How to start caring for yourself
Co-dependency – What is it?
It is our primary responsibility in life to take care and look after ourselves and to find the healing that we desperately need yet many of us struggle to do so.
There are many definitions of co-dependency;
According to Subby, R (1987) codependency is “an emotional, psychological and behavioural condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to, and practice of a set of oppressive rules – rules which prevent the open expression of feeling as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems”
Physical or mental illness, sexual abuse, neglect and addiction in families can often lead us to behave codependently, giving ourselves and our loved ones less chance of leading a happy and fulfilling life. It is quite often that as individuals you can continually give to others but do not know how to receive. In the process of caring you can often harbour feelings of anger through listening to the lies of loved ones, finding out about affairs, excessive drinking, drug-taking and disappointments. You can experience exhaustion and also become overwhelmed and depleted of emotional energy easily due to endless attempts to forgive others and continually think of ways to help them. You can willingly carry the burden of your partners/relatives difficulties on our shoulders, listening intently, hoping to help them to make change with having little or no regard for the emotional well-being of yourselves and the impact this has on your family, children and relationships.
It can have a severe impact on your employment as your inner emotional turmoil can become enmeshed and entwined in other areas of your life and where it becomes difficult to separate and compartmentalise your relationship difficulties from your day to day functioning. It can often lead to feelings of despair, depression, guilt and helplessness due to being unable to manage everyone and every situation.
It can sometimes seem that no-one seems to notice or care about how much you have had to tolerate or understand why you often feel so hurt, confused and ignored inside. You can often feel forced to suppress your own emotions to maintain an equilibrium in the relationship, due to guilt and fear in adding to our loved ones problems. There maybe feelings of, ‘how can I possibly tell my partner how I’m feeling when they are already struggling with their own Mental Health/addiction. Will what I tell them make them angry, will they withdraw from me, use passive aggressive/ stonewalling behaviour or exacerbate their behaviour towards me in other negative ways’?
There may be a strong desire to not let your children be affected and therefore you may do everything possible to maintain and sustain a happy environment. And so….you remain silent, continuing to nurture and provide support in the event change will happen.
Melody Beattie, author of ‘Codependency No More’ highlights that ‘The pain that comes from loving someone who’s in trouble can be profound’.
Often codependent individuals have great insight into the needs of others yet they are unable to see themselves in the relationship and as a consequence lose their sense of self and identity. You maybe a great problem-solver, rescuer and ‘fixer’ by nature, but care too deeply for others at the expense of yourself. Often outside support focuses on the individual with the addiction, poor mental health or physical disability which leaves you, the person caring feeling sidelined and forgotten.
So what does a co-dependent person need to feel better? And stay that way?
- You need to find your own recovery and healing process through counselling. Learning that you are not responsible for the emotions and behaviours of others is key to this process.
- Setting limitations and maintaining your own personal emotional and physical boundaries will help protect you from suffering and harm.
- Establishing personal goals with the support of your counsellor will help you to focus on your own needs and wants in order to lead a happier, more fulfilled life.
- It will help to understand how your submissive, often clingy behaviour may have been through fear of separation or maybe due to an excessive desire to keep your family together at all costs. This is often in spite of the detriment it is having on your own emotional well-being. Why is it that you are so prepared to make this ultimate sacrifice? Often it is due to your own experiences in early childhood and exploring your background through counselling will help greatly in understanding events and in supporting you to help break your relationship patterns.
- Learning how not to absorb and take on board the emotions of others at the detriment of your own emotional health will eventually lead to increased feelings of self-worth, identity, liberation and autonomy in order to achieve inner satisfaction.
- Having support to slowly learn to derive your your self-esteem through self-care as opposed to attempts to gain it from being needed by others will make you feel better and more motivated. It will lead to a positive journey towards codependency recovery.
Maybe this article has brought a relationship to mind and made you think of yourself!
Take the steps you need to find happiness and to obtain a brighter future….. because you are worth it!