Magic Fix

It is not often that I have clients who think therapy will be a quick magic fix for their problems. Many times, clients come in thinking this but after a few sessions they quickly realize this is not the case. Every now and then though I do have one who finds it hard to let go of this belief and that can make things even more difficult for them.

Many of the clients who cling to the quick magic fix are those who have spent the majority of their lives in control mode or avoidance mode by way of control. They often believe that they can “fix” any problem by controlling everything around it or by applying control so that they can avoid the problem and pretend it does not exist or affect them.

They can spend years of their life thinking that they are strong and that all the trauma they have experienced has no affect on their decision making or responses. In fact, just the opposite is true. Their control mechanisms and avoidance is a response albeit one they have chosen and reinforced.

However, control and avoidance does nothing to process through the problems. They continue to affect them whether they realize it or not or more to the point choose to acknowledge what they know to be true. The only way to let the past stay in the past is to process through it, accept that it happened, and then retrain the mind to think and believe differently in order to awaken who they truly want to be.

If however, they continue to hold on to the idea that a magic fix can happen or that they can somehow just magically fix the issue without the actuall processing part, they will be very disappointed. Sometimes even angry and depressed at the realization that this is not possitlbe. That all the years they spent believing they can fix or control anything has been a lie.

They typically do not want to do the processing work and find it extremely uncomfortable. They think that to acknowledge and accept that they cannot control or fix makes them weak and vulnerable something they believe they must avoid at all costs to protect themselves from further trauma.

The only way is through with acknowledgement and acceptance and then work on changing long held beliefs. It is the only way to real freedom from past trauma. A magic fix is not possible.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Trauma Responses

In my work as a therapist, I have come to believe that everyone I have encountered has experienced trauma in their lives. I believe also that most people in the world have experienced at least one trauma in their lives. Trauma can be anything that affects someone in a negative way that then causes them to form beliefs and responses as a result. All trauma is personal and what some might view as a minimal experience the person experiencing it can view it as something much greater – to them.

Trauma responses which are formed as protection, or assumed protection against further trauma, then become what people view as their “personality traits” for individuals and as “family traits” for families. However, they are in fact, responses to trauma which continue with each passing day that the trauma is unprocessed. These responses lead people to react and interact with others in a variety of ways depending on what their trauma assumed as protection.

The four main responses to trauma are fight, flight, freeze, and fawn. These responses then lend themselves to a broader list of other protective responses that get incorporated into our lives and relationships.

In the unhealthy or unprocessed trauma version of fight, the assumed protection responses can be anger, aggressiveness, need for control, perfectionism, bullying others to get what is wanted, narcissism, taking energy and time from others without considering how they feel about it. The underlying response will usually be driven by a need to control situations and people to feel safe or to push them away with anger and aggressive behavior to again feel safe.

In unhealthy or unprocessed versions of flight, the assumed protection responses can be escaping or avoiding, seeking avoidance in substances such as alcohol and drugs, avoiding responsibilities, avoiding being out of your comfort zone, escaping or avoiding relationships that are uncomfortable, moving from relationship to relationship. The underlying response will usually be driven by a need to escape situations and people to feel safe.

In the unhealthy or unprocessed version of freeze, the assumed protection responses can be numbing our feelings and needs, being stuck, dissociation, detaching from everything around us, shutting down, not attaching emotionally to others, isolating, suppressing our feelings. The underlying response will usually be driven by a need to not feel or think about how we feel.

In the unhealthy or unprocessed version of fawn, the assumed protection responses can be putting all our needs aside and focusing on the needs of others, co-dependent relationships, people pleasing, trying to fix others, having no boundaries, not saying no, being used by others. The underlying response will usually be driven by a need to please others.

If we can identify the responses we have assumed to protect ourselves from further trauma, we can acknowledge it, name it, and understand why we are continuing these repetitive patterns of behavior. In this process, however, we must start with the root of these responses which began where our trauma began. This will likely require an investment in individual therapy to process and move through the trauma so that we can reorient our responses and change them along with changing ourselves.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Process Equals Progress

I am often still surprised by new clients who have the mistaken belief that trauma therapy can be some kind of magical fix. That if they come to a few sessions, I will somehow give them ability to magically cure themselves of years long trauma and negative beliefs about themselves. Unfortunately, that is not true nor is it possible.

