Being codependent is very painful. Perhaps the most painful aspect of codependence is the feeling that there is something very wrong with you, and that no matter what you do, you are never good enough. This is the codependent’s secret shame and most codependents don’t like themselves. Codependents also find it hard to believe that anyone would want them. And they very often feel they don’t belong. I used to believe that people who did not want me must be seeing me clearly, whereas the people who wanted me, well, they had to be seriously flawed like me. Otherwise, how could they possibly want me? So for most of my life I rejected the people wanting me in favor of the people not wanting me, desperately trying to get them to like me and constantly being rejected. This caused me much misery and suffering. Three major character defects are those of minimization, denial and delusion. Minimization is refusing to see how bad a situation really is. Denial is when you can see a problem in some-one else, but are unable to see that you have exactly the same problem. Delusion is when you, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, continue to believe something to be true. Codependence recovery involves seeing the truth. Taken from an article by Gitte Lassen http://www.positivehealth.com/article/psychospiritual/codependence-for-whom-are-you-living-your-life
To be beautiful means to be yourself.
You don’t need to be accepted by others.
You need to accept yourself.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Being dependent in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s a component of healthy relationships. Some people fear dependency, interpreting it as a sign of weakness or helplessness, or out of a fear of intimacy. If we grew up in a family that encouraged a sense of autonomy and independent growth, with parents who praised our achievements and showed us love, we will reach adulthood with a sense of security about ourselves and our internal worth and our ability to move through the world as successful people… Sometimes things don’t go the way described above, and what’s experienced growing up is criticism, rejection, conditional love (often based on achievement that validates the parents’, not the child’s, sense of self-worth), [and] over dependence promoted as valuable, making it impossible to feel adequate without another person around to shore up self-worth. In this scenario you are unable to take responsibility for your own sense of adequacy. You expect your good feelings about yourself to be validated from outside yourself – usually from another person. You feel weak and vulnerable. You depend on someone else to feel secure, comforted, nurtured, supported, lovable, or worthy. A codependent relationship is one in which someone else’s needs are met before your own. Everything becomes about looking after the other person, at your expense. It tends to be learned behavior, starting either as a coping mechanism to survive painful experiences in a severely dysfunctional family, or in imitation of other family members in your generation or the one above you, who are caught in the same trap. It is a coping mechanism gone to an illogical extreme and has become maladaptivee. By Katherine Rabinowitz, LP, M.A., NCPsyA http://www.therapycanwork.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=49&Itemid=99
If you need encouragement,
praise, pats on the back from everybody,
then you make everybody your judge.
We are codependent because we allow the behavior of another person to effect our behavior so that we become consumed with that person and their problems. This obsession with the issues and problems of others becomes debilitating to us as we exhaust inordinate and inappropriate amounts of mental and emotional energy over them, leaving little, if any, energy for ourselves. We are extremely loyal but also extremely insecure. Self-doubt is our constant companion, and often self-hatred. Being unacceptable to ourselves, we hide our true selves, convinced that if anyone truly knew us, they would abandon us. This fear of abandonment often fuels our codependent behavior as we seek to do everything in our power to become so valuable that others would not want to leave us. By choice, our lives are not our own and our emotions are the property of whatever crisis the person(s) closest to us is having. http://www.vvcrossroads.org/ministries/recovery/codependency/men
You can’t stop killing yourself,
if you can’t stop hating yourself.
The following are statements which portray relationally addictive people(#19-25):
19. Our self-esteem is critically low. Deep inside we do not believe we deserve to be happy. Rather, we believe we must earn the right to enjoy life. We forget that we were all created equal and by the same maker.
20. Having experienced little security in childhood, we have a desperate need to control people, outcomes, and relationships. We mask our efforts to control people and situations as “being helpful.”
21. In a relationship we are more in touch with our dream of how it could be rather than with the reality of how it is. We don’t want to hear the little voice inside that tells us what is!
22. We are addicted to a person, people, and/or to emotional pain. This is not because we enjoy pain, but it is familiar; we understand it; it is all we know.
23. We may be emotionally and/or biochemically predisposed to addictions to substances, food, gambling, sex, etc.
24. Drawn to people with problems or to chaotic, uncertain, or emotionally painful situations, we avoid focusing on our responsibility to ourselves: to become all of the potential we were given!
