For many years now, in my professional practice, which has also been enriched by my own personal work, I have been working with relationships.

By Lic. Vilma Perren

A long time ago, in this “looking inwards”, I discovered a relationship modality that turned out to be extremely unhealthy, and although I was already a psychologist with several years of clinical experience, I “discovered” that what was happening to me had a name: CODEPENDENCE.

Despite having graduated from the prestigious University of Buenos Aires, I must admit that no subject in my undergraduate training has ever talked about it, being, as I later found out, the CULTURAL BONDING MODEL THAT WE ALL HAVE LEARNED.

We could fill many pages talking about it, but synthetically I will say that codependency is a bonding structure where, as a codependent, I end up “satelliteing” around another person, losing myself in it, blurring and “distancing” myself from myself.

Today we know that this problem is considered an addiction, just like addictions to substances, the difference is that the drug is the relationship itself, suffering many of the same consequences as other addictions: neglect of my own health, my work, my finances, other links outside the addictive one, etc, etc, etc.

Codependency is a chronic, progressive and social disease: “chronic because it is installed at an early age, progressive because it advances in a hidden way and worsens over time and social because the parameters of the consumer society promote the submissive-submissive, successful-failed, victim-victimizer link model” (Addiction to people and pathological affective dependencies – authors: Dr. Mónica Pucheu and Lic.)

Although we can speak of dysfunctional families where we find a propitious field to develop codependency, we cannot ignore that these families are inserted in a larger structure, the culture and the social environment to which they belong.

Of course, the lack of listening, the impossibility of expressing true feelings and thoughts, the lack of affection, the inversion of roles where children act as adults and parents as children, the over-adaptation, etc, will be a sort of “breeding ground” to later establish toxic bonds, but are these situations extraordinary, or can we recognise that some of them are commonplace in any family system?

This has many consequences, but I will mention just a few:

Infantilisation, lack of emotional maturity as I justify my actions and decisions in external reference. I do what is expected of me, what I “must” do according to the expectations of others I disempower myself, as I comply and obey without reflection, which would allow me to begin to act responsibly and freely (we cannot be obedient and responsible at the same time!).
I disempower myself. My “centre of gravity” is not in me but in the external gaze of others.
The belief that “I am not enough” (basic addictive belief) is strengthened and takes possession of us (because I am always in external reference), thus feeding infantilisation, disempowerment and my lack of responsibility for myself, waiting for someone “from outside” to take care of my happiness.
All this is annulling my inner freedom, impoverishing me as a person, and stifling my talents and best virtues because in truth, I end up not knowing who I am…

Lic. Vilma Perren is a Clinical Psychologist – Logotherapist
Founder of GARVA (Grupo de Asistencia y Recuperación de Vínculos Adictivos).
She coordinates groups and workshops on the subject of relationships Author of the book: La sanación viene de dentro (Healing comes from within).