passerine: Picture of Sparrow from Dykes to Watch For (Default)
[personal profile] passerine
I've had some of these thoughts in the back of my mind for some time now, based on everything from some of my own past relationships to the work I do with domestic violence programs for the state. What brought them forward was some of the reading and discussion in my Human Behavior class this semester.

The summary: What one of the readings called "the language of codependency" is, in my view, anti-feminist in the extreme as well as imprecise and easy to misapply. This language is on my list of Things To Avoid As A Clinician.

The long version follows:


Part 1: One Term, Too Many Definitions

The first problem with the concept of codependency is the multitude of definitions that seem to have sprung up. So far, I've encountered:

- The original definition of the term. A co-dependent, who was originally called a "co-alcoholic", is the spouse of an alcoholic who "enables" the alcoholic's continued drinking by smoothing things over behind the scenes and "covering up for" the alcoholic. In actual practice, if not in intent, this particular form of the definition was applied almost exclusively to the wives of alcoholic husbands.

- The extension of the basic concept, to include the wife of any man with a "problem" and the kids who grew up in any sort of "dysfunctional family". To my way of thinking, this is uselessly overgeneralizing because of the lack of definition of "problem" or "dysfunctional". (For that matter, what the hell is a "functional" family?)

- "Codependent" as an alternate term for "love addict". The idea here is that a codependent is someone (usually a woman) who is so desperate to be in a relationship that she will tolerate just about any bad behavior from her partner, as long as he doesn't actually leave her, or even that she "wants to be abused". This definition ignores a number of realities that operate in the lives of many women.

- There's also the variant that says that anyone who points out that her SO is behaving unacceptably and requests the behavior to change is exhibiting "codependent traits" by making the request. In other words, "codependent" is a fancy way of saying "nagging wife". This one seems to be a favorite of emotional abusers, because it means that they can get away with pretty much anything that isn't illegal or physically violent and it'll be fine because if the victim objects, that's just her codependency showing. (I have friends who have been through this. It's one of those things that really bugs me.)

- I've also seen "codependent" used as a descriptor for "does not know how to communicate assertively, or theoretically knows how yet fails to do so." This doesn't have anything to do with dysfunctional families or "love addiction" - it's a communication style problem.

- A "codependent" person "lacks interpersonal boundaries." This almost seems reasonable until you try to pick it apart. Because really, deep down, just about all of us have interpersonal boundaries and lines that we will not permit people to cross. We may not be conscious of them, we may not want to admit them to particular people or to ourselves, but they EXIST. So by saying that someone "lacks interpersonal boundaries" aren't you just saying "this person does not have the boundaries I would have, and therefore is dysfunctional" for the most part? I mean, unless you're talking actual, diagnosed Reactive Attachment Disorder (and the overdiagnosis of "attachment issues" is another rant for another time), then you'd probably be surprised about the degree of functional boundaries that these allegedly "codependent" and "boundary-less" people have. What may be the case is that the person has difficulty expressing what those boundaries are, and that's something to work on of course, but probably not with the "language of codependency" as the core of the work.

- Related to the above, I know some polyamorous people who have been told that they MUST be codependent to accept that their primary partner sleeps with someone else. Um, no. So very much NO.

- There's also the version that is the descriptor of partners who have lives that are more intertwined than an observer thinks is appropriate. I think that's also a variant on the "lacks interpersonal boundaries" theme. Of course, some people (mis)apply this concept in such a way as to imply that all interdependence is codependence, that if you can't simply walk out the door tomorrow with few to no regrets, you are codependent! (This is probably the only definition that I see applied relatively equally regardless of gender.)

- Codependent people are apparently either "super responsible or super irresponsible." Right then. So the exact opposite symptoms get you the same pop-psychology "diagnosis". Mmm-hmm, I see.

- The list goes on, but I think you probably get the idea.


Part 2: Problems With The Original Definition

So for the moment, let's go back to the original definition of the "co-alcoholic wife". She "enables" her husband's drinking by engaging in such activities as smoothing over conflicts that started while he was drunk, attending to his physical needs, calling in sick for him when he has a hangover, finding reasons other than "Dad drank it" that the kids don't have money for what they want to do (or finding the money somehow), etc. Allegedly, she does this because she has a deep-seated need for him to be sick so that she can feel capable.

