Individuals that relate to the patterns of Adult Children tend to struggle with codependency. This is defined as a relationship where you do all the work and suffer all the consequences, yet the other person never grows, changes, or even notice all that you do. You don’t feel appreciated and you end up worn out, exhausted, and blamed.
How to Tell if You Are Codependent
If you answer “yes” to three or more of the following statements, you may struggle with codependency:
- If someone important to me expects me to do something, then I should do it.
- I should not be irritable or unpleasant.
- I should not do anything to make others angry at me.
- I need to have things done to perfection and I expect the same of others – but I don’t trust them to do it right, which is upsetting and frustrating.
- I enjoy having control and knowing that things will get done right.
- I should keep the people I love happy.
- It is usually my fault if someone I care about is upset with me.
- I obtain self-esteem by helping others solve their problems, or doing things for them, even when they do not request it.
- I tend to overexert myself when taking care of others.
- I feel I need to do things for others even if I don’t really know them. In fact, I will do it even before they ask for it.
- If necessary, I will put my own values or needs aside in order to preserve my relationship with my significant other.
- I have a hard time receiving things from others.
- I feel I have to always be up doing things, keeping busy, and cannot get comfortable slowing down or sitting still for long. I always have to be busy doing something.
- I know I can do it better, faster, and make it better than others can.
- I know no one else will do it if I don’t do it – I know because it has happened in the past and I can’t risk it happening again.
- I can’t rely on others to do things because they take too long.
- I make excuses for others, take care of others, and know they can’t make it without my help.
- I put up with other peoples’ behaviors because they are “trying,” but the other person isn’t really trying. They just make excuses for why they haven’t done more.
- I keep hoping that others will do what I want them to do, or that they are about to do it, or are at least thinking of doing it.
- I feel sorry for others because they… (insert reason)
- I put up with behaviors no one else would do – until it is too late.
- I know others are not really getting their lives together, but I keep hoping, watching and waiting.
- Fear of someone else’s anger has a lot of influence on what I say or do.
- I feel guilty if I am not thinking of other peoples’ needs first.
- I feel guilty unless I am being nice and helpful to others.
- I feel I need to help others to be important and cared about by others.
- I feel that if I don’t help others, then they will not be able to handle it or figure it out on their own.
- If someone asks me to do something, I like to do more than was requested of me in order to feel good.
- I will continue to do something for someone even after they say, “No.” I will then say, “Are you sure you don’t want….”
- I anticipate what others want even before they ever say anything.
- I am a very hard working, competent person, who can handle most things by myself – in fact, I do better doing most things by myself.
- I find that the more I do, the less others seem to do.
- I do for others even though they protest.
- I feel I need to solve things for other people.
- I am always picking up after others, cleaning up their messes, and so forth.
- I worry what will happen if others don’t do something, or remember to do things, so I have to find ways to make sure that they remember.
- I worry when others do not seem to be able to handle things.
- I offer advice quickly to others even though they have not asked for it. I am a good “fix-it” person who is always ready with the answers.
- I am always worried how things will look to others, so I want to make sure that everything is done just right.
- I feel the need to always talk and do things for others in order to make sure that they are taken care of, are happy, or whatever I feel that they might need – even when they insist that I not do it.
- I am always trying to save others from suffering any of the natural and logical consequences of their behaviors.
- I make excuses for other peoples’ behaviors or lack of responsibility.
- I end up suffering the consequences and become exhausted taking care of others.
Codependency Changes How We Relate to Others
Codependent relating is a critical concept that all codependent individuals need to understand in order to be able to challenge and change their own unhelpful coping patterns, addictions, and behaviors. Knowing about codependency helps one to “break the chain” of transmitting dysfunctional family dynamics from one generation to the next.
Helping others is fine. However, if we try to do too much, and overprotect and save them, we end up taking away growth, risking, and independence from others. They then start to act and react like little children. This doesn’t help them recover and grow on their own–figuring out for themselves. It enable them to remain helpless and “the same” no matter how much you complain and point out the reality of things.
The overly-helpful person defines their identity by feeling the need to do things for others, even when it is not in our best interests, or when the other person has said no to our helpful requests. The codependent person will repeat the request, do it anyways, or say “are you sure?” It is as if they are stuck in a loop without a solution, doomed to repeat trying to help the other person in order to save them, get them to “get it”, and so on.
Codependency is an Addiction
The Too Good helper is addicted to the activities of doing for others. They are hooked on worrying, helping, answering, knowing, handling problems, solving feelings, and always knowing what is right for others because they are looking for acceptance and reassurance. It Is a drug that tells the person that they are “okay.” However, they are always needing to be reassured and become addicted to the “drug of needing to do for others” in order to feel whole.
The Too Good helper can be a nice, submissive, overly helpful one, or the dominant, controlling, directing, talking too much, directing, managing, strong mothering one who knows best about what is needed for the other person. They violate other people’s psychological and personal boundaries, feeling their emotions, knowing what is best, taking on the other person’s problems, etc.
Their whole identity and self-esteem is based on helping to the point that they become burned out, exhausted, give away too much of themselves, saying and doing nice things all the time and worry that other’s feelings may be hurt if they don’t get involved. It is a feeling that the only way I can be worthwhile, or liked, is to be in charge and handling everything.
The Too Good Helper believes that there is some kind of Power in hope. There is a belief of I can make it happen and this magical belief has the power to convert the lost ones. The opposite actually happens. You make them weak, resistive, and helpless. He/She who has the “problem” (the one who needs your help) actually controls the relationship. They may look helpless but they are actually very powerful! Rather than helping others, we end up enabling those that need our help the most.
