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Discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility 1

"The healthier we get, the more emotional healing we do, the less extreme our emotional reaction / response spectrum grows.  The growth process works kind of like a pendulum swinging.  The less we buy into the toxic shame and judgment, the less extreme the swings of the pendulum become.  The arc of our emotional pendulum becomes gentler, and we can return to emotional balance much quicker and easier.  But we don't get to stay in the balance position.  Life is always rocking our boat - setting our emotional pendulum to swinging."

"It is also unfortunate that some people who are involved in codependence or Adult Child recovery, use emotional honesty as an excuse to be abusive.  I have encountered people who claim to have years of codependence recovery who will use a question like "Do you mind if I share something with you?" as a way of getting my permission for them to be verbally abusive.  People who will say something abusive, shaming, and/or judgmental - and then say "Hey, I am just being emotionally honest."  These are people who think they are being emotionally honest but have no concept of emotional responsibility.

We need to learn to be emotionally honest so that we can take responsibility for our feelings - not so that we can inflict them on others.  When I first got into recovery, I mistook being rigorously honest in working my program with being vigorously honest in sharing with others my insights into their issues.  It took me several years in recovery to realize that sharing my advice or opinions with others - without being asked - can be abusive."

"In recovery I have choices - and choices have consequences.  It is not a right / wrong, blame / mistake thing - it is about owning my side of the street, my part of the responsibility for the consequences that are manifesting in my life, so that I do not buy into a victim perspective and slip back into the rut of blaming them or blaming me.  If I am blaming, then I am not seeing reality clearly within the context of my Spiritual growth process.  Consequences are the Universe's way of giving us feedback so that we can learn to make healthier choices. Consequences are messages from our Higher Power that guide us on our Journey home to Love."

This is an article about discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility by codependence therapist/Spiritual teacher.
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This is the fourth article in a series about Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility that is being written as a follow up to an article about Emotional Abuse.  This particular article involves some pretty advanced levels of the inner child healing / codependence recovery process - and even got a little Metaphysical on me.  If you are new to recovery or the concept of recovery, you might find the article on Setting Personal Boundaries more helpful at this time.  If you are new to this web site, you might want to explore some of the basic beliefs in the Codependence and/or Spiritual beliefs topic areas prior to reading this article.


This page includes quotes from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls and quotes from other articles, columns, or web pages (indented) written by Robert Burney.  The internal links within this article open in a separate browser window.

Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility part 4:

Discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility 1

Learning discernment is vital - not just in terms of the choices we make about who to trust, but also in terms of our perspective, our attitudes. 

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.

One of the core characteristics of this disease of Codependence is intellectual polarization - black and white thinking.  Rigid extremes - good or bad, right or wrong, love it or leave it, one or ten.  Codependence does not allow any gray area - only black and white extremes.

Life is not black and white.  Life involves the interplay of black and white.  In other words, the gray area is where life takes place.  A big part of the healing process is learning the numbers two through nine - recognizing that life is not black and white.

Life is not some kind of test, that if we fail, we will be punished.  We are not human creatures who are being punished by an avenging god.  We are not trapped in some kind of tragic place out of which we have to earn our way by doing the "right" things.

We are Spiritual Beings having a human experience.  We are here to learn.  We are here to go through this process that is life.  We are here to feel these feelings.

(Text in this color are quotes from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls)

One Through Ten

When I first got sober in early 1984, my mind was mush.  I couldn't read and comprehend a page in the AA Big Book for months.  After three or four months, one of the signs I got that my mind was coming back was that I was able to start working crossword puzzles.  It was a tremendous relief to find out that tequila hadn't killed so many brain cells that my mind couldn't recover.

I mention this because it points out what a tremendous impact something that I heard in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in my first 60 days of sobriety had to have on me for me to have a very clear memory of it all of these years later.  It was obviously something that resonated as Truth so strongly that it cut through my fog enshrouded brain to my core.

