A Place to Start Healing

Having a healthy sense of detachment is the working foundation for an intimate relationship.

We heal in relationship with ourselves and with others.

Being aware of my mother's moods was significant to my survival. Read my Addictions Recovery Guide. For children of addict parents.Detachment is the first skill to learn to heal. Being aware of my mother's moods and actions was significant to my survival. I no longer need this skill. However, the skill I learned had a trade off. I traded the awareness of myself (my identity) in exchange for the awareness of my mother's moods and actions. I had no awareness or identity of myself so I learned how to attach myself to the things and people in my life in order to assume an identity. I used the things and people in my environment to decide about how I am to think about myself and who I am (external referencing for self awareness and identity). The definition of who I am had become dependent on external factors rather than internal factors. It's time to trade back.

The Rewards of Detachment

  • Learning how to live without the need to create chaos.
  • Learning how to become self aware and self defined.
  • Learning how to care for myself in nurturing ways.
  • Learning how to cope with addicts without being an object of addiction.
  • Learning self acceptance and the acceptance of other people or events.

Below are some lessons to practice in order to learn the skill of detachment. Any lesson may be practiced by itself or in combination with other lessons. Go slow. Go easy.

The Lessons

  1. Stop analyzing.
  2. Stop interpreting.
  3. Stop explaining.
  4. Stop looking for answers.
  5. Allow other people to have a "belief system" separate from my own.
  6. Stop "rescuing" other people from their shortcomings or problems.
  7. Control as competition.
  8. Listen in a way that allows me to take "a vacation" from what is being said.
  9. Hang up the phone.
  10. Walk away.
  11. Keep in mind that the perceptions I have are going to differ from the perceptions that other people have.
  12. What I say is good enough the first time it comes out of my mouth.
  13. Ask for clarification.
  14. Build an "inner authority."
  15. Keep in mind that people do the best they can at the moment.
  16. When the object is an object (not a person).
  17. Behave in a way that says to the outside world, and to myself, that I have value.
  18. Non-Fishing for approval.
  19. Recognize what "other-oriented" feels like.
  20. Recognize the "addictive pull."
  21. Living in the present.
  22. Spending time alone.
  23. Acceptance as a way to extradite chaos.
  24. Allowing myself to feel bad.
  25. When I talk to expel stress, I talk for myself and not for the audience.

Stop Analyzing

Stop analyzing means to relax. By trying to figure it out, whatever it is, I compulsively keep myself busy with activity in my head. I no longer claim serenity when I'm analyzing. Analyzing is a way for me to create chaos and maintain terror in my head. Chaos is a way for me to continue to terrorize myself.

Stop interpreting

Stop interpreting means to give up "stories." This is another activity that is designed to keep me busy in my head. By creating stories about something that has happened, or is happening, I create chaos in my head. The chaos is designed to maintain a level of terror for myself. Terror has become so normal, that to me, the lack of it feels terrorizing.

If I choose to interpret something that has happened, or is happening, I try to start with the phrase, "The story in my head is . . . . . ." Sometimes I have fun with this lesson by making up an outrageous story. Creating humor for myself is healthier than creating terror for myself.

Another way to stop interpreting is to check it out. When I need to stop creating chaos around a situation that I think is bothering me, I check it out. When I'm interpreting something that has happened and I need to know without guessing, as a way to acknowledge and affirm what I feel, I check it out. As an example, when I have an impression that someone is angry with me, I say, "Are you angry with me?" Without controlling or being controlled by the other person, I ask in a way to affirm and nurture what I feel or believe. Whatever the situation, I ask as a way to affirm, comfort, and nurture myself, "I feel like you are . . . . . . . ." "Are you . . . . . . . .?," to check it out.

Stop explaining

Stop explaining means:

- Stop over-explaining.

- Explaining when no explanation was asked for.

- Explaining as a response to hostile questions.

Over-explaining is saying the same thing over and over in different words as a way to create chaos and terror for myself. Over-explaining may be offering an entire dictionary when only a single definition was asked for. Over-explaining is a type of approval seeking; "Is what I say acceptable to you? I need your acceptance to feel safe so I'll continue to explain until I feel accepted and safe enough (acceptable to you)." When I start to feel anxious about what I'm saying as I'm explaining myself, chances are that I'm over explaining without realizing it. This is the time to catch myself and nurture the anxiety.

Explaining when no explanation was asked for, is when I react to something someone has observed. I feel like I'm "on the spot" in response to someone else's observation. As example, someone might say to me, "It sounds like you have a cold." In reaction to this observation I might find myself explaining the entire history of colds and how I got mine. If I were to look back at what was said, I see that the observation was not a question. It was an observation. My reaction to this observation was as if the person had stated a question like, "How did you get your cold and tell me how to avoid one and while your at it, could you explain the history of colds to me." I practice responding to observations by nodding my head or saying, "Hum-m" and wait for an observation to become a question before answering.

