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Hanging Out Our Dirty Laundry


Dear Reader,

Welcome to Lentz Letter! I always looked forward to summertime at Grandma’s house while I was in the early grade school years. It meant bowls of ice cream shared with grandpa, visits with Aunt Gertie, and back yard fun with my brothers while chasing after stray cats. The raspberry patch gave us the perfect place to play hide and go seek while she plucked raspberries from the vine or hung clean laundry on a clothesline. The bed sheets and grandma’s dresses as they were flapping in the wind gave us great hiding places until a gust of wind revealed our little crouching bodies. Usually, laundry day was not complete without taking a moment to chuckle about grandpa’s baggy underwear awkwardly lined up for the whole world to see!

Laundry took on a new meaning when I would attend my grandmother’s church. My Grandma insisted that Sundays were a day to look your best. Grandma and I would wake early, I would watch her lie my best dress out on the bed and begin to unroll the sponge curlers from my hair that I had slept in all night while I finished my last bite of breakfast. Arrival at her church was always met with lots of hugs from little grey- haired ladies that would always complement me on my curly locks. I liked to sneak into the kitchen at the bottom of the stairs and snatch a cookie off a tray meant for fellowship hour after the service. I could see the latecomers hurriedly running in the back door and hear the choir practicing in a nearby room. Grandma gathered the 3 of us up and motioned us to sit silently in a row on the last pew in the back of the church. I was easily preoccupied with the whispers from surrounding church goers having their own difficulties keeping still while murmuring about everything and nothing in this direction and that. Particularly interesting were the ones that talked about “that certain someone who was hanging all their dirty laundry out for everyone to see”. This was my first introduction to gossip which only confused me and left me pondering, “why anyone would hang dirty laundry to dry?”

It is true that hanging out our laundry exposes even the most vulnerable parts of ourselves. No matter how hard we try behaviors are not kept hidden behind Covid masks. Sometimes it is hard to avoid negative reactions from others and some of these reactions require a change that we need to make within ourselves far below the surface of a facial mask. In my last blog I spoke about codependent traits. Check out this laundry list of symptoms that associated with codependents and their relationships. What part of this list shows that you have unknowingly been hanging out your dirty laundry?

1. Low Self-esteem. Shame, guilt, perfectionism and believing you are not good enough

2. People Pleasing. Cannot say no to anyone since it will cause anxiety. Other’s needs matter more.

3. Weak or Rigid Boundaries: Inability to set limits whether it is your body, money, belongings, feelings, thoughts or needs. Codependents assume responsibility for other’s feelings and problems or blame their own on other people. Some people vacillate between having weak and rigid boundaries. Others are completely closed off and withdrawn.

4. Reactivity: Part of a difficulty moderating your reality is that you react to everyone’s thoughts and feelings. You are not able to realize that opinions are not a reflection on yourself and therefore do not have to feel threatened if you disagree.

5. Caretaking: Part of a codependent’s DNA is to help. The helping is done in excess to the point that they will keep trying to fix others even when the person does not take the advice.

6. Control: Control helps codependents to feel safe and secure. Codependents can be bossy and want to tell you how to be. Even people pleasers and caregivers can be means to control or manipulate people. However, control keeps codependents from taking risks and sharing feelings. Compulsive behaviors such as addiction can help them to loosen up or conversely maintain this rigidity with lack of expressing feelings with workaholism.

7. Dysfunctional communication: Codependents have trouble communicating their thoughts, feelings and needs.

8. Obsessions: As a result of their dependency, anxieties and fears, codependents focus on thinking about other people and relationships. Fearful of making mistakes the codependent may lapse into fantasy about how they would like things to be. This is one way to remain in denial and it keeps the codependent from living life to the fullest.

9. Dependency: Codependents have a need to be liked to feel okay with themselves. They fear rejection or abandonment and become depressed or lonely when by themselves for long periods of time. This symptom can make it difficult to end a relationship even when the relationship is unhealthy which can result in a sense of being trapped with no way out.

10. Living in denial: Codependents find it difficult to face their problems. As a result, they are quick to blame others, become chronic complainers, try to fix another person, just from one relationship or job to another all the while not taking ownership in the problem. In addition, it is difficult for a codependent to identify their needs or feelings. They focus on what others are needing or feeling instead. They find it difficult to ask or receive support from others. Vulnerability becomes a “dirty word” even though that is the place that they need to get to grow and change. They find it difficult to acknowledge their need for love and intimacy.

11. Problems with intimacy: Emotional intimacy has not been a part of the vocabulary of a codependent. Because of shame and weak boundaries, fear of judgement and rejection are intertwined with the need for autonomy. This creates confusion over the right balance between feeling emotionally connected and permitting separateness.

12. Painful emotions: A mixed bag of emotions are generated due to shame, low self- esteem, anxiety, and fears. This can result in difficulty regulating emotions. When the feelings become overwhelming the Go-To reaction is to check out of reality and become numb.

If you discovered that you identified with several traits on the list I hope you will sign up for the next circle of hope in which we will be discussing Codependency.







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