What Is Co-Dependency? Who Has It?
How Did I Get It?
And Is It Catching?

Taken From The Book, "Codependence":
"The Dance of Wounded Souls",
Written by Robert Burney, therapist

Feather pen

Codependence deals with the core issues of the human dilemma. Codependence has grown out of the cause from which all symptoms arise. That cause is Spiritual dis-ease not being at ease, at one with Spiritual Self."

A Definition of Codependence

Codependence is a primary, progressive, chronic, fatal, and treatable disease which is caused by being raised in an emotionally dishonest, Spiritually hostile environment. The primary environment is the family system which is part of the larger emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional society which is part of a civilization that is based on false beliefs about the nature and purpose of being human.

Codependence is characterized by dependence on outer or external sources for self-worth and self-definition. This outer or external dependence, combined with unhealed childhood emotional wounds which get reactivated/gouged whenever an emotional "button" is pushed, cause the Codependent to live life in reaction to, give power over self-esteem to, outside sources.

Codependence is being at war with ourselves - which makes it impossible to trust and Love ourselves. Codependence is denying parts of ourselves so that we do not know who we are

"In a war, soldiers are forced to deny their emotions in order to survive. This emotional denial works to help the soldier survive the war, but later can have devastating delayed consequences. The medical profession has now recognized the trauma and damage that this emotional denial can cause, and have coined a term to describe the effects of this type of denial. That term is "Delayed Stress Syndrome." In a war soldiers have to deny what it feels like to see friends killed and maimed; what it feels like to kill other human beings and have them attempting to kill you. There is trauma caused by the events themselves. There is trauma due to the necessity of denying the emotional impact of the events. There is trauma from the effects the emotional denial has on the person's life after he/she has returned from the war because as long is the person is denying his/her emotional trauma she/he is denying a part of her/himself. The stress caused by the trauma, and the effect of denying the trauma, by denying self, eventually surfaces in ways which produce new trauma - anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse, nightmares, uncontrollable rage, inability to maintain relationships, inability to hold jobs, suicide, etc. Codependence is a form of Delayed Stress Syndrome. Instead of blood and death (although some do experience blood and death literally), what happened to us as children was spiritual death and emotional maiming, mental torture and physical violation. We were forced to grow up denying the reality of what was happening in our homes. We were forced to deny our feelings about what we were experiencing and seeing and sensing. We were forced to deny our selves. We grew up having to deny the emotional reality: of parental alcoholism, addiction, mental illness, rage, violence, depression, abandonment, betrayal, deprivation, neglect, incest, etc. etc.; of our parents fighting or the underlying tension and anger because they weren't being honest enough to fight; of dad's ignoring us because of his workaholism and/or mom smothering us because she had no other identity than being a mother; of the abuse that one parent heaped on another who wouldn't defend him/herself and/or the abuse we received from one of our parents while the other wouldn't defend us; of having only one parent or of having two parents who stayed together and shouldn't have; etc., etc. We grew up with messages like: children should be seen and not heard; big boys don't cry and little ladies don't get angry; it is not okay to be angry at someone you love - especially your parents; god loves you but will send you to burn in hell forever if you touch your shameful private parts; don't make noise or run or in any way be a normal child; do not make mistakes or do anything wrong; etc., etc. We were born into the middle of a war where our sense of self was battered and fractured and broken into pieces. We grew up in the middle of battlefields where our beings were discounted, our perceptions invalidated, and our feelings ignored and nullified. The war we were born into, the battlefield each of us grew up in, was not in some foreign country against some identified "enemy" - it was in the "homes" which were supposed to be our safe haven with our parents whom we Loved and trusted to take care of us. It was not for a year or two or three - it was for sixteen or seventeen or eighteen years. We experienced what is called "sanctuary trauma" - our safest place to be was not safe - and we experienced it on a daily basis for years and years. Some of the greatest damage was done to us in subtle ways on a daily basis because our sanctuary was a battlefield. It was not a battlefield because our parents were wrong or bad - it was a battlefield because they were at war within, because they were born into the middle of a war. By doing our healing we are becoming the emotionally honest role models that our parents never had the chance to be. Through being in Recovery we are helping to break the cycles of self-destructive behavior that have dictated human existence for thousands of years. Codependence is a very vicious and powerful form of Delayed Stress Syndrome. The trauma of feeling like we were not safe in our own homes makes it very difficult to feel like we are safe anywhere. Feeling like we were not lovable to our own parents makes it very difficult to believe that anyone can Love us. Codependence is being at war with ourselves - which makes it impossible to trust and Love ourselves. Codependence is denying parts of ourselves so that we do not know who we are. Recovery from the disease of Codependence involves stopping the war within so that we can get in touch with our True Self, so that we can start to Love and trust ourselves."

