Saturday, April 2, 2011

CoDependant? Me?

I have decided to go back to Celebrating Recovery with my church, Pinedale Christian Church in Winston-Salem, NC. I have been through one of their step-study programs and really benefited from it. It really helped me heal some of the anger and hurt that I used to feel. Now, however, a lot more anger has come into the picture and I thought it might be a good idea to go back. (Not to mention, I thought that it would be a good experience for my daughter.)

While at church last night, I kept hearing the word codependent. I have heard this word before and wondered at it’s real meaning, but looking up the information, it appears that I am a codependent person. Yes. I am finally willing to admit it!

But, what does codependency mean? Codependency is a tendency to behave in passive or caretaking ways that negatively effects your quality of life. Codependency describes behaviors, thoughts and feelings that go beyond the normal sort of self-sacrifice or caretaking. I have always done this. Codependency is a set of compulsive behaviors often learned by family members in order to survive in a family which is experiencing great emotional pain and stress. I grew up in a “dysfunctional” family and I often felt responsible for the care of my younger brother, I avoided the pain of a mother who was chemically dependent, and I avoided the shame of a father who was a pedofile. As a result of all of this, I learned at a young age to put my needs at a lower priority than others'.

Codependents become addicted to relationships (any kind of relationship, romantic, parental, etc.) and will do anything to hold onto them, fearing the emotional abandonment that happened during childhood. A codependent will put aside what they want in order to please others, often remaining in harmful situations far too long.

Co-dependents have low self-esteem and look to anything outside of themselves to make them feel better. They find it hard to “be themselves.” Some try to feel better through alcohol, drugs or nicotine - and become addicted. Others may develop compulsive behaviors, especially controlling behaviors.

Codependents often have good intentions. They try to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but the caretaking becomes compulsive and defeating. When the caretaking becomes compulsive, the codependent person feels helpless in the relationship, but is unable to break away from the cycle of behavior that causes it. Codependents view themselves as victims and are attracted to others with a victim mentality.

Do you suspect that you are codependent? Well, here are some characteristics to take a look at:
  1. Do you keep quiet to avoid arguments?
  2. Are you always worried about others’ opinions of you?
  3. Is it important to you that people like you and want to be your friend?
  4. Have you ever lived with someone with an alcohol or drug problem?
  5. Have you ever lived with someone who hits or belittles you?
  6. Are the opinions of others more important than your own?
  7. Do you find yourself making decisions based on other people's opinions?
  8. Do you have difficulty adjusting to changes at work or home?
  9. Do you feel rejected when significant others spend time with friends?
  10. Do you doubt your ability to be who you want to be?
  11. Are you uncomfortable expressing your true feelings to others?
  12. Have you ever felt inadequate?
  13. Do you feel like a “bad person” when you make a mistake?
  14. Do you have difficulty taking compliments or gifts?
  15. Do you have a strong desire to help others, but deep down you know you do it so that they will like or love you?
  16. Do you feel humiliation when your child or spouse makes a mistake?
  17. Do you think people in your life would go downhill without your constant efforts?
  18. Do you frequently wish someone could help you get things done?
  19. Do you have difficulty talking to people in authority, such as the police or your boss?
  20. Are you confused about who you are or where you are going with your life?
  21. Do you have trouble saying “no” when asked for help?
  22. Do you have trouble asking for help?
  23. Do you have so many things going at once that you can’t do justice to any of them? 
Keep in mind, codependency does not refer to all caring behavior or feelings, but only those that are excessive and unhealthy. If you are sacrificing yourself constantly to please others or do for others because you are scared of being rejected then you may be codependant.

Here is some more of the information that I found on codependents thanks to Dr. Irenes Verbal Abuse Site! And let me just say "Wow!" She hit the nail right on the head!

Codependency causes internal struggles with the opinions of others. Codependents may make decisions based on what they think other people want them to do. While they may believe that their motive for helping people is compassion, in reality they are doing it because they want love or approval.

Family secrets. Guilt. Shame. Repressed anger. Low self-esteem. Compromising your own values to avoid another person's rejection or anger. Those are just a few red flags of codependence.

By giving, codependent people avoid the discomfort of entitlement. Giving allows them to feel useful and justifies their existence. Rather than simply approving of themselves, codependent people meet their need for self-esteem, by winning other’s approval.

