People toss the word codependency around all day, but few know what it really means.
“I’m codependent on my mom because I always borrow money from her.”
You’re dependent. She’s the codependent one.
Codependency is doing things for others that they could definitely do for themselves. Unwarranted care-taking. Unsolicited advice-giving. It’s compulsive “helping” that usually has negative consequences for both you and them.
It’s managing, manipulating, mothering, and martyrdom.
There are type A codependents who wanna drive the car and type B codependents eager to ride in the trunk with the luggage.
Codependency is a vast web of dysfunctional patterns and characteristics involving control, compliance, avoidance, low self-esteem, and denial. It can take various forms, making it difficult to identify for many people.
But one thing is certain: that shit is exhausting.
The Survival Brain
Being codependent is hard work. It takes daily dedication. Luckily for us, we don’t have to consciously make that commitment because codependency is a trauma response. This means it’s trapped in the limbic system of our brains — home to the fight, flight, freeze, fawn reaction, far below the level of consciousness.
This is why codependency is so relentless. It’s a neurobiological condition commonly resulting from unmet childhood needs. A maladaptive survival mechanism that won’t go away all on its own.
Codependency is the operating system we download from our dysfunctional family that continues running in the background of our lives, largely undetected for many. It’s so persistent and all-encompassing that we, as well as others, just assume that it’s our personality.
Do you know wishy-washy, kinda-sorta-maybe people who couldn’t communicate their wants and needs clearly if you paid them to? Each interaction with them is a Hardy Boy mystery trying to figure out what the fuck they actually want from you. Exhausting.
Do you have any people-pleasers in your life? “Let me get that for you.” “Can I help with that?” “I went ahead and did that thing, even though you told me not to.” Always going out of their way to get in your way. Exhausting.
How about micromanagers? Are you blessed with an unyielding supervisor of every move you make? Did you fold the towel improperly? Stir the soup with the wrong spoon? Is there a better way that you should be brushing your teeth? Maybe you set your keys down on an inappropriate side of the table? Exhausting.
There are innumerable types of codependency, and I could go on, but I think you get the point.
Parasites of Human Connection
Notice that codependency is soul-sucking for both the codependent and the individual that is trying like hell to keep the codependent in their own goddamn lane. Many codependent people have a hollowness about them – a vacuous neediness formed by childhood abandonment and perpetuated by the self-abandonment that ensued in a desperate attempt to reestablish human connection.
As Ernest Becker wrote in The Denial of Death, “One has so little personal ballast that he has to suck in an entire other human being to keep from disappearing or flying away.” Yup. It’s like that.
Codependency is a malignant childhood wound that tends to bleed out on innocent bystanders for a lifetime of tragically ironic hurt-people-hurt-people-ing. It’s an unboundaried, emotional tug-of-war, waged by unsuspecting energy vampires without the foggiest notion of why people keep sprinting away from them in all directions.
Again, codependents desperately crave human connection. This may come from friendships, romantic partners, acquaintances, work, recognition, achievements, accolades, prestige, or whatever. But you can count on it.
Therefore, loss of connection, reputation, or positive regard from anyone is absolute kryptonite. They will avoid it at all costs. This explains why so many codependents want to remain friends with their exes. The thought of someone not liking them is pretty excruciating, which is often the driving force behind so many of their controlling and unboundaried habits.
But it’s exactly these behaviors that cause people to recoil from them.
Thus, many codependents feel as though they are being unjustifiably wronged. Constantly. Can’t the world see how kind, generous, and wonderful they are? They’re just trying to help. Isn’t it obvious they want what’s best for everyone? Why won’t the world cooperate?
Because the world isn’t responsible for your feelings. You are.
It’s generally accepted that “ghosting” someone – suddenly vanishing completely from their lives – is not upstanding human behavior. I’d like to present an unpopular perspective on that.
Not all, but perhaps some ghosters have felt as though they were being sucked into a codependent black hole from whence they could never return. If some emotional interloper is trying to invade your soul, breathe your exhales, and move into your headspace, I think it’s completely acceptable to ghost the ever-loving shit out of that person. We call that self-preservation.
If you are someone who has been ghosted repeatedly, there’s a strong possibility that people are literally terrified of the way you do relationships. That being around you is suffocating, and the healthiest, safest thing they can think of is to amputate you from their lives completely. If that be the case, I truly hope that you seek help.
If you don’t know where to begin, just google codependency and see what happens. Check out some books like Codependent No More or Facing Codependency. Consider talking to a therapist or a relationship coach. Drop in on a few meetings of Codependents Anonymous. Connect with a tribe of people who are recovering from the same thing you got. This short list of items is sufficient to launch you into a whole new realm of self-awareness and healing. I promise.
To sum it all up, if just being alive seems terribly exhausting, you’re probably doing it wrong.
And codependency might be the problem.
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