Repeating Behavior Patterns - looking for love in all the wrong places
Codependence is doubly traumatic. We were traumatized as children - and the defenses we adapted to protect us caused us to traumatize ourselves as adults. We have experienced getting our hearts broken, our hopes and dreams shattered, again and again. We abandoned, betrayed, and set ourselves up to feel rejected over and over again. (Even those "family hero" types who achieve external "success" and financial abundance have to keep running from distraction to distraction and finding someone to blame so that they can deny the hole they feel within themselves. Achieving some material success makes it much easier to maintain the illusion of ego control and stay in denial of one's wounded soul. Being rich and famous can be a huge block to true emotional intimacy.)
As long as we are reacting unconsciously to our childhood emotional wounds and intellectual programming, we keep repeating the patterns. We keep getting involved with unavailable people. We keep setting ourselves up to be abandoned, betrayed and rejected. We keep looking for love in all the wrong places, in all the wrong faces. Is it any wonder we have a fear of intimacy?
"Codependence is an emotional and behavioral defense system which was adopted by our egos in order to meet our need to survive as a child. Because we had no tools for reprogramming our egos and healing our emotional wounds (culturally approved grieving, training and initiation rites, healthy role models, etc.), the effect is that as an adult we keep reacting to the programming of our childhood and do not get our needs met - our emotional, mental, Spiritual, or physical needs. Codependence allows us to survive physically but causes us to feel empty and dead inside. Codependence is a defense system that causes us to wound ourselves.
Some people, when they first get into Recovery, when they first start on a healing path, mistakenly believe that they are supposed to take down their defenses and learn to trust everyone. That is a very dysfunctional belief. It is necessary to take down the dysfunctional defense systems but we have to replace them with defenses that work. We have to have a defense system, we have to be able to protect ourselves. There is still a hostile environment out there full of wounded Adult Children whom it is not safe to trust.
In our disease defense system we build up huge walls to protect ourselves and then - as soon as we meet someone who will help us to repeat our patterns of abuse, abandonment, betrayal, and/or deprivation - we lower the drawbridge and invite them in. We, in our Codependence, have radar systems which cause us to be attracted to, and attract to us, the people, who for us personally, are exactly the most untrustworthy (or unavailable or smothering or abusive or whatever we need to repeat our patterns) individuals - exactly the ones who will "push our buttons."
This happens because those people feel familiar. Unfortunately in childhood the people whom we trusted the most - were the most familiar - hurt us the most. So the effect is that we keep repeating our patterns and being given the reminder that it is not safe to trust ourselves or other people
Once we begin healing we can see that the Truth is that it is not safe to trust as long as we are reacting out of the emotional wounds and attitudes of our childhoods. Once we start Recovering, then we can begin to see that on a Spiritual level these repeating behavior patterns are opportunities to heal the childhood wounds.
The process of Recovery teaches us how to take down the walls and protect ourselves in healthy ways - by learning what healthy boundaries are, how to set them, and how to defend them. It teaches us to be discerning in our choices, to ask for what we need, and to be assertive and Loving in meeting our own needs. (Of course many of us have to first get used to the revolutionary idea that it is all right for us to have needs.)"
Quote from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls
As children we were victims - as adult we kept repeating the behaviors we learned as children - in one extreme or the other. The people in our lives were actors we unconsciously cast in roles that would recreate our childhood wounding so that we could try to heal it - try to get in right this time. We were energetically drawn to, and attracted to us, the people who would treat us in ways that felt familiar - because on some deep level we believed that is what we deserved. If our own parents could not love us, then we must not deserve to be loved.
In my Update Newsletter for October 2000, I talked about a mother and daughter that I had done some work with. Several times a year I have counseling sessions with one or both of them as they have opportunities for growth in their recovery. Earlier this week I had a session with the mother. Her daughter had once again engaged in behavior that was dangerous and life threatening. She was very upset about an incident that her daughter had experienced - and was putting a lot of energy into blaming the daughter's boyfriend.
She kept saying how controlling, possessive, and abusive this boyfriend was and how she just couldn't understand it. She felt that her daughter had chosen the boyfriend over her own mother and out of the deep hurt she was feeling she was blaming. She mentioned several times how she had said to her daughter, "What is wrong with you!" Then she would swing to the other extreme and say, "Maybe I failed somehow as a parent." She was caught up in codependent polarized reaction to her fear, pain, and shame.
After letting her vent for a long period of time, I brought her back to focusing on her Spiritual belief system and applying the Serenity prayer to what was happening. I reminded her that the reason her daughter was in a relationship that was controlling, possessive, and abusive was because that was the only type of relationship the daughter was familiar with. I reminded her that she, in her concern and love for her daughter, out of her fear of her daughters self destructive behavior, had been controlling, possessive, and abusive. I pointed out that it was abusive to say something like, "what is wrong with you." - because it equates behavior with being. Doing something "wrong" does not mean there is something wrong with us. The daughter was in fact, just repeating her codependent patterns - and to me, her behavior was not only understandable, but very predictable. (And repeating the patterns was not a sign that she had not grown. This was a new opportunity for growth at a higher level of consciousness for her - a perfect part of her growth process, not some regression or slip into old behavior. We make progress gradually.)
