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 covers Buddhism, suffering alcoholics, the humility to receive, dysfunction in Japanese culture, sexually abused and overweight, the horribly shameful secret for incest survivors

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.


A new friend who recently ordered my book shared her feelings about it in several e-mails while reading it.  One of the things she questioned in the first e-mail was my perspective of Buddhism.

I'm into the third chapter and as these feelings and reflections arise I would like to communicate with you before they fade.  I have a different perspective of Buddhism than the one you presented. 

I was actually quite happy to have this question raised.  In the third chapter of my book I use an interpretation of Buddhism which I had run across, as a tool for making some points in my explanation of the dis-ease of Codependence.  I am going to quote some of the my sections about Buddha’s teachings here for anyone who has not read my book.

And we are not going through a cycle of lifetimes simply because that is all there is - or as Buddha supposedly taught, of which the goal is to cease to exist.

I say supposedly because it is very difficult to discern what Buddha actually taught and what distortions polluted the Truth which he accessed. 

The teachings of all the Master Teachers, of all the world’s religions, contain some Truth along with a lot of distortions and lies.  Discerning Truth is often like recovering treasure from shipwrecks that have been sitting on the ocean floor for hundreds of years - the grains of Truth, the nuggets of gold, have become encrusted with garbage over the years.

(All text in this color are quotes from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney)

One of the things that I was very happy to see was that the person raising the question about Buddhism was able to express her reaction to what I said and then read on until she came to an understanding of my perspective.  One of the sad things for me to watch in the reactions that people have had to my book is that some of them let the disease dictate their reactions in exactly some of the same ways that I describe as the disease dynamics.  One aspect of Codependence is black and white, right and wrong, thinking.  I talk in my book about how important it is to learn discernment so that we can pick the baby out of the dirty bath water.  There is Truth all around us in different religions, philosophies, Spiritual practices - there is also distortion and twisted belief in all of them.  It is vital to learn to tune into our inner channel in order to feel which teachings resonate with us - while knowing that we don’t have to accept that which does not resonate.  Many wounded humans - because they have learned not to trust themselves - want someone else to tell them what is right and wrong because they are terrified of doing life "wrong." So they look for all the Truth in one place and reject anything that doesn’t fit with that way of seeing things.

I welcomed this inquiry about what I said about Buddhism because some people have reacted very strongly to the things which I said.  They used my “wrongness” about Buddhism as an excuse to throw out everything I said.  To throw out the baby with the bath water.  As I state very clearly (seems clear to me) in the continuation quote below - the interpretation I use of Buddha’s teaching is a tool to make a point.  And as will be seen in  later quotes (which the person who sent the e-mail had not gotten to at the time she wrote) I mention an interpretation of Buddha that aligns with what I am saying in the book.  Ironically, the quote above and the quote immediately following are separated in the book by an example about how twisted and distorted interpretations of the Bible have been.  Later in the book I talk about how many so-called “Christian” teachings today are the very opposite of the teachings of Jesus.  Some Christians have dismissed my book/thrown out the baby, for the very same reasons some Buddhists have. 

(The section of the book about the misinterpretation of the bible is on the question and answer page entitled:
Jesus & Mary Magdalene - Jesus, sexuality, and the bible )

Now to get back to Buddha.  We are told - by writers who wrote all of it down long after he was dead, of course - that Buddha taught that there were four Great Truths. (This is one interpretation of Buddha’s teachings which is being used here as a tool.  It is not meant to diminish or negatively reflect on the Spiritual value of other versions.) 

The first was that all existence is suffering.

That is not True!  It has never been True!

As I stated earlier, life for humans has been primarily about suffering.  But there have always been moments of transcendence.  Moments of Joy and Light and Love in human life.  Moments of connecting with the Truth and Joy of our Spiritual Essence.  Moments of connection with the Great Spirit.

If there had not been, human life would be without real meaning, and we probably would have given up the fight for survival long ago.

We are not animals - not that there is anything wrong with being an animal - but we have a consciousness of something larger, something beyond ourselves.  We have a memory of some other place - of some place kinder and gentler and more Loving.

We are Spiritual Beings. 

