Interactions in Relationships: Codependency vs. Positive Reinforcement

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  • 0:01 Manipulating People
  • 0:46 What Is Codependence?
  • 3:43 Positive Reinforcement…
  • 5:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Enabling and positive reinforcement are two terms used to describe how people can interact with one another in their relationships. One of these terms reinforces good behavior and the other reinforces bad behavior. Do you know which is which?

Manipulating People

I love watching online videos typically made by professional magicians, which tell you how to spot when someone is lying or how to manipulate a person to get a chunk of change, steal a watch off of their wrist, or to even make them fall under a spell to become a hit man. Okay, unless you're Sirhan Sirhan that last part is not really possible.

Interestingly, in your everyday life, you actually manipulate people. Often times I suspect you don't even do it consciously as it's just part of our makeup to use techniques to get people to do what we want. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry. This lesson will teach you how to get people to do what you want so long as you use it for good things.

What Is Codependence?

Positive action may not always be used to reinforce positive behavior. As a really great example of reinforcing negative behavior in a relationship between two people is a concept called codependence. This has been traditionally viewed as a relationship where a non-substance-abusing person close to an addict denies the addiction, is controlled by the abuser's behavior, and enables the addicted individual. However, more modern definitions are a bit broader, including relationships where one person places the needs and wants of another above their own, is manipulated by the other party, and even depends on the needs and control of someone else.

There is one particular key word in the first definition I must draw your attention to. It is the word enabling. It is thrown around left and right, but has got to be defined clearly to differentiate it from the tricks I'll be teaching you in the next section - tricks that can actually be put to good use. Enabling is the support of negative behavior through positive actions. Please remember that; it's doing good things for bad ones.

Let's solidify the definition of enabling with some clear-cut examples of how people think they're doing nice and positive things for someone they love, despite it only reinforcing bad behavior in a codependent relationship:

  • One example is calling in to your husband's work and telling the boss he's sick, even though he's passed out drunk on the floor because he's an alcoholic.
  • Another example is giving in to your girlfriend's every angry whim without so much as a whimper for fear of being abandoned by her or feeling guilty for being assertive in response to her bad behavior.
  • And, finally, giving your child money for lunch under the pretense that it is so he doesn't starve even though you know he'll use it to buy drugs.

The worst part about it, in some sense, is that codependent people actually think that receiving love and approval are contingent upon taking care of the other person. Furthermore, codependent individuals also think their good deeds and intentions will help the other person stop a negative behavior, like drug use. But the reverse is actually true! By doing nice things for bad behavior, the frequency of the negative behavior might actually increase and treatment for the bad actions might be delayed as well.

Codependent relationships are very unhealthy. Those dealing with addicts are at a higher risk for becoming addicts themselves as a result of such a relationship. Loss of self-esteem, anxiety, and depression are all other potential pitfalls to the person being manipulated.

Positive Reinforcement & Behavior

Whereas enabling is described as doing nice things for bad behavior, positive reinforcement is the concept of doing nice things for good behavior. You're reinforcing positive behavior in positive reinforcement, simple as that. This is the section where you'll learn some tips and tricks on how to get people to do good things or continue to do great stuff! These techniques consist of five slightly similar positive reinforcement methods:

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