In today’s society we are hearing more and more about codependency and it’s raw and damaging effects in every area of our lives, our families, our friendships, our work, even at the grocery store. So what is codependency?
Codependency is when a person will plan their entire life around pleasing the other person in the relationship, this could be a coworker, a friend, a husband/boyfriend, our children, or the enabler. In its simplest terms, a codependent relationship is when one partner needs the other partner, who in turn, needs to be needed. Sadly codependent relationships are unhealthy to the extent of emotional or physical abuse. The one who “needs to be needed” is the abuser and enabler. This is a recipe for disaster in our relationships and puts on a path of a never ending cycle of resentment, bitterness and the need to control. It’s a dysfunctional dance between two people.
The Childhood Connection
If you are familiar with codependency and if you are a codependent individual, then you would know that this personality trait comes from your childhood and it was developed through childhood patterns and behaviours learned by our experiences with our parents and those around us who were primarily involved in our up bringing ie. brothers, sisters, close family friends, and involved family members.
Growing up in a home where mental illness was prevalent and having parents who were intertwined in a toxic dance I was set up in the path of codependency later on in adulthood. Parentification occurred (when a child or adolescent must take on the role of a confidante or mediator for (or between) parents or family members), at a very young age between my mother and I. She had severe mental health concerns that went undiagnosed for many years until her mid forties and this played a role in the early development of codependency in my life. I’ve recently discovered on my journey of self love and self awareness that my mother had high narcissistic traits which enabled her to to enable me. If your not aware of narcissism I highly suggest doing some research, you may be surprised to learn that you are either living with a narcissist in your relationship or perhaps you are working for a person who is narcissistic. Let me just be clear, comes on many levels and diagnosis, for more information on narcissism click here Narcissism.
My relationship with my mom had me anxious much of the time due to my relationship with her and wanting always keep her happy. Constant demands of cleaning the house, yelling, belittling, shaming and the constant separations between her and my father and her need to find consolation in me was the set up for a life of codependency in future relationships. There was many more things of course that contributed to this relationship dynamic between my mother and I but I will share that another day. The bottom line is, if we were unable to express our emotions and feelings as children for the lack of a healthy space to do so, and feeling guilty for thinking of our own personal childhood needs, chances are we are doing the same today in our current relationships.
The Cycle Ends Now
If we are codependent, what can we do to put a stop to the never ending cycle of codependency in our relationships? For me, it was first doing the research to find out if I was codependent or not. Finding a professional therapist or counsellor who is trained in codependency is also key. And once you begin to put the puzzle pieces together and realize this is a part of your being, it’s ACCEPTING your revelation. Many people cringe just hearing the word codependent, it’s almost like an insult or a bad word, however, in my own personal experience the last several months I could t be more happier to come to this discovery. It has empowered me to come to terms with dysfunctional relationships in my life and I have learned the tools to heal and finally overcome and dismantle the patterns and behaviours that come with codependency.
So where do we start to break the patterns of codependency? This is huge my friend, if you can do this you will slowly BREAK the patterns you’ve been repeating your whole life. It’s not easy, I can tell you it’s one of the hardest things I’ve hard to learn in my life going on 50. I highly suggest to all you younger people to find out now if your codependent. Take charge of your life and your peace now. Do not suffer needlessly if you don’t have too. It is hard work to undo unhealthy patterns we’ve adapted over the years but the longer you wait, the harder it will be and the sad part you may never be healed and you will continue to live a mediocre life of being a slave to everyone in your life, leaving you empty, burned out and resentful. This my friend is not way to live your life. We have been called to live abundantly and with joy. This does not mean free of trouble or worry, this joy I’m tasking about is one that comes from deep within you. Some may call it their higher power, I call Him Yehovah. Whatever you choose, choose life! Make a conscious decision to walk out healing, forgiveness and wholeness and freedom from codependency.
I don’t have too many regrets but if there was one I had to choose as the most important, it would be not setting boundaries later in my adult life. I would not have the amount of inner work to do today had I set boundaries, especially in close relationships. It’s important not to carry guilt or shame for being codependent. It’s not your fault, it was your poor programming as a child. Please make sure that gets down on the inside of you. This is key in your healing and changing behaviour patterns.
