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When I joined 100 Words in April, my writing taught me how to live within the swirling change of this life, staying strong and safe. I became a sea turtle.
In May I purged my regret over past mistakes, and I learned that being perfectly human means being imperfect, as long as we keep learning and growing into the beautiful spirits we are.
This much navel gazing might make for boring reading but the discipline of 100 words a day is clearly something I really need right now to gain clarity.
I am so unbelievably empowered and transformed by it!
So I continue on this journey of self-discovery, 100 words at a time. I believe it will lead me to that place of serene confidence where I can pour my creativity into writing fiction. It makes perfect sense, because an author who wants to create believably rounded characters needs to have good knowledge of human behaviour and motivators. And isnít that exactly what I'm currently researching?
At the same time I'm simplifying my mind, decluttering it, creating a calm haven where I can pursue my passions.
I am so blessed. How excited I am about this grand journey!
I recently learned about co-dependency. In the traits of co-dependents, I recognized myself so acutely it knocked the breath from me.
In short, co-dependents are emotionally addicted. They need validation from others so much that they will do anything to get it:
Ignore their own needs.
Avoid conflict and confrontation.
Continually monitor the relationship to see that the other is happy.
Distrust the stability of the relationship.
Never quite believe that they are worthy of love.
They lose themselves in a relationship, blurring the boundaries between them and others.
Itís a painful way to live.
At 41, I have the grand total of two relationships behind me. Both of them suffered and capsized because of my co-dependency. When everything started out in the rosy glow of infatuation, all was well. I got the affirmation I needed. I felt loved.
But when that energy wore off and my partners started refocusing on their own lives, investing less in a relationship which should naturally start to stabilize, I felt lost. I started to feel invisible, and as if I was no longer worthy of love. I got angry, hurt. But mostly, I simply felt incredibly bewildered.
Co-dependents easily take responsibility for the emotions and actions of others, accepting blame when things go haywire.
I have progressed enough that I donít think the demise of my relationships was entirely my fault. But I contributed. It becomes such an intricate dance between the two people that eventually there is no telling what is cause and what is effect. All you can say is that a relationship and its continuation (or demise) is a team effort.
Certain types of people naturally attract co-dependents. And these partners arenít always ideal relationship material. Heck, who is, ultimately?
It's comforting to know what contributed to the failure of these two relationships. If we are able to identify a problem, we are able to address it. And since Iím the common denominator in both relationships, it means I can deal with
, and sort out the kinks which challenge my approach to love. I can heal, become a better-balanced person.
I might never enter another romantic relationship again, but that's not the goal here.
The goal is to be a better me. Someone who can go through life balanced, confident, at peace, and most of all, happy.
As an aside, I really enjoy being single right now. It grants me the time I need to get to know myself, to fall in love with myself, to pursue my own interests ... and I like that very much. I never thought Iíd say this.
I committed to one relationship right out of school and my parental home, and to the other right out of the first. Up till now I have literally never known what it is to rely on myself. It is something new for me, being able to find joy and contentment in my own company.
How does one become co-dependent? This is my view, based on experience and research:
Usually it happens when you grow up with a caregiver whose love is unpredictable. Alcoholism can especially play a role. The child tries to overcompensate for the times the parent is absent or apathetic, doing more, giving more, being Ďbetterí, in the hope of eliciting that much-needed love, acceptance and care. The child starts to believe that the whole situation is their fault, and they try to fix it. They have a constant hole of deprivation inside, a constant awareness that life is unsafe.
In the forming of a co-dependent, the child usually tries so hard to lift the parents, taking responsibility for their failings, it seems natural to the kid that people should carry each other. Later in life, the co-dependent expects this from their own partners and children: to be supported when they're weak, to be accepted, to be buoyed up and Ďrescuedí. The boundaries become blurred, and thatís where the trouble becomes apparent. Co-dependents donít have a clear sense of identity; they become blurred when attracted to others, giving more and expecting more than is natural.
Lovely people as my parents are (which is why I'll NEVER tell them) I find this true. I remember the nights of dread when my momís drinking went out of control and I woke up the next morning, feeling hungover myself. I remember her blaming me for something my brother had said. I remember taking over the laundry at an early age when she was too depressed to move. I remember my dadís stupefied silence and inaction. And I remember feeling that I could only disappoint him, no matter how hard I tried. I felt terrified and unsafe.
