From Co-Dependency to Freedom
Updated: Apr 23, 2021
Have you ever felt frustrated, anxious or angry when you perceived someone was making a poor choice? I have. I used to think, what are you doing?
Have you ever felt frustrated when you stepped in to help someone, later to find they didn’t use your resources the way you expected or didn’t make the decision you wanted for them?
One time I was chatting with a client in social work who told me they were looking for work. I immediately went into help mode.
We discussed job opportunities, his strengths, where he would be interested in working, and within an hour we had a plan. When it came down to action steps, this client had many options. As I was antsy to hear which he chose, he just looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. "I just want to get paid for my writing," he said.
“That would be wonderful, but you’re also wanting to live in your own apartment for $1,000 a month and have no income,” I thought.
I didn't like his answer. I felt frustrated that he couldn’t see what was clearly the right answer. I felt anxious: Don't do it! Keep your job, you’ll need it for rent next month.
Internally I recognized pressure to convince him. I was worried about what would happen to him and then frustrated he would 'make me feel' this way. I afraid he was going to put himself into homelessness and I would need to come rescue him all over again …. I was treating him as a powerless person.
Years later, I want to share what I’ve learned: We’re not responsible for saving anyone. And we’re not doing anyone a favor by treating them as a powerless person.
People are responsible for their own actions and their own decisions, and it’s our job to love people where they’re at.
When we get angry with someone for their personal life choices or feel like we cannot have peace unless they make the right decision, it is a sign of codependency. This is when we enter into the cycle of:
RESCUER - VICTIM - ANGER
Let’s break down these three roles and how they function:
What is Codependency?
Step 1: Someone plays a VICTIM “Help me! I'm powerless, I can't get out of my situation.”
● Victims have accepted a definition of themselves that says they are intrinsically damaged and incapable.
● Victims present an attitude of being weak, fragile or not smart enough; basically, “I can’t do it by myself.”
● Their greatest fear is that they won’t make it. That anxiety forces them to be always on the lookout for someone stronger or more capable to take care of them.
● Victims deny both their problem-solving abilities and their potential for self-generated power. Instead they tend to see themselves as inept at handling life and at the mercy of others.
Step 2: We step in as a RESCUER: (Rescuers see themselves as helpers or caretakers.)
“Here are some solutions. Here is what you should do. Let me help you out. Here is my time, energy and resources to get you out of this problem.”
Unfortunately, victims who are not ready to see themselves as powerful and responsible for their own happiness will continue their pattern of learned helplessness, believing the problem is outside of them and they have no power to change it.
If someone is unready to change, they may continue in their unhealthy behavior leading to emotional or physical risk. A problem without an owner cannot be solved.
Soon, they may end up where they started need more help and are calling for help again.
Step 3: This can lead us to feel ANGRY. "I lent you that money and you didn't pay me back!" "I keep asking you to make more friends so you don’t rely on me, but you won’t do it!” I took you under my wing, and here you are out drinking again!"
THE CYCLE CONTINUES:
The person is again perceived as helpless and vulnerable. We don't see anyone stepping in and so believe it has to be us - they have no one else to call, they need us. Soon we are back in the triangle, rescuing them again, feeling like a good person but soon feel resentful, frustrated and bitter.
We take the role of VICTIM – taken advantage of and feeling used or burnt out.
· "My family keeps needing my help and they make me feel so guilty if I don't help."
· "My work keeps scheduling me, there is nothing I can do."
· "She won't stop talking, I couldn't walk away!"
Friends, I have hope for you. You are a powerful person. You are responsible for your own actions, thoughts and emotions and therefore do not need to ever be dictated by another's actions.
Anytime we are walking alongside someone in pain and recognize irritation with their behavior or choices, we need to stop, take a moment and check how we are relating to this person.
There is only one Savior of the world and He has already come.
There is a biblical principle that what a man sows that he will also reap. When we step in to prevent this cycle, we are actually getting in the way of the Lord’s natural order.
What we perceive as love actually stems from an inferior and inaccurate perspective of others. People are powerful and fully responsible and able to make changes in their own life.
I encourage you to offer support to the extent you feel comfortable and have no expectation of the other person. When you begin to lose your joy and peace, it might be a sign you have begun to take ownership of a problem that does not belong to you.
Problems cannot be solved unless they have an owner. Only when someone begins to own that they are a part of the problem can we begin to search for solutions.
Until then, you are pouring your time, energy and resources into a black hole. Regardless of what decisions others make, we get to keep our peace and joy.
DID YOU KNOW?
In addition to rescuing others from their circumstances, codependency can be seen in how we relate to those in conflict.
When we are not a part of a conflict and step in anyways, it may appear as justice, but we are actually taking over the responsibility of the person who is hurt to address their problem with the other person.
There is a clear distinction between being invited to mediate and taking on the offense of a third party. It is when we move from, “What are you going to do?” to “I will do for you.”
In the words of Danny Silk: “We have found a bad guy, absolved the owner of all responsibility, we transferred responsibility to someone who is not even involved, and this cycle continues.” (LOP Life Academy Video 2)
Codependency comes from working harder on someone’s life than they do. Let’s encourage individuals to confront the people with whom they have a problem and leave the responsibility in their court.
Danny Silk shares, “It’s tempting but its deceptive to think that you are going to actually make another person happy who doesn’t know how to make themselves happy."
I choose to live as a powerful person and to treat others as powerful people who are responsible to solve their own problems. Would you like to join me? For ideas of how to get out of the codependent triangle and begin walking as a powerful person, give me a call.