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Codependency Healing

Codependency sometimes has grave effects on human lives. Codependency is a learned behavior that is often 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.

People with a Codependency condition often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive verbally or physically. 

Codependence is the pain in adulthood that comes from being wounded in childhood and leads to a high probability of relationship problems and addictive/compulsive behavior. It is a combination of immature thinking, feeling and behaving that generates an aversive relationship with the self (self-loathing), which the codependent individual acts out through self- destructive or unduly self-sacrificial behavior.”

The term codependence can be broad and a confusing concept at times. Trying to fully understand what it means can be difficult.  

The confusion can be complicated by the fact that different experts have different definitions, but we align with Melody Beattie & Pia Melody’s approach and definition. Some say codependence is preoccupation with other people and their problems, in an attempt to get one’s own unmet emotional needs satisfied. Others suggest that it was a pattern of painful dependence on others and on approval, to find meaning, identity, and value. Another might describe codependence as a disease of relationships in which the real problem is relationship with self!

A definition and one used by our staff at Maui Recovery is: Codependence is about growing up in a dysfunctional relationship where one learns to depend on someone too much, where one loses themselves in that person, and begins to lose their self esteem, identity and voice. Usually this parent has an addiction or compulsive behavior, which could include anything from abusing alcohol and drugs to compulsive overworking, overeating, spending, gambling and/or overdoing almost anything. An example would be the child left in the car for one or more hours, or at home for several hours, while his/her parents are addicted or overdoing something. 

This definition is one we lean towards the most. 

“Codependence is the suffering & sabotage in adulthood that comes from being wounded in childhood, which leads to a high probability of relationship problems addiction and compulsive behavior disorders in later life.”

At Maui Recovery our focus is on the emotional deficits that develop when children grow up in painful environments. 

Children of addiction, neglect, abuse or any type of childhood trauma, acquire social and emotional habits and patterns that no longer work in adulthood. Survival behaviors such as compulsive caretaking, enabling, rescuing, martyring, scapegoating, controlling, people-pleasing,  fear of authority figures, and approval-seeking are classic examples.

One of the negative emotional patterns that codependents develop is rigid thinking. Everything is black and white with no shades in between, or all or nothing, using words like never or always. This always or never way of thinking leads them to over-react in social situations. 

Another childlike behavior of codependency is personalization – interpreting everything that is said and done in their immediate environment as if it were directed at them. This creates a paranoid perspective, which leads to defensiveness, hostility, and isolation. At a meeting with his self- help group, Mark questioned the unwitting use of sexist language that had begun to occur. Another member of the group, realizing that he was guilty, assumed that Mark was chiding him personally. He took offense and dropped out o f the group, believing that it had to be about him.

Many codependents acquire is what is called obsessive over-analyzing. The mind goes round and round in circles until the emotional system either wears down or shuts down as a result of the overwhelming anxiety that is generated.

Another symptom of codependence is exaggerating or “awfulizing”. Children who have grown up in addictive or traumatized family systems learn to expect the worst. They are constantly waiting for the other shoe to fall. In adulthood, they are prone to place the worst possible interpretation on every event. They see neutral or even positive situations as negative, and they anticipate disaster. This expectation often sets off an emotional chain reaction that creates the very thing they most fear. People who are “stuck” in these immature emotional habits consider them normal. They don’t know any other way to think/believe/behave. Such individuals are not at fault! They need gentle and respectful guidance to break the painful patterns of behavior called codependency.

Because codependency is rooted in a person’s childhood, treatment often involves exploration into early childhood issues and their relationship to current destructive behavior patterns. This typical treatment usually regimen usually begins with a minimum of 30 days in which we offer a full program.