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To A Kid

by Christy Gualtieri

I had a very curious relationship with myself as a kid. (I need to preface this by saying that I was raised by two exceptionally loving parents and a wonderful family.  I can in all honesty say that I have been loved every day of my life.) But as a kid, I didn’t necessarily understand it the way I do now. I didn’t outwardly dislike myself; I was content in my own world of reading and writing, and I liked school and watching TV and spending time with my cousins and friends. But maybe it was because I had two younger brothers, one of whom was (and still is) very charismatic and loved the spotlight, that I found myself wanting to – no, needing to change in order to be someone worth knowing. I needed, somehow, more attention. I wanted the world – which is very difficult to navigate as an elementary schooler – to know who I was. So I tried.

I’ll give you some examples. One of the kids in my second grade class had glasses, and he was popular, so I squinted and begged and lied about having headaches in the classroom because I couldn’t see what the teacher had written on the board. He had glasses, so I needed them, too. (And although I didn’t get them then I did eventually need them…in middle school, and if anything they made me less popular.) One of the pretty girls in class had Type 1 diabetes and had to test her blood sugar by pricking her finger with a needle every day, and so I would draw a colored-in circle on my index finger with a red pen before I got on the school bus to show that I, too, needed special treatment for something because I was special, too. (I am acutely aware now, as an adult, of how messed up it sounds to pretend to have Type 1 Diabetes just to get attention, by the way.  It just made sense to me at the time.) And one day, in the middle of the school year, I insisted to everyone on the school bus that my real name wasn’t the plain one I wrote on my papers and teachers called me by. My real name is much more exotic. Veronica. And I wouldn’t answer to anything else. (…It’s a lovely name, but my name was never Veronica. It’s always been Christy.)

For all of the things I liked about myself, there were so many things I wanted to change. I always felt a step or two behind, always off-trend, always missing what everyone else seemed to intrinsically know. And I needed that validation, I guess. Parents and teachers always were ready with praises, but it was the recognition from my peers that meant the most to me. The only trouble was, it was the one I lacked the most. It also didn’t help that my ultra-charismatic brother, who went to the same school, was the class favorite. He always had an invite to the party, a large group of friends around, and he always knew what to say. I was always a bit chubby in middle school, and straight up ballooned in size well through high school and college, adding to my depression. I found it harder and harder to fight through all of the comments about my weight and the comparing I’d do to the other girls at school, but it was pretty plain to me that there wasn’t a whole lot about myself that I liked.

My parents would try to help, give me little pep talks and try to cheer me up, but not much clicked until college. That’s when I really found out who I was, and was able to surround myself with friends who I had so much in common with – and found out I could be my true self around. Because of them, I grew into a (mostly) confident adult who (sometimes) struggles with anxiety but who genuinely, in all honesty, today can say that she loves herself. It’s been a long process, but I’m really glad of it, because it’s made me into the person I am today.

My oldest child is starting elementary school this year, and I’ve already seen him comparing himself to his peers, pointing out to me where he doesn’t measure up. It breaks my heart, but I remember what it felt like for me to be his age. So I give him an extra hug, give him those extra moments of encouragement and send him on his way, ready with a pep talk of my own for when he gets off the school bus at the end of the day. He might not appreciate it now, but maybe he’ll get it, the way I once did, when I became a grown up.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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The Shape of Fear

by Christy Gualtieri

On a recent episode of NPR’s “TED Radio Hour,” I listened to a man, named Isaac Lidsky – a very successful child actor, Harvard graduate, and law clerk to two Supreme Court justices – give a talk about how he shaped his reality. It’s something we all do; how do we see ourselves, how do we see our lives? The interesting challenge for him is that he suffers from a rare genetic disease that rendered him completely blind in his mid-twenties. Up until the time he lost his eyesight, he had shaped his reality based on what he could see, like most of us do. He did that until he couldn’t…and then he figured out that he had to shape his own reality in other ways. I was drawn to his story by the truth of this one section of his talk:

“Sight is just one way we shape our realities. We create our own realities in many other ways. Let’s take fear as just one example. Your fears distort your reality. Under the warped logic of fear, anything is better than the uncertain. Fear fills the void at all costs, passing off what you dread for what you know, offering up the worst, substituting assumption for reason…fear replaces the unknown with the awful.”

