Having trouble saying no, paying someone else’s way before your own, and putting your energy into others before yourself are signs of codependent being. This way of being can lead to feeling out of control, empty, and never good enough.
If your childhood was disorganised, stressful, and even chaotic, you could be living with codependency. If you find yourself in relationships where you take the blame, don’t feel supported or acknowledged, and want more than anything to “make it better” – you could be taking away from your own wellness in order to be “good.”
Signs of Codependency
The main concern of someone who lives with codependence is that their outer life is in harmony. They want the people in their lives to be happy, and happy with them at almost any price.
- Feel guilty about saying no and have a hard time doing that, sometimes avoiding circumstances that may lead to confrontation or saying yes when you mean no
- Feel responsible when other people are upset, this may be frightening and draining
- “Is this ok?” – not wanting to upset anyone, cause any disagreement, or disharmony to another people or group by stating your needs, preferences, or opinions.
- Blame yourself when other people feel negative and take on responsibility for how they are feeling
- Change yourself to avoid conflict
- Focus on being good and kind, often at the expense of your own needs
- Confused about who you are and what you want
- Stressful and painful relationships
- Struggle to pull people up on their bad behaviour, and maybe don’t even recognise that you have been mistreated
- The feeling that you are not good enough, never measure up, and need to please in order to be loveable, have peace, or be safe.
- Changing and adapting yourself to make things better
- Putting other people’s needs above your own, at your own expense
- The sense that if just pour yourself into someone else’s problems, that will solve the problem
- Difficulty holding other people accountable to their actions, bad behaviour, or boundary violations and making excuses for them
Where Does Codependency Come From?
Codependency is created through wounding. It’s a way of being that puts other people’s needs above your own, very often at the expense of what’s good for you and beyond your means.
Codependency is learned in childhood. When you were hurt, your hand was not held. Your inner life did not get any attention, and you got used to that feeling. You were expected to manage everyone else’s hurt, pain, and disorder. Family life was emotionally disorganised, and you were left holding the emotional bag.
You may have blamed yourself for the problems at home, or taken on the job of fixing them. You may have been the caretaker of your mother or father, and taken on the role of parent when you were just a child.
That job was too big a task for a small child. It’s one thing to learn responsibility by taking care of a pet, learning how to do some chores, and helping to tuck in your little brother at night. It’s quite another to feel like your well being depends on your ability to keep mom stable or dad happy.
As a child, it’s scary when your parents are not well. It can be confusing when parents are chronically upset – and it’s natural to want to heal it. Our natural compassion can become twisted when as children our parents fail to take responsibility for their own emotional lives.
This can look like being unfairly punished, being at the mercy of a parent’s mood, or feeling invisible due to “bigger problems” in the family like addiction, trauma, or poverty.
Life became about what was going on around you rather than what was going on inside of you. As a result, you lost touch with your inner life aka your true self. Your true self was replaced by the urgency to care take, and taking on the responsibility of soothing everyone’s bumps and bruises. Your true self was lost to emotional wounding.
This lead to patterns of avoiding conflict, avoiding challenges, becoming compliant with other people’s wishes and becoming addicted to pleasing.
How to Heal Codependency
The first step to heal codependency recognising what is going on. If life feels unmanageable, there is a reason and this reason can be healed when properly recognised.
Codependency means that you lack a clear sense of who you are. The big people in your life could not recognise your emotional needs, boundaries, or identity leaving you feeling invisible and confused. You were not properly seen when you were a child so part of healing is to reconnect with yourself and rebuild.
Start journalling. Get back in touch with your true nature. Find time to sit with pen and paper and reflect on the questions “Who am I?” and “What do I want?”
Getting support can help. It’s good to be with people! Feeling isolated and alone makes it harder to access those positive resources that are locked up inside of you. You may want to check out Codependents Anonymous.
Healing from codependency is about reconnecting with your real needs and learning how to honour them. Inner child work will help you to heal the wounds that caused this disconnect.
Psychotherapy can support this process. Working with a qualified healer can also help you find and address the unconscious beliefs and wounded children that run your life. (For example feeling that you don’t deserve your own energy, that everything is your fault, or that you are unworthy of love and attention).
Take little risks to build your confidence. Buy that book you’ve been nervous to touch, order that tea you’ve been feeling self-conscious to order, take amoment each day to ask yourself “what do I need” and meet that need (whether it’s to have a seat, a glass of water, or a bit of fresh air).
Boundary work is an important part of establishing a clear and strong selfhood. Getting back in touch with your true self means telling the truth about who you are, what you want, and what you need.
Rachel Anenberg, BA (Psyc), BSW, MSW (Master of Social Work) is a psychotherapist and spiritual coach providing integrative therapy. Her expertise as a psychotherapist come from a combined background and education in psychology, social work, and soul sciences.
Psychotherapy with Rachel can help you to heal depression, treat anxiety, recover from child abuse, adult abuse & narcissistic abuse. Genuine happiness is often out of reach because of unhealed past experiences. Psychotherapy can help you to get in control and feel naturally happy.