Codependent behavior is not easy. It requires a lot of work. It hurts. These individuals typically suffer with low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and especially guilt, as well as other painful thoughts and feelings. They judge themselves using far stricter criteria than they use to measure the performance of others. While they are brutally critical of their own misbehavior, they are very good at justifying and excusing the misbehavior of others.

Codependent people misplace their anger. They get angry when they shouldn't, and don't get angry when they should. They have little contact with their inner world and thus very little idea about how they feel. Usually, they don't want to know because it gives rise to painful emotions. It is easier to stay on the surface and pretend things are peachy keen, rather than deal with the stuff going on inside.

If they were to look inside, they would find their emotional starvation. They are busy taking care of others. Yet, they do not meet their own needs!

They may put up with abusive relationships or relationships that are not fulfilling because any warm body beats nobody. Being alone is perceived as scary, empty, depressing, etc. After all, who will deliver their emotional supplies? Who will distract them so there is no time to deal with their inner life? Even an abusive relationship is better than no relationship.

These loving, giving people find interesting ways of explaining their behavior to themselves. Loyal to a fault, a codependent individual is likely to rationalize a loved one's disrespectful behavior by making excuses for them. "He doesn't mean it." "It was not done with malice." "It is the best he can do." "She had such an awful childhood." Etc., etc., etc.

The central concept is that the codependent individual "takes it" and "understands," despite hurt feelings. It does not occur to the codependent person that it is not okay to "take it" and "put up" no matter what!

Much of this acceptance occurs without the codependent individual feeling abused! More accurately, these individuals do not feel okay enough to expect respectful treatment at all times, and to notice when it is not forthcoming. Having grown up in a difficult environment, a negative emotional climate is experienced as normal and familiar. This is why there is often little recognition of disrespect. If their partner is angry or upset, the codependent individual will implicitly assume that they did something to cause the anger. It does not occur to them that it is their partner's responsibility to deal with their problem and to treat others respectfully. It does not occur to them that it is their responsibility to themselves to stop another person's demeaning behavior toward them. But, how can you stop disrespect when misbehavior is not perceived as disrespectful or abusive? Disrespect is normal.

Because codependent individuals are approval-driven, they cannot stand it when others are angry at or disappointed with them.

While abuse, disrespect, or unrequited sacrifice angers them, as it should, codependent people do not realize how angry they are and at whom they are angry! Targeting the appropriate person may jeopardize a source of approval and self-esteem. To avoid facing reality, they distort it. Codependent individuals are likely to somehow blame themselves and rationalize their "over-sensitivity." They justify the other person's behavior by thinking they must deserve the treatment they are getting. This is preferable to facing the possibility that an individual who provides a measure of their self-esteem is hurting them.

Codependent people are expert at denying anger and turning it against the self - into sadness and depression. Instead of asking themselves why are they are putting up with… (fill in the blank), they ask themselves how they could have behaved differently - to obtain a more favorable reaction from their partner!

Unarticulated anger is often misdirected and expressed inappropriately. Anger may be experienced as resentment, expressed as an aggressive blow-up, or in passive-aggressive acting out.

Since codependent people are experts at controlling other people's thoughts, feelings, and behavior, they feel hurt that others don't reciprocate and "know" what they need. "If they really loved me, they would know." Not so! Since codependents do not have the self-esteem to ask for what they secretly want, they are unlikely to get it. If they do make a request, it is often a roundabout hint. If their partner cannot decipher the request, they feel hurt and unloved. They believe they conveyed their desires, when, in fact, they have not!

Because most codependent individuals are control-oriented, they are very responsible. They are great employees. Tasks are done thoroughly and on time. Even parts of the job that are not theirs get picked up if coworkers are neglectful or slow. They try to control outcomes, whether those outcomes are completed job tasks or reactions from other people. Anything for approval.

Intimacy is avoided. Intimate behavior requires familiarity and comfort with one's internal world. Since the codependent person regards ordinary human needs as shameful, embarrassing, dangerous, or otherwise uncomfortable, meeting basic needs are often dismissed.

Control is central to the codependent person. They control their self-esteem by catering to others' needs. They control by their over-responsible performance, picking up where others leave off. They control by avoiding intimacy or by clouding the mind. They control by advising others on what to do. These individuals work very hard to control everything and everybody. Yet, they neglect the one person they do have control over: themselves.

Wow! I swear most of this describes me to a T (a big capital T)! I never would have realized! I never would have thought! All these years, I have just thought that I was a superunderstanding person, not that I was suffering from a skewed view of the world and of myself! Time for lots of prayer to get me through this!

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