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Codependency and Personal Growth
An Outline For Change

This is a file I wrote in 1995. It was one of the first things I wrote in the area of personal growth. I have been re-reading it and editing it a little since a lot of time has gone by, with a lot of changes in my life.

S. Hein
Feb. 7, 2006

** under construction.


Personal Note

(My Feb 2006, comments are in blue.)

In the fall of 1983 I began a 7 year codependent relationship. There was an incredible passion and spark between us. When things were good, they were very good. When they were bad, sheer agony. The intensity was addictive. I was controlling, manipulative, abusive, judgmental, insensitive, immature, and generally speaking, wildly unhealthy. There were no drugs or alcohol involved. The intensity came only from our pure emotions, energy and needs.

I truly loved her, but I didn't know what love was. I didn't know the difference between loving someone and needing them. I had never heard of codependency. I wanted what was best for her. But I went about it the wrong way. My efforts were frustrating, and in the end, futile. In fact, they turned out to be totally counterproductive. The person I loved the most in my life, the person I cared about the most, now will have no contact with me. The thing I needed and loved the most, I pushed right out of my life.

I know now why I did the unhealthy things I did, why I had the unhealthy needs I had. A very large part of it has to do with my parents and their parents. I have resolved some of this with my mother. My father died before I ever had the first clue about my life. I wish I could talk to him now. But I can't. That is reality. I accept reality now, rather than wishing & hoping & praying for something unreal.

Now that I have studied & understood my childhood, I have come to this conclusion:

I am now fully responsible for my own life and my happiness.

For the past several years I studied my primary codependent relationship, and others, to learn about myself. I made a commitment to learn about myself and to become happier. I invested my time, money and energy into this effort. It is the best investment I ever made.

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What I discovered was life-changing. I am much more aware of myself now. Much more accepting, loving and compassionate. And much healthier. I am not all the way "there" yet, but I feel the progress I have made. At times I don't know myself, because these changes have been so profound as to be foreign and unfamiliar to me.

Not knowing myself or who I really am or what I really want has perhaps been the hardest. Also hardest is letting go of relationships with people familiar to me, even within my family. I did not know this would have to be part of the bargain.

I willingly made the changes, but I was not, and I am not, sure of the nature of the end product; or of who will join me in my life journey. But I know the quality of my life has improved dramatically. And my relationships are light-years better. I feel more sure of myself. More confident. More honest (with myself and others). Less worried about what others think of me. I am more sure of my own values and I am practicing living in integrity. I am learning to talk about my feelings and learning to listen without feeling responsible to fix things.

All these things "feel" good. Now I will say something so simple you may tend to let it passby without giving it much thought, but I urge you to think about what it means in your life:

We all have two choices in life: Feeling good or feeling bad.

(Now I realize it is not that easy. See Feb 2006 update below.)

I can't speak for you, but I know that I prefer to feel good, especially about myself. Even if it means I am alone. But I believe with all my heart that being alone now will prepare me for a beautiful relationship in the future. This belief allows me to enjoy the present, while letting the future take care of itself. This works well for me.

Maybe it will for you, too.


Feb 2006 Update

As I read this I and think back to the past 10 years of my life I see that I was overly optimistic back then. Things were not as easy as I made them sound. If you read my writing called "A Feb 2006 Example from My Life with Laura" you will see that I still get into codependent relationships. I'm just more aware of it now! Seriously, I have learned a lot of things in the past ten or so years, but I have also suffered a lot more than I ever thought I would. I felt a lot more self confident back in 1995. After that I spent more time alone than I ever dreamed I would. I felt so alone at times that I thought of killing myself to stop the pain of loneliness.


page 2

Maybe it would have been good for me to read my own writing from this outline. I haven't read it in years myself, to be honest. Sometimes when I look back at my writing from around 1995 I think I was not very in touch with my feelings. Actually, I know I wasn't. I wasn't very empathetic to young people who are depressed. I didn't know any really back then. And I didn't know anything about cutting or teen suicide.