Is this the best we can do to describe a capable woman married to a not-so-capable man when she is trying to give herself and her kids the best life she can? She needs to do this to "feel capable"? WTF? She is capable, and it's only the product of a very sexist paradigm that insists that if a husband is mentally unwell, his wife must be at least as sick as he is. Defining her as "codependent" or a "co-alcoholic" undermines the degree of health she has - she MUST have - to bear the level of responsibility that she does!

Let's try this another way. Suppose that instead of a drinking problem, her husband has cancer. Suppose that she calls in sick for him when he's vomiting from the chemo, smooths things over with the insurance company when there's been a mix-up, tries to give the kids as normal a life as possible despite Dad's obvious illness and the mounting medical bills, etc. Is she still codependent, or is she a caretaker? Is she "enabling" her husband's cancer? Most people would say not. Many would say she's a Big Damn Hero for all this and praise her rather than condemn.

Reframing it yet again with a mental illness not complicated by chemical dependency gets trickier. I suppose that one depends on how much of "mental illness" the observer believes is illness and how much is deliberate behavior, as well as how deep-seated the belief is that you must be crazy to be in love with a crazy person. I could go on about that, but that is so not within the scope of this post and is rather personal anyway.


Part 3: Codependency Is A Woman's Job!

Supposedly, it's "codependent" to be a caretaker, at least in some situations.

The trouble is, that whether or not we grew up in "dysfunctional families", this society insists that the role of caretaker is gendered feminine. And as is so often the case, the same behaviors that are functional or even desirable when there is no overt substance abuse or addictive behavior on the part of a husband are evidence of codependency when the husband IS some kind of addict.

(The further trouble is, whether the woman stays in the relationship with the addict as he sobers up or whether she leaves for someone else, she has now been labeled and/or labeled herself as codependent, and will carry that into whatever relationship she might be involved in.)

One of the Human Behavior readings had a particularly striking example of how and why this is so. Apparently, a particular family therapist asks each member of a couple to make a list of "What I do to keep the family functioning." Usually, the lists look something like this:

The Man: Primary income earner, drive the car on long trips, take out the trash, minor household repairs, call repair people for major house/car repairs, compliment wife, walk the dog, throw football with son, make sure daughter obeys curfew.

The Woman: Part-time income earner, grocery shopping, meal planning, cooking, dishes, laundry, taking things to and from dry cleaners, miscellaneous household errands, make sure bills are paid on time, attend parent-teacher conferences, attend kids' sports events/recitals/school plays/etc., picking up after husband and kids, change the cat litter, clean the fish tank, feed the pets, run interference between husband and kids, break up conflicts between kids, run interference between husband and parents, know where everyone has to be when, make doctor's appointments, weed the garden, clean the house, take kids clothes shopping, justify why everything costs so much, plan vacations, stay home with kids when they are sick, wear clothes husband likes, be ready to have sex at least twice a week, ...

If the man in this scenario were an alcoholic, the woman would be labeled as "over-responsible" and thus "codependent". Since he's not, this just looks like a relatively normal marriage, all things considered.


Part 4: Co-option of Co-dependent

For me, the most problematic aspect of all when dealing with the "language of codependency" is the sheer level of "damned if you do, damned if you don't." Since there are SO MANY codependent traits, it seems to me that basically any time a woman does something the man she is involved with does not like, if he's familiar with the "language of codependency" he can criticize her on those grounds. The easiest way to do this is as a retort to her objection to HIS behavior.

This is essentially a mutation of Geek Social Fallacy #2 - if friends must "accept me as I am", how much more true must that be for an SO? But as GSF#2 points out, this often leads to problems when behavior cannot be criticized, no matter how inappropriate the behavior is.

To give a semi-trivial example [disclaimer: made-up and not from my own life or the life of anyone I know] of obviously inappropriate behavior: Suppose your live-in SO always leaves the milk out in the morning after putting it in his cereal and coffee. If it stays out all day, it may well go bad, which is a waste of milk and thus of the money spent on the milk. It also means there is no readily available milk the next morning, most likely.

So, how do you handle this?

Do you sigh and put the milk away for him, every single time? That's codependent! You're doing for him what he should be doing for himself. That's right - you are enabling his bad milk behavior.

