Do you struggle with codependency? I break down 8 key signs of codependency and how to recover and heal relationship difficulties that can arise from it.
- ask yourself “Am I codependent?”
- struggle to maintain healthy boundaries in relationships
- call yourself a “fixer” because you’re excessively focused on other people’s problems, or
- are referred to as a “people pleaser”
the information in this video is for you. Not only do we discuss come of the most prominent symptoms, but also how to heal.
Often, codependency can lead us to choose needy or narcissistic people to partner with, and we struggle to choose people who can support us. People who grew up with a narcissistic parent (either a narcissistic mother or father or both!) are particularly susceptible.
We will talk about the Kryptonite to codependency. You’ll learn my strongest defense available to the difficulties we can experience through codependent behaviors.
Here’s a link to Melody Beattie’s book, codependent No More https://amzn.to/2lhcYON
Also, check out the terrific resource at Codependents Anonymous: http://coda.org/
Chris Neal, LPC
Chris provides counseling in Oklahoma City, OK. With a practice focus on adults, he works with individuals and couples on a range of concerns.
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Hi everybody and welcome to this week’s show. Today I want to talk about codependency. Have you heard the word codependent and wondered if it applied to you or even wondered what it really meant? I’m going to be honest, there are lots of different ways to define the term. It really has a very personal component to its meaning and we’re going to talk about codependency today and so if you’re interested in that topic, you’re wondering if it might apply to you. Then stick around and be sure you stay until the end of the video because we’re not just going to talk about characteristics. We’re also going to talk about some things that you can do if you think this does apply to you. Now, if you’re a returning viewer or listener, welcome back. I’m glad to have you and if you’re new here, I am also very excited to have you.
Welcome to the resilience self. I’m Chris Neil. I’m a licensed therapist and I have a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and I help people reclaim their lives. We do this through enhancing self-compassion, through learning to set boundaries and through taking control of our own happiness. So let’s dive in on codependency. And it’s a term that I’ve gotta be honest, I don’t really like very much because I think as soon as we dive in on that word, as soon as we start to apply it to ourselves, it’s easy for that to be kind of ashamed trigger for us. So if you start to hear some of these characteristics and you think maybe this applies to you, I want you to just put a comma in that. Okay? Because it doesn’t make you less, it doesn’t make you less of a person and it doesn’t mean you’re stuck in that.
And so again, stick around until the end because we are definitely going to talk about some ways that I believe we can overcome codependency in our lives and live more fully. So let’s talk about some characteristics of codependency. And I think this term it’s kinda like the term art. It has a very personal meaning. Some people think it means one thing, some people think it means another. I’ve heard codependency described by other folks as a deep, pervasive need to be needed. Now we all like to be needed but a real need, like we can’t feel whole and complete without being needed. And I don’t actually take exception to that description. I think that’s, that’s very appropriate. But I think there are also some other components that I like to talk about and so this really isn’t an opposition to those ideas, but it was just meant to kind of add a little more flavor to the conversation.
And so hopefully if you think these things are useful for you you’ll leave some comments for me. Let me know if you find this helpful. If you’re new here. I also hope you’ll leave me a note and just let me know how you found this this show, cause I would be happy to know so that we can reach out and find others. All right, so let’s talk about some characteristics of codependency. I think codependent people tend to look for happiness outside themselves. In fact that also in addition to need to be needed, I would say getting your own sense of wholeness, your own sense of self worth in the acceptance and admiration of others. Now, not in a narcissistic way, but more in a, I’m accepted by other people and so that makes me whole and complete.
And a lot of times when we’re codependent, when we set up that exchange with people, then we try to earn that love and, and, and respect and kindness because then when we can earn it, then we feel whole. And so a lot of times people look for happiness and just completeness of themselves outside of themselves. In fact, sometimes a codependent people can put others on pedestals because they see things in other people. They want to emulate that and they think it’s awesome, so they can put them up there. And then of course, there’s a lot of talk about how do we tell them that they’re so awesome and codependent. People can really get sucked into relationships with narcissists because of this. It’s a, it’s a very common thing. Codependent people can often be extreme caretakers, feeling responsible for the feelings, thoughts, needs and wellbeing of others, often to their own detriment, often ignoring their own needs and feelings so that they are lifting others up.
