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Everything on earth – including every species of plant and animal, and each individual person, plant, each flower, seed, and cell – is a materialization of supreme intelligence, the absolute, or the Godhead, which I refer to as the divine. Our soul is its conduit and unique manifestation. It seeks full expression, like an acorn becomes an oak and a caterpillar a butterfly. Each of us is a divine incarnation. What does our soul want? It calls us to live an authentic life. Continue reading
Maintaining boundaries is challenging for most of us. But the pandemic has made it even more difficult. People have been quarantined with a partner, housemate, or family for nearly a year. Normally, we could create physical space by seeing friends, going to work, the gym, or even taking side trips.
Is receiving a compliment or a gift difficult for you? Do you ever ask for a favor or help, or would you rather do it yourself? These are just small examples of why you may not be getting the love you want in a relationship. In healthy relationships, there is a daily exchange of love, help, and cooperation. Continue reading
Codependency is more than a relationship problem. Wounds of codependency affect our psyche and individual development. Make no mistake. It’s to no fault of our own. Codependency is adaptive and helped us survive growing up in a dysfunctional family system. But that adjustment cost us our individuality, authenticity, and our future quality of life. The beliefs and behaviors we learned led to problems in adult relationships. In fact, they tend to recreate the dysfunctional family of our past. Continue reading
There are four major types of narcissism. Researchers have been hunting for the core of narcissism that all narcissists share despite varying symptoms and severity. Narcissists use a variety of tactics and defenses to keep you insecure and ensure their status and their needs are met. It’s easy to be confused, but it’s important to understand and spot which type of narcissist you’re dealing with. Recently, two research teams have identified a common trait.
You won’t realize you’re dating a narcissist. Narcissists are exceedingly skilled at making you like them. They can be alluring, charming, and exciting to date. In fact, in one study, it took seven meetings for people to see through their likable veneer. When dating, a narcissist has a greater incentive to win you over—sadly, sometimes all the way to the altar. Narcissists are never boring. Continue reading
Strong-willed people are successful, yet those who are willful often sabotage success. Willful individuals can be fiercely stubborn in their opinions and pursuit of their goals, ignoring what other people think and need. They often fiercely force their will despite obstacles or negative implications. Their behavior has obsessive and compulsive qualities in that they’re unable to let go and is an obstacle to overcoming codependency and addiction. Continue reading
If you’re in an abusive relationship, you may not realize that your behavior encourages the relationship’s unhealthy dynamics. Often codependents are in abusive relationships with addicts or people who have mental illness. From my personal and professional experience, It’s hard―nearly impossible―to change the dynamics in abusive relationships without support, particularly in a long relationship. Continue reading
Although it’s painful to see our loved ones be self-destructive, detaching allows us to enjoy our life despite another person’s problems and behavior. Attachment and caring are normal. It’s healthy to get attached to people we love and care about, but codependent attachment causes us pain and problems in relationships. We become overly attached—not because we love so much but because we need so much. Continue reading
Most of us seek someone to love or to love us. We don’t think about cultivating self-love or realize that love originates within. You may be seeking a relationship, but research suggests that singles are actually happier than married people, with the exception of happily married people. But even that dwindles over time. A new study shows that on average, after the first year, spouses return to their baseline state of happiness prior to the marriage. Thus, similar to the conclusions reached in the studies done on lottery winners, after marriage and after winning, we eventually return to how happy we are as individuals.
Self-esteem matters. Research has well-established that it’s a big factor in the health and happiness in marriage. Low self-esteem can prevent us from reaping the rewards of love in a relationship.
A new study sheds light on how people influence and control our mind. Research on mice, whose brains are remarkably similar to humans, reveals that our brains are affected by those around us. The key factor is dominance. The brain of the subordinate mouse synchronized to the dominant mouse. This likely applies to our relationships. Typically, people with stronger personalities make the decisions and get their needs met more often than their partners do.
