – it is a reaction, an negative emotional state, that is created by the perspectives of a belief system that empowers illusions like failure.  The sooner that we can pull ourselves out of that rut and start seeing the situation as part of a learning process – shift back into a recovery perspective – the less negative emotional response we will generate in relationship to the situation.

Emotions do not have value in and of themselves – they just are.  What gives emotions value is how we react to them.  We were programmed to react negatively to emotions and adapted defenses to try to keep from feeling emotional energy.  Being in our head worrying about the past or the future, is a defense against being in our own skin and feeling our feelings.  But it is dysfunctional – it does not work.  Reacting negatively to our feelings generates more feelings.   The more we worry, the more fear we generate. . . . . . .

When I catch myself worrying then I know that I am not being emotionally honest with myself.  Worry is a symptom that tells me I am avoiding some feelings.” – Discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility 2

In order to start getting emotionally honest with myself, I had to start becoming aware of the ways in which I was avoiding my feelings.  I learned to observe myself so that I could be conscious enough to catch myself when I was thinking to try to avoid feeling.

I realized that any time I was worrying about “what if,” or fantasizing about “if only,” or obsessing about a woman or the outcome of a situation, it was sign that I was being dishonest with myself emotionally.  I started to become aware of all the ways I had been taught by society to keep my feelings at bay.  The ways I talked and thought that helped me stay in denial of my feelings.

“Emotions are energy.  Actual physical energy that is manifested in our bodies.  Emotions are not thoughts – they do not exist in our mind.  Our mental attitudes, definitions, and expectations can create emotional reactions, can cause us to get stuck in emotional states – but thoughts are not emotions.  The intellectual and emotional are two distinctly separate though intimately interconnected parts of our being.  In order to find some balance, peace, and sanity in recovery it is vitally important to start separating the emotional from the intellectual and to start setting boundaries with, and between, the emotional and mental parts of our self. . . . . .

. . . . . . . I had to become aware that there were such things as emotions that lived in my body and then I had to start learning how to recognize and sort them out.  I had to become aware of all the ways that I was trained to distance myself from my feelings.  I am going to mention a few of them here to help any of you reading this in your process of becoming emotionally honest.

Speaking in the third person.  One of the defenses many of us have against feeling our feelings is to speak of ourselves in the third person.  “You just kind of feel hurt when that happens” is not a personal statement and does not carry the power of speaking in the first person.  “I felt hurt when that happened” is personal, is owning the feeling.  Listen to yourself and to others and become aware of how often you hear others and yourself refer to self in the third person.

Avoiding using primary feeling words.  There are only a handful of primary feelings that all humans feel.  There is some dispute about just how many there are primary but for our purpose here I am going to use seven.  Those are: angry, sad, hurt, afraid, lonely, ashamed, and happy.  It is important to start using the primary names of these feelings in order to own them and to stop distancing ourselves from the feelings.  To say “I am anxious” or “concerned” or “apprehensive” is not the same as saying “I am afraid.”  Fear is at the root of all those other expressions but we don’t have to be so aware of our fear if we use a word that distances us from fear.  Expressions like “confused,”  “irritated,” “upset,” “tense,” “disturbed,” “melancholy,” “blue,” “good,” or “bad” are not primary feeling words.

Emotions are energy that is meant to flow: E – motion = energy in motion.  Until we own it, feel it and release it, it cannot flow.  By blocking and repressing our emotions we are damming up our internal energy and that will eventually result in some physical or mental manifestation such as cancer or Alzheimer’s disease or whatever.” – The Journey to the Emotional Frontier Within

Someone could ask me if I was afraid, and I would respond, “No, I’m not afraid.  A little concerned perhaps, but certainly not afraid.”  Saying, “I am feeling some fear.” is a quite different energetic experience from saying, “I am a bit apprehensive.”  Naming and claiming the feeling is an important part of emotional honesty.  There is power in the way we express ourselves.  It is very important to start becoming aware of the emotional energy in our bodies.  In order to be present in our own skins in the moment, it is necessary to be consciously in touch with our feelings.

There was no way that I could start changing the way I was relating to life until I started to own my fear.  Fear is not a bad thing – just as sadness, pain, and anger are not negative or bad in and of themselves.  Emotions are a vital part of our being that need to be owned, honored, and respected.  Denial and repression of emotions is what leads to negative consequences.

“Emotions have a purpose, a very good reason to be – even those emotions that feel uncomfortable.  Fear is a warning, anger is for protection, tears are for cleansing and releasing.  These are not negative emotional responses!  We were taught to react negatively to them.  It is our reaction that is dysfunctional and negative, not the emotion.”

Human beings have a fear of the unknown for a reason.  It is part of our survival programming.  Because I did not have permission to own my fear, I was very out of balance emotionally.  It was impossible for me to own that I had fear and still feel that I had worth as a man, so the only options I had – according to the subconscious programming of my childhood – were to deny my fear or feel that I was defective as a man.

“Fear is an emotion that exists to serve us.  It provides a warning system to help us be aware of potential danger.  It is appropriate and healthy to be aware when we are driving.  To be conscious of potential threats.  It is important for us to be in touch with our fear so that we can pay attention to it when it sends us a message.

What is not functional is to completely empower fear or to deny it.  The 1 or 10 extremes of the disease.

Emotions are an incredibly powerful and important part of this experience we are having of being human.  Emotions are a vital part of our being – and dictate the quality of our life experience.

“Emotions have two vitally important purposes for human beings.  Emotions are a form of communication.  Our feelings are one of the means by which we define ourselves.  The interaction of our intellect and our emotions determines how we relate to ourselves.

Our emotional energy is also the fuel that propels us down the pathways of our life journey.  E-motions are the orchestra that provide the music for our individual dances – that dictate the rhythmic flow and movement of our human dance.  Our feelings help us to define ourselves and then provide the combustible fuel that dictates the speed and direction of our motion – rather we are flowing with it or damming it up within ourselves. . . . . . .

 . . . . there are two primary transformers from which emotional energy is generated.  Our ego self and our Spiritual Self.  Our ego was traumatized in childhood and programmed very dysfunctionally. The ego is the seat of the disease of codependence.” – Discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility 2

The ego is the part of us that composed the score and conducts the music for our dance of codependence.  It composed that score based upon the definitions, attitudes and beliefs it adapted in early childhood due to what our emotional experience of being a human child felt like.” – Newsletter part 2 May 2001 Update

Denying my fear was dysfunctional and emotionally dishonest.  Focusing on fear, giving it a great deal of power, is also dysfunctional – and can be immobilizing.  The extremes of the disease of codependency.

In writing the May 2001 Joy2MeU Update just quoted, I shared how I caught myself making a statement that set off alarm bells in my codependency control center – my observer self.  Observing and listening to myself made me aware that my fear of intimacy issues were up to be looked at again.  I subsequently did 3 Newsletter web pages of processing about those issues (and another 3 pages in my journal pages of the Joy2MeU Journal) in which I uncovered a level where I was being emotionally dishonest with myself – and was empowering some black and white thinking.

Recovery is on an ongoing process of uncovering, discovering, and recovering.  We have layer upon layer of wounding – which means layer upon layer of denial, emotional dishonesty, and rationalized perspectives.  We keep peeling another layer of the onion and getting to a deeper level of honesty – both intellectually and emotionally.

June 3rd will mark the 16th anniversary of my codependency recovery.  (I write this some time ago – my anniversary is June 3rd 1986: The Story of Joy to You & Me)  There are still times when I find the process irritating.  But the benefits have been incredible.  It is through healing my relationship with my self that I have found an incredible inner peace.  That I have learned to be present in the moment – and have some moments of Joy – every day.   Recovery works.

Focusing on the future or the past, blaming them or blaming me, underreacting or overreacting (stuffing my feelings until they exploded forth in ways that made me feel crazy and ashamed,) feeling triumphant over “winning” or wanting to die because I was such a loser, were the rhythms of my dance of codependency.  As long as I was in denial and unconsciously reacting to life I was doomed to “keep doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.”  Unconsciousness doomed me to ride on a merry go round of cause and effect – never getting anywhere different emotionally.  As long as I was incapable of being emotionally honest with myself, I was doomed to keep repeating the patterns that dictated my emotional reality.

Codependency recovery is the path to finding enough freedom from the past to find happiness and Joy in being alive today.  I highly recommend it. 😉 – Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light  Book 2:  A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life  Chapter 4: False Self Image

Sacred Spiral

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 chapter of this online book is available through my regular website: The codependency movement is NOT ruining marriages!

I have published some other chapters of this work as blogs including: Chapter 8 Codependents as Emotional Vampires,  Chapter 13: Changing the Music: Love instead of fear and shame, and Chapter 4false self image.

Cover of Inner Child Healing Book

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.)

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A Higher Power of my own understanding – the beginning of empowerment

“This revolutionary idea was that an unconditionally Loving Higher Power exists with whom the individual being can personally communicate.  A Higher Power that is so powerful that it has no need to judge the humans it created because this Universal Force is powerful enough to ensure that everything unfolds perfectly from a Cosmic Perspective.

This reintroduction of the revolutionary concept of an accessible Loving God has been clarified to specifically include the concept that the individual being can define this Universal Force according to his/her own understanding, and can develop a personal, intimate relationship with this Higher Power.

In other words, no one is needed as an intermediary between you and your creator.  No outside agency has the right to impose upon you its definition of God.”

“Enlarging my perspective means changing my definitions, the definitions that were imposed on me as a child about who I am and how to do this life business.  In Recovery it has been necessary to change my definitions of, and my perspective of, almost everything.  That was the only way that it was possible to start learning how to Love myself.

I spent most of my life feeling like I was being punished because I was taught that God was punishing and that I was unworthy and deserved to be punished.  I had thrown out those beliefs about God and life on a conscious, intellectual level in my late teens – but in Recovery I was horrified to discover that I was still reacting to life emotionally based on those beliefs.

I realized that my perspective of life was being determined by beliefs that I had been taught as a child even though they were not what I believed as an adult.  That perspective caused my emotional truth to be that I felt like life was punishing me, and that I was not good enough – that something was wrong with me.  I felt like a victim of life, like a victim of myself, at the same time that I was blaming others for not making me happy.

I had to start trying to find a concept of a Higher Power who could Love me even though I was an imperfect human.  If my Creator is judging me then who am I not to judge myself?  On the other hand if the Goddess Loves me unconditionally then who am I not to Love myself?  And if the God/Goddess/Great Spirit/Universal Force Truly Loves me then everything has to be happening for reasons that are ultimately Loving. . . . . The only way that I was able to make significant progress in the process of stopping self-judgment and getting rid of the toxic shame was to become conscious of the larger perspective.  When I started to believe that maybe a Higher Power, a Universal Force, existed which was Truly All-Powerful and Unconditionally Loving then life started to become a lot easier and more enjoyable.” – All quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

Twelve step recovery is a program of empowerment.  Many people erroneously assume that the fact that first step involves admitting powerlessness means that 12 step recovery disempowers people. The Truth is exactly the opposite.

It was only when I admitted that I was powerless to control my drinking that I gained the power to stop drinking.  As long as I was trying to control my drinking out of ego and will power, I was powerless to stop drinking alcoholically.  It was when I opened up to getting help from a power greater than myself that I gained the power to transform my life.  (There are some people – alcoholics – who can stop drinking using will power.  They are what is referred to in the program as dry drunks.  They are some of the most miserable, resentful, angry people on the face of the planet – because they have no spiritual belief system that is Loving.)

In the beginning for me, that power greater than myself was just the group – the people I met at AA meetings.  Those people shared their stories, their thoughts and feelings, in a way that I identified with.  Previously I had thought I was the only one who thought those kind of insane thoughts and had those kind of feelings of utter despair and hopelessness.  When I first got to AA, I realized that I was not alone – I felt a connection to these people, felt a part of something larger than myself.

