Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Co-Dependency Movement" wrecks marriages?

In "How the Co-dependency Movement Is Ruining Marriages", dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr. tries to keep people codependent, for the sake of marriages. What he does is prove that he doesn't understand the concept of codependency.

Codependent behavior IS self-defeating and we SHOULD get rid of it.
It is NOT self-centeredness.

"Co-dependency can be defined as the tendency to put others' needs before your own."

Well, that's good, isn't it?
Actually it's not... because we are talking about NEEDS. Not fancies, wishes, dreams or desires, NEEDS. Every human being have needs, from the most basic needs of food, water and shelter to the NEED of company, love, appreciation, respect, touch and so on. Most people don't see these as needs, some even deny these being needs.

There is an interesting test about this - you are to write down the needs of children, and then compare your list to the "complete list", and you will find your needs that were not fulfilled when you were a child... For example, children have the need of order and cleanliness. Of course we manage without, a lot of people live their whole life without enough clean water and food. But denying someone company is just as bad as denying them clean water.

Also, it's not just about being selfless and compassionate. It's taking it to the extremes. " such a degree that you tend to discount or ignore your own feelings, desires and basic needs..."

The problem with this is that you are the only human being in the whole world who know your own needs and can see they are fulfilled. If you put someone else's needs always before your own - as codependent people do - and "wait" for your turn, you will be living in deprivation. Just as people can die of hunger, thirst and cold, they die of hunger for respect, appreciation, love and tenderness. The only difference is that if your physical needs are not fulfilled, you will die physically, but the emotional and social deprivation will only severely handicap you. Your compassion dies if your need for compassion is constantly ignored, you will stop hugging and caressing people, if your need for touch is ignored.

As said, you are the only one who can say "I need a hug", and if you always set someone else's needs before your own, you won't get the hug. If you don't get the hug when you need it, you will - sooner or later - stop giving hugs as well.

Dr. Harley says "I look at that definition and think of Mother Teresa"
Now, Mother Teresa was not as good as people tend to think...

If I find my self-esteem in the way I care for others, what's wrong with that?

What is wrong with that is that no-one finds self-esteem in the way they care for others. What ever "esteem" there is, will crumble the second I stop being useful. It will also make me esteem others by their usefulness. It makes Mother Teresa more valuable and esteemed than her patients. Her patients become just items deeming her value, status symbols.
I think we all understand what's wrong with that.

Then about the questionnaire.
The questions are not such that you can pick them apart one at a time. I assume there is some sort of "if you answer "yes" to more than 3 of the questions, you might have problems..." in the end of the questionnaire, but that makes it difficult to Schopenhauer codependency...

"If someone important to me expects me to do something, I should do it."

No, I should not. There are two key words in this sentence: expect and should.

"If someone important to me asks me to do something, I should consider, if it doesn't clash with my other commitments, violate my convictions, harm anyone or endanger my well-being and things that are important to me, etc."... is the right answer in my mind. I shouldn't be doing everything someone important to me asks me to do, just because this person is important to me. 

It's like "if you love me, you go to bed with me".
The only correct answer to that is "if you'd love me, you wouldn't ask that of me".

Mr. Harley says: "I don't hop whenever someone says hop."
That is exactly what is being asked here. Should you hop just because your wife asks you to? No.

"But if, say, God expects something of me (and he's certainly important), I believe I should do it."
If you write "he" when talking about God, I doubt He is that important to you. :->

Nevertheless, we are not talking about God here, we are talking about your fellow human beings. We are also talking about reasonably healthy and equal adults here, so you cannot replace "someone important to you" with a child's parents or the doctor, or the police.

"Should I meet [my wife's] every expectation?"
"For starters, I can't do it."
Exactly... so why set yourself up to such impossible expectations as "you SHOULD do what is expected of you, otherwise the one who expects it of you is not important to you".

"I want to do what I can to meet her needs"
Of course. And that is not the definition of codependency.

"[I want to] avoid doing things that make her unhappy."
Of course. That is not the definition of codependency either.

