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Codependence part 1 & 2
February 22, 2006
10:10 am
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Anonymous
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Codependence is a new word that became popular in the 1980’s. It has become a buzzword and important for you to understand in becoming the person you want to be. In less aware times codependence was considered normal. To be good, perfect, compliant, agreeable, giving, and selfless was rewarded and was the unconscious standard with which many people, especially women were conditioned. Now we are understanding that there is a fine line between where being selfless and taking care of others crosses over to becoming a disease similar to having a physical addiction. If you want to have healthy, mature adult relationships with loved ones and close friends, you will benefit by understanding this condition.
What is codependency? Codependency is a term that grew out of the recovery movement and is what family therapists have termed enmeshment. This is when you are overly involved with another to the point of dysfunction. The codependent personality is formed while growing up in a dysfunctional family system which was emotionally repressive. The codependent does not have appropriate emotional boundaries, can merge easily with another, and does not experience the other person as separate from his/herself emotionally. If you are codependent, you go overboard responding to another person’s problems, needs, and wishes before thinking of your own.
Now let us review a brief history of the word codependent. The recovery movement began in the United States with Alcoholics Anonymous, co-founded in 1938 by Bill Wilson. He developed a peer support group to help alcoholics stop drinking based on twelve principles that changed his life. His spiritual awakening came as the result of practicing these twelve steps. As awareness of alcoholism grew, it was noticed that the partner of an alcoholic had certain types of behavior that were part of the problem. Early on they were labeled co-alcoholics, which was later changed to codependent. It was discovered that the partner had addiction problems too, but these were in the area of relationships with emotional addictions, rather than with a physical, chemical addiction to a substance like alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, or marijuana. There was an unconscious investment of the codependent to enable the alcoholic to stay the sick, "bad" one with the problem, so they could be the good, helpful one, victimized by the chemical dependency of the addict. There was the need for the alcoholic to take the heat, so the codependent did not have to look at his or her own problems. As time passed it was recognized that you do not have to come from an alcoholic family system to develop codependence, this could also come from a dysfunctional family system. Since most families are dysfunctional to some degree, there are many codependent personalities in society that act out different degrees of emotional dependency addictions. Now we recognize that many people in our society suffer from codependence and many do not even know it.
How do you recognize if you have a codependent personality or a tendency in this direction and need help healing this? If you are a caregiver, overly responsible, a dependent type person, do not like to be alone, are the rock your family leans upon, have made yourself indispensable to at least one other’s functioning, need to be needed, are a people pleaser, or attract needy, dependent people, then you are a great candidate for this condition. A good rule of thumb to determine if your normal giving and interest in a loved one is dysfunctional and becomes codependent is answering "yes" to any of the following statements:
• I take care of you when you will not take care of yourself.
• I take care of you before I take care of myself.
• I foster dependency on me by doing what you need to be doing for yourself.
• I take care of your needs and do not take care of my needs.
• Giving and receiving are not balanced in my adult relationships with family members and friends.
Note: Here I am not talking about the care of young children, the elderly, the ill, or the challenged family member, with physical, emotional, or intellectual limitations. I believe you do have a greater responsibility in these situations to help people.
To be a fully functioning adult and have mature loving relationships with family members, you need to take care of yourself, your needs and wants, follow your interests, develop your talents, and have your own friendships outside of the family. You need to say "no" to doing tasks that foster immaturity and dependence in adult children; such as, buying, washing, or ironing their clothes on a regular basis. This strong boundary setting serves family members to separate from you, learn to individuate (be separate individuals), take care of their own needs, to grow up, and be able to have healthy, mature, adult love relationships. As you set limits on what you give, you foster family members and close friends to have mature adult-to-adult relationships with you. Here you relate in a balanced give-and-take way, where you are not in the role of being the "grownup" who is giving all the time. If you do things for your grown children beyond what is age appropriate, then you lower their self-esteem and actually stop them from growing up.
When you are codependent you are enmeshed with family members’ emotional boundaries and you treat them as extensions of yourself. Therefore, you do not like to see them in pain, uncomfortable, making unwise choices, or unhappy. You like to fix them or their situations to be what you think is right and good for them. If codependency operates to an extreme, it involves subtle control over your adult children’s choices of career, place of residency, religion, choice of marriage partners, and over all you dominate their decision-making abilities. Secretly you feel safe, secure, and loved when others need you and depend on you; it makes you feel important and gives your life meaning because you do not have your own life fully understood and integrated.
Why do codependents do this? Besides the overall comfort experienced when others are dependent on you, the main reason is to avoid dealing with the painful feelings that are stuffed in yourself. These might be feelings of disappointment, unhappiness, trauma, abuse, victimization, lack of fulfillment, stagnation, and not growing and expanding towards potential. If you focus on another, then you can take your mind off of what has happened, or is happening, to you emotionally and you can stay in denial that you have problems that need attention. Since another’s problems dominate your thinking, keeping busy with someone else’s issues eases your inner discomfort, which keeps your emotions at bay. If someone is dependent on you and needs you, you do not have to look at your dependencies. It starts in childhood where rigid, unhealthy rules dominated the family system.
It is a good trait to want to give to others. It is important for your own emotional health , as well as others, to learn the fine line between giving that benefits and serves another verses giving that hinders another and binds them to you and is codependent. Remember to balance giving and receiving, to give from your overflow, to notice the affect of your giving on another, and to take care of yourself. Notice when you have issues with codependency so you can make these corrections in your life, to enjoy reciprocal, mature, loving, fulfilling relationships with family and friends.

