Codependency: Learning to Let Go

Codependency: Learning to Let Go

My apologies, as this is a long post, but if you can relate to codependency, being a victim, having expectations for others, receiving messages from The Universe (Higher Power), then this is worth the read.

Sometimes The Universe speaks so clearly that it’s hard to justify it as being anything other than what it is. I had one of those moments upon arriving at work last night. It seems when my mind is unwilling to be honest with itself, The Universe comes in and says, “hey, the truth your mind is trying to tell you, it’s real and I am supporting your truth so pay attention; there is a lesson to be learned here.”

I think in my previous writings I’ve made it obvious that I am continually working on my ability, or inability, to set healthy boundaries for myself and others. I’m currently in the middle of learning a very emotionally hard lesson in respecting a boundary set by someone else, so I guess I need a little work on respecting boundaries set by others as well. Especially when those boundaries have a direct affect on me. I’ve also touched on expectations in my previous writings, and I think I’ve mentioned being a victim/playing the role of a victim, too. In this post I will cover all three of these topics (boundaries, expectations, being a victim) in one way or another. 

As I was setting up my laptop at work I noticed a book lying on the credenza that peaked my interest. It’s called “The Language of Letting Go Daily Meditations on Codependency” by Melody Beattie. This book has a daily reading “meditation” for every day of the year. I opened the book to find last nights day, December 13. I started flipping through the pages from the back of the book; while in search for the date I was seeking the first thing that caught my eye was “boundaries” in the Index. Coincidence, probably not.

I went on to find the current date. The title of the reading for December 13 is “Giving”. It’s about giving the right amount of yourself to others and receiving the right amount from others, and knowing the difference between healthy giving and caretaking; finding the right balance of give and take for both parties involved in the exchange; whatever the exchange may be: time, support, attention, favors, and so on. If healthy giving (giving in a way that feels good rather than giving out of guilt, shame, and/or obligation) crosses over to caretaking it may cause feelings of victimization and resentment within the relationship. 

I went on to read December 14 because I was only a few minutes away from it being the 14th, and I was curious. The title for the 14th is “Clear Thinking”. At this point I had to chuckle a bit because of the 2 days, out of 365, that I’ve read they both directly relate to my current emotional state. A quote from the book:

Clear thinking means we don’t allow ourselves to become immersed in negativity or unrealistic expectations. 

-Melody Beattie

I’ve been found guilty of this more than once. It is part of the hard lesson I am currently in the middle of learning. Unrealistic expectations can be so incredibly hurtful and damaging to any type of relationship. I’m learning the importance of becoming aware of the kind of expectations I place on people and whether or not they are realistic or unrealistic. I think for many of us we tend to expect more from the people closest to us. This, in time, will change the dynamic of the give and take exchange within the relationship and will lead to victimization and resentment. The more we come to expect from someone, the higher the expectations, and the more unrealistic they become. 

Now that I was caught up on the current dates, it was time to check out the dates around boundaries. The first date is March 17th (happens to be my youngest nephew’s birthday), it is titled “Empowerment”. There are a few quotes from this reading that I would like to share with you:

You can think. You can feel. You can solve your problems. You can take care of yourself. 

That one seems so obvious, but for many of us, it is a very hard realization to come to. Don’t lose sight of the fact that this book is for Codependency. If you don’t struggle with codependency, I can’t begin to explain how debilitating it can be.

Each of us is responsible for ourselves. That does not mean we don’t care. It does not mean a cold, calculated withdrawal of our support from others. It means we learn to love and support people in ways that work. It means that we learn to love and support ourselves in ways that work. It means that we connect with friends who love and support us in ways that work. 

I don’t know about other codependents but that one is a bitch for me. I’ve spent so much of my life (all of it) depending on others to make me feel better, to lift me and my spirits up. I humbly admit that I have taken far more than I’ve given, in some cases, in many of my closest relationships. When someone sets a boundary for themselves and for me in these kinds of situations, I feel such despair. Terrible feelings of inadequacy, unworthiness, insignificance all rush through, over, under, and around me. I am very much in need of learning to love and support myself in a way that work (also part of the lesson I am in the middle of learning). 

There are so many readings I would love to share with you, but I’m going to try to limit it. I have two more that I feel are very important. 

The first one is on March 22, and is titled “Letting Go of Being a Victim”. I have two quotes to share from this reading:

Many of us have learned, as part of our survival behaviors, that the way to get the attention and approval we want is to be victims. If life is awful, too difficult, unmanageable, too hard, unfair, then others will accept, like, and approve of us, we think.

and

we can deal with our bad days and darker feelings in ways that reflect self-responsibility rather than victimization.

