Toxic Loving – Understanding Codependency

Are you thinking, “That sounds absurd!  How can caring for someone else possibly be toxic?”  If so, then please read on.  You are on the right track towards a happier and healthier life while achieving more fulfilling relationships.

By now we’ve all heard the term codependency, which originally popped up in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  It was then considered to be a condition suffered by the spouse or other family members of individuals with alcohol and/or drug problems.  It was thought that the codependent’s beliefs and actions allowed the addict to continue drinking or using drugs without feeling the negative life-consequences otherwise experienced.  This “loving” behavior manifested by family members and spouses of the addicted actually enabled the addict to continue using, mostly at the codependent’s expense.

Codependency means so much more than enabling with someone you love and today this idea has expanded to include adults who may or may not have lived with an addict.  Codependency can more accurately be defined as the tendency to put others needs before your own; accommodating to others to such a degree that you tend to discount or ignore your own feelings, desires and basic needs. Your self-esteem depends largely on how well you please, take care of and/or solve problems for someone else (or many others).  In a sense, you are only able to see yourself through the “role” you have with others.

I often times hear codependents say, “I don’t know how to separate who I am with what I can do”.

The consequences of maintaining a codependent approach to life is a lot of resentment, frustration and unmet personal needs.  When these feelings and needs remain unconscious, they often resurface as anxiety.

Codependents typically learned this while growing-up in order to survive in an environment that was experiencing great emotional pain and stress.

To list a few common characteristics, Codependents:  Do more than their share; Accept responsibility for the actions of others; cannot go without approval and recognition; Feel guilt when asserting themselves; Fear change; Mistrust others; Cannot identify their own emotions;  Have a heightened fear of abandonment; Have difficulty with boundaries, intimacy, and control.  In addition, Codependents can suffer physical illness related to stress.

The road away from Codependency can be challenging yet fully rewarding.  It requires hard work with a strong dedication to healthier thinking and loving.  Self-help books, personal therapy, and support groups are all great tools to use in learning how to stop being a Toxic Caretaker and start enjoying the rewards life and relationships are intended to offer.