Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life v Chapter 10: Normal Families are Dysfunctional
Normal is Codependent
One of the reasons that I have been giving specific examples of the type of things that codependent parents say and do to try to control their children, is because it is so important for us as recovering codependents to start seeing more clearly that normal in society is codependent. We were wounded by behavior that is considered normal in the dysfunctional civilizations we were born into. The environment where we were first wounded was in our families. Our parents were our first abusers. They were / are not bad people, they were / are wounded codependents. The way they normally related to us in our childhood was codependent – is still codependent unless they are in recovery healing their wounds.
Codependence The Dance of Wounded Souls
“The dysfunctional dance of Codependence is caused by being at war with ourselves – being at war within.
We are at war with ourselves because we are judging and shaming ourselves for being human. We are at war with ourselves because we are carrying around suppressed grief energy that we are terrified of feeling. We are at war within because we are “damming” our own emotional process – because we were forced to become emotionally dishonest as children and had to learn ways to block and distort our emotional energy.
We cannot learn to Love ourselves and be at peace within until we stop judging and shaming ourselves for being human and stop fighting our own emotional process, until we stop waging war on ourselves.. . . . .
. . . . . . . We experienced what is called “sanctuary trauma” – our safest place to be was not safe – and we experienced it on a daily basis for years and years. Some of the greatest damage was done to us in subtle ways on a daily basis because our sanctuary was a battlefield.
It was not a battlefield because our parents were wrong or bad – it was a battlefield because they were at war within, because they were born into the middle of a war. By doing our healing we are becoming the emotionally honest role models that our parents never had the chance to be. Through being in Recovery we are helping to break the cycles of self-destructive behavior that have dictated human existence for thousands of years.
Codependence is a very vicious and powerful form of Delayed Stress Syndrome. The trauma of feeling like we were not safe in our own homes makes it very difficult to feel like we are safe anywhere. Feeling like we were not lovable to our own parents makes it very difficult to believe that anyone can Love us.
(Text in this color is used for quotes from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls)
Our parents did not have the resources when we were children to do things any differently. It was not their fault. They are not to blame. They were victimized by the conditions that caused the human condition.
The human dilemma has been feeling disconnected from our Source. The human condition has evolved in reaction to the pain of that feeling of disconnection. It was in the late 1980s that a shift took place that has made it possible to start healing the human condition.
“A Transformational Healing Process has begun on the planet Earth. Due to a profound change that has taken place in the energy field of Collective Human Emotional Consciousness, resources are now available to us to do healing that has never before been possible in recorded human history. Human beings now, for the first time, have the capacity to directly address the core issues of the human dilemma.”
It is only in recent history that human beings have acquired the ability, the knowledge, and access to Spiritual guidance, that is allowing us to change the human condition. We are no more than a generation or two removed from societal beliefs that allowed children – and women – to be treated as property. Most of us grew up in societies that did not include such things as: healthy parenting classes; wide spread knowledge and information about alcoholism and child abuse; the concept of personal boundaries and information about the grief process; etc., etc. Most of us grew up in societies where we were taught that the choices are between right and wrong, and wrong is shameful.
Our parents were trapped in the beliefs they grew up with. They were doing the best they knew how with the tools and knowledge they had. They did not have the choice – when we were children – to live their lives differently. We do have choices.
Things are different today. Not that much different for the majority of people – but that is changing. Children are now getting the message in school, from television and movies, that it is okay to have boundaries and say no. That it is okay to have feelings. No one taught me that in my childhood. I did not see any male role models who were able to cry or admit to being afraid – not in my home, not in the movies or on television. Things are changing. Those of us who are doing the healing are still a small minority, but there are millions of us. We are the pioneers who are leading the way to changing the world into a better, more Loving place – into a place where life among humans is not lived in competition out of belief in scarcity and separation.
Dysfunction as the norm is no longer mandated by planetary conditions. We now have access to the power to change the human condition by healing our relationship with self.
