Do you find you accept responsibility for a loved one’s emotions or actions? Are you constantly trying to please others? Do you neglect your own needs and have difficulty setting realistic personal boundaries? Do you often feel resentful yet have difficulty stepping away from a dysfunctional relationship?
These are some of the symptoms of codependency. Codependent people look for external cues from others to tell them what they should feel, need and act like. While most would agree that sensitivity to others is a wonderful trait, codependents take it to an extreme because of an inability to create healthy boundaries.
But healthy boundaries are important. These boundaries draw a line of distinction and responsibility between our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and those thoughts, feelings and behaviors of others.
While it may take time to break lifelong patterns of codependency, there are things you can do to overcome it.
1. Recognize Any Denial
The first step to recovery is to be honest with yourself and acknowledge the problem. There is a very good chance you have rationalized your codependence over time. While it can feel scary to admit to being involved in a dysfunctional relationship, honesty is the first step toward healing.
2. Study Your Past
The next step on your path to recovery is to take a look at your family history to uncover experiences that may have contributed to your codependency. What is your family history? Were there events that led to you disconnecting from your inner emotions?
This can be a difficult process and one that involves reliving childhood emotions. You may find that you feel guilty for admitting you were wounded in your formative years.
This type of work can be difficult and is best done in a safe therapy relationship.
3. Detach from Unhealthy Involvements
In order to truly work on ourselves, we have to first detach from what we are obsessed with. Personal growth will require giving up the over-involvement or preoccupation with trying to change, control or please someone else.
This means letting go and acknowledging we cannot fix problems that are not ours to fix.
4. Learn Self-care
Giving up your excessive attempts to please others is a good start to healing, but learning self-care is absolutely necessary. It’s important that you begin to become aware of your own thoughts, feeling and needs, and learn how to communicate them in a relationship. This may feel very wrong at first, as if you are being incredibly selfish. But that’s okay.
In order to form healthy relationships with others, you must first form one with yourself.
5. Get Good at Saying “No”
One of the best ways you can begin to set healthy boundaries is to learn to say no to situations that are detrimental to your own well being. This will feel awkward at first, and you may even find that others become upset with you for it, but the more you do it, the easier it will become.
Seeking the guidance of a therapist will be beneficial as you work your way through these five steps. They will be able to help you safely explore your painful feelings and experiences and learn healthy ways of relating to yourself and others.