The Codependency Cure: How to Recover from Self-Love Deficit Disorder

By Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC
Self-Love Recovery Institute – President/CEO
PsychotherapistEducatorAuthorExpert Witness

Ross Rosenberg has pioneered 15 principles that help his 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 avoiding the subject by asking a similarly difficult question. My second impulse was to avoid the question by saying that the answers are best explained in my latest seminar video. 

These discoveries organically materialized in my life as a direct result of my need to heal emotional wounds. Also 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 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 life. My family of origin issues, my roller-coaster journey to recover from trauma, and learning to live free from codependency. These discoveries materialized in my life because 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. This is 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, 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.

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  1. “Codependency” is an outdated term that connotes weakness and emotional fragility, both of which are far from the truth. The replacement term, “Self-Love Deficit Disorder” (SLDD) takes the stigma out and focuses on the core shame that perpetuates it. Inherent in the term itself is the recognition of the core problem of codependency, as well as the solution to it.
  1. Self-love deficit results in deep insecurities that render a person powerless to set boundaries and/or control their narcissists. The codependent is often oblivious or in denial about their dysfunctional relationships patterns with narcissists. For them to admit to it, would require to face their core shame and pathological loneliness.
  1. 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.
  1. The SLD was once a child who was raised by a PNarc parent. This parent flew into fits of rage, anxiety, and/or depression when their immediate needs were not 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.
  1. 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 codependent 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.
  1. Men and women always have been drawn into romantic relationships instinctively, not so much by what they see, feel or think, but more by an invisible and irresistible relationship force. “Chemistry” is synonymous with the Human Magnet Syndrome. This is the attraction force that brings compatibly opposite lovers together: SLD’s and PNarc’s. Like two sides of a magnet, the care-taking and sacrificing SLD and the selfish and entitled PNarcs are powerfully drawn together. Sometimes permanently.
  1. SLD’s feel trapped in their relationships because they confuse sacrifice and selfless caring with commitment, loyalty and love. The SLD’s distorted thinking and value system is fueled by an irrational fear of abandonment, loneliness and core shame.
  1. 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 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 extracted any self-confidence and courage from the SLD.
  1. Codependency often manifests as an addiction. The drama of dysfunctional relationships or the belief that a PNarc can be controlled, 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 leaves the PNarc before resolving the underlying problems responsible for the addiction.
  1. Pathological loneliness and the fear of it drives codependency addiction. It is SLDD addiction’s primary withdrawal symptom, which lasts between two to six months. This loneliness is painful and is experienced physically, emotionally, existentially, and spiritually. In the throes of pathological loneliness, the SLD feels isolated, unloved, unsafe, and fundamentally unworthy.
  1. 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.
  1. Attachment trauma is caused by the traumatic childhood experience of being raised by an abusive or neglectful PNarc parent. This form of trauma is largely repressed and is beyond the SLD’s capacity to remember. Attachment trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are similar mental health problems or are one of the same. Resolving this trauma requires a psychodynamic, family of origin, addictions, and trauma informed psychotherapist.
  1. Codependency 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 attachment trauma, the SLD will be able to love themselves.
  2. 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.
  1. Self-love is the antidote to codependency or Self-Love Deficit Disorder. The human spirit is capable of astounding feats. All the pain and suffering that it takes to achieve self-love is well worth the effort. George Elliot had it right: “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

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In closing, I would like to thank everyone who has asked me about my work. It is through explaining my ideas 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 about Ross’s Self-Love Recovery Program, write us at help@selfloverecovery.com or visit: Self-Love Recovery Institute.

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The Human Magnet Syndrome - provides answers to why patient, giving and selfless individuals (codependents) are predictably attracted to self-centered, selfish and controlling partners (emotional manipulators).

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