The Cause of Codependency: Our Family of Origin

Family of Origin - Codependency

We experience a wide range of feelings when we first learn about codependency. We start to join the dots and see things we did not see before. Most of us also feel very angry and seek to blame. But what or who is to blame for codependency? What caused it in the first place?


Codependency is Learned

The family we are born into shapes our conditioning.  Our thought processes are shaped by those around us in our formative years. We develop internal working models of the world, others, and, most importantly, our self.

We learn from our family how life works. We learn how to behave in the world and how to view situations. We learn how to be in the world because we learn from them how to relate: to ourselves and others.

And codependency is all about our unsuccessful attempts to relate and the suffering that ensues …


Connection is the Source of Self-Worth

If the data is correct, then approximately 50% of all human beings are securely attached, which means that they are securely functioning human beings that are able to establish and maintain reciprocal, healthy and fulfilling relationships.

They grew up in an environment of ‘good enough’ parenting. Their parents responded well to the child’s physical and emotional needs. They were by no means perfect but they were attuned, responsive and engaged enough to meet the child’s needs and give them a sense of worth and value.

‘We give time and attention to what we love. We love what we choose to give time and attention to. This is all that is required to show our children that they are worthy of love. This is the root of self-love. And this is the end of mental distress.’ Marlena Tillhon

When someone responds to us, we inherit a sense of worth. We are being shown that we are worthy of someone’s attention and effort. We get the message that we matter to someone and with that we learn how to matter to ourselves. We learn how to attune to ourselves, to respond to ourselves and to be guided from within ourselves..

When someone connects with us, our connection to our self grows and strengthens. Being connected to our self means that we are connected to others and this is all we need to take care of ourselves in loving and healthy ways. It is all we need to create fulfilling lives for ourselves.


Disconnection is the Source of Codependency

When we do not receive the attunement, responsiveness and nurturance that we need as children, we do not experience the connection that helps us develop in optimal ways. We are not experiencing consistent, reliable and loving connection with others and so cannot grow and strengthen the connection we innately have within ourselves. It is like a seed that needs to be watered with love and attention in our early years so that it can effortlessly bloom forever.

When we do not experience ‘good enough’ parenting, we come to believe that we are not worthy. The lack of care and attention communicates to us that we are not worthy: not worthy of attunement, responsiveness, nurturance, time, effort … love.

And this is how the lie of ‘I am not worthy of love’ takes hold in our innocent minds and distorts our reality from then onwards. Until we learn to see through the lies of the mind …


Codependency Means Disconnection from Ourselves

When no one connects with us in healthy and loving ways as a child, we do not develop a strong sense of connection to ourselves. No one takes an interest in us and so we do not learn this skill at a time when it is vital.

We do not learn how to attune to ourselves to know what we want or need. We therefore cannot respond to ourselves appropriately.

We do not learn how to take care of ourselves because we do not really know ourselves. We cannot make well informed decisions based on taking care of ourselves and loving ourselves.

We do not feel free to take risks and create the life that would suit us the most because we simply do not know. We are not connected to ourselves, our innate wisdom, our internal guidance system.

We yearn to connect and we feel the pain of disconnection from ourselves but we simply do not know how to. Our perfect internal seed of connection is waiting to be watered …


Codependency Means Disconnection from Others

In a codependent family of origin we also do not learn healthy ways of relating to others.

We are not being shown respectful ways of relating. There are lots of boundary-violations because we do not know where one ends and another one begins.

We see others as our property or see ourselves as someone else’s. Maybe we believe that others exist to serve our wants and needs or that we are someone else’s servant.

We are innocently misguided by taking responsibility for others while making others responsible for us. We give to get and approach others with fear and from a state of lack.

We try to manipulate and control others to avoid dealing with our own pain – the pain of the disconnected self. We mistakenly believe that others can recover it for us and so focus on the outside when the solution is on the inside. We put an insane amount of effort into finding others to connect with so we can escape the pain.

But what is tragic is that this can never work.  We cannot relate to others in loving and healthy ways because we do not know how to relate to ourselves in healthy and loving ways.

And by seeking out others with similar patterns, we deprive ourselves from the opportunity to learn new, healthy ways of relating that would show us how to water our own internal seed.

Codependency is all about unhealthy, unhelpful, and unloving ways of relating to ourselves and others. It is based on multiple misunderstandings that are passed on from generation to generation.


Symptoms Mask the Pain of Disconnection

Codependency is not a disease. It is it strongly ingrained habit of thinking, behaving, and relating that appears normal because in our family of origin it has been the norm.

In  our adult lives, we may feel depressed, anxious, addicted, empathy, lonely, enraged, unfulfilled, needy, … and we may seek treatment for those states when these states are only ever trying to highlight that we are going wrong in matters of connection.

These states alert us to the fact that we are believing our disconnected, fearful, insecure thought patterns. That we mistakenly identify with the formless energy of thought. That we are believing the lies of our minds.

“A connected human being is a healthy human being.” Marlena Tillhon

But as adults it is our responsibility to recover the connection to ourselves. It is now our responsibility to nurture it, to strengthen it and to extend it to others.

As adults we have the power to learn new skills. We get to choose making different choices. We get to explore new ways of thinking. We get to let go of everything that does not work for us. But first we must realise that it is now our job to recover our connection. It is our job to look inward.


Ending Codependency Means Moving Away From Blame 

Uncovering codependency within you and within your family of origin is the first step towards a healthier, more fulfilling and happier life.

There are things we were not taught. There are things our parents were not taught. There are things our grandparents were not taught. We cannot pass on what we do not know. All we can pass on is the pain of the disconnected self.

What is sad is that we all tried to love each other but simply did not know how to. There was no malice or viciousness in any of it even though in our experience it may have often felt like it. What is incredibly tragic is that all the distress and pain we have caused ourselves and others was nothing less than our misguided attempt to connect and love each other.

When we get to the point of breaking through our denial, increasing our self awareness, seeing through our conditioning, and living our own life authentically, we will have no problem to view our past in our family of origin with compassion. There will be no space for blame. There will be no urge to finger-point.

The pain will end. The struggle will seize. And finally, we will be free.

Free to love. Ourselves and others.


Marlena Tillhon

Marlena is a progressive psychotherapist and relationship coach and passionate about helping people connect with their innate wellbeing.

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