Friday, April 24, 2009

Shelly's Great Topic: Boundaries and Co-Dependency

I edited this post and republished it today, adding a P.S. at the bottom; thus, the takedown of the previous post on this subject.

Being as I wanted my very last comment while here to be in support of Ubermouth to prove that I have been and always would support and defend her, I'm leaving my take about the topic on Shelly's blog HERE instead.

At the bottom is a list of signs of "damaged boundaries."

The list is NOT for anyone to use to point fingers at others, it's a list to be used for self-examination, as our own behavior is the only thing we can control.

I've included a personal preface to drive home the importance of self-examination during or following any interaction.

I was initally a clinical social-work student, considered a whiz kid at insight into the human psyche. I had one year of therapy as a professional requirement and at the time, I realized I needed to get my own issues out of the way before I could help anyone else.

I got into Al-Anon and then further therapy later.

At the time, I was focused on my husband's drinking/drug behavior, refusing to focus on myself.

In therapy, however, I learned that I had PTSD, a depressive disorder (possibly environmentally-triggered), and codependency issues...and MY issues were the only thing I should spend my energy on and could control.

His behavior had given me an excuse to try to save someone else, which was a convenient distraction from working on my own issues. I'm ashamed to say now that it made me feel healthier that he was so fucked up.

However, if it was so bad, why wasn't I leaving? Because we don't keep doing things, even an abusive marriage, unless we're getting something out of it.

Many people wave co-dependency around like a victim banner, when nothing could be further from the truth. They blame all of their problems on the ill person or the user, thinking it makes them look like a long-suffering martyr and a saint to have to endure them.

In some cases, (one thing I DIDN'T do), when the user stops using or being dependent on their partner and begins to set healthier boundaries with them, the co-dependent partner feels lost and will put MORE stress on the user to "change back" by guilt trips, reminding the user of his issues or illness, simply because they need to feel needed and healthier and someone to blame.

The reason it's called co-dependency is that the partner has very similar issues to the user/ill person, only stronger coping skills. They often have trouble with boundaries themselves, but imagine themselves healthier because they aren't engaging in whatever behavior is considered the biggest problem. Not surprisingly, then, if someone changes in the dynamic, it's actually the user or admitted ill person themselves, not their partner, lol.

It is a common misconception that the weakest person in the dynamic or the "one with the problem" goes into therapy.

In fact, it's often the healthiest and bravest person involved that is even willing to take a look at themselves honestly, admit to and take responsibility for any behavior.

It's the ones running around that refuse to ever take a look at themselves, blaming others for their problems or things they had a choice in doing, that are often the most unhealthy.

Whatever the case, focusing on the other person's behavior entirely leaves us responsibility-less and trapped in a victim mentality, and as strong, intelligent, mentally healthy women, we know better than that. :)

Statistics have shown that victims of crime are often victims again as long as they stay in the victim mindset; the theory being that your mindset/attitude is drawing them to you and that predators can sense vulnerability coming off ya, they can smell ya a mile away, lol. In fact, it's not uncommon for abused women to fall into another abusive relationship, a rape or crime victim to experience a subsequent rape or be robbed again.

Why, because they love drama? No, because they're stuck in that vulnerable, victim mindset and feeling victimized is familiar to them; and if there ARE any predators in the room, they're gonna find you first.

Though there are times when we are truly innocent victims and people often do things to us out of their own issues, there are other things we need to take responsibility for our participation in; we need to at least at take a look at ourselves, what choices we made.

Realizing that we have the power of choice and that we carry responsibility in relationships doesn't make us "to blame," nor does it mean we deserve abuse or mistreatment.

And mistreating or abusing in return is never justified; you don't get to blame your choices in behavior on the other person.

As much as we want to blame solely one person, it still takes at least two, sometimes more in group dynamic situations.

If you choose to participate, you have to take responsibility for that choice regarding the type of communication you're engaging in and for engaging at all.

Realizing we carry responsibility in relationships does not mean we are the "one with the problem" and it is not shameful, it's empowering...because we realize we have the power of choice and we can UNCHOOSE whatever that behavior is or that we engaged at all.

Even if I'm robbed, such as I leave my wallet in the car, it doesn't mean I DESERVE what happened to me, but I DO need to take responsibilty for the fact that I left myself wide open for crime. This is the only thing we can control, what we learned and will do next time.

Many of us with great empathy are drawn towards being the caretaker in relationships (usually because we had to grow up quickly and take care of our parents) and/or caretaking professions, which is actually codependency in many cases. Sometimes we imagine ourselves helping others, when in fact, it's a fine line between caretaking and control.

True therapists, pastors, nurses, etc aren't supposed to instruct or advise; they hold up a mirror to you and let you figure it out for yourself, directing you in certain directions, but letting you sound it out yourself... lest you become dependent on them.

Many people are drawn to this profession because they need to feel needed and it gives them a sense of control in an often chaotic world to analyze everybody else, and an excuse not to focus on their own problems.

As much as they need to do this to feel in control, they are also curiously drawn towards dramatic relationships and professions. They don't usually create it, but they are drawn to it because it's familiar to them. Let me tell you, realizing THAT was a jagged little pill for me to swallow in therapy....which is why I didn't continue in that profession. ;)

The healthiest client is the one that does not allow themselves to become dependent and sets boundaries with a therapist and vice versa so this will not happen.

