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How would you define codependency?

Old 02-21-2011, 12:39 PM
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How would you define codependency?

I've started reading "Codependent no more" by Melodie Beattie as recommended by so many people here.

Chapter 3 addressed definitions of codependency. Here are some of the highlights of the chapter:

Some relationships are the slow, dark dance of death.

Codependency is "An emotional, psychological, and behavioral condition that develops as a result of an individual prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules--rules which prevent the open expression of feeling as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems."

Codependency means I am up to my elbows in alcoholics.

Codependency? It means I know any man I'm attracted to, fall in love with, or marry will be chemically dependent or have some other equally serious problem."

The co-dependent spouse or child or lover of someone who was chemically dependent was seen as having developed a pattern of coping with life that was not healthy, as a reaction so someone else's drug or alcohol abuse.

The basic thought then and in 1979 when the word codependent emerged, was codependents were people whose lives had become unmanageable as a result of living in a committed relationship with an alcoholic.

When a codependent discontinued his or her relationship with a troubled person, the codependent frequently sought another troubled person and repeated the codependent behaviors with that new person. These behaviors, or coping mechanisms, seemed to prevail throughout the codependents life--if that person didn't change these behaviors.

But a second, more common denominator seemed to be the unwritten, silent rules that usually develop in the immediate family and set the pace for the relationships. These rules prohibit discussion about problems; open expression of feelings; direct honest communications; realistic expectations, such as being human, vulnerable, or imperfect; selfishness; trust in other people and ones self;

A codependent person is one who has let another person's behavior affect him or her, and who is obesssed with controlling that person's behavior.

The heart of the definition and recovery lies not in the other person== no matter how much we believe it does. It lies in ourselves, in the way we have let other people's behavior affect us and in the ways we try to affect them.

Is codependency a sickness? Some say it is a normal reaction to abnormal people.

Each of us must decide what part we played in our victimization.

Codependents have tried to make other people see things their way.

As a problem becomes more serious and remains unsolved, we become more affected and react more intensely to it.

Codependents are reactionaries. They overreact. They underreact. But they rarely act.

It is normal to react to stress. It is not necessarily abnormal, but it is heroic and lifesaving to learn how to not react and to act in more healthy ways. Most of us, however, need help to learn to do that.

As the people around us become sicker, we may begin to react more intensely.

Codependency may not be an illness, but it can make you sick. And it can help the people around you stay sick.

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Old 02-21-2011, 12:50 PM
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I think it's super complex and hard to define. I also think it's subjective. I also have a hard time reading that book because the first several chapters are so "all inclusive."

I suspect that if I applied the same conviction, concentration, love, empathy, remorse, concern, etc., to a non-alcoholic, I may in fact be a great husband who cares. Since my Wife is an A, I am therefore a codie. I'm generalizing and I know it. I'm not exactly happy with how the foundation is laid out but just like some of these threads, I'm taking what I want and leaving the rest.
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Old 02-21-2011, 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Shellcrusher View Post
I think it's super complex and hard to define. I also think it's subjective. I also have a hard time reading that book because the first several chapters are so "all inclusive."
I'll have to say, I'm having a problem reading the book, because of this, and also because XABF used the book as a weapon to "prove" why I was the one with the problem.

I try to define codependence as someone putting their needs and requirements on the backburner to satisfy someone else's needs and requirements (that the other person can do themselves) or even wants (whether or not the other person can do for themselves), while their needs and requirements go unfulfilled by anybody (including themselves).