Humans have always searched for our Spiritual connection.  Every human who has ever lived on this planet has ached for, yearned for, Spiritual full-fill-ment.  Every human who is not in denial feels the hole inside that comes from Spiritual dis-ease, from feeling disconnected from our Spiritual Source.

What is so wonderful, what is so Joyous and exciting, is that we now have clearer access to our Spiritual Higher Consciousness than ever before in recorded human history.  And through that Higher Self to the Universal Creative God-Force.

Each and every one of us has an inner channel.  We now have the capability to atone - which means tune into - to atone, to tune into the Higher Consciousness.  To tune into the Higher vibrational emotional energies that are Joy, Light, Truth, Beauty, and Love.

We can tune into the Truth of “at ONE ness.”  Atone = at ONE.  Atonement = at ONE ment, in a condition of ONENESS.

We now have access to the highest vibrational frequencies - we can tune into the Truth of ONENESS.  By aligning with Truth we are tuning into the higher energy vibrations that reconnect us with the Truth of ONENESS.

This is the age of atonement, but it does not have anything to do with judgment and punishment.  It has to do with tuning our inner channel into the right frequencies.

But our inner channel is blocked and cluttered with repressed emotional energy and dysfunctional attitudes.  The more we clear our inner channel through aligning with Truth attitudinally, and releasing the repressed emotional energy through the grief process, the clearer we can tune into the music of Love and Joy, Light and Truth. 

It is not easy because we have been taught to look at being human backwards.  We were forced to accept a reversed perspective.  We were emotionally and subconsciously programmed to react to life dysfunctionally based on reversed belief systems.

We are Spiritual Beings having a human experience.

NOT human creatures who have to earn Spiritual existence.  We are not flawed, shameful humans who have to do human perfectly, who have to do the “right” things in order to transcend.

I do not practice a formal training but was raised in both the temple and in the Christian church and everyone spoke Japanese in both so I don't know what really went on.  The essence of it is in my genetics and mutated into a blend of paths that suited my needs better.  The past 28 years I have studied a Tibetan teaching.  They do sometimes sound harsh and the precepts have appeared to be rather masochistic in the emphasis on suffering.  I have perceived it to be no different than the recovery process worded in a tight and specific way maybe for a different culture.

I agree with your perception there - recovery or Spiritual healing or any path can be worded in right and wrong language that is harsh and can be shaming.  One of the nice things about alcoholism for someone new in recovery is that it is very black and white - you don’t drink no matter what.  Many alcoholics have used the black and white thinking of their codependence to help them stay sober.  (Codependence in AA language is called “Grave emotional and mental disorders”  - I talk about this on the page Alcoholism )  Some of the alcoholics that I have seen that are suffering the most have been sober for many years - 30 or 40 in some cases.  One of the main reasons I still attend AA meetings is to carry the message of Codependence Recovery to the suffering alcoholics in AA.

To continue the Buddha quote:

Buddha - who was obviously an important messenger in setting up this defense system - taught that the fourth great truth is that one must control conduct, thinking, and belief by following the eight-fold path of right views, right speech, right conduct, right effort, right etc., etc.

Buddha could have been the patron saint of Codependence with that teaching.  Always trying to be in control and do the “right” things is Codependence (as is going to the opposite extreme).  It is a defense system for survival in a hostile environment.  It is based on beliefs that are backwards, reversed.

Who we are, are transcendent Spiritual Beings who are part of the ONENESS that is the God-Force.  We always have been and always will be.  We are perfect in our Spiritual Essence.  We are perfectly where we are supposed to be on our Spiritual Path.  And from a human perspective we will never be able to do “human” perfectly - which is perfect.

The Eightfold path of "right" things - maybe like the 10 Commandments was to guide some pretty barbaric people and give them the idea that we create "great unhappiness" by saying words that hurt and not being mindful of the tone we use,putting down others to make ourselves right, or will not be as fulfilled if we take on a livelihood that is not an expression of our gift and the love we have for it, etc.  Maybe "right" is a misleading word.  I wonder what the original one was.

