Co-dependency has been defined in many ways. At the most basic level, co-dependency is based on the false premise that it is our job to make other people happy and that if we do not, they will no longer love us. After our spiritual awakening and as we move toward self-actualization, we come to recognize the patterns of co-dependency that are prevalent in our lives and are invited to heal these patterns.
There are a wide range of behaviors that fit within the cycle of co-dependency and we are all affected in different ways proportionate to our conditioning. Below are a few examples of co-dependent behaviors and attitudes. Healing begins by identifying what of these behaviors are present within us:
• An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the happiness of others.
• Taking care of the needs of others before taking care of ourselves.
• A tendency to do more than our share, all of the time.
• A sense of guilt when asserting ourselves.
• Difficulty in setting boundaries.
• A disproportionate need for approval and recognition.
Recognizing the Causes of Co-Dependency
After identifying patterns of co-dependency, it is often helpful to understand what causes these behaviors. First and foremost is the understanding that co-dependency is learned. We are not born co-dependent, it is a pattern of behavior that is taught to us by our culture first, then our parents, teachers, ministers and peers. We are trained to be co-dependent by the societal expectations that it is our job to make other people happy, that somehow their unhappiness is our fault, and that another person’s needs are of more value than our own. From the perspective of spiritual healing, the root cause of co-dependency is the false believe that love exists outside of us and that we have to earn this love and that if we do not make others (mom, dad, God, our teachers, etc.) happy that they will withdraw their love from us.
Co-Dependency Takes Two
Co-dependency always happens between two (or more) people. There is the “triggerer” and the “triggered.” The triggerer acts in a way that tugs at another, prompting them to react to the other person’s actions. An example might be a partner who reacts in violent ways to not getting their way – perhaps a project they are working on isn’t going their way and they start screaming and yelling out of frustration. The triggered then reacts – running to the “rescue” of the triggerer, in attempt to “fix it” so their partner can be happy. Another example might be a peer who remarks negatively about the way you dress which prompts you to change your whole style in an attempt to gain that peer’s approval.
Acknowledge When We Are Triggered
The triggering that drives us toward co-dependent behaviors is subtle. In the early stages of healing from co-dependency, this triggering is often unrecognizable. We don’t see it because it is so familiar. The cycle of co-dependency has become a part of how we function. Healing co-dependency requires that we recognize when we are triggered to reach out to another in an effort to make them happy or to gain approval. For many, this “reaching out” is experienced in a very physical way, such as in a sensation in the center of one’s gut that feels like energy pulling at and away from them. Others might feel it as a constriction in the neck or shoulder muscles. The way the trigger is experienced is unique from individual to individual and the path to healing co-dependency begins by identifying how these sensations are felt in our own bodies and then acknowledging when these sensations are being triggered.
Standing in Your Own Power
When we feel the physical sensation of being triggered, the next step is to STOP that energy from leaving our body and pulling us toward the person we are tempted to “make happy.” This step is the sheer force of will that allows us to STAY PUT instead of running to another’s rescue or after another person’s approval. Standing in our own power also helps us to recognize that we are not the cause of another person’s unhappiness. One practice that has proven helpful is the mantra, “It’s their stuff, not mine.” When we feel triggered by another’s behavior, instead of following the thread of co-dependency, we stand still, holding our energy into ourselves while chanting this mantra. This helps us to put a halt to this pattern of co-dependency, leaving the other party responsible for their own happiness – where this responsibility lies in the first place.
Lather, Rinse, Repeat
The above are five steps toward healing co-dependency. To truly be free of this conditioned behavior, we have to follow the above steps over and over and over again. As in all things, practice makes perfect and the more we tend to our own journey of healing co-dependency, the more we are truly free of these debilitating practices.
For further support in healing from co-dependency, consider a private session with Lauri Ann Lumby. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your session. Also check out Lauri’s book Happily Ever After – The Transformational Journey from “you complete me” to Beloved Partnership. Available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.