Codependency is about normal behaviors taken too far. It’s about crossing lines.”
As quoted by an American author, Melody Beattie, this statement holds a short description of the definition of codependency. Everyday we come across people whom we identify as ‘clingy’. Sometimes we even become ‘clingy’ to somebody else. It is the basic nature of a human being to get happy when appreciated by their loved ones and everyone feels happy when someone actually appreciates them. But sometimes this small nature becomes a need. Sometimes one may feel like his/her life is based on what others say about it. Their lives no longer remain in their control. They judge themselves from others’ point of views. And that is when codependency strikes in.   

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay 

The basic description of codependency is being excessively relied on someone both emotionally and psychologically. It is considered as a behavioral condition that can be passed on from one generation to another. Codependency can be a condition where one may feel extreme powerlessness or powerfulness of others or facing difficulty in openly expressing their feelings. Sometimes the codependent person may distress himself/herself over care-taking relationships. In codependency, it does not mean that a person will only be dependent on his/her partner. Rather he/she may be dependent on family members and sometimes friends also. They suffer from a lot of self-doubt issues and constantly look for some reassurance. But the fact to be noted is that codependency affects both the persons involved in a relationship, no matter exactly what kind of relation they share amongst themselves. As it has been mentioned earlier that every human being enjoys being appreciated by someone. But it does not mean that everyone is codependent. Enjoying an appreciation for pleasure is absolutely normal but continuously seeking for reassurance is a sign of self-doubt and existential crisis. Many people may have a question in mind: How can we recognize a person who is codependent? Here are some basic signs that can help a person recognize a person with codependency tendency. The first and foremost sign is lack of self esteem and self-trust. Many of us daily engage ourselves in tasks we have interest in or things that we love to do. We have confidence in ourselves that whatever we do, we are going to get a favorable outcome. This whole process seems easy but for some people this easy process becomes a difficult one. Due to various circumstantial issues like past traumas, heartbreaks etcetera they find it nearly impossible to trust their own guts. Whatever they try to do or push themselves to do, they are completely unaware of the outcomes. At times, they need constant guidance from someone to keep themselves on the right track. Over time they become habituated to it and hence, become codependent. The second sign is they lack the ability to make their own decisions. In life we come across situations where we need to make decisions at that very instant and that decision should be a strong one and should bear a fruitful outcome. People with a tendency of codependency find it very difficult to make these instant decisions and they need someone to make these decisions on behalf of them. No matter which path they want to choose in life they need someone to lead them. They let themselves become codependent on someone. The third sign of codependency is needing approval obsessively. Things that we enjoy doing or things that pleases us, we do not wait for someone’s approval. But some people need approval from someone before taking any step even if they enjoy the thing. They have a tendency to please others first and if the person they ask for approval denies it for his/her own cause, they won’t do it. Codependents are very good at making other people their priority rather than making themselves their first priority. The fourth sign is a diminished self worth. Self-worth can be described as our own opinion about ourselves. It is basically what we think of ourselves, how we describe ourselves when asked. Our self worth reflects how much we care about ourselves, how much we trust ourselves, our self confidence etcetera. People who lack these things tend to be codependent. It becomes hard for them to think positive about themselves. When confronted all they have to say about themselves is about the negative side of their personality. This all happens when one has to deal with very hard times where people raise questions on their worth and they have no one to keep them motivated. The fifth sign of codependency is the constant fear of being abandoned. People with the codependency tendency surround their life around either one person or a group of people. They always prefer to keep their opinions or feelings to themselves whenever they are with that particular person or group. They always have a fear residing inside themselves that if they express their opinions to people and if it doesn’t match with their opinion then there might be a clashing of thoughts and this may lead to detachment from the group or from that person. This situation may be a big blow to their psychological condition. Hence they try to avoid being abandoned and keep their opinions and emotions to themselves. Moving on to the sixth sign that is inability to identify one's own emotions. A lot of situations may occur in life where the feeling will be a mixture of two or more emotions, for example, sometimes we feel anger and sadness together, sometimes we feel excited but still feel like crying and so on. In situations like this, it is better to identify which one is our actual feeling before expressing it in front of anybody. Otherwise conflicts can be raised due to mismatched emotions. In the case of a codependent person, identifying their own emotion becomes a challenge. Sometimes they change their emotions just to match with their partner’s emotions in order to avoid any kind of argument. The last sign is having no boundaries. At this point enters the importance of saying a ‘no’. Whenever people ask for a favor from us, we think about it before accepting or rejecting it. If we feel like the favor they are asking for is not our cup of tea we clearly say a ‘no’. Codependent people make it their sole duty to please others. No matter what situation they are going through, no matter how stressed they are, they will never say a ‘no’ to anybody.

Image by Mustafa shehadeh from Pixabay 

There are a lot of differences in a relationship involving two normal people and a relationship involving at least one codependent person. In a normal relationship a mutual give and take exists, self esteem constantly rises up, both the partners keep on encouraging themselves, their needs are expressed openly, their identity as an individual remains constant and whenever there is a disagreement, things are sorted out just by discussing. Looking into a codependent relationship things turn out to be the exact opposite. Self identity and clear expression of needs become a matter of the past, one sided efforts are given, adjustment from one side comes into action whenever there is any disagreement, the relationship no longer consists of two persons. Instead it becomes the relationship between a caretaker and an advantage taker. 

No one becomes codependent from birth or during their childhood days. Codependency is a consequence of something happening in that person’s life over a long duration. Some of the causes may include having an overprotective or an underprotective family, having alcohol abuse in the family, facing abuse as a child, having a chronic physical or mental illness. Sometimes birth order in a family can also lead any of the children to become codependent. Codependency is like a disease which can make a person feel lonely even when being surrounded by friends and family.

Although there are thousands of causes for a person to become codependent, there exists many techniques to come out of it. Every relationship is important, every form of love has its own value. But the form of love that is above every other form of love is self love. It is very important to build self awareness amongst an individual. People should learn to give respect to their own feelings, emotions and thoughts rather than just suppressing all of them and letting people overrule them. Paying attention to feelings should be the first priority of a human being. There are people out there who can help us sometimes but one should not make it a habit. As every individual has been granted to lead their own life, they should avoid someone else trying to control it. Sometimes letting go of unhealthy or toxic relationships and getting proper help and guidance can also help in coping up with codependency. People should also understand the impact codependency leaves on mental health and they should move forward accordingly. Each individual follows different norms in their lives and hence everyone should have their own boundaries. Lessons of saying a ‘no’ and respecting other people’s boundaries should be given at an early age in order to have better mental health as an adult. Whenever people come across a codependent person they should offer them a helping hand and should see the person from the lens of empathy and not sympathy. Codependent persons are just innocent human beings who constantly look for a shoulder to rely on. And providing that shoulder without taking any advantage of them can create a better life for that person and can make any relationship stronger.                  

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