Monday, March 17, 2008

Separating Codependence from Love Addiction

Separating Codependence from Love Addiction

Excerpted from Pia Mellody's book- Facing Love Addiction. You can get audio tapes of her workshops here. The operative word here is 'workshops'...Her work is definitely about repair, rebuilding and relief of painful symptoms! To the point and useful!

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CHAPTER 1 Separating Codependence from Love Addiction

A Love Addict is someone who is dependent on, enmeshed with, and compulsively focused on taking care of another person. While this is often described as codependence, I feel that codependence is a much broader and more fundamental problem area. Although being a codependent can lead some people into love addiction, not all codependents are Love Addicts, as we shall see.


Codependence is a Disease of immaturity caused by childhood trauma. Codependents are immature or childish to such a degree that the condition hampers their life. A disease process, according to Diland's Medical Dictionary, is "a definite morbid process having a characteristic chain of symptoms. It may affect the whole body or any of the parts, and its etiology (or cause), pathology, and prognosis may be known or unknown." I call the chain of symptoms that characterizes codependence the core or primary symptoms, and they describe how codependents are unable to be in a healthy relationship with themselves. These are the primary, or core, symptoms of codependence:

1. Difficulty experiencing appropriate levels of self-esteem, that is to say, difficulty loving the self.

2. Difficulty setting functional boundaries with other people, that is to say, difficulty protecting oneself.

3. Difficulty owning one's own reality appropriately, that is to say, difficulty identifying who one is and knowing how to share that appropriately with others.

4. Difficulty addressing interdependently one's adult needs and wants, that is to say, difficulty with self-care.

5. Difficulty experiencing and expressing one's reality in moderation, that is to say, difficulty being appropriate for one's age and various circumstances.*

In addition to these, there are also five secondary symptoms that reflect how codependents think other people's behavior is the reason they are unable to be in healthy relationships. The inaccurate thinking represented by these secondary symptoms creates problems in a codependent's relationships with
others, but these symptoms stem from the core problem, which is the bruised relationship with the self.

These five symptoms are

(1) negative control

(2) resentment

(3) impaired spirituality

(4) addictions, or mental or physical illness

(5) difficulty with intimacy.


Codependents either (1) try to control others by telling them who they ought to be so the codependents can be comfortable; or (2) allow others to control the codependents by dictating who they should be to keep others comfortable.
Either form of negative control sets up negative responses in the person being controlled, and these negative responses cause the codependents to blame others for their own inability to be internally comfortable with themselves.


Codependents use resentment as a futile way to try to protect themselves and regain self-esteem. When people are victimized, they experience two things rather intensely: a drop in self-esteem, preciousness, or value, and a profound need to find some way to stop the victimization.

Anger gives people a sense of power and energy. In healthy amounts anger provides the strength to do what is needed to protect oneself. But when we recycle the anger and combine it with an obsession about punishing the offender or getting revenge, we enter into resentment. Whether or not we actually carry out any real punishment or revenge, resentment includes the desire for it. Resentment debilitates the codependent because of the process of replaying the victimization in our minds, which brings on painful emotions such as shame, unexpressed or poorly expressed anger, and depressive frustration. Resentment plays a key part in the way codependents' lives are hampered by blaming others for their own inability to protect themselves with healthy boundaries.


Codependents either make someone else their Higher Power through hate, fear, or worship, or attempt to be another's Higher Power. Whether or not the codependent is aware that this is happening, this secondary symptom can be quite painful or damaging to the health and functional development of the codependent.


Our ability to face reality is directly related to our ability to have a healthy relationship with ourself, which means loving the self, protecting the self, identifying the self, caring for the self, and moderating the self.

Living out of such a healthy, centered relationship with the self allows us to face the reality of who we are, who others are, who the Higher Power in our lives is, and the reality of our current situation. Developing these abilities and perceptions is the core of recovery from codependence.
But when we do not acquire a functional internal relationship and sense of adequacy, the pain that results inside of us and in our relationships with others and with our Higher Power often leads us into an addictive process to alleviate the pain quickly.

