CODEPENDENCY AND ADDICTIVE RELATIONSHIPS
Codependency is a fairly new word, but it's a behavior trait as old as Adam and Eve. Dysfunctional families produce codependent behavior, which is defined in many ways: Codependence is focusing one's life on another person and calling it caring. It is doing things for others they can and should do for themselves. It is slavery by mutual agreement: two needy people don't want to focus on their own problems so they obsess on each other's. It's giving away your whole pie and leaving nothing for yourself.
My favorite definition of codependent people is: when they die, someone else's life flashes before their eyes!
"No man is an island." Everyone in this world is dependent on other people. Codependency is a matter of degree, and usually that degree is lopsided: one person gives 80 percent and the other 20. Here's a joke illustrating codependency: There was a mouse who asked an elephant if he could make love to her. She said, "Okay." While the mouse went at it, a coconut fell on the ele phant's head. "Ouch," she said, and the mouse replied, "Oh! Did I hurt you?" That's a codependent talking.
No relationship is ever fifty-fifty all the time, but if the percentages are way off center, it's codependency—one is giving far too much and the other far too little. The person who cares too much is often staying in the relationship not because of the benefits derived from it but the fear of what would happen if faced with being alone. That fear far outweighs any pain suffered in the lopsided give-and-take of the codependent relationship.
The paradox is, in order for two people to be close, they have to be separate. The most comfortable relationship occurs when two people can live alone with each other. That's interdependency. If one needs the other too much, codependency results. If I must give up me to be loved by you, the price is too great. If I have never learned to love myself. I can't love you. That's the tragedy of most codependent relationships.
The subject of codependency comes up in the treatment of addiction because for many addicts it is the bottom-line obsession. I know many people who went into a 12-step program to stop drinking, only to become addicted to food. Then, when they went into recovery from that addiction, they turned to a relationship to ob sess on. It's the addicts' dilemma to be constantly compelled to fill themselves up with an external. Relationships are the most difficult addiction of all; we don't expect food, alcohol, or other substances to love us back! We experience feelings related to love, but in relationships it's give, give, give.
Addicts have a tendency to codependent relationships. They may manage to function intellectually, and even be highly esteemed in their profession and in their community. Terrified they have no real identity of their own, they often bond with people who are emotional "takers" and are grateful for the chance to obsess on someone else rather than on their own seeming insignificance. They have a tendency to think the source of the stress is work or other external factors, but the source is always internal, and comes out of relationships.
No amount of relaxation techniques, meditation, as-sertiveness training, or affirmations will remove the stress caused by a codependent relationship. That doesn't mean we put off practicing them until recovery. We just have to know they are not going to take away stress. Only developing boundaries so that the flow of the relationship goes in as well as out will reduce stress to the degree of manageability.
Relationship addiction is really about someone else making you feel okay. It's needing another person to fill your cup. If you have low self-esteem and difficulty loving yourself, and if someone else is necessary to make you feel whole or alive, then you will undoubtedly suffer se vere withdrawal symptoms if the loved one leaves, especially abruptly. It is then that the addiction can really be seen for what it is.
There are plenty of people caught up in relationship addictions, men and women alike. They go from one relationship to another, on emotional bender after emotional bender, to keep from having to face themselves and their terrifying inner emptiness. As someone 1 know pointed out, it's one thing to have a love affair with food or booze, but at least you don't expect it to call you on the phone.
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