is a set of maladaptive, compulsive behaviors learned by family members
in order to survive in a family experiencing great emotional pain. In
most cases alcoholism, chemical dependency, or other addictive disease
is at the source of the family pain. Codependent behaviors are a set of
coping behaviors that are passed from generation to generation--whether
or not addiction is present--in order to survive. Although the original
alcoholic/addicted person may have been a great-grandparent, family members
across the next three or four generations learn a set of behaviors which
help them deal with the emotional pain inherited from the original dysfunctional
family unit. These behaviors, although designed to relieve pain,
create pain! They constitute a deeply embedded "cognitive
set" upon which codependency or dependency disorders are founded.
Whether or not addiction existed in our nuclear family, codependency is
a deeply rooted compulsive behavior that is born out of a dysfunctional
family system. Individual family members may or may not develop addictions.
of codependency (or dependency) disorders include: perfectionism, workaholism,
procrastination, compulsive overeating, compulsive gambling, compulsive
buying, compulsive lying, compulsive talking, compulsive sex, dependent
relationships, over-possessive relationships. Other dependency disorders
can revolve around acquiring status, prestige, material possessions, power
or control over family members, co-workers, friends, authority figures,
etc. People suffering from drug- or alcohol-related codependency disorders
often experience themselves as being caught up in a treadmill existence.
Whether or not goals are achieved there is a driven compulsion for
more. An anxious feeling of incompleteness or emptiness remains no
matter what is accomplished.
problems may also exist: migraine headaches, gastrointestinal disturbances,
colitis, ulcers, high blood pressure, and many other high stress-related
physical illnesses. Stress related illness is not "only in your head."
It is stress-induced physical alteration of the body. It is real. Emotional
problems such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and hyperactivity may
also be evident in codependent individuals. These disorders have a physical
basis. They are chemical imbalances in the brain. In other words, our
cognitive/emotional state impacts upon our physical being. We are a holistic
individuals experienced a traumatically empty childhood. Their present-day
relationships are empty. They attempt to use others, their mates, friends,
and children, as their source of identity, self-esteem, value and well
being in an attempt to restore childhood emotional losses. Most codependent
individuals are unaware that they are doing so. Having constructed a more
idyllic existence, many codependent individuals are completely unaware
that their childhood was troubled!
are statements portray relationally addictive people:
- We come from a
dysfunctional home in which our emotional needs were not met.
- Having received
little real nurturing ourselves, we try to vicariously fill this unmet
need by becoming a caregiver, especially toward people who appear needy.
- Because we were
never able to change our parents into the warm, loving care takers we
longed for, we respond deeply to the emotionally unavailable person
whom we find familiar and whom we try to change (to give us what we
need) through our love.
- Terrified of abandonment,
we will do anything to hold on to a relationship and avoid painful abandonment
feelings. We first experienced these feelings while living with people
who were never there emotionally for us. Most often, we were not aware
that we were not getting what we needed!
- Almost nothing
is too much trouble, takes too much time, or is too expensive if it
will "help" the person we are involved with. Our thoughts
are other-oriented rather than self-oriented.
- Accustomed to
lack of love in personal relationships, we are willing to wait, hope
and try harder to please.
- We are willing
to take far more than 50 percent of the responsibility, guilt and blame
in any relationship.
- Our self-esteem
is critically low. Deep inside we do not believe we deserve to be happy.
Rather, we believe we must earn the right to enjoy life. We forget
that we were all created equal and by the same maker.
- Having experienced
little security in childhood, we have a desperate need to control people,
outcomes, and relationships. We mask our efforts to control people and
situations as "being helpful."
- In a relationship
we are more in touch with our dream of how it could be rather
than with the reality of how it is. We don't want to hear the
little voice inside that tells us what is!
- We are addicted
to a person, people, and/or to emotional pain. This is not because we
enjoy pain, but it is familiar; we understand it; it is all we know.
- We may be emotionally
and/or biochemically predisposed to addictions to substances, food,
gambling, sex, etc.
- Drawn to people
with problems or to chaotic, uncertain, or emotionally painful situations,
we avoid focusing on our responsibility to ourselves: to become all
of the potential we were given!
- Since we have
an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, it is easier to be concerned
with others rather than with ourselves. This prevents us from looking
at our ourselves. We give away our personal power!
- We may tend toward
episodes of depression and/or anxiety. We try to forestall these episodes
through the excitement of an emotionally unstable relationship or through
- We are not
attracted to a person who is kind, stable, reliable, and interested
in us. We find "nice" people boring or unattractive.
- We "stuff"
our feelings and have lost the ability to identify or express what we
- We tend to become
isolated from people and become afraid of authority figures.
- We become approval
seekers and lose our identity in the process.
- We can't stand
it when people are angry at us. We hate criticism! We get defensive
and "explain" ourselves in an attempt to show the other person
how they are wrong.
- Our world view
is that of the victim. We sense and gravitate towards people whom we
will allow ourselves to be victimized by.
- We judge ourselves
harshly. We use a more lenient yardstick to judge others.
- We experience
guilt when we stand up for ourselves. To avoid guilt, we give in to
- We confuse love
and empathy/pity and tend to think we "love" people we can
pity and rescue.
- We are reactors
to life rather than creators of life.