I’ve been thinking about writing about these ideas for some time now, so here goes today! First thing I did was to check what the current definitions of these words may be, as definitions can change over time to match new thoughts/ideas/culture. Dependence seems easy enough – where one person feels they need another. Codependence gets a little more complicated in description, so I thought I’d share first the ideas that are easy for anyone to find with an online current search:
“A person who is codependent will plan their entire life around pleasing the other person, or the enabler. In its simplest terms, a codependent relationship is when one partner needs the other partner, who in turn, needs to be needed” (from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com).
And “Codependency is when one partner feels an excessive emotional reliance on their partner. Textbook signs of codependent personalities are people-pleasing, low self-esteem, and always needing to be in control” (www.insider.com).
Haven’t we heard of such patterns in people forever? Do you/we feel that we are finally understanding these better and speaking about them, so at least now we’ll know what to do about them? What is the recommendation that shows up with this online search most regularly? Psychotherapy. And what needs to be managed the most in such situations according to current information – anxiety and grief. Great. Can you notice that we (as a society) notice something… then create a name for it (often through the medical world) – and then create medications/supplements to “treat” the condition. Of course, most of us know that such treatments then often create either side effects or dependence on the supplement/medication and then a need for more… why…? This is the same picture as the “codependent personality” on the outside isn’t it?
“As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul…”
― Hermes TrismegistusGoodreads.com
What’s another suggestion? Look within. Understand the Soul. The understanding from this space is not bound to judgement, frustration, anxiety, grief… it is a space for all that is happening. It is a humble space that does not feel small. A compassionate space for oneself and others. It directs our thoughts, words and actions in ways that may not be easy, but feel “right.” If we look at this idea carefully, any actions feel “right” when our thoughts do not pull us into questioning our decisions through hurt, guilt, or the insistence that things “should have” gone a different way. This is a peaceful decision. I do not believe that any length of psychotherapy can ever help a person truly experience this. Yet it may help. Like a medication may help. Or a supplement may help. Before the inevitable… dependence/codependence pattern.
Let’s remember just the basics of this dynamic (whether with people, jobs, or treatment choices). The thinking is often like this: “I am so glad you are here for helping me __________________ (this blank may be filled by anything) – what I have seen most is “get through this,” “pay my bills,” “increase my friend circle” or “feel good about myself.” Now, if a person takes away time together (in person or online), money, friendships, or praise for the other, the person who was dependent on this clearly falls. The codependent person now does not get the feedback from the partner, from others, or even themselves, about the good/kind work they were previously doing (even if justified by the reasoning behind changing this).
Perhaps we just need to look at “Dependence” alone to keep things very simple and not feed the dependence on healthcare practitioners or on medications/supplements believed to be magic bullets. Each/any person can become dependent in relationships (personal or professional). There are many spouses that cannot (do not) cook at all – many are dependent on their spouses or partners for this. Some eat out more and others actually learn to cook when they no longer have a partner that will do this task. Some people are dependent on another’s finances. Some take advantage of what may have started as an honest assistance. When this is no longer provided (even if no longer needed), suddenly a dependent partner can become independent (often through some struggle too).
And we all participate in these life dances in some way. Only a mindful attention to our own thoughts, words and actions can reveal the good, bad and ugly of our own natures. And then we can choose to work from a place of understanding. When we truly understand our own needs and our ability to be compassionate to ourselves and others, we can choose to consciously avoid becoming dependent on others, or making others dependent on us – consciously or unconsciously from either side.
I thought I’d give you a very simple example of how insidiously such dependence can happen for all of us. First, my ego seems to want to share that I have done much good in my past marriage – a generosity and loving-compassion that even when I look back upon it today, amazes me… With this awareness, I can tell you that although I lived on my own for all of my schooling (all University and Naturopathic training time), and after this I got married. About 8-10 years into my marriage, I had become subtly resentful at the lop-sided (in my opinion) nature of the giving in the relationship. At that time, I happened to ask my husband for a hand as I was putting on my shoes one day. What a lovely support that was – so simple, but truly appreciated! Then it became a habit. He offered me his hand/support each time he was near while I was putting on or taking off my shoes. Sounds lovely doesn’t it? Fast forward to divorce time. Suddenly I notice I need a wall, chair or other stable support for my shoe time…! Wow. I do not mind having some assistance if available or necessary sometime, but to need it?!?!?!?! I had never had such a need prior to marriage, and although I’m always happy to see older people help each other in such times, I am also very impressed by those that do not need such help – not from pride/arrogance but from a joyful strength and ability that has been fed and nurtured from a personal mindful attention.
It’s just like the image of the child being helped at the top of this blogpost. Eventually, there has to be enough trust in the child (and the child needs the same trust in themselves), that they can walk their chosen path, sometimes (most times?) without a noticeable assistance, but with equal curiosity and enthusiasm about the journey!
Today I am happy to nurture in myself such curiosity. This does create a joyful strength which is fed (in no small part) from the important awareness of the insidious dependence pattern! I am also aware that the best of “me” in the best times of my relationships, throughout my life… has never really been “me” – i.e., the ego that my Soul identified with… as I truly believe the reason I’m amazed at what was possible through me in various best times has been possible only because the energy behind this human form came from an infinite space that truly is… amazing.
Let us help each other enjoy interdependence with each other to allow a healthy evolution of every soul, which allows us to experience the amazing through each of us. This begins with true understanding and acceptance.
I hope this post is understandable to all readers. I accept that it may create a space for self-reflection for some… and not for others. And each is good.
Thought I’d also share something I wrote as one of the poems in my book “Gita for the Healthcare Guru” which seems to match this post. I hope you will enjoy it!
Finite vs. Infinite – a poem by Hanifa Menen
My eyes love to see
Vistas and jungles
And birds flying free
The flavours I’ve tasted
Some bitter, some sweet
And ears hearing music
That lifts me to feet
The loving caresses
My skin loves to feel
Which touches and rushes
And makes this head reel
Each sense transient
Not one, long does stay
I find my mind pleading
“Please don’t go away”
The more I hold on
Each pleasure slips out
Shakes up my comfort
As hear my own shout
Reminded I am
For how could it be
From finite to seek
With Kindness to All,