From: The Common Threads of Codependency
Where did it come from?
Somewhere along the line we learned to doubt our perceptions, discount our feelings, and overlook our needs. Telling people what we thought or felt often resulted in our being ignored, laughed at, or punished. We looked to others to tell us what to think, what to feel, and how to behave. In this way, other people supplied us with information about who we were and who we should be. They defined us and our view of the world, and we may have accepted that as reality. It became more important to be compliant then to be authentic, and we adopted rigid beliefs about what "should be." We believed that if we could just "get it right," things would be okay. We look to others for the rules that defined us and for assurance that we were "getting it right." Our self-esteem hinged on gaining "others" approval. When we got it wrong, our sense of security and self-worth evaporated.
We saw ourselves as flawed. For many of us, that led to shame, fear, secrecy, dishonesty, manipulation, control, depression, and isolation. Some of us rebelled against rules and authority and became sullen, defensive, or arrogant. As a result of holding these mistaken beliefs about ourselves, we often passed them along to others. When they did not conform, we may have judge them harshly, cultivating blame and resentment, thus perpetuating the cycle of codependency.
We didn't really get to know other people. Our lives became an elaborate play in which we were acting a part. We interacted with others based on how we perceived their roles related to ours. Without an effective internal sense of security or well-being, we were unable to maintain functional relationships. We could not identify with other people as whole human beings. To us, they were just characters in our life story.
Trying to "get it right" cost us dearly. We did not own ourselves. We did not know or trust our own thoughts and feelings. We were unaware of our own contributions to the events in our lives. Hiding our true selves in order to fit in kept us isolated and unable to ask for help. Constantly denying our true thoughts and feelings was stressful and exhausting. We may have used alcohol, drugs, food, nicotine, activities, sex, or preoccupation with "others" to escape.
Being in denial, we were left with a sense of emptiness. Our relationships became increasingly disappointing. Ultimately, we found ourselves locked into a compulsive pattern of belief and behavior that could not satisfy us.