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  • SuePattonThoele

The Co-Dependent Cage



In the decade since The Courage to Be Yourself was first published, much has been written and taught about emotional dependence, under the name “co-dependence.” While co-dependence is often linked to being in a relationship with someone who is dependent on drugs or alcohol, it is far more pervasive than that. We can be co-dependent with our husbands, kids, co-workers—even our dog or parakeet.

Being co-dependent means we consistently put others’ needs, wants, and demands before our own—in other words, emotional dependence. Instead of gaining our self-esteem, self-motivation, and self-worth from ourselves, we rely on others to provide those feelings for us. Quite a paradox: self as defined by others. When we turn our lives over to someone or something else, we are in a co-dependent cage. In that cage we become drugged by denial and depression.


If you feel that you have even a toe caught in the “co-cage,” muster up your courage and find a friend or group of people who can help you work your way free. Recently I became aware that a dear friend was banging her head against the bars of a destructive marriage. Sadly she’s been suffering in silence for several years and has gotten to the point where she fears for her mental and physical health. Although her husband isn’t physically violent, his mental assaults are stripping away her emotional well-being and depleting her immune system. As a result, she is almost immobilized by depression and is plagued

by illness after illness.


With encouragement from her therapist, myself, and a few friends, she has now broken her silence and is beginning to be honest about her situation. A courageous start. True freedom will be hers when she discovers the best way to escape from the very complicated co-dependent cage she is in.


Serving a life sentence as a co-dependent is tantamount to an emotional death penalty. Breaking out of the co-dependence cage is a life-giving escape. I have every confidence that you and my friend can do it. If I, who spent many years peering through the bars of co-dependence yearning for the freedom of emotional autonomy and independence, can do it, so can you.

Excerpted from The Courage to Be Yourself by Sue Patton Thoele. Available on Mango and Amazon.


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