Selena, a friend for many years, called today. She felt uncomfortable, she said. And sad. She told me about a recent and profound over-reaction she experienced in response to a situation with a long-term friend.  Her awareness told her that the depth of her reaction meant that she’s not only dealing with today; her gut-load of emotions are remnants of the past.

We call those incidents triggers. While the current event has importance, the meaning extends beyond that.  It’s a situation Life brought to us to bring about a healing.

It’s common for people on a growth path to run into situational triggers – events that are real today, but also remind us of yesterday – a time when we lacked the skills or support to feel our emotions and deal with the dilemma.

So like Selena, we pack the feelings away and save them for a special time when we won’t need to rely on denial.  That time may be now.

Selena didn’t go into detail about the problem with her friend; she wanted to keep the focus on herself.  She said it involved her friend calling to tell Selena how she felt about something that Selena either did or neglected to do that caused her friend to feel hurt, angry and disrespected.

“But instead of listening to what my friend had to say, I went into defensive mode,” Selena said. “I didn’t feel superior. I didn’t think I was right and my friend was wrong. The truth is I wronged my friend by not listening to and being present for her.

‘When my friend became angry with me,” Selena said, “I felt attacked.

“I’ve been in recovery for a while.  I know how to take responsibility for my part instead of focusing on someone else’s behavior.   But even though I knew what to do, I didn’t do it.  And I didn’t apologize either,” Selena said.

I asked her what she did instead of listening.

“Mid-sentence, I hung up the phone,” Selena said.  “Then I didn’t call her back. For a week.”

Time can be a powerful healer but by itself, time may not heal our issues. Time can let us cool heated emotions.  We have time to let the hurt or angry moment pass.  Sometimes we become so focused on the argument that we don’t recall exactly what we argued about.  That thing that was so important becomes a secondary issue to our hurt feelings.

If we’re lucky and give the situation clear thought, we may find we can use the incident as a catalyst for change. It starts by focusing on what’s up with us instead of glaring at the other person, ranting about what he or she did wrong.

After Selena up on her friend and took some time to calm herself, she looked deeper inside herself.  She knows what it means when people say, Recovery is an inside job.

“I can see now that for the past couple months my self-esteem has been flagging — almost non-existent,” Selena said. “This insight surprised me – but I’ll take it.  It’s an unexpected but welcomed gift.”

She said her self-esteem problem now felt as big and painful as when, years ago, she first began recovery – those months when she felt so fragile.

“Back then, when I discovered I wasn’t crazy I was codependent, I couldn’t endure criticism. Again it wasn’t because I felt superior or right.  I had so little esteem that someone criticizing me felt like a threat to my life.

“I feel like such a failure and I have so little self-esteem that if I make one more mistake and someone calls me on it, or accuses me of wrongdoing and I admit it, I feel like there won’t be anything of me left.”

I know that feeling too.

Selena said that’s why instead of making amends as she knew she should, she hung up on her friend.

“I feel awful about hurting my friend and letting her down,” Selena explained. “It’s not about me not living up to someone else’s expectations. I didn’t live up to my expectations of myself.

“A week passed.  By then I’d become calm and I saw the situation more clearly.  I sent my friend an email with a sincere apology. I would have apologized directly, but she didn’t answer my calls.  In my email to her, I included some information about my issues – explanations for my behavior, but I didn’t use these reasons as justifications or excuse.  I told her how much she meant to me.  I apologized, and I meant it,” Selena said.

I’m waiting for the but, for what Selena wanted from me. Then I got it.

“So ever since I sent my amends to her I’ve been obsessively watching my emails for a response from her, “Selena admitted. “I didn’t apologize to get a response. I know we’re not supposed to be attached to outcomes.  But we’ve been close for so long.  I wanted her to tell me it’s okay.  I wanted to feel peace and closeness between us.”

Selena wanted her friend back.  She wanted closure on the event.

I know this story is closer to a meditation than a blog.  It would fit in a book of daily readings I wrote years ago — The Language of Letting Go.

That’s what Selena forgot to do:  let go. But there’s still one more thing, something important Selena needed to do as part of taking responsibility for herself.

Most of us want to be good, decent people.  We try to live by the Golden Rule, doing unto others as we want done unto us. But we’re not perfect and we’re not meant to be. That’s why they invented six short words:  I am sorry; I was wrong.

Sometimes after we cool from the heat of the moment, look inside ourselves, take responsibility for our actions and make appropriate amends – including letting go of the outcome of doing that – some circumstances require that we take one more action.

