One step closer

It is a cold day and I can’t seem to get warm even if I’m buried under the blankets right now. Perhaps I’m getting sick again.

I’ve been working on two new digital pieces lately and they are very personal. The more I am letting go of the past, the more raw material I find to use in my art. What a nice reward. And the more distance I get from all the pain, the more details I’m able to add to my personal mythology. It’s hard to see such charged details while still being deeply connected to the pain. It blinds you.

My therapist thinks I’m making such good progress that we are starting to wrap up the treatment. Learning about codependency has been a great breakthrough for me in my therapy work. So much is starting to make sense now. It will take me a long time to learn how to deal with this issue but there is a lot of information to find about codependency, so I don’t really need a therapist to guide me through it.

I guess this is a little step closer to becoming more independent – and complete.

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The impotent core

"The Truth" by Mia Makila, 2008, acrylic on canvas

“The Truth” by Mia Makila, 2008

I have worked hard to boil down every issue I have that is connected to psychological codependency. There’s a lot of fear involved. Especially the fear of losing control. It’s one of the most common symptoms of people with codependency issues. Here are my biggest fears where loss of control is the theme:

Fear of illness
Fear of insects
Fear of unexpected and negative news or events
Fear of abandonment

But there’s more to it than the fear. It is the consequences of having weak boundaries and taking on other people’s responsibility:

Being an easy target for love bombing (I call it ‘slurping’ – it looks like a positive thing but is extremely consuming and draining)
Being an easy target for toxic relationships (being part of a very destructive psychological dance)
A loyalty crisis (not knowing if I should be loyal to myself or to other people)

Being en easy target for psychological castration (a submissive disposition and walking on eggshells – ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t)
Prone to psychological codependency (rooted in childhood)
Accepting the unacceptable (because of low self-esteem and poor boundaries)

The two categories of issues I have are both connected in the feeling of helplessness, powerlessness or being incapable of solving my own problems. But also to withstanding the external pressure of expectations and responsibility. They are both results of different childhood issues. The first category – the fear of losing control is based on the feeling of an emotional abandonment and feeling lost and vulnerable. The second category – where I lose myself to other people, is based on another childhood issue where I felt forced to be loyal and responsible and that didn’t feel natural and good.

I wish I knew more about Freud’s theories when it comes to these matters, I only have my own words for what I believe to be important details and elements to psychological codependency. I think for me, the best way to describe the state of helplessness I feel when these issues are triggered is a “psychological impotency”; an inability to have an affect on- or solve a destructive situation and to withstand heavy expectations and responsibility without losing my inner voice.

Burning Vulva

“Burning Vulva” by Mia Makila, 2010

When this type of vulnerability and powerlessness is triggered in me, I make a psychological regression. I go back to feeling like an infant. An impotent infant. My core is gagged. Censored. I am not free to be myself and to lead my own life in a potent way – or to feel the importance of my existence. In these situations I see that my boundaries are loose and flaccid, easy for others to bend or to ignore.

I wonder what my core would have let me say in all those situations and moments where I felt censored, impotent and unable to withstand outside pressure? Probably something like this:

– NO!
– YOU CAN’T DO THAT TO ME!
– YOU ARE HURTING ME!
– I DON’T LIKE YOU!
– I DON’T HAVE TO LIKE YOU!
– YOU ARE MEAN!
– YOU ARE DISRESPECTFUL!
– YOU ARE IGNORING MY BOUNDARIES!
– FUCK OFF!
– GO TO HELL!
– DON’T EVER COME BACK!
– I AM NOT SUBMISSIVE TO YOU!
– STOP IT!
– YOU ARE ACTING LIKE AN ASSHOLE!
– I WANT YOU TO LEAVE ME ALONE!
– I WANT TO LEAVE NOW!
– I AM LEAVING YOU!
– YOU ARE NOT WORTHY OF MY LOVE!
– YOU ARE NOT WORTHY OF MY ATTENTION!
– NEVER DO THAT AGAIN!
– DON’T PUT THE BLAME ON ME!

"The Core" by Mia Makila, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 81 x 100 cm

“The Core” by Mia Makila, 2016

As I am learning more and more about psychological codependency and how to deal with it, I am letting my core speak more freely and becoming more potent in my own existence. I am the only leader of my own life. I am the boss of my body, mind, heart and soul. My boundaries are more clear and I have new walls to protect myself from the heavy weight of other people’s expectations and responsibility. I used to feel a lot of shame and guilt but I have understood that none of that belongs to me. I was never the cause of someone else’s rage, irritation or aggression, simply because I existed. I was not to blame for making other people disappointed just because they had expectations about how I should be, act, talk, think and behave. I should not carry other people’s shame because they refuse to. I should not have to carry other people’s responsibility because they won’t.

