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Posts Tagged ‘codpendency’

I’m watching a Batman movie the other night and found myself psychoanalyzing the movie, particularly the main character. What is it about a superhero that people find so intriguing? I think identifying with a superhero is reminiscent of a quote from Henry David Thoreau, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” I find Batman perhaps the most interesting of all the superheroes. Batman leads a life of two identities that would make Sigmund Freud proud and perhaps provide for a strong argument for the basis of Freud’s id, ego and superego. The id plays the villain, Bruce Wayne plays the ego and Batman is the superego. Bruce Wayne sees the moral problems of the id and must turn into the superego (superhero) in order to counterbalance the issue.

But wait a minute, isn’t this behavior of playing the superhero a type of codependent behavior? After all, isn’t rescuing someone in distress a type of controlling behavior? I think it all depends on how you look at the situation and the motivation behind the behavior. What is driving it, working behind the scenes? Yes, I am overthinking this, but there is something at work here, a dynamic at play that affects many people who seek counseling. Batman can be used as a metaphor of how people hide their problems and mask their true identity. What a lonely place that must be, always hiding and afraid to be truthful and out in the open of being your true self. I wonder what it would be like for Batman to stand in front of an A.A. meeting and peel off that mask. Oh, the vulnerability of true identity can be terrifying.

This is not an attempt to tear down Batman or deconstruct his character, I love the creativity and full richness of the story lines. Kudos to the creativity of the writers. This amounts to nothing more than a therapist’s musing of the psychological observations I have made.

The superhero, in my opinion, is a type of person who is caught up playing a role that is trying to fix, rescue or control an outcome for others. In modern terms, it’s male codependence. For the superhero it’s about more than just a person, it’s all of humanity. By the way, who decided that Batman knows best for everyone? Yes, there is evil in the world that creates destruction on a widespread scale and there are those who come together for the greater cause of mankind to lessen those evil schemes. But there is a common theme found in superheroes, something must be done and that something must be done by me.

I guess for me and my psychotherapeutic mind, this is about a man who hides in a cave and does not allow his real identity to be shown. I found myself confused when I began to think about who the main character is, Batman or Bruce Wayne. Perhaps it’s both and Batman is just a part of Mr. Wayne’s identity, or vice versa. When he (Batman/Mr.Wayne) emerges into public he comes into view as one of two identities. I’m having trouble trying to figure who the real person is and who he wants to be, Bruce or Batman.

If this man were to sit in front of me during a therapy session I suppose my best question to him would be two-fold going straight to the core issue, “what is it about your parent’s death (they were murdered) that causes you to do what you do today, and how has this affected your identity as a person?” I cannot help but wonder if this is not really a question of identity, but a boy who is lost and angry. Batman never resolved his anger of his parent’s death and has swore to himself to uphold justice wherever he finds it. In some circles, this might be even construed as being passive-aggressive. Mr Wayne, please get therapy for your unresolved anger because people are becoming too dependent on you for helping them out of their perceived predicament of helplessness.

I admire the author’s of Batman and how the story originally developed in the 1930’s. I cannot help but wonder if they realized that they may have been creating a story from their own psyche or that of another. There are countless stories throughout history of someone who was wronged and vowed justice or revenge in return. Yes, Batman and superheroes for that matter are all fictional characters, but they represent something that is very real and that is the projection of human behavior. A feeling of being wronged put back into being right. Does that include destroying bad guys? Or is this an issue of unresolved anger?

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arguing coupleArguing, who likes it? Some people might say that they like to argue and will do so over some of the most trivial things. I suppose this could be a maturity issue if the topic of argumentation is somewhat meaningless. But that is all subjective and based on interpretation of the content being argued. At the beginning of an argument is can be difficult to stop for a second and weigh the purpose and possible outcome of entering an argument to begin with. Arguing with some people can be like trying to deal with a 3 year old who is whining and screaming to get their way. Other times the argument is valid and calls for us to do a little self examination before more damage occurs. Sometimes it is best to walk away and let them work it out on their own.

Being approached by argumentative others can elicit defensive emotions primarily anger. This can cause a person to want to say a few things back in defense, but hold on a minute. Before striking back there are a few things a person can do to self dialogue their way out of an argument. The idea is to respond to other person and not react.

This is about self control and anger management. Anger is often the culprit when two people are arguing and each person feels they have to defend themselves. It is like each person’s ego has entered into a wrestling match with the other. There is a way out and a way to defeat the other person’s attacks when their ego is attempting a hostile takeover of a conversation. Simply put it is about self management and here are 5 ways to do that.