I think this sums things up nicely, while removing at least most of the "good" parts of "codependent tendencies". The way codependence is typically defined, I think the whole world would be a wonderful place if everyone had a minor case.
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Old 02-21-2011, 01:08 PM
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I have always thought being a co-dependent meant you were some sort of insecure, helpless doormat that couldn't face life without your man or your "whoever you depend on to a ridiculous degree." How judgemental is that? But the thing was, I KNEW I wasn't that. While maybe there a few areas in which I feel a little insecure, I am not insecure in general. I grew up in a very affirming home...we were constantly told how pretty and smart and talented we were...I am almost the opposite of insecure, to a fault. And I certainly never felt like I needed a spouse to live a happy and fulfilled life...I cannot imagine that anyone who is close to me would think I was codependent...most would laugh out loud at the suggestion, I'm sure. But I kept seeing the word on these boards, and I kept seeing the book "CoDependent No More" pop up as suggested reading. At first I thought, that is SO not me, but finally I thought, what would it hurt to check it out? These people seem to know a lot about all of this. And you know what? I could have written the first couple of chapters of that book myself...it was like it was me thinking out loud! Holy $h!t...I'm a codie! And there are all different kinds of ways that can look. But you know, now I know, and so I can choose to do differently. You guys and this place are amazing...I AM SO THANKFUL TO ALL OF YOU!!!
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Old 02-21-2011, 01:28 PM
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You know. I felt the same way. In my work life, people would laugh at the notion. I thought that I was so miserable in the last few years of my first marriage (of 14 years) that when I left I said I will never make that mistake again. He was not alcoholic.

I then spent the next 12 years alone. I had thought all those years that I had learned to be alone and that I had learned to love myself and I would be successful in my next relationship because I was secure in myself.

Turns out all I learned was how to be alone. HA! I later asked myself how can you ever learn to be in a relationship if you don't have one?

As I began to date and have an occasional boyfriend I began to notice how I picked "bad" men. I noticed how I struggled to leave those men, but I did not know why. I certainly did not know there was a name for it or steps to take to fix it.

I read self-help after self-help about low self esteem, neediness, you name it..I probably have read it.

Yet I was clueless what the real problem was or how to help myself until I married an AAH and ran for support to stay away. This one was not just miserable but possibly deadly.

So I wound up here, even though I, in the beginning, thought the whole idea was ludicrous.

Turns out....It was not so impossible!!
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Old 02-21-2011, 01:55 PM
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Co-dependency is so hard.. because it is the essence of what makes us human. Caring, sympathy, empathy etc.

Am I co-dependent? Naturally no.. but in certain circumstances my 'human' traits can be boiled down to an extract. If using a cooking analogy it's like boiling down ingedients to a concentrate.

Tx
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Old 02-21-2011, 02:06 PM
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Recovery from Codependency Over the Years

I can define my Codependency by the work I have done over the years on myself.

First, it was learning how to not React. To just be. To allow others to create whatever turmoil they were going to create and just remain calm and not react. It helped to think things all the way through, as Anvil used to say, I'd "play the tape all the way through to the end." Realizing where a certain path would likely take me, I could consciously choose another path.

Then it was learning how to Detach. At first, it seems that I could only gain Detachment by Judging the other person. And it worked early on. But I've since learned that Judgment only gets me so far and then after a certain point actually works against me. Early on I also used Physical Detachment, moving out and moving away from the person in order to break that dependency. Emotional Detachment has been a little more difficult. I have had and still create LOTS of emotional attachments to people. But I am still learning. Key has been examining my thoughts and adjusting them so that I gain emotional distance. First was with my brother. I realized how special I thought our bond was. And it may have been. But that bond was keeping me in PRISON. Can't tell you how much time, money, effort and sacrifice I put forth to help him. I had to let go of the idea that he was my "best friend." Then came XA&ABF. Had to let go of all the "specialness" I attributed to our relationship. Let go of the idea of "soul mates." Let go of all that Magical Thinking.

Doing this required I learn how to live in the Present Moment. I had to let go of all the sentimentalism and thoughts and longing for "the good ole days." I had to learn to Accept today, and who these people had BECOME, for what they were. I had to stop defining people and my feelings for them based on who they had been in the past.

Next came Self-Sufficiency. I had to get myself to the point where I would no longer need to lean on anyone in order to live my life the way I wanted to live it. That meant gaining knowledge and skills so that I could financially support myself. And it meant Independence: Learning how to make it on my own. That took developing Courage. Facing my fears and doing whatever I needed to do anyway.

