Many codependents are highly attuned to others feelings, but are in denial of their own. They may know that they’re “upset,” but are unable to name what they feel. They may name a feeling, but rationalize or minimize it, or the feeling is known only intellectually and not embodied. Often this is due to unconscious, internalized shame from childhood. In relationships, codependents feel responsible for other people’s feelings. Their focus is on their partner, and they often empathize more with their partner than with themselves.
They also deny their needs, particularly emotional needs. In relationships, they sacrifice their needs to accommodate others. They may go without intimacy, respect, affection, or appreciation for months or years, not even realizing what they’re missing. Usually, it’s not a conscious choice because they don’t realize what their needs are or believe that they matter. They also deny their needs when they’re single. They may take care of themselves physically and appear to be the paragon of beauty or physical prowess, but neglect relational and emotional needs.
The hardest challenge for many codependents is identifying what they want. They’re so used to making others happy and fulfilling their needs and wants, including those of their own children, that they have no idea what they want. They may continue in a job or other routine behavior, but never ask themselves what more they want out of life. If they do, they make excuses and quickly feel it’s futile to make any change.
What You Can Do
Codependency for Dummies goes into depth with numerous self-awareness exercises to help you get to know yourself. Some things you can start doing:
1. Start to journal about your feelings, wants and needs.
2. Ask yourself throughout the day, “What am I feeling?” Name it. (See the list on Table 9-2.)
3. Tune in to your body. Identify sensations and inner feelings.
4. When you’re down or uncomfortable, ask yourself what you need (See the list on Table 9-3.), and fulfill your need.
5. Compare a list of what you want to do and what you have to do.
6. What stops you from doing what you want? Start doing what you want.
7. Be authentic in your communication.
8. Get How to Speak Your Mind and/or the webinar, How to Be Assertive.
It’s easy to slip into old habits and it may be hard to motivate yourself to follow these recommendations. Additionally, recovery can be accompanied by anxiety and depression. Some people unwittingly shift addictions or obsessions to stave this off. These are reasons why it’s so important to have a good support system, including 12-Step meetings and therapy.
©Darlene Lancer 2018