If you missed Part 1 of this post, you can read it here.
Bert still speaking:)
Last time we called control a train you can chase but never catch, and power a muscle that grows stronger as you exercise it.
So how do you build that muscle? How does a person become more powerful?
My adventures in recovery have taught me seven ways:
(1) Refocus. You begin by shifting your focus from outside — people, places and things — to inside — your own needs, thoughts and feelings. Happiness is an inside job, and most of the answers you need are in there.
(2) Detach. Then you let go of what you can’t control anyway. It may be a situation, or a person, or that person’s behavior. Ask yourself, “Can I really control this? Have I ever been able to before?” If the answer is No, let go of it. If it’s a person you care about, you can detach with love, as they say in Al-Anon. Detaching doesn’t mean you stop caring about them. It just means you acknowledge your limitations. And when you do that, an enormous relief often follows.
(3) Take care of yourself. This one’s important: You stop treating yourself like a machine. Listen to your body instead, and start respecting the messages it sends you. Hungry? Eat. Tired? Sit down. Maybe take a nap. (Naps are great.) Lonely? Seek out safe people. (More on this below.) Angry? Scream (into a pillow, maybe, so you don’t scare the neighbors). Sad? Let yourself cry. It’s how the body naturally relieves tension, and it helps.
(4) Educate yourself. You’re not crazy. Your pain, whatever it is, means something. Your job is to figure out what it’s trying to tell you. Education takes many forms, from Googling codependency to reading self-help books (start with Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More or Adult Children of Alcoholics by Janet Woititz — even if you don’t think of yourself as “codependent” or as coming from an alcoholic family), or listening to tapes (try the library), or talking to a friend, or finding a good therapist, or attending a self-help meeting. After his first Al-Anon meeting one client told me, “It was like a light coming on in a dark room, and suddenly I could see all the furniture I’ve been tripping over.” Why live in the dark any longer than you have to?
(5) Get some support. No one gets through life alone. (Even if you could, why would you want to?) Seriously consider checking out a self-help program, like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon or CODA. You’re probably scared of that first meeting. That’s okay. Everyone is. Go anyway. It won’t kill you, and you can’t know beforehand what you’ll hear. A good meeting can save your life, not to mention your sanity.
(6) Listen to feelings. This is another big one. Most of us hide our feelings, even from ourselves. But feelings are essential. You need to reclaim them. Find people who are trying to recover their feelings, and who can support you while you’re trying to recover yours. Who’s the person you feel most free to be yourself with? Spend time with them. If there’s no one like that in your life, see it as the problem it is. Then correct it. Hire a therapist, visit CODA or Al-Anon, or at the very least find a chat room online where you can listen to feelings and begin to express some yourself.
(7) Have faith. Develop your spiritual life. No, you don’t need to join a church. You don’t even need to believe in God. You do need to believe in something bigger than you, some truth you trust even when you don’t understand it. Call it Nature. Call it The Force. Al-Anon calls it Higher Power, but you can call it what you like. Steve wants to add something here.
When I hit adolescence I rejected the idea of God, whom I’d always visualized as some huge version of Charlton Heston in a bathrobe riding a cloud. But I always believed in psychology. Then I heard Scott Peck suggest on a tape that it’s not unreasonable to replace the word God with the word unconscious.That permanently reframed the idea of God for me. I realized there was some intelligence inside that I could listen for and which could guide me if I let it. I might doubt the existence of a God, but who can doubt the existence of that voice? That part that Knows Better? And if that intelligence could exist inside me, why not in the world at large?
Hey, we all need some invisible support. We all need to carry around inside us some version of that experience described by the Ojibwe poet who wrote,
Sometimes I go about in pity for myself,
and all the while
a great wind carries me across the sky.
Okay, your turn. Talk back to us.
What do you think of the distinction between control and power as we’ve described it?
Do you see yourself as mainly controlling or powerful?
Where’s your power come from?
And what sorts of power would you like to develop?