Have you ever heard of the book “Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself”? I think anyone who has grown up around addiction (overdrinking, overeating, any compulsive disorder), anyone who is an empath or highly sensitive person, or anyone who grew up within an oppressive religion would find this book fascinating. I’m only about ½ the way through, and it’s already brought so much light to many of my unconscious behaviors.
What is codependency? Essentially, to quote the book, it’s “losing oneself in the name of helping another.” Does that sound familiar? For all my “healer” friends out there – what do you make of that??
Here are a few of the quotes that had me (a woman who has done a LOT of self-examination, therapy, shadow work, and coaching) squirming:
- Note: In these quotes, the author, Melody Beattie, is describing the people she worked with in a support group for wives of addicts (interestingly, Ms. Beattie recognized many of these behaviors in herself too, and all of this was written without judgement):
- “In my group, I saw people who felt responsible for the entire world, but they refused to take responsibility for leading and living their own lives.”
- “I saw people who constantly gave to others but didn’t know how to receive.”
- “Yet these codependents who had such great insight into others couldn’t see themselves. They didn’t know what they were feeling. They weren’t sure what they thought.”
- “I saw people who manipulated because manipulation appeared to be the only way to get anything done. I worked with people who were indirect because the systems they lived in seemed incapable of tolerating honesty.”
- “The codependents felt responsible for so much because the people around them felt responsible for so little; they were just taking up the slack.”
- And here’s a quote that might strike home to fellow empaths or highly sensitive persons, “If my husband is happy, and I feel responsible for that, then I’m happy. If he’s upset, I feel responsible for that too. I’m anxious, uncomfortable, and upset until he feels better. I try to MAKE him feel better.”
- “This book is about your most important and probably most neglected responsibility; taking care of yourself. It’s about what you can do to start feeling better.”
And it’s that last sentence that holds so much promise – even people who have lost themselves in taking care of others can feel joy and pleasure, they can find meaning and purpose, and they can reconnect with Self again. We need to start taking care of ourselves to find ourselves again. And how do we do that?
Here are a few concepts that struck me:
- Let others to BE WHO THEY ARE (stop trying to control others – even if it’s with people-pleasing and niceness).
- Let yourself be who YOU are.
- I am responsible for myself.
- I am responsible for identifying and meeting my needs.
- Don’t say Yes when you mean No.
- Trust your feelings.
- Build awareness around codependent behaviors, accept them without judgement (they helped you survive!), then you can work on letting go of the ones that aren’t in your best interests anymore.
- Have gratitude for that which is good.
I’m a massage therapist. So why I am writing about codependency? Because of this:
“We may have started reacting and responding urgently and compulsively in patterns that hurt us. Just feeling urgent and compulsive is enough to hurt us. We keep ourselves in a crisis state – adrenaline flowing and muscles tensed, ready to react to emergencies that usually aren’t emergencies.”
TENSION IN THE MUSCLES CAN BE A DIRECT RESULT OF HABITUAL PATTERNS OF THINKING, REACTING, BEHAVING.
Since, as a codependent-in-recovery, I found this info so helpful, I wanted to share it with others. There IS hope for us! We can give ourselves more space and grace and in the process start to enjoy life again! We can start to disentangle ourselves and let others be who they are, and LET OURSELVES BE WHO WE ARE. That latter concept is what really grabs my attention. This is what so many of the wisdom traditions teach – the secret to a well-lived life is authenticity – saying what we mean, meaning what we say, doing what lights us up instead of what we think we “should” do.
Learning to get to know ourselves – our true Self – is one of the foundational goals of Somatic Experiencing. To help myself practice what I preach, I recently started working with Ariel Kiley, who is a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner. Embodying this work is SO different than intellectualizing it. I’ve read so many books and listened to so many experts on trauma, but in two sessions with Ariel, I can FEEL what the books were trying SAY.
Last week we did a boundary exercise where Ariel had me tell her how close or how far away to get from the camera. I assumed I would like her to be closer to me, so I had her walk towards the camera. Then, just to experiment, I had her walk to one side, back to center, and then backwards. As she backed away, I noticed a palpable shift. I felt more calm, more at ease when she was a bit further away from the camera. It surprised the hell out of me – 1) That I actually FELT a somatic response to her distance in my body and 2) That my body had a different story to tell than my mind. She guided me to explore the sensations I was feeling – how did I KNOW that I was more comfortable with her at that distance? As I slowed down and let myself settle into my somatic experience, I noted a subtle pulsing around my solar plexus – the seat of power in the body.
Whoa. I’ve never felt that before. I felt power WITHIN MYSELF. Instead of searching outward to see what the situation or the other person needs from me, I was able to settle in myself and see what I need.
It blew me away that such a simple exercise could be so powerful.
This story is just to show you that you CAN discover yourself. It takes work. It’s uncomfortable. You won’t be good at it to start. But it’s worth it!
And every time you get bodywork, or you meditate, or you stay with a feeling or a sensation and don’t numb it, you are doing that hard work. You are embarking on the journey of rediscovering who you are, what you feel, what you think, what you desire, and what you need. And when you get those little pings – “Hmm, I feel like I need to take a break and put my feet in the grass for 2 minutes,” honor that ping and see what happens. When you feel yourself reaching for some distraction, ask yourself, “What do I really need right now?” And just see what comes up, if anything.
I hope you have STUPENDOUS SUNDAY! We have visitors next week, so I won’t be sending a newsletter. If you miss me terribly though, you can always find messages from me here. 😛
Space to be Human Lab
- I’ve updated the description of my services on my booking site. What used to be called “Massage Therapy/NST” is now called “Bodywork Session.” A bodywork session can include massage therapy/NST, but it can also include yoga, mindful movement, self-massage, breath work, meditation. All of these tools can help reduce pain and tension. If any of these tools strikes your fancy, let me know, and during your next session, we can explore them.
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