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I want to preface this article by saying that codependency has been an important theme in my own healing path. I want to take the painful experiences I have overcome and use them as inspiration and hope for others who may be struggling with similar things.
One of the best ways to describe codependent relationships is by looking at a garden where different plants have been placed too close together. If we take unique plants that have their own needs and cram them into a small space, we can observe what starts to happen.
Everything gets tangled up together and the stronger plants begin to crowd out their neighbors. It is hard to even identify individual plants at some point, and even the roots become entangled, making it hard to transplant them in a new location.
Many family of origin dynamics can be likened to a crowded garden. If I am a unique individual being crowded out by the needs of my family, I will never reach my full potential and stand strong in myself.
Initially it can feel very safe and protective to live in this codependent way. We feel as though we matter to others and are an integral part of each others' lives. At a certain point in codependent relationships we become aware of how painful and stifling some of the dynamics can be and how our soul yearns for true freedom and independence from painful and habituated patterns.
I love the word 'interdependent' because it points to the reality that individuals can simultaneously be strong on their own terms while simultaneously forming a healthy and harmonious community where we rely on each other in mutually supportive ways rather than in addictive or compulsive ways.
In a healthy garden, many different plants can coexist in mutually beneficial ways. Rather than being entangled and crowding each other out, each plant is allowed its own space to grow and prosper.
At this time in humanity's development we are becoming increasingly aware of the need for our own space and the importance of caring for our own individual needs.
Setting boundaries with people with whom we have had codependent dynamics is far from easy. The first time I had the courage to say, "no" to my parents brought up more unprocessed guilt, shame, and feelings of unworthiness than I knew what to do with at the time.
It wasn't until I began engaging my spiritual path with real dedication that I began to heal these deeply imprinted codependent patterns. It was as though I was stuck in my five-year-old self every time my parents were around, until I realized the importance of truly being free.
The trickiest part of this process for me was realizing that I didn't have to stop loving anyone in order to heal myself. The lie of codependency suggests that asserting our own needs is less important than maintaining the "harmony" of the old patterns. Ironically, there will actually be more love in every relationship if we are willing to "take care of number 1" and love ourselves first and foremost.
My family has been very inconvenienced and uncomfortable with my decision to assert personal boundaries and care for myself. Many of their plans for me have been kindly but firmly declined in favor of taking time and space to do my own thing.
When one person begins breaking away from the entanglement, others can begin to lash out and protest, doing all they can to try to bring the freedom-loving individual back into the web of codependency. This is when our inner strength is truly tested. Can we say no to the things that don't resonate with us, and maintain our position no matter how others react?
I have been working on issues of codependency in my own life and with my clients for many years now. If you are looking for any help in healing codependency or anything else in your life, please feel free to contact me.