Stop Trying to Change the Malignant Narcissist
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:
- They will exhibit various forms of vindictive and indignant rage, which compels them to openly intimidate, manipulate, and consequently sabotage their partner’s attempt at SLDD recovery.
- This is the more insidious and harmful reaction that is common with Covert and Malignant Narcissists. In this scenario, the PNarc covertly executes a plan of sabotage and disempowerment, which may include gaslighting, mind manipulation, and continued brainwashing.
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
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.
- Healthy/balanced: 0/0, -1/+1
- Problematic: -3/+3
- Unhealthy/dysfunctional: -4/+4
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT © 2016
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A Response to the “Open Letter to Patrick Carnes, Stefanie Carnes and Robert Weiss…and CSATs”
This is my response to the “An Open Letter to Patrick Carnes, Stefanie (misspelled in the article) Carnes and Rob Weiss…:
With regard to the sex addict and their partner, there ALWAYS is some element of relational dysfunction before the sexual addiction is discovered. Always. Healthy people do not fall in love with sex addicts, or for that matter, narcissists. This is idea is explained in my Human Magnet Syndrome (HMS) work.
But let me be very clear, although the partner of the sex addict is never responsible for the sexual acting out, they willingly participate in a relationships that is marred by all sorts of open and hidden dysfunction. Hidden dysfunction is best understood by what is secret or what cannot be discovered. It can also be hidden by the partner’s denial system, an unconscious process, that is beyond one’s awareness.
If you embrace my HMS and Continuum of Self theoretical constructs, you will agree that people come together in relationships because of how they psychologically match-up or the “chemistry” that powerfully directs their attraction patterns. Although sex addicts are not necessarily codependents or narcissists, those who happen to be either of the two, are presumed to be in an intimate/close relationships with their opposite, like a negative polarized magnet is attracted to one that is positive.
All relationships come together like a dance partnership. One partner’s “dance role” has to match the others, in order to make the “dance partnership” work. Therefore, the codependent sex addict is always attracted to a narcissist and the narcissistic sex addict is always attracted to a codependent. This article is article and video clarifies my position on this relationship dynamic.
The reason I explain the above is because of audaciously negative and harmful article, “An Open Letter to Patrick Carnes, Stephanie (misspelled) Carnes, Rob Weiss…and CSATS,” written by Joann Russell. It seems to me that her article is reflective of her own unconscious anger at sex addicts and her motivation to further her own personal, marketing, and business agenda.
Over the years, I have come to understand (as well as many of my colleagues) that there is a contingency of former partners of sex addicts who decide to become psychotherapists specializing in the treatment of partners of sex addicts. Since this group of professionals are unaware of their own unresolved issues with the perpetrators of abuse in heir life, they project their unconsciously managed rage onto either sex addicts or those who treat them in an affirming and optimistic manner. It seems to me that this unique subgroup of practitioners have a major chip on their shoulder against sex addicts. Such plays out in the triangulation of their partner clients against the very important recovery, healing and restorative process, and of course, the sex addict. These practitioners seem to be unable to take a balanced, objective and neutral point of view in their work with sex addicted clients or partners of them. Moreover, they are oblivious that they are actually hurting their clients and the loved ones connected to them.
In my opinion, such treatment practitioners are often narcissistic, many of whom qualify for the diagnosis of Narcissistic or Borderline Personality Disorder. Just like the narcissistic clients they treat, they are predictably enraged, humiliated, and horribly victimized by their discovery of the sex addiction and the end of the the interacting systems of deceit and denial. The Personality Disorder creates a uni-dimensional blame-based understanding of their partner’s sex addiction that inhibits them from understanding how and why they participated in the dysfunctional elements of the relationship. Although the sex addiction is never their fault, they are completely oblivious to any contributing element that may have lead their partner to seek comfort, connection, or a self-medicating shot of anesthesia via their sexual “drug of choice.
