If the term codependency sits among the self help genre continually baiting us to believe we all have some form of it, perhaps there are at least a few takeaways we can put to use.
First off, consider re-labeling it attachment anxiety. That is actually more accurate, as it is a form of anxiety. A different label means that in ‘codependency treatment’ you can examine the miscues and triggers, and consider altering the harmful ones, instead of the all-or-nothing approach often dictated. As I explained in my last post, the term originated in the world of addictions. Maybe we can leave it there where its prescribed course of treatment may be more helpful.
Outside of the realm of addiction, the term can more accurately refer to those who have relationship problems, difficulty putting themselves first (assertiveness issues) and poor communication skills. All of these difficulties are areas that can be taught, modeled and experimented with in day-to-day life as individuals learn, and then practice, new ways to be in their relationships.
Second, let’s avoid making people with these types of dysfunctional attachment issues into victims. The events in our past do not have to be interpreted as unconsciously festering and causing problems in the here and now. Research demonstrates that the meaning people attach to past events will determine future functioning, not the events themselves. And reactivating past trauma on a regular basis can easily perpetuate negative moods and feelings.
Third, couples and families should consider acceptance as a perhaps the greatest change they can make. Gottman’s research indicates that in relationships that run well, 69% of issues are what he terms “workarounds”, issues that each partner has come to know as givens, and they have figured out via positive (vs reactive) responses how to manage them. So you might imagine how that would play out in those that do not practice acceptance.
Relationships are messy. They take care and nurturing to maintain. Intimacy is often difficult because it requires you to be vulnerable. And you should not have a feeling of continual confusion that sends you running to Google to find out what you are doing wrong. And neither do you have to accept the narrow path of treatment that the “gurus” often prescribe.