Wednesday, June 8, 2016


There are a couple schools of thought of Adult Children of Alcoholics. One is promoted by AA/CODA which cites a Laundry List of traits. The other is a simpler summary list of 13 Characteristics developed by Dr. Janet Woititz. I tend to prefer the latter, in part because I identify with a majority of the points, as they're presented there, an also because the Laundry list has a flip side, a second laundry list and that one has a flip side, and while I can understand that a broad range of characteristics could result from growing up in a dysfunctional environment, I find it to be a bit much.

In any case, I was reminded lately of my codependent identity and decided to dig these up and review them again. I might as well be reading my Meyers Briggs personality profile with the 13 Characteristics. (I'm an ENTJ, by the way). One of the more salient and timely points I noticed was that ACoA are "super responsible" or have an "overdeveloped sense of responsibility."

I see this in myself, big time. I regard it in much the same way as I view my perfectionism. I see it, I know it's not ideal or "normal" or fair to myself. But... it mitigates the potential for failure, and therefore I feel more safe indulging it than trying to change it. If I take responsibility for everything, then I'm the one in control. I take responsibility for giving the people that have hurt me the opportunity to do so. When I look at it that way, the ball is in my court. I'm not a victim, and I can avoid the same in the future by just doing things differently on my end. Don't give anyone the chance to hurt me, problem solved. If I get hurt, it's my fault.

This reasoning has also afforded me the luxury of relinquishing responsibility for anyone else's feelings. If I'm responsible for my feelings, aren't you then responsible for yours? But of course, my overdeveloped sense of responsibility doesn't really let me off the hook so easily. It just allows for a healthy internal debate when I feel guilty for not being perfectly innocuous or for some imagined slight against someone.

Examining all this has brought to light my likely inability to approach relating to another person in a healthy way. I still approach it like a timid dog. Only opening as much as it seems safe to, until I hear a noise or some perceived threat or lack of reciprocity and I shut back down. Historically the dance doesn't last long. Extended lack of reciprocity results in total shut down and tossing the key. Or, in the cases of my past lives. some unwell individual (that I probably wanted to try and save) leaps in headfirst and expresses their undying devotion. Exceeding reciprocity and no perceived risk! Until of course the reason for their being unwell causes the whole thing to unravel.

So renouncing all risk and avoiding opening up altogether seemed like a safe plan. I could just "do me" indefinitely. I really do enjoy my own company, I'm self sufficient, I've got a lot of good friends and a solid foundation for the things that make me happy.  On the other hand, no risk, no reward. FOMO. Tug of war. Once in a while when I allow them to, thoughts will eke in about how it might be nice to have a partner. And then I remember that the main players in my life that I should have been able to rely on have always disappointed me. Parents too busy drinking to pick me up from a game, or to help put my desk together, or significant others who failed to pull their weight and let me bear the brunt of whatever task. (Because I allowed myself to have expectations and therefore allowed them to disappoint me. Back to it being my responsibility, ha!)

Dysfunction is familiar but it is no longer comfortable. I wrote something around 1 year after I left my marriage likening dysfunction or discontent as a tolerated constant to the hum of a refrigerator. You don't really notice it until the power goes out and it's stopped. Now that I have eliminated that from my life, it is no longer welcome. I'm slowly learning how to live without it, and the more adept I get, the better equipped I'll be at spotting it and avoiding it. Dysfunction is basically all I've ever known, so its easy to assume it's all there is available. So.. going it alone seems a preferable route.

But still, the allure of what, at this point, seems like a mythical creature sings a siren call. What if there were such a thing as a partner that didn't let you down? Didn't let you freefall or carry all the weight. An actual partner. I'd have to see it to believe it. Even then, I'd have to rub my eyes and pinch myself and still might take some convincing.

Pffft. A partner. Next you're gonna tell me Bigfoot has a pet dragon.

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