Tag Archives: codependence

Intimacy:
“I want more intimacy, validation, and to feel closer to you.”

"Marilyn Silver Screen" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Marilyn Silver Screen” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Some people claim they want more intimacy, but what they seem to really want is total agreement and constant validation, which are antithetical to intimacy. Long-term, passionate intimacy requires that two people have a strong enough sense of self that they can have differing opinions without expecting all-encompassing closeness and validation from each other.

Intimacy based on accommodation

People often find it uncomfortable to deal with their partner’s insecurities. It is easier to simply appease them, agree with them, and validate them. So they often validate their partner simply to accommodate the partner’s fears and insecurities. It is often really their own anxiety that they cannot tolerate when their partner is under stress.

For example, you may choose to respond by nodding agreeably when you don’t agree rather than saying, “I think you could have handled this differently.” As a result of hiding your true thoughts, the result is a deadening of the soul, resentment, and a loss of passion within the relationship.

Codependence

Validating your partner can temporarily improve your partner’s mood and functioning. However, it often creates long-term problems, such as increased codependency. Each partner feels increasingly burdened by an obligation to ease the other person’s anxiety. When couples become codependent, they are increasingly vulnerable to the other partner’s manipulation. They also become anxious about saying and doing the right thing in order to get a positive reaction.

Intimacy based on candor

True intimacy evolves when you don’t manipulate your partner to validate you. When you don’t need your partner to accommodate your insecurities, it’s easier to show parts of yourself to your partner that he or she may not agree with or validate. The benefit is that your partner then truly sees you without feeling an obligation to shore up your insecurities.

This requires a certain discipline, confidence, and courage to look at yourself objectively and to accept your partner’s authentic response.

While it’s nice to be validated by others, you are more likely to get true validation when you are not trying to attain it. When you’re willing to accept a person’s honest response, then you can meet that person on a deeper, truly intimate level. Ironically, less push for validation means greater intimacy and the possibility of a long-term passionate relationship.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Intimacy vs. Agreement: ‘I better not disagree with his point of view, or he’ll get upset.’”

Guest Author Sam Vaknin: Shame Makes the Whole World Go Around – or Only Codependents and Narcissists?

"Raven" by Mimi Stuart©

“Raven” by Mimi Stuart©

GUEST AUTHOR SAM VAKNIN writes:

Lidija Rangelovska advanced the idea that some children subjected to abuse in dysfunctional families objectified, dehumanized, their boundaries breached, and their growth stunted develop intense feelings of shame. They turn out to be codependents or narcissists owing to their genetic makeup and innate character. According to her, children who turned out to be codependents as adults are resilient, while the more fragile narcissists seek to evade shame by concocting and then deploying the False Self.

As Lidija Rangelovska observes, shame motivates “normal” people and those suffering from Cluster B personality disorders differently. It constitutes a threat to the former’s True Self and to the latter’s False Self. Owing to the disparate functionality and psychodynamics of the True and False selves, the ways shame affects behavior and manifests in both populations differ. Additionally, pervasive, constant shame fosters anxiety and even fears or phobias. These can have either an inhibitory effect or, on the contrary, disinhibitory functions (motivate to action.)

The True Self involves an accurate reality test with minimal and marginal cognitive deficits as well as the capacity to empathize on all levels, including and especially the emotional level. People whose True Self is intact, mature, and operational are capable of relating to others deeply (for example, by loving them). Their sense of self-worth is stable and grounded in a true and tested assessment of who they are. Maintaining a distinction between what we really are and what we dream of becoming, knowing our limits, our advantages and faults and having a sense of realistic accomplishments in our life are of paramount importance in the establishment and maintenance of our self-esteem, sense of self-worth and self-confidence.

Shame threatens the True Self by challenging the affected person’s ego-syntony: by forcing her to “feel bad” about something she has said or done. The solution is usually facile and at hand: reverse the situation by apologizing or by making amends.

In contrast, the False Self leads to false assumptions and to a contorted personal narrative, to a fantastic worldview, and to a grandiose, inflated sense of being. The latter is rarely grounded in real achievements or merit. The narcissist’s feeling of entitlement is all-pervasive, demanding and aggressive. It easily deteriorates into the open verbal, psychological and physical abuse of others.

When the patient with the False Self feels shame it is because his grandiosity, the fantastic narrative that underpins his False Self, is challenged, usually – but not necessarily – publicly. There is no easy solution to such a predicament. The situation cannot be reversed and the psychological damage is done. The patient urgently needs to reassert his grandiosity by devaluing or even destroying the frustrating, threatening object, the source of his misery. Another option is to reframe the situation by delusionally ignoring it or recasting it in new terms.

So, while shame motivates normal people to conduct themselves pro-socially and realistically, it pushes the disordered patient in the exact opposite direction: to antisocial or delusional reactions.

