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
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
Creator of “The Codependency Cure: Recovering from Self-Love Deficit Disorder” seminar (and upcoming book)
Strolling dreamily down
a familiar street
in the direction
of places long forgotten,
I was obliviously drawn
To my childhood home.
The houses painted anew
could not hide
the memory-stained streets
of happily playing children
who never thought about
lonely shadowy figures
deprived of sweet
Like a magnet,
I was irresistibly pulled
in the direction
of my home,
where lost days,
weeks and years,
were anonymously recorded
on a calendar
that no one ever saw.
Until that day,
I had been too afraid
to revisit the rooms
long closed to me,
where broken toys
and missing game parts
were carelessly strewn
on the ruby red
matted shag rug
of my youth.
In the farthest reaches
of my lonely drenched bedroom,
the closet beckoned me
To enter its dark and cluttered domain,
to sift through
of an emotionally abandoned boy.
Among the stowed away
remnants of my youth
sat clattery boned skeletons –
who rejoiced at the opportunity
to dance in the light of recollection,
and finally end
their long winter of slumber.
Memories of the loosely connected parts
of the lost child
I used to be,
enervated my skeleton friends,
who frenetically discharged
the repressed electric energy
of the frightening
but dark and dreary
memories of yesteryear.
The battle between
wanting to run
or stay put,
to recover the truth –
the accurate narrative
of my youth –
compelled me to remain
just long enough
to survey the darkly lit
container of my youth.
With eyes wide open,
courageous but anxious,
I fixed my gaze
on my bony friend’s shadowy,
but kindly countenance,
and for the first time
I am strong enough
to be vulnerable,
so that I can finally remember
and absorb the unthinkable
memories of my youth.
It is time to let go.
to my skeleton friends.
the closet of my youth
and return home,
and live gratefully in the present.
I have spent a lifetime
afraid of dark specters
residing in my closet.
Now is the time
to meld the past and the present,
into a representation
of the person I always wanted to be.
It is the right time
to release the phantom pull backwards,
while gently grasping the hand
of the beautiful present moment,
that pulls me increasingly closer
to where my self-love lies.
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.
Inspired by Anaïs Nin. “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”
Breaking through to self-love
is the most difficult journey
for paralyzed and anxious
rose bud people,
whose roots are deeply
and inescapably implanted
in the inhospitable soil
of forgotten and discarded dreams.
The long winters of waiting
tires any rose bud
who has had a lifetime
of disappointing dreams
of not being able to open up,
to share their nectar of self-love.
The sun-drenched landscape
where happy and fulfilled roses
freely bask in golden rays of love
to share their delicious fragrance
remains the forbidden sad dreamscape
for many a frightened rose bud
Rose buds dream
of throwing caution to the wind,
risking predictable harm
and inevitable pain
for the moment of pure happiness
when hope and love
overtake the loneliness of safety
We all start off as a rose bud.
Perfect and pure,
filled with potential
to become a most beautiful, unique,
and remarkable flower.
who were neither protected
know only to hunker down
in a safe bud state,
to weather unpredictable storms.
History has demonstrated
that decisions to open up,
have predictably been met
with the opposition of
gale force winds
and torrential storms.
There comes a time
when the courage to transform
into a beautiful rose,
the one we always were,
but didn’t know about,
overcomes our fearful vigilance
to avoid further harm.
The time is now,
to allow ourselves to understand,
that the fear of harm
brought more suffering and losses
than would have the rain, wind, and frost.
We need to bravely
be optimistic about the world,
and decide to no longer settle
for loneliness infused safety.
Deciding to bloom
allows us to come to terms
our frightened rose bud life,
and why our parents
could and never would
tell us about our beautiful flower.
It is time to discard our life
as a lonely self-love deprived
and unrealized rose,
and bravely allow ourselves
to transform into the flower
we always have been.
As we vulnerably and carefully
come to full bloom,
stretch our arms out,
and connect with an unpredictable
but potentially loving world,
we will experience,
for the first time
the freedom of a flower.
Only at this time
will we finally understand
the cost of mistaking ourselves
for a rose bud,
and not the flower we always were.
The companion (to this poem) YouTube video
By Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT
“And the day came
when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful
than the risk it took to blossom.”
