Individuals that relate to the patterns of Adult Children tend to struggle with codependence. Codependency is best understood as a relationship where you do all the work, suffer all the consequences, the other person does not grow or change, others don’t even notice all you do, or appreciate it, and you end up worn out, exhausted, and blamed. Codependent relating is one where there is too much caring and helping.
This is a critical concept for Adult Children to understand in order to be able to challenge and change their own unhelpful coping patterns, addictions, and/or behaviors. Knowing about codependency helps one to “break the chain” of transmitting dysfunctional family dynamics from one generation to the next.
Helping others is fine. However, if we try to do too much, and overprotect and save them, we end up taking away growth, risking, and independence from others. They then start to act and react like little children. This doesn’t help them recover and grow on their own–figuring out for themselves. It enable them to remain helpless and “the same” no matter how much you complain and point out the reality of things.
The overly-helpful person defines their identity by feeling the need to do things for others, even when it is not in our best interests, or when the other person has said no to our helpful requests. The codependent person will repeat the request, do it anyways, or say “are you sure?” It is as if they are stuck in a loop without a solution, doomed to repeat trying to help the other person in order to save them, get them to “get it”, and so on.
Codependency as an Addiction
The Too Good helper is addicted to the activities of doing for others. They are hooked on worrying, helping, answering, knowing, handling problems, solving feelings, and always knowing what is right for others because they are looking for acceptance and reassurance. It Is a drug that tells the person that they are “okay.” However, they are always needing to be reassured and become addicted to the “drug of needing to do for others” in order to feel whole.
The Too Good helper can be a nice, submissive, overly helpful one, or the dominant, controlling, directing, talking too much, directing, managing, strong mothering one who knows best about what is needed for the other person. They violate other people’s psychological and personal boundaries, feeling their emotions, knowing what is best, taking on the other person’s problems, etc.
Their whole identity and self-esteem is based on helping to the point that they become burned out, exhausted, give away too much of themselves, saying and doing nice things all the time and worry that other’s feelings may be hurt if they don’t get involved. It is a feeling that the only way I can be worthwhile, or liked, is to be in charge and handling everything.
The Too Good Helper believes that there is some kind of Power in hope. There is a belief of I can make it happen and this magical belief has the power to convert the lost ones. The opposite actually happens. You make them weak, resistive, and helpless. He/She who has the “problem” (the one who needs your help) actually controls the relationship. They may look helpless but they are actually very powerful!
Codependency as an Enabling Behavior
- When a crisis happens everyone in the system tries to help.
- Sometimes for all the right reasons we do all the wrong things by being “too helpful and trying to hard to solve it all for the other person.”
- We may find that we cannot stop giving the sufferer reassurance and comfort beyond what would be expected under normal circumstances.
- We may over-check, keep checking, asking, talking, which only increases the sufferers anxiety and sense of dependency and loss of independence as an adult.
- Family members may lie and fabricate stories to protect the person and themselves.
Codependence as High Tolerance for Inappropriate Behaviors
Because there is a chronic exposure to an atmosphere that can be illogical, rigid, and highly stressful, those around the sufferer may begin to assume that the illogical is logical and that the inappropriate is appropriate. Family members can develop a tolerance for inappropriate behaviors rather than comment on, and point them out. Perceptions of family members can become distorted and confused and the non-functioning person comes to “expect others to do things for them” as they assume an increasingly passive stance.
Codependency as Preoccupation
Many of the family member’s thoughts can start to exclusively center around the person with the problem. Family members become obsessed with trying to think of new ways to help, find solutions, cures, or handling even everyday problems for the sufferer’s problems. There is a progressive focusing of attention on the sufferer along with an equal neglect of the feelings, wants, and needs of oneself and family members. The Co-dependent becomes “addictively obsessed” with the other person who needs the co-dependent enabler to help them function in life. The Problem is that the other person comes to rely on you to “make them” function–and yet they never understand how much you do for them.
The Mistruth of Codependency
Codependency is a difficult thing. It influences our point of view and affects our feelings of how others react. As full-fledged “adult children”, we often are confused and dismayed by the behaviors of other people. Here are eight of the more common myths that we, as codependent individuals, tend to believe.
- We believe that people will do what they say. The reality is that most people are caught up in their own lives and reality, and words often do not reflect their intent.
- We believe that other people think and feel like we do. As a result, we feel hurt and misunderstood when they act and react differently than we were expecting.
- We believe that other people will follow through with what they promise to do. This often happens because we forget to look past the words of others to what we are observing in their past and present behavior. See the pattern of the relationship as it develops over days, months, and minutes. Watch for the subtle clues and be ready to accept them as facts.
- We believe that other people feel the same guilt, anxiety, and concern that we feel in similar situations. This eager state of being assumes that others have gone through the same types of “growing” experiences that we have had, when in fact many people are just struggling to emotionally survive day-by-day.
- We believe that being nice to others will help them make changes, come through, or accept us. We ignore patterns because in our codependent, overly-helpful ways, we secretly hope that we can “change them” over time or help them to become better people.
- We believe that the more we do for others, the more they will do for us. In reality, many times people are not thinking beyond their own line of sight. It’s often nothing personal, but it is an unfortunate reality that we often ignore because it just “feels wrong”.
- We believe that people do not have secret motives, desires, or just want their needs met. Don’t get caught up in trying to understand other people from your own needs, desires and wants.
- We believe that if we love other people enough, everything else will be OK. This happens when we get caught up with our own needs to be loved and accepted by others.
Learning to Say No
Remember that good love means saying no. Others will protest your pulling back, but over time they will respect you more. However, this takes time and is a process of growth that helps you focus on YOU. If you don’t take care of you first, you are no good to others. This is not selfish, only realistic and practical.
Co-dependent relating causes dysfunctional relating patterns that are not helpful to others being able to grow and find themselves. Everyone has to hit the wall of learning many times for themselves before they figure it out for themselves. Let others decide, make mistakes, forget things, and learn on their own!
Many of us often wonder why our needs are never considered or why they are taken for granted. To fix this, we beg, plead, and try to do more, only to find that the more we do, the less we are noticed. Spouses, partners, and parents alike frequently struggle with this issue. The key to solving this puzzle is to learn a few simple concepts that…
We usually “mean well” and want to be “helpful.” In fact, in many ways this helps us to work and solve problems together. However, there are times that the ways in which we help other people may actually cause more problems that we solve. This can happen even if we do it out of genuine love and concern. Understanding this concept is critical to our ability…
It is hard for Adult Children to ask for professional help and therapy, even though this is the very thing that will help to free them from the “prison” of the past before they pass on their problems to the next generation. It is important to start to be aware of these potential traits so that one can start to “observe” themselves. The more one becomes…
If you grew up in an unhealthy or dysfunctional family, it has drastically and permanently altered the course of your life. It is absolutely vital to understand how, specifically, this affects you so that you can stand a chance to change patterns of unhealthy choices and behaviors that plague you and your adult life. The bottom line is that it’s important to realize that you are…
Have you ever felt that… …other people don’t understand you?…other people “have it out” for you?…you have to “protect yourself” from others?…others are just not as accepting of you?…you have to defend yourself from other people? The answers to these and many other questions are critical to your having a long-term happy life. Understanding a few issues might be of some help. The challenge for you will be…
Dysfunctional families promote very specific “thinking errors” that cause others difficulty in adapting to change and finding new ideas and directions. These errors in thinking cause a number of problems. Denial: Prevents us from dealing with what is going in any situation. “We just have a little problem; nothing major to worry about. It’s not that bad!” This stops the discussion. Confusion: Prevents us from taking…