By Robert Burney
I heard someone at a CoDA meeting this week talk about a truly revolutionary concept that their codependence counselor introduced into a session with her and her husband one day. She and her husband were in a hot and heavy argument when the counselor interrupted to ask, “Do you want to be happy or do you want to be right.” She said that it was a question that they had to consider for a while because being right was awful important to them both.
It is normal for relationships in this society to deteriorate into power struggles over who is right and who is wrong. That is because we grew up in a dysfunctional society that taught that it was shameful to be wrong. We got the message that our self-worth depends on not making mistakes, on being perfect, because it caused our parents great emotional pain (or they caused us great emotional or physical pain) when we made a mistake, when we were "wrong."
Codependence is an emotional defense system that is set up to protect the wounded inner child within us from the shame of being exposed as unlovable and unworthy, as stupid and weak, as a loser and failure, as whatever it was that we got the message was the worst thing to be. We were taught to evaluate whether we had worth in comparison to others. Smarter than, prettier than, faster than, richer than, more successful than, thinner than, stronger than, etc., etc. In a codependent society the only way to feel good about self is to look down on someone else. So we learned to judge (just like our role models did) others in order to feel good about ourselves. Being “right” was one of the most important ways to know that we had worth.
When a codependent feels attacked - which is any time it seems as if someone is judging us - it can be with a look or a tone of voice or just that someone doesn’t say something, let alone when someone actually says something to us that could be interpreted as meaning that we weren’t doing something right - the choices we are faced with are to blame them or blame ourselves. Either they are right - in which case it proves that we are the stupid loser that the critical parent voice in our head tells us we are - or they are wrong in which case it is time to attack them and prove to them the error of their ways.
In most relationships where the people have been together for a few years they have already established entrenched battle lines around painful emotional scars where they push each others buttons. All one person has to do is use a certain tone of voice or have a certain look on their face and the other person pulls out and loads the big guns. One person is readying their answer in their head to what they “know” the other is going to say before the other even has a chance to say it. The battle begins and neither one of them actually listens to what the other is saying. They start pulling out their lists of past hurts to prove their point of how each other is “doing” horrible things to them. The battle is on to see who is right and who is wrong.
And that is not even the right question.
A relationship is a partnership, an alliance, not some game with winners and losers. When the interaction in a relationship becomes a power struggle about who is right and who is wrong then there are no winners.
"You each have emotional “buttons” that trigger old defensive reactions, fears and insecurities - and you are sitting next to the person who was specifically prepared and trained to be a specialist in pushing your buttons. The gifts you will give each other by pushing those buttons will help each of you uncover the wounds that need to be healed.
“In our disease defense system we build up huge walls to protect ourselves and then - as soon as we meet someone who will help us to repeat our patterns of abuse, abandonment, betrayal, and/or deprivation - we lower the drawbridge and invite them in. We, in our Codependence, have radar systems which cause us to be attracted to, and attract to us, the people, who for us personally, are exactly the most untrustworthy (or unavailable or smothering or abusive or whatever we need to repeat our patterns) individuals - exactly the ones who will “push our buttons.”
This happens because those people feel familiar. Unfortunately in childhood the people whom we trusted the most were the most familiar - hurt us the most. So the effect is that we keep repeating our patterns and being given the reminder that it is not safe to trust ourselves or other peopleOnce we begin healing we can see that the Truth is that it is not safe to trust as long as we are reacting out of the emotional wounds and attitudes of our childhoods. Once we start Recovering, then we can begin to see that on a Spiritual level these repeating behavior patterns are opportunities to heal the childhood wounds”
Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls
The people that come into our lives are teachers. They enter our lives to help us grow. Unfortunately in childhood we did not get taught that life was full of lessons to be learned - instead we were taught that if something “bad” happens it is because we are bad, we have done something wrong.
We got taught that life is a test that we can fail if we don't do it
"right." So, we live life in fear.
And we are never going to completely change our basic patterns - we
get healthier within those patterns. If you are attracted to alcoholics
- then progress is getting involved with a recovering alcoholic.
We are attracted to certain energies for reasons in alignment with The
Divine Plan - our choices in the past felt like mistakes because we weren’t
aware that we were at boarding school learning lessons.
"What is so infuriating about this disease of codependence is that it is so insidious and powerful and it folds back in on us. When we discover we have a pattern then we want to avoid that pattern at all costs - but in effect we are letting the disease rule us because we are reacting to our reaction. As long as we are reacting - and trying to figure out what is right and wrong - we are in the disease. What is frustrating with my friend is that when she was trusting her gut she opened her heart to me - when she got into her head is when she started giving all the power to the fear, and started reacting out of fear of her reactions to old wounds. She is terrified of making a mistake, doing it wrong, etc. - which is the disease at work. There are no mistakes only lessons - which are painful but not that painful if we are not judging and shaming ourselves.
“And in order to walk a Spiritual path, it is necessary to reprogram the mental perspectives of life that we learned growing up in a Spiritually hostile, shame-based society.
"Unconditional Love does not mean being a doormat - Unconditional Love starts with Loving yourself enough to protect yourself from people you love if that is necessary. The relationship you describe is codependent - what that means is that you are both reacting to the emotional wounds and intellectual programming that you experienced in childhood. You were attracted to each other because your wounds fit together - you felt familiar to each other on an emotionally energetic level. The very feelings that brought you together are the same ones that keep separating you. The problem isn’t in what is happening now - the way the relationship has gone is a symptom of what happened to you both in childhood. This relationship is a sign to you that you have some emotional wounds from childhood that need to be healed - they are a sign to her also but you can’t make her want to do the work - you can only do the work for yourself."
This page would not load completely in Netscape so I split it in two. You may read the rest of it by going to The Emotional Dynamics of Dysfunctional Romantic Relationships # 2
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