~ Anaïs Nin
in a metaphorically dilapidated and dangerous home that fools us into believing it protects us from the risk of harm and danger. As much as we may want to blame another person for building the house, making us stay inside it, or inoculating us with fear for wanting to move out of it, we must face the fact that we are also responsible. Since we are not chained inside of the house, the captor needs the captured to believe they belong in such a house. Believe it or not, the locks on the outside doors were installed by both partners. The challenge is to realize that you always carry the keys for the deadbolt locks and the password for the security alarms.
In reality, this “safe house” of ours has always constricted our growth potential by not allowing us to believe it’s safe to go “outside”; to realize we can, in actuality, weather being soaked by spring’s torrential rainfalls, buried by winter’s knee-deep snow, or burnt by summer’s scalding heat. We have been manipulated into believing the locked doors and security systems of our dysfunctional dwelling protect us from all of these things. The fortified steel bolt locks that we agreed to, or were talked into installing, never actually protected us. On the contrary, they trapped us in a home imbued with the absence of self-love, where every wall, floor, and ceiling is stained with fear, negativity, and pessimism.
It is time to ask ourselves about the truth and validity of the frightening and dangerous nature of the world that lies one step beyond the entrance of our home. Have we been force-fed a version of reality that was meant to keep us frightened and cocooned in our home? Or did we concoct our own scary story of the outside world to protect our wounded, sensitive and vulnerable hearts? The truth be told: the walls we believe protected us also entrapped us…stopped us from healing the wounds responsible for our beliefs of being permanently homebound and an emotional invalid.
Do we mistakenly believe the risk to venture out into the seemingly unsafe community of unknowns and potential perpetrators is far less risky than staying put in our slowly shrinking and suffocating home? Similarly, have we lulled ourselves into believing the dangers of being vulnerable and hurt on the outside are worse than the inescapable ongoing trauma of being imprisoned within the seemingly protective confines of our own home? If so, we may have been tricked into believing the value of supposed protection and safety, over the potential for personal, relational and emotional freedom and self-love.
It is time to take an honest inventory of what is missing in your life and what you are longing for and have spent a lifetime dreaming of. Honestly and courageously calculate the real differences between what would be both lost and gained by living in your home, or venturing outside of it. You will be surprised at how you were manipulated into believing your small and increasingly dangerous home was never safe.
Now is the time to imagine a home that is big enough for you to move freely and without restriction; one that speaks to your bright future, not the lurid and frightening memories of your past. You can have that dream house, the one you always wanted, but mistakenly believed you never deserved. But before you start thinking about a new home, it is crucial that you realize the home you need to build and then move into is already inside of you.
Wrap your arms around the idea of knowing you deserve such a home. Sit with this new-found knowledge and marinate in the idea that your future dream home can actually be acquired. Also, if possible, come to terms with the restricting and freezing nature of your fears and doubts, which have been instilled inside of you since you were a child. Life will open up so many possibilities once you understand and accept your insecure and fear-based beliefs about the past, present and future were purposely forced upon you in order for you to believe in your dependency, weakness and lack of personal power and control over your own life.
Deciding to move and then actually making plans might be exciting at first, but you will get scared and doubt yourself. Be prepared to feel scared and insecure. Take your time, don’t panic and stay present. And whatever you do, DO NOT waver in your commitment to build your inner foundation of self-love, self-respect, and self-caring. Moving into a home before your own personal foundation is solid is a dangerous proposition! If there are cracks, then your “house” will be reduced to “rubble” if bad weather should come your way. Building your home (self-love) inside of yourself before rushing (escaping) into another dwelling, will ensure a long-term and safe home, fit to carry you brightly and self-lovingly into the future.
When you get to the point where you know deep in your heart that you are ready to move, don’t rush to pack up and hire movers! In addition, before throwing away or donating any of your old and dingy material possessions, work first on fortifying your new foundation of courage and resiliency, while establishing mutually loving, respectful and caring relationships outside of your current, soon-to-be former home. Then, you will be ready to start looking for your dream house!
When you do find your new home, make sure its foundation matches your own. A home that has both a solid infrastructure and rock-solid foundation will bring you joy and happiness that you once could not have imagined and, once experienced, will protect you with every bit of the self-love you so courageously have built up over time. Despite the rainstorms, blizzards and heatwaves, you will be safe from harm and live in an environment of peace, happiness and potential.
Now is the time to imagine, build, move into, maintain and cherish your future home, in which the foundation and every brick are made from self-love!
