Tuesday, November 21, 2017

codependency & personal power

personal-powerFar too many people have learned to automatically and habitually give away their personal power. Without realizing what they’re doing, they repeatedly idealize other people (particularly authority figures and romantic interests) and then subjugate themselves to those people. Other patterns that often accompany this codependent relational style include:

  • Difficulty in being assertive and in advocating for one’s own needs and preferences
  • A tendency to be emotionally guarded
  • Fear of spontaneously expressing authentic thoughts and feelings
  • Patterns of thinking that are self-critical and self-defeating
  • Behavioral habits geared toward numbing and self-medicating negative emotions

I see many people struggling with codependency in my NYC psychotherapy practice, and the framework we use for recovery focuses a lot on helping people re-connect to and develop their own personal power. Why? Because if you are insufficiently in-touch with your own personal power then you’ll regularly look to another person to make you feel good about yourself. Over time this decreases self-esteem, personal confidence and overall quality of life.

psychiatric medications and codependency

Exhibiting patterns of codependency, over time, results in deeply unsatisfying relationships. This, of course, increases the chances that one will develop a serious mood disorder like Generalized Anxiety or Major Depression—which often leads people to take psychiatric medication.

For people struggling with codependency, our cultural over-emphasis on psychiatric medication is unfortunate because it obscures what is actually most helpful in such situations: psychological/emotional growth that involves becoming more skilled at forming and maintaining healthy and satisfying relationships.

The truth is that codependency is something people can grow out of, and once relationships (with self and others) become more satisfying and nourishing, then moods tend to improve dramatically as well. Thus, I tell clients often that they should only accept psychiatric medication prescriptions from competent NYC psychiatrists who:

(1) truly take the time to talk and listen to them at length, in EACH visit;
(2) encourage their patients to engage in psychotherapy and in the hard work of emotional growth and improving relationships;
(3) believe that lifelong learning and growth are foundational to enduring mental health;
(4) agree that getting off medication, at some point (for the great majority of people) is part of any good treatment plan.

the underlying dynamics of codependency

Relational patterns of control/domination, compliance/subjugation, obsession and compulsion are complex, and this blog entry is not a context where I can speak to all of the relevant dimensions. But one central aspect to be aware of is this: when you find yourself obsessively pre-occupied with, and subjugating yourself to, another person—make sure that you remind yourself that this person represents some undeveloped part of you, a part of you that is dormant, a part of you that is aching for recognition and expression, a part of you that you’re not giving sufficient attention to in your life.

In other words, part of the cure for codependency is to recognize how/why you’ve been neglecting your most authentic and empowered self. Once we can get some clarity about this, we can get to work on helping you grow out of your codependent patterns while simultaneously growing into healthier and more effective patterns of relating to yourself and others.


Chris Kingman lives with his wife and daughter in Park Slope, Brooklyn and has a full-time private therapy practice in Manhattan, NYC where he works with adults and couples. Follow Chris on Twitter or
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