Healthy, intimate relationships are one of the fringe benefits of the journey of spiritual growth and enlightenment. How do we negotiate the muddy waters of co-dependency as we move toward accepting mutually supportive, loving and nurturing relationships? I don’t know….DO YOU?????
Ok, it is not really midnight, but doesn’t that sound poetic? I have a confession to make. I suffer from co-dependency and I don’t like it. It is beyond humbling to even admit this…but there it is. Yep, I learned co-dependency and this seems to be one of the final frontiers in my own road to spiritual healing and growth. ARGH!
What is Co-dependency?
According to Mental Health American: Co-dependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. http://www.nmha.org/go/codependency
Their site goes on to describe the typical characteristics of people who have learned co-dependent behaviors:
Characteristics of Co-dependent People Are:
- An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
- A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
- A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time
- A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
- An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment
- An extreme need for approval and recognition
- A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
- A compelling need to control others
- Lack of trust in self and/or others
- Fear of being abandoned or alone
- Difficulty identifying feelings
- Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
- Problems with intimacy/boundaries
- Chronic anger
- Poor communications
- Difficulty making decisions
Of course, these characteristics are general, and those who experience co-dependency may possess some of all of these traits and in varying degrees.
Me and Co-dependency
As I read through the list, I am actually amazed at how far I have come in healing from many of these behaviors….of course, there is always room for improvement. For me, the primary struggle is around the fear of rejection and wanting other people to like me…out of which often comes people-pleasing behaviors. Then there is the just plain obsessing about individuals their thoughts and opinions of me. BLECH!!!!! (Ha…now I’m being humbled…here I am rejecting my co-dependency when just yesterday I wrote about saying yes. Yep, still human!)
Easy is Bad
Recently, I have been given a tool that has served as a kind of protection against my tendency to enter into co-dependent behavior. And the funny thing is that this very tool showed up in our Monday meditation group. As the participants are sharing the thoughts and reflections that came out of their meditation time, one of the participants shares with the group, “Easy is Bad.” Those words hit me between the eyeballs because these are the very words I have been applying to those moments when I am tempted to enter into co-dependent behavior. Here’s how it works:
- Co-dependency is a learned, habitual behavior – an addiction of sorts.
- “Easy” is to indulge in the habitual behavior.
- When something is easy (like pursuing a relationship you KNOW would be unhealthy for you, or crawling back seeking someone’s approval after they have hurt or rejected you) recognize the easy and make a different choice.
- “Easy” becomes the litmus test for future behaviors and decisions.
- “Hard” (like taking time to get to know someone before jumping into “love” or staying away from the person who hurt or rejected you) becomes the indicator of healthier choices.
Easy is Bad. Hard is Good.
Accepting the possibility that I don’t know squat!
And then again, I might have no idea what I am talking about. This whole co-dependency thing is a tough one for me, so as any good student of recovery would do, I turn to the 12 Steps…..perhaps they can shed some light:
The 12 Steps
- Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable
- Step 2 – Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
- Step 3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God
- Step 4 – Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
- Step 5 – Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
- Step 6 – Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
- Step 7 – Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings
- Step 8 – Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
- Step 9 – Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
- Step 10 – Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
- Step 11 – Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out
- Step 12 – Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs
Yep, I turn this one over to God.
Authentic Freedom Ministries