Chapter 4: False Self Image

The Dance

“Learning what healthy behavior is will allow us to be healthier in the relationships that do not mean much to us; intellectually knowing Spiritual Truth will allow us to be more Loving some of the time; but in the relationships that mean the most to us, with the people we care the most about, when our “buttons are pushed” we will watch ourselves saying things we don’t want to say and reacting in ways that we don’t want to react – because we are powerless to change the behavior patterns without dealing with the emotional wounds.

We cannot integrate Spiritual Truth or intellectual knowledge of healthy behavior into our experience of life in a substantial way without honoring and respecting the emotions.  We cannot consistently incorporate healthy behavior into day to day life without being emotionally honest with ourselves.  We cannot get rid of our shame and overcome our fear of emotional intimacy without going through the feelings.” – (Text in this color is used for quotes from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls)

When I came to recovery, I took great pride in what an honest person I was – my ego strength was based in part on being better than other people because I was such an honest person.  I saw myself as this righteously honest person – and I could not consciously acknowledge that I had ever felt fear in my life.  I was completely twisted and dishonest with myself emotionally – which made me incapable of really being honest on any level.  My conscious self image was twisted and dishonest in reaction to the lie that I was shamefully defective as a being.

I would present myself as – and truly believed I was – a sensitive, caring male who was so different from all those macho clowns that were not in touch with their feelings.

But I was talking about feelings on a theoretical level – I was not connected to them directly.  I was not actually feeling them personally.  I had feelings certainly, but I had no permission to own them as being personal, as being mine.

I think acting saved my life because it gave me an emotional outlet.  I would express my feelings in my acting – they were my feelings, but I was attributing them to my characters.  It never occurred to me to wonder why the characters I liked to play the most were very intense, in a great deal of pain, and usually suicidal in some way.  Junkies and drunks, psychos and outcasts, the desperately lonely and terminally emotionally wounded, were my specialty.  I called it method acting – really getting into my characters skin and living their emotional reality.

Twice in acting personalization exercises on camera – where one would take a monologue from a play and do it in a very personal way – my acting teacher took me aside afterwards to ask if I was okay because she was so concerned about how much pain she was seeing in my performance.  I thought this showed what a great actor I was – that she had so believed my characterization.  Those on camera exercises were really a glimpse at my true emotional state.

One that I did several years before getting sober, was Hamlet’s soliloquy “To be or not to be . . .” where he is considering suicide – which most actors do with some kind of a knife as a prop to fondle as the character considers the benefits and deficits of suicide, “To die, to sleep.  No more.”  I did the monologue as an alcoholic actor who was using Shakespeare’s words to express his own personal dilemma – and used an alcoholic drink as my prop.  Brilliant creative inspiration, I thought – like, duh, talk about personal.

I would feel the feelings while I was rehearsing and performing – which allowed me to give my emotions some expression and release without owning them as personal.  I saw the characters I played as being driven by their gut level fears, but I personally was not afraid of anything – because my subconscious programming dictated that a real man does not feel fear.

I would appear to be a sensitive, emotionally honest person in real life, but I was really just performing then also.  I was not actually being in my body and personally owning my feelings.  I was acting as if I were in touch with my feelings in my day to day life whenever I had an audience – and when there was no one around, then I was caught up in some internal trauma drama about the future or the past so that I could stay unconscious to the present moment.

I was playing a character in my life – trying to live up to the self image I wished to present to people.  I was expressing and exhibiting the feelings that I thought I should be feeling to match the self image I was trying to present to you.  I was unconsciously being manipulative emotionally so that you would like and accept me if that was my goal (usually women) – or so you would be a little scared of me if I didn’t want something from you (usually men.)

My intentions, my conscious motivations, did not match my actions because of my emotional dishonesty.  The concept of self I presented to you did not match the reality of my behavior if you got personally involved with me.  The conscious self image that I invested so much energy into – the false self, ego self – which I felt gave me worth, was a twisted, distorted view of myself.  It was not possible for me to look at my self with any objectivity, because of the subconscious intellectual paradigm that was defining my relationship to self and life included the beliefs that being afraid was shameful, being “wrong” was unacceptable.

The punch line to this dysfunctional joke is that I really am a sensitive, caring person.  I tried real hard to convince you of it because I was trying so hard to convince myself it was the truth.  I was trying to trick you into believing I was who I wanted to be, but I didn’t really believe it in the depths of my being.

codependency = a ridiculous, dysfunctional, tragicomedy

“A large part of what we identify as our personality is in fact a distorted view of who we really are due to the type of behavioral defenses we adopted to fit the role or roles we were forced to assume according to the dynamics of our family system.”

This is part of what makes codependency such a ridiculous, dysfunctional, tragicomedy.  The character I was playing, my false self image, was not really false.  It contained a great deal more Truth in relationship to who I really am – to my personality, my essential character in this lifetime – than falsehood.  But I was incapable of seeing that because I was focused externally to keep from having to look at myself and admit how defective and shameful I felt.

“At the foundation of our relationship with our self – and therefore with other people and life – is the feeling that we will die if we reveal ourselves to other people, because then they will see our shameful self. . . . . . Our lives have been dictated by an emotional defense system that is designed to keep hidden the the false belief that we are defective.  We use external things – success, looks, productivity, substances – to try to cover up, overcome, make up for, the personal defectiveness that we felt caused our hearts to be broken and our souls wounded in childhood.  And that personal defectiveness is a lie.  That feeling of toxic shame is a lie.

It was so painful that we had to lie to ourselves about it.  We were forced to be emotionally and intellectually dishonest with ourselves by the codependent defenses we adapted. . . . . . . We built up a dishonest self image to try to convince ourselves that we had worth based upon some comparative external factors:  looks, success, independence (the counterdependent rebel), popularity (people pleasers), righteousness (better than others, right to their wrong), or whatever.  That false self image was not completely dishonest because it was formed in reaction to some basic aspects of who we Truly are – but it was a twisted, distorted, polarized perspective of our self adapted in response to toxic shame, for the purpose of giving us some ego strength, some reason we could feel better than others.

That false self image, the masks we learned to wear, is something we invested a lot of energy into convincing ourselves was the truth.” – Fear of Intimacy – caused by early childhood trauma  

One of the payoffs in codependency recovery, is that as we strip away the layers of denial – the twisted distorted perspectives and false beliefs – we learn that we are the person we always wanted to be.  As we start to uncover and discover the lies and distortions in our subconscious intellectual paradigm and become willing to get emotionally honest with ourselves by owning the grief and rage, we start to see ourselves clearly for the first time.  Codependency is about having a dysfunctional relationship with our selves as human beings – and the key to unraveling the puzzle of self, to stripping away the distortion and the lies, is to get emotionally honest with self.

“It is important to note that we adapt the roles that are best suited to our personalities.  We are, of course, born with a certain personality.  What happens with the roles we adapt in our family dynamic is that we get a twisted, distorted view of who we are as a result of our personality melding with the roles. This is dysfunctional because it causes us to not be able to see ourselves clearly.  As long as we are still reacting to our childhood wounding and old tapes then we cannot get in touch clearly with who we really are.

The false self that we develop to survive is never totally false – there is always some Truth in it.  For example, people who go into the helping professions do truly care and are not doing what they do simply out of Codependence.  Nothing is black and white – everything in life involves various shades of gray.  Recovery is about getting honest with ourselves and finding some balance in our life.” – Roles In Dysfunctional Families

One of the things that is so confusing in a relationship between two codependents, is that we can see into the other person enough to see their inner beauty, their potential, their pain – and they often say the things we want to hear to confirm that what we are seeing is Truth – but their behaviors do not match what we are seeing and hearing.  (So, of course, being good codependents our selves, we fluctuate between feeling like it is our fault and the we have to work harder or change somehow – and thinking it is our responsibility to get the other person to see the light, to realize who they really are.)

“Intimacy is about allowing another person to see into us – in to me see.  When we allow another person to see into us deep enough, what they are going to see is a Magnificent Spiritual Being.  If we are not doing our healing – are still allowing our relationship with ourselves to be dictated by the shame of the child who felt unlovable – that means they will be seeing something which we cannot see.

One of the really difficult thing in relationships, is that often we can see how beautiful the other person Truly is – but they cannot see it in themselves.  So, we hang onto relationships knowing how wonderful the other person really is, and what potential they have, but they react to us out of the defenses they adapted to push us away, or run away from us.  If they are not in the process of healing and recovery, of getting in touch with and changing their patterns, then they are not going to be available to us in the way we want them to be.  We can learn a lot about ourselves by relating to them – but ultimately will end up feeling like a victim of their inability / unwillingness to change.

We cannot control or change the other person.  Our first priority – our responsibility – is to learn to be more emotionally intimate with ourselves.  Other people come into our lives as teachers to help us learn about ourselves.

In order to start changing my patterns, I had to learn to start being emotionally honest with myself.” – May 23, 2001 Joy2MeU Update  Newsletter 3

I was investing an incredible amount of energy into projecting an image to other people.  That image had much more Truth in it than falsehood – but I didn’t know that.  I was doing it to try to get the Love and respect and validation that I was so starved for.  But I didn’t believe it, so when I did get love and validation it did not work to make me feel good about myself deep inside.  It did not change my core relationship with myself.  I could not truly accept / take in / own the external validation because I thought I was living a lie.  I thought I was a fraud and was fooling you when you liked me.

This is part of the ultimate dysfunction of codependency.  We put so much energy into reaching the goal, earning your love, doing what we think is necessary to “fix” our self, and if we get that which we have been pursuing, it doesn’t work.  It doesn’t make us feel the way we thought it would make us feel.  It does not get us to “happily ever after.”

“You can get all the money, property, and prestige in the world, have everyone in the world adore you, but if you are not at peace within, if you don’t Love and accept yourself, none of it will work to make you Truly happy.”

Looking outside to fill the hole within is dysfunctional.  As long as I was still reacting to the toxic shame I felt about my self from early childhood, then what I was doing in my interactions (inter-reactions) is being dishonest and manipulative.  It did not matter if most of what I was saying was the real Truth about who I am – I didn’t believe it.

I was trying to get what I wanted from you by trying to be who I thought you wanted me to be, and since you could see in my eyes that which I could not see, you believed me.  But then I couldn’t accept your acceptance so I ended up sabotaging the relationship with my behavior.

“The way the dynamic in a dysfunctional relationship works is in a “come here” – “go away” cycle.  When one person is available the other tends to pull away.  If the first person becomes unavailable the other comes back and pleads to be let back in.   When the first becomes available again then the other eventually starts pulling away again.  It happens because our relationship with self is not healed.  As long as I do not love myself then there must be something wrong with someone who loves me – and if someone doesn’t love me than I have to prove I am worthy by winning that person back.  On some level we are trying to earn the love of our unavailable parent(s) to prove to ourselves that we are worthy and lovable.” – Codependent Relationships Dynamics Part 4 – Come Here, Go Away

 My behavior did not match my words because my behavior patterns were driven by my emotional wounds.  As long as I had no capacity to be emotionally honest, my codependency defended me based upon the programming it adapted in reaction to the emotional trauma I had experienced in early childhood.

Opening our hearts

My codependent defense system is set up to try to keep me from being abandoned, betrayed, and rejected by someone to whom I have opened my heart.  As a little child, my heart was completely open to my parents.  They emotionally abandoned and betrayed me because they were programmed to emotionally abandon and betray themselves.  It felt to me as a child as if they had rejected me because something was wrong with me.

My ego adopted an emotional defense system – codependency – to try protect me and keep secret the fact that I was a shameful and defective, a pitiful excuse for a man.  Since I felt unlovable and unworthy, and I thought I was the only person who felt that way, I had to keep what a loser I was secret.  I had to be emotionally dishonest with myself to try to stay unconscious to how I felt at the depths of my being.  I had to be emotionally dishonest – and therefore dishonest to some extent on other levels – in my relationships with other people because it felt like anyone who found out my secret would run away screaming in horror.  If anyone could see who I really was, they would reject me – they would abandon and betray me like my parents had.

“Fear of intimacy is at the heart of codependency.  We have a fear of intimacy because we have a fear of abandonment, betrayal, and rejection.  We have a these fears because we were wounded in early childhood – we experienced feeling emotionally abandoned, rejected, and betrayed by our parents because they were wounded.  They did not have healthy relationship with self – they were codependents who abandoned and betrayed themselves – and their behavior caused us to feel unworthy and unlovable.” – Fear of Intimacy – caused by early childhood trauma

The way codependency works, is that what we want the most – Love – is also what scares us the most, because we feel like we will screw it up if our dreams come true.  My codependent defenses were designed to keep me from being rejected by someone who could Truly Love me.  The way this manifests behaviorally is, that I was attracted to unavailable people in an attempt to protect myself from making the mistake of opening my heart, of believing that I was Lovable.  (This of course, is not in any way a conscious thing.  It is an energetic dynamic that results from repressing emotional energy.)

“Emotions are a vital part of our being for several reasons. . . . . . . .

4. We are attracted to people that feel familiar on an energetic level – which means (until we start clearing our emotional process) people that emotionally / vibrationally feel like our parents did when we were very little kids.  At a certain point in my process I realized that if I met a woman who felt like my soul mate, that the chances were pretty huge that she was one more unavailable woman that fit my pattern of being attracted to someone who would reinforce the message that I wasn’t good enough, that I was unlovable.  Until we start releasing the hurt, sadness, rage, shame, terror – the emotional grief energy – from our childhoods we will keep having dysfunctional relationships.” – Feeling the Feelings

My conscious desire and intentions were aligned with finding love, but my subconscious programming / codependency caused me be attracted to unavailable people who could not possibly Love me in a healthy way, because they did not Love them self.

Anyone who is not in recovery from their childhood programming is incapable of really Loving them self in a healthy way – is unavailable.   This is true rather they are unavailable because they are being counterdependent and denying their need for connection, or because they are so classically codependent that they do not have a sense of self and feel an urgency for connection in order to have any worth.  The extremes of codependency in regard to romantic relationships are the enmeshment of toxic love (wanting to merge with the other person because we have no boundaries or self worth – which sets us us up to accept crumbs and abuse in order to stay in relationship) or keeping them at arms length because we are so afraid of opening our hearts (in which case our behavior sets us up to create self fulfilling prophecies of abandonment and betrayal.)  Both extremes are unavailable for a healthy relationship.  

