Debunking the Myths about Codependency

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    18-Dec-2014

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Research in the neurobiology of development and attachment shows us that codependency is a failure in childhood to establish a secure base in relationship to a primary caretaker. As a result, we adopt self-protective to help us survive our childhood and continue to use them in our adult relationships whether we need to or not. This article looks at the two sides of codependency and what to do about it.

Transcript

  • 1. What is Codependency Really? Debunking the Myths about Codependence By Anne Dranitsaris, Ph.D. Thetermcodependencyhasbeenaroundsincethe early1980's.Thetermwasoriginallyusedto spousesofalcoholicsanditwasfoundthatthe childrenofalcoholicsfoundthemselvesin codependentrelationshipsasadults.Wenowknow thatcodependentbehaviorisaresultofthestasis ofnormaldevelopmentinchildrenthatcauses adultstoformrelationshipsusingadaptive behaviorsthathelpedthemsurvivethelimitations ofordysfunctionsintheirfamilysystem.Research intheneurobiologyofdevelopmentand attachmentshowsusthatcodependencyisa failureinchildhoodtoestablishasecurebasein relationshiptoaprimarycaretaker.Asaresult,we adoptselfprotectivetohelpussurviveour childhoodandcontinuetousetheminouradult relationshipswhetherweneedtoornot. Codependencycanoccurinanytypeof relationship,includingfamily,work,friendship,and alsoromantic,peerorcommunityrelationships. Becauseitismisunderstoodanditstreatment tendstobehitandmiss,codependencyisstillas commoninthegeneralpopulationasitwaswhen itwasfirstdiscovered.Asitisadevelopmental issueandnotsomethingthatwecangetoverjust byreadingabookorknowingthatweare codependent,peopleneedhelptotakechargeof theirowndevelopmentpathandunderstandthe behaviorstheyneedtoadoptinordertolivelife andfromrelationshipsfromtheirauthenticself. Everyoneusesadaptivebehaviorsasadaptationis arequiredandhealthypartoflivinglifewith AnneDranitsaris,Ph.D.2014 others.However,whenadaptivebehaviorsarethe normbecauseofunderlyingfearandinsecurities andbecausetheyareonautomaticpilot,people livetheirlivesinaconstantstateofselfprotection. Codependentpeopleeitherfocusongettingtheir ownneedsmetattheexpenseofothers(dominant codependent)ormeettheneedsofothersatthe expenseofthemselves(submissivecodependent). Oftenreferredtoasnarcissisticandinverted narcissisticbehaviors,bothtypesofcodependents needeachothertofeelwhole.Bothtypesseek relationshipswithpeopletocompletethemand willusesubmissiveordominantbehaviorsto maintainpsychologicalsafetyandequilibriumin theirrelationships. 5 Top Codependent Myths Themythssurroundingcodependencestoppeople fromtrulyunderstandingwhatitisallaboutand whattheyactuallyneedtodotocreatehealthy relationships.Someofthemorecommonmyths arethatifyouarecodependent: Codependenceisanillness.Itiscommonly believedthatapersonwithanaddictionisilland soistheircodependentcounterpart. Codependenceistheresultofadevelopmental delayandisnotanillness.Weshouldcelebrate howwearewiredtosurviveusingourself protectivesystemratherthanbelievingweareill. Developmentaldelaysareasthoughwehitthe 1
  • 2. pausebuttononourbrainsnaturaldevelopment trajectoryanditsjustwaitingforustorestartit. Ourselfprotectivesystemensuresoursurvival, however,whenitisoverusedorusedbecausewe areinthehabitofdoingso,itgetsinthewayofour continueddevelopment.Themyththatitisan illnessperpetuatesthenotionthatyouare powerlesstodoanythingaboutit. Submissivepeoplearecodependent.Thecoin codependentsignifiestwopartiesareinvolvedand thereisamutualityofneedoftheothertofeel wholeinthemselves.Thedominantcodependent needssomeonethattheycanoverpowerorfeel superiortoinordertofeelwhole.Thesubmissive needssomeonetobeintheserviceofinorderto feelwhole.Thenotionoftwohalvesmakinga wholewiththegoodpartsinonepersonorthe othercomprisesacodependentrelationship.For example,apersonwhoisdominantintheir personalrelationshipcanequallybesubmissiveina workrelationship. Acodependentpersonisimmature.Automatic, codependentbehaviorsareforthemostpart unconscious.Codependentpeoplefearthe judgmentofothersandneedsupportand compassionfromfriendsandfamily,notjudgment. Weallcomeoutofchildhoodwithdevelopmental delaysanditisourresponsibilityasadultsto continuestrivingtoachieveourfullpotential. Dominantcodependentsappearmatureintheway societydefinesitbecausetheycanrunsuccessful organizationsandhavetheabilitytouseothersto makethemselveslookgood.Submissive codependentsorganizetheirhomes,theirfamilys activitiesinadditiontoholdingdownfulltimejobs. Justbecauseonepartofourbraindidntdevelop