What are Co-Dependence and Victim Consciousness?

I frequently incorporate the terms Co-Dependence (CD) and Victim Consciousness (VC) into my communications because they represent prevalent states of consciousness that most of us have encountered, whether willingly or not.

I assert that both CD and VC are dysfunctional modes of operation originating from our inability to overcome the primal wound of separation from source consciousness. These patterns have become ingrained in our social fabric, almost like default settings. Despite their profoundly unhealthy nature, breaking free from these habits proves challenging when everyone around us is entrenched in similar detrimental models.


"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."
 Jiddu Krishnamurti

I provide descriptions of these unhealthy models solely as reference points, intended for use alongside other texts I share, aimed at finding pathways out of these destructive patterns.

Co-dependency is a behavioral and emotional condition that affects individuals who form relationships that are often one-sided, emotionally destructive, and/or abusive. Co-dependent people tend to be excessively preoccupied with the needs and problems of others to the detriment of their own well-being. This pattern of behavior can occur in various types of relationships, such as romantic partnerships, family dynamics, friendships, or even work relationships.

Key characteristics of CD include:

  1. Excessive Caretaking: Co-dependents (CD individuals) often feel an overwhelming need to take care of others, even at the expense of their own needs and desires. They may sacrifice their own well-being, time, and resources to meet the needs of someone else. (see the savior role in the drama triangle hereafter)

  2. Low Self-Esteem: People struggling with CD typically have low self-esteem and often seek validation and approval from others. They might derive their self-worth from the approval of those they care for, leading to a cycle of seeking external validation to feel good about themselves. (see the victim role in the drama triangle hereafter)

  3. Poor Boundaries: CD individuals often have weak or nonexistent boundaries. They find it difficult to say no, even when it's in their best interest, and have trouble distinguishing their own emotions and needs from those of others. (again a typical characteristic of someone in the victim role)

  4. Denial of Personal Needs and Emotions: CD individuals often suppress or ignore their own needs, feelings, and desires. They may not even be aware of their own needs because they are so focused on others. (again a typical characteristic of someone in the victim role)

  5. Fear of Abandonment: CD individuals often have an intense fear of being alone or abandoned. This fear can drive them to stay in unhealthy relationships or tolerate mistreatment. (again a typical characteristic of someone in the victim role)

  6. Difficulty in Communication: CD individuals often have difficulty expressing their thoughts, emotions, and needs openly and honestly. They often fear conflict and avoid addressing issues directly.

CD stems from dysfunctional family dynamics, usually when a person grew up in a household where CD was the norm (which is most families unfortunately). It can lead to a cycle of unhealthy relationships, where CD individuals repeatedly find themselves in situations where they are taken advantage of or mistreated.

Breaking free from CD typically involves any strategies aimed at building self-esteem, setting boundaries, and learning healthy ways to relate to others. It's a process of self-discovery and self-care, empowering individuals to develop healthier, more balanced relationships and a stronger sense of self-worth and self love.

Victim Consciousness (VC) and the Drama Triangle

VC refers to a state of mind in which an individual perceives themselves as a victim of the circumstances or the actions of others. It involves adopting a passive and helpless attitude, feeling powerless and unable to control or change one's situation. People in victim consciousness blame external factors, situations, or other people for their own unhappiness or failures, without taking responsibility for their own choices and actions.

Individuals with VC tend to view themselves as constantly being mistreated or disadvantaged, leading to a negative outlook on life. This mindset can prevent personal growth and development, as it hampers the ability to take proactive steps to improve one's situation. It can also lead to feelings of resentment, self-pity, and a lack of motivation.

Breaking free from VC, in similar ways to breaking free from CD, involves self-awareness and a willingness to take responsibility for one's own life. It requires acknowledging the ability to make choices and take positive actions to change one's circumstances. 

The Drama Triangle is a social model that maps out the roles people play in interpersonal conflicts and dysfunctional relationships that are influenced by VC. It was developed by psychiatrist Stephen Karpman in the 1960s. The Drama Triangle consists of three main roles: the Victim, the Persecutor, and the Savior.

  1. Victim: The victim is the person who feels powerless and oppressed. They perceive themselves as the target of external circumstances or the actions of others. Victims often elicit pity and seek rescuers to solve their problems for them.

  2. Persecutor: The persecutor is the one who criticizes, blames, or attacks others. They may appear aggressive or controlling and are often seen as the "bad guy" in conflicts. Persecutors tend to invalidate and belittle the victim, reinforcing their sense of helplessness. Persecutor are almost invariably former victims who have decide to change camp.

  3. Savior: Saviors are individuals who step in to help the victim. They often do so with good intentions, but their help enable the victim's dependency and perpetuate the cycle of victimhood. Saviorss often feel a sense of superiority and derive their self-worth from being needed (which often can become a form of abuse and switch to persecutor role). Saviors too are often former victim who have made new choices.

Within the drama triangle or VC, people frequently switch roles, creating a cycle of dysfunctional interactions. For example, a savior might eventually become frustrated and shift to the persecutor role when their efforts are unappreciated. Similarly, a victim might resist the savior's help, becoming the persecutor in the process, etc.

Breaking free from the Drama Triangle involves recognizing these roles and consciously making healthier choices. In my experience there is only one way out the drama triangle / VC is to take full responsibility for what happens in my life. By fostering open communication, setting boundaries, and encouraging personal responsibility, individuals can escape these repetitive patterns.


More about CD from the 12 steps program of CoDA here, definitely worth a read is the CODA leaflet "Am I co-dependent?"


Los Angeles, October 9, 2023