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Cords and Decording: releasing the burdens and unhealthy connections

Have you ever had a time in your life when you feel you can’t get by on your own, are preoccupied with someone who seems needy, or you’re in conflict with, or are really worried about someone? Then you will relate to the people in the examples above. They are being drained by energetically unhealthy connections with others. This type of pattern is called cording. Most everyone has corded at some time, because we have all felt overburdened or panicked. What is it, though, that makes us feel bound for so long afterward?

What is cording? Cording is a natural, universal, but unhelpful attempt to resolve situations in which we feel overwhelmed by need, helplessness, despair, shock, violation, or pity. It is an Automatic Protective Energy Pattern (see chapter twelve) triggered at some time or other in virtually everyone, in which your energy is diverted from its original purpose to reach out to another. Shamanism and other traditions speak of the same phenomenon. Cording is the energetic result of an overwhelming situation, an effort to resolve some seemingly insurmountable situation or to meet a need. There are three major types of situations in which cording occurs:

  1. You desperately wish you could help someone.
  2. You are afraid you are inadequate to a task or event.
  3. Your system is overwhelmed by an assault, so it cannot properly process and resolve it.

We throw cords to others or accept cords from them, try to give or take energy, in order to save ourselves or them. Babies and mamas cord each other often. Babies feel discomfort and don’t know what to do, so they reach with all of themselves toward relief. Parents often feel desperate to meet the needs of their screaming, unable-to-communicate-by-talking infants and so may cord their children. But it is not just something that babies and ‘weak’ people do. Couples arguing for long periods of time cord. Frustrated bosses and unhappy reports do. Some of the most pervasive corders I have met have been very powerful business men. So obsessed with their work, with so much of their energy tied up in winning power- struggles, they often have no idea at all how to connect with another person when it comes to relationships, so they cord them in an attempt to make contact or get their needs met. Rapists and their victims cord each other, on one side due to the monstrous extent to which they cut off from their own internal life and relieve themselves by attacking others, and on the other side by the enormity of the catastrophic disruption of self that occurs when being invaded by so much hostility and sadism.

Although they are virtually always thrown during attacks and violence, cording is not inherently a pathological thing to do. Sympathy, as opposed to empathy, causes people to cord quite often, because sympathy involves slipping into feeling the way someone else does. Problem is, then you may feel responsible for their needs, pulled into their concerns, with your energy dropping to match theirs. If you feel guilty or have an unconscious belief that you are to blame if someone else is not happy, likely you will cord. A combination of feeling responsible and helpless is one primary setup…

What is cording NOT? Cording is not unusual. Everyone does it at some time. The cord is not the loss or the helplessness that one feels. It is an effort to do something so as not to feel helpless or inadequate…

Cords are NOT the authentic part of a relationship. We grow the most within the context of our relationships, yet even in the closest families, there are times when interactions snag. Ideally, family members do not resort to disconnecting from or grabbing each other metaphorically by the throat in reaction to stress. They stay present in themselves and with each other while dealing with intensity and misunderstanding. In actuality, they often cord each other…

When we hit rough patches, we tend to cord each other. Then the relationships are dragged down further by the cording. Yet, when I suggest that they be removed between children and parents, or other family members, people usually fear that they will lose the love bond by doing so. Decording does not remove the true connection. It cleans it up, removing the tangles and obstacles that come from feeling stymied about how to get along. Often decording is the thing that saves a fragile relationship. When family members feel released from being drained, stifled, pulled on, or worried out of their skins, they have more room to breathe and to be themselves, and to learn how to relate respectfully and openly…

What is wonderful about clearing cords is that you can free up relationships. You can help all parties move along in their development by releasing the energy stuck in the past or in helplessness. When you clear the cords, love and connectedness have more room to surface, freed from the matted weeds of unresolved pain.

Whether you have corded another or allowed yourself to be corded, your focus needs to shift back to yourself. What in your past has led you to think that you need to rescue people or be rescued? What do you get out of being the strong, caring one, or by believing that you can’t handle life? Do you feel obligated to tend to the emotional needs of others, no matter at what cost to yourself? In the past, what did you fear would happen if you didn’t? When you have answered these questions, you’ll be more able to see that the present situation is not really resolving the past or the future. It is better to allow the future, even the next hour, to be what it is, than to attempt to stave it off by spending energy capital and harming yourself.

