This Update is a few weeks late according to my preference for writing one of these about every 8 weeks / two months. It took me a while to get back into writing after going out of town over Thanksgiving but I finally finished my online book Attack on America: A Spiritual Healing Perspective with the publication of Chapters 10 & 11. I finished it in terms of it's present incarnation anyway.
When I started writing after the terrorist attack of September 11th, I felt a real urgency to offer a Spiritual perspective on the events that were unfolding - and point out how it all related to codependency. And although I thought that quite a few people would read it, I knew from the beginning that - like all of my writing - it was primarily about my healing process and my Karmic mission. My job is to heal me. I know that by keeping my focus on my recovery, and following my path to the best of my ability, I receive the gift of being of service to the Transformational Healing Process that is unfolding on the planet. As I say in the first article of my series The Recovery Process for inner child healing:
A very important part of my process of finding some balance in my life - of learning how to see myself and how I relate to others and life more clearly - was to get clear that everything in my process relates back to me and my growth process. I had to get past my codependent belief that I was doing something for you - or you were doing something to me. Here is another quote from the Newsletter that is excerpted on my Topics index page.I am not doing this writing for you. I am doing it because it is what I need to do for me. It is because I keep my focus on my own recovery process that so many of you have written to say that you felt like I was writing about your life - because our emotional dynamics are the same. The details, the externals, the degrees of intensity / severity, etc., may be very different - but all human beings have the same basic internal dynamics. We are all connected in our humanity - in the emotional truth of our wounding - and in our True Spiritual nature. We are all extension of the same Source. The ultimate Truths are the same for all of us. We may have very different paths up the mountain, but we are heading to the same summit - in my belief.
In terms of my personal healing process, I have learned that I need to keep my focus on my recovery for some very humanly selfish reasons. I did not make recovery the number 1 priority in my life out of any altruistic, highly evolved, Spiritually aligned motives - although now that is my primary focus. I learned to make healing my number 1 priority because I don't like pain.
One of the first things I remember being told, while I was still in the detox portion of a 30 day treatment program which I entered on January 3, 1984, was: "If you keep doing what you are doing you will keep getting what you are getting." Cause and effect - the Universal law that governs life.
The reason that I started having even a little willingness to start learning how to live life sober, was that I started waking up to the fact that the way I was living life was not working. I was sick and tired of living in an emotional hell. The staff at the treatment center, and the people I heard when I started to go to AA meetings, said things that made me realize that maybe I wasn't the only person in the world who felt the way I felt. And if these people had some understanding of how I felt, maybe the things which they were saying helped them would help me also.
Another memory from those early days of recovery, was a saying I saw someplace that said: "The pain is mandatory, the suffering is optional."
Once I started to realize that pain was a normal, unavoidable part of life - that it wasn't punishment aimed at me personally for being a shameful, defective being - then I also started seeing that the hellish suffering I had been enduring was in large part caused by my attempts to avoid feeling the pain. (It took a few years in recovery before I started to really understand how my emotional experience of life - my relationship with my emotions and the external condition / sources which I identified as causing me pain - was being dictated by a very screwed up belief system.) It was by becoming willing to accept the pain that I stared learning how to stop the suffering. I started realizing that healing the emotional wounds, feeling the pain in the moment, was a temporary, transitory, "this too shall pass" experience - while my attempts to avoid feeling the pain kept me in a state of suffering, repeating self destructive patterns again and again. Basic cause and effect - what I was doing to avoid pain was causing me more, it was dysfunctional.
I was able to stay sober because I started to relate to life with some slight understanding of cause and effect. I started making choices in my life out of delayed gratification instead of just reacting from instant gratification - from the desire to make the pain go away immediately. I started to understand - not just intellectually, but in conscious practical application - that choices have consequences, and that if I thought through a choice to it's possible consequence, I was able to start making choices with better consequences than the ones I had been creating. I started changing what I was doing in order to stop the suffering, and repeating behavior patterns, that unconsciously reacting was causing in my life.
