by Terrie C.
The Aqua CoDA book for Step 8, which is the preparation step for making amends, advises that the first person we need to have on our list is ourselves. We have harmed ourselves the most and been unable to escape ourselves. Yet, what most often happens is that we skip over that, minimize our own pain, and focus on a list of others we have harmed. The traditional language for Step 9 is other-focused. Many places in CoDA literature names childhood trauma as the root of our suffering. We need to begin with ourselves also in Step 9.
The Recovery Patterns of Codependence lists 5 categories of survival responses to our trauma that include Denial, Low Self-esteem, Compliance, Control, and Avoidance. Becoming aware of what we did to survive in family systems that passed trauma down is a key to our recovery. Some of the outcomes include not being able to feel our feelings, feeling overly responsible for others, giving our power over to others, a sense of shame, etc. In his book, the Body Keep the Score, Van der Kolk describes that we must be willing to face what happened to us in order to heal trauma.
It is instructive to examine FAMILY RULES that each of us may have taken to heart. I am going to list several that all apply to me: 1. It’s not OK to talk about problems. 2. Feelings should not be expressed openly. 3. It is OK for parents to make a child a messenger to carry communications between them if they are angry at each other. 4. Unrealistic expectations –be strong, good, right, perfect, make us proud. 5. Don’t be selfish. 6. Do as I say, not as I do. 7. Don’t cry. 8. Don’t be different. (no Indians allowed) 9. You must believe the same thing as the parent. These may apply to many and you may have many other rules. Be compassionate to yourself as you do an inquiry about your family rules.
I see jumping right into making amends to others before we have healed ourselves as another form of avoidance and therefore codependent. And making amends is about changing our behavior. Facing our trauma with the help of others in groups where honesty is a value that is practiced as a recovery tool and/or professional help if we need it, is essential. When we are able with a community of others facing their suffering, to stop minimizing how what happened to us still affects us, then we will begin to heal.
When we can know our own truth of what happened to us, then we can turn toward nurturing ourselves. We can imagine the little person that had to grow up with rules that did not affirm who we really were. We suffered the loss of childhood. We did not get to grow up as the person we were meant to be. That was very painful as we lived it!
We can begin to practice SELF-COMPASSION. What we are working to recover is our own personhood. When we are able to begin practicing that as much as we can every day, we will move to a place where our behavior changes naturally. We will become better able to have healthy relationships with others because we have healed our relationship with ourselves. There is much scientific research done on the changes self-compassion has on people’s lives. I would recommend that if you want more about this, to look up KRISTEN NEFF/CHRIS GERMER ON YOUTUBE.
I AM GOING TO END WITH A READING FROM MELODY BEATTIE’S THE LANGUAGE OF LETTING GO:
October 1st Be Who You Are:
In recovery, we’re learning a new behavior. It’s called Be Who You Are.
For some of us, this can be frightening. What would happen if we felt what we felt, said what we wanted, became firm about our beliefs, and valued what we needed? What would happen if we let go of our camouflage of adaptation? What would happen if we owned our power to be ourselves?
Would people still like us? Would they go away? Would they become angry?
There comes a time when we become willing and ready to take that risk. To continue growing, and living with ourselves, we realize we must liberate ourselves. It becomes time to stop allowing ourselves to be so controlled by others and their expectations and be TRUE TO OURSELVES –REGARDLESS OF THE REACTIONS OF OTHERS.
Before long, we begin to understand. Some people may go away, but the relationship would have ended anyway. Some people stay and love and respect us more for taking the risk of being who we are. We begin to achieve intimacy, and relationships that WORK.
We discover that who we are has always been good enough. It is who we were intended to be.
Today, I will own my power to be myself.
Today, I will own my power to be myself.