It’s been a fast past week. Lisa Romano has been in my head. She totally gets this narcissistic relationship and codependency recovery thing. She’s been there, to hell and back.
And you thought you were alone, dear one. Right? I know I did.
Because it feels so alone, so very alone, and you almost feel like there’s no one you can really talk to, who really gets it. Family? Forget it, dear one; they’re probably the ones who got you into this mess in the first place. Maybe a great friend could help; I know my Amazing Bestie has been through the ringer herself, so yes, she gets it, so I feel that I can be open with her, and for that I am bittersweetly grateful. Grateful to have her, but bitter about the fact that she had to go through the same smack I did.
And there are YouTubers who get it, too! Lisa Romano has been in my head for almost a week. And she’s a good ally to have in your head. She might be in your head, and you feel like she’s also got your back.
I’ve learned a few (okay–many) important tactics and tidbits from her, and a few others.
“What do I feel?” – First and foremost, as a codependent, I have historically, frequently, shut my own feelings down, shoved them away, dismissed them, ignored them. Now, throughout the day, whenever I find myself interacting with others, whether it’s with the checker at the grocery store or at home with my husband, I need to ask myself how I feel–about the situation, the vibe, the conversation (or lack thereof) taking place.
“My feelings are valid.” – Then I need to acknowledge those feelings. I need to say to myself “oh. Okay. Yep, there it is – discomfort. Fear. Intimidation. Resentment. Insignificance. Frustration. Etc. Okay. Cool.” And I need to allow myself to feel those feelings, as opposed to stuffing them back down and powering through the situation. I need to recognize what I feel and give myself permission to feel it.
“Create a space.” – This means sort of suspending that feeling in midair, acknowledging that it’s there and letting myself feel it, but creating a space between the feeling itself and my gut reaction. Childhood history has taught me how to respond to situations in a way that creates the least amount of pain, but chances are, these responses may not be healthy. They may come at the expense of myself, inducing me to become a doormat.
“Take a deep breath.” – Instead of obeying that old tape that dictates my unconscious instinctual reaction, I need to pause first. Because that instinctual reflex response is probably my seven-year-old self. I need to actually look at my thoughts and feelings and realize that I’m not six or seven anymore, and seize the right to create my own new templates and patterns that are rooted in my adult self.
It’s also okay to feel my feelings and not act on them. I have the power and the right to decide if the situation, conversation, etc, is something worth reacting/responding to or not. If someone is struggling, my automatic reflexive response has been to step in and help, even setting aside whatever it is I needed to tend to and whatever I was feeling like doing or not doing. It was almost compulsive. And I wouldn’t stop helping, even if I was getting hurt while doing it.
Now, I know that I can decide whether or not to step in and help. I can stop and weigh the other person’s situation against my own and determine which one is in my better interest. As a codependent, this sounds extremely selfish to me, but apparently that’s what healthy people do, and I have to learn this as well.
But I can take a moment to survey myself and ask myself if I have the energy, time, and desire. Is this person in a situation they’ve been in multiple times because of their own doing and refusal to listen before? Do I have something else that needs more immediate attention? Am I too tired or exhausted to be able to spare the energy? Am I under a time-crunch as it is, and can’t afford time to help? Does this person respect boundaries when I tell them I only have an hour to talk them through their problem? Do they have a problem for every solution and no matter what I say they’re going to think their life sucks?
“This is my boundary.” – Setting boundaries is one of the hardest actions to take for most codependent people. This is especially true when we’re paired with narcissists, because they’re really good at disregarding boundaries. My ex would keep texting me even when I had signed off. At times, he lightly pressured me to wear things I wouldn’t have chosen to wear on my own.
My husband is more subtle; he leaves his belongings (thermoses, clothing, etc) all over the place, or rearranges things in ways that block my path, or leaves his junk (wrappers, snack remains, etc) everywhere, usually in my way. He acts as though he’s the only one living in the apartment, and I’m merely a guest here. I have to continually reassert myself, fight for my right to space, nag him (only occasionally; his behavior is daily, but I pick my battles) to pick up after himself.
