Codependent No More by Melody Beattie is a groundbreaking book to help people out of the codependency loop.
In the process, it’s also a good explanation (but not excellent) of the dependency/codependency phenomenon.
- Codependency is an addiction
- Codependent people lack self esteem and they caretake out of a need for control and security
- Excessive codependent almost never helps dependent people and make everyone worse off
- Healing from codependence start with awareness and with taking care of oneself.
The author says Codependent No More is not a cookbook for mental health because each person is unique.
Codependent Are Also Addicted
Codependents aren’t as crazy and sick as alcoholics, but they hurt just as much.
And they might be just as addicted as their troubled, substance addicted partners.
The author is not sure whether codependency can be labeled a disease, but it can make you sick. Over-involvement indeed can lead to anxiety and if you forget about taking care of yourself, you can get dragged down into the dependent’s abyss.
Also, it’s not helpful to help anybody: the codependent might actually contribute to the dependent partner staying sick.
This is Melody Beatty definition of codependent:
Someone who has let someone else’s behavior affect them and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior
The heart of not definition is not in the other person though. It’s in ourselves, as codependent, who allow that to happen.
Curing codependency means fixing ourselves, not the dependent partner.
Codependents Don’t Act, But React
Codependent people don’t really act, but they are always reacting on others’ behavior, troubles and misdeeds.
The author says that learning how to non react, or to act less and/or in smarter ways, is one of the keys to fixing codependency.
Codependent’s Need for Control
The author says that codependents become obsessesed with helping and pandering to their dependent partner as a way of controlling their environment.
They have often been hurt in the past, and caretaking becomes a way of achieving some type of stability and security in their lives.
What they don’t realize though is that their controlling and caretaking behavior is actually controlling them.
But they don’t realize it because they don’t have a good the emotional intelligence to understand their own feelings, thoughts and drives.
Codependents tend to come from troubled families but they deny it.
They tend to have low self esteem and blame themselves for everything.
They set their feelings aside, fail to listen to them and repress themselves (including anger).
Codependent people tend to be push over like too nice guys, and they to resort to passive aggressiveness.
- Deny their problem
- Pretend it will get better
- Binge-spend, over-eat
- Have temper outburst (and are ashamed for their anger)
- Seek love from people incapable of loving them (avoidants and emotionally unavailable partners)
- Wonder if they will ever find love
- Have sex when they don’t want to
- Can get sexually repulsed by their partner
- Fantasize of extramarital affairs
- Sacrifice themselves (for things that don’t require sacrificing sometimes)
You Must Detach
I thought it was particularly deep when the author says:
The codependent feels responsible so much because the people around them are responsible for so little. They are just picking up the slack
However, if you have been codependent for a while, it’s safe to assume that you can’t help the dependent.
And you’re not helping him/her by caretaking. And you’re certainly not helping yourself.
Best of all, is to detach.
Stop feeling like you have to intervene.
Stop feeling embarrassed or guilty for someone else’s behavior
God hasn’t abandoned you. We abandon ourselves. He is there, waiting for you to cooperate by taking care of yourself.
Let’s quickly review the steps to healing:
How to Heal
- Awareness: understand you are a codependent and you have an issue
- Accept you have an issue
- Accept yourself and accept your feelings
- Understand you cannot cure or change the dependent
- Detach yourself
- Learn you can listen with empathy without taking on the problems
- Deal with your feelings
- Rebuild your self esteem (even a part time job helps)
- Attend alcohol anonymous
- Make yourself a priority and take care of yourself
To me, this sentence is the very best one sentence summary of the whole book (and the whole codependency issue):
Real Life Applications
Lacking in Psychology
Codependent No More is a bit lacking in good, deep psychology.
The author for example says the codependent has been sometimes hurt in the past, but I didn’t find a good explanation on how that has affected them.
Or she says that the codependent learned that it’s wrong to state their needs. An alcoholic parent or spouse was happy to teach those rules. However, people don’t internalize by listening to other people’s rules usually.
That’s why I found those psychological analysis a bit lacking.
Check Will I Ever Be Good Enough for a book that explains very well -and deeply- how someone can end up in a codependent relationship.
Fuzzy Description of Codependent
I found the description of the codependent to be way too generic to be helpful.
It’s basically everything and the opposite of everything.
We didn’t need such a long list of traits if there are no clear-cut attitudes that closely describe a codependent. It only makes the book less clear.
Lots of Off-Topics
I felt a few sections went too far and too long off topics. The goal setting chapter for example, explaining goals through The Magic of Thinking Big.
Or whole chapters on anger. Not that it’s an issue talking a lot about anger, but is it really a defining trait of codependents? I wasn’t convinced..
Before Melodie Beattie and Codependent No More there was no widespread understanding of the codependent phenomenon. That’s a huge testament to her work.
Warm, Down to Earth Tone
The author could well blow her horn to have almost single-handendely codified a new dysfunctional relationship dance.
Instead, she’s warm, vulnerable and down to earth.
Codependent No More is a groundbreaking book.
I personally didn’t find it deep enough to warrant a five star, but it’s a huge milestone in the history of psychology.
And it’s also a fantastic guide for people who are struggling with codependence.