Do you continually remind him to put the milk away? That's codependent too! You're asking for him to change his behavior, and once you've asked more than once or twice and he hasn't changed, you need to either accept that this behavior will continue or decide that you cannot live with someone who is so careless about refrigeration.

Do you just leave the milk out, knowing it will go bad? Codependent, and passive-aggressive!

Do you buy your own milk and insist that he buy his own milk because if he wants to drink nasty milk that has gotten sour from being out all day that's his problem? Codependent, passive-aggressive, AND nagging, all at once!

Do you make some excuse for why you buy your own milk (he wants 2% and you want skim) as a way of getting around this and making sure YOU have milk that isn't sour? Codependent again because you're accommodating his immature behavior!

Now, of course the reasonable thing would be for HIM to be an adult and put the damn milk away. But if you do anything short of leave him over this, any response you come up with can be seen as codependent. (Hell, even IF you leave, you can be described as having "fear of intimacy" thus a history of codependence anyway!) And if you have the misfortune of being attached to someone with emotionally abusive tendencies who is up on the latest and greatest in psychobabble, expect to hear "codependent" as a description of you on a regular basis.

Is it any wonder people fear commitment? When accommodating other people's quirks, or getting upset by them, is a sign that you are somehow pathological...how can you learn to live with someone else?


Epilogue: By The Way, Why Doesn't She Just Leave?

While not directly related to the "languge of codependency", this is indirectly related because "codependent personality" used to be given as a reason that women would not leave domestic violence situations. Or alcoholic partners. Or anyone that someone thinks is a bad partner - hell, there were probably people who thought I should have left [personal profile] invisionary after he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. (Fortunately, people are generally smart enough not to express THAT particular sentiment to my face.)

So, why doesn't she just leave, find someone better, go out on her own, etc.?

- If this is an actual domestic violence situation, the biggest reason of them all is fear for her life. Most DV victims who are murdered by the abuser are murdered during an attempt to leave or soon after they have left.

- There may be all kinds of logistical problems, especially since abusers tend to work by isolating victims. Does she have the resources, financial and otherwise, to safely leave and stay out?

- A very real concern is that the abuser may kill her pets.

- There can be custody issues of various sorts that complicate things.

- If her immigration status is tied to his, she may believe she will be deported if she leaves.

- Leaving a marriage, no matter how troubled, may be against her religious beliefs.

- She may still love him, or at least the person she thought he was.

- She may have internalized the belief that this is her fault, either from the abuser or from other sources.

- If this is a same-sex relationship, "outing" could be being used as blackmail.

- If this is one of those situations in which the abuser is female and the victim is male, he may fear retribution, including being "framed" as the abuser. (I don't think this is as common as Some People would believe, but I know of at least two such situations involving reliable witnesses that are close to me, and one where the malicious havoc wreaked on the man in question by the woman in question is something I would not have believed had I not seen it in action.)

- If the relationship does not involve domestic violence but seems "weird" or "bad" to people outside it...well, how do you KNOW? You're not IN the relationship. I've encountered this from monogamous people who think that non-coercive polyamory is pretty much impossible, for instance.

- Also, sure, the relationship might be somewhat unhappy. However, it might be a "least horrible option" situation. Holding the relationship together might not be, "We must do this at all costs!" but it might be "I don't want to deal with the loss of support structure, standard of living, etc. for myself and my kids that leaving would trigger, so I will stay at least until the kids are all out of the house." The person in the situation probably knows the most about the realities of that situation and of the alternatives.

- Also? EVERY relationship goes through bad times. If you think it doesn't or shouldn't, you are very wrong, probably delusional, and unlikely to get involved in a relationship that lasts more than a few months.

- It's important to distinguish, "Well, I wouldn't stay if X happened!" from "So you shouldn't either!" Fill in your own example here. :P


EDIT TO ADD: I was actually able to find an online copy of one of the articles used in my class. If you don't mind doing the somewhat more scholarly reading involved, you can look at it here. The article proposes "over-responsible" and "under-responsible" as alternative terminology, which I find useful. (Sort of like how I find my concept of "Depressed Logic" more useful than defining depression-induced thoughts that contradict objective reality as "irrational".)

Date: 2009-04-29 01:03 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] indywind
Hmmm... I have understood "codependent" to mean a long-term consistent pattern of choosing others' (often, some particular other or class of others) happiness above one's own happiness and basic safety & security, in the presence of other viable* options options and while not being satisfied with so doing.

