“Codependent” is so overused at this point and has come to mean just about any version of an unhealthy relationship. I want to use a different term – one I’m borrowing from Brene Brown’s vernacular…she calls it hustling for love.
I’m referring to this business of denying or minimizing self in order to be, do or say what another person wants. We take care of things the other should be handling in order to make ourselves indispensable. We hustle like this because we want to be loved. We don’t trust that we will be loved as we truly are and so we put on masks, we become something we are not, we enable, in order to be what we think will be loved. The problem with all of this though is that when love comes our way, only our false self can receive it. Underneath, our true self never receives love and so we spend our lives unfulfilled and lonely, even in the presence of loving others.
The issue has been top of mind lately due to many conversations with a friend who has been focusing on this in his life. What we have taken great notice of is the fact that once awareness is gained, once root issues of self worth are tackled, the ultimate step of healing involves doing: engaging relationships from one’s new position of awareness and worth. But what if you don’t have any “others” in your life, qualified to take the journey with you? What if you have only gathered others who need a hustler? Who don’t know what to do with an authentic self? This is an issue we don’t often see anyone discussing. All the books and articles focus on what needs to change within us and how to behave differently, but I haven’t found anyone discussing the others. So here goes:
- When we begin the work of examining the way we relate to others and the roots of those relational styles, we must also begin the work of identifying the characteristics of healthy “others”. Many of us have not been exposed to enough examples.
- We need to also brainstorm where healthy others can be found and begin to position ourselves accordingly. This may mean new social activities or increased involvement in groups we previously marginalized.
- We need to communicate every step of our journey to existing, important others in our lives so that they have the opportunity to come along, to adjust to who we are becoming. If we don’t communicate, we leave them confused, defensive and possibly hurt by our internal changes.
- “We are not ourselves by ourselves” says Peterson. These efforts to transform our social circle will go a long way in our own self knowledge as we bring stories from our interactions into counseling. It is a key experiential aspect of therapy!
- When we have achieved enough awareness and worked through some of the core issues of self worth, it is time to identify a couple of healthy others in our sphere with whom we can practice being our newly authentic selves.
- From this point forward, it is all about relating in likely opposite ways to how we have before. It is intentional and consistent. This process needs to be a regular topic of counseling so that there is a constant feedback loop for learning. It is a terrifying challenge but it is the final step in true transformation. There is no other way to permanently change the meanings we have made of life experiences. It is a messy business filled with mis-steps requiring honest communication from which to recover. We may need to make a few changes in who we include in our tribe which then involves a grieving process for the ones who simply do not have what it takes to enter this new territory with us. The payoff is a level of connection and relational joy we never thought possible. Benefits that cannot be achieved with solely internal peace and knowledge.
Now it’s your turn…What aspect of mental/emotional health is on your mind these days? What are you currently wrestling with? I want this space to be useful! I’m also considering doing a weekly Facebook Live which will focus on what YOU want to hear about, so give me your feedback.