He brought his grief with him. He apologized for interrupting me. He was completely unconscious of his thoughts and emotions. I think that he believed that if he could control the universe that is visible to him that he could ultimately control his universe. He brought his grief with him. It weighed heavily in the air and when he sat across from me I could feel my chest contract and the breathlessness followed. My eyes teared up as if it was my own grief. He told me that people did not understand. I do not wish to feel his grief but it pervades the atmosphere like humidity, it is heavy and its weight is laying on all of the surfaces in my office. The round conference table stands between us and I am grateful for its presence. The conference table stands as an anchor to reality in a world where people die and spiritual things happen which have no physical explanation.
He tells me again that “people do not understand, they think I am taking this too well.” I am thinking to myself that I do not see how anyone could mistake this man’s grief. How could anyone not see how heavily his grief lays upon all things? As this man walks, his grief precedes him. I am thinking that he apologizes for interrupting me, but he should apologize for bringing his grief with him. As h e speaks to me, I feel his grief. My eyes tear up. Then I remember my own mother’s death, there are no specifics and no details, it is simply a matter of the grief. He speaks to me some more and his words are not important. Again I feel my eyes burning; it hurts to be near him. I wish for him to go away. I know that there are things that I may do to help him, but first he must go away. I will help him when my intellect returns to replace my grief – my grief that is his grief.
Kahlil Gibran said something to the effect of: your children are not of you, but move through you. They have their own path to be taken by them and not you.
I want to come from higher thinking, accepting of all that my child does or is and yet…
I saw myself as sacrificing so much when he was young. I thought my sacrifice would equate to his success, as if it was equidistant to each other. It was not. No matter what I gave up for the boy, it didn’t matter because he didn’t take the path to success.
I offered him a white collar education, and he turned it down, beating his chest about blue collar blues. I offered him ease of youth, but he turned it down and lived his difficulty instead.
I was jubilant when his IQ was tested, doesn’t he demonstrate the best that a mind has to offer? Isn’t he the one who will give us new knowledge and insight? No, he told me, manual labor was his destiny. He claimed he was a good and hard-working man and didn’t need higher learning. But, he suffered, his brain moved faster than manual labor could provide and so he chose an altered consciousness.
His altered consciousness brought him a dishonest marriage and disappointment that he began to cling to. His life was one sadness after another all leading to a crumpled and vulnerable soul that would not function in the light.
I, who gave him my dream of a youth with freedom, an education with purpose, was disappointed and hurt that his choices walked so consistently to the dark side of life. Where was the brilliant smiling boya, that I loved so deeply? Why couldn’t I find him in the 45 year old man?
Who am I to ask that he make his life different than the one he chose? Who am I to ask that he choose a different path, even now? He is the man that he chose to be, he walks a path that he chose, I am no one to choose. I am only to sit on the sidelines and love.
Who can say why we must love our children? Some say it is the oxytocin. Some say that it is the genetic likeness. Some say that you cannot withhold from what comes from you.
All I know is this. I love them unmitigatedly. I cannot stop my love for my children any more than engineers could stop the direction of the Colorado River, can they? No.
There are those parents who do not care. Who are they? I have not met them. I do not know them.
Codependence is usually portrayed as an extremely negative
characteristic. Most writing includes a
lot of judgment and blame for the codependent.
It is as if codependents chose codependence. They do not choose codependence any more than
the addict chooses addiction.
Codependents come by their malady honestly. It is a survival mechanism that doesn’t turn
off when it is appropriate to do so. Codependence is the lion protecting her young,
the bear protecting his home. The beginning of codependence is somewhat subtle,
while the end may scream dysfunction.
Codependence often begins with the parent of a child who is
either struggling or disabled in some way.
Think of the learning – disabled child in third grade who is being
bullied because of her special needs.
Think of the child who is autistic and lacks an ability to make friends
at school. Think of a child with
dyslexia who is being teased by peers because of his perceived inadequacy. Think of a young teacher who does not know
how to handle behavior problems and seems to send your child to the principal’s
office every single day. Think of the
woman who is in an abusive relationship and often must protect her children
from abuse from her partner. Think of a
blind child, who not only struggles because of sight, but is also unhappy and
If the child or partner has suffered in life and the suffering
has been repeated (think violence, or sexual abuse, or even PTSD from battle
conditions) the codependent person develops a type of hypervigilance which is a
These are all situations which breed a codependent personality style. The parent becomes an uber protector who is hyper-vigilant about any perceived threat to the child’s happiness or health. The hyper-vigilance often creates misinterpretation, as Jeb Kinnison states, regarding anxious attachment style: Hair-trigger misjudgments and mistakes are more likely with this group and can get them into trouble. This is a facet of the codependent personality style; they often assume the worst about the world. Again, they come by the fear honestly. Bad things have happened to their family; they know that the world can be awful. Protection is the number one goal of the codependent personality. The codependent is usually protecting their child, their home, or their perception of being loved.
As life progresses, more and more time is swallowed by the
child’s high level needs, or more and more time is swallowed by the partner’s high
level needs. The child or partner becomes
the ‘focus in life’ for the codependent person.
When I read articles about codependence, often the word
control becomes synonymous with evil.
This is a mistake. Our
codependent person is trying to protect loved ones, albeit in an ultimately
unhealthy manner. Initially, the control
is a good thing: necessary to protect one who is not skilled in self-protection. It is only as time progresses that we see
codependence deteriorate into an unhealthy habit.
Many years ago, I worked with parents of blind
children. They told me that during
middle school, they (the parents) were instructed by teachers to stop
accommodating the blind child. The
teachers urged parents to allow the child to navigate their home on their own. “Let them get their own glass of milk” they
said. This is guidance away from
codependence. Not everyone gets an
educated guide that will help them through the pitfalls of caring for others.
Admittedly codependence can run on too long. By caring for others, an unwitting
codependent may be communicating that the object person is unable to care for
self. For children, this can be
damaging. There are plenty of downsides
to codependence, including the inability to maintain relationship boundaries. On this issue, both parties will suffer. No relationship boundaries result in the
deprivation of personal space. This can
be harmful to healing.
As we learned in the treatment of addiction. We do not heal when we blame, denigrate or
otherwise put down people who are suffering.
It is no help to characterize codependence as evil.
Remember that codependence comes naturally, even though it is
a malady and also because it is a malady, it should not be damned.