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curled around these images
just enough to make us dangerous
Putting it out there... 
18th-Jun-2015 08:45 pm
Ma brother
Pondering this lately because I've been warning to write something about this ('cause of reasons…). Are Sam and Dean actually codependent? Zachariah said they were and they are often referred to by fans as codependent (both negatively and positively). But are they?



of or relating to a relationship in which one person is physically or psychologically addicted, as to alcohol or gambling, and the other person is psychologically dependent on the first in an unhealthy way.

excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.

1. Mutually dependent.
2. Of or relating to a relationship in which one person is psychologically dependent in an unhealthy way on someone who is addicted to a drug or self-destructive behavior, such as chronic gambling.




So is codependency the right word for their relationship? Just curious...

Poll #2014387 Codependent?

Do you consider Sam and Dean codependent?

Yes
24(32.4%)
No
6(8.1%)
Not sure
2(2.7%)
There's no single word that describes their relationship
31(41.9%)
Don't really care what you call it. It is what it is.
9(12.2%)
What?! You still thinking the thinky stuff?!
2(2.7%)
Comments 
18th-Jun-2015 01:50 pm (UTC)
you left out the only word that should describe them: PSYCHOCHESTERS \o/
18th-Jun-2015 02:06 pm (UTC)
dammit! Yes I did indeed!
18th-Jun-2015 01:55 pm (UTC)
[ok, did some more research, editing]
I did a little research on this some time back, and I am NOT sure my information is correct, but from what I could gather, it doesn't fit them very well. I agree that they are very attached to each other, and take, shall we say, liberties that don't respect boundaries enough. Regardless, shaming people for nit being normative or squeaky-clean healthy, sucks.
The definition above is pretty cruel, imo.

OK - so it isn't even in the DSM, and some argue that it is basically a healthy thing.
According to the proposed and rejected DSM entry, though, yeah, it does sound like them:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codependency#Failed_proposal_for_inclusion_in_DSM

Edited at 2015-06-18 02:03 pm (UTC)
18th-Jun-2015 02:14 pm (UTC)
Wow, it does sound like them…

Regardless, shaming people for nit being normative or squeaky-clean healthy, sucks.

this is a little a long the lines of something I want to write about. Or rather…people who watch (and enjoy/am intrigued by) that aspect of their relationship.

Thanks so much for the link. It seems the definition of codependency isn't easily defined...
18th-Jun-2015 02:16 pm (UTC)
Ticked the 'no single word' box because there are elements of codependency in their relationship, elements of disfunction, but there are also a lot of other things going on there that are not dysfunctional, and are actually things you would expect/want to see in a loving relationship. Plus you can then throw in all the sibling stuff - rivalry, competitiveness, teasing, supporting, defending etc etc...

Edited at 2015-06-18 02:16 pm (UTC)
18th-Jun-2015 03:00 pm (UTC)
*nods* I actually think it's not easily defined - quite possibly because it's a fictional (almost fantastical) relationship and therefore doesn't fit any kind of "norm". Perhaps their relationship needs a new definition. A new word...
18th-Jun-2015 02:53 pm (UTC)
I ticked 'there's no single word that describes their relationship' because yes, I think there's definitely elements of codependency there but it's mixed up in whole bag of other issues. Basically they're complicated.

But yes, in fandom I've definitely called them codependent before but I guess I meant it as more of a fandom definition, like our own way of describing the Winchesters that we all understand, but maybe an outsider wouldn't?
18th-Jun-2015 03:07 pm (UTC)
Basically they're complicated.

Word!

but maybe an outsider wouldn't?

Ah, yes. That's interesting. I always wonder how "outsiders" view things. Probably just..."shrug* they're brothers. That's what brothers do. (or probably don't even think much about it. I need to take a leaf I think...;D)
18th-Jun-2015 02:57 pm (UTC)
I think at the time when Z. said it it was a willfully reductive analysis. And I think that it was significant that what went wrong in S4 happened mostly because they stopped depending on each other and erroneously placed their faith in external agencies instead.
20th-Jun-2015 12:32 am (UTC)
*nods* and continues to be so I think. They often play with the consequences of them not depending/trusting each other.

I wonder though if the term codependent as a way of describing their relationship was first used after Zach mentioned it. Hmmmm
18th-Jun-2015 04:34 pm (UTC)
In seasons 2 and 3 they were. After season 4, not really.
20th-Jun-2015 12:34 am (UTC)
Yeah. I'd say it crept back in during S8-S9 also (but seemed more destructive in those later seasons I think…).
18th-Jun-2015 05:23 pm (UTC)
...and I'm seeing and hearing Sammy in my head, "It's conjoined twins!" I clicked 'no single word' and 'is what it is.'

