Codependence and Love Addiction

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Not all codependents are love addicts, but all love addicts are codependent.”
– Pia Mellody, in “Facing Love Addiction”

“I am declaring war on codependence and the damage it does to families!” – Doctor Becky

NEW!! NEW!! NEW!!

ONLINE WEBINAR CODEPENDENCY CLASSES LED BY DOCTOR BECKY BEGIN MARCH 10th!!

Starting Thursday March 10th 2016 at 7 pm Becky will lead a one-hour weekly webinar online class discussing codependence — what it is, how it affects YOU, and how it sabotages your life. Not only will Becky teach about what codependency is, she will take your questions live:

“The first step in healing from codependence is learning everything you can about what it is and how it affects you,” says Becky. “I truly hope you’ll join us as often as you can.”

Classes are one-hour long and cost $30. For more information about codependence and Becky’s extensive training in how to treat it read below. For more information on the webinar or to sign up click here!

 

Codependence

 

Codependence and love addictions are issues I deal with frequently in my practice. In fact, I feel that these problems exist in our society in epidemic proportions and affect couples and families in dreadful ways.

I have been so concerned with these issues that in May 2013, November 2015 and February 2016 I spent time learning and studying about how to treat codependence and love addiction from one of the world’s most renown authorities on the subject, Pia Mellody, a faculty member of The Meadows, a treatment center for addiction and trauma in Wickenburg, Arizona, and best selling author of “Facing Codependence,” “Facing Love Addiction.” Studying with Pia has brought new depth to my practice when it comes to helping people facing these issues, and I consider “Facing Codenedence” a must-read for all adults — certainly I suggest to almost all of my clients that they start there on their journey to healing.

Before I go into more about being codependent, I want to let let you know that nationwide their are numerous 12-step programs that help people recover from this sad pattern of behaviors, such as “Celebrate Recovery,” a religious intervention available at many churches, and CoDA, a secular 12-step program, and AlAnon for those who are friends and/or family members of alcohol and drug users. Little Rock offers some Celebrate Recovery programs, AlAnon programs for those in relationships with alcohol and drug addicts, and in January 2016 started its first CoDA  (Codependents Anonymous) meetings. Information here:

Little Rock CoDA meetings

Tuesdays from 6:30 pm-8:00 pm!!

Central Church, Spiritual Growth Center 823 W. 6th Street
Little Rock, AR 72201

Email .

Definition of codependent: It is a disease of immaturity caused by childhood trauma — how many people do you know who seem to spend most of their time operating out of an emotional self that seems to be about 15-years-old? Codependents are immature or childish to such a degree that it hampers their life over-and-over again. It must be said that you don’t have to be from an overtly abusive family to have been traumatized — the main requirement is that you took on SHAME at one point that caused you to have the fundamental core belief that, “There is something wrong with me, or I’m defective.” Once a person concludes that they are defective they change themselves to compensate for the issues they feel that they have. Therein lies codependence.

A person becomes “developmentally immature,” or codependent, the moment they lose themselves in childhood and morph into some sort of false self such as a pleaser, rebel, perfectionist, bully, controller, clown, or any sort of personality that is not the real, authentic self.

Here are the primary symptoms:

  1. Difficulty experiencing appropriate levels of self-esteem, meaning, difficulty loving the self.
  2. Difficulty setting functional boundaries with other people, that is to say, difficulty protecting the self.
  3. Difficulty owning one’s own reality appropriately, that is to say, difficulty identifying who one is and knowing how to share that appropriately with others.
  4. Difficulty addressing interdependently one’s adult needs and wants, that is to say, difficulty with self-care.
  5. Difficulty experiencing and expressing one’s reality in moderation, (are you controlling or out-of-control?) that is to say, difficulty being appropriate for one’s age and various circumstances. [1]

In addition to these, there are also five secondary symptoms of inaccurate thinking that reflect how codependents think other people’s behavior is the reason they are unable to be healthy in relationships. All of the five symptoms come from the core problem, which is the bruised relationship with the self. They are:

  1. Negative Control. Codeps try to control others by telling them who they ought to be, or allow others to control them by telling them who they should be.
  2. Resentment. Codeps use resentment as a futile way to try to protect themselves and regain self esteem. This anger makes a codep feel better about him or herself, but the real problem is blaming others for their own inability to protect themselves with healthy boundaries.
  3. Impaired spirituality. Codeps either make someone else their higher power through hate, fear, or worship, OR they attempt to be another’s higher power.
  4. Addictions, or Mental or Physical Illness. The use of outside relationships (in love addiction) or illnesses to soothe the internal pain through giving unconditional love and attention to someone or something else.
  5. Difficulty with Intimacy. Intimacy involves sharing one’s own reality and receiving the reality of others without either party judging that reality or trying to change it. Codeps have difficulty identifying who they are, so cannot share intimately this reality.

 Love Addiction
(taken from the work of Pia Mellody)

So what’s make codependent a love addict? There are several key factors that identify this:

  1. Love addicts assign a disproportionate amount of time, attention, and “value above themselves” to the person to whom they are addicted, and this focus has an obsessive quality about it.
  2. Love addicts have unrealistic expectations for unconditional positive regard from the other person in the relationship.
  3. Love addicts neglect to care for or value themselves while they’re in the relationship.

In love addiction, there are two principal fears that feed the problem: the fear of being left ­– the love addict will tolerate almost anything to avoid being left; and the fear of intimacy, usually unconsciously. The kind of closeness the love addict desires is more of a demanding, unhealthy enmeshment rather than two people being emotionally connected in a healthy sense.  If a love addict encountered healthy intimacy he or she would not know what to do and what probably panic and create a distance between themselves and their partner.

