Psychological Self-Help

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to talk to, subtly manipulative, amorphous non-persons, and generally
miserable. Not exactly angels of mercy. They have tried so hard to
manage someone else's life--to "save" them--but they failed, and
sooner or later their life crumbled into bitterness, despair, guilt, and
hopelessness. They became martyrs, tyrants, people-pleasers, clinging
vines, distraught parents, 24-hour-a-day caretakers, etc. They have
lost control of their lives. 
Naturally, these "rescuers" are attracted to people who certainly
need lots of help, such as alcoholics, drug users, con artists, habitual
criminals, sex addicts, mentally ill, physically ill, and, perhaps, most
unsuspectingly, selfish, irresponsible, troubled children or ambitious
workaholics who need someone to support them while they "do their
thing." The codependents of alcoholics have an organization to help
them, called Al-Anon (call AA for information). Self-help groups for
other types of codependents are available in some cities (call
Codependents Anonymous at 602-277-7991). But codependents often
do not recognize their responsibility for their own problems; they see
only their gallant efforts to help an ungrateful, troubled person whom
they now blame for all their misery. They don't see the choices they
have made. Much has been written about co-dependency recently
(Bradshaw, 1988; Kellogg, 1987; Wegscheider-Cruse, 1990). 
The basic traits of codependents--caring and helping--are very
commendable. However, the obsession with solving another person's
problems becomes problematic (if their cures don't work). The
codependent's basic personality problems seem to be excessive other-
centeredness, i.e. needing others to be happy; a lack of clear-cut
"boundaries" between them and the addict, leading to assuming
responsibility for another's life; low self-esteem, self-criticism,
excessive guilt, and shame; anger, nagging, and threats; denial of
one's own problems and need for love; unwarranted optimism about
changing others; depression and an inability to accept reality. Some
theorists say shame is the basic cause for addictions and for
When codependents die, they see someone else's life flash before them! 
-Timmen Cermak
Beattie (1987) says recovery from codependency is simple: detach
yourself from the other person, take responsibility for managing only
your own life, and be good to yourself. Then she writes two books
describing how to do that (the usual: build self-esteem, become
assertive, overcome the barriers to intimacy, set goals, handle your
emotions, etc.). 
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