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10 Characteristics of Co-dependency

Image of 2 pink bunny slippers with black sunglasses. Raleigh Psychotherapy, counseling, codependency, Katherine Broadway

The word “co-dependency” gets thrown around a lot. It is used to describe people, relationships and caretakers. It can be a helpful term, one that identifies well-intended but harmful behaviors. It also can be used as a criticism, a weapon, a way to shutdown and control another person.

You’ll remember from the last post that we’re defining a co-dependent as a person with little to no sense of self. They must center their minds around a person, an idea, or a substance in order to have an identity or to feel like they exist. This leads to co-dependency, which is a way of behaving and forming relationships. It becomes a dysfunctional way of life, where a person cannot get their needs met and grow as a person.

Having a tendency towards co-dependent behavior and characteristics does not make you, “wrong.” It describes the way you relate to others and try to get your needs met. However, it is a misguided method that does not work. A co-dependent does not get their needs met, and ultimately ends up lonely, confused, in need and resentful.

There are two basic types of co-dependents. The first type chooses

people around whom they can center their lives. The second surrounds themselves with people who will adore them. Having said that, let’s look at some of the characteristics that would be considered co-dependent.

1. Everything related to feelings is difficult.

In terms of parts of our selves, this would lead to the “flight” and “freeze” parts being activated. Feelings signify danger and something from which to escape as soon as possible.

2. A co-dependent has a hard time identifying what they are feeling.

They usually know what their partner and everyone else is feeling. After determining what others are feeling the codependent molds themselves to fit the mood of the moment. This is when the “attach” part makes sure that there is conformity to others’ moods.

3. Feeling good about themselves comes from others liking them.

Again, we see the “attach” part at work here. If I am liked, then I will be safe. When they don’t have approval from others, the Harsh Inner Critic tells them

they are not wanted, and the “fight” part turns inward and attacks.

4. Fear controls and motivates them.

The fear of anger and rejection determines what they say and how they act. They don’t have personal opinions, only opinions designed to please others. The part of us that freezes makes it possible to not know our own opinions and have our own ideas. Lay low, be agreeable, don’t cause waves and no one will get angry and reject us.

5. Their mental attention is focused outside of themselves.

The focus, instead, turns to pleasing others and protecting others. If they can do something for another person and be recognized for it, they will feel good. This characteristic comes from the “submit” part being “good” and “self-sacrificing”.

6. They give in order to feel safe.

“If I give enough, you will like me and not be unhappy,” is the rule by which they live. I will submit to what you want.

7. They put aside what they like to please others.

They spend their time doing what others like to do. Soon, they have forgotten what their own interests are.

8. They base their values on what others think.

They will compromise themselves in order to connect with others.

Most of the characteristics listed so far are found in the type of co-dependent who seeks a person or group around whom to center lifestyles and life choices. The second type of co-dependent – The Controller – is on the receiving end of those choices. Controllers surround themselves with people who will adore them. In these people, you can see the “fight’ part working to create safety through various forms of control.

9. They are like a sponge, not mirror.

Rather than focus on others, they want all the focus to be on themselves. They will manipulate others to do things their way.

10.They want to control how the people around them look and act.

They see these people as a reflection of themselves. Therefore, it is important these people behave according to their standards. Their quality of life is dependent on others. They believe their dreams can only be achieved if they are in control of the people in their life, get what they want, and have the out come they desire. Anything less feels like failure.

Co-dependents will sacrifice what little sense of self they have in order to be with others. That is where they find an identity. In most cases, co-dependents tend to gravitate to the opposite type of co-dependent or to a counter-dependent. It is most severe when it is in the context of romance, but happens in all their relationships.

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