Background

Codependency State Of Mind, Not State Of Affairs

Uploaded 1/8/2021, approx. 38 minute read

Do narcissists really prefer kind, caring, compassionate, empathic co-dependence as intimate partners? And what is situational co-dependency? What's the difference between counter-dependence and co-dependence? What is dependent personality disorder?

We're going to tackle some of these issues and many others in this comprehensive video about co-dependency and dependent personality disorder.


My name is Sam Vaknin. I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited. I'm a professor of psychology in Rostov-on-Don, Southern Federal University, and a professor of psychology and a professor of finance in the outreach program of the SIAS Consortium of Universities, CIAPS, Center for International Advanced and Professional Studies.

Wow, that was long, but not as long as my career in psychology, which is now entering its 26th year.

Let's start by answering the first question I myself had posed.

Are narcissists, do narcissists gravitate towards specific types of intimate partners?

Here's the short and the long of it.

No, narcissists have no preference for any specific type of intimate partner because narcissists don't do intimacy and they don't do partnership.

Narcissists actually detest empathy. They regard it as a form of weakness or in the worst case an imposition, an invasion, an intrusion of their personal territory.

They don't like empathic people. They don't like kind and caring people. They consider advice to be narcissistic and injury. They don't need support. They don't need help. They don't need support because they're gods. They're omnipotent. They're omniscient. They don't look for anything in an intimate partner except the three S's. Sex, supply, sadistic and narcissistic and services.

Any two of these three qualify you as a partner. You can be empathic. You can be disempathic. You can be a psychopath. You can be a narcissist. You can be anyone in anything. As long as you provide two out of these three, you qualify.

You can become happy. You the narcissist intimate partner, the myths, the self-aggrandizing myths online, that there's something in you that is special, that you are super empathic, amazingly kind and compassionate angels.

That's nonsense intended to take your money, intended to enslave you as victims. It's a form of abuse. Telling you this is a form of abuse.

There's nothing special about you. There's nothing special about the narcissist intimate partner. The narcissist partners are insignificant others. They are interchangeable. They are commodities. They're utterly dispensable and disposable. They are replaceable in a whiff, in a jiffy.

So it's very difficult for you to accept and digest. It's very painful. It's very hurtful to realize that you have meant nothing to the narcissist.

The narcissist is not in love with you, love bombing and grooming aside. The narcissist is enmeshed in a shared fantasy with you because he needs what you have to give him. The narcissist needs your services, sometimes your sex and above all your sadistic and narcissistic supply.

So that's it. Get rid of all these notions that something in you had attracted the narcissist inexorably because you are good people, unique, special, blameless, blemishless, immaculate and perfect like the Virgin Mary.


Next thing, codependency and trauma.

They are not objective. They are not objective states out there. They are not states of affairs.

Codependency and trauma are subjective. They're states of mind. They are not out there in the world. They are not part of reality. They don't involve reality testing.

Codependency and trauma are the way you react to external events.

I can take 10 people, subject them to the exact experience, exact same experience. Seven of them would not bat an eye, led. Three would be traumatized for life. Eight of them would walk away. Two of them would stay as codependents.

Codependency is a pattern of reactions to the presence of an intimate partner.

Now this intimate partner can be abusive, can be an abuser, and many codependents seek abuse. They foster abuse via a mechanism known as projective identification, and that is because abuse living in an abusive environment is their comfort zone. They know the rules. They know the ropes. They know how to cope with abuse. So they encourage abusive behavior.

But the intimate partner of the codependent doesn't have to be an abuser. It could be a regular bloke, a nice guy.

The main role of the codependence intimate partner is to regulate the codependents emotions, moods, to reduce mobility, to eliminate or ameliorate dysregulation, to mediate the dialogue, the internal dialogue among the codependents, interjects.

In a way, the intimate partner is subsumed by the codependent. The intimate partner merges with the codependent, fuses with her, so as to be able to reach into her brain, inside her mind, and regulate it, keep it stable, maintain an equilibrium, a homeostasis.

Now, if the intimate partner is malicious, malevolent, sadistic, narcissistic, psychopathic, he's going to abuse this privileged access to the codependence mind.

But that's not a necessary condition. Many codependents live with intimate partners who are perfectly good partners, loving partners, caring and accepting partners. And some of them live with abusers. That's true for the general population.

You don't have to be a codependent to end up with an abuser.

Still, it's important to understand codependency is not something out there. It's something in here.

Trauma is not something out there. It's something in here. It's the way you react. It's the way you have learned, the way you have been conditioned in early childhood to react to specific situations involving intimate partners and otherwise.

So in a way, the abuser and his victim are each other's instruments. The victim uses the abuser, leverages the abuser to stabilize her inner landscape, to stabilize her inner world. She needs the abuser to feel that she is in a world that is predictable, that she can manipulate her environment in order to secure favorable outcomes.

In other words, the abuser increases actually the victim's self-efficacy.

And similarly, the victim regulates internal constructs and internal dialogues within the abuser. So the victim regulates the abuser, the abuser regulates the victim. It's a mutual regulation society.

Now, of course, each of these, the victim and the abuser, they have different psychological needs. They have different levels of aggression, different levels of impulse control, of defiance, of empathy. Most victims have much higher empathy than their abusers.

