One of the issues that all co-dependents share is their struggle with independent thinking. Many children are brought up in an environment that fails to nurture their confidence. The co-dependent was brought up with erratic criticism. One day something they did was fine and the next it wasn’t. One day this friend was fine and the next she was dreadful. One day the parents supported their daughter in a situation and the next she was blamed for creating the situation. The result is a woman who struggles with independent thinking.
The co-dependent is afraid to own an opinion, sure that it will be the wrong one – or right today and wrong tomorrow. She waits in the wings to hear the opinion of the alpha male to be sure that she is on a strong team and then borrows that opinion as her own.
Philippa describes her life in her head as follows – “When I was much younger I lived with the voices of my mother and my sister constantly. If I reached to take a dress off a rail I was already arguing with them in my head about why it was a decent decision – sure that they would be arguing against my decision. The result was inevitably the same. If my mother and sister approved then I owned the dress, failing which I would replace it on the rail. Later I took on the voices of my husbands. I was too muscular, too lazy, useless and without value. I held those sentences and voices with me constantly – quietly anxious, unhappy and ready to do whatever it took to show them that it wasn’t the case.
The co-dependent can always believe the worst case scenario about herself – always. The glass was never half full and always “almost empty”. I was frantic to fill it and never could. Then I managed to outdo them. I became the voice that told the story about how awful I was, how horrible life was and how it would never be right again. I told myself stories about the plight of the divorcee (of which I was now one). I told myself how I would never amount to anything and would be a burden on my family. I fought hard against any suggestion that this was in fact the case but deep inside I believed it to be true.
Now some interesting events have taken place that have shown me that my voice is the voice of the tormentor. I told myself that I could never drive past the house of my childhood again. The memories were too dreadful and I saw no reason to subject myself to that. I told myself that I couldn’t look at another Yorkie without unimaginable pain after the loss of Osho. On Sunday Sue took me to meet her mother. Both her mother and sister, Dyan have Yorkshire Terriers and are devoted dog owners. Despite my expectations of unendurable grief I had a wonderful morning playing with Lulu, Chelsea, Savannah and Abbey. Instead of being beside myself I just loved the company of these darling dogs. On the way home Sue asked me to show her where I grew up. I was so reluctant but she pushed and so we went. As we drove down the street I was overcome by the most wonderful childhood memories. I remembered playing cricket on the streets, cops and robbers with the neighbors and building “The Great Escape” with my childhood friend Michael.
I was so shocked by how differently those two scenarios played out. Neither were painful. Both were beautiful. I had taken on the habit of telling myself “the ugly truth” as it had been told to me for years. I was the voice of doom and gloom and none of it was true.
As I sit here I am determined to reclaim my optimism. I see that I am talented not useless. I am honourable, not opportunistic. I am well-liked not a burden. It has been a glorious revelation.
To all co-dependents out there – please look at the voices in your head, even your own and see that you are still telling yourself the worst of yourself and it’s not true.