Sibling abuse is the most common but least reported abuse in the family. Prevalence is higher than spousal or child abuse combined with consequences well into adulthood similar to parent-child abuse. Up to 80 percent of youth experience some form of sibling maltreatment; yet, it’s been called the “forgotten abuse.”  Therapists also frequently overlook it. Continue reading
Although we seek love, we may unwittingly damage or derail it. Surprisingly, our fear of not being loved, which includes fear of abandonment, loneliness, and rejection, can lead to eight frequent behaviors that sabotage love and relationships. When we lack self-love, although we may have relationships, generally they’re unfulfilling or don’t last. We won’t find real love if we don’t believe we’re lovable. Continue reading
Most relationships fail and nearly half of American adults are unmarried. Why can’t we find love and why don’t relationships last? As much as we want love, paradoxically, we also fear it. Fear of not being loved is the greatest reason we don’t find love and sabotage it in our relationships. In other words, we can create our worst fear by trying to avoid it. this may sound ridiculous if you attract distancers.
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance,” wrote Oscar Wilde. Known for his wit and irony, was Wilde referring to narcissistic love or real self-love and healthy narcissism? There is a difference. Wilde’s use of the word “romance” suggests the former. That’s a key to differentiate the two concepts.
Romantic love is filtered by illusion and idealization. In the romantic phase of relationships, intense feelings are predominantly based on projection and physical pleasure. All is rosy, because we don’t really know the other person or see his or her flaws.
Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray is about narcissism.
Sprawled on the hallway floor, skirt flying, hitting and kicking, I wrestled with Tina before a crowd of junior high school schoolmates, including a dozen boys from my class. Tina was a gang member who had recently transferred from another school. She and her cohorts had taunted and insulted me all week. She started in again, shoving me at our adjacent lockers. I’d finally had enough, I pushed her back, and we ended up fighting on the floor.
Before actually harming one another, the girls V.P. escorted us to her office. Tina was expelled. I felt relieved that only my modesty was tarnished . . . until I returned home. Then I was mortified to discover a small rip in my panties! My defectiveness, symbolized by that imperfection, had been exposed. This is the essence of shame.
Falling in love happens to us ― usually before we really know our partner. It’s because we’re at the mercy of unconscious forces, commonly called “chemistry.” Don’t judge yourself for loving someone who doesn’t treat you with care and respect, because by the time the relationship turns abusive, you’re attached and want to maintain your connection and love. You may have overlooked hints of abuse at the beginning because abusers are good at seduction.
Rejection and breakups are hard enough, but being ghosted can be traumatic. It can leave you with unanswered questions that make it hard to move on. Although ghosting also occurs in friendships, it’s usually associated with dating. More devastating, but less common, is when a spouse disappears after years of marriage. It’s like a sudden death of the person and the marriage. But even the unexplained, unexpected end to a brief romantic relationship can feel like betrayal and shatter your trust in yourself, in love, and in other people.
Codependency robs us of a self and self-love. We’ve learned to conceal who we really are, because we grew up pleasing, rebelling against, or withdrawing from dysfunctional parents. This sets us up for trauma. As adults, even if we’re successful in some areas, our emotional life isn’t easy. We’re insecure about our worth and find self-love elusive. Continue reading
A relationship can be an exciting spiritual path to the unknown. It offers an ever-present opportunity to grow―a path to spiritual transformation and mutual discovery and ultimately the divine. The word spirituality derives from “spiritus,” meaning vitality or breath of life. Like an electric charge, that force awakens our soul. The more we’re aligned to it, the stronger and more alive is our soul. We tap into this power each time we express ourselves authentically.Continue reading
Many of us don’t recognize manipulators or even realize they’re trying to control and confuse us. We may have an uneasy feeling in our gut that doesn’t match the manipulator’s words or feel trapped into agreeing with a request. Most people react in ways that escalate abuse. Or they play into the hands of the abuser and feel small and guilty, but retreat allows unacceptable behavior. If you had a manipulative parent, it may be harder to recognize it in a partner, because it’s familiar.
To “know your enemy” is essential in dealing with a manipulator. Spotting their hidden arrows allows you to respond strategically. Understanding what they’re up to empowers you.
