Is it possible to heal codependency? By George Hartwell (416) 939-0544 Of course codependency can be healed. But it is a Fixed Life Pattern (Schema) developed in childhood, deeply rooted in traumatic childhood memories. So a better term than healing might be total life change. This requires life transformation. Codependency is a personality pattern that was developed in childhood. With psychotherapy you can shake it and assert yourself as a more balanced and authentic person. It is not an addiction. It is not a disease. It does not cause any immediate herm to yourself or others. The ‘Codependent’ is a supportive person in a relationship with an addict. The addict is the dependent - dependent on drugs or alcohol. The codependent is the friend, partner or spouse of the addict. that is all there is to it. Well there is a personality pattern that is somewhat dysfunctional but what is new? Most of us start life with some pattern like that. There are aspects of the pattern that you can begin to shift yourself. Do more self care. Get help setting better boundaries. Learning to deal with the critical inner parent voice in your head. Al-anon should be a great place to get insight and pointers about the pattern. It is there to help you change. follow the 10 step program. It is about change and a great program.
Why is it so hard to Cure Codependency Issues?
Why is it so hard to cure codependency issues, you say. Good question. Do you believe that our lives get set on a particular path in childhood? I do. Do you believe that some drive or motivation arising in childhood can be so strong that it remains the key driving force in a person’s life? I do. Do you think a personality pattern can be established in childhood that has the momentum to continue for half a life-time? I do. Now codependency fits right into the above patterns. It is part of a path that is set in childhood. It reflects a motivation or drive established in childhood. In fact it is one aspect of a personality pattern that has been established in childhood. The fact that codependency is a reflection of a fixed personality pattern provides a clue as to why is is so hard to change. People live within the perceptions, beliefs and emotion of their personality. It is not so easy to ‘look in a mirror’ and be different. As a psychotherapist I have made it part of my mission in life to discern and understand personality patterns. It is also part of my mission to guide people in recognizing and transforming their personality pattern. Psychotherapy with those stated objectives cannot be undertaken by anyone. It is a job for a highly skilled professional. The understanding of how to transition out of personality patterns is not widespread even among professional counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists. So do not be surprised that it is hard to cure on one’s own and may even take some time working with a professional. A 12 Step Group can help be raising awareness and providing support and accountability. These are big steps in the direction of a cure.
You can write to me directly using my email ghartwell (at) rogers.com. Phone or in person sessions phone (416) 939-0544.
What are the primary concerns of codependent people? Codependent people are first of all ordinary loving people who have the same concerns as everyone else. They are not freaks. Remember that the codependent is someone who cares for other. They are responsible and nurturing people. If you were married to a codependent one of your concerns might be that they are always off helping someone and not looking after you and the family. They like to help so much that it becomes a problem. You might find that your codependent is so concerned about keeping the family peaceful that they are not open and direct about matters that might lead into a conflict. They might try to quietly control things rather than allow openness. The Codependent is likely highly self-critical. they live with much internal blame and judging. Associated with that the Codependent takes the blame for things that go wrong, say ‘sorry’ a lot and feel responsible for fixing whatever went wrong. The primary concern of the Codependent is other people. The Codependent is highly motivated to care for others. The want to keep others safe and secure. The Codependent wants to create peace and order. The downfall of the Codependent is that they do not take care of themselves. This is a real vulnerability - the hidden vulnerability of the Codependent.
What do you think about love and codependence? Aren't they strongly similar in some ways? Love is an adult experience of an important childhood experience - deep trust bonding adult to adult. In childhood our emotional intelligence grew as we grew and as we knew the secure home base of a family attachments. Now, in adulthood, we leave home and develop a secure adult to adult family attachment. This love relationship involves both dependence and independence. A rich love relationship can grow between two individual who have formed their adult identity and know who they are. As it forms they develop a healthy dependence - an emotional support system - that undergirds their continued individuation. A lover allows their partner to be free to be themselves - independence A lover encourages their partner’s self-expression and growth - supportive dependence. (Which people confuse with codependence, which is an entirely different topic.)
Question: Is my dog codependent? Dogs bond to their pack and are loyal to the pack leader. This is healthy mutual dependence. Perfectly normal. Humans also need people to trust and bond to. That is how we create families. This is also healthy dependence and is perfectly normal. Codependents are not dependent people. Addicts are the dependent ones. The one who cares for the addict - their responsible partner - is the one called a codependent. That can be normal loving behaviour and be perfectly normal.
