Healing through language: linguistic anthropology and the recovery process of codependency

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Keegan, Joseph

Keegan, Joseph. (1991). Healing through language: linguistic anthropology and the recovery process of codependency. -- In Lambda Alpha Journal, v.22, p.54-65.


There are an estimated twenty-eight million Americans today suffering from the disease of chemical dependency. Their behavior, either while under the influence or in a state of deprivation, adversely affects another 75 million, the bulk of whom are family members (Bradshaw 1989: 18). More disheartening is the fact that many are children, who did not have a choice of what family they would like to be born into or raised by. Through their socialization they will learn to lie about their thoughts and feelings, to deny to themselves and others the truth and to protect the family at all costs, which for many will include their physical and emotional well-being (Black 1981 :22-26; English 1988:43; Bradshaw 1989: 18-9). Their parent who is not addicted- (if they have one) most often will also deny to themselves the reality of the situation, hoping against hope that things will change. Frequently, they too are were the child of a chemically dependent person, or grew up in a dysfunctional family themselves (Bradshaw 1988:18-9; Kohr 1988:44). Therapists and other mental health workers have discovered that these victims exhibit thinking, feeling and behavioral patterns that mirror the chemical dependents and are progressive, becoming further entrenched with time (English 1988:43). They call them codependents. The goal of this paper is to illuminate the contemporary views within the therapeutic community on this illness and, in particular, how language (or the lack of it) contributes to the disease and the recovery process.

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