Poor Narcissus. The gods sentenced him to a life without human love. He fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water and died hungering for its response. Narcissism was named for him. Like Narcissus, narcissists only love themselves as reflected in the eyes of others. It’s a common misconception that they love themselves. They actually dislike themselves immensely. Their inflated self-flattery, perfectionism, and arrogance are merely covers for the self-loathing they don’t admit–usually even to themselves. Instead, it’s projected outwards in their disdain for and criticism of others. Continue reading
Self-esteem is what we think of ourselves. When it’s positive, we have confidence and self-respect. We’re content with ourselves and our abilities, in who we are and our competence. Self-esteem affects not only what we think, but also how we feel and behave. It influences every aspect of our lives.Continue reading
Narcissists can be charming, charismatic, seductive, exciting, and engaging. They can also act entitled, exploitative, arrogant, aggressive, cold, competitive, selfish, obnoxious, cruel, and vindictive. You can fall in love with their charming side and be destroyed by their dark side. It can be baffling, but it all makes sense when you understand what drives them. That awareness protects you from their games, lies, and manipulation.
Narcissists have an impaired, undeveloped self. They think and function differently from other people, because of the way their brain is wired, whether due to nature or nurture.
Codependency is sneaky and powerful. You may not be aware that it’s the root cause of your problems. If your thinking and behavior revolve around someone you may be codependent. Codependents tune out internal cues and instead of expressing their own needs and feelings, they react to someone or something external. Addicts are codependent, too. Their lives revolve around their addiction–be it food, work, drugs, or sex.
The key to happiness is meeting our needs. Although codependents are very good at meeting the needs of other people, many are clueless about their own needs. They have problems identifying, expressing, and fulfilling their needs and wants. They’re usually very attuned to other people and may even anticipate their needs and desires. Over the years, they become used to accommodating others and lose the connection to their own needs and wants.
Projection is a defense mechanism commonly used by abusers, including people with narcissistic or borderline personality disorder and addicts. Basically, they say, “It’s not me, it’s you!” When we project, we are defending ourselves against unconscious impulses or traits, either positive or negative, that we’ve denied in ourselves. Instead, we attribute them to others. Our thoughts or feelings about someone or something are too uncomfortable to acknowledge. In our mind, we believe that the thought or emotion originates from that other person. Continue reading
You may be fooled by a covert narcissist, but they’re every bit as much narcissists as the stereotypical extroverted narcissists. Some narcissists may emphasize one personality trait over others. A person with an outgoing personality might always show-off and need to be the center of attention, while another narcissist might be a vindictive bully, an entitled playboy, an imperious authoritarian, or an exacting know-it-all, as articulated by Madonna, “Listen, everyone is entitled to my opinion.”
To a narcissist, relationships are considered transactional, like buying and selling. The goal is to get what you want at the lowest price. It’s a self-centered, business mindset. Emotions don’t intrude.
In relationships, narcissists focus on their goal. For a male narcissist, that’s usually sex or to have a beautiful woman at his side. A female narcissist may be looking for material gifts, sex, acts of service, and/or an extravagant courtship. It’s important to understand a narcissist’s mind.
They see relationships as a means to get what they want, without concern for the feelings of the other person. Their only concern is what they can get out it. Continue reading
Think of the Dark Triad of Narcissism, Psychopathy, and Machiavellianism as the Bermuda Triangle – it’s perilous to get near it! The traits of all three often overlap and create personality profiles that are damaging and toxic, especially when it comes to intimate relationships, where we let our guard down.
One woman was the subject of identity fraud. Her bank accounts and credit cards were compromised. She regularly spoke to the FBI and suffered extreme anxiety and emotional stress. The authorities were unsuccessful in finding the culprit.
Narcissists can be beguiling and charismatic. One study showed that their likable veneer was only penetrable after seven meetings. But don’t fall in love with one. Over time you can end up feeling ignored, uncared for, and unimportant. Typically, a narcissist’s criticism, demands, and emotional unavailability increase, while your confidence and self-esteem decrease. Continue reading
Getting hit by a love bomb feels glorious! The lavish attention and affection seem to answer our prayers. We’ve found Mr. or Ms. Right―our soul mate; unsuspecting that we’ve been targeted by a narcissist. The bomber abruptly changes colors and loses interest, and our dream comes crashing down. Rejection is excruciating, especially at the height of romance. It’s a traumatic shock to our hearts. We feel duped, betrayed, and abandoned.