How NOT to decord: cutting cords:  Some traditions that work with cords suggest that you cut the cord. I don’t advocate this, because I’ve seen many people who have been to a practitioner who has done so, and the cord is still there, flapping around. They don’t feel any better. They don’t feel completely free of the bothersome person. They have not resolved the urge to throw or accept cords. And the cords are not fully re-integrated. They are made up of real energy. If you simply cut them you have not resolved the energetic issue of having your energy out there in the first place, or of having allowed someone else’s energy into your field. And often, in order to feel settled, the person will cord someone else.   In order to change the energetic event and learn to establish your boundaries in a healthier way, it is necessary to undo the stasis holding them in place, complete the energy’s return to its original pattern, allow the pattern that led to their being set up to undo, and then seal any rift in the field.

Before working with me, Mary Pat had experienced several forms of healing and shamanism. She is a therapist who works with clients with personality disorders, and she could feel their attempts to cord her. She also sensed that the cords locked them in their own painful patterns. “I would start snipping when working with borderlines (a diagnosis for people like the character Glenn Close played in the movie Fatal Attraction). But the way you’re teaching this is more complete and more connected with what’s really going on.”

How do you decord?  It takes some work. Cords aren’t thrown in an organized fashion. They involve various kinds of energies, depending on the events and the unconscious needs or reactions of the person involved. If people have been attacked (of have attacked others), the cords are sticky and locked in. If people are really needy, or the relationship is an established one, cords are even thrown in a tangle or as a jumbled blanket. To make sure that you release all the types of energy involved, decording is best done systematically through the chakras. (To review the explanation of the chakras, look at the end of chapter thirteen.)

The first five are most commonly involved because they are the sites of the physical and emotional energies that we usually use with other people: survival, aliveness, sex and power; emotions; integrity, connection and love; and self-expression. Also frequently roped in is the eighth, which has to do with boundaries. (I work with fifteen chakras all told.) To practice we will go through each of these. Eventually you will be able to tell where you are corded and where not.

There are four basic kinds of cords:

  1. The ones you throw because you are trying to help them.
  2. The ones they grab at you with to get something from you.
  3. The ones you throw because you feel overwhelmed and hurt by them.
  4. The ones they throw at you because they have been trying to avoid some of their own baggage by taking it out on you.

Take a moment to clarify which kind you have. To clear the cords, it is important to be able to see the generating situation accurately. (If you have difficulty in getting a sense of the origins of yours, enlist the aid of a therapist or someone highly trained in Energy Medicine. You’ll want someone who knows how to see your particular imbroglio.)

First, it is important to align your energy with the task by stating clearly that you want to decord, that you want your energy back, and that you’ll no longer tolerate being drained by others. Become clear about any hidden assumption that says you need to rescue others at the expense of your own wellbeing. (Once you’re completely cleared of cords, you’ll experience more directly that it is not helpful or healthy for either of you.) This will establish your intention and your system will begin loosening the locks on the cords and supporting your process.

It will be helpful if you can suspend any disbelief you might have about cords’ existence, much less your being able to perceive them, and use your intention to become aware of the energy that you have invested in your problem person, and/or that they have tied to you. Be playful, exploratory, or anthropological in your experimentation. Give yourself a chance. The biggest inhibitor to your ability to use your energy consciously is your self-doubt.

Settle into yourself by taking three deep breaths into your abdomen. Ground and center. Let go of all outside concerns. Become as aware of your body as possible. Move down into your core, into the back of your legs to your feet, through the fullness of your torso, into your shoulders, arms, and hands, up your back into your neck and head. Walking through the inside of your body, pay special attention to any areas that are tight, that you tend to skip over. Take a moment to stop and be in that area without trying to change it. Just be next to it and then gently ask your energy, light, or warmth, to move into that place. Intend that the energy move in enough that you are awake in that part of yourself as well as in the easier places. Become more settled into living inside your own body.

Now, picture a person you feel stuck and conflicted about. In your mind’s eye, place them out in front of you. When I teach people to do this, we always clear the cords from the other person before pulling in the ones the client has sent. So look at that person in your mind’s eye and sense that the stuckness you feel is in the form of cords from them to you. Depending on the history you have with them, you may see them looking at you from their usual helpless, hurt, accusing or condemning eyes, or acting as if you owe them, or as if they own you.

Imagine that their tie to you is a cord from their first chakra, at the base of their spine, to you. It usually will land somewhere in your first chakra area, but not always. Just take what you get.

