Codependency robs us of self-love and self-love. We have learned to hide who we really are, because we grew up indulging, rebelling, or distancing ourselves from dysfunctional parents. This prepares us for trauma. As adults, even if we are successful in some areas, our emotional life is not easy. In search of security and love, most of us struggle to make or break relationships. We can stay in unhappy or abusive relationships or try to make painful ones work. Many of us would be content just to find relief from ongoing anxiety or depression.
Trauma after a breakup
However, leaving a relationship is not the end of our problems. After initially rejoicing and reveling in the newfound freedom, there is often pain, regret, and sometimes guilt. We may still love the same person we are thankful for leaving. We may no longer talk to separated friends or relatives, even children we still love or care about. These are unexpected losses that must be faced.
Not having contact doesn’t necessarily end the pain, either. The trauma of abuse is not over. Our self esteem has surely suffered. We may lack confidence or feel unattractive. The abuse can continue in a new relationship, or by family members, by an ex with whom we share parenthood, or by children who have been harmed or armed.
As difficult as it was to break up from an abusive relationship, it can still haunt us (sometimes even after the abuser has died). One day, often decades later, we learn that we have post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD: traumatic scars from abuse that we think we have left behind. We could have nightmares and become risk averse or reluctant to love again. It is not easy to “go away” forever.
Fearful of re-experiencing abuse, neglect, or loss of autonomy, many codependents become counter-dependent. However, our inability to be alone and / or our low self-esteem can cause us to make bad decisions again. Out of fear, we can settle for someone “safe”, who is not suitable for us and with whom we would never compromise.
But despite our intentions, we come back together and find it difficult to leave. We do not trust ourselves and we reflect on whether the problem is with us or with our partner. And while we have vowed to never allow anyone to abuse us again, some of us may be betrayed, abandoned, or mistreated yet again in ways we had not anticipated. We have to put it all down again.
This cycle of abandonment can make us fearful of intimacy. If we choose to be alone, our needs for love and closeness are unsatisfied. Loneliness can trigger toxic shame from childhood when we feel alone and unloved or unloved. It may seem that there is no hope or escape from our misfortune.
The core of codependency
We didn’t expect that after stepping out of denial, bravely setting boundaries, and leaving unhealthy or abusive relationships, we would have to face the core of codependency. Our codependent symptoms have been coping mechanisms that masked our basic challenge:
How to fill our void Y loneliness with self love.
In part, this reflects the human condition, but for codependents these feelings are connected to trauma. Our insecurity, self-alienation, and lack of self-esteem and self-care skills fuel addictive relationships and habits that cause us recurring emotional pain.
Just as addicts turn to addiction to avoid unpleasant feelings, codependents are distracted and lost by focusing on others or a relationship as sources of well-being. If we stop doing that, often not by choice but out of isolation or rejection, we may discover depression and feelings of loneliness and emptiness that we have been avoiding all along. We continue to recycle our codependency until we address our deepest pain.
Healing requires that we turn our attention inward and learn to become our best friend, because our relationship with ourselves is the template for all of our relationships.
With a little knowledge, we find that we are quite self-critical and have not treated each other kindly with self-compassion. In fact, we have been abusing ourselves the entire time. Actually, this is a positive revelation. Our mission is clear: learn to relate to ourselves in a healthier way. Our tasks are:
- Revitalize our connection to our internal signals, our guidance system, to trust ourselves.
- Identify and respect our needs and feelings.
- Nourish and comfort ourselves. Self love meditation.
- Meet our needs
- Heal our shame and affirm our authentic self.
- Take responsibility for our pain, safety and pleasure.
Follow established recovery plans and attend Codependents Anonymous (CoDA meetings) and work through the Twelve Steps. Post-traumatic stress disorder and trauma do not resolve on their own. Seek trauma counseling.
© DarleneLancer 2019