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Kicking Codependence

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

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Picture in your mind a triangle. At one point is the word VICTIM. At another point, the word PERSECUTOR. And at the third point, RESCUER.

At some point in your life, you have probably fallen into each of these roles. That's to be expected. 

However, do you find that you camp out in one of these roles on a regular basis, daily, even hourly? Then you could be codependent.

Many of us in the helping profession are rescuers. We like nothing more than to don our capes and fly to the rescue. We aren't necessarily that good at taking care of ourselves - we look to take care of others first. We might not be good at sticking up for ourselves, either, but that doesn't mean that we won't stick up for someone else.

Many of those that we help are in the victim role. And while many move from victim to survivor and get on with their lives, some like to stay in the victim role, just as we like to stay in the rescuer role. 

And then there are the persecutors. Persecutors like to dominate, to maintain control through the subjugation of others. They are the abusers - emotionally, physically, and/or sexually.

In a dysfunctional relationship, people may move from point to point on the triange or stay fixed in their roles. You may see a victim taking advantage of a rescuer, even shifting to persecutor if the rescuer does not rescue appropriately. You may see a rescuer shift to persecutor if the victim is not complying with what the rescuer believes needs to happen. And you may hear persecutors talk as if they are the victims or as if they did the rescuing.

Whether you are victim, rescuer, or persecutor, there is always an external focus. The victim looks for others to solve the victim's problem. The rescuer looks for other people's problems to solve. And the persecutor creates problems for others.

What if for a day you just stopped? (No, I'm not saying that firefighters, doctors, nurses, lifeguards, police, etc. should all leave their posts for the day. Think about this in your personal relationships where it is not a life or death situation.)

What if the victim, the rescuer, and the persecutor all believed that the victim had the ability to solve his/her own problem and could choose whether or not to do so? How empowering could this be for the victim?

What if the rescuer got to put his/her needs first for a change? How empowering could this be for the rescuer?

What if the persecutor had to look in the mirror and figure out why s/he had such a need to persecute others? How empowering could this be for the persecutor?

In the triangle of codependence, we trap ourselves and each other in being lesser versions of ourselves. The victim is never empowered to be the survivor. The rescuer is never empowered to focus caretaking energy on him/herself. And the persecutor is forever looking to control others to feel powerful, rather than looking at how to be powerful and independent.

Think about your relationships. Do you have one (or more) where the triangle fits? How can you pull yourself out of that triangle? How can you be fully and authentically you, the best you possible?

Meredith Richardson
Mediator, Conflict Coach, Motivational Speaker, Retreat Coordinator


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