Read Romans 5:3-5. Notice that God cares about our suffering, not just our sin (v. 3). Notice that God recognizes the difficult journey you are on. Notice that God sees that shame is the most difficult obstacle, often even more difficult than the direct cause of suffering itself, on that journey (v. 5).
This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Codependency” seminar. This portion is an excerpt from “Step Three: UNDERSTAND the impact of my suffering.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events.
At this stage in our journey we need to name patterns as well as recognize unhealthy moments. If we only recognize unhealthy moments, we will treat each moment as if it were an island. When we begin to recognize patterns, we can better understand the importance and difficulty of changing each moment that reinforces the pattern.
Imagine trying to learn a new skill (i.e., how to drive). It shouldn’t be that hard. Now imagine trying to re-learn that skill in a new system (i.e., traffic patterns in England where “they drive on the wrong side of the road”). We can now see why the things we are about to discuss are so hard to change. Now imagine trying to make this change in the context of resistance (i.e., a passenger who is freaking out because their committed to the American traffic patterns).
Don’t let this cause you to give up. It is harder to relearn old things with new motives than it is to learn to do new things.
Don’t let this cause you to become bitter or cynical. What you are learning is for your good and flourishing.
Do be honest about the frustration or sense of injustice. Hard journeys are harder when we attempt them in isolation.
With that said, we will look at ten patterns that emerge or become more pronounced when we live in a relational context marked by addiction. While each of these is understandable, none of them led to sustainably healthy relationships.
1. False Optimism
We want to believe that every story has a happy ending. We want to believe the best about those we love. We see the seeds of potential in our loved one and have a hard time believing they won’t sprout and blossom “soon.” Those who speak to the contrary seem negative and angry. We don’t like what they say or how they say it, so we don’t want to believe them.
These are not bad qualities. They represent how we would want people to think about and for us (Luke 6:31). The question is whether they best represent our loved one. When our optimism refuses to acknowledge the severity of the situation, that is what makes it false. If you are wrestling with whether you optimism lacks a realistic assessment of your loved one’s situation, review the first two steps of the material at bradhambrick.com/addiction.
What examples do you have of being falsely optimistic?
2. Nagging / Pleading
Reminding repeats information people want to know, accept, and believe is important but have a hard time remembering. Nagging repeats information people don’t want to know, won’t accept, and value less than we do. Reminding is about information. Nagging is about changing.
When we nag, we face the law of diminishing returns. Repetition may be the key to learning, but it is also a sure way to get tuned out. We must get to the point that sharing our concerns is gauged by cues that our loved one is open to our concern more than scratching the itch of our burden for them. Otherwise we will turn the truth our loved one needs to hear into the “Wah, wah, wah” of Charlie Brown’s teacher.
What examples do you have of nagging or pleading?
3. Forcing Our Help / Protecting
Help is helpful when it’s wanted. Protection is protection when it doesn’t exacerbate a greater danger. Often, in relationships marked by addiction, our help is unwanted; making our actions controlling or intrusive, and our protection actually only silences the warning to a mounting danger.
We should want to be available whenever our assistance (a) is truly desired, and (b) can be a blessing that doesn’t create a bigger problem. In older codependency literature, it could easily be mistaken that all “niceness” was “enabling.” This is not the case. We can be nice and not enable, as long as we – likely with the consultation of more objective friends – assess that our help is welcomed and beneficial.
What examples do you have of forcing your help or protecting?