For my new Human Magnet Syndrome website, I am putting together graphics. Here is one for the reviews.
On our healing journey, sometimes we hit potholes in the road. Such surprises may cause us to temporarily lose control of our “vehicle.” In an adrenaline filled moment of terror, we contemplate the end. Because of our newfound healing instinct, we tightly grab hold of the “wheel” and muscle our car back on to the road. This is when we steer our fate back to self-love
Worry not; you are moving in the right direction! Hold tight onto your courage, as the road to self-love abundance is fraught with risk. When you do arrive, and you will, you will realize that no destination as sweet as this can ever be achieved on a road free of obstacles and dangers. Therefore, self-love is not only the antidote to your driving dilemma, it’s also the destination you have always deserved.
Creator of “The Codependency Cure: Recovering from Self-Love Deficit Disorder” seminar (and upcoming book)
WHEN “SELFISH” IS REALLY GOOD
It is GOOD for SLD’s (Self-Love Deficients or codependents) to be selfish. It is like learning to ride a bike. Doing something for yourself and not caring what people think is a dangerous proposition. “Selfish,” therefore is good.
The problem is the voices in your head have been lying to you; telling you that you are being bad, when you are just trying not to drown anymore.These voices have never been yours. Rather, they are covertly implanted narratives that were designed to confuse you, turn you against yourself, and break you down. It is time to break the gaslighting spell and regain the true voice in your head…your own! Fall a few times, brush off the pain, and get back on the “bike.”
Learning to love yourself will frighten people, who have only one way to get you to quit the nonsense of SLDD (Self-Love Deficit Disorder or codependency) recovery. They will call you a “narcissist” and try to make you feel ashamed and guilty for your moments of self-care. Scoff at the projection, this is more about them than you. Ride your bike all the way out of their life!
Creator of “The Codependency Cure: Recovering from Self-Love Deficit Disorder” seminar (and upcoming book)
Excerpts from Ross Rosenberg’s book, The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us.
As a direct result of the codependents questioning themselves about being a narcissist, I categorized codependency into two sub-types: passive and active. Although all codependents are habitually and instinctively attracted (and later bonded) to severely narcissistic partners, one is more active in their perpetual but unsuccessful attempts to obtain their narcissist’s love, respect and care (LRC), while the other is more passive. Although both try to control and manipulate their narcissistic partners, they go about it differently.
Passive codependents are more fearful and avoidant of conflict. For complicated reasons, mostly related to their extremely low self-esteem, fear of being alone and tendency to be in relationships with controlling, dangerous and/or abusive pathological narcissists, the passive codependent attempts to control or influence their narcissistic partner through carefully, if not meticulously, executed control strategies – most of which are intended to fall under their pathological narcissist’s radar (awareness). Because of the secret and hidden nature of their control strategies, passive codependents are perceived as more resigned, stoic and compliant than active codependents.
Active codependents, on the other hand, are overtly manipulative in their control strategies in attempts to rectify the LRC inequity in their relationship. Being less afraid of conflict, they often engage the pathological narcissist in arguments and confrontations. They also are prone to aggressive altercations, lying and manipulating, in an effort to avoid being harmed or to meet their own needs. They are therefore experienced as controlling, antagonizing and manipulative. In addition, they may want others to see them fight, control, and manipulate their narcissistic partner, as it serves as a paper thin attempt to feel powerful and in control.
Active codependents are often mistaken for narcissists because of their more openly controlling demeanor. Like the passive codependent, they believe that “one day” their pathologically narcissistic partner will realize their mistakes and wrong-doings and finally give them the love, respect and care they so desperately want and need. It just never happens…
Although different “on the outside,” both the passive and active codependent share the pathological “others” self-orientation. While the active codependent may seem stronger, more in control and more confident, both share the same deeply embedded insecurities and feelings of powerlessness. Both are unable to break free from their dysfunctional relationship.
Codependency Anorexia occurs when a codependent surrenders to their life-long relationship pattern to destructive pathological narcissists. The codependent often transitions to Codependency Anorexia when they hit bottom and can no longer bear the pain and the harm meted out to them from their malevolent pathological narcissists. It is paradoxical in a sense, as it occurs during a moment of clarity, when the codependent realizes that they are completely powerless to stop their attraction to lovers who, in the beginning, feel so right, but shortly thereafter, hurt them so badly. In an effort to protect themselves from the long line of “soul mates,” who unexpectedly convert to “cellmates,” they flip their vulnerability switch to “off,” which results in a complete shutdown of their emotional, relational, and sexual machinery.
Although their intention is to avoid getting pummeled again by the next narcissist, they unknowingly insulate themselves from the very human experience of intimate romantic love. This defense mechanism serves to protect codependents from the cascade of resulting consequences of their debilitating love choices. By denying their human need to connect and love passionately, they are, in a sense, artificially neutralizing The Human Magnet Syndrome. Or in other words, they are removing themselves from any possibility of close romantic love, healthy or not.
To maintain their codependent anorexia, codependents ultimately have to divorce themselves from their emotional and sexual selves. As a result, they “starve” themselves from the very human need to connect romantically, intimately, and sexually. Such deprivation often leads to long-term mental and relational health problems.
In the codependent anorexic state, the codependent is hypervigilant of any person or situation that would lead to a potentially harmful and dangerous intimate relationship. They often over compensate in social situations to avoid either showing interest in someone else or accidentally reacting to someone else overtures. To that end, they also deprive themselves of everyday social events, in order to not accidentally bump against a vulnerable or threatening situation or person. And if a person or event does threaten the codependency anorexic barrier, a shock of extreme anxiety uncomfortably steer them back onto their self-depriving but safe course.
The anorexic codependent is unable to recognize that their disconnection or disassociation from their vulnerable relational and sexual self is harmful, if not debilitating. Notwithstanding, they continue the path of intimacy deprivation so that they are able to maintain their distorted and deluded sense of power and control over real and invisible threats. At the end of the day, they are not hurt by another pathological narcissist. But, they also live their life in a barren desert of loneliness and fear.
Codependents cannot shake the unrealistic belief that happiness will only come if they are in a relationship. They look to other people to make them feel happy and fulfilled. It is only through an intimate relationship that they will be able to feel complete. Codependents tend to rely on a source outside of themselves – their romantic partners – to make them feel worthwhile and lovable. As a result of the codependent’s reliance on pathological narcissists to make them feel good about themselves, they seldom experience self-love or healthy levels of self-esteem.
