What I would like us to focus on in this first session is the symptoms of codependency. We will have sessions on how it develops and dynamics that perpetuate it, but let's do first things first and see if we are habitually caught up in codependent behaviors. If we recognize that we are, then the rest of this series becomes more personally relevant.
Our main resources for this awareness reflection will be:
1. Checklist of Codependent Behaviors:
2. Characteristics of Codependents
- short section in Chapter 1 of Freedom from Codependency
3. Dependent Attitudes and Dependency Behavior
4. Essential Symptoms of Codependency
5. Comprehensive List of Codependent Behaviors
There's a great deal of overlap among these lists, but each has a unique perspective. The "Essential Symptoms" one (#4), for example, distinguishes between different kinds of codependencies, while the Comprehensive List (#5) goes into areas that the others do not.
What I invite you to do is read over these resources and check the symptoms that you relate to. Do this in a non-judgmental attitude and be gentle with yourself. All we're trying to do here is develop an awareness of what kinds of codependent behaviors we've been doing. We can save the "why?" and "how do I stop?" topics for later.
If you would like to share your personal responses to these exercises, use the forum thread for Session One to do so. Please keep what others share on this forum confidential.
I will begin the sharing here by noting that my struggle with codependency through the years has not been so much through relationship addiction or caretaking, but the one called "Messiah Complex" on the "Essential Symptoms" resource page.
As the oldest of eight, I felt a burden from an early age to set a good example for my younger brothers and sisters, and this often had me taking on roles that I did not especially want. I knew I had to "look good," or else I might be blamed for problems developed by my younger brothers and sisters. This is a kind of classical Family Hero role (we will say more about this later), and in my case the focus was not on super-achievement so much as super-responsibility. This made it difficult for me to say no to projects that were out of my range, or to ask for help when I needed it. Rather than do so, I would read up on things and work long hours. This was as true for work and study in high school to the same through college years and then raising a family. Happily, I think I've shed some of this through the years, but it's an issue that I still get caught with from time to time.
What's tricky about something like "Messiah Complex" or any other form of codependency is that there is a positive feedback mechanism that keeps one stuck there. We really like it when other people notice and comment on how responsible or caring we are; we also feel less guilt and shame within ourselves when we fulfill our own expectations, even if they are unreasonably high. I had to eventually see that what I was doing was more to protect my own identity than to set example for others. Seeing this kind of narcissism and egocentricity isn't easy or fun, but it's the first step to a new freedom.
Phil, link #1 in the conference leads me to a "page not found" message. The other links work, and I'm reading through the lists and thinking about them and will probably post more later. Just wanted you to know the first link doesn't seem to be working.
This is Thair. I'm really glad to see I wasn't the only one who couldn't access the first link. I was afraid maybe my computer was acting up again. I'm mulling over and praying about the rest, but I do fit in there.
Ah, sorry, that should have been html, not htm I've corrected the mistake.
<<Feeling required or obliged to visit, telephone, entertain, chauffeur, or like.>>
I really struggled with this one in the past.....in my relationship with my mother. I would cater to her and let her have her way whenever it was possible. I was stuck there for quite a few years. Then there was this time when I went to a particular shopping mall with my two kids (who were in grade school at the time) and later when I told my mom she got mad at me because I didn't take her along. I felt so bad/guilty about it, even though it wasn't convenient for me to take her that day. In order to make it up to her I offered to take her to that mall on my next day off. But she wouldn't take me up on my offer. She said that she didn't want to go on my next day off...she wanted to go on that OTHER day when I went without her.
Well, that was a real turning point for me. I realized that what she was asking of me was impossible. It almost felt like something inside of me died that day. I know that's a strange way to put it. But after that I just quit trying so hard to please her.
I also noticed that after this I didn't share as much about my life with my mom. This was good, in that I didn't need her approval in every area of my life....but it was bad in that I avoided sharing things with her in order to avoid the possiblity of criticism.
This is a game I've played with my husband, too. Sometimes it's easier (safer) not to tell him things in order to avoid his (possible) criticism. I'm better about this than I used to be, but I still fall back into this pattern periodically.
<<Asking permission of a partner for anything, including spending money. authority to speak, use of the car, etc.>>
Also struggled with this one. But after being married for 24 years I've made some progress here, too. Now, when I announce that I'm going here or there I try not to be so defensive when my husband questions me on it. I think he mostly just doesn't understand what I need. What's different now is that I go ahead and do what I need to do for myself and I don't need his approval.
Enough for now. I don't want you all to think I'm a total mess!
(I read this somewhere and it really stayed with me---thought I would share it!)
When you're twenty you worry about what everybody else thinks about you.
When you're 40 you no longer care what everybody else thinks about you.
When you're 60 you realize that nobody was ever thinking about you at all!
I think the behaviors on the various lists that I see in myself are a tendency to feel guilty about expressing feelings others don't agree with or discount, and a hesitancy in asking for what I need, lest I bother or inconvenience others. In the first instance, what comes to mind is a time when I was involved in a musical that had special meaning for me, and although I invited the church choir I was in at the time to attend, not one member of the large choir did. Right after our show closed, a flyer was sent around by another choir member about a different musical, encouraging people to attend because one of the people in it was a member of our parish and it was a good way to support them. (What was I? Chopped liver?) I was very upset, and sent an email to our director expressing my feelings, while acknowledging that I was probably taking the situation more personally than it was meant. The email I got back, while acknowledging that she could hear the pain in my email, seemed to mostly be about why I shouldn't feel that way, and how in situations where choir members hadn't responded to things like she'd wanted, she'd had to realize that people had to make their own choices about what they did with their time. While her points were valid, I felt guilty about having expressed my feelings, and disapproved of for having felt the way I did. As for the other behavior, being hesitant to ask for what I need, I think a lot of this might be because of my blindness, and not wanting to be a burden to others. So I'm often reluctant to ask for rides, etc., and at times even to ask for little things, like more staples for my stapler at work! I always just wish my needs would be met without my having to ask someone to help me meet them. But of course I know that won't happen, so I do ask for help when I need it, but man is it hard!
[i]. . .The email I got back, while acknowledging that she could hear the pain in my email, seemed to mostly be about why I shouldn't feel that way, and how in situations where choir members hadn't responded to things like she'd wanted, she'd had to realize that people had to make their own choices about what they did with their time. While her points were valid, I felt guilty about having expressed my feelings, and disapproved of for having felt the way I did. . .[/]
That's a good example of the the process of discounting and invalidating feelings, Peggy. It goes on all the time, sometimes much more overtly. We know these people really mean well and are even trying to be helpful, in a way. But the message they end up communicating is that it's not OK to feel what you feel -- that there's something wrong with you for feeling what you feel. We'll say more about this in future sessions, but for now it's good to be aware of how others do this to us, we to them, and how we even do it to ourselves.
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