Are You Codependent?

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codependent woman

The issues connected with codependency are so complex that helping a codependent through the healing process is difficult. I usually begin by identifying what the factors were, from active abuse to subtle neglect, that prevented the person's love needs from being met. I determine how these painful events affected him in the past and how they are affecting him now. Then I help him come to terms with his past and begin to make better choices for the present and future by showing him how to work through the grief process (denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance).

One common hindrance to the healing process is the codependent's stubborn defense of his dysfunctional family-of-origin. Often a codependent will pretend things "weren't that bad" and find looking inward very painful. I often hear, "My parents did the best they could."

Though that may be true, it is necessary for the codependent to see that suppression of a painful past has resulted in his present problems. If he wants to complete the grieving process and receive the healing he so desperately needs, he has to get out of denial.

When codependents refuse to face the reality that past events have hurt them, they "re-create" the past by repeating patterns of behavior under a compulsion to fix their dysfunctional families. In psychology we refer to this as "unfinished business."

For example, if the emotional needs (love, acceptance, significance) of a daughter were not met because her father was caught up in sexual addiction, she likely will re-create her childhood by marrying a man who is a sex addict in order to "finish the business" of getting her love needs met. The result, of course, is only the perpetuation of unmet needs.

In facing the "unfinished business" of our pasts, we do not blame or attack our parents. The goal is to try to understand how the way we were raised has affected and may still be affecting us.

As with all of life's challenges, the solutions to codependency are found in God's Word. The Bible tells us in Genesis 1:27 that "God created man in His own image" (NIV). It goes on to say, "God saw all that He had made, and it was very good" (v. 31).

This passage of Scripture is telling us that our "original" family-of-origin is God's family and that we, a part of what God created, are "very good." We are not forever bound by an earthly family's dysfunctions when we realize who our true Father is! This is good news for the codependent.

The only perfect parent is our Father God, the one who created us. As we come to know Him, we learn to trust Him to meet our deepest inner needs, and we exchange the chaos of our lives for His peace.

The apostle John tells of a Samaritan woman who had been with six different men in an attempt to have her innermost emotional needs met. It was only when Jesus introduced her to her true Father that she came to realize all her needs could be met in Him (see John 4:14).

Like the Samaritan woman, the codependent must learn some things about God: that His love is unfailing, that He never abandons us, that He is patient and kind, even when we make mistakes, that He always tells the truth, that He always keeps His promises, that He always listens and acts on our behalf--and most of all, that He accepts us just as we are and considers us beautiful.

The Bible's help to those who feel the need to control others is self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit (see Gal. 5:22). God's grace enables us to live self- controlled lives (see Titus 2:11-12). The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 6:12 that he "will not be mastered by anything." Like him, when we are in control of our own feelings and behaviors, we can give to others out of a position of strength, not weakness.

Note that doing someone a favor is not a sign of codependency. Doing good when you freely choose to do it is from godly strength. But doing for others what we cannot do, do not wish to do or cannot afford to do is motivated by weakness and is not of God.

Dealing with unclear boundaries and low self-esteem becomes easier when we know who we are in Christ. Then we do not base our success on the acceptance or approval of others.

Jesus did not struggle with His identity. He knew exactly who He was (see John 4:25-26). We need not struggle with our identity or purpose, either. First Peter 2:9 declares that we "are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that [we] may declare the praises of Him who called [us] out of darkness into His wonderful light."

Knowing who we are in Christ makes us powerful in Him. In Colossians 2:9 we read, "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is head over every power and authority."

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