As you move forward in self-love recovery,
you will discover self-love in small,
gradual steps forward.
You are the accumulation of your new self.
You are the becoming of self-love abundance.
Ross Rosenberg, 2017
As you move forward in self-love recovery,
you will discover self-love in small,
gradual steps forward.
You are the accumulation of your new self.
You are the becoming of self-love abundance.
Ross Rosenberg, 2017
WHEN “SELFISH” IS REALLY GOOD
It is GOOD for SLD’s (Self-Love Deficients or codependents) to be selfish. It is like learning to ride a bike. Doing something for yourself and not caring what people think is a dangerous proposition. “Selfish,” therefore is good.
The problem is the voices in your head have been lying to you; telling you that you are being bad, when you are just trying not to drown anymore.These voices have never been yours. Rather, they are covertly implanted narratives that were designed to confuse you, turn you against yourself, and break you down. It is time to break the gaslighting spell and regain the true voice in your head…your own! Fall a few times, brush off the pain, and get back on the “bike.”
Learning to love yourself will frighten people, who have only one way to get you to quit the nonsense of SLDD (Self-Love Deficit Disorder or codependency) recovery. They will call you a “narcissist” and try to make you feel ashamed and guilty for your moments of self-care. Scoff at the projection, this is more about them than you. Ride your bike all the way out of their life!
Creator of “The Codependency Cure: Recovering from Self-Love Deficit Disorder” seminar (and upcoming book)
Codependency Anorexia is a logical solution for people with Self-Love Deficit Disorder™ (SLDD) who are hopelessly addicted to dangerously attractive narcissists. As a last-ditch protective strategy, the desperate codependent (SLD™) shuts down their innate and natural impulse to fall in love, thereby rendering them safe, but disassociated relational robots. Although intimacy starvation provides a sense of power and control over real and invisible threats, it adds another of many layers of shame & loneliness to their SLDD.
It is paradoxical in a sense, as it occurs during a moment of clarity when the only obvious choice is to freeze one’s natural “love impulse,” which has, up until this time, consistently blown up in their face. If the codependency anorexic barrier is challenged, an alarm of extreme anxiety is sounded, which does not stop until the threat has been neutralized. At the end of the day, the codependent anorexic is safe from harm, but the cost is extraordinarily high! Safety, without the experience of self-love and the healthy love of others, is no different from being jailed for a crime that was never committed.
Based on the Ross Rosenberg article featured here
Creator of “The Codependency Cure: Recovering from Self-Love Deficit Disorder” seminar (and upcoming book)
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.
Like the real Surgeon General’s warning, Ross prepares his clients for the battle of their lifetime. His “Surgeon General’s Warning” is an ethical and moral mandate that all therapists working with codependents should utilize. The “Warning” facilitates an accurate understanding of positive and negative experiences of codependency recovery. Similarly, it sets up the important cost/benefit dialogue that instills hope, while preparing the codependent client for this challenging transformation. Knowing both the positives and negatives, recovering codependents can make a life-altering informed decision.
Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed. LCPC, CADC, CSAT
My videos have raised the ire of some viewers who have taken pot-shots at my professional background, ethics and clinical skills about codependency and Borderline Personality Disorder. I have been accused by a small but vocal community of purposefully perpetuating myths and falsehoods about clinical disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder.
Because I’m not an elected representative or spokesman for mental health in general, I have created video content imbued with my own voice and personal and professional experiences. Although it is my ambition to provide support, direction and advice to the victims of what some people are now calling Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome, I do not restrict my feelings of responsibility to one side over the other. Because I tend to take the position of right and wrong while doling out fair distribution of responsibility or blame to all sides, I have not walked the tightrope of political correctness. I am okay with this.
Although the victims of such narcissistic abuse, those with codependency, or what I now refer to as Self-Love Deficit Disorder (SLDD), complain that they are trapped in relationships where there is an absence of love, respect and care, they are also trapped in the same relationship that lacks self-love, self-respect and self-care. Consequently, I have worked hard to create helpful content that inspires my readers, viewers and clients to take an open look at their own responsibility in their perpetual attraction to pathological narcissists (The Human Magnet Syndrome).