As a chronic worrier and someone who has suffered from anxiety for much of my life, I totally understood what he was saying. I could affirm it all, because I’ve felt it all. Even when things in my life are going well, I sometimes walk on eggshells, looking up, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  If things are going badly, it just affirms my worry, and so it’s conditioned me to keep worrying, since I was “right,” anyway. And when things have been going well for a while, I will create things to worry about, because it’s hard for me to adjust to things going well. (And not that I’ve had this horrible life, at all — I have had, in fact, a wonderful life filled to the brim with countless blessings — but I have so trained my brain to only search for the bad for so long that it honestly can’t always deal with the good. It feels downright uncomfortable!) And if I did have a situation where the outcome was unknown, you can bet that I’d be imagining the worst case scenario.

It’s not the healthiest way to live, but I’m working on it; and with years of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques to practice, it gets a lot easier with time and with work.

Lidsky provides his solution for dealing with fear, and I found that pretty spot on, too:

“See beyond your fears.  Recognize your assumptions. Harness your internal strength. Silence your internal critic…open your hearts to your bountiful blessings.”

Mr. Lidsky’s talk in its entirety can be watched here, and I highly recommend it.  It’s a brief guide to help you navigate through the fear that might dictate your life – and proof that it’s something that can be overcome with time and hard work. (I also highly recommend working through this process with a licensed therapist, who is specially trained to help you through this experience and can provide a solid sounding board to help you work through fears and anxieties.)

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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First Time On

by Christy Gualtieri

Here in Southwestern PA, Spring decided to just skip right over us, and we’re experiencing Summer’s high temps and intense storm systems. At the school bus stop in the mornings, it’s meant no sweatshirts, shorts and tees; and on the weekends it’s meant time in the wading pool.  And last week, it’s meant a trip to Kennywood!

If you’re not from the area, Kennywood is an iconic amusement park that was opened in the late 1800s (!) and is only one of two in the entire country to be designated as a National Historic Landmark.  It’s home to a variety of exciting rides, entertainment venues, and a special area just for children, Kiddieland, that features pint-sized versions of the park’s most popular rides.

Although my children were born here, we’d never been to Kennywood, and we didn’t really know what to expect – but once we got inside the park, we had a blast. Well, my son and I did at first. My daughter pretty much lost her mind her first time on a ride (the carousel), and was inconsolable every time we tried to get in line for a new one.

After about a half hour I stood there, daughter in the stroller and son on a kiddie ride, and decided that I’d take her on the next one with us. No other adult was with us to watch her while I went on with my son, and I knew it’d be very boring for all of us to just walk around and watch my son ride alone; and so when we approached the next ride, I told her that we’d all ride together.

And again, cue the screaming.  But I held firm, parked the stroller, and picked her up and carried her into the ride car with us. I strapped her in tightly next to me (her screams had subsided a bit by this point), and as the attendant went around double-checking our straps, I leaned over to her.

I’m right here. Sometimes we just have to be brave, Sweetheart.

The ride began, and wouldn’t you know it, she absolutely loved it. She was a bit uncertain at first, but by the time the ride ended, she was asking to go again. We spent the next few hours riding together and having a great time (I especially loved that she fell asleep almost the instant we got back to our car).  And I was proud of her for trying to be brave, and succeeding.

You can never learn these things too early, but it’s never too late, either. There’s been countless times as an adult when I’ve had to face things that have ranged from mildly scary to intensely terrifying, and those same words have rung true for me. I take a deep breath, look at myself in the mirror, and say it:

Sometimes we just have to be brave, Sweetheart.