I wonder what the original was also.  Going back to the original language can often be very enlightening.  As an example, the word Jesus used in Aramaic to describe God was not a masculine noun - it could have been translated as source or foundation as well as father.  The choice of translation was made out to the belief systems of those who transcribed and translated what they had heard that Jesus had said.

As you discovered in reading the rest of the book - I later put Buddha’s teachings into the context of today’s healing.

Buddha carried Truth and served as a messenger for teaching people how to protect themselves until it was time to awaken.  [In the context of today’s healing, it can be seen that Buddha’s fourth great truth (one must control conduct, thinking, and belief) can be interpreted as referring to developing internal and external boundaries, practicing discernment, choosing an enlightened perspective, and having an honest, balanced emotional relationship with self.  The need to choose right views, right conduct, right effort, etc., in this context can be seen to refer to integration and balance - not right versus wrong.]

The veil of conflicting emotions that creates pain was to be "experienced without repressing, evoking or transferring them....." or in other texts to "make friends with the demon" or "put one's head in the demon's mouth".  I felt it to mean that no matter how great the conflict to look for the underlying sameness and bring it into a harmony.  I thought it to mean there is no original badness but a "soft spot" that we make armor over when hurt.  Or that it's is our wound that we must heal - Boddhicitta awakened heart.

Your interpretation here makes good sense.  I can read your words "make friends with the demon" as being the same dynamic that I describe in the book as "we need to surrender to traveling through the black hole of our grief."  " . . . look for the underlying sameness and bring it into a harmony." is to me the same as integrating Spiritual Truth into our process.  " . . . no original badness but a "soft spot" is to me the wounded inner child parts of us that we need to learn to Love and parent in a healthy way.  And of course the journey is all about awakening to Love.

Unfortunately what a lot of people I have encountered and worked with were taught was not to experience “without repressing, evoking or transferring them....." - but to "observe."  I have had many clients who have practiced sitting in meditation for many years, who were taught to use meditation as a way of repressing the feelings - "observing" the feelings is not the same as owning and feeling and experiencing.  Just as some “new age” or Metaphysical people use Spiritual Truths as another tool to deny the feelings (I have worked with many people who thought they had no right to be angry at their parents because they “chose” them - that choice was made in alignment with the need to settle Karma, not of totally free selection, and in no way negates our need to own our right to be angry about how their behavior affected us.  Just the other day a friend told me that her boyfriends mother refuses to take any responsibility for what happened in his childhood because he “chose” her.) so too have meditation practices of observing the feelings been used by some to avoid feeling the feelings.

I dated a woman for a while who had been practicing for many years - it was very interesting for me to observe (I was at a point in my process where I was working on letting go of rescuing and needing to change the other person - so I was just observing) how she ignored conflict.  We never did any processing of difficulties which arose because she would act as if it never happened.  Avoiding conflict also denies intimacy - we cannot be emotionally intimate with someone we can’t be angry at.  Conflict is an inherent part of relationships and is to be worked through to grow from - that is the garden that deeper intimacy grows out of.  (For any of you that have not read my update/newsletters, the one for 8-23-98  explains that I am enjoying the freedom of approaching these Q & A pages and updates in a very casual fashion when it comes to grammar and puntuation - including allowing myself to end sentences with prepositions - so if it bothers you, it can be a wonderful opportunity to practice letting go and not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. :-)

More on Buddha:

Buddha's second great truth is that it is “the craving,” the “thirst for life,” that causes suffering.  That it is our desires and human needs that cause us suffering.

His third great truth is that to stop suffering we must destroy the thirst for life, stamp out the desires and needs.
He lived 2500 years too soon.  It is not human needs and desires that cause suffering, it is looking to get those needs fulfilled in someplace where they cannot be fulfilled that causes suffering.  It has been trying to quench our thirst from an empty well that is dysfunctional.

Humans have been trying to fill the hole within ourselves by looking outside of ourselves.  We were taught to look outside, to external manifestations to meet our needs, to find out who we are and why we are here.
The answers do not exist outside - the answers lie within.

The reason that humans have not been able to “get it together” is that we have been looking outside for “it.”  “It” exists only within.  We need to look in-to-it.  As in intuition:  in-tu-it.

