A Return to Your Genuine Self
Rachel Grant Coaching

February 1, 2016

Making Sense of Codependency - Part 1

I am so happy to bring to you this month, Dana Zarcone. She has a lot to say and we're so lucky to have her here to share her perspective on codependency this month!


First off, I am very excited to be a guest writer for Rachel, because it is giving me an opportunity to talk about a very well known, but often misunderstood, topic … codependency. 

The words codependent and codependency are thrown around all the time. However, most people who use them couldn’t really tell you what they mean. Even if they could come up with a definition, it wouldn’t be the same from one person to the next. 

When I’ve asked my clients what they think codependency is they come up with interesting definitions such as “being married to an alcoholic”, “being in an unhealthy relationship”, or “when you spend most of your time taking care of someone else”.  These are very different definitions. So which definition is right? 

Well … all of them! 

The History of Codependency

Believe it or not, this concept really isn’t that old because it didn’t come about until the late 70’s (okay, maybe I’m dating myself! Ouch!).  At the time, it was a word used very specifically to describe a person who’s unable to cope with life in a healthy way as a result of living with someone who is chemically dependent. Chemically dependent meant addicted to alcohol or drugs. 

This definition has evolved over time shifting from just chemical addiction to all types of addictions, or compulsions, including overeating, gambling, sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll! Well, okay – maybe not rock ‘n roll – but you get the gist!  

As time went on, mental health professionals started noticing that people in close relationships with individuals who had these non-chemical addictions, developed the same unhealthy coping patterns as those who were in relationships with alcoholics. They started noticing the strong impact the addict had on the family and, conversely, the strong impact the family had on the addict. In essence, they had developed an unhealthy reciprocal relationship. 

Fast forward to today, the concept of codependency has expanded even more. In addition to what’s described above, it also includes people in relationships with individuals who are emotionally or mentally disturbed, have a chronic illness, behavior problems, anger issues or are just flat out irresponsible.  As a result, codependency impacts more of the general population than it had before. 

It’s often referred to as a “relationship addiction” because the codependency comes from a place of control and neediness rather from a place of love and respect.   

When I’m working with my clients I try to answer seven (7) questions: 
  1. Do they communicate openly and honestly?
  2. Can they resolve conflict effectively?
  3. Do they have realistic expectations of one another?
  4. Can they express their feelings?
  5. Do they trust themselves and each other? 
  6. Do they discuss their problems? 
  7. Do they make decisions together? 
If the answer to these questions are “no”, then they are most likely in a codependent relationship. 

As you can see, codependency is a very tough concept to grasp because it is quite complex. However, I like to simplify things as much as possible so I am going to give you my definition: 

“A codependent person is someone who has let another person’s behavior change the way they think, believe, behave and act in order to make the other person happy at the expense of their own mental, emotional or physical health.” Dana Zarcone, Founder of Source Your Joy  

Based on my studies, and my personal and professional experience, I am really comfortable defining it this way. While it’s somewhat of a “catch all”, it takes a rather complex issue and simplifies it by addressing the symptoms, cause, effect, patterns and pain.  

The most important point to make here is that the definition doesn’t focus on the person with the addiction or compulsive behavior. Instead, it focuses on the person that’s in the relationship with them! The focus is on anybody that’s in an unhealthy relationship and has yet to define and maintain healthy boundaries.  

The co-dependent pays a huge price. While trying to control, support, care for the other person, they give themselves away with the bath water. When the energy is spent focused on something or someone outside of themselves, they give away their power. The result is low self-esteem, low level of confidence, self-hatred, self-repression, feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, and an unhealthy tolerance for bizarre and narcissistic behavior. When you sum it up, the codependent has completely abandoned themselves.  

Is Codependency a Disease?

Just as there is a difference of opinion on the definition, there are many differences of opinion as to whether codependency is a disease or not. Some consider it a chronic, progressive illness while others think that it is a typical, organic reaction to an unhealthy situation.  

Personally, (yes, I’m a bit opinionated on this one) I don’t think it’s a disease at all. I think saying it’s a disease is a huge mistake. First, it makes the person think they’re sick. Second, it takes responsibility and accountability away from the codependent and allows them to play the victim.  “I can’t help it. I have a disease”.  Third, it allows the pharmaceutical companies, healthcare companies, and physicians to leverage this positioning and subscribe medications unnecessarily so they can benefit financially. 

