It is right and not wrong for me to have, to possess; an autonomous, differentiated, individual sense of self.
It is in fact, essential.
I need an “I” to relate to a “thou” (whether this is a Higher Power and/or another human being) to become a part of a securely and healthy functioning “we”.
It is also true, that I need a “we” that is supportive, “I”- affirming, flexible, and stable or secure, to develop an integrated and whole sense of an “I” in all its richness and complexity. In other words, I need the “we” to be a safe enough place where I won’t worry about losing or jeopardizing our “us” when the formation of my “I” overtly or covertly differentiates from the “you”, in our “we”. And if I (or you) do worry, it can be openly talked about and worked through in the “I” space and the “we” space. It doesn’t become the proverbial elephant in the room that eventually eats the rug it’s being impossibly swept under due to deprivation.
When I experience being me, and you experience being you, and we can honor and affirm one another without denial or diminishment of one another’s differences, this is beautiful intimacy that generously supports You, Me, and We.
This “we” can include a couple, a friendship, a workplace relationship, a family, a neighborhood, a community, and a world of all these worlds of we’s.
When there is a breakdown in the You, the Me, and therefore our We; instead of interdependency, codependency is found in all its cunning and baffling forms.
To mind our “You, and Me, and We” business is essential, courageous, breathtaking, and rewarding work. I believe we are inherently wired to flourish and thrive in this work, together. After all, it is a lot of work.
But let’s also leave room for humor and work, along the path of humanlightenment.
There are many ideas and images we hold in our minds when it comes to addiction. Some of them are more Hollywood, simple, and basic and some are more comprehensive and complex. There are a lot of caricatures of “addicts” that portray a very negative and misleading idea on what addiction is and isn’t. Very seldom do those caricatures do any justice to what addiction entails. So sometimes a deeper dive into the mysterious nature of addiction is helpful. That’s what I’m doing in this post.
Even though addiction seems to be a hotly debated topic, most people would agree that it’s a formidable force that’s cunning and shrewd. And in its wake; kills, steals, and destroys one’s quality of life, relationships, and even one’s very own sense of Selfhood. This is often done in secrecy and isolation, until it cannot be contained there any longer. This can often be an invitation out of hell, albeit an abrupt and harsh one, that can at first feel like total defeat.
I’ve found that most people don’t want to be labeled by another as an addict. That’s tantamount to name-calling. If they identify themselves as an addict, that’s different. And sometimes identifying what addiction is, who has it and who doesn’t, can be chanted to a sneering beat of: “I know you are, but what am I”.
I believe that addiction is fundamentally a spiritual condition of disconnection; from one’s very own self, others, and to the ever-increasing uneasy parts of reality we would rather just make disappear. Its symptoms are deception (first to self, then others), discord, and disruption from receiving life-giving force or energy. This is why I believe addiction is fundamentally spiritual in nature: it’s initially invisible to merely physical metrics but will manifest its occupancy in the physical domain in only a matter of time. Just wait. Once it’s successfully enticed you and occupies your mind, body, and soul it won’t just stop there. It’s far too ravenous. Addiction is characterized by a spiritual energy which has an unsatiable hunger that doesn’t discriminate. It’s often been said that addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer.
Addiction is far more inclusive than any of the most inclusive anti-bigot activists out there. Truly, all are welcome. It doesn’t give a shit about how smart, stupid, rich, poor, educated, uneducated, conservative, liberal, socially privileged, marginalized, religious, non-religious, gay, straight, one gendered or non-binary gendered, physically or mentally abled, disabled, single, divorced, married, remarried, polyamorous, vaccinated, non-vaccinated, Black, White, Yellow, Red, Brown, Multi-racial, Bi-racial, young, or old, etc. etc. etc., you are. If you’re alive, it will accept you with open arms. It will take you in and devotedly take you down and not only that, but it will want to take down your loved ones as well. The more you love them and the more they love you, the more it will want their mind, body, and soul too. Addiction is a family contagion because family is often whom you love and care about the most.
And, when addiction has fraternized and colonized your mind, body, and soul without a good enough fight and push-backsurrender to a Higher Power greater than itself by the one it occupies, you will remain under its control and governance.
This is all so easily disguised and therefore denied until the destruction is far more replete and obvious and stretches beyond the spiritual domain and manifests into the physical domain. Although, it’s admittedly baffling to witness people still denying its presence even when it’s so thoroughly manifest in the relational and physical domain.
This is a very cunning, formidable, and relentless thing. Dis-ease. Call it whatever you want or don’t call it anything other than addiction. It doesn’t matter what you label it or name it. And if you deny it, all the better, for “it”.
What I’m experiencing, little by little, is that the more spiritually perceptive, discerning, keen, awake, and surrendered you are; the sooner addiction can be arrested.