To make progress in living with traumatic experiences and negative beliefs, one must go through the process of confrontation and move to reprocessing and then acceptance building in positive beliefs along the way. This is not an easy process or a quick one. There is no magic wand to erase what has happened to us or our conditioned responses as a result of our experiences. There is only the process.

This is where the rubber meets the road in therapy. Clients will decide in the moment that they realize they will have to go through the process whether or not they wish to continue therapy. They will make these decisions based on a variety of emotions, mainly fear, and then will either never come back or gather the strength to push on.

It is not easy to process through trauma and negative beliefs that have resulted from those traumas. It is not fun. It is difficult, emotional work. However, it is the only way through to moving to a place where what has happened to us no longer causes us to believe negative things about ourselves or respond in trauma conditioned ways.

We can not get rid of what has happened to us in the past. Those things exist and will always exist. We can learn to change how we think about those things and how we let them affect our lives now. Processing is a method to change how we think about what we feel. Traumas will make us feel a multitude of emotions – anger, sadness, fear and many more. Traumas will make us feel responsible, which is not true. Traumas will make us believe negative things about ourselves that are not true and did not start with us. Processing allows us to understand all these things and change how we think and what we believe.

Processing is the only way through. It will be difficult, but to be free of the control past trauma has over your life now, the choice is only one path – to process completely.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Trauma Healing Quotes

Most all of the work I do with clients is in relation to their trauma history. The processing of trauma and moving through to acceptance and letting go can be a very difficult journey. To live a full and free life after experiencing trauma it must be completely processed and let go. If you are thinking of starting this journey or are in the midst of it, maybe these quotes can help you begin or to press on.

“Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.” ~ Bessel A. van der Kolk

Dr. van der Kolk is the author of the book “The Body Keeps The Score” which is effectively the “bible” of my therapy practice and the best book on how trauma affects us body and mind when unprocessed.

“We cannot have a world where everyone is a victim. “I’m this way because my father made me this way. I’m this way because my husband made me this way.” Yes, we are indeed formed by traumas that happen to us. But then you must take charge, you must take over, you are responsible.” ~ Camille Paglia

We are conditioned and taught by our traumas to internalize negative beliefs about ourselves. However, moving through and past our traumas is our choice and our responsibility.

“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams healing can begin.” ~ Danielle Bernock

Finding a therapist that fits you, someone to hear you, objectively, can make all the difference in being able to walk through your personal pain.

“Every day begins with an act of courage and hope: getting out of bed.” ~ Mason Cooley

Not every day will be filled with huge strides and big wins over the past, sometimes the best we can do on any given day is just to get out of bed.

“Trauma is perhaps the most avoided, ignored, belittled, denied, misunderstood, and untreated cause of human suffering.” ~ Peter Levine

It is my experience that almost everyone has some kind of trauma and almost everyone carries on as if they do not by avoiding, ignoring, denying, controlling how they truly feel.

Instead of saying ‘I’m damaged, I’m broken, I have trust issues.” I say “I’m healing, I’m rediscovering myself, I’m starting over.” ~ Horacio Jones

The journey to trauma recovery is almost entirely based on what we say to ourselves every minute of the day. Are your words hurting or helping you?

Healing from trauma can also mean strength and joy. The goal of healing is not a papering-over of changes in an effort to preserve or present things as normal. It is to acknowledge and wear your new life – warts, wisdom, and all – with courage.” ~ Catherine Woodiwiss

We can never change what has happened to us, but we can learn to live better with it and in spite of it.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Falling Away

Fall always reminds me of the work I do with clients in therapy. They come to me as trees full of leaves. Heavy and weighed down. They are all searching for a way to release some of this long carried weight. Letting those leaves they have carried for so long fall away.

