- What is codependency?
- What are the signs?
- How does it happen?
- Traits of codependency
- Ways to break codependency
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Laurie: Hi! My name is Laurie Groh. I'm co-owner at Shoreside Therapies and today we have again with us Laila Wiechmann, and today we're going to be talking about codependency. This is one of my favorite areas. I think it's not talked a lot about it in the community and just by people. I kind of feel like there's this negative feeling about that word, but really I think it's something that's within all of us. It just can be more extreme in people and, you know, cause bigger problems in relationships. So, I want to start out with just asking you what is co-dependency?
Laila: So codependency, and I agree with you, I think that there are different, different variations of how much one person has of it versus another. It's not just one size, fits all. Basically, it's an unbalancing in relationship patterns where one person assumes the responsibility of another person's feelings and emotions at the expense of their own. This originally started from Alcoholic Anonymous, where you know the person who was the alcoholic was dependent on the alcohol and the people that were trying to help them were therefore dependent on the alcoholic because they were doing everything in their power to save them or help them in any way. And that's really where initially co dependency the term came from. Obviously, that has changed a lot over a period of time. Co-dependency is valued in very many different kinds of relationships. So that's kind of a background of what, where it is and what it is.
Laurie: So that person in that role that's in a relationship with someone with an addiction takes it upon themselves to try to control, potentially control the addiction and also try to control the, behavior that goes along with the addiction as well, and you know, in that process they kind of lose themselves quite a bit right. I mean there is a feeling of putting all your energy into trying to have that other person stop using or limit using. I mean it could be different for everyone on what they're trying to achieve there, but basically, that's where that developed. What are some of the signs? What are some of the signs of codependency?
Laila: So there are lots of different ones. I'll just kind of touch base on a few of them. So for one, like walking on eggshells around the person that you are codependent with, you know just never wanting to rock the boat. You always want to kind of remain status quo, not letting the other person get angry, then feeling the need to check on people all the time. Where are you? What are you doing? You making sure you're safe? You know kind of, you know, being that octopus and you know putting all your arms out there, trying to make sure that person is safe. Another one is apologizing to the person even though you haven't done anything wrong. You know any kind of mishap, we think it's our fault and even if it is, we want to make sure that person doesn't get angry or upset with us because anger is not a good thing for co independent person. Avoid it at all, as you know.
Laurie: Right, right! That reminds me quickly. I hope I don't botch this quote too much, but in codependency, where she talks about feeling this feeling of being responsible for everything, but yet at the same time not being, or not feeling responsible for your own.
Laurie: To me, I love that quote, because that's what that feels like. You know if I'm trying to maintain this good relationship, and I don't get this person angry or I try to do everything in a perfect way, then they're not going to drink or they're not going to use.
Laurie: At the same time, feeling resentful because it's taken up all of their capacity.
Laila: Exactly exactly you hit it right on the head. Also feeling sorry for a person even if they've hurt you, and you know that kind of goes into physical abuse relationships, where somebody is physically abused and that person says, It was my fault because I didn't have dinner on the table at the right time. I made him angry, you know, taking on that responsibility, even though you and I both know that's wrong. That we are not responsible for somebody else's anger and they shouldn't take it out on you. So that's really trying to rescue people or to change them. You know being that savior. He's a really good guy, I know I can change them.
Laurie: Yeah, right! And I think we have seen the romantic comedies, where that happens right here, where the guys kind of, you know, maybe kind of arrogant or mean, or maybe drinking too much or something, and then all of a sudden, you know, he meets the woman and all problems are gone, happily ever after. It is an idea that's definitely pushed on to us, for sure.
Laila: Yeah, but it's obviously not realistic, because it's hard enough to change ourselves, more or less trying to make somebody else change or to rescue them, and there is the need for other people. You need their approval. Do you want them to like you in order for you to like yourself? You know it's like you're this empty emotional vessel. So you look towards other people to feel that need for you in order to feel good about yourself, and I'll kind of touch base on why that is later. But you know very much looking for approval from other people, even if you don't know them.