This was in Lincoln Nebraska where I had gone through a 30 day treatment program after an intervention by my family on New Years Day.  What I think of as a grizzled old timer (although I really have no idea what the guy looked like or how old he was) shared a simile about how his mind worked.  He said, "My mind is like a dirt road out in the country that got really muddy - with some really deep ruts in it - and then the ground froze.  It is real hard to drive down that road straddling those ruts without slipping back into them.  And once I slip into them it is hard to get out again." 

Having grown up on a farm on dirt roads in the part country where spring means lots and lots of mud  - where snow storms and frozen ruts are common into May - I really knew what he was talking about.  And obviously, the comparison to the way my mind works hit home with me.

The reason that this story has anything to do with Discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility, is because those ruts are still there. They are not nearly as deep now, but my thinking will slip into some of the old patterns / ruts very easily without me noticing until something happens to draw my attention to it.

The old pattern/programming that pops up the most is the rut of black and white thinking.  Slipping into a perspective that only recognizes the extremes of 1 or 10.  (The black and white perspective is the foundation of the blame them or blame me, victim of them or victim of my own shameful defectiveness, extremes that govern the dynamics of the disease of codependency.)

A conversation with a friend yesterday caused me to realize that I had slipped back into that old rut again in relationship to the idea of having a romantic relationship.  The rut for me in respect to romance is for my thinking to be either (1) I will never have another romantic relationship, or (10) we will move in together and be fully immersed in the relationship.  A watered down, less powerful version of the choices I learned in childhood from my role models - either completely unavailable or completely enmeshed.

My thinking, in relationship to a relationship, is much healthier and more balanced than it used to be - but it still tends towards the extremes within the spectrum of what is possible.  It feels more natural for me to completely let go of the idea of having a romantic relationship or to think in terms of what it is going to be like when we are living together then to think in terms of getting to know someone gradually.  Kind of like, either pretend the water isn't there, or dive into the deep end without looking first to see what may be just under the surface.

It is easier for me emotionally to not even consider going in the water than to gradually ease myself into the shallow water - because if I am even looking at the water it gets me in touch with grief about being alone.  The abyss of wish-to-die pain and desperate loneliness from my childhood - the deprivation issues that I spent so much of my life either denying or allowing to run my life - do not have anywhere near the power they used to because of the healing I have done.  It is relatively easy now for me to separate out the childhood feelings of loneliness - and they do not any longer have a life threatening feeling of desperation to them.  But I also have been very deprived in my adult life - of Love, companionship, affection, touch, sexual fulfillment, etc. - because of the patterns caused by my fear of intimacy.  So the grief around those deprivation issues still has some power because the deprivation is still happening.

The healthier we get, the more emotional healing we do, the less extreme our emotional reaction / response spectrum grows.  The growth process works kind of like a pendulum swinging.  The less we buy into the toxic shame and judgment, the less extreme the swings of the pendulum become.  The arc of our emotional pendulum becomes gentler, and we can return to emotional balance much quicker and easier.  But we don't get to stay in the balance position.  Life is always rocking our boat - setting our emotional pendulum to swinging.  By not taking life events and other peoples behavior so seriously and personally, by observing our process with some degree of detachment instead of getting so hooked into the trauma drama soap opera victimology that is a reaction to our childhood wounds, we learn to not give so much power over our emotions to outside influences and events.

I have choices today in regard to how I am relating to myself, to other people, to life.  I am able to accept the things I cannot change much more quickly, and change the primary thing which I have the power to change - that is, my attitude toward the things I cannot change - so that I do not get caught up in a victim perspective.  By not buying into the illusion that I am a victim - of myself, of other people, of life - my emotional swings stay on a much evener keel and I experience a much gentler emotional spectrum in my day to day relationship with life.

But it is still a spectrum, and as such involves swings between extremes.  Those extremes are less powerful reflections / reverberations of the wildly divergent extremes my process used to involve.  To maintain some balance in my life, to keep owning that I am not a victim - that I do have choices - it is important to shine some Light onto the gray area between the black and the white extremes, to be aware of the 2 through 9 options.

