ARE WE CO-DEPENDENT? HOW TO STOP BEING CO-DEPENDENT AND ESCAPE CO-DEPENDENCY IN RELATIONSHIPS & LIFE
Co-dependency is another one of those things we hear about all the time, but is hard to nail down. I’ve heard definitions include neediness, sacrificing your needs for someone else’s, and not knowing what you would do without the other person. The problem is, we will ALL be needy at points, ALL relationships involve sacrificing your wants and needs for the other person sometimes, and as for not knowing what you would do without the other person...whoever came up with that definition has never loved anything I guess--when something or someone becomes a large part of your life, of course the loss would affect (and probably devastate) you.
It’s okay to have relationships that play a huge supporting role in your life. In fact, oftentimes it’s completely necessary. I remember watching a documentary on the Holocaust, and one survivor interviewed said that the people who had someone else there to live for were the people who made it out. That’s profound.
Even under the best circumstances, the world is often a big and hard place. If we were meant to come to this world and be miserable and suffer, stress (including loneliness, feeling unwanted, rejected, abandoned) wouldn’t cause literal bodily damage.
So don’t mistake “co-dependecy bad” as a sick mandate to stop enjoying the kind of companionship that makes life into LIVING and somehow wrong, “weak”, unhealthy, or a defect, and feel obligated to run off to be a bubble-dwelling hermit.
WHAT IS CO-DEPENDENCY?
Co-dependency is a kind of self-imposed slavery to beliefs so deeply ingrained, we don’t realize they are ideas we can question and discard if we choose. They are all we know, so we know they are “right”.
It’s slavery to feeling broken, defective, wrong, and immensely guilty (for being a “bad” person all the time)...
It’s slavery to being a constant martyr, giver-to-a-fault-er, doormat, 24-hour room service / on-call therapist / 8th Wonder Of The World Pedestal-Builder / emergency hotline / A.T.M. (financial, emotional, physical) / ego-stroker, on one side...and a black hole of neediness, user-ness, selfishness, drama-starting, insecure-no-self-esteem validation-huffing, always-has-to-win-and-be-right Know-It-All, on the other side, in ever-shifting relational dynamics so unstable it makes nitroglycerin look inert as glass.
It’s slavery to being Captain Fix-It’s 24-Hour mobile repair service for any and all issues (not to mention, proactively searching for problems to fix all the time)...
It’s being a slave to repetitive, frequent, explosive arguments that happen in the blink of an eye (and you can’t even remember how they started or what they were really about by the end). Often these arguments are over the pettiest nonsense imaginable because molehills become mountains and the completely inconsequential is grounds for life-shattering upheaval like divorce in the topsy-turvy, tornados-of-emotions nightmare-land of co-dependency...
It’s slavery to always feeling like you know better than everyone else, AND simultaneously (contradictorily) feeling like they know better than you...and feeling sh*tty that nothing ever makes sense or works out. There is always a push-pull to get them ”under control” and feeling wrong somehow for not letting them dictate to you… There is a weird and unnecessary sense of resentment and need to fight the power (even when there isn’t any “power”) anytime there is anything you aren’t on the same page about. Even if you don’t make a big fuss, it’s internal…
It’s slavery to letting one comment, one flash of approval / disapproval, one agreement / disagreement, one compromise you really like or really don’t like make or ruin your relationship, your peace, your joy, your value, and your life...
It’s slavery to riding the in-one-second-out-the-next, everything-is-good-everything-is-bad instability roller coaster. Everything happens too fast, too intensely, too absolutely. You are God’s gift to those around you and then *snap* you’re a burden and a trial that ruins everything... Or the other person is....
It’s slavery to have extremely damaging self-soothing techniques, from overeating, to imagining horrible punishments for yourself or final relief (death) from your perceived worthlessness....
It’s slavery to suppression because it’s all too much (suppression creates explosions)...
It’s slavery to always needing to be in control because you’ve always been out of control…
It’s slavery to believing abandonment is an inevitable guarantee, trying to ensure being needed (instead of wanted), self-sabotaging (subconsciously finding ways to confirm the abandonment bias), and being abandoned yet again…
In short, co-dependency is perpetually standing on the self-sabotaging, emotionally-annihilating ledge, and hoping that the embodiment of your 24/7 emotional/esteem/spiritual/verbal/physical suicide hotline your friend, lover, parent can say and do all the right things (reading your mind if necessary) to talk you off the ledge and into being okay.
That’s alot to ask.
How do I know? I've had the majority of a lifetime dedicated to living just this way.
HOW CAN YOU MITIGATE AND GET RID OF CO-DEPENDENT TENDENCIES?
