Arising from Codependence
This newsletter is intended to offer information only and recognizes that individual issues may differ from those broad guidelines. Personal issues should be addressed within a therapeutic context with a professional familiar with the details of the problem. Copyright 2018 Simmonds Publications: 550 La Jolla Blvd., 306, La Jolla, CA 92037
The households we grew up in can have a powerful influence on the way we deal with life as an adult- often in ways that we never stop to think about. We simply keep on living, repeating the same mistakes and enduring the same conflicts over and over again. We may wonder why the same old patterns keep repeating themselves even when we change friendships, jobs and relationships. The answer may lie in a less-than-nurturing childhood characterized by neglect and other forms of abuse.
Codependence is recognized by the destructive behaviors, attitudes, and feelings which are directly linked to the way we were brought up. Families are described as dysfunctional when the needs of the parents are so overwhelming that the task of raising children is demoted to a secondary role in the life of the family. Codependence in adulthood emerges from those dysfunctional childhood experiences.
When children lack the adequate nurturance and loving guidance they need to function as independent adults, they experience a flawed or incomplete sense of themselves- a pattern which can last throughout one’s entire life. They are prone to enmeshment with a haze sense of their own personal boundaries- they may not know where they leave off and the other person begins. They may have a need to make other people happy (a pattern they learned in dealing with their parents) and when they are not able to do this, they might feel “less than” other people. They probably see themselves as unselfish and compassionate, always there for others- but, lacking a clear sense of themselves, they may resort to the same techniques to get attention they learned in childhood. Thus, they may manipulate, control and try to change others in order to get their own needs met. When they give, it is with strings attached. Those suffering from codependence often are attracted to, and give to, people who show little real interest in them- the same pattern they experienced in childhood in dealing with an emotionally unavailable parent. Because they were not guided in childhood to learn more moderate expressions of emotion, they end up in adulthood on an emotional rollercoaster with moods ranging from extreme despair… to passive sweetness… to uncontrolled anger and anxiety… to nothing at all. Frustration comes easily and interpersonal conflicts are frequent. Their partners are blamed for not coming through at times when they should- the old themes of childhood play themselves out again.
We never completely shed those things we learned in childhood, but we can learn new ways of dealing with ourselves and the world around us. It is probably not sufficient to look on codependence as an illness which can be cured. Rather, codependence is a way of living which comes from a dysfunctional background, a background over which we had no control as we grew up. There is no shame in being codependent, and there is no virtue in blaming those who created this condition. We are all products of the places, forces and experiences which preceded our present lives. Some people have easy lives and others find living more difficult. This is simply the way of the world- and neither option is necessarily better. Those with difficult lives have the advantage of learning more adaptive living, and in this sense, they may be able to experience life more fully and completely. This can lead to integrity and wisdom.