I however, had a real problem with the talk of God that I heard at meetings.  I was raised in a shaming religion that taught me I was born sinful and shameful.  I was emotionally and spiritually abused as a young child by being taught that God loved me but might send me to burn in eternal damnation in hell.  I was taught that being human was shameful and sinful. (In one of my articles in my series on sexuality, gender, and relationships, I explained that it is not necessary for a person to be raised in a shaming religion to get the message that it is shameful to be human: Sexuality Abuse – the legacy of shame based culture.)

So, I had a real problem with even using the word God.  And this was not just because of my personal experience, but also because of what I had learned about the history of the planet.  I saw that throughout history “God” had been used as an justification for genocide, torture, plunder, and rape.  I saw that a civilization based upon the “command” to go forth to subdue and conquer, not only destroyed peoples and cultures that were much kinder and more Loving than the conquerors – but was an integral part of going a long way towards destroying the planet we live on.

In my younger days I had been involved in activism with Native Americans – whom I could clearly see had been victimized by subdue, conquer, and slaughter mentality of the dominant culture.  I found much beauty and harmony in the respect for nature and natural laws that was involved in the Native American concept a Higher Power – The Great Spirit.  In the beginning of my book, I state some reasons that I wrote it – which included the following sentence.

“This is my way of standing up for my Truth, and of honoring “All My Relations,” which is a Native American term that refers to the Great Spirit whose essence is present in everyone and everything.  We are all related to everyone and everything.”

If I had been told in January 1984, at the beginning of my recovery from alcoholism, that the only way I could quit killing myself with alcohol was to accept the standard version of “God” – I would never have gotten sober.  I would have been dead long ago.  But what I was told, was that I needed to find a concept of a Higher Power that worked for me – a Higher Power of my own understanding.   That was what saved my life – the revolutionary concept that I could develop my own idea of a Higher Power, and develop a personal relationship with that Higher Power that did not have to conform to what anyone else believed.

So, in the beginning of my recovery, I allowed the fact that people in meetings – whom I identified with – seemed to have found a way to live life that worked for them, to help me stay sober one day at a time.  I used the group as a power greater than myself, while I worked on trying to find a concept of a Higher Power that would work for me.

In those early days, I would call that Higher Power The Great Spirit – or The Force.  I remembered clearly that when the Star Wars movies first came out, I strongly resonated with the idea that “The Force is with you.”

It was when I was about 3 months sober that a book came into my life that altered my life, and my perspective of a Higher Power, immeasurably.  The miracle of the “coincidence” of discovering that book – a book that reached out and grabbed my attention from the paperback rack in a grocery store – is something that still reduces me to tears of Joy and Gratitude 20 years later.  I quoted that book several times in my book – and in this article I am going to use a quote from an online book I wrote that includes a quote from my book within it.  That online book is the one that I wrote about the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001.  I wrote that online book because I saw the terrorist attack of 9/11 as a blatant manifestation of the human condition of codependency – and I will in this series of article be touching on some of the cultural and international manifestations of codependency that are causing the world conditions we are facing today.

“One of the first things I was guided to, when I was only about 3 months sober, was a mind boggling, paradigm smashing book called Illusions by Richard Bach.  It presented me with concepts that it took me years to understand intellectually.  But I knew instantly that the book was full of Truth.

“In order to become aligned with Truth so that we can stop the war within and change life into an easier, more enjoyable experience, it is vitally important to become clear in our emotional process and to change the reversed attitudes that we had to adopt to survive.  Those reversed attitudes are what cause our dysfunctional perspectives – which in turn, have caused us to have a lousy relationship with life. 

I am going to quote from a book now, and again a little later, that is my own personal favorite book of Truth.  I feel a great deal of Truth in this book.  It has guided me and helped me to remember my Truth and to become conscious of my path.  It was a very important part of my personal process of enlarging my perspective – of being able to see this life business in a larger context. 

It is a book called Illusions by Richard Bach.  This is one of my favorite quotations from that book. 

The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. 

What a caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.

The “depth of your belief” is about perspective.  If we are reacting to life emotionally out of the belief systems we had imposed on us as children we will then see change as tragedy and feel that being forced to grow is shameful.  As we change our attitudes toward this life experience, when we can start viewing it as a process, a journey, then we can begin to see that what we used to perceive as problems are really opportunities for growth.  Then we can begin to realize that even though our experiences in childhood have caused to think of ourselves as, and feel like, lowly caterpillars – we are in Truth butterflies who are meant to fly. 

We are all butterflies.  We are all Spiritual Beings.

I used to use the caterpillar – butterfly quote a lot when I spoke.  I would usually say something like “a measure of your Spiritual Awakening” instead of “mark of your ignorance” in order to soften it a bit.  We codependents are such experts in beating ourselves up and shaming ourselves, that we tend to see the word ignorance as being something that is our fault.  In fact, the word ignorance refers to a lack of knowledge, of not being informed.  The reason we didn’t know how to set boundaries, or have healthy relationships, was because of ignorance caused by not having anyone to teach us – no healthy role models, no resources for learning how to be healthy.  We not only did not have resources to teach us how to relate to life and other people in a healthy way – we were taught the very opposite of healthy behavior in most cases.” – Attack on America – A Spiritual Healing Perspective

The caterpillar and butterfly quote was incredibly powerful to me.  I saw quitting drinking as a great tragedy – as the end of life as I knew it.  And gratefully it was the end of life as I knew it, and the beginning of life as an adventure in learning to Love.

It was the concept that I could develop a belief in a Higher Power of my own understanding that helped to empower me to realize that I had a choice in the beliefs and definitions about “God” that I was allowing to dictate my relationship with life.  It was this revolutionary concept that started me on the path to realizing that I was Lovable – that I could reconnect with, and access, an Unconditionally Loving Universal Force in a way that would help me remember that I am a beautiful butterfly that can Fly.

So are you.  At least, that is my Spiritual Belief.

Sacred Spiral

The Dance

It is possible to get personally autographed copies of my books from my website Joy2MeU  or You can get my Books, eBooks, and Audiobooks through Amazon,  Books or eBooks through Barnes & Noble, or eBooks through Kobo.

x-ill

Grateful acknowledgment is made for permission to quote from: Illusions  “The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah” by Richard Bach.  Copyright 1977 by Creature Enterprises, Inc.   Reprinted in Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney by permission of Bantam Doubleday Dell, New York, NY.

 

My Sobriety Date: January 3rd, 1984

“I feel that my life Truly began on January 3rd, 1984.  That was the day I entered a chemical dependency treatment center (aptly called the Independence Center) and started to learn how to live life clean and sober.  One of the reasons I was able to stay clean and sober was because I had a considerable amount of ego strength.  I had some strengths and talents that caused me to think that I was better than other people.  That ego strength was my defense against the shame I felt at the core of my relationship with myself.  I had a capacity for denial and rationalization that had helped me buy into the lie that other people were to blame for the failed wreckage my life had become.

I used that ego strength – and the false pride that told me I was better than other people – to help me stay sober.  One of the ways I did that was to make my sobriety date very important to me.  If I drank again, I would lose my sobriety date – and there was no way I wanted people who had less sobriety than me to get ahead of me.  My twisted, distorted codependent thinking allowed me to turn sobriety into some kind of race that I was winning over some people.

My ego strength helped me to stay sober in the beginning of my recovery.  It helped me to stay sober long enough to get into recovery from my codependency.  My recovery from codependency led me into starting to dismantle my ego defenses.  Breaking through my denial and rationalizations helped me to start getting emotionally honest with myself.  Emotional honesty forced me to start owning the incredible reservoirs of grief and rage I was carrying.  By the spring of 1988, my ego defenses had been weakened enough that the dam broke and my feelings started pouring forth.  That was when I got the gift of entering another treatment center where I started learning how to deal with that grief and rage.

In that treatment center in Tucson Arizona I met one of the people who was going to turn out to be a true angel on my path.  A person who would come to my rescue in the summer of 1988 after an unimaginable experience had revealed to me my Karmic mission in this lifetime.  He offered me the use of his cabin in Taos New Mexico.  It was in Taos that I started writing.

I later got to watch this “friend indeed” – whose name was also Robert – die because his codependency would not allow him to stay clean and sober.

“As a young child Robert got the message that he wasn’t lovable but that if he was successful enough and made enough money he might earn the right to be loved. He was successful and made lots of money but it did not work to convince him that he was good enough. 

My friend had no permission from himself to receive love. When I published my book I listed him among people who had touched my life on the Acknowledgments Page. When he saw his name listed there he cursed me (his generation, and mine, were taught to relate to other men that way, to say ‘I love you’ by calling each other names) and cried briefly (which he felt was very shameful) and then he drank. In his relationship with himself Robert was too shame-based to believe that he was lovable. 

I believe that the great majority of Alcoholics are born with a genetic, hereditary predisposition that is physiological. Environment does not cause Alcoholism. Robert was not an Alcoholic because he was shame-based – it was because of his shame that he could not stay sober. He had a blustery, ‘hail-fellow-well-met’, in your face kind of ego-strength that was very fragile. As soon as he got sober his ego defenses would fracture and the shame underneath would cause him to sabotage his sobriety. 

That doesn’t mean that people who can stay sober don’t have shame. Some of us just have more ego defenses that buries the shame deeper. That is good news in early sobriety because it helps one to stay sober. It can be bad news later on because it can cause us to resist growth and to not have the humility to be teachable.  The reason that I am alive today is because I was able to go to treatment for Codependence in my fifth year of recovery while working as a therapist in a treatment center. I had sworn that I would kill myself before I drank again and the feelings which were surfacing had me close to it when I went to Sierra Tucson. That was where I met Robert.” – The Death of an Alcoholic – codependency kills alcoholic

One of the cornerstone principles of the twelve step process is humility.  Humility is required for growth to occur.  On one level what humility means is to be teachable – to be open to growing and learning. ” – Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life Chapter 6: ego strength and self worth 

Sacred Spiral

On January 2nd, 2018 I am putting this blog post together using excerpts from different places in my writing where I talk about getting sober.  Tomorrow I will be 34 years clean and sober.  An unbelievable miracle that I have achieved one day at a time – sometimes an hour at a time, sometimes 5 minutes at a time.  I have immense gratitude for the gift of sobriety – as I say in the quote above, I feel like my life began on January 3rd, 1984.

I am doing this for my self primarily – as a review and a reminder of how far I have come and how blessed my path has been.  There is a lot of really valuable information in these excerpts I am sharing, and hopefully it will be helpful to some of you who read it.  Part of what has been so valuable for me to remember over these years however, is that first and foremost I am doing what I need to do for my self and my healing – that it helps other people is part of the magic and miracle of recovery.

“There were two interrelated things that I had to get clear about when I started working as a therapist:  One is that I am powerless over other people – over the pace of their progress, over whether they hear what I am saying to them, over where their path leads.  I watched a good friend die of Alcoholism (which is in a column in the Alcoholism section) and saw how clearly he helped other alcoholics stay sober because he couldn’t – he did more to keep more people sober than many of the sober people I know.  I can’t know what someone else’s path is – therefore I can’t tell them what is right and wrong.  What I can do is help them see themselves clearer (especially as to understanding how their childhood experiences have dictated their lives), see their choices and the possible consequences clearer, and know that we are Spiritual Beings going to boarding school not taking a test we can fail.

Which brings me to the second thing, which I believe is a Spiritual Truth – I teach best what I need most to learn.  I teach people how to Love themselves because I am trying to learn how to Love myself.  I learned to always listen to what I was saying because, though I have no control whether anyone else hears me, I do have the power to choose to hear myself – and there is always something in what I am saying that applies to me and my process in that moment. . . . .  I am in process just as my clients are – just as we all are.  There is no hierarchy as far as I am concerned – just one wounded person/Magnificent Spiritual Being sharing what has worked for me with another wounded person/Magnificent Spiritual Being. I am doing what I need to do for myself, to heal myself – it doesn’t have to do with anyone else – that it helps other people is just a bonus (and an opportunity to settle Karma).” – Inner Child Healing – Choosing a therapist or counselor with discernment

So, this is me being selfish (and indulgent as I often am in my writing) – and it will bring me great Joy if it is helpful and enjoyable to you. 🙂

Sacred Spiral

“Twelve step recovery is a program of empowerment.  Many people erroneously assume that the fact that first step involves admitting powerlessness means that 12 step recovery disempowers people. The Truth is exactly the opposite.