So how what are boundaries and how to they help us heal and move forward to success and more meaningful relationships? The first thing is too realize YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FEELINGS OF OTHERS. Please hear me on this one, if you continue to take responsibility for the behaviours of others and their feelings you WILL NEVER live authentically. You will be a slave. That may sound harsh but codependency in my eyes is simply defined as being a SLAVE. You are not true to yourself, you are only meeting the needs of others and not your own.
Listen, if we are to love others as we love ourselves, tell me how we are supposed to do that when we don’t take care of our needs and practice self love? It’s impossible. A codependent person may come across to others as sweet, giving, caring and selfless people, but the truth is, they are more often resentful and bitter because they are only “doing” and not “being”. They are on pilot mode most of the time meeting the needs of others, and becoming burned out, exhausted, depressed and anxious. It’s time learn to say NO my friend and DRAW THE LINE IN THE SAND, Then and only then can you become a genuinely caring and loving person to those around you BUT more importantly to yourself. When we make regular, healthy deposits into our own love accounts first, we will have enough for others to make withdrawals.
Here are a few boundaries you can put into practice now;
•Physical boundaries protect your space and body, your right to not be touched, to have privacy, and to meet your physical needs such as resting or eating. They tell others how close they can get to you, what kind of physical touch (if any) is okay, how much privacy you need, and how to behave in your personal space. A physical boundary clearly defines that your body and personal space belong to you.
•Emotional and Mental boundaries protect your right to have your own feelings and thoughts, to not have your feelings criticized or invalidated, and not have to take care of other people’s feelings. Emotional boundaries differentiate your feelings from other people’s, so you’re accountable for your own feelings, but not responsible for how others feel. Emotional boundaries also allow us to create emotional safety by respecting each other’s feelings, not oversharing personal information that’s inappropriate for the nature or level of closeness in the relationship.
•Spiritual and Religious protect your right to believe in what you want, worship as you wish, and practice your spiritual or religious beliefs.
•Financial and Material protect your financial resources and possessions, your right to spend your money as you choose, to not give or loan your money or possessions if you don’t want to, and your right to be paid by an employer as agreed.
•Time boundaries protect how you spend your time. They protect you from agreeing to do things you don’t want to do, having people waste your time, and being overworked. This is critical in marriages and close friendships. The “people pleaser” is known to be codependent and saying yes all the time will only be resentment, anger and exhaustion. It steals your peace.
It’s important to know there is a healthy way to set boundaries. It must be done with kindness. In the beginning this will seem hard as you break out of your patterns. You will more than likely feel a lot of guilt in the beginning for setting boundaries. Accept it then LET IT GO! This will become easier with time as you practice, I promise. They let us doing it with kindness. Keep the focus on your feelings and needs. Setting a boundary is about communicating what you need and expect. In the process, it may be important to gently call out someone’s hurtful behavior, but that shouldn’t be the focus. Focusing on what someone has done wrong is likely to make them defensive. Instead, lead with how you feel and what you need. Be direct. Sometimes in an effort to be kind, we’re wishy-washy and don’t clearly ask for what we want or need. Use a neutral tone of voice. Your tone of voice may be even more important than your choice of words, so pay attention to how you’re saying it as much as whatyou’re saying. Try to avoid yelling, sarcasm, cursing, and other signs of anger or contempt; this turns people off from your message — they stop listening and start defending. Choose the right time. Timing is everything. Always consider the other persons needs. If you are determined to work out a codependent relationship you may have to continue to meet specific needs of the other person while they walk out their healing. This can be a tricky path. Especially if there is addiction, mental health or physical disabilities involved. Just remember that practice self love is crucial even more so under these circumstances. Otherwise the relationship will confuse in toxicity and dysfunction. It’s a choice only you can make to decide to stay in an toxic relationship, but PLEASE be sure the road to recovery is MUTUAL, if not, there may be a need to step aside if one does not want to do the necessary healing in order to become healthy.
Healing is Possible
My prayer for all of us who find ourselves in this place of codependency is that we will RISE up and find our FREEDOM to be all that God has called us to be. We all have a purpose and a pain for our lives. Freedom paid a high price and therefore we should be diligent in seeking out and finding our freedom in life. If you find yourself in a place of discovering your true self, BE COURAGEOUS, BE KIND TO YOURSELF, FORGIVE YOURSELF & OTHERS, and practice SELF CARE.