For Our Daughters…

A letter to a young girl, in the midst of becoming a young woman.

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I believe there is a power that women hold, that is as old MotherDaughter 2as the earth itself, and is never ending.  It is passed through the lifeblood of all women and it binds us together as life givers, as forces of change, as healers and teachers and wisdom seekers.  

The world would have us battling one another, competing for attention and accolades that ultimately mean nothing, rather than using our powerful bond to hold one another up and be the force that we are designed to be.

My hope for you, as you transition into this next phase of becoming a woman in our circle, is that you trust your own heart beyond anything or anyone outside of yourself.  Trust your innate wisdom, your body, everything that informs your unique perspective of the world and of people.  

Slow down and pay attention to what you already know.  Feel everything that you naturally feel, and learn to always come back to your center to question your deepest truth.  Always be curious about what is not immediately apparent—truth is complex and “not knowing” can feel vulnerable, yet tolerating that vulnerability is an intensely powerful position.  

You are a source of LOVE and you are forever connected to the women who have come before you. Our legacy is alive in your lifeblood.  Trust that we all are a part of the matrix of evolving strength that holds and guides you.  Feel us in your bones.  

For the Love of Your Life,

Angie

A Wounded Nation

Politics, to me, look a lot like an intimate relationship–maybe it’s just the lens through which I see… (so many things!)

It does stand to reason, though, that opposites “attract,” in a sense; that really, we can’t have one without the other—(that tends to be when revolutions occur)—yet the intrinsic balance of different perspectives creates a stronger foundation for relationships or, in this sense, for a nation—for the collective. Opposing strengths and perspectives, when they can depend on and challenge one another—sometimes even when they need to battle things out—ultimately lend to a more powerful system.

wolf-packThis concept is part of our nature, but we’ve become disconnected to its inherent value. It even shows up in the animal kingdom. Herds and packs of animals work collectively for their survival, yet they each have unique roles, due to their innate strengths and qualities, and exhibit those strengths with the intention of surviving and thriving together. They certainly battle it out at times, yet there seems to evolve a natural respect among members. They are stronger BECAUSE they are different.

(And just to note, I’m not speaking of political candidates here—I’m speaking of parties.)

I often wish I could do relationship therapy among political parties.

You see, there’s a fascinating and consistent theme when couples come into therapy. The belief goes something like, “My partner is more of the problem in this relationship.” So the request, from both partners, often is a bit like, “Can you please let my partner know that she is the problem,” “convince him of how he needs to change, and then we’ll be good!” (Basically). But here’s the deal: Research into human nature and relationships has found—through decades of intensive exploration into this subject—that, 1) One partner’s belief that the other person is “the problem” is the quintessential “Kiss of Death” to the relationship—it’s by far the most damaging belief, and strongest indicator of relationship failure. And, 2) …it’s almost NEVER true.

Swallow that one for a few moments (relationally, politically, whichever is the most difficult!)

People who end up being really good at relationships are the people who are willing to explore the possibility that their perspective isn’t the only valid one. –That, in fact, underneath someone else’s seemingly polar opposite opinion, there’s something just as legitimate as what we want or believe. That doesn’t negate that how we see things is as important, and we need to require equal regard and respect, but the key to being influential is partly based on our ability to also accept influence—to have some flexibility in the way we interact with one another.

We’re all biased to see the world through the lens that we’ve each developed based on our unique experiences, our heritage, our culture, our family dynamics, and the personal qualities that we’ve cultivated throughout our lives. Each of us has strong feelings about what is right and wrong—how people are supposed to act, both in relationship and in the world, and we tend to naturally believe that our beliefs are both “right” and also shared by the majority. The fact is, though, that’s just not so. In fact, with most of the things that people tend to argue over, there is no universally accepted “better way.” And even when behavior is actually “universally wrong,” how we respond to it is the most important piece of whether we’re going to see more of it in the future or not. And blaming and shaming simply doesn’t bode well for creating change.

People struggle with this idea because each one of us becomes attached to how our own perspective works for us.

