Saturday, June 12, 2010

Centre Stage

I recently misunderstood a friend’s email communication and, without checking in with her, took it as a personal affront. The next time I saw her, I reacted quite defensively and she asked what was wrong. When the truth finally came out (amazing how the truth can hide behind self righteousness) and the misunderstanding was cleared she asked, “you know that’s a sign of codependency, don’t you?” As I looked up in surprise with not a little chagrin she continued, “you were making it all about you.”

Well, besides the fact that the world does revolve around me (… doesn’t it?) she had a point. In centre stage, our codependent parts seek the spotlight for both our own and other people’s dramas. They take responsibility for things that have nothing to do with them and try to fix people and situations that are out of their control. Our codependent parts make us believe that we have more power than we do, not in our life, but in other people’s lives. With our own life we feel powerless and we try to gain some control by either taking an over interest in others or believing, as I did above, they have an over interest in us. The rescuing and martyring codependent parts take more blame than they should – it is my fault that the situation is as it is – and the bullying codependent parts take not enough blame and see it as their duty to remedy the situation by making others change. It comes down to boundaries: knowledge of where we begin and where we end. As Charles Whitfield says, the codependent “cannot see the other as separate from self; [or does not see] self as separate from the other”. In the former, the rescuer/martyr come through and takes responsibility for others; in the latter, the bully takes over, trying to control others. Both are codependent, both take centre stage.

With this recent misunderstanding, I took a friend’s authentic concern about me to be a statement about my abilities or lack thereof. I did this because of my own self doubt: I believe that I am not good enough, therefore everyone else must also agree. In other words, I was not seeing the other as separate from myself. My codependent parts are always on the look out for conspirators in this endeavor and will tap into the subtlest remark and make it a critique about me.

How could I have handled it differently? Well, it started with my friend stating concern about me. I could have responded with: “thank you for caring about me but I am okay. However, when you state your concern in that way, I feel you don’t trust me to handle the situation”. Simple, eh? I give my friend the benefit of the doubt, that is, she is a caring and not judgmental person, and then name how I feel when she shows care in that way. There is no judgment, nor blame, as in “you made me feel bad,” and I take responsibility for my feelings by expressing them in a healthy manner. In this way I don’t create stories about what she believes: I respect myself, I respect my friend and my codependent parts get to experience another, more healthy, reality that shares centre stage with other people and perspectives.

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