So there would be differences in the forms of regulation, in the types of regulation that the victim offers the abuser and the abuser offers the victim. They would be distinguishable.

Abusers are not victims. Victims are not abusers. They are distinguishable. But they regulate each other. They become a dyad, in a way, an organism with two heads.

And this is why it's so difficult to break the trauma bonding. Because the trauma fulfills, caters too and fulfills crucial psychological needs.

And the codependent and the typical trauma victim, with CPTSD and so on, they don't know how to regulate their internal environment normally. They need someone to do it for them.

And in this sense, the distinction between victims of CPTSD, codependents and narcissists is pretty artificial.

Because all these three types need other people to help them to regulate their internal environment.

The codependent needs and clings to her intimate partner. Because otherwise she cannot regulate the sense of self-worth, self-esteem, self-confidence. Her abandonment anxiety is out of control, like a border line.

The narcissist needs other people to regulate his internal environment. Otherwise he cannot regulate his sense of self-worth, self-esteem, self-confidence and his abandonment anxiety is out of control, like the codependents.

These are sides of the same coin. It's very, very unpalatable. It's politically incorrect. You don't want to hear this. You hate me for telling you the truth. I know that. But that happens to be the truth.

There is a great confusion regarding the terms codependent, counterdependent and independent.

Before we proceed to study dependent personality disorder, I think we would do well to clarify these terms.

As Lidia Rangelovska observes, we all need to be needed. We all want to feel useful. We all crave to be able to give. Giving is reflexive, instinctual. People resent the narcissist, partly because his false self, the facade that the narcissist puts to the world, is so self-sufficient. The narcissist doesn't need anyone. A narcissist typically would tell you, I don't need you. I don't need anyone.

But codependents take this to a whole different level. Dependent personality disorder is in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. But it's a much disputed mental health diagnosis.

Because we are all dependent to some degree. We start our lives as dependent entities and creatures. We depend on mommy. And we depend on mommy for survival. If mommy is dead, it's a dead mother. She doesn't notice us. She is emotionally absent or physically absent. She's selfish, narcissistic. She refuses to let us develop and evolve and put boundaries and so on and so forth. We are in bad shape. Our survival is at stake. We need to be fed. We need to have shelter. And we need parents who are good enough and don't parentify us.

We all like to be taken care of. This need to be taken care of doesn't stop at age two or six. It's lifelong. When is this need judged to be pathological? Where's the point we say, well, this person has needs and this person is needy. This person embraces hugs and this person is clingy. Clinging.

Where does it become a pathology, compulsive, pervasive, excessive?

Clinicians who contributed to the study of dependent personality disorder or codependency use words such as craving, clinging, stifling.

Both the dependent and her partner are inside this swab in a way. Quicksand and it's humiliated. One of the parties is submissive, but the other is not necessarily dominant. He is coerced into his role. He is blackmailed and extorted.

Codependence, blackmail, emotionally blackmailed, their intimate partner. These are all subjective returns. They're open to disagreement and differences of opinion. So I can't pretend that this is a science. What I'm saying reflects the latest in research, but the latest in research is still very far from satisfactory.

Moreover, virtually all cultures encourage dependency to varying degrees. Even in developed countries, many women, the very old, the very young, the sick, the criminal, the disabled, the mentally handicapped, these kind of people, they're denied personal autonomy. They are legally and economically dependent on other people or on the authorities of the state.

And so dependent personality disorder is diagnosed only when such behavior does not conform to social, legal or cultural norms and mores.

Dependency is a colloquial term. You can't find it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. And so it's even more debatable than dependent personality disorder.

But I find it to be a good catch all phrase.

Codependence, as they are sometimes known, they are possessed with fantastic worries and concerns. They catastrophize. They are paralyzed by their abandonment, anxiety and fear of separation. And in this sense, it's very difficult to tell apart co-dependence from borderlines.

This inner turmoil renders co-dependence very indecisive. Even the simplest everyday decision becomes an excruciating ordeal. And this is why co-dependence rarely initiate projects, rarely do things on their own.

Dependents typically go around eliciting constant and repeated reassurances, advice, from myriad sources. This recurrent solicitation, this need for support, it's proof that the co-dependence seeks to transfer responsibility for these of her life to other people, whether they have agreed to take this responsibility to assume it or not.

Sometimes anot. Sometimes a co-dependent targets you. You don't want to assume responsibility for her life, but she forces you to. She forces you to. If she is also borderline, which is a very common combination, she may threaten suicide. She may become defiant and impulsive as a secondary psychopath.

And this recoil, this studious avoidance of life, of challenges that the co-dependent engages in, may give the wrong depression that she is indolent or insipid.

But most dependents are not lazy or half dead, zombified. They are often fired actually by repressed ambition, energy and imagination. The co-dependent lacks the self-confidence. So it holds the code, this lack, this lacuna, this vacuum, this low self-esteem, low self-confidence, dysregulated sense of this therefore, they hold the co-dependent back. The co-dependent doesn't trust her own abilities and judgment. Again, we see an affinity with covert narcissism, absent and inner compass and a realistic assessment of her positive qualities on the one hand and limitations on the other hand.

