The single most important step in this inner healing work is detachment. It is developing a detached level of consciousness - and observer / witness perspective - that allows us to start practicing discernment in relationship to both our inner and outer process. This facilitates the process of learning how to have internal boundaries so that we can start having the wisdom and clarity to integrate a Loving Spiritual belief system and intellectual knowledge of healthy behavior into our emotional relationship with life. Then we are able to start achieving some emotional balance, and start owning our power to be a positive conscious co-creator of our life experience - a Loving, mature, empowered force in our own lives, instead of an unconscious co-creator out of the negative, self abusive, self sabotaging reactions that are caused by our emotional wounds and the codependent behavior patterns adapted in childhood.
By developing detachment we can start practicing discernment - having the wisdom to know the difference between the things we cannot change and the things which we can - which will allow us to develop internal boundaries so that we can stop being the victim of our wounds and dysfunctional intellectual programming. Developing some detachment from our own internal process is necessary so we can stop reacting and learn to respond in the moment in a healthy, mature manner - as an empowered, Spiritually enlightened adult, instead of a frightened, wounded child.
On January 3, 2002 I will celebrate 18 years of being clean and sober. I have actually been clean and sober now for longer than I drank and used. An amazing miracle that has unfolded one day at a time. Some of those days were excruciatingly painful - full of hopelessness and despair. In early recovery, I didn't make it through those days sober because I wanted to be sober - or because I wanted to be alive. I made it through one day at a time because I was terrified of returning to, and getting stuck in, the hell I had been living in for the last 4 or 5 years of my drinking.
There is an old AA saying that: Alcoholics Anonymous doesn't open up the gates of heaven and let us in - it opens up the gates of hell and lets us out. When I got released from my alcoholic hell, what I found myself experiencing was life. The very thing I had been drinking to cope with!
What I realize now, is that I was released from alcoholic hell and found myself in codependent hell. My relationship with my self and with life condemned me to codependent hell - and alcohol and drugs had given me a vacation of sorts from dealing with the fact that I did not have a clue of how to live life in a functional way.
I am very, very grateful now that I am a recovering alcoholic. If I had not found alcohol and drugs, I would have killed myself in one way or another in my late teens or early twenties. My 17 plus year drinking career kept me alive long enough to be present when planetary conditions changed so that the New Age of Healing and Joy could dawn in human consciousness. Long enough to have available to me, the tools and knowledge to be able to heal my wounded soul and learn to live life in a way that works. Long enough that first Adult Children of Alcoholics, and then Co-Dependents Anonymous meetings, were available to help me in my healing process.
I can see now, that the reason I was able to stay sober was because of two concepts that are invaluable to any healing or growth. The first one made the second possible. It is the first of these concepts that is the single most important step in the inner healing process - the one that I stress so much to anyone I am working with on how to change and improve the quality of their lives.
That concept is detachment.
Codependence is a compulsively reactive condition. I had gone through life like a pin ball - bouncing / reacting from one point to the next, from one person to the next. It was never my fault. Someone, or something else, was always to blame for how messed up my life was - for how awful I felt inside. I focused on blame and resentment because the only alternative that I knew was to blame myself. I was at war inside of myself - and because I was taught to look outside for definition and worth by the society I grew up in, I tried to assign the blame externally for that internal war.
At the core of codependency is shame about being human. This shame was caused by a polarized, black and white intellectual paradigm that empowered the perspective that the only alternatives for evaluating worth, for determining value, are right and wrong. Human beings are incapable of being perfect based upon a perspective in which the only alternatives are right and wrong.
Codependency is a dysfunctional relationship with life, with being human. It is the dance I learned to do as a little kid. It is a dance whose music is generated from fear and shame, to a rhythm dictated by black and white thinking. It is a dance characterized by movement between extremes - blame them or blame me, overreact or underreact, less than or better than, success or failure, win or lose, etc., - which makes balance impossible. There is no middle ground in a dance that can only be done right or wrong. There can be no inner peace.
