Codependency – What is it?
Codependency is the most insidious, insane, and spreadable mind disease I see in this world. From it stems all sorts of unexamined beliefs, mindless practices, painful behaviors and judgmental attitudes that continue to perpetuate its thriving.
From Recovery Books to Spiritual Teachers, I see they are trying to get those doing the seeking to cast off what other people may do or say. From my alcoholic recovering friends, I see people speaking on and struggling with their relationships, often going back to get drunk over their ultimate powerlessness over their inability to claim personal autonomy.
I see women, recovered from bulimia for years, eventually getting back to it when they become enmeshed back into relationships they can’t seem to manage well enough to assert their boundaries. I see my friends and relatives turning to alcohol and drugs for whatever reason they may arrive at, but I notice it when their relationships fall apart or are incapable of being managed well.
Enabling / Care-Taking
‘Enabling’ is a large pattern of codependency ( codependent behaviors) that is not relegated to only alcoholism or drug-addiction. Parents do it to children. Romantic partners – or one partner – do it. Some friends do it. Some people do it with strangers! So what is it and why is ‘enabling’ such a negative thing?
Enabling – the original definition and meaning – is not bad; In fact, it is quite wonderful. We love and it is loving to enable those we love to succeed and have positive beliefs about themselves in this world. We enable our children’s happiness and security by providing a safe home and open communication. We enable a fostering of trust and respect with our partner when we have conversations in truth, rather than sarcasm or calling names, or the icey silence of non-communication. We may enable shy people to open up when we smile and offer a genuine compassion. We enable our sick grandmother to have some comfort during her illness by bringing her soup and offering to take care of her.
When enabling may not be wonderful. When we pretend we don’t notice our loved ones mistreating us or others in the home, it may be that we’re enabling them to continue. When we don’t encourage children to express themselves, it may be that we’re enabling their learning to keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves. When we don’t teach our children responsibility or consequences, it may be that we are enabling them to believe that the world will revolve around their behavior, despite its level of social or lawful acceptability. When we speak badly about our partner to anyone who will listen, it may be that we’re enabling ourselves or our partner to become the subject of gossip within our circle of friends.
When enabling has evolved into a hallmark characteristic of codependency. When we inadvertently encourage, actively support, or deny a situation that is causing harm to ourselves or others but think we are helping.
Codependency is Dysfunction
Codependency used to be a term we’d label a personality who was enmeshed with another human being in a cycle of addiction. A codependent was an enabler while the addict was just the addict. This no longer satisfies me in the least to understand it this way. And to understand it this way lets others being victimized by patterns of codependency (without addiction) think they’re crazy when they re not.
New Dise-Ease of Codependency Definition: Any belief or action that would have a person or people blame, shame, belittle, or otherwise intend to harm another human being or beings for their problems, feelings or issues. I’ll be so bold as to say that 100% of problems I see in the world regarding relationships with self or relationships with others are due to learned patterns of codependency. And from that primary dis-ease is how other patterns of self-abuse or other-abuse arise.
Do you see how, with the above new definition it’s a ping-pong ball? It’s simpler with the above definition because it now includes bullying, physical abuse, sarcasm, and now every form of dysfunctional relationship. Whether one is the Controller or the Controlled, for purposes of this discussion, it does not matter; Both would be engaging in codependent dis-ease, whether for survival of life [victim of physical abuse] or in trying to control [abuser]. We can certainly say one of them might be served being locked up while another might benefit from counseling but analyzing the ‘why’ and ‘judging’ is also not the purpose of this discussion. My message on this page is to convey how easily it is spread and how people often do not even know they are in the middle of the dis-ease.
Codependency is not a Disease, but is a Perpetuated Dis-Ease.
Whether we learned painful patterns from our family of origin, society, school, or less than healthy relationships, the fact is, we learned them, probably unthinkingly. We began reacting to name-calling. We began name-calling back. We hated when people were sarcastic to us so we were sarcastic right back. We began to ‘give as good as we got’ because these feelings of anger, shame, sadness were unacceptable to sit with and why should we since they were always someone else’s fault anyway?
