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Codependency Information Page

Broken and dysfunctional relationships can trigger the onset of bipolar disorder mood swings. The following information has been provided with permission by Robert Burney and Joy to You and Me Enterprises for the purposes of better understanding codependency and the tremendous stress that it can cause and the danger.

Content provided by:

Codependency Quick Links
What should you do if someone tells you they are thinking about suicide?
>What is Codependency / Codependence
>The Condition of Codependency
>Codependence vs. Interdependence
>Emotional abuse is Heart and Soul Mutilation
>Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility
>Setting Personal Boundaries - protecting self
>Learning to Love our self
>Inner Child Healing = a path to freedom, serenity, and empowerment
>About the Author Robert Burney

What is Codependency / Codependence

There are a variety of ways to describe the condition of codependency. Here are a few:

Codependency is:

at it's core, a dysfunctional relationship with self. We do not know how to Love our self in healthy ways because our parents did not know how to Love themselves. We were raised in shame-based societies that taught us that there is something wrong with being human. The messages we got often included that there is something wrong: with making mistakes; with not being perfect; with being sexual; with being emotional; with being too fat or too thin or too tall or too short or too whatever. As children we were taught to determine our worth in comparison with others. If we were smarter than, prettier than, to receive better grades than, faster than, etc. - then we were validated and got the message that we had worth.
In a codependent society everyone has to have someone to look down on in order to feel good about themselves. And, conversely, there is always someone we can compare ourselves to that can cause us to not feel good enough.

Codependency could:
More accurately be called outer or external dependence. The condition of codependence is about giving power over our self esteem to outside sources/agencies or external manifestations. We were taught to look outside of our selves to people, places, and things - to money, property and prestige, to determine if we have worth. That causes us to put false gods before us. We make money or achievement or popularity or material possessions or the "right" marriage the Higher Power that determines if we have worth.
We take our self-definition and self-worth from external manifestations of our own being so that looks or talent or intelligence becomes the Higher Power that we look to in determining if we have worth.

All outside and external conditions are temporary and could change in a moment. If we make a temporary condition our Higher Power we are setting ourselves up to be a victim - and, in blind devotion to that Higher Power we are pursuing, we often victimize other people on our way to proving we have worth.

(I believe that we are all ONE. That we all have equal worth as Spiritual Beings, as sons and daughters of the God-Force / Goddess Energy / Great Spirit - not because of any external manifestation or outside condition.)

Codependency is:
a particularly vicious form of delayed stress syndrome. Instead of being traumatized in a foreign country against an identified enemy during a war, as soldiers who have delayed stress are - we were traumatized in our sanctuaries by the people we loved the most. Instead of having experienced that trauma for a year or two as a soldier might - we experienced it on a daily basis for 16 or 17 or 18 years. A soldier has to shut down emotionally in order to survive in a war zone. We had to shut down emotionally because we were surrounded by adults who were emotional cripples of one sort or another.

Codependency is:
A dysfunctional emotional and behavioral defense system. When a society is emotionally dishonest, the people of that society are set up to be emotionally dysfunctional. In this society being emotional is described as falling apart, losing it, going to pieces, coming unglued, etc. (Other cultures give more permission to be emotional but then the emotions are usually expressed in ways that are out of balance to the extreme of letting the emotions control. The goal is balance between emotional and mental - between the intuitive and the rational.)
Traditionally in this society men have been taught that anger is the only acceptable emotion for a man to express, while women are taught that it is not acceptable for them to be angry. If it is not ok to own all of our emotions then we can not know who we are as emotional beings. [Also traditionally, women are taught to be codependent - take their self-definition (including their names) and self-worth - from their relationships with men, while men are taught to be codependent on their work/career/ability to produce, and from their presumed superiority to women.]

Codependency is:
a disease of lost self. If we are not validated and affirmed for who we are in childhood then we don't believe we are worthy or lovable. Often we got validated and affirmed by one parent and put down by the other. When the parent who is "loving" does not protect us - or themselves - from the parent that is abusive, it is a betrayal that sets us up to have low self esteem because the affirmation we received was invalidated right in our own homes.

