The essence of my life’s work is turning nothing into something… making the invisible visible. This is the case when it comes to healing the inner parts of ourselves that have been abandoned, neglected, shamed, rejected. Letting them be witnessed and validated, giving them the air and oxygen so that they can heal.
Turning nothing into something is also the essence of art – words, pictures, music, body language, gardens, architecture. Art is anything that intentionally shifts people’s perceptions of themselves, of others, of life. Art is where tension and connection are paradoxically the oddest and most natural dance partners.
One of the most difficult things to face is our “core protection pattern”… our most compulsive ways of being which helped us to survive severe trauma – but which now cause us more harm than good as adults. Causing us to dissociate from who we really want to be and where we really want to go. I honestly can’t think of one person who is exempt from this. But for the sake of this essay I’m going to focus on narcissists and co-dependents.
Narcissists are co-dependent. They cover up their shame by needing to be needed. They need attention on a regular basis the way an addict needs drugs. Needing to be needed is one of their most useful methods of calling attention to themselves. This is how they feed their false selves.
Co-dependents are needy as well. They cover up their shame, too, but they do it by denying their neediness. This is how they remove attention from themselves. This is how they feed their false selves.
The first is obese. The latter is starving.
Both are lonely. Neither are healthy. The key here is that they are both compulsively reacting to their false selves. Neither is responding to his or her TRUE SELF. If this is the case, then this awareness is actually the gateway to their freedom. Why? Because the true self is large, is magnanimous, infinite, grand; the true self is life’s energy, fullness embodied. Because in the recognition that you are disconnected, you can CHOOSE to nourish yourself properly; you can choose to connect with the true self. By bringing light to the darkness, we heal.
In the healing process, the fragile narcissist will have a much more challenging time than the resilient co-dependent.
The narcissist has a difficult time allowing the true self to turn toward the false self with empathy and kindness because they learned to defend themselves from empathy; they have associated empathy with PAIN. Imagine a sunflower turning away from the sunshine. It’s an anomaly.
The codependent, on the other hand, has a much better shot at transformation and healing. By allowing the true self to gently turn toward the starving self (that which compulsively “denies their neediness”), self-compassion, self-validation, tears of grief can be poured into the emptiness and shame can dissipate. And I don’t know how this works, but… compassionate tears heal the wound.
Walt Disney expressed this (in oh so many fairy tales); Pat Conroy and Barbra Streisand expressed this brilliantly in The Prince of Tides (based on Conroy’s childhood); and Mother Theresa knew it too. But you don’t need a prince. Or a hero. Or a nun.
Self-compassionate tears go way beyond filling the black hole of anorexic denial of one’s needs. And those precious, gorgeous tears can go as far as transforming the darkness into a lush garden. If art is the act of transforming nothing into something, then our tears are an incredibly potent and powerful medium. Magical, actually.
In the desire for connection and love and growth and being and self expression… let’s remember to bring our tears with us. In the garden of a lush relationship, there is no such thing as neediness. Only honesty.
Knowing what you need, admitting that you need, asking directly for what you need… this is the heart of healing co-dependency. It’s made of love.
You are worthy of being seen. You deserve love, connection and belonging now and always. There is support all around you. Just ask.