June 21, 2016

Coming Home, Part 4: Reconnecting with My Little Self

This week, we conclude our series with Elloa Atkinson. She shares beautifully about her journey home to self (and how playfulness and inner child work played a huge part in that)!


I called this series ‘Coming Home.’ In some ways, this is what my entire 14 year recovery journey has been: a long, predictable, unending journey of coming home to myself.

To come home, you have to have left it in the first place — and I did. The abandonment towards myself that started in childhood and peaked in adolescence has had rippling aftershocks which have reverberated throughout my twenties, echoing into my thirties. For years I had thought that the abandonment had been by others to me (mum/dad/God/you name it), so really acknowledging that I had done this to myself was pretty momentous.

I have come to believe that ‘leaving home,’ or separating from our true selves and from Source/God/Life, is as inevitable for human beings as full moons or rising tides. 

I believe that this is all part of the soul’s journey. We come here “trailing clouds of glory” (Wordsworth’s phrase, not mine) and spend our days on this planet having a (very) human experience, desperately trying to remember our wholeness.

The separation from self and the subsequent adoption of masks, survival strategies and coping mechanisms is universal. Eventually, the survival strategies that save us in childhood threaten to suffocate us in adulthood. This suffocation is a call from the Self to come back home.

The sense of separation I sometimes feel is so much deeper for me than simply being disconnected or feeling separate from my blood family, although it often manifests in this thought-form. It feels like it cuts to the core of my soul. I am a prodigal daughter and I have wandered far from home.

For those of us who have experienced abuse or neglect, the severance or dissociation from the self is all the more violent, the journey back home all the more visceral and relieving. Some of us will never have had an experience of being at home in our own bodies; for some of us, it is less like ‘coming’ home and more like finding it for the first time.

There are a lot of pieces to this coming home puzzle. They overlap and are part of an intricate, complex system.

For me, studying and learning about my ancestry two years ago was a huge piece of my coming home puzzle. Transforming my relationship with my body is another. Coming to terms with and accepting my never-ending humanness has also been enormously important.

But for me, some of the most powerful and meaningful work I have done is inner child work.

Inner child work can get a bad rap and seem sickly and slightly repugnant. More than one client has referred to Saturday Night Live’s Stuart Smalley in our work together: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” In my experience this work is anything but sickly. Every moment of connection with my little self has mattered.

Working to connect to and build a relationship with Little Elloa (or rather little Elloas, because in truth there is a relationship to rebuild with all the young versions of me), has been heart-breaking, soul-shaking and ultimately, deeply healing.

When I was about twenty-one years old and three years into recovery, I was just getting to grips with doing this tender soul work. For about six months I was dating a guy who was quite a bit older than me, a cheeky, romantic man with a huge heart. I showed him a photo of three-day-old me and he giggled and said I looked like an alien. 

I was incredibly upset, and instantly got angry. He had touched on a shame spot, unintentionally pouring salt into my self-hatred wound. I was glad that my reaction was defensive; it told me that I was learning how important it was to protect myself. 

Today, around 11 years later, I feel a lot more tenderness and love for that tiny, innocent baby and I can even look back at that day and my self-protective tantrum with a warm nostalgia.

Through inner child work, I’ve had to relive the ‘scene of the crime’ many times for many different memories, feeling the sheer terror, panic and distraught upset that I felt in my young little body but could not fully express or work through to the point of completion.

I’ve learned through experience that when emotion is fully felt and released, it does dissipate. If we study nature, we’ll see that many animals, from dogs to ducks, literally shake off anxiety and trauma. Unlike them, we humans tend to hold onto ours, internalising it, repressing it, avoiding it and sometimes even identifying with it. 

As I processed the pain from my childhood — the traumatic memories of mum throwing up in the middle of the night; the guilt about my childhood rage towards my little sister; the shame over my body and its many messy functions; the pain of my dads’ absence (yes, the apostrophe is in the right place. I have two dads); most of all, the self-hatred and shame — I started to remember things I had completely forgotten about.

I remembered films I loved watching, and watched them again (Babes in Toyland, Grease, Oliver and Dirty Dancing, to name a few).