Dependents are forced to rely on crucial input from the outside, exactly like a narcissist. And realizing this, their behavior becomes self-negating. They resent their dependence.

Co-dependence are not happy with their dependence on other people. They have to behave in ways which countermand, invitiate their self-autonomy, their self-efficacy, their very identity, the core.

For example, they can never disagree with meaningful others. They have to please people. They can never criticize people. They are afraid to lose the support and emotional nurturates of the intimate partner. They are addicts with a single pusher. They are junkies with a single pusher.

So they have to behave and they resent this. It's an adolescent kind of state of mind. I have to pretend they have to behave and I don't like it. I feel grounded. I contributed the article about dependent personality disorder to the open sight Encyclopedia and I wrote at the time, the co-dependent molds himself or herself.

She bends over backwards to cater to the needs of her nearest and dearest and satisfy their every whim, wish, expectation and demand. She's a people pleaser. Nothing is too unpleasant or unacceptable if it serves to secure the uninterrupted presence of the co-dependence family and friends and the emotional sustenance that he or she can extract or extort from people around her.

The co-dependent, I'm continuing from the encyclopedia entry, the co-dependent does not feel fully alive when she's alone. She feels helpless, threatened, indecisive, ill at ease and very much childlike. This acute discomfort drives the co-dependent to hop from one relationship to another.

The sources of nurturance are interchangeable to the co-dependent being with someone, with anyone, no matter who is always preferable to solitude.

And this, of course, these are elements here of the narcissist on the one hand and the borderline on the other.


Let's talk a bit about the pathogenesis of co-dependency. How is co-dependency brought about?

Now remember, the clinical diagnosis is dependent personality disorder. There's no such thing as co-dependency in clinical psychology. I don't teach co-dependency at university. I teach dependent personality disorder.

But I'm going to use the word co-dependent as a shorthand. So let's talk about how co-dependence evolved and developed as an issue of inner mother and an inner child.

Parents of co-dependence teach their offspring in early childhood to expect only conditional transactional love. The child is supposed to render a service, to perform, to fulfill the parents' dreams and wishes, to realize the parents' dreams and fantasies in return for affection, compassion, attention, emotion. This is usually a narcissistic parent, grandiose parent.

Ineluctably, the hurt child, the child in pain, reacts with rage to this unjust mistreatment. With no recourse to the offending parent, the child cannot do anything to the parent, of course, cannot punish the parent, does not dare to punish the parent, does not dare to think bad things about the parent.

So with no recourse to the offending parent, this rage at being mistreated, this fury at not receiving unconditional love is either directed outward at other people who stand in for the bad parent or inwardly.

So the anger can manifest in impulsive displays of acting out an aggression or can be internalized.

The former solution yields, in adulthood, a psychopath or a passive-aggressive, negativistic person.

And the second solution, internalizing the anger, creates a masochist or someone with a depressive illness.

Similarly, when the parent is dead, unavailable, the child's reserve of love can be directed inward at himself and this creates a narcissist or outward towards other people and this creates the codependent.

The child can't love the parent because the parent is not there to receive the love and reciprocate. The parent is gone, but still the child has this diffuse energy, libido, life force, eros, love, call it what you will, and he has to use it somehow.

And if he uses it on himself, if he redirects this life force, this love at himself, if he has, if he is libidinally affected in himself, if he is libidinally invested in himself, he becomes a narcissist. If his libido is externalized, projected, directed at others via object relations, becomes a codependent.

All these choices are pathological, of course. You don't want to become a psychopath, you don't want to become a narcissist, and equally you don't want to become codependent. These choices retard personal growth, arrest the person's development, they're self-defeating.

In all four ways, the adult plays the dual roles of a punitive parent on the one hand, and an eternal vulnerable child who is unable and unwilling to grow up for fear of incurring the wrath of the parent with whom she had merged so thoroughly early on.

These people have inner child and inner parent in constant conflict.

When the codependent merges with a love object, with her intimate partner, she interprets her newfound attachment, the bond, as a betrayal of the punitive parent. That's very crucial to understand.

The codependent is an internal, sadistic, narcissistic, selfish, immature, demanding, criticizing, inner critic, super-ego parent. And when she falls in love with someone, that parent feels betrayed. That inner parent, the inner mother, the inner father, the representation of these parents, they introduce, they feel betrayed.

The codependent now loves someone else. She's supposed to love the parent, the internalized parent. She's not supposed to love someone else, and if she does, she's a traitor.

And the codependent knows this. She senses the resentment of her own inner constructs that stand for her parents, so she fully anticipates the internalized parent's disapproval. She dreads the self-destructive, disciplinarian measures that the inner parent is going to take against her. The inner parent is going to punish her for loving someone else. This punishment is imminent, inevitable, it's coming.

And in an attempt to placate, to mollify, to ameliorate, to somehow, you know, calm down this internalized implacable divinity, these internalized parent figures, the codependent turns on her partner. She lashes out at him, she punishes him.

And this way, she shows her internal parents where her true loyalty is, an affiliation lie with them, not with her intimate partner.

And this is where there is an excuse between codependent and borderline.

