"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 people.
Once 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."
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 - that 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.
The type of questions we need to be asking are: "What button just got
pushed?" "Why am I reacting so strongly to this?" "How old
do I feel right now?" "In what way does what is happening feel like
something that happened in my childhood?" "How does this remind me
of the way my parents acted or treated me?"
We attract into our lives those people who will perfectly push our buttons
for us. Who fit our particular issues exactly. When we are
looking at life as a growth process then we can learn from these lessons.
If both people in a relationship are willing to look at what is underneath
the dynamics that are happening - then some magical, wonderful intimacy
can result. As long as we are reacting unconsciously to the past,
then we will blame and argue about who is right and who is wrong.
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.