Co-Dependent Anger-Niceness (Part 3)


If I can carry them, I’ll be loved

PREVIOUS: Secretly angry-nice #1

SITEArticle 1 // Article 2


True Kindness is a positive trait, coming from an inner place of abundance – the person having enough of their needs & wants met from their healthy family, themselves & in the world. It allows them to be reasonably happy with themselves & their life, without being complacent. As a result, they can be thoughtful & generous toward others, without desperately needing or expecting a return.

This satisfaction then translates into relating positively toward others, AND carries them thru hard times – showers or storms  – which happen to us all.  Being a genuinely kind person is never a liability when it’s an outgrowth of our personal nice neighborsstrength, emotional stability & human understanding.    (Boundaries posts).

True Kindness is all the opposites of co-dependence. It’s being true to our own needs & values, expressing this to others so they know where they stand with us.
Sometimes healthy kindness is uncomfortable. Sometimes it means saying ‘No to someone’s request or demand, because it’s not good for us, or not good for them – like not giving money to an active addict, or not spending the night with a stranger….

NOTE:  Our True Self may indeed be helpful, caring & kind. And for wounded people who want to scrub off the False Self layer, with enough Recovery we who are ‘natural helpers’ can find a balance between legitimate giving & appropriate self-care.
Other personality Types can finally uncover & admit that it’s not really their style at all – they need more privacy & solitude to fulfill healthy goals & natural talents.
ARTICLE:”For Everyone who has been called ‘Too Nice’.” Re. Positive niceness!!

Co-dependent Fake Niceness
Most people occasionally need to hide their anger behind the face of politeness –  especially when it’s the only way to protect oneself.  This is normal.
Here we’re focusing on suppressed-anger-niceness as a way of life. It’s a defense mechanisms, one of many ways our damage shows up, used to disguise our unhealed wounds of the past. Childhood abandonment always leaves us with a great deal of anger, which ‘nice’ people turn in on themselves. Lacking genuine self-esteem, we latch on to others so we can manipulate them into providing our many unmet needs, instead of working to develop these for ourselves.

Co-Dep is an outgrowth of self-hate, which tells us that we caused our own pain, from birth – on. And according to this distorted thinking, if wehappy-man caused it then we surely can cure it, which is the WIC’s sense of false power, who is convinced that we can control how we are treated – by being extra good – no, perfect!   (opposite of Al-anon’s 3 Cs)
But all we end up doing is twisting ourselves into whatever pretzel we think others want, and trying to fix people who are the least likely to change – the narcissists & addicts around us who are too self-absorbed to even see us, much less care. Neither effort ever works!

In reality we could not possibly have caused any of our early suffering, since the damaged adults who raised us were already fully formed before we arrived! It’s not fair that we have to clean up the mess they left us with, but we do have the power to heal much of it, if we want a better life. Yet many people are unwilling to shed deep-seated defenses as it would mean dealing with the original wounds that caused their need for them.

Without a strong inner core of self-esteem, clear thinking & good boundaries, the reason for the way we interact with others is not ‘clean’. At the very least, the surface agreeableness of our angry-niceness is a pretense. At the extreme, being overly-sweet, overly-solicitous, overly-helpful hides our anger even more deeply. All types are (almost) never angry – on the outside!

Actually, our carefully controlled actions are basically self-serving, because we’re only being ‘so good’ as a way of conning others into taking care of us – emotionally, psychologically – & often in all 4 PMES way. Whether or not we’re aware of our compulsive patterns is not relevant here. (See Part 1 re. Selfishness).too helpful

If you’re still actively Secretly-Angry, you want to be seen as a kind person, in spite of how you feel inside, because society considers that a virtue. And being desperate for positive strokes, you assume that’s what is always required & expected of you. But you’re still living in emotional deprivation, so no amount of people-pleasing will fill the void.

Then, the more you do for others, especially if there’s no acknowledgement or appreciation – the angrier you get. But ‘nice’ people aren’t supposed to get angry – so the feeling transforms into resentments.

NEXT: Co-Dep defined #2

ACoAs ‘FEELING SORRY For’ (Part 3)


but my first responsibility is to my own!

PREVIOUS: “Feeling Sorry For” #2

See ACRONYM page for abbrev.



FEELING SORRY for oneself can be healthy or unhealthy.

HARMFUL, from others :  When we express genuine pain, we often hear cruel reactions from ‘authorities’, family or so-called friends (some 12-step members, religious communities, various self-help gurus / books) :

“Get off the pity pot , You’re JUST feeling sorry for yourself , Don’t wallow in your pain , Don’t live in the past , That was a long time ago , Are you still going on about that? ….”

