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:
If I could just look/be/act different.
I shouldn’t have said that. If I hadn’t said that, he/she wouldn’t have left.
She/he is crazy, why do I always find the crazy ones?
He can’t leave me or I’ll die.
She’s the reason I feel worthless, if she would just talk to me.
I just need to know he won’t leave me, then I’ll feel like I can trust him.
You’re way too much for me, you’re way too needy.
Why won’t he just love me? I feel so terrible about myself because he left me.
You abandoned me!
This is an addiction process. With all the components of an addiction: obsession, compulsion, withdrawal, continued use in the face of negative consequences, and needing more and more and it never being enough.
The Intimacy Factor: The Ground Rules for Overcoming the Obstacles to Truth, Respect, and Lasting Loveby Pia Mellody
Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachmentby Amir Levine
Growing Yourself Back Upby John Lee
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
A Course in Miracles: A Combined Volume (published by Foundation for Inner Peace) by Dr Helen Schucman
"Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering."