A Little Talk About Codependency

There is the idea that no one gets it. Nobody understands. In some cases, there’s the idea that nobody even cares because no matter what’s happening in our head, life keeps moving.
All the pressures and all the tensions; all the crap that floods our thinking and yet, meanwhile, the rest of the world is still moving, which means we still have to show up. We still have to co-exist. We have to interact with co-workers and the supervisors that say idiotic or insensitive things. 

There are times when life seems like some crazy competition. There’s always someone looking to get something. Someone always has an angle or an agenda. And then there’s us, just trying to get by.

There was an argument of mine. I remember this from when I was younger. The argument itself was with a counselor in a group. The counselor was not particularly good.
He seemed to enjoy things that no counselor should enjoy, like, say, breaking down someone and exposing them to a rawest shade of vulnerability. In mid session, I can recall the time when I snapped. I told this man what I thought about him. I told him that he was a pervert of some kind; as if this was some kind of deviant fetish to break someone down and then smile.
He smiled the entire time. The son of a bitch even laughed sarcastically. I swore he enjoyed this. In fact, I was not alone with my opinion. However, with the rules and restrictions, no one wanted to the repercussions of confronting a staff member, namely him, the counselor. No one wanted the confrontation by the staff who’d automatically defend the counselor.

I went after this man but only verbally, of course. I could not physically do anything. At the time, I was leashed to certain criminal charges that needn’t be mentioned.
He knew who I was. The counselor knew what I was going through. I had just lost my Father. All the hopes I had to regain a relationship with him were buried in a grave. I lost the experience of a basic childhood with either the normal or usual rites of passage. I forfeited my freedoms to an addiction and a way of living that would follow me for a long time. In fairness, the counselor was a bully. I was beaten and broken. However, in my tirade and attempts for justice, the counselor said something that stuck with me.

He told me, “I am not codependent over you,” which is the therapeutic version of “I’m rubber you’re glue. Whatever you say, bounces off of me and sticks to you.” (Insert mental picture now of thumb on the nose and child sticking out their tongue.)

I thought about this after the argument. I thought about this while returning to my work details. I was in what’s called a therapeutic community. They cut my long hair short. They had me dress differently. I was put in corners. I wore signs around my neck. Some of this was unhelpful. Some of this was done to break my image or to break me down to build me back up again.
And, some of this was a person’s version of tough love. There was structure. There were rules. There were groups and one-on-one counseling. Then there were counselors like the one I am telling you about now.
He seemed to enjoy this too much. He seemed to enjoy messing with the minds of young people who were just coming off some crazy drug trip or coming out of a life that didn’t make sense. This is almost a revelation of mind rape or a sick molestation of someone’s emotions.

I have learned that even the wrong people say the right thing sometimes. I think back to the true intention of telling someone “I am not codependent over you.”
I think about the people in our life and the need to people-please. I think about the irrational need for acceptance; to be wanted, to be included, to simply be regarded and appreciated. I think about how often we trade ourselves at our own expense to inspire the pleasure of someone else.

I think of how often I have given more of myself to someone that never deserved an ounce of my time. And why? To be liked? To be appreciated?
I can see the years I wasted on an irrational search for outside acceptance. I think about the times I’ve commercialized myself to be included or acknowledged.
I wanted to be both valid and validated. In fact, there were times when I was screaming for so much of this, and yet, no matter how I tried to please; no matter whom I tried to satisfy, the world kept on turning at this cruel pace.  

I think about the time my Mother walked out from the front door of my childhood home. This was the morning after my Father’s passing. She looked around. She was amazed to see that nothing had stopped. The traffic lights still worked. Cars drove passed the house. The television went on and the machines in our life did not miss a beat.
Mom told me about this.
She had said how she couldn’t believe that she had suffered her biggest loss. She said she just lost the love of her life and yet, nothing stopped. The world didn’t even pause. Not for a minute. Life just kept moving.
There was a bread truck passing our house and driving over towards the stores on Fronts Street. I suppose they were going to make their deliveries. Everything was open. Everything was at its normal pace, and yet, Mom was crushed by her loss.
“I couldn’t believe this,” is what she told me. “I lost everything that morning and the world didn’t even stop to take notice,” is what she said. “It’s like nobody even cared, except for me.” 

I think about me and my past. I think about me and my life and my interactions with others. I think about my connections with experiences and how they’ve blocked me. I think about my losses and my relationships. I think about the times I spoke and believed that no one understood.
Then again, I think about the times I have spent in crowds and felt totally alone. I think about my dependency upon others and their approval or their acceptance. And to what avail?
How does this help me?
How does my need to please others assist me in living a happier, stronger lifestyle? 

Codependency is real. There is no weakness in admitting to this. There is no shame in understanding our interactions and how to improve them. To be codependent is to allow our life to be organized around someone or something else. This means we place a lower priority on us. We become preoccupied with the needs of others. In the end, our satisfaction gets lost by way of the fallacy of external acceptance.

To me, this is my childhood, so eager to be appreciated and wanted. I was so hungry for attention. Or, should I say desperate? This is me seeking approval as an adult, still looking to bring my report card home and get a pat on the head.

To say I am not codependent over you is to say that I am free.
To say this to or about anyone is amazing to me because to me, this disconnects the old needs for approval.
To say this means I am not allowing myself to be a lower priority just to please someone else.
I think this is incredible.

I was on the phone with a new business possibility yesterday. There was a talk about money in which, at one point, I would have given my services away to gain their confidence.
I would have questioned myself and my fees. I would have accepted my needs to become the lower priority and traded what I do for an inaccurate value.
Rather than buy into the talk about their greatness, I expressed my fees and my schedules without apology and without the worry or concern. More importantly, I chose to see the value in me and my training as well as my personality and my position. I did not accept the trade nor did I allow the change in tempo to distract me from my intentions during this phone call.  I was not codependent over them.

By the way, years later, I saw that counselor over on 31st Street at a 12-step meeting near 7th Avenue. I introduced myself by asking, “Is your name Danny?”
He was still the same prick. He still played some mind tricks. I offered an explanation of myself, which, at the time, I was a much different person.
First, I was no longer a young adult, too scared to stick up for myself. Second, I was no longer small or in treatment and last, there was no leash around my neck anymore.
I told him a few things. I said some things that were perhaps less than delicate. And then I said, “But it’s okay Danny. I’m not codependent over you.”

“So, I guess this means you get to keep your teeth . . .”
(or something like that.)

I admit to the smile on my face as I tell you this story. I did get a kick out of watching Danny squirm in his chair while trying to prove he wasn’t scared. I suppose I see it now.
The reason for his bullying was because he is codependent on others. He just comes at it from a different perspective.

So, what’s the point?
My point is the world is always going to keep moving regardless to what we think is fair or not.
No one is so strong. The bullies in our life or from our past are just imaginary demons. We allowed too much time , too much voice, and too much space in our head.

But not anymore.


One thought on “A Little Talk About Codependency

  1. Co dependency is completely my achilles heel. Its really only in latest weeks i am feeling strong enough to actually risk disappointing someone in order to do what is right for me, for some reason this still feels to be some kind of ‘sin’ and I do think Catholicism had a bit part to play in this… we end up losing so much when other’s needs seem to over ride our own… but when we were not allowed to need anything from parents in childhood it really sets us up… breaking out of it is not easy at all.. but I have hope it can be done… you give me hope.

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