Characteristics of the Addict, the Codependent and the Addictive Relationship System

The following list was compiled from a number of sources and embellished with personal observations.

Codependent: Addict:
Uses others’ problems to avoid facing own problems Uses substance as self medication to avoid facing own problems
Protects addict from consequences of behavior Relies on codependent for cover for behavior
Emotionally manipulated Emotionally manipulative
Enmeshed with addict in exploitative relationship Enmeshes others and exploits them
Denial of abnormal situation Denial of own abnormality
Self centered perspective Self centered perspective
False agreement/cooperation Extreme dishonesty and deceit
Perfectionism Perfectionism
Illusion of control over self and others Illusion of control over self and others
Life centered on problems and crises Life centered around problems and crises which are often deliberately instigated
Dualistic evaluation of self and others as all good or all bad Dualistic evaluation of self and others as all good or all bad
Fabricates and instigates personality conflicts Fabricates and instigates personality conflicts to keep others off balance
Difficulty, often extreme,in listening to others and communication with others Forgetfulness and memory loss: does not learn from own mistakes or from others
Fearful Self centered fear of loss
Externalization of problems on others; the ‘selfless victim’ of abuse Externalization of problems on others: projection, scapegoating, blameshifting, isolation/abuse paradigm
Emotionally stifled Emotionally frozen when sober
Prefers excited misery to calm, growing, collaborative relationship of equals Instigates conflicts through triangulation, covert aggression
Unsure of and guesses at normal behavior Whitewashes own character flaws as being actual virtues and not harmful to others; claims of ‘good intentions’ justifies anything

Interpersonal Rules of the Addictive System

  1. Do not talk about problems; deny that they exist.
  2. Do not express feelings openly; do not feel pain, sadness or joy.
  3. Communication must be indirect, through third parties (go betweens and buffers). Technical term: triangulation.
  4. Show no weakness; nothing must threaten the image of being good, right and perfect.
  5. Appease and make those in control look good at all costs.
  6. Those in control have the right to be selfish but no one else does.
  7. Do as I say but not as I do; follow the words but ignore the example.
  8. Do not play or be playful; spontaneity and humor is childish.
  9. Do not attempt to change the status quo.
  10. Those in control follow no rules and are responsible to no one.
  11. Everyone must anticipate, follow and cater to the moods of those in control.
  12. What matters the most is personal relationships is control. Might and position makes all things right.
  13. Those in control know it all; those not in control know nothing.

Seven Characteristics of Addictive Relationships

I do not know the source for the following list. It is in my personal notes. Its relationship to the above is obvious.

  • Magical and Unrealistic Expectations

    The fantasy is primarily that the relationship with the right person will fix me and my problems. It is not companionship with someone to share mutually satisfying activities.

  • Desire for Instant Gratification

    The relationship with another person is treated pretty much as a drug to escape one’s own problems rather than as sharing love and companionship.

  • Consistent and Pervasive Dishonesty

    Key character flaws are kept under wraps rather than gradually and honestly disclosed as part of mutual understanding.

  • Compulsive Overcontrol and Coercion

    Personal cooperation and free choice are rejected even when freely given because personal control is all that matters.

  • Lack of Trust in the Other Person in the Relationship

    There is no rational trust in someone who has proven love and trustworthiness.

  • Social Isolation

    Outsiders are a threat to the special and forcibly exclusive relationship.

  • Recurring Cycle of Intense Pain and Intense Pleasure

    The cyle is described as:
    Intense pleasure in a very charming, seductive relationship ->
    Intensifying pain and anger from differences and disagreements ->
    Intense verbal abuse and physical violence ->
    Disillusionment with the other person and complete blameshifting for the conflict ->
    Fear of abandonment by the other person leading to desperate attempts to make up for the abuse and violence ->
    Intense pleasure again.

    The repeating cycle reinforces itself through the periods of painfree pleasure to where the periods of pain become bridges to more perceived pleasure and pseudo-intimacy.


Characteristics of Adult Children

I do not know the source for the following list either. Again, its relationship to the above is obvious. It lists the characteristics of adult children. Adult children are people whose maturation has been arrested, stymied or sabotaged through growing up in an addictive family system.

  • Alienation: no sense of belonging

  • Inadequate sense of appropriate public and social behavior.

  • Fear of abandonment from unreliable childhood familial connections.

  • Easily infatuated with the emotionally unavailable.

  • Continues in familiar cycle of emotional abuse and physical violence as perpetrator or victim.

  • Defiance of authority

  • Hypersensivity: takes innocuous remarks personally very easily.

  • Overcontrolled and fearful of spontaneity.

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Dealing with the Tactics of Emotional Abuse

These guidelines were distilled from a number of sources. The tactics of the manipulator are often found in the Bible in the behavior of characters such as Laban, Tobiah, Sanballat, Saul and others who certainly weren’t the ones wearing the ‘white hats.’

1. Note the tactics that the manipulator is using:


  • Denial (whitewashing aggressive actions)

  • Selective inattention (playing dumb or acting oblivious)

  • Rationalization (excuses for inappropriate or harmful behavior)

  • Diversion (changing the subject, dodging the issue, bringing up long past issues)

  • Lying (withholding information, distorting the truth, exaggeration)

  • Covert intimidation (veiled threats to intimidate or silence)

  • Guilt tripping (trying to make the other person feel guilty, playing on that person’s conscience)

  • Shaming (subtle sarcasm and putdowns to induce fear, self doubt in others)

  • Playing the victim role (portraying oneself as the innocent victim of circumstance)

  • Vilifying the victim (putting the victim on the defensive by pretending to be responding to or defending against the aggression of the victim)

  • Playing the servant role (cloaking self serving agenda in the guise of service to a more noble cause)

  • Seduction (charming, praising, flattering or overly supporting others to elicit trust and loyalty)

  • Blameshifting and scapegoating

  • Blindsiding

  • Traps and something for nothing pseudo-exchanges

  • Exaggerations and grandiose self promoting stories

  • Minimization of the pain and hurt to others from his or her behavior


2. Redefine the terms of engagement.


  • Describe what you think that the aggressor wants in this situation and why it may be inappropriate.

  • Describe your own needs and wants in this situation.

  • Describe what personal limits are acceptable to you: what behavior to tolerate and when to take action.

  • List your direct requests (“I want you to . . . “, and “I don’t want you to . . . anymore”), and your requests for direct responses to these requests.

  • List any possible responses (stonewalling or outright refusal, yelling, etc) and counterattacks and your own responses that the aggressor might and could do to avoid perception of losing.

  • List your personal support system.

  • Describe an appropriate win/win solution.


3. Prepare for confrontation:


  • Note any previous body language which signals a deceitful, disdainful and aggressive intent: icy smile, intimidating gestures, invasion of personal space, unnecessarily strident or intense voice demonstrating repressed hostility and/or fear. Plan on responses to these if you understand what they signal.

  • Make the inappropriate behavior the issue.

  • Keep the weight of responsibility on the aggressor for behavioral change.

  • Keep the aggressor aware that aggressive tactics will not work.

  • Avoid threats, sarcasm, hostility and putdowns.

  • Use assertive “I” statements to state what you want and need.

  • Stay with the present issue and avoid past issues.

  • Make appropriate, reliable, verifiable and enforceable agreements (win-win if possible).