It has been said that a large part of the global population is codependent on something or somebody. That something could be work, substances, alcohol. That somebody could be a partner, parent or boss. Yes, there are many ways to be codependent and many are codependent towards more than one “object” leading to a fairly miserable life of sacrifice, search for validation and controlling others.
I work with many codependents and I consider it a speciality of mine. I identified myself a codependent long ago and still work hard at managing the various aspects of it and it is a case of management, not cure. I understand and know exactly what it means including falling for the classic three stage narcissist relationship trap. In my work with clients struggling with codependency, I have come to realise that a clear pattern exists in childhood that leaves children predisposed to codependency in adult life. A childhood very similar to my own. Listen to these statements from codependents and maybe you will see what I mean :
“It was my job to make sure my drunken father got home safe. Nobody gave me this job, I just felt without him there, we would not be safe. I saw my mum fretting about it and I did it for her”
“I tried my hardest to make my parents proud of me… yet nothing I did was good enough. Even when I got into university, it was the wrong university. I just kept trying harder. I feel if I don’t, my world will crash”
“I feel my parents didn’t love me and blamed me for everything that went wrong. It made me feel guilty. My mother distanced herself from me and my father punished me. I remember being locked in an outside shed for hours on end. They used to tell me that the family would be better off without me and that I should be locked away. I believed it”.
“I was taught that I had to take care of my parent’s needs from an early age. Mine were not important and I thought I only existed to serve them”.
It is my observation that most codependents grew up in houses where they were encouraged to be caretakers, to subdue their own needs or taught that whatever they do is not up to scratch. This is where the shame and guilt often starts, a key element of codependency. While there is little research to find a cause for narcissism, many studies believe that opposite factors could be a cause. Over lavish praise, abilities being embroidered by over indulgent parents in competition with other parents and the “golden child syndrome” all play a role in providing a child with a superiority complex. Codependents are often afflicted with the opposite… low self esteem.
If you add into the mix the typical inconsistent, often punitive parenting style that codependents are often subjected to, then the recipe is complete. I have recognised that many parents of codependents were also brought up in codependent households themselves and are often with a certain “type” of person. There is often a combination of an overwhelmed mother and an emotionally distant “breadwinner” father who felt that providing financially was his only job. He took no interest in raising the children and was often called upon to punish when needed. Many of these emotionally distant men were either alcoholics or philanderers leaving the secure base that is essential for children to grow, fragile.
It is never too late to deal with codependency issues and come through. In effect, one can say that the baggage you have been asked to carry for others (your parents) can be dropped. You are not responsible for your conditioning but you are 100 percent responsible for changing it.