I was defining myself by the image of myself that I was holding in my consciousness – but how I behaved was being dictated by the subconscious programming.  My subconscious programming dictated that, as a man, the only emotion it was acceptable for me to feel was anger – but that it was not ok to be angry at women.  Talk about a narrow emotional spectrum – emotionally crippled indeed.

I saw myself in alignment with the conscious self image that I was projecting – a sensitive, caring male who was so different from all those macho clowns that were not in touch with their feelings – but my behavior in intimate relationships was dictated by the subconscious perspective of emotions that I had learned from my male role model in childhood.  That paradigm dictated that a man could not feel sad or hurt or afraid – a man only felt anger.  In other words, I saw myself as, and talked the talk of, a sensitive caring male but when anyone got too close emotionally my behavior was that of a macho clown.

It was not your typical macho clown however, because I had been programmed that it was not acceptable to be angry at women.  A person who does not have permission to own anger, is set up to be passive aggressive.  The anger is not expressed directly.  It is expressed indirectly, it comes out sideways.

“Passive-aggressive behavior is the expression of anger indirectly.  This happens because we got the message one way or another in childhood that it was not OK to express anger.  Since anger is energy that can not be completely repressed it gets expressed in indirect ways. . . . . .

Passive-aggressive behavior can take the form of sarcasm, procrastination, chronic lateness, being a party pooper, constantly complaining, being negative, offering opinions and advice that is not asked for, being the martyr, slinging arrows (“whatever have you done to your hair”, “gained a little weight haven’t we?”), etc.  If we don’t know how to set boundaries or will go along with anything to avoid conflict, then we often will agree to doing things we don’t want to do – and as a result we will not be happy doing them and will get back at the other person somehow, someway because we are angry at them for “making” us do something we don’t want to do.” – Emotional abuse is Heart and Soul Mutilation

Anyone who does not have permission from their subconscious programming to own their anger, is set up to be emotionally dishonest with self and with other people.  I was set up to be emotionally dishonest in romantic relationships because I did not have the right to be angry or set boundaries.  A codependent often feels like the person they are in relationship with “should” be able to read their mind to know what they want – and then is set up to feel like a victim.  Being direct and honest was a risk that I did not know how to take.  I was afraid if I said “no,” if I disagreed, if there was an argument, the other person would leave.  My fear of abandonment and rejection set me up to be dishonest and manipulative in an intimate relationship with a woman.

Men I could get angry at.  But even then I wasn’t being angry in an emotionally honest manner.  I hated the way my father raged, and vowed not to be like him.  This resulted in me stuffing my anger.  Repressing the emotional energy of anger does not work.  It manifests somehow, someway.  With other men, the common way that this came out was with sarcasm.  Of course, the society that I grew up in, taught me that this was the acceptable way to relate to other men.  “Hey dirt bag” – or something similar (with cuss words being the coolest form) – is the way men say “I love you” to each other in an emotionally crippled society.  It is passive aggressive and emotionally abusive.

I would rage on occasion.  Stuffing my anger, swallowing it down, caused it to build up and become explosive.  So, periodically I would explode.  Usually over something that did not really have much to do with what I was really angry about.  The anger that I built up at women often came out at some man.  When I exploded at men, I raged – like my father.  That caused me to feel ashamed and crazy – and I swung back to the other extreme where I was stuffing it again.  Until the next time it exploded.

Rage is not anger.  It is not emotionally honest.  I think of rage as anger that has been steeped in shame for years.  It is the result of seething, festering resentment – victim feelings.  Rage is a twisted, distorted, virulent, mutant magnification of anger.

With women, when I reached the point of explosion, it would sometimes come out as silent rage.  Not the yelling and cursing explosion of my father, but a door slamming, wall kicking, muttering under my breath type of rage.  I would punish you with my sullen silence.

Or I would come from the martyr / victim place, and point out how the other person had wronged me grievously.  I would trot out a list of everything the person had done in the past that hurt me so badly.  I would accuse them of insensitivity, of not caring about my feelings.

“By setting boundaries, we are communicating with another person.  We are telling them who we are and what we need.  It is much more effective to do that directly and honestly than to expect them to read our minds – and then punish them when they cannot. . . . . . . When we stuff our feelings we build up resentments.  Resentments are victim feelings – the feeling that somebody is doing something to us.  If we don’t speak up and take the risk of sharing how we feel, we will end up blowing up and/or being passive aggressive – and damaging the relationship.

Learning to set boundaries is a vital part of learning to communicate in a direct and honest manner.  It is impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone who has no boundaries, with someone who cannot communicate directly, and honestly.” – Setting Personal Boundaries 

So, I would get angry at a woman, but it was because of what she was doing to me.  Her appalling insensitivity (meaning she wasn’t doing what I wanted her to do, what I expected) would push me to the point of having to unburden myself by sharing with her how wrong she was.  It would be her fault I was angry, her responsibility because she was forcing me to be verbally abusive.  I – the poor innocent victim who loved her so much – was being forced to tell her the truth as I understood it.  I was not violating my sensitive, caring self image because she was leaving me no choice.  If she would just be reasonable and do what I wanted her to do, then I wouldn’t have to get angry at her.

The lie that is codependent, selfless, martyr, victimization is the effect of not being emotionally honest enough to have healthy boundaries.  It is a defense adapted by my ego in an attempt to keep me from opening my heart so that it can be broken again.  If my heart is broken again, I have to make it your fault because the only other option in a polarized perspective of life is to admit that I am to blame.  To blame myself is to plunge into the abyss of pain and shame at the core of my being – the unendurable, hopeless, want to die, place within me where I feel shamefully unlovable and unworthy.

This is the behavior that I was powerless to change until I started to get emotionally honest with myself.  The intellectual and emotional programming from my childhood set me up to be incapable of having a healthy intimate relationship.

Codependency is very dysfunctional.  It hurts just as much to be rejected by an unavailable person as by an available one.  As long as we are reacting out of our inner child wounds, we will take any perceived rejection as personal – as a reflection of our shameful defectiveness.

Until I started to consciously work on changing the ego programming which was keeping me in denial and emotional dishonesty, I was unable to change my core relationship with self – I was unable to see through the false self image, was unable to see my self with any clarity.” – 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 and Chapter 13: Changing the Music: Love instead of fear and shame.

Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light  Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life is the third book of what I think of as the Wounded Souls Trilogy along with Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls A Cosmic Perspective on Codependence and the Human Condition and Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light Book 1 Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing. (This is different from The Dance of the Wounded Souls Trilogy Book 1 – “In The Beginning . . .” which is a Magical, Mystical Adult Spiritual Fable that was in fact the first book I wrote – but have never finished.)

Bringing Codependency Recovery Pioneer to the UK in 2017

Robert Burney’s Trip to UK canceled

May 27th, 2017 – I have decided to cancel the planned trip to the UK for October.  As we were closing in on finalizing the plans for my trip there, a major change took place in my life as I got custody of my 12 year old grandson.  At first it wasn’t clear if he would be living with me in the fall or not, so I pushed the trip back from September to October based on the possibility that he would still be with me.  Since then it has become clear that he will be living with me – and that taking an 8 or 10 day trip to UK would present significant challenges in getting taking care of him during that time covered.  If we would have had people signing up for the retreat and putting down deposits in the over 2 weeks since we posted the page, that could have impacted this decision.  But since no one has signed up, it seems as if it is part of the Divine Plan to go ahead with the cancelation.  Hopefully we can make this trip to the UK happen at some point in the not too distant future.  Maybe even next summer and I can bring my grandson along.

Robert Burney Trip to UK 2017

Book cover

Robert Burney is an author, spiritual teacher and counselor.  His first book “Codependence – The Dance of Wounded Souls” has been called “one of the truly transformational works of our time” and he has been referred to as “a metaphysical Stephen Hawking.”   He is a counselor /coach and Spiritual Teacher whose work has been compared to John Bradshaw’s “except much more spiritual” and described as “taking inner child healing to a new level.”  His book “The Dance”  is an insightful, clearly written narrative that has helped countless people to understand and heal from the shortcomings of their relationships with self and others.  Robert’s work resonates strongly with those that have been fortunate enough to come across it.

Codependency Recovery / Inner Child Healing Formula

A pioneer in the realm of codependency recovery and inner child healing, Robert discovered and developed a pioneering holistic approach to codependency recovery – an inner child healing paradigm – that offers a powerful, life changing formula for integrating Love, Spiritual Truth, and intellectual knowledge of healthy behavior into one’s emotional experience of life – a blueprint for individuals to transform their core relationship with self and life.

This blueprint can be invaluable to people just starting the recovery / healing process, and is often the missing piece that people who have been healing /  recovering / on a spiritual path for decades have been seeking.  What is unique about the approach is that all of the tools are brought together in a focused system for achieving integration and balance – and even someone who has a very good therapist (or is a very good therapist) right now, can still find it very beneficial to attend one of his workshops.

Creating the Possibility of bringing Robert Burney to the UK

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Robert Burney

In order to share his experience, strength and hope – and teach others his integration formula – Robert has offered intensive workshops and retreats in the US, Canada, and twice on the Spanish Island of Ibiza, as well as on cruises in the Caribbean.  In spite of having a healthy following in the United Kingdom Robert has not physically presented his work in a similar fashion.

Several years ago Angel Morrison (who had both attended a retreat in Ibiza and been on a cruise with Robert) suggested the idea of working to bring Robert Burney to the UK.  Angel understood the importance of expanding the knowledge of Robert’s work.  Rachel Hawadi who had read Robert’s work (and done phone counseling with him) agreed and the two agreed to volunteer and commit to making this a reality.  This has then given birth to a Facebook Group which aims “To make the possibility of bringing Robert Burney to the UK” in 2017.

As of February 14th, 2017, initial plans are being formulated.  The goal is to make this trip happen in September 2017.  This page is being created to survey people who might be interested in meeting and/or attending an appearance by Robert, to ascertain what formats people would like to have available and where it would be best to offer these opportunities.

Location

It is assumed that London would be one of the locations – and both Birmingham and Nottingham have been proposed by people interested.  Email us to let us know if you could attend in London or want to suggest another location in the UK.

Formats

In order to make the best use of Robert’s time the following mixture of sessions could be offered during the tour.

  • 1 to 1 sessions: These could either be face to face/Telephone and Skype sessions for those in the UK.   Depending on availability these can be 1 hour sessions.   Given that the unique selling point of this tour is being able to see Robert face to face it would seem that a “face to face” would be the main offering.

  • Weekend Retreat: A residential retreat in a comfortable, peaceful setting starting on Friday with a 6:30 arrival, dinner and a session until 10 pm.  An intensive session on Saturday which would end on Sunday around 4 pm.  It would be important to ensure that those attending have excellent food and a general feeling of being cared for.

  • 5-day Retreat: A transformative retreat for those needing a radical overhaul in a similar setting as the weekend retreat but going deeper with more workshops, 1 to 1 sessions.  The setting will also be comfortable and nurturing.   There should be an additional offering of holistic therapies e.g. massages, reflexology, yoga, deep breathing, walks etc.

  • 1 day Intensive workshops: These would follow the exact same formats that have been offered and could be done both during the day or evening.  More than likely, evening sessions could be more successful in London – although it would need to be for 3 evenings in order for Robert to teach the formula that he teaches in his Intensive Workshops.  There might be a requirement to juggle between different towns in the UK.

Please send us some feedback so that we can ascertain the amount of interest and what people are interested in so that we can know if we can make this possibility manifest this year.  Email us to let us know.

Here is some of the feedback from the Intensive Training Workshops / retreats that Robert has done in the past.

“I found this session to be very useful in seeing the what & the why of “my” reality.  The understanding I have gained gives me hope in my future.  This has been the greatest gift I have ever given myself.”

“I really enjoyed Robert Burney’s Intensive Training on inner child work. . .  I had many revelations about my inner child and how I can reparent and stop the critical parent that has followed me my whole life. . . Thank you so much Robert.  You are a truly unforgetable person. So glad I said yes to attending.”

“Exceptionally understandable; very clear.  This was LIFE Changing – I am so thankful.  I would Absolutely recommend it.”

“Robert Burney’s training day was so inspirational and enlightening.  He was loving and warm and presented profound life changing material in a very not intimidating way.  Magical!”

“My life has been much better since I went to your seminar.”

“Brilliant.  Liberating.  So profound it is sometimes ! hilarious  I feel you completely get the dynamics of the human experience and the truth you teach can set people free.”

“It was very empowering, uplifting and gave me new hope.  The information was invaluable.”

“Robert is a very , compassionate intuitive, and intelligent soul who shares his insights to you in such a clear, fun, and poignant way that your life will be forever changed.” –  Testimonial Page for Robert Burney Seminar

Email us to let us know if you are interested.

Sacred Spiral

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 hard copy, ebook, and audiobook format are on that page – or you can get Books, eBooks, and Audiobooks through Amazon) 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 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 Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth: Chapter 18 – Foundation for Healthy Romantic Relationships

Cover of book on romantic relationships

Romantic Relationships – The Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth

 

The Dance

Codependence The Dance of Wounded Souls

“The way we change the dance of Codependence to the dance of Recovery, the way we tame the dragon inside, is through integration and balance.  One of the ways we do that is by stopping the dysfunctional behavior of looking for the Prince or Princess who is going to fix us and make us whole.

The Prince and the Princess exist within.  That Prince, the Masculine Energy of Manifestation and Action, and that Princess, the Feminine Energy of Creativity and Nurturing, exist within us in perfect balance and harmony.  They always have – and they always will.

 As has been stated, we are not broken – we do not need fixing.  It is our relationship with ourselves which needs to be healed; it was our sense of self that was shattered and fractured and broken into pieces – not our True Self.” – all quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

 Romantic relationships are the greatest arena for Spiritual and emotional growth available to us.  A romantic relationship is an adventure in growth, an joint expedition into intimacy.  A relationship cannot “fix” us – is not the goal where happily ever after begins.

 A relationship will be work.  It will be challenging and exciting, frustrating and painful.  It will help us to access Joy and get us in touch with grief.  It will offer lots of opportunities for helping us learn about our self and our wounds.

