What do you focus on most often with your mind throughout the day? I mean, our minds are constantly working and processing – do you actually notice what the themes are of your mental focus? If you don’t know, don’t feel bad. Most people live their entire lives with unquestioned thoughts, beliefs, stories and meanings running their lives. To actually stop and question our thoughts takes consciousness and unfortunately, most of us are not in the driver’s seat on our mental focus.
As Tony Robbins says – the mind’s job is not to make you happy, it’s to keep you safe. And in the absence of information, our minds make up stories to fill in the blanks, and truth is not what the brain is about. It’s about protection. This is really handy in many situations when there is actual danger or threat, but the problem is that this survival thinking is what is running the show all the time for most of us – even when there is no threat. We are letting our brain drag us around emotionally rather than CHOOSING how we want to FEEL.
If you are over the age of say five or so, you have some patterns of thought burned in your brain that are the go-to that it uses. These patterns may have been cemented into place during challenging times, from hearing those who raised you repeat them or just through repeating them over and over yourself. You may have a story that plays out in your life that you are completely unconscious to. “I don’t have enough money”, “Nobody loves me”, “Life is hard”, “I’m not very good at X” and the list can be long.
I’ve been doing some serious research on the topic of codependency. Basically because I have some pretty strong patterns of it that tend to run my life sometimes. Some synonyms for this are: attached, dependent upon, and my favorite… HOOKED. It’s very much about your relationship with others, but it is also very much about your relationship with yourself. Most definitions list it as being “other-focused” in some way. We let other people’s behavior affect us and we become focused on controlling that person’s behavior. This all stems from a deeper root though I feel - our relationship with ourselves and what we focus on.
Things we codependent types have difficulty with are things like self-esteem, setting healthy boundaries, we get uber focused on the behavior of others and avoid dealing with our own junk. All topics I have written several of these chats about! These things may not show up in all our relationships, just certain ones, or they may be in all our dealings with others.
Other characteristics are things like care taking, rescuing others, repression of expressing your authentic self (fear of not being accepted), people pleasing, being controlling, poor communication, sarcasm that belittles others, anger, blaming others for how we feel, thinking we’re responsible for how other people feel. My theory is that we ALL have these patterns within us. The question is, am I going to let it run my life on auto-pilot?
So in my research on the codependency pattern, here is what I think is at the root of it all… a focus on FEAR and LACK. Fear of not being enough, fear of upsetting others, and feeling responsible for their reactions and experience – fearing they will withdraw their love for us (lack), depending on others for validation that we’re okay enough because we don’t know the truth about ourselves – that we are all 100% enough. At its roots it’s a lack of self, fear of not being enough. If you have a codependency pattern running your brain – these roots are going to show in your relationships and it won't fullfilling.
Codependent patterns also seem to me to be about being conditional. You need certain conditions to be in place in order for you to choose to feel okay. When other people are a certain way, THEN we can feel safe and ok. But the problem with this conditional approach is that it’s never sustainable. If we need conditions to line up just so in order to show up and be okay with ourselves, we’re screwed. Because conditions are unpredictable, never static and out of our control. Additionally, external events don’t dim good solid self-esteem. If our self-acceptance is intact, conditions don’t determine our mindset and beliefs about ourselves.
We all have some degree of patterns that we are in other people’s business. This is very often simply in an attempt to not deal with our own business. If I’m giving out advice that’s unsolicited, I’m out of my lane, in someone else’s’ business – where I have no business. If I'm worried about what others think of me, I'm in someone else's business. A place where I have absolutely zero control, which means I'm setting myself up for suffering.
So what’s the antidote for being “hooked” a.k.a. our codependent patterns? Here’s what I am coming to believe it is… what we choose to focus on and being present. As I said earlier, the roots of this pattern are in FEAR and LACK. The opposite of fear and lack is LOVE and APPRECIATION. To steer our focus, we must be present. If we don’t aim our mind, it will default to lack and fear.
If we can make a conscious choice to aim our mental focus at love and appreciation, it overrides the roots of codependency because you can’t focus on love and fear at the same time – impossible. An undirected mind goes into survival mode, and remember, your brains job is not to make you happy – it’s to keep you alive. When we let the mind run on auto-pilot with patterns we have accumulated through our lives, we end up with a lot of stress and anxiety and most people live this way because it takes some effort and commitment to override the patterns.
