Are you in a relationship that is Co-Dependent?
Symptoms of Codependency
The term codependency has been around for almost four decades. Although it originally applied to spouses of alcoholics, first called co-alcoholics, researchers revealed that the characteristics of codependents were much more prevalent in the general population than had been imagined. In fact, they found that if you were raised in a dysfunctional family or had an ill parent, you’re likely codependent.
Don’t feel bad if that includes you. Most families are dysfunctional. You’re in the majority!
Researchers also found that codependent symptoms got worse if left untreated. The good news is that they’re reversible.
Following is a list of symptoms of codependents. You needn’t have them all to qualify as co-dependent.
•Low self-esteem.Feeling that you’re not good enough or comparing yourself to others are signs of low self-esteem. The tricky thing about self-esteem is that some people think highly of themselves, but it’s only a disguise — they actually feel unlovable or inadequate. Underneath, usually hidden from consciousness, are feelings of shame.Guilt and perfectionism often go along with low self-esteem. If everything is perfect, you don’t feel bad about yourself.
•People-pleasing. It’s fine to want to please someone you care about, but codependents usually don’t think they have a choice. Saying “No” causes them anxiety. Some codependents have a hard time saying “No” to anyone. They go out of their way and sacrifice their own needs to accommodate other people.
•Poor boundaries.Boundaries are sort of an imaginary line between you and others. It divides up what’s yours and somebody else’s, and that applies not only to your body, money, and belongings, but also to your feelings, thoughts and needs. That’s especially where codependents get into trouble. They have blurry or weak boundaries. They feel responsible for other people’s feelings and problems or blame their own on someone else.Some codependents have rigid boundaries. They are closed off and withdrawn, making it hard for other people to get close to them. Sometimes, people flip back and forth between having weak boundaries and having rigid ones.
•Reactivity. A consequence of poor boundaries is that you react to everyone’s thoughts and feelings. If someone says something you disagree with, you either believe it or become defensive. You absorb their words, because there’s no boundary. With a boundary, you’d realize it was just their opinion and not a reflection of you and not feel threatened by disagreements.
•Caretaking. Another effect of poor boundaries is that if someone else has a problem, you want to help them to the point that you give up yourself. It’s natural to feel empathy and sympathy for someone, but codependents start putting other people ahead of themselves. In fact, they need to help and might feel rejected if another person doesn’t want help. Moreover, they keep trying to help and fix the other person, even when that person clearly isn’t taking their advice.
•Control.Control helps codependents feel safe and secure. Everyone needs some control over events in their life. You wouldn’t want to live in constant uncertainty and chaos, but for codependents, control limits their ability to take risks and share their feelings. Sometimes they have an addiction that either helps them loosen up, like alcoholism, or helps them hold their feelings down, like workaholism, so that they don’t feel out of control.Codependents also need to control those close to them, because they need other people to behave in a certain way to feel okay. In fact, people-pleasing and care-taking can be used to control and manipulate people. Alternatively, codependents are bossy and tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. This is a violation of someone else’s boundary.
•Dysfunctional communication. Codependents have trouble when it comes to communicating their thoughts, feelings and needs. Of course, if you don’t know what you think, feel or need, this becomes a problem. Other times, you know, but you won’t own up to your truth. You’re afraid to be truthful, because you don’t want to upset someone else. Instead of saying, “I don’t like that,” you might pretend that it’s okay or tell someone what to do. Communication becomes dishonest and confusing when you try to manipulate the other person out of fear.
•Obsessions.Codependents have a tendency to spend their time thinking about other people or relationships. This is caused by their dependency and anxieties and fears. They can also become obsessed when they think they’ve made or might make a “mistake.”Sometimes you can lapse into fantasy about how you’d like things to be or about someone you love as a way to avoid the pain of the present. This is one way to stay in denial, discussed below, but it keeps you from living your life.
