It’s been a testing time lately and we have had to deal with some major issues that could have tested our relationship (and might have done a few years back). A medical issue for me that drained my energy (to the point that the diagnosing doctor wondered how I had carried on with my workload), a longstanding issue for my wife that meant an operation, Covid for both of us and on top of that, a planned move to set down roots again in the UK after thirty years of travel. (I have always used the UK as a base). All of these things have been solved and me personally, I am seeing the benefits of the increase in energy. Just what I need at 61, with so much going on!
Having said that, I am possibly the happiest and fittest I have been for many years. I certainly feel contented to the point that I am truly focussed on what is coming up. As I said in a recent post, The Path to Freedom was tested during this period.
For those of you who are not familiar with the term, The Path to Freedom, it is a moniker I applied to my work to free myself of codependent issues around my wife, to stop trying to fix an enable, seeing her as a victim and more importantly, see myself as an individual with needs of my own that I can meet. It is essentially my road out of the codependent mentality I have had my whole life. I really see this process as this: “Embrace Your Individuality, Rewrite Your Story: Charting a Path Beyond Codependency” and this is truly what it is. During this testing period, I am especially pleased that I have stuck to the main pillars of this process. This is something I promised my wife (and myself) from the get go. That is to take care of myself and only help her when she asks me or I ask beforehand.
So what else have been doing on this journey? Working on reactions in the present when it comes to shutting down, conflict management, victimhood are a way forward and help with the enmeshment part of codependency but I have needed to know where thios came from and why. Below is a short summary of what I have worked on and continue to work on.
I started with rediscovering my new inner child. In previous work, I have always centered on a 13 year old version of myself. This was the one that resonated the most with me and carried many of the traits I carry to this day. In new work, I have uncovered a younger version of myself of about 5 or 6 who was also traumatised and hiding. This version of me went through many things that children of that age shouldn`t have to face. Interaction with a possibly narcissist father, the effects of wholesale family insecurity and dysfunction and no-one to guide me through it. Through this work, I realise that, even at this age, I was trying to protect my mother and looked to her for guidance that she was not able to give. I become her “little man”, always around her and being the “brave boy” who caused her no trouble. My mother was an Irish immigrant who struggled to establish herself after having me at 16. By the time she was 20, my two brothers had appeared and later my sister. These were the siblings I was tasked with looking after as she worked to keep food on the table. It has been interesting meeting this version of myself and I realise this version of me didn’t trust and spent a lot of time escaping through fantasy and spending time outdoors (we lived in an isolated place). I have been trying through inner child work to rewrite those experiences for him and give him someone to trust in and talk to.
Parts Work: I don’t feel that the inner child process can be completed unless the effects of childhood are worked on further. This is where parts work comes in. I feel is very important to work with the plural mind in order to get to the real issues lurking below and usually hidden and exiled. The issues that drive codependency.
I have recognised that my “protectors” play a significant role in shaping my personality. As someone with codependent tendencies, there are significant critical elements associated with it. These are the primary ones that I have identified, along with the exiles that I believe they are suppressing. In this post, I have omitted the details of how I promote the Self mode for the sake of brevity.
The judge: I tend to be highly critical of myself and my accomplishments. I often feel dissatisfied with my accomplishments, even when I have achieved the goals I set for myself. I often hear phrases like “that could have been done better,” “is there a different way you could have done that,” and “you should try doing it this way next time.” Although I recognise the educational value of Self mode, I tend to perceive it as criticism. As a result, I hold both myself and those in my surroundings to high standards. This behaviour is a defence mechanism that I developed due to the frequent feelings of inadequacy and rejection I experienced during my childhood and adolescence. These feelings were reinforced by my parents’ abusive behaviour. As a result, I frequently experience feelings of self-doubt and anxiety regarding my position in society.
I acknowledge that I am a workaholic. Even when I am not working, I am usually engaged in activities related to work such as writing, reading or planning. I struggle with the act of releasing things or people from my life. Running a successful business has been fulfilling, but my mind is always on the go. I find personal identification in my work and it holds significant meaning to me. I frequently observe the contrast between my personal and public personas. I exude a high level of confidence while working. This is different from how I behave in private. I am afraid of the potential outcomes of not succeeding, such as being exiled and dealing with all the associated consequences. The benefit of this is that it helps me stay focused, and this focus carries over into other areas of my life.
