As I go along my journey of healing and self-actualization, there is an essential task at hand: breaking down the mental barriers that keep me trapped.
In my previous article I wrote about expressing needs, and stated that we are often afraid to speak up for our needs out of fear of hurting those around us. Because we care about those we love, it is natural for us to set aside our needs for the sake of the other. However, what happens is that we grow resentful as we are drained of our energy, love, and support.
Waking with thoughts about a negative behavior I have displayed in past relationships is not how I want to start my day. I generally prefer a fluffy affirmation from TikTok or a venti white chocolate mocha. But I don’t get to run the universe, so my lot for the day was coming to terms with the unpleasant reality that I have codependent behaviors, which have crippled many of my relationships across the spectrum.
This morning was enlightening to say the least. I discovered there are four codependent behaviors in relationships (and this applies to all forms of relationships, not just romantic).
Taking this level of responsibility can feel isolating, especially when you see those who have the exact same issues in relationships also having the things in life that you are striving for. There is hope though. When we confront these behaviors and actively reflect—working through the hedges that have invaded the greatest potential of our minds and spirit—we are resetting ourselves for lasting fulfillment as opposed to fleeting fulfillment.
With every confrontation of my behaviors, there is a sense of panic that takes place. This panic lasts about five seconds, then I realize that I am blessed with the background I have, and I realize that I will be okay—then I get to work.
I have a tendency to martyr, mother, and manipulate. I grew up putting the needs of others before my own. The message I grew up with was, they matter and you don’t, so, “suck it up and be a good girl.” And this mentality translated into a mothering martyr complex that unintentionally hurt a lot of people. In my mind, I believed I was caring for people and doing the right thing by making the greater sacrifice. The reality was that I was creating an environment of helplessness for those around me. When it comes to manipulating, I saw that this was a harmful defense tactic I used in situations when I felt trapped.
Often, manipulation is used as a defense mechanism because of a failure to effectively communicate needs, or boundaries, or to evade responsibility. Only between one and three percent of the population will use manipulation as an intentional tool to hurt those around them.
So, what do we do when we discover that we have these negative behaviors? Panic? Sure—but you’re only allowed five seconds and then you have to take a deep breath so that you can get to work. Remember, whilst it’s never fun to confront negative behaviors, recognising them is not a death sentence—it’s the key to liberating yourself from these chains.
How am I doing the work?
1. Review the work you’re already doing.
Looking at what you are already doing will help you see that you do not need to start from square one every time you have an epiphany. You may be further along than you think. For example: I was already coming to terms with the fact that communicating my needs does not equate to selfishness but rather self-awareness. I created an inventory of what I require to be healthy.
2. Taking an inventory of my needs.
I started to realize that I was trying to meet my needs through caring for other people. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t really care for the person, but it meant that I had created an imbalance for the two of us. Now I am learning to take stock of the needs I am able to fulfill on my own, and look at what needs a healthy relationship can realistically fulfill.
3. I am learning to understand that I do not always have to fall on my sword for the other person.
It’s not my job to learn the lessons for everyone around me. We are all expected to play our part and if the other person does not wish to play their role, I am not required to learn it for them, nor absorb the consequences of their actions.
4. I am learning how to put down my hammer of justice and allow life to take care of those who have done me wrong.
There is truth behind the old adage, “Pick your battles.” When we learn to pick our battles, we spare our energy and help ourselves. It is also wise to accept that we cannot save those we care about from their own karma. The consequences of our own action is punishing enough, and we aren’t always qualified to dole out justice.
5. I am learning how to spot entrapment and leave the situation before engaging in manipulating behaviors.
Sometimes we are so caught up in taking care of the situation or the person that we become trapped. If someone insists you stay in a situation you know deep down is not healthy, you are not required to stay just because they are unable to stand on their own two feet. The greatest mistake I made with an ex-boyfriend was not listening to my gut when I knew it was time to leave. I saw the red flags and the negative thought patterns reemerging, and I knew what needed to be done. But I ignored my needs and myself for two years, before we inevitably separated.
Negative behaviors in relationships do not peg you as the bad guy. We are all good people with big hearts, but our world is harsh. In harsh worlds, we create behaviors to protect ourselves. Be encouraged to know that when we confront these behaviors, release the influence they have over us, and learn, we truly are making this world a little less harsh for ourselves and our children. There is hope. There is always hope!