Codependent bleeds into borderline, seeps into borderline, becomes borderline in a way, in some situations, because she has to recreate inner equilibrium and balance to ameliorate anxiety.

And she has two types of anxiety.

She, on the one hand, she's very anxious, like the borderline, she's very afraid to be abandoned by the partner.

But she has another type of anxiety that borderlines don't necessarily have. And that's the anxiety of keeping her inner mother, her inner father, happy.

And the only way to keep them happy is to show them that she loves only them. She loves no one else.

Here, she's abusing her intimate partner as proof positive that she doesn't love him. It's kind of an internal dialogue projected on the intimate partner, and the codependent begs the intimate partner to collude and collaborate with her in order to maintain her peace of mind and inner calm.

Most partners of codependence will agree immediately. They will immediately identify this dynamic when the codependence abusively, aggressively, viciously, actually asks them for help.

Her way of asking for help is by misbehaving concurrently. She punishes herself as she tries to preempt the merciless onslaught of her sadistic parental introjects and superego. She engages in a panoply of self-trashing, self-destructive and self-defeating behaviors, saying to the parents, you don't need to punish me, I've already punished myself.

Acutely aware of the risk of losing her path, owing to her abusive misconduct, the borderline codependent experiences extreme abandonment anxiety.

She mistreats her partner and she knows that he may just pack up and go. She knows that he may abandon, she knows it may be one bridge too far this time, and she swings wildly between self-effacing, submission, object submission and clinging between being a doormat and being a heredon.

So this pendulum is very typical of borderlines and more so of codependent borderlines.

And there is this explosive vituperative, invective on the one hand, and childlike, eternal child, expressions of punitive parent on the other hand.

She swings wildly between these behaviors and she can't settle, she can't find the golden mean, the middle ground.

Again, she swings between self-effacing and clinging, which is doormat behavior, on the one hand, and explosive defiant impulsive, vicious, verbal and other types, sometimes physical abuse on the other hand.

The clinging behaviors and manifestations of the eternal child, the internalized child, the psychopathic behaviors, the defiant behaviors, the secondary psychopathic behavior, they're expressions of the punitive parent.

Such abrupt shifts in effect and in conduct are often misdiagnosed as a mood disorder, especially bipolar disorder.

But where a dependent personality disorder is diagnosed, these pendular tectonic upheavals are indicative of an underlying personality structure rather than any biochemically induced brain perturbations or abnormality.


Like dependence, people with dependent personality disorder, like dependence, co-dependence, they depend on other people for their emotional gratification and the performance of both inconsequential and crucial daily and psychological ego functions.

Reality testing, for example, the codependent relies on her intimate partner to tell her what's real and what's not. If the intimate partner is a narcissist, that's a major ego boost.

He becomes a guru. He becomes her guiding light, the sage.

Codependents seek to fuse and merge with significant others by becoming one organism, by becoming one with their intimate partners, twin flame, soulmate.

Codependents are able to actually love themselves via loving the other. And that's what I call the whole of mirrors effect when the codependent actually falls in love with herself as she is seen by the narcissist.

Narcissist idealizes his would-be source of supply, idealizes her, and then it allows him to idealize himself.

But she gets addicted to this idealization. She sees herself in his wall of mirrors and she falls in love with herself. Sometimes it's her first experience of self-love.

Codependents are needy. They are demanding, but they are submissive. They suffer from abandonment anxiety and to avoid being overwhelmed by it, they cling to other people and they act immaturely.

These behaviors are intended to elicit protective responses and to safeguard the relationship with their companion or mate upon whom they depend.

It's very baby-like infantile behavior.

Codependents appear to be impervious to abuse. No matter how badly codependents are mistreated, they remain committed and invested in extreme codependents.

This fusion, this merger, this enmeshment with a significant other, this leads to in-house stalking by the codependent as she strives to preserve the integrity and cohesion of her personality and the representations of her loved ones within the personality.

So she kind of stalks her own introjects. She engages in snapshotting, actually. She creates a snapshot of the intimate partner.

The more she is afraid to lose the intimate partner, the more narcissistic she becomes. It's a narcissistic defense.

As abandonment anxiety increases and when it is not ameliorated or reduced by the intimate partner, where the intimate partner gives indications that, yes, he is about to reject her, he is about to abandon her, he had had enough, he had had too much, he wants out, he's about to break up.

Her narcissistic defenses climb. What she does, among many other things, she snapshots him. She takes a snapshot, as a typical narcissist does, and from that moment she stalks the snapshot. I call it in-house stalking.

This in-house stalking, when actual abandonment occurs or rejection, or perceived rejection or imaginary rejection, becomes actual stalking, but it starts first in the codependency mind long before the actual stalking starts.

This is where the co-in-co-dependency comes into play.

By accepting the role of victims, codependents seek to control their abusers and to manipulate them. It is a dance macabre in which both members of the dyad collaborate and they both contribute to the abusive relationship.

Codependents sometimes claim to pity his abuser, cast herself in the grandiose roles of saviour, redeemer, or lately empath. Her overwhelming empathy imprisons the codependent in these dysfunctional relationshipsand she feels guilt, either because she believes that she had driven the abuser to mistreat heror because she contemplates abandoning the abuser.

