I want a relief. I want a moment of forgetfulness. When it is over, I despise myself. When it is over, I tell myself never to repeat it. I want to stop. I cannot stop. I do not want to stop. I want to forget. I do not want to forget. I do not know what I want. The only thing I am sure of is my despair. I would like to be somewhere else, doing something else.
I am an addict. My restless mind is driving me. Good. Bad. Extremely bad. I have known it for a long time, but I have not admitted it to myself. This is a moment of humiliation, and a moment of truth. How can I be one of those who cannot control their feelings? I was supposed to be strong. I would like to decide, and be free. I would like to have only small problems of life, which I could solve with sheer willpower, and then be done with them. I already knew - at least on the intellectual level - that compulsive behavior is driven by internal pain. I knew that many people have been healed, not by fighting against what can not be fought against, but by facing and letting go of their pain.
Yes, I had some pain I was aware of. Not much. I had made a mistake, and I did not know how to solve it. It was not my fault. I was only misunderstood - I thought. I knew I was sometimes afraid of people. I was restless. I knew my childhood was unhappy. So? I began to read. I went to therapy, not because I wanted to talk about my addiction, but to solve the mistake I had made, and to continue with my life as it was. Yet, I wanted to learn to know the pain I was supposed to have. I kept on reading, and slowly I began to understand. At that time, I had already stopped denying my addiction. I admitted it.
I am one of those who cannot control themselves. I am one of those I used to despise. Yet, I am one of those who I understand. This is where I started. This is where we start. We are ourselves. What else could we be? We are ashamed of ourselves, yet we know we are good human beings worthy of love and acceptance. We are worthy and respectable. We are addicts, and there are millions of us, among all professions and among all groups of society. Admitting it places us at the start of healing. We are addicts not because we want to be such, but because it is the product of the only way for us to survive experiences so painful that they endangered our very existence. We still bear the pain of the experiences, and we are not at rest. We can not rest in the now, and we would like to be somewhere else, doing something else, and experiencing something else that could bring us joy even for a short while.
Our wounded child within controls us because he was not loved and accepted, and because of the toxic shame that was given to us when we could not say no. We did not even know what happened to us, and there was not a single way to refuse. We became compulsive since our pain was too much for us to handle when we received it. It was not our fault. It was given to us gradually, and there was nothing we could do. We were given much pain, and nobody told us how to let go of it. We were not allowed to be vulnerable human beings. The only choice we had was to hide our pain, and we hid it within ourselves. It did not go away, and it did not fade away during all the years between then and now. We were not allowed to release the feelings of hurt when we were children, or when a traumatic event or events occurred. Nobody cried with us. They told us that we should not feel what we feel. Our pain was rejected. We were rejected. We were not loved as individuals who experienced pain. We were not allowed to be ourselves. When we were small, out hearts were completely open towards our parents, but they closed it little by little. It is not that they wanted to do so. Their attitudes towards us probably were loving, but they had their wounds. They gave us a heritage, the one that they had.
Around the age of seven, I began to have nightmares. One of them was extremely frightful: There are two kinds of bogeymen. One is the hairy, dirty and fearful kind that lives in the forests. The other kind is a human bogey, who on the outside looks like a human being, but in the inside he is a bogey. Once in the life of a human bogey, the real bogeys gather in a circle around the human bogey, and then one of the real bogeys looks in his eyes. Then they just return to the forest. After this, everybody knows that he is not a human being, but a human bogey. I saw how the bogeys slowly approached me in a queue, and I tried to hide. Wherever I went, they found me and one of them looked in my eyes. This dream was a powerful manifestation of the sense of inner defectiveness, of not belonging to human race, of the shame that I felt already then. Although the bogeys did not want to harm me, this dream was the most terrible of my nightmares. The shame of being me, and not being human, was horrible. I was just a child, but I had been given tremendous shame that would drive me for many years to come.
A man who is on his way to healing, told me about a nightmare he had some time ago: In the dream he was a grown-up man appearing to be very strong and masculine, yet his penis was that of a little boy. He said it was a horrible dream. It was horrible, because it was a physical materialization of the inherent defectiveness. There was no threat from the outside. The horror was he, and he could do nothing to fix himself. He was inherently defective, and he deserved to be rejected. He had no means to live as a normal man. He had no means to experience the fulfilling of the dreams of every masculine man, and he could not earn his position as a man on earth. He was a human bogey, a miserable failure. He could pretend to be a real man as long as he kept other people at a distance - but he knew who he was. He had to hide his true self in order to look like a man in the eyes of other people.