Cause and Effect
The law that governs life for human beings is cause and effect. Our adult patterns were the result, the effect, of how we learned to relate to life and self in childhood. We were powerless to change those patterns as long as we did not know there were other choices besides right and wrong – as long as we were stuck in a black and white perspective of life.
Our parents were our first, formative, most powerful role models. Our family of origin was the arena where we learned how to relate to self, to life, to other people. It is where we learned how to relate to being human, to our own emotions, minds, bodies, and souls.
“We are set up to be emotionally dysfunctional by our role models, both parental and societal. We are taught to repress and distort our emotional process. We are trained to be emotionally dishonest when we are children.”
Our parents learned to relate to self the same place we did – in their childhood, from their family of origin.
“Early in my recovery, it was vital for me to start realizing how emotionally crippled I had been by the role modeling and messages I had experienced growing up in an emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional culture. I had to become conscious of how dysfunctional my relationship with my own emotions was, in order to start healing the dysfunction in my relationship with my self and life.
The single most important influence in the development of a person’s relationship with their own emotions is role modeling. Mom and Dad were our primary role models for how a male emotional being and female emotional being behave, for how they relate to, and express, their emotions. (As well as for how male and female relate to each other.) The cultural role models that we were exposed to – through books, movies, television, etc., – play an important factor also, but our primary role models were our parents.” – Chapter 3
We learned how to relate to our own emotions from our parents. We learned how to do relationships from watching how they related to each other – and to other people. We learned how to relate to life in reaction to how they related to life.
We might have reacted by going to the other extreme from what they role modeled for us – but as long as we are in reaction we are not living our life, we are living in reaction to our childhood wounding.
“The Truth is that the intellectual value systems, the attitudes, that we use in deciding what’s right and wrong were not ours in the first place. We accepted on a subconscious and emotional level the values that were imposed on us as children. Even if we throw out those attitudes and beliefs intellectually as adults, they still dictate our emotional reactions. Even if, especially if, we live our lives rebelling against them. By going to either extreme – accepting them without question or rejecting them without consideration – we are giving power away.”
It is so vital for us to start seeing our own internal process more clearly, so that we can understand our wounding and how it has impacted our lives. It is absolutely vital to start seeing our self with more clarity in order learn who we really are – to get in touch with our True Self. Living life in reaction causes us to be a prisoner of our past and to sabotage our ability to be present in the now. We cannot start to change our core relationship with self and life until we start to see where we came from with more clarity. As long as we are still buying into the myth that we came from a healthy family, we will be unable to see our self clearly.
The disease voice will say something to this effect: “Quit whining, you didn’t have it so bad as a kid.” Or react to horror stories of child abuse with a message like: “See, look how awful they had it, you have no right to feel sorry for yourself.” We need to start telling those voices to shut up and start telling our inner children that we are sorry that it was so painful to be a human child in a dysfunctional environment. We do have reason to feel sorry for the child that we were – and for the adult who was trapped in dysfunctional behavior patterns and attitudes. It is very sad. There is a lot of grief in recovery. Melody Beattie, in one of her books, says, “Learn the art of acceptance, it is a lot of grief.”
We need to start seeing reality clearly so that we can let go of the myth we have been carrying about our families – rather that myth causes us to discount our own pain or causes us to blame our families. We need to take the blame out of the process – to stop seeing life in black and white extremes. If we are blaming everything on our self, or blaming some external villain, we are not seeing reality clearly. We need to own our grief and recognize the ways in which our parents behavior wounded us.
It is very important to start seeing ourselves as separate from our families so that we can stop giving power to the illusion that our individual self worth has anything to do with our family of origin.