I believe that being human, makes you higher risk and more susceptible to addiction, although there are varying degrees of protection and varying degrees of affliction on an individual basis. Some may disagree because addiction or dependency/withdrawal symptoms can be replicated in lab animals. While I believe that animals are also spiritual beings, for some reason they are naturally less vulnerable to addiction unless they are being manipulated by people. Naturally they seem less susceptible, and I think it’s because they don’t appear to morally judge themselves or others, and therefore don’t struggle with the human affliction of shame and pride. Of course, to argue for or against that theory is insignificant. I can’t talk to rats or get into their consciousness. But I digress…
The point is: to win this battle and live in the solution is found in something that is pretty counter-intuitive to human survival. It’s quite the uncomfortable human paradox.
The solution is found in surrender.
Not to the addiction of course, but to a Power greater than it, and greater than you, whatever you name or call that Power doesn’t matter. I once heard someone refer to this Power as “Not Me“. What matters most is that you can see or even slightly believe, that this Power could truly set you free and do for you what you cannot do for yourself, but which you believe you “should” be able to do. And by all means, if you can do this for yourself and you truly do not need a Higher Power than yourself to do this, then I reckon you are not dealing with addiction. Not everything that’s hard to quit is an addiction, that could merely be a bad habit. There’s a difference.
The way I’m finding it works is this: This Higher Power will not go against my minimally cooperative, ideally enthusiastically given, consent. That is how surrender differs from compliance. Surrender to a Higher Power, not comply. This involves trust and desire, even if it’s very very small at first. It can grow, but you can’t grow something out of nothing. You need something to start with. This is the parable of the mustard seed (see Matthew 13:31-32). This is the solution. It is simple, but not easy. Not at all. But like most things, surrendering becomes easier with practice, one day at a time, and not always in a row.
With this concept of addiction, it doesn’t matter what the chains are tied to. It could be to a substance, a behavior, a person, or a belief system. It’s usually to something impermanent, and what isn’t impermanent?
I’ve also observed that the more abstract in nature that the chains are tied to is, the more disguised its occupancy can be, and often more socially acceptable because it’s simply more common by that very disguisable fact. But do not be deceived. The proof is in the pudding, and that pudding often is spiritual in nature and in how much or how little you’re surrendered to a Higher Power that gives you freedom and not chains. Surrendering to addiction as your higher power gives you shame upon shame, or even harder to detect; pride upon pride, until you are leveled with reality.
As human beings, we are vulnerable, meaning we are surrendered beings. We are not the most Powerful beings or forces of nature in the universe or even on earth. It’s hard to remember especially when we’re so far removed from being intimately connected with nature. But the fact remains: there are powers and forces greater than us, so know your place and that surrender is unavoidable.
So, what are you surrendered to, and how is that working out for you?
If you scoff at the idea that you are addicted to anything, consider this before your dismissal: The addiction you might have may be revealed with a confrontation of losing something specific, against your will, that others live without and are OK without it. If you had to give this up and learn to be better off with its absence or at minimum, its non-guaranteed presence in your life, would you be, OK? Just something to consider.
Nonetheless…for all of us it’s good to reflect on and choose your surrender, wisely.
There’s a story of a man named Simeon in the Bible (see Luke 2:25-35) who was described as being “righteous and devout”.
What does it mean exactly, to be righteous and devout? I’ve got my personal stereotypes and caricatures that portray someone who is “holy”, meaning a bit emotionally cold or stoic, conditionally approachable, not very down-to-earth or relatable, probably intelligent, sophisticated, and rather arrogant. That’s the best description of the image I find that initially emerges into conscious awareness.
Well according to how Jesus answered a teacher of the law, the highest form of morality can be boiled down to love (see Mark 12:29-31). Sequentially and specifically; loving God with your whole inner and integrated being. And then Jesus adds an addendum that seems inseparable to the first command (and that’s much easier to measure) – ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
So, I think it’s safe to presume that being righteous and devout means loving an external, metaphysical, ethereal, abstract Being with YOUR whole internal, metaphysical, ethereal, abstract being – measured by an empirically validated and evidenced way – how you treat “your neighbor” as well as yourself.
It’s so simple that we don’t buy it and we often find ourselves adding on a multitude of “morality measurements” with countless other morality clauses than what Jesus added. Just love your neighbors as yourself, that’s hard enough. And your “neighbor” is something else to contemplate in the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, which I won’t go into in this post.
So, the question I’m pondering here is this: How is mental health and development, factored into this command – to love so integratively in a way that it manifests with congruency with other people?
By all appearances and experiences of mine thus far I’m quite sure of this: being loving is not an inborn human trait. Being loving isn’t innately and independently present in human infants. I’ve given birth to and am raising 3 human souls, and I’ve watched them closely.
Now to be clear— being IN NEED of love, at birth and onward is inborn and innate. And when you form a secure attachment and nurture and protect your babies they coo, smile, and affectionately bond with you right back. It’s a beautiful circle of love. But it didn’t begin with the baby first loving me. It started with a baby who needed to be loved and cared for, FIRST.
The nature of the intimate dyad of human caregiving determines (although not exclusively) a great deal in how “loving” a person will eventually be, influenced by how much they themselves felt loved, or more specifically – securely attached.
