Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The 8 Deadly Sins of Codependency

Codependency: I live my life adjusting to someone else`s problems ... Where As Severe CoDependency is I am so lost in adjusting my life to everything around me that I have no Idea who I am or what I should be doing. What I am noticing is that my life and behaviours are self destructive.

There is Subterfuge with the confines of codependency, and there seems to be 8 basic umbrella groupings with many, many sub groups. The mingling of these sub groups causes many variations of a theme on the sub plots that go to make up and contribute to the subterfuge of codependency ... the number of variations on a theme is enormous

The covert rules that are constructed as a result of that intermingling can work in unison or in conjunction with each other. Again more fodder for subterfuge. They can combine in many a haphazard fashion. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of ways they can conspire. Often as not, it is the application of these variations on a theme that forces people within dysfunctional systems into survivor modes just to get by. It is how we got by during our original experience.

1 Control
One must be in control of all interactions, feelings and personal behaviour at all times. This is the primary tenant for all systems that are managed by covert and dysfunctional rules.

Control is a defensive strategy. The Strategy has gone awry … it has missed the mark … but … if it is all that I have then I will use it … if I use it then it will become my habit … as it becomes my habit, I will call it normal … if it becomes the working definition of my normal then I will hope against hope that my way works because, and here is the important part, I am not about to try anyone else’s way or use anyone else’s rules.

This rule is supposed to protect me/us from the shame … the origin of this shame is actually from my deeper sense of a lost and ruptured self. But, here is why the strategy of control really can’t work …

My effort with control is to attempt to stop all the outside influences from being themselves and reminding or triggering me into my sense of self-rupture.
I want to sense being both safe and secure.

There is a deep need from within me to feel that way. My attempts to do so tend to elude me no matter how hard I try or for that matter how often I try with the misbegotten tools I have acquired.

I want to both feel safe and feel better; but my very effort to do so defeats me every time I try.

The problem is that once you enter into the process of controlling your feelings, your actions, controlling what the family can and can’t do, how the office is going to be run etc … then all spontaneity is lost with the system.

Know this: It is a shame evoking process to attempt to protect you from shame via control.

It sort of follows the bumper sticker idea of planning your spontaneity Is Not A Fun Thing To Do, it can be an interesting pass-time to enter into but not fun!

Control really does not serve a practical function. The function it does serve really is an attempt to prevent from happening what cannot be prevented. It is all about the Ghosts of Christmas Past, and it comes from trying to find a way to interact with life without coming out of hiding and being real.

Control has an addictive quality to it.

In the application of the facility called control, it gives the beholder a sense of power; there seems to be a sort of surreal sense of predictability and security that wants to spin off from the situation as the control is applied. It gives the beholder a high. Not that it ever really works for extended periods of time, it doesn’t.

It is just there and seemingly wants to jump in to the ring and make us feel better ― temporarily. Did you hear just how close that one came to actually doing something for us and still missed the mark?

Again as mentioned before, temporarily, is the key word here ― only temporarily!

Controlling all … is, in and of itself … a form of severe disability of the will. It has some of the same qualities as a shark feeding proudly upon itself … in frenzy … Just Look What I Can Do it says taking another mouth full of self … not realizing that this is a form of a disease and if left to its own devices … over time … will consume the beholder.

This is pointed out in Lesley Farber’s book Ways of the Will… the disabled Will wants to will away what cannot be willed away … all life’s little twists and turns and its total unpredictability¬ity (no matter who the guru is that says he or she can actually support you in making them go away).

It is a key and a clue to what it was really like to be a kid at your house …
Know this: Control is bred in fear … no other place … just fear. Once formed it drives us to avoid the fear like the plague … Control is our sword and shield … if it is all we think we have … then that is all we can do.

2 Perfectionism
Don’t be caught being wrong … this is more often in your own eyes than anywhere else ... it is how I imagine I am perceived...

Always “be right” in everything you do.

This oppressive form of thinking can be about everything we attempt to do or think we want to do … it is often justified by our own thinking and our own rationale.

It is all the notions and rules about life that we carried away in our covert backpack from our family of origin.

We may be of the belief that we have dealt with the family of origin issues and we even have distanced ourselves far away from them … but the ideals and beliefs we carried away from the family of origin in our covert backpacks are right here dictating how we have to think.

How we think is governed by the covert backpack and for our purpose(s) here we will call it what we often refer to it as … normal, understanding that our normal is filled with what we believe to be truths.

Now these norms may be about intellectual achievement or moral self-righteousness, about being upper class or lower class, about being rich or poor. It is the underpinning of how we see the world. They are always about how we will frame the world we live in and then be able to judge others and ourselves. We will always be able, in theory, to know where we stand. We will never be caught off guard.

