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Codependents are Narcissists?

Old 03-19-2013, 08:56 AM
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Codependents are Narcissists?

What do you all think of that thought? I was reading from a book on narcissism and there was a section that claimed codependents are closet narcissists.

Here is an excerpt from "The Object of my Affection is in my Reflection", by Rachelle Lerner
"Also, those who label themselves as codependents are not necessarily narcissists. However, in my clinical experience, the driving force of many a codependent is not altruism. In many circumstances, their motivations are self-serving and may derive from a refusal or inability to tolerate the discomfort of others. For example,if such a person's spouse is unhappy, her assumption is that it's about her. This causes her such anxiety that she becomes desperate to alleviate his pain. Why? In large part so she can feel better. She makes the sadness go away by becoming a shape-shifter; she will become whatever he wants her to be so she can get rid of her uneasiness.

I believe that many who define themselves as codependents need to take a hard look at the underlying motivation behind their care taking. Could it be that we labeled many closeted narcissists as codependents? there is definitely some overlap here. Codependency could certainly describe a type of narcissistic behavior where one devotes his life to another and fawns over someone in order to get self-worth-while at the same time feeling resentful, bitter, and contemptuous."

There was more, but just a few paragraphs but this thought really threw me. I guess I never considered it but I can see the truth in it. What are your thoughts on this theory and book excerpt?
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Old 03-19-2013, 09:18 AM
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What I think is that we all have narcissistic tendencies and we will go to great lengths to hide our real motivations. That is why codependent study is so important to me. It has taught me to really evaluate my reasons for doing things - including others. Is it so that I can just feel better about myself? To relieve my own uneasiness? To make me feel virtuous?

The idea of codependent behaviors as narcissistic is a valid one as we often find our identity and worth in how much we do for others.
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Old 03-19-2013, 09:31 AM
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For me I don't see it as narcissism. I was raised in an alcoholic and dysfunctional home and I was pretty much taught that my wants and needs didn't matter. Being married to an alcoholic didn't really help. My purpose in life was make sure that other's were happy. I wasn't doing it to feel good about myself because that simply didn't matter. It was who I was.

Your friend,
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Old 03-19-2013, 09:31 AM
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I would find this to be the opposite... I believe I am codependent because I care too much about the well being of my EXAG, and want to make sure she is happy, safe and sound. Often to the detriment of my own mental health. I thought that narcassists have NO empathy for the feelings of others.
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Old 03-19-2013, 09:59 AM
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Hhhmmm...I think the definition of a narcissist is being taken very broadly here.

Now, the part about the codependent taking others' feelings personally does strike a chord with me. I know I did it in my marriage to my A. and he did it to me, probably even more so. But I don't see this as narcissism, as narcissists don't tend to be people-pleasers. They are self-pleasers to the very core, and to the detriment of others' feelings and needs.
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Old 03-19-2013, 10:03 AM
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This struck me hard when I first read it.

I think the part for me that responded so strongly is not about if I am naricisstic or not, but about how much in the past "labels" have been something for me to cling to, good or bad. At times I have worn my codependent label proudly because it meant that I cared about others for example. I have also done this with responsible, and I shy away from other labels like irresponsible, lazy etc.

As my recovery has progressed though I have realized that my codependency (or any other label) is about making others "okay" so am am less uncomfortable. Maybe it is narcissistic, maybe it is just codependent. I don't need either label anymore because what I have realized is that regardless of what it is labeled it is not healthy for me. It is a way I am trying to deflect my true authentic needs and my true feelings.

Sorry if that does not make a lot of sense. Another analogy that is coming to me is the label feel like the packaging on a box. My disorders though never let me get to the present inside....regardless of the packaging in place (codependent, naricisstic etc).

One more piece. I think this hit hard because I spent so much time wrapped up in the labels that it turned into another way I did not feel. That was what struck me on reading the initial post.
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Old 03-19-2013, 10:05 AM
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Crazed - it seems that the narcissism could come from the point of martyrdom - we (subconsciously) feel better when we sacrifice ourselves
'for someone else."

I can see both sides though. I was raised the opposite of m1k3. It was loving supportive home where I was told I could do anything I could dream of, and be anything I desire to be. Our needs were put above all else - above my parents financial abilities, above their relationship, above their time constraints. They put on a perfect front - we NEVER saw an argument, or stress because they were in dire financial straights. Our world SEEMED perfect. We were told we were the best, the smartest, the funniest - and all probably developed some ego and self contentedness issues in part because of that.