Shame is founded on empathy. The normal person empathizes with others. The disordered patient empathizes with himself. But, empathy and shame have little to do with the person with whom we empathize (the empathee). They may simply be the result of conditioning and socialization. In other words, when we hurt someone, we don’t experience his or her pain. We experience our pain. Hurting somebody – hurts US. The reaction of pain is provoked in us by our own actions. We have been taught a learned response: to feel pain when we hurt someone.

We attribute feelings, sensations and experiences to the object of our actions. It is the psychological defence mechanism of projection. Unable to conceive of inflicting pain upon ourselves – we displace the source. It is the other’s pain that we are feeling, we keep telling ourselves, not our own.

Additionally, we have been taught to feel responsible for our fellow beings and to develop guilt and shame when we fail to do so. So, we also experience pain whenever another person claims to be anguished. We feel guilty owing to his or her condition, we feel somehow accountable even if we had nothing to do with the whole affair. We feel ashamed that we haven’t been able to end the other’s agony.

===================================

by Guest Author Sam Vaknin, the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb, and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site.

Read Sam Vaknin’s “Codependence: Issues and Goals in the Treatment of Dependent Personality Disorder.”

Read “Feeling Shame: ‘I’m not worthy to be loved.’”


GUEST AUTHOR Sam Vaknin: The Situational Codependent: Codependence as Reaction to Life Crises

"Percussion" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Percussion” by Mimi Stuart ©

Guest Author Sam Vaknin Writes:

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.

To reiterate:

– 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 for ever”, “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!
===================================

by Guest Author Sam Vaknin — the author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited” and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site.

Read Alison Poulsen’s “I can’t live with her and I can’t live without her.”

Read Sam Vaknin’s: “Inner Voices, False Narratives, Narcissism, and Codependence.”

Read Sam Vaknin’s “I Keep Choosing the Wrong Intimate Partner/I Keep Having Failed Relationships.”

“I better comfort her because she can’t handle this.”

"Under Water" detail by Mimi Stuart ©

“Under Water” detail by Mimi Stuart ©

Validating others can backfire

Ironically, those who depend on another person’s validation to feel secure about themselves are causing their insecurity to intensify. If they depend on their partner, friend, or parent to validate them in order to appease their anxiety, they are allowing others to re-enforce their limitations. This will prevent them from growing and from developing a stronger sense of themselves when faced with difficulty, discomfort and anxiety.

Who is really the anxious one?

When somebody is upset, scared, or uncomfortable, are you the one that intervenes and tries to make it right? You may not think that you are the anxious one but generally what spurs somebody into quick action in an effort to validate others who are upset is their own anxiety.

People who find themselves frequently validating their partner, friend, or child think that it’s the other person who needs to be protected from falling apart or freaking out. Yet often they themselves are the ones who cannot tolerate their own anxiety in face of another person’s fear or problems. They focus so much on the other person that they are not even aware that their attempts to soothe the other person and to fix their problems results from their own discomfort with their own anxiety.

Dr. James Hollis holds that “the quality of all of our relationships is a direct function of our relationship to ourselves.” Thus, “the best thing we can do for our relationships with others… is to render our relationship to ourselves more conscious.”

How to handle another person’s anxiety

Avoid responding to other people’s anxiety with increased anxiety, which may express itself as validating them or fixing things for them. When you rush to soothe another person, you treat that person as a child, which prevents them from developing their own ability to stand on their own two feet.

Rather than soothing others who are facing some difficulty, it is more respectful to be with them or check in on them while allowing them to take care of themselves. Rather than validating them with efforts to appease, praise, and agree with them, tell them the truth, but do it with kindness. Rather than fixing the problem for them, be available for a conversation, and start by listening.

When someone’s emotions are running hot, the most effective way to be of help is to remain calm, and not allow your own emotions to be triggered. Allowing others to be responsible for soothing themselves and facing their own anxiety without propping them up allows them to grow, to develop self-respect, and to become a more whole and capable person.

Exceptions

Of course you must remain flexible. Babies and young children, for example, need to be soothed. But as children grow, we should gradually allow them more time to soothe themselves before we step in. In order for adults to handle big problems without falling apart they need to learn to handle small ones as they grow. If parents allow their children increasingly more responsibility to take care of themselves and fix their own problems as they grow, they will be able to handle increasingly more anxiety without falling down too hard. The key is allowing autonomy and responsibility to develop gradually.

Also, people experiencing real trauma may need soothing and help handling their problems.

The more we can be a calm presence for a person rather than a band-aid, the more we encourage them to become responsible for themselves, which is the only real way we can give them the gift of becoming more confident and secure.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen
@alisonpoulsen
https://www.facebook.com/dralisonpoulsen

Recommended: Dr. James Hollis’ Creating a life: Finding your individual path and The Eden project: In search of the magical other. Toronto, Canada: Inner City Books.

