Master Class Interview with Randi Fine

Turn Your Triggers Into Treasures Master Class Interview with Silvia Hantea

Randi Fine talks with Silvia Hantea about trauma, childhood, and other emotional issues.

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Emotional Relationship Boundaries

loving_relationships Photo by Jean-Louis Zimmerman

The Importance of Establishing Boundaries in Emotional Relationships

This article written by John Stibbs came from the website Hidden Hurt, a UK site devoted to domestic abuse.  With his kind permission I offer it to you.

A successful relationship is composed of two individuals each with a clearly defined sense of her or his own identity. Without our own understanding of self, of whom we are and what makes us unique, it is difficult to engage in the process of an ongoing relationship in a way that is functional and though not always smooth is a safe environment that generally enhances each of the partners. We need a clear sense of self in order to clearly and unambiguously communicate our needs and desires to our partner. When we have a strong conception of our own identity, we do not feel threatened by the intimacy of the relationship and can appreciate and love those qualities in our partner that make him or her a unique person. When two people come together, each with a clear definition of her or his own individuality, the potential for intimacy and commitment can be astounding. The similarities between two people may bring them together, but in an ideal partnership, sometimes called interdependent, their differences are respected and contribute to the growth of their relationship which aids in the growth of the individuals in that relationship.

One feature of a healthy sense of self is the way we understand and work with our emotional boundaries. Personal boundaries are the limits we set in relationships that allow us to protect ourselves from being manipulated by, or enmeshed with, emotionally needy others. Such boundaries come from having a good sense of our own self-worth. They make it possible for us to separate our own thoughts and feelings from those of others and to take responsibility for what we think, feel and do. Boundaries are part of the biological imperative of maturation as we individuate and become adult people in our own right. We are, all of us unique, and boundaries allow us to rejoice in our own uniqueness. Healthy intact boundaries are flexible; they allow us to get close to others when it is appropriate and to maintain our distance when we might be harmed by getting too close. Good boundaries protect us from becoming engulfed in abusive relationships and pave the way to achieving true intimacy the flip side of independence, as we grow to interdependence the relationship of two mature individuals. They help us take care of ourselves and if we can receive it, to respect the selves of others.

Unhealthy boundaries are generally as a result of being raised in dysfunctional families where maturation and the individuation process was not properly understood nor the child respected as an individual. In these types of families the unmet needs of parents or other adults are sometimes so overwhelming that the task of raising children is demoted to a secondary role, and dysfunction is the likely result. Consider the role of the father or mother who screams at his/her children or becomes physically, verbally or emotionally abusive with them as a self-centered way of dealing with his/her own stored up anger/grief from their own traumatic childhood. The emotional fallout of these unmet developmental needs, which, depending on the severity of the original pain, is often close to the surface and can be triggered by totally unrelated present circumstances. The pain of their own childhood experiences repressed for so long is felt again, insisting that these experiences be dealt with, relegating the present needs of the children for safety, security, respect and comfort to second place at best. But sometimes because of what they represent and the negative self worth of the parent the child can be perceived as the ‘enemy’ and so dysfunction is passed on from one generation to the next. This is not to say that the childhood experiences of the parent were necessarily horribly abusive, it is just that what may have been acceptable parenting practices in their family of origin for generations were abusive. More often than not these practices and their underlying attitudes were based on false or abusive religio-cultural premises. What the children are likely to learn in this situation is that boundaries don’t matter, that indeed they, as individual human beings, don’t matter except where they are useful for the emotional needs of others. As they grow up in their families of origin, they lack the support they need from parents or caregivers to form a healthy sense of their own identities. their own individuality. In fact, they may learn that to get their needs met they must get their way with others. To do this they need to intrude on the emotional boundaries of other people just as their father or mother may have done. They would in all likelihood grow up with fluid boundaries, that cause them to swing between feelings of engulfment on the one hand and abandonment on the other inevitably leading to dysfunctional relationships later on in life. They would have at best, a hazy sense of their own personal boundaries, not able to properly define where they end and the other begins. Conversely, they may learn that rigid and inflexible boundaries might be the way to handle their relationships with other people. They wall themselves off in their relationships as a way of protecting their emotional selves, and, as a consequence, will, in all likelihood find it difficult to form lasting close interpersonal bonds with others in adulthood as they are still trying to individuate from their parents. The exception in this is of relationships predicated on the same rigid rule based structure as their family of origin where nothing came into the family or out from it, but in this case the bond is likely to be enmeshment.

The following are some ways in which unhealthy boundaries may show themselves in our relationships, along with some remedies:

LACK OF A SENSE OF IDENTITY

When we lack a sense of our own identity and the boundaries of the self that protect and define us as individuals, we tend to draw our identities, our sense of self worth from our partner or significant other as we did in the earliest stage of our biological growth in our family of origin, drawing our sense of worth from their perceptions of us. The structure of the relationship in this case is not that of equals in a partnership but that of parent and child. Leading in some cases to that most unequal of relationships, master and slave. It is quite possible that children developing in a family where the important relationship of the parents is an unequal one will be forced to take on roles as either surrogate spouse and/or adopt roles that it is hoped will restore dignity to the family and balance to the system. If we can’t imagine who we would be without our relationship, chances are we come from a dysfunctional family of origin and have learned co-dependent behavior patterns. Unable to find fulfillment within ourselves we look for such fulfillment in others and are willing to do anything it takes to make the relationship work, just as we may have done in our enmeshed family of origin, even if this means giving up our emotional security, friends, integrity, sense of self-respect or worth, independence, or employment. We may even endure objectification, (an attitude in which we are no longer perceived as feeling human-being but just an object, a part of the family system), in the form of physical, emotional or sexual abuse just to save the relationship.

