Sunday, May 22, 2011

An Ending and a Beginning

Eighteen months and 87 articles later, the Creative Codependence Blog is taking a break. I've loved writing this blog and will continue to teach and write about codependence but starting tomorrow, May 23, a new blog takes its place:The Interdependent Life
Join me as I continue to explore creative ways to live life — ways that respect open and honest communication, the mutuality of need and the boundaries required to serve us in good health. As always, I welcome your comments.

For ease of searching, I've listed all the Creative Codependence articles by month below.

Stay tuned for The Creative Living workshops this fall:

• Creative Codependence™: Getting more Out of Life
• Interdependent Living: Mutuality, Respect and Self Leadership
• Awakening to Boundaries: Taking Care of Self

And... ARC Bodywork sessions are available. Go to to find out more or send me an email to get on my mailing list. Look forward to hearing from you, Jo-Ann

November, 2009
Global Dependency

December 2009

The Power of No
Self Care
Climate Change

January 2010

Horses, Boundaries and Dr. Suess
Rules (part one)
Rules (part two)

February 2010

Self Responsibility
The Girl Cell
Of Being Human
Day 1 - Day 7 of the 2010 Interdependence Challenge

March 2010

Risky Investments
The Triple C

April 2010


The Wind
A Muse on Life

May 2010

Trust and Safety Series
Trust and Safety (part one)
The Codependency of Mistrust
The Chicken and the Egg (part three)
Trust and Safety (part four)

June 2010

Centre Stage
An African Folk Tale (part one)
Name Your Hunger (part two)
The Hunger of Codependence (part three)

July 2010

The Hunger of Addiction (part four)
The Power Give Away
Self Protection

August 2010

A question on Vulnerability
More on Vulnerability

September/October 2010

Bread Making Series
The Light and the Dark of It
Perfection and the Mother Starter
Good Bread: The Hopeful Cure-All
Authority and the Art of Break Making

The Simple Life
Breaking the Contract

November 2010

Jack of the Petit Dumpling
The Road
Party On Or Not

December 2010
My Favorite Things
Half the Sky
Gift Giving
Selfishness or Health Self Care
Awareness and Responsibility

January 2011

Reclaiming Codependence
Hairdresser's Anonymous
Recovery and Sustainability: Are We Worth It

The Interconnectedness of Self Worth
The Cupboard Gourmet
Our Body; Our Self
In Praise of Being Wrong

February 2011

Hiding Behind the Socially Acceptable
Adventures in Buckwheat
Love the One You're With (part one)
Love the One You're With (part two)
Mother Issues
The Opaque Mirror

March 2011

The 2011 Interdependence Challenge
Day 1 - Day 7
Interdependence and the Social Media
Unconditional Meaning
Holding Centre

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Victor Frankl and Interdependence

I am taking a small break from writing this month. Elections Canada has hired me to teach workshops for the next three weeks and my mind is a wee bit focused on the voting “need-to-knows” for election officials. It is actually quite fascinating as I have never before been behind the scenes of the democratic process and it’s an interesting change from my usual workshop topics. The consequence, however, will be sporadic blog entries between now and D-Day, May 2.

Today I leave you with some quotes from Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl spent three horrendous years in Dachau and Auschwitz. His writings inspire me and reinforce my beliefs in interdependence.

Of his concentration camp experiences he wrote:
“What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. … We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life — daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. ... No man and no destiny can be compared with any other man or any other destiny. No situation repeats itself, and each situation calls for a different response.”
In other words, he calls for us to be creative in our response to life regardless of where it leads us. He encourages mutuality and respect in our relationships and, above all, responsible self leadership. He calls for us to be interdependent.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Holding Centre

Communication is a funny thing. No matter how straightforward or honest you try to be, and no matter how much you try to stay out of triangles and other people’s business, you can still find yourself in the middle of a conundrum that while is not of your doing, directly affects you.

Drat it all, being human is not easy.

I found myself in a bit of an uncomfortable miscommunication triangle not too long ago. Despite the fact I was an “innocent” caught in the middle, I wavered between guilt that felt I could have made my position clearer and anger that abhorred being blamed for any of it — both nicely blended in with a caretaking desire to fix the problem. None of those responses would have been helpful and, in retrospect, all three were codependent reactions. With each of those feelings I was allowing myself to be overly affected by another because I was losing sight of my truth: the problem was not mine and, therefore, not mine to fix or worry about. The best I could do was to state my case, not take on anyone else’s responsibility, nor try to solve it for them or worry that I could have done better.