When you notice you're dimming yourself to attempt to control the reaction of another person, or if you notice you are feeling responsible for a fellow adult who is just as capable as you are to have their own experience, realize that your roots of fear and lack are showing. Time for a root job!
Just notice, take a breath and remember what you WANT to aim your focus at – LOVE and APPRECIATION. Unhook from trying to control the other person, their feelings, their reactions, and just LOVE them. Your relationship with YOURSELF is what you are getting a clue about, not about the other person you are focusing on in that moment. See past your pattern, and focus on your light. Remember, being hooked is a pattern, not who you ARE.
Please don’t misunderstand self-acceptance to mean you just disregard other people. It means you accept yourself AND others, exactly as they are. Without trying to manipulate, control, cajole them into being anything else. You know... like unconditional love??? It’s dropping your resistance to what is, because at its core resistance is also fear. So here are my antidotes to codependent patterns:
These antidotes to our hooked mental patterns sound really simple and they are. They just aren't easy, because it takes willingness and moment by moment choice to create these new healthier patterns. As you slip from your focus – and you will, often, remind yourself you are exactly where you need to be… you’re on your way.
Have you ever thought “Maybe I’ll just run away and join the circus and escape all this crud going on in my life”? It can sound pretty appealing some days, to just walk away from our troubles, people who trigger us, that feeling that it’s the Groundhog Day movie stuck in a loop.
I had a wise mentor early in my life who used to say quite often… “No matter where ya go, there ya are.” It turns out this quip is very, very true. That unless we take a look internally at the patterns, the hurt, the circumstances, the relationship issues in our lives – even if we change locations, we WILL repeat them at the next stop on the path. The only thing is, they will usually get BIGGER if we ignore or suppress them by pretending they don’t exist or by blaming someone for our hurt. Different places, different faces, but the constant is you and your unhealed stuff.
Unpacking our own emotional baggage is something that takes a great deal of courage because it requires that you get vulnerable enough to become curious about YOURSELF. To lay down your heavy bag of blame, anger, suffering, sadness and instead use your emotional muscle to pry open the box you have the root cause of your pain stored in – many will turn back and unfortunately miss the opportunity and the gift that unpacking your emotional junk contains.
What I’m talking about here is NOT going back over your childhood, dredging up painful memories of hurtful times. YOU ARE NOT THAT PERSON ANY MORE. What I’m talking about is getting CURIOUS in your NOW whenever you feel anything other than positive emotion. Negative emotions are cues to pay attention and dig in a little. To ask some questions of yourself.
Let’s say I wake up one morning super irritated. Everything and everyone is really getting on my nerves and I feel edgy, angry, ready for a fight. Hypothetical, of course. Now, if I am unconscious, I will go into blame. Someone else is responsible for how I’m feeling, they should do this, they shouldn’t do that. If they just wouldn’t. If they just would. This is a very typical REACTION in this kind of feeling. REACTIONS are mostly unconscious ways of dealing with things.
Conversely, if I choose to tap into being conscious, I would RESPOND, slowing down and I will start to ask MYSELF some questions about me and what I'm feeling. My counselor Joy suggests starting with “Is everything okay with my body? Is my exercise regimen on track? Do I feel well? Did I eat something I don’t normally eat?” Check in physically for some clues as to why your emotions are not positive. Then next up she says ask yourself “Is there anywhere in my life where I am out of integrity with myself? Not living my truth? Saying yes when I want to say no? Not living my beliefs?”
Unpacking our less than positive feelings is all about getting CURIOUS. Not judging ourselves for how we feel, just questioning what is behind it so we can take it out, shine our light on it, and let it GO! What we THINK is easier is to stay focused on blame or feeling sorry for ourselves by being in a victim mentality or just hiding – running away and joining the circus. All this does is prolong our healing and gaining wisdom from the situation.
So sure, you can run, you can distance yourself from that person who triggers you, often that is very necessary. AND after you do that – THAT’S when the real work begins. That’s when you have to unpack that 50 lb. duffel bag of emotional junk you are dragging around – that is, unless you want to repeat the lesson you just had the opportunity to learn with that person you distanced yourself from. This is why I believe so many second and third marriages end in divorce… when we don’t take the opportunity to learn about OURSELVES and the story or meanings we tell ourselves in our relationships – we usually just stay in repeat by blaming the other person, denying our part in things or staying in anger or victim mentality. Sometimes we are so asleep in our lives that we aren’t even aware of our negative emotions. It has become a habit to be irritated, frustrated, sad, guilty and we no longer even register that we have dimmed our own light.
