A Co-Dependent Worldview


There are many misconceptions about co-dependents and co-dependent behavior. Many people still consider co-dependents to be merely “enablers” or people in relationships with addicts. But if we define a co-dependent person in such a way as to require that they be in a relationship with an addict (or with anyone) in order to qualify as “co-dependent,” that would be like defining an alcoholic as someone who is actively drinking—so that when the alcoholic is sleeping, we might rightly say he’s not an alcoholic. A co-dependent, like an addict, is identified by his mental perceptions—how he envisions his interactions, not who or what he’s interacting with in the moment.

This is not to say that if someone offers a definition of a co-dependent using a relationship model that there is no place for that. Certainly, if I were a family counselor, I would likely lean very hard toward a working definition that addressed my model of therapy in a way that would help my patients understand their roles in the situation. That’s fine. But I’m not defining “co-dependent” here in order to target a working treatment model. I’m seeking to understand a mental mindset that results in the dysfunctional relationships co-dependents gravitate toward due to a developmental disorder.

“Co-dependency is defined as a psychological disorder caused by a failure to complete one of the most important developmental tasks of early childhood, that of establishing psychological autonomy. Psychological autonomy is necessary for the development of the self, separate from parents.”
—Barry K. Weinhold, PhD, and Janae B Weinhold, PhD, co-authors, “Breaking Free of the Co-Dependency Trap.”

It is then, literally, to be blunt, a childish worldview that was never outgrown. This deals with boundaries, especially psychological boundaries, that the co-dependent has either weakened or lost. Just as a child who stubs his toe on a piece of furniture might become angry and hit (blame) the chair, so does the adult co-dependent not see the clear divide between himself and other people and things outside himself. And he sees his emotions as being at least partly dictated by people and things outside himself. He believes others have the ability to affect his emotional state, without his consent, to some degree. And to the level he accepts this, that is the level to which he is engaged in co-dependent thinking.

In order to address this problem, the following was suggested: “…to treat and heal the suffering and dysfunction of co-dependence, we first realize that we are powerless over others. We are powerless over their beliefs, thoughts, feelings, decisions and choices, and their behavior. But we discover that we are powerful over ourselves, our own beliefs, thoughts, feelings, decisions, choices, and behaviors.”

And in order to offer a useful, broad definition (not narrowed for specific treatment programs), “…we can define [co-dependence] briefly as any suffering or dysfunction that is associated with or results from focusing on the needs and behaviors of others…it may be mild to severe.”
—Charles L. Whitfield, MD, (both quotes above) from his book “Co-Dependence, Healing the Human Condition. Whitfield is certified by the American Society of Addiction Medicine and a former instructor at Rutgers Univeristy.

In other words, if I experience unpleasant or unwanted responses (“any suffering”) based on my observations of the actions of another (“associated with the behaviors of others”), that is a co-dependent perspective. And that last bit is important. This is not an “all” or “nothing” measurement. The level to which you relate to this worldview dictates the level to which you are co-dependent—mild or severe.

In the section of their book entitled “Healthy Ways to Handle Feelings,” Drs. Weinhold write, “own your feelings and take responsibility for being the source of your feelings.”

My posts are long enough, but that bears repeating: “take responsibility for being the source of your feelings.” As long as I continue to hold to a model that there are sources, other than me, for my emotional responses, I’m feeding into a mindset born of a developmental dysfunction.

“CBT treatments have received empirical support for efficient treatment of a variety of clinical and non-clinical problems, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse disorders, and psychotic disorders. It is often brief and time-limited. It is used in individual therapy as well as group settings, and the techniques are also commonly adapted for self-help applications…In cognitive oriented therapies, the objective is typically to identify and monitor thoughts, assumptions, beliefs and behaviors that are related and accompanied to debilitating negative emotions and to identify those which are dysfunctional, inaccurate, or simply unhelpful. This is done in an effort to replace or transcend them with more realistic and useful ones.”
—Wikipedia entry on “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)”

In other words, the goal is not to avoid situations where unwanted emotions arise and it is not to learn to live with these emotions and contain or suppress them. The goal is to teach people how to choose more appropriate, beneficial emotions over ones that are causing problems for them in their lives—because we can, and do, choose our emotional responses. A person suffering from anxiety disorder can actually learn to stop feeling anxious. This is achieved by heightening the person’s awareness via teaching him to monitor what is happening in his own mind, and make better choices in his reactions—including emotional reactions. We can choose appropriate or inappropriate emotional responses. However, most of us don’t really consider our mental reactions and responses. We take them for granted and let them move along without much interference unless and until something really bothers us enough to the point we need to learn how to take a more active role in controlling our mental, intrapersonal dialogues.

A quick word about avoidance: If you go to the local book store and pick up a copy of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, you will find that in treating emotional disorders, such as anxiety, avoidance is a behavior the therapist must try to interrupt. It is not uncommon for people to suffer from anxiety in particular environmental situations. In order to avoid the anxiety, the patient avoids the situation (for example, driving a car). The problem here is many-fold. The patient is heading for phobia and soon will be not just someone with anxiety disorder, but someone with anxiety disorder and a phobia of driving.

The patient is misattributing the environmental stimulus as being the catalyst for the anxiety he feels. In reality the catalyst is his misinterpretation of the environmental stimulus: He sees driving—a mundane activity—as irrationally threatening and fearsome. What he doesn’t understand is that his anxiety and fear are not brought on by driving, but are rather brought on by his mentally defective interpretation of driving. The event occurs and is nonthreatening. But the patient’s mind interprets it as a threat, and he then responds with fear, panic, and anxiety to his imagined and unjustified mental model of what is happening. So, his emotional reaction is not in response to anything outside his head. It’s a response to a distortion within his head. If the distortion can be addressed, so that he regains a more realistic perspective of driving, then he will find he can choose an emotion other than “anxious” when he drives. But he first has to be able to make a rational evaluation of the event (while he’s in the event). He has the capacity to do this, as do we all, but he does not know how to do that at the time he enters therapy.

