Are you codependent? And what can you do about it…

When I first started on my spiritual path, I first discovered how incredibly codependent I was. In all of my relationships – not just my love relationship – but with my clients (I was an attorney then), my family, my friends…pretty much every relationship I had.

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I started on my Spiritual Path back in the 80’s and during that time, everyone was talking all the time about Codependency.

I read Melodie Beatty’s amazing book, Codependent No More, but I found I could only read it for about 20 minutes at a time, because it was making me so depressed. At the very beginning of the book, she has these listings with bullets of “if you do this, you might be codependent.” With almost every single one, I was reading and going “yeah, yeah, yeah, I do that. Yeah, I do that.”

I figured out that I was codependent with everyone – not only in my love relationships, but with my family, my friends and especially with my work. I was a divorce attorney and most of my clients were codependent women and they had a codependent attorney.

So what exactly is c-dependency? The precise clinical definition is:

Codependency is a behavioral condition in a relationship where one person enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement. Among the core characteristics of codependency is an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity. 

I actually feel like this definition is giving two definitions – one for Enablers and another for Codependency, but certainly they are very related. The biggest thing that I’ve seen with my work with couples and in family dynamics is the last sentence:

Among the core characteristics of codependency is an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity. 

And that seems to me to be the central theme. That you are so intertwined with this person and so wrapped into and warped into everything that is going on with them, that you lose your own identity and everything becomes about receiving your own identity from approval from everyone else.

One of the jokes one of my friends used to tell is, “You can tell you’re codependent when you wake up in the morning and say to your partner, ‘Good morning, honey, how do I feel today?’”

One of my therapists used to talk about how codependency would really show itself in a family, sort of like a mobile. If each piece of the mobile is a separate person, look what happens when one person drops out, or puts a big tub on the mobile. It disrupts all the other pieces of the mobile – all the other pieces are jerked around until some kind of balance comes back in.

When I first heard that analogy, it made me think about my childhood growing up with an alcoholic father and a mother who, because of her love for my father, became a total enabler. I loved both of my parents, but it was absolutely astounding how every single thing in our family and in our household revolved around what was going on with my dad. Was he drinking, not drinking, what would you find when you came home? You never knew from one day to the next. If he wasn’t drinking, we would all be walking on eggshells, not wanting to set him off. If he was drinking, and perhaps sleeping it off, we would all be walking on eggshells, not wanting to wake him up.

And my mother spend half her life trying to make sure that no one knew our Dirty Little Secret. She covered for him, lied for him, even took over the support of the family when he couldn’t handle that anymore. And then the really crazy thing – and this is what goes on when there is dysfunction in a house – we never admitted that he was an alcoholic. He had “emotional problems that he dealt with by drinking.” Well, as I found out when I got away from home, that’s the definition of an alcoholic.  

John Bradshaw used to say, “The depth of your dysfunction is shown by the depth of your secrets.” When nobody is talking about it, or admitting it, you’ve got a problem. And if you’re going along with it, you are enabling it and you’re part of the codependency.

And it’s not just with addiction. Is there someone in your life who isn’t stepping up, as the definition says…

And is affecting your life and causing you problems?
Do you have someone in your life who is angry all the time?
Do you have someone in your life who is emotionally abusive?

This can show up in a lot of different ways.

The question is, what do you do if you find yourself in this situation? In a situation where there is dysfunction that you are actively a part of?

The first step is to recognize it and name it for what it is.

Are you in a relationship where the other person is making you wrong all the time…or blaming you for their problems? How does this make you feel?

Because that’s the second step: If you’re not feeling good, something needs to be looked at.

Your emotions are there to tell you something is going on and to notice it – if you’re feeling happy and joyful, that feels great. If you’re feeling afraid, or you constantly have a lump in the pit of your stomach, something is going on and it needs to be dealt with.

If you’re being yelled at, blamed or taken advantage of, stop and ask yourself:

What do I want right now?

When you ask yourself that question, a lot of answers can come in. Maybe you need to:

  • Leave the situation for a little while
  • Be by yourself
  • Do something else
  • Get some help

When codependent people start asking themselves those questions and getting answers like that, very often the first thing that happens is that the ego rears up and says, “Wait, you are being so selfish!”

And sometimes the person we’re wrangling with is saying, “Wait, you are being so selfish!”

Have you ever noticed that the people who are calling you selfish are very often the people who are upset because you’re not doing what they want you to do? Funny how that works.

It’s so interesting with how this shows up. We had a woman who contacted us a few years ago and told us that she was having problems in her marriage. When we dug a little deeper, we discovered that the problems weren’t between she and her husband, the problems were happening with the triangle that had developed with her, her husband and their 25-year0old son.