 In order to have the opportunity to become healthier in relationship to romance and intimacy, it is vital to start building a solid foundation within ourselves upon which it might be possible to have healthier relationship.  Healthy relationship starts at home, in our relationship with ourselves.  Unless we are in recovery, doing our emotional healing, there is no chance of having a healthy relationship.

 I want to restate here, that recovery is not a black and white, 1 or 10 process.  The goal is not to have a perfectly healthy relationship – the goal is to become gradually healthier in our relationship interactions. Progress not perfection is what is possible.  There is no destination to reach, we make gradual progress in getting healthier and learning to love ourselves more – as I say in my book in this quote.

“When I say that you cannot Truly Love others unless you Love yourself – that does not mean that you have to completely Love yourself first before you can start to Love others.  The way the process works is that every time we learn to Love and accept ourselves a little tiny bit more, we also gain the capacity to Love and accept others a little tiny bit more.

When I say that you cannot start to access intuitive Truth until you clear out your inner channel – I am not saying that you have to complete your healing process before you can start getting messages. You can start getting messages as soon as you are willing to start listening.  The more you heal the clearer the messages become.

When I talk about ways that we use to go unconscious – like workaholism, or exercise, or food, or whatever – I am not saying that you should be ashamed if you are doing some of these things.

We cannot go from unconscious to conscious overnight!  This healing is a long gradual process.  We all still need to go unconscious sometimes.  Recovery is a dance that celebrates progress, not one that achieves perfection.”

If you are striving to learn to be healthier in relationship, it needs to start with learning how to Love self.  If we are not respecting, honoring, and Loving our self – then it doesn’t matter how much someone else Loves or respects us – it won’t work to make us happy and at peace.

(I also want to note that there is nothing bad or shameful about being in a relationship that doesn’t meet the criteria I have talked about in this series.  Progress in recovery means learning to Love ourselves by gradually stopping the self judgment and shame.  Each of us needs to decide what works for us on our path.  No one has a right to tell someone else what their path is – or to judge someone else’s path.  You may be in a relationship that works for you on some level – financial security for instance – and you are the only one that can decide if the payoff you are getting is worth the price you are paying.  It is your choice and you will be the one who lives with the consequences – so do whatever you need to do to be at peace with yourself.  Living our life according to anyone else’s values but our own is dysfunctional.)

Until we start learning how to be emotionally honest with ourselves, we do not have the capacity to be Truly honest with another.  If we are reacting to old wounds and old tapes without learning how to process through those issues – then we will end up feeling like a victim.   If we cannot see ourselves clearly then we will not be able to see the other person clearly.  It is also important to see romance clearly.  It is vital to have clear and realistic expectations of romance – to have a perspective of romantic relationship that is empowering to both people  We need to put some energy into changing our definitions of what a romantic relationship is supposed to be so that the dysfunctional perspectives and expectations we learned in childhood will not set us up to react defensively and personalize the other persons behavior.

For each of us, our first commitment needs to be to Self. (Self as in True Self, Spiritual Self)  We are each responsible for our own life.   If we allow ourselves to give away power over our self esteem, we are being the victim of our codependency – and we will end up feeling like a victim of other people.  Empowerment involves seeing reality as it is and making the best of the choices we have available to us.  Each of us has the power to improve the quality of our own life by being committed to our self/Self.

If we decide to enter into an interdependent partnership, a relationship, with another person who is open to growing – then our commitment to self/Self will serve the relationship.  As long as our commitment to be and become all we can be is served by a relationship then it is very important to be committed to working through the issues that arise.  To sacrifice your higher good in the name of commitment to a relationship is codependent and an act of dishonesty to, and disrespect for, self/Self.  Commitment to a relationship is important – but it comes second to the commitment to Self.

The other person is a teacher for us, as we are for them.  Seeing a relationship as a joint adventure in growing and learning to Love is the key to creating healthy intimacy with another human being.   It will not be easy, it will take some effort and energy, but it can be the most wonderful, incredible adventure of your life.

I am going to end this chapter by listing the characteristics of Love vs toxic love that I included in the first chapter of this book.  The ones labeled toxic love could also be labeled codependent.  Focusing on cultivating the ones labeled Love will lead to healthier, happier relationships with your self/Self, with others, and with life itself.  It also will open you to the possibility of having a healthy, Loving romantic relationship.

1. Love – Development of self first priority.

Toxic love – Obsession with relationship.

2. Love – Room to grow, expand; desire for other to grow.

Toxic love – Security, comfort in sameness; intensity of need seen as proof of love (may really be fear, insecurity, loneliness)

3. Love – Separate interests; other friends; maintain other meaningful relationships.

Toxic love – Total involvement; limited social life; neglect old friends, interests.

4. Love – Encouragement of each other’s expanding; secure in own worth.

Toxic love – Preoccupation with other’s behavior; fear of other changing.

5. Love – Appropriate Trust (i.e. trusting partner to behave according to fundamental nature.)     

Toxic love – Jealousy; possessiveness; fear of competition; protects “supply.”

6. Love – Compromise, negotiation or taking turns at leading. Problem solving together.

Toxic love – Power plays for control; blaming; passive or aggressive manipulation.

 7. Love – Embracing of each other’s individuality.

Toxic love – Trying to change other to own image.

8. Love – Relationship deals with all aspects of reality.

Toxic love – Relationship is based on delusion and avoidance of the unpleasant.

9. Love – Self-care by both partners; emotional state not dependent on other’s mood.         

Toxic love – Expectation that one partner will fix and rescue the other.

10. Love – Loving detachment (healthy concern about partner, while letting go.)

Toxic love – Fusion (being obsessed with each other’s problems and feelings.)

11. Love – Sex is free choice growing out of caring & friendship.       

 Toxic love – Pressure around sex due to insecurity, fear & need for immediate gratification.

12. Love – Ability to enjoy being alone.                          

Toxic love – Unable to endure separation; clinging.

13. Love – Cycle of comfort and contentment.

Toxic love – Cycle of pain and despair.

(List compiled with the help of the work of Melody Beattie & Terence Gorski.) ” – Romantic Relationships ~ The Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth Chapter 18 – Foundation for Healthy Romantic Relationships

Cover of book on romantic relationships

Romantic Relationships – The Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth

Romantic Relationships ~ The Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth  Codependent Dysfunctional Relationship Dynamics & Healthy Relationship Behavior  

Available through Joy2MeU (personally autographed copy;-) or through Amazon.com

 It is also available in Kindle format as 2 eBooks – each with 20 chapters.

 Romantic Relationships ~ The Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth eBook 1: Codependent Dysfunctional Relationship Dynamics & Healthy Relationship Behavior

Romantic Relationships ~ The Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth eBook 2: Deeper Within (emotionally) & Further Out (metaphysically) From Fear of Intimacy to Twin Souls

Announcing that as of 8 am Monday July 7th eBook 1 (the first 20 chapters of The Greatest Arena) will be available via a discounted count down sale on Amazon.com.  Romantic Relationships ~ The Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth eBook 1: Codependent Dysfunctional Relationship Dynamics & Healthy Relationship Behavior which is normally $9.99 will available at $.99 starting Monday morning for a week – with the price increasing by $1 every 32 hours.  On July 13th it will go on sale via a discounted count down on Amazon.co.uk for a week.

 

 

 

 

My 29th Codependency Recovery Birthday is today, June 3rd ~ excerpt from “The Path of one Recovering Codependent ~ the dance of one wounded soul”

 I date my codependence recovery as starting on June 3 1986.  As with any milestone, there was recovery that occurred before that – I had been clean and sober for exactly 2 years and 5 months at the point (the story of my early recovery is for another issue) – but this particular day marked a breakthrough in consciousness to a whole new level that changed the direction and focus of my life.  (That day I made a conscious commitment to codependency recovery even though I wouldn’t have known to call it that at that time.)

On June 3rd 1986 I washed my car.  This probably doesn’t sound like an earthshaking event but it was in my life.  I had owned this old pinto for over 2 years at that point.  It had done me great service.  I had bought it for $375 when I was about 3 months sober and had driven it 25,000 miles – and had never washed it.

On that day, I broke through the codependent cycle of “should”ing on myself about the car.  I stopped beating myself up and calling myself a slob, and lazy – and just washed the car.   And then I asked myself “why haven’t I ever washed this car?”

I went home to do some writing and was pretty amazed at what it revealed.  I realized that I was still reacting to life out of the religious programming of my childhood – even though I had thrown out that belief system on a conscious, intellectual level in my late teens and early twenties.  The writing that I did that night helped me to recognize that my emotional programming was dictating my relationship with life even though it was not what I consciously believed.

I realized that the belief that “life was about sin and punishment and I was a sinner who deserved to be punished” was running my life.   When I felt “bad” or “bad” things happened to me – I tried to blame it on others to keep from realizing how much I was hating myself for being flawed and defective, a sinner.  When I felt good or good things happened I was holding my breath because I knew it would be taken away because I didn’t deserve it.  Often when things got too good I would sabotage it because I couldn’t stand the suspense of waiting for god to take it away – which “he” would because I didn’t deserve it.

I could suddenly see that I had been playing a game, with that punishing god I learned about in childhood, for all of my adult life.  I tried not to show that I enjoyed or valued anything too much so that maybe god wouldn’t notice and take it away.  In other words, I could never relax and be in the moment in Joy or peace because the moment I showed that I was enjoying life god would step in to punish me.

I realized that on some level deep within me (I didn’t know anything about inner children or the magical thinking child at that point) that I was afraid that if I washed that car god would notice that I valued it and then cause the car to break down at a time when I didn’t have the money to fix it.

I said to myself – this is no way to live life, I need to change this.  So that night I started to focus on changing the subconscious programming from my childhood.  I didn’t know how I was going to do it – but I was determined to find out.  (That was an act of Love for myself that at the time I wouldn’t have known to call Love.)

Besides the writing I did that night, I also did some reading.  In reading I discovered something that I adapted for my daily prayers.  Only in retrospect, years later did I realize the significance of the change that I made that night.  I had always said the serenity prayer many times a day in my early recovery.  It was like a life preserver that I would cling to all of the times I felt I was drowning.  That night I changed the way I said the serenity prayer by adding another line to the end of it.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage the change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

Thy will not my will be done.

In adding “thy will not my will” I was aligning myself with serving the will of The God-Force / Goddess Energy / Great Spirit and surrendering my life to being an instrument of service in the Universal Divine Plan.  I was in actuality working the 3rd step each time I said the serenity prayer in this way. (Working the Third Step)

ACA

The change in focus on that day lead me to read certain books, attend workshops, do much writing, and start to go to Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings. (Co-Dependents Anonymous was not founded until October of 1986.)  I was not from an alcoholic family but was starting to realize that my family was dysfunctional and it wasn’t just me who was screwed up.

I went to ACA meetings sporadically.  I used to say that I went to meetings for a year before I ever spoke in one.  Looking back now I find that kind of hard to believe (that it was that long) but it was I am sure at least 8 or 9 meetings over the course of 5 or 6 months before I spoke.  And when I spoke for the first time what I spoke about was that I had realized that I had been sitting in the meetings comparing my story to the other peoples – and thinking that they had it much worse than me.  That I didn’t really have any right to speak up because I wasn’t from a raging alcoholic home and didn’t get beaten in childhood.  That was, of course, my disease minimizing and invalidating my own pain.  The other thing that I mentioned is that I had realized while sitting in that particular meeting that I had spent my whole life thinking that I was a frog who needed a princess to kiss me before I could become a prince – and that that wasn’t true, that I was a prince already.  (Several years later when I moved from Taos New Mexico to California I answered my door one day to find a large stuffed frog sitting on my doorstep.  It was a going away gift from my CoDA group in homage to the frog self image that I talked about in meetings.)

So for over a year, I was pursuing my healing of the childhood programming on mostly an intellectual level.  It wasn’t until I set myself up to feel abandoned and betrayed on my birthday (one of my old regular patterns for special days) that I became willing to do the emotional healing – and started actively pursuing emotional healing (another story for another issue).

The Psychic

In the meantime, in the late summer of 1986, I had gone to work in an Chemical Dependence Treatment Center.  I had been pursuing an acting career in Hollywood since 1975 and had been very good at being a suffering artist.  It was a perfect path for both my codependence (suffering I learned real well from the church that taught me I was a sinner who was here to do penance for being born a sinful, shameful human) and my alcoholism (everyone knows that artists need to drink a lot and do drugs).  As a result of doing Positive Affirmations and consciously trying to reprogram my subconscious beliefs I surrendered to going to work in a treatment center and giving up the suffering artist types of jobs that I had done for years.

I first went to work as a counselors assistant and then was later promoted to therapist because I was qualified for the higher position. I had received my Masters Degree many years before but had abandoned using the knowledge and skills I had in order to pursue my acting career.

For my birthday in 1987 (the one that sparked my pursuit of emotional healing because I set myself up to be abandoned) I received a number of cards at work.  Someone at work said “You should let Marianne read your cards.”  “Read birthday cards?” I responded very skeptically.  “Yes, she reads cards.”  “Birthday cards?!?!?”

To say I didn’t take this seriously is a gross understatement.  Marianne was someone who worked on our unit part time and the next time I saw her I mentioned it to her in a very humorous way.  She responded “Yes, I am a psychic and I read birthday cards among other things.”

This was all a big joke to me.  I had never heard of such a thing and said so – and I would kid around with her about it the next few times I saw her.  I had gotten a message earlier in my recovery that it wasn’t part of my path to pursue experience of a psychic or paranormal nature.  Not that I didn’t believe that there was Truth in many supernatural type of phenomena – just that I was supposed to focus on tuning into the Truth within me and not be looking outside for the answers.  The thing I used to say when someone would try to get me to go see a psychic or have a tarot reading done or something of that nature was “If I am supposed to get a message from a psychic the Universe is quite capable of bringing the psychic into my path.  I don’t have to go looking for answers in that way.”

Well, that is what happened.  Marianne came storming into work one day and said to me “I have to see you right now!”  We went into a private room and she proceeded to read my mail for me – that is tell me all the things that were going on inside of me that I wasn’t talking to anyone about.  I was quite shaken about how much she knew about the secrets I was carrying and the feelings I was hiding.  As I was sitting there in shock at her revelations, she asked to see my birthday cards.  I still had them at work in order for her to read them one day.  I gave them to her and she looked them over.  She pointed out that every birthday card I had gotten that year had at least one musical note on it.   She said that was “about the song that you are becoming.”