(At this point my discussion of this issue got pretty personal and diverged somewhat from the focus of this web page - so I am transferring that part of this discussion to my Update Newsletter for May 2001 - link below.)

Discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility

The purpose of this article is to shine some Light on the gray areas of emotional honesty and responsibility.  Until we get aware that there are choices in between 1 and 10, then we don't have a choice.   As long as we bouncing between black and white, we miss the gray area entirely.   The gray area is where life takes place.  It is important for anyone in recovery to become aware of all of their choices - of 2 through 9 - so that we can see ourselves and life as clearly as possible.

We all have a set of ruts in the pathways of our mind that cause us to slip back into old thinking patterns and perspectives, that cause us to give power to old tapes.  Those ruts do not change as we heal - they get shallower and easier to get out of - but they don't go away completely.  As we heal our basic underlying patterns don't change substantially, we just get healthier in those patterns.

"We are never going to meet someone who doesn't have red flags, who isn't wounded - the healthy behavior is to pay attention and take responsibility for our choices.  To take calculated risks that will not be "mistakes" or "wrong" but lessons.  The more conscious we get of our choices, the more we release the grief energy / take power away from the childhood wounds - the more we can trust our self to listen to our intuition instead of the disease yammering in our head.

And we are never going to completely change our basic patterns - we get healthier within those patterns.  If you are attracted to alcoholics - then progress is getting involved with a recovering alcoholic.  We are attracted to certain energies for reasons in alignment with The Divine Plan - our choices in the past felt like mistakes because we weren't aware that we were at boarding school learning lessons." - The Emotional Dynamics of Dysfunctional Romantic Relationships

We, in our Codependence, have radar systems which cause us to be attracted to, and attract to us, the people, who for us personally, are exactly the most untrustworthy (or unavailable or smothering or abusive or whatever we need to repeat our patterns) individuals - exactly the ones who will "push our buttons."

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

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

Romantic relationships are one issue that can be discussed in relationship to the rutted perspective of black and white thinking.  All of our issues can be discussed in relationship to certain dynamic patterns of the disease - polarized black and white thinking is the primary, foundation rut upon which the dynamics of codependence and recovery can be examined.

In my first attempt at this article it spiraled off into the realm of Metaphysics - specifically an explanation of the vibrational dynamics of the growth process from an energetic perspective.  An explanation of how our repeating patterns are in fact a reflection of the Octave Principle (do, re, me, fa, etc.) in energy interactions dynamics.  In our disease we keep repeating the same octave over and over again - and sometimes even descending to lower octaves.  In recovery we are spiraling upward to new levels - so that each "do" feels somewhat like the "do" before it, but in reality reflects a higher vibrational level - a Higher level of consciousness, a more enlightened perspective.

Interesting stuff, that is a more complex, higher level perspective of the topic - but not really functional in relationship to the goal of this article.  I want to communicate about some specific facets of discernment regarding emotional honesty and responsibility as clearly as possible in a web page of reasonable length.  So, that information will be part of another web article about Higher Consciousness and Enlightenment.  When I will finish it is in the more will be revealed realm, since I have so many different writing projects percolating.

The point that I want to make about this however, is that in recovery we are spiraling upward.  We go through different levels, different stages in our growth process.  The "do" I hit upon in my discussion of romantic relationships above, is probably quite a few octaves higher than where I was when I started recovery - but it still feels somewhat like, resonates with somewhat the same vibration, as the "do" from over 17 years ago when I got into recovery.  (Actually, though the basis for my codependence recovery was laid in my first few years of recovery from alcoholism, my conscious codependence recovery began on June 3, 1986 - so it is possible that my relationship to romantic relationships didn't start ascending until then.)  I mention this to emphasis how important it is to not shame and judge ourselves for how we feel - because sometimes when we break through to a new level, a new octave, the familiar feeling /  reverberation of it causes the critical parent voice, the old tapes, to feed us the lie that we have slipped backwards, that we are at the bottom of the whole process again and have made no progress.  The feeling of shame, of having made a mistake, of failing because we feel like we are in the same place again emotionally, is a product of the old wounds and the dysfunctional perspectives of the disease.

