Life Lessons After Recovering from Codependency – I Can’t Save You, and I No Longer Want To
This will be a repetitive, somewhat rambling (and very long) post, because this involves a huge pet peeve of mine.
I very much resent any one lecturing me or accusing me of not being compassionate enough, or not giving enough “emotional support” in some situation or another, when they refuse to factor in what I’ve been through in my life and why I now do what I do.
I refer to this highly pertinent fact:
I spent over 3 decades of my life being very codependent. I was pathologically un-selfish, giving, and supportive of and to others to my own detriment.
It’s absolutely perverse and demonic to accuse a recovering codependent (such as myself), who has finally begun developing healthy boundaries, of being selfish or not being “giving” enough in relationships.
You’re accusing a former codependent of the very opposite things she spent decades doing, behaviors which caused her setbacks and harm in life.
I have since learned what a huge mistake that is (to live codependently), how toxic it is, and how much harm it caused me over my life.
I am now more picky and choosy about when, to whom, for how long, and under what conditions, I will grant other people non-judgmental emotional support or other types of help.
And it took me into middle age to figure out – just upon thinking things over, noticing patterns in my relationships, and from reading some books by psychologists – that a big reason I kept attracting so many damaged, depressed, hurting, self absorbed, strange, or angry people is precisely because I was so giving, loving, and I didn’t put limits on anyone in any fashion.
For years, I was a very shy, people pleasing, undemanding, compliant, kind hearted, sensitive, caring person, and by my late 20s to early 30s and older, I kept wondering why when I did finally make a friend or two, that I seldom attracted normal, mentally healthy, fun, well-adjusted individuals who would meet my needs in return.
Attracting Disturbed, Angry, or Miserable People for Over 35 Years
Instead, I kept attracting selfish people, abusers, bullies, constant complainers, pessimists, self absorbed people, people with personality disorders, or people who were depressed, and while I was giving all these people a lot of my time, attention, affection, emotional support (or sometimes money), they never thanked me for this, and the vast majority never met my needs in return.
It took me years to figure out why I kept attracting so many mal-adjusted or emotionally injured people into my life.
During the time I was codependent, I was repeatedly used, mistreated, exploited, and/or taken for granted by co-workers, family, friends, and other people.
I spent over 35 or so years ignoring my own needs and trying to rescue, save, and cheer up the unhappy or angry people around me.
I spent over 35 years giving people non-judgmental emotional support, but during those years I put no limits on who I helped, under what circumstances, nor did I put time caps on the support.
As a recovered codependent who has been developing better boundaries in the last few years, who has realized and accepted that I cannot save or repair every one, nor should I even try –
– I’ve realized each individual is responsible for his or her own life and his or her own happiness –
I am much faster now at recognizing when I need to “step back” and not jump in to fix a problem for a person or keep listening to them complain about the same problems again and again (especially if they show no willingness to fix the problem they are complaining about) because that often is only a form of enabling that keeps the person stuck in their dysfunction.
I’ve learned the following is true for myself as well as for other people, even people who are hurting, depressed, or who have been victimized:
Blaming others and external circumstances denies your power to effect change and achieve happiness. Even if you’re a victim of abuse, you find the power to change your circumstances and responses when the center of control shifts from the perpetrator to yourself. …
(source: Darlene Lancer, page 20, Codependency For Dummies)
Specific goals [for codependents in recovery] include understanding your separateness from others, letting go, and giving others the dignity to be responsible for themselves while taking responsibility for yourself. (p 24)
I am much faster now at asking a friend who’s approaching me for yet more emotional support, if they have had a habit of weeks or months to keep complaining to me about an issue they don’t appear to be working on, to inventory their own life, to reflect on their own life, to ask them,
“You’ve been telling me for some months or years now that you are unhappy because of X. And I’ve told you repeatedly for months how sorry I am you are dealing with X, and I really am sorry to hear about it, but I don’t see any change.”
“I don’t see where you’ve taken any action to address this situation you’re unhappy about since we last spoke.”
“What steps, if any, have you taken to fix, minimize, or find a healthy way to cope with X since we last spoke?”
