By Robert Burney
"Actually the term "Codependence" is an inaccurate and somewhat misleading term for the phenomenon it has come to describe. A more accurate term would be something like outer-dependence, or external dependence."
"As long as we look outside of Self - with a capital S - to find out who we are, to define ourselves and give us self-worth, we are setting ourselves up to be victims.
We were taught to look outside of ourselves - to people, places, and things; to money, property, and prestige - for fulfillment and happiness. It does not work, it is dysfunctional. We cannot fill the hole within with anything outside of Self."
"Not only were we taught to be victims of people, places, and things, we were taught to be victims of ourselves, of our own humanity. We were taught to take our ego-strength, our self-definition from external manifestations of our being.
Our bodies are not who we are - they are a part of our being in this lifetime - but they are not who we Truly are.
Looks deteriorate, talent dissipates, intelligence erodes. If we define ourselves by these external manifestations, then we will be victimized by the power we give them. We will hate ourself for being human and aging.
Looks, talent, intelligence - external manifestations of our being are gifts to be celebrated. They are temporary gifts. They are not our total being. They do not define us or dictate if we have worth.""
In my book, I explain the evolution of the term Codependence from a word coined to describe the significant others of alcoholics (co-alcoholic) to a term which I use to describe the dysfunction in the human condition as we have inherited it. A codependent defines him or her self - and takes their feelings of self worth - from outer or external conditions / circumstances / manifestations.
I believe that we all have inherent worth because we are Spiritual Beings having a human experience - we are children of God/Goddess, part of The Great Spirit, emanations of The Source Energy - not because of any temporary outer conditions or external manifestations. When we focus on external sources - as we were programmed to do in childhood - to determine our worth we are worshipping false gods (to use Western terminology), we are too attached to the Illusion (in Eastern terms.)
Traditionally in dysfunctional civilized society on this planet men were programmed to be codependent (define self and take their feelings of self worth) from their work, their ability to produce. Women were programmed to be codependent on their relationships with men. (The Feminist Movement changed this somewhat in recent history - but in some areas that effect was negative. I will address this in a later article in this series.)
The bloated stereotypes of masculine and feminine that the quote from my book in last month's article mentioned - like all stereotypes - started with a grain of Truth that got twisted and distorted by the planetary conditions that dictated human evolution on the planet.
Besides all of the ways we are set up to have unhealthy relationships with our self by the dysfunctional cultures and role models we grew up with - we are also set up by our genetic species programming. The genetic survival programming that may have been necessary in the days of the early Homo Sapiens cavemen is thousands of years out of date and now can provide a source of conflict and misunderstanding between the genders.
One of the seemingly baffling differences between men and women, is that men are at their sexual peak period in their late teens, while women reach their peak period of sexual desire in their thirties. It almost seems like some kind of cruel Cosmic joke.
In order to find any perspective where this can somehow make some sense, it is important to look at historical context - both recent and ancient. Just as it is helpful in understanding how vital the inner child healing process is, to realize that we are only a generation or two removed from treating children like property, so too it is important to realize that teenagers did not exist as a subculture in society until recently. Until only a few generations ago teenagers of 14, 15, and 16 were married and on their own as young adults. The addition of the teenage years to the period of childhood rather than adulthood is a very recent phenomena in society. These years of raging hormones (and resultant emotional volatility) with no acceptable outlet has added new emotional trauma to the process of growing up.
In terms of ancient times, in order for the human race to survive in a hostile environment where living past the age of 30 was considered quite old, it was necessary to propagate the race as quickly as possible - be fruitful and multiply. One of Mother Natures ways of ensuring that this would happen was to give teenage males of the species a very strong sex drive that was aroused by the female body - most any female body - rather than to primarily seek strong emotional attachment to one female. This was necessary because the high mortality rate - both through death in childbirth of females and death through various means of both men and women - created a need to take on new and/or additional mates very soon to insure survival. It was necessary that the men be willing to copulate with (and thus also agree to protect and provide for) whomever needed a mate.
Early homo sapiens were forced to live together in close knit communities - and conform to community standards to remain a part of those communities. Thus the cultural proscription that a man would provide for a woman he impregnated was broken only at risk of expulsion and severe risk to survival. The perspective of teenagers as children rather than adults in some ways absolves teenage males of responsibility for their sexual behavior.
It was necessary for women on the other hand, to have as many children as they could in their healthiest childbearing years, to insure survival of the species. Therefore, it was more important for teenage women to be driven by their instincts to give birth rather than by sexual desire itself. In order to try to ensure protection and sustenance for themselves and their children during the vulnerable times of pregnancy and after childbirth women were programmed to desire to bond with one man to produce children and then to protect and provide for her and her children. Women were capable of, and did, hunt and provide protection for the clan during the times that they were not physically vulnerable due to pregnancy, childbirth, and early child rearing - it was during those months of vulnerability in a harsh environment that women needed a protector and provider.
This genetic survival programming is the source of the Maiden archetype in women. The Maiden is the romantic teenager whose instincts are to settle on one man and start having children - which manifests as daydreams that "her Prince will come." This Maiden is one level of the romantic within.
This genetic human programming can set up a woman to keep a man around for the illusion of having a male protector and supporter. I have worked with many women who not only did not need to be protected and supported by a man, but they in fact were providing the bulk of the support for the man. In the inner work the "maiden within" is the part of themselves that women can set a boundary with so that they do not unconsciously buy into the set up of believing that they have to have a man in their life to be OK. That certainly doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with having a relationship with a man or that the Prince isn't going to show up (he will definitely have issues to work through however.) The point is to be conscious about our choices. If we are reacting unconsciously to subconscious or genetic programming then we are giving power away and not owning our choices.
Men in modern day society are trained to be emotionally dishonest - get the message that it is not "manly" to be emotionally vulnerable - and that their worth and definition comes from what they do. This sets men and women up to have completely different priorities in regard to relationships. In a dysfunctional society a man can be a lousy husband and father - can be a really unpleasant and nasty human being - and still be considered successful and worthy of admiration if he is a success in the realm of money, property and prestige.
An unfortunate consequence of life in an emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional society - that is based on beliefs that deny men the full range of their emotional being - is that the great majority of men are emotionally immature. This is especially true in their relationships to women. Most men - in terms of how they view and relate to females - are stuck in a horny teenager place that I call: the "Horndog" [an archetype that Jung overlooked. ;-)]
It is very important for men to start being able to set boundaries with the "Horndog", with the horny teenager inside them. In order to have a chance for healthy relationship and emotional intimacy it is vital to stop letting the horny teenager be in control of our choices in romantic relationships (this is just as true for same sex relationships as heterosexual ones) or influence how we relate with women in general. This horny teenager within is not bad or wrong or shameful - it is a normal, natural result of growing up in the dysfunctional societies we grew up in. What is dysfunctional, and can sometimes lead to behavior to be ashamed of, is to allow that immature version of male animal lust to run the show. In order to be a mature, adult - a Real Man - it is vital to be conscious and emotionally honest enough to not allow the attitudes we developed as horny teenagers dictate how we treat women today.
Next article in this series on this site: Old tapes / traditional beliefs and gender roles for men and women