So, if it’s not a disease, how does someone become codependent?

As the old saying goes, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”!  

Codependent behavior is the result of growing up in a dysfunctional family environment where they experienced pain, fear, rejection, or shame that was ignored, minimized or denied. This happens in families where there’s substance abuse; mental, emotional, sexual or physical abuse; mental illness; chronic criticism; or simply a non-loving environment. In this environment, individual needs are disregarded, issues don’t get discussed nor do they get resolved, feelings are repressed not expressed. 

In essence, the codependent experienced some sort of disconnection or trauma in their early developmental years that has manifested in a fear of abandonment, rejection, and/or betrayal.  As a result of these experiences, they feel worthless, unlovable … defective in some way. The coping mechanism is for the codependent to “fix”, help or control others as a way to feel worthy and loveable.

As you can see, codependency is the result of a cycle that can go on for generations if it’s not nipped in the bud.  

It’s important to emphasize again that the codependent isn’t broken, sick, twisted, mentally ill … I could go on and on. It simply means that they’ve been wounded spiritually, emotionally and psychologically and, as a result, they have some real healing to do. In order to do this, they need to begin a very personal journey of self-discovery, self-acceptance and, eventually, self-love. When they start this journey they can begin to reclaim their power and enjoy life again on their terms! 

Stay tuned because over the next few weeks we’ll explore this topic in more detail. Specifically, I’ll talk more about relationship boundaries, underlying issues of the codependent, and the recovery process. 

Until next week … 

Joyously Yours, 

Dana Zarcone
Founder, Source Your Joy 

Dana, the CEO and Founder of Source Your Joy, is known as a revolutionist in the personal development industry. She is passionate about helping her clients recover from depression, codependency, abuse, and anxiety. She’s a driving force in helping clients reclaim their personal power, unlock their greatest potential, and dance with life again. Dana has been working with clients for over 13 years.  She has her M.S. in Psychotherapy and is a National Certified Counselor, Certified Energetic Practitioner and Certified Life Coach. 

If you think you might be suffering with depression you can take her depression test to find out once and for all. 

January 25, 2016

When Your Abuser Is a Woman - Part 3

Today we complete our series with guest blogger Humphrey*. This week, he speaks about the dynamics that allow for abuse to occur and then go unhealed for years.


“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.” 

“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.” This quote is taken from the film Spotlight, and the village refers to the Catholic community of Boston, USA, which colluded in protecting priests from facing the legal consequences of sexually abusing children

The quote is an adaptation of an African proverb, which crops up in various forms in different languages, the common theme being that a child does not grow up in isolation in one family, there is a wider community that contributes to the child's upbringing. In my case, I grew up in the suburbs of London, and that community included schools, friends, and unfortunately the abusive family next door.

The quote from the film made me think a bit more about something my therapist tried to explain to me a while back. He wanted me to see the abuse I suffered as something that happened in a context. I think his point was that if my family had been a little less dysfunctional, the abuse could never have happened, or would have been stopped immediately. 

A less dysfunctional family would have been able to have a quiet chat with the six year-old me, and would have reassured him that he did nothing wrong and was not to blame, but that he would no longer be spending any more time with the teenage girl who lived next door. That chat would have prevented him from developing a negative self-image driven by guilt and shame, and a point of view of complete isolation from every other human on the planet.

But my family did not talk about such things. They were English and reserved and embarrassed about sex. I did tell my sister the first time I played doctors and nurses with the girl, before the games became more sexual. Her response? "That's disgusting." No more was said about it for several decades. 

It took me years of therapy before I could talk to my father or sister about it. Their response now? 

"We didn't know."

Unfortunately my mother died before I was ready to talk to her about the abuse, and I will never know if she knew. My father swears that she didn't know. 

I used to spend hours at a time engrossed in my toys and Meccano, and would not respond when spoken to. It got so bad that my parents would call me "autistic" or "catatonic". I dissociated to the point where they just could not get a word out of me, for hours at a time. This went on for years. But they "didn't know" there was anything wrong. A less dysfunctional family would have realized that I was traumatized, and maybe taken me to a child psychologist.

