Let’s just start with one of my oldest narratives that can continually play on repeat in the back of my head: “I’ll never be good enough.”
I have others, too. Like, “Good things won’t happen to me.” Or, “This won’t work for me.”
Now, I’ve been around long enough and in the rooms long enough to know that none of these scripts are original. A good chunk of the human race is running around with these tapes running in their head all the time.
With so many people struggling with these debilitating messages you’d think we’d have universally figured out how to shut them down.
So why haven’t we?
Well, I’m not a guru, but I think one reason is, despite the fact that the messages and the feelings are quite similar, the conditions that created them for each one of us are different.
Or, at least, they FEEL different.
And that’s why I believe it can be helpful to go to the source. And I mean the source on two different levels, the source and the Source.
The first source is the experiences, and especially the people, who played a role in establishing these old narratives to begin with.
It’s important to get as clear as possible on these things.
Complete clarity, however, is usually not possible unless we take this information to the Source. The Source of healing and recovery: our Higher Power.
And I don’t mean just to pray about these things, although that can be helpful. In fact, if the source specifically involves people who have violated us, praying for them can be very helpful. I highly recommend the chapter “Freedom from Bondage” in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous for suggestions on how to pray for them.
But when I suggest we take the information we have about the source of our old narratives to the Source, I am suggesting that we also pray for ourselves.
Specifically, I suggest we ask our Higher Power to help us see these situations and these people as our Higher Power sees them.
One of the most significant sources of my old narratives was my mother.
My mother was incredibly cunning in her emotional abuse. Consequently, she was holding a lot of power over me and renting a lot of emotional space in my head.
And I felt like my mother had the most intimidating presence. She was tall, she dressed extravagantly, and when she walked into a room, she took complete command of it.
It was an Al-Anon speaker who taught me to ask my Higher Power to help me see my mother the way my Higher Power saw her.
However, I had to pray for this awareness for two years before it finally came to me. But when it did, it was nothing I could have ever imagined.
My mother had just had major surgery and was having life-threatening complications as a result of it. I had driven all night to go back home so I could be there.
When I got there, she was in bad shape. They had to keep her sedated and restrained to keep her from pulling all the tubes out that were keeping her alive so she could hopefully recover.
During this time, we discovered new crises my mother had created with her disease, and many family members, myself included, were rushing around trying to contain the damage.
After a long day of this, I was exhausted.
I hadn’t been to the hospital at all that day and I was so fed up with all her crap that I had no desire whatsoever to go visit.
But this little voice in my head, which clearly wasn’t mine, reminded me that I had gone back home to be with my mother.
So I went back to the hospital, and as I was walking through the halls back to the ICU, I just kept praying and asking my Higher Power to allow me to have compassion because I was. Sick. Of. This. Shit.
When I walked back into her hospital room, everything was exactly the same as when I had last been there.
She was tied to the bed and sprawled in a restless position. Machines were breathing for her and feeding her. Her sheets, her hair, and her hospital gown were all sweaty and disordered. Struggling, powerless, unconscious.
But in my frustration and my prayers for compassion, it finally hit me: this was how God saw her.
Nothing could have been further from the bugaboo she had always been in my head. I sobbed.
In that moment, I was granted humility, compassion, and most importantly, freedom.
I have prayed what I call the resentment prayer that I learned from reading the chapter “Freedom from Bondage” in the Big Book. And that has always lessened my resentments.
But when I asked my Higher Power to help me see my mother the way my Higher Power saw her, and when that request was finally answered, it was almost as if there was nothing to forgive.
Not that her violations hadn’t been real, but it obvious to the core of my bones that there was no other way she could have behaved. Which meant that none of the abuse was about me.
Which meant that I wasn’t stuck in shame.
I’ve still had to grieve that my mother wasn’t the mother I needed her to be. But that’s a very different thing than feeling like I wasn’t good enough to be loved.
If you read my post on legitimate anger, this is one way of getting out of those old narratives so we don’t keep interpreting things that hurt or anger us in ways that keep us stuck.
So, now I’d like to hear from you. Do you have experiences with people or situations that your Higher Power has helped you see in a different light? Or is there a situation or a person that you need help seeing the way your Higher Power sees it?
Share your experience, strength, and hope in the comments. I read every one.
I don’t know about you, but I really struggled with the spiritual basis of the Twelve Step program.
Fortunately for me, and I suspect for many of us, I was desperate.
And I was also hearing people tell my story. And for the first time, I knew I wasn’t alone.
