If you’ve been following our blogs, then you’ve heard us discuss codependency before. The classic thought around it concerns unhealthy relationships, where partners bring each other down and create toxicity. But in an interesting new article on Psych Central, writer Carol Weis takes the exploration a little further; with an examination of the term itself and the inward emotions that surround it.
First, we thought it would be helpful to break out Weis’ analysis on the “history of codependency.” The word itself can be traced back to German psychiatrist Dr. Karen Horney, who lived in the late 1800’s. Her initial diagnosis focused on the female gender and saw the condition as a self-critical persona that develops from the anxiety formed by yearning to become our true selves. The central theme of her findings was focused on low self-worth.
Weis happens to agree with that diagnosis and emphasized that codependence is not about the relationships that you have with others. In her opinion, it’s about the relationship that you have with yourself.
“Most people think of codependency as being in a relationship with a addicted partner,” she wrote. “What I ultimately discovered is that codependency is much more. It is about the relationship you have with yourself. Codependency is a set of characteristics and patterns of behavior we develop to help us cope, typically from a childhood that revolved around (but was not limited to) addiction, emotional instability and trauma and physical or mental illness.”
In an honest confessional, Weis revealed that she too suffered from this condition. She also opened up about her previous addiction struggles and how they fed in to the recurring theme of “low self-worth.”
Weis’ article also used modern research to emphasize these points. Codependency expert Darlene Lancer was featured as well and explained that childhood shame and trauma play a big part in people drawn to codependent partners. People with these issues develop reactionary personalities, which leads to a yearning to find relationships with dramatic ups-and-downs.
Weis openly admitted that those characteristics defined her personality early in life. As she pointed out, addressing her earlier traumas and her addiction proved to be the turning point in escaping codependency.
“Before getting sober, I searched for someone who would make me whole,” she wrote. “I fell in and out of love many times, and eventually married a man I thought would fill the void I was feeling. He was a friend of my cousin’s and liked drinking as much as I did, and we bonded over our shared history and emotional neediness. I saw him as the nurturer I missed out on in my early years. I sat on his lap like a child curls up on a parent’s lap. I even called him daddy. We put the focus on each other instead of ourselves and were soon joined in a deeply rooted, vastly harmful dance of codependency.”