And being affirmed for being who we are is very different than being affirmed for who our parents wanted us to be - if they could not see themselves clearly then they sure could not see us clearly. In order to survive, children adapt whatever behavior will work best in helping them get their survival needs met. We then grow up to be adults who don't know our self and keep dancing the dance we learned as children.
A dysfunctional relationship is one that does not work to make us happy.

Codependency is about having a dysfunctional relationship with self. With our own bodies, minds, emotions, and spirits. With our own gender and sexuality. With being human. Because we have dysfunctional relationships internally we have dysfunctional relationships externally. We try to fill the hole we feel inside of our self with something or someone outside of us - it does not work.

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The Condition of Codependency

"The word changed and evolved further after the start of the modern Codependence movement in Arizona in the mid-eighties. Co-Dependents Anonymous had its first meeting in October of 1986, and books on Codependence as a disease in and of itself started appearing at about the same time. These Codependence books were the next generation evolved from the books on the Adult Child Syndrome of the early eighties."

"The point that I am making is that our understanding of Codependence has evolved to realizing that this is not just about some dysfunctional families, our very role models, our prototypes, are dysfunctional. Our traditional cultural concepts of what a man is, of what a woman is, are twisted, distorted, almost comically bloated stereotypes of what masculine and feminine really are."

"We are set up to be emotionally dysfunctional by our role models, both parental and societal. We are taught to repress and distort our emotional process. We are trained to be emotionally dishonest when we are children."

So often when I am working with someone, helping them to understand their codependency, they will say, "Why didn't I learn this sooner. I feel so stupid that I have wasted so many years in denial about how much my childhood experiences were running my life."

What I need to remind them of, is that the information we have now wasn't available when they were growing up. It was in only the late 70s and early 80s that researchers were able to identify the Adult Child Syndrome, that family dynamics researchers were starting to speak of the concept of dysfunctional families. Before Betty Ford had the courage to go public with her recovery from alcoholism in the late 70s, there was very little information widely available about alcoholism. Phil Donahue started bringing controversial topics out of the closet in the 70s, and was followed in the 80s by Oprah Winfrey. These were the first times that such subjects as child abuse and incest were openly discussed in American society. Denial, keeping secrets, had been the traditional norm in both families and society.

Children now are being taught in school and through the media, that it is good to have boundaries (just say no) and to talk about their feelings. There are books and classes now in healthy parenting. This is a major leap forward for society. It was not long ago, that the philosophy of child raising was based upon a "this is right and this is wrong - and you better do right or else."

Unfortunately it still is for many families. And even more unfortunately, most of the kids that are being given healthier messages are still not getting healthy role modeling. Role modeling is just as important - if not more important - in the developmental process for children than direct messages. "Do as I say, and not as I do," does not work when it comes to parenting.

The reality of human development is that we form the foundation dynamics of our relationships with self, with life, and with other people in early childhood. Our relationship patterns are pretty embedded by the time we are 4 or 5 years old.
Since there is no integration of the human developmental process into society - no real training of how to be healthy adults or real ceremonies / initiation rites to mark vital milestones / passages in development, such as puberty (junior high school as is it experienced in society is not a celebration of adolescence) - and no culturally approved grieving to take the emotional charge away from wounds caused by childhood trauma, we are stuck with those early childhood patterns.

We are trained in childhood to be emotionally and intellectually dishonest, through both direct messages and watching our role models. We learned that it was very important to keep up appearances - to wear a mask. We watched out parents say nasty, judgmental things about a person when they weren't around and then be nice to them in person. We got told that it was not okay to speak our truth. There was an old song I always thought described how I saw people interacting, that went something to the effect "The games people play now, every night and every day now, never saying what they mean - never meaning what they say."

We were trained to be dishonest. We also got taught to be emotionally dishonest. We got told not to feel our feelings with messages like, don't cry, don't be afraid - at the same time we saw how our parents lived life out of fear. We got messages that it was not okay to be too happy when our exuberance was embarrassing to our parents. Many of us grew up in environments where it was not okay to be curious, or adventurous, or playful. It was not okay to be a child.