Codependency Tolerates Inappropriate Behaviors
Because there is a chronic exposure to an atmosphere that can be illogical, rigid, and highly stressful, those around the sufferer may begin to assume that the illogical is logical and that the inappropriate is appropriate. Family members can develop a tolerance for inappropriate behaviors rather than comment on, and point them out. Perceptions of family members can become distorted and confused and the non-functioning person comes to “expect others to do things for them” as they assume an increasingly passive stance.
Many of the family member’s thoughts can start to exclusively center around the person with the problem. Family members become obsessed with trying to think of new ways to help, find solutions, cures, or handling even everyday problems for the sufferer’s problems. There is a progressive focusing of attention on the sufferer along with an equal neglect of the feelings, wants, and needs of oneself and family members. The Co-dependent becomes “addictively obsessed” with the other person who needs the co-dependent enabler to help them function in life. The Problem is that the other person comes to rely on you to “make them” function–and yet they never understand how much you do for them.
Codependency Alters Our View of Reality
Codependency is a difficult thing. It influences our point of view and affects our feelings of how others react. As full-fledged “adult children”, we often are confused and dismayed by the behaviors of other people. Here are eight of the more common myths that we, as codependent individuals, tend to believe.
- We believe that people will do what they say. The reality is that most people are caught up in their own lives and reality, and words often do not reflect their intent.
- We believe that other people think and feel like we do. As a result, we feel hurt and misunderstood when they act and react differently than we were expecting.
- We believe that other people will follow through with what they promise to do. This often happens because we forget to look past the words of others to what we are observing in their past and present behavior. See the pattern of the relationship as it develops over days, months, and minutes. Watch for the subtle clues and be ready to accept them as facts.
- We believe that other people feel the same guilt, anxiety, and concern that we feel in similar situations. This eager state of being assumes that others have gone through the same types of “growing” experiences that we have had, when in fact many people are just struggling to emotionally survive day-by-day.
- We believe that being nice to others will help them make changes, come through, or accept us. We ignore patterns because in our codependent, overly-helpful ways, we secretly hope that we can “change them” over time or help them to become better people.
- We believe that the more we do for others, the more they will do for us. In reality, many times people are not thinking beyond their own line of sight. It’s often nothing personal, but it is an unfortunate reality that we often ignore because it just “feels wrong”.
- We believe that people do not have secret motives, desires, or just want their needs met. Don’t get caught up in trying to understand other people from your own needs, desires and wants.
- We believe that if we love other people enough, everything else will be OK. This happens when we get caught up with our own needs to be loved and accepted by others.
Codependency Creates Harsh Consequences
If you’re not able to change the course of your life, you might find yourself struggling with the “rewards” of being codependent:
- Living a life of resentment, frustration and unmet personal needs.
- Symptoms of anxiety, panic, fears, phobias, stress, fatigue, burnout, back and neck pains, G.I. distress, and physical illness. These are the “physical” consequences of stuffing feelings of resentment, frustration, and unmet personal needs into the unconscious.
- Other people end up never growing or developing into their full potential. Why? The more you do, the less they do in their lives!
Recover from Codependency is Possible
Recovery involves learning to love and take care of yourself first. It means giving at least equal time to your own needs as well as those of other people. It also means setting limits on how much you will do for, or tolerate from, others.
In order to recover, you also need to learn to say “no” when appropriate. Others may protest when you pull back, but over time they will respect you more. However, this takes time and is a process of growth that helps you focus on yourself. If you don’t take care of you first, you are no good to others. This is not selfish; it is realistic and practical.
It is also realizing that it is “Ok to say no,” even if it seems like a good reason to say yes, if others feel you should do it, or even if you feel guilty about saying “no.” Good love means saying “no” without explaining or saying any more than just that.
Recovery from codependency is knowing that sometimes the best way to help others is by allowing them to struggle and figure out things for themselves – even if you know you can do it better and faster. Codependency takes away from them their own strength or feeling of dealing with the challenges of life.
You’ll also find out that…
- Recovery from codependency is a process of learning how to take better care of yourself by recognizing that your own needs are important.
- It is allowing yourself to know it is good to take time for yourself and knowing that if you take care of yourself first you actually have more to offer others later.
- It is knowing that it is ok to ask for what you need and want from others.
- It is knowing that it is ok to say “no” to other’s demands when you have your own needs to take care of.
- It is accepting, and knowing, the fact that you do not have to be perfect to be accepted and loved by others.
- It is learning to accept yourself just the way you are – right now.
- It is accepting the reality that while you can work on changing yourself, you cannot make another person change.
- It is learning to let go of taking responsibility for other peoples’ problems.
- It is learning to let go of guilt when you are unable to fulfill others’ expectations.
- It is knowing that it is good to have loving compassion for others. However, it is not helpful to feel guilty about their feelings or reactions. This accomplishes nothing for you or them.
- It is learning to love yourself more each day, accepting yourself as you are now.
- It is letting others make mistakes, learn from their own natural consequences, without having to talk to them about them or make sure that others don’t suffer in any way!
By choosing to not be codependent, you will no longer just react automatically to life. Instead, you will be committing yourself to be more conscious about how you handle your relationship with others. Most of the time, how we react has more to do with our own needs than those of others. Our reactions are many times “carry-overs” from our childhood and family relationships, with our hopes of changing the past and “creating” a better family, or having more control, than we had while growing up. Whatever our motivation, we need to start to consciously examine what we are doing instead of always having to be “too helpful” and “providing more” than has been asked for by others. It requires listening more rather than reacting more.