Codependency: Walking on Eggshells


‘Codependency’ is a psychological artifact whereby one human being bases her or his mood, plans, or behaviors upon what another human being does, says, is, does not do, does not say, or is not. This, like most things, exists on a spectrum and is not binary: we are not either codependent or not-codependent; instead, we are codependent to different degrees with each of those whom we consider more than acquaintances. Likewise, they are codependent on us to different degrees. Only at a certain point on this spectrum does codependence become pathological. Pathology occurs either when the codependent person is emotionally or behaviorally debilitated by the actions or omissions of the person upon whom she or he is codependent, or when the object of the codependence is forced to lash out at the codependent person to establish space or reset boundaries, due to the codependent person’s pathological encroachment.

We are all codependent to one degree or another. We are social animals. If another person comes up and slaps us, chances are we will be immensely affected by the action of the other person. But if someone instead merely insults us verbally — “my aren’t you one big fat fuck there, Jelly Roll?” — chances are most of us will be affected, but less of us than those affected by the outright physical assault, and likely to a lesser degree. Some of us are enlightened enough to embrace the fact that we are big fat fucks and to be jolly as a Jelly Roll about it.

On and on down the line of possible actions or omissions and possible responses. If she forgets my birthday, must I cry for two days? Why does she have this power over me?

We can place the marker for what is a pathologically codependent personality somewhere on the spectrum of allowing other persons’ actions and omissions to affect us. Those of us on the ‘normal’ side of the marker will not generally allow our moods, plans, or behaviors to be affected by social stimuli, or the absence of expected stimuli, that fall within the everyday range of subjectively-perceived human shittiness, rudeness, meanness, flakiness, irresponsibility, or unaccountability. Faced with such stimuli, a ‘normal’ person will just shrug and go back to whatever endeavors interest or motivate her or him.

(“Fuck it Dude, let’s go bowling.”)

On the ‘abnormal,’ or pathologically codependent, side of the marker, however, the ‘abnormal’ person acts differently. She or he becomes socially toxic when faced with subjectively-perceived (whether correct or not) human shittiness, rudeness, meanness, flakiness, irresponsibility, or unaccountability by the object of her or his codependence. The codependent person thinks, unjustifiably, that she or he is owed something by the other person. This is different than a justifiable, material debt; it is instead a psychological, imagined one. The codependent person will lash out at whomever has dealt her or him the perceived (usually trifling) injustice, or at whomever has failed to deliver to her or him some unreasonably-expected set of behaviors.

This is absolutely fucked. Try your best to fall on the normal side of the codependency marker. There are few things worse in the social world than dealing with a person codependent upon you for her or his own personal emotional or psychological homeostasis.

You can tell someone is codependent upon you by applying a simple ‘eggshells’ test: if it feels like you are constantly walking on eggshells while interacting with someone — such that if you make one wrong step the whole interaction could crack into a shitty mess — you are likely dealing with someone codependent upon you. That is an impossible role to fulfill. No matter how delicate your step, you will eventually crack the eggshells, and there will eventually be a shitty mess.

‘Normal’ persons simply go about their days in ways that makes sense to themselves. They are the owners of their own lives and choices: what to do and what not to do; what to be and what not to be. We get but one short life. We ought to optimize that life and be afforded the space to do so. Others, pathologically codependent upon us, may try to stop us from doing so due to their own pathology. For ‘normal’ persons, having someone codependent upon them is like having vicious hooks in their flesh. Vicious, blameful hooks, dragging the ‘normal’ person to a less optimal state for someone else’s pathological ends. This is tiresome and harmful.

“Capitalism” In Eight-Hundred Years

When we hear the noun “Feudalism,” we think of an outdated socioeconomic system, which was replaced by later systems, because it was sub-optimal for human flourishing in various ways. If we are mentally plastic enough to identify a past socioeconomic system as sub-optimal, flawed, and something that can be (and should be) doffed and replaced, why do we have such difficulty doing that with our own current system?

Eight-hundred (800) years from now, the distance between the height of “Feudalism” and the present moment, one of two outcomes will have occurred if the climatologists are correct:

(1) human flourishing will have been extremely diminished, if not annihilated, by the effects the current socioeconomic system, called “Capitalism,” had on the environment. Surely, the Earth will recover many times over after humans are gone, clearing the stage for later apex predators. The question is: will humans even reign for a few-hundred-thousand years? This would be a paltry fraction of the dinosaurs, who ruled for well over one-hundred million; or

(2) the socioeconomic system called “Capitalism,” like “Feudalism” before it, will be a curiosity in the history books. A sub-optimal arrangement that led to rank inequality, brutality, inhumanity, and the despoiling of the ecosystem, which had been long since replaced by something better (if itself not optimal). If humans are indeed to be flourishing eight-hundred (800) years from now, one aspect of the future socioeconomic arrangement will be that it is environmentally sustainable enough to preserve such flourishing.

If we are mentally plastic enough to conceive of other socioeconomic arrangements as brutal, destructive, and deleterious, why do why have so much trouble doing the same with the one under which we presently suffer? Why do we strangely treat mere current norms and practices as immutable rules?

