Quotations in maroon are
from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney (Copyright
1995). Quotations from columns & articles (Copyright 1996, 1997,
1998) written by Mr. Burney are noted and in blue text. Blue text material
that is not in quotes is from Robert's upcoming book Wounded Souls Dancing
in the Light (Copyright 1998) unless otherwise
noted. There are several authors quoted in excerpts from The Dance
of Wounded Souls, those are noted with copyright acknowledgment at the end
of the applicable page.
This is an excerpt from Codependence: The
Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney.
The Evolution of the Term "Codependence"
"The phenomenal growth of AA and the
success of the disease concept in the treatment of Alcoholism generated the
founding of treatment centers in the late 1950s and early 1960s. These early
treatment centers were based on what had been successful in early AA. They
focused on getting the Alcoholic sober and paid very little attention to the
families of Alcoholics.
As these treatment centers matured and
evolved, they noticed that the families of Alcoholics seemed to have certain
characteristics and patterns of behavior in common. So they started to pay
some attention to the families.
A term was coined to describe the significant
others of Alcoholics. That term was "co-alcoholic" - literally "alcoholic
The belief was that while the Alcoholic
was addicted to alcohol, the co-alcoholic was addicted in certain ways to
the Alcoholic. The belief was that the families of Alcoholics became sick
because of the Alcoholic's drinking and behavior.
With the drug explosion of the sixties,
Alcoholism treatment centers became chemical dependency treatment centers.
Co-alcoholics became co-dependents. The meaning was still a literal "dependent
with," and the philosophy was much the same.
In the mid-to-late seventies, however,
certain pioneers in the field began to look more closely at the behavior patterns
of families affected by addiction. Some researchers focused primarily on
Alcoholic families, and then graduated to studying adults who had grown up
in Alcoholic families. Other researchers started looking more closely at the
phenomenon of Family Systems Dynamics.
Out of these studies came the defining
of the Adult Child Syndrome, at first primarily in terms of Adult Children
of Alcoholics and then expanding to other types of dysfunctional families.
Ironically this research was in a sense
a rediscovery of the insight which in many ways was the birth of modern psychology.
Sigmund Freud made his early fame as a teenager with his insight into the
importance of early childhood trauma. (This was many years before he started
shooting cocaine and decided that sex was the root of all psychology.)
What the researchers were beginning
to understand was how profoundly the emotional trauma of early childhood affects
a person as an adult. They realized that if not healed, these early childhood
emotional wounds, and the subconscious attitudes adopted because of them,
would dictate the adult's reaction to, and path through, life. Thus we walk
around looking like and trying to act like adults, while reacting to life
out of the emotional wounds and attitudes of childhood. We keep repeating
the patterns of abandonment, abuse, and deprivation that we experienced in
Psychoanalysis addressed these issues
only on the intellectual level - not on the emotional healing level. As a
result, a person could go to psychoanalysis weekly for twenty years and still
be repeating the same behavior patterns.
As the Adult Child movement, the Family
Systems Dynamics research, and the newly emerging "inner child" healing movement
expanded and developed in the eighties, the term "Codependent" expanded.
It became a term used as a description of certain types of behavior patterns.
These were basically identified as "people-pleasing" behaviors. By the middle
to late eighties the term "Codependent" was associated with people-pleasers
who set themselves up to be victims and rescuers.
In other words, it was recognized that
the Codependent was not sick because of the Alcoholic but rather was attracted
to the Alcoholic because of his/her disease, because of her/his early childhood
At that time Codependence was basically
defined as a passive behavioral defense system, and its opposite, or aggressive
counterpart was described as counterdependent. Then most Alcoholics and
addicts were thought to be counterdependent.
The word changed and evolved further
after the start of the modern Codependence movement in Arizona in the mid-eighties.
Co-Dependents Anonymous had its first meeting in October of 1986, and books
on Codependence as a disease in and of itself started appearing at about
the same time. These Codependence books were the next generation evolved
from the books on the Adult Child Syndrome of the early eighties.
The expanded usage of the term "Codependent"
now includes counterdependent behavior. We have come to understand that both
the passive and the aggressive behavioral defense systems are reactions
to the same kinds of childhood trauma, to the same kinds of emotional wounds.
The Family Systems Dynamics research shows that within the family system,
children adopt certain roles according to their family dynamics. Some of
these roles are more passive, some are more aggressive, because in the competition
for attention and validation within a family system the children must adopt
different types of behaviors in order to feel like an individual.
A large part of what we identify as
our personality is in fact a distorted view of who we really are due to the
type of behavioral defenses we adopted to fit the role or roles we were forced
to assume according to the dynamics of our family system.
I am now going to share with you some
new descriptions that I came up with in regard to these behavioral defenses.
We adopt different degrees and combinations of these various types of behavior
as our personal defense system, and we swing from one extreme to the other
within our own personal spectrum. I am going to share these with you because
I find them enlightening and amusing - and to make a point.
The Aggressive-Aggressive defense, is
what I call the "militant bulldozer." This person, basically the counterdependent,
is the one whose attitude is "I don't care what anyone thinks." This is
someone who will run you down and then tell you that you deserved it. This
is the "survival of the fittest," hard-driving capitalist, self-righteous
religious fanatic, who feels superior to most everyone else in the world.
This type of person despises the human "weakness" in others because he/she
is so terrified and ashamed of her/his own humanity.
The Aggressive-Passive person, or "self-sacrificing
bulldozer," will run you down and then tell you that they did it for your
own good and that it hurt them more than it did you. These are the types
of people who aggressively try to control you "for your own good" - because
they think that they know what is "right" and what you "should" do and they
feel obligated to inform you. This person is constantly setting him/herself
up to be the perpetrator because other people do not do things the "right"
way, that is, his/her way.
The Passive-Aggressive, or "militant
martyr," is the person who smiles sweetly while cutting you to pieces emotionally
with her/his innocent sounding, double-edged sword of a tongue. These people
try to control you "for your own good" but do it in more covert, passive-aggressive
ways. They "only want the best for you," and sabotage you every chance they
get. They see themselves as wonderful people who are continually and unfairly
being victimized by ungrateful loved ones - and this victimization is their
main topic of conversation/focus in life because they are so self-absorbed
that they are almost incapable of hearing what other people are saying.
The Passive-Passive, or "self-sacrificing
martyr," is the person who spends so much time and energy demeaning him/herself,
and projecting the image that he/she is emotionally fragile, that anyone
who even thinks of getting mad at this person feels guilty. They have incredibly
accurate, long-range, stealth guilt torpedoes that are effective even long
after their death. Guilt is to the self-sacrificing martyr what stink is
to a skunk: the primary defense.
These are all defense systems adopted
out of a necessity to survive. They are all defensive disguises whose purpose
is to protect the wounded, terrified child within.
These are broad general categories,
and individually we can combine various degrees and combinations of these
types of behavioral defenses in order to protect ourselves.
In this society, in a general sense,
the men have been traditionally taught to be primarily aggressive, the "John
Wayne" syndrome, while women have been taught to be self-sacrificing and passive.
But that is a generalization; it is entirely possible that you came from
a home where your mother was John Wayne and your father was the self-sacrificing
The point that I am making is that our
understanding of Codependence has evolved to realizing that this is not just
about some dysfunctional families - our very role models, our prototypes,
Our traditional cultural concepts of
what a man is, of what a woman is, are twisted, distorted, almost comically
bloated stereotypes of what masculine and feminine really are. A vital part
of this healing process is finding some balance in our relationship with the
masculine and feminine energy within us, and achieving some balance in our
relationships with the masculine and feminine energy all around us. We cannot
do that if we have twisted, distorted beliefs about the nature of masculine
When the role model of what a man is
does not allow a man to cry or express fear; when the role model for what
a woman is does not allow a woman to be angry or aggressive - that is emotional
dishonesty. When the standards of a society deny the full range of the emotional
spectrum and label certain emotions as negative - that is not only emotionally
dishonest, it creates emotional disease.
If a culture is based on emotional dishonesty,
with role models that are dishonest emotionally, then that culture is also
emotionally dysfunctional, because the people of that society are set up
to be emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional in getting their emotional
What we traditionally have called normal
parenting in this society is abusive because it is emotionally dishonest.
Children learn who they are as emotional beings from the role modeling of
their parents. "Do as I say - not as I do," does not work with children. Emotionally
dishonest parents cannot be emotionally healthy role models, and cannot provide
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The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert
Burney is copyright
1995. Material on Joy2MeU web sites
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