Many of you who read my posts on a regular basis will know that I treat a lot of codependents. This often involves complex treatment to save themselves from what they think they need, which is often validation from the wrong people. It always amazes me how deep this feeling is in some of the people I see. This is often to the extent that they feel they do not exist without their partner or who or whatever they are codependent with. Their identity is totally lost to them in their quest to enmesh with the chosen one.
I see treatment as two clear phases. Helping a codependent to become aware of their issues and how it affects the way they behave and then self care. Once they become aware, it often means for them that relationships change and sometimes end. Even if they continue, self care is essential and is often very difficult to imagine, let alone practice. This is for a number of reasons but mostly they have never practiced self care and most likely had very few role models growing up that they could model. Other people’s needs were more important and this is a habit that is hard to break. When I reach this crucial stage with a codependent, they are often confused about what self care actually is. Many believe that spending less time with their partner (if still around) and spending more time alone or socializing will help. These things certainly can but have a fleeting effect on sustainable self care.
In this stage, I find Inner Child Therapy extremely helpful. The child, as such is a manifestation of the inner core that is wounded and holds the trauma, guilt and shame that came from childhood. It is the place that holds the root of codependency. Codependents are used to giving to others and it becomes a natural process to give to this little child and nurture it through the reparenting process. In times when self care is needed, the child can be asked what it needs at any given moment. The answers it gives will indicate what is needed for the adult to look after itself if interpreted properly. In effect, the inner child will need just what a real child needs and that is a good place to start. This would include :
- Healthy nutrition and exercise
- Good sleep regime
- Structure and routine
- Healthy boundaries
- To feel safe and supported, especially when relapses happen
- Emotional and physical needs met
- To be cared about and appreciated
- Healthy playtime
- Positive Role models
While this is a very difficult transitional phase for codependents, it can give a new lease of life if practiced consistently.