I am only responsible for myself, my actions and for my own life. I have to learn to accept that I can’t control the world just because it has failed to keep me safe at times. I have to understand that I am not psychologically impotent or incapable of solving my own problems. Perhaps when I let go of trying to solve everyone else’s problems, I’ll be better at solving my own. I think I’ll try that for a change.

Leaving the girl behind

I have been craving silence for a few days. I needed both the time and space to get through a process of reliving childhood memories and to look at family patterns in an absolutely honest way. Honest to me. This is my truth and I don’t share it with anyone else. Looking at something that way can make you feel really lonely – but it’s necessary for acceptance and understanding. It is part of the healing process.

Me, having fun in the waves

Me, having fun in the waves (ca. 1986)

When it comes to breaking familiar and destructive patterns – in behavior or in relationships (or both), they are often rooted in the childhood and that’s where you have to start looking. I can see that both my present anxiousness and fear has been part of my mind’s texture since I was a little girl, trying to please adult people and family so I could avoid being scolded or the source of anyone’s rage.

Anger, rage and yelling still makes me highly uncomfortable and anxious. I am now able to follow this fear of anger throughout my life – and perhaps it is a reason why I have such trouble with expressing it. I do express it through my art though. That is where I feel safe enough to confront my own rage and explosive energy. But even in some artworks, I’m holding back by using smiling demons or a sense of humor.

Baby Blue

Baby Blue by Mia Makila, 2014

Going back to find the root of this fear of anger has been healthy and it’s worked like a catharsis. I have never been able to understand the nature of rage and anger in my life. I could not fathom how I could be the source of such rage. An in my adult life, I have been victimized because of it – but also attracted to it. Subconsciously I have been trying to find it in different men so I could try to control it, master it and tame it. But it just created codependency and a deeply submissive disposition –  and it made me repress my own rage even further down.

I have a lot of unexpressed rage. I only get angry when I feel safe in a relationship, if I don’t feel like I am allowed to get angry, I will push it back and it disappears – or I guess it doesn’t really. It is still there but I don’t have access to it. Only in my creativity where I am able to explore it in a safe setting where I feel in control.

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A photo project from when I was a teenager – I worked with themes of vulnerability and fear back then too

I was a happy little girl. I loved the freedom I had in my mind where I could create any world of magic and control reality – because I could not control real life. I had a good childhood and I was deeply loved. But there are wounds and flaws in my childhood, just like in any other person’s childhood. I did not feel seen in my fear of anger – and I stood completely powerless in front of it. It makes sense now why I’ve spent most of my artistic life creating little girls and vulnerable creatures. I have been seeking comfort for my childhood fears and an outlet for the vulnerability I felt as a young girl. I’ve tried to rescue other people because I felt like I wasn’t rescued in moments of fear. I have been looking in all the wrong places for healing until now.

It is quite impossible to change anything if you are not becoming aware of the wound. It is impossible to change if you are not willing to sacrifice the overcompensation, the false identity that is masking the wound, self defense mechanisms and survival strategies. Only by sacrificing the certainty of knowing who you are and daring to look for the roots of your suffering,  is it possible to change. It is very painful, it takes a lot of effort and time – but it will eventually lead you back to something that feels absolutely true and genuine. A feeling of coming home. Safe and sound.

I am leaving the little girl behind because I am providing that comfort for myself now. And my art will always be a place to explore the things that makes me anxious and scared. I am lucky to have such a playground for my repressed emotions. That way, I am never really lost in them – but only one brushstroke away from healing.

The Rage

The Rage by Mia Makila, 2012

The beautiful ruins

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Studying psychological codependecy

While studying the patterns of psychological codependency, I start to tear down my own world as I have known it to be. The things I used to consider to be signs of security turns out to be something completely different and what I used to think of as menacing looks less dark in the light of my new knowledge. It is confusing but fascinating. Little details suddenly works like keys to unlock the bigger picture – and the bigger picture ease the tension in the details. And I observe myself as a child with eyes of pure compassion and understanding. I follow that child into adulthood and observe her while she’s making all those bad decisions, making so many painful mistakes and I feel all the feelings she’s feeling – good and bad, and I can understand why she did all the things she did and felt all the things she felt. It wasn’t her fault. She was not to blame for making those mistakes. The only thing she is responsible for is where she is going from here. This is a beautiful healing process, even if I’m standing in the middle of the ruins of my old world.