“What is this here to teach me?” This person, this situation, this diagnosis, etc… Or “Is what I am thinking about this situation true?” Those are the RESPONSES that will lead you to wisdom, to healing, to an open heart. As soon as you get the lesson, you get to move on. Responses, unlike reactions, take thought and willingness to slow down and get curious rather than defend, close down or blame.
We all get to choose. Choose to stay chained to our unquestioned patterns and emotions or to have the willingness to get curious about how we feel and the story behind those feelings. Healing happens when those stories are no longer in the driver’s seat of our lives. People who trigger us – no doubt, when we are around them our old pattern will come right back up to the surface if we don’t work on our stuff when they aren’t around.
In her book Concious Uncoupling Kathrine Woodward Thomas lists as the three biggest mistakes in a relationship breakup as having to do with not looking at or owning our own story...
Mistake #3: "Buying into the myth that time heals all wounds. It's not time that heals you, it's YOU. If you broke your leg, you wouldn't just leave it to time to heal it - you'd use tools to help it heal so you didn't limp the rest of your life! You have to be proactive in healing your heart."
Mistake #2: "Not owning your own sh@#. Blaming either the other person or ourselves. Blame stunts growth because it victimizes ourselves." See past Sandy Chat's for more on this topic!! If the only rule in your relationships was that you both agreed to own your own emotional stuff - your whole life would change. I guarantee it.
Mistake #1: The biggest mistake Thomas lists in leaving a relationship: "In an attempt to detach from someone we love, we start hating them." Again, this adds up to avoidance of ourselves by focusing on the transgressions of the other person. Often we replace the negative bond of love with a bond of hatred or blame - this is actually keeping the connection alive with the other person, just in a negative way that hurts US through it's toxic thoughts and words that we carry. Not the other person. You don' have to hate someone to end a relationship with them, amazing idea, huh.
Look closely and you'll see that all three of these biggest mistakes we make in ending relationships are attempts to avoid looking within and you can certainly choose these routes, and many do. But if you are hoping to find love and happiness - these routes will not lead you there. These are routes that lead to repeat of the same story line with new cast members.
As Brene’ Brown says, when we get to our own truth we then have the opportunity to write our own ending to the storyline we have going. There’s a saying that says “Don’t judge me by the chapter of my story you walked in on.” While I’m guessing this was intended to say don’t judge me based on the info you have about me, you have no idea what brought me to this place. I think we need to apply this to ourselves. Don’t judge YOURSELF for the chapter of your story you are in. Choose what comes next in the story of you by getting curious and focusing on what you want. You can even wear a cape if you like! – heck, it’s your story, write it the way you want it to go!
Want to listen to more on this topic? The Double XX Factor show on KMA is a three minute burst of inspiration that you can listen to any time! Click here for the latest from Spencer Williams and myself and what we are learning on our path as we continue to open up places in our lives and clear out the clutter!
In last week's Sandy Chat we talked about deluttering our lives. This week let's look at something very specific that we need to clean up and get rid of in that process...Worry. It’s so interesting how we sort of see worry as a sign of love isn’t it? When someone we love, or we ourselves, come up against a challenge we often times leave the present moment and fast forward into to worry. While it may be normal to do this, worry is NOT love. I think there is another route we could consider if we really want to be and show love.
When we worry, we have left the present moment. We have leapt ahead to an outcome, the future, the unknown. I’m sure you can think of times when maybe you or someone you love had a scary diagnosis, or a job was in jeopardy, or maybe we worry about what other people will think of us, or worry about our finances. Yes, worry is as normal as apple pie – yet not productive, not helpful, and also not love.
Let’s consider the benefits of worry… hmmmm…. I’m thinking… nope, can’t come up with any! Worry doesn’t really change anything in a positive way. It creates stress in ourselves and those who we spend time with. It is VERY hard on our physical self, can create headaches, tummy trouble, ulcers, all kinds of fun stuff!
And if we’re worried about someone else – how does our worry benefit them?... again… I can’t come up with any benefits. It actually sends them a message that we believe the worst about the situation, something bad is about to happen. Think of a time when you went through a challenge that might cause others to worry about you. What do you remember the most about that situation in regards to how others treated you? Did you want pity? Did you want someone to feel as scared as you did? For my perspective, I wanted someone who was an uplifter to help take me out of my ruminating! Acknowledge that I'm up against something hard, but don't go down the rabbit hole with me! I need someone up there to pull me out!!!
