Taking a stance of benign curiosity.
Curiosity about yourself and what you are dealing with. As children, many people learned to be very critical and judge themselves harshly, even believing that this harshness is the only way to change. This self-abuse is one of the tragic legacies of a dysfunctional upbringing.
Whatever you are now dealing with that is not working for you exists as a result of what happened to you, it is not your fault, and whilst there are things in your life that you may need to change, you, at your core, are neither wrong, bad or defective.
As you practice becoming more curious and gentler with yourself you may well find that you begin to connect with the times you weren't treated so gently in your past. As you are put in touch with those times feelings such as anger and sadness and even fear may surface. Contrary to popular belief this is a natural part of the healing process and, though sometimes painful, is actually a 'good thing'. This is because these feelings can be either the original feelings that you felt when you were treated harshly, feelings that you had to suppress at the time - in this case they, and your emotional development with them, remained frozen in time until now and as you feel the the feelings they begin to 'thaw' and you will be allowing your psyche to complete an originally 'stalled ' process. The feelings that surface can also form part of the legitimate grieving process about what has happened to you. It is through connecting with the original feelings that could not be felt at the time, and then grieving what happened to you, that you begin to re-connect with your soul/psyche and the past trauma begins to finally drop away.
Being gentle with, and curious about, yourself. Feeling the pain of what happened to you, and then grieving what you went through and it's ongoing cost to you, are not signs of weakness but are all vital facets of your recovery process.
Identifying and naming.
If you can pinpoint the areas of your life that you are having problems with it is easier to focus on them and, more importantly, on how to recover. Addictions are some of the most common problems people want to address and I see addictions as mood altering substances, behaviors, processes, beliefs or thinking patterns which have life damaging consequences.
Addictions can be to 'things' like food, belongings or alcohol, or to 'processes' like catastrophic thinking, religiousness and shutting down emotionally, to 'other people' as in love, relationship or romance addictions, to 'actions' such as sport, exercise, work or sex addictions....and many more....... Name what you are dealing with, and also look out for the hidden addictions that seem 'normal' like watching TV for hours each day, frequent shopping sprees or even having children.
Underneath all these addictions however is the greatest addiction, the addiction to the 'false self'. The false self is the 'you' that emerged as you hid the parts of you that were not acceptable to your parents. It is the pain that comes from hiding ourselves, and the truth about what happened to us, from ourselves, and from each other, which runs underneath all the other addictions. In addition to naming for yourself what you are currently dealing with, whether an addiction or something else, the next part is to then name what actually happened to you in your childhood and the abuse and trauma that you experienced at the hands of those who professed to love you.This abuse didn't happen to some mythical split off 'inner child' - it happened to you, and it hurt.....sometimes a hell of a lot, and it is still costing you.
Some people find it useful to go through their childhood writing out what they remember happening - and books like 'Homecoming' by John Bradshaw have a number of exercises that might be useful for this. Be real. You are going to need to be really, really honest with yourself about what is going on for you now as well as what went on in your upbringing. Journaling helps many people as it can be the most personal and intimate connection with themselves, however it can take practice to be able to get below all the surface froth and get to what you really feel and what you really know. This is because dishonesty, especially emotional dishonesty, is so inherent in our culture that it slips in unnoticed. Write about what it was really like for you as a child, what it felt like, what you experienced and who you were and what you were like.
Write also about what you now feel, what happens with your thoughts, your beliefs and you hopes and dreams.......what is actually happening in your life.........write about you........and even if at first you don't believe it, write as though you really, really mattered. Practice sharing your realisations, and also being real, with safe enough others.
Focusing on your inner life.
Consider giving yourself the gift a commitment to really get below the surface of your issues and be willing to examine your thinking processes, belief systems, emotional patterns, body symptoms and relational styles very carefully. One example would be to try stopping an addiction and then sitting with the feelings that arise when the addiction is held at bay, and ask yourself 'What am I really feeling' and then 'What is this really about?' Your inner life is your friend - not a fiend to be suppressed or controlled and then so hidden out of your awareness so that you end up with only half a life.