In communication psychology and intrapersonal communication, there are two thing
s I learned that have served me extremely well in life:

1. Nobody and nothing can make me mad.
2. Emotions tell us nothing about the world outside our own minds.

This is not to say I never get angry. The key word is “make.” When I become angry, I know I must accept responsibility for the anger I emote. Choosing anger as an appropriate emotional response is not the same as being forced to be angry. Likewise, choosing anger when it is an inappropriate response is not the same as being “made” angry. As an honest person I must admit I became angry—of my own free will. I was not force or made to be angry—no matter how tempting it might be to blame others for my own lack of judgment or unwillingness to exercise self-control.

And that is very difficult for some people to grasp, because not everything in reality is intuitive. Some things are actually counterintuitive the more deeply we study them. And it is often to our detriment that our emotional reactions are not intuitively understood for a great many people.

Something good happens—someone gives me a birthday present—and I feel good. Something sad happens—my dog dies—and I feel sad. Something scary happens—I step on a snake—and I’m scared. What could be more simple? A child can make this connection, right? Well, right, a child could make this connection, but the child would be wrong to say the events were the catalyst to his emotional reaction. It is not these events that evoke these emotions. It is our mental models and interpretations that evoke these emotions. How can I know this? Because, fortunately, we sometimes have cases we can examine where our mental models don’t correspond with environmental realities. And when that happens, which one of those things (our environment or our noncorresponding interpretation) do you imagine our emotions align with?

Well, when we consider it that way, it becomes intuitive again, doesn’t it? Would anyone fail to rightly guess that our emotional reaction will align with our interpretation of the environment—and not the environment? If there is nothing to fear in my environment, but I believe there is something to fear, I will feel corresponding fear. But corresponding to what? To reality or to my interpretation?

This becomes relevant in religion when people use emotional response as an affirmation of their belief that god is interacting with them in their lives. They “feel” god—and for many people that reinforces that there really is a god “out there” beyond their minds, creating these emotional impulses. But their model is flawed and actually a prime example co-dependent thinking and misattribution.

In other words, if I hear a strange noise in my house—and I believe someone is trying to break in—I will react emotionally as if an intruder is trying to enter my home (even if it’s just a branch scraping my window). My cognitive self confronts existent reality, interprets that reality, and then relays that interpretation, which is fed into another part of the brain that kicks out an impulse—emotional or otherwise. That response then goes to my cognitive self and I must decide whether or not the response is appropriate. If I deem it appropriate, I will unleash it. If I deem it inappropriate, I will send a new message back to my brain letting it know that isn’t an acceptable response, and I will choose another. And all this can happen instantaneously. In fact, this internal dialogue is happening in each of us, nonstop, all the time—whether we pay attention to it and acknowledge it, or not. We actually can tune into it—we just generally don’t bother.

This process can take milliseconds or years to produce a change in emotional response. And in very few cases, we may not have time to cognitively assess our response at all. Something might not frighten us slowly—but, instead, very quickly. This would be an emotional “spike,” and the immediacy of it would make it difficult or impossible to process and restrain in the moment. But we are, most of us, rarely confronted in daily life with such immediate and extreme levels of emotional impulse. You might think of it as walking along normally and stumbling over a tree root. Ninety-nine percent of the time you are in immediate control of your walking. That doesn’t mean you spend your energy focusing on it and monitoring each move—but you still understand you are the one controlling your movements as you walk. You don’t have to concentrate and think about it, because you’ve done it for so long that it’s nearly automatic. But hit that tree root and you look like you have lost any and all control over your legs and body. It’s a glitch for sure, but the exception and not the rule.

We take our emotional responses and psychological control for granted. And how many times do we hear people claim outright that we can’t control how we feel, who we love, what we like, what we hate, sometimes even what we do? These are excuses to unburden ourselves of our responsibility for our own reactions—literally to not take responsibility for our very selves.

Many, many things can show us that we have the capacity to adjust our emotional responses toward things—to change how we feel about them. If we are reasonable, someone might present a good argument or evidence that contradicts something we thought we understood previously, but now realize we did not. And we decide that maybe our attitude about a particular situation is perhaps not appropriate. So, we adjust it. Who hasn’t had that experience? Just as well, we might have a sudden and impactive emotional experience or trauma that changes our view. Maybe we nearly die, and it makes us realize that we should take more joy in our lives while we’re here. And we really do enjoy life more after that. Or maybe there is no trigger. Maybe I go to a party that I felt obligated to attend. I’m committed to be there for five hours and it’s pure tedium. I’ve served two hours of my hell-party sentence sitting in a chair by myself, when I simply consider that maybe if I tried to go and meet a few people it might not be so horrible. I go out and mingle, and whether I find any interesting people or not, I find the night is at least somewhat improved over brooding in a corner for three more hours.

