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How can we rein in our codependency and use it to our benefit?

How can we use our ability to attune to others when setting boundaries?

What will happen if we keep prioritizing others while neglecting ourselves?

In this podcast episode, Marissa speaks with Nick Bognar, LMFT about how aspects of codependency can be beneficial…but when used with intent, awareness, and precaution. Nick suggests ways to navigate having difficult conversations, setting boundaries, and expands on his observations of codependency in men. He gives his “three rules” for codependents to follow when confronting others and leaves us with some great strategies to bolster our ability to communicate our needs.

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Meet Nick Bognar, a psychotherapist in Pasadena, CA. His specialties are men’s issues and codependency. Nick’s favorite thing is to help people learn how to say the word “no” without breaking a sweat.

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I kick things off with asking about Nick’s specialty: learning how to say “no” without breaking a sweat! Yass! Nick tells us about himself and his background, including difficulties in saying the word “no.” Thanks to his attendance in therapy, he learned how to set boundaries and has endeavored to help others, especially men, to do the same.

Next question: what led Nick to specialize in codependency? Nick shares his observation that many therapists have codependency in them (including himself which he started to recognize once he entered the field). Nick describes how, as individuals, therapists require a lot of traits that are very similar to codependency: therapists are caring for other people, looking out for other’s responses before their own, attuning to others, and so on. This is wonderful…unless, like Nick says, this is the only thing you are paying attention to while neglecting yourself. Thanks to him realizing this in his own behavior, he was able to correct it and now helps others do the same.

Nick and I both reflect on the benefits of their codependency and Nick proposes how, at times, it can be a “super power.” But, like every super power, we have to know when to turn it off and on (cue Peter Parker’s grandpa).

Next question: how does Nick define codependency? “I define it as: taking care of other people until it kills you.” Nick describes how codependency can lead to self-neglect and the results are dire: poor self-care, poor relationships, and low self-worth that can eventually kill us. This is why treating it as soon as possible is so necessary, dear listener.

Next question: why is it so hard for codependents to make the obvious choice? Nick discusses how “it makes sense” when codependents struggle to set boundaries, put their needs first, and say “no.” The ability to navigate these situations for codependents isn’t easy and Nick emphasizes the need to go to therapy in order to get the compassionate guidance to work through the dilemmas that codependents often face.

Next question: what is so hard about setting boundaries? Nick describes how “great” it is to not set boundaries: others are emotionally intimate with you, they rely on you, they like being around you. “If I’m not taking my boss’s call at 2am in the morning, then who am I?” Nick describes how codependents form an identity as being so reliable and it’s hard to set boundaries since that’s everything they have known.

Next question: what are some simple rules Nick has for navigating difficult conversations to set boundaries? Three rules: don’t attack, don’t defend, tell the truth. And what if we are met with all three? Nick gives examples of how codependents can withstand others negative reaction in order to empower ourselves. “It always has to come back to me,” ultimately is what Nick emphasizes.

We end with a discussion about codependency in men. I ask Nick to share about when and where codependency comes up in men. “Men will break their backs and then neglect themselves.” This then leads them to build that codependent resentment and anger, have temper tantrums, drink, f*ck, smoke, etc. Then they have two problems: codependency and a possible addiction. Nick helps them realize their patterns, create boundaries, and provide them with options they didn’t know they had before therapy.

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Again, thanks for listening!

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