Find Your Sense of Self
By: Christy Aloisio
May 8, 2011

Hello again! I know it has been a while since my last blog. I have been off enjoying time with my newborn son (of course he is 3 months old now, so not so sure I can call him a newborn)! But I am back and ready to blog about more issues that plague relationships. If your marriage is at a breaking point, you have unresolved pain to work on, or you can relate a little bit to much to one of these blogs, email me and I would be happy to set up an appointment with you or you and your spouse! [email protected]

In one of my group sessions I was told a “codependency” joke. It goes like this: A codependent flies out to California and rents a covertable. As she driving up the coastal highway she starts going a little too fast and loses control of the vehicle. As she is flying over the cliffs and plumeting to her death someone elses life passes before her eyes. Funny, right? It may be funny for some, but not so much for those who can really relate. I told the joke in a feedback session and the client instantly put her hands up to her face and gasped in outrage. She told me that she had a near death experience, and when she thought she was going to die she remembers praying to God that he would watch over her friend that was going through a bad time because she would no longer be able to be there if she died. So although the joke can be quite funny at first listen, it can be painful to hear if it rings in to close to home.

One of the core characteristics of codependency is being “other centered.” It is putting your own needs at the end of the line behind everyone elses. It is a client who wakes up every morning to get her husband off to work, lunches made, kids to school, dog walked, dinner made, and house clean and never even took five minutes to do something for herself, or even take the time to think what she might want to do for herself. It is a man who has no friends and does nothing outside of work for fear that it may upset his girlfriend and then she would be upset. It is the woman who walks and eggshells and even helps her kids to walk on eggshells to keep her husband in a good mood because if not he would throw a tantrum and rage at her and the kids. Each of these three individuals are experts on keeping everything in line, moods in check, and other people in their life happy and any expense. Unfortunately that expense is generally their sense of self.

Someone that has a healthy sense of self knows who they are and what they want and need out of life. They have a healthy balance of meeting their partners needs, but they are also conscious and spend time meeting their own needs and taking care of those needs. Not only are they good at meeting their needs, they listen and pay attention to their feelings. They can be angry when they feel angry and sad when they feel sad. If a person lacks a sense of self, they are not congruent with feelings they have on the inside with what they portray to others on the outside. Even though they are blinded with anger on the inside, they put on their happy unicorn and rainbow smile for those around them. They again are putting their need to be angry behind keeping their partner from feeling their anger.

For example, a couple came to see me because the husband had two emotional affairs with coworkers. The wife came in and as quiet as a church mouse told me about the affairs and that now she was worried when he went out with his friends that it may happen again. Where was her anger? Why was he still able to go out with friends, when trust had not been rebuilt in the relationship. After many months of therapy she was able to piece together that when she was younger her dad had an affair and left her mom. Her mother then turned into a man hater and was bitter and resentful. If my client ever got angry with her mother for any reason her mother would shun her and pull away and disconnect. So she learned that if she showed anger that she really felt that it would mean someone would disconnect from her. Therefore, anger was not something she could have with her husband. Even though she felt it and it was eating her up inside, she was unable to show it due to her fear of him disconnecting from her. Her lack of being able to be congruent with what she felt kept her from developing a sense of self. A sense that she was important enough to express what she felt.

If that article is hitting a little to close to home, you may be asking okay so how do I “fix it.” It takes time! You have lived your whole life without a sense of self, it is not an issue that just popped up yesterday, so be patient with yourself. Get yourself to therapy and group therapy and gain insight into your issues! A sense of self does await you and a healthier relationship to go with it!