Podcast: Cape Talk Interview with Mandy Johnson | Starts 1 minute into recording | Improve your life segment.
Once our self-acceptance and self-love begin to develop and take hold, we are then ready to consciously practice simply being ourselves without performing in certain ways calculated to gain another's approval & love. But awkwardness and a feeling of great vulnerability come over us when we are just being rather than doing, and to stop performing feels at first like being frozen. Finally, in time, our genuine loving impulses have a chance to be heard & felt and to assert themselves.
- Robin Norwood
Introspect Coaching helps you to understand co-dependency. New perspectives are developed and explored, as we work together. This approach frees you from the stifling and self-esteem damaging idea, that you are somehow inferior or defective, bad, sick, stupid or crazy. The condition is treatable. In recovery, you learn that you are simply wounded and that behaviours are learned, mostly experientially and to some extend cognitively. Co-dependency arises out of a dysfunctional family and societal system. Learning new behaviours and ways of being, can assist you in recovery. Instead of trying to please others and seek validation outside of yourself, you learn how to listen more deeply to your own inner voice.
Co-dependency can occur in any type of relationship, including family, work, friendships, romantic, peer or community relationships. Co-dependency may also be characterized by denial, low self-esteem, excessive compliance, or control patterns. Narcissists are considered to be natural magnets for the co-dependent. Co-dependency does not refer to all caring behaviour or feelings, but only those that are excessive to an unhealthy degree.
WHAT IS CO-DEPENDENCY?
Charles L. Whitfield wrote in Co-Dependence: Healing the Human Condition that, "Co-dependence is the most common of all addictions: the addiction to looking elsewhere. We believe that something outside of ourselves - that is, outside of our True Self - can give us happiness and fulfillment. The 'elsewhere' may be people, places, things, or behaviours or experiences. Whatever it is, we may neglect our own selves for it (4)."
Co-dependents grow up never having learned how to be themselves, or even what their true identity really is. In adulthood this causes them to become over-identified with other people, particular roles, jobs or professions. They tend to focus on others problems, in order to avoid having to look at their own challenges. They try to change others - they are those who are heard saying: "I'd be all right if only everybody else would change."
Co-dependence has also been called a process addiction. It is any compulsive-like behaviour that can interfere with living a balanced normal life and the behaviour of the person causes significant negative consequences. It has also been called an addiction to suffering, people pleasing and adrenalin. It is a gateway to chemical addictions, as the behaviours associated with co-dependency usually occur prior to using chemicals. Thus the shame and guilt often felt by co-dependents, is then numbed and covered up with chemical and other addictions. According to Whitfield (1991: pg 5), Co-dependence is not only the most common addiction, but it is the base from which all other addictions and compulsions emerge. It is an attempt to escape the pain of everyday life by having learned a habitual conditioned response pattern and using maladaptive copying mechanism to survive.
WHAT CAUSES IT?
Growing up in a moderately or extremely dysfunctional family system, causes the wounding of our true selves to such an extent, that in order for us to survive, we developed a pseudo false self, which now runs our lives. It is thus a disease of lost self-hood, as explained by Charles Whitfield. A co-dependent person has little or no sense of self. Their whole life is spent in extreme acts to meet others' expectations. How you think and feel about yourself is determined by the behaviour of those around you. So the belief is often as follows: "if you are nice to me, then I am a good person but if you disagree with me, then I am a bad person." You have trust issues, seeking fulfillment in pleasing or controlling other people and often feel it's never enough and you are never enough. It leads to a chronic feeling of emptiness.
HOW DOES IT PRESENT ITSELF?
The Three Faces of Co-dependency:
- Romanticizer/Need to be Needed
- Over Responsible/Controlling
Consequences of unresolved Co-dependency:
With the constant amount of energy required to consistently fill the insatiable void on the inside by largely focusing on the outside, we often head for burnout. The following stress related medical conditions often accompany co-dependency:
- Depression, anxiety and related disorders
- Chemical and alcohol dependence
- Eating disorders
- Relationship addiction
- Stress-related illness such as cancer, irritable bowel, hypertension and chronic fatigue
- Compulsive behaviour
Co-dependency comes in many forms:
- The young girl who believes she needs a knight in shining armor to save her from a life of single hood is codependent.
