Somebody wants something from you and even though the tight knot in your stomach says “No”, what comes out of your mouth is “Yes”. That experience of denying your own feelings, in order to please others and keep them emotionally comfortable, is one of the tell-tale traits of codependency.
WHAT ARE THE OTHER SIGNS OF CODEPENDENCY?
- Feeling responsible for, and worrying about, other people.
- Obsessing about what others might be thinking, feeling or doing.
- Feeling unable to relax when somebody close to you is in a bad mood or angry.
- Feeling anxiety, pity or guilt when other people have a problem.
- Feeling compelled – almost forced – to help that person solve the problem.
- Saying yes when you mean no. Doing things you don’t really want to do.
- Doing more than your fare share of the work.
- Feeling insecure, uncomfortable or guilty when somebody gives to you.
- Feeling bored, empty or worthless if you don’t have a crisis to solve.
- Easily abandoning your routine to do something for somebody else.
- Overcommiting yourself and feeling stressed and overwhelmed as a result.
- Trying to control people through helplessness, guilt, coercion or manipulation.
- Feeling afraid of your own anger and/or other people’s anger.
- Having sex when you don’t want to.
- Having difficulty asking for what you need in bed.
- Feeling angry, victimised, unappreciated and used.
THE CAUSES OF CODEPENDENCY
Growing up in anything that resembles an “alcoholic family system” is likely to breed codependency. When a parent or family member struggles with alcoholism – or with another addiction, mood swings, depression or sickness – the whole family dynamic is affected. Children develop a form of hyper-vigilance where in order to keep safe, or get love, they monitor others for cues. They become adept at spotting a good mood, a bad mood, looming rage or despair and react accordingly. They learn to pay attention to what others are feeling and not to what they’re feeling on the inside.
They learn that open expression of certain thoughts and emotions aren’t welcome. They learn that family secrets must be kept secret. They learn that anger isn’t okay – it’s either something destructive that gets expressed with great volatility or something that must be suppressed and kept hidden.
LOW SELF WORTH
In such family systems, children typically have to strategise in order to get the love they need. And when that love gets cut off (which it usually does if a parent is struggling) the children invariably assume it’s because there’s something wrong with themselves. They assume that they’re unloveable. Therein lie the seeds of low self-worth. Codependent caretaking and helping attempts to counter that low self-esteem, by providing a temporary and transient hit of good feelings, self worth and power. They don’t feel loveable so they settle for being needed.
Melody Beattie’s book “Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself” is a useful resource (UK: http://amzn.to/q9johB or US: http://amzn.to/nuAlg7) . Or to get started immediately watch this short video on easy to implement healing strategies: