Codependents have internalized shame from childhood, as described in my book, Conquering Shame and Codependency.Shame is an extremely painful emotion. Most people, including myself for many years, don’t realize how much shame drives their lives – even if they think their self-esteem is pretty good. Typically, codependents also deny “shame-bonded” needs and feelings due to the fact that those needs and feelings were ignored or shamed. They may not be aware of a shame-bonded feeling, such as fear or anger, they might minimize or rationalize it, or be unaware of how much it’s affecting them. Denial of needs is a major reason codependents remain unhappy in relationships. They deny problems and deny that they’re not getting their needs met. They’re not aware that that’s the case. If they do, they might feel guilty and lack the courage to ask for what they need or know how to get their need met. Learning to identify and express our feelings and needs is a major part of recovery and is essential to wellbeing and enjoying satisfying relationships.

How to Know if You’re in Denial

You might be wondering how to tell if you’re in denial. There are actually signs. I’ve mentioned some, including rationalization, making excuses, forgetting, and minimization.  If you’re in a relationship with a drug user or drinker, does your partner’s behavior affect his or her job, family and social obligations, or your relationship? Here are more. Do you:

  1. Think about how you wish things would be in your relationship?
  2. Wonder, “If only, he (or she) would . . .?”
  3. Doubt or dismiss your feelings?
  4. Believe repeated broken assurances?
  5.  Conceal embarrassing aspects of your relationship? 
  6. Hope things will improve when something happens (e.g., a vacation, moving, or getting married)?
  7. Make concessions and placate, hoping it will change someone else?
  8. Feel resentful or used by your partner?
  9. Spend years waiting for your relationship to improve or someone to change?
  10. Walk on egg-shells, worry about your partner’s whereabouts, or dread talking about problems?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, read more about denial and codependency in Codependency for Dummies, and join a 12-Step program or seek professional help to recover. Like any illness, codependency and addiction worsen without treatment, but there is hope and people do recover to lead happier, more fulfilling lives.

©Darlene Lancer 2014

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