As I stated in my previous blog I find personally, and when working with clients, to reflect on what Pia Mellody describes as, “five secondary symptoms that reflect how co-dependents think other people’s behaviour is the reason they are unable to be in healthy relationships”. Stemming from the problem which she goes on to describes as the “bruised relationship with self” This was exactly my issue through my addiction and recovery. Needing to discover, explore and understand and grow up the parts of me that remained immature or unknown.
At times, on reflection, I was a child in my relationships expecting adult responses when instead I got anger and resentment. Blaming everyone else for the parts of me I didn’t understand. Why should I have understood? I was never taught. Or when I wanted to know, ask questions, aged 5 like, “Why did no one tell me my mother had died?” I was told don’t ask, your father can’t talk about it, it’s too painful. I agree, painful now! For me fortunately I have learnt not to blame but find compassion to process and let go. Resentments keep me an unwell place. This takes time through therapy and a good 12 step programme or therapy alone but well worth exploring. Growing myself back up!
What encouraged me to look at my behaviour began with Pia Mellody’s 5 secondary symptoms.
- Negative Control-Co-dependents either (1) try to control others by telling them who they ought to be so the co-dependents can be comfortable; or (2) allows others to control the co-dependents by dictating who they should be to keep others comfortable. Either form of negative control sets up negative responses in the person being controlled, and these negative responses cause the co-dependents to blame others for their own inability to be internally comfortable with themselves.
- Resentment-Co-dependents use resentment as a futile way to try to protect themselves and regain self-esteem. When people are victimised, they experience two things rather intensely: a drop-in self-esteem, preciousness, or value, and a profound need to find some way to stop the victimisation.
Anger gives people a sense of power and energy. In heathy amounts, anger provides strength to what is needed to protect oneself. But when we recycle the anger and combine it with an obsession about punishing the offender or getting revenge, we enter into resentment. Whether or not we actually carry out any real punishment or revenge, resentment includes the desire for it. Resentment debilitates the co-dependent because of the process of replaying the victimisation in our minds, which brings on painful emotions such as shame, unexpressed or poorly expressed anger, and depressive frustration. Resentment plays a key part in the co-dependents’ lives are hampered by blaming others for their own inability to protect themselves with healthy boundaries.
- Impaired Spirituality– Co-dependents either make someone else their Higher Power through hate, fear, or worship, or attempt to be another’s Higher Power. Whether or not the co-dependent is aware that this is happening, this secondary symptom can be quite painful or damaging to the health and functional development of the co-dependent.
- Addictions, or Mental Health or Physical Illness– Our ability to face reality is directly related to our ability to have a healthy relationship with our self, which means loving the self, protecting the self, identifying the self, caring for the self, and moderating the self. Living out of such a healthy, centred relationship with the self allows us to face the reality of who we are, who others are, who the Higher Power in our lives is, and the reality of our current situation. Developing these abilities and perceptions is the core of recovery from co-dependence. But when we do not acquire a functional internal relationship and sense of adequacy, the pain that results inside of us and in our relationships with others and with our Higher Power often leads us into addictive process to alleviate the pain quickly.
I suggest therefore, that a person with an addiction is probably also a co-dependent; and conversely, a co-dependent most likely has one or more addictive or obsessive/compulsive processes. This secondary symptom, then, is the primary link between co-dependence and any other addiction-particularly love addiction. While experiencing the often-unrecognised internal pain of the failure of the relationship with the self, and blaming others for this failure, the Love Addict turns to a certain kind of close relationship, believing that the other person can or should sooth the Love Addict’s internal pain through giving unconditional love and attention and taking care of the Love Addict.
- Difficulty with Intimacy– Intimacy involves sharing our own reality and receiving the reality of others without either party judging that reality or trying to change it. Co-dependents with the core symptoms of difficulty identifying who they are (their reality) and sharing appropriately cannot be intimate in a healthy way, since intimacy means sharing their reality. Without the sharing of healthy intimacy, co-dependents cannot check out their immature perceptions and they continue to have painful problems in their relationships with others.
In understanding this process taken from Pia Mellody’s book Facing Love Addiction I go on to see how this plays out using Karpman’s Drama triangle. Role playing each role until I understand my role, stepping off the Drama Triangle allowing me to reflect on how I communicate and bring about a change not only in me but in others simply through a new transaction.