Friday, September 22, 2006


UPDATE: See the comments. The explanation of co-dependence in the first one seems reasonable to me, at least immediately. That seems to make sense as more of a defense mechanism than self masochism.

The victims of narcissists are relentlessly re-victimized by a rationale for blaming the victim called co-dependence.

I am still waiting for some evidence or explanation to persuade me that there is such a thing, so I’m still open to the idea. But, sorry, I haven’t heard a single reason to think that there even is such a thing as co-dependence. So, I am very skeptical.

I’ll share my reasons for that skepticism, not so much to persuade you as to give you reason for pause, some food for thought.

Reason 1

I trust science, including medical science. But not blindly. I know science and have seen enough bad science to have no illusions about the integrity of scientists and doctors. I know that they are just people, as capable of dishonesty as any other people, that they herd, gaining up in groupthink. They mocked Louis Pasteur. They predicted the end of the world by now due to population explosion. They ignored the evidence in favor of a low carbohydrate diet for decades, till it suddenly became the politically correct rage. And now they are pulling the same stunt with their faux science on global warming.

But the rest of science and medical science is squeaky clean compared to psychology. I have always been amazed at what passes for “science” in psychology. Psychology experiments are notorious for not following scientific method, even to the point of not controlling the variables. True, other doctors sometimes differ in their diagnoses, and we can identify fashion trends in diagnosis. But other doctors are near perfect in the reproducibility of their results compared to psychiatrists. Psychiatrists are notorious for diagnosing the same person differently. They are notorious for covering all bases by “throwing the book” at a patient with a diagnosis of several disorders. And they are notorious for following fashion trends in diagnosis.

Moreover, for obvious reasons, the profession attracts more than its share of narcissists and others manifestly odd and eccentric. In one of the universities I attended, the whole psych department was flaky except for one – yes but one – professor.

Sorry, I know it’s taboo to know this truth, but I do. Every profession attracts more than its share of something that doesn’t belong there. For example, the priesthood and the teaching profession attract more than their share of pedophiles. Police work attracts more than its share of bullies. And so on. So, let’s face it: psychology attracts more than it’s share of fruitcakes.

What does this mean? Does it mean that we should doubt everything the established medical authorities say? No. It just means that they aren’t infallible and that, if what they say doesn’t square with logic and observation, you should have a healthy skepticism.

Reason 2

Just because there is such a thing as the martyr complex doesn’t mean that it applies to a relationship with a narcissist. A person with a martyr complex isn’t really abused and doesn’t seek real abuse. He or she likes to imagine themselves abused and portray themselves as abused.

There’s a big difference between that and seeking real abuse!

Reason 3

In my own little slice of the world, this is what I have observed and learned from other victims: there is such a thing as the cycle of abuse. It does cause the victim to behave in ways that seem strange to outside observers – as if they are “asking for it.”

People’s bad habit of always tending to blame the victim makes everyone jump to the conclusion that this is so = that they are "asking for it." But in the cases I know of, it never was.

In fact, the victims of narcissists behave exactly the same way the victims of all torture and brainwashing do, exactly the way all hostages do. So, strange as it seems, this behavior is the reaction of NORMAL people to abuse.

All the tortured cling to the torturer for dear life. All hostages exhibit the Stockholm syndrome. This has been known since at least the Dark Ages. Professional torturers (executioners) and the Inquisition understood this phenomenon and deliberately exploited it to make their victims betray themselves to abuse.

Why do normal people do this under duress? It’s because you’re taking right-side-up people and putting them in a pervert’s upside-down world. You’re taking people acting on normal human premises and having those reactions play right into pervert’s perverted premises.

The abuser always makes the victim totally dependant on him before he starts abusing. So, what is the victim going to do? She has no choice but to try to soften a stone-cold heart. This is nothing but appeasement. The helpless have no other option.

