Friday, June 25, 2010

The Hunger of Codependence

The act of naming, exploring and validating our feelings is primal in the recovery from codependence. As Charles Whitfield says, we need to “get down on the floor and wrestle with each feeling. … Until we can recognize, feel, experience and work through a feeling ... we cannot use it and then let it go.” The same can be said for the hunger that often feeds these feelings. Until we recognize, experience and satisfy it’s yearning, the hunger will remain and may manifest in addictions such as drug dependence, eating disorders, workaholism and codependence or in mental states such as depression and anxiety.

In the Bantu tale of last week, a hunger lay beneath the varying emotions each animal expressed. The gazelle and the elephant, hungry to be seen as worthy and important, were at first arrogant, but then angry and embarrassed when found lacking. The other animals hungered for strong leadership but it was hidden behind false hopes, frustration and, eventually, cynicism. Only the young tortoise, the one “too young, too small, and too slow” found a means to satisfy the collective hunger. She did not listen to the animal’s judgment but humbly trusted herself and her innate wisdom to bring abundance to the community. She alone, was able to complete the journey and name the tree.

Trees, such as the one in this story, are symbolic to many cultures, representing, among other things, our interconnectedness and oneness of spirit. When we “name the tree,” our metaphoric hunger, we culminate a powerful inner journey where our deepest desire for connection, recognition and love is spoken out loud. Like the tortoise, we must not only speak it but keep it alive in our consciousness, courageously exposing ourselves to the fears of being unworthy, not enough or too needy. And, like the tortoise, when we commit to naming our hunger, we can ignore the judgments of others, redirecting our external search for authority to that which comes from within.

For many of us, our hunger to be loved, accepted and validated lies beneath our codependent behaviours. We overextend ourselves to others in the hopes of being loved; we deny our feelings in the desire for acceptance; and we bully or try to control others to feel safe and validated. These methods, however, will never satisfy the hunger. Instead, as Anita Johnston writes, we “must journey back into the past from where [one] came, cross the great empty plains of … life, travel deep into the jungle of [the] mind, find the place near [the] river of feelings where [one’s] inner authority rules, and ask ‘What is the name of my hunger?’”

By boldly stating our hunger, whatever it may be, we start a new journey that seeks to nourish our soul from within rather than from without. In this journey we find that we can only be loved, if we love our self; can only be seen, if we see ourselves; and can only feel secure if we trust ourselves.

Naming our hunger begins the journey of recovery from codependence.

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