Now, what happens when we apply these truths to politics, to parties or affiliations? Seems to me that we’re all coming in believing “the other guy/gal/belief system/policies/way of being/etc., etc… is “the problem.” I’ve certainly had my own share of that perspective. But in reality, WE ARE ALL A PART OF THE PROBLEM. We have all contributed to the condition of our current political landscape. And the truth is, we all have legitimate concerns. At the foundation of all the negativity and anger and aggression—at the root of bad behavior—there’s always some reasonable perspective, something that we each believe passionately about how to make our nation a better place to hang out for a while.

Talking politics on social media platforms seems only to invite those who either vehemently agree or disagree, which doesn’t resolve anything and mostly serves to polarize viewpoints, subsequently people, even more than we already are. Of course, being a “relationship person,” initiating or engaging in those dialogues without some intention for understanding seems counterintuitive. So I’m both working to understand, and asking you all to do the same.

There is a similar dynamic in intimate relationships—we’re naturally attracted to those people who have a lot of opposing qualities to us. It’s part of our makeup. There’s more chemistry in relationship when we have some polarizing characteristics that draw us together. But so often—most often, in fact—we don’t know how to tolerate those differences very well and we begin to see our partners perspective as “off”—not as effective maybe, or just bad in some way. We pathologize one another. And it’s almost impossible to influence a partner when they believe you see them as “the problem.”

The same is true in politics—how are we ever going to influence one another if we continue to blame each other for problems that we have collectively created?

tree-handI have friends and family—people whom I highly respect and regard, people that I know are both rationally and emotionally intelligent, thoughtful, engaged, educated—who are on both (all) sides of this election. And so I cannot simply dismiss any of their emotional and/or rational stances through a reactive assumption that they are simply “wrong” and everyone who agrees with them is as well. It takes mindfulness, flexibility, and inner tolerance to stay present and become curious.

Just as when my children are arguing over something…. If I jump in and assume one person is the problem, I lose the opportunity to support them in honoring the deeper thing at stake for each of them, and I prevent them from engaging their young nervous systems in a practice that I believe is essential for healthy relationships—to be able to willingly listen, from the heart, to what is true for one another, while simultaneously standing up for what is true for themselves.

Our differences are what truly make our country great. But acknowledging differences can be uncomfortable. We so often automatically assume that one of us is right and the other wrong, rather than allowing some space to explore the benefits and risks of both ways of thinking—to tolerate two opposing perspectives with equal regard requires some “mental strength training.” Yet we desperately need to cultivate tolerance—and I mean true, authentic tolerance, not just the kind that pays lip service—we need to practice countering the internal story that says someone else is the problem, and look for what’s right about someone else’s viewpoint. Then, and only then, do we have any chance of asking, and requiring, that they also give space to what we believe.

political-earthWe are becoming so divided and wounded, as a country… it’s painful, it’s scary, and it’s weakening our chances of thriving on our little spinning planet. But we’re trying to find resolution by putting blame on one another, rather than attempting to understand one another. And I want to provide a reframe for how we’re seeing the current state of things, and maybe even see it as an opportunity to do something different—to engage in dialogue with respect, with curiosity, trusting that there is more to the story than what we know—always.

Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom for intimate relationships to come out on the other side with both the capability and the heart for thriving in a new way. And when I see it, it’s one of the most inspiring things in the world—because people have to push beyond themselves, they have to dig into the depths of belief systems and stories that they’ve been telling themselves, they have to stretch into tolerating that their view isn’t the only valid one, and their responses or solutions for dealing with life aren’t the only sane, reasonable ones out there! They also need to practice the habit of standing up for themselves without making their partner wrong—of honoring their own bias, while honoring the way their partner sees things as well.

When these practices are embodied, they are able to step back, take a look at one another, and see the beauty of their partner before them—see that even in the midst of differences, flaws, and idiosyncrasies, we are each, in our own way, imperfectly perfect.

We are ultimately such a young democracy—we’re really still learning how to do this well—just as we are understanding more and more how to have healthy intimate relationships. And we’re going to screw it up along the way—a lot! But it’s how we respond to those screw-ups that set us up for success or failure as we move forward. The shame and blame game… that just gets us nowhere. And I’m not saying that we don’t have to deal with bad behavior, yet so often how we do that undermines our effectiveness in creating change.

