No, I don’t mean a clogged kitchen sink or a shower stall that empties slowly.
I’m talking about allowing people, places and things to slowly and insidiously creep in and begin sucking the soul, energy, life force – and resources – out of us. No matter how many years ago we learned about not being codependent, it can still happen to us. Again.
Drain Pain occurs so slowly and subtly, we may not see it happening. Following you’ll find a list of symptoms and the remedy for each:
- We leave our bodies – disconnect from ourselves. We’re experts at fleeing the body. We hover around ourselves doing everything except feeling what we feel and valuing ourselves. When this happens, we often feel numb, confused and afraid.
We may also feel emotional (generalized) pain. The thoughts that accompany this condition include: I CAN’T STAND THIS ANYMORE. IT, HE, SHE OR THEY IS OR ARE DRIVING ME INSANE. This means it’s boundary-setting time again.
- We complain about the same thing, behavior or person or problem for days, weeks, months or years but nobody hears us. The cure for this means listening to ourselves.
- We know that something’s wrong but we aren’t sure what it is (because we’re not listening to ourselves). When we mention the problem to the Drainer(s) — the people or institutions in the first symptom above — they look at us askance and reassure us that nothing is wrong except us – who we are, how we feel and what we think is going on just isn’t occurring, they insist.
Remember the story from the first Language of Letting Go, about the scene in a movie where a wife catches her husband in his pickup truck? He’s parked at the drive-in movie theatre all cuddled up and kissing with another woman.
When the wife confronts him about having this affair, he denies it vehemently while the other woman sits there kissing his neck, arm, hand and more. “What are you going to believe?” the infidel asks his wife. “Me or what you think you see?” Crazy as that sounds, it can easily describe us when we’re in codependent mode.
- We feel tired, unfocused and somewhat like a Boxer looks (the dog, not Mohammed Ali) when it’s chasing not a tail, but the remnants of one before the vet clipped or docked it. We’re caught up in trying to do the impossible. It’s time to assess what we can and can’t change and then put energy into assessing and solving the right problem – the real issue that’s going on.
- We feel increasingly angry at the people, places or things in our personalized list in the first symptom above, but as soon as we feel anger we also start to feel guilt. The guilt’s not real. It’s the codependent guilt that’s followed us around for most of our life.
The guilt yammers about how there must be something wrong with us because the other person wouldn’t do that — whatever that is. We wonder what’s wrong with us for feeling this angry and then decide that the problem is us. ZZZZZT. Wrong answer. Solution? Look in the mirror and tell ourselves that who we are is okay.
- Of all the signals that someone’s manipulating or lying to us, feeling cruddy and confused after our interactions with this person or institution — if they’ll stand still long enough to talk to us — ranks highest and indicates that it’s time to open our eyes, shake off the denial dust and start a self-care revival.
We may walk around confused for a while, but when the school bell rings the lessons will become more painfully clear every day. We can’t run and we can’t hide. Well, we can but the lessons will be there when we’re out of breath from running or we crawl out from under the bed. They’re waiting for us like a school marm with her pointer pointed at us.
“See! See! See!” she says.
“See what?” we ask.
Whatever’s going on that hurts.
It’s not our fault when other people lie, cheat, steal, use us or shoot us through the proverbial grease. Bad behavior breaks pandemic. It used to be one out of 12 people couldn’t be trusted. Now in any group of ten, we’re lucky to find one trustworthy and reliable soul. But not allowing ourselves to be victimized any more after we see what’s going on?
That responsibility belongs to us.
A few hours before writing this blog, a reader/ friend asked redundantly and semi-subtly the same question I’ve heard for years: “What are the rules I can follow to make sure this doesn’t happen again?”
Some people offer an established platform for you to follow. I don’t except for these three rules: don’t hurt anyone else (physically), don’t hurt yourself and don’t allow anyone to hurt you.
Besides safety, a list of rules for self-care would be an oxymoron. It would mean giving up our power to think to someone else. Paraphrasing a quote I heard somewhere, “I go to church and do what my minister says so I don’t have to decide or think about what my morals should be.”
Self-care doesn’t mean doing what someone else tells us to do unless we’ve consulted a professional, such as a doctor and we’re following a protocol. Even then, we need to be certain we trust and feel good about what someone else is telling us to do.
One of the most important behaviors we learn about self-care means we don’t give control of our will and life to anyone except our Higher Power, and we get to decide who and what that Higher Power is.
We learn to listen to and trust ourselves.
Who’s doing what to us that we don’t like? Who’s proposing an agenda that doesn’t set right in our gut? What institution or person ignores us when we ask for what we rightfully have coming?
When the soul-sucking, energy-draining sycophants or abusers come around draining us, shake the dust out of our head, remove our rose-colored glasses, stop making excuses for them and let go of any outdated decisions about people, places or things.
Because we could trust someone ten years ago doesn’t mean we can trust them today. People, places and things change. Instead we ask ourselves how that person or institution treats us now and how it feels to be around them.
While staying or leaving isn’t the solution, running from trouble or going around it can sometimes be the most loving thing we can do. That includes not engaging in relationships that rob our energy and leave us feeling drained, empty, used and confused.
We can set that boundary, say no or tell that person, place or thing whatever we want to say.
Getting rid of the drainers may challenge us at first. It’s similar to removing a tic from that Boxer. We have to pry it (the Drainer) loose. The tic may try to dig in deeper but c’mon. We’re smarter than that tic.
Instead of us feeling drained, flush it down the drain. Stretch. Breathe. We’ve got the keys to let ourselves out of the prison that believing lies creates. Shake off that case of the codependent crazies. It’s not us; it’s them.
When we feel cluttered, confused or crazy — remove the drain pain from our life.
From the desk of Melody Beattie
Original publish date: September 19, 2012
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