Now we will look at the dysfunctional family to remind ourselves of some of the ways we learned to be codependent. It is never too late to heal the parts of ourselves that are wounded, shut down., and repeating unhealthy patterns of emotional dependency. Educating ourselves begins the process of transforming codependency into responsible nurturing and giving to others.
Let us look at the dysfunctional family system briefly to see how many people have been conditioned to have emotional and relationship addictions, which create codependency. You remember that in a dysfunctional family, problems are denied and not discussed, and certainly you are not to discuss them with anyone outside the family. It is a closed family system where no new information or interpretations of situations can come in; so professional help is out. Therefore, you must stumble along pretending there are no problems, looking good to the outside world, but at the same time feeling the family problems and knowing at the emotional level that they are there. You receive no confirmation or data about what these problems are from your parents.
As a child when you felt there were problems and the adults denied them, then you began to doubt what you thought and felt about problems not being addressed. Slowly you turned away from paying attention to your thoughts and feelings, becoming focused outside of yourself by doing instead of feeling. You may have done such things as focus on being a good student, achieving at sports, giving often, being good and not demanding attention, or being overly responsible, to name a few. As you practiced the family rule, to stop listening to your inner self telling you the truth about what you were thinking and feeling, it stopped the awareness and growth process. Eventually the dysfunctional family system trains you to lose touch with who you are. You feel lonely, insecure, abandoned, and stop trusting your voice of intuition, as well as other people. This is carried over to adulthood.
Many times in the dysfunctional family, the adults have so many problems that the child’s needs for proper psychosocial development are not met. There are certain ages those children need more attention than others. There is a fine balance between over- and under- involvement of a parent at each stage. When a parent is unaware and does not know age appropriate nurturing, safety, love, attention, or affection, they over or under give to the child in each of the stages. When a child does not get his/her dependency needs met, this contributes to emotional and physical dependencies, in adulthood.
Next let us discuss the developmental process of dependency in infancy to interdependency in healthy, adult relationships. At birth everyone is totally helpless and dependent on adults to survive. It is very proper for a baby to need a lot of attention, holding, and responding to its needs. Trust is learned in the first year of life by how well those dependency needs are met. As the baby becomes mobile there is an important stage of counter-dependency. With the safety of mom or the caregiver nearby, the baby explores the environment; always making sure mom is near.
Eye contact is important here to convey interest on the part of mom sending a message, "I will let you explore as long as it is safe for you and will set limits on what you do to take care of you." As you can see, it would be very easy to curb this natural curiosity to explore your world. If you are kept in a confined space like a playpen for long period of time, if mom is so busy she does not give the constant reassurance of eye contact to you as a toddler, or if she overprotects you and hovers over your every move, you will not develop properly.
There are degrees of independence that can be encouraged as a child naturally wants to grow to be an individual separate from mom. For example a two-year-old wants to dress him/herself, even if it includes putting a shirt on inside out, wearing colors that do not match, or putting the shoes on the wrong feet. They like to make their own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as well. In normal development the parent knows to let go and let the young child do many things for themselves, even if not done perfectly. What happens many times is the adult does not encourage this independence and stops the desire of the child to be independent. Comments like, "Oh, let me do that for you. You are making a mess," are discouraging to normal independent development. The opposite can be detrimental also; such as, letting the two-year-old do too much, therefore neglecting the child and not setting appropriate limits on the independent behaviors. This can easily happen when the birth of the next child is close.
Somewhere around four years of age a child figures out that mom is not all knowing and all seeing. They figure out such things as, "If mom is not looking, I can cross the street and visit my friend." Here we have the desire to separate, to think and do things for self. Again this has to be responded to sensitively, but this is basically a time to encourage the child to do much for him/herself. It is a good time for example, to allow the child to choose what they want to wear each day and to do some things without the caregiver watching every move.