In all of these cases, there are common denominators. One is that I agreed to consider another view—and ultimately to adopt another view of my situation. The person who gains new information can’t say that anything outside his own mind changed. The situation is the same. The information he gained wasn’t “not there” before. He simply was unaware of it. But reality didn’t change, only his view of it broadened. He now can consider “more” of it and has a different feeling about what he’s looking at. The man who nearly died did not come back to a new wife, a new son, a new job. He simply gained a new view of it all. And the guy at the party didn’t find a way to change the party. He just changed his view of it—all on his own. He recognized that he had zero control over the party, over the people, over the refreshments, over time, but he discovered, as Whitfield pointed out, that he was powerful over himself, his own beliefs, thoughts, feelings, decisions, choices, and behaviors. Over himself, his actions, his attitude, he had total control. And by exercising it, he went from frustrated, angry and bored, to at least somewhat interested. He went from a co-dependent view of himself as a victim, obligated to a hateful five-hour torture session, to someone in control who was willing to take responsibility for his evening and whether or not he enjoyed it on any level.

Another common denominator in these three cases is that any of these men could have refused to agree to adopt a new attitude. I could get new and contradictory data and still hold tenaciously to my perspectives. I could nearly die, and come back and be the same complacent, joyless ass I was before. I could go to the party, wall
ow in my piss-poor mood all night, and go home thinking about how I’ll never get that evening back. It’s completely up to me. I am the only one who can control my attitude—and I can change it to a polar opposite view if I deem doing so is justified.

But whatever I do, as the Drs. Weinhold note, I must own my feelings and take responsibility for being the source of my feelings. I can’t be held accountable for everything that happens to me in life. But I can very well be held to account for every reaction express—so long as I’m enjoying a normal level of mental health.

Co-dependent attitudes are so prevalent, mainly, I would wager, due to some of the issues noted above—being so used to having near-automatic, appropriate emotional responses that we hardly notice them or feel a need to exercise restraint or control over them, and also, understandably, misattributing our emotions to things outside of our own minds, because so often, for the most part, our mental models are close enough to the Real McCoy that we don’t stop to examine whether our emotional reactions are toward the models or the reality being modeled.

According to Whitfield, “Co-dependence is the most common of all addictions: the addiction to looking elsewhere.” Whitfield acknowledges we “live in a world where nearly everyone is acting co-dependently most of the time.” In other words, this thinking, based on a developmental flaw, is extremely pervasive and common. It is so common in fact, that some co-dependence evaluation questionnaires have people answer with a scale like this one, (Almost Always = 4, Frequently = 3, Occasionally = 2, Never = 1), where the low score would be the least co-dependent attitude. Note there is no setting for “0.” In other words, nobody gets out of that test with zero level of co-dependence.

It may sound unfair, but it’s true. Examples of these evaluations appear in Weinholds’ and Whitfield’s books, and in many other places. I guess the message is that it’s simply too much to hope that a person could actually take full responsibility for himself. While I’d love to recoil, I can’t say that I don’t see a lot of this attitude in people. And I can’t say that I don’t have to police it in my own head. Road-rage anyone? But when I recognize it, I can say I don’t defend it as being beyond my control. Not controlling myself, certainly, is not the same as not being able to control myself—and not the same as not being responsible for controlling myself. I do what I do, because it’s what I chose to do—whether in the moment or after careful consideration is irrelevant. It is my reaction, and I must own it—since nobody else can. My mental and physical reactions are mine and come out of my human experience and worldview. If I can’t defend them, then I should reconsider them—in the moment or after careful consideration.

All this said, I admit fully that without religion, there would still be co-dependent people. And, actually, at least one religion, Buddhism, appears to give people props for exercising mental control and taking as much responsibility as possible for their own mental reactions. So, that said, not all religions feed into the “co-dependence trap” (as the Weinholds’ labeled it). Even Hinduism, with its self-defeating caste system and karma, contains an example in the Bhagavad-Gita of the self exercising control of emotional impulses. The process is compared to a charioteer driving a team of horses, and the analogy is meant to illustrate the value of exercising measured self-control over the mind’s impulses.

And isn’t this supposed to, somewhere, touch on religion a bit more?

With that, let’s have a word about compartmentalization. Consider Whitfield’s earlier statement, “we are powerful over ourselves, our own beliefs, thoughts, feelings, decisions, choices, and behaviors.” His point in a nutshell is to take responsibility for you reactions, and stop blaming others for things that should be your responsibility as part of your life. Be the captain of your own destiny! And the Weinholds’ appear to agree. Intrapersonal communication models, based on research in communication psychology, also concur, and CBT demonstrates it as a working, demonstrable model as well. So, how does one explain statements like the following from Co-dependents Anonymous’ 12 Steps? Is this funny or sad?

Step 2: “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

Step 3: “Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understood God.”

Step 6: “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

Step 7: “Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.”

Step 11: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.”

I refuse to elaborate on the discrepancy here, because to do so would be an insult to the intelligence of every reader. If you can’t see the glaring hypocrisy of these steps in a program to help people who are having trouble taking responsibility for themselves and their own lives and personal reactions—as Foxworthy might say, “You just might be” a co-dependent.

Here’s what’s even spookier. Dr. Whitfield promotes and advocates this 12-step program in his aforementioned book. The same man who says my problem is that I am not acknowledging I am the source of power over my own life, advocates letting go and letting god, by throwing me into a program where I am immediately told I must accept I am powerless—beyond whatever power god, in his mercy, is willing to grant me.

How is that any better than being powerless over myself except for whatever power someone else or my environment grants me? In any of those scenarios, I still haven’t taken responsibility, I’ve merely shifted the responsibility for my life from one source that is not me to another source that (I believe) is not me. Where exactly did I gain any power from this shift?

But as if this weren’t disturbing enough, isn’t this pretty well Western religion in a nutshell? Conservative fundamentalists preach “responsibility,” then co-dependently slough off responsibility for everything in their lives to a mental model that does not represent themselves. Again—oh, the irony. They absolutely rail against people who they perceive to not be taking responsibility for themselves, and they preach out of that same mouth, the doctrine of fully crippling, co-dependent salvation (because I just can’t rely on myself to run my own life).

