Hello Beautiful Soul! 💕
My desire is that this newsletter finds you in wellness and joy!
Today I'd like to share a musing about boundaries and connecting themes. I've come to discern patterns around setting boundaries that impact our capacity to be open hearted. Protecting our energy while keeping the heart open is a big balancing act but essential, especially if we desire to relate in soulful ways and experience intimate connections with others.
I have so much compassion when I witness these patterns happening because they've been the story of my life. As with other wounding experiences, I thought I was done healing it but it wasn't that long ago I'd recognized a subtle and unconscious way I was still upholding aspects of it in attempts to safeguard my independence.
Codependence, independence and interdependence are all aspects that play out in our relationships. We cycle through these states or roles in different phases of our lives. Not understanding the distinction between them and when they're appropriate, can have predictive power over how we show up in life and relationships. If we're unaware of how deeply entrenched and unchecked unhealthy patterns of relating have become for us, we can end up in isolation despite our deep desires to experience union and intimacy with others.
I've come to recognize that the most prominent life lessons I've had to navigate in my life were all around these different states and roles. I've integrated a lot of wisdom around them, but I'll admit it was through a great deal of suffering. My wish is that by sharing my experiences and wisdom gained, I can assist others in being more aware so they can avoid similar experiences or at least moving through them with greater power and grace.
Codependency may be considered normal when we are minor. As children, we depend on our parents to get all of our needs (physical, emotional, psychological, etc.) met. Most people associate codependency in adulthood with issues of addiction or physical abuse but those are not the only ways it plays out. You could have a life where you haven't experience either of these wounds but still result to codependent patterns because it's embedded in how society tends to conditions us to operate. As an adult, codependency manifest as an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on others. I believe the most prominent yet unconscious way we uphold this pattern is by constantly seeking the answers we need outside of ourselves.
Codependence often leads to abdicating responsibility, lack of boundaries or giving away power by letting our life choices become dependent on what others do, say or feel. This doesn't just happen when there are issue of addiction or abuse but when we experience self-doubt, haven't learned to meet our own psychological needs and lack trust in our inner truth and guidance. I experienced it and see it play out a lot as not being willing to take action in life without the support, approval or permission of others. Sometimes you can experience it as hopelessness, complaining, blaming and tearing others down for choices you're unwilling or fearful to make.
Then we have patterns around independence. Being independent is a state that can be described as freedom from the control or influence of others. In many instances this is a healthy state but I've seen many "destructive" patterns playing out under the guise of independence. When we're trying to force this state in unhealthy ways, it can manifest as disconnection and the shutting down of our hearts. When we're afraid to feel vulnerable we can result to this. I see it happen a lot when there have been experiences of wounding especially in romantic or familial relationships around self-actualization that are unhealed.
In our inability or unwillingness to address our pain, we convince ourselves that we don't need anyone and create labels, stereotypes and generalizations about others as a way to protect ourselves. The "all __________ (label of choice) are...." stories we tell ourselves are walls created to keep others at bay, when at the root of it is a deep fear of being vulnerable. I witness this a lot these days under the guise of empowerment, self-care or setting boundaries. Many people, especially women, seem to be confusing shutting down the heart or disconnection as protection, safe-guarding and self-care.
Vulnerability is a requirement if we truly want to experience love, connection and intimacy with others. It's a risky requirement sometimes but if we're doing the work of heart to heal and grow, we have to learn to trust in our capacity to stay openhearted and set boundaries when they're necessary. We can't master something that we're not embodying and practicing. There's no way around this my friends.
When I was in the midst of my healing around these patterns, I recognized the destructive ideals I'd been upholding about independence manifesting as suddenly cutting people off when I was afraid to speak my truth or felt powerless in working through the conflict. It also played out as being unable to ask for help even when I knew I needed it because I was afraid of being vulnerable, too proud to admit I didn't know or I felt ashamed about a perceived weakness. I upheld this persistent belief that I'm all alone in this world and couldn't rely on others.
What I've come to learn through over a decade of mastering these lesson (I guess you can say I was a bit stubborn about them 😁) is that you don't have to choose between connection or independence. We need both in order to experience fulfillment in our lives. I've noticed the word "need" these days has been hijacked by unhealthy ideals about independence, where the pattern of neediness (codependence) and honoring of our basic needs seem to be confused.
A need is a requirement necessary to sustain an aspect of our life and energy. Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs is the most popular theory around it. Social connection and belonginess are psychological needs that are essential for us to honor. It's not the only need we have but it's still an essential one that supports our highest potential. It's not possible to be self-actualized and be an expression of our highest potential without relating to others. And yet it's important to find our unique balance between honoring the needs of our personal development and those necessary to create intimate connections and relationships.
When you find that balance, you've entered into the state of interdependence. This is a state where you've tapped into your personal power and are capable of setting boundaries in healthy ways without isolating yourself or going at life alone. Interdependence involves sharing your life and roles with others to create those loving and intimate connections that bring joy and helps you to experience the beauty of life. But without becoming so dependent on another person or others that you lose yourself or stop functioning.
This balanced and beautiful way of relating is not only possible but how we're meant to live. However, and I state this with the most loving of intentions, it requires a profound level of radical yet compassionate honesty so that we can call ourselves out on our $h!t when necessary. What I've learned about these moments of truth is that they don't have to be painful. If we learn to see them through a lens of curiosity and exploration instead of self-criticism and judgement, we can move through them with fluency.
I experienced one of those cathartic moments of clarity about how I was still upholding unhealthy independence some months ago when my ex-husband and I were working together trying to figure out how to help one of our daughters. I'd shared a challenge I was having with her and when he asked how long it'd been going on and I answered, he expressed confusion as to why I'd been dealing with it alone for so long. In the moment, I didn't have an answer but I saw it as an opportunity to contemplate, which has become a powerful practice in my life.
That conversation helped me realize I was still having issues asking for help especially when it comes to men. That experience lead me back to revisiting the theme of safety because when we're unable to be vulnerable it's usually due to safety and security. The feelings of unsafety and insecurity are experienced deep within the physical body. That awareness was a catalyst for deeper healing work that not only has impacted me, but my relationships with my daughters and their father, who I've come to appreciate and see in new ways.
I've had so many experiences of losing myself and compromising my independence especially in relationships that I'd resulted to and got stuck in this unhealthy "wonder woman" complex. This was especially present in situations involving my children. I realize it was so deep rooted in some ways I was shut off not only from expressing vulnerability but even recognizing it, which was impacting my capacity to receive. Exploring that even more has helped me to understand that my inability to express vulnerability has been impacting some major areas of my life and kept me from creating the level of intimacy and fulfillment I want to experience within myself, in sacred partnership and in all my relationships.
Intimacy is about depth and we can only meet others at the level of profundity we're willing to meet ourselves.
As always, reply to share your thoughts and if I can be of service, reach out.
To healing intimacy so that we can experience the depths of LOVE,