The Merry-Go-Round of Codependent Relationships

 

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“In the park we step on this bright shiny red merry-go-round. Everyone is happy and ready for a lot of love, fun and a great future.”     

 But then something happens.  A pattern has emerged.  There seems to be something very binding about your relationship.  You feel like you are in prison and you can’t get out.

 Codependency is living the myth that you can make yourself happy by trying to control people and events outside yourself.  A sense of control or lack of control is central to everything you do and think.

 Psalms 139:14 says that you are fearfully and wonderfully made.  You are unique.  You have dignity and worth.  As you grow in this knowledge you will no longer need to use your codependent behavior to make you feel alive and worthwhile.  You WILL recover………

 There has been a lot of confusion on what real love is.  On the surface, codependency sounds like “Christian teaching.”

  • Codependents always put each other first before taking care of themselves. (Aren’t Christians to put others first?)

  • Codependents give themselves away. (Shouldn’t Christians do the same?)

  • Codependents martyr themselves. (Christianity honors its martyrs.)

But true codependents aren’t really healthy,  giving people.   They learn to get their validity from other people rather than from Jesus!  And they hinder those people they try to “fix” in their lives and their walk with God. 

 It is actually the opposite of God’s love!

 Broken-ChainsIn its broadest sense, codependency can be defined as an addiction to people, behaviors, or things. Codependency is the fallacy of trying to control inner feelings by controlling people, things, and events on the outside. To the codependent, control or the lack of it is central to every aspect of life.  

Then Denial, Delusion, Justification, Rationalizations,

Reverse Projection… emerge…these are all signs and symptoms of a co-dependent and addicted personality…”

 Jesus taught the value of the individual.

 He said we are to love others equal to ourselves, not more than ourselves. In fact, it is the 2nd commandment after loving God with all your heart, mind, and body.

  The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”Mark 12:31

love

The love of self forms the basis for loving others in the truest sense of the word.

 The differences between a life of service to others and codependency take several forms. Motivation differs.

  • Do you give your service freely or because you consider yourself to be of no value?

  • Do you seek to “please people?”

  • Do you act out of guilt or fear?

  • Do you act out a need to be needed (which means you actually use the other person to meet your own needs)?

 In their book, “Love is a Choice”, Drs. Hemfelt, Minirth & Meir” state that “Codependency can be defined as an addiction to people, behaviors, or things. Codependency is the fallacy of trying to control interior feelings by controlling people, things, and events on the outside. To the codependent, control, or the lack of it, is central to every aspect of life. When it comes to people, the codependent has become so elaborately enmeshed in the other person that the sense of self— personal identity — is severely restricted, crowded out by that other person’s identity and problems.”

 I see signs of codependency in many clients who come to me with relationship problems…they are worn out and exhausted and feel trapped in a relationship that makes them feel totally controlled.

The Lord has shown me that when we can’t put up our personal boundaries and we continue to rescue people by rushing in when they have a need and become their Savior, we are actually not only deceiving ourselves, but we allow the other person to make YOU their Jesus instead of them learning to turn to God to meet their needs.   

talkingwithjesus That’s a big order to fill.   Can you do what Jesus can do for them?

  In fact, we enable them to continue on with their neediness in our lives and drain us of our energy-while we take the place of Jesus….and they never get their needs met.

 There will always be another episode of control if someone doesn’t get off of the Merry Go Round and say “enough of this.”

Merry_go_round When no one gets off,  the Merry Go Round spins faster and faster until it is out of control.  When the  crisis is over then everyone is remorseful and say their sorry until the next ride.  And it begins again.

 When the addicted person continues the same behavior over and over again expecting a different ending, and we make threats or promises that we don’t keep… it is insanity.

 Someone has to keep their promise and follow through in order to stop the Merry Go Round.  

 This is not about confrontation, this is about stopping the cycle.

 You are aware that you do this but you have gotten away with it for so long that you have developed a false power.  In the midst of your pain.

 Do you see these tendencies in yourself?  Or in someone who is reaching out to you?

 Have you asked  God to bring this into the light so you can deal with it or help someone else?

 You know as well as I that it is never easy to expose darkness.

But if you want freedom again, you have to get off the Merry-Go-Round once and for all.

 So, from a believer’s standpoint here are some truths that might help you.  freedom

 If you will take this issue to Jesus, you will find that:

  • We have worth simply because we were created by God.

  • Our self-worth is not based on the work we do or the service we perform–but on what Jesus so freely gives us.

  • Our service is to be an active choice. You can learn to “act” rather than “react.”

  • Our faith shows how to live a balanced living and how to take care of ourselves.