I learned to focus on my recovery as my number 1 priority because it worked to make my life easier and less painful in the long run. It took me years in recovery to really understand all of this - and to give recovery the priority focus - but eventually I came to understand that I could make a conscious choice to be a positive co-creator in my life instead of a negative one. That I could start creating cause that would have better effect.
I focus on recovery because it works. By paying attention, being conscious and willing, I get to follow the messages instead of forcing the Universe to use the stick on me. Choosing to make recovery the number one priority in my life makes life easier and less painful. Bottom line.
The way I think of it is that my Higher Power works with the carrot and stick approach: like a mule driver trying to get a mule moving, he can either dangle a carrot in front of the mule and get the mule moving after the carrot, or he can take a stick and beat him until he gets moving.
It is a lot easier on me to follow the carrots that my Higher Power dangles in front of me than to force the Universe to use a stick to get me moving. Either way I am going to get to where the Universe wants me - but the carrot method is a lot easier on me.
Intuitive Guidance - God's pager
The basic, human ego, avoidance of pain, level of motivation led me to start getting more conscious of Spiritual levels of motivation. And it was Spiritual levels of motivation that led me to awakening to the cause and effect dynamic of life. It was following my intuitive guidance (making choices that felt like moments of clarity and inspiration at the time) that led to the seemingly disastrous results which forced me to start waking up to what a mess my life was - and then to realizing that I could do some things to change that reality. What felt to me like tragedy, was in fact the gift of a new beginning - the start of a new life. (That disastrous relationship / job loss / health problem / drunk driving arrest / etc., had/has a silver lining - and the choices you made that got you to that point were a perfect part of your awakening process.)
On the Spiritual level of motivation it is the emotional energy of Truth that provides my intuitive guidance. Truth - with a capital T - is a form of communication from my Soul to my being. It is something that I feel within - that resonates vibrationally in my consciousness. My consciousness exists throughout my body, and intuitive Truth resonates most often in my heart and / or my gut. It is kind of like one of those silent pagers that vibrates. That feeling in our gut, or our chest, is a page from the Universe letting us know that a message has just been delivered. The "aha", light bulb going on, moments of insight and clarity, are accompanied by a vibrational page in our physical / emotional being.
If we are conscious enough to pay attention, we can feel our pager go off and know the Universe is sending us a message. If we are indulging in our human propensity to go unconscious - which is exacerbated by the denial and emotional disassociation of the codependent defense system we were forced to adapt in childhood - then the Universe needs to use the stick, to get loud and intrusive, to get our attention. Neither way is shameful - but paying attention is a lot easier.
It is not human needs and desires that cause suffering, it is looking to get those needs fulfilled in someplace where they cannot be fulfilled that causes suffering. It has been trying to quench our thirst from an empty well that is dysfunctional.
Humans have been trying to fill the hole within ourselves by looking outside of ourselves. We were taught to look outside, to external manifestations to meet our needs, to find out who we are and why we are here.
The answers do not exist outside - the answers lie within.
The reason that humans have not been able to "get it together" is that we have been looking outside for "it." "It" exists only within. We need to look in-to-it. As in intuition: in-tu-it.
As long as we look outside of Self - with a capital S - to find out who we are, to define ourselves and give us self-worth, we are setting ourselves up to be victims.
In terms of my Spiritual level of motivation, I feel compelled in a certain direction. I do not need to know why I feel compelled - although the human part of me certainly wants to know. I may have a few ideas of some the levels of why - but I never know them all. The Universe gives me whatever level of motives will work to get me to do what I am supposed to do for my Spiritual, healing path - and it is only in retrospect that I get to have some levels of understanding of the reasons for the action I felt compelled to take.
Because I have paid attention and learned how the process works, I do what I am led to do without very much questioning these days - grumbling yes, but very little questioning. I often don't like the directions I get and get crabby with my Higher Power - but I have gotten quite good at letting go of the questions (why, how, when, where, what for, etc.) my ego comes up with in it's attempt to have some illusion of control. It is much easier to let go.
I am not in control - am not the one writing the script for my life. I have many years in recovery now, and my experience has taught me that my Higher Power's plan always works out for the best in the long run. It is pretty silly for me to put much energy into my ego's attempts to control so that it doesn't have to face the fear of the unknown. The known was killing me. The only way out was into the unknown.
