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When Something Has to Change: How to Push Yourself to Take Action

Stressed woman

“The truth you believe in and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new.” ~Pema Chodron

At some point, there comes a defining moment when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you just can’t keep living the way you’ve been living.

You know that something has got to give and realize that you only have two options—either change or stay the same.

The idea of having to choose either one of those options feels absolutely unbearable, so you find yourself trapped between the two, in this awful purgatory of indecision.

That’s exactly where I was trapped: unable to stay in an unhappy marriage, and unable to leave it.

The prospect of changing required the long journey inward, having to look at myself honestly and courageously and do the things I was afraid to do.

To change meant that I had to leap into uncharted waters, not knowing if I’d sink or swim. And in the face of that, I was easily lured back to the comfort of the familiar.

I was quick to reassure myself that even in my unhappy situation, with all of its heartache and suffering, at least I knew what to expect. And that thought was comforting.

In precise tandem with that thought was the awareness that if I couldn’t bring myself to leap off the cliff to change, I would be stuck living life in this state of unhappiness and dysfunction. And that thought was terrifying.

I couldn’t stay where I was, but I was too afraid to move forward.

This purgatory of indecision was an awful place to be. It was filled with its own unique despair. It was fraught with doubt, shame, anger, and huge amounts of fear. But in spite of that, it still wasn’t enough to propel me in any one direction.

I was stuck in this purgatory for years. Eventually, I came to understand that my thoughts and beliefs didn’t actually come from me. They came from the very loud and dictatorial voice of my codependent mind.

It had become so loud and powerful that it had all but drowned out my own voice. One of its most potent functions was to convince me that every terrible thing I told myself about myself was the gospel truth.

I’ve learned to think of my codependency as a seed—and the same analogy applies for addiction, depression, and other struggles.

There sits the seed of it, buried deep in our brain. And in some of us, at some point, something will happen to trigger it.

That event acts as the water it needs to grow. If it’s allowed to set its roots down, it continues to grow stronger and stronger. The voice of that dysfunction slowly and steadfastly takes over and begins to drown out you.

Eventually, this dysfunctional voice is the only one you hear, and so you recognize it as you, but it’s not.

I think of it as two minds—my mind and the codependent mind. My co-dependent mind had grown so big, and its roots so deep, that it was calling all the shots.

The mind of any dysfunction, regardless of where it originated, has its own unique sets of toolboxes. In my case, my codependent mind was a master at using fear and self-doubt to create confusion.

Fear, along with self-doubt, whispers “you’re not good enough” or “you are not worthy,” and insists, “you can’t trust what you feel or what you think,” thereby creating all kinds of space for confusion to reign.

There was a constant tug of war going on inside of me. I was convinced that what I wanted and needed was wrong if it wasn’t in alignment with what others wanted and needed from me.

Daily, my codependent mind reminded me that I was inadequate, unlovable, unworthy, and incapable. And as the codependent voice got louder and louder, it eventually became the only voice I recognized and heard.

But here’s the thing: The secret to silencing that voice of dysfunction is to challenge it. We must disbelieve what it’s saying.

The problem was that any attempt at disagreeing with what my codependent mind created huge amounts of anxiety and fear.

So you can see the predicament: To silence it, we have to disbelieve it. And to disbelieve it creates tremendous anxiety.

The thing you need to know is that anxiety is the superpower of any dysfunction. It uses our disdain and discomfort for feeling anxious as a way of staying in control. This is what makes it so clever and difficult to outwit.

And it was this desperate need to avoid feeling anxious that kept me from challenging my codependent thinking.

As tough as it may seem, to be able to change your beliefs about yourself, you need to disbelieve what that voice of dysfunction is telling you, and do the very thing you think you can’t do.

As you challenge it, you will experience anxiety and fear. But no one has ever died from feeling anxious or afraid. Ever.

Feeling anxious or afraid will not kill you. But it will free you from the life you are trapped in, and from the incessant voice of your dysfunctional mind.

I began by deciding to actively disbelieve any negative or unkind thoughts I had about myself.

If they didn’t lift me up, I disbelieved them. Martha Beck, author and monthly columnist for O, The Oprah Magazine says: “All thoughts that separate you from genuine happiness are lies.” That became my daily mantra.

As I practiced this new way of being—refusing to believe those negative thoughts as gospel truth—slowly but surely, my thoughts and beliefs about myself began to change.

When my codependent thinking said I wasn’t capable, I chose to trust my capabilities were enough for that moment. When my codependent thinking said I wasn’t good enough, I chose to believe that I was enough.

The more I decided I was lovable and worthy of love, the more confident, assured, and certain I became of who I was, and the more clearly I could hear my own voice.

You must decide that you will no longer trust the voice of dysfunction. And once you do, I promise you, it will begin to retreat, and your voice—the voice of self-love, truth, and wisdom—will become loud and clear.

Stressed image via Shutterstock

About Megan Forrest

Megan Forrest is a relationship coach at www.meganforrest.com. She works with women who have difficult relationship issues. She mentors and teaches women how to create healthier relationships, starting first with the relationship they have with themselves.

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  • Hi Megan,

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Thoughts are very powerful that sometimes, to me, they’re like a real person sitting beside me repeating discouraging words. Thoughts are real, and their impact could be underrated. I agree that a way to silence them is to challenge them.

    We can’t zero-eliminate anxiety and fear, but we can manage them–and manage our mind, too. It’s sort of a balancing act, and I SO agree, once you commit to handling these kinds of thoughts, you get bigger, and they seem to become smaller.

    Practice helps. It may take a long time to “eliminate” them, but by then, for sure, you’re already much, much stronger.

