I ONLY FEEL REAL & ALIVE –
if I can see myself reflected in you!
Previous: Symbiosis & ACoAs (Part 1)
SEE ACRONYM page for abbrev.
SEVERE version of Symbiosis
CONTROL, CONTROL, CONTROL – is all about keeping someone or something in a symbiotic lock. For many ACoAs, the wound is so deep that we’ll symbiose with a WALL, because at least it will hold us up! Or with a book, a chair, even the corner of a sofa – if it makes us feel cozy & safe – for a little while. For some of us a fantasy serves the same purpose – the guy in the office (who doesn’t notice you), a movie star, guru, professor…. AND of course we can be in fantasy about the person we are with – we only see in them the qualities we imagine they have that will save us from our anxiety.
• The desperation for a connection with someone who is our carbon copy & therefore won’t leave us, is so great that NO differences are tolerated. When the other person has a different need, taste or opinion, they are not mirroring us & without that we don’t know who we are. Without that reflection it feel as if we’re going to die – that we’re being wiped out. Our very life is dependent on that false bond because the HOLE inside (scroll way down) – where the Good Parent should be – is so great. We experience any ‘differences’ as a profound betrayal & our reaction can be quite severe:
— we may get very ill or try a suicide attempt, usually not ‘serious’
— threaten, verbally or physically attack, or otherwise punish
— whine, cry, accuse, manipulate to get then back into the zone with us
— chase (an ACoA favorite!), stalk, kidnap …..
People with less severe damage, or a fair amount of recovery have less severe ways to try to be symbiotic in close relationships. These are often expressed in garden-variety forms of controlling actions or statement. It still has more than a whiff of narcissism, but indirect – so it doesn’t SEEM as bad. We have to be more awake for this type, because It looks like they’re including you, but they’re not.
EXP – any time someone (you) likes or hates something & assume others will too:
• “We’re going to this restaurant/ Here, put this on / We’re moving to …. I know you’ll love it!”
• “You just have to see that movie / read this / go to that shoe store…”
• “Don’t take your bag / that coat / this paper… – you don’t need it!”
• “I don’t see why you’d want to go there / do that / be with them…”
• “I just don’t understand her /him… I would never do / say that!”…..
• “Are you sure you want that dress, pen, car, class….?” (since I can’t stand it!)
SIMILAR: Sometimes kindred souls, both looking for the ultimate bond – will find each other. With similar interests, perhaps a sexual attraction and always the shared experience of a traumatic childhood, they link up & are ‘loyal forever’. This can be a friendship, but more often a mating. It may be a kind of love, but basically the love of 2 wounded children trying to provide for the other what they barely have for themselves. It’s not uncommon for such couples to isolate & insulate themselves from the rest of the world.
OPPOSITE: What is more common is that a needy, symbiotic person (the ‘stayer’) will choose to marry, become best friends with or go into business with (tho’ less likely) a ‘leaver’ type who is terrified of being swallowed up BUT also wants to be taken care of. The stayer seems like the right fit – for a while! Eventually, the neediness of the symbiotic clinger will become too much & a rupture occurs. It may take years, but it’s inevitable. The leaver finally leaves & the stayer is devastated!
• If we rely exclusively on others to hold us up, we find that eventually they tire & weaken. And when that person (or group or institution) we are overly-reliant on needs to get away – from us – OR go away for some natural reason (divorce, death, a kid going off the college or getting married…), the loss of symbiosis brings up the old abandonment panic, which a healthier person will know how to deal with. But an unhealed ACoA can :
— become so severely depressed they’re immobilized
— increase the use of familiar addictions or take up new ones
— have panic attacks // end up in the hospital // may try suicide
MILD: Naturally there are degrees of this problem, & all wounded people are afflicted with the hunger to be cocooned, to some extent. For people with long-term recovery / sobriety, our day-to-day life may not reflect this problem, but once in a while some big stressor may drop on us & we get that terror in the pit of out stomach.
HEALING: The best case scenario for anyone with this issue, but especially a person losing a long-term symbiotic connection, is that it drives them into Recovery, via Al-Anon, therapy & other appropriate groups, often with the help of some medication, & hopefully with spiritual guidance & support.
NEXT: Separation & Individuation – #1