Codependency is a word lots of people toss around. Yet most people don’t REALLY know what it means – or how to tell if they’re codependent. This is where codependency counseling can help.
What’s the difference between being a nice, thoughtful person and a codependent person? Motivation, primarily. Motivation is the cutoff point—particularly in the context of social, romantic, and family relationships. When kindness is really manipulation; when you find yourself trying to control someone else’s feelings instead of being responsible for your own; when acts of selflessness become mutually destructive, for the giver and the recipient alike – these are all signs of codependency.
Simply put, codependency is broadly recognized as an addiction to care taking, and the “care taking” may involve any manner of relationship that is unhealthy—and even mutually destructive. For codependents, “our thinking is our drinking.” Codependency is marked by constant anxiety and worry about other people’s feelings, contagious moods,“your problems are my problems” – and a relentless drive to take responsibility for things over which you really have no control.
People who develop codependency tend to grow in the same soil. Their childhoods are characterized by:
This is the lifeblood of codependency—even in codependent individuals who project faux-confidence. Low self-esteem fuels a codependent individual’s fear of abandonment and misconception that love is forever out-of-reach.
In which the codependent individual assumes the care-giving role to emotionally draining, needy, or abusive individuals who take advantage.
Spending time with “well-adjusted” people makes a codependent individual’s own unhealthy tendencies stand out in stark contrast—so the formation healthy relationships is sidestepped.
The codependent individual feels a self-martyring sense of responsibility to solve the problems of other people to his or her own person detriment; however, there is a simultaneous sense of reward in unconditionally loving even an abusive person.
Despite loving people who are emotionally unavailable, codependent individuals feel profoundly hurt when they are exploited, casting themselves forever as the victim despite playing a role in their own victimization cycle.
Codependent individuals bottle up their emotions because they fear that their honestly will lead to their desertion.
A codependent person is well-intentioned, but will resort to dishonesty/manipulation to save a destructive relationship that appears to be on the brink of dissolution.
Many codependent individuals engage in risky behaviors (substance abuse or sexual promiscuity) to dull the pain of past abuse or to cope with current abuse.
Codependency is a tough pattern to break, perhaps it’s rooted in earliest life. But though recovery can be a long road, individuals with codependency can and do recover. You can’t undo a lifetime of codependent thoughts and behaviors overnight. Here’s how therapy and counseling for codependent behavior can help get you back on the right track.
Examine why you are the way that you are… and yup, this involves confronting trauma. Your therapist won’t demand that you dive headfirst into unpleasant childhood memories. Ripping away your shell before you’re ready would only do more harm than it would do good. But in due time… understanding yourself will be the key to initiating lasting change.
Fully utilize the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This involves changing how you cognitively process (fancy phrase for “think”) about your role as a caretaker—for example, do you feel as though you have an enhanced sense of responsibility to take care of a particular person… and if you do, more importantly, why do you? Questioning—and adapting—how you think about your relationships can ultimately help you modify destructive behaviors. (And although it’s easier said than done at first—the doing part will become second nature).
Learn how to regain self- (as opposed to other-) focus: When taking care of another person becomes your sole modus operandi, you neglect to take care of yourself. Your therapist will help you identify constructive ways to love yourself and to heal from codependency. These techniques could involve in-office meditation, mindfulness, or psycho-therapeutic yoga, or out-of-office activities that help you reconnect with the things that you love doing
Learn how to help others constructively: Recovering from codependency doesn’t mean that you must refrain from helping other people—but it does mean that you can no longer accept your role as “doormat” or “problem-solver”. Your therapist will help you to develop healthy practices for helping others without shouldering the burden of a dead-end problem or a toxic relationship.