“My experience leads me to believe that operating in extremes may come from at least two situations and perhaps more. One is observing and reacting to the behavior of the caregivers who operate in extremes. The other is from the experience of “not being heard” or feeling invisible in the family of origin.” Pia Mellody in Facing Codependency
If lacking boundaries or not knowing what we need and/or want was not enough of an indicator that codependency might be present, cue core symptom #5. Difficulty experiencing and expressing our reality in moderation.
The ability to moderately know what we are feeling, how to express it even how we behave is difficult. This key symptom affects our body, our thinking, our feelings and our behavior. It affects every aspect of our reality.
Let me show you what I’m talking about.
—-If you’d prefer to watch the video that accompanies this post, watch it HERE
Body: the ability to be moderate with our bodies shows up in a number of ways. From how thin someone is to the other extreme of how over weight and heavy an individual might be. In a lot of sexual abuse survivors, we have noticed that they either wear excessively baggy type clothing to the point where minimal skin/curves are seen. The other extreme, which is just as dysfunctional, might be those who wear excessively “loud” clothing where their chest’s are overflowing and their booties are everywhere but in their pants. Know what I mean?
Thinking: this is most present in people who are black and white in their thinking with little to NO room for grey. These are the people who are either completely into something or completely out of it. There is no middle ground. In real time, this might be someone who latches onto a “fad” with everything they’ve got only to burn out within a few weeks or months time. This might be a real struggle for them.
Behavior: one word: extreme. Trusting everyone or trusting no one. Allowing everyone to touch them (and anywhere) or so rigid and locked down no one can touch them. Everyone is their bestie or no one is their bestie. You see, it totally oscillates from one extreme to the other. There, quite literally, is no middle ground. No moderation. Someone who struggles with this is likely running on fumes and exhausted. This takes a lot of work to maintain.
Feelings: if someone struggles with experiencing and expressing their reality in moderation, it only follows that their feelings reality is going to be dysfunctional. This is the person who either feels all the feelings or is so shut down that they feel no feelings at all. Pia Mellody, in Facing Codependency, has identified–quite keenly–4 types of emotional experiences that adult codependents face. Check this out…
- Adult Feeling Reality: this is the functional and mature feeling experience. An individual who experiences emotions within this framework is very centered within themselves, can clearly identify their emotional expresses and know how to express them in moderation. They also know what is there’s and what’s not when it comes to empathizing with others.
- Adult-Induced Feeling Reality: In functional adults, adult-induced feelings comes about through the vehicle of empathy. Being able to sit in close proximity to another while they share about a painful experience and to feel their pain in a small way but not allowing it to overwhelm you, take it on yourself and thus disregulating you. However, someone with adult-induced feeling reality experiences the overwhelming effect of another’s pain/emotional experience. They take on ALL their feelings and are left confused because, frankly, they were not their emotions in the first place thus the confusion. It also leaves the individual feeling massively overwhelmed and a bit crazy.
- Frozen Feelings From Childhood: This originates from a place of survival. Feeling no feelings is safety. It is only seen as “safe” because as a kid a traumatic event(s) was so overwhelming (likely out of sexual/physical/verbal/emotional abuse) that you had to shut down/compartmentalize/fragment/dissociate in order to survive and grow up. However, as an adult, it is really unhelpful because it leaves you with a suppressed emotional world. As Brene Brown has stated, you cannot selectively numb certain feelings. Numb one, you numb them all. These feelings that are usually “frozen” are pain, anger and fear. When you begin to thaw these emotions with the help of a therapist, it often leaves the individual feeling vulnerable and childlike. So, their knee-jerk reaction is going to be to resist. resist. resist. It is in the ability to push through, experience the feelings and keep thawing them out that you’ll be able to heal the little boy or little girl within you.
- Adult-to-Child Carried Feelings: Just as the individual who has adult-induced feelings totally absorbs all the feelings of another, the individual in this category absorbed those feelings in childhood from their abuser/primary caregiver. Kids absorb a lot–shame, rage, fear, anger, pain, sadness. It is in absorbing these as children that they can be carried into adulthood leaving you feeling totally overwhelmed and out of control.
I cannot stress to you how necessary and helpful it is to understand where you and your story fit in. Being able to name your emotional experiences is powerful. Especially for those who have felt so powerless. Everything we think to our behaviors, feelings and how it pertains to our bodies stems from somewhere. It is in the knowing that healing can begin.
How long will you have to continue to endure pain and the endless cycle of “crazy” before you reach out for support?
Olivia specializes in restoring relationships, recovering intimacy and unlocking people’s true potential. Check out her website to get to know her a bit better and how counseling could be the key to unlocking all that is keeping you small, feeling insignificant and disconnected from yourself and others.