How Do You Know If You are Codependent?
We have already mentioned several codependency traits. These include:
- Control. Alcoholics, for example, are controlled by alcohol, but their family members also live under the constant shadow, and hence the control, of the problem drinkers alcoholism. These family members often are deeply affected by the drinkers lifestyle and try continually to control the drinking and its impact on their own lives.
- Manipulation. Codependent people often are the products of manipulation, anger, and abuse. In response, they tend to manipulate others, often using anger, self pity, and criticism to get what they want.
- Caretaking. When we see people in need, most of us are inclined to give help and show compassion. But for codependent individuals, caretaking becomes a way of life.
- Low self esteem and a desire to be people pleasers and rescuers. These give the codependent person temporary feelings of self worth, respect, usefulness, and sometimes power over others.
- Other characteristics. Often codependents become obsessed with the needs of others, dependent on the people they try to help, unable to tolerate change, and filled with resentment, guilt, and loneliness.
Doing Something About It
Codependency usually takes a long time to build and recovery can be slow. Most often it includes some or all of the following:
- Clarification. Since codependency tends to destroy objectivity and clear perception, we need the help and objective perspectives of others to spot codependent behaviors, feelings, thoughts, words, and action in ourselves.
- Detachment. Since codependent people are overly attached to others, they need to detach. This means to mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically disengage themselves from unhealthy entanglements with another persons life and from problems they cannot solve. Detachment involves accepting the sometimes painful fact that people are responsible for their own problems, that we can't solve problems that aren't ours, and that worrying doesn't help. Often detachment means leaving the problems of others in the hands of God, who alone knows what to do and is able to intervene.
- Responsibility. The codependent person can learn to take responsibility for making his or her own decisions, can set goals and seek to reach them, can set limits on the controlling demands of others, and can abandon the constant efforts to control others especially since attempts to control rarely succeed.
- Community. Lasting help comes when we have encouraging and caring friends with whom we can be honest and who model healthy living that is not entrapped by codependency. Sometimes a counselor provides that help; often the help is found in the local church, where believers can love and build up one another.
Jesus left us instructions to love one another (John 13:34-35), and his whole life modeled compassion for and sensitivity to the needs of others. The epistles encourage caring and urge us not to be weary in doing good (Gal. 6:9). Clearly, caring, self-denying behaviors are Christ honoring and biblical, but codependency is not. Unlike codependent caring, the compassion that Scripture urges is not characterized by manipulation, dependency on people in need, efforts to control others, or striving for approval. The Christian finds his or her identity in being loved, accepted, forgiven, and redeemed by Jesus Christ, not in compulsive, all encompassing caregiving activity. Our actions should be compelled by the love of Christ and not by attempts to prove ourselves (2 Cor. 5:12-14). Codependent controlling and caring are neither biblical nor healthy. by Gary R. Collins
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