As long as we look outside of Self - with a capital S - to find out who we are, to define ourselves and give us self-worth, we are setting ourselves up to be victims.

I understood craving to mean addiction and it was described as a demon with "a belly the size of a mountain and mouth the size of an eye of a needle" and to understand it we had to make friends with it and not fight it.  I really think it's saying the same thing you are.  The exercise I do is to "turn poison into gold" - spiritual alchemy of taking the rough stuff of living and turning it into growth and discovery.  Like bad relationships and experiences being opportunities to stand up for myself and overcome my fears and that limiting certain experiences by being motivated by "conditioned existence creates a deadening effect on life."  That's what I thought Dharma meant.  Facing and embracing all the messy stuff that we try to avoid.  If I'm in denial of something please tell me.

You are right on!  Your phrase - a demon with "a belly the size of a mountain and mouth the size of an eye of a needle"  reminded me of the AA saying “one drink is too many and a thousand never enough.”  The craving for something outside of us to fill the hole within is a bottomless pit - because we are looking outside for something that can only be found within.  It just plain does not work to try to fill the hole in our soul with outside or external manifestations.

The snake medicine people of the shamanistic path or medicine wheel beliefs are taught to transmute poison into power.  That is exactly what we do in recovery - by owning our wounds we can embrace the wounded parts of our self and turn those wounds into strength and power.  True compassion and Love cannot be achieved without accessing Love and compassion for ourselves. 

As you said - “spiritual alchemy of taking the rough stuff of living and turning it into growth and discovery.”  Or in my words “I don’t have any problems - I have opportunities for growth.”  That is what life is all about - growing and learning.  It is so important to see our life as a learning process instead of as a test or punishment.  Changing our relationship with life by seeing life events and other peoples behavior as opportunities changes our whole experience of life. Unfortunately just knowing this Truth intellectually is the first step and doesn’t change things that much in our most intimate relationships.  Until we go into the void / "demon's mouth" of our wounds and own and feel and experience the feelings - we cannot change the subconscious programming, we cannot change our relationships with the people we care the most about.  Codependence is a reactive disorder the effect of which is dysfunctional - and could be described as you did: limiting certain experiences by being motivated by "conditioned existence creates a deadening effect on life." - if we are reacting out of our childhood conditioning, we are limiting our life experience - we are not Truly alive.

In Love there is great power, in compassion there is great strength.  In compassion we can allow those we Love to have their own opportunities.  Feeling sorry for someone is not compassion.   As I say in my book there is a huge difference between care-taking and care-giving.

We were taught to be caretakers instead of care-givers.  That is, to take our self-definition - our ego-strength - from what we do for others, rather than giving to others out of our Self as an expression of Love.

This is a matter of focus:  Codependence is a disease of reversed focus.  If you are taking your self-worth from what you are doing for others, you are going to end up being the victim, because they are not going to do what you want them to do in return.  (“After all that I’ve done for you!”)

If you are giving as an expression of self-worth then you do not need anything in return - and that is when you really get the gifts.

Giving should be an expression of the Love we have accessed within - not a way of gaining ego-strength by helping people whom we are judging to be less than us.

I just heard a minister friend express a great take on this the other day.  She said that saying that “giving is more blessed that receiving” is like saying exhaling is more blessed that inhaling.  They are one. They are part of the same energy flow.  Giving and receiving are no more separate than Yin and Yang, or Masculine and Feminine.  We cannot Truly give until we can give to our self - until we own that we deserve to receive.  The more we open up to our True Self, to being an extension of, a manifestation of, the God-Force, Goddess Energy, Great Spirit, - the more we can have compassion for the pain that this human experience has caused us so that we can Truly Love and honor ourselves and others.

The humility to receive

Until we can learn the humility to know we deserve to receive, we cannot give up the addiction of dysfunctionally giving/rescuing/enabling because we don’t have anything else to fill the hole inside - of course, we can replace it with another addiction. 

