Hello again Beautiful Friend!
Now let's dive into part two!
To Think We Can Be 100% Responsible For Ourselves Is Attractive For Many Reasons:
Having experienced so much pain in our past relationships, having felt like we didn’t have control and like we couldn’t make life better for ourselves when it was painful, feeling like making request or having needs got us rejected, abandoned, blamed shamed and otherwise feeling like we were going to be left alone forever, feeling like others had the power to make or break our happiness, feeling like we had to perform for others love or like we had to manipulate to get our needs met and feeling like if we weren’t understood or loved that we COULDN’T get our needs met - it’s no wonder many of us feel like having needs and desires in relationships is the ROOT of all suffering.
It’s no wonder that many of us feel really attracted to the idea that if we can fully own ourselves, fully take responsibility for ourselves, that if we can understand ourselves enough that we can get to a place where no one can ever hurt or let us down again.
It’s no wonder that many of us believe that the route to happiness is total independence.
It’s no wonder that many of us believe that if we become unconditionally loving enough, we will never be rejected, abandoned or hurt again.
On top of all of this, we weren’t taught nuance. We weren’t taught how to navigate complexity. We were trained to see things in black and white - and thus when we awaken to the fact that something isn’t working the way we wanted it to, we often have a knee jerk reaction towards feeling like the stark OPPOSITE must be true. That if what we have isn’t what we want, if what we have isn’t healthy or if what we have is painful, that we must go to the other extreme to find relief, happiness and truth. We live in a world of extremes that attempts to clear the confusion that comes with complexity - giving us a feeling of empowerment and helping us to avoid the confusion that comes with actually learning something new and evolving based on that new information.
Now before we move on remember - our nervous systems are also wired that connection = survival. That LOVE = provision and having what we need. Even though we may NOW be adults who can logically see that we can support ourselves, protect ourselves and provide for ourselves, deep down we FEEL like if we get abandoned by those around us, we’re going to suffer greatly.
Many of us consciously believe that if we were to be our true selves/not be codependent in relationships (manipulating or trying to have as few needs/wants as possible so we can be always pleasing/trying to make ourselves totally independent so as not to feel vulnerable) that we will be abandoned and this feels SCARIER and WORSE than the idea of suffering in the relationship.
This is because in our childhoods this WAS TRUE.
We were not safe on our own.
We could not meet our needs.
We needed our caregivers/those around us to understand and provide for us.
We learned in our early, formative years that to be rejected/abandoned/neglected/misunderstood was to suffer, and we had little to no power OVER this suffering aside from attempting to adjust our behavior to match what we thought was wanted by those around us. Fitting in and being loved WAS a matter of life and death. We weren't focused on learning about ourselves and becoming empowered because the task of fitting in was so all consuming that by the time we WERE old enough to start developing autonomy, we were already too deep into the patterns of provision = fitting in to be able to shift to the new reality.
Adult reality IS a totally different reality from childhood - but our nervous systems were programmed in childhood. THIS IS KEY TO REMEMBER. Our minds may understand that we are adults (and sometimes they really DON'T and we still very much SEE that we are dependent upon others to survive) but our bodies still think that we will be doomed to suffer or die if we aren't loved and understood by others. When we're hurt and let down, we don't ask ourselves what we wanted and needed and how we can get that need met in another way - we get mad at OURSELVES and try to 'fix' ourselves so that we will be liked or we project onto others that they let us down without truly understanding what we want or why we wanted it. THIS is the pattern of childhood we've brought forward. It's all about how we're being perceived and treated - not about self awareness and true functional need meeting.
**It's so important to keep remembering this as we work with our current relationship patterns.**
Even the act of trying to have no needs/trying to make it so that we’ve set a boundary that everyone around us is responsible for their own happiness and we can’t be blamed for anything anyone feels/is experiencing - can be coming from a codependent place of trying to create a relationship where rejection and abandonment isn’t possible.
It can be our way of saying ‘if I take total responsibility for my happiness and you take responsibility for yours, neither of us will ever have a reason to leave/I will feel like I have TOTAL power over my own happiness and that makes me feel like I will never be hurt again!’
We may feel SO afraid to let those around us down, deeply afraid to be ourselves and find that we get rejected or abandoned, so scared to ask for what we want and need because we are SURE this will lead to us being ALONE FOREVER.
To us, being alone = death.
We don’t really feel in our BODIES that if we are rejected we can figure things out for ourselves. We don’t really BELIEVE that we can be rejected and still be ok. We may consciously see how this is true - and some of us really DON’T see how this is true. Our pain and pleasure wires got crossed - learning that what got us acceptance = survival and what got us rejection = death meant that we ALL learned to sacrifice ourselves and go AGAINST what is actually healthy/important for us and to do things that actually contradict our needs in order to be LOVED. Being able to see that we are in a different situation now - that we are at once still dependent upon others in SOME ways to get our needs met, and also are more autonomous and can be safe/happy even when we’re rejected is HARD.