- The young boy who believes he cannot express his feelings because he will not be accepted by society is codependent.
- The mother who defines herself by her children's successes or failures is codependent.
- The father who always has to be strong and good to hold up the family is codependent.
- The person who constantly takes care of other people without their consent is codependent.
- The person who compulsively tries to control others, even if it's in the name of their best interests, is codependent.
- The person who cannot leave an abusive relationship is codependent.
- The person who cannot set healthy boundaries is codependent.
- The person who cannot leave a relationship despite the other person being mentally, emotionally, or physically unavailable is codependent.
SOME OF THE BEHAVIOURS OF CO-DEPENDENTS:
The root of these behaviours is an absence of intimacy with self and others.
Patterns and characteristics:
Co-dependency describes behaviours, thoughts and feelings that go beyond normal kinds of self-sacrifice or caretaking. People who are co-dependent often take on the role of martyr. They constantly put others' needs before their own and in doing so, forget to take care of themselves. This creates a sense that they are "needed". They cannot stand the thought of being alone and no one needing them. Codependent people are constantly in search of acceptance. When it comes to arguments, co-dependent people also tend to set themselves up as the "victim". When they do stand up for themselves, they feel guilty. The fear abandonment deeply. It is really important for co-dependent in recovery to set healty boundaries and learn how to take better care of themselves. They need to learn about self-care and self-compassion.
PATTERNS AND CHARACTERISTICS OF CO-DEPENDENCY.
- I have difficulty in identifying what I am feeling
- I minimize, alter or deny how I truly feel
- I perceive myself as completely unselfish and dedicated to the well-being of others
Low self-esteem patterns:
- I have difficulty making decisions
- I judge everything I think, say or do harshly, as never "good enough"
- I am embarrassed to receive recognition and praise or gifts
- I do not ask others to meet my needs or desires
- I value others' approval of my thinking, feelings and behaviour over my own
- I do not perceive myself as lovable or worthwhile person
- I compromise my own values and integrity to avoid rejection or others' anger
- I am very sensitive to how others are feeling and feel the same
- I am extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long
- I value others' opinions and feelings more than my own and am afraid to express differing opinions and feelings of my own
- I put aside my own interests and hobbies in order to do what others want
- I accept sex when I want love
- I believe most other people are incapable of taking care of themselves
- I attempt to convince others of what they 'should' think and how they 'truly' feel
- I become resentful when others will not let me help them
- I freely offer others advice and directions without being asked
- I lavish gifts and favors on those I care about
- I use sex to gain approval and acceptance
- I have to be 'needed' in order to have a relationship with others
(From the Co-Dependents Anonymous Big Book)
WHAT DOES RECOVERY MEAN?
Recovery is a multiple step process in learning to uncover your true self.
Experts in the field, generally agree on the 5 stages in the recovery process:
- Survivor Stage - extreme feelings of discomfort and emotional pain. Feels as if you are simply surviving life and you need change, but are not sure what that even means.
- Re-Identification Stage - there is a shift in the way you view yourself. You have become more aware of the same patterns. You start to realise you do not have as much control over others as previously imagined.
- Core Issues Stage - you are learning to admit a challenge with trust, self-esteem and control. You begin to try out new behaviours. Your emotional life is starting to return to a more settled state as you are more present and in touch with your inside world.
- Integration - You are ready and willing to establish new beliefs and attitudes which contribute to a heightened sense of you authentic self emerging. You are better able to express yourself and your needs and you allow others in without becoming too attached.
- Genesis - you begin exploring a ever deepening spiritual path. You feel connected and may be gaining a better sense of inner peace, one day at a time and moment by moment.
- We ask for help when we need it from those who are able to support us.
- We speak up for ourselves by finding our voice.
- We see others and ourselves more realistically.
- We stop using others or expecting others to meet all our needs.
- We use tools such as journaling to identify avoidant behaviours and negative thinking spirals.
- We practice mindfulness meditation learning how to be with difficult feelings, such as anxiety and fear.
- We set boundaries that ensure our well-being.
- We work a program of recovery.
- We live one moment at a time, with grace and awareness.
- We learn to say no with a full stop.
FAQ's: Unmasking Co-dependency - View Document