We see this happening on a massive scale today in the bizarre efforts to appease the abuses of Islamofascist mobs and terrorists the world over. “Don’t make them mad! Don’t think badly of them for what they do. Apologize for making them abuse us by making them mad at us. Blame ourselves for everything they do to us. Bend over for it with a smile. Suck up. Then maybe they will soften and like us and stop abusing us.”

Pass me the puke bucket, please.

The West has no excuse for such cowardly appeasement, because the West isn’t helpless. The western nations are just too unwilling to stop squabbling among themselves, get real, and unite against a common enemy (a problem the West has had since the Fall of the Roman Empire).

But the victims of narcissist often ARE helpless.

And even when they aren’t, when they can and do try to fight back, some holier-than-thou comes along and says it’s a sin. Then the whole world gangs up and jumps on the victim’s back saying, “Yes, stop it. Stop fighting because that’s a sin.”

Who has a strong enough backbone to stand up to that? This merciless suppression of any effort at self-defense breaks the victim’s back. Then these same holier-than-thous turn around and say, “See? She just takes it. So, she likes it. She’s asking for it.”

Perhaps THEY are the ones who need their heads examined, not the victim they thus play Catch-22 with.

I see no self-masochism in this victim, do you? I just see a normal human being in Catch-22.

What is Catch-22? It’s the English translation of the Italian phrase for the 22nd "malbowge" ("evil pouch/pocket") of Nether Hell in Dante's Inferno. That's the lowest pit of hell, the place where the treacherous, the traitors, get to experience their sin on the receiving end. It’s where Dante put Judas priests, the likes of people who invite a family to dinner and then lock them in a tower to starve to death, as well as Julius Caesar’s “friend” Brutus and Judas Iscariot.

As I’ve said in other posts, the victim WILL feel shame for bending over for it, to the extent that he or she failed to resist as much as possible. And, as I’ve said, this is why the victim must never be condemned for fighting back.

But, come on, knuckling under to abuse isn’t the same thing as liking it and wanting it. Normal people may knuckle under. But only sick-in-the-head people could like it and ask for it. So, my hunch is that cases of co-dependence in narcissism are either rare or never occur.

People ASSUME that the victim wants abuse in their IGNORANCE of the real and understandable reasons why the victim doesn’t fight back or run away.

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At 4:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It took me years to get a grasp on what codependence means to me. The definitions seem to vary wildly. Your and my definition of codependent may be different, too.

To me codependence means using some type of maladaptive behavior to avoid feeling your own feelings and dealing with your own reality.

To me that could be having a martyr-type complex, wallowing in a victim type role or being an "activity freak", who always has to have something going on to avoid their own feelings and their own reality.

I believe codependence in this definition can attract narcissists and/or make us more vulnerrable to narcisists and other abusers.

I always thought codependent meant "dependent". Being an independent person, being codependent, made no sense to me.

Now I see even being overly independent can be codependent if we are using that as a barrier feeling and knowing your true self.

The more I learn about codependence, I see it as any of a number of behaviors taken on to avoid actually feeling and living our own lives.

Once the "act" and mask is off, we can find out who we really are and erect healthy boundaires wtih abusers. We can start truly feeling our feelings and not just faking or avoiding them.

At 4:46 PM, Blogger Kathy K said...

That's interesting. It makes sense too. Maybe I misundertood it all along. Or maybe there's ambiguity so that it means different things to different people.

At 5:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My uncle is a psychiatrist.
My uncle is a malignant narcissist.
Something Kathy that I would love to see you turn your gift to (do you take requests? LOL) is the following, that literally makes my eyeballs spin and my stomach hitch:

The to my mind BULLS*** nonsense that "only a trained mental health professional can diagnose narcissism." I say from the top of a mountain, "BULLS888."
What are your thoughts, I mean I KNOW what your thoughts are...but in the Internet age, where any intelligent person can cross reference their personal experience with the behavior of the people around them, why CAN'T we go around diagnosing them...I mean, apart from self-righteous line towers glaring at us with their, "So where did YOU study psychology???" stuff? Sigh. I suppose I already know the answer, but I am just sighing and venting, you know? WHY? Why are people always looking to blame US?
Sigh. I already know the answer. YOU elocuted why perfectly and often.
I need a bath. Just feeling sad today. GG

At 6:38 PM, Blogger Kathy K said...