So a lot of times people with co-dependence often feel like they’re kind of getting gypped because they’re doing all of these things to try to help other people. They’re not getting the love and affection and admiration in return, and they’re not even getting that treatment back from other people. And it, it kinda becomes a vicious cycle. And so a lot of times codependency can lead to feelings of hurt feelings of resentfulness. And again, just feeling like you’re kind of getting ripped off in your relationships a little bit. Also because of the need to be a caretaker to get in to other people’s situations and trying to solve that for them. If you, if you find yourself trying to solve a lot of other people’s problems for them I’ve, I’ve heard people even refer to themselves as fixers.
And if you think of yourself as a fixer that could have a basis in codependency. If you think you’re a fixer, then you might be investing a whole lot of your own self worth in that for other people. And so that would be one way that we might consider how codependency is affecting us in our lives. I think along with that codependent people almost identify with the injustices done to others more than they identify with injustices done to themselves. Now, Melody Beattie in her book, Codependent No More talks about a lot of these. That is a great resource. I’m going to recommend it to you. I’ll put a link in the notes so that you can just head right over to Amazon and grab that if you don’t already have a copy. And she talks about how a codependent people can often, find it easier to just identify with the way that other people are harmed by others a than with themselves.
And then of course, if you’re a fixer, then you get in and you try to fix that on behalf of other people. And it just becomes kind of this vicious cycle that we can get wrapped up in other people’s drama when what we really would be better served to do is focus on our own situations. One of the other things that that can show up in codependency is almost kind of ignoring our own problems. I call it putting a bow on things and when we tend to put a bow on everything and we just sort of ignore all of the problems in our lives then it creates problems for us. We, we don’t tend to things. And then also we just get really wrapped up in other people’s stuff rather than attending to our own situations. Now, this is a vicious it’s a vicious cycle.
It’s also a kind of a tricky balance because I do believe that mindset is important. I do believe that the way we approach our lives, the attitudes we take towards our lives is important. When we have a growth mindset, when we see challenges in our lives as things that can be conquered rather than things that will defeat us or define us, then I think we can move forward with those. So it’s a tricky balance between the codependency of just putting a bow on everything, Hey, everything’s great and and saying, you know, yes, I’ve got these problems, but I’m going to address these in a way that promotes growth in my life. I’m going to try to solve those problems rather than just kind of sit and wallow in them. So I think that’s the line there, with regard to mindset.
Often codependent people can desperately seek the love and affection of others frequently from people who are incapable of giving it to them. I think a lot of times in codependency we might think that our picker is broken and that we just really struggle to pick people, to choose partners and choose friends who actually can support us in the ways that we need to be supported in healthy ways. This is why oftentimes codependent people are either drawn to very needy people trying to solve all of their problems or they’re drawn to narcissists so that they can idealize them, which certainly feeds into that narcissistic codependent cycle that I’ve talked about in previous shows. I’ll link those down below so that you can get, get your eyes and ears on those because that really is a vicious destructive cycle that once you kind of put your head up out of the water and you know, see what’s going on, you go, Hey, wait a minute, this, this doesn’t work. And then you figure out how to make some changes.
Oftentimes in codependency we can center our lives around other people. Are you detecting a theme here? But part of that can actually be staying in relationships that don’t work. Sometimes people will even stay in marriages for 10, 15, 20 years or longer when those relationships are not working. But in codependency we’re desperate for that acceptance and love in other people. And sometimes we’ll accept a flawed relationships that don’t really help us very well because we’re afraid that’s all we can get. I think there’s definitely a connection between codependency and shame. I think in codependency, not only do we yearn for these things from other people, but I think sometimes we also just kind of wonder if we even really deserve those relationships. Or wonder if, well, if I leave this relationship, even though it’s not fulfilling for me, am I just gonna spend the rest of my life lonely and alone and so it’s easy to worry about, but then when we learned to tend to ourselves, those those things kind of change for us.
Kind of connected to that fear of what would happen if I left my bad relationship, we can often be frightened or controlled by others’ anger. If it’s intolerable for you to have other people be upset with you, then that might be a component of a codependent cycle in your life. Now, no one likes it when people are mad at us. I get that. But it’s one thing to say, ah, you’re upset with me. That kinda stinks. Or, okay, you’re upset with me, but that’s your stuff. Those are your feelings, even though they’re in response to what I’m doing. And that’s, that’s wrapped up in compassion. And we’ll talk about that here in a minute. But if it is just intolerable for other people to be upset or angry with you, then that just hamstrings you. It, it stops you from standing up for yourself and it causes you to stay in relationships that are just not good for you.