Hieronymus Bosch - The Conjurer

My Parents Are Liars

When I was a small child, my parents intentionally mislead my still-forming gray matter into believing a preposterous untruth. They informed me — knowing deep down all along what they were saying was false — that a special kind of being was always watching over me, always with me, and taking assiduous interest in my little life. He apparently lived in a clean, white, distant place and was monitoring my moral behavior with omniscient perspicuity. This man was not bound by normal earthly physics, and could disregard them at will. He was immensely powerful and omnipresent. And this man would reward moral behavior handsomely, while at the same time punishing the immoral with bituminous rock capable of intense, fiery burning. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized I’d been defrauded. But I held no malice towards my parents for perpetuating this metaphysical myth. They knew no better, because their own parents had similarly defrauded them, when they were themselves children. And on and on. For no reason, other than the nonsense got started in the past, and inertia, and the human propensity toward the preternatural. But in fact, Santa Claus does not exist.

A Special Kind of Fall

My favorite quote from The Catcher in the Rye (1951) is a psychological assessment of Holden Caulfield by his teacher, Mr. Antolini.  Mr. Antolini thinks Holden is heading for “a special kind of fall”:

I have a feeling that you’re riding for some kind of a terrible, terrible fall. But I don’t honestly know what kind . . . . Are you listening to me? . . . It may be the kind where, at the age of thirty, you sit in some bar hating everybody who comes in looking as if he might have played football in college . . . . Or you may end up in some business office, throwing paper clips at the nearest stenographer. This fall I think you’re riding for — it’s a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man falling isn’t permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps falling and falling. The whole arrangement’s designed for men who, at some time or other in their lives, were looking for something their own environment couldn’t supply them with. Or they thought their own environment couldn’t supply them with. So they gave up looking. They gave up before they even got started.

–Mr. Antolini

The Two Understandable Moralities

The only two moralities I’ve ever understood were those of the Jain sect, and of Peter Singer. The first draws the line at ‘everything alive.’ The orthodox practitioners actually carry a broom about and sweep in front of their steps, in a symbolic attempt to not step upon even microscopic life forms. A little untenable in modern, non-hermetic life.

The second draws the line at ‘everything human.’ It finds fault and violence in mere inaction. By not helping when we know there is suffering, even somewhere foreign and distant, we are not behaving morally. But, as we know from all the social sciences, we are a tribal species, and what is most proximate and genetically-related and self-narratively important concerns us most. Our concerns are circumscribed by our limitations. This is the essence of ‘tribalism,’ or in other cases, ‘egoism.’ Freud — holla!

There is no end to this story. Thank you for tuning in.

♥ Sterling —

TEDTalk Fail

I watched a TEDTalk by some military General who said the most important thing you can do is ‘make your bed when you wake up each day.’ Something about setting each day in order, setting the tone, routine, or something. So I did. I got up, I made the fucking bed. I’m about to unmake it in a pile of Mighty Taco, too, but that’s a tangent. So I made the bed. And I proceeded to subsequently have the worst day I’ve had in a year. Ergo, TEDTalks is Communist bullshit. Jalapeno Poppers, tho —

Hypocritical Humanity and Jesus Bullshit

Can anyone show me a single human being that is not hypocritical? In my mind, I ran through a quick ad hoc list of supposedly principled persons:

Gandhi (wife beater);

Martin Luther King, Jr. (wife cheater);

Mother Teresa (checked into the finest of western hospitals when ill, while requiring austerity and prayer to ‘heal’ the poor she ‘helped’);

Ron Paul (editor of racist newsletters);

Jesus of Nazareth (compare Matthew 5:22 to Matthew 7:26);

Saint Reagan (doubling the national debt while calling for small government); and

Ayn Rand (suckler upon the public teat).

So, in our rhetoric, why do we so often strive for the conclusion ‘he/she/you/they are a hypocrit?’ If *every human being* is, by nature, hypocritical, this is a completely useless and unenlightening conclusion. And it serves to immediately distract from the actual content being discussed. I do believe we might be a nation of fools.

Myself included. I’m not trying to be a hypocrit here. But I will be going to hell. And if you read the Jesus bullshit I pointed you to, you’ll know why.

You Wake Up

You wake up. Everything is strange. You don’t much remember who you are, or what role you are to play, but you know something must be done. Something must be done because you *exist*. It could be anything, anything at all — governed, of course, by the rules of existence as they are presented to you — but within that, a truly shuffled deck. Holy fuck! You exist! (For now, at least, and now is much too brief.) So what are you going to do!?

Why Pharmaceutical Commercials Exist

It occurred to me the other day, after seeing a dozen-or-so prescription pharmaceutical advertisements on television in short order: why do prescription pharmaceutical advertisements for consumers exist? One cannot obtain such a prescription without first speaking to a prescribing physician, who will learn of one’s condition, and presumably rely upon many years of medical school and experience to prescribe a pharm, if deemed medically necessary.

So it follows that it is only doctors themselves who need to know about our current lineup of medicines. (And boy are docs indeed solicited aggressively, as I understand it.) So why the expensive constant stream of consumer advertisements, for something consumers can neither buy outright nor acquire without a (solicited) doc’s John Hancock?

I can only see one reason: like advertisements for Disneyland and McDonald’s Happy Meals, which are geared towards children who cannot directly effect either purchase themselves, the point is to induce the child to badger Mommy and Daddy enough that the child gets the Happy Meal. Or, in this case, induce the medically-ignorant consumer to badger Doc until the ignorantly coveted pharm is prescribed, providing a return-on-investment for some strange third party. So pharma’s entire advertising strategy is to treat the American populous as badgerous children.

America: side effects may include being treated as a human dollar sign by investor enterprises clothed in limited liability, including but not limited to pharma, health care, education, and prisons, in which the profit motive perverts and ruins humanity.