More than anything else, we need love. There will be times when healing sucks. There will be times when painful feelings surface. There will be times when a relief is not enough. There will be times when we know a relief does hot heal us. These are times we need love. We need love to survive, and we need love to grow. We need love to heal. We need healing love. All human beings are fragile - especially emotionally. We become whole when we find healing love, but the way to it goes through discovering our fragility. We can face our fragility in circumstances where we can lower our defenses and stop fighting against being beaten. It is not that other people want to beat us. Probably they think that they love us or like us, and often they think that they know what is good for us. They want to help us the best way they can. Yet they may have their wounds, and if they are not conscious of them, their wounds keep breaking themselves and other people into pieces. Good will is not the same as healing love. Love manifests itself in actions, and not in thoughts.
What, then, is love? We are addicts because we were not loved, because some essential elements of love were missing when we needed them. We may have a distorted view of what love is. We may expect something that love is not. We may yearn for love that does the healing for us, or we may yearn for love that pushes us to healing. In order to heal, we need love that accepts, love that forgives, love that encourages and love that believes in us.
Love accepts us exactly as we are. We have no need to pretend. We know that we are always welcome, just because we are we. Such love is always a gift. There is nothing we can do to earn it. We see a smile when it sees us. It is delighted to see us and to hear our voice. Whether we are clean or dirty, happy and joyous or sad and depressed, we are welcome. There is no pressure towards our person or personality. It never abandons us, and we know it. We are safe. We can rest. We can play and have fun. We can weep and be angry. Whatever we do, it stays with us.
Love knows the difference between our person and our actions. If we do something 'wrong', it realizes that our actions were not correct. Then it forgives. No shaming, no arguing, nothing. Love may let us know that we have wronged, but it also lets us know that our actions are forgiven. Love may forgive without letting us know that we did something incorrect. It tolerates our actions, and it has no reservations about us as persons. Love may fail to do so, but then it seeks for our forgiveness. There is a compassionate sense of human fallibility. There is freedom to grow through trial and error.
When we are depressed, it comforts us. When we are sad, it understands us. Love laughs and weeps with us, but it also does more. It shows us that there is something more to do than to merely weep. Then it lets go of us. It just lets us know. Then it is silent, but in such a way that we know we can get support when we need. It does not push us. It is like a mirror that shows us what is missing in our life. It sees our pain, but it also sees beyond our pain. If we are lazy, it lets us see our laziness, without blame or shame. It does this every time it thinks we need to notice our laziness. If it knows that we are aware of our laziness, it is silent. It lets us see the other side of ourselves, with acceptance and kindness. It acknowledges that we are free individuals, and it does not try control us. This kind of love has no hidden agendas.
Love believes in us
Love sees further than the present moment. Love sees our unfulfilled potential. Love dreams beautiful dreams. Love awakens our dreams. It sees the beauty in us that is now hidden. It sees us as a flower about to bloom. It understands that we will bloom by ourselves. It realizes that only we know what the flower will be like. It does not try to force us towards a goal, but it lets us find our own goals. Whatever our goals are, it believes in them and stays beside us on the journey. It does not impose its own goals on us. Love lets us fail, trusting that we will learn and grow through our lessons. It does not try to prevent us from failing, except when it thinks we are in a danger. Love lets us find our own way, and it follows us on that way. If our dreams and goals are different, it delights in the richness of diversity. It respects our beauty. It does not indulge in selfish behavior with us. It resists the temptations that we, or our addiction, might provoke. It believes in our true best.
Did we experience such elements of love? We are addicts, and not without reason. Something essential was missing. Elements of violence, hatred, shaming and rejection were present, instead. We may be reluctant to admit it, or we may be furious and resentful. My home - if I had a home: before I left home, I had lived in at least 18 different places - was dysfunctional. Letter to Dad, My Childhood, Regressions and Not My Fault are texts where I acknowledge some aspects of my childhood.
We did not learn to be loved. We did not learn to love. Our concept of love may be heavily distorted. So are our feelings towards love. We may fear love - at the same time desperately desiring to be loved. To be loved requires us to surrender to love. Love does not set such requirements towards us. It awaits us, but we have to do our own part. It lets us know that it waits, and it even comes close to us and stays with us. But we have to take the last step. If we never uncover what we really are, we can not experience being accepted as ourselves. If we don't tell that we lied, we can not experience forgiveness. If we never reveal our goals, we can not experience support. The final step is ours. But how can we take such a risk? Where do we find such love?
