The Rat Game
In a psychological experiment, you can take a bunch of lab rats, put them in a cage, and equip it with a button that delivers a treat when they push it.
You know what happens: soon those rats will learn to push it like crazy.
Then alter the button so it sometimes delivers a painful electric shock instead of a treat. Those rats still keep pushing it.
Then alter the button some more, so that it often delivers a painful electric shock instead of a treat. Those rats still keep pushing it.
Fix it so that pushing the button almost always delivers a painful shock. Ditto.
Fix it so pushing the button always delivers a painful shock. Ditto.
Long after pushing the button never delivers a treat, those rats keep pushing that button until it kills them.
Now rats certainly don't seek pain, so what's the matter with these crazy rats?
But they aren't crazy (at least not till near the end). Or codependent ;-) They are just normal rats in a perverted world that has gone upside-down on them. In that abnormal world, their normal behavior betrays them to the opposite of what they're after.
That's because pushing the button delivered pleasure at first. If it had delivered pain at first, they'd stay away from it forever after, no matter how frequently you later set the button to deliver a treat. Even if they then accidentally discover that it sometimes delivers a treat, they will never intentionally touch it.
This is because nature hasn't equipped their brain's hard wiring (basic instincts) to accommodate such a situation. Therefore, once rats have LEARNED to associate something with pleasure, that's it. It seems desirable forever after. Since such flip-flopping perversity never occurs in the natural world, their brains aren't equipped to deal with it. Only perverted people change things so that a source of pleasure becomes a source of pain.
People react to the Rat Game the same way rats do.
Your first two weeks in a new place of work. The resident narcissist comes up to you, and though he ranks no higher than you, he gives you a job evaluation without ever having seen your work. He tells you that you have a lot on the ball.
That's your treat. Instead of asking him who he thinks he is to be judging your job performance, you are flattered and want more of what he's selling.
You'll get nothing but treats like that for awhile, and then suddenly one day you'll get a painful shock instead. When you greet him, he will give you nothing but the stink-eye and look away, refusing to speak to you.
After your shock wears off, you will suffer wondering what terrible thing he thinks you did. You will try to make him give you treats again.
But he will always be unpredictable. He will be able to get mad at ANYTHING or to praise you for ANYTHING. It's totally arbitrary, because he can make anything good sound bad and vice versa. He can judge you as "too this" or "too that" at his whim.
But you will keep pushing that button till it kills you.
A therapist taught a woman I used to know about this, because her husband abused her with it.
It's a very common game. One narcissist told me that "the best part is that you never even get to know what you did" that made him mad.
That's because it wasn't anything you did that made him mad. His anger, like all the faces he puts on, is just a pumped-up put-on to draw the reaction from you that he wants.
narcissistic personality disorder narcissism