Have you found yourself caught in the trap of codependency? If you base your feelings about yourself on how someone else feels about or responds to you, you’re stuck.
Because that’s exactly how the trap of codependency works.
And it’s all too common in the way so many of us operate in our relationships. Because we’re taught these dysfunctional patterns with others and not taught how to Love ourselves.
Which breeds more of the culturally conditioned codependency we all experience.
I spent 35+ years trapped in patterns of codependency. I didn’t realize it until I experienced the immense heartbreak of divorce. My journey out of this broken cycle of low self-worth and lack of self-Love is detailed in Be Solid: How To Go Through Hell & Come Out Whole.
Where does the trap of codependency come from?
Essentially, we’re trained from a young age to seek acceptance, approval, and validation from others.
We’re taught to try and make other people happy. As though that’s anything actually in our control. Or any of our business.
Emotionally sensitive people experience the trap of codependency at an alarming rate.
If you’ve ever considered yourself empathic or highly empathetic, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
The negative moods, attitudes, and behaviors of others can quickly ruin your mental and emotional wellbeing. It puts you into a tailspin. It’s easy to get sucked into the pain, drama, and issues of others. Even if you’re only wanting to be helpful.
Yet ultimately this is also something we’re born with. It’s our ego at play.
As Eckart Tolle writes in A New Earth: Awakening Your Life’s Purpose,
The ego’s sense of self-worth is in most cases bound up with the worth you have in the eyes of others. You need others to give you a sense of self and you live in a culture that to a large extent equates self-worth with how much and what you have, if you cannot look through this collective delusion, you will be condemned to chasing after things for the rest of your life in the vain hope of finding your worth and completion of your sense of self there.
Codependency through over-giving & people-pleasing
Over-giving, over-serving and other people-pleasing patterns are fruits of the trap of codependency.
So is going out of your way to try and earn the Love and respect of other people just to feel good about yourself again.
Where do these patterns come from? And more importantly, what can you do about it to have inner peace and protect your wellbeing?
Many of us were taught, from a young age, that we need to be nice. Yet this concept of “nice” wasn’t exactly clearly defined in a healthy way.
Ultimately it’s a subtle method of fostering the build up to the trap of codependency.
What do I mean?
Nice is a combination of being courteous, polite, and gentle with others. At least that’s what we’re told.
And it can seem like a good thing when done in a healthy way. Yet this isn’t the context of how or why we’re told be “be nice.”
We’re told to be nice to not make waves, or make people feel bad. Niceness is often instructed to us to try and fix something that’s (seemingly) wrong with someone else. Such as their bad attitude or mood. Or negative behavior.
As if our “niceness” is a balm for the internal strife going on in someone else’s mind and heart.
Yet “nice” is a surface-level sweetness. It’s like an artificial sweetener. Sure it tastes like something good, but it can have very damaging long-term side effects.
Think of “nice” as the same thing as saccharin
The intention that many people have regarding “niceness” is more in line with a desire to practice kindness to foster a more loving presence in the place where people need it most.
An angry or agitated person doesn’t need more hostile vibes to feel better. What they really need is Love. Often one of the best ways to express the kind of Love needed is through Kindness.
They need to be heard and understood. So that peace can be achieved, even in a minor way. To bring some alleviation to their suffering.
People-pleasing “niceness” won’t make that happen. Both people suffer in the process. The trap of codependency keeps the emotionally sensitive person constantly trying to make things better for the other. Often at their own expense.
All of this when true Kindness is the real key
Yet we’re not taught or illustrated what true kindness looks like. Kindness seems lofty or uncertain. So instead we’re told to be nice.
And in this place of “niceness” the people-pleasing patterns of codependency escalate and take over our wellbeing. Mental health becomes a casualty.
And so does healthy relationships.
Nice doesn’t build a foundation around fostering and spreading Love. It’s a bandaid. And it serves little good for either person in any situation or capacity.
Especially regarding our own mental health and wellbeing.
The reason for this is niceness gets us stuck in trying to fix someone else. And it perpetuates a negative belief that our own wellbeing is subject to the feelings, beliefs, and attitudes of others. Instead of us being good stewards of our own wellbeing and consciousness.
We’re trying to over-give out of our own cup
The belief that giving to others comes from what you have inside your own heart treats your heart like a commodity. It creates and fosters patterns of transactional relationships.
This pattern keeps you stuck in the trap of codependency.
This is how the unconscious thoughts and patterns of codependency work: If I give to you, then you will give to me. Then we’ll be even. And if I give to you and you don’t return to me in kind (interesting use of wording), then I must do more to seek your giving to me so that I can earn what it is that I want.
Let’s put it all together now to break free from the codependent trap
So where does trying to “be nice” to someone who is sad or angry mesh with seeking validation and acceptance?
Consider it as interwoven spikes of the same trap.
When we base our decisions, actions, and feelings around those of other people, well-intentioned or not, we’re giving away our power. And we’re sacrificing our wellbeing to the whims of someone else.
