Codependency and Dependent Personality Disorder
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By: Dr. Sam Vaknin
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There is great confusion regarding the terms co-dependent, counter-dependent, and dependent. Before we proceed to study Dependent Personality Disorder in our next article, we would do well to clarify these terms.
As Lidija Rangelovska observes, we all need to be needed. We all want to feel useful and able to give. People resent the narcissist partly because his False Self – the facade he puts to the world – is so self-sufficient. But, codependents take this to a whole different level.
Like dependents (people with Dependent Personality Disorder), codependents depend on other people for their emotional gratification and the performance of both inconsequential and crucial daily and psychological (“ego”) functions. They seek to fuse or merge with their significant others. By “becoming one” with their intimate partners, codependents are able to actually love themselves via loving others.
Codependents are needy, demanding, and submissive. They suffer from abandonment anxiety and, to avoid being overwhelmed by it they cling to others and act immaturely. These behaviours are intended to elicit protective responses and to safeguard the "relationship" with their companion or mate upon whom they depend. Codependents appear to be impervious to abuse. No matter how badly they are mistreated, they remain committed. In extreme codependence, this fusion and merger with the significant other lead to “in-house” stalking by the codependent as she strives to preserve the integrity and cohesion of her personality and the representations of her loved ones within it.
This is where the "co" in "co-dependence" comes into play. By accepting the role of victims, codependents seek to control their abusers and manipulate them. It is a danse macabre in which both members of the dyad collaborate.
The codependent sometimes claims to pity her abuser and cast herself in the grandiose roles of his saviour and redeemer. Her overwhelming empathy imprisons the codependent in these dysfunctional relationships and she feels guilt either because she believes that she had driven the abuser to maltreat her or because she contemplates abandoning him.
There are two possible pathological reactions to childhood abuse and trauma: codependence and narcissism. They both involve fantasy as a defense mechanism: the codependent has a pretty realistic assessment of herself, but her view of others is fantastic; the narcissist’s self-image and self-perception are delusional and grandiose, but his penetrating view of others is bloodcurdlingly accurate ("cold empathy"). Pathological narcissism is a form of addiction to narcissistic supply.
The narcissist is caught in a conundrum of his own making: on the one hand he considers himself superior and godlike. On the other hand, to maintain his inflated, grandiose, and fantastic sense of self-worth, the narcissist is abjectly and humiliatingly dependent on constant input from people whom he considers vastly inferior to him. He clings to them but hates and resents them and himself for his dependence. This leads to bouts of approach followed by avoidance, a repetition complex.
Typology of Codependents
Codependency is a complex, multi-faceted, and multi-dimensional defence against the codependent's fears and needs. There are five categories of codependence, stemming from their respective aetiologies:
(i) Codependency that aims to fend of anxieties related to abandonment. These codependents are clingy, smothering, and prone to panic, are plagued with ideas of reference (referential ideation), and display self-negating submissiveness. Their main concern is to prevent their victims (friends, spouses, family members) from deserting them or from attaining true autonomy and independence. These codependents merge with their "loved" ones and experience any sign of abandonment (actual, threatened, or even imagined) as a form of self-annihilation or "amputation".
(ii) Codependency that is geared to cope with the codependent's fear of losing control. By feigning helplessness and neediness such codependents coerce their environment into ceaselessly catering to their needs, wishes, and requirements. These codependents are labile "drama queens" and their life is a kaleidoscope of instability and chaos. They refuse to grow up and force their nearest and dearest to treat them as emotional and/or physical invalids. They deploy their self-imputed deficiencies and disabilities as weapons.
Both these types of codependents use emotional blackmail and, when necessary, threats to secure the presence and blind compliance of their "suppliers".
(iii) Vicarious codependents live through others. They "sacrifice" themselves in order to glory in the accomplishments of their chosen targets. They subsist on reflected light, on second-hand applause, and on derivative achievements. They have no personal history, having suspended their lives, wishes, preferences, and dreams in favour of another's.
From my book "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited":
A subtype of "covert narcissist", this is a co-dependent who depends exclusively on narcissists (narcissist-co-dependent). If you are living with a narcissist, have a relationship with one, if you are married to one, if you are working with a narcissist, etc. – it does NOT mean that you are an inverted narcissist.
To "qualify" as an inverted narcissist, you must CRAVE to be in a relationship with a narcissist, regardless of any abuse inflicted on you by him/her. You must ACTIVELY seek relationships with narcissists and ONLY with narcissists, no matter what your (bitter and traumatic) past experience has been. You must feel EMPTY and UNHAPPY in relationships with ANY OTHER kind of person. Only then, and if you satisfy the other diagnostic criteria of a Dependent Personality Disorder, can you be safely labelled an 'inverted narcissist'."
(iv) “Codependent or Borderline narcissists” oscillate between periods of clinging and other codependent behavior patterns (which they interpret as “intimacy”) and eras of aloofness, detachment, and emotional neglect and abandonment (which they regard as legitimate and the only possible manifestations of their personal autonomy and space.) They also tend to form with their intimate partner a shared psychosis (folie a deux). These are all the outcomes of their overwhelming and all-pervasive abandonment anxiety: they either smother their partner in an attempt to forestall desertion – or they pre-emptively abandon ship, thus avoiding hurt and maintaining an illusion of control over the situation ("I walked out on her and dumped her, not the other way around.")
The codependent deploys strategies such as merger (becoming one with her intimate partner while renouncing all personal autonomy and independence of both of them, up to a point of shared psychosis); coextensivity (the “ventriloquist defense”: insisting that the partner mind-reads her and acts in ways that reflect her inner psychological states and moods); and shifting boundaries (using behavioural unpredictability and ambient uncertainty to induce paralysing dependence in the partner.)
(v) Finally, there is another form of dependence that is so subtle that it eluded detection until very recently.
Counterdependents reject and despise authority (are contumacious) and often clash with authority figures (parents, boss, the Law). Their sense of self-worth and their very self-identity are premised on and derived from (in other words, are dependent on) these acts of bravura and defiance. They are “personal autonomy militants”. Counterdependents are fiercely, uncompromisingly independent; controlling; self-centered; and aggressive. Many of them are antisocial and use Projective Identification (i.e. force people to behave in ways that buttresses and affirm the counterdependent's view of the world and his expectations).
These behavior patterns are often the result of a deep-seated fear of intimacy. In an intimate relationship, the counterdependent feels enslaved, ensnared, and captive. Counterdependents are locked into "approach-avoidance repetition compulsion" cycles. Hesitant approach is followed by avoidance of commitment. They are "lone wolves" and bad team players.
From my book "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited":
"Counterdependence is a reaction formation. The counterdependent dreads his own weaknesses. He seeks to overcome them by projecting an image of omnipotence, omniscience, success, self-sufficiency, and superiority.
Most "classical" (overt) narcissists are counterdependent. Their emotions and needs are buried under "scar tissue" which had formed, coalesced, and hardened during years of one form of abuse or another. Grandiosity, a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy, and overweening haughtiness usually hide gnawing insecurity and a fluctuating sense of self-worth."
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Some patients develop codependent behaviors and traits in the wake of a life crisis, especially if it involves an abandonment and resulting solitude (e.g. divorce, or an empty nest: when one’s children embark on their own, autonomous lives, or leave home altogether.)
Such late-onset codependence fosters a complex emotional and behavioral chain reaction whose role is to resolve the inner conflict by ridding oneself of the emergent, undesirable codependent conduct.
Consciously, such a patient may, at first, feel liberated. But, unconsciously, being abruptly “dumped” and lonesome has a disorienting and disconcerting effect (akin to intoxication). Many patients rush headlong and indiscriminately into new relationships. Deep inside, this kind of patient has always dreaded being lonely (lonely, not alone!). Following a divorce, the death of a significant other or intimate partner, the passing away of parents or other loved ones, children relocating to college, and similar episodes of dislocation, she suppresses this dread because she possesses no real, effective solutions and antidotes to her sudden solitude and has developed no meaningful ways to cope with it.
We are taught that denied and repressed emotions often re-emerge in camouflage, as it were. The dread of ending up all alone is such that the patient becomes codependent in order to make sure that she never finds herself in a similar situation. Her codependence is a series of dysfunctional behaviors that are intended to fend off abandonment.
