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The world can be a hard place to deal with under the best of circumstances. Many folks struggle with feeling good about themselves and look to others to tell them that they are okay as human beings. Some people have difficulty saying no to others, especially to those close to them such as a parent, a spouse, a child, or a coworker. Many individuals donít believe in their ability to make a decision and get terribly upset when they are yelled at or slighted by another person.

Break the cycle of codependency

"Give yourself a break." Most of us mortals look to others for approval, direction and value. I am going to give you three steps for you to take to begin to make decisions on what you think is right for you. These steps are a place to begin so that you can do something to help yourself now. Try them and let me know what happens and together we can come up with a personal strategy that works for you.

Meet two people, Mary and Richard.

Mary is 45 years old and has two children. Here is how she thinks about her life:

"Iím afraid to ask Tom (her husband) about our finances. Iím not sure how much we have. He gives me money whenever I ask for it, but I donít know if we have enough to get furniture. What happens if one of the cars breaks down? I would like to get a job but Tom wants me at home. Most women would trade places with me in a second."

Richard is 38 years old. He thinks to himself:

"I just canít seem to please my wife. I hate my job, but Gale would be very upset if I quit. Sure, Iím an architect and I could find something else, but security is so important to Gail."

Mary and Richard are steering their personal ships by their spousesí compasses.

The following are three steps that can be taken to begin to deal with codependency.

Letís go through these steps with Mary and Richard

Step 1. Rate yourself from 1 to 5 on the codependency scale.

Think about how codependent you see yourself. If you are hardly affected by your spouse or your parent, or your bossís opinion, rate yourself a 1. If you are constantly thinking about the other personís reactions and if your behavior is strongly influenced by your concern/fear about their reactions then rate yourself a 5.

Mary and Richard are both a "5" on the codependency scale. Both are more focused on their spouseís response than their own perspectives. Mary would like to have a number of things but is too afraid to bring up the subject with her husband for discussion. Richard is more concerned about his wifeís response than he is about his day-to-day reality at work. Someone else is overly influencing both people when Mary thinks to herself, "The kids need to buy some new clothes. They are bursting out of their old ones, but Jim will be so angry about that. Maybe Iíll just wait. Jim will be angry because I just spent money fixing the garage door." Richard thinks to himself, "I would really like to change my job, but I wonder how my wife will deal with it, so I guess I wonít tell her, or I wonít change my job".

Step 2. Spend some time thinking what you like about yourself.

When you find, discover, or create likeable things about yourself, being more self-reliant becomes easier. It helps to sit down and write out a list. As it occurs to you, keep adding to your list. The act of putting things down in black and white can make those accomplishments and personal qualities more prominent in your mind.

Finding reasons to like and believe in yourself is one of the most important things that you can do to deal with your inclination to be codependent. The more you like yourself the more likely you are to present important issues to your "meaningful other" (i.e. spouse, parent) in a clear, non-attacking manner.

Mary and Richard each have things that they can be proud of.

Mary is a verbal, intelligent woman. Being an effective full time mom is also an important and difficult job. She manages the home and all the day-to-day activities that are necessary for the family to function well.

Richard is a highly educated, sensitive man who is devoted to his family.

It is important for both of these people to focus on their strengths several times a day. Repeatedly thinking about what you are good at or proud of may seem like a lot of work, but consider how often we talk to ourselves in a negative way. A lack of positive reinforcement can cause people to have a loss of self-confidence and increases the chances of becoming dependent.

Step 3. Decide from whom and in what ways you would like to be less codependent.

Give yourself a rating of how codependent you are. A self-rating of 1 would be if you were not at all codependent and a self-rating of 5 would be if you were extremely codependent. Think about a task that would bring you a half step higher on the "self confidence scale". Pick a specific period of time and do the task that you have set for yourself.

Mary might begin by learning about her checkbook or asking her husband to explain to her his thinking about their finances. The idea is for her to study the issue of finances and not focus on what her husband will or will not let her do. Talking with her husband or learning about her finances on her own is a good first step

Richard might start with thinking about where he would like to work. He can focus his efforts on where he would like to work rather than constantly thinking about his wifeís responses. Developing his own plan will help him begin the process. Once he has figured out how he will look for a new position, he can deal with the issue of talking with his wife.

Dealing with codependency is not as easy as 1-2-3. It is hard to break old habits. The three steps that I have outlined will give you a starting point and some ideas of things you can do on your own. If you have questions, or would like us to work together, please give me a call.

Good luck.

Dr. Marty

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