The final stage in this process is to teach children interdependence. The child needs to know when they go too far with independent actions and thoughts. They need feedback when they reach a certain point in their actions, desires, or decisions that they are not being fair to others and are out of balance. We live with others and their needs also have to be taken into consideration too when we live our life. Everything you do affects me and everything I do affects you. Dependency and independence are both aspects of interdependence. Limits are put on total independence to include living in a world with others. When you do not have the proper nurturing at the proper time in early development, from dependency to interdependency, then you get caught into the web of dysfunctional behaviors. Most of us have some problems as the result of this growth process of not being parented optimally.
The good news is that growth is not limited to childhood. You continue going through these stages and growth opportunities constantly appear throughout your life. That is why it is so important to recognize what is "off" in your upbringing so you can heal the wounded parts of your conditioned self. This is where the inner child idea comes from. We can re-parent the younger, immature parts of ourselves and heal our consciousness.
Besides our dysfunctional families and the parental skills of unaware parents, there are dysfunctional belief systems that perpetuate codependence. One example is the religious teaching that says it is better to give than receive. This is a very high truth, if you are serving those less fortunate, less aware, or less able than yourself. It does not say it is better to give more than you receive when in an egalitarian, mature relationship. If you are dealing with a peer, spouse, or family member (exception young children and the elderly that cannot take care of themselves) there needs to be a balance, an equal exchange of energy.
Things get out of balance if you give out of proportion and match up with others who take out of proportion. This pattern draws people together many times in relationships. This lopsided energy exchange will make each feel victimized by the other over time. The giver many times gives because there is a hidden expectation of receiving something – a future favor, a pat on the back, words of endearment, or acknowledgment that one is a good or nice person, etc. When these "rewards" do not show up, the giver eventually feels taken advantage of and many times gets angry or hurt. The giving here has been conditional. In unconditional giving there is no expectation of a return and what you can give is given without resentment.
Interestingly enough the receiver many times is not even asking for the things the giver gives. Many times the recipient feels that emotional and physical boundaries are being invaded and that there are hidden expectations to give something back. This person many times gets angry about being pestered and their space being invaded. Both are responsible for the pattern, however, the giver and the receiver. To make positive changes in a mature relationship requires both being honest and looking at the unhealthy patterns that need to be changed.
Having the traits of giving and responding to others is usually a good thing. It becomes negative or codependent when you do not take care of your needs first, you stop another’s growth by giving what another needs to do for him/herself, or you ignore your own problems by helping others with their problems. There are healthy places to use the trait of giving to others. It is very simple, give from your overflow and help others who need what is being offered. The degree to which you fill yourself up physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually is the degree to which you can give unconditionally. When your giving is unconditional and you think about what is appropriate for you and the other person, it is not codependent. It is the opposite.
The key to clear, clean giving and avoiding codependence is to work on your own healing, beginning with learning what your needs are and meeting them. As you get to know yourself, you will learn to tune into yourself periodically throughout the day to listen to the needs of your inner self in order to find balance. Notice simple things such as whether you are bored and need people and more activity today, or you are tired, need less socializing and physical activity today and would benefit by being alone. If you need attention, admit it and look for appropriate ways to nurture yourself. If you need to be touched, you may treat yourself to a massage periodically.
The main point is to take responsibility for your own nurturing, to get your needs and wants met daily so your giving comes from a good place. Stop giving time, attention, and emotional energy when you do not have it to give, which depletes you. Giving while emotionally needy or empty has a hidden agenda, a hook of an expectation of a return. Learn to heal the needy parts of yourself and to meet your needs.
On the journey to wholeness it is important to look at your patterns of giving to determine whether or not you are giving for the right reasons and actually helping others. Codependency is dysfunctional because you are unaware of yourself, your needs, and the needs of the other person. Here you take care of others to fill a void within self, not realizing that it is doing damage to you, as well as to others. We have looked at codependency and how it gets started in the family of origin and ways heal it. As you grow, heal and learn to transform your codependency, you will responsibly give to others and have the privilege of truly being of service. You will have equal, mature, loving relationships with friends and family based on choice.

