What is Codependency?

Center for Growth / Codependency Therapy in Philadelphia:  Codependency 

This tip is to provide you with the typical characteristics of people who struggle with codependency, a brief history of the term codependent, and a small check list to help you assess your own level of codependency.

The term Codependency refers to specific patterns and traits, including avoidance or unawareness of your own feelings, unawareness of your own needs, as well as a constant desire and effort to meet the needs of others prior to meeting your own needs first. Many people who struggle with codependency not only are “people please-rs,” but have taken this idea to an extreme. This extreme version of people pleasing includes false beliefs like, “If I’m the perfect wife, the father, the friend, then he/she will be happy, and than I will be lovable or everything will be okay. By being good enough, I can make the future work smoothly.” ”If I could make my spouse happy more, our problems would be solved.”

Power is a major aspect of behaviors for people who struggle with codependency. Overtime codependents have learned a false belief that they have a lot of power over people, and they have the ability to control others emotions. Whether it is the belief that, “If I’m around the house more, my dad will be less depressed.” or “If I spend more time with my sister, she won’t try to commit suicide again.” This idea is false. We are all individuals, and in the end our choices are our own, they are not determined by a loved one’s actions. We can only be responsible for our own choices. We do not have the power to control the actions other people choose to take.

We all make small sacrifices to help out a loved one from time to time, and we all like coming to the rescue for friends and coworkers when we can, but the question to ask yourself is: “What is the frequency that I am rescuing my lover, friend, child, co-worker and are my efforts denying that person the ability to experience natural consequences and to learn from his or her actions?” Additionally, “To what lengths am I trying to rescue or please?” When you give more than your share in a relationship without your needs being unmet, this can lead to you living an unmanageable life. Unmanageability may include a neglected career, poor relationships with children, financial debt, unpaid bills, lack of identity, poor health, neglecting spiritual need, the list goes on. Over time, the person who has over-given feels like a martyr because they have sacrificed themselves for the other or they may feel resentful towards the person that they have tried to “protect” because the cost has been so high and now their actions are not being appreciated in the way that they had hoped it would be.


Just like everyone is different, so is a person’s level of codependency. Codependency is about one’s behaviors and beliefs that typically revolve around other people, with an attempt to avoid or mask our pain.

Brief History of Codependence

The term codependency originated in the 1970‘s through the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) movement. The more typical example of someone who is codependent is the husband who refuses to leave his alcoholic wife (regardless of the negative consequences that have occurred), based on the belief that if just tries harder to make his wife happy, she will achieve and maintain sobriety, and he will be fulfilled. Today, the term has moved beyond the realm of a spouse of an alcoholic and not refers to anyone who usually thinks in terms of the other person. Codependency means: putting the other person’s needs, thoughts, opinions and desires over their own basic needs, thoughts, opinions and desires. Thus the person usually focuses all of their energy onto ‘fixing’ the other person. Now that the term codependency has a name and a description of patterns, identifying a person who struggles with codependency is easier to recognize and treat. Codependency is not just a problem limited to families and relationships with alcohol and substance abuse issues, but effects a much wider range of people.

Codependency can be a complicated concept to truly grasp the first time around. If you are still wondering how, and if, codependency effects you, please read the following list to take inventory of your behaviors.

Questions created at Center for Growth / Codependency Therapy in Philadelphia to ask yourself:

 

  • I often give to others more than I give to myself.
  • I have neglected my own career (family, friends, health etc) due to my focus of, and efforts to meet the needs of others.
  • I have jeopardized my self-care and/or safety out of loyalty to others.
  • I struggle to ask others for help.
  • Giving help is easy.
  • I give my own time or advice, even when I haven’t been asked.
  • I feel more in control when I am giving help than when I am receiving help.
  • I struggle to identify what I am feeling.
  • I don’t usually share my real feelings with others.
  • I avoid or downplay my emotions.
  • I hide my own emotions or views in order to go along with someone else.
  • I am insecure.
  • I struggle to commit to my own personal goals out of fear.
  • I struggle to make my own decisions.
  • I rely on other peoples opinions to make my own opinion.
  • I find it easy to make decisions for others.
  • I believe I can control how others feel.
  • Helping others meet their needs gives me a sense of power and control.
  • If you are still questioning your behaviors and how your relate to others, it will be beneficial to explore this further, which may mean to explore where your behaviors and your beliefs are rooted. Such behaviors and beliefs typically stem from childhood, where there was likely unhealthy family system. To look at your past is an essential part of addressing your current behaviors and what exactly is preventing healthy relationships. As you explore your childhood you will begin to identify in specific ways how you were affected by your relationships with your parents, and assess the feelings you around your memories.
  • As you explore your friendships, keep aware of your patterns of codependency and how they translate into these relationships. Reflect on your friendships, explore the reciprocity of your friendships. Ask yourself, as I give to my friends and invest in these relationships, am I getting my needs met as well?
  • As you explore your dating history, can you identify your current patterns and behaviors demonstrated in your past as well? Can you identify the consequences for your codependent behavior with your former partner? For example, you were so focused on keeping your parent happy, or address their depression, that you stop practicing your own self-care. Are you able to identify and advocate for your needs? It is common for individuals struggling with codependency to focus on others’ needs, that they lack awareness of their own needs.
  • Once you have gone back to your past in this way, you can begin to recognize how your past relationships are connected, or are similar to your present relationships. After reviewing the above list of characteristics, If you connected to most of the items listed, or you are curious about some of the answers you may struggle with codependency.

 

Steps you can take at home to help you develop coping skills to overcome codependency:

Help is available in Center City Philadelphia. Call (267) 324 9564 to schedule an assessment with one of our therapists at Center for Growth / Codependency Therapy in Philadelphia.

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