we talk about "codependent," we are commonly referring to the
victim: that poor person who does not take care of them self, and who allows
other to take advantage. What is less recognized is that the angry person
is codependent too! Not terribly different from the codependence of the
victim, the angry person doesn't take care of him or her self
either. Burney points out that
this form of co-dependence has been called "classical
received the following email from "Mark." Originally I was going
to publish his account in the "My Story" section. But Mark's letter
insightful and candid - as well as illustrative of the angry person's
codependence, I decided to make it a feature article. Mark's observation
of his thoughts, feelings, and behavior personify important aspects of anger
addiction and codependency - the loss of the soul. -Dr. Irene
Email & Dr. Irene's Comments
August 31, 1999
"I ran across this site by accident, I was
going somewhere else. I am glad I saw it, however. It has left me with a
knot in my stomach.
You see I am aware
that I have been a very subtle verbal abuser. Would still be probably
except that I stay away from relationships now days. I don't want to
destroy any one else. Your site opened my eyes to some of the things I
have done, sometimes not even realizing what I was doing. Here's a story!
I had a lady I
was pursuing for years, 9 years. Never got very far. She'd be off with some one
else. I'd give up. She'd be free, I'd start pursuing again. At one point
in a fit of self pity I promised myself that if I ever managed to get very
close to her, I'd really give her a kick; let her feel what it felt like.
Finally, about 4 years
ago, a bit down on her luck and not feeling too healthy, she let me into her
life. I sent her care packages, coffee, toys , clothes, etc.
She said she was getting over an abusive relationship. She was also
living with another abusive person - another female. I was working in an
adjacent state and began to visit her. She told me that I was probably
her soul mate. I'd kind of
suspected I was for some time. I figured that we would build up just a
wonderful life together.
She told me
that she needed time to get over the previous abuse. I assured her that I
would work with her as long as it took. Did I say that I have a bit of an anger issue? I do.
I set out to care for her, visiting
every week end. Brought flowers, remembered birthdays, brought her
breakfast in bed, bought her food and medicine, took her on trips to her
favorite city, supported her artistic endeavors, cheered her on. A real
saint, huh? The goal behind all this was that she was supposed to fall
in love with me. It's the way I'd always heard that it was supposed to
work. Look Mark: in trying to make her fall
in love with you - you are trying to control her. Also, watch how you do
it: not from a sense of inner-derived impulses, but from something you
"heard" would work... Big mistake. You cannot live a successful life unless
you are willing to let go and allow your inner life to lead the way. You
imposed a framework upon yourself, made yourself play the part - for a
whole year (God bless your perseverance), and wonder why it didn't work!
A year later I saw I
was getting nowhere. I'd managed to get one hug out of her in the year,
and not even a kiss - it was just too early. No, it
too early. If you allowed your intuition to clue you in, you would
have cut out long ago, realizing that she just didn't feel the same way
about you, or that something else was in her way. I was getting a bit irritated at not having things
go my way or even some improvement - a little anger here. Of course there was anger. Anger is the most natural
the world under the circumstances. That's why if your gut were working properly, you would have
cut your losses and gotten out.
Now she is talking about an
platonic relationship with me. Assures me that is the best. Perhaps it is, for her. Either you accept what is offered
(which would be very, very hard), or
be on your way.
One night I decide
that I'm going to either get this thing over with - blow it up and leave
it in ashes on the ground - or get it going another direction. She is
asleep on the couch, so I start fondling her. Come
now, did you really think this would work? I guess you were just sick
& tired of doing, doing, doing and didn't know how to leave with your
is an incest and rape survivor. Even worse.
Guaranteed failure. But you knew that. You must have been sooo angry
She wakes and asks me
what I am doing. I say that I am messing things up. I figure that I will
be asked to leave and never return. But no, I was allowed some leeway. Now I am supposed to regain her
affection. Which I proceed to do in the manner described at first -
attention and care taking, though now laced with a good portion of sullenness, threats to
let her fend for herself, and pouting. Can you see
how you disrespected not only her, but more importantly yourself in your
acting out and refusal to accept the writing on the wall? You were so hell
bent in winning her over - i.e., controlling her affection, that you
persisted despite your rage. Even though you knew your
methods were clearly not working, you proceed bit-by-bit to cut off your nose to spite
your face .