What are you afraid of? What do you need to be brave in the face of? And who do you have with you who will be right there through it all?

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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Two Secrets

by Christy Gualtieri

It never really goes away, you know.  I think that’s what I want to tell you the most.

Have you ever seen those pharmaceutical commercials where the person (usually cartoon-animated) has a chronic illness, and that illness is personified somehow? Like it’s a creature in the shape of a bladder or an elephant or a cloud.  And it suffocates the person, or sits on their chest so they can’t breathe, or they’re pulling the person endlessly toward the bathroom (that would be the cartoon bladder). After the person gets fed up and takes whatever medicine the commercial is promoting, the chronic issue is still there. It might be smaller, or have a smiley face, or is now led around on a leash (that would be the elephant), but it’s always still there.

Anxiety always is, too. I don’t know what my anxiety would look like, if you asked me to personify it. But it comes and goes, too – it’s not that special. It’s like any other chronic illness. When things are going well and I’m on top of my self-care game, then it hangs back. But when I’m angry or tired or something stressful occurs, it’s like it’s gotten the signal from the coach to jump back in the game, stronger than ever. And the feelings are the same: near panic. Aching body. Shorter breaths. Quicker tears.

It is better now that I know what it is. Before I knew I had anxiety, it would scare me, not being able to control it. I’d despair because I’d put the work in – I’d go to sessions, I’d try changing up my diet and exercising and drinking more water, I’d take deeper breaths and stay off my phone more – but it wasn’t going away.

But that’s the secret. It doesn’t ever go away.

When I realized that, I felt free.

__

When my mother passed away, I read somewhere that grief “never stops hurting.  Over time, it hurts with the same intensity, just less frequently.” And so it is with my anxiety, too. I know the signs. I have strategies ready for when it gets really bad. And when it does, I rely on grace, those strategies, and the love of my family and friends to get through the days. And I get through to the other side.

That’s the other secret. There is another side. Maybe you don’t think there is one. Maybe you think it’s going to be like this forever. And I understand that; anxiety and depression can trick you into thinking it’s always going to be terrible, that you’ll never see the light. But you will. There is another side. There is a way out. It’s going to take work, but most things that are worth anything do. Is it fair? No. Is it your fault? No. But it’s reality, just like it’s a reality that you can and will get through it.

We’re wrapping up Mental Health Awareness month, and if you’ve been looking for a good time to reach out to someone to get you back on solid ground again, I really encourage you to try. If you’ve been in therapy for a while, keep going – keep pushing, keep talking, keep striving.  Drink that water. Get that sunlight. Create those strategies, and pull them out when you need them. No shame.

When you’re feeling better, encourage others. Shine your light on them. When you’re in darkness, rely on others to pull you through, and accept their light. And know that we are with you, every step of the way! Thanks for reading and being a light to me, too.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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You Should Read This…

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

Always and never are two words you should always remember never to use.”
― Wendell Johnson

“You never listen to me!”

“You always say that!”

Expletives aside, perhaps two of the most damaging words you can throw around in a relationship are “always” and “never.” Coupled with the word “You,” these statements can end a productive exchange before it has an opportunity to get started. Absolute statements are conversational arsenic because they remove choice and impose an external pressure that is difficult to diffuse once initiated. Keeping these absolute statements at a minimum can help keep your relationship from deteriorating into a street brawl. For some, drawing imaginary battle lines and then chucking emotional hand grenades is just what happens when there is an attempt to engage a spouse, partner or significant other on a deeper level. Yet, it is an unproductive and selfish endeavor simply to prove the other person wrong and validate profound feelings of resentment.

Remember: An argument is a failed discussion. Your hurt feelings are rarely about the trash never being taken out, the kids always misbehaving, or the dishes never getting done. You aren’t being heard, and there’s your frustration.

Argument words, when applied by one person onto another, regularly force the recipient to counter. Until the pressure has been dealt with, all levels of creative and authentic communication are ended, and you find that the maladaptive dance of “I said/you said” has begun.

