When I heard the term for the first time, I thought it was a good thing – like cooperation, co-ops, and interdependency. But in the field of psychology, it actually refers to a style of living that is not so good. According to Melody Beatty, who wrote “Codependent No More”:
“It’s a condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules which prevent the open expression of feelings as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems.”
Codependents’ have low self worth and look for something outside themselves to make them feel “Okay”. Some try to feel better through alcohol or drugs while others’ may become obsessed with other people’s problems.
Codependency develops at home. It’s a strategy for survival in an environment where someone else’s needs were seen as more important than yours. If a parent was mentally or physically ill, or someone was raging around and threatening your safety, or any other extreme personality, you might have learned to always be focused on other’s needs, never even knowing your own needs.
I think codependency happens when a person believes their worth is about function and not about existence.
Let me explain.
We learn to care about ourselves and others’ based on two kinds of love, modeled for us through our caretakers. One – usually considered “masculine” – comes about from feedback that we do things well. The other – usually considered “feminine” – is created from knowing we are lovable because we exist.
In dysfunctional homes, our self worth cannot be confirmed.
Members of these families tend to believe the problems around them are their fault, thus becoming obsessed with trying to fix things that are, frankly, beyond their control.
You can also become codependent if your home environment doesn’t nourish your spirit. Parents that fail to compliment you, that are neglectful, or do not provide proper supervision to help you feel safe, can lead a young person to doubt their worth or ability to manage life.
They learn to seek “worthiness” through sources outside themselves.
Like being perfect.
I became codependent with my family. I became codependent with alcohol. I had many traumatic events that you might understand, even forgive. But the bottom line is… I thought “I” wasn’t enough to manage these things. So I drank – a lot. I justified it because I had my “boundaries”: never before 6pm, when I had my kids (I’d recently divorced), and never when I worked.
But my life, subtly, became controlled by my need for the substance. I’d always know how long I had to wait before I could imbibe; I’d calculate if I had “enough” for … whatever. I became convinced that everything good about me was because of who I became when I drank.
I was so, so, so very wrong.
Find a counselor if you doubt your worth, if you have a history of “bad” relationships, if you can’t sleep well because of worries outside your control.
“You are responsible for helping yourself see the light and for setting yourself straight. If you can’t get peaceful about a decision, let it go. It’s not time to make it yet. Wait until your mind is consistent and your emotions are calm. Slow down. You don’t have to feel so frightened. You don’t have to feel so frantic. Keep things in perspective. Make life easier for you.” ~Melody Beatty
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