“And I would do anything for love, and I will be there til’ the final act.” — Meatloaf
The reality is no one is ever coming to save us. Not drugs, sex, relationships, and arguably not Jesus. We have convinced ourselves that the answer to our suffering lies somewhere other than our own hearts and divine abilities. We are unsure of our own power and strength, so we succumb to the idea of helplessness. Deep down there is an inkling we possess seeds and tools that if cultivated would blossom into the most beautiful crop, but we go door-to-door begging for work tilling others soil because we are afraid. Once we are hired, we are happy, validated somehow that we are not wasting our talents. We are curious to do well and ask questions when things don’t make sense. We are given truthful and sometimes harsh answers every day to the questions we ask through other’s behaviors, actions, and decisions. Yet, we continue asking as if no one told us, moving forward thinking that maybe if we try a little harder, do a little more, or if someone or something changes, we will receive the answer. We look to others to define our worthiness of love, our value, justify our existence, our paths forward. We put dreams on hold, our health and needs on the back burner, and our hearts in jeopardy.
Somewhere along the way we learned that what we may have been denied growing up is now our greatest deficit. So today we approach others as if to barter our deprivation for shallow words and diluted connection. Sure, some of it can feel real, because the shared pain and trauma are real. There is a certain resonance to pain frequency. We put off signals for those that are tuned in to the station of shared void. We all broadcast emptiness differently — masking pain with validation and acknowledgement through self-sacrifice, trying to escape it through self-destruction, or inflicting it on others through complete self-abandon. If we remain unconscious, we may continue to remain loyal listeners to this talk when all our souls want are the music.
We may have come from painful beginnings or created them along the way, so we focus on a proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel.” When we read about connection and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we feel comforted that our endless search for connection is warranted and anyone that doesn’t grant us this in the way we desire has many lessons to learn. But maybe we are the ones that need to learn the lesson. The relationships we seek or establish are going to be based on one of two things: commonalities or scarcity. For many of us scarcity is the commonality. When we are running on empty and looking to fill our tank with the fuel of another, we may not stop to check if it is poison. It may start our ignition for a moment until we move down the road a bit further and realize our tank is still empty but now our engine is damaged.
There are many labels put on dysfunction, disharmony, and disillusionment. One can spend their entire life trying to unlock the secret to an endless list of psychological afflictions. Simply stated, when we find ourselves excessively reliant on a partner, either emotionally or psychologically, this is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as codependency.
Codependency is a behavior that typically requires symbiosis in some form, most often enabling addiction, poor choices and thought processes, stunted maturity, recklessness, or lack of life goals in the other. When in a codependent relationship, it is easy to find ourselves in a “rescuing” position. We would be better served acknowledging how we are not only enabling the behavior in the other but prolonging our own dysfunctional beliefs that are blocking us from the life we truly want. What does a codependent relationship look like? We are more likely to end up in one if we have not addressed our unresolved pains and traumas. I have learned some hard lessons that have taught me that establishing self-love is the only way out of a life of codependency.
Codependent Relationship Signs:
#1. You are often stepping in to resolve an issue for the other. This could be because it makes you feel needed, you may think this is what loyalty and true love means, or you do not want to see the other person hurting. The truth is that by constantly stepping in, you are communicating to the other and yourself that they do not need to do their own inner work, or they are incapable of being an adult just like you! There are different types of symbiotic relationships, one being mutualistic. This means each person benefits from the interaction. Ask yourself how you are benefiting from attempting to take the burden of other’s inner conflict upon yourself. Confucius says, “Dusty old paradigm.” Loving someone’s potential is equivalent to enjoying a vacation you never take.
#2. You are willing to sacrifice it all. Another type of symbiotic relationship is parasitic. According to Wikipedia, a parasitic relationship is where one organism, the parasite, lives on or in another organism, the host, causing it some harm, and is adapted structurally to this way of life. When we are in an unequal partnership with another but feel as though this is the only love that we are ever going to find, we will do inexplicable things to keep it. Whether this means losing our savings, our friends, family or our careers. It could also present itself in forsaken goals and dreams. In examining closer, we may find that the love we believe we have or are receiving is not love at all, but rather a lack of love for ourselves that we are finding either in another person’s companionship, empty words, or false promises. If we take a step back, we may see that our appetite for destruction was being satiated by nothing more than a parasite. True health and nourishment leave no room for dis-ease.
#3. You no longer know who you are. You may have gone a long time trying to establish an identity, self-worth, or self-esteem. Maybe you found that it felt incomplete without love. Or maybe you never searched for those things at all because love was the only thing you ever wanted. Either way, once you thought you found it, it made you feel complete somehow, not actually, just the mere notion or the appearance of it. Inside, something feels off, as if you don’t know who you are without this “love” that you have found. Your partners thoughts, ideas, and values maybe even work ethic or lack thereof seem to now be yours. All you can think about is your partner, whether positive or negative. As Wendy Kaminer noted in her book, “I’m dysfunctional. You’re dysfunctional,” 96% of all Americans suffer from codependency, which is partly because every form of arguably compulsive behavior is classified as an addiction. It is easy to lose sight of who you are when you are addicted to anything, love is not exempt. Especially love.
Sometimes in life we find ourselves in situations that feel like they have a hold on us. We want to break free but don’t know how, or we question our ability to carry on and make the life we dream. We may feel all alone and our minds become our greatest enemy. As Edgar Allan Poe so eloquently stated, “It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.”
The truth of the matter is love never has to be found. It is not a scarce resource that only lucky citizens that had a lead in the mining boom monopolize, it is something within each one of us that we can produce every day. The only investment is spending the time and dedicating enough interest to foster its growth within, which in turn gradually eradicates our pain and loneliness. If we make this commitment to ourselves we never have to go searching for something that no one on earth will know how to do better than us.