But the words took their toll. The mistreatment was the new normal. Walking on eggshells was what we did. Some of us never talked about it. What would be the point? Others of us talked about it to anyone who would listen and still, nothing changed. Some of us threw ourselves into the FantasyLand of whatever we could find to out-run or numb our pain.
- ‘Self Harming’ examples – alcohol, drugs, video games, sex, overeating, undereating, self-mutilation, over-exercise
- ‘Encouraged by Society’ examples – work, school, reading, church, religion, spirituality, charities, volunteering
- ‘Other Harming’ examples – verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, demeaning and belittling of others, bullying
And of course, harming self and harming others are clearer indications of trouble, while society perpetuates it’s good to ‘help others’ and ‘throw yourself into work and volunteering’ so that the person using those activities to escape her ‘self’ may never have the opportunity to meet her ‘self.’ And not all people desire to meet ‘their self’ or their issues and this is okay, too.
Codependent Recovery is Freedom from Bondage
If you want freedom from the bondage of codependent dis-ease, you can have it. But be careful reading this with someone else in mind as needing it. If you think someone else needs codependent recovery so you feel better, this is one quirk of codependence and you, yourself, might benefit!
There may be some people reading this thinking, “I’m printing this out to show my husband that he is escaping because he plays golf every Saturday!” This would be a negative. If you are so focused on what you think another person needs, what is that you need? Sure I have thoughts, ideas, and opinions on what I think other people might benefit from. I just don’t necessarily believe them or obsess on them or tell them they need it. And if I do believe my thoughts and am SURE of what someone needs, this is exactly my clue that I need to get back to my own self.
Sometimes I need more sleep than usual. [Whether it’s my need for decompression after over-stimulation (ie, Highly Sensitive nature) or my chronic fevers from EBV… I no longer really offer an excuse.] My and my beloved’s first Christmas together I had the first 9 – 5 job I’d ever had. I had nearly left this earthly incarnation and was still depleted due to an E. Coli infestation of my organs back in June – September. I was still mourning my animals I’d given up in separating from my prior partner and now was going to have the first Christmas in years without seeing my parents. My HSP was way overstimulated on this particular day as I’m feeling all this energy and hearing all these noises. I was tired, drained, emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted and in great need of a nap while his family was at our home. I tried to stay participating for as long as I could when I realized I was doing that only because I feared “What it might look like if I got up and took a nap.” Having enough codependent recovery practice at that time, I knew that fear of what someone might think was not a healthy reason to not take care of myself. After about two hours of this inner wrestling, I finally mustered the courage to go take a nap. He follows me into the bedroom and tells me I am being selfish.
I woke up from my nap angry. (Didn’t he know how hard I’d tried to stay present?) His statement provoked intensely unpleasant feelings in me, that looked like, “What? HE’s being selfish and codependent on his parents by wanting me to put aside my NEEDS for his WANTS.” and and “He needs to realize how tired I am.” and “He needs to quit worrying about what his parents might think because I am having a nap.” and “I cannot believe he would try to shame me into staying awake!” It would not be long after that episode that I realized I had become enmeshed and patterned back into Codependency.
So that when a couple of years later, again, I am going up the stairs to take a nap, he says again and fully meaning it again, “You’re selfish.” I remember I paused on the stairs, looked at him and replied, “Yes. I am. I am the most selfish person I know.” And I continued up the stairs and had my nap.
I woke up from my nap refreshed and happy. Yes, I still could (and can) appreciate the irony that ‘his selfishness’ was calling ‘me selfish’ and I could fully appreciate it for the cute little innocent ego it was because he was telling me the truth. My gratitude was in realizing his words did not provoke my ego that time. And love came in when I realized I was without even the desire to defend myself (ego) in that similar moment, unlike the few years earlier. AND I had no thoughts that I had before at all. Not even close. I was not mad at him. My feelings were not hurt. And THAT is what Freedom is. THAT is what Codependent Recovery feels like.
