What is codependency / codependence ?
By Robert Burney
"This dance of Codependence is a dance
of dysfunctional relationships - of relationships that do not work
to meet our needs. That does not mean just romantic relationships,
or family relationships, or even human relationships in general.
The fact that dysfunction exists in our romantic,
family, and human relationships is a symptom of the dysfunction that exists
in our relationship with life, with being human. It is a symptom of the
dysfunction which exists in our relationships with ourselves as human beings.
And the dysfunction that exists in our relationship
with ourselves is a symptom of Spiritual dis-ease, of not being in balance
and harmony with the universe, of feeling disconnected from our Spiritual
Codependence: The Dance of Wounded
Souls by Robert Burney
There are a variety of ways to describe the condition of codependency.
Here are a few:
at it's core, a dysfunctional relationship with self.
We do not know how to Love our self in healthy ways because our parents
did not know how to Love themselves. We were raised in shame-based
societies that taught us that there is something wrong with being human.
The messages we got often included that there is something wrong:
with making mistakes; with not being perfect; with being sexual;
with being emotional; with being too fat or too thin or too tall or too
short or too whatever. As children we were taught to determine our
worth in comparison with others. If we were smarter than, prettier
than, better grades than, faster than, etc. - then we were validated and
got the message that we had worth.
In a codependent society everyone has to have someone to look down on
in order to feel good about themselves. And, conversely, there is
always someone we can compare ourselves to that can cause us to not feel
more accurately be called outer or external dependence.
The condition of codependence is about giving power over our self esteem
to outside sources/agencies or external manifestations. We were taught
to look outside of our selves to people, places, and things - to money,
property and prestige, to determine if we have worth. That causes
us to put false gods before us. We make money or achievement or popularity
or material possessions or the "right" marriage the Higher Power that determines
if we have worth.
(I believe that we are all ONE. That we all have equal worth as Spiritual
Beings, as sons and daughters of the God-Force / Goddess Energy / Great
Spirit - not because of any external manifestation or outside condition.)
We take our self-definition and self-worth from external manifestations
of our own being so that looks or talent or intelligence becomes the Higher
Power that we look to in determining if we have worth.
All outside and external conditions are temporary and could change in
a moment. If we make a temporary condition our Higher Power we are
setting ourselves up to be a victim - and, in blind devotion to that Higher
Power we are pursuing, we often victimize other people on our way to proving
we have worth.
a particularly vicious form of delayed stress syndrome.
Instead of being traumatized in a foreign country against an identified
enemy during a war, as soldiers who have delayed stress are - we were traumatized
in our sanctuaries by the people we loved the most. Instead
of having experienced that trauma for a year or two as a soldier might
- we experienced it on a daily basis for 16 or 17 or 18 years. A
soldier has to shut down emotionally in order to survive in a war zone.
We had to shut down emotionally because we were surrounded by adults who
were emotional cripples of one sort or another.
a dysfunctional emotional and behavioral defense system.
When a society is emotionally dishonest, the people of that society are
set up to be emotionally dysfunctional. In this society being emotional
is described as falling apart, losing it, going to pieces, coming unglued,
etc. (Other cultures give more permission to be emotional but then
the emotions are usually expressed in ways that are out of balance to the
extreme of letting the emotions control. The goal is balance between
emotional and mental - between the intuitive and the rational.)
Traditionally in this society men have been taught that anger is the
only acceptable emotion for a man to express, while women are taught that
it is not acceptable for them to be angry. If it is not ok to own
all of our emotions then we can not know who we are as emotional beings.
[Also traditionally, women are taught to be codependent - take their self-definition
(including their names) and self-worth - from their relationships with
men, while men are taught to be codependent on their work/career/ability
to produce, and from their presumed superiority to women.]
a disease of lost self. If we are not validated
and affirmed for who we are in childhood then we don't believe we are worthy
or lovable. Often we got validated and affirmed by one parent and
put down by the other. When the parent who is "loving" does not protect
us - or themselves - from the parent that is abusive, it is a betrayal
that sets us up to have low self esteem because the affirmation we received
was invalidated right in our own homes.
And being affirmed for being who we are is very different than being
affirmed for who our parents wanted us to be - if they could not see themselves
clearly then they sure could not see us clearly. In order to survive,
children adapt whatever behavior will work best in helping them get their
survival needs met. We then grow up to be adults who donít know our
self and keep dancing the dance we learned as children.
A dysfunctional relationship is one that does not work to make us
Codependency is about having a dysfunctional relationship with self.
With our own bodies, minds, emotions, and spirits. With our own gender
and sexuality. With being human. Because we have dysfunctional relationships
internally we have dysfunctional relationships externally. We try
to fill the hole we feel inside of our self with something or someone outside
of us - it does not work.