By: Tarpley M. Long, LCSW
Over the ten years I have worked with ACOAs and other codependents, my clients have presented me with an almost bewildering array of problems. Despite their diversity, however, a number of unifying themes have emerged.
Most codependents grew up in families in which basic human feelings such as anger and hate were denied, but negative and destructive behavior was tolerated. A major goal in therapy is to reverse this, so that feelings are accepted and acknowledged, but destructive behavior is controlled.
The denial of feelings takes a tremendous toll on children. ACOAs and other codependents seek treatment because they feel bad. This "feeling bad" translates into either anxiety: a state of fearing some calamity will occur in the future, so one's present circumstances seem dangerous, or depression: a sense that something terrible has already occurred and one's current state of misery and suffering is the result.
Like all clients, the codependent wants relief from anxiety and depression and wants life to be different. Some basic shifts in attitudes and behavior are necessary if therapy is to be considered effective. Here are three shifts that most ACOAs must make in order to change their lives:
The shift from "workaholic" to creative worker.
The shift from people pleasing and compliance to an
The shift from clingy, fearful child to independent adult capable of parenting a child.The successfully treated individual possesses both the confidence and willingness to manage an emotional life. It naturally follows then that there is a new ability to transmit to off-spring an attitude of excitement over knowing all about one's feeling life, as well as the pleasure derived from the knowledge that one can control one's self in the face of even intense emotional stirrings.
Tarpley M. Long, LCSW, is a therapist in private practice in Washington, D.C. and a NACoA Founder.