Codependency in relationships is an interesting concept. I remember when I began to hear about codependency, about 30 years ago, and the first book I remember reading was by Sharon Wegschieder-Cruse called Hope and Health for the Alcoholic Family, and what struck me about her work was the roles that the children took on, including family hero, out of sight, out of mind, and the scapegoat.
It was like she had been in my house and was writing about my family, and I probably read her entire book in an hour or so, I was so enthralled.
Wegschieder-Cruse was writing about the family system, and if you approach the codependency in relationship issue from an addictions stand point, the codependent is the one who over the course of time, tries to fix the addict, or covers for the addict, at the expense of their own life.
No matter which of the two perspectives come into play, and both probably will be present to some degree in any relationship where there is an addiction issue, codependency is a tough nut to tease out.
How do you tell what is codependency and what is cooperation, for example?
If my wife needs help paying her bills this month, am I being codependent if I help her out?
What if my wife has a habit of quitting jobs when they get routine, and then cannot pay her bills?
Is she some kind of excitment addict, and jeopardizing her family with her addiction to excitement?
Speaking for myself, I think I am being codependent when I begin to operate from a victim internal dialogue, and I turn the other person into a persecutor. (Usually the feeling I have is resentment.)
I am being codependent when I do not allow the other individual to suffer the natural consequences of their behavior.
I am being codependent when I find that my internal dialogue is filled with words like you, you should, you ought, you must, and when I am ruminating about some other persons poor behavior and how much trouble it has made for me.
Whatever codependency in relationships is, it is not about offering choice.
When I offer choice and even if I have a preference, if that is not the other persons choice, accepting their choice is the essence of a relationship between equals.
Codependents are not equals. The family hero has to be right, the out of sight person will do little to rock the boat, the scape goat is always wrong, and a true codependent must have an addict to fix.
Relationships between equals have little of those dynamics.
How do I get to a place where I am OK with accepting my partner's choices?
Learning how to listen, learning assertive communication, reminding myself frequently about why I am in this relationship.
I think that reminding myself of what I like about my partner is a must do exercise many times every day.
In any intimate relationship, the folks involved do some bothersome things, and both the people involved must choose to focus on what they like or what they do not like, the solution or the problem, if you will.
I am reminded of the promises of AA, which state that if you focus on the solution, you get more of that, if you focus on the problem, you get more of that.
I enjoy focusing on gratitude, gratitude that I have been chosen by this person in spite of all the things I do that are less than attractive to her.
If I am focused on gratitude, then I cannot be focused on anything codependent.
Reading the words above makes this mental process sound pretty easy, but I can change my thoughts as fast as every 1/18th second.
Paul Ekman, Ph.D. says we respond subconsciously to facial expressions in 1/25th second.
Michael Merzenich,Ph.D., one of the worlds leading researchers in the newly discovered field of neuroplasticity, says we need to train senior drivers visual perception to 1/45th second.
I blink my eyes in 1/10th second, so I could become codependent twice as fast as I blink my eyes, which is 1/10th second.
What tools will train me to move quickly into and out of codependency in relationships?
The first tool I would recommend is HeartMath, based on discoveries in a new field called neurocardiology, which is the study of the nervous system in the heart.
That nervous system is affiliative and cooperative, and when I am in that physiology, it is really hard to be codependent, because heart intelligence feels much different than the resentment or fear that comes with codependency.
HeartMath helps me learn to pay attention to my body heart beat by heart beat, which is much more frequent than what our culture usually teaches us to do.
There are tremendous perceptual advantages to developing the ability to pay attention to the inside of my body that often.
I actually open up my brain's higher perceptual centers which help me to rapidly respond cooperatively rather than codependently.
There is a link to the Heartmath tool in the right column.
Once you have finished your HeartMath and have those higher perceptual centers open, you will be ready to work on your brain fitness using the following computerized brain fitness programs, and as you practice them, and miss a point or two, you will quickly become aware of how fast you can lose your focus, or switch out of gratitude to resentment.
The nice thing about practicing these tools is that you will be enhancing two very important capacities of the human brain, neuroplasticity and neurogenesis.
A fit brain is less likely to waste time on codependency in relationships.
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