Codependency FAQ

What is Codependency?
There are probably as many definitions of codependency as there are people who consider themselves to be codependent. Basically, if you identify with the posts here, and with the info in the books found on the subject, you might consider yourself to be codependent.

In “Codependent No More,” Melody Beattie gives several definitions. She includes Earnie Larsen’s definition:

    “Those self-defeating, learned behaviors or character defects that result in a diminished capacity to initiate or to participate in loving relationships.”

Melody Beattie’s own definition is:

    “A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.”

She also gives Robert Subby’s definition from his book “Co-Dependency, An Emerging Issue:”

    “An emotional, psychological and behavioral condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules — rules which prevent the open expression of feeling as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems.”

Many of us define codependency by our behaviors which may include:

  • always being attracted to alcoholics, drug addicts, or other similarly needy and emotionally unavailable people
  • feeling as if we must be in a relationship with someone — *anyone* — for our lives to be worthwhile
  • trying to control others behaviors, especially loved ones
  • feeling as if we are incapable of ending a relationship that we know is not good for us or in which we are unhappy
  • trying to please everyone else and never taking time for ourselves, or even forgetting that we *need* to take care of ourselves

Many people experience these situations at one time or another, but for those of us who find it to be a recurring, painful theme in our lives, recovery can be a very healing and rewarding way of letting go of the old behaviors.

Codependency is about damaged self-esteem, damaged functional boundaries, and focusing our lives on other people while denying our own needs and wants.

Codependency is trying to contain/control/manage/manipulate/influence people or situations so that they do what *I* need them to do. When things clearly go the opposite from the way I need them to go, I work even harder to change them – sometimes by manipulating, sometimes by demanding, sometimes by ignoring or denying, sometimes by wishing and hoping.

What Is Recovery from Codpenency?

Recovery, with regard to codependency, loosely describes the methods we utilize in order to process and let go of the pain in our past and present so that we may fully live our lives today. This can include attending twelve step meetings, seeking private or other group therapy,
reading self-help books, inner reflection and meditation, and seeking out others who can identify with our experiences.

Seeking out others who share our experiences can be very beneficial because it helps us to know that we are not alone, that others can identify with, and have experienced for themselves, much of the pain that we are feeling or have felt, and that there is hope for each and every one of us.

Recovery is a process, one that probably continues for the rest of our lives. It took us many years to get here, so it won’t be “undone” overnight! It is possible, however, to gradually let go of our painful behaviors and to enjoy our lives of today to a much greater extent than
we had previously thought possible.

Recovery can be looked at as a sort of two-steps-forward-one-step-back type of process. We will not be immediately “cured” and so will most likely experience reoccurences of the very behaviors we are trying to stop. It’s important at those points to recognize the progress made — just the awareness that we are acting out a particular behavior may be seen as progress, to love ourselves unconditionally, and to recognize the choices in our lives so that next time we might choose something different for ourselves.

What Is “Inner Child” Work?

Discovery of the child within is defined by Melody Beattie in the glossary of her book “Codependents Guide To The Twelve Steps” as the “popular recovery concept [that] refers to that fact that regardless of our age, we each have a young child within us with all the feelings,
fears, complexities, simplicities, and needs we had when we were that age. We may be forty years old, brave, successful, and competent, but inside is a frightened four-year-old who needs a hug, some comforting words, and a balloon. Many of us ignore this child within. That doesn’t work. This child will start acting out and defeating us until we listen. Gradually, we learn how to recognize, listen to, and nurture this part of ourselves.”