This is a question and answer page where Codependency therapist/Spiritual teacher/author of Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls, shares his experience, strength, and hope by posting the questions he receives by e-mail and the responses which he sends back.  This page includes questions about "Selfishness" + "Does it really get any better?" + others - Delayed Stress Syndome or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, “good” selfish vs “bad” selfish, reply about web site that says codependence movement is ruining marriages, Mother Theresa, Metaphysical questions

Welcome to a page of  Joy to You & Me

The Web Site of Robert Burney and Joy to You & Me Enterprises.

Robert Burney is a codependence therapist, Spiritual teacher, and the author of the Joyously inspirational book

Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls.

This is a question and answer page where Robert shares his experience, strength, and hope by posting (anonymously) the questions he receives by e-mail and the responses which he sends back.   If you have reached this page without coming through the web site, you might want to first explore the web sit by going to the Joy to You & Me Home Page so that you can understand the context within which these questions are asked and answered.

 "I am Grateful" in Canada wrote:

I wanted to thk. you for this absolutely beautiful information, so insightful, so honesty, & packed w/so much I am grateful

 Thank for your kind words - it is always to great to get some feedback that what I am doing it helping. 

I am suffering the clinical psychologist says from "Post Tramua Disorder", as a result of growing up in a Dysfunctional Family-volience & alcohol.  Now I must start dealing w/it.  I have beenin group & due to my emotions being so close to the surface & inability to handle pressure /responsibility I have taken a yr. off teaching and I am going to work hard to get better.
 Do you know anything about this disorder, I heard a Havard Professor has done some great research & treatment?

I believe that all codependence (which I believe is the human condition and we all suffer from it) is Delayed Stress Syndome - or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - I have a page on my web site with an excerpt from my book about it - Codependence as Delayed Stress Syndrome

One of the problems with traditional Psychology is there is a need to label people - to put us in a box - oh you're depressed - or you are bi-polar - or you have attention deficit disorder - or you have post traumatic disorder or whatever.  Too often it gives us one more thing to beat ourselves up for - which is certainly not something we need.  I just think it is another name for codependence and all the different facets of the disease - we grew up in emotionally dishonest and abusive, Spiritually hostile, environments - that anyone could think that wouldn't damage us is what is crazy - that society sees that as normal is what is crazy - you are not crazy (although it sure feels like it sometimes) you are on the road to sanity. 

It sounds like you are at the point I talk about in my Feeling the Feelings page - where Pandora's box has been opened and there is no holding back the feelings any longer.  It is a very terrifying place to be - but it is also a new beginning.  Getting through this dark time will take you to a place where everything is lighter and brighter and you can love yourself - and others - in a more healthy way.  It is going to be very hard and seem hopeless at times - very terrifying and probably very lonely some of the time because many of your "old" friends or family will not be comfortable with what is happening and will want you to "snap out of it." - those are the kind of people you don't need in your life. 

The most important thing to remember - to me - is that it is, at it's core, a Spiritual wound and a Spiritual cure - as Melody Beattie says in The Language of Letting Go (absolutely marvelously Spiritual, Loving, daily meditation book that I very highly recomend to everyone - and which I am quoting here without permission - sorry about that Melody) "Recovery is not self-help."  We have Spiritual help, the Force is with us, Your Spirit will guide you (though many days it will feel like your Higher Power has not only abandoned and betrayed you - but is actually sadistically punishing/torturing you - those days it is important to get angry at God not at ourselves - The Force can handle it.)  We need to do our part to be cocreators (we need to plant the seeds if we want a garden) but ultimately the Spirit will guide us where we need to go and provide us with the resources and support we need. 

I am sure that you could find some information about Post Trauma Disorder online if you check some of the major directories or search engines (Yahoo, The Mining Company, Lycos, Infoseek, Snap, etc.)  You can also find some info at the local library I am sure. 

It would be great to find some support groups - either 12 step ones or group therapy in a setting where it is acceptable to cry and go anger work - wait, you said you were in a group already, didn't you? Sorry about that. 

