It was pointed out to me recently that I have slipped back into an old pattern of co-dependency. Oh dear… What a realization that was! As much as I don’t like psychological labels and identities, it was still worth looking at. Many of you are old enough to remember that word from the 80’s when the “in” word was “co-dependent.” :) Some of you may have been in elementary school :) and may be asking – what is “co-dependency”? There’s a helpful book by Melody Beattie called Co-Dependent No More, written 26 years ago. I dug my well-worn, highlighted and underlined copy out of the basement archives.
The realization came that it has been an insidious process of falling back into the realm of unconscious behavior in the family dynamic, being drawn into the Family Shadow. It has been a gradual slide into unawareness, and unconscious patterns and roles again - trying to affect change in a family system that is unwilling and seemingly unable to change – at least unwilling to be aware that change is needed. I had a strong sense of responsibility that *I* needed to *do something* about this dysfunctional person, this dysfunctional family system, to once and for all get “us” to “work,” to “heal”, to at least “communicate honestly.” I had forgotten that it is not about trying to control or change the “other” person, or their behavior, but it is always about taking responsibility for oneself… It didn’t occurr to me that I could just let go and let it be what it is – and be okay with that.
In this insidious slide I became emotionally entangled – trying to “help”, to “rescue” – code words for control. The more “helpless” I felt the more reactive I became, trying to control that which was totally out of my control – my family, and our dysfunctional behavior. In the process I became chronically reactive, frustrated and angry because I couldn’t rescue or fix “them.” I felt more entangled in the drama of their emotional needs – with phone calls that became one-sided venting sessions. I became resentful of the emotional enmeshment, of accommodating, of feeling helpless and controlled by the dysfunctional system. It was a feeling of being at the end of someone else’s emotional leash all the time - a big warning sign that something was amiss. In all of this I had clearly lost a sense of awareness of the Infinite Being within, and became even more identified as the little “me” person – struggling to find resolution, grasping at straws to see which one might work.
I ask myself, how could I have become so unconscious, so lost in all of it! Why could I not just have opened my heart and be a presence of Love? Wouldn’t that solve everything? I had confused “love” and “spirituality” with always being available, accommodating and “helpful” – also called enabling :) - trying to control the situation by offering unwanted advice and suggestions in my attempt to be “responsible” – ultimately to soothe my own sense of helplessness. I allowed myself to be put in the middle, creating a triangle - feeling like a ping pong ball emotionally, not wanting to take anybody’s side, but wanting to be “supportive.” Or so I told myself, unaware of my own dysfunction! As Byron Katie has said in Loving What Is, I was getting into their business, focused on how they *should* be. Her book really addresses this issue although she doesn’t call it “co-dependencey.”
I have known, conceptually, for a long time that you cannot save someone from their life experience; you cannot change someone else’s behavior, minbd-set, or view of reality. And you can’t ever make the dysfunctional person/s happy. But neither should you have to walk on egg shells around that person, in fear of making them mad. Now I have to put this renewed awareness into practice and learn all over again to step back, to detach, to take myself out of the middle and let each one take responsibility for themselves and let them experience the impact of their own consequences; setting internal boundaries again, not allowing myself to get entangled in the family drama. I think this is why it bothered me when The Fence came down between our neighbor, as it symbolized that I was still attached to a sense of self that felt vulnerable, needing protection. It reflected an internal process that was being played out in my daily life. “The Universe” was giving me signals that it was time to awaken, to see what was happening… So I’ve been listening - trying to stay grounded in the Inner Being through meditation, continually coming back to what is truly Awake and Aware within me that could see beyond all this dysfunction, that was totally unaffected by all this, even as my ego-self suffered on the surface.
As has been said many times by many a “spiritual person/teacher” – there are no “spiritual by-passes.” One must look at themselves honestly, and do the emotional work they need to do to be free. The “spiritual path” seems to be a catalyst for raising these issues that need to be addressed so that we may be free from our psychological and emotional entanglements; free from our identification with the ego-self – the root issue. Actually I think that is ultimately what “enlightenment” is: Being free from the entanglements and identifications that keep us from being awake and seeing the Truth of who we really are underneath all the patterns and roles that keep us from living freely, from realizing our True Nature.
Stay tuned. I will be writing more on this journey of awakening and unfolding - the journey of opening the True Heart… It is time…
Photo: Reflected light on the TV screen