That's a good one. I'm sure I can tell too. Maybe quicker than some psychiatrists.

That's largely because NPD is hard to honestly mistake. I mean, for example, what other kind of person gets madder when you try to appease them?

But why should anyone believe me? I have no qualifications.

They aren't everything, but they are something to go on in judging fitness to judge.

Of course there are legal issue too. Even a psychiatrist doesn't dare go around diagnosing people he or she hasn't properly examined.

So, it's one thing to know that a person is an N and quite another to label him or her as one to other people.

At 6:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, and you don't need a Ph.D. in psychology to spot a narcissist.

When you stop and consider the context of the question above, "So, where did you study psychology?", you can see that the person asking it already knows the answer, and what he's really saying is, "I am better and smarter than you, and you are my inferior who needs to give me attention and adulation and maybe, if you're lucky, learn something." That's the essence of narcissism, isn't it? The speaker doesn't really seriously believe you need to study psychology (any more than a doctor thinks you need to be an M.D. to diagnose a sore throat), but -- as a narcissist -- he's lying to manipulate you through what he hopes is your insecurity.

What this raises in my mind is whether certain jobs (e.g., psychology, medicine, law, etc.) are more likely to attract narcissists. I used to think so, but I don't think that anymore. Narcissists are attracted to prestige, but at the same time, they are not willing to work for it, and are repelled by anything that they consider demeaning. Every job has its good and bad points, which narcissists can’t accept, since they only know black and white. For example, doctors are well-paid and held in high regard, but they have to work crazy hours, put up with grief from insurance companies, and deal with revolting bodily fluids. Not attractive to narcissists. Lawyers are also well-paid and held in semi-high regard, but they have to put up with insults from nasty judges, nasty clients and other nasty lawyers. Again, narcissists can't take that. There is no perfect job for the narcissist.

In work, as in life, each narcissist seems to construct his or her own fantasy world based on maximizing the perceived prestige, and denying the bad stuff. I had an N friend (ex-friend now) who worked as a liquor store clerk. Not a fancy job at all, but he had convinced himself that the store's existence depended on him, that he knew more about wine than anyone on earth, and where he didn't know, he'd lie to cover up. He needed to be the expert, the sage, the great authority, even when it came to $6.99 bottles of wine. Sounds silly, but that's the world he lived in -- and probably still does.

At 7:29 PM, Anonymous epf said...

Regarding the definition of codependence, it seems there is not a lot of agreement even among the professionals.

I never thought it was me until I could wrap my head around the previous definition.

It has meant a lot to me and my growth to accept I am codependent under that definition and do something about it.

One of the things I did was try to identify the "hole fillers" I would use to avoid my feelings.

Example of hole fillers to me
might be:

1. "drama". You can certainly have that around narcassists.

2. Being overly involved in other's welfare instead of your own.

3. Overly involvement with other's feelings at the expense of your own.

4. Eating, drinking, sleeping, exercising too much.

5. And particulalry for me: intellectualizing so much. In other words talking about my feelings instead of feeling them.
I had to get totally reacquainted with my feelings.

To actually notice and feel it when I was mad, sad, etc. It may all sound a little out there, as it did to me at first, but the journey has been a good one so far.

At 8:29 PM, Anonymous GH said...

Okay, re: diagnosing. On the one hand, I agree that once you start learning about NPD, the Ns seem easy to spot. I can certainly pick up on those traits more than I did before after a mental health professional told me my spouse has N traits and got me looking stuff up.

