This word has been in popular use for at least 20 years but there’s still no clear-cut definnition… Many people think it means being “dependent”, but it really doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with being a dependent person. While looking it up I found this definition in the Alcohol Self-Help News.
“Codependency is a condition that results in a dysfunctional relationship between the codependent and other people. A codependent is addicted to helping someone. They need to be needed. ” And I think these definitions come pretty close to the truth. However, the other day, I came across a definition of codependency which I found intriguing. It is, “Anyone who subjects himself to a problem person.”
Now, admittedly, this definition is a tad bit broad. But I would simply add one word to it: repeatedly. A Codependent is anyone who repeatedly subjects himself to a problem person.
The word repeatedly makes all the difference. If I repeatedly place myself in a position where I am with a problem person there are only a few choices I have….. What will happen to a codependent is that they will find themself in a cycle of reacting and enabling, which inevitably leads to anger, strife and frustration. Not exactly happy, joyous and free.
What if you are caught in this cycle? A lot of times the “problem person” is one who has a substance problem or is highly narcissistic. Twelve Step programs, particularly Al-Anon can help one get out of the cycle of reacting and enabling. They do this by teaching a very powerful tool called “Detaching With Love”…. Also, Pia Mellody’s book, “Facing Love Addiction” has some quite in depth instructions on “How to Put a Relationship On Hold”….
If you get caught in the codependency cycle of repeatedly putting yourself in a position where you are with a problem person and these self-help measures don’t work, you may need professional help. Often times what lies at the root of this issue is a repetition compulsion -repeating a childhood wounding experience over and over. A therapist trained in this type of work can help you begin to heal the origins of these patterns.