“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” -Rumi
When most people think of codependency, they think of the classic example of the drug addict, and the person who bends over backwards to enable the addict to maintain their addiction. Though the codependent behaviors I am speaking of in this section are much more subtle than this classic example, the phenomenon is the same. In reality, most everyone on the planet is dealing with the same fundamental addiction, and yet many people aren’t aware of it. Most everyone is addicted to looking outside of themselves for love. It is the addiction of seeking relief from the separation anxiety we feel from our own hearts; the anxiety of feeling cast out of Oneness, disconnected from our greater connection with the Universe, God, and unconditional love. And just like any addict, most everyone is searching for that feeling of connection once again.
Codependency, then, is a result of this underlying anxiety that most people are unconsciously motivated by. In order to relieve this anxiety it is common for people to either give their power away to others, try to control, change, or influence others, appease others, or attempt to gain the validation of others. Any attempt to get your needs met from others, without honestly and transparently communicating those needs, can be referred to as “codependency”—you are dependent on another person for your well-being, happiness, or sense of security in the world in an unclear way. While many people attend couple’s counseling to try and ameliorate these conflicts, the initial conflict is taking place within the individual, and is being projected outward through the relationship.
These patterns are usually so deeply ingrained, as well as normalized within our culture, that most people are not even aware that it is happening. It should also be noted that there is nothing inherently wrong with these types of behaviors or relationships. Codependent patterns only become a “problem” if a person begins to suffer because of it. Codependency can allow a person to derive a sense of identity, purpose, safety, and control in their lives, but always in relation to, and dependent upon, another person. The more self awareness one gains, however, the more these types of connections begin to feel shallow, limiting, and restrictive, rather than comforting.
Codependency takes the form of energetic “contracts” forming between two people, whereas the creative life energy of each individual is forfeited to the other, in the hopes of securing love and acceptance—even if it is only conditional love. “If you help me get my needs met, than I will do the same for you. I will put aside my needs and heart’s desires in order to stay close to you. I will be sure not to shine too bright, lest it make you uncomfortable. I will do whatever I can to alleviate the anxiety you feel in your life.” But always with the caveat that the other person do the same for you. You begin to lean on another in subtle ways, and allow others to lean on you. Though this may feel comforting initially, ultimately it does not allow for much growth or evolution in a relationship, nor individually. And at some point this restrictive dynamic will likely contribute to conflict down the road.
While the ego seeks this form of connection as a way of appeasing anxiety, the heart knows there is another way. Your heart knows there is nothing more empowering, more liberating, or more beautiful than standing on your own two feet, your roots planted firmly in the ground, and living your life with purpose, clarity, and focus. To know who you are in your essence, and to share your loving energy with others without needing anything in return, is one of the greatest gifts that you can offer yourself and the world. The nineteenth century poet and philosopher, Kahlil Gibran, expresses this sentiment most eloquently in his masterpiece, “The Prophet,” where he writes:
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous,
But let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone
Though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
To allow for such depths of love to flow in relationship is to honor the space between one another, to remain centered and focused on the purpose of your life, rather than becoming over-enmeshed in someone else’s life (what is commonly mistaken for intimacy). True intimacy, however, is born from deep energetic autonomy, knowing who you are, and how to tend to your own mental, emotional, and physical well-being. This creates a solid foundation of trust, whereas you are not seeking to take from another in any way, nor are you interested in receiving those “gifts” born of the insecurity from another. To move beyond codependency is to begin asking yourself some fundamental questions; “what is my purpose in life? What are my unique gifts to share with this world, and how can I truly honor my own needs more fully?”
This can be one of the most exhilarating, and simultaneously frightening questions to ask oneself. Many people have been suppressing their heart’s desires (as well as their day-to-day mental, emotional and even physical needs) for so long, that just opening up to the possibility of truly being free and happy may evoke sadness, pain, or fear. The thing that we each desire most—love, freedom, and purpose—is the very same thing that we are afraid of. But why would we be so afraid of love, afraid of our own creative power? The answer to this question resides in a lifetime of conditioning that has resulted in a profound misunderstanding regarding the very nature of love.
Mica offers holistic counseling to individuals and couples looking to heal.