Sunday, April 07, 2013

The Disease of Co-Dependency

Lisa, many times in our sessions, expressed her disgust over her mother's verbal and emotional abuse of her. She felt too violated. Yet paradoxically, she blurted out "I'd become my Mom!" In thought, feeling, and behavior, so as to "please" her Mom, she emerges to be like her. Gradually, she has come to believe she is that false self. It becomes a habit, an addiction.

The disease of co-dependency is very common. It is underneath or a base of many other addictions and compulsions. It believes that something outside of one's self -- people, places, things, experiences, chemicals, feelings, thoughts, behavior -- can give happiness and wholeness.  In the process, the true self is neglected, seen as defective or inadequate, or goes into hiding. Dr. Charles Whitfield aptly describes it as an "addiction to looking elsewhere" to the point of losing one's selfhood.

Clinically, there is variation in degree of wounding of co-dependency among individuals. There are factors that contribute to such wounding. These include level of severity of parental dysfunction, the gender of the dysfunctional parent, the degree of parental co-dependence, the personality and perception of the child, the presence of environmental stressors, and other aggravating factors (e.g. chemicals, culture, emotional make-up).

Joyful and lasting recovery from co-dependency involves a psychotherapeutic synthesis, integrating physical, psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects. It takes time, commitment, and discipline to successfully work it through.

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