Explaining as a response to a hostile question, means to answer a question that was asked as a way to shame and not to gather information. Examples of questions that are hostile (attacks) and are not being asked to gather information are:

(said from an angry victimstance)

  • "Why did you do that!"
  • "How come you always do that!"
  • "How come you did that!"
  • "How come you're always late!"
  • "How come you didn't do this!"
  • "You're just doing this to piss me off aren't you!"

What sounds like a question is not a question. The question is actually a hostile remark designed to attack and shame. One way to respond to an attack like this is for me to say, "I don't know." And I continue to say it until it is accepted, or I walk away (hang up, etc).

Stop looking for answers

Stop looking for answers means to accept that:

- Not knowing something is ok.

- Not knowing something does not mean I'm defective.

- I don't need to know everything as a way to compulsively meet someone else's needs or gain their approval.

Saying to myself, "I don't know anything and I don't need to know" is a free-ing experience. This takes the pressure off myself by reducing the chaos and terror of having to know everything. Having to have all the answers is a weighty responsibility. It's designed to create chaos and maintain a level of terror. By looking for answers I don't have, I terrorize myself for not knowing the answer.

Allowing other people to have a belief system separate from my own

Allowing other people to have a belief system separate from my own may also keep me out of chaos and terror. When my young son looks up in the sky, points at a group of clouds and says, "Look daddy . . . . its a dog!," I don't need to create chaos for myself by discounting his belief system. By saying to him, "No son . . . . . . its just clouds," I create chaos for myself and discount him at the same time. He believes the clouds to look like dogs. He has a right to experience clouds (his life) in his own way.

When my spouse says to me, "I think you are golfing too much," I don't need to create chaos for myself by discounting or minimizing her belief system. By saying something like, "Your crazy or No way," I create the opportunity for chaos and terror to occur for myself and discount or minimize her at the same time. She believes I'm golfing too much. The point is not whether I am, or am not golfing too much. The point is that she believes that I am. I may respect her beliefs without agreeing with them. I don't need to create chaos by trying to gain her approval, i.e. convincing her that my golfing is not too much and that it ought to be ok with her. I may respect her belief system without agreeing with it or creating chaos in a compulsive way for myself. I do this by saying, "I didn't know you felt like that," or "I'm sad you feel that way," and stop there. Acknowledging her belief system is all that I need do. I need not change it, change her, or change myself.

Stop "rescuing" other people from their shortcomings or problems

Stop "rescuing" other people from their shortcomings or problems means to allow people the dignity to find their own way. Some examples of rescuing would be:

  • Filling in the blanks for someone who is stuck looking for a word (in a conversation I'm having with them).
  • Anticipating a need I perceive them to have and acting on it. Each person is responsible for asking for their needs to be met. The only exceptions would be those who are incapable of asking, such as an infant, someone who is unconscious, or someone impaired with a disability and unable to verbalize their needs.
  • Analyzing a problem someone has told me about in order to solve it for them without being asked if I would.
  • Reading minds or interpreting cues, body language, and other non-verbal communication; then using that information as the basis for a response to that person, instead of allowing that person to ask directly for what they need.
  • Helping as approval seeking.

These activities as well as all destructive control activities are designed to create chaos and maintain terror; and addicts are said to be addicted to excitement (chaos and terror). The excitement is two-fold:

Creating Chaos in order to Maintain a level of Terror which feels secure (a childhood norm) and, Creating Chaos to Avoid Feeling

The key to detaching from the need to rescue is to wait until I've been asked for help. However, I need to keep in mind that people ask in awkward and unclear ways for help. People do the best that they can at the moment and people do what they think they need to do to take care of themselves. Unfortunately, their behavior may also result in miscommunication (or the lack of it).

I can choose to ask for clarification if I think someone is trying to solicit my help, but hasn't actually said:

  • "I need your help."
  • "Will you help me?"
  • "May I have your help for a minute?"

The word "help" is the common link in each phrase. I need to listen for the word help before I react, even though it may be painfully clear to me what needs to be done or said. In this way I allow people the dignity and love to find their own way. I can also detach when I feel the need to rescue by stating,

  • "I feel helpless when this happens."
  • "I don't know what to say."
  • "I wish I could help."
  • Or any other statement that doesn't state things like, "Here's how to do that." or "Let me tell you how to fix that".

Control as competition

I don't need to compulsively compete in a conversation in way that creates chaos for myself. I don't need to compulsively compete driving my car in a way that creates chaos for myself. I don't need to compulsively compete to create chaos as a way to maintain terror in myself.

One of the ways I continue to create chaos for myself is in competition. This is different than healthy competition. The competition I'm referring to is the need to win or the compulsion to win. As an example:

In conversation, when someone relates a story to me, as a way to create chaos for myself I compulsively compete with them by adding to their story, relating a bigger or better story, or in some way discount their story. I'm sabotaging the other person's story in a way to compete, create chaos, and maintain terror.

