How Some Spiritual Beliefs Breed Codependency

Since January, I’ve been “inspired” quite a bit to write about modern New Age spirituality’s relationship with narcissism, which is quite strong these days.

In my previous post “How Separation Consciousness Masks Itself In Spirituality” I talked about how Individualism in the West creates a me-centric version of spirituality which ignores the fact that we are co-creating with a collective, places the greatest emphasis on the self, and ultimately results in a form of overt spiritual narcissism/god complex where adherents believe they are literally the center of their own universe and everyone else on the planet is just something they manifested. This, of course, lends itself to a severe lack of empathy and social responsibility, because they then believe that everyone else on the planet has manifested their circumstances and simply need to change their thinking to manifest their way out.

A couple of weeks ago, I also posted in-depth about narcissistic empaths, how codependency is really a form of covert narcissism, and how this kind of “empath” and narcissism are actually two sides of the same narcissistic coin.

In today’s post, I’m taking all of these topics one step further and discussing how some very common concepts in New Age spirituality come from and create codependent mentalities.

What is Codependency?

Codependency: a pattern of behavior in which you find yourself dependent on approval from someone else for your self-worth and identity.

Like with narcissism, there’s a lot to unpack with codependency and a lot of it overlaps, depending on the specific situation. The most important aspects of note with regard to spirituality are:

Codependents often feel responsible for how other people feel and that underlying feeling of distress (usually guilt or shame attached to the subconscious belief that they are the cause of the other person’s emotional state) pushes them to want to “fix” the other person’s emotions and thus, regulate the energy in the room.

This is often confused for empathy, but it’s important to distinguish that the codependent isn’t actually feeling the other person’s emotions or acting out of care or empathy, they’re driven by their own sense of shame and guilt and the underlying motivation is to alleviate their own uncomfortable emotions, not those of the other person. And this is why codependency can be considered another form of narcissism: because this action is driven by self-interest and the other person’s emotions are (subconsciously) seen as an extension of the self.

How Spirituality Can Breed Codependency

Similar to how certain concepts in spirituality can breed a form of narcissism, those same concepts can also breed codependency.

  • You are the absolute creator of your reality
  • You are responsible for all of your negative experiences
  • Your scarcity mentality is responsible for your financial situation
  • No one will love you until you love yourself

Each of these platitudes encourages extreme independence from reality. So what happens when you buy into this mentality, you work on yourself, and things in your life don’t magically shift?

You probably begin to use your external reality as a measuring stick for how healed you are. And any time someone or some situation shows up that creates discomfort, you ask yourself, “What haven’t I healed?”

I caught myself doing this recently with a connection to someone who, for all intents and purposes, is toxic, but whose energy won’t seem to leave me alone. It actually started to drive me a little bit batshit. I had cut cords a thousand times. I had healed. I had grieved. I had released. I had forgiven. I had moved on. And yet, we are still psychically linked for inexplicable reasons, and it bubbles up to the surface periodically.

Then one night in the shower it occurred to me: it’s not me. I’m not the problem. I’m not the one hanging on–it’s them. They haven’t completed their end of this karmic bargain by cleaning up after the consequences of their actions.

I had a similar realization when I was trying to date and 90% of the men I met were still awful. I thought it was me–that I hadn’t healed enough yet to attract great men. I was taking all of the responsibility for the people that I was running into on the street, more or less. Every terrible interaction was somehow a reflection of what was wrong with me. The truth was…it wasn’t me. It was them. There’s just a lot of shitty men out there and my healing had no effect on that percentage. I just had a much lower tolerance for their bullshit.

THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE!

I’d momentarily forgotten that we are co-creating our reality and that I don’t have any control over other people (or the world, for that matter). I only have agency over myself.

This idea that we are the supreme manifestors of our life and our reality teaches us that we are responsible for the toxic, abusive people and situations that come into our lives, that those people are reflections of us and whatever is unhealed within us, and that somehow, through obsessive self healing, we’ll be able to change that, or in the case of a lot of Twin Flame trash, that we’ll be able to heal another person…(how’s that for codependent thinking). And when it doesn’t happen, how much guilt and shame do you feel over your inability to succeed?

