Codependent relationships have received a lot of scrutiny with the birth of the human potential movement. They are essentially one-sided destructive relationships. Codependent relationships are based on protecting the pathology of one person at the expense of one or more people.
Codependency is more than a condition; it is a structure – an exploitive one.
What Causes Codependency?
Codependency and codependent relationships develop for a variety of reasons that result in a person not dealing with a problem or deciding not to grow. Unresolved grief is one possibility, family failures of support or encouragement and gender norms are others. When an individual experiences a tragedy or major setback and does not process the grief their energy becomes stuck. The unprocessed grief or stuckness always shows up in some way. It may take the form of addictions, overwork, acting out with money, sex and substances, or depression and other illnesses. The person with the unprocessed grief or stuckness will want their family to protect them from the consequences of their emotional problems and many will.
The codependents are those who protect and “enable” the person with the unresolved emotional or growth issues. HSPs, who are exceptionally empathetic, can find themselves providing support to people who are avoiding dealing with unresolved heartbreak or other problems.
A Compassionate View Of Codependent Relationships
Codependent relationships are not accidental. They arise out of a set of conditions, a tragedy, injustice or loss that causes more psychological and emotional distress than the affected individual can handle.
We probably would not have codependency if we lived in a culture that allowed and supported the expression of hurt and sorrow. When people live in cultural conditions that encourage stoicism and the hiding of emotional pain, then pain and suffering go underground and can surface as addiction and other issues.
Since the original problem does not get validated and accepted it is a hard problem to cure. The individual injures themselves and others around them and wounding becomes a way of life. Unfortunately, often it would only have taken a person listening or a validation of the person’s feelings to rectify the problem. Many emotional and mental problems come from the validation that did not happen.
Handling Codependent Relationships And Situations
Highly sensitive people are naturally drawn toward healing and helping others. That is a good thing particularly since we are now in the process of changing the human race and HSPs are leaders in that process.
However, HSPs have to be mindful about how they approach healing needs:
- healing is a process and it is useful to assess where someone is in the process. Someone starting a healing process has different needs than someone ready to build a new life.
- there is a difference between compassionate empathy and taking on someone else’s problems. HSPs need a strategy for healing situations that is good for them as well as the other person.
- offering and sharing resources and sources of support is a great way to help someone on their healing journey without becoming engulfed in their grief.
- letting someone know that they are not alone is very helpful since many grieving people often feel that they are.
- disapproval is not helpful to a grieving person. Kind verbal validation while helping someone find their way through the grieving process may help.
You cannot do the grieving work of another person. You can acknowledge and encourage them. It is important to be kind without self-victimizing but it may take some practice to find what works for you. It is worth it to try and find a happy balance in dealing with codependency so that you can be happy with yourself about your own self care and your contribution to the healing of others.