The following extracts from Pete Walker’s book Complex PTSD : From Surviving to Thriving may help you develop insight if you were led through parental neglect to deny your own needs, wants and desires leading to a state of codependency which Walker names “trauma induced codependency” :
Trauma induced codependency (is) a symptom of self abandonment and self abnegation. Codependency is a fear based inability to express rights, needs and boundaries in a relationship. It is a disorder of assertiveness, characterized by a dormant fight response and a susceptibility to being exploited, abused, and/or neglected.
Servitude, ingratiation, and obsequiousness become important survival strategies. She clearly forfeits all needs that might inconvenience her parents. She stops having preferences and opinions that might anger them. Boundaries of every kind are surrendered to molify her parents, who repudiate their duty of caring for her…. All this loss of self begins before the child has many words, and certainly no insight. For the budding codependent, all hints of danger soon immediately trigger servile behaviours and abdication of rights and needs.
(people influenced by trauma induced codependency) seek safety and acceptance in relationship through listening and eliciting. They invite the others to talk rather than risk exposing their thoughts, views and feelings. They ask questions to keep the attention off themselves, because their parents taught then talking was dangerous and that in their world their parents would inevitably prove them guilty of feeling unworthy…. they (feel) its is safer (1) to listen than to talk. (2) to agree than to dissent. (3) to offer care than to ask for help. (4) to elicit the other than to express yourself and (5) to leave choices to the other rather than to express preferences. Sadly, the closest that the unrecovered fawn type comes to getting his needs met is vicariously through helping others. Fawn types generally enhance their recovery by memorizing the following list of rights :
- I have the right to be treated with respect.
- I have the right to say no.
- I have the right to make mistakes
- I have the right to reject unsolicited advice or feedback.
- I have the right to negotiate for change.
- I have the right to change my mind or my plans
- I have the right to change my circumstances or course of action.
- I have the right to my own feelings, beliefs, opinions, preferences, etc.
- I have the right to protest sarcasm, destructive criticism, or unfair treatment.
- I have the right to feel angry and to express it non-abusively.
- I have the right to refuse to take responsibility for anyone else’s problems.
- I have the right to refuse to take responsibility for anyone’s bad behaviour.
- I have the right to feel ambivalent and to occasionally be inconsistent.
- I have the right to play, waste time and not always be productive.
- I have the right to occasionally be childlike and immature.
- I have the right to complain about life’s unfairness and injustices.
- I have the right to occasionally be irrational in safe ways.
- I have the right to seek healthy and mutually supportive relationships.
- I have the right to ask friends for a modicum of help and emotional support.
- I have the right to complain and verbally ventilate in moderation.
- I have a right to grow, evolve and prosper.
The codependent (also) needs to understand how she gives herself away by over listening to others. Recovery involves shrinking her characteristic listening defense, as well as practising and broadening her verbal and emotional self expression.
I have seen numerous inveterate codependents becomes motivated to work on their assertiveness when they realise that even the thought of saying “no” triggers them into an emotional flashback. After a great deal of work, one client was shocked by how intensely he dissociated when he contemplated confronting his boss’s awful behavior. This shock then morphed into an epiphany of outrage about how dangerous it had been to protest anything in his family. This in turn aided him greatly in overcoming his resistance to role playing assertiveness in our future work together.
With considerable practice, this client learned to overcome the critic voices that immediately short circuited him from ever asserting himself. In the process, he remembered how he was repeatedly forced to stifle his individuality in childhood. Grieving these losses then helped him to work at reclaiming his developmentally arrested self expression.