There are some myths about co-dependency, the word itself gives off the wrong idea. The dependency part is driven by unconscious motivations, conditioned into us by controlling people (abusive or unhealthy) or socially conditioned by a broken system that wants to keep the oppressed oppressed so the power hierarchy is kept to status quo in the patriarchy. Co-dependency is the norm, the default, most people have some form of it, it's that when it doesn't escalate to dangerous levels like drug addiction or alcoholism, it often goes undetected. Leaving people feeling fundamentally flawed, out of place or just knowing they are somehow different, in a guilty as charge shameful way, a deep dark secret of difference yet no clue different in what way.
I was led by my spirit to heal most of it, I didn't even know it was co-dependency until the tail end of my healing. When I realised it was so, I was surprised, initially aggravated then relieved as time went by, I finally had a name for it.
Co-dependency is a web of self-denial or lies told to us, the wounds we have repressed, avoided and tried to pretend it wasn't real. The people who didn't think we were good enough, the people who devalued, scapegoated us for all they don't want to deal with, or the lack of consideration for environment factors out of our control. The lies our inner critics told us, that we're unlovable, we are less than others and we will never recover or be OK.
Deep within a co-dependent's heart is a sense of worthlessness, helplessness and powerlessness, feeling like a fraud if you're successful, that you didn't deserve it, you just got lucky or you're privileged and got a leg up. Even if you worked your ass off and nothing came easy, even if you cognitively know your privileges only went that far, much of it was well-deserved, you still feel lousy.
There will be some areas of your life that you enmesh with and some that have engulfed you. Usually the engulfment is in one specific area. For example, work, romantic relationships, food, exercise, family dynamics. Or it could be a general enmeshment with high stress periods of engulfment, then back to enmeshment. You feel your life is a roller coaster, you want to get off but you can't get off. There isn't much peace nor is there much joy, happiness slips through your fingers like the wind. You ponder how other people can be happy, you wonder why you aren't, you should be yet you aren't.
Quiting enmeshment is like holding onto a slippery bar of soap, you try one hand, it slips out like a push pop, you swop hands, it slips out again. All you want is to bath in serene waters, it's a rabid charge down a waterfall instead. It's stressful and aggravating, you feel your efforts result in no progress. Even if there's progress, it's hard won with silent resentment, an underlying bitterness, how hard you have to fight for the things others seem to easily obtain effortlessly. You judge how they squander it carelessly like bird seeds, ignored by satisfied Pigeons, free to roost on statues, every day is a lazy one.
You feel you're winning and losing at the same time, it's fear driven and fear increases the stress levels of all we do, whatever we pay attention to, be it unconsciously in the background of our minds, it feeds it.
The enmeshment moves around into different areas as your life unfolds. For example, you are engulfed by work, you notice this and decide to quit, now you start enmeshing in romantic relationship, you decide to quit that and then you start enmeshing with food. You can also enmesh with the healing progress itself, I noticed I did that along the way, pressuring myself how I wasn't healing fast enough (the perfectionist part of co-dependency) and then feeling the guilt and shame part of it after.
I was already healing at an astonishing fast rate, I didn't feel it was good enough, or more clearly, I wasn't good enough. I forgot to enjoy my life in the now, I kept punishing and pushing, getting lost in the busyness, losing my joy and peace at certain times. As I kept practising being, encouraging myself in a gentle self-loving way, I was able to pull back to center and then enter into a place of healing when I'm called by my spirit again, when I'm ready.
Instead of wasting time, I saved time, I enjoyed my life more and since joy helps build resilience, I was also helping myself in that way as well. I also managed to inspire more people along the way, not in a stressful fear driven way, but a comfortable love-driven way, people naturally took notice.
Instead of trying to do ten things at once like a headless chicken, focus on one thing instead. OK let's say work, you quit overworking, now you have more time to put into other areas, let's say romance, do a suitable amount of dating, have some fun while at it. When it becomes an obsession, you feel clingy, like you cannot stop, if you stop it will be a catastrophe, your entire life will fall apart.
Ask yourself clearly, "what's the worst thing that can happen?"
If you find the answers overwhelming, a flood of negativity coming at you, time to pull back.
Anxious, insecure, depressed and stressed out, aarrrgggghhhh you're falling into the abyss again.
It is time to self-care.
If you're a co-dependent giver like I was, you will be drawn to the opposite, co-dependent takers, the toxic people, the abusers, the narcissists. That's not to say there aren't good people around, it's that you skip those who have no desire to enmesh with you and choose the familiarity of enmeshment instead. It has become a life-long habit and as habits goes, it takes time to quit.
This conditions you even further to be even more co-dependent, you feel more insecure each time you're ignored, dismissed or invalidated, it's a vicious cycle of a wounded inner child, yearning to be playful, young and curious again.
Give yourself that time. How many years have you done this? Give yourself some time to recover from it.
Sitting on the other side of the fence now, with a strong sense of self, boundaries and equipped with the knowledge of when enmeshment occurs, I no longer accept any form of enmeshment, whether it's self-sabotage or pressure by external forces to engage in a way that doesn't serve me. So I know that it doesn't occur as long as I stand strong and hold onto myself with self-honour, even if it was tough at times, it was always worth it when I stood my ground. My loses never could undermine my wins, whether by quantity or quality.
Give yourself some leeway, you do not have to be perfect, no one is, we all can love and enjoy our perfectly imperfect selves just fine.
You are worthy, you matter.
Love Light & Peace
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Image from Richard Mia