How to Move from Co-Dependent to Thriving
Trees are an amazing example of how life should work, but often doesn’t. Trees draw everything they need to thrive from their own roots and leaves. Likewise, at our core, we humans have what I call well-being, and it is the mechanism through which we are meant to draw everything that we need to thrive.
This image of a tree drawing from its own roots and leaves has been incredibly helpful to me, personally, and to my clients who are similar to me. What we have in common is the feeling that in order to survive, we have to be dependent on someone else. You could also call this “co-dependent” or “needy.” We feel like something is wrong with our own root and leaf structure that means we can’t draw entirely from our own well-being to have the life we really want.
If I imagine that a tree has our dependent survival mechanism, I see it looking for a big, strong tree nearby and reaching out its little branch to grab onto the leaf of that other tree. Surely, the big tree won’t miss a bit of its resources, or at the very least, it will tell the little tree how it can become big and strong, too. But, this doesn’t work for a tree, and I can tell you from vast, personal experience that it doesn’t work any better for people!
So, it seems that people like me just need to begin believing in our own roots and leaves and then start to use them. But, just knowing that something else is possible doesn’t work on its own, because the part of our brain that stores our survival mechanism isn’t accessible through thinking. We must change our underlying experience of how it feels to be human for permanent change to happen.
And, because our survival mechanism has been in place since early in life, our brain holds onto it for dear life, literally. We feel we have to be this way in order to survive, so just coming along with some new thinking will be rejected. It is only when something happens that makes our survival mechanism too painful to continue with that we become open to the kind of change I engage in myself and guide my clients through.
Usually, to start to break down the dependent survival mechanism, a person or a structure we’ve relied on for resources or to “tell us how” to achieve goals has to shake us loose from their big leaf we’re hanging onto. As you can imagine, this point in time can feel pretty bleak, and yet again, from vast, personal experience, I can tell you that it is the most amazing point of opportunity. It’s when our brains can open up to another way, since this one seems to be closed to us, and therefore, when deep change can really start to happen.
Finding my own roots and leaves has been the best experience of my life. Instead of constantly seeking who can help me next or “tell me how,” I have found that my inner resources are really all I need. That doesn’t always mean that I’m left to do everything on my own. Quite often, as I start a project, other people start to offer their help or expertise without me even asking for it. It’s really cool when these are the same people I’ve tried to get help from in the past without success, but once my well-being is flowing through the project, they show up out of the blue.
When my clients experience this shift, they are usually surprised when I tell them that it is their own well-being at work. But then, they realize that it feels very different to draw what they need through their roots and leaves rather than having to beg, demand, or manipulate for it. It’s not unusual for them to say something like, “This is so weird, but it’s great and it’s so much easier than the old way!”
Have you ever found yourself hanging off the leaf of someone else’s tree? Are you like me, cringing at the word co-dependent, while seeing that the description fits you in some way? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below. We all really do have our own, completely functional roots and leaves, and when we uncover them and allow them to work, life is so much better for us and everyone around us.