Codependency is not a one-dimensional method of relating. I’m sure you’ve all heard a lot of different pieces of what it is or could be: dependency on another person financially, emotionally, or otherwise, losing oneself in another person, needing others to feel ok about self, etc.
So, WTF is codependency, really?
My definition is this: when one person doesn’t understand how to have a separate experience from another person.
It’s like you are scared that having your own experience will not be enough… so you jump into someone else’s and try to fix it for them.
Oh, that egocentric know-it-all syndrome. Most of us like to mix it with a shot of self-abandonment and throw some good ol’ patriarchy in to really chill the glass.
And that lovely little cocktail is called: CODEPENDENCY.
Trust me, if you can find the courage to be quiet enough to listen to your inner voice, brave enough to turn and face your shadows, and curious enough to observe and study YOURSELF, you will NOT have any interest in inserting yourself in other people’s feelings/situations/experiences (aka being codependent).
We all have wounds and triggers to those wounds, that will always be the case. What DOESN’T have to be the norm is reacting out of those unacknowledged triggers and obsessing about other people’s shadows/issues because we covertly want them to get better so they can stop triggering us!
Can you see how ass-backwards that is? How about you take care of the ONLY thing you ACTUALLY have power over–yourself–and pay attention to your own wounds and learn how to self-soothe when you are triggered, so you can regain ALL your power and stop passing it off to others HOPING they will be quality enough people to not let you down?
When I was in an abusive relationship (with an addict), I was CONSUMED with his pain. By the end, I was a shell of a human and had NO joy or excitement left in me.
I was never going to be able to control his choices or his pain, but I could have used my power to save myself. Instead, I enmeshed myself in him and tried to heal him so I could have a better life.
Of course that didn’t work. So here I am, years later, FINALLY discovering what it means to have relationships without BECOMING one with the other person.
In the upcoming posts I will address more examples of codependency (I’ve got plenty!), the faith-based ideas that can be a catalyst for it, and how to recreate healthy relational habits.
What’s your experience with codependency? Does ANY of this sound familiar?
PS. Check out @createthelove and @risingwoman for more brilliance on wounds/codependency/emotional intelligence!
When I first discovered the key to life, I used the term relationships. Relationship to self and the world around me. But as I have chewed on this theory for seven years now, I have revised it. I believe the key to truly living has everything to do with our ability to connect. As you think about this, you will see how even our relationships with money, time, perfection, ambition, beliefs, motivation, trust, affection, curiosity, achievements, and everything else that drives a human will fall under one of these 5 pillars.
The 5 Pillars of Human CONNECTION:
1. Connection to Self
2. Connection to a Higher Being
3. Connection to Community
4. Connection to Nature
5. Connection within Relationship
Connection is the lifeblood that keeps humans in a state of truly living as opposed to slipping into merely existing.
When we connect in all five pillars, we achieve that state of euphoria. This is not to say that life is PERFECT, that is a fairytale notion.
The purpose of connection is to prepare a safe place to thrive and experience new things in life–knowing you have the circle of safety and completion around you at all times.
When difficult times come (because they will), having practiced, deepened, invested in, and nurtured your connections, you will be able to grieve, work, and grow through any challenge life brings your way.
Basically, CONNECTION is your best survival technique and the most secure path to fulfillment you will ever have!
Wherever there is a disconnection within your life, it will show itself negatively one way or another (usually through the body via your physical/mental well-being).
Paying attention to yourself is a critical element in achieving a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle. But it takes PRACTICE, and that means commitment… to YOURSELF.
Set a daily intention to learn or implement a new way of connecting with yourself or the world around you. This could be sitting and observing your thoughts for 5 minutes, making a phone call to set up lunch with a friend, going on a walk and collecting flowers, journaling 1 page, spending time in meditation/prayer, or volunteering at an animal shelter.
Take small steps and work on one connection pillar at a time, but actively create space in your life to focus on building connection.
Some pillars will come instinctually to you and some perhaps, you will notice, have been completely off the radar your entire life. Either way, there is always room for growth and new depths.