Here’s my challenge to you all:

Next time someone shares a political belief, or really any belief, that you cannot even fathom as being reasonable, take a moment to pay attention to your internal story about what that means. Pay attention to your body—to how the automatic processes in your body take hold and put you into a “protective or defensive” mode. Notice the impulse to make that person wrong, to counter and put yourself above them. Take a breath. be with just that, for a moment. Feel how that, just that impulse, plays a role in becoming more distant or more connected, and take a moment to see if it is within your capability to explore the possibility that maybe if the two of you share in some open dialogue, you might both learn something.

I believe that if you can do this, consistently, with intention, you will notice a new strength within you. And I believe if enough of us have a similar practice, we will strengthen our nation, from the inside out—regardless of what happens in this election.

 

For the Love of Your Life

 

Angie

Five Ways to Get Stinky Kids

My kids stink, today anyway. They smell like sweat, dirt, grime; the kind of kid-smell that says they’ve been running hard, playing rough, non-stop all-day-long kind of playing. They smell like kids are supposed to smell.

Kids don’t smell nearly dirty enough these days.

My kids started full on with all the neighbor kids at about 10:00 this morning and they’re still going at almost 7:00 pm. There’ve been little breaks here and there as they grabbed a bite of food or a sip of water and then raced back into the fray.

kids-fenceEarlier, there were 14 of us—including three parents—walking, running to the park, climbing over the fence, to play soccer, basketball, baseball, groundies, to swing and play on the merry-go-round (yep, our park still has one of those!) Then we came back home for a spur-of-the-moment neighborhood BBQ and they’ve continued with Nerf gun wars, tag, hide-and-seek and a classic game of sardines (remember that one??)

I remember these days from my childhood—when we’d have a group of kids at our house, all the parents visiting inside, and we’d just go and go and go—never needing jackets, never feeling hungry or tired, just thriving in the all-out pushing hard play-time that we lived for. Kick the can, tag, jumping off my Dad’s retaining wall, hide-and-seek, (first kisses during hide-and-seek). This is the kind of play that brings the neighbors out to look, and they end up with these wistful smiles on their faces, remembering their own youth. It surprises them, though, because they haven’t seen it much in a while.

Kids smell too good these days—they smell like designer clothes and hair products, and not like kid-sweat and dirt. They smell like days in front of screens and sitting on couches. They smell like organized sports instead of random play where kids learn all about social rules and kindness and getting along and problem solving and conflict resolution and communication—this is where life is learned. Not that I’m against organized sports—my kids play them and learn a whole lot about discipline and structure, work ethic and dedication, and team-work and commitment. But they don’t learn the basics—like who makes the rules, who’s going to be the leader, how to deal with hurt feelings and disagreements. They don’t learn how to work together to make sure everyone’s included and they don’t get to practice different hierarchical social roles. They don’t really figure out how they fit in the whole scheme of things.

Maybe more play-time really is the key.

All mammals NEED play to survive! We even have a whole brain system dedicated to PLAY. Yet not only do many adults forget how to play, we’re forgetting to teach our kids–or sometimes, we forget to let our kids teach us.

So how about we dedicate some time to teaching our kids how to get dirty, how to play hard, to push themselves, and to stink! Here are some of my suggestions (and reminders for myself, as well as anyone else). What are yours?

 #1 UNPLUG

You know the drill—shut down the devices, turn off anydigital-kids screen within miles that you can access. Don’t ask and don’t argue—just make the rule and turn it all off. I have difficulty with this at times too, because screens can be such an easy way to make them happy….  in the moment.  But kids are not only, not learning how to play hard; their bodies aren’t developing what they need to be able to play. Loads of screen time leads to a lack of vestibular function (balance) and inhibited proprioception (knowing where our bodies are in space). A lot of kids these days really struggle with sensory integration issues and simple coordination, many, simply because their bodies don’t have the chance to practice. And the overstimulation of sensory mechanisms trying to integrate the images and speed from screens is completely messing with our kiddos body-brain development. Not to mention it’s setting them up for future addictive habits, as they use it (just like their parents) as a means of avoidance—of feeling and life. So turn it off!