Again, as a codependent, I struggle greatly with this. I’ve thought in the past about how I can be in a pretty good place, having a pretty good day, and then someone who I depend on for attention and/or approval will ask how I’m doing; suddenly my day is no longer good and I find myself feeling unhappy. It is mind blowing to me how programmed our minds and behaviors become through childhood and into adulthood. We create defense mechanisms. We create ways to gain support, attention, love, and affection; as unhealthy as those methods may be, we’ve learned how to fill the void to the best of our comprehension. 

This next one, March 23, titled “Flack from Setting Boundaries”, has humbled me in a way I’ve never experienced before. This whole reading is very eye opening for me. I’m tempted to share the whole thing; hell it isn’t that long:

When we own our power to take care of ourselves-set a boundary, say no, change an old pattern-we may get flack from some people. That’s okay. We don’t have to let their reactions control us, stop us, or influence our decision to take care of ourselves. 

We don’t have to control their actions to our process of self-care. That is not our responsibility. We don’t have to expect them not to react either. 

People will react when we do things differently or take assertive action to nurture ourselves, particularly if our decision in some way affects them. Let them have their feelings. Let them have their reactions. But continue on your course anyway. 

If people are used to us behaving in a certain way, they’ll attempt to convince us to stay that way to avoid changing the system. If people are used to us saying yes all the time, they may start mumbling and murmuring when we say no. If people are used to us taking care of their responsibilities, feelings, and problems, they may give us some flack when we stop. That’s normal. We can learn to live with a little flack in the name of self-care. Not abuse, mind you. Flack. 

If people are used to controlling us through guilt, bullying, and badgering, they may intensify their efforts when we change and refuse to be controlled. That’s okay. That’s flack too. 

We don’t have to let flack pull us back into old ways if we’ve decided we want and need to change. We don’t have to react to flack or give it much attention. It doesn’t deserve it. It will die down. 

Today, I will disregard any flack I receive for changing my behaviors or making other efforts to be myself. 

Hear me when I say, this is the hardest pill I’ve ever had to swallow. I’ve been on the flack receiving end before, I know it isn’t fun or easy, and I found it to be very frustrating. But it wasn’t until I read this that I realized that I am currently on the flack giving side. 

See, a couple/few weeks ago a boundary was set by my therapist. One that I was not in any way happy with. I understood it, but I didn’t like it. A couple years ago she went on vacation for a month and I went into panic mode, she said I could stay in touch with her via text and/or email while she was gone and so I did. However, it had become a habit for me to just reach out to her whenever I wanted, and so the behavior continued. I admittedly overused this privilege she had given me. I would text/email her several times throughout the week between session. And like the good person she is, she would respond when she had the chance. To my own fault I can be a rather impatient person. When I have to wait for a response or the like from someone for an extended period of time (if I’m in an “off” mood), I can get so far inside my head and convince myself of unrealistic beliefs: She’s upset with me, she doesn’t care about me, she forgot about me because I just don’t matter to her, and so on. It was becoming almost counterproductive as far as therapy went. So she set a boundary that there would no longer be communication between sessions. The client/therapist friend line had become blurred and there needed to be clear distinction, we aren’t friends we are client/therapist and that’s how it needs to be for both of us.

But even so, I threw up my wall and shut down so fast in the session she set that boundary. I became so shut off to her that the session became almost pointless, in my opinion. We’ve had two sessions since she set this boundary and in both I’ve debated the boundary, I’ve tried to plead my case in an attempt to change her mind. To give just a little. I proposed just one email a week between sessions. She said she would give it thought. Yesterday she told me that after giving it some thought that she is going to stay the course with no communication between sessions. Once again I shut down and put up my wall. Normally if my wall goes up in session I bring it down by the time I leave. That wasn’t the case yesterday. I was shut off, completely disconnected, and nearly non-responsive to her even as I was walking out the door.

Since she set the boundary a few weeks ago, I have yet to completely respect the boundary. In this past week I had good reason to reach out to her and she was very open and supportive of my reaching out in that particular situation. I haven’t reached out to her often, but I have made contact at least once between each session since the boundary was put in place. 