BUT... The pros do have an advantage in that they are evaluating and analyzing people with problems every day and can probably make distinctions many of us wouldn't. Sort of like how Kathy recently mentioned that at one point she saw similarities between autism and NPD -- both seem to lack empathy from the outside looking in, but the disorders are vastly different on the inside.

My friend who is a doctor once told me that there is a typical phase in med school where students start developing a little hypochondria. They study all these diseases and all these symptoms all day and start thinking, OMG I hava a headache -- it must be a brain tumor. I think alot of us can get like that when we first learn about NPD -- we learn about the symptoms and suddenly we're seeing it EVERYWHERE. Takes some time to figure out the difference between run-of-the-mill arrogance and genuine grandiosity. And once you've dealt with a true N, you are so deathly afraid of going through it again that you're prone to see it even where it's doubtful because who wouldn't err on the side of caution after getting burned?

Did that make any sense at all?

At 10:01 PM, Blogger Kathy K said...

Just to play devil's advocate with myself, another way that professionals (provided they deal with enough cases of NPD) have an advantage is that they are better able to recognize NPD in all its disguises, or at least more disguises, than the lay person. For example, I but recently realised that one of the men I dated in college was probably a narcissist, testing me as a source of NS, and that I dodged a bullet with the breakup of that relationship.

The reason I never realized this before is because his style was different than any of the other Ns I had known or learned about. There are many faces of narcissism, because each develops his or her own strategy based on his or particular life situation. Also, he was courting me, so there was no full-blown narcissistic rage to show him with his mask off, no Twilight-Zone Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hyde moments, no manifest abuse either. It was just the weiredest relationship I ever had. Under these cicrumstances, a professional with a good deal of experience would be better able to spot the subtly grandiose behaviors, the subtly attention-getting behaviors, and know what to make of the fact that I never could put my finger on what this week's fight was ABOUT. (There's a reason for that!) It was like he was having it with me all by himself.

As for seeing NPD everywhere, I have often feared that I would start doing that. But, unfortunately, when you see enough, you just know that person has NPD. I have no statistical basis for this, but in my own little slice of the world, it's much more prevalent than 1%. Vaknin, if I remember correctly estimates the prevalence at 7-15% or thereabouts. That seems much more like it to me. In other words, in every 10 or 20 people meet, 1 or 2 may have NPD. That's a lot. Some personality disorders (those most often forced into care) are estimated at a prevalnece of up to 15%. What if NPD is that prevalent? That's really a lot. That's 3 out of every 20 people you know.

At 11:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On professional diagnosis: How much of a chance does a professional have to diagnose a narcissist?

The narcissist I know runs to professionals every time one of his wives will have no more of him, or beats his lies severely in court, or pretty much any time one of his dirty schemes blows up in his face. However, he never lasts more than two or three sessions with any one of them, changing from one to another until his crisis has passed and he has the promise of a new victim to concentrate on. He claims that each therapist is better than the last (though of course, all are "the best" and make exception to their policy of not accepting new clients just for him because they find him so exceptional). And they are always female therapists.

In the end, he always claims that "all three" (or however many he ran to) agreed that he is so good, so conscientious, and has tried to do the right thing. It's always all someone else's fault. He loves to quote these therapists as having heaped praise on him. "You're a good person! You've done everything right!"

I just always assumed that as soon as the professional started asking too many questions about the steady stream of contradictions and lies that flowed from his mouth, he was outta there pronto. I doubt that professionals are like the rest of us, just ignoring these idiots and letting them lie non-stop without any real challenge just to get rid of them, or to avoid a tantrum.

How many shots does a professional have at poking holes in the narcissist's smoke-and-mirror world before the narcissist flees? How many professionals will try to diagnose a personality disorder if they have only a few sessions to go by? I think that the professionals have their work cut out for them when they are dealing with these slippery freaks. The narcissist is a coward by nature and he knows when he is outmatched. There is no one there but the therapist and him. He can't "win" with his lies, he can't hurt the therapist when he feels stung, so how long will he stick around? The one I know sure doesn't seem to hold up to it for long.