The more rational alternative is to find out who we are and what makes us unique, and we will rejoice in the freedom of this discovery. We will come to realise that our value and worth as a person is not necessarily dependent on having a significant other in our life, that we can function well as an independent person in our own right. When we move into accepting ourselves for who we really are warts and all, we will be able to accept others for who they are; our relationships and ourselves will actually have a chance to grow into emotionally mature adults able to give freely out of choice and flourish in our new found freedom. This journey of self-discovery can be challenging and painful but highly rewarding. Working with a trained therapist or as part of a support group or a combination of both can provide the structure and support we need to take on this task. But whatever way we may choose the first step is to acknowledge to ourselves, God and possibly another person that our lives as we have tried to control and manage them have become unmanageable. The second is to give ourselves over to the cleansing and renewal processes.

SETTLING FOR SECOND BEST

We may cling to the irrational belief that things are good enough as they are, we feel a measure of security in the relationship, that change is a difficult and fearful prospect, or that we don’t deserve any better, our life has always been a sacrifice of the self, and that this is as good as it’s likely to get. In the process, however, we give up the chance to be the person we were meant to be and to explore our sense of personal fulfillment in life. We give up not only our own life dreams but our sense of worth in order to maintain the security of a relationship. A healthy relationship is one in which boundaries are not only strong, but flexible enough, to allow us to flourish with our own uniqueness, but are also known to and respected by each other. There is a sense of respect on the part of both partners that allows each to live as full a life as possible and to explore their own personal potential. We don’t have to give up ourselves for a relationship but can become interdependent. Healthy boundaries allow trust and security to develop in a relationship because they offer an honest and reliable framework by which we can know each other. But if we don’t know where our self ends and the other begins it is impossible.

OVER-RESPONSIBILITY AND GUILT

One characteristic of growing up in a dysfunctional household is that we may learn to feel guilty if we fail to ensure the success and happiness of other members of the household. We may feel responsible or be made to feel responsible for the failure or unhappiness of others. Thus, in adulthood, we may come to feel or be made to feel responsible for our partner’s failures. The guilt we feel when our partner fails may drive us to keep tearing down our personal boundaries so that we are always available to the other person. When we feel the pain, the guilt, the anger of being overly responsible for another person’s behaviour or life experiences, we may seek alleviate this feeling by rescuing them from the consequences of their behaviour as we learned in our family of origin. Thereby depriving them of one of the most important features of an independent, healthy and mature life, the ability to make our own life choices, accepting the responsibility for and the consequences of our/their decisions. Or we may bear the burden of their unacceptable behaviour for many years.

A healthier response is to show our partners respect by allowing them to succeed or fail on their own terms. You, of course, may choose to support your partner’s fulfillment of life goals but it is unhealthy to rescue them from all of life’s consequences. When you do agree to help ask yourself two questions is it something they can do for themselves? and, do I resent the giving of my own resources (self, time, money, etc.)? This may be a difficult choice if we have confused love with rescue. You can be there to comfort or encourage your partner when times become difficult, and you can rejoice with them when success is the outcome. When boundaries are healthy, you are able to say, I trust and respect you to make your own life choices. As my equal partner, I will not try to control you by taking away your choices in life.THE

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LOVE AND RESCUE

People who grow up in a dysfunctional family may fail to learn the difference between love and sympathy. Children growing up in these conditions may learn to have sympathy for the emotional crippling in their parents lives and feel that the only time they get attention is when they show compassion for the parent. They feel that when they forgive, they are showing love. Actually, they are rescuing the parent and enabling abusive behavior to continue. They learn to give up their own protective boundaries in order to take care of the dysfunctioning parent, becoming a surrogate co-dependent spouse. In adulthood, they carry these learned behaviors into their own relationships. If they can rescue their partner from the consequences of their behaviour, they feel that they are showing love. They get a warm, caring, sharing feeling from helping their partner, a feeling they call love. But this may actually encourage their partner to become needy and helpless enabling the negative behaviour to continue. An imbalance can then occur in the relationship in which one partner becomes the rescuer or enabler and the other plays the role of the helpless victim. In this case, healthy boundaries which allow both partners to live complete lives are absent. Mature love requires the presence of healthy, flexible boundaries.

Sympathy and compassion are worthy qualities, but they can be confused with love, especially when boundaries have become distorted or are virtually non existent. Healthy boundaries lead to respect for the other and equality in a relationship, an appreciation for the aliveness and strength of the other person, and a mutual flow of feelings between the two partners, all features of mature love. When one partner is in control and the other is needy and helpless, there is no room for the give-and-take of a healthy relationship.

FANTASY VS. REALITY

Children from highly dysfunctional households often feel that things will get better someday, that a ‘normal’ life may lie in the future. Indeed, some days things are fairly ‘normal’, but then the bad times return again. It’s the normal days that encourage the fantasy that all problems in the family might someday be solved. This is a common cycle in highly dysfunctional families. When they grow up, these adults carry the same types of fantasy into their relationships. They may portray to others the myth that they have the perfect relationship and they may believe, to themselves, that someday all of their relationship problems will somehow be solved. They ignore the abuse, manipulation, imbalance and control in the relationship. By ignoring the problems, they are unable to confront them and the fantasy of a happier future never comes to pass.

Unhealthy boundaries, where we collude with our partner in believing the myth that everything is fine, make it difficult to come to terms with the troubles of the relationship.

Healthy boundaries allow us to test reality rather than rely on fantasy. When problems are present, good boundaries allow us to define the problems and to communicate with our partner in finding solutions. They encourage a healthy self-image, trust, consistency, stability and productive communication.