•Dependency. Codependents need other people to like them to feel okay about themselves. They’re afraid of being rejected or abandoned, even if they can function on their own. Others need always to be in a relationship, because they feel depressed or lonely when they’re by themselves for too long. This trait makes it hard for them to end a relationship, even when the relationship is painful or abusive. They end up feeling trapped.
•Denial. One of the problems people face in getting help for codependency is that they’re in denial about it, meaning that they don’t face their problem. Usually they think the problem is someone else or the situation. They either keep complaining or trying to fix the other person, or go from one relationship or job to another and never own up the fact that they have a problem.Codependents also deny their feelings and needs. Often, they don’t know what they’re feeling and are instead focused on what others are feeling. The same thing goes for their needs. They pay attention to other people’s needs and not their own. They might be in denial of their need for space and autonomy. Although some codependents seem needy, others act like they’re self-sufficient when it comes to needing help. They won’t reach out and have trouble receiving. They are in denial of their vulnerability and need for love and intimacy.
•Problems with intimacy. By this I’m not referring to sex, although sexual dysfunction often is a reflection of an intimacy problem. I’m talking about being open and close with someone in an intimate relationship. Because of the shame and weak boundaries, you might fear that you’ll be judged, rejected, or left. On the other hand, you may fear being smothered in a relationship and losing your autonomy. You might deny your need for closeness and feel that your partner wants too much of your time; your partner complains that you’re unavailable, but he or she is denying his or her need for separateness.
•Painful emotions. Codependency creates stress and leads to painful emotions. Shame and low self-esteem create anxiety and fear about being judged, rejected or abandoned; making mistakes; being a failure; feeling trapped by being close or being alone. The other symptoms lead to feelings of anger and resentment, depression, hopelessness, and despair. When the feelings are too much, you can feel numb.
How To Make Yourself Feel Better.
This is a really good video to watch for those times when you don't know how the self soothe yourself.
Setting Personal Boundaries.
Here are signs you have not set personal boundaries:
Saying no when you mean yes or yes when you mean no.
Feeling guilty when you do say no.
Acting against your integrity or values in order to please.
Not speaking up when you have something to say.
Adopting another person’s beliefs or ideas so you are accepted.
Not calling out someone who mistreats you.
Accepting physical touch or sex when you don’t want it.
Allowing yourself to be interrupted or distracted to accommodate another person’s immediate wants or needs.
Giving too much just to be perceived as useful.
Becoming overly involved in someone’s problems or difficulties.
Allowing people to say things to you or in front of you that make you uncomfortable.
Not defining and communicating your emotional needs in your closest relationships.
When you have weak personal boundaries, every act of compliance, self-denial, or neediness chips away at your self-respect and the respect that others have for you. You are in a constant state of insecurity
The sad irony is that we set weak boundaries believing our behavior will win the love and respect of others. And other people will certainly take advantage of this willing nature. But their respect for you will diminish over time, undermining the love you hoped to maintain.
So how do you begin to establish personal boundaries? For anyone accustomed to being accommodating and compliant, the process of setting and implementing boundaries may feel threatening and unnatural at first. But as you begin to stand up for yourself and your boundaries, you will feel increasingly empowered and confident. You will like and respect yourself, and others will be attracted to your authenticity and self-confidence. So here’s how to set boundaries:
Mind Shift Begin with the mind shift that having personal boundaries is OK. It doesn’t mean you are selfish or unloving. It is both completely acceptable and absolutely necessary for healthy relationships. Understand that self-worth comes from defining your life as you want it to be, not from the acceptance or identity of others.
Define Sit down and think about how you have been allowing others to take advantage of you and how you might be accepting situations that are really unacceptable to you. Make a list of things that people may no longer do to you, say to you, or do around you. Decide how you need physical and emotional space. Define your values, belief system, and outlook on life so you have a clear picture of who you are and how you want to live. Get very clear on that.