For a good portion of their lives they have carried these leaves representing the baggage of their past everywhere they go. Into every decision, response, relationship the leaves go with them. The weight is heavy and at times overwhelming but they cannot seem to rid themselves of these ever clinging traumas.

When clients come to therapy, they talk about how these leaves cling to them and nourish the fears, anger, sadness, and negative thoughts that grow and blossom each day. The leaves continue to feed their ever growing tree of trauma. They have become used to the weight. They are accustomed to how they look when the leaves are full and on display for all to see. They are comfortable with how it envelopes them mind and body.

But it is so heavy. It is so hard to carry on with daily life when weighed down by depression, anxiety, anger, judgment, and fear. Every action, every decision becomes just that much harder. There seems to be no escape no matter how much they may want to let their leaves go. The negative thoughts keep the leaves bound to them.

As they work through these traumas and begin to acknowledge them for what they are and where they started, the leaves start to drop off. At first, maybe it is just one small leaf. The process moves slowly. The leaves start to lose energy, change, and have less power to hold on to them. The leaves become less nourished and start to wither.

As more work is done and more understanding is gained, the leaves lose their vibrancy and turn darker and become less noticeable. They have far less power over responses and actions. The thoughts become quieter and less invasive. They start to realize they no longer need this heavy covering of weight. And they start to fall off slowly, slowly.

The traumas fall away becoming only remnants of their former selves. Yes, they were there and happened, but their power over them is lost. They can be let go. They are no longer needed. They no longer need to fear them.

The leaves drop off becoming dead, crunchy and returning to the soil in which they were made to be reborn in spring as new life. Traumas falling away being absorbed back into the universe and becoming the catalyst of change for them. The leaves they regrow as they change are lighter, beautiful, and nourishing to new life. To their new life.

This is hard work. Shedding old life to birth new. It requires great energy and constant attention. It requires releasing that which is no longer needed in favor of that which renews.

This is how I see therapy, good therapy in which the client is invested in change and willing to do the work required. The falling away of all that has weighed them down body, mind and spirit and the investment in growing that which is uplifting, empowering, and transforming.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

The Last Straw

Earlier this week, I read an article that broke my heart. In one of the high schools in the state where I live, they reported that seven students have lost their lives to suicide since May of 2020. Seven lives that are no longer with us. And this is just one high school that has reported numbers. I feel that there are probably quite a few more.

This is not an article to blame Covid for yet another thing. It is very likely that most of those who have taken their lives since Covid began were struggling well before that with depression, anxiety, trauma or some other mental health issues. It is unlikely that Covid was the only reason for their feeling they had reached the end of their ability to go on. Although, there may be some for which that is true. It is impossible to know.

What I do know from data I have seen reported all over the country is that the impact of Covid has pushed many with mental health issues over the edge. For some, it is quite possibly the last straw. And I am not talking about the illness of Covid as much as the surrounding fear, isolation, increased depression, lack of normalcy and chaotic changes.

Covid especially for school age individuals has caused periods of isolation, sometimes long periods of isolation from friends and a normal routine. It has caused a huge increase of fear and possible loss of loved ones. It has increased depression through these things. The constant changes of what is going on with Covid, with schools, with jobs, with family and friends results in a large amount of increased anxiety. And the feeling that this may never end adding to the already present thoughts of nothing ever changing for the better.

When taken together, the many things that surround Covid may be considered as the last straw. The situation that has pushed people over the edge. The thing that has increased suicidal thoughts and ideation. Again, it is not the only thing and these thoughts and ideation did not start in 2020 for most, but they were likely increased.

The other thing I have noticed is that while much attention is being paid to Covid and illness and health care and vaccines, much less attention is being paid to mental health issues. While schools are focused on masking, vaccines, quarantining, and mitigation of illness, they are far less focused on addressing the mental health of their student population nor have they been throughout this crisis.

My school age clients report that during the many months of remote learning, no one called or checked in from the school on their mental health. They were only concerned with academics. No one asked if they were depressed or anxious. No one asked them about suicidal thoughts or plans except for me. Imagine how many more school aged children were out there not going to counseling with no one to ask them these questions.