Since the codependent unconsciously chooses partners who are unwilling, unmotivated or unable to meet their personal and emotional needs, they may choose the path of control to get their pathological narcissist partner to give them what they want and need. To some, it is counterintuitive for codependents to be controlling. There are indeed codependents who do give up and take a passive victim-based role in their dysfunctional relationships. However, because most codependents take on the lion’s share of the relationship responsibilities such as child care, house cleaning, cooking, shopping, and/or financially supporting the relationship/family, they cannot afford to acquiesce and relinquish control of their family’s life. Without maintaining some semblance of control, they and their family or relationship would certainly suffer. To most codependents, the idea of stopping their attempts to get their narcissist partner to reciprocate or behave fairly and responsibly is tantamount to giving up on their relationship; something that codependents are mostly unwilling and incapable of doing.
Codependents often develop compulsive or addictive-like patterns while trying to control their narcissistic partner. Their compulsion to control someone who cannot be controlled puts them on a circular path that always brings them back to where they started: angry, frustrated and resentful. Much like the hamster on its wheel, they run around and around trying to get somewhere, but always end up in the same place. No matter how fast and how long they run, they never actually leave the place where they started – their dysfunctional relationship with a pathological narcissist. Their attempts to seek the unobtainable create a series of personal and relational failures that ultimately remind them of their powerlessness over others. This pattern is self-reinforcing. The more they fail at controlling the pathological narcissist, the worse they feel. Over time, they get worn down by their failures and consequently give up on the hope that the one-way nature of their relationship will ever change.
Codependents are slow to give up hope that their partner will eventually give them what they want, deserve and need. However, for some codependents, their patience eventually runs thin. Their naïve belief that their narcissistic partner will give them what they have so sacrificially and patiently been waiting for eventually transforms into bouts of anger and resentment. Realizing that hoping and waiting does not get them what they want, i.e., their spouse to be stop drinking, stop an affair, or to show them love and thoughtfulness, they resort either to direct or passive forms of aggression. Instead of running on their hamster wheel, they start to actively attempt to control their unyielding partner. So the stereotype that codependents are passive victims who wait a lifetime to get what they want is just not true.
I am so grateful to the many people who have told me that my book The Human Magnet Syndrome was life-changing. Having such a positive impact on the human condition is my teenager “gonna change the world” dream come true. I couldn’t be happier!
My book was written to inspire and motivate people to understand their part in thedysfunctional dance they have been irresistibly drawn into their whole life. It WAS NOT written to be used as a defensive or offensive strategy in dealing with harmful pathological narcissists (PNarcs).
The “codependent” and “narcissistic” designations in The Human Magnet Syndrome were designed to identify a very serious personal and relational problem so the reader would be motivated to get help to disconnect from it. The book was never intended to be used as a retaliatory weapon to be used by angry, vindictive and/or controlling codependents, or what I now refer to as individuals with Self-Love Deficit Disorder (SLDD). Similarly, it wasn’t written to be used as a countermeasure against narcissistic harm.
The mere mentioning of my book to a PNarc is almost always counterproductive, as it will ALWAYS trigger a negative reaction, no matter how much you believe otherwise. I strongly suggest that you never give a copy of my book to PNarc. Never! It will always trigger a narcissistic injury and set up a dysfunctional interaction, or dance, where the PNarc has complete control and the person with Self-Love Deficit Disorder does not.
If a PNarc learns or is told that their partner is reading my book, they will react in one of two manners:
The latter is more dangerous as the PNarc is allowed to maintain their victim role, while manipulating their partner into believing that they have the problems, not them. In these cases, some of my clients, in the beginning of therapy, are convinced that they are the PNarc and their significant other the SLD. Believe it or not, a few of these clients’ PNarcs read my book, and then gave it to their partner with the continued brainwashing narrative that they are the “codependent” and their partner the “narcissist.”
Plain and simple, any suggestion that the narcissist is at fault will elicit a narcissistic injury. Giving them my book, or referring to it, while telling them you are SLD or codependent, is and will cause them to react in one of two ways. One, they will project onto you that you are the narcissist and they the codependent; or, two, they will be triggered with a narcissistic injury, and subsequently rage against you for the comment or suggestion. You will be the target of their unmitigated fury and vitriolic criticisms, and they will punish you.
The following excerpt from the Human Magnet Syndrome exemplifies the predictable negative response that PNarcs have to my work.
“According to their verbal and/or written feedback, they feel the seminar is offensive, ill-conceived, biased and even absurd. In particular, they are quite bothered by what they perceive as prejudice. These participants hear me say that codependents are the victims and emotional manipulators are the perpetrators of their dysfunctional relationships. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the training (and this book) specifically details how both the codependent and the emotional manipulator are equally willing magnets in their dysfunctional “dance.” The codependent’s tendency to find harmful partners and remain with them cannot and should not be blamed on emotional manipulators, or vice versa.
It would appear that the severe reactions from my audience are likely products of a narcissistic injury, which occurs when the narcissistic individual felt criticized, judged or defeated.
Anger and defensiveness are the common reactions of a narcissistically-injured emotional manipulator, as they feel offended, degraded and/or humiliated when confronted about their wrongdoings.” (Rosenberg, 2013).
Depending on the PNarc’s sub-type or diagnosis, their narcissistically prompted rage will be either delivered directly (“in your face”) or passive aggressively/covertly, which is the common strategy by Covert Narcissists and Malignant Narcissists. The covert and passive aggressive form of the narcissistic injury is more harmful than the reactions from the garden variety overt narcissists. They deliver maximum damage to the triggering (activating) SLD because of the invisible, secretive and manipulative nature of their counter-attack. Examples include triangulation of family, friends or co-workers, in order to promote their victim narrative.
Sadly, and ironically, the mere fact of fighting for what SLDs most want and need — unconditional love, respect and care (LRC) — results in the loss of it. Once in a relationship with a PNarc, any attempts to control or coerce the narcissist into loving, respecting and caring for the SLD are quickly offset by a dizzying array of self-serving manipulative countermeasures. These come in various forms, depending on your PNarc’s subtype. Unfortunately, as long as codependents fight for LRC in a manner that renders them powerless and ineffectual, they are virtually guaranteed never to receive it.
I learned 22 years ago that setting boundaries, resolving conflict, and defending myself from a PNarc was a complicated and dangerous endeavor that left me feeling worse than I felt before the ordeal. I was surprised to learn that my repeated and unsuccessful attempts to control my PNarc’s neglectful and harmful treatment were the primary interactional components of our relationship. My behavior was so automatic and reflexive that I was completely oblivious to it. Adding insult to injury, the only predictable outcome of my control compulsion was feelings of shame, loneliness, anxiety, and anger.
