Author Archives: jackie major

Looking at Codependency from a Different Perspective

stepping stones

Looking at Codependency from
a Different Perspective

For years I have been trying to rid myself of codependency.  I am sure some of you can relate to this.  After all, we have been told that being codependent is something we need to “recover” from since it’s an addiction.  With this perspective comes a great deal of shame for being flawed in this way and blame for allowing this to happen.  However, this view actually dishonors the brilliance of the sensitive child who learned to be codependent in order to survive.

Codependency, which is an unhealthy attachment to and focus on others, is essentially a loss of self.  When someone is codependent, they want to please others.  On the surface this appears to be a good thing.  We all want to be more loving and giving.  However, when we are codependent, we bypass the crucial step of tuning in to see how we feel, what we want, and how doing something for someone would affect us.   We don’t consider ourselves.  It’s like we don’t exist.  This need to please is actually an attempt to get something from others.  When we don’t love ourselves and see our own value, we look for approval and love from others.  When we get it, we feel good about ourselves.  When we don’t, we feel unworthy and unlovable.  So our very existence depends on how others see us and feel about us.  This makes us extremely vulnerable to any real or perceived rejection.

Codependency is actually a survival skill that we learned in childhood.  In order to be accepted and loved by the adults who raised us, we had to “fit in”.  We learned what behaviors enabled us to be loved and which ones caused us to be rejected or punished.  If being true to ourselves was met with some form of criticism, we discovered that it wasn’t safe to be ourselves, so we started hiding who we are.  The false or codependent self is the part we created in order to protect the vulnerable, authentic child from being hurt.  But after years of living this way, we are so disconnected that we have forgotten who we really are.  The loss of self that comes when we reject ourselves is greater than any other loss we will experience in our lifetime.

Children cannot survive on their own, so conforming seems like the best choice at the time.   While suppressing our authentic self in order to receive love and acceptance in childhood may have saved our lives, it actually hurts us in adulthood if we continue to engage in the behaviors that prevent us from being fully alive.   Most of us live as our false self until we do the healing work that frees our authentic inner child, the part of us that is always there striving to make its presence known and has a destiny to fulfill.

Here is an exercise that can help you begin the process of connecting to yourself.  If it’s safe to do so, you can close your eyes.  However, you can also do this with your eyes open.

Take a deep breath and bring your attention to yourself and notice what you are aware of.  At first you may notice things that are outside of your physical body, since this is where most of us are used to placing our attention.  See if you can focus on what is happening inside of you.  When you look inside, what are you aware of?  What are you thinking?  What are you feeling?  Do you notice any sensations in your body?  Practice checking in with yourself several times a day.  Set a reminder on your phone if necessary.  Please don’t get discouraged if this is difficult at first.  If you’ve been taught to focus on others, you now need to learn how to focus on yourself.  There is no right or wrong answers here.  It’s just an exercise in awareness in the moment.

Our true self resides in our core, our center.  Just as there are core strength exercises we do for our physical body, we also need to strengthen our emotional body.  The farther away we get from our center, the weaker we become emotionally.  In this weakened state, we are more reactive and susceptible to negativity outside of us.

When we are connected to our true self, magic happens.  We need to accept the parts of us that make us unique and valuable.  We all have something to contribute, gifts that the world needs us to express.  Hiding who we are doesn’t serve anyone, especially ourselves.  After all, our highest calling is to serve!

Perhaps the answer is to become more authentic without losing the positive aspects of codependency, such as being a caring, loving, giving person.  That’s the part of us that has a desire to serve others and make the world a better place.   Ultimately it’s about connecting to ourselves AND connecting to others.  We can choose BOTH rather one or the other as we did in childhood.  BOTH isn’t codependent, it’s LOVE.  This state of having no separation between you and another is only possible, however, when you are connected to your true self.

The deepest part of us wants to be seen and heard, and also connected to others.  The way to change our codependent patterns is to love, nurture and appreciate our precious inner child.  This is the work that I am privileged to do.  I am grateful to be able to help these inner children heal and become authentically visible so they can shine their light into a world that desperately needs their bright light to shine.

Free To Be

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Free To Be
Our natural state is to be clear, calm and free. This is when we are at our best, living life authentically. We don’t have to think about how to be. We know who we are, and we act from a centered place, able to go with the flow of life. We’ve all had moments like this, where life seems effortless and we are filled with an abundance of energy and happiness. This blissful state of existence is often achieved when we are on vacation from everyday life. The feeling for me is one of complete freedom to just be myself, without thoughts directing every step I take.

 

Conversely, many of us are living as our false self, the part of us that has conformed to what we learned in childhood about who we are. We were taught that we need to be a certain way in order to be accepted and loved. After years of conditioning, we believe this is who we really are and have lost touch with our true self. The mind is filled with everything it has ever learned and is constantly monitoring what we think, feel, say and do. No wonder it’s so difficult to just go with the flow! Even though we know there is freedom when we flow, letting go is easier said than done.

Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt Therapy, said we need to lose our mind and come to our senses. Just talking about what we think doesn’t get us very far. Gestalt is a body-centered, experiential type of psychotherapy that focuses on awareness in the here and now. There is wisdom in our body that we need to access in order to be free. For example, something as simple as focusing on our breath can bring us into deeper contact with ourselves. We need to quiet the chatter in our mind in order to hear our truth.