In any society where:
emotional dishonesty is not just the standard but the goal (keep up appearances, don't show vulnerability); as children we learned that we had power over other people's feelings (you make me angry, you hurt my feelings, etc.); being emotional is considered negative (falling apart, loosing it, coming unglued, etc.); gender stereotypes set twisted, unhealthy models for acceptable emotional behavior (real men don't cry or get scared, it is not ladylike to get angry); parents without healthy self esteem see their children as extensions of self that can be either assets or deficits in their own quest for self worth; families are isolated from any true reality of community or tribal support;
shame, manipulation, verbal and emotional abuse are considered standard tools for behavior modification in a loving relationship; long embedded societal attitudes support the belief that it is shameful to be human (make mistakes, not be perfect, to be selfish, etc.); any human being is denigrated and held to be less worthy for any inherent characteristic (gender, race, looks, etc.); Results in a very emotionally unhealthy society.

We were set up to be codependent. We were trained and programmed in childhood to be dishonest with ourselves and others. We were taught false, dysfunctional concepts of success, romance, love, life. We could not have lived our lives differently because there was no one to teach us how to be healthy. We were doing the best we knew how with the tools, beliefs, and definitions we had - just as our parents were doing the best they knew how.

We have new tools now. We have information and knowledge that was not available until recently. We can change the way we live our lives. It is important to stop shaming ourselves for living life the way we were programmed to live, in order to start learning how to live in a way that is more functional - in a way that works to help us have some peace and happiness in our lives. The only way to be free of the past is to start seeing it more clearly - without shame and judgment - so that we can take advantage of this wonderful time of healing that has begun.

Codependency has been the human condition. We now have the knowledge and power to change our relationship with ourselves. That is how we can change the human condition.

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Codependence vs. Interdependence

"Codependence and interdependence are two very different dynamics. Codependence is about giving away power over our self-esteem. . . . Interdependence is about making allies, forming partnerships. It is about forming connections with other beings."
"The disease of Codependence causes us to keep repeating patterns that are familiar. So we pick untrustworthy people to trust, undependable people to depend on, unavailable people to love. By healing our emotional wounds and changing our intellectual programming we can start to practice discernment in our choices so that we can change our patterns and learn to trust ourselves."
"The way to healthy interdependence is to be able to see things clearly - to see people, situations, life dynamics and most of all ourselves clearly. If we are not working on healing our childhood wounds and changing our childhood programming then we cannot begin to see ourselves clearly let alone anything else in life."

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Emotional abuse is Heart and Soul Mutilation

"Emotional abuse is underneath all other types of abuse - the most damaging aspect of physical, sexual, mental, etc. abuse is the trauma to our hearts and souls from being betrayed by the people that we love and trust."

"Our parents were emotionally abused in childhood because their parents were emotionally abused in childhood. Our parents were our role models who taught us how to relate to ourselves and our own emotions."

"The most destructive emotional abuse is the emotional abuse we learned to inflict upon ourselves. We formed our core relationship with self in early childhood and have been judging and shaming ourselves ever since. The most destructive thing about the emotional abuse we suffered because our parents were wounded, was that we incorporated the messages we got from their behavior into our relationship with self. We emotionally abuse ourselves on a daily basis.

Anyone in recovery, on a healing/Spiritual path, is ultimately trying to find their way home to LOVE - in my belief. LOVE is the Higher Power - the True nature of the God-Force/Goddess Energy/Great Spirit. LOVE is the fabric from which we are woven. LOVE is the answer. And in order to start finding my way home to LOVE - I first had to start awakening to what Love is not. Here are a few things that I have learned, and believe, are not part of the True nature of Love.

Love is not:
Painful most of the time.

Love is also not an addiction. It is not taking a hostage or being taken hostage. The type of romantic love that I learned about growing is a form of toxic love. The "I can't smile without out you," "Can't live without you." "You are my everything," "You are not whole until you find your prince/princess" messages that I learned in relationship to romantic love in childhood are not descriptions of Love - they are descriptions of drug of choice, of someone who is a higher power/false god.

