Thursday, March 16, 2017

Abandon hope. I frowned, flipping back to the front cover of my book. Yep, I was smack dab in
the middle of my daily Buddhist meditation reader. I reread the first line of the entry again.
Abandon hope. What the...WHAT?!?! Could Pema Chodron--admired, wise and renowned
Buddhist nun--possibly be suggesting that I give up hope as a way of achieving peace? As I
read on, the answer was clear. Yes. Yes, she was.

The Other Side of Fear

Chodron writes that hope and fear “is a feeling with two sides.” Regardless of which side we find
ourselves, we are always looking to change what IS. We strive to end pain, or find an answer, to
distract ourselves or improve our circumstances. Whether we choose hope or fear, we are
effectively avoiding the Now, attempting to circumvent our discomfort or transform our
experience into something “better” or “different.” Chodron posits that abandoning hope is “an
affirmation, the beginning of the beginning.” If we can step away from the traditional
Judeo-Christian interpretations of hope that permeate Western living, we can realize that both
hope and fear come from a feeling of lack, that we are missing something, that the Now is not
perfect in itself, even in its uneasiness, its imperfection, its hurt. Only by leaning into our real
experience in the Now can we learn our limitlessness, our tenderness, our ability to embrace
another with true compassion. “Hope robs us of the present moment,” Chodron writes. With
courage and practice, we can learn to let go of hope and fully lean in to what is, and all that this
moment has to teach us.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The False Gains of Co-dependency

Co-dependency, with all its negative connotations, also brings benefits that make these behaviors difficult to surrender. For the “enabler” (the person who ‘does’ for the other what the other could/should do for themselves), care taking is often appreciated by others, and even society affirms people who sacrifice to meet the needs of others. For the individual who is being enabled, it can feel nurturing to have someone willing to rescue or “fix” things to ensure a desired outcome. These benefits make it challenging for clients to see how leaving behind co-dependent behaviors can improve their well-being and relationships. Educating clients about the role and importance of functioning can be a way to understand why a more egalitarian dynamic is desirable. For the enabler, giving up their over-functioning behaviors can provide the client with energy to devote to more fulfilling endeavors, and can offer a sense of relief from the constant sense of over-responsibility that plagues the enabler’s life. In turn, the person being enabled can discover their own unique competencies when they decide to stop under-functioning and take charge of his own life and the outcomes of his choices. Steering his own course can be an affirming and esteem-building path that results in heightened competency and more positive self-image.

Change is scary, and adopting unfamiliar ways of relating and coping comes with the fear of the unknown. But growth, strength and resilience will replace skewed functioning and unequal power dynamics. Healthy inter-dependency is the truest path to real intimacy, equality and connection.