Of course, it is not only school age children who had an increase in suicide through this crisis. Many people did of all ages. Mental health was never high on the priority list of any organization or government entity and it still is not sadly.

When you talk to people about how they are handling Covid, why not ask them how they are feeling. Ask them how this has all affected them emotionally. Ask them how they are coping with the things they have to go through with this crisis. Ask them if they need help.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or intent, please seek help or help them to find help. Reach out for counseling services. Call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741741 both available 24/7. Find out resources in your community and have them handy for referral to those in need. Check in on the mental health of those around you, it could be just what someone needs to keep going.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Trauma Cannot Be Fixed

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As a clinical counselor, I would estimate that 95% of the clients I see have experienced some kind of trauma in their lives. And that 100% of those clients would like their trauma to be “fixed”.

Trauma cannot be fixed. It can only be lived with, better.

As soon as I tell clients that there is no way to “fix” or get rid of or not be affected ever again by their trauma, they generally make one of two decisions.

They get upset and decide that I am a terrible therapist and that surely there must be one out there who can “fix” them or that therapy is bogus and they are never trying it again and they do not come back to see me again OR they decide they are willing to try to live better with their trauma.

You can remove trauma or at least obliterate it from memory. One way to do that is to have a lobotomy. Another way to do it is to undergo ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) or shock therapy. Hypnosis can make you “think” you have removed trauma, but it only replaces it with another thought or reaction.

Otherwise, trauma remains part of who we are, forever. It can control our thoughts. It can control our actions and reactions. It can control our lives.

If we allow it to do so.

Or we can gain control over our trauma and learn to live BETTER with it.

Step one, acknowledging and confronting all of our traumas. Knowing them. Being able to name them, talk about them, and recognize how they started. We must truly understand what our traumas are in order to learn to better live with them.

Step two, we must learn and accept how these traumas now control our lives. What emotions do they make us feel, what beliefs have they created in our minds, how do they affect our relationships with others, how do they affect our relationship with ourselves? Recognizing that how we live with trauma is how we live our entire lives. Every aspect of our lives.

Step three, we must work to change negative beliefs, emotions, choices, actions, and reactions. We must work to replace these with positive. We must work to confront these with the truth instead of the trauma-informed lies. We must consistently, constantly with every single one apply repetition and reinforcement to live better with our trauma.

It is exhausting work.

And this is the point where those who have chosen to stay at work to live better with their trauma start to reconsider. In the world of quick fixes, instant gratification, change at blinding speed, the work required to change our trauma-informed life can seem overwhelming. And many will give up at this point feeling that it is too hard and that living the way they have always lived is easier.

But it is not easier, it is just comfortable, familiar.

Those that stay after this point come to understand that by doing this work they can live better with their trauma — despite their trauma. As survivors.

Living better means having positive beliefs about yourself. Living better means having more positive emotions than negative in relation to your trauma and your life.

Living better means making more positive choices because you want to make them not because your trauma-informed lies direct you to make them. Living better means having positive actions and reactions based on what you truly want for yourself not what your trauma-informed lies tell you that you deserve.

Trauma cannot be fixed. As a therapist, I do not have a magic wand. What has happened to all of us happened, it cannot be erased.

It can be lived with — BETTER — with work, with understanding, with love for yourself.

Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing creates change you do choose. ~ Michele Rosenthal

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Assessing Your Trauma

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In the years that I have been a clinical counselor, I have come to believe based on observations of the clients I have seen and people that I know personally, that well over 90% of the American population has had some sort of trauma in their lives.

Some trauma is fairly self explanatory and easy to recognize such as physical or sexual abuse. Some trauma is not so easily defined, such as verbal or emotional abuse. But they can all inflict traumatic memories and negative beliefs on those who receive them.

When I start seeing clients I will often times give them an assessment to briefly assess their traumas. It doesn’t cover everything, but it gives a good idea of a starting place for therapy.