25. Since we have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, it is easier to be concerned with others rather than with ourselves. This prevents us from looking at our ourselves. We give away our personal power!
From “Codependency: A Family Perspective” by Robin Norwood
The following are statements which portray relationally addictive people(#8-18):
8. We may tend toward episodes of depression and/or anxiety. We try to forestall these episodes through the excitement of an emotionally unstable relationship or through addictive behaviors.
9. We are not attracted to a person who is kind, stable, reliable, and interested in us. We find “nice” people boring or unattractive.
10. We “stuff” our feelings and have lost the ability to identify or express what we feel.
11. We tend to become isolated from people and become afraid of authority figures.
12. We become approval seekers and lose our identity in the process.
13. We can’t stand it when people are angry at us. We hate criticism! We get defensive and “explain” ourselves in an attempt to show the other person how they are wrong.
14. Our world view is that of the victim. We sense and gravitate towards people whom we will allow ourselves to be victimized by.
15. We judge ourselves harshly. We use a more lenient yardstick to judge others.
16. We experience guilt when we stand up for ourselves. To avoid guilt, we give in to others.
17. We confuse love and empathy/pity and tend to think we “love” people we can pity and rescue.
18. We are reactors to life rather than creators of life.
From “Codependency: A Family Perspective” by Robin Norwood (list cont’d tomorrow)
How much easier it is
to be critical than to be correct.
The following are statements which portray relationally addictive people(#1-7):
- We come from a dysfunctional home in which our emotional needs were not met.
- Having received little real nurturing ourselves, we try to vicariously fill this unmet need by becoming a caregiver, especially toward people who appear needy.
- Because we were never able to change our parents into the warm, loving care takers we longed for, we respond deeply to the emotionally unavailable person whom we find familiar and whom we try to change (to give us what we need) through our love.
- Terrified of abandonment, we will do anything to hold on to a relationship and avoid painful abandonment feelings. We first experienced these feelings while living with people who were never there emotionally for us. Most often, we were not aware that we were not getting what we needed!
- Almost nothing is too much trouble, takes too much time, or is too expensive if it will “help” the person we are involved with. Our thoughts are other-oriented rather than self-oriented.
- Accustomed to lack of love in personal relationships, we are willing to wait, hope and try harder to please.
- We are willing to take far more than 50 percent of the responsibility, guilt and blame in any relationship.
From “Codependency: A Family Perspective” by Robin Norwood (list cont’d tomorrow)
Don’t sacrifice yourself too much,
because if you sacrifice too much
there’s nothing else you can give
and nobody will care for you.
People suffering from drug or alcohol-related codependency disorders often experience themselves as being caught up in a treadmill existence. Whether or not goals are achieved there is a driven compulsion for more. An anxious feeling of incompleteness or emptiness remains no matter what is accomplished. Health problems may also exist: migraine headaches, gastrointestinal disturbances, colitis, ulcers, high blood pressure, and many other high stress-related physical illnesses. Stress related illness is not “only in your head.” It is stress-induced physical alteration of the body. It is real. Emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and hyperactivity may also be evident in codependent individuals. These disorders have a physical basis. They are chemical imbalances in the brain. In other words, our cognitive/emotional state impacts upon our physical being. We are a holistic mind-body system. Codependent individuals experienced a traumatically empty childhood. Their present-day relationships are empty. They attempt to use others, their mates, friends, and children, as their source of identity, self-esteem, value and well-being in an attempt to restore childhood emotional losses. Most codependent individuals are unaware that they are doing so. Having constructed a more idyllic existence, many codependent individuals are completely unaware that their childhood was troubled! From “Codependency: A Family Perspective” by Robin Norwood
People spend a lifetime searching for happiness;
looking for peace. They chase idle dreams,
addictions, religions, even other people,
hoping to fill the emptiness that plagues them.
The irony is the only place they ever
needed to search was within.
