For my new Human Magnet Syndrome website, I am putting together graphics. Here is one for the reviews.
Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT
A narcissistic injury occurs when narcissists react negatively to perceived or real criticism or judgment, boundaries placed on them, and/or attempts to hold them accountable for harmful behavior. It also occurs when a person does not accommodate a narcissist’s insatiable need for admiration, special privileges, praise, etc. The “injury” also shows up when the narcissist over over-amplifies and personalizes benign interpersonal interactions, or when a person with no mal-intentions does not meet the narcissist’s impossible to achieve desires for high levels of praise and admiration.
The “injury” is often followed by the narcissist’s loss of control over his or her emotional equanimity, and a subsequent burst of passive or overtly aggressive vindictive responses. These bouts of emotional tumult are referred to as emotional dysregulation, as the activated narcissist emotional reaction spikes and often is beyond his or her control.
In my book, The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us, I explain how the loss of emotional control and the reflexive need to punish an “offending” person can be traced back to the narcissist’s core shame and pervasive levels of pathological loneliness, about which the narcissist is often either in denial or oblivious (disassociated from). The hair-trigger “injury” reaction is a direct result of attachment trauma the narcissist suffered as a child, often because of an abusive, neglectful, or depriving narcissistic parent. As much as I make a case for the distressing nature of attachment trauma the child who will become an adult codependent experiences, the agonizing experience for the child who is to become a Pathological Narcissist is far worse- there is no comparison.
In The Human Magnet Syndrome’s chapter, The Origins of Pathological Narcissism, I explain that the massive abuse, neglect, and/or deprivation perpetrated by both the Pathological Narcissist and, to a significantly lesser degree, the codependent parent, results in psychological trauma of the highest degree. To emotionally survive this anguish, the child’s mind reacts in a manner similar to adult victims of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). When a traumatic event is beyond the brain’s ability to process, sort through, and integrate as an experience of severe trauma, it is relegated to what many people refer to as our unconscious mind.
The human brain has a circuit breaker-like response to trauma. In other words, a natural safety mechanism that is activated when any given traumatic event(s) exceeds the brain’s capacity, or is overloaded. The “circuit is tripped” and the traumatic experience is relegated to a part of the brain that deeply buries these memories. In other words, the trauma is neatly packaged in what I refer to as a “hermetically sealed memory container,” which is physically located in the brain’s limbic system, specifically the amygdala. Once buried, the trauma memory is disconnected from a person’s conscious abilities to recall the event and/or experience the emotions surrounding it.
Considering the manner in which a narcissist-to-be child processes attachment trauma, this author believes all Pathological Narcissists, or those with Narcissistic, Borderline, and Antisocial Personality Disorders, also have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Therefore, underneath the narcissist’s psychological “surface,” lies a deeper reservoir of self-loathing and core shame. Although the attachment trauma is blocked from the narcissist’s conscious recollection, they show their “ugly face” during narcissistic injuries.
More often than not, defense mechanisms successfully protect pathological narcissists from realizing the truth about their highly traumatized, shame-based, and psychologically impaired selves. This form of protective amnesia wards off personal meltdowns (emotional dysregulation) by the psychological processes known as defense mechanisms. Such mechanisms include: Conversion, denial, displacement, fantasy, intellectualization, projection, rationalization, reaction formation, regression, repression, sublimation, and suppression.
Since the human brain was designed through the imperfect process of evolution, and not by computer programmers, neurologists, or mechanical engineers, the brain’s natural defense mechanisms by themselves are not insufficient in keeping stowed away trauma memories from “bubbling up” into the narcissist’s conscious mind. Despite the brain’s best efforts to keep the trauma cordoned off from consciousness, the “seals are broken,” and there is “leakage.”
The activation or re-surfacing of the trauma manifests as feelings of danger, insecurity, and extreme discomfort, which then trigger a cascade of angry second-level emotional responses, such as hatred, resentment, and/or disgust for the “perpetrating” individual. The resulting emotional dysregulation, at most, is just a temporary solution to the narcissist’s misperceived threat. Although the hair-trigger reaction emboldens and protects the narcissist, it is only temporary. Like a loosely fitted bandage, it will eventually fall off – exposing the underlying wound (core shame). This is when defense mechanisms kick back into action, and once again divert the narcissists away from their core shame, and toward their grandiose and entitled dissociated selves.