© John Stibbs 2001
http://www.hiddenhurt.co.uk/Articles/boundaries.htm

More articles on this topic are:
Resolving Emotional Relationship BoundariesRecognizing Codependent Behavior
Relationship Codependency Exposed
Codependent Tendencies Include Low Self Esteem
Kindness Codependency Contrasted
Six Red Flags Demonstrate Codependency
Relationship Codependency
Relationship Codependency
Feeling Over Responsible Feeling Guilty
Healthy Boundaries Prevent Emotional Abuse
Personal Boundaries Build Healthy Relationships
Codependent Narcissist Relationship Dance
Domestic Abuse Domestic Violence
Dysfunctional Romantic Relationships
Listen to Podcast Shows about this topic:
Relationship Codependency: The Curable Addiction
Domestic Abuse and Violence: From Seduction to Survival
Addictive Personalities
Self-Love and Boundaries Build Healthy Relationships

 

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Passive Aggressive Behavior is Covert Abuse

Passive Aggressive Behavior: A Form of Covert Abuse

Does passive aggressive behavior have a relationship to domestic abuse?

What do Passive Aggressive behavior and domestic abuse have in common? When someone hits you or yells at you, you know that you’ve been abused. It is obvious and easily identified. Covert abuse is subtle and veiled or disguised by actions that appear to be normal, at times loving and caring. The passive aggressive person is a master at covert abuse and, as a result, can be considered an abuser.

Passive aggressive behavior stems from an inability to express anger in a healthy way.

Common Passive Aggressive Behaviors

  • Ambiguity: I think of the proverb, “Actions speak louder than words” when it comes to the passive aggressive and how ambiguous they can be. They rarely mean what they say or say what they mean. The best judge of how a passive aggressive feels about an issue is how they act. Normally they don’t act until after they’ve caused some kind of stress by their ambiguous way of communicating.
  • Forgetfulness: The passive aggressive avoids responsibility by “forgetting.” How convenient is that? There is no easier way to punish someone than forgetting that lunch date or your birthday or, better yet, an anniversary.
  • Blaming: They are never responsible for their actions. If you aren’t to blame then it is something that happened at work, the traffic on the way home or the slow clerk at the convenience store. The passive aggressive has no faults, it is everyone around them who has faults and that person must be punished for those faults.
  • Lack of Anger: The passive aggressive may never express healthy anger. There are some who are happy with whatever you want. On the outside anyway! The passive aggressive person may have been taught, as a child, that anger is unacceptable. Hence they go through life stuffing their anger, being accommodating and then sticking it to you in an under-handed way.
  • Fear of Dependency: From Scott Wetlzer, author of Living With The Passive Aggressive Man. “Unsure of his autonomy and afraid of being alone, he fights his dependency needs, usually by trying to control you. He wants you to think he doesn’t depend on you, but he binds himself closer than he cares to admit. Relationships can become battle grounds, where he can only claim victory if he denies his need for your support.”
  • Fear of Intimacy: The passive aggressive often can’t trust. Because of this, they guard themselves against becoming intimately attached to someone. A passive aggressive will have sex with you but they rarely make love to you. If they feel themselves becoming attached, they may punish you by withholding sex.
  • Obstructionism: Do you want something from your passive aggressive spouse? If so, get ready to wait for it or maybe even never get it. It is important to them that you don’t get your way. They will act as if giving you what you want is important to them but, rarely will they follow through with the giving. It is very confusing to have someone appear to want to give to you but never follow through. You can begin to feel as if you are asking too much which is exactly what they want to you to feel.
  • Victimization: The passive aggressive feels they are treated unfairly. If you get upset because he or she is constantly late, they take offense because; in their mind, it was someone else’s fault that they were late. He/she is always the innocent victim of your unreasonable expectations, an over-bearing boss or that slow clerk at the convenience store.
  • Procrastination: The passive aggressive person believes that deadlines are for everyone but them. They do things on their own time schedule and be damned anyone who expects differently from them.

The Passive Aggressive and You

The passive aggressive needs to have a relationship with someone who can be the object of his or her hostility. They need someone whose expectations and demands they can resist. The passive aggressive is usually attracted to co-dependents, people with low self-esteem and those who find it easy to make excuses for other people’s bad behaviors.

The biggest frustration in being in a relationship with a passive aggressive is that they never follow through on agreements and promises. They will dodge responsibility for anything in the relationship while at the same time making it look as if they are pulling their own weight and are a very loving partner. The sad thing is, you can be made to believe that you are loved and adored by a person who is completely unable to form an emotional connection with anyone.

The passive aggressive ignores problems in the relationship, sees things through their own skewed sense of reality and if forced to deal with the problems will completely withdraw from the relationship and you. They will deny all evidence of wrongdoing, distort what you know to be real to fit their own agenda, minimize or lie so that their version of what is real seems more logical.This is why divorcing a passive aggressive can and often does lead to a high conflict situation with long-term negative consequences for all involved.

The passive aggressive will say one thing, do another, and then deny ever saying the first thing. They don’t communicate their needs and wishes in a clear manner, expecting their spouse to read their mind and meet their needs. After all, if their spouse truly loved them he/she would just naturally know what they needed or wanted. The passive aggressive withholds information about how he/she feels, their ego is fragile and can’t take the slightest criticism so why let you know what they are thinking or feeling?

God forbid they disclose that information and you criticize them.

Confronting the Passive Aggressive

Beware, if you confront the passive aggressive they will most likely sulk, give you the silent treatment or completely walk away leaving you standing there to deal with the problem alone.

There are two reasons for confronting the passive aggressive. One, if done correctly you may be able to help them gain insight into the negative consequences of their behaviors. Two, even if that doesn’t happen, it will at least give you the opportunity to talk to him/her in a frank way about how his/her behavior affects you. If nothing else you can get a few things “off your chest.”

Below are 8 constructive ways to confront someone with passive aggressive behavior.

1. Make your feelings the subject of the conversation and not their bad behaviors. Use “I” statements and not “you” statements. More than likely you will get a more productive response from the passive aggressive spouse if you make the communication about the marriage and how you are feeling.

2. Don’t attack their character. You may feel angry and want to strike out but, doing so will only cause the passive aggressive to withdraw and refuse to engage in communication.

3. Make sure you have privacy. This is only common sense. Do not call out your passive aggressive spouse in front of others. Shaming someone never gets positive results.