When a co-worker of mine was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, I remember vividly that she directly requested that people NOT talk about her health with her unless she brought it up. She wanted to stay OUT of worry and in the present moment as much as possible.
On the surface, worry seems to be useful – I mean after all, you CARE, right?!? So let’s try this angle, think of somewhere known for caring. Maybe a hospital, maybe a church, maybe a therapist office, maybe an animal shelter?? Do the professionals in these roles worry about those in their care? Or do they show them compassion, loving-kindness, presence? Actually what they do is they stay in the moment with you. They don't worry, they comfort with being present and showing compassion.
To simply be present, with someone going through something difficult – or to stay present with YOURSELF when there is a challenge, is a true gift of love. I remember very clearly when each of my parents were nearing the ends of their physical lives, my dad was in the hospital and he was rather stubborn – but a loving guy for sure. He didn’t want pity, or help, but I remember him telling me one time it would be okay to sit on the end of his bed when he was in the hospital. He wanted to know someone was there, present with him.
Same kind of story with my mom. She was pretty mentally out of it in the end, yet I’ll never forget her telling me in a moment of clarity that I could lay on the bed with her while we talked. She too just wanted to know someone was there. Didn’t want worry or pity or concern, just love. Just presence and being in the moment with her.
When we worry, we have left the building Elvis. We are checked out of the present moment and are in our imagination, focused on the future and focused on FEAR. Love and fear are not on the same frequency. It’s really difficult to worry and feel love at the same time. Come to think of it, it's darn near impossible to worry and do ANYTHING positive at the same time!!! And often our fear and worry really come back to making the situation about US. We worry about someone else’s challenge or what others think because we don’t know what it will mean for or about US. Again… normal, most people would never consider the idea that worrying might be about ourselves, but if you read this blog regularly – my guess is that you strive to be a bit more conscious and awake and are willing to question your thoughts and beliefs. And on top of that, we are ALL capable of reaching higher than to place the focus on ourselves. Easy to forget in the moment, yet we can all do better.
So what are we to do? The key to staying out of negative emotion is to stay in the present moment. If you or someone you love is up against something tough, the path to love is to stay in the NOW. A couple of super simple things we can do that we can do anywhere, any time without even causing a scene include:
So what is the opposite of worry and fear? Love. Which looks like faith, compassion, trust, being in the present moment. If you really want to help someone you are tending to worry about – send them your light, your love, SMILE and think of what you appreciate about them. For me, I try (not always successfully) to use the example of Jesus… he looked PAST the leprosy, PAST the outer appearance, PAST the labels others put on people and saw the LIGHT in them instead, and it melted away their disease and troubles.
So I figure if I shine MY OWN light in the midst of things that are tempting to worry about, then I invite those that are in the midst of their own challenges to shine theirs as well, which is the best gift I can give. A shared effort to rise above the appearance of conditions or circumstances.
Being present doesn’t necessarily mean you are physically in the same location with another person. We all know people in our lives that are extremely present when we talk to them, even if it’s on the phone. To do this we will have to stop, get in the moment and stop doing fifty other things. We talked all last week in this blog and on the Double X Factor show about decluttering our lives. Being present means you make space for the other person or for yourself. Making space and being present is an act of compassion and love and it will take some practice!
So my advice… don’t wait till something pops up to activate your worry mode, start practicing presence and compassion now! When you’re in the heat of the moment is definitely NOT the time to start practicing! Make some space to appreciate, love and be where you are… it is soooooo much better for everyone than worry.
In addition to submitting this blog on an irregular basis, I also do a short radio show on a regular basis (Monday thru Friday each week) with my friend and co-host Spencer Williams. All this week we are going to dive into the topic of WORRY! You can listen and see if what we have learned can be of any help to fellow seekers on their own paths. I will post links to these short 3 minute bolsters of upliftment on my Facebook page and there will be more on the topic of worry – you can listen any time.
We all have varying degrees of clutter in our lives…. Could be a counter top that becomes a catch all. Could be that scary junk drawer no one ever organizes. Could feel like it’s our entire living space. And it can also be in our inner lives. It can show up as unexpressed or repressed emotions that clog up our psyche. It could show us as grudges, judgement, anger. Clutter is something all of us have in some form. And often when we have clutter with stuff externally – it is a signal that we have some inner decluttering that we would benefit from.
