Codependence: what it is and how to deal with it

In General by Dr. Keith Witt


Humans are ultrasocial, and most of our interactions fall into three categories, dependent, independent, and interdependent. Just like most everything else, there are healthy and unhealthy versions of each.

  • Healthy dependence is when we appropriately rely on someone else to take care of us, or appropriately care for another person who would benefit from our help. Healthy dependence does not diminish the person caring for or the person being cared for, but instead supports the social holon they participate in. An infant being cared for by a parent or an invalid being cared for by a nurse are two examples of healthy dependence.

  • Unhealthy dependence is codependence, where one person attempts to help another in ways that diminish both. Trying to help an alcoholic or addict by lying for them or enabling them to practice their addiction is the most widely known example of this.

  • Healthy independence is doing for yourself when it serves the highest good for your and other’s health and development.

  • Unhealthy independence is counterdependence—not seeking connection or help appropriately because of ego or entrenched defenses.

  • Healthy interdependence is a functional social holon where people support each other’s vertical and horizontal health by appropriate agency and communion.

  • Unhealthy interdependence is using the LL intersubjective to create dangerous cultural forms like mass formation psychosis or exploitation of other groups.

The codependent piece is of special interest, since blindness to it leads to sustaining exactly the behaviors that both codependents are trying to change.

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