1+1=1

Natascha Kampusch, before the kidnapping

Learning about this psychological codependency issue is opening my eyes to so many new discoveries about myself. Discoveries about my worst fears and my deepest desires. It’s perhaps even connected to my choice of not having any children. And why I don’t want to get a car, a house or a pet. Feeling responsible for someone else or getting something I have to be responsible for, is a heavy weight on me. I have been writing many times about my recurring nightmare where I suddenly realize I have a cat which I’ve neglected for a long time. I start to look for it and find it, all frail and weak behind a sofa. The fur is covered with eyes and it’s staring at me – begging me to take care of it. I feel so guilty and stressed. It meows and wants me to pet it, but I’m disgusted and reluctant to touch it. But I know I have to pet it, because I’m responsible for its survival. It is my duty to love it, to take care of it. As I’m petting it, I can feel the glossy texture of the eyeballs against my palms and it gives me the chills.

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The core issue for me in my psychological codependency, is a state of crisis in the loyalty. Should I be loyal to myself or to the other person? If I make them happy by doing what they want me to do, then I feel good – even though I might not want to do it and in the end makes me suffer. At least it makes me a good person. If I choose my own happiness over other people’s wants, I upset them and they treat me bad because I’ve been a selfish person. That way I’m feeling unhappy even when I do what’s best for me – whether it’s a simple “no” or leaving an abusive person or a destructive situation. That is why I have been avoiding it – and why I’ve been loyal to the other person instead of being loyal to myself. To make them happy is to create peace but suffering, to make myself happy is to create possible abandonment and abuse – and in the end more suffering. No wonder I haven’t been able to feel happy or content in any relationship. It’s such a lose-lose situation.

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The most romantic thing I used to know, were the words: “We are one. 1+1=1”. I can see how twisted it is now. And where that thought stems from. It is the formula of codependency and losing myself to someone else. That’s when I stop working with my art. That’s when I stop believing in myself. Where I no longer matter to myself. The only thing that matters is the “=1”. I thought I was being passionate, but I was just a textbook example of a classic codependency behavioral pattern.

When I look at this now, I can see that the false calculation of “1+1=1” is not the most romantic thing I know – it is in fact the scariest thing I know. Perhaps that is why kidnappers who build secret chambers in their basements to keep the victim locked away for years, is my number one fear. Once, Johnny and I had a conversations about our biggest fears. I asked him: “which of these three encounters would scare you the most: 1. An angry gorilla. 2. A hungry shark. 3. A psychopath looking for a victim to kidnap and torture.?”

Johnny wouldn’t want to meet the angry gorilla. He said there was after all a chance of surviving a shark attack and even escape the psychopath, but not an enraged gorilla. I had another answer: “I choose death over the chance of having my life and destiny in the hands of a psychopath. I can’t imagine any bigger horror than being completely powerless and dependent on the psychopath’s will and wishes. The suffering is a long process of depersonalization and psychological torture, that has to be more horrific than being killed in an attack from one of those animals. At least then you are ripped to pieces and dead in a few minutes or hours.”

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The story of Natascha Kampusch and her life in a tiny cellar, told in the film “3,096 Days”

I am not afraid of the dark, nor am I scared of monsters and ghosts. I create horror in my art, so it takes a lot scare me with superficial horror elements. That being said, I am scared of many things – but they are all related to a psychological tension where I feel powerless and not able to feel free.

I guess that is why the only thing that’s ever scared the bejesus out of me are the bizarre stories about the Fritzl case – and the kidnapping of Natascha Kampusch. She was only 10 when she was kidnapped and held in a secret cellar by Wolfgang Přiklopil. He made sure that she was completely dependent on him for survival (he was the only one who knew where she was, he was her caretaker and she needed him to be healthy and safe in order for him to bring her food and water, so she cared for him deeply) and he changed her name, shaved her head, made her do things against her will and abused her for more than 8 years until she finally escaped (and when she did, he jumped in front of a train). She survived it. She survived my worst nightmare. I have so much respect for her.

– My friend and singer/songwriter Eva Eastwood wrote this song based on our conversations about something we had in common; being codependent and being too entangled in someone else’s toxic behavior.

All these insights are important in my process of independence. I am freeing myself from the weight of other people’s expectations and wishes – for me to be weak, strong, dependent, quiet, stupid, submissive, dominant or whichever role they’ve need me to play to fill the void in their hearts and minds. I am no longer a quick fix for their wounded souls. 

