Codependency: I Need to Find Someone to Make Me Whole - Part 1: The What
It’s really hard to stop yourself from helping someone out - again, giving them your time and energy, going above and beyond, diving into a new relationship head first – especially when chemicals take over. Because when that’s who you are – a giving and loving person – it can feel like you’re simply being true to yourself. When you have all the understanding of someone’s voids and struggles, you feel compassion. And even if you didn’t have this urge to help, you feel obligated by duty: how can you stand idly by when something can be helped? And besides, when you care about someone, you want to make them happy. It feels great!
If you prefer to listen here's the podcast version of this post on iTunes and Soundcloud.
This one’s for Ty – great topic! Thank you!
To fight against this inclination will feel wrong and unnatural. It’s a confusing dilemma – to NOT follow your instincts because of external “should’s” can make you feel like you’re not being yourself. You want to be your best, and be appreciated as that self, but you don’t want to be taken advantage of: it’s a catch-22. The flip side of this is you end up doing it all in your relationships: you’re the savior who comes to the rescue, shows up, gives and never gets, and others continue to disappoint you, on a loop. Like being surrounded by children. You end up feeling at the mercy of others – waiting for the love and care and simple thanks you deserve, and you can’t stop being there for them, helping them live better lives. It feels good to be helpful, though it feels sad and empty to long for reciprocation.
This loop leaves you and the person on the receiving end of your love, fighting and resentful of the bond – battling for the focus and care. You might feel crazy in these fights: is this person insane? How can they be so selfish? You’re not asking for much at all! Just the minimum of what you give, and even just for them to get their shit together and not be so destructive. It’s in these moments that you can begin to feel without power – trapped and suffering, unable to see any path toward something that will fix the situation. This is also when you end up in places you never would have thought possible – humiliated, desperate, accepting behavior you would counsel anyone not to tolerate.
That sense of powerlessness is what I want to give you some new perspective on – the reason you feel trapped is because the factors that created this situation are invisible. This pattern of relating to others is actually like a blind spot you have that has been blocking you from a whole lot of joy and comfort in your life. In this blog, I want to talk to you about how this blind spot occurs and more importantly, how you can begin to change it. This is not about betraying your values or not being yourself: it’s about making an active and conscious decision with ALL OF YOURSELF about what you really want to get out of life and your relationships. They say you teach others how to treat you by how you treat yourself – currently you are unconsciously treating yourself in a way that does not demonstrate you are worthy of equal love and care from others. Though it feels like you’re a victim, the pattern is actually originating from inside you and not those around you. In short: you hold all the power you need, right now. You just have to learn how to activate it.
The pattern of codependency is the product of a very simple mis-wiring from childhood. It creates a lot more havoc because of how it blinds, leading to a lot of destructive and unhealthy behaviors and beliefs. So learning about the patterns of codependents brings a whole slew of other amazing gifts. It will teach you how to be properly self-protective – like others with different upbringings than you had. Because often codependents choose the wrong people – those who are not worthy of your love: it’s a perception filter you lack. Because you want love and the relief that it brings over anything else, it means you start every relationship off at a disadvantage. A deep need vs a “I’ll be happy with or without this other person.” It’s uneven ground to build any kind of mutual bond from.
So you know, the purpose of this post is this: To help you recognize and build healthier and mutually rewarding relationships. To help you empower yourself in all relationships to act in your own best interests. To help you get more of the love you want by being able to discern who is worthy of your love and who is not.
You might find that coming out of this episode you feel emotionally overwhelmed. It can trigger fear of change and an urge to retreat. Be ready for that possibility and expect it. Know that it’s actually a good sign because it means you’re tapping into hidden feelings that are currently being blocked by a self-protective mechanism (soothing via the focus on the problem relationship). If you do feel this fear and urge to block – promise yourself and me, now, that you will continue to pursue more truth. This feeling is a sign that you are getting closer to a truth inside you that scares you. It’s good. Just continue to educate yourself in this direction. Learn more about how codependency has come about in your life, specifically. Rest assured, any work you have to do on yourself and your past will move quickly if you are driven about the process. In my opinion, if you’re aggressive about therapy it can be plowed through in a condensed year or two. I’m speaking to you from the other side of a lot of work and it’s sooo fucking worth it! Don’t think it’s the pits – it’s actually kinda fun. It’s like a gift you give yourself – that’s just for you and only you. Say you want health and get ‘er done. All change begins with understanding how something works, so you’re about to start your self-work, right now!
As per usual, there are three parts: the what, the why, the how!
Part 1: The What
Does any of this sound like you?
“My parents are like teenagers and all they care about is each other– when I bring up my problems, they laugh at me and tell me it’s my fault – but my problems are really devastating. Is it so hard just to say, “I’m so sorry sweetie, things are going to be okay.”
“I can’t stop trying to fix the problem. It’s easy for me and besides - I like to help.”
“I find myself saying and doing everything I think my partner wants, just to make them happy. Because their happiness makes me happy. And I start ignoring my own needs, and I end up feeling disappointed.”
“He won’t stop using – he’s promised me again and again. I don’t know why I believe him each time but I can’t imagine leaving him. I just love him too much.”
“I know she’s lying to me – I can feel it. I know she won’t pick up the phone but I can’t think of anything else to do so I just keep calling and calling. I’m obsessed!”
“My parents expect me to come to them and do what they want to do but it’s MY BIRTHDAY! Why are they the ones getting upset?”
Codependency is the way we learn to relate to one another. It’s the way we learn to love. It’s how we get to know who we are – our strengths our weaknesses. It’s also how we choose mates. And because it’s an emotional framework, the patterns it creates are invisible. When you're in it - it just feels like you are expressing love and genuine care for others. Trying hard to be your best, for others. It's hard to see where you're heading, but the road always leads to getting the short end of the stick. It also leads to a feeling that you “have” to do what others want, that you have no other choice or everything will fall apart. The weight of the world is on your shoulders.
The text book (Google) definition is:
Excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.
But that doesn’t really begin to touch on what the real meaning encompasses. If you’re not into people with illnesses or addictions, I will say that most commonly codependents just go for other codependents. The behavior patterns of codependents are the same as addicts or alcoholics. The term was coined and popularized by Melody Beattie and a handful of her contemporaries. I LOVE Melody Beattie – her books are LIFE CHANGING. Though, the covers of these books are so depressing it will make you want to hide in a cave with a candle, to read one. It’s basically like carrying a maxi pad around with you. Nonetheless – I suggest you purchase at the very least, “Codependent No More” – I will put the links to my recommended reading list at the end of this blog.
What codependency translates to – in your life – meaning, how you experience it, is a default tendency to focus on the feelings, wants, thoughts and opinions of others, much more than yourself. And to be powerfully tuned in to what others feel – over what you feel, so much so that you become steered by other people: your life’s happiness is based around what other people in your life think and feel. Additionally, relationships feel like the only source of solace and joy: because it’s like a soothing need, the level of attachment feels similar to an obsession or addiction. Even if it’s incredibly toxic, you can’t imagine breaking away – being in it is tolerable compared to the thought of being alone. You also can’t imagine abandoning another person – the guilt would be too intense. And in general, you fight with those close to you: you try to help them, they disappoint you, you get upset, repeat.
Check back very soon for part 2: the why.