Four Kinds of People
In order to be loved, we need lovers. One of the most important lovers are we ourselves, but we need also other people. If we do not experience being loved by other people, our relations suffer much, and we suffer much. We need love that deals with our core issues and love that deals with our surface issues. We need love that helps us through one moment and love that that remains with us for a long time. We also need to identify people who can help us to move forward, so that we have realistic expectations and we do not hurt others or ourselves. I try to describe some facets of our relationships with other people, using very rudimentary categories. Below is a table that describes four kinds of people. The names of the categories are just more or less general labels that help us in defining them later.
2. Safe anyone
4. Safe friends
We may yearn for love and acceptance so desperately that our expectations are unrealistic. We reveal ourselves to unsafe people who reject us and despise us - to people who do not understand us. After such experiences, we once again assure ourselves that we are somehow defective. We may unconsciously search for the concept of love we are used to, only to find shaming and rejection. We may have no idea of what 'safe' love is, or we may have experienced it for a few times and we are restlessly trying to re-experience it with unsafe people and in unsafe circumstances. We may behave in unsafe ways that repulse even the ones who would like to stay with us.
Terms 'surface issue' and 'core issue' are not related to their importance. Core issues are those directly related to our personality on deep levels, and surface issues are issues that could be related to anyone. To learn to know our childhood wounds is our core issue. Buying a book that deals with childhood wounds may be an important part of our healing, but anyone could do that. It is a surface issue. Discussing specific events of our childhood and their effects on us is a core issue, and discussing the meaning of painful childhood in general is a surface issue. Yet we may learn much during those general discussions. When we discuss our core issues with someone, we let them see deep in our own personal core of existence and in our wounds. Surface issues are topics anyone could speak of. Our physical needs (clothes, food, sleep, rest, etc.) are surface issues, unless some of them are our problems. We could not live without them. They are important.
Who, then, are 'safe' and 'unsafe' people? Safe people are those who listen to us, and after hearing us they don't reject us. They are not afraid of us or our core issues. Core issues are not necessarily our addictions only. They include the driving forces: our pain, our childhood experiences, our sense of defectiveness, our lack of self-worth, and so on. We may also need someone to talk to about our addiction, but certainly not too many. One will do.
People who shame us, who blame us or ridicule us are not safe to talk to. People whose words and behavior contradict each other, are not safe, since they are dishonest - probably not only to us, but also to themselves. They don't know how to love us or anyone else, and they don't know how to love themselves. People generally treat others in the same way they treat themselves. They may become safe if they heal, but it is completely their own issue. We do not blame them, shame them or judge them. We accept them. They do not want to be unsafe, and many times they think they love us. In their hearts they may really like us and love us, but their wounds get in their way. If they are in pain, they probably are more concerned of themselves than of us, and they want to ‘heal’ us in such way that they would experience less pain. Love is not an attitude. It is a mind-set, but it becomes manifest through actions - through speech and works.
An alcoholic father may well think that he loves his children, although he actually breaks their hearts into pieces. Severely wounded souls who never learnt to love themselves can not communicate healing love, no matter how hard they tried. They can perform single acts of kindness, but unfortunately those actions often arise from their shame or self-pity. In their ‘loving’ actions they may actually seek our approval, and they may treat us rudely if we do not appreciate them. They are our brothers and sisters, and they are worth of much love. As we heal, we can communicate love to them, but it may take a long time before we can do so, and our main concern now is to heal ourselves. With them, we deal with surface issues, as lovingly as we can. Sometimes it may be necessary to detach from them and to set limits to their behavior. We do it with love, if possible, or without love, if necessary. We can not heal, or we heal slowly, if we allow such people mess with our lives. When we have been healed, we can come back. Sometimes this comeback launches their healing, sometimes they don't like the new us, but these are completely their own issues.
The categories are not constant. Anyone can become our safe friend. Generally safe people can be unsafe related to certain issues. Now, let us look at the categories in more detail.
