Codependency has a number of definitions, and before we get to those, I want to talk a little bit about the beginnings of this quintessential self help movement.
I first became aware of the term codependency in the early 1980's when I first got sober.
I read a book called Hope and Health for the Alcoholic Family by Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse, which was a great relief to my emotional struggles then, because it gave me a framework for explaining my entire life and all the chaos that went with living in a house with two, count them, two alcoholic parents.
In fact, I remember thinking that Wegscheider-Cruse must have been in my house, watching us, the descriptions fit so perfectly, and it was a great relief to know that I was not to blame, and also that there was a way out of the internal emotional and cognitive chaos that I was experiencing in those early days of sobriety.
In those early days, I was very good at identifying the problems, and very inexperienced at the solution, so I had to stick with the tools that others had used before me, the 12 steps of AA, and trust that sometime down the road, the promises that were part of AA and offered by this new model would manifest for me, and they have.
I began reading everything I could get my hands on in regards to codependency, not so much to learn a codependency definition, but because having words to describe my experience made it less "crazy", so I am grateful for the codependency self improvement movement.
There were many others who were and are experts in the codependency field, including Claudia Black, Robert Subby, John Bradshaw, Ann Wilson Schaeff, Melodie Beattie, and Terry Gorski, whose works were and are important.
I attended Codependents Anonymous and ACOA meetings, and this self help movement has continued to grow.
Codependence is a pattern of detrimental, behavioral interactions within a dysfunctional relationship which is regarded by some as a form of disease.
This definition is from Wikipedia.
: a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition (as an addiction to alcohol or heroin) ; broadly : dependence on the needs of or control by another.
From All About Counseling;
There are many definitions used to talk about codependency today. The original concept of codependency was developed to acknowledge the responses and behaviors people develop from living with an alcoholic or substance abuser. A number of attributes can be developed as a result of those conditions.
However, over the years, codependency has expanded into a definition which describes a dysfunctional pattern of living and problem solving developed during childhood by family rules.
One of many definitions of codependency is: a set of *maladaptive, *compulsive behaviors learned by family members in order to survive in a family which is experiencing *great emotional pain and stress.
*maladaptive - inability for a person to develop behaviors which get needs met.
*compulsive - psychological state where a person acts against their own will or conscious desires in which to behave.
*sources of great emotional pain and stress - chemical dependency; chronic mental illness; chronic physical illness; physical abuse; sexual abuse; emotional abuse; divorce; hypercritical or non-loving environment.
Codependency is the word used to describe the behaviors of someone in a relationship with an addict, who adopts very dysfunctional behaviors in order to attempt to keep the relationship.
Codependency can also describe the patterns of behavior that children adopt in order to survive, psychologically and even physically, in a household where there is an addiction.
So there is certainly a family systems component to codependency.
As I mentioned above, my family fit the Wegscheider-Cruse family systems model very closely.
I signed up to be family hero, which meant that I had to get good grades, be on the student council, do well athletically,ect. so that my parents did not have to address their drinking because I was doing well.
The underside of that process for a child who is given that job is that they cannot make mistakes, and there is a huge amount of shame involved in their inner experiences.
Not long after signing up for one of the roles in a codependent family system the child will forget they have a choice, and the role gets locked in as a lifestyle.
So someone who helped out their family as an athletic star will do fine internally until they get older, and the skills start to erode.
That is when that role will no longer work, and the former star will need to adjust their belief system in order to feel ok.
Mom and Dad or the addict will no longer be involved in their life, but not being able to live up to the inner rules of the role can lead to significant emotional, cognitive, and behavioral pain.
Treatment for codependency can go any number of directions. Wegscheider-Cruse has used psychodrama, which is a very powerful tool to unravel the neurological underpinnings of codependency, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Rational Emotive Therapy fit well, as do the 12 step model of ACOA, or Adult Child of Alcoholic Parents.
That 12 step model involves daily prayer and meditation, which can be part of a connection to a Higher Power who will provide strength to create more effective lifestyles, and stress management at the very least.
And now we know that the brain is literally changed by repetitious behaviors, so let us speed up the process by doing stress management using HeartMath and the emWave tool.
No matter how you define codependency, any change is going to start in the neurons of your brain.
The following tools are very important for making the neuoronal furrows fertile.
In other words, being able to pay quick, close attention to the thinking patterns of recovery and codependency allow for quick choices, in moments rather than days,weeks, or years.
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When I was beginning my personal growth journey, a wise person told me that when I was feeling resentful or afraid or sad, that I should remember the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was ready to feel better. That phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
Would you share what you are most grateful for? Your story could be just what another person is searching for to renew themselves? Thanks.
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