“Loving” is not to be confused with merely how “nice”, “polite”, socially acceptable, or virtuous they appear in public. This is about way more than mere etiquette. Rather, it’s far more about how much they’ll be able to enjoy consensual and reciprocal vulnerability, authenticity, and work through the inevitable interpersonal conflicts with a selected few. In other words: healthy interpersonal relationships.
In an ideal world, humans would produce loving human beings – generation after generation. It doesn’t take much to see that we don’t live in an ideal world. Far from it.
So if children grow without enough of this kind of emotional secure attachment created within their earliest and formative interpersonal relationships, how can we expect them to give what they don’t have? For so many who didn’t, are we screwed? No. There is a path of healing and inner recovery. God is sensitively attuned to the broken-hearted, who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Just meditate on the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.
I believe humans are biologically wired to be moral creatures. When we are immoral, we suffer and often find ways to escape or find relief from suffering. To be clear again: We are innately moral creatures which means our biology is wired for thriving when we’re morally strong. And I hope I’ve made it clear enough by now that when I say “moral” I mean we’re biologically created to be loved and loving – this is how we’re morally biologically wired – for love, aka to need to give and receive secure emotional attachments. Possessing a familiarity of attachment styles in both childhood and adulthood is helpful to understanding where I’m coming from. Hopefully if you’re making a living within the mental health field or personal development arena, you’re more than a little familiar with the scientific literature on attachment styles and neurobiology. Hopefully.
I digress. Getting back to morality and love…
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
So, to those who perceive themselves as morally righteous, and therefore loving as described above – What is your detailed and coherent, autobiographical narrative that’s made sense of your adulthood in light of your childhood?
In all transparency, this is somewhat of a trick question. I’ve heard people saying they grew up with love and support from their parents, yet these same people are often times some of the quickest to criticize or judge others and are also some of the most emotionally cold or shallow people I know. To be sure, they are often very “nice”, “polite”, socially acceptable, and fluent in practicing social graces/etiquette. Yet, there seems to be a gaping hole, a sense of wtf-ness that’s hard to explain and even harder to convince them of.
Now of course, I could very well be totally off myself here. But the disjointed feeling I get in this wtf-ness experience is because I hear they consider themselves as lucky for growing up the way they did, and therefore they don’t “morally” struggle much. Yet at the same time, I observe that they find it very difficult, unvaluable, and unnecessary (if they even notice) to be emotionally vulnerable, authentic, and show capacity to work through interpersonal conflicts with their loved ones. It’s a head-scratcher for me.
This is the best I can come up with to try and explain the dissonance between morality and love, profoundly the kind of love from God, that pours out interpersonally. Unless you experience it yourself with God, it’s hard to explain to others.
There was a woman who was described in Luke 7:37 as “a woman in that town who lived a sinful life”. She wept on Jesus’ feet (portrays her as probably crawling on the floor in approaching and being next to Jesus) kissed his feet, then wiped his feet with her hair, and poured perfume from an alabaster jar.
To be loved and to love.
I think she gets it.
Her story might help shed light on this gaping hole for those who need an explanation. Jesus saw that Simon the Pharisee didn’t get it either.
“Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
How well you understand the love of God for yourself has much to do with how much you’ve experienced forgiveness from God. And if in your own self-estimation, you don’t have much to be forgiven for, you’ll find it hard to love others who do.
It boils down to compassion. If you don’t have much need for compassion from others, you won’t feel much compassion for others either.
If you’ve never felt much need for love from others, you likely won’t feel much love for others.
I’m trying to work through the 12-Steps and keep bumping up against what appears as dogma with the Disease Model of addiction. I’m reading Al-Anon approved literature as well as material written by other addiction experts like Gabor Mate and Jamie Marich and am feeling more and more disjointed.
I’ve been personally impacted by a loved one’s addiction and have entered into recovery myself. In 12-Step recovery I’ve been urged to study alcoholism and the disease of addiction. I’ve been studying this subject for years as I’ve been in relationships with people who’ve either been addicted themselves or been impacted by a loved one’s addiction, or both actually. I’m finding myself feeling confused and disjointed, unless I strictly read Al-Anon approved literature! I’m trying to integrate 12-Step approved literature with non-approved addiction literature and am forming my own understanding with as honest and open-minded of an attitude that the Al-Anon program promotes, probably mixed with some of my own defects of character, in process too.
This is my take on addiction thus far coming from someone who finds this subject matter so relevant to her personal life. It’s become an area of passion and vested interest due to my family relationships being touched by addiction. Although I’m not an addiction professional, I represent a voice that’s been deeply impacted by this subject. I’m forming my understanding from a conglomerate of reading from addiction professionals inside and outside of the 12-Step model. It also comes from my lived-experience of going through a loved-one’s relapse into hell. So for whatever it’s worth, I offer my personal reflections from this vantage point. I’m still making sense of my own lived-experience as well as studying the topic of addiction from a variety of sources as I work through the 12-Steps. In other words it’s still slowly brewing, like me. If this benefits someone who has or is going through their own experience of this, I’m grateful.
So without further ado this is my evolving summation on a very complex subject that touches millions of lives every day.
