Codependency Part 2

Is there a cure?  

A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.
—  Melody Beattie

Codependency—or relationship addiction—is much like any other addiction. A codependent relationship functions just like a drug. The “addict” needs it to be able to cope with insecurity, anxiety, and especially guilt. When a person I care about is not doing well, I experience these very uncomfortable feelings. So I’ll work to “fix” you at any cost, to get relief from my anxious thoughts and felling’s. In other words, I need you to be okay, so I can be okay. But codependent “helping” is always harmful, because we do things for others that they should be doing for themselves because of our own need to rescue.

In most cases, the root of codependency stems from children feeling responsible for adult problems. The feelings that are produced from these false beliefs are guilt and anxiety, which makes codependents need to control others to make those feelings go away. If I’m responsible for other people's problems, then I’ll feel guilty when they mess up. This can produce a constant state of anxiety to avoid feeling guilty.

Psychology tells us one of the attributes of healthy people is that they are able to get in touch with what they need and ask for it. Codependents are aware of the needs of others, but not their own. Their controlling behaviors push everyone away. This leads to loneliness, isolation, and vicariously living their lives through the needs of others. 

In all codependent relationships, the rescuer needs the victim as much as the victim needs the rescuer.
— Barbara De Angelis

Recently I was talking with a woman named Samantha, the mother of a 35-year-old alcoholic/addict. She has been enabling him most of his life. She talked about how guilty she feels because she was in an abusive relationship when he was young. Now she blames herself for how messed up he is. She doesn’t have much money, so she borrows money on credit cards to give him. In our conversation, two consistent themes emerged.

First, her son is always the victim. “Someone stole my wallet. I need a new battery for my car so I can look for a job. I quit work because the boss is a jerk.” In every story, her son presented himself as helpless, the victim of others or circumstances. Second, the conversation always ended up with him needing money so he can” get it together.” Even though Samantha understood all this, she felt powerless to stop rescuing him. She feared that if she didn’t help, he could die or go to prison and it would be her fault. Like many codependents, Samantha make her codependent decisions based on fear and guilt. And those who manipulate codependents know exactly how to use those feelings to get what they want.

In Genesis, we always look at any destructive behavior as merely a symptom of a more powerful root. In my experience, the root of most codependency is a set of false beliefs. One of the core concepts of Genesis is:

 Thoughts and beliefs → create emotions  →  that drive behavior.

The most common false beliefs at the core of codependency are:

  • “I'm responsible for other people’s feelings, problems and behaviors,” and

  • “If I'm not control, something bad will happen and it will be my fault.”

      Codependency or Relationship Addiction says:

  1. I’m OK when you’re OK.

  2. When you’re not OK then I’m not OK.

  3. So, the only way for me to be OK is to make you OK

  4. Thus, creating the need to control.

If beliefs cause feelings, and feelings drive behaviors, what would happen if we could change these false belief systems that drive the feeling of being responsible for others? Behavior would also change! These distorted belief systems reside in our heart (limbic system) and are changed through a partnership with the counselor and the Holy Spirit. We take these distorted beliefs to the Lord and he speaks truth which frees us from the lies and the behaviors that have become habitual to cope with them.