We are Spiritual beings having a human experience.  Life is not a test that we can fail.  It is a process of learning to accept that we are Lovable and worthy no matter what we feel.  Life is a journey that we are being guided through, not punishment for being unworthy - or something we have to do "right" in order to transcend.  Recovery is a process of learning to own that who we are is Transcendent Spiritual Beings so that we can integrate that Truth into our emotional relationship with life.

I needed to learn how to set boundaries within, both emotionally and mentally by integrating Spiritual Truth into my process.  Because "I feel feel like a failure" does not mean that is the Truth.   The Spiritual Truth is that "failure" is an opportunity for growth.  I can set a boundary with my emotions by not buying into the illusion that what I am feeling is who I am.  I can set a boundary intellectually by telling that part of my mind that is judging and shaming me to shut up, because that is my disease lying to me.  I can feel and release the emotional pain energy at the same time I am telling myself the Truth by not buying into the shame and judgment.

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.

By learning to set a boundary with and between our emotional truth, what we feel, and our mental perspective, what we believe - in alignment with the Spiritual Truth we have integrated into the process - we can honor and release the feelings without buying into the false beliefs.

The more we can learn intellectual discernment within, so that we are not giving power to false beliefs, the clearer we can become in seeing and accepting our own personal path.  The more honest and balanced we become in our emotional process, the clearer we can become in following our own personal Truth.

Stages in recovery

"Writing this article (which appears to require at least three web pages) has been difficult because of all the levels involved.  I received some e-mails with some basic questions that I wanted to answer in as complete a manner as possible - but answering some of the basic questions takes me into some quite advanced levels of recovery.  I realized that I had never really written previously - except for a line or two here and there in the middle of something else - about such issues as: the misconception of many recovering people that emotional honesty means we are supposed to be emotionally honest with all of the people in our lives; or, specifically about what our responsibilities are in relating to others." - Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility part 1
Emotional honesty is the bedrock upon which codependence recovery is possible.  Until we start learning to be emotionally honest with ourselves, we cannot began to see ourselves or life with any clarity.

The key here is learning to be emotionally honest with ourselves.  That doesn't mean that we need to be emotionally honest with all of the people in our lives.  It is often not safe or functional to be emotionally honest with people who are not being emotionally honest with themselves, who are not on some kind of healing / recovery path.  And even with people who are also in recovery it is often not safe to be emotionally honest.

If someone is in recovery from alcoholism/addiction, it is possible for them to focus on the black and white issue of rather or not they are drinking and using.  This makes it possible for someone to be clean and sober for many years without being forced to become emotionally honest with themselves.  Many Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are not safe places to be emotionally honest.  It is a sad fact that it is very possible to be shamed and judged in AA meetings by people who are reacting out of a rigid, black and white, right and wrong belief system.

It is also unfortunate that some people, who are involved in codependence or Adult Child recovery, use emotional honesty as an excuse to be abusive.  I have encountered people who claim to have years of codependence recovery who will use a question like "Do you mind if I share something with you?" as a way of getting my permission for them to be verbally abusive.  People who will say something abusive, shaming, and/or judgmental - and then say "Hey, I am just being emotionally honest."  These are people who think they are being emotionally honest but have no concept of emotional responsibility.

We need to learn to be emotionally honest so that we can take responsibility for our feelings - not so that we can inflict them on others.  When I first got into recovery, I mistook being rigorously honest in working my program with being vigorously honest in sharing with others my insights into their issues.  It took me several years in recovery to realize that sharing my advice or opinions with others - without being asked - can be abusive.

It is not healthy or appropriate in recovery to use being emotionally honest as an excuse to abuse other people - including the people who abused us.  Going from being abused to being the abuser is swinging from one extreme to the other.

Now, we all go through stages in our recovery - as I mentioned in the first article in this series.

"Discovery, recognition, that we have been victims of abuse is vital.  Rather that is emotional abuse, or any of the other kinds of abuse that also cause emotional abuse - physical, verbal, mental, sexual, spiritual. etc.  It is vitally important to own our own victimization - and at some point start getting angry about it.  Getting angry about how the behavior of others has wounded us is a vital step in owning ourselves - of honoring our Self.

I have often told clients that going from feeling suicidal to feeling homicidal is a step of progress.  It is a stage of the recovery process that we will move into - and then at some later point will move beyond.  An incest victim transforms into an incest survivor.  Owning the anger is an important part of pulling ourselves out of the depression that turning the anger back on ourselves has created.  It is often necessary to own the anger before we can get in touch with the grief in a clean and healthy way.  If we haven't owned our right to be angry, it is possible to get stuck in a victim place of self-pity and martyrdom, of complaining and gathering sympathetic allies - instead of taking action to change.

So, it is very important to own our right to be angry.  That is a stage of the process that also needs to be moved through so we don't get stuck in an angry victim place.  In order to heal, it is usually not necessary to confront our abusers.  For some people it is an important part of the process to confront their abusers with their anger. Hopefully this can be done in an appropriate therapeutic environment - although sometimes that is not possible.  What is important to emphasis, is that we can heal without confronting our abusers directly - because the relationship that needs to be healed is within.  To go to a place where we are lashing out at our abusers will often be just going to the other extreme - where we abuse the people who abused us.

There was a point in my codependence recovery where I would rage in AA meetings at old timers who were shaming and emotionally abusive out of their untreated codependence - their rigid, controlling, black and white thinking.  That was a stage in my recovery that I outgrew - that I realized was not healthy.  It was not bad or wrong (although the behavior was sometimes something I needed to make amends for afterwards) - it was a stage in a growth process.  I learned to confront that kind of behavior in a gentler, kinder - and more effective - way as I grew.

Sometimes in our growth we find ourselves lashing out and being abusive.  When that happens we can make amends for how we expressed ourselves - we never have to apologize for having the feelings.  We cannot go from repressing our feelings and being emotionally dishonest to communicating perfectly in one step.  Communicating in an appropriate way is something we learn gradually - and something we will never do perfectly every time." - Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility part 1

Sharing my opinions and advice without being asked in early recovery was a stage I went through.  Raging in Alcoholic Anonymous meetings was a stage I went through.  Getting in touch with our feelings can be a messy process.  It is vitally important to learn to own ourselves and our feelings.  While we are doing that, there will be times when we express our feelings in ways that we later need to make amends for.  We will sometimes need to apologize for the manner in which we expressed ourselves, and/or the timing of our expression - we do not have to apologize for our feelings.

We are not responsible for other peoples feelings.  We do have some responsibility in how we communicate and when we communicate.

For example: if we use abusive language, profanity, or name calling in our communication;  if we scream and yell;  if we throw or break things;  if we communicate in front of other people instead of to that person privately;  if we express ourselves at a time when the other person is particularly vulnerable; etc.

We also have responsibility for the perspectives which we are empowering that are causing us to react emotionally to the other person.  We have responsibility for separating out grief and rage caused by wounds from the past that the other person is triggering, from the part of our reaction that is about them now.

We may need to go back to that person and say something like these examples:

I want to make amends to you for how intensely I expressed my feelings to you.  What you said to me was inappropriate and abusive - and was not acceptable to me, but the intensity of my reaction was caused by the fact that you triggered an old wound from my past.  Thank you for helping me get in touch with the old wound that needs some more attention and healing - but also know that that saying things like that is not OK.  I will not allow you to talk to me like that.

I want to make amends to you for reacting out of a victim place.  Your behavior was unacceptable to me, and I had a right to be hurt - but I reacted by blaming you for my feelings and that is something which I am learning to stop doing.  So, I am sorry my reaction came from such a black and white perspective because it was not helpful in communicating with you about why your behavior bothered me.