This assessment is called the ACES test or Adverse Childhood Experiences. This assessment does not assess stressors outside the household such as violence, poverty, isolation, etc.). Something I feel that was left off of the ACES is death or loss of loved ones. This can be a huge trauma for children. It does not take into account any protective factors and it does not differentiate meaning not all people with high ACES scores will have a poor outcome and not all people who have zero ACES will have a positive outcome. It is an indication of greater risk of a poorer outcome and trauma responses.

The following is the ACES assessment:

Prior to your 18th birthday:

  1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  4. Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  5. Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  7. Was your mother or stepmother:
    Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?                        No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  10. Did a household member go to prison?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Now add up your “Yes” answers: _ This is your ACE Score. A higher score in multiple studies has shown links to increased negative mental and physical outcomes as well as increased negative social outcomes. The website Got Your ACE Score? has multiple links to studies and many charts that lay out the possible effects of a higher ACES score.

Resilience on the other hand may help those with higher ACES scores combat negative outcomes. A secure early childhood is helpful for future living but not always absolutely necessary if one has a higher resilience. Again, this is very individual dependent and definitely not true for everyone.

Resilience Questionnaire

1.  I believe that my mother loved me when I was little.

Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True

2.  I believe that my father loved me when I was little.Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True

3.  When I was little, other people helped my mother and father take care of me and they seemed to love me.Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True

4.   I’ve heard that when I was an infant someone in my family enjoyed playing with me, and I enjoyed it, too.Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True

5.  When I was a child, there were relatives in my family who made me feel better if I was sad or worried.Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True

6.   When I was a child, neighbors or my friends’ parents seemed to like me.Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True

7.  When I was a child, teachers, coaches, youth leaders or ministers were there to help me.Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True

8.  Someone in my family cared about how I was doing in school.Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True

9.  My family, neighbors and friends talked often about making our lives better.Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True

10.  We had rules in our house and were expected to keep them.Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True

11. When I felt really bad, I could almost always find someone I trusted to talk to.Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True

12.  As a youth, people noticed that I was capable and could get things done.Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True

13.  I was independent and a go-getter.Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True

14.  I believed that life is what you make it.Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True

How many of these 14 protective factors did I have as a child and youth? (How many of the 14 were circled “Definitely True” or “Probably True”?)   _______Of these circled, how many are still true for me? _______

Many people have had at least one trauma in their lives and many more have had traumas that are not listed on this assessment. As stated, this is just an early assessment that can offer a lot of information about how someone has experienced trauma and if they also had any resilient factors in their lives.

Trauma, unprocessed, continues to affect us on a daily basis whether we know it or not. It affects how we think, feel, and respond in every situation of our lives because it has instilled beliefs in us about ourselves that are almost always negative. It affects how we live, love, and work. Trauma doesn’t go away because we think we ignore it. It doesn’t go away because we get older and more distance from it. We carry it around in our brains because the brain records everything and then it flings it out at us again and again.

If you have unprocessed trauma, I highly encourage you to find a counselor to talk about it and process through it. Doing so could make all the difference in your life.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Living Better Through Trauma

photo of woman in pink long sleeve shirt and blue denim jeans sitting on brown sofa with her eyes closed

I often have clients ask me the question, will I always be affected by my past traumas? The answer is yes and no.

The answer is yes because there are only a few ways to completely remove memories from the brain that I am aware of. Lobotomy. ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) possibly. And the controversial memory manipulation therapies that have been used to change memories or even implant new, false memories.

There is also research that has been done in the past and that is being done now on the drug propranolol (used to manage high blood pressure) and controlling the emotional response in trauma survivors. It does not erase memories. It changes, sometimes dramatically, the brain and body’s response to painful or scary memories. However, taking this drug every day if you do not have high blood pressure is not generally recommended. Some people do already use it for panic attack inducing situations taken before participating in those situations so that it allows them to get through them without panic.

None of these removal processes sound particularly good, which leads to the memory of trauma will always be present in the brain. However, how that memory affects us can be changed.