Ironic and cute - not sadistic torture
This is an great example in microcosm of the process of practicing recovery.
I am in a relationship - in this case with the article / Newsletter that I am writing. Anytime I am in a relationship, my human mind starts projecting expectations of: where the relationship will evolve; what it will look like in the future; how long the interaction will last. Generating expectations is the primary way in which I give away power over my feelings. (See Serenity and Expectations) So, I now have an emotional relationship with this piece I am writing - I have some ego involvement in it because my ego is the part of me that generates will power, that gets me in action / doing / heading in a certain direction. The direction I move in, take action towards, is aligned with my expectations - with what I want to accomplish.The irony of the whole thing ticks me off sometimes. I am trying to explain the process and then have to apply the process to get clear in my attempt to explain how it works. This is perfect of course, but irritating to my human ego nevertheless. My Higher Power has this cute sense of humor that I definitely find irritating sometimes. (That is huge progress - I used to think it was sadistic.)
I was definitely getting frustrated in my attempts to make this Newsletter behave according to what I wanted it to do and be. A quote from the second Newsletter I wrote for my original web site is one of the perfect examples of how I teach best what I need most to learn.
"About frustration, since I mentioned it several times. 10 years ago when I was in a 30 day treatment program for codependence (clinically called: depression) one of the counselors gave a definition of frustration that made me angry then, and still riles me when I am getting frustrated and I remember his words.In writing about levels of motivation, and how important it is to surrender to my Higher Power's plan instead of trying to make things work the way I think they should - I was getting frustrated because things weren't working the way I thought they should. I was aware that I was getting frustrated and what that meant, but being human I tried to hold onto "my way" a little longer. Which led to more frustration. Engaging in a power struggle with God is a set up to feel frustrated.
See what I mean about it being silly to put much energy into my ego's attempts to control. I was getting frustrated and knew I needed to surrender - but I was being willful and not accepting that I needed to surrender to being willing to surrender. Pretty amusing really. ;-)
My writing about levels of motive had led into attempting to communicate a message about how important it is to accept our humanness. And I get to demonstrate my humanness in my attempts to write about accepting it. Perfectly ironic - ironically perfect.
It is so valuable to stop shaming ourselves and instead to start being amused at our human self. To stop calling ourselves stupid and to start seeing the humor in how silly it is to try to control this life business. In an updated simile about my recovery journey, I would describe the transformation of my relationship with life something like this:
that my life used to be a very seriously dramatic, Classically Greek Tragedy (the hero of course, being fatally flawed - shamefully human - leading to tragic consequences);That is a major paradigm shift that is made possible by doing the inner child healing / codependency recovery work. It is really only a relatively small twist of the dial to go from tragedy to sitcom. Changing my beliefs, learning to stop relating to life as a test I could fail, changed my perspective and expectations. That changed my relationship with life and my emotional reactions to life. My life today is a very amusing sitcom - although, like even the highest quality TV sitcoms, it can feel irritatingly inane at times.
It is kind of a cosmic joke, see. We have been taught that we are human and that it is bad and shameful, and that we have to somehow earn the right to be Spiritual. The Truth is that we already are Spiritual and there is nothing bad or shameful about "being human."
It really helps to remember who we Truly are, so that we can start enjoying the joke some of the time. Being human does not have to feel like sadistic torture - it can be an exciting, enjoyable adventure. It can be irritatingly ironic and paradoxical - can feel like a stupid game - some of the time, but playing this game of human life by the rules that actually work is certainly a much nicer experience than the dance of suffering and shame my life was prior to recovery.
To thine own Self be True
I have touched on the two primary levels of motivation for me. My primary motivation out of Spiritual Self is to follow my intuitive guidance because it the path home to Love, to discovering my True Self, to accomplishing my Karmic mission in this lifetime. One of the reasons that I have committed myself to following that intuitive guidance is because of the level of motivation that comes out of human ego self. Following my intuition makes life less painful in the long run. The ego is the part of our being whose job it is to help us survive physically. The intensity of emotional pain I experienced in early childhood felt to my ego like a threat to survival - so it adapted a defense system to help me survive. That defense system was designed to help me avoid pain. Unfortunately, that defense system ends up causing more pain in the long run.
