What exactly does co-dependency mean?
Co-dependency describes behaviours, thoughts and feelings that go beyond normal kinds of self-sacrifice or caretaking. In transactional analysis terms a “symbiosis” (as co-dependency is more commonly known) is said to occur when two or more individuals behave as if between them they form a single person.
It is a loss of self and it occurs when we start to focus outside ourselves and we lose touch with our own inner choices, beliefs and feelings. We assume the responsibility for meeting others’ needs to the exclusion of acknowledging our own.
Co-dependency has sometimes been described as almost an addiction. We become addicted to looking outside ourselves, and to looking to someone else. We give away our power, so the option to do something different or do something for ourselves is discounted. As an example, two friends always go to the same place for a meal.
One doesn’t really want to go to there, but feels the other friend is “in charge” and if she disagrees she will lose the friendship. This is discounting the fact that we all have choices, that our needs are as important as anyone else’s, and that in this instance the option might be to alternate where they go for a meal. A healthy relationship is about balance.
There can however be healthy symbiosis; for example, if one person is ill and needs physical help, then it would clearly be appropriate to help that person.
Why do we do this to ourselves? No childhood is perfect and we all grow up with some unmet needs, Every time we enter this symbiotic state we are using an outdated way of trying to get our needs met, We are using a method a young child might use rather than looking at adult options.