It is one of those default patterns I can fall into that drives me to sleepless nights and irritable days but also one that reinforces why I don’t want to live in codependence anymore. Anyhow, while the triangle issue is still being worked out and my codependent parts gnaw at the bit to get involved, I tenuously hold my centre.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Unconditional Meaning

Please share with me a quote from Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. He writes in a few perfect words what I tried to pen in a thousand. The man was not only a genius but a poet. (See my version in The Interconnectedness of Self Worth.

What is demanded of man is not, as some existential philosophers teach, to endure the meaningless of life, but rather to bear his incapacity to grasp its unconditional meaningfulness in rational terms.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Interdependence and the Social Media

I am back with the question I asked on March 9: does social media deter or enhance interdependence? Or, as originally stated, does true interdependence require real, face-to-face social interaction?

** First, however, I must make full disclosure: I have been known to use the email (and v-mail for that matter) as a tool to avoid social contact and, if I am totally honest, to have more control over the messiness that can occur in face-to-face interactions. Electronic media helps me, to a certain extent, avoid intimacy. Thus twisted logic is born: because I do, everyone else does, resulting in my current bias against.

When I posed the question on March 9, “Bonnie” replied in the comment section:

“I find [Facebook] great to relate on some level to friends and family who live in other parts of the world, and who I don't have a face to face, telephone or even e-mail connection with very often. It helps us be a part of each other's life …”

Okay, that makes sense, “being a part of each other’s life” fits one aspect of interdependence, that of community. I come from the perspective that we are all interconnected (whether we acknowledge it or not) and if social media can help us feel those bonds then that is a positive in my books. But what of the other parts of interdependence: respect, mutuality and leadership? What about the fourth component that we played with on March 11 — simplicity?

Let’s deal with them in order. First off, is social media a respectful communication tool? If left unrestrained I would say no. Then again, isn’t that true of other sources of communication? We don’t, for example, write confidential information on the back of postcards or have embarrassing photos in the inner flap of our wallets or on our office computer screensaver. And who hasn’t wanted to tell their cell phone talking bus mate that their sex life isn’t all that interesting. All forms of communication require some form of boundary that draws the line at not only what is said but how, when and to whom it is said. That is, of course, if we want it to be respectful.

Is there mutuality to social media? Mutuality, as used here, is about mutual gain or, at minimum, an interaction in which no one is hurt or loses energy. Facebook may increase positive social connections (a mutual gain) but it can also be used as a tool to bully. Like other forms of communication, it depends on intent. We can have meaningful conversation or we can gossip; one way enhances the other hurts. A political example comes from the use of social media in mass protest movements. This was seen quite dramatically in Iran in 2009, and recently with Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Lev Grossman of Time Magazine wrote:

“… Twitter practically [is] ideal for a mass protest movement, both very easy for the average citizen to use and very hard for any central authority to control. ... On June 13 [2009], when protests started to escalate, and the Iranian government moved to suppress dissent both on- and off-line, the Twitter verse exploded with tweets from people who weren't having it, both in English and in Farsi.”

Then again, what’s good for the citizen may be a loss for the government. Mutuality can be subjective and perhaps best left in the hands of historians to debate. And, going back to intent, who is to judge that what is being said is truth? As Grossman continues:

“As is so often the case in the media world, Twitter's strengths are also its weaknesses. The vast body of information about current events in Iran that circulates on Twitter is chaotic, subjective and totally unverifiable. It's impossible to authenticate sources.”

Perhaps a more easily defended example of positive mutuality is how Facebook and Twitter provided relief for loved ones looking for lost relatives in Japan this past week.

“Less than an hour after the quake, the number of tweets from Tokyo topped 1,200 per minute, according to Tweet-o-Meter. An interactive graphic created by Facebook to illustrate status updates related to the quake shows Japan’s activity on Facebook during that day was also high.” (source:

And now we come to leadership, a key factor in interdependence. We discussed above how intent seems to be what keeps social media and other forms of communication an interdependent process. For the underlying intent to be respectful to self and others, and a tool for positive mutuality, there must be integrous self leadership.

