Friday, December 31, 2010

My Favorite Things

I love the musicals of Julie Andrews and the songs they engendered: Chim chiminey, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Edelweiss … “these are a few of my favorite things”. I was thinking of the latter a few weeks ago when a friend asked me what was my favorite Christmas treat. I looked at her rather dumbfounded. There was even, strange to say, a touch of nebulous fear. I begged off an answer telling her with a laugh that I had to think about it. The question moved on to others in the group and I sat amazed at how easily people answered. Why couldn’t I? I placed the original question and my quizzical response in my back pocket and didn’t reexamine it again until a few days ago. What was my favorite treat and why couldn’t I answer?

The funny thing about recovery from codependence is the way that certain codependent behaviours can unexpectedly bop you on the head even after years of working with them. Such is the case with this recent realized fear of declaring, and even knowing of, my favorite things. I would never had thought of it as codependent until I sat with it in all its glory ─ a nicely disguised bit of bopping.

With codependence there is a lack of value or even respect placed on our intrinsic being-ness; we transfer that value onto other people or things. What we do, who we know, and what we possess becomes more important than who we are. In this climate of externalizing our value there can be a fear of loss, especially of that which lies outside of us. In an abusive (and, ultimately codependent) relationship, for example, the abused person may fear losing connection to the abuser more than they care about self preservation. This can also be seen in how we relate to our career or money ─ we may actually put ourselves at risk in order to preserve the connection to another person, object or belief.

If I look at my reluctance to name my “favorite things” from a codependent perspective, I understand the nebulous fear that crept into my thoughts. To name these things lay the possibility for potential loss of the same and judgment of who I am for liking them.

Let’s go first with the fear of losing that treasure. I can subdivide that fear into boundary and scarcity issues. Boundaries, specifically disrespected ones, are at the root of many codependent behaviours. For example, if a child’s opinions are denigrated; emotions ridiculed; privacy denied; or the physical body hurt, the child may be inclined to suppress or deny their thoughts and feelings as an unconscious way to safeguard them ─ one cannot lose what one does not acknowledge. My confusion in naming my favorite things may have been an unconscious way of protecting myself and that which I like, a coping strategy I learned in youth.

As for scarcity, the fear of loss becomes extreme when it is paired with a feeling that there is not (or never) enough. This never enough feeling can include love, food, creativity, and support, but it motivates the person in fear to hold on tight to whatever they have. If I name my favorite thing, the fear is that it may be taken away, ridiculed or hurt and I will be left alone as nothing will be there to take it’s place. One way to hold on tight is to deny, consciously or not, what I love so no one can take it away.

Looking at judgment, I feel that many people with active codependent parts have grown up in critical environments and have either taken on the negative judgment and/or believe it is the basis for everyone else’s behaviour. Expressing a favorite thing, therefore, potentially opens me up to not only internal criticism ─ “what a stupid thing to love” ─ but external criticism as well, especially if the thing we love is childish, fattening or out of fashion.

Loss and judgment are generally not life and death issues to an adult but they can be, or at least perceived to be, to a child and the thing we must remember is that our codependent parts are usually formed in childhood. I know, as an adult, that I can declare my favorite things and be fine with whatever arises. I know that no one has the right to take them away, deny me or denigrate me for my desires but I also know that if they did, I would survive. However, as I discovered a few weeks ago, my codependent parts are not as confident in that belief. When asked about my favorite Christmas treats my codependent parts took control and, as a result, I froze.

So, I have devised a plan. Every day, maybe once a day, maybe twice, perhaps three times, I will declare a favorite thing. I will imitate a healthy, well-loved and secure little girl who when asked what her favorite thing is yells out that it is chocolate chip cookies only to change it, seconds later, to vanilla ice cream and then golden haired puppy dogs in the next breath. I will be fearless in my tastes, allowing them to change with the wind, from fanciful and unobtainable to ones I can reach into the cupboard and grab. I will take my fear by the hand and allow her to state what she most desires yet is most scared to ask for. In this way, I continue my recovery.

Happy New Year!


  1. Interesting thoughts! I never thought that the fear of declaring one's likes and dislikes was a co-dependent behaviour - a good thing to reflect on.
    By the way - what is your favourite Christmas treat? I always loved Chinese Chews and Caroling door-to-door!

  2. Well, its not necessarily a codependent behaviour but it is for me for the reasons mentioned above. (The thing to keep in mind about codependence is how it manifests so uniquely in each one of us). And, while I read your comment another thought came up about what could hinder the "favourite thing" response -- the right to be. If you dont feel you have the right to be, you wont feel you have the right to treasured items... more on that later.

    As for my favourite Christmas treat, I would say, right today, this moment, it would have to be gingerbread men. Yummmy!

    Happy New Year, Bonnie-Bee!