February 8, 2016

Making Sense of Codependency - Part 2

Today we continue our series with Dana Zarcone, who shares with us four steps to healing our true self.


This month, I’m dedicated to raising awareness about a codependency – a commonly misunderstood concept because it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Because of this, I started this series by getting everyone aligned on the definition of codependency. Based on my personal and professional experience, I’ve come up with my own definition which is as follows: 

“A codependent person is someone who has let another person’s behavior change the way they think, believe, behave and act in order to make the other person happy at the expense of their own mental, emotional or physical health.”

A person becomes codependent as a result of disconnections, trauma or emotional wounding that was experienced in the early formative years. These experiences lead to a fear of abandonment, rejection and betrayal. As a result, the codependent has low self-esteem, low sense of self-worth, self-hatred, low level of confidence … in essence the codependent feels rather worthless. As a result, he or she is organized around fixing, helping or controlling others in order to feel worthy again. In essence, the codependent does not set, define or enforce boundaries in their relationships because they so desperately want to feel like they matter. 

Boundaries and Human Development

When you’re in the womb, you have no individual boundary. When in utero, you’re resting nicely in cozy, warm relaxing state of bliss. When it’s time to be born, you’re violently expelled from the mother’s body. You’re getting tightly squeezed, pushed, prodded and even spanked as soon as you enter the world. You’ve literally been evicted from the only home you’ve known and forced to separate from your mother. This is extremely painful and traumatic. You’ve had your first traumatic experience the minute you’ve been born. 

For the first few months of your life, you’re focused on fusing with your parents mentally and emotionally. At this point, you still believe you’re an extension of your parents but this changes as you continue to grow and develop. Once you learn to crawl, then walk, you start to develop a sense of self, learn about boundaries, limits and develop a sense of independence. If the environment is healthy and loving, you will foster a healthy relationship with self, others and you’ll form healthy boundaries. 

Conversely, if your environment is unhealthy, you’ll have a distorted, unhealthy sense of self and have a little to no boundaries. The primary reason for this is because healthy boundaries may not have ever been modeled for you growing up. In fact, if you’ve grown up in an abusive environment (mentally, physically, sexually, or emotionally), you may have tried to overcome this by being extremely cooperative, the “good child”, or going the opposite direction, becoming a rebellious delinquent. 

How You Get Wounded

It is unfortunate, but most psychological wounding that you’ve experienced is shoved deep into the unconscious because it’s too painful. Especially as a young child who has not yet developed any ego strength to deal with the pain in a constructive way. 

So how does the wounding happen? 

First and foremost, it happens because your primary caregivers were wounded themselves. As a result, the parent is inadequate, unfulfilled and ill-equipped to be a good parent. In fact, all of their “stuff” gets projected on to you. For instance, if your parent is incapable of being truly happy and experiencing joy, they will shut you down when they see you feeling joyful. They don’t want you to have it because they can’t have it. Now, keep in mind this is all unconscious. The parent usually doesn’t know they’re doing this. 

In order to survive, you will play the peace maker and try to control your environment by overcompensating. You’ll abandon your true self and focus on being perfect and good to ensure you’ll be loved and won’t be abandoned. Your true self, your inner child, goes into hiding. 

As nature would have it, you can’t keep the true self in hiding for long. Your true self will always be   striving to be present again. So, there’s a destructive battle going on between the ego self, that wants to protect and defend, and the true self that wants to be set free. This stifles your development and creates chronic feelings of sadness, emptiness, fear and hopelessness. In fact, depression is also very common. Hence, codependency was born!

In order to reorganize and recover, it’s critical to gradually get reacquainted with your true self and detach from the ego - to reclaim your personal power. It’s important to do this in a supportive, safe environment such as individual therapy, group therapy, or close friend – finding someone that can guide you along the way. And, of course, don’t ever discount the healing power of connecting to your own higher power. 

Healing Your True Self

In order to heal your true self, there are four steps that need to be taken – not necessarily in order because they’re interrelated.

1. Let go of unhealthy boundaries, walls, and defenses

2. Rediscover your true self

3. Bring unconscious wounding, and associated feelings, into consciousness

4. Practice setting healthy boundaries 

As you read these four steps, you probably think it’s easier said than done, right? Well, in a way, that’s true. The recovery process isn’t easy. It takes dedication and persistence.  It’s all about taking small, deliberate steps. For instance, it could be as simple as saying “no” without excuses or justifying yourself. 

When you’re able to define, and maintain, healthy boundaries, you’ll foster a healthy relationship with yourself and others. You’ll live your life from your true self, not your false self; you’ll approach life consciously instead of unconsciously; you’ll take responsibility for yourself – mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally.  

One of the challenges with this is that, in most cases of codependency, it’s not easy to decipher what’s yours and what’s theirs because the boundaries are blurred. Next week I’ll talk about this in more detail. 

The biggest takeaway for today is to know that codependency is something that is cultivated as a result of growing up in unhealthy, unsupportive and, in a lot of cases, abusive environment. In order to shift from codependent to independent, you need to do some healing. Once you do, you can develop and maintain amazing, rewarding, healthy relationships. 

Until next week … 

Joyously yours, 



Dana, the CEO and Founder of Source Your Joy, is known as a revolutionist in the personal development industry. She is passionate about helping her clients recover from depression, codependency, abuse, and anxiety. She’s a driving force in helping clients reclaim their personal power, unlock their greatest potential, and dance with life again. Dana has been working with clients for over 13 years. She has her M.S. in Psychotherapy and is a National Certified Counselor, Certified Energetic Practitioner and Certified Life Coach.

If you think you might be suffering with depression you can take her depression test to find out once and for all.

1 comment:

  1. very good explanation of codependency, thank you very helpful I never looked at it this way.


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