Friday, January 7, 2011

Emotional Dependency

Photo credit: http://www.heyjosh.com/

I’ve been reading David Viscott’s, “Emotional Resilience: Simple Truths for Dealing with the Unfinished Business of Your Past.” After reading it over twice, I wonder about the subtitle, because for me there is nothing simple about dealing with the past. It's painfully complex, tiring, tedious and elusive. It requires questioning assumptions and coping mechanisms -- if that's at all possible.  However, Viscott compensates for what I consider this initial slip through his deeper understanding of the undercurrents of human interaction.

When Viscott refers to emotional dependence, he describes my family background with accuracy. As a result of this unsolicited “heritage” I have a mix of avoidant and co-dependent issues. Today, in this post I've jotted some reflections from reading Viscott, dividing my thoughts and feelings in two categories: In the first paragraph I mention the dependent traits that hit me hardest in my marriage while in the second category I deal with areas that still affect me in the present.

My wish to be close to my ex-wife caused me to disregard my safety and best interests, holding on to the relationship long after experience had revealed the truth. Once committed and enmeshed, I put up with considerable abuse. Maybe a list can help show how dependence led me down the dark alley of emotional debilitation:  1) I neglected self care. 2) I let down my guard in exchange for a few crumbs of affection. 3) I admitted wrong when I had no reason. 4) I did not see self-reliance as an alternative.

In the present, my main concern as Viscott states is that "others see me as loveable". Everything I am hinges upon this "need:  1) I suffer from guilt and as a result have difficulty expressing hurt in a timely fashion. 2) When others do not feel good about themselves, I take responsibility for it. 3) In my subconscious I still believe I need another person to be complete -- again quoting Viscott "to be my best, to assuage my hurt, to be comforted and loved".  4) Because I'm obsessed with the idea of diminishment I can slip into a scarcity mode. 5) I avoid "taking actions that may cause me to lose favor with others". [I'm aware how I fall prey to others' opinions, being vulnerable to changing my initial belief. For example, I have to guard against reading hardcore conservatives that defend marriage at all costs, who view the institution above the individual]. 6) Doubting my lovability and needing reinforcement, I have to work double hard to act on my own. For instance, several years I resisted the idea of initiating the process of divorce, putting it off in my mind until I had a new love in my life. To think of the brutal task of divorce without someone supporting me from start to finish seemed too unbearable. Fortunately, I found the resolve to finish what I started, but it wasn't easy and still have bouts of ambiguity. Part of me is thankful I'm out the relationship, while the other part of me questions whether I was too hard on her.

By nature then, I’m a people pleaser. I care what others think and this fear of being rejected often compromises my judgement. Sometimes I get emotionally blocked when I need to be in tune and aware. This makes me susceptible to being blindsided. Rather than defend myself, I tend to display my injury, as if doing so will cause the person who is hurting me to repent.

̴  Intuitive Feeling

9 comments:

Raven of Truth said...

Reflector, I very much relate to your experience and feelings. When you write, I feel as though I have written it myself.

Regarding co-dependence, I find that I must consistently work at bringing my goal of self-reliance back into focus because it so easily slips away when I feel that my words, opinions, or actions have offended someone.

Right now, loving myself enough to know that my own authority and approval are enough to create a fulfilling life for myself is my number one goal.

Anonymous said...

Reflector,

I can also relate to this so much.

The third paragraph rings so true for me. I looked like the walking dead when I left my 2nd marriage. My children ask me now that we are free, how could I have let that happen to me. It was the seduction of pure evil, that I at first saw as good, and swept me off my feet. It scares me that I even went to that place. It was a slow process.

Raven, I love your last sentence. It is what I also strive for, and can do good for weeks at a time, and then fall apart in a heartbeat.

Reflector, I also wanted to say that I love the pictures that you choose. They are always so fitting.

Sincerely,
Anon

Reflector said...

