Do you feel a nagging obligation to rescue people?
Do you feel guilty or anxious if you say NO?
Do you find yourself trying to fix others, even when your own life is out of control?
Do you work harder on other people’s issues than they do?
Are you in a relationship that saps all of our emotional energy
If you answered YES to any of the above questions, you could well be struggling with codependency.
Codependency has been defined as ‘excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one with an illness or addiction who requires support.’ Many times when you find an addict or someone with life control issues, you will find someone in close relationship with them, either married or otherwise, who is codependent.
The codependent partner, parent or close ally of an addict will typically try to rescue the addict from the consequences of their addiction. Where the addict fails to take responsibility for their lives, the codependent often practices ‘over-responsibility’… compensating for the lack in the addict. Whilst this might appear admirable and even give the codependent a sense of value, worth or significance, it is actually counterproductive. In the words of Danny Silk, ‘Codependency is driven by the agreement that I will work harder on your problem and your life than you do. This is not love.’
People often deny that they are codependent or simply refuse to change because it can give them a bit of an ego boost or a sense of self worth. They can appear to be self-sacrificing ‘Messiahs’ on a mission to dominate the world with kindness. But a person struggling with codependent behaviour really needs to experience a ‘new normal’… a normal that flows from a place of wholeness.
This experience of wholeness will inevitably involve addressing family of origin issues.
All of us come from families that are dysfunctional in some way. But some parents are not able to provide an environment for their children to grow up in safety. This ‘unsafety’ is the breeding ground for codependency.
These are some of the tendencies that can begin to develop in an unsafe family of origin:
- You become a caretaker. .
- You learn that people who profess to love you may actually hurt you. Y
- You become a people-pleaser.
- You struggle with boundaries.
- You feel guilty.
- You become fearful.
- You feel flawed and unworthy.
- You don’t trust people.
- You won’t let people help you.
- You feel alone.
- You become overly responsible.
- You become controlling.
If you can relate to any of these and the lights are beginning to go on, get some assistancere. Inevitably it will require you to deal with some family of origin ‘stuff’ that may not be particularly comfortable, but it is always worth it. Not only will you be happier but many times, when codependents get whole, the addict or victim in their life gets whole too.
Nick offers clinical supervision and counselling in the Perth CBD, Rockingham and Online. He is an exceptionally skilled and compassionate counsellor and psychotherapist with over 20 years’ professional experience. He is also an active member of the Australian Counselling Association. Nick has a substantial background in both private practice and the community health and education sectors. He specialises in supporting young people, individual adults, couples and families. Nick particularly enjoys relationship and marriage counselling, assisting couples overcome relationship barriers to gain greater intimacy.