It was only when I admitted that I was powerless to control my drinking that I gained the power to stop drinking.  As long as I was trying to control my drinking out of ego and will power, I was powerless to stop drinking alcoholically.  It was when I opened up to getting help from a power greater than myself that I gained the power to transform my life.  (There are some people – alcoholics – who can stop drinking using will power.  They are what is referred to in the program as dry drunks.  They are some of the most miserable, resentful, angry people on the face of the planet – because they have no spiritual belief system that is Loving.)

In the beginning for me, that power greater than myself was just the group – the people I met at AA meetings.  Those people shared their stories, their thoughts and feelings, in a way that I identified with.  Previously I had thought I was the only one who thought those kind of insane thoughts and had those kind of feelings of utter despair and hopelessness.  When I first got to AA, I realized that I was not alone – I felt a connection to these people, felt a part of something larger than myself.

I however, had a real problem with the talk of God that I heard at meetings.  I was raised in a shaming religion that taught me I was born sinful and shameful.  I was emotionally and spiritually abused as a young child by being taught that God loved me but might send me to burn in eternal damnation in hell.  I was taught that being human was shameful and sinful. (In one of my articles in my series on sexuality, gender, and relationships, I explained that it is not necessary for a person to be raised in a shaming religion to get the message that it is shameful to be human: Sexuality Abuse – the legacy of shame based culture.)

So, I had a real problem with even using the word God.  And this was not just because of my personal experience, but also because of what I had learned about the history of the planet.  I saw that throughout history “God” had been used as an justification for genocide, torture, plunder, and rape.  I saw that a civilization based upon the “command” to go forth to subdue and conquer, not only destroyed peoples and cultures that were much kinder and more Loving than the conquerors – but was an integral part of going a long way towards destroying the planet we live on.

In my younger days I had been involved in activism with Native Americans – whom I could clearly see had been victimized by subdue, conquer, and slaughter mentality of the dominant culture.  I found much beauty and harmony in the respect for nature and natural laws that was involved in the Native American concept a Higher Power – The Great Spirit.  In the beginning of my book, I state some reasons that I wrote it – which included the following sentence. 

“This is my way of standing up for my Truth, and of honoring “All My Relations,” which is a Native American term that refers to the Great Spirit whose essence is present in everyone and everything.  We are all related to everyone and everything.”

(Quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls)

If I had been told in January 1984, at the beginning of my recovery from alcoholism, that the only way I could quit killing myself with alcohol was to accept the standard version of “God” – I would never have gotten sober.  I would have been dead long ago.  But what I was told, was that I needed to find a concept of a Higher Power that worked for me – a Higher Power of my own understanding.   That was what saved my life – the revolutionary concept that I could develop my own idea of a Higher Power, and develop a personal relationship with that Higher Power that did not have to conform to what anyone else believed.

So, in the beginning of my recovery, I allowed the fact that people in meetings – whom I identified with – seemed to have found a way to live life that worked for them, to help me stay sober one day at a time.  I used the group as a power greater than myself, while I worked on trying to find a concept of a Higher Power that would work for me.

In those early days, I would call that Higher Power:  The Great Spirit – or The Force.  I remembered clearly that when the Star Wars movies first came out, I strongly resonated with the idea that “The Force is with you.”

It was when I was about 3 months sober that a book came into my life that altered my life, and my perspective of a Higher Power, immeasurably.  The miracle of the “coincidence” of discovering that book – a book that reached out and grabbed my attention from the paperback rack in a grocery store – is something that still reduces me to tears of Joy and Gratitude 20 years later.  I quoted that book several times in my book – and in this article I am going to use a quote from an online book I wrote that includes a quote from my book within it.  That online book is the one that I wrote about the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. . . . .

“One of the first things I was guided to, when I was only about 3 months sober, was a mind boggling, paradigm smashing book called Illusions by Richard Bach.  It presented me with concepts that it took me years to understand intellectually.  But I knew instantly that the book was full of Truth.

In order to become aligned with Truth so that we can stop the war within and change life into an easier, more enjoyable experience, it is vitally important to become clear in our emotional process and to change the reversed attitudes that we had to adopt to survive.  Those reversed attitudes are what cause our dysfunctional perspectives – which in turn, have caused us to have a lousy relationship with life. 

I am going to quote from a book now, and again a little later, that is my own personal favorite book of Truth.  I feel a great deal of Truth in this book.  It has guided me and helped me to remember my Truth and to become conscious of my path.  It was a very important part of my personal process of enlarging my perspective – of being able to see this life business in a larger context. 

It is a book called Illusions by Richard Bach.  This is one of my favorite quotations from that book. 

The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. 

What a caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.

The “depth of your belief” is about perspective.  If we are reacting to life emotionally out of the belief systems we had imposed on us as children we will then see change as tragedy and feel that being forced to grow is shameful.  As we change our attitudes toward this life experience, when we can start viewing it as a process, a journey, then we can begin to see that what we used to perceive as problems are really opportunities for growth.  Then we can begin to realize that even though our experiences in childhood have caused to think of ourselves as, and feel like, lowly caterpillars – we are in Truth butterflies who are meant to fly. 

We are all butterflies.  We are all Spiritual Beings.

I used to use the caterpillar – butterfly quote a lot when I spoke.  I would usually say something like “a measure of your Spiritual Awakening” instead of “mark of your ignorance” in order to soften it a bit.  We codependents are such experts in beating ourselves up and shaming ourselves, that we tend to see the word ignorance as being something that is our fault.  In fact, the word ignorance refers to a lack of knowledge, of not being informed.  The reason we didn’t know how to set boundaries, or have healthy relationships, was because of ignorance caused by not having anyone to teach us – no healthy role models, no resources for learning how to be healthy.  We not only did not have resources to teach us how to relate to life and other people in a healthy way – we were taught the very opposite of healthy behavior in most cases.” – Attack on America – A Spiritual Healing Perspective

The caterpillar and butterfly quote was incredibly powerful to me.  I saw quitting drinking as a great tragedy – as the end of life as I knew it.  And gratefully it was the end of life as I knew it, and the beginning of life as an adventure in learning to Love.

It was the concept that I could develop a belief in a Higher Power of my own understanding that helped to empower me to realize that I had a choice in the beliefs and definitions about “God” that I was allowing to dictate my relationship with life.  It was this revolutionary concept that started me on the path to realizing that I was Lovable – that I could reconnect with, and access, an Unconditionally Loving Universal Force in a way that would help me remember that I am a beautiful butterfly that can Fly.” – A Higher Power of my own understanding 2 – the beginning of empowerment

Sacred Spiral

“I am what researchers are now calling a “Type A” alcoholic.  That means that my genetic predisposition to alcoholism was so strong that the only way I could have avoided being an alcoholic was to never have taken a drink.  I got drunk the very first time that I had the opportunity to get drunk.  I also had a blackout the first time I got drunk.  A black out is when someone loses consciousness even though they are still walking and talking and appearing to be somewhat normal.  There is a gap in the memory (What did I do last night?) because of the effect of the alcohol on the brain.  I would wake up the next day not remembering anything after a certain point in time.  I wouldn’t know how I had gotten home, where my car was parked, and sometimes I wouldn’t know who I was with.  I had blackouts – with increasing regularity – starting with the first time I got drunk and continuing for the 17 years that I drank.

Alcohol saved my life.  I think that I would have killed myself if I had not discovered alcohol.  I was so terrified of life and people and felt so inadequate to cope with life.  Alcohol (and later drugs of various types) gave me permission to be human – which the environment I grew up in had not.  With alcohol I could loosen up and interact with other people.

At the end of my drinking days – which had been hell for a number of years – the Universe led me through many applications of the Cosmic stick to go home to Nebraska for the Holidays in December of 1983.  While there my parents – who had learned about alcoholism because a cousin of mine had gotten sober – did an intervention on me.  They asked me to go into a 30 day treatment program.

I can remember sitting with them in the office of the person who did the intake evaluations and feeling completely trapped.  By this time I had no money and no car, and I had been counting on them to be good enablers and loan me the money to get me going again.  The thing that really got me though was when my father said to the intake person “We want to get help for him because we love him a lot.”

I had never before heard my father use the term love in reference to me.  [He still to this day has never been able to tell me that he loves me. (My father died in May 2005.  On his death bed I told him I loved him – and the best he could say in return was “Same here.”)]  I can remember thinking at that moment, “Oh crap, now I have to do this.”  As if his using the word love was some sort of currency that obligated me to do whatever he wanted.

So I went into a treatment program in Lincoln Nebraska.  For the first two weeks I really resisted being there.  I thought the people were weird and I certainly didn’t need any of this religious God crap that they were talking about.  I called friends back in LA and complained about how I was locked in this horrible place.  (No doors were locked.)

The turning point came for me when some druggy friends back in LA offered to buy me a plane ticket back to the coast.  That was the point where I had to admit to myself that I had a choice.  I had spent my whole life being the victim because I didn’t believe I had choices – now I had a choice.

So I had to take a good look at myself and my life and see if I wanted to return to the way I had been living.  When I looked at how messed up –

(God, what an understatement.  As I wrote that last sentence, I started crying remembering what a hell I had been living in.  At some point in treatment I realized that the song that described what my life had been like was Desperado – “Your prison is walking through life all alone.”  “You’d better get down off you fence and let someone love you before it is too late.”  After I got sober I swore to myself that I would kill myself before I would ever take another drink.)

When I took a realistic view of what hell my life had been, I had to admit to myself that I didn’t ever want to live that way again.  So I turned down the plane ticket and surrendered to trying to learn the things that those weird people were trying to teach me.” – The Path of one Recovering Codependent ~ the dance of one wounded soul The Awakening Begins in the Joy2MeU Journal

Sacred Spiral

“12/24/11 ~ As my 28th sobriety birthday approaches in 10 days or so, I have been reflecting back on what an incredible miracle my life has been since January 3rd, 1984.  This page was originally just an article in a series of articles on “A Higher Power of my own understanding” – an article in which I talk about how the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous saved my life.  Two years ago, on my 26th sobriety birthday I added some quotes below the article from some of my writing in which I talk about my drinking and early sobriety.  This year it was very appropriate for reasons that shall be obvious, that I share something I have shared in AA meetings on many occasions – including I am sure in many of my birthday meetings – but I don’t think I have ever written about.  (It possible I have, since I have written so much – but oh well.)

When I first got sober in a 30 day treatment program in Lincoln Nebraska, I got very afraid as it came time to leave treatment.  I felt like I had been in a safe haven for almost 30 days, and I wasn’t sure how I would fare back out in the world again.  (This was when I learned a very important lesson about working the third step when I went to see my counselor right before I was to get out.)

I couldn’t conceive of staying clean and sober for a year.  I couldn’t remember the last time I had gone for more than 3 days without something – drugs or alcohol – to take the edge off.  The one exception to that was one time about 2 years before I got sober when I quit drinking for 30 days to see if I wanted to die as much when I wasn’t drinking as when I was.  It wasn’t much of a test however, as I was still smoking some dope occasionally – plus I was starring in a play and having an affair with a married woman who was in the play with me, so had plenty of distractions to help me in my dry period.  At the cast party for the play I had a beer and just kind of forgot about ever thinking that drinking was a problem.  I was back to drinking alone to black out within a couple of weeks after that.

Anyway, I couldn’t imagine a year sober – and at the same time, I saw people who made it to a year and then drank again.  I was afraid of making it a goal to get to a year – because it was such a long time away, and also because I didn’t want to set myself up to feel like if I got there I had it made.  So, I decided to make my goal to reach 100 days – which was an impossibly long period for me at that point.  And then once I got to 100 days, I made my next goal 1000 days.  I would mention when I took my birthday cake after I reached 1000 days that my next goal was 10,000 days.  It seemed like an unfathomably distant goal.  Well, some time this year – in May I think – I passed 10,000 days clean and sober.  Mind boggling!  Talk about a miracle!!