These are very general examples, and in actual practice it is best to use the guidelines that I talk about in my page on setting personal boundaries.  That is:  describe the behavior specifically rather than our interpretation of the behavior - both their behavior and our own.
I am sorry I called you a ____ (profane name) when you told that joke about ____.  I felt hurt, discounted, put down, violated, angry, and shamed.  I found what you said offensive and unacceptable - but it was not appropriate for me to use that kind of language in expressing myself.

Responsibility

In early recovery, I used to refer to responsibility as the R word.  It was a trigger word for me that carried shame and judgment.  I thought of it as having chains hanging off of it because being responsible to me seemed to mean being what society (and my parents) wanted me to be.  That I wasn't living up to those expectations seemed to reinforce my feeling that I was unworthy and defective.  It was only in my codependence recovery that I came to realize that such behavior as not getting the grades I could have in school was in reality a passive aggressive retaliation towards my parents - the "I'll show you, I'll get me" battle cry of codependence.  And I came to understand that not fitting into society's idea of how to live life and define success, was in reality being true to myself by not conforming to standards that did not resonate with me.

It was a big relief for me in recovery to encounter another perspective on the term responsibility that allowed me to change my relationship with the word and the concept it embodied.

As long as we are reacting to old wounds and old tapes we cannot respond to the now.  The more we heal, the more responsibility we have - that is, ability to respond.  The ability to respond in the moment.

As a little boy I got the message from my father's perfectionistic standards and raging verbal abuse, and from my shameful inability to fulfill the role of surrogate spouse and protector for my mother, that there was something wrong with me.  I was raised in a religion that taught me that I was born shameful and sinful, and if I did something "wrong" I would burn in hell forever.  Because of my fear of doing it "wrong," of making shameful mistakes, I did not want to take responsibility for my life.  Because of my emotional wounds and all of the anger and rage I was suppressing, I was powerless to do anything but react to life.  I reacted to expectations by passive aggressively sabotaging myself.  I rebelled against society's standards in ways that hurt me.

I did not trust myself for good reasons - because of the reactive way I was living my life.  I did not want to take responsibility for my life, for my choices and the consequences of those choices, so I set other people up to make the choices.  That way I had someone to blame.

Blaming others - or the system or whatever - was a defense.  I was stuck in the black and white perspective of the disease.

Being honest with myself emotionally led me to wallowing in self hatred - blaming myself for being unworthy and defective, for being a loser and a failure.  Focusing on something or someone outside of me, that I could blame for victimizing me or obsess about because it/she would fix me (relationship, money, success, etc.), was an attempt to avoid having to feel the incredible hole within me - the abyss of wish to die pain and shame, the pressurized Pandora's box of terror and rage, that I had to keep suppressing and denying.  Survival involved using whatever means I could to go unconscious and/or deflect the blame away from me.  Unconsciousness was my main tool for protecting and nurturing myself - my only real escape from the emotional extremes spawned by the black and white thinking of codependence.

In my personal journey, I had to encounter the concept that I was not shameful and defective as a being but rather had a disease that I had been powerless over, before I could start to shine some light into the darkness of the abyss within me.  Working a 12 step program of recovery taught me that it was necessary - and it worked much better - to take responsibility for my life, for my choices, for the consequences of those choices.  Starting to be open to the possibility that perhaps there is a Loving Higher Power, that I wasn't being punished but was rather being given opportunities for growth - helped me to start letting go of some of the fear of making choices and some of the shame about the consequences I had experienced.

When I got into recovery I was launched into an adventure of discovering and exploring the gray area that is life.  I learned that it was possible to take responsibility over behaviors and choices that I had made from a place of powerlessness without taking blame for those experiences.  I learned that there were choices in between blaming them or blaming me.

We need to heal the wounds without blaming others.  And we need to own the responsibility without blaming ourselves. . . .   We are talking about balance between the emotional and mental here again.  Blame has to do with attitudes, with buying into the false beliefs - it does not really have anything to do with the process of releasing the emotional energy.

