Healing from our codependence involves a lot of self awareness and work. A significant part of being codependent involves living in and through a False Self, unconsciously feeling the pain of this as well as a lot of resentment and frustration, often without fully knowing why. As we begin to wake up and touch base with some of the hidden feelings of our True Self we touch base with a lot of loss. We have lost much through codependence which often results from having emotionally unavailable, addicted parents or parents themselves afflicted with codependence or addicted or emotionally unavailable parents.
I usually find that deconstructing codependence involves a considerable amount of grieving. Typically this entails many tears about the loss and pain of being so long without a healthy self-interest and self-protection. Grieving also unlocks healthy anger about a life lived with such a diminished self.
This anger can then be used to build a healthy fight response. Once again, the fight response is the basis of the instinct of self protection, of balanced assertiveness, and of the courage that is needed to make relationships equal and reciprocal.
Peter Walker, Complex PTSD, From Surviving to Thriving
The healthy fight response is probably the very thing that we were shamed for in childhood. I have also been shamed for it by at least three therapists. I remember reading in a book by John Lee on recovery that it was important to be aware that many therapists out there haven’t always dealt fully with their own anger and grief. If they have not you may find yourself being shamed, especially if there is an element of transference going on with the therapist. A healthy therapist will be aware of this. They will also apologise if and when they make a mistake and not turn it back on you. A therapist is a guide, you are the one who most deeply knows your own reality at least at a bodily level, you will get signals if your deepest need and truth is not mirrored or understood.
In the later stages of co-dependence recovery and recovery of your True Self the experience of feelings of anger and the need to set boundaries are deeply challenging, especially if we have developed a compliant self in an attempt to win respect and love. The fear we feel (which dates from the past) can be so powerful we collapse back and the cost may be feelings of depression. As Pete Walker points out in his book when learning to act assertively we must “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” If and when we do we will begin to experience an increased sense of inner strength.
I remember the first few times of setting a boundary with my Mum experiencing considerable abandonment fear. Melody Beattie calls this powerful feeling “after burn”. It helps to have support and validation from a support group or therapist or friend who can mirror the true reality for you and help you to contain fear.
Development of a healthy self protection is so important for both emotional and physical health. Medical doctor Gabor Mate has shown in his book When The Body Says No inability to sufficiently grieve our childhood, express our anger assertively and set boundaries has a detrimental effect on the immune system contributing to all kinds of physical diseases. Co-dependent patterns as they progress most certainly become toxic to our health.
There is no easy path through the grief process of healing co-dependence and childhood hurt. Coming out of denial and not accepting minimisation or rationalisation from both internal and external sources is vital to the grief process. There need be no shame around grieving. It is important work which we cannot avoid on the path to greater peace, contentment and well being.
Resource with great information on recovery from Complex PTSD :
5 thoughts on “Grieving Through Codependence”
You’ve covered so much in this article along with eloquent writing. Dealing with grieving is where I’m at now, yet I still can’t get past the feeling that I’m releasing “healthy” anger.
Yes, GOOD ON YOU, I think a lot of damage happens when our anger gets converted into grief and if you had to fawn or collapse to please the parent you can end up burying so much rage. Tears may hide a lot of anger inside them. We need to learn to fight back and self protect. This is something Pete Walker really addresses in his book on CPTSD
Also just wanted to add to that too that some people can get really angry as a way to stay in control and not feel grief too, so its complex.
Gabor Mate – I once attended a presentation he gave. A very wise person.
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That would have been really interesting and such a great experience, Lynette. He is so wise, so insightful too into all manner of emotional responses. Very compassionate and aware to addicts too.