And yes I did mean humility.  It is the arrogance of my wounded and badly programmed ego that wants me to beat myself up - ‘every one else in the world is a child of God but there is something wrong with me.’  The damaged ego - which is the seat of the disease - wants us to feel ‘better than’ or ‘worse than’ in order to keep us separate because it is trying to protect the wounded little child inside who feels unworthy and unlovable (My page Loving the Wounded Child Within  )  Humility is not doing a negative inventory - humility is owning both our strong points and our weak points.  Humility is about being open to being teachable - to changing.  Humility is ultimately about surrendering to the idea that maybe, just maybe, we are Lovable and worthy.

Of course the disease voice, the critical parent/perpetrator within us, goes to great lengths to keep us from owning our power and our right to Love.  That is why it is so important to do the process work that I describe starting with the page on Learning to Love our self   The disease feeds on shame so it is vital to start taking the shame and judgment out of our inner process on a personal level - when we stop judging our self (have compassion for our selves) is when we can Truly stop judging others (learn to Love.)

 Dysfunction in Japanese Culture

You also mention your Japanese heritage -which gives me a perfect opportunity to talk about something that had been percolating in my head the last week or so. I have been thinking about the flavor of dysfunction in Japanese culture lately because my web site has been getting some hits from Japan.

Here is another quote from my book that relates to this:

I want to make a couple of points of clarification at this time.

One is that I am referring to civilizations around the world, but most of the examples or specifics I am mentioning have to do with Western Civilization and specifically American society.  That is just for my convenience and your identification.  (I am using the word “civilization” here in the Western sense of the term - that is, urban-based and believed to be superior to “less advanced” peoples.)

All civilizations are dysfunctional to varying degrees, as are subcultures within those civilizations.  They just have different flavors of dysfunction, of imbalance.

As an example:  In much of Asia the individual is discounted for the good of the whole - whether that be family or corporation or country.  The individual takes his or her self-definition from the larger system.  That is just as out of balance and dysfunctional as the Western Civilization manifestation of glorifying the individual to the detriment of the whole.  It is just a different variety of dysfunction.

The goal of this dance of Recovery is integration and balance.  That means  celebrating being a tree while also glorying in being a part of the forest.   Recovery is a process of becoming conscious of our individual wholeness and our ONENESS with all.

Japanese culture has been out of balance (in my opinion) in terms of discounting the individual in favor of the larger system.  This is, of course, changing slowly as the dysfunctional Western Civilization type of individualism invades the East - but the tradition has been that maintaining the honor of the larger system - family, country, corporation - was more important than any individual rights. 

What you said about your interpretation of Buddhism that “we create "great unhappiness" by saying words that hurt and not being mindful of the tone we use, putting down others to make ourselves right,” makes something I had been thinking make perfect sense.  I had observed that the cultural customs in relationship to the concept of "honor" and "saving face" were established in such a way as to prevent individuals from having to set boundaries.  When everyone is always making great effort to not say words that hurt or put others down - then no one has to set boundaries.  A great deal of effort and energy goes into avoiding any conflict that might cause another discomfort.

Unfortunately, this dictates emotional dishonesty and loss of self.  Setting boundaries is how we find out who we are - if I never have to stand up for myself then I never have to define myself as an individual.  And as I said above - we cannot be emotionally intimate with someone we cannot be angry with - emotional intimacy by definition is being able to express all of our emotions.  That does not mean that we have to express them in destructive ways or put others down - but it wasn’t until I started learning how to set boundaries that I started to learn who I really am. Until then I was defined by all those outside things - what I did, what I owned, who liked me, if you thought I was attractive, etc.  As long as we are defining ourselves by outer or external influences we are set up to be victims.  So the dysfunction in Japanese culture is in some ways the other extreme from the “ugly American” type dysfunction - and neither work to help us reconnect with our Spirit so that we can tune into the Love that is the True heritage of all of us.

Her next e-mail said:

Hello Robert!

I'm still reeling from all the information in your book and will be processing it for some time to come.  It came at a timely moment and has triggered movement that has been simmering for awhile now and clarified much that I have not been able to quite put my finger on.  I thank you very very much for your commitment to this awareness and humbly bow to the journey that leads you and for the courage to express it.

Truly we need recovering people as we recover.  The grief I spoke to you of has been different than the kind I felt when doing some of the original pain work.  This time it felt soft and peaceful beneath the chaos of the newness that has begun to unfold.

