These are mature coping mechanisms that do not involve others and that are not transcendental in nature. They are acquired by wise men and women with the sincere desire to live to a higher level outside of any spiritual or religious affiliation. They constitute a higher path to deal with life struggles at a personal level.
Introspection is the most important quality of someone who is willing to grow as an individual. It allows us to reflect on the challenges of our life while taking responsibility for them. Someone who is introspective takes life as the ultimate teacher. We take refuge in self-reflection when we experience personal hardships as we understand that the outer world reflects the inner world. When attempting to change a situation, we reflect on our internal emotions and thoughts, without forgetting to take practical actions externally as well. Pain reminds us that we have more lessons to learn and we embrace the new struggle without resistance. We develop a new habit of developing self-awareness when life becomes more challenging. This way, we always make a profit no matter what comes our way. When life is good, we are enjoying it with gratitude and when things are tough, we focus on our personal growth. Journaling and meditation are activities that are the most conducive for introspection. Introspection can also be facilitated by a skilled therapist, a sympathetic friend or our life partner. Self-honesty and the willingness to see the truth about ourselves, no matter how painful it may be, is the healthy foundation for introspection. Our higher conscience has the ability to recognize truth from self-delusion. Truth has a very distinctive taste. It may hurt at first but only truth can set us on the path of liberation and healing. Introspection gives us the ability to ask the difficult questions about ourselves. After 15 years spent with a woman who was not introspective, I decided that introspection was the most important quality that I would look in a life partner. I am committed to personal development and my life partner needs to share the same desire. Genuine introspection is the best indicator for someone’s willingness to embrace change.
We are often faced with unpleasant situations. I am someone who would first try to alter the uncomfortable condition. However, there are times that no matter what we attempt and despite our best efforts, we keep hitting a wall. At that point, acceptance is the only path to inner peace. This is where experience and knowledge can be so useful as they can tell us what can be changed and what cannot be changed. All of us have a pet peeve with our romantic partner. They may be messy, snoring at night, not putting the lid down when they go to the restrooms, talking too much, being too negative, raising an obnoxious child or an annoying pet, eating differently than we do or dressing too casually for our taste. It is difficult for people to change so it is often best to accept the small flaws in our partner and continue to enjoy all the benefits of the intimate relationship. And this will encourage them to do the same with our own flaws. True love is first about embracing the imperfections of our loved ones, and paradoxically it will encourage them to change as they do not feel judged or pushed away. Accepting them does not mean however enabling our partners’ shadows. This is a delicate balance to achieve. Life is full of ups and down. We may lose a spouse through divorce, a house we love from financial hardships, a business because of a change in the industry or precious belongings from a fire or a burglary. The more energy we put towards the object of our desire, the more difficult it is to let go of it. After we have tried everything to remedy the painful situation, accepting the unpleasant reality is the only way to find peace again. I lost my two children to parental alienation 4 years ago. Five different therapists, three years of court battle, endless messages to my children led nowhere. I am not sure what can be more difficult in this world than losing our children. They are the flesh of our flesh. I studied in-depth the top parental alienation experts, listened to many other alienated parents’ tragic stories, went through many inner journeys to find answers in the personal tragedy I was experiencing. Though it felt incredibly unfair, and so damaging for my children I am unable to protect, there was a point where I had to accept the reality of the situation, and that both the mental health and justice systems are not equipped to deal with parental alienation in our society today. I had to accept that I have to wait for my children to mature, see from themselves the manipulation they were a victim of. I can only continue to work on myself to be ready for the time when we are able to reconnect, if this time ever comes. Resetting expectation is a useful tool to reach acceptance. We may have wanted to become a millionaire when we were younger, but life did not happen as planned. We may reset our expectation that having a happy and healthy family is more important. Or at the very minimum, we can simply be grateful to be alive. Life does not get easier, but gets much more challenging as we age. If we are able to live a long life, we are going to suffer the loss of loved ones, the decline of our health, drastic limitation in the activities we used to enjoy and whatever wealth we accumulated will not follow us into our grave. Acceptance is the antidote to the mental suffering caused by external or internal realities we feel powerless to transform.
