Codependency. It’s a word you may have heard, been labeled with, labeled others with, felt shame about or never heard of. In my estimation, ALL relationships have some amount of codependency in them. Just like anything else, the level at which it runs the show determines if it is dysfunctional or not!
I first read about this idea back in the 90’s after my divorce from my first husband. Melody Beattie authored the book “Codependent No More” and after reading it, I was pretty clear that I had a large dose of this element in my romantic relationship life. What’s so interesting to me is that I really couldn’t see it because I thought myself to be super strong, assertive, not afraid to speak my mind, bold, extroverted… in all areas of my life, except in my romantic relationships. It seemed my codependent tendency mostly only surfaced in this one area. At least that's the only area I could see it clearly at play.
When that marriage ended and when another relationship that followed sort of seemed to be going sideways, I dove in (like I always do) reading, researching, learning digging for what I needed to rewire in myself to change this pattern. I had myself convinced that I had conquered it back then, and I sort of did. So I stopped being so diligent about re-programming myself. Slowly but surely, my old pattern crept back in until I was back at a TEN on the codependency meter in my second marriage.
So what exactly is the definition of codependency? From the book “Codependency For Dummies”, there are several who give definitions of what it is, but here is what seems most right on from my perspective: At its core, codependency is a loss of self. In this type of relationship, in order to be acceptable to others and themselves, they hide who they are and even become who they aren’t in the relationship. They put aside what they need and feel and try to control what they can’t – the feelings and thoughts of the other person or people in the relationship. Yup. That sounds like it to me!
There is a huge fear of rejection that is at play in this deal. You end up feeling drained and trapped and it’s all at your own doing. Self-abandonment is what it comes down to. Adapting and reacting to other’s behavior in order to cope instead of tuning into their own internal knowing and feeling their feelings, this is the pattern.
Recovery IS possible! It happens when you begin to practice non-attachment and grasp that you’re powerlessness over others. As your focus shifts away from things outside yourself as being your source of happiness, you no longer have a desperate need to rescue, control, or be a victim.
In non-attachment you love and let go. Giving others the dignity to be responsible for themselves while taking responsibility for yourself. Codependency It isn’t care giving. Care GIVING comes from love & abundance. It more like care TAKING, which comes from need and lack. “Caretakers operate from the belief that "I am responsible for your feelings. When I do it right, you will be happy and then I will receive the approval I need." Caretakers sacrifice their own needs and wants to take care of the needs and wants of others, even when others are capable of doing it themselves. Care takers give to others from fear rather than love - they give to get.”
A big element that is lacking in codependent relationships is boundaries, because boundaries are an expression of self-esteem. Poor emotional boundaries can cause you to feel responsible for other people’s emotions, thoughts and feelings. Codependents spend so much energy trying to manage how others feel, that they sort of lose touch with how THEY feel. Learning to feel your own feelings rather than attempting to manage how others feel - sounds super simple, but for those who have abandoned themselves, it's some heavy lifting.
For me, my go-to ways to side-step my own feelings is to:
a.) Get in my head and try to reason rather than feel. I'll read 250 self-help books, take a class on psychology, go to a relationship seminar, etc...and try to armor up by thinking my way through what's happening. I tend to take my heart out of the process a lot of the time. And additionally get super focused on the other person's feelings and trying to manage them.
And: b.) blame the other person rather than focus on what I'm needing or feeling. I'm so busy pointing out all the short-comings of the other person, I conveniently don't have time to take a look at my OWN part in the equation. Not always - I also spend a good amount of energy kicking my own butt and judging myself harshly. Neither of these tactics is the path of least resistance.
So, what’s the answer? I’m no psychiatrist, but what I’ve noticed works is when I fill myself with love to overflowing and focus on being happy, loving, and finding it within myself, everything seems to fall into place. Instead of NEEDING love, approval, acceptance – I just BE it. Then I take my power back to create my own experience. Taking my foot off the gas of the blame/judgement train and just loving both the other person and myself always feels like peace.
When we are open to learning and taking 100% responsibility for our own side of the street, THEN we can have a healthy relationship. Each person takes responsibility for their own happiness, joy, behavior, thoughts and feelings – YOU OWN YOUR OWN STUFF. No blaming, no being a victim, no believing that others are causing your feelings or your experience. I love this quote from Dr. Margaret Paul… “Your feelings come from how you treat yourself and others, from what you tell yourself and what you believe about yourself and others, rather than from others behavior. Blaming others for your feelings will always lead to major relationship problems.” It’s pretty simple really… Love yourself. Own your s#@t. No blaming.
I know from my own experience, that when I focus on my own lessons, my own responsibility in how I feel, without crossing the line into blaming and judging myself, things unfold beautifully. Instead of judging myself that I should have things figured out by now - being kind to myself and tell myself that "I am right on track. I'm figuring things out. I'm on my path." Once you do this, THEN you actually have something to offer another person in a relationship. You’re not giving to get, you’re giving because it’s what you ARE. You BE what it is you desire in a relationship.
According to the graphic above, some days it feels like I'm not even out of the starting blocks. Then at times when I'm relentlessly kicking my own back-side, it feels like I'm "stuck", I can't seem to see any progress, just the same tired pattern in repeat. Yet I have actually seen glimpses of blaming no one. WOW. What an amazing feeling it is!!! I'm really not sure I can do it justice in an attempt to describe it here. It feels like freedom, peace, joy, ease & love all tied up with a big 'ol bow.
