Today’s minisode revolves around codependency. Many years ago, when I was in my 20’s and in a difficult relationship, my therapist told me I was codependent. I read Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More and saw so much of myself in it. I highlighted all the symptoms and to be honest, at the time, I wasn’t totally clear on what I had to do to solve the problem. In this minisode, I’ll talk about:
- Some common symptoms of codependency, as well as how it looked in my life when I was deep in it.
- A quote from my friend and therapist Britt Frank about why she’s not a fan of the current narrative that surrounds codependency
- What I wish I would have learned early on that would have helped me get better help
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Join me for The Daring Way Retreat Open House! March 29th at 1 pm ET. I'll be going over the curriculum and doing a Q&A.
Episode 436: How We Heal Ourselves: A New Perspective on Mental Health with Britt Frank
Codependent No More, Melody Beattie
Facing Codependence, Pia Mellody
Britt Frank on Instagram
You're listening to Make Some Noise Podcast minisode number 437.
Welcome to Make Some Noise Podcast, your guide for strategies, tools and insight to empower yourself. I'm your host, Andrea Irwin, global speaker, entrepreneur, life coach since 2007, and author of three books that have been translated into 18 languages and are available in 22 countries. Each week, I'll bring you a guest or a lesson that will help you maximize unshakable confidence, master resilience and make some noise in your life. You ready? Let's go.
Everyone, to another minisode. I just really listened to my last minisode that was largely about… It was my tribute to my dog Giselle, who passed away and I was sad. I didn't listen back to it because it was too hard to listen to and I apologize for all the like sticky mouth noises that were happening there. But I was crying. So I apologize for that.
Anyway, I wanted to talk about codependence. Totally switching gears. I wanted to talk about codependence because it's a topic that comes up a lot. It's come up in several of the episodes that I've done over the last eight years now, but particularly in this set of episodes that we're doing around therapy and trauma and I wanted to give you kind of a snapshot of what codependency looked like in my life when I was really deep into it based on a couple of different books that I have that I think are really fantastic for people who want to learn more about it. And I also wanted to tell you about an opinion that my good friend Britt Frank has, we just heard her on the podcast on Wednesday around codependence that's a little bit different, if you will, then a lot of the expertise out there, which I think is so incredibly important if you do find yourself with the symptoms of codependency. And it's something that I wish that I would have heard much earlier on in my journey with it. So it would have been able to help me heal better and I think it's something that that really needs to be talked about more.
Quick reminder, coming up in a couple of weeks now on March the 29th I'm having a virtual open ouse about the Daring Way retreat that is coming up in September. If you are interested, and have a little Q&A, if you're interested in getting a sneak peek of the curriculum that we go over in that retreat, join us you don't have to sign up for anything. It's Tuesday, April 29, at one o'clock Eastern time, that's 10am Pacific and just pop that into your calendar, and then go to AndreaOwen.com/meet and that will automatically send you to the Zoom link where we'll be meeting. You don't have to get on camera, you can if you want. I would love to see your beautiful face, but I understand if you don't want to. But it's going to be really informative for anyone who wants to come to the retreat who's considering it who's on the fence and also if you're considering doing the Daring Way, even one on one privately with me because that's an option as well. So March 29, one o'clock Eastern. Just head on over to AndreaOwen.com/meet.
Alright my friends, let's get into it. So I have Codependent No More in front of me by Melody Beattie. This book is so beat up. It's very loved. But actually a friend of mine that I used to work with in my 20s gave me her copy. Her name is still on the inside of the book. I didn't notice that until I pulled it out of my bookshelf again. I'm just going to quickly read through a few of the things that I have highlighted in the beginning of the book in the first couple of chapters where Melody Beattie is talking about what is codependence what does it actually look like? So codependency people who struggle with it tend to be adult children of alcoholics, people in relationships with irresponsible people. That was both of those were my were my situations. People in relationships with emotionally or mentally disturbed persons. I'm not sure if we have a better way of putting that now but this was written back in the 1980s. People in relationships with chronically ill people, parents of children with behavior problems, recovering alcoholics and addicts. And that's about it. That's kind of a nutshell of what that is. And here's how she defines someone who is a codependent. “A codependent person is one who has let other person's behavior affect them and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior”. I heard that. That was my life. That wasn't my life's goal. Yikes.
Okay, another random thing I highlighted. “They meaning codependents have been afraid to trust their feelings they have believed lies and then felt betrayed. They have wanted to get even and punish others. They have felt so angry they wanted to kill.” Why did I highlight that guy's Goodness gracious, I was mad. Shit. I should have read these before I started recall recording. For the record, I did not murder anyone a will say there may have been a point in my life where I wish that someone was dead. Who shall be unnamed. But anyway, all right.
