Trolls, Narcissists, and Codependency…an Open Debate
**Warning – Trigger Alert**
For those of you who read my article, Why Going to Therapy with a Narcissist is a Bad Idea, you may have read the many interesting comments that were left on my blog. I welcome all comments, even from readers whose opinions differ from mine. I enjoy the occasional healthy debate because we sometimes learn things when we keep an open mind.
Until…the “debate” becomes abusive and toxic from one side.
In fact, I debated on whether to share this, and I decided it was important simply because it shows abuse in action. The whole purpose of posting this is to highlight what comes across as caring comments, only for the truth to be later revealed as deep contempt. This is the blueprint of a behavior that is typical of a Narcissist, and how destructive it can be to someone who takes the Narcissist’s words at face value.
I’ve been having a virtual dialogue with a commenter who has left various comments on my blog under the gravatar names “Dave”, “Anonymous”, and “Shmoo Report” (the latter of which has since been removed). In the beginning, this commenter seemed credible in his replies, until he became aggressive, going to so far as to say my articles are harmful to readers and that I’m engaging in victim-blaming. He even left a comment as “Anonymous” and replied to his own comment under “Dave”.
When I asked for proof that my reasoning on the topic of codependency is flawed, he instead became aggressive and abusive, never really providing any proof. Further, when you read his later comments, he goes on a tirade that can only be construed as the worst form of victim-blaming, and I’m sure his comments will leave many of you with a sense of familiarity, as his comments are a classic example of a narcissistic reaction.
Towards the end when it appears I’ve replied twice to a single comment, it’s because he’d removed the “Shmoo Report” comment before I sat down to write this post. I’ve taken the liberty of copying the ones that remain so you can see how a (suspected) covert narcissist instills doubt and shame in his or her victim while seeming educated and articulate about a particular topic. ** A check before posting this article reveals some of his original comments have been deleted.
Towards the end he asks me to delete his comment. Believing I wouldn’t share it with my readers, he goes on to shame those who follow my blog, and simultaneously tries to make me feel incompetent. Very familiar, right?
(I’ve included Michelle’s comments in pink as they were part of the original debate which was seemingly healthy in the beginning, and also because she specifically addressed the dialogue between myself and “Dave”. Please note I am not including her comment as being harmful in nature, but as part of a valid line of inquiry)
Please feel free to share your comments and thoughts!
Yes. Except mine was a covert narcissist, so even better at playing the victim. 3 couples counsellors, and several sessions of bewilderment on my behalf, not realising she was using the individual sessions to totally misreperesent, and lie about what was happening. Last session with the second therapist was pretty much her screaming at me and the therapist not knowing what to do. He later advised that we should separate, as he could see no evidence that she was willing to change or make any movement.
I do get sick of reading that the victims of narcs are co-dependent. Sometimes, possibly, but this denies the art and artifice of the narcissist. They work hard to lie, deceive and fool you, and get your sympathy (which in itself them becomes a narcissistic injury to them!) The covert (introverted) ones are superb at it. If you are a loving, committed, empathic person, you are the perfect “mark”! That doesn’t make you co-dependent – to say that without evidence is just victim blaming.
The covert narc is brilliant at bewildering the victim. I had no idea the amount of work that was being put into creating false situations, generating false impressions, and generally lying to others, to make me look like I had the problems and attitudes that were actually hers. Yeah, the PTSD is still pretty strong too. Hope I can use my knowledge to help others. The “counselling” actually became.part of the abusive process!
Thank you for commenting, Dave.
In regards to victims of narcissists being codependent – everyone I work with in my coaching practice is given a set of personality quizzes and every single person up to this point has been determined to be codependent. So, it’s not victim-blaming, but a matter of helping victims of this kind of abuse to overcome the wounds and defense mechanisms that cause them to engage in codependent behaviors.
I agree that joint counselling with the narcissist generally becomes a part of the abuse process. The best approach is to seek individual therapy.
Thanks for the response, Kim. I’d love to know what questionnaires you are using. Also how you differentiate between “codependency” and ” narcissism, given many of the characteristics are the same ?
I understand that the majority of narcs (that are obvious) are overt “classic” narcissists, and they seek “victims” who already have a repertoire of co-dependent behaviour. It’s a a natural fit.
