““Recovery is not a dance of right and wrong, of black and white – it is a dance of integration and balance. The questions in Recovery are: Is it working for you? Is the way you live your life working to meet your needs? Is the way you are living your life bringing you some happiness?” – quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls
Failure and success, winning and losing, right and wrong are part of the polarized belief system – the black and white thinking – that is the foundation, and cause, of codependency. Anyone who is thinking in terms of failure and success according to dysfunctional, delusional definitions is being codependent. They are exhibiting the programming – the brain washing – that results from growing up in a codependent culture.
When we believe in the deepest levels of our being, at the core of our programming, that we have to have a romantic relationship to be whole, to be happy and fulfilled in life, we are making that dream / delusion our higher power which determines if we have worth – which is a set up to feel like a failure. And because failure, being wrong, is considered shameful – a sign of unworthiness, of being defective – we end up putting a great deal of energy into blaming and/or denial. (Blaming is a manifestation of denial – and is only possible because of a polarized belief system.)
When our self esteem is dependent upon reaching “happily ever after,” we are set up to give away power over how we feel about our self to a delusion, a fairy tale. We look outside of ourselves and see other codependents – who were taught to keep up appearances and wear masks – who seem to have reached happily ever after.
“We are trained in childhood to be emotionally and intellectually dishonest. Through both direct messages and watching our role models. We learned that it was very important to keep up appearances – to wear a mask. . . We got told that it was not okay to speak our truth. There was an old song I always thought described how I saw people interacting, that went something to the effect “The games people play now, every night and every day now, never saying what they mean – never meaning what they say.”” – The Condition of Codependency
We feel like something is wrong with us because other people seem to be happy and successful and we feel like failures. We judge how we feel on the inside against how they look on the outside. And when those people that we put up on pedestals as having it made, prove to be human – get arrested, get a divorce, commit suicide, etc. – we are shocked (and usually secretly pleased) but we go right back to judging our self in comparison to someone else whose life looks better than ours feels.
As magical thinking children we were brainwashed / programmed to believe that love will magically transport us to happily-ever-after. We had that delusion reinforced by songs and books and movies. We are constantly being bombarded with advertising that uses our desire to be loved “happily ever after” to manipulate us into spending money on the magical ingredient that is missing – the right beer / car / clothes / makeup / medication / whatever – that will transform our lives.
It is a false belief, a dysfunctional concept, that sets us up to feel such desperate need for our dream to come true. When our feelings of self worth are dependent upon an illusion, we will put a great deal of energy into convincing our self that the dream has come true. Our investment in the fantasy, the dream, is what can make it so hard to let go of a relationship.
“It is letting go of the dream, the idea / concept, of the relationship that causes the most grief in every relationship break up that I have ever worked with. We give power and energy to the mental construct of what we want the relationship to be and cannot even begin to see the situation and the other person clearly.
Far too often – because of the concept of toxic / addictive love we are taught in this society – it is the idea of the other person that we fall in love with, not the actual person. It is so important to us to cast someone in the role of Prince or Princess that we focus on who we want them to be – not on who they really are. In our relationship with our self, we attach so much importance to getting the relationship that we are dishonest with ourselves – and with the other person – in order to manifest the dream / concept of relationship that will fix us / make our life worthwhile. Then we end up feeling like a victim when the other person does not turn out to be the person we wanted.” – The True Nature of Love – part 4, Energetic Clarity
What makes relationship break ups so difficult in a codependent society is not the pain of the romance ending – although there is certainly a lot of pain and grief about such endings – it is the shame that our disease beats us up with for: being “failures;” or for being unworthy and unlovable; or for being so “stupid” as to make such a “wrong” choice. Very often we hang onto a relationship long after it is empty and dead because we feel that ending it will prove that we were “wrong” – or that something is wrong with us. This is especially true in instances where our family or friends warned us that the person wasn’t good for us – then we have a great deal of ego investment in proving them wrong. This kind of attempt to avoid “failure” – to avoid admitting “defeat” – has caused many a person to stay in relationships that were abusive long after they knew it was hopeless.
The subconscious programming is so strong that it overrides common sense, intellectual knowledge, and conscious awareness – and keeps us putting a great deal of energy into rationalizing and denying reality. It is that subconscious programming – which can not be substantially changed without becoming emotionally honest, which includes releasing the repressed grief energy from childhood – that makes us powerless to live life in any way except reacting to the extremes of codependency. It is powerlessness over that programming that has caused us to be our own worst enemies.
“Because of our broken hearts, our emotional wounds, and our scrambled minds, our subconscious programming, what the disease of Codependence causes us to do is abandon ourselves. It causes the abandonment of self, the abandonment of our own inner child – and that inner child is the gateway to our channel to the Higher Self.
The one who betrayed us and abandoned and abused us the most was ourselves. That is how the emotional defense system that is Codependence works.
The battle cry of Codependence is “I’ll show you – I’ll get me.”
