Codependent Insanity – “Am I Living in Codependency?”

Submitted by on Thursday, May 16, 20132 Comments

Are you in Codependent Insanity?

Codependency isn’t a biological disease [although it can certainly be a mind disease in that it spreads rapidly from generation to generation or from person to person]. Think of it as a trained state of mind or conditioning that has us placing OUR wellness, happiness, life, future, autonomy in the hands of another Codependent Insanity - Could you be codependent?person or people to such a degree we’ve lost track of who we really are in exchange for perhaps, what or who OTHERS think we really are. In a term: We think contorting ourselves to others’ perceptions, standards, needs, wants, or desires – or foregoing our own needs, wants, or desires – will ultimately make us happy, keep us safe, or will fulfill some other emptiness we feel.

What ‘The World’ Might Think Codependency is…

I think that people think of codependency as an enmeshment between two people of a romantic partnership (in which they’ve each adopted or co-opted each others’ characteristics, causes, ideas, pains, difficulties, issues, to such a degree that they’ve been absorbed completely into relationship). If they are still individual minds, it’s only secondary. Hence, CO-Dependent. BUT this is an EXTREME love addiction version of codependency. AND just because you’re currently ‘absorbed’ into the newness of a romantic relationship does not mean you are codependent.

Only in being honest with your own self can you know if you might be a good candidate for re-training your mind out of codependency.

What Codependency Really Is

For purposes of this article let’s offer this definition of codependency:

“Hallmarked by patterns of thinking and behaving, we place our autonomy – through training or survival – into the hands of other people.”

Examples of Codie Indoctrinated Thinking …

  • If I can anticipate/guess/know others’ needs, I can fulfill their needs.
  • If I don’t rock the boat, I will be safe and life will be good to me.
  • If I smile at everyone, everyone will like me.
  • If I do not share what I think, people will not know me to reject me.
  • Learn the rules so I can obey them.

Example Behaviors …

  • Faking happiness.
  • Avoiding conflict.
  • Denying problems.
  • People pleasing.

Dominating Emotions/Feelings …

  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Shame
  • Depression
  • Rejection
  • Worthlessness

Sample Thoughts of Codependent Situations …

  • “If I am good enough, I will be happy.” (“Do not ‘be bad.'”)
  • “If I say the magic phrase, everything will be okay.”
  • “I deserve this ______ because of what I did.”
  • “My worthiness is contingent upon my perfection.”
  • “If they really got to know me, I would not be accepted.”
  • “If I do what they want, they will love me.”

The Insanity of Codependency

When the Codie Facebook page’s cover photo says, “The world’s gone all codie…” and in the graphic above reads, “The world’s gone mad…” the terms codie and mad are used interchangeably because contorting ourselves for the sake of the world IS madness. Cultural supporting of it, IS madness. Our homes, families of origin training us into it, IS madness. It is unsoundness of mind.

Codie Recovery Facebook Page


And when I say madness I mean “unsoundness of mind” (ie, insanity). I do not mean crazy because crazy means no rhyme or reason and there IS reason. Just as alcohol worked for me for many years, codependency has worked to some degree to keep us safe or at least operational in whatever dysfunctional home or social construct we learned it in. See? It makes perfect non-crazy sense. AND yet, it’s mad. :)

And when I say, ‘the world’ I mean that in the hyperbolic and metaphorical sense of the phrase. [ie, “the world” is the people or institutions we’re aware of in our existence; family, parents, peers, media, government, employers, employees, school officials, advertising campaigns, the medical profession, etc.]

It can’t be that bad or we’d notice this insanity. Er, Right?

When you’re dreaming, how often do you notice? Or how often do you notice – while flying in your dreams – that your flying makes no sense? In my dreams, it all makes sense. I’m flying and my best friend is a cat and I’m talking to her like she’s always been a cat. But then I wake up from my dream and it still makes sense in my mind but then I try to explain my dream and it sounds ridiculous coming out of my mouth. Are you familiar with that? It’s funny isn’t it? And only when I am awake do I realize the ‘nonsense’ [as it relates to my waking consciousness] of the dream. I can still remember the dream and remember how it made sense at the time but know it was just a dream. I look at codie madness the same way.