Another way people compete in conversation is by playing the "Ain't it Awful" game. It is a conversation style that competes for gloominess. The object of the game is to expel as many stories about gloom as possible. And the winner controls the attention of the other players. The game creates a sense of depressing weight or chaos in the room.

Gossip is a form of playing the "Ain't awful game" where the speaker relates a story that does not pertain to themselves, i.e. "Did you hear about so-and-so . . . . ?" or "Isn't awful about what happened to . . . . .?"

When I'm driving I create chaos for myself by compulsively competing for position; either with another car, or for a relative position at the stop light. I do the same thing in a line at the store or at the movie. In some cases I compete as a reaction to feeling impatient or insufficient. When I feel helpless (feel trapped) I feel myself becoming impatient (angry and scared). At these times my compulsion is most noticeable, i.e. long lines, credit checks, cashing a check, taking a test, going to an unfamiliar place, heavy traffic, being in a crowded room of unfamiliar people. The feeling to compulsively compete is not competing in a way that's healthy for myself. What I need to consider is that creating chaos, within the context of competition, may have become so impulsive that it feels comfortable to do. Achieving an old sense of chaotic normalcy may be a reason why I create chaos in order to terrorize myself.

Listen in a way that allows me to take "a vacation" from what is being said

When I listen I notice that sometimes I listen as if I am receiving instructions on how to:

Keep the World from Ending Tomorrow

It keeps me in my terror to listen that intensely. When I find myself listening that intently, I try to go on vacation intermittently throughout the conversation. If someone is talking as a way to "expel" something that is bothering them, I need only be present physically. "Expel" is a way to release stress covered in section II. If the conversation is by phone I need only to be quiet. Allowing myself to become so involved in what is being said that I lose a sense of myself in the conversation is not healthy for me.

It is not necessary for me to react to what is being said. I may listen, nod, make sounds that acknowledge I'm listening, without becoming reactive to every word. Occasionally I might ask a question, knowing ahead of time that I needn't solve anything. It's not my job to look for another person's solutions when they are speaking aloud to clear their thought processes. Not only that, but it insults the speaker's own intuitive abilities to solve their problems from within themselves.

Some of the things I do on vacation is:

  • Silently play or hum a melody in my head.
  • Think of something separate from the conversation.
  • Sketch or doodle on paper.
  • Focus on something on the wall.
  • Focus on their eyebrows.
  • Say something to myself like, "It's neat that they chose me to talk to."

What ever I do it would serve to separate myself from the conversation if I feel myself being intense about listening. It's an old childhood defense mechanism to listen intensely.

Another way to vacation from what is being said is by not analyzing, not interpreting, not solving, or not taking an inventory. When words feel loaded or weighted down with hidden agenda's, I may refuse to accept the information except at face value (or face word value). That means to accept the words they say as what they mean without reading between the lines. Reading between the lines invites chaos. I am not responsible for doing the extra work of interpreting for someone else. If they need a professional interpreter, let them hire someone else. I don't need the chaos.

The following (4) listening situations are places for me to practice going on vacation even more than in other situations. When I am in these situations I'll notice the weight in the room (there will be a heaviness in the air). I'll feel weighted down. I'll feel compelled to try distance myself, fight, or run away. I'll notice myself thinking of trying to use destructive control behaviors or becoming compulsive.

Situation 1

The Victim

The conversation will feel like the speaker has been victimized by another person's behavior or a situation. They will be venting anger, frustrations, and hidden resentments. They will be soliciting any help they can get, usually in a very chaotic or hidden way, as a way to gather support for their victimization. They won't be sharing feelings directly about "how helpless they feel" in regards to not being able to change something or someone. They will share indirectly as a way to distance themselves from the listener and project their victimization onto someone else (including the listener). They will talk and complain about things like:

  • How come the other person (the one the speaker is complaining about), is doing what they are doing.
  • How come the other person (the one the speaker is complaining about), isn't doing what the speaker thinks they should be doing.
  • How come the other person won't change.
  • How come the other person is so inadequate.
  • How come they (the speaker in this case), are the only one in the world that feels like this and why can't anybody see that.
  • How come the job is, the boss is, the wife, the husband, the friend, the service, etc. is so inadequate.


What ever wording the speaker uses, it will always sound like: "I've been victimized by another person's behavior or some situation which is unfair. If only they would change, or it would change, I could lead a happier life. I can't do anything about my life because they (the objects of their addiction) are preventing me from doing so. Can't you see I'm helpless?"

In my own case, when I speak as a victim, it's usually because I don't feel good about myself when I'm in close contact with the one I'm complaining about.

Situation 2

Approval Seeker

The conversation will feel like the speaker is either gathering support for an opinion, thought, or feeling they are having, or the conversation will feel like the speaker is sharing information in order to gain approval without asking for it. The goal of getting my approval will be hidden in the language use; however the pull and the weightiness will be present. They may talk about things like:

How knowledgeable they are.