I don't think you can put a clinically accurate label on their relationship. I don't think you could reproduce their relationship with another pair of siblings, given the irreplicable circumstances of their upbringing and the personal idiosyncrasies of their personalities, and how those combine to give us these characters and the relationship they have, not forgetting the fictionality of all the above.

Ultimately, it is what it is, and I don't think the brothers or their relationship benefit, or suffer, from labels except as how labels serve to further separate them together, in viewers' eyes, from "normal" society.

I'm not sure I answered the question?
20th-Jun-2015 12:36 am (UTC)
I'd say you did answer the question…:)

And I'd agree with that. Also, it helps with what I'm thinking about writing about. Especially the fictionality of their relationship.
18th-Jun-2015 06:09 pm (UTC)
Codependancy is one of those words that has crossed over from psychology into maintstream without people really understanding it's meaning. It literraly means 'being dependant on somebody elses dependancy/addiction'

It originally just referred to close relatives of addicts who continue enabling the addcits over a prolonged period of time (covering up, being supportive, putting own needs second) to meet their own psychological needs (fear of abandonment, being a carer, confirming own sense of worthlessness).

More recently it has been broadened out to include enabeling other kind of unhealthy or inacceptable behaviour patters in a partner (less commonly child/parent).

Criteria for codependancy are: it is a one-sided relationship (where one person provides care and support but does not receive it), the relationship is emotionally distructive or abusive to one partner and sustains the other partners addiction/unhealthy or unacceptable behaviour.

I cannot really see how that applies to the Winchesters. This is not to say that they have a healthy relationship (Hell no! And where would be the fun in that anyway?) but it's a very reciprocal relationship where they both 'give and take' and hurt and support each other in (fairly) equal meassures.
20th-Jun-2015 12:41 am (UTC)
Thank you for this. I think there are certainly some aspects of that that creep into the definition of what they have. I don't see them having a one sided relationship though. I think their "need" for each other along with their need for feeling worthwhile alternates. It's played out differently, due to their personalities, and it fluctuates between being healthy and unhealthy I think.

Thanks
18th-Jun-2015 06:11 pm (UTC)
No, because "codependent" is a word with a specific meaning. Maybe not quite a clinical meaning, but a specific meaning which doesn't fit the situation. What fandom describes the Winchesters as having (not, IMO, what they are, but the commentary that I see attached to "codependence") is amour fou.

Edited at 2015-06-18 06:12 pm (UTC)
20th-Jun-2015 12:45 am (UTC)
*looks up* "amour fou". Hmm… excessive passion. Could well be. Perhaps that "codependent" doesn't have a clinical meaning makes it an "easy" word to use in when describing them. Even the word "dependent" seems to somewhat describe their relationship.

Thanks for that. Never heard that term before and I would say that some fans would agree that maybe that is what they have (I certainly know I seem to have it when it comes to the show!)
18th-Jun-2015 06:44 pm (UTC)
Hmm. The definition seems kinda out of left field for common usage, right? Connotation vs denotation? But regardless, if you take one brother as psychologically addicted to the other (makes self-destructive decisions based on keeping his "addiction" around) and the 2nd brother is psychologically dependent on the first, then they are textbook-definition codependent.
18th-Jun-2015 10:48 pm (UTC)
psychologically speaking this is one of my most favorite parts of their dynamic ,its hard to explain but I think you got it
18th-Jun-2015 08:02 pm (UTC)
I checked no, single word. I do think the relationship is complicated. I also don't see a lot of co in the codependency. Dean has a very hard time living without Sam or at least without someone to take care of i.e. Ben when Sam was in the Cage. However, he managed when he was in Purgatory. Sam is able to have a life without Dean and is able to picture a life without him. I will say that parts of the rejected definition of codependency come close to describing the relationship, but even that doesn't quite fit in my mind.
20th-Jun-2015 08:54 am (UTC)
I think there are times when the term fits them quite well (as defined as psychologically addicted), but then we'll see examples of that not being the case. Though, in those examples (Sam in the pit and Dean in purgatory), it's usually used to show us their need to be back together or how their separation fails in some way. That's more to do with necessity of story telling I know, but I think there is also an attempt to give us reasons why they seem to have trouble being apart.
19th-Jun-2015 02:11 am (UTC)
As usual, your thinky stuff makes me think thinky stuff. 8-)

Codependency is a weird term because although it isn't recognized in the DSM, there is a kind of clinical definition that has to do with one person in a relationship being dependent on the other person being addicted to something. I think there are elements of that there but that leaves out a lot that goes on between the boys. In addition to that though, there seems to be some sort of different understanding of the term codependency in pop culture that has broadened to mean two people in a relationship that can't seem to stay apart from each other, almost like they are addicted to each other and the relationship itself. In the fandom dictionary under codependency, it says see Winchester. Then there is the emphasis the show puts on the family aspect of this relationship. I think Lisa said something about unhealthy, tangled up, and crazy.

