Understanding Codependency

So, you’re having an amazing day, in fact it’s one of the best days you’ve had in a very long time. Everything is going well, starting with an amazing night’s sleep the night before. The morning comes and you’re alarm goes off and you jump out of bed instead of hitting the snooze button three times likes you normally do. You get dressed in one of your favorite outfits. You drive to work, and traffic is unusually good, you get to work early, and your coworkers compliment you on how good you look. You met a deadline, give a killer presentation, you’re on top of the world this day can’t get any better. Your workday is over, and you return home and your spouse says or does something to upset you, or your child comes home with a bad note from the teacher. Now how do you feel? Are you still on cloud nine, or have you been knocked down a few pegs? If you’re still on cloud nine that’s awesome and that means you’ve learned how to control your inner world and not let your outer world have to much of an impact on you. However, if you have been knocked down a few pegs and you’re not on the cloud at all, chances are you may suffer from codependency like a large part of the population. Weinhold & Weinhold (2008) state “codependency is present in an estimated 98 percent of the adult population and is responsible for most human misery.” (p. xi).

98 percent is a large number and let’s face it that’s basically everyone right? Which normalizes it and means it’s very common. While it’s very common some may not fully understand what codependency is or how it happens. In its simplest form codependency is when some aspect of who you are is dependent on something on someone outside of you. The above example explains it perfectly, that persons’ entire mood and emotional state was dependent on outside forces, whether it’s good or bad. When things were going well, this person was on cloud nine, however when something upsetting happened this persons’ mood completely changed. And that’s what codependency is, it’s when who we are, how we feel, what we want, or what we do is dependent on something or someone outside of us. I once worked with a person who was a professional, they were a college professor, and enjoyed hobbies of flying planes and scuba diving. This person was of a certain prestige and their prestige was very important to them. This person also had a drinking problem and was charged with their first DUI. The shame and embarrassment they felt after getting this DUI was palpable. They were more concerned with what people would think if they found out they had a drinking problem and how it would affect their image. Their feelings of shame and embarrassment aren’t uncommon, in fact it’s quite normal, however this person’s shame and embarrassment was heightened. And it was all because they identified so strongly with their prestige and felt that the DUI threatened that. In short, they had no idea who they were outside of being this professional person. And that’s codependency in a nutshell. Codependency happens when people don’t know who they are, don’t know how they feel, or what they want or don’t want.

“Loss of a relationship is painful, but if you lose yourself in a relationship, when it ends, it’s devastating, because you are lost.”

― Darlene Lancer

Now that we have a basic understanding of what codependency is, now let’s talk a little about how it developed and more importantly how do we recover from it? The term codependency became popular due to its connection to alcoholism and addiction. Early on people who loved people who suffered from the disease of addiction were considered to be codependent, however the term is now used more widely. Some research suggests that codependency is linked to childhood trauma. It’s thought that when our childhood needs of love and connection aren’t met, we continue to have those needs even in adulthood.  These unmet needs therefore create our codependent patterns. When our parents and caregivers don’t meet those needs, we look to others to meet those needs instead.

How then, do we recover from codependency? As with anything else, self-awareness is key, because we cannot fix, what we don’t acknowledge. Second to awareness is willingness, as it’s a crucial component here. Are you willing to admit that you may have codependent patterns? If so, are you willing to work on them? There are many ways to work on codependency patterns, there’s therapy of course, and there are Codependent Anonymous meetings (CODA). However, here’s a good place to start, I love this question because it forces us to strip ourselves down of everything we identify with. So, ask yourself this question and hopefully your willing to answer. If everything and everyone you loved were taken away from you, who would you be? Who are you outside of being your partners spouse, your children’s parent, your parent’s child, your job, etc. if you woke up tomorrow morning and all these things were gone, who are you?

Think about it and let’s discuss. I look forward to hearing from you.

Perception: Reality or an Unconscious Process?

We’ve all heard the phrase “perception is reality”, but is it really? What is reality, because it certainly isn’t concrete as reality is an individual experience. What is reality for one is not reality for another. The simple fact that two people can be in the same relationship and have two completely differing experiences is proof that reality is subjective. One person in the relationship could be happy and looking forward to growing old together, while the other is working on their exit plan. How could this be, and what causes this phenomenon? The truth is this mental process is far more complicated than I could ever begin to explain as I am not a neuroscientist.

