Higher Power, The Force, God Part 2

The true Higher Power, presence, and wisdom also entails unconditional love, as from a loving parent or friend; totally unselfish, a true servant, leader, and protector. This love can be considered a super power, more than able to overcome crippling anger, hate, jealousy, and other problems in the world. We believe there are many of these “super powers” available to us, such as peace, joy, beauty, one-ness, wholeness, and holiness. These can aid us on the ultimate level as we focus and meditate on them in the realm of their absolute, pure, and perfect nature on the spiritual level, but also on the relative level as we seek out, embrace, and enjoy the love, peace, joy, beauty, and other “super” blessings in or lives and world.

This is where we may come into communion with them through communion with our Higher Power, the Oversoul, and Great Spirit. We can also embrace and enact them on the relative level as we see them at large and in action through-out the world and in our daily lives. Nature is a good example, as peace, love, joy, beauty, and so on are self-evident in the workings and wonders of mother/father nature. For more on accessing and utilizing Higher Powered super powers in your life please see the Super Powers Sanity File.

Too often love and goodness can seem far, far away, but there is no blessing 2.0, we are all equally and outrageously blessed at all times and in all places. It is when we take time in prayer and meditation, we hear a still small voice calling us from deep within. This is the voice of our True Self, True Home, and Higher Power. Prayer and meditation are a key to this all-important connection and very helpful ways to experience true grace. To learn more please look to the Sanity Files on prayer and meditation.

It is very easy for us to feel bad about ourselves because we haven’t got it all figured out by now and gotten it all together. The fact is the modern world is so complicated, difficult, and crowded that most people are struggling and suffer from anxiety, loneliness, inadequacy, and depression. This is another reason a good relationship with our Higher Power is so important. Through prayer, meditation, journaling, and other paths we can come to see and feel our Higher Power as a loving friend that created, sustains, and supports us, and knows everything about us in intimate detail.

All these paths to our Higher Power allow us access to all the power, presence, wisdom, beauty, and all the other aspects of The Infinite. It’s like a computer, as nothing is going to happen until it gets plugged into a power source and gets turned on. Prayer, meditation, journaling, nature, and other paths are how we can get plugged in and turned on. Unfortunately, life seems to yank our plug out and turn us off all too often, so we recommend building your own “Sanity Files” to keep finding your Higher Power source and get turned on as often as possible!

For those that have a real problem with the idea of God, or Higher Power, some find "A Power Greater" works for them. For many, that "Power Greater" is their recovery or support group or a loving family member or friend who exemplifies God's infinite power, presence, and wisdom in tangible ways. We often find these people are our angels and God's eyes and ears, hands, and feet. For a short post click here.

Since our view of our Higher Power good or bad was created and cemented as a child, our childhood is another very important place to slowly work to understand and transform ourselves and our situation. For help in this endeavor, we recommend the Inner Child Sanity File. Here we can recapture the creative, authentic, joyful, playful, imaginative, and loving child often hidden deep inside.

As wonderful an idea as this seems, we must be cautious, as the inner child may be holding onto intense anger, fear, grief, and sadness that can overwhelm us if we aren't ready. This is good reason to have a Loving Higher Power and Inner Parent to hold our hand and help us face the difficulties of our past. It also helps to recognize that our transgressors were most often also wounded as children and longing for love and closure. This is not to condone their behavior, but to allow a measure of forgiveness to lessen our burden.

Another amazing source of kindness, caring, and love for us is our own Inner Parent. Just like our concept of a Higher Power, the inner voice and opinion of ourselves was inherited from our parents and other authority figures, so healing this internal entity is also of the great importance as many parents were highly critical, neglectful, or abusive in response to their upbringing or difficult life situations. For help in this essential endeavor we recommend the Inner Parent Sanity File.

Once this also crucial relationship is recovered, it is as if a loving Higher Power takes our hand on one side and a Loving Inner Parent can takes our other hand to guide us onward to discover, tend, and recover from our dis-ease, disorders, and dysfunction to enjoy a fully functioning, loving, and satisfying life. This journey will not be fast, easy, or painless, but we are worth it! As we build a loving relationship with our Higher Power, Inner Parent, and Inner Child, we find places we can go to rest and recover our mental, physical, and spiritual joy, vitality, and vigor.

