The first time I heard the word co-dependent was in the late 1990’s. It was a period of spiritual awareness and awakening in Adelaide.
Back then I was in an abusive and violent relationship and believed that everything was my fault. I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t happy or positive enough, I didn’t make a home for him to come home to, so it wasn’t his fault he saw other women, on and on the list went.
I was desperate to change myself, to improve myself, so that he would love me. Sounding familiar? If it does, then you aren’t alone.
Anyway, off I went to all these workshops on past lives, rebirthing, dancing to release spiritual blockages. He even encouraged me to go. Of course he did because it was my fault his life was so miserable!
With all due respect to people who believe in rebirthing and past lives, I personally didn’t benefit from them. What did resonate with me was ‘Co-dependency’ in relationships.
What is co-dependency? In simple terms, it’s where you solely rely on your partner for your emotional needs and happiness. For example, they aren’t happy, so you mimic their mood. You may not even know you are doing it.
‘Don’t rely on others to make you happy.
Be your own person and find your own happiness.’ – Amanda Ray
The relationship, like many toxic relationships is one-sided and they can escalate into violence, abuse or bullying.
Characteristics or behaviours of a co-dependent person –
– Low self-esteem
– Probably a people pleaser
– Fearful of rejection or loss
– Loss of sense of self and personal identity
– Lacking or damaged personal boundaries
This is just a few of the characteristics. The list can be comprehensive depending on why a person is co-dependent. Majority of the time it stems from a person’s childhood and family dynamics.
It can be a learned behaviour, for example one of your parents is co-dependent. Or you suffered a childhood trauma where you needed to disconnect from your emotions in order to cope. A medically trained professional is the best person to diagnosis you, not Google or well-meaning friends.
Like many unhealthy behaviours the first step is breaking the cycle, to acknowledge and admit you have an issue. No more denials, excuses or justification. Next step which for me was the hardest was facing my childhood issues. And, yes I saw a medically trained professional who helped me break through my mental block.
To compliment your recovery program joining a support or peer group may be beneficial, being able to express and talk honestly about your childhood emotions without judgement or fear. Ongoing counselling, if needed.
Rebuilding your self-confidence and self-esteem is helpful when breaking through some of those ingrained learned behaviours.
Recovery from a lifelong pattern or self-held belief can be long and feel like, one step forward, two back at times. Keep at it, its worth every tear, angry outburst, feelings of shame or guilt to finally be at peace with yourself.
And, remember to forgive yourself and your family. Whatever happened was in the past and you can’t change it. You can change how you live now and in the future. Anger and resentment don’t belong there, leave them in your past.