Healing Codependency; Honoring the Pain in Our Brain
by Lisa A. Romano
“We must lose ourselves to find ourselves,” Willem Defoe
Melody Beattie, the author of Codependent No More, admits that defining codependency can be a fuzzy process. However, if you are codependent and you resonate with the many symptoms of codependency, the term helps the craziness of your life become crystal clear.
Beattie sums the term codependency up in one sentence, “A codependent person has let another person's behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.”
Therefore, codependency is then triggered as well as caused by relationships.
When the Divine Connection Goes Awry – The Roots of Self-Destructive Psychological Dispositions
What goes in comes out.
What does not go in cannot come out.
Children who have been denied the right to feel one with love end up with a self-sabotaging, self-destructive psychological disposition. The mind will become at war with itself. Feeling unworthy of love, yet craving love at the same time. The mind may crave a sense of safety yet live in terror of abandonment and rejection due to being unable to gain the nurturing required to develop a sense of safety and trust when the divine connection to a mother goes awry.
A mother’s love is the foundation of self-love, cooperation, trust, intimacy, and the ability to form mutually satisfying relationships with others.
The child who has not been wrapped in a mother's consistent, warm, nurturing, protective, selfless love develops neurological pathways rooted in fear and the need to live in a defensive state. The child's mind will become upset and defensive if denied the predictable safety and nurturing only a mother’s love can provide.
In time, feeling separate and unworthy of love becomes embedded in the invisible language patterns of a child’s mind as their conscious mind attempts to make sense of their cold, unwelcoming world.
The Brokenness Manifests as Codependency in Adult Relationships
Later in life, the person who affects a codependent can be anyone from a partner to a family friend, a child, or a coworker. When we are codependent, we are other-focused. Below the veil of consciousness, we believe our happiness and peace of mind lie in fixing, rescuing, caretaking, and managing another person. Consciously, we operate looking to attach to others, to care for them, worry over them, and make them happy.
Our thinking minds tell us we must gain other people’s approval, although we remain unaware of the pain in our brains that cause our conscious minds to think such thoughts.
The conscious mind is always looking to understand, yet it is most often unaware of what drives its rationalizations and maladaptive behaviors.
As codependents, we do not realize we lack a sense of self and are in the throws of acting out unhealed wounds from childhood.
- In general, codependents worry themselves sick over other people.
- We enmesh easily with what others are feeling and with what they need.
- We feel compelled to fight for the underdog, even at the expense of ourselves.
- We say yes when we mean no.
- We hate hurting other people’s feelings even when others are hurting us.
- We don’t trust our emotions or gut instincts.
- We ignore red flags and worry that holding someone accountable is selfish or wrong.
- We see the best in people and forgive far too quickly, even after being betrayed.
- We lack a sense of self and find it easier to focus on others than on ourselves.
- We have a difficult time making decisions and can become easily flustered.
- We never feel good enough.
- We never feel like we’ve done enough.
- We think others think the worst about us.
- We drown in self-blame and self-loathing, and feel guilty for things that are not our fault.
- We do not know how to stand up for the self and can spend days, weeks, and months in shame spirals.
- We lack the skills to process painful emotions and detach ourselves from unnecessary guilt, shame, and self-deprecating inner narratives.
Codependency implies we live in reaction to others and what happens outside of us. Sometimes we are so fixated on others that we do not notice we become like horses chasing other people’s carrots. Those carrots can be other people’s problems, needs, worries, or opinions. Our lack of self makes it impossible to respond to others healthily, and instead, our focus is on managing the lives or opinions of others.
We are unaware unmet childhood needs are responsible for our repeated failed relationships, our obsessive worry over what others think about us, and our inability to cognitively process dizzying emotions in a way that empowers our lives. Our brains are in pain, and our subconscious defensive beliefs are running our lives, yet our conscious minds are unaware of this. All we know is, we believe the answer is to prove ourselves worthy of love and to attach to someone outside of us.
This neurotic need to prove ourselves worthy to others mirrors the terrifying fear of our abandoned, wounded inner child, who has yet to be rescued by our healed, more self-aware self.
We are those that react to internal stress without healthy coping skills. We feel overwhelmed by stressors and can become emotionally paralyzed. No one taught us how to respond to stress, so we react instead. No one ever taught us that we were worthy of love, so below the veil, our limited conscious mind feels compelled to find ways to prove our worth, perpetuating the cycle of self-destruction and self-abandonment, which is codependency.
We may fawn after approval, or appease an angry, abusive partner, or rescue a loved one who continually incurs money problems and does not show signs of taking accountability. We may drown in sadness, depression, and shame for weeks at the hint of someone else’s disapproval, criticism, accusation, or judgment, unable to sift through the toxic sea of negative emotions in an empowered way.
