Codependent – Learned Behaviors Developed as Coping Skills

By Michele Nieves | Narcissist Traits

Sep 09

Some people describe codependency as: needing to ‘fix’ others, being stuck in people pleasing, needing to be in a relationship in order to be happy. In fact when it comes to relationships I’ve heard people say that a codependent is someone that stays in a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship completely relying on their intimate partner to care for all of their emotional and self-esteem needs. Others say that codependents are enablers who keep their significant other stuck in their own dysfunction, irresponsibility, addiction, or abusive behavior.

The truth is there are so many symptoms of ‘codependency’, and not every person that is codependent can check off each and every symptom; how it shows up in one persons life may be different from how it shows up in someone else’s life.

I recently put up a video entitled: Codependency, Finally a Definition That Resonates . While reading an article recently on codependency, one sentence stood out: Codependency is a set of learned behaviors developed as coping skills in order to not feel out of control.

Children that are born and raised in dysfunctional families where there is an alcoholic parent, a narcissistic parent, a parent battling unhealed cptsd, etc. are forced into emotional situations that are far beyond their emotional capacity to handle or control. They are punished for being authentic, made to feel like a burden for having normal needs that they are unable to care for themselves, they are taught they are ‘bad’ if they do not think, feel, act even breathe the way their dysfunctional family demands. Those are overwhelming situations that no toddler, elementary aged or ANY child, regardless of their age, should ever have to contend with.

But the sad reality is that those behaviors are more and more prevalent. Children are forced to smile in public while hiding what goes on behind closed doors, to repress their tears in private even when they are in real physical or emotional pain, and they are conditioned to yank their personality inside out to please un-pleasable people. When they exhibit emotional disregulation – they are made to feel like the identified patient and the root cause of the families problems.

Is it any wonder that they develop coping skills just to survive? Mom/dad don’t like when I’m happy…. I’ll tone myself down. I’m a burden when I’m hungry….I’ll suffer in silence. People get angry when I’m honest… I’ll hide the real me.

If a child didn’t adopt those coping strategies, their difficult life would have been even more horrible than they could handle. The fact that their brain found a way to cope and handle is actually quite amazing.

But – those coping skills become maladaptive in adulthood. They cause the adult child to fall into relationships that keep these coping skills alive, and they prevent them from finding true and lasting inner peace and self-love.

The good news is that codependency is not permanent, you are not destined to be that way forever or to be in relationships that take while you give until there is nothing left. But it does take willingness to do the inner work. It takes time, effort and self compassion – but the journey to self is so rewarding.

Codependency is not your fault. You didn’t deserve to be treated in a way that forced your survival brain to adopt coping strategies that later on became harmful. But, while it wasn’t your fault that it took place, it is a responsibility we all have to do something about it! You will never regret the journey back to self.

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About the Author

Nobody understands what you're going through more than someone who has been there. I grew up with narcissistic family member and had intimate relationships with malignant narcissists. For the majority of my healing journey, I felt as if I was all alone. I now dedicate my life to being the person for others, that I needed on my own healing journey, so that YOU never feel alone.