Codependency, boundaries, and friendship

Modern conventional wisdom, especially in recovery circles, seems to be that one must let go of and leave behind people who hinder or have a negative effect on one’s mental and emotional sense of well-being. If you are in recovery from alcohol, substance abuse, porn, gambling, or some other addiction, staying away from folks who are actively engaged in these things makes sense and is good wisdom. However, what if the things you are in recovery from aren’t about anything other than your own internal mental and emotional demons and how your own actions and patterns have impacted and affected every single relationship you have? What then?

There is opposing wisdom that indicates you can’t run from your self and your problems because they will be there waiting for you when you arrive.

We often see people return to the same painful relationships or repeat unhealthy patterns from past relationships. Many times we judge them harshly for it. I know because I have been both judge and judged.

The Bible has a description of this kind of thing:

Proverbs 26:11
As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly..

2 Peter 2:22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.” New International Version (©1984)

Palatable descriptions, no?

(Due to fibro-brain I mistakenly allowed an incomplete post to be published, again. What comes next is the “revised” portion that was not previously published.)

These metaphors only hold up within the context of human behavior and our visceral reaction to witnessing such things and not because of the natural and scientific reasons which explain the behaviors of the animals themselves.

So, if there are natural and instinctive reasons for these animals to behave in these ways, then perhaps the reasons and causes for other people to repeat patterns and behaviors, regardless of how they are judged by others, exist and are unseen and unknown as well.

Most importantly, I think, is the fact that we are not equipped with all the knowledge, information, or wisdom to judge another’s actions. Of course, we do it anyway, all the time. We filter the bits and pieces we know to be true of another’s life through our own experiences, beliefs, and knowledge and formulate opinions and based on those opinions, we form judgments. If we believe we have the right or authority based on our relationship with the person, we proclaim our opinion and offer our judgment with the belief that the person we are addressing should heed our wisdom and guidance. Failure to do so may result in a breakdown in our relationship.

I have experienced this kind of thing often. In my younger years it was as the advisor. As I’ve grown older and had my own continued struggles, it’s more often been as the advisee.

I reached the point where I had let everyone down because everyone offered an opinion, a judgment, and advised a course of action that would meet with their approval. My reasons and beliefs didn’t count and didn’t matter. The physical and mental realities I experienced didn’t play into it. The fact that I had made mistakes and used poor judgment in my past, somehow meant I didn’t have the right to figure my way out for myself.

Because I began to feel judged, criticized, and rejected I withdrew from people. There were some key people who withdrew from me first. The pain of losing those relationships because I failed to measure up, kept me from trying to form new relationships.

Since I have been writing this blog and really trying to figure out how to recover, heal, and grow, I have been recognizing a lot of behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes in myself and those around me that are codependent in their nature.

One of the big ones for me is storytelling. As in providing every detail, describing every nuance, and explaining every hidden motivation and providing the backstory for each person involved in the tale. Emphasizing the things I want listeners to focus on and minimizing the things I think they will disapprove of in order to gain the desired response or prevent an unfavorable one. Feeling as though I need to explain it all so they will understand and accept, even if they don’t approve.

As I have progressed, I have come to realize that my life and relationships are not a soap opera for the viewing pleasure of others. I do not owe an audience of viewers explanations, histories, or back stories of every person I am in relationship with. As a matter of fact, that information about other people and their lives, isn’t even my right to share the details of, regardless of the effects it may have on me.

This is a huge boundary issue for me. By always telling other people’s stories I violated their boundaries. As a result, I damaged important relationships and hurt people I love. It also meant I had no boundaries of my own. So, I essentially gave anyone whom I cared about the authority to question and judge my every thought, feeling, decision, and action.

I am discovering that, as I work on the healing and recovery I need to make, in the way I need to make it, it makes those who care for me uncomfortable. Even as they want me to heal and grow, they don’t react well to the changes I need to make because it forces them to either change along with me, accept that I am not the same person they’ve become accustomed to, or be left behind. It’s difficult to cope with the sense of disapproval and rejection directed at me, but it isn’t about me and my failings, it’s about them and their own inability to see their own issues and face them.

I can’t cope with the weight and burden of carrying all the stories and what the telling brings in the way of criticism, offense, and judgement.

The decisions and choices that other people make, regardless of their affect on me, are not about me and they haven’t done anything to me or with the intent to impact me, unless they have acted directly toward me. My reactions, thoughts, and feelings on the matter are mine to process and resolve. I get to choose how and with whom I am going to process them and within what time frame works for me.

It is my decision alone whether I choose to fish or cut bait. Running away and abandoning a relationship always left me with lots of baggage and unresolved issues. If I want to make the difficult and often painful choice to stay in any relationship and work toward reconciliation and restoration, that is my right.

I just need to know I have the space to do what I need to do and that there is someone willing to be here when I am ready, without adding more pressure.

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11 comments

  1. If you’re asking it this part of the world (the blogosphere) will listen without judgement, then my part at least will.
    And at the end of it, I get to see a wonderful woman (I think – I don’t know you that well yet) find what she’s looking for.
    And who doesn’t want that for everyone?

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    1. El Guapo,
      Thank you for your kindness. As I read back over my words, I think I was a bit disorganized and not real clear. I have yet to have anyone from the blogosphere be negative or judgmental with me. It is actually through the processing I’ve done with my writing, the connections made through reading what others are working through and the encouragement, support, and empathy I have received from my interactions in the blogosphere that I have realized I can be accepted, just as I am, warts and all. It has been educational and informative.

      Be well,
      Kina

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  2. A sow wallows in mud not because it is silly, but because it soothes. It protects its skin against sunburn (and skin cancer); mud bathing is natural and healthy behaviour for pigs. So that can’t be a metaphor for repeating unhealthy behavioural patterns.

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    1. Mados,
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m afraid that, for the second time in a week, I forgot an incomplete post was scheduled to be published. I apologize.

      As for whether or not the actions of the sow could be seen or interpreted folly, well, we humans have a way of using things that are unrelated and sometimes not factual as examples to illustrate our meaning. We tend to assign meaning to actions and circumstances, regardless of actual fact.

      Therefore, these statements were not made from a scientific knowledge and understanding of animal behavior, but from an understanding that these things were considered unclean behavior according to Jewish laws.

      Be well,
      Kina

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      1. Yes, I know… I don’t mind all kinds of anthropomorphism, but always get irritated when animals are made to symbolise human traits that are considered bad, especially if it has the consequence that those animals are despised and treated badly by some:-) for something that is none of their business.

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        1. I can understand that viewpoint and appreciate how much you value the right treatment of animals. Snakes and rats have a bad rep because of that very thing and they are doing nothing more than being what they were created to be.

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