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sometimes inspiring, sometimes personal meanderings of the Heart's opening in the every-day-ness of life...

Sunday, June 9, 2013

"Co-Dependency" Revisited...

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


  1. I'm hearing you, I think we have/are walking the same path, it takes some unraveling doesn't it?

    1. Thank you Sue... Yes, I think we are too :) Unraveling is a good word... It's going to take some time as it's been this way for so long. But am glad I have gotten to the point where I don't want to keep walking this road anymore...

  2. what an amazing post, Mystic. you have an eloquent way of touching on difficult and complex topics. Well, maybe you fell back into co-dependant behavior because you are human and vulnerable and affected by the behavior of loved ones around you. We can all get pulled into rescue mode at times and sometimes I think it takes a LOT of strength to let go and let god. I guess that's why they have groups for co-dependant enablers. To help support each other through times when we feel that strong urge to save and rescue and do something.

    of course what you say is true. the other doesnt need or even hear our advice and generally resents our interference in their lives.

    an excellent post which i would like to share with a friend of mine, guess i can just send her the link to your blog.

    blessings, suki

    1. Thanks Suki,,, Yes, everything you say is so true: human, vulnerable, affected by the behavior of the people around me. And a little bit in denial too :) unaware that all this unconscious stuff was still there. But it is good that it is being brought to the surface! Thanks for sharing the post with your friend...

  3. Dear Christine...
    Having lived this most of my life I so understand what you are experiencing. I love Melody's book and like yours mine is highlighted, bookmarked, and pretty much a bible...which brings me around to the One Day At a Time Al-Anon book I love to read which is another Co-Dependency font of knowledge.
    One thing I know for sure...it is a constant walk in staying aware and awake enough so that we 'see' what we are doing. Every once in a while I 'see' that I have fallen back into that mode of having to fix some person or situation, and it is really good at those times to have a support person who can listen and remind you the road you are traveling on is not the one you want to be on, lol.
    Today's Reminder is..."If you are pained by any external thing, look to yourself for relief from it. When circumstances cause you to be disturbed, return to yourself quickly; do not remain out of tune with the Universal Good."
    Being that I don't believe in coincedences, I must say Thank You for sharing your 'awareness feelings' with us...I obviously needed to read this today. :)
    Blessings on your journey Dear One!

    1. Thank you Akasa! Yes, it seems timely doesn't it... for many reasons... So true that it is about constantly staying awake and aware. And yes, not looking to externals, but to the Self (True Self, Inner Being, Higher Nature, etc.) I also have Melody Beattie's daily meditations book called: The Language of Letting Go, which is good for daily reminders. And, interestingly there has been this other book sitting in the basement for *years* that I never read, called: Awakening In Time, by Jacquelyn Small, another pioneer in the field. Maybe you have heard of her. The first line in the Introduction is "Codependence is a crisis of the spirit.....not a disease." LOVE that! :) She says - "It is a facet of the human condition; a process that we go through as we learn to love." Yes! My kind of book! She addresses it from a "spiritual" context as "an awakening to our innate spiritual nature..." I like this approach. :) as you may have guessed. lol Thanks for you comment and your support! It is appreciated... Blessings to you as well...


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