Codependency Recovery: 8 Key Concepts
In working with people who struggle with codependency characteristics, and navigating my emotional healing journey, I have compiled 8 Key Concepts working toward healing from codependency characteristics that form my understanding of a foundation for emotional healing.
I draw from a variety of recovery and spiritual growth modalities, including ancient wisdom, transpersonal psychology, mysticism, and science.
Codependency As Part Of The Spiritual Condition
At its core, codependency is part of the human condition; a spiritual problem requiring a spiritual solution. It is a an “outer” dependence on people or things for feelings of approval, love, and worth. It is a disconnect from our core essence as beautiful, amazing spirits, leaving us to believe an internalized belief system that screams, “I am not good enough!”
Shame, emptiness, loneliness. Grasping for crumbs of approval from others.
In childhood, we were groomed to create an ego, a false persona to protect us from pain. We picked up traits like people pleasing, rescuing, faulty boundary setting, over-dependency, black and white thinking, obsessiveness, etc.
Moving beyond codependency will require us to go within on a serious inner spiritual journey to integrate the ego, heal wounds, and silence the mind.
Because when we can really come to know our authentic identity as spiritual creations, we experience and give more authentic love. Our relationships improve. Our levels of peace and joy increase, and this spills over into every area of life.
8 Codependency Recovery Key Concepts
1. Codependency Is An Unhealthy Way Of Relating
Codependency is not necessarily a “condition”. We do not have to label ourselves codependent. Rather, codependency is an unhealthy way of relating to ourselves and others due to a series of defense mechanisms we learned as children.
Those defense mechanisms skewed our thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and behaviors.
To enjoy healthier relationships, it’s helpful to learn about the various coping skills you picked up as a child and an adult. Begin a self-directed healing journey. Learn what’s been tripping you up, what healthy love looks and feels like, and more.
2. Codependency Is A Disconnect
At the core, codependency results from a disconnect from ourselves as spirit. We came to this planet spiritually whole and entered a body suit that’s wired for emotions.
Because we didn’t know how to handle emotional pain, trauma, a sometimes chaotic world, etc. as a child, we were groomed to create a false persona. We split from our true “self” over time, tucking it deep into the psyche. We don’t know the exact reasons why this occurs. Perhaps it’s just the way we were designed.
As a result, we picked up traits like people pleasing, rescuing, faulty boundary setting, over-dependency, black and white thinking, controlling behaviors, jealousy, etc.
Moving through codependency will require you to go within and recognize the disconnect, the characteristics, and use it all as an opportunity to grow, heal, and evolve.
3. Recovery (Usually) Requires Reaching Out For Help
One common codependent characteristic is feeling alone, and thinking we have to do everything on our own. It’s like we WANT help, and quite often we think we NEED help, but still, we busy ourselves helping others and forget about ourselves.
If you talk to those who have kicked codependency’s butt, most will tell you that reaching out for help was one thing they did that helped tremendously. You may need a therapist, sponsor, or healer to help uncover and shed light on what has been stuffed deep into the psyche that hasn’t been healed.
You may benefit from digging under the surface to get to the wounds that you’ve buried, to laser-target and zap those faulty patterns of thought, and retrieve the power you’ve given away, so that you can begin to really heal.
The goal is to integrate and/or transcend the ego, including its shadow side. To identify as spirit, rather than the wounded parts. Oftentimes, this requires an outside source of support.
4. Codependency Requires Pulling Out The White Flag
Surrender. To experience deep change, it helps if you truly surrender to whatever you call your Higher Power. To let go of what is not serving you.
Yes, we are wonderful, but Divinity is wiser. Going within to re-connect with our Powerful Source of Love can help us live life in a more fulfilling way.
When we can really come to know our identity in God, as spiritual creations, and follow the leading of Spirit, we will absolutely experience and give more authentic love.
When you let go of expectations and practice healthy unattachment, you’ll be surprised as to what just dissipates on its own. As you surrender, trusting that Divine Love is able to help you heal what needs healed and change what needs changed, you’ll find yourself experiencing a whole lot more peace and joy.
5. Codependency Oftentimes Attracts Emotional Immaturity
No doubt many relationships attract opposites, and this isn’t always a bad thing.
However, those with codependent characteristics tend to unconsciously attract or navigate toward relationships with those that are emotional immature. Those that are extremely selfish. Those that have narcissistic personality disorder, addiction problems, or are emotionally unavailable.
How many times have you vowed, “never again!” only to end up with the same type of wounded/selfish/addicted/abusive person down the road?
