by Nick Baez
With the populations I’ve worked with over the past seven years, trauma has been a reoccurring and significant theme. It is important to realize that trauma is a multifaceted and complex phenomenon. It can result from a single event or repeated events over time. It can happen in childhood or adulthood. It can manifest itself physically, emotionally, spiritually, sexually, and/or verbally. Regardless of the type of trauma, however, significant neurological and psychological effects are produced. The purpose of this piece is to discuss one of those effects: codependent relational patterns. Much is misunderstood regarding codependency, so I wish to offer some clarification for fellow Latinos who may be experiencing relationship difficulties.
The easiest way I can describe codependency is as follows. Imagine that I lock you in a room you are not allowed to leave. You also cannot eat or drink, unless you stare at the table lamp until it becomes a brick of gold. At first you sense this is impossible, but you feel trapped by your current situation. So you start staring. A few hours pass, and nothing is happening. You begin to feel anxious, worried, out of place. A few more hours pass…you begin to cycle through anger, denial, and acceptance. Some more hours pass…you begin to feel quite unmanageable now, and even start to consider that maybe you are simply not staring “hard enough.” Yet, you never once get up to see if the door is actually locked. For some of you reading, this may describe the nature of your current relationship.
Why might anyone find themselves in this type of relationship? Quite often, with individuals who are mired in relationship codependency, an examination of etiological factors reveals that they, at some point in their lives, experienced a form of abandonment, even in what may appear to be a subtle form. This can range from parental divorce/separation, to an unhealthy romantic relationship, to the experience of direct abuse. In any case, what often results from the experience of such trauma is something quite counterintuitive.
Many of these individuals actually find themselves in repeated patterns of relationships that almost seem to mimic their past trauma (such as those with emotionally unavailable individuals). A primary reason for this – in layperson terms – is that the mind is a fragile entity; we as humans typically do not willingly seek out painful experiences and we try to avoid them at all costs. The mind works in a similar fashion, when it experiences pain (as with trauma), it will seek out the most efficient way to reduce the painful residue. Therapy is not quick and efficient, and often requires navigating painful roads to find a path towards healing. However, making the trauma normal is efficient (albeit grossly unhealthy).
So here’s the thing about codependency: individuals almost never seek out therapy to address their codependency directly; rather, they seek out therapy in order to cope with the many secondary symptoms. They may experience a feeling of “being stuck,” of losing their sense of self, and/or of not having adequate control over their partner’s behavior. But just as was the case with the table lamp, assuming control over another person’s behavior is an equally impossible task. Just like the same example, it produces similar feelings of unmanageability.
It should be noted that this article is not meant to be interpreted as therapeutic or medical advice. Rather, this article should be used as a frame of reference if you feel overwhelmed in your current relationship. If you have any questions or concerns, I urge you to seek out a qualified therapist or practitioner to explore further.
To learn more about Nick, find him on Facebook.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of
the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.