We must learn that PNarcs are never the primary problem. Instead, it is a SLD’s distorted and delusional belief system that compels them to keep trying to change and control their PNarc partner, who has a great deal riding on not letting you succeed. Despite ample evidence that SLDs can rarely effectively and consistently control their PNarcs, they blindly continue.
In conclusion, please do not use my book or other works to wage a battle against your PNarc. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, I beseech you to Observe and Don’t Absorb your PNarc into oblivion!
I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig.
You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it!
– George Bernard Shaw
Excerpts from The Codependency Cure: Recovering from Self-Love Deficit Disorder Book Proposal
Chapter 3: “CODEPENDENCY” NO MORE – THE SELF LOVE DEFICIT DISORDER STORY
Discovery Phase V – Core Shame Pathological Loneliness
At age 43, about two years after my humiliating second divorce, my life spiraled out of control and seemed be irrevocably reduced to shambles. My success driven self, the one that kept winning races because of the blinders he had on, could no longer carry the day. Like an old battered row boat with one too many holes in it, I took on more water than I could frantically bail out. No matter how much I tried, dragging on life’s rocky bottom, made it impossible to keep the “good” Ross afloat. As rapidly as one part of me was sinking, another part was rising upwards, seeking the light of day.
To my great dismay, from the murky depths of my unconscious mind, arose my emotional nemesis – core shame. This wasn’t the first time we met, as “he” had repeatedly and unremittingly tapped me on the shoulder back in my exquisitely sad, lonely teenage years. In an effort to stop the throbbing loneliness he caused, I almost self-medicated myself into oblivion. Twenty-eight years later, I was back to my self-medicating ways, trying to anesthetize myself from the ever-present reminders that I was essentially broken, worthless and unlovable. “Bottoming out” at age 44 served as a wake-up call, when I decided to awake from my self-medicated slumber and got myself back into therapy. This time around, I would not stop, until I could permanently eradicate my shame core, that part of me that kept leading me into the arms of a pathological narcissist.
Proposed Table of Contents
Forward: Another author will write?
Introduction: The Journey to Self-Love: Breaking Free to Recovery
Chapter 1: “Magnets” and “Cures:” The New Codependency Landscape
Chapter 2: Codependency, Narcissism, And The Human Magnet Syndrome
Chapter 3: “Codependency” No More – The Self-Love Deficit Disorder Story
Chapter 4: Paleopsychotherapy: Uncovering Trauma Fossils
Chapter 5: Codependency Addiction: “Hooked” on Your Narcissist
Chapter 6: Organizing The “Codependency Cure.” A Six Stage Recovery Model
Chapter 7: Hitting Bottom – From The Ashes the Phoenix Does Rise”
Chapter 8: Stop Wrestling with “Pigs!” The Observe Don’t Absorb Technique
Chapter 9: Finding Your Voice: Setting Boundaries in A Hostile Environment
Chapter 10: Maintaining Safe & Secure Boundaries
Chapter 11: Healing the Wounded Child Technique
Chapter 12: Discovering Self-Love: Building A Self-Love Foundation
Chapter 13: Relationship Math: The Addition of Two Self-Loving Individuals
Chapter 14: Reaching Self-Love Abundancy – The Codependency Cure
CHAPTER 6: ORGANIZING THE “CODEPENDENCY CURE.” A Six Stage Recovery Model
The Inevitable “How To” Question
It seemed every time I talked about the Human Magnet Syndrome (HMS)—in seminars, YouTube videos, blogs, articles, and of course, in my book—I was repeatedly besieged by the same emphatic question: “When will you tell us how to solve the problem?” Even with the epiphanies and watershed moments that the HMS material made possible, these same people were still mired waist-deep in the muddy swamp of a lifetime of codependent pain.
Naturally, the HMS’s explanation for why they repeatedly mistook harmful Pnarcs for loving life-partners was helpful, but it wasn’t enough. It helped them identify and understand their destructive self-sabotaging tendencies, but they also craved guidance on how to break free from the bonds of codependency , while learning how to be in a relationship with a lover, a best-friend, a mother, or a brother, who was mutually loving, respecting, and caring.
In writing The Human Magnet Syndrome, my goal was to explain what codependency is, not the solutions to it. It was my intention to both revise and redefine it, while explaining its predictable and reflexive behavior pattern, and why codependents repeatedly “dance” with harmful Pnarcs despite cascades of consequences, losses, and emotional pain. As much as I sympathized with the urgency of these questions, I maintained the course of my mission, which was to create a seismic shift in the understanding of codependency. I would not waver from this decision, since I had already planned to follow-up my HMS work with an instructive “how to” book focused on practical solutions and the path to healing.
Even with the clarity of my master plan, I still needed to convince others—both professionals and patients eager for help—why my “why material” needed to be separated from and to precede the eventual “how to” discussion. The following lays out my rationale.
CHAPTER 8 STOP WRESTLING WITH PIGS! How to Master the Observe Don’t Absorb Technique
The Emotional Wrestling Ring
The emotional ring is the fight that occurs in the SLD’s head, a fight which the SLD always loses. This thought and feeling-based wrestling ring consists of the flood of thoughts, feelings, suppositions, predictions, and judgments that overwhelms the SLD before, during, and after the SLD enters the physical ring. Adding another level of complexity, in any given emotional ring, the SLD is wrestling the current Pnarc, as well as Pnarcs from the past, namely the narcissistic parent or parents responsible for attachment trauma (the cause of SLDD).
The emotional wrestling ring is more dangerous than its physical counterpart. Not only is it invisible and lacking a definitive shape, but it is also the venue in which inner voices or dialogue command your attention. On a good day, the voices or dialogue are patient, accepting, self-forgiving, and self-loving. On a bad day, the Pnarc takes residence in your head, berating you with a cacophony of conclusions, judgments, and impatient commands that unfairly second-guess, judge, and ridicule your actions while degrading and derailing any attempt to secure healthy boundaries.
With the Pnarc infecting your thoughts, feelings, and judgments, the wrestling match is over before it starts, and the inevitable outcome is assured. When you add to the mix the flight or fight and false power responses, the SLD’s thought processes and judgment are impaired, rendering them the surefire loser of any altercation, argument and/or conflict with their Pnarc partner. In addition, once the SLD “rents” the Pnarc “space in their head,” all bets are off, as defeat in the emotional ring ensures another humiliating smack-down in the physical. The fight may seem to the SLD to be fought and lost in the physical ring, but this is an illusion, as most fights are lost in the emotional ring.