Everyone’s in this dream and we’re all participating; But because I began recovering from alcoholism and in order to not get numb again I was not satisfied to accept any more illusions. And hence, my codependent recovery. [I also think the HSP nervous system had a lot to do with it.]

Perhaps because it IS so slowly and yet massively indoctrinated and so rigorously accepted and culturally supported, and because we  have so many activities and technological advances [TV, XBox, Facebook, iphone, Netflix, data 24 hours a day, news 24 hours a day, etc.] and medications as fast as the pharmaceutical company can invent them, to keep our minds distracted, oblivious, and fed [maybe malnourished?], perhaps this is why we continue on in life not noticing anything as ‘the matter.’

My Story, for example, involves alcohol keeping me numb and helping me ‘stay fed’ or ‘numb’ from aged 13 [irregularly] to 15 [regularly] and on. But being genetically determined to have the ‘alcoholic’ malady, my solution spiraled into its own problem. Which was my salvation; my miracle.

Social Dis-Eases Spread

And because I DO call it a ‘social dis-ease’ due to its propagation into so many areas of life and being adopted as an acceptable manner of living its manifestations like shame, blame, or manipulation might WORK on the ‘new-to-be-recruited-into-the-codie-dis-ease’ victim. And then we have another one. This person has now learned that shame, blame, and manipulation are how things must be done; they ‘must’ control their external environment before peace, happiness, and wellness can be achieved internally AND they’ve learned properly how to do it. Then the cycle begins again as this person goes out into the world spreading ‘the message of dis-ease.’

But, me. I do well with examples. So let me offer a few along with potential messages this may send to the one receiving the message who grows up understanding and acting within a codependent paradigm:

  • “You should be ashamed of yourself.” [Message: “Shame is appropriate for when I’m not perfect.”]
  • “I can’t believe you let your brother do that!” [Message: “I am responsible for others.”]
  • “You make me mad!” [Message: “I cause anger in people. I need to learn how to not do that.”]
  • “If you do that, I will be very angry.” [Message: “I am responsible for peoples’ feelings.”]
  • “You make people sad.” [Message: “Learn what to do to not cause sadness in people.”]
  • “You’re wrong for thinking/feeling that.” [Message: “How or what I think or feel is wrong.”]
  • “Only whores wear red lipstick!” [“If I wear red lipstick people will think I’m a whore.”
  • “Only whores wear red lipstick!” [“It is okay to shame people by calling them names.”]
  • “Only whores wear red lipstick!” [“Being a whore is shameful. If I wear red lipstick, I’m shameful.”]
  • “Why do you make me angry all the time?” [“I have the power to ‘make’ people angry”.]
  • “Why do you make me angry all the time?” [“I am responsible for NOT making people angry.”]
  • “Why do you make me angry all the time?” [“What is wrong with me for making her angry all the time?”]
  • “Why do you make me angry all the time?” [Message: Anticipate others’ needs. Mind-read. Act. Do. Be Different.]
  • “Say you’re sorry.” [Someone wants you to say you’re sorry for the sake of their feeling better.]
  • “Say you’re sorry.” [You’re not sorry. But you apologize for peace.]
  • “Say you’re sorry.” [You may have real remorse, for whatever, but haven’t yet figured out why. But the one desiring you to say you’re sorry is attempting to separate your autonomy and decision-making from your actions. In fact, maybe the one making the demand doesn’t even care where you are on the inside, but thinks they need a display of contrition from you.]

Taken alone or out of context, the above quotes do not necessarily mean anything. But a constant inculcation of externally focused, shame, blame, manipulation or power plays with you at the center of them, may successfully train you into believing YOU are responsible for what people think, how they feel, and what their reaction is.

How in the world can a little person – a child – not grow up feeling inferior? How in the world can the person at the receiving end of the above messages grow up with a healthy perspective of who she is and where she fits in this world? How can the ‘above victim’ be expected to NOT try to re-arrange herself in accordance with how she perceives ‘the world’?

