I have decided that dependency traits are like this giant spider’s web that we weave throughout our lives. We weave the web like liar’s spin lies except that we have no idea that we are doing it. It’s not really composed of lies, though, it’s protection that we spin. Protection in the form of automatic defense mechanisms habituated into actions and behaviors and non-actions all designed to keep us safe, or at least our version of perceived safety.
It seems to me that dependency traits are borne out of our feelings of shame and unworthiness. It’s like somewhere within we know we are broken and so we subconsciously say to people “can I depend on you to keep me broken in this one area?”. We may have one friend that we depend on to keep us feeling the need to be a caretaker or help us fulfill our need to compulsively give. We may have a relative that we depend on to keep us feeling unworthy. We may have a spouse that covers a whole umbrella of dysfunctions for us. I am certain now that while I thought I was a smart 24-year-old with a master’s degree and had the world by the tail when I married my husband, 30 years later I see the truth. I was a 24-year-old woman who was a broken child and was asking her husband; “can I depend on you to keep me broken, it’s the only way I know how to be.”
Over 30 years I spun a pretty large and sticky web of dependency traits attached to shame and unworthiness. When I began healing enough to be able to get glimpses of my self-spun web around me I started the scary process of disentangling myself. We get comfortable there, in our cozy and familiar nests. It is what we know, it is what we have built the foundation of a lot of our life on and coming out of this nest means finding our own well, everything. Making a decision, having an opinion, being seen and heard; when in dependency there is always a fall back, the person you are dependent on. In dependency, you can always pull out the victim card. We always have it in our back pocket. It is a close friend we never let get too far away from us.
When disentangling you feel alone. It’s not really because you are, but more because you are used to so many voices in your head. You are so used to the “shoulds” and rules being recited to you that to have stillness and only your own voice seems lonely.
I admire people who fully know themselves and are okay with making mistakes and don’t worry about whether they are pleasing others or giving enough. I aspire to that. I look forward to the day when “you should be ashamed of yourself” or “who do you think you are” is no longer in my head. What do I do in the meantime? Trust. I didn’t weave this web overnight and I won’t step out of it overnight. So, I trust. I trust that every day I take another step outward, wipe the sticky off and trust that I will be able to do it again tomorrow.
My mentor, Ataana Badilli taught me from the very beginning to increase my self-love. There were many times that I felt like little Susan Walker in A Miracle on 34th Street when Kris Kringle tells her to believe and she repeats over and over in a bored tone “I believe, I believe, I believe….”
I said it over and over and over until a tiny crack opened up, “I increase my self-love to the highest level possible, I increase my self-love to the highest level possible…” Over and over year after year, but you know what? It works. I know that the reason I can take that step back from the web each day is because this self-love that I have increased supports me.