The Type Two in Addiction Recovery


Type Two in Addiction Recovery

The Helper—The Caring, Interpersonal Type

By Michael Naylor, M.Ed, CCPC, LADC, CCS Copyright  2013


Healthy Two

Thomas came into addiction recovery twenty-four years ago, and it shows. Sitting at an AA meeting, his angular face and body embody stillness, grace, strength and gentleness. One hears the moment he speaks, a depth of compassion and kindness towards the men in the room struggling to be sober. He has been to the bottom, resurrected through insurmountable suffering and abuse, and has become a mountain of love. His kind heart is magnetic, and pulls men to him that otherwise would never approach him. His demeanor is clear: it is safe to have a broken heart in his presence. You have nothing to hide. You will be held by love. There is room for you here, exactly as you are. He speaks clearly, articulately, and with an eye towards completely encouraging men with his faith that if they work the steps of recovery they will find their way. But moreover, when he has taken on another man as their sponsor, he goes to any length to find out what will settle his aching, confused heart. His dedication to deliver kindness and caring shows no bounds and his genius for finding the support a man needs, unbeatable.

His sponsee’s know this and feel this. Enveloped in Thomas’s kindness and compassion, and his capacity to sense the sorrow of the wounded boy, the newly sober man feels the love of a good mother or nurturing father perhaps for the first time. And being seen through his eyes of compassion, where forgiveness is available, where gentleness touches you, the sponsee is directly reminded on a visceral level that God, or the Universe, or Thomas loves you and values you—that he is held by the gracious and powerful force of love. This is the holy healing power of the Two, defined at the Helper, the caring, interpersonal type, known for possessing and expressing the qualities of unconditional love and kindness, for touching people with the sweetness of the heart.

When they are healthy—like Thomas—they are teachers and exemplars of loving kindness, generosity, encouragement and forgiveness. Open hearted, they sense and feel the potential goodness and love in those they touch. Passionate about connecting and being connected to people, they are drawn to you, to helping you, to hearing about you, to resonating and feeling your heart, to melting into the sweetness of you. And yet this is not a weak, hallmark-card shallow, loving kindness. It is strong, potent, penetrating, and will change you at depth. To sit with real love and to be attuned to with real love will demolish the structure of your self-protection; will melt through the blockages to your own heart, will land like a nuclear explosion on your suppressed suffering and our despair. And ultimately it will give you what you’ve always wanted—genuine connection with another human being and your heart. This is the mission and gift of the Two.

The Two In Addiction—Life at Level 6 and Level 7

The addicted Two, living at Level 6 and 7, has lost contact with his potent capacities and his loving heart. He is desperate for contact and reconnection with his heart, and inadvertently tries to find it in the loving gaze of others. Blindly he wanders, cut off from what he loves most, his own heart, where he attempts to construct “imitations” of the real thing. He seeks wounded partners to save, to care take, to become indispensable to, as a replacement for genuine love. He is hungry for attention and affirmation, and willing to sacrifice all of his needs for any crumbs of recognition or kindness. Wearing himself out in his efforts, his real needs erased from awareness, he is driven by possessiveness and the fear that at any moment he will be abandoned. Selling himself out for anything that looks like love, he gravitates to partners who cannot really see him or appreciate him, but who sometimes use him for their own need fulfillment. Having lost contact with his heart, he is unable to sense what he needs, or truly sense the rejection others are giving him. He holds on for dear life, his drug of choice numbing his sorrow and desperation.

As his capacity to connect with others disappears he more and more employs dishonesty and deceit to hold friends and lovers captive. His very actions of attempting to make them dependent on him, to need him, to not reject him—push them away. Angered or utterly shamed at the bad reception and lack of acknowledgement from others for his loving attempts, he compensates by developing the illusion that he is genuinely loving and simply unappreciated. He further exacerbates this painful situation by becoming manipulative, deceptive, and selfish in his attempts to anchor love, the very opposite of his inherent gifts. Or worse yet, he collapses in a whirlpool of self-hatred and depression, feeling he is unworthy of love. He drowns his suffering in his substance use.

At Level 6 his attempts to love and create loving relationships have failed. In the midst of his failures he has drunk and drugged to quell his broken heart, to quell the sorrow and anxiety he feels at failing at his mission: resurrecting love in his life, loving others enough so that he feels loved and wanted and connected. As his heart has contracted his efforts have become more desperate. As one Two said at the unhealthy levels: “I don’t have relationships, I have hostages; and when I let go of someone I’ll always leave claw marks. Truth is, I’ll do just about anything to not be abandoned.” He has moved from being someone filled with love, kindness and generously and offering it when needed, to one who is on the lookout for love, needy for love, trying to experience love through his efforts to resurrect other wounded souls. He reaches precisely in the wrong direction to enable him to return to himself and his true heart. Your job as a sponsor, therapist, friend, is to assist him in beginning to see that the desperate efforts he is making to heal his heart disconnects him further from his real wish. In turn this sets him up for continued substance use as a salve for the sorrow he feels.

The First Twelve Weeks of Residential Treatment

When the Two arrives in treatment at a residential facility he is, for the most part, feeling a huge disconnect from life. His primary source of identity—those that he loves—are gone. He will be caught in the machinery of his thinking mind, wondering about his loved ones, wondering if he’d done this or that whether he could have changed the outcomes he now faces. Heart-broken, he is only temporarily slowed down from his usual pacing, on the go to connect and communicate with his loved ones whether they are with him or not. He thinks about them, and thinks about them, and it is difficult to bring his attention into the room—and on to himself and what he is feeling and needing.

As he attends AA/NA meetings, he is on the lookout for lost souls, wounded souls that he can assist, help, and win over to have a place with (Now, everyone has this need, but for the Two is it dominant!). If he can find someone to love back to life he will feel better, he will have a purpose, and he will not have to sit in the suffering of disconnection from loved ones who have abandoned him. As he sits in recovery groups he will talk about his girlfriend or his wife, how he worries about her, what she struggles with, how he would like to help her. It will often appear as though he’s come to treatment to help her and other loved ones, rather than deal with his addiction issues. His habitual focus will be outside himself. He is here to learn a fundamental lesson which is alien territory for him: how to recognize that he needs help and then how to ask for it and utilize it. In the first days at the treatment center he will be open to suggestions but shortly, quick as a wink, as he feels better, his maneuvering mind will begin re-scripting his priorities. Maybe he could try again? Maybe his wife wasn’t serious about leaving him. If he can only get her back, then things will be fine. Maybe he doesn’t really have an addiction problem but just needs to know how to love his partner better. And besides, who has time to consider ones hurt feelings, anger, needs or wants—that’s selfish and unloving, thinks the Two.

The focus of his treatment becomes them—his relationships—and not him. His only problem, he may think, is that he drank too much because he was so upset with how badly things were going in his relationship. He doesn’t need treatment for addiction; he doesn’t need to know, sense, feel and understand his emotions and internal struggles that drive his blind need for relationship—he needs to get back home as fast as possible. Otherwise, he suspects, the feeling of abandonment and unworthiness exploding in his heart will utterly overwhelm and undo him. And never mind that due to his addiction, he’s lost the capacity to be real in his relationship, to speak from his true heart, to ask for help when he needed it, to admit his own suffering and need.  To focus on his needs is unthinkable and painful. As Thomas said:

“When I was in early recovery I was so used to shutting off my needs that the idea of actually nurturing myself was utterly alien. Nurture myself, what was that? I could take care of you, but there was no “me” to nurture. And to stop and attempt this meant I had to feel the excruciating feelings of guilt and shame for being ‘selfish’, or the horrid sense that I was unworthy of nurturing in the first place. So I shut it off. I learned this as a kid: having needs meant being ridiculed, beaten, and rejected. My heart turned to stone for many years, until I got into recovery. Much easier to focus on you, and help you, than to walk into this wall of shame and pain. Much easier to sacrifice myself and think of myself as the strong one who didn’t need love. Much easier to not feel at all!”

It took him time, much time, to realize that his zealous efforts to create love and connection with others actually pushed people away, or attracted those to him who were very unhealthy.