The Evolution of the Term "Codependence"

"The phenomenal growth of AA and the success of the disease concept in the treatment of Alcoholism generated the founding of treatment centers in the late 1950s and early 1960s. These early treatment centers were based on what had been successful in early AA. They focused on getting the Alcoholic sober and paid very little attention to the families of Alcoholics.

As these treatment centers matured and evolved, they noticed that the families of Alcoholics seemed to have certain characteristics and patterns of behavior in common. So they started to pay some attention to the families.

A term was coined to describe the significant others of Alcoholics. That term was "co-alcoholic" - literally "alcoholic with."

The belief was that while the Alcoholic was addicted to alcohol, the co-alcoholic was addicted in certain ways to the Alcoholic. The belief was that the families of Alcoholics became sick because of the Alcoholic's drinking and behavior.

With the drug explosion of the sixties, Alcoholism treatment centers became chemical dependency treatment centers. Co-alcoholics became co-dependents. The meaning was still a literal "dependent with," and the philosophy was much the same.

In the mid-to-late seventies, however, certain pioneers in the field began to look more closely at the behavior patterns of families affected by addiction. Some researchers focused primarily on Alcoholic families, and then graduated to studying adults who had grown up in Alcoholic families. Other researchers started looking more closely at the phenomenon of Family Systems Dynamics.

Out of these studies came the defining of the Adult Child Syndrome, at first primarily in terms of Adult Children of Alcoholics and then expanding to other types of dysfunctional families.

Ironically this research was in a sense a rediscovery of the insight which in many ways was the birth of modern psychology. Sigmund Freud made his early fame as a teenager with his insight into the importance of early childhood trauma. (This was many years before he started shooting cocaine and decided that sex was the root of all psychology.)

What the researchers were beginning to understand was how profoundly the emotional trauma of early childhood affects a person as an adult. They realized that if not healed, these early childhood emotional wounds, and the subconscious attitudes adopted because of them, would dictate the adult's reaction to, and path through, life. Thus we walk around looking like and trying to act like adults, while reacting to life out of the emotional wounds and attitudes of childhood. We keep repeating the patterns of abandonment, abuse, and deprivation that we experienced in childhood.

Psychoanalysis addressed these issues only on the intellectual level - not on the emotional healing level. As a result, a person could go to psychoanalysis weekly for twenty years and still be repeating the same behavior patterns.

As the Adult Child movement, the Family Systems Dynamics research, and the newly emerging "inner child" healing movement expanded and developed in the eighties, the term "Codependent" expanded. It became a term used as a description of certain types of behavior patterns. These were basically identified as "people-pleasing" behaviors. By the middle to late eighties the term "Codependent" was associated with people-pleasers who set themselves up to be victims and rescuers.

In other words, it was recognized that the Codependent was not sick because of the Alcoholic but rather was attracted to the Alcoholic because of his/her disease, because of her/his early childhood experience.

At that time Codependence was basically defined as a passive behavioral defense system, and its opposite, or aggressive counterpart was described as counterdependent. Then most Alcoholics and addicts were thought to be counterdependent.

The word changed and evolved further after the start of the modern Codependence movement in Arizona in the mid-eighties. Co-Dependents Anonymous had its first meeting in October of 1986, and books on Codependence as a disease in and of itself started appearing at about the same time. These Codependence books were the next generation evolved from the books on the Adult Child Syndrome of the early eighties.

The expanded usage of the term "Codependent" now includes counterdependent behavior. We have come to understand that both the passive and the aggressive behavioral defense systems are reactions to the same kinds of childhood trauma, to the same kinds of emotional wounds. The Family Systems Dynamics research shows that within the family system, children adopt certain roles according to their family dynamics. Some of these roles are more passive, some are more aggressive, because in the competition for attention and validation within a family system the children must adopt different types of behaviors in order to feel like an individual.

A large part of what we identify as our personality is in fact a distorted view of who we really are due to the type of behavioral defenses we adopted to fit the role or roles we were forced to assume according to the dynamics of our family system.

Behavioral Defenses

I am now going to share with you some new descriptions that I came up with in regard to these behavioral defenses. We adopt different degrees and combinations of these various types of behavior as our personal defense system, and we swing from one extreme to the other within our own personal spectrum. I am going to share these with you because I find them enlightening and amusing - and to make a point.

