THESE INVISIBLE BARS
have me trapped in the mirror!
PREVIOUS: Toxic Family Roles #4
Co-dependence (Co-dep) is a family-systems syndrome developed in reaction to the stress of addiction or other”shameful secrets”
• A pathological way to live “through the expectations of others”
• An addiction to being in a supportive role in any relationship
• Keeps the co-dep✶ one-up (better than) & the addict one-down
✶ BUT, at the same time – the co-dep feels like a Victim, makes the addict into the Perpetrator & then feels resentful (Co-dep triangle). Co-deps look strong but feel helpless, act controlling but are actually being controlled by their compulsion to save someone else
IT RULES US WHEN:
a. We focus all our attention on the needs, feelings & problems of another person – instead of ourselves – including the ones we think they have, in order to make that person love us AND never leave us. So we feel guilty when we don’t tend to their wishes, needs or demands!
b. The False Self (FS)
✶ we developed in our dysfunctional home makes us believe we need someone & something outside of ourselves to be complete, to feel safe, to have any worth at all, even to give us permission to exist!
✶ Basing life on a False Self robs us of our dignity & individuality! It is what the Adapted Child ego state becomes when we are not properly nurtured in childhood, & which ends up running our life until we do FoO work in Recovery (CHART)
• The concept of the FS was developed in the 60s by Donald Winnicott, who specialized in Object-Relations psychology. The FS is motivated by a basic need to survive, starting in infancy – an unconscious choice to change our behavior, repress our emotions & push aside our own needs – to fit in with others who cannot accept us as we really are. It comes out of a desperate attempt to control a person or situation that is actually out of our control
• It includes 5 levels, the most extreme case being when the True Self is completely hidden, while the FS appears authentic to the person & everyone else, & may be successful in the world but fails in intimate relationships
➼ In contrast, the True Self is the core of we who are, unshaped by upbringing or society, the person we were born as & still exists inside us
Symptoms of Co-dep: Avoiding emotions, being controlling, care-taking, denial, distrust, guilt, hyper vigilance, intimacy problems, perfectionism, physical illness from stress. • Basic Rules:
— It’s not OK to feel, to have problems, to have fun, to be separate
— If anyone acts bad, irresponsible or crazy – it’s my fault
— I’m not good enough just as I am
• Qs to see how co-dependent you are or are not:
— Who am I? — What do I want? — What are my needs?
— What makes me happy? angry? sad?
Roles & Co-dependence
Toxic Family Roles (TFR) inevitably foster co-dep (“How do the Roles play out in Codependency”). They’re a way of organizing & expressing it, taken on to make sense of’ & cope with the family (work, church, national…) dysfunction, as well as enabling the addict (bully, narcissist, sadist….) to continue their toxic life-style. Co-dep is reinforced by well-known cognitive distortions (CDs) :
• Minimize: acknowledge that there may be a problem, but make light of it
• Project: blame the problem on others & often pick out a child to be the Scapegoat, to bear the family’s shame & ‘badness’
• Intellectualize: explain the problem away – assuming that by offering a convenient excuse or explanation the problem will be resolved
• Deny: demand that oneself & everyone else believe there is no problem.
Co-dependency uses overt & covert rules which close each member off from outside world, BY:
• discouraging healthy communication of issues & feelings among themselves, & everyone else
• destroying their ability to trust themselves or others in intimate relationships
• freezing into unnatural roles, making interaction with others stiff & limited
• teaching each person to completely focus on someone else’s desires or problems, so they gradually lose the ability to know their own Es, wants & needs
• preventing children from growing & developing their fundamental identity, gradually ‘becoming’ the Role forced on them by the disease
Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse notes that the longer people play a role, the more rigidly fixed they becomes in it. Eventually, family members “become addicted to their role, seeing it as essential to their survival and playing it out with the same compulsion, delusion & denial as the Dependent plays his or her role as drinker / addict” . From Another Chance: Hope & Health for the Alcoholic Family.
• In addictive & other dysfunctional homes, the ‘problem person’, most often a parent, doesn’t pull their weight (fulfill their appropriate family role) so:
— others have to take on a lot of work & effort to make up for it
— the rest of the family feels compelled to take care of the ‘sick’ one, both out of love & in order to fix them so that the whole unit will work better, WHICH leaves everyone depleted & defeated!
• Because the damaged / damaging person is so focused on their own activities & inner drama, they can’t be there for anyone else, for sure not emotionally & spiritually, sometimes mentally & physically as well. This triggers a great need, especially in the children, to do everything they can to win or earn the love & attention they’re not getting & desperately need. That compulsion turns into co-dependence, which keeps us trapped – trying to get love from people who are not available AND not knowing to look for those who are already capable.
✶✶ The saying “My loving you is none of your business!” means we can’t make someone love us & we can’t stop them from loving us!
AS ADULTS –
• Co-dependency can show up as occupational instability, as well as produce secondary addictive & compulsive behaviors
• the TFRs we grew up with drive every aspect of our life, being replicated at work, school, family & in all social interactions (employee, student, spouse, parent, friend). Understanding the components of each childhood role give us all the clues needed to identify adult acing-out & make it possible to slowly outgrow, even if no one else in the family has made any changes!
NEXT: The HERO role