Do you keep trying to help someone else, but they don't change, and you feel frustrated and unappreciated?
- Do you try to control other people's behavior?
- Does your peace of mind depend on how people close to you feel?
- Do you think it is your job to make those around you happy?
- Do you place your needs second to the needs of other people?
Codependency is a continuum of behaviors, from occasionally being concerned about what someone thinks of us to worrying obsessively about others, constantly looking to others for validation, or repeatedly trying to change another person. It can manifest in ways we may not even identify as stemming from codependency, such as difficulty sleeping, lack of self care, fruitless worry about situations or people we can't change or going out of our way to do something for someone they should be doing for themselves.
Codependency was originally applied to the behavior of loved ones of alcoholics or addicts — an addict is dependent on a self-harming substance or behavior, and a codependent is the spouse or loved one whose life revolves around -- "depends" -- on trying to get the addict to stop. "Codependent relationships" are those where one person -- partner, parent, friend -- puts the needs of the other first, and whose peace of mind depends on how the other person is doing. Codependent behavior arises out of concern for another person and fear for their well-being. However, in time, the codependent may feel unappreciated, resentful and exhausted -- particularly if the person they are trying to help doesn't change, or even acknowledge their efforts.
Codependency is widespread
Codependency stems from natural human instincts. Feeling safe and belonging are basic human needs. Human beings are social creatures, and by nature we reach out to help those we care about. Connection is a very powerful drive. If you grew up in an alcoholic, dysfunctional or chaotic home, the drive to love and be loved is stronger than ever.
Sometimes we fill this void with substances or behaviors that give us a sense of safety or control or relief from emotional pain. And sometimes, we make another person the focus of our attention. If the other person is less perfect than we had hoped, we feel pulled to "help" or "fix" them. And therein lie the seeds of codependency -- we want to help, we want to feel safe, loved and appreciated, yet we can't will another person to behave the way we want. The pull to help, to take care of the other person, becomes more compelling than the drive for self-preservation. But it saps our self-confidence and undermines our well-being.
It is estimated that one third of our population grew up with inadequate emotional attention and that one quarter of all adults in our country have suffered from some form of addiction. With emotional deprivation so prevalent, and addiction so extensive, the situations where codependency may arise are rife. A great many people are or have been involved in situations with addicted family members, partners or friends. While addicts don't necessarily have codependents in their network, it is more common than not. In addition, situations win which a person suffers from mental or physical illness, immaturity or irresponsibility are also fertile grounds for codependency.
Codependency treatment can help
As a recovering codependent, I have empathy and compassion for those who suffer from codependency. I am an imperfect human being and still can make someone else's business my own. From a young age, I believed that it was my job to make my mother happy. I was supposed to comfort her and help calm her anxiety, and make the family run smoothly and wrinkle-free. I thought I should get my father to stop drinking and make my solitary brother more social and rescue my older brother from depression. Of course, I didn't succeed at any of these tasks, and only years later learned I couldn't fix or change any other person.
In my work as a therapist, I have been helping people heal their codependency for over 30 years. I work with you to explore specifically what behaviors or thinking patterns no longer serve you and help you develop, step by step, new ways to think snd act that improve your life and build your self-confidence. Your individual concerns and needs provide the template we use to help you create the life you want.
Codependency is progressive: unhealthy behaviors tend to get more and more entrenched. The sooner you get help, the sooner you can begin to feel better. I can help you replace the behaviors you no longer want to use with healthier ways to think and act.
Codependent behaviors are habit forming and can become just as addictive as alcohol, drugs, food, porn, gambling or any other addiction. The codependent can become so involved in what the other person is or isn't doing that they lose sight of their own needs. And they can become overwhelmed, angry, depressed or anxious, and begin to suffer physically as well as emotionally from trying so hard but not getting the results they want. If you recognize you have codependent tendencies, getting help to interrupt the downward spiral can refocus you towards becoming a healthier, more self-confident you.
Recovery from codependency is possible. Moving forward, one step at a time, you can build a life of more serenity, self-acceptance and satisfaction.
How do I know if I am codependent?
If you experienced some kind of dysfunction, addiction or trauma when growing up, you are more prone to codependency. You are probably inclined to fend for yourself and to not ask for help -- and to take responsibility for others, as well. You may feel unsafe or wary, and try to please others and look to them for clues about what to do to feel more secure. You may recognize yourself in some of the traits listed below:
- You tend to think more about what others are doing or thinking than about yourself.