  • Aren't you impressed? *
  • Here's how to fix that.
  • Let me explain, explain, explain, explain, and explain (out of terror or shame; let me get your approval). *
  • I'm sure you're thinking . . . . . . . *
  • You're probably thinking . . . . . Right? Right? *
  • You probably think this is dumb, stupid, silly, queer, weird, bad, but . . . . . . . . .*

* Hidden: Affirm me, affirm what I say, I need to use you to affirm myself.

Or these examples: The information will feel like a question without being asked in the form of a question. The influx in their voice will make a statement sound like a question.

  • "Red is good?" (instead of, "I need to know if you think red is good")
  • "People just do things to get attention?" (instead of, "I need to know if you think people do things just to get attention")
  • "My dress is ok?" (instead of, "I need to know if you like my dress")
  • "I'm sure you're thinking . . . " (instead of, "I need to know if you think . . .")
  • "You probably think this is dumb, stupid, silly, queer, weird, bad, but . . . . . . "

However the statement is presented, it will feel like a question. There will be a pull for me to try and respond to a statement that is not a question.

In my own case, when I speak as an approval seeker, It's usually in the form of issuing statements to the listeners for review, without telling them that I'm asking for a review, then waiting to see if anyone affirms the statements I've made. It's a type of "fishing" for approval.

Situation 3

Ain't it Awful

The conversation will feel like the speaker is trying to converse with me in a way that says, "Let's talk about things that are awful." It's a conversation game that requires the participants to engage in relating to each other by sharing stories of calamity and chaos. They will be soliciting my help and support in order to continue the game. The stories of calamity and chaos usually start with phrases like:

  • "Did you hear . . . . . . . . . . ?"
  • "It said on the news that . . . . . . ."
  • "Don't you just hate . . . . . . . . ?"
  • "Last week I heard that . . . . . . . ."
  • "You know Mr., Ms. _________ is having . . . . . . . ."
  • "You did what?. . . oh you'd better think about that.* I heard so- and- so had the same problem and they did . . .

Whichever phrases are used, they will have one thing in common: " The relating of calamity or chaos."

* Hidden:"You'd better not do what you're thinking of doing because I know what's best for you and you're about to screw up."

Situation 4

Chaos for the sake of chaos

The conversation will feel like no matter what I respond with or how I listen, the speaker compulsively engages in soliciting another response from me. It will be like the speaker is engaged in fighting for the sake of fighting with no resolution. It's a set up. The speaker will bait me into responding. And when I respond, they will bait me again into responding. There is no resolution.

They will ask for my opinion only as a way to react to it. The game is to keep the conversation going on in conflict. I'm able to tell when I'm in this type of listening situation because I feel like punching the speaker in the face or run away screaming. I can choose not to create chaos, by choosing not to participate. A conversation designed to create chaos, and discount my feelings, opinions, and thoughts at the same time, is not the kind of conversation I choose to participate in.

In my own case, when I speak to create chaos it is usually in the form of baiting someone into an opinion, then attacking the opinion. It's a way of attacking their belief system after I've suggested to them that I'd like to know what it is they believe.

Chaos for chaos includes "Hide and Seek." Hide and Seek is a conversation style where the speaker hides and the listener seeks. It's another set up. The speaker will engage in the conversation in a limited fashion in order to bait the listener into coming back for clarity. The speaker will offer information, but not enough for the listener to participate in the conversation. In this way the speaker hooks and baits the listener into coming back for more. Then when the listener comes back (by asking questions in order to participate) the speaker withdraws, leaving the listener frustrated or as if they have done something improper or not asked the right questions. Clarity will be void in this kind of conversation. Metaphors or similes may or may not be used extensively by the speaker in order to maintain a level of obscureness (which baits the listener into asking for clarity). When I'm feeling hooked, helpless, and unable to participate in the conversation, I'm most likely engaged in a game of Hide and Seek. "It's a distorted type of come-rescue-me game or a self-fulfilling-prophecy game, i.e. I believe myself to be inadequate so I'll converse in an inadequate (vacant of info) way so that the listener will react and respond (probe to fill in the missing info) to affirm the perception I have of myself."

In almost all listening situations I can choose to be in or out of chaos . I can choose to vacation from a conversation as I need to, in order to stay out of creating chaos. I may choose to participate in the chaos and know that I am there. I can choose.

I may also choose to create chaos for fun. Sometimes I see that the situation I'm in is the "Ain't it Awful" game; and I choose to play. I can choose to make up some totally outrageous "Ain't it Awfuls" and play (this is another way I vacation as I listen).

Conversations that are intimate will not feel like a hidden agenda, or pull, is occurring. Intimate conversations feel like: action on my part is not required. I will not feel attacked or like I need to detach. The information feels direct and clean. I will feel like moving toward the person who is sharing. That is to say I will not feel like running away from them, discounting them, or punching them out.

