Identifying and Conquering Codependent Behaviors
A big part of how I help others tackle their codependency is by identifying the behaviors that lead to self-sabotage and the fallacies of our early programming. Most of my clients have heard me use the infamous phrase, “That’s your disease talking.” It usually follows a client’s illustration of behaviors where they weren’t loving and respecting themselves, where they were accepting of poor treatment, where they tried to make everything their fault and when they were full of confusion and doubt.
Trying to get to the bottom of Codependency and learning how to manage it is not an easy task, because its fingers are so far reaching and intertwined with our personality and our way of thinking. It’s my contention that if we can be mindful of it and we are able to recognize it, as it’s happening, that recognition takes away its power.
Most people move throughout their lives never paying much attention to the why’s and the how’s of what drives and motivates them. Their behavior is rote and they don’t even try to control or direct it.
When you’re mindful of your tendency to self-sabotage and you can label what ails you, then you have much more control over it and of overcoming it. Imagine if you wake up and your arm is really painful and you have no idea why or how it got that way. You could continue with the pain in your arm and do nothing about it and allow it to control your behavior and your thoughts. You could drive yourself nuts wondering if it was something fatal, or you could figure out what it is and how to overcome it. Once you’ve had it diagnosed you’re no longer overwhelmed with thoughts of imminent doom. You’re focused on the remedy.
I’ve listed a few of the most common codependent behaviors and how they work to hold us back and sabotage our progress:
The Critical Parent Voice – The critical parent voice is a repetition of the messages we got in childhood. If we had a critical parent growing up and we moved away from that parent, we find that the parent is still there in our heads. Still telling us we’re not good enough and not worthy, but this time the voice belongs to us.
The critical parent voice is always chirping. It’s the voice that keeps trying to get you to break no contact, it tries to find ways to justify doing so too, trying to come up with every reason why you should and even finds the means to do so. You think it’s helping, but it knows you shouldn’t do it and it creates a temporary smoke screen over your common sense. It’s the same voice that wants you to cave in when you’re on a diet. It tries to talk you into just one cookie, when it knows damn well that one usually leads to a binge. It’s goal is always the same – it wants you in pain, feeling bad and to keep you exactly where you are.
The offspring of the critical parent voice is doubt, confusion, shame and sorrow. Everything that voice says to you is designed to make you feel those things and to lead you to places where they exist. This is what makes a codependent such a prime catch for narcissists, who thrive on creating those things. Stop listening.
The Cloak of Shame – is the core belief that you’re not good enough. It’s that feeling that you’re not worthy. It’s the emotional vibration you carry with you everywhere you go. It’s the cues and signals others get from you. It’s the generational baggage you drag behind you. Imagine the Charlie Brown character Pig Pen, who always had a cloud of dust around him. Likewise Codependents carry the same kind of funk, it’s not a bad smell mind you, it’s a vibration. It really is discernable to other people. They may not understand what it is, but it’s there and it’s palpable.
Another aspect of the cloak is the Codependent’s physical unease. It’s when you don’t feel right in your own skin and it has you believing you have to be perfect. It’s when you feel uncomfortable and unconfident. For some it’s feelings of panic, anxiety and the unease that comes with having to walk on egg shells.
Taking Responsibility for Other People’s Feelings or Actions – this is when someone else acts outrageously and somehow you’re able to be responsible for their actions. I can remember when I was 16 I had a 20 year old boyfriend. He had a very troubled childhood. He was an alcoholic and a womanizer. We had been dating for several months and one night, at a party, at his place, I walked into a room and saw another girl sitting on his lap. Of course I was upset and I let him know I was not impressed. He had been drinking, a lot, and as we were arguing, he squeezed the glass in his hand shattering it, blood was gushing everywhere. He hit a major vein and had to be rushed to the hospital. My friend Rob walked me home and as we walked, I was sobbing and I kept repeating, “It’s all my fault. It’s all my fault”
Looking back at it, the notion that I was even remotely responsible was absolutely ridiculous. I didn’t make him drink. I didn’t make him cheat and I didn’t make him squeeze and shatter the glass in his hand. None of it was my fault. Had I been healthy (I would have had nothing to do with him) and I also would have witnessed his behavior with the other girl and walked out and had nothing more to do with him. The fact that I could make his foolish choices my fault was a strong indication of the sickness in my own mind.
Approval Seeking Behaviors – As children we are always looking to our environment to figure out how we fit in and match up. When our primary caregivers are giving us negative messages, we don’t learn how to figure these things out for ourselves. Instead we internalize their message and become accustomed to looking to others to tell us who we are and if we’re matching up. We never learn to develop and trust our own judgement. This is why a Codependent will jump through hoop after hoop trying to impress without a boundary in sight.
Need to Focus on Others Not Self – a codependent can move mountains when it’s for someone else. When it’s for them they would have a hard time displacing one shovel full of dirt. This is because they’ve been programmed to be concerned with the needs of other people. They’re taught to ignore and suppress their own desires and likewise taught to be on alert when their nearest and dearest is in need.
I have readers who have given jaw dropping sums of money to people they desperately wanted to have love them. They’ve travelled great distances, given up incredible opportunities, made soul crushing sacrifices, all for someone who wouldn’t throw water on them if they were on fire.
I always tell people not to date while you’re healing. Codependents feel so uncomfortable looking inwards. They’re very good at figuring out what’s wrong with other people, but when it comes to them – they don’t want to know. Introspection is as unnatural as walking on the ceiling. Only by breaking this habit does one begin their journey back to health.
The key to conquering codependency is knowing that the message we got in childhood was a lie, and everything you’ve surmised about yourself was based on this lie.
It’s tragic to think that the sickness of one person is enough to harm and shape a person’s perception for life. Just because some sick, twisted person told you that you didn’t deserve better, when you were little and vulnerable, is just rubbish and that belief belongs in the trash – throw the belief away.
The truth is that you were born good enough. It’s a matter of being mindful, changing your perspective and reaching out and owning your own worth. It’s not something anyone can give you. it never was. It’s always belonged to you. You and no other. Your worth has been sitting there waiting for you to figure it out the whole time. Pick it up and own it.
As for your critical parent voice – spot the voice, label the voice, take away its power and discard the voice. It purpose is to cause harm, don’t listen. I’m going to say that again – DON’T LISTEN. If you’re thinking about breaking no contact – for the love of God, don’t listen to that voice and I can tell you every single one of my clients that have broken no contact have absolutely regretted it –bar none. There is never a good ending to the sentence, “I broke no contact and sent him a text….” It never ends well, believe me on that. Tell the voice to shut up and focus on you.
This is a practice, you’re not going to master this overnight. You didn’t become a codependent overnight and you’re not going to recover from it overnight, but I promise you, if you keep doing these little tricks you will learn how to manage it and it will get easier and easier.
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