STRAIGHTEN UP: 

STEP 21

Putting The Past To

Bed

What was done to us, we do to others.

 

If our childhood traumas are unresolved, we have no choice but to continue the harmful behavior. We have looked at what was done to us and now we must take stock of our own harmful behavior.

 

Often we don't realize how we are harming others, particularly our children. We love them and would never knowingly harm them. We must approach this part of the program with honesty and courage in order to open up our wounded self. Doing so helps us re-establish our relationships with others.

 

In this step we begin to understand the way our trauma has affected others, as well as ourselves, by looking at the Drama Triangle introduced in Step 15. The Drama Triangle establishes the way we survived by taking on the role of victim, rescuer or perpetrator. Although as a child we were the victim, our survival traits have encouraged us to turn into the perpetrator as an adult. Here are some examples of how we’ve acted this out:

 

  • We became intimidating to our family, friends and wider circle by frightening them with our threats and criticism to cover up our fear of others.

  • We made others feel guilty when they stood up for themselves because people with high esteem threaten us.

  • We punish other people before they have a chance to punish us because we always assume we are at fault.

  • We hate other people who play into our hands by becoming the victim and receiving attention that we want, especially when we don’t know how to ask for it.

  • We have grown an overinflated ego to help protect us from our feelings of shame and zero self-esteem.

  • We bully people until we get what we want because we were never taught it was OK to ask.

  • We sometimes do this by manipulating others to feel sorry for us because that was the only way we’d experienced any sort of ‘love’.

  • We refuse to acknowledge people who challenge us because we could not acknowledge our own hurt and anger.

  • We rage at others who criticize us to protect ourselves from our own rage towards ourselves.

  • We became self-centered as a way of surviving what was a ‘battlefield’ as a child.

 

The person we mostly harmed was ourselves, because treating ourselves badly is as much of a wrongdoing as treating others badly. Not taking care of our adult needs or the wounded inner child, and by telling ourselves it’s OK to accept bad behavior from others is continuing the abusive cycle. We need to be vigilant that we don't harm ourselves further.

 

In uncovering the wrongs of our past we acknowledge where the motivation for our behavior came from, and we start to heal the broken pieces of ourselves. We do this by facing our feelings of fear, hurt and anger. We also understand our inappropriate guilt, i.e. guilt for doing something that really wasn’t our fault. For example: we might have bullied our siblings when we were taught to bully others by our bullying parents who bullied us. We clarify where our beliefs came from: that we are unlovable, have no value, or that we are inferior or superior to others.

EXERCISE

 

This exercise is a way to stop our parents' dysfunctional behavior from being passed onto our own children. We approach this exercise with gentleness and the support of others who are doing this work.

 

Draw a similar table in your journal and fill it in. The example below helps clarify how to do this:

This exercise may take days, weeks or months as memories resurface and are put down on paper. As clarification takes place and A Program Of Miracles shows how to proceed towards self-love and self-forgiveness, there are some outcomes we can hope to reach as part of the healing process:

 

  • We release our self-hate and stop punishing ourselves

  • By learning to become close to our inner child, we become open to intimacy in our adult relationships

  • As we put down the defenses that have kept us hidden from ourselves, we recognize our true selves.

  • We learn that we don’t have to constantly defend ourselves against others through criticism and manipulation

  • We no longer need to control others through fear and intimidation

  • We start to share our painful feelings rather than turning to our inner drug store to bury them

  • We no longer have to keep the family secret by pretending we had a happy childhood

  • We come to understand that we are capable, loving and worthy people

  • We become willing to help others