#2 PLAY WITH THEM

Kids will have so much more fun, and feel so much more confident playing, if Mom and Dad are playing with them. And ultimately, they don’t follow my Dad’s old adage—“Do what I say, not what I do”—kids do exactly what they see their parents doing! They mirror our movements, reflect our personalities, and follow our lead. So PLAY. Have fun with them—get dirty and grimy and stinky with them. Let go of the “to-do” lists, and dig deep into your own kid-nature–They’ll love you so much for it.

#3 LET THEM FIGURE IT OUT

merry-go-roundKids are going to argue and fight about who’s going to push the merry-go-round, about what game to play, about who’s the ruler in the tree fort—hopefully without getting physical—they’re going to yell and cry and get their feelings hurt, and they’re going to get embarrassed, shy, insecure, and frustrated.  They’re supposed to. And if we rescue them, they’ll lose interest, ultimately, and they’ll stop trying those strategies (because that is exactly what those behaviors are—albeit unconsciously) for themselves.  They’re also going to make friends, create their pack, feel connected and secure and valued.  This is how they learn to navigate intense feelings, how they find their way through the messiness of being a human, and how they learn to find their way with friends with some know-how. And if we fix it for them, or try to change it, they’re going to end up uncertain and scared as grownups.

#4 ENCOURAGE THEM TO BE KIDS

Sometimes we want our kids to be little adults. The dinner table is a great time for this practice! But play-time… not so much. This is where they get to figure it out on their own. They’re going to scream—let them (unless you have grumpy neighbors), they’re going to break things—in the house and in their bodies. Practice non-attachment and patience. They’re going to get weird and creative and do things that don’t make any logical sense—enjoy it. “Emily”—the name that Lilly has chosen for the day—just told me she’s “selling puffiness”—for one penny each, she’s selling handfuls of these little white puffy flowers to all the kids so they can throw them at one another. There’s no logic that’s going to make that any cooler than it already is to an eight-year-old. So love the illogical, the magical, the strange, and enjoy that THEY ARE NOT LIKE US, yet.

#5 STOP BELIEVING THERE IS ANYTHING MORE IMPORTANT THAN PLAY

 I can so often forget that PLAY is as essential for my children and myself as housework, and to-do lists, and errands. It’s as important as every lesson I need to teach my kids. And simple, random playful days are sometimes more important than great adventures and planned outings. Our kids don’t need us to constantly entertain them and buy them new toys and plan our lives around cool events. They just need some free time, some space, and a few good friends—and they need us to be there, playing with them and providing a snack or two. They need us to be the one they can check in with, can come to with frustrations, sadness, a great new idea, or an owie. They need to feel us there, watching them, and loving all that we see.

Time to get stinky!

For the Love of Your Life!

Angie

Honesty From the Inside Out: A 1-2-3 on How to Equip Our Children

My kids and I have a lot of long talks. We talk about things likeN&L-1 who we want to be in the world, friendships, differences in beliefs and religions, personal responsibility, diversity, and qualities that are important to us. I love hearing their innocent and naturally developing views on these topics that become the foundation, I believe, for their happiness, their relationships, and their sense of living into their truest natures. I love hearing their minds and hearts expression through exploring what’s most relevant in their growing ideas of the world and of people.

Wednesday night, the subject of honesty came up at the dinner table. We were navigating a “little white lie…” in our house, getting clear on why it happened and what the consequences would be.

As many parents have experienced, this bit of dishonesty had to do with an IPad.

iphone-kidsI have a love-hate relationship with everything “I-digital,” mostly because it’s having a significant—in some ways, devastating—impact on our children’s developing brains, their ability to regulate emotions, their attention, their mental health, and their ability to relate to people in the present moment. It’s having a similar impact on us all, but that is for another post! (Noted as I type this on my related mac book).

When our kids lie, as all of them will be at times (it’s their job to push against every boundary, every edge that we have), our response is key. Just like any relationship—we have to know how to respond effectively when we feel mistreated to increase the chance that we’re treated better in the future—we have a powerful opportunity in these moments to help our kids learn this valuable lesson, yet it can be incredibly difficult to slow down our brains enough to take it!

