Codependency Therapy in London
Codependency therapy is for people who tend to become overly invested in social relationships, so much so that they sacrifice their own self care and needs to make the relationship work. If you’re overly obsessed with your partner, always doing your best to please them, or suffer from low self esteem, you may have codependency issues.
The codependent personality tends to develop during childhood, shaped by early relationships with parents. It can stem from childhood abuse, parents with mental health issues, or having a codependent parent whose behaviours you’ve inherited.
Codependence was first talked about in the 1970s, when it referred to the partners of alcoholics or people who who were dependent on chemicals. These days it is more of an umbrella term referring to people who easily lose their sense of identity in relationships, along with their needs, wants and sense of purpose.
Codependency is a learned behaviour, and can be effectively treated with codependency therapy. In Codependency counselling, you’ll explore your past family relationships to identify where the behaviour originates from. You’ll also learn to get in touch with feelings which may have been buried, so you can begin to establish a sense of independence.
It takes time to recover, but codependency therapy is the first step to claiming your power and forming healthy and rewarding relationships. If you’re in a co-dependent relationship and need help in breaking free from the destructive patterns of codependency, please get in touch to arrange an initial session.
16 Signs you may be codependent:
- You have a pervasive sense of low self-esteem and lack of self-worth, often seeking approval from others to the point of neglecting your own needs and wants.
- You find it extremely difficult to set and maintain healthy boundaries, often getting overly involved in other people’s lives and problems, even sacrificing your own well-being in the process.
- You feel an overwhelming responsibility for others’ feelings, thoughts, and actions, which sometimes leads to you taking on more work than is fair or necessary.
- You tend to suppress your emotions and have a hard time identifying and expressing your true feelings and reality, which can result in anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
- You might sometimes try to influence other peoples behaviours, a tactic that often backfire and make things worse.
- You harbor a deep fear of rejection and abandonment, making you more likely to tolerate abuse and stay in dysfunctional relationships just to keep them intact.
- You have a tendency to deny or ignore the gravity of problems in your life, sometimes stretching the truth to maintain a facade or to avoid the chance of being abandoned.
- You struggle with communication, finding it challenging to express your true feelings and opinions openly and honestly, without guilt or shame.
- You tend to be overly obsessed with your partner’s actions and whereabouts, wanting to know details that they may consider to infringe upon their personal boundaries.
- You sometimes feel guilty without a clear reason, especially when it comes to spending time or resources on yourself, resulting in a conflict with healthy self-care.
- You depend heavily on your relationships for a sense of self-esteem, constantly seeking validation externally, and forming bonds with individuals who may not be able to provide the love and support you need.
- You may experience problems in your sexual relationships, including dissatisfaction or engaging in sexual activities that you don’t desire.
- You might fell like a victim, feeling trapped in your circumstances and blaming yourself or others for the situations you find yourself in.
- You live with a pervasive sense of fear and mistrust, doubting your own judgments and decisions, and lacking confidence in your ability to make sound choices.
- You may keep finding yourself in chaotic and crises fuelled situations, even feeling a sense of emptiness or boredom in their absence
- You may come from a dysfunctional family background, but tend to deny or downplay the extent of the family issues.
- You’re surrounded by individuals who are troubled, needy or demonstrate unhealthy behaviour, such as narcissism.
What causes co-dependency?
If you’re a codependent person, you’ve probably inherited your characteristics from a family of origin – the patterns of codependence can be passed down for generations. If the family you grew up in was dysfunctional, you may have had narcissistic or emotionally immature parents, or there might have been chemical or alcohol abuse.
Growing up in an unstable environment can mean frequent conflict or chaos, fear around self expression and play, and a lack of loving support. As a young child, you’ll have absorbed the behaviours your parents exhibited around creating boundaries, practicing self care and emotional regulation.
“…less-than-nurturing or dysfunctional parenting techniques create abused children who adapt into codependent adults. The abuse may have been blatant and obvious or more subtle and hidden, but its effects on us are real and disruptive to our lives”Pia Mellody
The 4 pillars of codependency therapy
Codependency therapy has many aspects to it, including exploring your family of origin, identifying faulty thinking patterns, and challenging skewed perceptions. It can be categorised into four broad sections:
- Building healthy boundaries
- Discovering your self-worth
- Learning to take care of your own needs
- Learning to regulate your emotions
How to set boundaries in a codependent relationship
If you recognise the signs of codependency in yourself, It’s likely that you haven’t established firm boundaries between yourself and other people. The types of boundaries you have are normally established in childhood, where you learn from the example of your parents. They give you sense of your personal identity, and what’s acceptable or not acceptable for you.
Learning about boundaries can be a revelation for anybody in codependency therapy, opening up a whole new world of interacting with other people. If you have weak, or non existent boundaries, you’re probably attracted to people with similar behaviours. This can make it difficult to untangle yourself from complex relationships. There might be the need for your partner to also engage in some self reflection, which is not always easy.
You’ll learn that you’ve been taking too much responsibility for other peoples feelings or behaviours. For example your partner may regularly blame you for their dark moods, which is really their responsibility. Similarly, you’ll learn to own your own feelings without feeling the need to blame others, or try to make them change.
In codependency therapy, you’ll learn to discover who you are, independently of what others think of you. To be codependent involves burying your own feelings to prioritise other people. As you start getting a sense of your true self, you can start gradually experimenting with how your boundaries, and how you interact with other people.
It will feel unnatural at first, bringing up anxiety, and painful feelings. But over time you get used to expressing your feelings and needs without necessarily trying to influence the outcome.
Physical vs internal boundaries
Physical boundaries are about your body and other peoples bodies. How close are you comfortable with someone standing next to you? If they’re too close or touching you are you able to step away or ask them for some space? Or are you more concerned with preserving their feelings, or not causing a scene? It’s the same in the bedroom, where boundaries around physical touch and intimacy need to work for both partners.
Internal boundaries concern our thoughts and feelings. Are you overly concerned with what others may be thing about you? Do you subtly try to control other peoples thoughts or feelings, or do you find that you feel responsible for the way someone else feels? Good internal boundaries mean being responsible for your own internal world, and allowing others to be responsible for theirs.
What do healthy boundaries look like?
Healthy boundaries reflect the inner principles, feelings and needs of a person. If you’re a codependent, good boundaries can be developed by getting in touch with your authentic self. Your boundaries will become clear from this, and you can gradually implement them with the help of your codependency therapist.
A healthy boundary is not a set of rigid rules – this would be more of a defence, and can actually stop intimacy and vulnerability within relationships. Good boundaries come from knowing what you want and what you’re comfortable with. That way, boundaries can have a degree of flexibility for you to chose appropriately in the moment, according to your feelings.
Recovering from codependency by taking care of your needs
Everyone has a basic set of needs which they need to fulfil in order to stay alive. They’re the ones we all know about – having shelter, maintaining good health or ensuring there’s enough money for food. But further down the hierarchy of needs are having connection with other people – relationships, friendships and intimacy.
It’s in the meeting of emotional and intimate needs that its necessary to interact with other people. As young children these needs would ideally be met by our parents. And those parents would also teach us how to take care of those needs once we are adults.
But if you’ve been raised by emotionally immature parents, or as part of a dysfunctional family, you may have been taught that having needs of your own is unacceptable. This can cause us to disown our needs and wants, instead dedicating ourselves to the needs and wants of others.
An internal believe develops, that you’re not good enough to have your needs met. Any thought you might need something from someone else would bring up feelings of deep shame or guilt. So in order to avoid that unbearable feeling, you either become numb to all of your wants and desires, or if you’re aware of them, do your best to hide them.
Codependency therapy for meeting your needs
In codependency therapy, you learn to recognise your own needs, perhaps coming to realise that you’ve been neglecting yourself for a long time. The fear of abandonment can be so strong that self care is put on permanent hold. Once you see that your needs and wants are not only valid, but necessary for healthy relationships, you can experiment with asking for what you need.
You’ll also be able to reflect on what might be an appropriate way of meeting other peoples needs. This balanced relationship then moves from codependency to interdependency – a close and mutual connection between two individuals.
“The more we say the hard stuff, the easier it becomes. What’s difficult to say may be different for each person. It can include saying no, saying what we want, or saying what we know people don’t want to hear.”Melody Beattie
Discovering your self-worth after codependency
People with a healthy sense of self esteem and self worth, tend to remain reasonably stable despite what others are thinking of them. They have self compassion towards themselves, allowing themselves to make mistakes. This means not beating themselves up for straying from a diet, a failed relationship or not achieving a personal goal. They also deal with rejection well, whether around work, or romantic interests, they’ll feel the pain or anger, and ultimately bounce back.
As a codependent, you’ll have learned as children, that you have an inherently low self worth. It won’t be something you’re necessarily aware of, but it will underpin the way you feel and interact with other people.
In an attempt to bolster your sense of worth and value, you’ll look to the approval of others, presenting yourself in a way that you hope will attract people. There can be many ways to try and look good – having the right job, an attractive image, or hanging out with the right people.
The trouble with basing your self esteem on external factors, is that they will constantly change, leaving you feeling insecure and unable to feel settled. You might even have different personas which you’ve developed to meet the expectations of various friends.
Codependency therapy for self esteem
During codependency therapy, you can discover your true self worth by exploring the feelings and emotions behind the codependency – the fear of being abandoned, deep shame of having needs, and the anger around them not being met.
For some that means learning how to manage overwhelming emotions, and for others it means working through a ‘frozen’ state, where you can’t feel anything at all. As you develop a sensitivity to your real needs, you’ll find a more balanced, authentic version of yourself who knows what they want, and what they deserve.
Regulating your emotions as a codependent
When you’re overly focused on other peoples needs, it can be hard to find a place of emotional balance within yourself. Being codependent means coming from a reactive place, looking for stability from external sources rather than within.
Trying to predict and influence the thoughts of others will leave you in a state of agitation, constantly having to adjust to other people and their moods. This can play havoc with your emotions, which can become unpredictable, swinging rapidly through extremes. It can lead to trying to influence peoples behaviour, as you desperately attempt to keep control of your world.
For some there can be periods of being numb to their feelings. This is a defence from having to feel emotions which are potentially overwhelming. It’s linked to the ‘freeze’ response which is picked up in early childhood in response to trauma.
For the codependent, there’s a fine balance to explore when it come to empathy towards others. It’s healthy to be able to relate to someone else’s pain, but too much when you’re taking on the feelings of others to the extent that you feel responsible for them. If you’re hyper sensitive to other peoples feelings, just being near them can be confusing. You might feel overwhelmed by unexplained emotions, unable to tell if they belong to you or someone else.
Sometimes strong emotions from childhood trauma can be triggered, causing an ’emotional flashback’, where you can be overcome by fear, rage or sometimes simply freezing.
Codependency counselling for emotion regulation
In codependency counselling, you can learn to stay centred and grounded. Your focus shifts from other people in an external world, to yourself and your centre. It doesn’t make you self-centred, but rather helps you reclaim yourself, your body, your thoughts and needs.
By connecting to your body, you can begin to recognise sensations and feelings which point towards your authentic emotions. The body becomes a map, an emotional terrain which you can always come back to when you feel lost, overwhelmed or numb.
During counselling, you’ll have the chance to explore your childhood, and the way your family interacted with each other. We learn much of our adult behaviours during childhood, from observing and reacting to how our parents behave. If you were ignored, devalued, or shut down every time you tried to express yourself, you may have learned other ways to get attention, or even cut off from your feelings, so as not to be a burden.
Codependence therapy in London
If you can recognise the symptoms of codependency in your life, psychotherapy can help you get to the root of your problems. By connecting with a codependency therapist, you can start to unravel the thoughts and unhelpful behaviour patterns which are getting in the way of having healthy relationships.
Recovering from codependency can be a challenging process, and there can be considerable resistance as you question your long standing ways of relating to others. Strong emotions can come up which will need to be processed and sorted, but ultimately lose their power as you become more centred and grounded.
As you heal from childhood wounds, you’ll rediscover a natural sense of self-respect and healthy self-esteem. With firm but flexible boundaries you’ll learn the skills to form balanced relationships with the mutual support and honest communication required for a fulfilling life.
At my Central London location, I over a safe environment for treating codependency, with the option of face to face sessions or online counselling. I take a person-centred approach, meaning that I am non-judgemental, and see us as equals, collaborating on your healing journey together.