Hang up the phone

When ever a conversation becomes abusive or painful to listen to, I hang up the phone. If the information I'm choosing to listen to, makes me ill as I listen, I excuse myself and hang up. I lie if I need to, but I need to get off the phone. People who care about me will respect my right to take care of myself.

Walk away

When ever a conversation becomes abusive or painful to listen to, I walk away. If the information I'm choosing to listen to, makes me ill as I listen, I excuse myself and walk away. I lie if I need to, but I need to walk away. People who care about me will respect my right to take care of myself.

Keep in mind that the perceptions I have are going to differ from the perceptions that other people have

My perceptions are uniquely my own. How I experience my life from inside my body is uniquely my own experience. The perceptions I have of myself are different than the perceptions that other people have of me. The perception I have of someone else is different than the perception they have of themselves.

Occasionally someone will choose to "take my inventory." If I allow them to have their own perception, I may choose those parts of the information which I consider to be kind and nurturing. The rest I discard or walk away from.

Words, which are descriptive judgements, are "concepts" open for interpretation or debate. Concepts are open for debate because they are given definition by the user or users perception(s) of the word describing the concept. Words are a way to summarize a concept. When I hear judgmental words of description which summarize a concept, I quitely say in head, "What's that mean? I have no idea what that means," immediately after I hear the word. It's a way for me to detach from and remove power from words which are summary-concepts that judge; especially if the words are used in a non-nurturing way or were used in a non-nurturing way when I was a child. Groups of people give meanings to words.

Which group did I first hear the use of the word and was it in a nurturing way? Each person has a list of judgmental words which is unique to them. Some of the words on my list of non-nurturing and judgmental word concepts are: selfish, grow-up, inappropriate, smart, talented, good-looking, femme, irresponsible, late, wrong, still-dirty, that's terrible, that's a terrible thing to do, stuck-up, half-assed, smart ass, conceited, queer, stupid, behave, weird, that's a strange thing to do, messy. When I find myself responding uncomfortably to a word, I use the "What's that mean?" technique to detach. I need not listen closely, hypervigilantly, on guard, or in a way to analyze each word in order to make a decision about whether or not to detach. I need only detach from words that trigger me or produce a response in me that makes me uncomfortable to listen to. Is the word being used to be unkind? I trust myself to decide which words, in the group I am presently in, are being used to be unkind. This is another part of "Present Moment Living" discussed later in this section.

What I say is good enough the first time it comes out of my mouth

On occasion, someone will respond to me in a way that leads me to feel like they don't believe what I've said or that what I've said was not good enough. As an example: Say I share something about myself like, "It scares me to drive fast." And the response by the listener is something like, "How come?," or "What do you mean?," or "Don't you think if you just _____________, you wouldn't be scared?"

By remembering that what I said was good enough the first time I said it, I respond by restating the same thing again. "It scares me to drive fast." I continue to repeat the same thing as long as they continue to imply that I need to elaborate or improve on my original statement.

Ask for clarification

Mixed messages are common in the use of language. The same words may be verbalized in many different ways to alter the meaning. When someone says something that makes me wonder: "What are you trying to say?," a mixed message has occurred. Examples would be:

  • Someone smiling at me while they are saying "You really piss me off."
  • Someone laughing while they are talking about something sad.
  • Someone frowning as they are saying "I really like this."
  • Someone using sarcasm or odd facial expressions to discredit what they've just said.

Another mixed message, which is harder to understand, is the message which is open for debate. What does the word "trust" mean? The word trust means something different to me than it does for someone else. What does the word "commitment" mean? What does the word "cold" mean? What does the phrase "too salty" mean? When someone says, "This is a good book," what criteria are they using for the word "good." How about when someone says, "He or She is a jerk or an ass-hole." What constitutes being a jerk or an ass-hole?

Words are symbols that people use to communicate. Each word has a symbolic meaning. The meaning of each symbol is defined by the person using the symbol. Imagine asking a house painter to paint your house green without showing him the color of green you want. Green is a word symbol. Without looking at the same color green, do you think the green you're thinking of is the same green he's thinking of ? (It's not).

The point to all these situations is to ask for clarification. The only way for me to understand what someone else's word concepts mean, is to ask them. When the information I'm listening to requires my understanding of the other person's point of view, I ask for clarification. I don't need to get caught up in creating chaos for myself by not asking for clarification.

I also need to remember that the person I seek the clarification from may not always be able to clarify their statement (especially children). I don't need to be responsible for their clarification. Taking on the responsibility for their clarification creates chaos for myself and discounts them at the same time. I say to myself, "I choose not to be caught up in someone else's chaos. This isn't my chaos." I may choose to ask for clarity or not to ask for clarity.

One of the things I do as a way of attaching myself to someone else's chaos is to agree with someone else's information without understanding what it was they've said. One day a friend turned to me and said, "You know ticks on fleas make dogs run sideways." I turned to him and said, "Yep! I know exactly what you mean."

