Co-dependency refers to the behavior of
two people who are so dependent on each other that one person has a strong
need to control, care for, or manipulate the other. In turn, the other
person - who often has a problem like alcoholism, physical illness,
insecurity, anxiety, or some other need - remains dependent and
controlled, even though he or she might complain about this. The
co-dependent person is often raised in a dysfunctional home where their
emotional needs were not met. There also tends to be a belief that
internal feelings can be controlled by controlling others, things, and
How Do You Know If You're Co-dependent?
*Control - Alcoholics, for example, are
controlled by alcohol, but their family members also live under the
constant shadow, and hence the control, of the problem drinker's
alcoholism. These family members often are deeply affected by the
drinker's lifestyle and try continually to control the drinking and its
impact on their own lives.
*Manipulation - Codependent people
often are the products of manipulation, anger, and abuse. In response,
they tend to manipulate others, often using anger, self-pity, and
criticism to get what they want.
*Care taking - When we see people in
need, most of us are inclined to give help and show compassion. But for
codependent individuals, care taking becomes a way of life.
*Low self-esteem and a desire to be people
pleasers and rescuers - These give
the codependent person temporary feelings of self-worth, respect,
usefulness, and sometimes power over others.
*Other characteristics -
Often codependents become obsessed with the
needs of others, dependent on the people they try to help, unable to
tolerate change, and filled with resentment, guilt, and loneliness.
Counseling can be very beneficial to learn
about the past issues that have created the co-dependent behavior. The
emotional, Spiritual, and social areas of life should be addressed as they
become appropriate in counseling. Counseling is beneficial to help learn
new ways to deal with the behaviors of people and what to do with your own
reactions to those people. Some of the areas to work on are the
Since co-dependency tends to destroy
objectivity and clear perception, we need the help and objective
perspectives of others to spot codependent behaviors, feelings, thoughts,
words, and actions in ourselves.
*Detachment - Since codependent people
are overly attached emotionally, and sometimes physically disengage
themselves from unhealthy entanglements with another person's life and
from problems they cannot solve. Detachment involves accepting the
sometimes painful fact that people are responsible for their own problems,
that we can't solve problems that aren't ours, and that worrying doesn't
help. Often detachment means leaving the problems of others in the
hands of God, who alone know what to do and is able to intervene.
*Responsibility - The codependent
person can learn to take responsibility for making his or her own
decisions, can set goals and seek to reach then, can set limits on the
controlling demands of others, and can abandon the constant efforts to
control others - especially since attempts to control rarely succeed.
*Community - Lasting help comes when we have encouraging and caring friends with whom we can be honest and who model healthy living that is not entrapped by co-dependency. Sometimes a counselor provides that help; often the help is found in the local church, where believers can love and build up one another.
MASTERPEACE Center for Counseling and Development
308 S. Maumee Street, Tecumseh, MI 49286