Risa Ennis Family Mediation and Counselling Services
Taming Your Ego

This conditioning may have included:

  • teaching that asking for what one wanted or needed was selfish oranti-family, thus these children learned to repress their needs and wants;
  • watching parents not be self-respecting with their spouses or not fully resolving  conflicts, thus children learned there is no such thing as  effective conflict resolution;
  • parents who rescued children from situations where the children should have been encouraged and coached as to how to rise to higher emotional maturity and coping skills on their own.  This rescuing only entrenched low self-esteem in children instead of building courage, tenacity, ingenuity and faith in oneself;
  • parents who were controlling (low self-esteem) and taught that love meant we allow others to make decisions for us out of love.  Control is not love. Control invalidates faith in the abilities of both children and adults;  it is toxic;
  • Parents who taught children that adulthood is "serious" business, fraught with anxiety, guilt, serious problems with little room for levity.

What is Co-Dependency?

Co-dependency in a nutshell, is the inability to be self-respecting. It is the inability to establish clear, assertive and loving boundaries to get one's needs and wants met while being interdependent with family members, friends, colleagues and others.  Without clear, assertive and loving boundaries, this dysfunction will wreak havoc on the relationship because unclear boundaries due to low self-esteem produce frustration, exhaustion, fear, mistrust and lack of intimacy.  Unclear boundaries are the most unloving thing we can do in intimate relationships.

Co-dependency has its seeds in how relationship-building was modeled in our families of origin.   There are many examples of familial modeling that I would like to explain here, to help the reader understand better the potential sources of this dysfunction.

This modeling includes the original definition of co-dependency, which is the result for those who grew up in substance abuse or other abusive environments. These children did not have the protection of stable adults and so the learned that the way to survive was to care-take the adults who were unwilling or unable to do so for them. Sometimes this is how they received whatever positive feedback they could from their parents.  Usually these children grew up derailed from meeting their developmental milestones.

Sadly, many years later, these children grow up gravitating to partners with similar or identical abuse issues because this is what they know, all too well.

With these adult partnerships, they continue to try to fix (without any success) those partners who are only an extension of their very own parents.  This creates unbelievable pain for the co-dependent once again who must now relive all the old and painful memories from the past.

This results in destruction in the adult relationships on many levels.  There exists a tenacity in co-dependents where they stay in these destructive abusive relationships for too long, sacrificing their health, their other relationships, their professions, friendships, hopes and dreams.  Eventually they crash.

Interdependency: The Opposite of Co-Dependency and the highest form of emotional maturity in relationships.


Co-dependency begins with low self-esteem which is driven by the mistaken need to gain validation or self-worth through acts of kindness, concern, help, rescuing, fixing, enabling, selflessness, sacrifice, accommodation, altruism, endless conversations or needless hand-holding.  Instead of this producing interdependency for both the supporter and supportee, the co-dependent (supporter) feels resentful, victimized, unacknowledged, unappreciated, frustrated, lonely, unloved, and confused as to why being good feels so bad, and the supportee usually continues being dependent,  needy, demanding, victimized, that is, stuck in self loathing.


Two co-dependents who find each other in a relationship can actually grow to feel hate for each other.  They may succumb to abuse with each other because co-dependents confuse what the relationship is about.  They are not conscious of their inabilities to nurture themselves FIRST, the hallmark of healthy self-esteem, which will in turn nurture a functional relationship.


Unfortunately, many of these duo co-dependents, without professional help, end up resolving their issues through divorce, because they are unable to uncover and heal their  lack of solid self-esteem.


Many of those in relationships, where only one person is co-dependent, also end up leaving these relationships badly. Or, they continue living together in bondage and fear of being alone, because of their low self-esteem.  In this case, they may feel that this is as good as it gets.  Those may then  numb themselves through substances to survive the daily grind- another characteristic of low self-esteem.




Can Co-Dependency be healed?


Yes, absolutely! One can learn effective listening skills, assertive  boundary setting and ways to nurture and enjoy oneself, with a skilled professional.  It will take some time to undo years of entrenched ways of relating to others, but once new behaviours are bravely tried and feel good, one realizes how amazingly good it feels to be self-respecting. Then, and only then, as a result of self-respect, can an intimate and joyful relationship be possible! 

This modeling surely included the most toxic of behaviours which creates low self-esteem in children. Creating low self-esteem is usually the result of parents with low self-esteem themselves; parents who do not spend enough quality time with children, thus invalidating their worth, parents who are not genuinely involved in their children's lives and activities, parents who do not have the ability to encourage  their children's uniqueness, opinions, preferences, wishes and dreams, and parents who do not give clear, assertive and loving boundaries and consequences.


Many co-dependents are not joyful and playful because they are taking care of everyone else, depleting themselves of the energy they could have used to nurture themselves joyfully. With joy, we then have the ability and energy to be safely interdependent.





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Risa Ennis Family Mediation and Counselling Services

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