Generally, we trust people to take care of our surface issues. We trust our doctors, our hairdressers, and personnel in restaurants. We trust that they do not harm us, that they do not poison us and that they generally do what we expect them to do. We trust that they respect us and our person. When we play physically active games, we trust that others obey the rules and they do not want to harm us. When we buy a book dealing with inner healing, the cashier helps us on our way to healing. They may not specifically love us, and occasionally they fail to respect us. In a train or in a bus we can engage in conversations about an issue that is somehow related to our healing. When we do so, we follow the rules: We do not reveal too much about ourselves; neither do the others. Our expectations should be reasonable. We don't know who they are, or whom they know. We don't want to say things that could harm us. We don't want to say things that could harm others.
When we meet a new person without knowing his background, he falls in this category. He might also be someone we will meet several times in future. He might be a new coworker, a new neighbor, or a new member in our fishing club. In that case he will move to category 3, friends.
2. Safe Anyone
These are people we expect to understand us at once. Most people dealing with inner healing belong to this category. Most therapists, writers, teachers, and so on, are safe. There are also therapists that are unsafe, who have not dealt with their own shadow issues or wounds. Anyone clever enough can begin to study psychology or psychotherapy, pass the exam, and start his own career. If we keep our eyes open, we will relatively soon see whether the elements of healing love are present or not.
Much of the healing love given by these people is not targeted specifically towards us. They hold speeches, and they write books and articles dealing with our core issues. Their love reaches us and directs us to love ourselves in new ways. They are mirrors and they produce mirrors in which we can see ourselves in different light. They help us to find our own path.
We may follow an internet newsgroup or a message board, and see that someone expresses thoughts that resonate with our healing. We engage in email exchange, and he becomes our safe anyone. Strangers we meet in group therapy or in twelve steps meetings can be our safe anyones, especially if we know that they are seeking healing from wounds similar to ours.
When I admitted to myself that I am an addict, I began to read. The website of Robert Burney was one of my favorite readings. I printed many of his writings and kept on reading and rereading them. Finally I understood on a deep level: I have been wounded in my childhood and I will be healed from my wounds. It was a time of great hope and a time of sadness. I wrote Wounded Eagle. I found compassion and love in Robert's texts, although they were not intended specifically for me.
I participated in a healing group of eleven men. It was a group planned to last for one year, and within the year we spent six weekends together. It was intended for depressed or tired men in order to shed light into their problems. It did not specifically deal with addictions, compulsions or codependence. It was a very good group, and very important to me. We discussed about childhood wounds, and I became aware of many wounds I and the other men had. I cried much and I was healed much. In the group there were two men who openly spoke about their addictions - not much but enough for me to realize I was not alone. I had no courage yet to speak about my addiction in the group, but during the year I and one of those brave men became friends. Currently we know each other's stories, and we are engaged in a group - or preferably, a friendship - of four men, which we started on our own. I look forward to our meetings every time. We are four men moving towards inner peace and joy. It is marvelous to see how all of us turn out to be more masculine and stronger in love.
The name of this category is slightly misleading. This category contains all people we have long-term relations with: friends, coworkers, relatives, and so on.
There was a time in my healing when I wanted to get in touch with my hidden anger. I already had recognized it, but I did not know how to get in touch with it. I thought music might help. I knew that a coworker listened to many sorts of music, and I thought she might have something I could use. I went to her office and asked whether she had music that might help me to experience anger. She looked at me somewhat surprised, but the next day she gave me half a dozen CDs of terror music and rage music. The music was extremely helpful. We began to discuss different feelings related to music, and feelings in general. I told her that I am dealing with my childhood issues, and she understood. Slowly we began to talk about deeper issues. Every now and then we went for a walk during lunchbreaks, and sometimes we discussed after work. I told her about my healing, and she was interested. I gave her some books and articles, and her healing started. At the moment she knows my story and I know her story. We are healing together. She has become a safe friend. When I go to work, it means a lot to me to see her cheerful smile when she sees me.
Some time ago I had discussed with another coworker about my difficulties related to a specific event. He had understood me, but it did not develop into a friendship. Some time later he had a difficult situation is his life, and he came to discuss with me. I told him about my healing. Currently he is one of the four men in our healing group.
