How Therapy Can Help Codependency Recovery
By Dr. Nicholas Jenner
This method requires a commitment to work on oneself and an acknowledgment that codependency is a problem in relationships. This involves embracing responsibility for change and not shifting it (or the blame) on others. It takes bravery to examine and evaluate early life events and to acquire new abilities that will aid in coping with childhood trauma or abuse. It also requires a willingness to examine connections critically, some of which may have contributed to the problem, and to reposition these relationships. In addition, it is
crucial to locate a therapist who recognizes that he or she may have codependency issues and has worked on them. When these elements are acknowledged, the framework for therapeutic work that could lead to recovery would be as follows:
Examine the Patterns: Utilizing defense mechanisms in order to survive is a factor in early trauma and abuse. One of these is denying the occurrence of events that have been connected to codependency. For the sake of appearances or to make life easier for parents, a youngster may have been pushed to ignore or suppress feelings or opinions. At worst, children are taught to suppress their emotions or that expressing them is inappropriate. As codependency is commonly viewed as a disorder of feeling, this can have severe effects on relationships and growth in general. Many adults assume that co-dependent behavior is “normal” and that acting in this manner is comparable to everyone else. Many are astonished to realize that the relationships they are in are toxic and exhausting, despite their belief that they are robust. Understanding the complexities of the situation is the initial step, and this is frequently revealed when counseling is sought for other reasons.
Although there are numerous ideas regarding the roots of codependency, it is most likely the result of developmental trauma and growing up in dysfunctional environments. During the first few months of life, bonding does not occur efficiently under these settings. Other ideas base their findings on heredity and the link between substance abusers and those who abuse substances. Understanding how early life events and circumstances have influenced development would be an integral part of any therapeutic practice.
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Analyze present relationships for co-dependent patterns: Once it is understood that codependency is created by trauma that limits successful relationship building, it is possible to analyze present relationships for co-dependent patterns. In the absence of total bonding, there exists an “inner kid” who has never completed the separation process from caregivers. The therapeutic process imparts new abilities and tools necessary to complete the process. This necessitates reevaluating relationships, which may result in some partnerships being less or more significant.
Examine the Triggers: A trigger is a reaction to a stimulus that reminds us of a previous circumstance. This might be beneficial; for instance, a warm summer day can evoke memories of joyful childhood vacations. However, it can also be a process that elicits unpleasant sensations and the accompanying emotions and behaviors. This typically occurs on a subconscious level and results in automatic ideas and responses. One of the less desirable qualities of codependence is the impulse to protect ourselves from those who exhibit behaviors that we dislike in ourselves. Anger and insult is often provoked and blame and judgment follow. This is a component of the denial process described previously, and it can lead to a “twist” in reality in which we label others and feel the need to be “correct” and “good.” Sadly, this implies that someone else must be “wrong” or “bad.” In therapy, these projections can be confronted and gently challenged.
The Problem of Self-Hate: The inability to bond with a mother or family and the ensuing inability to experience separation from a mother or family is a key cause of developmental trauma. In a state of denial, this separation may also occur by labeling family as “bad” or “wrong,” which typically sends the message to Self that it, too, is “bad” or “wrong.” The second step of denial is labeling these feelings as “evil” and allowing them to govern your life, relationships, and self-esteem. These are only estimates based on an imperfect separation procedure. If it is understood that these are the result of low self-esteem, then they can be remedied. As the Self begins to recuperate, a process will occur in which material and external stimuli are no longer required to the same degree.
Become Assertive: Many codependents are either excessively demanding and domineering, or, in extreme cases, subversive and the eternal “doormat.” This is the result of a confused perception of relationships, their boundaries, and what is acceptable. Being assertive is requesting what you desire without aggression and offering without resentment. This process also includes the ability to say “no” without feeling guilty or fearing repercussions. As self-esteem increases, this procedure becomes less difficult.
Relearn How to Feel: Children are frequently deprived of the opportunity to express emotions and afterwards taught what is acceptable. Parents disdain youngsters who demonstrate emotion and rage. This sends the notion that rage and other emotions must be justified prior to expression. Nonetheless, it conveys the idea that emotion and feelings are often inappropriate. As an adult, it is essential to be able to acknowledge and express sentiments that were denied as a child. Then and only then can a new learning process begin. The paradox is that co-dependent persons frequently express anger in relationships, while being denied this emotion as children. Nevertheless, it is frequently inappropriate rage prompted by triggers and habitual thoughts. These factors would be evaluated and realistically challenged in therapy.
When a youngster grows up in a dysfunctional, co-dependent home, he or she is trained to please others over themselves. This results in a youngster developing a False Self as opposed to a True Self. A portion of the True Self is an undeveloped, innocent inner child. This could be due to a variety of factors, including bullying and abuse. Frequently, a kid will conceal this pain from the outside and, as a result, from its True Self, keeping the inner child undeveloped. The inner child must be reconnected with and healed as an integral aspect of therapy.
Define Boundaries: Everyone has a psychological area that consists of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that are unique to them. As youngsters, people with codependency issues had their psychological space invaded so frequently that they are no longer aware of this space or when it is being violated. Defining and upholding these new boundaries would be a part of the therapeutic process of healing.
Relearn or Learn How to be Intimate: Although codependency frequently involves a need for intimacy, this is frequently dreaded. The fear is of control, abandonment, pain, or engulfment by others with whom they are intimate. This is due to the incomplete bonding process and mistrust in interpersonal connections. Working with a therapist can provide the safety, unconditional regard, and support necessary for forming healthy relationships with others.
Finding a therapist who has been on his or her own road to interdependence and understands the necessary steps is the most crucial step in the preceding procedure. Always inquire about the therapist’s personal codependency issues and how they were addressed. If the therapist considers this request odd or is unable to respond, it may be necessary to locate another therapy. This excursion must be undertaken with someone who is familiar with the terrain.
Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a regular contributor to the #1 Online Magazine For Codependency, Codependency Recovery.