This Shift Is HARD - You're Not Doing It Wrong:
For most of us, dealing with our codependency is a process of navigating relationships from an adult perspective - and this is TOUGH to shift into. That’s why I said at the beginning of this article that I’m not going to attempt to give the ‘answer’ to codependency here. Learning to unlearn all the patterns of what we think we have to do/be to be loved and safe, learning to see where we CAN be rejected, where we CAN let go of relationships, where we CAN be ok even if others are upset with us, learning where we can meet our own needs, where we can provide for ourselves, where we can set boundaries and say no - all of this is a PROCESS. I will give some steps for starting this process below - but again remember it’s not something any of us simply ‘realize’ and then DO. It’s something we slowly bring awareness to, and make adjustments within over time. We will see bits and pieces of this path - never the whole thing. We will have little revelations that lead to small steps and new insights - an unfolding not a moment of transformation.
My intention is for this article to serve more as a little step in the awareness arena. I hope that in reading this you can start to witness some patterns that you may not have seen before, so you can start revealing to yourself your next steps on the growth path.
When we come to the self love path, it’s very common to HEAR that we are being told that when we are fully self loving, we won’t need things from others anymore.
We may come to this path SO exhausted by the amount of hoops we feel we’ve had to jump through in order to be loved, that when we hear that we can take responsibility for ourselves this may feel like the biggest breath of fresh air ever - now no one can blame us for their unhappiness the way we’ve been blamed our whole lives.
It can sound like what’s being said is that if we love ourselves enough we can’t ever be HURT or let down by another ever again - because if we just realize we are our source for EVERYTHING - we will never be truly VULNERABLE to anyone ever again.
It may feel like if we just love, validate and support ourselves enough, we will no longer feel the pain and fear of rejection.
There are some seeds of truth to this.
It's 100% TRUE that the more we can love and support ourselves from the inside out, the more steady we will FEEL in life in general. The more we become aware of our wants and needs, the more we are going to see that we DO have a lot more power to meet our own needs and provide for ourselves than we thought. We will start to witness how we DO have control over things we thought we didn’t. We will start to feel less dependent upon others seeing/knowing/approving of us because we will EXPERIENCE having a need, identifying it, meeting it and feeling better - we will actually SEE that we aren’t as dependent as we thought we were. WE are 100% going to learn that we are less responsible for others than we thought. We are going to learn that we can ASK for what we want and need instead of constantly feeling like we have to pretend we don’t want what we want/trying to manipulate situations in order to get what we want.
We are going to become more CONSCIOUS of ourselves in our codependent behavior and more AWARE of why we are doing what we are.
When we work with self love and see our codependency through the lens of compassion first, we will always find that there’s innocence behind all of our seemingly manipulative/unhealthy patterns. We're going to see that we feel scared inside, and that we don’t know any other way to make ourselves feel safe. We're going to come face to face with parts of ourselves that have wants and needs we didn’t even know we had/that we always believed were WRONG and that we had to get rid of. We’re going to see that all the places where we’ve TRIED to get rid of our wants and needs have turned into areas where we self sabotage or have developed coping mechanisms to get our needs met in ways that are less overt so as to avoid the pain of rejection that came with owning our needs outright. We're going to realize that WE are far more complex than just 'broken/fixed/good/bad' - that all of our unhealthy or painful ways of being are adaptations we're making to try to support ourselves in this world that isn't always set up to support us/is antagonistic towards us.
With this, we are going to come to see that it's not a matter of shutting ourselves off from having desires in relationships so that we can feel self contained and needless nor is it about exploding our needs and wants all over the place, expecting to be served.
Self love is going to open a whole can of worms that at first, makes relationships feel WAY more complicated.
We are going to go through a phase of looking for the simplicity that makes sense to our current paradigm. That’s why most of us are going to look at self love as some sort of catch all cure for relationship pain - if I love myself enough, I will be fully satisfied within myself and therefore won't have specific needs from anyone else (and therefore no one can hurt me). This is why some of us are going to read ‘I can meet my own needs’ as ‘I can become fully independent and therefore never need or want anything ever again because I love and can provide all things for myself.’
But this isn’t reality.
The reality is - so long as we’re alive, we’re going to have pain and existential dread. No matter how self-sufficient we become, or how much we are loved and supported by those around us - there’s no way to get rid of ALL pain, suffering, all unpredictability, all tragedy and the very fact that we will always be vulnerable so long as we’re alive. I feel on some level many of us are continually looking to perfect our self love path/relationships/bodies/jobs/living situations in an attempt to create a life where we are no longer vulnerable to pain and suffering.
