To many professionals in the treatment field and their clients, the term “codependency” can be confusing and unclear. Some clients even find the term offensive and/or say that it is a poor fit to describe them, according to Ann W. Smith MS, LPC, LMFT, NCC. Smith is the Executive Director of Breakthrough at Caron, which is a 5 ½ day residential personal growth workshop designed for those who are struggling with relationship patterns developed from early attachment injuries in core relationships. She explains the evolution of codependency starting in 1980 when the addiction field began to show interest in involving the family in addiction treatment. Soon after that time, Caron introduced a residential family program. She discusses the labels that were used before the term “codependency” came about. One of these labels was “co-alcoholic” and she says that this one didn’t stick because the term chemical dependency replaced alcoholism. Another label that was used early on was “chief enabler or ‘collateral,’” which were used for the spouse of an addict when their spouse was in treatment. As time went on, committees met and the terms “Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA)” and “codependency” began to emerge across the country around 1981. At the 1989 National Conference on Codependency, a commit of experts in the codependency field… came together to establish this definition: “Codependency is a pattern of painful dependence on compulsive behavior and on approval seeking, in an attempt to gain safety, identity and self-worth. Recovery is possible.” Although Smith was on the committee that developed this definition, she still felt that it was too general and that it couldn’t be applied to specific people. She explains the following definition of codependency that she created: “Codependency is a condition or state of being, that results from adapting to dysfunction (possibly addiction) in a significant other. Codependency is a learned response to stress which, over a person’s lifetime, can lead to the development of the following characteristics: External Focus, Repressed Feelings, Comfort with Crisis, Boundary Conflicts, Isolation, Stress related illness. By Shannon Brys, Associate Editor http://www.addictionpro.com/article/codependency-patterns-attachment
It’s hard to give up the self-esteem connected
to being codependent and appearing ‘right,’
which is probably a survival behavior learned
from growing up in a crazy family.
It feels like you will actually disappear.
A too large dose of anxiety will cheat you out of the beginnings of things. A way out of anxiety is to risk trying new things. Try to develop new ways to follow your curiosity. Consider the curiosity of a toddler. How can you borrow this kind of wonder? A small child embraces adventures naturally – then come all the inhibitions. A real adventurer supports his or her own unease. Remember that anxiety requires too much caution, which means not letting things happen to you. It can be good to risk running into a little bit of trouble. A fixed idea of what is proper can be paralyzing. A true definition of responsibility is to respond to the situation in any way that is life enhancing. Anxiety is the opposite, it is life restricting. According to Laura Perls, responsibility is the ability to respond. For therapy to be successful it should increase your range of response and ability. Many things can create anxiety. Genetics, an anxious parent, or early childhood loss all can leave the legacy of learning to listen to the outside world instead of the inside self. So begin by finding your own voice. The most important step anyone can take is to get off the bunny slope and move on into facing the anxiety. Work to seek out the discomfort and then take care of yourself to make it bearable. If you learn to tolerate the fears that are exaggerated in anxiety, then you can stop the slippery slope into depression. Value awkwardness because it is part of all beginnings. Awkwardness offers you relief and room to move. Allowing awkwardness from yourself means you are more likely to find your own voice. Remember the first time you learned to ride a bike? Allowing yourself the horrible moments of a new beginning, ended up in a lifetime skill that anxiety could have cheated you out of. From “Anxiety, Control & Codependency” by Rhoda Mills Sommer, L.C.S.W. http://therapyideas.net/anxiety.htm
Striving for excellence
striving for perfection
Codependents usually haven’t experienced enough sense of mastery in their lives to give them a life-long sense of competency and strength. They are lost and confused. They are looking for someone to give them direction. They just haven’t quite found their true place in the world yet. They are usually in the wrong place, with the wrong person, at the wrong time for the wrong reasons. When a Codependent starts a romantic relationship they tend to put too many eggs in that one basket. They invest their whole lives in a guy (girl) who ultimately turns out to be an addict, a betrayer, a little boy (a little girl), a rager, a controller, weak, lost, little, and otherwise not coming as originally advertised. Codependents have big hearts – too big. Codependents get lost for decades in the meeting of others needs while ignoring what their own hearts were trying to say to them. They are rest starved, fun starved and inspiration starved. They need to learn to be selfish in a healthy way. They are parched ground lacking in color and joy. The roots of Codependency are always in childhood. Controlling, critical, abandoning, abusive and shaming parents and caretakers inflict the wounds in the tender psyches of children that result later in life as the low self-esteem, powerlessness, voicelessness, other centeredness, low entitlement, passiveness and depression that we correctly call Codependency. Many times this damage can seem subtle during the childhood itself. If it is all that you have ever known then what do you have to compare it to? In a healthy family children and teenagers are encouraged to have a voice. They are encouraged to speak up and make their cases. That is a skill that they will need in relationships, in school