Letting go is the process that allows us to reach acceptance. It is a process of elimination of the unnecessary. It is emptying one’s cup so that it may be filled with something new. Letting go is the act of moving from the limited mind controlled by the ego to open to the infinite wisdom of the universe that only our heart may access. Letting go is an essential part of manifestation. After we have expressed the intention of the manifestation of our desire, we need to take steps towards its realization but unless we are able to let go of the outcome, we will not get what we truly want. Our ego is an impostor. It makes us believe that it is who we are. It makes us believe that it is in control of our life and that it is the one that creates everything in our life. By doing so, it gets in the way of the abundance and effortlessness of creation. Letting go is the process of trusting life, understanding that life knows best what is good for us. Letting go is not to be confused with passivity and drifting. Letting go is the act of non-doing that needs to be joined with the doing. It comes with the understanding that we live in a quantic universe where everything is connected. As such, non-doing and letting go bring the necessary outside help so that our heart desires may come to fruition. To free the flow of creation and healing, we need to learn to let go of our ego attachments. First, we need to let go of our attachment to suffering, how we have been wronged and our personal misery. We felt so empty and alone that the identification with grief felt better than facing our inner void. Secondly, we need to let go of the illusion that we are in control. Our ego and personality have to realize their own limitations, and recognize humbly that they were created by a higher conscience. Third, we need to let go of all the lies about ourself and the world, and all the false personas we have created not to see the reality of who we truly are. There is nothing more difficult and terrifying than seeing ourselves without filters but truth shall set us free. Fourth, we need to let go of our need for comfort. It is impossible to growth unless we stretch ourselves to new limits everyday within reason. The ego mind is a powerful tool however it constantly wants to take roles that do not belong to him. It tells the body what to do instead of listening to it. It overwrites the heart desires. Letting go is the process of putting back the ego mind to its place so that we may become a unified body/mind/heart (heart is the path to spirit).
Faithor the power of belief
Faith has a religious connotation however it is simply the power of belief. There are many people with a strong faith in themselves without being spiritual or religious. When we are confronted with difficult situations, our mind often goes to self-doubt or pessimistic scenarios that weaken us. Faith comes from the higher partnership of our mind and heart. Heart brings self-love, self-esteem, higher intuition and the support of the quantic universe for manifestation. Mind brings resolve, consistency and true knowing. This is why we say that faith can move mountains. I used to be a consultant in Silicon Valley. When I told an associate that I wanted to create a successful small company with 30 employees, I was mocked. But I had faith and every day, I worked towards building my company. 7 years later, the company I had started had 95 employees and contractors. I fell in love with a gorgeous woman who was a YouTube star, both an artist and a spiritual teacher. I knew nothing about her apart from her YouTube channel. When I told some of my close friends about my romantic interest, they thought I was dreaming. It was quite a surprise to them when they received several months later a wedding invitation! Faith needs to be anchored with a sincere heart desire and a strong mind but perseverance and patience are ultimately what bring our dreams to reality. When our mind goes astray in face of adversity, it is natural to be assaulted by many negative thoughts. My practice in this situation is not to believe the thoughts, let them pass and remember my resolve. It is at first very difficult but it gets better with practice. The logo of my coaching business says « À cœur Vaillant, rien d’impossible » which means that nothing is impossible with a brave heart. I have faced in my life numerous challenges and I am the living proof that everything can be healed, digested and transformed into something better. It does not take special gifts but the sincere desire to work at it every day.
After we go through a painful or even a traumatic event, the first sensible step is to validate the hurt inner child. At that stage, it is healthy and very healing to embrace victimhood, powerlessness, anger, fear, shame or any negative emotion we may be experiencing. Once the stuck emotions are released and diffused, the stage of self-responsibity is just as critical. We become introspective and ask why we have attracted or even created this painful situation into our lives? We look for the gift that lies behind the suffering. Self-responsibility makes us rise above victimhood, apathy and powerlessness. At the personality level, some of the situations we encounter are completely unfair and powerless. A child does not chose his parents or the environment he is born into. A child never chooses to be abandoned, beaten or raped. However, as adults, we have the choice to heal and get better instead of repeating the cycle of trauma. We have the choice to re-parent ourselves for everything we did not receive as a child. We may have no control of what is happening to us, however we always have a choice as an adult how we respond to even very powerless situations. Unless we take responsibility for our life and we understand that our external life is a perfect mirror to who we are internally, we cannot even start to make constructive changes in our life. Self-responsibility is what brings us to action and takes us out of powerlessness. Now, at a transcendental level, everything that happens to us, even the most horrific and unjust events, are something we have chosen as a soul. This is something I have experienced personally but unless you have the same realization, do not take my word for it as this belief can damage you if it is used as a form of spiritual bypassing. One of my interpretations of the Ho’oponopono prayer is the plea from the soul to the personality : « I am sorry for the pain you are experiencing. Please forgive me for creating this cruel event meant to lead you towards the path of perfection. Thank you for your courage and not giving up. I love you for everything you are and you do, and I will be always there watching over you ». After we fully realize that we are responsible for everything that happened to us since our birth, the most difficult step is to forgive ourselves.
