Tag Archives: relationship expert

On Becoming (On Self-Love Recovery)

ON BECOMING
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
www.SelfLoveRecovery.com

 

 

 

 

Codependents Also Hurt Their Children

CODEPENDENTS ALSO HURT THEIR CHILDREN

Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT

depressed girlAlthough the codependent parent is harmed by their narcissistic partner, their codependency should not be considered a valid excuse for not protecting their children. Even with the all-powerful Human Magnet Syndrome, the adult codependent parent, like all other adult parents, carries the responsibility to care for and defend their children. However, the stark and most unfortunate reality is they predictably fall in love with pathological narcissists who they feel intractably bonded to, despite feeling abused, neglected and/or deprived. And when they become parents, they often choose staying in the relationship with the harmful narcissist over protecting their children.

Most codependent parents sincerely do not wish any harm to befall their children. In fact, they go to extraordinary measures to stop, mitigate or buffer the narcissist’s harm or abuse of the children. Despite their best intentions, they are unable to stop the resulting disregard and/or mistreatment that everyone in the family is forced to endure, except, of course, for the offending narcissist. The codependent’s inability or unwillingness to shield the children co-creates a toxic family environment in which the children are harmed and their future psychological health is compromised.

The codependent’s compulsive desire to satisfy the narcissist’s insatiable selfish needs, while also trying to control or coerce them to behave less narcissistically, results in a depletion of their energy, time, focus and emotional resources, which would otherwise be given to the children. Trying to control a person who, by definition, cannot be controlled, while unsuccessfully seeking love, respect and care from them, results in a hamster-wheel experience where their physical and emotional resources are exhausted. Tired and beaten down, they often shut down and disconnect from their parental responsibility to protect their children (and themselves).

Although I am suggesting that codependents share responsibility for the harm of their children, caution must be taken when attributing blame. Codependent parents similarly grew up in a family in which all the children were held captive by the neglect and/or abuse of a codependent and pathologically narcissistic parent. They are clearly victims of their childhood environment. In addition, without their attempts to protect their children and the love and nurturing they did give them, the sum total of psychological harm to the children would be far worse compared to being raised solely by a pathological narcissist.

Many a codependent client has lamented over how much they resented and were angry at their codependent parent for not protecting them and not divorcing or leaving the abusive narcissist. In fact, these same clients recall numerous occasions when they could have been protected or removed from harm’s way, but were not because of their codependent parent’s distorted sense of responsibility, loyalty and feelings of completely powerlessness. Adding insult to injury, their need for security, nurturing and safety was traded for their parent’s fear of living alone and feeling shameful, broken and pathologically lonely.

Often, in the beginning of codependency treatment, my clients are unable to wrap their arms around the concept that their “wonderfully loving and nurturing” codependent parent should share any responsibility for their neglectful or abusive childhood. After working hard in codependency-specific psychotherapy, there comes a time when the codependent client is psychologically healthy enough to let go of the “good” codependent parent fantasy, and realistically hold them partially responsible for their traumatic childhood.

Although this process often begins with anger and a need for accountability, it eventually transforms into a willingness to empathize, accept and forgive their codependent parent. In the process of being honest about who their parent really was and how much they were harmed by them, they are able to “own” their own codependency, while better understanding what they are doing or have done to their own children.

The codependent parent who disassociates from their Human Magnet Syndrome fueled desire/attraction to pathological narcissists also harms their children. Although this type of codependency, which I have coined “codependency anorexia,” protects both the codependent and her children from narcissistic abuse, it is still harmful.

By depriving oneself from psychologically healthy, intimate adult companionship and the children from a second parent, the children are ultimately deprived of another adult who deeply loves, respects and cares for them, and who is unconditionally committed to their life-long welfare. In addition, they are deprived of an opposite sex parent who provides an alternative gender perspective and form of nurturing. In addition, raising a family, while purposely avoiding a romantic or intimate partner, sends a message that such types of adult relationships may be dangerous and harmful.

Codependency anorexia often results in the codependent parent unfairly and inappropriately seeking to meet their emotional, social and personal needs through their children. This form of enmeshment is often referred to as emotional incest, which is harmful to a child’s psychological development.

