17 Jun Emotional Core Therapy VS. The 12 Steps
We hear a lot about addictions these days and, believe it or not, that’s a good thing. Not that they are so widespread, but that people are actually talking about them. Once upon a time addictions of any kind were deep dark secrets that people kept buried away, never to be discussed even with close friends or family. However, times have changed. There are countless books on the subject, support groups, even television shows dedicated to the topic of addictions.
Addictions come in so many variations that it would be difficult to list all of them, as they range from alcohol to pornography to gambling and just about everything in between. The purpose of this book is not to explore any one particular addiction in detail, but to show you in a very easy to follow way how Emotional Core Therapy, or ECT, can help you overcome any addiction. Right now that probably sounds like a pretty audacious claim, but by the time you finish reading you will understand how ECT will empower you to beat addiction while showing you a better way to cope with other aspects of life at the same time.
This chapter will get us started by briefly examining a very popular approach to treating addiction known as The Twelve Steps. Today, almost everyone has heard of Twelve Step programs because Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has done a wonderful job in educating the public about the success this method has had in treating people addicted to alcohol. My intent is not to denigrate or minimize the terrific work that AA has done with The Twelve Steps. Indeed, this method has not only helped people successfully deal with their alcoholism, but other groups and individuals have used it to successfully overcome numerous other addictions as well. This has resulted in countless lives being saved and should be commended.
However, the fact of the matter is, as we shall see, for a variety of reasons The Twelve Steps may not be the optimum solution for everyone with an addiction problem. That is why I want to offer Emotional Core Therapy as a viable and highly effective alternative. In this chapter we will compare and contrast each of The Twelve Steps with ECT. Remember, the purpose is not to demonstrate the superiority of one over the other, but for you to learn what is required of people to successfully participate in either treatment option.
The first of The Twelve Steps: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. That’s quite a profound admission! It is helpful to a lot of people to come to the point where they can finally admit that their addiction has completely overcome them and that their lives have spun hopelessly out of control.
Does ECT begin with the same or similar admission? No, it takes a different tactic – without ever soft peddling the destructive effects of addictions. ECT starts with a premise that maintains that the natural state of human beings is to have a mindset that is playful, meditative, relaxed and reflective. That is where love comes from, and it is what gives human beings power. Anything that takes away from that causes you to lose your power. Addictions make you lose your power, so in that sense there is an analogy to Step One. However, ECT explains the loss of power rather than simply acquiescing to it. You lose your sense of loving yourself because you have entered into a new “relationship” (with the addiction) that is highly toxic. It can and will endanger your body and your mind, put you in jeopardy with the criminal justice system and threaten to destroy your family life.
However, rather than admitting to powerlessness, Emotional Core Therapy teaches people how to take control over their own lives. A relationship with addiction, like all relationships, is something that we enter into, but then it is up to us whether or not we remain in this relationship or leave it. Moreover, as we increasingly learn just how harmful and toxic our addiction is, the more we will be motivated to want to leave that relationship.
The First Step also says that addiction has made one’s life unmanageable. To an extent, that is indeed true, especially of certain addictions that have created a chemical dependency within a person’s body. Still, ECT is all about never losing hope. With the help of medical doctors and therapists there is almost always a way to restore you to your fully human self. That’s not to say that it will be easy, but ECT never requires you to say that you are in any way powerless. Instead, it equips you to fight to regain control of your own life and never give in to the power of addiction, no matter how daunting or overwhelming your circumstances may seem at any given point in time.
The second of The Twelve Steps: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. This step can surely be quite helpful for a lot of people, especially for those who are already very spiritual or for whom religious faith is an important aspect of their lives. But what about atheists, or people who simply don’t pay much attention to spirituality or religion? How does this step help them? After all, addictions strike people from all kinds of backgrounds and people comprising a wide variety of different beliefs. So it seems that this step would leave out a lot of folks.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Keep in mind that all addictions are mental health issues. If you had a problem with your kidneys, would you need to start believing in some religion to be healed? No! You could turn to non-biased medical professionals who would not let your religion (or lack thereof) affect the way they treat your body. ECT takes the same approach when it comes to problems of the mind, including addictions. As you will learn, through ECT you will discover that you already have the power within you to overcome addiction. Whether or not you believe that this power comes from God is a matter of personal belief, and ECT will never force you to commit to either viewpoint.
