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  • Writer's pictureJanice dirksen

What is Co-Dependency?

Co-dependency is a multi-generational learned behaviour whereby a person can’t function from his/her own self but instead follows the thinking and behaviour of others. At a 1989 National Conference experts came up with this suggested definition: “A pattern of painful dependency on compulsive behaviours and on approval from others in an attempt to find safety, self-worth and identity”.

The following are other definitions by experts in the field:

· Ross Rosenberg – “Co-dependency” is an out-dated term that connotes weakness and emotional fragility, both of which are far from the truth. The replacement term, ‘Self-Love Deficit Disorder’ (SLDD) takes the stigma out and focuses on the core shame that perpetuates it. Inherent in the term itself is the recognition of the core problem of co-dependency, as well as the solution to it. Self-love deficit results in deep insecurities that render a person powerless to set boundaries and/or control their narcissists. The co-dependent is often oblivious or in denial about their dysfunctional relationships patterns with narcissists. For them to admit to it would require to face their core shame and pathological loneliness.”

· Melody Beattie – “Allowing another person’s behaviour to affect him or her and obsessing about controlling that person’s behaviour.”

· Earnie Larsen – “A diminished capacity to initiate, or participate in, loving relationships.”

· Robert Subby – “Resulting from prolonged exposure of oppressive rules.”

· John Bradshaw and Pia Melody – “A symptom of abandonment – loss of one’s inner reality and addiction to outer reality.”

· Charles Whitfield – “A disease of a lost selfhood”

· Darlene Lancer – “A person who can’t function from his or her innate self and instead organizes thinking and behaviour around a substance, process, or other person(s).”

Feelings and Behaviours of a co-dependent

A co-dependent’s feelings a behaviours vary in degree and if untreated can become compulsive and worsen with time.

The core feelings associated with co-dependency are:

· Denial

o Denial of their co-dependency and abuse, addiction and other problems in themselves and the one’s they love.

· Low Self-esteem

o Feeling you are not good enough. This feeling leads to perfectionism.

· Painful emotions

o Shame, Guilt, Anger and Resentment, Anxiety and Fear, Depression

The core behaviours associated with co-dependency are:

· Dependency

o Co-dependents often stay in an unhealthy relationship or jump from relationship to relationship because of a need to be needed.

· Intimacy problems

o Co-dependents accommodate others, while ignoring their own feelings, needs and wants.

· Dysfunctional communication

o Co-dependents often are unable to express or even articulate their own feelings, causing a build up of anger and resentment. They can become so overwhelmed by holding them in that they have inappropriate out bursts or anger. They tend to flip flop between passive and aggressive behaviours in an attempt to be heard, seen and understood.

· Dysfunctional boundaries

o Most co-dependents have weak or none existent boundaries between themselves and others. They take on other people’s feeling and problems and blame other’s for their own issues. Some co-dependents have boundaries that are too rigid which close them off from others. And sometimes, people flip back and forth between too weak and too rigid boundaries.

· Need for control of self and/or others

o Often the narcissist in the relationship will tell other’s their partner is the controlling and needy one, when in fact the co-dependent is only trying to survive in a dysfunctional relationship that leaves them scared and confused.

These feelings and behaviours can lead to other problems, like obsessions, high-reactivity, people pleasing, perfectionism, enabling, self-doubt, mistrust. Co dependents put the needs and feelings of others before their own.

Recovering from Co-dependency - You can’t change what you don’t know!

Recovery begins with denial, including not only denial of your own co-dependency but often the denial of abuse (mental, physical, emotional and spiritual), addiction and other problems within your relationships. Childhood shame is often internalized and this includes denying yourself your true feelings and needs. By identifying, accepting and honouring how you truly feel you will then be able to make the necessary changes and set up the boundaries required to heal.

Once boundaries are in place assertive communication becomes an easy next step. As you grow in self-love, healthy communication develops and boundaries feel natural and deserving.

Detaching from toxic relationships may become necessary as a form of self-love. This does not always mean physical withdrawal, but letting go of our expectations and entanglement’s with other peoples’ problems aka DRAMA, and putting our own needs first. Begin by changing the way you respond to what the other person is saying or how they are reacting or treating you. The key is to REPOND not REACT.

Often the co-dependant is a victim of subtle gas-lighting in a relationship. A good example is a narcissist who creates an argument and when the co-dependent defends their own thoughts or beliefs the narcissist quickly switches off their aggressive attack becoming passive and accusing the co-dependent of being the “angry or defensive one”. This leaves the co-dependent confused and second guessing themselves. The best defence is to stick to idle chitchat, like the weather and avoid controversial topics. The narcissist will quickly become bored and move onto someone else for engagement. YES this is hard, but with time and practice it becomes second nature.

If you or someone you love is struggling with co-dependency a Consulting Hypnotist can help build up the necessary confidence, self-love and healthy boundaries to break the generational cycle.

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