As a member of the human race, I take for granted I am flawed. I have made mistakes in virtually every aspect of life in my sixty years on this planet. As a professional, a parent, as a partner and as an individual, there are things I know I could have handled better. Hindsight is 20/20 vision and I accept that but there are things I needed to take responsibility for.
Mistakes, luckily for me, have always brought with them a chance to learn something about myself and the way I operate. Very self-helpy but I have never let mistakes hold me back and have rectified and changed when needed. I have never intended my flaws to be the definition of who I am.
One area where that theory has been more challenging has been in relationships where codependency has always been an issue (apart from a brief flirtation with counter-dependency). Someone asked me the other day if I am in recovery, as if I am in some obscure 12 Step programme to overcome it. I answered that I firmly believe that there is no recovery to be had just awareness and action to manage feelings, thoughts, behaviour and core beliefs. A codependent is not sick as many programmes try to suggest. Once I started this and focused on it, I felt better but I am only ever one thought from relapse.
The Path To Freedom is multi-faceted. Not only am I trying to curb the need to fix (control) and reduce my expectations of return (for fixing), I am trying to discover myself as an individual and find individual purpose so I can enjoy my relationship (and the one with myself) from a different perspective. Some of that is relatively simple and other aspects harder. I made sure initially, that I was doing the things that bring me joy….hiking, reading, writing. I did this by asking the basic question…what had I been denying myself? I had neglected this in my all-encompassing need to control my wife and her reactions to me. I saw her as a victim that needed me to be around her constantly. This was more for me than her. I now realise that my wife doesn’t need me to be around her fretting over her every move. She is an educated, extremely well-travelled, smart lady who can look after herself. She is not the victim I portray her to be in my mind. Nor is she a narcissist because she didn’t play my game.
Codependents generally, are in denial and big time! Denial of the impact they can have on others with tactics designed to control. I was in denial and it is a shock to realise you are not the ‘good one’ by default. It can be rather enlightening to focus on yourself rather than the external world. It can be refreshing to take responsibility rather than blame. It is invigorating generally and allows you to see the world in new way.
Often my clients ask me what the true Self is. A quick search on the internet will talk about being aware and in the present moment using all your senses. In Buddhism, it is the Buddha mind or Buddha nature. In 12 Step programmes, it is the Higher Power. In other modalities, it is the True Self. It is associated with independence, interdependency, free will and freedom of thought (at least in the West) and releasing yourself from damaging self-sabotaging thoughts. Much literature emphasizes finding freedom, finding ourselves or rectifying something that’s wrong. Finding yourself and finding your purpose is often associated with changing a set of behaviours first acquired in childhood (where parental mistakes are highlighted). We talk often of the ‘fragmented self’ which means that due to experiences had, our True Self shatters like a glass ball dropping to the ground, never to be whole again.
What we often don’t think about is that the True Self is always there, as healthy and whole as the day we were born. It is just subdued and protected by our “thinking parts” that are carrying the burden of protecting the Self from harm. They won’t release their grip and the True Self won’t emerge unless we integrate these damaged, young parts into our psyche and unburden them of responsibility. We do this by becoming a leader in our internal family, understanding them, helping them to reframe their help. Thinking parts are developed in childhood when they are needed for survival. As Richard Schwartz (the founder of IFS) states, there are “no bad parts”. Many of these thinking parts are young themselves and are protecting younger versions of us. They are protective but also are keen for us to avoid our core fears of abandonment, inadequacy and feeling unlovable. They try do this by making us focus on shaming ourselves and others, promoting anger, guilt, self-criticism and escape. Anything than facing that big fear. They are important because they carry the burdens of our history in the stories they can tell. They have been with us all the way and understand our pain.
The key aspect of parts work is to reintegrate and lead these parts through self-leadership and that is done through observing the 8 C’s. This is something I have been doing in healthy doses recently and below is a summary of each one and how it affected me.
Calmness: serenity regardless of the circumstances and the ability to react to triggers in your environment in less automatic and extreme ways. I have often been triggered fairly quickly when in conflict or perceived slight.
Clarity: the ability to perceive situations accurately without distortion from extreme beliefs and emotions and the ability to maintain objectivity about a situation in which one has a vested interest. In addition, the ability to recognize one’s own bias or preconception and then seek a deeper understanding. The drama triangle when employed as a control method blocks objectivity and stops “present moment” thinking. This has always happened with me.
Curiosity: a strong desire to know or learn something new about a topic, situation or person in a non- judgmental way and to have a sense of wonder about the world and how things work. I have struggled with judging my wife when I don’t get what I think I deserve. I have not been willing until recently to be curious about alternatives to my rigid view.
Compassion: to be open- heartedly present and appreciative of others and one’s self without feeling the urge to fix, change, distance, or judge and an intuitive understanding that the burdens or suffering of others affects you because of your connectedness to them. Codependency pure!
Confidence: to maintain the ability to stay fully present in a situation and effectively handle or repair anything that happens and to have internalized the growth that comes from healing previous traumas and failures plus to understand that life and learning includes making mistakes. Tough for anyone as it has been for me. A work in progress.
Courage: strength in the face of threat or challenge and the ability to take action toward a goal that is solution focused. The ability to take complete responsibility for one’s actions and make amends to correct one’s errors and the willingness to reflect upon and explore one’s inner world to enable this. Yet again, a work in progress when the impulse is always to fall into ‘drama triangle’ thinking.
Creativity: the use of the imagination to produce original ideas and the ability to enter the “flow state” in which expression spontaneously flows out of us and we are immersed in the pleasure of the activity plus the ability to create generative learning and solutions to problems alone or with others. This has been the hardest for me in terms of present moment thinking and finding solutions.
Connectedness: the state of feeling a part of a larger entity such as a partnership, team, community, or organization and to be able to relax your defenses with others as you know that you won’t be judged or controlled and to have companionship and/or spirituality that helps one deal with reality. As a codependent, my sense of connectedness is very much in line with the typical codependency symptoms. This has been something that I have needed to learn and continue to learn.
There are many methods that can help you move forward with life. This is the one that works for me and I gladly recommend it.