Nature is also saving grace for us as we so cherish time spent in nature. Everything in the wild feels blessed, sacred, and holy. Wherever we look we see great beauty, love, and peace. Often when we share this aspect of our recovery, people tell us how much nature means to them too. Nature is a symphony, a work of art, and a feast all at once and for all the senses. For more "natural" healing see the Mother/Father Nature Sanity File

If the concepts of Inner Child and Inner Parent are foreign to you or a bit confusing, check out the Twelve Step Recovery Sanity File for clarity and inspiration. Alone we are on some level deeply flawed, broken corrupt, tainted, fallen, and tarnished. Yet on an even deeper level infinitely blessed, divine, and perfect. Twelve step is a great way to find and build a loving and supportive community, a new family of choice rather than chance that is willing to help us find, nurture, and welcome our True Self. We find this path incredibly healing and healthy so urge you to take a good look.

If we can come to a place where we see Higher Power as the benevolent presence behind creation, we can find forgiveness for our anxious worries and look past the chaos, sorrows, and ugliness of the world and rest in the immense love, peace, joy, and beauty that is always there for us. Trying to go it alone is very common and often why we feel so much loneliness and strife. Spending time with wise and loving family, friends, and therapists can be very helpful. Also as mentioned Twelve Step Recovery programs helps in building friendships and interpersonal bonds that help and heal us in many ways.

Another "personae" we also recognize as a part of our human nature is the courageous, powerful, and perhaps best part of us we recommend you explore in the Hero's Journey Sanity File. This aspect of our True Self stands up for us, gives unconditionally, and bravely fights for what is right. This inner hero has many super powers such as love, kindness, and compassion. Again, these powers are not self-powered, but higher powered through an intimate and reverent relationship with our Higher Power.

These relationships are pivotal keys to having a safe, welcoming, and nurturing place to move forward in our lives with joy, purpose, and passion. We find we can alternate back and forth between Mother Nature, Higher Power, our Inner Wonder Child, Adult, Loving Inner Parent, and Inner Hero as needed to live a full and complete life.

Taken together, these aspects of our basic nature constitute what can be seen as the True Self, the whole and complete self that can relate to life in any possible way. For more on this exciting and fulfilling way of looking at the ourselves, please check out the True Self Sanity File. You may find other aspects of your True Self you wish to add and we say go for it, this model is one that works for us, but what is most important is what works for you.

Can there really be so many powerful and distinct parts of us? While Whitman stated this great truth in The Song of Myself when he said “I am large, I contain multitudes.” Perhaps the best part of us is on our knees praying for God's will for us and the power to carry it out. God's will, God's power, not ours. We strive not to become a better person, but to be vigilant, to stay awake to our True Self in alignment with Higher Power. It can be hard in the beginning like changing any habit or strengthening muscles, but once we learn to really get into the flow of grace, we can rest, rest in God.

Another super tool for getting in touch with Higher Power is Journaling (Sanity File). We write out all our doings, issues, and struggles good and bad. We find it takes the weight off our shoulders, hearts, and minds and to leave it on the pages. This can also be true of prayer, meditation, and all our "conversations" with God. All it takes is a simple spiral bound notebook from most any store. Some prefer fancy leather bound and engraved journals, but this can feel intimidating so might hold back the flow.

As we journal, we imagine speaking with a best friend. An incredible friend who created, sustains, and supports us year to year, day to day, and moment to moment on every level from the amazing functioning of body and mind, to the laws and seasons of nature. Some have written dozens of journals, and so created an excellent relationship with their maker they feel deeply. Just a few lines a day or week can lead to great inner peace.

Some might find it silly to "talk" to God in this way, but we don't have to imagine Higher Power as understanding our words specifically, yet can still believe there is an understanding of the intention, and meaning. It's like when we talk to our babies, pets, plants, and other things. There is an energy and spirit there we feel they get on some level. Not by the words, but from a deeper pre-verbal place. Even if our plants, pets, or Higher Power don't get the good energy, we do!

The Eastern Wisdom Sanity File explores how our minds create and control our reality. For this reason, we are wise to understand how our minds function so that we can master our minds rather than have our minds be our master. This is also covered in the prayer and meditation files, but here adds the benefit of thousands of years of insight, learning, and wisdom.

This path teaches that us that we must first tame our minds to then train and transform it with the ultimate goal of acquiring a "Sacred Outlook". This is real transformation, to see the hand and spirit of God in everyone and everything. To look into every face and see the face of God, and to gaze back into God's eyes with confidence that the greatest good and highest law is at work at all times, in all places, and in all things, however screwed up and awful things may appear.

The Middle Eastern Sanity File looks the the positive attributes of Christ consciousness and celebrates the ecstatic beauty and liberation of the poetry of the Sufi philosopher and Muslim scholar Rumi (Jalal ad-Din Mohammed Rumi). We hope to expand this file soon.