The third of The Twelve Steps is: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. As you can see, this step is very similar to the second step. It requires religious faith. Please don’t misunderstand. Emotional Core Therapy has no bias against religion or spirituality. These things are important to many people and we respect and support them. By the same token, with ECT we exclude nobody, which is why religious faith is not required. However, like The Twelve Steps, ECT is also about turning something over. We’re not, though, talking about turning our lives over to God. Instead, we acknowledge that we are responsible for choosing to be in a relationship with an addiction – and we can likewise choose to leave that relationship. We can let it go.
Consequently, ECT does not require turning one’s life over to God, whether you are a believer or not. Instead, ECT promotes healing by making people understand that they have the power to love themselves, and to learn how to mediate and relax. That means you are not letting go of your will. Rather, you are coming to comprehend the power that you already have within you to begin moving away from the toxic relationship that you have entered into with addiction.
The Fourth Step is: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Again, this is something that Emotional Core Therapy does not require, although there are some similarities. In ECT we identify and then release debilitating feelings. That means that you have to be very honest about what is going on inside of you, in much the same way as the Fourth Step. However, rather than simply taking an “inventory,” in ECT we go straight to the root of the problem. We examine what brings us the four authentic feelings of joy, grief, fear and relief, and then eliminate whatever it is that is hindering our tranquility. What is causing us pain emotionally? What grief are we trying to drown out with our addictions? What fears are we trying to suppress with drugs and other addictions? ECT offers practical tools for answering all of these important questions and more, which ultimately leads to effective treatment.
Moreover, ECT would not label anything as “fearless.” The truth is, life can be filled with fearful things. Yet we can learn how to identify, process and deal with fearful events in healthy ways.
The Fifth Step is: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
It is always a good idea to admit our shortcomings. If you believe in God and confess these to Him, or if you admit your wrongdoing to other people, it can be emotionally healthy and healing to honestly acknowledge these things. However, ECT does not require this. Your mental health issues, like any other aspect of your health, are private and you should certainly be allowed to keep it that way if you so choose.
Of course, to use ECT successfully, you do need to be open and honest with your feelings, at least with your self, and for most of us, with other people as well. Talking with others can help us sort out our feelings. We have to understand all of the relationships that we enter into, including our relationship with addictions. This does not happen overnight, and it can take several months to effectively learn all of the steps of ECT. It’s sort of like taking on a new job, you don’t understand all of the responsibilities until you’ve been on board for a while. So understanding the exact nature of your problems can take some time, and discussing it with others, as with Step Five, can be helpful. But with ECT you do so on your own terms, and including or not including God in the process is left up to each individual’s own discretion.
The Sixth Step is: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
I’m all in favor of removing defects of character because all of us, of course, have them. But it’s not within the scope of ECT to do so. Asking God to remove defects of character is a religious activity, and that’s not what Emotional Core Therapy is about, so we have no corresponding step.
Before moving on to the second half of The Twelve Steps, I should point out that just because ECT does not take the same God-centered approach as many of these steps do, I nonetheless realize how powerful they are. In fact, I use The Twelve Steps daily and weekly as I monitor the well being of my clients and how they are doing with their healing. Many of my clients are in a Twelve Step program, which I fully support. Therefore, in treating your addiction issues ECT should always be seen as working in conjunction with The Twelve Steps, and never in competition with it. It’s similar to treating a physical ailment. You may see two doctors, one of whom is treating, for example, your chronic back pain with medications, while another is treating it with acupuncture. These treatments are never at cross-purposes. To the contrary, they are complementary.
The Seventh Step is: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. Since this step is very similar to the one that precedes it, the implications when it comes to Emotional Core Therapy are the same. Since ECT does not include a religious component, we only have to ask ourselves to learn the proper ways to manage our emotional well being. A “healthy you” depends on your commitment to finding peace and harmony in your life, and learning how to effectively process whatever thoughts and feelings threaten to disrupt it.
