Let’s Move Past Being Dysfunctional, Codependent, and Neurotic

Labeling something doesn’t help us understand or overcome. We’ve tossed the words “dysfunctional”, “codependent” and “neurotic” around so much they’ve lost all significance. We see these as commonplace, which undermines any intention or willingness to change.We’ve forgotten why the Simpsons, South Park and Family Guy are so funny – they aren’t parodies. They’re accurate reflections of where the average American family is at.

Let’s keep it simple: “Dysfunctional” simply means it doesn’t work. That’s the bottom line I’m interested in. While people share their feelings and analysis I recognize that these things are important but I ask them, “Sure, but does it work for you?” If it doesn’t, change that shit. If it does work, then it’s not dysfunctional. It’s just your particular variety of weirdness. Stop making weirdness pathological.

“Neuroses” got a bad rap. Freud intended it to mean anything irrational that a person does to provide themselves a greater sense of safety, security, or well being. Knocking on wood is neurotic, as is anything of a superstitious nature. Counting your footsteps on the way to an appointment you’re dreading is neurotic. These are common things that people do – we just keep them hidden. If we do them in ways that other people can perceive, we proclaim ourselves neurotic in order to cover up our discomfort and proactively prevent others from pointing out we’re nuts.

“Codependency” involves excessive reliance on others for our emotional needs and sense of self. The hallmarks of codependency are an unwillingness to care for self and an inability to define oneself as an individual. Our sense of security and well being is completely contingent upon fulfilling the needs of others. We expect ourselves to be independent, but when we do unhealthy things in our relationships, we proclaim ourselves codependent. It’s a gross generalization that shows no accountability and no intention to change.

Unfortunately, most of what we learned about how to relate to others took place in our families of origin and a handful of conformity driven institutions. Simple: Learning healthier ways of relating to others requires that we relate to ourselves in healthy ways.

Common f@cked up things we do:

- We apologize when We’ve done nothing wrong

- Our manner of communicating involves undermining ourselves and encourages people not to take us seriously

- We explain things exhaustively because we neither expect that people will understand nor give us the benefit of a doubt

- We invite people to reject us to spare them the trouble of having to initiate it while secretly hoping they’ll reassure us that this is the furthest thing from their mind (heart)

- We don’t expect to be heard because it would indicate that people both respect you and give a damn about you

- We speak to ourselves in much the same manner as those who hurt us the most – We complicate things because you hate how they feel

- We laugh to hide our vulnerability

- We believe we have to compensate for the shortcomings of others?

- We analyze shit (it’s shit – don’t analyze it, shovel it out)

- We believe ourselves to be obligated to everyone we care about but not to ourselves?

All of the above are optional. Change requires paying attention to the person we tend to make our last priority. Make yourself a priority and treat yourself accordingly.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in assisting people in recovery (whether from drugs, alcohol, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.