My father was deeply involved in an affair with a woman at work, he tried to leave us for her when I was eight, but guilt got the better of him, and he stayed. After that my mother and sister resented my father and all men in general, and my parents bickered and argued constantly for the next twenty years. And of course none of it was ever talked about. We're English, don't you know. It was not an environment in which you could talk about emotions, family dynamics, and you certainly couldn't talk about some weird sexual experience that was making you feel like a total freak.

My parents refused to cut my hair, preferring me to have long hair. As a result, many people did not know if I was a boy or a girl. It got to the point where I myself did not know if I was a boy or a girl. Along with a female-dominated household, abuse by a female, and general scorn for all things male, this contributed to confusion about identity, gender and sexuality, which still persists to this day.

I went to a Catholic school from the ages of six to eleven. Sex was a sin. Sinners went to hell, end of story. I quickly learned to keep my abuse secret. Not that I knew it was abuse at the time, I just knew I was doing something bad, something disgusting, something sinful for which I would go to hell. 

There were nuns at the school, some of them were sadistic and vicious and would break rulers over your knuckles in front of the whole class. From the ages of eleven to fourteen, I went to a state school were I was bullied mercilessly. I retreated deep into my dissociative shell and have few memories of this period. My parents have since told me that it was impossible to talk to me for hours after I got home from school during this period. Eventually I told them about the bullying and they moved me to another school. Things improved for a while until I stepped into the world of drink, drugs, sex and music.

I left home at eighteen and moved into a squat in South London. On my nineteenth birthday, I was chased and beaten by gangsters with baseball bats and knives. I ended up in hospital with stitches in my head. My friend had knife wounds all over his back and many more stitches than me. His mother never forgave me for being a bad influence on her son. At this stage of my life I had no conscious memory of the sexual abuse, I had completely buried it.

I can see now that it wasn't just the actions of a teenage girl that caused me to be sexually abused and traumatized. She couldn't have done it if the family, school and community had been functioning properly. And the effects of the trauma would not have been nearly so bad if I had been in a more supportive environment in the twelve years that followed. It's not just one person that abuses a child, it's the whole fucking village.


Humphrey* is a sound designer and audio producer, who has played in bands, been a DJ, music producer, and award-wining filmmaker. He waited twenty years after leaving school before going to university and getting a Masters Degree. He grew up in England and now lives in Australia. He is also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. His blog is No I'm Not OK, where he writes about his deeply personal battles with anxiety, depression and anger.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy

January 19, 2016

When Your Abuser Is a Woman - Part 2

Today we continue our series with guest blogger Humphrey*, an amazing guy who is also a survivor of abuse. This week he shares about the struggle to stop minimizing what happened to him -- something many survivors struggle with.


"It wasn't that bad"

For years, I minimized my abuse by telling myself things like "It wasn't that bad", "It wasn't like the kidnap/horror stories you hear in the news", "I didn't get physically hurt" and "It didn't feel traumatic at the time". 

When I think these thoughts, I am telling myself that nothing bad happened, and by extension that I have no valid reason for the problems I am experiencing in my life today. So I end up blaming myself. If nothing bad happened, then all my depression, anxiety, anger and shame must be down to other reasons, like perhaps I'm just messed up in the head and there's nothing that can be done about it. Or perhaps I'm weak, or crazy, or weird. All of these are lies.

One of the most damaging lies I've been telling myself is, "She was just a teenage girl, I can't blame her, everybody knows teenage girls are innocent when it comes to sex, she must have been abused by someone else". This story does several things, and none of them are good.

Firstly, it minimizes the abuse by stating that she couldn't possibly have sexually abused a younger child because of her age. This invalidates what I experienced in real life, and creates confusion in my mind. I don't believe it could have happened but it did happen. For years I was in denial that anything happened at all. Then for many more years, I was in denial that it was sexual abuse. 

Secondly, it makes excuses for the abuser, shifting the blame away from her, saying it wasn't her fault. This inevitably leads to me blaming myself. I still find it hard to blame a teenage girl for abusing a younger child. Yet even though she was below the age for consent for sex (16 in the UK), she was above the age of criminal responsibility (10). I am fairly sure that her father was sexually abusing one or both of his children (the girl had an older brother), but thinking about this does not help me. It shifts the blame away from her and onto her father. They were a dysfunctional and abusive family. I have to tell myself that it is irrelevant to me whether the father abused the son or the daughter. That is none of my business, and it is not my problem. It was the teenage girl who abused me, not her father. She is to blame. She had a choice and she chose to sexually abuse a small child. She went through a "grooming" process with me to gain my trust, and she made me keep the sexual games as a special secret. She knew what she was doing and she knew it was wrong.