Codependency is based on false, dysfunctional beliefs that are learned from our parents and our environment. Recovery entails changing those beliefs, the most damaging of which is that we’re not worthy of love and respect – that we’re somehow inadequate, inferior, or just not enough. This is internalized shame. To change, we can challenge our beliefs. Learn how.
We all live with the consequences of poor parenting. However, if our childhoods were traumatic, we carry wounds from abusive or dysfunctional parenting. We may not recognize it as such. It feels familiar and normal. We may be in denial and not realize that we’ve been abused emotionally, particularly if our material needs were met. Unfortunately, when they haven’t healed, toxic parents can re-injure us in ways that make growth and recovery difficult. The first step to protect yourself is awareness, followed by detaching and setting boundaries.
Anyone who’s loved a narcissist wonders, “Does he really love me?” “Does she appreciate me?” They’re torn between their love and their pain, between staying and leaving, but don’t want to do either. Some swear they’re loved; others that they’re not. It’s confusing, because sometimes they experience the caring companionship, only to be followed by demeaning behavior. Narcissists claim to love their family and partners, but do they?
We’re all capable of abuse when we’re frustrated or hurt. We may be guilty of criticizing, judging, withholding, and controlling, but some abusers, including narcissists, take abuse to a different level. Narcissistic Abuse can be physical, mental, emotional, sexual, financial, and/or spiritual. Some types of emotional abuse are not easy to spot, including manipulation. It can include emotional blackmail, using threats and intimidation to exercise control.
Some of us get so wrapped up in a relationship that we tend to lose ourselves. It happens slowly until it’s too late. We don’t realize that losing our Self is the ultimate cause of despair. When the relationship inevitably ends, it’s devastating, because we are lost. We might seem to do fine on our own, but the struggle to achieve it shows up in our relationships. We lose ourselves gradually in small imperceptible ways.
Abuse is about having power over someone. Abusers typically want to feel superior and to control and dominate. To them, communication is not about understanding. It’s a win-lose game. They use verbal abuse and/or violence to accomplish this. They’re frequently self-centered, impatient, unreasonable, insensitive, unforgiving, lack empathy, and are often jealous, suspicious, and withholding. Continue reading
Narcissists can be beguiling and charismatic. They easily charm codependents. One study showed that narcissists’ likable veneer was only penetrable after seven meetings. I’ve had a number of clients who claimed that the courtship with their narcissistic spouse was wonderful and that abuse only began following the wedding. With greater insight, these clients admitted that there were signs that they’d overlooked.Continue reading
Gaslighting is a malicious and hidden form of emotional and mental abuse, designed to plant seeds of self-doubt and alter your perception of reality. The term comes from the play and later film Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer.
Gaslighting refers to a deliberate pattern of manipulation calculated to make you trust the perpetrator and doubt your own perceptions or sanity, similar to brainwashing. Like all abuse, it’s based on the need for power, control, or concealment.Continue reading
The poignant myth of Narcissus and Echo crystallizes the problem of relationships with narcissists. They were tragic characters in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Sadly, both partners feel insufficiently loved but are locked in a painful drama. Yet, the narcissist feels irreproachable and blames his or her partner, who too often readily agrees.Continue reading
Our mother is our first love. She’s our introduction to life and to ourselves. She’s our lifeline to security. We initially learn about ourselves and our world through interactions with her. We naturally long for her physical and emotional sustenance, her touch, her smile, and her protection. Her empathetic reflection of our feelings, wants, and needs informs us who we are and that we have value. A narcissistic mother who cannot empathize damages her children’s healthy psychological development. Continue reading
Living with an addict an (including alcoholic ) can feel like living in a war zone. The addict’s personality changes caused by addiction create chaos. Family dynamics are organized around the substance abuser, who acts like a tyrant, denying that drinking or using is a problem while issuing orders and blaming everyone else.
Our thoughts are powerful – for better or worse. They set off chain reactions that build self-esteem or undermine it. Authority over our mind is the ultimate power. “Mind is everything. What you think you become,” said Buddha. Thoughts affect not only our mental health, relationships, and the ability to achieve our goals, but also our physical health – our digestion, circulation, respiration, immunity, and nervous system. Next are our actions. Change begins in the mind, but is manifested and amplified by our actions. Continue reading
Getting your “buttons” pushed or getting “triggered” can hurt or enrage us. But it’s an opportunity to heal and grow. The more hurts we’ve endured and the weaker our boundaries, the more reactive we are to people and events. Our triggers – our buttons – are our wounds.