People are Affirmed that Blame & Shame Work

[Article: Shame, Blame, and Manipulation]

These are just verbal examples and cues that people might internalize into the ‘realistic’ way of living in the real world. News events we see that kids are killing themselves in the face of bullying often involve sexually shaming with terms like “f*ggot, sl*t, wh*re”…..And shame is powerful. Shame is so powerful that instead of facing the shaming terms, labels, or stigmatization on a daily basis at school, kids are killing themselves; Adults are killing themselves.

And sexual shaming is sickeningly effective – at least in America – due to this countries Puritanical roots; Not to overlook the fact that shaming and blaming was a brilliant tactic used by those same Puritans to keep people corralled into compliance.

Those who aren’t killing themselves are drinking alcohol, doing drugs, having anger, hurting others, having depression, having low self-esteem, going to the doctor for psychosomatic, stress, or hypochondria; Going to the doctor for numb pills, anxiety pills, or happy pills. People are self-mutilating, starving themselves, engaging in harmful sex, suffering relationship addiction OR isolation, or otherwise removing themselves from society.

Maybe we’re hearing more about this due to our technology. Maybe we have too many suffocating laws. Maybe our penal system is whacked. Maybe our food is not as nutritious as it used to be. Maybe there are too many fast food restaurants, and too many hormones in our chicken. Maybe pharmaceutical companies are making more addictive pills. Maybe the earth is overcrowded. Maybe the world really HAS gone to hell in a hand-basket. But even THAT is blame. And as long as we blame whatever we can find, we have no responsibility. And if we do not have genuine responsibility for ourselves, we have no autonomy and if we have no genuine autonomy we really are at the whim of the world. And ‘The End.’

…And Kids Grow into Adults

But being now-adults [to continue with the bully analogy of school] we’ve learned how to ‘be polite;’ We’ve learned ‘manners’ and ‘propriety’ and how to behave in society. SO…make no mistake that the illusion that we’re responsible for others or they’re responsible for us is somehow ‘magically’ undone [it’s not]…BUT it is more subtle, more subversive, and more secretive. NOW it’s not raggedly honest, but a secret, and sometimes more harmful because ‘the world’ supports it.

  • Social Networking. On Facebook, for example, I have seen many personal [as opposed to commercial pages] page admins get messages from others telling them to not post something (because it is ‘wrong.’) And while it might be making fun of a concept, a belief or just an opinion, the complainer felt it was appropriate to tell someone else they shouldn’t do that/ think that/ post that.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous. In 12 step alcoholic recovery circles – although the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t support it and, instead, speaks opposite of it – some have gotten the message that it is completely appropriate to talk down to others and that they, “are full of shit” or are “not that important” or need to “change their way of thinking.”
  • Politics and Religion. In politics, the blue blames the red and the red blames the blue. In religion, the atheists can belittle religiosity and the religiosity can belittle atheists. It’s completely “appropriate” to have anger and hate for a political party, philosophy, or religion with whom you disagree. Today’s target is yesterday’s racism and sexism. Because today we know that to call people racial or sexual slurs is outwardly rude, it’s been replaced with other outlets; More subtle.
  • Smoking. It has become appropriate to shame and scare smokers with visual aids and commercials on what might happen if one continues to smoke. And so society is cued that these people are now appropriate to shame, belittle, etc. One commercial I saw for a cessation program had Shirley telling us, “I quit smoking with ______.” and “I don’t need a crutch.” I was watching as a plump Shirley told me several times a week with this codie commercial how she didn’t need a crutch and yet her weight indicated that yes she apparently did. I was glad the marketing department regained their senses and now Shirley isn’t telling me that she doesn’t need a crutch.
  • Male bashing. Making men stupid in commercials has been a good marketing tactic for several brands I’ve noticed lately. And why not? The world has apparently adopted this view that husbands are ridiculous, stupid, and need the wife. They realize women do the shopping and so it’s okay they make the husband dumb or incompetent.
  • Mass explosion of diagnoses of ADD/ADHD Kids. So if your kid doesn’t do well sitting still all day and learning what’s force-fed her, she is probably ADD and needs medication. [Question-mark?] So a pill fixes things when someone isn’t doing what you want them to do.

