I Need you to Complete Me – Codependency Decoded

Darlene Lancer, JD MFT

Dr. Colleen Mullen speaks with Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT, author of Codependency for Dummies. The topic is codependency: what it is and what it is NOT; the difference between normal and codependent behaviors and what a person can do to help themselves.

Do you know someone who has

  • a need to be perfect,
  • low self-esteem,
  • poor boundaries with others,
  • a need to control their environment, and
  • chronic dissatisfaction in relationships ?

If those descriptions ring a bell, you probably know someone who may be considered 'codependent'.

Podcast available

If you’re into self-help at all, you probably have heard the term codependency- it’s often talked about it in terms of one having a codependent personality.  I want to be clear that codependency is NOT a diagnosable condition, although it is talked about in those terms. You may also have been familiar with it, but have been unsure of a clear definition of it. That’s because there is not 1 universal definition of it. There is however, consensus that it is a cluster of behaviors in relationships which can be somewhat easily identified and very often problematic.

The history of the term dates back to the 1940s and early 1950s. Primarily it was identified in studying the behavior of an alcoholic within the context of their family experience. The behaviors identified as codependent appeared to be a pattern in these families. The use of the term seemed to explode though a few decades later. In the 1980s with the advent of a focus of family system dynamics, several books came out designed to help people break those dysfunctional behavior patterns. The most famous book that still is referenced today on the subject is Melody Beattie's "Codependent No More". During that time, everyone started studying the families of alcoholics and saw these behaviors but as the clusters of behaviors became more recognizable, so did the fact that so many other people exhibited the same behavior patters who did not come from alcoholic families. The term is now popularly used to generally describe a cluster of behaviors in relationships.

Read the codependent article 'I need you to complete me'  at the PriceOfBusiness.com

For more info, please listen  to the episode. 


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National PTSD Awareness Day

The Defense Health Agency (DHA) acknowledges Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as an ‘invisible wound of war’.
Within the DHA’s clinical support division, John Davison serves as a clinical psychologist; he is also the chief of condition-based speciality care.  Terri Moon Cronk a reporter with DOD News provides an insightful synopsis of the interview with John Davison in the following article
DOD Observes National PTSD  Awareness Day – By Terri Moon Cronk

The Senate established PTSD Awareness Day in 2010 following then Sen. Kent Conrad’s efforts to designate a day of awareness as tribute to Army Staff Sgt. Joe Biel of the North Dakota National Guard. Biel suffered from PTSD and took his life in April 2007 after returning to North Dakota following his second tour of duty in the Iraq War. 

Biel’s birthday, June 27, was chosen to mark PTSD Awareness Day and honor his memory.
– Davison, quoted by Terri Moon Cronk


What are the symptoms of PTSD?

Davison [24Jun2015] emphasized the importance for Service members, veterans and their family and friends of recognizing the signs and symptoms of PTSD.  Returning members may not talk about traumatizing experiences, but others around them may recognize their effects. Signs of PTSD can include re-experiencing the trauma, avoiding reminders of the trauma, and disturbances in thoughts or moods.  Isolationism, withdrawal and avoidance of public places are common, as well as emotional detachment. ‘Survivor guilt’ and hyperarousal are also indicators.

Treatment is available

Davison further reinforces that the disorder is treatable at any stage of severity or onset.
People with symptoms ought to seek treatment early before symptoms worsen or they resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as abusing alcohol or drugs.  The DoD and the VA have gone to great lengths to increase access to evidence-based treatment for PTSD, which range from various psychotherapy approaches to pharmacotherapy. Counseling is available from an individual’s primary care doctor, and they also can talk to a behavioral health provider.

Where to get help for PTSD (VA.gov)  Resource list of counselors and therapists in the military, VA and community who provide treatment for PTSD.

Virtual Reality PTSD Treatment

The inaugural episode of the Coaching through Chaos podcast featured Dr. Wiederhold of the Virtual Reality Medical Center in San Diego. He discusses the highly successful results of this treatment modality and its use in theater and in VA clinics.  Listen to Dr Wiederhold speak about PTSD treatment in our podcast.



