The Connection Between the Family You Were Raised Within And Codependency

Being a People Pleaser

Did you know that there are a surprising number of areas of mutuality between growing up in a family in which the emotional needs of the children were not being met and a host of emotional issues?

For example, being a people pleaser to a degree that doesn’t allow you to consider your own wants and needs. Do you spend nearly all your free time planning, making preparations for, and engaging in activities that are for others? Think here of the young mother who works fulltime and yet is the reliable go-to for her children’s teachers whenever a party needs to be organized, or the spouse who always says yes when out-of-town clients must be entertained at the drop of a hat, and then there is the person who cannot say no to a friend who repeatedly makes a burdensome claim upon their time and energy…

It Starts in Childhood

These so called over-functioning ways of responding to the needs of others while one’s own needs are left unmet has its roots in childhood and the ways in which we learn to protect ourselves emotionally as children. When we are born we are utterly dependent upon our caregivers to protect us and meet our basic needs.

Secure Attachments to Parents Create Emotional Safety

One of these basic needs is the need to attach emotionally to our caregivers. When this attachment hasn’t been disrupted by the needs of a parent (primary caregiver) we develop secure attachments. In other words, we view the world and others as mostly safe, predictable and dependable.

The Impact of Insecure Attachments

But for many this isn’t the case – A parent’s own mental health issues, traumatic events or losses within the family, of unexpected external demands are among the issues than can hamper a parent’s ability to emotionally (and sometimes physically) attend to the needs of their baby. When this occurs the baby’s attachment can be less than secure which means anxiety and insecurity are generated within the child.

This insecure attachment within a child in turn has an impact upon how the child develops, especially relative to feeling safe in the world, upon how his or her relationships as a child and as an adult will develop, and upon how he or she will go about attempting to get their needs, including emotional needs, met.

So for many who grow up with an insecure attachment style their sense of self-worth becomes contingent upon pleasing others who are perceived as possessing the power to confer happiness. The sense within this one (nearly always below the level of conscious awareness) is that they are not loveable unless they are proving their worth continually rather than simply knowing they are intrinsically valuable. The net result can be over-functioning within their relationships, not attending to their own needs, and symptoms of anxiety and depression as well.

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