Mindfully Managing Codependency
Your loved one is wreaking havoc to the family system. She’s using substances and lashing out. Things are out of control. But as her family, you want to help her. So, you try to do nice things, take care of tasks, do whatever it takes to try to stop her from lashing out. Sometimes it works and sometimes – most of the time – it doesn’t.
Is this normal? In a codependent relationship, yes. But most people don’t recognize the signs of a codependent relationship, which leaves little room to recognize how to manage it.
Why it’s critical to manage codependency:
Codependency and substance abuse can’t live without each other. Left unaddressed, both sides of the relationship suffer. The addict, or taker, continues a downward spiral of recklessness and you, the giver, continue a downward spiral of emotional and psychological self-harm. In this dysfunctional relationship, you keep giving at the expense of yourself. Often you feel as if you’re the one who has to always apologize, walk on eggshells, ask for permission, or ask for forgiveness.
But what’s worse is that over time, codependent relationships become significantly more difficult to break free from when the giver feels that the taker relies on them so much. And conversely, the taker heavily relies on the giver – making it difficult for either of them to improve the toxic relationship.
While breaking free from codependency isn’t easy, the best step toward improving the relationship is through effective management.
Mindfulness, meditation and codependency:
In a codependent relationship, our thinking is clouded. We don’t immediately recognize what’s wrong, what’s going on, or how this codependent relationship came about. We’re completely unaware.
Meditation is a practice that helps you relax and clear your mind for an extended period of time to gain clarity, calmness, and awareness. Mindfulness is about being presently focused and recognizing what’s happening at that exact moment. In a mindful state, we can observe what’s happening and train ourselves to focus on what’s important to us instead of what’s going on around us, we can become proactive and less reactive. Often, it takes meditation to cultivate mindfulness and effectively, training your brain to recognize thoughts and let go of the negative ones. Meditation is a practice conducted at a certain time, while mindfulness is a skill you can grow, develop and use throughout the day.
Codependency keeps the giver in a steady stream of reactive negative thoughts, turmoil, and anxiety. While meditation won’t rid you entirely of negative thoughts, meditation will help you recognize these negative thoughts and resist becoming those negative thoughts. With continuous practice, many people in codependent relationships become more mindful and find themselves gaining more awareness and actively redirecting their codependent tendencies.
How to manage codependency with mindful meditation:
First, pause. While the house may be (figuratively) on fire and chaos is the norm, pause and connect with your thoughts. To get to this point, try deep breathing, notice the stillness, and eventually, notice your codependent thoughts. Observe how you feel in that moment of codependent thoughts. Rather than react, let go.
While the above mindful meditation can help you start managing codependency, it needs to be practiced often. And note that mindful meditation is one of many effective strategies for managing codependency.
By Kevin Petersen, MA, LMFT