Of the course the west has added much wisdom, insight, and healing from Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, on to modern thinkers such as Erick Erickson, Joseph Campbell, and Abraham Maslow, to living legends of Matthew Fox, Eckhart Tolle, and Brene Brown. To access these and other westerners, please check out the Western Wisdom Sanity File.

God's fingerprints are all over creation, and we so much enjoy sharing ways that we have seen the "evidence". A great way to see how God has woven infinite intelligence, beauty, and wonder into the natural world is to check out Sacred Geometry. Science has unraveled this mystery for us, all the way back to the beginning of creation, Artists and musicians have also been engaging mind and heart to inspire us to embrace and cherish our dear mother earth and our wild and beautiful individual natures.

Seeing how beautiful and hospitable the universe is for life and humans, we see our Higher Power as loving also. A flight of imagination took our focus and emphasis on love to the extreme, considering Love Force as the fundamental and unifying theory of the universe. It may be a stretch of the imagination, but a fun and interesting one we hope you find enjoyable and inspiring.

The Music Sanity File has a section just for Higher Power and Love with many wonderful songs to share and enjoy. It is one of the most beautiful, touching, and powerful ways we can stir our passions to really feel the love, peace, joy and other emotions that help us be happy. We highly recommend making your own music files if you haven’t already. Ours are sorted into files of love, Higher Power, every day, rock, relaxing, inspire, blues, dance, joyous, and best songs to fit our mood and need.

The Super Sayings and Slogans Sanity File also has a significant part dedicated to Higher Power listed just after the LOVE and FIRE (passion) sections. Many of the other Sanity Files and posts also have aspects of Higher Power in them as all are connected and interrelated in many ways. These are short pithy statements that can say a lot in just a few words and are also sorted by mood. This is another great tool to have so, we highly recommend jotting down your favorites and building your own super sayings and slogans file today.

 "Today my birth is fruitful. My human life is justified. Today I am born into the family of the enlightened ones." Shantideva

Triune Persona


Three Part Persona

Staying in your “Right” Mind (True/Balanced/Inclusive/Infinite Mind)


Adult Children of Alcoholics: Higher Power/Nature         

Christian Holy Trinity: Holy Ghost

Triune Brain: Primordial/Prehistoric/Primeval/Solitary/Competitive/Cold Blooded-Brain Stem                                                                                                                                                             

Plato Tripartite Soul/Psyche: Eros - Appetitive/Physical/Instinctual Desires: Drives Us to Eat, Have Sex and Protect – Feet, Legs, Genitals, Gut, Organs - The Black Horse

Chakras: Safety, Survival, Stability, Sustenance. Sensuality, Sexuality Strength, Power, Determination - Coccyx/Sacrum/Solar Plexus 

Freud: Id - "I Want" Basic Biological Innate Urges/Desires/ Irrational Impulses of Sex/Aggression/etc. "Pleasure Principle" Seeks Immediate Gratification. Mostly Unconscious. Body/Mind Energy Source

Maslow Needs: Safety: Family and Social Stability, Work, Health, Resources, Property.                      Physiological: Air, Water, Shelter, Food, Clothing, Rest, Reproduction


ACA: Inner Child/Children                            

Christian Holy Trinity: The Son 

Triune Brain: Old/Mammalian/Emotional/Spiritual/Social/Affectionate - Limbic System/Paleo-Cortex

                                                                                                                                                                    Plato: Thymos - Spiritual/Emotional: Emotions Drive Actions - Chest/Heart/Lungs - The White Horse  

Chakras: Love, Trust, Sincerity, Acceptance, Compassion, Kindness, Peace, Communication, Creativity, Inspiration, Honesty, Purity Expression - Heart/Lungs/Throat 

Freud: Superego - "I Should" Ego Ideal and Moral Guardian. Strives for Perfection. Inhibitions Acquired from Parents. Becoming One's Conscience. Mainly at Preconscious (Easily Recalled) Level. 

Maslow Needs: Love and Belonging: Friendship, Family, Intimacy, Community, Connections


ACA: Adult (Inner Parent/Teacher/Leader/Elder/Hero)          

Christian Holy Trinity: The Father

Triune Brain: New/Rational/Logical Awareness - Neo-Cortex

Plato: Logos - Rational/Logical: Seeks Truth & Reason by Facts & Arguments. The Charioteer

Chakras: Higher Consciousness, Knowledge, Spirituality, Self-Realization Intuition, Openness, Imagination, Self-Reflection, Visualization - Crown/Third Eye

Freud: Ego - "I Will" (Parent/Adult) "Reality Principle" Executive Mediator Between Id's Instinctual Impulses and Superego's Parentally Acquired Inhibitions. Deals with Reality and Rationality. Operates Mainly at Aware Conscious Level but also Preconscious. 