Communicate Sit down with the people involved in crossing your personal boundaries and kindly communicate your mind shift. Let them know you have spent some time thinking about what is important and acceptable to you and what isn’t. Let them know how they have crossed your boundaries in the past, and ask them to respect and support your new boundaries.
Expect Expect that this conversation will feel uncomfortable and difficult, especially if you are a pleaser. There may be some defensiveness and push-back from those involved. That’s OK. They’ll get used to your new boundaries over time. Be aware that some people in your life may fall away as a result of your outlook and demand for respect. But these aren’t people you want in your life anyway. You will find you attract new, supportive, and healthy-minded people in your life. Whatever you do, don’t compromise your values, integrity, and self-respect simply to keep someone in your life. Your soul can’t sustain that.
Reinforce It may take some time to train yourself and others around your new boundaries. Continue to reinforce them so that you are taken seriously and respected. Practice saying no when you are asked to do something you don’t want to do. Create a plan for times when someone crosses your boundaries. Let them know what they are doing. Ask them to stop immediately. Walk away from any push-back or negative comments without acquiescing or getting angry. Over time, you and the other person will realize you are serious.
Reward Be sure to acknowledge and reward those who are supporting and respecting your personal boundaries. Thank them and let them know the positive impact it has had on your life. This will motivate them to continue their behavior.
Reciprocate Remember that respecting boundaries goes two ways. Examine your own behavior and words to see where you might be crossing another person’s boundaries. Work to change those behaviors so that you are reflecting the respect and support you want for yourself.
Stay Flexible There’s a difference between healthy boundaries and rigid boundaries. You don’t want to be a controlling or dictatorial person. That’s not the goal. The goal is a healthy relationship with those close to you, balanced by a sense of understanding, mutual support, and give-and-take. There may be occasions when you choose to bend your boundaries or allow someone to cross the line. When someone is hurt or sad, needs extra support, asks for an exception with respect and kindness — these are times to show flexibility and love. As you gain confidence around your boundaries, you will know when and how to bend them.
Be Patient If you have had weak personal boundaries for years, be aware that this change doesn’t happen overnight. Disengaging from the emotions and beliefs that led you to weak boundaries requires practice, and sometimes it requires the support of a counselor. Begin to recognize and challenge the limiting beliefs that undermine your practice of setting boundaries. Try to require your boundaries are respected even when you feel unsure or uncomfortable.
Believe in yourself and your value as a unique individual who is worthy of love and respect. Trust your instincts and feelings about what you do and don’t want in your life. No one knows better than you who you are and what you desire. Don’t allow others to define that for you. Practice self-confidence and self-love until it feels natural. Setting and requiring boundaries is a great way to practice this.
Making Anxiety more manageable.
What I have noticed more and more, when seeing clients who have anxiety, is that they hate the way they are feeling.
Of course anxiety is not a nice feeling, in fact our natural response is to feel bewildered about our feelings and add more worrying thoughts. This can make the anxiety spiral, sometimes to the point of panic. As we do this the feelings get worse and our sense of control disappears. Rationality flies out the window and our thoughts can become more irrational.
Our bodies feel shaky and tense. Our feelings turn to fear and endless "What if's" enter our mind.
I have given you a picture of what anxiety can be like at it's worst and now I want to give you another picture, that I know is possible to achieve. I know this because I have achieved it myself.
How about learning to make anxiety a friend? "What?" I can hear you shouting. "How can you possible make anxiety a friend?"
Firstly, I want you to put aside all your beliefs that anxiety means you are not like other people, or it means you are weak. We are our own worst judges. Believe it please, when I tell you that anxiety is far more common than you know.
So - (1) Stop beating yourself up. Learn to have some compassion for yourself. Start to tell yourself that it is ok for you to feel the way you do. Your anxiety is usually the result of a lot of building pressure and stress over a period of time.
(2) Give yourself permission to feel this way. It is ok and natures way of telling you to stop and take stock of your life.
(3)Accept that this may be around for a while, but while it is around try not to add more stressful thoughts.
Acceptance is hard, but if you can accept it for now, it will calm slowly. This is far better that fighting it.
(4) Imagine a knock at the door and when you open the door there, standing before you is a big ugly bear, who pushes past you into your home. He intrudes and you don't want him there. The more you put up a fight, the worse it gets. However if you accept that he is going to be around for a while, you might even get around to offering him a cup of tea. Accept and he will leave of his own accord eventually.
(5) you may need some medication to get to this acceptance and that is ok too.
(6) Remember that anxiety is a part of you and just because you have it occasionally, does not mean you are a weak person, it just means that you are a sensitive soul and making friends with it is better that dreading it and I promise you if you can do this, you will learn to be more and more comfortable with it as time goes by.
You will not always suffer with anxiety, but it can pop up from time to time, just like the bear. Remember to invite it in and let it be there for a while but don't add frightening thoughts to it.
New Relaxing Video - Sounds of the Sea.
Relaxing Sea Sounds. Very good to help you sleep or relax.
This can be good for you to listen to at night in bed or during the day where you can relax.
As you listen to the waves coming in, imagine yourself on a beach where the weather is warm
and feel the warmth of the sand under your feet and between your toes. Imagine finding a spot to lay down on a beach towel with a pillow and just allow yourself to imagine yourself on the beach being lulled by the sound of the sea.
When someone close to you dies the shock and grief can feel overwhelming. It is important to take care of yourself after bereavement; as the saying goes, you must put your oxygen mask on first before you can begin to help others.
Ensure that you eat well, (even if you don’t feel like it), rest when you can and accept offers of help. You also need to give yourself time and permission to grieve; however, people do this in their own way. You may feel like you want to return to work fairly quickly, whereas someone else would want to take a couple of months off to come to terms with their loss.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve so just go with your feelings.
It is important that you do not turn to drugs or alcohol to help you cope with your grief. Not only can they make you feel worse in the long run, but they can also lead to problems of addiction.
Ensure you do not isolate yourself from others, as those close to you will be looking for any opportunity to support you.
The healing process following bereavement takes time, and you need to give yourself the compassion and support required to get to a point where you feel you can look to the future in a confident, content manner.
What is Assertiveness?
The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines assertiveness as:
“Forthright, positive, insistence on the recognition of one's rights”
In other words:
Assertiveness means standing up for your personal rights - expressing thoughts, feelings and beliefs in direct, honest and appropriate ways.
It is important to note also that:
By being assertive we should always respect the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of other people.
Those who behave assertively always respect the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of other people as well as their own.
Assertiveness concerns being able to express feelings, wishes, wants and desires appropriately and is an important personal and interpersonal skill. In all your interactions with other people, whether at home or at work, with employers, customers or colleagues, assertiveness can help you to express yourself in a clear, open and reasonable way, without undermining your own or others’ rights.
Assertiveness enables individuals to act in their own best interests, to stand up for themselves without undue anxiety, to express honest feelings comfortably and to express personal rights without denying the rights of others.
Passive, Aggressive and Assertive
Assertiveness is often seen as the balance point between passive and aggressive behaviour, but it’s probably easier to think of the three as points of a triangle.
Being assertive involves taking into consideration your own and other people’s rights, wishes, wants, needs and desires.
Assertiveness means encouraging others to be open and honest about their views, wishes and feelings, so that both parties act appropriately.
Those who struggle to behave assertively may find that they behave either aggressively or passively.
Responding in a passive or non-assertive way tends to mean compliance with the wishes of others and can undermine individual rights and self-confidence.
Many people adopt a passive response because they have a strong need to be liked by others. Such people do not regard themselves as equals because they place greater weight on the rights, wishes and feelings of others. Being passive results in failure to communicate thoughts or feelings and results in people doing things they really do not want to do in the hope that they might please others. This also means that they allow others to take responsibility, to lead and make decisions for them.