Protective Mechanism of the Two—I Don’t Need Anything

Type Two Challenge: Two’s are endowed with the gift of being able to attune to the needs and suffering of others. They arrive in addiction recovery habituated towards seeing the suffering of others, while being unable to sense their own personal suffering. Easily they reach in to help others before checking in with their own needs for support, or giving themselves permission to express and feel all of their feelings. They’ve learned that this is “selfish” and makes them unlovable and worthy of being abandoned. Your challenge will be to help them notice when they’ve abandoned themselves in the action of caring for another, or have moved away from feelings of anger, sadness, humiliation by reaching to support another. This is major recovery work for the Two at all stages of their sobriety.

The Type Two protects himself from rejection by not letting anyone know what they need (because the Two often doesn’t know what they need). If I don’t expose my needs you won’t have an opportunity to reject me directly, and I could not bear that, they think. Driven to give love now, in this moment, they are incredibly sensitive to rejection. And while wanting to stay connected and close to those they love, they invariably make it impossible for others to genuinely love them for who they are, because they don’t reveal who they are, warts and all.  They are terrified that their needs will deem them selfish (and god forbid they get angry!). The Two believes in their bones that to be lovable, they must be loving at all times, as in “I only have loving feelings towards you and only wish to do things for you.”

On an unconscious level they live with the silent belief underlying much of their actions, of “I’m not lovable. I have to prove I’m worthy of love. I must work for any love scrap I can get. And if I don’t get it, it’s my fault. If it’s given to me for free, I’m not really worthy and must pay back what I’m given in triplicate.”

They labor under the incredible heavy weight of this dictate, which is strongly reinforced by their inner critic who says something akin to “You are only worthwhile if you feeling loving towards others, doing nice things for others, thinking about the needs of others, making sure your relationships are filled with love” (meaning that other’s are including you in their life).” Talk about impossible. Driven to please their particular inner critic (who’s a loveless unhappy chap to begin with who cannot be pleased no matter how much the Two gives, ask any Two!) and those they seek to love, the Two is not willing to take any chances that his needs or heart desires might upset or interfere with others loving him. So he cuts himself off from even asking the question “What do I want or desire?” As one Type Two man in recovery said to me when I asked him how he dealt with his desires and wants in early recovery, he replied, “What wants? I learned early that having wants meant I invited suffering and ridicule. So, that was the end of wants. I turned my heart off; I stopped wanting what I wanted. Who would ‘want’ when it only brings suffering?” And that’s the key question for the Two: who would ‘want’ if it only brings suffering?

Inspired to calling forth the best in others, and reflecting the happiness of their heart when healthy, when unhealthy they hide behind the happy face and the happy side of life, to the exclusive of their own heart. Thus, the heart-desires of the Two go unheeded, or are masked so that no one really sees them, leaving him with a heart that is truly impoverished. This becomes a deeply entrenched habit that makes his soul a feeding ground for addiction. When the Two self-abandons himself, addiction can easily fill in the empty space of his abandoned soul, numbing it to sleep.

And so the question becomes for the Two, how do I get real? How do I begin to admit the darker side of myself, my anger, my rage, my shame, my broken heart, my empty heart, my abandoned heart? How do I begin to notice that when this empty heart comes online that I immediately try to flee it and go into automatic pilot and reach out to help others, or attune to their needs. How do I slow down enough to see, with compassion, that when I am suffering I shift this hurt into helping others without being aware of whether help is wanted. And that ultimately this has a way of attracting emotional vampires to me, that see me as a desperate, needy soul begging for scraps of love, and unwittingly use my despair and my good intentions to suck me dry. How does the Two begin to get conscious of this powerful pattern such that he stops throwing his jewels of caring at the feet of fools in moments of desperation and hurt?

Tip for the Two: Once you have begun recovery from addiction high-tail it to Al-Anon. You must learn to identify your needs and become able to put them first and foremost, if you are to stay sober. Healthy Selfishness is high on your recovery agenda!

This is the path back, and a most difficult one for the Two because they are wired to dropping their needs, wants and agenda in a heartbeat when someone who they seek love from, be it their daughter, son, husband, wife, lover, friends, asks for something. They jump into action. They begin doing for the other without awareness of what they have left behind, themselves and their needs. This is called unconscious giving and not the best of the Two. The Two truly feels he has only one choice—to give when others need him.

                          Core Relapse Wound—I Do Not Deserve nor need Love, you do!               

When the Two enters recovery he is driven by the heart-breaking feeling that he has lost contact with all love, that he lives in a love-empty world, and that he himself is utterly beyond being loved. This is his core fear and what drives all his desperate attempts to connect with others. He utterly believes (although unconsciously) that his needs or negative feelings will destroy his relationships—meaning he will be unloved and disposed of if he has needs. This is the very real and impossible predicament of the Two. At his core is the wish to feel unconditionally loved and to live in a world of deeply felt connection with others. His motives are good, always, but his suffering obscures his clarity about how to return home. So how does the Two survive in the early difficulty of recovery? Run by his tremendous need to be needed and indispensable, and clearly in the grip of his basic fear come true—I  am unworthy of love, just look at the results of my life, it’s a disaster—he must find a way to anchor some safety for himself. Because of his innate and acute sensitivity to the suffering of others he will play the role of the helper/savior to those he can. With his therapist he will notice his therapist’s unfulfilled needs as a father to his son, and will morph into the son who needs dad, or who plays the good boy who adores dad (the therapist). He will compliment him on his great work (ingratiating himself to the therapist), inflating what he does well, seeking to fill the ego-family wounds of the therapist.

[Wound/Relapse Pattern of the Type One: Core fears—of being unlovable, unworthy of love, unwanted and not needed. Key Commandment: You must care for the needs of others to have a place in the world. Deep Wish: of being loved unconditionally by others, of being deeply connected with those they love. Sees himself—as always loving, kind, considerate, generous, without any negative motivations towards others. At Level 4 and below he falls prey to the Emotional Habit of Pride in which he attends to everyone else’s needs to the exclusion of his own. He perceives that he doesn’t have needs. His Mental Habit of Ingratiation, in which he is continually thinking about others, worrying about them, and thinking of ways to make myself indispensible to them. His Inner Critic tells him he is only good when he is thinking, doing, and considering others, otherwise he is selfish. He cannot ask directly for what he needs.]

The Two, acutely attuned to sensing the suffering of his own family and driven to heal it, unconsciously utilizes this gift to survive. He will see the suffering of others and try to heal it. He will think about the wounds of others (the mental habit of ingratiation) and how he might help them. He attempts to alleviate his own suffering and family members by alleviating their suffering. (Remember his emotional habit of Pride: I have no needs, only to help you.) He will bring gifts, cards, and little things to others that he learns his therapist likes, or friends or partners like. (When healthy, he gives because it simply feels good and he has little need to be reciprocated, no strings attached. He loves giving and reminding others that they are special.)

Be certain of this: For the Two to fail at their mission to be the loving one who creates love all around him, is death. And death means that his worst fear, which he already is in the grips of—I am not lovable and will be disposed of—will be continue to be his reality.  Very quickly as he attends AA/NA meetings, he will notice the wounded soldiers, usually women, who need support, kindness, and caring. This he can provide. He sees Evelyn, who’s got three kids, has lost her job, the dad vanished into the wilderness of his addiction, and he feels her suffering (this is his gift—sensing and feeling empathy for the suffering of others). He can help her, he can ease her pain. Never mind that his own wife has left him, that he’s not seen his kids in several years—here in front of him is an immediate need that he can respond to. Of course he doesn’t have a job either, and is struggling with his own addictions (especially with his dominant relapse issue of becoming involved too quickly in recovery with unhealthy women, and inevitably relapsing when things go don’t’ go well.)