It is common knowledge, going back to classic research by Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse in the 1970’s and those connected to Family Systems Theory, that it “takes two to tango.” In any dysfunctional system, people play out their roles. There are no coincidences that unhealthy people come together in relationships. There is SO MUCH written about this clear and obvious psychological and sociological fact. To repeat, psychologically healthy people are not attracted to sex addicts (or those who are destined to be a sex addict). The chemistry, the “dance, or Human Magnet Syndrome explanations account for this relational dynamic.
When any partner learns about their sex addicted partners calculated lies, deceit and despicable treatment of them, they are rightly upset, as they should be. Many of them cannot forgive their partners, and consequently end the relationship. This is possible outcome is not disauaded or discouraged by CSAT’s or the work of Patrick and Stefanie Carnes and Rob Weiss. But they do take a stand however. They, as do well trained CSAT’s who appropriately apply what they learned, try to heal and empower partners of sex addicts so they can make an informed and empowered decision regarding the future of the relationship.
Thanks to the CSAT protocols, methods and training, which are all scientifically/research supported and validated, partners learn about their unique “co-addict” role, while also learning to be safe, empowered and self-loving. CSATs facilitate, not direct, decisions about relationships, and are well-aware of the long-lasting impact they have on their client’s mental health. Incidentally, co-addict merely translates to “partner of the addict” not “complicitous partner of the addict.”
To write a completely dismissing article with the proactive intent to smear people’s reputation, who are huge contributors (internationally recognized and acclaimed) in the field of sex addiction recovery, whom I know and respect, is just wrong. In my opinion, Ms. Russell’s use of a public forum that has the capacity to impact multitudes of people was a calculated move to destroy or diminish the very important movement of sexual addiction recovery. Looking at her website, it is clear she is privy to the power of Intenet marketing and search engine optimization. In other words, the article was meant to create the maximum harm to the people she openly disparages in her article. Articles like this lose their validity, because it seems more like a character assassination than helpful information.
In addition, it seems that Ms. Russel, neither has an addiction background or understanding of the very complicated matter of sex addiction and a partners experience of it. In addition, she doesn’t seem to have a working knowledge about the seminal work of Patrick and Stefanie Carnes and Rob Weiss. Such is evidenced by her highly opinionated and apparently activated opinions regarding sex addiction, the 12-Step Programs, CSAT training and methods, and more. One example is the CSAT methods are not 12-Step based; just influenced. It is so very much beyond just one method, mode or theory. It is includes an accumulation of research based methods that have been vetted and approve by thousands of therapists.
Ms. Russell’s cavalier and fact-less article has the potential to hurt a field that has created huge advancements to mental health and addiction recovery field. Moreover, she has the capacity to galvanize partners of sex addicts against a healing, empowering, self-loving, and possibly restorative process.
Using one’s business website as a bully pulpit to promote unsubstantiated judgments about hard working, dedicated and brilliant contributors to the field of sexual addiction is just wrong. Such judgments would have held more water if Ms. Russell’s education, training, and experience was somewhere in the area of the field that she was so quick to criticize. In addition, it seems that Ms. Russell’s blog is more connected to personal gain and profit than helping others recover from the sex addiction, whether a partner or an addict.
Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT
patients resolve their painful dysfunctional relationships patterns.
When a therapist colleague and friend recently asked me to explain what Self-Love Deficit Disorder is and how to treat it–I panicked. Although I love talking about my latest discoveries, especially my renaming of codependency to Self-Love Deficit Disorder. I paused to think of the best response. Being fatigued from seeing six psychotherapy clients that day, I considered using the therapist’s conversation maneuver of avoiding the subject by asking a similarly difficult question about a topic on which the client loves to talk. My second impulse was to skirt the question by explaining that the answers are best explained in my latest seminar video–the six-hour “Codependency Cure.”
These discoveries organically materialized in my life as a direct result of my need to heal emotional wounds and to tear down the emotional, personal, and relational barriers keeping me from experiencing self-love.
My third impulse, the best one, was to proudly and enthusiastically share my “children” with yet another person. Those who know me well understand how my Human Magnet Syndrome, Codependency Cure, and Self-Love Deficit theories and explanations are byproducts of my own family of origin issues (trauma), my roller-coaster journey to recover from it, and the joy of learning to live free from codependency. These discoveries organically materialized in my life as a direct result of my need to heal emotional wounds and to tear down the emotional, personal, and relational barriers keeping me from experiencing self-love. This is not just a set of theories I like to talk about, but a personal mission that I plan to be on for the rest of my life.
