By: Kandice
February 2, 2024

Are You Codependent?

You may have heard of the word codependence.  It may even be something that you are personally aware of in your life or the life of those around you.  It can be related to something negative, to be codependent.  I would like to discuss how we may find ourselves codependent with those around us. 

What is a codependent person? Melody Beattie, author of, Codependent No More, sums it up in one sentence. “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.” Charles Whitfield, MD describes the beginning of codependency as “the repression of our observations, feelings and reactions.” (Healing the Child Within, 1989). Now, in reading Melody’s definition you may not feel that you’re “obsessed” so let’s break down what obsession means.  From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, obsessed is to be preoccupied with or worried by some idea, interest, etc.  In reflection of this definition you may relate more to being preoccupied or worrying about the other person’s behavior.  A person’s desire to have another person like us or be happy with us can consume our minds.  We can fight for the other person to understand us and know our intentions.  We can become defensive and confused about why the other person doesn’t believe us.  There are times when people do not recognize their preoccupied or worried thoughts about the other person.  We can focus solely on how we feel and the feelings could only the secondary emotions to the sadness or hurt. 

When I think about codependency I think about a need.  I believe that we all do certain things to get things that we need, either consciously or sub consciously.  The need comes from our childhood dynamics or learned behaviors.  When we are in the immediate family system, we tend to pick up behaviors or mannerisms that develop our coping mechanisms.  Sometimes this can lead to adhering to others in a way that diminishes our true feelings and thoughts.  The most common desire that I see is a sense of belonging and acceptance.  When this is not met in early childhood people can tend to build a codependent coping mechanism to blend into the world around them. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

Have you ever told yourself or realized that you look to others to see how to feel or live?  Or you need another person to be emotionally okay so that you are emotionally okay. You may find yourself not saying what you think or feel, becoming anxious about the person being mad/upset with you or becoming emotionally shut off to stop the uncomfortable feelings. The desire to be your authentic self is shut down because of what you fear other people will think or say about you.

If you find yourself struggling with being preoccupied or worried about how others are accepting you, speaking with a therapist would be beneficial.  The therapist can provide insight about how to manage these secondary emotions or work with identifying the primary emotions.  Also, you could learn other ways to help you be your authentic self and gain confidence in your true self.