The Aggressive-Aggressive defense, is what I call the "militant bulldozer." This person, basically the counterdependent, is the one whose attitude is "I don't care what anyone thinks." This is someone who will run you down and then tell you that you deserved it. This is the "survival of the fittest," hard-driving capitalist, self-righteous religious fanatic, who feels superior to most everyone else in the world. This type of person despises the human "weakness" in others because he/she is so terrified and ashamed of her/his own humanity.

The Aggressive-Passive person, or "self-sacrificing bulldozer," will run you down and then tell you that they did it for your own good and that it hurt them more than it did you. These are the types of people who aggressively try to control you "for your own good" - because they think that they know what is "right" and what you "should" do and they feel obligated to inform you. This person is constantly setting him/herself up to be the perpetrator because other people do not do things the "right" way, that is, his/her way.

The Passive-Aggressive, or "militant martyr," is the person who smiles sweetly while cutting you to pieces emotionally with her/his innocent sounding, double-edged sword of a tongue. These people try to control you "for your own good" but do it in more covert, passive-aggressive ways. They "only want the best for you," and sabotage you every chance they get. They see themselves as wonderful people who are continually and unfairly being victimized by ungrateful loved ones - and this victimization is their main topic of conversation/focus in life because they are so self-absorbed that they are almost incapable of hearing what other people are saying.

The Passive-Passive, or "self-sacrificing martyr," is the person who spends so much time and energy demeaning him/herself, and projecting the image that he/she is emotionally fragile, that anyone who even thinks of getting mad at this person feels guilty. They have incredibly accurate, long-range, stealth guilt torpedoes that are effective even long after their death. Guilt is to the self-sacrificing martyr what stink is to a skunk: the primary defense.

These are all defense systems adopted out of a necessity to survive. They are all defensive disguises whose purpose is to protect the wounded, terrified child within.

These are broad general categories, and individually we can combine various degrees and combinations of these types of behavioral defenses in order to protect ourselves.

In this society, in a general sense, the men have been traditionally taught to be primarily aggressive, the "John Wayne" syndrome, while women have been taught to be self-sacrificing and passive. But that is a generalization; it is entirely possible that you came from a home where your mother was John Wayne and your father was the self-sacrificing martyr.

Dysfunctional Culture

The point that I am making is that our understanding of Codependence has evolved to realizing that this is not just about some dysfunctional families - our very role models, our prototypes, are dysfunctional.

Our traditional cultural concepts of what a man is, of what a woman is, are twisted, distorted, almost comically bloated stereotypes of what masculine and feminine really are. A vital part of this healing process is finding some balance in our relationship with the masculine and feminine energy within us, and achieving some balance in our relationships with the masculine and feminine energy all around us. We cannot do that if we have twisted, distorted beliefs about the nature of masculine and feminine.

When the role model of what a man is does not allow a man to cry or express fear; when the role model for what a woman is does not allow a woman to be angry or aggressive - that is emotional dishonesty. When the standards of a society deny the full range of the emotional spectrum and label certain emotions as negative - that is not only emotionally dishonest, it creates emotional disease.

If a culture is based on emotional dishonesty, with role models that are dishonest emotionally, then that culture is also emotionally dysfunctional, because the people of that society are set up to be emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional in getting their emotional needs met.

What we traditionally have called normal parenting in this society is abusive because it is emotionally dishonest. Children learn who they are as emotional beings from the role modeling of their parents. "Do as I say - not as I do," does not work with children. Emotionally dishonest parents cannot be emotionally healthy role models, and cannot provide healthy parenting."


A Dance of Suffering, Shame, and Self-abuse

by Robert Burney M.A.

"The reason that we have not been Loving our neighbor as ourselves is because we have been doing it backwards. We were taught to judge and feel ashamed of ourselves. We were taught to hate ourselves for being human."


"If I am feeling like a "failure" and giving power to the "critical parent" voice within that is telling me that I am a failure - then I can get stuck in a very painful place where I am shaming myself for being me. In this dynamic I am being the victim of myself and also being my own perpetrator - and the next step is to rescue myself by using one of the old tools to go unconscious (food, alcohol, sex, etc.) Thus the disease has me running around in a squirrel cage of suffering and shame, a dance of pain, blame, and self-abuse."

Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

Codependence is an incredibly powerful, insidious, and vicious disease. It is so powerful because it is ingrained in our core relationship with ourselves. As little kids we were assaulted with the message that there was something wrong with us. We got this message from our parents who were assaulted and wounded in childhood by their parents who were assaulted and wounded in childhood, etc. etc., and from our society that is based on the belief that being human is shameful.

Codependence is insidious because it is so pervasive. The core emotional belief that there is something wrong with who we are as beings affects all of the relationships in our life and keeps us from learning how to Truly Love. In a Codependent society value is assigned in comparison (richer than, prettier than, more spiritual than, healthier than, etc.) so that the only way to feel good about self is the judge and look down on others. Comparison serves the belief in separation which makes violence, homelessness, pollution, and billionaires possible. Love is about feeling connected in the scheme of things not separate.

Codependence is vicious because it causes us to hate and abuse ourselves. We were taught to judge and shame ourselves for being human. At the core of our relationship with ourselves is the feeling that we are somehow not worthy and not lovable.

My father was trained that he was supposed to be perfect and that anger was the only permissible male emotion. As a result, that little boy that made mistakes and got yelled at felt like he was flawed and unlovable.

My mother told me how much she loved me, how important and valuable I was, and how I could be anything that I wanted to be. But my mother had no self-esteem and no boundaries so she emotionally incested me. I felt responsible for her emotional well-being and felt great shame that I couldn't protect her from father's raging or the pain of life. This was proof that I was so flawed that, though a woman might think I was lovable, eventually the truth of my unworthiness would be exposed by my inability to protect her and insure her happiness.

The church I was raised in taught me that I was born sinful and unworthy, and that I should be grateful and adoring because God loved me in spite of my unworthiness. And, even though God loved me, if I allowed my unworthiness to surface by acting on (or even thinking about) the shameful human weaknesses that I was born with - then God would be forced, with great sadness and reluctance, to cast me into hell to burn forever.

Is it any wonder that at my core I felt unworthy and unlovable? Is it any wonder that as an adult I got trapped in a continual cycle of shame, blame, and self-abuse?

The pain of being unworthy and shameful was so great that I had to learn ways to go unconscious and disconnect from my feelings. The ways in which I learned to protect myself from that pain and nurture myself when I was hurting so badly were with things like drugs and alcohol, food and cigarettes, relationships and work, obsession and rumination.

The way it works in practice is like this: I am feeling fat; I judge myself for being fat; I shame myself for being fat; I beat myself for being fat; then I am hurting so badly that I have to relieve some of the pain; so to nurture myself I eat a pizza; then I judge myself for eating the pizza, etc. etc.

To the disease, this is a functional cycle. The shame begets the self-abuse which begets the shame which serves the purpose of the disease which is to keep us separate so the we don't set ourselves up to fail by believing that we are worthy and lovable.

Obviously, this is a dysfunctional cycle if our purpose is to be happy and enjoy being alive.

The way to stop this cycle is two-fold and simple in theory but extremely hard to implement on a moment-to-moment, day-to day basis in our lives. The first part has to do with removing the shame from our inner process. This is a complicated and multi-leveled process that involves changing the belief systems that are dictating our reactions to life (this include everything from positive affirmations to grief/emotional energy release work, to support groups, to meditation and prayer, to inner child work, etc.) so that we can change our relationship with ourselves at the core and start treating ourselves in healthier ways.

The second part is simpler and usually harder. It involves taking 'the action.' ('the action' refers to the specific behavior. We have to take action to do all of the things listed in the first part as well.) Changing the behavior that is giving us a reason for the shame. Just saying 'no' - or 'yes' if the behavior in question is something like not eating or isolating or not exercising. And even though it may sometime work in the short run to use shame and judgment to get ourselves to change a behavior, in the long term - in alignment with our goal of having a more Loving relationship with ourselves so that we can be happy - it is much more powerful to take that action in a Loving way.

This involves setting a boundary for the little child inside of us, who wants instant gratification and instant relief, out of the Loving adult in us who understands the concept of delayed gratification. (If I exercise every day I will feel much better in the long run.) True pride comes from action taken. It is false pride to feel good about ourselves in comparison because of looks, talent, intelligence or for being forced to become spiritual, healthy, or sober. Those are gifts. True pride is taking credit for the action we have taken to foster, nurture, and maintain those gifts.

The way to break the self-destructive cycle, to stop the dance of shame, suffering, and self-abuse, is to set Loving boundaries for ourselves in the moment of that desperate need for immediate gratification and to know that - though it is not shameful if we can't do it perfectly or all the time - we need to 'just do it.' We need to stand up for our True Self to our wounded self in order to Love ourselves.


