Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cryptic Babblings Which You Can Skip If You Wish and I Will be None the Wiser, Nor Offended... But I felt the Need to Declare This Publically.

I've always been somewhat of a sensitive person. I remember in Kindergarten, when they handed out awards at the end of the year - and it was the type of thing where everyone got an award for SOMEthing, no matter how lame or exalted. And my award said, "Sensitive to other's needs" or something like that. Which, at the time, I was rather ashamed of because it made me sound like a lily-livered baby pansy. ( The mind of a six year old, who can fathom? I don't think I had any secret aspirations to be tough or anything, so what was the big deal?)

ANYWAY... My thinking on the matter has evolved to a more complicated plane. I realize that this capacity to sympathize and empathize can be a great strength, but it can also be a trap. Yes, it's a gift to comfort and help others, but it also tends to get me into trouble because I can "take up a cause" and get all upset FOR SOMEONE ELSE... often in ways that are unnecessary. I think it's a quality that can be exploited by the devil: "Why just get one person upset? I'll make sure Claire hears about it and then TWO people can have a miserable day!" And in that way it's also an invitation for DRAMA.

And guess what?! I'm burned out on drama! I think if one more drama happens, I will quit! Seriously! I will move to Australia and become an ostrich farmer!

I think I'm a codependent person. Wikipedia delves into the subject thusly:

Codependence (or codependency) is a popular psychology concept popularized by Twelve-Step program advocates.[1][2] A "codependent" can be loosely defined as someone who exhibits too much, and often inappropriate, caring for persons who depend on him or her. A "codependent" is one side of a relationship between mutually needy people. The dependent, or obviously needy party(s) may have emotional, physical, financial difficulties, or addictions they seemingly are unable to surmount. The "codependent" party exhibits behaviour which controls, makes excuses for, pities, and takes other actions to perpetuate the obviously needy party's condition, because of their desire to be needed and fear of doing anything that would change the relationship.[citation needed]

A common usage of the term is that codependency occurs when enabling addiction, taking care of another person in a way that is not healthy in the long run to either that person or themselves, or both.[3] Codependency is loss of self for the codependent.[4]

Did you catch that? A LOSS OF SELF? More and more, I think I'm coming to a deeper realization that this is true of me. I know it sounds like a bunch of Dr. Phil mumbo-jumbo, but there is a kernel of truth in there. Disturbing truth. And a kernel may not sound big or important but when you're eating popcorn and suddenly you crunch down on a kernel, it can cause a heap of pain. Sometimes truth can bring pain, but that's no reason to avoid it. I believe the truth, however awful, eventually always leads to something good.

So here's the deal: I'm going to work on not caring as much. It's not a New Year's Resolution. It's a new LIFE resolution. If someone has a problem and I'm not the cause or the solution, please don't tell me about it. Please don't involve me. And if you do, don't be surprised if I don't JUMP into worried/caring/sensitive mode. ( Disclaimer: this does not include making me aware of legitimate prayer requests. I'm all fine with that. Disguising drama as a prayer request...gossip with a tacked on mention of prayer at the end: not fine with it. ) I may have to swing to the opposite end of the pendulum for a while and appear callous and uncaring...I think to end up in a good, healthy, middle of the road place, I might have to go to an opposite extreme for a while, just to extricate myself from this codependent ditch.

I hereby resign from drama, and from being a codependent person. If you want to be all upset about something, go ahead. I am not joining you. Sorry! Oh, wait. No, I'm not sorry. Unless I am at fault. Then I'll feel bad like nobody's business.


Shari said...

"Lily-livered baby pansy." Best line ever. You're so adorable.

When I went to Celebrate Recovery last Thursday, I ended up in the Codependency group because they made us pick groups quickly and I couldn't figure out the other groups. Lol. Anyway, I discovered that I am absolutely NOT codependent. They read down a list of stuff, like not being able to say "no" and not having boundaries with other people and that is SO not me. But it was me before my mid-20's. So I could relate to how the women in that group felt, but I've decided to go to another group that fits me better now.

