Anyone who is a regular reader of my work will know that I work with a lot of codependents who generally share a similar set of behaviour patterns with each other. Codependents are generally very nice people who have often been taken advantage of many times but have also been in situations where they have felt the need to control others for their own security. This control is driven by the lack of connection with caregivers experienced in childhood and is often a life-long quest to find it. On this quest, they try, often in vain, to mend the trauma from childhood by fixing other people. Mostly, the more issues their “target” has, the better. Narcissism, alcoholism, drug addiction, porn addiction or just nasty behaviour are all on the list of issues that codependents will try to fix.
Many will jump from one dysfunctional relationship to the next looking for someone to connect with with no avail and often give up looking for a relationship all together. Many codependents I work with work against themselves by doing things that they truly know is not good for them. They often go into therapy stating quite clearly that they want to change the way they run their lives, they want to stop making bad decisions and finally have an “equal” relationship with someone who “really cares”. They want to understand why they do what they do and want strategies to stop doing it.
I always make the statement at the start of therapy that once we come to a good level of awareness and we reach a point when action needs to be taken, that the choices they make at that point will determine how successfully they move forward. That is their responsibility to the process and themselves and mine is to support them through the process including any setbacks they may have. This I am very willing to do. It often means putting in the time between sessions giving feedback and reading assignments but that is fine.
Here often lies the issue. Many codependents work hard to come to the point that they truly know why they behave the way they do, where it came from what they need to do. When it comes to taking action, only a few will take that step to where they want to go. This is because it is often the road that needs the most effort but also that many are driven by impulse. That impulse is there when an abusive, narcissist ex wants to come back. It is there when they are dealing with alcoholics and believe stories about giving up drinking. It is there when they finish therapy because they have rekindled a dysfunctional relationship because they cannot be alone.
Codependents often tell me that they cannot make decisions for themselves but the evidence states they are very firm in making decisions against themselves.
The choice not to set boundaries, allow them to be crossed, enable abuse and dysfunction carries consequences as does every choice they make. Codependents do best when they can finally take the road less travelled and start making choices that better their lives. When they start to believe reality, not fantasy.