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Boundaries and Friendship --
Are You and Your Friend Codependent?

©2005 by Deborah Bier, Ph.D. and Donna Cunningham, MSW

Since all those talk shows and self-help books have educated us about codependency in family and love relationships, you may well be aware of unhealthy patterns of relating where destructive habits like addictions are concerned. No doubt you can spot them in other people right off the bat. But friends -- even our very best friends for life -- can also enable one another's destructive habits and behavior patterns. Pairs of friends can be codependent on one another in ways that keep individuals from growing and being all they can be.

Could this possibly apply to you? For example, maybe your pleasingly plump pal has decided to diet, but you supply her with all manner of excuses why she shouldn't start today AND bring along a pint of her favorite double chocolate ice cream when you come for supper. Or, you already have 125 pairs of shoes, and your good buddy knows you've maxed out all but one of your credit cards, but she calls to tell you about a fabulous shoe sale at the mall that you two have just GOT to get to before they are all gone. There are addictions and addictions!

Definitions of Codependency

Wikipedia gives a broad but clear definition of codependency that may alert you to its presence in your group:

"Co-dependency is a condition in which someone exhibits too much, and often inappropriate, caring for a person who is suffering from addiction to drugs or alcohol or from other addictive behavior. The co-dependent person often makes excuses for their partner's self-destructive behavior."

The National Mental Health Association has a page on codependency as well. They say that:

"Co-dependency is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual's ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as 'relationship addiction' because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive."

Characteristics of Codependency

If you are starting to think you MIGHT be in a codependent relationship, check out this list of characteristics from Recovery Resources, applying them to any friendship you're in:

1. My good feelings about who I am stem from being liked by you.
2. My good feelings about who I am stem from receiving approval from you.
3. Your struggle affects my serenity. My mental attention focuses on solving your problems/relieving your pain.
4. My mental attention is focused on you.
5. My mental attention is focused on protecting you.
6. My mental attention is focused on manipulating you to do it my way.
7. My self-esteem is bolstered by solving your problems.
8. My self-esteem is bolstered by relieving your pain.
9. My own hobbies/interests are put to one side. My time is spent sharing your hobbies/interests.
10. Your clothing and personal appearance are dictated by my desires and I feel you are a reflection of me.
11. Your behaviour is dictated by my desires and I feel you are a reflection of me.
12. I am not aware of how I feel. I am aware of how you feel.
13. I am not aware of what I want - I ask for what you want.
14. The dreams I have for my future are linked to you.
15. My fear of rejection determines what I say or do.
16. My fear of your anger determines what I say or do.
17. I use giving as a way of feeling safe in our relationship.
18. My social circle diminishes as I involve myself with you
19. I put my values aside in order to connect with you.
20. I value your opinion and way of doing things more than my own.
21. The quality of my life is in relation to the quality of yours.

Essences for Codependency

If it's beginning to seem like you and a friend or two are codependent, there are flower essences that could be useful. The list below is abstracted from Jeffrey Garson Shapiro's The Flower Remedy Book, under the rubric (i.e. search characteristic) of Co-Dependence:

Agrimony (Bach, Pegasus) -- Hiding true feelings, using an outer mask of cheerfulness.

Apple (Masters, FES, Pegasus) -- Healthy self-image, cleansing destructive emotions.

Avocado (Masters, FES, Green Hope, Pegasus) -- To become "undependent," awareness of patterns.

Bleeding Heart (FES, Pegasus) -- Possessive/clinging, letting go of emotional dependence.

Buttercup (FES, Pegasus) -- Low self-esteem, lack of self-worth in relationships.

Centaury (Bach) -- Unhealthy need to serve or please others, accepting exploitations.

Cerato (Bach, Pegasus) -- Inability to make decisions, overly reliant on advice of others.

Chicory (Bach, Pegasus) -- Neediness, possessiveness, manipulative.

Date (Masters) -- Finding fault in others instead of focusing on own issues.

Elm (Bach, Pegasus) -- Securing affection by being the hero, afraid to let others down.

Fairy Lantern (FES) -- Feigning helplessness or over-dependence.

Goldenrod (FES, Green Hope, Pegasus) -- Dependence on social approval of others.

Grape (Masters) -- Finding love in self instead of expecting others to provide fulfillment.

Mariposa Lily (FES) -- Abandonment/insecurity from childhood which distorts present.

Milkweed (FES, Pegasus) -- Extreme dependence.

Peach (Masters, FES, Pegasus) -- Serving others out of wholeness, not neediness.

Pine (Bach) -- Internalizing guilt, taking blame/responsibility for others' faults.

Pink Yarrow (FES) -- Enmeshed in others' feelings, can't identify own feelings.

Red Chestnut (Bach, Pegasus) -- Excessive worry/concern for others, over-identification.

Strawberry (Masters, FES, Pegasus) -- Dissolves need for approval, cleanses guilt/self-blame.

Sunflower (FES, Green Hope, Pegasus, Alaskan) -- Developing healthy sense of ego, feeling radiant/assertive.

Tansy (FES, Pegasus) -- Holding back to placate family system.

Walnut (Bach, Pegasus) -- Dysfunctional ties to family system/social standards.

Willow (Bach, Pegasus) -- Seeing oneself as a victim, not taking responsibility.

Healthy friendships need care and nurturing to thrive and persist over time. As the years go by, they change and grow in new directions. If you find yourself in an unchanging, controlled or controlling relationship -- particularly if this is a pattern for you -- try a course of one or more of these essences. No, they will not transform your friendships overnight -- you will have to apply care and time for that to happen. However, they may help you get "unstuck" from unhealthy patterns, open you to change, and help you see better ways of being a friend.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Donna Cunningham and Deborah Bier are the co-editors of this ezine, and though they never even spoke on the phone for the first year-and-a-half it was published, they have become the best of friends and now talk several times a week. Are they codependent? Do they enable each other's essence addiction? Nope, they prefer to say they indulge themselves and each other with essences. Granted, they pamper one another, they spoil one another, but it is all so well-deserved. After all, look how hard they work on Vibration!

This page is a creation of Donna Cunningham's Word of Mouth Web Design, a service that focuses on designing beautiful and unique sites to showcase the work of lightworkers, artists, astrologers, and other practitioners of the healing arts. Graphic images from Clipart.com.

The World Wide Essence Society does not mean to imply any recommendation of nor give certification to any individuals or companies above. This article is provided purely for informational purposes. We ask consumers to make their own determination as to quality of the services and products offered above. This article is not meant to be advice, and the information is not meant to replace medical or psychological treatment.
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