Many of us understand that positive affirmations can change the way we see ourselves and, in so doing, how we see others. But how many of us actually practice these? Daily, I mean. Taking them like a spiritual prescription, to be repeated aloud a dozen times, three times a day, every day. It's hard to keep that up, right? What makes it so hard is not just as simple as introducing a new habit, like adding them onto your morning/lunch/bedtime routine - it's the embarrassment, the guilt, maybe even the shame of saying something good to ourselves out loud and definitely not in front of another person. After a lifetime of self-loathing, in whatever manifestation that takes, it's incredibly difficult to begin what seems to be an arduous struggle for self-love, self-compassion, self-worth.
After soaking up years of negative messages, snippets of insults and/or aggression or just feeling invisible, it can feel as if you don't count - as if your thoughts, your feelings just don't count. Even years after the death of an abusive parent or other significant figure in your life, the story of "I don't matter" has become so embedded that they don't need to be around anymore to tell you this because you've learned to take hold of the stick and beat yourself with it.
Affirmations help us to put down the stick. They move us from losing the battle to winning the war raging within ourselves. They can bring us to peace.
The first few times you affirm something positive about yourself, your mind will invariably reject it: "Huh? What a load of bullshit! That's not you!!". Why does it do that? Because it's so used to the pain of the stick that it can't comprehend this new positive and information which can offer an antidote to the pain. Your mind will try hard to keep you stuck, depressed, sad, angry, hopeless, fearful... so much so that you'll give in and think, "Oh, what's the point?" because there is comfort in discomfort. It's what we've come to know - the insecurity blanket shielding us from healthy relationships with others.
It's time to let go of the blanket now. So... stick and blanket dropped, get yourself into a confident pose, take a deep breath, affirm: "I LOVE AND RESPECT MYSELF!" (say it loud and proud) and, above all, SMILE!! It can help to do it dramatically - when you begin to laugh (or maybe even cry), you know it's penetrated. It's broken through. It's landed. But like any new road, it must be travelled down regularly in order to form a more direct route to peace.
When you discover that that's your authentic path - to love and respect yourself NO MATTER WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE, you'll feel more peaceful inside. Because you've uncovered a truth. You ARE worthy of love. You ARE worthy of respect. And if you want it from others (let's be clear, you don't NEED it from others when you have your own), it begins with you. Charity begins at home. Be charitable and compassionate to yourself first and foremost and wait and see what treasures begin to unfold in your life. Infinite riches await - are you willing to take that first step? Start your spiritual prescription to day and see how much better you feel 3 months from now.
Have you reached saturation point yet? Maybe you don’t know you’re there yet because you’ve been living – or existing – this way for so long that you are uncomfortably unaware that there might be an alternative. I’m here to tell you that there is – an alternative way of being, of reacting, of behaving… of feeling.
If you keep on giving and giving and giving to your partner and feeling worse about yourself by the day (whether that’s financially, physically, sexually, whatever), to friends and/or family, this all takes its toll on your emotional strength until eventually you’re zapped… and you snap. Where there are givers, so there will be takers. Thus sayeth the law of give and take, cost and reward. But what you need to figure out is… What are the pay-offs for you in staying miserable? What are you actually getting from this? Often we think that we are giving without reward; only cost to ourselves. We are playing the martyr. The costs are, of course, more obvious – sleepless nights, appetite changes, anxiety, depression, self-medication using alcohol or food (or other drugs) to make you ‘feel better’ by blocking out the pain and anxiety.. only leading to more pain and anxiety. But how could there possibly be rewards for all of this hard emotional labour? This sounds like garbage, right? I thought so too until I examined my own pay-offs for ‘overcaring’. I got to stay in my familiar place – the place I grew up in on the inside – there is comfort in discomfort, for many of us. At least we know that place – feeling free of anxiety, free from others’ expectations of us, free from others’ opinions of us, free of obligation, free of the responsibility for others’ happiness… that’s unfamiliar and more uncomfortable; more apposite than their opposite. And somewhere along the way, the growing up on the inside kinda stopped short.
For many of us in recovery from ‘overcaring’, we come to realise that, although we appear like fully-functioning adults and able to juggle many responsibilities, the truth is that we have some kind of arrested emotional development. The music stopped inside at a certain age. So how do we move away from saturation point and begin to grow up? Without some kind of external input, this process will invariably be slower and self-awareness is absolutely paramount in this process. Recognising that you’ve had enough – that you’re all out of love (almost) – is a good start. From there, the journey begins… to retrace the steps to your authentic self. What does your authentic self really want? From my own experience both as an ‘overcarer’ and a recovery coach, when we get down to it, material things don’t matter. They will never fill the void inside which has existed for all of us who give too much. The road to recovery begins with the first step to self-love. I love and respect myself. I am good enough. Powerful words when you say them aloud. Even more powerful when you say them and begin to believe them. That takes practice.
Are you willing to begin your practice and start to find that love you’ve been searching for?
Someone once asked me if I believed there was some kinda “cure” for co-dependency. I answered that I didn’t believe so. To date, after years of extensive research and practice, I have not – as yet - come across a one-size-fits-all cure for a given addiction… but I do know of many, many methods which can offer a way back from the brink and a step towards the peace and contentment which follows many of us in recovery, once the chaos of addiction is quietened, soothed and put back in its box . A customised lid can be found to contain it. Sometimes our triggers will lift the lid. Sometimes they’ll blow the lid right off and it’s Groundhog Day all over again… feeling those Codependent Crazies… people-pleasing… going along with things but feeling that old familiar resentment… over-caring… over-committing… over-working….over-analysing… overdoing it… over and over and over again. I know I've said it all before... ;)
The difference in recovery? We know that the chaos can be held in abeyance – that it can be contained again. That we can put a lid on it… when we learn how. Today I’m the Comeback Coach… coming back healed and restored after a long break, some of which was spent, admittedly, in a codependent cycle. I fell into it. I climbed out of it. It’s been tough, as great loss and resultant grief were in the mix but I didn’t pick up… I didn’t return to my drug of choice… and that’s thanks to healthy relationships which support my recovery, combined with the tools I've come to know and love, which help me to know and love myself once again. Each time codependency strikes, the gaps between episodes become wider. Peace is louder and the volume is turned down to a whisper on crazy... And I remind myself each and every day… It’s a great life in recovery!
Hey-la! Hey-la! It’s good to be back! :)