Dana kept getting hooked in a relationship that was going nowhere. He came for counseling because he understood the self-defeating nature of his association with Kim. What he didn’t comprehend was how to break a convoluted connection that had a tight grip on his life.

Dana confided that Kim would steal his prescription medication, exploit him for money, “guilt” him for not caretaking for her kids, and abusively berate and belittle him. According to Dana, no woman had ever treated him this poorly, and yet he kept going back for more torment.

For brief periods of time, Dana would avoid taking phone calls from Kim. Then, due to feeling of aloneness and shame, he would yield to the temptation to contact her again. He described Kim as a substance abusing rager who knew how to push his buttons. She had mastered the art of emasculating and shaming him into submission.

Dana tended to minimize the volatility of his other relationships with women, including his mother. Dana learned to follow a script that placed him in the role of the nice guy who was sent from heaven to fix the world’s moody females. This trend started with his mother who was a critical, manipulative, over-functioning figure. He acquiesced to his mother’s every desire.

Dana failed to make a connection between his shame-based relationship with his mother and his current perplexing dilemma. Dana’s need to get “slammed” in relationships was born out of a desire to hopefully untwist the notion that he was defective. Since he had no history of healthy relationships with women, he learned to accept the verdict of the ladies in his life – “I am worthless.”

Since shame-based feelings are the driving force behind any pattern of addiction, Dana easily became vulnerable to re-engaging in relationship situations that would perpetuate abuse and reaffirm his concept of an enfeebled self. Each time that Dana picked up the phone and contacted Kim, he hoped that things would be different - “Maybe this time I can change the dynamics of the relationship; maybe this time Kim will nurture and affirm me as a kind, compassionate individual.”

Many of us live with the illusion that those who have hurt us can be saved. Just like we do in a disruptive childhood, we perform to please in an effort to get those who have damaged us to change their ways. When the change we yearn for is not forthcoming, and our loved one’s do not morph to meet our needs, we turn our disappointment and anger inwardly and invalidate our worth.

One of the things about maladaptive human behavior is that it tends to repeat itself. The essence of healthy change is not doing the same things repeatedly that do not work. We must be creative in our quest for new thinking and behavior if we are to recover from the wreckage of our history.

Dana needed to see his life through a new prism. His shame had tragically been foisted upon him by those who had no capacity to meet his needs. Eventually, Dana began grieving the loss of those who would shame him. He let go of the need to try to fix relationships that were irreparably damaged. He began processing the truth that his self-identity was in no way connected to other’s evaluation of him. He began realizing that he was a poor picker – that the women in his life mirrored his relationship with his mother. He would never again assess his worth based upon a history with mood-disordered females. He would look elsewhere in a search to find healthy, connecting relationships with women.

All addictions have the same, pervasive features, and this one was no different. Like Dana, many of us must grieve and release our losses, give up our shame and rationally respond to life with altered interpretations of who we are and what we need to do to feel empowered.

Author's Bio: 

James P. Krehbiel, Ed.S., LPC is an author, freelance writer and nationally certified cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona. James is the featured Shrink Rap columnist for TheImproper.com, an upscale arts, entertainment and lifestyle web magazine. He has contracted with New Horizon Press to publish his latest work entitled, The Search for Adulthood: Saying Goodbye to the Magical Illusions of Childhood. James can be reached at krehbielcounseling.com.