Anyway, if you have any questions or I can help in any way please let me know.  The process that I have found so helpful is the internal boundary setting techniques - those begin on the web site with the "Learning to Love your self" page and follow through the next 5 pages. 

One of the things that I usually say to people who come to me at the point where they are "falling apart" - can't hold the feelings in anymore - is "Congratulations, this is a wonderful gift."  It never feels that way to them but it is a very important and vital step on the journey to finding out who you are - and that you are loveable and worthy - and that it is ok to forgive yourself.  So congratulations! 

The Force is with You!  You are Unconditionally Loved and always have been!

 A person who had heard the tapes of my talk before it became a book recently discovered my web site and sent in these questions.

Please tell me the difference between Selfish, and self nurturing, or is there?

Yes there is a very big difference - there are two very different levels of self - The disease (of codependence) is the ego which was traumatized and programmed in early childhood - to react to life our of our ego-self is what keeps us behaving dysfunctionally, keeps us from finding happiness, peace, and Love.  Recovery is about transitioning into responding to life out of our Spiritual Self which is a completely different type of selfish.   Here is are two quotes from one of my columns (can be found on page about Twelve Step Recovery Process): 

Powerlessness & Empowerment

By Robert Burney M.A.
"The Twelve Step Recovery process is so successful because it provides a formula for integrating different levels. It is by recognizing that we are powerless to control our life experiences out of ego-self that we can access the power out of True Self, Spiritual Self. By surrendering the illusion of ego control we can reconnect with our Higher Selves. Selfishness out of ego-self is destroying the planet. Selfishness out of Spiritual Self is what will save the planet."
 Codependence / The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney
One of the many things which confused me in early recovery were some seemingly contradictory statements that I would hear at meetings and from other Recovering people. There were several areas where this came up but the one which I remember puzzled me the most had to do with the concept of "selfishness." I would read or hear how negative self-seeking, self-pity, and self-will were, and how selfishness and self-centeredness were the root of my problem. But then I would also hear, in a positive context that this was a selfish program and "to thine own self be true." 
That was when I started to understand that there were two very different levels of "self." There is my ego-self which was traumatized and programmed in early childhood. The ego-self got the message that I wasn't lovable or worthy because my parents believed that they weren't lovable or worthy. In very early childhood my ego-self got the message that there was something shameful about my "being" - about being me. So the ego tries to defend me against the pain of not being good enough by trying to keep me separate from other human beings so they won't find out about my defective nature. My ego built up huge walls to defend me and keep me separate. The only ones allowed through those walls were the people that felt familiar - in other words the very ones who were wounded in such a way that they would recreate the messages I received in childhood. 

So the very defenses that the ego adapted to protect me actually kept me replaying the old patterns. This is why Codependence is a dysfunctional defense system it doesn't work to defend me. 

What the Twelve Steps did for me was to help me start letting go of the ego-self's faulty programming. When I surrendered trying to control things out of ego-self and started looking to a Higher Power is when I started to access my Spiritual Self. My Spiritual Self is the part of me that knows that I am a Spiritual Being who is related to everyone and everything - that we are all ONE. Through my Spiritual Self I have access to all the power in the Universe. 

Reason... Much of CoDA material and Co-dependence material talks about takeing care of yourself.  But can this not be taken too far?

Anything can be taken to far.  We can go out of balance with anything.  I can use acceptance as an excuse for not taking action or responsiblity.  I can use forgiveness as an excuse for not standing up for myself - to avoid confrontations.  I can say I am taking care of myself when I am really isolating and indulging in instant gratification. 
Recovery is a continuous balancing act - what is so important to get clear on,  is that the answers are not in our head - they are in our heart and our gut.  We can't think our way through recovery. But in order to start trusting our feelings we need to do the grief work.  It is a complicated and complex process that has to be taken one step at a time - literally - I am saying just keep putting one foot in front of the other doing what is in front of us - following where our Spirit is leading, where our Higher Self is leading us.  Here is a quote from my book: 

We were powerless out of ego-self to do anything any different than we did it.  We are powerless out of ego-self to heal this disease.  Through Spiritual Self, through our Spiritual Connection, we have access to all the power in the Universe.

