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Codependency and Enabling

Family healing programs are essential to repairing and rebuilding relationships in highly enmeshed and codependent families.

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Codenpendency is a set of manipulative, compulsive behaviours learned by family members to survive in a family that is experiencing grest emotional pain and stress:

  • It is the dependency on people - on their moods, behaviours, sickness, or well-being, and their love.

  • Codependents look strong but feel helpless.  They appear controlling but, are controlled themselves.

  • Codependency is a learned behaviour that can be passed down from one generation to another.

  • It is an emotional and behavioural condition that affects the individuals ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship.

  • It is also known as a "relationship addiction" because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. 

Codependency often affects a spouse, a parent, a sibling, or friend of a person afflicted with addiction.  

Pia Mellody is an internationally renowned lecturer on the childhood origins of emotional dysfunction.  Her recovery workshops have benefited people all over the world, and her best selling books have been translated into many languages.  She describes a Codependent Personality as having the following characteristics:

  • Codependence is the pain in adulthood that comes from being wounded in childhood and leads to a high probability of relationship problems and addictive/compulsive behaviour.

  • It is the combination of immature thinking: feeling and behaving in ways that generate an aversive relationship with yourself (self-loathing), which the codenpendent individual acts out through self-destructive, and unduly self-sacrificial behaviour.

  • Codependents have low self esteem and look for anything outside themselves to make them feel better.  They find it hard to "be themselves".  

What does it look like?

Relationship Addiction: They have no sense of self or feel they are of no value so they must continually be in an intimate relationship to feel that high much like an addict.  when in a relationship, they typically turn into a chameleon being whatever the other person needs them to be to gain acceptance.

Lack of Boundaries: as part and parcel with their chameleon behaviours, co-dependents have a habit of lacking emotional boundaries.  They will often feel whatever the person around them is feeling.  it is as if they do not know where they end and the other person begins.

Values: are placed on what people think of them.  They will apologize for things they cannot control.  A codependents goal is to figure out what a person wants and to give it to them.  They develop remarkable abilities when it comes to reading peoples wants and needs, so that they can project that image of what the person desires.

Indispensable: Codependents feel that they would not be wanted if they do not have something of value to give.  They will often make themselves indispensable to the other person, giving the feeling that the other person cannot get rid of them.

Centre of the Universe: Codependents are self centred but in a unique way.  If there is a problem, they will bring it back to them as if it is their fault.  They are often seen as meddling in other peoples business, this again goes back to a lack of boundaries.  They like to create dramas where they are the hero and can come to the rescue.  They come from the belief that they can and should be able to fix any issue which arises.

Fear of Abandonment: The codependent personality needs to be involved in every aspect of their significant others life.  if they are not the codependent will perceive this as abandonment.

Control and Judgement: on thing a codependent craves is control.  This disease arises from a deep seeded fear.  They build an illusion around themselves and try to control all the variables to keep that illusion in place.  When the codependent begins to realize their lack of control they will lash out and become more judgemental.


Are you being held hostage by your loved one's using?  Enabling behaviour is born out of our instinct for love.  Its only natural to want to help someone we love, but when it comes to certain problems - helping is like throwing a match on a pool of gas.

What does enabling look like?

  • Overlooking the problem and not doing anything about it

  • Giving money to the family member who suffers with addiction

  • Aiding the addict when they ask for help in a situation they got into from using

  • Being in denial when the addict coaxes and manipulates their family

  • Being in denial or unaware of their drug seeking behaviour


Controlling behaviour, distrust, perfectionism, avoidance of feelings, intimacy problems, care-taking behaviour, hypervigilance, denial and physical illness related to stress.  It is believed we become codependent through living in systems (families) that hinder development, flexibility and spontaneity.  Some general rules that may contribute to codependency are:

  • It's not okay to talk  about problems

  • Don't trust your instincts or other people

  • Unpleasant feelings should not be openly expressed

  • Keep your feelings to yourself

  • Always be good, strong right and perfect - or at least act it

  • Make us proud beyond unrealistic expectations

  • Don't be selfish

  • Do as I say, Not as I do

  • It's not ok to be playful

  • It's not ok to shine or excel too much

  • Do not rock the boat

  • Disaster is always lurking, right around the corner

  • Guard the family secrets

  • You should feel guilty or scared to say no

  • Nice people are boring

  • If we disagree with each other we attack or abandon each other

  • Control others by manipulating with threats, guilt, fear or pity

  • If you need attention be overly dramatic to get it

  • Set off others' emotional temperatures to see how you feel

  • if you control things and . people, you will be safe


  • ​Repeatedly bailing them out of jail, financial problems and/or other tight spots.  Giving them one more chance, and then another

  • Ignoring the problem - because they get defensive when you try to bring it up or you hope that it will magically go away

  • Joining them in the behaviour 

  • Joining them in blaming others for their own feelings, problems, and misfortunes.

  • Accepting their justifications, excuses, and rationalizations.

  • Avoiding problems

  • Doing for them what they should be able to do themselves

  • Softening or removing natural . consequences for their problem . behaviour

  • Trying ti control them or their problem.