It’s why Selena called me and it’s the point of this meditative blog — that’s how important this piece can be.

If we’ve cleaned up our side of the street but we’re still not at peace because the other person didn’t give us the closure we need, then it may be  time to let ourselves off the hook.

From the Desk of Melody Beattie

November 8, 2012


  1. Fran

    Melody, I wanted to thank you for all that you have contributed in my recovery over the years. I gain wisdom every time I read another passage, even after 20+ years. As you’ve said, Co-dependancy is a very insidious and difficult condition. Just when you think you’ve got it under control, another layer gets peeled back to reveal a new layer of healing that is needed. I love what you said about ‘letting yourself off the hook’. Wow, that resonated with me so profoundly. I am my own most harsh critic even as I know better….I find that underneath my depressed mood or my anxiety is really a harsh judgement of myself. So, letting myself off the hook for being imperfect is exactly what I need to practice. DAILY. Thank you so much, Fran

  2. Christopher

    Melody- I want to thank you for this blog. Many times I’ve come to your site after inner reflection- for conformation, and to hear the words that I cannot hear on my own. Tonight was no different. After I said some hurtful things to someone I love very much a few weeks ago I realized that I was very very wrong, and have apologized. Every effort of reconciliation has been met with silence, and it saddens me. Then I read your blog- and this: “If we’ve cleaned up our side of the street but we’re still not at peace because the other person didn’t give us the closure we need, then it may be time to let ourselves off the hook.” -I have peace, and from the bottom of my heart- I thank you.

  3. Shirley Garrett, Psy.D, LPC, DAC

    I have written a book titled, “Stop the Craziness: Simple Solutions to Move in a Positive Direction. This is the book that I wished I had for 26 years as a counselor, to give to my patients. I have great respect for Ms. Beatty and have recommended her books to all my Codependent clients. I would like for her to review my book and if willing, give a testimonial to be placed on the cover. I will be glad to send her a copy, but I don’t want it to get lost in the piles of mail received. I would like to have some testimonial before putting the book out for public consumption. Thanks, Shirley B. Garrett, Psy.D, LPC, DAC

  4. plan cul

    After I initially commented I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the same comment. Is there an ezsy method you can remove me frpm tat service? Appreciate it!

  5. Grace

    Hi Melody, I just bought The Language of Letting Go and am looking forward to reading it. I read this blog post with tears streaming down my face. To make a long story short, Selena’s story resonated w me. I had a working and a friendship w a woman who is older then me (20+) years. There were alot of ups and downs. She could be very kind and generous and then turn around and act like she hated me. I wasn’t perfect in all this but I apologized and tried to make amends and be the best person I could be for her. I was there for her through a medical scare and at some tough moments in her life. And when things were good she and I could have fun together. In the last six months or so, she started treating me worse and worse. I tried to hold on and talk things through with her. Something in her really changed. The last time I spoke with her was six weeks ago when I had enough. She had gotten so emotionally abusive. I felt like a punching bag. So I called her and just basically told her all I wanted was to be a friend to you, I have apologized for things I have done and tried to make amends and been there for you but I feel there is a double standard between us where you treat me however you like and I feel you don’t care about me. I said this is too painful to be treated this way by you. When you want to have a friendship I will be here. I said that is what I wanted to say. She just said goodbye and hung up the phone. She and I belong to the same Bible study group. It is a huge weekly gathering with lots of people. She and I have seen each other there but she has not come up to me and talked with me and I have not attempted to approach her. At share night where we could get up and talk in front of everyone I spoke about how being in the program benefitted me but also I said it has helped me deal with being hurt and losing someone I cared about. Even though there were many unhealthy things about the friendship I had with her, she was someone I deeply cared for. I know that the way she treated me didn’t have 100 percent to do w me as she has a lot of issues in her life, but still it hurts. Looking back, I do feel I acted in ways that were co dependent and I know this is something I need to work on and grow from. It is sad because I feel that in the end I mean nothing to her.

  6. Alexandra

    Melody, I’m not sure if you’ll get this, but I just wanted to drop you a note to thank you for your work. I’m 30 and had never been to therapy before, but recently after ending (finally!) an 8-year relationship of back and forth break-up’s with a man, I decided to get help. My therapist mentioned the word “codependency”. I had never heard of it before, but researched and found your book. Growing up with one alcoholic parent and the other one abusive, I’ve learned through your books that I picked up some of the challenges associated with codependency. I have read 3 of your books in 5 days and I’m so happy I did because I feel like I’m on the path towards a newfound self-empowerment that will have a profound impact on my life. Thank you so much! Alexandra

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