We need to have the willingness: willingness to get to a new level of self-honesty; willingness to start listening to the Loving inner voice instead of the shaming ones; willingness to face the terror of healing the emotional wounds.

Codependence causes us to have a distorted and repressed emotional process, and the only way out is through the feelings.  Codependence gives us a scrambled mind, a reversed dysfunctional way of looking at ourselves and the world, and we have to be able to use the wonderful tool that is our mind while changing our attitudes and reprogramming our thinking.

It seems awfully complicated, doesn’t it?

That is because it is!

On another level it is also very simple.  It is a Spiritual Dis-ease.  It can only be healed through a Spiritual Cure.  It cannot be healed by only looking at the symptoms.  That is backwards.

The cure is available through surrendering control to a Higher Power.  We cannot do this healing by ourselves.  We need a Loving Higher Power in our lives.  We need other Recovering people in our lives.

Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney

About a year before I went into a thirty day treatment program for Codependence I read a meditation in a meditation book that really made me angry.  It said something to the effect "that knowledge of the path does not replace putting one foot in front of the other."  I always wanted to think my way through recovery but there is no way - recovery is like life - it is messy and I don't know what the outcome is going to be - there are feelings involved and that is real scary.  I had programming that told me that it was shameful to make mistakes or be wrong - so I was always trying to figure out the outcome before I committed to the course - does not work that way - We can't figure out the outcome because we have never been to the places we are going.  Every year in my recovery has brought me to new dimensions that I didn't know existed before - I never knew that I could possibly live my life with as much serenity and happiness as I do now without having some of the things (financial, relationship, etc.) that I thought were necessary for happiness and peace.  I keep learning and growing.  I keep going back to kindergarten again just about the time I think I have finished graduate school - it is a continual balancing act.

I found this, please read and tell me where the balance is in your

The article on this web page is called How the Co-dependency Movement Is Ruining Marriages by Willard F. Harley, Jr. - he quotes a definition by  Dr.Edmund J. Bourne ( 

"Co-dependency can be defined as the tendency to put others needs before your own. You accommodate to others to such a degree that you tend to discount or ignore your own feelings, desires and basic needs. Your self-esteem depends largely on how well you please, take care of and/or solve problems for someone else (or many others)."

Which is a rather outdated and inadequate (in my opinion) definition of codependence that does not include counterdependence which is the other side of the same coin - and then Willard F. Harley, Jr. says: 

"I look at that definition and think of Mother Teresa, how co-dependent she must be. Not that I'm a Mother Teresa, but I certainly feel that I aspire to those objectives. What's wrong with being co-dependent? If we were all co-dependent, wouldn't this be a wonderful world?"

The guy who wrote this article does not understand codependence - and is in fact quite codependent himself. 

Codependence is about giving power to external or outer forces (including other people) over our self-esteem - over how we feel about ourself.  That is dysfunctional - it does not work.  What we are striving for is to learn to be Interdependent - to make allys, form partnerships - not make someone or something outside of us (i.e. our career, money, etc.), or external to our being, our higher power that determines if we have self-worth. 
I have a column about the difference between co- and inter- on the Codependence vs Interdependence page

Codependence is also a disease of reversed focus - it is about focusing outside of ourselves for self-definition and self-worth.  That sets us up to be a victim.  We have worth because we are Spiritual Beings not because of how much money or success we have - or how we look or how smart we are.  When self-worth is dertermined by looking ourside it means we have to look down on someone else to feel good about ourselves - this is the cause of bigotry, racism, class structure, and Jerry Springer. 

The goal is to focus on who we really are - get in touch with the Light and Love within us and then radiate that ourward.  I think that is what Mother Theresa did - I can’t know for sure because I never met her and it can be difficult to tell looking from the outside where a persons focus is - Mother Theresa could have been a raging codependent who was doing good on the outside in order to feel good about herself - or she could have been being True to her Self by accessing the Love and Light within and reflecting outward.  Either way the effect was that she did some great things - the difference would have been how she felt about herself at the deepest levels of her being - because it does not make any real difference how much validation we get from ourside if we are not Loving ourselves.  If I did not start working on knowing that I had worth as a Spiritual Being - that there is a Higher Power that Loves me - it would never have made any real difference how many people told me I was wonderful. 