But let me add one last thing. Let’s end on an atheist note. We get many letters. And for every letter we get saying X, I can promise you we get just as many saying –X. One topic particularly that I find funny is “Matt’s attitude toward callers.” Matt could get 10 e-mails a day on this subject, and I promise you that five would scold him for being too mean and nasty, and the other five would praise him for his patience and kindness toward callers (some even scold him for being too kind). Some go on to say Matt, and the rest of the hosts/cohosts are no better than fundamentalist Christians in how we pig-headedly shove our opinions down the throats of others.

How do we stack up with this question from the “Patterns and Characteristics of Codependence”?

“I attempt to convince others of what they ‘should’ think and how they ‘truly’ feel.”

Let it be known that for myself, I understand that I have no control over what someone else thinks and feels. Without their consent to dialogue, consider, and ultimately change their mind, I can do nothing to impact them or their views. The power is fully, 100%, with them. They own that realm utterly.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t invite them to dialogue, consider or change their views. Whether t
hey think they should or can or will—is not within my power. I don’t lose sleep over it. An invitation is not an attempt at coercion. Anyone can refuse—no threats or fear of reprisals. Anyone can turn the channel, not call, or not e-mail us. Anyone who interacts with us has, of their own free will, and under their own power and cognition, chosen to engage with us for whatever reason of their own. And whatever they get out of it, they own it. Whatever they feel about it, they own that as well. If someone is offended, it’s not because of something I’ve said, it’s because they maintain such fragile ego models that even words manage to make them feel threatened. Whatever, they express or send to us—they own it. None of that belongs to anyone at AE. It’s completely the sender’s.

Own yourself. Empower yourself. Live your life and don’t lose out by thinking you have anything less than total control of what you put into it—mentally and physically. Whatever you have, you can give—100%—if you choose. Or you can be a walking, talking reaction—wandering through your life feeling powerless and victimized, waiting for your sign from your partner, environment or god model, before you’ll dare to make your next move. But I’m not telling you what you “should” do. I’m just inviting you to expand your perspective to consider what you “could” do. The power is only ever yours, whether you use it or convince yourself you can give it away.

Comments

  1. says

    Wow. You don’t know how long it took me to get past codependency. What really helped me was this simple statement: You can’t change what other people do, but you can change your reaction to what other people do.Simple truth there.Once I got to the point where I was independent rather than codependent, I started looking at religion in a very different way.

  2. says

    The twelve step programs substitute one addiction for another. You’ll occasionally get someone involved in the belief system to acknowledge this; they simply feel the “program” is a healthier addiction.That being said, I think autonomy is highly overrated, and has been promoted by American psychotherapists for many years, as it’s enabled them to give the appearance of actually helping people to deal with the immense suffering in their lives (and has made it possible for the therapists to justify charging $200 an hour and up). A loved one does something you don’t like? Cut ‘em loose! This has been the answer for decades.There was a book about this over a decade ago, “The Shelter of Each Other”, in which one of their own took them to task over this. This agenda has helped to create an environment of alienation in which each individual is seen as a free agent. I don’t think it’s healthy. Humans are social animals. We aren’t designed to operate completely independently.My rule of thumb has been – if a shrink writes a popular book about it, it’s probably bullshit.

  3. says

    Cipher:>A loved one does something you don't like? Cut 'em loose! This has been the answer for decades.I would not disagree with your statement, but I have to add that co-dependent is not the same as interdependent. Stephen Covey addresses this very issue you bring up.Co-dependent people are using unhealthy reliance upon others. Independent people are merely people who understand their roles and responsibilities that need to be brought to the table in order to establish a healthy cooperation.When indepdent, healthy people come together and interact, that isn't codependence–it's interdepdence. They don't blur the real boundaries between individuals, but they recognize that a community can effectively provide more by working together than by working seperately. Team work and cooperation is not what codependent attitudes are about.

  4. says

    Personal Failure:Thanks for that affirmation. I actually started studying codependence when I began to get more into upper level communication courses and reading some Buddhist writings at the same time. At the time I had never heard of “codependence”–but that was actually what was being addressed. In communication it’s just a flawed model vs. a correct model. They don’t really get into the psychology of codependence.It wasn’t until a friend of mine, who was having personal relationship problems explained to me that she was a struggling codependent, that I actually began to pickup books from people qualified in addiction medicine and psychology to see what she was actually talking about. When I began to study, I learned that I had plenty to address in my own life and relationships, and I think that I became a better person simply by trying to understand the psychology of someone else’s head. But as soon as I recognized how powerless I was behaving and how ineffectual that made me in bettering my own life and having the capacity to help others, I adjusted my mindset to something far more empowering and beneficial.When you wrote: “You don’t know how long it took me to get…” I had to laugh. I actually thought you would end that sentence with “through that over-long post!”Just as an fyi to all, I added a section that I had forgotten to mention. While I know I’m verbose, I feel this was not just a relevant point, but extremely key to my reasons for even posting on this issue in the first place. While a reader could draw this conclusion, I think calling it out is helpful and in order:”This becomes relevant in religion when people use emotional response as an affirmation of their belief that god is interacting with them in their lives. They “feel” god—and for many people that reinforces that there really is a god “out there” beyond their minds, creating these emotional impulses. But their model is flawed and actually a prime example co-dependent thinking and misattribution.”