When one day I poured out all my momís wine, she exploded with rage ... then simply bought more. When I couldnít handle the situation anymore, I went to our minister. I told him the whole sorry tale. It was the first time anybody outside our home knew of it.
He visited my parents. My dad said nothing. My mom felt humiliated and betrayed. She didnít speak to me.
So I ran away to my boyfriendís home.
His dad brought me back an hour later.
And nothing further was said of the matter. I was completely powerless.
Looking back at that young girl who struggled so hard to keep swimming in the stormy sea, I'm amazed that she made it through at all. And I'm dumb-struck that nobody helped her.
Her mother felt she was against her, her father withdrew entirely. She was alone for a long time, feeling responsible for something that wasnít hers to hold.
It doesn't surprise me at all that she turned out a little screwed-up.
It also makes me proud of her. She
She came through all that crap without succumbing to the darkness.
She is a survivor!
Nowadays I know intellectually that those years were simply about my parents fighting their own demons. I will probably never know what demons drove them to withdraw so much from my life. But it is safe to say that it wasnít about me.
So here I am, and I need to change the patterns that were laid down in those years. I need to heal the damage, and live a healthy life, engaged in healthy relationships, teaching my kid about love and acceptance and hope.
perpetuate the damage which led my parents to lead me astray!
Perhaps I already
perpetuated it in my son, because all I could give him was a broken mommy. I pray it isnít so! I simply have to accept in faith that this is part of my sonís destined road, to learn his own lessons out of my brokenness. In Godís hands all is well.
The number one pattern I see in this whole issue is the sense of
. That perpetual sense of being all empty, alone and unsafe. It creates a need for a strong, supporting hand at your shoulder, understanding, accepting and protecting you.
Codependents donít give themselves love because they have a huge hole inside that says, ďI am not worthy to be loved.Ē It doesnít count when it comes from the inside, because you yourself are neither worthy nor important enough. It has to come from the outside. And so you keep searching for that love. You keep experiencing this deep need to connect to other people who'll understand and accept you. You keep trying to fill the hole. Substance addiction has the same source. Often codependents show substance addiction, too.
Itís all the same to us:
Assigning the role of hole-filler to someone is a dangerous and unfair practice. Seeing someone else as worthier than you can only lead to devastation. No human being is qualified to fill the hole in another person. And to a greater or lesser degree, we
Codependents simply try to fill those holes with emotional attachment. There
a 12-step programme for codependents. I know I wonít join such a group. To me, it simply replaces the needy attachment I might have to a partner. That wonít bring healing. Healing must come from inside.
How do I heal? How do I change? Is it even possible?
I believe it's absolutely possible, although I may always be susceptible to dependency. And that is OK. It wonít make life easy, but simply being aware of it and knowing how to deal with it will make a huge difference in my life.
My best way forward is knowing how I want to be: The ideal me.
A confident, independent woman, believing the best of herself and others, protective of herself, filled with such contentment and courage that she spreads love and light everywhere. A real minx!
Wow, that inspires me, the image of who I can be!
This woman I see in my mindís eye is a warrior queen. She knows what she wants and she goes out to create it. She does not whine. She takes responsibility. She doesn't expect other people to fix her faults for her, to take out her trash. She does it herself, relying only on herself, with God.
She is open to love, and to help from others, of course, but she isnít needy of it.
She loves herself with joyful abandon.
She feels safe in this world.
Safety in this world.
It's a concept I keep returning to on this journey. I suspect that all people who live in an identity of victimhood have at their core this sense that the world is unsafe, and that they are helpless.
Perhaps it is the little child in them remembering the times their caregivers didnít protect them. Or when the danger and damage came from the caregivers themselves.
It makes you not only distrust the world, but especially your own power to protect yourself.
It is a deep hole which creates an insatiable hunger, a constant need.
There were definitely times in my childhood I felt unsafe, unable to protect myself from what life visited on me. And perhaps later, I blamed myself for not being able to stand up for the little girl. But how can I blame or distrust myself for not knowing better? Thing is, I have grown. And by now I know that I am safe.
No matter what happens, I can handle it or figure it out.
