From Codependent Chameleon to Selfhood: Individuation

Darlene Lancer
Becoming You
Published in
4 min readSep 8, 2022

By John Hain

When we first met, I told my husband I was very adaptable. I didn’t realize the price of being a chameleon until I started recovery and my journey of individuation. By then I was dead inside. I’d spent years adapting to abuse and belittling that I’d absorbed. I was detached from my feelings and needs, and passion eluded me.

By accommodating a narcissistic mother, I’d long been disconnected from my true self. I’d learned to play various roles, but who I was wasn’t something I thought much about.

Lack of Individuation and Self-Concept

A UK research project interviewed codependents in recovery and confirmed that they lack self-definition just as I had. They try to fit in and hide who they are to be accepted by other people. Development of a full-embodied self is stunted due to a lack of self-constancy starting in childhood. Instead, codependents create a false self, which they determine is pleasing to others. They carry the shame (often unconscious) of feeling unlikable or unlovable. While longing to be accepted, they can lose sight of their own values and sacrifice themselves in the name of love. Their low self-esteem is bolstered by seeking validation from others and investment in activity.

Relationship Problems

Without a self-concept and self-esteem, they find it near impossible to set boundaries. Their partner’s feelings and needs take precedence, and they can become dependent on their partner despite serious problems or abuse. Many codependents accept or participate in behavior with their spouse that they never could have imagined doing.

The UK project confirmed that codependents feel trapped in a “subservient” role despite the negative consequences. Like myself, many chose partners with psychological problems. They felt a sense of obligation and found it very difficult to leave an unhappy relationship that was “unhealthy,” “unequal,” and “unpleasant.” In playing a familiar subservient role, they lost themselves.

Lack of Peace and Balance

The project revealed that the lack of internal stability makes codependents feel “out of control.” They alternate between extremes of rest and busyness. Some turn…

Darlene Lancer
Becoming You

Therapist-Author of “Codependency for Dummies,” relationship expert. Get a FREE 14 Tips on Letting Go Join me on FB