The purpose for writing this article was not to slam or denigrate codependents, as I am a recovering codependent and a psychotherapist who is dedicated to helping this unique and underserved population. It is my intent to raise awareness about the dysfunctional parenting dynamics that are unique to the codependent/narcissist relationship, while giving codependent parents a loud but supportive wake-up call.

Yes, despite your giving, sacrificing and altruistic motives, you too are hurting your children. Even with your superior parenting skills and your genuinely loving ambitions, you are still a partner to the dysfunctional process that is harming the people you love most. I am hopeful that this article will inspire and motivate you seek help for your addictive and compulsive self-harming pattern of being stuck and frozen in relationships with pathological narcissists. Join me in protecting our nation’s most valuable resource: our children.

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Relationship Circle – Moving Closer or Further Away

This diagram will be in my upcoming book, The Codependency Cure: Self-Love Deficit Disorder Recovery. It was inspired my a dear friend Karen Kaplan who wrote the incredible book, Descendants of Rajgrod: Learning to Forgive.

The Relationship Circle Diagram represents the fluidity of relationships. We can choose to “upgrade” or “downgrade” a relationship based upon our emerging sense of self-love and self-respect. It also demonstrates that we can make ourselves safer from harm while keeping a relationship or, conversely, move closer to a person in order to experience more intimacy and closeness.

 
relationship circle

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Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT © 2016
Clinical Care Consultants Owner
Advanced Clinical Trainers Owner
Psychotherapist, Author & Professional Trainer
Author of The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us

                  

It’s Official! 2/7 is Self-Love Celebration Day

It’s Official! Self-Love Celebration Day is on February 7th, precisely one week before Valentines day.

If it is true that you can’t love someone else unless you love yourself, then this holiday is the natural precursor of Valentine’s Day.

self-love day

Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT © 2016
Clinical Care Consultants Owner
Advanced Clinical Trainers Owner
Psychotherapist, Author & Professional Trainer
Author of The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us

                  

“EMPATHS” ARE DIFFERENT FROM CODEPENDENTS

EMPATHSEMPATHS ARE DIFFERENT THAN CODEPENDENTS

Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT

Empaths Are Different from Codependents
Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CACD, CSAT

I have to be honest, I do not like when the term “empath” is used interchangeably with “codependent.” “Empath,” which has its origins in the spiritual and metaphysical world, was never intended to be a replacement term for codependency. An empath is defined as a person with the paranormal ability to intuitively sense and understand the mental or emotional state of another individual. According to empaths I have spoken to and the information available on the Internet, they are highly sensitive to the emotional and metaphysical energy others. If, indeed, this extra-sensory phenomenon exists, it is definitely not the same thing as codependency.

Since “empath” has mostly positive connotations and “codependent” does not, it makes sense why it is a preferred moniker for the more serious psychological problem of codependency.
Misrepresenting codependency, or what I now refer to as Self-Love Deficit Disorder (SLDD), only adds a layers of denial to a problem that is already shrouded in shame. In addition, it casts a serious problem in a positive light, while perpetuating the myth that SLD’s or codependents are victims, instead of willing participants in their dysfunctional relationships with narcissists.

Who can argue that being empathetic is bad? Well, it isn’t. The idea that empaths are vulnerable people, just because of a certain personality type, is an excuse, which offers no solution to the problem. Being empathic is good! However, being empathic and allowing yourself to be hurt by people you choose to be with, or are unconsciously attracted to, is not.

But one could argue that being overly empathetic while choosing to be in harmful relationships with narcissists is dysfunctional and self-destructive. “Empath” should, therefore, not be a replacement term for “codependent,” When we admit we struggle with SLDD, we are honestly and courageously confessing our pain, while describing what we need to do in order to find loving, respecting and mutually caring relationships.

I have worked with SLD’s/codependents my whole career, and I, myself, am a recovering SLD. I have learned that we can only recover from our secret hell – our magnetic attraction to narcissists – when we understand that we are willing participants or dance partners in a very dysfunctional relationship dance. We choose narcissistic “dance partners” because we have a “broken (relationship) picker.” We fall prey to our own belief that the chemistry we experience with new narcissist lovers is a manifestation of true love or a soulmate experience.

Adding insult to injury, when the cracks of the soulmate’s façade surface and we start to experience the isolating and humiliating pain of loneliness and shame, we are, once again, powerless to break free from another narcissist lover. Inevitably, our soulmate transforms into our “cell mate.” This is not the problem of an empath, but of someone with Self-Love Deficit Disorder.