Even the introverted narcissists seek out a narc to replace the parent narc – I would guess that some (a few) of your clients might fit that profile. However, we need to be aware of the fact that there are also a lot of reasonable, well-developed, nice, easygoing, people out there who, through no fault of their own, may be targeted by a narcissist. More likely an introverted one who hasn’t yet separated from the narcissistic parent. We need to take care not to be victim blaming. The fundamental statement that “it takes two to tango” does not apply when looking at relationship dysfunction. It only takes one to lead the other up the garden path, in many cases.
Perhaps the blink below might explain it better.
The Narcissist and Codependent are indeed similar in that they both look outside of themselves for validation.
I’m not trying to persuade your beliefs one way or the other. I simply stated the fact that up to this point, all the evidence I’ve been presented with shows that victims of Narcissistic abuse have varying levels of codependent traits. I’ve not come across one compelling instance that points otherwise. Further, I suggested that those who have been the target of a Narcissist should take a quiz to see if they are, indeed, codependent or not. That’s only logical. Refusing to consider it an option points to possible denial.
With that being said, I am willing to keep an open mind in regards to your theory, it’s just that I haven’t read or been presented with evidence that points to it in regards to a person who’s been narcissistically abused not being codependent. Granted, some of the information you’re sharing is accurate, but there is an obvious bias on your side when it comes to your conclusion.
As far as it taking two to tango…each individual in a relationship influences its dynamic. If there is a pattern of any negative sort that is tolerated over a period of time, it’s because the person being exploited hasn’t established healthy boundaries.
In my experience most covert female narcissists don’t go for co-dependent men at all, they go for strong, independent men who believe in love and want to take care of the woman in their life.. also, on average, women are naturally more narcissistic than men so it’s so much easier for female pathologicals to blend in.
There is also the factor that male.. umm.. “targets” quite often strike back once the lies are exposed.
Quite a different and perhaps an even more complicated dynamic than the male narcissist – normal female one.
Anon, thank you for visiting my blog and for commenting.
A man can be strong and independent and still have codependent tendencies. Determining if one does indeed have codependent traits isn’t a form of blaming, but an acknowledgement that something may be going on in their subconscious mind that may be causing them to stay in an unhealthy relationship. A man can believe in love and want to take care of the woman in his life, but if the relationship is toxic and he still stays, he’d want to explore the reasons for that.
I do agree that it’s often easier for women to get away with narcissistic behavior because of society’s expectations for the man to “rescue” her, and since a common belief is that women are “naturally moody and difficult”, toxic behaviors could be chalked up to that. However, if someone is abusive and can never be pleased, it’s a sign to contemplate the future of the relationship.
Anonymous, that’s pretty much spot on, I reckon. I suspect that this type of person appears to the covert narcissist very much like the narcissist parent. Remember, they don’t have experience of this type of person, nor the empathic ability to understand where they are coming from!
A big “victim-blaming” mistake to label this as “co-dependent”.
Actually, David…using the term “codependent” isn’t labelling or blaming. Again, every person I’ve worked with so far has been determined to have varying levels of codependency….most often of the significant kind. And not only my clients, but those of various colleagues I work with, including therapists.
Further, it’s not my goal to blame victims. It’s to help them. As a former victim myself, I know what it’s like to be at the receiving end of Narcissistic abuse. And it was only by coming to the understanding that I was codependent that I was finally able to make sense of my experience. In contrast to the article you keep referring to, it became clear to me that I was codependent after just the one relationship. However, after learning about codependency, I was able to see how my “empathetic” tendencies of caring and wanting to do the right thing had manifested in other areas of my life up to that point.
Codependency is a defense mechanism that typically develops in childhood and with it comes a set of beliefs about oneself, as well as engaging in specific behaviors. It’s only by understanding how one’s codependency keeps them enmeshed with a Narcissist can one begin to make the necessary changes in order to begin breaking free from their disordered partner and begin to rebuild themselves. I say rebuild because the Narcissist knows what buttons to push to cause his or her target to completely lose their self-esteem, and worse, their zest for life.
It’s my goal to help, not to blame.
- Michelle Mallon
The following comment was left on my Facebook Page in regards to this post:
I just want to say that I am really very interested in this conversation between Dave and Kim and I really appreciate the time each is taking to explain where they are coming from in terms of where they might disagree. While I really connected with this article, (and Kim, thank you so much for writing it) I too had difficulty with the use of the term “codependent”. Actually I have had difficulty with it for some time now. The problem is that I have never really been able to put my finger on what it is that bothers me about it. It might be the term itself “codependent” which does seem to imply a sharing of responsibility for the abusive relationship. While I have found that for so many survivors of Narcissistic abuse, the ones who are beginning to understanding that what they have been through has a name, they almost always begin to realize that there were other Narcissists in their lives whose abuse primed them to try harder in the next relationship (which would often at some point end being with another Narcissist since Narcissists are very talented at finding people who are primed to try harder to make doomed relationships work).
