If my ex was a narcissist, what was I?
This question came up when I was in the midst of all these information about Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
It seemed inevitable to ask what it was about me that made someone who has this personality disorder be `attracted’ to me?
Also, it seemed incomplete – now that I have found the truth about my ex – if I didn’t find out the truth about myself.
Reading my journal from more than a decade ago revealed cringing details about how I looked at and devalued my self.
I thought of myself as “inferior.” I felt so insecure, I thought I looked “stupid,” “I hated myself” and even judged myself as “totally irrelevant.”
At 20, I felt so desperate for a relationship and was lonely. I felt no one could like me.
My negative self-beliefs trumped the hard truths I couldn’t see: that I am worthy, I am lovable, I am beautiful – I just didn’t believe I was.
From my journal entries I realized the following truths:
- I had low self-esteem
- I talked derogatorily towards myself
- I hated myself
- I was too hard on myself
- I was mean to myself before my ex ever was
- I idealized my ex
- I saw my ex as I wanted to see him and not as what he really was
- I dismissed my feelings of doubt and ambivalence about the relationship
Could I have attracted someone who thought and felt the same way I thought and felt about myself?
Was my ex attracted to me because he sensed my insecurity and knew he could manipulate this to his advantage?
Was I disrespectful towards my ex by idealizing him?
Was I being self-disrespectful by being too hard on myself? By calling myself stupid? By talking down on myself?
Was I dishonoring my own opinions, dismissing my own thoughts when I didn’t pay attention to the doubts I sensed about my ex and the relationship?
Along with my research about Narcissism, I also encountered the term Codependent and Inverted Narcissist.
In Sam Vaknin’s site, he defines codependents as:
People who depend on other people for their emotional gratification and the performance of Ego or daily functions. They are needy, demanding, and submissive. They fear abandonment, cling and display immature behaviours in their effort to maintain the “relationship” with their companion or mate upon whom they depend. No matter what abuse is inflicted upon them – they remain in the relationship. By eagerly becoming victims, codependents seek to control their abusers.
Also called “covert narcissist”, this is a co-dependent who depends exclusively on narcissists (narcissist-co-dependent). If you are living with a narcissist, have a relationship with one, if you are married to one, if you are working with a narcissist, etc. – it does NOT mean that you are an inverted narcissist.
To “qualify” as an inverted narcissist, you must CRAVE to be in a relationship with a narcissist, regardless of any abuse inflicted on you by him/her. You must ACTIVELY seek relationships with narcissists and ONLY with narcissists, no matter what your (bitter and traumatic) past experience has been. You must feel EMPTY and UNHAPPY in relationships with ANY OTHER kind of person. Only then, and if you satisfy the other diagnostic criteria of a Dependent Personality Disorder, can you be safely labelled an “inverted narcissist”.
Melanie Tonia Evans, in her online radio show at BlogTalk Radio, describes Codependence and Narcissism and how these seem to go hand in hand.
Melanie Tonia discusses Narcissism and Co-dependence
Melanie Tonia Evans’ website also offers a self-test questionnaire to assess how much codependent one is. Go to http://www.melanietoniaevans.com/articles/codependency-issues.htm
In the book Co-Dependence Healing the Human Condition by Charles L Whitfield, M.D. the following are a few definitions of Co-Dependence:
- A multidimensional (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) condition manifested by any suffering and dysfunction that is associated with or due to focusing on the needs and behavior of others. It may be mild to severe and most people have it. It can mimic, be associated with and aggravate many physical, psychological and spiritual conditions. It develops from turning the responsibility for our life and happiness over to our ego (false self) and to others. It is treatable and recovery is possible.
- An exaggerated dependent pattern of learned behaviors, beliefs and feelings that make life painful. It is a dependence on people and things outside the self, along with neglect of the self to the point of having little self-identity.
- A stress-induced preoccupation with another’s life, leading to mal-adaptive behavior.
- Those self-defeating learned behaviors or character defects that result in a diminished capacity to initiate, or participate in, loving relationships.
- A person who has let someone else’s behavior affect him or her, and is obsessed with controlling other people’s behavior.
- Individuals who organize their lives – decision-making, perceptions, beliefs, values – around someone or something else.
- A disease wherein a person has difficulty: experiencing appropriate levels of self-esteem; setting functional boundaries; owning and expressing their own reality; taking care of their adult needs and wants; experiencing and expressing their reality moderately.
- A pattern of painful dependence on compulsive behaviors and on approval from others in an attempt to find safety, self-worth and a sense of identity. Recovery is possible.
- A stressful learned behavior associated with an unhealthy focus on the needs of others and/or attempting to take responsibility for or control the thoughts, feelings or behavior of others..motivated by a need for safety, acceptance amd self-worth.
- A learned behavior, expressed by dependencies on people and things outside the self; these dependencies include neglecting and diminishing of one’s own identity. The false self that emerges is often expressed through compulsive habits, addictions and other disorders that further increase alienation from the person’s true identity, fostering a sense of shame.
