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Episode 21 Co-Dependency and Relationship Healing

Imagine that someone has a pillow and they toss it to you. Your natural reaction is to catch it. Thinking it might be a game, you toss it back to them. As this mild, slightly inconvenient game of toss continues back and forth, you suddenly realize you really don't have to keep catching and tossing this pillow. You decide to drop it. However, the pillow isn't in the other person's space, it is still in your own space and therefore still your burden to bear. You decide you'll not hold it, play catch, or engage with the pillow anymore and toss it to the other person's feet. It is their pillow, after all. Why should you carry it?

Finally, you are free of this game and the pillow. You can go about your day, your life, and focus on your own pillows. Their pillow is still at their feet. They refuse to pick it up. They won't deal with their pillow. Should you nag them? Push them or prod them or even yell at them to pick up that pillow?

In this scenario, the pillow represents that persons "stuff". The emotional and energetic work of their self-sabotaging behaviors and beliefs. In the beginning, you engaged with a game of toss with their stuff, holding it for them at times when they couldn't deal and tossing it back and forth. You might even believe that this game is a way of connecting to this person you love. You aren't able to life your life, focus on your own needs, or even pick up your own "pillows" to work on and heal. This definition of co-dependency patterns in a relationship is defined as dishonoring yourself to honor someone else.

Once you decided to start honoring Self and let the other person have their own stuff to work on, it can break the co-dependency patterns and cause some disturbance in the relationship. However, the message when we let others have their own emotional baggage to carry is not "I don't love you anymore and I won't be the one to pick up your pieces and rescue you." Most often that is the message they will perceive at first when the patterns they've always relied on and depended on are disrupted. However, the ACTUAL message here is "I know you are strong enough and capable enough to do this Self work and you will benefit most when you've worked through it yourself."

In the case of the pillow staying at the owner's feet, but the other person nags or yells or gets angry that they won't pick it up and work on it, is the other side of the co-dependency coin. Dishonoring others to honor yourself is still unhealthy relationship connection. The goal would be to heal what triggers us about that and balance in the space that honors yourself on your journey, and honors theirs. Trusting that they will pick up that pillow in their own time, encouraging them and loving them throughout that process. Sometimes, they won't pick up their pillow or they move on to find other people to play the "Toss the Pillow game", but that is not within your control or power to manage. We hold our power in the right to choose our own path.

Co-Dependency Patterns show up in almost every relationship in one form or another. It is most significantly challenged in relationships when addiction and mental health are a struggle. For myself, my Invitation to Work was when my husband's addiction to alcohol became an apparent challenge in our relationship. Having been together since High School, it was natural for us to develop a very co-dependent relationship. It felt like the only and right way to stay connected. However, there reached a point that the actual interdependence and true connection was ever going to be achieved as long as we stayed in that pattern. Al-Anon programs for families of people that struggle with addiction was a wonderful resource at the beginning of my awareness and journey to a more healthy view.

The body's energy center relating to relationships is in the Sacral Chakra. This is when a lot of shame, co-dependency, absorbing other's emotions, and inability to seek pleasure is blocked in the womb/reproductive organs, the lower stomach digestive tract, and the lower back. For many, endometriosis or other infertility related illness can be an affect of unbalanced sacral chakra. When I am doing Emotional Processing sessions, it is incredibly helpful to know when the color orange is being pulled out that there might be a connection to those type of stuck energy or patterns.

It is important to note that the balance in relationships are very tricky even when there aren't major Traumatic struggles. Many people question when their spouse, child, parent, or grown sibling is in need, how to draw the line between love and nurturing and co-dependent rescuing? The part 2 episode with Brenda Kradolfer (relationship coach) offer some tips and insight into how to decipher that. The question I ask myself is 'Am I holding enough space for myself before I hold the space and emotional energy for this other person?' and 'If I step into this space of helping, am I going to feel resentful about it during or after?' to help me gauge whether I am showing up in love and nurturing or rescuing.

We were conditioned to believe and even pedestalize acts of selfless service is the definition of love. It is hard for us not to step in a honor their right to struggle. When I respond to my children in situations I would want to involve myself, I remind myself that they deserve the right to figure out hard things and have the benefit from the experience. I remind myself that the message I want to convey is that they are strong and capable and I believe in them. My cheat phrase is to say, "That is so hard! What are you going to do about that?" to show that I am an empathetic ear or shoulder, but not a rescuer to handle the problem for them.

The most important thing to take away from these discussions is that there is not one defined rule-book for every person or relationship to navigate healthy patterns, but that awareness of the strain it has can be an excellent guide. Resentments begin to build when one or more people drift from their authenticity and aligned path. Healing is just a journey of awareness and witnessing of Self, there is not an arrival point of being "healed".

To listen to this episode, find me anywhere where you get your podcasts or watch on YouTube:

Resources for this episode:

  1. Codependent No More by Melody Beattie

  2. Al-Anon literature: Courage to Change by Al-Anon Family Groups

  3. For family members that struggle with addiction support groups:

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