As a recovering codependent and passionate mental health provider of services for SLD’s, I know that the only hope for full recovery is to heal the deeply seated psychological trauma that is directly responsible for our personal and relational dysfunctional patterns. I am hell-bent on creating content that provides direction and hope for those with SLD, who want to heal their personal insanity with all their heart and soul – their long-buried attachment trauma.
My perspective or frame of reference has always been with the victim SLD who finds themselves compulsively, if not addictively, in relationships with harmful narcissists who mercilessly hurt them when they attempt to set safe boundaries or behave with dignity and self-love. I make no bones about my lack of empathy or sympathy towards the pathological narcissistic partner who emotionally and relationally survives on the backs of the powerless SLD partner. Therefore, I keep creating as much content as possible to help those with SLD to overcome their paralyzing fear of living alone with their shallowly submerged feelings of self-loathing, core shame and excruciating pathological loneliness.
My ambition is to empower my SLD clients to take responsibility for their disorder while understanding they are also victims of it. I help them to muster the courage to move backwards on a journey to heal and resolve their long-forgotten childhood attachment trauma. It is as if I help them become their own paleontologist whose ambition it is to uncover their own trauma fossils that will explain what happened to them so many years ago when they were truly powerless and vulnerable. Putting the trauma fossils together allows them to understand their long-buried past while being able to construct a more accurate understanding of who they are in the present and what they can become in the future so they can move forward without fear of the past, present or future. In combination, my SLD work puts an end to the insane self-fulfilling prophesy of personal and relational doom.
My Human Magnet Syndrome book and video work has taught millions of people why they repeatedly and reflexively choose relationships with harmful people and remain in long-term relationships with them. Unfortunately, my work has been confused as a negative indictment against pathological narcissists. On the contrary, my work has never strayed from a focus of empowerment and support for those who are courageous enough to face the stark reality of their core shame, fear of loneliness and need to lie to themselves or self-medicate to hide from the reality of their own personal nightmare. It seems that those with SLD gravitate toward my work and the pathological narcissists cower from personal accountability.
I do not bash people with BPD or, for that matter, other pathological narcissists. But I do have a distinct point of view and a prejudice against those who harm others and who resist getting professional services for such harm. Let me be clear: I AM FOR people who want to get better, not hurt others, and take personal responsibility for their actions. I AM AGAINST abusive perpetrators who narcissistically justify their harmful behavior or blame it on the victims.
You will find that my work will not focus on the pathological narcissist’s faults, but rather with what is “wrong” or what compels the SLD to consistently fall in love with people who say they love them, but consistently fall prey to their narcissist’s deprivation, neglect and/or abuse. My life’s work is to lead SLD’s out of their self-perpetuating walk of shame and onto a path that includes self-love and the healing of the trauma that has kept them from holding onto it. After all, the antidote to Self-Love Deficit Disorder is self-love.
Rosenberg’s BPD Videos
Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT © 2015
Clinical Care Consultants Owner
Advanced Clinical Trainers Owner
Psychotherapist, Author & Professional Trainer
Author of The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us
Before presenting the instructions of my Observe Don’t Absorb Technique, I am morally obligated to give you my “Surgeon General’s Warning.” Just like the warning on a pack of cigarettes, if you decide to move forward with codependency treatment, you will similarly experience harmful side effects. There is no way around this cold, hard fact. However, my warning is different from the real one. First and foremost, I am neither a surgeon nor a general! Second, you won’t die from a progressively painful physical ailment. You will suffer, though, but only for a short period of time. Third, and best of all, mine has a positive warning built into it. If you can muster up the energy, perseverance and courage to actively pursue treatment, you may very well experience, perhaps for the first time in your life, freedom from the negative consequences and losses that are inherent to codependency, which has you forever placed on the giving and sacrificing end of most of your relationships.