As I disclosed at the beginning of this blog I sometimes use email and v-mail to avoid real interaction. In those instances I am not in integrity with those of whom I am relating. I am lacking in self leadership for I am allowing the parts of me that want to hide to be in charge. This is not to say that I should talk when I don’t feel like talking but that I should also not fool myself in believing I am creating community by hiding behind a computer. Another example of this is in on-line protests movements like petitions. In a review by The Guardian Weekly (Feb 4.11), Evgeny Morozov was quoted from his book, Net Delusion: How not to liberate the world

“The internet … is breeding a generation not of activists but of “slacktivists”, who think that clicking on a Facebook petition counts as a political act and who dissipate their energies on a thousand distractions.”

If signing on-line petitions is a way of comforting our self into believing we are doing the best in making the world a better place, we are not in integrity with our beliefs. On-line petitions have little pull compared with a posted letter to the government or the newspaper editor, donated money, volunteer work or peaceful marches. While it is a step in the right direction when done in isolation on-line petitions becomes another way to shield ourselves from what it means to live interdependently in community.

Finally, we add in simplicity. When communication gets complicated it generally means our codependent parts are in play. When we try to formulate our interactions with others so to consciously, or unconsciously, manipulate them to like, help, respect, be fearful of, or protect us, we not only disrespect all parties involved but we complicate the issue. We do things in reference to the other without honestly acknowledging our own needs and feelings. Instead of saying “I am lonely” we try to somehow make another need us so they will stay or love us; instead of stating our anger we project anger onto others or act passive aggressively; and instead of showing our vulnerabilities, we project fear into others to control or keep them at a distance.

Honest communication begins with self. If we are in integrity with our feelings, beliefs and actions, we have a higher potential to respectfully act on those feelings and beliefs regardless of how we choose to communicate. Interdependence has its origins within that internal honesty — that clear intent to live in integrity … simple as that.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Interdependent Challenge Day 7

Yesterday I started the challenge off by asking myself what I really meant by interdependence. I found myself confused after experiencing the many emotions surrounding my father; my need for solitude and a sporadic but determined desire to be a part of the world. Through this I recognized a part of me that doesn’t want to be interdependent — the messy feelings that come from it just too damn uncomfortable. Then again, are these not my codependent parts speaking, the ones that want to hide away in a cave and find safety and reassurance within the walls of aloneness and the others that feel I can serve the world best by fixing things I have no right to fix?

I received an email a few days ago from someone responding to Day 4 of the Challenge. It was a much needed light in the dim hallway I was living. The person wrote: “I spent a lot of energy being anxious about what I should or shouldn't do. I had no compass until I found myself and started listening.” And how simple is that?

If I look at it from this perspective, interdependence may require respect, mutuality and leadership but to be truly effective the energy behind it must come from within. We must listen to and respect individual needs while interacting with others from our internal compass— the one that tells us what is right and what is wrong, what depletes and what replenishes; what strengthens and what diminishes.

Perhaps then, that is the fourth component of the interdependent tenets: Respect, Mutuality, Leadership and Simplicity. Life is complicated when our codependent parts are in charge. In the action of simplifying, however; in allowing life to flow without complicated motives, by trusting ourselves and listening to our internal compass we live interdependently.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Interdependent Challenge - Day 6

Interdependence… its been such a full and, at times, confusing week, I sit here tonight and ask, what the heck do I mean by that?

It all seemed so easy last year when I first initiated the Interdependent Challenge. Back then I had a clearer vision and a yearning to be out there while today I sit in quasi-retreat. These past few months I’ve chosen solitude over connection and have been looking at my identity in terms never fully explored before. I really don’t want to interact with anyone but life doesn’t stop because I desire it to do so: the show, as they say, goes on.

So today I went food shopping and, because the jar was there, donated $1 to a microfinancing program in Peru. I bought organic and fair trade food, wrote a letter to the government about GM foods and had a sweet talk with a friend, connecting deeply on what it means to be human. I talked to my father and, while initially struck with guilt when he sounded down (see Day 4 Challenge), came to understand that he is entitled to feel down without me trying to fix it or take responsibility — his car may be a write-off, I’d be pissed off too. In short, I did my best to respectfully connect with the world while mutually respecting my need for quiet. I took leadership over my codependent parts that wanted to fix my father and then did the laundry. Yes, life goes on, however we choose to live it.