Since I was continually attempting to do life perfect (or rebelling by going to the opposite extreme) according to false beliefs about the nature and purpose of being human, I could never have any inner peace. I judged my self and my life experience, both consciously and unconsciously, out of a dysfunctional polarized belief system - so that it was not possible to stop being at war within. At the core of my being I felt like I was a defective monster, some kind of shameful, unlovable loser - and I tried to deflect some of that pain by blaming others.
No wonder I drank. Alcohol - and later drugs of various kinds - saved my life.
The first thing I had to do to get sober was to detach enough from my personal reality - from my hellish emotional pain and shame, from the intellectual garbage generated by my twisted codependent thinking - to become conscious of the reality that alcohol was not working for me anymore. I had to get conscious enough to be able to realize that it had been many years since alcohol had given me the relief and good feelings that it had when I started drinking.
With any addictive, mind / mood altering substance / behavior, the very thing that brought some relief from the internal war and mental anguish - the substance or behavior that gives us feelings of being high, of rising above our lives of quiet desperation, of feeling good - becomes something that we feel is necessary just to feel normal. Then eventually, normal becomes very low indeed.
I had to detach from myself enough to look at my life from a perspective that allowed me to see that maybe my behavior had something to do with why I was so miserable - but that is was not because I was a shameful being. The twelve step concept of powerlessness - the idea that alcoholism was a disease rather than a weakness of character - allowed me to detach and view my behavior, my drinking and using, with enough objectivity to start seeing reality with more clarity.
Once I surrendered to the reality that alcohol was hurting me rather than helping me, then I could make some effort to start living life differently. It was necessary for me to get a detached, objective look at myself in order for me to get honest enough with myself to decide that it might be better for me to get sober. I did not stop drinking because I wanted to stop drinking. I stopped drinking because alcohol and drugs were not working for me any more. When I was able to look at reality with some detachment, I could see that what I thought was the solution had actually become the most pressing problem.
The second concept that was so valuable in staying sober and starting to change my life, was the concept of delayed gratification. When I first started recovery, I thought that living life one day at a time was a revolutionary concept for me. But looking back now, I can see that living life one day at a time is what I had been doing all my life. The difference was that I had been living out of instant gratification.
As I describe on my page The codependent three step - A Dance of Shame, Suffering, & Self-Abuse, codependency is a vicious, compulsive, self-abusive dynamic - an prison that we are trapped in as long as we are reacting. In my codependent dance I was the victim of myself, I was my own perpetrator, and I rescued myself in ways that were ultimately self abusive. The shame and pain I was feeling was causing me to feel like a victim, the critical parent voice in my head was beating me up for being a stupid loser, and I was rescuing myself with drugs and alcohol.
In early recovery, I learned to think the next drink through to the consequences before picking it up. In other words, think about how I would feel about myself tomorrow if I take a drink today. And be conscious enough to tell myself the truth that I didn't want just one drink - I wanted oblivion, unconsciousness.
So, I started living life one day at a time from a detached place of consciousness that was aware of cause and effect - and understood that not indulging in instant gratification today would help me to not hate myself so much tomorrow.
Detachment allowed me to start aligning myself with the way life really works - cause and effect - and choosing delayed gratification one day at a time. It has resulted in 18 years of sobriety.
We all observe ourselves, but we do it from the perspective of the critical judge. It is our critical parent voice that provides the witness perspective in our lives. It is our own worst enemy, judging us and shaming us - calling us stupid or loser or fool. We all have experienced our critical parent voice beating ourselves up for being human by using whatever pet abusive names are part of our personal abusive relationship with self. To that critical observer self, nothing we do is ever good enough - except when we are reacting to the opposite extreme and telling ourselves how much better we are than others because they are mean or stupid or losers.
