It’s one of the first words we learn with regard to getting along with others.
It often first appears in forms of obedience: cooperate with your parents by doing your chores, helping out in the household or with other siblings.
We then move on to structures outside the home, daycare and school, where these same expectations for cooperation are tied to compliance with whatever rules each institution has in place.
Some of us will experience ease in cooperation, where all parties participate to create an almost symphonic experience.
Those of us who are People Pleasers, Givers, Nurturers, White Knights, and World Savers, however, will often over-cooperate, a type of cooperation that tends to create chaos, confusion, anger and resentment.
Over-cooperation often happens when we do something because we feel we “should.” It happens when we think–consciously or subconsciously–that we might reap some future benefit; a feeling of being accepted or appreciated are two common, yet silent expectations.
Learning to let go of “should” and expectation are two ways to overcome over-cooperation with others.
One of the least talked about forms of cooperation is cooperation within the Self.
Have you ever felt like you were having an argument with yourself? A virtual struggle that may have felt like there were two people inside you?
I have faced this quandary on so many levels that at one point I wondered if I didn’t have some form of split personality disorder.
It’s that tug between right and wrong, should and shouldn’t, want to but don’t want to that leaves some of us feeling like we can’t make a decision to save our life.
I have always described it as a war between my head and my heart. My life suddenly made so much more sense (and I admit I felt a little less crazy) after I sat in on a Gregg Braden talk about how our heart actually has a brain of its own.
A few years later I discovered that one of my minor life purpose numbers is two.
According to Dan Millman’s Life Purpose book, the lessons my soul came here to learn with regard to that two energy are Cooperation and Balance.
As Millman explains it, those working the two energy are here, among other things, to find peace in the duality of the Self, those two sides of the Self that see the opposing sides in every story and likely have a strong opinion or conflict with regard to the situation at hand. “It’s as if they have two people inside them, sitting side by side in a rowboat in the middle of a lake. One of the people is rich, and the other is poor; one is a Republican, and the other a Democrat…” writes Millman.
Those of us who tend toward over-cooperation have a hard time saying ‘no,’ and often take on responsibility for more than our fair share. Part of our challenge is learning the self-care power that lies in not taking on everyone else’s stuff and in learning to treat ourselves with the same compassion and devotion that we give to everyone else.
Cooperation with Self comes when we can find a balance between those personality polarities, when we can learn to play nice with our-self and when we can learn to balance the gift of giving with the gift of receiving. Cooperation with the Self is a way of honoring our entire belief system by discovering that “happy medium” or “middle ground” that we can not only live with, we can feel good about.