This week we had Krista Williams on the podcast. Krista is an author, healer, entrepreneur and co-host of the top 50 podcast “Almost 30”. In this episode, we explored Krista’s own journey with codependency and how it stemmed from a deep “Mother Wound.” This concept refers to the psychological impact that our relationships to our mothers have on each of us, including any physical or emotional abandonment

We also talk about why codependency is often at the root of people pleasing, friendship issues like enmeshment and competition, body image issues, and addictive behavior of any kind. We summed up some of the most noteworthy questions into a Q&A with tangible tips for breaking these patterns in your own life.

Q: What exactly is codependency?

Codependency is the focus and prioritization of others over the self. It’s seeking external validation rather than having an internal sense of self-worth.

Co-dependents have low self-esteem and look for anything outside of themselves to make them feel better.

They find it hard to “be themselves.” They learn as children that in order to receive love, they have to be hyper-vigilant to the emotional state of others around us. Therefore my focus was placed outside of myself to get our mother’s approval because as a child, love means survival, period. While love and external approval no longer means survival, for many of us, it still feels that way. This is because our earliest relationships create our attachment styles. So, if we have not healed from those attachments, we will carry the same behaviors into our adult relationships.

Codependency can look like:

  • An extreme need for approval and recognition
  • Fear of being abandoned or alone
  • Difficulty identifying feelings
  • Lack of boundaries or ability to set or maintain them
  • Prioritization of the others experience over our own
  • A feeling of over responsibility for a relationship or situation

Q: How did you realize you were codependent?

I had a LOT of friends, but I was incredibly codependent (I like to think I hid it well though). Which meant that I spent a LOT of time trying to make each person happy, and focused so much on my relationships over any focus on myself. Understanding this pattern of codependency was only illuminated to me during my Saturn Return. This time helped me to answer the questions I didn’t know I was asking and taught me things about myself. This also meant that the friendships that I had attracted and maintained through this codependence were shimmying quickly out of alignment, fast. So I had to get real with myself.  

For me, I had a critical, perfectionist mother. So in order to receive her love, I had to appear smart, beautiful, successful and put together. Subconsciously, the message that I got was “I am not worthy to receive love unless I am perfect.” I realized my codependency in my female friendships where I was obsessed with being okay, safe, and ensuring they had a positive experience of me. I lost myself in service to them.

Q: How did you start discovering who you are?

It may seem really basic – but awareness is really the first step to personal transformation. Carl Jung described it perfectly: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will control your life and you will call it fate.” Simply changing your behavior won’t suffice for ending self sabotage, however. You must also examine and change the emotions that cause it in the first place. I have been someone that has been deeply spiritual and physically aware my whole life. There is the process of learning and discovering, and then there is the process of unlearning who we are. Life is a dance between the two, just as my life has been in its various phases. When we are a child, as an example, we don’t ‘know’ we who we are or claim to, but we are the more ‘true’ versions of us. We never truly know, but we just discover and uncover more and more overtime (hopefully!)

I have had a sense of awareness of the non-physical world since I was a child and have always considered myself someone who moves ‘between worlds’. I started to really discover who I truly was (not just my ego self) when I was in my early twenties, and I had my spiritual awakening which started when I had my first dark night of the soul. I stopped drinking, started doing yoga daily, found spiritual books, and began my meditation practice. I was working in the corporate world, unaligned in my relationships and life and found myself so anxious and depressed I needed to change. I had to find something to live for and found my spiritual practices as my anchor.

In the last few years however, when pillar people (my core circle) left my life, I had to reclaim and redefine myself since I had only known myself in relationship to them. Discovering myself meant learning how to process emotions on my own during my darkness retreat. I do recognize that to know who I truly am is a lifelong process, an ongoing process and surely one of the most fun aspects of life on earth.

Q: What is the mother wound?