It can be argued that life has no meaning or that the meaning of life is simply to be experienced and lived. When faced with the same traumatic event, different people create very different meanings. Some will say that they are damned and life is not worth living. Others will see the world as dangerous and will shut down to others and new experiences. A last category will see the gifts that came from the tragedy and would even say this is the best thing that ever happened to them. Actually, so many cancer survivors are talking this way about their terrible disease. If you Google « cancer is the best thing that happened to me », you will get 1,210,000,000 results! Who is right? Actually, everyone is right as we create our reality according to our beliefs. So why not choose a belief that may best support our happiness? Does it really matter if we are right or not? Isn’t how we feel in our heart more important? Why not become more detached with our judgments, and simply adopt beliefs that may serve us best in our present life. Once these beliefs do not serve anymore, we can let them go and adopt new ones that better serve us. Human beings are creators of meaning and this is one of the most powerful tools against adversity. Viktor Frankl created a new healing modality from this concept called logotherapy. Viktor was a psychotherapist in Austria, and he challenged the nazi regime by refusing the euthanize the mentally ill in the psychiatric hospital he was working at. He was sent to concentration camps with his family in 1942. Viktor, against all odds and while considering himself much weaker physically than many of the other prisoners, managed to survive while almost everyone around him, including his own family succumbed to the horror of the holocaust. He noticed that the ones who survived were often the ones who were able to create meaning from their suffering. Viktor had committed to write about the conditions of the concentration camps so that it may never happen again and this is what kept him alive. He saw meaning as the way towards happiness and self-actualization. Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life-imprisonment in 1964. The living conditions of the in-mates were brutal. They had to be up by 5:30 AM. They had a bucket with cold water for their toilet, and had to break stones until 4 PM. Food and living conditions were horrendous. His son died while he was incarcerated. Despite this, he transformed his prison into a university by educating himself as much as he could during his spare time. He grew his own garden with tomato, lettuce, radish and watermelon. He spent 26 years in prison and was only released when he was 72 to become the political leader that we know. He never lost sight of his mission and the belief he had to transition his country out of apartheid. He created meaning from every hardship he encountered to create an extraordinary life from the most powerless circumstances. We need to remember that we always have a choice. In parental alienation cases, targeted parents face the same powerlessness as the children are brainwashed by the narcissistic parent to be used as weapons of war. In most cases, the mental health and legal systems make things worse instead of protecting children to have both parents in their life. Even in this situation, the targeted parent can decide to grieve and heal to become the best version of themselves during this long period of separation. They can create the meaning that their children will greatly need them when they finally break free from the chains of the alienator. From this new meaning, they are able to transmute their personal tragedy into the most formidable self-actualization.
Disclosure: I am not a licensed therapist so I am not qualified to use these terms in a therapy setting. I have however studied this topic very closely as a tool for self-improvement and self-observation. I am just sharing my own understanding and experience on this matter with the hope it may heal your own relationships and help you to love yourself at a deeper level.
My mother was a discouraged borderline and my father was a codependent. My sister is a borderline, my brothers are codependent and I have been on a life long journey to heal my codependency too. Almost all of my intimate partners have struggled with borderline personality disorder. I am hopefully closer to live a more authentic life as I have brought awareness to my subconscious patterns.
I have shared with you in my previous blog how my attachment traumas made me a match to a cult. The same attachment traumas made me a match to dysfunctional intimate relationships. A number of us with personality disorders can actually be high-functioning according to societal standards. You will find many successful CEOs, performers, top politicians that are narcissistic, borderline or active co-dependents. These personality disorders can best be seen in our personal and intimate lives that suffer greatly from these personality disorders coming from childhood attachment traumas.
I can see that my intimate relationships have been plagued with negative core beliefs coming from an early age. Initially, as a young man, because of my own abandonment traumas, I was deeply avoidant as I was convinced to be unworthy of love. I believed that it was just a question of time for my intimate partners to leave me. I would push them away and they would break-up with me, as they felt unloved. I felt unloved and unlovable as a result while these partners would actually deeply care for me. It was a vicious circle feeding self.
Because I felt unlovable as I was, I decided subconsciously that I need a hook for my loved ones to stay with me and not abandon me. I entered a rescuer phase. As a friend jokingly put it, I became “Captain save a hoe”. In my early twenties, I fell in love with an impulsive borderline in a desperate situation. She had a son with a thug in the northern suburbs of Paris. He was a gambler that would still money from her while she did not even have enough money to feed the child. He used the child to control her. He would sometimes take the child out of the balcony of the 20th floor and threaten to drop him if she did not obey his demands. After I started a relationship with her, my heart broke when I felt the pain of this child. I took many risks to get them out of this desperate situation and we eventually managed to immigrate to the USA together. The relationship eventually ended. I was shut off emotionally past the limerence stage as I continued to focus on external activities to be worthy of love instead of emotionally investing into the relationship. I had no clue that my partner actually wanted to be with me but I felt so unlovable that it seemed like a foreign concept. My partner eventually cheated on me as she was starving emotionally and struggling with her own issues. I felt deeply betrayed and was so confused. How could she leave me after everything I had done for her? As this was not enough, I repeated the exact same experience with a Russian woman and her son a year later. She lived with a violent man who abused her physically. I helped them immigrate to the US as well. Our relationship ended up in the same miserable way and I felt taken advantage, unaware of my own part in the dramas that were unfolding.
These painful experiences made me change my strategy for partners. I felt attracted to stronger and more successful women. However, there needed to be something about these women that was difficult to be with. Something that would keep other men away so that they would not cheat on me. Something that only me could handle so that they would be less likely to abandon me and repeat the abandonment trauma with my mum. The high functioning borderline met these criteria as they share the same abandonment traumas as I did.
