As social beings, we are all, to some degree, dependent upon one another. In healthy dependency, called interdependency, we are reliant upon others and responsible to others in state of mutual cooperation. In codependency, only one person is dependent, and that dependency prevents us from living in our power. It often involves placing a lower priority on one’s own needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others and is usually characterized by denial, avoidance, low self-esteem, excessive compliance, and/or control patterns. Codependency also occurs when we are controlled or manipulated by someone who has a pathological condition, such as narcissism or addiction.
- Denial Patterns: such as Difficulty identifying feelings or minimizing feelings; Overly self-reliant and not accepting help; Masking pain through anger, humor or isolation; Passive aggressive; Inability to recognize others’ unavailability
- Low Self Esteem Patterns: such as Difficulty making decisions; Judging self and behavior as never good enough; Embarrassed by praise and recognition; Valuing others’ approval more than self-approval; Believing self to be unloveable or unworthwhile; Difficulty admitting mistakes; Inability to ask others to meet needs or desires.
- Compliance Patterns: such as Loyalty even when it is harmful to self; Compromising values and integrity to avoid rejection or anger; Taking on others’ feelings as your own; Accepting sexual attention instead of the love you want; Putting aside own interests to do what others want; Fear of expressing feelings and opinions when they differ from others; Giving up own truth to gain approval of others.
- Control Patterns: such as Believe most people are incapable of taking care of themselves; Trying to convince others what to think-do-feel; Becoming resentful when others decline help or reject advice; Using sexual attention to gain approval and acceptance; Manipulating by using charm and charisma to convince others of capacity to be caring and compassionate; Pretending to agree with others to get what you want.
- Avoidance Patterns: such as Acting in ways that invite others to reject, shame, or express anger toward you; Judging harshly what others think, say, or do; Avoiding emotional, physical, or sexual intimacy to maintain distance; Allowing your addictions to people, places, and things to distract you from achieving intimacy in relationships; Using indirect and evasive communication to avoid conflict or confrontation; Suppressing feelings or needs to avoid feeling vulnerable; Pulling people toward you, but when they get close, pushing them away.
Empowerment is the cure to codependency. It is the belief and awareness that we have the capacity to make choices and can take desired actions that affect positive outcomes. In other words, we know who we are, can stand up for our beliefs and values, and believe that we can have an effect on our choices in the world. Empowered people take actions to meet their goals and have a sense of confidence that they can achieve those goals. Empowered people also recognize that set-backs are not failures, but simply opportunities to increase the effectiveness of their actions.
Increasing the sense of personal power requires that we work through issues of shame, worthlessness, and victimization. It also requires practical application – making small goals and achieving them in order to build confidence and a sense of competency in the world.