- A maladaptive bonding within a family system. To survive psychologically and socially in this dysfunctional family, the child adopts patterns of thinking, acting and feeling that at first dull the pain but finally are self-negating in themselves. These patterns become internalized and form an essential part of the personality and world view of the individual. The child continues to practice these self-destructive patterns of thinking, behaving and feeling in adulthood and in so doing recreates over and over again the bonding in which the destructive patterns originated.
- A particular form of unconscious loving..an agreement between people to stay locked in unconscious patterns..an unconscious conspiracy between two or more people to feel bad and limit each other’s potential, (wherein) the freedom of each is limited. Inequality is a hallmark.
- An often-fatal disease of emotional confusion, marked by severe alienation from one’s own feelings. Living for and through others, due to the inadequate development of self-love as a true basis for loving others. Variously defined as: the addiction to living for others at the expense of one’s own development; the substitution of adaptation for honest self-expression; the vicious cycle of using and blaming that arises when we make others responsible for what we feel and do; the mechanism of control / controlling that locks people into futile dependencies and impossible demands; abuse and discontinuing disguised in the attitudes and gestures of love, loyalty, devotion, caretaking, people pleasing. Any combination of the above.
- A spiritual condition, the shadow side of our love nature..a “dis-ease” of unequal relationships being acted out, of giving our power away.
Was I codependent?
I did depend on my ex for my emotional gratification and felt that he could complete me. I also felt I was nothing without his presence in my life.
I did stay in the relationship despite the overt and covert abuse I experienced all the while hoping he’d change, `fess up or be accountable – but he never did.
I did crave to be in a relationship with my ex regardless of the abuse he inflicted. At that time, I was afraid that if I left my ex, I’d be in a similar abusive relationship with someone else so I thought the devil I knew was better than the devil I didn’t.
I was also ambivalent in leaving the relationship yet was also unsure if I wanted to stay. I was afraid to be alone but I was also afraid to be out in the world on my own.
I depended on my ex to make me happy, to make me feel good.
I focused on how to help heal him but not how to help heal my Self.
I wanted to make him stop hurting me but I did nothing to stop myself from wanting to be with him.
I admit, yes I was codependent.
I acknowledge that I wanted to love and be loved. I realize that all human beings want to love and be loved but this should not trump self-safety and security. Abandoning my self for the sake of saving the relationship and for the sake of keeping my attachment towards my ex was not authentically loving myself and was therefore an unhealthy way to `love.’
Essentially, it was not love at all but pseudo-love.
It was not love that kept me from leaving – it was my addiction towards the relationship; it was my need to make him accountable; it was my desire for him to change; it was my desire for him to love me the way I wanted him to love me.
It was my beliefs and expectations that things can be better if I tried hard enough; it was my fears of being alone and facing the unknown that kept me in the relationship, not love.
I also had an unhealthy sense of self. I was too hard on myself. I didn’t acknowledge my own needs, safety and self-worth that I was lead on easily to any machinations and manipulations I received from my narcissist-ex who knew how to use my weaknesses to his advantage.
I only had the strength to let go when I felt I’ve finally had enough. I had to ultimately decide not to allow him to hurt me anymore. No more.
When I did let go, I realized that I needed to love myself authentically before anyone else could.
Admitting I was codependent was remarkably empowering. Though acknowledging it for the very first time was tremendously gut-wrenching.
Yet, knowing that my thoughts, actions, beliefs and perception towards my self conveniently fell under the traits of codependence helped me to be aware of how much I devalued my self, how I undervalued my worth, how I constantly looked outside to fill my feelings of lack, how I didn’t appreciate my self (no matter how much good qualities I have).
Admitting I was codependent made me mindful of how much I needed to take care of my Self for my own sake. It was only then that I realized how much I took myself for granted and how much I dismissed my own thoughts, my own feelings and my own value.
Knowledge about codependence also made me understand the fact that, if I allowed my ex to do all those things to me, imagine all the good things I can do FOR me.
Being aware and knowing that I had a hand in my situation, and that I am accountable for my actions and feelings gave me the freedom to be kind and compassionate towards my Self.
Honestly, it is scary not having anyone or anything to blame or put my dysfunctions on yet it is also liberating. It made me step up to the plate knowing and feeling that what I have I must take care of, who I am I must value, what I do I must be responsible for.
Knowing I was codependent was not a death sentence. It helped me look at myself honestly. It also forced me to treat myself better and to Love myself the way I should have long before.
Do you think you’re codependent too?
Being codependent is not something you need to feel ashamed of. It is something you simply have to be aware of.
Once you are aware of your less-than feelings about your self or any codependent traits you possess, you give yourself permission to bring these to the light of your understanding.
Doing this gives you the power to choose whether you should continue being codependent or not. Ultimately, you then realize how taking care of YOU will always be for your best interest and that you can never go wrong once you begin loving your self authentically.
“You will never be truly free if you must depend on another for verification of who you are.” Frank Kinslow
Coming Soon:Know more of what codependents say and do, better yet find out if the codependent is you Ebook.