I don't want people to feel discouraged or cynical if when they read this outline they think I am making this all sound too easy. It's not easy. It is hard. It is painful. If you are a sensitive person and have been emotionally damaged to anywhere near the extent I was, or worse, it is going to take you years of recovery. It took you years to be damaged so it only makes sense I guess that it will take you years of recovery. And it may well be easier to damage a young person's self-concept and teach that person toxic beliefs and lessons about life than to recover and learn more healthy beliefs and skills.

And for my teen friends who might read this, who have been in so much emotional pain for so long that they are now cutting themselves to try to numb their emotional pain, I want to say that what I went through is probably not nearly as bad as what you are going through. So if you can't do the things I talk about here, then please don't feel discouraged or bad about yourselves. And try to remember that when I wrote this I had nearly total freedom. I was free to travel where I wanted, do what I wanted, read what I wanted. I had all the time in the world to read, to think, to go to the mountains and beaches or to go camping in the national parks in the USA and Canada, or to sleep in the back of my car pretty much wherever I wanted. I could get away from the people who were damaging me, hurting me, poisoning me.

Freedom may be one of the most important medicines in the recovery process. Time and freedom. But though you are not free, maybe you can give yourselves some small amount of psychological freedom by changing your beliefs about what is important at this point in your life and what your needs are. For example, do you really need to be making good grades and trying to get the approval of people who will mean nothing to you in a few years? Is it really important that you are good in sports or some subject at school which doesn't interest you? Will these things help you with your own codependent relationship problems a few years from now? Or are you headed in the same direction I was: Academically smart, but emotionally illiterate and relationship destructive?

But again, when I said "This works for me", though that sound simplistic now and even a little fake, I suppose it was working in a way. My beliefs at that time got me through the rough period of my divorce with Galina, or Gale as she now calls herself.

But then I started talking to suicidal teens and started feeling their pain and my frustrations and resentments from years of feeling judged, controlled, mocked, teased, laughed at, invalidated, lectured to, threatened, punished etc. And on top of all of that I started feeling something new - discriminated against, in the sense that only because of my age I was being told I couldn't do things, not even talk to people or chat with them online, simply because of my age and their age. I was misrepresented by people. I was ostracized by people, including people the field of EI like David Caruso and Jack Mayer, because I criticized them and disagreed with them.

All of this hurt.

Then I met Laura in Peru and she gave me so much unconditional love. Or at least the closest thing I have ever had in my life to that, with very few exceptions. She loved me more more than my own mother. She saw me more clearly. Appreciated the things about me that I wanted and needed someone to appreciate. Not just the things that served her, such as the things my mother would reward me for with her exaggerated praise when I did something as trivial as take out the garbage or clean the basement stairs. A few years ago my mother told me she was proud of me, and I think she really meant it and was talking about the more important things I do and the more valuable things I have to share with the world, but she never gave me this message when I was younger. But anyhow, all the positive psychology and self-help books are great, but they can't take the place of hugs and love from another intelligent sensitive human being who values the best qualities in you. This reminds me of what Nathaniel Branden said about being "psychologically visible" to someone. Laura saw me for who I am inside. Or at least she saw a lot of me. She has her own very deep unmet needs, pain and insecurities which cause us serious problems and conflicts at times but overall I think its fair to say this is the healthiest relationship I have ever been in.

S. Hein
Feb 7, 2006
Jujuy, Argentina



Teen Suicide
David Caruso
Jack Mayer
Laura - Peru
Nathaniel Branden

Next page


page 3


This is probably the world's shortest course on Codependency Recovery. It summarizes years of research, study, therapy and personal experience. As far as I know, no one else has summarized this much information in so few pages. Although there is much information condensed on these pages, you surely know (intellectually, at least) that to get any good out of this outline, you must take action. You must apply the steps listed below.

I am not a psychologist. I am simply another human who has struggled with life and who has had to figure things out for himself. Although it was I who did the hardest work, I sought, received, and applied help and information from many, many sources. This outline is a summary of what I have discovered and what worked for me. (Edit 1)

I. Detach

A. Stop taking responsibility for other's feelings & welfare

1. Stop feeling guilty
2. Stop accepting guilt
3. Stop cultivating it (feeding it, watering it, etc.)
4. Stop harvesting it (acting out of guilt)

This is a little simplistic. It's a good idea, but you can't just stop feeling guilty. You have to work on this for a long time. Here are some pages on guilt which I wrote later that might help.

