What is Co-Dependent?
-The answer is easy, they are some of the most living, caring people I know –Lonny Owen
Co-dependency – It’s a problem and recovering from it feels better than not. E.g. Picture a fire and think how it could have started (a match, intentional, electrical fault, etc.) The fire is not over when the fire truck leaves. There can be extensive repairs and it can be quite frustrating. A fire smoulders for a long time before it bursts into flames. A fire smoulders quietly and dangerously before it become apparent.
A CO-DEPENDENT Is a person who has let someone else’s behaviour affect him/her and is obsessed with controlling other’s behaviour.
Co-dependents justify the severity of the situation by saying:
- “Doesn’t everybody do this?”
- “Doesn’t everybody struggle like this?”
- “He was just angry, or out of control”
- “That’s not really him, he’s not like that.”
- “He was drunk, that’s why he hit me”
It is normal for parents to have fears and doubts about their abilities. After all, we are only human. No one was taught to be parents, even though these skills are important. However: If you continue to make excuses for the addict’s behaviour, they will not learn from their mistakes. Minimizing and rationalising the addict’s behaviour, you enable the person to continue to use. Love alone will not protect children from drugs/alcohol addiction. “I would rather let my son use at home, where I know that he will be safe” and “Do not use the money on drugs” becomes a desperate way for some parents to try to control the son’s addiction. Very few parents carry out the threats that they make, and this allows the addict to path for even more manipulative ways. Fear eventually become the order of the day, and this leads to depression and frustration. Many times, the co-dependent, is not aggressive, always trying to sort of differences, gentle, protective and tries to cover up wrong-doings. The fact that some people actually feel that their son/daughter is not on such ‘hard-core’ drugs becomes the justification for allowing them to still use. (Finally belief system), Nothing can be further from the truth.
Generally, if you’re feeling unfulfilled consistently in relationships, you tend to be indirect, don’t assert yourself when tou have a need, if you’re able to recognize you don’t play so much as others, or others people point out you could be more playful. Things like this can indicate you’re co-dependent.
What are some of the symptoms?
- Controlling behaviour
- Avoidance of feelings
- Intimacy problem
- Caretaking behaviour
- Hyper vigilance (a heighted awareness for potential threat/danger)
- Physical illness related to stress
There are some natural and healthy behaviour mothers do with children that look like co-dependency. Are people mutually interdependent on each other? Yes. There is perhaps a continuum of co-dependency, which most people might fall on. Maybe this continuum exists because so many people are taught not to be assertive, or to ask directly for their needs to be met? We probably can’t say though that everyone is co-dependent. Many people probably don’t feel fulfilled because of other things going on in the system in large. Anne Wilson Scheaf believes the whole society is addicted; the object of addiction isn’t the important issue, but rather that the environment sets us up to be addicted to something, i.e. food, sex, drugs, power, etc… If that is true, then all of us are either addicts or co-dependents. From this perspective, society produces a pattern making it hard not to be co-dependent. But it still doesn’t change that we’re not getting what we need are we’re not feeling fulfilled. Then the question is, how do I become more fulfilled and feel better about myself and the life I’m living?
Co-dependency – What is it?
Codependency is when a person has a strong desire to control people around them, including their spouse, children or co-workers. Codependents believe they are somehow more capable than others, who need their direction or suggestions to fulfill tasks they are responsible to complete. They feel compassion for people who may be hurting and feel they should be the one to help them. Codependent people give of their time, emotions, finances, and other resources. They have a very difficult time saying “no” to any requests made of them.
Co-dependency – A Matter of Control
Codependency, for others, doesn’t express itself in a desire to control, but instead, in the need to be controlled by others. Because it is nearly impossible for Codependents to say “no” to people, they may find themselves the victims in physically and emotionally abusive relationships. They believe that if they can be good enough, or loving enough, they can change the other person’s behavior. They sometimes blame themselves for the abusive behavior: “If only I had not forgotten to do the dishes, he would not have had to hit me.”
Codependency causes internal struggles with the opinions of others. Codependents may make decisions based on what they think other people want them to do. While they may believe that their motive for helping people is compassion, in reality they are doing it because they want love or approval. They may come to recognize the underlying nature of their behavior when they become hurt or angry at people they have helped who didn’t return the same amount of help, love, or appreciation when they themselves were in need. They have difficulty understanding that instead of helping others by providing things they need, they may actually be hurting them by creating a dependent relationship.
Codependency can also cause struggles in the area of time management. Codependents may feel they never have enough time to fulfill all of their commitments because they have made too many. The most important commitments and relationships are often neglected because they are too busy helping other people, participating in multiple activities, and running from one event to another throughout the week. This also relates to their inability to say “no” when asked to volunteer, attend a function, or help a friend. The idea of not volunteering, not helping or not attending is unthinkable. They may believe they are not being responsible, not being a good friend, or not being a good person if they refuse any requests. However, many of those situations and relationships leave them feeling hurt, angry, or resentful.
- Do you find yourself making decisions based on other people’s opinions?
- Is it important to you that people like you and want to be your friend?
- Do you have a strong desire to help others, but deep down you know you do it so that they will like or love you?
- Do you seem to notice everyone else’s problems and have a need to tell them what you think they should do to solve them?
- Do you feel anxious, angry or upset when people don’t do things you want them to do, or do things the way you want them to do them?
- Do you find yourself in relationships where you do all the giving and the other person does all the taking?
- Are you involved in activities that demand all of your time and energy and you are neglecting your family or yourself?
It’s widely believed we become co-dependent through living in systems (families) with rules that hinder development to some degree. The system (usually parents and relatives) has been developed in response to some problems such as alcoholism, mental illness or some others secret or problem.
General rules set-up within families that may causes co-dependency may include:
- It’s not okay to talk about problems
- Feelings should not be expressed openly; keep feelings to yourself
- Communication is best if indirect; one person acts as messenger between two others; known in therapy as triangulation
- Be strong; good; right; perfect
- Make us proud beyond realistic expectations
- Don’t be selfish
- Do as I say not as I do
- It’s not okay to play or be playful
- Don’t rock the boat
Many families have one or more of these rules in place within the family. These kinds of rules can constrict and strain the free and healthy development of people’s self-esteem, and coping. As a result, children can develop non-helpful behaviour characteristics, problems solving techniques, and reactions to situations in adult life.
You may be disappointed if you fall, but you are doomed if you don’t try – Beverly Sills Oftentimes, a part of being co-dependent is a resistance to being able to HAVE FUN AND PLAY! So part of recovery from co-dependency is learning how to let go and have fun. Therefore it’s bound to be liberating, and fun as we learn how to let go and play.