Sunday, March 6, 2011

Joy is in the Bouncing

As I spent some time with old friends a few weeks ago, I found myself trying to describe what co-dependency is.  It is not an easy thing to describe, because though it has the same underlying theme, it can be a little different for each co-dependent person because of why they found themselves in that situation in the first place.  But, here are a few good definitions from Melodie Beattie's book Co-Dependent No More:

"The common denominator is having a relationship with troubled, needy or dependent people, and unwritten or silent rules that prohibit discussion about problems; realistic expectations, such as being human, vulnerable or imperfect; selfishness; trust in other people and one's self; playing and having fun; and rocking the delicately balanced family canoe through growth or change."

"A co-dependent person is one who has let another person's behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior."

"Co-dependency is a way of getting needs met that doesn't get needs met.  We've been doing the wrong things for the right reasons."

These are some good definitions, but there is so much to co-dependency, but to make it simple, this is what I usually tell people:

On one end of the scale is Narcissism or destructive selfishness (usually destructive to others), at the other end of the scale is co-dependency or self-destructive unselfishness (destructive to the self) and in the middle is balance. 

Like being on a teeter-totter, we need to bounce back and forth between doing for others and doing for ourselves.  To park at one end or the other is destructive, but to bounce back and forth, that is where we find our ultimate joy.  We've all been on teeter-totters as children, it is not fun by ourselves, it isn't fun to just sit there in the air, nor to sit at the bottom trying to hold it down.  The true joy of a teeter-totter is to push ourselves off into the air and then to come flying back down, laughing with our partner.
I was parked at the bottom of the "do for others" side of the teeter-totter, trying desperately to hold down the weight of those I was "holding" at the top trying to care for all of them and the longer you hold the teeter-totter down, the heavier it gets.  I had held on to that side of the teeter-totter for so long, I was completely exhausted and had nothing left for myself.  

Others have asked me in the past, "why don't you just do something for yourself, what's the big deal?"  Well, the big deal was that since I was a child I had been trying to "hold things in the air" so they wouldn't get out of control.  I thought if I could keep everything calm at home, then the people in my home would stay calm too.  I was so afraid that if I didn't do everything I could to keep the environment calm, then emotions would fly and things would get out of control.  I held this fear to the core of my being and that if I did something for myself, instead of doing everything in my power to control my home environment then things would get very scary.  As if my very arms were holding back the power of a grenade and if I let go, things would explode.  How could I let go and do something for myself and let that happen.  The fear is very real and I didn't realize how adversely it was affecting my life until I started dealing with the co-dependency.
I've always known how much joy we can feel when we do for others, but I just couldn't see how doing something for myself would be beneficial to anyone.  I was so afraid that if I just took care of myself, then the out-of-control feeling at home would escalate.  I didn't see how the bouncing back and forth between the two brought joy to everyone involved and that each one of us are responsible for our own emotions.  I really didn't understand that my holding on so tightly wasn't really going to make a difference in the end, others behave however they want to behave, no matter what we do.  I didn't realize that by my holding down that one end of the teeter-totter, I was holding down my own joy and that did affect my husband and children.  I was still living as if I was in my childhood home, instead of living a new life in my own home.  Letting go and pushing off into the air was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I did it!

I have let go and learned so much over the last few years and I can truly say that life is so much better bouncing back and forth than trying to hold it all up in the air!  The joy in life really is in the bouncing back and forth, pushing up into the air, laughing as we come crashing back down, then pushing up into the air again.  I can almost feel my hair flying against my face right now as I think about it.  Life is about balance, not staying stagnant in one place or another, and joy is in the bouncing! 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting!