Step 2 Our Authentic Self

by Terrie C

Came to Believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Being RESTORED suggests that we were sane to begin with.  Step 2 invites us to change our beliefs about ourselves.  The 12 Step Program encourages us all to choose a Higher Power of our own understanding.  CoDA acknowledges that we grew up in dysfunction.  Coming to terms with the harm that came to us from this dysfunction is key to understanding our own insanity and the ROOT of its genesis. 

In dysfunctional families people who were supposed to keep us safe and meet our needs were unable to do this for us.  Dysfunction is passed down historically and intergenerationally and it is likely that our parents did not get their own needs met.  It became our job to meet their needs.  Our insanity was trained into us from an early age and became deeply rooted as it says in the CoDA welcome. 

Our culture also taught us beliefs that are not true.  My family was not deeply religious but believed children should get religious education.  There I learned that we are born in Original Sin.  This concept came from the Romans through St. Augustine in the 4th century AD.  Other faiths reject it.  The Christian church adopted it to keep citizens and soldiers in line.  Page 5, Original Blessing by Matthew Fox. 

Another belief across the world is that women and girls are not as valuable as men and are property.  When I was born women had only been allowed to vote in this country for 28 years.  Most stories only had boys as heroes.  We still do not have equality.  The choices for careers for women did not appeal to me.  I chose a field that at the time was less than a quarter women.  I wanted to be a healer and went to pharmacy school.  At orientation the dean of the pharmacy school singled me out and said that “there are no second chances here”.  After I was accepted to the program my husband at the time began punishing me.  I petitioned the school to allow me a year off and had to pay them a large sum not to give my place to another student.  No one thought I would come back.  I did come back and also tried the marriage again.  I left the marriage for good with my car, some personal belongings and only $30 with nowhere to live and a year and a half left to graduate.  I did graduate. Looking back, I believe this was my AUTHENTIC SELF. 

In my growing up years I suffered physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as well as neglect and had a parent who was a sociopath and one who had severe PTSD.  This counts in the ACEs Study, (Adverse Childhood Experiences) evaluation as a score of 6.  In order to survive in that family I had to adopt survival responses that we in this program call codependence.  Some of the Compliance Patterns and some of the low Self-Esteem patterns fit these survival responses the most for me. 

It is important for all recovering people to begin to understand the biology of TOXIC STRESS.  In a 1993 book about PTSD came my first lesson of this.  A phenomenon called KINDLING.  Repeated trauma causes a change to our body related to the release of norepinephrine which changes our nervous system and brain so that it takes less and less of a trigger to initiate a full-blown case of frayed nerves.  So, a seemingly inconsequential event can lead to full hypervigilance, startle response, anger,  and irritability.  The victim essentially develops a case of chronic over-arousal and can never “relax”.  Paraphrased from PTSD:THE VICTIMS GUIDE TO HEALING AND RECOVERY, RAYMOND FLANNERY PhD. Assistant Professor of Psychology, Harvard Medical School.

How many of us have blamed ourselves for having these responses?  It is not our fault, and it also IS our responsibility to understand and heal from.  Much more is now understood and written about by Bessel Van der Kolk M.D. in THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE published in 2014.  One foundation of his work was the original ACEs study published in 1998.  Van der Kolk has been working to get the language changed for the diagnosis because it is now understood that children who have TOXIC STRESS experience it while their brains and bodies are growing.  It changes their physiology.  Adults who have a traumatic event already have developed and their outcome and some recovery modalities are different.  For example, EMDR often thought of as helpful had a 73% positive outcome for adult onset PTSD and only 25% for victims of child abuse. 

Lately I have been immersing myself in listening to Nadine Burke Harris, M.D. who expanded the ACEs study.  Here is a link to her Ted talk about this.  It is only 16 minutes long and there are many more if you wish to learn more.

What Van der Kolk says is that we need to learn to tolerate DEEP EMOTION which is essential in becoming embodied.  We need to understand what happened to us to unhook ourselves from beliefs that we were always wrong or bad. 

In 1995 I had a breakdown as a result of a forced indoctrination into a cult at my workplace.  I was diagnosed 100% disabled and was told never to work again.  Work had been my safe place and was very much a part of my self-esteem.  I felt like my education had been ripped from me.  It had taken me 7 years to get through a 5 year pharmacy program at great effort to overcome many obstacles. 

What I am feeling like now is that the education that I gave myself then is standing with me now in being able to heal myself and pass it on to others.  Trauma is rarely taught in medical school or in our public schools science.  Van der Kolk’s efforts to get it labeled correctly has not yet been successful.  It should be called DEVELOPMENTAL STRESS.  He uses the work disorder and my therapist says the word response would be a better, kinder word.  What I would want is for all of us to understand our wounds and the remedies for it that can reduce our own suffering and that of others.  I Believe this is my AUTHENTIC SELF! Through understanding our pain and the path to health we ARE RESTORED!

Each of us is born as a spiritual person.  From the DETACHMENT (original from Al Anon) reading it says “Abuse wounds the spirit.”  This is not a spirit outside of us, it is inside of us.  I believe that is the power we were disconnected from and to reconnect is to restore us.  A Higher Power of our OWN understanding!

I long as does every other human being to be at home wherever I find myself

~ Maya Angelou

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