Counseling & Psychotherapy - Southampton, NJ 08088
Counseling & Psychotherapy - Southampton, NJ 08088
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CODEPENDENCY

Codependency is a set of maladaptive, compulsive behaviors learned by family members to survive in a family experiencing (overt or covert) emotional pain and distress. Instead of developing according to their inborn personalities and potentials, these people grew up adapting as best they could to the situations with which they were faced. Since their development was shaped by a person or persons who were troubled, needy, or dependent, they have come to be called "codependents."

Codependents are generally considerate, helpful caretakers. They appear to be wonderful, selfless people because of their apparent concern for others. Inside they may feel that they are being controlled by other people's needs, which they feel compelled to meet. They feel resentful that after all they do for others, rarely, if ever, does someone else do for them.

People who suffer from codependency come not only from addictive families but also from other types of dysfunctional families. In a dysfunctional family, people are not accepted for who they "really" are, and communication lacks openness and honesty. Lacking the freedom to openly express feelings, individuals develop an attitude toward life that says, "It's not okay to feel, it's not okay to express my opinion or my needs, it's not okay to think, it's not okay to trust." In a dysfunctional family, the primary goal is survival within the family. In an effort to survive, the family member(s) assumes a false-self role and fails to develop a strong sense of true-self. Without treatment intervention, these individuals are doomed to keep playing out these dysfunctional roles in all their relationships throughout life. In addition, the characterological roles described below usually become part of their own family-of-procreation system.

(For the sake of continuity, the masculine gender pronouns "he/him/his" are used below; however, this is not in any way meant to denote that these roles are exclusive to males. The roles described below are equally prevalent between males and females).

Some Dysfunctional Roles:

The "Do-er," who provides most or all of the maintenance functions in the family. He often feels tired, hurt, resentful, taken advantage of, neglected, and empty. The family encourages the Do-er either directly or indirectly. The Do-er's own unhealthy guilt and sense of responsibility keeps him going.

The "Enabler," who inadvertently encourages each family member's dysfunctional role. He complains frequently about various family members and often feels the same as the Do-er. Nevertheless, he tries hard to make everything "okay" within the family and to smooth out ruffled feathers. Preserving the family unit at any cost and avoiding conflict is the ultimate goal.

The "Hero," who thinks he can make the problems go away by being "perfect" and providing self-esteem for the family. He carries the family "banner" for all to see. Inside, he feels scared, unfulfilled, sad, lonely, and empty. He makes the family proud, but at a terrible price in terms of his own well-being.

The "Scapegoat," who gets to act out all the family's dysfunction and therefore takes the blame and "the heat" for the family. The Scapegoat rebels (overtly or covertly) against the family problems and ultimately believes that he is the problem. He is the "black sheep" or "the loser" of the family. The family then gets to say, "If if weren't for little brother/big sister, we'd be a healthy family." The cost to the Scapegoat is obvious.

The "Lost Child," who deals with the family dysfunction by means of escape. This is the child who is out in the woods a lot, playing by himself, or the adolescent who spends most of his time away from the family home. It is a deep loneliness that pervades those who have this role.

The "Mascot," who tries desperately to make everyone laugh. He gives the family a sense of playfulness, of silliness and a distorted type of "joy." The cost to the Mascot is that his true feelings of pain and isolation never get expressed.