Co-Dependence: We’re so careful to see that no one gets hurt. No one, that is, but ourselves.

codependencyby Pamela Giorgio, MA, LLPC

Codependency takes on many definitions and connotations depending on who you ask and their personal experience. Often, persons shrink at the thought of the word “codependency” as if it portrays weakness or low self-esteem, or—at the other end of the spectrum—someone who is a “control freak” or manipulative.  But for the person suffering with the very real psychological, emotional and physical symptoms that are triggered by whatever definition one gives codependency, the “what is this?” becomes less important than “how can I move beyond this?”  Melody Beattie, a pioneer in self-help and author of Codependent No More, defines codependency in its simplest form:

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.

Although our first association when thinking about codependency is often with addictions, we can see from the above definition that this may not always be the case.  Codependency can exhibit itself in the workplace, in our interpersonal relationships with family and non-family members, or if we are caring for an ill loved one.  With such a non-specific definition of codependency, it may be difficult to understand if this is truly YOUR struggle? You may have that nagging feeling in your relationship that you deserve better… Or that you are going above and beyond what others would see as “normal” or healthy… Or that you never seem to FIND YOUR VOICE and that your own needs are not being met.

Below is a list of some key characteristics, and examples, that MOST codependents find they can relate with:

Caretaking

  • Trying to please others instead of themselves
  • Feeling anxiety, pity and guilt when other people have a problem
  • Abandoning their routine to respond to or do something for somebody else

Low Self-Worth

  • Blaming themselves for everything
  • Thinking they’re not quite good enough
  • Feeling like victims

Repression

  • Appearing rigid and controlled
  • Afraid to let themselves be who they are

Obsession

  • Thinking and talking a lot about other people
  • Checking on people
  • Trying to catch people in acts of misbehavior

Controlling

  • Thinking they know best how things should turn out and how other people should behave
  • Trying to control events and people through helplessness, guilt, coercion, threats, advice-giving, manipulation, or domination

Denial

  • Ignoring problems or pretending they aren’t happening
  • Believing lies
  • Feeling depressed or sick

So now that we know what codependency looks like, the best news is that there is hope of getting into recovery, setting those boundaries, and beginning to take care of ourselves.  For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (II Timothy 1:7) Many of us, even without knowing it, really do possess the answers within ourselves about how to think and make good, healthy decisions.  Our thoughts lead to our feelings which lead to our actions. So, once we begin treating our minds well, the rest will begin to fall into place with some recognition and practice.

But how do we treat our minds well, you ask?  We can achieve this wellness in a variety of ways:  Ask God to help us think (prayer), quit abusing our minds (worrying), feed our minds (gather information), quit saying bad things about our minds (negative self-talk) and use our minds (express opinions and make decisions).

Have you ever heard the saying that “Love shouldn’t hurt”? Or find yourself saying, “If this relationship was right, it wouldn’t be this hard”?  Well, there may be some truth in those notions.  Of course, relationships are challenging at times, and require hard work and dedication; but we must learn to recognize the difference between what is healthy work and what is unhealthy (i.e. codependent) work.  This learning process allows us to leave relationships that are not serving US, and to learn new behaviors to attract good relationships.  Melody Beattie says in her Codependent No More book, “We may want and need love, but we don’t need destructive love.”

Trinity Family Counseling Center
45445 Mound Rd, Suite 111 Shelby TwpMI48317 USA 
 • 586-254-3663

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