  • As you seek His wisdom you will learn to choose balanced behavior rather than addictive behavior and to allow others to be in charge of their own lives

  • You can learn how to set and hold healthy boundaries and to set limits for yourself, not allowing others to compromise those boundaries.

  • You can actually learn to help others in appropriate ways, by allowing others to act independently, rather than making others dependent on you.

  • You can  learn to be God-directed and free from compulsiveness, knowing that God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, brings the ultimate results.

 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Gal 5:1

 (If this blog has left you feeling like you need help with codependency tendencies  in your life, you might want to consider Life Coaching!  Contact me through my home page.)

 

Change! The Word That Invokes Fear…

gods-willHow do I break this pattern in my life,” he asked.

You have to step out of your  comfort zone, that familiar, cozy place of dysfunction, and be willing to purposely change; make new  decisions.”  I coached.

With his head down, looking up at me, and a smile on his face, “Surely that should be easy, but I am afraid I will fail, ” he said.

Do you want to stay on this merry-go-round of failed relationships?”, I questioned.

circusOf course I don’t, but then again maybe, just maybe, I use these failed relationships as an excuse to stay where I am because I really don’t want to change“, he confessed.

“Wow, did I just say that?”, he continued.

And on it goes.  Do we really want to change or are we just making excuses to stay in that old comfortable place rather than venture into the virtual unknown with God?

Change is hard.  I think we can agree on that.  

I, personally, would rather try sleeping on a bed of nails than to change.  Even when I know it is what I am being asked to do by Jesus.

It is not an easy process and many times we fall flat on our face at our first attempts to make a change.

When you’re in the process of changing, sometimes you will fall back into old patterns and sometimes you’re going to lose your way and wonder why you’re trying in the first place.

So, here’s my reminder for you:

light and darknessOld stuff will come up.  What matters is you recognize them as old patterns.

Patterns that, if not broken, you will live in the rest of your life.

Before, you let these patterns run you – and you let them run you blindly–but now it takes a quality decision to focus on your goal for change.

Now that you see them, trust God to help you make the change.  Ask Him to remind you when you start to fall back.

Stuff will continue to come up.  Old patterns die hard.  But seriously do you want to live in the same spot the rest of your life?

Then we choose differently.

Trust the King who made you to guide you and show you how to surrender that part of yourself that even you don’t understand and help you to change your choices.

I believe in you.

Most of us can agree that at some point in the day, we come up against a battle.  The battle between what we know we truly want to do (what is from our soul) and what our weakness desires to do (from our fears/ego).

mind-clutterIt can be something simple that brings about this “everyday struggle”.  An everyday struggle can be the choice to eat that delish and healthy steamed veggies and fish dish vs. eating the processed junk food.  Or something perhaps more severe.

Perhaps your everyday struggle, is choosing that hit of the drug again versus going to that twelve step meeting.  Or choosing between shining or hiding your truth out of fear. 

Once we begin to perceive our struggles as opportunities for Jesus’ guidance, the struggles become opportunities to strengthen your faith even deeper in that particular area.

We all have an everyday struggle that we face. Paul said in Romans 7:15:

“I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.  Instead, I do the very thing I hate.  I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong…I often find that I have the desire to do good, but not the power.”

This resonated with me so much.  How many times have you had the desire to do good but felt you didn’t have the power to do it?

Verse 23 goes on to say, “But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am!  Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?  Thank God!  The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.  So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.” 

On a day to day basis we come up against those fears of “do I have the power to do this?”  I discovered through my own journey, that when I comfort those fears with truth, the fears diminish and truth and courage rise.

What is that truth?  Love is more powerful than fear, always!

When a struggle or obstacle arises in our minds where the warfare takes place, I ask Jesus to: give me the strength to deal with this obstacle and struggle through His power and not my own.  I ask Him to give me the words, the energy, the actions to do this with confidence and love and peace.  Sometimes I am instantly filled with that power, and the revelation that I can lean into Him and He will be my strength and my guide in this journey of change.

If you stop fighting it, another plus emerges.  You begin to learn who you really are.  A divine daughter and son of the King of Kings and He is the one who propels you to great heights in the Spirit.

birdcageIn accepting and remembering who we truly are, we allow our smallness to diminish and our greatness in Him to really come forth.

Then, you can step out in  faith and in truth not in fear and insecurity.  Love does that.

You need not do anything to prove your worth, you simply are worthy.  How amazing is that?

In remembering these truths, you are filled with energy, confidence, purpose, and the strength to move through the struggle and the obstacle.  You are filled with all the power you need to continue to be willing to choose what is good for you.

Remember, you already have what you need.  All the love you desire is within you through His power.

Feel it, remember it, move with it.

All struggles are opportunities for you to practice remembering who you really are and how to step back from the wheel and turn it over to Him.  When you remember this truth, you are unstoppable, miracles flow, and everything becomes a beautiful journey with deeper growth and joy.

