Monday, September 29, 2008

Surf-and-turf wars.

Today's Morning Thought (I can't seem to unsubscribe, which is especially intriguing since I never subscribed in the first place) began with the following quote from codependency guru Melody Beattie:
"Practice. Practice. Practice using your power to take care of yourself, no matter who you are dealing with, where you are, or what you are doing…"
And I was reminded of the observation that you can generally tell who's in a codependency workshop: They're the ones who are always sending back the food in restaurants...just because.

For my part, I would've been happier if recovering codependents sent back every single mealbut once at home, didn't use their newfound power to find fault with things (like, say, their mates' minor idiosyncrasies or the routine disappointments of a long-term relationship) that are part and parcel of everyday living.


RevRon's Rants said...

Some years ago, I went with a friend to a few ACA/Codependents Anonymous meetings. He was unsure about whether they could help him with some issues he was having, and wanted to know what I thought. After a few meetings, I had to quit going. Hearing the same people bemoan their own failures because mommy/daddy/boyfriend/ex-husband/ex-wife treated them badly, time after time, left me alternating between feeling like a voyeur (and not the fun kind) and wanting to remind them that those horrible people weren't there anymore, and that the responsibility for their relationships now fell squarely in their own laps. My overall impression was that the meetings were little more than support groups for people who refused to take any personal responsibility for their actions. Much easier to simply blame someone else.

At the core of the problem, as I saw it, was that the very notion of "codependency" as a negative trait was flawed, and denied the fact that humans are, by nature, interdependent. We look for support when we feel weak, and offer it when we feel strong. The "preferred" action, according to the group leaders, was to eschew any need for support, and to offer support only when you could personally justify to yourself that it wasn't needed. It seemed to me that it was no wonder these folks couldn't develop good relationships. They were so busy denying their own need and refusing to even acknowledge anyone else's needs that they never allowed anyone to get close.

I tried to raise the question of what value there was to a relationship if neither party felt compelled to respond to the other's needs on anything but a superficial, intellectual level, and was told that each person is responsible only for their own support, and bore no responsibility for their partner's well-being. I asked how that was working for them, and as you can imagine, I was told that it didn't work because the *partner* was being codependent. My impression was that the real objective of the meetings wasn't to improve relationships, but to provide gripe sessions and excuses. Rather than don my Buddhist attack dog cape, I chose to quit going. I just wasn't into observing what were little more than emotional circle-jerks. Turned out that my friend had the same impression, but initially thought he was being too judgmental. For all I know, those same folks are probably still getting together, bemoaning *other* people's inability to have good relationships. Sigh...

Elizabeth said...

"Practice. Practice. Practice using your power to take care of yourself, no matter who you are dealing with, where you are, or what you are doing…"

Welcome to Narcissists Are Us!


I would've been happier if recovering codependents sent back every single meal—but once at home, didn't use their newfound power to find fault with things (like, say, their mates' minor idiosyncrasies or the routine disappointments of a long-term relationship) that are part and parcel of everyday living.

Are you speaking from personal experience, Steve, or is this just a general observation? (Sounds like the former, but what do I know.)

Steve Salerno said...

That is a great addition to this post, Ron. Thanks for taking the time.

Steve Salerno said...

It's more of a general observation, Eliz, though we do have people in the extended family who clearly display all the telltale manifestations of the syndrome.

ellen said...

I would call people who send back meals in restaurants picky, not necessarily of the co-dependent type. Can't quite see the equivalence there.
Picky people can be picky for any of 100's of reasons, most of them valid to that person, if not to the casual observer. Of one thing I am fairly sure though, a person who sends back a restaurant meal for resons other than that it is inedible in some way has never known hunger.

Steven Sashen said...

Q: How many codependents does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: I don't know, how many do you think it takes?

(BTW, if there were EVER a "condition" that was made up in order to sell books and workshops, THIS is it... among, sadly, many others)

Steve Salerno said...

The line about codependents sending back their meals was intended as a wry gibe at the fact that the workshops often sent disciples out into society with "homework" that included practicing at being assertive and self-seeking--just as the "morning thought" implies. The point is that they were supposed to step outside their usual retiring behavior and take a stand as much as possible throughout the day in areas large and small--just to get used to the idea of saying "no" to people.

ellen said...

My, admittedly limited, understanding of 'co-dependency' is that the syndrome grew out of observations of the problems that alcoholics had with emotional dependencies. It seems these dependencies are not limited to substances or behaviours but extend into relationships. I know that you are not a fan of Transactional Analysis Steve but I believe that provided the model for AA to postulate that alcoholics tended to link up with 'enablers' in a sort of folie a deux. They're just words, an attempt to provide a map to make consideration of such matters easier, I am not keen on the words either. (And we are back to maps, where would we be without our maps?) If this map provided help to alcoholics and their spouses to work out their problems (anecdotal evidence seems to suggest it is helpful) I don't see that it matters what the map is called.
It becomes problematic when some slick shyster takes such a seemingly workable tool, puts a glitzy spin on it and then peddles it to gullible people.
Context is important.

ellen said...

Is it wrong then, Steve, to say 'no' to people? Or just wrong to say 'no' to your spouse? Children take huge delight in the discovery of the use of the word. It it understood to be the one of the first indicators of the formation of the individual, one of the building blocks of the self. Drives the parents round the bend usually of course.

Anonymous said...

Well, I would rather be dining with someone who sends back a meal than one who doesn't. My husband always gets bad meals and never sends them back unless I'm around. He never wants to hurt the server or cooks' feelings. Subjecting me to the sadness of his meal is another matter entirely!

Just recently he got meatloaf that could plaster a concrete wall and just pushed it around his plate. I got tired of his moping and told the waitress. The server was happy to get him something else. Maybe I should buy him some co-depency books.

I just wish people would be more honest. If you don’t like something, just say so! I think the direct approach is the best approach. Why must we give facts and figures for not liking something? I think this post ties in very nicely with Roger’s last comment.

RevRon's Rants said...

To my way of thinking, the real problem isn't with saying "no" to anyone, but with the act of saying "no" for the sake of saying "no." In the Codependency industry, too much emphasis is placed upon standing firm, while literally vilifying the acts of compromise and nurturing. This emphasis leads to the erosion of the inherent interdependency that is at the core of human relationships.

Contrary to superficial appearances, the codependency model is actually a misrepresentation of the TA model. Berne's model, which I utilized extensively in my work with psychiatric patients in both individual and group sessions, was conceived as a means of quantifying, qualifying, and understanding the three discrete elements of personality, allowing the individual to free him or herself from the contamination of one aspect by another. TA was and is, in my opinion, perhaps the cleanest of all "self-help" models, since its proper application virtually precludes the need for a therapist, guru, or even mentor (which is why the psychiatric community, as well as many other "self-help" schools, are so vehement in their refutation of its principles (and principals).

Armed with such a simple and easily implemented tool, the "patient" turns away from the most conspicuously codependent relationships - those formed between therapist/patient and guru/follower. No complex steps, no "profound" buzzwords, and no overpriced seminars, workshops, or sessions. And you can well imagine how the selfish-help industry reacts to anything that shrivels the udders on its cash cow.

Anonymous said...

T.A. is pretty good on decommissioning of the pig-parent aspect too, freeing us to relate adult to adult without condescension on either side--should we so choose.