Codependency and Relationship

pondWhat is codependency and how does it affect our ability to be in relationship? Can one heal from codependency?

Codependency often results when childhood needs are not met by primary caregivers, causing the child to feel a lack of safety and trust in their environment. It usually involves an environment of abuse or neglect where at least one of the following scenarios is present:

  • Parents are angry and abusive. They shame and emotionally or physically injure their children.
  • Parents feel powerless over their own lives and blame their children for their own unhappiness.  Children learn to feel overly responsible for the feelings of others.
  • Caregivers/parents suffer from addiction issues and are not able to attune themselves to the needs of their children, often resulting in neglect.
  • Parents are preoccupied or overwhelmed themselves, and rely on their children for emotional support. They may be out of touch with their own feelings and cannot model healthy relationship patterns for their children.

Children who are raised in these unsupportive, less than nurturing environments learn to “adapt” by attuning themselves to the needs of their caregivers with the hope of stopping the abuse. They work hard to be “liked” or accepted” by others, attempting indirectly to get their needs met. When they fail to achieve the desired result, they often feel hurt and resentful. They do not practice self care and become stunted in their own growth. Their relationships are based on fear and not mature love. The codependent creates a “false self” in order to feel safe in the world while the “true self” becomes hidden and shut down. One often feels isolated and alone.

Creating healthier relationships begins with an awareness of these constricted ways of functioning, and a desire for more connection. Healing can be facilitated through a safe and compassionate relationship with a therapist who can guide you through the emotional work necessary for recovery. Grieving old hurts and losses is a very important part of this healing journey. Learning new skills to navigate current relationships is essential to the successful integration of this new learning so that it becomes anchored in daily experience. Sometimes people need to solidify developmental steps in maturation that got stunted when as a child they were catapulted into adult functioning before they were ready. Many “normal” childhood experiences are missed when the child becomes a “parentified child” who feels responsible for the adults in his/her life. People need to go back and solidify this learning in order to proceed forward as a fully functioning adult. Codependency has been referred to as a disease of immaturity.  One literally grows up and feels like an adult inside and out as healing takes place.

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