By: Julie Sekachev, M. Ed, LPC Associate
Have you ever asked yourself what is codependency and does it apply to me? Ask yourself these few questions: Do you ever take responsibility for the actions of others? Does saying “no” to others feel so terrifying that you will go above and beyond for others at the expense of your personal needs? Maybe you have a child, spouse, or a loved one with substance use issues that you cannot allow to face the negative consequences for their behavior. This blog can help you learn about the origins of this behavior and what you can do to create a healthier relationship with yourself, stop rescuing, and get your life back.
What is Codependency?
- A psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition (such as an addiction to alcohol or heroin) broadly: dependence on the needs of or control by another (Merriam-Webster)
- Codependency can occur in any type of relationship and can be characterized by:
- Control patterns
- Low self-esteem
- Excessive compliance
Signs of Codependency
Signs of codependency can include taking responsibility for the actions of others. For example, when you find yourself covering up for others to protect them from the consequences of their poor choices. If you ever feel like you need to “rescue” others without a regard to your own needs, or manipulating others’ responses instead of accepting them at face value. If your partner calls you names, for example, but you attribute that to the fact that they are in a bad mood, and continue to excuse the behavior.
A Relationship of Codependency
A codependent relationship is one based on need, not out of mutual respect. In a relationship of need one partner gives up their personal power entirely. In a sense, one partner becomes the “prisoner” while the other person is the “jailer.” Because the codependent person gives up self-responsibility he or she feels as if they cannot live without the other person.
How Codependent Behaviors Originate
Codependent behaviors begin in childhood, usually before eight years old. They start when primary caregivers do not meet our emotional, psychological or physical needs. A person that grows up in this environment begins to learn dysfunctional patters of interaction and associate love with pain. When they get older, they seek out similar individuals with similar characteristics as caretakers in order to “right the wrong” and get the approval or love from significant others. A person may tell themselves that “if it doesn’t hurt, it isn’t love.”
Taking On The Parental Role
One of the main drivers of codependency is self-sacrifice. This begins in the family of origin when a child had to take on a role of the parent. Typically due to alcoholism, substance use, mental health issues, or personality disorders. This child became the “parent-ified child.” They may have developed beliefs such as, “I must help other people. Other people’s needs are more important than mine. I’m selfish if I say “no.”
If a person thinks about saying “no” to somebody or does not help, he or she may get overwhelming feelings of guilt. This is the kind of feeling that drives self-sacrifice. The behaviors that come in this cycle of self-sacrifice are wanting to fix people and wanting to help. People find it very difficult to tolerate other people’s discomfort. Codependent individuals can end up advising people, trying to fix them all the time, trying to rescue them, helping them in all sorts of ways at the expense of personal needs.
How To Break The Cycle
- Start with mindfulness
When you see someone in distress (someone’s has a problem and you want to immediately rush to give them advice, fix or help them), ask yourself what are you actually feeling? If you don’t act immediately, how uncomfortable is that for you?
With codependency it’s not really about the other person – it’s about the codependent person themselves. It’s their own discomfort with other people’s pain they cannot tolerate, their own guilt and anxiety.
- Every time we turn our focus inwards onto thoughts, onto our feelings or sensations, we are making new connections in the brain. We’re building up its capacity to stop before we react.
- Mindfulness starts to bring out what’s in the subconscious into the conscious so that we can actually change it.
Get a clear vision of how you want your life to be
Having a clear vision creates motivation and changes your focus from rescuing others back to yourself. Write this in as much detail as possible. Focus on the feelings you will have when you have the life you truly want and include goals you will reach. Ideally this should be reread regularly.
Start therapy for codependency
In therapy you will learn your patterns and work on starting to change them. For example, if your are having a thought that the person you are helping will not be able to do this without your help, you can process that thought and look at it differently. Maybe consider that when you’re jumping to help somebody, you’re actually preventing them growing. You are stunting their growth. Through therapy you will start to see a different side of your behavior, build personal boundaries, and begin to live the life you imagined.
Begin Codependency Therapy in Katy, TX
If you want to improve your relationship with yourself and others, the therapists at The Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch can help! To begin counseling in Katy, TX follow these three steps:
- Contact our office to set up an appointment or to get more about codependency.
- Meet with one of our skilled therapists
- Find new ways to thrive in your relationship with yourself and others!
Other Therapy Services We Offer
Here at The Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch we offer counseling services for people of all ages in areas including: counseling for kids, counseling for young adults, teen counseling, couples counseling, eating disorder treatment, men’s issues, women’s issues, anxiety treatment, depression therapy, family therapy, and group counseling. Our therapists strive to regularly post blogs. We provide helpful information on a variety of mental health topics. To learn more about our therapists and our counseling services, please reach out to the Counseling Center today!