Build an "inner authority"

Build an "inner authority" means to develop a new loving parent inside of myself. This loving authority will be my source for love and approval. Before I make any decisions about myself, or my behavior, I stop here inside myself and visit with my inner authority before I proceed. I try to remember to ask myself what I think, before I decide if I need to inquire elsewhere.

My inner authority is where I go to be honest with myself. Choosing to share that .i.honesty; is another matter. My inner authority allows me to feel safe. My inner authority is not willing to allow myself to become injured as a result of being honest with someone outside of myself. Over-explaining and giving up information that may injure me is not something I need to do. Honesty is earned. Testing the waters (taking a risk to share an honest feeling, a thought, or an opinion) is an option; not a requirement.

Accepting and developing healthy (authentic) sets of limits for myself is also part of building an inner authority. Being able to recognize my limits and checking them out with my inner authority before I proceed (saying "Yes") is being compassionate to myself. No expectation, mine or someone else's, is worth meeting if it jeopardizes my health. Saying, "No" is easier with an inner authority for support, love, and compassion. I also learn to laugh at mistakes with my inner authority. Changing my decisions is easier and more nurturing to myself with an inner authority that accepts my right to change my mind. Decisions are not forever. My inner authority has two rules to help me live by:

Have I, or am I about to, hurt myself. My loving inner authority says, "No" to activities that hurt me. Have I, or am I about to, intentionally hurt someone else. My loving inner authority says, "No" to activities that intentionally hurt someone else.

As long as I'm not hurting myself or someone else, my inner authority is happy with me. When I do hurt myself, or someone else, my inner authority reminds me that I'm ok to be human. I apologize* to myself and to the other person, in order to feel better. And when I apologize, I apologize without requiring forgiveness in return. I don't need to require forgiveness (seek approval) from the person I'm apologizing to. This adds control and compulsion to the apology and causes a hidden approval seeking agenda to occur.

*Also referred to as "making an amends."

Note: This is always a confusing issue when someone is doing the "victim thing" as a destructive control behavior. Understanding the "victimstance" concept and the use of "victim" as a destructive control behavior will help me avoid unnecessary amends and feeling unworthy about myself. I used to find myself apologizing profusely (I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry) when ever I was in the presence of someone doing the "victim thing" until I understood the concept of "victim" as a destructive control behavior and started wondering "What the hell I am saying sorry again for?" I need only to know that being in the presence of someone doing the "victim thing" will compel me internally to:

  • Say I'm sorry.
  • Wonder how I can cheer up their day.
  • Get really pissed off because they're acting like this.
  • Get crazy about wondering what I did wrong or why they are angry or ignoring me (How come they don't like me, etc).

The answer to "victims" is: None of the Above.

It's a destructive control behavior. It's not necessary to respond to anyone doing the "victim thing." It's an abusive attack on their part and need not be responded to. I can save my anxiety and complaints about someone doing the "victim" for someone who will nurture the feelings I have. "Victims do not nurture feelings if they are destructively controlling so I can save my breath; it's a waste of time and spirit. Their's and mine.

My inner authority also reminds me that when I find myself complaining repeatedly about the same thing, or the same person, it's time for me to ask myself, "Am I trying to tell myself something important to listen to?" When I complain, I'm telling myself important information that needs to be heard by "me." And as long as I continue to ignore my self, I'll continue to try and complain to my self until I acknowledge my self. Maybe I'm telling myself I don't like to be around this thing or that person. And if that's the case, I've got information to use in deciding how I want to live my life.

My inner authority allows me to choose between something or someone I like, and something or someone I don't like. When I don't feel good about myself around some person or some thing, I can choose to not to be in the company of that thing or that person. Being in the company of some person or some thing I don't like creates chaos for myself. I can choose to be in or out of chaos.

Keep in mind that people do the best they can at the moment

Hounding someone, to be something that they are not, is abusive. When someone is being something other than I want them to be, I try to remember that they are doing the best that they can at the moment.

I really hate to wait in line. When I wait in line, should I demand that the line move faster than it does? I really hate to be close to people who have a cold, should I demand that that person refuse to have a cold? Spending my energy trying to make things different than they are is another way I keep myself in chaos.

"God grant me the serenity,

to accept the things I'm not supposed to change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference."

I try to remember this version of the serenity prayer when something is not going the way I would like it to. I also try to remember that I am doing the best that I can at any moment.

A friend at work asked me, "How goes the battle?"

I said, "I don't know. . .they keep moving the fricken front line on me."

"Where is the war?" I think the battle is over. I don't need to war on anything that isn't going the way I think it should go. I'm not a warrior for hire or a mercenary. My life is not the battle of the ages. The only battles I fight are usually with myself. The rest are created out of addiction and compulsion.

"Keeping myself in chaos keeps me cluttered and worn out."

When the object is an object (not a person)

There are objects in my life that I use to keep me in chaos. By endowing these objects with human attributes, I find that I create an additional amount of chaos by deciding that: the object is "Out to get me."