About the ONLY thing that makes ANY sense here IS
your anger! You should be angry! Your affection was not returned. Your
anger should have been your signal, not to act out, but to be on your way. But, no.
Instead you choose to hang around and make her love-hate you. Your
behavior makes absolutely no sense, does it? It is purely irrational and
impulsive acting out at this point.
A real joy to be around.
In the process of all this, I was supporting her (And,
I'll bet, getting angrier by the second) - she was not working due
to health problems-and living in a hovel. I'd moved all my possessions to
her place and was getting real edgy. I'd stopped coming up every week end.
She took on a roommate to make ends meet. I couldn't afford as much as she
needed. Now you couldn't afford her, whereas
before you could? Could there have been a little angry withholding going
I was accusing her of
having affairs, lying to
her about what she told me - as if she would remember. She was telling me
that I was the most abusive person she had ever met and if I'd just get
counseling she'd keep trying to make this thing finally work. Why didn't you take her up on her offer? Or were you
afraid that she did not truly love you and just saw you as a
meal ticket? You may never know know if she really loved you because your
internal radar is broken. Thinking you always get the short end of the
stick (and you do, since you bring it upon yourself with your poor choices
and behavior), you are likely to believe the meal-ticket
Finally , my work ended and I was relocated back to where I could no
longer visit her. Best thing that ever happened to
you. I went and got my furniture. She never said
a word to me, but I'll never forget the hurt and devastation in her
eyes. Maybe she really did love you; maybe
she couldn't understand why you would not try counseling...
I've gone, she has realized some of her dreams, and, I hope, is much
healthier. Now if I do anything for her, I do it completely anonymously -
and that isn't often. She'd have me arrested for stalking. This situation is so sad...
I noticed that
today while talking to my mother about her travels that I went into a
state of just shutting down. I apologized to her and explained that tuning
another person out is a form of abuse. Yes. Odds are
you are really, really mad at mom.
You know, I don't really believe that I can get cured of this behavior. I know you feel that way. However, you and I disagree strongly
are really committed, you can modify this pattern. It would take a while,
would require perseverance, perseverance, perseverance (which you have)
and would probably be
the most difficult thing you ever did in your life, as well as the most
rewarding. The difficulty is not in terms of feeling pain, although there
is some of that. The difficulty is in the confusion and imbalance you feel
as you give up your old way of operating - and don't know which end is
I manage to not use it
too often on my daughter and grand son. Good. By the
way, self-awareness and lack of self-deception are about 50% of the battle.
try not to use it too often at my work. It slips out a bit at times, but they
are all men and can handle a bit of aloofness. Mostly they think I am OK. I
have decided that I don't need to hurt any more women with it. Or hurt yourself, the more appropriate and honest motive. I just have
a lot women I am casually friendly with. I tease them and was
told yesterday that I am the richest man they know - I have so many friends. Good! But you don't have a companion. Alone time is good
for the soul; your letter bears testimony to that. I hope you continue to
use your alone time productively.
Incidentally, I am an alcoholic
trying to find a way to live in recovery. Incidentally
also, in my addiction work, I find these underlying codependency - loss of
soul - anger issues more often than not. I am convinced that treating the
anger issue treats the core addiction issue. Continue with whatever
you are doing in recovery, but take a look at the anger/codependency stuff too. You've got nothing to
lose and no better way to spend your time, right? Who knows, you may even
very best wishes. Thank you for your honesty and candor. I hope this
helps. -Dr. Irene
September 2, 1999
As with everything,
it's- what can I do today- that really matters. I have ordered that Dance
of the Wounded Souls. Have noticed that there is an EA group very close to
me. I am familiar with 12 step programs and really do think that
they work. I do appreciate that link.