The guy who wrote the article says: 

What is self-esteem, anyway? It's feeling good about ourselves, feeling that we're okay. Getting back to my earlier question about the meaning of life, what do I have to feel good about? That I exist? No.

I say Yes - I can feel good because I exist and am connected to all things.  This guy does not have any kind of Spiritual concept that says that people have worth simply because they exist.

I don't give myself any credit for my existence. I feel good about the choices I make and what I can do. If I can't do anything, I'm certain I'd have no reason to have self-esteem. Self-esteem is not something that I need in order to be productive. It's being productive that gives me self-esteem.

This is a great example of how dysfunctional codependence is - if this guy has to be productive to feel good about himself then he is set up to feel like a victim when he isn't productive - if he were to get sick, or when he gets old - if he defines himself by what he does he is being codependent.

There is nothing wrong with being productive - if we feel good about ourselves the chances are we will be doing service or being productive in some way - because we know we are connected to others - so doing for them out of our self worth is healthy and is taking care of, doing for, our Self - while doing for them to gain self worth is codependent.

Which brings us to the reason that he is so upset with the codependence movement - he says it is wrecking marriages - he is a marriage counselor - he believes his purpose is to save the marriage (who is he to know if a marriage is worth saving - this is a great example of the kind of counselor who has an agenda - I have no doubt that this guy would be shaming and abusive in his counseling in order to get his patients to meet his agenda.) So it is interfering with his productivity and he is reacting from a victim perspective by blaming the codependence movement.

So, I don't know if I have made anything any clearer for you - I know that you are looking for answers - I can share with you what works for me but I can't tell you what your answers are - your answers have to come from inside - the journey that we are on is to finding our self - our True Self, Spiritual Self.  Our concept of ourselves got devastated in childhood - in healing those wounds we will find out who we are.

It is a Spiritual problem - it takes a Spiritual cure - that means you connecting with your spirit.  You will be guided.

A reply to someone on a ACA mailing list who asked:

Does it really get any better? While I realize that recovery is a journey, do we ever get "recovered"? Or are the wounds of our childhood going to continue festering for the rest of our lives? Do we someday hit the point of really being emotionally healthy? Or am I again asking for perfection that doesn't exist?  This is still new for me, so patience.

 It does get better! We never get "recovered".  Our wounds won't go away but the more healing we do the less power they have to dictate how we live now.  We get progressively healthier and healthier.  I would say that in general now 70-80 % of the time I am peaceful, content, happy, and sometimes Joyfilled in the moment  and only 20 - 30% do I feel like beating myself up and thinking I am being punished and deserve it because I am not doing what I "should' or being who I "should" or what ever crap my disease is trying to feed me that day.  Now that is a big improvement over someone who always wanted to die.  I was talking in a CoDA meeting today about how grateful I am about all the abundance that I have in my life today  - (I am in really bad shape financially, I have no romantic relationship (and haven't for quite a while), I don't like where I am living, I have some physical things going on that are uncomfortable, etc. - these fall in the part of the glass that is empty category)  - but I am truly grateful for all of the abundance in my life today. (Part of my glass is really full - I never used to notice that let alone chose to focus on it.) 

I am happy in this moment  - I may be sad or angry or scared a few moments from now but that's life - it keeps changing and as long as I am willing to grow it keeps getting better. And then it feels worse and then it gets better. 

There is no happily ever after (at least on this plane in these bodies)  that was part of the lie - we don't get to a state of being where everything is happy  - It is not about a destination at all - it is all about the journey.  The more we can heal the old stuff the more we get to be present for this day in our journey. 

There are very few really good therapists out there. So I guess we have to be very careful and not just assume that if they're certified, they're good for us.

