Learning What it Means to be Co-Dependent

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Co-dependent. Ick…I hate that word.

Recently, I read a book entitled, “Co-Dependent No More,” by Melody Beattie. I hate that book too. Really hate that book.

If you’ve been following me for some time then you’re aware that I’m on a journey. It’s an awakening, an awareness, a dive into my spiritual body, and a self-discovering journey at full speed – sometimes it feels like a spiritual journey on steroids. It’s forced me to heal and grow in ways I didn’t know needed to happen. I haven’t fully disclosed all the details, and I only share what works for me and my audience. This post is uncomfortable for me. A vulnerable moment that I feel is important. It’s been a massive breakthrough on my journey and an awareness that I hope can help someone else.

So what is this word I hate so much?

According to Wikipedia, co-dependency is a controversial concept for a dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement.

According to “Co-dependent No More,” it’s a person who developed unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with a loved one’s more serious issues.

Why do I hate this word so much?

Honestly, I’m ashamed.

I don’t drink excessively. I don’t do drugs. I choose to live a healthy lifestyle. I didn’t feel as if I was doing anything wrong, yet I suffered. It was such a subtle shift in my life, I didn’t realize I was suffering. Until one day a man I hardly knew saw it. He recognized something in me that I denied on the spot. I made up excuses for why my life was the way it was. That’s how co-dependency works, I’m not sure the co-dependent realizes it until they break.

Even then, I didn’t truly know what was wrong. I just knew something needed to change.

I had reached a point where things got turned so upside down I had to do something.

I decided to seek help from a therapist. I walked in thinking I was stressed dealing with other people’s problems. Now nine months later, I realized it’s been my issue all along. Oh, other’s have played their part, but I am no innocent. I taught people that it’s okay to use me, to abuse my responsible initiative and compassion, and then to pretend I meant nothing. But I’m not okay with this. I never have been. I’ve made so many decisions in my life based on other people’s emotions that I couldn’t discern what was mine and what was another’s. In recent history, I even played out another’s internal battle as if it was my own. I began to resent people, situations and myself. I became a ball of rage barely hanging onto my sanity.

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It turns out I didn’t value myself enough to show others that I didn’t deserve to be treated poorly. Wait, how can someone do that to themselves? For me, it has comes down to love. I felt that if I didn’t do something, the other person wouldn’t love me. And then it became such a habit that I was choosing not to love myself. I spent many years believing this is how love worked. But it does not.

First, you deserve to be treated with compassion, understanding and love. No excuses. If a person doesn’t show you these attributes, they do not deserve you. Not only that, you need to treat yourself with these attributes. If you keep showing people it’s okay to treat you with any less, they will never change. And if they never change, again, they don’t deserve you. Because you are worthy of love.

So choose you. Choose to love yourself. Solve your own problems and let others make mistakes and solve their own problems. They will be okay. And, even better, you’ll be more at peace. I promise. Mind your own business. This is still a practice for me. Daily. It’s really difficult when you’re face to face with a familiar situation, and you can feel yourself shrink. In that moment, take that awareness and make your shift. I wake up every morning declaring to love me, and I feel the progress. It’s slow some days, but it’s happening. And, yes, it has to be a conscious choice EVERY DAY.

Then through the entire process, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for not knowing any better, for suffering for so long, for letting other’s emotions control you. Because now you are more equipped. As am I, and my life has already changed.

I will not let anyone solve my problems. There is no pride involved. I got this. I need this. Exploring my own problems toward a resolution has helped me discover what I need and what I want. Those were questions I asked and truly did not know. But I now want to know. You see, I want to understand me to the point where I can say yes and know it’s me.

Sometimes it takes many tears, conflicts, blocks, challenges, disagreements to realize it’s not everyone else…it’s you. That awareness can take you to a space no one else can. A space of self-discovery, awareness and love. A place to grow. Don’t be afraid to go there. It’s powerful. Very powerful.

Remember you are the only one who has the power to make the shift. This journey is about having the courage to do it.