And We Slip on the Masks

Discovering the MasksSo as people continue learning how ‘not to act’ within a polite society, while tacitly learning that how TO act is with increasing aggression [turned inward OR outward], blaming and shaming, and manipulating when we can, it’s become apparent that people have continued to internalize these ‘rules’ to mean more than just etiquette and good manners. We’ve learned that it is not just okay and sometimes appropriate to wear masks but to pretend EXTERNALLY something different than INTERNALLY.

The masks, in this case, are now wearing us. The tail is wagging the dog. The cart is before the horse. We don’t own the mask, the mask now owns us.

The truth is, when we get disillusioned or ‘straightened out’ internally, the external will take care of itself. As within, so without. As above, so below. On Earth as it is in Heaven.

I’m not advocating we throw our masks away.

BUT, for the codependent rule follower, I AM advocating the realization of these masks.

It’s a very personal journey in that there are different versions of codependent personalities.

The Codependent Play

Directors / The Controllers. Some people need to control, fix or manage other people or situations, directing their energy primarily externally to control the outer world. If they could just FIX enough outward situations, they would be okay and safe. And this can manifest as kind and subtle manipulation, power play manipulations, or directly shaming or confronting. Under, perhaps, the guise of “tough love” or “brutal honesty,” some personalities really think they are servicing and making you or the world a ‘better place’ while the reality remains that they’re trying to fix things to line up with what they think will bring them peace, happiness, or a sense of okayness. This mask is a version of Pride.

Actors / The Controlled. Other people need to control, fix or manage themselves, directing their energy internally to control their inner world despite the outer insanity they’re living in. If they could just FIX themselves to line up with that outer chaos or external insanity, they would be okay and safe. This can manifest as people-pleasing, egg-shell walking, extraordinary self-defeating acts of self-sacrifice, or resignation. As a rule, these people would rather harm themselves than risk alienating another person. Their mask is a version of Pride in Reverse.

Quitting the Play of Codependency

A Perfect Partnership. In a codependent system, these two need each other. Without having an actor, the director could not direct and without having a director, the actor wouldn’t need the script. Neither one could remain enmeshed in the Codependent Play.

So who’s going to quit the Codependent Play first? In my experience, the Actor does. Maybe it’s because the pride mask has more tricks than the low self-esteem one does. Maybe because suicide is sometimes the Actor’s final act and in the face of that, recovery can happen.

The Miracle of Awareness

The understanding and subsequent dispelling of codependent rules may not be easy. Depending on how long, how deep, and how inculcated you are, the nuttiness of codependent living may have conditioned your mind to think, “This is simply life.”

When I see a person who gains the miracle of realization that, “There IS a better life and I AM capable of having one,” my heart grows 5 sizes larger. It grows 5 sizes larger because it reminds me and I revisit the precise moment in which I had this miracle of awareness.

Beyind Codependency by Melody BeattieI was reading Melody Beattie’s Beyond Codependency in 2004, after I picked it up in a used bookstore out of state. It had been a very deep awareness of synchronicity, buying the book. I had recently joined Al-Anon after my sponsor had suggested my year of sobriety before attending and it was not doing it for me.

Please do not take my experience with Al-Anon as an anti-endorsement; I am expressing my experience with only one particular group. The Al-Anon literature was wonderful, but the practice of abiding what I was learning in the literature was not realized in this particular group. This group seemed more interested in either ‘fixing’ their alcoholic ( Article: Help an alcoholic to stop drinking ) or ‘keeping their alcoholic fixed.’ And being an Alcoholics Anonymous member, not only did I feel uncomfortable with their stories of people I knew, but I knew that ‘fixing’ people to make me ‘okay’ was definitely not a brainwash I wanted to entertain. That, coupled with the understanding my problems were not just being under the influence of “Alcoholics” but “Any Person” is when I’d sought out a larger umbrella.

