How to Start Healing from Codependency
How to stop being codependent
If you have codependent traits, you’re probably wondering how in the world you can change these patterns and stop being codependent. This article will give you a general overview of some of the core components of codependency recovery. There are also many wonderful self-help resources (books, workbooks, support groups and 12-step meetings, etc.) available that can help you further understand codependency. In addition, many people find that working with a professional counselor or psychotherapist is invaluable in healing dysfunctional relationship patterns and root causes of codependency such as childhood trauma.
Healing codependency involves: 1) Untangling yourself from other people, 2) Owning your part, 3) Getting to know yourself, and 4) Loving yourself.
Untangle yourself from other people
Codependents tend to get themselves entangled in other people’s problems. We try to fix, control, rescue, give advice, and force solutions on people who often don’t want to change. These behaviors, although well-meaning, are incredibly frustrating for everyone involved. We get frustrated because we usually can’t affect change despite trying incredibly hard. And focusing on other people’s problems and deficits, distracts us from owning our part in the problems and changing ourselves. These controlling and rescuing behaviors also strain our relationships. Our loved ones resent our nagging and demanding, our air of superiority, and our ultimatums.
Our emotions may also be enmeshed or dependent on other people’s feelings. It might be that when your spouse is in a good mood, you’re in a good mood and when they’re in a bad mood, so are you. Or you may have difficulty recognizing your own feelings; you’ve become detached from yourself because you’re constantly concerned about how other people feel.
We can untangle ourselves from others by learning to detach with love and stop enabling. Detaching is similar to setting boundaries. Detaching puts healthy emotional or physical space between you and your loved one so you both have the freedom to make your own choices and have your own feelings. Detaching can include leaving an uncomfortable or unsafe situation, not engaging in an argument, saying “no”, or refraining from giving advice.
How do you enable or tangle yourself up in other people’s lives or problems?
What kinds of boundaries will help you detach and prioritize your needs?
How do you feel right now? Try to pay attention to your thoughts and how your body feels; notice your own feelings as separate other people’s feelings.
Own your part
In the beginning of recovery, most people with codependent behaviors have a hard time seeing themselves and their relationships objectively; they experience some denial. I use the term denial because it’s a concept most people understand. I don’t intend it as a criticism. Instead, I see denial as a self-protective measure that we use to deal with our overwhelming pain. Denial tries to shield us from our anger, despair, and shame, but it becomes a barrier to changing our codependent patterns.
Sometimes, we struggle to own our part in our dysfunctional relationships or problems. Instead, we tend to blame others. It’s easier to say I’m broke because my husband spends all our money at the bar or I can’t sleep because my mother refuses to take her insulin. When we blame others for our problems, we act like victims, basing our happiness on whether other people will change.
Gaining awareness means accepting responsibility for ourselves, but not assuming responsibility for what other grown adults do. You aren’t responsible for the bad decisions your alcoholic husband makes or for your mother’s health. You are responsible for your own happiness and health, which means you have choices and can take charge of your finances even if your husband keeps drinking and you can learn ways to overcome your insomnia even if your mother doesn’t manage her diabetes.
Can you open yourself to the possibility that you have some “blind spots”? What do you think they are?
If you’re having trouble seeing yourself and your situation objectively, do you have a trusted friend who can help you see things from a different perspective?
Do you blame others for your unhappiness? Do you ever think, “I’ll be happy when _______”?
What’s one thing you can do enjoy the present moment?
How can you empower yourself or start solving your problems?
Enmeshment in codependent families prevents us from developing a deep understanding of ourselves. Often fear was used to force us to conform to family norms and we weren’t allowed or encouraged to explore our own interests and beliefs during childhood. We learned to suppress who we are to please others and avoid conflicts. In adulthood, we tend to stay enmeshed or focus on other people such that we really don’t know who we are, what we like, or what we want. We become defined by our roles (husband, mother, teacher, etc.) instead of seen as the complex individuals that we are. Codependency recovery, therefore, must include getting to know ourselves.
Getting to know ourselves isn’t self-centered or selfish. It’s a healthy interest and respect for ourselves. It means that we care about ourselves and are curious about who we are.
What do you like to do for fun?
How to do you want to be treated?
What are your goals?
What do you believe in?
You can find additional questions and journal prompts for self-exploration in my Resource Library. Sign-up for free access HERE.
Author and psychotherapist Ross Rosenberg coined the term Self-Love Deficit Disorder to reflect that feeling worthless, insecure, and unlovable are at the core of codependency. Our focus on pacifying, pleasing, and taking care of others, coupled with fears of rejection and inadequacy often keep us stuck in unsatisfying relationships where we accept disrespect, abuse, or loneliness. We must gather the courage to be and love our authentic selves in order to recover from codependency.
We can do this through self-compassion, accepting our imperfections and mistakes, and regular self-care. Self-love is saying something kind to yourself instead of being self-critical or exaggerating your flaws. Self-love is prioritizing your basic physical needs such as getting enough sleep, eating nutritious foods, exercising, and taking medications as prescribed. Self-love is also setting boundaries, stating your opinion, asking for what you need, and making time for fun and social connections. If you’re not used to taking care of yourself, it may feel uncomfortable for a while, but with each small act of self-compassion or self-care, you are taking concrete steps to love yourself more.
What is one thing you can do for your emotional health this week?
What is one thing you can do for your physical health this week?
What do you usually say to yourself when you mess up? What could you say instead that would be understanding and supportive?
Healing from codependency is a challenging process. Go slowly — try to implement these codependency recovery concepts a little bit at a time and don’t expect yourself to do it perfectly!
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Martin, S. (2018). How to Start Healing from Codependency. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 21, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/imperfect/2017/10/how-to-start-healing-from-codependency/