Incidentally, I have been through the bats and pillow therapy, might
be why I was not so keen to get into therapy when she suggested it. Well,
Lets see where it goes from here.
angry person's codependency is evident in how Mark goes about his attempt
to "acquire" this woman. He has little inner sense of what to
do, where to go. He kills her with kindness because he's
"heard" that it works. How codependent. How disconnected from
self. He persists and persists, even when it is obvious that he is hurting
himself. He does not heed his own anger, the one emotion he is
connected to. Of course life doesn't work. His hands are nowhere near the steering
wheel. Mark is like a leaf in the wind, subject to the
whims of the wind. What's a guy to do?
believe that anger issues require a two-process treatment approach. The easy stuff is about acquiring the requisite anger
management skills. Not exactly a piece of cake, but "easy"
because there are many, many resources that spell out exactly what to do.
See the synopsis of
the easy stuff.
hard stuff is not particularly hard. It is intangible. That makes it difficult
to understand what is being asked of you. "What is the sound of one hand
and all that sort of fun stuff.
Vs. Imposed Control
people impose control where they shouldn't and don't impose control where
level of sensing. In
order to stop imposing external control on yourself, you need to recognize
the difference between internal and external stuff. In order to hear that which
wells up from within, you need to remain still long enough to allow the
internal whisper, your "radar", to arise.
phrasing is very important. The angry person imposes external
directives upon him or herself. Think about selecting an arbitrary template or
map for the purposes of guiding your way. (Mark killed his lady with
kindness, since this is what he had "heard" worked.) This is very different from allowing
your very unique internal whisper to arise and guide your way step-by-step. You need to
accept your inner sensory directives, even though you may like them.
These things just "are."
For example, the sky is blue. You can fight this all you want and even play neat tricks
(The sky is black at night, etc.), but you accomplish nothing. You cannot
change the fact that the sky is blue. It is OK to positively hate blue,
but nevertheless blue it is. You can twist your perception so much that
you become convinced that the sky is really make of green sea weed. But now, all you
have accomplished is a distortion of your own reality. Allowing internal
impulses to arise is about acceptance, not control. This is the level of
sensing, feeling, intuiting. Angry people try to block their internal
impulses and impose control at this
level. They are lost souls.
level of action. The
place to appropriately apply self-control or self-discipline (both terms
are used interchangeably) is at the
level of action. Once you are fully aware of what your internal radar is
telling you, you can control how you will handle the situation. This is where
you make choices. This is where you have the opportunity to steer your life,
as opposed to living a life run by raw emotion (the wind) and self-imposed
"rules and reasons."
say that you have accepted your internal whisper that the sky is
blue at the level of sensing. You have also accepted that you absolutely
hate blue! At the level of action, you examine your available options and
choose what you will do.
the sky green. Not an available option. You can however make believe
the sky is really green at the expense of distorting your reality. Go
here if you want, but nature extracts a high price for distortion. Try
it and see!
bloody murder that the sky is the wrong color. Choosing this option is
likely to get you as far as the nearest nut house.
the awfulness of a blue sky. This option will likely lead to
depression - and it won't change the color of the sky.
your breath till the sky changes color. You'll drop dead.
that the sky is blue, accept that you hate blue, know there is nothing
you can do about any of this, so on to the next issue... Accepting
what is and moving on when you have no power is the only healthy
option. This option
requires imposing self-control over behavioral and cognitive aspects of the
self. This option is the only one that works.
people tend to impose self control at the sensory level and not impose
self control at the level of action. This unhealthy state of
affairs needs to be reversed. Passive acceptance is necessary at the
level of sensing. Self-control is necessary at the level of action.
of inner direction, disconnectedness from within, loss of soul - is the anger-addict's
brand of codependency. The angry person implicitly, and falsely, assumes that the conquered partner can
sooth and fix their internal pain, boredom, emptiness, anger, whatever.
They can't. Nobody but the self can. The most
powerful book I've ever encountered on codependency is Robert Burney's Codependence:
Dance of the Wounded Souls. Read it and reread it. Then read it again.
internal work can be done alone, but is best accomplished with guidance. There are lots of
forks in the road. You may take the wrong path and lose your way. Not a bad
thing - you will learn about yourself - but it is slower. Reading really helps. You can gauge your progress by how
much you understand the more esoteric books you read. You can expect to achieve greater
and greater understanding of the same material over time.
book provides a fine entry to the realms inside, the home-base of
all that is uniquely and wonderfully YOU! There is no other way out. Promise. -Dr.