Although I wasn’t excited about the prospect of talking shop at that moment, I tapped into a well of energy and enthusiasm that gave me the much needed boost to give a condensed rendering of my latest work. But this time, I set a boundary (for me and them): it would only be a fifteen-minute explanation! I figured since I had already given many radio interviews, written many articles, created training courses, and, of course, been a psychotherapist for 29 years, it would be a piece of cake.
And … I did with time to spare! Knowing that others might ask me the same question again or would benefit from a similarly condensed rendition of my conceptual and theoretical work, I decided to create a written version of this discussion. The following are my 15 guiding principles of Self-Love Deficit Disorder and The Human Magnet Syndrome.
3. PNarc’s (Pathological Narcissists) have one of three personality disorders and/or have an addiction: Borderline Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
4. The SLD was once a child who was raised by a PNarc parent who flew into fits of rage, anxiety, sadness, and/or depression if and when their immediate needs were not catered to or immediately met. This child emotionally survived by avoiding their narcissistic parent’s anger (narcissistic injuries) by morphing into the “trophy,” “pleasing,” or “favorite” child that the PNarc parent needed them to be. This child grew up learning that safety and conditional love were available to them if they buried their own needs for love, respect and caring while becoming invisible.
5. The inherently dysfunctional SLDD/PNarc “dance” requires two opposite but distinctly balanced partners: the pleaser/fixer (SLD) and the taker/controller (PNarc). When the two come together in their relationship, their dance unfolds flawlessly: The narcissistic maintains the lead and the SLD follows. Their roles seem natural to them because they have actually been practicing them their whole lives; the SLD reflexively gives up their power and since the narcissist thrives on control and power, the dance is perfectly coordinated. No one gets their toes stepped on. SLD’s dare not leave their dance partner, because their lack of self-esteem and self-respect makes them feel like they can do no better. Being alone is the equivalent of feeling lonely, and loneliness is too painful to bear.
8. When an SLD sets a boundary, insists on fairness or mutuality, or attempts to protect themselves from harm, the PNarc partner punishes them with some form of active or passive aggressive retaliation. The actual consequence, or the threat of it, freezes the SLD inside their unhappy dysfunctional relationships. Over time, the PNarc achieves complete dominance over the relationship because they have systematically extracted any semblance of self-confidence and courage from the SLD.
9. SLDD often manifests as an addiction. The enthralling emotional drama of dysfunctional relationships or the belief that the SLD can control a PNarc is the “drug” to which SLD’s become addicted. Despite losses and consequences, the SLD addict hypnotically pursues their drug of choice. “Relapse” is inevitable if the SLD should leave the PNarc before resolving the underlying problems responsible for the addiction.
11. Core shame drives pathological loneliness. It is the feeling of being fundamentally damaged, bad and/or an unlovable. Core shame was caused by attachment trauma.
13. SLDD is not a primary psychological or emotional problem. It is a symptom of other underlying and more severe psychological problems. With the resolution of SLDD Addiction, pathological loneliness, core shame and, ultimately, the attachment trauma, the SLD will, perhaps for the first time, be able to love themselves.
14. According to the rules of “relationship math,” the addition of ½ + ½ (an SLD and PNarc) = 1, which is ½ of a relationship comprised of enmeshed and dependent partners. But the addition of a 1 + 1 (two self-loving individuals) = 2, which is 1 whole relationship comprised of mutually and reciprocally loving interdependent adults.
In closing, I would like to thank everyone who has asked me about my work. It is through explaining my ideas and concepts to others that I have been able to hone in on the universal truths about which I am so devoted to teaching and writing. For more information and resources, readers can consult the Advanced Clinical Trainers website.
This diagram will be in my upcoming book, The Codependency Cure: Self-Love Deficit Disorder Recovery. It was inspired my a dear friend Karen Kaplan who wrote the incredible book, Descendants of Rajgrod: Learning to Forgive.
