Co-dependency aka ‘Pretzelling’ or the compulsion to comply

Co-dependency aka ‘Pretzelling’ or the compulsion to comply

We all seek love, recognition and approval and we learn from birth that certain behaviours get us more of what we want. We grow up learning to adapt ourselves, to varying degrees, in order to fit in with what we believe is required.

Often as adults, these adaptations are way past their use-by-dates yet we are still allowing them to influence our thoughts and behaviours, which can contribute to relationship problems.

Co-dependency officially relates to being psychologically dependent, in an unhealthy way, to an addicted person with whom we are in relationship.

Pathological accommodation describes a compulsion to comply with the will of another, where our own needs are impossible to assert.

These definitions sound extreme and dire and surely don’t relate to us? Or do they?

There is a degree of compliance in all of us and whilst it can be considered courteous and kind to consider the needs of others, we must look at the cost of complying in relation to our own sense of self, our wellbeing and our ability to have successful relationships.

How often do we second-guess what the other is wanting, try quite hard to provide this (pretzel ourselves into the shape we think they want), then get resentful because it’s uncomfortable or exhausting and they don’t seem to be appreciating it anyway?

The weeds of resentment can kill off the blossoms in the garden of loving relationships. Did we even check with them to ensure that we knew what they wanted or did we just second-guess from the filter of our own experiences? The degree to which we do this often depends on how hard we had to work to gain approval in our families of origin.

Watch this entertaining video by psychotherapist Jean Gamble explaining how we try to comply with what we guess is needed and how we ‘pretzel’ ourselves away from who we truly are in order to fit in, which is an agony we don't even realise we are living.

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Filed under

AcceptanceBehaviourPerformance anxietyRejectionRelationshipsTensionAwareness

  • By Jean Gamble, Psychotherapist

    Jean works with individuals, couples, families, teenagers and children. She knows that when we move past our layers of protection from hurt and connect deeply with our innermost self we can have rich, satisfying and purposeful lives and relationships.

  • Photography: Clayton Lloyd