Co-Dependence and Addictions

In Codependence, relationship and life problems become worse over time.

These roles of victim, rescuer and persecutor are often caused by intergenerational trauma or unfairness. What holds these three roles together is denial. At some level, Persecutors have convinced themselves they are right to do what they do to the Victim and refuse to see their actions as abusive or manipulative. Victims wonder how they ‘always end up in this situation’ and feel both powerless and blameless. Rescuers tell themselves they ‘are just trying to help’ and are ‘good people’, when really they get to control by keeping Victims helpless or feeling needed. Davis and Frawley discovered that there is also a fourth position called the passive or neglectful bystander. All of these roles are interchangeable, and none of them are healthy.

To heal this relationship pattern, we need to practice doing the opposite of what we normally do.  The opposite of the destructive-fuelled by control, guilt and enmeshment, as in the co-dependence pattern above, toward a better way of loving that honours us and the people in our lives.

An honest look at the behaviour patterns we’re engaged in is often helpful. But don’t expect those around you to want to change the pattern even if you do! This pattern is often called the Drama Triangle!

Things to be curious about

  • When you were growing up, what sort of role did you play in the family?
  • What aspects of self-did you or others -have to deny, in order to play that role?
  • Do you still play the same role today, or have you adopted other roles?

To escape the co-dependence pattern I suggest that you start by learning positive skills and boundaries for yourself and others as illustrated below.Interdependence the solution for codependence

I hope this blog evokes curiosity and perhaps even a moment of clarity and self compassion. More help with changing patterns is available through CoDA or Al Anon, or via a trauma therapist on sites such as the Blue Knot Foundation or addiction therapy groups via organisations like Odyssey. 

 

 

Healing Traumatised Parts

Healing is not all sweetness and light; or rather, the road to getting there is can be fraught with tribulations, pain, rawness or anxiety, and injury worst of all -from ourselves. Most people have parts that want help, while other parts want to run away, fight the therapist or deny the issues.

When we look at the legacy of past complex experiences including surviving many different kinds of trauma or neglect, we see all the things we have carried to this point in our lives. Healing is not a simple process. We may need to heal different parts of us that feel anger, hurt, grief, issues related to addiction, relationship or intergenerational unfairness issues, disowning of parts of ourselves including the body, certain emotions or thoughts; faulty beliefs that feel true such as the belief that we do not deserve love or belonging.

Then there are patterns or habits to heal- especially those that make us refuse to accept-or even perceive- the reality of life, or make us  live a life based on fantasy, ideals, perfectionism, or the need to control ourselves or others.  These sorts of patterns also have a sneaky way of making us very self critical and hard on ourselves, or makes it hard to get over even small upsets.

Through many years of working with people who want to heal, I would say that learning to accept and love all the parts of ourselves is central to healing.  Yet often it seems that people surviving trauma have an unspoken agreement with themselves that they will be kinder to themselves and look after themselves better only when and if they are healed. Paradoxically people continue to mistreat or neglect, criticise, drive themselves too hard , exhaust or hurt themselves in other ways, doing the things they have always done, instead of doing the opposite- loving, accepting and honouring themselves.

The truth is, if we want healing, we  need to first address the old patterns of how we relate to different parts inside.  This requires first finding a calm state then learning to be mindful or cultivate a dual awareness of what is going on inside- to unblend with old patterns and procedural ways of being in the world.

Here is a worksheet I used for trauma group sessions a few years ago which participants found useful. It is adapted from the ideas of Babette Rothschild, Peter Levine, Kathy Steele, Janina Fisher and many others.

Finding a good trauma-informed therapist or group to belong to and practice these skills is really important. Usually a safe place or a safe state is needed. Since the trauma was caused by relationships, relationships of a better kind are needed to heal the trauma. Remember. healing trauma is possible.

 

 

 

International Trauma Conference in Melbourne, 2016

I haven’t had time to attend the whole thing, but it is amazing to see over 2000 delegates here in Melbourne for the conference this week. As usual Pat Ogden, Stephen Porges, and Allan Schore are here, and inspiring.  This year I have enjoyed Martin Teicher, Dan Siegal and others. Martin shares some wonderful scientific research results on the aftermath of trauma, you can find it on Google, WordPress, by adding his name.

Trauma is still the “elephant in the room” in terms of public health policy, and is still missing from public discussions except in a very limited way. The survivor is still all too often blamed (via the rigid DSM criteria which is not evidence based, if not the Catholic church, the defence forces, etc), for their symptoms. Actually, I believe survivors are incredibly brave, tenacious and valiant to have survived, especially when we review the outcomes from the ACES study in the USA.

This study as reported by Martin shows the significant long term effects of adverse childhood experiences. Basically the higher the number of adverse experiences, the more likely the person is to have not just emotional and cognitive consequences, but also physical consequences including changes right down to the genetic level, heart attacks, addictions etc.

So this week I really feel inspired to acknowledge and thank all the scientists, clinicians and others who have travelled from US, UK and Europe to be here for the Conference. A special nod to Sue Carter re the importance of oxytocin in love and bonding. And to Dan Hughes for bringing such warmth and humour to this difficult topic.

Their long labours  research and experience in working with trauma now give us a legitimate voice to begin a more sophisticated and compassionate public discussion about how we view and treat trauma survivors. The Royal Commission into Institutional Abuse misses the great majority of abuse which occurs at the hands of family.

The science also enables us to confidently say that trauma can be healed. And finally, perhaps, we can now stop judging and blaming victims, and work together to ensure they are honoured and supported throughout the healing process.