The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) classifies PTSD  symptoms into three categories:


1. Re-experiencing symptoms:

  • Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
  • Bad dreams
  • Frightening thoughts.

 Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine. They can start from the person’s own thoughts and feelings. Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger re-experiencing.


2. Avoidance symptoms:

  • Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry
  • Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
  • Having trouble remembering the dangerous event.

 Things that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms. These symptoms may cause a person to change his or her personal routine. For example, after a bad car accident, a person who usually drives may avoid driving or riding in a car.


3. Hyperarousal symptoms:

  • Being easily startled
  • Feeling tense or “on edge”
  • Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts.

Hyperarousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic event. They can make the person feel stressed and angry. These symptoms may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.


It’s natural to have some of these symptoms after a dangerous event. Sometimes people have very serious symptoms that go away after a few weeks. This is called acute stress disorder, or ASD. When the symptoms last more than a few weeks and become an ongoing problem, they might be PTSD. Some people with PTSD don’t show any symptoms for weeks or months.


The One who won’t Go Away – Antidote for a Stalker

Det. Mike Proctor (ret)

Dr. Colleen Mullen speaks with retired Detective Mike Proctor, author of ‘Antidote for a Stalker‘.
In this fascinating interview, you will find out about the mindset of stalkers and how to protect yourself from them. You will also hear about the evolution of the anti-stalking laws in the United States and the protection they now afford all of us. The Law is there to protect you, and Mike Proctor’s book will show you how to deal with a stalker.

Podcast available

"Stalking is a growing concern throughout the world, not just in North America. More and more countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan are experiencing an upsurge of stalking throughout their communities. College campuses have become a breeding ground for the stalker. Workplace violence oftentimes revolves around a stalking scenario that has either evolved within the confines of the workplace, or enters into the workplace from a stalking that was initiated away from that workplace.Awareness, stricter laws, and a more focused multi-disciplinary law enforcement approach are the keys to defeating this dangerous problem. "
- DetectiveMikeProctor.com

Read the companion article  'The One who won't Go Away' at the PriceOfBusiness.com

For more information, please listen to the episode.

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One of the good ones – Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to all the men out there who have come to fulfill that role. I was born to a great one – he was kind, loving and supportive and he taught me about overcoming obstacles, pursuing my dreams and good leadership.

He’s no longer alive, but he sure lived a triumphant life. To honor him today, I’d like to share about him.  My father, Frank Mullen, Sr. was born in 1928. He caught polio at age 3 and was a paraplegic the remainder of his life. He was a March of Dimes poster child when he was about 8 years old. There’s a great picture of him in his leg braces and crutches that was always proudly displayed in my family’s home. For as much as I knew my father was “disabled”, he didn’t live that way, so the picture always reminded me that he really worked hard every day just to live like “the rest of us”.

Although he spent many early years in and out of hospitals, much of the time in body casts, he was still able to work as a professional musician as a teenager. He was one of 7 kids. His father was a coal miner in Scranton and his mother stayed home to raise the kids. There wasn’t much money. He was able to help his family out with the money he would make as a musician. He went on to college and law school as an adult. He told us stories of getting carried up and down the stairs at law school so he could get to class. If there’s a will, there’s a way was his unspoken motto.

After working his ways through college, he moved with his family to Long Island, NY in the 50’s after his father passed away. His eldest brother Jack was sort of the family leader. He opened a tire business there. Dad worked there for a bit before he started his career as a lawyer. He met my mother at the first firm he worked at – she was his secretary. Sometime around 1970, he partnered with another lawyer friend of his and they formed their own firm. This firm, along with his partner, is still going strong in Smithtown, NY.