What are boundaries?

Most people that hide out on the net from real relationships and real life have no idea. They can recognize the lack of it in others, but refuse or are unable to see the same behavior in themselves. There is much hypocrisy on the net and little self-awareness...and as long as people are receiving public validation (enabling) the way they're behaving, they probably won't ever realize that.

But in fact, the mere fact that you are blogging about your life or what image you want to project publically and need public validation for shows us that, probably have at least a few boundary issues, lol.

It's cool, nobody had perfect parents and many people struggle with boundaries.

Boundaries are quite simply, each person in a relationship has the right to be a separate entity; where I stop and you begin.

The feelings of each person should be equally valued and though each should be sensitive to the needs of the other, no one should feel like they are walking on eggshells to please the other or need to keep changing behavior to make the other more comfortable. If you do,there's something wrong in the relationship dynamic and you both carry responsibility in that.

Boundaries are often misused.

They are not about teaching someone else how to behave or about boundaries without being asked, nor are they to shame someone else for not having learned them, weilding as a weapon of superiority; boundaries are about protecting ourselves from getting overly enmeshed in each others' problems and behaviors.

Here is the best list of signs of damaged boundaries I have seen yet...from Al-Anon.

**This is NOT an exercise in pointing the finger at what's wrong with others, this is asking you to evaluate YOURSELF.

1. Going against values or rights to please others.

2. Giving more than you get back or simply for the sake of giving.

3. Taking as much as you can take without regard for the others feelings.

4. Believing others can mindread or anticipate what you need without being told.

5. Expecting others to meet your need automatically, in exactly the way you think they should if they "really care about you." This includes guilt tripping, ultimatums, etc.

6. Expecting that others will meet your needs, even though they are neglecting their own to do so.

7. Falling apart so someone can take care of you.

8. Needing to feel needed, give advice without being asked, healthier or otherwise superior to someone else to feel comfortable in a relationship or good about yourself and in control.

9. Letting others define you.

10. Defining/analyzing others without doing the same to yourself.

11. Telling too much too soon.

12.Posturing; the inability to get vulnerable or be emotionally honest about what you ARE really feeling, out of fear.

12. Allowing others describe your reality to you or define you.

13. Describing others reality for them or defining THEM.

14. Not noticing when someone invades your boundaries.

15. Being unable to say "no" or stick to the "no" and handle the backlash of having d0ne so.

16. Not being able to ACCEPT the word "no," whether an explanation is given or not, without retaliating with guilt trips, coercion, pressure, abusive comments, etc.

17. Addictions such as drugs, alcohol, sex, the internet, spirituality etc.

18. Refusal to take responsibility for or be held acocuntable for choices or behavior at all or without excuses or blaming.

19. Taking on ALL the blame or responsibility in an interaction entirely.

20. Not placing boundaries when someone is doing any of the above behaviors and it affects YOU alone, no one else. ..and not placing boundaries or adhering to them is YOUR responsibility.

Brilliant, and so true. Most people do at least three to four things on this list, I know I do. Doesn't mean you're crazy, but you have work to do...we all do...we're a work in progress.:)

P.S: ....


Just because I asked you to take a look at a some of the things that were said that were hurtful, after apologizing to you repeatedly for my misstep in an email (that truly had no malicious intent) several times already, does NOT mean I'm saying YOU'RE to blame.

It does NOT automatically mean that I'm going to do to you what others have done here.

Just because I didn't do everything the way you think I should does NOT mean I didn't care about your feelings.

I'm not going to agree with you on everything 100%; I don't have to and I won't be guilt-tripped, etc. into doing so.

We are two people that have stepped on each other's tripwires after both being the target of some assholes on the net and we need to recognize that fact, both of us, taking responsibility for bringing in baggage from those past issues that does not belong.

It's not entirely YOUR fault, nor is it entirely MY fault...we both fucked up, but all I can do is take responsibility for MY misstep and leave you with the rest.

After today, you will see that you WERE wrong about all of these sudden accusations and ulterior motives you think I have. You will see that I'm no longer in contact with anyone here, that I wasn't going to trash you, I'm not (nor was I ever) part of the fight club, I really do have a daughter, and this situation will NOT turn out like others have treated you here.

I really cannot be raked over the coals for what I DID say in that email anymore; there was no malicious intent and I have apologized and done my best to make amends; however, you are correct, it should not have been said.

I still appreciate what you did for me, nothing has changed, and I would defend you vehemently to this day.

However, I cannot continue to focus solely on MY behavior and what you think I'm doing wrong and why any further without being met halfway....that's not a fair friendship and in my real life AND on the net, I don't allow friendships like that anymore, I'm sorry.

I had the password on the email account I was speaking with you on changed by someone else so that I won't even know what it was and will not be even be tempted to engage in any of this further.

Doesn't mean I don't still love ya and won't remember you fondly, swear to God...I just can't take being accused any more of things I didn't do and ulterior motives I don't have for saying something in email regarding how easily trigger happy we BOTH were now, yourself included (though you don't want to admit it), ending it with..."
but ya gotta love her anyway.":)

I was in hopes we could all help each other heal, but we ARE still too trigger happy, suspicious and defensive; it's not just me.:)

Take care,