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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The True Nature of Love – part 1, what Love is not

The Dance

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

One day several years into my recovery I had one of those insights, those moments of a light bulb going on in my head, that was the beginning of a major paradigm shift for me.  It was one of those moments of clarity which caused me to start reevaluating the mental perspectives and definitions that were dictating my emotional reactions to life.  My relationships with myself, with life, and with other people – and therefore my emotional reactions to life events and other people’s behavior – are dictated by the intellectual framework/paradigm that is determining my perspective and expectations.  So the intellectual attitudes, beliefs, and definitions that are determining my perspective and expectations dictate what emotional reactions I have to life – what my relationship to life feels like.

I am not sure if this particular insight came before or after I had started consciously working on recovery from my codependency issues.  I count my codependency recovery as starting on June 3, 1986 – exactly 2 years and 5 months into my recovery in another twelve step program.  It was on that day that I realized that my emotional relationship with life was being dictated by the subconscious programming from my childhood – not by the intellectual attitudes, beliefs, and definitions that I had consciously chosen as being what I believed as an adult.  To my horror I could see clearly that my behavioral patterns in my adult life were based on the beliefs and definitions that were imposed on me in early childhood.  And I could see that even though these subconscious beliefs were based partly on the messages I received, they were even more firmly grounded upon the assumptions that I made about myself and life because of the emotional trauma I had suffered and because of the role modeling of the adults that I had grown up around.

On that day 13 years ago (now 32 years ago) I Truly was able to see and admit to myself that I had been powerless to make healthy choices in my life because the emotional wounds and subconscious programming from my childhood had been dictating my emotional reactions to life, my relationship with myself and life.  The saying I had heard in recovery that ‘if you keep doing what you are doing, you will keep getting what you are getting’ suddenly became clear.  On that day, a paradigm shift occurred that allowed me to see life from a different perspective – a perspective that caused me to become willing to start doing the work necessary to change that intellectual programming and heal those emotional wounds.

Paradigm Shifting Insight

That is the way the recovery process has worked for me.  I have an insight that allows me to see an issue from a different perspective.  Once my perspective has started changing, the paradigm has started shifting, then I can see what needs to be changed in my intellectual programming in order to start changing my emotional reactions.  I see where I have been powerless – trapped by old attitudes and definitions – and then I have the power to change my relationship to that issue, which will change my emotional experience of life in relationship to that issue.

(When I started writing this column, I was not planning on focusing so much on the process – oh well, I guess it was necessary, and hopefully will be helpful to my readers.  Maybe, I just wanted to include the fact that my 13th anniversary in codependence recovery is upon me.  Whatever, I will get on with the column now.)

I don’t remember how the particular insight that I am writing about here came about – whether I heard it, or read it, or just had the thought occur (which would mean, to me, that it was a message from my Higher Self/Higher Power – of course any of those methods would be a message from my Higher Power.)  In any case, this particular insight struck me with great force.  Like most great insights, it was amazingly simple and obvious.  It was to me earth shattering/paradigm busting in it’s impact.  The insight was:

If someone loves you, it should feel like they love you.

What a concept!  Obvious, logical, rational, elementary – like ‘duh’ of course it should.

I had never experienced feeling loved consistently in my closest relationships.  Because my parents did not know how to Love themselves, their behavior towards me had caused me to experience love as critical, shaming, manipulative, controlling, and abusive.  Because that was my experience of love as a child – that was the only type of relationship I was comfortable with as an adult.  It was also, and most importantly, the relationship that I had with myself.

In order to start changing my relationship with myself, so that I could start changing the type of relationships I had with other people, I had to start focusing on trying to learn the True nature of Love.

This, I believe, is the Great Quest that we are on.  Anyone in recovery, on a healing/Spiritual path, is ultimately trying to find their way home to LOVE – in my belief.  LOVE is the Higher Power – the True nature of the God-Force/Goddess Energy/Great Spirit.  LOVE is the fabric from which we are woven.  LOVE is the answer.

