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Codependent No More was the debut book of self-help author Melody Beattie. It was originally published in 1986 by the publishing division of the Hazelden Foundation, and became a phenomenon of the self-help movement, going on to sell over eight million copies, six million copies of them in the United States.
Melody Beattie popularized the phenomenon of codependency with her bestseller Codependent No More. The subtitle of the book offers a hint at the apparent contradiction that accompanies codependency:How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself.
The term codependent originated as a way to describe people who use relationships with others as their sole source of value and identity. It 'comes directly out of Alcoholics Anonymous, part of a dawning realization that the problem was not solely the addict, but also the family and friends who constitute a network for the alcoholic'. Codependents often end up in relationships with drug (including alcohol) addicted spouses or lovers. In the book, Beattie explains that a codependent is a person who believes their happiness is derived from other people or one person in particular, and eventually the codependent becomes obsessed with controlling the behavior of the people/person that they believe is making them happy.
Similar to Bill Wilson's Alcoholics Anonymous five decades earlier, Beattie's early work took the previously complex object relations theory and interpersonal theories of psychoanalysts like Heinz Kohut,Wilfred Bion and Otto Kernberg and put them in language the average reader could easily grasp. The book also re-phrased many of the notions expressed in the Al-Anon Twelve-step program movement into more modern language, and made the notion of addiction to a person (who was addicted to a substance or a behavioral process) part of the western cultural lexicon.
Like most or all Self-help publications, Codependent No More is open to the charge of being 'a kind of contemporary version of nineteenth-century amateurism or enthusiasm in which self-examination and very general social observations are enough to draw rather large conclusions', and in which, 'although a veneer of scientism permeates the work, there is also an underlying armature of moralizing'.
Critics claim indeed that what is in fact at stake 'is a way of constituting a moral self' that is less responsive to the claims of others: 'The path to normality in co-dependency...is paved with the self's progressive emancipation from social control...autonomy from external demands'. In what can be seen as part of a wider 'cultural shift from the ethic of self-denial to the ethic of self-actualization...as Beattie says, detachment from others implies a concomitant "focus on" self'
Conversely, however, others claim that, as women are 'still generally perceived as being responsible for maintaining healthy relationships', Beattie's concept of 'Codependency blames women for adhering to society's definition of the appropriate feminine role'.