But how can he deny the palpable tugging at his heart, translated as I’m needed, I can help, I will create love, I will make this person feel lovable, I will rescue her, while simultaneously unaware of his needs? Alone in early recovery he feels utterly heart-broken and empty. Moving in the direction of love or contact makes him feel better, temporarily. Sitting in his loneliness feels like the wrong thing to do. And Two’s are doers. “See a need and fill it” is their motto. Tommy, a type Two, explained it this way:

“When I came into recovery from addiction all I could see on my perceptual screen, screaming at me, were the needs of others. That’s what I’d learned to see and of course, even though my life was a mess, I immediately reached out to help everyone I could, whether I had the true resources to help them or not—I didn’t—and relapsed numerous times when I tried to save a woman from her addiction. Often I chose someone who was so wounded that I wouldn’t be rejected. I imagined I could love them back to health. Unfortunately this was precisely the sort of person who would not be able to stick with me. In the moment it filled the terrible hole of feeling unlovable and unwanted. As I got healthier, I chose healthier partners, but the drive to be the one who helps others in distress has driven me throughout my fifteen years of recovery and has had a sometimes horrid impact. If I’m always giving, there’s no way anyone can reach me with love. See, I have this slippery thing called pride, that is, I learned as a little boy to make myself feel like I was better than other kids because I didn’t need or want certain kinds of attention or nurturing, and because I had this sensitivity no one else had. I got attention and accolades for being kind and generous, and this is how I learned to make a place for myself amongst my peers. After getting sober I continued to hone this role so perfectly that I was unable to really express what I needed from my wife, be it loving attention, or a better sexual relationship, or honest communication about how I really felt. Instead I prided myself on how much I was always trying to help her, while at the same time, harboring anger and resentment towards her. Eventually not addressing these dynamics led me to a serious illness where I was forced to open up and speak my heartfelt truth. I had to tell the truth regarding suppressing what I wanted, feel the anger and rage, walk through the feelings of being selfish, to truly get in contact with real love and heartfelt authenticity.”

First Shock of Recovery—Embracing the Shadow

The breakthrough for the Two begins when the Two begins to see that his actions do not match his fantasy of himself, or his self-image of “I am always loving, compassionate, caring, generous, and attune to the suffering of others.” When he is healthy, his behaviors match his self-image more often, but when addicted, the shock for the Two is to become aware of how he is frequently manipulating others by giving too much of himself, giving out of fear of abandonment, giving to secure a place with others, and giving intrusively (thinking he knows what others need) without asking other’s permission. Thinking of himself as always loving, he will be horrified to see how often in his despair that he was secretly hateful, mean-spirited, or outright manipulative in his attempt to keep and hold contact with others (Of course, everyone has these impulses, it’s called being human, but there is no room for ‘humanness’ for the Two). Worse yet, he will see his ego in action: he begins to see glimpses of his pride, seeing himself as more attuned and more loving than others, his superiority a cover for shame, unworthiness, and sadness. He will see, with shock, the times he has lied to look loving, or to please someone, or to keep someone close to himself. And the biggest lie, and most painful to bear, is to see how often he abandoned his own heart and left himself out of the equation, treated himself with hatred. All of this will greet him at the door of addiction recovery, and will be the true gauntlet he must navigate.

Feeling the full brunt of his shame, self-rejection and heartbreak (I am not worthy of love) he will begin to notice the desperate attempts he makes to escape these feelings by going on a rescue mission to save another human being, looking for love in the gaze of another, feeling lonely and ashamed and meaningless without it. He will begin to see the results of his addictive haze, he trying to connect and find love with the exact individuals who would surely reject him or use him. And then he will come face to face with the deeper inner critic message that has run him ragged: “You are unlovable. This is your reality—you are unwanted. Even when they appear to love you, you know you are unworthy of their kindness.”  (Note: The inner critic always lies.) The bar has been set high: being loving means not having negative feelings towards other people (like anger or frustration); only kindness is permitted. Being close to others means that if others reject me then there is something wrong with me, and I must reach out to them to make them like me.

He begins to notice that he continually monitors the responses of others to see if he’s passed the test of being loved and wanted, or rejected by them. Seeing how he is constantly on trial in the eyes of his inner critic will be ongoing work for him in recovery. The first glimpse of it will lay him low with shame but with continued efforts to see his self-judgment mechanism without judging himself for it, he will begin to dismantle the marching orders that have been driving him.

Suggestions for the Two

1. Begin to listen to your heart. Type Two kids develop a “pride” in not needing love. It’s as if they say to themselves, “If I shut off my need for love, it won’t hurt so much.” That is, having shut off and numbed themselves from the love they hunger for, they develop an ego stanch wherein they pride themselves on not needing anything. They give themselves a weird psychological reward for not feeling their heart’s desires. It’s as if silently they say to themselves, “I’m good because I don’t have needs.” Your job in recovery is to reverse this habit and start listening to your heart with the same intensity and compassion that you attune to the hearts of others.

2. Begin to notice that when you listen to your needs, the Inner Critic slam dunks you with the message “You are selfish and unworthy.” You can observe this dynamic in yourself when you hear yourself thinking or saying, “Hey, I don’t need a thing. But I see that you have needs. Let me help you. But I don’t have those needs (because I shut them off as a kid, I had to). That would be selfish of me. I can see that you have needs and I will attend to them. I can help you because I feel it in my heart—my heart feels your heart. And because I am sensitive and intuitive and can read your heart, I am compelled to move in and help, wanted, needed or asked for, or not.”

Does this make sense (hello in there!)? You don’t have needs, you’re the only one without needs, but others have needs? As you allow yourself to “feel” your needs you will begin to feel the suffering your Inner Critic has caused you—shaming you to shut down your awareness of your heart. You must learn to bear this and step forward courageously into your very powerful heart, that longs for contact with you.

3. Begin to notice that you do experience resentment and anger from giving too much of yourself. If the Two has developed rigidity around the role of helping he might noticing himself thinking: I am the Mother force of the Universe, the good and loving nurturer of all. If you don’t notice it soon I’m going to have to punish you or at least collect the debt you owe me.” This would be an example of the resentment that builds up in the Two stuck in the giving-all-the-time trap. Resentment is a signal to yourself that you need to listen to. It suggests that you’ve lost contact with your own real needs and in reaction to this, are trying to manipulate others into helping you, rather than being direct about what you need. In fact, you are likely getting angry at others because they haven’t properly “mind-read” your needs. Give them a change, tell them directly.

4. Notice your tendency to not ask directly for what you want. Twos notice that they don’t seem to have permission to ask directly for what they want. To their Inner Critic this is “selfish.” So, if the Two is in need of love and support he has to smuggle this need past his Inner Critic in the form of a gift, concern or care for someone else. Instead of saying it out loud to those he cares about, “Hey, please love me, help me with my suffering, see what is lovable in me,” he goes indirect and buys his loved one a card, or volunteers to give her a massage, or tries to provide the loved one the support that he actually needs. That way, he didn’t ask for it and can’t be accused of selfishness by his Inner Critic. But in his darkest hour he might say, “Hey, I give love to all these people, and they barely see me. What’s with that? What am I doing wrong? I don’t get it.” And this is a question well worth examining. Sometimes, it is the way in which the Two seeks to make connection with others that is veiled and confusing for the designated recipients. And sometimes those they seek to love are not worthy of their efforts, and this is critical for Twos to ascertain.

5. Learn to endure the guilt you feel when you ask for what you want. This is a big one for the Two and means being willing to sit with the guilt until it touches your heart. Then, you will begin to experience the suffering you have endured under the weight of guilt run wild. Guilt is the signal that your Inner Critic sends you, threatens you with when you take care of yourself, or say no to others when you need space or time, or refuse to spend time with those who disregard you, or take time to simply express your creativity while not allowing others to intrude on this time. The Inner Critic, committed to holding you in the role of the one-who-gives-too-much, says, “You are guilty, bad, selfish!” Your instruction: walk through it, feel how it hurts your heart. Don’t buy into the message. Let compassion arise and touch you.

6. Realize this: you must learn to ask for help if you are to stay clean, sober and happy. This is the heart and soul of your recovery: to put yourself first until you know what it means to receive love, direction, attention, and actually get comfortable with it. And this will be your hardest lesson. However, know in advance, the road to recovery and freedom will require you, over the next 20 plus years, to know when you need help and to ask for it. And to notice that when you are in need of real help, your first inclination is to disassociate from this need and project it onto someone else: they need help. As one of my mentors said to me, “You must learn to become an expert in asking for help if you are ever to truly help another. This is called healthy “selfishness,” or doing whatever it takes to heal, reside in, and trust your heart.