Ramona L. Anderson
Codependence is a set of maladaptive, compulsive behaviors learned by family members in order to survive in a family experiencing great emotional pain. In most cases alcoholism, chemical dependency, or other addictive disease is at the source of the family pain. Codependent behaviors are a set of coping behaviors that are passed from generation to generation–whether or not addiction is present–in order to survive. Although the original alcoholic/addicted person may have been a great-grandparent, family members across the next three or four generations learn a set of behaviors which help them deal with the emotional pain inherited from the original dysfunctional family unit. These behaviors, although designed to relieve pain, create pain! They constitute a deeply embedded “cognitive set” upon which codependency or dependency disorders are founded. Whether or not addiction existed in our nuclear family, codependency is a deeply rooted compulsive behavior that is born out of a dysfunctional family system. Individual family members may or may not develop addictions. Symptoms of codependency (or dependency) disorders include: perfectionism, workaholism, procrastination, compulsive overeating, compulsive gambling, compulsive buying, compulsive lying, compulsive talking, compulsive sex, dependent relationships, over-possessive relationships. Other dependency disorders can revolve around acquiring status, prestige, material possessions, power or control over family members, co-workers, friends, authority figures, etc. From “Codependency: A Family Perspective” by Robin Norwood
You do anything long enough
to escape the habit of living
until the escape becomes the habit.
This is just part of a long story I found on-line, but it rings true in many ways about my childhood. This is much longer than what I usually post, but since it is Thanksgiving and a difficult time for many of us codependents I felt it was appropriate. As far as I have come to now have mostly healed wounds, the scars remain. They are my reminders to keep my recovery strong.
In our house meal time was a huge production, even everyday meals. Holiday dinners were especially dramatic. We had purchased everything on the list and didn’t dare sneak any treats for ourselves because once my brother had stolen a candy bar from the drugstore and my mother made him return it and apologize to the druggist. I, too, had taken some colored cotton balls from a friend’s bathroom and was reprimanded severely. Neither one of us wanted to face my mother’s wrath so we made sure we only brought back what she requested. By the time we returned home, the final trip, it was cocktail hour. She and my stepfather “Cee” had just begun to warm up from the bitter cold outside.
John and I unpacked the groceries eye’ing everything that was needed for the Thanksgiving dinner. We were starving. Actually we were hungry most of the time. The reason being; there were NO snacks allowed in our house and by the time we would finally eat dinner each evening it would be around 8:00 – 9:00 pm. As we were putting away all the items in the refrigerator we spotted a box of Mavrakos Chocolate Turtles on the second shelf halfway to the back. It was new, for we hadn’t seen it earlier.
What was distressing for two hungry kids was the sign that read, “PRIVATE PROPERTY, DO NOT TOUCH.” Wow, this fueled our anger and we began plotting how we could get some of those turtles. We knew Cee had planned to offer chocolate to his guests and that it was hands off for us. We were never allowed the same delicacies as he. Cee had a lot more money than we did and he didn’t like to share. My brother and I were called “It” and “Ut” and were in the way of his codependent relationship with our mother. The food for the Thanksgiving meal was a different story. Because it was a holiday and my dear Aunt Letha and Uncle Wally were invited, we knew we would be fed. But that wasn’t until the next day.
The next morning everyone in the household was up early. Cee was already perched on his throne, the heavy metal chair at the end of the kitchen table. There was an empty shot glass next to his coffee cup. These days he spent most of his time grunting and grumbling under his breath about the two “Things,” (my brother and I) he was forced to have in his life. From “Thanksgiving Tradition: Highlights Of An Alcoholic Home” by Kay http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/Thanksgiving_Tradition_Highlights_Of_An_Alcoholic_Home.html
A torn jacket is soon mended;
but hard words bruise the heart of a child.
Strong feelings are almost always the excuse used by those who behave inappropriately. The abusive mother who strikes her son across the face can always excuse herself, saying “I was angry”. Actually, she was angry at her husband, but she lacks the courage to confront him so she hits her son instead. It may be true that her anger was the source of the blow, but feeling angry and striking a child are not the same thing. The response is arbitrary. Feelings cannot be changed by force of will. How we respond to feelings, however, can be changed by force of will. Any response is learned. With time, effort, and practice we can unlearn negative responses. A father who is upset from a bad day at the office may cool his anger by jogging around the block. Enablers can avoid sabotaging themselves and their families by acknowledging feelings and accurately identifying their source. They are then free to decide on an appropriate response, rather than giving way to an automatic response which may be misplaced and destructive. From “The Enabler: When Helping Harms The Ones You Love” by Angelyn Miller
Anger makes you smaller,
while forgiveness forces you
to grow beyond what you are.