To the Unnamed 12-Step Literature Approvers
I’ve read addiction and codependency literature, outside of your approval. And this is what I’d like to share as a newcomer member of Al-Anon, who also feels deep gratitude for the service of Al-Anon Fellowship. What have we learned about addiction since the 1930’s when A.A. first formed? That it’s complex. And a coherent narrative of addiction in layman’s terms could be that it’s not merely a chronic disease. Consider this narrative that’s backed by addiction and trauma research, and please integrate your approval for literature that offers more. Perhaps something along the lines of this…
Addiction manifests in its burgeoning stage as an unconscious adaptive survival trait in the presence of feeling overwhelming distress, coupled with the absence of a close and secure relationship to an attachment figure like Mom, Dad, or another caregiver.
Notice the Theme, it’s a Duet: Presence + Absence
A presence of Distressing Emotional Experience (based in past and/or present) PLUS an Absence of a Safe enough or secure relationship.
These overwhelming feelings may not even register on the level of conscious awareness until it over-reaches maximum capacity. Until then, the response to overwhelm is constructing and maintaining a thick wall of emotional armor. Any unprocessed feelings from the past accumulate while current feelings which bare any striking resemblance to the past also gets heaped onto the pile. This occurs all while the Absence part of the equation remains – Absence of a Safe Enough or Secure Relationship.
The Absence is a void. A hole consisting of profound disconnection and isolation. A substance or “filler” which acts as a substitute, is reached for in an attempt to fill that void. The momentary relief from pain, and fleeting sensations of pleasure string you along while making increasing demands that you sacrifice more to get more. The constant pursuit and chasing the carrot-on-a-stick can never deliver what you’re pursuing. Freedom from suffering. As this phenomenon takes root like a seemingly innocuous weed, the human’s soul becomes a host for a parasitic-type entity of whatever addictive filler hooks you.
12-Step Fellowships offer a beautiful solution to the Absence part of the equation. The absence of intimate connection which is a fundamental, hardwired, basic human need – creates a void. Filling that void with non-human substances is often a way to cope and while enabling dependency on emotional vulnerability armor. The core issue is an aversion to emotional vulnerability within relationships. When a substance or sabotaging behavior mitigates this aversion despite negative consequences and disturbances in other areas of life, you’ve got the active mechanism of addiction at hand.
So why do relapses occur even after dramatic changes in lifestyle going from using or drinking, to being clean and sober, occur? Well, the other part of the equation needs to be looked at, the presence of distressing experiences especially pertaining to the past which haven’t been processed and integrated.
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
The etiology of addiction is hotly debated among experts, addicts themselves, and those who love them. What came first, the chicken or the egg? The addiction or the unresolved trauma? They both feed off one another, so does it really matter? Not in order to reduce harm and initially get clean and sober. But to stay clean and sober, heal from the aftermath, and truly make living amends – I believe this is relevant.
It’s my developing opinion based from what I’ve learned from various schools of thought and my own experience, that unresolved childhood trauma provides fertile soil for addiction to take root. Along with family history, social conditioning, lifestyle habits, and genetic factors. I don’t hold to the belief that addiction is merely a disease. This belief is antiquated now that so much multidisciplinary scientific inquiry and findings regarding addiction and the plight of human suffering, have been shared.
The strictly disease-based model that posits addiction and/or alcoholism as a disease, is sometimes a helpful simplification for such a complex phenomenon like addiction. Yet further down the road of recovery after encountering relapse, it’s a harmful over-simplification which can create a false sense of security. I believe it inadvertently creates barriers to healing the roots of addiction when these roots prove to be deeper than what first appeared. The disease-model of addiction can inadvertently bypass critical trauma recovery, which can weaken relapse prevention.
Growing up in family subcultures which are reinforced outside the home by the broader culture, enabling self-ignorance, self-neglect, and/or self-abuse in response to distress – creates ripe conditions for addiction. And relapse. An innocent ignorance or a blatant indifference towards healing trauma in response to addiction recovery, furtively enables the practice of emotional self-neglect which often leads to physical self-abuse/harm through drug/alcohol abuse. When this is tacitly considered “normal” within recovery programs, you’ll find that necessary, deeper recovery is stilted, versus the addiction.
I realize my take on addiction and its development doesn’t exclude many people, including myself. Addiction development is quite inclusive and many will be counted as vulnerable towards investing in its empty promises when you have a permissive culture of enabling trauma denial.
Addiction is a very human struggle. It accounts for the struggle of being human in dehumanizing cultures and environments. In my opinion, relegating it as strictly a “disease” seems ignorant. Much has been learned about the nature of addiction and I wish recovery programs would honor this progress. It would help those suffering from addiction and those who love them.
Spiritual principles make room for progression, because you keep an honest and open minded attitude. How can the spirit of 12-Step fellowship principles include the latest findings of addiction without losing it’s unity?Is there room for a different ideology beyond addiction and alcoholism as a disease? Well, even if dogma doesn’t make room for it, my own understanding of the 12-Step spiritual principles, do.
This goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway – these ideas are a representation of my own evolving perspective. Take what serves you, leave the rest.
I did it again. Practice makes progress in being, me
I felt our collective discomfort but didn’t sell out In that trance-like, shape-shifting blurring into “not really me”, me
As usual I wasn’t paid by your approval I was paid however, by my own
As anticipated, failed approval-seeking came my way I now know what I didn’t, so I don’t despair The fear of rejection subsides So my authentic self doesn’t need to hide
I know in the absence of your approval, is mine But when I reject my authenticity I taste it in my gut I taste it in my soul And it always leaves a hole
Damn, the anxiety I once felt when falling in that hole It left such disparity in my soul In that disparity I found MY soul But it never truly left me, it was only but an illusion The absence of your validation doesn’t cause such an ego contusion Where once forsaken energy can flow, that which truly satisfies me whole
Long entangled strings from old baggage seem to follow, like a shadow.
The longer you’ve traveled this earth, the more you collect. In it can be treasures or and, rotten waste.
Open up your baggage! Its damn flowing train is getting too long! It’s now a tripping hazard for you and for me!
I wish it were as easy as the Baggage Claim at the airport. Travelers recognize their own or can check the name tag. But this baggage isn’t so easily claimed! It’s mistakenly claimed as mine when it’s really yours!
Back and forth the disclaimed and misclaimed baggage gets passionately tossed between us. Like a hot potato. Scorched are the hands who hold on too long.
Not all of this will burn. There are unclaimed treasures inside too. There’s been a spill from the unfinished business of your past. It has contaminated everything.
When you indiscriminately throw away your past, it comes back. Boomerang. Give and it will be given back? Karmic energy?
Reclaim the abandoned energy within and between you. This will be a joint success, a joint failure, or a joint holding pattern; awaiting clearance. You cannot abandon this energy force, without consequence.
The whole is more than the sum of its parts.
The whole is more than the sum of its parts.
So… Whose shit is this? It’s ours.
Your past, my past Your beliefs, my beliefs Your experiences, my experiences Your pain, my pain Your dreams, my dreams Your grief, my grief Your fears, my fears Your victories, my victories Your strengths, my strengths Your weaknesses, my weaknesses
It all goes into one bag. Like different threads, weaved into a tapestry.
Joint ownership. Joint consequences. Joint time limit.
One bag One tapestry Many threads Our threads
We work to carry it together and move on, Or we toss it back and forth together And, remain firmly stuck in a holding pattern; awaiting clearance… someday. Who knows when?
Meanwhile, time passes by. Time – non-renewable resource. Time. No returns, refunds, or exchanges.
Whose shit is this? Ours. Whose treasure is this? Ours.
Here I am again. Learning the lesson that my ego is so defended against, but doesn’t understand it’s in her best interest to truly learn that I am more powerful than she believes.
I have the power to learn and grow; emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. That power isn’t dependent on anyone else.
My ability to learn and grow as I go, does not depend on externals beyond my control – this is good news, it’s freeing news. I am free from depending on my partner, children, ex, economy, the weather, my family of origin, the personal choices of others, etc. in order to learn and grow. Am I impacted by these externals? Absolutely. This doesn’t foolishly deny the reality of interconnectedness and interdependence, it collaborates with it.
Opps, I did it again. I’ve fallen asleep to the illusion that I cannot learn important life lessons and grow, unless another is doing “xyz”.
I passionately want to learn and grow as much as I can in this lifetime. A common illusion I often zombie out to is this illusion of dependence within the context of learning and growing that purports: “In order for you to learn and grow, your partner needs to be learning and growing with you, and in similar fashion.”
Bullshit. It’s an egoic fallacy that justifies so much fear of people, places, and things I can’t control – and therefore, try even harder to control.
It was once true, in childhood. And sometimes I admit, I doze off and fall asleep and stumble through life as an adult, forgetting that I am one. Emotional pain is a jarring alarm clock. It’s adult O’clock. This is a discerning reminder that is wrapped in self-compassion, not judgment. Self-awareness at such a keen level requires an above average, adult level of consciousness and self-compassion. So the mere fact that I am aware of this and owning it means, I’m kicking ass again.
I’m up now. This is the lesson being taught through pain:
I am independent and free to grow, learn from mistakes and courageously do my inner work, and release the insane expectation that I can “get” anyone else to do this for themselves (and me). This is messy work because my ego will put up a huge fight because she believes my survival is at stake. This is why my gentle reassurance, and truly sustainable loyalty to her is so important. She fears being left without the support and loyalty of others because she’s lived through that. So, she needs to know how powerful my own loyalty to her, is.
This is where my loyalty can shine – in showing up for myself as a powerful resource and stop compulsively outsourcing my loyalty to others in hopes that they will be loyal in return. Huge waste of energy and time. Huge.
There are tremendous rewards when I wake up to my own presence, that includes both pain and joy. It is freeing. I may will need to come back to this reminder time and time again. It’s sage wisdom that often flows shortly after an egoic break-down. The aftershock of being swept up by my ego’s “good intentions” leads to breakdowns, yet also make room for breakthroughs.