Still, patients who develop
situational codependence (unlike classic, lifelong codependents) are
fundamentally balanced and strong personalities who cherish their self-control.
So, they always keep all their options open, including the vital option of
going it alone yet again. They make sure to choose the wrong partner and then
they spectacularly "expose" his egregious misconduct so that they can
get rid of him and of the newly-acquired codependence in good conscience and at
the same time.
- The situational codependent is characterized by a deep-set fear of being lonely (abandonment anxiety, a form of attachment disorder) as an underlying, dormant inner landscape;
- This lurking abandonment anxiety is awakened by life’s tribulations: divorce, an empty nest, death of one’s nearest and dearest.
- At first, the newly-found
freedom is exhilarating and intoxicating. But this “feel-good” factor actually
serves to enhance the anxiety! The inner dialog goes something like this: “What
if it feels so good that I will opt to remain by myself for the rest of my
days? This prospect is terrifying!”
- Thus, a conflict erupts between conscious emotions and behaviors (liberation, joy, pleasure-seeking, etc.) and a nagging unconscious anxiety (“I am not getting any younger”, “This can't go on forever”, “I've got to settle down, to find an appropriate mate, not to be left alone”, etc.)
- To allay this internal tension, the patient comes up with situational codependence as a coping strategy: to attract and bond with a mate, so as to forestall abandonment.
- Yet, the situational codependent is ego-dystonic. She is very unhappy with her codependence (though, at this stage, she is utterly unaware of all these dynamics.) It runs contrary to her primary nature as accomplished, assertive, self-confident person with a well-regulated sense of self-worth. She feels the need to frustrate this new set of compulsive addictions (codependence) and to get rid of it because it threatens who she is and who she thinks she is (her self-perception.) Surely, she is not the clinging, maudlin, weak, out of control type! All her life, she has known herself to be a strong, good judge of character, intelligent, and in control. Codependence doesn't become her!
But how could she get rid of it? In three easy steps:
- She chooses the wrong partner (unconsciously);
- She proves to her satisfaction that he is the wrong partner for her;
- She gets rid of him, thus re-establishing her autonomy, resilience, self-control and demonstrating credibly that she is codependent no more!
This article appears in my book "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"
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Dependent Personality Disorder is a much disputed mental health diagnosis.
We are all dependent to some degree. We all like to be taken care of. When is this need judged to be pathological, compulsive, pervasive, and excessive? Clinicians who contributed to the study of this disorder use words such as "craving", "clinging", "stifling" (both the dependent and her partner), and "humiliating", or "submissive". But these are all subjective terms, open to disagreement and differences of opinion.
Moreover, virtually all cultures encourage dependency to varying degrees. Even in developed countries, many women, the very old, the very young, the sick, the criminal, and the mentally-handicapped are denied personal autonomy and are legally and economically dependent on others (or on the authorities). Thus, Dependent Personality Disorder is diagnosed only when such behavior does not conform to social or cultural norms.
Codependents, as they are sometimes known, are possessed with fantastic worries and concerns and are paralyzed by their abandonment anxiety and fear of separation. This inner turmoil renders them indecisive. Even the simplest everyday decision becomes an excruciating ordeal. This is why codependents rarely initiate projects or do things on their own.
Dependents typically go around eliciting constant and repeated reassurances and advice from myriad sources. This recurrent solicitation of succour is proof that the codependent seeks to transfer responsibility for his or her life to others, whether they have agreed to assume it or not.
This recoil and studious avoidance of challenges may give the wrong impression that the Dependent is indolent or insipid. Yet, most Dependents are neither. They are often fired by repressed ambition, energy, and imagination. It is their lack self-confidence that holds them back. They don't trust their own abilities and judgment.
Absent an inner compass and a realistic assessment of their positive qualities on the one hand and limitations on the other hand, Dependents are forced to rely on crucial input from the outside. Realizing this, their behavior becomes self-negating: they never disagree with meaningful others or criticizes them. They are afraid to lose their support and emotional nurturance.
Consequently, as I have written in the Open Site Encyclopedia entry on this disorder:
"The codependent moulds himself/herself and bends over backward to cater to the needs of his nearest and dearest and satisfy their every whim, wish, expectation, and demand. Nothing is too unpleasant or unacceptable if it serves to secure the uninterrupted presence of the codependent's family and friends and the emotional sustenance s/he can extract (or extort) from them.
The codependent does not feel fully alive when alone. S/he feels helpless, threatened, ill-at-ease, and child-like. This acute discomfort drives the codependent to hop from one relationship to another. The sources of nurturance are interchangeable. To the codependent, being with someone, with anyone, no matter who, is always preferable to solitude."
The Codependent’s Inner Mother and Child
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Parents of codependents teach their offspring to expect only conditional, transactional love: the child is supposed to render a service, perform, fulfil the parent's wishes, or realize the narcissistic parent’s dreams in return for affection and compassion, attention and emotion. Ineluctably, the hurt child reacts with rage to this unjust mistreatment.
With no recourse to the offending parent, this fury is either directed outwardly, at others (who stand in for the bad parent) - or inwardly. The former solution yields in adulthood a psychopath, or a passive-aggressive (negativistic) - the latter solution, a masochist or someone with a depressive illness. Similarly, with an unavailable parent, the child's reserve of love can be directed inward, at himself (to yield a narcissist), or outward, towards others (and, thus, form a codependent.)
All these choices retard personal growth, arrest development, and are self-defeating. In all four paths the adult plays the dual roles of a punitive parent and an eternal vulnerable child, who is unable and unwilling to grow up for fear of incurring the wrath of the parent with whom she had merged so thoroughly early on.
When the codependent merges with a love object, she interprets her newfound attachment and bond as a betrayal of the punitive parent. She fully anticipates the internalized parent’s disapproval and dreads its (self-)destructive disciplinarian measures. In an attempt to placate this implacable divinity she turns on her partner and lashes out at him, thus establishing where her true loyalties and affiliation lie (i.e., with the parent.) Concurrently, she punishes herself as she tries to pre-empt the merciless onslaught of her sadistic parental introjects and superego: she engages in a panoply of self-destructive and self-defeating behaviours.
Acutely aware of the risk of losing her partner owing to her abusive misconduct, the codependent experiences extreme abandonment anxiety. She swings wildly between self-effacing and clinging (“doormat”) behaviours on the one hand and explosive, vituperative invective on the other hand: the former being the manifestations of her “eternal child” and the latter expressions of her “punitive parent”.
Such abrupt shifts in affect and conduct are often misdiagnosed as the hallmarks of a mood disorder, especially Bipolar Disorder. But where Dependent Personality Disorder is diagnosed, these pendular tectonic upheavals are indicative of an underlying personality structure rather than of any biochemically-induced perturbations.
"I Can't Live Without Him/Her"
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Akin to addiction, dependence on other people fulfils important mental health functions. First, it is an organizing principle: it serves to explain behaviours and events within a coherent "narrative" (fictional story) or frame of reference ("I acted this way because ..."). Second, it gives meaning to life. Third: the constant ups and downs satisfy your need for excitement and thrills. Fourth, and most crucially, your addiction and emotional lability place you at the center of attention and allow you to manipulate people around you to do your bidding.
Indeed, you are convinced that you cannot live without your dependence.
This is a subtle and important distinction: you can survive without him or her, but you believe profoundly (erroneously as it happens) that you cannot go on living without your addiction to your partner. You experience your dependence as your best friend, your comfort zone, as familiar and warm and fitting as an old pair of slippers. You are addicted to and dependent on your dependence, but you attribute its source to boyfriends, mates, spouses, children, parents - anyone who happens to fit the bill and the plot of your narrative. They come and go - your addiction remains intact; they are interchangeable - your dependence is immutable.
So, what can you do about it?