7. Begin to notice that part of you believes you cannot get healthy unless others get healthy with you. Beloved Two, you cannot love others into sobriety and you must give yourself permission to recover and thrive and leave those behind who are not ready or are unable to get clean and sober. You are not guilty if you recover. This “recovery guilt” can destroy you (You are not the only Type susceptible to this—hello Six’s.). You help no one if you don’t get sober and remove yourself from those who are not interested.  Unconsciously there is the belief that if you get sober and thrive, that you can’t do this unless those you love recover with you. You must confront this illusion with clarity and ruthless awareness: If you get sober you become a living example to those who are trying to get sober. This is your gift of hope to them. But, if you try to get a loved one sober, you will sacrifice your sobriety, and your true gift to others. You must face a dilemma that everyone in addiction recovery faces. If you get healthy, learn to take care of yourself, learn lessons of healthy “selfishness” you will by necessity leave other unhealthy significant others behind (friends, relatives, lovers, spouses). That’s reality! At some point you will have to say goodbye to your unhealthy partner and this will feel like abandoning your very own soul. You will imagine that you are inflicting the soul-wound you received on your partner. Here, the temptation for the Two is to do self-harm to himself and sacrifice his freedom and sobriety for the loved one, and stay drunk. The Two must face this serious question: Am I worthy of a relationship with someone who is capable of loving me back, and who is willing to face his demons straight on?

8. Notice how often you fall prey to this core pattern: If the Two lost the love he needed as a kid, and learned he wasn’t going to get it at home, then some part of the Two had to give up, and compensate. Perhaps, what many Twos report, they became super-givers to their care-givers, to the very ones they needed love from (Go figure. Instead of being outraged by the neglect they experienced, they felt bad for their caregivers. Where are the Fours when you need them?). Their unconscious motto became, “Maybe if I love them enough, they might throw me a crumb of love. What do I have to lose? I’ll prove my worth. I’ll earn the love I need.” And off they went, trying to create the love they wanted with their unhealthy parents and settling for crumbs. Begin to notice every day how this core message shows up in your life, and how you act it out with those who you are in relationship with, sometimes choosing people who are only capable of giving you crumbs of affection.

9. Become aware of your pride. The bottom line description of pride is captured in Thich Nhat Hahn’s words, “Pride is the unwillingness to admit our own need and suffering.” There are layers to this. The first layer is the fact that the Two may not be able to sense their own need and suffering and believes that they don’t have emotional pain or suffering that needs attention. The second layer is that if the Two brings attention to their needs, they will feel the horrid guilt of “selfishness.” The third layer is that if the Two speaks of their suffering no one will notice and they will be deeply wounded by rejection, the thing they are wired to avoid. Much easier to reach out to help another, and play it safe. Problem is, as most individuals in recovery know, unless others lend you their compassionate eyes to see your addiction patterns, you will relapse over and over again. Saying “I’m fine” when you are not is a form of suicide and self-pity. Drop it now!

10. You must develop habits of self care. This simply means exercising regularly—be it yoga, aerobics, dance, etc., learning to take the time to develop quiet mind (which means developing a solo practice of meditation), taking necessary time alone to explore your creativity and your capacities. You are challenged to develop the internal sensitivity for when you are in need of support, or have over-spent your energies on everyone else.  This means planning time for yourself, and creating the time and space to explore you and your needs.

11. Learn to identify Ingratiation, your habit of mind. Here’s how this can work for the Two: when they are stressed out and feeling vulnerable to loss of love, instead of saying this out loud, calling a spade a spade, instead they may compliment you as a means of creating a connection, or shower you with praise or affirmation, call out something positive about you, turn your attention towards something great about you. They go into people-pleaser mode. It’s as if they say to themselves, “No matter what, I must be pleasing to you so I’m going to do my best to inspire you to feel positive about me by flattering and pleasing you, by affirming what’s good about you, rather than addressing my real feelings.” The Two does not see himself doing this, it happens faster than a speeding bullet, and is as seamless as the air he breathes. In the grips of this unconscious habit he will take the heat off himself perhaps avoiding feeling that he’s angry as hell or deeply hurt by you, or scared of abandonment.  Via ingratiation he showers positive energy on to you to keep the connection between the two of you.

Likewise, the habit of ingratiation operates in the Two such that he is continually thinking about his loved ones, what they are needing, how they are feeling, whether they need support, all the while missing the experience of the moment, and missing the experience of himself. This chattering “Dear Abby” mind takes him away from his own needs and feelings which if not attended to will lead to addiction relapse.

12. Spend time alone with yourself such that no one can interrupt you with their wishes or demands. Twos share that one of the ways that they learn to listen to their own heart is when they take time, solitude, for themselves, where they can listen to their needs and put themselves first without outside interference. In this time of solitude, one hour per day if you can manage it, your task is to not bring your attention to the needs of others, not fill your thought stream with worry and compassion thoughts for others, but to keep bringing your attention back to your heart, to what you need, what you want, what is moving inside of you. This necessary time alone will give you the space you need to listen to you.

So, here’s the drill. You schedule an hour for yourself. You let loved ones know this. You do not, under any circumstance, open the door to the room of your solitude regardless of the needy heart on the other side, do not answer phone calls, and do not look at emails. Do not. You draw a line in the sand of your heart and clearly state that if anyone intrudes, they die. That’s what’s at stake here.

Parting Thoughts for the Big-Hearted Two

Let’s face it, this is the most difficult task. If you were a type Eight, piece of cake, baby, piece of cake. But as a Two, the second you get a whiff of a loved one in need, your body is out of the chair, in motion moving towards the loved one, before your brain and your consciousness can catch up. It’s so automatic even the angels weep. But you, brave one, are so deeply committed to changes that will truly allow you to touch people at depth, that you march thru this sacred doorway. And what you will face, in your efforts to stand strong for this 60 minute, 3,600 second time of self-nurturing, will be your hateful Inner Critic, who will raise up and scream, shout, taunt you with, “You are selfish. You are selfish. You are really selfish. You are hurting everyone with your selfishness. They need you, and yet you turn away into your selfish desires. Shame on you!” And if that doesn’t work, out comes the big guns, saying, “You will be abandoned by everyone you love. If you don’t get up and help them, anticipate their needs, heal their aching heart, you will be utterly left to die on the street, abandoned and disconnected from everyone you love.”

Well geez, no wonder you launch out of your seat or leave your chosen activity in a heart-beat. And truth be known, you’ve trained people to respond to your I-will-help-you-at-any-time-you-even-hint-you-need-me, invitation. Skillfully, you will re-train them because you’ve engaged on a new experiment, and you do have the knowledge and courage to withstand the horror that your Inner Critic is willing to dump on you. And slowly, slowly, slowly, you will disengage from this mechanism, your Pet Robot, as you continue your commitment to this very powerful edge of growth. As you do so, the intensity of the guilt and shame generated from your Gremlin/Inner Critic will actually quiet till one day; they are merely passing mosquitoes buzzing in your ear. Out comes the can of Raid, and they are gone! You can do this because at depth your heart is heroic and strong.

And make sure you surround yourself with a few dear soul who hold your feet to the fire when you abandon yourself, because you will (until you don’t), and who bring you back to listening to that precious heart of yours. Alright, game on! And remember the wonderful words of one of my mentors: “Michael, people want to help others way too soon, before they’ve developed the art of asking for help. You must learn what true spiritual selfishness is. This means learning to find the best help available for yourself that will produce the most profound transformation and liberation for you. Learn the art of asking for true help, Sky Walker, and when the time is right, you’re giving will touch others ten times deeper than you’re unskilled, impatient helping.”