Honesty is a relational quality that doesn’t always come naturally. When we’re lied to, we have an internalized belief that we’ve been wronged and our brains can become reactive to the point that, through shaming, we contribute to an increase in our kid’s dishonesty in the future, rather than a decrease. And because this is parenting, it’s our responsibility to create the foundation and structure that will support our kids in not just “learning the lessons,” but in embedding honesty and integrity as the foundation of who they are—something human relationships don’t practice near enough of these days.

I heard a great quote the other day, though I don’t know whom to credit:

“Children who are not held accountable grow up to be adults who believe they can do no wrong.”

It’s our job to hold our kids accountable in ways that don’t shame them—that honor where they are developmentally, and honor their relationship to us—their models and guides.

It can feel like a mini brain explosion the first time we realize our kiddo has lied to us—one of those blatant lies, thought out, intentional. It’s easy to fall into a trap of what it means about us—their parents—we can feel a need to control the situation, or we can fall into our own shame. Our reptilian brains can go into fight or flight while we work to mitigate the emotional landslide threatening to override rational thought.

If we look at what research has shown to be absolutely necessary, though, in effective relational skills (which are essential in parent-child relationships), there are some things that desperately need to happen if we’re going to affect positive change.

Number One:

MINDFULNESS

We need to slow down. The reactive brain is powerful and quick—it’s built for survival, for protection from threat (and betrayal feels like a big threat), and fight or flight responses. The immediate reaction to our kiddos lie, if not monitored, can do some damage. Slowing down, however, takes some focused, intentional practice—“knowing this” is very different than “doing it” in the heat of the moment. It’s just like a new training regimen; we need consistent, focused practice, often with support to rewire our brain’s very natural and habitual responses.

We need to focus not on what our child did that was so wrong, but on how we feel in that particular moment. What are our emotions, thoughts, and, even deeper than that, what are our physiological responses—what’s happening on the level of sensation? When we have the capacity to simply notice what we’re feeling, before responding, we slow down our powerful reactive brains and we set ourselves up for a load of successful interactions. We also provide a valuable model for our kids.

Number Two:

COMPASSION

As difficult as it can be to have compassion when our children misbehave, it’s essential that we remember the fact that underneath the bad behavior, there’s a person—one we love desperately and one who is doing his or her best to learn all of life’s lessons, and looking to us to structure the container in which s/he is learning. It’s amazing when we can approach without judgment, get curious about what was happening, and give some understanding to our little ones, we make it safe for them to actually talk about what they did and why. And the more they trust us to hold that space, the more they will be able to share with us in years to come, things that might be painful, shameful, or embarrassing to share.

Compassion doesn’t mean that we rescue them, make it okay, or let them off the hook. It means we help them to explore the “why,” and what they could’ve done differently, and then we collaborate on an effective consequence that will support more congruent choices in their future—and we do this with love and understanding.

Number Three:

PARENTING

Seems an obvious necessity, right? We’re clearly parents or we wouldn’t be here. Sadly, I often witness parents, either in my practice or in my community, who seem to struggle in deciding whether to be a parent or a friend. I would assert that most of us would like to be both. Sometimes, however, our friend role gets in the way of being good parents, and our kiddos desperately need us to be parents first.

I love the pendulum shift in our culture that has brought us to paying more attention to our children’s emotions than to their behavior, as we did in previous generations. However, with that, our kiddos are struggling to find a solid structure on which they can depend to hold the natural chaos of their development! The rise in anxiety disorders in our kids and teens is unparalleled and so much of that is related to the lack of stable household environments and parents who are modeling emotional tolerance, resiliency, and flexibility.

Parenting—true parenting, including rules, structure, discipline, along with unconditional love—can be really uncomfortable sometimes. We all want our kids to like us, and want to spend time with us. We want to have positive, fulfilling interactions and relationships with them. But sometimes our actions geared at creating friend relationships undermine the effectiveness of our role as parents.

Setting boundaries, enforcing rules, providing consistent and thoughtful consequences—no one enjoys being a drill sergeant (well, there are those few…) and sometimes it may feel as if we need to embody that character for our kids to listen—these are just some of the qualities of a stable parent-child relationship. The other side of this foundation, of course, is our own ability to model these qualities. When kids feel and can trust in us to provide these consistently, they learn to gain a stable foundation from which they can naturally learn to navigate the impact of their own developing relational qualities. 