As you can see from the comments I added two years ago after the article – I am Truly a miracle.  Among those comments below above is a quote from an article in my Joy2MeU Journal entitled: The Awakening Begins.  I decided to add an excerpt from the next article in that series – entitled: The Emotional Awakening Begins – to this page to commemorate my 28th sobriety anniversary and to be reminded of how far I have come since 1984.

“When I first came to recovery I knew a lot about emotions and had almost no permission to feel them personally.  I had no permission to feel them personally because my emotional programming from the role modeling of my parents in childhood taught me that men have only one emotion – anger – and that it wasn’t OK to be angry at women – since my mother’s definition of love included the belief that you can’t be angry at someone you love, meaning it was not OK for me to be angry at her.  My emotional palette, in terms of my personal unconscious relationship with my emotions, consisted of one color – anger – that was only truly acceptable to feel towards men.  Consciously, in my personal view of my self, I believed I was a very emotional person with a full palette.

I also knew quite a lot about emotions because I had spent many years in Hollywood pursuing an acting career.  I understood the human emotional process enough to see clearly that all humans had the same basic emotions – no matter how different their outside circumstances, or the details of their stories may have been.  When I had the right role I could play an audience like a emotional musical instrument. 

In retrospect, I believe that my acting was one of the reasons I was still alive.  I got much needed emotional release through the characters I played.  It was the type of emotional release that did not do anything for me personally in terms of healing (it is very important to own our feelings, crying for someone else is emotionally dishonest – the reason someone else’s pain affects us is because it triggers our own) – it just allowed me to vent some emotional energy, which kept me from exploding or imploding.  (The other major reason that I was still alive is that I had alcohol and drugs to help me keep the pain at bay.  Without alcohol I do think I would have killed myself before I was 21 because I was so emotionally isolated and had so much pain and rage stuffed inside – in fact I made a bet with a friend my freshman year in college that I wouldn’t live to graduate, the bet was a case of beer.)

Whenever I started working on a new character, the first thing I would try to decide was what the characters ‘gut level fears’ were.  I would pontificate to other actors about how people were driven by their gut level fears – and feel very proud of my ability to create real living breathing character studies based on my methods.  (I specialized in very intense characters who were very wounded – alcoholics, addicts, loners, crazy people, etc. – like “duh” I wonder why.  I even once for an on camera personalization exercise did Hamlet’s soliloquy ‘To be or not to be’ where he is contemplating suicide, using a drink instead of a dagger as the prop.  My acting teacher was convinced I was suicidal – I thought it just showed how brilliant I was that I was able to ‘act’ suicidal.  Denial is an amazing thing!)

So, my focus as an actor was on what fears drove my characters – but I personally had no fear.  When I first went into the Chemical Dependence Treatment Center where I got sober I heard people at meetings or in lectures mention being afraid.  I have a very clear memory of sitting in one of my first AA meetings where someone talked about being afraid and thinking “Who are these people!  So afraid.  I’ve never been afraid – they stuck guns in my face and I wasn’t afraid.  These people are wimps!”

I had no permission in my subconscious programming, in the definition of what I learned men feel from my male role model, to have fear.  I was incapable of consciously acknowledging fear in my personal process because it was unacceptable.

My self image on a conscious level was of being Mr. Nice Guy.  I would do anything for you, and I was always pleasant and entertaining.  My self image on an emotional level – my protective armor that I wore unconsciously – was of the ‘man in black.’ The strong quiet type that you didn’t want to mess with because you could see in my eyes that messing with me would be very unpleasant.  (This was a defense I developed when I was being a revolutionary and carrying a gun – I was in some pretty hairy situations and the defense served to keep me alive.)  I had a force field that I put up around myself to protect myself.  I knew how to put off vibes that said very clearly ‘stay away.’

One of the important breakthroughs I had during my 30 days in treatment came in my third week there.  My counselor was not sure how to handle me because of my intensity and the fact – which, since it was where I derived much of my ego strength, I made very clear – that I was a ‘Hollywood Actor.’ (The treatment center was in Nebraska – a long way from Hollywood.)  So, in consultation with the other counselors they decided to keep me off balance by switching me between therapy groups – and giving each of the male counselors a shot at me. 

There were three primary groups for men and usually a person was in one group the whole time they were in treatment.  In my third week, I showed up for group and was told that I had to go to a different group.  They refused to tell me why this was happening.  In about the middle of the week, I was in a group where for the first time I got to experience a full-on mirroring of myself.  The previous week in my primary group I had been confronted about putting up a barrier to scare people away – and I had responded by denying it and tearfully saying how I loved people and would never try to scare them away.  Well, in that other group I got to sit and watch another man get confronted about the same thing and deny it just as I had done – and I saw myself in him so clearly that I had to immediately point out that I could see he was not being honest because watching him I realized that I had not been honest.

At the end of this week of switching back and forth between the three groups, I was in a group with a grizzled old counselor who had been around for many years.  He asked me if I had learned anything from all the switching around and then sat and listened patiently while I expounded on all that I had learned. 

    When I was done, he asked quietly and quizzically “And you didn’t know why we were doing that, did you?”

    “No,” I said “I had no idea.”

    Then he sweetly smiled and drove home the point, “Well, maybe it is not important for you to know why something is happening then.”

    Shot the heck out of some of my control issues right there.

This treatment center worked with what was called the ‘Minnesota model’ in dealing with emotional issues.  What that meant was that they identified 6 primary feelings and forced us patients to identify our feelings only using those words.   The 6 were mad, sad, glad, hurt, afraid, ashamed.  That drove me crazy.  One of the defenses that I used to distance myself from my feelings was not naming them.  They forced me to start naming my feelings.  I couldn’t say “I was confused,” or “irritated” or “apprehensive” or “annoyed” etc.  I had to name a feeling.  It really drove me crazy since I did not know on a personal level what feelings really were, let alone what I was feeling.

I was forced to start trying to figure out what I was feeling – and to stop being in my head all of the time.  One of my primary defenses against feeling my feelings was to be in my head.  In my early recovery I had to start paying attention to what was happening in my body from the neck down – because that is where emotions manifest.

Since I was so out of touch with my feelings, I had to come up with clues for myself.  Things that I could notice that would be a clue to me that feelings were going on.

By the time I got done with the 30 day program I was really in touch with my fear.  I realized that rather than never having been afraid – the truth was that I had been afraid of everybody and everything since I was a kid.  I was absolutely terrified of leaving the treatment center because I was so scared that I would drink again.  I could see clearly what a hell my life had been and I did not ever want to go back to living the way I had been.  I swore to myself that I would kill myself before I took another drink.

So wanting a drink became my most important early clue to tell me that I had some feelings going on that I needed to deal with.  When I caught myself, while watching TV, really watching the beer commercials, I would have to stop and say, “whoa, that beer really looks good – I must be feeling something.”  Or when I was driving down the street and noticing every cocktail sign and liquor billboard –  that would be a clue that I needed to do a little emotional inventory.

One of the classic moments came because of a friend who was a musician.  He was having trouble staying sober while he was playing – so a few of us would go to an AA meeting on Friday or Saturday night and then go to whatever Lounge he was playing at.  It was a very good opportunity for me to be around drinking with a bunch of safe people and get used to not drinking in a social setting.  But there was one night when I realized that I had some feelings going on that made it unsafe for me to be in a bar.  My clue came when I started tearing up while my friend played what to me was a very sad ballad.  It was real progress for me to recognize that I was emotionally vulnerable and needed to get out of there.  Pretty funny in retrospect.  The sad ballad was “Jose Cuervo, he was a good friend of mine.””  – The Path of one Recovering Codependent ~ the dance of one wounded soul The Emotional Awakening Begins in the Joy2MeU Journal

A very valuable lesson – I don’t have to know why something is happening in order to accept that it is part of the Divine Plan somehow.  Things often haven’t gone the way I wanted them in the last 28 years – and over and over again I have been grateful when I looked back and saw the perfection of my Higher Power’s plan for me. (Something I talked about in the comments I added to my working the third step page (next excerpt) in commemoration of this birthday.)  Onward and upward for the next 10,000 days.  Happy Birthday to me!!!!!!!!”  – Joy to You & Me and Joy2MeU Update February 2012

Sacred Spiral

“I celebrated my 17th sobriety birthday on January 3rd.  17 years is pretty much incomprehensible for someone who couldn’t go for 3 days without a drink or a drug.  It doesn’t seem like it went fast though – rather it seems like I have lived 7 or 8 lifetimes since 1984.  It is important for me to remember where I came from, and how far the Spirit has lead me on this journey.  As they say, the qualities of my problems has greatly improved. 😉

It is especially important for me to remember that right now, because I have been going through one of those difficult times in recovery.  There are times when everything is flowing fast and furious, with miracles popping up every time I turn around.  Then there are other times when it seems dark and murky – like I am trying to move through quick sand and not making any progress.

When I am in one of the difficult times, it is so important to observe myself so that I can catch myself when I start going into shame and judgment.  This disease is so insidious and powerful.  It puts up huge resistance to change and then turns around and tells me that I am not changing fast enough – that I am not doing enough, not doing it “right.”

As I say many times on my web site, the challenge for us is to have compassion for ourselves, and to accept wherever we are at as being a perfect part of the process, rather than punishment for being bad.  My critical parent voice wants to beat up on that wounded little boy in me whose father raged at him, who couldn’t protect his mother, and who was taught that god was judgmental and punishing.

I have to call on the defense attorney within to stand up to the prosecuting critical parent and the judge who wants to sentence me to suffering.  Sometimes it is easier than others.  Sometimes it is important just to accept that I am feeling overwhelmed, alone, and worn out – and to let myself indulge a little.  A few days ago, I let myself just kind of wallow in the part of me that feels like a wounded animal who wants to crawl into my cave and lick my wounds.

Accepting and embracing that part of me for a few hours – allowing myself to crawl into bed with a book and some chocolate – allows me to get through it and come out on the other side in a way that fighting it never does.  The disease wants to tell me that when I am feeling bad it will last forever.  That is a lie.  Accepting where I am at without shame and judgment and reminding myself that this too shall pass is an important part of maintaining some sense of balance today.

I think part of what I have been going through is a planetary thing – the process has cycles and this seems to be a murky one.  Part of it is the changes I am making in my life that I spoke about in my last newsletter.  Being in transition is always a difficult time.  I sometimes think about how it must feel to be a caterpillar in the cocoon – being torn apart and put back together as a butterfly.  That is kind of what happens in recovery – except we get to be conscious of the tearing apart process in a way that I am sure caterpillars are not.  A dubious gift if you ask me.

I also, have just gotten aware in the last couple of days that I may have had some denial going over the holidays.  I thought I had sailed through the holidays without hitting any of those pot holes of grief over being alone – the pot holes that used to be huge abysses (is that a word?).  I even congratulated myself on how I had succeeded in taking all of the emotional charge out the holidays – when I used to really feel lonely and have great sadness over being alone.

It seems I may have some of that grief and loneliness after all.  It is natural in my process that, sometimes when I am consciously choosing to focus on the part of the glass that is full, I overshoot a little and indulge in a little denial about the part that is still empty.  Oh well.  Got caught being human again.” – Joy to You & Me and Joy2MeU Update January 2001  
Sacred Spiral “On January 3, 2002 I will celebrate 18 years of being clean and sober.  I have actually been clean and sober now for longer than I drank and used.  An amazing miracle that has unfolded one day at a time.  Some of those days were excruciatingly painful – full of hopelessness and despair.  In early recovery, I didn’t make it through those days sober because I wanted to be sober – or because I wanted to be alive.  I made it through one day at a time because I was terrified of returning to, and getting stuck in, the hell I had been living in for the last 4 or 5 years of my drinking.