"Right now, loving myself enough to know that my own authority and approval are enough to create a fulfilling life for myself is my number one goal."
Raven, whether the root of self doubt is derives from an abusive caregiver, unstable FOO or rigid religious background – still, it complicates adult life when we discover that our partner is or was disrespectful and abusive. The judgment of a healthy man or woman would rise up in defence -- take a stand rather than allow judgement to be clouded and obscured. The abuser, sensing our reluctance or incompetence in the heat of confrontation, creates or created cycles of abuse [a mix of sweetness and cruelty] designed to throw constant doubt upon that natural sense of judgement until it is lost altogether.
The worst part is that the abuser’s voice takes residence in our head and therefore continues to inhibit and sabotage that inner sense of judgement long after we have physically left or made the separation from the abuser. That voice attaches itself as a Salmonella bacterium fastens itself to the inner lining of the stomach spewing tiny yet lethal toxins into our healthy cells, causing that lining to be grossly mutated and inflamed without being able to perceive the cause from an observer’s perspective. Our greatest trait [empathy] thus degenerates into our fault [becoming other-centered], so that we no longer rely upon common sense but rather outside affirmation to prop us up.
Nothing less than a miracle needs to happen in order to reverse this debilitating condition and still there lies a weakened version of that bacterium that longs to rest under someone else’s shade…
̴ Reflector

Reflector said...

“The third paragraph rings so true for me. I looked like the walking dead when I left my 2nd marriage. My children ask me now that we are free, how could I have let that happen to me. It was the seduction of pure evil, that I at first saw as good, and swept me off my feet. It scares me that I even went to that place. It was a slow process.”

I like the choice of your words, Anon … “walking dead” is a fitting description of the victimization that eats away at our spirit so that we live an egg-shell existence. I would look back on photographs of me of that era and what I saw horrified me. There was no sparkle in the eye, no vitality or interest in life, just survival mode.

The worst part was that being a prisoner had become such a part of me; I couldn’t imagine life any other way. It has marked my life that I no longer feel worthy of being loved.

̴ Reflector

Anonymous said...

Reflector,

Thank you for your reply. I remember looking in the mirror after being verbally/emotionally abused so terribly for the umteenth time, and I didn't recognize who was looking back at me. That was the night I knew I had to begin in my mind to go.

Your writing is incredible, and I have to re-read what you wrote to Raven. It is exactly how I felt, but could have never put it in those words.

Peace,
Anon

Anonymous said...

I wanted to add, that those of us that feel the most unworthy of love, because the ones we loved tried to show us in every way that we weren't worthy of it, are probably the most deserving of it. We sold our souls for it, and I am learning that it should never, ever be that hard.

Unfortunately, sometimes our worst critic are ourselves.

Anon

Anon

Reflector said...

Anon,
It took time before I could see myself in the mirror through my eyes [only] rather than through my abuser. What disturbed me wasn’t my physical appearance, but the enormous hole in my heart reflected in my face, therefore feeling inwardly unattractive. I was especially susceptible when tired or discouraged. I made an exerted effort not to look in the mirror during those darker moments.

So, even though I had been separated for several years, I still was barely making it through the day. The anxiety and sadness cast a dark cloud over each day. Once work was over I was completely drained and I couldn’t imagine going to church or any other social activity.

Fortunately, things turned around a year ago and I regained my vitality -- mostly through exercise and watching what I eat and drink. Eating raw fruits and vegetables made the biggest difference. Staying away from caffeine and sugar drove away the anxiety. My daughter noticed the difference and as a result has began to move toward the fresh and organic even though she is only a teen … and teens don’t usually concern themselves over such matters.

̴ Reflector

Anonymous said...

Reflector,

I also made a turn around, and it was my children who noticed it first. My youngest said "mom, it's so wonderful to hear your laugh again". I have a great sense of humor, and knew then that I was making my way back.

Sincerely,
Anon

Reflector said...

Anon, humor indeed keeps us sane and stimulates the immune system. I too love humor and wit. I teach children and teens and sometimes humor helps me tremendously, while sometimes it can backfire. I'm not sure why. Prehaps with Preschool children I have to be most careful as they see it as permission to misbehave.
-- Reflector