So that when I happened upon this book after a mere weeks earlier making the decision I needed something larger, there it was. I know the title, “Beyond Codependency” suggests (to me) anyway that I am “so-o-o-o beyond it now” but it’s not that way. So that when I got around to reading it after returning home, I was amazed. For the first time – even since my over year of being sober – I genuinely felt my potential for freedom! I do not know how or why, but I will never forget where I was and the feeling of some miracle happening. It was as if every moment up until then, I’d been in a dim room (unknowing it was dim) and all of a sudden…. the brightest light had finally illuminated where I sat.

After this miracle of realization, it was easy. I told all of my close recovering alcoholic friends I finally got it! I understood my life WAS freedom and I’d never known I’d been in the dark. And THIS is the invitation I welcome for you.

“You said Codependent recovery may not be easy.”

It may not be. For me it wasn’t, but it WAS easier than getting sober.

Remember when I said in an earlier article I had (seemingly) more pain than other alcoholics in getting sober? (If not, you can check it out here: How does an HSP Get Sober? ) I theorized about why it may have been such pain for me. The good news is that once I felt this awareness of freedom, this bright light in my formerly dim room, it DID get easier. I did not know how or why it got easier except for a clear realization this was my life.

The reason any new lesson I may’ve been learning in Codependent recovery was not easy is because I was undoing life-held illusions. I had fear that people would not like my progress, and I was right. (I also had fear this would ‘kill me’ and I was wrong.) I had fear I would have to emblaze upon some new paths. And I was right. (I also had fear I would be alone doing it, and I was wrong.) I had fear I would make some errors and I was right. (I also had fear I would self-annihilate in the face of these errors and I was wrong.)

And as this process of self-care, sanity, and clarity went on, it became easier.

Highly Sensitive Person and Codependency

For the Highly Sensitive Person, the compounding of illusions is a problem. As the Sensitive Spirit struggles to operate within this world’s framework, the mind, being under the influence of codependency, remains miserable, trapped, and confused. And this is why this insidiousness – as much as I dislike the worshiping of  taxonomy and labels – needs a name. It needs a name so we can find the information we need in order to disillusion our mind from it.

My Spirit, my Truth, was fine. It was doing great – not that I would know it. Being an HSP Codie, I could not recognize it. Being under the influence of conflicting information [Spirit/Truth vs Ego/Mind/Illusions], alcohol solved it for me. And when I stopped the Mind Numb of active alcoholism and my Mind had its original messages and beliefs still in there, it screamed. It screamed loud. And I am blessed it screamed out in the suffering of itself which allowed my discovery of this term called Codependency.

In our dreams we are able to fly...a remembering of how we were meant to be.

“In our dreams we are able to fly…a remembering of how we were meant to be. “
Original Photo by Paula Chang.



  • Larry Bumgarner said:

    I have been attending Al Anon for over 30 years at a lot of different meetings. Any time someone started to talk about fixing the alcoholic they were stopped and told that this was for the co dependent and not for fixing the alcoholic. I believe that you may have been only perceiving it to be the way you write in this article. Larry

  • Samsara (author) said:

    My perceptions and observations of events are certainly open to interpretation. And most Al-Anon groups could not possibly be the type I was in regular attendance of, for months. We have only waning group here and in an A.A. clubhouse – and it certainly does feel to be more of a ‘babysitting the spouse club’ than a real group in the solution.

    Not every single meeting was like that. And the language in the meeting certainly wasn’t ‘openly’ trying to ‘fix anyone’ but yes, much advice was given in the form of Dr. Phil or other self-help books and authors to either the Al-Anon or to the Al-Anon in trying to help her alcoholic. I almost left the group upon first going because it was so ridiculous but my sponsor assured me that that WASN’T ‘al-anon’ and that I could also learn from “good bad examples.” So I stayed until I branched out into Codie Recovery.

    And thank you very much for your experience that that is not how Al-Anon meetings are supposed to be.

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