Therefore, the nightmare of the love addict is the desire for closeness and intimacy but also having the inability to tolerate healthy intimacy. The result is that the love addict unconsciously selects a partner who cannot be intimate in a healthy way.

The love addict will select a mate who is avoidant of romantic connection, a person we call the “love avoidant.” The love avoidant and love addict begin a relationship dance or cycle of pursuit and withdrawal; coming close and running away.

Characteristics of the love avoidant:

  1. Love Avoidants evade intensity within the relationship by creating intensity in activities outside relationship, often addictions like work, physical activity, etc.
  2. Love Avoidants avoid being known in the relationship in order to protect themselves from engulfment and control by the other person.
  3. Love Avoidants avoid intimate contact with their partners using a variety of processes called “distancing techniques.”

Love Avoidants also fear what Love Addicts fear: Intimacy and being left.

There is much to know about the Love Addicted relationship, but if you see yourself involved is such a relationship pattern the only way to get out of it and create the type of relationship you truly want is to deal with it head-on. Reading Pia Mellody’s books are a great way to move forward and educate yourself about the process, and being in therapy with a therapist who is aware of the dynamic and who knows how to treat it is the best thing you can do for you and your present of future relationship.

Now, here is a 40-question quiz created by Susan Peabody that you can take to see if you may have love addict characteristics … here you go:

40 Questions
To Help You Determine
If You Are a Love Addict

Adapted from Susan Peabody’s
Addiction to Love

If you can answer yes to more than a few of the following questions, you are probably a love addict. Remember that love addiction comes in many forms, so even if you don’t answer yes to all of the questions you may still be a love addict.

  1. You are very needy when it comes to relationships.
  2. You fall in love very easily and too quickly.
  3. When you fall in love, you can’t stop fantasizing—even to do important things. You can’t help yourself.
  4. Sometimes, when you are lonely and looking for companionship, you lower your standards and settle for less than you want or deserve.
  5. When you are in a relationship, you tend to smother your partner.
  6. More than once, you have gotten involved with someone who is unable to commit—hoping he or she will change.
  7. Once you have bonded with someone, you can’t let go.
  8. When you are attracted to someone, you will ignore all the warning signs that this person is not good for you.
  9. Initial attraction is more important to you than anything else when it comes to falling in love and choosing a partner. Falling in love over time does not appeal to you and is not an option.
  10. When you are in love, you trust people who are not trustworthy. The rest of the time you have a hard time trusting people.
  11. When a relationship ends, you feel your life is over and more than once you have thought about suicide because of a failed relationship.
  12. You take on more than your share of responsibility for the survival of a relationship.
  13. Love and relationships are the only things that interest you.
  14. In some of your relationships you were the only one in love.
  15. You are overwhelmed with loneliness when you are not in love or in a relationship.
  16. You cannot stand being alone. You do not enjoy your own company.
  17. More than once, you have gotten involved with the wrong person to avoid being lonely.
  18. You are terrified of never finding someone to love.
  19. You feel inadequate if you are not in a relationship.
  20. You cannot say no when you are in love or if your partner threatens to leave you.
  21. You try very hard to be who your partner wants you to be. You will do anything to please him or her—even abandon yourself (sacrifice what you want, need and value).
  22. When you are in love, you only see what you want to see. You distort reality to quell anxiety and feed your fantasies.
  23. You have a high tolerance for suffering in relationships. You are willing to suffer neglect, depression, loneliness, dishonesty—even abuse—to avoid the pain of separation anxiety (what you feel when you are not with someone you have bonded with).
  24. More than once, you have carried a torch for someone and it was agonizing.
  25. You love romance. You have had more than one romantic interest at a time even when it involved dishonesty.
  26. You have stayed with an abusive person.
  27. Fantasies about someone you love, even if he or she is unavailable, are more important to you than meeting someone who is available.
  28. You are terrified of being abandoned. Even the slightest rejection feels like abandonment and it makes you feel horrible.
  29. You chase after people who have rejected you and try desperately to change their minds.
  30. When you are in love, you are overly possessive and jealous.
  31. More than once, you have neglected family or friends because of your relationship.
  32. You have no impulse control when you are in love.
  33. You feel an overwhelming need to check up on someone you are in love with.
  34. More than once, you have spied on someone you are in love with.
  35. You pursue someone you are in love with even if he or she is with another person.
  36. If you are part of a love triangle (three people), you believe all is fair in love and war. You do not walk away.
  37. Love is the most important thing in the world to you.
  38. Even if you are not in a relationship, you still fantasize about love all the time— either someone you once loved or the perfect person who is going to come into your life someday.
  39. As far back as you can remember, you have been preoccupied with love and romantic fantasies.
  40. You feel powerless when you fall in love—as if you are in some kind of trance or under a spell. You lose your ability to make wise choices.

What to do about it …

I am trained to help people become aware of the areas in which they were traumatized as children that have caused themselves to spend most of their time emotionally stuck as a child or teenager. We identify these areas and I literally show and teach you about where you are and how you are off-track in your emotional development. We then begin the work to help you heal by lessening the intensity of the feelings you have carried into your adulthood, and then learning to manage your life situations as an emotional adult would. It is very exciting and life-changing work, and I highly recommend it to anyone who identifies themselves as having codependent tendencies.

[1] All of the information here except the questionnaire below is taken from “Facing Codependence,” and “Facing Love Addiction,” by Pia Mellody. San Francisco. Harper& Row.