The critical parent voice is rooted in the subconscious intellectual paradigm that is defining and dictating our life experience. It is the play by play commentator that is providing running commentary on how well we are playing the game of life - and it is judging our performance based upon false beliefs about the nature and purpose of life, based upon a black and white perspective that dooms us to be the victim of being imperfect humans. It dictates how we react to life and then judges us for those reactions.
It is very important to start learning how to take power away from that critical parent voice so that we can start developing a witness perspective with a compassionate level of consciousness. So that we can start learning how to be our own best friend - instead of our own worst enemy.
The first step to developing this level of consciousness is to know that it is possible to develop it. Once we start to realize that we can have a detached observer perspective that is not judging us, then we can start raising our consciousness to be more aligned with Love than with fear and shame.
It takes awhile for us to get to a place where we can be compassionate with ourselves. In the beginning, we want to try to at least be able to observe ourselves from a neutral perspective - or even better from the perspective of a scientific observer. We can start to watch ourselves as if we were an alien species we are studying so that we can see ourselves and say, "Oh isn't that interesting. Now why did I react that way." Instead of "How can I be so stupid."
Once we start to learn to be detached in a way that is not shaming, then we can start being the detective of our inner process - we can start tracking down the cause and effect relationship between our behaviors and our childhood programming.
We can also then start using that observer self as an inner defense attorney who can start to defend us from the critical parent voice. We already have a judge and prosecutor inside - we desperately need an inner defense attorney who can start setting boundaries with the critical parent voice.
A vital part of the healing process is having enough detachment to start relating to the critical parent programming - and the emotional wounds / inner child places within - as parts of us rather as our self. Achieving some separation within in our perspective of our own inner process is vital to setting boundaries within - and learning how to stop being the victim of ourselves.
This inner child healing / codependency recovery work is a process of transforming our relationship with ourselves into a more Loving and empowered relationship by starting to take some control over our inner process. We can learn how to develop the mature empowered adult within us - and let that part of us run our lives instead of our emotional wounds and dysfunctional intellectual programming.
We all have that adult within us already - we just need to own it. Until we can detach from our inner process enough to start seeing all the different parts of us, we cannot really understand all the conflict within. The only way to start achieving some inner peace is to develop a friendly, compassionate adult within who is on a Spiritual path and can make choices in our life from a place of Love instead of fear and shame.
Detachment is necessary for anyone to start changing their behavior patterns. The more we get conscious of the power of detaching and the choices it offers to us, the more powerfully we can align with the healing / Spiritual awakening process. I had to practice detachment in order to get, and stay, sober. It was necessary to detach from my own process before I could start seeing reality with more clarity. But I did not realize that was what I was doing. Once I started to realize how the process works, and how valuable a technique detachment is, then I could really start to be proactive in intervening in my own internal process and changing my internal programming. Then I could really be consciously involved in the process of changing my relationship with myself into one in which I could choose to be a co-creator in my life out of Love instead of reacting unconsciously out of my self hatred.
Awakening to a level of consciousness where I could start to take responsibility in, and for, my life from a perspective that was aligned with the dynamics of how life really works, allowed me to start learning how to be my own friend instead of my worst enemy. It allowed me to realize that the part of me that was shaming and judging me was just a part of me - it is not who I am. The emotional wounds that I was so afraid of were just parts of me also - I was able to learn how to stop letting the feelings of the little kid define and dictate my life, at the same time I was building a nurturing relationship with those parts of me. I could then learn to stop the part of me that was abusing me from making me feel like a victim, and start rescuing myself in ways that worked - in ways that were aligned with delayed gratification and Love.
Detachment was the key to creating the space in my consciousness to start the process of taking power away from the shame and judgment - to stop living life based on fear. As long as I was just reacting out of unconsciousness, I was powerless to change my behaviors. Detaching from my internal process enough to be more conscious of cause and effect created the space for me to start owning the power to make choices and take responsibility for the way I was living my life.
