Dr. Samir Chaukkar
What is codependency? What’s the definition?
There are many definitions used to talk about codependency today. The original concept of codependency was developed to acknowledge the responses and behaviors people develop from living with an alcoholic or substance abuser. A number of attributes can be developed as a result of those conditions.
However, over the years, codependency has expanded into a definition which describes a dysfunctional pattern of living and problem solving developed during childhood by family rules.
One of many definitions of codependency is: a set of *maladaptive, *compulsive behaviors learned by family members in order to survive in a family which is experiencing *great emotional pain and stress.
How do I know if I’m codependent?
Generally, if you’re feeling unfulfilled consistently in relationships, you tend to be indirect, don’t assert yourself when you have a need, if you’re able to recognize you don’t play as much as others, or other people point out you could be more playful. Things like this can indicate you’re codependent.
Isn’t everyone codependent?
There are some natural and healthy behaviors mothers do with children that look like codependency. Are people mutually interdependent on each other? Yes. There is perhaps a continuum of codependency, that most people might fall on. Maybe this continuum exists because so many people are taught not to be assertive, or to ask directly for their needs to be met? We probably can’t say though that everyone is codependent. Many people probably don’t feel fulfilled because of other things going on in the system at large.
How can counseling help?
For people with codependency, individual counseling can teach assertiveness, listening, and communication. Counseling can help you become more aware of non-helpful actions/behaviors, and work with you on developing new, healthier coping skills.
In the case of codependency though, counseling only helps if the counselor is aware of their own tendency towards codependence, or if the counselor has some understanding about the addictive push in our society. Counselors, in the case of codependency, need to present good boundary setting and healthy living themselves during sessions with clients. If a counselor develops a working relationship with a client that has codependent qualities, again, the pattern is repeated, and therapy may not be as helpful. Some statistics show 50-80% of counselors have not addressed their own codependency issues. So one must be careful in choosing a counselor for this kind of support.
What are some of the symptoms?
• controlling behavior
• avoidance of feelings
• intimacy problems
• caretaking behavior
• hyper vigilance (a heightened awareness for potential threat/danger)
• physical illness related to stress
Characteristics of Co-dependency
Following is a commonly used list of characteristics of codependency.
1. My good feelings about who I am stem from being liked by you
2. My good feelings about who I am stem from receiving approval from you
3. Your struggle affects my serenity. My mental attention focuses on solving your problems/relieving your pain
4. My mental attention is focused on you
5. My mental attention is focused on protecting you
6. My mental attention is focused on manipulating you to do it my way
7. My self-esteem is bolstered by solving your problems
8. My self-esteem is bolstered by relieving your pain
9. My own hobbies/interests are put to one side. My time is spent sharing your hobbies/interests
10. Your clothing and personal appearance are dictated by my desires and I feel you are a reflection of me
11. Your behaviour is dictated by my desires and I feel you are a reflection of me
12. I am not aware of how I feel. I am aware of how you feel.
13. I am not aware of what I want – I ask what you want. I am not aware – I assume
14. The dreams I have for my future are linked to you
15. My fear of rejection determines what I say or do
16. My fear of your anger determines what I say or do
17. I use giving as a way of feeling safe in our relationship
18. My social circle diminishes as I involve myself with you
19. I put my values aside in order to connect with you
20. I value your opinion and way of doing things more than my own
21. The quality of my life is in relation to the quality of yours
Typical Characteristics of a Co-dependant
• I assume responsibility for other’s feelings and behaviors.
• I feel overly responsible for other’s feelings and behaviors.
• I have difficulty in identifying feelings — Am I Angry? Lonely? Sad? Happy? Joyful?
• I have difficulty expressing feelings — I am feeling … Happy, Sad, Hurt, Joyful.
• I tend to fear and/or worry how others may respond to my feelings.
• I have difficulty in forming and/or maintaining close relationships.
• I am afraid of being hurt and/or rejected by others.
• I am perfectionist and place too many expectations on myself and others.
• I have difficulty making decisions.
• I tend to minimize, alter or even deny the truth about how I feel.
• Other people’s actions and attitudes tend to determine how I respond/react.
• I tend to put other people’s wants and needs first.
• My fear of other’s feelings (anger) determines what I say and do.
• I question or ignore my own values to connect with significant others. I value other’s opinions more than my own.
• My self-esteem is bolstered by outer/other influences. I cannot acknowledge good things about myself.
• My serenity and mental attention is determined by how other’s are feeling and/or behaving.
• I tend to judge everything I do, think, or say harshly; by someone else’s standards — nothing is done, said, or thought “Good Enough”.
• I do not know or believe that being vulnerable and asking for help is both OKAY andNORMAL.
• I do not know that it is OKAY to talk about problems outside the family; or that feelings just are — and it is better to share them than to deny, minimize or justify them.
• I tend to put other people’s wants and needs before my own.
• I am steadfastly loyal — even when the loyalty is unjustified — and personally harmful.
• I have to be “needed” in order to have a relationship with others.
The following “control patterns” are often a large part of codependant behavior.
1. I must be “needed” in order to have a relationship with others.
2. I value other’s approval of my thinking, feelings, and behavior over my own.
3. I agree with others so they will like me.
4. I focus my attention on protecting others.
5. I believe most people are incapable of taking care of themselves.
6. I keep score of “good deeds and favors”, becoming very hurt when they are not repaid.
7. I am very skilled at guessing how other people are feeling.
8. I can anticipate other’s needs and desires, meeting them before they are asked to be met.
9. I become resentful when others will not let me help them.
10. I am calm and efficient in other people’s crisis situations.
11. I feel good about myself only when I am helping others.
12. I freely offer others advice and directions without being asked.
13. I put aside my own interests and concerns in order to do what others want.
14. I ask for help and nurturing only when I am ill, and then reluctantly.
15. I cannot tolerate seeing others in pain.
16. I lavish gifts and favors on those I care about.
17. I use sex to gain approval and acceptance.
18. I attempt to convince others of how they “truly” think and “should” feel.
19. I perceive myself as completely unselfish and dedicated to the well-being of others.
Are you codependent?
• Do you feel responsible for other people–their feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, wants, needs, well-being and destiny?
• Do you feel compelled to help people solve their problems or by trying to take care of their feelings?
• Do you find it easier to feel and express anger about injustices done to others than about injustices done to you?
• Do you feel safest and most comfortable when you are giving to others?
• Do you feel insecure and guilty when someone gives to you?
• Do you feel empty, bored and worthless if you don’t have someone else to take care of, a problem to solve, or a crisis to deal with?
• Are you often unable to stop talking, thinking and worrying about other people and their problems?
• Do you lose interest in your own life when you are in love?
• Do you stay in relationships that don’t work and tolerate abuse in order to keep people loving you?
• Do you leave bad relationships only to form new ones that don’t work, either?