In their book Flight from Intimacy, Barry and Janae Weinhold (co-directors of the Carolina Institute for Conflict Resolution) provide a good list of characteristics associated with counter dependency. Along with having trouble getting close to people and sustaining intimate and romantic relationships counter dependent characteristics include:
- Having limited ability to feel emotions in regards to romantic relationships (such as justified anger or sadness) < --- I would also include having a limited ability to not necessarily feel, but to identify, admit, and express emotions in a healthy way.
- Having a tendency to say no to new ideas from your partner < --- Only if they’re wrong or it’s something I really don’t want to do otherwise I’m open to whatever my partner wants to do, though I will say no if my self-image is too skewed to get past my anxiety. That’s more anxiety related issues though, not necessarily counter-dependency.
- Feeling anxiety while forming close relationships < --- Big time.
- A need for perfection < --- Yeah. In myself for sure. If I’m very honest I think what causes a lot of my doubts about relationships is that they are not the “ideal” of every need I envision in my mind.
- Being afraid of letting others control you < --- No one can control me. No one.
- Being consumed by the needs of your partner < ---- Often.
- Refusing to ask for help < ---- I wouldn’t even know how if I wanted to. This is something I am actively working on though. Still, I hate having to ask for help. Hates it, precious.
- Becoming easily bored < ---- I carry a massive shoulder bag filled with books, notebooks, drawing supplies, my netbook, etc. in the emergency case that I find myself bored. Boredom is a terrible, terrible thing.
- Needing to constantly seek out new thrills < --- I love this.
- Having a tendency to work long hours during the week and on weekends < --- Hm. I submerge myself in my personal projects and pursuits more than my job. If I’m in an obsessional phase of creativity though I will work on these things to the exclusion of all else, or if I’m doing something else I’ll only be able to think about doing that thing, and will be anxious until I can get back to working on it.
Have You Ever Done These Things?
§ Attempted to hide normal fears, anxieties, or insecurities from others < --- I do this All. The. Time. All the time.
§ Felt the inability to identify and/or express important feelings < --- There ya go.
§ Attempted to always “look good” and always be “right”? < ---- If I am not my idea of “good” I will refuse to go out in public my anxiety will be so high. It’s not that I always need to be right, I just usually am. Hah. No, really, I actually don’t have a problem being “wrong” outside of a professional environment.
§ Felt a lack of trust in other people’s motives < --- Usually.
§ Felt victimized by the actions of others < --- Yes, but I actually have been. I have felt the paranoia that people may be trying to victimize me when they may or may not be though as well.
§ Felt anxious in close, intimate relationships < --- Always.
§ Been reluctant to ask for help from others when needed < ---- Yep.
§ Preferred to work alone < ---- Yes and no. Depends on the thing I’m working on.
§ Been in constant fear of making a mistake. < ----- This has been my entire academic and most of my professional experience. Also my “fears” for relationships.
§ Had low tolerance for frustration, marked by temper tantrums or fits of anger when frustrated < --- Please, anger is my deadly sin. Especially when I was a teen by frustration, anger, and fits of temper were of EPIC proportion.
§ Been unable to relax and had a constant need to be engaged in work or activity. < ---- I often joke about not knowing how to be lazy and that I need help learning how to relax. I’ve been doing a pretty good job of learning this.
§ Felt afraid of being smothered or controlled by the needs of others < ---- Not so much afraid of it so much as if I feel like I am I push away until I have the space I need again.
§ Had little awareness of the needs or feelings of others < --- Not really. I’m pretty hypersensitive to the needs and feelings of others. I usually have an easier time identifying what other people need than identifying what I need.
§ Tended to sexualize all nurturing touch < --- I always worry that people will interpret physical affection from me as having a sexual motivation even if it doesn’t. And if it’s a guy I always wonder at what their “real” motivation behind any kind of physical contact is.
§ Been addicted to work, sex, activity, or exercise < ---- Yes. Yes. Yes. And Yes.
§ Been afraid of commitment < --- Or so I’ve said.
§ Clings to others
§ Acts weak and vulnerable
§ Is overwhelmed by his or her feelings
§ Is other-centered
§ Is addicted to people
§ Is easily invaded by others
§ Has low self-esteem
§ Acts incompetent
§ Has depressed energy
§ Acts insecure
§ Acts weak
§ Feels guilty
§ Craves intimacy and closeness
§ Acts self-effacing
§ Has victim behaviors
§ Is a people pleaser
§ Suffered neglect as a child
§ Pushes others away
§ Acts strong and invulnerable
§ Is cut off from his/her feelings
§ Is self-centered
§ Is addicted to activities or substances
§ Is “armored” against others’ attempts to get close
§ Has falsely inflated self-esteem*
§ Tries to “look good”
§ Has manic energy
§ Acts secure
§ Acts strong
§ Blames others
§ Avoids intimacy and closeness
§ Acts grandiose
§ Tries to victimize others first
§ Is a people controller
§ Suffered abuse as a child
*I wear a mask of high self-esteem.
In myself I can clearly identify characteristics of both co- and counter-dependency. I work hard to mask all displays of co-dependence though. If you saw me on the street you would never know I was often overwhelmed by my feelings. I always appear calm, collected, and in control. You would never know I have low self-esteem because I appear very confident. I don’t admit to feelings of guilt unless it’s to my advantage. I’m a people pleaser in some respects but even when it comes to things like my obsession with cooking and feeding people this is often portrayed as my love for the art of cooking. Which to be fair, it is, however it wouldn’t be as enjoyable to me if other people didn’t enjoy what I’m cooking as well. I know I have these characteristics but I don’t show them.
I always want to appear competent and independent. Which I am. I just have all these emotional undertones that I also struggle with.
And none of this is to be confused with someone that is happily single. Some people are perfectly happy to be single, independent, and not in a relationship. I also think it’s possible to be perfectly independent in a relationship which is what I would like to find. But if you actively choose to avoid developing relationships and come up with a list of reasons why they’ll never work so you might as well not even try (Guilty!) those could very well be signs of counter-dependency.
I still haven’t explained why this might develop as a coping mechanism though…