We can develop a recovery control center (as I have taken to calling it lately) that is making choices about our attitudes and behaviors from an enlightened perspective that is aligned with intuition instead of fear based impulsive reaction. We can develop a Loving, compassionate relationship with ourselves by having enough detachment to learn discernment. We can then own our power to be co-creators in our lives who can align ourselves with transforming our dance of life from one of dancing in the darkness feeling separate from the Creative Source, to one in which we are dancing in the Light of Love.
What is so valuable, what I believe is unique, about the approach to inner child healing that I have been guided to develop and refine, is that it provides a formula for integrating Spiritual Truth and intellectual knowledge of healthy behavior into one's emotional relationship with life.
It does not matter how much Spiritual Truth, how many mystical experiences of oneness, how in tune with Love, you can feel in certain moments - if you cannot integrate it into your life in a way which changes your emotional experience of life on a moment to moment, day to day basis. You can go to therapy for many years, read all the Spiritual and self help books, go to workshops and seminars and lectures - compile encyclopedic intellectual knowledge of what healthy behavior is - and still be reacting to old wounds in the relationships that mean the most to you.
The missing ingredient for so many people who have been seeking for many years, is how to integrate what you know into how you feel about your experience life. That is what I teach people - because it is what I have spent many years learning. It is what I am still learning.
The telephone counseling that I have been doing for the last year and nine months has led me to refine and fine tune my understanding of the dynamics of the healing process work. I resisted suggestions to do telephone counseling for quite awhile because I was concerned about how effective it would be. When working with someone in person, I can observe body language and look into their eyes. It is much easier to help a person get into their feelings, do their grief work, when working in person.
The very fact that I wasn't in the presence of the person has turned out to be perfect - it actually forced me into a deeper and more sophisticated understanding of the process. Working with people on the telephone led me to focus on how to help the person change their relationship with themselves and life in the quickest, most effective way.
I realized that I did not need to know a lot of details about the persons story. I will get just enough information from them to be able to identify the primary themes and issues in their lives - and the dynamics in childhood that spawned these issues. That allows me to explain the dynamics to them in a way they can understand and relate to from their personal experience.
The dynamics of codependence are universal and predictable - because all human beings share the same emotions and emotional process. The internal dynamics of the interrelationship between the mental and emotional levels of our beings is something I understand intimately. Each of us is unique and different in the details of our lives, in the flavor of codependency we adapted - but we all have the same basic internal dynamic.
In my own recovery process I was led intuitively, and through working the twelve steps, to develop the detachment that allowed me to learn how to start practicing discernment and to develop internal boundaries to facilitate my healing and growth. I wasn't consciously aware of how important the concept of detachment specifically had been in my healing at the time I wrote the book - and don't even mention the word in my book. I do describe the process and the importance of developing the observer perspective.
What I see clearly now, is that detachment was the first step in my recovery - and is the key to consciousness raising. As long as we are reacting out of a polarized belief system to the feeling of toxic shame in our core relationship with ourselves, we are powerless to be co-creators of our lives in anything but a negative way. It is only by detaching from our inner process enough to start seeing reality from a new healthier perspective, that we can start to gain some freedom from our old wounds and old tapes.
Observing ourselves without shame and judgment allows us to see reality with more clarity. It creates the space that allows us to own our power to make choices. It creates the space for us to start to understand our own internal conflict so that we can choose to start paying attention to the "small quiet voice" of our Spirit, of our intuition, instead of giving power to the loud abusive messages coming from our wounded ego programming. It is the key to starting to stop the war within and create some inner peace.
Developing a level of consciousness in which we are self aware, and turning that space into a proactive force in changing our relationship with self and life, is the key to learning to relax and enjoy life in the moment some of the time. The percentage of the time we are be-ing and enjoying life will increase gradually as we transform our relationship with self and life.
