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Are you a people pleaser? Do you go out of your way to make others happy at the expense of your own well-being? Are you so preoccupied with and caught up in another person’s life and problems that you have difficulty identifying your own values, thoughts, beliefs, emotions…have difficulty dealing with your own problems? Are you dependent on others to be happy? Try to control them in order to maintain your own emotional stability or get your needs met?

If you answered yes to any or all of these, then the challenges you are having in your life and relationships might be the result of a mindset and behaviors that characterizes codependency.

What is Codependency?

The term codependency was originally used to describe the unhealthy relational dynamics that exist between those who abuse alcohol and the people who love them. Melody Beattie, author of the best-selling book, Codependent No More, defines codependency as a “reactionary process” and a codependent person as “one who lets another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person.” Beattie notes that a codependent person is in a constant state of reacting to the problems, pains, lives and behaviors of others.

Traits of Codependency

Caretaking. Low self-worth. Controlling. In denial. Dependent. Poor communication. Lack of trust. Anger. Sex problems. These are some of the characteristics of codependency identified by Beattie in Codependent No More. In another popular book focusing on codependency titled, Love is a Choice, the authors identify a person struggling with codependency as one who is:

  • Driven by one or more compulsions.
  • Haunted by and preoccupied with how things were in the past in the dysfunctional family of origin.
  • Lacking confidence in one’s own worth and abilities
  • Looking to others for emotional stability and whose happiness is determined by the external (e.g., thoughts or actions of others).
  • Overly responsible and have an excessive need to take care of others (their feelings, actions, thoughts, etc).
  • Extreme in their reactions. This is reflected in their relationships with a loved one(s) and characterized by an unstable balance between dependence and independence.
  • Having difficulty seeing things as they are or truly were in childhood and their dysfunctional family of origin.
  • Refuses to acknowledge the bad things that happened by then or are happening.
  • Refuses to assess and acknowledge the brokenness of a situation.
  • Refuses to engage in self-reflection and soul-searching in order to avoid pain.
  • Worried and obsessed about things and people they cannot but repeatedly try to control and change.
  • Engages in “black and white”, “all or nothing” thinking and exhibits polarizing behavior within relationships (e.g., love and hate).
  • Restless continually and never satisfied, always trying to find that something to feel the hole in their souls.

The Root of Codependency

At the root of codependency and the traits mentioned above are unmet emotional childhood needs compounded by faulty thinking, vows, judgments and behaviors cultivated in the formative years of life (Ells, 1992). These components combined, along with others, make it difficult for the person whose life is characterized by codependency, to thrive in adulthood.

Moving from codependent to interdependent living and relationships is about letting go of the need to control, fix, or rescue others in order to get needs met. It’s about moving towards relationships characterized by mutual love, respect and accountability. It’s about a person rediscovering or discovering for the first time and embracing their own unique make-up and voice.

Living Your Own Life

The first step in the pursuit of healing and wholeness is awareness. If you answered yes to the questions above or resonated with the characteristics and traits associated with codependency, you have started your journey towards healing by simply admitting “that’s me.”

We welcome the opportunity to come alongside and help you process unresolved issues of the past and reclaim the pieces of yourself that got buried, ignored or silenced along the way. Let us help you challenge self-defeating behaviors and expand your range of emotions. So that you can live out more fully your unique God-given design in the context of healthy, interdependent relationships. If you want to learn more about codependency, how you can stop controlling others and start living your own life, take the next step and give us a call today.

Written by therapist Roslyn Jordan

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