Codependency and Narcissists: Let’s Make Something Go Right! (Part II)
In Part I, we discussed how the codependent is a perfect victim for the narcissist. We discussed our working definition of codependency: a system of distortions that exists on a continuum. Codependents learn personality traits that interfere with knowing one’s self and others. Codependents take care of others, often ignoring or tolerating their abuse, avoiding confrontation, and enabling the “bad” behavior. Narcissists, on the other hand, come with three significant distinctions: grandiosity, seeking excessive attention, and lack of empathy.
In Part I, we also looked at the seven deadly sins of narcissism as discussed in the book, Why is it Always About You: The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism, by Sandy Hotchkiss. We looked at how the codependent is a perfect prey for the narcissist, given the discussed dynamics.
Now, we are going to give the codependent some tools to get out from under the clutches of the narcissist’s seven deadly sins.
For so many reasons, I believe everyone affected needs to do their codependency work. Codependent behavior can negatively affect you spiritually, physically, emotionally, financially, and/or psychologically. If you have done your codependency work, including flushing out your core of shame, you won’t have anything you are hiding. Being free of shame is like winning the lottery. Life without shame is the first step to living life with dignity, which never includes being at the beckon call of a narcissist.
I don’t need magical thinking if I am on the road to living life authentically. I develop my tools so I am not afraid of the truth. The more competent I become in living authentically, the more competent I will be at truly assessing the people who join me on my journey. I will begin to spot the narcissist because I am not distorting reality to build him up with magical thinking. The narcissist won’t find me attractive because I am not organized around supporting his/her narcissism. The narcissist wants to surround himself with people who support the seven deadly sins. Being in codependent recovery won’t allow me to support these sins.
My codependent recovery is giving me self-esteem, which means I am not open to being insulted. To be in recovery, I am now open to my emotions. I can feel them, I can identify them, I am proud of them, and numbness is not an option for me anymore. I will identify your arrogance and understand it is to cover up insecurity. I understand this cesspool of insecurity because I am clawing my way out of its darkness. Arrogance is not attractive to me anymore. I don’t see it as confidence. Confidence is not at the expense of others. Confidence does not have to step on anyone’s soul. Arrogance leaves its footprints.
I now have self-esteem, so I don’t need envy. I set my goals and I attain them — or I set new goals. By doing this, I continue to build my self-esteem. With self-esteem, I will see if you start to minimize me or my accomplishments. My self-esteem will give me the foundation to use my tools of speaking up or confrontation. Not only will I acknowledge to myself that you are minimizing me or my accomplishments, I may confront you on that behavior. You won’t like being confronted so again you are not going to look to me to be in your network of support. You may call me difficult. However, I will be proud to be difficult. Unlike when I was enmeshed in my codependency, I would be horrified to be called “difficult.”
In my codependent recovery, I work to live in reality, not illusion. I will hopefully see your demand for excessive praise and validation sooner rather than later. Managing my people-pleasing is one of my top priorities, so I stay vigilant to avoid falling into your trap of being upset if you don’t get excessive praise. I gave people the excessive praise I thought they wanted to hear for so long that I may be seduced by you. By being rigorous with my recovery, hopefully I will be the observer who says “No we don’t do that anymore.” Bumping into the narcissist occasionally, while in my recovery, helps me test my skills. I think ending my people-pleasing is one of the biggest challenges of my recovery. I’ll know I am doing well when bumping into a narcissist’s entitlement produces a negative reaction from me.
As challenging as it will be for me to let go of people-pleasing, it will be just as challenging for me to add confrontation. It will happen in stages. First, I will stop being obsequious. Second, I will notice you are working to take advantage of me. Third, I will muster up the courage to say “no” to your exploiting and request that you respect me. Only when you examine the beginning of the road closely through to the end can you see how remarkable the recovery journey is for the codependent. For a person to go from insincere praise, to dignified indignation and requesting respect is one of the black belts of emotional health. You can be sure the narcissist will not like having his exploiting behavior noticed, never mind being confronted on requesting it to be stopped. Kudos to the codependent for this accomplishment.
Understanding and requesting boundaries are extremely important for anyone in recovery. I end here and you begin there. I am not here for your purposes. I am not an extension of you. It is up to you to get into your own recovery and build your own self-esteem. It is not my job to build your self-esteem. Being a good codependent, I am proud of my ability to put up with/tolerate bad behavior. Now, in recovery, I am proud of my ability to take care of myself and not be prey for the narcissist.
This article was originally published on Recovery.org
© 2019 Dr. Anne Brown; Psychotherapist, Speaker, and Author of Backbone Power The Science of Saying No