Friday, March 14, 2008

Nonsense Check on Codependence

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, you lack 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.

Lets say 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 youself, 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 dependant 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/ 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 codependcy 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 subsconscious. 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:
Codependence and 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.

Technorati Tags:

Labels: ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


At 7:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am going to send this around to the few therapists I know who "get it"

I will also post it on some of the abuse victims groups I belong to; probably will get me banned but who cares? LOL

Love you Kathy. Really.

At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can I do this retroactively?
I kept my mouth shut, save for when I finally threatened the psycho to make them go away and the rest I ignored out of existence, but I am angry still.

I write and don't send notes, and then I eventually realize they are disordered, I'll be feeding them attention. But is it worthwhile to vent just for me?

I know - no one can tell me what to do, but I do regret now staying quiet. Though at the time, I valued-STUPIDLY- my "friendships" that never were.

On a very good note: My daughter stood up to a bully. After I had coached her on learning when to fight, when to walk away. She simply said: "Cut it out!" The kid stopped and as she said looked shocked.

One small step in irradicating bullies!

At 10:38 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

Barbara, be my guest :)

Holy Water Salt, that's a good question. I have often wondered about it myself.

It seems to me that you have it boiled down to brass tacks: you would be feeding them attention, but for your self-respect, you do need to speak up for yourself = to defend yourself. That isn't just "venting." That is denying the false accusation or the degrading value judgement. For example, if someone calls you a liar and you don't answer, you accept the false accusation. Not what innocent people do. If someone treats you like a bug and you and answer nothing, you have submitted dociely to that value judgement. Not what dignified people worthy of respect do. That's why you feel the way you do about it. Answering is something you must do to be faithful to yourself or you will be angry with yourself.

Maybe others have good ideas. I'd just weigh the matter carefully and look for a way to answer without getting into an argument. That would be pointless and would just give them attention.

At 10:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ONLY people in my life who have EVER accused me of being codependent turned out to be narcissists who were challenged by my getting close to someone that they didn't control or that I might compare notes with. I can see this now. But then...

One of the things I learned from my mother at a very early age was that anger was bad. Except that it did not seem to apply to her. Just to everyone else. Unless they were letting some other abuser abuse them. Then they were just stupid to not stand up for themselves. She, of course, would NEVER put up with that.

From my own experience, when you are the victim of abuse, you are already feeling pretty crappy about yourself. Your self-esteem has been mutilated. To have the 'professionals' tell you that how you feel is your fault just digs the hole deeper. I suspect that those who came up with this theory are either abusers themselves or had NEVER witnessed abuse in someone they loved... or they are trying to make excuses for the abusers in their life - blame shift, say, from the father that beat the mother to the mother who 'let' him. I don't know, just some thoughts that came.

I have heard this kind of talk from pulpits, too. It is easier, I think, to blame the victim than look evil in the eye and call it what it is.

Good post. Thanks.

At 8:36 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

LJA, What you say describes my experience too. In other words, changing but a couple words here or there, I could have said the thing. So, I bet what you describe is very common or the norm.

And I find it ironic that we hear this mainly from the pulpit and from the professionals. Two groups who, I'm sure, don't like being compared to each other and have no idea how glaringly alike they are.

At 9:50 AM, Blogger So, what IS in a heart? said...

"Why do people feel the need to be more powerful than their abuser?"

Because they feel it's the only way to "defeat" the abuser or get rid of them. They don't realize that being more powerful is not enough. They just want to feel safe. They also want to "win" against the person who harmed them.

As for not caring what others think, I disagree with what you say. Lots of people really DON'T care what others think of them. They don't base their lives on "What would everyone think" or "People will think", etc. For them, praise/positive opinions may be nice, but not necessary. They really don't care either way. If they're "private" about certain things, it's not about shame or "knowing their wrong" or "what others think", it's because it's simply inconvenient to be questioned/challenged about it.

However, thinking and SAYING are two different things, as are saying and DOING. If someone has a slander campaign going on or if you see "red flags" in a relationship, then it's expected that someone should do something about it.

The key is the WAY someone responds to an accusation. If they deny it, well, that's natural, but it's also expected, so that can play into the accusers' hands. To be honest, sometimes "not engaging" at all, or even silence IS the best response. Sometimes, a cold, hard stare before walking off is all you need. It really depends on the situation, and who it is your dealing with. Some things really aren't worth a response, especially if it comes from people that you don't even know and will probably never see again.

As for work, well, obviously you care what he thinks of as a worker, but isn't that only because you don't want to lose your job? I mean, I'm not going to stop watching a certain TV show because my boss might not like it, yanno? Not that I'd watch it at work. Heh.

At 9:51 AM, Blogger So, what IS in a heart? said...

"She, of course, would NEVER put up with that."

Hah, yea right. If she's an N, then you can bet that she'd be the first to knuckle under.

At 10:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In fact the word codependence is used in a strange way I think.
In a negative way only. Asif codependence is abnormal by definition.
In this way this meaning today could be invented by narcissist.
They are not able to show dependency and hate it, so in their eyes it's weakness.
But is this true?
Aren't we all to a certain degree codependent from- and with eachother?
And isnn't that healthy and nescessary?
I think it is. We need eachother and we depend on eachother.
In my eyes nothing wrong with that.
If that's not the case you'll have no relationships and only live in your own world like N's do.
Individualism and not depend on anyone today is highly valued in western society.
A society where so many people live alone and are lonely.
In a country as India no one can understand this.
There, individualism and strive to not depend on anyone would be regarded as unhealthy and stupid, codependency at the contrary as natural.
It's not per definition weak to depend on other people.
It's not black or white I try to say.


At 12:29 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

"As for not caring what others think, I disagree with what you say. Lots of people really DON'T care what others think of them. They don't base their lives on "What would everyone think" or "People will think", etc. For them, praise/positive opinions may be nice, but not necessary. They really don't care either way."

As Bobby kennedy said, I think there are people willing to brave disapproval, and bless them. But I think that doesn't equate to not caring what people think.

There are many people who claim to not care what others think. But I have learned in life that the vast majority are fibbing. They prove that by conforming to political correctness, reversing their conduct and options as fast and frequently as the wind shifts in their little part of the world. You know - weathervane minds. So, if they won't even think for themselves, you know that they DO fear disapproval. Just poll people in densely populated areas. 85-over 90% agree on every hot-button issue, even if it means holding an irrational opinion.

In fact, the louder and more frequently someone proclaims that he doesn't care what people think, the more he does. Often he will behave like a "bad boy" (or girl), but he's just trying to win admiration for that.

In any case, that doesn't actually conflict with what I said anyway. I wasn't talking about your neighbor or cousin. Generally, they are social connections, not people whose opinion can really hurt you. I specifically said that we care (most) when the other person believing a bad thing about us would harm us. Like, not when it's a child, but yes when it's your boss. Or yes when the lie spreads to make a social outcast of you.

So, what you put up to argue against is a bit of a strawman.

At 6:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only person I have ever known who truly does not care about what others think is a Narcissist.

He doesn't care about the social contract.

He only cares about what HE thinks others think.

At 7:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wonderfully put. feelings should be felt, and they are the most powerful tool you have against a narcissist, because the more you acknowledge them (without letting them control your behavior, while using your wit), the more the narcissist, who can't handle feelings, gets her own logic powerfully exposed. and they ARE tolerable, and the only tool one has against their crap. the truth sets everyone free.


Post a Comment

<< Home

craig class janesville