B. Stop trying to control

1. Manipulation

a. Sulking
b. Quiet treatment
c. Anger
d. Threats
e. Coercion

2. Power struggles / Superiority Battle

a. Emotional power

- Stubbornness
- Trying to prove a point
- Trying to teach a lesson

b. Financial power

c. Intellectual power

- Trying to prove you are "smarter"
- More educated
- Playing psychologist

3. Trying to fix other people (It's good to help them but not to try to "fix" them)

There is a fine line between trying to help and trying to fix. Check with the person to see if they feel helped. Or if they feel pressured. Or check yourself to see if you feel frustrated. If you do, you are trying to hard to fix or change them. And check to see if you feel responsible for them, their happiness, future, feelings etc.

Next page


page 4
............................................................................................... ............................ ................................... ....................... . ............................................

C. Cut the ties that bind your happiness.

1. The tie to what someone else does
2. The tie to what someone else says
3. The tie to how someone else feels
4. The tie to a particular result or outcome

II. Love Yourself

A. Accept yourself

1. Accept all your imperfections

a. Your physical limitations
b. Your age, sex, race limitations
c. Your past "mistakes"
d. Your failures
e. Your areas for improvement

2. Stop comparing yourself to others
3. Stop trying to be perfect
4. Stop criticizing yourself when you are not
5. Stop punishing yourself

B. Start taking care of yourself

1. Treat yourself like your best friend

a. Like someone you care about
b. Like someone you value
c. Like someone you want to see stay alive
d. Like someone you want to live a long time
e. Like someone you want to be happy

2. Stop allowing others to mistreat you (Abuse)

a. Putting you, your self-esteem down (Mental abuse)

(1) criticism
(2) teasing
(3) disrespect

b. Playing with your emotions (Emotional Abuse)

(1) Withholding affection
(2) Trying to make you sad, cry
(3) Trying to cause guilt, shame

c. Using fear to intimidate, control you (Psychological abuse)

(1) Threatening you
(2) Punishing you

d Physical Abuse

(1) Slapping
(2) Grabbing
(3) Pulling
(4) Shaking
(5) Hitting

e. Sexual Abuse

(1) Sex against your will
(2) Unenjoyable sex
(3) Sex as a weapon
(4) Treating you like sexual object
(5) Using sex to "solve" problems



............................................................................................... ............................ ................................... ....................... . ............................................


3. Set Boundaries

a. Decide what is acceptable and unacceptable
b. "Put your foot down"; Draw a line, etc.
c. Maintain your boundaries

(1) Don't say one thing & do another
(2) Compromise, but don't "give in"
(3) Be firm, determined
(4) Remember: Actions speak louder....
(5) Instead of trying to change another person, just move on with your life.

C. Stop self-destructing through these unhealthy habits
1. Regret
2. Blame
3. Control
 a. You can't control anyone else but yourself
 b. You set yourself up for failure & frustration
 4. Worry
a. Worry is paralyzing
b. Worry doesn't solve anything
c. Worry makes you feel worse
5. Fear
a. Do what you fear to conquer it
b. Assess realistic probabilities of fear being realized
6. Feeling trapped
a. Seek new options
b. Meet new people
c. Get new opinions
d. Expand your comfort zone
(1) Try new things
(2) Give up old attachments, habits
(3) Stop setting artificial limits
               e. See "Empower Yourself"
7. Possessiveness
a. Attachment to parents
Example: Don't talk about "My" mother that way
b. Attachment to partner
c. Attachment to material things


D. Educate & Empower Yourself

1. Read
2. Listen to tapes
3. Attend seminars
4. Get counseling
5. Join support groups
a. 12 step groups (open groups)
b. Form your own closed group
(1) Non-judgmental
(2) Limited advice giving
(3) Goal oriented
(4) Education oriented
(5) 2-6 people