I suspect that professionals have more brief encounters with narcissists than they'll ever know.

At 5:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My N 'friend' who I have known basically from childhood as we were neighbors went to a therapist when she went through divorce. Guess what. She came back better then ever before. She reinvented herself (read:ego) The therapist praised her over and over again, gave her tools the way a therapist would do with a non N to make her stronger (read:more skilled to manipulate) and applauded her decisions. This female N is able to hide her n'ism extremely well by mirroring people and going from there to get her way. Even the therapist felt sorry.

At 5:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that one of the posters here says that an N is attracted to prestige in a job but not willing to work for it. The N's I have known are indeed very attracted to prestige but are also working extremely hard for it. The N I knew would always work on his project and the result would be brilliant. He would of course be recognised and praised for this. What I am saying is that I have seen an incredible work drive with high intelligence N's. I guess it has to do with control and supply.

At 7:21 AM, Anonymous epf said...

I think some narcissists do work very hard in their field and get supply from that. It is also a great way for them to avoid actually relating to people...the workaholic.

Another N's I have known think they should be praised and lauded just for being alive. that is one of the more pathetic manifestations of Narcissism in my opinion.

That seems to truly involve the false grandiosity with nothing to back it up but the fairy tale in their heads.

It really is quite a sad affliction if they hadnt harmed us so.

At 11:06 AM, Blogger Kathy K said...

Ns are like anybody else in that when they really want something, they will move heaven and earth to get it. After all, look how hard they work to get N supply.

But, as for how hard they work at their job or profession, and how good their work really is, appearances can be deceiving.

I was fooled about this by several narcissists. To hear them tell it, they are always the best ___ (fill in the blank) at their place of work. They constantly tell you what a bad job everyone else is doing.

But you have to remember that you're hearing the account of a pathological liar who creates an illsion about this, just as he or she creates an illusion about everything else.

In every case I have have known of, if you actually see their work, you find that it cuts every possible corner. That their methods are a lazy-man's methods, not brilliant innovations. That they are stealing the work and credit that belongs to others. And so on.

All smoke and mirrors. It's amazing how deceptive they can be!

This is not to say though that, to gain a high position, they will not work as hard as necessary.

The key to understanding this is to realise that N are for looks only. Whenever they can get away with laying down on the job while creating the appearance of doing it, they naturally will.

Only when they can't get away with faking it will they actually put forth the effort necessary to achieve the praise and prestige they want.

So, it isn't that NPD makes them lazy: it's that NPD makes them thorough fakes. In their book appearances are all that matter, so naturally they fake as much as they can.

At 11:44 AM, Blogger Kathy K said...

An addendum to my previous comment about how hard Ns work (since you can't read my mind and know the information I was basing that statement on).

I have known two who worked outrageous hours, one at a salary = with no overtime pay. I mean like up to 80 hours a week! In fact, I suspect I have known 3 who did this. (The 3rd I know too few details about to be sure she was an N.)

It is very easy to get fooled by that. There's your typical workaholic. But just what are they doing all that time? Sleeping in their office with the door closed? Appearances can be wholly deceiving. And, in at least one case, I know all this "work" was to make himself look good while denying his family the grace of his presence/attention.

The clue is in how big a deal they make of their work. Do they make sure the whole world knows how many hours they put in? Are they always criticizing others for not working as hard as they do or for not doing their jobs right? That's a warning sign to beware falsehood in the impression they are giving you.

>On professional diagnosis: How much of a chance does a professional have to diagnose a narcissist? ...I suspect that professionals have more brief encounters with narcissists than they'll ever know.<

I suspect that you are exactly right!

>My N 'friend' who I have known basically from childhood as we were neighbors went to a therapist when she went through divorce. Guess what. She came back better then ever before. ...The therapist praised her over and over again, gave her tools the way a therapist would do with a non N to make her stronger (read:more skilled to manipulate) and applauded her decisions. ...Even the therapist felt sorry.<

Yikes, I never thought of that.