In adulthood, it has turned to "I am obviously always right" - and yeah, often at the expense of someone else's feelings. 9 failed long term relationships and 6 careers later, I can see it.
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Old 03-19-2013, 10:15 AM
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Here is an excerpt from "The Object of my Affection is in my Reflection", by Rachelle Lerner
"Also, those who label themselves as codependents are not necessarily narcissists. However, in my clinical experience, the driving force of many a codependent is not altruism. In many circumstances, their motivations are self-serving and may derive from a refusal or inability to tolerate the discomfort of others. For example,if such a person's spouse is unhappy, her assumption is that it's about her. This causes her such anxiety that she becomes desperate to alleviate his pain. Why? In large part so she can feel better. She makes the sadness go away by becoming a shape-shifter; she will become whatever he wants her to be so she can get rid of her uneasiness.


I believe that a lot of what co dependents do is to relieve their own discomfort. I know for me , I was so confused and upset by what was going on in my relationship that I would do almost anything to make it stop. My self esteem was totally gone, I did a lot of things I would not normally do, but I was so hard wired as a child, that it came naturally. There was definitely a huge gorge between my intellect and my emotions. I did it to relieve the deep pain in the relationship, not because it made me feel powerful. I actually felt powerless.

The author seems to be taking a long path around the issue.
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Old 03-19-2013, 10:22 AM
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For me, in the beginning of realizing that my H was not happy but not really knowing why I did take some of it personally and tried to do some things that I thought and that my H told me would help out. Unfortunately, the real issue was the drinking and after getting caught up in all of that and several years passing I could see how my insanity and desperation eventually leading into resentment and anger could be mistaken for narcissism.
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Old 03-19-2013, 10:43 AM
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oooppppps
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Old 03-19-2013, 11:09 AM
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I think that there is one very important thing to remember before grabbing for this "diagnosis".

Narcissists (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) are NORTORIOUSLY difficult to treat. As a matter of fact, you will be hard pressed to find one in treatment---unless literally forced by the judicial system or someone with a lot of leverage against them. Even in treatment--any changes or insight are usually rather minimal.

The reason for this being that, even though they can be insensitive and H*** on other people, they are exquisitely sensitive to the slightest criticism. They do not possess the ego strength for self examination that is often required in therapy. "Therapy" implies to them that they are flawed in some way--and therefore is very threatening.

Codependents are known to almost volunteer to accept quilt or take responsibility--where the true narcissist would rather die than do so.

We all have some of what could be called "Narcissistic" tendencies, sometimes, if we want to streeetch that label (LOL). It is a matter of degree. In the extreme, where it causes major disruptions or dysfunctions in the important relationships in our lives---it can then be called a disorder.

Of course, I am not the one saying this--the is paraphrasing from clinical writings by others on the subject.

Interesting note***I was married to such a person very early in my life---I got a divorce. He still hasn't changes one little bit!!!!!!

very sincerely, dandylion
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Old 03-19-2013, 11:58 AM
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This is a bunch of B#llS%#t. Here's exactly why.

(First, a much better more insightful and useful book is The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists by Payson.)

This writer says: However, in my clinical experience, the driving force of many a codependent is not altruism. In many circumstances, their motivations are self-serving and may derive from a refusal or inability to tolerate the discomfort of others. For example,if such a person's spouse is unhappy, her assumption is that it's about her. This causes her such anxiety that she becomes desperate to alleviate his pain. Why? In large part so she can feel better. She makes the sadness go away by becoming a shape-shifter; she will become whatever he wants her to be so she can get rid of her uneasiness.

A co-dependent does not become a co-dependent because of ANY driving force within them at all. Co-dependence is a reactive state of mind and behavior, not a defining state of being.

Narcissism is not initiated or motivated by anyone else's behavior; it is intrinsic to and embedded in the narcissist's very being and is displayed through their behavior.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, 1994, commonly referred to as DSM-IV, of the American Psychiatric Association defines a Personality Disorder as:

[I]An enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectation of the individual's culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment.


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders further defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder as:

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy.

The disorder begins by early adulthood and is indicated by at least five of the following:

1. An exaggerated sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

3. Believes he is "special" and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

4. Requires excessive admiration

5. Has a sense of entitlement

6. Selfishly takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends

7. Lacks empathy

In clinical terms, empathy is the ability to recognize and interpret other people's emotions. Lack of empathy may take two different directions: (a) accurate interpretation of others' emotions with no concern for others' distress, which is characteristic of psychopaths; and (b) the inability to recognize and accurately interpret other people's emotions, which is the NPD style.

8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him

9. Shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes.



Just compare the behavior of a co-dependent to this list, and it is clear that a co-dependent has little in common with a narcissist. Here's my take on it. In my view, a co-dependent:


1. Doesn't believe they personally are worth much or anything.

2. Is so often distracted with the narcissist/alcoholic/substance abuser that they have no idea of what their own life is about at all.

