Often, when I meet clients in my practice they are coming in because they are aware that they are sad, angry, anxious, frustrated or a combination of these or more negative feelings. As I get to know them and what brought them in to treatment, I often become aware that codependency may be at the root of their negative feelings and responses to life. With this realization, I will often share this list to see if any of these behaviors resonate with them:
Do you think and feel responsible for other people- for other people’s feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, wants, needs, well-being, lack of well-being and ultimate destiny?
Feel anxiety, pity, and guilt when other people have a problem
Feel compelled-almost forced- to help that person solve the problem, such as offering unwanted advice, giving a rapid-fire series of suggestions, or fixing feelings.
Feel angry when their help is not effective.
Anticipate other people’s needs.
Wonder why others don’t do the same for them.
Find themselves saying “YES” when they mean “NO,” doing things they really don’t want to be doing, doing more than their fair share of the work, and doing things other people are capable of doing for themselves.
Try to please others instead of themselves
Feel sad because they spend their whole lives giving to other people and nobody gives to them.
Find themselves attracted to needy people.
Find needy people attracted to them.
Feel bored, empty, and worthless if they don’t have a crisis in their lives, a problem to solve, or someone to help.
Become afraid to let other people be who they are and allow events to happen naturally.
Often, clients struggling with codependency will admit that most, if not all of these behaviors are familiar to them. Once we identify this, I ask clients to do the following:
1) Give yourself grace. You may have learned codependency as a skill to give and receive care, love, and support as well as exist within your environment successfully. The people who modeled this behavior for you may have also learned it as a coping skill to receive and give love, care, and support. Work on accepting this, understanding that we don’t know what we don’t know, and resolve to stay aware of it.
2) Understand what you really do want and need. Often, we begin to people please because we are unclear on what we want. This will leave you open to feeling run over by people who do know what they want and are not afraid to speak up for it. Understanding your wants and needs is primary in self-care. Spend some time getting to know them.
3) Reframe. When faced with people pleasing, ask yourself “what is called for now?” Do you know? Most often, people who are codependent are more focused on the needs of others. However, this thinking is counterproductive. The assumption is that if I please others, they will do the same for me. This is assumption often proves untrue. Just because you behave and think in a people pleasing way, expecting the same in return is irrational. Honor, understand, and then practice communicating your needs clearly and often.