And in order to start finding my way home to LOVE – I first had to start awakening to what Love is not.  Here are a few things that I have learned, and believe, are not part of the True nature of Love.

Love is not:

Critical            Shaming            Abusive            Controlling            Manipulative

Demeaning            Humiliating            Separating            Discounting

Diminishing            Belittling            Negative            Traumatic

Painful most of the time            etc.

Love is also not an addiction.  It is not taking a hostage or being taken hostage.  The type of romantic love that I learned about growing is a form of toxic love.  The “I can’t smile without out you,” “Can’t live without you.” “You are my everything,” “You are not whole until you find your prince/princess” messages that I learned in relationship to romantic love in childhood are not descriptions of Love – they are descriptions of drug of choice, of someone who is a higher power/false god.

Additionally, Love is not being a doormat.  Love does not entail sacrificing your self on the altar of martyrdom – because one cannot consciously choose to sacrifice self if they have never Truly had a self that they felt was Lovable and worthy.  If we do not know how to Love our self, how to show respect and honor for our self – then we have no self to sacrifice.  We are then sacrificing in order to try to prove to ourselves that we are lovable and worthy – that is not giving from the heart, that is codependently manipulative, controlling, and dishonest.

Unconditional Love is not being a self-sacrificing doormat – Unconditional Love begins with Loving self enough to protect our self from the people we Love if that is necessary.  Until we start Loving, honoring, and respecting our self, we are not Truly giving – we are attempting to take self worth from others by being compliant in our behavior towards them.

I also learned that Love is not about success, achievement, and recognition.  If I do not Love my self – believe at the core of my being that I am worthy and Lovable – then any success, achievement, or recognition I get will only serve to distract me temporarily from the hole that I feel within, from the feeling of being defective that I internalized as a small child because the love that I received did not feel Loving.

I realized that this is what I had done for much of my life – tried to take self worth from being a ‘nice guy’ or from a princess or from becoming a ‘success.’  As I started awakening to what Love is not, I could then start exploring to discover the True Nature of Love.  I started consciously realizing that this is what I had always been seeking – that my Great Quest in life is to return home to LOVE.

LOVE is the answer.  Love is the key.  The Great Quest in life is for the Holy Grail that is the True nature of Love.

Sacred Spiral

Robert Burney is a pioneer in the area of codependency recovery / inner child healing. His first book Codependence The Dance of Wounded Souls has been called “one of the truly transformational works of our time.”  His website Joy2MeU.com offers over 200 pages of free original content  on codependency recovery, inner child healing, relationship dynamics, alcoholism/addiction, fear of intimacy, Twelve Step Spirituality, New Age Metaphysics, emotional abuse, setting boundaries, grief process, and much more.  The Joy2MeU website is designed in an ancient design program which is not mobile friendly.  A new site – joy2meu2.com – is a redesign of joy2meu.com in a mobile friendly format. The Joy2MeU2 siteindex page that will help you to access most of his articles on mobile friendly sites (around 170.) 

 

 

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

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Chapter 10: Normal Families are Dysfunctional

Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light  Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life v Chapter 10: Normal Families are Dysfunctional

Normal is Codependent

One of the reasons that I have been giving specific examples of the type of things that codependent parents say and do to try to control their children, is because it is so important for us as recovering codependents to start seeing more clearly that normal in society is codependent. We were wounded by behavior that is considered normal in the dysfunctional civilizations we were born into. The environment where we were first wounded was in our families. Our parents were our first abusers. They were / are not bad people, they were / are wounded codependents. The way they normally related to us in our childhood was codependent – is still codependent unless they are in recovery healing their wounds.

The Dance

Codependence The Dance of Wounded Souls

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

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

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

. . . . . . . We experienced what is called “sanctuary trauma” – our safest place to be was not safe – and we experienced it on a daily basis for years and years. Some of the greatest damage was done to us in subtle ways on a daily basis because our sanctuary was a battlefield.

