Friday, July 23, 2010

Codependence

Most people I know have no idea what codependence means. In fact, blogger does not even recognize the term. Here is the short definition from the wikipedia link:

Codependency or codependence is a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways that negatively impact one's relationships and quality of life. It also often involves putting one's needs at a lower priority than others while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others.

This post may not be really entertaining, as it is meant to be informative. I wish I would have heard of codependency a long time ago, as my recent study of codependency has made me an extremely healthier person. If you have known me for any length of time, you know codependent behavior. I fit the "controlling" part of codependency to a tee.
Control patterns:

  • I believe most other people are incapable of taking care of themselves.
  • I attempt to convince others of what they "should" think and how they "truly" feel.
  • I freely offer others advice and directions without being asked.
  • I lavish gifts and favors on those I care about.
  • I have to be "needed" in order to have a relationship with others.

Here is a little blossom analogy to help myself past trying to control. A few years back the girls and I were at my friend Valerie's house. Her tree was full of gorgeous blooms. I lined my girls up for a great photo op. For over ten minutes, I kept telling them EXACTLY how to sit, look, and act. I got some good photos. It was so important to me to have that picture perfect photo. At the time, I wasn't in touch with WHY this was so important to me. Through therapy I have finally discovered my need to be loved...part of that is my need to look perfect. I perpetuate that onto my family.

Aren't they just about perfect? God has been good to me.



Well, after we were through with the torture session, the kids were free to be themselves again.
I kept shooting. They got into a blossom fight. It was so enjoyable to watch them have fun. It dawned on me that I had controlled them out of having fun for ten minutes. I was now getting BETTER photos with REAL expressions. And they were HAPPY. At that very moment, I realized that I was my own worst enemy. I had issues.



It was an ah-ha moment. I didn't get to put a name to it until a year or so later. Codependency. Codependency has given me so much grief throughout my whole life. It has kept me from being happy so many times. It has also kept many of my loved ones from the happiness they deserve.

Codependents are people who need to be loved. Pure and simple. Many codependents are closely involved with addicts. I am not talking about the addicts in my life in this post. Maybe another time, but I am addressing my co-dependency. Why? Because people need to understand. Why not?

It is hard to know which comes first, a codependent or an addict. It is almost like that old riddle about the chicken or the egg. It is however easy to understand why codependents and addicts are attracted to each other like teenagers on Friday night. Addicts are a mess. Codependents are a mess. They feed off of each other. Codependents pick up all the pieces all the time. Addicts dish out all the problems. Codependents thrive on being needed because that makes them feel loved. Addicts need a codependent to help them to remain an addict. There is no one better to love or need a codependent more than a person with a bunch of problems.

Sometimes codependents create addicts. People get sick of being controlled and they rebel in form of addictions: alcoholism, abusiveness, sex addiction, gambling...they turn into addictions as a way of escaping the damage that their codependent loved one has etched into their sensitive soul.

I am working very hard at not being a codependent. I don't want to be that person. I don't want to be the one who needs to be needed. I don't want to be the one who has to control. I also don't want to enable others. Most assuredly, I don't want to negatively impact the people around me, especially the people who I love the most.

I mostly don't want to be the crazy witch that goes nuts when everyone and everything she has been trying to hold together falls apart. I don't want to take responsibility for others' actions. I want to take responsibility for my own.

I don't want to need to be loved. I want to love myself. I want my love and God's love to be enough because anything I get on top of that is like an amazing overtime paycheck. I don't want to suck all the energy from everyone in my life because no matter how much they love me, it's never enough.

I will not be codependent any more because I want to be whole. I don't want to be broken.

And more than anything, I want my children to be able to live lives full of carefree fun. I don't want them to have to worry about their old mom who needs them so badly. I want them to be able to make mistakes and know that it won't destroy their mother. I want them to know that their mom is happy, confident, and healthy, and that they can rely on her.

I encourage you to go to the link at the top of this page. Read about codependency. Educate yourselves so that you can recognize bad patterns and stop them before you do irreparable damage to yourself, your spouse, or your children. I think everyone has codependency to one degree or another, so it wouldn't hurt to learn about it. And, even if you aren't a codependent, I am sure that you know one, or two, or twenty, and it will help you to understand and love them better to be more aware of their challenges.

And you gotta admit it, you know you love me even more after reading this post. Even if I don't need you to love me any more.

5 comments:

ShEiLa said...

Everytime you write on this subject I can't help but think I am codependent.

I love your blossom analogy. I think your family is perfect... and that means not picture perfect all the time (mine sure isn't) but perfect in your love for each other.

ToOdLeS.

ps. I gotta give this some thought and research. Hmmmmm. There you go making me think again.

JoAnn said...

Interesting thoughts and I agree that it's always good to try to overcome any controlling ways that we have. But, I have to disagree with you on one point:

"Sometimes codependents create addicts. People get sick of being controlled and they rebel in form of addictions: alcoholism, abusiveness, sex addiction, gambling...they turn into addictions as a way of escaping the damage that their codependent loved one has etched into their sensitive soul.

No one can cause someone else to become an addict. Addictions stem from deep seated issues that usually occur in childhood. Casting even a shadow of blame on partners or spouses, who are actually trauma victims in these relationships is unfair, unjustified and harmful.

The COSA co-dependent myth is as outdated as Freud's penis envy. I have many articles posted on these subjects on my blog:

www.marriedtoasexaddict.com

and I would love to hear any thoughts or input.

Thanks. JoAnn

Alice Wills Gold said...

JoAnn,

I appreciate your input. It sounds like you are a lot more versed in this subject than I am. Sometimes I just throw my opinion out there loosely.

Maybe I should do more research before I open my big mouth. I guess my philosophy is that a codependent can cause an addict to relapse...would that be fair? Just as an addict can cause a codependent to relapse.

I am going to be checking out your blog some more.

Thanks for your comment and for the clarification.

nicole m. said...

Thanks for posting Alice. I agree that we all have codependant tendancies. All of us have the need to be loved & accepted. However not all of us allow those feelings to overwhelm our lives.
Subjects like this are confusing because our "lables" we use to define us often are incomplete or are tied to other problems.
I understand where JoAnne is coming from. It is a very slippery slope for a codependant to then take on the responsiblity for making someone an addict. A person can not make someone an addict. However a codependant can contribute to addiction & also can contribute to the unhealthy behaviours which lead someone into addiction. Case in point..... my mother was a codependant (along with many other things)& what that meant for me growing up was that I could do nothing right. If she didnt feel loved, it was my fault. I wasnt doing enough. After awhile I did start looking for ways to escape those feelings of inadequacies. So where perhaps an adult can not be made an addict by another codependant adult; a child/teen can be negatively influenced by codependant adults and thus form addictive behaviours. Then that goes back to the "What came first?" question. I personally have started looking at it a little differently. I think there is no way to answer that question. Co-dependance, addiction & other disorders are products of sin's affect on us humans. So which came first.... sin did & we have been paying the price for it ever since.

Telios said...

Alice-

Much of what you wrote here about codependence I agree with and I suffer with.
The controlling part is me as well , not exactly, but some of the aspects you share I am aware I have a problem with , like the thinking I can tell someone how they should feel or think, very invalidating.
I have recently read an excellent book on validating others without having to control them or thinking you have to control them. The book is , "I don't have to make everything better" .

Karen