What is Codependency?
“Do we really have the right to take care of ourselves? Do we really have the right to set boundaries? Do we really have the right to be direct and say what we need to say? You bet we do.”
― Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go: Hazelden Meditation Series
I want to talk with you today about Codependency. In researching a definition of codependency, I discovered, there are many ways it has been defined. Here are two of those definitions that stood out to me as most descriptive and accurate.
“Codependency is a psychological condition that is manifested in relationships. Codependents give a great deal more love, care, and respect (LRC) to others than they expect, request, and ultimately receive. Even though codependents are resentful and angry about the LRC inequality, they do not terminate the relationship. If they or their partner does end the relationship, codependents perpetually find themselves on the giving end of a new relationship.” As quoted by Ross Rosenberg from his book “The Human Magnet Syndrome
Mental Health America defines Codependency in the following way,
“Co-dependency is a learned behavior and sometimes it can be passed down from one generation to another. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.”
Melody Beattie, the author of Codependent No More, defines codependency as, “a codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior”.
Codependency traits often present as difficulties in loving, accepting, trusting, and being true to Self.
Some Characteristics of Co-Dependent People Are:
- Feeling trapped in abusive/controlling relationships
- An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
- Needing approval/support from others to feel good about yourself
- Feeling powerless to change destructive relationships
- A tendency to do more than their share, all the time-they prioritize the needs and wellbeing of others over their own needs
- A tendency to become hurt when people do not recognize their efforts
- An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship
- Low self esteem
- A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
- A compelling need to control others
- Lack of trust in self and/or others
- Fear of being abandoned or alone
- Difficulty identifying feelings
- Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
- Problems with intimacy/boundaries-difficulty saying No
- Chronic anger
- People pleasing
- Difficulty making decisions
According to the Author of Codependent No More, Melody Beattie; some of the ways to begin to heal are:
- Self-Awareness: understand you are a codependent and you have an issue
- Accept you have an issue
- Accept yourself and accept your feelings
- Understand you cannot cure or change the dependent
- Detach yourself
- Learn you can listen with empathy without taking on the problems
- Deal with your feelings
- Rebuild your self esteem
- Attend Al-Anon
- Make yourself a priority and take care of yourself
Treatment can include education and individual and group therapy through which co-dependents rediscover themselves and identify self-defeating behavior patterns. Treatment focuses on helping clients to get in touch with feelings that have been buried during childhood, and on exploring family dynamics. The goal is to experience a full range of feelings again, learn to set boundaries and improve assertive self-expression.
If you think you may be codependent, working with a therapist could be helpful. A mental health professional can help you to determine if your behaviors resemble codependency and can help you begin to take steps to heal. A therapist can work with you on any co-occurring mental health issues and help you explore the roots of your behavior. You can begin to learn how to balance your needs with the needs of others.
Carol Van Kampen, LMSW is an individual private practice psychotherapist who specializes in anxiety, depression, grief, and trauma treatment at Marsh Psychology Group. Carol is EMDR trained. Contact her at marshpsychologygroup.com