There will be many people who come across this post who are stuck. Stuck in life generally but specifically in relationships that are abusive, dysfunctional and with people who care very little about them. They will complain, sometimes medicate themselves, often seek therapy but the urge to stay exactly where they are is overwhelmingly strong. Strong enough not to be able to see or manage what many people around them can see for the obvious….that it is best to move on.
Logically, they often understand this but there is always an emotional argument to counter this and this is the side that mostly keeps a codependent hanging on in there until the bitter end, which is usually very bitter. This battle between logic and emotion is one that must be won if reason is to prevail and I find this particular struggle the biggest challenge when working with codependents.
I firmly believe that when we react emotionally, we are accessing the deepest parts of our psyche. This is the part of us that has all the raw emotion, the conditioning and the experience we have had. It is the place where the parenting style we were subjected to has the greatest effect. It is our child like self. The place where we generally find difficult to regulate, where we become overwhelmed, where we are reactive and irrational. Just as in our childhood days, we are clueless, vulnerable and looking for direction. When we react emotionally, we are in effect transporting ourselves back in time to a place where we are interacting with our caregivers. If this relationship was dysfunctional and it often is, we spend our time looking to solve it in adulthood. This quest leaves codependents especially vulnerable to the type of person who will take advantage of this and this search also keeps them stuck in these types of relationship. They are driven by fear given that they have never learnt (or been taught) how to be independent emotionally.
So how can logic overcome this? Part of the problem with the emotional side of us is that the inner critic, the catalyst of all things dysfunctional resides there. The inner critic, through its “shoulds” and “musts” drives the emotional process, shooting down any sign that a different way of thinking can come. He is there to protect in the most dysfunctional way possible. it doesn’t want anyone to move forward and prefers its victim to stay in the comfort zone that it has created.
Challenging this concept is essential in the battle between logic and emotion. It takes, first an awareness of the presence of the inner critic, where it is likely to rear its ugly head and then finding out what it is exactly trying to protect you from. You can mostly say that this is usually about not taking the risks that are quite normal in life. That is, facing rejection, fear, new beginnings, etc. All normal concepts of life. Once this has been identified, it is a case of challenging those very voices with logic consistently. However, remember that the inner critic is something that is a part of us, we created to protect us from childhood dysfunction. It helped us then and we believe we should still listen to it. Let’s look at some typical examples ;
- ” Don’t leave this relationship, you will be alone and you know how that will feel..you won’t cope!” becomes….” Yes, thanks for advice, I know it might be difficult at first but I will have a chance to have a better, more independent life”
- ” You are crazy to believe that you can do this…you have never been able to…you have always needed someone…just stay where you are…it is easier for everyone” becomes ” I refuse to be treated this way..I know there are no guarantees and I could find it difficult but I could also be better off!”
- ” You cannot cope alone…You are useless at it” becomes ” Yes, I find it difficult but I am willing to do what is needed”
Navigating this battle is an essential part of winning the war of recovery and defeating the forces of emotion. The forces that keep us stuck in the rut of dysfunction.