This is a perfect example of my Living Samsara (until I’m not); When I reach a higher level of understanding, I reflect back involuntarily and instantaneously – like a flash of images – to almost precisely similar instances in the past in which I was operating from pain, ego, or lower understanding. It’s in these moments of ‘flash’ that I have burned out some samskaras (obstacles in my life) because I do not get repeat performances or ‘opportunities’ as I no longer need them.
The label of ‘codependent’ should never be thrust onto anyone. lest the one doing the thrusting is engaging in patterns of shaming, judging, and blaming which are three beautiful codependent communication styles! Do you love the irony?
The Solution is “Getting Back to You”
The problem is we’re taught that to take care of ourselves first and most is a bad thing. As a result we have socially learned viruses being spread like a fire in dry brush. So. We sacrifice until it hurts, we stay in abusive relationships, we give money until we’re broke, and we’re taught a really neat word along the way in order to keep us doing these insane behaviors that keep us in pain or close to suicide and that word is selfish. And society uses it to shame you into acts of submission while people in your life use it to control you into doing their bidding. Neat trick huh?
A Dis-Ease of Learning & Harmful Messages
Undo Illusions. Replace with Truth.
We all have our gifts. And that is the primary message of recovering from Codependency: To be the best possible us we want to be; autonomous, sentient, with our own voice, mistakes, history, truth, and self. And to not take on others who invite us to feel shame. Codependency is a lie because it aggravates our natural gifts and turns them into painful liabilities. It fools us into believing that if we can just change this about ourselves or that about ourselves – even if we could or would – that we would have what we wanted and we would finally be happy.
Illusions: If I could look like Barbie, I would be happy. If I could be more compassionate I would have more friends. If I don’t talk a lot people will like me. If I lose 20 more pounds my life would be good. If I pretend to like coffee, he’ll love me. [On a personal note, I knew a woman who pretended to like coffee so a recovering alcoholic would go have coffee with her.] If I could just learn to not be tired and need sleep…or maybe I can find a speed pill so he will not be upset with me and call me selfish – which hurts my feelings…. These conditions for happiness, peace, or serenity or whatever we think we’re looking for are like a hamster wheel. “Run, Forrest! Run!”
Truth: We have everything in the world in order to be happy right now – it resides inside of you and it resides in me. We’ve just been clouded; We can’t see our truth because we’ve lived in lies and illusions for so long it’s becomes the point from where we operate. How did we get to these lies and how do we stop operating from them? The first question is easy. We got them from whichever socializing units operated from them themselves. And those units learned it from their units and so forth – so it’ s not about blaming or shaming. It’ s about stopping the cycle now. And you can.
We just need to ‘un-confuse’ ourselves.
When my fear of ‘staying in hell’ outgrew my fear of change, this was when I knew I was willing to go through any pain of un-confusing myself. I learned terms like boundaries, ‘not my business’, detachment, ‘letting people be where they were’, ‘letting me be where I was’, self-acceptance, other-acceptance, ‘sitting with the pain,’ and ‘spiritual growth.’ I learned new activities and behaviors like saying no, saying ‘i don’t know,’ saying ‘i don’t care’ or ‘it doesn’t matter;’ I learned to not gossip on myself, to take care of myself even if the world would not help me. But all of these terms or behaviors were only a vehicle for my getting into my own integrity, my own business.
Integrity vs. Voice of Knowledge and Ego
We feel from our integrity, our spark of divinity. God. Our voice of knowledge is what tries to make the sense of it. And unfortunately, that voice is colored and jaded. It’ll tell you, “You shouldn’t be angry. Nice girls don’t get angry.” So you listen – or so you think – and you really think you’re no longer angry or you never were or you’re not. Later that night as you’re reaching for the 5th glass of wine [5th line of some drug, 5th piece of pie…] you’re remembering or refeeling something so deep down and maybe you can’t recognize it, but you certainly feel “off” and that same voice is now telling you “You deserve this. Have another glass.” So when you wake up not remembering the night before and hungover here goes your voice again: “You are such a piece of crap! I can’t believe you did that.” See how your voice of knowledge abuses? (I use that interchangeably with the term ‘Ego.’)