Perfectionism is an instrument of measure primarily; it encourages competitiveness amongst its users. It gives the beholder a sense of one-up-man-ship; again it is a temporary thing that needs to be redone over and over and over again in a vain attempt to fill that sense of self rupture.

Now because it is a tool of measurement this rule is imposed on just about everything we do ... but … being imposed … is the key phrase here.

Similarly the competitive aspect is also imposed upon others, usually within the system itself. It is what we do to cover-up and compensate for the hurt and the shame and the intense sense of self rupture we feel from time to time. Now we feel it from time to time but it is there all the time noticed or not. All the members of the system play the game of being members of the system by anxiously avoiding what is defined as bad, wrong or inferior by the systems rules and this can include neighbors or political parties … anything that the system has decided does not or is not worthy of its respect. It is usually something that if it were looked at closely would reveal the original system to be flawed.

Again a basic rule is followed: Fear And Avoidance Of The Negative Is The Organizing Principle Of Life.

The members live according to an externalized image they project … all become what is called being self-image actualized. Thus they are their image and these people who practice this principle lose their real selves via dissociation … a retired Forensic Psychiatrist from California who specialized in Dissociation, says the birth personality goes into hiding until the individual comes in contact with an ethical therapist and is well into the therapeutic process.

This leaves the beholder of this structured belief system to live what amounts to a chronic life of dissociation from self. Always busy observing the self in all situations while wondering internally: “Am I doing it right or what are they thinking of me?”

James Joyce’s quote comes to mind: “Mr. Duff lives a few feet from his body.” The list goes on and on… John Bradshaw summed it up nicely in his book, The Family … no belief system leads to hopelessness more quickly than this one.

3 Denial Of The Five Freedoms
Deny feelings, this is a defense strategy … it keeps the unwanted away … it keeps us in a place where we can appear to be having a good time while at the same time we … deep down inside … are scared half to death about things we don’t or can’t even imagine or remember … deny anything that might stir feelings up … things like perceptions, thoughts, wants and imaginings … and especially things that have been predetermined to be negative things like fear, loneliness, sadness, hurt, rejection and dependency needs.

This is a variation on a theme of the rules of perfectionism … and we are back to the first tenant of perfectionism: “No Rule Takes Us Into Hopelessness Any Faster Than This One”. You shouldn’t think, feel, desire, imagine, see things, hear things, the way you do. You should see, hear, feel, think, imagine, and desire the way the Perfectionist’s ideal demands … never the way you wish or want to or for that matter the way you imagine it. Just know what the working definition of normal and acceptable is for the moment and adhere to it … regardless of your thoughts wants or desires.

4 Blame
Who did ‘it’?

Why they do ‘it’?

Deflect ‘it’ away from me. The ‘it’ in this case is anything that I think or feel will expose me for what I believe I really am … actually it is the fabled self-rupture quietly at work in our lives trying to maintain a home in our house … spotlight someone else before someone spotlights me and most important if someone makes a mistake … regardless of how minor … nail them for ‘it’ !

Blame gives one a sense of control. This is especially important when one loses a sense of control. It is thought to be one of the fastest mood altering methods.

Blame as many forms … it is a form of mood altering … often the art of the Spectatoring is a form of blame … each party is exactly sure what the other said and the context in which it was used and the other party recalling perfectly the same incident saw and heard something totally different … the differences we argue about … blaming the other party … it is actually pointless … it allows what is referred to as a cybernetic feedback loop to occur … that is, an endless argument that has no beginning and no end … oddly enough … it does facilitate the relationship remaining stable … not healthy … but stable … considering that one working definition of stable is the continuance of the familiar.

Blame is a “from childhood” defense strategy. It learned in the backyard or in the basement of our pre-school-sibling-rivalry days … it wasn’t me mommy … Bobby did it!

… He said with the broken cup in his hand and the spilt milk at his feet.

5 No-Talk Rule
To be properly dysfunctional you cannot and neither must you encourage either yourself or others to talk about the realities of life, things like feelings, thoughts or experiences and especially those things that might focus on the pain and loneliness of the dysfunction.

This is also a variation on a theme of the perfectionist’s rule … fundamental prerequisite for dysfunction to be able to take hold and operate in your life.
Here’s why … denial of expression is a fundamental wound to our humanity ... the actual process of us being a human being … we are basically symbolic creatures … this is basically (basically being the key word here) how we express ourselves … in symbols.

We both create and seek our creativity and the expression of our humanity through the symbolic function of the imagination … so it follows that to be perfectly dysfunctional it is a must that this aspect of our beingness be stifled as completely as possible ... “All By Myself … I can handle this all by myself … etc.”