4. Confront them about one behavior at a time, don’t bring up everything at once. You may have a laundry list of grievances but that doesn’t mean you have to communicate the entire list in one sitting. Remember, the passive aggressive fears conflict so, take it one grievance at a time to help them feel comfortable.

5. If they need to retreat from the conversation allow them to do it with dignity. Tell them you understand their need to leave the conversation but, before they do you’d like to agree on another date and time to continue discussing the topic.

6. Have a time limit, confrontation should not stretch on indefinitely.

7. If they try to turn the table on you, do not defend your need to have an adult conversation about your feelings. Having dealt with the passive aggressive you know that one of their main tactics is to try and turn the tables. Be on the lookout for that to happen and instead of becoming defensive insist that they stay on topic.

8. Be sure they understand that you care about what happens to them, that you love them and that you are not trying to control them. You are only trying to get to the bottom of your disagreements and make the relationship better. Nothing is more important than helping the passive aggressive to feel safe in engaging in what they will view as a conflict.

Inside the Passive Aggressive’s Head

The passive aggressive has a real desire to connect with you emotionally but their fear of such a connection causes them to be obstructive and engage in self-destructive habits. They will be covert in their actions and it will only move them further from their desired relationship with you.

The passive aggressive never looks internally and examines their role in a relationship problem. They have to externalize it and blame others for having shortcomings. To accept that they have flaws would be tantamount to emotional self-destruction. They live in denial of their self-destructive behaviors, the consequences of those behaviors and the choices they make that causes others so much pain.

The passive aggressive objectifies the object of their desire. You are to be used as a means to an end. Your only value is to feed the passive aggressive’s emotional needs. You are not seen as a person with feelings and needs but as an extension of them. They care for you the way they care for a favorite chair. You are there for their comfort and pleasure and are of use as long as you fill their needs.

The passive aggressive wants the attention and attachment that comes with loving someone but fear losing their independence and sense of self to their spouse. They want love and attention but avoid it out of fear of it destroying them. You have to be kept at arm’s length and if there is an emotional attachment it is tenuous at best.

The only hope for change in the way they deal with relationship issues is if they are able to acknowledge their shortcomings and contributions to the marital problems. Facing childhood wounds, looking internally instead of externally to find the cause of problems in their life will help them form deeper emotional attachments with a higher sense of emotional safety.

 

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Through a Simple Twist of Faith Part Three

Through a Simple Twist of Faith

The conclusion of a three-part article written by Randi G. Fine

I should have seen the writing on the wall and planned an exit strategy long before I needed it but I had not. Financially dependent and deeply in denial I lingered until the very last second. Then I fled, penniless, in desperation.

When I left my husband, newborn baby in tow, the only realistic option I had was to move back in with my parents. I dreaded the thought of having to go back to my childhood home. I knew it would be emotional suicide for me, but it was the safest place for my daughter to live until I could get back on my feet.

Though my husband had put me through a living hell I never wanted to leave him, still loved him, and could not imagine life without him. The loss was profoundly painful, the grief nearly unbearable.

Now thinking back to all the issues that had confronted me all at once I cannot imagine how I managed to stay sane. I was a first time mother, only two weeks post-partum, and single. My baby was very small, not even six pounds, and she could not eat enough at one feeding to sustain her for very long. She only slept two hours at a time so I was nursing her every two hours, all day and all night.

My parents, who remained deficient in respecting personal boundaries, were not making things any easier for me. Every time my daughter woke up and cried in the middle of the night they would brazenly open the door to the bedroom I shared with her and scream at me to pick her up. They said she needed to be fed and held. I was trying to teach her to self-soothe so she would fall back to sleep on her own and I could get some badly needed rest, but they just didn’t get it.

While all this was going on my husband was doing everything he could think of to punish me for leaving him. He retained his family’s attorney and threatened to fight me for visitation and custody. That terrified me—in his compromised state of mind there was no way I would even leave him alone with the baby for a second. I could not afford a lawyer of my own. All I could do was plead with him to drop the custody/visitation issue and help me out financially. Unmercifully exercising the upper hand he just toyed with me and played head games.

I applied for welfare, but the state claimed I was ineligible because my car was worth more than the allowable assets. My retired parents with a modest income stepped up to the plate—they sacrificed and helped as much as they could financially. I am ever grateful for everything they did to help me. In that way they made my life easier. I wish I could have said the same about their emotional support.

I continued going to Nar Anon support group meetings for a few months to help me cope with my all my problems. The “Higher Power” focus, fundamental to all twelve-step support groups, was constantly being reinforced there. Though still a foreign concept to me, I was beginning to grasp the idea of an intangible force working in my life.

Desperate for answers I began seeking solace in books. The internet had yet to exist so the library, with its vast resources, became my sanctuary. I would stand in front of the shelves in the spirituality sections waiting for a book to “speak” to me.

What I read in these books made more sense to me than anything I had ever heard before. Through this newly acquired awareness the panoramic picture of my life started coming together. My eyes were opened to the incredible love that had always been available to me but that I never knew I could tap into. Though the religious perspective never made sense to me, the spiritual one did and it captivated me.

I finally understood my grandfather’s spiritual connection; the one that brought him so much joy in his life. He found it through religion. I didn’t. I came upon it through adversity. It doesn’t matter how we come to this understanding. What is important is that we know we are unconditionally loved and supported at all times. There is no greater love. Always have faith.

Through a Simple Twist of Faith, Part One

Through a Simple Twist of Faith Part Two

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Through a Simple Twist of Faith, Part Two

Through a Simple Twist of Faith

Part two of a three-part article written by Randi G. Fine

Some who suffer adversity have had their lives negatively altered by an identifiable, pivotal event. Others gradually lose their foothold over a period of years. Though unaware that it was happening while it was happening, I experienced the latter.

My first eighteen years were tumultuous. An insecure childhood worsened by a series of unfortunate life altering events whittled away at my self-esteem. By the time my nineteenth year rolled around and I began living on my own I was functionally depressed yet emotionally numb, hardened to life yet highly vulnerable to its assaults. Though I was in a downward spiral I saw nothing unusual about the way I felt inside, how I was functioning, or the choices I was making. I knew no other way to feel or act.