The answer is no in that traumatic memories can be acknowledged and confronted. They can be understood and accepted. They can be processed and minimized in their effects. Several therapies can be utilized to help trauma survivors live better. EMDR is used to reprocess the brain’s response to traumatic memories. Hypnosis has also been used to retrain the brain. CBT is used to change how people think about themselves and their experiences. And other therapies that reduce emotional response to traumatic memories are also used.

As I tell my clients, it is not the memory or the experience that continues to affect them throughout their lives, it is their emotional response to those things that drive their behaviors, choices, thoughts, beliefs, etc. The memories make them FEEL fear, sadness, anger, worthlessness, doubt, and more that then translates in a response in the brain that moves through the body and becomes manifested in actions, thoughts, beliefs.

The hardest thing for my clients to hear is that I cannot eliminate their trauma memories. That we must find a way through them. To find a way to live better with them. It is at this point that clients either decide they are willing to try to do that or they are not and they stop seeing me and keep searching for a way to remove the memories.

I wish I had a magic wand and could make all the horrible things that have happened to people disappear. But I do not. But you can find a way to live better even with the memories.

It is hard work. It is not comfortable. It is a daily process of choosing to live differently. But it is possible.

Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing creates change you do choose. ~ Michele Rosenthal

Losing Yourself

alone cold fog forest
Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

The more time I spend working in the trauma-focused world of counseling, the more I realize codependency is far more widespread than previously thought. Especially traumas that are experienced in childhood, which makes sense as that is where everything is set for future behaviors, beliefs, and choices.

Codependency most often stems from a childhood that contains either physical/sexual abuse, witnessed domestic abuse, addiction in parents, lack of parents, neglect, parents with mental illness, emotional abuse or any combination of these. Codependency also occurs if the child has no parents especially mothers in their lives.

The child will develop beliefs about themselves and an absolute need to try and contain, control, or cover up the situations they find themselves in. All while desperately wanting to maintain the relationship so their parent will love them or at the very least acknowledge them in some way.

The child will spend every waking moment trying to make sure the parent is okay or in their minds “happy.” If people are happy they won’t take their unhappiness out on them. They also spend their lives being small adults caring for parents who cannot care for themselves. Cooking, cleaning, providing alcohol or drugs, doing what the parent wants no matter what it is to keep them happy, taking care of siblings.

Always, always, seeking love from the parent, approval, even just being noticed is enough to keep the child repeating the cycle.

Through this behavior, the child develops a very low self-image believing they are not worthy of love. They develop poor boundaries and in many cases no boundaries. There is a constant need to save others or make others happy. They never consider what they need or want. There is a constant need for perfection so that they might be lovable. And an absolute need for control over anything that they can control because life with their parent is always chaos.

All of these things become set inside the child between birth and age 7. After this, these beliefs, behaviors, and choices become solid in the psyche and they are then seen as “normal” and they are not questioned. They are just repeated and repeated throughout their lives in every single relationship they have.

They seek out relationships with those who need saving. They never consider what they want or need or how they feel. Every relationship is the one they had with their parent or the one they didn’t have with their parent because the parent wasn’t there. They control their children’s lives because they couldn’t control their parents. They never say no in relationships because they need the other person’s approval for their own self worth.

Codependency can be extremely hard to change because by the time someone seeks out help it has been their norm for years and years. They have no concept of self-love or self-care. Boundaries are a foreign concept. Being alone is an all consuming fear. Children will always want their parent to love them no matter what the parent has done even when they are no longer children – it is genetic.

Learning to say no is one of the most important things codependent people can do to begin to set boundaries with others. Understanding the difference between saving people and supporting them without enabling their behaviors. Self-care and self-love are absolutely necessary to breaking the chains of codependency. Knowing that they have worth in themselves and do not need others to provide it for them.

Counseling can help codependent people see things more objectively and offer ways to start to change. The biggest thing that keeps people from letting go of codependent behaviors is fear. Counseling can help process through this fear and open the road to moving forward. Reaching out for help can be the first step to change.

Until next time,
Deborah