Codependency is a set of maladaptive, compulsive
behaviors learned by family members to survive in a family
experiencing (overt or covert) emotional pain and distress.
Instead of developing according to their inborn personalities
and potentials, these people grew up adapting as best they
could to the situations with which they were faced. Since
their development was shaped by a person or persons who were
troubled, needy, or dependent, they have come to be called
Codependents are generally considerate, helpful
caretakers. They appear to be wonderful, selfless people because
of their apparent concern for others. Inside they may feel
that they are being controlled by other people's needs, which
they feel compelled to meet. They feel resentful that after
all they do for others, rarely, if ever, does someone else
do for them.
People who suffer from codependency come not
only from addictive families but also from other types of
dysfunctional families. In a dysfunctional family, people
are not accepted for who they "really" are, and
communication lacks openness and honesty. Lacking the freedom
to openly express feelings, individuals develop an attitude
toward life that says, "It's not okay to feel, it's not
okay to express my opinion or my needs, it's not okay to think,
it's not okay to trust." In a dysfunctional family, the
primary goal is survival within the family. In an effort to
survive, the family member(s) assumes a false-self role and
fails to develop a strong sense of true-self. Without treatment
intervention, these individuals are doomed to keep playing
out these dysfunctional roles in all their relationships throughout
life. In addition, the characterological roles described below
usually become part of their own family-of-procreation system.
For the sake of continuity, the masculine
gender pronouns "he/him/his" are used below; however,
this is not in any way meant to denote that these roles are
exclusive to males. The roles described below are equally
prevalent between males and females).
Some Dysfunctional Roles:
who provides most
or all of the maintenance functions in the family. He often
feels tired, hurt, resentful, taken advantage of, neglected,
and empty. The family encourages the Do-er either directly
or indirectly. The Do-er's own unhealthy guilt and sense of
responsibility keeps him going.
encourages each family member's dysfunctional role. He complains
frequently about various family members and often feels the
same as the Do-er. Nevertheless, he tries hard to make everything
"okay" within the family and to smooth out ruffled
feathers. Preserving the family unit at any cost and avoiding
conflict is the ultimate goal.
who thinks he can
make the problems go away by being "perfect" and
providing self-esteem for the family. He carries the family
"banner" for all to see. Inside, he feels scared,
unfulfilled, sad, lonely, and empty. He makes the family proud,
but at a terrible price in terms of his own well-being.
who gets to
act out all the family's dysfunction and therefore takes the
blame and "the heat" for the family. The Scapegoat
rebels (overtly or covertly) against the family problems and
ultimately believes that he is the problem. He is the "black
sheep" or "the loser" of the family. The family
then gets to say, "If if weren't for little brother/big
sister, we'd be a healthy family." The cost to the Scapegoat
The "Lost Child,"
with the family dysfunction by means of escape. This is the
child who is out in the woods a lot, playing by himself, or
the adolescent who spends most of his time away from the family
home. It is a deep loneliness that pervades those who have
who tries desperately
to make everyone laugh. He gives the family a sense of playfulness,
of silliness and a distorted type of "joy." The
cost to the Mascot is that his true feelings of pain and isolation
never get expressed.