by Shane Fookes, MA LPC Intern
As I introduced in an earlier post about reducing codependency, it is a word commonly used to describe a person who loses their sense of self by becoming overly dependent on another. When the codependent person is a parent, the effects can have a long-lasting debilitating effect. Children of codependent parents lose the type of relationship environment that fosters and grows emotional autonomy. When those children become adults, they experience both overt and covert effects of incomplete emotional development. Here are five common signs we see, at Life Discovery Counseling, of people who were raised by a codependent parent.
What are the signs you had a codependent parent?
Discomfort with emotions or a lack of emotions
Emotions are the language of relationships. In healthy relationships, emotions are welcome and shared in loving ways. When children are young, they learn about emotions through relationships with safe, loving people, most importantly their parents. They also learn how to regulate their emotions. Rather than helping regulate their children’s emotions, codependent parents use the parenting relationship to regulate their own emotions. This creates a confusing environment for children because parental emotional responses become unpredictable. Children learn that their emotional experiences and expression are not welcome or safe. They also learn from a young age to hide and/or disguise their emotions to satisfy the needs of the parent. This leads to discomfort with emotions when the children grow into adulthood. At an extreme, this can even lead to a condition called alexithymia.
Anxiety is a normal part of the body’s Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). This system activates when a person experiences a real or perceived threat. Sadly, children raised by a codependent parent intuitively learn their emotional experience itself is a threat. Since emotions are a natural and near-constant experience, the child’s body stays in near-constant anxiety. This anxiety becomes normalized and can develop into any of a number of disordered expressions as the child grows into adulthood.
Anger is another normal activation of the body’s ANS that needs developing in a child. However, a codependent parent finds their children’s expression of anger disturbing. Codependent parents overtly and covertly seek to suppress their children’s anger. Children of codependent parents learn to stifle anger and use it internally to disown certain aspects of their interior world. As noted by psychologists anger turned inward is one cause of depression. Depressed persons often lack understanding of their anger and permission to express it. Over time, this internalized anger wears down the body and brain and leads to blunted emotional affect and other depressive symptoms.
Lack of relational assertiveness
Healthy communication involves both receiving and giving. A person receives through good listening habits and gives through assertiveness. Assertiveness is the ability to speak up for yourself in a way that is honest and respectful. Rather than freely giving and receiving, codependent people manage communication to serve their own needs. They, directly and indirectly, arrange relationships to provide the feedback they need to feel okay about themselves. Codependent parents only welcome a child’s assertiveness when it sustains the parent’s sense of self. Children of codependent parents learn to appease their parents rather than assert themselves. As adults, they often become passive, aggressive, or a confusing combination of both.
Lack of motivation
Healthy parents help their children connect with their own passions and interests. Parents do this by introducing children to different opportunities and activities and letting the children determine what they want to pursue. Because of that children develop inner motivation. Codependent parents arrange activities for their children to pursue and perform to bolster the parent’s esteem rather than the children’s. As a result, our Christian counselors in Hillsboro, OR see the children lack personal attachment to their activities, they don’t learn the motivation they need as an adult.
In Online Therapy In Oregon Begin Working Through Being Raised by A Codependent Parent
Our Clackamas and Beaverton-based counselors are excited to work with you, wherever you are in Oregon. The effects of being raised by a codependent parent can carry into your adult life. At Life Discovery Counseling we can help your relationships can thrive again. We can help you get back on track in a way that aligns with your faith and values in Christian counseling. When you are ready to start online Christian counseling in Oregon, follow these simple steps:
- Learn about our therapy team in Beaverton and our caring counselors in Clackamas
- Schedule an appointment with your preferred therapist, or contact us with questions
- Feel more connected to the important people in your life
Other Mental Health Services at Life Discovery Counseling in Oregon
If you are in Clackamas, Happy Valley, Damascus, or Beaverton, we can help you in person at one of our comfortable therapy clinics. Christian counseling is the cornerstone of our approach to therapy. Not only do we see adults, but children in counseling too. We also work with depression treatment, anxiety therapy, trauma therapy and PTSD treatment, relationship issues, marriage problems, and postpartum counseling. No matter where you are in the state, we can provide the support you need with online therapy in Oregon. Once you’re ready to start, we’re ready to meet you. Let’s connect!