Maslow Needs Hierarchy: Self-Actualization/Realization: Morality, Creativity, Spontaneity, Purpose, Acceptance, Meaning. Esteem: Confidence, Achievement, Recognition, Respect, Status, Individuality



A Power Greater

 Many people have difficulty identifying with a Higher Power. It seems there are just too many images of an angry, jealous, punishing "Old man in the sky." Personally, I left that God behind and now have a relationship with a loving, caring one. For those who don't, a power greater than ourselves can be a good fit. This power could be as simple as one other person, a group of people, even something like nature. Alcoholics Anonymous people have a fun way of looking at this as GOD translates to a "Group Of Drunks." Whatever it takes to get us out of ourselves and into something bigger and better. It's claustrophobia: trapped and alone. Reaching out, we find we aren't trapped or alone. A tree has no choice, it is stuck were it's planted. We aren't, we can go to meetings, call people, or "meet up" and make friends through hobbies and common interests. This power of community I call "exponential synergy," as we hook up with others to multiply "The interaction of two or more so that their combined effect is greater than the individual." So take a little time, consider a power greater than yourself, and how you can plug into it's healing and beneficial flow.

Inner Child Part 2


For the first part of the Inner Child story click on the Inner Child Sanity File to the right. 

A pivotal aspect of childhood is language. One study found poor children heard an average of 11 million words by age three. Working class kids heard more than twice as much at 24 million. Yet children of professionals heard a whopping 43 million words, almost four times as much! By school age the poor kids were two years behind in language development, by age eight three and one half years behind. The gap grows because the more words they knew, the more they could figure out on their own.

Low exposure to language was starving those kids development and in fact is called language nutrition. This situation also translated to doing well in many other areas of life, such as finishing high school and going on to college. These kids were four times more likely to graduate college, get higher skilled jobs, and earn higher wages. They were also significantly more healthy overall through-out their lives.  It wasn't mentioned in the study, but we expect it also reduced their chance of divorce, alcoholism, and drug addiction. 

The good news is that some of the poor parents that spoke to, played with, taught, and read to their kids as much as the professionals, and their children were right there at the top of the scale despite poverty. Also if the professionals didn't interact with their children as much (low word count, play, reading, teaching etc.) their language and other areas suffered just like the others. 

What does this mean to you now? That no matter what your upbringing was, you can give yourself the attention, acceptance, affirmation, affection, and appreciation "nutrition" you need, now and for the rest of your life, so that your quality of life improves in all areas just as it did for these kids. So as we go through the different areas of opportunity try and think of how you can support you inner child to grow, mature, and thrive so that you too can achieve your fullest potential and happiness. 

What if the home of our youth was not a safe, welcoming, and comforting place? What if it was a place of stress, abandonment, and abuse? Unfortunately for many the world become dark and frightening. It is said we have the choices of fight, flight, freeze or fawn. In brief, the "fighters" act out family dysfunction, frustration, and rage they feel in the home and consequently within themselves.

The "flyers" run from trouble, unable to deal with it with a child's limited resources. The "freezers" run too, but into themselves as they shut down and close off from the confusion and angst they feel. The "fawners" tend to seek love and belonging by people pleasing. None of these youngsters gets the opportunity to be themselves, tell their truth, and feel the care and comfort they really need.

These troubled kids are usually mistaken as the source of the problem rather than a symptom. Jack Kornfield, a prominent psychologist and spiritual sage says he has never seen a youngster with a drug problem that came from a healthy family. The point is that if you feel like you were one of these kids growing up, you have that inner child in you now longing for resolution and rest.

This is vitally important as the unresolved issues of youth tend to poison and infect our thoughts, emotions, and actions through-out our lives unless we find the help and healing we need. Only then can we move forward with the wisdom and intelligence of an adult coupled with the joy, authenticity, sincerity, spontaneity, creativity, and energy of youth.  

Many children fall into roles within the family such as scapegoat, sports star, sickly child, or troublemaker. These roles may put us in a box of perception that is hard to maintain and break free from. For example the star student may become exhausted trying to keep up excellent grades and suffer humiliation or disgrace should they fail. Life is much too fluid and mysterious to impose defining roles on children (or adults). Rather let them change and grow through various roles as they mature.