We are powerful factors in helping to determine the qualities our children choose to practice. The responsibility and impact are incalculable. Pushing into the less comfortable moments in parenting, with some dedication to these practices, can provide some of the most fertile ground for our children to become mighty stewards of our collective humanity.

I would appreciate hearing your thoughts, reservations, questions, hopes, and some of your own personal stories!

For the Love of Your Life,

 Angie

The Other Side of Addiction

I’ve been in recovery for almost five years. It’s difficult to say, however, what my recovery is from. There’s no measureable substance with which I can relate my sobriety, no way to legitimately claim abstinence from a particular behavior. There is no 90-day or five-year chip. Some people might not believe that my recovery is “as important” or “as difficult,” or even “as real” as recovery from a substance or specific behavior. They might also believe that the damage from this side of addiction couldn’t equal its counterpart.

I can assure you, however, my recovery is real—as real as the destruction in its wake. And it’s been a difficult journey. Some of you may be able to relate. Others may not want to.

My addiction is emotional and relational—almost impossible to quantify, but poignant in body and soul. Clean and sober, for me, is a process that occurs internally and in the realm of how I connect with people in my most intimate relationships. The only way to understand whether I’m “on” or “off” the wagon is by having a felt sense of being in relationship with me—and not just any relationship—being in the grit of life with me.

Maybe it’s silly for me to look at my own earlier relational habits as addictive processes. But if we are not able to look at this spectrum—the tightrope that we all have walked, in some form or fashion, whether personally or in relation to others—it’s impossible to have the necessary understanding and compassion when it comes to the need to hold and heal the overarching epidemic of addiction in our culture and world. It has literally become part of the infrastructure of our relatedness, an underlying root system that is rotting out from under us, from which our relational matrix has evolved.

A large percentage of how we know one another, how we manage emotions in the presence of one another, how we share intimacy, and how we function are relational constructs that have depended on generational patterns of addiction to exist. And it is essential that we look to each one of us—to how we’ve been a part of this evolving destructive cycle, if we want to begin to heal our capacity for being in the world and with one another.

It’s easier to think of addiction in regard to alcohol or drugs, or a behavior such as pornography, gambling, gaming, or sex. It’s much more clear to imagine how the effects of those behaviors can wreak havoc in families and relationships, or in our professional lives. …But emotional addiction? What does that even mean? And who’s to say what’s addictive when it comes to our hearts expression?  One way to look at it is this:  An addictive personality has an inability to regulate emotions internally, so seeks some external substance, behavior, emotion, or relationship to help regulate. This could be alcohol, sex, heroine, shopping, food, relationship, control, gaming, or any other number of behaviors intended to provide short-term relief from emotional discomfort.

Some might see these types of relational/emotional addictive patterns as a “co-addiction” or co-dependency. The thing is… ALL addiction is RELATIONAL. It begins with emotional pain—emotional loss or trauma. And it begins in relationship. And I want to point to the beauty in that, as it is through relationship—with ourselves and others—that we heal.

Culturally, it is easy to look to an “identified patient” when it comes to addiction. But addiction happens within a system of closeness, of togetherness, of intimacy of some sort, and so really, addiction IS co-addiction, and almost always happens in a co-dependent system. And it is through a systemic lens that we need to look, if we are going to heal.


Systems support dependency through co-dependency. Think about it.


Since addiction doesn’t happen alone, we don’t heal alone. We heal when we are in the presence of willingness, compassion, understanding, honesty, challenge, and grace; and are able to allow our pain some space–to have a voice. When we can fully be with what is in the presence of another, we have an opportunity of living into the people we were designed to be. When we learn to allow healthy relationship to help regulate our nervous systems, with mindful intention, we can begin to increase our own tolerance for emotion, and learn to organize and regulate our experiences from an internal locus of control.  

SpaceGrace

Emotional pain lights up the brain just like physical pain, and whether an addiction is to an external substance or an internal feeling, the brain’s pain response can be soothed in similar ways. Our addictive patterns—whether to heroine, shopping, or emotional control or drama—are all attempts to soothe pain, to escape it—to be in the world, in our bodies, and in relationship with others.