A Severe Case of the Should-s, Musts and Have to-s

“You should take that job.”

“You have to stop acting that way.”

Channel Your Inner Adult

If I internalize the Should-s, the Musts and the Have-To-s and surrender to the expectations of others, I lose my creative voice; I give up my center. I could phone in my relationship at this moment simply because I see no point in continuing. Our reply to pressure is to rebel or to conform, fight or flight. Neither conformity nor rebellion allows for creative dialogue to flourish. Compliance is seen as good. Rebellion is seen as bad. Remember that little lesson from our teachers and our parents? The trouble is we are no longer children. To be a child means being in a position of powerlessness, to have limited choices and to not have the capacity or skills to manage life outside the confines of my thoughts.  As adults, we have a responsibility to take ownership of our feelings and accept others for as they are, not as we wish them to be. Succumbing to pressure leads to a narrowing of existence. Relationships become a chore and a bore, “I always pick the wrong person.” Think about that as you wonder why you may, or may not, be satisfied in your current relationship with a significant other or friend. Under pressure from another, which I then choose to cultivate or purge in myself, there is no experience of authentic love. I am an active participant in a power struggle and a war for which there is no exit strategy. I have become subservient to another, and that will always end poorly.

If you would like to continue the conversation about your relationship or marriage contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our therapists.

In Good Health,
Don

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Mental Health Month

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

I have been diagnosed with diabetes.

I have been diagnosed with heart disease.

I have been diagnosed with depression.

Out of these three statements, which individual has a better chance at quality of life for the next 10 years based on today’s current methods of treatment and availability of medical care? If you picked the third one, you would be wrong.

Why does mental health and wellness always seem to end up at the bottom of our ongoing health care debate? Costs are a big barrier to treatment, but so are attitudes. A 2007 study in Psychiatric Services, a Journal of the American Psychiatric Association, looked at several hundred potential mental health clients who had thought about seeking services but decided against it.

When questioned 66-percent of those surveyed thought the problem would get better on its own. Seventy-one percent agreed with the statement “I wanted to solve the problem on my own.” Several other studies have shown that many Americans still view depression and anxiety as a sign of weakness, and that seeking treatment demonstrates a lack of character or strength. Mental health doesn’t get the attention it deserves because of the stigma, but nearly one out of every five Americans will have a diagnosable mental disorder within their lifetimes, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Since its inception in 1949, Mental Health Month has been celebrated in May and for 55 years this campaign has provided an opportunity to raise awareness about mental health issues. Americans recognize Mental Health Month with events and activities in communities across the country. Many organizations, such as NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), engage in ongoing efforts to promote Mental Health Month through increasing public awareness and advocacy.

At eTalkTherapy we recognize and celebrate the goals and spirit of Mental Health Month. Our goal is to build public recognition about the importance of good mental health and daily wellness and to provide tips and tools for taking positive actions to promote holistic health. We understand that there is more to good mental health than just taking a pill. Accepting the whole person, not just a diagnosis, is paramount to providing quality care. Please follow our blog written by mental health professionals for tips on creating the change you want to see in your life.

Contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed professionals.

In Good Health,
Don

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6 Reasons Why Online Therapy Will Work for You

by Christina Pettinato, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

Scenario 1: Jump in the car after work. Fight Traffic. Skip dinner. Arrive at the therapist’s office. Sit in a cramped, stodgy waiting room with your stomach rumbling. Wait a week for your next appointment. Rinse. Repeat.

Scenario 2: Look for a sitter. Can’t find a sitter. Cancel therapy this week.

Scenario 3: It’s snowing, again. Roads are horrible. Cancel therapy.

Scenario 4: “I feel overwhelmed, and I’m really anxious. I’m struggling with my thoughts and feelings.” Your next available appointment is in two weeks? Really?!