What I do know is that our brain is constantly receiving stimuli more often than we realize. Everything in our environment is stimuli, from the temperature in the room to our favorite song, or least favorite song for that matter. Once the brain receives the stimuli, it then must organize and interpret it. This highly complicated process is what leads to our perceptions. So, what factors influence our interpretation? There are multiple factors, the culture we come from and live in, our values both individual and family, our beliefs, our concept of ourselves and the world. Lastly, our experiences greatly influence our perceptions. All of our previous experiences affect our judgement, and all stimuli we take in is filtered through these experiences. For example, let’s imagine that the stimuli is being stuck in traffic. Someone who has experienced negative consequences from being stuck in traffic, such as missing an important appointment will perceive traffic as a bad thing. While someone who doesn’t experience traffic as bad and can accept that this is a situation beyond their control, will perceive this as just a normal part of their day. The situation is neutral, the meaning we assign to it, makes it good or bad, and our past experiences largely influence what we determine as good or bad.

 “Songs are as sad as the listener.”

― Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I’m always amazed at how people share the same experience but have a completely different perception of it. Two people can eat the same meal, one will love it the other will hate it. Two people can watch the same movie, one can love it the other can hate it. So, if our perception is largely influenced by the way we think, and organize information then how do we change it? How do we learn to look at the world with a view beyond ourselves? In Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, there are three main factors: schemas, assimilation, and accommodation. A schema is basically the foundation on which our cognitive process is built, it’s how we organize and make sense of information. Once we have a solid foundation of information, when we receive new information, that information is either accommodated or assimilated into our existing schemas. Assimilation happens when we receive information that fits existing schemas, accommodation happens when we receive information that doesn’t fit existing schemas, and we must change our schema to add the new information. An example of this would be the schema we have for cauliflower. We know that cauliflower is a vegetable and most commonly we know cauliflower to be white. So, whenever we see white cauliflower it fits into our existing schema and is assimilated. However, there are some cauliflower that are yellow, green, and even purple. I don’t know about you, but I was shocked when I saw these colorful cauliflowers in the market. So, this meant I had to now add these colorful cauliflowers into my schema which is accommodation.

Accommodation allows us to adjust our thinking, while assimilation helps us to think the same which keeps our view of the world small. While our perception is our reality, our reality is not a fact, it is personal and subjective to us and only us. Just because you think something and perceive in a certain way, that doesn’t make it true. We do a disservice to ourselves and everyone around us, but not examining our thoughts and questioning why we think the way we do. Living in a world of social media post and 30 second sound bites, we all are judged and judging possibly more than we’d like to be. So, the next time you find yourself judging someone, (which we all do, albeit mostly unconsciously) I implore you to be introspective and ask yourself, “what past experience might be causing me to form this opinion?” Not only will this help you to become a more evolved version of yourself, it could, on a small level, brighten someone’s because they haven’t been misunderstood. Or on a large level it could possibly save someone’s life.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on perception and your experiences with it.

Kobe Bryant – How He Inspired Me After Death

On January 26, 2020 around 3:00 pm I was standing in the check out line at Walmart. Like I do often, as I’m sure most of us do when we’re waiting in line to pay for our items, I pulled out my phone to mindlessly scroll through social media. One of the very first post I saw said “Kobe Bryant Died in A Helicopter Crash.” Now this was just a post someone had written, it wasn’t accompanied by a news article or anything else that made it seem factual, so my immediate thought was, that’s not true. I pay for my items and head to my next destination, Giant. While standing at the seafood counter, an older lady next to me, said Kobe Bryant died. So, I asked her was it indeed true, and she proceeded to show me the alert on her phone from one of the news outlets. Now even after seeing it from a creditable news outlet, I still didn’t want to believe it. So I leave Giant and I’m thinking to myself, if this is true they’ll be talking about it on the radio, sure enough, as soon as I get into my car and turn it on, that was the first thing I heard. So now at this point, I have no choice but to believe it.

