Learn what codependency is, how to recognize codependent patterns, and how to overcome it through a body based and trauma-informed method.
Recovery from Codependency does not happen overnight. It is a personal growth process that takes time and patience. You can compare it to reprogramming a piece of software. You need to find the bugs first, and replace them one by one with a better piece of code.
We humans often fall back to using the old code again - so it takes some time to update the software again and again until the changes really stick, and we can run our lives with a new 2.0 version.
It is important to remember that you are not broken. There is nothing to fix, just skills to learn.
Recovery does not mean you will never fall back again to using old behaviors. It means you are aware of these patterns and you can make a conscious choice on how I want to behave.
Practicing better coping strategies will cause fewer fallbacks and a new sense of self-awareness that helps to create new “default” settings. It requires ongoing maintenance to make sure we don't fall back into old patterns.
It is important to know that codependency recovery is possible. You can overcome the feeling that you are not enough. When sufficient “recovery” happens, we can create healthy relationships with others and a healthy relationship with ourselves as well. Even if you are in a codependent relationship right now.
The word "codependency" is thrown around a lot these days, but what does it mean? Codependency means that people rely on others for emotional support and approval. This affects the other person's behavior as well. Codependent partners may not feel good without help from their partner, which can cause them to become needy or clingy. It might seem like this type of codependent relationship would work out because both people are getting exactly what they need from each other, but that's not always the case...
Codependency can be difficult to recognize and harder to overcome. Codependent relationships are characterized by the inability to express one's own needs without feeling guilt, resentment or other negative emotions. The codependent person feels responsible for the happiness of their partner.
The key signs of codependency are low self-esteem, an excessive desire to please others and anxiety if they cannot do so; as well as an intense fear of abandonment because they have become so dependent on those around them for emotional support. It has a huge impact on your mental health. In this blog post we will explore what causes codependency, how it manifests itself in relationships with others and how you can get help for yourself or someone you love.
Codependency was first discovered as a condition developed by people who live with people with substance use disorder in codependent relationships. Living with an addict triggers their loved ones to use certain behavioral patterns, like controlling the addict, rescue, or cover up the traces of their addiction. Because a codependent does the heavy lifting in the background the addicted person experiences less of the consequences of their behaviors.
Later more and more people showed up that suffered from similar patterns that did not have an addiction in their families. These codependents had endured long episodes of high emotional stress, and were using the same survival strategies. They had become used to living in emotionally damaging situations without an adequate environment to express how they feel.
They learn to adjust to the sick situations of their loved one's life by getting sick themselves. They end up suffering with mental health issues due to behaviorial patterns such as controlling, rescuing or pleasing other people. At first these patterns seemed to reduce the stress they are experiencing, but in reality produced great suffering, a feeling of inner emptiness, and general discomfort. These symptoms did not go away even longer after the original trauma had happened.
I like to describe codependency as a set of unhealthy strategies we have adopted to ensure our survival. It is our instincts gone astray. What might have worked as a child often causes us issues as an adult. As a recovering codependent you unlearn certain behaviours and replace them with better and more healthy ones. Of course, this does not happen overnight and requires work and guidance.
The universal coaching institute defines codependency as:
Codependency is an emotional attachment condition where one person enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement to validate an obsessive need to feel needed or loved.
Others have described codependency as a Love Addiction and or Self-Love Deficit Disorder. It does not matter what Label it has (who needs labels anyway?). Important is, if you identify yourself with these codependent tendencies, and find yourself in a codependent relationship, I hope you realize that this is learned behaviour that can you can change.
If you are curious if you use codependent patterns, feel free to take the codependency quiz.
In dysfunctional families, all parties involved pass codependency from one generation to another. These traits serve a purpose during childhood but are responsible for our problems during adulthood. Codependent traits normally arise from childhood trauma and often in a family where the parent or partner was addicted or neglectful in the past. It always affects all family members.
For codependent patterns to develop, it is unnecessary to have grown up with addiction. Children of parents with narcissistic traits, or parents that were very disconnected from their feelings (emotional neglect) may trigger codependent coping strategies as well.
We watch the actions of our parents when we are children. If our mother or father had a problem to set boundaries, was always the martyr, could never say ‘no’ to people, was afraid of other people's opinions of him or her, and had unhealthy ways to communicate, we most likely learned these behaviors and codependent thoughts from them and brought them into our lives and most of all, our intimate relationships. Children who grow up with an emotionally unavailable family member are at risk of being codependent.
