Codependency is not only about over reliance on another person. It is also a sign of an underlying mental and emotional issue that can cause extreme discomfort and the loss of inner confidence. Thus, it is particularly important to address as it is a threat to your overall health and well-being. Fortunately, researchers have determined that a high level of emotional intelligence, which boosts self-esteem and self-reliance, can be very effective in overcoming the problem. In my practice as an emotional intelligence coach, I have found that you absolutely can increase your level of this most beneficial form of intelligence.
The codependent situation usually arises when one person finds themselves in what might be described as a giver role. In that role, they can develop emotional issues, such as an inability to accept help or a tendency to give so much in relationships that they feel dissatisfied with what they receive in return. As well as losing track of their needs, someone used to a giver role may seek relationships that are likely to hurt them. While these patterns may be attempts to reduce anxiety, they are ultimately harmful.
The other partner in a codependent relationship is typically unavailable, distant, inconsistent or entirely emotionally absent. Many seem content to assume a passive role and be cared for in a way that is far more intensive than is usual in a relationship. Such a dynamic between the caregiver and the recipient can become a long-term norm that can go on for years. This occurs in professional relationships as well as romantic ones. But, just because it becomes the norm doesn’t mean it is any less stifling or restrictive. It’s just that the two people may not recognize it.
Having said this, it’s completely normal to want to comfort those we care about, particularly in stressful situations. Problems arise when the caring evolves from benign and comforting to not-so-benign and codependent.
While codependency is often learned and developed in childhood, this is not exclusively the case. People who have had a stable and secure upbringing are more likely to navigate problematic relationships successfully as adults, but even they can develop codependent relationships.
Signs Of Codependency
An example of a codependent employee, often labeled as one who is “not a team player,” would be a new report transferring in from a different division with great hard skills but a deficit of soft skills. This person has difficulty making decisions and often fails to communicate with his manager concerning problems and challenges. He asks other colleagues about their opinions and is afraid of making mistakes. He is largely silent during meetings and often fails to adequately respond to emails. He projects poor self-confidence and low self-efficacy. As a result, his manager spends a lot of time “holding his hand” in order to encourage the work product the person is cable of.
The signs of a codependent person may include:
• Difficulty making decisions in a relationship.
• Difficulty identifying feelings and emotions.
• Difficulty communicating within a relationship.
• Valuing the approval of others more than one’s own approval.
• Lacking inner confidence; poor self-esteem.
For those experiencing codependency, the pattern of finding self-validation in others can lead to:
• Disproportionate fear of being alone.
• Abusive relationships.
• An inability to express oneself freely.
Achieving Self-Reliance Through Emotional Intelligence
Imagine abandoning codependency and trusting your ability to handle whatever comes your way, knowing that you can ask for help, but not automatically doing so. Feelings of insecurity under pressure are in the past. Self-reliant people have learned to make decisions and own them. Thus, they can direct their own lives. The approval of others is not critical to their sense of self-worth. None of this is possible in a codependent relationship.
In his essay on self-reliance from Self-Reliance and Other Essays, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” With regard to overcoming codependency, no truer words were ever spoken. By increasing your emotional intelligence, you can become truly independent and self-reliant.
Steps Toward Inner Confidence And Self-Reliance
If you have been conditioned over months or years to accept a role in a codependent relationship, it’s not a situation you can undo overnight. It will take time. However, the sooner you start, the sooner you will get it done. Today is not too soon.
The first step in breaking patterns of codependency is to understand and value your own needs. Here’s a checklist of things you can do to get started. You need to make a daily commitment to:
• Replace your limiting beliefs with empowering beliefs in order to redirect your behavioral patterns and improve your internal confidence.
• Recognize your self-worth by naming and focusing on your good traits.
• Notice and put a stop to any negative internal self-talk and self-deprecating thoughts.
• Accept help despite any accompanying feelings of vulnerability it might bring.
• Overcome fear of rejection by remembering your ability to cope.
These five commitments are supported by increasing your emotional intelligence. The challenging first step in that process is to develop an acute instant awareness of when a particular emotion arises in you. At that moment you must separate yourself from that hijacking emotion and become an observer of it, one who gets off that emotional roller coaster and becomes its driver. Put yourself in control.
All of this is supported and enhanced by increased levels of emotional intelligence. It is a high level of emotional intelligence that helps you to fulfill your potential and allows you to be motivated by your own values, needs and feelings. This makes it critical to move away from codependency and toward self-reliance. It is heightened emotional intelligence that will allow you to notice your feelings, label your raw emotions, recognize problems and commit to viable long-term solutions. With greater emotional intelligence, you will develop a deeper awareness that will allow you to replace your unhealthy patterns and habits with self-reliance and independence.
This article was originally published in Forbes.
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