Advertising
Advertising

It’s About Give and Take: How Codependency Hurts Us Like Other Addictions Do

It’s About Give and Take: How Codependency Hurts Us Like Other Addictions Do

Does any of these situations sound familiar to you?

Your boyfriend smokes cigarettes, so you want to help him quit. You know he couldn’t possibly do it without you. You’re the only person who understands him enough to help him become a better person. You let him know all the time that you can help fix him, that without you, he’d fail.

Your girlfriend hasn’t called you yet to let you know she made it to work okay. Maybe she’s not really going to work, you think. You two did get in an argument last night. You start thinking that maybe she’s leaving you, abandoning you without warning. You’ve always been worried that might happen, in fact you tell her all the time .

If so, you might be experiencing codependency.

Codependency is also called “relationship addiction”.

Codependency is called “relationship addiction” because in these relationships often display physical, psychological, and emotional reliance on their partners.

Advertising

A person with codependency issues will often try to sacrifice their own needs and desires to meet the needs of their partner. Codependency is rooted in feeling of low self-worth shame and insecurity. It was first identified after experts noticed codependent behaviors in families dealing with drug abuse and alcoholism.[1]

Other experts believe that codependency begins during childhood, when a child is constantly required to look after the needs of others first. Children who grew up with alcoholic, drug-addicted, abusive, or emotionally negligent parents are likely to experience codependency in their future, adult relationships.[2] Children who grow up in these situations learn to believe that they are not important and sometimes, that they are the cause of their family’s problems.[3]

For people who are not relationship experts, codependency may look like an intense amount of love. That love, however, comes from a place of fear. This fear may be a fear of criticism, fear of being abandoned, fear of losing control, fear of disappointing others, or fear of making somebody else suffer.

Codependency could be seriously affecting our adult relationships.

These codependent adult relationships become unfair, unhealthy, emotionally damaging, and sometimes abusive – mirroring the person’s childhood.[4]

This is why codependency should matter to you. Because if you want to have a healthy adult relationship, you have to understand what codependency is and how it could be affecting you. If you can identify your codependency, you can work toward making it better. You deserve that and so does your partner.

Advertising

The biggest clue to identify codependency is an unsatisfactory relationship.

One of the biggest clues that you might be experiencing codependency is that you can’t find satisfaction in your life without your partner. Rather than being an independent individual in the relationship, you have come to rely on the other person for your personal happiness and identity.

According to Scott Wetzler, PhD and Chief of the Psychology Division at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine,[5]

“Codependent relationships signify a degree of unhealthy clinginess…. One or both parties depend on their loved ones for fulfillment.”

People with codependency may have low self-esteem and feel that they aren’t good enough for other people. They may constantly seek approval through people-pleasing activities. It is difficult for them to say “no”.

Additionally, codependent individuals have blurry boundaries with others and may feel responsible for somebody else’s problems.[6]

Advertising

Some other signs of codependency may include:[7]

  • Being sensitive to criticism
  • Needing to control others
  • Taking care of somebody who abuses drugs or alcohol
  • Denying personal problems
  • Feeling helplessness inside

So you’ve looked over the signs and symptoms of codependency and you’re starting to feel like maybe it describes you. Now what?

First of all, don’t worry. This is not the end of the world. In fact, it is the beginning of a journey of learning and self-development.

There are steps you can take to fight codependency in your current or future relationships.

To have healthy love in your life, try the following tips[8]:

  • Imagine yourself in a healthy, loving relationship where all of your needs are met. What does that look like?
  • Start to question why you doubt your self-worth. The only person you need to prove your self-worth to is …. you!
  • Practice being kind to yourself instead of focusing on being kind to others.
  • Don’t forget that it’s not just okay to accept help from other people, it’s healthy. Knowing and admitting that you need help are signs of strength, not weakness.
  • Don’t worry so much about rejection. The constant fear of being rejected will ultimately stop you from taking the risks that will lead you to a long, healthy, and happy relationship.

Last but not least, recognize the recovery process.

Above all else, do not deny that you have issues with codependency. Recognize it and admit it. The first step to recovery is honesty with yourself. You have spent a lifetime trying to deny your codependency. Now is the time to face it head on. Look to other people who can understand what you’re feeling for help. Support groups are essential in the healing process.[9]

Advertising

Look back at your past and try to identify anything from your childhood that may have caused you to develop codependency as an adult. You are not being unloyal to your family by admitting that you have unresolved issues from your childhood. Sometimes this challenge is best approached in professional therapy sessions.[10]

The final step in overcoming your codependency is to let go of unhealthy relationships. If you are too involved in another person or relationship, you will not be able to focus on your healing process. This allows you to free up energy for yourself and break the toxic cycle of codependency.[11]

Remember that as you navigate the difficult process of identifying, coming to terms with, and overcoming your codependency – you are not alone and you are worth it.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] GoodTherapy: Codependency
[2] WhatIsCodepency: Symptoms of Codependency
[3] PsychCentral: What Causes Codependency?
[4] MentalHealthAmerica: Co-Dependency
[5] WebMD: Are You In A Codependent Relationship?
[6] PsychCentral: Symptoms of Codependency
[7] GoodTherapy: Codependency
[8] HuffingtonPost: Overcoming Codependency: Reclaiming Yourself in Relationships
[9] LifeCounsel: Overcoming Codependency
[10] LifeCounsel: Overcoming Codependency
[11] LifeCounsel: Overcoming Codependency

More by this author

Amber Pariona

EFL Teacher, Lifehack Writer, English/Spanish Translator, MPA

What Makes a Relationship Boring and How to Avoid It How to Know If You’re Really in Love or Not (Yes It Can Be Confusing) Why You and Your Partner Don’t Need to Speak the Same Love Language to Stay Together Why Worrying About Losing a Friend Is Unnecessary No.1 Relationship Killer: Your Good Intention to Advise Your Partner When They’re Upset

Trending in Communication

1 5 Real Relationship Goals You Should Actually Strive Toward 2 When You Learn A Second Language, These 7 Amazing Things Will Happen To You 3 15 Things To Stop Doing If You Want To Be Truly Happy 4 7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language 5 How to Apologize When You Have Made a Mistake

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

Advertising

1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

Advertising

3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

Advertising

It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

Advertising

Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next