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Facing Love Addiction: Giving Yourself the Power to Change the Way You Loveby Pia Mellody
Synopses & Reviews
Separating Codependence from Love Addiction
A Love Addict is someone who is dependent on, enmeshed with, and compulsively focused on taking care of another person. While this is often described as codependence, I feel that codependence is a much broader and more fundamental problem area. Although being a codependent can lead some people into love addiction, not all codependents are Love Addicts, as we shall see.
THE DISEASE PROCESS OF CODEPENDENCE
Codependence is a disease of immaturity caused by childhood trauma. Codependents are immature or childish to such a degree that the condition hampers their life. A disease process, according to Diland's Medical Dictionary, is "a definite morbid process having a characteristic chain of symptoms. It may affect the whole body or any of the parts, and its etiology (or cause), pathology, and prognosis may be known or unknown." I call the chain of symptoms that characterizes codependence the core or primary symptoms, and they describe how codependents are unable to be in a healthy relationship with themselves. These are the primary, or core, symptoms of codependence:
1.Difficulty experiencing appropriate levels of self-esteem, that is to say, difficulty loving the self
2.Difficulty setting functional boundaries with other people, that is to say, difficulty protecting oneself.
3.Difficulty owning one's own reality appropriately, that is to say, difficulty identifying who one is and knowing how to share that appropriately with others.
4.Difficulty addressing interdependently one's adult needsand wants, that is to say, difficulty with self-care.
5.Difficulty experiencing and expressing one's reality in moderation,that is to say, difficulty being appropriate for one's age and various circumstances.*
In addition to these, there are also five secondary symptoms that reflect how codependents think other people's behavior is the reason they are unable to be in healthy relationships. The inaccurate thinking represented by these secondary symptoms creates problems in a codependent's relationships with others, but these symptoms stem from the core problem, which is the bruised relationship with the self. These five symptoms are (1) negative control, (2) resentment, (3) impaired spirituality, (4) addictions, or mental or physical illness, and (5) difficulty with intimacy.
1. NEGATIVE CONTROL
Codependents either (1) try to control others by telling them who they ought to be so the codependents can be comfortable; or (2) allow others to control the codependents by dictating who they should be to keep others comfortable. Either form of negative control sets up negative responses in the person being controlled, and these negative responses cause the codependents to blame others for their own inability to be internally comfortable with themselves.
*See Pia Mellody, with Andrea Wells Miller and J. Keith Miller, Facing Codependence (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989), especially chapter 2, for a complete explanation of these symptoms.
Codependents use resentment as a futile way to try to protect themselves and regain self-esteem. When people are victimized, they experience two things rather intensely: a drop in self-esteem, preciousness, or value, and a profound need to find some way to stop the victimization.
Anger gives people a sense of power and energy. In healthy amountsanger provides the strength to do what is needed to protect oneself But when we recycle the anger and combine it with an obsession about punishing the offender or getting revenge, we enter into resentment. Whether or not we actually carry out any real punishment or revenge, resentment includes the desire for it. Resentment debilitates the codependent because of the process of replaying the victimization in our minds, which brings on painful emotions such as shame, unexpressed or poorly expressed anger, and depressive frustration. Resentment plays a key part in the way codependents' lives are hampered by blaming others for their own inability to protect themselves with healthy boundaries.
3. IMPAIRED SPIRITUALITY
Codependents either make someone else their Higher Power through hate, fear, or worship, or attempt to be another's Higher Power. Whether or not the codependent is aware that this is happening, this secondary symptom can be quite painful or damaging to the health and functional development of the codependent.
4. ADDICTIONS, OR MENTAL OR PHYSICAL ILLNESS
Our ability to face reality is directly related to our ability to have a healthy relationship with ourself, which means loving the self, protecting the self, identifying the self, caring for the self, and moderating the self. Living out of such a healthy, centered relationship with the self allows us to face the reality of who we are, who others are, who the Higher Power in our lives is, and
the reality of our current situation. Developing these abilities and perceptions is the core of recovery from codependence. But when we do not acquire a functional internal relationship and sense of adequacy, the pain thatresults inside of us and in our relationships with others and with our Higher Power often leads us into an addictive process to alleviate the pain quickly.
5. DIFFICULTY WITH INTIMACY
Intimacy involves sharing our own reality and receiving the reality of others without either party judging that reality or trying to change it. Codependents with the core symptom of difficulty identifying who they are (their reality) and sharing appropriately cannot be intimate in a healthy way, since intimacy means sharing their reality.
Offering clear, comforting advice on the best ways to develop healthy love relationships, Mellody describes the dynamics of a coaddicted relationship, and the stages of addiction--from attraction and fantasy to denial and obsession. A practical recovery process based on Twelve-Step work, exercises, and journaling.
A brilliant new guide to understanding the origins of codependence and the path to recovery by a nationally recognized authority on dependency and addiction.
In this fresh new look at codependence, Pia Mellody traces the origins of this illness back to childhood, describing a whole range of emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, and sexual abuses. Because of these earlier experiences, codependent adults often lack the skills necessary to lead mature lives and have satisfying relationships.
Recovery from codependence comes from clearing up the toxic feelings left over from childhood and learning to reparent oneself by intervening on the adult symptoms of codependence. Central to Mellody's concept is the idea of the "precious child" that needs healing within each adult. She creates a framework for identifying codependent behavior and describes an effective approach to recovery that includes both therapy and self-help processes. Designed to be used with her new workbook for codependents, "Breaking Free," this is a powerful tool for understanding the nature of codependence.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -233) and index.
About the Author
Pia Mellody, a nationally recognized authority on codependence, is a consultant at The Meadows, a treatment center for addictions in Wickenburg, Arizona.
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