How to Stop Being Codependent

How does one stop being codependent, especially in situations involving family, loved ones or co-workers?  Stopping codependency is simple, but it also takes commitment and time.  It all comes down to this: the belief that in every moment, we are given a choice in our own behavior. 

There are the three very important steps a person can take to break codependency.  After you have read them, if you want to read more about what codependency is and what causes codependency, please visit the articles tab on my website:


Here are the three most important steps to take:

 Number one:


You must realize at every moment of the day you have two choices.  You can either:


1)  Do what is good for you.  This means being kind to yourself, being gentle, loving and thoughtful about yourself and what is right for you.  This behavior will naturally carry over into your relationship with others. 


2)  Do what is automatic.  In other words, you can do what you always do that doesn't work, and doesn't change anything.  Acting automatically means doing what is familiar, emotionally overcharged, addictive and/or “safe”. 


Focus on yourself –  and go for the good.  At first, you might have to put a concerted effort into figuring out what the difference is between the good and the automatic.  By being as patient as you can with yourself, this will become easier.  Rome wasn't built in a day.  But breaking codependency really isn't any more complex than this.


To help focus you on how you are changing, keep a journal.   Write down all the successes that you have when you do what is good vs. doing what is automatic. Even if your doing the good does not change an outcome, it strengthens your sense of self-worth. Keeping a journal about what you are doing right is an excellent tool ecause codependent people seldom if ever focus on themselves or give credit to themselves where credit is due.


To sum it up:  focus on what is good for you in the long run, and don't react automatically.


Number two:

For any of this to work, you must understand – You do NOT have a choice about how other people behave.  Really!  People are going to do what they do and there is nothing you can do about it at all - except choose what your own behavior will be.  You have a moment of choice always.  It may not feel like it, but you do.  No one can force you behave badly.

You have very little control you have over others, only yourself,  If you accept this reality you will start to get somewhere in the battle with codependency.  What other people do or do not do has nothing to do with you, it has to do with the patterns of their own minds.

Just like how it does not make you a bad person if someone you love acts badly, it does not make you a successful person if someone you care about achieves great fame or fortune.  Only your own actions and reactions count.  Only your own actions and reactions will train your mind to respect itself.

By doing what is good for you instead of doing what is automatic, you will learn to control your reactions and steadily increase your ability to make the right choices for yourself.  You will not only feel better, but people's behavior will change toward you as well.  At that time, everything will start to feel easier in your life.


Number three:

Seek out people who will help you grow inwardly.  They are always out there.  You may already know people that make you feel better, who are wise, or otherwise help you to feel like a better person on the inside.  Focus on these people and let people who are emotionally draining, negative or frustrating fall away. Believe me, they will find other people to complain to or lean on.


If you have been taking care of other adults and doing for others what they should be doing for themselves, you may feel guilty or wrong about pleasing yourself by focusing your time and energy on the people you like, not the people that “need” you.  Don't fall into this trap.  You can't help anyone by giving support and attention to their unattractive behavior.  If they need help, point them to professional help and then get out of their way.

Surround yourself with people who are able to give you what you need.  If you practice choosing what is good for you, you will run into more and more of these kinds of people.  However, don't be shy about reaching out to people you identify as helpful, be they therapists or counselors, clergy, community leaders, teachers and people you never felt you were together enough to approach. 


Remember - a person who can transform their life in a vacuum is very rare.  Codependency thrives in isolation, so reach out and find the support you need to change. 

If you follow these three steps carefully, it will make a tremendous difference in the quality of your life. 


Warm Regards,

Cheryl Deaner,
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

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