I am my own protector, the secure wall and moat around my castle. I am worthy to stand up for myself. Everything is all right.
Being worthy to stand up for myself, I am also worthy to be loved, to receive the best, to be respected, and to build my dream life.
This is not entitlement. Iím not saying ďGive! Give it all to me because I deserve it!Ē Thereís a difference. Iím saying, ďIím a worthwhile human being, complete and intact, and I have a right to create a beautiful life without apology.Ē
If I find myself in situations or relationships where I canít create what I need, then I need to stand up, step up, and change something.
To me, life is all about patterns. We are pattern makers. We are jewellers building intricate labyrinths from pebbles and bits of sparkly stone. And then we walk those hand-crafted patterns over and over until we can do it with our eyes closed. These patterns may serve us or destroy us. The secret is to be aware, to recognize them - and if they hurt us, to change them. With co-dependency, the pattern of looking towards others for affirmation needs to be changed. We need to create a new pattern of being our own most intimate lovers and encouragers.
In learning to love and accept and encourage ourselves instead of looking towards others for these things, I believe it is also essential to start recognizing that we are worthy and complete human beings. Not only are we allowed our own opinions, we may even differ from other people and express our differences. It is these differences that remind me that there is a clear boundary between where I
. Cultivating an awareness of this identity boundary is crucial for any codependent who craves healing.
It emphasizes that we stand individually:
Solid trees rather than clinging vines.
The moment you realize you are fully and wonderfully
is the moment you start to shed your co-dependence. Growing aware that you are an individual tree, firmly rooted in the earth, reaching up towards the light, wow, what a strong awareness!
Codependents cling like vines, desperately reliant on the strength of others to support them. They lack an awareness of that inner core, that strength that keeps them standing. Yet the core is always there, more solid and more powerful than anyone can imagine. They simply need to open their awareness to the beauty and wonder within them.
What a strange, new experience it is for me, becoming aware of my own core within and the clear boundary without, the safe castle wall protecting me. At times it makes me giddy with excitement, wonder and power. There are still fearful moments as I work on creating a beautiful new pattern of interacting with the world, of course there are. I still hesitate to differ from others. But I find that I am a lot less attached to relationships than I used to be. A lot less needy. And a lot more respectful and accepting of my own needs.
a thought: When I am more accepting of my own needs, I am less needy. It makes perfect sense! The answer lies in acknowledging and accepting my own needs as valid. Most importantly: knowing that I am their primary fulfiller.
I am the being who takes first responsibility for taking care of me.
To me this knowledge translates to both the physical and the spiritual realms: to take action in whatever way necessary to fulfil my needs, while simultaneously bringing my life to God. Because passively waiting on God is not faith. It is still simply co-dependence.
Of course being the one who takes first responsibility for taking care of me is a huge deal. I am the one to nourish and maintain my body. I am the one to give myself financial security. I am the one to ensure that I feel loved and appreciated, who recognizes me as special. I am the one to encourage me through darkness when I want to give up. I am the one to stand up for me, respecting myself. I am even the one to expect more of myself, gently leading me to the higher ideal I know exists.
You would think that finally accepting responsibility for myself would scare me to death. But the truth of it is so vibrantly right, so undeniable, that instead it settles me into calmness.
Now that I no longer fight this truth, no longer try to make other people responsible for me, I discover that I love life. I love being me!
And though I might not know all the answers or have all the skills to handle what life throws at me, I know I am perfectly able to figure it out. I can even fall down and get up again.
I can make mistakes, I can celebrate successes. I can take time for myself when I need it. I can pursue my dreams because they're valid and worthwhile. I can have a different opinion to the rest of the world Ė and even if they donít accept it, it doesn't matter. What matters is what I think and what I hold valuable.
And with each step in this new pattern, I walk out of co-dependence into independence.
Being dependent only on the inside, on my own
, and on the great
who created me.
I find that my perspective on life, and especially other human beings, has changed a lot. I no longer view others as possible hole-fillers. I no longer expect loved ones to fully accept me, guide me or bond with me. When they donít, I am at ease, because first and foremost my affirmation comes from myself.
These change are visible in the fact that I trust and accept my own affirmation Ė because I know I am a complete and worthy human being. Leaving co-dependence behind as I create new patterns is a truly awesome, humbling, empowering experience.
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