Codependency is a tough pattern to break, but it’s not impossible. As a trauma therapist and codependency therapist in Seattle, I have worked with several clients who have sought help in healing from codependency. It’s a process I love helping people through, and I want to talk more about this important subject that I see affecting so many people from all walks of life. In this blog, I’ll go over the definitions of codependency—including some of the signs of a codependent relationship—as well as ways to heal (and know that you’re healing!) from a codependent relationship style.
What is Codependency?
According to Mental Health America, “Co-dependency is a learned behavior that can be 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. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive,” (source).
While codependency was a term originally coined to describe the type of patterns that develop within a relationship where one or both partners have an addiction, it is a relationship style that can emerge from a variety of situations, including dysfunctional family systems, relationships where someone has a chronic mental or physical illness, or relationships where abuse is present. Also, codependency isn’t just something that romantic partners experience. Codependency can develop between parents and children, siblings, friendships, and other close relationships.
To heal from codependency, we have to know what it is. Read on for more info about what codependency is, and the signs you’re on the way to healing from it.
Signs of Codependency
1. People pleasing behaviors: this can look like avoiding bringing up negative feelings or making requests to avoid “rocking the boat;” not advocating for your needs; doing whatever you can to prevent others from feeling upset, uncomfortable, or angry, even if it means you end up hurt.
2. Poor boundaries or no boundaries: the concept of “this is where I end and you begin” might be difficult to grasp, especially when it comes to others’ emotions. You may end up feeling “walked over,” pushed around, taken advantage of, or consistently unappreciated.
3. Excessive caretaking: someone who struggles with codependency may have a strong desire to feel needed by others, which can lead to excessive caretaking, even in situations where the other person can take care of themselves.
4. Defensiveness or emotional reactivity: this may be especially apparent when someone declines your help or experiences emotions that you’ve been trying to avoid, like anger, sadness, or frustration.
5. Poor self-image: this might look like defining yourself in relationship to others, rather than having your own self-identity and self-image. This can also come with low self-esteem. Some people find that their self-esteem and self-image are entirely dependent on how others see them and react to them.
Ways to Heal from Codependency
Healing from codependency is a unique journey for every person, and the way you move through this journey should be suited to your situation and needs. Here are a few ideas to help you get started healing from codependency:
Get ongoing support from friends, family members, or a therapist
As a codependency therapist in Seattle, I know firsthand how important it is to have people in your corner when you’re trying to heal from codependency. Gentle and compassionate accountability from trusted folks in our lives can make the experience of healing much more tolerable, especially when big feelings come up and we want to revert to our old ways.
Learn how to withstand and cope with the discomfort of setting Boundaries
It’s not gonna be easy at first to set boundaries and prioritize healing from codependency. In fact, it may feel like you’re going against everything that you know about relationships—because you may be doing just that.
Healing from codependency means learning how to be in relationship with others in an entirely new way. It’s OK if it doesn’t always feel fantastic to put your healing first. Having a good codependency therapist can make it so much easier to learn how to cope, especially in the beginning.
Plan for future situations where codependency might creep up
If there are certain things, situations, people, or feelings that you know will trigger codependent behaviors, try to come up with a plan for how you want to deal. A therapist can help you with this process and can provide feedback, coping tools, and other ways to manage potential roadblocks in your healing.
Signs You’re Healing from Codependency
As difficult as codependency is, healing is possible, and there are a lot of ways healing can show up in your life. Here are just a few signs that you’re on your way to healing from codependency:
You know the difference between codependency and love
Love is a choice that we make, whereas codependency feels like something we need to do. Love allows us to be our authentic selves in relationship to others, while codependency causes us to define ourselves by our relationships. Love encourages us to help others out of compassion, while codependency compels us to caretake, even when it’s not needed.
You know what codependency manipulation looks like
Even if it’s not intentional, folks who struggle with codependent behaviors can sometimes act in ways that are manipulative to get their needs met. It’s important that you’re able to identify what manipulative behaviors look like in yourself and in others, so that you and the other person can learn to address needs and concerns in a more direct, compassionate way. Some common ways that manipulation shows up include:
● Passive aggressive behavior
● Picking fights
● Difficulty or refusal to take accountability for the things they’ve done
● Gaslighting behaviors
● Intimidation, emotional threats, insults, shaming, or guilting
● Evasiveness, non-acknowledgment of issues, or “talking around” problems rather than about them
You’ve sought out codependency counseling with a therapist who understands attachment trauma
Healing from codependency can be overwhelming, because our own trauma reactions and attachment wounds can get in the way of our ability to overcome and manage codependent behaviors within ourselves and in others.
A therapist who is trained in attachment trauma can be an invaluable resource to you in your healing journey. By addressing attachment traumas, you may be able to understand and more confidently address codependent behaviors when they arise in the future.
You’re actively fostering healthy relationships and connecting with healing communities
Healthy relationships and supportive communities can be such amazing containers for change when we’re working on healing from codependency. You may find healthy, healing relationships in codependency groups, hobby-based groups, or even therapy groups. When you find yourself in relationships that are less weighed down by codependency manipulation, patterns, and control tactics, you’ll have the opportunity to explore what is possible for you and your closest relationships. Healthy, non-codependent relationships typically include compassionate but clear boundaries between partners, a willingness to let others care for themselves and ask for help if they need it, an ability to say “no” if you need to, and a greater sense of autonomy for you and others involved.
Attachment and Codependency Counseling in Seattle
As a trauma-informed codependency therapist in Seattle, I’ve worked with clients on identifying, understanding, and ultimately finding healing from codependency. I know how hard this process can be and would be honored to help you find your way through the grief of getting over a trauma bond.
To learn more about Seattle codependency counseling, contact me for a free consultation to see if I’m your people. I can’t wait to hear from you.