It was not a battlefield because our parents were wrong or bad – it was a battlefield because they were at war within, because they were born into the middle of a war. By doing our healing we are becoming the emotionally honest role models that our parents never had the chance to be. Through being in Recovery we are helping to break the cycles of self-destructive behavior that have dictated human existence for thousands of years.

Codependence is a very vicious and powerful form of Delayed Stress Syndrome. The trauma of feeling like we were not safe in our own homes makes it very difficult to feel like we are safe anywhere. Feeling like we were not lovable to our own parents makes it very difficult to believe that anyone can Love us.

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

Our parents did not have the resources when we were children to do things any differently. It was not their fault. They are not to blame. They were victimized by the conditions that caused the human condition.

The human dilemma has been feeling disconnected from our Source. The human condition has evolved in reaction to the pain of that feeling of disconnection. It was in the late 1980s that a shift took place that has made it possible to start healing the human condition.

“A Transformational Healing Process has begun on the planet Earth. Due to a profound change that has taken place in the energy field of Collective Human Emotional Consciousness, resources are now available to us to do healing that has never before been possible in recorded human history. Human beings now, for the first time, have the capacity to directly address the core issues of the human dilemma.”

It is only in recent history that human beings have acquired the ability, the knowledge, and access to Spiritual guidance, that is allowing us to change the human condition. We are no more than a generation or two removed from societal beliefs that allowed children – and women – to be treated as property. Most of us grew up in societies that did not include such things as: healthy parenting classes; wide spread knowledge and information about alcoholism and child abuse; the concept of personal boundaries and information about the grief process; etc., etc. Most of us grew up in societies where we were taught that the choices are between right and wrong, and wrong is shameful.

Our parents were trapped in the beliefs they grew up with. They were doing the best they knew how with the tools and knowledge they had. They did not have the choice – when we were children – to live their lives differently. We do have choices.

Things are different today. Not that much different for the majority of people – but that is changing. Children are now getting the message in school, from television and movies, that it is okay to have boundaries and say no. That it is okay to have feelings. No one taught me that in my childhood. I did not see any male role models who were able to cry or admit to being afraid – not in my home, not in the movies or on television. Things are changing. Those of us who are doing the healing are still a small minority, but there are millions of us. We are the pioneers who are leading the way to changing the world into a better, more Loving place – into a place where life among humans is not lived in competition out of belief in scarcity and separation.

Dysfunction as the norm is no longer mandated by planetary conditions. We now have access to the power to change the human condition by healing our relationship with self.

Cause and Effect

The law that governs life for human beings is cause and effect. Our adult patterns were the result, the effect, of how we learned to relate to life and self in childhood. We were powerless to change those patterns as long as we did not know there were other choices besides right and wrong – as long as we were stuck in a black and white perspective of life.

Our parents were our first, formative, most powerful role models. Our family of origin was the arena where we learned how to relate to self, to life, to other people. It is where we learned how to relate to being human, to our own emotions, minds, bodies, and souls.

“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.”

Our parents learned to relate to self the same place we did – in their childhood, from their family of origin.

“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.” – Chapter 3

We learned how to relate to our own emotions from our parents. We learned how to do relationships from watching how they related to each other – and to other people. We learned how to relate to life in reaction to how they related to life.

We might have reacted by going to the other extreme from what they role modeled for us – but as long as we are in reaction we are not living our life, we are living in reaction to our childhood wounding.

“The Truth is that the intellectual value systems, the attitudes, that we use in deciding what’s right and wrong were not ours in the first place. We accepted on a subconscious and emotional level the values that were imposed on us as children. Even if we throw out those attitudes and beliefs intellectually as adults, they still dictate our emotional reactions. Even if, especially if, we live our lives rebelling against them. By going to either extreme – accepting them without question or rejecting them without consideration – we are giving power away.”

