Many codependents are empaths as well which could exacerbate the effects of codependency. Empaths are people who are able to pick up on other people’s emotions and thoughts. An unidentified and/or unskilled Empath runs the risk of becoming codependent due to their inherent nature to confuse themselves with others and/or make others more important than themselves. They may not know the feeling or thought they are experiencing is coming from someone else and wrongly attribute the experience to themselves and frequently take inappropriate actions based on this misconception. An unskilled Empath cannot usually tell who is feeling what. Or they may be aware of what someone is thinking or feeling and take responsibility for what others are thinking and feeling and again take unhelpful action to remedy the situation in an attempt to make others feel better.
New research in the fields of neurology, especially that of mirror neurons, neuro-cardiology, bio-photons, and consciousness studies are revealing some very interesting information on the potential ways information is transmitted and stored. The brain is no longer the only known transmitter of information. Tests demonstrate that thoughts and emotions modify heart signals and thusly the signals from the heart are what informs the chemical and hormonal processes of the brain. These signals are not just transmitted throughout our own bodies but are transmitted from person to person through waves that travel outside the physical brain and heart which are then picked up by receptors not only in the physical brain and heart of others but by another form of information transmission and storage called bio-photons created by our DNA when we experience emotions.
This science cannot be thoroughly discussed in the framework of this paper, however resources are included at the end of this document that a coach can reference and include as information for self-discovery that can be offered to clients. Once an Empath or codependent understands the basic mechanics of information transference and persona imprinting and programming as science understands
it now, some of the guilt, shame, and feelings of incompetency can be alleviated. Thus freeing up space in their emotional body which allows a shift in perspectives about themselves and others. This and awareness of how to make conscious and deliberate choices about what to think and feel creates empowerment where before there was only futility and victimization.
Not all codependents are empaths and not all empaths are codependent. If a coach discovers through questioning that someone may be an Empath, providing them with an appropriate set of questions they can ask themselves in the moment is one way of helping them develop the skill they need to clarify if what they are thinking or feeling really belongs to them. This is necessary so they can separate themselves from others and create an increased ability to take helpful action or no action at all. This technique goes a long way in helping alleviate some of the stress of being responsible for everyone else’s experience. There are also resources, breathing techniques, and guided visualizations the coach can offer the client of which will be discussed in the coaching application section of this power tool.
Remembering that coaches do not diagnose mental health issues, identifying the client as a codependent is not the coach’s function in a coaching situation. When the coach becomes aware of potential codependent thinking or behavior he can ask powerful questions to help the client become more aware of the structures upholding the disempowering perspective and then ask more questions to help the client become aware of their strengths. This will help a client develop those strengths to use as tools to help themselves become the author of their own lives instead of waiting for life to be acted out upon them. Utilizing Appreciative Inquiry and Values and Strength assessments are very helpful for the codependent. Assertion skill development may also be of value to the codependent.
Here are some identifying belief structures and behavioral patterns for coaches to be aware of and watchful for in session:
Codependents have some of the following underlying belief structures:
- The person or situation will change if I can only……..
- I am not capable
- If I stand up for myself I will have to deal with unpleasant consequences
- I am not capable of being self-sufficient
- I need this disempowering person or situation in my life because…..
- I can’t function when I am upset, even the smallest upset can stop me in my tracks
- I can’t seem to get anything done
- If I make others happy that proves I am a good person and have worth
- If I don’t pay attention to what others are doing all the time something bad will happen
- If I don’t pay attention to the details something will not get done or not get done right
- If I am ignored it is proof that I have no worth or am not intelligent
- People that need me excessively proves I am a good person/caretaker
- If I have a lot of people that need me it proves I am a good person/caretaker
- If I look past this unacceptable behavior it will eventually blow over and get better
- There will be less trauma/drama if I just ignore this behavior or situation
- If I can keep everyone happy no one will get hurt, everyone will be happy
Let’s take a look at some common behavioral/emotional patterns of codependents:
- They often stop what they are doing when they become upset, even when the activity is important to them
- Their main objective is to please others and not themselves and even though this is true they frequently feel pressured, unappreciated, and even victimized by others, not realizing they made the choice to self-sacrifice
- They frequently check up on other people, trying to find something wrong with them or their behavior
- They can be obsessive about the smallest details and feel anxious about just letting things unfold in a natural organic way
- They may fear the loss of control and try to control others but become angry if they feel they are being controlled by others
- Can feel useless, depressed, or angry when they do not receive recognition or praise
- Are uncomfortable in groups of people if they don’t have or do what others in the group have or do
- Keep themselves busy or distracted to avoid self-examination or consequences
- Needy and/or narcissistic people are attracted to them and/or they are attracted to needy/narcissistic people
- Are loyal to people that hurt them or who dismiss their needs
- Are excessively focused on the needs of others beyond normal caretaking
- Feel guilty when they stand up for themselves
- Deny or ignore problems
Not all the above beliefs and behavior patterns are evident in every codependent and this list is only meant to be a brief summary, there may be many other disempowering beliefs and patterns.
A NOTE ABOUT INDEPENDENCE
Some codependents may not be able to make the big leap from codependency to interdependence, they may first need to experience the ability to be independent to help rebuild their sense of autonomy before being able to function in a more balanced interdependent relationship. The role of the coach is to help the client develop an increased sense of self-esteem and self-confidence in their abilities. Codependents have a habit of negating small victories and achievements. So helping a client acknowledge and celebrate small steps is an important part of this process. By becoming more confident the client then begins to appreciate and trust themselves, thereby making them more capable of appreciating and trusting others which is required in healthy interdependent relationships.
A NOTE ABOUT COUNTERDEPENDENCE
Much is written about codependency but not much is known about counter-dependency. Also counter-dependents sometimes can swing back and forth between codependent behaviors and counter-dependent behaviors depending on their triggers. Many codependents are attracted to counter-dependents and the behavioral patterns and beliefs of counter-dependents can exacerbate and perpetuate the disempowering conditions of codependency, and vice versa. For more information about counter-dependency go to
Interdependence means I see each person as viable, important, capable, and deserving to live their own life process in the way they see fit, even if it is different than mine or self-destructive. It means that I understand we need each other to be present, to show up fully as best as we can in the moment to co-create harmony, growth, and beauty in the world. An interdependent person is capable of suspending their own perceptions about other people and get curious about how it is possible someone is behaving the way they are. They are proactive in engaging in open ended, respectful dialogue to problem solve issues as they arise without projecting blame, shame, or incompetency on themselves or others. They understand the interconnected nature of all things and respect everyone’s role in the system. Being holistically minded they seek solutions that positively or at least neutrally affect the whole system.