In You’re Not Crazy – You’re Codependent.: What Everyone Affected by Addiction, Abuse, Trauma or Toxic Shaming Must know to have peace in their lives, writer and survivor Jeanette Elisabeth Menter writes about co-dependency based on her own life experiences. She is a survivor of a childhood filled with addiction, abuse, ongoing shame as a way of control, and more. Jeanette describes how codependency sabotages us through the lies we tell ourselves and exposes the truth that can lead to liberation.
Once you understand you are not crazy, just coping with the deep-seated effects of codependency, you will be free to create the life you were always meant to have.
Co-dependency Lies and Truths
- Lie # 1: “I’m Crazy
Truth # 1: Your Environment Was Crazy, Not You
- Lie # 2: It’s Too Hard
Truth # 2: Dying Without Ever Having Lived A Real Life Is Harder
- Lie # 3 It’s Too Late
- Truth # 3: Time Is Going By Anyway – Make It Work For You
- Lie # 4: “I’m Not Worthy
- Truth # 4: If God Is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us?
- Lie # 5: “I’ll Never Be Able To Forgive Them For What They Did To Me
Truth # 5: Forgiveness Of Others Is Possible Eventually.
Forgiving Ourselves Is Required To Be Fully Free.
“pain is pain. There is no hierarchy.”
What is codependency – Abundance of Secrets
Several decades ago, it was used to describe a person who was involved with another who was dependent (addicted) to a substance which had taken control over his or her life. This person was ‘codependent in a sense to the same addict-consumed lifestyle even if they weren’t the one addicted.
Later it became a more mainstream way to describe those who came from a dysfunctional background where, as a child, emotional needs were not met. Instead of a healthy environment where he or she was heard, acknowledged, nurtured, and loved, they instead felt ignored, fearful, belittled, and even responsible for the adult’s well-being.
“In these families, spontaneity and laughter are replaced with rigidness, the inability to engage in honest communication, an abundance of secrets, and a proliferation of rules – spoken and unspoken – that all work together to help everyone cope with the tension in the home.
Enmeshment – No Boundaries
Individuals are often enmeshed, meaning they are too entangled in each other’s emotions. One person feels responsible for the other, emotionally. Boundaries are often overlapping or nonexistent. Addiction is often involved, but not always. All of this negativity, hostility and emotional confusion make the child scared, insecure, and eventually, extremely angry.
It’s a fact, however, that many people who are struggling with codependency are also saddled with addiction of some kind. The two are deeply intertwined in many cases. But this is not a universal scenario. If you are battling addiction, you most likely are also caught up in codependency and may not even know it yet.
By the time the child leaves the family of origin, all these unhealthy emotions have come together to form the personality of a codependent adult – even if that now adult has no personal chemical dependency. The traits remain because the behavior in a home with addiction and other types of wrong behavior is essentially the same.
Unmet need for approval.
The core of all codependent characteristics is the unmet need for approval. In clinical circles, this is also understood to be the basis for attachment disorders which is all about how we relate to other people and why.
Being codependent means you have lost yourself while trying to enable, fix and control those around you.
Being codependent will rob you of a real-life, leaving you to repeat the behaviors in your past that keep delivering the wrong results. It will distort your view of yourself. It will influence everything you say, every decision you make – your entire path in life will be the unfolding of the effects of being half a person. In addition, you are doomed to pass this legacy of unhappiness on to your children by not stopping the cycle.
- The family hero – usually the oldest. Tries to do everything perfectly, struggles to be overly responsible and is the ‘protector’.
- The scapegoat – the second child usually assumes this role. Characteristics include being rebellious, antisocial and troubled. Labeled ‘scapegoat’ because parents make them the object of their pent up rage and frustration.
- Lost child – middle children or the youngest. They get the least amount of attention, especially in a family engulfed by chemical dependency. They are followers, not leaders. They engage in a lot of fantasy. May be loners and are not disruptive, so they often slip through the cracks at school and home. Later in life they often suffer with anxiety and depression. They are not risk takers and fear intimacy. Since they are almost invisible at home, the y don’t cause problems.
- The mascot/clown – usually the youngest. Parents (including the addict) want to protect them. Although the clown makes jokes and keeps people laughing, which eases the ongoing tension in the home, inside they are deeply insecure and anxious. As adults, they tend to self-medicate.
Addiction is progressive and if not treated can be lethal. Home life is in constant turmoil due to arguments, lack of boundaries, financial stress, fatigue of the enabler, abuse and all the negative emotions that follow.
Non-parenting (neglect, ignoring) is a very lethal form of abuse. It may take a little digging to realize you were subjected to this type of abuse because you may have thought it was all in your head.