My car is one object that I might choose to endow with human attributes. When I decide to endow my car with human attributes, I can then go to war with my car or I compete with my car to see who is going to win.

My computer is another object that I endow with human attributes. When I do this, and then the computer isn't operating like I want it to, I say, "It doesn't like me. It hates my guts. I must have done something to piss it off."

The fact is, cars are machines that people use to get from place to place. Machines break down. Machines wear out. Machines come with poor instructions. Machines can't reason or communicate a complex idea. Machines are not a group of assassins or aliens set on the planet in order to create chaos and public riot. A machine is a convenience that we were told to expect it to be convenient. The man on television, and in the newspaper, and in the store, told me to expect the machine to be convenient. He said, "You'll like this little beauty."

I don't need to expect a machine to be convenient. I don't need to endow a machine with human attributes (such as the innate ability to change). I don't need to fight the machine and win. It's a battle with something that is unable to understand whether it's winning or losing. I don't need to create chaos over a thing, an object, a non-convenient convenience.

Behave in a way that says to the outside world and to myself that I have value

Explaining myself excessively, playing the victim, being perfect, refusing to ask for help, controlling, being exactly on time or substantially early, lying to say: "I like something when I don't," fishing for approval, kicking myself for mistakes (mine or someone else's), terrorizing myself with the past (or the future), scaring myself to avoid mistakes, scaring myself to scare myself, avoiding boundary setting (when people hurt me), avoiding conflict, having sex when I don't want to, going somewhere where I don't want to be, liking someone I don't like, agreeing to something I don't agree with, all say to the same thing. It says to myself and to the world, "That I'm damaged goods, and not valued." Today I can choose to conduct my life in a way that says to myself, "I have value."

I can choose to express my needs. I express my needs in a way other than from the role of victim. I don't need to be the raging- victimized parent as a way to get my needs met. I don't need to be the helpless- victimized child as a way to get my needs met. I can choose to be the loving adult as a way to get my needs met. Asking for my needs to met is healthy. Asking for my needs in a compulsive or victim-like way is not.

Sometimes people will have the ability to meet my needs. Sometimes people will not. When my needs aren't being met I empower myself as a loving parent and say, "The things I need here aren't available and that's not easy, it hurts; but I'll be here for you as a loving parent when it hurts." I enable myself to choose to go elsewhere when the needs I have are not being fulfilled. This is the type of loving parenting and action that says to the world, and to myself that, "I have value." I can choose to conduct my life in a way that says to myself, to my children, to my spouse, to my friends, to my parents, and to my other acquaintances, that "I have value."

Defining my needs is the first step in asking for them to be met. I can be patient with myself when my needs aren't clear. I shake around in the dark and abstain from getting my needs met outside of myself until I know what it is that I want. I say, "I don't know what I want," without feeling defective. Not knowing what I need or want is healthy. Scary . . . but healthy.

Non-Fishing for approval

Non-fishing for approval is a direct and clean approach to asking someone for their approval of me. It's cluttered opposite is fishing for approval. Fishing is baiting people into affirming me. I feel my .i.anxiety; level way up when I'm fishing for approval. Fishing is a non-direct way to hide the intended need of asking for someone else's approval. When I stop fishing for approval, I can ask directly. Below are some examples of fishing verses asking directly.


Situation: Something that I've done myself and want approval for.

Fishing: "I don't think this is very good."
Fishing: "Do you think this is good?"

Direct: "I need to know if you think what I've done is good."


Situation: Needing support for how I look.

Fishing: "I don't think I look good in this outfit."
Fishing: "Do you like this outfit?"

Direct: "I need to know if you think this outfit looks good on me."


I don't need to fish for approval. When I need approval, I can choose to decide what approval I want and then ask for it. I can be clear, so the person knows exactly what I'm looking for. When I'm not clear it frustrates me and the person I'm talking to. When I'm not clear, I don't get what I thought I was asking for and the other person doesn't know what it was that I was asking for. Fishing for what I want keeps me in chaos and unfulfilled.

Recognize what "other-oriented" feels like

Other-oriented refers to seeking self definition outside of myself ("other" meaning other than myself or not being self-oriented). My anxiety level is way up when I feel other-oriented. My behavior becomes a guess based on what I "think" others think I should be. I become anxiously focused on what I think others want me to be, instead of being relaxed or comfortable about being who I'd like to be.

Recognize the "addictive pull"

When someone is relating to me in an addictive way, the use of destructive control behaviors discussed earlier will be present. When I am relating to someone else in an addictive way, the use of destructive control behaviors will also be present. It's a tug-of-war game that wears me out and frustrates me. Anger, craziness, playing the victim, and compulsion are almost always a part of these types of interaction.

Addicts use people to affirm themselves. The process of using people in a dependency way for affirmation is also referred to as "being needy." When I feel this "neediness" from an addict, I'll get angry and/ or feel controlled, shamed, or terrorized. The anger, controlled-ness, shame, or terror I feel are cues I can use to help determine when this type of interaction is occurring.

