WOMEN WHO LOVE TOO MUCH BY ROBIN NORWOOD – RECOVERY AND SPIRITUAL JOURNEY BOOK REVIEW
I usually don’t do this in my blog because I like to keep the saint I’m studying a surprise until I publish their post, but, in this case, I gotta break my own rules because I’m following the advice of the saint I’m studying.
It’s St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) founder of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits, and creator of the Spiritual Exercises. I’ve been researching him for a while now, but I have to stop right here. St. Ignatius left us with clear spiritual journey guidelines (for laity as well as clergy), including the strong recommendation to stop, when necessary, to focus in on and handle our psychological issues and/or addictions. Of course, he writes it in medieval vocabulary, but his meaning is clear.
Look for my full post on St. Ignatius of Loyola on his feast day, July 31, 2018. Meanwhile, I have some more *sigh* intense work to do in my recovery process. Perhaps you recognize yourself here, too. If so, this post is for you. If not, really, it’s okay if you move right along.
Someday, I’m going to be truly happy. I mean, for real happy, sustained happy. As St. Ignatius puts it, “detached” from emotional upheaval, secure in God’s Love and able to withstand whatever forces come my way and allow them to pass right by.
These days however, the pattern seems to be that I’ll be relatively content, feeling strong, like maybe I even have a grip, and then Jesus says, Oh, good. You’re ready for the next level on the journey.
Oh, no. Not again.
Several days ago, I experienced an enormous, emotional, and embarrassing misunderstanding. The details are irrelevant and were mostly imagined anyway. Hence, that grip I thought I had on my life, eh, not so much.
And so, as I do in these cases, I wheeled around in my library of unread books, until I landed on WOMEN WHO LOVE TOO MUCH: WHEN YOU KEEP WISHING AND HOPING HE’LL CHANGE by Robin Norwood. Originally written in 1985, it describes codependency before codependency was the word for it. It was a much easier read for me then modern codependency books, mostly because codependency takes so many forms in so many different circumstances that it was difficult to find my place in it all. Too many variables. This book, however, described my version of codependency precisely.
I highly, highly recommend it. But, only for those in the counseling professions or those who recognize themselves below:
The following characteristics are typical of women who love too much:
- Typically, you come from a dysfunctional home in which your emotional needs were not met.
- Having received little real nurturing yourself, you try to fill this unmet need vicariously by becoming a caregiver, especially to men who appear in some way needy.
- Because you were never able to change your parent(s) into the warm, loving caregiver(s) you longed for, you respond deeply to the familiar type of emotionally unavailable men whom you can again try to change through your love.
- Terrified of abandonment, you will do anything to keep a relationship from dissolving.
- Almost nothing is too much trouble, takes too much time, or is too expensive if it will “help” the man you are involved with.
- Accustomed to lack of love in personal relationships, you are willing to wait, hope, and try harder to please.
- You are willing to take far more than 50 percent of the responsibility, guilt, and blame in any relationship.
- Your self-esteem is critically low, and deep inside you do not believe you deserve to be happy. Rather, you believe you must earn the right to enjoy life.
- You have a desperate need to control your men and your relationships, having experienced little security in childhood. You mask your efforts to control people and situations as “being helpful.”
- In a relationship, you are much more in touch with your dream of how it could be than with the reality of your situation.
- You are addicted to men and to emotional pain.
- You may be predisposed emotionally and often biochemically to becoming addicted to drugs, alcohol, and/or certain food, particularly sugary ones.
- By being drawn to people with problems that need fixing, or by being enmeshed in situations that are chaotic, uncertain, and emotionally painful, you avoid focusing on your responsibility to yourself.
- You may have a tendency toward episodes of depression, which you try to forestall through the excitement provided by an unstable relationship.
- You are not attracted to men who are kind, stable, reliable, and interested in you. You find such “nice” men boring. – Pages 8-9
If you recognize some of these characteristics as your own, I recommend reading this book as your first step.