I understand today that that experience right there IS an experience of a Power greater than myself, but I didn’t see it that way at the time.
So I want to talk about one of my blocks, just in case it could be helpful to you.
My biggest block to the spiritual basis for this program was my relationship to power. More specifically, this block was my experience with people in my life who had power over me.
Needless to say, those people did NOT use the power they had over me in loving ways.
Which meant that coming to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity was a huge leap. It was a chasm I struggled for a long time to cross.
If you’re facing this chasm, here are some suggestions for making the leap.
- Pay specific attention to people who do loving things for you.
- Write that shiz down!
- Collect all these notes in a box, or keep them all in a notebook.
Do the same thing for any kind of small blessings, and of course big miracles, that happen in your day-to-day life. Pay attention to them. Write these occurrences down. Collect them all in that same box or notebook.
Then regularly go back to that box and read them aloud.
This practice is what I call a God file. And it does wonders the for the negative subconscious messages that sabotage the spiritual work we’re trying to do in this program.
(In fact, as your coach, it’s important for me to insist on the reading aloud part, especially if you can do it with emotion – that’s what makes it so beautiful for reprogramming the subconscious!)
If you’ve ever heard of a Happiness Jar, this is a similar concept. But it’s important to call it a God File – or Higher Power File if you prefer because we’re using it to learn to trust that Power.
So, now I’d like to hear from you. What actions have you taken to help you better trust in a Higher Power? Share them in the comments below. I read every one.
As I was working on Step 3, my sponsor gave me an assignment.
She asked me to go through all the literature I had, read what it had to say on Step 3, and write down my thoughts on anything I read that resonated with me or surprised me.
Well, one of the things that surprised me was how many words there are for God in the Big Book. Creative Intelligence, Power, Spirit of the Universe, Great Reality, Presence of Infinite Power and Love.
As I recognized that all of these different expressions for “the God idea,” I, personally, realized that I liked some of them better for myself.
Other people love the word, “God,” which is fabulous.
For me, it came with a lot of baggage that I struggled to let go of.
So one thing I did that I will suggest to you, no matter what your word is, is to make a list of all these words, and others that you could speak to the idea of a Higher Power. (more…)
Maybe you already know your Higher Power has always been there, but I gotta say, I never cease to be amazed of all the ways my Higher Power shows up for me.
It’s not just that my Higher Power shows up for me, but that my HP shows up for me in ways where there’s absolutely no doubt it’s speaking to me, and only me.
As I start to recognize this, I start to see even more what the care of God might actually look like for me.
This may sound crazy, but it feels like we each have our own particular language and God can and does speak them all.
Here’s an example:
Some of you may know that I am a huge Harry Potter fan.
I grew up in a family full of alcoholism, addiction and abuse that left me feeling quite broken.
One of the first pieces of my journey towards healing was a counselor who suggested I read Harry Potter, since it was the story of a boy who was also horribly emotionally abused, and yet nevertheless had these amazing gifts to bring to the world. (more…)
Step Three suggests we “turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
My first response to reading that was “but I don’t understand Him!”
Or worse, in what little understanding I had of Him, God was actually an asshole.
So, yeah, what if we don’t really understand Him? Or worse, think he’s a colossal jerk?
Those aren’t actually fertile grounds for turning things over, are they?
Well, I’ve got a little tool that may help you. (more…)
I went to a religious school in grade school and one of the things I heard in services that stuck with me forever was: “Everything that happens to you is God’s will.”
Growing up with addiction and violence, at the time, some pretty awful things were happening to me.
So I drew two simultaneous and contradictory conclusions from this statement: 1) God was a terrorist (and a complete asshole – I mean, WTH did I ever do to him?!?!), and 2) there must be something terribly wrong with me, so God would never do good things for me.
It took me a loooonnnnggg time to get my head around the idea that my Higher Power actually cared.
I had to be backed into a corner of pain I could no longer bear, turn an incredibly frightening situation – leaving my marriage – over to him, and watch how my Higher Power took care of me in ways that totally blew me away.
My Higher Power did this in ways that made it obvious that my Higher Power specifically cared about ME, had specifically protected ME, had thought about what would be comforting and caring to ME, what would bring peace, joy and serenity to MY world.
Seriously, I was totally dumbstruck by the experience.
I honestly thought that if God was going to take care of me at all, he was only going to give me the bare minimum of what I needed. And then he was going to spitefully toss it at my feet, spitting out “Here! Are you happy now?”