One of the main areas that I work in with clients is that of codependency.
What is codependency?
Codependency is a broad term to describe certain ways of relating to others. There have been several different definitions of codependency given by different authors who have specialised in this subject but there is not one clear definition.
The way I would describe codependency is that it is a way of behaving and relating to others which is borne out of circumstances experienced in the codependent person's environment. Many people who go on to develop codependent traits have been brought up in an environment where there is addiction present and so these traits have developed as a result of them living with someone suffering from an addiction.
Also, some people who develop codependent traits have had the experience of growing up in a family environment where open expression of feelings was not encouraged or allowed. So each person who develops codependent traits will all have had slightly different experiences but there will be some common themes present.
What are the characteristics of codependency?
Some common characteristics are as follows:-
Caretaking - Many codependents may feel responsible for others and feel compelled to help others, often neglecting their own needs in the process.
Low self-worth - Many codependents may have a low self-esteem and continually look to others for approval and validation to help them to feel better about themselves.
Repression - Many codependents have developed the habit of suppressing their genuine feelings through fear of how others may react.
Obsession - Many codependents have a tendency towards anxiety and worry, either worrying about their own lives or future and/or worrying about others.
Controlling - Many codependents feel the need to be in control in their lives as they have a fear of what may happen if they lose control.
Denial - Many codependents can be in denial of the reality of their situation in that they may not be able to acknowledge or recognise any dysfunction occurring within or around them.
Dependency - Many codependents can feel dependent on others or external situations for their feelings of happiness rather than feeling content within themselves.
Poor communication - Many codependents may have difficulty expressing their genuine feelings to others, often through fear of how they may react.
Weak boundaries - Many codependents have a high tolerance for inappropriate behaviour and find it difficult to be assertive and say no to others.
Lack of trust - Many codependents have difficulty trusting themselves and their feelings and trusting others.
Anger - Many codependents feel afraid of expressing their anger and repress their angry feelings.
I consider the first step to be to identify what codependent characteristics the client may have which are causing them distress and upset in their lives and having a negative impact. Once the client is aware of their behaviours or patterns which are not working for them, we can then develop new strategies and ways of behaving and relating to others which will have a more positive impact on the clients' lives and those around them.
I would also recommend attending the twelve step support groups of Al-Anon and CODA. These support groups deal with codependent behaviours and there are plenty of tools which can be found in their programmes which are designed to assist in developing new healthier ways of living.
Here is some feedback I have had from previous clients I have worked with:-
If you consider that you may have some codependent characteristics and feel that you may benefit from counselling, you can call me on 07769 610711 to arrange an appointment.