Additionally, Love is not being a doormat. Love does not entail sacrificing your self on the altar of martyrdom - because one cannot consciously choose to sacrifice self if they have never Truly had a self that they felt was Lovable and worthy. If we do not know how to Love our self, how to show respect and honor for our self - then we have no self to sacrifice. We are then sacrificing in order to try to prove to ourselves that we are lovable and worthy - that is not giving from the heart, that is codependently manipulative, controlling, and dishonest.

Unconditional Love is not being a self-sacrificing doormat - Unconditional Love begins with Loving self enough to protect our self from the people we Love if that is necessary. Until we start Loving, honoring, and respecting our self, we are not Truly giving - we are attempting to take self worth from others by being compliant in our behavior towards them." - The True Nature of Love - what Love is not

Any kind of physical, verbal, mental, sexual abuse is also emotionally abusive. Any attitudes or behaviors that convey a message that the other is less than a being who deserves to be treated with respect and dignity - including objectifying and stereotyping - are emotionally abusive.

The overt forms of abuse are often much more readily identifiable than the more covert forms. It is relatively easy for most people to see that raging and yelling are emotionally abusive. That name calling and verbal put downs are emotionally abusive. It can be hard to identify some of the more passive aggressive forms as being just as wounding - as being abusive and damaging.

"Passive-aggressive behavior is the expression of anger indirectly. This happens because we got the message one way or another in childhood that it was not OK to express anger.

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Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility

"Because we were discounted and invalidated in childhood (and for most of our adult lives due to our repeating patterns); because we were taught not to trust our own feelings and perceptions; because we learned to have twisted, distorted relationships with ourselves and our own emotions; we need validation from other people that what we are awakening to is in fact real and not some product of our defective, shameful self image.

At the same time, it is a codependent pattern to gather allies. To have people to complain to, who will sympathize with us and tell us how awful the other person/people were for abusing us. We gather allies that will give their approval to our self righteous indignation. When we are feeling self righteous indignation we are buying into a victim perspective."

"Anytime that we are focusing on the situation at hand and giving power to the belief that we are victims of the situation/people we have just interacted with, without looking at ow that situation is connected to our childhood wounds - we are not being honest with ourselves.

We will feel like victims - because we have been abused. But feeling like a victim and giving power to the belief in victimization are two completely different things."

"I have often told clients that going from feeling suicidal to feeling homicidal is a step of progress. It is a stage of the recovery process that we will move into - and then at some later point will move beyond. An incest victim transforms into an incest survivor. Owning the anger is an important part of pulling ourselves out of the depression that turning the anger back on ourselves has created. It is often necessary to own the anger before we can get in touch with the grief in a clean and healthy way. If we haven't owned our right to be angry, it is possible to get stuck in a victim place of self-pity and martyrdom, of complaining and gathering sympathetic allies - instead of taking action to change."

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Setting Personal Boundaries - protecting self

"The purpose of having boundaries is to protect and take care of ourselves. We need to be able to tell other people when they are acting in ways that are not acceptable to us. A first step is starting to know that we have a right to protect and defend ourselves. That we have not only the right, but the duty to take responsibility for how we allow others to treat us."

"It is important to state our feelings out loud, and to precede the feeling with "I feel." (When we say "I am angry, I'm hurt, etc." we are stating that the feeling is who we are. Emotions do not define us, they are a form of internal communication that help us to understand ourselves. They are a vital part of our being - as a component of the whole.) This is owning the feeling. It is important to do for ourselves. By stating the feeling out loud we are affirming that we have a right to feelings. We are affirming it to ourselves - and taking responsibility for owning ourselves and our reality. Rather the other person can hear us and understand is not as important as hearing ourselves and understanding that we have a right to our feelings. It is vitally important to own our own voice. To own our right to speak up for ourselves."

"Setting boundaries is not a more sophisticated way of manipulation - although some people will say they are setting boundaries, when in fact they are attempting to manipulate. The difference between setting a boundary in a healthy way and manipulating is: when we set a boundary we let go of the outcome."
"It is impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone who has no boundaries, with someone who cannot communicate directly, and honestly. Learning how to set boundaries is a necessary step in learning to be a friend to ourselves. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves - to protect ourselves when it is necessary. It is impossible to learn to be Loving to ourselves without owning our self - and owning our rights and responsibilities as co-creators of our lives."