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
By Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT
When treating trauma victims (and trauma survivors), I conceptualize trauma as a metaphorical invisible wound that is shamefully hidden from others. Many trauma victims hold onto the irrational belief that, by telling someone their story, they would be taking an indefensible risk which could have irreversible and lasting consequences. They are also terrified of the consequences of exposing the perpetrator because of real or imagined judgment, rejection from loved ones and the consequent loss of important loving and supportive relationships – social and familial isolation.
They avoid sharing their trauma with others, including a psychotherapist, because they believe: “I am permanently broken,” “I will be blamed,” “I must have deserved it,” “No one will believe me,” “People will be mad at me” and “No one loves a broken person.” The most prevalent thought that motivates the burying of the trauma wound is “It will get worse by telling someone,” “The perpetrator will hurt me again or someone I love” and “The perpetrator is more believable than me.”
These unfortunate victims consequently commit their trauma wounds to oblivion. They both consciously and unconsciously decide to permanently and deeply bury what happened to them and never utter a word about it again – to others and even to themselves. Similar to a person with a real physical wound who avoids medical treatment, they hide it from others in hopes that it will heal by itself and the pain will eventually go away. But it doesn’t.
Sadly, some of these trauma victims spend the rest of their lives unaware of their festering, debilitating and painful wounds. The suffering they do allows them to connect to the result of the core wound, not the trauma itself. In other words, it is less threatening and easier to attend to the palatable consequences of the invisible wound than the source itself. And, if by accident a mere memory fragment should come to mind, the person will run further from it, cover it with another layer of denial, or just preoccupy themselves with a dysfunctional partner and/or seek to further self-medicate or numb it away.
Unfortunately, the longer the trauma wound is left untreated, the worse it actually gets. Repressed (unconscious) trauma might seem gone, but it actually gets worse over time. No thanks to shame, it grows and morphs into a more destructive force, attracting more and more shame like a strong magnet does to paper clips. Accumulated shame always becomes toxic, which consequently requires our conscious and unconscious mind to spend more energy in denying, forgetting or forcefully not thinking about what had happened to us. This process adds even more layers of shame.
With each passing year, the buried trauma wound is covered by successive layers of “sediment” which, because of the forces that push down on our life, becomes a harder rock-like boundary “protecting” the trauma memory. Because of the powerful natural psychological forces of compaction, the original trauma eventually converts into a “fossilized memory” or “trauma fossil” that has become completely inaccessible to memory.
With meticulous care, and help from a mental health professional, we can carefully and cautiously dig, hammer and chip our way down to the original layer of sediment where the trauma fossil has been ensconced in rock. Such “paleotherapy” work is not for the faint of heart and requires courage, focus and persistent but gentle efforts to crack through rock-hard layers of forgotten time while, at the same time, not damaging the fragile nature of our former wounded selves – the trauma fossil.
And only when all of the traumatized parts of our former selves are unearthed, carefully sorted through, and put back together, are we finally able to understand what happened to us so long ago. The reconstruction of our trauma story paves the way for both an emotional and intellectual understanding of how we almost became psychologically extinct. Although “paleotherapy” may be a frightening endeavor, it is, perhaps, the only way to courageously heal our trauma wound at its source – and relieve a lifetime of suffering.
This takes a great deal of courage and vulnerability. George Eliot’s advice has never been more important to believe in than now: “It’s Never Too Late To Be What You Might Have Been.” We just have to fight for what we should have been if we were not traumatized as we were. Commit this to memory: “The antidote to trauma is self-love.” Trauma recovery creates self-love. The battle to heal and overcome our trauma is well worth it. I guarantee it.
For a powerful discussion (video) on courage and vulnerability, I highly suggest viewing Brené Brown’s video, “The Power of Vulnerability. https://goo.gl/up87PQ
Eleven Tips to Healing Your Invisible Wounds
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. 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.
 Name changed to protect her identity.
The Will to Survive
The old oak tree stands tall
reflects the assault of the seasons
heat and snow
of seasons yonder
grate at its surface
with diamond sharp teeth.
Leaving permanent marks.
In defiance the tree stretches,
and moves skyward.
Its roots reach around rocky obstacles
Firmly anchoring itself the earth.
Exerting strength and desire.
Forcing its viability
to grow into yet another season
Roots that are deeply implanted
and inhospitable soil
Forcefully create a home
And the tree proclaims:
“I am a tree
I am from the earth
will supplant my desire to leave
I remain where I belong”
Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC
Psychotherapist & National Seminar Trainer