The definition of codependency is "just before you die, someone else's life flashes before your eyes"
The term codependency is often improperly used by people without really understanding what it means. Sometimes it is used as a joke to laugh off the inability for someone to say “no” to something. Other-times, we carelessly stick the label on anyone who is in a care-taking situation, or on to those family members who deeply care about their loved ones.
The word codependency was first introduced to the world in the late 1980’s. Melody Beattie is the author of "Codependent No More", which, when published in 1987 by the publishing division of the Hazelden Foundation, became a phenomenon of the self-help movement. The book went on to sell over eight million copies and codependency became a new buzz word in the addiction recovery centers in the United States.
What exactly is meant by codependency?
“Codependency often affects a spouse, a parent, sibling, friend, or co-worker of a person afflicted with alcohol or drug dependence. Originally, co-dependent was a term used to describe partners in chemical dependency, persons living with, or in a relationship with an addicted person. Similar patterns have been seen in people in relationships with chronically or mentally ill individuals. Today, however, the term has broadened to describe any co-dependent person from any dysfunctional family”. Co-dependents Anonymous
Most psychologists view co-dependency as a product of two dysfunctional personalities coming together to an extent where boundaries between the personalities cease to exist. Psychologists call this process “enmeshment.” We all know deeply unhappy couples who have stayed together in spite of the misery they create. And while there are many reasons for couples to stick together in dire situations (children, finances, inertia, loyalty, etc.), the main reason people stay in these relationships is the belief of one partner (or sometimes both) that they deserve to be mistreated.
Traditionally, co-dependent relationships have been defined by control. Studies from the late 1980's and early 1990's concluded that co-dependent individuals based their lives, self-esteem and sense of well-being on the behavior of an unhealthy family member.
The classic example of a co-dependent relationship is the enabling wife of an alcoholic, but over time the definition has expanded to include partners of individuals with any addiction or chemical dependency, partners of some individuals afflicted by chronic physical or mental illnesses, and any member of a dysfunctional family with symptoms of the disorder.
If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, you are at a far greater risk of developing co-dependent relationships. According to Mental Health America, members of dysfunctional families are used to denying the existence of problems. They don’t talk about them or confront them, so family members learn at a young age to repress difficult emotions and deny their own needs: “They develop behaviors that help them deny, ignore, or avoid difficult emotions. They detach themselves. They don’t talk. They don’t touch. They don’t confront. They don’t feel. They don’t trust. The identity and emotional development of the members of a dysfunctional family are often inhibited.”
Members of dysfunctional families are programmed from an early age to shift their energy and focus from themselves to the family member who is ill or addicted. They place the needs of the afflicted family member above their own in order to keep the family unit intact. As a result, they often lose their sense of self. They develop a pattern of putting the well-being of a loved one ahead of their own, and become disconnected from their own needs and desires, and this pattern is primed to repeat itself in adult life.