Where Do You End and I Begin?
Sometimes the codependency-signs can be subtle. The joke goes something like this, "When her husband sneezes, the codependent says'excuse me'". The codependent is a person who always seems to have her/his antenna up tryingto figure out what everybody else is feeling and thinking.
The codependent has greatdifficulty identifying the emotional line that exists between two people. One of the signs of codependency is that if you ask a codependent what she wants, she simply has no idea. The codependent is way too busy trying to figure out what somebody else wants. Underneath thecaretaker role, individuals with codependency are some of the angriest people you will ever meet.Why? Because they are busy trying to get somebody else to change.
The term "codependency" emerged from the Alcohol Treatment literature to describe aperson who is in a relationship with an alcoholic, and is co-dependent with the alcoholic. In thatcontext, the codependent is the person who counts drinks, makes excuses, and is hypervigilent ofthe alcoholic's moods in an attempt to gain some control over something they haveno control over....the alcoholic's drinking.
In the last 5-10 years, the term "codependent" has generalized to mean any personwho focuses on another person in order to gain some kind of control. For example,the codependent who lives with a violent man watches him to assess his moods, walks on eggshells to keep upsetting things away from him, watches what she says so hewon't get mad, etc.
A codependent boyfriend might keep his needs to himself. He doesn't voice an opinion until he sees what his girlfriend believes, so he won't come into conflict with her.
Codependents are caretakers, but theyare often frustrated caretakers. They get their sense of worth fromothers doing what the codependent thinks they should do.
Codependents are all aboutcontrol. Remember, the "helper" is always in the power position. It's hard for a codependent to hear that their "help" and concern is really a way to control people. Helping the codependent explore thecodependency-signs and the need for control is essential in breaking the pattern ofcodependency.
Codependents come by their behavior honestly...they usually come froma background where things were out of control. Maybe they grew up in an alcoholic family,or in a family where parents were angry and fighting all the time, or they were victimsof sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or violence. Or they were harshly criticized or ridiculed andmade to feel small.
There are reasons why codependents need to feel safe. Codependency starts out as a self-protection. As children, perhaps the only defensethey had against abuse was keeping an eye out for trouble, becoming invisable, orbecoming the "little helper".
In the safe environment of therapy, codependents can realizethat their self protective behavior is no longer needed. They realize that their valuedoesn't come from doing; that they have value just for being.
DO YOU WANT TO ASK A QUESTION?
HERE ARE A FEW CHARACTERISTICS OF CODEPENDENTS:
- Feel most comfortable when they are giving
- Find needy people to take care of
- Try to please others instead of themselves
- Have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility
- Feel anxiety, pity, and guilt when other people have a problem
- Wonder why people don't do for them
- Feel victimized by the "selfishness" of others
- Try to be all things to all people all the time
- Have difficulty saying "no" and/or setting boundaries
- Feel empty and bored when they are not involved in a crisis
- Seek out chaos and then complain about it
- Get angry when somebody refuses their help or doesn't take their advice
- Tend of have a self-esteem that is connected to "doing"
- Try to prove that they are good enough to be loved
- Are afraid of making mistakes
- Are easily offended by other's "rudeness" or "insincerity" or "uncaring attitude"
- Can become self-righteous with phrases like "I would NEVER do that...."
- Try to be perfect, and expect others to be perfect
- Have self-blame and put themselves down
- Must be in control at all times
1. When you become aware we need to set a limit with someone, do it clearly, perferably withoutanger and with as few words as possible.
2. We cannot simultaneously set a boundary (a limit) and take care of another person'sfeelings.
3. Anger, rage, complaining, and whining are an indication of boundaries we need to set.
4. We'll be tested when we set boundaries.
5. Be prepared to follow through by acting in congruence with the boundary.
6. Some people are happy to respect our boundaries.
7. We will set boundaries when we are ready and not a minute sooner.
8. A support system can be helpful as we strive to establish and enforce boundaries.
9. There's a fun side to setting boundaries too.
These Codependency-Signs and Pointers are from Beyond Codependency, Melody Beattie
See Advice About Codependency in the Ask Dr. J. Archives