Monthly Archives: May, 2024

Breaking Co-Dependency by Tisha Smith MA, LPCMH

Co-dependency is a term often used to describe the behavioral coping mechanisms that were created in childhood to “survive” in a dysfunctional family of origin. It is a behavior pattern characterized by a reliance on others for validation, self-worth, and identity. Children who grow up in dysfunctional homes are particularly susceptible to developing co-dependent tendencies because (at the time) it was necessary to design ways to receive love, stay out of trouble, be noticed, feel special, or keep the peace. The child’s behaviors were adaptive but maladaptive when carried into adulthood. These behaviors are usually based on false core beliefs such as “to be loved, I must be_________” (fill in the blank with your belief).

Do you recognize any of these traits in yourself?

  1. Excessive People-Pleasing: Individuals with co-dependency often prioritize the needs and desires of others above their own, seeking external validation and approval to feel worthy.
  2. Difficulty Setting Boundaries: Boundaries become blurred in co-dependent relationships, leading individuals to sacrifice their needs to accommodate others, even at the expense of their well-being.
  3. Fear of Abandonment: Stemming from childhood experiences of neglect or inconsistent care, co-dependent individuals may harbor a deep-seated fear of being abandoned or rejected by those they depend on.
  4. Lack of Self-Identity: In co-dependent relationships, personal identity can become enmeshed with the other person, making it difficult to distinguish where one ends and the other begins.
  5. Difficulty Expressing Authentic Emotions: Suppressing one’s true feelings and emotions to maintain harmony within the relationship is common among co-dependent individuals, leading to internalized stress and resentment.

Breaking the Pattern

  1. Self-awareness: Healing co-dependency begins with self-awareness. Recognizing and acknowledging co-dependent patterns and their origins is the first step toward healing.
  2. Establishing Boundaries: Learning to set and enforce healthy boundaries is essential for breaking free from co-dependency. Practice assertiveness and open, honest communication.
  3. Self-Care Practices: Prioritize self-care activities that nurture your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Set aside time for activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.
  4. Seeking Therapy: Therapy can help you heal from co-dependency by helping you explore core beliefs and underlying issues while developing healthier relationships.
  5. Building a Support Network: Joining support groups can help you connect with others who understand your experiences (google: Co-dependence Anonymous (CoDA) or Celebrate Recovery for groups in person and online).

By learning to grow in love and acceptance of self, you can reclaim your autonomy and build healthier, more fulfilling relationships (yes, even with your family of origin).

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