It is a sad reality that codependents spend their lives living in reaction to their childhood wounding. Whether we are trying to earn our parents love and respect by being what they wanted us to be, or going to the other extreme rebelling against them, we are living in reaction to childhood – we are not living our own lives. Many women, and men, have stayed in marriages – that they knew were a mistake on their wedding day – for 20 or 30 or 40 years because they were trying to prove their parents wrong, or trying to avoid the shame of “failing.”
As long as we are reacting to some arbitrary, absolute standard – a marriage that lasts is a success, one that ends is a failure – we are set up to live our lives in reaction. We are set up to feel like a failure, or to blame someone or something for how we live our lives. We are set up to feel like a victim. It is only by seeing our self and reality with more clarity that we can start to own our power to make choices instead of reacting. We become empowered to take responsibility for being a co-creator in our lives by owning our power to make choices.
Until we start becoming conscious of the power of this subconscious intellectual and emotional programming, we are powerless to do anything in our life except react. We do not have the ability to respond – response ability – if our choices are limited to right and wrong according to some arbitrary, dysfunctional cultural beliefs.
“We must start recognizing our powerlessness over this disease of Codependence.
As long as we did not know we had a choice we did not have one.
If we never knew how to say “no,” then we never really said “yes.”
We were powerless to do anything any different than we did it. We were doing the best we knew how with the tools that we had. None of us had the power to write a different script for our lives.”
Anyone who stays in a marriage because they do not believe they have a choice to leave it, is not making a choice to stay. We can only Truly commit to a course of action by owning that we have a choice in the matter. Staying because we “have to” / it is “wrong” to leave, is not a choice. Staying for the sake of the children – or to spare the children the pain of a divorce – is also dysfunctional and a set up to feel like a victim with no choices.
What makes many divorce experiences feel like “disasters” is not the end of the relationship – it is the blaming that goes on to keep from feeling the shame of being a “failure.” It is the battle over who is “right” and who is “wrong” that causes so much emotional trauma. It is trying to identify – and punish – the villain, that makes divorce lawyers rich and emotionally wounds the children who get caught in the middle of this codependent dance of blame and shame, of right and wrong.
On the day I was finishing this piece of writing some years ago, a man I had never met before came to our CoDA meeting. In the course of sharing, he started to talk about his parents. This man was probably around 50, and was going to visit his parents the next day. He started crying – struggling mightily to control his emotions, gulping shallow breaths and holding them as his body quivered. He choked out that he wished his parents hadn’t behaved so horribly in his childhood.
He recounted how his mother had said to him recently, “Oh, but our family wasn’t dysfunctional. Your father and I stayed together.” He cried as he said in a strangled voice, “That was a big part of the problem.”
Children are damaged just as much by parents who stay together in a dysfunctional marriage as children whose parents divorce. Sometimes it is even more damaging in the long run because the delusion that the family was successful is so strong that it makes it hard for the adult children to understand why they have lived their lives so dysfunctionally – after all, they came from a happy family. The happy family myth was the higher power the parents sacrificed themselves to maintain. Keeping up appearances to avoid shame, to avoid “failure.” Parents who stay together for “the children’s sake,” or to keep up appearances, are disasters as role models for what a romantic relationship looks like.
“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 healthy parenting.”
It is vital to start recognizing how our childhood programming has set us up to live our lives dysfunctionally – and how it has set us up to expect romantic relationships to be something they are not. To paraphrase the quote from my book at the beginning of this chapter: “Is the way you view romance bringing you happiness” “Is the way you view love working to make you happy”
We need to become aware of the dysfunctional programming before we can start to learn how to have more functional relationships – before we can start to learn and practice healthy relationship behavior.
It is not your fault that your heart has been broken in relationships!
It is not your fault that you have lived your life the way you have – that you have approached relationships in a way that doesn’t work!
You have not felt like failures in relationship because there is something wrong with who you are!
We were set up by our childhood programming and experiences to have a dysfunctional relationship with the concepts of love and romance. The thing that is so important about the issue of Romantic Relationships is to realize how we were set up to “fail” in romance – to really get it on a gut level – so that we can forgive ourselves. Once we start letting go of feeling responsible for something we were powerless over, letting go of the false guilt and toxic shame about our “mistakes” and “failures” in romance – then we can start to learn how to take healthy risks. Loving and losing is much better than never loving at all – once we start seeing romance, love, and relationships in a more realistic way, once we stop expecting them to be something they are not.
Romantic Relationships are the most powerful, meaningful, traumatic, painful, explosive, heart wrenching single topic for most people. Our hearts have been broken because we were taught to do the Dance of Love in a dysfunctional way/to the wrong music. Our hearts have been broken! And then they were broken again.
It is not your fault. It is not your fault! IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!
It was a set up. You were set up. We were set up.” – Romantic Relationships ~ The Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth Chapter 4
Romantic Relationships ~ The Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth ~
Codependent Dysfunctional Relationship Dynamics & Healthy Relationship Behavior