When I began to seriously address my dysfunctions the professional diagnosis I received included PTSD. Having thought post traumatic stress disorder came from witnessing the horror of war or something similarly awful and horrible, I had no previous idea it could apply to me. In my young years there was physical abuse mostly encountered through inappropriate punishment and covert sexual abuse from witnessing what I was far to young to see and hear. Certainly those things manifested negatively within, but my PTSD comes from different sources. While accented by a few specific events, my post traumatic stress disorder comes primarily from consistent and outright childhood neglect, constant fear of abandonment and a general lack of worth. I am not alone. Substantiated PTSD with origins in childhood have been shown statistically to come from psychological abuse (7%), sexual abuse (10%), physical abuse (18%) and from neglect (65%). There is no dishonor of any sort in being F’ed up and working to get getter. Shame only exists in being F’ed up and staying in that straight-jacket of dysfunction.
If you don’t like something change it;
if you can’t change it,
change the way you think about it.
In an on-line article* a few years ago Melanie Evans wrote: Co-dependency is a dis-ease of being outer-focused rather than being able to healthily detach from people and situations to focus on and take care of Self. Co-dependency is an unhealthy dependency on outer circumstances. Rather than take responsibility for their own lives, co-dependents try to control events and people through granting compassion, advice giving, lecturing, helplessness, emotional blackmail, manipulation, guilt or anger. Co-dependents feel empty on the inside and try to fill this emptiness with things’ outside of themselves. In most cases co-dependents are trying to re-write the scripts of their painful childhoods and will re-attract the same pain over and over. Co-dependents often try to make safe and trustworthy environments with unsafe and untrustworthy individuals and circumstances. In just those six lines; a single paragraph, I find the shortest, most clear glimpse of codependency I have yet to come across. This is especially true of the last line: Co-dependents often try to make safe and trustworthy environments with unsafe and untrustworthy individuals and circumstances.
When there is no enemy within,
the enemies outside cannot hurt you.
“You’re codependent if, when you die, someone else’s life flashes in front of your eyes” is a tongue-in-check phrase often spoken in recovery circles. With humor it points to one of the strongest roots of codependency: a relationship addiction. Caretaking a person important to us is healthy to a point. However, there is a level when the behavior of a caring individual can hinder or even prevent the recovery of an addict by enabling that person to continue their addiction. No matter if the addict is hooked on overeating, alcohol, drugs, sex, or whatever the caretaker, with the best of intentions, actually prevents the addict from the help they need. As hard as it is to do, “tough love” and letting the addict hit bottom is often the only way he or she can be saved.
The journey in between what you once were
and who you are now becoming
is where the dance of life really takes place.
Barbara De Angelis
One of my faults is not letting love in or worse yet, not even recognizing it when love is before me. One of the perils of feeling “less than” or “not good enough” is the tendency to discount love even when it is recognized. When I am aware of another’s love, it’s easy to find fault with it and the person it emanates from. How ironic since my deepest need and desire is to be loved and to matter to others. In hindsight, clearly I have walked right by love and never noticed it. At other times, I found too much imperfection to allow myself to believe in the love being expressed to me. I’ve had all the love I could have ever needed… and more. I regret that I let most of it slip away but am grateful for the lessons those losses taught.
Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depths of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.
Caretaking: The codependent is over committed, harried, pressured, feels safe when giving, but insecure when someone gives to him/her, goes out of her/his way to help others, and believes deep inside that other people are responsible for the way they are and will blame others for the “spot” they are in. Others make them feel the way they feel, they are victimized, angry, unappreciated, and used. Others are driving them crazy (Link). When I read those words for the first time my head nodded “yes” as I finished the paragraph. In my recognition that such is/has been true about me I know I am getting better. The denial is gone (mostly) and through accepting me as I am comes the ability to alter my future for the better. The unknown can’t be modified. Only what is recognized can be changed.
It is better to light one small candle
than to curse the darkness.
Any job worth doing is worth doing poorly I heard Pia Mellody speak on a recording of one of her workshops about codependence. Seems those attending must have had trouble getting the meaning from the words as I did because she repeated it and then explained. Generally, she said some things are not worth doing any better than poorly. No amount of perfectionism applied will make the task more meaningful. The fear of doing something poorly can also make us not try new things because we think we have to get it right the first time. We have to try, fail and try again. That’s how we learn best. But we don’t have to do it perfectly!
Action and reaction,
ebb and flow,
trial and error,
this is the rhythm of living.
Researchers have found that sharing physical traits with others creates a “perceived attitudinal similarity.” We expect people who are like us (e.g. gender, race, hair color, etc.) to be like us. So, if you break your word, you think that others will, too. If you over-promise and under-deliver, that’s what you’ll expect from others. But if you’re trustworthy, you tend to assume others are, too. (Nan S. Russell in “Psychology Today”) Another piece of evidence showing how I see myself colors how I see everyone else. The power of my thoughts is beyond most any other force, yet my thinking seems harmless without close examination. What I am aware of I can change. And what I can change I can improve. Just another example of how awareness can be life altering in a positive way
We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing,
while others judge us by what we have already done.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow