Lesson 4: Attention Makes You Feel Better



If you’re identifying with codependency so far, chances are you feel empty, confused, very alone, and afraid more often than not.  Over time you have discovered that “people” or helping people makes you feel better.  Their attention and love relieves your anxiety or soothes your wounds.

  • For example, a codependent mother bases her life around her children in an unhealthy way. She bases her whole identity in being a mother and loses herself in the process of caretaking, people pleasing, and carrying the weight of her children’s worlds on her shoulders. 
  • A codependent lover is addicted to her partner and approval is CRUCIAL or he/she will end up in a downward spiral fast. One negative look or word can cause so much drama in a codependent relationship.
  • A codependent enmeshed with an addict will make him or herself bat-shit crazy wrapping her world around the addict. Walking on egg shells so he won’t go drink. Go pick him up at 2am over and over again when he is drunk as a skunk and listen to him promise not to do it again. (Yet, he will).

Now, don’t get me wrong. Not everyone falls deep into this category. There are some who are codependent that aren’t as attached as others.  Think of a scale when it comes to codependency and relationships in general. It may look something like this:

                -5         -4        -3         -2         -1         0         1           2          3          4          5

Now 0 represents a really healthy relationship.

That’s what we are all wanting to move towards.  The negatives represent the codependency side of the scale and the positives represent the more selfish or narcissistic side. Learning this (from Ross Rosenburg) helped me a lot when I was really trying to understand my issues.

When I was really an emotional mess after a divorce and jumping right into a relationship, I was probably at -5. Completely addicted and not even a little bit aware of what was going on under the surface. BUT….as time went on and I began to learn about codependency and get some help, I started to grow. I started moving toward the right….toward a healthier relationship with myself, and as a result, others.

Let me point out that many people attract someone on opposite side of the scale. When I was at that -5, I attracted someone who was probably at +4; a recovering addict who still had quite a bit of inner work and healing to do. We both had individual work to do in order to attempt to take a toxic relationship and make it healthy.

Turns out the relationship didn’t go as planned and we ended it. Speaking for myself, I could not do the work I needed to do for my own healing and growth while in the relationship. I had to be single.

Thankfully, after a period of time “doing the work”, I was far more emotionally mature when I decided to start dating again. Was I cured? No, but I was closer to that “0” on the scale and committed to keep growing. Due to the work I’d done, my next relationship I attracted someone much healthier. What a difference it makes when you partner up with someone who is closer to that 0….the healthy relationship center!

  • Where do you think you are on Ross Rosenberg’s scale?
  • If you’re in a relationship, where do you think your partner is?
  • What are you doing consistently that you feel is helping you move closer to that “O” mark?
  • What CAN you do to increase momentum or get going toward such a goal?

Attention or approval can become like a drug

A drug addict craves that next “hit” to feel super good.

Attention or approval can become that “hit” that you NEED in order to feel good about yourself. But hitting that “approval bong” gets old….fast.

Essentially, attention seeking is you focusing on the “outer” things in order to feel worthy. It’s you valuing the opinion or approval of others over your own.  It’s you having a meltdown when others don’t approve of you or give you attention. It’s you basing your decisions on what others think, oftentimes sacrificing your own views, ambitions, and dreams.

Look at the Approval Seeking Behaviors picture and take note of any behaviors you engage in to seek behavior. Are you beginning to paint a portrait of codependent characteristics?



Continue to Lesson 5