It is so vital for us to start seeing our own internal process more clearly, so that we can understand our wounding and how it has impacted our lives. It is absolutely vital to start seeing our self with more clarity in order learn who we really are – to get in touch with our True Self. Living life in reaction causes us to be a prisoner of our past and to sabotage our ability to be present in the now. We cannot start to change our core relationship with self and life until we start to see where we came from with more clarity. As long as we are still buying into the myth that we came from a healthy family, we will be unable to see our self clearly.

The disease voice will say something to this effect: “Quit whining, you didn’t have it so bad as a kid.” Or react to horror stories of child abuse with a message like: “See, look how awful they had it, you have no right to feel sorry for yourself.” We need to start telling those voices to shut up and start telling our inner children that we are sorry that it was so painful to be a human child in a dysfunctional environment. We do have reason to feel sorry for the child that we were – and for the adult who was trapped in dysfunctional behavior patterns and attitudes. It is very sad. There is a lot of grief in recovery. Melody Beattie, in one of her books, says, “Learn the art of acceptance, it is a lot of grief.”

We need to start seeing reality clearly so that we can let go of the myth we have been carrying about our families – rather that myth causes us to discount our own pain or causes us to blame our families. We need to take the blame out of the process – to stop seeing life in black and white extremes. If we are blaming everything on our self, or blaming some external villain, we are not seeing reality clearly. We need to own our grief and recognize the ways in which our parents behavior wounded us.

It is very important to start seeing ourselves as separate from our families so that we can stop giving power to the illusion that our individual self worth has anything to do with our family of origin.

We need to let go of old beliefs in order to heal our relationship with self, in order to find our Self. As a young child I had no discernment, no perspective, that would allow me to realize that my parents weren’t healthy. I thought the pain I felt was my fault. I thought that the reason I felt so bad was because I was abnormal – that something was wrong with me. My family was normal to me, and part of feeling good about myself was to see my family as better than other families – because I was taught to look outside in comparison. I developed my own personal myth about my family. When I got into recovery at age 35, I would tell people that I came from a pretty good family and it was just me that was messed up. When I first started going to Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings as I was opening up to the possibility that my family – though not alcoholic – was dysfunctional, I did not speak for weeks because my family had not been as overtly, blatantly dysfunctional as all those other people’s families had been.

My families dysfunction was not as overt, so my wounding was of a more subtle nature than people who had been beaten by drunken fathers and mothers. As I got further into recovery and learned more about codependency, I saw that the dysfunction in my family wasn’t really subtle at all, that it was actually quite blatant – but that it was normal in a dysfunctional culture.  I started to realize that it was my view of it as normal, as better when compared to other families – my childhood investment in my myth about my family – that was causing me to discount and minimize my own wounding.

I used to know a therapist who to make a point would say, “The sliver in my finger hurts me more than your broken back hurts me.” The point being, my pain is my pain – and it hurts me more than anyone else’s pain. Comparing the circumstances in which we were wounded does not serve us, does not help us to see our self with any clarity. Many children who grew up in poverty received more love than children who grew up with great wealth. Those of us who grew up in “normal” middle class families may not have experienced the outrageously abusive behavior of people who grew up in families afflicted with alcoholism or mental illness, but that does not mean that our hearts were not broken, our souls not wounded. The emotional pain of our childhoods, growing up in emotional and spiritual wastelands with wounded parents (or without parents), crippled us in our relationship with our own heart and soul – with our self / Self.

I need to own my pain because that is a crucial element in owning me. The critical parent voice in our head wants to minimize, justify, and rationalize away our childhood experiences – or to not take any responsibility for our lives and blame it all on our parents. It wants us to stay stuck by blaming them or blaming ourselves – to keep us from taking the risk of believing we are lovable and worthy.

Until I got into recovery I was incapable of seeing my life without blame being involved in my perceptions because of the black and white perspective of life I had been taught in childhood – which of course included my parents role modeling because they were programmed to relate to life out of a polarized perspective.