I remembered activities I loved doing, and did them again, going on the swings, cartwheeling, cycling with no hands, ice skating. 

Memories that were buried have come back to me as I have opened up more and more doors within the basement of my psyche. I’ve learned powerful lessons. I’ve learned that the more I delve into the dark, the more light is revealed.

I have consciously and deliberately given myself the gift of play, tentatively learning how to play alone and with other people. Daring to trust, daring to make mistakes, daring to be laughed at or risk rejection. It has been hard and vulnerable and liberating and joyful.

Recently, it was a pure joy to go to a soft play centre with my then two-year-old nephew and remember the magic and euphoria I felt as a kid running around adventure playgrounds, ball ponds and zip lines. This week, even as this post is published, I am spending three days with him while my sister and brand new brother-in-law celebrate their honeymoon. Perhaps that is partly why parenting is so powerful for so many people; it creates a circle of completion.

Reconnecting with the memories — of doing monkey bars, gymnastic classes, making my own books and starting my own library and teaching my little sister’s 30+ teddies in our originally named “Teddy School” — has sincerely been worth every moment of pain that I’ve gone through in therapy and this deep personal work.

I’m so grateful today that I can now fully remember previously excruciating childhood scenes today with little to no emotional charge accompanying the memory. That doesn’t mean it’s all gone or that there’s nothing left to process. I have found it an interesting tightrope to dance on, the further I’ve got into my recovery: nowadays I need to be wary that I don’t over-process and over-analyse, and that I don’t under-do it either.

I don’t know if the near-constant hum of disconnection that lurks on the edges of my consciousness and daily experience will ever fully go away. I wonder if my life is going to involve endless cycles of ebbing and flowing into and away from myself, salty tears of relief falling each time I surrender back into authentic connection with myself and others.

The way I make sense of coming home and being in relationship with the little one(s) within me today is to think of it as a relationship.

Relationships are not static entities. They are actually living entities. Like any other living organism, every relationship needs continual care to survive and thrive.

Coming home is a lifelong journey. For me it is intimate, spiritual in nature, and it requires deep reverence for my own and others’ wounds. I have come to appreciate that no matter what the external circumstances were, no one gets out of childhood scot free, but if you get out alive, you’ve got a chance to turn things around.

In closing, when it comes to living this path, what I know for sure today is this: the further I go, the deeper I go. And there is always more.

I wish you well on your journey. May it be full of depth and lightness, joy and healing, release from fear and of course, a deep coming home to yourself. 


Elloa Atkinson is a life-changing coach, an inspiring speaker, and a writer whose work has been featured on the home pages of the Huffington Post and the Good Men Project.

A certified life coach, Elloa also has over ten years experience of assisting, supporting and leading emotionally intense personal development work. She is a long-term student and teacher of A Course In Miracles and believes that we are all inherently whole, innocent and worthy of love and that our core problem is that we have forgotten that. 

Connect with her at elloaatkinson.com and via Facebook: http://facebook.com/elloa.atkinson.miracles

June 14, 2016

Coming Home, Part 3: I Still Have Shame

This week, we continue our series with Elloa Atkinson. She shares powerfully about how she let go of being "finished" healing.


Today, a slightly awkward yet equally relief-inducing confession: I still have shame.

Yes, I call myself a “life-changing coach” and I am 14 years drug-free and sober. Yes, I’ve done a ton of inner and outer work in the last decade and a bit. Yet I still feel shame, and not infrequently either.

Not only with that, but I’m also intimately acquainted with many other elements of being human: judgement, jealousy, comparison, fear, insecurity, immaturity and a penchant for sugar that often teeters on the edge of being out of control. 

Basically, I’m still human! Argh!

I’ve done a lot of healing ‘stuff’ over the years, and so far, none of it has cured me of that particular malady that comes with being human or is perhaps the being human itself. 

I’ve done workshops, breathwork, therapy, a ton of movement practices, EMDR, EFT, shamanic journeying and a lot of crying. I have had a shamanic soul retrieval, have done twelve step programmes, family constellations, singing lessons, gestalt work, have had spiritual awakenings, couples therapy, coaching and a multi-generational family study.