    I actually needed to read this, so thank you 🙂

  • Megan

    You are so welcome Ethan! I’m glad this resonated with you,
    at the right time for you! Warmest Regards,
    Megan

  • Hi Megan, Thank you for sharing what is clearly a very personal experience. I completely agree that overcoming these kind of experiences relies entirely on your strength of mind. I help people with self-confidence issues and these are often born from relationship related issues. For me, the key is to silence the voice inside your head (I call it the gremlin). An essential part of this is accepting that it will always be there but that you will be ready for it and that you can control it. It often speaks when you are at your most vulnerable, and that it’s why it’s so powerful. You seem to have it under control which is GREAT!

  • Megan

    Hi Mike! I love the sound of the work you do! And yes, you are so right on the money – that voice (or the gremlin as you call it!) will always be there – its recognizing that its always an option to decide whether we listen to it or not! Thanks for sharing your insights!
    Warm Regards,
    Megan

  • Peace Within

    For me, I noticed my thoughts become patterns. My negative thoughts were like a pattern, it was like my brain was programmed to think a certain way. When I started realizing it, I began to change it. Of course the changes took a long time. One step at a time, one thought at a time, whenever I noticed them. Now, I am in a much happier and positive state of mind. I acknowledge my negative thoughts, reassure myself, and let them go. I also feel that my thoughts affected my energy. When I had so many negative thoughts, I attracted negative people. It was like I was stuck with a dark cloud over my head. Now, it is the opposite. I see a whole lot of sunshine! 🙂

  • Megan

    Love where you are on your path – thanks so much for sharing that!! And so true about thoughts affecting your energy…. I love the quote “Your energy introduces you before you even speak”.
    Thanks for sharing your experience and insights with me – appreciate it!
    Warmest Regards,
    Megan

  • Melanie Jane

    This could have been written just for me. Thank you for providing a different perspective on what can feel like a hopeless problem. Unfortunately, financial insecurity plays a big part in my anxiety and fear about moving on and that is a reality I am still struggling to overcome.

  • Diane Lau

    Megan, I was so impressed by how you tacked this topic–your insights are absolutely brilliant! I have a website called Lucy Rising that is a free recovery program for victims of narcissistic abuse, and I had to blog about your post on my site immediately. (http://lucyrising.com/2016/04/trapped-between-misery-and-fear.html) I know that the situation you describe is virtually universal among those trying to break free from narc abuse. Your words are so helpful, thank you!

  • Megan

    Hi Diane! Thank you so much for you kind words and encouragement – and for sharing my post with your readers. I love the work you’re doing Diane – keep it up!! We need people like you! Its an isolating existence when you are trapped in an abusive relationship and I’m so glad to know of your recovery program and resources – I will be sure to share that! Thanks for your input and insights. Much appreciated!
    Warmest Regards,
    Megan

  • Megan

    Hi Melanie. Thank you for sharing with me. I have been exactly where you are. I certainly know how financial insecurity keeps us stuck and afraid. It kept me paralyzed for a very long time. But I also know this – I know you can move past it and I know you will. Be patient with yourself. Trust where you’re at…you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be for today, and when you are ready, you will take another step forward. One step at a time – one day at a time.
    Warmest Regards,
    Megan

  • Melanie Jane

    Thank you so much for the support

  • Diane Lau

    You’re so welcome and thank YOU for sharing Lucy Rising!

  • bigdo

    Sometimes the hardest thing to do is just bloody realize that you’re worthy.

  • Megan

    Isn’t that the truth!! But once you get it – look out! You’re an unstoppable force in your own life! Here’s to your journey back home to you
    !
    Warmest Regards,
    Megan

  • mady

    This article was amazing!! Every word struck a chord with me in some way. I specifically like you differentiate between the two voices in our heads and remind us of how we have the choice to challenge it. 🙂

  • Sabina Kay

    Wow, this article really spoke to me. Every strong point you made really described me and what I’m going through. Thank you for your honesty and encouragement. Life is so rough and all I want is to have peace and feel loved, but sometimes even these simple things feel impossible. I will continue to be hopeful. ..

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  • Tao of the Artichoke

    Megan,
    This is a beautiful, poignant article. The mechanisms of “challenging [the] codependent thinking” you describe are at work with addiction, and more specifically, in the mind of the high-functioning alcoholic. Yes, there are biological factors that make some people more sensitive to alcohol, but the tug-of-war that goes on can last years before otherwise successful people come crashing down. Your observations resonated so much with me. After a decade of working on myself, walking/standing/sitting in the spiritual path, I was clinging to drinking alcohol. My codependent thinking was crushing my better senses.
    Much gratitude!

  • Thank you so much for this, Megan. I’m going to print it out to reference daily as I try to leave that awful middle ground of indecision. I can relate so much to what you’ve written, even though my issue is an eating disorder and not a personal relationship. I’ve been struggling with making a complete leap into recovery because of the anxiety you refer to, but I think having this to look at and reassure me will really help. This came at just the right time. Thank you again.

  • So true! Thoughts DO become patterns; they’re like habits! Which sucks, in a way, but it also means we can eventually replace them and create new, more helpful habits. I also like your observation about the nature of your thoughts impacting your energy. Thanks for the insights!

  • Not impossible Sabina! Wishing you well on your journey — keep the hope! <3

  • Ename Yangfo

    Greats and soothing words pertaining to better changes, me to struggling to diverts certain areas of my life towards healthy and new direction but still my old habits and thoughts is resisting and preventing me to achieve that, how ironic is that even a so small acts of our seems extremely tough when it requires to change