I’ve been known to say “Don’t let shit go to waste, it makes for great fertilizer.” I’m using my shit to grow independent of others. You are free to do the same, my friend. That is way better news than depending on others to change, so I can grow.
Until next time, keep learning, growing, falling down, and getting back up. And remember, you are free to be loyal to your own growth path, independent of anyone else doing so or not for themselves.
There’s a seedling of power within me. It’s sprouting.
I’m waking up to the subconscious belief I’ve been loyal to for so long as though this was a survival-dependent strategy:
“It’s safer to be weak and unsure, doubtful, and shielded from my inner power.”
The deeply entrenched belief that claims the best source of validation is external, the most reliable feedback is the feedback from others that accentuate my imperfections, that any feedback will do as long as it will protect me from encountering my inner authority and power. Because that is a dangerous place.
For various reason, I somehow internalized early experiences in my formative years which developed into an anxious either covertly or overtly, dependent personality. This personality which is perceptively explained by Enneagram Type 6, is driven by a belief that it’s safer to project my power or any other “threatening” aspects of myself, onto others.
In certain contexts, this strategy had another layer: a callous. I didn’t want people to see how I struggle to fear my own power and even hid this from myself, unwittingly. Some people exploit vulnerability instead of provide protection and guidance, depending on their own internal structures. Sometimes I can’t tell if others will be a “protector” or a “perpetrator”. So when in ambivalence, the best defense is a good offense. This counter move against vulnerability and the fear of being exploited has sometimes made me feel “powerful” or at least, protected. It’s armor. But this armor is not the kind of power that’s sprouting within me.
The kind of power that’s sprouting within is a sense of inner awakeness to my inner world. It’s a very subtle form of awareness sprouting from my internal validation that doesn’t first depend on external validation. This sense of inner trust to what I’m awake to within, is often paradoxical yet hidden in plain sight. It connects me to inner wisdom that trusts myself enough to take risks, and learn valuable lessons from mistakes and regrets. That external validation is important and yet not primary, but supplemental to my own validation. If I don’t get it when I’m looking for it from another, I’m OK. No need to panic or get pissed off and go to combat to get it from a specific source. Nor do I need to shape-shift and contort myself to receive validation that will always miss the mark if I’m shape-shifting in order to receive it.
This conscious awakeness can rest in the faith that there’s plenty of space for seemingly polarizing “truths” to coexist, in harmony. So when I don’t receive external validation, there is no need to worry. That’s where faith fills the void, that there’s enough space for a variety of perceptions, including mine. This kind of faith requires a boldness because it may go against the current of polarization. Yet if this faith isn’t boldly embraced a fallout can occur within me, a split which can be expressed in my relationship with others, and with my worldview because that faith is the bridge. It can be that significant and also play out on a collective macro level, for better or worse.
Who can hold this kind of space where it’s safe to coexist between opposites? An Ennea-type 6 who is awake and has reconciled with their own inner power and authority. This takes tremendous courage and inner reconciliation. Breaking out of that cage of “smallness” requires inner “bigness” which goes against the flow of “safety in smallness”.
I fear my power. I fear my confidence. What if it’s wrong? What if I mess up? What if I get hurt? What if I hurt others? Power can do all sorts of unpredictable things that hurt people.
so can abandoned power.
Owned power has the potential to also help set people free from their chains of “what if’s” that focus exclusively on catastrophic endings.”
you were to own your inner power and live alive and awake in it?
I like who I am. I genuinely do. Yes, there are parts of me I feel more comfortable with than others, but they all make up who I am. They all belong to me. The sum of all my parts make up who I am; deep, passionate, caring, and completely lovable. Not everyone will see me in this way, at least not all the time. I don’t either, and I’m OK with that.
Others have parts of themselves they’re uncomfortable with too, and when certain parts or emotions are expressed in me, it may provoke a reaction from others which illuminates how they feel or interact with their own similar parts. It’s very rarely personal, but almost always revealing of how one holds certain parts of themselves, usually unconsciously. That’s exactly why it isn’t personal, yet to the degree an individual can make space for all their parts it will impact the degree of intimacy or intimate-capacity they have for another.
In conflict, pivotal opportunity arises. The opportunity to strengthen a connection by showing up with openness. When the struggle (and it’s often a struggle, hence the conflict) to do this is self-acknowledged, compassionate curiosity can soften the edges.
As a type 6 on the Enneagram, I can detect extremely subtle emotional energy, for better or for worse. You see, emotions tell on us. They reveal what we tell ourselves about ourselves, and what we tell ourselves about others, all at lightning speed. Curiosity engages with this process and slows it down, because it all happens so rapidly. Slowing the speed down serves to prevent defensively disengaging and shutting down the process, or reacting to it by going on the offense against whatever or whomever we feel defensive towards. What often happens when we don’t consciously slow down to reflect, is a missed opportunity at best, and a self-sabotaging repeat of things we’ve later come to regret.