In these scenarios, a codependent reacts to someone else's actions without the space to consider whether or not their reaction is healthy. Without a contemplative understanding of a self worthy of love, a codependent continues to search outside of themselves for love and peace they can only find within themselves but has yet to awaken to this truth.
You must lose yourself to find yourself.
A codependent is unaware they are unaware and acting out unhealthy coping strategies they learned to rely on as children.
Codependency Equals Self Abandonment
Codependency becomes a habitual process of self-abandonment. Some of us needed to learn to fawn and people please and caretake to survive our oppressive, unpredictable childhood homes. Feeling unloved, and experiencing abuse, caused us to assume blame for the mistreatment we endured. This is our conscious mind trying to make sense of the pain we feel. Our conscious mind also attempts to resolve the issue of feeling unworthy of love through codependency behaviors. Our immature minds think, “If I agree with them, maybe they will love me. If I don’t cause problems, maybe they will love me. If I take care of them, maybe they will love me.”
This is our young, bruised minds' way of running from the pain of alienation, as well as our attempt to end our suffering by discovering some way to prove our worth to others.
Shame infects our psyche and clouds our ability to think in healthy ways. As we age, we remain unaware of the emotional and behavioral patterns we have relied on to survive our childhoods. Later on in life, we act out codependent behaviors and often fail to understand our part in the destruction of our lives.
You can’t fix a hole in the wall you can’t see.
Fawning after approval is a survival strategy allowing a future codependent adult to develop a pseudo-sense of safety as a dependent child. Codependents are often children conditioned to fear disagreeing with their parents. To avoid retaliation, rejection, criticism, and pain, a child will beg their parent’s to forgive them, and take responsibility for their parent’s abuse, rage, or punishment.
If this pattern of behavior, thinking, and feeling is not corrected, it becomes a way of relating to others well into adulthood.
Fixing others' feelings, making others happy, entering into relationships feeling unworthy and less than others, looking to prove you are worthy of being loved, and blaming the self for why others are unhappy are unhealthy coping strategies developed in childhood that need to be addressed to break the chains of the past and overcome codependency.
Doing the Wrong Things for the Right Reasons Expecting Different Outcomes
Codependents are wounded, unhealed adults who have been doing the wrong things to get their needs met.
We believe that taking care of others is good and that by doing so, those we care for will love and respect us in return.
We take care of others yet don’t take care of ourselves and subconsciously believe that taking care of others will somehow make us feel good enough.
We feel compelled to help others fix their lives, even when we haven’t been asked, and then feel underappreciated when our help is not accepted.
We feel depressed when we think of how often we have been considerate of others and notice that others are not considerate of us.
We overcommit ourselves and feel rushed, overwhelmed, and guilty because we don’t feel like we’ve ever done enough for others.
We live in reaction to how other people react to us and can become emotionally paralyzed when someone implies we have not done enough for them.
We fear other people’s disapproval and will keep our true emotions to ourselves and pretend we agree with others when we don’t. We will quickly change our opinions if our opinion conflicts with others.
We have no problem sticking up for others, but we do not know how to set boundaries for ourselves or how to expect others to treat us respectfully.
We will stuff our emotions for our family's sake, live in quiet misery, get sick and depressed, and keep giving, unable to speak our truth, all while others remain clueless about how we feel.
We secretly hope our spouses die, get sick, cheat on us, or hit us, believing these are the only ways we could ever escape our unhappy, miserable lives.
We feel guilty for resenting our partners and hate ourselves for not knowing how to make ourselves feel better.
We Become Doormats
Over time, codependents grow tired and weary of giving and never receiving. We have inadvertently trained people to see us as their source of supply. We cook, clean, babysit, offer advice, clean up other people’s lives, pay other people’s bills, offer others jobs they may not be capable of, allow them to stay in our homes, feed them, defend them, lie for them, enable them, work two jobs so they don’t have to work one, and in the end, we feel invisible, used, and empty.
Subconscious Self Destruction
- We lack a sense of self and have never developed healthy ego boundaries.
Therefore we cannot act on behalf of the self.
- Without a sense of self, we have no skills to set boundaries and advocate for the self.
- In childhood, we were conditioned to fear abandonment; so below the veil of consciousness, our emotional default setting prevents us from confronting what needs to be confronted.
- We are asleep acting out childhood survival patterns, but we don’t know it.
We Attract Emotionally Exploitive Others
Narcissistic people are self-centered, grandiose, lack empathy, are entitled, and are emotionally exploitative. They require partners who will focus on their needs and who lack boundaries. Codependents lack boundaries and a sense of self. They live in reaction to others' needs and actions. Codependents are other-focused, and narcissists are self-focused. For this reason, codependents are the preferred personality type for a narcissist who lives to exploit the vulnerabilities, empathy, and people-pleasing, appeasing codependent.
