Thoughts on Power
This week, you’re going to build on the lessons in stability and dignity and move into power.
Now that you know your messages of applied shame, you’re now going to get clear on your own personal values. Personal values are the general expression of what is most important for you. This is essential to the practice of power because once you’re clear on your values, it is much easier to see what (people, places, and things) are in alignment with those values, and which are not. This is also the precursor to boundary work. Boundaries, in their most basic sense, can be seen as a way to protect what is most important to you.
We will also look at the role healthy anger can play in our healing. Most of us in recovery had or still have very poor boundaries. We take responsibility and accountability for what's not ours and/or place what we are responsible for in the hands of others. For many of us, this started very young and was only further exacerbated by the natural consequences of the results of addiction: we begin with a "lost self" and only lose it further.
But the good news is, we can start to reclaim it the moment we decide to put forth the effort and commit to our values and to honesty. In my own recovery, learning about boundaries and the gifts of anger have been the most critical and impactful in my healing process. Not only learning, but practicing feeling anger and communicating my boundaries. This has been a years-long process and I will never stop learning, so please know that this is not something that happens overnight. Be patient.
This may be the week you get sick of Morning Pages and mediation. Right around the three-week mark is where we usually give up and ironically, it's where new behaviors actually start to solidify as habits in our brain. So... stay with it.
I hope you feel good about the work you've done so far. This is BIG stuff and you are IN it, doing it, changing your life one moment at a time. Thank you again for being here with me. I am learning as much as you are.
Watch The Lecture
Continue from Week 1. WATCH: Julia Cameron on Morning Pages.
The Golden Om by Steve Gold (7:00) - Note: actually do the oms with him in this meditation.
The mantra for week one is: I stand in my own center. I am safe. I am strong.
Write it down in your journal each morning before you begin morning pages.
Put it as a reminder into your phone to show up at noon each day.
When fear comes up, repeat it out loud or in your mind.
1. determine your personal values.
The reason we looked at applied shame in week one was to see how many messages were conveyed to us in our childhood (and even presently) about what is valuable. You may have even carried these messages forward as an adult and assimilated them into your values without even questioning them. For example, you may have been told “family always comes first,” and thus, you’ve never questioned taking care of your aging or sick parents, despite the severe negative effects it is having on your own mental health and finances. So, take a look at the applied shame messages and see if any of them align to your true values today.
Your personal values determine your priorities. By saying you value something, you’re placing an importance on it (above other things) so your values are your roadmap for decision-making, relationships, habits, and how you spend your time.
Note: it is natural for values to change over time. In my twenties, it was far more important for me to be social and socially accepted than it is now, in my 40’s.
Begin by looking at this list of common core values. This is not inclusive of all values of course, but it can help you think about yours. Be sure you’re not picking what you would like to value, or what you should value, but what you actually do value. These can be aspirational, meaning your life may not reflect these values very well today, but they are what lives in your heart and what you are working toward.
Determine your 4-6 core values. (no more—remember, you are choosing what is most important to you at this stage of life). Write them down. You could also put them in a place where you can see them everyday.
We will return to these values in week 7.
2. non-negotiable / value / action reflection.
Answer the following questions.
What non-negotiables (defined in week 1) are you consistently practicing?
When you don’t practice them, what is keeping you from doing it? Be specific. Note, the cause may be internal or external. Do you see patterns in your responses?
Now, think about how you typically spend your time on a day-to-day basis. Write down one typical week day and a one typical weekend day. Think: people you spend time with, places you go, things you do.
Are your values reflected currently in the ways you typically spend your time?
If not, why? Be specific. E.g. “I don’t have time” is not a complete answer. A more complete answer would be, “I stay up too late scrolling on my phone and am rushed in the morning so I don’t give myself the time.”
How did it feel to answer the questions above?