Codependency is not an officially recognized mental disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, while it has similarities with D.P.D., which stands for Dependent Personality Disorder.
As coaches, we do not diagnose people, and since this is not a recognized disorder there is also nothing to diagnose. Treatment centers and self-help groups, like alcoholics anonymous, or al anon, require people to take the first step out of Denial by saying: “ I am an alcoholic” and often use recovery jargon.
Personally, I do not see it necessary to openly state that I am a codependent. Putting a label on someone implies this can not change. However, people must admit they have a problem, and that they need help. That is a very important first step to recovery.
All that counts is if you recognize yourself in the unhealthy behaviors and if this is keeping you from living a happy and calm life with fulfilling relationships.
So it is not about being codependent or not, but about suffering from or identifying yourself with the patterns of codependent behavior, or not. Just for the ease of naming this group of people, I will refer to them as “codependents” or a “codependent person” in this article.
Addiction is a tool or “medicine” used to cope with pain. Alcoholics drink to deal with their pain, and Drug Addicts take drugs. Codependents subconsciously seek unhealthy relationships to deal with the pain of their loneliness, lack of confidence and self-love, and self-acceptance. Codependents often have a strong sense to believe they are not lovable or worthwhile persons.
They lack self-esteem and often stay in harmful situations for too long. One of the core emotions that codependents suffer from is shame. They are ashamed of who they are and fear being rejected if others see their true face. To deal with this, they show up wearing a mask.
They have often gotten used to disconnect. Keeping up this appearance costs them a great deal of energy and eventually this becomes unmanageable.
While some codependents keep the substance addiction of their partner alive by caretaking and avoiding the addict to experience the full consequences of their addiction, others live on their own or with a partner that often shows narcissistic traits, is overly controlling, or jealous.
Codependents often seek out codependent relationships with other codependents as well.
While going into the details of the patterns of codependency deserves an article on its own, I would not want to keep a quick overview from you. Please keep in mind that this is not a complete list. Most people will see themselves in some of the described patterns, but what matters is if these patterns are causing issues in your life.
Codependent people often show some or all of the following traits:
Do you recognize yourself in some of these codependent behaviors or do you suspect you are in a codependent relationship?
The good news is that you can break free from these patterns of behavior and improve your mental health, the quality of your relationships, and your life.
Recovery requires strength and reliance and the help of a coach, therapist, and or support group. A strong will alone is not enough. Accountability in also important to help you maintain your new behaviors. To conquer codependent patterns you do not always need to end your current relationship. But if you are in a codependent relationship or you suspect your partner is a codependent person, both of you must work on yourselves.
Believing in a power greater than yourself can help you surrender and to let go.
Spend time with yourself and build up your self-worth. Stop relying on the approval of others. Build healthy connections with friends and make sure you follow up on your interests and have your own life outside of your romantic relationship.
If your partner has a substance use disorder, seek professional addiction treatment. Addiction treatment can be very successful if the addict is willing to overcome the substance abuse and seek help.
In Love addiction and codependency, we use our energy trying to change people to show them our worth. Even when it is dysfunctional or destructive, love addiction is rooted in a strong need to feel wanted and loved.
If a person can reach their core need to be served without relocating them, they likely have a chance of strengthening their relationship structures and creating healthy ways to love. If you fall into the category of love addicts, you mustn’t forget that these patterns are not who you are, but why you behave and act a certain way.
Pain has been the most powerful driving force behind our behavior towards change. You will not be not seeking change if you are not hurting. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes more suffering from someone to be ready to change. When I was personally in a very painful relationship and kept going back a befriended therapist said: “It seems you have not suffered enough yet”. I felt angry and upset by his remark, and did not find it helpful, but he was right.
There comes a point when you have suffered enough, and you are done. When you feel ready and committed, doing whatever it takes. That is when all the changes happens.
A first step to change happens when you put yourself first. Getting help and support is a sign that shows you are willing to look at your own needs and take responsibility. You can download my free ebook to get some first inspiration on how to find your happiness and learn to put it first.
Unchained Connection offers a unique approach to help you conquer codependency that you will find nowhere else.
Codependency is trauma. And trauma is stored in the body. We can not solve an emotional problem only on a cognitive level. We need to involve the body.
This is helpful to recover faster and will provide you with a solid foundation to develop healthy connections. I am here to help you find your happiness and put it first. Schedule a free call to learn more on how to start your recovery.
Interested how your attachment style might be linked to all of this? Keep reading here: "What is my attachment style?".