There is little doubt about it: people do not like the word “codependence.” It did not take the book tour for me to know this. Our fields of mental health and addictions don’t even know what to do with the term or, more importantly, with the constellations of behaviors that are involved in codependency. It is not unusual for people to associate it with blame, shame, and illness. I am so sorry for these meanings and am offering what I can to help people move past the word and look at themselves and their behaviors.
These concerns were highlighted for me in a most engaging conversation I had with a woman at a book event Wednesday night at Chester County Book & Music Company in West Chester, PA. In this amazing store which is one of the largest independently owned bookstores in the United States, I had the honor of having a couple of very meaningful connections with individuals who are interested in this topic and want to help to get out the word about My Life as a Border Collie.
Bill Mason of WCHT in Westchester, PA saw the poster about this book event and had me on his show on Wednesday morning. Clearly understanding codependency, he asked questions about first steps people can take if they believe they may be codependent: I told him willingness and education from knowing sources. Later in the day he came to the book signing to get to know me and this topic better and stated he plans to suggest that I be invited to an hour-long radio show through their station for deeper discussion of “this important topic.”
And then there was this woman and our engaging conversation. Clearly she, too, was interested in this topic of codependence and wanted to know about its relationship to addictions and if it is an addiction itself. She understood the importance of self and balance in care of self and others and yet was concerned about the word “codependence.” She laughingly suggested a title: Codependence is not a Four Letter Word.
After a rich and long conversation, she told me that she is interested in my book for her club. I was happy to hear this. Recently I thought about how well the book might work in a book club setting. It certainly is written in a way so as to promote discussion.
I was also happy to hear that she is going to use it for her book club, because that’s a way we can continue all of these great conversations. That’s a way to help us all move away from this word “codependence” and our negative reactions to it and move toward an honest look at our own feelings, thoughts, and behaviors and the choices available to us to make our life better.