Codependency is modeled everywhere we look in our culture. From the alcoholic family-next- door to the silver screen to the lyrics of pop music to Catholic marriage vows. I don’t know how I could have grown up any different; both my parents were raised by codependent parents who were, guess what, also raised by codependents. Alcoholism, green thumbs and relationship addiction are in my lineage just like being short and prone to spending freely. What motivates codependence is the idea that we are not complete. We think we are “wrong” or “defective” and need fixing. Because we do not love ourselves, we think that it’s gonna be hard to find someone to love us. From this desperate place of seeking love, acceptance and completion we look for something or someone to “love”. Usually we don’t even take the time to see who the other person is, or if we like them or even want to be with them! In the absence of self-love and discernment you can imagine that we attract some real doozies!
What this drawing illustrates so perfectly is the way the enmeshed pair work together. Here is the important thing. The purple is complicit in creating the codependent relationship; just as much as the yellow. They are working together to create this enmeshed dynamic. Who or what plays this role in the ED patient’s life? We are familiar with the codependent person. There is another person, another side to codependency. S/he is called the “counter-dependent”. This person, who needs to be needed, who looks so strong, is as stuck in the relationship as the identified patient. Usually the first to play this role is a parent but we soon learn to do it with friends and bosses and lovers and food and communication and money. Then we wonder how we keep getting swallowed up in darkness. The assignment “Draw your relationship” produced this fantastic drawing of codependency. F. drew the “hook” (what hooks you into unhealthy relationships?) and the engulfing that follows. The spinning out of control. She has lost a sense of herself and merged with “others” all her life. Stopping is as terrifying as jumping off a cliff. She will do anything to not feel this. Food is just a place-saver; a way to deny the emptiness and avoid the lifework of becoming whole. The problem is that a half-formed person can only attract another half-formed person! Treatment, therapy and working the 12 Steps are about taking responsibility, becoming educated and breaking this pattern. Want to find love? Start with yourself!