Codependents and borderlines are a very common pair. This relationship dynamic allows the codependents to slip into “caretaker” roles, giving priority and focus to problems in the life of the person with BPD (Borderline Personality disorder) rather than to issues in their own lives. No one’s ego likes to see its own dysfunctions as it brings up shame, something especially excruciating for a codependent with a weak sense of self. In these kinds of relationships, the codependent will gain a sense of worth by being “the sane one” and “the responsible one” as he makes the borderline “the crazy one” or “the sick one”. High functioning borderlines are often more narcissistic too. Codependents can provide the narcissist with an obedient and attentive audience that matches the needs of the self-absorbed narcissist. Among the reciprocally interlocking interactions of the pair are the narcissist’s overpowering need to feel important and special and the co-dependent person’s strong need to help others feel that way. Actually, borderline/narcissistic people are only able to create relationships with codependents. A healthy individual with an authentic self could not alternate the roles of perpetrator, rescuer and victim that the borderline requires. Only the codependent can do this as a personality split is required. Their lives together are an endless roller coaster and they alternate control during crises. The codependents submit and weather the storm as the borderlines/narcissists get into their rant or rage. They know however that it is just a matter of time for the borderlines/narcissists to crash. At that time, they can play their favorite caretaker role and get back in control once again. For this reason, it is in the interest of the codependents to worsen and not improve their partners’ mental health. This is a dark side of codependents that only few people understand. This is why they are called enablers. They are enabling and feeding on the most dysfunctional aspects of their partners instead of keeping them accountable for their harmful actions. The borderline is seen in most psychology books as the evil one and the codependent as the good one but the reality is that their shadows are a perfect mirror of each other. The codependent is actually more dangerous as his darkness is more covert. I have worked with many women that had violent and sexually abusive fathers. I have found that they experienced even deeper traumas with their own mothers as they looked the other way and made excuses for their husbands’ behaviors all during the time the abuse was taking place. The child would feel hope as the codependent mother would complain about the father behind his back but felt betrayed over and over again as the mother showed her loyalty to her husband first in her actions. The borderline and the codependent mirror each other attachment traumas, core shame, lack of self-esteem and pathological loneliness. These attributes are directly expressed with the borderline and repressed with the codependent.
Through introspection and the observation of codependents through the diverse communities I have been part of, I have dived deeper into the characteristics of the codependents that I will share with you below. I was able to see the horror of my own psychological make-up through external mirrors and started healing it as a result. I hope you can do the same as you see aspects of yourself in a vulnerable way through the examples below.
No sense of self, low self‐esteem, poor boundaries, absence of conscience
In its broadest definition, a codependent is someone who cannot function from their innate self and whose thinking and behavior is instead organized around another person, or even an organization, or substance. This condition originates from childhood trauma. In the dysfunctional family, the child learns to become attuned to the parent’s needs and feelings instead of the other way around. As a result, the child becomes disconnected from his authentic feelings, as there was no space for the essence of who he is. Codependent people are fixated on another person for approval or sustenance and need to attach themselves to a stronger personality. Poor self‐esteem lowers your expectations of being treated well so we accept the unreasonable demands from our narcissistic/borderline partner with little resistance. Growing up in dysfunctional families, we learn to not trust our perceptions and what we know. We just abide by the narcissist. Most codependents find themselves in relationships where their primary role is that of rescuer, supporter, and confidante. These helper types are often dependent on the other person’s poor functioning to satisfy their own emotional needs and this is the only time they find a sense of self-worth. The codependents cannot believe they can be loved for who they are so they are asking to be given a role where they can be used by their narcissistic partner. They hope to make themselves indispensable through this role so that they would not be abandoned. Their abandonment fears and core shame overpower their conscience so they have lost their inner compass to what is right or wrong. They have delegated it instead to the narcissist, the organization of the substance. As a result, codependents lack authentic and inner accountability. Instead, they do things to stay out of trouble from their partners. They have the feeling to always walk on eggshells as they spend their lives to please their partners and loved ones from the often contradictory feedback they receive externally instead of relying on their inner guidance system that they have shut down to survive their early childhood. Let me give you a couple of examples that I have witnessed personally.
A confidante of a spiritual teacher was asked to lead a group through a process. She started working with the group but in the middle of it, she felt her presence was required next to her teacher so she left without notice leaving all attendees open, vulnerable & incomplete in their healing.
In the cult the Fellowship of Friends, a woman who was struggling raising her child for both financial and emotional reasons asked the narcissistic cult leader what to do. The leader never had children, did not like to be around children and was a sexual predator. He told her to give him for adoption to a couple he designated. Though they were taken by surprise, all parties complied. This left the child with severe abandonment traumas.
A man fell madly in love with a woman but she came from a higher social class. They married and had a child but he compensated his social status insecurity by becoming a workaholic and building/running a successful trucking business. One day, the child died in a car accident. When his wife informed him of the tragedy, he responded he would come after he was done with all his meetings of the day. When he finally came home, he told his wife that nothing could be done, as the son was already dead so life had to go on. The wife left him, as she felt her husband was as sensitive as a cold stone. He later collapsed emotionally and became homeless.