It’s dysfunctional at best. Breeding toxicity in large quantities.
Mental health is an easy casualty.
So is emotional wellbeing. And any sense of personal wholeness.
There are two key points to absorb and take home (in your heart and mind garden) to serve your highest good and break the negative cycle of codependent patterns.
First, nice and kind are polar opposites
One is based on a people-pleasing code of trying to make others happy so that you can feel better about yourself. The other is rooted in Love and is whole, solid, and doesn’t need anything given to it for it to thrive.
Nice has no backbone. Nice needs nice to be given back to it or it crumbles. There’s a very good reason that “nice guys/girls finish last” rings so true.
Kindness (or the act of being kind) is the second ingredient listed for the makeup of Love in the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). It’s also the trait most distinguished with true servant leadership.
Kindness doesn’t need to receive kindness back in order for the person to feel good about themselves. Or be whole, solid, and full of Love.
Notable and inspirational figures like Mother Theresa, Oprah Winfrey, Keanu Reeves, and Fred Rogers are known for many things. Kindness is one of the leading trademarks of the impact they made on those around them, independent of their celebrity.
Why is that? Mother Theresa was not heralded for being “nice”. Why is Fred Rogers not known simply as the “nicest guy in the neighborhood”?
Because the quality of their character and personhood wasn’t dependent on the responses that others made to their generosity and giving. This is the hallmark of genuine kindness.
Here’s a definition for Kindness that will help to reshape your understanding of why Kindness matters and niceness leads to a level of personal hell few people escape from.
Kindness is “Gentle and strong understanding, consideration and care given through appreciation, affection, and respect for boundaries for yourself and for others from a place of inner completion and solidarity.”
See how this mirrors the heart and character of the notable people mentioned a moment ago?
Can you see how “nice” can’t touch this? And why being nice keeps you locked in the trap of codependency?
When you actively and consistently work to grow real Love from within you, there’s a solidarity that grows for you to not have to seek or earn anything from anyone else to feel whole.
This brings us to the second key point
The cup inside you which you give Love out of (call it your heart or your inner Love well) is made for just you. The contents of your heart and the Love within it is for just you.
So how do you give Love to others if your heart’s Love capacity is just for yourself?
You give from the overflow.
Let go of the “glass is half empty or half full” mentality.
Fill up your own cup. Use your connection to the infinite Source of all Love and blessings.
Fill up your own heart with Love. Self-Love is the key and the way here.
But don’t stop filling your heart with Love when you reach the top. No. Keep going. Create overflow. Let your inner cup runneth over.
Give Love to others from the overflow
Channel and direct the current of the overflow to whoever you want.
This way, you don’t need anything from anyone else in return so that you still have the Love you want and need within you. That responsibility is solely your own.
You remove the dysfunction of transactional and codependent relationships this way.
A simple and practical method to do this is using your imagination. It’s one of the best ways to practice meditation (and what I lead all my students in through private coaching and training).
Here’s a simple meditation you can use anytime
Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
Imagine a big, flowing waterfall cascading a pouring stream down into a bed of water. All around you are lush green leaves, trees, flowers and beautiful plants.
Feel the gentleness of this place. The water that flows from above is pure Love. Quenching, soothing, replenishing, rejuvenating, abundant.
And it’s all yours.
Step under the waterfall. Let this drenching Love soak you and cover you fully.
Bask in it. Delight in it. Celebrate in it.
When you feel completely full of this abundance of Love, stay there. This is where the overflow happens.
This is the Divine expressing its unending Love and abundance for you.
We give from an eternal and never-ending flow. It’s always available to us. We just have to choose it.
Spend ten minutes or so in this quiet meditative place. Feel the difference in your body, in your mind, in your emotions.
How to grow in the practice of meditation to free yourself from the trap of codependency
Want more help in meditation? And want a personalized custom guided meditation just for you? I’ve got you. Join the 21 Days To Be The Peace Training to grow in meditation, journaling, mindfulness and more. And use coupon code “save25” to get 25% off now!
Meditation is one of the best practices for self-Love you can do.
It’s a great way to start your day. Or take a break in the middle of the day to replenish your heart and mind with overflowing Love.
Cultivate Loving relationships from within you
Kindness comes naturally from this place. So does gentleness, trust, hope, and patience. And all the other ingredients that makeup Love.
You can send it out from the overflow within you. And not need anything in return.
Because your true source of Love isn’t outside of yourself. It’s within. From your connection with God and the Divine, all things are made new again.
And wholeness is simply a way of being.
Learn exactly how to escape the patterns of codependency
Do you want some help and clarity on breaking free from codependent/people-pleasing patterns? Are you tired of being the “nice” person that everyone takes advantage of?
I’m be happy to show you what I’ve done to grow Love from within you and escape the brokenness of codependency. Because helping you grow Love within yourself is why I’m here.
If you’re someone who takes action on what you read, I want to talk with you. Let’s chat about how you can move forward with your life, build stronger relationships, and experience success.
It’s totally free. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. So let’s do it!