I suggest, therefore, that a person with an addiction is probably also a codependent; and conversely, a codependent most likely has one or more addictive or obsessive/compulsive processes. This secondary symptom, then, is the primary link between codependence and any other addiction -particularly love addiction. While experiencing the often unrecognized internal pain of the failure of the relationship with the self, and blaming others for this failure, the Love Addict turns to a certain kind of close relationship, believing the other person can and should soothe the Love Addict's internal pain through giving unconditional love and attention and taking care of the Love Addict.


Intimacy involves sharing our own reality and receiving the reality of others without either party judging that reality or trying to change it.
Codependents with the core symptom of difficulty identifying who they are (their reality) and sharing appropriately cannot be intimate in a healthy way, since intimacy means sharing their reality. Without the sharing of healthy intimacy codependents cannot check out their immature perceptions and they continue to have painful problems in their relationships with others.


Because so many people are codependent and have one or more addictions, the question of which should be dealt with first often arises. It seems to me that powerful addictions that medicate and camouflage reality make it difficult for people to deal with codependence, since codependence recovery involves learning to face reality with increasing maturity.

There seems to be at least four such powerful reality-bluffing addictive processes that need to be dealt with (if they are operating in someone's life) before a person can effectively deal with codependence. These four addictions are:

. alcohol and drug addiction

. sex addiction

. severe gambling disorder

. severe eating disorders (severe anorexia, bulemia, or overeating) at a near-lethal level

At some point in the recovery process of the core symptoms of codependence, a person's denial about any other addictions, if such addictions are operating, cracks. In some instances, people become aware that they have switched addictions. For example, Joe, a recovering alcoholic, may gain forty pounds and realize that instead of beer he is addicted to ice cream. He has developed a food addiction. In other cases, an addiction has been operating all along, but as recovery progresses people become increasingly able to tolerate facing reality (core symptom three) so that the addiction can now be identified. Gwen, for example, who was a recovering anorexic, eventually became aware that she had all too frequently been overdrawn at the bank, charged up to the limit on her credit cards, or in need of frequent loans from friends or parents to help her make ends meet. Gwen's recovery from codependence now allows her to tolerate acknowledging her spending addiction. For whatever reason, people often recognize other addictions that need treatment. Examples of such addictions include:

love addiction

eating disorders that aren't lethal at the moment (which I call "fat" serenity)

work addiction

debting, spending addiction

religious addiction

nicotine addiction

caffeine addiction


Love addiction, therefore, is an addiction that often becomes visible to the codependent only after some work has been done on the core symptoms of codependence. Addressing love addiction can be emotionally very destabilizing because the resistance to facing the denial and delusion around this condition is particularly strong.

The painful patterns of difficulty I have encountered in love addiction are exhibited in relationships made up of two people, each of whom has certain distinct characteristics. One party is focused on the partner and the relationship; and the other tries to avoid intimate connection within the relationship, usually through some addiction. I call the former a Love Addict and the latter an Avoidance Addict. * The relationship they form I call a co-addicted relationship.

Co-addictions are often husband-wife relationships, but the problem can exist within almost any real or fantasized two-party relationship: parent-child, friend-friend, counselor-client, boss-employee, or a fantasized relationship between an individual and a public figure or popular idol such as Elvis Presley (whom the Love Addict may never have met personally).

A co-addicted relationship is not based on healthy love, but on extreme positive and negative intensity. The Love Addict in particular may experience obsessive and compulsive feelings, thinking, and behavior with regard to the relationship, along with intense emotions including anger, fear, hate, and lust, and so-called love for the other person. In the next chapter we'll examine the characteristics of the Love Addict in more detail.


Next Page=>

Facing Love Addiction: Giving Yourself the Power to Change the Way You Love: The Love Connection to Codependence

Copyright 2003 unless explicitly
denoted as copyrighted by others. All rights reserved.
Contact: David Bruce Jr.
Frederick Maryland
240 315-1515

This article is for informational purposes only.
Please contact a licensed professional in your area
if you are in crisis or require mental health services

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