These comments come from someone not working to heal their old wounds (even in Program), but instead are clinging to & protecting their own defense mechanisms & don’t want to be reminded of their damage.

we have our own version of “feeling sorry for”, in 2 forms.
a. Negatively (self-pity) endlessly rehashing old traumas, as a way to:
• not care for ourselves – stay in damaged-child modeself-pity
blame others, instead of focusing on what we can do now
• stay in the anger – which is ‘safer’ than feeling the pain underneath
• not have to grow up & ‘leave home’ (S & I) — escaping the responsibility of being in charge of our life.

b. PositivelyFirst & foremost, we need to have great compassion for ourselves – for what we endured as kids, & also as adults. Feeling sorry for & comforting our WIC is NOT selfishness, as we were told. Gaining the trust of our WIC is the only way to heal.

As kids, our suffering was ignored or punished & we were expected to suck it up. Even then, ‘they’ said we were being a baby, too sensitive, over-reacting, making things up, being crazy….
This has left us with a tragic inability to be kind & understanding toward ourselves!  We’re as unsympathetic as our family was – indeed, just as cruel in the way we talk to & treat ourselves! (Self-Hate)

SO, ‘healthy’ feeling sorry for – ourselves- includes:
gain WIC's childrenclearly understand exactly what happened to us in childhood. As long as we can’t identify & acknowledge it, we’ll keep repeating it
• having others validate our experience, without blame or judgment, because we never got the right kind of mirroring growing up (a crucial aspect of our damage)

• go over & over the traumatic events of childhood in order to get to the emotional pain which they caused – to be able to process it & get it out of our body
• cry & rage & mourn – in safe places, with safe people – so we don’t have to carry it around anymore or take it out on others

➼ These can take a long time, because there’s a huge backlog of pain which we can’t access quickly or easily – & our resistance to change.

EXP:  Rob was working on connecting with his Inner Child for several years.  While sharing in an ACoA 12-Step meeting, he suddenly visualized his kid sitting on the floor, hunched over – with knives sticking in him, all over. That’s what all that early verbal abuse had felt like! Rob started to cry.

In that moment he saw & felt the terrible distress his kid was in but which he compassion for WICwasn’t allowed to object to or express. As his Loving Parent self, he was able to feel a great rush of sorrow & compassion for his younger self. After that he couldn’t be harsh with the kid any more (negative voice coming from either the WIC or the PP).  It was a turning point in his recovery.

• Remember: The only source of self-esteem is unconditional love. Having a strong, positive identity means treating ourselves with loving kindness, patience & perseverance. We do need to ‘feel sorry for’ our wounded part – the real-life child we were, who suffered unfairly & alone thru endless days & nights, in our home, school, church & neighborhood – without people noticing, caring or helping!

• If we – as the Loving Inner Parent to our WIC – can feel genuine sorrow for what we endured, through no fault of our own, we can begin healing those wounds.  The child part of us is waiting to be heard!

NEXT: Fear of commitment- #1


Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 6.37.49 PMOH, NO! DON’T BE UPSET!
I can’t stand it when you’re
in any kind of pain

PREVIOUS: Abandon Others (#1b)

See ACRONYM page for abbrev.

5. REPRESSING Others’ Emotions (Es)

ACoAs are often guilty of mistreating others in the same ways they were by family & other authority figures. To the degree we are still repressing our own Es, we try to suppress the Es of others. Many of us can’t tolerate anyone being in emotional pain or going thru a hard time, especially if we care about them.
(ACoA website Site Map, pg. 24-26)

a. Assuming – sure we know how someone is feeling, emotionally – without asking, OR not believing what they tell us they’re experiencing, & then insist we know better (what nerve!)
EXP: At a wedding celebration, Sam saw cousin Annie sitting alone, arms crossed, withdrawn, & assumed she was angry. Not bothering to check what she was really feeling, he started lecturing her about her unsociability, how inappropriate her attitude was, & that she was 
bringing everyone down … when actually she was deeply sad, feeling lonely & missing her ex!

When I cried intensely at my father’s memorial service, a relative accusingly told me I was being ‘fragile’ – as if weeping made me weak & therefore unacceptable (I know they were punished for crying, as a child).  Actually, I always feel clearer & stronger after letting out some pain – it’s a strength, not a weakness!screen-shot-2016-06-11-at-6-46-58-pm

A variation: 
Deciding we ‘absolutely know’ someone’s angry at us, or jealous of us,  or upset with us in some other way – of course, without checking – and then obsess about it, gossip to others, worry, prepare a defense or rebuttal, avoid them OR confront / attack them…
BUT, actually

• our assumption may only be a projection of our own S-H & FoA
• OR, we did pick up some emotional vibe from them (ACoAs always have their antennae up for trouble or rejection) but what the other person was really feeling was not what we thought!