Considering the high rate of codependency relapse[i], be advised that you will have to prepare for the fight of your life. It won’t be easy. You will get knocked down a few times. You will sustain some bumps and bruises. But…you can always get up. You and your therapist will jointly manage your anxiety, fear, guilt and ambivalence towards pursuing one of the more difficult decisions that you will ever have to make. Although my warning is frightening and may discourage you, I encourage you to stay focused on the rewards waiting for you at the end of this uphill journey towards personal and relational sanity.
An honest depiction of the treatment/recovery process, “the good, the bad and ugly,” is not only a warning about what lies ahead for you, but it’s also an opportunity to prepare yourself for the necessary sacrifices that are part of breaking free from the malignant condition of codependency. You must financially, psychologically, personally and relationally prepare for the daunting challenges that lie ahead for you. Such preparations will embolden you, while mitigating the potential consequences you may endure by standing up to and setting boundaries with your narcissistic partner who, by now, has caused a great deal of pain and suffering for you as well as, perhaps, your family. Let my warning inspire you to put your nose to the grindstone and tough it out, as the results may very well bring you personal and relational joy and freedom for the first time in your life! Believe it, because I have successfully walked that path successfully with many clients.
The Warning includes a discussion of how to prepare for the blowback from your narcissist, who will likely try to talk to you about your treatment, while attempting to sabotage any progress you make. Expect intimidation, manipulation, abuse, isolation, hurting those you love (triangulation), custody and financial threats, and even abrupt termination of the relationship.
Most importantly, prepare for what I call “codependency withdrawals.” Since chapter ____ discusses “codependency addiction,” it will suffice to say that, like chemical/drug addictions, as a “sober” or abstinent codependent, you will more than likely experience excruciatingly painful emotional reactions following the termination of relationships with your narcissistic loved ones. Such includes, but is not limited to, feelings of hopelessness, extreme frustration, anger, shame, guilt and loneliness. Loneliness, as discussed in chapter ____, will be the most challenging of all your withdrawal symptoms. Its insidious pathological power will make you second guess any gains that you have made and hypnotically compel you to return to your former codependent ways. If you have ever kicked an addiction, you will understand exactly what I mean.
My full Warning includes a general discussion about other professional services, recovery strategies, tools and support systems/groups you may want to take advantage of, such as 12-Step and therapy groups. You will be taught my “Four Stages of Codependency Treatment Model,” which will be discussed in detail in chapter ____. The Four Stages model provides concrete illustrations and descriptions of the linear and sequential paths of the treatment experience from beginning to the end. By understanding the discussion of this model, you will understand the ins and the outs of each step, the challenges and the payoffs.
The Four Stages provide you with a bird’s eye view of what’s in store for you. It will also anchor you to the treatment/recovery process. Ask as many questions as possible; as they say, knowledge is power! A discussion of the Stages with your therapist will serve to help you develop a cost-benefit analysis between the two starkly different outcomes: remaining unappreciated, neglected, deprived and/or harmed by the narcissists in your life, or discovering healthy love of others and self. As described in Step Four, if you stick with it, you will eventually experience, perhaps for the first time, safe, supportive, affirming and respecting treatment from others. I promise.
As difficult as the uphill battle may be, it is not going to be all doom and gloom. Like any mountain climber will tell you, reaching the top of the mountain is harrowing and extremely demanding. But being on top of the mountain is like nothing else! After savoring that moment, you will happily proceed downhill, which you will find to be so much easier than climbing it, but the experience is infused with the exhilaration of triumph of what you have achieved. Not only is getting down the mountain much easier that the climb up it, but you get to appreciate that moment of personal victory for the rest of your life!
My full Warning will provide you with concrete examples of what you will likely achieve from the treatment/recovery process. First and foremost, you will get to the point where you will easily be able to extract yourself from any relationship in which you are abused, neglected and/or deprived. You will develop feelings of personal efficacy and increased self-esteem, and will have more unwavering motivation to pursue previously believed insurmountable challenges than you can ever have imagined. You are going to form relationships with healthy partners who will want to unconditionally love, respect, trust and support you, while also being dependable, responsible, sharing and fair to you. The discussion will be galvanized through the disclosure of one or more stories from real clients who have successfully completed treatment, are active in their recovery and are reaping the fruits of their labor. And there will be many such stories to share with you!
Write this down, commit it to memory and post it where you can see it every day. It is the key to the whole recovery process: The antidote to codependency is self-love. Yes, this is what the rest of the book is about. But, as I said, it will be a difficult path.
Setting boundaries and detaching from your narcissistic foe will indeed result in an ass-kicking from here to Timbuktu! And, if you survive – and you will – you will have broken free from your suffocating and soul-scorching dysfunctional relationship dance with your pathological narcissistic partner. Your cellmate will be replaced by your future soul mate!
[i] Relapse is defined by returning to a relationship with a harmful narcissist or submitting to harmful treatment by the narcissists in your life.
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
One would think that after the sweat and toil of writing my first book, the second one would flow freely and easily. After all, I have been ruminating about it since 1988 – the beginning of my psychotherapy career. Actually, to be completely honest, I began thinking about it in 1978, when at age 17, I began to piece together my curious habit of self-destruction.
As early as I can remember, I needed to know how and why the world around me works. Like a compulsion, I have never been able to let go of a moment’s curiosity without first learning more about it. This “information addiction” is interwoven into the very fabric of my being. I am similarly compelled to know how and why I have become me – the good, bad and ugly. A psychology education, therapy, a continuous study of psychology, and more therapy have gone a long way towards satisfying this need. The combined pursuit of worldly and self knowledge has brought me closer to understanding my predilection for dysfunctional relationships while setting the stage for more loving and balanced relationships with others and, most importantly, myself.
My need to seek answers from the world around me prompted me to write “The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us” (HMS). It reveals why we repeatedly fall in love with people who ultimately hurt us, while also explaining why codependents always seem to repeatedly fall in love with pathological narcissists. The book dissects and attempts to answer this codependent/narcissist relationship dilemma. Or, in the words of my father, it explains why so many who pursue soulmates end up with “cellmates.”
In almost every one of my over 60 Human Magnet Syndrome seminars, one or more participants would ask a form of this question, “…this is great, but how do I change the outcome?” Instead of being drawn away from the seminar’s focus, I would typically respond with “In order to solve the Human Magnet Syndrome, it is absolutely necessary to first know what it is, its origins and what perpetuates it. Neither a person’s intelligence, education, degrees, certifications or self-proclamations of expertise brings them closer to solving a ubiquitous psychological problem without first understanding it.”
This answer was never satisfying enough, as it was invariably followed up with an inquiry about a companion instructional training and book. Well, I can finally say that now is that time! My beloved “why” book now has a “how to” sibling. I am proud to introduce “The Codependency Cure: Reversing the Human Magnet Syndrome.” It is specifically written to guide readers toward the resolution of their own personal craziness: their repetitive merry-go-round experiences with harmful narcissists.
Since “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” this book will help the reader resolve their own codependency insanity. It will do so by explaining how to heal those deeply embedded and unconscious emotional wounds that keep many tied to harmful narcissistic loved ones. It will also bring the reader closer to your long dreamed about soulmates and further away from all the looming cellmates.
GROUND ZERO FOR “THE CODEPENDENCY CURE”
After graduate school at Boston University 28 years ago, I moved to Boone, Iowa to work in a small community counseling center. Central Iowa and its non-stop landscape of corn and soybeans with the intermittent smattering of pig farms wasn’t my number one choice for my first post-graduate job, but a first job often takes you to where a job offer exists. I would serve a hardworking blue collar and moderately rural community of about 15,000 people. As the only counseling center in town, I was required to do a little bit of everything. Like most graduate school students who eventually become psychotherapists, I experienced a “baptism by fire.” It would be an understatement to say that there was a sharp and swift learning curve!