A few weeks later I made an appointment to see her for a paid psychic reading.  One day before the reading I was walking down a street in Studio City where I lived and a song came to me.  I knew that when she had said “the song I was becoming” she had not meant a literal song but was rather referring to my Spiritual Path.  But the song that came to me was so perfect that I couldn’t wait to tell her.   When she came over I started speaking the words of the song to her and made one of those “Freudian” slips that was absolutely perfect.  I said:

“Jeremiah was a ‘boy’frog, was a good friend of mine.

Never understood a single word he said but he always had some mighty fine wine.

I always helped him drink his wine.”

A boy who believed he was a frog that needed a princess was who I was.  And I had never listened to much of what my inner child said to me – had pummeled that part of me into submission and at the same time I let that child’s wounds run my life.  I was never much for wine but I drank whatever was available.

So, it was a perfect song for me.  And the chorus is:

Joy to the world.  All the boys and girls.

Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea

and Joy to you and me.

Out of the intervention of this psychic angel named Marianne a new level of consciousness was opened, and a new direction to steer was revealed.  At a time when I had never experienced what I know now is True Joy in my life – I was given the message that my path was about Joy and carrying a message of Joy to you and me.  The name of my company was born that day – even though I had no idea there would ever be a company.

In that same session, Marianne channeled a message to me from my inner child.  My inner child said to me that I was resisting because of I was so terrified of all the pain and rage that I was carrying and that what I couldn’t see was all of the Joy and Love and Peace that was on the other side of that pain and rage.  The channeled message from my inner child ended with my inner child saying that who he was – was my wounded soul.

That reference to my inner child being my wounded soul along with the musical theme of the song I was becoming planted the seed that with the help of some Saguaro cactus (part of the 30 Days in treatment story mentioned just below) was to grow into becoming the title of my book “The Dance of Wounded Souls.”

The Path

My pursuit of emotional healing lead me into depths of pain and rage that I would never have thought myself capable of surviving.  It led me into a 30 day treatment program for Codependence that was the greatest gift I ever gave myself.  (As I mentioned above the pursuit of emotional healing is a story for another issue as is the 30 days in treatment.)

After that wondrous treatment experience I was lead to move from LA to the place where I had been in treatment – Tucson, Arizona.  Being in Tucson lead me to Sedona where the most frightening and freeing experience in my life took place – as I got to confront evil manifest and consciously take a small part in returning the Energy Field of Collective Human Emotional Consciousness to positive alignment with the Truth of a Loving God-Force. (This is talked about in the Trilogy and in another issue.)

Then I was lead to Taos New Mexico where I started writing the Trilogy and learning how to access the Mystical Truth that I was to be a messenger of in this lifetime.  Before I had ever been to Taos I knew that I was going to be there about a year before going someplace “where the mountains and ocean come together.”  That place was Cambria California where in 1991 I first gave the talk that was to become the book Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls.  (Miracles)

After two years on the coast I was led back to Taos for some more Karmic settlement and learning before returning to California in the winter of 1994-95 to raise the money to publish my book.  (Leap of faith and miracles in another issue.)

Joy2MeU

After publishing my book and returning to Cambria, I wanted to get a personalized license plate for my car that said Joy to You & Me – in the appropriate number of letters of course.  But it was not available.  What was available was Joy2Me U – so that is what I got.  At the time I understood the message from the Universe.  Joy to me and you is healthier for a recovering codependent than you and me.  I need to heal myself first, protect myself first, nurture myself first and foremost before I can be of service to you in a healthy way.  I am in the process of learning to Love myself – and it is an incredible gift that through doing what I need to do to learn about Love, and sharing my process with you – I get to be an instrument for helping you remember who you are and learn to Love your self first.

On February 28th of 1998 I uploaded the first, very crude pages of my web site.  When I signed up with my server I choose the same letters as my license plate for my screen name – which also then became part of my web site address.  In February of 1999 I purchased my own domain and launched Joy2MeU.com.

So that is the story of where the name of my company “Joy to You & Me” came from and how it transmuted into Joy2MeU.

Next month, I will share a story from another part of my journey.

With Wishes of Joy & Love to Me and You,

Robert

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Joy2MeU Journal

This story is part of the Premier Issue of the Joy2MeU Journal published online in April 1999.  The Joy2MeU Journal is a body of Robert’s writing compiled between that time and the end of 2004.  To learn more about the Journal see the Journal Information page.  Here is a page that currently includes special offers for books, subscriptions and MP3 downloads.

June 3rd, 2015 – As I say in the article above, on this day 29 years ago I realized that I was living my life beating myself up when things looked and felt bad in my life and holding my breath waiting for the other shoe to drop when things felt and looked good.  I was afraid to show I enjoyed or valued anything lest it be taken away.  A Truly horrible way to live that is what codependency created in my life.  The commitment I made on that day 29 years ago led me to discover a formula for inner healing that is the exact opposite of how my codependency worked.  I learned that when things looked and felt bad that was the time that I most needed to nurture and love myself – and that when things felt and looked good that I should enjoy the heck out of it, because this too shall pass.  Everything changes and gets different in life – that is the nature of life.  It wasn’t personal punishment for being shameful and sinful as I had been taught.

The  commitment I made that day led me to my life’s work – teaching other people how to be more loving to themselves and learn to enjoy life more.  This is what I teach people in my books and telephone counseling and Intensive Training Workshop.  I am eternally grateful that my Higher Power gave me the courage and willingness to follow my path where it has led me – and to be able to help other people by sharing my recovery process – by sharing my experience, strength, and hope. ~ RB

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Logo of Joy to You & Me Enterprises

Fear of Intimacy – the wounded heart of codependency ~ Fear of Abandonment, Betrayal, and Rejection

Fear of intimacy is at the heart of codependency.  We have a fear of intimacy because we have a fear of abandonment, betrayal, and rejection.  We have a these fears because we were wounded in early childhood – we experienced feeling emotionally abandoned, rejected, and betrayed by our parents because they were wounded.  They did not have healthy relationship with self – they were codependents who abandoned and betrayed themselves – and their behavior caused us to feel unworthy and unlovable.

“We exited the warm nurturing cocoon of our incubator into a cold, harsh world.  A world run by Higher Powers (parents and any body else bigger than us – siblings, grandparents, hospital or orphanage personnel) who were wounded in their childhood.  Gods who were not emotionally healthy, and did not know how to Love themselves.  Our egos were traumatized – and adapted programming to try to protect us from the pain of emotional trauma that felt life threatening.

The people we Loved the most – our Higher Powers – hurt us the most.   Our emotional intimacy issues were caused by, our fear of intimacy is a direct result of, our early childhood experiences.  Our lives have been lived in reaction to the intellectual paradigms our egos adapted to deal with emotional trauma.

The part of a child’s brain that is logical and rational, that understands abstract concepts (like time or death), that can have any kind of an objective perspective on self or life, does not develop until about the age of 7 (the age of reason.)  As little children we were completely ego-centric and magical thinking.  We did not have the capacity to understand that our Higher Powers were not perfect.  We watched their role modeling, experienced their behavior as personal, and felt the emotional currents of our environments – worry, frustration, resentment, fear, anger, pain, shame, etc. – and were emotionally traumatized.

Our ego adapted itself to the environment it was experiencing.  It developed emotional and behavioral defense systems in reaction to the emotional pain we experienced growing up with parents who were wounded codependents.

If you have ever wondered why it is so much easier to feel Spiritual in relationship to nature or animals, here is your answer.  It was people who wounded us in childhood.  It is people who our egos developed defense systems to protect us from.

I have told people for years, that the only reason to do inner child healing work is if we are going to interact with other people.  If one is going to live in isolation on a mountain top meditating, it will be fairly easy to feel Spiritually connected.  It is relating to other human beings that is messy.” – Reprogramming our ego defenses

Relating to animals or nature is safe because we will not be judged.  Our pet will not abandon us because we are inherently defective.  Nature will not reject us because we are personally shameful.  People will – or at least it feels like that is what has happened in the past.

The Truth is that the ways that our parents treated us in childhood did not have anything to do with who we are – was not really personal.  They were incapable of seeing themselves clearly.  They certainly could not see us clearly – could not see our unique individuality from a perspective that allowed them to honor and respect us as beings separate from them.   Their perspective of us was filtered through a prism of their own shame and woundedness.  They projected their hopes and dreams, their fears and insecurities onto us.  They saw us as the fix for their feelings of unworthiness, an extension of them that gave their life meaning – or perhaps they saw us as an inconvenience and a burden holding them back, preventing them from making their dreams come true.  For some of us, a parent(s) was so caught up in their alcoholism or survival drama or career that most of the time they didn’t see us at all.

And both our parents and society taught us very clearly – through direct messages and role modeling – to be dishonest.  Our parents taught us that keeping up appearances, worrying about what the neighbors think, was more important than our feelings – because it was so important to them.  Or, some of us experienced a parent who went to the other extreme, where they acted like they didn’t care what anyone thought – which caused us to feel embarrassed and ashamed of their behavior because it was so out of balance, and caused us to worry about what the neighbors thought.  They taught us to give power to other people by wearing masks and keeping secrets.

Even more importantly, our role models taught us to be emotionally dishonest.  Because it wasn’t safe to be emotionally honest we lost our self – did not know how to be emotionally intimate with our self, and instead constructed a false self image to survive.  We learned to wear different masks for different people.

As children we were incapable of seeing ourselves as separate from our families – of knowing we had worth as individuals apart from our families.  The reality we grew up in was the only reality that we knew.  We thought our parents behavior reflected our worth – the same way that our codependent parents thought our behavior was a factor in rather they had worth.

Book cover

Codependence The Dance of Wounded Souls

“We live in a society where the emotional experience of “love” is conditional on behavior.  Where fear, guilt, and shame are used to try to control children’s behavior because parents believe that their children’s behavior reflects their self-worth.

In other words, if little Johnny is a well-behaved, “good boy,” then his parents are good people.  If Johnny acts out, and misbehaves, then there is something wrong with his parents.  (“He doesn’t come from a good family.”)

What the family dynamics research shows is that it is actually the good child – the family hero role – who is the most emotionally dishonest and out of touch with him/herself, while the acting-out child – the scapegoat – is the most emotionally honest child in the dysfunctional family.  Backwards again.

In a Codependent society we are taught, in the name of “love,” to try to control those we love, by manipulating and shaming them, to try to get them to do the right things – in order to protect our own ego-strength.  Our emotional experience of love is of something controlling:  “I love you if you do what I want you to do.”  Our emotional experience of love is of something that is shaming and manipulative and abusive.

Love that is shaming and abusive is an insane, ridiculous concept.  Just as insane and ridiculous as the concept of murder and war in the name of God.” – quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

Rather our parents made us their reason for living – which is a form of toxic love in which the child is the drug of choice (causing a child to feel responsible for an adult’s self worth is emotionally incestuous and abusive);  or a burden to be carried, the scapegoat they blamed for ruining their lives;  or treated us like we were an inconvenience in the moments when they even seemed aware of us;  it wounded us.  We felt betrayed – by our own unworthiness, because we were incapable of knowing they were not perfect. We felt abandoned and rejected by the gods in our lives.

We were wounded in our first relationships with other people.  We were tiny, innocent, little beings who were completely dependent upon wounded people who did not Love themselves – and therefore were incapable of Loving us in a healthy way.

Feeling unlovable to the gods in our lives as tiny children was life threatening.  It felt life threatening.

Our fear of intimacy is based upon painful, traumatic experience.

in to me see

The simplest and most understandable way I have ever heard intimacy described is by breaking the word down: in to me see.  That is what intimacy is about – allowing another person to see into us, sharing who we are with another person.

Sharing who we are is a problem for codependents because at the core of our relationship with ourselves is the feeling that we are somehow defective, unlovable and unworthy – because of our childhood emotional trauma.  Codependency is rooted in our ego programming from early childhood.  That programming is a defense that the ego adapted to help us survive.  It is based upon the feeling that we are shameful, that we are defective, unworthy, and unlovable.  Our codependent defense system is an attempt to protect us from being rejected, betrayed, and abandoned because of our unworthy, shameful being.

We have a fear of intimacy because we were wounded, emotionally traumatized, in early childhood – felt rejected and abandoned – and then grew up in emotional dishonest societies that did not provide tools for healing, or healthy role models to teach us how to overcome that fear.  Our wounding in early childhood caused us to feel that something was wrong with our being – toxic shame – and our societal and parental role models taught us to keep up appearances, to hide our shamefulness from others.

Toxic Shame – defective, unlovable

It is very important in recovery to start making a distinction – drawing a boundary – between being and behavior.  Growing up in dysfunctional societies taught us to equate our worth – and judge the worth of others – based upon external appearances.   We experienced love as conditional on behavior.  Someone who behaves badly – i.e. not the way we want them to – is a bad person.  Someone who behaves the way we want them to is a good person.

It is very important to stop judging our worth based upon the dysfunctional standards of societies that taught us it was shameful to be imperfect human beings.

“When I use the term “judge,” I am talking about making judgments about our own or other people’s beings based on behavior.  In other words, I did something bad therefore I am a bad person; I made a mistake therefore I am a mistake.  That is what toxic shame is all about:  feeling that something is wrong with our being, that we are somehow defective because we have human drives, human weaknesses, human imperfections.

There may be behavior in which we have engaged that we feel ashamed of but that does not make us shameful beings   We may need to make judgments about whether our behavior is healthy and appropriate but that does not mean that we have to judge our essential self, our being, because of the behavior.  Our behavior has been dictated by our disease, by our childhood wounds; it does not mean that we are bad or defective as beings.  It means that we are human, it means that we are wounded.

It is important to start setting a boundary between being and behavior.  All humans have equal Divine value as beings – no matter what our behavior.  Our behavior is learned (and/or reactive to physical or physiological conditions).  Behavior, and the attitudes that dictate behavior, are adopted defenses designed to allow us to survive in the Spiritually hostile, emotionally repressive, dysfunctional environments into which we were born.”