Codependents are off the charts when it comes to reacting to others’ feelings, needs, problems, opinions, wants, and more. When we react, we permit our insides to be taken over by someone or something outside of us. We’re pulled off center and might start thinking about that person or about what might happen in the future. There’s no filter or boundary. Continue reading
Anger hurts. It’s a reaction to not getting what we want or need. It can escalate to rage when we feel assaulted or threaten by something physical, emotional, or abstract, such as an attack on our reputation. When we react disproportionately to our present circumstance, it’s because we’re really reacting to something in our past event – often from childhood.
Many of us have a lot of anger and for good reason, but we don’t know how to express it effectively.
We all want to get our needs met, but manipulators use underhanded methods. Manipulation is a way to covertly influence someone with indirect, deceptive, or abusive tactics. Manipulation may seem benign or even friendly or flattering as if the person has your highest concern in mind. In reality, it’s to achieve an ulterior motive.
Sometimes, it’s veiled hostility. It can be abusive and the objective may purely be power. You may not realize that you’re being intimidated. If you grew up being manipulated, it’s harder to discern what’s going on, because it feels familiar. Continue reading
If you’ve ever been in a relationship with someone emotionally unavailable, you know the pain of being unable to get close to the one you love. They’re evasive, make excuses or are just inept in talking about feelings or the relationship. Some use anger, criticism, or activities to create distance. You end up feeling alone, depressed, unimportant, or rejected. More women complain about emotionally unavailable men, yet are unaware that they’re emotionally unavailable, too. Continue reading
Narcissists don’t really love themselves. Actually, they’re driven by shame. It’s the idealized image of themselves, which they convince themselves they embody, that they admire. But deep down, narcissists feel the gap between the façade they show the world and their shame-based self. They work hard to avoid feeling that shame. This gap is true for other codependents, as well, but a narcissist uses destructive defense mechanisms that damage relationships and their loved ones’ self-esteem.
If you have difficulty saying no, override your needs to please others, or are bothered by someone who is demanding, controlling, criticizing, pushy, abusive, invasive, pleading, or even smothering you with kindness, it’s your responsibility to speak up.
Because our nervous system is wired to need others, rejection is painful. Loneliness and the need for connection share the evolutionary purpose of survival and reproduction. Ideally, loneliness encourages us to maintain our relationships and reach out to others. Rejection in an intimate relationship especially hurts. It’s particularly difficult in the romantic phase of a relationship when you have unmet hope for the future.
We’re wired for attachment – why babies cry when separated from their mothers. Depending especially upon our mother’s behavior, as well as later experiences and other factors, we develop a style of attaching that affects our behavior in close relationships.
Fortunately, most people have a secure attachment, because it favors survival. It ensures that we’re safe and can help each other in a dangerous environment.
Over 10 million men and women are subjected to domestic violence each year. Many more go unreported. Emotional abuse precedes violence, but is rarely discussed. Unfortunately, many don’t even realize it.
Emotional abuse may be hard to recognize, because it can be subtle, and abusers often blame their victims. Continue reading
Passive-aggressive people act passive, but express aggression covertly. They’re basically obstructionist and try to block whatever you want. Their unconscious anger gets transferred onto you, and you become frustrated and furious. Your fury is theirs, while they calmly ask, “Why are you getting so angry?” or blame you for the anger they’re provoking.
Passive-aggressive partners are generally codependent, and like codependents, suffer from shame and low self-esteem.
Conventional belief is that we can never love too much, but that isn’t always true. Sometimes, love can blind us so that we deny painful truths. We might believe broken promises and continue to excuse someone’s abuse or rejection. We may empathize with them but not enough with ourselves.
If we grew up in a troubled environment, we might confuse our pain with love. Although relationships have disappointments and conflicts, love isn’t supposed to be painful and hurt so much. Continue reading
Living with an addict can be a living hell. Unpredictable and dangerous, yet sometimes exciting and romantic. Never knowing when we’ll be blamed or accused. Not being able to dependably plan social events. As the addict becomes more irresponsible, we pick up the slack and do more, often becoming the sole functioning parent or even the sole provider; yet we’re unable to lean on our partner for comfort or support.
