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This is one of a series of articles in Lesson 4 in
this Web site - optimize your relationships.
This YouTube video previews key ideas in this article:
on codependence (relationship addiction)
a way to
assess for codependence, from Codependents Anonymous
you, your mate, and/or someone else have too many
symptoms of relationship addiction.
evolved in the 1980s from co-alcoholic, which
mental-health workers use to describe someone who is compulsively
with an active alcoholic.
Codependence is one of four types of addiction which all seek to
"inner pain" - shame + guilt + anxiety" +
sadness + emptiness + hurt +
loneliness + despair. Codependents
typically over-focus on the current welfare and activities of another person, and lose sight of their own needs,
feelings, and lives.
They lose healthy me/you
boundaries and their own personal
integrity, identity, friends, and life goals - despite consistently painful outcomes.
Westerners first learned of this widespread toxic dynamic in the
1980s from books by
Anne Wilson Schaef and
professionals and the public have been taught to view addiction as a
disease. I disagree, because diseases
are caused by germs and/or organic malfunctions. I propose that
addiction (toxic compulsion) comes from an
unconscious psychological reflex to numb or
distract from (i.e. self-medicate) significant inner pain.
Believing "I have a disease" can promote feeling defective,
"sick," anxious, and
inferior to "healthy" people. This increases the psychological wound of
excessive shame. Thinking
wounds from my
ancestors" feels and sounds different. Do you agree?
The public and many health professionals see addictions as a
personal pathology. As family-system
dynamics become better understood and accepted, that is
gradually changing to seeing any
addiction as a symptom
of early-childhood trauma and a
low-nurturance ("dysfunctional") family.
early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse (trauma) promotes
developing a fragmented personality composed of
or "parts". Most
"mental health problems" - including codependence - are
symptoms of a disabled true Self. This implies
that reducing any psychological problem requires...
the subselves comprising your personality
gradually harmonizing your subselves under the leadership of your
wise resident true Self; and...
high-nurturance (vs. toxic) social environments - e.g.
home, family, friends,
church, neighborhood, and school or workplace.
Lesson 1 in
this nonprofit Web site provides practical guidance and resources for
doing these things.
You may be wondering "How do I tell if someone is a
codependent?" Here's how to answer that question:
Typical Traits of Codependents
two sets of traits below are adapted from Codependents Anonymous
The more traits you check, the more likely that the person you're rating has
(a) inherited significant
wounds and (b)
has a relationship
addiction. CoDA and other 12-step
organizations do not yet acknowledge low-nurturance
families, psychological wounds, and inner pain as major causes of addictions.
Do this worksheet by yourself to
avoid skewing the results to please or impress another person. Print out
one or more copies.
Choose an undistracted,
to do this worksheet - i.e. no phones, kids, pets, TV, or other
disturbances. Allow at least
30" - or more, if you want to
journal about the experience. Have extra paper and
colored pens or markers for highlighting handy.
Check to see who's
guiding your personality - i.e. doa
Self-check: If you can
honestly say "I feel a mix of grounded, centered, peaceful alert, awake,
"up," "light," focused, purposeful, resilient, confident, compassionate,
serene, calm, strong, and clear, your true Self (capital "S") is
guiding your other subselves now.
If you can't say this,
expect skewed results from this worksheet.
Put other concerns aside for now.
Adopt the attitudes that ...
This investigation is not about blaming anyone, including yourself;
This is a win-win experience: you'll find you don't have many traits of codependence;
or if you do, you've discovered a
reason to break old denials and start
Doing this worksheet thoughtfully and honestly
will strengthen your odds of making healthy relationship choices.
codependence is a normal (widespread!) condition that can be
It is not a sign of craziness, badness,
weirdness, or a disease, illness, or character defect! It
is a significantly-harmful condition that
deserves serious attention, awareness, and patient, corrective action.
There is a
of effective help available!
Mentally focus on your relationship
with your present partner, a former partner, or a parent, sibling,
relative, child, co-worker, or friend. With that focus in mind, fill out the two tables
below slowly and thoughtfully. If you're unsure about an item, use "?"
yourself whether each trait usually or generally applies to (a) you and
(b) your chosen
other. Try not to focus on what others may think of your answers. You don't
show them to anyone - and it may be helpful to do so.
As you do this worksheet,
notice your thoughts, images, and feelings or their
absence. Your reactions are clues to "the truth." They're important
learnings just as your check-box responses are.
If it feels right, change the wording of any
item, and/or add items.
breathe, and answer this: "I believe now that...
_ I don't have the
condition of codependence;
_ I'm not sure if I do;
_ I do have this
another person, substitute her or his name for "I".
symptoms below are (a) relationship traits and (b)
A) About Our Relationship...
1) My good feelings about who I
am depend on being liked by you;
2) My good feelings about who I
am depend on getting approval from you;
3) Your struggle affects my serenity.