In addition to control, shame, or terror, "destructive control behaviors" are designed to create chaos. A sense of chaos will be present in most types of addictive interactions. By removing myself physically, mentally, or emotionally from an exchange of this type, I trade chaos for serenity . When I find myself in the midst of one of these addictive interactions, I practice one of the lessons I've learned in detachment.

Living in the present

This refers to the concept of present moment living. I cannot re-live the moment I just lived nor live past the moment I am living now. I am who I am at this moment. I'll always be changing. I am as I am at any moment in time. I cannot undo or redo what's been done.

Decisions aren't forever. I can choose to change as life changes. If I try to live one minute ago or one minute into the future, I will miss out on living now. I am not able to relive yesterday nor is anyone else. And I cannot live tomorrow until it arrives. The world is all that it is at the time that it is. Choosing to be a part of it, at the time that it is, is a choice. I can choose to live now, yesterday, or a perception of tomorrow. If I choose to live now, I'm able to detach from yesterday or tomorrow; or moments from now or moments ago.

Spending time alone

Having feelings is scary. Chaos blocks feelings. The absence of chaos is terrorizing to me. The absence of chaos feels like I've been abandoned or something creatively terrible is about to happen.

Spending time alone allows me to begin feeling. Feeling allows me to discover myself. Through feeling I discover who I am. Spending time alone helps me to say to myself, "I don't need to have chaos. I don't need to scare myself."

Spending time alone is not the same as being lonely. I don't need to be lonely. I can choose to have friends and I can choose to spend time alone. When I'm alone I reach out if I need to be in the company of others. Using the phone, talking to a friend, going to a recovery meetings, going to counseling, calling my sponsor, are all options available to me. And those options (choices) don't have to be all or none (all alone or never alone).

Acceptance as a way to extradite chaos

I am all my feelings, likes, dislikes, opinions, thoughts, and behaviors. When I accept myself as "all that I am at the time that I am," I give up chaos. When I accept other people as "all that they are at the time that they are," I give up chaos. Staying in serenity is available to me through this option. Saying the serenity prayer is one of the ways of helping me affirm a choice to accept myself and other people as they are and give up chaos. The serenity prayer is a way to help me detach:

(modified version)

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I'm not supposed to change,

(meaning other people; all that they are at the time that they are) The courage to change the things I can, (the parts of myself I can choose to change) And the wisdom to know the difference." (what's their stuff and what's my stuff)

Acceptance also includes not giving away or changing something that I don't own. When I don't own something, it's not mine to do with as I might want to. Acceptance is about .i.owning something;. I'm unable to own something when I don't like or if I am not comfortable with it. If I refuse becoming comfortable with it, I'll never own it or want to own it. Examples might be:

  • Likes
  • Dislikes
  • Thoughts
  • Opinions
  • Choices
  • Aches and pains
  • My children
  • My parents of the past verses the present
  • A job I don't like or enjoy
  • A husband or wife that I don't enjoy
  • An acquaintance or friend I don't enjoy
  • A disability
  • A resentment (old or new)
  • A lie or falsehood
  • An illusion of myself or of someone else
  • A behavior disorder
  • A perception verses a fact
  • A feeling of scared-ness
  • A feeling of terror or shame
  • A feeling of anger or frustration
  • A feeling of laughter or humor

When I acknowledge something about myself, I'm taking the first step to owning it. When I choose to be comfortable with it, I become the owner. As the owner I may choose to change, trade, or keep it. This is how I change.

When I talk to expel stress, I talk for myself and not the audience

The need to talk is different than the need to talk to share information. When I talk as a "need" to talk, I'm talking for myself as a way to expel stress and not to control. When I'm taking as a need to expel stress, I'm not talking to entertain, nurse, repair, fix, offer advice to, order, control, coerce, influence, maneuver, influence, or manipulate the audience. And when I talk to make an amends*, I'm talking to expel my feelings of guilt, sadness, or remorse and not to solicit forgiveness (controlling to receive forgiveness).

* Examples of Amends:

  • "I'm sorry I've taken your inventory."
  • "I'm sorry I've accused you of something."
  • "I'm sorry I labeled you."
  • "I'm sorry I made an assumption about your behavior."
  • "I'm sorry I insisted you weren't doing the best you could."
  • "I'm sorry I left you uninformed."
  • "I'm sorry I wasn't able to hear your feelings."
  • "I'm sorry I ignored you."
  • "I'm sorry I abused our confidence."
  • "I'm sorry I terrorized you."
  • "I'm sorry for acting like I'd been victimized by you."

The need to talk is an important way for me to remain clutter free (Free from "stress response" buildup discussed in section II). It's time to move on to section II to find out why the need to talk is important and healthy.

End Section I.

next: A Closer Look
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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2009, January 16). A Place to Start Healing, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: April 26, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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