February 22, 2006
3:40 pm
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maddy
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This is so helpful. okay where does one get help (counseling, support groups, friends or do you believe it can be done alone. ie self help book

February 22, 2006
3:44 pm
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taj64
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I think it is good to get help wherever it is available. I read books and talk on the sight. I have not gone to support group meeting or therapist. I am weak in that area. I know it will help. But in the meantime, I try to focus on my recovery above everything in my life, it is my life. I get a lot of books from the library. They are free and I can renew them if I need them longer. I guess you can say I try alone and I know it would help better to go to therapy. Until I am ready this is good for now. Learning about my childhood issues though painful is what is bring me back to life again.

February 22, 2006
5:24 pm
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gazelle
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Thank you so much, pinkpaw, for posting that v articulate & enlightening description of codependency, its causes & cures.

However, I had great trouble focussing on & reading it, because it is all in one visually overwhelming clump. I had to give up straining my eyes about halfway through :(((

I wonder if I could somehow space it out into visual bite-size chunks before printing it off? Anyone know how?

Please could you post with paragraphing & spacing? I'm sure others would appreciate it too.

This piece is marvellous (as far as I could read) & will help me heaps.
Blessings - gazelle.

February 22, 2006
7:47 pm
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startingover
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Pinkpaw,
I plan to print and read, too. I'm trying to learn a lot about codependency because I'm trying to fix myself after a crisis.
Thanks.

February 22, 2006
9:26 pm
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ladys1stone
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Thank you for your precise information on codependency. I could use all the help I can get.

February 22, 2006
11:06 pm
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Anonymous
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i have a question_even when u are aware u are codependent. and u make great strives to do better. and most of the time i am better. what triggers are there that would cause me to backslide so bad.??????

February 23, 2006
3:47 am
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das033
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pink paw that was an excellent entry and very helpful. Thank you!

Gazelle the easiest way which I will try to print it would be to copy and paste on to a word format,document, or compose as if you were going to send out an e-mail and then print.

February 23, 2006
7:39 am
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hopeful for change
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Well I think it is a nice post. I think I already know all of this, by reading codepent no more a million times. However actually making the changes are hard. I get stuck in my own patterns and get frustrated, but I guess atleast I am seeing that. Sometimes, maybe out of habit, I do something and then I am like, WHY did I just play the victim or whatever it may be.

February 23, 2006
1:46 pm
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das033
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talk about playing the victim role!
OMG! Hopeful for change, help me out! this is where I need recovery any tips?

February 23, 2006
4:51 pm
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Reposted without the clump

Codependence is a new word that became popular in the 1980’s. It has become a buzzword and important for you to understand in becoming the person you want to be. In less aware times codependence was considered normal.

To be good, perfect, compliant, agreeable, giving, and selfless was rewarded and was the unconscious standard with which many people, especially women were conditioned. Now we are understanding that there is a fine line between where being selfless and taking care of others crosses over to becoming a disease similar to having a physical addiction.

If you want to have healthy, mature adult relationships with loved ones and close friends, you will benefit by understanding this condition. What is codependency? Codependency is a term that grew out of the recovery movement and is what family therapists have termed enmeshment. This is when you are overly involved with another to the point of dysfunction.

The codependent personality is formed while growing up in a dysfunctional family system which was emotionally repressive. The codependent does not have appropriate emotional boundaries, can merge easily with another, and does not experience the other person as separate from his/herself emotionally.