Another very interesting perspective is to view classic archetypal personas and see how they relate to us in modern times. The king has been replaced by the boss or politician, the jester is now the class clown or comedian, and the warrior is the policeman or soldier. These personality types go deep into our individual and collective psyche so can have a profound effect on our thinking, feeling, and behavior. For a close up look at this powerful dynamic here is a blog version of "Who We Are"  or a full page version here.                                                                                                                                  

It seems our story was written many years ago, and we will never change. We prefer to believe that through focus and concentration on our upbringing we will gain the understanding and wisdom that leads to transformation. It usually takes years of hard painful work to uncover, clean, treat and heal the wounds of youth, but we are worth it! To see how we got to where we are check out  "Who Wrote Your Script?"

Kids are so amazing. They are naturally creative, enthusiastic, authentic, kind, forgiving, and have many other wonderful attributes. Unfortunately many children in severely dysfunctional homes had these crushed early on. Some studies indicate even those from good homes lost much of these fine qualities as they grew up in response to educational and cultural pressures to conform. The first step to recovering these gems is awareness, so please review , or as we like to call them - Super Powers.

Unfortunately the educational system appears designed to minimize these fine qualities as math comes first, then language, humanities, and lastly the arts. Even within the arts music and art have a higher status than drama and dance. It seems the system wants us to live in our heads and become university professors. We were made to think industry and conformity were more important than artistry and creativity. Life is much more dynamic, diverse, and distinct for this limiting mindset, and living only in our heads has caused a multitude of problems we are working to alleviate by living through the heart.

A wonderful TED Talk: "Do schools kill creativity?" by Sir Ken Robinson faces this problem brilliantly. In it he says: "Our only hope for the future is to adopt a new concept of human psychology, one in which we start to reconstitute our concept of the richness of human capacity. We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which were educating our children... and by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are. Our task is to educate their whole being, so they can face this challenging, unknown, but possibly bright future." For a condensed text of the video click here.

Finding our abandoned, hidden, or otherwise lost inner child can be difficult, yet one of the most, if not the most rewarding aspects of our recovery. The early years leave deep but living roots, wounds, and scars that anchor us in our past. Uncovering, embracing, and understanding them can lead to great wisdom and transformation. Here is how one lost child found his "Homecoming".

Observing how we act, react, and respond to life stacks up over the years, particularly in youth to a standard set of emotions, feeling, beliefs, and behaviors that make up our personality. This becomes a "set-point" we return to again and again day to day and moment to moment through-out our lives. Observing how this persona manifests in the world can be quite interesting.

Some actors even find that playing so many different roles they come to see their personality as just another role. We too can realize that what we think, feel, say, and do is a role we play, one given us by the authority figures in our lives. Yet people and their roles can, and do change. Perhaps a good way to understand ourselves better is to take a personality test and ponder the results.

One such test is The Big Five Personality Test. It's accuracy depends on how honest we can be about ourselves, and may be skewed by what we believe versus how we really behave. For a quick look at how the spectrum plays out look at a post of the summary of The Big Five personality Traits (plus one). Knowing our "go to" traits can allow the understanding that leads to transformation.

One last thing. Understanding and utilizing the impact and effect of the inner child is a life changer for many. The books do a great job but we also like to give a taste of how much this means to us personally, so for our founding fathers inner child's story please click here.

In closing we wish to say how much we love and cherish our inner kids, and hope to impress on others the incredible peace and healing available through our naturally sensitive, eager, and loving inner kids. You may find as we have that life is so much more rich and fulfilling when we let our child lead. Good luck and good love!

Stages of Development


Morris Massey coined the phrase "What you are is where you were when," and in doing so helped bring the importance of early development into the mainstream. The trend of recognizing and honoring children's growth and learning started well before with Maria Montessori in 1897. Erick Erickson built on her research and methods with his recognition of the importance of lifes many developmental stages. These can be a very helpful tool in figuring where things may have gone wrong and where to begin to put them right.

Dysfunctional families are usually a result of co-dependency;  "A type of dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person's addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement, or network of family, friends, etc. and fixation on others for sustenance, approval, identity, and so on" (Wikipedia). The Wiki quoted also identifies thirty dysfunctional behavior patterns and dynamics, and sixty signs of unhealthy parenting. No wonder there are so many problems in families and society today!

The Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families main text, "the Big Red Book,"  describes how we create lifelong thought and behavior patterns due to an abusive and neglectful family system in our youth. The abuse, neglect, and resulting patterns can be so prevalent and pervasive they appear normal and natural to family members.

To hide problems within the family and from others rules of don't talk, don't trust, don't feel, and don't look, don't listen, don't heal are created, and punishment is often quick and severe should they be broken. This textbook of family trauma also states that we unknowingly, subconsciously are doomed to recreate these sad and sick patterns through-out our lives in hopes of resolving them, and often with the people least equipped and likely to do so. And so it continues, unless and until we break the rules and awaken from the insanity.