"she's important to me and I try to do what she expects of me. So if the person is as important as Joyce, I guess my answer to the first question is, "yes," with the qualifier, "try to do it."

Actually, your answer to the first question is "no". There are no qualifiers, no conditions and no exceptions. The question was not "should I TRY to fulfill the needs of a person who is important to me, should I TRY to avoid causing worries to a person who is important to me, should I TRY to do the reasonable, rational things a person who is important to me asks of me, no. The question is "SHOULD I do what my wife EXPECTS of me".

"I should not be irritable or unpleasant."

Sometimes things like that cannot be avoided.
Sometimes people experience me irritable and unpleasant even when I haven't been so, at least from my own point of view.
Of course I should TRY to AVOID being irritable and unpleasant, not be irritable and unpleasant willingly, but that is not what is being asked here... I cannot influence how others experience me, how ever much I try. If I try to please everyone, I will please no-one. I cannot avoid wronging, because none of us is perfect, but I can apologize when I have wronged.

"I shouldn't do anything to make others angry at me."

Again, this is not a question of watching my behavior so that I don't willingly make others angry at me, but avoiding to do anything that MIGHT make someone angry.

I shouldn't speak up my mind, because someone might get angry.
I shouldn't wear pants, because someone might get angry.
I shouldn't kiss my boyfriend in open street, because someone might get angry.
I shouldn't use the toilet after 8 P.M. because someone might get angry.
I shouldn't eat garlic because someone might get angry.
THIS is what is being asked, not common rules of courtesy, like "I shouldn't interrupt someone when they are talking, I shouldn't point out people's faults and failures..."
Besides, who gets angry by such?

"...if she feels anger toward me, I have done something that has annoyed or offended her, and should try to avoid it if I can."
So, when a wife-beater justifies his violence by saying that the wife did something to deserve it, your advice to her is to "avoid doing it"? Oh, no, Willard. Wrong answer.

"I should keep people I love happy."

No. I cannot keep anyone but myself happy. Other people's feelings and attitudes are not my responsibility.

"I know, we can't "make" anyone happy."

So your answer to this question is "no" too.

"I wanted to try to meet her emotional needs", "I wanted to avoid hurting her", "[I wanted to] avoid making her unhappy"
But that was not asked, Willard.

"I'm aware of the downside of trying to make people happy. If they turn all responsibility for their happiness over to us, we end up carrying a crushing load. But most people don't do that. It's only in unhealthy relationships that one person sucks the life out of the other."
And the same thing happens when someone tries to take on the responsibility on someone else's happiness. Just as unhealthy. Instead of sucking the life out of the other, this person is suffocating the other.

Your answer to this question is "no" as well.

"It's usually my fault if someone I care about is upset with me."

Not necessarily, but if I think I have the power to influence someone else's feelings, I'm on a power trip I should leave immediately and return home.

"From a philosophical level, I think we can all agree that if someone is upset with us, we had at least something to do with their reaction."

Not necessarily. By my experience, in 90% of cases - if not more - when one person is upset with another, there lies a huge misunderstanding somewhere, and the "fault" is both's. In many cases codependency is the reason. Someone tries to fulfill someone else's expectations, do what they consider being the best of the other, without bothering TO ASK, simply because one should do to others what one oneself prefers, and not what the others would like, want or need.

Nevertheless, we need to stop asking "who", and start asking "what can be done to correct the situation", and then just do it. A friend of mine used to say "ok, now we have distributed the guilt, can we get on to the important matters?"

"The word "usually" helps me answer this one with a "yes."

Wrong, again, Willard. By adding "usually", "try" and other such words, you change the meaning of the questions.

"I obtain self-esteem out of helping others solve their problems."

Codependent people have no other self-esteem except in their usefulness for others, in how they can help others. That is a very dysfunctional way of thinking, and I have already spoken of it.

"If I can't do anything for someone else, I'm certain I'd have no reason to have self-esteem."

So you think people who cannot do anything for someone else are worthless. Nice to know. I hope your wife will never get sick. The lack of esteem for one's spouse is a definite marriage wrecker.