and on the job down the road. In a healthy family a child gets the focus and the attention and the care that they need. The focus isn’t on dad’s alcoholism or mom’s depression. The parents have the ability to really be there for the kids consistently. Parents can give praise directly to the children and they are lavish with it. Home is a safe and a predictable place. The child does not have to grow up too quickly. They can just focus on being a kid. They don’t become the emotional caretakers of their parents. The message a Codependent gets growing up is that they aren’t quite good enough. They don’t quite rate dad’s attention or his time. They don’t quite measure up to mom’s expectations. They need to try harder. They need to eliminate the self and anything positive that the self could have done for them. They need to live for others. From “Codependency – A Serious Disease of Lost, Confused, Undeveloped and Other-Centered Selves” by Mark Smith http://www.familytreecounseling.com/fullarticle.php?aID=278
If you’re not comfortable
enough with yourself
or with your own truth
when entering a relationship,
then you’re not ready
for that relationship
Women still look to men for strength and guidance. However, they also now look to them for love and respect. Controlling men typically will not adapt their behavior, the loudness of their voice, their habits or the way that they talk. They do not need to compromise or change for anyone. The world around them should fit in with their needs and desires, not the other way around. Imagine a man who leaves little notes for his wife every morning on the kitchen table. Ah, don’t be the romantic and think even for a second that these are little love notes. They are actually lists of chores and errands to be accomplished while he is away at work. Does his wife like them? No. Does she complain about them? No. If you are wondering why not, join the crowd. In the beginning of their relationship, perhaps she didn’t mind the notes or realize he might be one of those creatures known as controlling men. In fact, maybe she thought he was trying to make her life easier by leaving little reminders. After a while, the lists became longer. She began to do chores he normally took care of in addition to the other tasks he had assigned. Is this over the top? Certainly. But it has taken her too long to realize this man is controlling her every move. Not only does he know where she is every day, but also, he knows what she is doing. Does she ever complain? Yes, she does, but by then, it is too late. He is already in the habit of believing he knows what is best since she has never questioned him before now. It is almost impossible to relinquish control of something or someone when you have had the control for so long. From an on-line article by Susan Keenan http://www.lifescript.com/life/relationships/marriage/controlling_men.aspx#sthash.yJArt6eB.dpuf
…New love only lasts so long,
and then you crash back
into the real people you are,
and from as high as we were,
it’s a very long fall,
and we hit the ground
with a thud.
Living with a person who is overly critical and insists that things be done their way can, over time, wear their partner down mentally, emotionally and physically. Marriage is usually viewed as partnership where both people compromise for the betterment of the family unit. It can be extremely tiring when only one individual is bending. Everyone is different and there is no set remedy that will fix all situations. One of the partners needs to stay positive and that requires charging your emotional batteries. Ideally your spouse should help you accomplish this but if it’s not happening find something else and insist on spending the necessary time. For some people it may be physical activity as it gets the body moving and eases stress. For others it may be painting or writing. Or maybe it’s some time out with friends just to talk and laugh and get away in general. Take the time to heal yourself because if you’re not whole you won’t be able to help your spouse. By Cindy Abbate http://www.helium.com/items/2341232-how-to-deal-with-a-demanding-spouse
Don’t smother each other.
No one can grow in the shade.
Passive aggressive behavior takes many forms but can generally be described as a non-verbal aggression that manifests in negative behavior. It is where you are angry with someone but do not or cannot tell them. Instead of communicating honestly when you feel upset, annoyed, irritated or disappointed you may instead bottle the feelings up, shut off verbally, give angry looks, make obvious changes in behavior, be obstructive, sulky or put up a stone wall. It may also involve indirectly resisting requests from others by evading or creating confusion around the issue. Not going along with things. It can either be covert (concealed and hidden) or overt (blatant and obvious). A passive aggressive might not always show that they are angry or resentful. They might appear in agreement, polite, friendly, down-to-earth, kind and well-meaning. However, underneath there may be manipulation going on – hence the term “Passive-Aggressive”. Passive aggression is a destructive pattern of behavior that can be seen as a form of emotional abuse in relationships that bites away at trust between people. It is a creation of negative energy in the ether which is clear to those involved and can create immense hurt and pain to all parties. It happens when negative emotions and feelings build up and are then held in on a self-imposed need for either acceptance by another, dependence on others or to avoid even further arguments or conflict. If some of this is sounding familiar don’t worry – we all do some of the above from time to time. It doesn’t make us passive aggressive necessarily nor does it mean your partner is. Passive aggression is when the behavior is more persistent and repeats periodically, where there are ongoing patterns of negative attitudes and passive resistance in personal relationships or work situations. Andrea Harrn, http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/what-is-passive-aggressive-behaviour
No one can make you jealous,
angry, vengeful, or greedy
unless you let him.