Surely I should be sorted by now? 

Surely I should be done with what my dad calls all this “hippy shit.”

Surely I shouldn’t have any shame left in me?

As nice a narrative as it sounds, the reality is an unequivocal no.

I still feel shame and fear. I still get insecure. I still feel a ton of self-doubt (two weeks ago my coach sent me an article on the Imposter Syndrome, something I’ve read about a lot but have always kept at arm’s length, the subconscious thought being that ‘I’m beyond that stuff’, and lo and behold, I saw myself -- my thoughts and fears -- in every descriptor).

Here I am, a so-called transformational coach and I am still fully human, still very much in the process of becoming me.

It’s less appealing perhaps than the “I was in pain but now my life is sorted” glossy before-and-after story, but it’s made of the stuff of a real life: gloriously messy in its authenticity. I refuse to present myself otherwise, just as I refuse to downplay my brilliance.

There is a lot of conversation in new age and personal development circles about healing, and dozens if not hundreds of modalities that offer it. When I purchased my life coach insurance, I was a little overwhelmed by the number of therapies on offer. In the slightly icky world of online marketing, we coaches and healers are taught to communicate what the outcomes for our clients will be. 

Freedom from shame!
Self-love and acceptance!
You will feel more confident than you ever have!

On and on the promises go, offering to clear negative, limiting beliefs for good. To be honest my ego sometimes feels a little insulted when I read about a powerful technique for clearing blocks and beliefs in 30 seconds or less because so much of the work I’ve done has been stomach-churning, sweat inducing and downright painful. 

Yet the possibility eats away at me: “Is this the missing piece? Is this the secret sauce I’ve been looking for all my life?!”  Maybe a fire walk will do it, or a new energy technique, or a superfood. Perhaps the answer is in a breathing technique I’ve never heard of, or a shaman I’ve yet to work with. (For the record: I am currently doing a conscious connected breathing 10 week process, and I’m going to Peru in November to work with a shaman so these are very real examples!)

I sometimes cling onto the vain hope that there is something out there that will permanently take away the insecurity, fear and shame from within me, making me invincible to it. I can still get caught up in shiny object syndrome, wondering if there is a magical process, therapist, workshop or healing method that really will give me that extra something and take the shame away. 

I think that’s perhaps what’s underneath a lot of the glitzy promises -- they tap into the very understandable desire to be free of all and any icky, uncomfortable, vulnerable, messy, uncontrollable emotion, whether that is shame (get body confidence for life!), uncertainty (get clear and get going!) or fear (take charge of your relationships, for good!).

Being in the industry, I read about new stuff all the time, and with the proliferation of amazing websites, graphics and perfectly curated social media feeds, it’s very easy to start to get sucked in, even as an intelligent, well-informed person. The lesson is simple: don’t believe the hype.

So what is the truth here?

The truth is, I have experienced transformative self-acceptance. My best friend Liz will tell you that I am so different from the scared girl she once knew who basically just cried and felt paranoid most of the time.

The truth is, I have felt love for myself beyond anything I ever thought was possible for me. I used to stare with pure hatred at my body, the loathing and disgust escalating with every second -- yet I would be unable to tear my eyes away from myself. My body took the brunt of the blame for my hatred, and my hatred was a blood red, intense swirl of pain and anger that bubbled from a seemingly bottomless pit within me. 

The truth is, I have genuinely experienced this thing called healing, but I am under no illusion that the journey is ever over. For me, this life thing is about forgetting who I really am, then remembering again, then forgetting, then remembering again. Over time, I get to hang out in the remembering part for longer and to be able to remind myself of it when I’m back in the forgetting again.

The truth is that no one gets a fast track ticket through life. They work in theme parks, not in human beings.

So if the goal isn’t to become superhuman and to bypass shame and fear (which is actually a symptom of toxic shame), what is it then? Here are a few ideas.

  • What if the goal wasn’t to be free of shame but to learn how to feel it and find within myself a loving, compassionate presence that can help me experience it without getting overly identified with it?

