As a therapist, I see a lot of people each week. I also notice collective themes among all of my clients from time to time. Sometimes it catches me off guard, and I’ll find myself wondering momentarily about my individual clients, “Are they all in cahoots, talking with one another about their shared experiences without telling me??” And then I bring myself back down to earth, remembering that this is how it goes—we have individual experiences, and we are also part of a greater, shared collective process.
One particularly common theme is about relationships—Where do I begin and where do they end? How do I know what belongs to me, and what belongs to them?
As I sit with this question, working through it with each individual client, I start to notice the parallels in my own life, in my own relationships. I reflect on my own journey understanding how I show up in relationships, my own trauma around relationships, and just how damn far I have come since I first started doing this work. I remember acknowledging that codependency was a problem for me...Codependency is such a hot new problem to be concerned about these days. People tend to feel terrified of being or becoming codependent in their relationships! I don’t always have the answers for clients and I don’t always have the answers for myself. However, I do have some simple tools to share for those moments when you feel like you and your partner are experiencing a “snake eating its own tail” type of feeling:
1) Notice the feeling—where does it show up in your body? What are its qualities?
2) Notice any urgency to “figure it out” or “find the answers” & breathe through it.
3) Ask your body, “Does this belong to me?”
4) Listen for your intuitive response by staying with your body and its innate wisdom.
5) Notice when you switch back to being in your head/ego.
6) Validate your feelings & validate that relationships can be hard & triggering.
7) Thank your body for showing up and sharing its wisdom.
8) Journal about your experiences and process this with your partner, therapist or both (OR neither).
You can also check out the classics like “Codependent No More” by Melodie Beattie and “Facing Codependence” by Pia Mellody.
Remember that relationships are opportunities to practice loving yourself and resist the urges to rescue, fix, or save the other person by taking lots of deep, mindful breaths; soothing your anxieties around abandonment/rejection; and redirecting the energy you’re tempted to put into others back into yourself.