A son visited his dad after not seeing him for 2 years to celebrate his grandmother birthday with him. He spent a day with him then asked to have a walk with him to talk. The father who was afraid that he would get in trouble with his wife (his stepmum) to spend more time away from her encouraged his son to leave right away. The son could not tell him in person that he was getting a divorce with his wife.
As a prank, I showed the most ridiculous video once of an individual portraying himself as a tantric master and I told the manager of a spiritual teacher that she wanted to work with him and invite him to her facility. Though he was conservative and in any other circumstances would have been outraged at the video, he expressed that he was impressed with the tantric teacher and would do the necessary to bring him. I was in complete disbelief that the prank worked so well with no resistance on his part.
A community member of a spiritual teacher fell in love with a woman. He wanted to have children with her but his teacher could not handle having children around him. His teacher required him to continue living with him at the same time. He complied and buried the issue. His girlfriend eventually left him as she understood her family life and her needs would be always second to the whims of his partner’s spiritual teacher.
Enabling the dysfunctional relationship by feeding the partner’s shadows
As we have learned previously, the codependent is an enabler that does not make his narcissistic partner accountable in any way. As a result, the partners’ mental health continue to decline and his narcissistic and paranoid tendencies get worse overtime. While this is true that the narcissists’ natural tendency would be to be comforted in their drama, and have little interest for personal accountability, the codependent enabling tendencies make it much worse. There is a famous quote from Edmund Burke “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. The codependents are these “good men” that do nothing. Codependents and narcissists feed each other false selves as they grow more unhealthy dependency with each other. To survive the dysfunctional environment, the codependent has learned not to challenge the narcissist and on the opposite to play with their shadows to ensure his safety. In return, the narcissist gets addicted to the false validation he gets from the codependent. They both isolate from the rest of the world so that they may not be challenged in their vision of reality. As the borderline/narcissists get more controlled by their addictions, shadows and inflated sense of self, the more they may be controlled by the codependent. Edmund Burke said also “Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver”. Why it is one thing to boost our loved ones’ self confidence, it is another thing to feed their inflated sense of self. By using flattery on his narcissistic partner, the codependent understands he can kill two birds at once. He gains his favor while isolating him from potential rivals. I remember a situation where a follower was shamed for hours by a spiritual teacher and his codependent manager for recommending a change of schedule where another teacher would come on the last day of the program. The codependent manager of the spiritual teacher insisted he was the best of the world so that he had to conclude the program. The spiritual teacher fell for it and went on a rant for hours how this so-called fan could even dare to propose this change of schedule. He was very insecure and insisted for anyone around him to always say he was the best in the world. If anyone would see the value in another spiritual teacher, they would have to face the borderline rage of the teacher that was fueled by the codependent manager. Over time, he developed paranoia for anyone who could potentially compete with him so he got rid of his best disciples, which also comforted the codependent manager who felt insecure with anyone who could have direct access to the teacher. A “royal court” was formed around the teacher that isolated him from reality, and consequently his mental health declined at a rapid pace as his narcissism turned into megalomania.
Denial is prevalent for both the borderline/narcissists and their codependent partners. By staying as victims, they avoid facing their own shame. They both play an elaborate dance to construct a reality that boost each other ego but isolate them from the rest of the world. While the codependent gets rewarded by praise, appreciation, a sense of control, attention and often financial security from their dominant partner, the narcissist gets a sense of security and personal power as their self-concept stays unchallenged. As the pattern amplifies, the chance for this duo to build or maintain any authentic relationship become smaller and smaller. The narcissistic partner thinks he is the one in control however the more their ego get inflated, the more controllable they become by their co-dependent partner that lead the way from behind the scenes. The codependent feeds on the partner’s mental health issues. They may get drown and overwhelmed at times by their partner narcissistic episodes but they know it is just a matter of time for them to regain control as their partners’ steam run out. The narcissist cannot have friends. He can only have employees, followers or fans, basically transactional relationships.
The codependent pattern will encourage the negative behavior “I am serving your father a glass of Whiskey because he needs to relax after a long day” while a more healthy partner will set a clear boundary “If you continue drinking I will have no other choice to leave though I love you very much”. A friend of mine contacted me recently. She broke up with a boyfriend she loved very much because he started being abusive with her. It broke her heart to do it but she knew this was the only way to wake him up. This is the difference between codependent and healthy relationships. The codependent will feed your shadows to be in control and create more unhealthy dependency. Healthy partners will not hesitate to confront you on your shadows even at their detriment. An intimate relationship is the closest mirror we can have. Do you choose to mirror your partner light or darkness? And remember by doing this, you are doing else then mirroring your own light and darkness. By committing to support your partners to become the best version of themselves, you are doing the same to yourself. Codependents choose to do the opposite because of their own insecurity.