There are two possible pathological reactions to childhood abuse and traumaand codependence and narcissism. They both involve fantasy as a defense mechanism.

The codependent has a pretty realistic assessment of herself, but her view of others is fantastic. The narcissist is opposite. His self-image, his self-perception are delusional, fantastic grandiose, but his penetrating view of others, mediated by cold empathy, is blood-curlingly accurate.

Pathologic narcissism is a form of addiction to narcissistic supply. The narcissist is caught in a conundrum of his own making.

On the one hand, he considers himself superior, in god-like. On the other hand, to maintain his inflated, grandiose, and fantastic sense of self-worth, his self-image, the narcissist is objectly, humiliatingly dependent on constant input from people whom he considers vastly inferior to him.

He clings to these people, but he hates and resents themand he hates himself for his dependenceand this leads to bouts of approach, followed by bouts of avoidance, a repetition compulsion.

I've just described the narcissist. It equally applies to the codependent.


So let's talk about types of codependence.

Not all codependents are made the same. They are not all alike.

Codependency is a complex, multifaceted, and multidimensional defense against the codependent's fears and needs.

There are five categories of codependents, a codependency, stemming from the respective etiologies.

Etiology is how the disease develops, how the disorder develops, the reason, the cause of the disorder.

So there are five etiologies and five types of codependents.

Number one, codependency that aims to fend off anxieties related to abandonment.

These codependents are clingy, smothering, and prone to panic. They're plagued with ideas of referential ideation. They think other people are talking about them, gossiping, mocking them. They display self-negating submissiveness.

The main concern of this type of codependent is to prevent his or her victim, friends, spouses, or from attaining true autonomy and independence.

These codependents merge with their loved ones and experience any sign of autonomy, personal autonomy, or any sign of abandonment, actual, threatened, imaginary, as a form of self-annihilation, form of amputation.

That's the first classic type of codependent.

Then there is a second type. It's codependency that is geared to cope with a codependent sphere of losing control, not of abandonment.

The first type that I have just described, we can call it safely borderline codependent because it has features of borderline together with features of codependency.

The second type, perhaps we can call psychopathic codependent. It's again codependency that is geared to cope with a codependent sphere of losing control.

By feigning helplessness, by emphasizing neediness, such codependents co-earth, force their environment to cater to their needs. They force everyone into ceaselessly catering to their wishes and requirements.

These codependents are labile drama queens, and their lives are a kaleidoscope of instability and chaos. They refuse to grow up. They force their nearest and dearest to treat them as emotional or physical invalids. They deploy their self-imputed deficiencies and disabilities as a weapon.

Both these types of codependents, the first and the second, they use emotional blackmail and, when necessary, trace to secure the presence and blind compliance of their suppliers.

Codependent type 3, vicarious codependents, they live through others. They sacrifice themselves in order to glory in the accomplishments of their chosen partners or, should I say, targets.

This kind of codependents subsist on reflected light, like the moon and the sun, on secondhand approbation and applause, and on derivative achievements.

This kind of codependents have no personal history, no successes, no accomplishments, having suspended their lives, wishes, preferences, and dreams in favour of another's.

An example of a sub-type subspecies of this kind of codependent is the inverted narcissist. The inverted narcissist is a sub-type of covert narcissist. It's actually a codependent, it's also called, by the way, narcissist codependent. It's actually a codependent who depends exclusively on narcissists.

If you are living with a narcissist, if you have a relationship with a narcissist, if you're married to a narcissist, if you're working with a narcissist, this does not mean that you are a narcissist codependent or an inverted narcissist.

To qualify as an inverted narcissist, you must crave to be in a relationship with a narcissist, regardless of any abuse inflicted on you by the narcissist. You must actively seek relationships only with narcissists, and no matter what your bitter and traumatic past experience has been, you keep at it, you keep looking for narcissists.

You feel empty and unhappy in relationships with any other kind of person, non-narcissistic person.

Only then, and if you satisfy the other diagnostic criteria of dependent personality disorder, only then you can safely label yourself an inverted narcissist.


The fourth type of codependent is also a kind of borderline narcissistic, or shall I say narcissistic borderline codependent.

These are codependents that oscillate, pendulate between periods of clinking and other codependent behavior patterns, which they interpret as intimacy, and eras of aloofness detachment and absence.

Emotional neglect, abandonment, which they regard as legitimate, and the only possible manifestations of personal autonomy and space, they're likely to say, I need my personal space.

This kind of codependence also tend to form with their intimate partner, shared fantasy, or shared psychosis for the lulz.

These are all the outcomes of overwhelming and all pervasive abandonment anxiety.

These codependents either smother their partner, suffocate the partner, stifle the partner, incarcerate, imprison the partner in an attempt to forestall abandonment, to prevent desertion, or they preemptively abandon ship.

They do the abandonment, they do it before you do it, thus avoiding hurt and maintaining an illusion of control over the situation. I walked out on her, I dumped her, not the around.

This kind of codependent deploys strategies such as merger, becoming one with the intimate partner while renouncing all personal autonomy and independence for both of them, up to a point of shared fantasy or psychosis.

