I was having a chat with a friend the other day by the fireplace, and our conversation led us to talk about codependency and counter-dependency. I’m really fascinated by that topic and I’ve been studying it and working with it for almost a decade now.
I came across the subject randomly, because a friend was reading a book by Pia Mellody, who’s one of the American expert on codependency – also called codependence. And that’s how my exploratory journey started.
I started to read about it too and was horrified to discover how much it described me and my behaviours in relationships. From being insecure, to engaging in destructive relationships over and over again – I realised this was talking about me and most of my friends. And actually most of the people I knew. Terrifying.
So I became fascinated by it all, and started to do a lot of research and work on myself as a result. Research estimates that more than 90% of people suffer from codependency. More than 90%!!!!!!!! No wonder why so many relationships fail…
So what is codependency and how can we recognise it?
Codependency mainly manifests in relationships, and more specifically in our romantic relationships. It tends to be more pronounced in women than men and can be spotted through a few different patterns:
- Repeatedly engaging in unhealthy or destructive relationships
- Feeling insecure and needy in relationships and seeking constant reassurance
- Often struggling to be alone
- Struggling to say NO and put boundaries
- Lacking being assertive
- Accepting hurtful behaviours and comments from our partner
- Suffering from jealousy
- Often feeling dissatisfied within a relationship
- Being attracted by emotionally unavailable partners
- Not feeling loved or respected in romantic relationships
- Feeling helpless or powerless to change the relationship
- Hoping that the partner will change and dedicating all our efforts to that purpose
- Over-giving and working hard at making the relationship work
Those patterns are only a few “symptoms” of codependency in relationships, but they tend to be the most common ones unfortunately.
So where does codependency come from?
There are different opinions as to how early on in life we develop the roots of codependency but they often link to attachment theories – how as infants we develop attachment bonds with our parental figures. I am not totally sure that all codependent symptoms stem from the bonds we create with our parental figures only up to the age of 2 – as it’s often believed. I’ve seen in a lot of my clients that the roots of codependency were created up to the age of 6 or 7. Perhaps the seed was originated in their attachment styles as infants and aggravated later on by circumstances? In the end, it doesn’t really matter.
What matters is what actually causes codependency, not just in theoretical scientific terms – but in real life. I believe based on my clinical experience that codependency originates simply in a bruised self-worth that results from events in our childhood. It doesn’t have to be traumatic events, but any situation that would have made us feel inadequate, unlovable or not good enough – could potentially become the root of codependency.
The more traumatic the childhood events, the strongest the codependency manifests. But in the end, one of the common trait I’ve observed in hundreds of codependency sufferers is a lack of self-love and unconditional self-acceptance. What created that void in the childhood varies for each of us – and an in-depth personal exploration of our past will reveal where it comes from. But in the end, I’ve found that it comes down to our self-worth.
So how do we heal codependency?
It’s a complex approach as there are many “symptoms” or manifestations of codependency. But I believe that we need to tackle it first and foremost at the root: our lack of self- love.
I’ve tackled codependency in myself and my clients with a combination of 2 approaches:
- Working on the root cause and “repairing” the lack of self-worth by working on the past events that created it. My favourite tools to do this are hypnotherapy – as it helps locate those roots in our subconscious and heal them and EFT or EMDR to unlock unconscious emotions and change limiting beliefs.
- Learning new healthy behaviours such as learning to say no, practicing assertiveness and developing healthy boundaries. Coaching and CBT have come very helpful in that phase of healing.
It takes time and dedication, but I’ve seen a lot of clients drastically improve their lives and relationships through this work. And how fantastic would it be if we all learnt healthy communication and behaviour patterns! Imagine what our world would be like if we were all able to have healthy and nurturing relationships instead of damaging ones! Yes, I know, I’m a bit of an idealist! 🙂 but isn’t it how things change? By having dreams and visions of what seems impossible?!
Anyway, if you’re interested in healing your own codependency patterns, feel free to drop me a line or learn more about our healing codependency program!