Scenario 5: Your insurance deductible is $5,000 and you’re not even sure if therapy is covered.

Does this sound familiar? These are just a few practical criticisms levied against traditional therapy. As technology, costs and schedules change, having the option to talk to your therapist live-online is becoming a popular choice for a number of reasons.

Since 2017, our highly trained and experienced telehealth professionals have been providing clients with quality care. In most cases, you will be able to schedule and meet with a therapist the same day. Unlike many other practices, we use a state-of-the-art HIPPA secure portal. Your information and sessions are secure and private.

Here are just a few of the benefits of choosing eTalkTherapy:

  1. You can tackle your issues today: If you are seeking support for anxiety or stress-related issues, and feel overwhelmed at the prospect of having to schedule and attend an in-office appointment, then the online option could be the best one for you. This is your health and wellness, and it has to suit your needs. Anxiety and depression are not viruses, and they just don’t go away on their own. Addressing your issues and using proven techniques such as a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and traditional talk therapy will likely help you feel as though your life is not out of control and that you are making gains toward a better, mindful life.
  2. You can have both privacy and comfort: At eTalkTherapy, you can meet live online with your therapist from the comfort and privacy of your own home. All you need is a computer or tablet. Maybe you’re struggling with transportation or a long commute, maybe you can’t get childcare, maybe the weather forecast is not looking favorable, maybe your insurance co-pay or deductible is too high, or maybe you are away from home at college. For whatever reason, if having your session on live video chat works for you, then it works for you.
  3. You can keep your sessions while traveling: We offer you the flexibility of having your sessions online. You might be traveling for work, going on an extended vacation, or leaving for college. Whatever the reason, eTalkTherapy gives you a convenient and affordable alternative to a traditional office visit.
  4. You can schedule to suit your needs: Your time is important. The online option gives you back the time you’d spend commuting without delaying or interrupting your therapeutic work.
  5. You meet with our therapists live-online: Unlike other services, we have been doing telehealth since 2017. We value the therapeutic relationship and understand that texting or email correspondence will not replace being able to see someone face to face. We provide a HIPPA secure and professional online experience for every client we meet. If the internet is not an option we can also provide counseling by phone.
  6. You don’t have to worry about insurance co-pays or deductibles: In fact, you’re mental health needs may not even be covered by insurance. Your information remains private between you and your therapist. Our affordable rates give you the flexibility and financial comfort you may have been seeking from your therapy experience.

If you are looking to make positive changes in your life, we can help! Please contact us today about how to register and schedule your live video counseling session with Christina.

Follow eTalkTherapy on Facebook and Twitter for updates and articles related to good mental health!

Avanti,
Christina

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Turning Dreams and Goals into Action

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

What’s on your “bucket list?”

Writing a novel?

Traveling through Europe or Asia or both?

Learning how to paint or play piano or dance the Tango?

Goals and dreams give us hope, make life interesting, and provide us with a source of everlasting motivation and meaning. Often they present a sense of balance in a seemingly unbalanced world. Naturally, realizing your goals and dreams requires action.

You know all the tired, self-generated excuses as to why your goals are “impractical” or “will have to wait until a better time.” You’ve justified these reasons enough that they have become the only response to your ever-patient, ever-waiting life dreams. Here are a few thoughts that might turn these excuses into accomplishments and help you realize the potential of your life’s goal:

  1. What do I really want? It seems like a simple question until you begin focusing on what is important. What gives me a sense of connection, purpose and meaning? What is my “calling?” Do I possess talents and abilities that I have told myself are not practical or unimportant? How many of my negative thoughts about my dreams and goals are self generated?
  2. How will I get there? What do you need to connect the dots between Point A and Point B. Map out each step you might take on your journey. If you don’t have some plan in mind, you will likely find yourself struggling with frustration and uncertainty.
  3. What if my dream were already happening? Successful performers, sports figures and entrepreneurs report they are able to visualize their achievements far in advance. The use of positive visualization does not make automatically your dreams or goals come true, but it does provide a healthy nutrient for the soil in which your achievements can take root.
  4. What can I control? Staying focused on your goals and dreams without allowing others to interfere can be difficult at times, but not impossible. Do NOT allow others to dictate or influence your goals and aspirations. Becoming caught in others opinions or good intentions often times is the proverbial pin to your goal balloon. Remain in the present, knowing that you can only control what is happening at this moment, and only what is happening with you.
  5. What if I fail? Every journey will have its share of stormy weather. Treat any rejection or misstep as a learning moment toward realizing your dream and goal. Most everyone can agree that they will regret what they DIDN’T do in life versus what they did do.
  6. Is it even realistic? Perhaps not, but are you willing to try? Be persistent and flexible. Know that you will have to “roll with the punches” from time to time. Perhaps you will be surprised over what you discover about yourself on your journey.

Get going – now! Tend to your dreams and goals. Your journey can begin with a first, small step.

In good health,
Don

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Becoming a Therapist

by Christina Pettinato, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

When I walked into my first professional counseling course, I held my head up high, pulled my shoulders back, and thought, “Yes, I belong here.”  For the first time in my mental health career I felt as if I was headed in the right direction, and I was eager to begin my journey.

My mind was prepared to soak in all the knowledge that was going to be bestowed upon me, and it was then that I realized becoming a therapist was going to be a intimidating endeavor. As the professor began his lecture, I quickly learned that I needed to conquer some inner-demons in addition to fostering a connection to the core concepts of psychotherapy and counseling.

Who me? This is about me? I didn’t think I would be the one sitting in the client’s chair.  At first, I didn’t grasp the significance or meaning behind this moment.  I thought to myself, “Where do I even begin?” No map. No compass. No clue. I’m screwed, and I hadn’t even written my first note yet! Navigating the dark crevices of my mind was going to be a lot more vexing than venturing into someone else’s. My anxiety was through the roof, and my fear was real. Could I ever truly find a sense of peace and beauty within this chaos?

What I began to learn is that life, my life, is based on the perception of my own processes – both the mental and physical perception of experience and how much it influences my daily understanding of the world around me.  Understanding how I perceive the world, which would ultimately impact my future therapeutic relationships, evolved into a consuming endeavor within my therapeutic journey and career.

Exploring my psyche and how it works only reinforces this notion of perception and how each of us can discover a unique pathway to the mind. What was interesting to me was, not only did I develop a heightened sense of awareness of self, but for others, too.  I became highly interested in perception and being-in the-world (to borrow a term from philosopher Martin Heidegger).  Everyone is uniquely human, no two realities are perceived the exactly in the same context. I began to see an uneasy marriage between that which is measurable by science (cognitive processes) and all the mystery of philosophy and art. Things began to gel, take form, make sense, and a fog was lifting.  For me, this exploration was, and still remains, the doorway to understanding another person’s perspective.

With all of my new found inspiration, I knew I needed some guidance. It wasn’t long until my seedlings of thought found purchase in existential psychotherapy.  It is an approach that emphasizes an understanding of your client’s worldview because you are not separated from it. You are human, so is the client. You are forever grounded in a common bond that cannot be quantified or measured. As the French philosopher Jean Paul Sarte said, existence precedes essence. This idea is at the root of our search for meaning. As therapists, counselors and clinicians, we cannot separate ourselves from the living world or our humanness. Understanding, compassion and connection, these are the best tools we have to offer our clients.

My journey then and now can be compared to staring at a painting. At first, I tilt my head in curiosity and uncertainty as the canvas appears unconnected, unruly and unclear. Yet, as I take my time to gaze a little deeper, it becomes easier to see the painting’s intricacies, its inner-struggle, and its beauty. The world opens and things appear as they are – flowing in richness, emotion and connectivity. Meaning is found.  Like the artwork, I began to connect the pieces of my life into theory and produced a strong approach to the helping relationship.