My goal is a favorite quote of mine by Esther/Abraham Hicks goes like this... "Tell everyone you know: "My happiness depends on me, so you're off the hook." And then demonstrate it. Be happy, no matter what they're doing. Practice feeling good, no matter what. And before you know it, you will not give anyone else responsibility for the way you feel -- and then, you'll love them all. Because the only reason you don't love them, is because you're using them as your excuse to not feel good."
I think I'll make this the mantra of my codependency recovery process!!!
NOTE! Sandy Chat is going to take a short break. I’ll probably see you back here next month sometime. Until then, you can listen to the 3 minute show I do with Spencer Williams on KMA every week Monday through Friday by clicking here. In the next few weeks Spencer and I will have some topics you might find interesting…
Week of April 17th – Deeming Yourself Responsible For Other’s Happiness (a.k.a. codependency!)
Week of April 24th – Boundaries!
Week of May 1st – Is it true?
Week of May 8th - BE what you seek
Do you remember Superman and how he had the power to laser focus his eyes to cut through steel or rock or anything in order to save the world? All he had to do was aim what he was focusing on and his eyes could open up or cut through anything and everything that was in his way.
You have this same power! You may not be able to see the laser beams shooting out of your eyeballs, but you have the power to intend, shape and create your life by focusing the aim of your thoughts and feelings.
A cool person I know, Amy, recently recommended a book to me called E2. It’s a book by Pam Grout that has nine experiments you can easily do yourself to prove that your thoughts create your reality.
Over the past few weeks, I have been taking our sales force through these clear demonstrations that our thoughts and feelings have HUGE power. Most recently we did one of the experiments that involves growing some green bean seeds in egg cartons. The idea is that with nothing more than your intentional thoughts, positive vibes, attention – that you can influence the physical world.
So we all planted our seeds together at the same time, then each of us set our intention for the seeds on the left side of the carton to grow faster than the ones on the right. After ten days, here is what was happening…
Crazy huh? So if we can create by aiming our thoughts and feelings, perhaps we should be a little more mindful of what we are focusing on!!! There are also experiments you can do at home with rice like in this Youtube video. Demonstrating that your thoughts and intentions have incredible power. So while there may very well be conditions and circumstances outside of you that impact your experience, if you get deliberate about YOUR part in those conditions and circumstances – you take your power back. THIS is your superhero power my friend!!!
Tracy McMillan is a cool author that I follow and she posts some really well written food for thought. I can’t say it any better than this recent post she made on this subject: Your mind is a force. One way to think of it is like one of those practice machines in tennis -- where neon yellow balls of energy (THOUGHTS) are being generated constantly and come bursting forth in a steady (or not so steady) stream. You have choices about how you respond to these balls: you can hit them back, let them go, or run after them wildly even when you should totally just let go over the fence.
Complicating matters is the fact that every "thought" tennis ball that pops out of the machine potentially creates more tennis balls, called FEELINGS. So where am I going with this? Well, basically the law of attraction is the idea that when you add together the thoughts + the feelings you start CREATING. And the thing about creating is this: it happens whether you are adding positive thoughts to positive feelings, or negative thoughts and negative feelings. The "law" doesn't care whether you're a good person or not -- (although good people do tend to have more positive thoughts and feelings) -- if you add a powerful thought to a powerful feeling, you will in all likelihood create it.
If you can accept this far-reaching idea -- that your life isn't happening to you, it's something you're creating through your thoughts + feelings -- not only do you start to feel some real mastery over your life, you also start to get real intentional with everything you say, do, and nurture within your mind and body. This is true power.
So here are my suggestions for you to consider as you learn to harness your superhero power:
To funnel it down, you gotta focus on what you WANT. Your thoughts and feelings are CREATING your life – so choose good ones, choose thoughts that match what you want in your life. You can’t get to abundance by focusing on lack. It’s about just keep bringing yourself back up out of the ditch and onto the road to where you want to go.
Let me be clear, you won’t be able to be there all the time. So know that going in. Some days your aim will be off and you’ll be off in the ditch. My counselor Joy has been so patient with me on this one. She just keeps repeating “Just reach for the best feeling thought that you can from where you are.” You likely can’t go from feeling depressed to full out joy in one giant leap emotionally, although miracles DO happen. A miracle is simply a shift in perception from fear to love.
Blaming, criticizing, complaining, judging, comparing, all can be fun sometimes and make us feel justified or "superior" . But unless you want MORE things to blame, criticize, complain about, judge, or feel less than about – I’d suggest you clean up your aim on your thoughts and feelings toward what you WANT.
Also check in on what your thoughts and feelings are that you are aiming at yourself. Are you fault finding? Criticizing? Thinking you’re not enough? All those thoughts and feelings are creating MORE conditions that will keep you right there in that victim role. Our thought patterns are just habits, things we’ve thought over and over again until it’s like a well-worn rut. This is actually great news because it means we have the power to change it if we WANT to.
For me, if with just a little use of my attention and setting an intention for some green bean seeds and it works – just imagine what I could do if I got deliberate with my creative powers on a bigger scale! You can do this too! We all can!
Here is a really simple way to do it… just love and appreciate. Aim your superhero power in the direction of love and appreciation. Send love and appreciation to yourself, to others, to the circumstances, to the food you eat, to everything!
I love you. Thank you.
P.S... Have you seen the amazing t.v. ads for Layne Bryant? Apparently, they caused a stir a few months ago. I just recently stumbled upon them and I am IN LOVE with them! Here's a link to my favorite - NOTE! These beautiful models are dressed provocatively so know that going in. Enjoy!
Sandy Edie Hansen
I use this space to "Chat" about things I am working through and learning in my life currently. Join me!