"Codependence is a form of Delayed Stress
Instead of blood and death (although some do experience
blood and death literally), what happened to us as children was spiritual
death and emotional maiming, mental torture and physical violation.
We were forced to grow up denying the reality of what was happening in
our homes. We were forced to deny our feelings about what we were
experiencing and seeing and sensing. We were forced to deny our selves.
. . . .
The war we were born into, the battlefield each
of us grew up in, was not in some foreign country against some identified
"enemy" - it was in the "homes" which were supposed to be our safe haven
with our parents whom we Loved and trusted to take care of us. It
was not for a year or two or three - it was for sixteen or seventeen or
We experienced what is called "sanctuary trauma"
- our safest place to be was not safe - and we experienced it on a daily
basis for years and years. Some of the greatest damage was done to
us in subtle ways on a daily basis because our sanctuary was a battlefield."
(All quotes in this color are from Codependence:
The Dance of Wounded Souls)
In a Co-Dependents Anonymous meeting last week,
I heard someone share a very telling insight. A woman at the meeting
had run into an old friend from her childhood. In reminiscing
about growing up together, they discovered that each had memories of times
together in the others home - but no memories of being together in their
It was in our own homes that most of us suffered
the most damaging trauma. Rather our families were overtly dysfunctional
because of alcoholism, physical abuse, physical or mental illness, etc.
- or covertly dysfunctional because of parental emotional dishonesty, unreasonable
expectations, unresolved emotional currents, emotional incest, etc.
Our parents did not know how to love themselves or to be emotionally healthy,
and as a result they were at war within themselves - the codependent battle
of self judgment and shame, of repressing and denying (and/or expressing
abusively) one's own emotions - and were doing a dysfunctional dance
with each other and with life.
Our homes, our sanctuaries, were not safe places.
Our parents - who were our Higher Powers - were not healthy, so it was
impossible for them to parent us in a healthy way.
It is actually quite normal for most of us to
have very few memories inside of our homes with our family members.
We may have memories of being alone in our homes, or memories outside of
the home - but since home was where we suffered the most traumatic emotional
wounds (the disapproval of our gods), it was where we most needed to use
denial in order to cope.
It is normal, for most of us when we start doing
the inner child work, to have few memories. We have spent many years
purposely not looking back.
There are also some people who have a lot of memories.
Some of us have memories that we look at through rose colored glasses -
the good memories of what a happy childhood we had - while suppressing
and denying the painful ones. Some are stuck in looking at the past
from a victim perspective that allows them to abrogate taking any responsibility
for their lives.
What is important for any of us, is to get emotionally
honest with ourselves about our childhoods. We need to look back
at the past as a way to free ourselves from the past. In order to
do that, it is important to see our past more clearly - and to get in touch
with our emotional wounds.
I did not have very many memories of my childhood
when I got into recovery. In doing the inner child healing, I regained
some memories - but I still have relatively few of them. It is not
important to remember a great deal. What is important is to get honest
with ourselves on an emotional level in our relationship with our childhoods.
Often we have memories that have no emotional
charge. They are just events or snapshots that we remember - and
we are not conscious of, have never stopped to ask our selves, what we
were feeling at the time.
Once such memory that I started to look at in
early recovery, is a graphic example of the power of denial. In the
memory, I was standing in the kitchen with my mother when I was about 8
or so. Her back was to me, and I was standing staring at a butcher
knife on the counter. In the memory I was wondering what it would
feel like to stab her with it.
In looking at this memory in early recovery, I
dismissed it as alcoholic thinking. It wasn't until some 2 and 1/2
years later that I started to look at what emotions may be attached to
that memory. One day it occurred to me that I may have had some anger
at my mother.
My mother was perfectly what she had been trained
to be: a self sacrificing martyr with no self worth and no ability to set
boundaries. Her definition of love was that one cannot be angry at
someone they love. My father was what he was trained to be: a raging
perfectionist who had no permission to acknowledge any emotion except anger.
So, my mother was the good guy and my father was
the bad guy. It was all right for me to be angry at my father (not
to his face of course) - but absolutely not ok to be angry at my mother.
What I eventually discovered was that I had a
great deal of rage towards my mother. More rage towards my mother
- because I had to deny it since she was the one who seemed the most loving
- than towards my father who it had always been ok for me to own anger
I have found this to be a common dynamic: that
most people have more anger suppressed against the good parent (the one
that was less abusive), than toward the more overtly abusive parent.
Until I got emotionally honest with myself in
relationship to my feelings about my mother, it was impossible for me to
have any kind of an honest relationship with any woman. There are
many men who say they love women and trust them more than men - because
their mother was the "good" parent - who are actually carrying a great
deal of rage at women because of the rage they haven't owned against their
Getting emotionally honest with ourselves in relationship
to our childhoods is absolutely vital in order to be able to start having
healthier relationships today.