on mental health and Victorian Melodrama

moving boundaries out of the grocery store

First, thank you. Thank you so much for taking the time to read. Thank you so much for your comments and your questions. I’ve started working with an editor. She’s been reviewing all the writing here. We’re currently piecing together what looks like chunks of two different books. So YAY!


As you can see today’s post came from your questions. Reply to this email or leave a comment on the page with any questions or clarifications that you’re either looking for or could offer. I’m writing this to you and for you. So, for now, as we build these books? I’m so grateful for any ounce of time you spend reading this.

I’m having a lot of fun here.

The recent Foolsletters on The Grocery Store of Life and on Shallow Power have generated a lot of questions about the differences between codependency and interdependence. It’s now time to leave the grocery store and step into the limelight. The limelight of Victorian melodrama reveals the next key to understanding these dynamics.

Three Characters

Every Victorian Melodrama relies on three main characters: The Victim, the villain and the hero. They have a lot of different names. Some call the villain, the persecutor. Some call the hero the rescuer. The victim? They live with a bad case of the ‘poor me’s’. These are not static roles. And at the same time, they frequently define our relationships.

The story typically unfolds in a few different ways. The primary one goes like this:

There’s a big mean villain. They are doing something awful, hateful, ignorant or whatever to an undeserving victim. A hero notices this and steps in to rescue the other.

Where does the codependency start? Every hero NEEDS a victim. This is necessary for a couple of reasons. Heroes need a victim so they can have purpose. If there isn’t someone struggling, what’s a hero to do? What do they do with the story in their head where they tell themselves how fucking awesome they are for fighting the good fight, doing the good deed and saving those who need saving.

Heroes act in ways that reveal their inherent arrogance. Saving other people is a way to define themselves and feel important. It also indicates a fundamental intolerance on the part of hero. Intolerant heroes? Yup. Most heroes don’t have the ability to tolerate the suffering of others. Rather than let someone struggle and work things out on their own, heroes rush in. They disrupt people’s process of struggling. They make the pain go away. For some, it’s a generally nice act. For others? It’s selfish.

The intolerant hero is not willing to let someone struggle through things. They find the struggles of others uncomfortable. In order to make things better for themselves they attempt to rid the victim of their pain. When the victim and the hero get together, they get to team up and make someone else the cause of their problems. They get the opportunity block out the villain. All is well?

Not quite so much. The villain in many of these cases changes role and becomes a victim to the hero and the victim. One of the victim or hero feels super hard done by and uses this as justification to be a dick. In turn one of them persecutes the villain, thus the fares wheel of codependency begins to spin.

These positions shift and change over time. Victims cry out. They need a villain, someone to rail against in order to maintain their role. Woe is me! Their battle cries for help shake the souls of others. Their discomfort is their discomfort. If this was spam at a grocery store, there would be a shit separator to throw down. Instead? The well intentioned hero get sucked in. Rather than enduring, supporting and witnessing the suffering of others, heroes, make other peoples problems their own and fight fights that are not theirs.

Only two players required

This game with three roles only requires two players. People shift roles regularly. People get fed up and become villains, become overwhelmed victims or suddenly grow the need to make a difference. Either way, the wheel of melodramatic rescue spins on and on.

Don’t just do something, stand there

How can someone break this cycle of melodrama? First of all, work with a therapist. No shit Sherlock. You likely have stories in your head about service, suffering and what happens ‘if’. These stories might not be as true as they seem to you. The consequences of not participating might not be as dire as you think.

If you feel urgent feelings in your body to either call out for help, help or harass? Do nothing. Wait. The cognition parts of your brain work more slowly than the impulsive and emotional ones. A few seconds to pause and notice might help you go further and with better consequences than if you act right away.

I’ll write more about shit separating soon. What’s the worst thing that can happen?

***hint, this question is vital to untangling codependency

Finally, I’ll say it again. I love writing these.

If you have questions or are curious for me to elaborate about anything here?

Reply to this email.

Let me know and away we’ll go.

One Derful Thing

Taking yourself to court.

Make puppets with your hands. This is easy to do.

Bring your two middle fingers to your thumb. This makes the talky bit.

Keep the pinky and pointy fingers fully extended.

Double pointers.





Do the same with the other hand.

Have them talk to each other.

Now, if there’s something that you’re struggling with.

If you have stupid thoughts going over and over and over and over (and over)

again in your head?

Have each hand speak one side of the argument.

Give them really stupid voices.

Have them exaggerate just how crucial and important whatever shitty decision that you’re facing.

To level up? Enlist a friend to listen to both sides of the trial and deliver a verdict.

Which voice in your head is the most stupid?