Co-extensivity, what is called the ventriloquist defense, insisting that the partner mind reads the codependent and acts in ways which reflect her inner psychological states and moods.

This kind of codependent is likely to complain and say, I thought you knew me well, by now you should have known me well. You should have guessed what I want. You should have predicted. You should have acted. And there's always shifting boundaries using behavioral unpredictability and ambient uncertainty to induce paralyzing dependence on the partner.

And finally, there is a fifth type of codependence.


Another form of dependence that is so subtle, so counterintuitive that it eluded detection until very recently.

And these codependents are known as counterdependence.

Counterdependence reject and despise authority. They are contumacious. Counterdependence often clash with authority figures such as parents, the boss, the law, their sense of self-worth, their very self-identity are premised on and derived from, dependent on, these acts of defiance and bravura.

Counterdependence are personal autonomy militants, fundamentalists of freedom. They are fiercely uncompromisingly independent. They are controlling. They are self-centered. They are aggressive. Many of them are antisocial, even psychopathic. They use projective identification. They force people to behave in ways that buttress and affirm the counterdependence view of the world as hostile and his expectations of others.

These behavior patterns are often the result of a deep-seated fear of intimacy.

In an intimate relationship, the counterdependent feels enslaved, ensnared, captive. Counterdependence are locked into an approach avoidance, repetition, compulsion, cycles, hesitant approach, you know, tentative approach, advances, sexual or romantic, intimacy, budding intimacy. They are immediately followed by avoidance, absence, fleeing, lack of commitment, lack of investment.

These people, this type of co-dependence ironically are actually fundamentally at the core, lone wolves. They are bad team players.

Allow me to quote myself, of course, from my book Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited.

Counterdependence is a reaction formation.

The counterdependent dreads his own weaknesses. He seeks to overcome them by projecting an image of omnipotence, omniscience, success, self-sufficiency and superiority.

Most classical overt narcissists are counterdependent. Their emotions and needs are buried under scar tissue which had formed, coalesced and hardened during years of one form of abuse or another.

Grandiosity, a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy and of a winning haughtiness usually hide knowing insecurity in a fluctuating sense of self-worth.

Now codependency, exactly like we have, exactly like we have acquired situational narcissism. We have acquired situational codependency.

Some patients, some people, develop codependent behaviors and traits in the wake of a life crisis, especially if it involves an abandonment, rejection and the resulting solitude.

So after a divorce or when the nest is empty, children have gone to college. When one's children embark on their own autonomous lives, it's another way. They live all together. When these lacunas, when these vacancies develop, when there's nothing to fulfill the regulatory need of the person, some people become codependent.

So life crisis sometimes creates codependency in people who hitherto, up to the life crisis, had not been codependent in any way, shape or form.

And this is a kind of late onset codependency. It fosters a complex emotional and behavioral chain reaction whose role is to resolve the inner conflict by reading oneself of the emergent, undesirable codependent conduct.

Consciously, such a person may, at first, feel liberated. You know, the kids are out. My husband is gone. I'm a free woman. My wife is dead. I'm a free man.

But unconsciously, being abruptly dumped or lonesome, this is a disorienting and disconcerting effect akin toand freedom, it's actually a kind of drug addiction. It's intoxication.

Many patients rush recklessly, headlong, indiscriminately into new relationships, new ventures, new pursuits, new vocations or avocations. Deep inside, this kind of person has always dreaded being lonely, lonely, not alone.

Following the divorce, the death of a significant other or intimate partner, the passing away of parents or other loved ones, children relocate, relocating to college, similar episodes of dislocation. She suppresses this dread of being lonely because she possesses no real effective solutions and antidotes to her sudden solitude, and she 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, disguised. The dread of ending up all alone is such that the person becomes co-dependent in order to make sure that she never finds herself again in a similar situation, never finds herself lonely again. Her co-dependency is a series of dysfunctional behaviors that are intended to fend off abandonment and loneliness.

And still, people who develop situational co-dependency, unlike classic lifelong co-dependency, this late onset co-dependency, so these people are fundamentally balanced. They have strong personalities, and they cherish self-regulation and self-control, and they do it well. 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 the partner's egregious misconduct so that they can get rid of him and of the newly acquired co-dependency in good conscience and at the same time.

Sometimes it's called a rebound, a rebound relationship.

So to reiterate, the situational co-dependent 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, this dormant abandonment anxiety, separation anxiety, is awakened, triggered by life's tribulations, divorced, an emptiness, death of one's nearest and dearest. This abandonment anxiety was inactive, disabled throughout life, but when this crisis happens, when loneliness impinges, the abandonment anxiety is triggered and erupts, and at first the newly found freedom is exhilarating, intoxicating.

But this feel-good factor actually serves to enhance the anxiety. The inner dialogue goes something like this, what if it feels so good that I will opt, I will decide to remain by myself for the rest of my days.

This prospect is terrifying because I have abandonment anxiety and I hate to be lonely.

The person finds being alone so wonderful that she is afraid that this may become the new normal for the rest of her life and she doesn't want it because she has deep inside abandonment anxiety and she hates to be lonely.