  • What if the goal was really to learn how to navigate life and all the human thoughts, feelings and experiences that come with it while keeping my heart wide open?

  • What if the measure of progress wasn’t how free of shame I am, but now able I am to be with my pain, surrendering to it and allowing the experience of it, rather than seeking to transcend or overcome it?

  • What if the practice was to let life move through me, to be the riverbed allowing the great gushing river of a wholehearted life to trickle, flow and sometimes torrent its way through me?

  • What if the goal was to keep remembering the truth, and to see each opportunity not as proof that I haven’t done enough healing, but that I simply have another opportunity to remember?

  • What if experiencing shame wasn’t shameful but was actually a sign of how un-numbed I am today? What if each moment of shame was an opportunity to reclaim the truth?

I am whole and I am undone.
I am full of playfulness and love, and fear and doubt.
I am the entire ocean in a drop, and I am irrepressibly, uncontainably, imperfectly human.
I have the capacity for great joy and deep shame.
I love, and I fear.
And these are all just experiences anyway.

I don’t know if anyone puts it better than Rumi with his poem, The Guest House:

This being human is a guest house. 
Every morning a new arrival. 

A joy, a depression, a meanness, 
some momentary awareness comes 
as an unexpected visitor. 

Welcome and entertain them all! 
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, 
who violently sweep your house 
empty of its furniture, 
still, treat each guest honourably. 
He may be clearing you out 
for some new delight. 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, 
meet them at the door laughing, 
and invite them in. 

Be grateful for whoever comes, 
because each has been sent 
as a guide from beyond.

Read Part 4 of this series!


Elloa Atkinson is a life-changing coach, an inspiring speaker, and a writer whose work has been featured on the home pages of the Huffington Post and the Good Men Project.

A certified life coach, Elloa also has over ten years experience of assisting, supporting and leading emotionally intense personal development work. She is a long-term student and teacher of A Course In Miracles and believes that we are all inherently whole, innocent and worthy of love and that our core problem is that we have forgotten that. 

Connect with her at elloaatkinson.com and via Facebook: http://facebook.com/elloa.atkinson.miracles

June 7, 2016

Coming Home, Part 2: Body of Shame

This week, we continue our series with Elloa Atkinson. She shares powerfully about how she felt imprisoned by her body and what she did to break free.


I live in a body that has known deep shame. As I wrote in my previous post, for years my body crawled with the stuff. Take the shame away and I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what was left. It became the central hinge upon which my whole identity rested.

At times, the shame has consumed almost every waking moment, and yet trying to put words to it, and to how I have found healing and relief from it, is hard. Everything about my body — every single human thing about it, the way it moves and functions and lives and breathes — has repulsed me at some point.

My body proved to me over and over again that my deepest fears and feelings about myself were “true”: that I am defective, repulsive and unlovable. It became the focal point for every regret, fear, disappointment and uncomfortable emotion I had.

To live with toxic shame and body dysmorphia is to be imprisoned in a hall of warped mirrors, permanently accompanied by a critical companion that is always one step ahead of you. Shame speaks in words and feelings, internal voices speaking with authority, distorting everything about how you look and feel. You come to live in an alternate reality, unable to see what other people see. This is why anorexics, when asked to identify a photograph of their skeletal silhouettes, will point to a photograph of an obese person. Talk about needing a miracle, which A Course In Miracles, the psycho-spiritual text I study, describes as “a shift in perception.”

I was disgusted by myself. I ripped the hair clean out of my skull and scratched scars into my arms. If I sat and focused on a body part, it would literally get bigger before my eyes, like a sick nightmare that becomes increasingly warped, one in which you become more and more and more imprisoned; a nightmare with no way out.

Except that there was. It just did not come in the form I expected.

The truth is that my long, unpredictable and incredibly beautiful journey of healing from shame and coming home to myself has comprised many facets, layers, teachers and lessons. Today I want to share about just one of those.

In 2006, I found medicine for transforming my relationship with my body, and it was not in the form I expected. I was already studying A Course In Miracles, which taught me over and over that I am not a body. I am free. I am as God created me. So the last place I expected to find healing from the pain of having my body was in my body itself.