It never would’ve occurred to me in my younger, codependent years to ask that of a friend.
For over 30 – 35 years, I gave every troubled person who crossed my path un-conditional emotional support.
I used to give out continual, no- strings- attached, compassion, listening, and empathy – with no judging, no platitudes, no victim blaming, no shaming, scolding or advice giving.
I’ve changed in the last few years, since I realized one huge problem I had that was holding me back in life was being Codependent.
I came to realize I cannot save, fix, or rescue other people, that doing so has never worked, it only left me exhausted, and the people I supported very rarely helped me in return, and I was never once thanked by them.
I have made it a point to Thank people for listening to me on those occasions – those rare occasions – they have done so.
I recognize now that it’s very rare for one adult to listen to another adult and offer them non-judgmental emotional support.
I recognized this especially so after my mother died.
Before and after my Mom died, I spent over 35 years letting hurting or upset people talk my ear off, I gave them non-judgmental emotional support, but hardly anyone was willing to do that for me, not even after my mother’s passing, and I was in the grieving process.
On those few times another adult listened to me – or at least seemed to – I made it a point to thank those people for it!
I was usually the one doing the attentive, active listening, and it’s exhausting.
Most hurting or emotionally needy people lack self awareness: they love to find another adult who will listen to them complain and then feel sorry for them, but they never seem to understand how DRAINING and TIRING it is to be the listener in this equation.
I spent YEARS listening to family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and strangers complain and cry to me, and none of these people ever THANKED ME for all the listening and emotional support I gave to them.
None of them seemed to realize, notice, or care how tiring it was to listen to them go on and on about their pain in life, their dis-satisfaction, their anger, their disappointment.
But I know how draining it is, because I was the one doing all the listening to others and then giving them empathy for over 35 or so years.
All the Emotional Support Ultimately Did Not Help
As I got older and began looking back on my life, I noticed that those whom I gave a lot of Emotional Support to never found resolve – months to years later, they still kept writing, texting, or phoning me to complain about the same problem or set of problems.
All those weeks, months, or years of me granting them Emotional Labor and Empathy wasn’t rectifying their issues.
Those to whom I was giving this much sought after non-judgmental emotional support were just as angry, depressed, upset, miserable, and/or stuck in the same problems as they were when I first began listening to them and empathizing with them weeks, months, or years prior.
As but one example of many from my life (there are more I can cite involving other people I’ve known):
Do you know that during the many years I was the ever-giving, ever- nurturing codependent little sweet doormat, that I spent around 22 – 23 years listening to my older sister complain about her live-in boyfriend Donny (not his real name) before she finally dumped him?
She would phone me on a regular basis during those years to complain very bitterly about her long time, live-in boyfriend Donny (not his real name).
The complaints about Donny were usually the same – he wouldn’t get a job and help pay bills; he wouldn’t do housework while she was at her job all day; he wasn’t supportive enough of her.
(In addition to all that, my sister would also complain about her job problems, her boss problems, and occasionally other types of problems.)
In spite of the fact I gave my sister 20+ years worth of emotional support, did any of that listening and support get her boyfriend to get a job? No.
Did all of my emotional support (over 20 years worth) get the boyfriend to start pitching in and doing housework? No.
Did all my 20+ years of giving my sister emotional support improve her relationship with her boyfriend at all? No.
What it did do was drive me insane.
I am sorry my sister was fed up with “Donny,” but by the 5th or so year of me listening to her very long phone calls where she complained about him, I was worn out hearing it.
But she continued to spend another 18 or so years complaining to me about Donny, on top of her job, physical health, and landlord complaints.
None of my 20+ years of emotional support to my sister resolved any of these problems for her.
My Mother Example
None of the 20+ years I spent consoling my mother, granting her emotional support, helped her.
My mother grew up in a family of alcoholics who physically abused her and harmed her in other ways, she developed codependent behavioral coping skills as a result, and carried those into adulthood, where she brought me up to be codependent.
From a very young age, I could tell that my mother had various issues – low self esteem, no boundaries, and she felt unlovable.
My mother was a deeply wounded individual. She carried the pain of her childhood into her adulthood.
As I got older (and I am talking by the age of 8 or 9), I noticed that many people took advantage of my mother and treated her poorly, including my father and two siblings, who would verbally abuse her until she cried.
I saw this when I was a kid, it bothered me, and I vowed to never do or say anything that would hurt my mother or make her cry, and I stuck to that vow as I went through life.
I was one of the very few people in my mother’s life who consistently treated her with kindness.
Even when I was a teen ager, I was respectful to my mother. I did not get sarcastic with her, yell at her, or disobey her, the way my siblings had done.
Any time anyone made my mother hurt or cry (which was somewhat often), from the time I was a child and into my adulthood, I would rush to her side to dry her tears, comfort her, and cheer her up.
By the time I reached my early 30s, an incident occurred where I found myself consoling my crying mother once again.
In response, my mother made a comment to me (and no, I will not specify what this comment was), and I sat there in shock by what her comment revealed.
This comment my mother made to me indicated that all those years of emotional support I had given her had not helped her at all.
All my years of trying to make her feel loved, all the kindness I had shown her, had done no good – her self esteem was just as bad as ever, she still felt unlovable, and she was still very codependent.
I sadly came to the realization that day that none of my compassion, kindness, listening and empathy had any kind of positive impact on her.
I then realized that I would need to step back and stop getting overly involved in my mother’s personal dramas.
I had to stop running and pouring in hours of my time consoling her, listening to her talk about her hurt feelings, and so on.
I finally realized I could no longer make Mom’s problems my problems. If she was ever going to get better, SHE would have to realize she had a problem and put some changes in place – it would have to involve her working on herself, there was nothing more I could do.
On that day, I made a deliberate choice to stop getting as involved with her personal dramas and crying bouts.
As the months went by, some of my family members would go on to say and do things to upset her, hurt her, and make her cry.
By this time, in other words, I had learned my lesson, so I kept my emotional support to my mother brief and didn’t drag it out.
I was not heartless, but I recognized that me getting overly involved with her disputes with other family members and consoling her had done nothing over the years to help her, to change her relational habits, or to instill self esteem in her.
It took me years later, starting in my mid-40s, to realize I needed to begin doing this same thing with other people in my own life – not just my mother (who died when I was in my late 30s).
I just wish that this insight I had with my mother in particular when I was age 31 had carried over to all other people.
It was not until around my late 40s that I began realizing the same truth I realized with my mother was also true in regards to other people: some people were beyond my help, it was a waste of my time and effort to keep giving sympathy and emotional support to people who were beyond my reach, and/or who would not help themselves.
Those are just two examples from my life.
There was a steady stream over my life of hurting, angry, depressed, weepy, or needy people (I’ve blogged about a few of them in years past on this very blog!) who all talked to me quite often about their problems, and I listened and gave these people empathy.
Some of them were neighbors, co-workers, friends, or acquaintances.
These days, though, I now only grant emotional support, empathy, and help where it appears to be legitimately needed, and not forever, but for a limited time, or, depending on the situation, I dial back the support.
I no longer just come running, trying to help, rescue, or console every upset or wounded person, or the friend or family member who’s been texting, phoning, or e-mailing me with the same issue (or set of issues) for months or years.
It’s unfair for anyone out there to expect me to carry them all the time, or to solve their problems for them.
And I cannot. I am not God. I am not the Messiah. I cannot be your everything or fix you.
Some Cannot Be Fixed and Don’t Want to Be Fixed
There are some people who are beyond fixing.
This is another life lesson I’ve learned the hard way.
Some are actually quite comfy cozy in their misery – their identity is in being miserable and complaining all the time.
These people do not want to take charge of their life, but WANT you to feel sorry for them. They WANT you to take care of them.
They may say they hate being depressed, sad, or what not, but no, they really do not.
