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Codependent no more

Co-dependency in relationships is talked about in Chapter 10, The Deeper Facts of Challenging Coaching. In this chapter the support challenge matrix is shifted to consider the broader and deeper issues relating to society at large. We propose that the optimal conditions for performance come from a balance between freedom and responsibility as in the table below which evolves from support and challenge.

As we challenge people more we are asking people to take on more responsibility and when we support people we increase their freedom.

However, co-dependence comes from high responsibility and low freedom. This can be characterised by taking on excessive responsibility, giving up your freedom and taking on a ‘caretaker’ role and suppressing your own needs for the needs of others. This could be that one person who has power over another which is accepted if only reluctantly. One person in the relationship is submissive or subservient.

This encouraged me to think of all of the relationships I have or have had, with family, friends, colleagues, bosses, clients, etc. On reflection I can see that with some of these I was in a co-dependent state. It was as if this relationship was not a nurturing one, not one which fulfilled my needs, but I stayed and accepted it for whatever reason; ‘the devil you know is better that the devil you don’t know’. For some this maybe a bullying boss, but as the job pays the mortgage the behaviour is reluctantly accepted. It could be a critical parent who we seek to please, but nothing is ever good enough although it is all we’ve got. Alternatively, it may be a sports coach who has taken us from novice to high performer, but the coach continually needs to demonstrate who is best.

So what can we do in these situations? One answer is to accept it and remain quiet. However this approach is not good for the soul as the erosion of personal confidence continues. So the answer is to speak your truth and face the facts. In transactional analysis terms, it is time to move from a critical parent : child relationship to an adult : adult relationship. There is a risk and a challenge here in moving to a new state and stepping into the unknown. We fear rejection, we fear losing a salary; our fear of the unknown gets in the way. Fear of fear stops us.

This is about being willing to enter into the ZOUD (Zone of Uncomfortable Debate) and say it as it is, giving feedback, while having a courageous goal which is a tangible positive picture of the future. It is a mistake to conclude that the relationship has to end but it certainly needs to be re-contracted and all the skills and principles of FACTS are required to put it on a different footing and then keep it on a different footing.