3. Often believes they are worthless; certainly believes their narcissist/alcoholic/substance abuser is worth the bulk of their attention, to the detriment of their own life.

4. Doesn't get much admiration at all; often believes their abusers denigration of them, to the point of making their self-definition based on their abuser's destructive negative view.

5. Doesn't believe they are entitled to much of anything except the leftovers.

6. Puts their own needs last to take care of their abuser.

7. Excessive empathy - the ability to imagine and relate to their abuser's lives - often leads them into trying to live their abuser's lives for them.

8. Believes their worthlessness and often is unable to believe positive comments about themselves from others.

9. Is more often apologetic about even living.

For the author quoted above to write what she wrote is just unbelievable and kind of unconscionable. Clearly she has never lived with a true narcissist. She says of the co-dependent:

"their motivations are self-serving and may derive from a refusal or inability to tolerate the discomfort of others... if such a person's spouse is unhappy, her assumption is that it's about her. This causes her such anxiety that she becomes desperate to alleviate his pain."

Does she not get that a narcissist/other abuser's mode of behavior is to inflict their problems on someone else, then blame and punish that person? It isn't just the "discomfort" of the narcissist that the co-dependent can't tolerate. It's the pain and conflict and emotional destruction that the narcissist inflicts on them that's the problem.

"Why? In large part so she can feel better. She makes the sadness go away by becoming a shape-shifter; she will become whatever he wants her to be so she can get rid of her uneasiness."

H#ll no. The co-dependent doesn't try to make the narcissist's "sadness" go away "so she can get rid of her uneasiness"; the co-dependent is fighting for their own intellectual and emotional life, the very core of their self-esteem is being systematically, cruelly, and effectively attacked.

The question for the co-dependent, in my view, is "Why, what are the factors that are causing you to give up your own identity and life for someone so toxic to you and to persist in that behavior?" So far, The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships by Carnes, PH.D, is the most insightful and constructive book I've found about how you get these life suckers out of your veins.

I'll send my narcissist to live with the author quoted above anyday, and she can get real. I doubt that with her apologist self-demeaning attitude she'd last a day in what many of us have endured for years.

Sorry for the diatribe. My very own narcissist isn't behaving very well these days. Didn't mean to fillay the author when it really should be my STBXAH getting "hung, drawn, and quartered" like they did in the 1300's in England for treason. Send me the sword.

I feel a little better, though.


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Old 03-19-2013, 12:08 PM
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There's capital-N Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and narcissism, a trait described as being self-serving and/or selfish.

I have an ex with NPD. It's nightmarish, especially when you get on his bad side. If anyone is interested I can certainly share more of my experiences what it was like to date, go through a custody battle with, and co-parent with him.

People who are narcissistic are just self-absorbed and/or selfish. I think of my mother, for example, who I also consider co-dependent, who asks questions and doesn't wait for answers, who tries to control me with unsolicited advice and mico-managing my life as an adult, whose recollections of my childhood are self-serving, and who can't handle conflict or anger without making it about her and her feelings, and/or a referendum on who she is. It's exhausting. Or my sister-in-law, who is vain and self-absorbed and manipulative, or my AH, who is so wrapped up in his own id and ego that he can't see how his actions affect other people except on the most surface level.

As a co-dependent, I used to take all criticism personally, even if it wasn't directed at me. I took offense *for* people and bent over backwards to make sure everyone felt included and was happy, even if it meant being in bad or uncomfortable situations myself. In my FOO, my feelings didn't matter. I coped by making the parents happy, and took these coping methods with me into adulthood.

Codependency could certainly describe a type of narcissistic behavior where one devotes his life to another and fawns over someone in order to get self-worth-while at the same time feeling resentful, bitter, and contemptuous.
I can see this. It's what we talk about, trying to fit someone into the role, instead of finding someone who fits the role. We try and shove our As into the "responsible spouse and parent" role and get crazy with anger and resentment that we can't fit a square peg into a round hole. Ultimately, we learn this resentment is within our control, right? We are capable of changing our lives.

Unfortunately for folks with NPD, there really is no changing their lives. This is a life sentence. They're considered untreatable.
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Old 03-19-2013, 12:19 PM
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Wow. I really don't know how I feel about this, but I am appreciating what others have said.
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Old 03-19-2013, 12:54 PM
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Narcissism, in and of itself, should not have been turned into a bad word, according to my psychiatrist. Small children are necessarily narcissistic because they depend on others for their survival, and rightly so when they are infants and very small. The whole process of socialization is raising them to maturity, stage by stage, and bringing them from their initial narcissistic state to one of independence and inter-dependence with others in their lives without losing their innate sense of self.

Like several of the posters, I think narcissism is a term far too readily bandied about these days, without real understanding of what it means.