Given their loss of awareness to their own needs, problems with boundaries, excessive dependency, and tendencies to try to change or control others, it is no surprise that codependents experience significant relationship difficulties. Sometimes their relationships feel one-sided. They are constantly caretaking or adjusting to the people around them while remaining out of touch with what is going on inside themselves. These one-way relationships make healthy mutuality and intimacy impossible. While many codependents fervently desire to soothe the deep loneliness and woundedness they feel through close relationships, most do not really understand some of the most basic aspects of interpersonal intimacy. One cornerstone for intimacy and, more generally, healthy interpersonal relationships is a basic respect for one another’s freedom to be who they really are and to take responsibility for that. Since codependents struggle with respecting themselves deep down, and since they are often trying to change their partners, there is a lack of this type of deep mutual respect for either themselves or their mate. Codependent persons can be either intimidated and threatened by their spouses, or look down on them as being needy or having a problem. But in either case, codependents do not look at themselves as a peer. Someone is always in an up or a down position. Jason T. Li. Ph.D. http://lifecounsel.org/pub_li_overcomingCodependency.html
It is far better to be hated for who you are
than to be loved for who you are not.
Codependents often have a deep sense of powerlessness because they live with, or grew up with, people who are out of control. They can also feel victimized or controlled by others because they feel such a need to meet the needs of others rather than their own. Ironically, codependents can also be quite controlling themselves. And while they take excessive responsibility for keeping the peace or pleasing others, they also may expend incredible energy trying to change the other person. Since they blame the other person for their unhappiness, they assume they have a right to try to change that person. The codependent’s view of responsibility goes like this: My spouse is responsible for my unhappiness, and I am responsible to try to change my spouse or act in ways that don’t upset him or her. But this is backward. We must take responsibility for our own happiness or unhappiness, and a spouse must take responsibility for changing his or her own feelings and actions. Many codependents alternate between periods of trying to please their spouse, subtly attempting to change them, and brief outbursts of frustration when they directly express their resentments or expectations to others. Jason T. Li. Ph.D. http://lifecounsel.org/pub_li_overcomingCodependency.html
The best day of your life is the one
on which you decide your life is your own.
No apologies or excuses.
No one to lean on, rely on, or blame.
The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey -
and you alone are responsible for the quality of it.
This is the day your life really begins.
Displacement means responding to the wrong person or object. If it is too dangerous or uncomfortable to respond directly to the source of feeling, the response can be aimed at someone or something else. Getting rid of anger in an unrelated context, at an innocent recipient, is so common that the husband, angry with his boss, who comes home and kicks the dog is a cliché. Most abused wives and children are the victims of a husband or father’s displaced anger. Researchers have found that an abuser is likely to have been the victim of the displaced anger of his father. He learned hot to deal with anger by watching his father vent his feelings on the weak and innocent members of the family. From “The Enabler: When Helping Harms The Ones You Love” by Angelyn Miller
Anger is an acid
that can do more harm
to the vessel in which it is stored
than to anything on which it is poured.
Narcissism is a personality disorder. It stems from childhood abuse. When children decide that the world, and the people in it, are bad and that they are good, they have a skewed vision of life. They see the whole world as revolving around them. They see others as objects to gratify their needs. They lack compassion for others. In general they are incapable of maintaining a healthy relationship because they have to be in control all of the time. Often, narcissists are very charming in order to seduce people into liking them. Their ability to seduce people is amazing. They appear confident and therefore exciting. They want you to fall in love and bond with them so they can finally emerge as their true selves without being abandoned. If you keep your eyes open, you can detect a narcissist’s need for control and his or her self-centeredness. If you make a mistake they will be critical and unsympathetic. They will hold you to a high standard and exhibit disdain for what they consider weakness or vulnerability. by Susan Peabody http://www.loveaddicts.org/narcissists.htm
When I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens,
I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary.
I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough
to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong,
or to cultivate a sense of purpose.