Yes, there are different levels of grief work.  The deep grieving with the crying and sobbing and snot running out of our nose (and sometimes vomiting).   The level that you are talking about is just about owning the sadness.  Just feeling sad.  It felt to me like a veil or blanket laid over my day.  An underlying sadness that does not keep me from also experiencing happiness or Joy or gratitude in some of the moments of that day.  (As I describe in my new online column about Happy Holidays.)  It is very important just to own our right to be sad - we do not need to know specifically why we are feeling sad.  One of my defenses that I had to get past was thinking I had to figure out where a feeling was coming from/what it was about before I could feel it.  I learned to just own it - to say to myself: “I am feeling sad.  I am not sure why I am feeling sad but I have lots of reason to feel sad - so I will just own it and feel it.”  Of course, a lot of the time I was given insight at some point about what had set off that particular sadness but it is not important at the time to understand it - just to own it, experience it, and have some compassion for ourselves because it is very sad how what happened to us in childhood and how the reaction to those wounds caused us to not be present in our own life for most of our adulthood.

You were right about owning my feelings for the first time and things feel different now bearing also different results.  Your feelings about codependency have helped me make many decisions I've been struggling with and to take a more emotionally honest look at myself and some of the relationships that I've outgrown (for lack of better word)

“Outgrown” is the word - and it does not have to be a judgment, just an observation (of course, it doesn’t really serve any purpose to use that word in explaining to the other person because they will certainly take it as a judgment.)  We need to observe others for our own defense (“That person is full of anger - they must be really wounded - I think it is my best interests to stay away from that person.”)  We need to observe ourselves in order to become empowered to change out thinking and behavior.  (My page Learning to Love your self)

Here is a quote from my book about judgment.

When I use the term “judge,” I am talking about making judgments about our own or other people’s beings based on behavior.  In other words, I did something bad therefore I am a bad person; I made a mistake therefore I am a mistake.  That is what toxic shame is all about:  feeling that something is wrong with our being, that we are somehow defective because we have human drives, human weaknesses, human imperfections.

There may be behavior in which we have engaged that we feel ashamed of but that does not make us shameful beings   We may need to make judgments about whether our behavior is healthy and appropriate but that does not mean that we have to judge our essential self, our being, because of the behavior.  Our behavior has been dictated by our disease, by our childhood wounds; it does not mean that we are bad or defective as beings.  It means that we are human, it means that we are wounded.

It is important to start setting a boundary between being and behavior.  All humans have equal Divine value as beings - no matter what our behavior.  Our behavior is learned (and/or reactive to physical or physiological conditions). 

Behavior, and the attitudes that dictate behavior, are adopted defenses designed to allow us to survive in the Spiritually hostile, emotionally repressive, dysfunctional environments into which we were born.

We judge others negatively for being human because we judge ourselves negatively for being human.  We cannot Truly Love and accept others as human unless we start to Love ourselves as beings and accept our humanity.

We need to start observing ourselves and stop judging ourselves.  Any time we judge and shame ourselves, we are feeding back into the disease, we are jumping back into the squirrel cage.

and I didn't want to accept that I am moving into new areas that will not be shared with as many of the people I love as I would like, knowing also that my life is filling with others that I truly feel I can share with.

One of the very sad things in my recovery for me was how many people I had to let go of.  I realized that almost all of the people that I was calling “friends” were really no more than friendly acquaintances (sometimes not even that) - not real friends.  Because I was not capable of being a real friend to myself - the people that I had chosen to be in my life were not capable of being real friends to me.  I had to let go of a lot of people along the way in my recovery.  The quantity of people in my personal life went way down (old AA saying “The road gets narrower.” ) but the quality of the friendships that are there now has gone way up (the horizons get broader.)

I'm redefining and refining things and "Separation is necessary for energy to be in motion."  Your book is very deja vu and synchronistic with the activity within and around me at this moment from your descriptions to concepts of quantum physics that I have experienced lately to my challenges with recovery.   I think I understand where you're coming from regarding the Buddhist path and look forward to what more you will say and hope I didn't cause you to feel attacked by my oration.