Muhammad Ali’s Emotional Knockouts
Muhammad Ali, international sports icon and boxing legend, exemplified a person who dominated his sport because of his mastery of both the emotional and physical rings. Many boxing aficionados and sports historians would agree that Ali may not have always been physically stronger, faster, or more skilled than his opponents. However, these same people would agree that despite his opponents’ obvious advantages, “The Champ” would find a way to win the boxing match. It is unimportant to this book to determine if Muhammad Ali was a Pnarc or not. But what is of value is to demonstrate how and why his psychological boxing methods were a masterful use of the emotional ring, and how they enabled him to achieve dominance in the boxing world.
Especially in the mid to later part of his career, Ali racked up wins through the carefully executed psychological manipulation of his opponents. His big wins, especially against the likes of Joe Frazier and George Foreman, were attributed to his ability to get into their heads, provoke unbridled anger, and ultimately, render them their own worst enemies. Winning in the emotional ring was achieved by taunting, ridiculing, and embarrassing them, which got them so enraged and hell-bent to pulverize Ali that they would ultimately sabotage their own efforts to win the fight.
Once Ali’s opponents were antagonized to the point of rage and a hyper-focused obsession to beat him to a pulp, they expended huge amounts of their energy early on in the match. The combination of his opponents’ triggered vindictive rage, their all-out intention to knock him out in the first few rounds, and Ali’s successful use of his “rope-a-dope” strategy (hunkering down in a safe, defensive position), all but guaranteed Ali a win. By the time his opponent lost his steam, and perhaps his false power, Ali would tap into his reserves and deliver a flurry of bout-ending punches.
Simply speaking, Ali won most of his fights by leading his opponents into an emotional ring and manipulating them to fight unknowingly against themselves; just as the Pnarc does with the unsuspecting SLD.
The most potent of love potions, “romantic chemistry,” draws lovers into a trance-like experience that results in a steamy dance of infatuation, intrigue and sexual desire. Romantic chemistry, or the “urgeto merge,” typically controls our rational mind, so much so that lessons learned and pledges made are neutralized in an instant. Although conscious desires, choices and preferences are crucial to the pairing of a romantic partnership, they play a secondary role to the forces of the unconscious mind. No matter how we try to fight our relational destiny, we still fall prey to our reflexive urges.
The irresistible and hypnotic allure of romantic chemistry creates what I call a “soul mate conviction.” What seems so perfect in the beginning often unfolds into a disappointing, dysfunctional relationship. In my book The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us, I explain why, for so many people, the soul mate of their dreams often ends up becoming the cellmate of their nightmares.
Although the human magnet syndrome is an intuitive explanation for the ubiquitous forces that bring partners to and keep them in dysfunctional romantic relationships, it lacked a theoretical foundation. To account for these irresistible and predictable attraction forces, I was compelled to create the continuum of self theory. I believe it explains why all people, not just individuals who are labeled as codependents and narcissists, are predictably drawn to a certain type of partner who is their “opposite” match.
In a nutshell, the continuum of self theory offers an intuitive explanation for why so many people remain in relationships despite feeling lonely, frustrated or resentful. Similarly, it explains why some people tend to repeat their dysfunctional relationship choices despite wanting something different. Additionally, it describes why relationships become fragile and often terminate when one of the partners independently achieves greater emotional or mental health.
The self-orientation concept
The continuum of self theory rests on the self-orientation concept, which represents a distinctly human and universal personality characteristic — we all have one! Self-orientation is defined as the manner in which a person expresses or does not express his or her emotional, psychological and relational needs when in a romantic relationship. There are only two self-orientation types: “other” and “self.”
The “other” self-orientation (OSO) manifests as a natural and reflexive predisposition to be more oriented toward the emotional, personal and relational needs of others than for oneself. On the other hand, the “self” self-orientation (SSO) is the natural and reflexive predisposition to be more oriented toward one’s own emotional, personal and relational needs and desires than those of others.
Both self-orientation types are represented as dichotomous and inverse personality characteristics on the continuum of self. As opposite self-orientations, they land on opposite sides of the continuum of self. The most severe manifestations of both self-orientations are placed at the farthest ends of the continuum.
The most severe form of an OSO is codependency. The most severe form of an SSO is pathological narcissism, which is exhibited in narcissistic, borderline and antisocial personality disorders or an addiction. People are considered codependent or as having a severe OSO when they are hyperfocused on the relational and personal needs of others, while neglecting the same needs for themselves. Conversely, people who are considered pathological narcissists or who have a severe SSO are almost completely focused on their own relational and personal needs, while neglecting the same in others.
The middle of the continuum represents individuals whose self-orientation compels them to equally fulfill their “other” and “self” needs. The continuum of self, therefore, represents the full range of self-orientation possibilities, from healthy to dysfunctional.
The continuum of self is a qualitative construct because it can predict a relationship’s degree of healthiness or dysfunction. It is also a quantitative construct because it demonstrates relational compatibility and stability through the use of interacting numerical values. Through “relationship math,” or simple addition and subtraction of single-digit numbers (the continuum of self values), it is possible to identify relational compatibility and stability. The term stable is used to describe relationships that are enduring and resistant to breakup. Conversely, an unstable relationship is likely to either not progress beyond the initial courtship stage or end when frequent conflict or discord is present.
As a whole, the continuum of self measures the full range of self-orientation pairing possibilities. It is designed to measure only interacting self-orientations; it does not purport to measure any other personality construct.
The continuum of self theory suggests that all people are consciously and unconsciously attracted to romantic partners who have an opposite, but proportionally balanced, self-orientation. It predicts that OSOs and SSOs will be attracted to each other while experiencing feelings of relational compatibility. Like an award-winning dance couple, because the care “needer” (SSO) leads the dance and the care “giver” (OSO) follows, the dance is perfectly coordinated; neither steps on the other’s toes. The resulting bond of opposite yet balanced self-orientations may not be happilyconnected, but it will likely endure hardships and be resistant to change.
By definition, people who are codependent (severe OSOs) are prone to focus on the love, respect and care of others, while dismissing, devaluing or being afraid of seeking the same from others. Conversely, people who are pathological narcissists (severe SSOs) are disposed to satiating their own love, respect and care needs, while devaluing, ignoring or neglecting those same needs in their romantic partners. As opposite but balanced personality types, they almost always experience immediate and intense feelings of romantic chemistry.
