Recovery from Codependency in Relationship (Path to Peace)

When we grow up in chaotic homes, it’s not uncommon to develop anxiety and insecurity that can lead to codependency in our relationships. Codependent relationships, where one person is doing all the work, can take a tremendous toll on our well being.

In this podcast, I talk about what codependency can look like, why it happens, and what we can do to break the cycle, heal and move forward in healthy and loving relationships.

***If you prefer reading to listening, here’s the transcript of this podcast***

Codependency occurs when we constantly sacrifice for a partner, family member, or even an entire family, giving excessively out of fear of rejection. It involves prioritizing others over ourselves, attempting to control situations, and avoiding conflict.

Now, we can see that codependency is a double-edged sword, as these individuals are often kind, loving, and selfless. Jesus could be considered largely codependent. He was extremely self-sacrificing, always prioritizing others at the expense of himself.

So, on one hand, we don’t want to be codependent. But on the other hand, we admire people who are, as it represents the highest ideal of selflessness. Although in our modern culture, we may be moving away from this ideal, deeming it as negative.

However, it’s important to note that selflessness itself is not bad; it’s the accompanying suffering. When we are truly selfless, there is no suffering, no negative feelings, no resentment, and no fear.

All of these feelings are ‘me’ feelings, self-focused emotions that arise from within ourselves as we hear our thoughts and experience our emotions. When we create this identity, this ego within us that constantly keeps score, tracking how much we’ve given, received, and how much others have given and received, there emerges an inherent competition – ‘me’ versus ‘them’.

In such a scenario, true selflessness becomes unattainable, and codependency only takes us halfway there. Externally, we strive towards the ideal of selflessness, embodying the loving, sacrificing, giving nature often associated with mothers (and hopefully fathers).

However, internally, we struggle. We may find ourselves screaming, raging, yearning to be cared for, even if only for a moment. It’s not wrong to desire this; we all deserve to receive as well as to give. Not everyone’s ideal life path involves being ‘nailed to the cross’. And that is okay.

We all need to find that balance; it’s what’s missing when codependency starts to bring suffering into our lives. In many societies around the world, and to some extent in most cultures, women, especially from a very early age, are trained to embody this selfless role model, always prioritizing the family and making sacrifices.

As I say this, you may hear that it’s a wonderful teaching, and it would be a shame if anyone were to take advantage of that beautiful culture and tradition of selfless love. It’s such a beautiful aspect of our world.

However, when there are individuals who exploit this, then we have the right to stand up for ourselves, to refresh, replenish our spirits, recharge, and restore our energy and strength. We all need this time. Even Jesus had to get away from everybody for 40 days to enter that state of deep peace and strength in order to give his life to his fellow humans and to stand up to the Roman army.

If we don’t have 40 days to get away from everything, we always have a little bit of time in the morning. In the evening, we know we can always go to bed 10 minutes earlier. So we can meditate; we can always set the alarm 10 minutes earlier so we can meditate in the morning.

We can fit more of this intentional me-time to get out of that “me” thinking and to remember who we are and what we are doing these acts of love for. If we are selfless, but in our mind, we’re keeping score, or if we do something for someone else but in our mind, we’re thinking they don’t do enough, or is anyone going to do this for me, or I’m going to do this so they do this, then we’re not doing a selfless act. We’re bargaining a transaction.

An act of selfless love should never come with conditions; it should be given freely, with no expectations. If we spend our whole lives doing things for other people, hoping that they will do something for us, we are living in a constant battle of manipulation and persuasion, instead of fostering more love, selflessness, and ultimately, more balance in our relationships.

What we truly desire in our relationships is genuine reciprocation, not manipulation through bribes or withholding. To achieve this, we must first be firm in our bodies, in ourselves. We must know and love ourselves, trusting that we are doing the right thing and understanding that everyone else is not our sole responsibility.

Taking time for ourselves to recharge is not only essential and necessary but also selfless. It is not selfish to take care of ourselves because, without self-care, our physical and mental health suffer, and we cannot sustain ourselves. We need to eat, drink, and maintain our mental health and inner peace.

This means spending some time closing our eyes and getting in touch with ourselves. Simply closing our eyes turns our attention inward towards ourselves. When we do this, we aim to come into contact with our fears that are holding us back – the fear of being rejected, unloved, and alone.

Recognizing that these fears stem from a place of insecurity, from feelings of not being good enough or deserving love unless we exhaust ourselves serving others, can be a crucial step. It’s important to realize that a loving relationship should not equate to being someone’s maid, nanny, or therapist.

When we prioritize taking care of others at the expense of ourselves and feel inner rage or fury, we’re not truly loving or helping them. We make it impossible for ourselves to communicate rationally and lovingly when someone may be hurting us. However, if we communicate our needs not being met in a loving way, we can avoid the angry conflict we fear. People are more likely to listen openly and honestly, and to examine their own behavior.

Only when we magnify something in our minds and blow it out of proportion does it escalate. For instance, we might become irate over something as seemingly trivial as someone not using a coaster, creating a mental narrative about how they deliberately infuriate us. Then it becomes nearly impossible to calmly explain to someone to use a coaster; instead, we might find ourselves tempted to throw the coaster at them in frustration.

Therefore, it’s crucial to maintain our inner peace, which is even more important than outer peace. Inner peace naturally leads to outer peace, whereas external peace can merely mask inner turmoil, turning us into pressure cookers ready to explode. It requires every ounce of effort to remain calm when we’re raging inside.

