How to Heal From Codependency
Codependency is a fairly long and relatively new term which is rooted in the 12-Step concept of Alcoholics Anonymous. The definition first involved a member of an alcoholic's family whose life revolved around the alcoholic, and so had lost their sense of self. The definition was later broadened to include any person who focused their life on someone else other than themselves. This could be in an abusive relationship, where the codependent is victimized, or in a relationship with a narcissist, although there are many types of situations. On the outside, it may appear as though the codependent is a loving, selfless, caring, giving person and that they possess good qualities. In reality, this person is an addict themselves, and is addicted or codependent on someone else to the point that it is detrimental to their emotional well-being and personal growth.
Codependency is a destructive behavior that takes place when a person becomes primarily dependent on others. The codependent effectively loses their sense of self, their identity, and bases their value primarily on their interactions with another, such as a spouse, a parent, even a stranger. Codependents fail to be in touch with their own feelings, fail to trust their own thoughts or value themselves, and instead, value the feelings, thoughts, and identity of others.
Healing from codependency involves learning to trust oneself by slowly eliminating this negative and detrimental behavior and replacing it with healthier habits. The change will likely be incremental but can offer huge rewards, and the work is certainly worth the effort.
Ways to Heal From Codependency
1. Learn to meditate. Meditation enables you to find your center, find your connection with yourself and with your higher power. Over time, meditation will allow you to remain connected even when you are not meditating. Meditation gives you the core skill to overcome codependency at its root. Meditation doesn’t have to be anything fancy, it can simply involve taking slow breaths, noticing the breath and sensing the body. Practice this whenever you think of it.
2. Learn to shut your brain off. While most people believe they are their thoughts, they are not. When you focus on your breathing you will automatically stop the incessant brain chatter and begin to feel a sense of peace. With practice, this sense of peace will begin to permeate more and more of your life, and is an invaluable tool to use along the path of healing from codependency.
3. Join a 12-Step program such as CoDA (codependents anonymous) or Al-Anon (for family members of alcoholics).
4. Find a therapist, if that therapist isn’t helpful, find another, ask for references if possible.
5. Contact your local Women's Center and find out what services they provide.
6. Learn to love yourself by changing the negative 'self-talk'. This is a very common problem for codependents. There is a radio station in the mind that plays a constant barrage of negativity with statements like “you are stupid”, “you are fat”, and “that was a stupid thing to say,” These statements are shame ridden and inflict constant emotional pain upon the codependent.
7. Replace this harmful negative dialogue with a positive one such as:
- “I am precious”
- “I was made in God’s image”
- “I have many strengths”
- “bad days don’t quantify me”
- “I can make mistakes and still be awesome”
- “I am awesome”
- “I was born awesome”
8. Catch yourself focusing on other people’s implied opinions then tell yourself to “stop it” and begin to focus on your own opinion. Reverse your focus. Stop giving so much weight to what other people think and try to tune into your own thoughts. This will take time because focusing on the opinion of others is such an ingrained habit, but it can be changed.
9. Catch yourself being codependent, realize the triggers and try to avoid them or alternatively, prepare for unavoidable triggering situations. Certain people might work as triggers; stress can cause you to behave in more problematically codependent ways. Self- monitoring becomes a needed tool along the path of healing from codependency.
10. Start taking care of yourself. Imagine the ways in which you would care for a child or a tiny baby. You would make sure they got plenty of sleep, healthy food and were surrounded by a relatively low-stress environment. This baby would also receive tender love. You need to begin, ever so slowly, loving yourself tenderly. Then there is also time for exercise and time for fun. Now assign yourself the task of taking care of yourself as though you are the baby or child. How would your life be different from the way it is now? Begin to take care of yourself. This will be difficult in the beginning, but it will become increasingly easier. The first step might be that you simply consider the idea.
11. Find yourself! Think back to a time when you were happy. What where your interests? Rekindle that self by reconnecting with your interests and the things that make you feel happy. These things are sitting there waiting for you; they are calling your name. Finding yourself means discovering who you were meant to be. Realize that finding 'you' might not happen right away, and this may take time because there is likely a lifetime of discounting yourself. And this can be hard to change. Keeping this in mind, even small efforts will help and over time can create significant change.
12. Think about all the compliments that were given to you over the course of your life, perhaps from a teacher, a friend, a relative, all of which you likely discounted. Now is the time to think of them again. What positive, encouraging and complimentary things have people told you about yourself? Think about the recognition and accomplishments you have achieved in your life. Focus on these, write them down, think of them often and use them to override the negative self-talk that has dwelled within you for so long.
13. Think of the goals that you have set for yourself and accomplished, even small goals. This may be hard since you have spent so much of your time thinking of others and seeking the approval of others.
14. Realize that codependency has permeated almost every minute of your life, becoming a dark omniscient cloud that can feel inescapable, but you can escape. You are not alone; others have gone before you and have made huge strides. You can too!
Now is the time to focus on you! You have spent enough time focused on others. You have every right to care of yourself.
Codependant No More: How to Stop Controlling Other and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie is the quintessential read for those suffering from the hampful results of their codependent behavior. This is the book most often recommended by therapists to those with codependency issues. I have read the book and found it to be most helpful on my journey to heal from the ravages of my codependent behaviors and life choices.
© 2014 Tracy Lynn Conway