By: Joyce Willis, MC, LPC
In Part III, we discussed The Secondary symptoms that are caused by immaturity in The Core Issues. Trauma in Column I, (The Nature of the Child), leads to immaturity in The Core Issues. Trauma and immaturity leads to The Secondary Symptoms, as discussed in Part III. All three; trauma issues, immaturity and secondary symptoms lead to Relational Problems.
In this last installment of Breaking Down The Model, we will explore Relational problems that have been caused by trauma, immaturity and secondary symptoms. Relational problems can stem from any extreme in any of The Core Issues, as well as from the secondary symptoms. In other words, due to trauma, immaturity and the secondary symptoms, we can develop relational problems. Let's explore each of the relational problems.
Relational esteem can be a problem in one of two ways. We may overvalue our partner or the relationship when we believe we are less than. We may overvalue ourselves and undervalue our partner when we believe we are better than.
Enmeshment and Avoidance Issues
Enmeshment and avoidance have to do with boundary issues. When a person has no boundaries, he may try to enmesh or use the partner in some way. When a person puts up walls, he will avoid intimacy. This can lead to relationships that are either stuck in love addiction or stuck in love avoidance.
The simple truth of relational problems when it comes to dishonesty is that we are living in a lie when we believe we are better than or less than someone else. In other words, when a person cannot be real because he believes he is worthless, he will not be truthful with his partner. When a person believes he is one up or better than, he may believe he is a god and, therefore, distorts the truth of who he is.
Problems with Interdependence
Interdependence has to do with allowing yourself to self-care first before taking care of someone else. When you cannot care for yourself in a proper and functional manner, you cannot be functionally interdependent, Self-care creates the necessary energy to ask for help and give help appropriately.
When a person has no boundaries or is walled off, he is draining the relationship. This can create either chaos or a sense of deadness in the relationship. Chaos in a relationship is created when the person is out of control or not containing his spontaneity as a functional adult. Deadness in a relationship is created when the person is controlling.
Now that you have learned about The Model of Developmental Immaturity, let's consider what recovery looks like. As Pia Mellody says, "There is no recovery without Core Recovery." Characteristics of a healthy person begin to emerge as a person gets into recovery. These characteristics are:
- Having a sense of self-worth based on the concept of inherent worth. This means believing you are of equal value to others in your strengths and in your weaknesses. Being in recovery means esteeming yourself from within and realizing your humanity.
- Setting and maintaining functional boundaries. This means allowing yourself to be vulnerable, yet not too vulnerable. Being in recovery allows you to be intimate and vulnerable, with protection.
- Trusting yourself by owning your own reality and being true to yourself. This incorporates expressing yourself in a diplomatic manner. Being in recovery means being able to be real and accountable for your imperfections and being willing to look for a higher power for help with imperfections.
- Taking care of yourself and attending to your needs and wants, while being able to ask for help when needed. This involves being able to hear "no" to a request for help without taking it personally. This, also, involves being able to say "no" to a request for help when this request will enable the other person or when you think complying to the request will lead to resentment. Being in recovery means being responsible for your own self-care and being interdependent.
- Having the ability to contain yourself, with functional spontaneity and having an attitude of moderation in all areas of life. Being in recovery means being able to experience your life moderately and maintaining a sense of functional spontaneity.
Finally, let's take a look at things you can do to support your recovery. These are suggestions for you to consider:
- Attend Twelve Step Meetings - This allows you the opportunity to be with people who are talking about their illness and how it operates in their own lives. Twelve Step meetings are an opportunity to talk about all experiences; negative and positive that you are having throughout recovery. Twelve Step meetings can help you focus on your own progress and improvement and allow you to give hope to others.
- Do a Written Step One – This helps you see the disease in action in your own life. When you can be honest about the unmanageability in your life, you can stop sabotaging your life. Writing helps you to see the patterns of codependency and addiction in your life. Pia Mellody's book, Breaking Free: A Recovery Workbook for Facing Codependence is a great resource in how to write out all the steps.
- Get a sponsor - Choosing a sponsor who has time in recovery and who demonstrates functional adult behavior will help keep you on the path of recovery. Choose someone who is honest and willing to be confrontational in a nurturing manner.
- If needed, consider the option of seeking out more intensive therapy, such as an intensive outpatient program or inpatient treatment.
- Keep confronting the core issues and growing - We cannot be functional in the core issues all the time. This is humanly impossible. We can continue to work on our self-esteem, boundaries, own our reality, meet our needs and wants and operate in moderation.
Life is continuous practice in all core issues. Recovery is about getting to the center in each of the core issues, as much as humanly possible on any given day. We can live our lives with hope and happiness!
Resource: Mellody P. (1989). Facing Codependence. New York: HaperCollins.