Once I got her to stop reacting to her shame, fear, and hurt, and to stop viewing the situation from a polarized black and white, right and wrong, perspective - then she was able to get back to her recovery and start using the tools she has learned to help her let go of things she can't control and focus on her inner process which she can have some degree of control over in a Loving way.
The reality of codependence is that we get in relationship with people who feel familiar - people who will repeat our childhood emotional dynamics. We keep getting involved with people with whom we can recreate the emotional dynamics from our childhood in some way.
A large part of the tragedy of codependency - the insidiously dysfunctional nature of the disease - is that by repeating the patterns we keep setting ourselves up to be abandoned and rejected. To feel betrayed by our own unworthiness. To reinforce the lie that we are inherently, and personally, shameful and unlovable.
"I spent most of my life being the victim of my own thoughts, my own emotions, my own behaviors. I was consistently picking untrustworthy people to trust and unavailable people to love. I could not trust my own emotions because I was incapable of being honest with myself emotionally - which made me incapable of Truly being honest on any level."
Quote from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls
We are attracted to people who are unable to meet our needs, who are unavailable on some level, as a protection from allowing ourselves to get close to someone who could be available to us - because then they would find out how shameful we are and reject us. Allowing someone to see into us, to see who we really are, feels to the disease like the last thing we want to do - and it generates incredible fear of allowing that kind of intimacy.
Codependency is an emotional and behavioral defense system that does not work. Our defense against pain and shame actually creates more pain - and causes us to keep repeating painful patterns in a way which reinforces the belief that we are somehow defective, that we have good reason to feel ashamed of ourselves.
Our fear of intimacy is reinforced by the evidence of how many "stupid" choices we have made in the past. Our experiences in childhood caused us to fear intimacy and feel that we were somehow unlovable - and our codependency caused us to keep creating new evidence of our inherent defectiveness.
Nasty stuff indeed!
We have a fear of intimacy for very good reasons. We have a lifetime of experiences that reinforce the original messages - that reinforces our feeling of being terrified of letting anyone get too close to us, see into us.
The only way to overcome our fear of intimacy is to get into recovery for our codependency - and do our inner child healing work so that we can learn to be emotionally honest and intimate with ourselves. Integrating a Loving Spiritual belief system into our relationship with self and life is an invaluable step in taking power away from the toxic shame so that we can start to Love ourselves and be open to being Loved by others.
"Learning what healthy behavior is will allow us to be healthier in the relationships that do not mean much to us; intellectually knowing Spiritual Truth will allow us to be more Loving some of the time; but in the relationships that mean the most to us, with the people we care the most about, when our "buttons are pushed" we will watch ourselves saying things we don't want to say and reacting in ways that we don't want to react - because we are powerless to change the behavior patterns without dealing with the emotional wounds.
We cannot integrate Spiritual Truth or intellectual knowledge of healthy behavior into our experience of life in a substantial way without honoring and respecting the emotions. We cannot consistently incorporate healthy behavior into day to day life without being emotionally honest with ourselves. We cannot get rid of our shame and overcome our fear of emotional intimacy without going through the feelings."
"The key to healing our wounded souls is to get clear and honest in our emotional process. Until we can get clear and honest with our human emotional responses - until we change the twisted, distorted, negative perspectives and reactions to our human emotions that are a result of having been born into, and grown up in, a dysfunctional, emotionally repressive, Spiritually hostile environment - we cannot get clearly in touch with the level of emotional energy that is Truth. We cannot get clearly in touch with and reconnected to our Spiritual Self.
We, each and every one of us, has an inner channel to Truth, an inner channel to the Great Spirit. But that inner channel is blocked up with repressed emotional energy, and with twisted, distorted attitudes and false beliefs.
We can intellectually throw out false beliefs. We can intellectually remember and embrace the Truth of ONENESS and Light and Love. But we cannot integrate Spiritual Truths into our day-to-day human existence, in a way which allows us to substantially change the dysfunctional behavior patterns that we had to adopt to survive, until we deal with our emotional wounds. Until we deal with the subconscious emotional programming from our childhoods.
We cannot learn to Love without honoring our Rage!
We cannot allow ourselves to be Truly Intimate with ourselves or anyone else without owning our Grief.
We cannot clearly reconnect with the Light unless we are willing to own and honor our experience of the Darkness.
We cannot fully feel the Joy unless we are willing to feel the Sadness.
We need to do our emotional healing, to heal our wounded souls, in order to reconnect with our Souls on the highest vibrational levels. In order to reconnect with the God-Force that is Love and Light, Joy and Truth."
Quote from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls