Develop a healthy sense of self to overcome codependency

Do you struggle with your boundaries and usually give too much to your partner without receiving back the love and respect you expect?  Are you involved with an avoidant personality type and frustrated with the level of communication in the relationship. Do you see yourself as dedicated to the welfare of others? If these questions make you answer yes, then perhaps you might benefit from reading on.

Codependency is rooted in addiction. It is about over-functioning in someone else’s life but under-functioning in your own.To have a working understanding of codependency is to see a co-dependent as someone who cannot function from their innate self and whose thinking and behaviour is instead organised around another person, or even a process, or substance.

The term is located within a systemic framework. Codependency was originally a term used to describe a particular relationship dynamic where one partner had a substance abuse problem and the other didn’t. The individual who didn’t have the substance abuse issue became caught up in a cycle of excusing, tolerating, defending and even enabling the addiction of the other. In Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) the problem became known as an issue not solely with the addict, but also the family and friends who constitute a social network for the alcoholic. Al-Anon (the sister fellowship of AA) was formed in 1951, and holds the view that alcoholism is a family illness. Al-Anon is one of the earliest recognitions of codependency.

The term codependency is not universally accepted in the therapy world. For some clinicians codependence is over-diagnosed. For them, people could be helped with shorter-term treatments instead of potentially becoming dependent on long-term self-help programmes or therapy. Such treatment, they argue, can be theoretically misplaced as the direction of the treatment can follow the disease model of addiction. For others it is a healthy personality trait, albeit just taken to excess. The key in determining whether you have a problem yourself is to assess the extent of the under-functioning in your own life as a result of caring for another. Does your own life suffer as a consequence of your concentration on the needs of another.

Clients don’t often attend counselling and psychotherapy for codependency, or other addictions for that matter, but might present with problems associated with anxiety in their lives, for example, or relationship issues more generally. Once in the process of attending therapy sessions,however, they can become more conscious of their underlying codependency issues.

In order to understand codependency it is useful to gain insight into what kind of attachment style you operate from in relationships. We develop a style of attaching that affects our behaviour in close relationships throughout our adult life. One of our prime drives, after all, is to affiliate, just like our drive for survival.  Our attachment style is largely dependent upon our mother’s behaviour, in addition to later experiences in childhood and other environmental and social factors.  For more information on this see my article on attachment styles and recovery from codependency.

Recovery from codependency, like all addictions, involves the development of a healthy self and allowing for an expansion of consciousness.  Healthy relationships are when each person can remain themselves and when the dynamic allows for change and flow. If you are in a codependent relationship a recovery path could be to detach with love, face illusions about your life and your relationship, set healthy boundaries and develop your spirituality.This can help build a healthy sense of self going forward when you learn to take care of your own needs and ultimately learn to be happy with your own company.

See also

Any book by John Bowlby
Attachment in Adulthood: Structure, Dynamics, and Change –  Mario Mikulincer & Phillip R. Shaver
Adult attachment – J Feeney & P Noller
Handbook of adult attachment – J Cassidy & R Shaver
My life as a border collie – Nancy L. Johnston
Codependency no more – Melody Beattie
CoDA UK – 12 step fellowship and a checklist for codependence

 

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Meditation and Addiction: The Way Through

Meditatio are holding a conference on meditation and addiction on Tuesday, 30 October 9.30 am – 5.00 pm. Meditation and Addiction: The Way Through will be held at 24 Greencoat Place, London SW1P 1RD

Anyone interested in this event please follow the link here:

http://www.wccm.org/sites/default/files/users/Meditation_and_Addiction/leaflet.pdf

 

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Transpersonal View of adolescence, sexual development and eating disorders

My course is going well. So far this term we have had lectures on a transpersonal view of adolescence, sexual development and eating disorders.  In addition we have had two weekends on sexual development. For the next two weeks we have lectures on addictions so presumably we will cover the whole gambit of addictions.

I have enjoyed discussing Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory on Sexuality (1905).   Freud was writing at a time when women were chaperoned to the doctor by their husbands.  It is also important to remember that Freud was writing in a time that pre-dated gay liberation.  So, perhaps writing about sexuality would be akin to writing a history of England purely from the lenses of Victorian books.Indeed, it is interesting to note that the BACP has modified its Ethical Framework that only now informs its members that gay conversion therapy is unethical.

The statement, drawn up by the board of governors, ends: “BACP believes that socially inclusive, non-judgmental attitudes to people who identify across the diverse range of human sexualities will have positive consequences for those individuals, as well as for the wider society in which they live. There is no scientific, rational or ethical reason to treat people who identify within a range of human sexualities any differently from those who identify solely as heterosexual.”

Rosemary Cowan, in a previous edition of Therapy Today,  has pointed out that the developmental model that CCPE has suggested is that trainees in the first year are likened to wide-eyed, enthusiastic primary school children; in the second year, like pre-teens, they gain confidence and independence but may also be ‘know-alls’ who overstretch themselves; in the third year they reach the rebellious, argumentative, difficult teenager stage; in the fourth year, with increased maturity and stability, they become more rounded, finished characters. I am not sure where I fit with that model but remaining open minded and receptive is probably the best option and lectures on addictions are probably best placed in the teen period.

 

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