fullydoesnotmeanweareimmatureandthatwe arenotfunctioningwellinotherpartsofourlives. Judgingpeopletobeimmaturebecausetheyare AnneDranitsaris,Ph.D.2014 codependentmayhelpthepersonwhoisdoingso tofeelsuperior,butitisnothelpfuloruseful. Joininga12StepProgramisthewaytorecover fromcodependence.Statisticallyithasbeen proventhat12stepprogramsareharmfultomost peoplewhojointhem.Thepremiseof powerlessness,recovery,diseaseandongoing relapsedoesnothelppeopledevelopahealthy senseoftheirownpowerandauthorityin relationships.Inotherwords,itdoesnothingfor braindevelopmentaspeopleareencouragedto identifythemselvesascodependentHi,my namesAnneandIamacodependent.The mainstreamacceptanceofthisapproachhas furtherthwartedourcollectivedevelopmentand weneedtochangeourunderstandingof codependencetogrowbeyondthis. Codependentpeopleshouldjustgetoverit.Ifonly itwerethateasy!Mostapproachestodealingwith codependencetargetbehavioralchange,believing thatchanginghowwebondinrelationshipsto othersisaquickfix.Longstandingselfprotective behavioursarecomplexandentrenchedin automaticemotionalresponsessuchasfear, anxiety,anger,andpain,nottomentionthe blaminganddevaluationofselforotherthat emerges.Youcanchangethewayyourespondin relationshipsovertime,butyoucantgetover developmentaldelays.Youhavetoresume growing. LearningtoLiveAuthentically Despitedelaystoourdevelopmentduring childhood,ourbrainisabletorewirenewpatterns ofthinkingandresumedevelopmentwhereitleft offatanytime.Longstandingadaptivepatterns ofbehaviorcanbechangedandnew,productive responsesandpatternscanbeputintheirplace. Wecanchangethewaywebehaveinrelationships 2
  • 3. bychangingourunconsciousbeliefsabout ourselvesthatdriveselfprotectivebehavior. gettingyourneedsmetandlivinglifeonyourown terms. Rewiringthebrainsothattheauthenticself emergeshappenswhenwelearnaboutand understandourselfprotectivesystem.This includesbecomingawareofthecopingstrategies leftoverfromchildhoodthatwearestillusing. Duringtherapy,clientscangothroughaperiodof feelingveryvulnerableandemotionalbecause theyareremovingtheircopingstrategyand exposingthepainunderneathit.Butovertime newhabitsofmindgetcreatedandnewwaysof healthycopinggetpracticedandadopted.The codependentpersonbecomesmuchmore comfortableaskingforwhattheyneed,negotiating withothersandsayingnotounrealistic expectationsfromothers. AnneDranitsaris,Ph.D. Changinglongstandingthinkingpatternsmeans cultivating,throughthepracticeofmindfulness, theabilitytoobserveandreflectondysfunctional thinkingpatterns.Itmeanscatchingyourselfwhen youarethinkingautomaticnegativethoughtsand toassessthevalidityofthethoughts.Ourbrain throwsupfeelingsthathavetodowiththepast andnothingtodowiththepresent.Learningtonot payattentiontothesethoughtsandfeelingsfrees youtoliveyourlifefullyinthepresentmoment, seeingyourselfinarealisticlight. Psychotherapyhelpsyouidentifyyourself protectiveandcodependentpatternsofbehavior andhelpyoucultivateyourauthenticself.Living lifethinkingthatyouhavetosubmittotheneeds ofotherstobelovedorthatyouconstantlyneed otherpeoplearoundtomirrorthepositiveimage youhaveofyourselfisnowaytoliveyourlife. Gettingthehelpyouneedisthefirststepingetting youonthepathtodevelopingyourauthenticself, AnneDranitsaris,PhD.,isaClinicalPsychotherapist, CorporateTherapist,andauthorwithmorethan35 yearsexperienceworkinginprivatepracticeandin organizations.SheisthecocreatoroftheStriving StylesPersonalitySystem,aneuropsychological approachtoachievingpotentialthatblends personalitytype,needstheoryandthelatest advancesinneuroscience.AnneusestheStriving Stylesinherworkwithindividuals,couples,parents andleadersinorganizations.Sheisthecoauthorof WhoAreYouMeanttoBe:AGroundbreakingStep byStepProcessforDiscoveringandAchievingYour TruePotential. Annehasherdoctorateinphilosophyfromthe OpenInternationalUniversityforComplementary Medicine(WHO).Shecompletedher psychotherapytrainingattheCentreforTrainingin Psychotherapy(Toronto)andstudiedatthe MastersonInstituteforDisordersoftheSelf(New York).SheisalsoagraduateoftheInternational SchoolforSpiritualSciences(Montreal).Anne attendedRyersonUniversityandtheInstitutefor ManagementTrainingfororganizational developmentandmanagementstudies.Shehas alsocompletedpostgraduateprogramsinCognitive BehavioralTherapy,SpiritualSelfSchema Development,andAlternateDisputeResolution. ShereceivedhercertificatefromtheUniversityof Toronto,FacultyofSocialWorkuponcompletionof theMindfulnessBasedStressReduction ProfessionalTraining.Annehasbeeninvolvedin theselfdirectedstudyofneuroscienceand neuropsychologyforalmostadecade. AnneDranitsaris,Ph.D.2014 3