Classic Patterns Of Codependence

The “classic” codependency model has been well described by the organization Co-Dependents Anonymous, Inc., and is referred to as “Recovery Patterns of Codependence.”  This organization has done an outstanding job of not only providing the important characteristics of codependency but organizing them into typical clusters in which they are most often observed.

Denial Patterns

Codependents often tend to:

  • Have difficulty identifying what they are feeling.
  • Minimize, alter, or deny how they truly feel.
  • Perceive themselves as completely unselfish and dedicated to the wellbeing of others.
  • Lack empathy for the feelings and needs of others.
  • Label others with their negative traits.
  • Think they can take care of themselves without any help from others.
  • Express negativity or aggression in indirect and passive ways.
  • Do not recognize the unavailability of those people to whom they are attracted.

Young woman with low self esteemLow Self-Esteem Patterns

Codependents often tend to:

  • Have difficulty making decisions.
  • Judge what they think, say, or do harshly, as never good enough.
  • Are embarrassed to receive recognition, praise, or gifts.
  • Value others’ approval of their thinking, feelings, and behavior over their own.
  • Do not perceive themselves as lovable or worthwhile persons.
  • Seek recognition and praise to overcome feeling less than. I
  • Have difficulty admitting a mistake.
  • Need to appear to be right in the eyes of others and may even lie to look good.
  • Are unable to identify or ask for what they need and want.
  • Perceive themselves as superior to others.
  • Look to others to provide their sense of safety.
  • Have difficulty getting started, meeting deadlines, and completing projects.
  • Have trouble setting healthy priorities and boundaries.

Compliance Patterns

Codependents often tend to:

  • Are extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long.
  • Compromise their own values and integrity to avoid rejection or anger.
  • Put aside their own interests in order to do what others want.
  • Are hypervigilant regarding the feelings of others and take on those feelings.
  • Are afraid to express their beliefs, opinions, and feelings when they differ from those of others.
  • Accept sexual attention when they want love.
  • Make decisions without regard to the consequences.
  • Give up their truth to gain the approval of others or to avoid change.

Control Patterns

Codependents often tend to:

  • Believe people are incapable of taking care of themselves.
  • Attempt to convince others what to think, do, or feel.
  • Freely offer advice and direction without being asked.
  • Become resentful when others decline their help or reject their advice.
  • Lavish gifts and favors on those they want to influence.
  • Use sexual attention to gain approval and acceptance.
  • Have to feel needed in order to have a relationship with others.
  • Demand that their needs be met by others.
  • Use charm and charisma to convince others of their capacity to be caring and compassionate.
  • Use blame and shame to exploit others emotionally.
  • Adopt an attitude of indifference, helplessness, authority, or rage to manipulate outcomes.
  • Use recovery jargon in an attempt to control the behavior of others.
  • Pretend to agree with others to get what they want.

Avoidance Patterns

Codependents often tend to:

  • Act in ways that invite others to reject, shame, or express anger toward them.
  • Judge harshly what others think, say, or do.
  • Avoid emotional, physical, or sexual intimacy as a way to maintain distance.
  • Allow addictions to people, places, and things to distract them from achieving intimacy in relationships.
  • Use indirect or evasive communication to avoid conflict or confrontation.
  • Diminish their capacity to have healthy relationships by declining to use the tools of recovery.
  • Suppress their feelings or needs to avoid feeling vulnerable.
  • Pull people toward them, but when others get close, push them away.
  • Refuse to give up their self-will to avoid surrendering to a power greater than themselves.
  • Believe displays of emotion are a sign of weakness.
  • Withhold expressions of appreciation.

The presence or absence of these traits in a person’s life does not infer any type of mental or behavioral disorder.  I have presented this in great detail simply to vividly illuminate the real-life effects of shame in the lives of individuals who were immersed in a toxic environment during childhood.

Codependence is the fertile soil in which all compulsions, obsessions, addictions, and shame-based patterns are cultivated.


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