Do you struggle to be in a relationship? Are your relationships with others often strained or uncertain? Do you stay in harmful situations for longer than is healthy, out of a sense of loyalty to the other person? Do you find yourself feeling guilty or taking responsibility for the way somebody else feels, even when you have clearly done nothing to warrant feeling that way? Do you obsess over others, worry about what you said and replay things in your mind over and over again? Do you feel it's your job to fix things for people, give advice or be overly helpful? Do you spend your money buying people gifts, even when you can't really afford it? Have you lost touch with your own needs because you always put other people first? Do you feel that your opinions are not as important as other people's? Are you afraid of confrontation so much so that it stops you from standing up for what you believe in?
If you answered yes to some or all of these, you may be codependent. Due to the deeply compulsive nature of it, some people refer to codependency as an illness. Perhaps there is a pathological element to it, that years and years of repeated compulsive behaviour becomes a sickness? I don't know about that. I view it in more of a person-centered way. It feels to me like if you are exposed to certain things as a child and growing up, it's human instinct to find ways of surviving. In my opinion, Codependency is a human response to life events, a way of being that we have learnt and developed, a range of survival techniques. However, these "survival techniques" leave us merely surviving rather than living life to the full. Codependency is deeply engrained, compulsive and powerful. Often it stems from a childhood where disfunction or addiction was present, but not always. As children we pick up on and absorb more than we consciously know. We develop a way of being in the world where we can feel safe, we learn that if we are a good boy/girl people will love us, if we are kind or helpful and do things for others, we are needed and therefore wanted. Maybe if we can stop that person from drinking, or wear ourselves out trying to please people, they won't leave us. Even in adulthood, when we inevitably experience loss whether that be a breakdown in a relationship, divorce or death, we still try and control our lives and others so that it doesn't hurt so much. We deny our feelings, put them away in a box so that we can carry on. The problem with this is that it is physically and mentally exhausting and this is when some people describe hitting rock bottom or having a breakdown. It is impossible to keep living your life that way without it having an impact on you eventually.
The good news is that there is hope...people can and do recover from being in the grips of Codependency. We can learn how to look after ourselves better, to concentrate on doing what's best for us and detaching from the responsibility we thought we had for others. We can learn to love and value ourselves, as much as we do others. We can learn to enjoy life, allow ourselves to have fun, experience all our emotions with acceptance rather than guilt. We can learn to live life rather than just survive life. And the irony is, that when you start taking better care of yourself and stop trying to control things, your relationships improve. Because those that mind don't matter and those that matter don't mind!