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Counterdependent

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Being counterdependent is to take a position in relationships to ensure one is not dependent on others for emotional security status etc.

To some degree it is healthy to seek to be emotionally independent of others but this needs to be balanced with the ability to be appropriately engaged with others.

Where the habit of maintaining emotional distance too predominates this can be associated with and cause mental health and behavioral difficulties. Where counterdependency is the state of refusal of attachment, the denial of personal need and dependency, and may extend to the omnipotence and refusal of dialogue found in destructive narcissism, for example.[1]

This can be managed through passivity or passive aggressive behavior or through more active rejection of authority figures or social mores that support interpersonal relationships.

Counterdependent people can reach the point where their self-identity arise from their acts of opposition and defiance and their behavior can be very disruptive, making it difficult for them to hold down jobs or maintain relationships of any kind.

From a psychodynamic viewpoint such behavior patterns are thought to result from a deep-seated fear of intimacy, which, having lead to emotional isolation, is paired with an increased neediness for the feared state. This explains why counterdependents are sometimes locked into approach-avoidance conflicts in intimate relationships.

Developmental origins

The roots of counterdependency can be found in the age-appropriate negativism of two-year-olds and teens,[2] where it serves the temporary purpose of distancing one from the parental figure[s]. As Selma Fraiberg put it, the two-year-old "says 'no' with splendid authority to almost any question addressed to him...as if he establishes his independence, his separateness from his mother, by being opposite".[3] Where the mother has difficulty accepting the child's need for active distancing,[4] the child may remain stuck in the counterdependent phase of development because of developmental trauma.[5]

In similar fashion, the teenager needs to be able to establish the fact of their separate mind to their parents,[6] even if only through a sustained state of cold rejection;[7] and again unresolved adolescent issues can lead to a mechanical counterdependence and unruly assertiveness in later life.[8]

Adult manifestations

The counterdependent personality has been described as being addicted to activity and suffering from grandiosity, as acting strong and pushing others away.[9] Out of a fear of being crowded, they avoid contact with others, something which can lead through emotional isolation to depression.[10]

The counterdependent male in particular may pride himself on being 'manly' - not needing affection, support or warmth, and being tough, independent and normal instead[11] - something still reinforced by gender socialisation.[12] Where a woman takes on the counterdependent position, it may take on the attributes of a false self or androcentric persona.[13]

The apparently independent behavior of the counterdependent can act as a powerful lure for the co-dependent[14] - though once a couple has formed the two partners - codependent/counterdependent - are sometimes found to switch roles.[15]Template:Full

In therapy, the counterdependent personality often wishes to flee treatment, as a defense against the possibility of regression.[16] By keeping the therapist at arm's length, and avoiding reference to feelings as far as possible, they may attempt to control the therapist so as to preserve their sense of independence.[17]

Existential views

Existential therapists distinguish between interdependency on the one hand, and, on the other, both dependency and an escapist form of rebellious counterdependence.[18]

Counter dependence transference

Counterdependency can present itself in a clinical situation in the form of a negative transference.[19]

In the Personal construct theory of George Kelly, the term is used in another sense, to describe the therapist's transference of dependency onto the client: counter dependent transference.[20]


See also


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