Codependence is an emotional and behavioral defense system which was adopted by our egos in order to meet our need to survive as a child. Because we had no tools for reprogramming our egos and healing our emotional wounds (culturally approved grieving, training and initiation rites, healthy role models, etc.), the effect is that as an adult we keep reacting to the programming of our childhood and do not get our needs met - our emotional, mental, Spiritual, or physical needs. Codependence allows us to survive physically but causes us to feel empty and dead inside. Codependence is a defense system that causes us to wound ourselves.
The higher purpose, the Spiritual motive for making recovery the number one priority in my life is intimately connected to the human motive. Our human motives are not bad or wrong. There is nothing shameful about being human. It is vital to stop judging ourselves based upon the belief that being human is shameful. Codependence is a defense system adapted in reaction to the feeling that it was somehow shameful to be human - to be me.
It is self perpetuating because we react to that core feeling of toxic shame out of a polarized intellectual paradigm that judges us and our behavior as right or wrong. Our ego relates to life as if it is a test which we can fail by being wrong. And being human is wrong and shameful according to the beliefs, attitudes and definitions we learned in early childhood.
The more I can take the shame out of my relationship with being human and start changing the dysfunctional intellectual paradigm I learned in childhood - the easier it becomes for me to align with higher purpose, to align ego self with Spiritual Self, to surrender my will and accept God's will. I can learn to accept being human, and see how my human motives are connected to my Spiritual purpose so that I can find some balance in life. So I can start relating to life as a growth process instead of a test that I am doomed to fail.
Recovery involves bringing to consciousness those beliefs and attitudes in our subconscious that are causing our dysfunctional reactions so that we can reprogram our ego defenses to allow us to live a healthy, fulfilling life instead of just surviving. So that we can own our power to make choices for ourselves about our beliefs and values instead of unconsciously reacting to the old tapes. Recovery is consciousness raising. It is en-light-en-ment - bringing the dysfunctional attitudes and beliefs out of the darkness of our subconscious into the Light of consciousness.
On an emotional level the dance of Recovery is owning and honoring the emotional wounds so that we can release the grief energy - the pain, rage, terror, and shame that is driving us.
That shame is toxic and is not ours - it never was! We did nothing to be ashamed of - we were just little kids. Just as our parents were little kids when they were wounded and shamed, and their parents before them, etc., etc. This is shame about being human that has been passed down from generation to generation.
There is no blame here, there are no bad guys, only wounded souls and broken hearts and scrambled minds.
Awakening to the cause and effect relationship between my childhood wounding and my adult experience of life resulted in me realizing that following a Spiritual path was the best way to improve the quality of my life - and to avoid pain. But in order to change my relationship with life, I had to start reprogramming my ego to help it understand that accepting and surrendering to some temporary pain was a way of avoiding prolonged suffering.
Awakening to my responsibility as a co-creator of my life so that I could align with the process of reprogramming my ego defense, was made possible by the dawning realization that I wasn't the only one suffering in an emotional hell - that maybe my reality was not being caused by some inherent defect in my being. That maybe, just maybe, being human wasn't shameful - and that being imperfect and selfish was a natural, normal part of being human.
I need to keep reminding myself of the fundamental motives - of my need to focus on me and my process, remember I am not doing something for you - so that I can keep aligned with the selfishness of Spiritual Self that is at the heart of the recovery process. (One of my phone clients suggested that I coin a new word to get away from the negative connotations of selfish - Soulfish, was her suggestion. ;-)
In my understanding, the Truth that resonates in the phrase "To thine own Self be True" is about being True to Spiritual Self - the part of me that Knows I am connected to everyone and everything in LOVE - in order to escape the tyranny of unconsciously reacting out of wounded, dysfunctionally programmed ego self. Ego self is reacting to programming that is trying to keep us separate from others so they do not find out how shameful we are. (If you are not clear on what I am talking about here see Powerlessness & Empowerment - why the 12 steps work.)