You Take Care of Others and Not Yourself
Codependents who are married to narcissists, alcoholics, addicts, gamblers, or those with an eating disorder, can easily lose themselves in catering to the problems of their spouses. Rather than consider how someone else’s problems affect their lives, codependents focus on the needs of others, unaware of the cost this has on their mental, emotional, physical, and sometimes financial health.
The Triangle; Rescue, Persecute, Victimhood
Stephen Karpman observed three roles a codependent person would play in acting out their subconscious unhealed childhood trauma. It is known as the Karpman Drama Triangle.
- Rescuing Tendencies
Rescuing implies we take responsibility for someone else’s behavior and ultimately feel resentful for aiding this person somehow. We do this to help the other person avoid responsibility for their actions. We say yes when we mean no, and inevitably develop deep resentments for others we decided to aid when we didn’t want to.
When we are uncomfortable with the idea of someone else suffering the consequences of their actions, we may offer to help instead of allowing this person to learn a valuable lesson.
When we see people as helpless and jump in to save them from their actions, we rescue and enable a situation and perpetuate codependency.
- Persecution and Resentment
Once we, as codependent people, have rescued our perceived victim, we resent the person we’ve helped. We have violated our boundaries and abandoned the self again, and the person we helped is not showing enough gratitude for our sacrifice.
We struggle to tell the truth, to say no, and then hate ourselves and others for why we could not set a boundary and then complain about feeling used. We are unaware of our subconscious conflicts and seld destructive language, emotion, and behavioral patterns.
Codependents give more than they receive. We live to anticipate the needs of others and then feel neglected when we notice others are not as caring as we are. We treat others the way we’d love to be loved. To make things worse, we feel unworthy when others do attempt to care for us, and we can often push others away when help is offered. We feel guilty for needing help and wondering why people don’t think about us the way we think about them.
We are a mind, heart, and body of conflicts, yet we don’t know it.
Ultimately, after finding ourselves in a cycle of rescuing another person, we inevitably feel used and like a victim of someone else’s unwillingness to love us the way we’d like to be loved.
At this stage, we find ourselves in the belly of our inner child’s wounds, feeling powerless and defeated, unaware of the pain in our brain and of how to find the road back to the true self.
Way to Feel Good
Codependents struggle with low self-worth. We have never developed a healthy sense of self and have found that through acquiescing to the needs of others, we can develop a pseudo-sense of worthiness. By taking care of others, we gain a sense of worth. We have never developed a sense of healthy worthiness and have learned that by catering to the needs of others, we can feel a sense of purpose, unaware we are on a self-destructive path.
We are good people without a healthy sense of self who are confused about what love is. We look outside ourselves for a sense of self-worth and often attract abusive partners who exploit our need for approval and propensity to live other-focused. We feel best when we feel needed and we are helpful to others. We often find ourselves in relationships that are wrought with troubles. We attract partners who are married, who gamble, who can’t get their lives straight, who drink too much, and who have addiction issues. We jump in with both feet to help manage the lives of others and subconsciously reinforce the idea that our worth is tied to how well we please others.
We Believe Lies
We cater to the needs of our spouses, children, family, and businesses, yet we doubt we can take care of ourselves. We may hate our spouses but fear living without them. We may resent our parents and siblings, yet fear going no contact, afraid we might die without them. We have needed others only to have been let down and forsaken. We have lived our lives giving to others, yet, we don’t feel like anyone has ever been there for us as we have been there for them.
We have grown up feeling alone, unworthy, and abandoned. We ache for someone to love us in a way that swallows our grief, sadness, and loneliness. We convince ourselves we need others yet, at the same time, feel unlovable—our adult self clashes with our inner child’s unhealed wounds. As a result, we become emotionally dependent upon others in unhealthy ways, and often on abusive others, we wish we could leave.
Healing From Codependency
Honoring the wounded inner child is a process by which we take specific steps to break free from the subconscious invisible wounds of the past.
- Coming out of denial and offering ourselves the space, time, and permission to investigate our childhood experiences with an objective lens.
- Identifying the experiences that caused our inner child to feel unsafe, unlovable, and unworthy of the connections we deserved.
- Eradicating the false beliefs that reside at the level of the subconscious mind.
- Appreciate that healing is a neurological, emotional, behavioral, spiritual, and psychological transformation.
- Developing life skills allows us to discern when it is time to talk and when it is time to walk.
- Learning to regulate our emotions from a higher state of awareness to develop a healthier and more intimate relationship with the self and others.
