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for RIM Facilitators, Coaches, Trainers, Retreat Leaders and Evolving Humans in General
By Michael Kline
At the RIM Institute, we’ve been surveying students and retreat participants for the last few years about emotional traits. I see a common thread around three issues. 1. Asking for what you need. 2. Receiving love and support from others. And 3. Setting effective boundaries.
Do you find yourself consistently feeling unfulfilled in a variety of relationships, not asserting yourself enough, or perhaps you have difficulty figuring out where your responsibility for someone else ends? Issues like these and others, such as perfectionism, low self-esteem, distrust, and even physical illness related to stress can indicate that you have some codependent behavior.
Codependency can show up in any relationship in the family, the neighborhood, at work, or anywhere else. A common example is when a loved one needs support because of an addiction, or an illness and we take care of that person at the expense of ourselves. Codependents can also attempt to control everything within a relationship, again, without addressing their own needs, thus setting us up for unfulfilling interactions and even sometimes unintentionally discouraging the loved one from seeking help.
We learn codependency by watching and imitating people in our family and in society who display the behavior; thus, it is often passed down from generation to generation.
Many of us are taught not to be assertive, for instance, or we don’t know how to ask directly for our needs to be met. Women are sometimes taught that codependent behavior is how all women should behave.
Since codependency is a learned emotional and behavioral condition, that means it can also be unlearned. Here are some ways to begin:
Recognize where it comes from. Many things we were taught as children set us up to become codependent. For example, sayings like: “Don’t rock the boat” teach us to be passive and keep the peace at all costs.
Begin to understand where the boundary is between yourself and other people. Although this can be confusing for the codependent at first, when you start to realize that you are not responsible for your partner’s depression or anger, for example, it will become an easier concept to grasp. You have to take care of yourself first. Remember the airline safety rule to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs? You can’t truly help someone else until you’ve taken care of your own needs.
Learn when and how to say “no.” As you become more self-reliant, you will have to learn to say “no.” That can be challenging, but understand that your no is usually expressed anyway, often through resentment. It’s empowering to say “no” when you want to. You’ll also find that standing up for your needs and expressing yourself more frequently will improve your well-being and, even, your relationships. Remember, if you never say “no”, your “yes” has no value.
The cycle of codependency can be broken as you find freedom and self-esteem in the constructive process of recovering your own voice and expressing it. In time and with practice, you won’t worry so much about what others think of you, and you won’t feel the need to control others or their response to you. Healing is possible, and it can start today.
You’ll find that it’s okay to talk openly about problems and feelings, and you won’t worry so much about others. As helpful as talking about problems and sharing feeling can be, we now know that it’s more effective to regenerate the original script we were taught.
Take June, a consultant from a large US city I recently worked with. June found herself losing sales, and felt she was responsible for her customers feelings more than for helping them resolve the problem she is trained to do. As she holds back asking the tough questions that she fears will make them uncomfortable, she is keeping them in their suffering and hurting her own sales. Through the RIM (Regenerating Images in Memory) process, June went on a metaphoric journey exploring sensations in her own body like the chronic pain in her left hip. As her imagination gives it form, colors and texture, she imagines moving into it and is surprised to find herself in a childhood memory of her mother ignoring her complaints and giving her more chores and responsibilities. After creating safety to do so, young June is able to have a dialogue with Mom, expressing her grievances and feeling listened to and heard for the first time in her life. Mom shares how sorry she is, and how she was raised in the same way. They both realize the journey they share and can now have a very different relationship. Because she regenerated the original memory, and the nervous system treats a well-imagined event as a real event, her new emotional memories change how she feels, rather than just how she thinks. Now June can more easily change her behavior, without relying on sheer will power to remember to try to think differently.
As Melody Beattie wrote in Codependent No More: “Worrying about people and problems doesn’t help. It doesn’t solve problems, it doesn’t help other people, and it doesn’t help us. It is wasted energy.”
Michael J. Kline is a Master Trainer, Retreat Leader and Firekeeper. You can often find him teaching emotional processing skills like RIM (Regenerating Images in Memory), or assisting Jack Canfield, training transformational trainers, or hosting a retreat at Con Smania in Costa Rica. Otherwise, he’s at home in Sarasota FL, with his husband of 34 years, and their labradoodle Luke. You can reach him through his website www.michaeljkline.com or e-mail email@example.com
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