At the core of codependency is toxic shame – the feeling that we are somehow inherently defective, that something is wrong our being.

[And I want to make note here, that anytime I talk about shame, rather I use the adjective toxic or not – I am talking about feeling toxic shame in relationship to “being,” feeling personally defective.  Some people in the field, notably John Bradshaw, make a distinction between toxic shame and healthy shame.  I find it much simpler, and more useful, to use shame in reference to “being” and guilt in reference to behavior.  I believe there is healthy and unhealthy guilt (as I talk about in Discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility 2) but any time I use the term shame I am talking about toxic shame.  (The example that I have heard Bradshaw use of what he calls healthy shame, is that it is what keeps us from running down the street naked.  I find that not only blatantly a judgment of behavior – but also based upon cultural standards that are not necessarily aligned with any kind of Spiritual Truth.  Some of John’s Jesuit background showing I think. ;-)]

The emotional trauma we suffered in early childhood created within us the feeling of toxic shame.

“We do not need fixing.  We are not broken.  Our sense of self, our self perception, was shattered and fractured and broken into pieces, not our True Self.

We think and feel like we are broken because we were programmed backwards.

We are not broken.  That is what toxic shame is – thinking that we are broken, believing that we are somehow inherently defective.

Guilt is “I made a mistake, I did something wrong.”

Shame is “I’m a mistake, something is wrong with me.”

Again, the feelings of that little child inside who believes that he/she deserves to be punished.”

At the foundation of our relationship with our self – and therefore with other people and life – is the feeling that we will die if we reveal ourselves to other people, because then they will see our shameful self.  I felt deep within me (in those rare instances of breaking through my denial and blaming to a moment of honest clarity), that if I let anyone see who I really was, they would run away screaming in horror at the grotesque, deformed, shameful being that I was.

Our lives have been dictated by an emotional defense system that is designed to keep hidden the the false belief that we are defective.  We use external things – success, looks, productivity, substances – to try to cover up, overcome, make up for, the personal defectiveness that we felt caused our hearts to be broken and our souls wounded in childhood.  And that personal defectiveness is a lie.  That feeling of toxic shame is a lie.

It was so painful that we had to lie to ourselves about it.  We were forced to be emotionally and intellectually dishonest with ourselves by the codependent defenses we adapted.  We had to learn how to live in denial of the pain and shame at the core of our relationship with ourselves.  Codependency is a vicious form of Delayed Stress Syndrome, of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (Codependence as Delayed Stress Syndrome)  The emotional trauma caused us to disassociate – to not be present in our own skins in a conscious way – and to rationalize and deny our emotional experience of life.  We built up a dishonest self image to try to convince ourselves that we had worth based upon some comparative external factors:  looks, success, independence (the counterdependent rebel), popularity (people pleasers), righteousness (better than others, right to their wrong), or whatever.  That false self image was not completely dishonest because it was formed in reaction to some basic aspects of who we Truly are – but it was a twisted, distorted, polarized perspective of our self adapted in response to toxic shame for the purpose of giving us some ego strength, some reason we could feel better than others.

That false self image, the masks we learned to wear, is something we invested a lot of energy into convincing ourselves was the truth.  But deep inside, in our moments of insight and clarity, we knew we were hiding a shameful secret.  Often we got that toxic shame about our being confused in our memories with some behavior in our childhood that felt shameful.  It is very common for us to have a secret that involves a way in which we were abused – physically, sexually, etc. – that we go to great pains to avoid because we associate the feeling of toxic shame with that incident and think it was our fault.

We do not want other people to see in to us, because then they will learn our shameful secret.  We have a fear of intimacy because of the false belief that our relationship with our self is based upon.

We have spent our lives trying to protect ourselves from a lie about who we are.  We have spent incredible energy in our lives trying to keep the toxic shame hidden.  The secret that is killing us and has made our lives miserable, the secret we have lived in reaction to – is a lie.  We have been compulsively – because we were reacting to what felt like a threat to survival – living our lives in reaction to our need to keep secret who we feel we really are in the deepest part of our being.

“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.” – Chapter 2 of Attack on America – A Spiritual Healing Perspective

Because of the feeling that we were somehow shameful, were unworthy and unlovable, we adapted defenses to protect us.  Those defenses caused us to keep recreating the emotional dynamics of our childhood.

Repeating Behavior Patterns – looking for love in all the wrong places

Codependence is doubly traumatic.  We were traumatized as children – and the defenses we adapted to protect us caused us to traumatize ourselves as adults.  We have experienced getting our hearts broken, our hopes and dreams shattered, again and again.  We abandoned, betrayed, and set ourselves up to feel rejected over and over again.  (Even those “family hero” types who achieve external “success” and financial abundance have to keep running from distraction to distraction and finding someone to blame so that they can deny the hole they feel within themselves.  Achieving some material success makes it much easier to maintain the illusion of ego control and stay in denial of one’s wounded soul.  Being rich and famous can be a huge block to true emotional intimacy.)

As long as we are reacting unconsciously to our childhood emotional wounds and intellectual programming, we keep repeating the patterns.  We keep getting involved with unavailable people.  We keep setting ourselves up to be abandoned, betrayed and rejected.  We keep looking for love in all the wrong places, in all the wrong faces.  Is it any wonder we have a fear of intimacy?

“Codependence is an emotional and behavioral defense system which was adopted by our egos in order to meet our need to survive as a child.  Because we had no tools for reprogramming our egos and healing our emotional wounds (culturally approved grieving, training and initiation rites, healthy role models, etc.), the effect is that as an adult we keep reacting to the programming of our childhood and do not get our needs met – our emotional, mental, Spiritual, or physical needs.  Codependence allows us to survive physically but causes us to feel empty and dead inside.  Codependence is a defense system that causes us to wound ourselves.

Some people, when they first get into Recovery, when they first start on a healing path, mistakenly believe that they are supposed to take down their defenses and learn to trust everyone.  That is a very dysfunctional belief.  It is necessary to take down the dysfunctional defense systems but we have to replace them with defenses that work.  We have to have a defense system, we have to be able to protect ourselves.   There is still a hostile environment out there full of wounded Adult Children whom it is not safe to trust.

In our disease defense system we build up huge walls to protect ourselves and then – as soon as we meet someone who will help us to repeat our patterns of abuse, abandonment, betrayal, and/or deprivation – we lower the drawbridge and invite them in.  We, in our Codependence, have radar systems which cause us to be attracted to, and attract to us, the people, who for us personally, are exactly the most untrustworthy (or unavailable or smothering or abusive or whatever we need to repeat our patterns) individuals – exactly the ones who will “push our buttons.”

This happens because those people feel familiar.  Unfortunately in childhood the people whom we trusted the most – were the most familiar – hurt us the most.  So the effect is that we keep repeating our patterns and being given the reminder that it is not safe to trust ourselves or other people

Once we begin healing we can see that the Truth is that it is not safe to trust as long as we are reacting out of the emotional wounds and attitudes of our childhoods.  Once we start Recovering, then we can begin to see that on a Spiritual level these repeating behavior patterns are opportunities to heal the childhood wounds.

The process of Recovery teaches us how to take down the walls and protect ourselves in healthy ways – by learning what healthy boundaries are, how to set them, and how to defend them.  It teaches us to be discerning in our choices, to ask for what we need, and to be assertive and Loving in meeting our own needs.  (Of course many of us have to first get used to the revolutionary idea that it is all right for us to have needs.)”

As children we were victims – as adult we kept repeating the behaviors we learned as children – in one extreme or the other.  The people in our lives were actors we unconsciously cast in roles that would recreate our childhood wounding so that we could try to heal it – try to get in right this time.  We were energetically drawn to, and attracted to us, the people who would treat us in ways that felt familiar – because on some deep level we believed that is what we deserved.  If our own parents could not love us, then we must not deserve to be loved.

In my Update Newsletter for October 2000, I talked about a mother and daughter that I had done some work with.  After an initial period of intensive counseling for both of them, we had evolved into counseling sessions several times a year with one or both of them as they had opportunities for growth in their recovery.  The week that I was writing this article,  I had a session with the mother.  Her daughter had once again engaged in behavior that was dangerous and life threatening.  She was very upset about an incident that her daughter had experienced – and was putting a lot of energy into blaming the daughter’s boyfriend.

She kept saying how controlling, possessive, and abusive this boyfriend was and how she just couldn’t understand it.  She felt that her daughter had chosen the boyfriend over her own mother and out of the deep hurt she was feeling she was blaming.  She mentioned several times how she had said to her daughter, “What is wrong with you!”   Then she would swing to the other extreme and say, “Maybe I failed somehow as a parent.”  She was caught up in codependent polarized reaction to her fear, pain, and shame.

After letting her vent for a long period of time, I brought her back to focusing on her Spiritual belief system and applying the Serenity prayer to what was happening.  I reminded her that the reason her daughter was in a relationship that was controlling, possessive, and abusive was because that was the only type of relationship the daughter was familiar with.  I reminded her that she, in her concern and love for her daughter, out of her fear of her daughters self destructive behavior, had been controlling, possessive, and abusive.  I pointed out that it was abusive to say something like, “what is wrong with you.” – because it equates behavior with being.  Doing something “wrong” does not mean there is something wrong with us.  The daughter was in fact, just repeating her codependent patterns – and to me, her behavior was not only understandable, but very predictable.  (And repeating the patterns was not a sign that she had not grown.  This was a new opportunity for growth at a higher level of consciousness for her – a perfect part of her growth process, not some regression or slip into old behavior.  We make progress gradually.)

Once I got her to stop reacting to her shame, fear, and hurt, and to stop viewing the situation from a polarized black and white, right and wrong, perspective – then she was able to get back to her recovery and start using the tools she has learned to help her let go of things she can’t control and focus on her inner process which she can have some degree of control over in a Loving way.

The reality of codependence is that we get in relationship with people who feel familiar – people who will repeat our childhood emotional dynamics.  We keep getting involved with people with whom we can recreate the emotional dynamics from our childhood in some way.

A large part of the tragedy of codependency – the insidiously dysfunctional nature of the disease – is that by repeating the patterns we keep setting ourselves up to be abandoned and rejected.  To feel betrayed by our own unworthiness.  To reinforce the lie that we are inherently, and personally, shameful and unlovable.

I spent most of my life being the victim of my own thoughts, my own emotions, my own behaviors.  I was consistently picking untrustworthy people to trust and unavailable people to love.  I could not trust my own emotions because I was incapable of being honest with myself emotionally – which made me incapable of Truly being honest on any level.”

We are attracted to people who are unable to meet our needs, who are unavailable on some level, as a protection from allowing ourselves to get close to someone who could be available to us – because then they would find out how shameful we are and reject us.  Allowing someone to see into us, to see who we really are, feels to the disease like the last thing we want to do – and it generates incredible fear of allowing that kind of intimacy.

Codependency is an emotional and behavioral defense system that does not work.  Our defense against pain and shame actually creates more pain – and causes us to keep repeating painful patterns in a way which reinforces the belief that we are somehow defective, that we have good reason to feel ashamed of ourselves.

Our fear of intimacy is reinforced by the evidence of how many “stupid” choices we have made in the past.  Our experiences in childhood caused us to fear intimacy and feel that we were somehow unlovable – and our codependency caused us to keep creating new evidence of our inherent defectiveness.

Nasty stuff indeed!

We have a fear of intimacy for very good reasons.  We have a lifetime of experiences that reinforce the original messages – that reinforces our feeling of being terrified of letting anyone get too close to us, see into us.

The only way to overcome our fear of intimacy is to get into recovery for our codependency – and do our inner child healing work so that we can learn to be emotionally honest and intimate with ourselves.  Integrating a Loving Spiritual belief system into our relationship with self and life is an invaluable step in taking power away from the toxic shame so that we can start to Love ourselves and be open to being Loved by others.

“Learning what healthy behavior is will allow us to be healthier in the relationships that do not mean much to us;  intellectually knowing Spiritual Truth will allow us to be more Loving some of the time;  but in the relationships that mean the most to us, with the people we care the most about, when our “buttons are pushed” we will watch ourselves saying things we don’t want to say and reacting in ways that we don’t want to react – because we are powerless to change the behavior patterns without dealing with the emotional wounds.

We cannot integrate Spiritual Truth or intellectual knowledge of healthy behavior into our experience of life in a substantial way without honoring and respecting the emotions.  We cannot consistently incorporate healthy behavior into day to day life without being emotionally honest with ourselves.  We cannot get rid of our shame and overcome our fear of emotional intimacy without going through the feelings.”

“The key to healing our wounded souls is to get clear and honest in our emotional process.  Until we can get clear and honest with our human emotional responses – until we change the twisted, distorted, negative perspectives and reactions to our human emotions that are a result of having been born into, and grown up in, a dysfunctional, emotionally repressive, Spiritually hostile environment – we cannot get clearly in touch with the level of emotional energy that is Truth.  We cannot get clearly in touch with and reconnected to our Spiritual Self.

We, each and every one of us, has an inner channel to Truth, an inner channel to the Great Spirit.  But that inner channel is blocked up with repressed emotional energy, and with twisted, distorted attitudes and false beliefs.

We can intellectually throw out false beliefs.  We can intellectually remember and embrace the Truth of ONENESS and Light and Love.  But we cannot integrate Spiritual Truths into our day-to-day human existence, in a way which allows us to substantially change the dysfunctional behavior patterns that we had to adopt to survive, until we deal with our emotional wounds.  Until we deal with the subconscious emotional programming from our childhoods.”

Logo of Joy2MeU

Logo of Joy2MeU.com website of Robert Burney

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. 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.

Codependents as Emotional Vampires

Book cover

Codependence The Dance of Wounded Souls

  “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.” – quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

When I was only about 3 months into recovery, one day while I was in a grocery store shopping, I glanced over at a rack of books that was in the store. My attention was immediately drawn to a book with the title of Illusions The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by an author named Richard Bach. That was a paradigm busting, life changing moment. I felt a strong impulse to buy that book. I had no idea why – but I knew I needed to buy that book.

I quote Illusions (the books and authors that impacted my recovery are listed on my Recommended Books page) several times in my book – and mention it periodically in my writing. I bring it up here because of a chapter in which he addresses something that was vital for me to start understanding in relationship to my codependency.