"Self-esteem is not something that I need in order to be productive. It's being productive that gives me self-esteem. It's what comes after we do something, not before. And what we do for self-esteem can't be just anything. It must be what we value."

Actually, you couldn't be more wrong.
If I have no self-esteem, I do nothing, because nothing I do is worth doing, because I cannot do anything. I must believe I can do something to do it.

A human being's worth is not in the person's productivity. Thinking that sick people are worthless is sick, Willard.

"I'm afraid I fail the co-dependency test again."

No, you're not. You are being sarcastic. Besides, if you get full points, how are you failing the test? According to you, you are very codependent, and thus succeed perfectly in the test. Unfortunately - to your clients - you don't have the slightest idea of what codependency is, and your view on the value of human beings sucks.

"I value most what I do for others."
You are changing the questions again, Willard. It was not ""I obtain most self-esteem out of helping others." It was "I obtain self-esteem out of helping others solve their problems." With other words: "My value depends totally on me being able to help others SOLVE THEIR PROBLEMS. I don't care about my own problems, those I'll solve when everyone else is problem-free, everyone else's problems are much more important than mine."

"I tend to overextend myself in taking care of others."

This question he doesn't even bother discussing...
OVEREXTEND, WILLARD! It means that you do more than you CAN in taking care of others. It means that you are wearing yourself thin, that you neglect your other duties, you don't take care of yourself, you get up in the middle of the night if someone calls you, don't take vacations ever, work year around, clock around, NEVER DO ANYTHING BUT TAKE CARE OF OTHERS.
If you don't understand how sick that is, and the negative consequences on you, your wife, your relationships and the people you believe you are "taking care of", you are more stupid than I think...

Considering that he twists this question into "don't ever care about others so much that you overextend yourself", I assume he doesn't even know what "overextend" means.

Willard, Overextend is a verb that means
"to extend, reach, or expand BEYOND A PROPER, SAFE OR REASONABLE POINT; to extend for TOO LONG A TIME; to obligate oneself to MORE THAN ONE HAS TIME FOR OR CAN ACCOMPLISH WELL.

"If necessary, I put my own values or needs aside in order to preserve my relationship with my significant other."

So if your wife asks you to do something that goes against everything you believe in - let's say, wants to get a lover, separate homes, divorce, heck, why not, wants to go to a vacation on a spa, where you can't "help" anyone, but must just receive care, you would do that.

It's not a trick question, Willard. A human being should NEVER be in a relationship in which he/she must violate his/her own values and needs.

"But I will assume that this statement refers to other values"

LOL, of course, just to be able to answer "yes" :-D

"I have a hard time receiving things from others."
"I'd rather give than receive, if that's what the question is getting at."

No, that is not what the question is getting at. It is getting at that you feel VERY uncomfortable, unworthy, if someone gives you something or does something for you, so uncomfortable, that you'd rather not celebrate your birthdays and wish everyone would forget Fathers' Day and Christmas.

"After completing all these questions, I'm told by Dr. Bourne that if I answered three or more of these statements with a "yes," I am likely to be dealing with chemical dependency issues. What does eight "yes" responses mean? I must be a basket case!"
You are, but perhaps not codependent.

This is the problem with self-testing. You are interpreting the questions in a manner that fits your agenda, which in this case is to prove that "codependency movement" is a bad thing, because you, the height of human perfection as a spouse, would be codependent according to a short internet questionnaire. :-D

"Have I been co-dependent too long to avoid these terrible consequences?"
You're not codependent. You don't even understand what the word means.

On the other hand, I suppose you have had your arrogant, loathing attitude towards your fellow human beings you don't understand for too long. As you base the human worth on how much they "help" others, and you consider yourself doing nothing but "helping" others, you believe to be quite perfect and flawless by now, and refuse to understand how ridiculing and belittling others is harmful... for some reason you don't give rat's ass if you'd offend, harm, anger or insult dr. Bourne.

"If I'm co-dependent, why don't I experience fear very often."
You should know that questions end with question mark, but to answer your question: it is because you are not codependent.