Deep in the inside we experienced and continue to experience rejection and shaming. We were not accepted as ourselves, with our painful feelings that we faced when we were children. We learned not to accept ourselves and our feelings. The reality in which we lived denied them. We found another way. We found a world of our own, our safe place where we found relief. Another consciousness was, or many of them were, born in our minds. We found a way to survive, but we paid a high price for the environment that drove us there. We took care of ourselves, since nobody else did. That was necessary. That was necessary then. Now we are adults. The painful experiences have gone away. Adults cannot be rejected in the same way as children. We will not die when left alone. We can take care of ourselves. Our secret world driven by pain is not necessary anymore, but we cannot leave it. We have tried and we know it. We have become prisoners of our own minds. Deep within us is a painful inner child who was rejected. We know how much we despise ourselves, and when pretending in order to hide our shameful selves, we reject ourselves. He, our real self, wants to come back to life. Actually, he is so much alive that we can not control him. Every now and then he breaks free from his prison and lives openly for a while, no matter how hard we try to push him back. We will find him, and we will set him free.
Our shame has led us to isolate ourselves - our true selves - from other people. The desire to belong, without being able to truly belong, is slowly increasing our pain. We were rejected - we were not allowed to belong as ourselves. Yet belonging is one of our basic needs, and cosmic belonging is really an awesome experience, since it fulfills this need in an ultimate way - and at rest. The quest for belonging through shame-based behavior is pain on top of pain, since it only causes isolation and additional shame. When there is shame, there is no belonging, and in belonging there is no shame. We are doomed in endless misery - and the only way we know to escape our misery is to add more misery. Within our consciousness, one or more sub-consciousnesses take a hold over us when we face internal or external pain. They have very little in common with the 'normal' everyday consciousness, since their purpose is to escape the reality too painful to us - and thanks to them, we survived. They store much more pain and shame than we could now think of. They are whole worlds of their own, and we are beginning to explore them.
Our inner child is our true self - our creative, playful, careless, innocent and happy self. He was not allowed to be such. Our parents did not accept such a child. They wanted something else. Yet, our inner child can not pretend. He is always open, always honest, always loving. He cries when he feels sadness, and he smiles when he is happy. For us, this was not allowed. We built a false self and learned to pretend, in order to hide what we were and what we felt. By now, we know how restless we are, but there is no other way for us to be. Actually, I did not know how distorted concept of self I had until I began to heal. I did not live my life. Instead, I lived according to vague perceptions of what I thought other people expected of me and what I expected of myself. My real self had gone into hiding, and very little of the real me was left.
Something within us is yearning for beauty, freedom and wisdom. We long for truth, love and meaning. Our inner child is not dead. We hunger for so much, and we can realize so little. We want to love. We want to belong. There is so much good in us. We do not want to harm anyone. We are human. We can be strong in many areas of life, but we are also vulnerable. We are not bad. Our child within is severely wounded and terrified. We are worth of much love and acceptance. We did not get love when we needed love, but we will find it now. The whole universe is on our side. We will find the universe of love, universe in which we belong, a world of peace and the universe of peace. We will find a world in which we don't have to pretend. Our false self will die, but slowly and with much pain.
Acceptance means that we experience ourselves as good enough human beings, right now, right here, as we are. We accept that we are real, that our perceptions and feelings are real. We accept that our feelings communicate something essential about ourselves: there is something painful within. There is something real within. Our feelings do not appear without reason. They have very good reasons to be there. We give them a permission to exist: It is okay to have painful feelings. It is okay to long for relief from them. Our addiction saved us and enabled us to continue to live in a painful and emotionally dishonest environment.
We were told that our feelings were wrong. "You should not feel that way. Can't you see how much I love you? Shame on you". Do not trust your feelings. Hide them. Pretend that they do not exist. Do not express them. Live against them. We learned our lessons very well. We hide our pain inside until we cannot bear it and our inner self wants a relief - the too familiar addictive relief. After the relief, we keep repeating our lesson: shame on you. Sometimes we only wish to be somewhere else, doing and experiencing something else, longing only for the next moment that could make us forget our pain. During those times, our pain is about to surface, and we do anything to keep it within. Our inner child knocks on the door of his prison, but we have no time to stop to listen. We do not want to stop. We cannot stop.
Accepting painful feelings is difficult and - painful. We have learned to hide the messages of our inner child with a number of ways. When 'bad feelings' emerge, we can cope with them at least in the following ways:
What is common in all of the above ways is the increase in separation from other people and increased loss of belonging in the world. We are also separated from ourselves, eventually in such a way that we may lose all feelings and enter a state of numbness. In this state we are not free of our feelings - quite the contrary. Our hidden feelings take over and cause us to behave in ways we can not understand. We can not control our addictions because we deny a large part of ourselves. If our inner selves remain hidden, we do not understand our reactions. Instead, we tend to say, "I don't know what happened to me. I don't know why I did it". We may say, "This is the way I am", without knowing what we mean. We do not want to think of it. We do not want to know ourselves - at the same time we desperately yearn for understanding.