If you are codependent, you go overboard responding to another person’s problems, needs, and wishes before thinking of your own. Now let us review a brief history of the word codependent. The recovery movement began in the United States with Alcoholics Anonymous, co-founded in 1938 by Bill Wilson. He developed a peer support group to help alcoholics stop drinking based on twelve principles that changed his life. His spiritual awakening came as the result of practicing these twelve steps. As awareness of alcoholism grew, it was noticed that the partner of an alcoholic had certain types of behavior that were part of the problem. Early on they were labeled co-alcoholics, which was later changed to codependent. It was discovered that the partner had addiction problems too, but these were in the area of relationships with emotional addictions, rather than with a physical, chemical addiction to a substance like alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, or marijuana.

There was an unconscious investment of the codependent to enable the alcoholic to stay the sick, "bad" one with the problem, so they could be the good, helpful one, victimized by the chemical dependency of the addict. There was the need for the alcoholic to take the heat, so the codependent did not have to look at his or her own problems. As time passed it was recognized that you do not have to come from an alcoholic family system to develop codependence, this could also come from a dysfunctional family system. Since most families are dysfunctional to some degree, there are many codependent personalities in society that act out different degrees of emotional dependency addictions. Now we recognize that many people in our society suffer from codependence and many do not even know it.

How do you recognize if you have a codependent personality or a tendency in this direction and need help healing this? If you are a caregiver, overly responsible, a dependent type person, do not like to be alone, are the rock your family leans upon, have made yourself indispensable to at least one other’s functioning, need to be needed, are a people pleaser, or attract needy, dependent people, then you are a great candidate for this condition.

A good rule of thumb to determine if your normal giving and interest in a loved one is dysfunctional and becomes codependent is answering "yes" to any of the following statements:
• I take care of you when you will not take care of yourself. • I take care of you before I take care of myself.

• I foster dependency on me by doing what you need to be doing for yourself.

• I take care of your needs and do not take care of my needs.

• Giving and receiving are not balanced in my adult relationships with family members and friends.

Note: Here I am not talking about the care of young children, the elderly, the ill, or the challenged family member, with physical, emotional, or intellectual limitations.

I believe you do have a greater responsibility in these situations to help people. To be a fully functioning adult and have mature loving relationships with family members, you need to take care of yourself, your needs and wants, follow your interests, develop your talents, and have your own friendships outside of the family. You need to say "no" to doing tasks that foster immaturity and dependence in adult children; such as, buying, washing, or ironing their clothes on a regular basis.

This strong boundary setting serves family members to separate from you, learn to individuate (be separate individuals), take care of their own needs, to grow up, and be able to have healthy, mature, adult love relationships. As you set limits on what you give, you foster family members and close friends to have mature adult-to-adult relationships with you. Here you relate in a balanced give-and-take way, where you are not in the role of being the "grownup" who is giving all the time.

If you do things for your grown children beyond what is age appropriate, then you lower their self-esteem and actually stop them from growing up. When you are codependent you are enmeshed with family members’ emotional boundaries and you treat them as extensions of yourself. Therefore, you do not like to see them in pain, uncomfortable, making unwise choices, or unhappy. You like to fix them or their situations to be what you think is right and good for them.

If codependency operates to an extreme, it involves subtle control over your adult children’s choices of career, place of residency, religion, choice of marriage partners, and over all you dominate their decision-making abilities. Secretly you feel safe, secure, and loved when others need you and depend on you; it makes you feel important and gives your life meaning because you do not have your own life fully understood and integrated.

Why do codependents do this? Besides the overall comfort experienced when others are dependent on you, the main reason is to avoid dealing with the painful feelings that are stuffed in yourself. These might be feelings of disappointment, unhappiness, trauma, abuse, victimization, lack of fulfillment, stagnation, and not growing and expanding towards potential. If you focus on another, then you can take your mind off of what has happened, or is happening, to you emotionally and you can stay in denial that you have problems that need attention. Since another’s problems dominate your thinking, keeping busy with someone else’s issues eases your inner discomfort, which keeps your emotions at bay.

If someone is dependent on you and needs you, you do not have to look at your dependencies. It starts in childhood where rigid, unhealthy rules dominated the family system. It is a good trait to want to give to others. It is important for your own emotional health , as well as others, to learn the fine line between giving that benefits and serves another verses giving that hinders another and binds them to you and is codependent. Remember to balance giving and receiving, to give from your overflow, to notice the affect of your giving on another, and to take care of yourself.

