Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 7/7 The Interdependent Challenge

I have a love-hate relationship with the Olympics. I love the thrill of skilled competition, the prowess of the athletes, and the excitement of the crowd. I don’t, however, love the quest of medals and the disappointment expressed by government and media when the medal collection is low. Is it really that important when coming in 5th or 10th still means you are an incredible, world class athlete? Does athleticism really equate to whose country is better than another or should we not have another standard of measurement like compassion, egalitarianism and/or fair government. I could go on and might still in a future blog but on this last day of the 2010 Winter Olympics, hosted by my hometown of Vancouver, and on the last day of the Interdependent Challenge, I will only talk of the positive: the examples I saw of true Olympic interdependent spirit.

There was the international admiration and support of Joannie Rochette, who went on to compete two days after the sudden death of her mother; the camaraderie between the Slovakian and Canadian men’s hockey teams after a hard fought battle in the semi-finals; the good natured gesture from the Norwegian Men’s curling coach to the winning Canadian team; and the quote from a Slovakian Woman Hockey player that basically said she didn’t care they lost 18-0 against Canada, they were just thrilled to play. I saw respect for athleticism that went beyond international borders and a mutual love of sport and competition. And on this final day I saw a community of athletes celebrate together in a party of goodwill and fun.

The world came to Vancouver and, in the few times I ventured downtown, felt only a warm sensation of goodwill and cheer. We maintained our identity while spreading the welcome mat to all who came.

Mutuality, Respect, Community: Interdependence

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day 6/7 The Interdependent Challenge

The challenge was met today on-line. A long-distance friend emailed me to say I hurt him in a recent conversation. He went on to explain the nature of it from his perspective: naming certain things that he felt were going on with me. This irritated me somewhat because it is an old story that while true in the past, has lost its meaning today. I responded by acknowledging his feelings and then told my story without blaming or laying on new irritations. I ended by acknowledging certain aspects of my personality that, while I am working on them, may have led him to feel hurt.

I didn’t allow my codependent parts to rush in and correct his version of the story, I actually let it stay in my inbox for two days. I didn’t bring in new stories of how he hurt me in a tit for tat game nor ask for forgiveness for something that I have nothing for which to feel guilt. Instead, in mutuality, I respected both his and my boundaries by keeping blame and guilt out of the picture and did my best to clarify and take responsibility for my part in why the misunderstanding occurred.

Mutuality, Respect and Community: Interdependence

Friday, February 26, 2010

Day 6/7 The Interdependence Challenge

Day 6 and I am going to schleff off for the day. (I dont even know if that is a word but what I mean is that I am going to play hookey.) I am out at Unbridled Potential getting to know the four-legged therapists (yes, the horses) a bit better, the ones that are going to be co-teaching The Essence of ARC workshop on May 14-16 out here in Abbotsford. So, back to you tomorrow, in the meantime, happy interdependence to you.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day 5/7 The Interdependent Challenge

Today I stated my boundaries and got through another 24 hours of (trumpet sounds, please) The Interdependent Challenge.

At 9:30 this morning, I hopped on the bus for a half hour ride to my bodywork session. I got there at the scheduled time only to find the door locked. I waited ten more minutes, left a polite message on their v-mail, and went home. A few hours later, the receptionist called back to state I had made a mistake, my appointment was next Thursday. “No,” I said, “I have been coming every week, why would I skip this week?” “But your practitioner isn’t here this morning, I wouldn’t have booked you in.” “Well, you did,” I said, “I wrote it in my book.” I finally elicited an apology from her but it was without any sense of responsibility. She had made a mistake and I was the one paying for it through time and energy. There was no offer of compensation just a question if I was going to come next week. I told her I would think about it and call back.

I needed time to sort through all the different parts that were coming up. Although I was definitely irritated, especially for her “you made a mistake” comment, I was also somewhat softened by her apology. I was angry, however, that there was no acknowledgement of my time and energy and knew that if I had made the mistake and missed an appointment, I would have been charged the full amount. I even signed a clause stating I agreed to this. Even if I had sincerely said, “sorry” I would still have had to take financial responsibility for it. So, why shouldn’t they?

What was holding me back from demanding compensation was the “nice” part—the part of me that doesn’t like to rock the boat: I wanted good session work; I didn’t want bad feelings; I wanted to be the good client. In other words, the nice part is my codependent part that felt that I had to do things their way to get respect and good service.

