It is such a huge complex condition it is hard to answer what it means to be codependent. But here goes..
Co-dpendency is a condition that affects a persons ability to have meaningful, satisfying, balanced healthy relationships. This can be relationships with spouses, parents, children or friends. Codependents often choose equally unhealthy, abusive and/or neglectful partners. Most of their relationships are marred by turmoil, emotional abuse and destruction. It is an addiction with a chaotic cycle of ups and downs, love and hate, pleasure and disappointment. It is also known as relationship addiction, however, people can be co-dependent and be so afraid of relationships they haven’t had one for years. It is a shame based disorder usually stemming from a dysfunctional family where shame, anger, lies and passive aggressive behaviour is commonplace. BUT this is not always the case there are many other factors that influence childhood. The list below goes someway to explaining what it can mean to be codependent and how people may be affected.
Co-dependents can be enablers – not usually purposely. Co-dependents do not see they are helping an addict carry on with addiction, they carry out behaviours that they see will rescue the person from their pain. Checking to see if the person is drinking, picking them up, giving them money to drink, lying for them and shouting at them for drinking is rescuing. Depending on what the co-dependent see’s as pain at the time, they will try to alleviate it. Because co-dependency is characterised by a loss of the self and always thinking of the other person, rarely themselves, this rescuing can have devastating effects. Picking up a person when they have been drinking, walking around in the early hours to check on the person, all behaviours that could lead to all sorts.
Co-dependents find letting go difficult – family and friends will often say they need to walk away from a particular situation. Often this is the hardest thing a co-dependent can do and often results in yo-yo behaviour before the cord is severed completely. Co-dependents are emotionally unstable and look to control and rescue constantly. When the pain of a toxic relationship is so severe they have to leave or they find someone else it is common they head straight for another toxic relationship. If the person they are walking from is a loved family member or child the severing takes longer, is more painful and often they will never be sure they made the right decision.
Co-dependents are poor decision makers – Being in a world where you do not trust yourself is painful. Looking for clues and thinking things through to the depths of insanity is common. Co-dependents are sensitive and do not fair well with rejection, humiliation or any other feelings that could be interpreted as not being good enough. Avoiding these feelings by not answering questions and not being pinned down to a choice is another complicated symptom of their psychological turmoil. This is why relationships are hard to leave and one reason yo-yo ing occurs. Making sure it was the right decision.
Co-dependents are reactive – This can good or bad depending upon the situation. A child that hasn’t come home after school needs finding and the codependent helps, an immediate reaction and agreement to help. A parent has got themselves into a fix and needs a ride home. The reaction is immediate and the co-dependent will help. Co-dependents are bound by their word. Regardless of whether it is good for all, bad for anyone or a complete mixture, they will not back out. This means they have made the wrong decision so they will stick with it to avoid feeling stupid and shamed. Everything is an exhausting reaction, thinking before acting is a muscle that needs working and practice.
Co-dependents are helpful to a fault – always putting others first, to the detriment of them selves. This includes giving money that could be better used elsewhere, lifts to ungrateful people, decorating friends houses, babysitting, fixing cars for friends the list is endless. This behaviour means the codependent will be named an angel or savior by others. Usually the other people do not know the codependent does not want to do this. They reacted, said yes, can’t back out and are now determined to help at their expense. Possibly being passive aggressive, possibly waiting for their turn for a favour to come up.. but it doesn’t because co-dependents have difficulty asking for help.
Co-dependents can’t ask for help – Seen as a weakness the codependent really struggles with this seemingly simple notion. The world is on the codependents shoulders and they will not ask for help. They see doing everything themselves as strong and something to be proud of, but in fact asking for help is strength. Lost in the possible shame that may emerge from admitting you can’t do it alone and asking for help, they carry on putting up with it, mostly smiling. Being told in childhood that you should do something, or be able to do something leaves a person thinking they really should be able to manage anything on their own!
Co-dependents manipulate – Because they can’t say no, they lie. Not huge massive lies just little white ones “I’m busy” is easier than “no”. Because they hate seeing the pain of others they lie, “no you weren’t mentioned” – in the conversation with the boss regarding your constant lateness. Because you rescue, you lie. The reaction behaviour that took place was ill thought out and I can’t tell you I just picked them up when they should have walked home. So I just won’t tell you then I’m not lying.
Being a codependent means different things to different people. Every ones experiences are different and if you are or you know a codependent then these can help explain the turmoil. The important thing is identifying behaviours so that you can change them. This is by no means an extensive list, please read the other posts for a full and varied idea of what it means to be codependent.
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