The myth of the male as sexual predator and the female as victim has been very harmful to me. This myth does not match my personal experiences, from childhood through to adulthood. Women are just as capable as men of being emotionally and sexually abusive, manipulative and downright evil. It's true that men are, on average, physically stronger than women, and unfortunately some men exploit this physical advantage to gain power and control over women. Such men are a disgrace to humanity. But this can make us blind to the other stories of abuse, where a small child's vulnerability was exploited by an older person, male or female. 

The idea of the "innocent teenage girl" is not very helpful in my case. If I believe that she was innocent then what happened must have been my fault. Even though I was only six years old, somehow my "evil male-ness" manifested itself as deviant sexual behavior. These words seem ridiculous now, but for years I believed this interpretation of events. Teenage girls are no more innocent than teenage boys. In fact, girls generally develop through puberty earlier than boys, so it might actually be true that teenage girls are more sexually aware than teenage boys of the same age. 

Teenagers experiment with each other sexually and this is a normal part of growing up. Doing it with a six year-old child is not so normal. It is downright perverted and it is not the younger child's fault.
One therapist told me to imagine my story with the genders reversed. That is, imagine a teenage boy involved in sexual activity with a six year-old girl. Suddenly it is obvious that it is sexual abuse. This concept has helped me greatly in accepting that what happened to me was indeed sexual abuse of a child.

Another lie I've told myself is that "when it comes to sex, I started early". I've had male friends try to congratulate me for having had sex so early in my life, even expressing jealousy that they had to wait so long before their first sexual experience. I cannot begin to describe how damaging this attitude is. It's the equivalent of telling a rape victim, "You must have enjoyed it". This is a problem faced by many male victims of abuse. It is fueled by another myth, that men always want sex, and are always looking for opportunities to have more sex. To deconstruct this myth I need to point out that a six year-old boy is not a man, and he is not yet a sexual human being. He has a need for intimacy and love that is not sexual. Anyone who manipulates that need into a sexual feeling is an abuser. 
So nowadays when I catch myself thinking "It wasn't that bad", I remind myself that it was sexual abuse of a child, it was real, and that child was me. 

Check back next week for Part 3 of Humphrey's story...


Humphrey* is a sound designer and audio producer, who has played in bands, been a DJ, music producer, and award-wining filmmaker. He waited twenty years after leaving school before going to university and getting a Masters Degree. He grew up in England and now lives in Australia. He is also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. His blog is No I'm Not OK, where he writes about his deeply personal battles with anxiety, depression and anger.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy

January 11, 2016

When Your Abuser Is a Woman - Part 1

Were  you abused by a female? Do you often wonder about how this has impacted your life? You are not alone! I'm so excited to bring this series to you, written by Humphrey*, an amazing guy who is also a survivor of abuse.


What the hell is wrong with me?

I have always felt that there is something wrong with me, that I am “not right”. Even at the age of eight I remember thinking that I could not cope as well as others, that I was “paranoid”, quite a big word for a small boy. 

Was I born this way? No. So what happened to me? 

Well, something did happen to me, something that I have had a lot of trouble identifying and naming for what it was – sexual abuse. An older girl sexually abused me. She lived next door and was seven years older than me. It began when I was six and continued for about one year. I remember her turning fourteen during this time. 

These days there are accepted definitions of childhood sexual abuse, one of which is an age gap of five years or more between children involved in sexual activity. But at the time I did not know I was being abused, and I did not realize it for many years.

I grew up in England in the 1970s and 80s, and sex was not talked about much. It was seen as naughty, something to make jokes about, or just pretend it doesn't happen. 

In popular culture, child molesters and sex offenders were usually portrayed as seedy middle-aged men. A common caricature was the "flasher", a man wearing nothing but a raincoat, who would jump out of bushes and expose his naked self to an innocent victim. The flasher was the archetype of sexual transgression – he was the sex maniac, the pervert, the collector of dirty magazines, the sex shop weirdo, all-round creepy guy, and he was the rapist. He was also the boogeyman that would lurk in the woods, waiting to kidnap children and molest them. 