And so a conflict erupts, a dissonance between conscious emotions and behaviors, liberation, joy, pleasure-seeking and a nagging unconscious anxiety. I'm not getting any younger, this can't go on forever, I've got to settle down to find an appropriate mate, not to be left alone etc.

There's also a lot of ambivalence, conflicting emotions. To allay this internal tension, to reduce and ameliorate this anxiety, the person comes up with situational codependency as a coping strategy to attract and bond with a mate so as to forestall loneliness and abandonment. Any mate, even the wrong one.

Mate selection is impaired because reality testing is impaired.

And so the situational codependent is ego dystonic. She is very unhappy with her newfound codependency, though at this stage she is utterly unaware of all the dynamics.

This codependency runs contrary to her primary nature as accomplished, self-confident, assertive person with a well-regulated sense of self-worth. That's how she perceives herself and suddenly she's needy, she's lonely, she's unhappy, she doesn't like it. She feels the need to frustrate this new set of compulsive addictions, codependency and to get rid of it because it threatens her view of herself, who she is, her identity and who she thinks she is, her self-perception.

Surely, she says to herself, I am not the clinging, maudlin, weak, out of control, weepy type. I'm not a crybaby, I can be alone, I love being alone.

All her life she has known herself to be a strong person, a good judge of character, intelligent, in control. Codependency doesn't become her, it's not her, it feels alien.

She is going through a process called ego estrangement, estrangement from herself which, if taken to extreme, results in dissociative disorders like amnesia, depersonalization, derealization.

How could she get rid of this newly found cancer of codependency?

Well, she chooses the wrong partner unconsciously and then she proves to her satisfaction that he's the wrong partner for her and then she gets rid of the wrong partner.

By getting rid of him, she reestablishes her autonomy, proves to herself her resilience and strength and self-control, demonstrates to herself credibly that she is codependent no more.


What about codependents though?

Classic codependents, not situational. Codependents from early childhood, what about codependents who say, I can't live without him, I can't live without her.

Akin to addiction, dependence on other people who feels important mental health functions, as I said. It is an organizing principle.

Codependency serves to explain behaviors and events within a coherent narrative, a fictional story or within a frame of reference.

You can say, I acted this way because, you have a reason.

Second, codependency gives meaning to life, you know, even I would say purpose and goal.


Number three, the constant ups and downs, the drama of codependency, these satisfy your need for excitement and thrills.

Codependents have secondary psychopathy lurking in the shadows and psychopaths, they are novelty seekers, they are risk takers, they are reckless, they need excitement.

Number four and most crucially, the addiction and emotional ability which result from codependency sometimes lead to it, they place you at the center of attention, they allow you to manipulate people around you to do your bidding.

In other words, it's a self efficacious strategy or be it somewhat narcissistic.

Indeed, you're convinced that you cannot live without your codependency or dependence.

And this is a subtle and important distinction.

You can survive without him, his gun, he has abandoned you, rejected you, divorced, break up, you can survive without her.

But you believe profoundly, erroneously as it happens, that you cannot go on living without your addiction to your partner, not the partner, but an addiction to a partner. You are addicted to your own codependency, you experience your dependence as your best friend, your comfort zone, as familiar and warm and fuzzy and fitting.

As fitting is an old pair of slippers, you are addicted to and dependent on your own dependence.

But you attribute its source, you attribute the source of the dependence, you misattribute the source of the dependence to boyfriends, mates, spouses, children, parents, anyone who happens to be around and fit the bill and the plot of your narrative, they come and go, your addiction remains intact. They come and go, you and your addiction stay, very interchangeable, disposable, replaceable, your dependence is immutable, unchangeable, forever there.

So what can you do about your dependence?

Extreme cases of codependency, dependent or borderline personality disorders, they require professional help.

Luckily, codependency is a spectrum and most people with dependent traits and behaviors are clustered somewhere in the middle.

Help yourself by realizing that the world never comes to an end when relationships do. It is your dependency which reacts with desperation, not you.


Next, analyze your addiction. What are the stories and narratives that underlie your codependency? Do you tend to idealize your intimate partner, for example? If so, can you see him or her in a more realistic light? Are you anxious about being abandoned? Why? Are you afraid to be alone? Have you been traumatically abandoned in the past as a child, perhaps?

Write down the worst possible scenario. The relationship is over and he leaves you. Is your physical survival at stake? Of course not. Make a list of consequences of the breakup. Catastrophize. Write down the worst case scenario and write next to each one, each scenario that you can, what you can and intend to do about it.

You will discover that even the most extremely egregious catastrophes are manageable, survivable and forgettable, frankly. Armed with this plan of action, you are bound to feel safer, more confident.

And finally, make sure to share your thoughts, your fears and emotions with friends and family. Social support is indispensable. To mental health and healing, one good friend is worth a hundred therapy sessions, guaranteed.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like the following:

Borderline to Narcissist: I Will Abandon You First

Narcissists and borderlines have archaic wounds, and they cater to each other's pathologies by activating or provoking these archaic wounds and then solving them. The borderline's focus on her intimate partner constitutes narcissistic supply, and the borderline's concentration, intensity, dedication, addiction, really, to her partner are irresistible to the narcissist. The dynamic unfolds in several stages, and the borderline goes through a phase where she becomes convinced that she had found the prince of her dreams, the knight in shining armor, the men. The borderline is obsessed with the issue of abandonment, and she has separation anxiety or abandonment anxiety.


