I have written in other posts about Codependence. Please be aware that much of traditional Codependence therapy is actually based upon blaming the victim. Be extremely careful if you decide to venture into traditional Codependence therapy, especially with a 12-step type of group. –JoyfulAliveWoman
Reposting Kathy Krajco‘s article here:
The preachers of Codependence say that you are to blame for how the narcissist’s abuse makes you feel. They say that “no one can make you feel anything.” That “if you feel bad about abuse, it’s your fault.” Specifically, your lack of self-esteem. Shame on you.
That makes you a victim. And it’s bad to be a victim.
If that isn’t blaming the victim, I don’t know what is!
I ran across this example on the web: It starts off in the title saying that no one can make you feel anything, though the writer admits it’s hard to achieve this mental armor.
Let’s say that someone comes up to you and says you are a liar. Inside you know you always tell the truth, you are confident in that and don’t feel threatened by the accusations of this other person because you know yourself, you know how you treat people and you don’t care what others believe about you, you let your actions speak for you. The idea is if your self-esteem is HIGH enough, and you are not dependent on the opinions of others, then you would be able to blow this off and feel secure in the knowledge that you are not a liar. The power then, that this other person seems to have over you is lost because you know the truth and you have faith in yourself and your higher power.
It’s hard to know where to begin disentangling this mess.
Presumably, the third sentence contradicts the second because the writer got the cart ahead of the horse and meant to say that ‘only if your self-esteem is high will you be able to know that you are not a liar, etc.’ which is absurd. Your self-esteem can be in the pits, and you’ll still know that you’re not a liar.
This literary spaghetti confuses mere insecurity with being brain-dead, so brain-dead that if someone tells you that you are 3 feet tall, you believe them.
And what follows doesn’t follow: “You know you always tell the truth, so you are confident and don’t feel threatened by the accusation, and you don’t care what others believe about you.” There are two – count ’em, two – absurdities in that sentence.
First, being honest makes you feel unthreatened by the accusation that you are a liar? That’s absurd. Being honest does not make you immune to damage by being called a liar. If you are a liar, THEN you suffer no real damage by being called a liar, because then you are just getting the reputation you deserve. That’s justice. No foul. But when you’re honest, that false accusation can make your whole past life go up in smoke. That’s damage. The threat is real, and if you don’t feel it, you are off ga-ga land.
Second, because you know you’re honest, you don’t care what others believe about you? That’s a non sequitur. And anyone who says they don’t care what others think about them is either deluded or lying.
Now for the self-esteem thing. First, self-esteem itself is but a feeling. It’s your emotional response to how you treat yourself. People who force you to knuckle under to abuse beat it down, because they have made you stoop.
So, this guy is saying that if you pump up one feeling enough (your self-esteem) you won’t ever be made to feel other (bad) feelings? That’s another non sequitur.
That’s two gigantic leaps of illogic.
Your self-esteem, among other things, will figure into your emotional response to this false accusation or any other kind of abuse. But the main factors will be whether the accusation is true and who the accuser is.
For example, have you ever incurred the wrath of a tempestuous little child? She stamps her foot at what you’re saying and yells, “You’re a liar!” You are not going to be bothered by that, are you? In fact, you’ll be amused and have to try to hide your amusement so as not to rub it in. Why? Because you don’t feel threatened by the accusation of a child.
But if your boss calls you a liar, that’s a whole different thing. You are threatened by that, just by virtue of who he or she is. And you can’t make his power over you go away by just pumping up your self-esteem.
So, the circumstances and the accuser have much more to do with your feelings than your self-esteem does. If you need fear that this accusation is going to be spread all over town, you are off in ga-ga land if it doesn’t evoke a very strong negative emotion in you.
And any sensible, thinking person knows all this, so where is this half-baked doctrine coming from?
What’s more, if it is a FALSE accusation, you will be all the more angry. Correction, you will be outraged, because your sense of shame and your sense of justice are being outraged. Yes, your sense of shame, because (contrary to this sloppy thinking) shame isn’t guilt: shame is something others put on you. It wounds the innocent far more deeply than the guilty. Indeed, the most damaged are the most innocent.
