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A relatively straightforward concept with earth-shattering implications!
on 22 February 2012
"Facing Love Addiction" expresses what is essentially a fairly straightforward idea and does so in similarly uncomplicated language that is easy to grasp. You will not get lost in the psychology and there are plenty of recapitulations and helpful re-phrasings to avoid confusion. Saying this, the implications of the basic psychological model being proposed are huge. Reading this book can offer explanation for the intensity of fear and pain you experience in relationships, make the fear and pain conscious rather than unconscious so that recovery can begin, and also present a new, healthier way of relating to people that you can begin to implement. It's a journey of extreme self-discovery that takes a lot of work and you WILL need a lot of extra therapeutic support. But working through the recovery process and breaking the destructive patterns with those with whom you are in relationship (especially yourself!) provides a feeling of self-sufficiency and worth that helps allay fears in *all* areas of your life.
So, the basic premise:
Pia Mellody's model of love addiction illustrates two people: the love addict and the love avoidant. The love addict has a conscious fear of being abandoned and an unconscious fear of intimacy. Conversely, the love avoidant's conscious fear is of intimacy and their unconscious fear of being abandoned. The love addict wants to feel "close and connected" to their partner and initially are drawn inexorably towards the love avoidant. (Note that although the love avoidant's label might make them sound weedy, submissive wimps their fear of intimacy is masked by a "wall of seduction"- in other words they usually seem inticingly strong, sexy and charismatic individuals who positively invite a relationship in the beginning). The love avoidant sees what they believe to be the perfect person to meet their needs for intimacy, self-esteem and connection and jump right in. After a while, however the love avoidant's fear of intimacy (being overwhelmed/controlled/engulfed) kicks in, and to protect themselves they create a distance between themselves and the love addict. This can be achieved through an emotional not-there-ness or through busying themselves with addictions or activities outside the realtionship. As soon as they create distance, the love addict panics: they're not feeling close any more- they're being abandoned! To get close again they'll pretty much do anything; using sex or even changing their entire identity to appeal more to the love avoidant. These desperate attempts just send the love avoidant further away and eventually the love addict shows signs of being unable to cope with it and leaving. At this point, the love avoidant's unconscious fear of being abandoned arises and all of a sudden they start showing the love addict attention again to get them back. The love addict breathes a sigh of relief and then the whole cycle starts again...
The structure of the book is as follows:
Part I explains the connection between codependence and love addiction, the cycles of the love addict and avoidant and their interactions together (what a co-addicted relationship looks like).
Part II outlines the recovery process and addresses questions of bringing relationships to an end or putting them on hold, withdrawal symptoms and re-entering a relationship.
Part III provides illustration of what healthy relationships look like (neither addicts nor avoidants have never truly learned or experienced real intimacy)
Part IV has practical exercises to support the recovery process (a working knowledge of 12 Step Programmes and having a sponsor is *especially* helpful here).
In conclusion, a few notes:
*Knowledge and particularly experience of 12 step Programmes (particularly CoDA, Co Dependents Anonymous) is helpful when reading this book. Fairly early on the author makes reference to such programs of recovery and uses the term 'Higher Power' when describing the way in which the love addict puts the avoidant on a pedestal. Her whole approach to finding recovery is based on the 12 Steps too, and working through her suggestions for journalling or writing a Step 1 would be infinitely more thorough when shared with the experiences of others in the fellowship rather than just a therapist.
* Building upon that point, recovery is going to be more robustly 'completed' when as many resources as possible are accessed. Working through extreme fears of abandonment and going through the withdrawal is all but impossible on your own.
* Finally, two books that I found great (as a love addict) to read alongside this one was "Women Who Love Too Much: when you keep wishing and hoping he'll change" by Robin Norwood and "Getting Past Your Breakup" by Susan J Elliot.