And Then We Have...To Face...The...
Emotional Incest
By Robert Burney M.A.

"Consider a scenario where mother is crying in her bedroom and her three year old toddles into the room. To the child it looks as if mom is dying. The child is terrified and says, "I love you mommy!" Mom looks at her child. Her eyes fill with love, and her face breaks into a smile. She says, 'Oh honey, I love you so much. You are my wonderful little boy/girl. Come here and give mommy a hug. You make mommy feel so good.'

A touching scene? No. Emotional abuse! The child has just received the message that he/she has the power to save mommy's life. That the child has power over, and therefore responsibility for, mommy's feelings. This is emotional abuse, and sets up an emotionally incestuous relationship in which the child feels responsible for the parent's emotional needs.

A healthy parent would explain to the child that it is all right for mommy to cry, that it is healthy and good for people to cry when they feel sad or hurt. An emotionally healthy parent would "role model" for the child that it is okay to have the full range of emotions, all the feelings - sadness and hurt, anger and fear, Joy and happiness, etc."

Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney


One of the most pervasive, traumatic, and damaging dynamics that occurs in families in this dysfunctional, emotionally dishonest society is emotional incest. It is rampant in our society but there is still very little written or discussed about it.

Emotional incest occurs when a child feels responsible for a parents emotional well-being. This happens because the parents do not know how to have healthy boundaries. It can occur with one or both parents, same sex or opposite sex. It occurs because the parents are emotionally dishonest with themselves and cannot get their emotional needs met by their spouse or other adults. John Bradshaw refers to this dynamic as a parent making the child their "surrogate spouse."

This type of abuse can happen in a variety of ways. On one end of the spectrum the parent emotionally "dumps" on the child. This occurs when a parent talks about adult issues and feelings to a child as if they were a peer. Sometimes both parents will dump on a child in a way that puts the child in the middle of disagreements between the parents - with each complaining about the other.

On the other end of the spectrum is the family where no one talks about their feelings. In this case, though no one is talking about feelings, there are still emotional undercurrents present in the family which the child senses and feels some responsibility for - even if they haven't got a clue as to what the tension, anger, fear, or hurt are all about.

Emotional incest from either parent is devastating to the child's ability to be able to set boundaries and take care of getting their own needs met when they become an adult. This type of abuse, when inflicted by the opposite sex parent, can have a devastating effect on the adult/child's relationship with his/her own sexuality and gender, and their ability to have successful intimate relationships as an adult.

What often happens is that 'Daddy's little princess' or 'Mommy's big boy' becomes an adult who has good friends of the opposite sex that they can be emotionally intimate with but would never think of being sexually involved with (and feel dreadfully betrayed by, when those friends express sexual interest) and are sexually excited by members of the opposite sex whom they don't like and can't trust (they may feel they are desperately 'in love' with such a person but in reality don't really like their personality). This is an unconscious way of not betraying mommy or daddy by having sex with someone that they are emotionally intimate with and truly care about as a person.

Over the last ten years I have seen many different examples of how emotionally dishonest family dynamics impact children. Ranging from the twelve-year old girl who was much too big to be crawling into mom's lap but would do so every time mom started to cry because that interrupted her mother's emotional process and stopped her crying, to the nine-year old boy who looked me in the eye and said "How am I supposed to start talking about feelings when I haven't my whole life."

Then there is the little boy who by four-years old had been going to twelve-step meetings with his mother for two years. At a CoDA meeting one day he was sitting on a man's lap only six feet away from where his mother was sharing and crying. He didn't even bother to look up when his mother started crying. The man, who was more concerned than the little boy, said to him, "Your mommy's crying because she feels sad." The little boy looked up, glanced over at his mother and said, "Yea, she's getting better," and went back to playing. He knew that it was okay for mom to cry and that it was not his job to fix her. That little boy, at four years old, already had healthier boundaries than most adults - because his mother was in recovery working on getting healthier herself. The best thing that we can do for any of our loved ones is to focus on our own healing.

And one of the cornerstones of healing is to forgive ourselves for the wounds we suffered and for the wounds we inflicted. We were powerless to behave any differently because of our programing and training, because of our wounds. Just as our parents were powerless, and their parents before them, etc. etc.

One of the traps of Codependence Recovery is that as we gain awareness of our behavioral patterns and emotional dishonesty we judge and shame ourselves for what we are learning. That is the disease talking. That "critical parent" voice in our head is the disease talking to us. We need to stop buying into that negative, shaming energy and start Loving ourselves so that we can change our patterns and become emotionally honest.