If we had a physical painful wound, would we treat it with any of the ways above? We do not say, "My arm hurts, but I am going to drink until I don't feel it. My leg bleeds, but I think of my head, which is okay. I have pain in my stomach, but I pretend it is not there. My wrist aches all the time, but I change the world in such a way that it is normal for a wrist to ache". If we see someone who has hit his leg with an axe, we do not say, "Do not think about it. Tomorrow we go sailing and have some fun", or "What a terrible mistake you have done! You are so unskillful", or "It does not matter. It will heal by itself", or "That is nothing. I have experienced much worse things. Forget it". In case of a physical wound, we accept the wound and look at it, exactly as it is. Before we do anything, we want to understand what has happened, and we want to learn to know the wound as well as we can.
The first thing to keep in mind is that we do not try to change ourselves. We do not concentrate on our addiction. We do not try to control something that cannot be controlled. It is not that important. What is important is the pain within. If we try to remove the effects of the driving force without removing the force, we merely waste our time and efforts. We already know it. Compulsive disorder is exactly what it is - a disorder. Our perception of the reality and/or ourselves is distorted, and we can heal only by healing the disorder. Addiction is a product of the disorder, and the disorder is a product of the distorted environment in which we grew. We were given a distorted view of what a human being is. Our parents and peers did not model us a healthy way of being human, but they gave us a false way instead - the one that they had. Now it is the time for us to heal and to find our true humanness.
When we think, "I want to change myself on this matter", we actually say, "I do not accept this issue in myself, so I had better to change it". Why would we want to change it? There may be good reasons, but they are revealed only after studying the matter in peace and acceptance. If we come to the conclusion too soon and not in rest, we are running away from essential questions. We run away because of fear, shame and rejection. We are ashamed of ourselves. We do not accept ourselves, but we run away in horror. We think we are defective and somehow more deficient than other people. We think that something within ourselves is fundamentally improper and shameful. We think that we do not deserve to be accepted as ourselves, without changing. Many times, I had to reassure myself of this fact: Healing is not a process where one changes oneself. Healing is a process where one becomes changed through acceptance. Accepting our compulsions as good, and ourselves as good enough, gives us rest. We survived by storing our pain in the inside, and now the time has come to let go of it. We have become strong enough. We cannot change if we fight against ourselves. We can, and we will, change when we fight for ourselves.
Sometimes we want to change because we ache for beauty in ourselves. We want to love and to be compassionate. We want to belong. We wish to be free and wise. These are good and beautiful motives - yet they can spring from despair, self-pity and rejection. Now we rest. Healing is a process in which we find our lost inner child in all his beauty and in all his pain. We will find ourselves. We will find our beautiful, free and lively self, but only when we strip away the layers of denial piled up by our protective false self, whose main purpose is not to accept our inner child and his feelings.
We begin to accept ourselves by saying, "I am good enough right here where I am now. I am loved, and I am lovable". This can be strange at first after all the negative messages we have given ourselves. At first it suffices to act as a neutral observer or scientist that just observes the facts of our life without shaming: I am afraid, I am happy, I feel restless, I am excited, I cursed at someone, I kicked a stone, and so on. Then we say to ourselves, "That was me", without criticizing what we did or how we did it. We start right where we are. It is the best we can do. It is the only right thing to do. We do not want to hide from ourselves anymore. We have had enough of it. When we do our best, we are good. When we are too tired to do our best, we are good.
We may have lost the connection to our inner world in such a way that we donít know how we feel. However, it is more common that our true feelings are masked by other feelings. We have learned to pretend to ourselves. We may think that we feel anger when actually we feel fear or shame, or we may think that we are restless when we are afraid, and so on. Shame, anger and fear are common masks for other feelings. So is addiction. Sometimes it is our Ultimate Mask that hides everything else. When we rush from one experience to another, restlessness is all we know of ourselves. We also know that if we stop, we begin to feel miserable. But we do not let ourselves know that we know. We deny our denial. Otherwise, we could not live in denial. It would be impossible to live if we continuously said to ourselves "I deny my pain", because in that case we would be aware of our pain. We may have learned to deny our feelings to such an extent that we cannot name them, or we give them wrong names. If we don't know how we feel, we can observe our behavior: I kicked, I cursed, I yelled, I gambled, I was silent, and so on. Then we accept it: that was I. Later we start seeing the feelings behind these behaviors. It might take some time but we will arrive at it through acceptance.