The importance of a bra

I have been sick again, sleeping the days away. I guess that explains why I’ve been feeling so tired lately. There’s also been a lot to process since my last therapy session. Suddenly, so much is starting to make sense. Behaviors, patterns, triggers and psychological sore spots. The therapist recommended a book about codependency, which I’ve ordered. All I need now is to learn how to deal with it – because in the end my issue of psychological codependency is a good thing – it means I am an empathetic and caring person who’s able to put other’s needs before her own, if necessary. The psychological codependency grew from an early feeling of guilt and responsibility for things which weren’t mine to feel guilty or responsible for in the first place. I get it now. It all makes so much sense. Why I lose myself to other people’s expectations, why I think it’s my responsibility to make everybody happy, to fix things, to sacrifice everything to be able to be there for others, why I’ve been reluctant to let go of toxic relationships, and how I could’ve accepted the unacceptable.

Romus and Remus with the Wolf

Romus and Remus with the Wolf

I can’t change the past. I am not blaming anyone. But the issue still remains – and I have to deal with it. In a way, it’s a good thing that Johnny and I are in this long distance relationship right now. I need the space and the time to figure these things out, because the psychological codependency is so connected to intimate relationships for me. I have been so scared of loving again, of accepting love. I have been so close to isolating myself from love and intimacy all together – even if it’s all I want in this life. But I can understand why now. How I’ve felt smothered by relationships and the expectations I imagine they bring upon me. Expectations I have of myself – to be able to meet theirs. But all I’ve felt is inadequacy and scarcity. That’s when I lose myself. I start playing a role. Giving up my own pleasure to serve it to others. Delivering whatever they want from me. I let them feed off me like I am piece of meat, without any private emotions and needs. Some have taken advantage of it, some where blind to it. Ignorant.

I played my part very convincingly – even I believed I was all those things they wanted me to be. Submissive. Disconnected. Loyal to their convictions and disloyal to my own.

My therapist said: “You have let other people feed off you until you haven’t had anything more to give. Like you thought it was your responsibility to nurse them with your milk. Whenever they wanted they could just suck it out of you. But they took it all until you were left all dried out. Now it’s time to cover your bosom, put on a good bra that is complicated for them to open when they try to get inside it  – and to sit with your arms crossed to let other people know that you are not there to feed all their needs.”

I came to think of the old statue – Romus and Remus with the Wolf – and I got inspired to make my own version of it, perhaps in a painting.

Even though I have a good picture of what my issue is, it will take me a long time to understand how to deal with it. It is so deeply rooted. I have to remind myself that in the end, the essence of codependency is a good thing. It means I am a good person – but with loose boundaries. And that’s totally fixable. I just need to put on a bra.

The cool dance of independence

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All I can do in this heat wave is to do self therapy work and make research about the process of emotional independence. It’s a very difficult and complex process if you have been trained, like me, to be dependent/codependent all your life – to be a good girl (and by ‘good’ I mean no attempts to be independent or going after my own wishes and needs but only pleasing others), to obey, respect others while letting them disrespect me, lack of clear boundaries, low self-esteem and virtual no practice in independence what so ever because I haven’t been rewarded but punished for it.

The lack of independence is really my problem with codependency. After many years in trauma treatment and doing this self therapy work, I have finally understood my role in the “codependency dance” and why I’ve been so attracted to participate in the dance in the first place. Without this understanding and accepting my responsibility when it comes to being part of a codependency, I would never be able to break free and become independent. It takes two to dance, right? If I’d withdraw from the dance floor, I would break the pattern and the power of the codependency dance. Independence is a way cooler dance anyway. It’s all about walking the walk like I’m talking the talk – to stay true and being clear about who I am and what my boundaries are. It sounds so simple. But it’s not. To learn how to dance you have to practice and sweat until you’ll get it right. One step at a time, failure is part of the process and practice makes perfect. All clichés but true.

I need to practice on being much more clear when it comes to letting people know my boundaries and integrity. I need to be louder when I speak up in an uncomfortable situation. I need to improve my self-esteem. I need a steady income so I don’t feel dependent on other people to help me out. I want to practice self respect in order for other people to show me more respect. I want to be able to let go of taking on other people’s responsibility and guilt. It’s not easy being an empath and prone to feeling unnecessary shame and guilt, when it belongs to somebody else,  it can be such a heavy weight.

My process of independence is a very important key process in my self therapy. It’s not a coincidence that it’s happening now and not a few years ago, I wasn’t ready then. But I am now.