Try This, If You Dare

Dear Two, try this for one week, just to develop your sense of humor. Each time someone appears to need help, do not respond. Do not offer help. Simply walk by and ask yourself what it is you need. Be utterly selfish if you dare. If someone asks for help, just for one week, reply, “Sorry, I’m fasting from helping people as I’ve gained over-help-fat on my soul and it’s slowing down my real ability to love. So sorry, Charley.”

You get the picture! 🙂

The Inner Critic Workshop in Atlanta, April 4-6, 2014

The Enneagram Institute’s
Inner Critic
(Psychic Structures)
(required for Riso-Hudson Enneagram Certification but open to all!)
April 4-6, 2014
Atlanta, GA
15 CEUs
Continuing Education Provider (PCE 5443) Approved by California Board of Behavioral Sciences
LPCA, MFT, NASW:  15 core contact hours of continuing education have been approved by the Licensed Professional Counselors Association of Georgia (Approval #3825-14)
Taught by 
Michael Naylor and Lynda Roberts
Enneagram Institute Faculty
$275 early bird before March 1


Type Four In Addiction Recovery–Transforming Longing into Compassion




Type Four in Recovery

Copyright 2012 by Michael Naylor, M.Ed

The Individualist—The Sensitive, Introspective Type


The Healthy Four

Thomas came into recovery eight years ago. He was a 30-year-old-heroin addict and alcoholic and homeless, not a penny to his name. Raised in foster homes, and living on the street since age sixteen, this intelligent, creative, big-hearted Type Four represents the stuff of real miracles: the capacity to endure incredible, soul-killing difficulty and trauma beyond comprehension, and to arise as a deeply loving, sensitive and kind human being. He represents the Type Four’s emotional courage in spades. He has experienced first-hand, the darkest of the dark, he the rejected outsider walking the streets of Portland, hoping to cop dope, or find a communal gang of drunks to get loaded with, a fringe-dweller lost in despair, sorrow, shame, and outrage. And yet today he has worked hard to transform himself, and when healthy, is deeply attuned to those around him, and able to sense the emotional undercurrents of unacknowledged feelings. He shoots for the core of emotional honesty and is able to articulate the depths of his feelings, can share them openly, can go where most are unable to in recovery. Because of his inner work he is able to hold and empower others with compassion and confidence when they are lost in the throes of their personal suffering. Deeply committed to his twelve year old daughter, he is ever aware of supporting her personal growth and creating safety for her to talk openly with him. No longer overwhelmed by the tide of his emotions he is able to focus and follow through on his commitments, i.e., parenting, working, finishing his degree.

At his best he is hilarious when talking about the inner pretzels he finds himself in (which he articulates in graphic, Four style), be he caught in the throes of an envy attack or assuming that others are judging him as harshly as he judges himself. His heart-felt, brutally honest storytelling captures both his suffering and gracious joyfulness at what he has seen and digested. He has done what healthy Fours do so well, transforming his suffering into light-hearted, joy-inducing hope, his ability to laugh at himself a tremendous force of healing for others. Because of the enormous gratitude for actually being sober and clean today, and because of his intense labors to resurrect his life, he is deeply committed to helping others in their liberation. At his best he inhabits an overflowing heart that is able to savor the beauty and uniqueness of each moment, and of those around him. Emotionally honest, he embodies tremendous emotional strength, i.e., he could survive and thrive in just about any difficulty thrown at him. Intelligent and extremely self-aware, he invites others to show themselves, flaws and all.

The Four in Addiction—Life at Level 6 and 7

In addiction the Four is cut off from these wonderful capacities. Often shrouded in turbulent emotions, their capacity to embrace and express their gifts is terribly narrowed. Instead of feeling a part of the spacious beauty that life expresses, they experience themselves as misunderstood outsiders, their precious capacities and qualities devoured by emotional torment. Disconnected from a felt sense of their own being, their heart-rending question of “Who am I” turns into emotional rants and despair. Furious that they weren’t given the right ingredients and right chances to live happily, they are hypnotized by rage, envy and self-pity.

Identified with being different than their family and culture, they struggle to create a unique identity. Furious they weren’t given the right parenting to experience happiness, their capacity for compassion turns to narcissistic rage; their ability to sense and feel the depths of their being turns to preoccupation with each passing emotional state; their gift of understanding and articulating the suffering in others turns to compelling self-absorption. Their innate capacities—gentleness, compassion, emotional honesty and clarity—turn to bitter despair, emotional reactivity, hyper-sensitivity, elitism and hostility.

Fours in addiction recovery long for something unseen that they can’t put words on, that if discovered would allow them to know themselves and to feel comfortable in their own skin. At Levels 6 and 7 this frustrated “longing” has morphed into self-indulgent sensuality, hopelessness, and to extreme emotional outbursts that insult and alienate others. Torn between total despair and fantasizing a tremendous resurrection, they are storm tossed, emotions swinging back and forth in tidal waves. Their innate creative capacity is side-tracked by their dramatic displays of hypersensitivity and elitism, and lives like a ghost in their fantasy world where real action to land their creativity cannot occur.

Wanting desperately to intimately connect with life, they are entranced by their hypersensitive reactions to the words and actions of others, by their blinding self-absorption with their emotional reactions, and by their need for reality to attune them to them and their uniqueness. People cannot reach them, nurture them or support them, making addiction a powerful and insidious force in their lives.

The First Twelve Weeks in Residential Treatment: Life at Level 6 & 7

When the Four arrives at Thomas House it’s as if he is cloaked in a thick, black veil. Mysterious, he exudes a far away aura.  And yet there is the sense that at any moment he could explode. And often he does. Hungry for emotional realness and contact while spurning it simultaneously, he wants the truth of his reality out-front and seen. From his cave of mystery he can arise demanding everyone embrace what he has experienced: misery, disappointment, self-hatred, self-rejection, and shame. He anguishes over his losses in relationship, over his inability to anchor his  unique gifts, and many unsuccessful efforts to find happiness and real purpose.

At his best he puts into words with exquisite precision and raw clarity, the depth and truth of his suffering. He uncloaks himself and lets you all the way inside his suffering heart giving you front row to the inner machinations, fantasies, and the jungle of his confused emotions. Fiercely he rips the covers off himself. Everyone in the room grimaces, guts tighten, eyes widen, but all lean forward, his deep confession unlocking the ‘don’t talk rule.’ Other men follow suit dropping to a new depth of courageous self-expression, telling secrets they’ve never told, opening up the dark corners of their inner lives. Courageously he has sacrificed himself and his facade, inviting everyone to unmask. Gratitude touches him. He has inspired others to express deeper self honesty—he has given his gift. But in a few short moments his habit of personality returns, he caught in soul-torturing angst and emotional turmoil, his emotional clarity swept up by the blinding waters of his shame and insignificance. This will be the dance of his early recovery (year 1 to 10)—navigating his emotional depths with lucidness followed by disappearance into the black hole of his hurt and shame.

Protective Mechanism of the Four: Hiding Out in My Imagination & Intensity

The Type Four protects himself and his shame-filled heart (“I’m a nobody”) by withdrawing into his imagination, avoiding real contact with life which he anticipates will cause him more shame. He creates an ‘imaginary’ character to live through —a Fantasy Self—and fantasizes himself doing incredible creative works or failing miserably. If the Four allows you get close to him, he risks the possibility that you might say or do something that touches his feelings of deficiency and shame. Floating in the depths of his psychic waters is a ghostly tormentor who continually hisses to him, “You are insignificant and unimportant…you are insignificant and unimportant.”

His intuitive radar is hotwired to protecting this sensitive and vulnerable soul-wound. It takes little to brush the hyper-sensitive shame button of his soul. When he does attempt contact with others it is often through his emotional confessions regarding his painful past. Although his emotional honesty is a tremendous gift, used too often he makes it very difficult for others to hold the compassionate space needed to communicate with him with any consistency.

He is mired in a psychological struggle: safely distancing himself from you in his imagination while yearning to be with you, worried you will embarrass and shame him yet hungry in his heart for real emotional connection.  He often chooses retreat. Better that than revealing his turbulent heart. He abandons himself and his gifts, imprisoning himself in the role of the unwanted outsider. Ultimately enraged with this position, he will respond with emotional reactivity and intensity to stimulate connection or intimacy with others.

