Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Codependency Leads to Unhealthy Relationships – Part 1

May 16, 2010
More than ever before, people speak in terms of ‘working on’ relationships. This means if they are not happy in the relationship, be it a marriage, friendship or family connection, they care enough to try to make it better. This is a good thing, most of the time. No one can argue with putting some energy into making it work. If both people are emotionally healthy, respectful of the individuality of the other, and able to maintain healthy boundaries, they should see good results.

Unfortunately, sometimes the best of intentions can backfire, for reasons beyond your control. This can happen when you are involved with someone who needs to use you to fulfill deep emotional needs, but may or may not be consciously aware of it.

Let’s look at an example. You meet someone with whom you have a lot in common. A friendship develops, and you feel very positive about it. Things go well for a while, but then slowly at first, your friend may become cold and distant. At first, there may be denial that anything is wrong. Ultimately, you find that the friend is hurt or angry, because you did not meet some expectation that they had. You may feel badly, and redouble your efforts to be a good friend. You then start to anticipate how the friend will feel about things, and alter your behavior accordingly.

You are now trapped in the sticky web of codependency. This web requires one person who truly wants others to be happy, perhaps even more than they want that for themselves, and another who expects others to make him or her happy. Resentment begins to build within you, because what once was freely given, now seems to be demanded, and in even greater amounts. Because you are one who likes to make things work, you find yourself spending more and more time ‘processing’ the relationship with this person.

What neither of you may recognize is that you have become the unwitting victim of another’s need to play out unresolved hurts from the past. When you begin to feel the frustration of the unrealistic expectations placed upon you, and try to pull back from the relationship, you enter another level of craziness. The codependent may suddenly become very friendly, loving, even remorseful. You may even be told that you are the only one who really understands him or her. There is a promise that things will be different. They will: but just until you are lulled into falling back into the trap again.

The cycle repeats again and again, often with more intense confrontation each time. You may not understand why, but the codependent thrives on the confrontation with you. It gives them the opportunity to vent all of their hurts and anger from the past. For some, emotional entanglement is better than feeling ignored.  Look for Part 2 of this article next week.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist.  For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit http://www.gwen.ca

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Burnout and Quick Fixes

May 16, 2010

I once gave a talk on the subject of “burnout”,  and afterward one of the participants indicated that what she had really been hoping for was a quick fix. I thought about this, and the only quick fixes I could come up with were winning a lottery, or a frontal lobotomy.

Burnout is a little like the process of gaining weight. It happens little by little, over time. Crash diets don’t work, and what is really required is a change in dietary habits and lifestyle. Sure, you might lose some weight by starving yourself  for a few weeks, but unless you have made major changes, the weight will come back. Well, think about burnout as the result of “bingeing” on work,  or stressful situations. Yes, you could escape to an island getaway for a time. But unless you do something about the day to day stress in your real life, you can feel burned out again only weeks after your vacation.

The quick fix mentality may actually make burnout worse, just as the crash diet exacerbates the weight problem. If we are satisfied with quick fixes, we may never address the real issues. And often the quick fixes we want involve changes in other people or situations. So I suppose I must settle for being an advocate of the slow, steady fix.

Life,  for most,  is a long term proposition. It’s worth the effort to learn to live it in a way that feels good, and that honors both ourselves and others. However, doing so involves many challenges. The biggest challenge just might be self-honesty.  It can be hard to discern how we really feel in the face of a lifetime of conditioning as to how we should feel.  It can be difficult to face up to the fact that our views are very different from those of our parents, our partners, our friends or our children.  Even more difficult is expressing those differences, particularly  if  we fear that expressing them will create discomfort in those relationships.  Burnout is ignited in that space between what we really want,  and what we feel is expected of us.  The bigger the space, and the longer it exists, the more we get burned.

This is the level at which burnout must be addressed, and not at the level of its symptoms. Massaging those tense muscles is wonderful.  Meditating to find inner peace is beautiful.  But consider the possibility of being peaceful and relaxed as a way of life.  Can you imagine signing up for trip where a “cope kit” was included to help you survive, and to deal with all of the unpleasantness? Perhaps if you had a burning desire to climb Mt. Everest, then the discomfort might be worth it. You certainly would not choose that otherwise.

If we are merely “coping” with life, if we are living at the emotional  “survival” level, then perhaps we are on a wrong  path. Or on the right path, but doing it the wrong way.  If our house were burning down, we would call for help to douse the flames.  If our energy, our life, laughter and spirit are burning out, there is a tendency to suffer in silence.  We must remember though, there are always choices.  Doing nothing is a choice.  Going for a quick fix is a choice. Dipping into the deep wisdom of your own Soul is also a choice. Choose carefully;  the quality of your life depends upon it.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit http://www.gwen.ca

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Women in Dominant Relationships

May 14, 2010

Many women have grown up watching their Mothers being dominated by the man in her life. In many cultures the man is still considered the head of the house. If the Father dominated the Mother, he probably dominated the children as well. So his daughter learned that if the man gets angry, you’d better do what he says, or better still, try not to make him angry in the first place. She may have gone through school, learning that if you did not behave, you would be sent to the principal.

Often, the principal was a man, so once again she was conditioned to be a good girl, and avoid the wrath of men. She may even have entered the world of work, only to be faced with a male boss, who had the power to fire her if she did not live up to his expectations. She survives, perhaps even thrives, and goes on to raise a family.

Somewhere, perhaps in her thirties, she realizes that her husband thinks that he’s the head of the family, and she is not living the life she wants to live. She begins to speak her mind (these are liberated times after all), but finds that when she does she is met with anger. No matter how she tries to express herself, it only seems to create problems in the relationship. Maybe he yells at her, puts her down, and negates all that she tries to say. She realizes that now it is her children who are living with the example of a man dominating his wife.

In her heart she knows that what she wants is reasonable, but at the same time she has the same sinking feeling she had as a child, or as a student. She might even feel, (with his help) like a “bad girl” for “making trouble.” The real trouble is, this is her life. What she really wants is a loving relationship with her husband, and a happy family. This is impossible for her unless she feels like an equal partner.

Why? Because as long as he dominates her, making all the rules and calling the shots, he is acting like an authoritarian father rather than a loving husband. She may even withdraw from intimacy, because you just don’t feel intimate towards father figures. Sadly, there are still men who believe that the woman is there essentially to serve him, whether they will openly admit it or not. A marriage will not work if one partner is accorded lesser status. Even if the dis-empowered one stays, she will not be a happy, vibrant human being. She will not have the opportunity to express all of who she is, and the marriage will become a structure of convenience rather than one of warmth and love.

So what is the answer? Perhaps it is to truly put yourself in her position and ask yourself if you would be happy with the way things are. Ask her what it would take for her to feel better, and work with her to create that. This could be very rewarding. And there is probably less to lose by making some changes, than there is by not making any.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist.  For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit http://www.gwen.ca

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist.

Gwen Randall–Young

For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit http://www.gwen.ca

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