Codependency is sometimes hard to break because it works!

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There are many good programmes and concepts out there to help with codependency. Well meaning professionals who dedicate their time and energy to change people’s lives. However, one element that is often missing is the true desire on behalf of the codependent to actually change things. The main reason being that codependency actually works in a relationship most of the time, so why change it?

It would be erroneous to presume that the identification of codependency as a concern implies that the individual in question is codependent with all individuals in their social sphere. It is a common observation that codependent behaviour is not universally exhibited, as it tends to be limited to a select few individuals or entities, such as work or substances. The focal point of codependency tends to be an object of great potency, often with a predominantly unfavourable impact on their lives. Individuals often exhibit a notable reluctance to acknowledge this aspect of themselves, as it frequently serves as a defining characteristic. The crux of their predicament lies within themselves. The focal point of their existence is the entirety of their being, and solely by directing their attention towards it, shall they attain their requisite desires. Prior to attaining a genuine state of consciousness, individuals will vigorously safeguard their possession and despite their ceaseless grievances regarding said “object”, external parties are precluded from doing so. I have previously encountered a characterization of the phenomenon in question as a manifestation of Stockholm Syndrome, a notion with which I concur.

The revelation of insight often occurs solely in the aftermath of an inescapable event, wherein the disintegration of a relationship has transpired. The temporal duration of this process may be protracted, given the circumstance that individuals with codependent tendencies frequently exhibit a compulsion to rectify and return to the relationship.

I distinctly recall a particular instance wherein an elderly female client solely sought to engage in therapeutic discourse regarding the maltreatment she endured at the hands of her spouse and offspring, who were purportedly “exploiting” her. The maturation of the 35-year-old son, who cohabitated with his parents, was impeded by his mother’s overbearing tendencies, as she assumed responsibility for his every need, even going so far as to make his bed upon his belated awakening. Upon proposing the notion that perhaps it would be beneficial for the family to take on more responsibilities, the individual in question vehemently opposed, stating “but if I were to do so, would they not harbour less affection towards me?” While an extreme scenario, it serves as a striking illustration.

The manifestation of such a disposition within the context of psychotherapy can potentially give rise to complications. Nonetheless, it is noteworthy that seasoned therapists specialising in codependency treatment tend to perceive such reluctance as a constituent of the resolution, rather than an obstacle. The recurrent phenomenon of relinquishing oneself entirely to an object is a behavioural pattern that likely dates back to one’s formative years. Codependents perceive relationships as a means of addressing past traumas stemming from their impaired and dysfunctional early attachment to carers. Their persistent endeavour revolves around the resolution of these nascent relationships.

It is of utmost significance to engage in therapeutic sessions with a clinician who possesses a comprehensive knowledge of codependency and has effectively navigated through any personal experiences with such matters. The concept of codependency, particularly in the context of interpersonal relationships, is frequently misconstrued. Based on numerous literary sources that I have perused, certain therapists and observers continue to harbour scepticism regarding its very existence. They attributed it to the current trend or passing fancy. Nevertheless, based on my professional experience, I have observed a sufficient number of cases to identify it as a concept that impacts a significant portion of the population. Is it not a paradox that our adult interpersonal connections can be deemed efficacious when our formative years were characterised by feelings of inadequacy and desertion. By engaging in critical inquiry, one may also scrutinise the validity of the attachment style theory.

In essence, individuals who exhibit codependent tendencies frequently exhibit a strong reluctance to acknowledge the dysfunctional nature of their relationship with their “object” and the necessity of redirecting their focus towards themselves. During the duration in which they are preoccupied with another individual, they are satisfying a longstanding desire to procure affirmation, address unresolved matters, and experience affection. The conundrum at hand pertains to the fact that their search efforts are being directed to the wrong place.

How is it that I am aware of this? Through the agonising experiences of one’s own life. Because I am by nature a codependent, I spent a significant portion of my life in denial. Denial of the impact that my codependency had on the people in my immediate environment. Because I controlled, enabled, and fixed other people’s problems, I was able to trick myself into thinking that I was on the moral high ground and that everyone else must be in the wrong. My excessive use of the drama triangle to maintain control must have driven those who were around me to distraction because I used it so often. Did I want it to end? Of course not. Why? Because it was successful for me, and I don’t see why anyone else would give up on a winning hand. When I was confronted with the situation and informed of the potential outcomes that could occur if I did not change, that is when I made the decision that enough is enough.

Being an individual who has boundaries within a relationship is essentially what it means for me to say “enough is enough.” Not looking to be fixed or rescued, as well as being someone who can take care of their own needs.







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Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner's approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients' internal "parts," or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.

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