Acceptance is the first and the most important step. Without acceptance, we do not want to listen to the messages arising from our inner self but tend to react at once in order to chase them away as soon as they appear. There are two kinds of messages: joyful ones and painful ones. We will learn to listen to and accept both of them.
Joyful messages appear when we get away from the painful reality. After we have neglected ourselves for long enough, our inner self realizes himself through addictive behavior, and we reconnect to our inner child for a while. This brings relief - a short-term relief that is lost very quickly because of the new layer of shame and denial accumulated during the cycle. After the relief we despise ourselves, despising the short-lived manifestation of our inner child. During each repetition, we become more distant to our inner selves, losing our acceptance in a very painful way. We become automates that do the same thing over and over again, despising ourselves on every repetition and in between. At times, we do not let ourselves know that we are feeling shame. In that case, we begin to long for a new relief at once after the current one. We escape ourselves, knowing that if we stop, we begin to feel miserable. We only wish to be somewhere else. These are the times we do not dare to stop. At other times we may use anger to hide our shame, fear and pain Ė and the whole world knows that everything is its fault.
Painful messages are just those - painful, fearful, sad, scary, and shameful. Slowly we learn to respect them and place great value on them, since they tell us that we are not doing well. How often we run away from them, wanting to suppress the most important messages we have ever heard! To sit down and let the pain flow, while listening to it and encouraging it to emerge is not easy. It can be done only in a loving and accepting attitude. It can be done only when we trust the healing process. The way to light goes through darkness. Actually, the darkness is not new. It was there within us all the time. The only difference is that finally we acknowledge it. At last, we say to ourselves, "Yes, I was right. Everyone told me to forget it, that I was wrong, that I should not feel rejected and despised. But I was right. My feelings were real".
One of the first really painful messages that I stopped to listen to was my fear of other people that was behind pleasing them. When I accepted the fear and allowed myself to be aware of it, I could not leave my home for two weeks, except for short walks in the woods. When I went in a cafeteria for coffee, I gave myself permission to be afraid, and I was scary. When I accepted my fear, it surfaced with such a power that it really hit me. Yet I was used to working with people and participating in international conferences - I did not think I was that afraid of people. Most of the people I have met told me that they considered me as an open and compassionate person. But I knew I had a secret, which was that I am not a good enough human being. My original shame accumulated new shame. I was not open. It was enough to cause fear and disconnection, which accumulated every time I knew I was lying and pretending. There was a lot of it. The surfaced fear lasted for two weeks, but then it was released. The period ended as suddenly as it started, and never since have I been afraid of other people. At times I may be sad or broken because of other reasons, but the fear has gone away. I would not have believed it unless I experienced it.
Every joyful message from within tells us that we feel good. Every painful message from within tells us that we do not feel good. Now it is the time for us to stop to listen to these messages. We may be ashamed of ourselves - and quickly assure ourselves that someday we will be able to control our lives. We may hide behind pride or fear and say, "This is the way I am", not in order to understand ourselves, but in order not to think of ourselves. We may even participate in a training program in order to avoid painful feelings or loss of control. I did so many times. When we try to suppress and control our feelings, we escape the messages that our feelings try to tell us about ourselves. It is what we are used to. It is rejection. Acceptance lets us know how we feel. Acceptance lets us admit that our reactions and behavior are not caused by anything outside of us - they emerge from within. The goal is not to change ourselves, but to accept and understand ourselves. This means that in the end we stop looking at ourselves through the eyes of false expectations and start looking at ourselves through compassionate eyes. We start paying attention to our internal messages and not to our thoughts about what they should be. Unless we do this, we are not free to accept other people as they are, but that is not important right now. What is important now is that unless we accept ourselves, we will not accept ourselves - and we will live a life of rejection, shame and despair. We will continue to run away from ourselves. We will not find peace.
A part of the acceptance, especially in the beginning, is that we do not accept ourselves entirely. Our acceptance is imperfect. We accept also our imperfect acceptance. We accept ourselves as incomplete. When we accept ourselves as imperfect humans, we perfectly accept our humanness. If we have given ourselves negative messages for a long time, our inner self is not used to our love and respect. It can feel clumsy and strange at first. Our inner child is not used to hearing positive and affirming messages. He does not believe us. We reach acceptance slowly, but we cannot reach it if we expect perfection. There will be times when we do not want to accept ourselves. We accept that, too.
