Guest Article by: Christopher Knippers, Ph.D.
Codependency is defined as routinely putting another person’s desires ahead of your own needs. This might sound very noble, but it is not. It damages you and the other person when you typically sacrifice your needs, to meet someone else’s desires. The best example of the importance of putting your own needs first is when the flight attendant tells you to put the oxygen mask over your own face before trying to put it on your child. When your needs are met, you are in much better condition to help someone else.
No one ever recommends that you become self-centered. Just make sure you are taking care of yourself. It is up to you to do that.
Another danger of codependency is that it prevents the other person from growing, and from learning to mange their own life. They become passive and dependent on you instead of learning their own potential.
In extreme cases codependency becomes “enabling.” Enabling is when you routinely pick up the pieces of someone else’s self-destructive behavior like alcohol or other drug abuse. Humans tend to repeat self-destructive behaviors as long as they have only minor consequences. Its just how we are.
Causes of codependency include: Childhood programming; seeking a feeling of being needed and important; the false belief that you must be “liked.” But, codependency has consequences for you and the dependent person.
Pay attention to your own needs and desires. Start taking steps to fulfill those. Gently remind the people in your life that you believe in their ability to mange their own lives without helping as much as you previously have been, and that you are going to concentrate on taking care of yourself. In the long run you and others will be happier.