When something was not working in my life, I was limited to blaming myself or blaming something / someone outside of me. Since I was taught to look outside of myself for definition and worth, since I believed that other people and life events controlled my emotional reactions, I would put a lot of energy into blaming others to keep from falling into the painful abyss of shame and pain I experienced when I blamed myself.

In order to stop blaming, I needed to start seeing the cause and effect dynamic in my life with more clarity. As long as I was shaming and judging myself for my patterns and issues, I was incapable of seeing clearly. As long as I was blaming what I was feeling and experiencing in life on people and events in my life now, I was focusing on the effect without seeing the cause.

My adult patterns were effects, symptoms. Part of the dysfunction of society is to focus on symptoms and ignore cause. We have a war on poverty, a war on drugs, a war on terrorism – without looking at the causes of those phenomena. It is vital to start focusing upon, and healing the cause. It is vital to stop judging ourselves for the symptoms.

In order to see our self and our issues with more clarity, we need to start learning to accept where we are at – without the judgment and shame which distorts and pollutes our perceptions. We are on a journey – involved in an unfolding process. We are works in progress.

Our issues, our patterns did not come out of nowhere. They are not a result of inherent defects in our character. The are the effect of having grown up in dysfunctional families / environments. We need to stop blaming and shaming ourselves for our wounding.

It is when we start realizing that we were powerless to do life differently as long as we were reacting unconsciously out of our childhood wounding and programming, that we can start to change our patterns and heal our wounds. Then we can become a detective who can sort through the layers and levels of our programming. As we sort through those layers and levels we can start healing the emotional wounds and bringing compassion to the wounded parts of us. It is only through learning to forgive our self that we can Truly forgive our parents. By doing this healing work – taking action to stop the shame and judgment of the critical parent voice, learning to be compassionate and nurturing to the wounded parts of us, learning to take healthy responsibility for our lives – we are making amends to ourselves. As we make amends to, and learn to access Love for, our self, we are healing the human condition.

“Any single soul’s evolution, its awakening, affects all souls because we are all connected.”

Through learning to see the cause and effect in our human experience with clarity, we can start seeing reality as it is and making it better – instead of holding onto myths, false beliefs, and dysfunctional definitions. As we awaken to the reality of how dysfunctional human civilization has been, we can change our perspective of, and our relationship with, our self. By learning to stop allowing our sense of self worth to be enmeshed with our emotional relationships to external sources, we can start learning to access Love.

This recovery process is a journey of awakening to Love. The concepts of, and experience of, love that we experienced in childhood is not real Love, is not a healthy concept of Love.

“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.

These ridiculous, insane, reversed, and dysfunctional concepts are what civilizations are based upon on this planet.”

Recovery is a process of learning to be emotionally and intellectually honest with our self so that we can stop looking to others to determine who we are. We can stop being care “takers” – that is, taking our feelings of worth / ego-strength from what we do for/get from others, and/or in comparison with others. As long as our self worth is enmeshed with external sources, as long as how we are feeling is in reaction to dysfunctional attitudes and false beliefs, we are set up to be emotional vampires trying to suck feelings of worth from other people – either overtly from them, or covertly by comparing ourselves to them. We need to learn to take responsibility for our emotions so that we can start becoming empowered to stop being a victim of other people, of life, of self worth based upon comparison. Learning to separate our self worth from our emotional reactions is how we can start opening up to Love so that we can stop being emotionally anorexic.

Dysfunctional Concept of Family

It is vital to start seeing that normal is codependent. It is vital to start seeing clearly the dysfunction and emotional dishonesty in the families we grew up in, so that we can let go of our myth of family. Our dysfunctional families were an effect of the dysfunctional, emotionally dishonest, Spiritual hostile (belief in separation), cultural environments in which they existed. It is not personal. It does not have anything to do with us. Just as the way our parents treated us in childhood wasn’t personal. They were incapable of seeing who they really were, so they couldn’t see us with any clarity. They were looking at us through the filters of their fear and pain, they projected their shame and lack of self worth onto us. They tried to control our behavior with fear, guilt, and shame to protect their egos. They were dancing with their own wounds to the music of shame and fear – which made them incapable of meeting our needs, of demonstrating love for us in a healthy way. It was not their fault. It was not our fault. It was an effect of the families and culture they grew up in.