In a treatment setting this will often be expressed as anger and discontent with staff and other clients who are not being as emotionally deep, honest and intense as his is. If people aren’t talking about their deepest, darkest feelings (which the Four assumes he knows and can sense—on good days he can!) then they aren’t being real. Then comes the complaint and protective strategy of the unhealthy Four: These people can’t truly help him because they don’t know his emotional needs. They aren’t able, as he is, to go to the depths of emotional truth. Hiding behind the gift of his emotional honesty, he judges and dismisses them as emotional incompetents. In a state of rageful disdain he withdraws from them, feeling once again that he is the outsider, the only one who is emotionally.

The Four’s blind-spot (and self-protection habit): I know what emotional truth is and everyone else here in this treatment center (or AA, NA, or the world) is shallow and fake.” He mistakenly thinks that he is the “deep” one. It’s a compelling delusion and self-protection mechanism and can trick him into thinking people have disappointed and let him down. He thinks, “See, it happened again. No one can understand me.” In demanding that others attune to him in just the right way, he pushes them away with his judgmental insensitivity while asserting that he is simply being honest and true to his feelings. He reasons, “How can people who don’t have the courage to walk into the swamps of their personal suffering, like myself, help me? I’m justified in feeling like a victim of emotionally inept people and refusing their help. It’s not help that is suited to my special depth.” Mistaking his brand of emotional experience as the right one, everyone else is rejected or avoided, i.e., treated as if they were nobody, as though insignificant, the very feelings he wishes to avoid.

Unwittingly, the Four becomes entranced by this perspective: “What I’m looking for is deep and profound, intimate and beautiful. And…I’m too deep and too intimate for you. He mistakenly confuses honesty, depth and intimacy with spilling and retelling the contents of his shame, his childhood suffering, his disappointment with his parents, his rage at being ripped off and misunderstood by life, or through his emotional outbursts. Little does he realize that this is a distortion of intimacy and emotional honesty, a heavy veil that obscures the real depth and significance he seeks, the passionate creative impulse he wishes to express, and the real intimacy his soul longs for.

Core Wound and Relapse Pattern of the Four Throughout Recovery

When the addicted Four enters recovery and begins the journey of healing, the driving engine of his addiction are his core fears of feeling significant—a nobody—and of being emotionally shallow, dull, ordinary, and indistinguishable (these fears will be the cornerstone of his inner work throughout his recovery). In early recovery these feelings will feel justified because his life is in ruins. But at predictable intervals, whether he has been clean and sober six weeks or sixteen years, from his depths will arise the feeling that he is utterly insignificant, a nobody. In the midst of his greatest successes these feelings will have the uncanny capability of erasing all self-confidence. Thomas describes the feeling of insignificance this way:

“When I entered recovery the feeling of shame and insignificance clung to me like a vampire. Walking down the street I felt that everyone could see my shameful life and could see thru me into the depths of all my mistakes and misery. I felt utterly naked. I’d walk into an AA meeting and feel overwhelmed with self-doubt and shame, sure that everyone in the room could see my flaws. I reacted by deciding they were shallow, uncreative fools, and not worthy of my time. But this was a protection for my broken heart, and the sorrow and shame I felt at failing so badly in my life, at being such an outcast. This turned to envy where I experienced bone-chilling jealousy of everyone. I’d look at another recovering man and it would appear that he had a life going on, that he was comfortable with himself. God I wanted that. Then I’d hate myself and him for having the feelings. It was horrid. It sent me out onto the streets many times. Today, eight years clean and sober, these same feelings recycle at deeper levels when I embark on new path of growth or expansion. If I don’t stay alert I can slip back into withdrawal from life in order to protect myself from shame (and from growth), or take on new addictions, watching too much TV, over-eating, too much sensuality, and this will and has led me back to my addiction. The feeling of being insignificant is a huge trigger for me. It’s extremely painful, and one I’m ashamed of and often keep to myself. I have to work to let people in and not retreat.”

(Deep Wound/Relapse Pattern of the Four: Core Fears—of having no identity or personal significance, of being utterly indistinguishable, ordinary and emotionally shallow. Deep Wish—To know himself, his true signify-cance and creative purpose. Sees himself—as someone who is emotionally sensitive, deep and honest, intuitive, passionate, creative, gentle, able to articulate feelings. At Level 4 and below he falls prey to his Emotional Habit of Envy in which he feels that others are happy and have a niche and he doesn’t. Feels ripped off—he didn’t get the necessary instructions for living a good life. Add to this the Mental Habit of Fantasizing in which he retreats to his imagination to create emotional intensity, amplifying his envy by comparing his life to others. Driven by an Inner Critic Message: “You’re lovable and acceptable if you are unique, different and emotionally deep…but truth is, you’re insignificant.”)

The emotional habit of envy is insidious. The Four, feeling deeply flawed, looks over at his neighbor and caught in his mental habit of fantasizing, imagines that his neighbor has a comfortable and happy life, doing ordinary and socially accepted things that others do, apparently having no cares in the world. Envy rips through him. Truth is, the Four doesn’t really know what his neighbor is experiencing on the inside, but he imagines he does. He thinks, “He’s happy and I’m not. I hate him for this, and I hate me for not having it.” Suffering with envy the Four then takes a sharp turn and thinks, “Wait a second; the happiness he has is shallow and dull. I never want to be content with such ordinary, mundane pleasures. Forget that. I’ll go back to my lonely apartment and write sad poetry, ponder the real horrors of suffering in the world, and be miserable. At least I’m real!” Back and forth he swings between these two poles. Thomas explains it this way:

“I struggle with envy and the feeling of being no one of significance. I think this is what people see when they look at me. It’s still hard for me today even though I’m eight years sober. I just don’t drink or drug over it. When I was first in recovery I thought that everyone else had it together and that I was the only who really suffered. I imagined I was the weirdest outsider in the room with a history no one could ever understand. I didn’t fit anywhere and yet a part of me liked not fitting in, liked being the one who was different and original, even though it often made me feel lonely and left out. I was angry that I’d been robbed of my childhood, that I’d gone through so much abuse and trauma. In my rage I felt like I deserved to have what I wanted simply because I’d been gypped and others hadn’t. Due to feeling so insignificant I imagined myself one day being seen as someone great and famous, a rock star, and found it very difficult to enter real life where everyone struggled with jobs, relationships, money, kids. It was as though doing everyday life things was beneath me, and demeaning to me. Imagining myself as someone great took the edge off my low self-esteem. I’d get really demanding when I was down, and still have to notice these patterns today in sobriety. They run very deep. They are still a big source of my suffering, and over time I am gradually changing. When I’m triggered all my defenses turn on, and I’m that guy who walked through the doors of recovery eight years ago, filled with self-doubt and insignificance.”

The mental habit of the Four shows up in several other ways. When the Four’s shame gets triggered, be it by someone’s words or actions, he falls prey to replaying the “shame” scene continuously in his imagination. He gets stuck to the scene and the feelings, re-imagining the scene over and over again, like a replaying film clip rather than openly discussing the matter with a confidant.

In a different manner, the Four imagines Fantasy Self that he wants to be—an idealized version of himself, and then mercilessly beats himself up for not attaining it as he compares himself to what he imagines he should be—and falls short (this is another form of envy). He might imagine himself to be a great painter, but becomes so lost in his imagination and disconnected from reality (at Level 5, 6, & 7) that he fails to make the necessary efforts (the ordinary, disciplined efforts) needed to actually get good at painting, and then hates himself for not living up to his Fantasy Self. Or, under sway of his imagination he imagines himself quickly mastering his longed for creative capacity, and is enraged at himself for how slow the process takes, and gives up.

Fantasizing can reveal itself through the Four’s dream that if he finds the right partner, the Soul Mate, that his life of suffering will be over. She will love him, support him, see his genius, be the mom and dad he always needed, and a great lover too. His fantasizing makes it extremely difficult to deal with a flesh and blood, imperfect partner who continually fails at fulfilling his infatuated dream. Again, like his habit of envy, he compares what he has, the real partner, with the one he has fantasized about—the soul mate—and is enraged that his partner has fallen short. The habit of idealizing his partner through his imagination and then devaluing his partner, creates terrible suffering and chaos for the Four who truly wants a significant relationship.