*recognized as such by the "co-dependent"

This is probably enough different from the most common usages that you're dissecting to make comparison problematic.

You do have an excellent point about how some of the usages are in direct conflict with one another: damned if you do, damned if you don't. Particularly the one where someone who asks for change in unsatisfying behavior is being co-dependent. I'd be tempted to consider that definition separately, as an example of the creative illogic of abuse rather than a common definition.

I hear people using "codependent" mostly in line with the first 3 bullet points, and the "lacking boundaries" one, which, yeah, usually seems to mean that the outside person disapproves of the choices of the person being labeled "codependent". It's partly in reaction to that kind of judgmental attitude that my definition of codependent hinges on the person herself being unhappy with the results of her choices. That lets out demonizing people who are satisfied with choices I would not like for myself (24/7 bdsm, say) or that I'm envious of their ability to perform better than me (devoted care for an ill or otherwise troubled loved-one).

Interestingly, of the people I know whom I might call co-dependent, about equal numbers are male and female, and my personal "textbook example" is male--and occupies a number of other positions of privilege also, which makes it particularly striking.

Date: 2009-04-29 04:46 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] indywind
I agree, the scenario I describe is way, way, way, rarer than the use of "codependent" in conversation seems to indicate.

I don't consider it codependent to choose between two unsafe or unsatisfying situations, whether the choice comes out the way I'd choose or otherwise.

I consider "codependent" for want of a better shorthand, the situation where someone someone says, "I'm not happy here. I can see how I'd really be happier and safer by making xyz changes, and I am able to do them. But if I did, I think Other Person would be unhappy, uncomfortable, or put-out, and my needs are not as important as Other Person's."
some of my family and friends are enduring such situations, or have done. The clearer example is a middle-aged professional I have known for some time, through multiple marriages including the present one which is unsatisfying. Friend's spouse is not abusive, not even really unpleasant. Not physically, mentally, or emotionally ill. Spouse just asks a lot of caretaking and resources, and mopes when the requested items are not supplied. My friend is in an excellent practical position to dictate terms: not only is the shared house in my friend's name, so are all their bills, even spouse's kid-by-previous-marriage's car insurance. As it became "inconvenient" for the spouse to pay one bill or another, my friend has gradually taken over entire financial responsibility for both obligatory expenses, and spouse's wants (paid out of their joint resources). Without the spouse, my friend would be in a better financial position, not worse. My friend doesn't have moral or religious reason to maintain the status quo, is not against divorce on any grounds that I know of, and entered into this marriage according to because a)not-yet-spouse wanted to and b)they got along well enough that it seemed reasonable at the time. Now my friend's finding the situation unpleasant and constrictive (trying to meet all spouse's needs takes up time that previously my friend used for other friendships, activities, or self-care; things that fostered a sense of being a worthwhile person and contributor to society), and tells me how things could be different... if only it didn't make spouse unhappy.

Mr. Textbook-case was in a very similar situation a few years ago; the his spouse decided that with all her material wants being met, the only thing that could make her happy was becoming the mother of his perfect child... which worked out about how you'd expect; the situation is further complicated and not a bit improved.

Date: 2009-04-29 07:02 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] indywind
Yeah, I should probably be clearer about differentiating descriptions of actions from labels of people; that's one of my pet peeves, yet I'm careless in my own expression. D'oh!
And at best my definition doesn't address how most of the rest of the world uses the word.

eek, that poking tickles!
It sounds like you'd find my friend's choice to caretake more defensible if the spouse had a health problem. Am I reading that right?

Date: 2009-04-29 08:48 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] indywind
Drat, I was sure I'd left out all the gender signifiers in this description.


Date: 2009-04-29 01:51 pm (UTC)
adalger: Earthrise as seen from the moon, captured on camera by the crew of Apollo 16 (Default)
From: [personal profile] adalger
Let's try this another way. Suppose that instead of a drinking problem, her husband has cancer.

The concept of co-depndency, as I understand it, is ... well, dependent on the partner having a condition defined as a dependence. This means that care-taking for bona fide medical or psychological conditions are automatically excluded from the discussion.