With about 18 months under my belt, I was assigned a client by the name of Becky. She was a 45-year old woman with two children who was married to a physically and verbally abusive narcissist and alcoholic. Unbeknownst to me, she was going to introduce me to codependency and its connection to unresolved repressed trauma. Yes, my very first codependent client!
Becky and I would ultimately join forces to take up arms against those real and imagined combatants who compelled her to remain with abusive narcissists, especially her husband. We would learn together that she really wasn’t imprisoned by her husband, but more by the unconscious part of herself that was frozen at the time of her childhood trauma. Through her diligence and courage, she would face her inner demons – her unresolved trauma – and free herself from the life-long harm it caused her.
During our work together, Becky demonstrated great strength and courage as the work was very difficult and, at times, fraught with danger. She would eventually vanquish the enemy part of herself that kept her connected to her narcissistic captors. Ultimately, she would usher in a new era of her life in which her childhood trauma would be resolved (healed) and her compulsion to remain with abusive men would cease. More than that, she would learn about the necessity for self-love and practice it regularly. Before I proceed with the rest of the story, let me first digress back for a moment to Boston, Massachusetts.
In the 1980’s, Boston was a hotbed of psychoanalytical and psychodynamic thought. It was also the time that Family System Theory was all the rage in counseling/psychology graduate programs throughout the country.
Most of my BU professors were heavily influenced by the psychoanalytic and psychodynamic works of Freud, Erikson, Jung, Adler and others, who all espoused that most psychological problems could be traced back to a person’s early childhood relationship with their parents. This long-term treatment proposition involves a circuitous path in and out of a client’s conscious and unconscious mind. According to these theories, the resolution of the problems or issues for which psychotherapy is often sought requires a deep probing into the client’s conscious and unconscious memories of their childhood experience with their parents.
BU’s Family Systems course had a profound impact on my understanding of individual and relational psychopathology (issues and problems). It would teach me that family relationships, nuclear and extended, create and perpetuate positive or negative mental health, or somewhere in between.
According to Family Systems theory, when implicitly or explicitly adopted rules are changed, forgotten or challenged, relationship systems experience instability and acute discomfort. Because instability is uncomfortable and, therefore, undesirable, the renegade member of the relationship system has to either return to their dysfunctional role – acquiesce to the system’s rules and expectations – or push the system to adapt to their changes. This process either promotes greater relational health or causes a deterioration of the relationship. Creating new and healthier rules – a new equilibrium – is a difficult proposition, as it is always much more difficult to change than to maintain the status quo.
Returning back to Becky, my first codependency client in Boone, Iowa: although the term “codependency” was not addressed in graduate school, I quickly devoured books and sought out professional trainings on the subject. Books such as John and Linda Friel’s “Adult Children Secrets of Dysfunctional Families” (1990), Melody Beattie’s “Codependent No More” (1986) and Terry Kellogg’s “Broken Toys Broken Dreams: Understanding and Healing Codependency” (1990) fed my burgeoning interest on the subject. These brilliant writers and treatment specialists inspired and guided me toward a better understanding of Becky’s peculiar personal and relational struggles. Notwithstanding, I still had no explanation for the forces that compelled her to remain married her abusive narcissistic husband.
Thanks to my Family Systems background, I felt prepared to help Becky understand how both her nuclear and extended families kept her mired in a powerless victim role. My understanding of psychodynamic theory helped me to comprehend how and why her inability to leave her abusive husband was intricately connected to her unresolved childhood trauma associated with her abusive and narcissistic father and codependent mother.
After six months of therapy, Becky was no closer to having insight or understanding into her codependent compulsion to remain with her husband. The bubble of optimism that had motivated me up to that point seemed like it was going to pop at any moment. Determined not to give up, I shifted my therapeutic strategy. I began engaging her in discussions about her childhood abuse about which she had, up until that time, only shared vague and non-emotional details. Although difficult for her, she courageously shared several vivid accounts of her horrifically abusive and neglectful childhood.