With deep looking, listening, and feeling in safe communities of people where we can talk, trust, and focus on our issues, we can at last break the cycle to find insight, understanding, and wisdom. With this foundation of well being we can utilize newfound tools as skilful means to find and further healing. We may then find awareness, enlightenment, and transformation by unlocking our past and clearing out destructive baggage.

As you read this and things come up for you, we urge you to take time to explore and process thoughts and emotions. Take notes if something strikes you deeply, or if you think it deserves more attention at other times with family, friends, or others. The point is to see what's in the attic, the closet, and the baggage. To find out what is meaningful for you, and where you might find hope, help, and healing. Coming from a strong background and healing in twelve step recovery program meetings, step studies, and retreats, and its emphasis on concurrent community, counseling, and therapy, we know it is an option worth exploring.

From birth to two years may be the most important stage; basic trust vs. mistrust. Here reliable feeding, affection, affirmation, and attention help us feel the world is a safe and welcoming place. Abuse, neglect, and abandonment here can leave deep wounds, at times too deep to reach full understanding and healing. These poor souls may become withdrawn, suspicious, frustrated, and have great difficulty bonding through-out life.

A friend once shares that he was sometimes left in his crib and dirty diaper the whole day or tied up in the yard like a dog. Another felt her family life was a battle ground as family members were often fighting verbally and physically. Whether we experience neglect or abuse many come to see the world as cold and lonely, or angry and painful, or both. In twelve step recovery we learn to think of our birth parents as the means of our birth, but our true parent as a loving Higher Power we can access to re-parent ourselves with gentleness, kindness, caring, and love. 

Did we learn emotional stability, faith in our environment and future, or suspicion, uncertainty, and fear? Were our physical and mental needs met when we reached or cried out, or were we ignored and cursed? Did our wonder and appreciation of the world and others open up and expand, or did we shut down and close up? This is the most basic level of our development, so very important for our outlook on the rest of the stages and our life in general. We learn to talk here, so our innate expressiveness is a revealing window to this stage. Are we open and verbal, quiet and closed, or domineering and aggressive in our speech?

Early childhood is recognized as age two to four years and is marked by a development of autonomy vs. shame (self sufficiency vs. dependency). The question here; is it okay to be me.? Children in this stage can learn adequacy and personal control over physical skills through toilet training, dressing and feeding themselves, or may become saddled with sometimes extreme shame for not achieving these on others time schedule. One friend shares how when he wet his pants as a child, his mother laid out newspapers in the middle of the room, circled his relatives around him, and said "okay, now you can pee!" As you may guess, he was crushed.

On the other hand, another friend shares a picture of herself in a high chair with a bowl of cereal on her head. Unlike the first example, the family thought it was hilarious, as expressed by the wide smile on her face. Many understand this situation vividly, as they recall themselves or their own children dressing, eating, and otherwise readying for the day. For some it is or was a time of helping each other and getting a good start. For others a time of yelling, criticism, and other stresses.

Preschool age of four to five years is marked by a sense of initiative vs. guilt where we ask; is it okay for me to do, move, and act? If things go well this is the stage of courage, creativity, and adventure as we learn to play alone and with others, count, and make judgments. This can be a time of exploring of fun as we learn to play games, have fun, and sing and dance. One friend shares how she was stifled so feels a tightening constriction in her chest and throat when she needs to speak her truth.

In preschool we get our first chance at art through finger and brush painting in broad strokes on a large canvas. Colored pencils, crayons, markers, and coloring books may become available as well. The artistic influence may grow and flourish or be criticized and denied. This time can also be marked by aggressiveness through yelling, throwing, and hitting. A friend at this young age went on an adventure and walked to his cousins house. When it got dark his cousins parents took him home, but no one missed him or cared to mention his disappearance.

The span of age of five to twelve is the stage of competence and proficiency vs. inferiority and defeat. Now neighbors and others at school come into play as we learn skills of reading, writing, and many others. Sports, band, and other groups affect us as well. In this larger community we are exposed to a much wider range of people and their issues, some supportive but others bullying and judgmental. We now learn morals, industriousness, and using our bodies to their fullest as we ask ourselves; can I make it in the world of people and things?

 Some become inspired self starters, while others languish in feelings of lethargy and unworthiness. If the child is helped to master appropriate skills, self confidence soars. These strong roots grow strong wings to explore what we can do and do well. Excessive criticism and micromanagement here can cause long term feelings of weakness, inferiority, and low self esteem.