  5. says

    Interesting post especially since I just got done listening to 8.5-8.8 of the Non-Prophets. I know you aren’t present for those but I find it an amusing contrast between one of the sentences near the end of this entry one of the tangents taken in 8.6. Contrast, “If someone is offended, it’s not because of something I’ve said, it’s because they maintain such fragile ego models that even words manage to make them feel threatened,” with the discussion in 8.6 about the threat of hell and taking offense to it. ;)

  6. says

    Regarding the 12 step programs:The steps that weren’t brought up here, such as the 4th (so-called fearless moral inventory), the 5th (share with someone else what you found in 4th), the 9th (make amends for wrongs done) and the 12th (work with others) contrast directly with the “god” steps and have a completely different aim.These are called the “action” steps in the various programs because, in direct opposition to the aims of the “god” steps, they actually involve individual effort to learn about oneself and reintegrate into society.Compared to the other steps involving god, one would think there’s a remarkable schizophrenia going on here – one massive effort to turn one’s “will” over to a fantasy and surrender personal control over one’s life, and another exasperatingly opposing effort to take back direct control of ones life and take charge of reintegrating oneself back into the world at large.WTF?Well, such an observation would actually be right – this really _is_ a mind fuck, not just an odd feeling about something that’s really got it’s act together.Desocialization is the main feature of addictive illnesses. Persons who suffer from alcoholism, drug and sex addiction and codependency issues are all, on some level, cut off from larger society and isolated from other people. It’s not because of a moral failing and surely not because the patient didn’t believe in god firmly enough.It’s a basic disconnect on some level from one’s fellow human beings.The shame of it is, the “action” parts of the 12 steps do have some moderate value when it comes to affecting recovery from an addictive illness. But the “spiritual” stuff is really a useless drain on what would otherwise be a pretty effective method of recovery.The “spiritual” components in 12 step programs fail for the same reasons they do in religion – you’re dealing with fantasy and not reality.LS

  7. says

    I have to diagree with Cipher. However, I would say that some of what the shrinks teach and what is the basis of Buddhism isn’t necessarily being independent it’s being ABLE to be independent. Once you’re able to handle life entirely on your terms and be control of your emotions and monitor your self, be the source of your own happiness, then you can interact with others enjoyably and favorably. I am reminded of a Buddhist story (as I often am :-p)A Zen master with his students when he got news that his father had died. Upon hearing the news he sat down and started to cry. One of his student was shocked at this emotional display and asked the master how he could be such a slave to his emotions while preaching the opposite. The Master corrected him “I do not cry because I am sad…I am sad because I wish to cry.”

  8. says

    “The twelve step programs substitute one addiction for another. You’ll occasionally get someone involved in the belief system to acknowledge this; they simply feel the “program” is a healthier addiction.”One quick note on this. You do occasionally hear this, but I think it’s more of a poetic expression concerning what the real substitute is.To their credit, one of the few things the 12 step programs do right (at least at first) is provide a kind of surrogate societal structure for the addict. “Support group” is a reasonably analogous term to describe it, but it’s slightly different in that, at least ostensibly, there’s an honest effort to truly integrate the addict into the group’s social structure. This is, in my view, a good substitute for the “drug of choice”, because it goes in the correct direction.But, the most miserable and callous failing follows shortly thereafter in the form of all the spiritual/god crap that the member has to begin to practice a short way into the program. This forces the member to go in _precisely_ the wrong direction – reliance on the group and its social structure is supposed to be outgrown in favor of (once again) becoming a completely self-contained, independently operating unit with full reliance on – you guessed it – a god and a spiritual life. Blech! This is _exactly_ the wrong treatment, given that desocialization is really the main problem for the addict in the first place. Instead, the _right_ thing to do is exactly what is _discouraged_ as time goes on, in favor of the ridiculous “reliance on god’s will” nonsense.Naturally, and not unexpectedly, relapse is a major feature of recovery in 12 step programs primarily, I assert, because of this diversion into this nonsense of spiritualism and belief and abandonment of the components that DO work.These programs shitcan, by design, precisely the part that should be preserved and encouraged – social contact with other human beings, instruction in and experience with practical/this-worldly solutions to life’s problems.Another tidbit of info: the “Bhuddas” in the progams – the ones that reach “guru” status having supposedly reached the most advanced stages of spiritual development – are ironically always the most likely ones to suffer a relapse. This is shown over and over again in 12 step programs of all types.I submit that God’s Handiwork is the culprit here….LS

  9. says

    Another tidbit of info: the “Bhuddas” in the progams – the ones that reach “guru” status having supposedly reached the most advanced stages of spiritual development – are ironically always the most likely ones to suffer a relapse. This is shown over and over again in 12 step programs of all types.Is,I’ve been told their success rate isn’t terrific, but I wasn’t aware of this. I’ve also been given to understand that they aren’t actually encouraged to “outgrow” the program; rather, they’re expected to remain within its confines for the durations of their lives. After all, they’re suffering from an “incurable illness”. A friend walked away from AA after having been active in it for quite a few years; his family, many of whom were also involved, predicted it was only a matter of time before he began drinking again (it’s been years, and he hasn’t). It really has become a form of religion.I don’t really mind the supernatural emphasis, if they find it helpful. Life is very hard; I won’t be the one to tell someone s/he can’t have a crutch. I don’t give liberal theists a hard time; for me, the line of demarcation is salvific exclusivism. If they think everyone else is going to hell, I have nothing but contempt for them. If that isn’t their orientation, I can relax.What I do mind is that AA and its imitators have strayed far afield from their original mission. Rather than being a place where people go to change, it’s become a place where people with a multitude of problems, many only tangentially (if at all) related to addiction, go to hide so that they don’t have to change. There are watered down versions, now – “General”, as opposed to “Big Book” meetings. The Big Book meetings are the orthodox version; they take the precepts seriously and really try to implement them. The General meetings are the reform version – they take a more “liberal” view.My father was in AA. He only ever went to General meetings. He was careful to avoid the Big Book meetings, because they would have told him things he didn’t want to hear. One of the first things he was told was, “You don’t need to take the business about ‘making amends’ too seriously. You suffer from an illness, and aren’t responsible for anything you did while you were drinking.” And, FSM forbid that you try to criticize; they shut down on you immediately. They really aren’t interested in the opinions of anyone outside of the belief system. The devotees are insular, mutually protective and often out of touch with reality. Sound familiar?