I emailed a friend with my dilemma and she responded perfectly: “What would your interdependent self do?”

With that reinforcement, I called the practitioner, stated my case and got what I wanted: 50% discount off on my next session. I was respectful and compassionate to her receptionist’s mistake while being respectful to my boundaries and needs. In asking for just 50%, I acknowledged that mistakes happen but that the consequences need not be extreme or revenging. Finally, I feel we both gained: I felt stronger in who I was and the practitioner earned more of my respect and some client loyalty.

Mutuality, Respect and Community: Interdependence.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 4/7 The Interdependent Challenge

I must admit, I wasn’t very interdependent today but, on the positive side, I wasn’t very codependent either. However, I did witness a lovely act which shall suffice to fill in for the day’s challenge.

I was over at a friend’s house when the teenage son came in and, grabbing a plate out of the cupboard, gathered an afternoon snack. As his fingers touched the back side of the plate they slid against some leftover grease. “Ewwww,” he said, “why is this plate so dirty?”

The mother, who has designated dishwashing as one of his chores, casually replied, “That’s what happens when you don’t wash dishes properly.” She didn’t get up and offer to clean the dish, nor take over his duties so that it would be done right, she just told it like it was. In a calm, rather benign manner, she held space for her son so he could witness the consequences of his negligence.

It was perfect. My friend manifested appropriate boundaries without shaming or bailing out her child. He learned, or at least started learning a lesson, about house maintenance and responsibility that would ultimately be a bonus for the family if not his future partners and, while no one was particularly energized, no one loss energy either. Mutuality, respect and community: Interdependence.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day 3/7 The Interdependent Challenge

Codependence can be as much about rigid boundaries as having no boundaries or vague ones. Tonight, while not specifically interdependent, I went against my codependent part’s desires and felt energized because of it.

I met up with a friend after work for some tea and a walk. I planned it to be a short evening with an hour or two of work on my return and early to bed. Instead we ended up at her place for dinner and some Olympic skating on TV. Several times during the evening, hearing my codependent parts calling me home, I would tell my friend that I was catching the next bus. Half an hour later, I would still be there because another part of me didn’t want to go, I was enjoying myself.

At different times in my life I have set up rigid boundaries telling me how to run my social life: where, when and what to eat; how long to socialize; strict bed times. Although I could justify these rules with a certain amount of (and, at times, illogical) rationalization, what I was really doing was trying to find ways to keep safe. Without a solid foundation of internal safety, I needed external rules to do the job for me. I wont go into details as I have written about this in previous entries but needless to say, tonight, for whatever reason, I fell back into default mode and tried to deny myself some fun by setting up some rigid boundaries: no dinner, short visit, early to bed.

Thankfully, I was more present than in the past and could see what was happening; so could my friend. She kept the invitation open while I silently worked with this part of me that wasn’t feeling comfortable. I ate the dinner I said I wasn’t going to and watched the skating that I had “no time” for. And, like I said, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

So, yes, in an interdependent way, I took care of myself by stretching my boundaries. I created a sense of internal safety through self talk while accepting the unobtrusive and welcome invitation of my friend (an external safety). Moreover, I felt quite happy, in fact, energized by night end and trust that my friend, if not energized, enjoyed the company.

Mutuality, respect and community: Interdependence.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day 2/7 The Interdependence Challenge

(See the February 20 entry for an introduction to the Challenge).

I had a conversation today with another helping professional. Although we want the same for our clients—an emotional and physical space where they can respond to life and live their passion—we go about our work from different perspectives. We were discussing the possibility of me doing a presentation at one of her association’s monthly meetings. It was an excellent discussion. And, while I can only speak for myself, the feeling was that neither of us compromised on our respective philosophies, we both clarified our positions but looked for commonalities, and went away with a certain respect for each other. Our boundaries were flexible rather than rigid (no “my way or the highway”) and we reached an agreement that worked for both of us without loss of energy. In fact, I felt energized by this interdependent interaction.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day 1/7 My Interdependent Action for Today

(See the February 20 entry for an introduction of “Interdependence”. If February 20 doesn’t show beneath the video, check out the earlier blog entries on the lower left side bar.)

