Codependency (or Co-dependency)
Bill Long 12/29/04
Depends on how much the "d" wants to "live through" the "o"
Codependency has been on my mind a lot lately, for reasons that I won't state here. So, I decided to do some quick research on it. As I was reading the first few lines of a prominent web page article on the subject however, I found myself, as is often the case, falling into a trance-like state and thinking about an event from my past. I couldn't read any more lines because an idea had crystallized so strongly in my mind that required me to come and play with it. The idea seized me when I was reading the definition of codependency.
So, here's the definition. "Codependency Personality Disorder* is
[*note it has to be raised to the level of a 'personality disorder' in order for there to be money around to deal with people with the 'disorder.' It is the economic equivalent of Fundamentalists calling their young earth theory 'creation science.' Put that word 'science' on the end of it and thoughts of sage men and women in white coats conducting important experiments come to mind--rather than what truly should come to mind--mostly anti-intellectual, scared, inarticulate people who think that the liberals are still controlling the country]
a dysfunctional relationship with the self characterized by living through or for another, attempts to control others, blaming others, a sense of victimization, attempts to 'fix' others, and intense anxiety around intimacy."
Thinking about the Definition
If we think about this definition for more than 20 seconds we see that it includes about 150% of the American population. You can either be someone who is "living through" or "for another." Seems to characterize parenthood pretty accurately. When my son was about 12 years old and I used to go to all his basketball games, I could swear that all those cool-looking dads in their 40s were living through their sons. Ok. They are codependents. Let's move on. "Attempts to control others." Chalk that up to most men and most women. One of the great strategies for establishing control, I have discovered, is to deny that you are after control. Continuing. "blaming others, a sense of victimization." Well, you usually either do one or the other. When "stuff" happens to you, you might just take it as the operation of neutral and impersonal rules of the universe, but most of us tend to lapse into the blame or the victimization games pretty frequently. "Attempts to 'fix' others"--I don't know if this is more of a female than male trait, but many women have tried to fix my easily perceived deficiencies over the years. Sometimes it has even worked for a short time. "Intense anxiety around intimacy." Well, how intense? how intimate? How how?
Political Reasons for Inclusion
Thus, under the Internet definition, everyone is a codependent. We see that "people who need people" are not the "luckiest people in the world." They simply are codependents. And then, lest you think that anyone escapes the dragnet of the definition, a codependent is called someone with a "dysfunctional" relationship. Though the term was more hip in the 1980s and 1990s than today, it still has its utility. I think that anyone looking around at our world will see that the concept of "dysfunctional" is still filling out its semantic field.
But it is relatively easy to poke fun at a definition. Why do people define things so broadly? There can be lots of reasons but the one that is most convincing to me is that the broader the definition the more money may eventually flow your way. That is a little crass, and I leapt over a few logical steps in getting there, but it is basically correct. Let me illustrate.
When Congress passed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 (signed by President Bush the elder), it did so after receiving hundreds of hours of testimony about the need for such a bill, whose goal was to bring full inclusion of disabled people, insofar as possible, into the mainstream of American life. When Congress passes a big statute these days, it often has a long "findings" section at the head of the statute and/or it bases its statutory language on legislative reports which themselves are digests of testimony and studies submitted to Congress. In the case of the ADA (as it is affectionately known), Congress made a finding that there were as many as 40,000,000 disabled people in America. I learned this when I was doing research for the national appellate competition I was involved in during my law school days.
Go on to the next essay to see what I did with this information.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long