When we start our recovery journey, our controllers have big plans. We are going to find the right approach and helper the first time. We are going to find the shortest distance between point A and point B. We are going to work hard because we are good at that. We are going to figure it out. It won’t be messy or emotional. We will travel a linear path in one direction. We will finish recovery as quickly as possible and then our real life will start. That all sounds great. It won’t be much different than a college degree. All we need is a syllabus and we are good to go.
But if you are reading my blog, you know this is not how recovery works. You also know how loud the controller can get when their plans don’t work out. When they realize recovery is a messy struggle through the muck and the yuck of a traumatic past, they will fill our heads with huge resistance. It will probably sound like this:
“It has to be easier than this. l need to find a different way.”
“Other people don’t have to work this hard.”
“It shouldn’t take this long.”
“I’m not doing this right.”
“I must be backsliding. I should feel better by now.”
“There must be something wrong with me to feel this bad.”
It is so easy to believe. In recovery, every day can feel different. One day might feel great and the next day might feel horrible. Our other inner parts will tell tales of punishment and unworthiness, but this is recovery. This is how it works. Recovery is incredibly difficult to interpret. The stages we go through are not easily explained. This is why I love parts work. We can make sense out of almost anything by using parts work as a foundation for our understanding. Let’s take a look at some of the phases of recovery and what is actually happening.
Anxiety. When anxiety or panic hits, we are defending against something trying to come to the surface. This is often triggered by something similar to the past, but it doesn’t have to be. It can come out of nowhere too. But no matter what is happening in the external world, anxiety is an attempt to block an internal response. This response could be fear, anger, futility, shame or grief from an inner part. But anxiety is the interaction with our defenses trying to push it away. When we feel anxiety, it means a part is trying to communicate with us and being blocked. In those moments, try to write from the parts who don’t want you to feel anything.
Depression. When depression comes, we have a part sharing futility with us. Depression will often show up when we have decided to do something new and risky or have just done it. It can also be a response to a life pattern which won’t stop repeating. It can feel like sabotage, but it is also an invitation to release the futility and hopelessness so we can do something new. Try writing from the part who is sharing how hopeless their childhood was and how it will never change.
Manic Behavior. Manic behavior can show up in many ways. It can feel like extreme happiness. It can look like an inability to stop moving or quick shifts in direction or focus. But it is a sign that we are not grounded. It is a sign that the controller is attempting to keep us busy in the mind and the external world to block new information from coming forward. These experiences are invitations to slow down and ground into the body. This might bring anxiety and/or depression forward, but you can write from those to discover what is trying to come forward.
Forgetfulness, Fuzzy Brain and/or Numbness. You may already know what I am going to say here. But these are all signs of dissociation. Dissociation is a process meant to block us from our traumatic reality: the story and the emotions. It is deployed by the controller when things are getting a bit too close to the surface. Dissociation blocks many body manifestations including other defenses. It is a first-line defense. And the only way to battle dissociation is with small, repeating bits of grounding. This will help rewire your tendency to leave the body and let you come back your truth. When you write from dissociation, it will almost always sound like a controller trying to block progress and keep you focused outside of self.
These stages of recovery can come up many times in a day, week, month or lifetime. They can show up in any order at any time. If we can avoid the controller’s language about the “backslide”, we can learn to see them for what they are. They are signs. They are telling us that information lives right under the surface. If we stop and listen and express from our defenses, we might just see the truth that is desperately trying to heal us. Allow them to be your messengers instead of roadblocks. And you will see your recovery process accelerate and deepen. This is how we heal with parts work.