It does not matter what extreme of the codependency spectrum your ego defense system falls into - the classic codependent pattern of trying to earn love and validation from people who are unavailable and incapable of giving it to us, or the counterdependent who builds up huge walls to keep people away - the effect is that we are blocked from connecting to other people in a healthy way. Our ego tries to protect us from the pain of feeling shameful in ways that cause us to experience more pain. It is dysfunctional.
We need to let go of the illusion that we can control this life business. We cannot. We never could! It was an illusion. And we need to let go of the false beliefs that tell us that we are bad and shameful. We cannot become whole as long as we believe that any part of us is bad or shameful.
That includes the ego - that bloated out-of-balance dragon within. Thank God for our egos, they are what allowed us to survive. Thank God for Codependence, without it we would not be alive. But now is the time to get things into balance - the time to bring ego-self into alignment and balance with Spiritual Self.
That is the transformation which is known as "the death of the ego." To quote the St. Francis Prayer, "It is through dying that we awaken to eternal life." It is not referring just to physical death, it is referring to the death of the ego which allows us to awaken to the Truth of eternal life.
The death of the ego is not an event - it is a process. It is not an act of violence - it is an act of Love. A process of learning to Love.
We are bringing ego-self into alignment with Spiritual Truth. We are reconnecting with our Spiritual nature and Spiritual purpose so that we can find some fulfillment and happiness in life.
Great and Mighty lessons in surrender
As I talk about on my investment opportunity page, which I quote in the final chapter of my book, I have learned to let go of thinking I know where my path is heading. I do not put energy any more into thinking that Oprah is going to call, or wondering when I am going to be able to pay off my debts, or get a car that allows me to make a trip out of town without being scared it will break down. I have learned some great and mighty lessons - about living in faith on a moment to moment basis - by driving cars that offered the potential of immanent break down.
My healing path has taught me to keep letting go of the future and just do the next thing in front of me one day at a time. I am very grateful at the end of every month that enough money has manifested to pay the rent. And I am willing to accept being homeless again if that is the path my Higher Power lays in front of me.
I spent 6 months in 1999 being homeless. Not on the street homeless - I had an office for my computer - but crashing on someone's couch kind of homeless. The lessons in acceptance and patience and letting go that I learned during that time were sacred gifts. The level of faith that it forced me to access and practice, the depth to which I was forced to integrate my Spiritual belief system into my relationship with life, was a manifestation of Love from my Higher Power that I am now - and have been - reaping great benefits from.
Don't get me wrong, I do not want to be homeless again - or keep driving a car on it's last legs. But I am willing to accept the reality of my path as it is presented to me and make the best of it. There is a level of my being that is human, that is self-centered and selfish and hates to be inconvenienced by disruption of my plans for me - that feels like it is grossly unfair that: I haven't been richly rewarded materially on this physical plane; that I don't have an intimate relationship to support and nurture me; that I don't have a reliable car; etc. But that human part of me is not the level of my being that is defining my life for me today, that is dictating my perspectives and expectations of life. My relationship with life today, the music I am dancing to, is aligned much more with Spiritual Self - because that is what I have found works best, because it allows me to relax and enjoy life most of the time.
Here is a concrete example of how it works better to surrender to my Higher Power's plan - of how surrendering to "thy will not my will be done" has looked in action in my recovery.
I must have solemnly declared at least three different times, "I will never wait tables again." I really learned to quit saying "never." When I try to dictate to my Higher Power how my path should look, it means that I do not have the willingness to surrender and accept the Universes plan for my life. Then the Universe needs to teach me to let go once again.So, I am willing to accept whatever the Universe puts in front of me, as a perfect part of my path. I Know that there is a Loving Divine plan unfolding. I may not like the details of how it is unfolding, but I have learned to accept reality as it is presented to me. I will have feelings about the details I don't like, but I do not have to let those feelings define and dictate my life today. Acceptance and surrender are the keys to living life in a way that works better - to stopping the suffering.
The answer is to stop fighting it, to surrender to the Spiritual Forces at work. Surrender to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, you do deserve to be happy and Loved.
Update for January 2002 The Recovery Process for inner child healing Serenity and Expectations Gratitude