Friday, March 19, 2010

Risky Investments

I recently gave a presentation on Creative Codependence to the Solution Focused Coaches Association. It was a dynamic evening, full of ideas and a willingness by all to explore the inner facets of life. One of the things we discussed was the loss of energy that can occur in codependent relationships.

Pietro Abela of The ARC Institute likens codependent relationships to risky investments, ones that are based on hope rather than reality, and tend to expend more energy than is received. With codependency, there is a certain expectancy that if I do “this”, I will get “that” back, but rarely does “that” fulfill the expectation. These investments have an early start, usually in childhood, and are based on the perception (real or not) that the best, and perhaps the only way, to get needs met is to do or be something for another. This could mean anything from getting good grades at school to being a bully, if that’s what gets attention, love ,validation or even safety—basic needs that prove we, as children, have the right to be.

For a child then, this is a matter of survival. This perception may not be based on reality, but if a child does not get the external validation that proves to them that they have the right to be they will feel , at some level, their survival is at stake. They will begin seeing relationships as investments: I must do or be this (whatever “this” is) to get my needs met.

The inherent error in this situation is that the child perceives that they themselves are at the root of the problem. It is not the caregiver that is negligent (however relative this is) but that the child is not up to snuff. The child begins feeling that they need to earn their value rather than that their value is a given. This earning power is analogous to that of employment: stop working and the job security that enables you to live a certain lifestyle ends; cease “earning your value” and your survival chances decrease.

Without a solid conviction that they have a right to be, children can mature into adults that feel that they have to continue proving that they are inherently okay. The irony in this, is that the same lack of inner conviction, or self-validation, will inhibit the person from accepting external love and positive attention, or demand that it come in some unattainable way. Without a basic belief in one’s “okay-ness”, no amount of external validation will be enough, making these relationship investments not only risky but shaky, indeed. We end up losing energy because the amount we expend in trying to show others that we are okay and that we have the right to be, will never balance with what we receive in return. In other words, by primarily looking for self value outside ourselves (rather than within) we lose out. Or, said another way, the depth of love that can be accepted is directly proportionate to how much we love ourselves.

The key then, and the basis for Creative Codependence, is how can we redirect the childhood tools of gaining external validation, love and acceptance, towards our self? How can we invest in the relationship we have with ourselves in the same way we invest in the relationship with others?


  1. where were you when i first got married? could have saved me years of pain and sorrow.....

  2. Hmmmm....I think I was making my own "risky investments"!