There is an old AA saying that: Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t open up the gates of heaven and let us in – it opens up the gates of hell and lets us out.  When I got released from my alcoholic hell, what I found myself experiencing was life.  The very thing I had been drinking to cope with!

What I realize now, is that I was released from alcoholic hell and found myself in codependent hell.  My relationship with my self and with life condemned me to codependent hell – and alcohol and drugs had given me a vacation of sorts from dealing with the fact that I did not have a clue of how to live life in a functional way.

I am very, very grateful now that I am a recovering alcoholic.  If I had not found alcohol and drugs, I would have killed myself in one way or another in my late teens or early twenties.  My 17 plus year drinking career kept me alive long enough to be present when planetary conditions changed so that the New Age of Healing and Joy could dawn in human consciousness.  Long enough to have available to me, the tools and knowledge to be able to heal my wounded soul and learn to live life in a way that works.  Long enough that first Adult Children of Alcoholics, and then Co-Dependents Anonymous meetings, were available to help me in my healing process.

The dysfunctional dance of Codependence is caused by being at war with ourselves – being at war within.

We are at war with ourselves because we are judging and shaming ourselves for being human.  We are at war with ourselves because we are carrying around suppressed grief energy that we are terrified of feeling.  We are at war within because we are “damming” our own emotional process – because we were forced to become emotionally dishonest as children and had to learn ways to block and distort our emotional energy.

We cannot learn to Love ourselves and be at peace within until we stop judging and shaming ourselves for being human and stop fighting our own emotional process, until we stop waging war on ourselves.

Detachment and Delayed Gratification

I can see now, that the reason I was able to stay sober was because of two concepts that are invaluable to any healing or growth.  The first one made the second possible.  It is the first of these concepts that is the single most important step in the inner healing process – the one that I stress so much to anyone I am working with on how to change and improve the quality of their lives.

That concept is detachment.

Codependence is a compulsively reactive condition.  I had gone through life like a pin ball – bouncing / reacting from one point to the next, from one person to the next.  It was never my fault.   Someone, or something else, was always to blame for how messed up my life was – for how awful I felt inside.  I focused on blame and resentment because the only alternative that I knew was to blame myself.  I was at war inside of myself – and because I was taught to look outside for definition and worth by the society I grew up in, I tried to assign the blame externally for that internal war.

At the core of codependency is shame about being human.  This shame was caused by a polarized, black and white intellectual paradigm that empowered the perspective that the only alternatives for evaluating worth, for determining value, are right and wrong.  Human beings are incapable of being perfect based upon a perspective in which the only alternatives are right and wrong.

Codependency is a dysfunctional relationship with life, with being human.  It is the dance I learned to do as a little kid.  It is a dance whose music is generated from fear and shame, to a rhythm dictated by black and white thinking.  It is a dance characterized by movement between extremes – blame them or blame me, overreact or underreact, less than or better than, success or failure, win or lose, etc., – which makes balance impossible.  There is no middle ground in a dance that can only be done right or wrong.  There can be no inner peace.

Since I was continually attempting to do life perfect (or rebelling by going to the opposite extreme) according to false beliefs about the nature and purpose of being human, I could never have any inner peace.  I judged my self and my life experience, both consciously and unconsciously, out of a dysfunctional polarized belief system – so that it was not possible to stop being at war within.  At the core of my being I felt like I was a defective monster, some kind of shameful, unlovable loser – and I tried to deflect some of that pain by blaming others.

No wonder I drank.  Alcohol – and later drugs of various kinds – saved my life.

The first thing I had to do to get sober was to detach enough from my personal reality – from my hellish emotional pain and shame, from the intellectual garbage generated by my twisted codependent thinking – to become conscious of the reality that alcohol was not working for me anymore.  I had to get conscious enough to be able to realize that it had been many years since alcohol had given me the relief and good feelings that it had when I started drinking.

With any addictive, mind / mood altering substance / behavior, the very thing that brought some relief from the internal war and mental anguish – the substance or behavior that gives us feelings of being high, of rising above our lives of quiet desperation, of feeling good –  becomes something that we feel is necessary just to feel normal.  Then eventually, normal becomes very low indeed.

I had to detach from myself enough to look at my life from a perspective that allowed me to see that maybe my behavior had something to do with why I was so miserable – but that is was not because I was a shameful being.  The twelve step concept of powerlessness – the idea that alcoholism was a disease rather than a weakness of character – allowed me to detach and view my behavior, my drinking and using, with enough objectivity to start seeing reality with more clarity.

Once I surrendered to the reality that alcohol was hurting me rather than helping me, then I could make some effort to start living life differently.  It was necessary for me to get a detached, objective look at myself in order for me to get honest enough with myself to decide that it might be better for me to get sober.  I did not stop drinking because I wanted to stop drinking.  I stopped drinking because alcohol and drugs were not working for me any more.  When I was able to look at reality with some detachment, I could see that what I thought was the solution had actually become the most pressing problem.

The second concept that was so valuable in staying sober and starting to change my life, was the concept of delayed gratification.  When I first started recovery, I thought that living life one day at a time was a revolutionary concept for me.  But looking back now, I can see that living life one day at a time is what I had been doing all my life.  The difference was that I had been living out of instant gratification.

As I describe on my page The codependent three step – A Dance of Shame, Suffering, & Self-Abuse, codependency is a vicious, compulsive, self-abusive dynamic – an prison that we are trapped in as long as we are reacting.  In my codependent dance I was the victim of myself, I was my own perpetrator, and I rescued myself in ways that were ultimately self abusive.   The shame and pain I was feeling was causing me to feel like a victim, the critical parent voice in my head was beating me up for being a stupid loser, and I was rescuing myself with drugs and alcohol.

In early recovery, I learned to think the next drink through to the consequences before picking it up.  In other words, think about how I would feel about myself tomorrow if I take a drink today.  And be conscious enough to tell myself the truth that I didn’t want just one drink – I wanted oblivion, unconsciousness.

So, I started living life one day at a time from a detached place of consciousness that was aware of cause and effect – and understood that not indulging in instant gratification today would help me to not hate myself so much tomorrow.

Detachment allowed me to start aligning myself with the way life really works – cause and effect – and choosing delayed gratification one day at a time.” – Co-Creation: Owning your Power to Manifest Love

I have often said that Gratitude is not nearly a big enough word to describe how grateful I am and how blessed I feel to be in recovery.   January 3rd 2018 is my 34th sobriety birthday and I am profoundly, deeply, everlastingly grateful for the gift of recovery in my life.

“I am profoundly, deeply, everlastingly grateful for the gift of the 12 steps.  The process of learning to apply the Spiritual Principles in my life has changed my life from an unendurable hell to an adventure that is exciting and enJoyable most of the time.  The twelve steps work.  That is the bottom line.  They work to help a person transform their experience of life into something better.  They work to help a person learn to develop a relationship with life and self that allows room for inner peace, happiness, and Joy.  The twelve step process works to help a person open up to Love.” – The Miracle of The Twelve Step Recovery Process – a formula for integration and balance

Sacred Spiral

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There are probably 5 or 6 million words in the two subscription areas of my site that I quote from in this entry.  I have a page with special offers on lifetimes subscriptions to those password protected areas: Dancing in Light and the Joy2MeU Journal.  Millions of words of content not available on Joy2MeU.

Codependency book-Codependence The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert BurneyIt is possible to get personally autographed copies of my books from my website Joy2MeU  or You can get my Books, eBooks, and Audiobooks through Amazon,  Books or eBooks through Barnes & Noble, or eBooks through Kobo.

 

x-illGrateful acknowledgment is made for permission to quote from: Illusions  “The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah” by Richard Bach.  Copyright 1977 by Creature Enterprises, Inc.   Reprinted in Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney by permission of Bantam Doubleday Dell, New York, NY.

 

“I am inserting a note here for anyone who feels offended by what they see as a violation of the Eleventh Tradition of AA’s Twelve Traditions.  The 11th Tradition of AA is:

Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.

I routinely break my own anonymity in regard to the fact that I am a recovering alcoholic / addict and codependent because I do not believe I would be alive today if Betty Ford had not broken her anonymity in the late 1970s and brought the subject of alcoholism out of the closet into public view.  She is one of the people I dedicated my book to because I believe that I personally owe her a debt of gratitude for her courage and honesty.  Breaking my own anonymity is one way that I carry the message of hope that saved my life.  Anyone whose black and white thinking is causing them to rigidly interpret the Twelve Steps and Traditions enough to be offended, desperately needs to get into codependency recovery in my opinion.” – Robert Burney 2/10/04 

Illusions “The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah.”

My Sobriety birthday is tomorrow and in the course of putting together a blog about my experience of being clean and sober since January 3rd 1984, I came across a journal entry that doesn’t quite work in the blog post I am writing but which I wanted to share. In this journal entry I am talking about a couple of the powerful early influences in my recovery.

The first was Richard Bach’s book Illusions “The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah.”  I discovered this book in a grocery store book rack when I was about 3 months sober.  The title resonated so strongly with me that I knew I had to buy it though I had no idea what it was about or why I related to it.

Everyone has a time in their early Spiritual Awakening when some specific influence – a book, a teacher, a workshop, etc. – impacted them to a huge degree.  At the time we are ready to hear – the teacher appears.  This has happened again and again in my recovery – but the first real powerful awakening stimuli always sticks with us.  Illusions is to me a great book of Truth.  And it gave me a new huge paradigm to start exploring in my quest for Spiritual meaning in life.

The story of Illusions is that Richard Bach is out flying around the Midwest in an old biplane making a living by giving people rides.  He meets someone else who is doing the same.  This other person turns out to be a former mechanic who got in touch with his inner power and started working miracles.  He soon had people flocking around him because he was “The Messiah.”  He kept trying to tell people that they could do anything he could do because they were all connected to the Divine also.  But they wouldn’t listen to him.  Rather they wanted him to fix them – they didn’t want to do the work themselves.

He got tired of not being heard so one day he quit.  Here is an excerpt from the prologue to Illusions.

“And when the throng pressed him with its woes, beseeching him to heal for it and learn for it and feed it nonstop from his understanding and to entertain it with his wonders, he smiled upon the multitude and said pleasantly unto them, “I quit.”
 
For a moment the multitude was stricken dumb with astonishment.
 
And he said unto them, “If a man told God that he wanted most of all to help the suffering world, no matter the price to himself, and God answered and told him what he must do, should the man do as he is told?”
 
“Of course, Master!” cried the many. “It should be pleasure for him to suffer the tortures of hell itself, should God ask it!”
 
“No matter what those tortures, nor how difficult the task?”
 
“Honor to be hanged, glory to be nailed to a tree and burned, if so be that God has asked,” said they.
 
“And what would you do,” the Master said unto the multitude. “if God spoke directly to your face and said, ‘I command that you be happy in the world, as long as you live.’ What would you do then?”
 
And the multitude was silent, not a voice, not a sound was heard upon the hillsides, across the valleys where they stood.
 
And the Master said unto the silence, “In the path of our happiness shall we find the learning for which we have chosen this lifetime. So it is that I have learned this day, and choose to leave you to walk your own path, as you please.”
 
And he went his way through the crowds and left them, and he returned to the everyday world of men and machines.”
 
Here is a quote . . . from my book paraphrasing a story in Illusions.
“The prologue to Richard Bach’s Illusions contains a story about a colony of creatures clinging to the bottom of a stream. Here is a paraphrasing of that story.
 
“One day one of those creatures became bored with the life of clinging and decided to see what would happen if he let go and got swept up into the stream. He wanted to see where the stream would carry him.
 
All of the other creatures laughed at him and made fun of him. “You can’t let go of the rocks, you’ll just get battered and bruised!” “It’s insane to let go of the rocks!”
 
This creature, though, wanted more out of life than just clinging to the rocks. He wanted to find out where the stream went. So he let go of the rocks – and sure enough he got battered and bruised and had to grab hold again.
 