Challenge yourself this week or this month to practice connection and make note of the changes you see in your mind (your thoughts), your body (the way you sleep and eat), and your spirit (the way you see yourself and others).
Wherever you feel you are lacking, look at where you could be connecting and make a move to do it.
We could all sit around waiting for life to get fun, easy, and more exciting OR we can make that happen for ourselves! I hope you’ll take this key to life and unlock the doors of possibility, adventure, and fulfillment that are awaiting you.
When you belong to yourself, you stop asking for other people’s approval.
When we have low self-worth, we can find ourselves in a desperate cycle of what I call “Are You My Mother Syndrome”. We ask all of our partners, friends, bosses, and acquaintances to tell us who THEY think we are and if we can hitch on with them and be safe.
This stems from the question screaming from within us, “Do I belong?!”
We were born hunting to BELONG. We don’t stop until we feel the deep satisfaction of the feeling of belonging, security, and unconditional love.
Most of us spend our 20s, 30s, and even decades more asking our partners, “Can I belong to you?… Will you take me on?… Do you accept me just as I am?… Can I trust you to protect me and keep me safe?”
But no other source will be able to answer this primitive heart-question for you. There is only ONE line to the source of deep, fulfilling satisfaction. YOU.
Inside of you resides the source. Underneath the fear, beyond the triggers, through the wounds, and on the other side of everything you’ve been running away from… that’s where your belonging awaits.
When we stop allowing the shadows to chase us; when we turn around and look them square in the face–THAT’S we begin our journey to find the answer to the question we were born asking.
You don’t have to waste another day, sabotage another relationship, or perpetuate the cycle of insecurity anymore.
Stop hiding from your shadows and spinning in circles wondering why you can’t ever find peace when you’re alone or satisfaction in your partnership.
Everything you need is within you if you would only just create space to listen. Quiet your mind with deep breath. Still your pounding heart with a relaxing bath. Ease your soul by committing to paying attention to her/him from now on. This is how you begin to make space to hear what your soul is speaking.
When you stop looking outside of you for answers, you will learn that YOU get to be the answer. The safe place. The home. The protector. The guardian of your entire being.
And then you will know what a sacred treasure you are. Finally, deep within your spirit, you will understand your worth.
If I was enough, what would I do?
If I wasn’t trying to get someone, win approval, gain acceptance… how would I behave in “this” situation?
This is a great question to ask when we’re learning how to stop self-rejecting. Sometimes the answer will be to lean in when you want to run, and sometimes it will be setting a boundary or saying No.
When I asked myself this question, I actually couldn’t answer it. I got hung up because I literally hadn’t felt enough my whole life so I wasn’t even sure how a person would act if they were aware of their own value… I was STUMPED.
I searched the file room of my brain for ANY inkling of a feeling of “enough” and I found it!
My own children. They were born enough and they have remained enough every single day of their lives. They don’t have to achieve, perform, become ANYTHING in order to belong with me and have my love. They simply are enough.
I then tried to transfer that feeling of enough-ness to myself. While it wasn’t seamless, it did the trick. And I was able to begin to answer the question in different areas and relationships in my life.
Whenever I get stuck building self-worth, I think of the people in my life who are enough for me and I mirror that emotion for myself until it is truly for me.
And then I practice it. Every time my gut/intuition/inner flips a switch, I ask myself, “If I was enough just as I am (because I am), what would I do?”
There’s a difference between putting up a wall and setting a boundary.
Walls close people out. Boundaries allow access for relationship to continue.
Walls are indicative of fear. We usually throw one up when we’re unsure of how to proceed in a healthy way that will allow us to both maintain our sense of self and continue being in relationship with this person.
Boundaries (when set appropriately), gently allow us to remain safe in connection as we create space for others to respect and honor our needs.
I like to think of boundaries as a fence and respect as the gate (with a lock). Healthy boundaries say, “You can no longer step into my sacred space without passing through the gate (aka respecting my needs).” Until that person can respect your needs (boundary), they will not be allowed access to you.
