Here comes the season of giving…and giving…and giving…

This blog contains a gift for people who have Codependent patterns (that usually includes anyone whose role and identity are focused on giving care to others).

Before I unwrap it, consider this.

Ever opened a Christmas or New Year gift and found that inside was something that really the giver wanted themselves?

The Winter holidays are a tough time for the Codependent person. At this time of year, when the themes of giving and receiving are forefront, the patterns of Codependent thinking, feeling and relating come up big, bright and boiling over.

The sense of imbalance in the Codependent’s life is constellated around feeling they give more love than they receive. They only have one way to try and get the love they need, and that’s by giving, giving, giving.

They often start off this season of giving in good energetic form. The material gifts they search out will be chosen with care, and often they will have a diary booked full of people they must do something for. It’s not that convincing when a Codependent ‘complains’ how much they have to do for the holidays, how many people are dependent on them, how obligated they are and how serious it will be if they let anyone down.

To some one else listening it sounds like they are trying to say “I have so many people who need me, I am so serving of others, people would be so disappointed without me and my actions.” And the undertone is “I am worthy of love. Really, I am.”

The Codependent Person struggles to admit, or even to know how they want to be loved. To even suggest that they are hoping for a return of love for all their frenzied giving would be felt by many Codependents as an attack. Somewhere they learned you mustn’t want to be loved – you must seek to love, love, love, and one day, when you have loved enough, love will come back in return.

Only, this isn’t how Santa’s gift bag works.

And come the end of the season the Codependent is in bad shape, often following rows, tears, despair. “Couldn’t anyone have thought of me? Didn’t anyone think to help me out with how much I had to do?” They may be full of recriminations about people’s thoughtlessness, being taken for granted, and how nobody, nobody, gave as much thought to them as they did to others.

And it will be true.

Because throughout all these mixed messages, the Codependent person not only does not ask for what they want, they do not even know themselves what they want. They have so little practice in recognising and saying “I’d really like it if…”, “It would make me really happy if somebody did this….”

Some people with Codependence have a pernicious double bind embedded in their thinking: “I want, doesn’t get.” It is a frightening thing. Don’t want love or you will never be loved!

Here is my Christmas Gift to people who are struggling to overcome the patterns of Codependence, who feel they get trapped in relationships where they are always the more giving person. That they get passed over when it’s time to receive.

It’s this secret. Learning it changed my life.

We all give love in the way we would like to receive it.

Yes, that’s simple, even maybe obvious. But really understanding this and putting it into practice can be the beginning of not only feeling more love for yourself but actually growing relationships in your life where you can experience a balance of giving and receiving love.

So here are some key ways to begin to change your thinking, feeling and communicating to finally break free from the compulsive patterns of Codependence and the misery of feeling alone and unappreciated.

1 Keep Giving – When you want to

The worst thing you can say to a Codependent person is “So if it makes you so unhappy, just stop giving so much to people!” To suggest to a Codependent to stop giving is like telling Michelangelo to stop painting if that Chapel ceiling is making them so miserable. The Codependent is compelled to give – and it can be the one thing they actually value about themselves.

Instead of resentfully withholding what you have to give, when you find that you are giving to some one, notice it and notice how it feels. Be honest with yourself. Are you enjoying the moment, or are you hoping that giving will get you something you crave, such as being liked, noticed, protected from criticism?

The giving you do that repays with joy in the moment of giving is what makes it great to be a human being. Keep it up.

It’s the giving when you are really in a place of want that leads us into difficult dynamics with others, may not be well received and can even cause resentment on both sides.

2 Notice What you are Giving

Any time you are giving to another person, giving anything – time, attention, praise, affection, advice, practical help, anything – notice exactly what you are giving.

Not because you are keeping an account, but because it is giving you vital information about yourself. You are responding to that person’s needs from your own perception of what would be helpful.

Why? Because that is what you would like to receive if you were in their position!

This is a key that can help unlock a person’s understanding of themselves and their needs, and also free them from the toxic shame they may have had installed about asking for what they want in life, to be loved in the way that would really help them.

So notice, when some one is low, do you offer them practical help? Attention and listening? Assurance? Affection? And ask yourself “Is this the way I would like to be loved today?”

Begin to be aware of the way you give most naturally and spontaneously and acknowledge the value of what you give, but also the value that being loved in this way would bring to your life and sense of wellbeing.

3 Balance Your Own Inner Account

Many years ago a Cherokee Medicine Woman said to me:

“Just remember, Pam. No matter how hard you try, your ability to give will always be directly proportionate to your ability to receive.”

That struck like a thunderbolt but it took me some time to really understand what she meant. When you make it practical, it is really quite simple.

So you are noticing when giving feels good and not so good.

You are using those moments to identify what it is you are offering and how that is influenced by your own sense of what would be good to receive.

Now, slow those moments down just a little when you can, to include yourself in who you are giving to.

For example, you just gave 15 minutes of your attention to the neighbour who wanted to talk about her children. OK. So, now take a moment and consider what would you want to talk about if some one listened to you. And now give yourself that listening. What’s on your mind? What are your thoughts about today?

Or maybe you sorted out that dodgy wiper on the family car that no one has bothered to address, again! Sure. So now that is done, what practical thing, just for you, can you prioritise next?

Did you just give warm praise to some one and encourage them to keep going? So, it only takes a moment to find something to praise yourself for, to find the right words of encouragement that you really want to hear. Give a second or two to really making the words in her head, in a tone of voice that is sincere and really touches you where you need to be touched.

At this stage, many people find it is harder than it may sound to give yourself these balancing moments of really receiving what you want from yourself. It can reveal how Codependence often thrives on a lack of practice in letting ourselves be the receiver.

If you are finding this stage hard, it may reveal just how helpful this small change can be over time. Be accepting of yourself for any resistance you may feel. The resistance may even inform you of deeper needs, such as assurance that you are still a strong person even though you have some basic, deep needs.

Repetition makes a habit. And giving to yourself and receiving what you really want is a great habit to develop.

4 Ask and You are much more Likely to Receive

So, practicing these tiny changes will already be setting off some changes in your compulsive behaviours, help you to wake up to what it is you really want and open a channel for you to safely and privately practice receiving love in the way you would really like to.

Now you know, who is the safest person to begin to tell how you would like to be supported, noticed, loved? Start with small things, steering clear of recriminations that anyone needs to be explicitly told the way that they could show love to you.

One of the Codependent’s biggest barriers to receiving the love they really want is the notion that if you have to ask for it, it isn’t really love. That’s a really self-defeating idea. Drop it, and learn how much better things can be when you just ask for what you want.

You may not always get it. But there’s no shame in asking and there’s no shame in some one saying “No”. But it’s a real shame to let false pride keep you from the loop of love going round that you so want to be a part of.

5 Be Better at Giving

What? Doesn’t the Codependent person always try to give too much???

Yes. And they often aren’t as good at giving as they would like to think they are.

Now you know this secret. We all give love in the way we’d like to receive it.

So look around at the people you share your world with. They are the same as you in many ways. They too, are guided in how they give by what and how they would really like to receive from others.

So next time you want to help some one, stop. How does this person do things? When they try to offer something to some one, how do they do it? What do they try to give? They are unconsciously letting you know one of the ways they like to receive friendship, support, care.

So next time you give, you and they can both give and receive more of what you both really want.

Author Pamela Gawler-Wright