All of the other creatures ridiculed and laughed at him.
 
But he said, “I am going to try again. I believe that the stream knows where it is going. I want to see where the stream will take me.” So he let go again – and he got battered and bruised again. And then he let go again, and again, and again.
 
Each time he got a little less battered and bruised. Each time he got a little closer to being swept up in the stream.
 
Then finally one day he had let go enough times that he did get swept up into the stream. He was caught in the flow of the stream and swept forward.
 
He was flying!
 
As he flew along with his heart full of Joy and excitement he passed over another colony of clinging creatures that was downstream.
 
They looked up at him and cried, “Behold! There is a creature like us and he is flying! It must be the Messiah!”
 
He looked back at them and shouted as he was heading down stream, “No! You don’t understand. You can fly, too, all you have to do is let go. You are as much messiahs as I am.”
 
That is what this is all about! The second coming has begun! Not of “The Messiah,” but of a whole bunch of messiahs. The messiah – the liberator – is within us! A liberating, Healing Transformational Movement has begun. “The Savior” does not exist outside of us – “The Savior” exists within.
 
We are the sons and daughters of God. We, the old souls, who are involved in this Healing Movement, are the second coming of the message of Love.
 
We have entered what certain Native American prophecies call the Dawning of the Fifth World of Peace. Through focusing on our own healing the planet will be healed.
 
We all have available to us – within – a direct channel to the Highest Vibrational Frequency Range within The Illusion. That highest range involves consciousness of the Glory of ONENESS. It is called Cosmic Consciousness. It is called Christ Consciousness.
 
This is the energy that Jesus was tuned into, and he stated very plainly, “These things that I do, you can do also.” – by atoning, by tuning in.
 
We have access to the Christ Energy within. We have begun the Second Coming of the message of Love.
 
The dawning of the Age of Healing and Joy is the dawning of the Fifth World of Peace when humans will learn to walk in balance and harmony.
 
Now that is some pretty wonderful news, wouldn’t you say?” – Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls quoted in  – The Path of one Recovering Codependent ~ the dance of one wounded soul The Awakening Begins in the Joy2MeU Journal 
Sacred Spiral
 
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Joy2MeU Journal

The Joy2MeU Journal includes a personal journal of my recovery process as well as my personal story “The Path of one Recovering Codependent ~ the dance of one wounded soul.”  In it I share the story of my recovery.   I have a page that includes special offers on lifetimes subscriptions to the password protected areas of my website Joy2MeU.com: Dancing in Light and the Joy2MeU Journal.  Millions of words of content not available on Joy2MeU.

Codependency book-Codependence The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert BurneyIt is possible to get personally autographed copies of my books from my website Joy2MeU  or You can get my Books, eBooks, and Audiobooks through Amazon,  Books or eBooks through Barnes & Noble, or eBooks through Kobo.

x-illGrateful acknowledgment is made for permission to quote from: Illusions  “The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah” by Richard Bach.  Copyright 1977 by Creature Enterprises, Inc.   Reprinted in Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney by permission of Bantam Doubleday Dell, New York, NY.

To Parents of Alcoholics / Addicts

The Dance

“We must start recognizing our powerlessness over this disease of Codependence.

As long as we did not know we had a choice we did not have one.

If we never knew how to say “no,” then we never really said “yes.”

We were powerless to do anything any different than we did it. We were doing the best we knew how with the tools that we had.  None of us had the power to write a different script for our lives.

We need to grieve for the past.  For the ways in which we abandoned and abused ourselves.  For the ways we deprived ourselves.  We need to own that sadness.  But we also need to stop blaming ourselves for it.  It was not our fault!

We did not have the power to do it any differently.

As long as we are holding onto the guilt and feeling ashamed, it means that on some level we think we had the power.  We think that if we would have just done it a little differently, if we had just done it “right,” if we could have just said the “right’ thing, then we could have controlled it and had it come out the way we wanted.

The part of you that is telling you that is your disease.” – quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

Since I finished my series of articles on inner child healing last month, I have been wondering what my next article would focus on.  As is often the case with my writing, I get stimulated to focus on a particular topic, on a facet of the condition of codependency or recovery, by a question I receive in an e-mail.

This particular article was sparked by a parent in anguish about their child’s drug addiction, who was asking if they were responsible for their child becoming an addict.  The simple answer to that question is no.  There are however, many other levels to both this question and the answer.

The question itself is a manifestation of codependency, as the quote above from my book illustrates.  Parents have responsibility in how their children were wounded by their codependent behavior patterns – but they are not to blame because the parents were powerless over their codependency.  In recovery it is very important to take responsibility while also learning to stop giving power to the polarized blame and shame of the disease.  Therein lies a tale.

So, it looks like I may be off and running with a new series of articles here.  I am not even sure right now what to call this series, but it is going to start off with the simple answer to the parent who wants to know if her child’s drug addiction were something she caused.  It will then expand into looking at parental roles, dysfunctional families, toxic codependent love, and whatever else comes up – and focus on applying twelve step Spiritual principles in recovery in order to learn how to relate in healthier and more Loving ways to both our self and others, to both our parents and our children.

Parents do not cause their children to become alcoholics – or drug addicts.

Alcoholism / addiction is not caused by environmental factors.  It is a physiological, genetic allergy – a hereditary predisposition involving brain chemistry.  There is now ample scientific proof, research data, to support the premise that made Alcoholics Anonymous the first successful approach to dealing with alcoholism.  Alcoholism is a disease.  Drug Addiction, in the great majority of cases, is just a form of alcoholism.  (It is possible for someone who was not born with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism to become physiologically and psychologically addicted to drugs – in reaction to chronic physical pain for instance, or to a dysfunctional psychiatric community’s pattern of treating the symptoms of emotional wounding with addictive drugs instead of healing the cause.)

Someone does not become an alcoholic / addict because they were raised in a dysfunctional family.  Alcoholism is not caused by emotional wounds.  It also has nothing to do with will power or strength of character or morality.  It does not have anything to do with intelligence.

Many people drink heavily or experiment with drugs in their teens and early twenties.  The ones who have a genetic predisposition make alcohol and/or drugs their primary coping mechanism – the ones that do not find other ways of coping and going unconscious.  People who become alcoholics are not as a rule more wounded than people that do not – they just have a genetic vulnerability.

All of us adapted codependent defense systems to protect us from the toxic shame we felt in early childhood – to help us survive in the dysfunctional environments we grew up in.  The primary environment was of course our family of origin.  But we were also emotionally traumatized in the schools we attended, in churches, in social interactions with other wounded human beings. We were exposed to dysfunctional messages from society in general, through books and movies, television and music, etc.

We all learned ways to cope with the pain of being human in societies that taught us it was shameful to be human.  We all had to adapt defense systems that would help us disassociate – go unconscious to – the emotional pain we experienced growing up in emotionally dishonest, Spiritually hostile environments.  (Spiritually hostile in my definition because civilization is founded upon belief in separation, shame about being human, and fear of differences instead of connection and Love.)

A parent does not cause a child to become alcoholic or drug addicted.  The emotional wounds provide reasons to drink and use, are the fuel that drives an alcoholic/addict’s behavior, but are not the cause of the disease.

We were all raised in dysfunctional families – because society / civilization is emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional.  We were all wounded in our childhood, because our parents were wounded in their childhood – and when we became parents we wounded our children.

You did not cause your child’s addiction.  Your behaviors did wound your child because you did not love your self in a healthy way and were not given the tools, knowledge, and role modeling to teach you how to be a healthy person – let alone a healthy parent.  You were wounded in your childhood, you were doing the best you knew how to do as a parent, it is not your fault that you were powerless to do it any differently.  You do have some responsibility in your child’s wounding, but you are not to blame.  To give power to the blaming guilt and shame of the disease will in fact, set you up to continue to be unhealthy in your relationship with your child.  The best thing you can do for your child is to learn how to Love yourself – is to focus on recovering from your codependency.                                                                        

Sacred Spiral 

I wrote a series of articles on applying 12 step principles in relationships at the beginning of 2002.  The article that followed this one is one I added to my blog awhile ago that I am going to include a link to here for anyone who hasn’t seen it: Enabling & Rescuing vs Tough Love 

The key to codependency recovery is the inner child healing work I describe on my site:   A key element of that work includes learning to set internal boundaries.  The formula that I pioneered for inner healing – which includes learning to set the internal boundaries –  is something that I teach people through telephone counseling.

Reading my book Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls  (links to all of my books in both hard copy, ebook format, and audiobook are on that page) would really help you take your understanding to a whole new level. Understanding codependency is vital in helping us to forgive our self for the dysfunctional ways we have lived our lives – it is not our fault we are codependent.

Coversm-Arena DancingIn the last few years I have also published two more books that can be very helpful. Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light Book 1 Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing and Romantic Relationships ~ The Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth. I have special offers for either or both of these books (or for all three of my books) on this page.

I also offer periodic day long workshops in San Diego to teach people how to apply my inner child healing formula.  The next one (which may be the last one I am going to offer in San Diego) is on October 4th.

Codependency causes us to feel like the victim of our own thoughts and feelings, and like our own worst enemy – recovery helps us to start learning how to be our own best friend. Getting into codependency recovery is an act of love for self.

I have a new site focused on my work that is designed to be mobile friendly for all those people using mobile devices these days: http://recoverycodependence.com/

Grave Emotional and Mental Disorders – AA language for Codependence

The Dance

Codependence The Dance of Wounded Souls

 ““We are all carrying around repressed pain, terror, shame, and rage energy from our childhoods, whether it was twenty years ago or fifty years ago. We have this grief energy within us even if we came from a relatively healthy family, because this society is emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional.

    When someone “pushes your buttons,” he/she is activating that stored, pressurized grief energy. She/he is gouging the old wounds, and all of the newer wounds that are piled on top of those original wounds by our repeating behavior patterns.” – quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

    When I first got into recovery one of the things that I was told was that ‘all I had to change was everything’. I had no idea what that meant back then. Now I know that it means that I needed to change my attitudes, beliefs, and definitions about myself and everything in my life. I needed to start surrendering my way of seeing things, of doing life.

    One of the first surrenders that I had to make was to let go of doing things ‘my way.’ (I used to sit in bars and get tears in my eyes over Frank Sinatra’s recording because I was also doing it ‘My way.’)  I had to start listening to those weird people who were telling me that I could live without alcohol. Then I had to start letting go of my belief that life was impossible without drugs and alcohol.

    Every time I go through a surrender in my recovery I am letting go of some of the ego definitions that have defined my relationship with myself and life. I have to let go of the attitudes and beliefs that I adapted because of the emotional trauma that I suffered as a child (which are still buried in my subconscious until I became willing to look at them.)

    There is an old AA saying that, ‘AA doesn’t open up the gates of heaven and let us in it opens up the gates of hell and lets us out.’ What we are let out into is life. The only way that I had known how to deal with life up to that time was to drink and use. The Twelve Steps are a formula for learning how to deal with life in a Spiritual way, and they saved my life.

    Unfortunately, the Twelve Steps as practiced in AA are not always enough. Not because the Twelve Step process is not enough – but because the way it is practiced in AA leaves out a vitally important level of healing. That is the level of healing the emotional wounds. We can deal with our grave emotional and mental disorders by having the capacity to be honest with ourselves. That includes being emotionally honest with ourselves. And the only way to achieve emotional honesty is by releasing the grief energy that we are carrying around – the pain, terror, shame, and rage from our childhoods.

    Until we deal with our emotional wounds, we do not have the ability to be emotionally honest in the moment. Until we change our relationship with our own emotions it is impossible to be comfortable in our own skins.

    Emotional energy manifests in the body. Our attitudes, definitions, and beliefs (subconscious and conscious) dictate our perspective of life and our expectations of ourselves, others, and life. Those perspectives and expectations set us up to react emotionally to life events. If we have not dealt with the old wounds then we will live life in reaction – overreacting (or underreacting to keep from overreacting) – when our ‘buttons are pushed.’ Our fear of our own reactions determines the quality of our relationships. Until we go back and heal our childhood emotional wounds we cannot successfully change the old tapes – we cannot achieve a healthy, emotionally honest relationship with ourselves and others.

