Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Attributes Of Codependency

Adapted from:

Lack of Identity

A codependent person usually has a very difficult time embracing their true identity. Normally, a role was emphasized in the family of origin that left them believing what they did was more important then who they are. When behaviors are emphasized more then core identity and worth, with a lack of emphasizing the preciousness of a child, a child will learn to outwardly perform, while inwardly feeling lost and empty. This will last and develop through adulthood.

This same person will enter into relationships in order to allow his or her identity to become enmeshed in another person. This entanglement will be so extreme in some cases that he or she will be unable to think or feel outside of that other person. He or she will also feel responsible for that person and become obsessed with helping that individual and meeting his or her needs. In doing so, he or she will indirectly attempt to have their personal needs met.

Lack of Boundaries

In defining codependent behavior, a lack of boundaries is usually one of the main ingredients. A lack of boundaries is similar to a lack of identity. It can’t recognize the concept that “I belong to me” and “you belong to you” . Lack of boundaries produces disrespect in relationships and the willingness to allow other people into areas they should not be. It also causes a person to compromise core beliefs and morals, and does not know how to say “no”.

Learning boundaries takes time and work. First, a codependent person must understand who he or she is and what he or she stands for. Then, that person must learn to make a stand for those things her or she represents. We must choose wisely those people in our life. When dealing with unhealthy family members, we can learn to establish healthy and safe boundaries, while still displaying genuine love.

Attachment/Detachment Disorder

Often, a codependent person suffers from Attachment Disorder. This mostly involves an inability to bond and “let go” (attach and detach) in a healthy way. The root of this behavior is normally formed from 0-3 years if a child did not properly bond with a parent or caregiver. It also could be caused by a parent who overly bonded and did not know how and when to let go.

A person with attachment disorder develops into an overly needy person in relationships, or an extremely avoidant person that doesn’t know how to “connect” at any level. By learning the family of origin and the beliefs that were formed, a person can go back to the point where needs were not properly met and/or neglect and abuse occurred. The purpose is to properly address those issues, not to blame. Ultimately, healing will come through forgiveness. Remember, forgiveness and acceptance of behaviors are two entirely different things. We forgive people, not behaviors.

Need to Control

A codependent person was normally programmed in an environment that was out of control Because of this, he or she developed survival skills in order to maintain a sense of control. As a result, a codependent will often manipulate people and circumstances to get a desired result, often in a subtle and indirect way. Many times, without realizing it he or she is trying to “play God” and manage other people’s life to make things “right”.

The only cure for such behaviors is learning to trust that God is in control and has complete sovereignty over everything and everyone. Sometimes, a person needs to learn the belief systems that interferes with the ability to trust God (and people). We must learn to “let go and let God.”

Being Overly Responsible

Often, the insanity of a codependent person’s life is that the people in his or her life have a serious problem, such as a drug or alcohol addiction. While being attracted to this type of “broken person” initially, their sickness of addiction causes a wide range of problems. One of these is that chemically addictive people are often irresponsible. A codependent person learns to adapt to such irresponsible behaviors and compensate for that person’s missing gaps.

Often in doing this, the codependent person is neglecting his or her own responsibilities. This is a root reason that a codependent person becomes an “Enabler”. By not allowing a person to suffer the consequences of their irresponsible behavior, the cycle of an addiction will oftentimes not end. A person living with an addict must learn not to accept negative behavior, or encourage it through “helping out” in the bad choices that addict makes.

Setting boundaries against this behavior is essential. A codependent person must also learn that each individual is alone responsible for his behavior. Understanding God’s expectation in your position in any relationship is essential. While we respect and submit to each other, we should not tolerate and encourage wrongful behaviors.


Perfectionism is the inability to see anything except in extremes. In the eyes of a perfectionist, everything is either “right” or “wrong” with no in between grey area. It is important to understand that meeting a standard of perfection in the things we do is often impossible. Simply put, we are imperfect people.

Trying to adhere to rigid rules perfectly and holding other people to high standards is devastating on relationships. The reason a person is a perfectionist is often rooted in a family where much criticism took place. Perhaps performance was emphasized more then anything else, with little or no affirmation for the attempts to do anything right. Perfectionism breeds self-righteousness and pride, very difficult behaviors to overcome as they blind the ability for person to see himself or herself clearly. Perfectionism also drives further compulsive addictive behaviors, and causes a person to get discouraged and easily quit if not able to perform “perfectly.”

By understanding that we will never be perfect, but our perfection, acceptance, value, worth and love is found in our relationship with our Higher Power, we can be set free. When we feel accepted as we are, we will accept others for who they are. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but He does ask that we give our best, and leave the results to Him!

