Living in the Shadows
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Ask Yourself These Questions
» Do you feel desperate at all costs to keep your partner?
» Do you ever feel like a ‘relationship addict?’
» Do you excuse hurtful, demeaning or abusive behaviors?
» Do you feel empty or worthless if you’re not in a relationship?
» Do people end up hurting you or damaging your self esteem?
» Do people take you for granted?
» Do you fear being alone?
You may have thought about yourself being codependent, but never understood exactly what it is or how it develops. Therapists are certain of one thing: Codependency can destroy relationships, rob you of your true self, and effect the quality of your life.
On This Page…
- What Is Codependency?
- What Causes Codependency?
- How Do I Know if I’m Codependent?
- Can EMDR and Therapy Help?
What Is Codependency?
Codependency is a set of characteristics and behaviors a man, woman or child possess in relationship to an important person in their life. These are usually acted out in a primary relationship, but can be present in any relationship such as boss/employee, teacher/student and friendships.
Codependency is a response to a dysfunctional and abnormal environment. For example, if a child grows up in a home where chaos, abuse, and unpredictability are daily experiences, they often create negative ways in which to cope. Post traumatic stress (PTSD) for example, may be present in a child who grew up in an abusive home. Although co-dependency is a term used originally for family members of alcoholic families, we have learned codependency takes many different forms and different levels.
What Causes Codependency?
In dysfunctional home environments, a child is uncertain how to gain love and acceptance from the parents. Often, children will do anything to emotionally survive, including learning negative ways to get their emotional needs mets. Here are a few common behaviors children learn and often carry into adult relationships:
- Being overly nice
- Being good
- Keeping quiet
- Over achieving
- Numbing emotions
- Agreeing with everyone
- Never asking for help
- Never giving an opinion
- Not having personal boundaries
- Guessing at what ‘normal’ is
- Taking on parental responsibilities
- Keeping family secrets
How Do I Know if I’m Codependent?
When children engage in these behaviors to please their parents, they often get a positive response for their ‘good behavior.’ A child may give up whatever identity they have formed, adjusting their personality and behavior to suit the people around them, thus, gaining the approval and attention they so crave. Since this is the only kind of ‘love’ the child knows, it’s easy to transfer this confusion to adult love relationships. And the road to codependency is paved.
- Codependents think about their partner first, hoping for approval, always wondering about the partner’s reactions.
- Codependents identity is based on the relationship. They have a shallow sense of who they are separate from others. Their self esteem and strengths are buried, and they look to the partner to enhance a faulty sense of identity.
- Codependents attempt to ‘fix’ everything that goes wrong. Since they feel responsible for everything, they carry ‘false guilt‘ around, believing they have the power to keep everyone happy.
- Codependents are out of touch with their emotions. Since their main job is making others happy, it is necessary to bury or numb their emotions. Anger, sadness, and grief are often internalized, only to come out in negative ways such as depression, eating problems, or chemical abuse problems.
- Codependents won’t say “No.” Because their approval rating is based on other people’s acceptance, they avoid saying “no”, thus having a difficult time with boundaries in relationships.
- Codependents are ‘people pleaser’s. The other people in a codependents life are seen as a road to their approval. If the other person is offended, leaves, or has a disagreement, the road to approval is closed.
- Codependents stay in relationships that are often unhealthy and tolerate inappropriate behaviors, even abuse.
- Codependents confuse the emotion of love. Because they have a distorted view of respect, boundaries and love, they often accept the unacceptable in relationships, and are often victimized.
- Codependents feel responsible when their partner is angry. Overly sensitive to their partner’s mood, they attempt to anticipate what their partner will say or do, always trying to maintain the status quo.
- Codependents often have emotional and physical health issues.
Unexpressed anger, the burden of false guilt, never having their needs met, a partner’s mood inconsistencies, all create a stress level which can cause health problems. Add in the mix of abuse, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is most likely present.
- Codependents are often fearful of being alone. Since their self image, identity and self esteem is so strongly connected to another person, when alone, they do not feel worthwhile and emotionally stable. Codependent people will go to great lengths to keep a relationship together, oftentimes, even in the face of serious dysfunction or abuse.
- Codependents have a great capacity to deny. Most have denied their confusions and unacceptable behaviors from others since childhood, pretending that everything is alright when it isn’t. Denial has been a primary survival mechanism.
You wanted to give your heart to others, and you did so quickly and easily. But now you are being asked to let go of all these self-made props and trust that God is enough for you. You must stop being a pleaser and reclaim your identity as a free self.”
Acknowledging you need help is the first step and a brave step. There is help, and you can change your life for the better. You may contact Dr. Lynne to schedule a personal counseling session to discuss ways to help with your emotions, help clarify your needs, begin to learn skills for increasing your self esteem, and help you set positive goals for your future. If you believe you are in an abusive relationship, professional help will help you look at your options.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing), is a powerful and often rapid therapeutic technique can be used by a trained EMDR therapist to help you effectively deal with codependency issues which may be related to past memories. EMDR can help with issues of anger, guilt, abuse, trauma, unforgiveness and PTSD. EMDR is a breakthrough technique for dealing with many emotional issues. Information can be found EMDR page of this website. Dr. Logan is an EMDR Certified therapist by EMDRIA.
Co-dependency is usually rooted in a person’s childhood, and therapy will often involve looking at early relationship patterns which lead to codependency. Treatment will help a codependent person look at their behaviors and begin to identify the choices they make in relationships and the motive behind the choices. Recovery is possible and help is available.