“I feel terribly guilty,” she says.
“I’m mad at my father.”
“He be furious if he knew.”
She’s reminding me that control addicts (a.k.a. codependents) are cursed.
They’re cursed by the inability to distinguish their feelings from the reactions of other people to those feelings.
This is a common result of growing up in families — alcoholic, abusive or otherwise dysfunctional — where feelings were not tolerated, much less encouraged.
Thus this young woman can’t experience angry thoughts about dad without immediately scaring herself by imagining his reaction if he knew.
She feels anxious and guilty about feeling.
This is the curse of confusing inside with outside, also known as blurred boundaries — not knowing just where you end and others begin.
It’s a terrible way to live.
It not only keeps you scared of other people, it turns you against yourself — makes you fear the currents of your own emotional life.
Instead of something to respect and listen to, feelings come to seem like a dangerous vulnerability.
And since, being human, you can’t stop feeling, you almost never feel safe.
What to do?
Recovery for such people requires
(a) finding a safe place (like a therapeutic relationship or support group), and then
(b) slowly, bravely training themselves to express feelings to people who won’t punish them.
This is called a corrective emotional experience.
It’s no picnic.
And must be repeated many many times.
But those with the courage and the patience to do this work often discover that they can uncurse themselves.