Books On Codependency

Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself

Author: Melody Beattie
Published: 1992
Publisher: Hazelden (Center City)

Beattie’s book is the outcome of her own personal experience with codependency. She draws on the experiences of other codependents as she explains our thoughts, feelings and actions.

The book looks at what codependency is, the characteristics of a codependent person, our reactionary natures, the deep rooted need to be rescued and to look after others to regulate our self-esteem. It also describes the overpowering feelings of guilt and anger that we torture ourselves with.

Beattie goes on to explain that we need to love ourselves more, work out our own needs and true responsibilities to ourselves, that we need to detach from the problems of others who can take care of themselves. That we need to forgive ourselves before we forgive others and be ourselves (listening to and working with/through our feelings) regardless of the outcome of having made changes to our own behaviour that we saw fit.

The end of the book outlines what actions a Codependant can take to become “Undependent”, to find themselves and enrich their own lives by letting go of drama, listening to our expectations, letting go of our fear of intimacy, taking financial responsibility for ourselves, practicing appropriate forgiveness, being aware of the “Frog Syndrome” (where we keep kissing frogs hoping they will turn into Princes), having fun, setting and sticking to limits/boundaries, taking physical care of ourselves, seeking good professional help, developing good relationships where we are treated well and can reciprocate, building trust with appropriate people and getting our sexual needs met or dealing with problems that cause sex to be unsatisfactory.

She asserts her faith in The Twelve Steps program that was made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous and explains what each stage means to her.

There are a lot of references to “God” in this book but Beattie is careful to explain that God doesn’t necessarily mean a belief in a supernatural being that it may be a belief in a higher power than ourselves. I personally like to think of the higher power as being Nature.

The Codependency Conspiracy

Author: Dr. Stan J. Katz and Aimee E. Liu
Published: 1991
Publisher: Warner Books (New York)

The contents of this book is a critique of the codependency movement and self-help groups. It seeks to dispel the popular belief that codependency is a progressive disease and asserts that many who attend self-help groups are normal people who simply need guidance during difficult periods where they feel out of control.

Katz and Liu maintain that many people can make full recoveries from periods of mental or emotional strain and do not need to sign up to a Twelve Step program for the rest of their lives.

This book raises some good questions/concerns with regards to the the experience of membership in self-help groups. It also explains an alternative method of recovery to the Twelve Step program.

For me it came at just the right time when I was getting tired of analysing the past and reliving feelings that I wanted to put behind me but couldn’t as a result of completing researching for the final section of the website. It didn’t lead me to disbelieve in codependency because I personally feel people do become sick when they consistently take on too much responsibility for others but it certainly helped me to see that codependency doesn’t have to be a life time affliction and that it is not a label I choose to wear or can’t break free of.


The following books also discuss Codependency:

Breaking Free from the Co-dependency Trap

Author: Barry K. Weinhold and Janae B. Weinhold
Published: 2008
Publisher: New World Library

The New Codependency: Help and Guidance for Today’s Generation

Author: Melody Beattie
Published: 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

The Flight from Intimacy: Healing Your Relationship of Counter-dependence – the Other Side of Co-dependency

Author: Barry K. Weinhold and Janae B. Weinhold
Published: 2008
Publisher: New World Library

Facing Codependence: What it is. Where it Comes from. How it Sabotages Our Lives

Author: Pia Mellody
Published: 2002
Publisher: HarperCollins

Codependency: How to Break Free and Live Your Own Life

Author: David Stafford and Liz Hodgkinson
Published: 1998
Publisher: Piatkus Books

Codependence and the Power of Detachment: How to Set Boundaries and Make Your Life Your Own

Author: Karen Casey
Published: 2008
Publisher: Conari Press

Recovery from Co-dependency: It’s Never Too Late to Reclaim Your Childhood

Author: Laurie Weiss, Jonathan Weiss and John Bradshaw
Published: 2001

Codependency Conspiracy: How to Break the Recovery Habit and Take Charge of Your Life

Author: Stan J. Katz and Aimee Liu
Published: 1992
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing


The following books are not specific to codependency but I think anyone who has a tendancy to put themselves before others might benefit from reading them.

Women Who Love Too Much

Author: Robin Norwood
Published: 1986
Publisher: Arrow Books ( London )

This was the first book I read, the one that opened my eyes to explain what my life had been before I had even heard of the word “narcissism”. NPD and narcissism is not covered at all in this book.

The book looks at the possible reasons why some women loose themselves in a relationship with a man who will not or can not love them back. How women who have not had their emotional needs met during childhood (possibly suffering mental, physical or sexual abuse at the hands of at least one parent) unconsciously recreate their parental relationships with significant others in their future – all in an attempt to put right that which was wrong. The author explains that this pattern of behaviour is repetitive and as time goes on and our efforts meet with failure it leads to increasing distress, depression, fear, loneliness and abuse as our choice in the people we love becomes increasingly poor.

It accurately describes the low value women from this background place on themselves, the feeling that they are not good enough, the lack of effort that is made on their part to ensure they themselves are truly happy and that they themselves know who they are and what they do and do not like. For me it explains the life we live to keep at bay the abandonment and intimacy we fear.

It covers addiction to poor relationships, the feelings that feel so right when they’re all so wrong, the dance of co-dependant relationships and the incorrect belief that the things we do (unconscious or otherwise) to love them, take care of them, fix them, please them will lead to a magical ending that proves our effort and hope was not in vain – when in fact we are attempting to control something we have no control over. To me it spelt out that behaving in this way, allowing the insanity of the situation to take us over we have no means with which to protect ourselves or the ones we love from further damage.

At the end of the book the author outlines what a woman can do to aid her own recovery including getting help, increasing the sense of her own spirituality, release of controlling behaviour and how to avoid getting sucked into the games that are played.