Like many young people in this day and age, he had graduated from college with a degree that didn’t guarantee a good paying job. His parents had always taken care of everything for him. When he got out of college, his position was that if he couldn’t find a job making at least $100,000 a year, he wasn’t willing to work. So he didn’t. He moved back home and had been living with them for over a year, with no plans or inclination to do anything. They had dipped into their retirement to pay for college for him, plus he had student loans, because he had gone to a very expensive school.  

Also, in the past year, he had started to really have problems. He was drinking a lot and they suspected he may have been doing some drugs. When they would speak with him about what his plans were, he would fly into a rage. The son was also depressed a lot of the time. It had gotten to the point where the whole household was in an uproar all the time – they never knew when their son might fly into a rage and she told me she sometimes felt a little frightened by him.  

The problems that were happening between the mother and father was that the father felt that it was time for the son to do something to stand on his own two feet. The mother was not wanting to just kick him out, which is what she thought the father wanted to do. The son was holding them all hostage and they were all walking on eggshells around him, afraid that he might fly into a rage.

After we spoke with her, we really got it that the problems were not between she and her husband; they had always had a fabulous relationship until their son moved back home. We started talking to her about everything that was going on and she kept telling us how her son couldn’t handle anything, he couldn’t get a job, he couldn’t live on his own, and how she had to keep on taking care of him.

Through her sessions, she finally started seeing how codependent she had become with their 25-year-old son. We helped her see that all of this was not only ruining her relationship with her husband, it was causing all kinds of problems for her son. She finally got it through her sessions that her job is not to live her son’s life.

She went home with a new resolve and they didn’t just kick him out, the three of them made a plan together. Her son got a job, albeit a low paying job, but he got a job and moved out two months later. She and her husband came out to do a couples retreat and their love was completely renewed and rock solid again. And then after that, the really great news was that their son came out for a Soul Adventure. His parents paid for it, but they said it was the best money they ever spent.

Their son was a little resistant at first, but we realized very quickly that he wanted to step up, he wanted to be an adult and act like an adult. We discovered he had some blocks that had come in from his parents doing everything for him. They loved him, they were doing what they thought was best in taking care of him, but they had actually made it difficult for him to move into adulthood by doing so much for him. We cleared out the blocks and it was replaced by an energy of “I’m enough,” “I can do this,” “I have confidence.”

He ended up getting a much better job and last year he got married. He told me that his parents cutting the cord with him and making him stand on his own two feet had been the best thing that ever happened to him.

They stopped the enabling, they disrupted the codependency, and they are all so much happier.

This is what it takes. We first have to realize and recognize the codependency is happening. Then we have to take steps to love ourselves and take care of ourselves. Then we have to draw the boundaries and maintain the boundaries.

Sometimes it’s easier said than done, and more often than not, you’re going to need help… and that’s where we come in.

If you find yourself in a codependent, dysfunctional relationship, you’re going to have to do some things to get yourself out of it. You’re going to have to find the inner strength to do it. It doesn’t mean throwing out the relationships, it means figuring out how to have functional relationships that give you what you need and want.  

I hope this helped, and if you got value from this video, please take the time to like it, share it with someone in your life who think might get something out of it, subscribe to our channel.

And If you want an even more direct path to having the relationship of your dreams, click here to get your complimentary copy of The Sedona Guide to Spiritual Retreats today.

Or if you’d like to talk to someone about doing a retreat that’s custom designed for you call us at (928) 204-5988.

You can have the life  AND the relationship you want – I know it.

I was lucky enough back then to connect with Jorge Luis Delgado, our shaman and guide. Jorge is a master and as everyone in all my groups always say, they can’t imagine doing Peru without Jorge, that it quite simply wouldn’t be the same. That’s a photo of my fabulous 2008 group.

On my first trip in 2008, I met his wife and son, who at the time was 14, a gangly teenager, and he spoke great English. He and I started talking and sat next to each other on our bus ride from Lake Titicaca to Juliaca.

We started talking about American politics, as the 2008 election was in full swing, and Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton were slugging it out in the primaries. He asked me if I thought it was possible that Obama might be nominated and possibly win, and we had a very spirited and enjoyable conversation.

Jorge told me later, “It’s so strange, I’m not sure how this happened, he’s so interested in American politics and all kinds of things from other countries.”

Over the years, I’ve always asked Jorge how his son was doing and the news just kept getting more and more interesting. He did very well in school, went to University, then ended up living and working in Japan, spent some time in China, and learned to speak Japanese and Chinese fluently. Now this year, he decided to return to Peru and he’s working with Jorge!