And here's another quote. “It is natural to want to protect and help the people we care about. It is also natural to be affected by and react to the problems of people around us. As a problem becomes more serious and remains unresolved, codependents become more affected and react more intensely to it.” And then, “another reason codependency is called a disease is because it is progressive, as the people around us become sicker, we may begin to react more intensely. We what began as a little concern may trigger isolation, depression, emotional or physical illness or suicidal fantasies. One thing leads to another and things get worse codependency may not be an illness, but it can make you sick, and it can help the people around you stay sick.” Interesting.
The characteristics, this is in chapter four, are many. She has bullet points in different categories like sex problems, weak boundaries, anger, lack of trust, denial, controlling. It goes on for like eight pages. And I have a lot of them. I have a lot of them highlighted. Let me just read the ones that have stars by hopefully it's not about murdering people. All right, “believe other people are making them crazy”. I have that one highlighted and highlighted and stars next to it. Yes, I did take things personally. “Try to catch people in acts of misbehavior”. I spent a lot of time doing that. “Tolerate abuse to keep people loving them”. That makes my stomach hurt. “Apologize for bothering people”. And that's the only ones I have stars by but I have many if not… Well, I would say looking at this I have about 50% or 60% of these highlighted.
And here's the thing about this book, especially all of these characteristics, like you read through these, and you think to yourself, this is these are characteristics of humans. Literally everyone can fall into these categories. And I know that that's been some criticism of codependency and which brings me to the other book that helped me very much and that is Facing Codependence by Pia Mellody is the woman who founded The Meadows which is a rehabilitation center in Wickenburg, Arizona and I attended the meadows as a guest, although I probably should have spent time as an as an inpatient there. And when I open this book today to record this for you, I wrote the date on the inside of this book, it must have been the day that I got it January 29, 2007, and that my friends, was the week that I was out at The Meadows there for family week with my then boyfriend, who I had just found out had faked cancer while we were dating, to cover up his drug addiction and I was pregnant with his baby. And that child is now my 14 year old son.
And a side note, I am in the middle of writing a memoir about the whole saga of that 18 months of my life. My husband had an affair with their neighbor got her pregnant, all of that trauma and trauma and then meaning this guy that I thought was great and I ended up there at The Meadows reading books about codependence and love addiction. The fantastic thing that came out of all of that, all of that was that it was my enormous rock bottom, more importantly wake up call, to change my life. And I did.
Back to the book Facing Codependence by Pia Mellody. I love this book because Pia. Mellody is a I don't know what her credentials are exactly, but for her from what I remember she is a licensed therapist and this was, you know, what she specialized in. What I really love about this book is that you can tell that the author that it comes from a clinical sense. One point and the examples that she gives are really great and then she inserts her insight around it. So I'm going to read you a brief excerpt that is her story. And Pia Mellody says, “I was a secret people pleaser and felt a growing sense of rage about it but I couldn't seem to change or quit worrying. I was filled with fear and felt very inadequate, even though I was trying to do everything perfectly and I was beginning to feel more and more shame because I couldn't seem to actually pull it off and be perfect. Then finally, my outer adequate looking shell begins to crack and blasts of hot anger burst out frightening me and the people around me and things got worse. The inner anxiety and pressure I felt were almost wall to wall.”
I read that because I think that I can relate to that as especially in my 20s and I'm sure many of you can relate to that. I also have highlighted this part where a couple pages later she says, “later I was to realize that while we codependents are often very sensitive to the problems of the people around us, and often have unusual insight into ways to help them we frequently grope in the darkness when it comes to diagnosing and helping ourselves with problems of codependence. So I believe that it was only by suggesting procedures for other people and then trying them that I helped myself.” So she was talking about, you know, as she was the therapist, I found myself doing that and I was not a therapist, I had zero qualifications to meet people what they should and shouldn't be doing. And I want to read this one more thing that that it's a Post It that I wrote, and put it in the beginning of this chapter and the Post It is super faded and old. And it says ‘this is the exact behavior from previous relationships when the relationship ended. So did the behavior or so I thought, I thought that with a new person, it would go away my behaviors weren't identical to the old relationships, so I didn't recognize it at all.’ Interesting. I bet that that has a lot to do with my relationship with my husband and me just thinking like, okay, so the dysfunctional person I was with my former partner is gone, so surely my next relationship is just going to be so much better. And I think it was for a while in the beginning as many relationships are and then and then the cracks began to show.