A false self emerges to protect us from unbearable pain. As a result, our authentic self gradually disappears.
The False Self
The ‘false self’ is a fundamental problem for codependents. It alone can take a lifetime to overcome. Not realizing, or worse, knowing but not being able or willing to break free of this false self, is a sad way to live. Nothing is authentic because long ago we lost ourselves in order to survive. In our place was created a pretend person who became whatever she or he needed to be, depending on whom we were trying to please.
codependency is contagious.
One of the most egregious effects of being codependent is that we set up role models for our children which teach them to be exactly like us, thereby perpetuating the cycle. How you respond to stress, form relationships and the way you handle yourself everyday is not lost on them.
Kids pick up on everything. They are watching as you jump from one relationship to another, with all the drama and chaos. Or at the other extreme, they stand on the sidelines, anxiously observing as you remain in an unhealthy marriage or partnership. They worry as they see you agonizing over endless problems and stress. They feel helpless and responsible when they see how worn out and emotionally fragile you are.
The pattern of dysfunction is set to repeat itself as they form their own relationships, learn to solve their own problems the same way you do and develop their own negative self-image. They are doomed to the same unhappy fate you’ve experienced so far if you don’t make the decision to do whatever it takes to change. This includes their propensity for hooking up with dangerous or mentally unstable people as adults and eventually abusing or neglecting their own children as they spin out of emotional control of their lives.
If you bring forth that which is within you, then that which is within you will be your salvation. If you do not bring forth that which is within you, then that which is within you will destroy you. -The Gnostic Gospels
It’s easy to stay stuck in your junk forever. There are plenty of people out there doing just that and they’re not hard to find if you’re looking for someone to be miserable with. Many support groups are sprinkled with them. Their baggage is their life. Without the same old problems and stories, they wouldn’t have anything to talk about.
When you stop craving someone else’s life, stop feeling lost in a sadness that can’t be described, then you will be on your way to becoming an authentic, whole person. When your existence no longer revolves around someone else’s happiness or validation, you will be free to make your own choices. When your energy is no longer going into controlling and appeasing others, your anger will start to dissipate and you’ll feel more alive.
What lies ahead for you is emotional freedom. Take a few minutes and give yourself the pleasure of envisioning what good things lay ahead for you.
The Hierarchy Of Enlightenment
Doesn’t know he doesn’t know
Knows that he doesn’t know
Doesn’t know that he knows
Knows that he knows (enlightenment)
• We’re too terrified and isolated to know there is any other way to live.
• We become aware that not everyone lives like this but we don’t know what to do to change things. The pain is terrible because now we know there is another way. We crave the illusive ‘normal’ we see in others.
• We begin to seek help in order to change our circumstances. We understand our situation and what to do intellectually but we haven’t undergone a real transformation. This is where many people in therapy quit because now they have to change how they think and behave.
• Finally, our head and our spirit connect and we know there is a way out. We become more and more separated from our past hurts. We know that we have the knowledge and skills to evolve in higher ways. We are free to become the authentic human beings we were meant to be. We move into our new life.
“If you do not know the truth, you cannot recognize the lie.” – Joyce Meyer
Lie # 1: “I’m Crazy”
Everything you experienced in your early years kept you in a constant state of confusion. Just when you think that momentary feeling of clarity and lightness can be trusted, someone will say or do some insignificant thing and you tumble down your rickety little ladder of wellbeing and smash into your old reality with a hard ‘thud.’
You learn not to trust your own thoughts and feelings. Believing you’re intrinsically flawed leads to insecurity. With that driving your life, you have a very hard time connecting with people because you judge them according to how much better they are than you.
Truth # 1: Your Environment Was Crazy, Not You
Thinking you’re crazy or that something is terribly wrong with you is nothing but a lie to keep you in your cage. The cage was created as a means to control you by someone who had authority over you. This could have been done with verbal threats and physical and emotional abuse.
Lie # 2: It’s Too Hard
There is no hierarchy of pain. There will always be people who went through much worse that you or me and lived victoriously. Conversely, there are those who went through far less and failed to thrive their entire lives. Grappling with all that is codependency and the pain that goes with it is undeniably difficult.
There is no hierarchy of pain
Lie # 2 confirms your deepest fear: you are not good enough and never will be. The people you’re trying so hard to please don’t want you to be anything else but the person they control. And, if you did make changes, they might reject you. Surely you couldn’t survive that.
Truth # 2: Dying Without Ever Having Lived A Real Life Is Harder
Facing the truth is hard. But it’s the first step in your recovery. You must be willing to feel the pain of remembering and work through any denial about the things that happened to or are still happening to you. Once you do, anger soon will take the place of denial and will consume you if you aren’t mindful and get to work.