  10. says

    Ing,I came across a similar story in the Tibetan tradition a number of years ago, and just located it again online. It’s close enough that I think we can consider it a variation on the same story.When death occurred to the child of Marpa*, Milarepa’s master, he cried so sadly that his disciples flocked around him and asked,”Master, didn’t you say that the world is only an illusion? Why are you crying so brokenheartedly just because your son has died?”Marpa answered them, “Yes, everything is illusory, but the death of a child is the greatest illusion of them all!”(*Marpa was a great Tibetan master, responsible for the translation of many Indian texts.)

  11. says

    “I’ve been told their success rate isn’t terrific, but I wasn’t aware of this.”Well that’s an informal statistic, really, and like most things about 12 step programs’ affects, is difficult to really measure.It’s certainly something I’ve noted. The higher up Mount Sinai they go, the more likely they are to relapse.”I’ve also been given to understand that they aren’t actually encouraged to “outgrow” the program; rather, they’re expected to remain within its confines for the durations of their lives. After all, they’re suffering from an “incurable illness”.”Well again, there’re competing, contradictory edicts going on there. One the one hand, you’re taught that you have to use the practical tools taught in the program to learn to rejoin the human race and become a nominal member of society again. OTOH, you’re taught that you have to become dependent on a spiritual life and a god of some sort – “your life is not your business” is what you’ll hear.You’re taught that your devotion to the program – meetings, service work, etc. – must endlessly increase while at the same time being taught that you must achieve independence from the group via a sufficient “spiritual development” – a reliance on the perfect guidance of your god instead of the imperfect guidance of your fellow human beings. It’s a mish-mash of truly contradictory and thus rightfully confusing teachings that can really fuck your mind over UNLESS you practice blind acceptance of it all and don’t question any of it.I don’t really mind the supernatural emphasis, if they find it helpful.” I didn’t have a problem with that for quite a while, but eventually it really did come to bother me.All that prayer, meditation and mental gymnastics of trying to determine god’s will, come up with your conception of a higher power, get the damn thing to actually work and then have to scramble again to try something else…. that’s a hell of a lot of wasted effort that would be FAR better spent on the more practical aspects of recovery that are still contained in the 12 steps. In my experience, you’re much better off simply ignoring the spiritualism and god crap and devoting your full attention to the more tangible elements of it.”And, FSM forbid that you try to criticize; they shut down on you immediately. They really aren’t interested in the opinions of anyone outside of the belief system. The devotees are insular, mutually protective and often out of touch with reality.Sound familiar?”I was in AA for about 15 years, I quit going to meetings about 5 years ago and had quit trying to do the spiritual/god part of it long long before that. I continue to enjoy contended sobriety here 20 years later as a hardcore atheist with no spiritual practice and a healthy skepticism of the entire thing.For what it’s worth, it’s far more common than is probably generally known that the “long timers” in 12 step programs also chafe heavily and in pretty large numbers against the spiritual/god nonsense as well. Why? Well, it’s just a simple fact of life that, over a long period of time, life and reality eventually intrude and you’re forced to deal with these things in the usual way just like the rest of the human race does.No god comes to rescue someone who’s been praying and prostrating themselves diligently for 20 years any more than your every day regular ol’ heathen who’s never cracked a bible or breathed a prayer in his/her life. The results are the same for both.The sane among us wake up to this, abandon the nonsense and go on with their lives. The less sane keep on trying and trying and trying…. until the inevitable end in most cases.I think it’s a shame that 12 step programs are saddled with a lot of extra nonsense that reduce their effectiveness. I think their success rates would be much higher if they kept the energy on community, socialization and the practical aspects of life on planet earth….LS

