We know that codependents develop the tendency to put others ahead of themselves. When they are faced with the prospect of having to focus on themselves it becomes a very daunting task, first and foremost because they have little practice doing it. It’s something they avoid and it’s a big part of why they stay in abusive relationships.
Codependents often choose their partners because they see them as a project. The thinking behind it is – I know what to do to fix you and when I’m done with you, you will be the perfect partner for me. And thus the partner and all of their problems become the object of fixation for the codependent, to the point where the codependent loses touch with their own reality – their own wants, needs, and desires. They become obsessed with the relationship and the fairytale that they are creating.
As children codependents were powerless to change any of their circumstances. They had to sit idly by, unable to do anything significant to change their reality. Now as adults and faced with the same type of abuse the codependent will create elaborate plans to help and change their abuser. Their partner’s healing, changing, and morphing into their perfect prince or princess becomes their sole focus. This feels so natural to the codependent and so they wrap up all their hopes and dreams into another, only to become disappointed again and again, as an abuser’s natural tendency is to exploit and frustrate.
People in general resist change, Narcissist’s exponentially more so. The most important thing anyone can do is spot areas in their own life that need healing or mending and work on those areas. One can’t want someone else to change enough for the both of them. Change is an inside job and can never be accomplished by another. Codependents seem to forget that there are other fish in the sea that don’t require so much work. If they find someone that shows interest in them, because of their low self-esteem, they will attach themselves to that person, regardless of the monumental task at hand and all of the obvious risk present.
The majority of this stems from the core belief that no one else will want them as they are, because they are not perfect, not good enough, and not worthy. Cognitively they know their partner isn’t right for them and their partner’s issues are more than apparent, but their emotions take over and they think if I could just mold this person into what I need – into someone who would be good enough for me, then all would be well. They mistakenly believe that their partner will be so grateful for their help that they will stick around forever dishing out piles and pileS of gratitude. They also seem to have the impression that having someone, anyone, regardless of how inappropriate, is better than being alone. The obvious course of action would be for the individual to work on themselves and then seek out a partner that is on the same level and page, but when the codependent is unaware of their own codependency they seem to think that there is nothing wrong with them and only see the flaws in their partner.
Get Obsessed With Yourself
Codependents like to focus on other people because, pick a reason – it’s easier than fixing themselves – it could be because they believe that they’re not important enough to focus on – or they’re so used to ignoring their own interests they don’t even know that they have any – It could be because they’re afraid of looking at themselves –or that they’ve become really good at avoiding all of the ugliness of who they’ve been taught to believe they are.
They do it because they’ve been conditioned to do it – it’s a pattern and like all patterns it can be broken, but It takes practice. Just like mastering any new skill. It will feel unnatural and it will be hard but it’s something you’ve got to do to break the codependency habit.
People want a quick fix to things and there is a really simple quick fix – you end your abusive relationship and you start thinking about yourself. You stop thinking about them and you start thinking about you. This is the grind – this is the how’s of how do we do it? I get asked this question all the time and the answer is really this simple – you just do it. People want some kind of magical formula, but it’s just about controlling yourself – controlling your thoughts – controlling your behavior. It’s about discipline – it’s noticing when you are going off track and steering yourself back on track. It’s keeping the focus especially when you don’t want to. You break the pattern by breaking the pattern.
When we make the decision to fix ourselves it’s important to be outside of a relationship. We need to be alone because as codependents we will jump on any reason, any excuse, not to focus on us. I always say you can’t kick a heroin habit by continuing to use heroin. You can’t kick the behavior of needing to be with someone who needs fixing by being with someone who needs fixing. Some people say they have met a really wonderful person and are healing while continuing to be in this relationship, I would argue though that sure it may happen in some cases, but for the majority it would just be a matter of distraction and since most codependents attract Narcissists, how do you know that you’re not with another?
For a codependent the issue lies in our relationship with ourselves. We need to learn how to be in a relationship with us first. This means stripping off all of the layers of dysfunctional beliefs and behaviors that were stacked on us as children. It means learning who we are and what we need to feel happy and complete. It’s learning how to react as adults and to stop letting the wounded child in us, steer our ship. It’s learning how to properly protect ourselves. It’s learning and enforcing proper boundaries, and practicing self-care, which leads to increased self-esteem. It’s about being mindful of when our codependency is at play in our lives, so that we can recognize it and dismiss it, which takes away its power and control over us. When we can do these things, we become fully autonomous individuals. When we are fully autonomous we don’t need other people and so we make better relationship choices – not out of fear or need, but because we want to and because it’s in our best interest.
I get it that most people will have just broken up with someone they’re addicted to. I get it that it’s painful and that it feels natural to sit and wallow in agony. Understand that the alternative to focusing on you and getting better is to keep hurting and focusing on someone that isn’t thinking about you. You can pine away and think up strategies for getting back with your emotional manipulator so he/she can kick you some more, or you can get up, dust yourself off and take control of your own life. Those are your options.
When you put your energy and your attention into being the best you, you can be, you will get results and when you start to see results they will inspire you to work harder. It’s the snowball effect and it allows you to gain momentum and to put more energy and more attention into your goals and when you do that you gain more success …. Which causes you to put more energy and more attention…
Most of my clients will say to me, ”Cognitively I get all that you’re saying,” then they pause. Keep getting it cognitively – is my answer. It’s the most important step. Eventually the rest of you will catch up. Maya Angelou always said, “When you know better you do better.”
The next piece of the puzzle is about recognizing when something isn’t working and creating a new strategy, but we’ll talk about that next week. Sav out.
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