Facing Codependence Book Summary - Facing Codependence Book explained in key points
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Facing Codependence summary

Pia Mellody with Andrea Wells Miller & J. Keith Miller

What It Is, Where It Comes from, How It Sabotages Our Lives

4.4 (140 ratings)
22 mins
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    Facing Codependence
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    What codependence looks like

    Just like a fish doesn’t know it’s wet, many swim through life oblivious to their codependency condition. Recognizing you have this problem requires self-awareness. Only by acknowledging and accepting it can you work on getting things sorted. This journey begins with recognizing the signs of codependence within yourself.

    There are five primary symptoms of codependence you should look out for. 

    Symptom #1: Unhealthy levels of self-esteem.

    Codependent people lack the healthy self-esteem that allows them to see themselves as valuable human beings despite their faults, mistakes, and failures. There are three types of dysfunctional self-esteem that characterize such individuals. The first is severely low, if not nonexistent, self-esteem. People who fall into this category often feel they're inferior to others, believing they lack value or worth. The second category is very high self-esteem. These people believe they're better than everyone else, often displaying an inflated sense of self-worth or importance. Finally, there's other-esteem – individuals who derive their sense of worth from external factors, such as financial status, material possessions, and even their kids' achievements.

    Symptom #2: Dysfunctional boundary systems.

    Healthy individuals establish boundaries that both protect them from harm and prevent them from overstepping others' boundaries. For those with codependency, their sense of boundaries often gets distorted. There are four categories of boundary dysfunction. First, there’s having no boundaries. Such individuals either let others violate their personal space or they invade the boundaries of others. Second, there's having damaged boundaries. While this group might be aware of personal boundaries, this awareness is inconsistent, only kicking in during some situations and around particular people. Third, there's putting up walls. Instead of setting healthy limits, these people build impenetrable walls, often masked by anger or fear. Finally, there's a switch between walls and nonexistent boundaries. These individuals fluctuate between erecting defensive walls and then completely dropping them once they feel overly isolated. But because they have no boundaries set up – thus exposing them to harm – they retract to their walls.

    Symptom #3: Reality struggles.

    A person’s reality is shaped by how their body looks, how they think, how they feel, and how they behave. Because everyone experiences these four components differently, your reality will be distinct from another person's. For those dealing with codependence, there's often a challenge in embracing parts or all of their personal reality. This struggle typically manifests at two levels: Level A, where individuals know their reality but choose not to share or express it to others, and Level B, where they're disconnected from their own reality altogether. They often have distorted perceptions about their physical appearance, remain oblivious to their genuine thoughts and feelings, and lack awareness of what they're doing.

    Symptom #4: Issues with identifying and fulfilling personal needs and wants.

    Adults are expected to recognize and meet their own needs and wants. But codependent people have trouble doing so. Instead, they fall into one of four categories. The first is being too dependent – they rely entirely on others to cater to their needs and wants. The second is being anti-dependent – they resist any assistance from others to fulfill their needs, even when certain ones like physical and emotional nurturing are best met by others. The third is being unaware of their own needs and wants. And the fourth is confusing needs with wants, which often involves attempting to meet the need by getting their unrelated wants.

    Symptom #5: Struggles with moderation.

    Codependents have no sense of moderation – they’re either too little or too much, no in-between. This tendency impacts various aspects of their lives, including physical appearance, emotions, behavior, and problem-solving. For instance, they might either overdress or wear minimal clothing, become explosively expressive of their feelings or entirely withdrawn, and act out dramatically or become almost invisible in group settings. When confronted with challenges, their solutions also tend to swing to the extreme, like how their first thought is to get a divorce after getting into a minor argument with their spouse over who would do the dishes.

    Determining if you suffer from these symptoms is the first step in your journey to recovery.

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    What is Facing Codependence about?

    Facing Codependence (1989) offers insights and guidance for those seeking to navigate and recover from codependent behaviors. It dives into the complex condition of codependence, identifying five main symptoms, their origins, and their corresponding effects on the individual’s life.

    Who should read Facing Codependence?

    • Individuals navigating relationship challenges
    • Self-awareness and personal growth seekers
    • Anyone interested in understanding codependency

    About the Author

    Pia Mellody is the Senior Clinical Advisor at The Meadows, a treatment facility for addiction and trauma. She's recognized for her expertise in the areas of codependence, addictions, and relationships. She’s also authored notable books, including Facing Love Addiction and The Intimacy Factor.

    Keith Miller is a speaker, teacher, and author in the world of spirituality and personal growth. His other titles include A Hunger for Healing and Compelled to Control.

    Andrea Wells Miller has penned, collaborated on, and edited various books, including Facing Love Addiction and Breaking Free.

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