It has also meant learning how to reach out for Help from those who are appropriate. I no longer look to friends, significant others, or family members to hear my woes or solve my problems or console me. I may be hurting but I don't have to share that with those who are closest to me. I ask for help from professionals, such as counselors, physicians, and therapists. I know where to turn to when in need and I make myself responsible for doing so. I still struggle with it sometimes but I am working on it.

After that, I started working on accepting that there is a Higher Power and that I can lean on that Higher Power in times of need. This has helped me to develop a true sense of Gratitude. I appreciate so much more in life now that I have this connection. I thank God every day for all of my gifts and abilities. I can breathe, walk, talk, dress myself, drive, think, use my hands, work, all these things that give me freedom. I am truly grateful.

Next has been to learn what it means to Care for self. I realize I do not do well in this department and I know that it is up to me, and no one else, to make sure these things get done. This includes reaching out to a physician when I need assistance, and reaching out to others such as on F&F and the Alcoholism forums in order to learn how to help myself. In doing so I have learned a lot about myself and realize I have so much more work to do regarding my self-worth and self-esteem.

I'm sure there are plenty more things that I have not thought of for this post. I guess what I mean to say is that Codependency, to me, is the opposite of all these things I have listed. I used to be so severely dependent on others for everything. Especially my emotional life. But each thing I discover about myself by sharing my life with others gives me the opportunity to make myself a little stronger. I hope to keep learning and growing up and out of my Codependent ways. Thank you for sharing and posting this question. It helps put lots of things into perspective for me. I really learn from your posts PassionFruit, even though you're a purple girl
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Old 02-21-2011, 04:23 PM
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My own definition is: codependency is the inability to discern where you end and other people begin. It's not a line that's carved in stone, but if I ask myself if I'm living and acting in my life or someone else's (and I'm honest with myself), it becomes obvious which side of the boundary I'm on at the moment.
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Old 02-21-2011, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Learn2Live View Post
I guess what I mean to say is that Codependency, to me, is the opposite of all these things I have listed. I used to be so severely dependent on others for everything. Especially my emotional life.
I really like this...healing through the 12 steps does work, even though I rarely attend alanon. Some basics are so on the mark.

Originally Posted by BuffaloGal View Post
My own definition is: codependency is the inability to discern where you end and other people begin. It's not a line that's carved in stone, but if I ask myself if I'm living and acting in my life or someone else's (and I'm honest with myself), it becomes obvious which side of the boundary I'm on at the moment.
Buffalogal--that's brilliant in its simplicity!
I think for me, that's why I became so codependent; I was "in love" so fully that I couldn't discern where he ended and I began, and when I sniffed problems, I was so emotionally attached to them that I created as many problems as I was witnessing. Detachment was impossible.
I have since learned that we are two separate people that love each other. We are not joined at the hip.
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Old 02-21-2011, 06:19 PM
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I couldn't discern where he ended and I began
I am still this way with a lot of people BrokenHeart. I think I must have some weird, over-inflated sense of empathy and concern for others as though I am them and they are me?
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Old 02-21-2011, 07:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Learn2Live View Post
I am still this way with a lot of people BrokenHeart. I think I must have some weird, over-inflated sense of empathy and concern for others as though I am them and they are me?

