Codependency is a lot about control and controlling others. I have documented various methods frequently on this blog and how they manifest themselves into the typical dysfunctional behaviour associated with codependency. Codependents need control to feel secure and are loath to give this power away. One of the more common forms of control employed by codependents is the “art” of rescuing. Many helpful, caring people, especially those that identify as codependent, impulsively rescue others from their self-imposed predicaments. They stay far too long in dysfunctional helping and giving relationships even when their resources or relationships are strained, or they enable others’ addiction, incompetence, or irresponsibility and they do this for a very specific reason.
Codependent rescuing means that the codependent retains power and control over the codependent object. They assume that people around them need help and step in even if it is clear they don’t. Every time this happens, it plays into the “drama triangle” of rescuer, persecutor and victim mentalities that drive codependent behaviour. Often when help is pushed onto another person when they don’t really want it, it gives the codependent the chance to become the victim whether the help is accepted or not. Codependents meet their needs dysfunctionally by adopting the victim role in any situation hoping to attract sympathy and validation from those around them. Anger, blaming and passive aggression can ensue, leading to the next cycle.
By rescuing, codependents place themselves in a superior role to their victim. They are saying “You need me and you are helpless without me”. This leads inevitably to feelings of resentment on both sides. The key is to avoid “one-up or one-down” behaviours. The following is a list of suggestions to help with this.
- Be conscious and avoid giving advice unless asked for. Don’t interrupt and listen effectively to avoid assumptions.
- Don’t help your partner or anyone else without them asking you to do so. You can do this by openly asking “What can I do?”.
- Offer support rather than advice. “I can help but maybe you need to see what you can do first”
- Learn to say “No” and set boundaries around your own behaviour and that of those who are willing to let you rescue them.
- Don’t assume that you need to do 100% of the work to solve any issue. Talk with your partner and promote equality. “I will do this, what are you prepared to do?”
- Share any feelings of resentment that are building openly and honestly.
- Recognise when your partner (or anyone) is inviting rescuing behaviour by playing the victim, feigning illness, etc. Counter with firm boundaries.
- Learn to ask for your needs to be met in a healthy way.
- Avoid power moves like avoiding responsibility, escalation, shouting, playing the martyr or reminding your partner of everything you have done for them.
- Avoid “one-down” victim behaviour that manipulates feelings and behaviour from others.
Avoiding power and control games is one of the key issues of codependent recovery. Many find it difficult to release themselves as the behaviour is so engrained in their personality and thinking. However, once this is done, codependents can look forward to a life free of the “drama triangle” that has been so devastating to them in their lives.
Please feel free to contact me if you need to talk about your codependency.