Extreme cases of codependence (such as Dependent or Borderline Personality Disorders) require professional help. Luckily, dependence is a spectrum and most people with dependent traits and behaviours are clustered somewhere in the middle. Help yourself by realizing that the world never comes to end when relationships do: it is your dependence which reacts with desperation, not you. Next, analyze your addiction: what are the stories and narratives that underlie it? Do you tend to idealize your intimate partner? If so, can you see him or her in a more realistic light? Are you anxious about being abandoned? Why? Have you been traumatically abandoned in the past, as a child, perhaps? Write down the worst possible scenario: the relationship is over and s/he leaves you. Is your physical survival at stake? Of course not. Make a list of the consequences of the breakup and write, next to each one what you can and intend to do about it. Armed with this plan of action, you are bound to feel safer and more confident.
Finally, make sure to share your thoughts, fears, and emotions with friends and family. Social support is indispensable. One good friend is worth a hundred therapy sessions.
Another thing: don’t be a satisficer.
is when you prefer the just acceptable and minimally satisfactory to the
optimal or maximal possible outcomes. The principle, discovered by the Nobel
prize winning economist and management theorist, Herbert Simon, helps guide
decision-making and is a cognitive heuristic (rule of thumb) within bounded
Psychologically, satisficers have a low self-esteem. This leads them to believe that they can do no better. They have a perceived lack of options (underchoice, choice underload, to paraphrase Alvin Toffler) and an external locus of control (limited agency and personal autonomy: "my life is determined from the outside and by others who are often envious of me and even malicious").
Ironically, satisficers feel entitled to accomplishments and beneficial outcomes that are incommensurate with their indolence (Path of Least Resistance). They are not self-efficacious and they lack ambition, but disguise it with pseudohumility, sanctimony, and virtue signalling.
Satisficers perceive social reality and their internal psychodynamics as largely random, arbitrary, and meaningless (Cleckley's "rejection of life" or Peterson's anti-humanity). Consequently they lack commitment (commitmentphobes), or cathexis (emotional investment).
They never plan for the future and such little planning as they do is goal-oriented (short-termism). They maintain inordinately low standards and values which are expediently reversed, compromised or abandoned altogether. Identity diffusion or disturbance is common.
Satisficers are subject to magical thinking (I think therefore it is), magical immunity (my actions or inaction have no real-life consequences) as part of a larger suite of essentially psychopathic traits: impulsivity, defiance, recklessness, and novelty, thrill, or risk seeking (adrenaline junkie).
Mental illness such as depression, anxiety, mood, and personality disorders are common among satisficers. But, strangely, slackers and satisficers are also more content than other personality types with the outcomes of the decisions they have made.
Four Rules to Avoid Bad Relationships:
1. If it feels wrong - it is wrong.
2. S/he is trying too hard? It involves too much conspicuous and ostentatious effort? It is fake.
3. Too good to be true? It is not true.
4. Verify everything: 90% of the time, people lie and 90% of the time we believe every word they say (90:90 rule or base rate fallacy).
You feel ill at ease because you are flooded with info that generates cognitive dissonance (he says one thing and behaves another) and emotional dissonance (I am so into him, I will ignore). This leads to confirmation bias.
But all the info is there (misogynist vs. narcissist vs. sadist), available to your intuition.
Philosophers have a lot to tell you about your gut feeling and whether, when, and how you should trust it. Our intuition always alerts us to discrepancies between our routines and the extraordinary.
Why do we need routine?
Because rituals structure life.
Structure is meaning.
A structured life provides certainty, predictability, reality testing, boundaries, direction, flow, and goals (exactly like a physical structure does).
You can structure your life to be good or to attain evil. This free will choice is only up to you and the consequences are yours to bear.
Don't Be a Lobster!
Clarifying Nothingness: Choose Happiness, Not Dominance.
Nothingness is not about being a nobody and doing nothing.
It is about choosing to be human, not a lobster.
It is about putting firm boundaries between you and the world.
It is about choosing happiness - not dominance.
It is accomplishing from within, not from without.
It is about not letting others regulate your emotions, moods, and thinking.
It is about being an authentic YOU.
But, bear this in mind:
If all your
relationships end up the same catastrophic way, you most likely need to work on three issues:
1. Anticipated hurt (your certainty that everyone is going to hurt you sooner or later);
2. Interpreting every behavior as hurtful (hypersensitivity, hypervigilance, paranoid or persecutory ideation, “no skin”); and
3. Preemptive aggression (I am going to hurt or dump them before they hurt or dump me).
intimate partner who is also your best friend serves as a wise mirror:
Reflects the truth without bias, without self-interest, and without an agenda
Provides impartial compassionate advice and succor, especially when asked for it.
Respects and accepts whatever decisions are taken: it is his or her friend’s life, after all.
If a true friend cannot respect and accept these decisions, s/he can no longer be a friend and must step back gracefully without adding to her/his friend’s distress.
Some couples are romantic, others are transactional (for example: in a parenting marriage, or a power couple, involved in business together).
The dynamics of a dyad can be analyzed using six axes:
1. Cultural and social backgrounds of the members: from compatibility to conflict;
2. Communication: style, effective protocols, trigger points, and context-independent content;
3. Expectations: from congruity to mismatch, level of fulfillment;
4. Goal-setting, decision-making, and execution: from equality to asymmetry, efficacy;
5. Cooperation: from synergy to cancelling out or conflict; and
6. Reflexivity: from visibility to transparency.
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Insecure attachment styles, attachment disorders and dysfunction are prevalent
in cluster B personalities (narcissists, psychopaths, borderlines, histrionics)
as well as among codependents.
In early childhood, they had all loved a dead mother, but they do not dare to think about it or verbalize it (the unthought known). Instead they resort to emotional thinking.
They cathect (emotionally invest in) death and aggression (destrudo, not libido), including in inanimate material goods.
Owing to hurt-aversion, they place a premium on self-sufficiency, independence, personal autonomy, and unbridled, antisocial self-efficacy. They frequently self-parentify and are auto-erotic.
They can love only a dead mother, so they try to turn you into one. Killing the mother figure in order to be able to love her (snapshotting, merger/fusion, extension).
They have dead inert non-interacting mute introjects which makes it difficult for them to distinguish internal from external objects.
Clinging and smothering behaviours are the unsavoury consequences of a deep-set existential, almost mortal fear of abandonment and separation. For the codependent to maintain a long-term, healthy relationship, she must first confront her anxieties head on. This can be done via psychotherapy: the therapeutic alliance is a contract between patient and therapist which provides for a safe environment, where abandonment is not an option and, thus, where the client can resume personal growth and form a modicum of self-autonomy. In extremis, a psychiatrist may wish to prescribe anti-anxiety medication.
Self-help is also an option, though; meditation, yoga, and the elimination of any and all addictions, such as workaholism, or binge eating. Feelings of emptiness and loneliness – at the core of abandonment anxiety and other dysfunctional attachment styles – can be countered with meaningful activities (mainly altruistic and charitable) and true, stable friends, who provide a safe haven and are unlikely to abandon her and, therefore, constitute a holding, supportive, and nourishing environment.
The codependent’s reflexive responses to her inner turmoil are self-defeating and counterproductive. They often bring about the very outcomes she fears most. But these outcomes also tend to buttress her worldview (“the world is hostile, I am bound to get hurt”) and sustain her comfort zone (“abuse and abandonment are familiar to me; at least I know the ropes and how to cope with them.”)
This is why she needs to exit this realm of mirrored fears and fearsome mental tumult. She should adopt new avocations and hobbies, meet new people, engage is non-committal, dispensable relationships, and, in general, take life more lightly.
Some codependents develop a type of “militant independence” as a defense against their own sorely felt vulnerability (their dependence.) But even these daring “rebels” tend to view their relationships in terms of “black and white” (an infantile psychological defense mechanism known as “splitting”.) They tend to regard their relationships as either doomed to failure or everlasting and their mates as both unique and indispensable (“soulmate”, “twin”) or completely interchangeable (objectified.)
These, of course, are misperceptions; cognitive deficits grounded in emotional immaturity and thwarted personal development. All relationships have a life expectancy, a “sell by”, “good before”, or expiry date. No one is irreplaceable or completely interchangeable. The codependent’s problems are rooted in a profound lack of self-love and an absence of object constancy (she regards herself as unloved and unlovable when she is all by herself.)
