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Reclaim Your Voice

Codependency can show up in various ways. It can affect self-esteem, limit-setting, the ability to be moderate, to be in reality, to take care of ourselves, or to ask others to meet our needs.

Codependent people are overly vulnerable to others and base their self-worth on what others do, say, and think. They fail to set limits around how their bodies and feelings are treated.  Or they themselves offend people by violating others' boundaries.

Often codependents don't understand what it means to be moderate. They swing from one extreme to another in their thinking, feeling, or behaving.  They are either completely happy or utterly miserable.  Things are black or white, good or bad, right or wrong. Moderate responses to situations are not "enough".  Only too much is enough.

Codependent people struggle with what is real, especially where their thoughts and feelings are concerned. Sometimes they assign faulty meaning to their observations of the world, based on their own distorted thinking. Or they can't identify their own emotions; they are cut off and alienated from what is true for them.

Codependency can render us incapable of meeting our own needs or asking others for help. We may be too dependent.  We may be "antidependent" and unable to accept care from others. Perhaps we don't even know what our wants or needs are.

Finally, some symptoms of codependency are actually praised in our society -  this can make recovery especially challenging.  Perfectionism, arrogance, invulnerability, needlessness and "being in control" are often seen as signs of healthy, well-adjusted adulthood. Yet these traits are linked to unfulfilling relationships, unsatisfying careers and depression.

Adapted from Facing Codependence by Pia Mellody &
Wells Miller, A., Miller, J. Keith (2007). New York, NY: HarperOne.

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