There are other people to whom I more or less casually told that I have had difficult situations in my life or in my childhood. Some of them said, "Do not think about them. Have some fun. Forget it". Some said, "I never had such problems". Some were confused or merely quiet. They were not safe to talk to, or they just did not want to discuss such issues. Anyway, I respect their choices.
I have many friends. I have told about my healing from childhood wounds to most of them. Some of them said, "Sounds great. I would like to do that when I have time". They did not understand. Yet they can support me and I can support them on many areas of life, and we have fun together. But I do not want to reveal some aspects of my life to them. Yet, they are friends who appreciate my healing, and often we discuss some aspects of healing. These discussions are important to me, and probably also to them.
My best friend has been with me in my difficult times. He has followed my healing from the very start. There were times when I spoke and spoke, and he merely listened. Now he is on his way to healing from his childhood wounds. Some time ago his wife began to heal.
My wife has seen my whole life, and she knew there was something strange in me sometimes. I had a significant secret. I lived double life. I was dishonest, and I knew it. When I began to heal, it took a long time before I had the courage to talk about my addiction. That was the time when I wrote Take This. Before it, I had lectured her about healing for more than six months. I had told her about my childhood issues, and she had seen as I processed my sorrows, fears and terrors. I had gone through some black moments - but the darkest moments were the most healing ones. She had noticed that I changed. But how would she react? She was relieved. She knew I had a secret, and now I was on my way to be healed. Currently she is healing from her difficult childhood and adolescence. Our marriage is blossoming.
We need all kind of friends, and they need us. Some of them are safe and some are not. This is not to say that there is something missing or something defective in unsafe friendships. We are vulnerable, especially at the beginning of our healing, and it is necessary to remember it. Our child within is still weak and easily scared. Not everybody understands our wounds. Some people have their own wounds, and they may fear us. Some people don't like to discuss the shadow issues of life. They have their reasons, and we accept it. As we heal, we can help them to deal with their issues - but only if they ask for our help. One thing is sure, and I have already experienced it many times. People notice when we change. It is the best way to speak for ourselves, and such speech is real. Nobody can deny it. Such speech is natural and it emerges at rest, while we merely are ourselves. Some are delighted by the change, and they come to us. Some don't like the new us, and they tend to withdraw. Some recognize that they also should change, and they may not like the idea. Our relationships change as we heal.
4. Safe friends
There are not too many safe friends. I have one, with whom I can discard all defenses. I wrote My Friend for him. I have plenty of those who know that I am dealing with my childhood wounds. I, my best friend, and our wives had a new years party some time ago. When we talked about what were the best issues during the previous year, every one of us said, "The change in ourselves. We experience joy, peace and happiness like never before". It all started when I began to heal. I knew it. They knew it. We were happy.
We don't find safe friends. Safe friendship is built. We take risks, and the other person takes risks. As long as the elements of healing love - acceptance, forgiveness, encouragement and confidence - are present, we can be sure that the friendship deepens. It requires time together. It requires taking risks. We don't reach it with one long jump; we reach it in many small steps.
Everyone is searching for something real, something pure and honest. People are attracted to such persons. People want to become such persons. We can be sure of it. We know it by ourselves. I have seen it many times. As we heal, we become such persons and capable to love with healing love. But first we need to be loved. Our inner child needs to experience the love that was missing. Yet, one element of receiving love is loving, and seeing its effects on the other person. We can practice it in safe friendships.
My marriage is unbelievable. I mean it: I am dumbfounded when I think about my transformed relationship with my wife. It is not anymore a codependent clinging of two people to each other, each expecting to get his/hers needs met. It is a relationship of two free individuals respecting and loving each other. There is freedom to be oneself without shaming, arguing or expecting the other to change, and from this freedom springs the desire to love the other person as she or he is. There is much respect towards the other person.
How do we know who is safe to talk to?
Sometimes we have clues beforehand. People who shame us, try to control us, or ridicule us, generally are not safe. People who are dishonest, are not safe. People who speak in general terms, hiding their own personality and personal views, commonly are not safe. People who do not talk about their feelings, are not safe. They have their own wounds and they do not dare to be open. Opening ourselves up to such people will probably do more harm than good. Usually we don't know in advance who is safe. We start with surface issues. We can talk about feelings, childhood, inner healing or inner peace in general terms, and check how they react. If they understand, we can move a little bit deeper. If they follow us, they are safe at least on the current level. But they can follow us only if we are safe. If we reject them, despise or blame them, or if we try to control them, we are not safe and they do not want to deepen their relationship with us. We need to practice the elements of healing love, too.