Being willing to examine any certainty you have about your present issues being only about the 'here and now' and instead work to uncover what might still be driving you from the 'there and then'. Much of our life is set up during our childhood and is designed to then run unnoticed in the background. Conscious effort is usually needed to see what is going on that may have been life saving when you grew up but has gone past it's 'sell by' date and is not now be serving your best interests. Research shows that at up to 95% of what people think of as their up to date 'here and now' take on reality is actually past conditioning acting itself out unconsciously. We are set up biologically to 'download' what we are taught in childhood and then have this run unconsciously in the background informing our life. This conditioning can't really be avoided until you have done some serious work in addressing your past.
Having some structure.
See about putting in place a workable structure for your recovery, otherwise what can happen is that recovery ends up 'bottom of the heap' in terms of priority and it can get frustrating and disheartening when change doesn't then happen that quickly. Some of the things that you might want, or need, to include are: Reading, researching, recovery focused exercises, writing, contemplating, feeling your feelings, connecting with your body, learning about the process of recovery, attending workshops/groups and therapy Any resources you use have to be by people who know what they are talking about - that is have either been through their own recovery and/or have have a track record of working with people who have made significant recovery - and also are up to-date with the most current neurobiology on recovering from trauma, other wise you will be spending time, effort and money on not recovering.
Making a specific time and place for your recovery.
Many people find that putting aside a regular time of day at home helps to more easily connect with their psyche. Having a specific time, or length of time, with and end to it also means your psyche can 'bookend' your recovery work so that you get to have a life as well ! Biologically our system is better set up for dealing with difficult things in the earlier part of the day - which also means that you are less likely to have your night's sleep disturbed by whatever you have been working on.
Being open to being with the new.
Some feelings from your past, and also realisations about your current life situation, are going to come up and this will be uncomfortable and sometimes really painful - and it doesn't stay that way forever. However as you recover what will also start to happen is an opening up to a whole new, and much more expansive, soulfully authentic way of life. Recovery is not about fixing a 'broken' part of you and then carrying on as before. Real recovery is about being open to a whole new set of possibilities unfolding about who you are and what life is about - recovery is about reclaiming your life and your human birthright. People who are not recovering will judge you and this can be hard to live with, as well as shake your belief in yourself. A change in friends and family relationships, if the people involved are not growing with you, is a natural outcome of any personal evolution and the ability to tolerate the loneliness and grief of this gradually grows.
Make a space for your soul/psyche to present you with what you need to know. You have a great internal wisdom which is sitting there for you. The recovery process isn't all about 'doing', it's really about becoming who you were born to be, which is not a terrible person as some people believe and have been taught, or an object, but rather an amazing human soul in the process of unfolding day by day. Your psyche will have been giving you nudges right from the beginning but most people are actively taught to not listen within - and the more dysfunctional the family, the more they will have had to learn to override their inner voice........and instead focus outside of themselves. This external focus can also include seeking a solution from some mythical 'higher power' rather than connecting with their own soul. Being disconnected like this leaves a person unplugged from their own internal compass. Making a space such as some quiet time, with no pull on your attention, and then turning within allows for your own wisdom to come to you - and over time you will get to know your compass and trust where it leads you - which will be a unique journey for each and every one of us.
Enhance your self care.
This perhaps ought to be at the top of the list. Self care is often seen as 'selfish' - and yet in reality unless you are in a resourced position you will be much less likely to be able to help anyone else. Make it a priority to get plenty of rest and sleep, good and regular food, enough water, enough exercise that suits you, spend time in nature and make time for doing things like listening to music, being with friends and other things that you enjoy. One of the most important aspects of self care is learning to tolerate the feelings that come up at the times when you find you need to say 'no' to something that someone has asked of you that is not in line with your soul. Keeping your belly soft as these feelings arise may help them to pass through you more easily. At such times is can also be useful to remember what it really costs you when you say 'yes' to something that you really needed to be able to say 'no' to.