When my clarity goes off course, it can take everyone around me with it. At least that’s sometimes true at my women’s dialogue circle when I’m engaged in a conscious conversation. It’s a conversation built on safety, one that supports the knowledge that my struggles are just an aspect of all that I am, and that the darkest places within me are where my deepest learning can shine.
It’s amazing what can happen when we intend to pay attention, and when we change our “we” statements to “I” ones (as I just did with the above paragraph), owning our own paradoxes and our unconscious coping mechanisms.
When my comments are indirect, I appreciate when others push for clarification. I may become defensive at first. But then I notice that my body feels distress. I’ve come to know that feeling as a signal that I’m skipping over a deeper truth or a past hurt that wants my attention.
This time I recognized that I was muddled. I didn’t understand how the dialogue got where it was or what I defending. It wasn’t long before “the get” came and it came because I was open to it as a practice and not resisting the self-examination it required.
I was muddled because an unconscious pattern was playing out before me. I had over-identified with another woman’s sharing and wanted to protect her by steering the conversation (indirectly) away from any real or imagined feedback that might have hints of fix-it solutions or non I-statements in them. I am sensitive to and have felt oppressed in the past by that approach.
So was it compassion or co-dependency that caused me to feel my friend’s real or imagined discomfort and want to ward off any real or imagined deeper scrutiny coming her way? I think the very definition of co-dependency is when we over-identify with someone else and try to protect them from feeling the effects of their circumstances.
I sat in the full body feeling/knowledge that co-dependency comes from compassion. They are mixed together. I think compassion is an asset that becomes a liability when over-used, or a positive that becomes a negative when acted on unconsciously. And in my awareness of what I learned when I veered from the personal present, I felt compassion for the co-dependent people in my life that I haven’t had much patience for.
This paradoxical understanding was just one aspect of our rich and diverse sharing. It was one that happened in the moment, one I couldn’t have gotten to without the input from the other women present. We were all in it together and I believe that each of us was receiving our own personal form of learning from our collective living exchange.