The only way SLD’s get better (recover) is to understand that they freely participate in their dysfunctional relationships with narcissists. As a reminder, SLDD is a symptom that manifests through the Human Magnet Syndrome. It is an addiction that results from one’s need/desire to self-medicate (detach, numb or escape) the pain of pathological loneliness, which is fueled by the core shame resulting from childhood attachment trauma at the hands of a pathologically narcissistic parent.

self-love deficit

Admitting we have a problem that we cannot, or never could, control, is the first and most important step in SLDD (codependency) recovery. Yes, we can stop the madness! We can take the big step towards sanity, peace and fulfillment by admitting our powerlessness over our SLD and need to recover from its inherent addiction – the compulsion to be everyone’s lover, friend, confidant and caretaker, while ignoring our own needs for the same.

We can conquer pathological loneliness, soul-searing shame and our repressed or suppressed childhood trauma if we choose the difficult but healing path of trauma resolution and the pursuit of self-love. Seeking this healing and self-loving path will ultimately compel us to cast away all relationships that are exploitative and narcissistic, while moving towards those that enhance our pursuit for self-care, self-respect and self-love. The courage to recover from Self-Love Deficit Disorder is within your reach. Stop being a delivery mechanism for everyone else’s need for love, respect and care!
In conclusion, if you identify with Self-Love Deficit Disorder (codependency), rejoice in your emotional and, perhaps, spiritual empathetic gifts. But, at the same time, make the life-changing decision to take the challenging but healing path of SLDD recovery. The following excerpt from Robert Frost’s celebrated poem, “The Road Not Taken,” illuminates the importance of this resolution:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

© Ross Rosenberg, 2016
trademark-logo.png.pagespeed.ce.eY15aM7wLY Self-Love Deficit Disorder (SLDD)

Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT
Clinical Care Consultants Owner
Advanced Clinical Trainers Owner
Psychotherapist, Author & Professional Trainer
Author of The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us

Register for Ross’s 2/26/16 Skokie IL (Chicago suburb) Codependency Cure Seminar

co no mo trng

                  

 

Jenny McCarthy Interviews Ross Rosenberg about Codependency and Narcissism

 Jenny McCarthy Interviews Ross Rosenberg about Codependency & Narcissism & His Book, The Human Magnet Syndrome

jennymccarthystars-630x354   80878555

The following links are to PART 1 and PART 2 of an interview with Jenny McCarthy on her show.  Jenny is a very intelligent, open and, of course funny, interviewer.  We talked about many topics surrounding my book, The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us.  We talked about what is codependency, its origins, why codependents are attracted to narcissists, why changing or “stopping” codependency is so difficult, and the family of origin component.  Also discussed is the fact that codependency is an addiction and is a direct result of a person not having “self-love.”  Ross also gave relationship advice to people who may be in a relationship with a pathological narcissist.

The show went so well, I am invited to be back on the show on Nov. 6th at 10:00 am CDT.  This one will be face to face in her studio.  Tune in on Sirius XM for The Jenny McCarthy Dirty, Sexy, Funny Show.

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

                  

 

A Poem: Codependent Love. By Ross Rosenberg

Codependent Love

Heart made of fire

Codependent love is illogical,
transient and shapeless.
It resists definition.
Defies explanation.

Good, bad,
healthy, dysfunctional,
long-term or fleeting.
Here, there
and nowhere
It is just what it is.

It is paradoxical.
Pain beckoning hope.
Sly like a fox.
Pretending to be big,
happy and permanent.

It’s like a shiny new diamond
Larger than life
Symbolic happiness
Sparkly deception
Promising forever smiles.

This love lies!
It promises delivery
from eternal loneliness
But perpetually disappoints.

Look in the mirror!

Gaze deeply into the face
that needs to love you.

 

Look carefully

Because that same smile

will eventually be on the face

Of the lover you always deserved.

.

Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT

Understanding Why Opposites Attract: The Internet Dating Edge. Match.com Consultant Helen Fisher

Understanding Why Opposites Attract: The Internet Dating Edge

Narcissism Expert

Ross Rosenberg

Helen Fisher Match.com Consultant

Helen Fisher

 

 

 

 

 

This expert panel discusses why caregivers and care needers are automatically attracted to each other. This dynamic is crucial to understand when seeking a perfectly matched online partner, i.e. through Match.com or Eharmony.com. In extremes, why codependents and pathological narcissists complete the perfect broken relationship. Helen Fisher, the internationally renowned anthropologist, author, researcher Match.com advisor, Melanie Gorman, Marci Telander, Rhoberta Shaler share their point of view about opposite attraction.

zoosk.com. zoosk.  okcupid.  okcupid.com.  Eharmony.  Eharmony.com.  Plentyoffish.  Plentyoffish.com.  Ourtime.  Ourtime.com.  Christianmingle.  Christianmingle.com.  Tinder.  Tinder.com.

The “Surgeon General’s” Warning for Codependency Recovery. The Codependency Cure Book Excerpt.

rosenberg stages of codependency recovery

The “Surgeon General’s” Warning for Codependency Recovery.

By Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT

From the Upcoming Book, The Codependency Cure: Breaking Free From Narcissists

Codependency recovery has the capacity to change your life.  My writings and YouTube videos are intended to inspire, motivate and guide you on a journey to solve and overcome the obstacles that are responsible for your codependency.  It is backed up with my own recovery experiences and 28 years working with trauma survivors and codependents and my book, The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us.  My transformation is proof that a person doesn’t have to be weighed down by the childhood trauma that compels them to form long-term relationships with people who cannot love or respect them, but will inevitably hurt them.

However, you should be warned that there is no “quick fix” for your life-long patterns of codependency.  Nor is it intended to repair the part of you that makes you to fall in love with a person who started out as your soul mate, but ended up as a “cell-mate.”   To that end, there is not a secret formula that neutralizes your pattern of establishing and maintaining relationships with pathological narcissists – people you love but who consistently hurt you.

However, you should be warned that this book does not contain an illustrious new-fangled theory that will quickly fix your life-long patterns codependency.  It is not intended to fix that part of you that compels you to fall in love with a person who began as a soul mate, but ended up as a “cell-mate.”   To that end, it will not provide you with a secret formula that neutralizes your life-long pattern of forming and maintain enduring relationships with pathological narcissists – people you love but who consistently who hurt you.

Since you have not put the book down yet and are still reading it, I am morally obligated to give you my “Surgeon General’s Warning.”  Similar to the warning on a pack of cigarettes, if you decide to move forward with the difficult and at times heart-breaking challenges inherent to codependency recovery, there is no doubt that painful experiences will befall you.  There is no way around this cold, hard fact.

My warning differs from the real Surgeon General’s Warning.  First and foremost, I am neither a surgeon nor a general!  Secondly, you won’t die from a progressively painful physical ailment.  You will suffer, though, but only for a distinct period of time.  Third, and best of all, this warning also predicts future emotional and relational freedom and happiness.

However, if you can persevere through the losses, emotional pain and suffering, which go hand-in-hand with the initial stages of codependency recovery, then you may very well experience, perhaps for the first time in your life, joy and freedom from the pain and suffering caused by the selfish and harmful narcissists in your life.  You will save yourself from being placed on the giving and sacrificing end of most of your relationships. And what’s more, you will learn to love yourself more than anyone else in your life, which in turn will set you on a path to love another similarly healthy and self-loving person.

Considering the predictable hardships and obstacles inherent in the first two stages of Codependency Recovery (Chapter 5), you will need to prepare for one of the biggest and most difficult battles of your life.  As demonstrated in Chapter 10, codependency is an addiction with terrible withdrawal symptoms.  You will experience bitterly painful bouts of loneliness, codependency’s most potent withdrawal symptom.  The insidious pathological power of loneliness 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.

You will invariably get knocked down a few times and sustain bumps and bruise along the way.  But…because you can get up and move towards your goal of recovery, you will.  You will not have to do this alone, though, as you will have developed a support network that will be there for you during times of darkness and despair and moments of triumph and success.  Although the warning may frighten and perhaps, discourage you, I urge you to keep your eye on the prize.  I know it is there, because I have walked the path myself.

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 a harrowing and extremely demanding experience.  But, being on top of the mountain and planting your flag 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.  Not only is going down the mountain much easier that the upward climb, but once at the bottom, you will have the opportunity to savor this personal victory for the rest of your life!

