Counter-dependency is not a disease. It is a set of protective adult behaviors caused by unseen and unhealed developmental traumas that happened between the ages of nine and 36 months—the toddler or “terrible twos” stage of development. Your can change these behaviors by healing the underlying traumas that are causing them. Healing counter-dependent behaviors as an adult starts with connecting the dots between what happened to you as a child and what is happening in your adult relationships. These behaviors typically involve avoidance of intimacy in your adult relationships by creating rigid boundaries, pushing others away, appearing overly independent, and by acting strong, blaming others and keeping very busy.
The Flight From Intimacy book describes counter-dependent behaviors as being caused by unhealed trauma during the toddler stage of development. People flee intimacy as a way of protecting themselves from the effects of their unidentified and unprocessed developmental trauma in early childhood. This book contains exercises to help you identify your counter-dependent behaviors, connect them to what happened to you as a child and find ways to heal these traumas. This problem can be easily fixed once you know how it got broken.
Children with these kinds of relational wounds grow up to be adults who defend against feeling any feelings connected to the early traumas they suffered. Their attitude to any conflicts that arise in their life usually is, “I’m right/good and you’re wrong/bad.” Those with this internal split find it very difficult to trust others, to share their emotions and to be intimate. They push people away in order to protect themselves from experiencing the pain of being judged, shamed, or criticized like they felt when they were a child.
Counter-dependency: The Opposite of Codependency
For this reason, counter-dependency is often seen as the opposite or flip side of codependency. Rather than being weak and clingy, those with counter-dependency issues appear strong, secure, hardworking, and successful on the outside. On the inside, however, they feel weak, insecure, fearful, and needy. They may function well in the world of business, but are often insecure in the world of relationships. People with unhealed trauma from the counter-dependent stage of development often find themselves in a relationship with someone who has unhealed traumas from the codependent stage of development. You may even have unhealed traumas from each of these developmental stages. For this reason, it is important to also read the companion book, Breaking Free of the Codependency Trap.
Frequently they have poor social and emotional skills, are afraid to get close to others, and avoid intimate situations as much as possible. They also create a lot of defenses to prevent anyone from seeing their secret weaknesses, neediness and vulnerability. In short, they put on a good front to prove that they are okay and do not need anything from anyone. These defensive tactics create feelings of loneliness, alienation, and a sense of “quiet desperation.”
The Good News & The Bad News
The bad news is that the closer your adult relationships become the more they will activate memories of traumas from the counter-dependent stage of development. The good news is that intimate relationships are the best place to heal the trauma that causes both co-dependent and counter-dependent behaviors.
We found that healing trauma in relationships requires redefining intimacy so that it includes the conflicts and struggles that are a natural part of the healing process. This kind of healing also requires telling the truth about who you really are, stating what your needs are, and sharing what you are feeling. It also requires sharing power, finding partnership solutions to all conflicts and being willing to openly share your life with your partner on all levels: mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical.
Authentic intimacy involves seeing your partner as a complete and separate person with some traits you like and some traits you don’t. It requires skills in negotiating with your partner to meet your needs for closeness and separateness. Most importantly, it requires being willing to ask for what you want one hundred percent of the time.
Once you expand your definition of intimacy to include helping each other heal these traumas, your relationships will shift dramatically. You’ll find more opportunities for intimacy that help you create an intimate, sustainable relationship.