In the book, Bach is barnstorming through the Midwest in an old biplane – selling rides to the people of the towns he happens upon. In the course of this adventure he meets another barnstorming pilot. This other pilot turns out to be a messiah who has resigned because he got so disgusted with people not listening to him when he told them (paraphrasing the book), “These things that I do, you can do also.” He was trying to get them to own their own inner connection to the Divine, and their own power as Magnificent Spiritual Beings – and instead of hearing his message, they wanted to worship him and have him do miracles for them. He kept telling them that they could do miracles themselves if they would just connect with their Higher Self and let go of the limitations of their ego programming. (My words again, paraphrasing the book’s message.)

In the particular chapter that came to mind while I was writing this article, Bach corrects something the messiah says – and tells him that he forgot to add that we need to avoid hurting other people.

Suddenly there is a noise in the underbrush near the spot they are camped beside their biplanes. (This messiah character had a way of teaching by materializing examples to help Bach understand.) A lean fellow with a wolf like look to him, dressed in formal evening clothes and wearing a black cape lined in red satin, emerged from the darkness.

The fellow seems to be frightened and shy, so Bach wants to put him at ease and invites him to join them by their fire. And he asks if he could help this strange looking fellow.

The caped mystery man spoke in a strange accent saying yes, he did need help. Could he please drink some of Bach’s blood as he needed it to survive.

Bach immediately jumped to his feet and started yelling at the intruder. In the course of the interaction, the messiah reminded Bach of what he had just said about how it was important not to hurt others, and that by not letting the fellow drink his blood he would be hurting him.

Once the point was made, the vampire vanished. The point being that allowing another person to hurt us in the name of trying not to hurt them is dysfunctional.

If a vampire came up to you and told you that he would die if you didn’t allow him to drink your blood, most likely you wouldn’t have any problem telling him no. In our codependency however, when we do not know how to say no to other people, how to have healthy boundaries, we are set up to react to – and swing between – the extremes of the black and white, 1 or 10 spectrum of codependent behavior. Those extremes are: to build huge walls against connecting with other people – which sets us up to be emotional anorexics; or to offer ourselves up as sacrificial lambs to the type of codependents that are overt emotional vampires.

I say overt because all codependents are emotional vampires to one degree or another because of our emotional wounds – our emotional anorexia. And we are set up to be emotional vampires as long as we are looking outside of ourselves for self definition and self worth. In this chapter and the next few, I am going to use the emotional vampire / anorexic theme to try to shine some Light upon both the dynamics of codependency and the process of recovery. I am going to be talking about the roles of emotional vampire, emotional anorexic, and sacrificial lamb that we are set up to play out in our disease – and I will discuss the need to end emotional enmeshment and take emotional responsibility as a vital elements in a healthy recovery process.

Mad Dogs and Skunks

The world is full of wounded people. Civilization has been dysfunctional for a very long time. We are surrounded by the mad dogs and skunks that I referred to in the last chapter when talking about the warning I received from the Universe.

“The Universe used my “looking for her” longing to teach me some very vital lessons in my recovery in the later part of 1988 and through much of 1989. This was a crucial time in my codependence recovery after I had gone through a 30 day treatment program that spring. . . . .

That summer had given me a huge wake up call that caused me to see that life wasn’t going to be all sweetness and light now that I had been through treatment and learned how to do my grief work. I had spent most of that summer in Sedona Arizona, and had gotten a very interesting warning from the Universe when I first moved up there. One day I was walking in the desert surrounded by the beautiful red rock mountains of that area. I was thinking about how wonderful it was going to be now that I had done so much deep emotional work and learned so many new tools. I was day dreaming about how exciting it was going to be able to have healthy relationships. All of a sudden from out of the underbrush burst this mad looking dog barking and snarling and hurtling right at me – and then right past me. I hadn’t even caught my breath after that scare when the strong odor of skunk wafted by.

The message from the Universe: I may be a lot healthier, but I still need to watch out for mad dogs and skunks. The mad dogs in my understanding are the abusive, aggressive codependents – and the skunks are the martyr, victim codependents. In other words I needed to learn to be discerning about who I open up to, who I invest time and energy in, because the world is full of wounded people – including, as I already knew, some that claim many years of recovery.” – Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life Chapter 7: Multiple levels of selfishness

There are any number of perspectives that can be used to describe the varieties and flavors of codependency – as I mentioned in the first chapter of this online book

“In my article Roles In Dysfunctional Families I describe one way of looking at them (family hero, scapegoat, etc.) – while in the excerpt from my book on the page just quoted The Evolution of the Term “Codependence”, I describe them in relationship to the terms aggressive and passive (ranging from bulldozers to martyrs.) The bottom line however, is that the different varieties of codependency are reactions to the same basic emotional wounds from childhood. They are defenses designed to help us survive. They are the ways we learned to try to control and manipulate our environments to protect us from emotional pain that felt life threatening.” – Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life The codependency movement is NOT ruining marriages! Chapter 1

That description of aggressive and passive behavioral defenses – that I use in my book when talking about the evolution of the term codependence – is something that I developed while speaking. Audiences would nod in agreement with, and laugh in recognition of, these defenses. I used them to make a point about how the definition of codependence had evolved and grown to include counterdependent behaviors. I was trying to demonstrate how the aggressive type of behavioral defense – the counterdependent – was just as much a part of the condition of codependence as the earlier classic, traditional view of codependence as the passive victim / people pleaser / rescuer.

I was also making the point that our cultural prototypes / role models were dysfunctional – and that I was not just talking about some dysfunctional families when talking about codependent behavioral defenses. Here are those descriptions:

“The Aggressive-Aggressive defense, is what I call the “militant bulldozer.” This person, basically the counterdependent, is the one whose attitude is “I don’t care what anyone thinks.” This is someone who will run you down and then tell you that you deserved it. This is the “survival of the fittest,” hard-driving capitalist, self-righteous religious fanatic, who feels superior to most everyone else in the world. This type of person despises the human “weakness” in others because he/she is so terrified and ashamed of her/his own humanity.

The Aggressive-Passive person, or “self-sacrificing bulldozer,” will run you down and then tell you that they did it for your own good and that it hurt them more than it did you. These are the types of people who aggressively try to control you “for your own good” – because they think that they know what is “right” and what you “should” do and they feel obligated to inform you. This person is constantly setting him/herself up to be the perpetrator because other people do not do things the “right” way, that is, his/her way.

The Passive-Aggressive, or “militant martyr,” is the person who smiles sweetly while cutting you to pieces emotionally with her/his innocent sounding, double-edged sword of a tongue. These people try to control you “for your own good” but do it in more covert, passive-aggressive ways. They “only want the best for you,” and sabotage you every chance they get. They see themselves as wonderful people who are continually and unfairly being victimized by ungrateful loved ones – and this victimization is their main topic of conversation/focus in life because they are so self-absorbed that they are almost incapable of hearing what other people are saying.

The Passive-Passive, or “self-sacrificing martyr,” is the person who spends so much time and energy demeaning him/herself, and projecting the image that he/she is emotionally fragile, that anyone who even thinks of getting mad at this person feels guilty. They have incredibly accurate, long-range, stealth guilt torpedoes that are effective even long after their death. Guilt is to the self-sacrificing martyr what stink is to a skunk: the primary defense.

These are all defense systems adopted out of a necessity to survive. They are all defensive disguises whose purpose is to protect the wounded, terrified child within.

These are broad general categories, and individually we can combine various degrees and combinations of these types of behavioral defenses in order to protect ourselves.”

Both the passive and aggressive behavioral defenses are controlling – they just employ different strategies. As I said in the last chapter, in talking about selfishness:

“Then I could start to see that the reason that I was being nice to someone was not just because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings – it was much more about protecting myself. It was what I learned to do in childhood to: avoid confrontation; keep someone from getting angry with me; keep from being abandoned; try to earn love; etc. My defense system was set up to protect me from doing things that I thought would cause me pain – like: setting boundaries; speaking my Truth; asking for help; being vulnerable; etc.” – Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life Chapter 7: Multiple levels of selfishness

If I am not speaking my truth, not setting boundaries, as a form of manipulation to keep someone from getting angry at me, keep from being abandoned – that is controlling behavior. I would hold onto my ego self image of being a “nice guy” and judge those people who were aggressively controlling as being mean and heartless. I got ego strength from looking down from the moral high ground at people who were aggressively trying to get their needs met because I could not be honest with myself about how I was passively, indirectly, manipulatively trying to get my needs met. This is a form of emotional vampirism, nurturing myself emotionally by comparing myself to others and feeling “better than.”

We all have a spectrum of reactive behavior that we adapted to protect ourselves and try to get our needs met – to try to suck emotional sustenance from other people. In a general sense the aggressive defenses / bulldozers, use fear and intimidation to get what they want – while the passive defenses / martyrs use shame and guilt. But the bulldozers also blame their victims for their abusive and controlling behavior – thus using guilt and shame to try to get others to do things “right.” And the passive martyrs can also be abusive and explode in rage (including silent rage) – when their victims are not acquiescing passively to being controlled.

Some of us combined these types of defenses. It is possible for instance, to be an aggressive bulldozer in our career – but a passive victim in our romantic relationships. Some of us even swung between extremes in romantic relationships: being the aggressively controlling bulldozer when involved with someone we had no real intention of opening our heart to, someone who we were just using temporarily; but becoming the passively controlling martyr when involved with someone we wanted to open our heart to, someone who felt like a soul mate.

In truth, anytime we set the other person in a romantic relationship up to be our drug of choice / higher power / the prince/princesss who was going to rescue us (Toxic Love) – we were being emotional vampires. I will discuss different flavors of vampire behavior, the spectrum of our reactive behavioral defenses in coming chapters. In this chapter I am going to get into a specific example of mad dog / skunk / emotional vampire behavior.

The terms “mad dog” and “skunk” are pretty harsh terms, that in the normal course of events I would only apply to the most virulent extremes of the passive to aggressive spectrum of behavioral defenses. These extremes cases are narcissists who are incapable of anything but egotistic self involvement and self obsession. I will discuss narcissists further in a coming chapter.

The warning that I got from the Universe to watch out for mad dogs and skunks, certainly included a message to stay away from narcissists, but I also understood that it was referring to the amount of power I was giving to certain other people. People whom I experienced as mad dogs and skunks because of my emotional wounds – because of enmeshment between my feelings and my self worth in my codependency, in my unconscious reactive behavior. In other words, normal types of codependents whose behavior I would interpret as having the power to rip me to shreds, or to induce great shame and guilt in me. Conversely, it was also possible for another person to experience me as a mad dog or a skunk if I was codependently trying to get them to do the “right” thing, or trying to manipulate them with guilt.

I gave this kind of power over my self worth to certain people – set them up to be mad dogs / skunks in my life – because of my wounds. For me, those people included: my parents; anyone in authority or whose approval I sought; and of course, anyone that I was romantically attracted to in a strong way.

One of the great gifts of doing my inner child healing work was to learn how to not give that kind of power to other people. In my world today, I know enough not to engage with the true mad dogs and skunks, the narcissists (because they can be vicious and cruel, because they pollute any atmosphere they are in, not because they have any power over my self worth), and to not give power over my self esteem to any person – even in a romantic relationship. What an incredible freedom! Talk about empowerment.

I will be talking about the path to that kind of empowerment in future chapters of this online book. In the rest of this chapter I am going to focus on one particular kind of dynamic. One area in which some of us find ourselves being sucked dry by codependents that either are the overt vampire type, or are set up to be emotional vampires because of the power we give them. We give them that power because of the dysfunctional cultural myth of families. That one should honor thy father and mother even if they abused and abandoned you, even if they never showed you any respect or honor, is a very dysfunctional belief. We can honor their being, but allowing them to keep abusing us with their codependent behavior is not showing honor for our Self – and is enabling them to stay unconscious. They may never become conscious in this lifetime, but that does not mean we should be doormats to their disease.

The dynamic I will be focusing specifically upon, is relating to aging parents.

Emotional Vampires and Sacrificial Lambs

At our local CoDA meeting here a couple of weeks ago, the woman who started the sharing gave me a perfect example to use in this chapter. I wrote most of the section about emotional vampires in the top part of this page months ago, thinking I would be using it quickly. As with all of my writing, my process unfolded perfectly so that in the last couple weeks as I got closer to the actual time for writing this chapter, the Universe manifested examples and fed me information relevant to this topic. As has happened throughout the process of writing this online book, I am getting a chance here to explore and explain levels and facets of the of codependency in ways a little different than I have ever done before – and to use some specific examples.

One of the nice things about Co-Dependents Anonymous is there is a little more flexibility in the format than other twelve step programs. There are only two readings that are required to be read as written (the Preamble and Welcome) – and other readings, that are not just CoDA approved literature, can be read by consent of the group conscious. Since the twelve steps and twelve traditions of CoDA were taken almost exactly word for word from AA, they contain the same shaming language that the AA twelve steps contain. In CoDA meetings that I start, and serve as secretary for, I like to use readings at the beginning of meetings that have more capacity to stir up emotions. (Unfortunately as CoDA has evolved and developed more approved literature of it’s own, it has gotten less flexible in some places, like here in San Diego where it has become very anal and rigid. The decline of Co-Dependents Anonymous )

The format for these meetings is also set up so that, when it comes time for sharing, I ask (in my role of secretary of the meeting, thus the one that reads through the format) who would like to lead the sharing today. Many twelve step meetings designate the person to lead the sharing in advance – which often gives the person plenty of time to get very intellectual in their sharing. The goal in opening the sharing to whomever is willing to go first, is to attempt to get the person who is the most emotionally vulnerable at the moment to start the sharing. It has been my observation at twelve step meetings over the years I have been in recovery, that the first person to share often sets the tone for the whole meeting. If that first person to share is coming from an intellectual place, or is story telling, then often the whole meeting stays on an intellectual level. (I talk about some common emotional defenses in my article The Journey to the Emotional Frontier Within and a follow up article to it – which includes discussing story telling as an emotional defense.) If the first person to share comes from a raw emotionally honest place, then it is more likely other people in the meeting will be able to share on an emotionally honest level. This is something I talked about in one of the latest entries to my personal journal in the Joy2MeU Journal.