Meanwhile, we enable the addiction by rescuing him or her from disasters, medical emergencies, accidents, or jail and by making excuses for no-shows at work and family gatherings.
A people-pleaser isn’t just big-hearted or kind to others. Nor are people-pleasers compromising. People-pleasing differs from accommodating someone though we rather not, because we value the relationship and know that compromise is necessary to sustain it. People-pleasers don’t have the luxury of choice. Their behavior has become a lifestyle. It’s compulsive, because they’re unable to say no.
Everyone starts out in life wanting to be safe, loved, and accepted. It’s in our DNA. Some of us figure out that the best way to do this is to put aside what we want or feel and allow someone else’s needs and feelings take precedence. This works for a while. It feels natural, and there’s less outer conflict, but our inner conflict grows. If we’d like to say no, we feel guilty, and we may feel resentful when we yes. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.
Do you feel trapped in a relationship you can’t leave? Of course, feeling trapped is a state of mind. No one needs consent to leave a relationship. Millions of people stay in unhappy relationships that range from empty to abusive for lots of reasons, but feeling trapped often stems from unconscious fears.
People give many explanations for staying, ranging from caring for young children to caring for a sick mate. One man was too afraid and guilt-ridden to leave his ill wife (11 years his senior). His ambivalence made him so distressed, he died before she did! Money binds couples who believe they can’t afford to separate. Yet, couples with more means may cling to a comfortable lifestyle, while their marriage dissembles into a business arrangement. Continue reading
The term codependency has been around for almost four decades. It originally applied to spouses of alcoholics, first called co-alcoholics. Research later revealed that the characteristics of codependents were much more prevalent in the general population than had been imagined. They found that if you were raised in a dysfunctional family or had an ill parent, it’s likely that you’re codependent. Don’t feel discouraged if that includes you. You’re in the majority! Continue reading
Rejection and breakups are painful, especially for codependents – even in an abusive relationship! It can take us longer to get over a breakup, sometimes years, for even a short relationship. Codependents have difficulty letting go.
Breakups affect our self-esteem more than it does for people who are secure and confident. This is because breakups trigger hidden grief and cause irrational guilt, anger, shame, and fear.
We may not realize that we’re feeling emotionally abandoned or that we did as a child. We may be unhappy, but can’t put our finger on what it is. People tend to think of abandonment as something physical, like neglect. They also may not realize that loss of physical closeness due to death, divorce, and illness can feel like emotional abandonment. However, emotional abandonment has nothing to do with proximity. It can happen when the other person is lying right beside us – when we can’t connect, and our emotional needs aren’t being met in the relationship.Continue reading
Everyone laughs when I tell them that I wrote Codependency for Dummies. But codependency is no laughing matter. It causes serious pain and affects the majority of Americans, both in and out of relationships. I know. I spent decades recovering.
There are all types of codependents, including caretakers, addicts, pleasers, and workaholics, to name a few. They all have one thing in common: They’ve lost the connection to their core. Their thoughts and behavior revolve around someone or something external, whether it’s a person or an addiction.
The relationship duet is the dance of intimacy all couples do. One partner moves in, the other backs-up. Partners may reverse roles, but always maintain a certain space between them. The unspoken agreement is that the Pursuer chase the Distancer forever, but never catch-up, and that the Distancer keep running, but never really get away.
They’re negotiating the emotional space between them. We all have needs for both autonomy and intimacy – independence and dependency, yet simultaneously fear both being abandoned (acted by the Pursuer), and being too close (acted by the Distancer). Thus, we have the dilemma of intimacy: How can we be close enough to feel secure and safe, without feeling threatened by too much closeness?
The “true self,” coined by psychoanalyst David Winnicott, is the foundation for healthy maturation and expression of the individual. Sadly, for many people, including codependents, things go awry during the critical developmental period when the true self emerges. Instead, a false self predominates, while the true self recedes; sometimes, into oblivion.