I am working with women on the Mother Wound in Portugal this May 24-29th

The mother wound refers to childhood wounds based on our early relationship patterns with our mothers. These wounds shape how we see ourselves, relate to others, and move through the world.

Why do you think so many women struggle with hating themselves or doubting their gifts? We’ve been taught that who we are, at our essence, is weak and wrong. This is the mother wound. The inner war against our own feminine nature. The passed down pain of being a woman that we have the opportunity to heal. It’s not always about having a bad relationship with your mom, although it can be. But this war against feminine attributes and women themselves is why so many of us struggle with issues of self-worth, honoring our needs, feeling fully seen and heard, feeling worthy of love — just as we are. This leaves us not only fighting to get our needs met, but fighting ourselves, and fighting any painful memories of feeling rejected, unworthy or not good enough. Healing allows us to relax into our innate worth and discover a refreshing sense of wholeness. The healed feminine woman is nourished, cared for and radiant. For myself and many women, the mother wound is our greatest opportunity for healing and for transformation. In my life this relationship has been the most painful, and the most powerful. Through it, I myself have found my own Divine Mother within, and am now at peace with so many areas in my life that I struggled with. 

This relationship, as the first foundational relationship in our life, sets the tone for so many things. How we see our bodies, how we view other women, how much we hide, if we are codependent or enmeshed, if we can trust others, our abandonment or attachment wounding, how we view money, if we can have healthy reciprocal romantic relationships and friendships… and many more things. These are just the ones I personally have dealt with in my journey. It’s not just our mothers, it’s the collective wounding that all beings have felt through their lineage within the patriarchy and our distorted systems. 

I was someone that struggled so hard with my self confidence and self worth. I felt like I was never enough, I was burning myself out, and for the life of me couldn’t stop finding things to fix about myself. I had to do something to change how I felt because I didn’t want to spend all my time being anxious, unhappy and unsatisfied. So I started to do ‘the work’ and through it realized that all of my problems with my body, self worth, abundance, female friendships, romantic relationships, codependency, had roots back to the Mother. This Mother Wound is an impact from our mothers both in our personal lives and societally how we view women, that impacts all of us. Healing it, and becoming our own internal mother is what can help liberate us and allow us to live a life we love, one that feels expansive, free, fun, purposeful and unique to us. In Portugal this May I am hosting an intimate, beautiful, healing wellness retreat where we’ll be learning about and healing the Mother Wound. For it, you don’t need to involve your mother, nor do you need to have a relationship with her, but just need to recognize the ways you can be better to yourself and opportunities to heal. For many of us, this Mother relationship healing is about slowly developing a new relationship with what can sometimes be the most difficult aspect of our lives, so that it is no longer a controlling factor. 

Q: How do you process emotions?

Having a mindfulness practice helps witness thoughts without identifying with them. Then I consciously make space to fully feel emotions, take care of myself afterwards, then play or laugh to complete the healing cycle before circling back. The cycle of emotions is so beautiful. Firstly, having conscious awareness of them and recognizing that they are not me, but speaking to me, and desiring my attention and love is key. In IFS (a psychotherapy technique I practice) I see them as ‘parts’ or expressions of my parts that need my love and attention. Second, I allow space and time for them to move through me without judgment or distraction, most emotions can be felt and move through the body within 90 seconds. Allowing them to be without trying to solve or make meaning of them is key. Just let it flow, don’t fear the experience and know you can handle it. Watch yourself so that you don’t move to distraction immediately (which we usually do to avoid feeling).

After you have felt the feeling, fully, and completely. Allow yourself to repair, recover and rest. I like to sleep, take baths, listen to music, walk, go out in nature, eat, and just to be with myself in the new state I find myself in, free of that emotion or feeling that no longer lives in my field. The process of mothering ourselves then involves supporting yourself through this cycle or: seeing, acknowledging, allowing, experiencing, releasing and resting. Our emotions are so beautiful when we allow them and so much less scary when we can build up the confidence and capacity to not be so afraid of what they bring.

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