The thing about attracting healthy vs. unhealthy people is that the more YOU heal, the less likely to attract those that fit those that can’t meet your “healthy relationship” criteria. And, the more inner healing work you do, the less you’re holding your arms outstretched looking for others to meet your emotional needs. You’re meeting them.
Don’t just learn about codependent traits, because just knowing about them won’t keep you from attracting those that can’t reciprocate healthy, unconditional love.
Do the work to heal what needs healed, so you can attract someone else who is emotionally healthy, or at least on their way! In other words, they’re willing to “do the work” when shit hits the fan. Because at some point, conflict will arise, and you’ll get to see true colors – yours and theirs! But take heart. If you’re both willing to grow and evolve, it’ll be alright.
6. Codependency Can Play Out As An Addiction
Codependency can play out as an addiction, needing hit after hit of attention or approval from another person who will probably only be able to dish out crumbs.
Your level of codependency will play a role in how much the other person will be able to reciprocate. If you’re moderate to severely codependent, you’ll be magically drawn and tempted to associate with those that aren’t available emotionally.
You may even know they aren’t able to reciprocate or relate in a healthy way, but there you go anyway calling them, texting them, and showing up for them time and time again. The codependency will keep you going back, accepting crumbs, trying so hard to win their approval as an attempt to feel worthy.
Or, you may initially get involved with or befriend someone and become overly dependent on them for your self-worth. When they catch this, if they’ve done some work and have a healthier relationship with themselves, they’ll likely walk away. They may see the red flags of codependency and not want to partner up.
This can leave you reeling with shame and feeling rejected, possibly even causing you to engage in an addictive behavior like drinking, overeating, etc. Being able to recognize addictive behaviors will help you out on your codependency recovery journey.
7. Codependency Recovery Aims For Interdependence
Here is a sentence we want you to memorize and get in the habit of saying to those in your life:
“This is what I want and need”.
It’s a simple sentence that helps you take time to go within to actually see what it is YOU want and need, rather than solely focus on others. Because what you want and need matters, as long as it’s within healthy limits, of course.
It’s so easy to give yourself away in relationships. You forget who you are and what it is you truly want. You may rarely even sit down and think about it because you’re so caught up in taking care of others.
Not that we should all go around with arms outstretched seeking to find happiness or self-worth through others. We shouldn’t. Others can add value to our lives, but each one of us is 100% responsible for our level of happiness in life.
Codependency recovery involves a balance of:
- Independence (What I want and need matters)
- Dependence (It’s alright to ask for help; to depend on others some.)
Oftentimes, recovery goes from:
Overly dependent (I get my worth from others) to independent (I don’t need anyone) to interdependent (Equal reciprocity).
A healthy relationship with self and others requires “interdependence”. Achieving this more and more will ultimately bring you more peace and joy along your life journey.
8. Codependency Recovery Involves Various Healing Paths
Each of us is responsible for navigating our own unique healing and recovery path. There are plenty of codependency recovery paths and emotional healing modalities.
Need some ideas?
- A good psychotherapist
- 12 Step Support groups like Codependents Anonymous, AA, NA, Al-Anon, Nar-Anon
- A spiritual director or pastor
- Indigenous medicine man/woman
- Modern-day Shaman
- Other spiritual paths/disciplines
- Educating yourself on the topic
When we navigate life clinging to things, people, experiences, expectations, etc., we can easily wind up disappointed, frustrated, hurt, and in pain.
With codependency essentially looking “out there” to feel inner peace, worth, joy, etc., learning to practice mindfulness, meditation, and non-attachment can be valuable. Addressing things like striving, craving, grasping, obsessiveness, etc. from a higher perspective can help us see what’s real and what’s not.
For those struggling in relationships with or without codependency characteristics, take some time to begin an inner journey where you solely focus on YOU for a while. Where you commit to less finger pointing and more inner healing work.
Moving beyond codependency is going to take some work and practice. But the good news is that you can move beyond it. You can learn how to navigate relationships – with yourself and others – in healthy ways. More meaningful and fulfilling ways, which makes for a life marked with more peace and joy.
And that’s what we all really want, isn’t it?
Dominica Applegate is an author, writer, and transpersonal spiritual teacher. Her teachings have helped millions of people experience emotional healing, relationship repair, and spiritual awakening. Earning her BA in Psychology and MA in Counseling, she worked 12 years in the mental health field before diving full-time into writing.
She runs Rediscovering Sacredness, an online portal that offers inspiration, essays, resources, and tools to help heal inner pain and experience more peace and joy.
Her books include Recycle Your Pain: It Has a Purpose, Into The Wild Shadow Work Journal, and a collection of poetry entitled, The Pain, It Shapes Her World.