There is hope. We are breaking the cycles of generations of emotional dishonesty and abuse. We now have the tools and knowledge we need to heal our wounds and change the human condition. We are Spiritual Beings having a human experience. We are perfect in our Spiritual essence. We are perfectly where we are supposed to be on our Spiritual path, and we will never be able to do human perfectly. We are Unconditionally Loved and we are going to get to go Home.

By Robert Burney M.A.

"Until we can forgive ourselves and Love ourselves we cannot Truly Love and forgive any other human beings - including our parents who were only doing the best they knew how. They, too, were powerless to do anything any different - they were just reacting to their wounds.

It is necessary to own and honor the child who we were in order to Love the person we are. And the only way to do that is to own that child's experiences, honor that child's feelings, and release the emotional grief energy that we are still carrying around."


"We cannot learn to Love without honoring our Rage!

We cannot allow ourselves to be Truly Intimate with ourselves or anyone else without owning our Grief.

We cannot clearly reconnect with the Light unless we are willing to own and honor our experience of the Darkness.

We cannot fully feel the Joy unless we are willing to feel the Sadness.

We need to do our emotional healing, to heal our wounded souls, in order to reconnect with our Souls on the highest vibrational levels. In order to reconnect with the God-Force that is Love and Light, Joy and Truth."

Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney

Emotions are energy. Actual physical energy that is manifested in our bodies. Emotions are not thoughts - they do not exist in our mind. Our mental attitudes, definitions, and expectations can create emotional reactions, can cause us to get stuck in emotional states - but thoughts are not emotions. The intellectual and emotional are two distinctly separate though intimately interconnected parts of our being. In order to find some balance, peace, and sanity in recovery it is vitally important to start separating the emotional from the intellectual and to start setting boundaries with, and between, the emotional and mental parts of our self.

Many of us learned to live in our heads. To analyze, intellectualize, and rationalize as a defense against feeling our feelings. Some of us went to the other extreme and lived life based on our emotional reactions without any intellectual balance. Some of us would swing from one extreme to the other. Living life in the extremes or swinging between the extremes is dysfunctional - it does not work to create a balanced, healthy, happy life.

If you learned to live life in your head it is vitally necessary to start becoming more aware of your body and what is happening in your body emotionally. Where is there tension, tightness? Where is the energy manifesting in my body? I learned that when there is energy congregating in my upper chest it was sadness. If it was around my heart chakra it was hurt. Anger and fear manifest in my stomach. Until I started to become aware of, and identify, the emotional energy in my body it was impossible for me to be emotionally honest with myself. It was impossible for me to start owning, honoring, and releasing the emotional energy in a healthy way until I became aware that it was there.

I had to become aware that there were such things as emotions that lived in my body and then I had to start learning how to recognize and sort them out. I had to become aware of all the ways that I was trained to distance myself from my feelings. I am going to mention a few of them here to help any of you reading this in your process of becoming emotionally honest.

Speaking in the third person. One of the defenses many of us have against feeling our feelings is to speak of ourselves in the third person. "You just kind of feel hurt when that happens" is not a personal statement and does not carry the power of speaking in the first person. "I felt hurt when that happened" is personal, is owning the feeling. Listen to yourself and to others and become aware of how often you hear others and yourself refer to self in the third person.

Avoiding using primary feeling words. There are only a handful of primary feelings that all humans feel. There is some dispute about just how many there are primary but for our purpose here I am going to use seven. Those are: angry, sad, hurt, afraid, lonely, ashamed, and happy. It is important to start using the primary names of these feelings in order to own them and to stop distancing ourselves from the feelings. To say "I am anxious" or "concerned" or "apprehensive" is not the same as saying "I am afraid." Fear is at the root of all those other expressions but we don't have to be so aware of our fear if we use a word that distances us from fear. Expressions like "confused," "irritated," "upset," "tense," "disturbed," "melancholy," "blue," "good," or "bad" are not primary feeling words.

Emotions are energy that is meant to flow: E - motion = energy in motion. Until we own it, feel it and release it, it cannot flow. By blocking and repressing our emotions we are damming up our internal energy and that will eventually result in some physical or mental manifestation such as cancer or alzheimers disease or whatever.

Until we can start being emotionally honest with ourselves it is impossible to be truly honest on any level with anybody. Until we start becoming emotionally honest with ourselves it is impossible to know who we Truly are. Our emotions tell us who we are and without emotional honesty it is impossible to be True to our self because we don't know ourselves.

