Just like an addict whose world revolves alcohol, sex or gambling, whatever substance or activity, the codependent's world revolves around other people. Codependency can be defined as a deep, longstanding pattern of considering others before oneself, caring more about others' needs than one's own (The Relationship Model of Addiction™). Codependents are driven by unconscious unmet emotional needs, and use relationships to fill emotional holes. Their sense of self-worth hinges on the effect they believe they are having on others. In their minds, they are caring and loving. In actuality, they are 'saving' or 'rescuing,' which contributes to a worsening of the situation. Denial serves as an elaborate system of defense and protection of the codependents modus operandi in relationships. This makes it impossible for codependents to objectively and realistically assess their own level of involvement, the effect of their involvement, or that they can not extricate themselves from the relationship. They can't stop themselves from "going down with the ship."
How does the codependent break the cycle?
If conscious of them at all, the codependent's own needs, wants and feelings are way down on his or her list of priorities and considerations. It follows then that recovery is a process of reprioritization - learning to consider one's own needs, wants and feelings first, before deciding on a course of action. "What am I needing, wanting and feeling?" How the codependent operates in relationships changes to considering his or her needs, wants and feelings as much as, if not, more than the other person's. A shift occurs from always focusing on the other person to an awareness of, "What am I getting out this relationship?" and acting on one's own interests. In effect, the codependent develops a relationship with him or herself.
A shift must occur from the source of well-being occurring outside of oneself, to depending on oneself as a source of nourishment and to create well-being from within. Tapping into the power within, the self as an inner sanctuary and refuge, can be viewed as spiritual components of recovery. One discovers the abundant source of resources that reside within - a voice of wisdom and truth, where there is purpose and potential and a decision-making agency.
Change and transformation, and the process of reprioritization begin with self-awareness.
Becoming mindful during the course of day-to-day life means being more self-aware, and aware in general more of the time, In other words, mindfulness can be thought of as a state of both detachment and connectedness. Jon Kabat-Zinn described mindfulness as "not defining yourself by thought content or emotional reactivity," and as "an open or receptive attention to and awareness of what is happening, both internally and externally at any given time."
When one is mindful, the separation between self and other is more clearly defined. The focus is on the unfolding interaction in the here and now. When mindful, one can be more present and able to represent yourself, express your own needs, wants and feelings. Self-awareness is the precursor to taking responsibility for caring and providing for yourself.
The most important relationship...
In a brief passage from her book, Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert describes a moment of realization about her relationship with herself...
"I'm here. I love you. I don't care if you need to stay up all night long, I will stay with you...There is nothing you could ever do to lose my love. I will protect you until you die and after your death, I will still protect you. I am stronger than Depression and am braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me.
This passage shows that in the depths of loneliness and despair there is self-empowerment. Despite a history of relationships that fail to provide adequate emotional nourishment and deeply engrained pattern of using relationships to compensate for what's missing; self-awareness along with understanding some basic relationship building principles are enough to overcome all hurdles.
While we may embrace the adage, "The quality of one's relationships is the quality of one's life," we don't want to lose sight of the most important relationship - your relationship with yourself.