The true self is not a separate part of us, but is merely our natural being. However, in the early months of life an infant has no sense of Self, but is at one with its caretaker (referred to here as its mother).
Empaths are more than empathetic. Like an HSP–highly sensitive person–they’re highly attuned to stimuli and other people’s emotions and energy, often at a transpersonal or paranormal level. They may be codependent and end up in abusive relationships. Let’s first consider some definitions. An HSP has a rich inner life and a nervous system sensitivity to physical, emotional, or social stimuli. So an HSP may also be an empath, but includes more attributes. Codependency is defined very differently.
The overall goal of codependency recovery is to become a full-functioning individual. That entails knowing, valuing, and trusting yourself, and expressing yourself in your life and relationships. It involves a complete makeover that impacts what you believe and how you think, feel, and act. (See Stages of Codependency and Recovery.)
Codependency untreated follows the same chronic, systemic decline as does alcoholism and a disease — why some consider it to be a disease. Below is an outline of the progression of codependency symptoms and signs of recovery.
Early Stage of Codependency and Recovery
The early stage of codependency begins with becoming attached to another person and ends with an unhealthy dependency on him or her. Once you start recovery, the early stage ends with beginning to reclaim yourself.
The Disease Process
You might be attracted to a needy person or be overly-involved with a family member and naturally want to help or please him or her. Gradually, you become increasingly emotionally dependent upon and obsessed with that person to the extent that you lose focus on yourself and start to give up personal friends and activities.
The Early Stage of Codependency
- Attracted to needy person; offers help, gifts, meals
- Attempt to please the person
- Obsessed with the person and his or her behavior
- Rationalize and doubt own perceptions
- Denial about codependency and addiction or relationship problems, but concern grows
- Give up your own activities to be with the person
- Family and social life affected
- Increasingly emotionally dependent on the person
The Recovery Process
Coming out of denial means you squarely confront the problem and acknowledge reality — a prerequisite to changing it. This shift might be inspired by someone else’s recovery, by reading this book, or more likely, it’s triggered an event — a wakeup call, referred to as hitting bottom — that makes change imperative. Instead of ignoring or minimizing the facts, you recognize them as difficult and painful, but true. You don’t have to like them, but you see them as they are.
Beginning recovery starts with getting information and reaching out for help. By reading this book, you’ve already begun searching for new answers and options. Many people start psychotherapy or join a 12-Step program, which gives them hope and starts the process of rebuilding their identity.
The Early Stage of Recovery
- Hits bottom and reaches out for help for self
- Learn about codependency and addiction
- Join 12-step program and/or therapy
- Begin to have hope
- Come out of denial
- Learn recovery is for self
- Refocus on self
- Begin to build own identity
Middle Stage of Codependency and Recovery
The important middle stage of codependency and recovery is where denial, painful emotions, and obsessive-compulsive behavioral patterns are prevalent. You increase your attempts to control while feeling more out of control. Once in recovery, you reclaim independence, balance, and greater peace of mind.
The Disease Process
Without support, denial and isolation continue, and problems get worse. You might minimize and hide from yourself and others painful aspects of your relationship and withdraw from outside activities and friends. Meanwhile, your obsession with the relationship or addiction and accompanying anxiety, resentment, and guilt increase. You do more to help, enable, and control the other person or the addiction, and may even take over his or her responsibilities. As mood swings and conflict increase, some codependents turn to drugs, food, spending, or other addictive behavior to cope.
Middle Stage of Codependency
- Deny/Minimize painful aspects of relationship
- Hide from others painful aspects of relationship
- Anxiety, guilt, and self-blame increase
- Self-esteem lessens
- Withdraw from outside family and friends
- Increased obsession the person and/or addiction
- Try to control by nagging, blaming, scolding, manipulation
- Anger and disappointment due to broken promises
- Resentment at inability to control the person
- Mood swings and increased conflict and violence
- Enable, accommodate, and manage the other person’s responsibilities
- Hide family secret (addiction, conflict, personality disorder)
- Use food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, work to cope
The Recovery Process
The middle stage is where most of the work of recovery takes place. You begin to practice non-detachment and grasp your powerlessness over others and your addiction. As the focus on yourself grows, so does self-responsibility, self-awareness, and self-examination, which is part of psychotherapy as well as 12-Step programs. Alcoholics Anonymous emphasizes that an alcoholic’s success is based upon rigorous self-honesty as the key to recovery.