She has a slew of good reasons for setting this boundary: I need to learn to self-regulate my thoughts and emotions. I need to find other forms of support and connection such as meetings, meditation groups, writing groups, and so on. She is my therapist and can only play the role of my therapist in order to help me heal and live a happy healthy life. Since I’ve been able to solely depend on her on so many levels, I haven’t bothered to extend myself to others. These are just the reasons she has for setting boundaries for my benefit. I haven’t even touched on the reasons she has set them for herself (mostly because I can’t speak for her or why she set them for herself, but I have no doubts that she has good reasons for it). 

She has been so kind, patient, supportive, wonderful, caring, and generous to me since I started seeing her a couple/few years ago. She absolutely has not and does not deserve the way I’ve been behaving towards her since she set this boundary. I’ve put unrealistic expectations on her, I’ve victimized myself where she is concerned, I’ve even victimized her in my codependency and in her boundary setting. Even with how terrible I have been to her in the last few weeks, and with all of the unnecessary time I’ve taken from her between sessions for the last couple years, she is still here for me. I have no doubts that if I absolutely needed to reach out to her that she would be there for me. Because that is the kind of person she is. She nearly stretched herself too far for me and when she realized it I became upset and hurt and shut down. 

I have done an awful lot of taking and very little giving in my relationship with her. I need to be better. I need to be more aware of my behaviors and reactions towards her. I need to stop losing sight of how giving she is and has been to me. I need to bring my expectations to a realistic level with her. I NEED to start being more respectful of her and our client/therapist relationship. Starting right now, I am making a change in how I’ve been behaving towards her. I am going to give her the same respect she’s given me. I’m going to show her the same level of patience that she has shown me. I’m going to start working more deliberately towards self-regulating and finding support and connections in other ways rather than trying to convince her to continue filling that void for me; also so she can see and know that my time with her isn’t for nothing. That I am equally committed to myself and my healing as she is. She has been kind and generous enough to commit herself to my healing, it’s high time I commit myself to my healing and that we start working as a team rather than me expecting her to fix me all on her own. 

As I mentioned in the beginning, sometimes The Universe speaks so clearly. I have no idea where this book came from or why it was on the credenza or why I happened to pick it up and start reading it or why I happened to read such specific readings that directly relate to what I’m currently experiencing. What I do know is that the message that was being sent to me has been received. I see my shortcomings in this situation. I see how unreasonable my behavior has been towards such a kind and caring person who was/is so undeserving of my behaviors towards her. I’ve gained an awareness of how much taking I’ve done and how little giving I’ve given. I’m limited in ways I can give back to her, but I can do so with my actions and behaviors. Showing her respect and helping myself equally, if not more, than she helps me and by working with her rather than against her. I can give back to her in those ways. I need to balance the give and take in this relationship so that it is on an equal level rather than her doing all of the giving and me doing all of the taking. 

I am a work in progress, as are we all. This book that The Universe sent me last night has helped me to see more clearly how selfish and entitled I have been lately. For that I am truly sorry and ask for forgiveness from my therapist, The Universe, and myself. 

To my readers, if you have hung on to the end of this post, I encourage you to look inside yourself. To be brutally honest with yourself. To have the courage to acknowledge and become aware of your shortcomings, your unrealistic expectations, your unreasonable behaviors and thoughts. In doing so you will learn a lot about yourself, you’ll be able to begin working on those areas of yourself, and also feel pride in putting the effort into bettering yourself. 

For the readers who can relate to what I’ve said, we NEED to take responsibility for OURSELVES, but please know that our reactions, behaviors, way of thinking, and way of feeling have been embedded into our minds, bodies, and souls. These are the ways we’ve learned to protect ourselves and to gain love, attention, and affection as children and have continued to use these methods to self-protect and gain love, attention, and affection as adults because it’s all we’ve ever known and because at one point we were victims. But with a desire, hard work, and commitment to ourselves and therapists/support groups there is hope. We can change our reactions, behaviors, thoughts, and feelings so that they are more realistic, reasonable, and healthy. Just because we were victims at one point does not mean we have to stay victims today nor do we have to continue to allow ourselves to be victimized. We all have the strength within us to make these changes. I know we do because we survived. We did what we needed to do to survive and get to where we are now. And now we are safe. Now we have the opportunity to change the damage that was done. We are safe to heal, to set boundaries for ourselves and others so that we never have to be victimized again. Now we have the chance to be happier and healthier. We just have to be courageous enough to look deep inside ourselves, face the uglies we don’t like about ourselves, and make the changes that are right for us.  