We accept our compulsive mind with great value, because it is a product of taking care of ourselves in a dysfunctional environment. We had to escape the world that did not love and accept us. It was a great gift. Our inner self was not allowed to release his pain, and our addiction remained as a tool for us to find relief. Now we are adults and the painful events are history, but our pain has not disappeared. It will never disappear by itself. We can face the pain that is driving our addiction, but we can face it only in acceptance, keeping the following in mind: We do not try to change anything. We just want to understand ourselves and be kind to ourselves. Only this starting point sets us in such a peace that we can listen to ourselves.
Addictions are not always negative or shameful - on the surface level. Many addictions are generally considered as 'bad': alcoholism, sex, gambling, violence, drugs, eating disorders, and so on. In addition, the 'good' addictions like work, sport, art, reading, music, etc., produce shame when we cannot control them. Even if we do not recognize the shame, they block our feelings and prevent us from healing. With little honesty, they can be recognized as addictions: we cannot live without them, and we become tense and frustrated until we can return to them for a relief. We also aggressively defend our rights to participate in them. If anyone dares to criticize them, we strike back in fury. We want to forget our pain by doing something. We can not rest.
Every time when we get an automatic message telling ourselves that we should change, and then try to change ourselves, we communicate rejection to ourselves. We actually say that we do not accept ourselves just as we are, and we escape to a quick fix without understanding ourselves. Eventually we really might need to change, but only acceptance can open our eyes to new possibilities and give us freedom to choose such a way to change that really works for us. However, it is very probable that we do not need to try to change our behavior after acceptance, since acceptance leads to revealing of the real cause of our behavior: pain of an open wound - frozen pain of our inner child. Healing the pain will change our behavior by itself. This requires patience - something that we do not own. Patience arises during and after acceptance. Our pain is so huge that living with it requires instant gratification at once when it surfaces. That is okay. As we heal, we learn to appreciate and enjoy delayed gratification, and we will find great joy in it. We will see that it heals us.
For us, the reality is extremely painful. There is no way we could accept it all at once without wanting to make a suicide. Acceptance emerges slowly while the pain is released. At first we accept our addiction as a product of a dysfunctional, dishonest and hostile environment. We respect it. We say to ourselves, "I am happy I survived". We accept our powerlessness over our addictions. We do not try to change our behavior. In the process of healing, we will find our emotional pain. When the pain is released, our addiction loses its driving force and it will die. Our behavior will be changed on the inside and not on the outside. We will be healed. We will find peace within. We will find true peace that is not held together by our willpower. We will find peace that merely exists within us at rest.
We can be extremely harsh and unloving towards ourselves - we expect perfection. We do not dare to fail, since failing produces additional pain, and we already carry enough pain. We were not allowed to fail. We learned that if we fail, we are a failure. We did not learn to love ourselves, because we were not told that we are lovable and good enough even when we fail. We did not receive unconditional love and acceptance but rejection and shaming instead - that is why we reject and shame ourselves. Healing begins with the first realization that maybe, just maybe, I am lovable, right now, right here, as me, with all of my pain, and when I fail.
We start by saying to ourselves, "I am good enough. I love myself with the tiny drop of love I have. I respect myself. I respect my addiction that proves my inner child is not dead. He is very much alive, actually so much that I cannot control him. I want to listen to him and release him from his prison. I love him. He is safe within me already now".
Our addiction is our happiness and our misery. In it, we find relief and excitement. In it remains much pain. It accumulates new pain. It is a significant part of our life. Who would willingly give away a significant part his of life, especially if it is replaced only with emptiness - or bad feelings? We must find a joy greater than the one we already know. We will find it, and it is not far from us. In the end, we will find joy that merely stays with us.
Accept. Do not try to change yourself. Rest. Relax. You have tried enough. If you think your addiction will not severely harm you or anyone else within a year, accept it. Otherwise, seek help at once. Accept your life. Love is not the ends we seek as consequences of our actions; it is the means to bring about its own realization. Hatred cannot produce love. Violence and shame do not produce love. Acceptance does. Compassion and mercy do. Ends are always the product of the means. More than anything else, we need love and acceptance. We accept. We love. We may hate and reject ourselves now, but we will find our way to love and acceptance. We will see that everything in us needs to be loved and accepted. We understand that compulsive behavior is the instrument of our inner child for handling his pain. It is was given to us when there was no way for us to say no. There was no way. We do not shame ourselves. We appreciate ourselves. We bear pain that we have not yet been able to let go of, and that pain does not belong to us. It belongs to those who gave it to us. We are good, and worth of much attention. We are worth of our own attention, and our attention will heal us.
Out of Pain