It’s not my job to fill that hole you’ve got. On codependency.

It’s not my job to fill that hole you’ve got. Nor is it your child’s job. It’s yours. My daughter is a huge and important part of my life but she’s not my everything, my reason for living, although she has enriched my life beyond measure. I respect her as a person in her own right. When she leaves home, of course I’ll really miss her, but my life won’t end. A new phase will begin. Because I am centred in myself. I am anchored in myself. This is the fundamental thing. I’ve had to work hard to get to that place. To not be dependent on others for my sense of self-worth, or to fill a hole. That doesn’t mean I can’t love other people. It’s the opposite. It means I am free to love other people without attachment and neediness. So I can love them appropriately and properly. They can still be their whole selves and so can I. We don’t need to get lost in each other, except in the bedroom. Otherwise how can each of us distinguish our own feelings and opinions from the other person’s? We can’t really see each other when we are too tangled up together. When each of us is whole, we can truly appreciate each other, and we can discuss and resolve issues more easily, because we can see what is within ourselves and what is coming from the other person. When we have learned to stand on our own two feet, we have the courage to look at ourselves, because we know we are whole. There is not a gaping void we are trying to pretend isn’t there. We can look at our faults and learn from them because we have self-compassion. Standing on our own two feet doesn’t mean being completely self-sufficient. We all need other people. But it does mean not placing unrealistic expectations on other people to fix what we have to fix for ourselves, although we might ask for support while we do that. It does mean not expecting one person, such as a partner, child or parent, to fulfil all our emotional needs. A partner or child is not there to fulfil any unmet needs we might have from childhood. We have to find a way to fulfil and heal that within ourselves, otherwise we project the parent role onto a person that is not our parent. Feeling excessively dependent on others to fix our emotional problems is disempowering because, firstly, it’s not in their power to do so, and secondly, by waiting for them to do it, you are depriving yourself of the opportunity. All healing is ultimately self-healing. Others are just there to help. Sometimes we might mutually support each other and work side by side on our issues, swapping notes as we go. Standing on our own two feet also means accepting that we are not the whole answer to all their needs. When someone has codependent tendencies and a desperate need to be needed, they can unconsciously hold their partner back from fulfilment as they try to keep them needy. In its most extreme manifestation it can take the form of controlling behaviour and manipulation to keep the other person from leaving. This leads to increasing isolation of the couple. They remain trapped together, frozen in a destructive pattern, where neither person can grow or find real fulfilment. The old saying goes, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ I think that remains true in adulthood. The concept of the nuclear family has brought us some freedom and flexibility but having smaller families doesn’t take away that need for a bigger extended family. If we don’t have one, or they are far away, we can create our own, through nurturing friendships, and allowing our partners to do the same. When we have a range of people to rely on, it broadens our outlook. We realise that we are not dependent on one person. We are part of an interconnecting, evolving web of community. It’s not a threat if someone doesn’t desperately need you in order to fulfil their happiness. We can be together because we choose to be, and because we enjoy giving to each other, not because we can’t survive without each other. It’s not my job to fill that hole you’ve got. But I’ll make you a cuppa while you fetch your spade.

©️Janey Colbourne 2018

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