Today, remind yourself of who you already are. Strong, brave, powerful, divine.

Now go out there and change! 

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When Feelings Lose Their Power

 

 

waterfall I lost life as I knew it over the course of one year a while back. Of course it was a slow build up to that year, but denial has a funny way of making you blind to what is coming.

(The complete story of this trip into the wasteland of my soul is recorded in my last book, Climbing Out of the Box.)

Through years of denial, spiritual abuse, and unresolved childhood abuse issues, my life broke apart in huge chunks and floated away on a sea of despair.  I lost my marriage, my home, myself, my church, and my children moved out…and did I mention I lost myself?

…all within a few months of each other.

Then I entered the wasteland of devastation and loss and an overload of “feelings”.

How can I describe the feelings?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was like being on a huge merry go round, holding on for dear life, trying to look like I had a grip but my vise gripped fingers were sliding off with every whirl.  It twirled faster and faster until my hands did lose their grip and I was flung off into space with magnitude force into nothingness with no idea where I would finally land.  When I did land I felt like I was smothering in feelings and couldn’t breathe; Kind of like being buried alive.

  • Grief

  • Despair

  • Fear

  • Anxiety

  • Sorrow

  • Emptiness

  • Anger

In the years that followed I was alone with myself and thought I would never recover from the empty shell that was me.

My feelings became my faithful companions until I finally started talking to God.  Boy did I have the questions.

The most fascinating thing to me was that He never left.  He stepped back, though, to give me time to come to the place of realizing all my answers were in Him.  He is always so patient with us.

As I called upon Him in my solitary place, He began to heal my frayed and broken heart.  I was ruled by my feelings at the point of quiet desperation and had been since the beginning of the dirge into blackness.

PeaceHe held me and let me weep when I finally pushed my arms up to my “Abba, Daddy”, in brokenness.

And then the healing began.  I learned so much in the next few years of exile.

One of the things I learned was that my feelings didn’t have to rule me or dictate to me how to act for the rest of my life.

When we call upon Him in our feelings of abandonment and reach deep into our still, quiet heart, where He dwells,

  • Our fears lose their power to control us;

  • Our “out of control” anger loses its power to devastate anyone lying in its wake….and

  • Our depression loses its power to consume us.

Our feelings lose their control over us.

That still, quiet center of us, where He resides, is where we are aware of His presence the most.  Learn how to quiet yourself and find that spot of uninterruption and you will find His voice.

  • He centers us.

  • He is our anchor.

When we call upon Him, we find the power to let go of our resentment and ask for forgiveness.  We can also forgive ourselves and be free.  We can let go of the past and move into the stillness of living large in the here and now.

And then we learn to trade in our profound shame for vulnerability with others, for in Him we are safe; and we trade in our fear of being embarrassed, to finally being transparent.

Our feelings provide the fertile ground of captivity for us.

If we listen to them they will kill our creativity that God wants to use.  They will squelch our love for others and undermine our knowledge of redemption and grace.

What if we just decided to stop listening to our feelings, and started listening to what God says about us; and start focusing in on His still whispers of direction and love?  What if we make a conscious decision to believe we are really hearing His voice and just do it…by faith?

And accepting our feelings as real, for they are very real, but not necessarily true if they become our dictating force and despair.  They can betray us in portraying Gods words as not trust worthy.

It is like a drop of soothing, healing water to accept that our feelings are real, but can be deceptive outside of God’s truth about us.

1510543_680314828697735_1831250127_nI think our shame would dry up and our love would explode and the world would never be the same  again if we can get to this place of truth and freedom.

“Church Lady”…or Devoted Lover?

allthatineedI love the church.   If you know Jesus then you are the church too;  One of the many members of the Church, the Body, of Jesus, who is our Head.  But I was brought up spiritually in a church building for many years, and I loved it. 

Somewhere along the way I lost the mentality that I was there to grow in Jesus. 

Oh yes, I was taught that I was the temple where Jesus lived, but I was also taught I had to be in a building to truly walk with him.   It took me too long to realize that being a ‘church lady’ didn’t mean I knew anything about the heart and passion of God.

Oh, I yearned for it, so put on the face that I already had that passion filled relationship with Jesus, and had the pious face down pat, as if I had it together. I had the Christian-ease language down pat, too.    For many years I was very involved in just about everything that was happening in the church building.  

I was involved in potlucks, gospel sing alongs,  committee meetings, bake sales, car washes, retreats, conferences and any other spiritual sounding activity that was advertised in the church building. Then I started a women’s ministry and it grew and grew.  I absolutely loved it.  I had a place and felt loved and accepted.  I loved the people, the busy-ness, and the routine.  I was really good at doing church and I looked the part, too. Busy-Woman-1147825

I had a good heart. 