 You are right that there are not a lot of really good therapists unfortunately - and you are also right that just because they are certified or licensed or phds does not mean they know what this disease is all about.  In fact sometimes I think that the more years of school and training they have the less open they are to new information - and ACA and Codependence are really relatively new concepts that are outside the traditional psychological thinking. 

I think the best thing to ask a new therapist is what they are doing for their recovery - if they say they don't need recovery I would run out the door.  It is also vital I believe that some kind of emotional release work be involved (anger work - grieving) talking is good but intellectual knowledge can only take us so far.  Unfortunately I have found there are "old timers" in twelve step programs (CoDA & ACA as well as AA) that have never done the emotional work who are rigid, controlling, and can be abusive - so just because someone says they have been in recovery for a lot of years doesn't necessarily make them healthy.  Just like a therapist saying he is an ACA doesn't mean that he has done the emotional work. I personally am not licensed but do have a Masters degree and some years working in Chemical Dependence treatment programs.  Just because someone is unlicensed doesn't mean they can't be good - just like a license doesn't automatically make them good. Let your Spirit guide you - trust your gut. 

   Why did I never hear anything about ACoA, long before this year?

 We hear when it is time for us to hear.  One of the hardest parts of dealing with this disease is that as soon as we start getting awareness we start beating ourselves up for what we are learning.  This disease is so insidious and powerful that it makes alcoholism look like a pansy.  Any time we are beating ourselves up we are listening to the disease - and when we realize that then we start beating ourselves up for beating ourselves up. 

So anyway, _____ you are perfectly where you are supposed to be on your Spiritual path - you were powerless to do anything any differently until you started to get the information you needed.  You could not have done your life any differently (if you feel angry direct it at the disease or at God - not at your self, you are the innocent victim here) - that includes raising your kids - it is so hard for parents when they start getting this info to focus on themselves and not feel guilty for their own parenting mistakes but again you were powerless - now you have realized the source of the problem and you are being guided by your Higher Power in the right direction.  The Force is with you. 

Someone else who was on that ACA mailing list had shared with me privately about a soap opera type trauma drama that she had to endure in working with someone who claimed to be in recovery for many years.  This was my response to her. 

Your  _____ drama reminded me of a really important message I got from the Universe at a crucial point in my recovery - that I have sadly seen proven true too often. I was in Sedona the summer of 1988 only a few months after having had the wonderful gift of going through a 30 day treatment program for Codependence at Sierra Tucson (When I had my emotional breakthrough.)  One day I was out walking in the dessert, surrounded by the beautiful red rocks, 
thinking about how wonderful it was going to be now that I had done so much deep emotional work and learned so many new tools - it was going to be so wonderful to be able to have healthy relationships - when all of a sudden from out of the underbrush burst this mad looking dog barking and snarling and hurlting right at me - and then right past me.  I hadn't even caught my breath after that scare when the strong odor of skunk wafted by.  --- The message from the Universe - I still need to watch out for mad dogs and skunks. - unfortunately a few of those mad dogs and skunks claim to be in recovery - some for many years. 

Metaphysical questions from Nova Scotia

One of the first people to find my web site has now become a good friend.  She has often asked me some very challenging questions of a more metaphysical bent - I thought I would share a few of these. 

1. micro energy -souls are part of macro energy-the Great Spirit  - everything we feel and think is forwarded to the Great Spirit.

We are the Great Spirit, extensions of, manifestations of, - no forwarding is required. 

2. the earth we live on feels our energy -negitive or positive due to free will -our necessity to feel the Love force in order to make the transition of the new age smooth.  To feel the Love force and not the fear.  We must open up to the Love Force.

We are the Love Force - we just need to open ourselves to that - the fear is not bad or wrong - it is part of being human.  We feel the Love Force in moments (sometimes hours, or days) but we cannot feel connected to it all the time (in Truth we are connected to it all the time - we are it) 

3. Where does the Great Spirit come into this necessity of higher thinking I feel?  If free will is at hand here to the change -what happens to Divine Plan?