We need to let go of old beliefs in order to heal our relationship with self, in order to find our Self. As a young child I had no discernment, no perspective, that would allow me to realize that my parents weren’t healthy. I thought the pain I felt was my fault. I thought that the reason I felt so bad was because I was abnormal – that something was wrong with me. My family was normal to me, and part of feeling good about myself was to see my family as better than other families – because I was taught to look outside in comparison. I developed my own personal myth about my family. When I got into recovery at age 35, I would tell people that I came from a pretty good family and it was just me that was messed up. When I first started going to Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings as I was opening up to the possibility that my family – though not alcoholic – was dysfunctional, I did not speak for weeks because my family had not been as overtly, blatantly dysfunctional as all those other people’s families had been.
My families dysfunction was not as overt, so my wounding was of a more subtle nature than people who had been beaten by drunken fathers and mothers. As I got further into recovery and learned more about codependency, I saw that the dysfunction in my family wasn’t really subtle at all, that it was actually quite blatant – but that it was normal in a dysfunctional culture. I started to realize that it was my view of it as normal, as better when compared to other families – my childhood investment in my myth about my family – that was causing me to discount and minimize my own wounding.
I used to know a therapist who to make a point would say, “The sliver in my finger hurts me more than your broken back hurts me.” The point being, my pain is my pain – and it hurts me more than anyone else’s pain. Comparing the circumstances in which we were wounded does not serve us, does not help us to see our self with any clarity. Many children who grew up in poverty received more love than children who grew up with great wealth. Those of us who grew up in “normal” middle class families may not have experienced the outrageously abusive behavior of people who grew up in families afflicted with alcoholism or mental illness, but that does not mean that our hearts were not broken, our souls not wounded. The emotional pain of our childhoods, growing up in emotional and spiritual wastelands with wounded parents (or without parents), crippled us in our relationship with our own heart and soul – with our self / Self.
I need to own my pain because that is a crucial element in owning me. The critical parent voice in our head wants to minimize, justify, and rationalize away our childhood experiences – or to not take any responsibility for our lives and blame it all on our parents. It wants us to stay stuck by blaming them or blaming ourselves – to keep us from taking the risk of believing we are lovable and worthy.
Until I got into recovery I was incapable of seeing my life without blame being involved in my perceptions because of the black and white perspective of life I had been taught in childhood – which of course included my parents role modeling because they were programmed to relate to life out of a polarized perspective.
When something was not working in my life, I was limited to blaming myself or blaming something / someone outside of me. Since I was taught to look outside of myself for definition and worth, since I believed that other people and life events controlled my emotional reactions, I would put a lot of energy into blaming others to keep from falling into the painful abyss of shame and pain I experienced when I blamed myself.
In order to stop blaming, I needed to start seeing the cause and effect dynamic in my life with more clarity. As long as I was shaming and judging myself for my patterns and issues, I was incapable of seeing clearly. As long as I was blaming what I was feeling and experiencing in life on people and events in my life now, I was focusing on the effect without seeing the cause.
My adult patterns were effects, symptoms. Part of the dysfunction of society is to focus on symptoms and ignore cause. We have a war on poverty, a war on drugs, a war on terrorism – without looking at the causes of those phenomena. It is vital to start focusing upon, and healing the cause. It is vital to stop judging ourselves for the symptoms.
In order to see our self and our issues with more clarity, we need to start learning to accept where we are at – without the judgment and shame which distorts and pollutes our perceptions. We are on a journey – involved in an unfolding process. We are works in progress.
Our issues, our patterns did not come out of nowhere. They are not a result of inherent defects in our character. The are the effect of having grown up in dysfunctional families / environments. We need to stop blaming and shaming ourselves for our wounding.
It is when we start realizing that we were powerless to do life differently as long as we were reacting unconsciously out of our childhood wounding and programming, that we can start to change our patterns and heal our wounds. Then we can become a detective who can sort through the layers and levels of our programming. As we sort through those layers and levels we can start healing the emotional wounds and bringing compassion to the wounded parts of us. It is only through learning to forgive our self that we can Truly forgive our parents. By doing this healing work – taking action to stop the shame and judgment of the critical parent voice, learning to be compassionate and nurturing to the wounded parts of us, learning to take healthy responsibility for our lives – we are making amends to ourselves. As we make amends to, and learn to access Love for, our self, we are healing the human condition.