The mechanism of the Inner Critic adds fuel to the flames of this mechanism. The Inner Critic’s message is “You are good or okay if you are true to yourself and to your feelings.” For the recovering Four this translates into being true to whatever feeling arises on their emotional radar. If suddenly his ‘feeling’ towards his work, his partner, or his friends has changed, and  reality isn’t matching his fantasy expectation, then being be true to himself can mean finding something or someone that does. Lost in following and tracking his current feelings, he becomes unable to follow any given path to fruition. This sets the Four up for being rudderless, groundless, and unable to stabilize a sense of self, something he yearns for desperately.

The Ongoing Shocks of Recovery—Embracing the Shadow

Recovery for the Four truly begins when he sees he has erroneously imagined himself being  sensitive, creative, compassionate, intuitive, emotionally honest, gentle, introspective, and authentic while under the influence of his addiction—when his real behavior has been self-absorbed, hateful, self-centered, reactive, decadent, self-pitying, envious, indulgent and demanding of others (Level 6 and 7 behavior). As he stays clean and sober, he witnesses the countless unconscious lies he’s told himself. Where he imagined he was sensitive, he sees self-absorbed, self-pitying behavior. Where he dreamed himself creative, he sees work that was never started or completed. Where he thought he was emotionally honest, he sees that he used friends to dump his feelings. Dreaming himself empathic and kind, he sees the many times he was cruel, mean-spirited, and judgmental, often in the name of emotional honesty.

This is the process of being stripped of one’s delusions (and it will recur throughout one’s recovery). As he sees his real behaviors revealed, remorse and humiliation will drop him to his knees. It is then that he must not flee but sit with the feelings, resist attacking himself with self-hatred, allow others to support, guide and empower him to walk through the fire of self-revelation. He has walked through the first door of freedom and angels greet him amidst the storm of insights that are hitting him hard and fast.

The process of deepening one’s contact with one’s heart, with one’s body, with quiet mind, will entail learning at deeper and deeper levels, how one’s actions do not match one’s self-image, one’s imagined idealized self, confessing out loud that one has discovered another level of illusion. And at each discovery, if compassion ensues rather than self-hatred, what arises for the Four is a deeper sensitivity to his heart, and the heart’s of others, a deepened capacity to sense and experience beauty wherever he sets his eyes, and a felt sense of his significance.

Beyond Early Recovery: Journey Down the Strata

Thomas explains the paradox of the recovery journey down the Strata as a Type Four:

“When I came into recovery, I was so grateful to be sober and clean. Slowly but surely my life began to get on track, my work evolved, I got married, and started to create a life. What was perplexing to me is that every several years the feeling of being insignificant and having no identity would arise in me. At first I didn’t really notice it distinctly because I was accustomed to dodging it by getting into creative action, trying hard to build a new sense of unique identity through my work or in how I presented myself to the world. Or I’d just feel a stark emptiness that freaked me out—like I was absolutely nobody, I virtually couldn’t remember any of my gifts—and suddenly I’d be having all sorts of mood swings, angst, feelings of intense envy of others, emotional touchiness and reactivity, and overwhelming despair. Each time this cycle occurred I discovered that I had to find answers, deeper insights because I was feeling intense pain. I needed more specific support for engaging myself at deeper emotional and psychological levels of awareness. Sometimes it meant doing body work, sometimes trying a new spiritual practice, sometimes opening up to deeper sorrow, so that the arising of my core fears of insignificance always sent me on a journey that was very positive in the long run. At year thirty of my sobriety I was overwhelmed with the feeling of utter insignificance in the face of everything in my life going well. Logically it didn’t make sense. How could things be going so well but myself in terrible, heartbreaking suffering. Fortunately I had wise counsel who encouraged me to sit with the feelings, to allow myself to embrace them at depth, to feel through them, to not try to divert them into some new identity project. This was incredibly hard because I felt such emptiness, such heart-breaking sadness, touching into the terrible loss of real contact with my father at a little boy. I was filled with utter rejection, with the horrific sense that dad could not see me or really be with me. I would die here it was so painful. At felt aspects of this throughout my inner journey but here, I felt in completely and utterly, and wailed from the depths of my being for my father. And then, over three years, very slowly the feelings shifted from utter insignificance to joyful openness, to feeling my heart filled with light and love, to an unshakeable and delightful sense of knowing myself at depth, but with no self-image attached to it. Utterly miraculous! The emptiness I felt was replaced with a sense of inner solidity. I existed, I felt my fullness of my being, the innate aliveness of my soul. Never would I have imagined things getting more poignantly painful thirty years into recovery, and never could I have imagined the depth of joy, love and satisfaction that followed.”

Journeying down the strata for Thomas meant slowly but surely passing through his basic fear, his passion of envy, his sense of being utterly nothing, a nobody triggered by his father, and feeling ultimately any suffering connected with his instinctual nature. Serious stuff requiring a great deal of presence, capacity to bear suffering without falling into the reactivity of his type, and strong and wise support from those who have traveled down this path.

Suggestions to the Type Four

1. Begin to notice how you unconsciously confirm your feelings of being a rejected outsider. Because you feel flawed and insignificant you look for your environment to confirm these feelings. For instance, you’re at an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting and you’re certain that everyone there thinks you are weird and different, and unlike them. You interpret their actions or inactions, their tone of voice, their lack of attention to you, their glances, to mean something that suggests you’re an outsider. The more self-absorbed and fearful you become, the more you everything personally, as a referendum of rejection on you. This is done completely in your imagination. You believe your feelings of insignificance, longing, and emptiness come from outside yourself. It’s not true. You imagine people judging you the way you judge yourself, unmercifully and hatefully. Stop assuming others are doing the same.

2. Begin to notice when you avoid activities that feel ordinary and mundane but will save your life. When faced with the methodical actions that you need to take to create more inner stability and capacity to stay sober and clean (be it going to AA/NA meetings, doing necessary reading, writing out your 12 Steps, praying and meditating in the morning, completing creative tasks), you will be frequented by feelings that these life-saving actions are ordinary, boring and not tailored to your unique needs. If everyone else is doing them, how can they possibly work for you? This is a trick of your personality to keep you struggling in misery. You will need support from a kind sponsor, counselor or coach to help you stick with these ordinary, repetitious actions that can save your life. You must be willing to endure these mundane tasks to earn your freedom.                                          3. Remember you need the help and support of others. You must begin to notice when these thoughts flow through you: “They don’t understand how unique and different I am from them. Only people who understand my idiosyncrasies can be of any use to me.” You think you are a diamond in the rough and need someone to deliver “just right” understanding customized to your  needs. Notice this: Just as you decide the right support has arrived, another part of you begins wishing that rather than help you, that they’d wave a magic wand that instantly heals you. Beware! Your addiction wants you to refuse or avoid the help that can save you.

4. With compassion notice how you set yourself up for being an elitist, a special, mysterious, gifted outsider that no one can reach as a way of compensating for feeling like you don’t belong and are ‘nobody.’ Your shame quickly turns to elitism as a defense (I’m more creative and sensitive than you dolts!). When caught in the suffering of the ‘outsider’ individuals must pass through the narrowest of doors to reach you while you inadvertently push away one of your special gifts and greatest joy: your ability to connect deeply with the hearts of others. Learn to walk consciously with your shame, as if it were a welcome friend that you invite in saying, “Yes, I feel ashamed at this moment, but I will not let this stop me from showing up and being with the people who can save my life. I will not let it talk me into believing that I’m so different from everyone that I stop trying to connect with people.”

5. Learn to observe your envy. Your inner critic is constantly infusing you with this line of thinking: “Hey, look over there at that person. He looks really happy and content. He has all the ‘good stuff’ that seems to make him really happy. Money, a car, a spouse, a niche, good looks, attractive body, handsome, funny, smart, intelligent, comfortable in his own skin, not suffering…and look at yourself! You have none of what he has. You are nobody!”  Here comes the envy!

