Let’s talk about the the relationship cancer, the bleach that eats away at the fabric of your most sacred relationships, the drama of the puppet master that eventually destroys even the best performer… codependency. Codependency sucks and talking about is about as easy as nailing jello to the wall. As soon as I get an example up there, it slips away.
The elusive nature of codependency is one of the many reasons I think it’s so important to talk about it. It is coy and slick, a real shape-shifter, and people who are being driven over the edge by codependency often don’t even know what’s happening to them. It drives you stark raving mad and still, when you look at the wall, there is absolutely nothing there under that nail to blame for your misery.
Codependency is an addiction, much like one might have to crack or nicotine, to control. People come by it honestly, just like all the other addicts, by trying to cope with the chaos of their pain. When there is a tornado inside, we seek stability outside. Where love is uncertain, we rotate between clinging to it and pushing it away.
When I was young, things weren’t terribly stable and I tried hard to be a good girl, good enough to keep people from being angry, to keep things predictable, to keep my heart safe. I learned that if someone was unhappy and I could be cute or smart or helpful or quiet or funny enough (depending on the moment), their unhappiness would pass… and I would be safe. It worked, not perfectly, but it gave me enough of an illusion of control that I survived.
The problem is that codependent children grow up reacting to their environments, and therefore have NO SENSE OF SELF. After years of giving people answers I thought they wanted, I never took time to find what I wanted… from the inside. Like many of the women I’ve worked with as a life coach, in the beginning of this self-discovery process, I couldn’t tell you what kind of music I loved, my favorite foods, or what I want to be when I grew up. Codependent women (and the occasional man) spent their entire adult lives measuring their personal “success” (aka self-worth) by how clean the house is, how smart and good the children are, how happy and successful her spouse is, and how much she produces at work (paid or volunteer, it doesn’t matter).
Codependency is living in a state of reaction, instead of action. It’s doing what you think others want you to do, being who you think the world expects you to be. It doesn’t work because those are illusions. All we have is the truth, the truth of who we are, the truth of how we are able to show up in the world. Our natural gifts and challenges, plus what we’ve learned along the way. The rest of it is pretend and you can’t build anything real on something that isn’t… especially love.
The “cure” for this disease is to find out who the hell you are and learn to love and accept all that you discover along the way. It’s about finding your own answers, and allowing the people you share your life with to have their own answers. Let me repeat that: It’s about finding your own answers, and allowing the people you share your life with to have their own answers. That second part is important, too.
True love is finding a space in every relationship where both of the people can thrive at being who they are, independently and together. Anyone who truly loves you will support your personal evolution, in discovering your truth and living it powerfully.
That, of course, brings us back to you loving yourself enough to find your answers. So, quit riding the rear ends of your partner, children, and other assorted loved ones. Let them take care of their business. This one is about you. Do your work. Find the sweet spot in every moment today that offers a lesson for you, some insight into who you are. Then, tomorrow do it again… and the next day too.