My Life As A Co-Dependent Artist Manager
My name is Samantha Parker and I am a co-dependent. This means that I am a great wife and was an even better artist manager. I take responsibility for others’ mistakes without having the power to do anything meaningful about it. I will anticipate your every need and whim and make sure there is a soft landing for you when you fuck up. Which you will, as I only hang around fuck-ups. Drug-taking fuck-ups, even better.
You see I care, and I care more about you than about me. That’s what my narrative was anyway. The truth? Well the truth is that I am desperate to avoid my own feelings of shame and worthlessness and so distract myself with fixing others. It can take a lot of energy and concentration to be constantly monitoring other people feelings, reactions and behaviours, but this is the information I need to make my pre-emptive decisions as to how I’m going to help you, so it keeps me busy and I like being busy as then I don’t have to feel.
Why do I do it?
I do it because, like the compulsive use of substances such as alcohol or drugs or behaviours like gambling, sex or eating, it relieves me from what I fear the most. SHAME. That gut-busting, projectile vomiting feeling that screams “LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE” “THIS IS YOUR FAULT” “YOU’VE HURT THEM AND THEY HATE YOU” “YOU’RE SO SELFISH” It feels hot and it burns. In fact John Bradshaw (New York Times bestseller on addiction) would call it ‘toxic shame’. This is the belief not that I have done something to feel bad about, but that I am inherently bad.
'Toxic shame is entirely about how you see yourself', Paul Gilbert, Professor of Psychology at the University of Derby claims in his article in the Guardian. ‘People spend a good deal of their lives trying to conceal it, and talking about it is instinctively avoided because it reactivates the intensity of the emotion.’
In fact there is a link between toxic shame, mental health conditions and addiction. Unsurprisingly.
So, did I get into managing bands by mistake? No, of course not. Most artists and bands I’ve worked with (some super successful, some not so much) are generally a bit chaotic and emotionally charged - often with crippling low self-esteem and drug and alcohol misuse issues. Therefore there is a tendency for them to act out. i.e. behave in a way that is destructive and self-sabotaging. So, without knowing it, at age 25, I had unconsciously made a move into a job-role perfect for me. I GOT PAID to be co-dependent, which at the time was a step up from doing it for free.
It all ended badly of course. This never ending cycle of an artist fucking up and me trying to fix it like Harvey Keitel’s fixer supremo character, Winston Wolfe, in “Pulp Fiction” was unsustainable, especially as I was behaving like that in my personal life too. So, the wheels came off and I decided to take the road less travelled.
Now, some years later, I realise that I couldn’t heal the devastating effects of toxic shame in my early life by making pop stars and everyone else around me happy. I had to go inward, that was where the real work was needed. Firstly, I needed to know where I stopped and someone else started. What was MY business and what wasn’t, how people are entitled to feel their own feelings and experience the consequences of their actions.
I realised that I too have the right, and need, to feel my feelings. All the while I focus on the feelings of others I am lost to myself.