The theme of this book is learning how to take better care of ourselves. The link between alcoholism and co-dependency is reiterated consistently, which is a bit of a red herring for me. You do not have to be in a relationship with an alcoholic to be co-dependent or to benefit from improved self-care.
As I turned down page corners for future reference and personal SOS moments, I realised it would be prudent for us all to check the many ways we could be acting out of co-dependency.
Beattie explains that co-dependency is “based on a premise many of us have forgotten or never learned: Each person is responsible for him or herself.” A simple sentiment but not so easy in practice.
As we progress through different stages of our lives we must adapt and learn how to take care of ourselves.
The concept of self-care has been on a carousel of celebration and backlash of late. It has been championed, commodified and bashed. Defining what it means to me personally, is the ultimate act of self-care. Who are we to comment on it’s significance and purpose to others when the core is unique from person to person. The word self is a giveaway here. However, if you are feeling confused about how to move forward in any given scenario, Beattie recommends you “detach and ask, what do I need to take care of myself?” A soothing prompt for when we feel triggered. A moment to find peace before defaulting into a chaotic reaction. “Codependents are reactionaries. They overreact. They under-react. But rarely do they act.” Allowing ourselves to be at the mercy of our environments is an example of behaviour without boundaries, not to mention exhausting. I didn’t realise this is a symptom of co-dependency and one that will lead us away from peace.
I have been mindful of drama playing out in my life and my relationships ever since Emmy introduced the Karpman Drama Triangle to me. Her explanation and my subsequent understanding had such a profound effect on me I genuinely contemplated tattooing a triangle on my wrist as a visible reminder not to get caught up in drama (I know). My Avril Lavigne tribute act has subsided but the desire to move away from drama has not. In short, each point of the triangle represents roles we assume when drama or conflict is present. These roles are, victim, persecutor, and rescuer. Various examples of the drama triangle are broken down by Beattie, albeit with an emphasis on the alcoholic/persecutor and partner/victim or rescuer dynamic.
As individuals, we may move back and forth between two roles or do a complete succession of all three. As a family unit, we can have recurring, guest or background roles. Codependents tend to fall into the rescuing camp but can also flip-flop between victim and persecutor.
Have a go at practising what Beattie describes as non-rescuing behaviours:
- Say no when you want to say no.
- Do things you want to do.
- Refuse to guess what people want and need; instead, insist that others ask you directly for what they want and need from you.
- Refuse to assume other people’s responsibilities.
When you start to practice these behaviours, particularly in the early stages of recovery – be it from an eating disorder, co-dependent relationship or trauma, it can be difficult to discern between genuine acts of love and care that are integral to healthy relationships and rescuing compulsions. I think the solution is to get quiet, ask yourself and take the answer from your intuition.
A key characteristic of co-dependency, Beattie explains, is not trusting your opinions. A gentle awareness and questioning is the way to harness this trust.
During the 2018 World Cup, Gareth Southgate attributed part of England’s success to “owning the process.” A beautiful phrase that I feel reflects the sentiments of this book; which is to take responsibility for ourselves, our actions and our lives.