How to Heal From Codependency

Updated on December 4, 2017
Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Conway holds a degree from the City University of New York, has studied psychology, and offers healing methods for codependents.

Codependency is a habitual way of relating that can be changed.
Codependency is a habitual way of relating that can be changed. | Source

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.

Meditation is a tool that will help codependents heal.
Meditation is a tool that will help codependents heal. | Source

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.

Codependents can start a new hobby or rekindle one like painting as a way to nurture themselves.
Codependents can start a new hobby or rekindle one like painting as a way to nurture themselves. | Source

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.

Codependents need to learn to care for themselves.
Codependents need to learn to care for themselves. | Source

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.

Suggested Reading

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.

Questions & Answers

    © 2014 Tracy Lynn Conway

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      • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
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        Tracy Lynn Conway 2 years ago from Virginia, USA

        Madonna,

        Thank you!

        Best, Tracy

      • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
        Author

        Tracy Lynn Conway 2 years ago from Virginia, USA

        Hi Monica,

        I am sorry to read about your experience, but I am glad to hear that you are striving to heal. I wish you acceptance, peace and strength.

        Here is the Serenity Prayer that you may find helpful: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

        I am very glad that you found this article helpful, thank you.

        Best, Tracy

      • Madonna Bugayong profile image

        Madonna Bugayong 2 years ago from Gardena, CA

        Great Hub!

      • profile image

        Monica 3 years ago

        I have been teaching myself, self-love and being positive. It is hard though because I have lived such a twisted life. And, my youngest son does not like me. Refuses me to know my grandson.

        However, I am a wonderful person. I've made my mistakes, and I'm through apologizing for them.

        Thank you, for your Hub. Very helpful.

      • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
        Author

        Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA

        Raymond,

        Yes, healing from codependancy and learning to love yourself is a slow process, but is possible. Thank you!

        Best, Tracy

      • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
        Author

        Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA

        Denise,

        That is an interesting observation. Many codependants are working so hard to please others and to be perfect themselves that they are exhausted both physically and emotionally. The love that the codependant is seeking will never come from the outside by pleasing others or earning love, it will only come from loving oneself.

        I wish you the best,

        Tracy

      • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
        Author

        Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA

        DDE,

        Meditation can slowly and gently begin to change a person from the inside out and is very effective in healing from codependancy.

        Best, Tracy

      • raymondphilippe profile image

        Raymond Philippe 4 years ago from The Netherlands

        Informative hub on an important topic. Learning to trust oneself. Easier said than done. But you give some good starters to work on that.

      • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
        Author

        Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA

        Kerlund,

        Yes, there are various ways to heal from codependency. Thank you!

        Flourish,

        Yes, good body posture can help us to feel better about ourselves.

        The Writing Owl,

        Thank you!

      • denise.w.anderson profile image

        Denise W Anderson 4 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

        I knew that the major problem with codependency was a loss of identity. I didn't realize that the key to finding it again was through meditation. When I sit and think of nothing, and just notice my breathing, I tend to relax so much that I fall asleep! I suppose that is not a bad thing. It has taken me a long time to learn to nurture myself. I still tend to default to nurturing and helping others as a way of getting my feelings of worth.

      • DDE profile image

        Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

        Useful advice on how to heal from codependency, meditation sounds helpful way as your other suggestions. A well thought of hub

      • thewritingowl profile image

        Mary Kelly Godley 4 years ago from Ireland

        Good advice and well said.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

        I like your suggestions for healing. Self-talk can be very powerful. In addition, how we carry ourselves (posture, other nonverbals) influences who we think we are and thus who we actually become.

      • kerlund74 profile image

        kerlund74 4 years ago from Sweden

        Great hub, important subject! This problem has probably been around for many years but finally we have "found it" and become able to help.

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