I was so drawn to God and yearned to serve Him and thought that is what I was doing.  But over time, more serving, and more ministries later it all became a checklist or a substitute for a deeper passion.

It became a “doing” instead of a “becoming.”

I still love the church.  I just missed the whole point God was yearning for me to see for many years.  If you have read my book, Climbing Out of the Box, you will see where it led me.  However, I digress.

Somehow I loved becoming the church lady and mistook that title for becoming godly. 

It felt so good to be in the church clicks, though. And I saw others left out of those groups to which I turned a blind eye.  

So, I busied myself in  those good works of bringing food to the sick, planning baby showers and helping at funerals, and teaching Sunday school.  It can feel so good to be needed that it can become a substitute for a passionate pursuit of God.

Don’t get me wrong; Service, fellowship, and giving are wonderful and a part of the calling for every believer, but serving and doing do not equal a relationship with God.  They do not get us closer to the mark,  and sometimes can become a wall we hide behind. And so we pretend we know what we are talking about and every Sunday we sit in a pew, staring at the backs of heads, listen to a sermon, and go home.

And wonder why that gaping hole in our hearts is still there.

Every Sunday morning parents hand their babies over to the good people who work in the nurseries.  Then they go serve in hundreds of places within the building.  They may never even make it to the service, but it is okay because they have been to church.  Some have hidden there for years.

So many of us are “doing” like crazy.

Not many of us are “becoming.”   Women Bow And Pray

My coaching business over the last few years has been full of women and men, who were dying on the inside.  Service and hospitality was not cutting it for them.  Hearts are broken and lives are hurting.  They longed to know that Jesus really loved them—somehow they missed that part while they were busy doing.  They are worn out with good works without realizing how to have a one on one with Jesus. 

Yet we keep signing up for one more thing. 

Hoping we will find Jesus there.

When we get the church lady thing going it is easy to pretend we have it all together.  I did.  Everyone thought I was so together and many wanted to be me.  I dressed fashionable, and had a sweet smile on my face.  My kids were impeccibly dressed, and we were the ‘perfect’ family. 

But inside; well that was another story.  

My marriage was falling apart.  I had been molested as a child and had not told a soul yet.  I had not even begun my healing and was convinced I would go to the grave with my secret.  So, I had to get even more busy to outrun the ugly truth. 

I had no self esteem.   376692_405449249517629_858305305_n

Soon I learned I could fill that need to be validated by being in the church clicks and there was always a need for one more worker to keep it all going. 

I became addicted to ministry to fill my gapping hole of need.

Ministry took the place of a passion filled relationship with a very real Jesus.  It wasn’t until I lost it all did Jesus finally break into my religiosity and reveal Himself  personally in all His glory. 

And when that happened?   I was doing nothing in the church– I had lost it all.  It was in the wilderness of my life that I met Jesus face to face…when everything and everyone else was gone.

Only Jesus didn’t leave.

That is when I learned that I am the Church.  You are the church.  We are all the church body.  

Getting off the merry go round of hiding behind our good works is about laying down all pretense and facades.  It is about stepping outside the lines you have drawn around your spirituality and seeing what God has for you.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When we only ascribe the term ‘church’ to weekend gatherings or institutions that have organized themselves as ‘churches’ we miss out on what it means to live as Christ’s body. It will give us a false sense of security to think that by attending a meeting once a week and work ourselves to the bone;  then we are participating in God’s church.

But if the church is something we are, not someplace we go, how can we leave it unless we abandon Christ himself? We can’t.  We may join other believers anywhere, but it doesn’t define our personal love relationship with Jesus.

If we think only of a specific congregation as our part of the church, haven’t we separated ourselves from a host of other brothers and sisters that do not attend the same gathering that we do? Are we not called into the market place?

If you have hung your spirituality on inward files with neat little answers for every situation, hang on, because God is probably getting ready to blow the lid off of your box. 

You may need to allow Him to restructure your thinking a bit of why you do what you do; with all the strong essential elements of your faith still there, just rearranged to reflect to you more clearly the heart of God.

Scripture does encourage us to be devoted to one another not committed to an institution. Jesus indicated that whenever two or three people get together focused on him, they would experience the vitality of church life.  Out of that body life, of course comes service.  But if that is what defines your relationship with God, you will soon become a “church lady” too…..Or maybe a “church man.” 

I pray that we all are renewed in a passion for Jesus no matter where we find real fellowship with other believers; a genuine concern for each other and a willingness to serve the world with God’s love, which can only come from, not service, but relationship with Jesus Christ. Out of that relationship we will be His hand extended to a lost world.  praying-woman