Yet, clinging, codependent, and counterdependent (fiercely independent, defiant, and intimacy-retarding) behaviours can be modified. If you fear abandonment to the point of a phobia, here’s my advice:
Compile a written, very detailed “mission statement” regarding all the aspects of your romantic relationships: how would you like them to look like and how would you go about securing the best outcomes. Revisit and revise this “charter” regularly.
List your 3 most important mate choice criteria: what would you be looking for in a first date and without which there will be no second date. This list is your filter, your proverbial selective membrane. Revisit and revise it regularly as your taste and preferences change.
Conduct a thorough background check on your prospective intimate partner. Go online and Google his name; visit his social networking accounts; ask friends and family for information and an appraisal of his character, temperament, and personality. This preparatory research will put you in control and empower you. It will serve as an antidote to uncertainty and the anxiety attendant upon it.
Next use the “Volatility Threshold” and the “Threat Monitoring” tools.
The “Volatility Threshold” instrument is a compilation of 1-3 types of behaviours that you consider critically desirable (“deal-makers”) in your partner. Observe him and add up the number of times he had acted inconsistently and, thus, reversed these crucial aspects of his behavior substantially and essentially. Decide in advance how many “strikes” would constitute a “deal-breaker” and when he reaches this number – simply leave. Do not share with him either the existence or the content of this “test” lest it might affect his performance and cause him to playact and prevaricate.
As a codependent, you tend to jump to conclusions and then “jump the gun”: you greatly exaggerate the significance of even minor infractions and disagreements and you are always unduly fatalistic and pessimistic about the survival chances of your relationships. The “Threat Monitoring” tool is comprised of an inventory of warning signs and red flags that, in your view and from your experience, herald and portend abandonment. The aim is to falsify this list: to prove to you that, more often than not, you are wrong in predicting a breakup.
In general, try to act as though you were a scientist: construct alternative hypotheses (interpretations of behaviours and events) to account for what you regard as transgressions and bad omens. Test these hypotheses before you decide to end it all with a grand gesture, a dramatic exit, or a decisive finale. Preemptive abandonment is based more on your insecurities than on facts, so make sure to test your hypotheses – and your partner - in a variety of settings before you call it a day and before you prophesy doom and gloom.
This “scientific” approach to your intimate relationship has the added benefit of delaying the instant alleviation of your anxiety which consists of impulsive, ill-thought actions. It takes time to form hypotheses and test them. This lapse between trigger and reaction is all you need. By the time you have formed your informed opinion, your anxiety will have abated and you will no longer feel the urge to “do something now, whatever it may be!”
Armed with these “weapons” you should feel a lot more confident as you enter a new romantic liaison. But, the secret of the longevity of long-term relationships lies in being who you are, in acting transparently, in externalizing your internal dialog and inner voices. In short: if you want your relationships to last, you should express your emotions and concerns on a regular basis. You should knowingly and willingly assume all the risks associated with doing so: of exposing the chinks in your armour; of your vulnerabilities and blind spots being abused, exploited, and leveraged; of being misunderstood, even mocked. But the rewards of being open with your partner (without being naive or gullible) are enormous and multifarious: stronger bonding often results in long-lasting relationships.
Early on you should confer with your intimate partner and inform him of what, to you, constitutes a threat: what types of conduct he should avoid and what modes of communication he should eschew. You should both agree on protocols of communication: fears, needs, triggers, wishes, boundaries, requests, priorities, and preferences should all be shared on a regular basis and in a structured and predictable manner. Remember: structure, predictability, even formality are great antidotes to anxiety.
But there is only that much that your partner can do to ameliorate your mental anguish. You can and should help him in this oft-Herculean task. You can start by using drama to desensitize yourself to your phobia. In your mind imagine and rehearse, in excruciating detail, both the worst-case and best-case scenarios (abandonment in the wake of adultery versus blissful marriage, for instance.)
In these reveries, do not act as an observer: place yourself firmly at the scene of the action and prepare detailed responses within these impromptu plays. At first, this pseudo-theatre may prove agonizing, but the more you exercise your capacity for daydreaming the more you will find yourself immune to abandonment. You may even end up laughing out loud during the more egregious scenes!
Similarly, prepare highly-detailed contingency plans of action for every eventuality, including the various ways in which your relationship can disintegrate. Be prepared for anything and everything, thoroughly and well in advance. Planning equals control and control means lessened dread.
Issues and Goals in the Treatment of Dependent Personality Disorder (Codependence, or Codependency)
The patient has alloplastic defenses and an external locus of control. Though she believes that she is in full control of her life, her behavior is mostly reactive and she is buffeted by circumstances and decisions made by other people - hence her tendency to blame the outside world for every misfortune, mishap, and defeat she endures. She rarely takes responsibility for her choices and actions and is frequently surprised and resentful when faced with the consequences of her misconduct.
The patient is convinced that she is worthless and bad, a loser and no-good. She is masochistically self-destructive and self-defeating in her romantic relationships. These propensities are compounded by a predilection to decompensate and act out, sometimes violently, when her defences fail her.
To develop autoplastic defences and an internal locus of control: to learn to assume responsibility for her actions and refrain from self-destructive and self-defeating behaviors.
Having been deprived of it in her childhood, the patient is on a perpetual quest for ideal love: motherly, protective, engulfing, omnipresent, and responsive. Her mate should be handsome, sexy, and should draw attention from and elicit envy. He should be fun to be with and intelligent, although passive, malleable, compliant, and subservient.
Yet, the typical codependent has been exposed only to transactional and conditional love from her parents: love was granted in return for meeting their unrealistic and, therefore, inevitably frustrating expectations.
Such patients resort to fantasy and develop a deficient reality test when it comes to their romantic liaisons. The patient lacks self-awareness and sets conflicting goals for her intimate partners: they are supposed to provide sex, intimacy, companionship and friendship - but also agree to be objectified and to self-deny in order to fulfil their roles in the codependent's "film".
To develop realistic expectations regarding love, romance, and relationships as well as relationship skills.
The narcissistic codependent idealizes her intimate romantic partners and then devalues them. She seeks to "mold" and "sculpt" them to conform to her vision of the relationship. She deprives them of their self-autonomy and makes all decisions for them. In other words: she treats them as objects, she objectifies them. Such a patient is also a verbal and, at times, physical abuser. This impoverishes her relationships and hinders the development of real intimacy and love: there is no real sharing, no discourse, common interests, or joint personal growth.
Owing to the patient's insecure attachment style and abandonment/separation anxiety, she tends to cling to her partner, monopolize his time, smother him, and secure his presence and affection with material gifts (she is a compulsive giver.) As she holds himself worthless and a loser, she finds it hard to believe that any man would attach to her voluntarily, without being bribed or coerced to do so. She tends to suspect her partner's motives and is somewhat paranoid. She is possessive and romantically jealous, though not exceedingly so. This environment tends to foster aversions in her romantic partners.
To develop a productive and healthy attachment style and learn relationship skills.
The codependent's proclaimed desire for stability, safety, predictability, and reliability conflicts with her lifestyle which is itinerant, labile, chaotic, and involves addictive and reckless behaviors. Her need for drama, excitement, and thrill (adrenaline junkie) extends to her romantic relationships. Owing to her low threshold for boredom and multiple depressive, dysphoric, anhedonic, and anergic episodes, she seeks distractions and the partner to provide them. She, therefore, shows a marked preference for men with mental health issues who are likely to lead disorganized lives and to react to her abuse dramatically and theatrically.
Learn how to choose partners who would bring stability and safety into the relationship and how to interact with them constructively. Learn anger management skills.
The narcissistic codependent has strong narcissistic defences, especially when it comes to maintaining her grandiosity with the aid of narcissistic supply. She needs to feel chosen and desired (a flip coin of and antidote to her fear of rejection); be the centre of attention (vicariously, via her intimate partner); and to conform to expectations, values, of judgments or her peer group, relatives, and other role models and reference figures. See: Inverted Narcissist.
To develop a more realistic assessment of herself and her romantic partners and, thus, reduce her dependence on narcissistic defences and narcissistic supply.
Note on the Significant Other as a Persecutory Object
When the same person is diagnosed with Dependent and with Borderline Personality Disorders (a common comorbidity), the psychodynamic landscape is rendered more intractable.
