Chapter 3: Emotional honesty

The Dance

“We learned about life as children and it is necessary to change the way we intellectually view life in order to stop being the victim of the old tapes.  By looking at, becoming conscious of, our attitudes, definitions, and perspectives, we can start discerning what works for us and what does not work.  We can then start making choices about whether our intellectual view of life is serving us – or if it is setting us up to be victims because we are expecting life to be something which it is not.” – (Text in this color is used for quotes from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls)

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

It was focusing on the dynamic of expectations that was the key for me in starting to get emotionally honest with myself.  Starting to understand the cause and effect relationship between my emotional reactions and my expectations was essential for me to start understanding why my relationship with life was so dysfunctional.  I, of course, in my codependency, had swung between the extremes of feeling, and believing, that it was all my fault because of my shameful defective being – and being angry and resentful at other people, the system, something or someone external to my being. 

The twelve step recovery application of the disease model in the treatment of alcoholism – the concept that I had been powerless over my past behaviors because I had a disease – helped me to take enough shame out of my perspective of myself to start seeing my life with a little bit of objectivity.  The spiritual approach of the twelve step program – that there is a Power greater than myself that is on my side, The Force is with me – helped me to shift my intellectual paradigm enough to start to see life as something other than a test I could fail by doing it “wrong.”  The definition of insanity that I heard in my first days of recovery – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results – caused me to start focusing on cause and effect. 

It was the concept of powerlessness that led me to start becoming empowered to take responsibility for my life.  Instead of viewing life through a perspective that was black and white – either I had to be perfect or I was shameful – I was able to start to see what my part had been in how painful and miserable my life experience had been.  How I had some responsibility – how I was creating cause in my life that had negative consequences – but that it did not mean that there was something inherently wrong with me.  I started seeing that my relationship with life was dysfunctional, was not working, and that I could take some action to change that relationship.

Insane Expectations – Road Rage

The specific area that opened me up to a new perspective on my insanity, was starting to understand what my part was in the road rage I was experiencing driving on the streets and freeways of Los Angeles.  Looking at the cause and effect relationship between my expectations and the rage I was feeling at all the stupid blankety blank drivers in Southern California greatly accelerated my process of becoming emotionally honest with myself – and opening up my mind to a Spiritual Awakening, a paradigm shift in consciousness.

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

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

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

I had to learn to be honest with myself about my expectations – so I could let go of the ones that were insane (like, everyone is going to drive the way I want them to), and own my choices – so I could take responsibility for how I was setting myself up to be a victim in order to change my patterns.  Accept the things I cannot change – change the things I can.” – Serenity and Expectations – intimately interrelated

Expecting other drivers to drive the way I think they “should” is absolutely, incredibly insane.  Talk about egotistical and arrogant.  I, being an excellent driver myself (how many people do you know that don’t think they are excellent drivers?), knew how people should drive – I was right and anyone who didn’t drive the way I thought they “should” was wrong.  I felt extremely, righteously justified in ranting and raving and cussing out other drivers – sometimes cutting them off and giving them the finger, while wishing I had a laser mounted on the roof of my car so that I could just vaporize them.  Luckily, this was in the days before people started shooting each other on the Freeways, or I may not have ever made it into recovery.  Actually, this was something I continued to do into my first few years of recovery.

Detaching enough to look with some objectivity at how I was relating to driving a car in L. A., allowed me to awaken to how insane it was to allow my emotions to be dictated by such a ridiculous expectation.  Then I was also able to look at my emotional reactions and get in touch with how dishonest I was being emotionally in relationship to other drivers.

What I came to understand about my emotional experience of driving, was that one of two things was happening.  One was, that other drivers were scaring me.  The way they were driving – either too slow or too fast, cutting me off, swerving back and forth between lanes, etc. – was causing an actual fear of survival reaction.  That kind of primal human emotional response that is generated by a sudden loud noise or any perception of a threat of physical harm.

When something scared me, and I reacted to the fear with anger – that was emotionally dishonest.  I wasn’t owning my true feelings.  In reaction to the jolt of fear energy that shot through me, I became the angry, self righteous victim of the other drivers “idiocy.”  The reality that this happened almost every time I drove on the freeway, just proved to me how many idiots there were out there – because I was relating to the experience from a victim perspective.  It was impossible for me to have any serenity because I was giving other drivers the power to throw me into anger – which often triggered the suppressed rage I was carrying at how unfair, unjust, and painful life was.

Once I started to look at what my part was in those emotional reactions, at how I was setting myself up with my expectations, then I could start to take responsibility for changing that which I have the power to change.  I learned to accept the thing I cannot change – other drivers – and change the thing I can, my attitude towards other drivers.  It was when I realized that this anger was emotionally dishonest, and what my part in empowering that emotional reaction was, that I was able to start taking back the power over my feelings that I was giving to those “idiots.”

After that, when something another driver did scared me, I would own the fear.  I would say out loud, “That scared me.”  Then I would say a prayer for the other driver.  I would ask that the other driver be helped to become happy, joyous, and free (knowing that the process of them opening up to that possibility would involve having their denial ripped away so they were not so unconscious – a prayer both Spiritually aligned and humanly selfish 😉 – and would offer up the incident as an amends for one of the thousands of times I had done something while driving that scared other drivers.

(During my years pursuing an acting career in Hollywood – the role of suffering artist being perfect for both my alcoholism / addiction and my codependent martyrdom – I lived out the romantic vision of the struggling actor by making my living by waiting tables and parking cars and driving a taxi.  Driving a cab for several years – often stoned – really built up the number of driving amends I owe.  Seeing those incidents as Karmic – what goes around comes around – also played a part in helping me to stop buying into the belief I was being unfairly victimized on the freeway.)