Anything worth having is definitely going to be hard. You have what it takes because you’re here. Please stay.
Lie # 3 It’s Too Late
Time goes by. We get a little more tired and set in our ways each year. If no one is affirming you and you’re spending all your energy seeing to it that other people’s (especially our own children’s) dreams come true, then it may seem like it’s too late for you to change, reach a secret goal or even start over.
Truth # 3: Time Is Going By Anyway – Make It Work For You
It isn’t too late unless you quit trying. Once you given in and given up, you’re condemning yourself to a self-imposed unfinished life. When you grasp the concept that you are in a battle for a better future and you are not going to let anything or anyone stop you, then you have time on your side because it’s the great motivator.
Lie # 4: “I’m Not Worthy
This is the mother of all lies and one of the most damaging because it’s so subliminal. Although you may not have ever said, “I’m not worthy,” you feel it in your bones. You know you’re a fraud and hope to get through each day hoping no one will find out.
“If you were ignored, if your basic need for nurturing wasn’t met, you do doubt believe you’re unworthy on some deep level. If you experienced shaming, abuse of any kind or ongoing criticism you were also instilled with guilt at your core. Where there is shame, there is also the innate belief that one is not worthy of respect.
Where there is shame, there is also the innate belief that one is not worthy of respect.
When you believe you are unworthy or inferior and not strong enough to change, you are right where those who want control over you to be: immobilized, insecure and non-threatening. Also, although they’re the ones who created the problems within you, they might also be furious with you for being such a ‘loser.’ Why? Because they see themselves and it’s not pretty.
Truth # 4: If God Is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us?
To break out of the cage you’ve been locked in your whole life, you must look beyond what you can see right now. This is called faith.
Lie # 5: “I’ll Never Be Able To Forgive Them For What They Did To Me
Codependency creates a weird dynamic wherein in addition to being the victim and all that goes with it, we often feel that we’re responsible for keeping the very people who hurt us happy in whatever way the family embraces.
Truth # 5: Forgiveness Of Others Is Possible Eventually. Forgiving Ourselves Is Required To Be Fully Free.
You don’t have to face the person you want to forgive. They don’t even need to know if you’d rather. Forgiving doesn’t need to be a big confrontational and emotional scene. It just means you pray for the strength to forgive them so you can be free of all that pain at last.
Please remember that forgiving does not mean you let those people you are forgiving continue to treat you badly if they’re still in your life. That’s not forgiveness, it’s enabling. Watch your boundaries and your actions. Forgiving also doesn’t mean reconciliation. It’s strictly for your own peace of mind at the time of your choosing. It is entirely possible that even after you forgive a person, you will never have a relationship with him or her in order to protect your own wellbeing. Building bridges is not the goal. Freedom from the burden of hanging on to non-forgiveness is.
Forgiving also doesn’t mean reconciliation. It’s strictly for your own peace of mind at the time of your choosing.
Forgiveness is given only after you’ve gotten out of the situation or it has been resolved, you have had time to heal and your partner has agreed to work with you to turn the relationship around.
The energy you are burning up by continuing to secretly rage at people could be used for so much more fulfilling things like playing with your children, being creative, being able to concentrate better at your job, helping another (in a well adjusted way, of course) or being still and enjoying a quiet moment.
The past is gone, the future is not yet here. And if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life. – Thich Nhat Hanh
Four commitments for Change
- Setting aside time to concentrate on your own well being. Codependents are historically not very good at doing this. You will be fighting your own, non-stop, reasoning mind which will tell you there isn’t time, you don’t have the energy and you already know what to do.
- Being willing to see yourself from a new perspective. This will also be hard because you’ve spent your entire life with a distorted concept of who you are.
- You have got to be ready to go from knowing in your head to actually doing. This may be the hardest of all because all those automatic behaviors – while not leading to the positive outcomes you hoped for – are natural to you. Nevertheless, you are going to have to do things that go completely against your nature such as not striving for perfection. There is no one right way or answer. It’s all unique to you. You can’t let your feelings of guilt run your actions because you think you’re not doing it perfectly enough. Everything that is codependency is going to be working against you here.
- Most important of all, you have to believe you can be transformed into the healthy being you want to become. You must be able to see yourself with a fresh and balanced mind, a vibrant body and lifestyle.
Remember, coming to grips with and grieving your past is freeing. Getting stuck there will cost you your future.
Easy to try to Change others
Our energy and focus are amazing when we’re trying to change others, but we’re lost and confused when it’s time to fix ourselves. That’s precisely why codependents are their own worst enemy. There is always the easier path of fantasizing, pretending and not finishing when we’re trying to improve.
All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.