Resources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codependency

 

Learning How to Communicate: Well

We communicate every day. With technology the opportunities are limitless. We can talk, write, email, text, post, blog, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, etc. You’d think we’d be amazing communicators with all these avenues. Yet, some of us really suck at it.

I have an admission: I’m one of those people. I am a writer who has no idea how to communicate well.

I lay out elaborate sentences filled with charming characters. A reader may feel the cool silk on their skin; smell the vomit-enticing retch of wet clothes that were forgotten for days; or taste the sweet, tangy flavor of a peach, but this does NOT make me a good communicator. It simply means I can create pretty mind pictures.

Poetry comes easily to me. You know why? No one has to make sense of it for it to be considered good. The original message can get completely lost and still offer emotionally moving imagery – making it a masterpiece. In real life, in real relationships, in really complicated situations, pretty mind pictures will NOT cut it. Trust me.

This recent realization proves, it’s no use. I’ve closed my Facebook account; my Instagram no longer exists; I threw my cellphone in the trash; disconnected my internet (I found WiFi at a nearby Starbucks). I’m done. After I communicate this blog, I’m heading to the woods. Don’t follow me. You’ll just be disappointed.

Rewind.

Of course, it’s not this easy. It’s silly to believe that if we remove ourselves from society then our communication skills will disappear (though it was a very good fantasy). That would be defined as AVOIDANCE.

So, back to that communicating well thing…

Why do we communicate? We like sharing. We have a particular point to make. It’s fun. To learn something. To feel something. To create. To get something done.

Yet…

Communication is deeper than words. It’s deeper than feeling emotions and attempting to put them into words. Communication is about you and another person. It’s about compassion and understanding.

Often times we forget about that other person. That is what makes us so bad in the game. We forget that it’s not simply our feelings, our words, our point to make. There is another person looking at you, listening to you, reading your words. If there wasn’t, there would be no point in communicating.

So why am I so bad at this?

Well, I know how to handle my own hurt feelings, but I don’t know how to handle someone else’s. This is because of fear – fear that if I ACTUALLY say what I mean the person standing in front of me will leave; won’t love me; will think less of me; will see my weakness.

Another silly fantasy. But this one isn’t fun. It’s painful.

And because it’s painful I’ve found ways to subconsciously avoid those real, raw, direct conversations. So much so that I struggle to communicate what I’m feeling, what I want, how I perceive things. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty…how do we fix this?

How do we communicate well?

  1. Listen. If you aren’t a good listener you will never be a good communicator. The trick to this: live in the moment. Don’t think about what you’re going to say next. Don’t relive what happened in the past. Listen in the now because that is the reality of what is truly happening in the conversation.
  2. Observe. Be mindful of what you hear, feel, see. What a person says is not always the entire story. Sometimes you can see more than you can hear. Sometimes you can listen and understand what questions you need to ask in order to further understand. And if you don’t know the answer. Ask. DO NOT assume (we all know how that one works out.).
  3. Pause. Take a deep breath. If you have the luxury to pause for more than a few seconds, take it. If a person is standing in front of you, this one may be awkward. But it’s better to be seen as awkward than make an ass out of yourself.
  4. Repeat # 3. Pause some more. This one is good if you are experiencing intense emotions. Anger. Guilt. Shame. Rejection. These are NOT EASY emotions to process and should not be rushed. Take your time. Time can shift your perspective.
  5. Respond. DO NOT react. Take that word out of your vocabulary. Reacting is the complete opposite of love. The best option is to respond in love. Even if that means not responding. Silence is a response.

Ok, I’ve convince myself to crawl out of the woods and face these uncomfortable moments. They aren’t going away. But we have a choice: learn to cope or continue to sabotage. I like the idea of coping. If you are like me, there is hope. It will take practice. You’re going to fail and wonder how you will ever learn this skill. But you will. Practice over and over and over again. There are opportunities daily. In the end, good communication skills FEEL better even if it’s uncomfortable. Trust me.