Continuum of self values
In total, there are 11 values on the continuum of self, representing the full range of self-orientation possibilities. Continuum of self values increase or decrease in a series of single digits. (Examples of each continuum of self value can be viewed at http://goo.gl/gT1dMD.)
Because individuals who are codependent and individuals who are pathological narcissists have diametrically opposite self-orientations, they are represented on the farthest ends of the continuum of self (-5 and +5, respectively). As a person’s relational health improves, so does his or her self-orientation, which is represented by a lower positive or negative continuum of self value. The middle value is zero, which represents an equal balance of love, respect and care given and taken in a relationship. The positive or negative designation does not imply that one self-orientation is better than the other but merely that they are on opposite sides.
The farther the values pairing moves away from zero on the continuum of self, the less mutuality and reciprocity are evident in the relationship. In other words, higher negative and positive values pairings (for example, -4 and +4) represent a relationship that lacks a fair distribution of love, respect and care. Conversely, lower pairings on the continuum of self represent an increased mutual exchange of love, respect and care. The former represents a dysfunctional relationship, while the latter represents a healthy relationship.
According to the continuum of self theory, romantic relationships remain viable or endure because the matching opposite self-orientations create a sense of relational equilibrium. If one partner becomes healthier, as evidenced by a shift in his or her lowered continuum of self value, then tacit and direct pressure is placed on the other partner to respond with similar positive movement and growth. If the partner of the healthier individual does not want or is unable to change and grow, then stress is placed on the relationship. The stress will either lead to a breakdown of the relationship or create pressure for the healthier partner to regress to former levels of dysfunction. Failure to maintain a balanced inverse bond may result in the failure of the relationship. It should be noted that family systems theory influenced the conceptualization of the continuum of self theory.
Corresponding zero values do not signify an absence of self-orientation. Instead, they represent an exact balance of love, respect and care being given and received. Although having a zero value would be ideal, in reality, the vast majority of people fall somewhere on one side or the other of the continuum of self.
The lower inversely matched couples are able to ebb and flow because of the reciprocal and mutual nature of their well-matched self-orientations (continuum of self values). They are able to ask for what they need — and even disagree with each other — without experiencing resentment or conflict. However, higher inversely matched couples create a dysfunctional relationship. With polar opposite higher continuum of self values, the two are unlikely to reconcile their vast differences in self-orientation. In particular, the person who is a pathological narcissist is an unlikely candidate for any substantive personality change.
Except in the case of a pathological narcissist, who may have a personality disorder, a person’s self-orientation and continuum of self value are neither fixed nor permanent. A person’s continuum of self value typically rises and falls throughout his or her lifetime. It is even possible, albeit not usual, for a person to move from one side of the continuum to the other. In the case of a switch in self-orientation (from SSO to OSO, for example), the person usually begins with a lower positive or negative continuum of self value. In addition, this person has likely participated in some form of long-term or regular mental health service. With motivation, emotional fortitude and good counseling, most OSOs and SSOs are capable of learning to practice a mutually satisfying level of give-and-take in the areas of love, respect and care.
The zero-sum relationship
Relationship stability is achieved when the negative and positive continuum of self values of each partner equal a zero sum. In other words, zero-sum relationships occur when two partners have an exactly opposite self-orientation.
Note that the zero-sum relationship describes the quantitative state of a relationship, not the qualitative state. To illustrate, a -5 continuum of self value, or someone who is codependent, will likely form a stable and lasting dysfunctional relationship with a +5 value, or someone who is a pathological narcissist. On the contrary, a mildly giving and overly empathetic person with a continuum of self value of -2 would make an ideal partner for a mildly self-centered person with a value of +2. Therefore, a zero-sum relationship isn’t necessarily healthy or stable. It is just balanced.
Consider this vignette of a healthy -2/+2 zero-sum relationship. Sandy (-2) is a mother and wife who enjoys her role as a busy stay-at-home mom. She stays busy caring for her family and serving in several volunteer positions. She is married to Dan (+2), who is a successful corporate executive. With the support of Sandy, Dan works long hours to build his status and reputation in the family business. Although Dan likes the attention that being in the public eye brings him, he still makes himself available for the personal and emotional needs of others, especially when it comes to his family. Sandy and Dan’s lower opposite continuum of self values result in mutual feelings of love, respect and care. When Sandy is sick and can’t care for the children, Dan doesn’t hesitate to take a few days off work to cover her domestic responsibilities. If Dan needs help, Sandy steps up in any way she can to help him.
Now consider this vignette of an unhealthy -5/+5 zero-sum relationship. Ken (-5) works two jobs to care for his wife, Allison (+5), and their three children. Ken harbors deep resentment toward Allison because he has to work multiple jobs to make ends meet for the family. Allison has been largely unresponsive to and, at times, unaware of Ken’s unhappiness. Although Ken is highly bonded to his children, his work schedule keeps him away from many of the quality moments with them. When they got married, Allison unilaterally decided to quit her successful accounting career because she wanted to be a stay-at-home mother. Despite Ken’s repeated assertions that they needed two incomes, Allison insisted that she needed to be at home with their kids and that Ken was being unreasonable. Ken’s fear of conflict and fear that Allison might leave him resulted in the suppression of his resentment. Allison’s narcissism prevents her from understanding Ken’s need for mutuality and reciprocity in the relationship. They are likely to stay married but remain miserable (particularly in Ken’s case).
Continuum of self values are categorized into three groups: healthy/balanced, problematic and unhealthy/dysfunctional. Lower values pairings illustrate healthier relationships that are characterized by higher levels of mutuality in the exchange of love, respect and care. Higher continuum of self values pairings demonstrate less healthy relationships that are characterized by a lopsided exchange of love, respect and care, with more going to the SSO and less to the OSO. Couples who fit into a specific category can move forward or backward on the continuum of self as they either evolve or devolve relationally.
According to the continuum of self theory, individuals who are codependent have a severe OSO, which is numerically represented by a continuum of self value of -5. When in romantic relationships, they focus almost completely on the needs of a pathologically narcissistic partner, while ignoring, diminishing or neglecting their own similar needs. Although unhappy and resentful, they remain in this relationship.
