Every Wednesday morning, I attend therapy. Not the physical kind, where one goes to rehabilitate some injury afflicted by blunt trauma. Rather, I sit in a cushy sofa chair that’s positioned six or so feet away from Roy, my psychotherapist, and I voice not only what I’ve been thinking—the primary focus of cognitive behavioral therapy—since the past week, but most importantly, how I’m feeling.
Oh yes, the feelings.
After listening to countless stories, week after week, Roy discovered a recurring pattern, a behavior of mine that tends to bleed through my day to day life: taking on the role of a caretaker. From speaking up to my co worker when they are unable to speak for themselves, to feeling embarrassed for someone when they feel awkward. And for the last six months, I had assumed that role was a positive characteristic—something to be proud of. Something I should pin to my shirt and flaunt to others. But recently, just a few days ago, I looked up the definition, searching Google and I eventually stumbled upon an article that defines caretaking as:
Caretaking is a dysfunctional, learned behavior …
Wait—what? A dysfunctional, learned behavior? How in the world can caretaking be a dysfuntional behavior, let alone a negative trait?
As it turns out, my definition of caretaking is diametrically opposed to the real definition. Caretaking is one of many behaviors that fall under codependency, a group of behaviors that causes us to have unhealthy relationships. Someone who exhibits these behaviors is called a codependent, who may exhibit one or more of the following:
- think and feel responsible for other people—for other people’s feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, watns, needs, well-being, lack of well-being, and ultimate destiny
- anticipate other people’s needs and wonder why others don’t do the same for them
- feel safest when giving and feel insecure and guilty when somebody gives to them
- find it easier to feel and express anger about injustices done to others, rather than injustices done to themselves
- abandon their routine to respond to or do something for someone else
- not know what they need and need or, if they do, tell themselves what they want and need is not important
- feel different from the rest of the world
- fear rejection and take things personally
This is not a complete list. Those are just a few codependent characteristics that ring true for me, characteristics of mine that I’ve always considered part of me.
Can you relate to any of them?
If so, I recommend you pick up this book: Codependent No More – How to stop controlling other sand start caring for yourself
Coupled with therapy, reading the book has really helped me not only better understand and become aware of my anxieties and angers and frustrations, but also the source of all those feelings; taking care of everyone around me instead of taking care of the person who needs it the most.