The codependents cannot meet their needs directly so they manipulate
This came from childhood trauma. The codependent was simply an accessory to their primary caregivers narcissistic needs. They never received the mirroring they needed to discover their authentic selves. Not only are they unable to meet their needs directly but they are simply completely unaware of their needs. They are actually terrified to figure out what their needs are as this would mean they could be rejected or ridiculed for wanting what they need. It feels so much safer to say their needs do not matter or focus instead on the needs of others. They place a lower priority on their own needs, while being excessively preoccupied with other people needs. For this reason, many codependents learn to be self‐sufficient and to deny their emotional needs, and this is not sustainable. They match perfectly their narcissistic partners that are self-focused on their own needs. If your important emotional needs were shamed or ignored in your childhood, would you not grow up shutting down the feelings associated with those needs? Why would you feel a need if you do not expect it to be filled? It is less painful to deny it entirely. However, no one can un-need what they need so they live in state of emotional starvation and develop manipulation strategies to meet their needs indirectly.
Manipulationthrough communication triangulation, being double faced, alienation and” Divide and Conquer” strategies
Codependency is more about why and how you do things than what you do. Their actions are often driven by not getting in trouble with their partners instead of doing what feels right according to their authentic self (that they do not know). They rarely perform any action from their heart instead they expect something in return. They have a transactional mind. Codependent parents would often remind children of all the sacrifice they endured to raise them to adulthood. If they want to be touched by their partners, they would offer to give them a massage instead of asking directly for their needs. The massage would not feel good because of the feeling of expectation. And if the partner does not reciprocate, they are then punished emotionally through withdrawal. If they want a night girl out, they would ask their male counterpart if they would be interested to spend a weekend away with his friends. If they would like to bring their parents over, they would encourage their partners to have their parents visit. Once their partners express their own needs, then they feel they are allowed to express their own needs. It is an exhausting way to live life and they are continuously set-up for disappointment. A relationship is not about keeping counts but it is about meeting each other needs in a mutually beneficial way. When someone does not express their needs directly, the probability for someone else to meet these needs go drastically down. Because of their deep shame, they spend a lot of energy justifying why they need what they need. They react often in a passive aggressive way when they unexpressed needs are unmet. I knew a woman that was in love with another woman but she could not face the truth that she was a lesbian. She made herself her caregiver. Once she felt she had leverage by becoming more indispensable, she would threaten she may leave to find the love of her life (often described as a male). This would make the other woman panic however it was obvious that she did not intend to go anywhere. She eventually succeeded in splitting her with her husband by becoming what she felt the other woman really wanted and by showing her the incompatibilities she perceived with the husband the other woman loved. These types of relationship are doomed and I can speak from experience. I have too attracted lovers and partners by pretending to be what they wanted to see. However we can only hide for so long. Once the real us come out, our partners feel duped and they make our lives impossible. A common ploy for codependents interested in a woman that is a single mum is to build rapport with her children. They understand the intense guilt the targeted partner is experiencing from not providing a full-time and caring father to her children. Overtime, however, the single mum often realizes that the new partner never truly cared or had true ownership with their children. And if the man leaves the relationship, there is no interest in maintaining the relationship with the children.
The codependent cannot be trusted because he is double faced. He shows a different face for every different person he is interacting with. He is a people pleaser and adapts his messaging accordingly. I am also guilty to have played the same codependent game with my company executives in the past. A vice president would come to my office complaining about the behavior of another executive that they would consider bossy, disrespectful and unprofessional. I would empathize with her and would confirm the flaws she had noticed in him. Then the other executive would stop by my office complaining about the immaturity and lack of experience about the first one. I would validate the same way, happy to get rapport through opposition. I felt good and important as the rescuer. However I was undermining my management team spirit and cohesion. Then I was acting surprised why these grown-up executive cannot get along and keep fighting! Overtime, they lost trust with me as they could feel my lack of authenticity.
During one of my divorces, I trusted an individual to act as an intermediary of my wife to act on her behalf, as she was too emotional to take care of legal details of the split. He was very nice and amicable with me while I realized only months later, he was disparaging me behind my back as friends made me listen to voice mails he was leaving about me. Instead of making things better with my ex wife, he kept putting oil on the fire to antagonize each other behind our backs. Both she and I felt very thankful to him at the time to act as a mediator as the other party seemed crazy and ill intentioned not realizing he was largely responsible for the increased strife between us through triangulation. The intermediary ended up getting married to my former spouse!
The codependent learned at an early age to manipulate their caregivers to survive emotionally in a dysfunctional environment. They are excellent at identifying the blind spots to the people around them for their benefit. The can place shame on others to manipulate a situation and then use charm to come off caring as their typical fashion to get what they want from others. They are experts in alienation and playing on people fears. They identify a weakness in a rival and makes a crack looks like a canyon while they state how different they are. Sometimes they just make things up and hope they will get away with it. A friend of mine did not know anything about finances so her business manager puts doubts in her mind that her husband was embezzling money to create a rift in their relationship as the manager was in love with her. He also showed her how her husband was a liability to her career while at the very same time he kept complementing the husband on his contribution to her business. The wife fell for it and divorced the husband while she was away from the husband on a business trip while the manager took on the savior role. The manger continued to ensure there would be no contact between them so that she would never figure out the manipulation that had taken place. “Divide and conquer” is the favorite power dynamic of the codependent.