My journey is far from over and there is still so much for me to explore, but for those of you taking that first step, keep looking at the canvas. Don’t give up just yet.

Avanti,
Christina

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Need to be Needed

By Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

Who among us has not experienced the family member who “needs to be needed?” The person who for various reasons becomes the family rescuer? A “martyr,” “savior” or “saint” that will come through for others even at the expense of their own well-being? Codependency, by its very definition means that there a mutual dependent relationship, and that someone is usually a family member or a significant other. Co-dependency is a term traditionally associated with the treatment of addiction and recovery, but for our purposes let’s examine it in another light.

The question that comes to mind is why would someone want to be a full-time rescuer? What benefit is there to a person if she or he is driven to a point of being unhappy, resentful, chronically stressed, and physically or emotionally ill?

People who struggle with codependency typically grow up with an adult family member who demands perpetual emotional care. Often, this is a parent who never reached full emotional maturity. The phenomena of the helicopter parent comes to mind as this is someone who won’t allow for his or her child to experience the world as both a place of kindness and a place where you do indeed get hurt, sometimes badly. The codependent needs to be needed, and this is where things often fall apart when their way of understanding the world is threatened.

“I am because I serve.”

Love, confidence and self-esteem get knotted up with unending service. The codependent grows up starving for love and affection, someone who will “complete me” or fill the void. They feel significant not for who they are, but for what they do for others. The world is only as safe as they deem it to be and, therefore, they must protect those they love in the unhealthiest way possible by sacrificing their own sense of being. As a result, there can be little to no internal change for this person, that energy is redirected into trying to change the world around them. What psychological stability they can attain is contingent on making people dependent on them. This makes them fragile, resistant to change, and by all accounts the family martyr.

This is not to imply someone who is co-dependent lacks empathy, thoughtfulness or understanding. Those qualities can be quite genuine. The issue is ingrained in what tacit emotional agenda accompanies them.  This could oscillate between exhaustive periods of giving and sudden “I need to love me first” moments of resentment. The choice is never me and you, but an emotionally immature me or you. People cannot be related to as equals, but instead are seen as those who are in need of my service, AND they should be eternally grateful for my efforts.

Codependency involves a deeply rooted and highly persistent combination of attitudes, values, beliefs, and habits that will not be solved by a reading a self-help book or by a getting a prescription from the family doctor. Moreover, deciding to be “self-loving” won’t do anything either. “Loving me before I can love others” (as pop-psychology insists we chant as a daily mantra) suggests the same type of “self-sacrifice” that drives a co-dependent individual in a most unhealthy way – “See, I am learning to love myself so now I can serve others better.”

Relational conflicts require relational healing. Therapy is perhaps one of the few ways to create a relational world outside of the co-dependent’s universe. In most unresolved emotional conflicts past events remain shrouded in grief, regret and loss. These conflicts are often reinforced by attempts to self sooth or “cure” the feelings.

Beneath the worry and anxiety of someone with codependency sits an unconscious desire to obtain love, security and approval. Yet, for better or worse, the external world is not built to meet this internal need. Facing and allowing for loss and letting go submits an individual to a deep and valuable period of mourning. For the ill family member who could not be cured, for the child who did not get into the “right” school, for the vacation that did not go as planned, for the loss of love and support, misdirected energy is pulled out of persistent rescuing and gives it back to oneself. Though difficult and a times painful, mourning can ignite the process of healing. Creating a new role for those who were at one time in need of my “saving” allowing them to be who or what they actually are instead of trying to rescue them, also increases a sense of emotional maturity.

We should always remember that those who struggle with codependency are highly sensitive and caring individuals. Somewhere along the way the emotional speedometer jumped from 0 to 60 and it was never quite able to decrease to a healthier rate. Co-dependency is not a problem to be cured, but a life issue to be explored and discussed. If you feel you are struggling because of issues related to co-dependency contact us to schedule a confidential appointment.

In good health,
Don