This is also true for codependents and one of the 12 Steps of CoDA, which are derived from Alcoholics Anonymous. Blaming others and external circumstances denies your power to effect change and achieve happiness. Even if you’re a victim of abuse, you find the power to change your circumstances when the center of control shifts from the perpetrator to yourself. Self-examination also includes working through childhood issues that led to your codependency.
Although insight about your behavior is necessary, it’s insufficient for change. Decisions, actions, and risk-taking are required during the Middle Stage. They happen when you’re ready and can’t be forced. It’s hard to change even when you know things would improve — like taking a better job or moving to a desirable area — but taking risks where the outcome is uncertain requires courage — courage to venture from discomfort that’s familiar into new territory. This is one reason why support is essential.
During the middle stage, you make new friends, participate in outside activities, and develop the ability to be assertive and set boundaries. As you become more emotionally independent, you take better care of yourself, and reactivity, enabling, and controlling behavior diminishes.
Middle Stage of Recovery
- Understand powerlessness
- Self-awareness grows
- Begin reliance on a spiritual source
- Begin to detach
- Make new friends
- Develop outside activities
- Stop enabling and controlling
- Learn to be assertive
- Take responsibility for yourself
- Increase self-care and self-esteem
- Sets boundaries and less reactive
- More emotional independence
- Heal childhood wounds
Late-Stage of Codependency and Recovery
In the late stage of codependency and recovery, the contrast between the disease and health is most pronounced. The untreated codependent’s world has significantly narrowed and his or her levels of health and functioning have severely declined, while the recovered codependent’s world has expanded to include greater risk-taking, relationships, and new goals.
The Disease Process
As the disease progresses, anger and conflicts are more common, and self-esteem and self-care further decline. Hopelessness, emptiness, and depression prevail. The chronic stress of codependency manifests in new symptoms, such as stress-related health problems and new or more advanced obsessive-compulsive behaviors and addictions. These behaviors and addictions might include regular checking up on the addict, affairs, enabling, cleaning house, dieting, exercising, spending, or using legal or illegal drugs.
Late Stage of Codependency
This is the progression of codependency in the late stage if you do nothing.
- Develop physical symptoms
- Feel angry, hopeless, and depressed
- Obsessive-compulsive behavior, addictions
- Further decline in self-esteem
- Despair and lack of self-care
- Increased conflicts
The Recovery Process
In the late stage of recovery, your self-esteem and confidence return. You’re empowered to pursue your own goals and are more expansive, creative, and spontaneous. You desire to fully express yourself for the sheer joy and freedom of it. As your focus shifts away from someone outside yourself, you fully understand that your happiness doesn’t depend upon others and no longer have a desperate need to be in a relationship. At the same time, you desire and are more capable of authentic intimacy.
Late Stage of Recovery
These are the rewards you reap if you stick with recovery.
- Happiness doesn’t depend on others
- Self-Esteem and confidence return
- Have own power and pursue goals
- Are expansive, creative, spontaneous
- Experiences self-love and self-nurturing
- Enjoy interdependency and intimacy
Recovery from codependency requires ongoing maintenance in or out of a relationship. This is why people continue in 12-Step programs even after they’ve left an addict or addiction behind. Only after a number of years do the changes and tools of recovery and health become part of you.
Listen to this great podcast “Unlearning Codependency and Shame” discussing origins and stages of codependency and recovery, with many tips on how to heal from shame and codependency. Follow the steps and do the exercises in Codependency for Dummies.
This article is adapted from Darlene Lancer, Codependency for Dummies, 2nd ed., Ch. 1, (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: Hoboken, N.J. (2015)
© 2021 Darlene Lancer
We can feel hopeless and helpless when we experience chronic abuse or repeated obstacles. You might feel stuck in poverty or an unhappy relationship. You could or be dealing with your own or someone else’s addiction that feels powerless to change. You might be experiencing a debilitating health condition or repeated school, relationship, or work failures. It’s easy to feel despair when you believe there’s no exit from constant pain and unhappiness.
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