Codependency
By Linda M. Smith

What is codependency I am often asked. After years of being asked this question, I now simply reply, Codependency is Loss of Self.

In addition, I further add, anything that contributes to your loss of self is codependency.” It is as simple as that!
Many years ago at one of my first lectures on codependency, I heard a well-known speaker say, Codependency kills. I sat in the audience and thought, what is she talking about, of course it cant kill you, how can you die from codependency? However, over the last several years, I have come to believe that statement Codependency kills and, everyday I believe it more.

In addition, I further add, anything that contributes to your loss of self is codependency.” It is as simple as that!Many years ago at one of my first lectures on codependency, I heard a well-known speaker say, Codependency kills. I sat in the audience and thought, what is she talking about, of course it cant kill you, how can you die from codependency? However, over the last several years, I have come to believe that statement Codependency kills and, everyday I believe it more.Loss of self occurs when I need your approval and lose the opportunity to think my thoughts and to feel my feelings. I start to live the external life instead of the internal life. I become outer-directed and not inner-directed and over time the space inside becomes less and less. I feel less than and my self-esteem is diminished. I look to you to define me, to direct me, to approve of me, to fix me and, lose more and more of me until I feel empty. What develops is the false self and that is codependency. When I focus on getting your approval, I lose approval of self, which is the power that self-esteem gives me. In losing my power, I lose me. I lose my voice. I lose me.

In addition, I further add, anything that contributes to your loss of self is codependency.” It is as simple as that!Many years ago at one of my first lectures on codependency, I heard a well-known speaker say, Codependency kills. I sat in the audience and thought, what is she talking about, of course it cant kill you, how can you die from codependency? However, over the last several years, I have come to believe that statement Codependency kills and, everyday I believe it more.Loss of self occurs when I need your approval and lose the opportunity to think my thoughts and to feel my feelings. I start to live the external life instead of the internal life. I become outer-directed and not inner-directed and over time the space inside becomes less and less. I feel less than and my self-esteem is diminished. I look to you to define me, to direct me, to approve of me, to fix me and, lose more and more of me until I feel empty. What develops is the false self and that is codependency. When I focus on getting your approval, I lose approval of self, which is the power that self-esteem gives me. In losing my power, I lose me. I lose my voice. I lose me.Loss of self occurs when I am focused on fixing, helping, understanding, caretaking you and not on caring about me. For me to not lose self I need to care about you not for you. My job is to care about me. I need to feel with you not for you. You are responsible for feeling your own feelings not me. I need to be responsible to you as my parent, spouse, child, or friend, not be responsible for you. I am responsible for me and to you and, you are responsible for you and to me. If we can do this in relationship than both of us have the opportunity to mature and to develop a sense of self.

Loss of self occurs when I say no when I mean, yes and when I say, yes when I mean no. Of course, this sounds confusing and the codependent often does feel confused, indecisive, and rattled. One can understand why! It is a lifetime of guessing what somebody else needs and wants and over time, the codependent forgets who he or she is. The sense of self is not developed. The individual does learn what he or she needs, wants, feels and the struggle of discovery is absent. Gradually, initially however, bit by bit, little by little, year by year, the erosion occurs. It is not even the erosion; instead, it is the not building of self, so a double loss is occurring. You miss the journey. Giving out and not putting in is a bad investment whether it is about finances or relationships.

Loss of self is learned helplessness. Reinforced codependent behaviors do not serve me well, nor do they serve others well. Codependent relationship dynamics create and foster dependency for both individuals. It is a no-win dynamic. It is not about individual or relationship building. I cannot give up me and think there can be a we. An I is needed for a We to exist.

Loss of self creates a victim mentality. A victim who cannot see how he or she has built his or her own prison. Denial, anger, shame, guilt, passivity, fear, and sadness and oftentimes depression, are the bars of this prison. The wounded child and critical parent are present and the adult ego state has yet to be built.
Loss of self affects the family members and friends of the codependent. Oftentimes, the codependent moves from one crisis to the next and others suffer. Denial is a core symptom for the loss of self. Codependent thinking is if I do not see it, acknowledge it, believe it, then it does not exist.

Are you codependent?

  1. Do you have loss of self?
  2. Do I care for you instead of about you?
  3. Do I own responsibility for you and not to you?
  4. Do I need your approval and do not know my own mind?
  5. Do I think for you and do not know my own thoughts?
  6. Do I have appropriate emotional boundaries with you?
  7. Do I practice emotional detachment with you?
  8. Do I feel and act like a victim in relationships?
  9. Do I have low self-esteem?
  10. Do I repress feelings and have a wall of denial around me and in my relationships?

Codependency is real. It exists within self and within relationships. Loss of self occurs as we have just described and it is destructive to self and to others. A closing thought is when there is not enough of me for me, surely there cannot be enough of me to share with you. Codependency kills. Codependency is loss of self. If after reading this article, you see yourself as codependent then reach out for help.
Linda M. Smith, PhD, LMFT