Melody Beattie, still the reigning authority on codependency, tells us that the majority of people suffering with codependency really do not believe they are lovable based on their own merit, but based only on what they do for others.
My definition of codependency is a person who puts their own needs aside and becomes hyper-vigilant about meeting the needs of another person, to the point that their life revolves around this person, creating a one-sided relationship that is destructive and dysfunctional for both parties.
Everyone has some codependence. However, some of you are living in the shadow of someone else’s needs and starving yourself from self-care. Codependence starts out innocently enough but when you find yourself feeling anxious trying to fix someone else, micromanaging someone else’s life, or flooded with anxiety when you want to do something for yourself then you have slipped into a place where you are other focused rather than self focused.
Now, you may be asking, isn’t that a good thing? Shouldn’t I care about someone else’s happiness and desires? Caring is not the same as making them happy. Caring is something that walks the fine line between emotion and action. Caring is letting someone else know that you will listen and be their friend. However self-care is the exact same combo, listening to yourself and being your own best friend.
This is where compassion comes in. Oh no, isn’t caring and compassion the same? Not exactly. Here is one way to look at these two sides of the same coin. Caring is being present while compassion is actively being present. Compassion is speaking your truth, gently. Compassion uses voice and says things like the following:
I hear how sad you are, do you want to tell me more about it?
I see that you are really struggling with this, is there anything you need from me right now?
I feel like you are coming to your wits end, what do you need to do differently?
Compassion engages you out of your helplessness. Compassion makes yourself available to be actively present. And of course it is tricky business. Is there anything you need from me right now can lead to someone asking you for money. Ah, now this writing is beginning to tug on your heart strings. You have the money so why not? Or, you don’t have the money but you can get it from you credit card. You are all of a sudden conflicted. Ask yourself what you are thinking and feeling. Make no commitment right now, take time to think about it. Tell your impulsive self to go write or go for a walk, do not let impulsivity take over. Impulsivity is always sparked by anxiety. It is okay and necessary to sit with your discomfort. The first step in healing your codependency is learning to be uncomfortable. Discomfort is a part of life. Get use to it and accept discomfort as part of your healing from codependency.
The bridge between both is compassion, especially compassionate listening. Just because you are setting boundaries and recovering yourself back to your center, does not mean you have to be rude or mean, however you must be clear and direct. For Instance: No, I cannot loan you the $500.00 you need. I can help you look at your finances or find resources to get a part time job.
No, I won’t call work for your this morning but I will go to an AA meeting with you today.
No, I can’t come over right now but we can talk later this week if you would like.
Are you beginning to see how compassion can be the bridge to interdependency without having to fix the other people in your life and not abandon them at the same time?