Noticing an art supply store had a clearance sale, I walked in to check out the goods. I was feeling rather low due to an earlier event and wanted a distraction. It was more than I hoped for—the shop was chock full of miscellanea from Christmas doo-dads to bizarre erasers and stuffed animals, not to mention the paper, paint and charcoals you come to expect. It was a bit overwhelming so I asked the tired and rather aged lady behind the cash how long the sale would last.

“ ‘Til its gone,” she said, “but hopefully not longer than two more weeks. My husband died and I’m selling. I’m closing out ...”

Although my heart went out to her and wanted to comfort, I was also feeling quite low myself; I had little energy for another. Still, I weighed those feelings against the need of community and in the sharing of story and thought, a few sentences wont hurt. I also questioned, maybe she didn’t want comfort, perhaps she was tired of telling her story. So, I asked instead, “how’s that for you?”

She told me a little more of her life and, although tragic in many ways, I didn’t get overly involved. I heard and validated her, then thanked her for telling me. It seemed enough for both of us. I didn’t drain myself in trying to fix someone who not only didn’t want to be fixed but just needed to be heard and I didn’t overextend my stay. And, while I do not know her thoughts, I feel she felt heard and perhaps somewhat less burdened with another to share her load. I, as a result, felt less troubled with my own issues and more a part of my community. I feel we both gained by that transaction.

Upcoming Workshop March 20 For more information go to

Saturday, February 20, 2010


One of my fascinations with codependence is its versatility. You can manifest your codependent parts at work, rest or play; black tie or casual, codependence is accepted in more places than MasterCard.

Its versatility comes from the fact that while ubiquitous, it is, at the same time, absolutely unique to the person that manifests it. There is no set way of “seeking fulfillment outside yourself,” no manual or standard set: each codependent event is a creative individual action. One may do it by helping another in hopes of being liked, while another may do it by bullying somebody in hopes that their self-esteem gets a much needed boost. In this way, relationships become, as Pietro Abela of The ARC Institute states, an investment: If I do this, I will get that. To be more specific, if I care for you, my hope is that you will care for me or, in the other scenario, if I scare or demean you, you will (hopefully) give me what I want. Even those scenarios are subject to numerous and subtle variations.

While codependence is versatile it is, in the vast majority of times, unconscious. You may even be reading this now thinking that those examples don’t apply to you. And, probably they dont. But without analyzing life in microscopic detail, was there anytime today you were not true to yourself? Was there anytime you did something that you would rather not have done but did so with the hope that it would have some intrinsic benefit for you? And I am not talking about driving the kids to hockey practice in hopes of being the next Gretzky mom. I am talking about the “yes, I will drive over town every day while you are on vacation and walk your dog” times where you end up feeling tired and drained because the output far exceeded any desired gain (conscious or not) in being helpful or nice. How about the time you did someone else’s work for them because “somebody had to do it” and ended up feeling resentful or when you went for the promotion you really didn’t want just for the status. Or the time when you kept your opinions to yourself so your friends would still like you. There are countless examples but the real question is:

Is there a different way of being?

Yes, there is: interdependence.

Interdependence is the opposite of codependence. With codependence, there is an energy loss for at least one of the participants. In interdependence, there is energy gain (or at least neutrality) for all persons involved. Where codependence is about looking to someone else or some thing as a source of validation, acceptance, or safety; an interdependent person looks within themselves first but welcomes external sources as a healthy complement to life. And, while our codependent parts view relationships as investments: if I do this, I will get that; our interdependent parts invest in relationships. In interdependence we know that relationships are alive and require nurturance, boundaries and, above all, a healthy dose of self respect.

I define interdependence as staying true to one self while living harmoniously in community; having flexible boundaries that are firm yet flexible; and knowing when and how to give help but also knowing when to say no. It is also about the occasional sacrifices where you do over extend yourself to another (i.e. taking care of a sick friend) but do so with consciousness and compassion (not martyrdom) with the knowledge of when to pull back before it negatively affects your own health, family or financial state.

Interdependence is a creative and conscious response to life that energizes and fulfills. Codependence is an unconscious (yet creative) reaction that ultimately drains and frustrates.