- You're very concerned about what other people think, and you look to others to help you figure out what to do. You feel you are lacking your own 'north star.'
- You often feel distressed about someone else's behavior.
- When someone you love is doing something you think is a bad idea, you intervene to rescue them from the consequences of their poor choices.
- You tend to ruminate about the past and the future.
- You get anxious when a situation is not developing the way you wanted.
- You overcompensate in relationships.
- You feel angry and or resentful about a loved one's behavior, but despite all the help and support you give them, they won't change.
- You are a harsh self-critic and have a low opinion of yourself.
- You tend either to react quickly and impulsively, or to freeze and not react at all.
If you suffer from some of the traits above, don't despair! I can help you change the way you think and act, one step at a time.
Call me at 415-602-1403 for a free 15 minute consultation.
I'm afraid to stop taking care of my addicted loved one - what if he gets worse?
Your concern is natural. You probably have helped rescue him (or her) from suffering serious consequences from his behavior. No one wants to see their loved one suffer. But all your efforts to help him have probably not made him "better" -- they have just kept him from experiencing some of the nasty results that otherwise might have befallen him. Recovery -- yours, your loved one's, your family's -- is a process. You can't predict what will happen in the future. it may be that as you get help for yourself, and stop enabling your loved one, he will seek help himself. Ultimately, you cannot control how someone else behaves. Each adult is responsible for his or her behavior and his or her own life.
I have often witnessed a codependent family or family member gradually stop rescuing their addict. The addict finds that no longer getting money or not having someone make excuses to his boss or to cover up for him in some way doesn't feel good,and he decides to get help himself.
Taking responsibility for another adult's well being can be an exhausting and thankless job. If you are reading this, you probably already have experienced the physical and emotional toll of your attempts to take care of your addict loved one. Learning, one step at a time, to let your loved one take responsibility for his own life can give you the space to discover or focus on what is important to you and create a life that is more fulfilling for yourself.
Is it codependency or is it caring?
One definition of codependency is doing for someone else what they can do for themselves. If you are a parent, it can be difficult to distinguish "caring" from "codependency." Parents are supposed to take care of their kids -- but, when the time is appropriate (which is not always easy to discern), parents need to help their kids learn self-responsibility so they can grow into autonomous adults. With adults, partners and friends can be supportive without being intrusive or controlling and allow each person to be responsible for himself or herself.
When a loved one, and particularly when your child -- of any age -- is having trouble, the instinctive reaction is to step in and help. Yet not helping, giving the other person the space to struggle and solve his own problem, allows him to grow.
Often, when you want to do something to improve a situation -- sometimes in order to be appreciated -- you make assumptions about what the other person wants or needs. This is a set up for the other person to become irritated or angry, which in turn is likely to make you resentful. You were expecting the person to be grateful; instead they are unhappy, and you feel used and unappreciated.
The problem is that you can't control another person's feelings or behavior.. You can only control yourself.
Codependency is a compulsion as strong as drug addiction. It is driven by the need to feel safe, or to feel loved, and often develops when you have grown up in a chaotic, alcoholic, or emotionally bereft family. By attempting to control another person -- your spouse, your mother, your adult child, or someone in the family who is an addict -- you get hooked into a dynamic where you are trying to do the very thing you can't -- you are trying to change another person. As your efforts fail, you persist in trying -- and end up frustrated, irritated, angry or scared. But the insanity only worsens as you continue to do what hasn't worked before. Codependency, just like addiction, is progressive, Codependency gets worse over time.
Codependency often involves enabling the person you are concerned about to continue whatever negative behavior you are trying to stop, fix or control. One definition of enabling is doing for someone else that they can do for themselves. Enabling often supports the very behavior you are trying to eradicate, and prevents the individual you are trying to help from taking responsibility for their own behavior and life.
Codependency treatment is available
I can help you:
- Reduce the anxiety that comes from concern about others’ behavior or feelings.
- Stop ruminating about the past and the future.
- Find safety through paying attention to your own needs and feelings.
- Take care of yourself if you have a loved one who suffers from an addiction or other self-harming behavior.
- Discover what is important and has meaning for you.
- Become confident and feel proud of yourself.
Please contact me at (415) 602-1403 or by email at AvisRumney@me.com to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.