The Disease to Please: Are You Codependent?
Codependency 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. It often involves placing a lower priority on one’s own needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of the other. People who are codependent often take on the role as martyr; they constantly put the other’s needs before their own and in doing so forget to take care of themselves. Codependents are constantly in search of Acceptance.
Codependency is described as a disease that originates in mild to extremely dysfunctional families where children learn to overcompensate for their parents’ disorders and develop an excessive sensitivity to others’ needs. There is always an avoidance of confrontation and inability to resolve conflict (hence the buildup of anger). This is sometimes described in terms like “enmeshment.” Adult children of dysfunctional families often suffer from a sense of confusion and deprivation that has continued into their adult life — a feeling of “not knowing what normal is,” a feeling of “not being good enough,” a feeling of “emptiness and not worthy of being loved”— that has become an anguished desire to recover something emotionally missing in their upbringing. When it comes to arguments, codependent people also tend to set themselves up as the “victim”. When they do stand up for themselves, they feel guilty. Codependency can occur in any type of relationship, including family, romantic, work, and friendship.
Co-dependents suffer from low self-esteem and look for anything outside of themselves to make them feel better. They find it hard to “be themselves.” Some try to feel better through alcohol, drugs or nicotine – and become addicted. Others may develop compulsive behaviors like workaholism, gambling, or indiscriminate sexual activity.
They have good intentions. They try to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but the caretaking becomes compulsive and defeating. Co-dependents often take on a martyr’s role and become “benefactors” to an individual in need.
The problem is that these repeated rescue attempts allow the needy individual to continue on a destructive course and to become even more dependent on the unhealthy caretaking of the “benefactor.” As this reliance increases, the co-dependent develops a sense of reward and satisfaction from “being needed.” When the caretaking becomes compulsive, the co-dependent feels choiceless and helpless in the relationship, but is unable to break away from the cycle of behavior that causes it. Co-dependents view themselves as victims and are attracted to that same weakness in love and friendship relationships. Codependency is underlying and pervasive in all forms of addiction, and is characterized by denial, low self-esteem, excessive compliance and/or avoidance, and control patterns.
Core Issues of Codependency: Can You Relate?
Codependents use unhealthy self-defeating coping strategies as defences, circle those you use:
Denial: Minimize, rationalize, ignore, stay busy to avoid thinking about their feelings
Humor: Passive aggressive sense of humor
Control: Attempt to control events and people through helplessness, guilt, coercion, threats, advice-giving, manipulation or domination.
Inability to identify and Express feelings: A lack of healthy role models in the family to teach their children/spouse a feelings language. In these families, open expression of feelings are not validated therefore children/spouses shut down emotionally (numbing).
Excessive caretaking (rescuing & enabling): Feeling responsible for others’ actions, feelings, and choices. Doing for another person what they should and could be doing for themselves.
Repeated unhealthy relationships: Codependents are often attracted to people whom they can take care of and fix. They may find themselves in a pattern of unhealthy relationships because of a belief that “this time it will be different”.
Fear of Abandonment: Codependents are people who need to be needed. Individuals would rather stay in an abusive relationship than to be alone.
Fear of Anger: Codependents are afraid of both their own and their loved one’s anger, because they fear it will destroy the relationship.
Low self-esteem: Codependents are people who need to be needed. They only feel important and valuable when they are helping others, and blame themselves for anything that goes wrong.
Boundary issues: Codependents have difficulty setting and maintaining healthy limits and boundaries. Being unable to honor yourself, your values, and your beliefs, codependents resort to people pleasing and confusing threats for boundaries.
Health problems: The stress of codependency can lead to headaches, ulcers, asthma, high blood pressure and other physical problems.
Victim Role: Individuals may struggle with having an external focus believing that others are responsible for their life, needs, feelings, etc. They may loose their sense of personal empowerment and lack the awareness that they are responsible and capable of making positive changes.
HOW WE CAN HELP YOU
If codependency is something you struggle with in your relationships, we can help you in our channeled therapy sessions designed specifically to address and work through your patterns with a Codependency Therapy Workbook designed especially for this. These therapy sessions include phone and homework assignments conducted chapter by chapter through our workbook.
Looking forward to working with you!
Dr. Leanne Levy ~ Akasha White Wolf
The LOVE Medium & Spirit Therapist