I am so worried that I am teaching my daughter the same co-dependent lessons that I learned… I have made so many mistakes. And now, I fear I am my worst critic. I’m afraid to make decisions at all. Sometimes I don’t even know who I am.

I hear you— you are paralyzed with worry, fear, and doubt. But you are willing to learn, and you are open to new ways of living. That’s wonderful! Co-dependency started as a small seed, usually early in our life. It is often rooted in an anxious attachment pattern, so that is a good place to start, when we consider cleaning up the garden!

In anxious attachment there is often the feeling of “wanting and not having.” This leaves us with unresolved longing, yearning, and feeling we can never have what we want. Often we accept relationships that play out the rejection or cruelty that we have internalized from a childhood wound. Someone close to us was unable to meet our needs or care for us in a meaningful way, and we internalized the thought that a) we must not deserve it, or b) we can only have love when we are taking care of someone else, or c) our needs aren’t that important.

The good news is that you can heal these wounds, while at the same time developing healthy and safe attachment patterns for your daughter. What is your preferred “language of love?” …Thoughtful gifts? Affirming words? Affectionate safe touch? Quality time in shared activities? Acts of service? (ref: The Five Languages of Love by Gary Chapman) Ask for these things! Look for these things! Absorb them when they happen! Even with your daughter, take the time to truly receive her gaze, her love, her embrace. Laugh and play with her; give her the gift of truly being attuned to her inner world, thoughts, and feelings. This will heal you and strengthen her. She will know that she matters, and her earliest emotional memories will be filled with connectedness, not pain.

Let others around you know what you need. Experience love from others as gourmet nutrition that you are craving, and you deserve. Drink it in, allow others to help you you need it. What is it like, when you
truly receive love? Describe how your body feels? The thoughts you are having? It may be difficult at first, but be patient, and allow yourself to receive even 1% more than you are used to, for a while. Practice this intentionally as you interact with others in various (safe) settings. What does your mind tell you? Your emotions? Do you immediately feel
anger or fear? Do you anticipate loss or rejection? Does your body block contact from others that could be meaningful? Writing about these feelings can be helpful. These feelings are letting you know that an old way of avoiding pain is still in the driver’s seat.

Also, be aware of when the “inner critic” of your mind is working overtime. When we create emotional safety and surround ourselves with safe people, we have no need for the constant “armor” of the critic, telling us all the ways we may be making mistakes. Gently tell the critic “thank you very much,” but we no longer need to prove anything or convince anyone of our point of view or choices. It was a good coping skill at as a child, or in a toxic relationship, but you no longer need it. It sometimes, in fact, led you to make choices and decisions that were not aligned with your true interests and passions. Now as a grown person, you have the values and process of decision-making that works for you. No further explanation is necessary.

Remember ways to calm the inner critic, though drawing, music, and mindfulness in whatever you are doing. Mindfulness is really just guiding your mind back to the present moment, through focusing on sensory experiences and/ or your breath.

We will explore all of these methods of allowing and accepting through mindfulness,
together, very soon!
You’ve got this!