Loving Him without Losing You: How to Stop Disappearing and Start Being Yourself – Seven Empowering Strategies for Better Relationships

Author: Beverly Engel
Published: 2001
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Inc

Narcissistic men attract and keep a particular kind of partner – one who is happy to loose themselves in order to meet his needs. This book explains the factors that contribute to women loosing themselves in relationships. Engle discusses biology, childhood relationships and social conditioning as factors that contribute to a woman’s poor sense of self which leads to them over investing in relationships and staying in abusive ones.

The book describes the speed with which women throw themselves into relationships making the man in their life the beginning, middle and end of their existence without proper regard for the values they share or her own needs.

Engle uses a scale on which women can determine their tendency to loose themselves in relationships. At the bottom of the continuum are those who have been conditioned by society (mainly the mass media). Those in the middle may also have had troubled childhoods and those at the highest end of the scale are most likely to have had abusive childhoods and may suffer from a condition know as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

The book explains seven strategies to help women become a “Woman of Substance” and explains what help would be most effective to women on the highest end of the scale.

Another important factor that is discussed is the degree to which women fantasize about the man in their life. This is a good indicator as to their propensity to loose themselves in a relationship. The more you fantasize the less likely it is that the person to whom you are attached will ever fulfill your real needs and you are compromising yourself to be with that person.

Much of what I read in this book supported my previous reading but it drove home MY part in all the “relationships” I had ever had with men and the reasons for my own anger and lack of self. For every Narcissus there is an Echo. I wish I had read this book in my teens – it saddened me to think of what I have lost through not understanding myself, my needs and a love that is honest, safe and appropriate as opposed to that which I’m used to the obsessive, smothering, inappropriate variety.

If Love Could Think: Using Your Mind to Guide Your Heart

Author: Alon Gratch Ph.D.
Published: 2005
Publisher: Harmony Books (New York)

Gratch is a Psychologist who has had vast experience in treating patients who have developed patters of failing in love relationships.

He describes seven different patterns of failed love; Narcissistic, Virtual, One Way, Triangular, Forbidden, Sexual and Androgynous. In conjunction with the teachings of childhood he believes these patterns of failed love stem from our denial and inability to work through the mixed feelings (good and bad) we have about our love objects (ambivalence).

After describing the seven patterns Gratch uses case studies explain a three step approach (recognising your pattern, understanding your ambivalence and resolving your ambivalence) to assist in breaking the pattern. At the basis of this is being able to know the kind of person you are and to decide what are the “bottom line” characteristics you can accept in a partner. For example, in an ideal world you may want a partner who is successful, wealthy and driven in their career but who is also capable of being emotionally supportive of you. In the real world it is unlikely you will find both qualities in one person because in order for most people to succeed in their career they have to be single minded and dedicated to the job – this is draining on them and they may not have the emotional reserves to concentrate on you when you need them. So the choice is then yours, love a person who is successful and can support you financially but not emotionally in which case you will have to look to yourself or others for emotional support or leave and look for someone who can support you emotionally but not necessarily financially.

This book reinforced the idea of “choice” that we all have to choose the people we love based on our true needs and not to love on the basis of trying to meet an unrealistic “ideal”. In addition when looking at Narcissistic love he also looks at how Echo’s own Narcissism (regulation of self-esteem through others achievements, reputation and characteristics) is part of the reason for choosing a narcissistic partner.

He also advises that it is not possible to change other people to make things better and that sometimes as as result of working on changing ourselves the relationship improves or it ends.

Art of Selfishness

Author: David Seabury
Published: 1974
Publisher: Pocket Books ( New York )

This book is old and hard to get hold of. For me it was hard to get into due to the style of writing but after a few chapters I got used to it.

It is based around a concept of “Ego Satisfaction”. Ego satisfaction is the behaviour that we choose to bring about the inflation of our image, pride and position in life. The book deals with the problems that arise when people consistently take on more than their fair share of a burden in the name of doing the right thing or what is expected of us as dictated by society, our family, friends and colleagues.

There are several case studies in the book dealing with the pressures of living in the world such as the expectation to make money, succeed, support your parents and siblings as well as your partner or children, follow the footsteps of your parents etc. As many of us work away at making these things happen we are doing so under the illusion that if we don’t act selflessly that the world as we/others know it will fall apart. The book identifies that while some people are clearly able to take on the burden of their own problems they choose not to, they prefer to have others take on their responsibility. Those that regularly perform burden relief, doing things that undermine their integrity can become burdened themselves. That rather than being sainted for their efforts they are made to feel incompetent, alone, trapped and ironically selfish for having entertained any passing thought which wished them out of their situation. Their own mental or physical health can be adversely affected.

This book helped me to understand for the first time why love is not enough and that marriage should not have to be forever if it causes devastation to the couple and the children they share.

It is responsible for two of my most favourite concepts “no man is normal who does not love his psyche” (borrowed from Dr. Pierre Janet) and that which makes up what the author identifies as the “Basic law of Being…. Never compromise yourself ”.

Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life

Author: Spencer Johnson, M.D.
Publisher: Vermilion

The book deals with the fear of change. It’s a light hearted story about about two mice “Sniff” and “Scurry” and two Littlepeople “Hem” and “Haw” who live in a maze and are one day faced with the problem that their regular supply of cheese has been moved. The mice are simple creatures that live day to day. They deal with the problem differently to the Littlepeople who are intellectuals and over analysers.

It got me to thinking about why it is actually “Safer To Search In The Maze, Than Remain In A Cheeseless Situation” and why I like Haw am afraid to change having preferred for a long time to hold on to “the illusion of old cheese that was no longer there” if it was ever there at all.