It’s horrendous and terribly unfair for anyone out there reading this blog, where I discuss how I finally put boundaries in place with some friend or family member or another, to accuse me, or rail against me, that I was not being “sensitive,” “supportive” or “kind” enough, in light of this fact in particular:
You’re talking to someone (an ex-codependent, for the love of god!) who spent over 35+ years being TOO giving, TOO sensitive, TOO supportive, TOO nice, to the point I am burned out, and I ignored my own needs for many years to help other people.
Also Beware of the Sincerely Good, Nice People Who Have Issues, Because Once They See You’re Codependent, They Won’t Hesitate to Use You As Well
It took me into middle age to figure out that not only are the obviously selfish, mean, and bullying people leeches who will walk all over you or drain you dry (they are obviously to be avoided if at all possible),
but you also have to limit how much time and help you grant to people who seem nice enough (they may or may not be genuinely nice or good), but who are also greatly emotionally needy, or who will not hesitate to use you and exploit you, once they realize you lack boundaries.
Emotional Support and Helping Can Transition Into Enabling
If you keep running to rescue and fix every person all the time (which are hallmarks of codependency), you only enable those people in whatever problem they have.
If you keep bailing your drug addicted friend out of jail, if you keep calling the employer of your alcoholic spouse to say, “he has a cold today and can’t make it to work,” when, in reality, your spouse is passed out drunk once more – you’re enabling.
If you keep fixing their problems for them, making excuses for them, or granting non-stop emotional support no matter what, these people (and I don’t just mean addicts here, but anyone with other types of problems) won’t experience the consequences of their choices or actions. You’re enabling, not helping.
You can end up doing a lot of damage to people but mistakenly think you are being loving, supportive, and helpful.
All Those Years of Giving Away Emotional Support, Kindness, and Empathy Got Me Nothing
I wasted over 30 years of my life helping people. Yes, wasted.
My helping people included not only efforts such as practical acts of kindness and giving, such as but not limited to, things like me bringing home-made chicken soup to a sick neighbor, or taking their trash out or bringing in their mail for free, while they were sick in bed, or me driving a co-worker to a job when his car was at the mechanic’s, and other such gestures, but…
It also included me giving away lots and lots of non-judgmental Emotional Support, empathy, concern, and hours of listening to other people off-load their problems in life to me and me giving them supportive comments in return. (These days, some may use the term “Emotional Labor” in some context to describe this.)
I performed a lot of “Emotional Labor” for people through my life, to the point, I am totally worn out by it, I have nothing left to give any one these days (I am depleted – rarely did any one ever give back to me during all those years), and I have no desire to go back to doing this.
Until I got to my early 30s, my mother is the only person who regularly gave me non-judgmental emotional support, who took a genuine interest in me and my life, who didn’t try to make every conversation about herself, and who didn’t respond to me by criticizing me or minimizing my problems (well, in a way. I can perhaps elaborate more on this point later).
My Mom was overall very supportive of me – and she’s really been the only one, but she passed away, there again, when I was in my late 30s.
Even During My Grieving Process, Selfish, Emotionally Needy Friends Weren’t There For Me But Kept Wanting me to Support Them!
Remarkably, even during my four and a half years of grieving my mother, I still had friends and family members e-mailing or phoning me at that time(!!) wanting me to give them emotional support over their job problems, boyfriend problems, or their very trivial, moronic problems in life (I blogged years ago about one or two of these friends).
These people expected me to support them, but none of them cared about me at that time, they didn’t ask how they could support me, not even in that time of grief.
And yes, these people KNEW my mother had died, and that I was struggling with it.
They didn’t care about the grief I was going through: they just wanted me to play my role of sweet, caring, emotionally supportive, free therapist, as I had done for years.
There I was hurting, needing a shoulder to cry on, but did any of these people care – not even when I politely reminded them I was still reeling from the loss of my mother? No.
They’d briefly acknowledge the loss by saying, “Sorry for your loss, but any way, back to me and my job problems, you won’t believe what happened today at my workplace…”
My older sister actually shouted at me in the months following our mother’s death, “I don’t care how Mom’s death impacted you! I only care what it does to Dad and me!”
(My sister actually screamed that at me three times over two days within about four months after our mother had passed.)
And as the months went by, and I was still in the grieving process, my sister didn’t want to give me any Emotional Support during that, but she kept phoning me to complain to me about her boyfriend problems and job problems – and expected me to console her (which I did).
I Cannot Drive This Home Enough: I Spent 35+ Years Ignoring My Own Needs, My Needs Were Seldom Met, Not Even by the Friends and Others to Whom I Gave Emotional Support
I spent many hours from my pre-teen/early teen years into my mid- to- late- 40s, listening to negative, sad, or chronically angry people complain or sob to me about their problems.
These were co-workers, acquaintances, friends, neighbors, family members, and sometimes strangers I bumped into.
Sometimes this was in face- to- face encounters, sometimes it was over the phone, and later, after the internet became a thing, this also happened on forums, blogs, and in e-mails or text messaging.
Over my life, I was like cat nip to the unceasingly wounded or the chronically angry.
I drew these types of people to me like moths to a flame.
I think there are several reasons for that, here are just a couple…
Introverts Are Great Listeners, and Great Listeners Are in Short Supply
I’ve always had a very introverted personality. Most introverts are quiet people. We are wonderful listeners.
The first few times you meet us introverts, we will remain quiet while we are listening closely to what you’re telling us. We’re trying so hard to understand what you’re saying and where you’re coming from.
That attentive listening from an introvert can be very, very appealing to people who are hurting, self absorbed, narcissistic, or pessimists who like to complain.
I think attentive, thoughtful listening is very rare and appealing in today’s world.
I think the American population consists of a lot of talkative, extroverted people, and narcissism has become very common place.
All of these extroverted, hurting, angry, self preoccupied, or narcissistic people are looking for someone who will listen to them talk about themselves and their problems, someone who will listen without trying to shame them, victim blame them, give them platitudes, or give them advice.
And Introverts can fill that role.
When we introverts first meet you, we will listen quietly as you talk about you. We won’t try to “hog” the spot light and pivot every conversation back to us. And the depressed, the emotionally needy, the self absorbed, the narcissists, LOVE THAT.
Codependents Are Also Irresistible Cat Nip To Attention Starved, Troubled People
If you’re a long time Codependent as I was for over three decades (close to four), you have, at some point in your life, had it ingrained in you either directly or indirectly, by one or both parents and religious faith, that it’s supposedly selfish for you to get your needs met.
Or maybe you heard or got the message in childhood from your family or church that YOUR needs and feelings are not important, but everyone else’s matter so very deeply.
Above, I did mention that my mother was one of the few people in my life who was supportive of me – which was by and large true, especially when I was younger, but as my mother was herself very Codependent, and she was conditioning me to be Codependent, I notice as I got older, my mother, in some aspects wasn’t quite so supportive towards me.
To give an example. Because I was such a nice, non-confrontational kid, I was often targeted by bullies.
(I didn’t understand until adulthood that the bullies were choosing me precisely because I was so nice, sweet, and compliant – which is how my mother raised me to be).
When I was younger and came home from school crying or infuriated because I was bullied yet again, my mother was very kind and consoling. She’d put her arm around me and tell me how sorry she was.
As I got older, though, my Mom acted more and more apathetic about the bullying.
I would come home upset, angry, or crying over having been bullied at school during the day, and she didn’t seem to care as much. She seemed pretty glib or unaffected by me being upset and bullied.
As I got older, my mother also began asking me to rationalize and justify the bullying I got more often.
My mother began asking me to make excuses for the poor treatment I was receiving.
If I came home around age 15, let’s say, upset because the same kid was bullying me for weeks and wouldn’t stop (and my Mom forbid me from confronting bullies, and the teachers would never intervene to help me), she’d sit there and ask me to feel sorry for my bullies.
My mother would say things like, “Maybe your bully is going through a tough time! Maybe his grandma died months ago, and sweetie, he’s just taking his pain out on you. If you feel sorry for him, you won’t have to get angry!”
Then, as I got older, into my 20s and 30s and experienced bullying on the job, or my siblings were phoning me to scream at me, my mother would again ask me to accept this poor treatment and not call it out.
