The Paradox of Codependency

Earlier today, I read an article entitled Overcoming Codependency:Breaking the Cycle of Unhealthy Relationships. In it, the author identifies her own codependency and outlines the defining traits for others. They are as follows:

  • Do you feel responsible for other people—their feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, wants, needs, well-being, and destiny?
  • Do you feel compelled to help people solve their problems or by trying to take care of their feelings?
  • Do you find it easier to feel and express anger about injustices done to others than about injustices done to you?
  • Do you feel safest and most comfortable when you are giving to others?
  • Do you feel insecure and guilty when someone gives to you?
  • Do you feel empty, bored, and worthless if you don’t have someone else to take care of, a problem to solve, or a crisis to deal with?
  • Are you often unable to stop talking, thinking, and worrying about other people and their problems?
  • Do you lose interest in your own life when you are in love?
  • Do you stay in relationships that don’t work and tolerate abuse in order to keep people loving you?
  • Do you leave bad relationships only to form new ones that don’t work, either?

This might as well be a checklist for the socialization of all women. We are bred to embody these behaviors and attitudes. It should come as no surprise then that many women immediately accept the codependency label and some even start attending 12-step meetings to address their “disease.” I urge anyone considering this to think again.

Codependency is just one of the myriad pathologies applied disproportionately to women in our society. Like hysteria before it, codependency has as its defining characteristics, traits socialized into women from birth. Indeed, what everyday misogynist wouldn’t want a partner who lives to cater to his every whim, who’s defined solely by her ability to make him happy? This is exactly what we teach young girls and women and what do we do when they become unhappy as a result? We tell them there’s something wrong with them. This, my friends, is utter nonsense.

Unfortunately, the same socialization that leads to “codependency” diagnoses also makes us much more likely to accept such a label. As I mentioned in my previous post, doctors are also more likely to pathologize women and prescribe them medication. Well, let me tell you something, and you may not like this: there’s nothing wrong with you.

You’ve been socialized to be this way in order to keep you a second-class citizen. Accepting pathologizing labels will not liberate you, rejection of these labels and the system that spawned them will. You might be less popular with the fellas so by all means, if that’s important to you, go to a 12-step meeting and admit you’re powerless over your “disease.” If, however, you’re ready to free yourself from the shackles of the patriarchy, you can tell the other CoDA members to shove it. Anybody who tries to convince you that there’s something wrong with you for behaving exactly as you were taught can shove it too. They’re profiting from your acceptance of pathology and they are not your friend.




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