Codependent Relationships and how to get Codependency Counseling Help
What is Codependency?
Codependency issues are often confusing to understand because the entire topic of codependent relationships is riddled with various myths and misconceptions.
The main problem is that codependency issues are most often defined solely by their “markers”, rather than by their root causes. While knowing the signs of codependency is helpful to identify the condition — this information, alone, will not be adequate to reverse codependency symptoms.
By the time most people seek professional counseling for their codependency issues, they have exhausted all self-help options available to them, including books, videos and articles which outline the “signs of codependency” and the hallmarks of codependent relationships.
So most new clients can easily offer a litany of their codependent behaviors — but they cannot explain why they do what they do.
Even more importantly, they often feel frustrated and futile because they cannot figure out why all of their hard-earned awareness does not stop them from becoming continually overwhelmed by a state of emotional codependency that plummets them back into the codependent behaviors that they know so well and are trying so hard to avoid.
The answer to this conundrum can be found in the fact that emotional codependency is actually embedded deeper within us than either our knowledge or our feelings.
Codependency is a compulsion that has become “tied into” the instincts — and our instincts are actually designed to override our intellect and our emotions, at just about any given turn.
Seeds of Codependency Sown within the Instincts
So how are the seeds of codependent relationships initially “planted” within the instincts? Most often, this happens as a result of having been raised in a “slightly dysfunctional”, toxically abusive or otherwise traumatic environment.
You will notice that all allusions to the term dysfunctional within this article are in italics. This is because the preferred term used by codependency therapists and counselors, today, is “maladaptive”.
This is a very important distinction to understand because while the term dysfunctional implies an intrinsic defectiveness on the part of the sufferer, “maladaptive” much more accurately defines the truth — that codependency is the result of a set of coping and survival mechanisms that were quite useful, for a child trying to navigate an unhealthy environment.
These survival mechanisms, collectively known as “codependent behaviors” or “codependency symptoms”, serve a vital purpose for a child who has very limited options — including the inability to “fight or flight” when confronted with life threatening, psyche shattering or heartbreaking circumstances.
However, once an individual grows into adulthood, there are many healthier coping options at their avail. The only problem is that your instincts to not realize this! They have become adapted (or “maladapted”, in this context) to getting your needs met through the actions that served you best during your formative years. In short, your instincts have absolutely no concept of time or age.
Viewing Codependency Symptoms through the Lens of Codependency Causes
Denial is a common symptom of codependency issues, but it actually traces back to a coping mechanism called “Magical Thinking” that children will quite naturally reach for if growing up in a dysfunctional household. Magical thinking is a form of not only escaping a harsh reality through fantasy, but also of assigning meaning in a world filled with chaos — in order to survive, psychologically. For adults who relied upon “Magical Thinking” as a child, navigating feelings, situations and relationships with the aid of denial is simply a matter of using the only skill set that they know. Therefore, effective codependent recovery teaches new emotional and relationship skills that serve to displace denial with substantially better coping mechanisms
Shame proliferates any codependent’s self-image, yet this false shame is a natural extension of the false responsibility that someone was conditioned to take on when they were a child. In fact, the primary trait of any dysfunctional system is that roles and responsibilities are distorted. For example, a child will be burdened with adult responsibilities or unrealistic expectations, leading them to erroneously conclude that everything is their “job” and their fault. This sense of shame through failed responsibility manifests as low self-esteem, anxiety, fear and irrational guilt in both childhood and adulthood — leading to difficulties with identity, wellbeing and relationships. Healing from codependency requires rebuilding self-esteem, by teaching clients how to accurately discern what is and is not their responsibility
False Shame Dependency
By definition, emotional codependency is characterized by unhealthy levels of dependency upon other people for a person’s sense of self-worth, identity and security. This state of over dependency leaves someone walking through the world with constant uncertainty and lack of assurance in their own abilities — further reinforcing false shame, low-self esteem, anxiety, fears and guilt.
Clinically, this over dependency is known as “Learned Helplessness” and comes from the fact that a child’s experience is, indeed, naturally dependent. Children do not have a great deal of power, and that is supposed to be a beautiful thing about being an innocent child — but if a child’s fragility is used against them by a manipulative or otherwise abusive adult, then the child quickly and “to their credit” learns that they must get their needs met by placating the irresponsible adult(s). When a child who endured these circumstances grows into adulthood, they continue to carry with them the dependent role of a child and the idea that they are not whole without getting their needs met through others. Codependency Counseling teaches clients to begin meeting their own emotional needs, so that they can come to fully realize their internal power and worth.
Codependency in Marriage and Other Relationships
Clients most often seek professional codependency help because of their difficulties with codependency in marriage or other relationships. In fact, codependency issues will “infiltrate” just about all relationships and dynamics — in romance,
friendships and the workplace — with issues caused by dysfunctional communication skills, dysfunctional boundaries, “control issues” and intimacy problems.
Again, most codependents already know the signs of codependency enough to realize that they toil with communication, boundary, control and intimacy problems, but knowing these codependency symptoms without acquiring the additional information needed to place them in proper context only serves to reinforce their false shame and low-self-esteem. There are, in fact, very valid instinctual reasons for which codependent adults had no choice but to develop a foundation based in denial, false shame and over dependence — in order to cope with having grown up in stressful situations.
The codependent struggles with dysfunctional communication because any attempt at healthy communication of their feelings and needs was dismissed and/or met with punishment, in their household of origin. They struggle with dysfunctional boundaries because they were not supported in having healthy boundaries, physically and/or psychologically — during their childhood. They have “control issues” because they have never felt in control of their own being, and they suffer intimacy problems because closeness and a healthy level of inter-dependent reliance were never safe.
How Codependency Counseling Can Help
Healing from codependency is a process best accomplished by working with a qualified professional who is fully aware of the connection between codependency symptoms and instincts forged in childhood. Effective codependency help entails working through an intensive process that essentially “rewires” the sufferer’s instinctual drives — associating new and empowering behaviors with their sense of identity, security and value.
Particularly in cases of codependent recovery, it’s important to work with a professional because Codependency Counselors are specialized and equipped to ensure that healthy roles and responsibilities exist between themselves and their client. “Therapist Codependency” is a dynamic in which the client (using the only skills they know) will subconsciously attempt to seek an over dependent bond with any “helper” or “guide”, which will entirely thwart the codependent recovery process. Most non-professionals are not adequately aware or trained to respond to this “Therapist Codependency” phenomenon effectively — by gently redirecting the person healing from codependency toward empowering self-care, whenever they attempt to recreate a stance of over dependency. If you are struggling with codependency symptoms and the debilitating results of codependency in marriage, domestic partnership, friendships, the workplace or other relationships — get codependency help! It’s time to stop being codependent!
How can we help?
ARCS Codependency Counselors specialize in helping you to supplement the stages of earlychildhood development that you may have missed, which are essentially the reason that you struggle with codependency symptoms.
The most important thing for you to realize is that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with you. Your “issues” are not indicators of weakness — they are actually indicators of how stronglyyou adapted to survive an unstable childhood.