  12. says

    Did anyone watch this video where Matt D gets pwned on the authorship of Matthew?Yes. And it’s now a Pwnage. It’s really bullshit.”Why does there need to be an acount (of Jesus) outside the bible?”Oh I don’t know…maybe so we can verify it? Why does there need to be an account of Lincoln outside of the book “Killing Angels”? Why does there need to be an account of Athens outside of the Heracles myth cycle? Why does there have to be an account of Howard Hughes outside of The Rocketeer? Let me explain with an analogy. I own a comic called the 5 fists of science. It’s about Mark Twain and Tesla teaming up and building a mecha and fighting Thomas Edison and Carnege. If THIS was the ONLY source about those character’s existance I would be right in assumeing they were fictional. They do insane fantastical things that defy reality and what I know of the time peroid by other sources. Regarless of the historical basis for the characters the story uses, there would be no reason to assume The Five Fists was factual in ANY regard. I know Twain and Tesla existed because of outside contemporary writings…not because of the mythological story of them beating up Thomas Edison’s pet Yeti. His special pleading and dancing around the issue that no one records Jesus at the time, despite the supposed plethora of witnesses to events on PAR with Tesla’s mecha fistycuffing a lightning demon in the middle of New Jersey. No one recorded a man who could cure world hunger (but apparently didn’t?) reversed incurable diseases, raised the dead EN MAS IN THE MIDDLE OF A MAJOR CITY according to one gospel, and whose arrest and execution apparently caused a mob to amass in the middle of Juresalem triggering a cock contest between the Roman and Jewish authorities, major social unrest, riots, and other disruptions of the pax romana. And neither Pilot, his historians, his biographers NOR his political enemies thought to write about that day!? That should have been a fucking busy day for him. To compare we have records of Rome reeming Pilot for blowing his budjet on crucifixion nails and asking him to justify his expenses, but we don’t have it recorded that Pilot apparently thought he met the Jewish Messiah!? The Romans were not fans of the Jews, seeing them as ungreatful to the progress the Empire gave their land (in some cases rightfully so). Pilot reporting to Rome “Hey guess what, there was this innocent, saintly street preacher who never hurt a fly and was a MIRACLE worker…and guess what those barbarous zealots did? They made me kill em. I TRIED to talk them out of it but they threatened to riot…not only that they demanded I release a mass murderer in his place. Can you believe these hethan monsters? I suggest Rome double my infantry so I can proper keep these sub-humans in line” You know..EXACTLY WHAT CEASER DID TO DRUMB UP SUPPORT AGAINST THE CELTS. But no, no one in the whole freaking empire even mentions it. Despite the fact they’d LOVE another example of how immoral and insane those crazy dogmatic religious nut jobs over in the ass end of the empire were. His failure to see the point means he fails ultimately. It’s not that we want special proof for the bible (although it’s needed due to you know…the special claims) but that we demand the same outside verification we have for Ramses, Kubla Khan, and Jerry Lewis.

  13. says

    @Ing"To compare we have records of Rome reeming Pilot for blowing his budjet on crucifixion nails and asking him to justify his expenses"So, that is proof of Jesus. Pilot was three nails over budget .

  14. says

    The interestng thing about Pilate is that we do have extra-Biblical records that mention him. Apparently, he such a ruthless bastard that the Emperor recalled him, yet the Bible portrays him as being sympathetic to Jesus, consenting to crucify him only because the Jews demanded it.Of course, this sort of inconsistency doesn’t bother the fundies. Or Catholic scholars, for that matter.

  15. says

    The interestng thing about Pilate is that we do have extra-Biblical records that mention him. Apparently, he such a ruthless bastard that the Emperor recalled him, yet the Bible portrays him as being sympathetic to Jesus, consenting to crucify him only because the Jews demanded it.”Like I said he got reemed for crucifying TOO many people. Pilate’s political history. He was once a contender for Emperor apparently but lost out on that political sparring…and was shunted to the ass end of the empire by his rivals. Needless to say being stuck in a place that was hellish to Romans1) Little Pork (Roman staple)2) constant stench of the temple burning3) ingreatful religious nuts who hate Romans on principle4) constant threat of up risingconsidering it was right after a failed zealot revolt, one can at least see why Pilate was such a bastard (not defending him, just saying in the same way you can see why an abused child becomes a serial killer)

  16. says

    He was once a contender for Emperor apparently but lost out on that political sparringOh, really? That, I didn’t know.

  17. says

    Plus the isnanity of the story that Pilate… The Roman authority would permit a serial killer, terrorist, and zealot like Barabas was reported to be. Hell, doing that would incite a mutiny in his men…as would happen today if the President pardoned one of the master minds of 9-11 right after he killed 15 soldiers. If the gospel is correct Pilate was using the same law system that keeps letting the Joker out of jail from comics.

  18. says

    One thing, and this is directed at Tracie H…You talk about the ability to change your emotions, and the example you give is cases in which you can change your behaviors which then result in you being exposed to different stimuli, which result in a change in emotion…Maybe I’m parsing words, here, but it seems like any attempt to change your emotional state is really just an exercise in denial, or an attempt to strategically remove yourself from the situation.For example, you may dislike a specific activity. If you dislike it because it’s frustrating, you could force yourself to participate, and eventually improve your skills. If bored, you can change the way you participate (by getting intoxicated for example), which would alter the experience. But simply saying “I like football” will not make it true.As I was reading about the “changing your emotional response” part, I was thinking about religious groups who say they can “cure” homosexuality. If your statement was true, it seems that you could make yourself attracted to anything. (I personally would suspect that such a situation would be denial, and not a true emotional response, however).Am I missing something?

  19. says

    Grey–you are right, I have a different model of offense than would have been expressed there. I see offense as something we can choose or not choose. If we choose it, that’s up to us, but that means we’re agreeing to someone else’s script. So, just as an example, if you say something nasty about my mother, it would likely be intended as fishing to upset me. I have the choice to agree to your script or to not agree. If your goal is to use threat or insult in an attempt to make me upset, I tend to simply refuse to agree to the script. I see no reason, personally, to empower a person with such a non-beneficial goal concerning my welfare. I will tend to not be upset by it, and merely point out that the threat or insult is ineffective and unnecessary. One benefit is that if I don’t provide the response they want, I’m not reinforcing their bad behavior. If they want to upset me, and I give them that–then I’m condoning insult and reinforcing it as an effective means of getting what they want (for them).If a person reacts with offense for an audience, I can’t really know if they’re “offended” for effect/impact or if they’re really genuinely hurt by the comment of the other person. If they feel genuinely harmed by it–they are misattributing their feelings of hurt to what was said by the other, and not by their choice to agree to be upset by someone’s words or ideas. Now, if they want to argued justified, righteous indignation–basically that most people would react with offense over having their mom insulted, that’s their prerogative. As long as they recognize they aren’t compelled to agree to being harmed by another persons words or thoughts, and that they are choosing to be harmed, and giving control of the entire situation to the person making the insult or threat, in doing so.Do I think hell is an immoral doctrine? Yes. Does it harm me? No.