“Watch the self-talk.” – Self-talk isn’t talking to oneself in the shower or while driving or whatever; it’s different. Self-talk is what we tell ourselves about ourselves.
- “I’m a horrible person for saying this, but…”
- “Man, I’m getting old”
- “How could I have been so stupid?”
- “God, I’m fat”
- “I’m such a klutz!”
- “I’ve been such a space cadet”
- “I’m a complete mess”
Gorgeous ones, you wouldn’t say that to your best friend, your child, or even a perfect stranger, even if they were any of those things! Yet, we often do. And we live with ourselves 24/7. We almost have to become our own BFF…because we are. We’re the ones who can never leave our own side. We’re the ones who are going to look out for ourselves and take care of ourselves the most. Nobody else is going to do any of that for us, it’s all on us. So we have to step up and be friendly to ourselves.
So, a vocabulary rewiring is in order. I need to say to myself what I’d say to a best friend who was similarly down on themselves. Taking the above examples, in order:
- “I’m not a horrible person, I’m just being honest and saying what I think or feel.”
- “Yes, I’m getting older; we all do. We can’t all be, look, and act 20 forever.”
- “I wasn’t stupid, I was simply naive or unaware or ignorant. I can’t berate myself for what I didn’t know.”
- “Maybe I’ve put on some extra weight, but that doesn’t make me less than I was before. I can still love my body, even if I don’t like the excess weight.”
- “Okay, so I tripped over my husband’s shoes. He doesn’t put them off to the side anyway.”
- “I’ve probably been a little more forgetful than usual, because hey–stress affects the brain, knocking out the short-term memory in particular. I’m doing my best to juggle everything going on in my life and remember things. I’ll do my best to write it down or put it in my phone’s calendar next time.”
- “My life is a little hectic, sure. Of course it is (!) – I have a lot going on, and a lot on my mind. What all is going on in my life? And, what’s going right in my life; in what areas do I have my shizz together?”
“I am valid, whole, and complete, even on my own.” – I need to recognize that I am a whole person all by myself. I do not need a mate to complete me or feel complete. This is much easier said than done for a codependent person. However, the seeds have been sown.
In some areas of my life, I don’t need compliments from others. I do things for myself and I know that they’re well done, and I feel the satisfaction of having done them for myself, and done them well at that. For example, after a lifetime of avoiding domestic skills like cooking, and allowing my husband (who is a slob) to run the kitchen (poorly), I finally took it over, learning to cook for myself, cleaning the kitchen once and for all, and reorganizing everything in it in a logical way.
I used to do little things around the kitchen for him. I hadn’t really cared, except that I wanted him to notice it and recognize me for (and compliment me on) the effort. Contrast that with these days – I clean my kitchen because I like a clean kitchen. I take satisfaction in that the kitchen is clean, which looks and feels so much better. I also cook for myself, and take satisfaction in a tasty meal that satiates me. It doesn’t matter to me if my husband voices any recognition or praise to me for that or not; I know I did good.
I’ve also been going through and cleaning parts of the rest of the apartment, as time, energy, motivation, and focus will allow. I’ve taken immense satisfaction in sifting through closets and bookshelves and drawers, amassing large piles to be donated. I’ve sifted through the cupboards and taken pleasure in thinning out the expired boxed food, getting rid of spoiled items in the fridge, and so on. I’ve reorganized my closets and become familiar with everything in them. I’ve gone through the piles of papers on my desk in the home office and made liberal use of the recycling bin.
All my life I’ve lived for the recognition and approval of others, especially narcissists. Not anymore. I’m doing this stuff for me, because I like a clean, less-cluttered, more simplistic home. I’m doing this because I don’t want to feel stressed out or claustrophobic in my own clutter. I’m doing this because I want to feel light and carefree, not overwhelmed. I do this for my own sense of accomplishment that I feel when I do these things.
These strategies are all amazing, and I’m doing my damnedest to implement them strongly.
Until text time, dear ones! ❤