Codependency (Part One)
Over the next two posts I’m going to cover codependency and how to start moving towards peace.
At my office, I see it often: a client who is making up excuses for (fill in the blank: mom, dad, sibling, partner). My clients simultaneously have a strong desire to care for this person, but also find themselves feeling disappointed, frustrated and hurt by this person’s behaviors. They’re left feeling empty, sad, anxious, with low self-esteem, and often questioning themselves and every decision they make.
Below I detail what codependency is, how to identify codependency in your own life, and how to know when to get help.
What is codependency?
Codependency is a learned behavior within dysfunctional families. These people often come from families where their feelings were ignored making it difficult to develop their individuality and healthy ways of expressing themselves. Often this could look like a parent making a child feel responsible for their own feelings. This causes children to be fearful of expressing their needs or feelings for fear that it may upset mom or dad.
Signs of codependency
- You feel responsible for other people’s emotions, actions, and life events.
- You have difficulty making decisions on your own.
- You have difficulty saying “no”.
- You need approval and recognition.
- You have difficulty identifying your own feelings.
- You fear that expressing your feelings will hurt someone else.
- You fear being alone.
- You fear rejection if you set boundaries.
- You think that setting boundaries is “selfish”.
Codependency is reversible
It is absolutely possible to reverse these learned behaviors. It takes practice and time. You didn’t become like this overnight, so you have to be patient with yourself. Reading books about codependency, taking actionable steps towards increasing your self-esteem, and possibly seeking the help of a professional (i.e., a therapist) will be necessary.
Therapists can help by assisting clients in developing self-esteem, undo the limiting beliefs that continue to set them back, and by developing boundaries.
In part two, I will cover one of the best safeguards against codependency: Boundaries!
Alexis Pardo, LCSW is a therapist at Agape Therapy Institute, a not-for-profit outpatient mental health counseling center in Downtown Orlando. To learn more about Alexis and to book an appointment with her, visit her page on our website by clicking here.
Cover photo credit: Tatiana