One of the most powerful ways of connecting with ourselves and knowing our truth and our reality is to tune into is our body. Yet very few people do this. I admit, I'm not the greatest at paying attention to this super amazing message system we all have. Our bodies don’t like it when we have inner clutter. They will voice their displeasure at our stacking up of less than loving thoughts with messages. If we ignore these messages and pleas from our body to get back to loving ourselves and declutter the stinkin’ thinkin’, that’s okay, the messages will just get louder. I remember many years ago hearing Oprah with this quote:
When we have too much inner clutter, like negative mental chatter, approval seeking, hateful thoughts about our appearance, judgement, fear, negative stuff - it can drown out the messages from our uber wise bodies. So sometimes our body turns up the volume on it's messages to please get back to loving our selves with pain, illness, and anything it thinks might get our attention.
Clutter guru Peter Walsh says very simply that clutter is ANYTHING that stands between you and the life you want to be living. Just like clutter in the junk drawer, internal clutter can stack up and sit around in our soul, our mind, our heart for so long that we no longer notice that it’s even there. It becomes invisible to us, yet its effects on our relationships, our self-care, and living the life we desire all take a toll when we become numb to the inner clutter.
When we take things on and hold on to them internally as well as externally, it robs us of energy. Clutter makes it more difficult to move forward in our lives. It takes up space, time and wears us down trying to work around it. It’s constantly “talking to us” by just sitting around, taking up valuable space that could be given to what you WANT in your life.
We hang on to clothes that no longer fit, perhaps we’ll get back in them someday – right? We hang on to things we don’t use or even like sometimes because “you just never know when I’ll need that!” This is based in scarcity, fear and a bit of hanging on to the past. If this is your pattern – ask yourself where else in my life am I hanging on to the past? Where else do I have a scarcity or fearful mindset?
Here is the cool thing about looking at where and how you hang on to clutter – it reveals something about your inner life that is valuable for you to know. If addressed and questioned, it can set you FREE! The important thing is to not jump to judgement when taking a look at the clutter in your life. Just NOTICE. What can you learn from it? Simply observing without jumping to judgement is a way out of inner clutter.
Just as we do in our material stuff, we must make some space internally as Brene’ Brown points out. Stillness, meditation, reflection time all create space in our soul so that we can open it up. If the thought of meditation makes you want to skip ahead in this chat, let me offer up something that I recently read from Danielle LaPorte that caused me to feel completely different about this idea.
ANYTHING where you get some alone time, can be a contemplative practice. Sitting with a cup of coffee in silence in the morning counts as a contemplative practice if we get quiet and not focused on our to-do list for a minute or two – THIS creates space for our lives to open up and declutter. Even taking a 30 second break to just take a few deep breaths, this clears up space in our inner world and helps reduce the clutter in our minds.
I’ve said it many times, we all have stuff. Stuff that clogs up our path to happiness, fulfillment, connection. If we can just be willing to clear out one junk drawer in our physical space, I can almost guarantee you that it will also clear up some inner space for you. Tosha Silver suggests setting an intention that when the drawer is cleared up, that you will be cleared up also.
It may seem like a stretch, that if you organize a bit in your outer world that it will also clear out some clutter of your inner world. I’ve seen it work many times for people I’ve suggested it to, as well as for myself. We must have a vision for what it is we WANT in our lives though. If you want freedom, connection, love, passion, or whatever is on your wish list – you have to make space for it. When we are all cluttered up with old junk, there’s no way it can get in.
Want a better relationship? You gotta have a vision for what you want it to look like in order clear out the clutter of what it has looked like in the past. I'd invite you to do what Tony Robbins has you do in his immersion seminars - sit down and write out what your relationship vision is. This is a total clutter buster! When you have a vision for what you want, it gets a lot of junk out of the way so you can get there.
What can you let go of this week? Which junk drawer will you clean up and organize? What will you decide to no longer be numb to in your life and continue to over-look? And most importantly, what do you want to make space for in your life?
In addition to submitting this blog on an irregular basis, I also do a short radio show on a regular basis (Monday thru Friday each week) with my friend and co-host Spencer Williams. All this week we are going to dive into the topic of decluttering your life and see if what we have learned can be of any help to fellow seekers on their own paths. I will post links to these short 3 minute bolsters of upliftment on my Facebook page and there will be more tips on decluttering – you can listen any time.
Sandy Edie Hansen
I use this space to "Chat" about things I am working through and learning in my life currently. Join me!