We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.
INTIMACY: in to me see. That is what intimacy is about – allowing another person to see into us, sharing who we are with another person. Yet sharing who we are is a problem for codependents because at the core of our relationship with ourselves is our childhood emotional trauma. Our wounding in early childhood caused us to feel that something was wrong with our being – toxic shame – and our societal and parental role models taught us to keep up appearances, to hide our shamefulness from others.
Recently I stumbled upon a book that addresses, with enlightening accuracy, the very issues I’ve been struggling to understand, accept, and incorporate into my daily life. Here are some excerpts conveying rudimentary ideas.
We live in a society where the emotional experience of “love” is conditional on behavior. Where fear, guilt, and shame are used to try to control children’s behavior because parents believe that their children’s behavior reflects their self-worth.
In other words, if little Johnny is a well-behaved, “good boy,” then his parents are good people. If Johnny acts out, and misbehaves, then there is something wrong with his parents. (“He doesn’t come from a good family.”)
What the family dynamics research shows is that it is actually the good child – the family hero role – who is the most emotionally dishonest and out of touch with him/herself, while the acting-out child – the scapegoat – is the most emotionally honest child in the dysfunctional family. Backwards again.
In a Codependent society we are taught, in the name of “love,” to try to control those we love, by manipulating and shaming them, to try to get them to do the right things – in order to protect our own ego-strength. Our emotional experience of love is of something controlling: “I love you if you do what I want you to do.” Our emotional experience of love is of something that is shaming and manipulative and abusive.
Love that is shaming and abusive is an insane, ridiculous concept. Just as insane and ridiculous as the concept of murder and war in the name of God.
“When I use the term “judge,” I am talking about making judgments about our own or other people’s beings based on behavior. In other words, I did something bad therefore I am a bad person; I made a mistake therefore I am a mistake. That is what toxic shame is all about: feeling that something is wrong with our being, that we are somehow defective because we have human drives, human weaknesses, human imperfections.
There may be behavior in which we have engaged that we feel ashamed of but that does not make us shameful beings We may need to make judgments about whether our behavior is healthy and appropriate but that does not mean that we have to judge our essential self, our being, because of the behavior. Our behavior has been dictated by our disease, by our childhood wounds; it does not mean that we are bad or defective as beings. It means that we are human, it means that we are wounded.
It is important to start setting a boundary between being and behavior. All humans have equal Divine value as beings – no matter what our behavior. Our behavior is learned (and/or reactive to physical or physiological conditions). Behavior, and the attitudes that dictate behavior, are adopted defenses designed to allow us to survive in the Spiritually hostile, emotionally repressive, dysfunctional environments into which we were born.”
“We do not need fixing. We are not broken. Our sense of self, our self perception, was shattered and fractured and broken into pieces, not our True Self.
We think and feel like we are broken because we were programmed backwards.
We are not broken. That is what toxic shame is – thinking that we are broken, believing that we are somehow inherently defective.
Guilt is “I made a mistake, I did something wrong.”
Shame is “I’m a mistake, something is wrong with me.”
Again, the feelings of that little child inside who believes that he/she deserves to be punished.”
That shame is toxic and is not ours – it never was! We did nothing to be ashamed of – we were just little kids. Just as our parents were little kids when they were wounded and shamed, and their parents before them, etc., etc. This is shame about being human that has been passed down from generation to generation.
There is no blame here, there are no bad guys, only wounded souls and broken hearts and scrambled minds.
“Codependence is an emotional and behavioral defense system which was adopted by our egos in order to meet our need to survive as a child. Because we had no tools for reprogramming our egos and healing our emotional wounds (culturally approved grieving, training and initiation rites, healthy role models, etc.), the effect is that as an adult we keep reacting to the programming of our childhood and do not get our needs met – our emotional, mental, Spiritual, or physical needs. Codependence allows us to survive physically but causes us to feel empty and dead inside. Codependence is a defense system that causes us to wound ourselves.
Some people, when they first get into Recovery, when they first start on a healing path, mistakenly believe that they are supposed to take down their defenses and learn to trust everyone. That is a very dysfunctional belief. It is necessary to take down the dysfunctional defense systems but we have to replace them with defenses that work. We have to have a defense system, we have to be able to protect ourselves. There is still a hostile environment out there full of wounded Adult Children whom it is not safe to trust.
In our disease defense system we build up huge walls to protect ourselves and then – as soon as we meet someone who will help us to repeat our patterns of abuse, abandonment, betrayal, and/or deprivation – we lower the drawbridge and invite them in. 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.
The process of Recovery teaches us how to take down the walls and protect ourselves in healthy ways – by learning what healthy boundaries are, how to set them, and how to defend them. It teaches us to be discerning in our choices, to ask for what we need, and to be assertive and Loving in meeting our own needs. (Of course many of us have to first get used to the revolutionary idea that it is all right for us to have needs.)”
“I spent most of my life being the victim of my own thoughts, my own emotions, my own behaviors. I was consistently picking untrustworthy people to trust and unavailable people to love. I could not trust my own emotions because I was incapable of being honest with myself emotionally – which made me incapable of Truly being honest on any level.”
“Learning what healthy behavior is will allow us to be healthier in the relationships that do not mean much to us; intellectually knowing Spiritual Truth will allow us to be more Loving some of the time; but in the relationships that mean the most to us, with the people we care the most about, when our “buttons are pushed” we will watch ourselves saying things we don’t want to say and reacting in ways that we don’t want to react – because we are powerless to change the behavior patterns without dealing with the emotional wounds.
We cannot integrate Spiritual Truth or intellectual knowledge of healthy behavior into our experience of life in a substantial way without honoring and respecting the emotions. We cannot consistently incorporate healthy behavior into day to day life without being emotionally honest with ourselves. We cannot get rid of our shame and overcome our fear of emotional intimacy without going through the feelings.”
“The key to healing our wounded souls is to get clear and honest in our emotional process. Until we can get clear and honest with our human emotional responses – until we change the twisted, distorted, negative perspectives and reactions to our human emotions that are a result of having been born into, and grown up in, a dysfunctional, emotionally repressive, Spiritually hostile environment – we cannot get clearly in touch with the level of emotional energy that is Truth. We cannot get clearly in touch with and reconnected to our Spiritual Self.
We, each and every one of us, has an inner channel to Truth, an inner channel to the Great Spirit. But that inner channel is blocked up with repressed emotional energy, and with twisted, distorted attitudes and false beliefs.
We can intellectually throw out false beliefs. We can intellectually remember and embrace the Truth of ONENESS and Light and Love. But we cannot integrate Spiritual Truths into our day-to-day human existence, in a way which allows us to substantially change the dysfunctional behavior patterns that we had to adopt to survive, until we deal with our emotional wounds. Until we deal with the subconscious emotional programming from our childhoods.
We cannot learn to Love without honoring our Rage!
We cannot allow ourselves to be Truly Intimate with ourselves or anyone else without owning our Grief.
We cannot clearly reconnect with the Light unless we are willing to own and honor our experience of the Darkness.
We cannot fully feel the Joy unless we are willing to feel the Sadness.
We need to do our emotional healing, to heal our wounded souls, in order to reconnect with our Souls on the highest vibrational levels. In order to reconnect with the God-Force that is Love and Light, Joy and Truth.”
(excerpts from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls” by Robert Burney)