Laila: Yes, and...
Laila: Sorry, sorry, for interrupting again, for looking for other people to make yourself esteem better. Right, I mean, that's basically what you're saying. Yeah.
Laila: And the last one, which I think kind of brings about change for some people is feeling lost within that relationship. You don't know who you are. You lose yourself so much in that relationship that you know you don't know who am I and what do I? What do I stand for? How do I feel about something? And that part has never developed because you've expended so much energy into that other person, and I think that's when people start and when they reach that point they're like, huh. Maybe I need to get some help, you know.
Laila: Those are some and there are many, and, to different degrees, people are affected by them, but those are some of them.
Laurie: Yeah, thank you for pointing those out. I think those parts of it kind of thinking about where am I in the relationship? Am I doing any of these things? And to what degree. And then going from there, when you start, like you said, when you start losing yourself, indication would be if you painted all the time or had some other hobby, and then, once you're in a relationship, there's no more painting, there's no energy for it or there's no... yeah. then it just ends, because all that energy is going towards that person.
Laurie: So, Laila, you mentioned that you were going to talk a little bit about how does it happen? So how does somebody become co-dependent?
Laila: So codependency, really, it's a set of maladaptive coping skills that we learn in childhood. It really is based in childhood. So, like a child will grow up in a home where their emotions were ignored, which leads pretty much to emotional neglect. And then the person has a very, very low self-esteem and a lot of shame. And shame is, I did bad, I'm a bad person, instead of guilt, which is I did bad, and so it's really a difficult way to grow up and the child basically believes that their emotions are not valid. You know they're just, they're swept under the rug, usually one or more parent. They are not fulfilling their role as a parent and that could be due to medical issues or co-occurring disorders or mental health issues. But whatever it is, they're just not fulfilling their roles. So the child who is now young is called upon to do these tasks of the parent when they're not developmentally really capable of doing that. But they take on these roles anyway and get good at them eventually because they have to and they even may become. You know, like sudo parents, if they have siblings, younger, changing diapers, getting the kids off to school, making dinner at night, you know. So they really they become little parents and very responsible at a very young age when they developmentally really aren't capable to do that.
Laurie: And Laila with that, when we talked a little bit about that responsibility piece, that showcases it right of, when you're young and you are the one that's responsible for other children, or even responsible, believing you're responsible for your parents emotional wellbeing, there would become a sense of I'm responsible for everything.
Laila: Yeah. I mean, if you really think about it, that's a lot for a child to take on. But they learn because that's a coping skill, that they have to learn. You know, being adult, they take all their efforts and because it takes all their efforts, they don't learn how to meet their own emotional needs. They don't know, they are not taught that they have emotional needs, it's not filled. So they're, very empty in that respect. So they associate caregiving role with one of like, stability and control. You know, as long as I can get all this stuff done, mom and dad aren't going to be mad at me, it's all going to be. I'll just keep all these balls in the air at the same time and everything will be good, you know I'm getting tired just talking about. So that's kind of the unhealthy environment that children, codependents, grow up in. So once they leave that unhealthy home environment and they go out into the real world and they start establishing their own relationships, they bring that along with them, even though you're entering into a relationship that is healthy, those coping skills that you had, you're bringing with you, even though they're not really suitable for that relationship. So the codependency becomes more of a hindrance rather than a survival skill, and so all these... taking care of them and making sure everything's done and making sure nobody gets angry. You know, like all those other signs that we talked about before, those all are just laid right on top of a relationship and generally depict needy people usually. So that's kind of it in a very big nutshell.
Laurie: Yeah, and with that, with how you said like they, they might pick someone that might be needy, you know needing more. Sometimes there can be this confusion of pity and love and those things can become very meshed. Feeling sorry for the person going back to that. I want to save them, I want to help them and feeling bad for that person can get confusing for an individual that might have codependency because it can feel like love.