I want to shift gears and read to you something that Britt Frank wrote on her Instagram page that jumped out at me, and I actually wrote about it. So I'm updating, if I didn't tell you guys this already, I'm updating and revising How To Stop Feeling Like Shit, and it's going to come back. It's going to re-release in 2023. I felt like there was so many things I needed to tell you because I wrote that book in 2016. And now we've faced a pandemic, we've had a me too movement, we've had we've had social unrest, we've been talking more about toxic positivity. I needed to update it. So anyway, in that chapter, I believe it's in the control chapter I quote Britt because I think it was such a genius thing to say, and I want to read it to you. Alright, the link will be in the show notes. She's @BrittFrank on Instagram, and this post is from February 20. So the image says ‘codependency is an effort by our inner child parts to take care of someone else's inner child parts’. And here's what the caption says, which is very smart. She says “I'm not a big fan of the word codependent. It can be blamey, shamy and makes it sound like we don't need other people. The word codependent is often used to describe the enabling partner of someone with sub optimal behaviors. It's also used to describe someone who focuses exclusively on caretaking and who neglects their own inner world and outer needs. If you dig beneath the surface and look at the function of codependent behavior, codependency is a form of internal abandonment. Without an inner leader present, our inner child is left terrified and alone. They then frantically scramble to fix, take care of, heal someone else's inner child as a form of self-protection. The solution to codependency isn't to rescue someone else's inner child. Tragically, that's not possible even though other people are necessary to help us parent ours. And the solution isn't to force someone to parent their inner child. That rarely works. The solution to codependency is to parent our parts and to help them set boundaries even when setting boundaries feels scary.’
And I want to circle back to a couple of things that she says in there that might be a little bit confusing to you. So she talks a lot about IFS Internal Family Systems, so that is what she's referring to when she says, the sentence of “without an inner leader present, our inner child is left terrified and alone”. Britt also uses the term ‘internal abandonment’ or ‘self-abandonment’. There's a podcast episode coming up on April 13, I believe with Eliah Prichard, where she talks specifically about this. And how what that looks like is people pleasing, poor boundaries, you know, trying to fit into a box of conformity where you're trying to act like what you think people want of you. It's also perfectionism. You are abandoning yourself. That's also what I did, right? Totally not listening to my intuition when I was into terrible, dysfunctional, and sometimes abusive relationships. I saw the red flags, I chose to ignore them. That is self-abandonment.
Then the thing that I want to focus on for this last part is what I like about what Britt says about this, and this is the part where I wish that I would have heard this earlier on when she says that the word codependent, and when people talk about codependency it can be blaming and shaming me. And that's really how I felt not only did I feel broken, when I really started to dive into both of these books, I felt broken. And like, oh, my gosh, look at this mountain, I need to climb. Look at all of this, that I need to fix about myself, look at all of this that I need to heal. And I knew that people had done some pretty egregious and shitty things to me, I knew that my parents weren't perfect as they raised me. They were dealing with their own stuff and had their own wounds. But it still felt like I'm still a little crazy, I'm still a little broken, I'm still too intense. That always stayed with me. That underlining feeling of being wrong. And that's what I want to leave you with the most. If you are feeling like you have a lot to work on, if there's anything that's resonated with you in any of my books about the things that you want to work on, I invite you to do your best to have so much compassion for yourself. So much compassion for yourself. None of us are wired as perfect human beings, when we come into the world. Can you imagine like how boring it would be? None of us are robots. Well, I hope none of us are robots.
But I guess at the end of the day, all of us are looking for love. It's part of being human. We're looking for love. We are needing and wanting connection and some form of intimacy and trust with people in our closest circle of people that we care about. And when we don't get it, or when we feel like we might not get it, or we feel like it's not the type of love that we actually need. Or sometimes things can be going really well. And we still have that fear that it's going to go away, it's going to be taken away from us, someone's going to leave us, that makes us behave, that's a form of self-abandonment, and it makes us behave in ways that are not that healthy. But again, it all comes from a source and I believe that both things are true. I believe that we can be in this place of seeing the things that are kind of our biggest triggers our biggest challenges that we need to work on. I have them you have them, we all have them, and at the same time, understand that, a lot of them. I don't know if Britt would say most of them, maybe she will I'll have to ask her, come from these wounds that we have, from our childhood and from our younger adulthood. And maybe our more grown adulthood too. It sticks with us, it's so much inner workings that's happening. And I want you to know that no one improves their lives, no one gets to a place of self-acceptance and self-love when the path is full of self-blame, full of shame, beating yourself up self-abandonment, all of those things.
Growth and self-love and evolving as a human has to have pretty big doses of self-compassion. And that's what Britt is pointing out here. And I have found that that is that is true in my own work. And I hope that you I hope that you can work on that yourself. It is definitely not a one and done. It's something that needs to be worked on fairly vigilantly and I want that for you. I absolutely want that for you. I hope that you have found this helpful. I will put links to the virtual open house that's coming up. And if you're listening to this afterwards, there will be a recording of it. That link will be in the show notes. Both of the books that I read from, as well as Britt's Instagram account, where you can read more of what she has to say. And with that, remember, it's our life's journey to make ourselves better humans and our life's responsibility to make the world a better place. Bye for now.