  1. Stay Objective! This is the hard part by taking a step back and listening and not letting the emotions take charge. Emotions can be good counsel and provide information about what we are experiencing but they make poor leaders. Letting feelings take charge of us can lead to a highly volatile situation. Understanding this about others can go a long way toward de-escalating a situation by remaining calm.
  2. Take Ownership of Thyself! Often arguments are grounded in fear of something and so there is an element of control and power involved. The first person to get control of is thyself. This can be accomplished by knowing that the thoughts and feelings being experienced in the moment belong to the one who is experiencing them. Others are not responsible for how we feel any more than they are responsible for what we say. This is not an excuse to go around kicking others and then saying “it’s your pain, deal with it.” If you have made hurtful comments to others take appropriate ownership of them. Statements such as “you make me etc…” are projecting the displeasure being experienced onto others. Feelings and thoughts are property, manage them.
  3. Eliminate the use of “You”! The use of the word “you” in an argument creates a defensive posture in the other person. The underlying message insinuates that the other person is the cause or fault for what is happening. Self empowerment is through the use of “I” statements. Stating something un-pleasurable or an injustice from a personal position is about communication and not verbal assaults. A word of caution when learning how to use “I” statements, many people start by saying “I don’t like it when you…” and begin to use “you” again and enter right back into the power and control paradigm. Something more helpful might sound like “I don’t like it when I am criticized, belittled or yelled at.”
  4. Walk Away! Having a sound internal dialogue helps by drawing a boundary with someone who is angry or being argumentative over something trivial and has absolutely nothing to do with you. Whatever the other person is experiencing let them own it and simply walk on. Remember, it’s their property to manage. Helpful internal dialogue may sound something like “It’s their anger, it’s their stuff, and they own it.”
  5. The Kill Shot! The kill shot (not physically) is about not letting the argument go anywhere with you in the first place, period! It kills the argument. Let the other person say what they have to say and respond in an unemotional way by saying something along the lines of “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “wow, I had no idea you felt that way” and say nothing else. If the person persists then go back to item #4. Sometimes a person looking to argue or pick a fight tries to throw out, in a metaphorical sense, a baited hook. It draws another person into the argument and if the other person goes for it then they got hooked. In a sense it validates the angry person’s anger by giving it worth or value when it is responded to. Responding to the person’s comment, or baited hook, but not buying into it leaves it squarely with the other person. They own it, let them manage it.

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Stress! Just the mere sound of the word can conjure up feelings of uneasiness just knowing there is something tied to it that is unpleasant. So let’s take a minute to examine the word and find a way to fight stress with S.T.R.E.S.S. Stress is often unavoidable in life so like many other things it cannot be fully eliminated but it can be managed effectively if appropriate steps are taken.

Stress is a natural reaction to a perceived threat, fear and excessive worry. If it goes on too long and turns into chronic stress it can begin to impact our overall health both physically and mentally. Below is acronym for S.T.R.E.S.S. on how to help manage it and make life a little bit easier. While it may be impossible to eliminate stress altogether, getting a handle on it can be a good start.

SSlow Down. Don’t try to do too much too fast. A great stress producer is trying to do too much in too little time. Take smaller steps and just do one thing at a time to get the pace to slow down. The idea is don’t bite off more than you can chew. If your life seems overwhelming it might be time to throw some things out, delegate responsibilities and don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends, family and colleagues to lighten the load.

T.  Task Management. A technique for managing tasks is to sit down the night before and write out a list of 10 items to get done the following day. Don’t fret if all of the tasks are not finished. Additional stress can often be created by trying to achieve unrealistic self-induced demands. Have a stop time and let it go and let the remaining items roll over to the next day. Do not add 10 more to it; let it be part of the next 10 items.

R. Relax. Find a way to relax by creating a distraction. After the task list has been put down for the day find something else to do, for example; read a book, journal, call a friend, go for a walk, go fishing, spend time with a pet, or meditate on God’s word. Creating a distraction from what is racing through our minds removes the burden of those things. Christ gave us a great example about worry and over thinking things in life in Matthew 6:25-34. Basically the idea is to let yesterday go, tomorrow has enough problems of its own and just focus on today.

E. Exercise. We don’t all like to do it but exercise can be a great way to get away from everything and it releases healthy feel good chemicals such as endorphins. Get creative as sometimes going to a gym can get monotonous. Walk, ride a bike, rent or borrow a kayak and spend part of the weekend out on the water. Exercise doesn’t have to be about getting on some machine and hammering out some routine, it can also be fun and relaxing.

S. Source it. Find out where the stress is coming from and deal with it at the root source. Ask probing questions about the validity of the stress such as what purpose is it serving and what can realistically be done about it. What is going to be achieved as a result of stressing? If it can be realistically changed think of ways to change it (think management) to reduce the stress.

S. Serenity Prayer. Sometimes the serenity prayer can be a real sanity saver in the long run. To be able to accept the things that cannot be changed, the courage to change the things that can be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference. Those things in our lives that cannot be changed lift them up to God. Christ says His burden is light. Offer up the stressful things to God and let it go.