"since I am so very co-dependent"
no, you're not.

"I'm none of those things that Dr. Bourne says co-dependent people are."
Because you're not codependent.

"I'm clearly co-dependent"
No, you're not.

"Pity the poor person who has an anxiety disorder. Or more to the point, pity that person's spouse. The solution to "chronic, generalized anxiety" is to..."

I bet dr. Bourne didn't suggest those things as solution to codependency. I wouldn't be surprised if the site gave some rational advice on how to get rid of codependency. Such a pity the site is no longer up, and dr. Harley didn't bother giving the link so that people could have used the Internet Archive. :->

Nevertheless, Willard F. Harley, Jr. Ph.D. gives his own list of what one should do to get rid of codependency; by turning the questionnaire upside down and twisting them into the opposite extreme.

You can't just consider if you can do what is asked of you, no, you have to willfully do the exact opposite of what others expect and ask you to do.
Instead of giving yourself some slack for being a human and making mistakes, you must start being irritable and unpleasant and trying to make people angry with you.
You can't get the giving and receiving in balance either, no, you must start grabbing everything.
To stop being codependent, Dr. Willard requests you become a selfish xxx and psychopath.

The truth is that you shouldn't get your self-esteem for what you do, but from knowing you are worthy for just being you. You cannot buy yourself worth by doing things, not to yourself nor others.

Caring about others is not the same as taking care of others, but one should NOT overextend oneself, ever, for anything. Do not try to give more than you have, do not try to take care of more people than you can. The world is full of animal lovers who have caused the perdition of themselves and their beloved animals by taking on too many cats and dogs, and not being able to take care of any of them.

Remember that you are the only person with whom you will live your whole life. If you betray your values for someone else, you will end up hating the other person. Now, your values shouldn't be cut in stone, but another person's whims are not worth it. If your significant other loves you, she/he will adjust her/his life so that you won't ever need to sacrifice your beliefs for him/her. This is one of the questions you MUST ASK BEFORE YOU GET MARRIED, if you believe in marriage.

Also, your needs are NEEDS, not some whims and fancies. No-one is worth ignoring your needs. Your marriage is not worth saving, if your spouse wants you to put your needs aside.

Actually, he unwillingly managed to get a couple of advices right:

Don't try to make people happy. You can't. Just as Willard himself says: "I know, we can't "make" anyone happy."

Dr. Willard believes though that you should try to do impossible things and build your self-esteem on whether you succeed or not. :-> I bet you are going to feel so good about yourself when you fail time after time trying to make impossible things.

Do not blame yourself if your loved one is upset with you. ASK instead and work together to set things right. :-D


Don't let what other people might think or feel to influence you. Do what you believe to be right, relax, be kind and let others take responsibility of their own feelings, thoughts, opinions, ideas, values and behavior.

"If you want to know the truth, co-dependent beliefs and behavior do not lead to anxiety. They lead to healthy, happy marriages. Joyce and I am living proof."
No, you're not, because you're not codependent. You say yourself that you won't jump just because she tells you to, you know you cannot make her happy, you are not afraid people are angry or upset with you, and you don't allow your fear of others' feelings deter you from your objectives, as you are not even afraid of that others might not like what you do!

"If the "important" person is an alcoholic, what they expect is often totally unrealistic and should not be done."
Even non-alcoholic persons can have totally unrealistic expectations. It's not what the other person is, but what their expectations are.

"[makes sense] as long as it is limited to spouses of alcoholics"
One must also include every other addict, and people can get addicted to a lot of things. Frankly, an addictive personality will get addicted to ANYTHING.

Dr. Willard is blessed with a wife who shares his values and doesn't have unrealistic expectations, but a lot of people are dysfunctional and codependent, for real.

No, the true definition of codependency doesn't include the whole humanity. In a relationship we should be interdependent, not codependent. Caring and considering people around you is not codependency. Making the people around you the judges and measurements of you is.

But if people don't understand what codependency is, they could as well be giving advice like dr Harley.

"If we were all co-dependent, wouldn't this be a wonderful world?"