    Grave emotional and mental disorders is AA language for Codependence. Codependence is all about having a dysfunctional relationship with self: with our own bodies, minds, emotions, and spirits; with our own gender and sexuality; with being human. Because we have dysfunctional relationships internally we have dysfunctional relationships externally. Because we cannot be emotionally honest with ourselves we aren’t really being totally honest with anyone ever.

    Bill Wilson would have loved to have had the tools we have available to us today. He would have run to an ACA or CoDA meeting because that is where he could have found the roots of the depression which tormented him.

    Codependence Recovery is ninth step work, making amends to ourselves and others by changing the attitudes and behaviors that have caused us to hurt ourselves and others. And we cannot make those amends without owning the feelings. We are powerless to substantially change the behavior patterns in our most intimate relationships without doing the grief work.”

Sacred Spiral

Logo of Joy2MeU

Logo of Joy2MeU.com website

The key to codependency recovery is the inner child healing work I describe on my site joy2meu.com   A key element of that work includes learning to set internal boundaries.  The formula that I pioneered for inner healing – which includes learning to set the internal boundaries –  is something that I teach people through telephone counseling  (It is now possible to get phone cards for very cheap rates from many places in the world – and also to use Skype for free from anywhere.)  I talk about how the phone counseling can work to really change a persons life for the better in a short period of time on this page which includes some special combination offers.

Reading my book Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls  (links to all of my books in both hard copy and ebook format are on that page) would really help you take your understanding to a whole new level.  Understanding codependency is vital in helping us to forgive our self for the dysfunctional ways we have lived our lives – it is not our fault we are codependent.

In the last few years I have also published two more books that can be very helpful. Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light Book 1 Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing and Romantic Relationships ~ The Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth.  I have special offers for either or both of these books (or for all three of my books) on this special sale page.

I also offer periodic day long workshops in San Diego to teach people how to apply my inner child healing formula.   (There is now a downloadable MP3 recording available of my Life Changing workshop – and I have a page with special offers for both the workshop recording and an MP3 download of Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls. )

Codependency causes us to feel like the victim of our own thoughts and feelings, and like our own worst enemy – recovery helps us to start learning how to be our own best friend.  Getting into codependency recovery is an act of love for self.

The Miracle of The Twelve Step Recovery Process – a formula for integration and balance

I am profoundly, deeply, everlastingly grateful for the gift of the 12 steps.  The process of learning to apply the Spiritual Principles in my life has changed my life from an unendurable hell to an adventure that is exciting and enJoyable most of the time.  The twelve steps work.  That is the bottom line.  They work to help a person transform their experience of life into something better.  They work to help a person learn to develop a relationship with life and self that allows room for inner peace, happiness, and Joy.  The twelve step process works to help a person open up to Love.

As I explain in my book Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls, planetary conditions caused human beings to develop a relationship with being human that was reversed to Love and Truth.  The reason this human experience is so screwed up is because humans have been doing life backwards – looking outside for Truth and Love, for validation, meaning, and purpose.  Outer dependence is dysfunctional.  It is the reason we do not know how to love our neighbors as our self – because we do not know how to Love our self.  It is the reason we have war and poverty, pollution and child abuse, rape and bigotry.  This world would be a much nicer place if everyone was working a twelve step program.

The good news is that there has been a major change in those planetary conditions, and a new age – an Age of Healing and Joy – has dawned in human consciousness.  The human condition is changing.  We have entered a new time in human evolution – a time in which we are learning to manifest Love into the world by learning to access Love for self.  The twelve step process has played a major role in the Spiritual Revolution that is taking place on this planet.  The mystical gift of the twelve steps greatly accelerated the process of bringing the planetary energy field to critical mass so that this change could take place. In this series of articles I am sharing my perspective of the twelve steps.

Book cover

Codependence The Dance of Wounded Souls

“I believe that in a hundred years historians will look back and pinpoint this milestone as the single most important event in the twentieth century.  This milestone was the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous in Akron, Ohio, in June of 1935.

Besides the invaluable gift of sobriety that AA has given to millions of Alcoholics, it also started a revolution in Spiritual consciousness.

The dramatic success and expansion of AA facilitated the spread of a radically revolutionary idea which has traditionally, in Western Civilization, been considered heresy.  This was not a new idea but rather a reintroduction and clarification of an old idea, coupled with a formula for practical application of the concept into day-to-day human life experience.

This revolutionary idea was that an unconditionally Loving Higher Power exists with whom the individual being can personally communicate.  A Higher Power that is so powerful that it has no need to judge the humans it created because this Universal Force is powerful enough to ensure that everything unfolds perfectly from a Cosmic Perspective.

This reintroduction of the revolutionary concept of an accessible Loving God has been clarified to specifically include the concept that the individual being can define this Universal Force according to his/her own understanding, and can develop a personal, intimate relationship with this Higher Power.

In other words, no one is needed as an intermediary between you and your creator.  No outside agency has the right to impose upon you its definition of God.

The spread of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the other Anonymous programs which sprang out of AA, is the widest and most effective dissemination of this radical revolutionary concept that has ever occurred in Western Civilization.

Mystics, gnostics, and certain “primitive” peoples have, throughout recorded human history, understood the Truth in this concept – but the “organized religions” of urban-based civilizations have persecuted, tortured, and crucified any messengers or groups of people who believed in a Loving, personal God or Goddess – because it threatened the power of those organized religions’ control over the masses and therefore their very existence.  This time the dissemination of the message has been effective because:  The time was right; the revolutionary concept was camouflaged as part of a successful treatment for a fatal, incurable disease; and it was accompanied by the Twelve Step Spiritual program.” – quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

Codependency: A Dance of Black and White Thinking and Toxic Shame

“One of the core characteristics of this disease of Codependence is intellectual polarization – black and white thinking.  Rigid extremes – good or bad, right or wrong, love it or leave it, one or ten.  Codependence does not allow any gray area – only black and white extremes.

Life is not black and white.  Life involves the interplay of black and white.  In other words, the gray area is where life takes place.  A big part of the healing process is learning the numbers two through nine – recognizing that life is not black and white.

Life is not some kind of test, that if we fail, we will be punished.  We are not human creatures who are being punished by an avenging god.  We are not trapped in some kind of tragic place out of which we have to earn our way by doing the “right” things.

We are Spiritual Beings having a human experience.  We are here to learn.  We are here to go through this process that is life.  We are here to feel these feelings.”

There is an acronym in Twelve Step Recovery, that like many simple sayings, it full of Truth.  That acronym is HOW.   The letters stand for honesty, openness, and willingness.  It is vital to be willing to start looking at life and self from larger perspectives, willing to take the action necessary to align with healing.  To be open to changing our attitudes, to feeling our feelings.  And it is so vital to start being willing and open to getting more honest with ourselves.

“We were powerless out of ego-self to do anything any different than we did it.  We are powerless out of ego-self to heal this disease.  Through Spiritual Self, through our Spiritual Connection, we have access to all the power in the Universe.

We need to have the willingness: willingness to get to a new level of self-honesty; willingness to start listening to the Loving inner voice instead of the shaming ones; willingness to face the terror of healing the emotional wounds.”

Codependence is dishonest.  It is an emotional defense system adapted by humans to try to survive the pain of feeling unworthy and unlovable.  From a codependent perspective there are no choices – only two extremes, black and white.  Right or wrong.

Because as small children we did not have any perspective or discernment (prior to the age of reason, which occurs about 7 as our brains develop) we were incapable as viewing our parents as anything other than perfect Higher Powers.  Our God and Goddess.  Because our Higher Powers were wounded and did not know how to Love self, we were wounded and got the message that something must be wrong with us.  Toxic Shame.

“That shame is toxic and is not ours – it never was!  We did nothing to be ashamed of – we were just little kids.  Just as our parents were little kids when they were wounded and shamed, and their parents before them, etc., etc.  This is shame about being human that has been passed down from generation to generation.

There is no blame here, there are no bad guys, only wounded souls and broken hearts and scrambled minds.”

Out of our codependent relationship with life, there are only two extremes: blame them, or blame me.  Buy into the belief that they are to blame for what I am feeling – or I am to blame because I am a shameful unworthy being.   The emotional pain of feeling unlovable to our parents – which is a reflection of unbearable anguish of feeling separated from The Source – can feel like a bottomless pit of agonizing suffering.   At the core of our wounding is the unbearable emotional pain resulting from having internalized the message that God – our Source – does not Love us because we are personally defective and shameful.

Our addictions, compulsions, and obsessions;  our continuing quest to reach the destination, to find the fix;  our inability to be present in the now through worrying about the future or ruminating about the past;  are all tools that we used to avoid the emotional pain.  Our behavior patterns and dysfunctional relationships (of all kinds, with other people, with money, with our gender and sexuality) are symptoms.  Codependence is a defense system that was adapted by our damaged egos to try to avoid falling into the abyss of shame and pain within.

We formed our core relationship with self, other people, and life based upon this feeling of toxic shame.  Like the corruption at the foundation of Western Civilization, there is corruption in the foundation of our relationship with self.  Reflections.

In order to start changing our ego programming and healing our emotional wounds, it is necessary to start Loving ourselves.  We start Loving ourselves by opening up to the possibility that maybe we are Lovable.  We start Loving ourselves by using our will power to start changing our attitudes, beliefs, perspectives, and behaviors – in order to start changing our relationship with self, with our own emotions.

We are Co-Creators of our human experience, but for most of our lives we were allied with the disease – lived life out of the fear, lack, scarcity, separation programming of the damaged ego.  We were powerless to change our ego programming out of the false self, the ego self image, that was based upon the dishonesty inherent in black and white thinking.

Our paths unfolded perfectly to bring us to a point where some life event, or series of events, brought us to our knees, caused us to hit an emotional bottom that made us start being honest enough with ourselves to see that we needed some help.  When we started to seek help, we opened up to allowing the Universe to start guiding us with carrots instead of using the stick.  We opened up to becoming willing and honest enough to start learning the lessons we are here to learn instead of being trapped in repeating our patterns.

Recovery – aligning with Love instead of shame

The tool, the gift, that I discovered when I was willing to start asking for help was the Twelve Steps.  The Twelve Step Recovery program that was developed by Alcoholics Anonymous is a work of mystical Spirituality.  It is a formula for integrating Spiritual Truth into day to day human life.

“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.”

One of those principles – that really scared me when I first heard I had to develop it – was humility.  I equated humility with humiliation because of my toxic shame.

In Truth, humility really means to see clearly.  To see that as a human being the reality is that I am not perfect.  There are some areas I am strong in – that I have gifts, abilities, talents, skills – and some that I am weak in.  None of us human beings are perfect in our humanness – we are all perfect in our Spiritual essence.

One person will be talented in one area but weak in another.  Because we got the message in childhood that we were supposed to be perfect, that it was shameful to be ‘wrong’ – and we were taught to look outside and compare ourselves to determine our worth – we focused on our strengths as proof we were better than others.  Which also meant we needed to deny our weaknesses – or deny that the areas in which we were weak had any importance.  Humility is about owning both our strengths and our weaknesses – and realizing that all human beings have both strengths and weaknesses.

Looking outside of ourselves for self-definition and self-worth means that we have to judge people in order to feel good about ourselves.  There is no other way to do it when you look outside.

We were taught to have ego-strength through judgment – better than, prettier than, smarter than, richer than, stronger than, etc., etc.

In a Codependent society everyone has to have someone to look down on in order to feel positive about him/herself.  This is the root of all bigotry, racism, sexism, and prejudice in the world.

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.”

When I started to open up to the concept that there was a Higher Power who Loved me Unconditionally, then I could start getting past the shame to seeing the gray area.  Then I could start to stop reacting out of the black and white, fear based programming of my damaged ego.