The second thing that I realized was happening, had to do with fear also.  This was the fear that caused me to try to control life.  That fear caused me to be very self obsessed.  I was getting angry because those people were getting in my way.  The immature, self centered perspective of life which was dictating my relationship with life, caused me to think and act as if I was the only person who was important.  I reacted out of an ego selfishness that told me these idiots should get out of my way because I had places to go and things to do that were much more important than anything they were doing.

This ego driven, self centered fear was directly related – both as cause and effect – to my unconsciousness, my inability to be present in the moment.  I was always caught up in the past or the future, and related to driving in traffic as a great inconvenience that was slowing me down. (Which, also, sometimes led to me driving too fast and cutting between lanes.)

The society I grew up in taught me that reaching the destination was what I should focus upon, was the thing that was vitally important.  I was always striving to reach the destination where I would be fixed, where I would be respected and loved.  When I reached that destination (college degree, fame and fortune, the right relationship, the Academy Award, etc.) then I would live “happily ever after.”

I was forever in pursuit – either of the illusive “happily ever after,” or for something to distract me from, or kill the pain of, feeling defective because I had not already reached the destination.  I was always bouncing between the extremes:  trying to figure out how to control my life, how to do the “right” things, to get “there” – or working on going unconscious (with alcohol, drugs, obsession, rumination, food, whatever) to escape the pain of being “here.”  Being “here,” being present in the moment in my own skin, was too painful because I had a dysfunctional relationship with my own emotions – and was carrying a ton of suppressed grief energy.

And it was so painful emotionally because the subconscious intellectual paradigm that was dictating my relationship with self and life, was insane, delusional, and dysfunctional.  I could never relax and enjoy life (without some chemical help, either from a substance or from an illusion/fantasy about love or success that would affect my brain chemistry) because wherever my life was at that point – according to the critical parent voice in my head – was not good enough and was my fault, or their fault.  I was always feeling like a victim. (Empowerment and Victimization – the power of choice)

I needed to start letting go of that destination programming and start learning how to be in the moment.  To actually be present and conscious while driving my car.  (What a concept!)  To start relating to driving as being a perfect part of my journey, a classroom – a wonderful arena for Spiritual growth.

When the rush hour traffic was disrupting my plans of getting someplace by a certain time, I would practice my Spiritual program.  I would take some deep breaths to get into, and conscious of, my body.  Then I would thank the Universe for this wonderful opportunity to practice patience and acceptance.  I would take some steps to let go of the urgency I felt – the inner child’s fear of doing it “wrong,” the feeling that the world would come to an end if things did not go the way I had planned them.  I would remind myself that life was a journey, and that this moment was a perfect part of that journey.  I would talk to my inner children and tell them it was okay – that if I was going to be late, that was a perfect part of God’s plan.  I would let go of my picture of how I thought things have to unfold for me to be okay.  I would affirm that I am Unconditionally Loved and am being guided on my journey.

I would look around me, to see if there was something the Goddess wanted me to see – and that perhaps, was the reason I was stuck in traffic.  I would remind myself that it was possible that this delay was really a wonderful gift.  That perhaps because I was being delayed:  I would not be in a traffic accident later that day:  or the timing would be perfect for me to run into someone I needed to see, that without the delay I would have missed;  or something to that effect.

I would remind myself that I am not in control of life, I am not writing the script, so:

I need to surrender the illusion that I am in control; 
remember that I have a Loving Higher Power who is in control; 
and be willing to accept reality as it was being presented to me, and take whatever action I could to make the best of the situation – to align with God’s will so I could flow with the Universal plan.  (Work steps 1, 2, & 3 – the dance of recovery.)

That action may just be to relax, be in the moment, and do some prayer and meditation (talk and listen to The Great Spirit – which can certainly include expressing my irritation for the delay.)  The action may be to figure out an alternate route, get off the freeway at the next opportunity and take surface streets – but not with that feeling of life and death urgency, rather with sense of adventure.  “This is an interesting twist, let’s see how this unfolds.”

I started to learn to take responsibility for my feelings – to own the things I have some control over.  Learning how to be emotionally honest with myself allowed me to start becoming empowered to take responsibility for my life and stop empowering insane expectations.  By focusing on letting go of the belief in victimization that was caused by my attitudes and perspectives – the mental level of my being – I could greatly decrease the feelings of victimization, the amount of emotional energy that was being generated on an emotional level.  I still had some feelings of being victimized, but I could be nurturing and Loving in relationship to those feelings – and set some Loving boundaries with my inner children who were reacting out of the immediate gratification urgency of a child.  (I am just going to die if I don’t get what I want!)

I learned to develop an observer self – a mature, recovering adult with a Spiritual perspective – that could tell the critical parent voice to shut up with all the shame and fear messages, and assure my inner children that everything was going to be okay because there is a Higher Power in charge of my life. (Learning to Love our self)

Twisted and Distorted is the Dance of the Emotional Cripple

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Control and fear – thinking to avoid feeling

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

“I spent most of my life doing the Serenity prayer backwards, that is, trying to change the external things over which I had no control – other people and life events mostly – and taking no responsibility (except shaming and blaming myself) for my own internal process – over which I can have some degree of control.  Having some control is not a bad thing; trying to control something or somebody over which I have no control is what is dysfunctional.  It was very important for me to start learning how to recognize the boundaries of where I ended and other people began, and to start realizing that I can have some control over my internal process in ways that are not shaming and judgmental – that I can stop being the victim of myself.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sacred Spiral

Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light  Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life is available in a subscription area of the Joy2MeU website entitled: Dancing in Light

A special offer for that subscription (as well as for the Joy2MeU Journal) is available on this special offers page.

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

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

Cover of Inner Child Healing Book

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

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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.)