So those are a collection of behaviors and attitudes that can go with codependency. Now, if you heard some of these things and they apply to you, or you think they apply to you, does that mean you’re codependent? Not necessarily. And I don’t know that there is a, a, a threshold. It’s not a binary either. You’re codependent or you’re not. I think we all have all of these things in our lives to some extent, and it’s just a matter of do they have a strong enough influence in our daily activities, in our relationships that they’re really pulling us down, that they’re wearing us down. And if they do, then that can be something to consider.
Now, if you are thinking, Chris, I think this stuff might apply to me. Maybe I do have some codependency going on in my life. What do we do about it? Well, let’s talk about that. Again, I think that codependency and shame have a strong connection. And we can become codependent or become people pleasers for a whole host of reasons. I think usually that draws out a family of origin. We tend to learn these things in our original families, either through observing codependency in others and just being taught that those are the rules. That’s how you interact with people. That’s how you get love. That’s how you get acceptance. Or maybe we have a, a notable narcissist in our lives. And just those codependent behaviors are the only way we can get what we need from that narcissistic person. Maybe both. And so you know, every situation is unique. So I won’t pretend to understand anyone else’s codependent beliefs or behaviors.
But I do have an opinion about an important component in getting past codependency. And I think it starts with this process of trying to become whole ourselves, learning to become responsible for our own happiness, for our own emotional and physical wellbeing, resilience, self-sufficiency. And when we can put our eye on those targets, then I think we’re pointed in the right direction. Now, an important part in developing all of these things, I think is compassion, particularly self compassion. Now, if you’ve heard me talk about compassion in the past, you know that the way I define that term is radical honesty and holding space for others to respond as they feel like they need to. And all of that is infused with loving kindness. So compassion is not an excuse just to be radically honest. If you’re trying to be a jerk to someone but radical honesty is being completely authentic and clear with someone.
Now for someone who’s desperately afraid that others might reject them or might be angry at them, that is terrifying. And I get that. And so we learned to practice. So it starts with the self. It starts with being able to say to ourselves, Hmm, this is my reality in this moment. That’s why meditation can really be great for developing self-compassion. I think yoga can be great for developing self-compassion because honestly, if I’m on the yoga mat then if a move is hard for me, if a pose or something is difficult for me, honestly, there’s nothing I can do about that except keep trying. And so what I’m called to do then is to then deal with that in a specific way. And when we can get into, let’s say a yoga pose, and if it’s difficult when I can say, this is really difficult for me, this is a challenge. I was able to do it yesterday. I’m not able to do it today, but rather than demand that my reality be different than it is. I’m just going to observe that. That’s my radical honesty there. I can’t do this move today.
Holding space is me choosing not to demand that it’d be different. It’s me saying, you know, it gets to be hard. This gets to be a challenge. Life does not have to be perfect. When I can do that and infuse all of that with loving kindness, suddenly I begin to accept myself a little more. I suddenly begin to accept my own imperfections and my own frailties and my own failures. And when I can begin to accept those things through developing self-compassion and celebrating the things that go great, but also when things don’t go well, learning to look at those in a completely honest way and learning to stop demanding that my reality be different.
And when I can do that and when you can do that when we learn to stop demanding that our reality be different and we hold space for what is true for us right now. And by true I mean accurate, verifiable, and in the present. And so if you’re in a yoga pose and it is hard for you right now, we don’t know if it will be hard for you tomorrow. We’re not worried about tomorrow. It doesn’t even really matter that it was easy for you yesterday. What matters is what’s going on with you right now in the moment. So I, I feel like compassion is a kind of the Kryptonite to shame. I really believe that. And as such, I think self-compassion is the Kryptonite to codependency. And so if you are feeling some of these things in your own life, then maybe invest in some efforts towards developing self-compassion.
If you’re not sure how to do that, then a skilled therapist would be a great way to do that. You’re always welcome to reach out to me and engage me in a conversation about that. It’s clear. I love talking about it. And so either way, I hope that you’ll subscribe to this show so that we get into your feed regularly. I also want to ask you to share it with other people. I think this is important information. And almost without fail, every time I find someone new or they find me, I get a message from them that says, Chris, more people need to know about this. And so help out your friends and family. Let them know about the show please. And also please just leave me a comment. Let me know what you think about the message here on The Resilience Self. So thank you so much for your time today. I am grateful for your spending the time and energy with me. And until next time, take care.