By now everyone has heard of the term, “codependent”. Since the 80’s this word has been passed down for nearly 3 decades since Melody Beattie coined the word for those folks who were addicted to the addict. (Codependent No More) Since its original coining, that word has morphed into many meanings, until today, when it signifies those who are involved with partners in dysfunctional relationships that are ruining their lives. If you are in a relationship that brings you down, that causes you to feel drained, pained, anxious, worried, have a fear of abandonment, fear of being consumed, and other panic driven disorders, and feeling you can’t live with him/her or without him/her, can’t let go, but don’t want to stay, then chances are, you are in an addictive, codependent relationship.
Hundreds of books have been written on the subject. television shows and movies provide our world of entertainment with relationships that exemplify these pathetic love addicted relationships. Twelve step program groups are filled with members who attend regular meetings to fight the addiction, yet countless people plunge in everyday, stay for years and suffer enormous consequences that cause pain, illness, financial disaster, loss of control and sometimes, even death. Without treatment, codependency rarely gets better.
So what is the answer? We have to look inside and try to understand why we think so little of ourselves to allow another human being to have so much power over us, that we jeopardize and undermine our well being and quality of life. We need to understand the dynamics that we are bringing from our childhood into our”here and now” relationships, trying desperately to work out old conflicts with our families of origin in our adult relationships. We need to learn why we subjugate our needs and desires to please another person instead of ourselves.
How do we do this? By learning where the original pain began and how it manifested so we can undo the doing. It requires a commitment of time, money and honest exploration as well as learning skills, techniques and resources to fight and win. A good sense of self esteem is the most important ingredient that is needed to win the battle. Those of you who are in these kind of relationships, twisting in the wind and unable to get out of the painful day to day feelings, need to examine how you got there in the first place. The next thing you need to do is get help. No one does this alone. According to Neuro-biology, the brain is the only organ in the body that needs another brain to regulate itself. All the other organs can self regulate; not the brain. Seek out a qualified, trained therapist who specializes in Codependency and Family of Origin Work. A therapist who has been trained in Inner Child Work can take you back to the beginning when you first felt the feeling that you weren’t good enough or that you didn’t matter. It might have come from abuse, neglect, and /or abandonment that occurred before you had a chance to understand what was happening to you. A child has stages of development to master and in each stage has a task to accomplish. That stage can only be successful if the child has reached a level of maturity to understand what has happened or has not been inflicted with abuse, neglect or abandonment. When these things occur, they leave deep wounds in the child that affect the outcome of these developmental tasks. Having a successful outcome with a trained therapist can change the way we think about ourselves and give us the courage to let go of relationships that keep us frozen in our dysfunctional childhood states. Many of the techniques that are employed are geared to breaking down adapted roles we had to learn as children in order to survive and finding our authentic selves. Our authentic selves will shine the light to reveal our essence and protect us from behaviors that jeopardize our well being. Our true selves will provide ways to fight this addiction and help us make healthy choices. Choosing partners that cause us pain and grief come from the wounded inner child. If that child is made to feel safe and lovable, it will allow the authentic adult in us to take care of that part of ourselves that got stuck in our source relationships when we did not have boundaries and ways to protect ourselves. Now as adults, we have acquired knowledge, experience, information and maturity that we can use to take care of our wounded child and make them feel like they DO INDEED matter; perhaps for the first time in their life.
Having been the first affiliate for the John Bradshaw Institute, I have been practicing Inner Child Work for more than twenty years in my thirty-five year practice. We have come a long way from the first encounter with Codependency and our lost child. We now have wonderful, state of the art techniques to re-engineer ourselves and become the master of our destiny. No longer do we have to re-enact our lost childhood. We can reclaim, heal and champion our inner child and make choices in our best interest.
Joan E. Childs is a practicing psychotherapist for thirty-five years with offices in two locations: 2500 E. Hallandale Beach Blvd. #503, and 1040 Bayview Dr. #408 Ft. Lauderdale, FL