- Practicing the tools to help us override the body's default response to emotional stress, real or imagined.
- Committing to a mindfulness and self-care practice allows for the healing codependent to begin realigning with the divine self.
- Developing emotional resiliency to the subconscious as well as conscious fears of abandonment.
- Gaining emotional intelligence, seeing the big picture from the place of a centered self.
- Learning to speak to yourself through the voice of the sacred, compassionate inner adult.
Healing from codependency is an opportunity to live above the veil of consciousness, free from the survival, default, subconscious, ingrained behaviors we learned as children. It is an opportunity to claim our right to say, “I am enough, and I no longer need to prove my worthiness through self-sacrifice and self-abandonment.”
Codependency is a life half-lived, that gets worse over time as we continue to sacrifice our needs, peace of mind, health, and happiness for the sake of others who, most often, are unable to understand the enmeshed, toxic dynamics at play.
To heal from codependency, is to peel oneself off the walls of the lives of others and to find the courage to say ‘no more’ while risking losing the approval of others, a codependent person once subconsciously believed they needed to survive.
Healing from codependency is transitioning from living life as an emotionally dependent child to an integrated, self-reliant adult, who has overcome the emotionally paralyzing fears tied to worrying about the opinions of others.
It is us saying to the world:
“I have found a way to love and accept myself and my past so much that what you think of me no longer controls my mind, emotions, moods, decisions, state of being, or behaviors. Even if you abandon, reject, misunderstand me, or smear my name, I will never abandon the worthy inner child in my soul.
I am enough, even if you don’t think so. I have a right to feel my feelings separate from yours and discern whether your space in my world enhances or depletes my life source. I am free to be me, and you are free to be you. I no longer need to control what you think about me, or how you feel.
I can love you and choose not to be with you, unlike a child who will cling to an abusive parent; as the healed adult child, I have found the confidence, courage, and clarity to know when to stay and when to walk away in love and acceptance.
I am enough. My inner child and I are worthy of the good in life, despite any painful past experience or actions taken under the spell of faulty subconscious childhood programming.”
The Healed Adult Child
As an adult child, I have walked the path of insecurity, unworthiness, and desperation. I have looked outside of myself for the love I never received as a child and sought to take care of others to find someone to rescue me from my inner angst, subconsciously praying that in rescuing someone else, they would, in turn, somehow rescue me from the ghosts of loneliness and shame.
When my physical health deteriorated to near death, the fear of leaving my three innocent children behind in the dust of my codependency, a fire was born within me that set me on the path to healing my life regardless of the many dragons I would need to slay.
I know the courage it takes to acknowledge the past's hidden pains and the surrender required to permit yourself to feel what you have needed to suppress to survive. I know the swirling bats emotions can become as you begin to invest time in healing the self to break free of the chains of the past. And I also know the lightness you begin to feel as you experience one breakthrough moment at a time.
Dear One, it is not you; it is only your programming. Codependency is the byproduct of what you experienced as a child through repetition, observation, and consistency. What goes in comes out. If you felt unloved, the experiences responsible for those emotions were like seeds in the garden of your subconscious mind. As you age, those seeds bore the fruit of childhood experiences, which is not your fault.
You cannot attract healthy love when you believe you are unworthy of love. You cannot find peace in relationships if you are shrouded in shame. You cannot love yourself if you believe you need others to love you to feel worthy of love.
I promised myself that when I figured out how to heal the wounds of my inner child that were responsible for codependency, depression, and emotional reactivity, I would commit my life to develop systems and processes others could plug into that could help them heal their lives as I have.
The 12 Week Breakthrough Coaching Program is the personal blueprint I used to develop the resiliency to heal my inner child and break free from the subconscious chains of the past. This course is built upon the science of learning and is founded on groundbreaking research in neuroscience and trauma.
From day one, your brain shifts from default survival to learning mode. This course can help you end silent suffering by helping adult children resolve the human condition that causes many to live in defensive mode as if we must compete for love or prove ourselves worthy of love.
It will help you end self-sabotage and self-loathing narratives and shift you into a compassion-based relationship with the divine self, fostering inner integration.
In time, you will discover your relationship with self becomes cooperative, compassionate, forgiving, understanding, and peaceful. Your relationships with others also become more mutually satisfying, caring, and fulfilling.
You will know that it is true; one must lose themselves to find themselves.
Our problems with the self, and others, can be solved through healing understanding. Behavior is tied to mental, emotional, and psychological conditions. Once we take the time to delve into the experiences that have shaped our view of the self and the world, we can heal at the deepest levels, eradicate fear, unworthiness, egocentrism, and perfectionism, and end the psychological battle within our wounded ego insists having with our sacred divine self.
To register for this transformative program, visit;