Other (SI) of such a Compounded Patient (CP) is sometimes her conscience,
her inner voice or critic (introject), and her compass
in the chaotic, stormy, and dangerous ocean that is her inner world. When CP is
with her SI, she is the Good Person.
When she is away from him - or he is away from her – she loses her self-control and becomes the bad, evil, and promiscuous or perverted object who is a danger to herself and to others and who is “sinful” in her own eyes.
The SI is a rock because he loves the Good Person and because he is a sane and stable voice in her life. Only with him can she be the Good Person.
The CP is terrified and loth to leave her SI because then the Evil, Worthless Object – her other, darker side – will take over. She is very afraid of the bad, psychopathic, person lurking inside her. She is worried that she might abrogate all governance over herself and over her life. The SI provides her with the self-control that she so misses and regulates her emotions and her ego functions.
On his part, the SI pities the CP and sees her as a wounded and broken child in need of help and protection (which, in some ways, she truly is).
The CP is projecting: she sees her SI exactly the same way that he sees her: she pities him and regards him as a broken child.
No other person had ever succeeded to bring out the Good Person or to provide the CP with even a modicum of self-control. Only the SI accomplishes these two feats. The CP interprets this fact as proof that only the SI has ever truly loved her.
In the meantime, the Evil Worthless Object is unhappy. To motivate the Good Person to abandon the SI (i.e. to commit psychological suicide), she convinces the Good Person that the core problem in the relationship is a lack of love, intimacy, and sex. But Evil Worthless Object does not need or want love, intimacy, or even sex. She is just deceiving the Good Person in order to convince her to dump the SI. By ridding herself of the SI’s oversight, Evil Worthless Object aspires to disentangle herself from the Good Person and be free finally!
Evil Worthless Object perceives SI as a Persecutory Object in order to achieve two goals: 1. Justify her promiscuity and cheating (“he is abusive, hence my misconduct”); and 2. Ruin any intimacy between Good Person and SI.
Cope with Depression by Facing Reality
Life moves in three concentric circles:
1. One's current life
2. Alternatives to one's current life (other intimate partners, new careers)
3. The space of potential alternatives (right now non-existent, owing to pandemic).
The secret to a successful life is to wait for at least 1 of these circles to turn to a success and then focus on it exclusively and exclude the 2 other circled, ignore them as counterproductive distractions.
It is a cardinal mistake to focus on more than 1 circle at a time, even when 2 or 3 of them are going well.
It is also self-defeating to try to simultaneously convert more than 1 circle from failure to success.
As they say in the Big Book of AA: dwell on and commit yourself exclusively to one of the three circles at any given time and invest your all only in that circle for as long as it is working for you.
Life progresses one circle at a time.
people lead a vertical life: they focus on narrow slivers of existence and
experience and delve deep into them, fostering intimacy and deriving comfort
from the familiar. These are the ants.
Others are horizontalists: they sample the riches that reality has on offer, never committing or investing themselves for long or thoroughly to anything or anyone. These are the grasshoppers or butterflies.
What is the good or right life (eudemonia)? There is no definitive answer: to each his own. Both paths are pursued by virtuous and mature adults and yield happiness.
Yet, the verticalists have a tendency to claim the high moral ground, castigate the horizontalists, and try to impose their values and choices on everyone.
Some horizontalists internalize these criticisms and experience shame, guilt, and malignant nostalgia for places, people, and periods they had put behind them in their pursuit of novelty and risk.
The vertical majority condemn the hapless members of the horizontal minority unless they conform to vertical values like making money, creating a family, pursuing a career, or becoming famous and powerful.
To maintain social control and guarantee adherence, they slap labels such as "narcissistic" or "antisocial" on any alternative lifestyle.
is a metaphor: it is designed
to reify psychological transformations, both social and individuals and to
cater to the needs that arise out of these increasingly more frequent and
potent upheavals. Social media is intimately correlated with the tsunami of
grandiose narcissism, for instance.
Similarly, the cloud reflects the new organizational principle of our society: a stable core (the server) surrounded with immanently transient elements (the digital content).
In our personal lives, most of us maintain a long-term partner and multiple affairs, emotional or sexual, or both. Monogamy and exclusivity had perished under the multidimensional onslaught of modernity.
The arrangement with the life partner is transactional: building a home or a family together or co-owning a business. We resort to other people intermittently and temporarily for fun, novelty, thrills, intimacy, succor, sex, and adventures.
We invest in our brands, updating our skillset, continuously learning and networking. This is the kernel of stability. But we change several jobs and even careers in a typical lifespan.
Self-love is a healthy
self-regard and the pursuit of one's happiness and favorable outcomes. It rests
on four pillars:
1. Self-awareness: an intimate, detailed and compassionate knowledge of oneself, a SWOT analysis: strengths, weaknesses, others's roles, and threats
2. Self-acceptance: the unconditional embrace of one's core identity, personality, character, temperament, relationships, experiences, and life circumstances.
3. Self-trust: the conviction that one has one's best interests in mind, is watching one's back, and has agency and autonomy: one is not controlled by or dependent upon others in a compromising fashion
4. Self-efficacy: the belief, gleaned from and honed by experience, that one is capable of setting rational, realistic, and beneficial goals and possesses the wherewithal to realize outcomes commensurate with one's aims.
Self love is the only reliable compass in life. Experience usually comes too late, when its lessons can no longer be implemented because of old age, lost opportunities, and changed circumstances. It is also pretty useless: no two people or situations are the same. But self-love is a rock: a stable, reliable, immovable, and immutable guide and the truest of loyal friends whose only concern in your welfare and contentment.
Some people are considered
"lucky": they end up with most things we deem desirable: family,
friends, comfortable existence, a creative legacy, pride of profession, a
respectable place in their community.
Such happy-go-luckies may even be unhappy for stretches of time, or encounter serious drawbacks as individuals or in their circumstances - but they end up having a well-rounded accomplished lives.
These are the conditions for such attainment:
1. Be sufficiently
2. Have a stable core of friends, family, and collaborators
3. Formal higher or vocational education
4. Marketable and transferable skills
5. Modesty and easygoing personality
6. Friendly gregariousness with a real interest in others
7. Both industriousness and thoroughness (attention to detail)
8. Chosen (not reluctant or mandatory) commitment, however outlandish
9. Absent the above, acting (thespian) talent and the will to use it to manipulate people by faking empathy, emotions, and commonalities.
Most narcissists and
psychopaths are pro-social and leverage their pathology to engender a cult-like
following. They profit and benefit from their human environment.
Yet, a tiny minority of narcissists cannot be bothered: their grandiosity is so extreme, they consider themselves so vastly superior, they hold everyone in such profound disdain and contempt, that any interaction with others, however insignificant, causes them narcissistic injury. It renders them sadistic.
In today's world luck and location help but are not crucial as they used to be before modern technologies transformed the conditions for success.
Akin to a cult, in a shared psychosis there is an inducer or primary "leader" and an induced or secondary member. The inducer constructs the canonical and codified narrative and the codex of rules of conduct, including a list of transgressions and punishments. The induced members abide by these constructs and adhere to them. Banishment is typically the penalty for the most egregious violations of the compact.
The shared psychosis inculcates and promotes a paranoid theory of everything and an idiosyncratic lingo. It pertains to the group, its dynamics, its immediate environment (its external enemies), and making sense of the world at large.
A shared fantasy is a collaborative surrealistic narrative which involves two or more equipotent participants in a dream state. It comes replete with imaginary goals and emergent roles for everyone involved (usually, two people in a dyad). It refers strictly to the members, the attributes of their emotions (such as their identity or intensity), the inner dynamics, their utopian or dystopian future, and unrealistic plans to make it happen or to forestall it.
Many love affairs and certain types of sexual practices (BDSM, sadistic sex) amount to shared fantasies which incorporate attempt to recreate unresolved early childhood conflicts with parental figures and also to avoid true intimacy and realistic life goals.
Abusers control their victims
by rendering their lives meaningless and inconsequential. The prey adopts the abuser's
point of view: "You are nothing
without me, unworthy trash, bad, sad, and mad". This kind of perpetual
rejection and hurt often renders the abuser's judgment a self-fulfilling
prophecy: CPTSD survivors are typically indistinguishable from patients with
Borderline Personality Disorder in their impulsivity, recklessness,
promiscuity, substance abuse, mood lability, and emotional dysregulation.
