By Amanda Rowett, MA, LMHCA, Bellevue Christian Counseling
Codependency is often defined as a “relationship addiction.” It involves looking to someone else to make you a feel like a whole person, making you become so preoccupied with your partner that you neglect yourself. Often people who struggle with codependency feel that they cannot be happy outside of a particular relationship.
There is hope for codependent people and in this two-part series I am going to suggest concrete steps that you can take on the road to recovery. By breaking through your codependent patterns, you embark on a journey which will enable you to discover and accept your true self, enabling you to relate to other people in true freedom as the person God intended you to be.
Recognize Your Codependent Patterns
The journey towards healing starts by being honest with yourself, and becoming more aware of your unhealthy behavior and thoughts. A Christian counselor can help you in this as you seek to identify your specific codependent patterns. Sometimes it can be scary to even acknowledge the problems that we see in ourselves, and we can be tempted to stay in denial and avoid them. But an important part of the healing process is to acknowledge where you need help, and to be truthful with yourself about where you need to change. This will ultimately make you a stronger person.
Committed to Your Own Healing Process
People who are codependent focus most of their energy on caring for others and fixing their problems. They feel selfish focusing on their own needs, so the only way that they can feel good about themselves is to care for other people. Perhaps you should consider “fasting” from a serious relationship until you have undergone a certain healing and growth. Commit yourself to investing all the energy you gave to “people pleasing” in your healing. Learn to let go of your desire to control people, and realize that you cannot control others but that you can control yourself.
Understand Where Your Codependency Comes From and How it is Reproduced
A Christian counselor can help you to unpack your own story and can support you during this emotional and possibly painful process. Part of the healing journey involves identifying and processing where you have been emotionally and psychologically wounded in the past. This can include topics such as childhood abuse, experience with an alcoholic, or a dysfunctional relationship. Reprocessing your story can help you to heal so that you do not have to resort to codependent behavior in order to cope and survive as you did in the past.
Be Brave and Begin to Feel Again
Remember to connect with yourself, even if this might feel strange at first. Connecting with yourself involves asking yourself questions like “What are my desires and dreams? What are my feelings or thoughts about this matter?” It is about becoming aware and developing your own internal reference point. This may involve processing those feelings that you have repressed in order to survive. Instead of judging your feelings, begin to accept them and allow yourself to experience your emotions.
Begin to Set Boundaries
People who struggle with codependency take on other people’s responsibilities as their own burden. Often they work harder on those problems than the person whose problems they really are. For example, Sally works hard to make money for her unemployed brother, who can’t pay his bills but is not motivated to look for a job. You need to begin asking yourself what you are truly responsible for, and to sift out those problems, behaviors, thoughts and feelings that are not your own. We are defined by boundaries and you need boundaries to tell you what is you and what is not you. You are responsible for your own feelings, thoughts, spirit, behaviors and choices, but you are not responsible for those of other people. We begin to feel more at peace when we know what is ours to take care of. While emotional boundaries can be difficult to locate, a Christian counselor can help you to gain clarity on your personal boundaries and help you to develop them as you begin to filter out what is not yours to own.
Christian Counseling Can Help You to Recover from Codependency
In the following article, I will continue to discuss steps that you can take on your journey to healing, as you seek to break your codependent patterns. As you can see from what I have discussed in this article, codependent behavior has its roots in your own life history. Addressing it means being prepared to look at yourself, as you seek to discover who you truly are and to find ways to be true to yourself. This can be a difficult and frightening process, and a trained Christian counselor can both help you to understand why you react the way you do and can also support you on this journey to healing.
All from freedigitalphotos.net: “Man And Women Icon” by Simon Howden; “Open Bible Isolated On A White Background” by digidreamgrafix