Laila: You hit it right on the head. It will feel like love to them until you break that cycle. That's what you will continue to seek out in relationships.
Laurie: So, Laila, speaking of breaking the cycle, maybe you could offer a couple of things on how to break codependency.
Laila: Number one: practice self-care. You know, spend time thinking about what do I like? What are my likes, what are my dislikes? How do I feel about a piece of music or feel about a TV show on my own and not just, you know, going along with somebody else. So really practicing a lot of self-care, and be kind to yourself and try to begin to feel those emotions that you haven't haven't felt before. Another thing is to learn to be independent. A lot of times you're so focused on that other person that you have neglected your friends, your family. Well, obviously yourself, but take time for yourself, take a walk or see your family. Go to dinner with them. You know, learning not to always have to be with another person. You know you always have to go jump from one relationship to another to fulfill you. You should be able to tell yourself. It's like that's saying: you complete me. I don't believe that. I believe that you should be a complete person, meeting another complete person and then you complement one another. So, I think, learning, learning realistic expectations. What can I expect? What can I expect from myself and from my life?I don't know. So having realistic expectations, you don't have to exist for somebody else to feel that I am a person. So what are my expectations? And the big one is setting boundaries, learning to say no, people-pleasing.
Laila: Learning to say no, some people just, you know they just get so used to 'yes', but that too is exhausting. But learning to say no, stand-up for how you feel in your time versus just rolling over. And I think a lot of a lot of people do go and they deal with their past and oftentimes they go to therapy for that. And what's nice about that is oftentimes, you know, people aren't emotionally equipped to deal with their past. It's helpful that it provides an unconditional, safe place for them to be angry, for them to cry for them to explain these emotions that they've always had to hide because they were afraid to show them. So I think that's a big one.
Laurie: Yeah, and practicing some of these things, like practicing those, the new way of interacting. That's another thing that's useful about talking to the therapist about it, because that way you could, you can roll play a little bit. You go through like what if they say this? And how do I respond to that? And then when you do that task, you come back and you get some support from it so that you're not alone, because not everyone's going to respond to your new nose in a positive way. Like of course I understand. That might not be what happens. So having that extra support can be so important.
Laila: That's pretty much..
Laurie: So Laila, so sorry I keep cutting you off today, so what were you going to say?
Laila: No! I just said, that's pretty much co-dependency in a quick nutshell.
Laurie: Okay, great, well, thank you and Laila I wanted to ask you a little bit about your group. I know we talked about it last time, but maybe you'd share again about your new group that you're offering.
Laila: Sure, I'm going to be doing a group on... I was going to say co-dependency, but no. On addiction and recovery, on Tuesday nights, from 6:30 to 7:30, probably virtual, on Zoom. I assume we'll be doing it for five weeks, covering every topic from recognizing do I have a problem with with with chemicals? What are they? What does addiction mean? What are ways that I can recognize it and how to deal with it and manage it, and you know what are relapse prevention, things that I can do, and so just covering the whole wide variety of topics in a short period of time. But it just gives you an introduction, and this is meant for people that may be actively using drugs and alcohol, may think that they might have a problem, or family members who are dealing with a patient or with a family member that is, and they would like to get more information, so that's what it's going to be about.
Laurie: That sounds great so the psychoeducation is going to be big in this five-week group and it's free right now for those five weeks. So I think that part will be really great. So if anyone's wondering, you know, should I talk to someone? I'm a little bit on the fence whether I have an issue or not or a family member might. This would be a great opportunity to join like-minded people that might be having the same questions. Help you feel not alone in this, and I did put on that little bar coming down. You can see your email address after your name, after Laila's name. So if you are interested in the group, please reach out. If you'd like to schedule an appointment with Laila, please reach out as well. She's a great therapist and can help you through some of these difficult things, especially learning new skills and learning new ways to interact with people. So I want to thank you again, Laila, for your time, and talk to you soon.
Laila: Thank you Laurie!