A Simple Lesson on Codependency at My Chiropractor’s Office

by Melissa Karnaze

I’m sitting at my chiropractor’s office.

A family of four walks in — mom, dad, older sister (around 12 years), and younger sister (just old enough to run around).

The youngest can’t sit still for a moment.

She jumps to her feet, stomps her feet, and circles the waiting room, stumbling occasionally with a loud thud as her diaper-protected butt hits the ground.

The mom just looks at her, then gets back to her reading. There’s lots to read in the chiropractor’s office, after all.

The chase

The girl stomps around, energetic as a bee.

The older sister tells the girl to come over to where she is. When that doesn’t work, she gets up, grabs her sister, and seats her in a chair.

A second later, the little girl is back on her feet, thudding as loudly as before.

I’m not the only one having trouble focusing on my work; I notice the receptionist getting distracted by all the noise.

Mom and Dad’s priorities

The older sister chases after the girl again. Returns her to her seat. And as soon as she’s seated she’s back up once again. Now heading into the hallway toward the other rooms. Potentially interrupting clients being treated.

All the while, Mom has her nose buried in a magazine. Dad does too. Big sister even tries to get Mom to go get little sister. Please. Can’t she see? Mom’s too busy reading.

The run-around happens a few more times. Little girl gets to her feet, falls, stumbles into chairs, even squeals (yes, it’s exciting).

She must be heavy for her size, for all the noise she’s making, and her look of defiance is a sign that she can run around in public places mostly whenever she wants.

Finally, big sister carries little sister to her father’s lap. At first he ignores her. I’m busy too.

As I start writing about the incident on my laptop — since I can’t focus on what I was working on before — big sister persists. You’re taking her.

Quiet once again

Dad finally takes the little girl and holds her in his arms. Trying to rock her.

It looks like he’s holding her against her will. She struggles and starts to cry. She’s defiant after all.

At last, he takes her outside. The pounding of white-sandled tiny yet heavy feet no longer distracts me from my work. It’s quiet once again.

And why?

Because big sister stopped chasing runaway baby around — she stopped playing mommy.

Mom ignored the little girl. She was more interested in — her own interests — than disciplining her child. Than making sure that everyone else in the office wasn’t disturbed due to her neglect. Dad only intervened when big sis insisted.


While it seemed as if big sis was helping out, she was making things worse.

The longer she chased runaway baby and unsuccessfully planted her butt in a seat, the more the chase persisted.

It was only after Dad stepped outside with baby that the waiting room noise levels returned to normalcy. And it was only after big sis gave up that Dad realized he had to do something.

Who’s the parent?

It wasn’t the older daughter’s responsibility to discipline her sibling. For some reason, though, she thought it was.

Maybe because her parents too easily checked out. The reason doesn’t really matter, however.

Excuses, excuses

The reason never matters when it comes to codependency.

If you’ve got it in your head that you have to fix someone or fix some situation that’s not your problem, you’ll come up with all sorts of explanations.

Doesn’t matter. It’s still an attempt to control someone else instead of taking a look at your own behavior, taking ownership for your own actions, taking care of yourself, taking note of your own feelings.

I wonder how big sis felt about her parents’ being so relaxed when the ruckus was so embarrassing?

Codependency simplified

Shortly after, the family goes in to get treated.

Not long after that, they come through the waiting room once again to leave.

As they near the door, guess who’s hand the baby takes?

Not Mommy’s or Daddy’s but that of big sis.

Why did big sister act as a parent? Did the parents even notice? Would you?

How are your relationships?

Do you try to mommy or daddy people who aren’t your children? Do you know someone who does?

Trying to fix, help, or save someone might lead them to hold your hand, but does it establish a healthy interdependent relationship? Or does it actually enable the problematic behavior? Hard to answer, which is why most people don’t ask the question.

Focus on yourself

One way to avoid the trap of codependent relating is to get clear on your role in each of your relationships.

Don’t take on what you can’t handle. Don’t elevate your status to hero, savior, or knight. Don’t even do it subconsciously. Or in your dreams.

You’re a person. With needs, goals, and values. Anyone you relate to is exactly the same.

For a relationship to work, you have to get clear on your needs, goals, and values first.

Fictitious roles, like Mommy or Daddy — will only get in the way.

What do you think?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Cory October 11, 2011 at 10:09 am

I think fall is the season of the self. We are contracting and peering inward to find our answers. I find myself lately searching the Internet and ultimately landing on topics and articles concerning free will vs. determinism, personal condition vs. external fear-based objects: overall that our external constructs are but limiting illusions to our truly infinite imaginations.

It’s easy to blame the other. Much harder to realize that your own pain and suffering originate from within your own personal disappointments; how you’ve let yourself down, shattered your own dreams, invalidated your own emotions, held back, missed yet another opportunity, etc. All these failures we project onto the other and we hate them for it.

I think it is much more unhealthy to be an altruistic enabler, than a self-serving tyrant, because the former behaves in a much more unconscious way, believing his deeds are good and right, when they are truly just as destructive as the tyrant’s.

The solution is to deconstruct the dance, not the dancers. And ask yourself if you are dancing the dance, or if the dance is dancing you. These are the questions that foster evolution and personal growth. Once we see that it is the construct itself that limits us, then we can ask what freedom truly is.

Melissa Karnaze October 11, 2011 at 7:45 pm

It’s easy to blame the other. Much harder to realize that your own pain and suffering originate from within your own personal disappointments; how you’ve let yourself down, shattered your own dreams, invalidated your own emotions, held back, missed yet another opportunity, etc. All these failures we project onto the other and we hate them for it.

Well said Cory. It’s way too easy to blame the other. And far, far less rewarding in the long-run.

Jane Doe September 26, 2013 at 9:39 am

I am recovering from co-dependency after 31 years of looking outside of myself to be saved from emotional instability and low self esteem. I am in counseling and doing alot of reflecting. I LOVE THIS WEBSITE SO MUCH! I am grateful for you sharing your gift. It feels good to finally understand my place and power in my life.

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