Giving too much....?
In Western Society – and, indeed, many others – women are encouraged from an early age to be caring, considerate and selfless. We’re taught that our biology pre-programs us for taking care of and nurturing others. But what about when nature and nurture conflict - when the way we’re brought up somehow interrupts healthy development and affects the way we attach to others emotionally? All sorts of problems can occur as a result but when does taking care of others become codependency?
I have experienced the overwhelming gravitational pull of codependency – that need to be needed, that attraction to problematic relationships, in the hope of creating a happily ever after. Of course, this was deflection. The person who really needed help was me! The codependent’s lot is Groundhog Day – doing the same thing over and over again until we “get it right”. We attempt to finish unfinished business, to create a fairytale ending. But it just doesn’t happen. No matter how hard we try, life becomes evermore chaotic – a series of challenges to be met. We begin to expect and accept chaos as a necessary and everyday part of life. For some, professional life can replicate this; for example, work becomes impossible to leave – social engagements are broken; every waking thought and sleepless night focuses on that “more important” something – or someone.
Certainly, when our lives become unmanageable, having little or no self-control, there can be some comfort in handing over the reins of our lives to someone else. It doesn’t make for happiness but there can be comfort in discomfort - when being uncomfortable is a familiar feeling. When we’re asking someone else to take responsibility for our feelings – we’re feeling by proxy. The silent question of the codependent is: “Could you tell me how I’m going to feel today?” If her partner or friend feels down, she feels down; if they’re angry, she’ll feel upset – what did she say? Sometimes the pendulum can swing the other way. When a person gives so much of her time and energy to someone or something and the results she hopes for just don’t materialise, she can become frustrated, angry and sometimes depressed.
Often people who experience codependency have grown up with doubts about their self-worth, their own abilities and strengths, and look to others to fill this emotional void and sense of self. Filling this void is often transient – through a compliment or maybe even a qualification. It can empty again within seconds – a chance remark can bring the house of cards crashing down. So… what’s the answer? It lies within us – it can’t be found ‘out there somewhere’. As Melody Beattie, Pia Mellody and others who have trodden this path understand, external validation – looking to something or someone for reassurance about who we are and what we’re about – just isn’t enough. The answers must come from within ourselves and they’re often so deeply buried and entrenched in habit and self-loathing that we can’t see them. We have an idea there’s something that doesn’t feel right, that we’re not really relating or behaving in a healthy way but we’re just not sure what to do about it. Sometimes we have glimpses that we can be ‘something better’ – that anything’s possible... Working with a recovery coach can help you to get in touch with that strong, confident and magical part inside each of us, which often lies buried under fear, indecision and anxiety. In a relatively short space of time, the feeling of ‘something better’ can become a reality – a new way of being.
Counselling and therapy do help – particularly if, as often happens, severe anxiety or depression have taken hold. This has certainly been my own experience. Codependency is often described as an addiction to a person – or maybe even a feeling – and can sit alongside other addictions and remain untreated. It is also pretty common for people who experience codependency to become involved with people who are also in an addictive cycle.
Recovery coaching offers an interesting approach to working through issues of addiction to someone or something. It can be an arduous journey in recovery and coaching offers a refreshing and often fun route through the minefield of learning a new, more peaceful way of life.
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