Exposed to the abuser's grinding and relentless devaluation, his "intimate" partners and (in)significant others resort to vengeful and demonstrative self-trashing intended to hurt the perpetrator by debasing his "property" often in humiliating public displays of infidelity and drunkenness or by committing antisocial, even criminal, acts.
With these self-destructive actions, the victim is protesting: "You say that my life is meaningless? I am going to make myself meaningful to you via your pain, by harming you, and by traumatizing and provoking you!"
Self-analysis, rumination, and intrusive thoughts (or obsession, in extreme cases) are often
Two simple tests to distinguish between them would be:
1. Am I focused on finding solutions (self-analysis) or on revisiting and re-examining problems and debacles from different angles which can have no bearing on my reality now or in the future (rumination)? If the answer is "neither" and you cannot switch off your cognitions, then you are dealing with intrusive thoughts.
2. Are the lessons I am trying to derive relevant to my life anymore (self-analysis) or am I engaged in a theoretical, retrospective, inapplicable exercise (rumination)? If your recurrent unpleasant and unwanted thoughts have nothing to do with learning or with behavior modification, they are obsessive or intrusive ones.
Many of you have been so wounded
in the past that you do not trust yourself to make the right decisions anymore.
You let these bad advisors: anxiety, wariness, and even fear dictate your choices and decisions and constrict your life.
In modern society, we are narcissistically obsessed with avoiding hurt, pain, and death altogether or at least postponing them indefinitely.
But pain and death are the only two things, apart from love, that give life any meaning. They are the greatest teachers, the engines of personal growth and development.
Even depression is not such a bad thing. It is like trash collection: it is how we process inner debris.
We should not seek these negative emotions and experiences out - but we should welcome them with an open mind and, much more crucially, an open heart.
is the real pandemic of modern life: sex, relationships, work, country and most
everything else have been rendered insignificant. But some people have
transformed arbitrary opportunism, random couplings, and carpe diem into a work
of art, an avocation, and a vocation.
People who do meaningless and emotionless are possessed of a labile (dysregulated) sense of self-worth coupled with one of two: 1. Low self-efficacy (for example, as an outcome of a less than mediocre intelligence) OR 2. Disrupted childhood in a dysfunctional family.
They trash themselves recklessly either because they feel nothing and are committed and attached to no one - or because they feel too much and are overwhelmed. Sometimes, they misbehave they misbehave in a desperate lurch, an attempt to transition from the first state to the second.
Depression is another label for hopelessness. When we see no prospect for a happier, hope-filled
future, our present is rendered unbearable.
Why no such hope for the future? Because we refuse to let go of the past, because we try to keep our past alive. The present is merely the name we give to the results of our past choices.
Both the past and the future are mere dreams. But you cannot have two dreams simultaneously. Either you wake up from your past and then dream your future - or you have no future.
So: let go! It is over! You can be happy! Choose the future and its happiness over your past and its misery.
Abandon your comfort zone.
Try new things. Challenge yourself. Western psychotherapies and life coaching
are predicated on these romantic-individualistic ideas of life as a voyage and
the client as an intrepid argonaut.
This is an extension of the psychoanalytic techniques of rendering unconscious repressed content conscious and thus liberating the patients and unleashing their potential.
But mental energy is never wasted. Repressed memories and drives are buried deep for excellent reasons. Similarly, we create the comfort zone over decades of trial and error in order to minimize anxiety and enhance performance. Hence"comfort". While in the comfort zone we feel that we are in control, less vulnerable, happier, our needs and wishes, both material and emotional, satisfied and catered to. The comfort zone is the way we structure life, what we seek and shun, habits, routines and rituals, patterned repetitive behaviors, even compulsions. Two people or more can inhabit the same comfort zone in a shared psychosis or a cult.
My comfort zone is sitting all by myself at home and writing or reading. Forever. Every other type of activity and any encounter with people - men and women - makes me anxious and depletes my energy. I don't belong. I am out of my natural habitat. Men - and especially women - sense my distress and oddity and avoid me like the plague.
Every single time I have tried to exit my comfort zone - to fall in love, to make friends, to collaborate with others, to give services, or to sell products - it ended in life-threatening heartbreaks (major depressive episodes) and in orgies of furious self-destruction.
is a form of habitual thinking informed by several interlocking cognitive
deficits. It often leads to emotional dysregulation.
But, to simplify matters, catastrophic thinking can be broken down to two escalating components:
1. If something BAD is possible then it is probable and likely to happen. This leads to anxiety responses and disorders and dysregulates one's sense of self-worth, self-esteem, and self-confidence.
2. If something BAD is probable then it is certain, it will occur for sure. This strand results in hypochondriasis, phobias, traumas, and post-traumatic conditions and responses (such as CPTSD and PTSR).
Both hidden assumptions are utterly irrational, of course. Most possible things are very improbable and most probable things never materialize.
The three malignancies are: malignant optimism,
malignant egalitarianism - and malignant tolerance.
Malignant tolerance is the belief that any behavior and any speech act - anything - go and are acceptable and permissible in the private sphere (aka moral relativism). All inhibitions and constraints should be relegated exclusively to the public sphere (examples: political correctness, metoo, and similar social phenomena). This dichotomy has pernicious and insidious implications.
Malignant tolerance suppresses public free speech and other forms of expression even as it fosters in the private sphere malignant individualism that borders on narcissism.
In this sense, malignant tolerance creates a dynamic similar to the narcissist-codependent dyad with every individual as the narcissist and society at large as a codependent. It was only a matter of time before narcissists like Trump, Duterte, Putin, Erdogan, and now Bolsonaro took advantage of this sick intercourse between private and public to vault themselves into positions of leadership.
Munchausen by Narcissist: seeking interactions and relationships with
narcissists in order to be victimized by the narcissist and thus secure
attention, commiseration, sympathy, and resources from mental health
professionals, victims and survivors online, the community or society, and
friends and family.
Munchausen by Narcissist is akin to the two other Munchausen syndromes (Factitious Disorders), observed mostly among women.
In the classic Munchausen Syndrome, the patient feigns physical illnesses or actually hurts herself in order to attract the attention and compassion of medical staff.
In Munchausen by Proxy, the patient causes other people - usually her own children - to become gravely ill (for example: by poisoning them) in order to become the center of attention, pity, and admiration of doctors, nurses, and spectators.
Relationships with narcissists and psychopaths end in depression precisely because they deny your reality, withhold validation and closure, and force you into their thwarted shared fantasy.
I love you (as long as you function and serve me and my needs and goals);
I care for you (as a maintenance chore);
You are the only one (at this stage);
I never lie (it is a lie, of course);
You are the best (anything else you would like me to say in order to secure your subservient presence?);
I will change, this time it will be different (but not with you);
Tell me the truth (don't dare!);
You can trust me (most retarded amnesiacs do!);
I have my principles (the first amongst which is: have no principles);
I cannot be bought (for this price, but I am open to haggling);
I am superintelligent and can see things that you can't (luckily for me, or you would have abandoned me long ago).
Neglect is when one's
intimate partner does not care about one's needs, emotions, or wishes and does
not mind or interfere with one's behaviors or choices, however self-destructive
or harmful or hurtful they may be.
Two forms of neglect are benign indifference (one's partner is available only on explicit demand, "on call") and malignant freedom: "Feel at liberty to do whatever you want with whoever you wish, just don't bother me with the details"
Neglect is not the same as active and overt verbal, sexual, or emotional rejection: pushing you away and asking you to absent yourself in every way.
Neglect also does not involve withholding of sex or of attention when both are asked for openly and clearly.
But it may well be the most pernicious form of abuse because it implies and broadcasts a lack of emotional investment and interest in the partner that obviates her uniqueness and importance as an individual.
Abuse frustrates its victims
and, as Dollard and Miller observed back in 1939, frustration
But aggression is multifarious and protean.
