I have a monster in my head.
He has a keen sense for weakness. He watches the people around me, and perks up when he catches a whiff of brokenness, a hint of emotional vulnerability. He watches for mentions of past trauma, suicidal tendencies, recent breakups, self mutilation, neediness. He prods me when he senses it, saying “there is an opportunity!”. He always lets me know when he sees a possible opening through which to gain someone’s affection.
He gets dissappointed when a friend tells me about finding healing and stability. He sees that as one less potential opportunity.
He is a master manipulator. He knows how to string someone along like a fish on a hook. He gives me unasked for advice on how to keep them constantly at a low level of nervousness and guilt around me, but never so much that they run away. He pounces on weeping admissions of responsibility and shame for hurting me, storing them up for use as ammunition. He can make anything seem like someone else’s fault, or, when that fails, he can always distract from my culpability by drawing attention to something they did which was even worse. He exults in bringing people to their knees and then being their loving, forgiving comforter – setting the hook in good and deep.
This is what being the child of a codependent family is like. I can’t express the depth of the shame this monster brings me. Imagine holding your crying lover in your arms, and feeling something inside you exulting, even as you sympathize. Imagine seeing pain as opportunity. Codependence is the art of constantly playing good-cop/bad-cop to the ones you love the most – trying to milk as much as you can from them.
My only comfort is that I know the monster well. I know his voice, and I understand his wiles. And I choose, usually, to ignore him. I choose consciously to act as a healthy person would – refusing to act on hints of weakness, refusing to play his guilt games.
But still I hear his voice in my head. And I feel ashamed because of it.