Note to readers: Apologies for my long absence. Life and a busy practice have prevented me from writing until now. I hope to resume a regular blogging schedule shortly and to continue with the Plan B Talk series. In the meantime I thought I’d republish some evergreens readers have requested. This one, about what codependency and narcissism have in common, still seems pretty relevant.
In therapy we sometimes talk as if narcissists and codependents come from different planets.
I’ve done it myself. In one post, for example, I contrasted their relationship behavior as Me First versus Yes, Dear.
I forgot how much they have in common.
First, they’re both hungry.
Both typically came from families unable to meet their childhood emotional needs. So they spend their adult lives seeking attention and acceptance, approval and love.
Second, they’re both control addicts.
Yes, they control differently – narcissists more overtly, codependents more covertly.But both spend most of their energy and time trying to transform the reality they’ve got into the reality they want. And neither is good at going with the flow.
Finally, they’re both self-centered.
Narcissists, of course, are obvious about it. Look at me. Ain’t I special? Gotta love me.
Codependents are more subtle. You okay? Anything I can do for you? Sure, whatever you want.
Their Yes, dear behavior may manifest as people-pleasing, conflict avoidance, emotional dishonesty, self-sacrifice, self-abuse, or any number of other ways of disguising their true selves.
But behind it all is a desperate attempt to feed themselves by manipulating others — to get their needs met in the only way they know, and without much concern for (or even awareness of) how it impacts those they’re manipulating.
They may call it love or respect or being considerate or being nice. But codependents put others first, not out of altruism, but in hopes that someday someone will return the favor.
So forget all that two-planets stuff.
Think of codependency as narcissism in sheep’s clothing.
And narcissists and codependents as two weeds with one root.