Narcissistic injuries are almost always projections, which is the misplacement of the narcissist’s unconscious self-hatred onto any person who they experience as threatening. Feeling “bad,” “broken,” and/or “never good enough,” like they did as a child, is simply not an option for the Personality Disordered narcissist. In actuality, projections are dissociated feelings of self-hatred and self-loathing, that are attributed a person who threatens the narcissist’s veneer-thin self-esteem. In other words, projection diverts the realization of self-hatred and core shame by transferring self-judgment and condemnation onto the activating or ‘injuring” person. Because projections intertwine with narcissistic injuries, it is only academic to separate them.
Narcissistic injuries are quite varied. They range from active aggression, like a disapproving glance or kick in the shin, to passive aggression, which includes the silent treatment or triangulation of others against the “injuring” person. A narcissistic injury may even occur when the recipient of the abuse does absolutely nothing. It is the perception of a threat that causes the internal emotional meltdown, not the real thing!
Whether it is yelling, threatening, or even highly dangerous aggressive actions, narcissistic injuries are unnerving to many, and downright frightening to most. They provoke an internal fury that incites punishing pronouncements, judgments, and actions against the perceived perpetrator. The only real cure for them is to find an exit route to the interaction, and potentially out of the relationship. Unfortunately, people who suffer from codependency, or what I now refer to as Self-Love Deficit Disorder™, find themselves powerless to Pathological Narcissists. The reason for their attraction to narcissists and their inability to extricate themselves from harmful relationships with them is explained in full in my book, The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us. Sadly those will Self-Love Deficit Disorder mistake the abuse for love, and explain away their harm (trauma) by using some of the same defense mechanisms as mentioned above.
And remember this: few narcissists learn from the consequences of their out-of-control narcissistic injuries. Any act of contrition or remorse is just a guise to hide their fear of being abandoned by the very person to whom they are causing so much suffering. It is a psychological fact: few narcissists learn from the outcomes of their abuse. And when conftonted about it, they do not experience empathy, as they feel justified in their actions
©Ross Rosenberg, 2017
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.
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!
I wrote this twenty years ago, when I had hit what I thought was the bottom of my life. The poem helped me put into words the trauma i had endured while in a relationship with a very abusive woman. It served as a catalyst to understand and eventually heal the highly traumatic abuse I had endured.
Although the trauma of the relationship seemed to have ended, the impact of it was embedded in my psyche. Writing the poem helped release some of this toxic energy welling up inside of me. Writing it also helped me create a clear boundary from where I was and where I needed to go.
When The End Greets the Beginning
The Fist clenched, balled tight
Waving high in the sky
Like a tattered flag of war
Firmly declaring the message of hard fought freedom
The Arm stretched higher than its length
Wanting to go even higher
But held back by its physical limitations
Desiring to support the rage of its neighbor hand
The Body tense with anxious exhilaration
Energized by the wave of spontaneous emotion
Reacting – wanting to release
Neither knowing nor understanding the electric energy
The Mind, racing with scenes of the past
Remembering the torrent of pain
Memories frozen in time – razor sharp
Unable to understand, but finally able to feel
The Heart embattled and tired
Once protected by walls made of carefully controlled rage
Cracking, crumbling, disintegrating under their own volition
Heralding the light to pass through
The Soul, confused and bewildered
Like the newborn’s terror at birth
Interpreting the beginning as the end of safety
But all the while willing to open his eyes and greet what lies ahead
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.
Most, if not all politicians are inherently self-serving, dishonest and moderately to patho- logically narcissistic. Successful ones win elections because they are able to create a praiseworthy image while secretly stowing away and hiding their truer ambitions and secrets. Often, the public is informed about factual (not contrived) secrets, lies, private affairs, or even mental health issues, is when a person with an agenda publishes, reports, or leaks it to public. Whether it is a news organization wanting to raise ad revenue or individuals or groups who are motivated to create a smear or propaganda campaign, most of this “fake news” has just one purpose: to manipulate us to believe one candidate will cure the ills of our society, while instilling doubt, fear, paranoia that the other will hurt us. Such propaganda peddlers are successful because they craftily prey on our emotions, especially fear, so that we believe their guy will be our savior and the other, the devil incarnate. To solve this scourge, we must vigilantly discern truth from fiction while taking the time and expending the energy to critically think about the “news” that is fed to us. Let us not forget that shiny, sparkly and harmless seeming chunk of ice, may actually be a Titanic sinking iceberg.
Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT
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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.