What is codependency? (According to Wikipedia)
Codependency is a controversial concept for a dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement. Among the core characteristics of codependency, the most common theme is an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity.
I have seen a lot of codependence in Indian, Asian, Italian, and Spanish families. This was purely because of me living in those communities and travelling to Italy often, however, there are separate cases everywhere in the world too. It is normal in the family to help or give even in a dysfunctional way. This is usually how most families work.
Are you unhappy but unable to leave? People who are codependent believe that someone else (usually a person) is responsible for their happiness and not themselves, their own actions and decisions (internal cues). For example, maybe one would feel if they found the right guy they will be happy.
Where does this start in a family? How does it affect children?
It usually begins with parents. As children grow, they model these habits hence if not dealt with as an adult you will have problems. As the saying goes, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
It is important to take family therapy especially if there are children growing up in that environment. With time they too will pick up these habits subconsciously and will start showing signs of helping or people pleasing behaviour automatically or it might be the opposite where the relationships they build later in life becomes imbalanced and unhealthy.
Children should feel respected and respect others. They should feel love, attention, supported and feel that they are a priority, this is important for their self-esteem. What you want for your child is for them to be able to be internally strong enough for them i.e. that they have belief, trust to become their own person. They should learn to be expressive, assertive, follow their passion and not let others abuse them.
There is a difference between helping someone and not expecting anything in return to helping someone and then expecting them to return it in some way and helping someone so that someone else can keep maintaining their unhealthy habits and lifestyle.
With co-dependency, a lot of boundaries are crossed, and it is something that is an issue for so many people. I mean over this last year so many people have been telling me about the difficult relationships they have with their family members. It is such a pity when people have money and can access help yet continue hurting their families with their unnecessary words and behaviour.
To take it even further patriarchy doesn’t help the situation. Women feel like they need to do their “duty,” or are groomed to believe that a woman isn’t entitled to have the same things men have. Out of fear they serve and in an unequal relationship they often do the things they don’t like doing and accept it because it is a pattern in society i.e. to believe this is their duty. Domestic violence in patriarchal societies is common because the woman is meant to serve (help, give, care for) that she doesn’t know when to stop or what is the limit.
Are you covering someone or have their back almost all the time since the time they’ve been a child? If there is a yes to this answer, then that person is codependent and is affecting the way a family should run.
This piece is very important. I’ve taken it from an article from Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT. Darlene is a marriage and family therapist, specializing in relationships and codependency.
I will leave link a to Darlene’s article and a link to another article as well at the end.
Is this your family? The below is about a healthy family.
Healthy families are safe because open self-expression is encouraged without judgment or retaliation. Love is shown not only in words, but in empathic, nurturing, and supportive behaviour. Each member, down to the youngest, is treated as a valued, respected member. Feedback is allowed, and there’s a sense of equality, even if parents have the final veto. Parents act responsibly and are accountable for their commitments and hold children accountable for theirs. They correct and punish misbehaviour, but don’t blame their children or attack their character. Mistakes are allowed and forgiven, and parents acknowledge their own shortcomings. They encourage and guide their children and respect their privacy and physical and emotional boundaries. These ingredients build self-esteem, trust, and integrity.
Darlene’s article goes in-depth into the following points on the link I will provide
In dysfunctional families, members have lower self-esteem and tend to be codependent. Some of the symptoms are described below, but not all are necessary to create dysfunction.
- A closed system
- Dysfunctional Communication
- Rigid rules
- Arbitrariness and Inconsistency
- Role confusion
- Inability to problem-solve
After reading in depth into these points it has also become evident to me how religion, culture, a family’s financial situation, third world country issues also create co-dependency.
Who is playing which role?
The link provided will go through these points in detail
The addict – Is there always one person who keeps causing problems and the rest of the family has to bail them out?
The caretaker – This person feels they need to keep the family happy and balanced. This person will hide the family problems from society. The caretaker also becomes the enabler allowing the addict to continue on their path.
The hero – This family member will make the family look good and are often high achievers. They will ignore the problem or they don’t seem to think there’s a problem. The hero starts to think they need to work harder (workaholic tendency) and carry a lot of guilt and shame.
The scapegoat – This person diverts the attention from the family by acting out. They are confrontational, angry, hostile and feel lonely, angry and empty. They could even turn to drugs and alcohol to not feel the pain.
The mascot – The family member who brings humour to divert the attention from the family troubles, however, the humour is immature and creates harm. This comes from the feeling of anger and sadness inside them. This family member will have problems in dealing with their problems in the future.
The lost child – This person will be quiet and won’t voice their feeling about seeking help. They withdraw and give up their own needs. Once they withdraw, they are forgotten. This family member feels and has a tremendous amount of neglect and loneliness. They will develop a lot of anger. This person will lack social skills and have difficulty in maintaining healthy relationships.
Sometimes one family member plays 2 or even 3 roles.
The above has been reiterated from this article which is more in-depth and worth the read to see the habits the family members develop in their roles which are harmful to them.
If you want to break the pattern of co-dependency you cannot do it alone, you will need support.
Here is the link to Darlene’s article – https://www.whatiscodependency.com/is-your-family-dysfunctional/
Here is the link to another article on codependency – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/presence-mind/201406/does-codependence-run-in-your-family
If you are in the Florida area in the United States you can find assistance with drug and alcohol addictions on this link https://firststepbh.com/about-us/
You can also find assistance and treatment at this centre in Asheville, United States Crestview recovery centre
T. Dench Patel