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Codependency and Detachment

“It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it’s not possible to find it elsewhere.” (Agnes Repplier)

Finding a loving relationship is possible, don’t let anyone, including yourself, try to tell you otherwise. One of the most important parts of finding a healthy, loving relationship is making sure that you take the time to process who you are looking to attract. If you want to find love, but you keep attracting the wrong types of people, you must first look at your relationship with yourself.

To the extent that individuals continue to hold onto past hurts, fears, anger, rejection, betrayal, abandonment, poor self-esteem, unworthiness, etc. they may keep attracting more of the same in their current and future relationships, until things become more resolved. In psychotherapy I work with my clients to help them learn to let go of the old to make room for the new.

It is important for me to help my clients understand their needs. When looking for a relationship, the first thing you need to do is clarify your own wants and needs. After all, if you don’t know what you want, how will you recognize it when you find it? The next step in psychotherapy involves helping clients explore values they find important.

What is “Co-dependency?” (please note, the following definition was provided by the Mental Health America website: http://www.nmha.org/go/codependency)

Co-dependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. The disorder was first identified about ten years ago as the result of years of studying interpersonal relationships in families of alcoholics.

Co-dependents have low self-esteem and look for anything outside of themselves to make them feel better. They find it hard to “be themselves.”

They have good intentions. They try to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but the caretaking becomes compulsive and defeating. Co-dependents often take on a martyr’s role and become “benefactors” to an individual in need. A wife may cover for her alcoholic husband; a mother may make excuses for a truant child; or a father may “pull some strings” to keep his child from suffering the consequences of delinquent behavior.

The problem is that these repeated rescue attempts allow the needy individual to continue on a destructive course and to become even more dependent on the unhealthy caretaking of the “benefactor.” As this reliance increases, the co-dependent develops a sense of reward and satisfaction from “being needed.” When the caretaking becomes compulsive, the co-dependent feels choiceless and helpless in the relationship, but is unable to break away from the cycle of behavior that causes it. Co-dependents view themselves as victims and are attracted to that same weakness in the love and friendship relationships.

Many of my clients come to therapy feeling that they have unhealthy attachments. They often feel over-involved in the lives of others and hopelessly entangled in drama. They feel they have a hard time controlling their excessive worry about a problem or person, and have trouble stepping back from the need to control or own others. Individuals can become emotionally dependent on those around them, and can become entrenched as caretakers.

In her book, “Codependent No More“, Melody Beattie believes that detachment is an important part of leading a happy life. She feels that individuals can’t truly begin to work on themselves, to live their own lives, solve their own problems or to feel their own feelings if they are engaged in an unhealthy, codependent relationship. She writes that “detaching does not mean we don’t care. It means we learn to love, care and be involved without going overboard. We stop crating all this chaos in our minds and in our environment. We become free to care and to love in ways that help others and don’t hurt ourselves.”

To learn more about this subject, please take a look at Melody Beattie’s book, “Codependent No More, How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself” 1992, Hazelden Foundation.

 

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