Thanks for the opportunity to explain and explore some areas that I hadn’t covered in the web site - just as finding the web site and my book were a perfect part of your process - so also was your inquiry and the stimulation to write this page a perfect part of my process.  We are all teaching each other - We are all in process - We are all perfectly where we are supposed to be on our Spiritual Path.

I am in trouble wrote:

I am 46 years old, female, single.  An adult survivor of childhood physical and sexual abuse by my father I am more than 100 pounds overweight, and I hate my body.

I have done grieving work. I have done inner child work.  I have revisited my childhood in the safety of a therapist's office, and have come a very long way over 8 years of therapy.

But I hate my body. And I don't want to. How can I make peace with my body? How can I "integrate" what I feel physically with what I feel emotionally, spiritually, intellectually?

Can you help me?

I am really sorry for your pain.  It is a very very difficult issue to deal with and the most important thing is to start working on having some compassion for yourself.  Being overweight is a very normal reaction to sexual abuse -
especially incest.  The extra weight is like armor to protect you from the terror, shame, pain, and confusion that was a
result of the trauma you experienced as a little girl and probably had repeated in some ways in adulthood. 

There are probably other aspects to it as well as there are multiple levels of reasons for everything.  I have spent many
years trying to change my relationship with my body.  I hated my body because I blamed it for trapping me here in this
painful place - I have blamed my body for separating me from God, and spent much of my life trying to destroy it.

The extra weight can also be a passive-aggressive reaction to the anger you feel at God for abandoning and betraying you - as I mention in my book the battle cry of codependents is "I'll show you - I'll get me!"  We often do harmful things to ourselves in retaliation against being abused. 

What is so important is to start working on forgiving your self for the abuse you recieved, to start forgiving that little girl and working on having an ongoing relationship with her that is Loving.  Keep reading my pages about how to start learning to Love your self and also check out my question and answer pages - there might be a few things there that will be helpful. 

You are not alone.   It is not your fault.  You are not bad or wrong - you are wounded and you have done the best you knew how to do with the tools that you have.  Food may have been the only way to deal with the pain. 

As I said keep reading my pages about learning to Love your self and especially the Positive Affirmation page to get some positive affirmations to start countering the critical parent/disease voice that is shaming and judging your self so
unmercifully.  It is possible to start having mercy on your self/have compassion for yourself.  There is hope. 

How kind of you to sit down and write me a personal reply! The night I wrote you that e-mail, I was feeling especially wounded, and especially HUGE... but this battle with my body has been an  ongoing thing, possibly related to ways I felt my body betrayed me during the incest. It behaved the way it was made to behave, and sometimes I climaxed.  This is, I think, part of the problem.

Yes, one of the hardest things for any survivor of incest or sexual abuse to deal with is the fact that there were moments when the physical reactions to sexual stimulation occurred.  It does Truly feel like an incredible betrayal by our bodies - and incredibly shameful.  On top of that it may have been the closest thing we ever got to affectionate touch - and even though we could feel that it was wrong, ‘yucky’, disgusting - the part of us that was so starved for some affection and touch may have sometimes almost welcomed it.

The horribly shameful secret for incest survivors is that there were moments of reaction to the sexual stimulation - sometimes people feel so incredibly ashamed of that reality that they are too ashamed to even talk about it in therapy.  The reaction was - as you said - normal and beyond your control.

The power of this shame and the emotional pain we experienced is the reason that we need to establish an ongoing relationship with the wounded parts of us.  We don’t heal the inner child and then get beyond it.  We will be having reactions to those wounds for the rest of out lives.  As I say in my book:

It is through healing our inner child, our inner children, by grieving the wounds that we suffered, that we can change our behavior patterns and clear our emotional process.  We can release the grief with its pent-up rage, shame, terror, and pain from those feeling places which exist within us.

That does not mean that the wound will ever be completely healed.  There will always be a tender spot, a painful place within us due to the experiences that we have had.  What it does mean is that we can take the power away from those wounds.   By bringing them out of the darkness into the Light, by releasing the energy, we can heal them enough so that they do not have the power to dictate how we live our lives today.  We can heal them enough to change the quality of our lives dramatically.  We can heal them enough to Truly be happy, Joyous and free in the moment most of the time.

