It is a set of life skills that are often clustered together and evolve over time. Most people can identify that codependency is a need to be in a relationship with another person, moving quickly into another relationship when the previous relationship ends and / or enabling a person who suffers from active addiction. All of those things are true. However childhood dynamics also play a role in the life skills we learn. Just looking at Bandura's stages of development can give us some insight on how social learning occurs.
If we reduce Bandura's theory into an equation it would look something like this; , Attention plus, Retention plus Replications, plus Reward equals a Learned Behavior (A+R+R+R=LB)
In other words, If I am paying attention to a behavior that I see in my environment (good or bad), and I retain / remember the behavior, and I then attempt to replicate the behavior I am creating a learned behavior.. However a large determining factor of the behavior becoming a pattern of behavior is dependent upon the reward, or lack thereof.
Reward in this context is assigned a value by the person replicating the behavior, not parents, authority figures or anyone for that matter. So reward can be negative or positive. A positive reward is when you get a raise at your job for doing great work, or when a child gets a cookie for cleaning their room. A negative reward is when we get fired for doing a bad job at work but your parents pay your rent and all of our bills. Or when a child acts out in school but all of his peers think he is funny and cool.
When a child grows up in a home where there is domestic violence, abuse, neglect, or with a parent who themselves has the life skills clustered together that are known as codependency, then the stage has been set for the child to have the opportunity to pay attention, retain, replicate and receive reward for the same behavior or an adaptation that could lead to codependency. Now, if these situations are far and few in-between there may not be as great an impact on the child, in theory. However , if there is much opportunity for the child to observe/ pay attention , retain, replicate and gain reward, then they practice. Practice without realizing they are hard wiring their responses to life to be unbalanced and eventually cause harm to themselves and maybe others.
Often by the time we reach adulthood and begin to realize that life is not going as we had hoped, and we want something different, we can't, we don't know how, after all we have always been this way, same old same ol. You know, things like putting others first, having a low self esteem, attempting to control the outcome of things but often with little success...in the end. Finding ourselves giving other ultimatums, saying yes to request then feeling angry, irritable, frustrated and maybe even used. Or maybe we just outright deny that there are even issues that are bothering us, we get really good at repressing our feelings, thoughts, and desires, becoming people pleasers. We are fixer, anticipating the needs of others often before the person even knows of their own need. We become obsessive thinking , worrying , in a constant state of thought and restlessness until we find a solution to problems, often the problems of others superseding those of our own. By the time you reach adulthood these life skills are so ingrained in our being that often I will hear people say, well it is just who I am , I have always been this way. Those beliefs often cripple us, making us incapable of change. After all if this is just who I am, then I have no control over it, so how could I possibly change. As such, I am better off just accepting that this is my lot in life..
Am I speaking to anyone? If so , please continue...
I believe that codependency is a set of life skills cluster together due to life circumstances, often beginning in childhood and the ability to adapt to those circumstances, coupled with much opportunity to practice those skills. I believe that most of these skills are greatly unbalanced causing conflict within the host (you). I believe that many people with these unbalanced life skills make great friends and coworkers. I believe that these people are beneficial to everyone around them, but often,at the expense and sacrifice of themselves. I believe the skill set is learned and can be unlearned with practice , time and effort. If you are struggling in this area of your life and would like support please feel free to reach out to Birchwood Healing Place at 859-312-6569.