It was 2012 when I became a Certified Life Coach (CPCC) and found that I could apply my own life experiences as one partner in a codependent relationship to those of others who were going through the same or similar points in their own lives. I could go into the history of codependence and how it has evolved in society, but frankly it would serve us better to first look at what exactly a codependent personality looks like.
At one time the use of the term codependent or codependency was used strictly to describe the relationship patterns seen to evolve one a person was in a relationship with an alcoholic or drug addicted individual. Often this was an individual that the codependent individual lived with, a parent, spouse, significant other, or other close relation. As time has gone on and more research has been done with individuals and couples who are part of a codependent relationship there has been a very distinct fact come to light. Drugs and/or alcohol addiction are not necessary to be part of a codependent relationship.
Let’s take a look at the signs of codependent personalities:
- People-pleasing behavior
- Excessive feelings of guilt over the reactions and feelings of others
- Denial of personal emotional needs
- Refusal to share their true feelings for fear of what others will think
- Inability to respect personal or emotional boundaries
- Keeps their true feelings bottled up and hidden from others near to them
- Perfectionism in everything they do
- Unavoidable feelings of helplessness
- Fear that they will not have an intimate relationship or are unworthy of one
- Exaggerated fear of failure in all things from work to relationships
- A need for validation and personal approval
- Obsession with the needs of others
- Controlling personality to the point of micro-management
- Caring for those unable to care for themselves or rescuing behavior
- Fear of being alone
- Denial of one’s personal desires
- Fear of failure
- Refusal to accept others help, or an excessive neediness for the help of others.
- Denial of ones own personal problems
- Failure to sustain their own needs
- The inability to accept attention of positive feedback from others
- Feeling deeply responsible for the happiness or lack of in others people
- Guilt, shame and anxiety with no explainable cause.
- Low self-esteem
- Intimacy issues
- A façade of competence and self-reliant outward image contrary to their internal feelings about themselves
- Shuns happiness as an emotion or state of mind they are not worthy of.
Pretty intimidating list, right? Let me assure you that the codependent personality type does not mean that you have all these characteristics, or that you are destined to a life of self-loathing and abusive relationships. There is help out there!
What causes one to develop a codependent personality? Children who spend their developmental years taking care of younger siblings, assisting in the care of ailing family members, caring for dysfunctional parents, or living with an addict spend their lives dedicated to the care of others while suppressing their own feelings and emotions. This becomes so deeply ingrained in their personality that they find themselves drawn to relationships which continue to foster codependency as they begin to enter intimate relationships.
That’s not to say that codependency can’t develop later in life. In fact it does quite often. This is usually seen in individuals who are in a relationship with someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol. They focus so much on the addict and trying to do everything right to keep them from drinking or to care for them when they are too intoxicated to care for themselves, while trying to hide the addiction from the rest of the world. Thus enabling the addict to continue on in their spiral towards destruction.
No matter what the symptoms or cause of an individual’s codependent personality one thing remains the same; enabling behavior. Enabling doesn’t mean that you are going out and helping someone buy drugs, drink alcohol or act in an abusive manner. No, enabling is behavior that eases the tension created in a relationship with an addictive or abusive relationship. Examples of enabling would be a parent that always comes to the rescue and bails out an addicted child rather than finding them help. Or, an abused wife who lies about how she got that bruise under her eye, while giving her husband another chance to prove he didn’t mean to hit her while in a drunken rage.
There tends to be a very strong pattern of behaviors in those who have codependent personalities that help us to identify them and thus aid in helping them change the path they are taking. These behaviors cause ongoing problems with the persons ability to have a fulfilling relationship with themselves much less others. They are excessive care taking of others, controlling personalities, and an obsession with anything that allows them to be distracted from their own needs and emotions. As a result it is is not uncommon for a codependent personality to also become an addict. Drinking to step away from reality, prescription medications to alter their mental state, and obsessive behavior to distract them from the reality of their daily lives are all common behaviors found in advanced codependent personalities.
Codependency is not found in healthy relationships, and very rarely is it found in someone who has not suffered emotionally traumatic relationships in the past. It’s a debilitating personality trait that causes many to withdraw from themselves as well as society as a whole, it is destructive and if left untreated can lead to a vicious cycle in future relationships and potentially future generations. That doesn’t mean that the codependent personality has to destroy you, there is hope, there is a way out! There is help for you! Many people who suffer from codependency are in a state that prevents them from looking outside themselves for help, they don’t want to face the emotions they know are waiting for them. Seeking assistance from a therapist or counselor are options that are rarely used or sought-after face to face interactions that can help are simply not an option for a codependent personality. However, seeking the assistance of a trained life coach who can help you on your pace, your time, and who understands what you are going through is much more likely to attract the codependent personality. There is help, you just need to ask.