I knew a lady that lived with her best friend and his girlfriend. Both girls used to get along very well. He was very codependent and made his girlfriend feel he cannot fully present to her because of the commitment he has towards his best friend that was also his employer. He made his friend/employer insecure that telling her that he cannot be really there for her because of his relationship to his girlfriend, which he claimed was the most important thing in his life. As a result, the two ladies that really adored each other started feeling threatened with one another.
When we did not receive enough nurturing or had your feelings respected, we may attempt to fill this void with an addiction. Addictive relationships or substances serve as a substitute for real connection. Some people are caretakers who hope to receive love in return but are unable to be vulnerable about their own feelings, which is necessary to maintain an intimate relationship.
Many who don’t recognize their needs for support and comfort isolate — especially when they’re hurting. Even with awareness of their needs, asking someone to meet them can feel humiliating.
As a result, many people turn to some addiction. Many of my clients had a codependent father or mother that was alcoholic. I had an uncle that was a gambler to compensate for the lack of intimacy in his marriage. I became a workaholic and the high intensity of running a Silicon Valley business was my own way of compensating. Some men escape in following sports on TV while many women do the same with their soap operas. The options of escape are endless to avoid feeling the lack of intimacy and connection that we are experiencing.
The goal of the addiction is to prevent us from experiencing painful feelings, often originating from childhood traumas. It is critical we allow ourselves to sit with these painful emotions and do shadow work when they come up instead of falling for an addiction to escape. As we experience consciously these difficult feelings, we will start healing and eventually generate the desires to make the necessary changes in our life to create a life that genuinely feels good.
Replaying trauma from childhood
Codependency is often associated with abusive, addictive, or controlling home environments. Or it may be the product of emotional neglect and absence. Any painful experience from childhood has the potential to become a trauma that can affect our present actions. Fortunately, there are many modalities today that can support soul retrieval so that you do not need to manifest into your life the original trauma. I knew a woman who suffered incest from her brutal father all of her childhood. As a child and teenager, she kept fantasizing that mum would leave dad to save her. Unfortunately, mum was very codependent and an enabler to the abuse so the rapes continued into adulthood. She brought that intense desire into her adult self and she became a close confidante to a married woman. The wife had suffered a lot of abuse too in her childhood in the hands of a psychopath. They both replayed their drama and made the husband the bad guy they had to escape from. The husband was ostracized overnight and completely cut from his family. Even months after the separation had taken place, they were still making lists to demonize the poor fellow. The husband was abandoned by his mum when he was a child so this is why he was a match to this experience as well. There are no bad people only people who have been traumatized. If their childhood traumas are not healed, people will have a tendency to replay them in their adult lives. If they are unable to heal, their traums will unfortunately repeat into the next generation, the lives of their children. This is why soul retrieval and trauma healing are the most important thing we will ever do.
Unhealthy dependency instead of autonomy
Human beings are a social species so we need each other to live a good life. There are healthy dependencies and unhealthy ones too. The codependent has the later form of dependency. Their fear of loneliness would keep them in abusive and dysfunctional relationships instead of looking for better options for partners. In a codependent relationship, the codependent’s sense of purpose is based on making extreme sacrifices to satisfy their partner’s needs. Codependent relationships signify a degree of unhealthy “clinginess”, where one person does not have self-sufficiency or autonomy. One or both parties depend on their loved one for fulfillment. In romantic relationships that do not involve children, we need to remember that the individual in the relationship is more important than the relationship. There should be no coercion in such relationships. The codependents need to be committed to put themselves first and accept that it is better to be alone than being with people that are not ready to accept and love their authentic selves. Of course, they first need to figure out what this authentic self is all about. Once they make this step, they will be on their way to create a life that feels good. Thich Naht Hanh said “You must love in a way that the person you love feels free”. To become autonomous is to able to share a life with a loved one without trying to possess or control him/her. We do not need to possess him/her because they live within us. It is not anymore a relationship where two become one, but two become three: the two partners and the relationship. They create a conscious relationship instead of being consumed by it.
How bad can codependency get?