I believe that the concept of the nuclear family as a separate, isolated entity is dysfunctional in it’s essence. I don’t believe it is healthy to raise children in an environment separate from a sense of close knit community / clan / tribal identity. I don’t believe that two parents as a cultural entity separate from community can possibly provide healthy, balanced parenting. Certainly one cannot. But children are wounded and traumatized by parents inability to separate their self worth from their emotional reactions to external forces rather there is one parent or two. Parents who were taught to take their ego strength from external comparison cannot avoid having an unhealthy emotional investment in children whom they – and society – see as an extension, a possession, that reflects their worth as individuals.

I have no idea what Hillary Clinton’s book is about, but the concept that it “takes a village” to raise a child contains some fundamental Truth in my opinion. I do not believe that children are meant to be raised by two adults separate from community – and certainly not by a mother alone most of the time. The American Dream, a nuclear family living in isolation in the suburbs – with the father gone most of the day – is a dysfunctional ideal in my belief. Our normal societal model for what constitutes an ideal family is dysfunctional in its impact on the emotional, mental, and spiritual health of children raised in those families.

Here is an excerpt from a page in my Joy2MeU Journal – bracketed by a quote from my book to put it in context with my views.

“I want to make a couple of points of clarification at this time.

One is that I am referring to civilizations around the world, but most of the examples or specifics I am mentioning have to do with Western Civilization and specifically American society. That is just for my convenience and your identification. (I am using the word “civilization” here in the Western sense of the term – that is, urban-based and believed to be superior to “less advanced” peoples.)

All civilizations are dysfunctional to varying degrees, as are subcultures within those civilizations. They just have different flavors of dysfunction, of imbalance.

As an example: In much of Asia the individual is discounted for the good of the whole – whether that be family or corporation or country. The individual takes his or her self-definition from the larger system. That is just as out of balance and dysfunctional as the Western Civilization manifestation of glorifying the individual to the detriment of the whole. It is just a different variety of dysfunction.

The goal of this dance of Recovery is integration and balance. That means celebrating being a tree while also glorying in being a part of the forest. Recovery is a process of becoming conscious of our individual wholeness and our ONENESS with all.

The other point I want to make is that I am saying “civilized” society for a reason. It is in urban-based industrialized civilization that the optimum dysfunction has been manifested in this world.

Many so-called primitive or aboriginal tribal cultures, such as the Native Americans, had far more integrated and balanced cultures for their place and time than any “civilization.” They were not totally integrated and balanced by any means. They were, however, closer to the rhythms of nature and had respect for nature and natural laws, so were more aligned with universal laws than urban-based civilizations.

In fact, many of the primitive societies were far more functional in terms of the Spiritual, emotional, and mental health of the individual members of the society, and had far more respect for the individual members, than any so-called “civilized” society on this planet.”

The Baby Otter: A Mother’s Day Story (an excerpt from the Joy2MeU Journal)

“I often look to aboriginal cultures who were more in touch with nature to see examples of more balance behavior. (The Native American culture that I am most familiar with, is that of the Plains Indians. There can be some big differences between different regions, but when I cite Native American culture it is the Plains Indians I am talking about.) The cultural norms that came to mind while writing this were two specific ones. One was that, it was not the father who taught the son to be a man – it was an uncle. The tribes knew better than to have the father’s ego involved with the son’s training. The other has to do with mothers and sons. When a boy was around 5 or 6 there came a point where he and his mother could no longer speak directly to each other – they would communicate through a third person – and they could not look into each others eyes. The effect of this tribal wisdom was to prevent emotional incest. When the boy became a man, they could once again communicate directly. (There were also restrictions in terms of the relationships between father and daughter.)