Some victims verbalize and externalize their helpless rage and convert it into premeditated actions that are intended to be both punitive and restorative: hurt the abuser, eliminate the asymmetry of power, and restore the relationship on healthier foundations. Many extramarital love affairs attempt to accomplish precisely these goals.
Other victims sublimate their impotent anger into negativistic passive-aggression. When they finally do act, their explosive, impulsive, reckless, and destructive actions ("acting out") are intended to undermine the relationship irrevocably and extricate them from what had become an intolerable torture chamber.
People forgive aggressiveness, abrasiveness, and rudeness on three conditions:
1. That these are the untoward aspects of someone who get things done - not a wannabe loser.
The loser's contemptuous grandiosity is incommensurate with his drab circumstances and meager accomplishments. It is this gap between pretension and reality, ersatz and echt, that grates and provokes derision, rejection, disdain, disrespect, and abuse.
2. That these are the flaws of an otherwise normal or average person, just like everyone else - or of a genius of a transformative and revolutionary nature. Again, the indolent slacker and delusional underachiever who claims to be a genius, but is actually even less than mediocre, will not be forgiven for such misconduct.
3. That the transgressions were committed during a creative or a transformational undertaking, mission, or enterprise - or during a time of great crisis. Drama queens and fakes fare badly when they try to poorly imitate or render these environments and constraints.
People attract and are
attracted to partners who satisfy deep emotional needs and restore the comfort
zone. Even abusers and stalkers fulfill these two critical functions for their prey.
The need to be seen, noticed, and attended to is overwhelming even in healthy folks. Stalkers focus on their targets to the exclusion of all and everybody else. Being the aim of such inordinate attention is intoxicating. Some stalkers even take or leave trophies as signals of their omnipresence in their quarry's life and their micromanaged control.
Those who repeatedly pair up with stalkers actually dread loneliness because they maintain an impoverished inner environment: their introjects are sadistic and their internal objects are inaccessible because they are suffused with pain and other negative emotions
In other words: habitual intimate partners of abusers and stalkers cannot sustain an inner dialog with their depleted and wounded selves. The stalker's constant presence restores object constancy and permanence and fills the voided, howling, and all-consuming emptiness at his mate's missing core (first described by Kernberg).
Severely traumatized victims
of abuse (with PTSD and CPTSD) often become avoidant. But they also display
psychopathic and narcissistic traits and behaviors. These are reactive and
transient: they vanish without a trace once the victims are nurtured back to
health in a holding and loving environment and go full-fledged no contact with
The psychopathic and narcissistic overlays (these acquired responsive learned traits and behaviors) do not amount to personality styles and disorders. They just serve to counter the abuse or contain it and restore eroded self-efficacy and a sense of agency in the traumatic space. In this sense, they are actually healthy and indicative of resilience.
The victim becomes self-centred, dysempathic, defiant, goal-oriented, reckless, lying, or aggressive just in order to survive in the pathological environment and the multifarious assaults on her identity and individuality.
Some victims of abuse are
like disabled people: they tend to leverage their suffering to evade
responsibility for their lives and to emotionally blackmail and manipulate
Regrettably, self-efficacious strategies tend to ossify and perpetuate themselves: these victims or invalids tend to transform their plight into a profession or an identity or both.
Beware of Professional
victimhood is fast becoming a pandemic of
self-aggrandisement (“I am an empath, N-magnet, utterly innocent victim,
collateral damage”), mediated by social media and other online services.
Victimhood is disempowering. Survival implies inner strength and resilience in
the face of natural disasters. Your relationships are choices, not catastrophes
to which you had contributed nothing.
Being a perpetual and proud victim as a pivotal part of one's identity serves many important psychological needs from attention seeking to possessing a sense of accomplishment. Surviving abuse is often the only notable feat of such sempiternal sacrificial lambs.
Gradually, ingrained and all-pervasive victimhood begins to shape behavior. Many victims themselves become abusively self-righteous and intolerant of others.
Victimhood is a potent organizing principle. It imbues one's personal history with meaning, sense, and purpose; accounts for and excuses failures and setbacks; and predicts one's future trajectory with uncanny accuracy.
Victim-stance is often aided and abetted by self-interested or misguidedly sympathetic friends, life coaches, counsellors, therapists, social workers, law enforcement, courts, guardians and other parties. Thus sanctioned and sanctified by the agents of society, victimhood becomes entrenched and, therefore, an ideology.
To qualify as a true dilemma, a conundrum that confounds decision making, three
elements must exist: choice, valence, and equipotence.
Often it seems like we have a choice, but actually we do not. What we will end up doing is a foregone conclusion, predetermined, not to say predestined.
Valence means good or bad, desirable or unwanted, right or wrong. For a dilemma to manifest, each of its horns must have the same valence and be unambiguous, monovalent. A dilemma is between two good or bad alternatives, not between a good one and a bad one.
The potency of the different options must be the same: they must be equally bad or equally good.
One way to resolve a dilemma (to opt for one of the two horns) is to imagine one's life without each of the two outcomes and then see where happiness is maximized.
Do not confuse assertiveness with aggression.
People with personality
disorders are easily suggestible and so are post-traumatized victims of abuse.
This is because both groups maintain an external locus of control (believe that their lives are largely determined by outside influences and persons)
In an attempt to overturn these alleged mind control and brainwashing, members of both groups often resort to defiant counterdependence: doing the polar opposite of what had been expected of them hitherto, turning from compliance and conformity to rebelliousness, recklessness, and antisocial acts.
Mirror conversion - is when survivors of CPTSD in intimate relationships adopt behaviors which are diametrically opposed to their habitual conduct and fly in the face of their character and what they thought they had known about themselves.
The most common example among women is a shift from sexual faithfulness to the abusive partner grounded in conservative values and mores - to promiscuous, ostentatious, and "sluttish" infidelity, often coupled with substance abuse and other self-destructive acts. Other examples: from empathic to psychopathic and from deep emotional bonding to flat attachment (no connection to any one specific partner and changing partners fast and often).
Both having free choice and
maintaining meaningful relationships provoke angst (anxiety or dread) in broken,
damaged, traumatized, or mentally ill people.
This existential crisis is further exacerbated to unbearable and intolerable levels by a rejecting and abusive partner. The resulting pain leads to decompensation and to reckless, self-destructive and self-trashing acting out. Such people, often on sudden impulse, then team up with rogue, dangerous, psychopathic, and predatory counterparties as instruments of personal doom and self-mutilation for one night or longer.
Egregious misbehavior is irresistible in such circumstances because it fulfills multiple critical psychological roles and needs. Apart from self-debasement and self-punishment, it also provides ersatz empathic intimacy from the new partner and serves as a signalling function: a cry for help, a beacon of distress, intended to elicit a reaction - any reaction! - from the incalcitrant significant other.
Post-traumatized people have zero tolerance for uncertainty. The intimate partner's approach-avoidance and intermittent reinforcement (abuse-love bombing-grooming-hoovering) drive them up the insanity wall.
Misbehaving badly in any way (including ostentatious cheating) is a way of forcing the partner's hand: wake up, forgive me, and love me from now on - or dump me and let me go. It is brinkmanship at its most acute and actually a rational strategy.
People with an external locus
of control have fuzzy boundaries: they outsource their boundaries, they look to
others to determine for them which rules of conduct they should adopt and
observe and what constitutes unacceptable misconduct. A man with crisp
boundaries would say to himself: "I won't sleep with another woman because
I have a girlfriend". A fuzzy-boundaried man would exclaim: "I will
sleep with another woman and if my girlfriend objects to it, I won't do it
again." Fuzzy boundaries are also ways to gauge the partner's emotional
involvement, commitment, and caring.
People with fuzzy boundaries have low tolerance for uncertainty and their predicament is exacerbated when their partner is approach-avoidant or has a dysfunctional attachment style. Their wellbeing depends on the relationship being close-ended (with clear rules), not open-ended (involving guesswork and constant pushing of the envelope of permitted and acceptable behavior)
Narcissists prefer open-ended permissive liaisons because in such dyads their retaliatory or preemptive abusive misconduct is legitimized and justified. The intimate partner's own egregious transgressions are "agreed on" and, thus, rendered less hurtful. Disattachment (flat attachment) is the narcissist's way of managing a relationship with a fractious and defiant mate whose inner landscape is nightmarish and disorganized.