When an individual shows up with a non-defensive presence and can attune, or meet me where I’m at with sincere, non-judgmental engagement i.e. empathy – it is extremely subtle but profound. This is how intimacy is built, and it is also where it is lost if someone cannot engage with this process. The capacity to be intimate and emotionally available with themselves, and therefore with others is what’s illuminated in these moments. And with that, the opportunity to grow. And, there is always room to grow individually and relationally.
When the opportunity is seized, it’s truly a gift. A gift that’s birthed in imperfection. It’s a privilege to witness this. What I’m witnessing is another sacred human’s strength and profound trust in themselves, and the impact of being trusted by them as well. There’s risk involved. I want to show up as honestly and authentically as I can, there’s little room for perfectionism in this process.
The natural slower rhythms of synchronicity within this level of intimacy spring from doing enough of this on an individual level first. When two individuals mutually cultivate this kind of space between each other there’s a shared protectiveness and enjoyment, and it’s quite nice and quite rare! So, treasure it.
And while enduring the experiences where there’s a lack of synchronicity, I’m learning to not take the misattunements personally. It’s more than likely a ripple effect of the rapid past-time insecurities, anxieties, and defenses at play. The key word is: rapid. It cannot be overemphasized how important slowing down is, in order to engage in this process productively.
In certain cases you may find yourself in isolation when it comes to having the intention to evolve, and strengthen your own self and the relationship. When another individual (of which you have no control over) is more invested in their ego boosting their self-esteem, they will defend and resist with great effort. It’s hard to believe because it feels so personal, and it is, but it’s not about YOUR personhood, it’s about theirs. Their very own sense of self-esteem is dependent on a false self (ego) to feel secure, and there is rigidity, not flexibility, in the ego. It’s ego-preservation vs. self-preservation.
When the True self is the one fueling self-esteem, there’s an openness that emerges because the True Self, knows itself and all of its parts (the good the bad and the ugly) can belong so clearly to itself regardless of how anyone may react. It’s an integrated Self that is self-accepting.
So when you experience resistance, understand this is where you can also grow. And to be clear, resistance and defensive reactions can range anywhere from avoidance to fleeing to going on the offense by becoming either passive-aggressive or blatantly aggressive. This is indicative of ego-preservation, that results from having a fragile source of self-esteem (the ego).
When (not if, but when) this happens, you’ll have an opportunity with yourself to get very clarifying information around your own ego-preservation activities, which we all have to different degrees, and of different levels of awareness and intensity depending on how your personality operates (read up on Enneagram). The cracks in your own armor around this may likely get exposed. Ouch. And welcome to the human race, once again. How you respond has impact. Invite yourself to become empowered.
Some of us are more easily duped by our egos than others. To those who have very sophisticated egos when it comes to self-awareness and where we are on our growth maps, you may want to ask yourself some discerning questions:
Do you value or dismiss what’s triggering you?
Do you engage in vulnerable and compassionate self-reflection, sharing this with at least one individual who will challenge and vet your narrative?
If not, you’ll stay stuck and your evolution will pass this opportunity by, and will return again and again until you’ve worked this through to completion. And, may then visit your descendents for the opportunity to evolve in the next generation.
Little by little, (which is the pace that organic life grows) you’ll stretch your window of tolerating discomfort as you receive these Divinely inspired opportunities to say yes to building a sense of genuine self-confidence that stems from grace and truth.
This is how ultimately how I see adult development works, whether I like parts of it or not.
Get to know the one staring back at you. Understand the person in the mirror – deeply, intimately, slowly, steadily, and thoroughly. You’ll find your place, inside.
In the words of Maya Angelou: “You only are free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all.”
This used to make no sense to me. Until, I understood for myself that freedom is found within. In making space by letting go of finding your place, outside of you.
When you truly and thoroughly claim yourself, you belong to you. Another person’s disapproval or judgment cannot displace you. You cannot be internally exiled, by another’s exile of you.
This is about personal responsibility, which is what leads to personal freedom.
To truly claim and belong from the inside out, you’ve got to allow yourself to travel the depths of all you are. You’ve got to allow yourself to feel what arises while looking inside yourself. Is there discomfort? Stay there. Gently. This is the gateway to freedom.
To the extent that you disown and deny aspects of yourself when it feels uncomfortable (often subconsciously because it’s what you experienced in your formative years) you’re abandoning yourself. It may feel “familiar” to do so. I know it has for me. I didn’t know any other way. But by doing this I was putting myself, out.
Self-abandonment will keep you in a prison cell, while giving away your power to others to define who you are. Or, to acknowledge that you even exist.
There will be certain aspects of yourself which make you feel uncomfortable. Intensely so. You may feel the urge to reject and shame certain parts of yourself. This is all a part of the healing journey. There’s nothing wrong with you if you experience this discomfort. You can start by being present and curious with your inner-banisher, for this too is a part of you. Why does this part feel the urge to banish certain parts of you? Which parts of you get the boot? Those are parts that need to receive special attention, from you.
When you abandon parts of yourself, you’re likely going to inadvertently depend on an external source to do what you aren’t doing for yourself. Perhaps because you weren’t consciously aware you did this, or haven’t trusted that you’re enough to do this.