Admittedly, my knowledge of the terms and definitions come from about 25 years ago, and were originally learned through AA. The definition of co-dependent I learned was, at that time, simply an extension of the definition of the "enabler" personality type: one who, by acting to protect others from the consequences of their poor choices, enables them to continue making poor choices instead of improving their behavior. Co-dependence extends this to describe behavior that depends on having someone to cover for, who specifically has dependence issues, for one's own self-image. It was used when I was familiar with it to mean someone who actively interferes with the steps someone needs to take for personal recovery from dependency because having a healthy partner robbed them of their role as "the strong one in the relationship" or "the one who makes this family work."

Again, it's been a long time, but the "why don't they leave" argument rings a bell, too. Sometimes, when partners of alcoholics would talk to others in recovery, we would tell them if their alcoholic mate continued to fail at necessary behavioral improvements, they should seriously consider what was best for them personally and (if applicable) their children, and whether they could make a better life without the alcholic in it; ultimately, this was seen as best for the alcoholic in the long term. If said alcoholic was able to continue to be an alcoholic without serious reprisal, the motive to recover was weakened. Related terms: "rock bottom" and "level of pain," both of which were used as relative terms to talk about what would make a particular alcoholic take the problem seriously and actually desire recovery.

To an extent, these concepts can apply to any condition that responds to exclusively behavior-based therapy. However, when you get into situations where the individual with the problem has an impaired capacity to make personal choices with respect to the problem due to medical or psychological complications, their usefulness rapidly declines. I.e., you simply can't treat someone with bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, cancer, or a broken leg the same way you'd treat an alcoholic and expect it to be useful.

So ... yeah, anyone who calls someone who stays with someone that has a mental disorder "co-dependent" is not only misapplying, but completely failing to understand the term, IMO. I think, though, that the original definition remains useful for the cases it was meant to cover.

Date: 2009-04-29 05:05 pm (UTC)
adalger: Earthrise as seen from the moon, captured on camera by the crew of Apollo 16 (Default)
From: [personal profile] adalger
"Codependent behavior" is whatever the "recovering" person says it is (or whatever someone OTHER THAN the alleged "codependent" says it is), in other words, and isn't that convenient?

Yes, it is, and has always been a problem. To me, this is a case of "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." Too many people go to their first three meetings and, instead of owning up to their own responsibility, adopt the fallacy that "I drink because my spouse is codependent and makes me drink." These are people who don't properly integrate the philosophy behind 12-step programs.

Thinking on this, I believe I understand your point to be "This terminology is counterproductive because it is not clearly defined and properly understood by the people who use it." Have I got this right?

Regarding your points about 12-step programs:

1) This is, pretty much, what the original intent was. The founder laid it down very much along the lines of his Christian beliefs.

2) I was unaware of this, but I can see at least some ideological crossover. Bad Things could come of this!

3) The "higher power" language is a barrier to a lot of people, religious abuse or no. I'm one of them.

4) I think the underlying problem here is far deeper than you state. AA is, basically, an organized system of psychological group therapy without any professional oversight. People are, basically, entrusting their mental well-being to a self-selected group of meddlesome strangers.

5) This is, to me, a symptom of the point above.

6) The steps in AA were intended for people with a physical addiction acquired as a consequence of relatively minor psychological maladjustment. I'm not all that comfortable with GA, let alone OA. The underlying philosophy can't even be applied to food: total abstinence is a poor fit when you're talking about eating.

Overall, I don't have any real disagreement with your assessment of 12-step programs, particularly if we can agree that these problems stem mainly from their tendency to gobble up a lot of people who could be better served by other means. I might still want to quibble over the usefulness of "codependent" as a label in specific contexts, but given that this is your journal, I'm not going to turn it into a full-fledged debate. There's a comm for that. ;)

Date: 2009-04-29 06:01 pm (UTC)
adalger: Earthrise as seen from the moon, captured on camera by the crew of Apollo 16 (Default)
From: [personal profile] adalger
I'm almost perfectly in agreement, except about the concept itself being sexist. Many alcoholic men certainly wanted to use this as an excuse, I agree. However, it is no less prevalent among alcoholic women. I would tend to think that the sexism comes from the notion that alcoholism is a problem that men have, and the societal generalization of "alcoholic" into "a guy who comes home drunk and abuses his wife and kids."

Date: 2009-04-29 07:22 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] indywind
I think I can agree with this, also.