We take small steps. We take small risks. If the other person risks with us, he is safe. If he does not take his steps, if he does not risk, he is not safe. A friendship can never be deep only on one side. The other person may want to deepen his relationship with us, but he may be afraid to do so. We must allow him to take his small steps on his own pace. Yet, we must remember that not everyone wants to choose to be our friend. We respect their choices and their attitudes towards us.
A friendship is always a gift. It can never be demanded. As soon as we begin to demand that someone should be our friend, we hamper his friendship. He may forgive us, and remain our friend, but if we constantly set demands, friendship is not possible. It becomes a controlling and demanding relationship, where people can not be themselves. They do not feel us safe. We may ask something, and sometimes we have to ask, but we must let go of the answer. Unless they have freedom to choose whether, and how, they fulfill our appeals, they do not have freedom to be themselves. We accept their answer. If it is positive, we rejoice and the friendship deepens. If it is negative, and we accept it, the friendship deepens. In case of negative answer, we have two choices: either we learn that we asked for something unrealistic, and we learn to know ourselves, or, if we are sure that we really need what we asked for, we ask someone else. If the elements of healing love are present in a friendship, there is always space for discussion and negotiation. We may present our view, and why we need something, and the other person can present his points. Both people listen and try to understand each other. Together we might find a solution that is not exactly as we expected, but if we think it might work, we accept it, and we are thankful for our friendship.
There are also one-directional safe relationships. Usually they involve therapists, peers, leaders or people dedicated to helping others. They understand our needs, and they expect nothing on our side. Actually, this is not true. They expect that we surrender to them. They expect that we are willing to learn and willing to be loved. They expect that we want to be helped. They understand that there are times and issues when we don't want to do so. But if we constantly reject their ideas and their help, we can not be helped. We need to surrender. We need to trust. We may be reluctant or afraid to do so, and we may have very good reasons. If they are safe persons, the elements of healing love are evident in their behavior, and they do not try force us to surrender, because surrender can not be forced. Rather, they accept that we were not ready to deal with the issues. Then our issue is that we are afraid of something, or reluctant to deal with something. It is common that our real issues are hidden from our own eyes. Otherwise we would have dealt with them. If we are not willing to surrender, then we should ask ourselves, what do we really want from this relationship. Sometimes the answer is that we would like them to solve our problems, so that we could go on living our life as before. Sometimes it is necessary that they solve some of our problems. But our goal is to become healed from our dysfunctional way of living. Unless we become healed, we will pile up new problems, and we will not find peace. We have to change and heal internally. Mere solving of our problems does not heal us.
Lack of Support
Don't expect other people to understand you. They can not, unless they are the rare ones who know what recovery is. When I began to heal, many people thought that something had gone awry. I did not participate anymore in the dysfunctional, pretending, lifestyle of the society. What was deep within me came to the surface, and I was happy of it. Others were not, since they could not cope with it. Neither could I, but I was sure I will learn, as I did. Healing takes anything between two to seven years, and we will hit the bottom many times. We will also experience moments of bliss. Our lives will have many ups and downs on its way to the final up. Other people will at first react with compassion and empathy, and they wonder why we seem to be stuck in the same issues over and over again. Their empathy will change to confusion and lack of understanding. They may wish to understand us, but they will move from 'understanding' to confusion, to denial and to helplessness. At first they may be there with us, but soon they realize that our issues are out of their ability to deal with. They will abandon us, not because they want to, but because they can not understand what is happening inside us. We change and we heal, but to them we are a hopeless mystery.
As we finally emerge as new persons, the best they can do is to forget what happened - and they will. They can not share the joy of being a new person, and even in the end they will not understand what we went through. They will see the new us, but they have no explanations. The best we can do is to allow us to be ourselves, and let others be themselves. They will be confused, and their well-intended support feels to us mostly as an indication of lack understanding and compassion. They may tell us to forget when we need to push on. They may tell us to laugh when we need to cry. Believe in yourself, and let other people say what they say. They don't know which kind of person they are speaking to, and they don't know what we need. We know, and other recovered people know. We are not alone. Push on.
