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On the Therapist’s Couch, Wanting to Throw Something at Her

Illustration for article titled On the Therapist’s Couch, Wanting to Throw Something at Her

Tanza says I’m “codependent.”

I mean, that wasn’t even a word until that (in)famous book, Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself, became the gazillion-selling bible of the self-help crowd – and that was way back in the 20th century. (OK, it came out in 1987; I just like saying ‘20th century’).


All I know about codependence is that it means something like two people making each other worse, like if one’s a drug addicted son, and the mother keeps defending and enabling him. So naturally, I rebelled when Tanza told me that I was codependent.

Then, she started listing all the characteristics of classic codependency, and I wanted to throw a pillow at her, because if there’s one thing that gets on my nerves, it’s being labeled. Surely I can’t be that predictable (especially since I work so hard not to be).


Of course, the reason I’m seeing a psychologist is to figure stuff out, so that 1) I’ll no longer have that nagging fear about losing weight (losing myself, my protection, etc.) and 2) I can recognize and therefore  resist destructive behaviors (bulimia, negative self-talk, etc.) that really just make everything so much worse.

I’ve told you before I have a love/hate relationship with Tanza. She truly is an amazingly gifted and talented therapist, and that’s what I also dislike about her: No one has ever been able to make me spill the beans about everything like she has. She knows more about the real me than anyone else on this planet has or ever will. Kinda gets on my nerves.

Me, codependent? I honestly don’t see what the problem is. “That’s part of your problem!” she said, as I silently calculated the velocity and degree of pitch necessary to bean her with one of the couch pillows. Anyway, she says I’m codependent because I’m always:

·        Taking care of everyone else’s needs before of my own, and feeling really good and fulfilled by such self-sacrifice. (I seriously don’t see the problem here.)


·        Being in denial about the above.

·        Not wanting to fully express my own needs, instead just dropping hints and hoping for the best.


·        Feeling frustrated and resentful because of the above.

·        Having a hard time identifying my true feelings, or minimizing them so as not to hurt others.


·        Feeling embarrassed when complimented or praised.

·        Always buying stuff for those I care about.

·        Staying loyal, even when I know it’s a bad or unhealthy situation.

·        Accepting sex when what I really want is love.

·        Having to feel needed in order to have a relationship with others.

 There you have it. And I absolutely hate that it’s all true. Hate it, hate it, hate it.


But dealing with this final hurdle will earn my freedom from therapy, because I’m certain Tanza will then kick me to the curb, and that is just fine with me.

So I have work to do, and yet another, freakin’ book to buy. I just left Tanza a message about a newer book, The New Codependency: Help and Guidance for Today’s Generation. It’s by Melody Beattie, the author of Codependent No More, except it just came out last year. I think I’d rather read that one than something written 23 years ago.


Guess what? If codependency is left unresolved, it can lead to stuff like alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders and sex addiction. Also, it can progress to big-time social anxiety disorders like social phobia, avoidant personality disorder or extreme shyness, or stress-related stuff like depression and PTSD.

Still, there’s a bit of controversy about this stuff. Some mental health professionals don’t think codependency is not a negative trait, but a healthy personality trait taken to excess. And that’s how I feel, really. I know in my heart I’m a really caring person. So much so, I try to keep that part of me under wraps, because the second I feel that someone is trying to take advantage, I get resentful, and the claws come out.


(Crap. Tanza’s right again, isn’t she?)

I have a right to my anger, and I don't want anybody telling me I shouldn't be, that it's not nice to be, and that something's wrong with me because I get angry.  ~  Maxine Waters


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Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.

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