I felt angry one day and someone asked me what was wrong. I got mad. I got mad in that moment and recognized why. I recognized it was because I did not know and I felt like I was expected to know. I learned that day that I don’t need to have the words. Because I was a new baby on my path, I can be okay not knowing and the truth is even closer than I may think. My voice of knowledge – I used to call it my mother voice, and I have friends who lovingly call it “Satan” – tells a story and tries to make sense of my experiences and before any sort of recovery from the worldly domination in my life I realized that the story it told was one of justification. It might try even today to justify and so I looked at that agreement one day and I decided to disagree.
“Truth doesn’t need a defense. The Lie doesn’t deserve one.” ~ Samsara
Codependency, I believe, is a world problem. It’s spread so easily, it seems, from person to person. We have these expectations of people and we seem to train them to be their most unauthentic self. Then the person dutifully trained spreads her virus into her world and so it goes. It manifests so many ways and words like “blame” and “shame” and “should” are some of the hallmarks of its presence. Going deeper than just recovering from a particularly sick relationship we may happen to have in our life I believe it’s discovering our authenticity to the fullest extent possible in every day matters. It’s deciding whether I want to agree with a former agreement I may have had. It’s deciding to not necessarily believe my voice of knowledge when it’s abusing me, and by extension not believing anyone else’s.
Codie Recovery Resources
- What is Codependency? – Start here.
- Words Can Harm. Words Can Heal. – This 7 part series shows examples of how we blame others and how to not.
All Articles Filed Under Codependency [Also in the right sidebar]
Social Media Plagiarism in Recovery (June 29, 2015) Jane’s Husband Drinks Too Much – A Comic (April 18, 2015) Codependent Love Meme: The Truth of Love and the Filthy Heart (December 12, 2014) “Life is Hard!” (Does the Undead Look Easy?) (October 27, 2014) Sharing While High in Alcoholics Anonymous (May 9, 2014) Sanity as An INFP Highly Sensitive Person (April 4, 2014) Having Feelings is Not the Problem (March 28, 2014) 12th Step – Carrying the Message of Chaos (November 25, 2013) How Do You Know When to Draw the Line? (October 17, 2013) How to Change Other People (October 10, 2013) Enabling (September 6, 2013) Prescription Drugs and Painkillers in Alcoholics Anonymous (August 17, 2013) Codependent Insanity – “Am I Living in Codependency?” (May 16, 2013) How to Get Self Esteem & Self Acceptance (While Being Yourself) (March 6, 2013) Never Explain Anything (March 5, 2013) How does an HSP get sober? (January 18, 2013) Zen Story – Hakuin says “Is that so?” (December 4, 2012) Accepting Yourself Despite What Others Think (November 19, 2012) Help an Alcoholic Stop Drinking (November 9, 2012) Codependent on Codependency (or Codie People) (October 30, 2012) Not Everyone Should Like Me (June 30, 2012) Engaging in Risky Sexual Behavior (June 27, 2012) Codependents Guide to the Twelve Steps (June 26, 2012) What People Think of Me is None of my Business (July 4, 2008) A Relative’s Alcoholic Drinking Problem – A Memoir (May 20, 2008) Release from the Opinions of other People (May 8, 2008) Sensitivity in an Insensitive World (May 2, 2008) Taking Care of Ourselves from Codependency (April 27, 2008) Rumors and Gossip Versus The Truth (February 19, 2008) Saying ‘No.’ Sometimes it’s an Entire Chapter. (September 4, 2007) Controlling Codependent Bitch (March 29, 2007) Peace at All Costs (March 25, 2007) Shame, Blame and Manipulation [Words Can Harm – Part 6] (September 15, 2006) It’s All About Me! I am the Most Important Person! (August 16, 2006) Quit Punishing Me (July 31, 2006) Manifesting Self-Illness and Reflections on Karma (June 5, 2006) What is Codependency? (April 30, 2006) The HSP, Alcoholic, or Controlling Partner (April 22, 2006) Sadness Versus Insanity (January 17, 2006)
Books to Regain Sanity & Serenity Despite Where you Currently Are