What is Codependence?

Codependence is a dysfunctional pattern of living and problem solving learned and absorbed during childhood. It happens due to growing up in a family where there is a great deal of chronic emotional pain or trauma and unhealthy boundaries. Examples of these are families where there was: unskillful parenting, a critical or non-nurturing environment, domestic violence, physical, sexual or emotional abuse, substance abuse or addiction, or chronic mental or physical illness. Just like individual people, not all families can be so neatly categorized. Codependence can happen in any family where parents are trying their best, but learned unhealthy patterns of relating.  Therapy can heal you from the past and help you to create a healthy life and identity for yourself. 

In these families there are no appropriate boundaries for the child to experience or learn. Some grow up with no personal boundaries at all. They take in all the negativity of others’ fears, attacks, anger, and criticism. Everything gets in and overwhelms them resulting in no clear sense of identity. Others grow up with rigid boundaries, never allowing anything positive inside, like love, admiration, compliments, and nurturing.

To be emotionally healthy we need to develop  boundaries which keep out the negative but let in the positive. This results in a person with healthy self esteem.

Signs of Codependence

  • You have no idea what normal is
  • Your moods are directly dependent upon the moods of the people you’re close to
  • You attempt to control people’s moods because if they feel good, you’ll feel good.
  • You must always have the approval of others
  • You blame others for your feelings or behavior
  • You have a pattern of getting into abusive relationships/friendships
  • You minimize your unhealthy relationships/friendships
  • You defend or minimize your family of origin’s unhealthy patterns of behavior
  • You “stuff” your feelings
  • You rage at others
  • You feel ashamed to cry in front of anyone
  • You feel numb when it comes to expressing emotions
  • You feel uncomfortable when others express strong emotions
  • You make yourself feel better with addictive substances or behaviors
  • You have never learned to say “no” or “that’s not gonna work for me”
  • You feel bored and empty if there isn’t a crisis in your life, or someone to help
  • You fear being alone
  • You lie rather than speak your truth
  • You lie rather than speak your truth
  • You’re afraid of authority figures
  • You don’t have a clue how to have fun
  • You are very self critical
  • You feel guilty when you stand up for yourself instead of giving in
  • You are, or love, a workaholic
  • You are a reactor in life, rather than an actor  

Source: The Wellness Insititute

 Recommended Reading

  • Breaking Free from the Victim Trap: Reclaiming Your Personal Power by Diane Zimberoff
  • Codependent No More by Melody Beattie


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2 Responses to “What is Codependence?”

  1. Carolyn Bolton Says:

    I am always open to any and all suggestions that will help me on my journey, my healing, and most importantly spiritually.Please feel free to send mail . THANK YOU

  2. psychscribe Says:

    Hi Carolyn, and welcome! A great book about codependence is the classic Codependent No More by Melodie Beattie. If you haven’t read it yet, its a BIG help 🙂 Thanks for visiting, and I hope you come back again. Psychscribe

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