I drive home, take my groceries out the car and turn the TV to CNN because I know they would be reporting about it nonstop. As I suspected, CNN didn’t disappoint. It was all they were talking about, and yet for some reason I still didn’t want to believe it. I just couldn’t believe it. Now I’m going to be honest here, I’m not a huge basketball fan, I’ll watch a game here or there, and I wasn’t a huge Kobe Bryant fan. Being from Philadelphia, I got caught up in the not liking Kobe Bryant phase when I was younger. However, the older I became I had to respect the man for the pure basketball genius that he was. He scored 81 points in one game for crying out loud, no way I can ignore that. As I am not a huge basketball fan, and was not a huge Kobe Bryant fan, I am shocked at how much his death has affected me. I literally was fighting back tears as I continued to watch CNN report the story all day. I was genuinely hurting. I was in shock and disbelief. I think that’s one of the main reasons it hurts so bad, because it was so unexpected, so tragic, and so sudden. He was only 41 years old; I was just 41 two years ago. Maybe that’s another variable, we’re in the same age group so I feel like I grew up with him. I remember him being drafted straight out of high school; I remember him taking Brandy on his prom. I remember when he got married. He was much more apart of my life than I ever realized. I’ve been around long enough to see other celebrities die, Michael Jackson, Whitney House, Prince, just to name a few, and I didn’t feel like this when they died. Yes, it’s sad to see any one die, but that’s just it, when they died, I was just sad, Kobe Bryant died, and I’m hurt.

I’m hurt for his family, his wife, his remaining 3 daughters, his parents, his sisters, his former teammates, and everyone who knew him personally. I’m hurt for all he will no longer be able to do, and all the world will miss out on because he’s no longer here. Since his death I’ve been watching YouTube videos of his past interviews and I was ignorant to his greatness. He was a great man on and off the court. I had no idea that he was an author, or that he won an Oscar. I didn’t know that he had the Mamba Sports Academy, where he trained his daughter and other young athletes. I was unaware of how dedicated he was to anything he did, not just basketball. In watching his interviews I’ve since developed such a deep appreciation for his passion, his drive, and his commitment to excellence. I now know how precise he was, and how much attention he paid to details. He even learned how to tap dance to strengthen his ankles. He studied the game of basketball, even by reading the referees manual. Now if that’s not dedication I don’t know what is.

In one of the interviews I watched he said he just wants to be an inspiration to others, and he certainly has inspired me. 2020 is my year of intention, and I haven’t seen a life lived more intentionally than Mr. Kobe Bean Bryant, now that’s intentional living at his finest. I am now deeply inspired by him, I am now deeply inspired to study my craft, and be the best me that I can be. When I hear him talk, all I hear is dedication. I hear a commitment to excellence that is unparalleled. Although his life was cut drastically short, I am happy that his life had such a huge impact on the world. He accomplished a lot in 41 short years, and he’s ignited a fire in me to accomplish all my dreams. Kobe has certainly inspired me to be committed to excellence just as he was.

My only regret is not knowing his greatness and his genius while he was here. Although I would have never gotten a chance to know him personally, I wish I knew him more intimately while he was here. I wish I knew he won an Oscar when it happened so I could have shared in that moment with him even from afar. I regret not knowing how awesome of a father he was while he was here. I regret not being able to see how big of a personality he was. I wish that I was able to relish in his greatness while he was alive. That happens all too often in life, we take people and life for granted. We think we always have tomorrow, and the sad truth is that tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us. I’m sure, just like the rest of us when we leave our homes for the day, we think it’s a given that we’ll return. I’m sure Kobe, GiGi, and the 7 others thought they would be home for Sunday dinner later that day. I can’t imagine that any of them thought that day would be their last. We take life for granted; we live in vain as if each day can’t be our last day. We all are going to die one day; we just don’t know the day nor the hour. I hope this tragedy moves us forward and propels us all to be better. Love on one another, enjoy life, and most importantly, make the world a better place because you were here. That’s the rent we pay for living on earth, the world should be a better place because you were here.

Beyond Limits Mental Health & Wellness

Serving Montgomery County, Bucks County, and the Greater Philadelphia Area

Be Unlimited

“It takes courage…to endure the sharp pains of self discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.”

Marianne Williamson

Are you feeling limited in life? Limited in your relationships? Limited in your parenting abilities? Are you feeling stuck? Limited in your ability to succeed?  If life challenges are making you feel less than your best self, then you have come to the right place!

Beyond Limits Mental Health and Wellness is dedicated to helping you overcome the self-imposed limiting beliefs which are causing you to feel stuck. My goal is to partner with you and support you in becoming more self-aware as you gain the confidence and courage it takes to improve the quality of your life.

Therapy is a tool that can help to shine a light on your strengths and your opportunities for growth.  At Beyond Limits Mental Health & Wellness I will help you to see things differently, gain a different perspective, as well as gain a deeper knowledge of yourself. I help you explore past experiences and see how they relate to current day problems.

I help you create the life you want by teaching you how to make and implement self-care regimens, healthy coping skills, emotional regulation, effective communication, and boundaries, etc.