But I have read (from some professional literature) that it is well known that sociopaths often come out of treatment more dangerous because they have learned to manipulate people better. That isn't exactly the same thing, because these are known sociopaths when they go into treatement. And STILL they pick up tricks, tricks they use to con people even better than before.

Imagine how much worse it can be if the therapist doesn't even know he or she is dealing with a predator.

At 2:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Kathy for your great comments. Your observations are so spot on!
As for my N 'friend' from childhood. Gladly she is not a sociopath, and I agree with you that if she were what would have been the damage. It's a horrific thought indeed. I think she belongs more to the garden variety N's sort of but when the mask is off, it is a shocker. I feel very sorry for her x husband and kids. To me she behaves quite well as she knows I will back off when she gets nasty. I must admit that I always wish she does not seek more contact then we have now, about once every two months for a short chat which I can handle lol.

At 9:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Narcissists are attracted to prestige, but at the same time, they are not willing to work for it, and are repelled by anything that they consider demeaning."
The group of "artists" and erstwhile friends who maliciously tried to stomp out my light are NO-FUCKING-TORIOUS for being the laziest, lest committed musicians anywhere, YET THEY CONTINUE TO LIE TO THEMSELVES AND AUDIENCES ALIKE, posturing and swanning like they're Beethoven instead of a group of heavy drinking, light thinking pity party throwers (and for God's sake brush your teeth before you try to bray in MY FACE about what YOU KNOW). They make a big show of working hard, yet always deliver a substandard product bordering mighty close to parody and expect no one to know the difference because as long as THEY feel "satisfied" with their "performance", substance didn't mean s***. And these are people who NEED to be regarded as the Biggest Rock and Rollers anywhere. And these are the people I love. SCORES of them in the arts; I will never forget my sojourn into the hell of their inner landscape where just enough'll do for anyone else, BUT GIVE ME YOUR BLOOD, and the head-shaking that comes with watching these pompous pretend people force you to act like they're the shit and you are beneath their notice. It's tragic and funny at the same time watching the people you love die slowly and conspicuously of willful stupidity.

At 10:11 PM, Blogger Fighter said...

I just love you Kathy!!! I could read you all day & night... very validating.

Will you marry me? (kidding)

At 4:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kathy --

I really like and respect your blog but strongly disagree with your argument here. I believe you have conflated a victim of narcissism with a co-dependent N, the second of which is almost always a subset of the first.

Reason #1 I agree with.

Reason #2 I disagree with because your argument is directed at victims of narcissists, not the subset of those victims who really do develop a martyr complex and subsequently need others to fill their narcissistic supply of feeling victimized.

Reason #3 I disagree with for the exact same reason. To be sure victims are by definition not
"asking for it". However, after some time they are inculcated into the co-dependent way of thinking so thoroughly that they start asking for it. Your counter-argument that this is a normal human reaction under similar circumstances is spot-on, but what differentiates the co-dependent narcissist is that they continue these co-dependent behaviors with others -- the need to feel negated, victimized, and sometimes manipulating to feel like they are heroically overcoming. From this perspective the N is the opposite of the victim while the N and the co-dependent are two sides of the same coin.

I say this because my mother was a co-dependent narcissist: always calling me abusive, that I'm "abusing her", and even institutionalizing me for being "abusive". She also demonstrated a martyr complex best summarized here: On the other hand, she really ripped into me with criticism in a N-type way, the same way I think she was criticized as a child and criticized herself on the ego-level. So while she was no doubt a victim at one time and your defines and defends victims of N's, I think co-dependency is a genuine separate issue and her N and co-dependency were bound up with one another. Maybe she was an N on an ego-level and a co-dependent on the "True Self" level, though I'm not sure I am applying these concepts correctly.

- V


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