Notice when you have issues with codependency so you can make these corrections in your life, to enjoy reciprocal, mature, loving, fulfilling relationships with family and friends.

Now we will look at the dysfunctional family to remind ourselves of some of the ways we learned to be codependent. It is never too late to heal the parts of ourselves that are wounded, shut down., and repeating unhealthy patterns of emotional dependency. Educating ourselves begins the process of transforming codependency into responsible nurturing and giving to others.

Let us look at the dysfunctional family system briefly to see how many people have been conditioned to have emotional and relationship addictions, which create codependency.

You remember that in a dysfunctional family, problems are denied and not discussed, and certainly you are not to discuss them with anyone outside the family. It is a closed family system where no new information or interpretations of situations can come in; so professional help is out.

Therefore, you must stumble along pretending there are no problems, looking good to the outside world, but at the same time feeling the family problems and knowing at the emotional level that they are there. You receive no confirmation or data about what these problems are from your parents. As a child when you felt there were problems and the adults denied them, then you began to doubt what you thought and felt about problems not being addressed. Slowly you turned away from paying attention to your thoughts and feelings, becoming focused outside of yourself by doing instead of feeling.

You may have done such things as focus on being a good student, achieving at sports, giving often, being good and not demanding attention, or being overly responsible, to name a few. As you practiced the family rule, to stop listening to your inner self telling you the truth about what you were thinking and feeling, it stopped the awareness and growth process. Eventually the dysfunctional family system trains you to lose touch with who you are. You feel lonely, insecure, abandoned, and stop trusting your voice of intuition, as well as other people. This is carried over to adulthood.

Many times in the dysfunctional family, the adults have so many problems that the child’s needs for proper psychosocial development are not met. There are certain ages those children need more attention than others. There is a fine balance between over- and under- involvement of a parent at each stage. When a parent is unaware and does not know age appropriate nurturing, safety, love, attention, or affection, they over or under give to the child in each of the stages. When a child does not get his/her dependency needs met, this contributes to emotional and physical dependencies, in adulthood.

Next let us discuss the developmental process of dependency in infancy to interdependency in healthy, adult relationships. At birth everyone is totally helpless and dependent on adults to survive. It is very proper for a baby to need a lot of attention, holding, and responding to its needs. Trust is learned in the first year of life by how well those dependency needs are met. As the baby becomes mobile there is an important stage of counter-dependency.

With the safety of mom or the caregiver nearby, the baby explores the environment; always making sure mom is near. Eye contact is important here to convey interest on the part of mom sending a message, "I will let you explore as long as it is safe for you and will set limits on what you do to take care of you." As you can see, it would be very easy to curb this natural curiosity to explore your world.

If you are kept in a confined space like a playpen for long period of time, if mom is so busy she does not give the constant reassurance of eye contact to you as a toddler, or if she overprotects you and hovers over your every move, you will not develop properly.

There are degrees of independence that can be encouraged as a child naturally wants to grow to be an individual separate from mom. For example a two-year-old wants to dress him/herself, even if it includes putting a shirt on inside out, wearing colors that do not match, or putting the shoes on the wrong feet. They like to make their own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as well.

In normal development the parent knows to let go and let the young child do many things for themselves, even if not done perfectly. What happens many times is the adult does not encourage this independence and stops the desire of the child to be independent. Comments like, "Oh, let me do that for you. You are making a mess," are discouraging to normal independent development. The opposite can be detrimental also; such as, letting the two-year-old do too much, therefore neglecting the child and not setting appropriate limits on the independent behaviors.

This can easily happen when the birth of the next child is close. Somewhere around four years of age a child figures out that mom is not all knowing and all seeing. They figure out such things as, "If mom is not looking, I can cross the street and visit my friend." Here we have the desire to separate, to think and do things for self. Again this has to be responded to sensitively, but this is basically a time to encourage the child to do much for him/herself. It is a good time for example, to allow the child to choose what they want to wear each day and to do some things without the caregiver watching every move.