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Learning to Love our self

"Codependence is a dysfunctional defense system that was built in reaction to feeling unlovable and unworthy - because our parents were wounded codependents who didn't know how to love themselves. We grew up in environments that were emotionally dishonest, Spiritually hostile, and shame based. Our relationship with ourselves (and all the different parts of our self: emotions, gender, spirit, etc.) got twisted and distorted in order to survive in our particular dysfunctional environment."

"We need to take the shame and judgment out of the process on a personal level. It is vitally important to stop listening and giving power to that critical place within us that tells us that we are bad and wrong and shameful.

That "critical parent" voice in our head is the disease lying to us. . . . This healing is a long gradual process - the goal is progress, not perfection. What we are learning about is unconditional Love. Unconditional Love means no judgment, no shame."

"The critical parent voice keeps us from relaxing and enjoying life, and from loving our self. We need to own that we have the power to choose where to focus our mind. We can consciously start viewing ourselves from the "witness" perspective."

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Inner Child Healing = a path to freedom, serenity, and empowerment

"It is through healing our inner child, our inner children, by grieving the wounds that we suffered, that we can change our behavior patterns and clear our emotional process. We can release the grief with its pent-up rage, shame, terror, and pain from those feeling places which exist within us."

"Because of our broken hearts, our emotional wounds, and our scrambled minds, our subconscious programming, what the disease of Codependence causes us to do is abandon ourselves. It causes the abandonment of self, the abandonment of our own inner child - and that inner child is the gateway to our channel to the Higher Self.
The one who betrayed us and abandoned and abused us the most was ourselves. That is how the emotional defense system that is Codependence works. The battle cry of Codependence is "I'll show you - I'll get me."

"We need to rescue and nurture and Love our inner children - and STOP them from controlling our lives. STOP them from driving the bus! Children are not supposed to drive, they are not supposed to be in control. And they are not supposed to be abused and abandoned. We have been doing it backwards. We abandoned and abused our inner children. Locked them in a dark place within us. And at the same time let the children drive the bus - let the children's wounds dictate our lives."

"It is necessary to own and honor the child who we were in order to Love the person we are. And the only way to do that is to own that child's experiences, honor that child's feelings, and release the emotional grief energy that we are still carrying around."

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About the Author Robert Burney

Spiritual Teacher and Codependency Therapist and Author Robert Burney, whose work has been compared to John Bradshaw's "except much more spiritual" and described as "taking inner child healing to a new level," has developed a unique approach to emotional healing that is the next level of recovery from codependency so many people have been seeking. He has pioneered an inner child healing paradigm that offers a powerful, life changing formula for integrating Love, Spiritual Truth, and intellectual knowledge of healthy behavior into one's emotional experience of life - a blueprint for individuals to transform their core relationship with self and life.

Robert, whose process is firmly grounded on twelve step recovery principles and emotional energy release / grief process therapy, specializes in teaching individuals how to become empowered to have internal boundaries so they can learn to relax and enjoy life in the moment while healing. It is the unique approach and application of the concept of internal boundaries, coupled with a Loving Spiritual belief system, that make the work so innovative and effective.

His personal belief is that we are Spiritual Beings having a human experience that is unfolding perfectly from a Cosmic perspective - with no accidents, coincidences, or mistakes. He considers Spirituality to be a word that describes one's relationship with life - and anyone, regardless of religious belief or lack of it (who is not completely closed minded), can apply the approach he shares on this web site and in his book, to help them transform their experience of life into an easier, more Loving and enjoyable journey.

In his book Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls "A Cosmic Perspective on Codependence and the Human Condition" he postulates that Codependence (i.e. outer or external dependence) is The Human Condition - and that we have now entered a new Age of Healing and Joy in which it is possible to heal the planet through healing our relationships with self. He combines Twelve Step Recovery Principles, Metaphysical Truth, and Native American Spirituality with quantum physics and molecular biology in presenting his belief that we are all connected, we are all extensions of the Divine, and that ultimately Love is our True essence.

Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney is copyright 1995

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