Free Will is an illusion - we need to own that we have choices (not buy into the belief we are the victim) - so on this level we need to own that we have choices - but in Truth we make the choices we need to make for who we are as Spiritual Beings and what our mission is in this lifetime.  We cannot make the wrong choice - we do not have the power to screw up the Great Spirits plan - but it does feel like we have made wrong choices/mistakes.  At the highest level there is no free will - no being has the choice to separate from God because separation is an illusion - everything is ONE - We are ONE with the earth not separate from it. 

4. If the wars are sending negative energy into the earth-will this make the transition more difficult or is it the destruction of the earth? Is this for the transition to the New Age, what is it that I am not seeing? Will the message of Love, if critical mass continues to flow, stop WWWIII?

WWWIII could be part of the plan - we cannot know what the plan is specifically - just that it is all perfect somehow.  It is possible that the Armageddon prophecies (war and plague and pestilence and fire and earthquakes etc.) are going to happen as part of a planetary cleansing.  I think that if this planet is ever to be a safe balanced place then there have to be a lot less people on it - the whole system has to come down and a lot of people eliminated if this planet on this plane is to be balanced and peaceful. Or the old souls who are healing may transition vibrationally to a higher plane and this planet my go on or be destroyed - whatever.  What ever happens will serve the Great Spirits plan. 

5. The hundredth monkey philosophy will open all hearts or just some?

Just some for now - on this plane at this time. In Truth all are part of God everything else is illusion. 

6.What is our time factor??

I don't know - I think for sure in the next 10 years - maybe much sooner. 

7. I would like to ask at this time- Why is it that the old souls need settlement in this lifetime?

Because we are almost done with the Karmic Dance - with the experience of scarcity and separation etc. This is one of our last incarnations as humans in a hostile environment. 

8. Is it to carry on into the new Age of Joy  of a cleansed earth?

See above - maybe cleansed earth, maybe a different plane completely. 

9. Will they  (old souls)face the most "feeling the feelings" experiences?


10. What if they opt out?

They can't opt out - whatever they do is perfect part of their path. Can do it now or next lifetime. Don't have power to screw up God's plan. 

 11.Will they begin to gain the levels of Christ Conscoiusness?

Yes - CC is same as Love Force. You are already touching on that level regularly. 

12. I want to ask you about incarnation of Jesus Christ, I have very little history, no reglious back ground at all, do I read the bible and sift through it?

Not necessary for you to read bible unless you are lead to do that - Jesus was a teacher who was tuned in better than most - we all have access to Christ energy (but again can't stay in it - only for moments)  There is not a specific soul named Jesus who is going to reappear. 

 13. I feel very alone-in my human state, that is-I sometimes forget to live for today. Sometimes it is hard not to be serious.   I know the Great Spirit is with me always.

Yes GS is with us always - that does not stop us from feeling fear, anger, sadness, "gray" what ever - those feelings are part of out experience, nothing wrong with them - they just don't feel comfortable but are perfect.  Is human to forget to live for today! 

14.  I feel anger -knowing I will not see my children grow up.  (My friend has a supposedly fatal disease.)

You don't know you won't get to see them grow up - you will exit at some point but you have no way of knowing when - whenever it is will be perfect - AND who says you won't see them grow up even after you exit!  Perfectly OK, right and normal and healthy to feel anger.  Even though all is perfect it often feels like shit down here and it is important to be angry at God for how it feels - remember how some days I call my Higher Power Fucking Asshole - I can feel that and still know it is all perfect at the same time. 

15. I no longer feel "gray" (a state of not really feeling human and not really feeling spirtual ) it was a strange place to be.  I seem to have my idenity back, at a new level.

Feeling gray is perfect part of the process - we are in transition - we go from feeling in touch to feeling out of touch - to confusion and fear - to anger - to wanting to die - to singing for Joy ----- all part of the journey.  none of it is bad or wrong. just the process.  Look at my column on the Self-nurturing page again - it feels like a stupid game much of the time. 

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Except where quotes are cited this material is copyright by Robert Burney 1998.  Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney is Copyright 1995. The quotations from columns Powerlessness & Empowerment is Copyright 1997 by Mr. Burney.