What is Codependency?

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There are many different definitions of Codependency but I like to describe it as a loss of connection to our authentic Self.

Codependency is rooted in toxic shame and the belief that who we are at our core is not okay. You can read more about toxic shame in this pdf from John Bradshaw (go check out his work!).

When we don’t feel okay inside, we try to get that ‘okayness’ from things outside of ourselves; whether it be the approval from others, relationships, alcohol, drugs, work, food – anything that stops us from feeling our feelings and that ‘hole in the soul’. The paradox is that the more we look to the outside for our safety, self-worth and validation, the more disconnected from ourselves we become.

And when we rely on those external things, we’ll do anything not to lose them. We become controlling, obsessive and addicted, and our sense of shame increases. Shame robs us of living healthy, happy and whole lives, and creates a vicious, highly destructive and unbearable cycle of pain.

Despite the many definitions of codependency, almost all sources agree that it manifests as: 

  • People pleasing
  • Over-responsibility for other people’s feelings
  • Difficulty saying no
  • Poor boundaries
  • Conflict avoidance
  • Control issues
  • Low self-esteem
  • Compulsive caretaking, rescuing or trying to fix others
  • Perfectionism
  • Struggles with intimacy
  • Attraction to toxic relationships

And yes, we're probably all a little bit codependent!

Recovery is the process of coming home to ourselves and learning that who we are is okay. We begin to feel our feelings, re-parent our wounded inner child and realise that we are enough. We no longer need to rely on other people, places or things to feel okay in the world. We get our sense of self-worth and okayness from within, and learn to adopt healthy new beliefs, behaviours and boundaries.

But recovery doesn’t happen in isolation. We need healthy people to show us the difference between functional and dysfunctional, and to help us get out of our own way. And while it’s not necessary in order to work with me, I work with many women in 12 Step Recovery and/or therapy.

To learn more about Codependency I recommend Darlene Lancer's work, Melody Beattie and Pia Mellody.

For more information on how coaching can support and enhance your recovery, contact me for a free, no obligation, chat at [email protected].

Photo by Joice Kelly on Unsplash


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