A classic passive response is offered by those who say 'yes' to requests when they actually want to say 'no'.
“Do you think you can find the time to wash the car today?”
A typical passive reply might be:
“Yes, I'll do it after I've done the shopping, made an important telephone call, finished the filing, cleaned the windows and made lunch for the kids!”
A far more appropriate response would have been:
“No, I can't do it today as I've got lots of other things I need to do.”
The person responding passively really does not have the time, but their answer does not convey this message. The second response is assertive as the person has considered the implications of the request in the light of the other tasks they have to do.
Assertiveness is equally important at work as at home.
If you become known as a person who cannot say no, you will be loaded up with tasks by your colleagues and managers, and you could even make yourself ill.
When you respond passively, you present yourself in a less positive light or put yourself down in some way. If you constantly belittle yourself in this way, you will come to feel inferior to others. While the underlying causes of passive behaviour are often poor self-confidence and self-esteem, in itself it can further reduce feelings of self-worth, creating a vicious circle.
See our pages on Building Confidence and What is Self-Esteem? for more information.
By being aggressive towards someone else, their rights and self-esteem are undermined.
Aggressive behaviour fails to consider the views or feelings of other individuals. Those behaving aggressively will rarely show praise or appreciation of others and an aggressive response tends to put others down. Aggressive responses encourage the other person to respond in a non-assertive way, either aggressively or passively.
There is a wide range of aggressive behaviours, including rushing someone unnecessarily, telling rather than asking, ignoring someone, or not considering another's feelings.
Good interpersonal skills mean you need to be aware of the different ways of communicating and the different response each approach might provoke. The use of either passive or aggressive behaviour in interpersonal relationships can have undesirable consequences for those you are communicating with and it may well hinder positive moves forward.
It can be a frightening or distressing experience to be spoken to aggressively and the receiver can be left wondering what instigated such behaviour or what he or she has done to deserve the aggression.
If thoughts and feelings are not stated clearly, this can lead to individuals manipulating others into meeting their wishes and desires. Manipulation can be seen as a covert form of aggression whilst humour can also be used aggressively.
The Art of Loving
From "The Art of Loving" by Erich Fromm
Giving and Love.
For the productive character, giving has an entirely different meaning.
Giving is the highest expression of potency. In the very act of giving.
I experience my strength, my wealth, my power. This experience of heightened vitality and potency fills me with joy. I experience myself as overflowing, spending,
Alive, hence as joyous. Giving is more joyous than receiving, not because it is a deprivation, but because in the act of giving lies the expression of my aliveness.
The most important sphere of giving, however, is not that of material things, but lies in the specifically human realm. What does one person give to another? He gives of himself, of the most precious he has, he gives of his life. This does not necessarily mean that he sacrifices his life for the other – but that he gives that which is alive in him: he gives of his joy , of his interest, of his understanding, of his knowledge, of his humour, of his sadness – of all expressions and manifestations of that which is alive in him.
In thus giving of his life, he enriches the other person, he enhances the others sense of aliveness by enhancing his own sense of aliveness. He does not give in order to receive: giving is in itself exquisite joy. But in giving he cannot help bringing something alive in the other person, and this which is brought to life reflects back to him. In truly giving, he cannot help receiving that which is given back to him. Giving implies to make the other person a giver also and they both share in the joy of what they have brought to life. In the act of giving something is born, and both persons involved are grateful for the life that is born for both of them. Specifically with regard to love this means: love is a power which produces love: impotence is the inability to produce love.
The essence of love is to “labour” for something and to make something grow. Love and Labour are inseparable. One loves that for which one labours, and one labours for that which one loves.
Care and concern imply another aspect of love: that of responsibility. Today responsibility is often meant to denote duty, something imposed upon from the outside. But responsibility, in its true sense, is an entirely voluntary act: it is my response to the needs, expressed or unexpressed, of another human being. To be responsible means to be able and ready to respond.