LY 44: Codependency & Detachment

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Last week, we talked about boundaries and how sharing them with others is powerful not just for yourself, but also for the person you’re sharing it with. 

When you give yourself permission to be you, to have boundaries, and to share them freely so others can choose to respect them (or not), you’re also giving others permission to do the same.

This week, I share what I’ve learned about codependency - in Jessica Geist’s Worth to Wealth program last year, we talked briefly about this. Codependency is a topic I have been curious about.

In all of my relationships with significant others, you could usually find me following my boyfriend around, glued to them, always a few steps behind, like a little shadow. I thought whatever they thought or told me to think, I did whatever they told me to do, I ate whatever they told me to eat, all because I wanted to please them, or make them happy, or think I was a great girlfriend. 

When I was reading Joyce Maynard’s memoir, “At Home in the World” last month, I felt like I related to so much of it. At age 18, she was in a live-in relationship with the then 53-yr-old writer, J.D. Salinger. She talked about how she believed, felt, ate, spoke, wrote, did, acted only in ways that he approved of. It became a way of life for her, and it affected her for a very long time.

I was also reading Melody Beattie’s book, “Codependent No More” at the same time, so I could see in Joyce’s patterns as well as my own how very codependent we were. We attached our own significance, self worth, and happiness to another person, which effectively allowed that other person to erase who we truly are and shape up into who we thought they wanted us to be.

With such strong nudges from the Universe, I decided to turn this topic into a podcast episode.

What is codependency? 

Before I go any further, let me explain what codependency is. As always, take all of these definitions with a grain of salt and make your own decisions about what you’d like to believe or not believe. 

There are two definitions from Melody Beattie’s book that resonated with me. 

The first one is by Robert Subby in his book “Co-Dependency, An Emerging Issue”: “An emotional, psychological, and behavioral condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules - rules which prevent the open expression of feeling as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems.” 

The second one is by Beattie herself: “A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.” 

I don’t believe it is an objectively good or bad thing to be codependent. Just as there are no good or bad, positive or negative thoughts.

It’s just a piece of life experience that you go through. Because if you think of it as a bad thing, there’s all this shame and guilt that comes up and that doesn’t help anyone. 🙂 

Codependency is a spectrum 

And it’s not a black and white thing. It’s not like you’re either co-dependent or you’re completely independent. 

I think everyone to some degree is codependent. Everyone falls along that line somewhere. 

The only reason why we might get concerned is when our happiness is being controlled by someone else.

Are we allowing our happiness to be dependent on someone else’s happiness (“I do everything that I can, clean the house, cook the meals, take care of the kids, in order to keep my husband happy so he doesn’t get mean or distant when I talk to him”)?

Because if we are, and that person refuses to adopt more patterns of happiness and joy (which happens so much more often than we think - do you know someone who seems to be addicted to being unhappy?), that means you’ll never be happy or joyful…as long as you continue attaching your happiness and sense of self to theirs. 

This is not to say that if someone is doing something you don’t like, you just decide to not let it affect you and ignore it completely or keep living on the same way.  In fact, keep reading to find out what you could do instead.

Reclaim yourself

To me, stepping out of co-dependency is about reclaiming yourself and reclaiming your power and your right to express who you truly are. 

No more hiding, no more wishing, no more tiptoeing. 

Detachment is the name of the game 

So if codependency is defined by attachment - attachment of self worth, value, love, and happiness to someone else - then the solution would be detachment. 

But how? 

Detachment is about allowing yourself to release expectations about an outcome. As long as you speak, act, and feel in alignment with your inner self (and even when you don’t!), you can always choose to release any attachment to the outcome.

You can say what you want to say, and you can ask the other person to speak up and tell you how they feel in response. Then YOU get to decide what you’d like to think, feel, and act in response to their response.

Use a body scan 

Detachment is such an abstract thing for me to think about, and I didn’t even realize its true meaning and what it actually felt like until I felt it, so let’s simplify it. 

Take a moment and imagine yourself doing something that scares you because you’re afraid of how the other person might respond.

Now check in with your body and see where you feel tension. 

Tension in our bodies is the physical manifestation of attachment to worry, which is essentially what attachment to an outcome feels like. You worry about how the other person will respond, you worry about what will happen, you worry about how you’re going to be affected. 

Now, tell yourself that you can let go of that tension in your body. Sometimes, it helps to tell yourself that you can still hold on to the worry thoughts if it feels safe, but for the next minute or so, you’re going to release the physical tension in your body. 

And when you do that, you realize that YOU are the one who has been holding on to the tension this whole time. Not the other way around.

We all think that external circumstances are what keeps up in a perpetual state of worry. But in reality, WE are the ones keeping OURSELVES in a perpetual state of worry. We think that by worrying and holding tension inside our bodies, we are protecting ourselves. 

And once you realize that you’re the one holding on, you can choose and continue practicing to choose to LET GO.

Listen to the episode to learn more!

Where do you regularly hold tension in your body? What would it feel like to release that tension for just a minute a day? What would change? 



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