When I started to be open to seeing myself more clearly, then I could start to see that I had more in common with other human beings than I had differences.  Then I could start to see that thinking I was better than someone else because of a gift is false pride.  A gift is just that – a gift.  Talent, intelligence, looks – those are gifts to be cherished and cultivated, not standards for feeling better than another human being.

Through working the twelve step program, I could start to understand that every cloud has a silver lining.  (I just flashed on my mother in childhood telling me that every curse is also a blessing – in regard to my emotional sensitivity I believe.  We do hear messages of Spiritual Truth from early on – it is applying them to our lives that we need some help figuring out how to do.)  A gift also carries obligations with it.  Though feeling pride about a gift was false – what I could take pride in was the action I took to cultivate that gift.   (Which of course I had not done in some cases because of the black and white thinking and toxic shame – I was afraid to take a risk because I was sure I would fail.  Another thing to realize I was powerless over and forgive myself for.)

Through starting to see myself more clearly – by stopping with the shame of self and judgment of others to protect myself from that shame – then I could more easily see that we were more alike than different.  Then I could start to be open to believing that maybe I had worth and deserved Love – and that you did also.

Feeling shameful and reacting to life from fear, caused me to focus on how I was different (and better, or worse) than you.  The more I could start to see that I am not perfect and that it is OK – the more I could access the acceptance to allow you to not be perfect.

That helped me to stop taking other peoples behavior so personally.  When I started understanding how I had been reacting – started seeing myself more clearly and accepting reality, I could also start seeing that what you were doing was not really about me, it was you reacting to your wounds.

The more clearly I saw myself within the framework of a Spiritual recovery process, the easier it became to see that I had not been seeing myself or you clearly – or life.

Working the steps, applying the principles in our lives

Twelve step recovery is a blessed gift.  Unfortunately not all twelve step groups are utilizing them to their full capacity.  In Alcoholics Anonymous for instance, there are many people who are stuck in a black and white perspective that causes them to keep focusing on the symptom of drinking for many years after they have gotten sober.  Of course, one of the reason they do this is because they are scared of doing the emotional healing and facing the toxic shame – so they get stuck in a rigid black and white perspective.

This disease / condition of codependency is so powerful and insidious because the programming is so ingrained and so much a part of the human condition.  The key to changing the conditions in the world is honesty and clarity.

The first three steps of the twelve step program basically involve: Step 1. getting honest enough to recognize that what we have been doing is not working;  Step 2.  getting willing to open up to some help from outside;  Step 3. asking for help.  The next step – the 4th – involves taking an honest inventory and starting to see ourselves with more clarity.  When we start getting more honest with ourselves, the 11th step tells us how to access the power to change our lives – through prayer and meditation.

In other words, life breaks us down enough to make us surrender – to make us start the process of stopping our ego programming from defining our life experience and dictating our relationships.  Then we develop a level of consciousness that allows us to look at the gray area.  We are then able to observe ourselves objectively enough to see that what we have been doing isn’t working for us – and can start to be open to the possibility that maybe we are not shameful beings, but we have been living life by some dysfunctional programming.  Once we start detaching from ego-self and developing a higher level of consciousness, we are directed back inward to seek the Truth.  Prayer and meditation not meaning, necessarily, formal practices but rather developing a conscious relationship, and ongoing communication, with our Spirit – with our intuitive guidance.

We start to align our consciousness with Spiritual Self so that we can use our will power to change the negative programming and stop the self abusive behaviors that we adapted to protect ourselves.  And as the 10th step dictates we need to keep taking a daily inventory – we need to be willing to stay open to messages from the Universe so that we can catch ourselves when we are being dishonest with ourselves.

Honesty with self is absolutely vital to recovery and healing – to raising our consciousness.  As we start to awaken to Spiritual Truth, we can start to peal away the layers of dishonesty that we have wrapped ourselves in out of our codependent defense system.  It is very painful to start getting honest with ourselves.  We feel ashamed as we start to see how dishonest we have been.

The Truth shall set you free – but it will be a very painful process.

It is vital to face the pain of taking inventory of how we have been dishonest.  What makes it possible to start to see ourselves, and our behavior patterns, more clearly is starting to believe that maybe we are not shameful.  Maybe we do have a disease – a compulsively reactive condition – that we have been powerless over.  Maybe there is a Loving Higher Power.

By starting to stop the dishonesty of believing that others are completely to blame, we can also stop empowering the lie that we are to blame because we are defective.  By stopping the blaming, we can start taking responsibility – owning our side of the street.

A very important part of the process of taking responsibility is making amends.   Cleaning up the wreckage of our past.  Even though we were powerless over our behaviors because of our ego programming, because of our codependency, we still have to take responsibility for the behaviors and their consequences.

The purpose of making amends to others is to heal our Spirit, to clear our conscience, to dump any baggage from the past that we are still carrying.  We do this for ourselves.  Often the other person doesn’t even remember an incident that we make amends for.  Sometimes the other person is hateful and bitter still.  We can still make amends for our side of the street, even if they are not owning their side of the street.  We are not making the amends so that we can all make up and be friends – although that is certainly possible sometimes – we are making them to free us from the past, we are doing them as a Loving thing to do for our self.  We do not have the power to get others to do what we want them to – so we need to focus on what we do have the power to change.  We can shine the Light of Love and consciousness into any dark corners within so that we can stop giving power to the past.

Making amends is about forgiveness.  Healing the wounds from the past is the Loving thing to do for ourselves.  Seeing more clearly so that we can own our responsibility in situations that we are still carrying resentments about, helps us to let go of those resentments.  Carrying a resentment doesn’t hurt the person we are resentful of – it hurts us.

I have found that the reason I had resentments that I couldn’t let go of, was because I hadn’t forgiven myself.  I was holding onto feelings of self righteous indignation about how I was victimized, because I couldn’t face the shame of admitting that I set myself up in some way.  By trusting that person, or letting them into my life, or whatever.

Making amends for the ways in which our behavior has hurt others is part of the process of healing self.  And making amends is much more than saying “I’m sorry.”  Making amends is about changing the dysfunctional behavior patterns.  Making amends is about doing what it takes to stop empowering the dysfunctional attitudes and black and white thinking so that we can change the behaviors.  It is about becoming willing to face the terror of healing our emotional wounds, so that we can stop reacting and hurting other people and our self with our behavior.

The steps help us to move into a growth paradigm – a relationship with life that helps us see problems as opportunities for growth instead of punishment.  Applying the twelve step principles in our life helps us stop taking other people’s behavior so personally – and learn to protect ourselves from their behavior if necessary.   As we forgive ourselves for our past behaviors, and learn to see life and self with more clarity and more Love – we see others with more clarity and more Love.

By taking power away from the polarized thinking and the emotional wounds from the past we can stop being our own worst enemy.

“Because of our broken hearts, our emotional wounds, and our scrambled minds, our subconscious programming, what the disease of Codependence causes us to do is abandon ourselves.  It causes the abandonment of self, the abandonment of our own inner child – and that inner child is the gateway to our channel to the Higher Self.

The one who betrayed us and abandoned and abused us the most was ourselves.  That is how the emotional defense system that is Codependence works.

The battle cry of Codependence is “I’ll show you – I’ll get me.””

We need to learn to see the gray area.  It is never just black and white, right and wrong.  There are always multiple levels involved in this experience of being human.  It is vital to stop empowering black and white thinking.

There is a simple prayer that sums up this process.  It is a formula for learning how to live life in a healthy way.  It, like the Twelve Step Recovery process, is a Divinely inspired work of Mystical Truth.  It is called the Serenity Prayer.

God,

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.

(My personal adapted version of Serenity Prayer)

This link will take you to different interpretations of The Twelve Steps on a page of my site.

The last section of this article is a short excerpt about the Principles of Twelve Step Recovery along with my version of the of the first three steps from intellectual and emotional levels as I understand and apply them – originally published online in 1998.  At the bottom of the page is a disclaimer to let you know that Alcoholics Anonymous has not approved any deviation from their approach to the Twelve Steps and any reference I make to the steps is not meant to imply otherwise.

The Twelve Steps are a formula for integrating the Spiritual into the physical so that powerlessness can lead to True empowerment.

Twelve Step Principles & tools include:

Self-Honesty, willingness, Acceptance, letting go, surrender,

Faith, Trust, honesty, Humility, Patience, openness, Courage,

Responsibility, Action, Forgiveness, compassion, Love.

“When I became willing to surrender the old attitudes and beliefs, to surrender to feeling the feelings, to surrender trying to control things over which I had no control, then I accessed the power to change myself and my relationships.  I became empowered to change my life into an experience that was defined by Joy, Love, and Peace instead of fear, anger, and pain.”

There are two points of powerlessness with Codependence

The first is intellectual – when we first realize that there is something that’s not working and that maybe we have to change, to learn a different way.

The second comes after we have intellectually learned what boundaries and healthy behavior are but we cannot stop acting out the old patterns in our closest relationships – we watch ourselves saying things we don’t want to say, and doing things we don’t want to do.

This is when it is necessary to do the emotional healing.

Here is my version of the initial steps from these two different levels.

Intellectual Steps

Step 1. I acknowledge and accept that I am powerless out of ego-self to control my human life experience, and that the delusion that I should be in control has caused pain and suffering in my life.

Step 2. Came to remember that I am a Spiritual Being who is part of the ONENESS that is the Unconditionally Loving, ALL-Powerful Universal Force, and that believing in that Force can help to bring balance, harmony, and sanity to my life.

Step 3. Made a decision to ask the Force to help me align my will, my actions, and my life with the Universal Power.

Emotional Steps

Step 1. Admitted that I am powerless to substantially change the learned behavioral defenses and dysfunctional attitudes from childhood until I deal with the emotional wounds of my childhood experience.

Step 2. Came to remember that I am a Spiritual Being who is part of the ONENESS that is the Unconditionally Loving, ALL-Powerful Universal Force, and that believing in that Force can help to bring balance, harmony, and sanity to my life.

Step 3. Made a decision to ask the Force to help me face the terror of healing my emotional wounds.

Sacred Spiral

This is excerpted from an article by the same name on my website Joy2MeU.com  It is the first in a series of articles on the twelve step proces.  The second article in that series is The Miracle of The Twelve Step Recovery Process Part 2:  The First Three Steps – 1, 2, 3, and a 1, 2, 3

The key to codependency recovery is the inner child healing work I describe on my site:  A key element of that work includes learning to set internal boundaries.  The formula that I pioneered for inner healing – which includes learning to set the internal boundaries –  is something that I teach people through telephone counseling. (It is now possible to get phone cards for very cheap rates from many places in the world – and also to use Skype for free from anywhere.)  I talk about how the phone counseling can work to really change a persons life for the better in a short period of time on this page which includes some special combination offers.

Reading my book Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls  (links to all of my books in ebook format are on that page) would really help you take your understanding to a whole new level.  Understanding codependency is vital in helping us to forgive our self for the dysfunctional ways we have lived our lives – it is not our fault we are codependent.

In the last few years I have also published two more books that can be very helpful. Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light Book 1 Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing and Romantic Relationships ~ The Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth.  I have special offers for either or both of these books (or for all three of my books) on this page:

I also offer periodic day long workshops in San Diego to teach people how to apply my inner child healing formula.   (There is now a downloadable MP3 recording available of my Life Changing workshop  – and I have a page with special offers for both the workshop recording and an MP3 download of Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls. )

Codependency causes us to feel like the victim of our own thoughts and feelings, and like our own worst enemy – recovery helps us to start learning how to be our own best friend.  Getting into codependency recovery is an act of love for self.

Sacred Spiral

Although my book and articles make reference to Alcoholics Anonymous, the principles and Twelve Step program of A.A., this does not mean that A.A. has reviewed or approved the contents of this writing, nor that A.A. agrees with the views expressed herein. A.A. is a program of recovery from alcoholism only – use of this material in connection with programs and activities which are patterned after A.A., but address other problems, or in any other non-A.A. context, does not imply otherwise.