You can and you are.
In fact, only you have the power to set yourself free. Accepting the vulnerable parts of you is an act of true inner security, strength, and courage. This is necessary and therapeutic when it happens through another person’s validation who assists in filling developmental gaps from childhood, but don’t stop here. It’s only when you start doing this for yourself, that transformation and freedom unfolds.
If you’re constantly looking for others to accept your vulnerable parts while you reject them, and you get their temporary validation – you’re still not free; regardless of how much another may love or validate you. It can be a great start, but you’ve got to take the baton sooner or later and do this for yourself as a practice. In other words; again and again.
Take note; you cannot bypass parts of yourself which make you feel the most uncomfortable. Actually let me restate that. Of course you can do whatever you want on your journey. You are the one who lives it. But know this – you will be housing a fragile sense of self that gets easily triggered by factors outside of your control. So, consider this side-effect of discomfort-avoidance as you evolve. As you evolve, you’ll likely notice yourself tolerating avoidance less, and becoming more sensitive to what you’re missing out on when bypassing the rich opportunity that discomfort often presents.
I’ve found it’s also immensely empowering to become well acquainted with different aspects within, which seem in direct conflict with one another. Give yourself time and gentleness, and convene. This is profoundly healing work. Work that pays off because it empowers you to trust yourself more and more, which includes owning your right to make mistakes and learn from them.
By doing this inner work, you give yourself the conscious awareness of how these parts have formed your personality and parts of your identity in ways that don’t serve you like they once did, and perhaps you’ve never questioned any of this because you believed “you” were rigidly set in stone. Not so. You are malleable. Neuroscience call this neuroplasticity. As a human being, you are able to form new neural pathways and always add onto your learning, throughout your entire lifespan according to your level of openness. That is how we’ve survived this long. But you don’t just have to merely survive (aka not be dead). You can awaken, thrive, and be fully ALIVE.
I believe all of us formed a “self” as a means to adapt and survive while we were young, within whatever emotional environment we grew up in, by no choice of our own. This is my understanding of what an “ego” is. The ego isn’t inherently good or bad. It’s an adaptation, a pretty sophisticated but manufactured identity or “false self” that was formed without a conscious awareness in order to protect the True-Self, while your brain was still developing, and the mechanisms to defend our True Self got wired in along the way, and often become how we see our “self” vs how we survived our childhood environments which were less than ideal for the True Self to be engage with others. These defensive strategies can also be re-learned to serve us better as we receive feedback from present day life. IF – you are not offended by the feedback because you understand it’s not about your worth, but about your programming.
Until consciously examined, the ego is an adaptive autopilot personality or “false self” consisting of various unexamined beliefs which run you. It learned quickly in early childhood about what kind of “person” you should be in order to position yourself to receive external validation at best, or not be abused or neglected (physically and/or emotionally) at worst.
In childhood we develop our sense of “self” from the outside in. Our brain codes our experiences along with the emotions we carry at the time, based on how others (initially our primary caregivers) reflect us back. This starts during our preverbal years. That is how all children start to develop, from the outside in. It takes a long time for our brains and nervous systems to fully mature and develop. During our development, from the time in utero until we are well into our 20’s, lots of experiences happen (lots of which are not optimal) which get wired in as we try to make meaning of our world; internally and externally. When we don’t have caregivers or adults in our lives who can help us make meaning from our experiences in a way that validates our worth (from them knowing their own worth) we are left to fill in a lot of blanks as young kids. That’s a pretty grown-up job for a child to fill in for, so be gentle on yourself. And this isn’t about your parents being consciously and willfully neglectful or incompetent. In most cases it’s done without their conscious awareness. In any case, this is about how you now can consciously respond.
In adulthood we have more choices. We can choose who we reach out to, we’re not confined to our parents, our family of origins ,or school teachers, etc. We have more say-so. Often we filter through who we reach out to with what feels most familiar on an unconscious level. It’s the most energy conserving way, at first. Until life gives us feedback in the form of pain. Learning to expand what is “familiar” takes intention and time. Taking one step at a time through unfamiliarity will eventually lead to new “normals” of to what feels familiar. Again, this takes time. Be patient with yourself.
In adulthood I can practice accepting parts of me that were judged in childhood. They no longer need to hide for protection, they just need connection to the rest of me, and to others who’ve earned my trust.
When you can boldly accept all your parts, evenespecially the weird ones – you will set yourself up to receive acceptance that is available externally and freely. If you are still not accepted externally and are respectfully being authentic; it is most likely not an issue between you and them, but an issue between that other person and an aspect of themselves they are not accepting. Often without their conscious awareness. Wish them well or farewell, you may need to grieve a loss depending on what is lost but know you are not losing your own place,, within you. It isn’t your place to force another to accept you or to force yourself to contort yourself so they can pseudo “accept” you. You don’t have to do that anymore.
Know that your place is still securely within you regardless of where others place you.
Wherever you go, you belong. Because wherever you go, there you are. And you belong to you. Saith who? Saith you.