Presumably, we can all relate to some degree of codependence. Look over the last few months of blog entries for my own admissions. But here is the challenge: what did you do today that was interdependent? For the next seven days, I invite you to write down something you did that was interdependent and why you felt it was so. I will post my responses and I welcome you to post yours in the comment section. I would love to hear your stories.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Essence of ARC Workshop

Just a reminder that I am teaching The Essence of ARC workshop on February 27-28 in Nanaimo. I really enjoy teaching this class, its fun, experiential and chock full of learning. Here’s a few things you will learn:

· How to recognize states of internal balance: when we are centred and grounded and when we are not
· Why a state of internal balance is desirable and how to return to this state in the most efficient way possible
· How to open up to the feminine within to expand sensory (kinesthetic, audio and visual) reception
· How to read unconscious body language for more effective open-hearted communication
· Effective hands-on healing techniques

For more information or to register contact me at 604 619-3904 or

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Of Being Human

Yesterday, after the tragic death of the Luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili, I found myself watching over and over again the video clip of his fatal crash. It wasn’t this extra need for pathos in my life or a sensationalistic voyeurism that made me revisit his death. It was as if by watching it I could somehow understand the transformation: a vital, young man jumping onto a piece of metal, morphed into a torpedo, becoming human again only when he crumpled. The dissonance of that is obsessing me.

Where was he; who was he before the crash? Was he feeling anything as he slid down the track at 140km/hr? What was he thinking? Seeing it on TV was like watching a plastic Barbie doll sliding down a tunnel one’s brother might compose to irritate his little sister: sit the doll on a coaster, shoot her down the Hotwheels track and hope the inevitable crash will be spectacular. But this was no Barbie doll, nor child’s play.

I know and appreciate that this young man chose and understood the high risks of his sport but his death touched me deeply. The metaphoric image, perhaps, even more. Mr. Kumaritashvili seemed an automaton as he careened down the slope. I only saw his humanness after his death. Was this some sort of metaphor for who we are as people? Hurtling towards some inevitable end, not recognizable as humans until its too late?

Let us remember Mr. Kumaritashvili’s death in sorrow for his family and friends. But let his death also remind us to look into the eyes of loved ones and strangers alike and see their humanness— their strengths and weaknesses; fears and courage. Let us see them at all times, whether they are racing around, seemingly out of control, or when they are still and can blessedly see us back. Let us open our hearts and truly feel the wondrous thing it is to be human.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Girl Cell

I just watched a short (TED Talks) presentation by Eve Ensler (Vagina Monologues). I was in awe at the raw power of her speech. She speaks to the “girl cell” in all of us— men and women, boys and girls. She states:

“Imagine that ‘girl’ is the part of each of us that feels compassion, empathy, passion, intensity, association, relationship, emotion, play, resistance, vulnerability, intuitive intelligence, vision.

Imagine that compassion informs wisdom. That vulnerability is our greatest strength. That emotions have inherent logic and lead to radical saving action.”

“… Now imagine that a few powerful people, invested in owning this world, understood that the oppression of this cell was key to retaining their power, so they reinterpreted this cell, undermining its value and making us believe that it is weak. They initiated a process to crush, eradicate, annihilate, humiliate, belittle, censor, reduce and kill off the girl cell.”

Ensler passionately connects the suppression of the girl cell to the exploitation and violence against girls and young women worldwide. She states we exploit others when we disconnect with our girl cell and, more specifically, our emotions.

Exploitation is about disrespecting another’s boundary. One of the reasons this happens is that we lose connection with our emotions. Without that connection our ability to express safely and appropriately is negatively affected. Plus, in losing the ability to relate to our own emotions, we cannot relate to another’s. Disconnection to our emotions can incite us to 1) project onto others; 2) overreact to minor events; 3) become over or under reliant on others; 4) hurt others; and/or 5) experience aches, pains and disease.


A common way to express unwanted or disconnected feelings is to “give” them to another. We tell someone they are angry (or sad or ashamed) when, in fact, it is really our own emotion – an emotion we don’t feel safe enough to express. Another way is to incite others to express our hidden or forbidden emotions. When we project on to others we disrespect who they are and what they authentically feel. We infringe upon their boundaries.

Overreaction to minor events

When the emotions inside us want to express and are stymied, they will look for any excuse to manifest. Misinterpreted signals are treated as aggressive actions or, benignly, we find ourselves more sensitive to life’s mundane events. An example of the former is road rage: a minor or unintentional mistake by one driver sets off uncontrollable and dangerous rage in another. In the latter case, we find ourselves crying over a laundry soap commercial, one that strikes, in some subtle way, a hidden chord of emotion that we hadn’t given ourselves permission to express.

