Contributor: “Dr. J” Dr. J offers his irreverent, slightly irrelevant, but possibly useful opinions on health and fitness. A Florida surgeon and fitness freak with a black belt in karate, he runs 50 miles a week and flies a Cherokee Arrow 200.
I am Dr. J, and I have been a person with codependency. I realized it, not that long ago, when I read the following, gulp, horoscope:
You can feel the weight of responsibility on your shoulders now as you take on more than is required. It helps to examine what your past has to do with your current eagerness to help others, even if they haven’t asked for it. Compassion is surely a gift, but codependency is not a viable path to happiness. Heal others by first forgiving and healing yourself.
I once heard codependency described thus: “If you’re dying, someone else’s life flashes before your eyes.” This joke is attributed to Janet Woititz, the author of “Adult Children of Alcoholics.”
I care about the people in my life, both in my real world and my Internet blog world. As a doctor with critical diagnostic training, I have a tendency to see disease behaviors in those with whom I interact. Although it may be natural for me to want to help and cure this disease behavior in others, I realized that I needed to set personal emotional limits, because like it or not, except for those that come to me to be under the knife, I can’t save anyone unless they want and are asking to be saved. If I cannot draw this line between others and myself, I am a prime example of a person with codependency!
I see examples of codependency all the time. I recently supported someone’s desire for a minor cosmetic procedure on a website. There were several people who commented trying to both find fault in my surgical opinion and find fault in the woman who desired the procedure. Their reasoning was that she was perfect just the way she was, and it was terrible to think that we might need a surgical procedure to correct an obvious deformity because the whole concept of self-love was being challenged as well as the entire self-image of women, the controlling media, what is beauty, the futility of pleasing men, not caring what others think, and many other shoulds and should not’s relating to it all.
I have no problem with someone wanting a procedure, and I have no problem with someone not wanting a procedure. The problem of codependency arises when someone has a problem with someone else wanting a procedure. Especially when the degree of them not wanting the other person to have it crosses that line of where they are offended and their personal views and self are felt to be challenged by what the other person does with their own life!
A person with codependency will minimize, alter or deny how they truly feel. They frequently perceive themselves as completely unselfish and dedicated to the well-being of others, yet they lack true empathy for the feelings and needs of others, and often label others with their own negative traits. They can express negativity or aggression in indirect and passive ways rather than expressing their feelings openly, directly and calmly. They have trouble setting healthy priorities and boundaries, and tend to believe people are incapable of taking care of themselves. They often attempt to convince others what to think, do or feel while freely offering advice and direction without being asked. Then they tend to become resentful when others decline their help or reject their advice.
We all need to be vigilant of these types of behaviors and thinking in our lives. As long as they are not hurting others, people have the right to peacefully live the life they choose.
I am Dr. J, and I am in recovery from codependency!
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