In my previous article, What Is Codependency? An Introduction, I covered what codependency is and how it develops. Now, where do you start your healing process? It involves changing some lifelong beliefs and behaviors.
Belief #1: I am responsible for everybody and everything.
No, you are not. You are responsible for yourself, your feelings, your choices and taking care of yourself. You have a responsibility to your children, but you do not have much control over what they do. You can encourage their good behaviors and discourage their negative ones. Accepting your powerlessness over others will give you a tremendous sense of relief. You no longer have the whole world on your shoulders. You can free up your energy to focus on what you can control. You can control your own recovery.
Belief #2: I can fix other adults, if I just care about them enough.
Really, we are not that powerful. If we try to control other people, we will fail. We will frustrate ourselves and alienate others. We may even push them further away from what we think they should do. Suppose we are concerned about a loved one’s addiction. We cannot convince them to seek help. The only thing that will persuade them to seek help is the consequences of their addiction. All we can do is step aside and allow them to experience the natural consequences. Suppose we love somebody and we are fearful that they will leave us for someone else. We may think that if we are hypervigilant enough that we will prevent this. In fact, we will alienate them and may push them away before they ever think about leaving. Whether it is your partner, spouse, child, boss, co-worker, sibling, or friend who is annoying, upsetting, or worrying you, you have no control over them.
Belief #3: I cannot ever trust another person; they might hurt me, and I won’t survive.
The fact is that there are people in the world who are capable of commitment. Intimate relationships do involve an element of risk of abandonment. However, we can learn to be honest about how we feel and who we are. Then, if the other person does leave us, we haven’t really lost anything—we still have ourselves. We will be free to find someone who deserves us. Anyone who survives a relationship with a dysfunctional person is a survivor.
Belief #4: My needs are not important, and I should not spend time taking care of myself.
No, you are important. Your first responsibility is to yourself. You can’t take care of anybody else if you don’t take care of you. Tell yourself every day that you are important and deserve to have your needs met. Do you have any idea what they are? If so, make a list, and try to meet them. Treat yourself like your own very best friend. Please be nice to yourself. If you have no idea, start with the basics. Eat good healthy food, get some moderate exercise, rest, and try to do something that you enjoy. If you have read my blog articles on managing anxiety, Codependency Recovery and Managing Anxiety, Part I, there are many good ideas for self-care.
Belief#5: When I see that others need help, I have to help them.
Is it within your power to help them? Do you have the resources? Is it your responsibility to help them? Is this something that they are capable of doing for themselves? When we do something for others that they can do for themselves, we actually weaken them. What else would you be doing instead of helping them. Remember the three Cs: You did not cause it. You cannot control it. You cannot cure it.
Belief #6: I am not a worthwhile person.
You have an intrinsic value as an individual. This is separate from what you accomplish and what you do for others. When you treat yourself with love, as you would your own best friend, you will begin to feel better about yourself.
Belief #7: It is not okay to express negative feelings in my relationships. I am afraid if I do there will be an explosion.
It is okay and important to express your feelings in relationships. If you avoid doing so, there will be barriers and resentments between you and others. You can learn to express your feelings in a tactful way, so that others may hear you and not feel defensive. I will teach you how in the next article Codependency: Changing Beliefs and Behaviors, Part II.
© Copyright 2011 by Joyce Henley, MSW, LCSW, CEAP, SAP, therapist in O Fallon, Missouri. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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