There is a difference between DEFIANCE (an antisocial/psychopathic behavior typical of antisocial narcissists) and ASSERTIVENESS (healthy self-esteem coupled with self-awareness and enforced personal boundaries). Defiance is dysfunctional.
Motivation is rarely fully revealed in planning.
In other words: motivation is like background noise. When the opportunity presents itself and the circumstances are right - motivation pushes you to do things even if you had no conscious intention or plan to do them to start with!
People often confuse habits and identity.
Many promiscuous people can be are ultra-conservative with potential sexual partners (habit), frigid, and have sex very rarely (habit). But this is because they are terrified of their sex drive.
This is just an example how observing only habits and actions can be very misleading.
So we must never conflate or confute identity and habits, personality and actions.
EGO DYSTONY and EGO INCONGRUENCE
Our self-awareness and the awareness of our environment is very selective.
We suppress information that makes us feel bad or uncomfortable, challenges our beliefs about ourselves, others, or the world, undermines narratives that regulate negative emotions (such as guilt or shame) in order to preserve ego syntony, or contradicts our self-perception.
Such ego incongruent information creates ego dystony.
We often confuse priorities
with wishes, plans, obligations, and emergencies.
Priorities imply no choice but to act in a certain way as long as the priority is in place. Priorities constrict one's freedom of action and limit one's free will. They are very much like values or laws or mores and rules of conduct.
We can, of course, eliminate priorities, add new ones, or reorder them
With wishes, emergencies, plans, and obligations there is a choice on HOW to act and WHETHER to act.
We might feel guilty or ashamed or frustrated if we fail to meet our obligations, realize our plans, and fulfil our wishes.
But failing to conform to our priorities provokes a deep dissonance and all manner of psychological dysfunction. It is perceived as a far more profound and fundamental abrogation of duty.
is one of the more pernicious legacies of Freud: the counterfactual insistence
that human action and inaction have emotional, environmental, and biographical
antecedents that can be unerringly unearthed and reconstructed.
Freud firmly believed that he was charting a new "physics of the mind", a science, akin to the natural sciences. Other branches of the social "sciences" developed similar grandiose pretensions and the medicalization of psychiatry rendered psychology an ostensible branch of medicine where causes invariably lead to effects.
The truth, of course, is radically different.
People are irrational. They often act without rhyme or reason, against their best interests, ignoring the consequences of their actions or inaction, and under a bewildering array of interacting internal and external stimuli too numerous or complex to identify or enumerate.
Overanalyzing is counterproductive. Most people are suggestible, aim to please and to conform, and prone to false memories. It behooves psychology to be way more humble and focus on dispensing good and tried advice on various life issues. It is as much a wannabe science as it is a form of glorified literature and should know its place.
The Japanese call it: mono no aware.
Our expectations, beliefs,
automatic thoughts (cognitions), and guiding values shape our lives. But,
equally as importantly, they drive people to act the way we anticipate, via a
process called projective identification (the stimulus we provide) and
introjective identification (the reactions to our signals)
Prophecies are often self-fulfilling because people aim to please and conform and are suggestible. They pick up cues and act on them compliantly, even if the required course of action conflicts with their own opinions and judgments.
Wherever and with whoever we may find ourselves, we attempt to reconstitute our comfort zone: the set of default environmental parameters and human behaviors that we grew up with and on and which we find comfortingly familiar. Within the comfort zone, we operate with maximal agency and efficacy to mould people and circumstances to cater to our needs, both emotional and physical.
The comfort zone could be a negative ambience: an abusive or painful relationship, for example. But it is always predictable, manageable, and certain. As a rule, comfort zones ameliorate anxiety and reduce stress and apprehension.
We reject and resent those who
challenge our self-perception and self-image. It takes decades of emotional investment and the
processing of vast swathes of memories to form a coherent experience of
Even if we regard ourselves in largely negative terms, we refuse to countenance an alternative, more positive point of view. We fiercely defend our hard-earned storyline about who we are against countervailing information and its purveyors, even the well-meaning ones.
Consequently, if we believe that we are mentally ill, broken, hopeless damaged goods, we will seek to hurt, remove from our lives, push away, or even annihilate anyone who loves us, accepts us, forgives us, makes us feel safe and at home, and trusts in us. When we fail to make these nearest and dearest conform to our doomsday scenarios about our irredeemably corrupt identity - we hurt them horribly and punish them cruelly and this way uphold our sense of our core as evil and incorrigible.
We do not get attached
to people because of who they are. We
fall in love and bond with others only when they cater to our emotional and
physical needs and because they do. When they no longer fulfil this role
efficaciously, we move on. Discarding the old and ushering in its substitute
involves heartbreak, anger, and grief, true. But, still: we are all totally
interchangeable and replaceable. "Mr. Right", the perfect match is a
mere dating app matchmakers' myth
Being relegated to the trash heap of a relationship and witnessing how seamlessly your loved one has transitioned to the next provider is possibly the worst narcissistic injury imaginable: it profoundly challenges one's sense of uniqueness and, therefore, lovability. It is an existential threat mediated via the deepest loss. It provokes a host of infantile defenses such as splitting, immature behaviors such as clinging, raw and dysregulated emotions, such as jealousy and rage, and even paranoid and suicidal ideation. In extreme cases it can lead to clinical (major) depression, decompensation, reckless acting out, and reactive psychosis.
Exactly like one's
personality, mental illness is all-pervasive and an integral part of one's
identity. Over the years, the disorder becomes an organizing and explanatory
principle, which imbues life with meaning and goal-focused direction. Mental
illness is addictive and encourages cathexis (emotional investment). It also
absolves the patient of responsibility for hurtful misbehavior and allows him
to manipulate and extort loved ones and others into compliance and abetting
misconduct. Mental illness is, therefore, a useful tool for ascertaining
desirable outcomes in his or her human and institutional environment.
One oft-overlooked aspect of derangement is that mental illness constitutes a comfort zone: familiar, safe, and anxiolytic. Healing, therefore, is perceived as a threat. Hence therapeutic phenomena such as resistances, abreaction, and transference.
The healed mental patient has lost his or her crutches: s/he feels disoriented, helpless, inefficacious, and confused ("brain fog"). Many treated patients panic, decompensate, and act out recklessly and dysempathically.
In a way curing mental illness requires the patient to endure multiple traumas and to develop narcissistic and psychopathic defenses.
Often we assign to ourselves roles that fly in the face of who we really are: our
predilections, predisposition, qualities, traits, talents, skills, personality,
This conflict between reality and wishful thinking ineluctably leads to frustration, self-defeat, aggression, and, in extremis, self-loathing and self-destruction. Not everyone is built and destined to be a husband, a wife, a parent, a lover, a healer, a fixer, a businessman, a success, a friend, or a leader.
Roles give rise to boundaries. But when there is a discrepancy between the world and one's self-perception, enforced boundaries translate badly into rabid reclusiveness and the outright and rude rejection of others.
How long will it take you to
recover from a traumatic breakup or from infidelity by your cherished partner?
And will you be able to remain friends afterwards or will you go no contact? Will
you try again, give each other a second chance at relationship recovery?
Answer these six questions in the Heartbreak and Recovery Scale (HeRS):
1. Did what s/he do come as a shock to you - or was it predictable, the culmination of a visible process?
2. Did s/he humiliate you in the process, especially in public and in front of your peers?
3. Did you react with anger or even rage that just wouldn't go away?
4. Following the events, were you desperate and in the throes of castastophising ("I will never find someone to replace her") or negative automatic thoughts ("I always fail in my relationships")?
5. In the aftermath, did you experience profound sadness (dysphoria) and nothing gave you pleasure (anhedonia)?
6. Finally, in the wake of the dissolution of the bond, did you feel excruciating pain, overwhelming romantic jealousy, or pathological envy?
If you scored 2-3, it is improbable that you will ever be in touch again. A score of 4 prefaces a new phase of mere friendship or companionship between the two of you. A score of 5 or 6 leads to frenzied - though usually doomed - attempts to restore the relationship to its former romantic self.
Many additional Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Personality Disorders - click HERE!
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