Codependency and The Sneaky Silent Agreements

The term codependency has taken on many shades since the early 70s.

Initially, researchers assumed that codependent traits were the aftereffect of living and caring for an alcoholic or loved one with dependencies. Today, however, studies suggest that codependents carry particular character traits that make them susceptible to developing codependency and attracting partners they feel they need to care for.

Codependents generally grew up without the freedom to express their emotions healthily. Their childhoods are often saturated with denial. They are often homes that are rigid and operated within a set of rules designed to oppress the authentic expression of emotions of family members. The core of the family’s problems was never discussed and, instead, swept under the rug.

Children from such homes are forced to deny their inner reality for the denied reality of those they love. When this occurs, children are put in an impossible situation. Outside of their consciousness, they succumb to choosing frail attachments to others at the expense of exploring the nature of their most authentic selves.

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In adulthood, codependents rarely address our codependency issues until our lives become unmanageable. When Sandra and I started working together, her life was imploding. Her adult children had gone no contact, and her second husband had run off with a neighbor. She was also suffering in her career as a charge nurse for a major metropolitan hospital. Her complaints included innumerable frustrations with life, her
responsibilities at work, her children, and utter devastation over her husband’s and neighbors’ betrayal.

As we dug into her childhood, Sandra began to see the patterns. Sandra’s dad was an alcoholic, and her mother was the ideal caretaker who never openly complained about the overwhelming demands of her life. However, she lashed out at Sandra and her siblings, often in the absence of adult witnesses. Sandra tried to vacuum enough, smile enough, and do what she could so that her mother never viewed her as a burden, which meant Sandra never learned to ask for help. No matter how hard Sandra tried, it was never enough to calm or satisfy her mother. Deep within Sandra cried an emotionally abandoned, verbally abused little girl that screamed, “Why can’t you see how much I love you and how hard I am trying to please you so that I might one day be enough for you to love me?”

Sandra made two codependent agreements of which she was unaware.

  1. Sandra subconsciously believed she had to disappear to be in a relationship with others. This meant that she needed to suppress her emotions, needs, wants, and beliefs as a sacrifice for relationships.
  2. Sandra subconsciously believed that the success or failure of a relationship was entirely her responsibility. This put tremendous pressure on her and on those she loved and cared for. Sandra felt responsible for the emotions, behaviors, and beliefs of others and claimed her children resented her for needing them to validate that she was a good mom, worthy of love.

Codependency Recovery requires a deep understanding of family dynamics. This can be a painful awakening for the one who, at the subconscious level, is still seeking to heal unfulfilled dependency needs. As Sandra detached and let go of obsessing over her children, career, and husband, we found a sacred space for her to reconstruct a more realistic and healthy self-identity. Today, she is more conscious of her emotions and thoughts and has let go of needing her children to fulfill her needs for connection and a sense of self.

Sandra’s perception of herself is becoming more self-compassionate. She is learning to become her own best friend and is no longer as reactive to how others perceive or treat her. The emotions tied to her children, ex-husband, and their neighbor are far less intense, and she no longer focuses on what she cannot control.

Codependency Recovery is the path toward self-actualization through healing the abandoned, forgotten, and often invisible inner child, who is operating below the veil of consciousness through faulty, negative, and subconscious agreements. Sandra is more conscious and accountable for her mindset, attitude, and reactions to her emotions, allowing healing to occur between her and her adult children.

Lisa A. Romano is a Life Coach and Bestselling Author

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