May 12, 2021

Codependency in personal relationships

Trigger warning: references to addiction, drugs

Codependency is an insecure attachment style, in which the partners form very close connections to one another in an, arguably, very unhealthy way. It functions like an “invisible drug,” and the codependent person suffers in the same way a drug addict does. They may feel the withdrawal from the substance, when they don’t get their fix, meaning when they are not around the person they are addicted to, however they surely experience a deep, inexplicable pain, from a logical point of view, as well as a sense of emptiness. In other words, addiction is more fully expressed as the addicted person’s difficulty to delimit themselves and others.

According to the internationally recognised clinical consultant οn subjects of addiction and dependence, Pia Mellody, codependence derives from a dysfunctional upbringing during childhood. Thus, she argues that the parents possibly didn’t spend quality time with their children, they didn’t encourage them to explore life, they didn’t offer them unconditional love, security and acceptance, for that matter. She stresses that they weren’t guided correctly, in order for them to develop as strong, independent individuals, with at least the fundamental confidence in themselves. All of the above ultimately result in the dependent individuals not having formed a healthy and positive relationship with their parents.

People that are prone to codependence are, for the most part, individuals with low self-esteem and a weak inner core. But what exactly is this core? It is a strong sense of “living,” “being,” an awareness of one’s own needs and viewpoints. The people that are more often and closely in touch with their inner core are usually the ones that have a strong one, that doesn’t necessarily translate to an external, blatant power. They voice and assert their opinion, and in no way do they try to convince other people. They are in touch with their “wants,” they value them and aim for their fulfillment. They take their needs into consideration, and a person that considers their needs, respects their own self above all and, by extension, other people.

People with a weak inner core are dependent on others because they exceedingly value other people’s opinions. That is to say, they draw value from “outside.” This is where the root of the problem lies, since when they draw value exclusively from “outside,” they grow weaker on the inside. Especially when this becomes a recurring theme, in essence, a persistent sense of emptiness is formed and developed within them. Perhaps they unintentionally deem that this is the only way for them to show their love. This, however, is not the case, for better or for worse. They use other people’s energy to make up for their inner emptiness, and this harms whoever happens to cross their path.

So really, what should you do if you happen to be a dependent person and you want to put this codependence behind you? First of all, focus on yourself. You need to recognize your yesses and your nos, which of course should stem from within yourself and not from a need to be accepted by others. Sometimes a “no” is healthier and more necessary than a “yes.” Take risks, make your own decisions and don’t shy away from the consequences. Take accountability for them. They define you, after all. It is necessary to set your own personal boundaries, without feeling guilty about doing something that is, admittedly, normal. Finally, and most importantly, learn to respect your own “wants” first and the “wants” of others later; you come before everyone else!

To conclude, let’s make another thing clear. To an extent, we all feel the need to have other people’s validation, since we’re social beings. However when the need for other people’s opinion becomes so strong that we start to forget ourselves, this is when our own mental health is affected and seriously compromised. Therefore, let’s be mindful of ourselves…!

Photography by Evelina Papadopoulou

Alexandros Tarhanidis

Student of the department of Journalism and Mass Communications of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Hopeless coffee, painting, good time, humour, writing, and travelling enthusiast. About the last one, I promise that our trip in my writing has a destination to reach; that of truth. I wish a delightful dive inside the welter of my thoughts!

Nefeli Eklektou (she/her)

An indecisive perfectionist and translation enthusiast, with a passion for good literature and lindy hop dancing. You will catch her either journaling or songwriting on her piano, which she’s convinced understands her more than people. She’s also certain that it’s not her philosophical contemplations or underlying sarcasm that alienates her from said people.

Savvas Katsidonis (he/him)

Born and raised in the sunny island of Rhodes, he found himself striving to adapt to the new rules and vibes of a megacity, which he now loves. A book-enthusiast and ballad lover daydreaming about the past, the future, the history in general. Volunteering, learning new languages and taking photos of others but himself are just some instances of his life, when he does not sleep or watch series.

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