Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Counter-Dependency in Borderline Personality Disorder

What is counter depenedency?
Counter-dependency is the flipside to co-dependency but they both lie along the same spectrum of issues. They’re essentially an opposite response to the same motivation. The underlying reasons for these types of behaviors are:
1. Low Self Esteem brought about by feelings of shame
2. Fear of being alone
Codependent people are often seen as clingy, weak, insecure, and helpless without the person they are attached to. Counter-dependent people tend to appear strong, secure, confident and are often very successful to the outside world. They can aloof and very driven to project an image that makes them seem wholly self-sustained (This is me to the core).Their inside world is not so different from the codependents though. They often feel weak, insecure, fearful, and needy. Where a codependent acts and displays these tendencies, a counter dependent will hide them at all costs because these kinds of emotions register as shameful. Often it’s easier for someone who is counter-dependent to function better in the working world while failing at relationships. This happens because they’re afraid to get close to others, and avoid intimate situations as much as possible. It’s also imperative that no one see their hidden weaknesses or vulnerabilities. They put a lot of effort into convincing the people around them that they are doing just fine and don’t need anything from anyone. It’s an outwardly directed flight from intimacy.
Counter-dependent people try to control everything in their environment and restrict the amount of love, intimacy, and closeness people give and receive in their lives. Which as you can imagine will create intense feelings of loneliness, alienation, and even an internal desperation for intimacy that they can’t consciously open themselves up to receiving.
Everything is about hiding. Hiding “weaknesses”. Hiding vulnerabilities. Hiding anything that someone else could use against them. Unfortunately hiding the neediness that someone may feel can often result in an indirect manipulation to control what people see and the intimate situations that they are involved in.
While people who are co-dependent often want more physical closeness and touch, those who are counter-dependent want that intimacy but are afraid that it will suffocate them or that it will allow their partners the power to dominate them in a relationship. This leads them to quickly erect boundaries to protect their emotional states. For me, this is not quite true. I crave physical contact. I need it. For me, it’s a way of being close, providing that illusion of intimacy, without becoming emotionally vulnerable. Physical intimacy distracts from emotional intimacy and I can hide the latter while devouring the former.

“{In either case} couple relationships often contain intense competition and conflict and little authentic intimacy. People with co-dependent behaviors will create a conflict when the relationship is not intimate enough. Those with counter-dependent behaviors create a conflict when the relationship is too intimate. Much of couple conflict involves a struggle to determine how much intimacy and how much separation partners can tolerate in their relationship.”
I don't need you.
This is me all over. I’m more afraid of my relationships when they begin to get to close. I begin to doubt, feel suffocated, push away. My thoughts run away with ideas of not being good enough, not being able to provide my partner with “what they really need” {even though what they really need really isn’t my decision}, losing my own identity by becoming a couple, etc. The emotional pressure that comes with true intimacy is often overwhelming. I try so hard to find a balance of close but not too close, but when you’re the only one doing that and your partner wants something else, conflict is destined to arise.
Being counter-dependent is to take a position in relationships to ensure one is not dependent on others for emotional security, status, etc. Everyone has psychological defenses in order to cope with life. A counter-dependent's defenses are like emotional calluses. To be counter-dependent is almost like being a walking contradiction of emotion. There is this deep-seated fear of intimacy which leads to an emotional isolation, but at the same time there’s an increased need for the state that is feared. It’s a good explanation for why counter dependents are sometimes caught in approach-avoid/push-pull conflicts when it comes to intimate relationships.
I think part of the reason I was so open to poly and open relationships was in order to avoid true one on one commitment. Growing up I often told people I had a fear of commitment. I would tell people this, even when I craved it. I did this because I didn’t want to expose myself, expose my needs, to the eyes of anyone else, lest they judge me for not being able to obtain the thing I wanted. I was taught that independence was “strong” so wanting to be in a partnership which naturally has a healthy amount of emotional dependence would be “weak”. These relationships also let me maintain an emotional distance where I didn’t have to worry about anyone relying on me for too much support because there was always someone else to share some of the pressure.
For a very long time in my life I told everyone, and myself, that I didn’t want someone to be emotionally close to. I would laud the physical and the fun and brush off the emotional as “girly stuff”. I was to tough for that sort of thing. To a large extent I still portray this attitude, but I’ve had a lot of time alone with my thoughts and honest reflection about who I am and I can recognize that while I refuse to show that I need such emotional closeness, I do recognize that this is something I do want and need. I also recognize that I’m not sure how to get it.
It just feels so much safer to build this impenetrable fortress around my heart than to appear in any way vulnerable. Why does this happen? Stay tuned.


  1. Nice Article I really liked it very much.

  2. I have some counter dependent tendencies. I dont like people knowing my codependent ones (Ive always seen it as weak and shameful) so I tend to project a tough gal image. In fact, my friend wanted to know where I went and who had replaced his thick skinned gal with a replicant that was needy and clingy. For me, the codependent doesnt emerge until I am in love. I am not codependent in everyday situations. I am more counter.

    I see the association here. The fear of abandonment and the codependency and the fear of engulfment and counterdependency. I think it is good to remember that there is a fluidity to it and most folks arent all one or the other. Obviously, there will be a more dominant issue. My abandonment fears are greater than my engulfment when it comes to being in love. When it comes to other relationships, I am less worried about abandonment. I never really feel like I need people unless it is someone I am already attached to. When I was younger I was a full time people pleaser. Thankfully I grew out of that. Now its just in the bedroom lol.

    1. Oh and as for the fortress. Thats the thing. I have it. I am sweet and friendly with all of my work collegues but I only in the last year have been connecting with people. I finally started making friends. Its not that I am socially akward. I really am not. I used to be a dancer and did theater and I am actually very charismatic. When i want to be. Thing is it always seems to come down to a conflict between fear/desire. Its generally safer to be well regarded from a distance. When you connect on a personal level and worlds collide, there is always going to be conflict. What matters is what happens then. Conflict resolution.

      We can work on ourselves and hope the other people do too. This is what I keep reminding myself. I have this bad habit, learned from mom, to over analyze the shit out of things. My knowledge of psychology needs to apply to people in general. I have got to stop trying to jump inside other peoples heads and figuring their shit out. Spent my life obsessed with others motivations without little care for my own.

      I havent been impressed by sw blog entries in awhile, but the anxiety/fear thing got me thinking. I dont like being Cassandra. I dont want to be. Predicting doom and watching it emerge. Powerless. I believe it is healthier to properly prepare mentally for eventualities, but ultimately, one must live in the present and be focused on the now. The past is done. If we picked up shit we must learn how to put it down. Now is now. It is not then. Or what may be. It is here. In this moment. Hurt will happen. I do not need to hasten it with expectations of doom. What matters is how we handle the situation during. Patience and kindness towards oneself and others is the only way. Goddess I sound like a buddhist. Lol. I still eat meat.

    2. Wow, get out of my head lol well put in both posts... I really understand where you're coming fron

  3. Great article! I only recently stared to understand that I'm counter dependent, so this was exactly something i needed to read.

  4. I solved the problem of commitment by seeing lesbian women. Hiding mistakes is spot-on for me. I was a machinist. They can't make mistakes.


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