“Among the out of towners that sometimes come to the CoDA meeting are three women who go to a meeting in a town 65 miles away – two of whom live almost a hundred miles away. They come up to a meeting here about once every 6 weeks or so. I am always really glad to see them because they have a level of recovery that allows them to share in a very open and honest way – and laugh a lot in recognition of the issues of others. Those are the best meetings – lots of honesty, lots of laughter, and some tears. There aren’t many people here locally who come to the meeting that are at that level of recovery unfortunately.” – Joy2MeU Journal My Unfolding Dance 11 – posted July 2002

The woman who started the sharing in the meeting I am referring to, is some one who does not have a lot of recovery. She was in the midst of emotional trauma, but was not able to be emotionally honest. The whole time she was sharing, she kept smiling. This is the type of smile that I have heard called the ACA smile – although I don’t think it is exclusive to Adult Children of Alcoholics. It is the type of smile that in a clinical setting would be referred to as an “inappropriate affect” – in other words, the expression on her face did not match the emotional content of her sharing. It is said that it only requires a fraction of the number of muscles to smile as it does to frown. That is not true with this kind of smile. It must take an incredible number of muscles to keep this type of smile – which appears to be set in concrete – in place while in so much emotional pain. One of the handouts that I found helpful over the years in my recovery is a list called The Personal Bill of Rights. One of the items on that list is “There is no need to smile when you cry.” This type of smile is something that some codependents do without having any awareness that they are doing it. It is part of the mask they wear – the disguise they learned to put on in childhood when they were forced to learn to be emotionally dishonest and manipulative.

What she was sharing about was how her mother was treating her. Her mother was staying with her and her husband for a few days while her brother – who is the mother’s normal caretaker – and his wife went on a trip. She said that her mother and brother had always had a very close relationship – almost like husband and wife. I don’t think she had any clue that this is descriptive of an emotionally incestuous relationship.

Victim Martyr, Emotional Vampire

Her mother is a codependent of the overt emotional vampire type. What happens with many overt emotional vampire type codependents is that as they get older their symptoms become more blatant and obvious. They increasingly display the wounded king/queen baby part of them – the desperately needy inner child who demands attention constantly. Any attempt to set boundaries with some one like this is met with accusations and threats. The accusations are ones designed to push the emotional buttons that will allow manipulation, that will produce guilt in the accused. In the case of a parent, these emotional wounds / buttons were installed by them and they are expert at pressing them. One of the most potent accusations these completely self centered codependents use to control another is “You are so selfish.” Others include messages such as: “You don’t think of anyone but yourself.” “I sacrificed my whole life for you.” “How can you treat me like this after all I have done for you.” “When I think of the agony I went through in labor to produce such an ungrateful child . . .” and the like.

The threats include overt threats of suicide, or some variation such as: “I might as well be dead.” “Nobody loves me, I don’t have anything to live for.” “I will die if I go to a nursing home.” etc. It can also include actions such as allowing you to catch them lining up their pill bottles, refusing to eat, refusing to take medication, etc.

This type of codependent is incapable of direct, honest communication. Their inner child wounds cause them to be very manipulative. They like to say things like, “I don’t want to be any trouble to anyone.” or “I don’t want to be a burden.” while constantly demanding attention by whining and complaining, sometimes being sickly sweet in their blatant manipulations. When they don’t get what they want they lash our viciously – like mad dogs. These people are one extreme of the martyr flavor of codependents.

Both the self-sacrificing (passive-passive) and militant (passive-aggressive) martyr types of behavioral defense fall into what could be considered the skunk variety of codependent. These martyrs use guilt and shame as their primary defense. Some of the martyr victims spray guilt around quite aggressively, while others are more subtle – use stealth. In the quote above I describe both types of martyr as being on the passive side of the aggressive to passive spectrum – but there is a spectrum of behavior within the martyr category itself.

On one side of this spectrum is the type of behavioral defense that I am calling an overt emotional vampire – and it can be a quite aggressive defense. The people who fall into this category are the narcissists. They are completely self involved, and react to anything that happens based upon how it affects them. (Many of the bulldozer types are also narcissists – and can in old age, or because of some illness or external “tragedy” that robs them of their external ego crutches, transform into martyrs.)

On the other side of the martyr spectrum are people with no sense of self. I refer to this type of codependency in the second article on emotional defenses that I refer to above.

“Some people tell stories about other people. This is the stereotypical Codependent of the joke about when a Codependent dies someone else’s life passes before their eyes. They will respond to an emotional moment by telling an emotional story about some friend, acquaintance, or even a person they read about. They may exhibit some emotion in telling the story but it is emotion for the other person, not for self. They keep a distance from their emotions by attributing the emotional content to others. If this type of stereotypical Codependent is in a relationship everything they say will be about the other person. Direct questions about self will be answered with stories about the significant other. This is a completely unconscious result of the reality that they have no relationship with, or identity as, self as an individual.” – Further Journeys to the Emotional Frontier Within

I wrote this paragraph about 6 years ago, and I would expand upon it now. This type of codependent does tell stories about them self in a certain way – to try to get sympathy. They are always looking for allies that will confirm for them how horribly and unfairly they are being treated – or how nobly they have acted in the face of ingratitude and injustice. The stories they tell are always focused on their abuser – about their significant other, or parent or children or whomever, (doesn’t have to be a person, can be the system, etc.) – and are told to demonstrate how badly they are being treated. They will attempt to use guilt to manipulate also – but do it in subtler ways, with big sighs, or wringing of their hands, or crying out of self pity and self recrimination, or rattling of the dishes as they slave away in the kitchen, etc.

The selfless martyrs don’t attack in the direct manner, or with the frequency, that the narcissistic martyrs do – but they will explode on occasion and do a Nigysob. Nigysob is a term from transactional analysis which stands for “Now I got you, you son of a b_____.” That is when the person trots out their list of all the ways the other person has wronged them in the last 6 months or however long it has been since the last blowup. These selfless type of codependents do not know how to have boundaries but they do know how to keep score. They are constantly keeping lists in their mind of all the ways that others are wronging them – and are more than capable of carrying resentments about ways they were victimized years or even decades earlier. What little ego strength they have comes from a sense of moral superiority – of their own nobility and kindness in the face of injustice and abuse.

The selfless martyr victims are the sacrificial lambs I refer to in the heading above. They are the people whom the narcissistic emotional vampires – of both the aggressive and passive types – feed upon. They are set up to think it is normal to have someone sucking the life blood out of them – constantly draining them energetically and emotionally.

self pity

A note about the reference to crying out of self pity. Someone told me once that if I feel sorry for a person when they are crying then they are in self pity. I am not sure if that is universally true – but there is some truth to it. Once I started to get emotionally honest in recovery, I noticed there were times in meetings where someone would be crying while sharing and I would get bored. To do a reality check I would look around the room and see that other people were bored also. When someone is crying from a place of emotional honesty, when they are sharing their grief and pain, they have my complete attention – and everyone else in the room who has any capacity for emotional honesty. Some of the people in the room may be very uncomfortable if they are not willing to feel their feelings – but for the most part people in meetings are at rapt attention when someone is sharing in an emotionally honest manner. There is a big difference between empathy and sympathy in my experience. I can empathize with another persons pain because I can relate to it. Sympathy is more about looking down on somebody in a condescending, ‘you poor unfortunate thing’ kind of way. Sympathy was something I used to feel for someone who was coming from a victim perspective – now I just feel sad for them.

(I am talking about CoDA or ACoA meetings here. One of the unfortunate things about many Alcoholics Anonymous meetings – like the ones locally where there are many people with decades of sobriety but no codependency recovery – is that some recovering alcoholics who haven’t done their emotional healing will, out of their own fear of feelings, tell a person who is being emotionally honest to “get off the pity pot”, while other recovering alcoholics who are the unconscious “kind, compassionate” codependents, who have no emotional discernment, will give lots of sympathy and support to someone who is in an emotionally dishonest place of self pity.)

Self pity is not emotional honesty. It is an emotional state that is caused by dysfunctional beliefs. Of course, one of the button pushing accusations that recovering codependents often get thrown at them – by others or their own critical parent voice – is that they are in self pity. It is important to own our right to our grief, to feel sorry for the child we were, and for the ways we have set ourselves up to be abused and abandonment, but recovery and emotional honesty also includes learning to take some responsibility – which a person in a state of self pity does not do. Self pity is all about shame and blame from a black and white perspective, of self – the self flagellation of “I’m such a loser” – or others, “look what they did to poor me” helpless victimization.

“We are talking about balance between the emotional and mental here again. Blame has to do with attitudes, with buying into the false beliefs – it does not really have anything to do with the process of releasing the emotional energy.

Worry, like blame (and such things as resentment, despair, and self pity), is a negative emotional state that is created by the intellectual paradigm that we are filtering our life experience through, that we are allowing to interpret and translate life for us.” – Discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility 2

Although the narcissistic martyr victim is the overt, obvious emotional vampire (that anyone with any objectivity can see is draining the life out of the people around them) the selfless victim is also being an emotional vampire in a way. By allowing ourselves to be run by our damaged ego programming and childhood emotional wounds we are victimizing ourselves out of denial and emotional dishonesty – we are being selfish in unhealthy ways as I mentioned in chapter 7.

“I needed to realize that, yes those people who I was judging for not being nice, were very often abusing me out of the selfishness of their wounded ego – but that in allowing myself to be abused I was also reacting out of ego selfishness. Both the abuser and the abused are reacting to the programming of their wounded ego. Both are being a victim of their codependency. Both the bulldozer who is running over other people and the doormat who gets run over are being selfish out of damaged, dysfunctionally programmed ego self.” – Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life Chapter 7: Multiple levels of selfishness
The passive behavioral defenses of codependents who do not set boundaries or speak their truth, are just as controlling and manipulative as the overtly controlling codependents. It was painful for me to realize that in reality some of the flaming jerks who I hated so much because they were such controlling, abusive, bulldozers/mad dogs – were in some ways being more honest than I was with my passive manipulation as “Mr. sensitive nice guy.”

“As little kids we were victims and we need to heal those wounds. But as adults we are volunteers – victims only of our disease. The people in our lives are actors and actresses whom we cast in the roles that would recreate the childhood dynamics of abuse and abandonment, betrayal and deprivation.

We are/have been just as much perpetrators in our adult relationships as victims. Every victim is a perpetrator – because when we are buying into being the victim, when we are giving power to our disease, we are perpetrating on the people around us and on ourselves.

We need to heal the wounds without blaming others. And we need to own the responsibility without blaming ourselves. As was stated earlier – there is no blame here, there are no bad guys. The only villain here is the disease and it is within us.”

When we are reacting to dysfunctional ego programming that causes us to rationalize being a doormat, not having boundaries in the name of “not wanting to hurt them,” we are getting our ego strength from codependent feelings of superiority – we are being emotional vampires of the covert variety.

A note to people with an aging parent (s)

One of the things I have heard about from 4 or 5 different sources in the last several weeks, were situations where someone was care taking an aging parent – and being abused. Taking care of an aging parent in the last years of their life can be an incredible opportunity for Karmic settlement and healing – if the decision to do that is a free choice. If you are doing it because you “have to,” because you “should” do that for your parent – that is unhealthy and codependent. It is being a doormat, a victim, and a sacrificial lamb.

“Unconditional Love does not mean being a doormat for other people – unconditional Love begins with Loving ourselves enough to protect ourselves from the people we Love if that is necessary.”

When we allow a parent to abuse us without having healthy boundaries (and exploding in nigysobs occasionally is not setting a boundary, it is reacting) we are enabling them. It does not make us noble – it demonstrates our codependence. We cannot make a choice until we own that we have a choice – as I talk about in my empowerment article.

“In order to become empowered, to become the co-creator in our lives, and to stop giving power to the belief that we are the victim, it is absolutely necessary to own that we have choices. As in the quotation above: if we believe that we “have” to do something then we are buying into the belief that we are the victim and don’t have the power to make choices. To say “I have to go to work” is a lie. “I have to go to work if I want to eat” may be the truth but then you are making a choice to eat. The more conscious we get about our choices, the more empowered we become.

We need to take the “have to”s out of our vocabulary. As long as we reacting to life unconsciously we do not have choices. In consciousness we always have a choice. We do not “have to” do anything.

Until we own that we have a choice, we haven’t made one. In other words, if you do not believe that you have a choice to leave your job, or relationship, then you have not made a choice to stay in it. You can only Truly commit yourself to something if you are consciously choosing to do it.” – Empowerment and Victimization – the power of choice

When we say, “but she’s my mother / he’s my father” I have to take care of them – we are not owning our choices. The fact that they are our parents does not mean we owe them the right to abuse us. Does not mean we have to sacrifice our lives for them. Their codependency may cause them to believe that they sacrificed their lives for us – but like all unconscious codependents they were acting out of ego selfish reasons. We do not owe them some debt we “have to” pay back to them at the expense of sacrificing our self.

Our parents wounded us out of their codependence. Our families were not safe, warm, Loving sanctuaries. The warm fuzzy cultural perspective of families is a myth. It is a fairy tale – just like happily ever after in romantic relationships is a fairy tale. Empowerment is seeing reality clearly and owning our choices to make the best of it. In order to see clearly we need to stop giving power to fairy tales and myths.

One of the things that we all need to let go of, and grieve, is the fairy tale we have carried about our “loving families.” Love is not abusive, controlling, and manipulative. (The True Nature of Love – part 1, what Love is not) Our parents were not capable of Loving us in a healthy way because of their codependency. We can Love their beings but stop allowing their behavior to wound us. Buying into being a victim of “have to” to keep from having to own the pain of letting go of the myth of family is dysfunctional behavior. It is not a Loving thing to do to ourselves.

We learned to have dysfunctional behavior patterns, to set ourselves up to be abused, abandoned, and deprived in our family or origin. We did not have a choice when we were children, when our hearts were broken and our souls wounded by their behavior. We do have a choice now. We have not made a choice until we open up to the possibility of a choice. Allowing your self to be abused by a parent who is acting childish in their old age is not an act of Love if you haven’t owned your choices, if you are buying into the belief that you are a powerless victim.

