What is Codependency?
Clinically, I describe codependence as developmental immaturity brought on by relational trauma in childhood development. Relational trauma is anything less than nurturing parenting. Developmental immaturity is just stunted growth; a lack of development in certain key areas. But how does this translate? What is the experience? It comes in many different forms, far beyond the popular definition.
It is the experience of not fully living. It is a diminishment of self, sometimes even a non-existent self. A chameleon, an actor, a performer, a lost child. It is the experience of feeling the life choke out of you at the thought of someone you care about walking away. Codependence is a ghost from our past. It is the wall you’ve resurrected to let nothing in and nothing out. It is in the addictions you’ve created to fill the seeming void. It is in the less-than and better-than experience of the world, the winner and loser attitude. Codependence is when we look to the outside to tell us who we are. It is in the secret fear that I can’t make it on my own or the secret desire to actually connect.
Love Addiction & Love Avoidance
Formally speaking, Love Addiction & Love Avoidance is a compulsive relational cycle. With the love addict addicted to the fantasy they have created about their “beloved”. They have a profound wound of abandonment with an underlying fear of intimacy, or being seen. Their sense of self is defined through others. The love avoidant is highly seductive or otherwise known as being really good at being and saying what others want them to be or say. They have significant fears around intimacy or love because those things are equated with engulfment. They have an underlying fear of abandonment. Very, very underlying. Their sense of self is defined by taking care of others.
This whole addiction/avoidance thing is most peoples’ shameful secret. Many of us come to it with no words, no understanding of how we got this and what it is.
We each come to the table with our specific wounds. The love addict: ‘you’ll leave me and I’ll be destroyed/won’t survive’. The love avoidant: ‘you’ll eat me alive/consume me and I’ll be destroyed’. The wounds are created in childhood left to fester our whole life if unattended. In adulthood it creates a magnet towards our opposite. Each have, unknowingly, been primed for the other. We get bound up in each other’s trauma, replaying the same scene over and over without knowing what its really about: unconscious fears of abandonment and engulfment. So we make up stories like this:
Books to Read:
Facing Codependency by Pia Mellody
Facing Love Addiction by Pia Mellody
Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find - and Keep - Love by Amir Levine
Growing Yourself Back Up by John Lee