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  • Writer's pictureKirsty Elliott



Growing up with a co-dependent parent can cause you to become an adult who pushes people away

When someone tries to get close……you feel suffocated and need “space” almost immediately

You have a “dis-connect” mechanism that seems to happen “to” you….even when you want, crave, need, wish for….closeness, intimacy and to let some- one “in”

Loneliness can become a way of life for adults who grew up as children in co-dependent households

They are often seen as “free spirits” “freedom seekers” or “very independent”

This identity is often a way for them to feel ok about this response….they may travel incessantly or jump from one job to the next, or from one lover to the next….all in the name of freedom..

When deep down….they are trying to protect themselves from ever being in the grip of feeling controlled again

Co-dependent love by nature is conditional love

(that’s not to say that REAL love isn’t also present alongside this shadow frequency…because often it very much is.)

Co-dependency travels down the family lines

A child of a co-dependent parent often becomes the co-dependent adult themselves….. and the cycle continues

Children in this scenario will feel controlled, manipulated, and often, suffocated

A CD parent will often source their identity solely through their children or their role as parent

They will see them as extensions of themself…..way beyond the initial baby or toddler phase….almost with no free-will or autonomy of their own

There may be a sense of ownership.... the child sensing that in the parents eyes, they don’t have “permission” to have their own autonomy or independence

A CD parent will see the child's natural process of growing up and having free will as a threat…

and will have fear of abandonment and feels deep down that the child will “grow up and leave her/him”…

So they'll unconsciously hinder that freedom and independence …in subtle and not so subtle ways….they won’t often be aware they are doing this

None of this is "spoken out loud" often....making it very difficult to comprehend the dynamic at play

They may encourage the child not to trust the outside world

Or other people

They may paint a picture that the world is a dangerous place

So the child stays reliant on the parent as a primary relationship

They may also limit the amount of friends a child can have or romantic connections when younger or how and when they can go “out”…… (they will believe consciously they are protecting the child from danger…..but there are deeper reasonings for this)

There is a subtle or not so subtle possessive quality about it ….again unconscious. They can’t “let go”, even when its appropriate and necessary for the childs natural development

The parent will most often be totally unconscious of these patterns they are playing out

They will have very good logical conscious reasons for the behaviour….believing they are being a good parent and protecting their children and keeping them safe (co-dependency doesn't mean they AREN'T also a good and loving just means there's something at play which is very real and has a big effect)

This continues way past appropriate points and milestones within CD though

The way this loops around is that the young person grows up with a distorted sense of self, and a fragmented sense of their own identity

Because they learnt that to have their own identity and autonomy would threaten their connection and love from this primary and first care giver

These children have been sheltered so much from life and from interacting with others that when they do go out into the world alone, they often really struggle

And end up circling back round for parents “help”...needing a lot more involvement than feels good to their need for independence

This can feel like constantly getting caught in sticky web

The unconscious nature of these patterns are what keep them at play …because they live below the surface of conscious awareness

Damage isn’t being done on “purpose” with conscious knowledge of what is happening

If a parent is CD its often because that’s what THEY themselves experienced in their own family homes and are just playing out what they themselves internalised

They have gone through the same pain themselves

They went through this very same thing themselves as a child…..this is all they know

Having compassion here at some point releasing blame…is very healing….and often only happens when your experience is validated and witnessed ....and when healthy boundaries have been established

Before that happens though.....the child that grows up as an adult…..then often has to live in a world of fantasy…in their minds, disconnected from their bodies and true felt sense of what is “real”

The CD parent is living in a fantasy world of their own …. A world where they are only having the positive effect they believe themselves to be having….they can not truly live in reality…because then they would see what is truly being created….and the illusion would fragment…that’s not only painful but dangerous

The child knows this and aims to protect the parent from this at all costs….going along with the narrative is often how they do that….but that takes a lot of coping mechanisms to deny their own reality too…….otherwise dissonance would set in (confusion to the mind and therefore a sense of un-safety)

And the child/adult now has two choices

Live in the reality where they can validate their experience and see what happened and heal through truth

But then be in total cognitive-dissonance with the narrative that has been the story within the family for years

Or live in their heads and numb out/ avoid the truth …. This also allows them to protect the parent whom they obviously love very very much

Often this need to dissociate from reality AND stay a victim in order to keep these relationship dynamics at play, and therefore not lose the approval of parent - leads to drinking or drugs, self destructive behaviour, dissacociation and living in the mind instead of the body, struggling with money, struggling to assert self or to find true love ….because again, this could be seen as abandonment, disloyalty….to the parents/s who unconsciously don’t want to let go

Becoming more “powerful” than the parent can feel like death to the child/now adult because of what that could have meant to them as a child -who was literally dependent on the approval of that parent for survival and rejection was dangerous……people carry this coding wayyyyy into late adulthood

Because it’s too painful without support to bridge the gap between your own lived experience and the narrative others were and are living inside of

The child/ adult then often becomes co dependent themselves

Needing to be very much in control of their lives and of others

They may choose relationships in which they can always be the “helper, saviour needed”…..they may choose alcoholics, those who won’t take responsibility for their own lives, or “peter pan” types who haven’t grown up yet and need mothering…..

The thing with CD is……when you are inhabiting that energy….which feels compulsive and obsessive…. You always need the “other” to be in victim mode (you DON’T know this consciously until you do the shadow work, often with help< and are willing to see how your dynamics are playing out below what you’re aware of)

Whether it is a friend, a family member, a co-worker or a lover

If they aren’t somehow “broken” in your eyes or in need of your “help”….then you don’t get to have your “fix” of being able to source your worthiness and identity through them….( that’s a shadow piece and confronting to look at….but we ALL have shadow, and we all do this to a certain extent in unconscious ways)

The distortion of CD says that “if people don’t NEED me they will LEAVE me”

So keeping people in a “needy” state becomes habitual…and this can be a really sticky insidious energy that can slip through the radar easily without eyes that can SEE

And that feels unsafe to someone in CD pattern……when others are truly “free” and totally independent….there’s a graspy, clingy, energy like a tightening noose ….

The definition of trauma, is feeling powerless and not being able to get away

As a child growing up enmeshed within co-dependancy …this feeling of not being “allowed” to have your own space, autonomy, identity or will outside of the parent (beyond the years when this is right and natural)….is traumatic

Illuminating this, doing the inner child work, shadow work and creating validation for your lived reality, plus coming back down into the body and out of the mind, and un-earthing how this is affecting your ability to have true intimate and successful relationships can be life changing

Healing from this for the whole family IS possible when everyone has courage and a willingness to see things as they are, patience with eachother and enough love to go through the wobbles of re-writing this story

and shift the pattern so it doesn't continue down the generational line....kudos to all the parents, children-turned-adults and people who have been so courageous thus far

If you:

- Blow hot and cold almost without your own consent

- Have a “switch” that dissociates your feelings about someone so you can create space

- Feel trapped very early on in a way that doesn’t feel proportionate to the situation

- Struggle with touch ,sensuality, being held

- Struggle with trust

- Or find yourself repeating these patterns with your own co-dependent habits of control and outsourcing your worth through others

- Ending up in the “healer/saviour/ helper role

- Feeling like a “loner” even though a deeper part of you years for true connection

- perfectionism, burn-out, striving, using work as a way to avoid intimacy, or to get external validation

- -the use of drugs, food, alcohol, sex etc to numb out

This often won’t even come into your awareness until later in life….children squash this all into their unconscious because its too confusing and difficult for the little one to cope with

Reach out, and let’s see if I can guide you on your journey back to yourself and love

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