Looking for something new to read?
If you have been toying with the idea of picking up a new self-help book, then this blog is for you! Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie offers a wealth of information in an easy to digest and non-clinical format. This blog will be a review of the content, so you’ll be better able to make the decision about if this is the next book for your collection. Being a therapist (and human) myself, I reference this book often and look to it for ideas for sessions as well as in my personal life. So, this review may be slightly biased, but it will give you a good general overview of the contents of this book and so you’ll be better informed about whether you want to take the plunge with it. (I think it is worth it 😊)
Isn’t Codependency a Dirty Word?
Beattie gives a history of the word codependent and how it has its roots in the addiction field. However, she details how you do not need to be an addict or have an addict in your family to be familiar with or suffer from codependency. The dance of codependence can start due to emotionally immature parents, trauma, and a lot of other things. And codependency is suffering. Trying to control other people and being swept up in other their chaos and emotions are hallmarks of codependency—which is taking responsibility for other people’s “stuff.” Beattie makes it personal by giving a lot of specific examples of what codependency can look and feel like—complete with a checklist of sorts to see if anything sounds familiar to you.
Here are some broad categories to look out for with a specific example of each:
- Try to please others instead of yourself
- Low Self-Worth
- Fear rejection
- Afraid to be yourself
- Check on people
- Feel controlled by others and try to control events and people through manipulation, guilt, helplessness, etc
- Ignore problems, or distract from them by drinking or overeating
- Desperately seek love or approval
- Poor Communication
- Do not say what you mean or mean what you say
- Weak Boundaries
- Allow people to hurt you
- Lack of Trust
- Do not trust other people
- Feel ashamed of being angry
- Sex Problems
- Become martyrs
- Develop chronic fatigue, depression, or anger
Not only does this text provide helpful bulleted lists, but there are exercises and activities for further reflection at the end of every section. This is not just a book that you consume and move on from. Like anything else, you get out of it what you put into it, and there are a lot of opportunities to really interact with the material instead of just being a passive consumer. Such engagement can help to increase your self-insight, further solidify the path you want to take, and help you along with your progress to get there. Say, for example, you really feel like you need to work on anger. Oftentimes people who are codependent claim that they never get angry themselves, only expressing anger on someone else’s behalf. Believe me… there is some anger rattling around in there inside you somewhere. If your goal is to get more in touch with your anger and work on it, the text offers some activity suggestions at the end of the anger section.
Here are a couple of Beattie’s ideas for further reflection on anger that are offered:
- What do you think would happen if you started feeling your angry feelings?
- What do you believe deep inside about anger? What myths about anger have you subscribed to? If you need to subscribe to new beliefs about anger, do so. Attack the myths whenever they try to attack you.
I would add on to this another specific reflection about anger myths—’that someone being angry at you or that you being angry with someone else is catastrophic’. Oftentimes as codependents we believe that we do not have the right to be angry with other people, the world, or God, because we are so wrapped up in what everyone else is thinking and doing.
Challenge yourself to give weight and attention to your own experience of anger and channel that energy into something productive and meeting your goals. Your anger is just as valid as everyone else’s. And if you are codependent, you likely hold a lot of anger, even if you are not aware of it.
You Know What’s Sexy? Having Boundaries
Though it may seem impossible, you can begin to make choices that work toward living a life you want to live. This includes some peace for yourself. One helpful quote from the text includes the following:
“We don’t have to stay in relationships that cause us pain and misery.”
Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking we have no choices and no options. Reading this book can illuminate some of the choices you do have, no matter how small, and if you take them… other bigger choices can open up for your over time. For instance, if the goal of having a loving emotionally fulfilling relationship seems out of reach for you in the present, you may have to make some slight changes before that large goal can be realized. For example, you may have to start distancing yourself from people who lead you to feel unworthy. Stop allowing people to treat you badly. This creates space for caring people to enter your life.
C’mon Are There Any Downsides to This Book?
In my opinion? (Natalie’s) No. The only downside to this book is that it does not come with a therapist to help you work through some of these pieces (I kid). However, Angelus has you covered. If you start working your way through the consent of this book and you find that it is starting to overwhelm your senses and you want someone safe to talk to about it, reach out. Whether you schedule with one of our therapists, a therapist you are already familiar with or a healthy and supportive friend it can REALLY help to bounce your thoughts, feelings, and reflections off on another person as you are doing this level of self-assessment. This book could be a great start to get you on the path to recovery from codependency. Make an appointment today to get started.
NEVER STOP LEARNING
- Find an Al-Anon Meeting near you: Click Here
- Take a Codependency Quiz: Click Here
- Find a chapter of Co-dependence Anonymous: Click Here
- CODEPENDENT NO MORE by Melody Beattie
- BOUNDARIES: WHEN TO SAY YES, HOW TO SAY NO TO TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
- CONQUERING SHAME AND CODEPENDENCY by Darlene Lancer, MFT
- THE ACOA TRAUMA SYNDROME by Dr. Tian Dayton, PhD
- CODEPENDENCY 101: BASICS OF ADDICTION, GRIEF AND RECOVERY by Jennifer S. Walker
Blog Credit: Natalie Drozda, LPC, PhD