In contrast, pathological narcissists have a severe SSO, which is numerically represented by a continuum of self value of +5. When in a romantic relationship, they predominantly focus on their own needs, while ignoring, diminishing or neglecting their partners’ similar needs. They seem oblivious to their partners’ resentment or unhappiness about the relationship. Therefore, they have no investment or interest in changing the relationship.
The unhealthy/dysfunctional range for relationships is -4/+4 to -5/+5. Although “balanced” and “stable,” these dysfunctional pairings result in one-way “narcicentric” relationships. The +4 and +5 SSOs receive the lion’s share of love, respect and care, while the -4 and -5 OSOs are typically on the short end of the receiving stick. As such, the OSOs suffer in the relationship significantly more than their SSO partners do.
In an effort to avoid upsetting the narcissistic partner, the -4 and -5 OSO partner tolerates and, consequently, adapts to the SSO partner’s narcissistic ways. Because the OSO partner is neither adept at nor comfortable with communicating anger, displeasure or resentment, he or she is likely to suppress these feelings. In addition, the OSO partner may have learned that communicating resentment or anger is likely to result in rejection, conflict or harm (personal or relational), all of which he or she actively avoids. Therefore, the OSO partner perpetuates or enables the dysfunctionally balanced relationship by adjusting to the other partner’s narcissistic behaviors.
The -5/+5 zero-sum relationship is typically resistant to change, mostly because of the pathological narcissist’s inability to acknowledge his or her role in the relationship’s dysfunction. Denying culpability or responsibility for the relationship problems reinforces the narcissist’s position that psychotherapeutic services will be neither personally beneficial nor helpful to the relationship.
The partner who is considered codependent is correspondingly resistant to change because it would potentially result in emotional, psychological or even physical harm or in deep and profound feelings of guilt, shame and loneliness. However, people who are codependent are sometimes able to accept responsibility for their problems and seek help.
Although the -4/+4 relationship also constitutes a dysfunctional relationship, both individuals have some capacity, albeit minimal, to break free of their polarized self-orientation differences. To illustrate, the -4 OSO is minimally capable of setting and maintaining boundaries regarding the love, respect and caring imbalance in the relationship. Likewise, the +4 SSO partner, who does not have a personality disorder, has some limited capability to demonstrate concern and some limited willingness to better meet the partner’s needs. This relationship is still resistant to change because the +4 SSO is negatively reactive and fragile about accepting constructive or critical feedback about his or her narcissism.
According to the societal and cultural standards of most developed Western countries, the -3/+3 relationship is often considered problematic because the distribution of love, respect and care is not equally and fairly distributed. In this relationship category, the balance is significantly tilted toward the SSO. Even with the inequity of love, respect and care that is given and received, this couple is still capable of minor to moderate levels of mutuality and reciprocity. For example, the OSO partner is able to set some boundaries and communicate some of his or her needs. Conversely, the SSO partner is capable of minimal to moderate levels of empathy and motivation to meet his or her partner’s needs, while also being open to some constructive and critical feedback.
The delineation between healthy and unhealthy continuum of self values pairings is not always clear. From the vantage point of modern Western culture, a couple with a -3/+3 pairing may be considered unhealthy because of the distinct disparity between the exchange of love, respect and care. However, from the perspective of other societies, cultures or ethnic groups in which the norm is oriented toward an acceptable discrepancy between the giving and taking of love, respect and care, the relationship would be considered healthy and normal. If these romantic partners are satisfied and happy with their relationship and there is no harm perpetrated against the OSO, then their somewhat polarized exchange of love, respect and care may actually constitute a culturally specific healthy relationship.
The healthy values pairings in the continuum of self are -2/+2, -1/+1 and 0/0. Healthy relationships are defined by both a zero-sum balance and an equitable distribution of love, respect and care. Although a -2/+2 couple may not share an exactly equal exchange of love, respect and care, they still experience an affirming, balanced and mutually satisfying connection. This relationship is considered healthy because both partners are content and satisfied with their unique flow. In other words, this relationship works because both partners feel loved, respected and cared for in a manner that satisfies their healthy self-orientation.
An example of such a relationship is a healthy counselor who enjoys helping others but still sets boundaries when feeling ignored, or a healthy writer who lives for affirmation and recognition but can still fulfill his or her partner’s needs for the same.
Maslow’s hammer and nail
As much as the continuum of self theory attempts to identify and quantify human relational behavior, it is neither feasible nor appropriate to rely on just one theory to explain complicated human behavior patterns. There are inherent dangers to having a limited or narrow view of human psychology.
Abraham Maslow, one of the founders of humanistic psychological theory, said, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” My hope is that the continuum of self theory can serve as just one of the many tools in a counselor’s toolbox to help understand and change our clients’ or our own dysfunctional relationships.
I would also like to offer some disclaimers. First, because an addiction can mimic pathological narcissism, a significant period of recovery is needed before determining a person’s baseline self-orientation.
The continuum of self only measures a person’s self-orientation. It does not purport to measure more complicated and multifaceted personality or relational characteristics or dynamics. Also, the theory should be applied only in a clinical setting with a competent and qualified counselor who is trained in the continuum of self and other related psychological theories.
Although the continuum of self theory attempts to explain and simplify the complex attraction dynamic, it does not pretend to be bigger and more inclusive than it was designed to be. It is a narrowly focused explanatory paradigm that measures an individual’s self-orientation, while accounting for the attraction dynamic of opposite but compatible personality types. It is not intended to be a stand-alone or comprehensive theoretical explanation. However, it may be useful as an adjunct to other psychological theories.
As a new psychological theory, the continuum of self has not yet met the rigors of scientific scrutiny. However, I hope that it will contribute to the current understanding of human behavior and stimulate further thought and discussion on the topic.
Ross Rosenberg is a licensed clinical professional counselor and professional trainer. He is the author of The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us. Contact him at email@example.com
Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT © 2016
Clinical Care Consultants Owner
Advanced Clinical Trainers Owner
Psychotherapist, Author & Professional Trainer
Author of The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us
Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT
I first came across this allegorical story about self-love, courage and risk 28 years ago when I began my psychotherapy career in Boone, Iowa. The story is a chapter from John and Linda Friel’s 1988 book, “Adult Children Secrets of Dysfunctional Families: The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families.” The Friels were one of the early pioneers on ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) and codependency.
The Friel’s goose story typifies the experience of being raised in a family that protects its dysfunction more than the people in the family. It eloquently and powerfully conveys what it is like to experience the double bind of knowing what is wrong with your family, but being afraid of exposing this truth. For many families, such as the one in this story, the risk to tell the truth often requires either leaving the family, or being expelled from it.