I had always loved to dance. As a child I made up dances in my bedroom to Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves and the soundtrack to Grease. Musical theatre captured my imagination and made my heart soar as I watched the dancers pirouette and leap in perfectly synchronised, awe-inspiring routines. In early addiction recovery, I continued to rave and go clubbing, diving into the music in a bid to get away from the self-consciousness. Movement felt good.

And then I found the movement meditation practice of 5Rhythms — or it found me. People had been recommending it for a couple of years to me, but it took me a while to get to a class. When I did, it felt like coming home. Permission to writhe and heave and roll around on the floor, doing my own thing, not needing to look cool, with no way of getting it wrong? Where had this been all my life?!

In a few short years, I notched up close to 350 hours of 5Rhythms experience. I danced alone, and with men, and with other women, and in groups. I danced my pain and I danced the shame, giving it movement, giving my body — this horrible, heavy, lethargic vehicle of shame — a voice. 

I grunted and groaned and moaned and wailed. I howled and cried and fell into whirlpools of ecstasy. I spun in circles and shook and twisted and jumped, each rhythm reconnecting me to an essential element of being alive. Words and tears cried in stillness could only take me so far. Dancing took me into the heart of being human and paradoxically way, way beyond being human, reconnecting me to the part of me that is indestructible, pure energy.

In the first rhythm, flow, I found my connection to myself and the earth, the nurturing, accepting feminine energy within me. I circled and swirled and found curves and softness. I breathed deep and long and came home to myself.

In the second rhythm, staccato, my hips rocked and rolled to the beat, and I found my yes and my no. I found power and breathed fire, felt my feet stomp in sync with the rhythm of life itself. I breathed heavy and hot and came home to myself.

In the third rhythm of chaos, I found complete and total release. I found ecstasy better than any drug. I found what it is to be danced, to lose the small self, to lose all thought and to simply experience being. I breathed empty and full and came home to myself.

In the fourth rhythm, lyrical, I discovered how to play again, perhaps as un-self-consciously as I ever have. I breathed delight and laughter and came home to myself.

And finally, in stillness I found grief, relief, and home. I found the still point within me. I discovered powerful non-sexual contact with other humans, men and women, and I surrendered. I breathed long and deep and came home to myself.

I went to classes, workshops and retreats. I danced big and I danced small. I danced on Venice Beach and in Houston airport — no exaggeration. I danced at London Heathrow while waiting for my baggage. I danced on the Tube in London. I danced on the roof of my friend’s garage in LA. Dancing healed me, brought me home to myself. My body stopped being this thing that I objectified and identified with, and became my blank canvas, my vehicle for self-expression.

And as I observed other dancers, I noticed that nobody, nobody, ever danced the same as anyone else. I noticed women with full round bellies who were gorgeous goddesses. I saw people so in sync with one another that it was impossible to tell where one ended and the other began.

My competitive, comparison-addled brain couldn’t comprehend what this meant, and would often turn up the volume on thoughts. Many, many times, I wanted the attention of the teacher, or to be seen as the best, or to get male attention. I wanted to compete and compare, and I did. Those were the times when I hated 5Rhythms, and I’m so grateful for them, because they brought me face to face with myself. 

I no longer go to 5Rhythms. It was a season in my life, and after a lot of wrestling with and questioning why it doesn’t have the same impact on me nowadays, and wondering if I should just keep going and allow this lack of enjoyment to be the practice, I have let it go from my life.

Healing from shame is a lifelong process. For me, it has been long, slow and painful but there is no denying that it has been worth it. If I had to do it all over again, I would, because the freedom I have tasted and the joy I have experienced in this funny meat suit I now call home is beyond anything I could have imagined.

And ultimately, if I’m not working towards this, what am I committed to? ACIM teaches that we are always committed to something. As Carlos Castaneda said, “We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”

So when I dance today — whether in my home, in a club, alone or with another — I still meet myself, I still face myself and I still free myself, one choice, one breath, one funky freaky dance move at a time. 


Elloa Atkinson is a life-changing coach, an inspiring speaker, and a writer whose work has been featured on the home pages of the Huffington Post and the Good Men Project.

A certified life coach, Elloa also has over ten years experience of assisting, supporting and leading emotionally intense personal development work. She is a long-term student and teacher of A Course In Miracles and believes that we are all inherently whole, innocent and worthy of love and that our core problem is that we have forgotten that. 

Connect with her at elloaatkinson.com and via Facebook: http://facebook.com/elloa.atkinson.miracles

June 1, 2016

Coming Home, Part 1: Ancestry of Shame

This week, it is my deepest pleasure to introduce you to Elloa Atkinson. She is a prolific writer, powerful healer, and kindred spirit. Within five minutes of talking with Elloa, I knew I had to share her with you. I know you will be helped and healed by what she shares in this month's series.


I am a descendent in a lineage of shame.

I grew up in a house and a body filled with shame of various colours and flavours, from mild blush pink to angry blood red. The generations who came before me passed the shame along from parent to child, wrapped carefully in the folds of pivotal childhood memories like it was a precious family heirloom.

The shame was toxic and suffocating yet never spoken aloud.

To name it would have provoked dismissive scorn and mocking tuts, whispered judgements of being “over dramatic,” “ridiculous,” “selfish,” or “stupid.” Those messages are reverberating around inside me right now, even as I write these words.

The first time I remember feeling uncomfortable in my skin was when I was very young. I’ve thankfully remembered over the last 12 years of personal inner work that there was magic in me, but there was also strangeness too — a wariness, a watchfulness, a mistrust in the world and the people in it, a belief that I didn’t quite fit, that I didn’t belong.

By the age of seven, I had begun to feel distinctly awkward in my skin. Stick thin and lanky, I was all bones and angles. I had experienced the gut-wrenching heartbreak of begging my alcoholic mum not to go to the pub, pouring my tiny heart out all over the floor, and her not staying. I had experienced head lice that made mum shriek in disgust, and had been at the mercy of my awkward, jangling limbs kicking a football the wrong way up the pitch at school, prompting my classmates to get angry with me.

I became inwardly rigid, scared and nervous and watchful around other people. There eventually came a point when all this stuff couldn’t just keep building up anymore; it needed somewhere to go.

From the age of around 11 onwards, my life was like a chaotic cocktail of anorexia, social anxiety, uncontrollable blushing, binge drinking, blackouts, drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, perfectionism, achievement, chaos, stealing, under-performing, over-functioning, bingeing, spending, self-harm, recklessness and fear.

My body became the enemy, especially when I entered puberty. 

It betrayed me on a daily basis, as inescapable as prison. I was powerless. Things kept happening to it, things I couldn’t direct or make sense of. My friend Jenny’s boobs appeared out of nowhere but mine were nowhere to be seen, unless you count the tiny ‘breast buds’ that promised so much and delivered so little. Instead, my body cut countless stretch marks into my inner thighs, then my bum, then behind my knees and even onto my calves. When mum told me they were irreversible, I was so horrified I nearly vomited. How could this be happening to me?

It wasn’t just my body that I hated though; it was me. I hated the way I behaved around my friends. Desperate to fit in, yet never feeling like I really did. Wishing I had the cool, calm confidence of some of the girls at school, yet knowing that the only time I ever felt like that was when I was intoxicated and even then, I couldn’t avoid making an idiot of myself. Aching to feel something other than the perilous uncertainty I felt when I turned the smooth round doorknob of my tutor group classroom each morning, never knowing what would greet me on the other side. Just like at home. Never knowing if the kitchen door would be open (meaning mum would be there), or if it would be closed (meaning the wine would have already started and the monster would be there instead).

On and on it went, layer after layer of shame building up within me like grease and grime accumulating on a kitchen counter until one day you can no longer tell the original colour and texture of it.

I didn’t know back then that I had been born into a family that had, for generations, produced functioning alcoholics, mother-daughter abandonment, secrets and abuse. I knew the odd story here or there about certain family members, and knew about the abuse my mum had experienced as a child, but I had no idea that I was sort of predestined to have a bunch of ancestral crap land on my shoulders, crap that would become beliefs, which would lead to behaviours, which would shape a whole way of life.