Take a look at the INFP personality online.
There are online tests to see which Myers-Briggs personality type you fit. It's old school Jung stuff.
It's fun...as with all things, consider in moderation, taking ourselves too seriously can be the kiss of death!
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Old 02-21-2011, 07:31 PM
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I've been thinking about this for a while now. I knew my husband had an alcohol problem when we got married. I thought he would "outgrow" it. My therapist agrees that I probably would not have made another choice. There was no alcohol abuse in my family of origin but now I feel there are some very "needy" people in my life. And I don't like to be the needy one in any relationship. I always have to feel like I have the upper hand. Even in my professional life I work with needy people. Its like I am attracted to them and invite them to attach themselves to me. Does it make me feel better? Does it feed my ego? Not sure. I do know that when I was in high school, my best friend was male. He would "disappear" for days at a time. I would be frantic trying to get in touch with him because I 'needed" him. I knew he would not return calls but I chose to overlook his faults because I needed him in my life so much. When he was around he did feed my ego and helped me not feel sorry for myself. I realized that I never wanted to be that dependent on anyone else again. Now I have a hard time asking for help and accepting help. So I rather give help and have them validate me by needing me. That is my codependency.
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Old 02-21-2011, 07:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Learn2Live View Post
I am still this way with a lot of people BrokenHeart. I think I must have some weird, over-inflated sense of empathy and concern for others as though I am them and they are me?
Not saying this applies to anyone but me, but I find when I look back that the "empathy and concern" was a cover. It was a story I told myself to protect my ego. It was covering up a real arrogance and judgmentalism. I felt I knew what was best, not only for me, but for others as well. That's the part about not knowing where I end and someone else begins. If they would only listen to me, they would be soooo much better off. Because, dammit, I'm right!

I learned this growing up in a family who never admitted their own problems, but was quick to jump on what was wrong with others. Yes, it was an alcoholic family, but I think the result would have been the same even if alcohol wasn't involved. It was the whole, I know better, I know what I'm doing, you obviously don't attitude.

I've since learned that I have the power to take charge of my own life, but not others lives. Not even if I am married to them, not even if I am related to them. Each person has their own path, their own choices to make, even if I disagree. And even if it doesn't fit into my "plan" for my life.

L
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Old 02-21-2011, 08:42 PM
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Originally Posted by LaTeeDa View Post
I've since learned that I have the power to take charge of my own life, but not others lives. Not even if I am married to them, not even if I am related to them. Each person has their own path, their own choices to make, even if I disagree. And even if it doesn't fit into my "plan" for my life.

L
I know you were writing to Live, not me, but I notice a great degree of diversity in people on this issue...off topic a bit, but related to the original topic in a way...

As for me, I've long ago surrendered to the idea of changing anybody's mind. People do as they will. Live and let live is my motto. I may give them a piece of my mind, and I sometimes do just that, but I don't expect them to do anything with that information, not even think about what I said. With low expectations, I am rarely disappointed.
It feels good to at least say it. Sometimes I see the lightbulb go on, and I feel as if I have contributed something to another person's thinking-life.
We only hear what we are ready to.
I've spent very little of my life telling anybody what to do with theirs, verbally in person anyway. Online forums are one place I cross that line; as a writer-thinker and not an extrovert or debate type in person, this is my optimum place to express opinion.
When I became codependent it was extremely frustrating to me; I had zero experience in codependency. Most of my life I spent minding my own business, and didn't even concern myself with others business, and even lacked concern.
Codependency was good for me in a way. It balanced me out to start paying more attention to other's feelings and added compassion that was missing.

Spousal codependency is the most difficult it seems to me because we have formed an emotional bond that includes a partnership that must reach compromise and agreement, as it's the nature of the beast. So to clarify, stating that I didn't discern where I ended and he began was innacurate, as the truth is that I saw "us" as "one" in emotional relationship matters, but not in our own personal quests or interests.
With others, not spouses, I can agree to disagree just fine on relationship matters. With spouses I find this particularly difficult as I desire to work toward the ideal and hold the spousal relationship to a higher standard.
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Old 02-21-2011, 08:51 PM
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Originally Posted by brokenheartfool View Post
So to clarify, stating that I didn't discern where I ended and he began was innacurate, as the truth is that I saw "us" as "one" in emotional relationship matters, but not in our own personal quests or interests.
With others, not spouses, I can agree to disagree just fine on relationship matters. With spouses I find this particularly difficult as I desire to work toward the ideal and hold the spousal relationship to a higher standard.
I completely agree with what you have said here. What wasn't clear to me at the time was that I had a choice in the matter. I had certain expectations for a "spouse" that were not being met. And, I had cast a particular person in that role. Therefore, in my mind at least, he needed to live up to those expectations.

