Navigating Co-dependency

Co-dependency is something that has been on my radar a bit in the last few months as I have been learning about the psychology of developing emotional intelligence. Developing emotional intelligence has been my saving grace. I feel it helped me mature, stay calm when I’d rather react, and understand myself along with others more. But, it doesn’t seem like until now that it has finally hit me fully that I may be co-dependent.

It wasn’t until I watched a television episode of Shameless wherein one segment the character Lip goes to a sponsor for his alcoholism and he begins to tell her about all of his family’s issues saying these are the things he’s going through.  She then tells him, ‘What are you talking about, you’re not going through any of that crap. I mean you have convinced yourself that you are, so you don’t have to actually look at your own shit. It’s classic co-dependence.’ Where he then gets angry and storms out of the coffee shop.

Whoa! It hit me at that moment that I might be co-dependent. The severity I have yet to figure out.

I always considered myself fairly independent. I don’t need anyone in my life to be happy or do things for me. So, I thought there was no way I was co-dependent because I didn’t lean on anyone.

I google-searched traits of co-dependency to get a better idea of what it is I’m doing that’s considered co-dependent.

According to an article by Mental Health America, “Co-dependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with co-dependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. The disorder was first identified about ten years ago as the result of years of studying interpersonal relationships in families of alcoholics. Co-dependent behavior is learned by watching and imitating other family members who display this type of behavior.”

Not exactly my problem but the more I google the more I learn that putting others before me is also a trait of co-dependency. That constantly running to someone every time they have a crisis (a “rescuer”) is enabling and that is also a trait of co-dependency. Losing your own sense of identity within relationships of any kind, taking on others pain, controlling outcomes, absorbing another’s emotional state (as an Empath), people-pleasing, other people’s moods affect your mood, always seeking validation, allowing others to dump their stuff onto you, are all forms of co-dependency. At this rate, everyone I’ve known is co-dependent in some way. Maybe we all have it to some extent. Seems very disempowering to me.

“Co-dependent behavior is learned by watching and imitating other family members who display this type of behavior.” My father & stepmother (and even being raised in the Catholic church) taught me to always think about the other person, never myself. It always came down to what other people thought of me, what other people must think about my actions, how I represent myself to the world and if it’s the way the world should see me. Especially with how I made them look. It was always about the fake self-image. It was always about not upsetting Dad, or the other adults, or I would get it. YIKES! No way! I was taught to be co-dependent! I can see it playing out in my family dynamic still. The rescuing, the enabling, the worrying about what others think, the taking on others pain, doing things for others when not asked to, involving themselves, afraid to upset anyone, the fake image, being afraid to say, “Hey, not my circus not my monkeys”…

I must very much be co-dependent in the emotional sense. That the way other people feel determines how I feel. What others think of me determines how I feel inside (that would be the self-esteem issues I carry). The more I think about this the more I can see how that has affected me in my life. Not being as much of a disciplinarian towards my children as I feel I should because I don’t want to hurt their feelings because of the mom guilt I have from before, where I was a screaming lunatic who spanked her kids when she was emotionally charged. Or when members of my family are having a crisis and I get wind of it I start getting worked up inside about their choices and outcomes. That I feel I’m going through it because they’re going through it. Which is not true at all. Same with my children. What they go through I, in turn, go through. Trying to control their life path and save them from any pain. Always listening of others dumping their problems onto me, not wanting to shake things up to lessen the attack I will get in return when they’re triggered. Then feeling guilty when I set boundaries because I may have hurt their feelings. Classic co-dependence. How did I not see this? Definitely, more childhood wounding playing out again.

So, then I started thinking about my relationship with my husband. Where could I possibly be co-dependent there? I notice I tend to change my mood depending on what mood he’s in. I’m an Empath and I know this is a disempowered Empathic trait but if he’s upset, I instantly think it’s about me or what did I do wrong despite him not being that way at all and I know this. That very much could be from my previous marriage where abuse was present. Maybe it’s from my childhood where I had so much anxiety about doing the wrong thing I would be punished. My stepmother forced perfection. If things weren’t perfect, I was punished. I’m more co-dependent than I thought, and my self-esteem is not exactly where it should be.

But now that I have analyzed this, I’ve created some awareness around these traits, and I can change them when I recognize them now. I’ve made some progress in my self-healing journey and tapping into more areas of childhood wounding.  Now I can find separation from me and others. That their life is not my life and I’m not obligated to make anyone but me happy. Now the tricky part…. how to handle family members still in co-dependency mode.

Thanks for reading!