Vail Valley relationships: Healing codependence
March 16, 2009
If you are codependent, you likely grew up with or had prolonged exposure to a set of oppressive rules that prevented the open expression of feelings, and which taught you to avoid conflict. You very likely are a caretaker, you’re controlling and you have a diminished capacity to initiate or participate in loving relationships. So what can you do about it? Here are a list of steps you can take to reduce codependency, courtesy of Melody Beattie from her book “Codependent No More.”
– Create positive goals for yourself. Do you want to change something about yourself? Turn it into a goal and go after it. Do you want to improve your relationship with someone or form a new relationship? Lose or gain weight? Quit worrying or stop being so controlling? Set it as a goal, and make it a priority in your life to achieve that goal. Do you want to have more fun, learn to enjoy sex more, achieve self-acceptance, forgive someone? If you want it, make it a goal, and go after attaining it.
– Quit saying bad things about yourself ” or about the way you think or feel. Stop telling yourself things like: “I’m stupid,” “I don’t trust myself to make a good decision,” or “I’ve never been good at figuring things out.” And quit abusing yourself by excessive worrying, obsessing or with unhealthy addictions.
– Find ways of looking at “I can,” instead of “I can’t.” Look for ways of building yourself up and enhancing your self-confidence and self-esteem.
– Is there a problem or a person that you are excessively worried about? What might happen if you were to detach from the person or the problem? Has staying attached by worrying, obsessing or trying to control helped so far? If you dropped that person or problem, would you feel better? Freer?
– If you have a fair amount of anger, figure out what that anger is saying to you. Is that anger indicating a problem that needs attention? Make a decision about what, if any, action you need to take. Much anger comes from unmet needs. One way to resolve your anger is to figure out what you want or need, and then ask for it from the person who could give it to you.
– Express your feelings openly, honestly, appropriately and responsibly ” and allow others to do the same. Learn the words “I feel.” Let others use those words and learn to listen ” not fix ” when they do.
–Express your wants and needs. Learn the words : “This is what I want (or need) from you.”
– Tell the truth. The whole truth.
– Learn to say: “I love you, but I love me, too. This is what I need to do to take care of me.”
– Quit letting yourself get manipulated, guilted or forced into doing things that aren’t in your self interest.
– Learn to be assertive and stand up for yourself
– Without being aggressive or abrasive, learn to say “This is as far as I go. This is my limit.”
– Learn boundaries. Do not allow anyone else to verbally or physically abuse you, and adopt the attitude that only you can spoil your own fun, but you won’t allow someone else to spoil your fun, your day or your life. And don’t rescue people from the consequences of their behaviors, or from their addictions. Rescue yourself, instead.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Denver and Boulder, specializing in how people strengthen their intimate relationships. He can be reached at 303-758-8777, or e-mail him from his Web site, heartrelationships.com.
This is the second of a two-part series. The following is part 1:
VAIL, Colorado ” Dear Neil: Recently you wrote about co-dependency. For years I have thought of myself as co-dependant, but have been unable to change it. Could you review what co-dependency is ” and offer ideas of what I can do about it?
” Interested in Changing in Ontario
Dear Ontario: Here is a checklist of co-dependent behaviors, courtesy of Melody Beattie in the book “Co-Dependent No More.” Check those characteristics which you think apply to you:
o Feel responsible for other people ” for their feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, wants, needs, well-being, lack of well-being and ultimate destiny.
o Feel compelled, almost forced, to help another person solve their problems.
o Over-anticipate other people’s needs, and wonder why others don’t do the same for you.
o Find yourself saying “yes” when you mean “no,” doing things you don’t really want to be doing, doing more than your fair share of the work, and doing things other people are capable of doing themselves.
o Not knowing what you want and need “or if you do, telling yourself that what you want and need isn’t important.
o Trying to please others instead of yourself.
o Feel sad because you spend your whole life giving to other people and nobody gives to you.
o Find yourself attracted to needy people ” and find needy people attracted to you.
o Feel angry, victimized, unappreciated and used.
o Come from a troubled, repressed or dysfunctional family, which you tend to deny.
o Blame yourself for the way you think, feel, look, act and behave.
o Get angry, defensive, self-righteous and indignant when others blame and criticize you ” something you regularly do to others.
o Take things personally and feel like a victim.
o Are so afraid of making mistakes you often don’t try at all.
o Wonder why you have a tough time making decisions.
o Feel a lot of guilt.
o Feel ashamed of who you are.
o Believe you don’t deserve happiness.
o Wish others would like and love you, but believe others couldn’t possibly like and love you.
o Feel terribly anxious about problems and people.
o Try to catch people in acts of misbehavior.
o Find it almost impossible to say “no”.
o Ask for what you want and need indirectly, such as sighing.
o Have a difficult time asserting your rights.
o Have a difficult time expressing your emotions honestly, openly and appropriately.
o Complain, blame and try to control.
o Don’t trust yourself, your feelings, your decisions or other people.
o Find it difficult to feel close to people.
o Find it difficult to have fun and to be spontaneous.
Scoring: The more yes answers, the greater your level of co-dependency. I will discuss what you can do about co-dependency in next week’s column.
– Neil Rosenthal