Read “Intimacy vs. Agreement: ‘I better not disagree with his point of view, or he’ll get upset.’”

Read “I worry a lot over my adult children and I often call them to give advice.”

Guest Author Sam Vaknin: Inner Voices, False Narratives, Narcissism, and Codependence

"Snobberville" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Snobberville” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Guest Author Sam Vaknin writes:

The narcissist constructs a narrative of his life that is partly confabulated and whose purpose is to buttress, demonstrate, and prove the veracity of the fantastically grandiose and often impossible claims made by the False Self. This narrative allocates roles to significant others in the narcissist’s personal history. Inevitably, such a narrative is hard to credibly sustain for long: reality intrudes and a yawning abyss opens between the narcissist’s self-imputed divinity and his drab, pedestrian existence and attributes. I call it the Grandiosity Gap. Additionally, meaningful figures around the narcissist often refuse to play the parts allotted to them, rebel, and abandon the narcissist.

The narcissist copes with this painful and ineluctable realization of the divorce between his self-perception and this less than stellar state of affairs by first denying reality, delusionally ignoring and filtering out all inconvenient truths. Then, if this coping strategy fails, the narcissist invents a new narrative, which accommodates and incorporates the very intrusive data that served to undermine the previous, now discarded narrative. He even goes to the extent of denying that he ever had another narrative, except the current, modified one.

The narcissist’s (and the codependent’s) introjects and inner voices (assimilated representations of parents, role models, and significant peers) are mostly negative and sadistic. Rather than provide succour, motivation, and direction, they enhance his underlying ego-dystony (discontent with who he is) and the lability of his sense of self-worth.

Introjects possess a crucial role in the formation of an exegetic (interpretative) framework which allows one to decipher the world, construct a model of reality, of one’s place in it, and, consequently of who one is (self-identity). Overwhelmingly negative introjects – or introjects which are manifestly fake, fallacious, and manipulative – hamper the narcissist’s and codependent’s ability to construct a true and efficacious exegetic (interpretative) framework.

Gradually, the disharmony between one’s perception of the universe and of oneself and reality becomes unbearable and engenders pathological, maladaptive, and dysfunctional attempts to either deny the hurtful discrepancy away (delusions and fantasies); grandiosely compensate for it by eliciting positive external voices to counter the negative, inner ones (narcissism via the False Self and its narcissistic supply); attack it (antisocial/psychopathy); withdraw from the world altogether (schizoid solution); or disappear by merging and fusing with another person (codependence.)

by Sam Vaknin, Author of the comprehensive book on narcissism “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited.”

Read Sam Vaknin’s “Please Don’t Leave me!” When Your Abuser Becomes Codependent

Read “Symptoms of Narcissism.”

“I can’t live with her and I can’t live without her.”

"Marilyn Silver Screen" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Marilyn Silver Screen” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

When someone drives you crazy, yet you can’t stand the idea of being apart, then you are probably too emotionally fused with that person. This is also known as being codependent. Emotional fusion creates two paradoxical feelings—a need for more emotional contact and a desire to get away. An emotionally-fused relationship becomes infused with contrary feelings of being trapped, controlled, and smothered, and being isolated, unsupported, and unloved.

The problem is that neither partner can maintain his or her sense of identity and groundedness in the presence of the other.
Both people take everything personally and become reactive by withdrawing coldly or picking a fight. They swing between attack and capitulation. Bitterness and frustration cause them to withdraw from each other, but when apart, they feel unbalanced and empty. Any connection at this point, even bitter fighting, makes them feel more alive than when alone.

Differentiation

To resolve the anguish of emotional fusion, individuals need to become more highly-differentiated, that is, emotionally separate, and therefore, less reactive.

Differentiation will

1. permit you to get intensely involved with another person—emotionally, intellectually, physically—without becoming infected with the other person’s anxiety, and

2. eliminate the need to withdraw from or control the other person to modulate your own emotional well-being.

Ironically, becoming more emotionally objective and separate allows you to become more intimate. Although you may think that falling apart with anxiety shows that you care, it is actually a self-centered and ineffective way to respond to your own anxiety. It causes people to focus more on you instead of the problem at hand.

Someone who is differentiated may care just as deeply or more so about another person or a difficult situation but is able to contain his or her emotions. This allows a person to bring rationality and wisdom to the a situation rather than simply cause more anxiety that spirals out of control.

Even if only one person becomes less reactive, the situation will improve.

While you want to be considerate of those close to you, you do not want to be excessively worried about their reactions. True intimacy means you can express yourself, your thoughts, and your emotions freely and deeply without emotional manipulation. When you retain some objectivity and stay calm in the face of another person’s anxiety, you can grow emotionally and intellectually, often enticing the other person to do the same.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Passion vs. Predictability: The Problem with Emotional Fusion.”

Read “Ten Keys to a Great Relationship: ‘The magic is gone.’”