The codependent voice in my head is the most prominent and tends to dominate my thinking. At an early age, I was tasked with the responsibility of taking care of my siblings and parents. Unfortunately, when things went wrong that were out of my control, I was punished and criticised. At times, I am programmed to experience feelings of guilt and shame when receiving. I do not consider myself a victim and I have no intention of portraying myself as one. Codependency can come at a cost, as individuals may require a high level of validation, reassurance, and control in exchange for their giving behaviour. Since trust is not easily established, these “voices” persistently remind me that minor disagreements signify something much more significant, that individuals cannot be relied upon, and that they only seek to benefit from you. I often experience triggers that activate my feeling of being unlovable, and a voice emerges as a result. The response involves giving “a little more” and subsequently experiencing feelings of guilt. This voice is extremely potent and can cause significant harm if given attention, leading to dysfunction.
Many of us have an inner voice that allows us to escape from the strict and critical voices we often hear. This voice can be a source of fantasy and imagination. The “firefighter” or “inner rebel” is a driving force that can lead us to distraction, impulsive behaviour, and ultimately addiction of various kinds. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are positive aspects of self-care, but it can also serve as a means to counteract the strict scrutiny of critics. Although I have never been addicted to anything (unless you consider my Amazon book shopping), I have spent a significant amount of time contemplating and fantasising about being someone or somewhere else. In retrospect, I have come to understand that what I experienced earlier in my life was a type of dissociation and it had a significant impact on me. At times, the distinction between fantasy and reality can become unclear. I believe that this was preventing me from addressing my issues with self-esteem, which have their roots in the three elements mentioned earlier.
Staying in the moment. All the awareness in the world means very little if you cannot put it into practice and that can only be done in the moment, the present moment, using mindfulness techniques. I not talking here about meditation, though that helps. I am talking about being present and doing the right thing at the time it is happening. Staying present stops me using the moment to be the victim and allows me to formulate an appropriate response. It also allows me show empathy, set boundaries and be fully here in a conversation.
Staying in the moment comes with many advantages. It allows for deeper connections, better understanding, and more meaningful interactions. Here are some of the key advantages:
- Active Listening: Staying in the moment encourages active listening, which means fully concentrating, understanding, responding, and then remembering what is being said. It signals to the speaker that you value their thoughts and perspectives, which can foster mutual respect and understanding.
- Better Understanding: When you focus on the conversation at hand, you’re able to grasp nuances, underlying emotions, and hidden meanings that may not be apparent if you’re distracted. You can pick up on the subtleties of what is being said, which allows for a deeper level of understanding and connection.
- Improved Responses: If you’re fully present, you can process what is being said and respond thoughtfully. Instead of resorting to canned responses or reacting impulsively, you can craft responses that are nuanced and insightful, contributing to a more engaging and meaningful conversation.
- Non-Verbal Cues: Much of communication is non-verbal, including facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. By staying in the moment, you’re more likely to notice these cues, giving you a fuller picture of the conversation’s context and the other person’s emotional state.
- Increased Empathy: When you’re present in a conversation, you can better empathize with the other person because you’re truly hearing what they’re saying and feeling their emotions. This can build stronger relationships and lead to more compassionate interactions.
- Reduced Misunderstandings: Being in the moment reduces the chances of misunderstandings or miscommunications because you’re fully engaged in the conversation. You’re less likely to miss key points or misinterpret what’s being said.
- Improved Memory Recall: When you’re present, you’re more likely to remember details from your conversations. This not only helps in future interactions with the same person, but it also aids in learning and remembering new information in general.
- Mindful Practice: Conversations can be an excellent practice in mindfulness. By focusing on the here and now, you can train your mind to stay present and calm, which can have positive impacts on your overall mental health and wellbeing.
In essence, staying in the moment means you’re not just hearing, you’re really listening. It’s an active process that requires focus, but the benefits to your relationships and communication skills are immeasurable.