MHO, "co-dependent" as a concept isn't sexist, but it's especially problematic for having been disproportionately applied to women plus being used to pathologize behaviors that are disproportionately displayed by women and socialized into women. So that not only can one be criticized for failing to meet others' expectation of appropriate behavior (caretaking), she can be criticized for meeting it "too well".

I wonder if there's another word suitable to describe a pattern of choosing to put someone else's comfort ahead of one's own, for those who find "co-dependent" too problematic?

Date: 2009-04-29 09:17 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] indywind
I'd say the sexism is dependent on historical baggage of this culture, and/or how it's used in a particular instance--whether descriptively in accordance with an understood definition (say, as a synonym for "over-responsible", thanks for finding that, by the way, I find it clearer & preferable) or too broadly or punitively or belittlingly or so forth.

I like your PMS analogy here--the cultural construct is full of problems as you describe, and the cultural construct gets used against women; yet, there are still these sets of symptoms that one wishes to refer to collectively sometimes. Over-responsibility, however, unlike PMS, is something that any sex person can do.

dancinglights: (hatshepsut is not amused)
From: [personal profile] dancinglights
wow. I knew about all of these issues except the fifth one and I'm still shocked by how incredibly dangerous and awful that is.

I have fairly obvious inherited alcoholic tendencies. Attempts at teetotalling have given alcohol just as much nagging power over my life as overindulgence, and made me just as miserable and unhealthily focused on what I wanted and Couldn't Have. As it is, I've managed well under my own non-higher power, with occasional help from a surely 'codependent' spouse reminding me things like "you've had something to drink with dinner X days straight, let's not, and spend the evening/weekend doing [some inherently sober event]". Usually I've just failed to notice the trend, so I'm always game.

Date: 2009-04-29 05:17 pm (UTC)
phoenixsong: An orange bird with red, orange and yellow wings outstretched, in front of a red heart. (Default)
From: [personal profile] phoenixsong
The definition of co-dependent I learned was, at that time, simply an extension of the definition of the "enabler" personality type: one who, by acting to protect others from the consequences of their poor choices, enables them to continue making poor choices instead of improving their behavior. Co-dependence extends this to describe behavior that depends on having someone to cover for, who specifically has dependence issues, for one's own self-image.

This is the definition I also think of when I hear "co-dependent." I agree with your last paragraph, too -- co-dependency, as I understand it, is only useful when the other person in the relationship can take steps to control their behavior, not for things that neither party can control.

I understand what [personal profile] passerine is trying to get at, and I could even agree the term probably gets thrown around to label situations where it really isn't the right term at all. But I can't bring myself to agree that the term itself, when used in the original/appropriate context, is anti-feminist. (I'm coming at this as a friend to someone whose father was an alcoholic. The friend would try to talk to her mom about her dad and his repeated relapses, and her mom's responses...very much fit this definition of "co-dependent,", IMO.)

Date: 2009-04-29 06:05 pm (UTC)
adalger: Earthrise as seen from the moon, captured on camera by the crew of Apollo 16 (Default)
From: [personal profile] adalger
Well, yeah. Appropriate context. I misused the word "original" to mean "the original context I learned it in." After all, why should anything that happened when I wasn't there be important? ::shakes head::

Original context was largely about finding these poor suffering alcoholics and bringing them to God to be saved. Heck, for all I know, AA could have been started as a Dominionist ploy in the first place.

Date: 2009-04-29 06:09 pm (UTC)
phoenixsong: An orange bird with red, orange and yellow wings outstretched, in front of a red heart. (Default)
From: [personal profile] phoenixsong
As [personal profile] adalger said: Too many people go to their first three meetings and, instead of owning up to their own responsibility, adopt the fallacy that "I drink because my spouse is codependent and makes me drink." These are people who don't properly integrate the philosophy behind 12-step programs.

Certainly there are huge problems with this fallacy -- and that's precisely what it is, a fallacy. Anyone who believes this line of thinking is certainly barking up the wrong tree, and can't be serious about getting their drinking (or other abusive behavior) under control.

I'm just not entirely convinced yet that throwing the term out altogether isn't throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The best (and horribly incomplete, at that) analogy I can come up with would be getting rid of the term "migraine," which describes a specific type of neurological issue, just because a lot (A LOT) of people use it inaccurately to describe what they think of as a really bad headache. Making people aware of the actual definition of the word they're using, and reining it in, could be useful; trying to eliminate the misconceptions by getting rid of the term itself, along with whatever useful information it can actually convey, does not strike me as a helpful response.