I am not implying that I experienced no happiness during those years. There were many good, joyful things that happened in my life, but the exuberance was short lived. From my vantage point life was a place of suffering and hardship. That’s just how it was. And since I was naturally drawn to people with problems even worse than mine who had similar perspectives, it is no wonder I thought everyone saw things as I did.

At age nineteen I moved out of my parents’ house to leave behind the chaos there that I could no longer tolerate. Believing I was ready to take on life as an adult, I dropped out of college, found a job, and moved in with a roommate.

Living on my own and supporting myself provided a joyful freedom I had never before experienced. Unfortunately it did not stop the problems. Things only got worse for me and the problems became much more serious.

Many of the problems were the result of unwise decisions I had made, but one was not—the home invasion rape that nearly cost me my life. That was beyond my control. And then, as if I wasn’t far enough down, my “boyfriend” preyed on my vulnerability and swindled me out of all my money. I never saw him again. I do not claim to be a victim—I take full responsibility for allowing that to happen.

Still, after twenty-two years of living under an emotional “battering ram” it seemed as if adversity had won the fight. My spirit was weary and broken. All I had left was a glimmer of hope that a miracle would somehow save me. I envisioned a knight in shining armor coming, sweeping me off my feet, and taking me away from my life as I knew it.

Surprisingly that actually happened. A man miraculously came into my life, seemingly out of nowhere, and we fell deeply in love. My knight had everything I could have ever wanted; a great personality, stability, his own home, and a good job with a very promising future. Together we began the fairy tale romance I had dreamed of but never thought was possible. Sure that everything would be wonderful from that point on, I breathed a huge sigh of relief—the fight was finally over.

But the euphoria was short lived. It wasn’t long before the mask and armor came off and my true knight was revealed. It was not a pretty picture. The perfect love of my life had relapsed into a ravaging intravenous drug addiction.

For a long time I did not want to look at what was being shown to me. I was afraid to jeopardize the relationship that I had invested everything into; the relationship that I believed had saved my life. I could not survive without him; he was my love, my life, and my savior. Severely co-dependent that I was I truly believed I could fix him. I was determined to do whatever it took to create a happy ending—even if it took my last breath.

I stuck it out with him through a few ups and a lot of downs, through a heart wrenching maze of sobriety and relapses. During one extended period of sobriety we got married. Believing (probably fantasizing) that he had remained sober a planned pregnancy followed a year later.

The first trimester of my pregnancy was horrendous. I was incapacitated and too sick to worry about his comings and goings. Free from the close monitoring and the tight leash I kept him on, he relapsed into his worst addiction ever. That still did not deter me. I was even more determined to save my marriage and preserve the ideal family unit for my unborn child.

Seven months into my pregnancy I began attending Nar-Anon meetings. It was there that I first heard about turning my problems over to a “higher power.” I could not grasp that concept. I was the fixer and doer in my life. If I couldn’t do it than no one else could either—certainly not some unseen “higher power.” That is how someone with a co-dependency disorder thinks. I struggled for months to connect with an intangible source of strength outside of myself to hand my problems over to.

After the baby was born things got even more desperate. Staying with my husband meant risking life and limb, though in my state of mind I probably would have stuck it out if I only had me to worry about. But that was not the case. My six week old daughter was in imminent danger.

I could no longer fool myself. The dream of happily ever after had completely disintegrated. After he left for work one morning, I took my newborn baby and left with whatever belongings I could fit in my car. I did not have a nickel to my name or any way to make a living.

That was truly my emotional bottom, but like it or not staying there was not an option. More than anything I wanted my daughter’s life to be better than mine. That meant one thing—I had to somehow fix my life. I had to change.

Through a Simple Twist of Faith, Part One

Through a Simple Twist of Faith, Part Three

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Through a Simple Twist of Faith Part One

Through a Simple Twist of Faith

Part one of a three-part article written by Randi G. Fine

I was born into a highly observant Jewish family. My mother’s father, a Lithuanian immigrant, was a pious man. He was a cantor by trade—an ordained Jewish clergy with a magnificent voice who joined the rabbi in leading his congregation in Hebrew prayer. Whether in the synagogue or at home, my grandfather sung prayers to the God he believed in and loved, all day long. He never failed to express his gratitude for even the simplest blessings. His faith was unshakeable.

Having grown up in an environment suffused with religion, it naturally coursed through my mother’s veins. Judaism was a huge part of her identity. Though Jewish, my father was not raised the same way but he happily embraced my mother’s way of life. Together they shared the traditions my mother was brought up with. It was only natural that they would bring up their children that way.

I was the youngest of three children, born thirteen years after Nazi, Germany surrendered and the last of the holocaust camps were liberated. The horrific memories of senselessly losing six million of their people was still fresh in the minds of the Jewish people, many who were still mourning the tragic losses of their loved ones and friends. My family was very fortunate; we were not directly impacted by the losses, though as a community the Jewish people bonded together tighter than ever in support and for protection. They were very fearful of having outsiders infiltrate their community.

The message my siblings and I regularly received from our parents was, “Stick with your own kind. The rest of the world is out to get you.” They hoped to insulate us against the hate they believed would be directed at us from non-Jews. That was understandable in a way, but unlike my parents who were raised largely in a white, Jewish “ghetto,” our modern day community was integrated—multicultural and multi-racial.

As a family we went to synagogue every Sabbath and on all the holidays. We kept a kosher home, complied with all the rules and regulations dictated by modern “Conservative” Jewish law, and followed all the traditions the way we were supposed to. My siblings and I were sent to Hebrew school two evenings a week and every Sunday morning for six years. I hated every minute of sitting through those classes but was well-schooled in the rituals and prayers.

