Following on from my post “What is Co-dependency“, I thought it would be helpful to list the symptoms that we experience, and behaviours we act out as adults. If you haven’t read my post on co-dependency you may want to do that first. Click here to read it.
Co-dependency isn’t something that just leaves us as we grow up, or move away from the addict. It stays with us until we find ways to overcome it and learn how to change our behaviour.
Key identifying areas affected as an adult
You may identify with these, I know I do.
- How you feel about yourself will be affected (low self-esteem)
- You compromise your personal values (if you’re aware of what they are) because you don’t want to lose a relationship. You may not end a relationship that isn’t healthy for fear of abandonment/loneliness
- You can be highly sensitive to others comments, this is because you’re vulnerable and your self-worth has been affected
- You find it hard to say what you want in relationships/friendships – maybe you’re indirect or just don’t say at all
- Find it difficult to deal with emotional pain – maybe you try to control it rather than accept it and let it go
- You focus on what others need and want, so you tend to then be reliant on them to help you decide what to do/what you need
- Having boundaries isn’t something you’re familiar with, knowing what is and isn’t acceptable to you and sticking to it
- Everything you do is governed by your fear of loneliness, being abandoned, rejected
- You may feel like the victim in situations. That no one is listening to you or understanding, sympathising with you
- Giving too much of yourself can mean than you end up hurting yourself emotionally
- Opening up and expressing how you feel will be difficult. it’s your way of coping with what’s happened in the past
- Denial is big with families of addicts – codependency results is minimising trauma and crisis. It’s familiar to us. Unless we express our feelings we can’t get the validation from others that we seek
All of the areas above are usually very disguised. It’s common for people to come across in a happy, confident and successful way. After a while this can be hard to keep up, it gets exhausting pretending to be something we’re not. I know that one well.
Giving too much of yourself
From my experience and from lots of conversations with others over the years, this is something that is very common in those affected by someone’s addiction. If we’re honest, this isn’t surprising is it?
Depending on your situation you may have wanted to do things around the family home to receive positive “strokes”. To be valued and feel you are helping. You may have been overly responsible, having to manage a lot in the home. Maybe you took on tasks that your parent(s) should have done, giving up the chance to have fun and be a child. This may not have been a choice but something put on you by your parent/caregiver.
There could have been times when you went out of your way to help someone, not considering yourself. This carries on into adult life and you may see that in yourself now.
What I learnt is this. We don’t have to give to receive, we don’t have to feel we have to do things so people like us. If we don’t do what people want us to and they react negatively, that’s their issue. It can be hard to accept that, because if you’re desperate for acceptance of others, you feel you need to be the “nice” person and do what they want.
It’s worth thinking about, do you experience a lot of resentment towards others? I know I did when I felt I was giving more than I was getting back. Surrounding yourself with people that accept you and value who you are is much more authentic. Trying too hard and worrying about others isn’t the way I wanted to keep living.
What’s the answer to co-dependency?
There are lots of things we can do, I’m going to make a start with some suggestions below (not an exhaustive list):
- Read up on co-dependency and increase your knowledge about it, make sure you use good resources
- Knowing what’s important to you and what isn’t. You can look at this in sections, work, home, social, personal life and see what your values are. Is it important for people to be on time, reliable, have money etc. Be specific
- From your personal values, consider what is and isn’t acceptable to you. There is no need to justify it, if you just feel it’s not right for you, that’s a good enough reason! This is all about your boundaries, I did a blog post on this topic if you want to read it click here.
- Identify what you got from your parents that you didn’t need, then identify what you got that you didn’t want – are there any people in your life now that can give you what you need that you didn’t get as a child?
- I love inner child work, this is where you connect with the child inside. You may want to sit quietly, feet grounded and just close your eyes. Visualise your younger you, listen watch and talk to her/him. Do you need to give reassurance, hear what she/he wants to say, give them a hug? Whatever it is, do it. I know if you aren’t used to this you can feel a bit strange, but it truly is a good technique.