YOU are GOOD ENOUGH. YOU are WORTHY. YOU are LOVABLE. YOU MATTER. YOU are STRONG ENOUGH. YOU are COURAGEOUS.

Believe in yourself, love yourself, be kind to yourself…because you are important!

I strongly recommend anyone struggling with codependency read this book. I know it’s going on my wish list. 

With Loving-kindness,

My-work-in-progress-codependent-self  ♥

*All quotes in this post are from the book “The Language of Letting Go Daily Meditations on Codependency” Written by Melody Beattie and published by Hazelden®

 

Coping

Coping

I, like so many others, am tired of talking about this election and politics. So hear me when I say, this is NOT about the election or politics. This is about people, this is about emotion, this is about what has resulted from the election. So many people seem to think this is about winning or losing the election. It has NOTHING to do with that.

At first I didn’t understand the overwhelming dread so many felt. Don’t get me wrong, I was disappointed and awe struck and left wondering how in the world did this happen? But I didn’t understand why the doom and gloom, why people were feeling like they lost something so personal, like they had been deflated, personally let down. Nothing had changed yet. I thought some had jumped the gun on thinking how much Trump would change and overturn. I figured there would be a lashing out of Trump followers who would take advantage of the free pass they had been given to discriminate towards others. I mean, after all, our country had just shown the world that not only does the majority of the US accept discrimination, we elect it president. I figured there would be outright acts of hate and discrimination, and there have been.

Discrimination isn’t always delivered in obvious ways. It is passing comments between friends and family. Passive aggressive remarks. “Playful” teasing and poking. I think it would be easier to deal with if it were obvious discrimination, we have laws against that. But how do you claim discrimination when a friend or family member makes a “playful” remark? How do you claim discrimination when a friend makes you feel like your opinions don’t matter?  And how do you get those people to understand that those little comments and pokes are hurtful? How do you get them to understand what you’re feeling and that what you’re feeling is real? And how are we supposed to cope with their inability to “see” us and to “hear” us? How are we supposed to cope with this new realization that we suffer discrimination at the hands of our inner circle, our friends and our family?

I didn’t fully understand why all the extreme sadness and feeling of doom and despair. It wasn’t until I was part of a discussion over the weekend that it hit me. I got it. I came out of that discussion feeling quite offended.

I couldn’t believe some of the things I was hearing during this discussion. Apparently it was acceptable to use terms like “fag, dyke, and queer” as derogatory terms 20-30 years ago. Why you ask? Because gay people weren’t really a thing then. I know, I was just as taken-aback by this as you are.

The LGBTQ community is just one issue that was touched on during this discussion, race and immigration were also discussed (those topics weren’t any less offensive). It was eye opening for me how unaware they were of how hurtful their statements were.

How do we cope with this new found discovery of the people in our lives? I suppose with friends if the hurt gets to be too much we can let them go. As hard as it is to walk away from a friendship it’s even harder to stay in one when you don’t feel respected.

But how do we cope with family who behave in this way? We have choices here too. No easy choices of course, but we do have choices. We can talk to them, we can make them aware of how hurtful their comments are. Even if they say them jokingly, it is still hurtful. We can ask them to be more aware of what they are saying and how it makes you feel. Now, you may be thinking that this option is a bit intimidating. You may question if you will be heard? Will your wishes be disregarded? Will this be one more reason for them to poke fun and make hurtful comments? The honest answer is, there is no way of knowing unless you try.

Another option is to say nothing and hope for the best. Or perhaps you’ve had the aforementioned talk with your family and it didn’t do any good. Nothing changed or it made things worse. You can hang in there. You can find support groups, surround yourself with people outside of your family who value you and respect you, find yourself like-minded people. Having a circle who is supportive and respectful of you may better help you cope with the disrespect you get from your family.

If you find that you just can’t cope with it, then your last option is to cut the family member out, or at the very least limit your contact with them. I know this is not an easy option, but being disrespected/discriminated against is an even harder thing to deal with.

I would advise talking with them. Letting them know how you feel and asking them to have an awareness of how their words hurt you. Hopefully this will be enough to change the behavior and life can go on. And if not, then I would advise limiting contact or cutting them out completely.

Self-love is a very essential part of healthy living. Doing the right and healthy thing for yourself isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but it is the most worthwhile thing to do. Give yourself the love you’re missing. Give yourself what you need. You do not need to live your life being put down, made fun of, and ridiculed for who you are.

You are worthy. You are more than enough. You are valuable. You are loved. You are not alone.

With Loving-kindness

Dani