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Review of "Conquering Shame and Codependency"

By Darlene Lancer
Hazelden, 2014
Review by Leo Uzych, J.D., M.P.H. on Feb 3rd 2015
Conquering Shame and Codependency

Conquering Shame and Codependency is a book about shame and codependency.  The author, Darlene Lancer, JD, LMFT, is a licensed family therapist and a lecturer.  In the book's "Introduction", Lancer informs readers that she was what therapists call "codependent"; and that shame had caused Lancer to make poor decisions with traumatic consequences.  As the Introduction nears its end, Lancer opines that healing from shame and codependency is possible; and expresses the hope that the book will illuminate and further the reader's journey towards recovering and honoring the unique qualities of the reader's true self.  Towards that end, Lancer, in the book's last chapter, presents eight steps (and accompanying exercises) to free one's true self and recover from shame.

Expertly informative and highly insightful discourse connected, substantively, to shame and codependency courses with edifying power through the arteries and veins of the text's body.

Congruently, multitudinous, thoughtful suggestions tethered to shame and codependency densely populate the pages of the text.

There is research referencing of the text.  Citations for textually referenced research materials are given in a "Notes" section (placed, structurally, after the body of the text); some of the Notes are in the form of instructively annotated comment.

Snippets, in the form of quotes drawn from eclectic sources, contribute to the substantive forming of the text.

In substantively germane fashion, Lancer, here and there, instructively presents anecdotal material drawn from some of Lancer's real life clients.

Some strands of biographical material are also sewed anecdotally into the textual cloth.

Substantively pertinent exercises given pithily at a chapter's end (and in the last chapter) are a didactically valuable tool supplied intellectually by Lancer.

Regarding this tool, it may be opined that its potential didactic strength might be enhanced if accompanied by the further tool of expertly informative "feedback" by professional experts.

The didactic nature of the book is strengthened further by some didactically well-constructed "Tables" and "Figures".

The shame experience is the subject, of Chapter 1.  In the enframing context of shame, Lancer peers intently at:  shyness, embarrassment, humiliation, and guilt.  Types of shame also draw the intellectually discerning gaze of Lancer, encompassing comment with respect to:  existential, situational, class, narcissistic, acute and internalized shame.  Lancer teaches that, to heal from shame, the objective is to manage and integrate one's insights about shame into one's personality, so that one is no longer controlled or limited by shame.

Chapter 2, substantively, is about shame and identity.  As the chapter begins, Lancer discourses that most people can trace shame roots to their childhood; and that parental response to the feelings and needs of children helps sow the seeds of either robust emotional health or else shame and codependency.  Inside the frame of shame and identity, Lancer stares closely at:  the developing self, the real self, the ideal self, and the codependent self.  Lancer teaches that a codependent is a person who can't function from the person's innate self, but instead organizes thinking and behavior around another person, process, or substance.  "Shame bonds" also garner Lancer's close attention, with discourse extending germanely to the shame bound feelings of distress, fear, and anger.

The matter of escaping shame forms the substantive core, of Chapter 3.  In this context, Lancer expounds on common defenses against shame, encompassing expert comment concerning:  denial, repression, withdrawal, aggression, projection, arrogance, contempt, humor, envy, self pity, and addiction.  As the chapter progresses, Lancer proffers informative comment about three contrasting styles delineated by Karen Horney for coping with shame, anxiety, and hostility.

Emptiness, as readers learn in Chapter 4, is a vague feeling of unrest, with anxiety at its core.  Over the chapter's course, the discourse of Lancer adds considerable intellectual flesh to the bones of emptiness.  In the expansive realm of emptiness, the intellectually sharp vision of Lancer particularly sights:  loneliness, disassociation, existential emptiness, psychological emptiness, codependent cravings, eating disorders, and validation.  Lancer teaches that people regard emptiness as being distinct from themselves, as if their inner void can be filled; but the solution to emptiness, according to Lancer, begins with facing the reality that emptiness is unfillable from the outside.  Within the frame of facing the void, Lancer looks revealingly at:  abstinence, acceptance and detachment, the assuming of responsibility, meditation, and therapy.

Discerning examination of shame and symptoms of codependency is the crux, of Chapter 5.  In this context, Lancer looks discerningly at self esteem, self criticism, and self trust.  Noting that anxiety, guilt, and depression are common among codependents, Lancer, with an intellectual flashlight, illumines these further areas.  There is also illumining commentary in this chapter, focusing readers' attention on:  denial of needs and feelings, perfectionism, dependency, codependent caretaking, and enabling.

At the start of Chapter 6, Lancer discourses that shame tends to undermine the behaviors needed for a healthy relationship; and that shame invites a host of destructive behaviors to a relationship.  Tentacles of intellectually probing discussion reach to:  self esteem, autonomy, "opposites attract", idealization, pursuers, distancers, ending polarization, assertive communication, boundaries, conflict, abusive relationships, and real intimacy.

Discourse joined to the realm of sexual shame forms the substance, of Chapter 7.  As the chapter starts, Lancer writes that, although sexuality is integral to being human, it is often rife with shame associated with religious, cultural, and social factors.  As Lancer continues to put pen to paper, readers learn about:  masturbation, fantasy, abortion, homosexuality, sexual identity, sexual abuse, sexual self-esteem, sexual addiction, and sexual rights.

Some of the expert views, opinions, and suggestions expressed with powerful intellectual force by Lancer, and exuding much thoughtfulness and expertise, may not be shared fully by other experts.

But the intellectual power of Lancer, focusing especially on shame and codependency, is surely a professional boon to many professionals, notably including family therapists and psychotherapists.

The book's lay reader friendly stylistic and substantive qualities, moreover, extend the book's potential reading appeal universally.


© 2015 Leo Uzych


Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law degree, from Temple University; and a master of public health degree, from Columbia University.  His area of special professional interest is healthcare.  Twitter @LeoUzych

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