How Codependent Sees YOU (Intimate Partner)

In this video, Professor Sam Vaknin discusses how codependents see their intimate partners. Codependents are clingy and needy, and they insist on repeating sentences that border on brainwashing or indoctrination. They leverage learned helplessness into an art form and use emotional blackmail to get what they want. There are five categories of codependency stemming from the respective etiologies, including co-dependency that aims to fend off anxieties related to abandonment, co-dependency geared to cope with the co-dependence fear of losing control, vicarious co-dependency, borderline co-dependency or borderline narcissism, and counter-dependency.


Borderline Codependent: Clinging Child, Punitive Parent

Codependency in parents can lead to children who only receive conditional love based on their performance. This can result in a child who is objectified and treated as an extension of the parent. The child learns that to obtain affection, they must perform, leading to a lack of self-love. This can result in a psychopath, passive-aggressive personality disorder, masochistic adult, or an adult with depressive disorders. Codependents often experience extreme abandonment anxiety and swing between self-effacing and explosive behaviors due to divided loyalties between their partner and internalized parent.


Narcissist's Fantasy Sex Life

Narcissists and psychopaths often have a fantasy-based sex life that reflects their psychodynamic inner landscape, including fear of intimacy, misogyny, control-freak tendencies, auto-eroticism, latent sadism and masochism, problems of gender identity, and various sexual deviances or failures. Their fantasies often involve the aggressive or violent objectification of a faceless, nameless, and sometimes even sexless person, and they are always in unmitigated control of their environment and the people in it. The narcissist's self-exposure to their intimate partner often elicits reactions of horror, repulsion, and estrangement.


When Narcissist Says "I Love You" - What Does It Mean To Him?

Narcissists and borderlines often mislabel and misidentify their internal processes as love and intimacy, despite being incapable of experiencing true love or intimacy. They confuse dependency, limerence, exhibitionism, masochism, defiance, competitiveness, possessiveness, neediness, and people-pleasing with love and intimacy. This mislabeling is an attempt at self-restoration and bridging confabulation, as they have a diminished self-insight and inability to introspect. Their constant attempt to explain or describe their internal processes is an effort to restore their being, relationship with the world, and ultimately their identity.


Codependent's Inner Voice: "I Can’t Live Without Him/Her"

Co-dependence is an addiction that gives meaning to life and satisfies the need for excitement and thrills. It places the individual at the center of attention and allows them to manipulate people around them to do their bidding. Extreme cases require professional help, but most people with dependent traits and behaviors can help themselves by realizing that the world never comes to an end when relationships do. Analyzing addiction, writing down the worst possible scenario, making a list of all the consequences of the breakup, and sharing thoughts, fears, and emotions with friends and family can help.


Separating-Individuating From Borderline Partner

Separating and individuating from a borderline partner is different from doing so from a narcissistic partner. The borderline partner outsources their mind to their intimate partner and expects them to regulate their emotions, moods, and stabilize them. The borderline partner regards their intimate partner as both a godlike figure and an abuser, leading to ambivalence and hate-love feelings. To separate from a borderline partner, one needs to silence their voice in their mind, reclaim their authentic voice, and help the borderline partner discover their authentic self. The process involves owning up to one's contributions to the relationship, refusing to collaborate in the borderline's shared fantasy, and helping the borderline partner to love themselves, become agentic, and choose life.


How Borderline Lures, Captivates You

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the strategies that borderline personality disorder women use to keep their partners hooked. He explains that the borderline woman is multifarious, ephemeral, and shimmering, and that she uses drama, approach avoidance, idealization, triangulation, and other tactics to keep her partner addicted to her. He also notes that the borderline's neediness and clinging cater to the partner's grandiosity, and that the borderline's ability to impair the partner's reality testing is essentially unlimited. Finally, he warns that relationships with borderlines are exceedingly destructive for both parties.


Why NPD and BPD are Perfect Match?

Narcissism and borderline personality disorder are a perfect match, despite the fact that the narcissist tends to devalue and discard their partner while the borderline has abandonment anxiety. The borderline needs a partner who will idealize them and reduce their abandonment anxiety, but then discard them when they feel suffocated. The only intimate partner who provides both functions reliably is the narcissist.


Narcissist's BDSM Supply Partner (ENGLISH responses)

Narcissists choose partners who are reliable and predictable sources of supply, and these partners are typically defeminized and desexualized. Women who practice BDSM are not necessarily borderline, but those who are borderline may be more open to unusual sexual practices due to their self-destructiveness and emotional dysregulation. Narcissists engage in self-harm practices, such as BDSM, when they don't have access to their internal environment and feel that they don't exist. Shame is a crucial part of narcissism, and any dependence on a third party can provoke shame and self-directed rage. These practices have beneficial psychodynamic effects but have zero long-term effects on underlying narcissism.

Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2024, under license to William DeGraaf
Website Copyright © William DeGraaf 2022-2024
Get it on Google Play
Privacy policy