We also need to own and release the anger against those whom we feel victimized us as adults - and we need to take responsibility for our side of the street, own our part in whatever dysfunctional dance we did with them.

We need to own, honor, and release the feelings, and take responsibility for them - without blaming ourselves.

I learned that my emotional reactions were being set up by my expectations and perspectives - which in turn were dictated by the definitions, beliefs, and attitudes I was allowing to define my experience of life.  I was horrified to discover that my behavior patterns were being driven by, my emotional reactions were set up by, subconscious programming from my childhood.

"Our experiential reality is determined by the interpretations of our mind - by the intellectual paradigm which we are using to define / determine / translate / explain our reality.  The attitudes, definitions, and belief systems which we hold mentally dictate our emotional reactions." - The True Nature of Love-part 4, Energetic Clarity
I started to become empowered to change my relationship with myself and life when I started realizing that I have choices about the beliefs I allow to dictate my relationships.  Instead of living life in reaction to old tapes - I could change that programming.

By changing that programming, it was possible for me to start taking responsibility for the areas of my life that I can have some control over, that I do have the power to change - and I could start to let go of trying to control things which I don't have the power to change.

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.

The areas over which I do have choices - and therefore also have responsibility - include these:

The timing and manner in which I communicate with others.

The attitudes, definitions, and beliefs that I allow to define me and my relationships.

My own emotions to a great extent.  By being willing to change my relationship with my own emotions by changing my intellectual paradigm and becoming willing to face the terror of owning my grief - doing the grief and anger release work that took power away from my old wounds - I have a much greater deal of control over how and when I express myself emotionally.  I also gain the ability to let go much more quickly of any expectations or perspectives that are increasing the intensity of my emotional reactions - therefore decreasing the power and magnitude of the emotional energy generated by day to day life events.  Owning my power to change my attitudes towards the things which I cannot change (other people and life, being human and having feelings) gives me a degree of healthy control over how I respond emotionally.  Our life experience will always include waves that rock our boat.  Learning to accept, respond to, and go with the flow of the waves works to help us have more peace and Joy in our lives.  Taking the waves personally and reacting out of fear and shame is dysfunctional if our desire is to enjoy life.

I have the choice to align my willpower with recovery so that I can take actions that are aligned with healing and recovery instead of engaging in behavior that empowers the disease.  Recovery is a process of learning to take care of ourselves in Loving, healthy ways - of being our own best friend and ally - instead of being allied with, and giving power to, the self destructive reactions of the disease.

The people that I choose to spend time with.  That includes family members.  I have a choice about rather I have contact with my family of origin.  If we don't own we have a choice then we will feel like a victim of what we think we "have to" do.  So, if I choose to spend time with my family (or anyone) knowing they are unhealthy, then I am responsible for the feelings I experience in our interactions - they are not doing something to me.  In recovery I have choices - and choices have consequences.  It is not a right / wrong, blame / mistake thing - it is about owning my side of the street, my part of the responsibility for the consequences that are manifesting in my life, so that I do not buy into a victim perspective and slip back into the rut of blaming them or blaming me.  If I am blaming, then I am not seeing reality clearly within the context of my Spiritual growth process.  Consequences are the Universe's way of giving us feedback so that we can learn to make healthier choices. Consequences are messages from our Higher Power that guide us on our Journey home to Love.

I also have a responsibility to the people I choose to spend time with.  I have a responsibility to communicate as clearly and honestly as possible.  That does not just mean verbal or written communication.  It also means the messages I am conveying by my actions.  One of my old patterns was to have an emotional intimate friend who was a woman that I was not attracted to physically / romantically.  I would be real clear in telling this person that I was not interested in that type of relationship and that I wanted to just be friends.  Then I would feel betrayed when that person let me know that she wanted to be more than just friends.  I used to fall back on the excuse that I had told them clearly and therefore I wasn't responsible for their feelings.  I learned that setting a boundary verbally was not enough to absolve me of responsibility of my actions.  I was not responsible for their feelings, but in investing time and energy into the relationship, in exposing myself to them emotionally / being intimate with them on an emotional level, I was denying a basic reality of human interaction and setting myself up to feel like a victim. (The belief that our intense emotional hunger and incredibly powerful sexual energies will not come into play in an emotionally intimate relationship between individuals of the opposite sex - or same sex if homosexual - is an insane expectation as unrealistic as expecting everyone to drive the way we want them to.  Denial is one extreme - letting our desires rule is the other.  The gray area in between is where life takes place, is the arena we are learning to play in.)