As Dr. Gabor Maté says, we need to be looking not at what’s wrong with addiction, but what works—what’s right about it. When we can understand how it’s working, we can begin to understand the underlying need. And when we can understand and validate the true need, the habit and/or desire to avoid it can dissipate.

So what’s the difference between addiction and co-addiction?

Let’s first define addiction:

Addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (e.g., alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping) that can be momentarily pleasurable but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health. In this scenario, the decision to stop ingesting the substance or engaging in the activity can feel impossible.

The definition of co-addiction looks a little different:

Co-addiction is the dependence on the needs, behaviors, or control of, another—to the point where one can become entirely preoccupied—and placing a lower priority on one’s own needs and behavior, resulting in an external locus of control: The experience of one’s emotions being regulated by someone or something external to the self. Initially, the experience can feel pleasurable, as it can result in a sense of connectedness, purpose, the building of ego, and the feeling of “care-taking.” For an active co-addict, however, the decision to “let go” of an addict and their behavior, and focus instead on SELF, can feel insurmountable.


If any one of us finds ourselves in intimate, long-term relationship to “an addict,” let’s get clear:

That doesn’t happen if we don’t have the right wiring to be in relationship with addiction. We are an integral piece in the puzzle. This is where co-dependency can be confusing. If we’re in an addictive system that we can’t seem to get out of, we are on the spectrum of addiction—plain and simple. That doesn’t mean that other things aren’t in play, or that we always have equal culpability in every relationship or situation. It does mean, however, that what we bring to the table matters and that more than likely, if we’re blaming an addict, we have blind spots with regard to how we are impacting our relationship.

Addictions related to our emotions can contribute to levels of toxicity in our lives that equal, and may even surpass, the damage done by chemical or behavioral addictions, mostly because of our lack of awareness, coupled with our blame toward “the addict.” When we see another as “the problem,” we disregard areas in our own lives that are causing damage. We may be embodying contempt, which research has shown is the kiss of death to relationship. (That’s another article!) When we focus on another’s problems, we also disempower ourselves to take charge of our own path. We become the victim to our situation and lose our objectivity—our ability to clearly see a different way.

I have fallen “off the wagon” multiple times. What does that look like, you might wonder. Someone with a substance addiction can’t “kind of” relapse—a drink or drug is a tangible slide. Yet a thought…. even a misstep in relationship is subtle—less obvious. Comfortable, in a way, because it’s what we “know,” (that early wiring) and also because there is a certain relational truth to the core underpinnings of our addictive behavior—the underlying intention to connect in ways that feel good can be incredibly healthy. The feeling, though, is also incongruent, and most often in my case, I’m the only one any wiser. Thankfully, I’ve gotten better during the last decade at tracking the subtle shifts that clue me in, and less comfortable with how they land.

When I have a misstep, the most obvious impact is that I feel incongruent with who I know myself to be in intimate relationship. It shows up in my behavior, in my every day emotional presence, and in my body. Dr. Maté shares a quote in his book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts stating, “Nothing records the effects of a sad life so graphically as the human body.” When we learn to pay attention to the subtle shifts in sensation, in our bodies, we begin to know when we’re off track, and how to utilize that deeper wisdom to help us find our way back into alignment.

So… the actual point of this share?

We’re in this together, each of us. We exist in systems that are held in greater systems; from physiological, biological perspectives, from family, relational, community, and cultural perspectives, from spiritual and energetic perspectives, and from the perspective of healing, change, and growth.

Healing addictive cycles needs to happen from a “bottom up” approach, rather than a “top down” approach, changing the foundation verses treating the symptoms. We need to nourish the mitochondria of a diseased cell before we simply apply a balm to the resulting external wound. We need to look at the foundation of this matrix of our cultural connectedness—our human identity and the way in which we experience one another.  We need to understand how we’ve woven together the fabric of our human experience and how each of us are a part of that fabric. We need to heal from a lens of togetherness rather than separateness.

I’d appreciate your thoughts, your own sharing, your resistance and reservations.

For the Love of Your Life,

Angie

Pass At Me – Timbaland

This is a really fun piece choreographed by Alina Fowler, one of the other Afro-Caribe instructors.  Definitely a piece that takes up some space….  and teaches us to TAKE UP SPACE!

Enjoy and give it a shot at home!