The small syllable “Co” means together. Co-dependents are partners and companions, allies, co-pilots and accomplices. In other words, in a co-dependent relationship of any kind, there are two people dancing the tango together.
Co-dependency refers to a psychological construct involving an unhealthy relationship that people might share with those closest to them. It was originally thought to involve families of substance abuse but has since grown to include other types of dysfunctional relationships. In this month’s newsletter I am talking to Anna Sandberg, Life Alignment Advanced Practitioner and Teacher from Sweden, about her own, very personal experience of co-dependency.
Anna, it was so nice to meet you in person on Jeff’s incredible Life Alignment Retreat in South Africa this February. Have I understood you correctly that addictions and related co-dependency lead you to Life Alignment?
Yes. It all happened when I met a new friend and she had something I wanted and was intrigued about. I couldn’t put it in words, but something along the lines of inner strength, centeredness, faith. She had been going to Jeff’s workshops in England for many years. At that time I was very ill in my co-dependency. My oldest son who was addicted and I was in despair. As a codependent person I had a deep, unhealthy desire to help, to solve and to fix. It means I take the responsibility for what the other person should do for themselves. I became the facilitator instead of the rescuer. I felt I was being guided to find something important for me, so I joined my friend for my first workshop with Jeff. It was one of the absolute greatest gifts I have experienced. Five months later my oldest son died of an overdose. Without Life Alignment I would never have survived that great loss. During my first workshop I transformed so many old things so that I could deal with life. And it helped me to realise I need to take care of myself and live my own life.
In your words, what can we understand under co-dependency?
The term codependency cannot be clearly defined in my opinion, as there are numerous different explanations to date. In the 1950s, the term first appeared in connection with addicts and “Alcoholics Anonymous” as well the successful 12 step programme for recovery. The term quickly gained popularity. Individuals labelled as co-dependents do show many similar behaviour traits and thoughts but I believe it is very important to look at the environment and personal circumstances of each individual and not try to label or define all addicts under the general term, co-dependency.
The way I would describe co-dependency is the condition where I lose and give away my own power.
I personally don’t think that co-dependency means that we need to have an addicted person around us. My experience is that many people suffer from codependency because of a lot of other reasons. We have been affected by someone else’s problem, like a depressed mother in our childhood, an absent father or other different traumas such as lack of safety or any sort of a dysfunctional childhood.
Do you have an example for this?
Absolutely. I’ll give you a very current example from my own life. My son is back in his alcoholism and my fears and support mechanism got triggered immediately. A typical pattern of feeling stuck in the situation. But worrying and obsessing about other people keeps us so tangled in our heads and we can’t solve any problem. We feel attached to something or someone and detach from ourselves and we lose the ability to think, feel, act and take care of ourselves in an authentic manner. We lose control and feel stuck, a feeling of powerlessness.
Another example is that codependent people often accuse the addict of being a bad and weak-willed person. They are fixated on the problems of the addict e.g. They think about the other constantly and try to find solutions in a controlling or blaming way. Their own interests are less important to them than to others, because they can’t express their own feelings.
What are typical symptoms of codependency and how can we recognize them in us or others?
Yes, looking at the emotional and behavioural symptoms of co-dependency gives us the real indicator if someone is co-dependent and those are very often unconscious.
You can ask yourself or someone else the following questions:
Do you constantly seek approval and affirmation?
Do you fail to recognize your accomplishments?
Do you fear criticism?
Do you overextend yourself?
Have you had problems with your own compulsive behaviour?
Are you uneasy when your life is going smoothly, continually anticipating problems? Do you feel more alive in the midst of a crisis?
Do you care for others easily, yet find it difficult to care for yourself?
Do you isolate yourself from other people?
Do you feel that individuals and society in general are taking advantage of you?
Do you confuse pity with love?
Do you attract and/or seek people who tend to be compulsive and/or abusive?
Do you cling to relationships because you are afraid of being alone?
Do you often mistrust your own feelings and the feelings expressed by others?
Very interesting, and why potentially do we or our clients become co-dependent?
I think the core issue and the root cause comes from a need that has not been satisfied, usually from early childhood. So we create and develop different survival strategies and coping mechanisms. We are the most loving, kind and generous people in the world but we don’t know how to love ourselves.
Due to e.g. low self-esteem, we became rescuers and caretakers. We rescue because we don’t feel good enough about ourselves. Although the feelings are transient and superficial, caretakers with co-dependent behaviours receive a temporary hit of good feelings, self-worth and power. We feel compelled to do a particular thing to prove how good we are. We start to take responsibility for others but we don’t know how to take care of ourselves.
In my case I even became a perfectionist because I never felt good enough about myself. I abandoned myself and thought God had abandoned me and didn’t allow myself to feel anything when I got stuck in shame.
You mentioned the 12 step programme earlier. How did Life Alignment support and complement the journey out of addiction and codependency?
Indeed, many addicts and codependent people have been helped by the 12 step programme. It saved my life and it has become a lifestyle. I learned a lot about myself and my behaviour and how to take responsibility for it. It supported me to develop my spirituality and connection to my Higher Self.
Life Alignment complements the programme by helping to uncover the blockages which lie between me and Source/ Higher Self so that I can reconnect to it, my own true power, my truth and self acceptance.
Life Alignment further complements the 12 Step Programme because the system takes everything to a cellular level which means that it reaches the root cause of the problem – in my case the co-dependency behaviour.
When I came to my first workshop with Jeff Levin I got really surprised over my own reaction and process. I thought I had healed and solved a lot of my own things already through the 12 step programme but I realised that the technique of Life Alignment took me on a significantly deeper level of self awareness, healing and transformation.
Please tell us more about that “deeper level” you are describing.
Life Alignment gives the opportunity to rewire old subconscious programs, which manifested in childhood.
I will describe it with my experience during the workshop mentioned with Jeff. We worked with the topics acceptance, surrendering, forgiveness, connection to my authentic Self and to the Source. In further Life Alignment Balances I received and now give and teach, aspects such as guidance, protection, boundaries, receiving love and self responsibility.
In this process I realised that this is like the 12-step programme but in an energetic form which took me to a much deeper transformation. This was a deep healing that included all aspects, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
During the workshop we found core patterns and emotions for the whole group. We were connected to the same energy field and our higher selves told us what we were ready to work with and release. I started my own transformation from the old patterns, the feeling of not feeling good enough, the need to prove myself, to push myself too hard, to feel like a failure, the shame, the lack of security and self love. The workshop allowed me to feel and thus heal my emotions. I felt home in my own body, I felt a connection to why I was here on earth. I felt my purpose for the first time in my life. I was totally present in myself, and at the same time I had the feeling of being interconnected with the bigger consciousness. The knowing that I always have a choice never left me since. My co-dependency doesn’t control me any longer in the same way it did prior to the workshop.