Many codependents that I deal with like to talk about narcissism because it generally plays a big role in their lives. As people who will generally attract the odious, they generally have had to cope with the worst excesses of this type of behavior. Many stay in relationships with this personality type for many years before “realising” and becoming aware. Then there is usually a mad scramble fueled by friends, therapists and social media to get away as soon as possible and enforce “no contact”, the unwritten rule for dealing with such people. A quick search on the internet will give you thousands of pages written by people who have been in such relationships and are advising others. Good. While I would fully agree with this concept for abuse cases,it is not always as clear-cut as it might seem and a lot of this advice is based on the writers own autobiography and so, individual to them alone. Codependency is a lot about losing an identity in another person and controlling the environment to feel secure. It is easy to say…”he or she is a narcissist” as a cure for all ills.
When going “no contact”, the danger could be that we use this time to essentially point fingers and blame. We are saying to ourselves “I am a victim”, ” He or she did this to me”. By doing this and placing the emphasis on this or that relationship, we are missing the main point. That codependents need to take responsibility for their own set of behavioral problems. Now, hopefully that should and will come during no contact but I wonder how many are just using this time to swap one incompatible partner for the next one? Being a codependent myself and having worked through the issues, I can manage the occasional setback I have. I did the work (hard as it was) and learnt by painful doing. I realized that the biggest factor in codependency was not the self-centered people i got involved with but my own issues that attracted them and left me bereft of making the right choices. Of course, much of this was rescuing, fixing and controlling on my part and not until I really worked on what I could do to stop that did I really move on. I realized that these people were a symptom, not the cause.
Codependency is not about others it is about YOU, yes you, taking responsibility for aspects of your behavior that leave you exposed to being taken advantage of. Realise it, become aware, work on it and change it. Simple. The cause is obvious. Your codependency started in childhood when you couldn’t reason or control the powerful critical and protective voices that became part of your personality as an adult. That is a reason but no excuse for not changing it as an aware, self-conscious adult. In my experience the following are factors that need to be worked on in effective treatment. I am sure codependents here will recognize this.
- Self care. An alien concept for codependents. Why do you need to look after yourself when you are looking after the world and it feels good? Except it won’t when it all comes crashing down and you are left alone.
- Care-taking. Martyrdom, sacrifice may make you look an angel in front of your friends and family but what about those feelings of anger, victimhood and resentment when you don’t get the return you want or expect?
- Lack of Boundary Setting. Yes, you were never taught but you can learn. Yes, it is easier to keep quiet and say “yes” instead of “no”. To convince yourself that you cannot do it but any loving relationship needs boundaries. Period.
- Enabling/controlling. How many times do you complain about others behavior and do nothing about it but enable that behavior at the next possible point? How often do you and your friends sit and talk about how bad you have it but then you all go back to the same? How often do you lie to your therapist that you TRULY want change when the truth is that you are actually quite happy on the path of fixing, rescuing and enabling? Until, of course, you get left alone, as inevitably happens.
So let’s forget about the odious and concentrate on what really matters. The only place that you can influence. Your thoughts, behavior and what you need to do to move forward!
Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner’s approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients’ internal “parts,” or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.