I’ve been working on my recovery for a while now, so I’ve already recognized some of these addictive habits and have been consciously recalibrating them. Furthermore, many of the truths in this book are not new concepts to me. I’ve come across them separately in other books and have applied them to my situation. But this book helped me to recognize the following composite of myself on a deep, visceral level:
I study some people to the point where I can practically read their minds, and I give them what they need and try to behave the way they want me to behave. For my whole life, I understood this to be love. It’s not. It’s codependency.
And codependency is a vicious circle. Because, when you are raised by parents raised in families with alcoholism, nothing is predictable. Perfection, so necessary for emotional survival with addictive parents, is unattainable. And everything encompassed in “I love you just as you are” missing from your childhood draws you in relationship to people as unable to give you that as your parents were.
If I can just get that person who can’t love me just as I am (for whatever reason) to love and accept me, then I will have solved the equation of my whole being.
It’s desperate, calculated, completely unconscious, and absolutely standard.
I am a standard adult child of an alcoholic with a codependency addiction.
In other words, I’m normal.
Try as I might, I’m not a nut-job Bohemian rebel. That’s just a sweater and a pair of socks I tried on for a while because I really wanted to be like my birthday patron, St. Francis of Assisi with his little bit o’ crazy dedication to following the Way of Christ but not necessarily the Church. Yet, while I do have a weird sense of humor and writer and nut job are synonymous, I’m not crazy. I’m a standard ACOAA with codependency.
At the beginning of my recovery process, here in the middle of my recovery process, and in the maintenance part of my recovery process, I was, am, and will be normal.
Right. So, if I’m normal, how can I possibly have a mystical connection to the saints, angels, my Beautiful namesake, and her Son. How can this be a normal thing in our modern era?
How is it that Jesus meets me at the shoreline, Grateful Dead show, or, you know, church communicating the same message to me in ever-increasing clarity and indisputability – You are My treasure. I Love you just as you are, and I always have?
Where is the rational explanation for this?
It’s in the autobiography of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a medieval knight recovering from a battle wound laid up for months in a castle who read his sister-in-law’s books about the lives of the Saints and thought to himself, I can do that.
And, he did.
He also wrote instructions, the Spiritual Exercises, spelling out exactly how to do it.
Instructions, directions, guidelines, recipes — synonyms, y’all.
I can’t research and write about the saints without following their recipes for saintly living in my own life. I’ve become saintly through intention, action, and osmosis.
My mystical connection to the Divine isn’t crazy, it’s an indication that I’m really good at reading people, especially between the lines of their own words, and I’m a skilled direction follower.
Ta da! I’m a saint.
In fact, I’m a member of the Communion of Saints as are all of us who’ve been baptized in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Okay, back to WOMEN WHO LOVE TOO MUCH, read the book and follow these recovery steps:
- Go for help (recovery counseling).
- Make your own recovery the first priority in your life.
- Find a support group of peers who understand.
- Develop your spiritual side through daily practice.
- Stop managing and controlling others.
- Learn not to get “hooked” into the games.
- Courageously face your own problems and shortcomings.
- Cultivate whatever needs to be developed in yourself.
- Become “selfish.”
- Share with others what you have experienced and learned. Page 241-242
Look, none of this is easy. Try not to do this stuff on your own. Trust that there are people who will see you through and let you hold on tight for a while. Be grateful.
Also, drink a lot of water or herbal tea with this book. It was a difficult read for me and the water helped clear my system of negative emotions.
But, you know, reading this book also brought to the surface a strong positive emotion, too – faith, which helps me believe that an available, straight, kind, stable, reliable man who is interested in me is out there, and we will be attracted to each other at some point on our journeys.
With my heart safe in the Hands of Jesus, I trust Him with my future, and I believe a boyfriend (or boyfriends as my friends and recovery counselor advise me that I need to sort through) will show up in my life as soon as I’m secure enough within myself to understand that I don’t need a boyfriend. I’m fairly, but not absolutely, certain that I won’t be dead by the time this happens.
Meanwhile, there’s always Doctor Who. (Not crazy, just fanatic.)