Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


There is a lot of research online about a dysfunctional system of "communicating" called codependency.

Unfortunately a lot of what is written isn't explained in a way regular folks can understand. One of my actors asked that I give it a whirl on ye olde bloge so y'all can understand it clearly, so here goes:

If you edit yourself when you speak to someone because you are *sure* he or she will react in a specific way and you want to avoid that reaction? That's co-dependent.

Meaning, if what you say depends on how you believe the other person will respond? That's co-dependent.

It's based in fear - and loss of control.

Here's an example:

You decide not to tell your husband that dinner isn't ready when he comes home because you are sure he will be angry and verbally abuse you. So you create a story about where you've been that prevented you from cooking; or you have an order-in on its way for a reason you've conjured that you're sure he'll believe.

That's fear and control-based. You don't tell him the truth because you're afraid he'll be angry and you won't be able to control his reaction or the situation when or if he does actually get mad.

Fear of loss of control - the belief you won't be able to deal with the other person's (assumed) response is immediately followed by the fear that you won't be able to control the other person's (assumed) response.

Trouble is, if you're behaving this way with someone whose response is actually not predictable to you - you're assuming how the other person will respond and that is not the way they would respond at all.

But you still believe you're handling the situation by manipulating it in a way that leaves you in control. Which means that the relationship is actually based on dishonesty - yours.

You're busy manipulating and trying to control something you may not have to manipulate or control at all because you're dealing with someone who is healthy, truthful and respectful. Which leaves your partner thoroughly confused when the truth of your deceptions emerges - and the truth always emerges, sooner or later.

And you may become angry when you discover the person you've manipulated isn't anything like you assumed and imagined he or she is. You've been dealing with a mirage - someone you created rather than someone who actually exists. That's the very serious consequence of codependent behavior.

If you're afraid to tell the simple truth? If you find yourself editing what you want to tell someone for fear there will be serious repercussions?

You may want to ask yourself why you can't tell a simple truth; why you edit yourself because you're afraid of not being able to handle the other person's reactions; why you may want to manipulate a situation to (in your mind) "please" someone.

The point is not to clobber someone with the truth; it's to be able to tell the truth compassionately without fear, without the need to control the relationship or situation.

When you feel you are capable of handling anyone's response to what you say, no matter what that response is?

You are stepping away from the deceit of codependency.

The only thing telling the truth should depend on is your wish to communicate clearly in order to advance understanding and therefore the relationship.

If there is outright fear of your physical or mental well-being by telling the truth, it's time to get help.

Meanwhile, again, this is the explanation that can help you be a healthier person with good relationships.

For writers and actors developing a codependent character?

You want to figure out why the character *needs* to control the other person or situation, why s/he *must* lie and manipulate, and how s/he has the *right* to keep (mis)behaving as s/he does in a dysfunctional relationship, and why the character believes s/he is always right, no matter how wrong the behavior is in reality.

This is true whether the character's partner in crime is also dysfunctional or is the picture of health!


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