The Relationship Circle Diagram represents the fluidity of relationships. We can choose to “upgrade” or “downgrade” a relationship based upon our emerging sense of self-love and self-respect. It also demonstrates that we can make ourselves safer from harm while keeping a relationship or, conversely, move closer to a person in order to experience more intimacy and closeness.
CHECK OUT ROSS ROSENBERG’S EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS/PRODUCTS – www.AdvancedClinicalTrainers.com
Covert narcissists are masters of disguise – successful actors, humanitarians, politicians, clergy members, and even psychotherapists who are beloved and appreciated, but are secretly selfish, calculating, controlling, angry and vindictive. Covert narcissists create an illusion of selflessness while gaining from their elevated status. Although they share similar basic traits with the overt narcissist, i.e., the need for attention, affirmation, approval and recognition, they are stealthier about hiding their selfish and egocentric motives. Unlike the overt narcissist who parades his narcissism for all to see, the covert narcissist furtively hides his real motives and identity. These narcissists are able to trick others into believing they are honest, altruistic and empathetic individuals. They are successful at pretending to be a more likable version of themselves, knowing that if their true identity was uncovered, they would not be able to maintain the respect, status and prestige that they have so furtively garnered. From Ross’s book, The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us.
Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC
Psychotherapist & National Seminar Trainer
Interviewed on December 7th at 2pm CDT
Rob Carson is a major market radio personality currently in Washington DC working at Mix 107.3 and 105.9 WMAL. Rob’s comedy has been heard nationally on America’s biggest radio networks and shows including the Rush LImbaugh Program since 1990. Rob also is a lifestyle video host specializing in cooking and home improvement. Rob’s podcast is a new generation of talk radio featuring politics, pop culture, personal experiences, observational humor, great guests and the biggest satire in the country.
Rob Carson Bio: Rob Carson is an anchor on Envision Radio Networ. He is a talk veteran and comedy writer as an anchor for its weekend news-talk program “America Weekend.” Carson previously worked at talk stations including WMAL, Washington; WIBC, Indianapolis; and KMOX, St. Louis. He works alongside fellow anchors Paul Harris and Turi Ryder, and weatherman John Wetherbee.
Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC
Psychotherapist & National Seminar Trainer
About The Host
Meryl Starr is one of the country’s top Organizers. She is a bestselling author of The Home Organizing Workbook and its sequel The Personal Organizing Workbook and the owner of the New York based organization firm Let’s Get Organized!
In business since 1993, Meryl has done more than her fair share of tidying up, from humble apartments to the homes of Holly-wood celebrities.
Her diverse roster of clients includes Hollywood executives, leaders in Finance, Real Estate Entertainment and Fashion. Meryl attributes her success to her keen intuition and ability to understand her client’s needs, along with her experience and dedication to her work.
Meryl’s tips and ideas on organization have appeared in numerous magazines including In Style, Ladies Home Journal, Seventeen, Woman’s Day, Organic Style, Self, Kiplinger’s House Beautiful, Home and Garden and Real Simple. She has contributed to the New York Times and the Huffington Post. She has made guest appearances on HGTV and Bravo as well as national and locally televised shows.
Meryl won a Telly Award for how-to webisode Change It UP with Meryl Starr at merylstarr.com. Currently she is a spokesperson at OrganizedLiving.com. When she isn’t working on creating new spaces in peoples’ homes or offices she is working with Luxury Attache providing in house lectures on organizing lives.
About The Show
Let’s Get Organized with Meryl Starr is about making positive changes in your life. It’s about learning to let go of the clutter and negativity in your physical and emotional space. Our homes should feel good while we are living in them…it’s the negativity and clutter that makes us feel out of control.
Each week we will talk about an area in your home or your life that could use a change. We plan on having a guest each week to help answer your questions via phone and e-mail. You’ll be motivated to make the changes necessary in your life to be happier, more in control and more comfortable in your space. Let’s Get Organized with Meryl Starr is broadcast live every Friday at 9 AM Eastern, 6 AM Pacific Time on the VoiceAmerica Variety Channel.