This whole subject is so interesting to me. Because I grew up being the peacemaker and feeling like I needed to please everyone, I know what it feels like to be bound by those feelings. So I'm passionate about helping others to get past it. My younger brother is dating a single mother that lives with her grandma and mother and sister, and they are the most codependent family I've ever seen. My brother's girlfriend can't say no to any of them, and feels absolutely terrified in standing up to them when they're treating her badly. I keep telling her that she has to do exactly what you're saying . . . not care so much. I've told her that she can do exactly that in a kind manner, and not be calloused, but to decide for HERSELF what she does and doesn't want, and then stick to her guns. When her family pressures her to do something and makes her feel like she's the worst person in the world for "not caring" (which is an incredible lie because she cares TOO much), I've told her to just harden herself to that and stick to her decision. Even if it means repeating to them over and over . . . "I'm sorry that you feel that way, but this is my decision." But it's so difficult to not cave under that pressure. So I understand, but it's one of the most important lessons I've learned.

Yes, you DO lose yourself when you're constantly living or doing or feeling for other people and not yourself. I felt exactly like that many years ago. It's funny that you mention a healthy-middle-of-the-road place, because I went to counseling in my early 20's, and my counselor talked about that. She said that it's like a pendulum. When you first start to get healthy, you kind of go in the extreme other direction, and then the pendulum swings back towards the center and hangs out there. That's healthy. When I was first learning boundaries, I would get really upset at the controlling people in my life. I learned, with time, to gently tell them no. Now, I just say "No, I'm sorry, I'm not willing to do that right now" and it's no big deal to me. But it's so hard in the beginning. It sounds like you don't have the fear that my brother's girlfriend does, and that's so good.

You're awesome, Claire. :-)

Claire said...

Wow, Shari! Thanks for taking the time and effort in this response...I appreciate it. You're right- I don't think my case of codependency is as extreme as the girl you described...and in fact, perhaps I have a very light case. I think what I am reacting against is the situation I am in where I deal with some people who have no, or poor, boundaries. And so I feel this constant pressure to own someone else's feelings and agree with them, or at the very least, go along with them, even if I feel differently. I am trying to know how to be honest and say, "You know, I don't agree with you..." but then where do I go from there? I do live in fear of hurting people- I don't want people to misunderstand me. So I guess that's what I'm struggling with...Thanks for helping me to clarify this to myself a little more.

Shari said...

I know exactly what you mean. I just try to say something like "Hey, thanks for sharing that with me. I don't happen to agree, but it's cool that we can share our opinions with each other even if we don't see eye to eye." I know, it sounds kind of cheesy, but at least I'm validating the other person's position while clearly stating that I don't agree.

I know that you're super sweet and definitely a validating person, so I bet you that you don't come across hurtful in any way. I've been around enough harsh, cold people to know that you are not one of them. :-) I used to feel like I had to take on some in-law "stuff" and now I just try to let it roll of my back. But that didn't really change until 3 years ago, so I know exactly how you feel. It was a long process to get to that point, and I basically had to just decide that I was okay with people being disappointed in me, and feeling hurt by my decisions. I thought long and hard about what was right for me, and then I gently communicated that (it concerned a relative that was pushing and pushing for more ane more time together, and Brent and I both felt like we gave them enough time). I think the person was and is hurt by our actions, but that's her problem, not mine. And I truly don't say that in a mean way. It's just the truth.

Hang in there, hon. I'm rooting for you!! :-)

Liane said...

I think being an ostrich farmer could be pretty dramatic as well!

Susan Elizabeth said...

I get it. Completely. Thanks for posting. It has spurred me on to make a life change...or hope to start one, too. Too much to go into in a comment box, but I think you understand...(I refer to the blog I posted in November that you commented on...you blessed me, Claire!)