In the dance of deception known as co-dependency, it is common for the co-dependent person to camouflage their sense of being incomplete by creating a mask. This mask is often one of social competence and success which allows the person to function in work settings and in leisure activities requiring superficial interaction. It is only when the co-dependent person is faced with a social situation involving self-disclosure or intensive team work the true person hiding in the jungle of deceit is revealed.
In the dysfunctional family where co-dependency is rooted, the child is often faced with learning only primal skills needed for survival. The child in this situation deprived of food, shelter, clothing and nurturance. A child in this situation never learns to trust self or others, the first task in healthy emotional development. The child views the world as unsafe and the only way to survive is to lie, steal and fight to get their basic needs met. These survival skills and behaviors are adaptive in the home environment of these children; however, once these children enter the playground and school, they find the very skill set, which has allowed survival into early childhood, now threatens their ability to succeed in greater society. The child who possesses enough innate intelligence and capacity to ascertain the ways others successfully interact will mimic the social skills others demonstrate. The role-play in which this astute child engages to succeed becomes the mask of social competence the child wears when with peers and when engaging adults outside of the family.
Initially the child is aware of the deception of his camouflage of social competence. The dissonance between the life lived at home and the experiences of school and playground is painfully real and tangible to the young person. As this person grows into the teenage years, the differences between day-to-day life with his/her family of origin and interactions with greater society fade from consciousness. The missing sense of trust becomes the foundation of the elements of personality absent in the co-dependent person and feeds the fire of the drama triangle of victim, persecutor, and rescuer common in the relationships of the co-dependent person.
It is only through a personal crisis the mask of deception becomes apparent to the person with co-dependent patterns of behavior. This crisis usually takes the form of the loss of a parent or sibling, the experience of redundancy in the place of employment, or the failure of a romantic relationship. The common element in these scenarios is the threat made to the person’s existence on a basic level of survival, which brings the missing pieces in the person’s self-image into the forefront of awareness. This time of inner conflict serves as the window of opportunity for change since the source of the person’s despair is evident and the desire for relief from intense emotional pain is profound. The person at this moment in time often possesses the motivation and energy to heal from the wounds of the past hidden behind the mask.
- © 2011 by David Gharat Personal Coach. All rights reserved