***Accept that you DO have value, that everything *always* IS working out for you, that everything WILL be okay, and that (to quote Esther Hicks) “you can never get it wrong because it’s never finished”.
You are never alone and you are never abandoned. You are an Expression of, and therefore inseparable from, the Creator of the Universe. You were, and you are, and you will be, and nothing is going to change that. You are made of the stars and the sea and the Source of all that is.
I know how hard this is to accept in the moment, being utterly and totally convinced that everything is lost and it would be best to not be anymore. There are times of such emptiness and numbness and convinced-ness that it’s almost impossible to even dare to dare to ask for something, or to even know what to ask for, or to even want anything anymore.
"Do not dare to not dare." --Clive Staples Lewis, The Horse And His Boy
There were so many times I couldn’t even bring myself to pray. It’s a special sort of rock bottom where you just be because you can’t not be (even though you want to not be). Has that ever happened to you, where you were reduced to not even making a cry for help, but being a cry for help? A silent one, a vibrational one, that could only be received by the cosmos?
I don’t have any insulting encouragement for something so beyond the pale as that kind of “rock bottom” where you already feel gone. All I can say is that sometimes the only thought I could choke out was an implied “[please make it] Better” that I had nothing but anger and hurt and disbelief behind. Sometimes I just accepted the void, because it was all I could do.
And yet, every time I’ve gotten a miracle.
This is the only thing that helped me many a time. I hope that if you needed to read it, it helps you too:
This rampage by Esther Hicks helped me through one of the lowest, most uncertain, disgraceful, lonely times when I was completely dependent. I typed it into my phone and I would read / pray it over and over as I would walk:
“Creator, I acknowledge that I am the object of your positive attention and I’m appreciating your continual gaze on behalf of my well-being and today, no matter where I am, no matter where I am going, no matter what I’m doing and no matter who I am doing it with, I will be in conscious awareness that you too are there with me,
Having fun with me,
Aware of me,
Making miracles for me,
“If there is something that you want that you are not seeing, then start noticing the things that you want that you are seeing and more and more of the things that you want that you aren’t seeing will start showing up.”
***Learn to Self-Soothe: Self-soothing can take on infinite forms, and in the beginning, it can be pitifully easy to forget ALL of them in the moment. Like habitualizing anything, the easiest, most natural, and painless way is repetition and hands-on practice.
What’s more delightful than practicing feeling good?
Go for that walk or swim, go out and look at that sunrise, drive under the stars listening to those songs, fill your place with your favorite smells, eat that nourishing food, take that bubble bath with the nice soap and nice shampoo, stop talking to that person who drains you, look towards upgrading your job, keep that promise to yourself, take up that hobby, laugh, read that book, draw that cartoon, write down your ideas and inspiration, do some E.F.T. tapping or N.L.P. spinning, contact someone you miss or admire, pet that animal, nurture that plant, watch that video, look through that magazine, give that donation, do something easy and pleasant that confirms your capability and propensity for success, recycle that bottle, ask yourself why you deserve to be happy (and internalize the answer your subconscious gives you), listen.
Most of all, go and be those “places” where it feels best to be, even if it is in your mind. Always have somewhere that it is easy to remember that you want to be.
***Learn Whole Objects Relations and Self-Object Constancy: Whole objects relations is what an everyday person would call “being objective”. It’s the fancy-pants psychology equivalent of the ying-yang symbol, that is, the ability to recognize and accept reality in a integrated, stable whole that includes things both liked and disliked, flaws and assets.
Object constancy is the ability to consistently remember and maintain a positive bond with someone even in the heat of the moment, even when they have upset you, hurt you, angered you, let you down, or are absent for one reason or another.
In essence, if you lack these 2 abilities, even though you might intellectually know otherwise, you will feel and subconsciously understand things as vacillating between ALL good or ALL bad, and it will influence all that you do, how you interpret every experience, and how your interactions play out with Yourself, other people, and everything else around (from the weather to lunch to everything else). Doctor Elinor Greenberg has explained that anyone can have signs of personality adaptations (narcissism, borderline, schizoid), but to qualify for a diagnosis, they *must* lack Whole Object Relations and Object Constancy.
As you can imagine and infer just thinking about it, riding this rollercoaster makes life and especially relationships extreme and extremely difficult. The higher the highs, the harder the falls. And then the falls are to a place absolutely devoid of goodness.
That is alot for anyone to deal with at any time, much less ALL the time.
Not only that, but add to it that *everything* is constantly being ranked from best to worst in the most complicated and sometimes arbitrary hierarchy ever and...it’s amazing anything gets done at all because that sh*t is exhausting.
So how do you give yourself these healthy-relationship must-haves (especially for the relationship you have with yourself) ?