Of course there is a very good reason we have had to be emotionally dishonest. It is because we are carrying around unresolved grief - suppressed pain, terror, shame, and rage energy from our childhoods. Until we deal with our unresolved grief and start releasing the suppressed, pressurized emotional energy from our past it is impossible to be comfortable in our own skins, in the moment, in an emotionally honest, age-appropriate way. Until we become willing to take the journey to the emotional frontier within us we cannot Truly know who we are, we cannot Truly start to forgive and Love ourselves.

Further Journeys to the Emotional Frontier Within

By Robert Burney M.A.

"The way to stop reacting out of our inner children is to release the stored emotional energy from our childhoods by doing the grief work that will heal our wounds. The only effective, long term way to clear our emotional process - to clear the inner channel to Truth which exists in all of us is to grieve the wounds which we suffered as children. The most important single tool, the tool which is vital to changing behavior patterns and attitudes in this healing transformation, is the grief process. The process of grieving.

We are all carrying around repressed pain, terror, shame, and rage energy from our childhoods, whether it was twenty years ago or fifty years ago. We have this grief energy within us even if we came from a relatively healthy family, because this society is emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional."

Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney

Last month I mentioned two of the ways that many of us learned to distance ourselves from our feelings - 'talking in the third person' and 'avoiding owning our feelings verbally,' - a third very prevalent technique is story telling.

This is a very common method of avoiding our feelings. Some people tell entertaining stories to avoid feelings. They may respond to a feeling statement by saying something like 'I remember back in `85 when I. . .' Their stories might be very entertaining but they have no emotional content.

Some people tell stories about other people. This is the stereotypical Codependent of the joke about when a Codependent dies someone else's life passes before their eyes. They will respond to an emotional moment by telling an emotional story about some friend, acquaintance, or even a person they read about. They may exhibit some emotion in telling the story but it is emotion for the other person, not for self. They keep a distance from their emotions by attributing the emotional content to others. If this type of stereotypical Codependent is in a relationship everything they say will be about the other person. Direct questions about self will be answered with stories about the significant other. This is a completely unconscious result of the reality that they have no relationship with, or identity as, self as an individual.

Perhaps the most common story telling diversion is to get very involved in the details of the story 'she said. . . . . then I said. . . . then she did. . . . .' The details are ultimately insignificant in relationship to the emotions involved but because we do not know how to handle the emotions we get caught up in the details. Often we are relating the details in order to show the listener how we were wronged in the interaction. Often we focus on how others are wrong in reaction to the situation as a way of avoiding our feelings.

Here are two very typical examples of this type of emotional distancing recently. A person in obvious pain spoke for twenty minutes about a loved one who was dying. For 19 and 1/2 minutes of that twenty the person talked of what the doctor and nurses were doing wrong, of the details of incidents which happened. For a few brief seconds the person touched on their own feelings and then very quickly jumped back to the details of what was happening. The other example is my mother who is terrified of having a stroke and being partially paralyzed for several years like her mother was. Recently her older sister had a stroke. My mother, in talking about what is happening, cannot talk about her fear or pain, instead she talks about how her sister's children are behaving incorrectly.

I am very sad to see people in this kind of emotional pain. I am sad that they do not know how to be emotionally honest about what they are feeling. This is very typical and common in this emotionally dishonest society. We have been trained to be emotionally dishonest and need to go through a learning process in order to retrain ourselves to allow ourselves to own the feelings.

An integral part of that learning process is grieving the wounds from our childhood and earlier life. By not grieving earlier losses there may be so much suppressed energy that any current loss threatens to burst the whole dam of emotions. This literally feels life-threatening.

When I started to do my own emotional healing it felt like if I ever really started crying that I wouldn't be able to stop - that I would end up crying in a padded room someplace. It felt as if I ever really let myself feel the rage that I would just go up and down the street shooting people. It was terrifying.

When I first became willing to start dealing with the emotions it felt as if I had opened Pandora's Box and that it would destroy me. But I was led by my Spiritual guidance to safe places to start learning how to do the grieving and safe people to do it with.

Doing that grieving is overwhelming terrifying and painful. It is also the gateway to Spiritual Awakening. It leads to empowerment, freedom, and inner peace. Releasing that grief energy allows us to start being able to be emotionally honest in the moment in an age-appropriate way. It is, in my understanding, the path that the Old Souls who are doing their healing in this Age of Healing and Joy need to travel to get clearer about their path and accomplish their mission in this lifetime.


