Friday, March 26, 2010

The Triple C

In my last entry (Risky Investments - March 19) I explored possible origins for the early childhood perception that one must earn their value. Today I want to issue a challenge. How can we redirect those childhood tools, that is, the ones we used to “earn” external validation and that later developed into codependent behaviours, towards our self? How can we invest in the relationship we have with ourselves in the same way we invest in the relationships we have with others?

We all have codependent parts, it is, as Charles Whitfield states, the “human condition”. Although we don’t manifest them every day, even a person in recovery is bound to show off a few, at least, and I am being generous here, once a week. I, on the other hand, have been known to entertain them with a nice cuppa, at least once a day. As I’ve said before, we live in a codependent society, its like swimming upstream to avoid not contemplating codependence on a fairly regular basis. Yesterday, for example, sitting on the lee side of a minor bout with depression, I ambiguously waited for someone to either save me while at the same time praying everyone would just leave me alone. This is typical of my codependent parts and the hallmark for my occasional sojourns into darkness. When these parts are in control, I tend to base my emotional wellbeing on the actions or beliefs of another. I either look for a rescuer or avoid human contact altogether in a misguided attempt to find self worth in the former and safety in the latter. In both scenarios, my gaze is turned outwards, rather than within.

Today, however, I did something different. I woke up, and while a part of me wanted the sun to go find some other victim to drag out of bed, another part said, practice what you preach. And so, rather reluctantly, I started the Creative Codependent Challenge (The Triple C). I knew my codependent parts had been at the helm for the last week, I examined my behaviour and said, okay, enough. I realized that one more week of isolation alternating between Giles Blunt (murder and mayhem) and Goethe’s Faust (redemption of the soul); drinking tea (Tazo Awake); soaking in long, hot baths; and ignoring phone messages, and those belittling internal voices labeling me a failure, become a reality—its hard to make money when your life is held betwixt a book and a bathtub.

Creative Codependence, as I teach in my workshops is about incorporating those ingenious childhood tools—the ones that got our needs met—into healthy adult behaviours. Most of us do this naturally, especially those youthful tools that were successful in getting our needs met. For example, as a little girl, I created an entertainer part of myself to get positive attention. Because it was successful, I subconsciously carried it forth into adulthood: I write, teach and give presentations, sometimes in outrageous ways. I am also impulsive and, on occasion, stick a foot or two into my mouth. This part served me as a child and, for the most part, serves me today as an adult.

As a child I was also tough, independent and adventurous, or at least I pretended I was. It got me a certain amount of validation. That role also stayed with me and manifests today in several ways: I prefer to do things alone and I rarely ask for help—“I can do it myself… thank you very much”. That part can also be a self-righteous and autocratic disciplinarian that creates strict rules and, at times, unhealthy guidelines in diet and exercise.

Other successful tools included the part of me that learned to take care of others (in hopes that others took care of me) and the part of me who learned that being sick was another effective attention getting tool.

Reeling ourselves back to the sleepy haze of this morning and the burgeoning Triple C, I asked myself how I could use one of my childhood tools to get me out of this depressing miasma? I didn’t have long to wait. As soon as I asked, my tough part rather sternly said:

“Get out of bed, go for a walk.”

Trying to ignore it, only made it louder: “pull yourself together,” she said, “you’re starting to believe that negative self talk. Move!”

My caretaker quickly came in and admonished Ms Tough. She softly stated that I had needed the downtime; that it was good for me. Not wanting to be left out, my old sicky part squeaked: “yes, she did, she did.”

I let them ramble on for a bit and then, before it escalated into fisticuffs, I interjected. “Listen,” I said, “I hear you all and, in fact, agree with some of it. You have good points but,” adding dramatic pause, for greater effect, “how can I take better care of myself right now?”

“By walking,” insisted tough part.

I gave her response some thought— excess exercise can be an unhealthy coping mechanism for me. So I consulted with my caretaker parts and, after some hesitation, finally agreed. “Okay,” I said, “let’s go.”

During the walk some of my parts had a good cry with my caretaker, turning her skills inward, gently encouraging me to get it all out. (Ms Tough wisely stayed mute during this time). By the end of the walk my entertainer parts felt energized enough to sense the seeds of an article and Ms Tough, unable to withhold her tongue any longer, demanded: “Well, what are you waiting for then?” I shushed her up, somewhat fearful the cycle would begin again, and encouraged my entertainer part to show me what she could do.

The result? Not only did I feel better but I got this week’s blog written. Success on all fronts.

Now I am not going to say that’s its always this easy. Timing is an important element in these things and I truly don’t think I could have done this before today— it was just too damn dark. Then again, as my caretaker part assures me, I needed the downtime: a little bit of melancholy and quiet, intertwined with some Faustian logic. I needed to isolate so to reflect, regroup and finally, rejuvenate. I could say then, that even my few weeks of isolating was just taking care of myself using yet another childhood part. I was taking the Creative Codependent Challenge… incognito.

So, now I issue the challenge to you:

How can you redirect your childhood tools, that is, the ones you used to “earn” external validation, towards your self? How can you invest in the relationship you have with your self in the same way you invest in the relationships you have with others today?


  1. Triple C! I like it! I have only recently come across your blog -- and I am very happy to have done so. As a (recovering) codependent, I find strength and inspiration in people like you.

    You ask the perfect question: How can you invest in the relationship you have with yourself in the same way you invest in the rleationships you have with others?

    Easier asked than done! But everyday- or rather a day at a time - I am beginning to slowly understand this question.

    Keep doing what you're doing... More Power! God bless...

    Mr. JJJ

  2. Hey, thanks, Triple J! Appreciate your support. Jo-Ann

  3. you certainly have achieved as you preached.... all the voices have come together to make a fabulous relevant entertaining insightful writer... what a joy!

  4. And now I am blushing, thanks Julia!