Healing Codependency

Healing Codependency

Our dependency makes slaves out of us, especially if this dependency is a dependency of our self-esteem. If you need encouragement, praise, pats on the back from everybody, then you make everybody your judge.
Fritz Perls

Many of us struggle with the question: What is co-dependency? Am I co-dependent? We want precise definitions and diagnostic criteria before we will decide. Co-dependents Anonymous, as stated in the Eighth Tradition, is a nonprofessional fellowship. We offer no definition or diagnostic criteria for co-dependency, respectfully allowing psychiatric and psychological professionals to accomplish that task. What we do offer from our own experience are characteristic attitudes and behaviours that describe what our co-dependent histories have been like. From this awareness we can start healing codependency

We believe at our holistic healing center that healing codependency begins with an honest self-diagnosis. We came to accept our inability to maintain healthy and nurturing relationships with others and ourselves. We began to recognise that the cause lay in long-standing destructive patterns of living. We have found these patterns to fall within two general categories:

  • Compliance        –             pleasing others
  • Control                 –             manipulating others.

If you’re wondering if you’re codependent, take a look at the following list of symptoms. You don’t have to have all of them to be codependent, and there are degrees of severity of codependence. If untreated, codependency gets worse over time, but with help you can recover and be much more effective in your work and relationships. Here are some common traits:

  • Not liking or accepting yourself
    • Feeling you’re inadequate in some way
    • Thinking you’re not quite enough
    • Worrying you are or could be a failure
    • Concerned with what other people think about you
    • Boundaries that are too weak and there’s not enough separateness between you and your partner
    • Boundaries that are too rigid and keep you from being close
    • Boundaries that flip back and forth between too close and too rigid
    • Difficulty expressing thoughts and feelings
    • Difficulty setting boundaries — saying “No” or stopping abuse
    • Abusive language
    • Lack of assertiveness about your needs
    • Afraid of being alone or out of a relationship
    • Feeling trapped in a bad relationship and unable to leave
    • Relying too much on others opinions

Intimacy problems with healing codependency

  • Avoidance of closeness
    • Losing yourself
    • Trying to control or manipulate others
    • Feeling trapped in a dysfunctional relationship

healing codependency from childhood

Co-dependence is a disease of immaturity caused by childhood trauma.  Co-dependents are immature or childish to such a degree that the condition hampers their life.  A disease process, according to Diland’s Medical Dictionary, is a “definite morbid process having a characteristic chain of symptoms.  It may affect the whole body or any of the parts, and its etiology (or cause), pathology, and prognosis may be known or unknown.”  I call the chain of symptoms that characterizes co-dependence the core or primary symptoms, and they describe how co-dependents are unable to be in a healthy relationship with themselves.

Codependents tend to get themselves entangled in other people’s problems. We try to fix, control, rescue, give advice, and force solutions on people who often don’t want to change. Then become anxious and depressed or addicted. These behaviors, although well-meaning, are incredibly frustrating for everyone involved. We get frustrated because we usually can’t affect change despite trying incredibly hard. And focusing on other people’s problems and deficits, distracts us from owning our part in the problems and changing ourselves. These controlling and rescuing behaviors also strain our relationships. Our loved ones resent our nagging and demanding, our air of superiority, and our ultimatums.

Our emotions may also be enmeshed or dependent on other people’s feelings. It might be that when your spouse is in a good mood, you’re in a good mood and when they’re in a bad mood, so are you. Or you may have difficulty recognizing your own feelings; you’ve become detached from yourself because you’re constantly concerned about how other people feel.

We can untangle ourselves from others by healing codependency and learning to detach with love and stop enabling. 

Following is a commonly used list of 7 characteristics of healing codependency.

  1. My good feelings about who I am stem from being liked by you
  2. My good feelings about who I am stem from receiving approval from you
  3. Your struggle affects my serenity. My mental attention focuses on solving your problems/relieving your pain
  4. My mental attention is focused on you
  5. My mental attention is focused on protecting you
  6. My mental attention is focused on manipulating you to do it my way
  7. My self-esteem is bolstered by solving your problems


  • My good feelings about who I am stem from being loved by you
  • My good feelings about who I am stem from receiving approval from you
  • Your struggle affects my serenity
  • My mental attention focuses on solving your problems or relieving your pain
  • My mental attention is focused on pleasing you
  • My mental attention is focused on protecting you
  • My self-esteem is bolstered by solving your problems
  • My self-esteem is bolstered by relieving your pain
  • My own hobbies and interests are put aside. My time is spent sharing your interests and hobbies
  • Your clothing and personal appearance are dictated by my desires as I feel you are a reflection of me
  • Your behaviour is dictated by my desires as I feel you are a reflection of me.
  • I am not aware of how I feel. I am aware of how you feel
  • I am not aware of what I want – I ask what you want
  • I am not aware – I assume
  • The dreams I have for my future are linked to you
  • My fear of rejection determines what I say or do

Healing codependency through Emotional Boundaries

We can begin healing codependency by starting to rebuild damaged emotional boundaries by paying attention to when we feel shame.  If we consistently feel shame with certain people, we should ask ourselves if our boundaries are being invaded or abused.  Even if we are unsure what the abuse is, we must trust our feelings to help us know.

It may be necessary in healing codependency to set emotional boundaries by explaining to another person, “I don’t know why, but every time I’m with you, I don’t feel good about myself.  So, for right now, I can’t be with you.”

For those of us whose parents humiliated, criticised, and shamed us, it will be helpful to talk to ourselves without shame and humiliation.  Some call this re-parenting.  We can comfort ourselves by simply commenting internally on our shame: Okay, I’m doing it to myself again.  I’m shaming myself again.  Sometimes, this alone diffuses it.

Complimenting ourselves and affirming that we are good people is a helpful tool in unpacking shame.  Learning to comfort the little boy or girl inside of us helps feed our imagination with different thoughts and a healthier view of the world. If our feelings of fear, anger, or pain are consistently overwhelming, we may have to uncover the source of our feelings with the help of a competent therapist.  This is a process that often begins with writing about our life, explaining how we think our emotional boundaries were damaged.

For more information about healing codependency and our healing center where we help people heal depression, addictions and anxiety issues, like codependency call +27824424779 or email centerforhealing@gmail.com

Published by Mark L Lockwood

Mark L Lockwood (BA)(Hons)(psy) teaches spiritual transformation and is the founder of Contemplative Intelligence. Author of The Power of Contemplative Intelligence, Autotherapy and Recovery Magic. Our work is about the science of finding your spiritual self.

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