Detatching and setting boundaries
You may be asking yourself, "What does it mean to detach from others and set boundaries?" If you feel like you are doing all the work in relationships, are constantly anxious, and find yourself second-guessing everything you do, then there's a chance you may be experiencing a pattern of relating to others known as co-dependency.
What is Co-Dependency?
So what does it mean to be co-dependent? If you did a search online, you'll find a variety of definitions. It's been my experience that Google doesn’t provide for an accurate explanation, so I'm going to provide examples of what this type of behavior looks like in “real life” so that you can see if it applies to you.
I often hear my clients say to me that they experience anxiety when their plans change at the last minute. They may become angry or nervous but don’t feel like it's okay for them to express those feelings. When others notice something is off and ask them if they're okay, someone who is co-dependent may respond with, “I'm fine,” when really they're upset or angry with the situation.
Another common experience is feeling helpless when it comes to seeing our loved ones unhappy. It’s totally normal to be upset when someone else is in pain; however, it's another thing to feel as if their pain is your own. There's a pressure inside you to “fix it” or make this person feel better in order to ease the anxiety you feel. You aren’t just simply aware of someone else’s discomfort: It has become your responsibility to remove their discomfort. No one asked you to help in this way, but you know that if you can improve things it will make you feel better too so being involved feels like a no-brainer. You consider yourself a helper in this way, although it can often leave you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.
Co-dependency is a coping skill that actually doesn’t work, although we think it does. It helps us to sometimes feel in control, and it can even make us feel less anxious temporarily. There are consequences to this type of behavior, though. First and foremost, it can cause problems socially, which may lead you to be labeled as controlling or overly sensitive.
This type of pattern of behavior can vary from being extreme to mild and is different in each person. It can result in the following behaviors:
· Taking care of others/feeling responsible for other people
· Feeling anxious or guilty
· Taking things personally (absorbing people’s emotions like a sponge)
· Fearing rejection from others
· Having a hard time making decisions
· Feeling unable to quit talking, thinking and worry about others
(and their problems)
· Depending on positive experiences with other people to feel happy
· Not feeling at peace/content with yourself
I help people re-write their story by becoming aware of these patterns. Once the awareness is there, then we can work to replace the old with the new. I like to compare this to a software upgrade for your phone: Once it’s done, things seem to run a bit more smoothly. I do this using a variety of techniques that are tailored to each person.
My background in treating interpersonal trauma as well as addiction has allowed me to understand patterned behaviors. I use mindfulness-based practices, some Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, supplemental reading as needed, and EMDR (click here to learn more about EMDR).
By the end of your therapy, you will be able to manage your anxiety, be present in relationships, and not feel so responsible for others all of the time.