The Roots of Codependency
We all come into this world emanating unconditional love, joy, and peace. You can feel this in the energy of children, who express a natural vibrancy and joy just for the sheer experience of being alive. In the early stages of childhood, children give their love unconditionally, remaining open and in a state of innocence and presence. As a child grows, however, he or she begins to have the experience of feeling abandoned by their parents, of rejection from family and friends, and a belief begins to form in the young psyche that feeling unconditional love is neither acceptable nor safe. We form the belief that who we are in our essence is not okay. The implications of this are profound. We actually begin associating the idea of unconditional love and freedom with feelings of hurt, vulnerability, and even fear. In this way we learn to fear love, we learn to fear the very essence of who we are.
In order to protect ourselves from this pain, the ego begins to firmly take root in the developing psyche during childhood. We begin putting up defenses, guarding against others, and in the process, we begin expressing love conditionally. We learn to only give when we will get something in return. We begin limiting how much love we express, and in doing so, limit how much love we feel in our own lives.
In this deficit of love we begin to become self-centered, seeking to get our own needs met from others. And in times when we are unable to get our needs met from others, we often shut down, becoming angry, bitter, or frustrated. This creates conflict with the people in our lives, with blame often resulting; “if only you were behaving differently in some way, then I wouldn’t have to be upset right now…I need you to change in some way so that I can be happy.” In the moment, closing down serves as a form of self preservation. Though this defense mechanism allows one to survive, every time the decision is made to shut down, it enshrouds the heart in one more layer of forgetfulness—forgetfulness of the truth of who we are as loving beings. And there is no suffering greater than denying ourselves and others the love which is our natural expression.
The Cords of Codependency
An example of a common cord of codependency is the process of being supportive for friends. When a friend comes to you feeling upset, anxious, or depressed, the common reaction is to take care of your friend. But what does it mean to “take care” of your friend? Often times it means listening to them talk about what is wrong in their life that is causing them to feel bad. And yet because most people do not actually know how to tend to their own emotional needs, this commonly results in a person simply venting. The person talks about how someone else is the cause of their problem, how upset they are, or how hard and overwhelming life is. More times than not, when a person comes looking for support, they are looking to release the negative energy they feel within themselves as a form of anxiety relief.
You may also sense that your friend is subtly looking for your sympathy, or some form of acknowledgment of their hardships. Notice, then, how you begin to feel within as your friend vents their negative or anxious energy, seeking your support in some way. You may find yourself feeling obligated to offer a supportive comment; “oh, that’s not fair, that sounds rough.” But what you may also notice is that as you extend your energy in this way, you begin to feel drained, uneasy, or not fully honored through the interaction.
Ultimately, this exchange neither nourished you, nor truly brought about healing for the other person. Yes, it allowed your friend to feel some relief from their negativity, but no real growth or change occurred. After the exchange you may find yourself feeling slightly used, less than optimistic about life, or even mildly anxious. Most people accommodate this occurrence with their friends because, “that is what a good friend does.” Over time, however, this type of dynamic will likely cause resentment, frustration, or anger to build.
This is codependency in action. You compromised your own emotional state for another. Did it actually feel good to receive the negative energy from your friend? Not likely, and yet you put up with it because that is the social norm, and what is expected of a “good friend.” This is the same phenomenon that occurs between an addict and an enabler. You enabled your friend to continue creating a negative experience for themselves by engaging in this type of codependent behavior. This does not truly empower your friend to make positive changes in their life, nor does it empower you in any way.
So why did you compromise your energetic state, giving your power away in this interaction? Likely it is because you wanted something from the other person; you wanted to ensure that this person would stay in your life. At the heart of codependent behavior is that fundamental belief that you are not deserving of love, and that if you were to truly embody your power, honoring your feelings and needs, then the people in your life would leave you. It is the belief that who you are in your essence is unacceptable. It is an irrational fear, but a powerful one nonetheless.
From this deep seated fear we learn to compromise our own needs in place of meeting the needs of others. We mute the voice of our own heart, our passion, and joyful inspiration, lest it jeopardize the homeostasis of our relationships. We don’t want to make others uncomfortable, appear rude or selfish, and actually find ourselves alone out in the world. But ultimately, this form of connection creates very little room to expand, and at some point the relationship must either be dissolved or transformed if both people are to continue growing.
A cord of codependency will generally feel like a drain on your energy, and usually take the form of negativity such as complaining, trying to exert control over others, or expressing thoughts of doubt, worry, or frustration. Conversely, you may also notice another person going out of their way to try and please you, or to give their energy to you in some way. Likely you will feel a neediness arising either in yourself or another person, which is in response to feeling helpless about the situation. From this place of anxiety, the ego mind looks to the external world for relief. It is in these moments that you must remain very alert in order to connect to the Source of your own love from within. Up Next: Finding the Love Within