An honest depiction of the codependency recovery process, “the good, the bad and the ugly,” will not only prepare you for what lies ahead, but also for the necessary sacrifices that are part and parcel to breaking free from the malignant hold pathological narcissists have over you.  There is no getting around the fact that you will need to financially, psychologically, personally and relationally prepare for the daunting challenges that lie ahead[i].  Such preparations will embolden you, while mitigating and buffering the potential consequences you may endure by standing up to and setting boundaries with narcissists who, by now, have exacted a great deal of pain and suffering upon you, as well as, perhaps, your family.

Be warned that there will be blowback from your narcissist, who will likely try to sabotage your treatment in an attempt to throw you off course.  Because your narcissist has a great deal to lose by you getting well, he may try to intimidate, abuse, isolate and/or hurt you.  Adding insult to injury, your resistance to the harm perpetrated against you may even result in custody and financial threats, job loss, and even abrupt termination of important and meaningful relationships.

But don’t worry, as this book will prepare, lead and guide you toward a life outside of the control of the people you love, but who predictably hurt you.  In this book, you will come to understand The Four Stage Codependency Treatment Model, the backbone of codependency recovery.  It will provide you with concrete illustrations and descriptions of the linear and sequential paths of the recovery experience.  It will also demonstrate how the path of codependency recovery predictably leads one to rewards beyond their imagination.  This model and the challenges outlined in it will prepare you for the ins and outs, the challenges and the payoffs of each step. Not only will it provide you with a bird’s eye view of what’s in store for you, but it will also anchor you to the treatment/recovery process.

This is the time to ask as many questions as possible because, the more you know about codependency recovery, the higher the probability of a successful outcome.  It is recommended that you, with the help of a trusted recovering codependent or a therapist, create a cost-benefit analysis between the two starkly different conclusions: remaining unappreciated, neglected, deprived and/or harmed by the narcissists in your life, or discovering healthy love of self and others.  Such should show you all that you stand to gain and all that you will continue to lose if you don’t move forward with your decision to break free from codependency.  As described in Step Four, if you stick with the program, you will eventually experience, perhaps for the first time, safe, supportive, affirming and respectful treatment from others. You will also have learned about the sustaining nature of self-love.

You will get to a point where you will be able to courageously and confidently extract yourself from any relationship where you are abused, neglected and/or deprived.  You will also possess the motivation to pursue challenges and neutralize obstacles like you never imagined.  Be ready, as you will be able 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.  Moreover, you will develop feelings of personal efficacy and increased self-esteem that you have not previously experienced.

Through your commitment to solve you codependency dilemma, you will have broken free from your suffocating and soul-scorching dysfunctional relationship dance with your pathological narcissistic partner.  Let my warning inspire you to put your nose to the grindstone and tough it out, so you can experience self-love and relational joy and freedom!

Write this down, commit it to memory and post it where you can see it every day, as it is the key message to everything written in this book: The antidote to codependency is self-love.

Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT
3325 N. Arlington Heights Rd., Ste 400B
Arlington Heights, IL  60004

Owner of Clinical Care Consultants and Advanced Clinical Trainers

                  

Introduction: The Codependency Cure: Reversing the Human Magnet Syndrome (Submitted with Book Proposal)

INTRODUCTION TO ROSS ROSENBERG’S THE “HUMAN MAGNET SYNDROME” (HMS)

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.  I am indebted to my “learning compulsion” as it has helped me detach from my predilection for dysfunctional relationships while setting the stage for healthier and more loving relationships – especially with 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).  The book reveals why codependents and narcissists repeatedly come together in lasting but dysfunctional relationships.  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[1].  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 Melody Beattie’s “Codependent No More” (1986), John and Linda Friel’s “Adult Children Secrets of Dysfunctional Families” (1990), 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 to her abusive and 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 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.”  This required 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 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 body spasms 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 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.

After year-and-a-half 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 a mutually and reciprocally loving man.  With ease, she began to develop new friendships while enhancing existing relationships with family and friends.  Building a foundation of 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.  Now 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.

[1] Name changed to protect her identity.

                  

Ross Rosenberg,
3325 N. Arlington Heights Rd., Ste 400B
Arlington Heights, IL  60004