Whenever I questioned my teachers or my parents about the whys of what I was being told to do, the answer was often, “That’s just the way you are supposed to do it—‘why’ does not matter.” That answer may have well sufficed for others but it did not satisfy my inquisitive nature. I have never been one to comply just because I was supposed to. Arm me with logic and I am likely to follow along. Deprive me of logic and you will have a rebel on your hands. I came to resent the religion I felt was being forcefully integrated into my life.

As a young adult living on my own, no longer forced to perform the rituals that supposedly made me a good Jew, I became cynical about my religion. I never stopped loving the beautiful traditions of Judaism, the warmth of holidays spent with family, and the comfort of being with those who shared my roots. But I felt no need to go through motions that I had come to realize were meaningless to me. For years I had sat in the temple constantly shifting in my chair and yawning, anticipating the end of the service by counting the remaining pages of the prayer book. There was no longer any reason to sit through religious services that did not edify me—services that were conducted in a language I did not understand anyway.

I never believed, as many do, that I had to go to a house of worship to feel a spiritual connection—that all the benefits of religion could be absorbed by just being in synagogue and saying prayers I had memorized but did not understand. None of that made sense to my logical mind.

I did understand why Jewish people stuck together the way they did. Throughout history they were taught the importance of perpetuating their religion. This need was especially accentuated after having lost so many of their people to the Nazi death camps.

For many years I did not believe in the concept of faith. Still I wondered who the God my grandfather loved and revered in heart and soul was.

I never anticipated how essential faith would be ultimately be to my survival and the form in which it would take.

Through a Simple Twist of Faith Part Two

Through a Simple Twist of Faith Part Three

Posted in Faith, Personal Growth, Religion, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Turning Triggers Into Treasures

What is your childhood telling you about the person you are today?
 
Are traumatic experiences and limiting beliefs holding you back from pursuing personal freedom and satisfaction?
 
These are the intimidating questions that often linger in the background for those who are managing personal trauma. Holding the balance between exploration of the past and maintaining a strong sense of control in the present can be challenging and scary. Can we talk about our trauma? Should we? Will it make us uncomfortable? Leave us vulnerable?
 
I’ve joined Transformation Coach Silvia Hantea in examining these questions and more for her online Master Class series: Turning Triggers into Treasures. This FREE online series opens the door to a bigger conversation: one about examining the Shadow, freeing ourselves from the past, and moving beyond our triggers in order to embrace life on our own terms.We’ll share strategies and techniques that you can use, right now, to begin your transformation. All for FREE, in the privacy of your own home. Watch these videos at your own pace, and discover the path to personal freedom.
 
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Recovering From Relationship Codependency

Recovering From Relationship Codependency

(Codependency Part Two)

written by Randi G. Fine

Originally published on  Life As A Human

Codependency is an emotional disorder that begins forming in childhood, but it does not reveal itself until a person starts having adult relationships.

Codependents are people pleasers whom, for a variety of reasons, learned early on that placating others brought a semblance of order and emotional safety to their world.

Though a variety of dysfunctional dynamics contribute to this emotional disorder, boundary issues are always at the core.

Boundaries are the protective emotional and physical borders that exist between us and others. We use them to define the perimeters that make us unique and separate from everyone else. They are how we regulate our acceptance of how others treat us. When our boundaries are healthy our sense of self is healthy; we do not allow others to use or abuse us. When they are unhealthy we lack self-esteem, confidence, and judgment.

Boundaries develop as we move through the childhood stages toward individuality, as we become separate selves from our parents. When our separation and uniqueness within a family unit is encouraged and nurtured, our boundaries develop in a healthy manner. When these things are underdeveloped or stunted, so is our boundary system.

We learn how to apply boundaries to our lives by watching the way our parents or guardians apply boundaries to theirs. If our parents have weakly defined boundaries, chances are that we will too.

When I entered therapy and my therapist first explained that much of my suffering was rooted in boundary issues, I had no idea what she was talking about. I had never heard the term “boundary” used in that context. I thought she was way off-target. But over time, as she provided examples of what a life with healthy boundaries looked like, it became apparent to me that she was right. I realized that I had a hard time distinguishing where I left off and where certain other people in my life began. And I recognized my confusion in separating intimacy from enmeshment.

My healing began once I was able to make those distinctions. It continued when I stopped allowing others to cross over the perimeters I learned how to establish.

Though it was not easily accomplished the hard work paid off for me. I no longer have any of my codependent tendencies. All my relationships are healthy ones. I have been married to my current husband for thirty years. It is a relationship that would never have been possible in my prior state of mind. And the accomplishment that I am most proud of is that I raised two emotionally healthy children. The odds of doing that were not in my favor.

Most of us do not consciously evaluate our personal boundary systems. We are as unaware of their functions as we are many other behavior patterns ingrained in us as children. But they are the first things we must examine when our lives become unmanageable, our relationships disastrous.

Changing our codependent behaviors involves learning how to define ourselves as separate from others, learning how to discriminate between what feels right and what feels wrong, and learning how to allow others to take responsibility for their own lives.

This is a mental health issue, an addiction. Until the codependent becomes aware of his problem and acknowledges the part he plays in the failure of all his relationships, he will repeat the destructive behavior over and over.

The good news is that unlike other addictions, I believe codependency is curable. With tenacity and dedication it is a condition that, in my opinion, can be completely overcome.

Complete recovery requires exploration into childhood issues and their relationship to present patterns, but current patterns should always be addressed and managed first. The fellowship and support of groups such as CODA, Nar Anon, and Al Anon are invaluable to this process. These groups are attended by others who well-relate to what the codependent person is going through. Meetings are usually held at convenient places and should be relatively easy to find in almost all communities. Everything shared within the confines of the meetings is confidential, so attendees can speak freely and trust that what they say will not leave the room.

Faith, whether religious, spiritual, or however one wishes to define it, is essential to the process. Faith is what keeps us moving forward when things seem hopeless. We must find a source of strength outside of ourselves that can carry us during difficult times such as these.