I didn’t have the words or concepts to begin to understand what I was experiencing. It leaked out through stories and drawings and phobias and feelings: a crippling fear, a haunting sense of being fundamentally flawed, the sick feeling in my tummy and my bones that something was terribly wrong with me.

For a long, long time, I didn’t know that anyone else on the planet felt like this. I thought it was just me.

And then, aged 18 and three quarters, I hit my first real rock bottom and entered recovery.

Recovery taught me a new language. It was the language of connection, identification and belonging. The relief of discovering that there were people — a lot of people — who felt the way I felt, was incredible. I listened intently and poured my heart out in darkened church halls, the tears never seeming to end. The first twelve months were the hardest, but each stage brought its own challenges and rough seas.

I learned about this strange new thing called “boundaries” from Melody Beattie, Pia Melody and my therapist. I cried thousands of tears in workshops and groups run by Clearmind International Institute. I stepped up into leadership within that organisation, learning how to hold the space for others to process their childhood wounds. For a number of years, my relationship with my family grew distant as I did the daily work of coming home to myself — work which I will write more about in the next three posts. There were months, years even when I barely spoke to my mum. There were times when I felt greatly misunderstood by my family, times when I felt desperate to get away from them, and times when I longed to connect even though I didn’t fully know how.

In the last few years, learning a bit about my family history has played a huge and pivotal part in my journey of coming home. I’ve discovered a family I never knew I had, both in terms of actual people I had no idea about, and in terms of the people I thought I knew but didn’t: both my dads (biological and my dad who brought me up); my mum; my five amazing half-siblings; my grandparents.

I’ve learned that the generations that came before me had their own great triumphs and breakthroughs, but also that my family history is full of loss, sadness, pain, and more loss — as are many people’s families. The endurance of the human spirit is truly astonishing. 

Studying my family history for a genogram presentation (essentially a family tree — births, marriages, deaths — plus losses, addictions, neuroses, abuse, dreams, hopes, wishes and relationship patterns) during a counsellor-training program gave the experiences I’d lived through context.

The study helped me see that everything I lived through as a little girl and a young woman, right through to today, did not occur in a vacuum and was not solely of my own making. That in turn helped me forgive myself (something which I have found is both a process and a series of events).

Learning about my mother’s childhood, and her mother’s childhood, and catching a glimpse of her mother’s before her helped me integrate the realisation more deeply that I am truly not alone. Learning about the abandonment on my father’s side of the family helped me understand why he had left my mum when she was pregnant with me. 

Gaining the awareness that I am part of a great tapestry of interwoven human lives has paradoxically given me enormous freedom from the bondage of what I inherited.

Today I feel connected to all the women and men who had come before me, and right there, in a state of true connection, is the one place where shame cannot survive. As I uncover the secrets in my family’s legacy, I come to a deeper understanding of the places in my own life where I was driven to secrecy through shame.

And as the days, weeks, months and years pass, I continue on my path, deepening my connection to myself. For me, that also means deepening my connection to my family, coming to see that what is not an extension of love contains a cry for it. I understand and respect that many people cannot be in relationship with their family of origin. For me, being an active member of the system is the right decision. It is one of the gifts of adulthood to be able to exercise the right to make this decision. Today I choose to be part of a new legacy and a new lineage, breaking the chains that bind.

I no longer identify as being “in recovery.” Today this is simply how I live: as consciously, honestly and lovingly as possible. And bit by bit, I continue to learn how to come home to myself.

Elloa x


Elloa Atkinson is a life-changing coach, an inspiring speaker, and a writer whose work has been featured on the home pages of the Huffington Post and the Good Men Project.

A certified life coach, Elloa also has over ten years experience of assisting, supporting and leading emotionally intense personal development work. She is a long-term student and teacher of A Course In Miracles and believes that we are all inherently whole, innocent and worthy of love and that our core problem is that we have forgotten that. 

Connect with her at elloaatkinson.com and via Facebook: http://facebook.com/elloa.atkinson.miracles

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