The piece of the puzzle that had eluded me, to that point, was that I could have expectations of the "role," but those expectations could not be applied to him as a person. I could not jam that person into that role any more than I could jam a square peg into a round hole. It was up to me to either change my expectations for the role, or re-cast it. (or leave it uncast, lol).

But, I could not see that at the time because I was so invested in the "us." More invested even than I was in "me."

L
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Old 02-22-2011, 04:07 AM
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The list of behaviours and feelings do seem all encompassing, and as if they are actually a list of normal caring things to do/feel.

and each one in isolation and moderation then most people feel them/do them at some point in their lives. It is not wrong or broken to do or say or feel any of these things.

Exhibiting a range of them together, to the extent that we are neglecting our own needs or trying to get our own needs met through influencing the behaviour of others isn't normal, or helpful or "healthy".

I developed co-dependent behaviours (I don't think it's an illlness/disease/disorder in any sense of the words) as a child, growing up, they were both presented to me as the way I should behave/feel/act and were an adaptive survival mechanism for being in a situation that I couldn't leave. Of course I believed that this is how everybody thinks/feels/acts, because that was how people in my imediate family worked and told me everyone else worked.

example: I have had a terrible day, I need to off-load, in my family, the way you do this is to ask someone else how their day was, they offload and then reciprocate, and I get my needs met. It always worked in the context of my family, and isn't particularly manipulative, but it isn't honest and crucially doesn't work with people who weren't raised with these rules, I could walk around all day asking people how their day was without ever getting an "and how was yours?" in return, getting increasingly frustrated that I could not get rid of my hurts and taking on all of theirs. The more effective and honest thing to say is: "I've had a hard day, do you mind if I tell you about it to get it off of my chest?",

not rude, not selfish, honest and direct, but I had no idea how to do that and worse thought that it was deeply selfish to try and get my own needs met honestly and directly.

This and many other similar things are co-dependent behaviours: I look like I'm really caring: because I am always helping others, but I am doing it because I want the reciprocation, which in my family of origin is how things worked (but secretly, admitting this was how you were operating would have been dreadful). I have a relative who feels everyone else's pain very deeply; very classically "empathic", and in fact taught us that it was selfish and uncaring not to feel the pain of others. Not to put too finer point on it: this is BS. Feeling someone else's pain is not kind or caring to the other person, it does nothing to lessen their burden, it just makes the situation all about her, intead of the person who is actually going through it.
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Old 02-22-2011, 04:49 AM
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I too have noticed that over the past couple years I have been able to Let Go of other people's issues and just let them figure things out. I've learned to say what I want to say just once and then let it go. I think the turning point for me was when I finally let go of my brother, who was addicted to drugs and on an extreme downward spiral. I was so emotionally attached to him for so many years, that all he had to do was say one word and I would fly off in a panic trying to fix whatever it was. Without being asked. They were probably manipulations on his part which I was reacting to, and eventually I had to let go of the hurt that he was manipulating me and realize that I had to save myself. It was literally down to, "It's me, or it's him."

I've since been better able to not take on responsibilities that are not mine. Better boundaries. I now take 100% of the responsibility for all parts of my life and have healthier expectations of others. Taking all that responsibility and not expecting others to take care of me helps me to maintain those healthy boundaries and not allow chaos and confusion (and people who manipulate) into my life to begin with. I've found that when I am needy, I attract needy people.

I still have difficulty, though, not taking on other people's feelings and emotions. I still react pretty severely to other people's anger. Not sure why but I'm working on it.
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Old 02-22-2011, 07:30 AM
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To me co-dependence means to put the needs of others first while neglecting our own needs and then being hurt and resentful when your needs go unmet by those we spend so much time and energy"helping."

I think we are often mistaken about what those "others" really need. We determine in our own mind what they should need and act on these perceptions whether or not they are accurate in the real world.

We often badger our victim until we get them to agree to our perception of what they want. We are not great listeners because we often ignore what our "victims" actually tell us and hear what we wish they would say.

I think co-dependents aren't really all that good at determining our own needs because we constantly look outside ourselves for answers to the question "What do I need/want?"
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