Overly Giving

A codependent person often finds he or she is always in the position of giving rather then receiving. Usually, this is formed out of a shame-based identity that feels unworthy of receiving from other people, even though he or she exhausts efforts to please people. Sometimes, giving is a means of manipulation. It can often come attached with the desire to get approval and acceptance from a person. “Giving to give” is very different than “giving to get.”

At the same time, being surrounded with emotionally unavailable people who are unable to give has devastating consequences. Becoming healthy in order to have mutually healthy, giving relationships is key. Furthermore, by embracing the concept of grace and God’s free gift of salvation, we can begin to apply that to relationships around us. No one should need to earn love. If you need to, then you are not in a healthy relationship.

Self Righteous and Judgmental

While it certainly isn’t a pleasant thing to admit to, self-righteous behavior is often at the root of codependency. A codependent person has learned that “doing good” brings a sense of validation. He or she has learned to believe that enough good behavior can perhaps undo the “badness” around them. By being the person on the “good side” of things, a codependent feeds his or her low self-esteem issue. In extreme cases, a codependent person will need to find unhealthy people to migrate towards in order to feel superior. Attached with that behavior is typically a strong propensity to judge and scrutinize people to size up how they measure up to his or her own standard. A forgiven person is a forgiving person, and will not hold people up to such high standards.

Living this way was normally developed in the family of origin, so it’s easy then to understand why that same behavior would continue in relationships in adulthood. Self righteousness leads to the inability to see one’s own problems and defects of character. By believing he or she is the “good one”, he or she can avoid any sense of being a part of the problem. Unfortunately, self righteousness holds a person in bondage to self – there is no ability to change unless we can identity a problem exists.

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Do You Love Yourself?

Thanks to

An important phase of my recovery program has been learning to love myself. Loving myself means I have given up the futile and endless search for a source of love outside of me, based on or drawn from external people or things. Self-love has meant discovering the limitless Source of love within me. I am no longer dependent upon externals to supply an unhealthy neediness for love, worth, or validation.

(In this context, love is broadly defined as unconditional acceptance and nurturing of myself and others.)

Ironically, part of what drove my neediness for love was shame. My shame grew from my acute awareness of my neediness. Because I was ashamed, I therefore did not perceive myself as being a lovable or worthwhile person. My shame, in turn, resulted in low self-esteem and deeper shame.

A significant breakthrough occurred when I finally admitted my shame about my feelings of low self-worth (both to myself and to another person). Admitting the shame liberated me from it.

Previously, I had worked very hard to deny both my shame and my low self-worth, because I desperately wanted to deny that low self-worth was one of my core issues. Because of the denial, my shame and my low self-worth persisted—one feeding endlessly on the other. By denying my shame and my low self-worth, I remained bound to it. By admitting my shame and my low self-worth, and more importantly, accepting both as a part of myself, I released myself from the shame, freed myself to accept myself unconditionally, and gave myself permission to start loving and esteeming all of me.

Continued belief in myself as a lovable and worthwhile person no longer depends upon an external source or upon external affirmation. I no longer "need" another person to constantly affirm my worth or relieve my shame by loving me (i.e., since no one loves me, I must not be worth loving). I can give myself all the affirmation and love I need. Since my need for love and external affirmation is no longer an issue, the shame associated with my low self-worth is gone.

I am a lovable and worthwhile person!

Now I can affirm it and truly believe it. Equally important, I now have an abundance of genuine self-love, which I can draw upon and give away love to others.

To use an analogy, it's just as if I had an empty account in my "love" bank. I was erroneously waiting and longing for someone else to make the needed deposits, unaware that I could have been making huge deposits for myself all along. Now I have an abundance of love to give away. Because I have love to give away, I am truly a love-able person. I am no longer needy; I am healthy, and thus, even more lovable. By embracing and accepting my shame and my low self-worth, I empowered myself to change. I have an infinite Source and reserve of love and self-esteem for myself.

The paradox of learning self-love is this—the more love I give myself, the more love I have to give away. The love account is never depleted. I can now give healthy love from the abundance of my own love and my own wholeness. True recovery is about giving clean, healthy, unconditional love, not getting love. My life is now characterized by an ever-expanding circle of love, rather than a downward spiral deeper into shame.

Finally, all this healthy self-love unlocks the door to true self-esteem. Self-esteem and self-love are co-requisite. Because I am able to love myself and others unconditionally, I esteem myself; I hold myself in high regard; I value myself; I perceive myself as an able-to-give-love, worthwhile person. The abundance of my self-love is the clean, healthy gift of unconditional love I can now bring to all my relationships.

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children