The Masks We Wear- Codependency

This week we are talking about masks we wear to cover up our authentic selves. If you haven't already, feel free to back up and read the other blogs from this week including shame and addictions. They are very informational. This morning my son was dressing up for trick-or-treat day at his preschool. He wore his mask for awhile but started feeling uncomfortable. It made me think of our blog this week and how "uncomfortable" the masks we wear really are. We are so numb to putting them on everyday that we don't even notice that they are uncomfortable anymore, until we are freed from wearing them. We then see how much trouble they were in the 1st place!

Today I am going to talk about the mask of Codependency and how it can be a struggle.

What is Codependency?

Codependency is actually driven from shame and it can be compulsive. The person struggling with this will have so much shame that they compulsively do everything they can to please people and get them to like them. They have difficulty telling people "no" and setting/keeping boundaries. They are afraid of disappointing people, so they will do everything possible to keep someone from feeling upset or disappointed. This is a difficult mask to wear. Life is full of disappointments and we are human so we will make mistakes. The codependent feels a lot of shame when they let people down. So they do more things to try to make it up.

Codependents are usually insecure in their relationships, passive in conflict (in fact they avoid it), and are other- centered. Not other-centered in a healthy way- but to the point of not taking care of themselves. And it's driven to please, not necessarily by compassion.

How does Codependency affect our life?

One way it effects our lives is resentment. It's easy for the codependent to feel neglected and uncared for by others. When you are busy taking care of everyone else's needs and putting on a front that you are "great", people tend to think you are "great" and not do things for you. Because the codependent is driven out of pleasing people and not necessarily compassion, they want something back. And when they don't get their needs met (and typically don't let others know they are not met in order to avoid conflict), they feel angry and resentful.

The codependent often becomes addictive. They tend to get addicted to food or relationships. These are things that are not as "looked down upon" and noticed, so they can easily get addicted to these without disappointing anyone.

The codependent looses their sense of self and who they really are. Although it is good to think of others and help others, we need to take care of ourselves and our needs in the process. Codependents are so people pleasing that they often forget who they are and what they like. Many of them can't answer these questions about themselves because they have been looking outward and focusing on everyone else for so long, they have forgotten themselves. This usually ends up coming out in Depression.

What will help? Just like with shame, it's important to understand where your codependency comes from and what's driving the behaviors. Then it is imperative to find a balance between helping others and helping yourself; finding a voice and screaming in rage; avoiding conflict and picking a fight. Balance is the key word.

I know this has been lengthy. This is a nutshell of a rather large topic. Please see our blog on codependency for a more detailed description and ways you can get more help.

The mask of codependency is very uncomfortable. It can leave you feeling empty and unfulfilled. Tomorrow Joleen will finish up our blog on masks. Thank you for reading!

Written by Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC, LCAC

Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Natalie enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, and couples counseling.  We also specialize in family counseling, child, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield, and Zionsville