She would say things like,
“Oh honey, your brother is only yelling at you monthly over the phone for hours and telling you to drop dead and to burn in Hell because his marriage is so stressful. So, you know, just try not to let it get to you. You’re helping your brother by allowing him to take his frustrations out on you, by screaming at you and insulting you.”
I also sat there and would watch my Mother allow others – including my father and siblings – either put her down sarcastically face to face, or they’d call her over the phone to scream at her.
I asked her once, “Why do you put up with it? Why don’t you tell them to back off?,” and she’d justify their poor behavior by saying things like,
“Well, X is yelling at me because his marriage is so horrible right now, X’s job is very stressful, and so if it helps X to scream at me over the phone for two hours, that is what a loving wife and mother does.”
My mother had no concept that being a loving mother or wife or neighbor or friend did not mean having to tolerate verbally abusive (or exploitative) behavior off friends, neighbors, or family members.
But that is a mindset she passed off to me from a young age.
I tried to live it out and mostly did for many years, but I had a difficult time with it, because it never made sense to me why I should just sit there and allow someone to verbally abuse me or exploit me because THEY were having a bad day or week.
The fact that I was so non-confrontational, passive, sweet, quiet, and conflict avoidant (i.e., codependent) made me such an attractive target for the bullies, mean people, the selfish, and the emotionally needy and the emotional vampires of the world.
It left me defenseless, too, as I moved through life, even into adulthood. I had no idea how to disentangle and remove myself from these imbalanced, soul sucking, unfair relationships or how to remove myself from the long winded, “gripe and complain” (or “cry, sob, weep, and complain”) texts or phone calls these people made to me.
My Mom never taught me conflict resolution – I was taught by her (and secular culture and Christian complementarians) – to practice conflict avoidance, which did NOT do me any favors.
My introverted nature, along with my mother’s method of parenting, turned me into a combination of a quiet, compliant, attentive, boundary-less doormat, which in turn made me into a magnet for selfish, depressed, pessimistic, hurting, angry, strange, or narcissistic people.
How You Handle Your Anger Is A Choice You Make
And let me tell you something else I’ve come to realize – how you handle your stress and anger in life is a CHOICE you make.
All the years I dealt with stress, anger, or disappointment, I chose healthy ways to cope, ones that did NOT involve me taking that anger or stress out on family members, co-workers at jobs, or strangers at the grocery store.
If I had a bad day at my job because my boss was rude to me, I’d put on a pair of jogging shoes and go on a run, watch a funny movie on television, or journal about it.
It was never my habit to get angry at a jerk boss and then come home and kick my pet dog, or to take it out on a family member.
It dawned on me a few years ago that my family members were using me as their Emotional Punching Bag and were making a choice to mis-handle their anger – by directing their frustrations in life at me.
My family members, I finally realized, were choosing to cope with stress or anger at their job, boss, or spouse (or whatever problematic person or ordeal) by calling me on the phone and screaming insults at me, or about me, for hours, and my mother had raised me to put up with this (so did Christian gender complementarians and secular culture).
Aside from Christian Gender Complementarians, Secular Culture also conditions women from the time they are girls to tolerate a lot of mistreatment.
It’s supposedly a woman’s job or duty to carry and repair broken relationships.
It’s up to women, supposedly, according to secular gender assumptions, to be this endless font of understanding and the giver of granting of second, third, and fourth (to infinity) chances and lots of unconditional forgiveness, no matter how much garbage and abuse we’ve taken off a boss, friend, sibling, spouse, or whomever.
Ending Verbally Abusive Phone Calls
(An Aside: I didn’t realize until a few years ago, that no, I do not have to endure verbally abusive phone calls.
I can hang the phone up if one of my siblings or whomever goes on a tirade against me.
I am under no obligation to be someone’s emotional dumping ground or punching bag – whether over the phone, in e-mail, blogs, texting, or in person.
For years, until recently, I didn’t know I had this choice to end verbally abusive phone calls, because the only choice I was given by family, church, and secular cultural assumptions about women, was to think it was my loving, feminine, Christian duty to PERMIT others to use, exploit, or verbally abuse me over the phone (or in person).
