Gabe and I were strolling along the paths of Proceno, when I mentioned that I have trouble making decisions.
This came as literally no surprise to him and no surprise to me. The “What do you want for dinner?” “I don’t care, whatever you want” conversation was had a lot in our pre-travel days. However this acknowledgement opened the gateway to the real revelation which was the why behind my indecision. Ready?
I am afraid of the consequences of my decisions. I am most afraid that someone will either get hurt or die from a decision I make. (might seem extreme but stems from childhood)
I am less afraid but still triggered by the idea that someone will be upset by a decision I make. It’s easier and less unsettling for me to allow someone else to make the decisions for me. This is a willful act of giving up my personal power. Only, I didn’t really realize what I was doing or why on a conscious level until I began to dig into uncomfortable feelings, triggers, and reactions.
That same day, on our walk, Gabe asked if I wanted to take the forest trail. Aha… an opportunity to make a decision! I waffled. I did actually want to go on the forest path, it was beautiful and more interesting, but it had been raining and the leaf covered stones might be slippery – what if Gabe slipped and fell and cracked his head open? If I made that call, it would be my fault that he got hurt or worse! The footpath we were on was safer.
I told him my concern and that I’d prefer to stay on the footpath. Then I said “But if you’d prefer we can go on the trail.” Thus, shifting the power and responsibility to him. Then I stepped up and committed to my original want and decided we would take the trail, reclaiming my choice and attempting to ignore the “what ifs” in my mind.
Nothing happened. It was a lovely walk and small adventure. Nobody died.
The indecision is really a grab for the illusion of control. At the same time as it is a giving up of personal power, voice, and responsibility. This is codependency in action. Codependent behavior requires us to relinquish our wants and needs, to or for someone else. We sacrifice ourselves, so that we don’t rock the boat.
As I dig into this in my own life, I can see with some clarity that a major reason I work really hard to keep the status quo, is because of a fear that I’m going to upset or anger my partner, my friends, my family, my boss, etc. There are examples of this behavior in all aspects of my life, because it’s so ingrained in my programming.
I’ve done a lot of personal work to recover from the toxic programming that has ruled my life. I am so far from where I began and I’m proud of that, AND still there is always always always room for more healing, more improvement, better understanding.
Awareness is the first step.
Because I can now see this behavior for what it is, I can start to remedy it.
You might be asking yourself how to do that; how do you remedy such a deeply ingrained behavior?
Small Example. While in Switzerland, Gabe and I got some really tasty Swiss Vegan Chocolate. He offered me a couple squares off the chocolate bar in his hand which I ate happily. Then he asked if I’d like a couple more squares.
My initial thought was – I don’t want to eat all “his” chocolate.
(It’s our chocolate, but this is my MO, his needs first, even though he is genuinely wanting to share.)
I paused & thought for a moment …. Do I actually want some more chocolate? I did. So I voiced this want. No regrets. No unwanted consequences. Just a tasty, tasty treat that I deserve to enjoy just as much as anybody else. This is a baby step. There are countless opportunities for babysteps throughout every single day.
Start looking for them.
I do want to be very clear that Gabe, my partner and love of my life, can be trusted with my heart and my thoughts. They are not wielded against me, never weaponized. He holds my growth and healing very tenderly, with great understanding and care and encouragement. He also works on his own personal growth and mental health and wellbeing. My codependent behavior was not created or nurtured by him, he’s just lucky enough to have to deal with the fallout – which he does with grace and love.
This has not always been the case in my past relationships and it may not be the case for you at the moment either. Codependents often find themselves in toxic, even abusive, relationships. If this is your situation or you suspect your partner might not be supportive, instead of discussing your tender thoughts and ah-ha moments with someone who will use them to hurt you, I suggest writing in a journal, talking to a healthy friend, or investing in a coach. (Shameless plug here!)
Still practice the baby steps, because these baby steps lead to setting boundaries which you may be lacking or have a hard time keeping. If the person or people you are practicing your baby steps with, reacts negatively, it might be time to examine and reevaluate some relationships in your life. If someone is in your circle, they should be rooting for you, not tearing your efforts down.
Your Voice Matters. Your Needs Matter. Your Wants Matter.