By Grace Gufler

As some of you know Sarah Silva (CEO of Accepting LLC) and I have started a podcast addressing numerous psychology and mental health topics, called What I Wish People Knew…” This week I interviewed transformation specialist Vanessa Grace (LICSW) on Codependency. Although, this is not scheduled to air until October 2nd I wanted to share of the information I learned in a blog post. I have seen many clients who have struggled with co-dependency at some point in their life and yet very little people know what codependency is. I hope this blog post helps shed some light on the topic and provides some insight.

What is Codependency?

Co-dependency has various definitions, depending on who you ask or the source of information. A simple way to break it down is to look for these signs:

  1. Trouble saying no: This is a trademark of codependency. One of the most common behaviors of codependent people, is committing to things you know you will not be able to attend. Here is an example: you and a group of friends planned early in the week to watch a movie together Friday night. You’ve talked about it several times and have committed to going. On Wednesday, a co-worker invites you to participate in her annual Friday game night. Not wanting to hurt her feelings, you say yes; even though you already have plans. Later that day, your boyfriend texts you asking you out to a dinner date Friday night and, again, you say yes. Consequently, you have committed to attending three separate events, happening at the exact same time. Even though you know it is impossible to make it to all three events, you are incapable of saying no. When Friday night comes around, you scramble to come up with an excuse to cancel on two people and feel an enormous amount of guilt. Difficulty saying no is not limited to the example above. In general, you will find yourself saying yes to things no matter the consequence. 
  2. People pleaser: A people pleaser is someone who constantly worries about disappointing someone or letting someone down. Ask yourself this: are you focusing on other people’s feelings, thoughts and needs more than your own, or to the point, it is negatively impacting your life? If yes, you could be struggling with co-dependency.
  3. Wanting to save everyone and fix everything for everyone: this coincides with the above 2 signs of codependency, however, there is an added layer here. This is a vey large part of your identity and may even be a part of your value system. For example: ‘I pride myself on being the person who is always there for people no matter how they treat me or if I have other things I should prioritize instead.’ The impact of this factor of codependency can be very complex because it involved you taking responsibility for things that are not in your control. This can spiral to affect your career, love life, mental health, stress and various other life domains. 

Steps:

  1. First, decide what you need: base this off of your goals, lifestyle, health, wellbeing, career and personal life. Then, set boundaries around your needs and STICK TO THEM. I know this is easier said than done. so start small. Start with a boundary that provokes the least amount of stress and seems achievable. 
  2. Consider seeing a therapist: there are many benefits to seeing a therapist. For one, this is a person that is not involved in your day-to-day personal life. This can be helpful for people who struggle with codependency because it may lessen your inclination to engage in some of your co-dependent habits. For example, a therapist is not someone you will feel inclined to ‘fix’ (at least, I hope not). A therapist can also provide you with some techniques, skills and resources to help you make progress outside of the therapy session. 
  3. Join a support group: this is helpful for almost everything in life; codependency included. Co-dependency is very ambiguous and not many people actually know what it means to be codependent. Therefore, this can lead to feelings of isolation, fear, and guilt. In a support group, you will see that you are not alone and that many other people struggle with this as well. One of the things I love about groups is diversity. In a group, there will be people who have been working on codependency for years and have made a lot of progress. At the same time, there will also be people who are just beginning the process. This variety is so beneficial as it will provide inspiration, motivation and a wonderful source of support and knowledge.
  4. Get some books: As I said before, codependency is not a topic many people are familiar with. Therefore, it is very important to gather some knowledge on the topic. Here are some suggestions:
  • “Codependent No More” by Melody Beatie
  • “Boundaries: When to Say Yes and How to Say No” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • “The Gift of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” by Dr. Brene Brown

I hope this blog provided some insight on codependency and offered a helpful starting point for you. Codependency is more common than we think and I wish this was a topic that was spotlighted more often. For more information, look for our podcast on What I Wish People Knew…About Codependency on October 2nd.