So he raised 5 kids, ran a successful business, occasionally taught a class or spoke at a bar association meeting and traveled all without the use of his legs. Some of my best memories are of us playing catch in the front yard. Dad would be on the ride-around mower and he would throw the football to us while we would run or he’d use the mower to help him “run” to make the catch we threw back at him. There was nothing “disabled” about him. He always found time to take me to my piano recitals and was a great support when I was nervous before a competition. He supported whatever choices we made in life. He had opinions about them, but he trusted our judgment.

Now, don’t get me wrong, my life was not all Pollyanna love & great examples. There was actually a lot of chaos in my home life (which I’ll save for a later post), and I needed to leave home at 17. My father went with me to a wonderful therapist who helped advocate for me to be on my own. Although he wasn’t happy about that, he recognized it was best for everyone involved and some things could not be repaired just by thinking positively.

I ended up working for my father’s firm for most of my 20s. That is where I really saw him shine as a leader first-hand. Many of the clients we worked with did not know I was Frank’s daughter and it always amazed me that I never met one person who ever had something other than kind words to say about him. One of the qualities of a great leader is one in which the people under them feel cared for and supported – he was always able to foster that. Another great leadership trait I learned from him is that the ship gets to its destination not by the having someone point and steer the boat, but by the team it takes to keep the ship running. I eventually jumped ship to pursue my own dream of being a therapist and living in California. Getting him to accept that I was not going to become a lawyer was a tough pill for him to swallow– he so wanted me to follow in his footsteps. We hardly went more than a few days without talking once I moved to California. He was always in my corner with words of encouragement or wisdom.

The last 5-7 years of his life found him living in Florida after a costly divorce, with a retirement plan that didn’t go as he would have liked and with some serious health problems. One of my brothers died suddenly during that time period as well. Dad never really recovered from that – I don’t think anyone really does. He did, however, have a new wife who loved him dearly in her own special way. That relationship was the saving grace in his life at that time. I had some special moments with him after he moved to Florida. It was fun to see him living life on very relaxed terms and enjoying himself. He remained fiercely independent both physically and mentally.  Once he paired up with his wife, he didn’t travel alone anymore, but I remember a time right before that when he drove himself to Chicago to attend a conference. I would always worry about him traveling alone. For as strong as he was, because of his physical representation, he always appeared vulnerable. He would always laugh and tell me I should have more faith in him and his abilities. He ended up passing away in 2009 from multiple complicated medical issues. I still miss his Friday morning phone calls.

Now, his example lives on in me. I try to incorporate his kind nature, excitement for life, empathy for others and ambitious drive to overcome obstacles into my life. I keep a picture of he and I in my office so that memories of his support are never too far away. I can only hope to come close to what he accomplished in business and relationships.

These days, I have the privilege of being friends with some great fathers. I witness examples of deep love, protection, working to provide for their kids and conscious ways they set examples reflected in how the live, love and spend their free time.

Fatherhood is not easy, and some don’t, or can’t, step up to the task. I lucked out being born to my father and I hope many people reading this feel the same way about their fathers. For those that have stepped up where a bio-Dad couldn’t, thank you for that. Blood does not make the family tie, love and relationship does.

Wherever you may find yourself today, if you can relate to receiving the feelings of love and support from your father, or the man that filled that role, give them a hug or call today and send some love their way. For those whose father’s have passed, my thoughts are with you.

Happy Father’s Day dad

New ebook: 5 Ways to …

5 ways to ...

Today sees the launch of Dr Colleen Mullen’s new ebook
  5 Ways to … 100 Tips for Living a Happier, Healthier Life.
This little book can help you improve almost all aspects of your life. It contains a series of 20 lists of “5 Ways to..”: Improve your relationship, quit smoking, be a positive parent, improve your self-esteem, be more social, interrupt worry thoughts, improve your motivation to exercise, keep a cleaner home, be more effective in the morning, manage your time, get the job you want, take online dating offline, eat in more mindful ways, be more community-minded, be happier, find spare time in your day, improve your energy, improve your sleep, effectively manage your time, and resolve a conflict. You can pick and choose what you need from each category and figure out what combination works best for you.

You can find the kindle version at Amazon.com.   The iPad release is forthcoming.