I know better now.)
I no longer rationalize, excuse, or diminish people’s poor treatment of me (as my mother, secular cultural gender stereotypes, and Christian indoctrination had programmed me to do).
Depending on my mood, I may confront the person who is mistreating me and hold them accountable.
I was a sounding board and a free therapist who gave nothing but pure non-judgmental emotional support to a lot of different people for close to four decades, and after leaving Codependency and looking back on my life, I realize just how unfair that was to me, as most of those I was “there for” were not there for me in return.
All that Emotional Support I gave to other people for three plus decades left me emotionally and mentally drained.
The continual Emotional Support I gave to so many people (a lot of whom had mental health issues, emotional problems, or personality disorders, or were, by disposition, pessimistic complainers who won’t be happy no matter how much others do for them), didn’t do anything to repair, fix, help, or heal those people.
The constant Emotional Support, attention, time, effort, and compassion I gave to the many angry, hurting, or self absorbed people who came into my life didn’t solve their problems.
I cannot emphasize this point enough:
I wasted over 35+ years of my life being codependent, which means, my own needs got ignored for years on end, while I gave of myself constantly.
I spent years tolerating lop-sided friendships and other relationships, where I was meeting the other person’s needs but they rarely met mine.
As a codependent in recovery, I learned it is not my obligation, place, responsibility, or duty to repair every hurting or disgruntled person, to forever cheer them up, make them happy or to feel loved in every case at all times, or to give un-relenting, no-strings-attached, indefinite emotional support with no qualifiers at all – even if or when the person in question is traumatized, is dealing with depression, or whatever the case may be.
Such people are still responsible for their own well being and welfare.
I cannot fix them, they have to fix themselves.
While it’s not incorrect or wrong to give some emotional support to some persons depending on the person and their situation, giving emotional support, compassion, and empathy can only do so much.
Receiving emotional support is not a permanent fix, but is a band-aid that may bring only temporary relief.
There’s only so much I can, or anyone, can do for another person.
I learned along my recovery process that I can only be responsible for me, that it is not possible, fair, or healthy for me to take on too much of other people’s pain or problems – at some point the hurting or angry people in my life need to accept responsibility for their own choices, actions, and behaviors in life and work out their own problems.
And “working out your own problems” in a healthy, effective, responsible way, does not consist primarily, or only, of phoning or texting me, or someone else, every week to complain continually about the same problems all the time, for months or years on end, especially when the complainer has shown no inclination of actually fixing their own problems.
You actually have to get up and take action to repair whatever has you upset. Getting emotional support from a caring friend won’t do that in many situations.
I also learned, during my years of walking away from codependency, that there are some people who are
- still dealing with unresolved trauma in their adulthoods that is leftover from their abusive childhoods,
- other adults have incurable or untreatable personality disorders,
and none of these are circumstances that I can solve by granting these people “emotional support” (a phrase which roughly translates to meaning, “me being psychologically worn down by listening to these people complain or sob for hours over months about the same problems repeatedly”).
I will consider giving a friend or family member emotional support so long as they appear to be taking ownership of some problem in their life and are attempting to work on it,
but for those friends or family who want to just use me as their emotional punching bag,
or to commiserate about how unfair or terrible life is (where most of our friendship is based on negativity and complaining),
or who want to use me as their sounding board whom they can complain to over months or years, no.
I already did that for many years for other people, and it didn’t help those people, it was unfair to me, it damaged my mental health, and it left me drained, and I won’t go back to that again.
It is just wrong and so very twisted for anyone to get angry or upset with a recovered codependent for having learned, and to put into practice, all these healthy behaviors I just outlined above.
It is perverted for a person to get angry with a recovered codependent for starting to have healthy boundaries for herself for the first time in her life, after a life time of having been used by so many people.
Demanding or expecting that a former codependent revert back to her old, unhealthy habits (that caused HER harm to HER mental health for years) all to prop up people who are or who may be selfish, self absorbed, users, exploiters, narcissists,
or so damaged they are beyond the point where non-stop “emotional support” can help them but only leave the listener (the codependent) worn out, is positively evil.
