It is really hard to love people. Sometimes they just need an ear and sometimes they need advice. Sometimes we ought to press in and sometimes we ought to back away. There is a particular kind of person who is hard to help. The Co-dependent Tarzan. This person swings from one relationship to another, searching for validation, his only salvation against gravity is the weight he pulls from those around him. Confused and desperate and stuck in the tornado of victim mentality, The Co-Dependent Tarzan is looking for a savior.
Truth be told, I’ve been this person before. We all have. What is the best way to advise a friend who is swinging through the branches of relationship, zapping energy and strength to nobody’s benefit?
No False Heroes
The Co-Dependent Tarzan survives on the blood of false heroes. Ok, I know that was a little dark. But you get my point. They are like parasites in this way. Discontent with their own identity, feelings, or perspective, they cling to another.
But the question of identity is a question we cannot answer externally. There is a secret garden in each of us, a terrain in which we ourselves must cultivate the work. We all know this. This is why Tarzan must swing to other vines. Tug on one too long and it proves unable to hold more than its own weight. We were created for community, not co-dependency.
False Heroes are all moxy and good intentions. We want to help. We want to love, and we want to be there.
But this is as dangerous as it is beautiful. Sometimes we cast ourselves as the hero. We are the doctor and Tarzan is the ill. It is a very helpful way to avoid our own insecurities. We fall on the grenades of others. We’re validated as “the helper”, giving great advice and being such a good listener.
The tragedy of false heroes is that we fail to love people well. We fail to believe in them enough to push them towards self-governance and empowerment. We start to think we are necessary to hold the structure of another.
Co-Dependent Tarzan likely needs more distance from people than he/she is getting. More often than not, people line up to help Tarzan because we want to be people who want to love. But we must slow down to ask ourselves if our helping is hurting. Are we enabling or participating in co-dependency. After all, the very term spells it out, it takes two to accomplish co-dependency.
The question becomes how to love someone without abandoning them. Tarzan himself will make this difficult on you. People trapped in the victim circle are aggressive blamers. It will be your fault they aren’t well. The guilt trip is the tether that brings false heroes back into the fold.
Most difficult of all, it requires a transformational self-awareness. It requires us to look within to evaluate our motives, values, and intentions.
The Co-Dependent Tarzan will latch on to podcasts and personalities, pieces of advice and promises. The best thing we can do is model healthy living and encourage our friend to persevere. There are a host of self-awareness tools that can help communicate the need to take ownership of one’s journey.
If we want to serve Co-Dependent Tarzan, we must be prepared for some trial. It is likely to get worse before it gets better. We are addicted to our emotions and the spiral of negativity is an abyss that takes a lot of time to escape from. But there are only three things we can control. Tarzan must make their choices. And you must make yours.