What Does It Mean To Be Co-Dependent?
For me, learning about co-dependency has been the cornerstone to my own wellness and figuring out how to have healthy and nurturing relationships with other people. One of the definitions that the best-selling author and co-dependency expert, Melody Beattie offers is this:
“A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behaviour affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behaviour.”
Historically, I associated ‘controlling’ people as abusers who dictate where a person can go, how they can dress, etc. but I came to understand that controlling people are also people who are afraid of conflict and will go out of their way to avoid discord with others.
When young people grow up in environments with people who are volatile or unpredictable, they learn very quickly to try to ‘control’ their environments and behaviours in order to try to avoid conflict. Essentially, codependency is a response to trauma: damaged self-esteem, damaged functional boundaries, and focusing our lives on other people while denying our own needs and wants.
When we grow up having learnt these codependent traits, we so often find that we unconsciously seek out people and scenarios that allow us to recreate those codependent dynamics and we find that they are re-occurrent and painful themes in our lives. These self-defeating, learned behaviours result in a diminished capacity to initiate or participate in loving relationships and prevent us from expressing our feelings and needs.
What Are The Key Character Traits Of Co-Dependency?
- Having a hard time saying no
- Prioritising the needs of others over your own
- Having poor boundaries
- Always feeling compelled to take care of people
- A need for control, especially over others
- Never communicating or realising your own needs.
- Fixating on mistakes
- A need to be liked by everyone
- A need to always be in a relationship
- Intimacy issues
- Fear of abandonment
Co-Dependency Recovery: How Can I Heal From Co-Dependent Relationships?
Mindfulness is the friend of the recovering codependent. As soon as we become aware of the destructive behaviours that we’re engaged in, we can begin to ‘choose’ to respond differently to people and situations. The most important thing to remember is that while everyone has loved ones and feels responsible for those loved ones, it is crucial to not lose one’s individual sense of identity.
Recovery can be a very healing and rewarding way of letting go of old destructive behaviours, but also of beginning to explore who you are and what you need from your relationships. You can learn to honour your needs and be forgiving toward yourself and to others. Nurturing compassion toward yourself allows you to be self-reflective without being self-critical. When we begin to care for ourselves, our self-confidence begins to grow, we offer a communication to others about what we feel that we expect and deserve and we no-longer allow others to abuse us or dictate our lives. Instead of manipulating, we become more authentic and assertive, and are capable of greater intimacy.
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