Simple answers are best: Familiarize yourself with the good parts, the bad parts, and the neutral parts to such a degree that you can recall and engage with *all* parts of something simultaneously, more and more frequently--even in situations when it’s usually easier to forget impossible to remember.
Watch for the kinds of people who are drawn to and stick with religions that teach absolutist thinking, absolutist instructions for absolutist situations (special exceptions of breaking the rules for the god’s favorites notwithstanding), and absolute consequences for arbitrary conduct, including absolute delight for following the religion (no coincidence or ulterior motives there *sarcasm*) or absolute misery for normal human behavior that hurts no one (arbitrarily labeled as faults, that conveniently include not being sure what to believe) FOR ABSOLUTELY EVER.
People tend to follow religions that fit their worldview and personality as it already is. Yikes. Watch out for people who on some level find certain kinds of beliefs appealing. One ancient religion used to appeal to (prey on) my excessive fear, abandonment issues, neurotic obsessions, superstition, self-punishment fantasies, unworthiness, and disease to hoop-jump please. It was miserable, it was sick, and it turned out to be bogus (conflicts / edits within its own teachings and sacred texts all over the place).
If something feels dark / wrong, it IS wrong / dark. Anyone who tries to dupe you into believing otherwise is not someone to ditch your God-given, life-preserving instinct for so that you can be an assimilated, cash-generating, self-regulating, docile, perpetually guilt-ridden (emotionally and behaviorally blackmail-able), CO-DEPENDENT compliant tool who is obligated to create new members or even suffer and die for an (often clandestine political) organization and it’s figurehead(s) / symbols.
***Learn to be quiet and just be: I realized that much of the drama I *needed* to concoct (knock-down, drag-out, winner-takes-all fights) were caused by me running my mouth and saying any thought that popped into my head, most of which were unbearably negative. We, and our reality, become what we focus on. Here is what I have learned (but still have to remind myself of):
--My beliefs are my own. I don’t need to obnoxiously proselytize. There are some things that I not only can but should hold close to my heart. I don’t need everyone to know my every thought or agree with me, especially people who I KNOW aren’t going to understand and who I KNOW stand for completely the opposite thing and who I KNOW are going to have an almost-literal allergic reaction to it (that they are going to take out on me). THIS GOES EVEN FOR THE PEOPLE I AM CLOSEST TO. I’m not getting paid per gut-word I spill, this isn’t my job; my job is to avoid the drama that goes hand-in-glove with oversharing.
--Gratitude (yes, even internal gratitude) feels much better and is much more interesting and moving than negativity and complaints (especially the blabbed kind). It also seems to attract a much better quality of day, week, month, year, life, events, things, and people. The right kind of people find an attitude (or energy or vibe, which needs no words and yet rings out clear as a bell) of gratitude and positivity much more attractive.
--If you don’t like something, look somewhere else. There is a psychological concept called “gestalt”, which means that, in our finite state, we can only give our attention to a few things. Everything else fades to background. This means that all day, every day, you are playing “I Spy” with the Universe. What do you want your brain to be trained to see most prominently, all day long? It takes a while, so the best time to start training is now.
--You can be quiet and just be at any moment. Every moment is a new start. Set an intention for this new “segment”. As soon as you realize you are caught up in the hellfire twister of another stupid drama, you can stop, de-escalate the situation, and go do something constructive. Sometimes it feels like you just.can’t. move on because you really really REALLY want NEED to BE RIGHT and to WIN and be UNDERSTOOD and AGREED WITH. It takes practice to let go, but if you have enough motivation of wanting to feel good instead of bad to go do something that feels better, it gets easier. And easier. De-escalating can be difficult because the other person may be still caught up in the negative inertia, the entrainment, and is possibly very upset and hurt. Your best is all you can do; their reactions say more about themselves than about you. The subsequent tricky damage control and disengagement is more motivation and a reminder for the future to improve.
You CAN escape co-dependency in your life and relationships, and you WILL. I believe in you, and I believe in the Universe’s Love for you.
It reminds me of a Dilbert comic, where Wally gets sentenced to time in prison. Dilbert goes to Dogbert and tells him, “Wally’s in jail. Can you help him out?” Dogbert replies, “Tell him to try the door. The guards only pretend to lock them.” In the next panel, Wally is eating lunch in the break room with Dilbert and Alice, saying, “...But I’d have to say it was the lifers who were the most embarrassed.” (at the fact that the doors weren’t even locked, and all they had to do was open them).
You don’t have to serve a lifetime sentence to co-dependency. Just try the door. The “guards” of your mistaken beliefs and bad habits only pretend to lock them.
All My Love,