Such recollections were rife with disturbing accounts of abuse, neglect and deprivation – all at the hands of her parents. It will suffice to say that she lived in constant fear of her father’s unpredictable abuse, while feeling unprotected and abandoned by her mother. Becky protected herself in the only way she could, which was to mold herself into what her father most wanted: “daddy’s good and compliant little girl.” Such would require her to detach from and deeply submerge her childhood desires and dreams for being unconditionally cared for and loved. She learned that, as long as she maintained her role as daddy’s trophy child, she would experience some semblance of safety.
On Becky’s 18th birthday, she hurriedly married her boyfriend, the young man who would eventually replicate the abuse of her father.
I found it peculiar that, while sharing memories of her tragic childhood, which was brimming with horrid details of verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse, she maintained a stoic and detached appearance. As she would recount these incidents, she seemed to automatically sanitize them of any emotional content. Even with prodding, she would only describe the “photograph” version of the events, not the full “motion picture.” Little did I know that her affective or emotional experience of the abuse and neglect was buried deep by the forces of repression – beneath the concrete defensive walls of her mind.
My gentle but persistent prodding for emotions, which I refer to as affective memories, would eventually pay off. At about the nine-month mark in our therapy, I asked her to imagine how the little eight-year old girl she used to be felt during the abuse. Her eyes suddenly turned red and welled up with tears, she began to tremble and her face turned white. In the flash of a moment, she transformed into a frightened little girl. Her voice, her facial expression and posture exposed the eight-year old abused child that had been neatly compartmentalized and forgotten for over 37 years! I was sitting face to face with “little Becky,” the physical embodiment of her long-repressed trauma memories.
Little Becky’s emotions erupted with an intensity that I had never before experienced. The torrent of tears, hyper-ventilating and more seemed to escape with the velocity of an over-inflated tire that has been expectantly punctured by an icepick. I intuitively knew the importance of keeping her safe while gently probing the painful memories that she was exposing to the light of day. With an understanding of psychodynamic theory, I knew I was facilitating the release of bottled-up or repressed memories that had been deeply embedded, and forgotten, in her unconscious.
For the next three months, the adult Becky and I would periodically return back to Little Becky’s emotively honest but raw world, sifting through both happy and distressing emotional experiences. Together, we would release the claw-like grasp her unconscious mind had on her personal and relational health. Over time, Becky understood the harmful nature of her codependency, her dysfunctional urges to remain with her husband, her fear of being alone and, most importantly, the lack of love and compassion that she had for herself. As a result of our work together, Becky would resolve the trauma that compelled her to remain powerless in codependent relationships.
By the year-and-a-half mark of our therapy, Becky had divorced her husband and relinquished most of her selfish and/or narcissistic friends and family relationships. Like a flower finally given sufficient water and sunlight, she bloomed into a vibrant, strong and loving woman who could and would protect herself from exploitative narcissistic people. Moreover, her new and improved “human magnetism” landed her in the arms of mutually and reciprocally loving men. With ease, she began to develop new friendships while enhancing existing relationships with family and friends. Building a foundation for self-love released her from her life-long indentured servitude to narcissistic masters.
All in all, my work with Becky set the stage for all of my future work with codependents and trauma survivors. I didn’t know it then, but my experiences with her would eventually compel me to create hypotheses and theories that would culminate in my cherished Human Magnet Syndrome work. I can never thank Becky enough for her impact on my life. Her courageous battle upward from the emotional abyss inspired me to write this book. Moreover, it helped me understand the far-reaching and ever-present truth about codependency recovery: self-love is the antidote to codependency.
Now, let me tell you why and how someone can heal trauma and “cure” codependency. Moreover, let me show you how a person devoid of self-esteem, feelings of personal efficacy and debilitating shame can learn to love themselves and break free from their “cellmates.” I hope you enjoy my book.
 Name changed to protect her identity.