Sample text for Bradshaw on the family : a new way of creating solid self-esteem / John Bradshaw.


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from Chapter Eleven
Road Map for Discovering Your True Self:
Stage III—Spiritual Awakening and Compassionate Social Action

The Spiritual life is Ó part of the human essence. It is a defining characteristic of human nature, without which human nature is not fully human.
-Abraham Maslow-


Our lives are limited by our beliefs. In my active addiction, I believed that my life and happiness depended on external forces. I made decisions according to that belief. My false belief led me to make wrong choices. I ultimately created the kind of world I believed in.

Some years ago I had a great example of how beliefs shape our world view. During the Christmas season I went to the Galleria Mall with a friend of mine and his uncle. The Galleria is the most crowded shopping center in Houston during the holidays. The traffic is terrible. It often takes 40 minutes to get there from my house, which is only six miles away.

My friend is a warm, loving person. He has an infectious smile. He loves people and believes in their goodness. He was driving the car and we got to the Galleria in 20 minutes. His smile was captivating as he asked people to let us get through traffic lines. He created the kind of world he believed in.

His uncle wanted to drive on the way back. His uncle is rather somber and believes people are ˘no damn good.÷ It took us 20 minutes to get out of the Galleria parking lot! His uncle gave people dirty looks, yelling aggressively at other drivers. No one let him in line. Finally, a sweet little old lady signaled for him to get ahead of her. He shot her the finger! Not only did he create the kind of world he believed in, when data emerged that could change his belief, he refused to look at the data.

Our beliefs create the kind of world we believe in. We project our feelings, thoughts and attitudes onto the world. I can create a different world by changing my belief about the world. Our inner state creates the outer and not vice versa. It took me 42 years to grasp this rather simple spiritual principle. Co-dependence is at bottom spiritual bankruptcy because co-dependants believe that happiness lies outside of ourselves.

Stage III starts us on the journey to discover our inner life. This involves the work of spiritual disciplines. Such disciplines demand the same attitude that the previous states involved: resolve, commitment and working one day at a time.

Just as we needed a sponsor in Stage I and a support group or therapist in Stage II, so also we may need a spiritual director in Stage III. You may find such a person in your new family of affiliation. You may know a spiritual master that you wish to approach and ask to be your sponsor or guide. You may know a pastor, priest, rabbi or spiritual friend whose life and teachings appeal to you.

Guidance is important in the beginning. Almost no one has been taught how to meditate. Most people continue their childhood methods of prayer and have no idea about expanding their prayer life. Spiritual diaries and journal writing are not common practices for most people. Few people know anything about dream interpretation or dream integration. A spiritual director is most useful in Stage III.

The 12-Step programs lead us directly to the development of an inner life. The 12-Step programs grew from the six tenets of the Oxford movement. These six tenets were themselves the result of a minister named Frank BucknerĂs spiritual experience. The founders of AA were participants in the early Oxford movement in forming their 12-Step program.

The founders of the AA movement, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, were clear about the ultimate problem of alcoholism. For them it was ˘spiritual bankruptcy.÷ This is what I have described as the problem of co-dependency. This ism of alcoholism or any addiction is the inner self-rupture called, variously, internalized shame, self-will run riot or co-dependence. Each is a way to describe spiritual bankruptcy.

The 12th Step speaks of a spiritual awakening. The 11th Step speaks directly of prayer and meditation. It says:

We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.


The spiritual quest is not some added benefit to our life, something you embark on if you have the time and inclination. We are spiritual beings on an earthly journey. Our spirituality makes up our beingness. We are the kind of spiritual beings who, in order to adequately be spirit, need a body. We are not earthly beings trying to get spiritual. We are essentially spiritual. This is why the abandonment I have described is a spiritual problem.

If we humans are essentially spiritual, then when we are abandoned, abused or enmeshed, we are spiritually violated. Indeed, when our caretakers acted shamelessly, they were playing God. Healthy shame tells us we are finite, limited and prone to mistakes. When our caretakers acted shamelessly, we were forced to carry their shame. Our self-esteem was wounded by that shame. Co-dependence is the outcome of this abuse.




_1988, 1986. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Brandshaw On: The Family by John Bradshaw. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.





Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Family -- United States -- Psychological aspects.
Self-actualization (Psychology)
Family -- Religious life -- United States.