Over the years the term codependency has taken on many meanings. Originally the term was coined to describe the partners and family members of alcoholics. Counselors noted that family members of the self absorbed alcoholics presented with similar symptoms. Spouses generally catered to the needs of the alcoholic, while ignoring needs of their own. As time has passed the term 'codependency' has truly evolved. We now understand this term in much greater detail, and with these new understandings come much awaited emotional relief.
When I was on the verge of having a nervous breakdown, it was complete terror that drove me to a therapists office. I was stunned yet relieved when he said, "Well, you're not crazy, but you are codependent." My mind swirled with, "Wait what? I am not married to an alcoholic. How can this diagnosis fit?"
With absolutely nowhere else to turn, I delve into learning all I could about the term 'codependency'. What I learned altered the course of my life forever. And although my recovery has certainly evolved, and continues to deepen as time goes on, embracing information I could never have known was the aspect of journey that made the difference. I could never have known I was codependent, or that my belief systems were destroying my life. Everyone in my life was codependent. It was our norm.
As a Life Coach who specializes in 'codependency recovery' and who has written and published six books on the topic, I am often asked, "How did this happen? How and why did I become codependent?" The following few key ideas may help you understand the how and the why of this distorted perception of life and ourselves we call codependency.
Children need to be validated, appreciated, and honored by their parents. Innately we all need to have our root, tribal instincts met. We absolutely require a sense of belonging in order to hit the proper emotional milestones that allow for healthy opinions of Self. When your are perceived as a pain in the ass, a burden, an obligation, and or you are abused, treated with indifference, or ignored, you are brainwashed to believe that you are unworthy of love, acceptance, respect and common dignity.
The reception your parents present to you--forms your perception of Self, and so if you were received as if your feelings were insignificant in contrast to your mother or father's, or to another family members, the message you received is, "I am not enough."
The decisions your psyche made about your value are now dictating every thought you think, and every action you take, or choose not to take. Because we did not receive the validation we deserved, we are now in an holding pattern caught in desperate loops that are being guided by our unconscious need to be validated.
Because codependents are giant five year olds, we frustrate easily, stuff our feelings, try to be liked, pretend we don't have needs, we blow up when we are pushed too far because we lack boundaries, we say yes, when we mean no, and no when we mean yes. So fearful of being abandoned yet again, many of us fear confrontation and wind up living our lives trying to keep our abusers from getting too upset. Like small children, we make ourselves small so that the big, scary people in our lives don't say anything to hurt our feelings.
Some codependents are quite controlling. So repelled by the idea of being ignored as a child, anytime a being is reminded that he/she is not being paid attention to, the blind codependent will react like a frustrated child. Codependents new to the recovery process need to accept early on that others really are not responsible for making sure they are comfortable. Its a fine line. Yes, when we were younger our caretakers did help formulate our opinions, beliefs and emotions. But as adults, healing requires us to accept that in this time and space our healthiest move is in learning to accept that others have the right to be who they are. Our power is found in deciding who we want to share our sandbox with, and who we don't.
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