: As a therapist, during a sessions, if I strongly express an opinion about certain topics (that inner-abuse coming from the Introject or self-hate is NOT OK ), or if I’m not smiling or being light-hearted – it is often misunderstood by a client as me being angry – at them. NOT! I’m just strongly indicating how serious something is.

Another variation:
Ironically, some ACoAs can’t tolerating anyone else doing well. They try to stop others (mates, children friends) from feeling good, because “misery loves company”!
EITHER: they create dysfunctional situations for others, to keep the chaos & misery going we’ve been conditioned to feel as ‘normal’
OR: be consistently enraged & abusive or withholding & silent, whenever someone expresses enjoyment, happiness, excitement, peacefulness…to make them feel bad (again) – to be like us

b. Arguing – acting out a pattern of anger & fights with someone 
arguing, fightingclose (mate, child,  friend, loved parent…) when it’s time to separate,
 even for a few days.
• First – fighting, saying cruel or stupid things
• then later doubling the abandonment by denying being upset, or underplaying it all — thereby negating the pain we caused & the other person’s real experience.

This is done to keep us from feeling our own abandonment pain, which would make us feel vulnerable.  Being angry –
• gives us a sense of power & makes the ‘bad feelings’ an easier way 
to leave, BUT
• it’s dishonest & disrespectful to ourselves & the other person
REMINDER – even tho’ we can’t technically abandon another adult, the term is always used here to express ‘not being there’ for others emotionally

c. Negating – directly discounting someone’s E. experience:
— “You don’t really feel that way”// “Don’t feel like that” negating
— “Don’t say that” // “That’s no way to talk”
— “That’s not a nice thing to say”….
EXP: When telling a religious friend at a conference about the ongoing pain from her childhood trauma, Jen was told: “You shouldn’t feel that way!”.
Fortunately Jen had been in Al-Anon long enough to respond: “Well, I don’t ‘should’ on myself!”, then smiled & walked away.

NEXT: ACoAs Abandoning others (#2b)

Healthy HELPING (Part 2)

HELPING WORKS –when we both benefit

PREVIOUS: Healthy Helping (HH) (#1)

REMINDER: See Acronym Page for abbrev.

Just because we were trained to be rescuers by our family does not mean we can’t be of service.

3. WHEN – I can help IF :
• it’s not to boost my self-esteem or sense of identity
• it’s short term, because they’re growing, learning, changing
• I can do it without being resentful or hurt yourself in some way
• I don’t have to keep my antennae up all the time – to check for what’s wrong, walk on egg shells, worry about being accused wrongly…
• I only have to do ‘so much’ & then back off & let them handle things

• I’m NOT trying to do the impossible (force-fix someone’s damage
cup overflows• I don’t take an action when being guilted or shamed by someone
• I don’t secretly n-e-e-d a return for my efforts
However, it is appropriate to get paid, get thanked, have some reciprocity
• my cup is full enough that I’m not draining myself dry
• they genuinely can’t do something for themselves, but it’s temporary

4. HOW I can Help (T.E.A.)
T: Give helpful, INFO about a request
E: Listen, & validate, with compassion & empathy
A: DO something useful AND realistic
• ASK Qs re. their problem: What do you need from me? What have you already done?  What are you planning to do?…
• be clear about what I can & cannot do, OR will & will not do

• don’t jump in, don’t assume I know what’s needed
• give emotional support, instead of solutions (head, actions)
• help someone think a problem thru – THEIR way
• set limits with self & others
• tell the emotional or intellectual truth.  Some won’t want to NEIGHBORS-TALKINGhear it & will go away, but others will value it & grow
• wait to see if they CAN do something on their own,
OR if there’s someone else who can / will help them

ALSO, it’s:
• OK to do someone a favor, sometimes  – even if they can do it themselves, if it’s on my way, not a burden, something I like to do
• OK to help someone get thru emotionally hard times – death of a loved one, work trauma, health problems….
….AS LONG AS the HELP-EE (you are the help-er) is respectful of my time & efforts, appropriately appreciative (but not overly),  & is not an emotionally bottomless pit

5. RESULTS of Healthy Helping
a. In ME –  I :
• don’t get depleted, or resentful
• don’t have to ‘hide’ from needy ‘pests’ (they learn you won’t rescue them)
• feel satisfied, pleased, ‘full’, comfortable, relaxed
• feel more connected to others, & the world
• feel good about myself, but don’t need it for my identity
b. In Them – They :
• become less dependent on me
• don’t resent or blame me for their issues
• are appreciative but not fawning
• become more independent, & inter-dependent
• begin to trust their own experiences & ideas
• gain self-esteem & feel empowered
• absorb & use my help to grow & improve, no matter how slowly

