"We are all carrying around repressed
pain, terror, shame, and rage energy from our childhoods, whether it was
twenty years ago or fifty years ago. We have this grief energy within
us even if we came from a relatively healthy family, because this society
is emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional.
When someone "pushes your buttons," he/she
is activating that stored, pressurized grief energy. She/he is gouging
the old wounds, and all of the newer wounds that are piled on top of those
original wounds by our repeating behavior patterns."
"We, in our Codependence, have radar systems
which cause us to be attracted to, and attract to us, the people, who for
us personally, are exactly the most untrustworthy (or unavailable or smothering
or abusive or whatever we need to repeat our patterns) individuals - exactly
the ones who will 'push our buttons.'"
Codependence: The Dance
of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney
As long as we have not healed our childhood
wounds then there are a lot more than two people involved in our relationships.
There may only be two people in the room - but the room is also full of the
ghosts of all of our past emotional wounds. Until we start clearing
our emotional process of the buttons/triggers that throw us into the past,
we are not capable of being honest in the now. When we react in the
now out of old wounds and old tapes we are being emotionally dishonest with
ourselves and our partners.
The way the dynamic in a dysfunctional relationship
works is in a "come here" - "go away" cycle. When one person is available
the other tends to pull away. If the first person becomes unavailable
the other comes back and pleads to be let back in. When the first
becomes available again then the other eventually starts pulling away again.
It happens because our relationship with self is not healed. As long
as I do not love myself then there must be something wrong with someone who
loves me - and if someone doesn't love me than I have to prove I am worthy
by winning that person back. On some level we are trying to earn the
love of our unavailable parent(s) to prove to ourselves that we are worthy
What is normal and natural in romantic relationships
in this society is for a person whose primary fear is abandonment to get
involved with someone whose primary fear is being smothered/losing self.
The person with abandonment fears reacts to shows of independence on the part
of the other as if the other were abandoning them. That causes them
to become more needy and clinging - which causes the other person to pull
away - which causes the first person to cling more - which causes the other
to pull away more. Eventually the person with abandonment fears gets
angry and disgusted and pulls back into themselves - which to the other makes
it safe to come back and plead to be let back in. And after a short
honeymoon period the dance can start all over again.
"Wait a minute!" you are probably saying
if you read my last article in this series (codependent & counterdependent
behaviors), "you said at the end of your last article, that both the codependent
and counterdependent types of behavior were reactions to fear of abandonment."
That is true. The codependent type
of behavior is an attempt to overcome the core belief that we are unworthy
and unlovable by working real hard to earn love from another. The
more a classic codependent feels they are being abandoned the harder they
The counterdependent is someone who is so
convinced of their core unworthiness that their defense is to not open themselves
up enough to admit they need another because they are sure they will be abandoned
if anyone else sees who they really are (I used to feel if I ever truly opened
up to someone, they would run away screaming in horror at my shameful being.)
So, they abandon before they can be abandoned (this includes abandoning themselves
by being attracted to people who are unavailable - saves them from taking
Both types of behavior are dysfunctional
and self defeating. Codependents are drawn to people who will abandon
them (this abandonment does not have to be physical - it can be emotional
so that the relationship continues but the codependent person has to settle
for crumbs instead of truly getting their needs met.) Counterdependents
let down their guard once every 5 years or so and let in someone who will
perfectly betray and abandon them in order to prove that they were right
in the first place to not open up to people.
It is very boring and incredibly painful
to keep repeating dysfunctional relationship patterns. The way to
stop repeating those patterns is to start healing the wounds that we suffered
in childhood. A big part of this process is awakening to the reality
that it is not our fault that our relationships haven't worked out.
We were set up to fail to get our needs met in relationships by the unhealthy
environments we grew up in, by the dysfunctional and dishonest definitions
and role modeling that we experienced. We were powerless to do things
any differently than we did them until we started to examine our patterns
and discover the ways in which our childhood experiences have been running
One of the most important steps in learning
what Love really is - in starting to Love ourselves in healthy ways - is
to start working on forgiving ourselves for being little kids who were wounded
by being raised by people who were wounded when they were little kids.