Alcoholism and Codependence

"Robert was born with a genetic predisposition to have a fatal disease, Alcoholism. His childhood inflicted a second fatal disease on him. My friend Robert was one more of the many Alcoholics to die of Codependence."


"Grave emotional and mental disorders is AA language for codependence. . . . Bill Wilson would have run to a ACA or CoDA meeting because that is where he could have found the roots of the depression which tormented him."


"Unfortunately, the Twelve Steps as practiced in AA are not always enough. Not because the Twelve Step process is not enough - but because the way it is practiced in AA leaves out a vitally important level of healing. That is the level of healing the emotional wounds. We can deal with our grave emotional and mental disorders by having the capacity to be honest with ourselves. That includes being emotionally honest with ourselves."

I believe that in a hundred years historians will look back and pinpoint this milestone as the single most important event in the twentieth century. This milestone was the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous in Akron, Ohio, in June of 1935.

Besides the invaluable gift of sobriety that AA has given to millions of Alcoholics, it also started a revolution in Spiritual consciousness.

The dramatic success and expansion of AA facilitated the spread of a radically revolutionary idea which has traditionally, in Western Civilization, been considered heresy. This was not a new idea but rather a reintroduction and clarification of an old idea, coupled with a formula for practical application of the concept into day-to-day human life experience.

This revolutionary idea was that an unconditionally Loving Higher Power exists with whom the individual being can personally communicate. A Higher Power that is so powerful that it has no need to judge the humans it created because this Universal Force is powerful enough to ensure that everything unfolds perfectly from a Cosmic Perspective.

This reintroduction of the revolutionary concept of an accessible Loving God has been clarified to specifically include the concept that the individual being can define this Universal Force according to his/her own understanding, and can develop a personal, intimate relationship with this Higher Power.

In other words, no one is needed as an intermediary between you and your creator. No outside agency has the right to impose upon you its definition of God.

The spread of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the other Anonymous programs which sprang out of AA, is the widest and most effective dissemination of this radical revolutionary concept that has ever occurred in Western Civilization.

Mystics, gnostics, and certain "primitive" peoples have, throughout recorded human history, understood the Truth in this concept but the "organized religions" of urban-based civilizations have persecuted, tortured, and crucified any messengers or groups of people who believed in a Loving, personal God or Goddess - because it threatened the power of those organized religions' control over the masses and therefore their very existence. This time the dissemination of the message has been effective because: The time was right; the revolutionary concept was camouflaged as part of a successful treatment for a fatal, incurable disease; and it was accompanied by the Twelve Step Spiritual program.

The Twelve Step program of AA provides a practical program for accessing Spiritual power in dealing with day-to-day human life. A formula for integrating the Spiritual into the physical. Even though some of the steps, as originally written, contain shaming and abusive wording, the Twelve Step process and the ancient Spiritual principles underlining it are invaluable tools in helping the individual being start down, and stay on, a path aligned with Truth.

It is out of the Twelve Step Recovery movement that our understanding of the dysfunctional nature of civilization has evolved. It is out of the Alcoholic Recovery movement that the term "Codependent" has emerged."

"The condition of Spiritual dis-ease has been a part of the human experience for so long - for thousands of years - that some of its symptomatic defenses have been genetically adapted by the evolving human species. Alcoholism, I believe, is just one example of a genetically transmitted, physical disease that is an adapted behavioral defense against the pain of Spiritual dis-ease."

Taken From The Book,
"Codependence": "The Dance of Wounded Souls",
Written by Robert Burney, therapist


And Always Keep In Mind The Most Important Factor

  "What we live with we learn,
and what we learn
we practice, and what we
practice, we become...
and what we become
has consequences"...
AND almost always, I have
found, who we become
has little to do with who
we were meant to be.


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(Est. 4.15.96)

DISCLAMER: Before you start to look at the material that I have assembled for you I want to make clear that I claim very little original authorship here. Even where I don't give credit I probably should because there are very few original words of wisdom left in recovery. I want to especially thank Terry Kellogg, whom I do believe has a lot of original stuff, John Bradshaw whom I believe has the ability to synthesize others material better that anyone I know, and I guess if we wanted to be completely accurate we should not quote the serenity prayer out of content nor without giving credit to the author. I also want to give permission to anyone to use anything on this site for the benefit of recovery as long as they do not make any more money off of it. This offer only extends to what I have the right to give.

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