Adolescence is ages thirteen to nineteen, and the time of finding our identity or suffering from identity confusion and crisis. Now friends, role models, and other social relationships have the most affect on us as we decide; Who am I and who can I be? Careers, sexuality, drugs, and other responsibilities put pressure on us as we move towards and into adulthood. Teenagers are always anxious to fit in to their peer group, so being shunned or seen as an outsider or dweeb, geek, dork, etc. can be devastating.

This is a very fragile time as evidenced by the very high rates of drug abuse, crime, and suicide among teenagers. Teens also have the highest chance of being killed in car crashes, another indication of how today's teens have a lot of responsibility even though their maturity is still quite limited. Looking back on childhood we see many were pushed into roles such as sports or scholastic star, good or bad child, scapegoat, nature child, wounded, orphan, or needy child that persist through-out childhood and beyond. Do any of these roles resonate for you?

Twenty to twenty nine is considered early adulthood, and the stage of love and intimacy vs. isolation and loneliness. Relationships with mates and friends are foremost as we ponder; Can I love and be loved? We sense the complexity of relationships and learn about kindness, tenderness, and warmth. This stage is extending in our times as young adults struggle with school debt and the cost of marriage, homes, and children due to the economic situation and its many manifestations.

Romantic, college, and work relationships take on a new urgency as we look for purpose and meaning in another stressful and challenging time. Thankfully we normally have youthful energy, vitality, and resilience to help us through. This is also a time for very important decisions as we chose where to live, careers, and mates. Mistakes here are difficult and troublesome, as many young adults lack support of family, friends, and others.

Adulthood age thirty to sixty five is marked by generativity vs. stagnation as we hopefully find a mate, create a comfortable home, and build a family and career. Stagnation and isolation are unfortunately on the rise as younger adults are stuck with parents or room-mates much longer. Work and family life are most important as we ask; Can I make my life count?

The need to create or nurture things that have significant meaning and will outlast us arises and comes into focus at home, work, and other situations. Unfortunately this is also too often the time of divorce and separation as families shatter and dissolve. As hard as it is on adults, children may take it very hard and react with shock, denial, anger, and bargaining just as those facing death or other great losses.

Financial burdens may abound here as well as we face the costs of daycare, schools, homes, cars, healthcare, and so on. Maturity and/or dysfunction may be accelerated as we deal with the pressure and complexity of this very busy and stressful stage of life. Healthy supportive community can be a great blessing here if we have that luxury as  grandparents, siblings, or others lend a hand. If not, we are wise to find ways to create that loving and helpful community, and give back in ways we are able. 

Beyond sixty five is old age and a sense of integrity vs. despair. Can we look back on life and feel fulfilled, satisfied, and at peace, or is there regret, disappointment, and despair? Hopefully there is success and wisdom enough to meet the challenges of mental, physical, financial, and other declines and prepare for death. Here we ask ourselves if we have lived a meaningful life; was it worth it? 

If we are fortunate, we are able to give back to our family, friends, and communities in very skillful ways. Should we find our greatest longings are yet unfulfilled, there may still be time, talent, and finances available to fill the void. The past saw our older generations as a very valuable resource. That point of view was lost for a time as older Americans where pushed aside, but is regaining validity as we look to those who have gone before for guidance, knowledge, and inspiration.

Going through these stages we hope has been an eye opener and revelation of what was gained, what was lost, and what is yet to come. Knowing this we can work to compensate for losses and missed opportunities through lovingly re-parenting ourselves and finding and utilizing supportive communities along the way. We can't go it alone. We weren't built that way. We are social creatures and will only thrive to our fullest through deep, caring, and profound connections with others.

Acknowledging  and understanding how the stages of development played out in our in our lives can be very helpful, for if any were missed or denied they may haunt us the rest of our lives. Conversely, resolving them in the present the best as we can, we may yet find true fulfillment, love and happiness. As mentioned earlier, twelve step programs can be a great help to recognize and resolve these issues, build community, and find ways to give back the help and healing we have received. 

Copyrights 11/17

Dysfunctional Families

 Many, perhaps most of us grew up in a dysfunctional home. The situation often continues in schools, businesses, government, any situation where people interact. As we explore dysfunctional families try to think of where these attributes play out for you and others in all manner of situations. Feel free to stop and consider any thoughts or emotions that come up. Dysfunctional families (and organizations) are known for regular conflict, bad behavior, abuse, and neglect among parents and family members. Alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental illness may affect members and problems can become so common they seem normal.

One parent is often abusive with the other enabling or ignoring their actions, so leaving the child to assume blame. This dynamic may be holding the family together but is sometimes unstable and the family may crumble due to loss of a job, home, physical or mental illness. Dysfunctional families pervade all classes regardless of status. Historically family problems were ignored or kept secret until just a few decades ago as children were forced to cope alone. Experiences with dysfunction cause family members to acquire common features and behaviors that enable and reinforce the situation.