It is through having the courage and willingness to revisit the emotional “dark night of the soul” that was our childhood, that we can start to understand on a gut level why we have lived our lives as we have.

It is when we start understanding the cause and effect relationship between what happened to the child that we were, and the effect it had on the adult we became, that we can Truly start to forgive ourselves.  It is only when we start understanding on an emotional level, on a gut level, that we were powerless to do anything any differently than we did that we can Truly start to Love ourselves.

The hardest thing for any of us to do is to have compassion for ourselves.  As children we felt responsible for the things that happened to us.  We blamed ourselves for the things that were done to us and for the deprivations we suffered.  There is nothing more powerful in this transformational process than being able to go back to that child who still exists within us and say, “It wasn’t your fault.  You didn’t do anything wrong, you were just a little kid.”

To be able to say “I Love you” to the child/children within us, and to the person who we are today, and really mean it on an emotional level, is one of the goals of this process.

And forgiveness is a process.  Making amends to ourselves is about changing our attitudes (stopping the shame and judgment internally) and changing our behaviors (treating ourselves in Loving ways.)  It is not something that happens quickly.  It takes time to change our relationship with ourselves and all of the parts of ourselves - like with our body or with our sexuality.  I am still doing some of the behaviors that are punishing my body and am overweight myself - and it makes me sad, but what I know today (and need to remind myself on almost a daily basis) is that I am unconditionally Loved and am perfectly where I am supposed to be on my Spiritual Path.  I am not in control of the process.  I am a co-creator and need to do my part by being aware of the dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors that are still hurting me - but the Universe is in charge and is fully capable of getting me to change when it is time to change.  I do not have the power to screw up the Divine Plan!  I cannot make Loving changes in my life through self-will!  I will be changed by aligning my will with the will of God - when the time is right!

If I am still reacting on some levels (around food or cigarettes or caffeine or relationships or whatever) out of the need to numb my feelings and punish my body - if I am still “should”ing on myself, or telling myself that I will not be lovable and worthy until I lose weight or quit eating red meat or whatever - then I am not accepting the First Two Steps of the Twelve Step program (that I am powerless to change myself without the help of a Higher Power) - I am not accepting that The Goddess Loves me Unconditionally.  My ego/disease is still causing me to buy into the belief that something is wrong with me.  It is arrogance for me to believe that I am not good enough (or slim enough, or healthy enough, or rich enough, or successful enough, or whatever) - for me to not accept, surrender to, the possibility that maybe The Great Spirit does Love me unconditionally.

And yes, eating has been a form of armor for me. If I am big, nobody will mess with me physically, and if I am fat, no man will desire me sexually. But it is also very lonely.

I also am a very sensual person. Have always been deeply moved by touch, sound, color, aroma, and taste. I'm beginning to think about ways to satisfy myself sensually other than food. (I am alone, and I believe I don't have enough physical human contact.)

Most of us are Touch deprived.  It is very sad.  One of the things that we can do to help us in this area is to get a massage - they can be very nurturing and a Loving thing to do for ourselves.

I talk on my page A Dance of Shame, Suffering, & Self-Abuse about the disease dynamic and how it causes us to abuse ourselves because we keep shaming ourselves for not being who or what (or how thin or how successful) we “should” be - it is so important to start setting boundaries with that disease/critical parent voice - and it is so hard to change the patterns.  It is very sad that you were sexually abused and traumatized - it is sad that one of the few tools you had to help you survive was food - it is a tragedy that those wounds have caused you to abuse yourself and disown part of the God-given gift of being in body - your sensuality/sexuality. 

Congratulations on the fact that you are working on your healing.  By reaching out and sending the e-mails you were asking the Universe for help in healing (working the third step.)  You were taking action that was Loving to your self - to try to learn how you could Love yourself more.  You are perfectly where you are supposed to be on your Path - you are in the process of changing and healing.  Remember, we are not the potter - we are the clay.  We aren’t in charge - and we are Unconditionally Loved. There is hope - things will get better as long as you keep taking action to align with the Truth of a Loving Higher Power.

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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.