As the protagonist of the story, a young adult goose matured and began to realize how sick his family really was and how unwilling they were able to accept it. In fact, the toxicity of the family’s dysfunction was so severe that everyone’s mental and physical health (safety) were sacrificed in order to maintain and perpetuate their shared denial-based narrative. The young goose’s courage to face the truth about his family’s toxic dysfunction, set boundaries with them, and follow his intuition about what is healthy or not, is truly inspirational!
Looking back at it now, I am reminded how the brilliant work from people like John and Linda Friel impacted my own codependency recovery and what would become my own clinical and written work. Twenty-eight years later, this story still resonates with my own codependency and dysfunctional family story. It is clear now that ideas such as my “Surgeon General’s Warning,” “Observe Don’t Absorb” technique, and my Five Stages of Codependency Recovery concepts could not have been developed without the knowledge and inspiration from pioneers like the Friels and their compatriots. I hope it impacts you in the same way!
Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT
Adult Children Secrets of Dysfunctional Families: The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families
From The Goose (Chapter 9, page 93)
Once upon a time in a far away land called Northern Minnesota, there was a family of geese who lived on a quiet little pond on the outskirts of a small town. Mr. Gander and Mrs. Goose and their three goslings spent a lot of time in the pond, and they enjoyed their neighbors, Mr. Beaver and Mr. and Mrs. Loon. On sunny afternoons after the wind had died down, they would congregate near Mr. Beaver’s house and talk about their families and their plans for the winter. Like all normal Minnesotans, the weather was always at the top of the list for conversation.
“Hot enough for you, Mrs. Goose!” asked Mr. Loon.
“Land sakes, yes!” replied Mrs. Goose, with a mock sigh of consternation in her voice.
“Well, I don’t know,” piped in Mr. Beaver. “I sort of like this weather.”
Mr. Gander listened our of one ear as he gazed our over the pond and thought about what a wonderful life they had all made for themselves. His goslings were growing up faster than he had ever imagined, and he was thinking ahead to the trip south that they’d all be taking in a few months. He was even thinking beyond that, to the rime when they could return to this pond again after the long, cold Minnesota winter was over. He loved this place.
While all this adult conversation was going on, the three goslings were out in the middle of the pond skimming across the top of the water, feet paddling fast as they tried to get themselves airborne for the first time. None of them were to accomplish it today, but they would soon enough. As they stopped to rest, the Littlest Gosling spoke to his brother and sister. “You know, I haven’t been feeling so great the past few days. My stomach has been a little queasy, and my head hurts just a bit.”
“Well,” his sister replied, “you’re probably just anxious about the big trip south this winter. After all, it is a long way from home.”
“Yes,” his brother added, “and you’ve been working awfully hard to learn how to fly. Why don’t you just go over by Mom and Dad and take a breather.”
The Littlest Gosling frowned. “I don’t know. It just feels like something; wrong. I can’t quite put my wingtip on it, but something tells me things aren’t right.”
“You Silly Goose!” his brother and sister echoed in unison.
The Littlest Gosling began swimming toward the spot on the edge of the pond where his parents were. Before he reached them, he veered off to the left into a small cove lined with cattails and water lilies. He noticed a peculiar odor and spotted two dead fish floating bellies up on the surface of the water. He wondered if there was something wrong with his pond; and he wondered if that was why he was feeling a little sick.
He paddled out of the cove and around to his parents, Mr. Beaver, and Mr. and Mrs. Loon.
“Mom, Dad,” he began, “I think there’s something wrong with this pond. I think there’s something in it that’s making me sick.” He gazed up into their eyes, awaiting that glimmer of pride and recognition in their expressions that would say they were interested in his discovery.
Instead, Mrs. Goose snapped, “0h, you Silly Goose! Whatever gave you that idea? Land sakes, son, you come up with the silliest notions sometimes”.
That evening his parents, brother and sister all had a good laugh over the Littlest Gosling’s “discovery”.
“Why, we’ve been coming back to this pond every spring for as long as I can remember,” spouted Mr. Gander. “And no one has ever been sick a day in his life since we’ve been here,” added Mrs. Goose.
“Alright, alright,” shouted the Littlest Gosling, “enough is enough!”
Over the next few days everyone forgot about the incident, and things pretty much went back to normal.
About two weeks Inter the Littlest Gosling began to feel sick again, but he’d learned his lesson the first time, so he didn’t even think about telling anyone in the pond about it.
At first he didn’t know quite what to do. He went back to the small cove and saw some more dead fish and smelled that smell again. Then he took a tour of the rest of the pond and discovered some of the same things going on. A few dead fish here and there, a funny smell and a slight headache and queasy stomach that wouldn’t seem to go away.
By now he was able to fly, and although lie was feeling weak, he decided to break the rule that his parents had made for him and his brother and sister, and he flew up and over the edge of the pond and away. After gaining altitude, he noticed a big lake off in the distance with a large population of geese, ducks and loons, and so he headed toward it.
After a few minutes, he landed gracefully on the surface of the lake about 50 yards from a big gaggle of geese who were swimming about, enjoying the late afternoon sun. He was hesitant at first because his parents had told him not to leave his own pond, and because these geese were strangers. But they were very nice, and they invited him to come and join them in their conversation.
Soon after they began to talk, the Littlest Gosling told them what had been happening to him lately. As he talked, the Eldest Gander of the gaggle became very serious. The Littlest Gosling noticed that a frown swept across his face, and then suddenly the Eldest Gander began honking furiously.
“Where exactly do you live, son?” he asked the Littlest Gosling.
“A few minutes from here, as the goose flies,” he answered. “In that pond behind that abandoned farm.” The Eldest Gander honked even louder now.
“You must fly home and warn your family at once! And everyone else who lives there, too. That pond is poison! Believe me. We lived there once, too. His face grew sad. “I lost two of my goslings because of that pond.”
The Littlest Gosling did not hesitate for an instant. He took to the air and flew directly to where his parents were swimming in the pond.
“Dad! Mom!” he shouted. “I know l’m not supposed to leave the pond, but I just had to get away. I was feeling so sick. And I was so curious. Anyway, I talked to some geese in a lake near here, and the Eldest Gander there said that the water in this pond is poison, and that he lost two goslings because of it. We need to get out of here right away!” he said excitedly.
