"We are all carrying around repressed
pain, terror, shame, and rage energy from our childhoods, whether it was
twenty years ago or fifty years ago. We have this grief energy within
us even if we came from a relatively healthy family, because this society
is emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional.
When someone "pushes your buttons," he/she is
activating that stored, pressurized grief energy. She/he is gouging
the old wounds, and all of the newer wounds that are piled on top of those
original wounds by our repeating behavior patterns."
"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.'"
Codependence: The Dance of Wounded
Souls by Robert Burney
As long as we have not healed our childhood
wounds then there are a lot more than two people involved in our relationships.
There may only be two people in the room - but the room is also full of
the ghosts of all of our past emotional wounds. Until we start clearing
our emotional process of the buttons/triggers that throw us into the past,
we are not capable of being honest in the now. When we react in the
now out of old wounds and old tapes we are being emotionally dishonest
with ourselves and our partners.
The way the dynamic in a dysfunctional relationship
works is in a "come here" - "go away" cycle. When one person is available
the other tends to pull away. If the first person becomes unavailable
the other comes back and pleads to be let back in. When the
first becomes available again then the other eventually starts pulling
away again. It happens because our relationship with self is not
healed. As long as I do not love myself then there must be something
wrong with someone who loves me - and if someone doesn't love me than I
have to prove I am worthy by winning that person back. On some level
we are trying to earn the love of our unavailable parent(s) to prove to
ourselves that we are worthy and lovable.
What is normal and natural in romantic relationships
in this society is for a person whose primary fear is abandonment to get
involved with someone whose primary fear is being smothered/losing self.
The person with abandonment fears reacts to shows of independence on the
part of the other as if the other were abandoning them. That causes
them to become more needy and clinging - which causes the other person
to pull away - which causes the first person to cling more - which causes
the other to pull away more. Eventually the person with abandonment
fears gets angry and disgusted and pulls back into themselves - which to
the other makes it safe to come back and plead to be let back in.
And after a short honeymoon period the dance can start all over again.
"Wait a minute!" you are probably saying if you
read my last article in this series (codependent & counterdependent
behaviors), "you said at the end of your last article, that both the codependent
and counterdependent types of behavior were reactions to fear of abandonment."
That is true. The codependent type of behavior
is an attempt to overcome the core belief that we are unworthy and unlovable
by working real hard to earn love from another. The more a classic
codependent feels they are being abandoned the harder they work.
The counterdependent is someone who is so convinced
of their core unworthiness that their defense is to not open themselves
up enough to admit they need another because they are sure they will be
abandoned if anyone else sees who they really are (I used to feel if I
ever truly opened up to someone, they would run away screaming in horror
at my shameful being.) So, they abandon before they can be abandoned
(this includes abandoning themselves by being attracted to people who are
unavailable - saves them from taking the risk.)
Both types of behavior are dysfunctional and self
defeating. Codependents are drawn to people who will abandon them
(this abandonment does not have to be physical - it can be emotional so
that the relationship continues but the codependent person has to settle
for crumbs instead of truly getting their needs met.) Counterdependents
let down their guard once every 5 years or so and let in someone who will
perfectly betray and abandon them in order to prove that they were right
in the first place to not open up to people.
It is very boring and incredibly painful to keep
repeating dysfunctional relationship patterns. The way to stop repeating
those patterns is to start healing the wounds that we suffered in childhood.
A big part of this process is awakening to the reality that it is not our
fault that our relationships haven't worked out. We were set up to
fail to get our needs met in relationships by the unhealthy environments
we grew up in, by the dysfunctional and dishonest definitions and role
modeling that we experienced. We were powerless to do things any
differently than we did them until we started to examine our patterns and
discover the ways in which our childhood experiences have been running
One of the most important steps in learning what
Love really is - in starting to Love ourselves in healthy ways - is to
start working on forgiving ourselves for being little kids who were wounded
by being raised by people who were wounded when they were little kids.