Probably even more important than the ability to relax and enjoy life, is developing the observer consciousness that helps us to start developing some compassion for ourselves when we are not enjoying life. It helps us to allow - and align with - the emotional healing so that we can release the repressed grief energy we are carrying. It helps us to stop judging and shaming ourselves when we feel "bad." That in turn means we spend less time in negative feeling emotional spaces - and move back into positive feeling emotional spaces sooner. It allows us to open up to receive so that we don't sabotage feeling good.
Detachment allows us to start taking some Loving control of our own internal process. It allows us to start taking control over, and responsibility for, our thoughts and our feelings to the extent that is possible. It allows us to create a space in our lives to start learning how to be Loving to ourselves instead of feeling like a victim of self and life.
Detachment - learning to observe our selves so that we can become more conscious - is an act of Love.
"Our job is to pay attention to the best of our ability, to be conscious enough to pick up on the messages the Universe is sending our way, and to take action in the direction we feel is necessary. We need to suit up and show up for life today, and do what is in front of us - at the same time a part of us is observing how intricately and perfectly the process is unfolding.
God I Love this process!! It is so incredibly elaborate. A fascinating unfolding of an intricate mosaic. I can be an actor in the play - and at the same time, be the audience watching the story unfold. The audience part of my consciousness used to be booing and hissing, throwing tomatoes and yelling what a stupid loser I was. Now my audience is compassionate, understanding, and supportive - and even gives me a standing ovation once in a while."
I realized after posting this page that I wasn't sure if I had been clear that I was not talking about detachment as a way to avoid feeling the feelings. I am referring to developing an additional level of consciousness where we can be watching ourselves at the same time we are feeling the feelings. A level of consciousness from the adult on a Spiritual path, the recovery control center, that can help us align with the grieving process and release the emotional energy. We can be the recovering adult who is observing from a nurturing and Loving place at the same time we are experiencing the feelings of the 5 year old, or 9 year old, or 23 year old, or whatever. We can be in the feelings and observing ourselves grieving at the same time.
This level of consciousness is from a higher perspective. It is an additional level of consciousness that we cultivate and develop by more clearly tuning in to, concentrating our attention on, our intuition - the "small quiet voice" - and consciously choosing to give power to the Spiritual Truth we resonate with instead of our emotional truth and mental programming from childhood. By cultivating this detached perspective - detached from our ego experience of being human - we can observe both the mental and emotional levels of our being from a more discerning perspective. It facilitates changing the intellectual programming and taking some of the terror out of healing the emotional wounds. It allows us to set internal boundaries within, and between, the mental and emotional levels of our being.
When I speak of a detached observer perspective, I am not talking about the kind of observation that is taught in some spiritual meditation practices. Many people use that type of observation as a way to avoid feeling the feelings. That type of detachment from emotions is what some people experience on anti-depressants. Some people use chanting and meditation as anti-depressants. Chanting and meditation can be invaluable tools but applied in an imbalanced manner can, like positive affirmations, be used as tools to deny feelings.
Just observing the feelings does not heal them; does not fundamentally change our relationship patterns; does not make our fear of intimacy go away. We need to feel, experience, and release the emotional energy in order to heal the wounds and take power away from them.
We need to feel the feelings but learn how not to be the victim of them / of our reactions. I am talking about a detached observer consciousness that gives us the power to choose how to respond when one of our grief / rage buttons has been pushed. An emotional wound can be triggered and we can make a conscious choice that it is not safe to feel and release those feelings in that moment. Then, we have a choice about how we are going to respond in the now, and later we can do the grief work when it is safe and appropriate to do it.
We do not avoid feeling the feelings. We gain some power over when and where we feel the feelings. Detachment, as it applies to the inner child healing process in my approach, is a technique that fosters empowerment and response-ability, not emotional denial. Detachment is a dynamic technique, a method of consciously relating to our internal process, that is an integral and invaluable step in consciousness raising / enlightenment / awakening / recovery / healing / empowerment. - Robert Burney