My Love/Hate Relationship With Codependency (the word)
Did you know that this month is the very first designated National Codependency Awareness Month? I didn’t either until a couple of weeks ago.
The soft, squishy, awwww part of me felt a glowing sweetness, similar to watching a slumbering dog, when I heard the news. I thought, “Well isn’t that nice. Melody Beattie must be so proud.”
I decided, as I usually do when I get excited about something related to addiction and/or recovery, to write a blog post. I started laying it out in my head: 1. Go to the national sources that usually dish out the monthly themes. 2. Get some background from the appropriate “anonymous” site. 3. Call up Melody or maybe Oprah for some nice touchy-feely nuggets.
The hateful thoughts
Two things happened. First, a Google search for National Codependency Awareness Month didn’t lead me to any federal agencies that usually back monthly designations. Instead I learned that an author named Diane Jellen designated January as National Codependency Awareness Month.
No hateful thought yet because, gosh, I don’t even know Diane. Her new book, My Resurrected Heart, looks like it’s selling well on Amazon. She’s a pro and has apparently survived the crappy undercurrents of addiction’s codependent hostages.
At the same time, I felt some kind of itch that needed to be scratched, and it became more insistent as I watched Diane’s YouTube video on why there needs to be a National Codependency Awareness Month.
So I did another Google search: codependency and why it gets a bad rap.
It doesn’t hurt to see if others are scratching their itches too, right?
And there it was. A group in London called Harley Therapy wrote this blog post last year: The Great Codependency Hoax: Are We ALL Codependent?
The first hateful thought: Guess I won’t be talking to Oprah.
The second hateful thought:
Here’s the thing: the true meaning of codependency has changed over the decades; it’s original definition had to do with being “addicted to those who are addicted.” Webster’s has codependency listed as first used in 1979 and meaning “a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition (as an addiction to alcohol or heroin).”
Codependency does not mean that when you feel comforted and dependent on someone in your life, that you are codependent. It doesn’t mean that wanting to please your boss means you’re codependent. You’re probably not even codependent when you get pissed off when someone hurts you, breaks a trust or takes something that is yours.
You’re a human being with normal human feelings.
According to the Harley Therapy folks, truly codependent people tend to seek out others who are counterdependent (meaning they’re buttoned up, show few emotions and have little regard for others’ needs or feelings). These relationships are usually a recipe for disaster.
Instead of co- and counter- combo, I like the Harley Therapy idea that we all work toward being interdependent. They describe the two characteristics of interdependency:
1) You come from a place of self-respect and self trust. In other words, before you depend on the one you love, you also know that if push came to shove you can depend on you to take care of you. So it’s not about needing the other person to survive, which is dependency, it’s about being able to survive by yourself but allowing the other person to help you to not just survive but to thrive.
2) You depend on the each other in a completely equal way. They depend on you for some things, too. It’s an equal game of give and take.
Simple but not easy, yes, I realize. But I like it! What do you say we try to become more interdependent as a means of relating with others. Doesn’t that sound much more healthy?
Photo courtesy of ArielleJay