Wednesday, April 26

Codependency: Getting Enmeshed In Unhealthy Relationships

    No, I am not dead.

    I recently got my laptop back from the repair shop.  How are you?  Are you glad to see me?  I am speaking somewhere tonight, so I have to leave the inn.

     But, not before I leave a post with you.

He's in a bog. Care needed when enmeshed
in a bog of circumstances that don't serve us.
This fellow is a codependent. That's why he's
happy. He's accustomed to being stuck in a
mess.  Life offers more: peace of mind. 
      Below, is a letter written to someone enmeshed in a destructive, emotionally abusive, addictive relationship.  I'm sharing it with guests to this inn.

       It deals with externally referenting  (another view of codependency), low self-esteem, the need for character discernment and defensive hope.
     Dear _________,
A big part of our disease is that, without working on healthy alternatives in the areas where we are vulnerable, using the resources of a mentor, or connecting with emotionally mature others, we allow those who disturb us to own big chunks of our mind and heart. We give away our serenity.
      We are easily externally referented. [Yes, that's a word. For more about this concept, please read here.] When in the grips of this malady, our conversation and thoughts are consumed, dwelling on the person we want to please, usually due to us not having intrinsic sense of worth. 
       Often these individuals are emotional bullies.  Upon meeting us, they can smell our codependent qualities----through lead.  They abuse us because of our deep-seated need for their approval. And low self-esteem.
       Externally referented, we focus on the needs of others.  We wonder why we suffer from depression, self-loathing and anxiety when the answer is we are neglecting our needs, behavior, thoughts. Our options are overlooked. (Courage to Change, p 359)  We assume the victim role.  That's what I notice about those who relate with narcissists and emotional bullies. 
"Acting like a victim is a choice, not a destiny." 
          Hope For Today, p. 189.  
      When we view ourselves as victims, we don't see our contributions to the troubled relationship.
Looking back, I can accept that plenty of unacceptable behavior was directed at me, but I was the one who sat and took it and often came back for more. I was a willing participant in a dance that required two partners. I felt like a victim, but in many ways I was a volunteer.
Today, as a result of my [growth] I know that I am not helpless.  I have choices. When I get that old feeling that tells me I am a victim, I can regard it as a red flag, a warning that I may be participating (with my thoughts or my actions) in something that is not in my best interest. I can resist the temptation to blame others and look to my own involvement instead.  That’s where I can make changes.                         Courage to Change, p. 361
      We deserve better than tolerating abuse.  Allowing it speaks volumes about our low self-esteem.
      Often we don't see reality. We live in a fantasy. Defensive Hope.  [For guests to the inn, more about this subject can be found here. You'll be glad you did.] Insanity is not doing the same thing, again and again, seeking a different result. 
      No, it isn't, despite what many in recovery say.
      Such behavior is a symptom of insanity.  What causes us to do so is the insanity: we don't want to face reality. We'd rather believe fiction, a fantasy about the relationship, how the relationship will be if we only try harder, give more and please these unpleasant people who are emotional vampires
      This is is the tell-tale, screaming indicator that we in the grips of the disease of external referenting.  We don't get better by isolating----healing ourselves by our efforts alone.  Characterological growth requires a different consciousness than the one that created the problem---our own thinking and feelings---our distorted values. [To read more about this, click here. ]  
       Seeing things through the prism of damaged self-esteem, due to growing up in an unhealthy home---perhaps one harmed by alcoholism, verbal and/or physical, emotional abuse---is a chancy proposition.  Often the ideals learned there, aren't. Other conditions that make a troubled home include perfectionism, raging, mental illness or emotionally unavailable parents.  
       This is where Al-Anon Family Groups extremely helpful.  However, this organization is not for those who need it: it's for those who want it.  I know it has a great source of help for me.  The best I've ever found. [Please see note at the end of this post.]
      I'd encourage you to return to meetings. Of course, that's your choice.  For me, I'd rather stay in the solution and learn alternatives rather than emotionally staying in the funk of depression and battered self-esteem.
"A situation in which the lives and sanity of an entire family are at stake is not so easily solved, but the super optimist resolutely clings to the illusion that Al-Anon Family Groups can fix everything. It "fixes" nothing. That is up to us. Not in the once-a-week meeting alone, but with plenty of in-between reading, constant recall of the principles, and constant use. Al-Anon does have the formula, but it is we who must use it."  One Day at A Time, p. 351.
       Legacies created by generational abuse and neglect will not be overcome by only investing one hour a week in overcoming these areas. (One Day, same page.)  No, transformation requires hard work, learning better principles and getting help from supportive others.  Growth and recovery does not happen without effort.
       I believe happiness and a better future is worth the struggle. Don't you?
Related Post: 

Innkeeper's Note: Al-Anon Family Groups is not Alcoholics Anonymous. It is a separate, entity for those who relate or have lived with an Alcoholic. Even if you didn't, you qualify if you live with or grew up in a home marked by emotional drama, perfectionism, controlling or emotionally unavailable parents.

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Quotes from the Posts

"I'm mindful that our thoughts affect the words we use, our words influence our actions, our actions shape our character and our character determines our destiny."

From "My Character Determines My Destiny." To read it, please click here.

"Progress not perfection, is better than no progress at all, especially when we're trying to rid ourselves from unwelcome dragons that dwell within the closets of our soul."

From, "Still Learning" which, within four days, became the most popular post
written. To read it, please click here.

"Worry does not empty tomorrow of its trouble, but it does empty today of its strength"
From the post: "Life Is Not a Correspondence Program." Click here to read it.

"Even though we cannot control our circumstances, we can control how we choose to respond to them."

From, "Handling Stress and Dealing With an Emotional Bully."Click here to read this post.

"Nope, being busy isn't exciting. Boring is good. Because boring is not boring; boring is being healthy, living a balanced life that has serenity"

From: "Do You Know What It Means If You Are Too Busy?" For more, please click here.