“We define codependency as being an effort to control interior feelings by manipulating people, things, and events on the outside.”
– Copied from page 13 of Serenity: A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery, by Dr. Robert Hemfelt and Dr. Richard Fowler.
There are many definitions of codependency out there. Even after significant study on the matter, it can still be quite confusing. From my own experience, what I have learned is that one cannot truly understand codependency until one is truly recovering from living in it.
It is exhausting for me to live in the kind of codependency described in the quote above; mainly because it is impossible for me to control the behavior, actions or reactions of anything outside of myself. (I have a tough enough time controlling my own behavior, actions and reactions.) But that has not stopped me from attempting to do so!
As I have traveled about, attempting to get other people to do and say what I want them to do and say in order to make me feel better about myself, it has only served to build walls between me and those other people. In attempting to control the outcome of events by micro-managing the planning and implementation of those events, I have alienated those who have wanted to help me. In dropping hints and passively expecting others to read my mind and come to my rescue or offer assistance when I think they should, I am setting myself up to resent the humanness of another who could not possibly read my mind.
The roots of codependency come from deep down under the core of a dysfunctional family tree. The beginning of those roots cannot be found in my parents’ generation or their parents’ generation. They go so much deeper and farther down than that. Searching for the beginning would not be any more fruitful than attempting to find the answer to whether it was the chicken or the egg that came first.
So, what can I do to stop the cycle of codependency?
I can begin by communicating clearly with others, especially those closest to me. When I want something, I can ask for it. Instead of dropping a hint that it would be nice for my husband to take out the trash on occasion, I can simply state it. That seems so trivial and so simple, but it is in the trivial that codependency begins and ends. It sneaks in through the trivial and it ties us up in resentments of the trivial. How often has my blood burned through my veins when I go to put a napkin in the trash and it is spilling out all over the place? It is just trash, what’s the big deal? The big deal lies in my expectation that my hints for my husband to take out the trash will make him take out the trash. Or, worse yet, my expectation that my husband will read my mind and take out the trash!
The good news is that most people respond positively to clear, loving and honest communication. How I state what I want will go a long way in building trust and respect. Instead of saying, “Ya know, a real husband would do his job and take out the trash instead of letting it pile up like a slob,” I can say, “I would be so appreciative if you would take out the trash when you see it has gotten full.”
More than anything, my codependency has taught me that beating around the bush and manipulation have only served to bring about heartache and anxiety. I cannot read the mind of another, and no one can read my mind. Someone else might not be interested in details, but I can’t know that unless I point out my interest in having things in order. Asking for what I want in a loving way may be a little frightening at first, but it usually ends in a cordial response, even if the response is not what I want to hear. And what if I am honest about what I want and the other person still doesn’t do what I want them to do? Well then, I will have a good piece of information – and I can move on with no expectation that I will get what I want from that person, and therefore no resentment.
Am I willing today to put myself out there in my relationships by being honest, clear and loving in my communications?
So true, Jessica!! I really was inspired by this blog!
Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving, Thank you.
Thank you for your recent card. Miss you, too.
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Perfect description, Jessica. Thank you for the inspiration 😉
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