6 Myth-Making
This one has its own particular twists that could be seen to be funny if they weren’t so sad at times … it is here where well practiced denial becomes delusion … the fundamental rules for operating the myth making system are simple and to the point, as follows:Always look at the bright side. (Translated that means avoid the negative at all costs)

Re frame the hurt, pain and distress in such a way as to distract everyone from what is really happening. (Translated that means avoid the negative at all costs).

This is a way to appear to always keep the balance in the system … notice I never said healthy … just in-balance … often as not, the balance is precarious … but it is balanced none-the-less.

The overall object of the exercise is to keep the system closed … nothing in, nothing out … the steel trap concept thus if anyone rocks the boat with truth or an understanding or insight they will upset the status quo and the system will in all likelihood turn on them … in a vain effort to regain balance.

7 Incompletion
Never resolve anything … don’t bring things to closure … don’t complete transactions … maintain the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s posture … old fights are good fights even if you can’t remember why or how they started in the first place … this can go on for years … it just becomes what we do because we are who we are … or at least so we think … Just look at Northern Ireland or the Middle East … two real good bad examples of what this concept embodies.

There are two basic tenants of this application:

First: chronic fighting and conflict … no real resolution is sought or found … we fight because it is what we do best, because … because … because. Each person with a perfectly clear recall of what was said and how it was said and each with a different picture of what happened or how it happened … fighting over things that really matter not outside the fighting … oddly enough maintains the relationship because they cannot get along in any other manner … the fighting is the bonding formula… the jam that holds them together.

Second: is through enmeshment and confluence … agreeing never to disagree. Some people pride themselves that in their relationship they have never fought with their partners … the unspoken message here is that fighting between partners is bad … it is not … it is just confrontational … and that is definitely not bad. Again all the rules of above apply and again this process is the bonding formula that holds people together in the face of overwhelming evidence that they should maybe separate and be done with it …

This style of system allows people to appear to be together while at the same time maintain a real sense of distance between members (no meaningful contact) while appearing to be a tightly knit unit such as a family or a work team etc.

The pain of the process is that members of this style of system are generally upset and confused all the time.

8 Unreliability
Never enter into a place called trust … don’t offer it and don’t expect it … know deep down inside that you are the only reliable person that you know … keep this one to yourself and you will never be disappointed by life. It follows that since the parents never got their dependency needs met as children, that they did not have this to pass on to us … because parents cannot pass on what they don’t have thus the parents cover this short fall up by acting either aloof and independent (walled boundaries) or needy and dependent (enmeshed boundaries) … thus in either case every member of the system … especially the junior members of the system … feels emotionally cut off and incomplete … and of course it follows that the tradition of yesteryear continues on and no one gets their needs met in a functional manner… translated this means it slips onto and into the next generation and they will sooner or later continue in the tradition of the Ghost of Christmas Past.

NDT I gleaned this information from various sources as I was researching Experience Has Taught Us: Searching for the Willingness to Change ... John Bradshaw (The Family) ... Melody Beatty (Co dependent No More), Terry Kellogg (Broken Toys Broken Dreams)


  1. Thank you so much for this article. It is good to hear I am not alone.

  2. Thank you.

    I am less than a month from my divorce being final and this article explains my to-be ex-wife to a "T."

    I knew I wasn't crazy all these years, but now I know why. I have gleaned an appreciation for the personal hell wife must have been dealing with. Thank you for this article.

  3. Stopped reading because I quickly became exhausted from reading. Make this simple for people to read. There's way too many lavish words. Show off. Get to the point.

  4. thank you for this article. i really appreciate the care, generosity and wisdom in it. very helpful!

  5. The point is that if you live this type of self-defeating, protectionist life and you have children, you are taking a chance of raising a child who is so closed-off emotionally that they don't know who they might have been. They may not know that without you they could have been a very different person.
    You may, at the extreme end of the spectrum, raise a person who is so adverse to risks of any type that they can barely leave the house alone. They may have learning disorders, anxiety and serious interpersonal deficits. At the least you will have created another person who has to "pretend" to be happy and adjusted rather than being authentically well-equiped emotionally to face reality and be free of crippling emotional constructs and thought processes created to keep the real world out.
    Here we are talking about people that put an artificial face on themselves and people around them by emotional control. They change family history to suit their perceptions of what it should have been. They lie, to themselves and others, about how things are in the present and about changes that should be made in the future because changes are "bad" and threaten to damage the intricate constructs holding their dysfunctional mental imbalance intact . If you ask them to change (for example: see a therapist) they might agree but never go. Status quo is their objective and if you are caught in it, it can and will suck some of or all of the life energy and enthusiasm out of you (depression). In spite of the confusion their manipulation of reality creates, recognize and research the problem and get out of it as soon as you can.