The final stage in this process is to teach children interdependence. The child needs to know when they go too far with independent actions and thoughts. They need feedback when they reach a certain point in their actions, desires, or decisions that they are not being fair to others and are out of balance. We live with others and their needs also have to be taken into consideration too when we live our life. Everything you do affects me and everything I do affects you.

Dependency and independence are both aspects of interdependence. Limits are put on total independence to include living in a world with others. When you do not have the proper nurturing at the proper time in early development, from dependency to interdependency, then you get caught into the web of dysfunctional behaviors. Most of us have some problems as the result of this growth process of not being parented optimally. The good news is that growth is not limited to childhood.

You continue going through these stages and growth opportunities constantly appear throughout your life. That is why it is so important to recognize what is "off" in your upbringing so you can heal the wounded parts of your conditioned self. This is where the inner child idea comes from. We can re-parent the younger, immature parts of ourselves and heal our consciousness. Besides our dysfunctional families and the parental skills of unaware parents, there are dysfunctional belief systems that perpetuate codependence.

One example is the religious teaching that says it is better to give than receive. This is a very high truth, if you are serving those less fortunate, less aware, or less able than yourself. It does not say it is better to give more than you receive when in an egalitarian, mature relationship. If you are dealing with a peer, spouse, or family member (exception young children and the elderly that cannot take care of themselves) there needs to be a balance, an equal exchange of energy.

Things get out of balance if you give out of proportion and match up with others who take out of proportion. This pattern draws people together many times in relationships. This lopsided energy exchange will make each feel victimized by the other over time. The giver many times gives because there is a hidden expectation of receiving something – a future favor, a pat on the back, words of endearment, or acknowledgment that one is a good or nice person, etc. When these "rewards" do not show up, the giver eventually feels taken advantage of and many times gets angry or hurt.

The giving here has been conditional. In unconditional giving there is no expectation of a return and what you can give is given without resentment. Interestingly enough the receiver many times is not even asking for the things the giver gives.

Many times the recipient feels that emotional and physical boundaries are being invaded and that there are hidden expectations to give something back. This person many times gets angry about being pestered and their space being invaded. Both are responsible for the pattern, however, the giver and the receiver. To make positive changes in a mature relationship requires both being honest and looking at the unhealthy patterns that need to be changed.

Having the traits of giving and responding to others is usually a good thing. It becomes negative or codependent when you do not take care of your needs first, you stop another’s growth by giving what another needs to do for him/herself, or you ignore your own problems by helping others with their problems. There are healthy places to use the trait of giving to others. It is very simple, give from your overflow and help others who need what is being offered. The degree to which you fill yourself up physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually is the degree to which you can give unconditionally.

When your giving is unconditional and you think about what is appropriate for you and the other person, it is not codependent. It is the opposite. The key to clear, clean giving and avoiding codependence is to work on your own healing, beginning with learning what your needs are and meeting them. As you get to know yourself, you will learn to tune into yourself periodically throughout the day to listen to the needs of your inner self in order to find balance. Notice simple things such as whether you are bored and need people and more activity today, or you are tired, need less socializing and physical activity today and would benefit by being alone. If you need attention, admit it and look for appropriate ways to nurture yourself.

If you need to be touched, you may treat yourself to a massage periodically. The main point is to take responsibility for your own nurturing, to get your needs and wants met daily so your giving comes from a good place. Stop giving time, attention, and emotional energy when you do not have it to give, which depletes you. Giving while emotionally needy or empty has a hidden agenda, a hook of an expectation of a return. Learn to heal the needy parts of yourself and to meet your needs. On the journey to wholeness it is important to look at your patterns of giving to determine whether or not you are giving for the right reasons and actually helping others. Codependency is dysfunctional because you are unaware of yourself, your needs, and the needs of the other person. Here you take care of others to fill a void within self, not realizing that it is doing damage to you, as well as to others.

We have looked at codependency and how it gets started in the family of origin and ways heal it. As you grow, heal and learn to transform your codependency, you will responsibly give to others and have the privilege of truly being of service. You will have equal, mature, loving relationships with friends and family based on choice.

February 23, 2006
4:52 pm
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Anonymous
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There are also support groups called Codependent Anonymous...

February 24, 2006
2:41 am
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das033
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Thanks pinkpaw, my eyes love you for that!

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