I, a recovered codependent, am no longer willing to sacrifice my mental health, time, or energy to keep throwing “emotional support” at people who it’s obviously not helping,
it’s never going to help (certainly not permanently),
who never expressed gratitude for it,
some of whom deny I even gave them any in the first place (when I did in fact give them emotional support for years),
or for those who may have deeply ingrained personality disorders (such as narcissism, which cannot be cured)
or other kinds of mental disorders that only a qualified psychologist should or can tackle.
★ My Codependent years are done and over. ★
My days of allowing myself to be sucked dry psychologically by all the complainers, the needy, the angry, the narcissists, and the depressed, (none of whom will actually try to solve their own problems),
all in the name of ‘being Emotionally Supportive, nice, feminine, loving, Christ-like, caring, empathetic, godly,’ are over.
I already did all that giving, loving, caring, attempted rescuing, saving, and support before, for many, many years, for many people.
All that caring, supporting, listening, giving, and so on, played a part in wreaking havoc on my mental health and made me an attractive target to abusers, users, the mentally troubled, and the selfish, and it didn’t help the people who were coming to me to get that Emotional Support – they still had the same problems, even after I was there for them.
I am not going back to any of that. I am done.
It is so very out of line, and so very obnoxious, for anyone to come on to this blog, or to text me or contact me in some other way, and dare to presume to lecture me that I wasn’t being “giving” or “supportive” enough, after I spent over 35+ years being a codependent doormat who did NOTHING BUT “give” and “support” other people.
During those years I was codependent to an insane degree, I lost myself and lost my identity in giving to others for over 35 years.
I was forever looking outside of myself to always ask myself, “how can I help this person I’ve met?,” having been brainwashed by a mother and a church to think that my feelings don’t matter, and that I exist only to help other people.
One difference now, though, is that I am not only over codependency, but I will eventually begin to hold people accountable, if they keep coming to me to complain about the same problems over and over, even if they claim they are in a tough situation, have an addiction, are under some kind of stressful situation, or have depression, or have some other mental health problem.
I will give most people emotional support up-front, but if it becomes clear to me they’re beyond my help and/or have no intention of changing any thing to improve their situation or attitude, I will either tone down the emotional support or remove it – I will begin asking them what they’re doing to fix the issue they’re upset about that they’ve spent months to years complaining about.
People who are looking mainly for attention, pity, sympathy, and for others to validate and echo back their negative perceptions don’t want to be held accountable.
I don’t play that enabling game any more – I already did that for decades under a People Pleasing nature, and I regret it.
In light of every thing I said above, which encompasses a lot of my life experiences during the years I was codependent, detailing the many years of emotional exhaustion I endured giving many people “emotional support,” (which they hardly ever gave to me in return),
never, ever tell me that I’m not nice, good, kind, giving, or supportive enough or never have been – I lived over 35+ years being pathologically giving, kind, and supportive – and have nothing to show for it but mental fatigue and several ex-friends who stabbed me in the back.
If you’re a people pleaser or a codependent, you need to start putting limits on when, where, for how long, and to whom you show compassion and grant your time, energy, affection, compassion, or money, because if you do not do so, you will keep attracting and getting exploited by selfish or personality-disordered persons.
Don’t allow feelings of fear – or of guilt if you say ‘no’ or refuse to help – to make you feel obligated to help anyone and everyone all the time.
Watch the videos below for more information.
(Link): 10 Signs Someone’s Always Playing the Victim (6.05 long video)
(Link): The “Victim” Narcissist | How to tell who is playing the victim (17 minute long video)
This post is very, very long – after publication, if I notice typing errors, I may edit the post to fix the mistakes.
I almost broke this post up into two or three entries but decided to keep it all in one post.
(Link): When You’re in Imbalanced, Unfair Relationships – You’re the Free Therapist, The Supportive, Sounding Board Who Listens to Other People’s Non-Stop Complaining, But They Don’t Listen to You – re: The Toilet Function of Friendship