Several helpful books and articles have been written on the topic of codependency. They can be found through internet searching or by browsing through a bookstore or library. I expedited my own healing process by reading as many books as I could find on the topic.

Whatever methods are chosen, the important thing to remember is that recovery will take time, support, and patience. Those who choose to embark on this healing journey must be kind, gentle, and forgiving with themselves. They will stumble, but the end result makes all the effort worthwhile—freedom, happiness, serenity, and fulfillment are the rewards.

The desire to help others is not a weakness and in most cases it does not indicate a codependent disorder. We should all help whenever we can. Loving, sharing, and caring are what living is truly about. For those of us who enjoy giving of ourselves but find it difficult to distinguish between helping and enabling there is a simple rule to follow. Helping is doing something for others that they are incapable of doing for themselves. It is a generous act that is appreciated not abused. It is a hand up not a hand out. Enabling is doing for others what they could and should be doing for themselves. It prevents the other person from facing the consequences of their choices. It is therefore an act that is more destructive than helpful.

A great deal of help is out there these days for those who desire it—resources are much more plentiful now than they were when I needed them in the eighties.

Remember…to have emotionally healthy relationships we must be emotionally healthy ourselves. Before we save the world we must first save ourselves.

fine life issues counseling2

More articles on this topic are:

Resolving Relationship Boundary Problems
Recognizing Codependent Behavior
Relationship Codependency Exposed
Codependent Tendencies Include Low Self Esteem
Kindness Codependency Contrasted
Six Red Flags Demonstrate Codependency
Emotional Relationship Boundaries
Confusion and Disappointment  of Love Addiction   (Codependency Part One)
Feeling Over Responsible Feeling Guilty
Healthy Boundaries Prevent Emotional Abuse
Personal Boundaries Build Healthy Relationships
Codependent Narcissist Relationship Dance
Dysfunctional Romantic Relationships

Listen to Podcast Shows about this topic:

Relationship Codependency: The Curable Addiction
Domestic Abuse and Violence: From Seduction to Survival
Addictive Personalities
Self-Love and Boundaries Build Healthy Relationships
 
Posted in Addiction, Boundaries, Codependency, Relationships | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

Confusion and Disappointment of Love Addiction

Confusion and Disappointment of Love Addiction

(Codependency Part One)

written by Randi G Fine,

originally published  on  Life As A Human

Have you ever believed that you could love someone enough to fix whatever is wrong in their life? Do you have the ability or tendency to deny and rationalize away the obvious truths about the object of your affection, believing that your love is powerful enough to change the person? If you answered yes to these questions you may be a relationship codependent.

Codependency is a loosely used word many of us have heard though few of us know what it means. In general, codependency is the relationship that exists between everyone and everything; a positive and necessary function of the human experience. But we rarely hear the word used in that context. When someone is referred to as codependent it usually indicates a disorder. In this article I will narrow it down ever further by focusing on a specific type of codependent disorder—relationship codependency.

Relationship codependency, also known as toxic love or the “White Knight” syndrome, is a debilitating psychological addiction to painful, frustrating, and unequal relationships. Those who suffer from it often seek out relationships with others who are unstable and irresponsible to satisfy their compulsive need to help, nurture, or control others. Before long they become enmeshed with the object of their affection and addicted to the hope, beyond all evidence or rational, that the person will change. I suffered from the crippling disorder for many years.

Those who have this addiction are often unaware that they have it. They do not understand that the chaos and pain that is so prevalent in their life is the result of their own dysfunctional behaviors. They do not see their responsibility in creating a life filled with heartbreaking confusion and disappointment.

In the early 1980’s I was married to a man who was a covert but incorrigible drug addict. My died-in-the-wool belief that “love conquers all” (the mantra of the relationship codependent), and my staunch determination to fix him kept me coming back for more, no matter what he put me through.

One day I accidentally found a syringe that he had hidden high up in a kitchen cabinet. There had been many signs of his relapse that I reasoned away or denied, but this one was too obvious to ignore. And because he had led me to believe that he was clean and sober, the shock of seeing that needle sent me spiraling down into the depths of despair. He had not been home when I found the evidence so I spent the next few hours alone, manically alternating between despondence and fury. When he finally walked through the front door I rabidly lunged at him, wildly brandishing the evidence in my hand. Starkly contrasting my unbridled behavior he remained unflappably calm. He quickly offered up one of his usual lame excuses, self-assured that I would buy it. He had no reason to think otherwise; he knew that I wanted so badly to believe everything was alright and was therefore easily convinced.

“I’m not using. Don’t be upset—please believe me. I just craved the feeling of the needle but I didn’t do any drugs; I only shot up water.”

The evidence spoke for itself. Any way I looked at it the thought of him sticking a needle in his vein was sickening and disturbing. On the other hand I wanted to believe what he was telling me. To not believe him would have destroyed my entire world. So I put my feelings of devastation aside and immediately shifted into codependent mode. I reminded myself that I was much stronger than he was. He had a serious problem; I did not. I would be alright—it was him I had to worry about. I could fix this.

I willingly accepted responsibility for his failure. Instead of questioning him, I questioned myself. Perhaps I hadn’t proved my level of devotion. Maybe I had not tried hard enough to keep him happy. I promised myself that I would love him even more than I had before and work harder to show it, believing that once I proved how much I loved him he would never have the desire to use again. At the time that mindset made perfect sense to me. That is the way a relationship codependent thinks.

The relationship codependent is always looking for the potential in others instead of accepting them as they truly are. They see people as works in progress—projects that they feel compelled to take on. The more challenging the project, the more attracted to the other person they are. They believe that they are rescuers, that they are doing something helpful. They are not in touch with the pathology that underlies their perception.

