February 15, 2016

Making Sense of Codependency - Part 3

Today we continue our series on codependency with Dana Zarcone, who shares with us how to identify core issues that are showing up in our relationships, move them from unconscious to conscious, and thereby create the opportunity to "deal with our shit."


Over the past two weeks, I’ve clarified what codependency really is and discussed how people become codependent. As we’ve discussed, codependency is commonly misunderstood. It carries such a negative stigma with it as well. If you’re codependent, you must be broken, weak, a loser … the list goes on and on. However, all of this is just hogwash. These are beliefs that people hold because, frankly, they don’t understand codependency.  

As we move forward, I want to make it clear that, if you’re codependent, there is nothing wrong with you. It simply means that you experienced chronic disconnections, trauma or wounding in your early formative years. As a result, you’ve organized yourself in a way that would improve your chances of being loved. By healing the pain that you experienced, and have since repressed, you’ll be able to shift from being codependent to being independent.

You’ll be able to reclaim your personal power! 

Projective Identification

In a codependent relationship, there are unhealthy interactions that lead to unhealthy boundaries. The unhealthy interactions are largely unconscious and manifest through projective identification. Understanding if this exists in your relationship is the first step towards bringing your “stuff” into consciousness. When you do, you are beginning to empower yourself in honor of your recovery process. 

So what is projective identification? 

This is a very complex concept but I’ll attempt to describe it with a simple definition. 

“When a person disowns their repressed feelings and denies their true self, but covertly acts out the disowned and repressed parts and blames the other person.”

In non-politically correct terms, it means you haven’t dealt with your shit and it eventually rears its ugly head by causing havoc in your relationship. Yet, instead of taking responsibility, you blame the other person for what you thought, felt or how you acted. 

In essence, your shit is a filter that affects how you relate to other people. 

Keep in mind, all of this is unconscious to both parties of the relationship.  It’s the subtle way we defend ourselves from feeling deep emotional pain. 

The Core Issues

The deep emotional pain I talk about is the result of the wounding you experienced and, from that, you have core issues. These core issues will show up in your life over and over again until you have healed the original wound.  

Some of the core issues are as follows:
  • Fear of being abandoned
  • Needing to be in control 
  • All or none thinking
  • Difficulty trusting
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sense of shame
  • Neglecting your own needs
  • Difficulty to give or receive love
  • Difficulty resolving conflict 
  • High tolerance for inappropriate behavior
These issues show up as conflicts in our relationships, “hints” in our activities (what we read, the music we hear), in the feedback we get from others and through our own insight.

In order to begin the recovery process, it’s important to recognize and identify that a core issue has shown up, questioning what it’s really about, taking responsibility and let it go. 

One of the most common issues I see is low self-esteem. It seems to be the initial issue that triggers a lot of the other issues. If you have low self-esteem, you may be more fearful that you will be abandoned. As a result, you’ll have a greater need to be in control, you’ll have trouble trusting the other person and you’ll tolerate inappropriate behavior so they won’t leave you. 

Connecting the Dots

When you have these core issues, they manifest in your life by way of projective identification. 

Let’s look at a simply example.

Suppose Lori unconsciously carries shame and feels inadequate. When her employee, John, makes a mistake she projects her shame onto him by scolding him instead of helping or supporting him. John has unconscious shame of his own so, instead of defending himself, he just sits there and takes it. John wants to be accepted so he admits his mistakes when they happen. This absolves Lori of any responsibility. As such, she continues to scold John repeatedly, without objection by John. 

Can you see how core issues and projective identification can manifest in your life? 

In this example, Lori and John continue to disown one of their core issues, shame, and they develop a very destructive working relationship. All of this is unconscious. 

Bringing the Unconscious Conscious

I’ve mentioned this several times: the majority of our issues are the result of unhealed wounds and unresolved feelings that are largely unconscious. So, it would be safe to assume that by bringing the unconscious into consciousness you can begin to heal and start the recovery process. Yes, my friend, it’s time to deal with your unfinished business. 

Dealing with your unfinished business, and bring it into consciousness, is critical to developing healthy boundaries and happy relationships. The more you practice doing this, the easier it gets over time. In fact, you’ll get much better at processing things in the moment so as to facilitate your own personal growth and establish healthy interactions, boundaries and relationships. 

When you’re in an unhealthy relationship you’re approaching life from your false, wounded self and you won’t accept responsibility for your unhealed stuff.  As a result, you’ll have unhealthy boundaries. Conversely, when there is a healthy relationship, you’re approaching life from your higher self, your true self, and you have full awareness of, and accept responsibility for, your unhealed stuff. As a result, you’ll have healthy boundaries. 

Recognizing Your Unconscious Stuff 

Admittedly, it can be difficult to figure out when your unconscious stuff is at play. However, there are several ways you can detect this. 

1) Disproportionate Reactions
When you have a reaction to something that is out of proportion with the situation at hand. For example, your partner questions a decision you just made and you react by screaming, yelling, slamming doors or leaving the room. When you were questioned, it triggered an unhealed wound from the past that, most likely included some type of boundary invasion. 

When the original pain wasn’t expressed, it goes into your unconscious and, over time, it will resurface by way of patterns in your life. 

2) Experience Age Regression
When you feel upset, scared or confused for apparently no reason, you may be triggered and, therefore, regress. It as if you’re an adult one minute and the next minute you’re a helpless little child. When this happens, your boundaries have been invaded and the experience you had reminded you of something from your past. 

3) Experiencing an Abreaction
An abreaction is when your reaction to an experience builds so much that you become overwhelmed with emotion and your feelings begin to pour out. 
Suppose someone makes a pass at you and you immediately start to cry. After some exploration you realized that the way he approached you reminded you of being sexually abused by your uncle. So, in that instant you immediately felt terror and immense sadness. 

An abreaction is an extreme, intense version of age regression.


It is so critical to heal your wounds, hurts and past trauma so that you can approach life from your higher self and develop and maintain healthy boundaries and relationships. Until you heal, you will approach life from your false self, conflict and drama will rule your life and you will be unable to have a loving, fulfilling relationship with yourself or others. 

To begin the healing process, there are steps that you can follow that will take you through the various stages of recovery. I’ll talk about those next week, rounding out my series about codependency. 

Until next week … 

Joyously yours, 



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.

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