Date: 2009-04-29 07:44 pm (UTC)
adalger: Earthrise as seen from the moon, captured on camera by the crew of Apollo 16 (Default)
From: [personal profile] adalger
Actually, throwing out a term because its usefulness has been clouded or tainted by popular misuse is not unprecedented, even (especially) for terms with specific medical meanings. This has happened with "mentally retarded" in my lifetime. The current term, "developmentally delayed," is just a different choice of words that mean exactly the same thing in all semantically important ways. "Borderline Personality Disorder" is currently the subject of argument for this treatment, as well.

Date: 2009-04-29 02:35 pm (UTC)
wildroot: (Default)
From: [personal profile] wildroot
For me it's a useful term in sorting through various self-sabotaging psychological tendencies within myself. For me it's a descriptor of internal events and not a term I use to describe behaviours or other people. It's been helpful in my mental health recovery process, but I am a bit confused how it fits into a professional setting outside of the specific addiction and recovery paradigm. How is it you are learning to use this term?

Date: 2009-04-29 04:11 pm (UTC)
wildroot: (Default)
From: [personal profile] wildroot
All paradigms need to be poked on a regular basis, imo.

Date: 2009-04-29 04:26 pm (UTC)
adalger: Earthrise as seen from the moon, captured on camera by the crew of Apollo 16 (Default)
From: [personal profile] adalger
My favorite hole to poke in the 12-step paradigm is its insistence on the whole "higher power" concept. It implies that someone can't truly recover without some non-materialist religious conviction -- that the only acceptable motive for being a better person and living a better life is to please $DEITY and/or save one's immortal soul. This, ultimately, is why I abandoned AA. Being an existentialist, I could not accept a program that didn't make responsibility for my good behavior as explicitly my own as responsibility for my bad behavior.

Date: 2009-04-29 06:09 pm (UTC)
arch: The 11th Doctor and Amy's backs are to us as they look out over the barrage balloons of London during the Blitz. (Default)
From: [personal profile] arch
This is really interesting. I'm guilty of throwing around the term myself, except that I have only ever used it to describe certain types of mother-daughter relationships in which neither seems able to function at all without the other and neither has friends apart from the other. I know a surprising number of mothers and daughters like this, usually in my mom's and grandma's generations.

So I need to find a better word. But I'm not sure what that is.

First reactions

Date: 2009-04-29 09:48 pm (UTC)
cesy: "Cesy" - An old-fashioned quill and ink (Default)
From: [personal profile] cesy
"- There's also the version that is the descriptor of partners who have lives that are more intertwined than an observer thinks is appropriate. I think that's also a variant on the "lacks interpersonal boundaries" theme. Of course, some people (mis)apply this concept in such a way as to imply that all interdependence is codependence, that if you can't simply walk out the door tomorrow with few to no regrets, you are codependent! (This is probably the only definition that I see applied relatively equally regardless of gender.)"

This is what I was thinking of the other day, I think.

Also, on the reasons for not leaving an abusive relationship, I was linked to a really good article on that recently, and now I can't remember where it was. I think it was titled something like "But why don't women just leave?" and it covered the emotional and psychological reasons why leaving an abusive relationship is not as easy as outsiders would like to think. Actually, it ended up making me think of it as like telling depressed people to just pull themselves together. The main point was about how it's a common effect for the fact that the relationship has gone wrong to cause the victim to doubt their own judgment just at the moment when they most need to be able to trust their own judgment, if that makes sense. Anyway, it was interesting.

I'll stop babbling now and go read the comments.

Re: First reactions

Date: 2009-05-11 08:28 am (UTC)
cesy: "Cesy" - An old-fashioned quill and ink (Default)
From: [personal profile] cesy
That's ... really quite bad. I'm used to thinking that there are plenty of safe houses around, though of course I don't know where they are. But how do you set up a safe house such that victims can get to it but abusers can't find it?

Geek Social Fallacies

Date: 2009-04-29 10:04 pm (UTC)
cesy: "Cesy" - An old-fashioned quill and ink (Default)
From: [personal profile] cesy
That link is awesome! Now I have a name for the GSF5+1 person.

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