Are You Codependent?
Melody Beattie defines codependency as "someone who has let another person's behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior."
Codependency is a pattern of behavior that starts in childhood. It's most common in families with addiction, but also found when there is mental illness, depression, trauma, and child abuse.
The alcoholic is obsessed with the substance and the codependent is obsessed with the alcoholic. But here's the thing, you can struggle with codependency even when there is another addiction. It's a relationship pattern of control, unrealistic expectations and excessively helping others.
Characteristics of Codependency
- Focusing primarily on another person's needs or behaviors
- Getting into relationships with addicts, alcoholics, or people with lots of problems
- Difficulty knowing or asking for what you need
- Being generous and giving at your own expense
- Low self-esteem or feeling superior which may cause frustration
- Difficulty communicating directly especially if someone is upset
- A pattern of unexpressed anger that leaks out in negative thoughts and resentments
People who struggle with codependency often make negative assumptions in their relationships. These beliefs start in childhood but cause problems later on.
"If I say no, you'll get mad at me."
"I can't ask for what I want because that means I'm selfish."
The start of recovery
- Identify your relationship patterns. Do the same things frustrate you in relationships?
- Do you say yes when you mean no? The desire to please others is the hallmark of codependency. The other person's reaction is the codependent's greatest fear.
- Focus on self-care by getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, avoid over committing.
- Express yourself by using I statements. If you express yourself as an opinion rather than fact, it avoids righteousness.
But these traits are good aren't they?
You have a huge heart. That's not the problem. Excessively helping others is a sign of codependency but in moderation it's a strength. It's giving at your own expense that causes you pain.
The key is finding the balance between caring for others and yourself. Start by redirecting your focus back to yourself and your family. Challenge old beliefs that stop you from self-care.
Pain is the greatest motivator. When it hurts so much you fall into a depression or feel sick from the stress, it's time to get help. You can put yourself first. You just need the right tools and support.
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