“Any single soul’s evolution, its awakening, affects all souls because we are all connected.”
Through learning to see the cause and effect in our human experience with clarity, we can start seeing reality as it is and making it better – instead of holding onto myths, false beliefs, and dysfunctional definitions. As we awaken to the reality of how dysfunctional human civilization has been, we can change our perspective of, and our relationship with, our self. By learning to stop allowing our sense of self worth to be enmeshed with our emotional relationships to external sources, we can start learning to access Love.
This recovery process is a journey of awakening to Love. The concepts of, and experience of, love that we experienced in childhood is not real Love, is not a healthy concept of Love.
“We live in a society where the emotional experience of “love” is conditional on behavior. Where fear, guilt, and shame are used to try to control children’s behavior because parents believe that their children’s behavior reflects their self-worth.
In other words, if little Johnny is a well-behaved, “good boy,” then his parents are good people. If Johnny acts out, and misbehaves, then there is something wrong with his parents. (“He doesn’t come from a good family.”)
What the family dynamics research shows is that it is actually the good child – the family hero role – who is the most emotionally dishonest and out of touch with him/herself, while the acting-out child – the scapegoat – is the most emotionally honest child in the dysfunctional family. Backwards again.
In a Codependent society we are taught, in the name of “love,” to try to control those we love, by manipulating and shaming them, to try to get them to do the right things – in order to protect our own ego-strength. Our emotional experience of love is of something controlling: “I love you if you do what I want you to do.” Our emotional experience of love is of something that is shaming and manipulative and abusive.
Love that is shaming and abusive is an insane, ridiculous concept. Just as insane and ridiculous as the concept of murder and war in the name of God.
These ridiculous, insane, reversed, and dysfunctional concepts are what civilizations are based upon on this planet.”
Recovery is a process of learning to be emotionally and intellectually honest with our self so that we can stop looking to others to determine who we are. We can stop being care “takers” – that is, taking our feelings of worth / ego-strength from what we do for/get from others, and/or in comparison with others. As long as our self worth is enmeshed with external sources, as long as how we are feeling is in reaction to dysfunctional attitudes and false beliefs, we are set up to be emotional vampires trying to suck feelings of worth from other people – either overtly from them, or covertly by comparing ourselves to them. We need to learn to take responsibility for our emotions so that we can start becoming empowered to stop being a victim of other people, of life, of self worth based upon comparison. Learning to separate our self worth from our emotional reactions is how we can start opening up to Love so that we can stop being emotionally anorexic.
Dysfunctional Concept of Family
It is vital to start seeing that normal is codependent. It is vital to start seeing clearly the dysfunction and emotional dishonesty in the families we grew up in, so that we can let go of our myth of family. Our dysfunctional families were an effect of the dysfunctional, emotionally dishonest, Spiritual hostile (belief in separation), cultural environments in which they existed. It is not personal. It does not have anything to do with us. Just as the way our parents treated us in childhood wasn’t personal. They were incapable of seeing who they really were, so they couldn’t see us with any clarity. They were looking at us through the filters of their fear and pain, they projected their shame and lack of self worth onto us. They tried to control our behavior with fear, guilt, and shame to protect their egos. They were dancing with their own wounds to the music of shame and fear – which made them incapable of meeting our needs, of demonstrating love for us in a healthy way. It was not their fault. It was not our fault. It was an effect of the families and culture they grew up in.
I believe that the concept of the nuclear family as a separate, isolated entity is dysfunctional in it’s essence. I don’t believe it is healthy to raise children in an environment separate from a sense of close knit community / clan / tribal identity. I don’t believe that two parents as a cultural entity separate from community can possibly provide healthy, balanced parenting. Certainly one cannot. But children are wounded and traumatized by parents inability to separate their self worth from their emotional reactions to external forces rather there is one parent or two. Parents who were taught to take their ego strength from external comparison cannot avoid having an unhealthy emotional investment in children whom they – and society – see as an extension, a possession, that reflects their worth as individuals.
