I read an article recently about happiness written by a journalist who works for the Times in London. He was commenting about a book he was reading, given to him at Christmas, about how to find happiness. The title doesn’t really matter, as there are many such books on the market and as his article said, most of the book he was reading mirrored most of those. He did say that one interesting concept came through that we are not happy with “just enough” and that “greed and envy” are seen as the drivers of modern unhappiness. For many people, it would be nice to have the choice to manage with “just enough” (whatever that is). Some have to deal with less than enough on a daily basis.
Whatever the sense of this concept, it certainly set me thinking about things and relationships in general, especially from the point of view of codependency. The new year has generally started as the old finished with many emails from codependents (undiagnosed) concerning questions and my services. Nice as that is, it proves that codependency is still a major topic and one that is coming more and more to the forefront of thinking concerning relationships as people become more aware through the ever-increasing amount of resources available. For these people, “just enough” is never enough in a relationship and it is hard for them to place boundaries around their own thinking, let alone the behaviour of others. In fact, boundaries are an alien concept to them and this important area of recovery is something they often need to learn from scratch.
Most of the people who contacted me (and generally) describe their relationships as one-sided and that they put far more effort into it than their less concerned partners. Some were in openly emotionally abusive relationships and had accepted this “as the way it is”. All were desperately unhappy and were seeking direction in their efforts to make sense of their situation. Many of them described their childhood in a very typical manner and one that I personally have heard many times. This typical childhood scenario, I described in an article written a few months ago. The article describes a dysfunctional relationship with caregivers that provides an equally dysfunctional template that codependents carry into future relationships. This seems especially strong with women who have tried to connect with an emotionally distant father, while observing an overwhelmed, codependent mother.
Many of the clients that I deal with also attend CODA meetings. Great as they are, they are not as focused and effective as a small, intimate group where participants can add more to the process. While it can be good to hear other people’s stories, a targeted program of recovery can be more a profound experience, especially if conducted by a therapist who has overcome his own codependency issues. There are, of course, many advantages to individual therapy for codependency where a totally individual package can be tailored.
Over the years, I have tried many different methods in my practice while dealing with codependents. Most are aimed at increasing awareness of the lack of connection to caregivers in childhood and the child‘s never-ending attempts to gain validation and attention. In the past few years, I have settled on a method that I really enjoy using because it is effective and creative. I have found that combining two therapies, powerful individually but life-changing when used together, to be truly effective. The two therapies in question are Inner Child and Internal Family Systems Therapy:
Inner Child therapy is a very intimate, emotional process. Imagine meeting and conversing with your younger self. Imagine meeting him or her in a magical place and being able to reframe some of the things that happened. Imagine being present to support your younger self as they go through developmental phases again. Inner child therapy will bring you a lot of awareness about your childhood and how it has affected your adulthood and especially relationships but it is, in my opinion, not enough.
Internal Family Systems therapy or parts work as it is often called adds more depth to the inner child part of the work. In the course of a day, many of us may think, for example, “a part of me wants to do this and yet, at the same time, another part of me wants just the opposite”. Sometimes, this is felt as an inner conflict or “stuckness”. Usually, we simply notice this conflict and override one of the arguments. In a healthy personality, there is a fluid shifting from one part to another depending on what approach is needed, what is appropriate, or what is necessary under the particular circumstances.
Often, some of us feel stuck. We feel like we have run out of solutions. We don’t know how to move forward. In other words, our usual approach doesn’t work anymore. We may have difficulties with a partner, or we may feel as if something is “missing” in our life, or we may feel depressed. Most of us have, over time, become dominated by a few strong parts that “run the show” pretty successfully. If we are asked to describe our personality, we would list these parts as our qualities. But sometimes, they hit the wall – they become tired.
These few parts have served us well with their approaches, such as pleasing others or being efficient and organized. As hard as we try to solve some life problem or crisis, our usual approach just doesn’t do the job and our inability to find new resources can feel hopeless. In this situation, a psychotherapy which offers relief and gratitude to the tired parts and revives the buried parts, can expand the potential of the psyche so that the individual is able to make use of formerly inaccessible creative solutions.
When we begin to work therapeutically with our various parts, we listen to them all. At first, we listen to the parts that have worked so hard for so long– we listen to their fears, frustrations and beliefs about the situation. Eventually, we find that there are other parts that could contribute but they have been exiled – and with them go the creative dynamic approaches that could rise to the opportunities and problems appearing in life.
Parts work done effectively in conjunction with Inner Child therapy will help us to create a road map of the way we think along with the knowledge of where we came from and how we interacted with our parents. This will show us where the roots of dysfunction that causes codependency originated.
If you wish to talk to me about your codependency and take advantage of a free consultation, please feel free to contact me:
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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.
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