“It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.”
— Agnes Repplier
Melody Beattie’s book entitled, Codependent No More, is a wonderful resource if you struggle with feelings of over responsibility for others and the obsessive, controlling behavior that results from it. She defines codependence as:
“A habitual system of thinking, feeling, and behaving toward ourselves and others that can cause pain. Codependent behaviors or habits are self-destructive. We frequently react to people who are destroying themselves; we react by learning to destroy ourselves. These habits can lead us into, or keep us in, destructive relationships that don’t work. These behaviors can sabotage relationships that may otherwise have worked. These behaviors can prevent us from finding peace and happiness with the most important person in our lives…. ourselves. These behaviors belong to the only person we can change which is ourselves. These are our problems. We started to do these things out of necessity to protect ourselves and meet our needs.”
The author is careful to note that, “The only difference between codependents and the rest of the world is that the other people don’t pick on themselves for being who they are. All people think similar thoughts and have range of feelings. All people make mistakes and do a few things right. We’re all working with approximately the same material—humanity. It’s how we feel about ourselves that makes the difference. It’s what we tell ourselves that makes the difference.”
She goes on to say that, “Codependents are some of the most loving, generous, good-hearted, and concerned people I know. We’ve just allowed ourselves to be tricked into doing things that hurt us, and we’re going to learn how to stop doing those things.”
Below, is an abbreviated list of the some of the characteristics of codependent persons as presented in the book:
1. Think and feel responsible for other people—for other people’s feelings, thoughts, etc.
2. Feel compelled, or forced, to help that person solve the problem, with unwanted advice.
3. Feel angry when their help isn’t effective.
4. Anticipate other people’s needs.
5. Wonder why others don’t do the same for them.
6. Doing things other people are capable of doing for themselves.
7. Not knowing what they want and need, or telling themselves it is not important.
8. Try to please others instead of themselves.
9. Find it easier to feel and express anger about injustices done to others than to them.
10. Feel safest when giving.
11. Feel insecure and guilty when somebody gives to them.
12. Feel sad because they spend their whole lives giving to others and not to them.
13. Find themselves attracted to needy people.
14. Find needy people attracted to them.
15. Lose sleep over problems or other people’s behavior.
16. Feel unable to quit talking, thinking, and worrying about other people or problems.
Lack of Trust
1. Don’t trust their feelings.
2. Don’t trust their decisions.
3. Try to trust untrustworthy people.
4. Think God has abandoned them.
5. Lose faith and trust in God.
1. Live with people who are very scared, hurt, and angry.
2. Are afraid of their own anger.
3. Are frightened of other people’s anger.
4. Think people will go away if anger enters the picture.
5. Feel controlled by other people’s anger.
6. Repress their angry feelings.
7. Think other people make them feel angry.
8. Are afraid to make other people feel anger.
9. Cry a lot, get depressed, overact, get sick, do mean and nasty things to get even.
10. Punish other people for making them angry.
11. Feel safer with their anger than hurt feelings.
1. Are extremely responsible.
2. Become martyrs, sacrificing their happiness and that of others unnecessarily.
3. Find it difficult to feel close to people.
4. Find it difficult to have fun and be spontaneous.
5. Have an overall passive response to codependency — crying, hurt, helplessness.
6. Have an overall aggressive response to codependency — violence, anger, dominance.
7. Combine passive and aggressive responses.
8. Vacillate in decisions and emotions.
9. Laugh when they feel like crying.
10. Stay loyal to their compulsions and people even when it hurts.
11. Are ashamed about family, personal, or relationship problems.
12. Are confused about the nature of the problem.
13. Cover up, lie, and protect the problem.
Identify if any of these characteristics relate to you or someone you love, and read this extremely helpful book.