Many people in therapy talk about transformation and make the assertion that it’s easier said than done, and I agree with that sentiment. It is far easier to talk about altering your mindset or your circumstances than it is to really go through with such changes. Too many people are afraid to take action after becoming aware of a problem. They can’t handle it without allowing fear to become a decisive factor.
It never ceases to amaze me when completely self-aware individuals struggle to see the forest for the trees and convince themselves that they are incapable of doing so. This is the paradox that encapsulates the issue. We fear that pursuing something we truly desire will be too difficult. Perhaps this is an unattainable fantasy for many people, but it is entirely possible if the will and effort are present.
Conditioning has a powerful effect on people, and this is especially true with codependents. Our default mode of viewing the world, people, and, especially, the interactions we have with them become deeply imprinted in our minds. Codependency has its roots in relational and developmental trauma, and hence infancy is an appropriate place to begin treatment to change this blueprint.
When children reach a certain age, they are like sponges, soaking up everything that comes their way, whether it is positive or harmful. It was once said to me that if you told a four-year-old that hopping on one’s foot continuously is normal, they would believe you and would continue to do so until they discovered that this is not the proper way to walk. It’s amazing how much influence a parental message can have. As a fundamental principle, parents are responsible for ensuring that their children have the appropriate tools, are protected, are housed, are nourished, and are clothed. They frequently perform admirably at this stage, but the subsequent level is much more difficult. This necessitates an emotional connection, the development of the child’s self-esteem and resilience, as well as the realization of the child’s own ability to address problems. This is where the issue with codependency lies.
If a child does not have emotional connection, guidance, and the teaching of boundaries and limits, he or she is more likely to internalize how they are feeling, which results in toxic shame. This would be exacerbated if shame-based parenting were to be employed, as is frequently the case. Toxic shame will instill in a child the belief that there is something wrong with them and that they are unworthy of love. It is carried into adulthood and applied to adult relationships, often leaving them vulnerable to being abused or exploited since they are mirroring their childhood experiences of putting others’ needs before their own.
It is critical to emphasize at this point that we can never be held responsible for incidents that occurred during our childhood due to the manner in which we were raised. That changes when we reach the age of maturity, when we have the ability to make choices and alter our behaviour patterns. It is likewise unreasonable to place blame on one’s parents. It is necessary to deal with the consequences of their behavior in therapy rather than with them directly, unless abuse and neglect have occurred. As adults, we must seize the opportunity to change if we believe it is necessary, and we must be the ones who initiate the process.
This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but I always lay a strong focus on raising awareness and taking action. Without knowing why something is happening, how can you take action? Why would you become aware of something unless you are also eager to do something about it? Developing awareness requires delving deeper into one’s past through Inner Child therapy and reconnection with one’s younger self at a vulnerable stage of life. In order to comprehend what that youngster went through, you must first comprehend where your journey began. It is also critical to recognize that a particular thought pattern emerged as a result of this experience and that this pattern continues into adulthood. This can be time-consuming and emotionally draining task, but it lays the groundwork for future behavioral change. In terms of recovery, this is a vital component to consider because the more you understand about your past, the more information you have to help you change.
Once this groundwork task is completed, one can proceed to the next step, which can be considered the gateway to the emergence of a new adult. In order to navigate the second stage, we must practice conscious observation of our thoughts in the present moment, analyze where our thoughts originate, what they are protecting us from, label our emotions and process them and take the necessary time to respond. It is often the case that taking the road less traveled is preferable to taking the well-traveled path of avoiding trouble. This is critical if a new self-assured adult is to develop. A major component of this is refraining from developing stories that cause us to make snap judgments and confronting our concerns rather than avoiding them.
Subscribe to Dr Jenner's Blog via Email
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.