I have no idea what Hillary Clinton’s book is about, but the concept that it “takes a village” to raise a child contains some fundamental Truth in my opinion. I do not believe that children are meant to be raised by two adults separate from community – and certainly not by a mother alone most of the time. The American Dream, a nuclear family living in isolation in the suburbs – with the father gone most of the day – is a dysfunctional ideal in my belief. Our normal societal model for what constitutes an ideal family is dysfunctional in its impact on the emotional, mental, and spiritual health of children raised in those families.
Here is an excerpt from a page in my Joy2MeU Journal – bracketed by a quote from my book to put it in context with my views.
“I want to make a couple of points of clarification at this time.
One is that I am referring to civilizations around the world, but most of the examples or specifics I am mentioning have to do with Western Civilization and specifically American society. That is just for my convenience and your identification. (I am using the word “civilization” here in the Western sense of the term – that is, urban-based and believed to be superior to “less advanced” peoples.)
All civilizations are dysfunctional to varying degrees, as are subcultures within those civilizations. They just have different flavors of dysfunction, of imbalance.
As an example: In much of Asia the individual is discounted for the good of the whole – whether that be family or corporation or country. The individual takes his or her self-definition from the larger system. That is just as out of balance and dysfunctional as the Western Civilization manifestation of glorifying the individual to the detriment of the whole. It is just a different variety of dysfunction.
The goal of this dance of Recovery is integration and balance. That means celebrating being a tree while also glorying in being a part of the forest. Recovery is a process of becoming conscious of our individual wholeness and our ONENESS with all.
The other point I want to make is that I am saying “civilized” society for a reason. It is in urban-based industrialized civilization that the optimum dysfunction has been manifested in this world.
Many so-called primitive or aboriginal tribal cultures, such as the Native Americans, had far more integrated and balanced cultures for their place and time than any “civilization.” They were not totally integrated and balanced by any means. They were, however, closer to the rhythms of nature and had respect for nature and natural laws, so were more aligned with universal laws than urban-based civilizations.
In fact, many of the primitive societies were far more functional in terms of the Spiritual, emotional, and mental health of the individual members of the society, and had far more respect for the individual members, than any so-called “civilized” society on this planet.”
The Baby Otter: A Mother’s Day Story (an excerpt from the Joy2MeU Journal)
“I often look to aboriginal cultures who were more in touch with nature to see examples of more balance behavior. (The Native American culture that I am most familiar with, is that of the Plains Indians. There can be some big differences between different regions, but when I cite Native American culture it is the Plains Indians I am talking about.) The cultural norms that came to mind while writing this were two specific ones. One was that, it was not the father who taught the son to be a man – it was an uncle. The tribes knew better than to have the father’s ego involved with the son’s training. The other has to do with mothers and sons. When a boy was around 5 or 6 there came a point where he and his mother could no longer speak directly to each other – they would communicate through a third person – and they could not look into each others eyes. The effect of this tribal wisdom was to prevent emotional incest. When the boy became a man, they could once again communicate directly. (There were also restrictions in terms of the relationships between father and daughter.)
Reminds me of Robert Bly’s book Iron John. (link to Amazon.com info about book) He talks about how, ever since the industrial revolution pulled fathers out of the home a great deal of the time, boys have been primarily learning how to be men from women.
I believe that the concept of the nuclear family as an isolated entity is inherently dysfunctional and traumatic. I am going to include here a passage I wrote some time ago, and never found anyplace to use in my writing.
“Of course, we have almost completely lost the real sense and idea of community – of a group of people who are interconnected and interrelated for their collective welfare and mutual benefit. In Western Civilization, and especially in the United States, the individual is glorified to the detriment of the whole (this is the opposite extreme of imbalance for much of Eastern Civilization which glorifies the whole to the detriment of the individual.) So separation is the rule rather than connection.
