"The reason that we have not been
Loving our neighbor as ourselves is because we have been doing it backwards.
We were taught to judge and feel ashamed of ourselves. We were taught to
hate ourselves for being human."
"If I am feeling like a "failure" and giving power
to the "critical parent" voice within that is telling me that I am a failure
- then I can get stuck in a very painful place where I am shaming myself
for being me. In this dynamic I am being the victim of myself and also being
my own perpetrator - and the next step is to rescue myself by using one
of the old tools to go unconscious (food, alcohol, sex, etc.) Thus the disease
has me running around in a squirrel cage of suffering and shame, a dance
of pain, blame, and self-abuse."
The Dance of Wounded Souls
Codependence is an incredibly powerful, insidious, and vicious disease.
It is so powerful because it is ingrained in our core relationship with ourselves.
As little kids we were assaulted with the message that there was something
wrong with us. We got this message from our parents who were assaulted and
wounded in childhood by their parents who were assaulted and wounded in
childhood, etc. etc., and from our society that is based on the belief that
being human is shameful.
Codependency is insidious because it is so pervasive. The core
emotional belief that there is something wrong with who we are as beings
affects all of the relationships in our life and keeps us from learning how
to Truly Love. In a Codependent society value is assigned in comparison (richer
than, prettier than, more spiritual than, healthier than, etc.) so that
the only way to feel good about self is the judge and look down on others.
Comparison serves the belief in separation which makes violence, homelessness,
pollution, and billionaires possible. Love is about feeling connected in
the scheme of things not separate.
Codependence is vicious because it causes us to hate and abuse
ourselves. We were taught to judge and shame ourselves for being human.
At the core of our relationship with ourselves is the feeling that we are
somehow not worthy and not lovable.
My father was trained that he was supposed to be perfect and that
anger was the only permissible male emotion. As a result, that little boy
that made mistakes and got yelled at felt like he was flawed and unlovable.
My mother told me how much she loved me, how important and valuable
I was, and how I could be anything that I wanted to be. But my mother had
no self-esteem and no boundaries so she emotionally incested me. I felt responsible
for her emotional well-being and felt great shame that I couldn't protect
her from father's raging or the pain of life. This was proof that I was so
flawed that, though a woman might think I was lovable, eventually the truth
of my unworthiness would be exposed by my inability to protect her and insure
The church I was raised in taught me that I was born sinful and
unworthy, and that I should be grateful and adoring because God loved me
in spite of my unworthiness. And, even though God loved me, if I allowed
my unworthiness to surface by acting on (or even thinking about) the shameful
human weaknesses that I was born with - then God would be forced, with great
sadness and reluctance, to cast me into hell to burn forever.
Is it any wonder that at my core I felt unworthy and unlovable?
Is it any wonder that as an adult I got trapped in a continual cycle of
shame, blame, and self-abuse?
The pain of being unworthy and shameful was so great that I had
to learn ways to go unconscious and disconnect from my feelings. The ways
in which I learned to protect myself from that pain and nurture myself when
I was hurting so badly were with things like drugs and alcohol, food and
cigarettes, relationships and work, obsession and rumination.
The way it works in practice is like this: I am feeling fat; I
judge myself for being fat; I shame myself for being fat; I beat myself
for being fat; then I am hurting so badly that I have to relieve some of
the pain; so to nurture myself I eat a pizza; then I judge myself for eating
the pizza, etc. etc.
To the disease, this is a functional cycle. The shame begets the
self-abuse which begets the shame which serves the purpose of the disease
which is to keep us separate so the we don't set ourselves up to fail by
believing that we are worthy and lovable.
Obviously, this is a dysfunctional cycle if our purpose is to
be happy and enjoy being alive.
The way to stop this cycle is two-fold and simple in theory but
extremely hard to implement on a moment-to-moment, day-to day basis in our
lives. The first part has to do with removing the shame from our inner process.
This is a complicated and multi-leveled process that involves changing the
belief systems that are dictating our reactions to life (this include everything
from positive affirmations to grief/emotional energy release work, to support
groups, to meditation and prayer, to inner child work, etc.) so that we
can change our relationship with ourselves at the core and start treating
ourselves in healthier ways.
The second part is simpler and usually harder. It involves taking
'the action.' ('the action' refers to the specific behavior. We have to
take action to do all of the things listed in the first part as well.) Changing
the behavior that is giving us a reason for the shame. Just saying 'no' -
or 'yes' if the behavior in question is something like not eating or isolating
or not exercising. And even though it may sometime work in the short run
to use shame and judgment to get ourselves to change a behavior, in the long
term - in alignment with our goal of having a more Loving relationship with
ourselves so that we can be happy - it is much more powerful to take that
action in a Loving way.
This involves setting a boundary for the little child inside of
us, who wants instant gratification and instant relief, out of the Loving
adult in us who understands the concept of delayed gratification. (If I
exercise every day I will feel much better in the long run.) True pride
comes from action taken. It is false pride to feel good about ourselves
in comparison because of looks, talent, intelligence or for being forced
to become spiritual, healthy, or sober. Those are gifts. True pride is taking
credit for the action we have taken to foster, nurture, and maintain those
The way to break the self-destructive cycle, to stop the dance
of shame, suffering, and self-abuse, is to set Loving boundaries for ourselves
in the moment of that desperate need for immediate gratification and to
know that - though it is not shameful if we can't do it perfectly or all
the time - we need to 'just do it.' We need to stand up for our True Self
to our wounded self in order to Love ourselves.