Before long the relationship codependent becomes emotionally dependent on their partner and obsessed with their problems and needs. It is a parasitic relationship; the codependent feels like his survival depends on having the other person in his life. It is an addiction in every sense of the word; the other person becomes the codependent’s drug. It is an obsession that consumes his every waking thought. The hopelessness and depression that result only make him cling tighter to the other person. He may smile for the world but inside he feels like he is dying. He begins isolating himself because he does not want others to know about the secret life he is leading.

fine life issues counseling2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles on this topic are:

Resolving Relationship Boundary Problems
Recognizing Codependent Behavior
Relationship Codependency Exposed
Codependent Tendencies Include Low Self Esteem
Kindness Codependency Contrasted
Six Red Flags Demonstrate Codependency
Emotional Relationship Boundaries
Recovering from Relationship Codependency  (Codependency Part Two)
Feeling Over Responsible Feeling Guilty
Healthy Boundaries Prevent Emotional Abuse
Personal Boundaries Build Healthy Relationships
Codependent Narcissist Relationship Dance
Dysfunctional Romantic Relationships

Listen to Podcast Shows about this topic:

Relationship Codependency: The Curable Addiction
Domestic Abuse and Violence: From Seduction to Survival
Addictive Personalities
Self-Love and Boundaries Build Healthy Relationships
 

Posted in Addiction, Boundaries, Codependency, Relationships | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

Emotionally Needy Friends

Creating Boundaries With Needy Friends

Article Written by Randi G. Fine, Narcissistic Abuse Expert

Friendship is one of life’s greatest gifts. It is a fulfilling relationship that is shared by two people who care about each other, trust each other, and want only the best for each other. A good friendship is honest, loyal, and truthful; good friends understand and accept each other in ways no one else can.

A healthy friendship feels good to both parties. It is positive, supportive, and comforting whether times are good or bad. Friends see each other through the best of times and the worst of times, and through it all the relationship remains uplifting and fun. Friends make us laugh, feel good about ourselves; they enhance our life experience.

Sometimes an initially healthy, energizing friendship turns weighty and oppressive; the needy scale begins tipping in one direction and never balances back out.  Being together is no longer fun—nearly every encounter becomes downright depressing.  But your friend was there for you in the past and you feel obligated to be there for him or her now.  The problem is that your debt never seems to get paid off.

If you are wondering whether or not you are saddled with an emotionally needy friend, consider the following questions:

1. Despite all your help does your friend always seem to be unhappy?
2. Are you helping your friend more than your friend is helping you?
3. Does your friend dominate every phone call or interaction by talking about his or her problems?
4. Does your friend show little or no interest in your life or your problems?
5. Does your friend make the same mistakes over and over or choose one destructive relationship after another?
6. Does your friend feel better after dumping on you and leaves you feeling worse?
7. Do you wish you could avoid contact with your friend?
8. Do you feel trapped in the friendship?
9. Do you dread every encounter with your friend, or does every encounter leave you feeling drained and exhausted?

You are probably a very good listener and want to be a good friend—you want to be supportive of whatever your friend is going through. That is understandable. But be clear on what it means to be a good friend and what it means to be supportive.

A healthy friendship is reciprocal and balanced; it requires an equal amount of give and take, time and effort. Good friends act as sounding boards for each other—issues bounce back and forth; they are not absorbed. A friendship is not a therapist/patient relationship.

The exchange of support in a healthy friendship should lead to personal growth, not emotional dependency. Supporting a friend means giving them a hand up, not a hand out. A good friend will appreciate your kind and generous efforts, not take advantage of them and become dependent on you. A good friend respects you—doesn’t want to be a burden on you.

Why do you allow yourself to remain in an unhealthy friendship? Ask yourself these questions:

1. Do you need or like to feel needed?
2. Do you see yourself as the glue that holds people together?
3. Is a needy friend better than no friend at all?
4. Is your friend occasionally fun to be around so you justify he or she being a downer the other 90% of the time?
5. Do you see other people’s problems as more important than your own?
6. Do you take on other people’s problems to keep the focus off your own?
7. Do you feel unworthy of healthy relationships?
8. Do you feel guilty when you say no?
9. Do you have trouble defining and protecting your personal boundaries?

If your friend has been needy for a significant amount of time and the imbalance has become the pattern of your relationship, it will be very difficult to change the nature of your friendship.

Your friend may have chased all other friendships away and you may be the only person still hanging around, but that is not your problem—people have to learn to stand on their own two feet. You should never do for others what they are capable of doing for their selves. We should want to make our friends stronger and more self-sufficient, not weaker and more dependent. Sometimes that requires tough love.

There are ways to deal with a needy friend. Here are some suggestions:

1. Be honest. Tell your friend what is bothering you and how it is affecting you. Explain that you just can’t play that role anymore.
2. Change the nature of your relationship. Set boundaries and know when to say no.
3. Plan enjoyable things to do with your friend to change their focus. When the fun is over, the time together should be over. Do not let every friendly interaction end with you listening to their problems.
4. Suggest that the person find some other friends, join clubs, or volunteer to take the pressure off of you. It is unreasonable for friends to expect you to be their one and only.
5. Tell your friend that you have to focus on caring for your own needs and/or your family’s needs.
6. Take a hiatus from the friendship. You deserve a time out and you deserve to enjoy your life.
7. Keep yourself busy. Fill your schedule with plans, commitments, and time with other friends.
8. Gradually distance yourself from the friendship by spending less and less time with the person.
9. Recommend that your friend seek professional therapy. If he or she is already seeing a therapist and is not getting better, insist that your friend find another one.
10. Recommend that the person see a doctor who can do a proper evaluation and if necessary prescribe anti-anxiety or anti-depression medications.
11. If you have tried everything and nothing works, it is time to say goodbye to the friendship.

If you are in an unbalanced relationship with a needy friend there is no time like the present to remedy the situation. You will both benefit from your efforts. If you have a pattern of attracting and perpetuating these types of friendships, it is time to look inward and figure out why these types of friendships are acceptable to you. It is not healthy behavior and it often signals a bigger issue.

Posted in Boundaries, Codependency, Friendship, Relationships | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments