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The Positive Approach - Lesson 2


Co-Dependence

By Peter Shepherd

Listen to the Lesson:

Sometimes we put aside our true self and instead exist from the position of being effect. We may be involved in relationships and work situations we know are harming us, but we feel helpless to change them. We may have addictive relations to people and situations. We must have what is harming us, or we must do what (we really know inside) is harming us. We are co-dependent.

One may be addicted to a relationship if one feels ashamed and therefore needing to propitiate - or if one fears abandonment, being rejected or being alone and therefore forced to be independent. But these feelings are suppressed, hidden from ourselves. Co-dependence is really emotional dishonesty, because we are suppressing our true feelings and substituting those of another. We lose our integrity and are stuck on our spiritual path. It needs dealing with!

Do any of the following apply to you?

  • Do you depend on somebody else's approval?
  • Do somebody else's problems feel like your problems?
  • Do you put aside your interests for another person's?
  • Do you feel responsible for another's feelings?
  • Do you feel you can't say no, or very guilty and anxious if you do?
  • Do you worry how another may respond to your feelings and behavior?
  • Do you fear being hurt or rejected by another?
  • Do you put another's needs and wants before your own?
  • Do you judge things by another person's standards?
  • Are you steadfastly loyal even when shamed, neglected or abused?
If so, spot the co-dependence and take responsibility in that area - reclaim your own choices. (You can change the following questions to the present tense if appropriate.)
  1. What choices did I make? Consider:

    • What did I decide about myself ?
    • What did I decide about the other person or other people?
    • What did I choose to think?
    • How did I choose to feel? What emotion did I choose?
    • What did I choose to do?
    • How did my choices affect my behavior going forward?

  2. What other choices could I have made? And what might the effect of each of those choices be?

  3. What positive learning can I get from this experience?
You need to look at the situation in terms of choices you have made and that you can revise, now that you are more conscious of what's going on.

By becoming conscious of our attitudes and perspectives, we can start discerning what works for us and what does not work. We can then start making choices about whether our view of life is serving us - or if it is setting us up to be victims because we are expecting life to be something that it is not.

An example. I allow my son to watch any program he wants on TV and miss my own favorites, because I'm afraid to upset him and I want him to love me. I've chosen to believe that he will only love me if I allow him to do whatever he wants. I realize now however that I'm his father, he loves me anyway, and my behavior is not actually going to increase his respect for me, in fact the opposite, and it isn't a good example to set him either [my positive learning]. I have my own right to watch my favorite programs and the TV is a resource we share, not to be dominated by one person. So now I choose to explain that to my son (assertively but calmly and with empathy, certainly not with anger or resentment) and in future we will have a better arrangement.

Empathic communication is always the answer, but remember that empathy does not necessarily require liking or agreement, it's to recognize and respect the other as an independent living being, with their own rights and responsible for their own beliefs, feelings and actions. And yourself likewise. That's what love actually is: unconditional acceptance. That quality is who you really are, your essential nature.

Co-dependence applies to perhaps a majority of people, so don't think there's anything wrong with you, so much as you've now started on a path of personal growth, so you can begin to switch these things around. Choose one of the aspects of co-dependence and start to put it right. Not all at the same time as that would be overwhelming, but choose one in which you feel you can take some positive steps toward changing your situation and your customary responses. If you can make some empowering changes, this will encourage you to tackle further areas of your life and relationships, and the snowball will be rolling. However, if it all seems too much, then get some help from a counselor, who will give you support.

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Next Lesson: 3. Suppression
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