III. Get Real

A. Stop being idealistic

1. Stop hoping things will get better
2. Stop giving things one more try
3. Stop hoping he/she will change
4. Stop believing in fairy tale romances
5. Stop looking for quick fixes
a. Drugs
b. Alcohol
c. Sex
d. Eating
e. Medicating
f. Supernatural cures
g. A new partner
h. Someone else to fix you
i. Someone else to fix

B. Stop making things worse than they are

1. Exaggerating
2. Using expressions like "always, never"
3. Filtering out the positive things
4. Turning positives into negatives
Example: She didn't real mean that compliment,
she's lying so I'll feel better. I can't trust her.
5. Negative "Fortune telling"
Example: I probably won't get the job.
6. Taking things personally
Example: It must be something I did or something about me.

IV. Accept Appropriate Responsibility

A. For the choices you made/are making as an adult
B. For the mistakes you made
C. Do not blame yourself for things you did not choose:

1. Your parents
2. Your family
3. Your childhood
4. Other people's feelings

V. Balance

A. Emotions/Intellect
B. Work/Play
C. Taking care of self/others
D. Action/Reflection

VI. Look at Your Life

A. Your Values

1. What is important to you?
For example:

a. Honesty
b. Loyalty
c. Obedience
d. Tradition
e. Integrity
f. Responsibility
g. Compassion
h. Religion
i. Independence
j. Free Will
k. Entertainment
l. Education
m. Appearances
n. Material success
o. Other people's opinions
p. Self-respect
q. Security
r. Survival
s. Life
t. Happiness

2. Rank these values

3. Make all effort to live according to your ranking

B. Assess your beliefs

1. Spiritual

a. gods
b. afterlife
c. angels/devil
d. past lives

2. About Self

a. Good person?
b. Lovable person?
c. Attractive?
d. Competent?
e. Successful?
f. Able to take care of self?
g. Intelligent?
h Sensisitive?

C. Determine the origin of your beliefs

          1. Your family?
          2. Your church?
          3. Your friends
          4. Your role models?
          5. Society?
          6. Your own educated analysis & selection?
 D. Determine which beliefs have helped you vs. hurt you
 E. Create your own, healthier belief system
 F. List your positive attributes
 G. Your self-defeating patterns & bad habits
 H. Expand your positive attributes; decrease your negatives
VII. Set Goals

     A. Personal
     B. Professional
     C. Educational

VIII. Develop An Action Plan

     A. Break it down by time
          1. Daily
          2. Weekly
          3. Monthly
          4. Yearly
     B. Put your plan in writing
     C. Share it with someone you trust; who will support you
IX.  Follow Your Action Plan

     A. Congratulate yourself for success
     B. Celebrate major accomplishments
     C. Learn from failures & move forward
     D. Encourage yourself frequently
X.    Make Adjustments As Needed!

Remember that it took you a long time to get where you are.  It will take a long time to recover. 
Perhaps recovery is not even the best word.  Recovery implies you were healthy at one time. 
Most likely you never were, or at least not since you were a new born, bouncing baby.  From
that moment on you probably have been exposed to unhealthiness.  Perhaps a better word is

The discovery of the real you. Of what makes you happy.  Of what makes you feel good about 
yourself. And good about life.  

I truly believe that if you make a committed effort to trying to apply the ideas I have outlined
above, you will begin to feel better.  But I also caution you that there lie painful moments
ahead. These are to be expected.  They are normal.  Don't get discouraged.  When you feel
down, feel down, then pull yourself back up.  Never give up.  

When you feel at your lowest & you feel totally overwhelmed by life, ask yourself this question:

                     Am I going to give up?

As long as your answer is: "No, I am not going to give up", then you can ask the next question:

                       What I going to do?

If you are not sure, go back to the first question.  Keep repeating this until you figure out what
action you are going to take.  Action is one of the most important keys to breaking any cycle. 


It is my sincere desire that this outline has helped you find the strength and motivation within
you to break the cycle of codependency. 

Best Wishes

Steven P. Hein 
June, 1995
Slightly modified, March 2001



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