Most importantly, I have some control over, and therefore responsibility for, the quality of my life experiences today. The quality of my life experience is directly related to the kind of Spiritual belief system that I choose to empower.  By choosing to believe in a Loving Higher Power / Universal Force, I have been able to change my relationship with myself and life into one that is not defined by shame and fear.  By choosing to empower the belief that everything happens for a reason in alignment with a Loving Divine plan, that there are no accidents, coincidences, or mistakes, I have accessed the ability to be more Loving to my self.  To - some of the time - be accepting and patient and compassionate towards my human self.  By choosing to have the faith to believe that there is a Loving meaning and purpose to life - despite all the seeming evidence to the contrary - I have dramatically changed the quality of my life experience from a hell to be endured to one that includes a great deal of Joy.

One of the ironies of this whole business is something that physicists have learned from quantum physics.  They have learned that the physical world is made up of energy fields that are temporary manifestations of energy interactions.  All of the energy fields of the physical world are temporary.  Some last for fractions of a second, some last for billions of years - but they are all temporary illusions.

This means that the Truest reality in the physical world is in the interaction.  It is in our interactions that we can access Truth and Joy and Love.  In other words it is in our relationships.

The most real thing here, the place where the highest Truth exists, is in the interactions: in our relationships.  Our relationship with ourselves is a reflection of our relationship with our Creator, with the Great Spirit.  And our relationship with ourselves is reflected out into our relationship with everyone and everything in our environment.

Spirituality is about relationships.  God exists in the quality of our relationships.

When I look at a beautiful sunset - I am a temporary illusion and the sunset is also a temporary illusion - the most real, God-like quality is the energy of Beauty and Joy that I allow myself to access by being open and willing to experience the sunset.  If I am caught up in one of my ego's "trauma dramas," then I will not be conscious of the sunset or open to experiencing the Joy and Beauty of the moment.

A very important part of this healing process is taking time to smell the flowers.  Our job is to be here in the now and to do this healing.

I spent most of my life trying to become - perfect, loved, accepted, respected, etc., etc.  It did not work because I was looking outside for something that can only be found within.

Now I know that I am not in control of this process and that what I am becoming is in the hands of a Loving (although somewhat slow-working) Great Spirit.  I do not have to worry anymore about becoming - all I have to do is be.  I just have to suit up and show up for life today and do what is in front of me.  And everything will work out better than I could ever have planned it.

Of course, we only have choices once we become aware that we have choices, and we can only start responding to life instead of reacting by being in recovery and doing the emotional healing.  Our growth process evolves over time, and as we reach new levels we become empowered to have more choices.  These are areas that we are learning to take responsibility for - not right and wrong standards to judge ourselves by.  The disease will always take any new awareness on our part and try to turn it into something we can judge and shame ourselves for - it is important to own that we are in process making progress and to defend ourselves from the critical parent voice.

It is necessary and healthy to take responsibility for our choices, to accept our consequences, and to try to make healthy decisions on a human level.  Integration and balance involves a process of learning to accept healthy responsibility on a human level at the same time that we know we are being guided by a Loving Spiritual Force.

Sacred Spiral with tail pointing to the right signifying "going toward"
This article kept growing - and then would not cooperate in being finished when I wanted it to - so the next part 2 of this article (and perhaps more than one more) will be posted soon.  You can go to it by clicking on this link Discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility 2


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Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney is copyright 1995.  Material on Joy2MeU web site (except where otherwise noted) is copyright 1996 thru 2013 by Robert Burney  PO Box 235401 Encinitas CA 92023.