Codependency

Codependency (2 parts)
by Julie Kiewatt

Codependence… what is the meaning of this word? Is it a positive or negative thing to have? Codependence is widely misunderstood as a term that only relates to addictions. This is unfortunate as the majority of people in the United States today suffer from codependence whether it affects them mildly or to an extreme.

Codependence has many definitions… Codependence is a loss of self, a loss of identity. This occurs as we decide to put others ideas and beliefs before our own and choose to react to others in life rather then just act. Codependence is a learned behavior, usually learned from a parent, but can also be learned at other stressful points in life from others. Society today promotes codependence… the TV shows that are all about the drama, the movie stars that are all about looks and money… we have all been affected by this.

Codependence was originally a term used for individuals that were using drugs and alcohol, or those in a relationship with individuals that were using. These individuals yes, are codependent, but there are many others out there that are codependent that have no connection with drugs and alcohol. Typically a person who is codependent in one relationship has the same tendencies in other relationships even if they aren’t to the same extreme.

Some common characteristics of codependents are:

1. low self-esteem

2. needing to be needed even in negative relationships

3. a desire to be the caregiver – fixer – martyr

4. controlling thoughts and behaviors towards others

5. resenting others for what you do for them

6. difficulty making decisions for oneself – indecisive

7. seeking acceptance from others at the expense of your own values and beliefs

8. putting the needs of others before oneself

9. reacting to others rather than acting

10. lying to keep others approval of you

Do you recognize any of these characteristics in yourself and in others around you?

Most of us have at least a few of these characteristics… the more you can say yes to, the more extreme is your codependence.

If you read over the list again you may think of certain groups of people that tend to fit into this list, such as teenagers, mothers, wives, addicts… These again may be groups that struggle with co-dependence because of their current role, but many others also fall into the category of codependents. Teenagers struggle with it because of their stage in life… they are trying to figure out where they fit… one day they may act one way and the next day another. Have faith that not all teenagers grow up to be codependent adults! Mothers and wives definitely struggle with codependency because they tend to give up everything of themselves for the husband and children. Believe me -it is good to be there for your family, but every thing with balance. What is best for your children is to see that you as a woman, also have a life other than that of wife and mother. What happens is that mothers give up all they love for their children, and then their children go off to college and Mom has no idea who she is anymore. Sound familiar?

Codependency is an in-depth concept…next month we’ll continue this discussion with how to break free of codependent tendencies. If you have any questions about codependency or would like a Free Counseling Consultation call Julie at 406-471-6508.

Part II

Last month we discussed what codependence is and common characteristics. To review: Codependence is not a positive issue, it is a loss of self and identity. It affects people of all ages and stages in life but may be more easily recognized in certain groups such as addicts and their significant others, teenagers, and mothers. Common characteristics are:

1. low self-esteem

2. needing to be needed even in negative relationships

3. a desire to be the caregiver – fixer – martyr

4. controlling thoughts and behaviors towards others

5. resenting others for what you do for them

6. difficulty making decisions for oneself – indecisive

7. seeking acceptance from others at the expense of your own values and beliefs

8. putting the needs of others before oneself

9. reacting to others rather than acting

10. lying to keep others’ approval of you

To clarify a few things: Men are codependent too! The way society views compassion as a feminine characteristic tends to have people thinking that men aren’t codependent – wrong! Another point: You may be thinking that helping and caring for others in anyway is codependent… the codependence is behind an individual’s motivation for helping others… Are you helping others to get something in return? If so – codependent. If you are helping others out of the goodness of your heart and don’t care if you get recognition – not codependent. The confusing point here is when people help others because they don’t want to help themselves… this is where #4 above – controlling thoughts and behaviors towards others comes in. It is easier to focus on the problems of others rather than your own… this is definitely codependent behavior.

So, how do you break free from codependent tendencies? Step 1 is recognizing the problem. This may sound easy enough but many go through life focusing on others to the point that they lose themselves and then wonder how to change. They justify that they are just caring people… a people person. Some people do just really like to be around others, but when you need that to feel ok about yourself, you should recognize that as a problem. Many see a counselor to help them recognize their problems. Counselors are unbiased and can often see the picture more clearly than you can because they are not “in” the problem. We tend to blind ourselves to our own problems and it helps when a counselor can assist you in recognizing them. Also books like Codependent No More, and The New Codependency can give you a better understanding of what codependency is.

Once the problem/s are recognized you can start to list out when and with whom these behaviors typically occur. If you can be aware of these people and situations, you can make plans for how to better deal with these situations. When we makes plans, set goals, and visualize how we want things to happen we greatly increase the likelihood of it actually occurring. The change usually happens in steps… first you realize you did it after you did it, then you start to realize you are doing when it’s happening, then you start to stop it when you feel like doing it, and finally it becomes an integrated aspect of your life that requires little maintenance.

Step three is being self-aware – living in the moment. This is an amazing place to be because you actually know why you feel the way you feel and are able to communicate it in the moment with tact. This takes practice and a great deal of self-care – but it is well worth it! A key part of breaking free of codependency is finding who you are and living according to those desires. When we live in harmony with our thoughts and beliefs we find a peaceful joy that is meant for all.

If you have any questions about codependency or would like a Free Counseling Consultation, call Julie at 406-471-6508.