Question: Why am I codependent if I didn't grow up in an alcoholic household? Answer: Well, you need to answer a few questions and then you may know why you are a codependent, or what I call the Super-Responsible. The reason alcoholics create the super-responsible in children is that they, at times, are not acting as responsible adults. They are out of commission. They are acting like children or falling asleep. They are not keeping the children safe and the household in order. Now how did your parents do at keeping your childhood safe and secure? Did you parents provide order and act responsible? Did your parents function as parents so you could function as a child and not get drawn into being responsible for order, safety etc? Or did they function like children so that you got drawn into creating peace and order in the household/ These questions will help you explore your family background. Does that provide any clues to an answer?
Question: What contributes to the development of codependency in a personality? Answer: Codependency is not a learned behaviour it is a personality pattern emerging from a childhood family in some kind of chaos. The codependent as a child felt the need to stabilize the family - to bring order. They started to adjust their life to help bring peace, safety and order to their family. This became their role in the family. Their role in the family became their personality pattern. As adults they still see their life mission as helping fix people and being there for others. First, the childhood family was chaotic. Then this child responded by trying to fix it, by taking responsibility to keep things together. Once they kept this up through all of their childhood, it became to do the same as an adult. The codependent is an adult with the tendency to want to fix (rescue) people, with poor boundaries, poor self-care and over investment of all one’s resources in others.
Question: What is a Codependent? Answer: A codependent does not have a mental disorder.A codependent is someone who is in a relationship with an addict/dependent and in that relationship their function is to support, care for and even rescue their partner. So a codependent might be married to an alcoholic and trying to hold the family together and perhaps help their partner with their life. To be codependent is like having a life script or theme that you have to fulfill. You have to make things better in whatever situation you are in and you get into situations where you need to help someone struggling with a problem. You try to help them.
Question: Is it possible to cure codependency? Answer: Yes, codependency is a deeply rooted personality pattern. The experiences of the Emotional Brain fully support this choice of role in life. Listen carefully. The Emotional Brain does not change because you tell it to, because you affirm different beliefs or because you choose different behaviours. But it can change. New experiences can prod the Emotional Brain to change because it trust real experience not theory. A 12 step program will help because the program works. It starts with humility of recognition, surrender, self-examination and goes on to helping others. Like the Al-Anon program. Various forms of psychotherapy and Christian Prayer Therapy are effective in facilitating changes in the Emotional Brain. These are getting more effective as the research of the last 20 years has shown us which methods work and gives us clear reasons why they work.
Question: What are some Practical Ways not to be a Codependent? Answer: First we need to put the goal in more practical and achievable terms. I define codependant as someone with a variety of personality dynamics and characteristics that are rooted in a childhood set of experiences and unconscious beliefs. What that means is that really good resources are needed to make fundamental change. You might look for an AlAnon group. They will understand codependency. You may find a counsellor or therapist that you can work with and begin the process. I can throw in a few self-help suggestions as well: 1. Make a list or write in a journal ways that you can practice self-care, have fun, recreation, time for yourself, etc. 2. Keep track of the ways you, or the negative voice in your head, negates you, criticizes you, shames you and what does it sound like. This is your Critical Parent, or your Inner Judge or your Worry Generator. 3. Learn to say 'No' to some of the many things that people want you to. Substitute Some practical self-care activities.
4. Notice your self-talk when you say 'No' to a request or need. Make a list or journal keeping track of those internal voices.
Question: What's the difference between being receptive and caring to your partners needs vs being codependent? This is a good question. If one gets too focused on being codependent, as if it was some kind of disease, then you start to question everything associated with codependency. Maybe file this under ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.’ Of course caring is good, acceptable and a healthy part of any relationship. Just because we have invented a label don’t go around trying NOT to be codependent. If you are codependent, in the sense I mean it, then it is a deep personality pattern. It may not be so easy to snap out of it. The pattern may have becomes one’s identity, life mission and a fixed life pattern. You can’t easily just step out of it. Caring for another is good whether within or without codependency. There are two ways that we get problems. If there is someone in relationship to the codependent who wants to grow up and take responsibility for themselves the codependent needs to get out of the parent role and let the other grow up. Second, if the codependent is neglecting their own needs then they too need to grow up. However, for the codependent to grow up they need to be less parent and more childlike. They need to take care of themselves.