Note that this preacher of codependency even says that you don’t counter the false accusation. You just let your actions do the talking. In other words, you act like the offense didn’t happen.
If that isn’t aspiring to victimhood, I don’t know what is.
I’m a firm believer in the victim rising from the dust as soon as possible and thundering with both fists in the air.
What’s so horrible about admitting that other people’s treatment of you can make you experience negative feelings as well as positive ones? Is that too scary, or what? Isn’t it narcissistic to be in denial of that fact? Why do people need to feel in control of their feelings? And notice how it all comes down to power in the end. Why do people feel the need to be more powerful than their abuser? That too is exactly how the scared-of-his-own-shadow narcissist thinks.
He NEEDS to control others because he is terrified of a world in which he isn’t more powerful. He NEEDS to feel in control of his feelings because he is a big baby who can’t take them. He too regards feelings as weakness, so he represses them. Deludes himself about them. He too pumps up his self-esteem. Or, he thinks he does. He just pretends he has high self-esteem and represses awareness of his low self-esteem.
I don’t think the cure for narcissistic abuse is to become like the narcissist who abused you.
Some feelings are pleasant, and some are unpleasant. Some, like anger and sorrow are emotional pain. Of course we don’t like feeling them. At least if we are normal we don’t. But does that mean they are intolerable? That they should be feared?
I know that fear is the first thing to go when you “descend into Hell and rise again.”
Owned and acknowledged, feelings are not harmful, just painful. And they pass if you don’t keep them buried in your subconscious. In fact, those unpleasant emotions are good for you in a way. They MOTIVATE you to do something about the theft or abuse. Without those feelings we’d all be pathetic wimps.
Numb ones betraying ourselves by going around and acting as though it didn’t happen.
For how far codependence theory has run amok, see: Is It Wrong to Be a Victim?
UPDATE: Note that those who “believe in codependency” always talk as though a person’s feelings automate his or her conduct. But this obviously isn’t true. At a very early age, we learn to stop being impulsive. That’s a character trait of childhood that normal people leave behind. We learn to keep the rational mind in control of our behavior, even when angry. So, what is wrong with these people? Have they failed to learn this? Are they still so childish that their own behavior is driven by their emotions? Listen to them. They talk as though they have no idea that a human being has any self-control. They equate feeling angry with losing your temper and acting out to do something bad.
Their unnatural solution is to numb their natural feelings instead of to just grow up and practice self-control of their words and deeds.
An additional note on the foregoing:
Do check out the links at the end. One thing they show is that codependence theory started out sensibly as the realization among the family members of alcoholics that their behavior “enabled” the alcoholic.
We all likewise see how our behavior enabled our abusers until we caught on.
The problem with this idea (is that it) came with pseudoscience. You get a bunch of theorizers sitting in their ivory towers, speculating (hypothesizing) to come up with something new and different to say on the subject. Why? For attention, of course. Publication. Getting “known” as an “authority” on the subject.
Which places a premium on saying something attention-grabbing.
But they do no research. This so-called “scientific literature” is highly theoretical and speculative = basically just essays on the subject. Essays – not experiments and valid statistical data.
At best they refer to “clinical studies.” The drug companies love clinical studies! You can get virtually any drug approved with them. But mostly their idea of “scientific research” is to quote the mere speculative essays of others doing the same thing!
Where, pray tell, is the “scientific research” in that? Quoting the mere theorizing of others is supplying no valid EVIDENCE. That ain’t scientific research, because it ain’t scientific data. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize this. They wrongly consider these sources reliable JUST BECAUSE THEY CONTAIN FOOTNOTES, even when those footnotes refer to no valid “evidence.”
Smoke and mirrors.
This burlesque plus the eternal desire to blame the victim have bastardized an originally sound idea and made a monster of it, as every new voice that comes along tries to stretch illogic to an even greater extreme than his or her predecessors did.
Pop psychology at its greedy worst.