For an adult to be narcissistic is, in today's language, usually a character deficit if not a full blown destructive Personality Disorder. There are many more apt and useful ways to describe the willingness to think about others' needs and the desire to live a life of interdependence than to call that "narcissistic".

One thing about co-dependents that I've noticed, myself included, is that we are all too ready to accept a negative description of ourselves. That's why we connected to people who mistreat and/or abuse us.

I think its more a question of our boundaries and our self-identification.

If you describe the "trait" of narcissism as "being self-serving and/or selfish", that may only be accurate depending upon the context.

If we set boundaries for our alcoholics/abusers, we could be seen as putting our needs above theirs, and we are, and it is warranted. That is not narcissism; it is self-protection. We need to have boundaries and even more, we need to have a strong positive sense of self to succeed in this world.

Our positive sense of self is our compass; we can tell if we are in healthy or unhealthy territory depending on how truly we understand who we are. If we don't start from a healthy sense of self, we let others intrude into our space and our identity and cause ourselves all manner of disruption on to destruction.

It is a fine line distinction, and one I think would be better served by dropping the whole mis-used idea of narcissism and finding a better more constructive way to talk about these issues.

I'm a big believer in leaving the labels and the superficial take on what something is behind us in the dust.

I'm not sure yet that the co-dependency recovery world has come up with the most appropriate language yet to describe what we face and how we need to recover from it. It's kind of one size fits all, and I think the confusion over narcissism being co-dependent or not, and all of that, is stuck in this undifferentiated language.

The Eskimos have an unbelievable number of words for snow because it is one of the most basic and persistent factors in their lives. We need that differentiation in thought and language to get us more clarify about what co-dependence is, and how true maturity and interdependence differ. If you can't articulate it, your concept is fuzzy, and it is hard to be clear about how to move forward.

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Old 03-19-2013, 01:05 PM
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You realize most narcissists would not touch this reading material, right?
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Old 03-19-2013, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by choublak View Post
You realize most narcissists would not touch this reading material, right?
LOL! You are so right! When I first read through that chapter in the book, I took offense to it but I have been going through it and I see the author's point. We all have narcissistic traits, it's part of being human. Here's another excerpt from a few paragraphs later:

"The codependent, shy narcissist lives in the fantasy of the mate that will rescue her, adore her, respect her, and give her the attention she deserves. IN other words, she maintains her silent grandiosity and omnipotence through a connection to someone she can 'pump up'. She has little self-respect, feels inferior, and is unable to see what is going on in front of her because she's so busy living in delusion. Male or female, the narcissistic codependent complains, whines, and is forever finding solace in friends who tell her, "You are a saint. I don't know how you stand it." She may wear her suffering like a badge of courage, but under that thin veneer is disdain, bitterness, and deep contempt. As this veneer begins to erode, these underlying emotions manifest in passive aggressive behavior.

The author really only takes a brief look at this concept and pretty much ends there. In my opinion, it's not really a complete analysis but it certainly makes me think about my own past behavior and the motivation and manipulation behind it. Most all of my behavior was to assist me in alleviating my pain caused by living with someone destructive. I didn't see that there were other ways to handle it, that I had choices. Life is certainly a journey.
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Old 03-19-2013, 01:41 PM
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Most all of my behavior was to assist me in alleviating my pain caused by living with someone destructive.
That's not narcissism, that's just survival. Anyone in pain will do what they can to ease the pain. Like you, I just didn't know the choices that were available to me, and fear of change.

Actually I find the author rather condescending and presumptive.
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Old 03-19-2013, 01:44 PM
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"The codependent, shy narcissist lives in the fantasy of the mate that will rescue her, adore her, respect her, and give her the attention she deserves. IN other words, she maintains her silent grandiosity and omnipotence through a connection to someone she can 'pump up'. She has little self-respect, feels inferior, and is unable to see what is going on in front of her because she's so busy living in delusion. Male or female, the narcissistic codependent complains, whines, and is forever finding solace in friends who tell her, "You are a saint. I don't know how you stand it." She may wear her suffering like a badge of courage, but under that thin veneer is disdain, bitterness, and deep contempt. As this veneer begins to erode, these underlying emotions manifest in passive aggressive behavior."
Mom?

I'm kidding. Kind of. Not really.
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Old 03-19-2013, 02:07 PM
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Male or female, the narcissistic codependent complains, whines, and is forever finding solace in friends who tell her, "You are a saint. I don't know how you stand it." She may wear her suffering like a badge of courage,
This just jumped out at me. I never complained to anyone. I just wanted to hide it, to pretend that my life was normal. I would never have thought about telling someone else until I finally found recovery. I had way too much guilt and shame for that.

Your friend,
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