Love is a beautiful thing. It is universally celebrated and widely acknowledged as one of the most important feelings experienced during life. The Oxford Dictionary defines love as “an intense feeling of deep affection” or “a deep romantic attachment to someone;” however, love can be defined in many ways through romantic companionships, in families, and between friends. However celebrated or explained, love can also have its downfalls. Love can cause a person to become jealous, angry and ultimately obsessed. When somebody cares too much and gives up their own lives to become caretakers, they become codependent.
Codependency appeared in the treatment scene in the late seventies, though it has not been characterized as a disease or an illness. It was mostly associated
with people who became closely involved with chemically dependent individuals, specifically alcoholics. The definition has grown since then as the discovery
of people experiencing codependency expanded, affecting a wide range of different people. In the broadest sense, codependency is defined as a person “who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.” The “other” person could be anybody, though the problem lies in the codependent person’s feelings and the way they react to the other person’s behavior and problems. This behavior leads to a dangerous obsession that prevents the codependent person from finding balance in everyday life.
As codependency became more common, it was apparent that it affected individuals in many different situations who were dealing with people who were troubled or needy. The most common patterns surrounding codependency are based around a silent system of rules usually established within the immediate family that prohibit the codependent person from discussing feelings or emotions, thus setting the pace for relationships. This repression produces all kinds of problems causing anger, depression, anxiety, and control. The codependent person allows the other person’s problems to become their own. As a result, the codependent
person feels a need to control the troubled person; they need to be a caretaker.
Other than being a caretaker, there are many characteristics that define codependency.
- come from dysfunctional families
- are perfectionists
- have low self-worth
- take things personally
- are afraid to be themselves
- repress their feelings
- worry about minute problems
- focus all of their energy on the problems of other people
- feel controlled by events and people
- ignore problems
- don’t feel happy with themselves
- center their lives around other people
- look for happiness outside of themselves
- have poor communication
- lack trust
- feel very angry
- have problems in sexual situations
As codependency becomes worse, frustration and anger begin to surface. The codependent lacks control and feels helpless. They begin to feel depressed and hopeless because their way of thinking, feeling, reacting, and behaving has become self-destructive. Detachment is the first step in seeking recovery.
Detachment is when the codependent learns to separate their life from the life of the other person. They realize that their problems and emotions are their own. The codependent learns to care about other people in a healthy way rather than being obsessed and overly-involved. Detachment takes a lot of work, learning to be in touch with feelings, and eventually becomes a way of life. Detachment involves finding a sense of freedom and allowing the codependent to release the burden of worrying excessively about other people. The codependent is finally allowed to live.
The most important part of beating codependency is learning to let go. Melody Beattie, author of Codependent No More, sends a message to her readers:
For each of us, there comes a time to let go. You will know when that time has come. When you have done all that you can do, it is time to detach. Deal with your feelings. Face your fears about losing control. Gain control of yourself and your responsibilities. Free others to be who they are. In so doing, you will set yourself free.
After recovery, the codependent is able to live life to the fullest through a balance that allows them to finally take care and love themselves. Their obsession lies only in their life.
Great books on codependency:
Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
Breaking Free of the Codependency Trap by Barry K. Weinhold and Janae B. Weinhold