The Selena story
Selena Quintanilla-Perez was an American singer that achieved international fame. Her story was immortalized in the Selena movie starring Jennifer Lopez. As Selena’s singing schedule became more demanding, she came to rely on Yolanda Saldivar, a San Antonio nurse who had founded her fan club in 1991 and was a devoted follower of the band. The family did not realize how much of a sycophant she was. Shy, plain-looking, and eleven years Selena’s senior, Saldivar made herself indispensable, taking on the job of managing the boutiques and eventually becoming Selena’s confidante. Selena had a caring but narcissistic father that was ruling the whole family. As a result, Selena desperately needed a confidante outside her family circle. That’s when Yolanda stepped into her life and made it seem like she was taking care of everything. Yolanda appeared to everyone like someone sweet, like a mother figure. She used to mother people around her and ask, “Do you need anything, m’ijo/a?”. Yolanda managed to gain a lot of importance in Selena’s life. Whether Selena realized it or not, Yolanda became her filter and gatekeeper. Selena had lots of friends working for her at the beginning of her career. Once Yolanda came on board, she got rid of Selena’s friends one by one. Anyone who captured Selena’s attention, she eliminated. After the family found out that Yolanda was taking advantage of her position to steal money, she felt her life was over and shot Selena to death as her life felt meaningless without Selena. By killing her, Yolanda assured that her name would be associated with Selena for eternity.
Wild Wild Country: Osho and Sheela
A recent documentary Wild Wild Country narrates the rise and fall of Osho Rajneesh, a gifted and controversial spiritual leader that set-up a community in the US state of Oregon. Osho’s passion was teaching spirituality and waking up his followers through various healing modalities. He trusted a young and a very ambitious early disciple of his: Ma Anand Sheela to deal with all the material and organizational aspects in creating the community. Osho liked reclusion and long periods of time for meditation and contemplation so he let naively Sheela take more and more power. For a very long time, she was the only one meeting with Osho and through communication triangulation, she was able to dictate all important decisions in the community. People started to fear her. Power went to her head, as she obviously did not have the experience, integrity and wisdom to handle this level of responsibility and decision-making. She created her own group of devotees and instructed some of them to perform unethical actions. For example, he convinced one of her close follower to kill a doctor that she felt was getting too close to Osho. Unbeknownst to Osho, she built a multi million dollar center to spy on all community members. She armed the community, brought thousands of homeless people from all over the country to win county elections and poisoned the water of the nearby town. During this time, Osho was doing a 3 years’ silent. The whole state of Oregon that had been antagonized by Sheela’s actions was on high alert to bring the community down. Sheela was finally arrested but US officials felt it was safer to bring Osho down too. He was arrested too, and suffered such bad treatment in custody that he died a few months later.
These are some of the most extreme forms of codependency and everyone can see how dangerous it can be. Idolatry can flatter the ego but everything is a transaction for the codependent. It is just a matter of time that they will come for their due once the dependency is complete. Every relationship is a mirror and one cannot be controlling in a relationship without being controlled oneself. We eventually receive what we give in a relationship. How do you recognize a dysfunctional relationship from a healthy one? The dysfunctional one puts you down while the healthy one will make you a better human being.
A couple of years ago, when I fell in love with Teal, I would have given up everything to spend one day with her. My deepest wish was fulfilled and I was not granted one day but one thousand and one. However, unlike Schahriar and Sheherazade who sealed their union for eternity after one thousand and one nights, Teal and I are now separating and taking a different path. Destiny feels cruel when you are asked to leave the woman you love. There is nowhere to go but to the God within us to start healing, and ask for guidance for the rest of our journey here on earth.
As I start mending my broken heart, feelings of gratitude emerge. I never loved anyone as much as Teal and I was never loved by anyone as much as she did. A life without love is not worth living, and for this alone my life mattered. My memories with her will be mine forever and this is teaching me one more time to never take anyone for granted. She is a gorgeous woman but her heart is even more beautiful that her physical appearance. We lived our passion to the fullest during the time we were together. Just looking at her always brought smile to my face as I saw her as the most exquisite thing on this planet. I have gained so much during the 33 months we were together. Actually, these 33 months feel more like 33 years. First, she cracked me open and forced me into my authenticity after living a codependent life. This blessing would however make me lose the woman I love as it surfaced some incompatibilities we were not able to work through. As she could see inside of me, she supported me to get back to optimal health as I lost 30 pounds and I have never felt as healthy as today. I became vegetarian and sensitive to animal cruelty thanks to her. Previously, I had wanted to become vegetarian but was never able to make the transition. I loved her spontaneity, her vibrancy and aliveness. These are qualities I want to develop very much in myself. Teal is remarkably intelligent and she has also an amazing ability to articulate her thoughts in a way that is easily understandable. I learned so much with her in so many aspects of life. I now see and understand the world differently. She always has fun facts about anything. She is an encyclopedia in herself. She helped me transition from a human doing to a human being and reconnect to the important things of life. She actually set me back on my path. I also learned a lot from all of our struggles. Both of us are deeply introspective and that allowed us to gain wisdom from the difficulties we experienced.
Our break-up is so difficult not because we stopped loving each other but because we still love each other though we understand we have to take a different road. During this time of grieving, we are asking every one of you to be sensitive to our pain to make our healing easier. Un-pairing with someone we love deeply is one of most difficult experience in this earthy existence. When we fall in love, the beloved reflects to us the parts of us to develop. She showed me my light, my potential and my capacity to love. Now that my most magnificent mirror is going away, I am only left to actualize these qualities within myself.