When caught up in codependent patterns, it can feel as if our whole beings are holding their breath, as though we are waiting on someone else to validate our experiences. Deeper than that, it is as if we are waiting on something outside of ourselves to validate our very existence.
As if the meaning of our lives were generated by some external force, so many of us have forgotten how to connect with what makes us feel most alive and peaceful from within.
The meaning of our lives and the inherent validity of our experience are found deep in our innermost being, and it is possible to deepen and strengthen this part of ourselves through the choices we make and how we focus our energy each day.
While healthy interdependence, in which we rely on others for emotional support and find meaning from our relational connections, is an important part of life, it is a very different thing from codependency in which we use others to supplant what is missing in our own lives.
When we use others in this way, we avoid doing the hard work of looking in the mirror and reckoning with our own demons. This deprives us of getting to know our own bodies, psyches, and emotional landscapes, and more: it deprives us of learning how to be centered in our own individuality and resiliency.
At its core, codependency is an avoidance of our own internal environments. We seek contact with another person to relieve our own anxieties, assuage our insecurities, and fulfill the meaning and vitality that may be missing within.
When we make contact with others expecting them to pacify our anxiety and regulate our emotions in this way, it’s the emotional equivalent of relating to another person as if they are Xanax.
One of the big problems with using people as though they are anti-anxiety medication is that, not only does it tend to alienate others from us, but it also interferes with our ability to heal and develop a deeper connection with ourselves.
Anxiety can often be a signal that something is not quite right, and when we use relationships to alleviate it, we may not be able to pay enough attention to that signal to allow it to point us in the direction we need to go to heal.
When we fail to listen to our bodies’ signals, we can begin to feel alienated from our deepest needs, desires, and truths. This can also cause us to feel alienated from others as we seek something of ourselves in them. Then, we tend to draw people in with the purpose of rescuing us.
When we are consciously or unconsciously waiting to be rescued, we do not tend to surround ourselves with people who truly share our highest values and ideals.
Finding alignment with our own individuality and moving through the world as a genuine expression of our truest values, we can build relationships founded on reciprocity, vulnerability, admiration, respect, and mutual care.
Though relationships are an important part of individual wellbeing, we are not here to shape ourselves around the expectations and needs of others. We find the meaning of our life through the deep study of our own experience and finding deep connection with what is truest and most resonant with our being.
Codependency is a mirror. Healing from it is the practice of looking in that mirror, asking questions about what we see, getting honest in our answers, and allowing that inquiry to guide us in seeing our own blind spots.
In that process of inquiry and honest looking, we allow both ourselves and our relationships to change and evolve.
As we learn more about ourselves as individuals, we stop waiting on someone else to make us feel okay. And the very act of fearlessness and honestly inquiring creates the space for our existence to validate itself.
Healing from codependency is not a linear process. It is the ever-evolving work of turning inwards and tuning into who you are, your passions, and learning to let go of who you think you are.
Brooke Sprowl is the Founder of My LA Therapy, a concierge therapy practice, and My Truest North, a cross-disciplinary coaching and consultancy firm specializing in mission-driven entrepreneurs seeking greater integrity, spiritual awakening, and deeper ways to actualizing their higher purpose through collective service. With 15 years of clinical experience as an individual, couples, and family therapist, she is trained in a wide-range of approaches, from evidence-based therapy practices to peak performance and flow neuroscience techniques. Brooke is also the host of the podcast, On Living with Brooke Sprowl. She is passionate about writing, cognitive science, philosophy, integrity, spirituality, effective altruism, personal and collective healing, and curating luxury, transformational retreat experiences for people who are committed to self-discovery and using their unique gifts in service of the world.