It’s really strange the journey from the darkness to the light. It isn’t as though you simply wake up one morning to the sun shining on all the areas of your life and you feel happy and integrated and completely joyful. At least I haven’t. But there is this gradual steady move from darkness into the light. Along the way I have met the most interesting cast of characters from so many different aspects of my life. Some healthy, some invariably much less so. Some have stayed, some have gone, some are still in some nebulous middle ground. But in all of these interactions there have been and continue to be lessons. Profound ones when I take the time to reflect. One characteristic of people that comes up for me time and time again is codependence. UGH I’m already rolling my eyes at the word. It is oversaturated in our lives already, but it is sadly all too real. So until there is a more accurate term, codependence it shall be.
I certainly bring a healthy dose of this to the table myself. Dominant in type 3 I am HYPER aware of how I show up to people and have a seemingly insatiable need to look good to everyone around me. LITERALLY everyone. It’s a frustrating trait at best. At worst it turns me into a shape shifting, mask wearing, deceitful douche nozzle bearing more resemblance to a narcissistic asshat than a reasonably healthy, somewhat self aware adult, capable of maintaining actual authentic relationships. My journey has certainly seen me in both of those roles. And while I often still have that nagging voice in the back of my head shaming me into stretching truths to appear better than I am, candidly, I can see very much the dynamic shifting of my internal AND external relationships. Naturally this is not an overnight change. My therapist talks often of first order change and how important that stage is. If one stopped there however it feels like such a waste. The first real step in this process for me was to become more curious. Inquisitive. And to BE that from a place that was not codependent, but true. Curiosity about another human not merely for my own benefit, but for the benefit of connecting with another human. Afterall our lives are defined by our relationships with others. At least that is how it is for me.
My own codependence would show up any time there was criticism, or the slightest hint of negative energy in my direction and it would trigger a virtual waterfall of self talk trying to understand what the negative energy was, where it came from, what triggered it, and most importantly, HOW DO I FIX IT?!?!?!?! We aren’t talking a cute little waterfall on your saturday afternoon hike, we are at Niagara proportions here. The amount of brain power and emotional / intellectual energy spent trying to sort out how to shift this ONE particular persons narrative of who I am is staggering. As I look back, I simply shake my head at myself. What a knucklehead. If I had spent that energy simply reflecting on the truth and honesty that I was witnessing, perhaps life would have been very different. Alas, that is not my journey, and so I continue on, shedding my need to be perceived a certain way, releasing that dependence on someone else to validate my reality, and allowing MYSELF to BE, then letting the perceptions take care of themselves.
So back to the title of this. Recognizing my own levels of codependence, refining that skill and being able to see it in others, confronting it rigorously, searching for the motivation through the wisdom of the enneagram, and bombarding it with the truth have all led to a innate curiosity that simply feels healthier. I no longer spiral with bouts of concern over what you may think of me. I can acknowledge my own failures and approach myself and others with curiosity. A simple desire to understand rather than a driving need to have you there. Another big step has been the formation of actual well reasoned and kindly enforced boundaries. I recognize my own savior complex and my propensity to want to dive in and be the sole rescuer when someone is hurting. I can also reject that, live within my own abilities and simply say no, allowing others to step in and assist where needed, or better yet simply remove myself from being a helper where there is no help desired. It has not been an easy road, and I anticipate there will be many more stumbles along the path, but today I can move forward with kindness and curiosity rather than codependence and cockiness. My charge to you is to do the same. Find the desire to KNOW yourself better. To ask yourself the hard questions. Be curious about your dark side, the hidden side, the side that is abusive to yourself and others, the side that brings you shame and makes you want to hide. Talk to it, nurture it, show it that it is really just another part of you, a part that was wounded and learned to protect itself in unhealthy ways. Accept it, because it, is you, and show that darkness there is a healthier way to live. Then share that darkness with others. Watch the acceptance of old patterns as you forge new ones. Give yourself the gift of new ways of thinking and being. Let go of the dependence on neglect and abuse and trauma to feel noticed and seen and heard. Establish boundaries. Stay within your ability, live within your values, and above all, be curious.