He was working with a Chinese group and he came to the airport in Cusco when we were about to depart for Lake Titicaca, and we got to spend some time talking. What a joy to see and feel what an incredible young man he has become.

I asked him why he had returned to Peru and he told me, “I want to really learn all the spiritual teachings.” Isn’t that fantastic? This gangly little kid I met 11 years ago, has become a worldly, accomplished man interested in all aspects of the world, including spirituality. He said he plans to stay here for about two years and then he’ll be off to some other place in the world.

It’s reminiscent of my godson, Anthony, who I also got to see on this trip and what a joy that was. Back in 2008 when we went to Amantani for the first time (a very rustic, beautiful island in Lake Titicaca where at the time they had no electricity and no running water), we did a very special ceremony and we spent the night in the home of his family.

Anthony was 6 months old at the time, a tiny, adorable baby.

I spent a large amount of that evening holding him and at times I was crying gently and processing. His parents, Juana and Joaquin, don’t speak English, but in some way we really connected.

It turns out that two days later they were doing a ceremony with Anthony that is somewhat similar to what we know as baptism.

They asked Jorge to ask me if I would like to be a godmother for Anthony because they felt I had such a strong connection to him. They said they didn’t want any obligation from me, just the spiritual connection. I was honored and the ceremony was very beautiful.

After that, I would see Anthony every year and I’ve also happily contributed to the family and Anthony’s education. This photo is from 2014, when I brought him some blowing bubbles. At that time, Anthony was six and he told me he wanted to become a doctor. He also said he was learning traditional Peruvian dance and he enjoyed that very much.

Starting in 2015, Anthony started going to boarding school on the mainland so that he could receive a really good education, so he was never at home when we would spend the night at Juana and Joaquin’s home on Amantani. But this year, what a surprise. They brought him, along with his sister, to Chiquito where we had a reunion.

He showed me his school Certificate of Excellence and his parents told me what a good student he is. One of the members of our group interpreted (thank you, Rhonda!), and he told me again that he wants to be a doctor and how much he still enjoys dancing. But now he also really enjoys football (soccer).

To think that this boy from a small island, where they have almost no electricity or running water and when you take a walk you continually run into people who are herding sheep and donkeys, is going to become a doctor…this reminded me of Jorge’s son. Anthony’s energy is so sweet and pure, yet he is also a determined little boy and I can’t wait to see how this unfolds.

Another really fun thing we do every year is to go to Seminario Ceramics in Ollantaytambo. Pablo Seminario is one of the premier ceramic artists in the world, his works are displayed in various museums around the world, including the Field Museum in Chicago.

When I brought my first group in 2008, when we were returning from Machu Picchu by train after a very long day, Jorge asked me, “Would you like to go to the ceramics place?” Not having any idea of what an incredible place this was, I said no because everyone was tired.

One of the members of the group, Jennifer Watt, overheard us and said, “What are we talking about?” and I said, “That we’re not going to the ceramics place.” She said to me in her usual very direct way, “Who made that decision?” and I responded that I did. I then said if she wanted to go, we’d go and I am so glad I did. His work is so incredible and over the years, I’ve brought many of his pieces to my home and each year he speaks to our group and we have a wonderful interaction with him and his wife Marilu.

After that trip, Jen and I became great friends and in 2010, I asked her to lead my Peru trip two years in a row (I had Egypt in March, Peru in April and Bali in June, and it was becoming too much to handle), she loved Peru and she had experience leading groups. She did a fantastic job and from that, got a job leading trips to Peru, especially for high school and college students and teachers.

She has now been to Peru 54 times! And one of the things she has incorporated into the tours is an intensive piece of learning about traditional ceramics through Seminario! She, Pablo and Marilu have become great friends.

So when we were there last week, we took a photo of all of us to text to Jen saying, “Wish you were here.” Jen had just been in Sedona the week before visiting us at our home and we showed Pablo this photo of Jen and our friend Ranjita (who had been on the Peru trip with me in 2008 and again last year).

I told Pablo this is the view from our home, and he and Marilu should come and visit us in Sedona. He said, “If Jen will bring me, I will come to Sedona!”

So it’s so incredible to me, all these connections that started with this first trip and have woven their way through my life, and all these other lives, through the years. Not to mention the other close friends I have made through these trips, people who came on the trips, people I love who are a huge part of my life.

Because at the end of the day, all of this is not so much about the sites (although they are absolutely incredible), it’s about the amazing people we share them with and keep connecting with.

This year again, our group has bonded in such a beautiful, special way. One of the women said to me yesterday, “I can’t believe how I love everyone in this group and feel so close to them. Doing this with other like-minded people has just been so wonderful.

Alan McKenna
 

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