When we set a boundary it is important to clearly define what we need without trying to control another person’s decisions. They don’t HAVE to choose to abide by our boundary, but without doing so, they will no longer be able to have access to us (whether that is physically, emotionally, or mentally).
This can sound manipulative (usually to the one who will feel the pain of the boundary), but choosing yourself and clearly communicating what you need to feel loved and safe in relationship is not manipulative. It’s actually called self-love (aka #selfworth)!
The trick is in understanding we will never have control over another person’s choices or the security of a relationship. We can do our part, but the person we are in connection with has the power to choose how they will show up in relationship moving forward.
Once we identify what we need and clearly communicate that by setting a boundary (not a wall), we are inviting the other person to show up or not.
It is so simple, but it can be so weighty when you’re actually doing it–especially if you’re new to boundary setting like me! The self-worth growth is immediate after you follow through and set a healthy boundary. And it’s freaking empowering.
But you can’t set boundaries until you know what you want/need. And you won’t know what you want/need until you pay attention to YOURSELF (aka your inner child).
So spend a little time discovering YOU and start creating a world where everywhere you go, you feel safe (because you’re taking care of your own emotional well-being for once)! It’s a new way to live, my friends! I highly recommend it.
When my neediness cycle reared its ugly head again in the form of another relationship ending, I got to thinking:
How can I offer myself what I crave from other people?
How can I give myself what I so desperately want from my partner?
(Be careful, when you ask yourself a question like this, the universe tends to lead you to the answer.)
When my kids were asleep and I had free time and wanted to talk and the loneliness would creep in and I would feel the compulsion to ring/text/scavenge for a listening ear, I instead, set out to answer my own question.
What can I do to fill this conversational void for myself?
I decided to invite myself to journal the conversation I had wished to have. At first, I did it with an eye roll, but with time, I began to see how when I journaled, I actually dug deeper into myself–not only that, but I didn’t have the compulsion to unload/dump/word vomit on all my friends every time I saw them after I had the full journal conversation with myself!
What I hadn’t realized before this was that processing aloud with others immediately as thoughts came to me only did a fraction of the work that needed to be sifted through. Journaling and spending some time alone allowed me to cleared my process completely. This was a new experience for me; one that brought an incredible amount of peace into my mind… and life.
Another example of how I answered my own request for attention was when I didn’t want to be the only adult (this happens a lot with sole parents since we do everything alone–school functions, sports practices/games, carpool, discipline, cleaning, bedtime routines, theme parks, bad dreams, traveling, all of it).
How can I fill the space I wish someone else was filling?
I decided to change my perspective. Instead of dreading another trip to the zoo (or grocery store) with two kids and no other adults, I chose to fully embrace each experience I have with my kids, knowing one day they will look back and remember me. Always there. Taking them on adventures (or to get a new box of cereal). I mean, I always have fun, but this was a next level thrill once I made the shift!
I know I won’t be alone forever, but being alone has opened the door to allow me to answer my own questions about myself: my worth, my value, my place in the world–and I treasure that. I am learning to transfer my low key (sometimes not-so-low-key) neediness into alignment with self. I get to create the space and mindset that will free me to live fully in the moment.
It takes courage to put down the remote, turn off your phone, and not reach for your partner to fill the emptiness inside. It’s socially acceptable to keep your mind cluttered with social media, a drink, or a night out when you’re feeling uncertain about yourself. I was actually so dedicated to NOT doing my own work that I kept myself engrossed with fixing all my friends. It’s a tricky thing being a little Miss Fix-It for everyone but MYSELF.
News Flash: Trying to solve everyone else’s problems is distracting you from what is waiting to be aligned within YOU.
If you are tired of the cycle of neediness, anxiety, and emptiness, try committing to paying attention to yourself and learn how to be the answer to your own heart questions. Observe, take notes, lean in. Become an expert on your moods and triggers. Make a practice of not running from your uncomfortable feelings.
Every feeling we have is an invitation to take a deeper look inside of ourselves. What are you feeling right now? And what are those emotions trying to tell you?
So stop reading this, turn off your device, and get to it!