Mr. Gander looked sternly at his son and said, “We told you never to leave this pond until we are all ready to fly south for the winter. You have broken our most important rule. We are very disappointed in you. Now go back to the nest and don’t leave there until we tell you to!”
The Littlest Gosling was heartbroken and terrified. He didn’t know what to do. He loved his family, and he wanted to be a good gosling, but he didn’t want his family to die either. He began to return to the nest. When he was almost there, he suddenly turned, looked up into the sky, recalled the words of the Eldest Gander, and then flew off toward the big lake.
He had decided to live rather than to die but he was so deeply sad that he cried for the better part of four days. Members of the gaggle on the big lake would stop by to comfort him, and to tell him that he had made the right decision, but he still felt a deep pain inside.
On several occasions, he almost got up and new back to the pond, thinking that to die with his family would he better than to live with strangers. But each rime, something deep inside of him told him to stay put.
And then something happened. Almost three weeks after he had left home, he saw a lone goose, or was it a gosling, winging its way toward the lake. His eyes were riveted on the bird. His heart leaped when he realized that it was his brother. His brother had started to feel sick, too. He had got in a huge fight with Mr. Gander but had finally decided to join the Littlest Gosling. Three days later, his sister joined them and a week after that, so did Mrs. Goose. Finally one week later Mr. Gander, sick to his stomach and with a headache throbbing in his temples, joined the rest of the family on the big lake.
It took a lot of courage on their part, but once they were settled into their new home, Mr. and Mrs. Gander called a meeting of all the flocks.
As a hush settled over the late, Mr. Gander put his wing around the Littlest Gosling and said, “This is my Littlest Gosling. For a while I thought he was a Bad Little Gosling. I thought he was a Silly Goose. But he wasn’t. We were the Silly Geese. And the Littlest Gosling saved our lives. We are proud of him.”
A tear trickled down the beak of Mrs. Goose. It was a tear of pride and relief and gratitude. The Littlest Gosling’s heart filled with warmth as every duck, loon, goose and gander on the big lake began honking their loudest honks and calling their loudest calls to celebrate his courage, wisdom and strength.
That winter they all flew south together and in the spring they returned to the big lake. They were pleased now to be a part of all the flocks safe in the knowledge that their water was pure, their friends were true and that their goslings would be able to grow up to be healthy and strong.
Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT © 2016
Clinical Care Consultants Owner
Advanced Clinical Trainers Owner
Psychotherapist, Author & Professional Trainer
Author of The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us
Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT
Empaths Are Different from Codependents
Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CACD, CSAT
I have to be honest, I do not like when the term “empath” is used interchangeably with “codependent.” “Empath,” which has its origins in the spiritual and metaphysical world, was never intended to be a replacement term for codependency. An empath is defined as a person with the paranormal ability to intuitively sense and understand the mental or emotional state of another individual. According to empaths I have spoken to and the information available on the Internet, they are highly sensitive to the emotional and metaphysical energy others. If, indeed, this extra-sensory phenomenon exists, it is definitely not the same thing as codependency.
Since “empath” has mostly positive connotations and “codependent” does not, it makes sense why it is a preferred moniker for the more serious psychological problem of codependency.
Misrepresenting codependency, or what I now refer to as Self-Love Deficit Disorder (SLDD), only adds a layers of denial to a problem that is already shrouded in shame. In addition, it casts a serious problem in a positive light, while perpetuating the myth that SLD’s or codependents are victims, instead of willing participants in their dysfunctional relationships with narcissists.
Who can argue that being empathetic is bad? Well, it isn’t. The idea that empaths are vulnerable people, just because of a certain personality type, is an excuse, which offers no solution to the problem. Being empathic is good! However, being empathic and allowing yourself to be hurt by people you choose to be with, or are unconsciously attracted to, is not.
But one could argue that being overly empathetic while choosing to be in harmful relationships with narcissists is dysfunctional and self-destructive. “Empath” should, therefore, not be a replacement term for “codependent,” When we admit we struggle with SLDD, we are honestly and courageously confessing our pain, while describing what we need to do in order to find loving, respecting and mutually caring relationships.
I have worked with SLD’s/codependents my whole career, and I, myself, am a recovering SLD. I have learned that we can only recover from our secret hell – our magnetic attraction to narcissists – when we understand that we are willing participants or dance partners in a very dysfunctional relationship dance. We choose narcissistic “dance partners” because we have a “broken (relationship) picker.” We fall prey to our own belief that the chemistry we experience with new narcissist lovers is a manifestation of true love or a soulmate experience.
Adding insult to injury, when the cracks of the soulmate’s façade surface and we start to experience the isolating and humiliating pain of loneliness and shame, we are, once again, powerless to break free from another narcissist lover. Inevitably, our soulmate transforms into our “cell mate.” This is not the problem of an empath, but of someone with Self-Love Deficit Disorder.
The only way SLD’s get better (recover) is to understand that they freely participate in their dysfunctional relationships with narcissists. As a reminder, SLDD is a symptom that manifests through the Human Magnet Syndrome. It is an addiction that results from one’s need/desire to self-medicate (detach, numb or escape) the pain of pathological loneliness, which is fueled by the core shame resulting from childhood attachment trauma at the hands of a pathologically narcissistic parent.
Admitting we have a problem that we cannot, or never could, control, is the first and most important step in SLDD (codependency) recovery. Yes, we can stop the madness! We can take the big step towards sanity, peace and fulfillment by admitting our powerlessness over our SLD and need to recover from its inherent addiction – the compulsion to be everyone’s lover, friend, confidant and caretaker, while ignoring our own needs for the same.
We can conquer pathological loneliness, soul-searing shame and our repressed or suppressed childhood trauma if we choose the difficult but healing path of trauma resolution and the pursuit of self-love. Seeking this healing and self-loving path will ultimately compel us to cast away all relationships that are exploitative and narcissistic, while moving towards those that enhance our pursuit for self-care, self-respect and self-love. The courage to recover from Self-Love Deficit Disorder is within your reach. Stop being a delivery mechanism for everyone else’s need for love, respect and care!
In conclusion, if you identify with Self-Love Deficit Disorder (codependency), rejoice in your emotional and, perhaps, spiritual empathetic gifts. But, at the same time, make the life-changing decision to take the challenging but healing path of SLDD recovery. The following excerpt from Robert Frost’s celebrated poem, “The Road Not Taken,” illuminates the importance of this resolution:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT
Clinical Care Consultants Owner
Advanced Clinical Trainers Owner
Psychotherapist, Author & Professional Trainer
Author of The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us