This list of patterns has been developed by members of Codependents Anonymous based on their own experiences.

The basic patterns of codependency stem largely from abuse, often the abuse or dysfunction within families. This list also forms the arc illustrating what often happens to people who stay in an abusive relationship: a denial of their needs and feelings, plummeting self-esteem, a growing identification with the other person's (or people's) needs, and a growing focus on filling those needs and finding ways to control and fix their lives to avoid further abuse.

Denial Patterns

  • I have difficulty identifying what I am feeling.
  • I minimize, alter or deny how I truly feel.
  • I perceive myself as completely unselfish and dedicated to the well being of others.

    Denial patterns illustrate a detachment from your own emotions or even identity. They involve putting other people first to the point where those people become the only visible thing in your life, like holding your thumb in front of the moon so it becomes immense and blocks out all the light. This is half of the controlling side of codependency: focusing on others' problems as a panacea or at least a distraction from one's own, often because one's own problems are too terrifying or have been devalued by others for too long.

    Low Self-Esteem Patterns

  • I have difficulty making decisions.
  • I judge everything I think, say or do harshly, as never "good enough."
  • I am embarrassed to receive recognition and praise or gifts.
  • I do not ask others to meet my needs or desires.
  • I value others' approval of my thinking, feelings and behavior over my own.
  • I do not perceive myself as a lovable or worthwhile person.

    Low self-esteem patterns come from a basic sense of unworthiness, a sense that you are not a lovable or valid person. Instead of a healthy respect for those who you feel deserve it, they involve respecting everyone else because you think so little of yourself that they must by default be better than you. In a less extreme form, you might have your own opinions on a subject, or knowledge about the world, but immediately assume that anyone's dissenting opinion is probably right. This self-image often also precludes being able to accept compliments or ask for what you need, because you must fall so far under the cutoff point for deserving those things.

    Compliance Patterns

  • I compromise my own values and integrity to avoid rejection or others' anger.
  • I am very sensitive to how others are feeling and feel the same.
  • I am extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long.
  • I value others' opinions and feelings more than my own and am afraid to express differing opinions and feelings of my own.
  • I put aside my own interests and hobbies in order to do what others want.
  • I accept sex when I want love.

    Compliance patterns follow naturally from low self-esteem. Without a sense of self-worth, it is extremely difficult to stand up for yourself in the face of physical abuse from others, or to recognize abuse when it occurs. So the only option left is to try to bargain with the abuser to avoid abuse, often by becoming smaller and smaller and more and more dedicated to their lives and their desires. This often includes the other points in this list - identifying with their emotions in an attempt to head them off, or in a form of Stockholm Syndrome; becoming afraid to disagree with them; setting aside what you want to do with your life or your time in order to keep them happy; having sex in an attempt to generate or replace healthy love.

    Control Patterns

  • I believe most other people are incapable of taking care of themselves.
  • I attempt to convince others of what they "should" think and how they "truly" feel.
  • I become resentful when others will not let me help them.
  • I freely offer others advice and directions without being asked.
  • I lavish gifts and favors on those I care about.
  • I use sex to gain approval and acceptance.
  • I have to be "needed" in order to have a relationship with others.

    Control patterns are another key defense mechanism that comes out of abusive relationships. In order to deal with abuse, many people try to find ways of controlling the situation by taking care of their partner and then of others. For example, a small child whose mother flies off the handle into a rage when the child drops a fork, gets a bad report at school, watches the wrong TV show, etc., will instinctively try to figure out what it is that their mother needs, what they can do to fix it so that she won't get angry anymore. This results in the other half of the controlling side of codependency: an addiction to fixing other people's problems and pleasing them in order to feel like a good person or to feel safe around them. Unfortuately, this creates an illusion of safety and of control over one's own life that can keep people in harmful and painful situations longer, even after an abusive relationship is over.

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