Codependency is a term for more extreme forms of anxious attachment where we fear being abandoned or alone.
We often have wounds of abandonment, rejection, and feeling left out, our needs not being met and seen as important, and our boundaries being violated. We learned that to be safe and accepted, we had to negate our boundaries and ignore our needs and focus on others.
It could be any significant attachment and not just parents. It could be other key family members or close friends.
Codependence is an attachment wound, and while the self-love movement is trendy, it’s not very useful.
We are social creatures, and healing happens in a social vacuum.
Being kind to yourself, listening to your own needs and boundaries is essential to giving yourself kindness; however, it alone will not heal codependency.
The constant adaptation and hyper-focused on others make you abandon yourself again and reinforce the story that you are not worthy.
You likely learned that you had to accommodate others and deny parts of yourself to meet your minimum needs, so there is a reason for your behavior. There is nothing wrong with you.
You are having a functional response to a dysfunctional circumstance.
As a child, you had no choice as you were dependent on others to survive. Now you don’t.
You can walk away and be ok. You can find new people to spend time with. You can remove yourself from a toxic environment.
The self-help nonsense that you can’t be loved by someone else until you love yourself inhibits healing, and it’s wrong.
Does a baby love itself when it is born? Does that mean mum can’t love the baby?
We learn what love is through others. Thus, love is a socially learned construct.
So, you don’t need to love yourself first to be loved by others.
Someone who has not had a safe and secure attachment has never experienced love and so can’t give it to themselves. They have to be given a social experience of love.
I know the culture of independence has been telling us that we don’t need anyone else, and the more independent, the better.
This is a massive lie, as proven by ALL research, neuroscience, and understanding of the brain.
It’s the opposite. We flourish when we need others, collaborate towards common goals, show mutual care about each other’s needs and boundaries, and support each other.
Social isolation is used as torture for a reason. So healing is social, and let’s embrace that and work with our biology instead of against it.
Let’s look at the four tips you can do to heal codependency.
Knowing and feeling secure expressing our boundaries is the foundation of safety.
If we have no sense of where we begin and end.
No sense of our own needs and capacity.
No sense of what feels safe for us.
Then it’s hard to navigate the world and feel safe, so we will become over-reliant on others to provide that safety because we don’t trust ourselves.
If you have codependency, you likely did not learn that your boundaries matter and are valued and respected.
So, this could be a very new experience that even feels strange, to begin with.
But like any skill, it’s learnable, and it might be the most important skill you ever learn.
I practice this with my clients, and you can do this with a trusted friend, which is to learn to control the space around you physically.
It’s widespread for people with codependency to be hyper-focus on the outside world as they are hypersensitive and attuned to other people’s needs to ensure they will not get rejected.
Because of this hyper external focus, the codependent often lacks internal focus towards their own needs and boundaries and are unaware of what they are.
To regain balance, the practice should be in noticing your own emotions and sensations to identify your boundaries and needs.
Practices that make you feel present with yourself, such as Yoga, meditation, or 5th rhythms dance, are excellent to start.
They will drag you between your mind needs to focus externally and think about what everyone else needs, wants, and things and bringing the focus back to you and what you need.
As you get better at this, you will be able to identify your needs and boundaries much faster and easier, and then the next step will be to practice expressing them.
I practice this all the time with my clients, and it’s great to see them come out of their people-pleasing tendencies and proudly, kindly, and assertively expressing their needs clearly.
They tell me it’s one of the most empowering things they have done.
As I mentioned earlier, healing is social, even if self-help is trying to make you believe it’s all about you.
Individuality has failed us on so many levels, but I will leave this for another video.
Who we associate with frequently determines the outcome of our attachment style and self-worth, so choose wisely?
Love is learned, so if you want to heal, this is likely the most crucial part.
Find or spend time with people that fulfill these criteria, and you will develop a secure attachment and high self-worth over time.
Spend time with people who
1. Care and respond to your needs.
2. Respect and encourage your boundaries.
3. Acknowledge and accept your perspective even if they disagree.
4. Support you when needed.
5. Accept you fully. Acceptance and agreement are not the same things.
6. Notice and encourage your strengths
7. Make you feel safe and calm
8. Make you feel seen and supported
The more time you spend with people like that and the less time you spend with toxic people, the more secure and worthy you will feel.
Our strengths are in our social networks, and once we know we have a tribe of secure social support, we become less dependent on a single person, so the anxiety and codependency become less.
The final piece to try requires a journal, so if you don’t have one, get one.
Self-compassion consists of self-kindness and recognizing a common humanity that we are not alone.
Self-kindness requires you to spot that internal bully who is putting you down and criticizing you and say STOP.
Then rephrase the harsh self-criticism into a statement of self-kindness.
If you notice yourself saying, “I am such a fool for going back to my narcissist ex thinking he would be different this time,” this is judgemental and harsh. Try to change that to a kind statement such as
“I made a mistake because I am still in pain and want closure, and because I am kind, I presume others are the same; I will remember end all contact with my narcissistic ex because I deserve to be treated with kindness.”
Try to say those two different statements to yourself and feel the difference. Then, sense the difference in how your body responds.
The first one made my body tense, and the second made it relax.
Both your mind and body listen and respond to how you speak to yourself constantly, which has a considerable impact over time.
Remember, criticism is not your voice. It was a voice given to you by someone else.
Growing up, you were given a garden, but that does not mean you have to keep all the flowers and plants. Instead, if some of them no longer serve, you pull them up and plant new ones.
It’s your garden, after all.
That’s enough for today.
If you are in the middle of this confusing and painful place, check out the comprehensive course I did on how to heal and flourish after dating a borderline, narcissist, or socio/psychopath.
Never forget. You are worthy of love, safety, kindness & mutuality.