Codependency: A potential blind spot that could be affecting your relationship with yourself and others
What is Codependency?
The term codependency is used generally to apply to someone who has a pattern of dysfunctional relationships involving focusing on the needs and behaviours of others more than your own. I see these types of issues a lot at the clinic and have found that generally these codependent traits will be reflected in two key areas of a clients life: The relationship they have with themselves and their relationships with others. In this post today I’d like to explore how codependent behaviours are developed, some of the common traits of codependency and how you can start working on these often unconscious patterns.
So how can codependency develop?
Imagine a child growing up in an alcoholic household. When they wake up in the morning how do they feel, what are they thinking about?
They go to school, they have a great time, they come back home full of energy from the day, but as soon as they get to the front door, what do they do?
They curb their energy and enthusiasm and open the door in trepidation. They know through past experience that at times when they are excited or full of energy, they’ve made mistakes and knocked things over which resulted in what kind of result from the parents.
These children learn quickly to focus on the needs of others before their own as a means of survival and so unconsciously bring this with them into adulthood.
They may also be very good at something we call the ‘chameleon effect’ whereby they are so good at reading people they unconsciously change themselves to please whatever group they seem to be with at the time. They lose sight of who they are, what they want what they need.
So for clarity some common traits of codependency are:
- Addictions or Obsessions
- Painful emotions such as shame, anxiety, fear, guilt, depression
- Low self esteem, not particular liking yourself, thinking you’re not good enough or overly concerned about what people think of you
- Taking care of people to an extreme
- Perfectionism or fear of making mistakes
- Pleasing others so much so you sacrifice your own needs and wants
- Poor boundaries, so for example boundaries that are too week that there’s not enough separateness between you and the other person, or perhaps boundaries that are too rigid that stop you from being close or perhaps boundaries that flit between the two extremes, you may have some difficulty in saying, ‘no’ to people
- Being very reactive rather than considering others opinions rationally
- You may be afraid of being alone or even afraid of being in a relationship because you find intimacy uncomfortable. Perhaps you’re trapped in an abusive relationship and feel unable to leave.
- Denying you’re reality is also a symptom of codependency. For example denying how you feel, what you need, what you want, perhaps even denying a painful reality of a relationship
- Controlling tendencies, managing and controlling people in your life, telling them what to do or perhaps manipulating others to feel or behave like you want so for example people pleasing can be seen as form or manipulation
People can feel these kinds of feelings issues to a varying degree. So if you resonate with any of these traits or symptoms there are solutions and I recommend talking to a professional if necessary.
Solutions to breaking co-dependency patterns
One of the key ways to overcome codependency is to first and foremost, build a loving and relaxing relationship with yourself. You can do this in a number of ways.
- Start to take more time to Relax throughout your day. I often advise my clients to pepper their day with Relaxation. How do you do this? Take 5 minutes throughout your day to concentrate on breathing deeply and relaxing your muscles, they take yourself back to a Relaxing time and get in touch with the details of that moment and give yourself permission to enjoy reconnecting with relaxation now.
- Turning the focus back to yourself. As we know focusing on others is what someone with codependency does really well. Turning that focus from the other person back to you doesn’t make you selfish instead it shows respect for that other person’s autonomy and boundaries. You can do this in a practical way by stopping yourself obsessively watching the other person or worrying or obsessively thinking about them. Instead imagine them surrounded by healing light or connected to their higher self. They have their own purpose and life to lead and seeing them almost in the hands of God or the Universe can help you to release that need for control. Remember the saying ‘live and let live’
- Remember you are not responsible for another person’s behavior. This is where active language is great. If you’ve already taken the LP you’ll know what I mean by active language. If not get hold of a copy of Phil’s book, ‘Du- Unlock your full potential.’ For example instead of ‘she makes me feel angry’ instead this becomes she is the way she is and du anger about it.
- Start practicing self-acceptance. Believe that you are perfectly imperfect. Keep a journal and write positive things about yourself in it each day. Also start to reach out to people when you need help. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can do absolutely everything yourself- we all need help from time to time.
- Focus on a life you love, what are your needs and wants? Rather than obsessing about others expectations of you.
- Get in touch with your feelings begin to get to know yourself again, again a journal can be really helpful for this. It’s important as you do this not to judge yourself but to be kind and compassionate.
For emotions such as low self-esteem, fear, guilt, depression and also patterns such as obsessive compulsions and addictions I would highly recommend you see a professional for support as you work through these issues. The Lightning Process is a brilliant tool to help you resolve these patterns and you may want to speak to your health professional for guidance.