How it is attached? Is it like a USB plug? A fish hook? A latch? The plug at the end of your headphones? Maybe it’s like a suction cup or a claw hook. Whatever it is, imagine yourself unhooking, unplugging, or just gently tugging it out of you. Feel the energy within the cord as palpable and send it back toward the other person. Use shooing motions with your hands, if you want, as if you are brushing crumbs off your lap, and keep that energy moving all the way out of your extended space, your public space. Sense it retracting into the distance. It is not your job to force the person to reclaim their energy! You don’t have to reengage with them to that extent. In fact, it is better if you don’t. It is their responsibility to deal with their own energy and with their own actions. It’s only your job to sweep out your own space. Stay grounded as you do this, so you stay in your body and don’t get too involved in the energy as it goes. (You don’t want to get too fierce when you’re doing this. If you were pushing a chair, you’d have to keep holding onto it in order to do the pushing. You want to let go, dust your hands off, be done with it.) When it’s gone from your space, it is out of your realm of responsibility.

Now check their second chakra. Imagine a cord from about one-and one-half inches below their navel to you. Unlatch it from you and send it away. Remember that you’re not responsible for getting them to take it back all the way, only for getting it out of your space. So, feel your aura out to the further edge. Being conscious of occupying your own space helps get it out.

Now, sense a cord from their solar plexus/diaphragm area (third chakra) to you. Unhook it from you and insist on its moving out and away towards them. Intend that it go all the way out of your extended space, so it disappears into the distance toward them. Notice how your energy feels without it, having your energy in your own sphere unimpeded by theirs.

Continue with fourth, at the heart level, removing their cord from you and sending it out.

Then fifth, at the lower part of the throat.

Sixth is at the third eye. Seventh is at the crown of the head.Sixth and  seventh don’t have cords as often, but it is possible.

Then try the eighth, one aspect of which has to do with boundaries, is at the hollows in front of the shoulders, below the collarbone. Unplug their cords from your field and insist on their energy moving out of your space.

Then, close your eyes again, if you’ve opened them, and breathe into your stomach and hips. Check in with your body and let it settle for a moment without those cords draining you.

Now, send your awareness down to your first chakra area, at the bottom of your torso, and imagine that your investment in you problem person, whether from worry or feeling assaulted, is also a cord, and your survival energy is affected. Notice how the conflict between you has been siphoning energy to them that you can’t afford to waste. When you pull in your own cords and bring your energy back into your own sphere, you will actually be more energized and more fully present within yourself (and with other person, if you choose to be).

Insist that it return. Unhook your cord from them and see yourself reeling it back toward you as if it’s a fishing line, or a hose on a reel. As it comes toward you, remind yourself that it is made of your own energy, even if it has spent quite a while away from home. It is not the other person’s energy. It is not something alien or dangerous. As it comes toward you, take a deep breath into the center of your pelvic bowl. Make sure you breathe all the way to the back and exhale down your legs into your feet. People have a tendency to stop when the energy has reached their skin in the front. It belongs melded into the energy system inside, so invite it all the way in. After a moment of “Oh yeah, here I am, home at last! Phew!” it will go back to doing what it was doing before it was pushed out of your system in the first place.

Once the first one feels completely re-integrated, imagine that you have a cord to your conflict person from your second chakra, below your navel, to them. Unhook it from them and invite the energy back with some insistence. Allow whatever you become aware of emotionally just to be there as you reel it in. Breathe into the back of your sacrum and let it rejoin your energy system.

Now imagine there’s a cord from your solar plexus level to them. Unhook it from them and insist it come home. There’s nothing wrong with using your hands in gathering gestures. Gently insist that it come in through the space in front of you, and then let it settle. Take a deep breath up and down your spine.

Continue on with fourth, at the level of your heart, the fifth just above the base of your throat, and then eighth, in front of your shoulders and below your collarbone.

If their energy seems to flail or behave toxically in reaction to your having undone the cords, remember that they are responsible for their own life and their own sustenance. Let them have the opportunity to learn about their own patterns by not taking over for them. They’ll survive having to deal with their own energy.

When you feel as if your energy is back where it belongs in your system, let that person fade from your awareness. Breathe and check in with yourself. Feel how it feels not to be corded to them. Feel the distinct edges of you as a separate person, not as a stuck tangle.

To keep cords from occurring in the future: With practice, you can keep yourself from being corded in the future and cut down on your tendency to cord. The more you clear cords, the more you’ll be able to recognize the feeling of wholeness that occurs when your system is free of such quagmires. You will also find yourself noticing more readily when they’ve happened again and be able to decord before any lasting problematic patterns are set up or you feel drained and resentful.

It’s as the Sufi saying says: Never give from the depths of your well, but from your overflow. That is what decording enables you to do.