Fire up the spit, because I’m going to roast myself! No, not literally, but figuratively. Before unleashing the mea culpa, I have some thought-provoking questions for you:
- Do you have a hard time asking for or receiving help or “handouts?” Yet, do you often “give ’til it hurts?” Do you then feel resentful when you help others and they do not acknowledge your actions “enough” or not at all?
- Is it hard for you to watch someone else suffer? Or are you a “people pleaser?”
- Are you someone who hates it when someone is unhappy, especially if it’s with you? Do you continually do things to seek validation and approval? Do you have the “need to feel needed?”
- Or do you feel that there is something wrong with you, to where you try to “make up for it” by being helpful or of service to others?
- Do you often feel responsible, at fault, or blame yourself for the behaviors and actions of others?
Personally, I have said “yes” to each and every one of these questions for far, far too long. Yet with learning to love myself, I am saying “no” to more and more of them. Today, I am bringing awareness to myself and hopefully to you, the reader, in what healing codependency looks like from the inside. So let’s dive in!
excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.
Power Plays. Throughout my life, I have sought validation from others based on my actions. While the actions have changed as I have “grown up,” that same nagging need was always there, “others will like me if I _______.” This is the basis for loss of personal power and boundaries. By handing over the keys to self-esteem, it is no longer our own. I would then, unknowingly, seek to balance that power loss by manipulating others to be or feel dependent on me through my incessant giving and being of service.
Then when I didn’t receive the gratitude, or validation I sought from others, I would become resentful. “Look what I did for you,” I would think – sometimes I’ve even said this aloud to my children. EEK! Yet folks, this is how it happens: we learn these patterns, typically, from our parents, then we perpetuate it because it’s what we KNOW!
Eventually I would also “turn the knife on myself” and think things like “I’m just not worthy. S/he just doesn’t like me.”In missing my “fix,” I worked harder. Self-care fell to the wayside and “supporting” the other person would become paramount. Here we have a loss of boundaries.
So in giving, I would often overcompensate. Whether it was my energy, my time, gifts or help, the scale of giving was often heavily tipped in the other person’s favor. To the point that when I would withdrawal my energy, the relationship would seem to quickly dissolve. This then would set me up for more seeking by asking “are they still there?” This can be exhausting: for myself and I’m quite sure for the other person, too… more EEK!
This giving to receive is highly manipulative and is a “slight of hand,” is it not? I did these things because I believed I needed to control others to get the love I needed, because I did not believe that I was worthy of love: straight up (or neat).
It has been through awareness that I have begun to shift these patterns more and more, relying less on others to fill my needs. To get out of the seeking habit, after I recognize the seeking pattern, I turn my attention on myself (it was hard at first, because I had learned to focus on the other person and what they were or were not doing). It is here that I ask myself, “What is it that I feel I need from this person?”
The answer has been: acceptance, validation, love or compassion. I then give that to myself to the fullest extent of my abilities, while I breathe and feel into the void that I’ve been avoiding feeling. When the challenge has seemed too tough, I have asked God or The Universe for assistance.
For me, this has been a healing process won minute-by-minute, day-by-day and at times by degrees. The key to changing has been consistently learning to meet my own internal needs for approval. As such, self-care is also important! (lack of self-care just perpetuates these giving/seeking cycles…ironically and sadly… without self-care we just circle the codependency drain – pun intentional.) Note: Seeking support is different from seeking someone else to fill the voids we are avoiding!
The shame/blame game is an interesting one. As a codependent, I have believed there was something “wrong with me.” This shame had been a big motivator for seeking someone who could “fill the void.” Ironically, this was usually people who choose to not accept blame themselves. Can you see where this is going? I feel shame, and they seek someone to blame. The other person then never has to take responsibility to change and I get to feel like a martyr; victim-mode activated! This cycle continues to self-perpetuate until someone leaves or changes. Self-love helps to heal the roots of shame, as does speaking out; silence perpetuates shame.
So as terrible as this sounds, in being co-dependent, I had learned to “feel good” when I was taking the blame for someone else (and secretly controlling them; a secret I kept even from myself!). Yet relating this way only served to reinforce my shame. This may be the plot twist you’re looking for: enabling the blamer supported me in believing I was “holier than him/her.” OUCH!
This realization that I felt holier than someone else has certainly been something that I completely avoided recognizing about myself! Going a step further: I’m seeing where I may be unintentionally creating codependent children. EEK-cubed! (choking back vomit & tears…)
Enter the Narcissist/blamer-codependent continuum. After recognizing that I have been teaching my children what I have learned, I see where I have also been the blamer/narcissist! After all, the two are just different sides of the same coin. Both seek power in manipulative and under-handed ways. Both act as victims and thus lack personal responsibility: the narcissist in blaming the codependent, AND after the end of the relationship, the codependent often blames the narcissist for making them a victim.
In the beginning of the relationship, as a codependent, I sought void-filling from the narcissist. Later, the narcissist sought refuge in my ability to accept blame. We’d like to think that there are clear-cut roles. However, it’s very interesting that we can easily find articles written by a codependent, but where are all of the articles written from the narcissist’s viewpoint? Regardless of how we cut it or label ourselves or the “other,” if we are in these relationships we are part of the problem: codependent or not!
In seeing my relationship patterns now, I am further breaking free as this way of living no longer serves me.
Breaking free bears reiteration, the keys are self-love and self-care. Giving myself more freely of these gifts has increased my awareness, my desire for and motivation for change. Again, when we see the patterns emerging, we must turn a good dose of compassion and love onto ourselves. Remember: Focusing on what the other person is or isn’t doing only keeps us stuck. Compassion and love for ourselves is the way. When in doubt, rinse and repeat. Then do it again!
Finally, holding anger against someone else or ourselves hurts us more than anyone else. Self-forgiveness is often harder to give. Yet, it is in forgiving ourselves that we free ourselves from our own confines. If we had known better, we sure-as-heck would’ve done better. We live what we learned, until we choose differently. Love you, boo! ❤️
April is Alcohol Awareness Month.