I did not know anybody like this. I knew my family and the family next door and it all felt very safe. 

So my experience with the girl next door fell way outside of the culturally accepted context of sexual abuse. I literally did not know that I had been abused. 

I still struggle to define what happened as sexual abuse, even now, forty years on. Surely people who molest children are adult males, maybe priests or celebrities, who would suspect the girl next door? Even the phrase “girl next door” has a ring of innocence about it, evocative of first crush, first kiss, first love. If you were to ask people what a child molester looks like, few would imagine a teenage girl.

It was commonly believed that sex was something bad that men did to women. Unfortunately, this myth continues to the present day. Society at that time did not seem to accept that women had their own sexual desires. It was accepted that men chased women for sex, women did not want sex, all males were sexual predators, and rapists were just men with high sex drives.  All of these ideas are bullshit. 

Also, I was brought up in a family that was proud of its feminist principles. My mother and older sister were quick to criticize sexism in any form. All of which made me feel more shameful and confused when, as a teenager, I discovered I had quite a strong sex drive of my own. I literally felt ashamed to be male.

This is why it was so hard for me to accept that I had been sexually victimized by an older female. I suppressed the painful memories, locking them away in a compartment of my brain, labeled, "Does Not Compute"

I was in my early twenties before I was able to consciously access the memories. But I still did not define it as abuse. Deep down I knew it was wrong, but I could not put my experience in the same category as those children you read about in the news – the ones who were kidnapped, tortured, ritually abused, raped. It was just “something weird” that had happened to me. 

In my thirties, I saw a therapist who was the first person to define my experience as sexual abuse. It took another ten years before I could honestly say to another person, “I was sexually abused as a child”, and believe in my heart that it was true.

The difficulty I have had in naming the abuse has been, I believe, equally damaging as the abuse itself. It has caused me to blame myself for what happened to me, and to blame myself for every emotional problem I have had since. My reasoning was that the teenage girl couldn’t be blamed, because she was young and innocent and a girl, therefore there must be something wrong with me, and that "something" is related to sex. So I imagined myself as the pervert, the sex maniac, the weirdo. I kept my feelings and fantasies hidden and unacknowledged. I became separated from my own sexuality.

This shame and guilt has caused me many problems throughout my adult life. I often think that people are judging me. I often think that I am in trouble. I feel like there is something wrong with me. I feel like I am different to other people and can never be normal. I feel like there is a dark stain on me that people can easily see. I feel like I am not good enough. I feel like I will never fit in. I feel like I can never belong.

So – what the hell is wrong with me? Perhaps there is nothing wrong with me, except the belief that there is something wrong with me. There were definitely some things done to me that were wrong, and which were not my fault. I can take no responsibility for the actions of others. Logically I know this to be true, but emotionally I still take on the blame. It’s a legacy of the abuse.

Check back next week for Part 2 of Humphrey's story...


Humphrey* is a sound designer and audio producer, who has played in bands, been a DJ, music producer, and award-wining filmmaker. He waited twenty years after leaving school before going to university and getting a Masters Degree. He grew up in England and now lives in Australia. He is also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. His blog is No I'm Not OK, where he writes about his deeply personal battles with anxiety, depression and anger.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy

December 29, 2015

A Beyond Survivor Tells Her Story

Having now worked as a Sexual Abuse Recovery Coach since 2007, I can say that I have one of the coolest jobs ever. Not only do I get to spend my days walking alongside amazing men and women, assisting them in their journey of recovery, but I know without a doubt that my Beyond Survivors are a very special breed. They are generous, loving, world-changers, fun, and brave.

So, it's with great honor that I get to introduce you today to Toni, who became a Beyond Survivor in 2015. She shares with you a bit about her journey and what she gained from our time working together.

"She talked about feeling broken and unfixable, and I thought 'Yeah, that's exactly how I feel'...I think the thing that is most noticeable is my confidence level..."

You can learn more about my Beyond Surviving program here, but more importantly, leave a comment for Toni letting her know what you got from her story.

Resources, personal stories, communication techniques, and strategies for survivors of sexual abuse who are ready to break free from the past and return to their genuine self.