Love, Hate, and Co-Dependency
By: Javan
July 22, 2012

love-hateThere is a contradiction between feeling love and hate, it’s obviously almost impossible to feel both emotions at the same time, or is it?

Recently a client came into my office and was tearful about how hurtful and abandoning her mother was to her. She doesn’t call her mother by mom, mother, or momma, or any other term that most little girls would call their mothers. She is disconnected and fearful of being in relationship with her mom, so the relationship has been in severe cut-off for years. She is struggling in her marriage today, because she is angry with her husband most days. This client has been carrying a devastating love-hate relationship in her heart and soul all her life. She is aware of the hate and disconnect part of her feelings toward her mother, but she has not been in touch with her natural need to love her mother.

Children are naturally built to need, love, want, and be with their parents. It is an unconditional and natural state of children, regardless of how parents treat their children. Children want to learn from their parents, so they mimic their understanding of their parents’ behaviors. Children seek approval through the process of learning from their parents and do not have an ability to self-differentiate or separate themselves from the judgement of parents if children misbehave.

Children are unable to control behaviors as well as adults, because the cerebral cortex is not developed until the age of 25 years, which is why children and teens do not have well established boundaries and impulse control around their behaviors.

Why does all this matter? It matters because it is with this understanding that one can look back on childhood or as a parent of a small child today to see why growing up is so difficult and why disciplining a child is so challenging. All this matters also, because an adult who loves to hate their parents is also unaware of how this process is self-abandoning, destructive, and alienating. What happens to the heart when the child-you has no choice at first but to seek the love of the parent, only to receive rejection, pain, and unfulfilled needs? Imagine the abandonment felt in those moments….now imagine, the self-abandoning process that occurs once this child has been taught how to be abandoning…pretty upsetting stuff.

Self-abandonment looks like this: I am a child of a parent who does not meet my need, I see and/or feel my parent pull away from me, I then also mimic the same behavior for myself and pull away or deny myself as well. So I learn to self-abandon!

Being a child is automatically about being vulnerable. Like little ducklings who follow mama duck into dangerous waters where ducklings may not know how to swim, little ducklings just assume mama will show them how to swim, how to eat, and how to be safe. Little ducklings are pre-disposed to being co-dependent because they are 100% dependent on mama duck! As human children, we are 100% dependent on parents for all our emotional and physical needs, there is no other option, no plan B….human parents are plan A, that’s it.

When these needs are not met or these needs are severely neglected with shame, neglect, or rage, children learn to live in a dual world of feel unconditional regard and love while feeling pain and hate feelings at the same time. This duality is what brings my client into the office for marriage counseling, because she is living in a dual world of love and hate with her husband. She cannot explain her rage, her anger, her deeply hurt feelings of abandonment. She knows they are very real to her and she experiences these feelings in her marriage today. Her husband is nothing like her mother, but she is so enmeshed and dependent on him, that she defines her worth and her being from within the marital relationship.

She has become co-dependent, entirely dependent on her husband to describe to her who she is and what her worth is today based on how they get along, on how good of a wife she is, and when this feedback goes poorly, she feels the deep resentment she feels toward her abandoning mother. It has become a vicious cycle of love and hate, and self-abandonment.

If you’re experiencing marital strife or have pain about your childhood, come to see me. I can help you separate, self-differentiate, and become less co-dependent. It takes work and time, but you deserve a joyful life so you can stop living in the past!