Death is a transition

One of the things that was mentioned by several of the sources that brought this topic to the forefront for me in the last several weeks, was people being told that to put their parent in a nursing home would decrease the parents life expectancy. This may be a statistical reality – I don’t know for sure. Rather it is true, or something HMO’s tell people to decrease their expenses, it is still not a reason to allow yourself to buy into being a victim.

Consider that maybe an emotional vampire will die sooner because they don’t have anyone to suck the life out of. If a vampire is going to die because you won’t let them suck your blood, is that reason to let them suck your blood?

Also, consider the quality of their life. Is enabling someone to live longer a gift, if they are bitter and resentful, full of terror and rage? Are you doing them a favor to prolong their life of suffering? They are suffering due to their codependence – which they are not willing, or capable, of dealing with. Just as it is not possible to prevent an alcoholic from dying of their disease, so to is it not possible to keep a codependent from dying. You can help to prolong an alcoholics life, and suffering, by rescuing them from the consequences of their actions – but doing that is not Loving. When we rescue someone out of our codependency it is something we do selfishly because we don’t want to live with the codependent guilt – it is not something that we are doing for them. (Meaning that more levels of our motives are about ego selfishness on our part than True caring – more about codependency than about Love.)

Unhealthy guilt and codependent shame are feelings that are based upon lies. In recovery we learn to not give power to those feelings. Those are feelings that are not aligned with Truth – they are reactions to false beliefs.

Allowing an aging codependent parent, or a loved one who is alcoholic and unable to quit drinking, to control our life and abuse us because of our codependency is not a Loving and respectful thing to do to ourselves or to them.

This is another area that it is vital to own that we are doing what we are doing for us – not for them. Keeping them from a nursing home out of guilt is not doing for them – it is selfish out of ego. It is not shameful or wrong – just dishonest and codependent. The length of their life is something that will have much more to do with their attitudes than your behavior. There are nursing homes that are much better than others.

In addition to the myth of family that is subconsciously programmed into the intellectual paradigm that we are allowing to define our lives until we start to own our power to change the programming – we also have dysfunctional ideas about death. We were taught to view death as a tragedy.

“Life is a journey, a process – it’s not a destination. Life is continuous and constant change and growth. We were taught to fight and try to control the change, to resist the growth. We were taught to swim upstream, to go against the flow. No wonder we get tired sometimes.

We were taught that death is a great tragedy and that we should spend our lives fearing and ignoring it. We were taught to fear death and to never live life. That’s backwards.

Death is a transition, a transformation, death is a milestone in the longer journey. It is not a tragedy to be feared – it is an eventuality to be accepted. What is tragedy is not enjoying living while we are here.”

To use the quote from Illusions, is allowing them to transition from a caterpillar to a butterfly a bad thing?

“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.”

Is allowing your life to be a melodrama of abuse and suffering dictated by their codependent fears and behavior, a Loving thing to do for you or them?

If you are making a clear choice, and have the ability to set boundaries, then you can act out of a place of Love. Buying into “have to” and “should” in a selfish attempt to prove how worthy and noble you are, is not Love – it is really self defeating, very sad, codependent behavior.

I have also heard in recent weeks from several people who did make a clear choice to take care of an aging parent. As I said, this can be a wonderful experience in Loving, and very healing. When someone is making a clear choice and the aging parent has some capacity to communicate it can be a sacred experience. To help someone make the transition, to help alleviate their fear and not feel alone in the dying process, is a blessed gift to both people.

Unfortunately, a narcissistic martyr of the type it sounded like the woman at the CoDA meeting was describing, is not capable of hearing, of communicating. Such a person will be lashing out until the bitter end, wallowing in their suffering and perceived victimization – and abusing anyone near them in the process. On some level that is their choice – we have the right, and the duty, to make a free choice about whether or not we want to be part of that type of experience.” – Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life Chapter 8: Codependents as Emotional Vampires

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. Quoted in Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney by permission of Bantam Doubleday Dell, New York, NY.

Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life is an online book of 15 chapters – 13 of which are only available in a subscription area of the website known as Dancing in Light.

“The content that I have chosen to make a part of this Dancing in Light component of the site, is some of the most sophisticated of my writings – dealing with very advanced levels of recovery and some revolutionary and controversial perspectives on metaphysics, spirituality, and enlightenment.”  This subscription area includes two online books:

Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life – which is the third book in The Wounded Souls Trilogy (see below)

and the online book Robert wrote about the September 11th 2001 terrorist attack (which turned into a very personally intimate work) Attack on America – A Spiritual Healing Perspective and Call for Higher Consciousness

It also includes articles from a series on: The True Nature of Love and a special article entitled: My Spiritual Belief System and the New Millennium.  Early in 2013 two more works were added to it:  The Law of Attraction – Misunderstood & Misinterpreted and The Metaphysics of Emotions – emotional energy is real.

There is now – June 2017 when I am reposting this Blog – a special sale on subscriptions to Dancing in Light.

 

The Wounded Souls Trilogy:

Book cover

Codependence The Dance of Wounded Souls

Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls  

A Cosmic Perspective on Codependence and the Human Condition

Cover of Inner Child Healing Book

Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light

Codependency Recovery:

Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light

Book 1 Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing

Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light

Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life

Book 2 is only available in subscription area Dancing in Light

 

Grief, Love, & Fear of Intimacy

Book cover

Codependence The Dance of Wounded Souls

“It is necessary to own and honor the child who we were in order to Love the person we are.  And the only way to do that is to own that child’s experiences, honor that child’s feelings, and release the emotional grief energy that we are still carrying around.” – quotations in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

I am not sure at exactly what point in my recovery that it took place – but it was probably around 2 and a half years.  It was years later before I would understand its’ huge significance in my life.  At the time it was just a blessed relief.

I went to a meeting at my home group in Studio City.  I was feeling a little crazy.  Wound too tight and ready to explode.  It was a familiar feeling.  It was a feeling that I had drowned in alcohol or taken the edge off of with marijuana in the old days.  But I couldn’t do that anymore so I went to a meeting.

My friends name was Steve.  He hadn’t been my friend for very long although I had known him for years.  He had been my agent years earlier and I had disliked him intensely.  I was in the process of getting to know him, and like him, now that we were both in recovery.

He saw how up tight I was and asked me to go outside with him.  He asked me one simple question:  “How old do you feel?”  “Eight,”  I said, and then I exploded.  I cried in a way I didn’t remember ever crying before – great heaving sobs wracked my body as I told him what happened when I was eight.

I had grown up on a farm in the Midwest.  The summer that I turned eight I had my first 4-H calf.   4-H was to us rural kids kind of like boy scouts was to city kids – a club where farm kids had projects to learn things.  I got a calf who weighed about 400 pounds and fed him all spring and summer until he weighed over a thousand pounds.  I tamed him and taught him to allow me to lead him around on a halter so I could show him at the county fair.  After the county fair there was another chance to show him at a town nearby and then sell him.  Local business people would buy the calves for more than they were worth to give us kids incentive and teach us how to make money.

By the time I was eight, I was completely emotionally isolated and alone.  I grew up in a pretty typical American family.  My father had been trained to be John Wayne – anger was the only emotion he ever expressed – and my mother had been trained to be a self-sacrificing martyr.  Since my mother could get no emotional support from my father – she had very low self-esteem and no boundaries – she used her children to validate and define her.  She emotionally incested me by using me emotionally – causing me to feel responsible for her emotions, and feel ashamed that I couldn’t protect her from my father’s verbal and emotional abuse.  The shame and pain of my father’s seeming inability to love me coupled with my mother loving me too much at the same time that she allowed herself and me to be abused by fathers anger and perfectionism – caused me to shut down to my mothers love and close down emotionally.

And then into the life of this little boy who was in such pain, and so isolated, came a shorthorn calf which he named Shorty.  Shorty was the closest thing to a personal pet that I have ever had.  On the farm, there were always dogs and cats and other animals – but they weren’t mine alone.  I developed an emotionally intimate relationship with that calf.  I loved Shorty.  He was so tame that I could sit on his back or crawl under his belly.  I spent uncounted hours with that calf.  I really loved him.

I took him to the county fair and got a Blue Ribbon.  Then a few weeks later it was time for the show and sale.  I got another Blue Ribbon.  When it came time to sell him, I had to lead him into the sale ring while the auctioneer sang his mysterious selling chant.  It was over in a moment and I led Shorty out of the ring to a pen where all the sold calves were put.  I took off his halter and let him go.  Somehow I knew that my father expected me not to cry, and that my mother expected me to cry.  By that time, I was very clear from the role-modeling of my father that a man did not cry – ever.  And I had so much suppressed rage at my mother for not protecting me from my fathers raging that I was passive – aggressively doing things the opposite of what I thought she wanted.  So, I slipped his halter off, patted him on the shoulder, and closed the gate – consigning my best friend to the pen of calves that was going to the packing house to be slaughtered.   No tears for this eight year old, no sirree, I knew how to be a man.

That poor little boy.  It wasn’t until almost 30 years later, leaning up against the side of the meeting room, that I got the chance to cry for that little boy.  With great heaving sobs, tears pouring down my cheeks, and snot running out my nose, I had my first experience with deep grief work.  I did not know anything about the process at the time – I just knew that somehow that wounded little boy was still alive inside of me.  I also did not know at the time that part of my life’s work was going to be helping other people to reclaim the wounded little boys and girls inside of them.

Now I know that emotions are energy which if not released in a healthy grieving process gets stuck in the body.  The only way for me to start healing my wounds is to go back to that little boy and cry the tears or own the rage that he had no permission to own back then.

I also know that there are layers of grief from the emotional trauma I experienced.  There is not only trauma about what happened back then – there is also grief about the effect those experiences had on me later in life.   I get to cry once again for that little boy as I write this.  I have been sobbing for that little boy and the emotional trauma he experienced – but I am also sobbing for the man that I became.

I learned in childhood, and carried into adulthood, the belief that I am not lovable.  It felt like I was not lovable to my mother and father.  It felt like the God I was taught about didn’t love me – because I was a sinful human.  It felt like anyone who loved me would eventually be disappointed, would learn the truth of my shameful being.  I spent most of my life alone because I felt less lonely alone.  When I was around people I would feel my need to connect with them – and feel my incredible loneliness for human relationships – but I did not know how to connect in a healthy way.  I have had a great terror of the pain of abandonment and betrayal – but even more than that, the feeling that I could not be trusted because I am not good enough to love and be loved.  At the core of my being, at the foundation of my relationship with myself, I feel unworthy and unlovable.

And now I know that the little boy, that I was, felt like he betrayed and abandoned the calf that he loved.  Proof of his unworthiness.  And not only did he betray his best friend – he did it for money.  Another piece of the puzzle of why money has been such a big issues in my life.  In recovery I had learned that because of the power my father and society gave to money I had spent much of my life saying that money wasn’t important to me at the same time that I was always focused on it because I never had enough.  I have definitely had a dysfunctional relationship with money in my life and 8 year old Robby gave me a glimpse at another facet of that relationship.

Robby has also helped me to understand another piece of my fear of intimacy issues.  I have been going through a transformation one more time in my recovery.  Each time that I need to grow some more – need to surrender some more of who I thought I was in order to become who I am – I get to peel another layer of the onion.  Each time this happens I get to reach a deeper level of honesty and see things clearer than I ever have before.  Each time, I also get to release some of the emotional energy through crying and raging.

Through clearer eyes, and with deeper emotional honesty, I get to look at all of my major issues again to heal them some more.  I used to think that I could deal with an issue and be done with it – but now I know that is not the way the healing process works.  So recently I have gotten the opportunity to revisit my issues of abandonment and betrayal, of deprivation and discounting.  My issues with my mother and father, with my gender and sexuality, with money and success.  My issues with the God I was taught about and the God-Force that I choose to believe in.  My patterns of self-abusive behavior that are driven by my emotional wounds – and the attempts that I make to forgive myself for behavior that I have been powerless over.  And they all lead me back to the core issue.  I am not worthy.  I am not good enough.  Something is wrong with me.

At the core of my relationship is the little boy who feels unworthy and unlovable.  And my relationship with myself was built on that foundation.  The original wounding caused me to adapt attitudes and behavior patterns which caused me to be further traumatized and wounded – which caused me to adapt different attitudes and behavior patterns which caused me to be further traumatized and wounded in different ways.  Layer upon layer the wounds were laid – multifaceted, incredibly complex and convoluted is the disease of Codependence.  Truly insidious, baffling and powerful.

Through revisiting the eight year old who I was I get to understand on a new level why I have always been attracted to unavailable people – because the pain of feeling abandoned and betrayed is the lesser of two evils.  The worst possible thing, to my shame-based inner children, is to have revealed how unworthy and unlovable I am – so unworthy that I abandoned and betrayed my best friend, Shorty the shorthorn calf that I loved and who seemed to love me back.  It is no wonder that at my core I am terrified of loving someone who is capable of loving me back.

By owning and honoring the feelings of the child who I was, I can do some more work on letting him know that it wasn’t his fault and that he deserves forgiveness.  That he deserves to be Loved.

So today, I am grieving once more for the eight year old who was trapped, and for the man he became.  I am grieving because if I don’t own that child and his feelings – then the man will never get past his terror of allowing himself to be loved.  By owning and cherishing that child, I am healing the broken heart of both the child and the man – and giving that man the opportunity to one day trust himself enough to love someone as much as he loved Shorty.”

To Steve G. – wherever you are –  Thank You – I Love you

*BookCoverLightsmThis  article is Chapter 10 from Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light Book 1 Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing (aka A Formula for Spiritual Integration and Emotional Balance)  I originally wrote this article in 1998.  Every time I have read it since then I have cried.  I can’t read this piece of my writing without tears.  It happened recently when I was working on making this book available for Kobo ereaders – so I decided to share it again here at the end of 2015.  It gives a pretty poignant capsule summary of how childhood incidents can affect one’s life.

Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light Book 1: Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing (aka A Formula for Spiritual Integration and Emotional Balance) is available as an audioBook on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

When you purchase Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light   Book 1 Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing through Joy2MeU you get a personally autographed copy;-) but you can also purchase through Amazon.com or  Amazon UK or Barnes & Noble.

Available in eBook format from Amazon or Amazon UK or Barnes & Noble – as well as for Kobo ereaders now.