Living Your Own Life: Escape from Codependency

Anni Johnston, LMHC, D/MT

Many people use the term “co-dependency” to describe an over-involved stance with others in their life. Originally it was coined to apply to those in an enabling relationship with someone in an addiction. Now its meaning has broadened to describe anyone who repeatedly finds himself or herself wrapped up in a caregiving, over-planning, problem-fixing manner with people in their lives. There is nothing inherently wrong with caregiving, planning or fixing problems, it’s when one can’t let go of the need to do so they find themselves burdened. What is less understood is that one can get just as entangled with someone or a situation by striving to “get rid of” a scenario as they can by getting too involved. The resistance to accept, feel or allow a scenario in your life keeps you connected to it through the lack of peace it generates in you. Resistance creates tension, tension creates the desire to escape, and escape creates the urgency to avoid or eliminate. Wanting to avoid or eliminate something that already exists causes unhappiness and non-peace. In essence, control (can’t let go) and resistance (wanting to get rid of) are two sides of the same coin; each keeps you wrapped up mentally and emotionally. To experiment with disentangling yourself from a scenario or relationship where you want to control, fix, or get rid of, practice the following exercise. Try working on letting go of or moving towards (don’t resist) these urges:

  • Let go of holding on to outcomes and move  towards something you want to push away
  • Let go of clinging & keeping things the same and move towards feelings of aversion
  • Let go of 
“I want…..” and move towards “I don’t want…..”
  • Let go of  acquiring and move towards pushing awe
  • Let go of getting it a certain way and move towards fear
  • 
Let go of grasping and move towards change

Take time to look at the subtle ways in which something in one column might be influencing you in a way you’d never identified. Can you see the way softening resistance to things you had previously avoided has a similar effect to letting go of pushing for specific outcomes? Take time to journal, observe and discuss how these core ways of operating have been affecting you and keeping you entangled. In time, and with continued willingness, you will experience the peace and freedom of living your own life on your own terms.

Need more help? Ask your therapist about Anni’s new co-dependency group: “Living Life on Your Terms.”

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