Some can have millions while others are starving and homeless – and this is looked upon as normal and natural. Society teaches us to believe that we are separate – that another persons suffering is that persons own fault. That the individual is separate from, and in competition with, others.
This applies on multiple levels. It is also true in the dysfunctional myth of the individual nuclear family. The concept of the nuclear family with it’s sense of possession (my children) and comparison with other families carries with it inherent emotional trauma in my view. I believe that the healthiest parenting came in societies where the whole tribe or clan had a sense of community and connection. Where everyone knew they were individuals but also knew they were important parts of the whole. Where people lived so close together that there were no family secrets and social mores dictated that physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse were not acceptable.
Now, I am not saying that aboriginal societies were completely healthy or balanced cultures. But they did have a healthier balance than modern societies because they had to in order to survive. The had more respect for nature and natural cycles because it was necessary to live. They had a sense of community because without it they would perish.”
“I believe that historically there has been a direct correlation between the level of advancement – of “progress” – and the level of dysfunction in terms of the individual being’s level of fulfillment and happiness. In other words, the more “advanced” the society became (that is, the farther it removed itself from respect for, and alignment with, natural laws and cycles), the more dysfunctional it became in terms of the individual being’s feelings of self-respect and fulfillment.
[The historical inverse relationship between progress and individual emotional health was somewhat altered in accordance with the Divine Script so that we could reach this Age of Healing and Joy that we have now entered. This alteration was accomplished through the efforts of a series of mystical messengers who taught the importance of individual rights. These messengers laid the groundwork for a group of mystics, with names like Jefferson and Franklin, to create a society where individuals could pursue Spiritual Truth despite the disapproval of the government and the majority of the society. (Of course, because of the dysfunctional nature of the society, that right was honored in theory rather than practice much of the time – but the right was inherent in the framework of the society.) This inherent right is what made it possible for the United States to became the spawning ground for the Transformational Healing Movement that has begun on the planet. A great acceleration of this process took place with the national trauma/gift that was the sixties and Viet Nam. This period forced individuals to start questioning the traditional value systems, the traditional perspectives, on a massive scale. All of the pieces of the puzzle fit together perfectly when we look at them in a large enough perspective.]
Another reason that some of these so-called “primitive” cultures were more functional is that they also had a much more benevolent idea about a Higher Power. They actually believed that the God-Force had a Loving purpose for putting us here instead of it being some kind of punishment which was shameful.”
So the more advanced, the more civilized, a society became, the more dysfunctional it became in terms of serving the emotional, mental, and Spiritual needs of the individual members of the society. Sounds kind of backwards doesn’t it?”
I will be discussing different levels of this dysfunction, the normal codependency of civilization in coming chapters. First however I am going to address an area where we were set up to be abused because of our experiences in childhood. Our experiences with our parents set us up to expect abuse from authority figures. The dysfunctional school systems reinforced this set up. It is no wonder that we end up being abused by medical and mental health authorities that are part of dysfunctional cultural systems.” – This is an excerpt from Chapter 10: Normal Families are Dysfunctional of Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life is available in a subscription area of the Joy2MeU website entitled: Dancing in Light
A special offer for that subscription (as well as for the Joy2MeU Journal) is available on this special offers page.
The first two chapter of this online book is available through my regular website: The codependency movement is NOT ruining marriages!
I have published some other chapters of this work as blogs including: Chapter 8 Codependents as Emotional Vampires and Chapter 13: Changing the Music: Love instead of fear and shame.
Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life is the third book of what I think of as the Wounded Souls Trilogy along with Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls A Cosmic Perspective on Codependence and the Human Condition and Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light Book 1 Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing. (This is different from The Dance of the Wounded Souls Trilogy Book 1 – “In The Beginning . . .” which is a Magical, Mystical Adult Spiritual Fable that was in fact the first book I wrote – but have never finished.)