The reality is that healing ourselves doesn’t change what kinds of people or situations come into our lives–we can’t control or manipulate people in that way, and it’s quite delusional to think that we can or do.

There’s a difference between using situations in our lives as opportunities for self-reflection, and assuming that every situation is a reflection.

Healing teaches us discernment, and how to not find ourselves attracted to those people and situations. It teaches us boundaries and self-respect. And when you implement those changes in your life, you’ll choose differently, and certainly more wisely. It doesn’t mean you won’t still have to wade through a sea of garbage people to find gold, because a lot of the people on this planet are still holding shit energy, but you don’t have to be one of them.

Xo,

Ash

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6 Comments

  1. Ash,

    I have found this and you previous articles over the last few weeks very interesting, and in many ways reflect, I think a broader aspect of modern society over and above “New Age Spirituality”. They reflect deeper societal problems that many Western Cultures face at present.

    Being based in the UK, and now passing the anniversary of the Lockdown that the UK has faced over the Covid Pandemic one of the bitter sweet lessons that many people are going through is the isolation, loss of physical human contact and the enforced “slowing down” of life. This has caused many people to reflect where they are at, realize the true meaning of human relationships, and what those relationships really mean. This situation has led in many ways to a much higher degree of mutual support and care, almost a community / individual enactment of the “Good Samaritan Story”.

    I think that the media, reality television and the way that many young people are being brought are part of the cause of the narcissistic and co-dependency behaviour that is so evident today in western society.

    Reply
    • Thank you! I’m glad I’m still stretching brains 🙂

      I’m going to push back a little bit on that last assumption, though…

      Every generation thinks the generation that comes after it is narcissistic. The thing is, they’re usually looking at those generations when they are in their teens and 20s and saying, “Ugh, they’re all so self-centered!” They did it with the baby boomers, and the baby boomers are doing it with millennials and gen Z now. But the thing is… pretty much all teenagers are self-centerd. And while they may get a tad bit better in their 20s, you’re still just growing up. Hell, I was self-centered as fuck when I was in my 20s (and part of the reason I recommend that literally no on ever take life advice from a 20-something, much less pay them for it…). At that period of life, you’re still figuring out who you are and typically you still have a whole lot of healing to do.

      You don’t really get to see who a generation is going to become until they hit their mid-thirties, but you can catch glimpses of their values, and particularly in the US (I can’t speak for the UK), they’re an incredibly progressive lot who are very much community-focused rather than self-focused (even if they are posting selfies to instagram). Most of the ones I’ve engaged with over the years did things like start nonprofits when they were just high school kids and they’ve really led the charge in terms of social justice action. So I think the perception that the youth are narcissistic is just that–a perception. (Give ’em a break. Their brains aren’t even fully developed until they’re 25!)

      Western society/culture itself, however, is a whole other ball game. A lot of that self-centrism and individualism began in the US after WWII. A defining trait of the baby boomer generation was an emphasis on self-actualization (self being the operative word), and that gained major momentum in the 80s when they came into power, particularly under Reagan. A lot of that style of culture, I think, will begin to be dismantled over the coming 40 years or so as millennials start to take positions of political power, and it will be amplified as Gen Z comes of age, as they are even more progressive than millennials.

      Reply
  2. Hey Ash,

    This is great article, thank you for the read! I love how you break these things down – it’s rare.

    I’m curious about something you wrote and I’d love to gain a deeper understanding – what does that actually look like, being physically linked with a person you have moved on from and having it bubble up now and again?

    Reply
    • Hi Aaron. It looks like having them creep up in the back of my mind for no apparent reason, or dreaming about them out of the blue – and not just your typical, run-of-the-mill dream, but rather a dream where they are having a mental/emotional breakdown, or experiencing a major life event like a breakup or move (and then discovering that’s actually happening…), having the sudden intense urge to check in on them for inexplicable reasons only to find out that they’re in the midst of a suicidal meltdown, or being unable to get out of bed all day because you feel sadness and grief (and find out their mom and dog died).

      It’s not fun. I’d prefer that it stopped.

      Reply
  3. Your writing is so refreshing and I’m grateful for it.

    Reply
    • Thank you!

      Reply

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