However, sustaining this effort is unsustainable, leading to eventual blow-ups. That’s why it’s essential to release steam continually, rather than letting it accumulate. To do this, we must address the underlying causes.

Beneath the fear of rejection lies insecurity, unworthiness, and a lack of confidence. Especially for codependent individuals, it’s important to remember that they are among the most giving, loving, kind, and wonderful people on the planet, always putting others first.

If you find yourself in this situation, you’re the last person who needs to harbor any insecurity, doubt, or worry about whether someone will love you or appreciate you for just being yourself. It’s highly likely that someone in your life was very cruel when everything wasn’t perfect, making you feel as though you had done something wrong and were responsible for their anger. This is a common experience among codependent individuals and one of the reasons they often feel like they’re walking on eggshells.

Being sensitive, kind, and loving souls, they struggle to handle verbal abuse as well as some other people might. Therefore, codependency becomes a coping mechanism for them. The best way to unlearn this codependency is through a combination of becoming a little more selfish and a little more selfless.

Let me explain what we aim to achieve: a healthy level of selfishness. By this, I don’t mean the kind that hurts others; rather, I mean the kind that helps ourselves. This involves carving out important “me time” where we can love ourselves by practicing yoga, indulging in our favorite book, or using meditation to examine our thoughts, noticing any anger and resentment that may be hindering our ability to communicate our needs lovingly or reevaluate our values and beliefs to recognize where our needs are not being met and communicate them effectively.

Our responsibility is to take care of ourselves and create a meaningful life. This entails listening to our intuition, instincts, and moral compass – our highest wisdom. It means understanding who we are and what we want out of life. If we communicate this to someone and they are not receptive, or they refuse to listen, or they disagree, that is their choice and their right in life as well.

Some relationships need to end while others can be fixed. As social creatures, relationships and people are messy, and we can only control ourselves and our own actions. The choices others make are their own. We may fear that if we don’t give them everything they need above our own needs, they will either accept us or leave us. Similarly, we can adopt the mindset that the other person can take us or leave us – that we are worthy of love, confidence, and security. We recognize our own worth and believe that we are great individuals who love others, and anyone would be fortunate to have us.

This mindset is crucial, especially for those struggling with codependency, who are on par with Jesus in their selflessness. It’s vital to cultivate this mindset internally.

The first part involves being a little selfish: engaging in activities like meditation, yoga, or enjoying a quiet moment with a book on a lazy Sunday by yourself. These activities not only benefit you but also make you a better person for everyone around you. In reality, this isn’t even selfishness; it’s self-care.

It’s essential to take some time to examine your life, delve into your mind, and determine what is intolerable. Consider what amount of time is acceptable for change to occur because, like ourselves, our family, friends, and romantic partners don’t change instantly; it can take time. We don’t want to sever ties with our loved ones too hastily, so it’s important to exercise patience, kindness, and generosity without sacrificing our own well-being.

If this means taking some distance as they grow, remember that we have countless options available to us. If we need to step back so that the other person can realize the value of our presence, then that’s what we must do. Every person has a different inner compass, and the only way to read that compass is by spending time alone, closing our eyes, turning inward, and getting to know ourselves better – understanding what’s going on inside. And this leads us back to selflessness.

Now, this isn’t the kind of selflessness that involves doing things for other people; this is an internal selflessness. It’s about expanding our awareness beyond ourselves so that our ego, that voice in our head, doesn’t consume our entire consciousness. Instead, we maintain presence in the here and now, dissolving into the present moment. This means being impervious to cruel words and the cruelty of others, refraining from attaching ourselves to people or situations, and resisting the urge to resist.

It’s about being in a flow state with the universe, where there is no separation. We are fully present, fully alert, and aware of our surroundings, transcending our thinking mind, our personal frame of mind, and our desires. This is a significant aspect of spirituality – to be free from desires doesn’t mean we stop working or striving; rather, it means we work towards things without being attached to the outcome. We take action towards what will bring about our highest good and the highest good of the universe.

This is how we become free from all suffering. Something I always try to remember throughout my life, and especially on this topic, is that when I interact with people, I don’t know what they are going through. I don’t know if they’ve lost a loved one, if they’re dealing with a serious illness, or if they’re experiencing inner turmoil that I can’t see.

Most people who don’t reciprocate our love are likely suffering themselves. Their minds may be in constant turmoil, and kindness can be a struggle for them. It’s easy for these individuals to become angry or lash out. So when interacting with people, I remind myself to consider what they might be going through internally. How would I want to be treated if I were in their shoes? How do I want to reflect on my actions later? Usually, this simply means being mindful, gentle, and kind.

I want to embody this mindset with all people at all times, and I believe many of us do as well. However, we often fail to make it a mantra or habit. By practicing to remember this mindset consistently, it becomes much easier to engage in difficult conversations with others because we are approaching them from a place of love.

Here’s a mantra that I personally love, and I hope you find it resonates with you too: “How can I show love and spread joy right now?” This doesn’t mean we should go out of our way to do something for someone who doesn’t appreciate it or reciprocate love. Instead, it helps us shift our focus away from negative thoughts, self-pity, and inner anger towards something positive.

For all of us, especially those struggling with codependency, it’s crucial to remember that showing love and spreading joy includes ourselves as well. We must treat ourselves as the most important person in our lives.

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