Reminds me of Robert Bly’s book Iron John. (link to Amazon.com info about book) He talks about how, ever since the industrial revolution pulled fathers out of the home a great deal of the time, boys have been primarily learning how to be men from women.

I believe that the concept of the nuclear family as an isolated entity is inherently dysfunctional and traumatic. I am going to include here a passage I wrote some time ago, and never found anyplace to use in my writing.

“Of course, we have almost completely lost the real sense and idea of community – of a group of people who are interconnected and interrelated for their collective welfare and mutual benefit. In Western Civilization, and especially in the United States, the individual is glorified to the detriment of the whole (this is the opposite extreme of imbalance for much of Eastern Civilization which glorifies the whole to the detriment of the individual.) So separation is the rule rather than connection.

Some can have millions while others are starving and homeless – and this is looked upon as normal and natural. Society teaches us to believe that we are separate – that another persons suffering is that persons own fault. That the individual is separate from, and in competition with, others.

This applies on multiple levels. It is also true in the dysfunctional myth of the individual nuclear family. The concept of the nuclear family with it’s sense of possession (my children) and comparison with other families carries with it inherent emotional trauma in my view. I believe that the healthiest parenting came in societies where the whole tribe or clan had a sense of community and connection. Where everyone knew they were individuals but also knew they were important parts of the whole. Where people lived so close together that there were no family secrets and social mores dictated that physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse were not acceptable.

Now, I am not saying that aboriginal societies were completely healthy or balanced cultures. But they did have a healthier balance than modern societies because they had to in order to survive. The had more respect for nature and natural cycles because it was necessary to live. They had a sense of community because without it they would perish.”

“I believe that historically there has been a direct correlation between the level of advancement – of “progress” – and the level of dysfunction in terms of the individual being’s level of fulfillment and happiness. In other words, the more “advanced” the society became (that is, the farther it removed itself from respect for, and alignment with, natural laws and cycles), the more dysfunctional it became in terms of the individual being’s feelings of self-respect and fulfillment.

[The historical inverse relationship between progress and individual emotional health was somewhat altered in accordance with the Divine Script so that we could reach this Age of Healing and Joy that we have now entered. This alteration was accomplished through the efforts of a series of mystical messengers who taught the importance of individual rights. These messengers laid the groundwork for a group of mystics, with names like Jefferson and Franklin, to create a society where individuals could pursue Spiritual Truth despite the disapproval of the government and the majority of the society. (Of course, because of the dysfunctional nature of the society, that right was honored in theory rather than practice much of the time – but the right was inherent in the framework of the society.) This inherent right is what made it possible for the United States to became the spawning ground for the Transformational Healing Movement that has begun on the planet. A great acceleration of this process took place with the national trauma/gift that was the sixties and Viet Nam. This period forced individuals to start questioning the traditional value systems, the traditional perspectives, on a massive scale. All of the pieces of the puzzle fit together perfectly when we look at them in a large enough perspective.]

Another reason that some of these so-called “primitive” cultures were more functional is that they also had a much more benevolent idea about a Higher Power. They actually believed that the God-Force had a Loving purpose for putting us here instead of it being some kind of punishment which was shameful.”

So the more advanced, the more civilized, a society became, the more dysfunctional it became in terms of serving the emotional, mental, and Spiritual needs of the individual members of the society. Sounds kind of backwards doesn’t it?”

I will be discussing different levels of this dysfunction, the normal codependency of civilization in coming chapters. First however I am going to address an area where we were set up to be abused because of our experiences in childhood. Our experiences with our parents set us up to expect abuse from authority figures. The dysfunctional school systems reinforced this set up. It is no wonder that we end up being abused by medical and mental health authorities that are part of dysfunctional cultural systems.” – This is an excerpt from Chapter 10: Normal Families are Dysfunctional of Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life Sacred SpiralCodependency 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.)

To Parents of Alcoholics / Addicts

The Dance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sacred Spiral 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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