Caught in the grip of envy you might say to yourself, “Oh, I’m feeling envious, jealous and enraged based on my imagining what he is experiencing. This is a waste of time since it has no basis in reality (it only feels real). In fact, I have no genuine idea what he is experiencing! My imagination has created the whole thing.” So you let it go, and return to the present moment—as opposed to being a deer staring into headlights of envy. You might then ask yourself: What might I do today, this moment, to begin moving in the direction of what I love and care for, what I am gifted at, instead of engorging myself on the poison of envy. It’s okay to start right now with resurrecting what you love. You don’t have to do penance for fifteen years before you start.

6. Observe yourself fantasizing. Begin to notice how you live in your imagination, imaging yourself being in an idealized relationship, doing unique creative work, finding a job you like, exercising and getting in shape, learning yoga or meditation, etc. Here is the question: do you actually bring these dreams into reality or do they simply live in your imagination, untouched by real action. Taking disciplined action is the doorway to “significance” and emotional balance for the Four. You may need a “coach” to help you with this, as this addiction to ‘fantasizing a life’ can be utterly blinding—like a powerful drug. In fact, your substance abuse has feed this addiction, fueling your habit of dreaming your gifts rather than developing them.

6. Notice your addiction to replaying your suffering and inflating negative feelings. Fantasizing arrives in another form—replay mode! Example: the Four has an altercation with someone who offends him, and gets stuck re-playing the scene, the words, the hurt, the shame, the anger over and over again in his imagination. The story and the associated feelings of hurt, shame and rage will re-circulate through him, recycling from start to finish, reinforcing, intensifying and magnifying the negative feelings and making the hurt bigger than the situation (magnified out of proportion). Do what you can to break the trance of this repeating emotional drama. You are glued, like Velcro, to the inner video of your hurt, shamed or angry self and must make contact with your body.  Exercise—walk, dance, run, bike, swim, do yoga. And ask yourself this powerful question: “Do I actually like my repeating, Velcro-like, imagination-fueled dramas because they give me a sense of self, and a belief that I’m actually moving in the direction of my liberation, away from the feeling of being a nobody?” Is this another form of addiction that runs my life and which I take ‘negative’ enjoyment from?

7. Notice your attraction to chaos and emotional upheaval. This will not be easy because when in a state of upheaval, the emotional intensity gives you a feeling of being alive, of having an identity and a sense of power as in, “I don’t feel so invisible and empty. My wrenching, anguished feelings of being ‘a nobody,’ a rejected outsider, tell me I am somebody. They give me juice.” Learning to appreciate quiet, still moments may put you more directly in contact with your feelings of insignificance. But over time, sitting with the stillness and whatever emotion arises, will invite your deeper heart to arise where your sense of real identity is realized.

8. Use your Artistic Expression as a meditation to observe your inner demons and disidentify with them. Set an artistic goal and decide to work on your chosen art for an hour a day and watch the floods of feelings and thoughts that coax you to stop engaging in your artistic efforts. You’ll experience waves of feelings from “I’m nobody,” to “This is boring,” to “This isn’t what I really want to do,” to “I’m not feeling passionate enough to continue this,” to “I’ve got a better creative project than this one,” to “This project doesn’t really express my true self.” The trick is to not stop writing, painting, etc. no matter your feelings suggest. Observe the discouraging thoughts generated by your Inner Critic, i.e., “Your disciplined actions are unimportant, ordinary and boring,” or  “This writing doesn’t satisfy or move you” or “This isn’t original or unique” or “You’re not feeling this, so you’re not being true to yourself” or  “This is mundane, this writing sentence after sentence, so ordinary and uninspiring!” Meaning—stop what you are doing. Please—don’t take the bait of your Inner Critic.

As you discipline yourself and refuse to not be taken by the distraction of your changing feelings or the voice of your Inner Critic, you will see that these cycles of emotional/mental distraction arise and fall over and over again, and will begin to quiet as you stick with your work. As you stay one-pointed in your discipline you slowly develop an observing witness that can see the emotional storms and not buy into them. You ride out the cycles and you don’t leave the playing field of your desired self-expression. You continue with your work, no matter what self-doubt or mood-change tries to pull you away. You quietly say “no” to these temptations. (In fact, this is exactly how you’re recovery should look and feel—you keep doing the work of AA, NA, and spiritual practice while the inner demons unsettle and distract you.)

You become a warrior. You don’t care what mood comes, or what story comes—you sit through it. With tremendous commitment you watch your emotional rhythms: you feel significant, you don’t feel significant. You feel like a failure, you feel like a great success. You feel like you are a fraud, you feel like you’re a star. You don’t bite on any of it. You don’t try to figure it out. You continue your creative practice. You will begin to notice the ethereal nature of your moods—sometimes you are inspired, bored, excited, depressed, hopeful, satisfied—whatever! As you stay focused you learn the powerful lesson that who you truly are is deeper and much richer than these transitory states.

9. Notice your tendency to idealize and then devalue what you think will redeem your significance. As a Four you are looking for idealized people—The One!—and idealized situations—generated by your Fantasy Self—to destroy your feeling of being insignificant and unimportant. You want the idealized partner—and redeemer—who will see your capacities, give you the confidence to start your creative endeavors, who’s always attractive and exciting, and even pays the bills. When you discover him (or her), you go into an altered state of infatuation. Oh, the yummy, opiate-like bliss of infatuation (Your substance abuse loves to feed on this!). Your inner dream-machine is going full tilt. Here, the principle of gravity rules: whatever you inflate via your imagination or infatuation, glorifying the person (place or thing), will deflate to the opposite. First you love her (or him) like she is the most precious jewel, finally, you’ve found her. Then, you reject her and disdain her (due to her humanness) as ordinary and insignificant. She, the beautiful flower, has wilted in only one day! What a rip-off, you think to yourself.

The drug-like power of infatuation has hit the hard court of reality, and your soul-mate morphed into an ordinary human (just like you, hey, don’t forget that!). You’re enraged she’s let you down (You find you do this with AA, with your creative endeavors, with your counselors and friends, turning them all into ordinary, insignificant drones—not on purpose, but because your mechanical personality habits wire you this way.). Begin to mistrust these infatuation states and see them for what they are: juicy illusions, there to set you up for being dissatisfied with reality. And, ultimately, if not attended to, will destroy all of your efforts for intimacy, creativity, and fulfillment.

Try this: you might notice on a given day the polarities you travel in your relationship to your idealized partner (job, friend, creative endeavor). You think: “I love her, I’m inspired by her, I hate her, I’m bored with her. I love her, I’m attracted to her, I’m repulsed by her.” She (or he) can’t tell if you are coming or going, nor can you. You might say to yourself: “When I notice that I am idealizing and then de-valuing my beloved partner (or AA sponsor, my creative work, etc.) I will recognize that this as the mechanical nature of my fixated personality, and not get caught in the web of these changing feelings. I will wait patiently for these states to pass, not react dramatically to them, and not get identified or worried about what they mean. In time they will be like mosquitoes buzzing in my ear, no big deal.

10. Find some form of regular exercise that you make a part of your daily life. Sweat, work your body, an hour every other day—at least! This will knock you out of your tortured emotional-trances (envy) and imagination escapes (fantasizing) that keep you from engaging your heart, your life, and your path to optimal recovery.  Exercise even though it feels alien. Fact: You must learn to like exercise. Take on this necessary discipline (like you would meditation) and your habits of envy and fantasizing will weaken.


I’ve been so impressed with Pema Chodron and her take on compassion because she continually points to where the root of compassion lies: in befriending oneself and treating oneself with kindness. From this center point all true compassion arises. And yet we are often instructed to develop empathy for others, without first realizing that true empathy for others always arises from the center of our true kindness towards ourselves. How we treat ourselves internally, how we bear with the moods/feelings/sensations that arise, how we refuse to abandon our experience by either hardening, disassociating, or numbing ourselves are the keys to the development of empathy for others. Image