In fact, as I am writing this, I believe I am starting to realize what it is that bothers me about the term “codependent”. I am not certain at all that what we are discussing is truly what “codependent” is. In fact, Dave if you look back at the list of characteristics of people who are “codependent” from the link you provided, look very closely at the last half of the list- “An extreme need for approval and recognition, a compelling need to control others, lack of trust in self and/or others, fear of being abandoned or alone”. These characteristics seem to define more of the characteristics of pathological Narcissism than anything else. How did those end up on this list? There seems to be some blurring and I think I know why that is. I believe that a better term for what we are all discussing might simply be “Narcissistic Victim Syndrome”. For anyone who has ever endured this type of abuse, we know first hand just how cruel and destructive the abuse is- it literally shakes us to the core. The “blurring” of symptoms I believe may be due, in part, to the projections the Narcissist has thrown onto the victim being partly or completely internalized by the victim. Anyone who has ever worked with a victim of Narcissistic abuse who hasn’t yet discovered the truth of what they have been through knows how confused, hyper vigilant, paranoid, fearful, depressed, guilt ridden, etc these victims look. They don’t really know which end is up. They can’t make sense out of anything. In fact, they are pretty sure the problem must be something with them because they have been slowly led to believe this.
I could say a lot more about this but I want to let my thoughts come together for a bit. This really has just hit me. I think what we are all describing is a pattern of “priming” which is more consistent with the after effects of the abuse itself (and the further insistence by a mental health profession that doesn’t “get it” and tells victims they just need to try harder to make things work). I believe what we are describing is consistent with Narcissistic Victim Syndrome. A great place, in my opinion, to read more about this is on Christine Louis de Canonville’s sight “The Roadshow For Therapists” at http://narcissisticbehavior.net/category/narcissistic-victim-syndrome-what-the-heck-is-that/
Thank you for allowing me to join in to this really important conversation.
I strongly agree with pretty much everything your “poster” says, (and she seems to be partly repeating my point – although I may be misunderstanding the “co-dependent” discussion?) Essentially I don’t agree that “everyone” who ends up in a relationship with a Narcissist is co-dependent, or has co-dependent tendencies. By the same token, if you do the reading on NPD as parents, they very often produce children with NPD, (and particularly covert/introverted types that are VERY hard to recognise), but we shouldn’t label everyone that way either!. I guess, the list of “co-dependent” characteristics in the link I provided (posting below) matches some of the NPD characteristics – more so for the covert ones. A lot of the literature also says a narcissist has to pair with a “co-narcissist”. In some cases, yes, of course, in others no. The idea of Narcissistic Victim Syndrome covers a lot of this as well (thanks for that – yes, NPD’s are MANIPULATIVE and for the overt classical NPD’s, aggressively abusive. That’s a lot of toxic work to unpick and re-integrate yourself healthily.)
Does it look the same? I reckon it would to the external observer, but there are subtle differences and degrees of things, and you need someone who will evaluate, question and challenge the statements made to them as a therapist. This is where an understanding of the behaviours and their motivations is helpful – and yes, sometimes informed by labels such as those above. The dangers are twofold – one is not “getting” the label and trying to interpret the behaviours from a reasonable, empathic, logical framework – the second is is always applying the label, and perhaps missing the subtleties. Also remember the NPD tendency to represent their partner as having the exact same behaviours as they themselves are doing, and painting themselves as the victim.
I think the “co-dependent” label that disturbed your poster is for the same reason I disagree with it. It implies that the victim is somehow facilitating and enabling the abuse through their own sense of “need” (which is why is sounds so self-centred, or even say, Narcissistic?). This is not in anyway to denigrate anyone who has suffered the the point that they are lost in that horrible reciprocal pattern – the NPD often moves the goalposts quite slowly until you have shifted what behaviour you will accept (and the belief that you are doing something wrong, or are at fault) . They also manouevre you to a point where you are not in a position to leave without severe consequences. Particularly if you are empathic, and for example, love your kids.