An average healthy mind without experience in healing of painful inner child can not understand the depth of our wounds, and what it means to be an obsessive person or an addict. We go back to our childhood or to the unfortunate events that we have not dealt with, and we re-experience their pains. We will be healed deep within, while other people expect merely a change of behavior. No way. We will not go back to the trap of wearing masks.
In the beginning of my recovery, I wanted to talk and explain what is happening to me and in me. This kind of 'compulsive' talking is often present in the early phase. As we heal and gain healthy boundaries, we naturally become selective on what we say and to whom we say. We learn to speak constructively and to people who can help us or to people who we can help. We learn to be ourselves and not to explain ourselves. We are what we are, and there is no need to explain - or apologize - what we are. If other people want to know, they ask. We let them ask.
Our Higher Power
Our friends cannot always be with us. We may have very little love towards ourselves. We may be unsure, we may despise ourselves, and we may feel depressed. Our minds may dwell in the painful events of history, in our defectiveness, or they concentrate on future events. We may think nobody really cares of us. It is not true. We are children of life, and life loves us. We are children of the universe, and the universe loves us. We are children of a Higher Power, and our Higher Power loves us.
We need to be able to trust that if, and when, we let go of the future events, they will unfold in a good way. We need our Higher Power. I found Him. You may find Her. You may find It. You may also find Him. When I write about my Higher Power, I am honest to myself. I write about God, and I write about him. You may use your own names.
What, then, is Higher Power? You can read many stories written by healing people and healed people. They all involve Higher Power. For some, their Higher Power is Force. For some, it is Person. We use different names and concepts, yet we all talk about the same Source of Love. He does not exist because we need him. He exists apart of our needs and cravings. He exist to love us, not because of us, but because he is Love. He is the one we ultimately belong to. We may feel ourselves now isolated and lonely, but in him there is no isolation.
He is always with us. He is always on our side, and his love is Healing Love. He is the one who gives events of life to us, and he gives us the freedom to respond in our way. He has a Plan for us. It is not a strict plan we have to follow - it is not such a plan that failing to follow it would lead us to misery. It is a plan where every element of our life ultimately turns out good - even our 'failures'. I appreciate my life. I appreciate everything I went through. I appreciate my childhood, and my years in fear, shame and pain. Without those times I would not be what I am now - a healer. I say it without self-pride. I merely admit what happens around me, and in the lives of people I have close fellowship with. I have learned many issues that can be learned only by living them through. I have learned what love means, and what it means to be without love. I know what peace is, and I know what restlessness is. When I thank my Higher Power for all of this, tears of joy and happiness fall on my cheek.
Often our prayer to our Higher Power is "Help me to move forwards", or "Show me the way". We are anxious and painful in the present moment and want to go to a moment of peace. It was my prayer for a long time. When cosmic consciousness began to emerge, my prayer changed: "Help me to stay in the present moment". He heard my prayers, and now I am at rest.
We may have learned that God is punitive and demanding. It may be how we really think and feel, but in that case our experience is perverted. People around us had a perverted concept of Higher Power. Our feelings are largely based on our experiences, and they are always true for us, even if they are based on lies. Our feelings are real. There is no need to pretend. If we do not like the concept of Higher Power we have learned, it is because of our distorted concept. Who would like a shaming and demanding Higher Power that does not care of us? I would not. If we have learned to know a punitive Father God, we might search for the Loving Mother or the Force of Love. We might also accept that our higher Power is our Father, but we had a perverted concept of him.
We learn to trust to our Higher Power slowly. Real trust develops; it is not invented. We need trust in order to be able to pray the Serenity Prayer. We can also pray without trust, and see how our Higher Power answers. Without a loving Higher Power, twelve steps programs would be nonsense. Without God my life would have very little meaning. I cannot do much to help you in search of your Higher Power. I could tell stories, and in fact I am telling you one right now. This book is My Story. It is a story of healing, a story of love and peace. It is a story where misery is in the service of Ultimate Love. It is a story about loving Higher Power. It is a story of love and healing, and a story of goodness and hope.
Out of Pain