My mental attention focuses on solving your problems, or relieving your pain;
4) My mental attention is
usually focused on _ pleasing you, and _ protecting you
5) My self-esteem is bolstered
by _ solving
your problems, and _ relieving your pain
6) My hobbies and interests are
put aside. My time is spent sharing your hobbies and interests
_ clothing, _ personal
appearance, and _ behavior follow my desires, as I feel you are a reflection of me
8) Im seldom aware of how
I feel - Im mainly aware of how you feel
9) Im seldom aware of
what I want - I ask or assume what you want
10) My dreams of the future are
mainly linked to you;
11) My fears of your
_ rejection and _ anger strongly
shape what I say and do
12) I use giving as a key way
of feeling safe in our relationship
13) My own social circle
diminishes as I involve myself with you
14) I put many of my values
aside in order to stay in relationship with you
15) I value your opinions and
ways of doing most things more than mine
16) The quality of my life
hinges largely on the quality of yours
General Traits of Codependents
1) We automatically assume
responsibility for others feelings and/or behaviors
2) We have trouble
feelings; invalidate them; and/or often feel confused,
guilty, or ashamed of
3) We have trouble freely
feelings: i.e. "Im happy / sad / joyful / hurt / confused / enraged / scared /
anxious / numb / ..."
4) We often fear or
worry about how
others may respond to our feelings and behaviors
what we need, and/or we feel very
guilty and anxious if we do
6) We automatically equate love with
pain, anxiety or fear, and/or pity
7) We generally have trouble making
and keeping close relationships
8) We greatly
fear being hurt and/or
being rejected or
abandoned by others - and often expect these, despite all reassurances
symptoms of other addictions ("co-addiction") like comfort foods,
nicotine, alcohol, and compulsive working out, cleaning,
shopping, gambling, sexual arousal. praying, and/or working.
lesson 1, part 3
to (a) learn about personality subselves and "parts work"
- internal family systems (IFS therapy. Work at this
strategy to reduce
your inner pain and toxic compulsions (addictions).
Get help from a professional clinician
who is trained and experienced in working with relationship-addiction management.
Ideally, s/he will know about
Locate one or more local
Codependents Anonymous (CoDA)
meetings, and attend several to get a feel for what they do, how, and why. If you
can't find a physical meeting, there are "virtual" CoDA groups on the Internet;
Search the Web
for information about healing codependence. There's a LOT of
what you're learning about codependence and what it means - in general, and in
your life (the symptoms above).
aware that addiction is a symptom of the real problem:
psychological wounds + unawareness.
Be alert for stories of people who
have progressed at reducing (vs. "curing")
codependence, and how that has affected them and their families.
Postpone any serious
relationship commitments until you make unmistakable progress healing
the toxic shame and
promoting your condition. Needy, unrecovering
GWCs are at high risk of mistakenly believing that getting married,
cohabiting, and/or having
a child will heal the discomforts they've been self-medicating.
Guarantee:they won't. Reality-check this with
people in true (vs. pseudo) recovery for five or more years. I've
been recovering since 1986...
If you checked many traits for your
current partner ...
not helping - i.e. by not
enabling your partner (taking responsibility for
what s/he must do);
evaluate getting couples-counseling on managing codependence.
Avoid doing this for your partner's sake
(rescuing) no matter how seductive it
If you checked many traits for
someone else- e.g. a parent, friend,
sibling, or former partner...
Use your new awarenesses to grow compassion for them. If you've
blamed and resented them for past hurts and insults,
don't give up your feelings - and consider seeing him or her as
low-nurturance childhood, vs.
a "bad" person. Some healing
forgiveness may grow from such a new view, which helps
all of you.
If s/he's open to it, consider making
this worksheet and the Lesson-1 study guide available to the other person without expectations.Beware
trying to save or fix others who aren't looking for help:
that's a classic codependent urge!
In what follows, "partner" means the person you're
Generally, symptoms of true
recovery progress include an unmistakable reduction in
codependent behaviors and attitudes like
those in the table above.
Some changes to note include...
participating regularly in one or more
Anonymous (CoDA) meetings for several months;
enjoying friendships with other people beside your
partner - even if s/he complains;
asserting your own opinions, needs, and boundaries without
significant anxiety or guilt;
activities you enjoy even if your partner isn't
interested in them;
increasing comfort in letting your partner be
responsible for his/her own life, and no longer seeking
to "rescue" him or her from discomfort;
apologizing much less to your partner, without guilt or
comfortable not seeing or communicating with your
partner for periods;
and enforcing behavioral limits with (confronting) your
partner without guilt or anxiety;
activating another addiction
to compensate for giving up codependence;
notably calmer, centered and less anxious, more often;
genuine interest in your own life purpose -
even if it doesn't involve your partner.
signs of progress are deciding to end a codependent
relationship, and enjoying being alone for awhile, and/or
choosing a new partner who is often
guided by her or his
Changes like these occur gradually over time. One way of noticing
and validating them is to keep a personal log or
journal of your feelings and activities
This is one of a
of Lesson-4 articles on optimizing your relationships. It provides
perspective on the common condition of codependence
two-part self-assessment worksheet of codependence traits from Codependents Anonymous (CoDA)
you feel you, your mate, and/or someone else has too
many of these traits; and...
options for measuring your progress at
any addiction is part of the larger goal of
wise true Self to guide your personality in all