The Eighth Step is: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. In ECT, we do something very similar to this. That is because we realize the destructive potential of guilt. The worst thing that we could do is to internalize the grief brought on by guilt because when we do this it makes meditation, which is crucial for achieving peace of mind, impossible. As with The Twelve Steps, ECT advises that we apologize to people we’ve hurt, ask for forgiveness and how we can make it up to them. The key point is we do not want to do it again and we must learn that injuring others is also bad for us, for our own emotional health. The Twelve Steps obviously require a great deal of humility, and to a certain extent this is true of ECT as well. It is all about honestly addressing the realities of the world that we all live in, rather than hiding behind a façade of confidence or the mask of drugs or alcohol.
The Ninth Step is: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. This one is pretty much self-explanatory. In ECT, however, there is no need to enter into new relationships. It is more important to recognize a relationship with ourselves and how to be human. We need to thoroughly understand that we can hurt ourselves if we don’t have full control of our senses. Not to mention, it would be impossible to truly make amends if we are impaired, so learning how to overcome addictions is vital for those who want to let go of their guilt and do whatever they can to be accountable to both themselves and others.
The Tenth Step is: Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. Emotional Core Therapy is all about continually remaining in a meditative state. Day in and day out we are monitoring, identifying and releasing the four authentic feelings, all of which can be numbed or harmed by addictions. Now, in ECT we may not call it a “personal inventory,” but we’re pretty much referring to the same thing. We have to constantly be aware of what is going on inside of us if we ever want to be in control of our lives. Admitting that we are wrong is just another part of being honest with ourselves, without which you could not possibly be successful in using ECT.
The Eleventh Step is: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
As we’ve mentioned previously, steps such as this would not be applicable to Emotional Core Therapy since ECT does not include a religious component. Yet, in ECT, meditation is very important. In this case, though, unlike The Twelve Steps, we are not talking about praying or involving God. Churches, mosques and synagogues serve those purposes very well for people of faith. However, for those using ECT (and remember, this includes both religious and non-religious people) the emphasis for meditation (drawing a distinction with prayer) is not on spirituality or communion with God. Instead, the specifics of what meditation results in are most important. That means we must allow our minds to be slowed down in a reflective, empathetic environment in which feelings and thoughts can be released.
Finally, in the Twelfth Step, we read: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
As with many of the other contrasts, the first thing we notice is that with ECT the emphasis is not religious, as it is with much of the The Twelve Steps. We don’t seek what would be termed a “spiritual awakening,” though in a certain sense ECT is indeed about personal growth transformation. In regards to the idea of “carrying the message” to others, that’s not really part of how ECT works either. Yes, we can refer people to therapists and let them know that ECT has worked well for us. But I’m not sure that we can truly help others unless they ask for that help themselves. Emotional Core Therapy is about staying peaceful, which might not be so easy to do if we are constantly trying to rescue others from their problems. Mental health, substance abuse and addictions are complex issues that can be extremely challenging even for highly trained professionals. Playing “amateur therapist” is a dangerous game that no one should get involved with, which is why ECT doesn’t even suggest it, let alone require it.
OK, so where do we go from here? We’ve now seen some of the fundamental similarities and differences between Twelve Step Programs and Emotional Core Therapy. There are lots of books written about The Twelve Steps, and some of them are very good and may be worthwhile reading for you. Here, however, our focus is going to be on how ECT offers a more streamlined, more inclusive approach for fighting addictions. All addictions. Not just alcohol or drugs. Not only that, but when you master ECT (and it’s a lot easier than you may think) you will see that not only can it help you to overcome addictions, but it can also help you to live a better, more mentally stable and peaceful life in general. The 12 steps vs Emotional Core Therapy.
So are you ready to explore in much more detail exactly how Emotional Core Therapy can help you with your addiction problems? Well take the course or pick up the book and let’s get started…
Bob Moylan, LCPC