  20. says

    Thomas:>One thing, and this is directed at Tracie H…You talk about the ability to change your emotions, and the example you give is cases in which you can change your behaviors which then result in you being exposed to different stimuli, which result in a change in emotionNo, the examples I give are ones in which we change _our perspectives_. We make a mental shift that allows a new perspective on the same external stimulus, so that we then can say "aha!" there are many ways to view this, and each angle comes with a different response.I can look at a situation in different lights. The example I gave of the party is about changing my attitude first, with just a thought–which then results in different behavior. But I could just as easily have been at the party and decided that rather than brood, I would make up stories about the different people in my head to creatively pass the time. This would also result in a mental shift that would result in having more positive feelings about the party–without ever doing anything outside my mind.To control emotions, we have to adjust what's in our heads in some way. We have to stop one script and run another. Whether we "act" or "behave" differently is completely irrelevant to the process. We have the ability to change our minds–and that changes our feelings. That's the process of emotional control–adjusting what's in our heads.

  21. says

    Thomas:Just to add to your other points:>For example, you may dislike a specific activity. If you dislike it because it's frustrating, you could force yourself to participate, and eventually improve your skills. If bored, you can change the way you participate (by getting intoxicated for example), which would alter the experience. But simply saying "I like football" will not make it true.I never said that all you have to do is say "I feel x" to change how your feel about x. You actually have to get into your head, examine the dialogue that is resulting in disliking X, and alter it—which can be done and is done often. Pretending you've altered it, without actually altering it is no different than saying “I’m going to start working out,” but never actually working out. You actually have to follow through. I never said there was no effort involved. In fact, the entire article describes the process and the effort required.>As I was reading about the "changing your emotional response" part, I was thinking about religious groups who say they can "cure" homosexuality. If your statement was true, it seems that you could make yourself attracted to anything. (I personally would suspect that such a situation would be denial, and not a true emotional response, however).Is “homosexual” an emotion in your view? I see it as a physical response. That is why it’s labeled “physical” attraction. We also have mental attractions. And sex involves one or both. A person can, for example, have no mental attraction to someone, but still have enough physical attraction to have sex with that person. Emotional investment is not required for physical attraction to express and take place.Likewise, a person can actually be emotionally repulsed by someone they are physically attracted to—can’t they?And as you note, some religions can produce people who are gay and whose emotional response to their physical predisposition toward same sex sexual, physical desire, is disgust and self-hatred. Just because a person is gay doesn’t mean their emotional response coincides with their physical response.You’re basically comparing physical and emotional responses as equivalent, and their not. For example, I would not say that the process I describe in this article can control physical pain. If you place your hand on a hot iron, all the mental dialoguing in the world won’t stop nerves from feeding physical pain signals to your brain. That’s an autonomous physical reaction. Not a reaction to your internal mental dialogue that the iron is hot and painful. If you believe the iron is not hot, for example, touching it will show you that you’re perspective on reality is not aligned with your mental model of the situation. I can’t change that the iron is HOT. But I can react to that reality how I like. I will feel pain, but will I get angry, hurt, laugh as how stupid I was, feel disgusted by my own lack of care for not being more careful? That’s where the choice comes in—with the emotional response.

  22. says

    One more thing:This is also not irrelevant:>I am the only one who can control my attitude—and I can change it to a polar opposite view if I deem doing so is justified.I have to have internal justification that I actually accept in order to alter my view. So, in your football example, the question would become "Do I see a justification for trying to like football more?" Obviously choosing to do something means a personal decision that the thing should be done. So, believing it is the thing I accept I should choose, will make a huge deal of difference in my ability to alter my perception of it. If I don't think I should choose X–why would I?What is my "reason" for thinking liking football more would improve my life or make me happier or more fulfilled? And do I, internally, agree it is sufficient to justify working on a new attitude about football?If I don't see a reason to change my attitude about it, then I'm making a statement that "I see insufficient reason to adjust my feelings about this game at this time. So, I still don't like it."That doesn't mean I can't change how I feel. It means I'm saying I don't agree I have enough reason to change my feelings about it–and therefore am not going to. That's still my choice, again.

  23. says

    Thank you for writing this. I have been reading and searching for more resources about codependency with an atheist bent. It's so hard to find someone with a similar perspective.

  24. says

    It seems I found this long after most of the comments were made. I'm doing research for a tutoring class and needed more information on co-dependence and wanted to find options for co-dependency other than twelve step programs which I haven't seen be successful in many of the addicts I know.I wanted to add that I do identify as Christian, although not mainstream by any means. My best friend is an atheist who finds my views quite entertaining; especially that Jesus should have been a woman as parthenogenisis in XY chromosome animals has always resulted in female offspring.As for the proof of Jesus mentioned above my thought is that the events reported may have simply been insignificant to the Romans. There may have been dozens of profits and spiritual leaders executed in a given year, and without the bible having been written yet there would be no reason to suspect any one of them was more significant than the others. Nails have until a relatively recent time been very valuable and in early U.S. history were included in some wills, so it might be reasonable to assume that the life of any given Jewish cult leader was actually less significant than the supplies used in the execution from a Roman perspective.Even if the Romans thought there was some link between Jesus and the god of the Jews they had their own gods to deal with, and after conquering the Jews land had little reason to see the other god as a significant threat.That has little to do with co-dependence, but it is fun to throw out an alternate opinion once in a while.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>