Over or under reliance on others

Without an adequate relationship with our emotions there is a lack of inner trust. If we cannot console own our sadness, expiate our shame or safely express our anger we will look to others to do it for us. We become overly dependent on others to take care of us. Alternatively, that lack of inner trust can express itself with rigid boundaries. If we don’t validate or support ourselves on our personal journey, we will not expect validation and support from others. We become overly independent. We hide our feelings because it is too vulnerable to express, we don’t reach out to others for help and we put up walls that alienate us from our community.

We Hurt others

In the cutting ourselves off from our feelings we are more apt to hurt others. We need to fully accept our own emotions, past and present, to appreciate the depth of feeling in another. Without that relationship it will be difficult to express empathy and compassion and it will be easier to discount another’s perspective. It will also be easier to hurt another physically.

Body aches and pains

If unexpressed emotions do not find an outlet in the above means, they will ultimately express themselves through the body with disease, aches and pain.

Emotions want to be expressed and, in most cases, will not be denied.

I hand it over to Ensler to conclude this piece:

"The girl cell is our greatest resource, a renewable, untapped energy field like the wind. It is there for us, if we activate it and allow it to resist, dare, challenge, feel and connect".

Friday, February 5, 2010

Self Responsibility

There is a world of difference between knowing things and really knowing things — embodying them so you integrate them as a full body knowing. For example, I have “known” for years that children can personalize events, take responsibility for things, especially bad things that are outside their influence. I have explored how I did the same and worked hard at devolving that responsibility. But now that knowledge has a deeper resonance.

As anyone who has been following my blog knows, I was hit by a car in early January. What I haven’t admitted is that I never claimed insurance on it. I had lots of reasons ranging from compassion and empathy for the driver: “I could have been that driver”, to protection of her: “I don’t want her insurance rates to go up”. In retrospect, it was all about the driver’s sensitivities and experiences. I focused my attention on her except, that is, for one major point: I was taking all of the responsibility.

In the days following, I questioned if I was daydreaming when the car hit me or if I was wearing bright enough clothing. As time wore on and my aches and pains remained, I questioned whether I was exercising too soon and not resting properly—it was my fault that I was not healing fast enough. Then fantasy came in and I wondered if it was payback time for some judgmental thoughts I was having. I was declining down a hill that ended in a confused but deadly mire of “not only was it my fault but I deserved to be hurt”.

I didn’t realize this until recently when I was assisting at an ARC class. We were talking about the state of grace with which forgiveness falls— that we cant plan forgiveness or make our self forgive another. We explored how it comes with self awareness, self responsibility and a deep seated love of self and how, once it arrives, can still leave room for anger or boundaries around the affronting behaviour. Moreover, it is about forgiving ourselves first through unveiling and healing our own shame that often happens in traumatic events, the shame that believes it was somehow our fault.

I was sitting there, listening to the lecture, when I realized I had taken on too much responsibility for the car hitting me. It was a replay of times past when in my shame, I took the responsibility for my abuse. Somehow, it was all about me, that I was deficient in some way; that I caused both the abuse and the accident to happen—I was responsible.

With codependence we can take on too much responsibility for things. Charles Whitfield suggests that it is a boundary issue: one does not see the other as separate from themselves or does not see themselves as separate from the other. It can play out in many ways but a typical one is the classic victim/abuser relationship. The “victim” does not see them selves as separate from the abuser: If only I had done better (cleaned the house; got better grades; earned the promotion), the “abuser” would not have to hit me/ drink/ have extra-marital affairs. The “abuser”, on the other hand, cannot see the other as separate from themselves: it is because they did this (didn’t clean the house, etc), it reflects badly on me and I have to punish them. In either case, each person is confusing boundaries and not respecting what belongs to them or what belongs to the other.

Interestingly, the driver of the car was more than willing to make amends and talk to the insurance company once I made my decision to claim. She wisely did not take on my deep seated issues of guilt but took care of herself while respecting my boundaries. She didn’t need my protection nor ask for it, and perhaps my protection would have done more harm than good. We don’t know these things.

What I do know is that the better I take care of myself, the better it is for those around me.