“Codependents are ‘addicted,’ not to a destructive substance, but to a destructive pattern of relating to other people.”
Have you ever felt alone? Or Bored, or felt a feeling of emptiness? Do you have low self-worth and tend to put the needs of others ahead of your own? Do you fear not being loved? Or Have a constant need for approval? If this is you, you are CODEPENDENT. These are the most common characteristics of a codependent person.
Let’s face it human as we are, we always want to feel appreciated. We want to feel noticed and loved. No human being can ever neglect that. So what we do is we help others in return for praise and approval. We do this, we do that, we sacrifice this, and we sacrifice that, all for the purpose of self-fulfillment. We want to feel important. We want to feel that we have a significant purpose in this world.
With that being said, let’s give out an example so we could understand it better.
Okay so let’s take an example of a widow with 2 kids whose husband died when her eldest was 8 and her youngest was 2 weeks old. The youngest in grade school now and she did her best bringing them up. But something inside of her feels incomplete. It couldn’t be seen on the outside but on the inside, she feels restless and wants to give up.
Then all of a sudden, she came across a scam artist. This scam artist has a broken family. He has a lot of wives and hadn’t divorced them yet. But he told her he wanted to but had no money. So she takes him as he is even though he’s a scam artist. And she thought it’s pretty good, he is giving her attention, spending time with her.
He bought her gifts, he would take her to places and made her feel loved and important. He also told her that he was on drugs but he stopped because he wants a new life with her. So she believes him. If his business doesn’t work out well she lends him money. Not thinking that her children won’t have any pocket money for school the next day.
Her friends and relatives don’t like him because they know he’s a scam artist and he’s just using her. But she won’t listen because she feels that he’s the one who can fill the gap her husband left when he died. So she fights for him neglecting her kids and family for the sake of the fulfillment she so longed for.
As time goes by, all he does is asks money from her and demands a lot of stuff, getting irritated on minor things. Then one day, she wakes up feeling worn off.
SHE my dear readers is codependent. She depends on that scam artist’s love and affection, not recognizing that the people around her are also affected by her decisions.
What is CODEPENDENCY?
- – “Codependency (or codependence, co-narcissism or inverted narcissism) is a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively care-taking ways that negatively impact one’s relationships and quality of life. It also often involves putting one’s needs at a lower priority than others while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others. A condition that results in a dysfunctional relationship between the codependent and other people. A codependent is addicted to helping someone. They need to be needed. This addiction is sometimes so strong, the codependent will cause the other person to continue to be needy. This behavior is called enabling.
- – We are set up to fail to get our needs met in Romantic Relationships because of the belief system we were taught in childhood and the messages we got from our society growing up.”As long as we believe that someone else has the power to make us happy then we are setting ourselves up to be victims” As long as we believe that we have to have the other in our life to be happy, we are really just an addict trying to protect our supply – using another person as our drug of choice. That is not True Love – nor is it Loving.”
- – In its broadest sense, codependency can be defined as an addiction to people’s behaviors, or things. Codependency is the fallacy of trying to control interior feelings by controlling people, things, and events on the outside. To the codependent, control or lack of it is central to every aspect of life.
Let’s give a second example:
John comes home late from a night out drinking and he oversleeps the next morning because of a hangover. Mary calls John’s boss at the office and says that John is late because the water heater broke and John is fixing it.
John loses his job because of repeated absences and he stays home day after day, depressed because he is not working. He files for unemployment and he takes a desultory look at the newspaper but no suitable job springs to his attention. Mary gets two jobs to keep them floating financially while John gets back on his feet… which could take forever.
John gets arrested for driving while intoxicated. Mary sells her mother’s antique brooch in order to come up with his bail money.
Despite’s Mary’s increasing efforts in each scenario described above, John is not grateful. He will become sullen and resentful of Mary’s intervention. Yet Mary continues to fulfill her role as the partner that she believes John needs. She believes her only worth comes from John’s love of her. Just as John is dependent on alcohol, Mary is dependent on John’s need for her. If John quit drinking, the dynamics of their relationship would change so much that Mary would not know how to respond.
The Negative Behaviors of the Codependent
Ultimately, Mary’s behaviors stem from her own needs. She wants to be important to John and she tells herself she is holding the family together. For example, John will not thank Mary for selling the brooch, and she will feel bewildered. She will become passive and morose.
She also believes that John cannot possibly get it together without her and that if he didn’t have her he would sink to rock bottom.
When John treats her thoughtfully, Mary is happy and important. If John hollers at her or fails to thank her for her interventions, her disappointment will swallow her. Just as their lives are punctuated by the extremes of use and sobriety, so are Mary’s moods marked by highs and lows.
Remember, Mary is not a bad person. She just…needs to be needed. In fact, if John quit drinking today, Mary wouldn’t know how to handle it.
“Codependent people have not been able to develop self-esteem, confidence or a healthy sense of personal identity that in turn significantly impairs their ability to function as healthy, reasonably autonomous individuals. This creates problems in many areas of their lives. In all honesty, each of us is controlled by the actions and opinions of others. In some ways, we try to control one another. The intensity that causes one to be controlling and controlled by others, characterizes those who are codependent. They latch on to the people they try to save, take care of, appease, or intimidate because they rely too much on someone else.”
Psychologist Robert Subby defines codependence as
“…an emotional, psychological and behavioral condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules—rules which prevent the open expression of feeling as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems.”
Okay, So now we know, that codependency is somehow a negative trait. The only question that lies now is how to cure it? Can we even cure a person with low self-esteem? How would we talk them into it? How could we help them? So if we try everything to help them, does that make us codependent as well?
If we help someone because we want to feel good about ourselves then that’s codependency.
If you want to help someone because you want to help them, that’s totally fine. Yes, you can.
Helping a Person Who Is Codependent
By Daniel Ploskin, MD
If someone in your life is codependent-a spouse, parent, child or friend-your support may be an important part of recovery. Here are some ways you can help.
Begin a dialogue about childhood and messages your spouses might have received from his parents that could have caused shame. You might want to share your own experiences of shame and how they affected you. If you are recovering from an addiction, it might be useful to discuss how most spouses are affected by their partner’s addiction and what might be helpful to him (Al-Anon Meetings, Codependence Anonymous Meetings). Attending therapy with a spouse or buying a book on codependence and reading it together are other ways to begin to help.
You might want to get a friend to open up to you by sharing your own insights with him. You can offer to go to a Codependents Anonymous Meeting with him or buy him a book to read about codependence. You also could offer him a place to stay (if he is living with an addict and could benefit from time apart) or a referral to a mental health professional. Sometimes making the first phone call for help can be the first step toward empowering the person to get well.
Helping a child, unless it’s an adult child, might not be appropriate since codependency as dysfunctional behavior is hard to distinguish from normal dependency when a child is still young. If you are the parent of an adult son or daughter who is now in a codependent relationship, you could help by telling your child how much you love her and that getting well is possible. Remind your child of the strengths and positive qualities that sustained her through other difficult times. Offer a place to stay or to go to a 12-Step meeting with her.
Helping a parent often is like helping adult children. Parents may resist taking advice from their children. But if together, you can go to a 12-step meeting, go to therapy or read a book on codependence, you may begin to stir up a desire for recovery.
Helping a coworker might include sharing information over lunch or inviting her over for coffee after work. If you are aware of a codependence problem with a coworker, chances are she already has entrusted you with some intimate information. However, work might not be the best place to discuss a topic as personal as codependence. Often, you can help just by offering to listen outside work or to be an escort to a 12-step meeting.