The real reality is that we will always be vulnerable in relationship to one degree or another. There’s never going to come a time when we’re fully able to provide ALL things for ourselves, never needing anything from anyone else - because survival itself is incredibly complex - especially in our modern world. I don’t know anyone who grows all their own food, has independently created all the tools they needed to then build and maintain their own home, generates all their own power, collects all their own water - you get the picture here. For the same reason that we never have to fear ever being TRULY alone - because all of our societies are set up in a way that work WITH our collective need to work in community to survive (even if those systems ARE unfair and corrupted), we also have to realize we will never be fully independent, knowing everything, having access to all things required for survival from within - meaning we will always have *some* dependence on others. It's like believing that if we become healthy enough we will never need external nourishment again - like if we perfect our bodies to some level at some point we will stop needing food and water. This isn't possible. It's true that the healthier we become the less we depend upon external supports for survival (ie. the less we need medications, medicinal foods, support from others) but this doesn't mean that there isn't an END to how little we can consume while still getting our needs met. There is. Just as it is in relationships - we can get healthy and this will DECREASE how much we depend upon others, but it will never fully ERADICATE our need for others.
In real reality, we will always have emotional/connection based needs that we can’t always meet fully on our own. We will always crave being seen, understood, validated and supported by others. We will always crave simple connection, eye contact, hugs, a feeling of being ‘seen’ by others in the most simple of ways. We will always crave sharing our inner worlds with those we can trust. Again, we can develop the capacity to be there for and support ourselves to a LARGE degree. We can go a LONG way in learning to satisfy and validate ourselves. But there is always going to be a desire for connection and intimacy that is inherent in the human condition.
The reality is, we live in a society (because again, we function as individuals WITHIN a unit not as individuals outright) and that means that we don’t have independent control over our lives at all times. We are a collective working together, and sometimes this means that there are laws, customs, norms and regulations placed over our lives that are dictated by others that DON’T take our needs/wants/desires/health into account.
In real reality, others will ALWAYS have the capacity to hurt us. To let us down. To leave us in a state where we can’t get our needs met or can’t get our needs met in ways that are fully sufficient. We are always going to have emotional needs and wants, as well as needs and wants within relationships. We are always going to have preferences. There are going to be things that we need in relationships like deep physical connection, long conversations, intimate awareness of what the other person is thinking and feeling and so on, that our partners may not share or have the capacity to reciprocate. We are all going to have ways of being in this world that aren’t going to be compatible with how others like to live. Meaning - we can’t always just ‘be happy’ with anyone/anything at any time. We won’t always be able to feel fulfilled in ways we COULD be fulfilled in ALL relationships with anyone. Just like we have nutritional needs that can be met in a myriad of ways - but if we need vitamin C, there's no amount of vitamin D rich foods that will satisfy us. If we prefer bananas to strawberries, we can't convince ourselves to choose strawberries. If we need rest there's no amount of physical activity that's going to bring us health. We can't get rid of our physical needs nor can we shift our physical needs to suit any situation - and so it is with us in relationships. We can be very flexible, we can adapt and be ok with a LOT of things - but not everything. We are going to have specific needs that must be met in specific ways, and again that's something we work WITH through acknowledgement and taking responsibility for getting these needs met in healthy and consensual ways, instead of trying to deny in ourselves.
There’s a balance here. As always. In real reality there isn’t a black and white, all or nothing, always and never ‘solution’ to all relationship pain.
Sometimes our power lies in being able to identify and meet our own needs.
Sometimes our power lies in being able to identify our needs and ask for help.
Sometimes our power lies in drawing a boundary with someone and not taking responsibility for how they are feeling/their needs being met because what’s happening IS up to them.
Sometimes, we are having an effect on someone and it’s in everyone’s best interest that we shift our behavior.
Sometimes we are being harmed by someone in a way that trying to stay and tolerate is a recipe for self destruction.
Sometimes we have to be honest and realize that the relationship we’re in isn’t going to fulfill us in ways we could be fulfilled if we were with someone/others who had more similar values to our own.
The point being - our TRUE power is in realizing that no matter what’s happening we have a CHOICE in how we’re going to show up for ourselves and the others we are relating to. To say that our power is ALWAYS that we can just choose to be happy with/satisfied with anything is a lie. We are individuals with unique wants and needs that aren’t going to go away. While we can learn to make ourselves happy on MANY levels and to take responsibility for that which is TRULY ours to own - we can’t be expecting ourselves to be FULLY ok with anything at all times.
It’s ok to have needs and wants.
It’s ok to get needs and wants met by others through consent and awareness.
It’s ok to leave relationships that aren’t compatible.
It’s ok to leave situations that are abusive or harmful in some way.
It’s ok to admit that we can’t satisfy someone else.
It’s ok to adjust a relationship based on what is and isn’t working. To take a JOURNEY of adjustment without expecting perfection right off the bat.
It’s ok to set boundaries with where we are and aren’t willing to support others.
It’s ok to be honest with what we can and can’t see ourselves truly being happy with long term.
Relationships are complex and there are no hard and fast rules.
It’s all a discovery and and evolution.
Relationships will be shifting and taking different forms just as we will always be shifting and taking different forms.
Can you make room for the complexity?