The idea with managing stress is to manage it rather than it managing us. When we become subjected to things in life that creates stress we take on unnecessary worry, doubt, fear and the feelings of loss of control in our lives. Take a look at the big picture, slow down and think about ways to reframe how your life is being lived out.

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By: Brian M Murray, MS, IMH

So real men do not need counseling eh? Neither are they supposed to cry when they get hurt, right? Oh, and now they are going to have to carve out their masculinity and put it on a shelf in order to seek Jesus right?

I find it amazing that hero and savior Jesus Christ, the King of the universe is seen weeping in the Bible. John 11:35 reads “Jesus wept.” It’s the famously shortest verse in the Bible. Jesus is seen weeping over the loss of his friend Lazarus. This is incredible; the man that came to save the world is seen by others weeping over a friend. Wait, what is going on here? The Messiah, the Anointed One is crying? The One who was sent to redeem all of mankind is crying? Um, dial this one in, Houston, we have a problem. The One who is supposed to be the exemplar of strength is having an emotional meltdown?

Okay, maybe this is a little overly dramatic but it shows us men something about ourselves. Jesus had compassion over losing someone near and dear to him. Jesus felt as a man what we men have, feelings. Guess what? It is okay to have them. So here we have it, Jesus, as a man who is strong enough to withstand a Roman soldier beating until bloody all over, picks up half a tree, carries it to the top of a hill and then he gets nailed to it to hang for all to see. Get the picture? I would be willing to bet that most men wouldn’t even survive each piece of this event separately.

I am trying to make a point that a man of such great strength to endure such masochism finds it perfectly acceptable to express his feelings in front of others. Jesus while fully man walking the earth expressed a full range of emotions and he did not shield himself from showing them. Anger in the temple, grief, joy, happiness, love, sadness, sympathy, gladness and the list goes on. How many times have you heard the expression “Don’t cry in front of others, it’s a sign of weakness?” Here is an alternative thought, compassion and empathy for others. Christ sets the example of a man who is not distant and cold and he is confident enough to cry in front of others.

Stuffing feelings and trying to gut out our problems leads to a whole host of other problems. Counseling is often a place people go when they want to be able to talk to someone where they can let it all out. If you are trying to play tough guy and hold it all in then guess what? It will come out. Where internal feelings decide to manifest themselves outward is the question. What do you do when you feel anxious, sad or joyful? How do you express these feelings? What do you do with them? How long before the ulcers show up? How long before depression settles in from feeling defeated? How long before alcohol and drugs numb out these feelings? How long before bitterness and sarcasm become a common style of dialogue costing you a job and losing a wife because the anger inside is eating you from the inside out? How long? Talk to someone. Quit trying to play tough guy and get some help. Stop living a lie. No one is going to judge you, call you names or think you are less of a man for improving yourself and putting first things first.

“The best way out is always through.” – Robert Frost

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“I know that the whole point—the only point—is to find the things that matter, and hold on to them, and fight for them, and refuse to let them go.” ― Lauren Oliver

Fighting for something you believe in can make a big difference in how far you are willing to go to make a point. Sometimes it can go so far as to begin to destroy your marriage or engagements and relationships. Couples often come into therapy fighting about what they want from each other rarely looking at the marriage as a whole. They would rather stand on their point than begin to communicate toward conflict resolution. When this happens it becomes difficult to set aside personal differences. In a relationship, how can a person begin to move into acceptance of their mate’s perspective without holding them in contempt of their own?

Often in disagreements there is a perspective coming from each partner of how they think things should be. It can seem like each person is carrying around an unpublished book of rules they expect their partner to adhere to. The end result leads to frequent arguments and resentment of being married to someone who will not see things their way. If the marriage is healthy it can withstand a fight or an argument every once in a while. It’s not a bad thing to air out grievances as long as it is done in a healthy respectful way.

If you find yourself in a marriage full of frequent arguments then perhaps it’s time to propose the question of what are you both fighting for? Are you fighting for yourself or are you fighting for your marriage? Sometimes they are both one and the same if the marriage is being challenged, for example, by infidelity, addiction or financial troubles. The difference is related to the perspective of how you view yourself and your spouse within the context of the marriage. If you are fighting for yourself chances are you have left your spouse out of the process and you will ultimately end up fighting the battle to save your marriage all by yourself. An example of this is trying to berate your spouse into compliance. If you are fighting for your marriage then the resolution becomes a situation where two people come together and collectively communicate their needs and expectations.

Chances are you and your spouse at one time in the beginning of your relationship took the time to communicate and fall in love with each other enough to want a lifetime commitment. If you are hitting hard times the same approach applies, take time to communicate with each other in a respectful manner exploring how to come to resolution and acceptance of your differences.

Remember, each person is often coming into conflict over unseen rules and miscommunication. Become transparent and break out the rule books and open them up for each other to examine. Share expectations and negotiate moving forward toward acceptance of each other’s position. At the heart of the matter is the marriage, collectively.

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