Whatever it is, I think watching the relationship over the course of the 10 seasons has been a crash course in the progression of a number of psych problems left uncared-for. I'll be interested to see what you write about those of us interested in that aspect of the show. I really hate to admit how invested I am with the continuation of this largely (at least at this point) unhealthy relationship. For the last 7 years, there has been a thread of SPN that has figured in every major realization I've had about myself. For better or worse, the show has been a big piece of who I have been all through my 40s. I wonder who I'd be without it.
20th-Jun-2015 09:05 am (UTC)
As usual, your thinky stuff makes me think thinky stuff. 8-)

I'm glad! I always like your thinky! I'm wanting to write about individual reactions to the brothers relationship but realised that if I use the term "co-dependent", it might not be the correct word.

And yes, I think you're right about that definition. The fact that the show itself explores the nature of addiction (Sam with blood, and Dean to the Mark) could link to how they feel about each other. I know I'm grasping at straws here (*g*) but the idea of them being addicted to each other is interesting.

For the last 7 years, there has been a thread of SPN that has figured in every major realization I've had about myself. For better or worse, the show has been a big piece of who I have been all through my 40s. I wonder who I'd be without it.

That is really interesting. And I suspect it must be quite confronting. Their relationship isn't the easiest to accept at times and made worse, I think, because the show seems unable to fully realise the issues they raise.

I wonder who I'd be without it.

That's an interesting thought too. I often think the same due to my rather heavy involvement in fandom over the years. I often wonder what else I would have been doing. I'm not at all unhappy about it as I know I've had a lot of fun - but it does cross my mind.




19th-Jun-2015 02:24 am (UTC)
So complicated! But I CHOOSE to believe that their relationship is NOT unhealthy, that in fact they have a healthy response to the world they live in, which is to love and depend on each other in the face of the madness all around them. They make sense and define their universe by NOT letting it control them and tell them what's healthty or normal or sane. They decide, despite the evidence to the contrary, that what they're doing (and how they are together) connotes a better reality than the one they were born into, and that's what makes them heroes, in my book :)
20th-Jun-2015 09:14 am (UTC)
It is indeed very complicated and I don't think there is a single definition or term.

It's good to read your interpretation as it's an area I want to write about - how fans respond to it. I suppose each response will be as different as the response to this post.

I can't say I think they have a healthy relationship exactly, though in light of the lives they have it's probably remarkably healthy. I think they have done questionable things to keep each other alive - but it's that aspect of their relationship that makes it so compelling (to me).
19th-Jun-2015 02:50 am (UTC)
At a glance, it would seem they are...until you factor in their background.

Dean is a parentified child. He was Sam's primary caregiver under difficult and dangerous circumstances. He learned early and hard not to take his eye off the ball(Something Wicked). We see the line between parent and brother blur with both action and word - mostly in earlier seasons, but even as late as Dark Dynasty. And parents don't outlive their kids.

Sam will always be...well, the Child. Constantly running either to or from Dean. Clandestinely scheming and secretive. He wants so badly to 'save' his brother, to make Dean proud, he misses the forest for the trees. But he never stops trying, that validation means so much.

So, I don't think codependent. I think they are each chasing their own tails while orbiting the black hole that is John.
19th-Jun-2015 07:15 am (UTC)
This! This right here was what I was so badly trying to say and failed miserably at, lol!
19th-Jun-2015 03:13 am (UTC)
I checked the 'no single word' option, because I don't think you can reduce their complicated relationship to 'codependent'. There are elements of it, in the blurred boundaries and intense fear of being abandoned and willingness to go to great lengths to prevent it, but theirs is a more reciprocal relationship instead of one person enabling the other's addiction or dysfunction. They are so many things to each other, it's hard to fit the Winchesters into any boxes easily - brothers, parent/child, abandoned children, partners, in the most literal sense 'significant others'. Sort of defies quick and easy description, which is one of the things I love most about them.

ps - I also love your thinky thoughts :)
21st-Jun-2015 09:34 am (UTC)
*nods* and *nods* and *nods*. This. :) I agree it's too hard to pigeon hole. Which is why they are so fascinating and compelling.
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