In summary, I just think it is good to be aware that the classical NPD isn’t a “one size fits all” and AS WELL we have the covert NPD – very different presentation, and probably different victim population characteristics too. That list on the link I gave ? I could only apply one tendency to most of the victims of a covert NPD – “a tendency to do more than their share” – it’s called empathy, for someone they love. They just don’t know their partner (parent, sibling) is often subtly playing the victim.
You do make some good overall points about Narcissism, though I still disagree that someone who’s been the target of a Cluster-B disordered person isn’t codependent, even with your analogy of the Narcissist “subtlety moving the goal posts”.
As I stated in my other reply, I found out I was codependent after just one toxic relationship, which is in direct contrast to the main idea in the article you’re referring to. This does happen rather frequently, especially with survivors who have been married to one person for years of their adult life. Further, if someone is unwilling to consider that they might be codependent, they run the risk of attracting another Narcissist, which is highly unfortunate considering the strength and courage it takes to get away from the first one.
I would suggest that all targets of Narcissistic abuse do the self-discovery that’s necessary to determine why they stayed in a toxic relationship, including taking a quiz to determine if they are codependent. Not doing so would simply be detrimental to their recovery process, and also point to possible denial.
Please stop this, Kim, you are incredibly wrong and damaging. You really seem to be unaware of those covert narcissist dynamics where really no co-dependency is involved. If so, then your whole understanding of narcissim is deeply flawed, and so is the understanding of your fellow colleagues and therapists.
I’m fully aware of covert narcissistic dynamics, as I attracted one after leaving my first overt Narcissistic husband. That happened because I wasn’t aware of how my own beliefs and behaviors were playing out in my reality.
If you could present some kind of proof that my reasoning is flawed (and that of my colleagues, some of who are therapists), I would be open to reading it. However, as it stands right now, this is your personal opinion. Whereas, my reasoning is based on scientific, documented research, as well as concrete evidence from my own experiences and those of my clients.
We do have an influence on our reality. Suggesting that those who find themselves the target of Narcissistic abuse explore the possibility of their being codependent is only logical, instead of insisting that we are at the mercy of outside forces, including manipulators. That’s what is wrong and damaging and keeps people in a state of victimhood.
Please delete this comment, overall you are still having a positive effect on humanity so I don’t want this to be shown.
You have simply attracted many people to this site who have the same weak personality, victim mentality and overall high narcissism that you have too, deep down still always blaming something else and only pretending to understand your own shortcomings. In reality never truly facing that a lot of all this, at least 20-30%, was your fault. And you are working with these people who are all somewhat kinda like this.
You are unable to admit to yourself that you are so damn attracted to pathological narcissists because you yourself have many highly narcissistic traits and delusions on the non-pathological side, co-dependency only being one of them. Being similar attracts, it’s the world you know.
But this is only one (but yes, probably the most common one) form of narcissist dynamic. You have no comprehension of for example pathological narcissism in women, nor does society and psychology in general. It’s a huge taboo. There is for example really no co-dependency involved when there are zero humanly detectable signs of any abuse for months/years, most female covert narcissists can be that tricky and do everything perfectly. Some male narcissists too. They come across as someone completely normal.
I think you lack an understanding of sociopaths and psychopaths in general, you believe they are some weird forms of, for the lack of a better word, “human”. Well they aren’t, but something completely else. Pretty much all psychopaths are also pathological narcissists.
More like you are running a business here, trying to treat everyone of co-dependency. Those who never had it, nor did they let the narcissist create any co-dependancy in them once the lies got exposed, won’t turn to you because it is obvious to them that something is very off with your views, very damaging to them, almost like “victim-blaming”.
I have no idea how those therapists you mentioned got their degree (I mean, I have an idea, because of the taboos and how their education works).
Makes me wonder whether you really are an INFJ.. they see through such things easily..
I won’t delete your comment because it’s a wonderful example of a trolling, cerebral narcissistic reaction. I know your kind very well and I’m sure you’ve left similar comments on other blogs. Just please understand that whatever damage you were trying to inflict here is lost on me.
Once again, you’ve come here without proof… only more finger-pointing and name-calling. It’s obvious that you’re trolling and your leaving comments under different names only amplifies that fact.
Your comments seemed harmless in the beginning, but once I asked for proof that my reasoning is flawed, your response was to go on the attack instead. A classic example of a narcissistic reaction.
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