6. STOP helping
Sometimes, DOing NOTHING is the best or only option:
• it’s not the right time
• it’s not a legitimate request or possible action
• there are NO actions possible in some situations

DON’T DO anything to help, IF:
– Act the VICTIM who needs too much from you, more than you can give or more than is appropriate to ask. No matter how much you do, it will never be right or enough!
– Act the PERPETRATOR who makes you feel unsafe, because they’re a taker, user, abuse, bully….
b. YOU
• are in need at the moment, OR overextended
• just do not want to (not now, or never)
• it’s something truly, deeply not right for you to do
• are appropriately breaking a Toxic family Rule

HOWEVER, you can be ‘doing all the right things’ but if they’re still too damaged, they may be resentful :
They’ll attack you, accuse you of not caring, bad-mouth you to others, accuse you of abandoning them & of being SELFISH….
….specifically because you’re NOT willing to rescuing them!

🔹 Do not JUSTIFY your ‘NO’ – it’s a complete sentence!
Otherwise, you’ll just be complying out of guilt or from a forced sense of obligation.
✒︎ TAKE CARE of YOURSELF FIRST, & always pay attention to what your GUT is telling you – about a person or situation!

NEXT: Wounded Child #1

Healthy HELPING (Part 1)


As long as I take care of myself in the process

PREVIOUS: Rescuing (#2)

REVIEW: Hero Family Role 


ACoAs:  Many of us were trained from birth to be helpers, regardless of our native personality style & interests. There’s an ironic saying in recovery circles: “ACOAs are born with an MSW (Masters in Social Work) and then get their Birth Certificate later”!

• This is most common with the child who has the Hero role, which is usually the first-born in a dysfunctional family.  They’re supposed to pick up the slack where the parents leave off – being the little adult to make the family look healthier than it really is, but at the expense of the child.

• This caretaker role becomes so deeply ingrained that it’s usually carried into all of our ADULT relationships.  It requires unceasing effort for the benefit of others, instead of caring fully for ourselves. (See ‘RESCUING – False Helping’).

✦ On the other hand, there are ACoAs who, by their very nature, are meant to be in the helping or service professions, like people born with strong Water & Air Sign influences in their astrological chart – such as Pisces, Cancer (the healers), Aquarius & Gemini (the teachers).

✦ For those of us so designed, the goal is to be of genuine help to others, as a way of expressing our Highest Self – without being motivated by the toxic patters of co-dependence, self-hate, boundary invasion, fear of abandonment & over-control.

GOAL of Heathy Helping (HH): Encourage someone to take care of themselves the best way they can, in their current circumstance
OPPOSITE of making / keeping someone dependent on you!

1. OVERVIEW  – before HELPING someone, ASK:
a. What do I know about the person I may help?
• are they responsible & self-caring?
• did they ask me directly & specifically, for something?
• will they be OK with me if I can’t do what they want?

b. What exactly do they want?
• can they truly do it for themselves?
• is the request ‘clean’ (emotionally & verbally honest)?
• how many parts to the request are there, actually?
• what are the consequences/ price TO ME?

c. Can I Comply?
• am I really able to do this? (it’s not beyond my ability, OR it’s not something impossible)
• do I WANT to do it?  If ‘Yes’ – what’s my motive?
• what does it require of me – specifically?
• will I be angry if I do it, or remorseful if I don’t?
• do I want anything in return? What are my expectations?

2. Prerequisites for H.H.
a. In ME – I need to:
• be able to keep the ‘focus on myself’ – not get enmeshed with the needs & emotions of others
• have basic self-esteem, a sense of identity that not dependent on others
relaxed• have developed real boundaries, not needing to be symbiotic
• know my individual human limitations, without judgment or self-hate

• not have to use people to feel good about myself
• KNOW what’s real, in the recovery process, about:
— emotions: each person is responsible for their own, & they can learn how to managed them
— the growth process: it’s slow & has to be experienced personally
— what Mental Health is (from ACoA website)
— what can realistically be dealt with: what’s possible or not. ACoAs tend to get the Serenity Prayer backwards!

b. In THEM
✦ I can help – if they :
• are actively doing self-care, & communicating with their inner childInner Child (personal responsibility)
• actually ask for the help they want or need
• are clear about what they need (direct & specific)

• apply to their lives what I give them & use it to grow
➼ “Give a man a fish & you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish & you feed him for a lifetime.” Chinese proverb
• IF they’re truly ‘dis-abled’ in some way (ADD, PTSD, depression, illness…)

✦ I can help – as long as they DON’T :
• blame me for for that they can’t do, for things that don’t work, or for disappointing outcomes
• expect me to be perfect, know everything, take care of them
• need to suck me dry / cling, use me as a parent substitute
• try to copy my personality, instead of forming their own

NEXT: Healthy Helping, Part 2