In this final session, I would like to mention briefly the connection between codependency and one's developmental environment. We've been reflecting on the connection between Critical Parent beliefs, the wounded Inner Child, and codependent behavior. Obviously, these beliefs and woundings were inflicted upon us in a developmental environment of some kind -- especially family and school. But here we ask just what it was about those environments that made them unhealthy?
Chapter 2 in "Freedom from Codependency" is entitled, "The Shame Game." In that chapter, I review the characteristics of troubled families and the survival roles family members gravitate to. I won't copy them here; you can find them in the chapter. Here's a suggested exercise. Look over those 8 characteristics and 6 survival roles. Consider your own family growing up. How many of those characteristics describe your family? What kind of role do you think you took on?
One thing I know is that it isn't easy to do an exercise like this one. If your family was very unhealthy, it might seem too painful to go over those characteristics and remember how they hurt you. Taking this approach can be healing, however, as it helps you to recognize the part that was dysfunctional. It's also helpful because in far too many instances, we re-create those dynamics in our own families and other communities. The more conscious we are of what went on and what we're doing now, the easier it will be to choose to act another way.
Same goes for survival roles. Did you get "stuck" in a Caretaker or Hero role at an early age, for example? Perhaps another role? How has your identity been tied to this role? Can you see how you have perpetuated this role into your adult life? Maybe even ministry? Chapter 7 deals with the latter, but I'll only mention it in passing at this point.
Seeing how our developmental environment wound us up for unhealthy roles and behaviors is hard work . . . sometimes long-suffering, as well. Many people who undertake this pathway to healing need extra help and support along the way. Don't hesitate to seek out the assistance of a counselor or support group if the going gets too tough. You had no choice about the environment you were born into, and it wasn't your fault if you came out of it wounded. It is your responsibility, however, to care for your own life, even your own healing, and to make every effort to provide a healthier developmental place for others. Doing so is part of our healing; that's the magic of Step 12 of the Twelve Steps, where we are told to "practice these principles in all our affairs."
Dysfunctional Family Patterns
Dysfunctional Familys: Overcoming their Effects
Roles in Dysfunctional Families
The Road to Recovery
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