This is what codependency feels like.

Like a trapeze artist swinging high up in the air, searching for something else to hold onto.

Like a small boat in the ocean that has lost it’s anchor.

Like a ballon that has slipped the hand of the child holding it.

Codependency feels like free fall, being terrifyingly untethered, always searching for an anchor.

Our anchors are people, places, pets, things and life situations — jobs, relationships, businesses.

When we don’t have an anchor we seek one out. It never takes long. We are expert emotional manipulators. We know what a single person, or a whole room needs from us and we give it. We’re good at that too — giving. Giving until there is nothing left of us and we become bitter and resentful.

We are simultaneously loving, caring, compassionate, generous and on the surface happy and chill. We are also manipulative, scheming, controlling, hyper conscious and often secretly highly strung, needing everything to be just so, on our timeline.

We define ourselves by what we can give to and do for other people. We outsource our happiness to others. We live vicariously through their joy. So it follows that we would become experts in provoking that joy (ever heard someone say “I’m a people pleaser”?), because it feeds us.

What works even better for a codependent is being able to “fix” someone. That’s why we often end up with addicts or bad boys or weirdos that our friends never could quite get their heads around.

For people who thrive off the definition of who and what they are in relation to others, there is no greater satisfaction than sobering up a drunk or taming a serial cheat or giving a nerdy / awkward / shy person a physical, social, emotional and PR makeover.

That’s where the control piece comes in. We want to fix and change and mould the people close to us, into what we think is good and correct. We have a fundamental lack of self esteem and yet we think we know best.

You see, we also have this gross (always gives me the chills when I think about it) simultaneous superiority / inferiority complex. Secretly, to ourselves, we think we are better than everyone else, and we try our damnedest to show it but never say it. We give more and are better than most at pinpointing exactly what needs to be given because we can emotionally read people as though they had an instruction manual pinned on their forehead. We often will also sacrifice great chunks of our time, energy, even money to learn a new skill or improve an existing one so we can deliver what is required and provoke the emotions we want from others like a pro.

How does that manifest? Perhaps like this…

Your team loves cake. You spend most weekends and way too much money at the grocery store making culinary masterpieces to take to the office on Monday. You don’t even like cake that much, but God does it feel good to watch your gooey fingered colleagues grin with delight as they scoff down another batch of of your fudge brownies.

Your crush loves hair metal. You spend hours a day boning up on Spotify and Genius and Google finding out the names of the bands, where they’re touring, their classic albums and the lyrics to the songs. You manage to get 2 tickets to a long ago sold out gig, at an insanely inflated cost, but, really, it was no big thing!

Everyone thinks you’re amazing! You do too. You planned it that way.

And the inferiority part? Despite this outward facade of awesomeness, inside we feel we are fundamentally worthless unless we are either attached to, achieving or orchestrating something successful. Something outside of ourselves. We are excellent at doing and struggle horribly with being.

We are kind and controlling.

We are generous and manipulative.

We are both victim and perpetrator.

This is what codependency feels like.


My online codependence recovery course: Lovingly Fierce is out now. Find out if it’s for you, here.

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