3. Draw your boundaries (then and now, or PRESENT AND FUTURE).
Using any medium (crayons, pencil, pen, paints) in your journal: draw a picture of your boundaries. I chose to draw my boundaries pre-sobriety and what they are now, but alternatively you could choose to draw what they are now and what you aspire to have them look like in the future. Note: my visual interpretation is one of many ways to do this--you can choose what works for you.
Note the ACTUAL distance you would like people to have from your power center (not where you think they should be). For example, perhaps one of your parents doesn't even belong on the page.
Note the relative space you would like people to occupy in your life.
Following each drawing, make comments that note your feelings, shifts in energy/relationships, and any other thoughts you have related to the drawings (my examples are below).
I have VERY weak/non-existent boundaries around everything, anyone can come in or out. Leaks everywhere. No capacity/right to feel anger--everything turns into shame.
Ryan's (ex-husband) opinion is paramount, I am constantly trying to make sure I am "okay" with him which means hiding things, not speaking my truth, assuming all the blame if anything goes wrong.
My dad's influence is very heavy in my psyche. I still worship his opinion but have a ton of unexpressed rage. Still getting financial support from him which means I feel beholden to his opinion and influence.
Work has zero boundaries--I am never NOT working, it gets all my available time and energy, and although it doesn't always feel unhealthy, it gets a disproportionate amount of my energy power.
"Men" can come in, out, no personal integrity, no sense of actual worth.
Alma is both too close and too far away; I am constantly either craving her or wishing she was with her dad. I don't know how to be with her without it consuming me.
Mom is kept very far away, she drives me crazy, I am angry, spiteful, can't stand to be around her.
Friends: no one really knows me. I am either enmeshed or dismissive.
A much stronger center overall, in general, but:
Work can still be an issue, sometimes it bleeds too far in, but overall, the space it occupies is more proportional/reflects my priorities. I lean less on this to provide a total sense of self-esteem.
Alma: I am comfortable with our boundaries. I can really see her.
Ryan: following years of "living amends" and my personal amends toward him, his opinion is right-sized and I am not apologizing/trying to prove I am not a horrible person/hiding parts of myself and my life from him. No more sneaking around. There is equality in power.
Dad moved waaaaaay out. Ended all financial support from him. Limited time with him during visits to what feels good and right. Do still feel a tremendous amount of worry about his mental health and well-being but it doesn't consume me.
Unhealthy friends are gone. No more. Cut ties with 1-2 key people and that shifted everything for me.
Core work was honesty, realizing MY pattern was not being honest about what I wanted and how I felt within certain relationships and then blaming them for being "bullies" or whatever. Dropping fear of what they could do/what would happen to me if I stood up for myself.
Current relationship: difficulty in boundaries still, assuming responsibility for what's not mine.
3. primal screaming and pillow exercise (FOR ANGER)
This part of the homework is about healthy anger expression. If you’re not someone who typically allows themselves to get angry, these exercises may feel awkward or embarrassing at first, but stay with it.
Part 1: The Scream
Primal screaming is one of the best anger releases there are. It's as uncomplicated as it sounds... you simply scream, from your belly, with your whole body, at the top of your lungs, until you have nothing left.
If you can do this outdoors without holding back at all, PERFECT. If you are going to be worried about scaring people or will be too self-conscious, scream into a pillow.
While you're screaming, let yourself call to mind specific people or things that you’re angry about (you can reference your boundaries drawings). It may be hard to let yourself do this. Stay with it.
Part 2: The Pillow
Find a pillow that you don't mind breaking (if you get to that point, like I did!). Feather pillows are better than foam ones, but anything will work.
Set up your phone so you can video yourself and quite simply, beat the crap out of the pillow until you have nothing left. It can take a while to really allow yourself to let it rip. Again, call to mind anyone or anything that makes you feel helpless, angry, frustrated, confused, or hopeless. It can be a person, a situation, a behavior (like drinking), anything. Hit the pillow AT it.
Did you find it easy or difficult to do these exercises?
How did it feel physically, emotionally? Anything surprising?
A Blessing for Absence by John O’Donohue