Weekly Reflections and Archives

Changing Attitudes In Recovery

    The following material comes from Changing Attitudes In Recovery A Handbook On Esteem.  The Handbook was written by James O. Henman, Ph.D. and the Steering Committee from members of CAIR Self-help Groups in 1990.  Each week a new paragraph from the CAIR Handbook will be presented, along with some suggestions to consider while experiencing the paragraph.

    Take the time to stop and think about each paragraph.  It is helpful to discuss these ideas and tools with others, or you can keep a journal in which you write down your reactions to each paragraph and begin sharing with yourself.  This complicated maternal has been broken down into bite-size pieces which require chewing.  Since recovery is a lifetime journey, go slowly and respect the many different reactions you receive while thinking about and discussing a new set of principles, beliefs, and attitudes, which we call New Program.  The material in the CAIR Handbook takes time and practice to digest.  You need to give yourself the gift of thought necessary for New Program to become a reality in your daily living.  It is also important to remember that recovery is a participation sport, not a spectator sport.  The more active you become in learning and practicing these new ways of living, the more familiar New Program can feel as you use it.  The following paragraphs come from the CAIR Handbook pages 5-9:

          Definitions From The  CAIR Handbook

      Some words or expressions found in C.A.I.R. may not be familiar to you.  You may find this list of definitions helpful:

      “Perceptual Filters – We experience the world through filters that have a profound effect on how we feel.  These filters are made up of our underlying assumptions and beliefs about reality, our attitudes toward ourselves and others, our past experiences, our current expectations, and how we process all of this information.  If we look at life through a pair of eyeglasses that have dirty lenses or a faulty prescription, we cannot see clearly.  If we want to see accurately, we choose glasses that create 20/20 vision.

      Adult Child - We may look like a functioning adult on the outside, but feel like a much younger child inside.  There is a great difference between our public self and our private self.  We often feel phony, and fear getting caught by others as a fake.  This is the result of our wounded inner child feeling a responsibility to handle situations in the present.

      Wounded Inner Child - In the process of reacting to painful experiences growing up, we reject ourselves along with the painful events and block out the experiences.  This blocking out of painful experiences causes that young part of ourselves to remain stuck in a timeless state of shame or blame.  The wounded inner child retains the original filters present at the time of rejection and does not mature with time.

      Shame-Based Personality - There is a significant difference between a person and an action.  In a shame-based personality this distinction is not made.  When the person, rather than the action, becomes the focus of attention, there is a natural tendency to judge and reject either ourselves or others.  The conclusion becomes “I am no good”, “I am a mistake” or “they are bad”.  In this atmosphere denial and defensiveness makes sense.

      Regression – This is the process of experiencing the present through the perceptual filters of our wounded inner child.  It is as if we actually become the wounded inner child again in the present.

      Old Program - This is our way of thinking and feeling when we are functioning on automatic pilot, using our usual perceptual filters and conclusions drawn from past experiences.  Not all aspects of Old Program are bad.  We need to evaluate the positive and negative impact of these beliefs and assumptions on our lives.  We can keep what is useful and change what is hurtful.

      Internal Commentator - The commentator is the voice in our head that gives ongoing feedback and direction.  This includes the tone and attitude of the commentator as well as the actual words.  Our commentator often functions at a subliminal (unconscious) level.  This is a case where what we do not know does hurt us!

      Addiction of the familiar - It is natural for human beings to be drawn to what is known and familiar.  As a result, the process of changing from Old Program to New Program has very real withdrawal symptoms and a craving for the old ways.  This does not mean that the old ways are consciously desired and wanted.  It is just that the new ways are uncomfortable and unknown.  The pain of Old Program is familiar and feels “natural”.

      New Program – This is a set of beliefs, attitudes and skills we have found helpful in the process of recovery.  New Program is the heart of recovery and can be found throughout the CAIR Handbook.  In recovery, we do not reject old parts of ourselves, but rather add new choices.

      New Program Adult - Our New Program Adult is formed in the process of learning to experience life through the perceptual filter of New Program.  We are actually building a new part of our personality.  With practice, this new part can become a greater influence in our lives by taking over more of the role of commentator.  As we allow our New Program Adult to relate to our wounded inner children in a loving and respectful way, we are actually “reparenting” ourselves in the present.

      Recovery - This is the process of building a healthy self-esteem, of reclaiming lost ground that allows health.  Recovery includes accepting and working with any problems that may have robbed us of quality living, for example:  codependency, chemical dependency, eating disorders, other addictions, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, troubled personal relationships, etc.  It is an imperfect process.  Abbott and Costello expressed it best many years ago:  “I’ve got it, I’ve got it, I ain’t got it.”  What really matters is the commitment to the journey, not how well we are doing at any given moment.

      No-Fault Learning - We can choose to focus on our mistakes or on our learning.  We have found that allowing ourselves to be fallible in the learning process, permits our energy to be directed toward change rather than shame/blame.

      Powerful Vulnerability – When we choose to accept the fact that things are what they are at this present moment, and we are doing what we are doing at this present moment, Powerful Vulnerability becomes possible.  If we react to these facts by accepting the principles and tools of New Program, we are free to relax into change.  We can do no more than apply New Program in any situation.  We can do less by judging, blaming and leaving the present.  Powerful Vulnerability is the experience of relaxing into New Program and feeling good about it.  We no longer need to defend or blame and we can apply openness and valuing to the situation.

      Powerful vulnerability is the ability to use the vest of New Program and the lantern of learning in our daily lives.  With these tools we can afford to be open, rather than defensive.  We can learn to share who we are with others and be willing to learn who they are in return.  This special kind of vulnerability allows us to begin healing wounded relationships with ourselves and others.  The safety that allows our vulnerability to be so powerful comes from accepting ourselves “in transit” as we go along the path into recovery.  By deciding to accept our “being” as becoming, we are free to focus all of our energy on our “doing.”  By nurturing ourselves along the path rather than trying to beat ourselves into recovery, we gain even more power in our vulnerability.”

    What do you notice as you consider each definition from the CAIR Handbook?  Do any of the definitions bring up strong feelings or reactions?