Codependency is not a disease. Codependency is not an identity or who you are. Codependency is a set of adult behaviors that are caused by developmental trauma during the first nine months of life.
Developmental trauma is caused by energetic disconnections between infants and their mothers and other adult caregivers that are either too long or too frequent. Developmental trauma is unconsciously inflicted on infants without malicious intent by adult caregivers who are unaware of their social and emotional needs. Developmental trauma prevents the completion of secure bonding and other essential developmental processes during infancy.
Symptoms of Codependency
Here are common codependency behaviors:
- feelings of fear and anxiety about losing the connection to another person
- being “addicted” to people
- feeling trapped in abusive, controlling relationships
- having low self-esteem
- needing constant approval and support from others in order to feel good about yourself
- feeling powerless to change destructive relationships
- needing alcohol, food, marijuana and other “downer” substances or activities to distract you from your feelings
- having undefined psychological boundaries
- feeling like a martyr
- being a people-pleaser
- being unable to experience true intimacy and love
Adult co-dependency, with all its painful symptoms is really an attempt to heal. There is a natural drive in all of us to heal and experience wholeness. We need to consciously cooperate in this healing process to make it work. By forming co-dependent relationships, we are attempting to complete the secure bonding process we were unable to complete in early childhood. Once you understand the causes of co-dependency and have the tools and support you need, you can and will heal your self and eliminate the disruptive effects of co-dependency from your life.
It takes two or more people to create co-dependent relationships. Therefore, one person cannot be blamed for causing co-dependency in a relationship. Once you understand that developmental trauma causes co-dependent behaviors, you will have more compassion for yourself and your partner. Co-dependency is a kind of “relational brokenness” that can be repaired.
Recovery Requires a Systematic Approach
Because our culture supports co-dependency, recovering from it requires a systemic approach. Here’s the four-part approach we’ve personally used to recover from our own co-dependency issues, and to help our clients:
- Working on yourself
- Working in a conscious, committed relationship
- Participating in groups such as CODA or therapy groups
- Working on your infant developmental trauma in therapy.
Read all about our non-diseasing, developmental approach in our book, Breaking Free of the Co-dependency Trap.