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Codependency healing: a story

The following is the story of one person's healing. You might recognize some aspects of this in your own life; others may not apply. No matter the particular flavour of trauma you are facing, I trust that you too are on a journey of healing from which a wholesome sense of Self can emerge.

Your parent has little emotional maturity. They cannot regulate their emotions and go through alternating phases of euphoria and depression. As a child, you cannot distinguish between their emotions and your own, and you assume the dysregulation in the environment is your fault; you learn to engage in co-dependent behaviour, whereby your sense of self-esteem (your ability to recognize your fundamental goodness) is tied to your ability to manage your parent’s emotions. You conclude, more or less explicitly, that something is fundamentally wrong with you, given that you can’t seem to maintain the peace.

As you grow up, you end up being a parentified child: your parent shares with you concerns and worries that are not appropriate for your age, and treats you as a confidant and a repository for their problems. In the process, you forget about your own needs; in fact, you may even forget you have needs.The only thing that matters is maintaining the peace. Who even are you?

As you begin to heal, you start to listen to your body’s signals when they tell you that you cannot abandon yourself once more. You simply cannot indulge in the same behaviours as before, the ones meant to placate your parent. If you do, you'll get sicker and sicker. It’s either you or the codependency.

And so, you refuse to walk on eggshells, to forsake your own needs, to become invisible and docile. You stand up for yourself, you speak up, you draw boundaries; you refuse to engage in the same dance. You decide to embrace your inner child rather than abandoning him; you’re the adult now, you can protect your inner child and you courageously do so.

Your parent does not understand; their control over you is threatened and they lack the soothing mechanism that they had in you. Their narcissistic worldview is shaken: my child is a separate person with separate needs? Impossible. If he really loved me he wouldn’t do this to me. He is selfish. Or maybe he’s been poisoned by his partner; somebody must have put him up to this. Sure, why not, go right ahead, think of yourself alone.

You stick to your plan and continue standing up for yourself. The more you do, the more clarity you have on your sense of Self: this is who I am, these are my needs and wants. Your sense of self-worth grows: I matter. My needs matter. Your sense of self-efficacy is boosted: I can do this. Your self-esteem is reconnected to the fundamental goodness that is at the core of who you are: I am good. Yes, I am good even when my parent disapproves of me. I am good even when my parent is disappointed in me.

One day, you realize that the world seems brighter: it’s like your eyes had been covered with fog this whole time, and you didn’t even notice. That fog is now lifted. It’s like you woke up from a bad dream, a painful illusion. You are healing from trauma: you can be proud of yourself. Keep going! What gifts will you, as your authentic and non-codependent Self, share with the world?

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