Here are some suggestions that will help you do this.

1. Meditation

This is a powerful tool for centering and connecting to your authentic self. One of the easiest ways to meditate is to sit quietly and focus on your breath. It’s not about getting rid of thoughts. It’s about paying attention to your breathing and noticing when your mind wanders. When you realize you are thinking, you gently bring your awareness back to your breath. Thoughts will always be there. However, we don’t need to pay attention to every thought that enters our mind. Just observing thoughts for a few minutes shows us how random and scattered they can be. Mediation trains us to put our attention somewhere other than our thoughts. With practice we can create a sense of peace, where we can distinguish the difference between thoughts and an inner, deeper knowing.

2. Awareness in the Moment 

This is a Gestalt exercise that helps to heighten body awareness. Keep repeating the following statement and fill in the blank with whatever you notice about yourself in the moment. “Right now I am aware of……”

These are some examples:

Right now I am aware that I am holding my breath.
Right now I am aware of my growling stomach.
Right now I am aware of tightness in my chest.

Notice that the focus is on the sensation in the body (growling stomach) rather than the label (hunger) our mind wants to give the sensation.  Life happens in the moment. This is where we have the power to change patterns that may be holding us back and keeping us stuck. As long as we are looking back at things we cannot change or worrying about what has yet to happen, we are not free. Awareness of where we are in the moment is the first step to change.

3. Affirmations

Listen to your inner dialogue. The way you talk to yourself now reflects what you heard about yourself when you were a child. You were programmed to be the way others wanted you to be. Now you need to reprogram your internal voice to reflect who you really are. Affirmations are a great place to begin. Start with statements made in the present tense that express what you want to be true, such as:

“I love and accept myself unconditionally.”
“I have the courage to be my true self.”

“I know that past mistakes are opportunities for growth.”

At first you may not believe the positive thoughts. With patience and practice, you have the ability to turn things around. What we focus on creates our reality. That’s why it’s so important to fill our mind with positive affirmations rather than the negative statements we are unconsciously repeating.

These are just a few suggestions to get you started. We have become disconnected from ourselves and now need a little help reconnecting. Thinking isn’t knowing. Our mind thinks, but our body knows. Our journey is to discover our inner truth and to be free of the limitations and restrictions we put on ourselves when we need approval and acceptance from others.

Living life as our authentic self is the key to a life of inner peace, joy and freedom.

You Are A Work in Progress

stepping stones

You Are A Work In Progress

Do you see yourself as a work in progress or a finished product? As long as you are alive, you are working toward becoming your true self and reaching your full potential. Even if you feel stuck and don’t see much movement at the present time, don’t be discouraged! Sometimes we need to be still and quiet while something is unfolding and blossoming inside of us.

Our life’s journey is to find our purpose and accomplish the assignment we’ve been given. As early as childhood, we’ve had desires and dreams. Although we may not be aware of it, we all have gifts and talents. As life happens, we can lose touch with our true essence and what we were born to do. Challenges along the way are not meant to stop us. They are there to help us grow into our authentic self. As uncomfortable as it may be, we grow the most during the difficult times.

Change is inevitable. I have a sign in my office that says, “The only consistency in life is change.” When we resist change rather than embrace it and see it as part of life, we can get stuck repeating the same lesson over and over again. When water doesn’t flow, it becomes stagnant and a breeding ground for disease. That’s what happens in our bodies when we resist the flow of change. The expression “go with the flow” is very meaningful when we look at it in this context. For some people the thought of change is terrifying, so they try to control their environment to create safety. However, this is a false sense of security.

Unless we realize we don’t have the power to change anyone else, we spend our lives wasting our time and energy. Every person and situation is just a mirror showing us something about ourselves. The world around us provides the lessons of life that we need to learn in order to grow and reach our potential. We only react to things because a button is being pushed in us. Our reactions show us where we have work to do. If we don’t get the message and transform that part of ourselves, we keep attracting the same lesson.

It’s really very simple, but not always easy to do. Be present, express yourself truthfully and let go of the outcome. Life is so much more rewarding when we stop trying to control other people and make things happen our way. It’s not our business to interfere in someone else’s process or journey. We are each here for a reason and a purpose. Our life’s work is to discover what that is…. and then do it!

Even though you may not be where you want to be, you must love and accept yourself exactly where you are. We grow with love, not criticism. Being hard on yourself just keeps you where you don’t want to be. This is not to say you shouldn’t look at yourself and change what isn’t working. But love and encouragement make the process much easier.

Don’t sit back waiting passively for changes to occur. You must be an active participant in your life. These suggestions may help.

1. Focus on positive, uplifting thoughts. What you think will determine how you feel and also the direction of your life. See yourself having the life you desire.
2. Take some risks and move out of your comfort zone. Your goals and dreams are outside of what’s comfortable and familiar.
3. Be grateful for all you are and all you have. This is necessary in order to move fully into the life you were born to live.
4. Make loving and accepting yourself a priority. That’s the only way you will be able to give love to others and to find true happiness.

The joy is in the journey, not reaching the destination. You must be able to be in the moment, to accept what is, and to be happy right where you are. This might seem like a tall order, but it’s worth the challenge. No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to find your authentic self. You are always a work in progress and not yet at the finish line.

To be continued… Look for more on how to love yourself in the next Stepping Stones.