As discussed in greater depth in an earlier blog entry “First Stage Recovery vs. Next Stage Recovery,” first stage recovery is about letting go of addictions, adapting yourself to external conditions, and becoming of maximum service to the world. Also as mentioned in the earlier blog, this is a very important aspect of maturing spiritually and emotionally. But it’s not all, because there is a next stage – a deeper stage – of maturing that it is more relevant to the later stages of life and recovery. Next Stage recovery is about rediscovering, and becoming, your true, authentic self, and about becoming healed and whole. This process is called “individuation.”
Joseph Campbell calls it the “Hero’s Journey.” It is a transformational journey: a difficult personal journey including painful trials and tribulations, ultimately leading to (re)discovery of one’s “inner gold,” and bringing that inner gold back out as a gift to the real world. In less poetic language, Next Stage Recovery (individuation) is that part of our life where we do the work needed to heal our inner wounds, become our authentic self, and build a life aligned with the needs and wants of that authentic self. We learn how to realize our full potential. This can often result in life changes such as a new job or career, new or transformed relationships, a deeper, more meaningful spirituality, and tremendous self-acceptance and inner peace.
If individuation holds out so much promise, then why doesn’t everybody do it? The simple answer is that it’s the “road less traveled” because of the challenging personal transformation journey involved. People can be afraid to “go there.”
Becoming your authentic self can sometimes mean letting go of secondary addictions (those besides alcoholism and drug addiction) such as compulsive eating, shopping, gambling, or sex, workaholism, internet addiction, etc. Obviously, this means facing additional challenges in gaining a full recovery.
Becoming your real self means letting go of the false self, or persona, or ‘mask’ that we often wear to protect ourselves from getting hurt any further. It means learning to be vulnerable, i.e. deeply honest with ourselves and others about how we truly feel and what we truly need and want. This can be scary at first.
It also means dealing with any underlying codependency issues/behaviors that undermine our ability to have healthy relationships both personal and professional. Briefly, codependence is an excessive focus on others, with an attendant loss of focus on one’s own life and growth.
It also means healing the internal wounds/trauma that drives our compulsive, addictive behaviors. This can mean confronting and letting out deeply buried pain, shame, terror, rage and grief from our abusive childhoods.
For some, it can require developing a more mature personal spirituality that is deeper, more meaningful and “richer” than a fundamentalist religion or spirituality experienced in childhood or in First Stage Recovery.
The promise of Next Stage recovery is an authentic life. It is a life of much greater inner peace, much healthier and balanced relationships, complete self-acceptance, a more gratifying and fulfilling career, healing of inner wounds, closer and deeper friendships, and a more fulfilling spirituality. It is most definitely worth the work. Try it out and see for yourself.