Thursday, April 5, 2012

What causes Counter Dependency?

I found most of this information from Barry and Janae Weinhold articles on the subject. I liked this as well because they also talk about trying to heal yourself from it.

“So, what causes counter-dependent behaviors? A failure to fully complete the two most important developmental processes of early childhood: secure bonding and emotional separation. When not completed at the appropriate age, they drive adults to addictions, recurring conflicts, problems with closeness and intimacy, victimization by others, and unfulfilling and unsuccessful relationships. From birth to about three years of age, all children need help in completing the processes of bonding and separation.
Secure bonding with parents and others, which usually starts at birth, allows children to develop a sense of basic trust and safety. It involves a deep attunement between parents and children that includes lots of physical contact, holding and nurturing touch, and giving the child pleasant reassuring messages. Children need to know they are loved for who they are and to feel wanted by their parents.
Secure bonding also provides a solid foundation for children as they to begin to separate physically and emotionally and allows them to gradually move away from mother and father, exploring their world safely and securely and learning to become emotionally autonomous human beings. Children also need guidance and support in order to become emotionally separate from their parents. More secure the parent-child bond, the easier it is for children to become emotionally separate. Ideally, children should be emotionally separated from their parents by about age three.
What happens during early childhood that interferes with emotional separation? Our clinical research, which we write about in our book, The Flight From Intimacy, indicates that the most common cause of co-dependent and counter-dependent behaviors is developmental trauma caused by subtle disconnects between parent and child that prevent or disrupt emotional attunement during the first three years of life. If these early disconnects are not recognized and addressed, they eventually create patterns of isolation and disengagement that cause people to fear intimacy as adults.
Although people often don’t remember many of these early traumas, they are visible in their relationship histories. Emotional abuse by a parent or other adult can include withdrawal of love, verbal abuse, a lack of understanding or respect for the needs of the child, and attempts to over-control the child’s activities. Strong adult indicators of undetected childhood developmental traumas include fractured relationships, abusing others, depression, divorce and addictions. Adults who were physically or sexually abused as children have difficulty being close to others. With physical abandonment, something tangible happened. Emotional and spiritual abandonment or neglect are more difficult to recognize because the parent was physically present but emotionally absent. They neglected to support the child’s emotional needs for touch, holding, and comfort. While subtle forms of abandonment or neglect are more difficult to identify, they leave deep scars just the same.

People with counter-dependent behaviors generally have problems with intimacy because their emotional needs were not met as children. Eliminating counter-dependent behaviors requires that people lower their protective wall of defenses around early wounds and learn skills that help them experience authentic intimacy. “
My mom and my aunt have told me many stories about me growing up that demonstrate how I hated to be left alone, hated going to bed, hated falling asleep alone, hated leaving. I don’t think I was every abused emotionally or otherwise, but there may have been some unintentional neglect. My parents in an attempt to always make sure that one or the other parent would always be home with us had a schedule where my dad would work during the day, while my mom was home with us but asleep (though still there if we needed anything), and when my mom went to work our dad would be home with us when we slept. As a result I know my connection to my mother is very weak because she wasn’t as prominent in my early memories. My father being a product of an abusive military home also didn’t have a very good idea of how to deal with a small childs emotions and failed to understand and support my emotional development or needs and generally dismissed them. My parents definitely over-controlled our day to day activities. We had an extremely full and structured sport, club, and instrumental agenda 6 days of the week. I don’t think my parents meant anything harmful by any of this. Hell, I doubt they ever realized it would affect me like this. We all reacted to this differently. Regardless, it still affected me pretty adversely.  

“We found that healing trauma in relationships requires redefining intimacy to include the conflicts and struggles that are a part of the healing process. This means telling the truth about who you really are, what your needs are, sharing power, finding soul-evolving solutions to all conflicts and being willing to openly share your life with your partner on many levels: mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical. Authentic intimacy involves seeing your partner as a complete and separate person with some traits you like and some traits you don’t like. It requires negotiating with your partner to meet your needs for closeness and separateness. Most importantly, it requires being willing to ask for what you want one hundred percent of the time.
Once you expand your definition of intimacy to include healing each other, your relationships will shift dramatically. You’ll find more opportunities for intimacy that help you create an intimate partnership relationship.”

I like this idea of redefining intimacy. It’s something I’ve been working on in therapy, though without that specific description of my path. It’s not easy though. I’m learning to express what I need more often and to enforce the {few} boundaries that are actually important to me. And surprisingly, they’ve never produced the detrimental effects I thought they would. Learning to accept that I’m not perfect and that some conflict is not only okay, but healthy, is definitely a new experience. I have no illusions that I’ll be able to do this properly every time, but I’m trying. It even seems to be working.


  1. this series of posts has definitely made me pause & do some self-examination. This does a good job of explaining bits of me *to* me, if that makes sense....

    my dad being deployed to Viet-Nam when I was around a year old even fits the profile....

    Of course, my case of counter-dependency is probably pretty mild. Now I know & knowing is half the battle. (the other half involves red lasers & blue lasers)....

  2. Yup being aware makes a huge difference. Not just running on subconscious programs.

    We are doing great! :)

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  4. Turk you are insane get a hold of yourself
    and haven thank you for another amazing eye-opening post!

  5. An eye opening post! Nice to rationalise me to me! Many thanks

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