Some features of the dysfunction are nearly universal such as: denying neglectful or abusive behavior, poor boundaries, extreme conflicts, unfair treatment, and lack of empathy towards some family members. Other common but less universal aspects are jealousy and controlling behaviors, lack of family time, disowning or avoiding family members, adultery, promiscuity, or incest. Other examples are family members holding grudges, lack of contact with extended family, parents not speaking up or helping to resolve conflicts, and immigrants having difficulty with changing cultures and times. Also many children are afraid of their parents or talking about family problems, especially outside the home.

The Adult Children of Alcoholics and dysfunctional families program (ACA) lists common traits such as: becoming approval seekers and losing our identity, being frightened by angry people and personal criticism, becoming alcoholics, marrying them or both, or finding other compulsive personalities, living as a victim, having an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, getting guilt feelings for standing up for themselves, confusing love and pity, stuffing feelings from traumatic childhoods, losing the ability to feel or express feelings, judging themselves harshly, very low self-esteem, becoming dependent personalities terrified of abandonment, becoming para-alcoholics who take on the characteristics of the disease, and being reactors rather than actors.

There are many signs of dysfunctional families and unhealthy parenting such as: unrealistic expectations, ridicule, conditional love, disrespect, intolerance for emotions, isolation, stifling speech, being under or overprotective, apathy, belittling, shame, bitterness, hypocrisy, lack of forgiveness, judgment, criticism, double standards, mixed messages, absentee parents, broken promises, gender prejudice, under or over exposure to sexuality, faulty discipline, unpredictable emotions, blaming, and excessive or unfair arguing.

Beyond these features, traits, and signs of family dysfunction are parenting styles and dynamics such as: manipulating kids as messengers, pawns, and spies between warring parents (triangulation), ruling by fear and conditional love, using children to get their own needs met, abusing verbally, physically, mentally, and sexually, insisting on perfectionism, forcing harsh and inflexible discipline and values, favoritism, and withholding love, support, necessities, sympathy, praise, attention, and supervision.

This continues with abuse between siblings, extended family and others, abandonment, micro-managing, secretive and false fronting (highly regarded and functional in community but dysfunctional at home), paranoia (irrational and persistent fears, anger, accusations), isolating (can't go out and others can't come over), expecting children to take care of themselves, siblings and parents attacking others, babying older children, ignoring sexuality (puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, curiosity, anatomy, romance, etc), and Munchausen syndrome.

The effects on children are many, but we feel listing them may help you to learn when, where, why, how, and by who you were affected. Children may grow up too slowly or too quickly ("little adults" or "big kids"), suffer from mental illness (depression, anxiety, rage, etc.), become addicted to cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, gambling, spending, food, entertainment, pornography, etc, become a bully, victim, or sex offender, deny their situation, have difficulty forming and keeping healthy relationships, become overly shy, introverted, and isolated, develop speech, sleep, and eating disorders, become a criminal, and have low self esteem and self image.

These children also may have trouble in school, lack good self care and hygiene, self harm or attempt suicide, be disorganized, rebel against parents and other authority figures, abuse their parents (particularly when older), be selfish, uncaring, and reckless, run away from home, partner, marry, or have children too young and with other abusive, neglectful, dysfunctional persons, become homeless, poverty stricken, uneducated, join cults, gangs, and fundamentalists, move far from family or cut off contact, and perpetuate these behaviors in marriages, work situations, friendships, and especially with their own children.

Truly not a pretty picture, yet there is hope, help, healing, and happiness on the other side. The first step is awareness, as we must face it and feel it to heal it, so this is a necessary step on the road to recovery and resolution. We must honestly and deeply acknowledge what has happened and how it has affected us. However, it is imperative this is done in a safe situation, with safe people, and in a proper way. For instance, it is said we must have an inner loving parent ready to take the inner child into our arms as it may have been carrying intense pain, confusion, and sorrow for years or decades and lash out when tending festering mental, emotional, sexual, and spiritual wounds.

As hard as it may have for you to read and imagine this inventory it may have been nothing compared to the pain and suffering you have lived with for years or decades with these issues. We at Cowboy Dharma applaud you for making it this far, yet this is only be the beginning. Read on and see if you can find the people, tools, and environments to realize the hope, help, healing, and happiness that we and countless others have. We are sure you will be amazed at what is possible. To continue on, simply click the back arrow to take you back to where you were in the Inner Child Sanity File or click here to return to the beginning of that post.