A common conversation I have frequently with many of our members in recovery is about narcissism and how similar the patterns are, especially the codependents who have left or are still in abusive relationships with Narcissists. The conversations start with, "I think I am the narcissist, this is the reason..." I can say to each of you reading this that may be wondering the same thing... the fact that you CARE and are CONCERNED and have strong "FEELINGS" tells me that you probably are NOT since empathy is not a part of the experience of being a narcissist. So WHY do we think we might be, why are we able to see ourselves as the "bad guy" even though someone else is the culprit? This is common for many reasons such as; being gaslighted and unsure of what is real or not real, being conditioned to believe that you are the one with "the" problem because the Narc is projecting on you (Darlene Lancer elaborates on projection), and the fact that empathetic codependents overly connect with love ones and internalize their reality as their own...well that is the enmeshment you will hear about if you too have been a victim of a narcissist.
I want to say first before going further that Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a diagnosable disorder in the DSM-V. It is a serious disorder and is very hard and next to impossible to treat. In our meeting, I talked about one of the reasons it is so rare of a disorder to be diagnosed, because they would have to "WANT" help and seek it. The statistics of NPD in America show approximately 0.5% of the United States population, or one 1 in 200 people, has the disorder. There are significant gender differences when it comes to the prevalence of the disorder; about 75% of people with narcissistic personality disorder are men.
Another point we made in the meeting is that there are MANY individuals that use narcissistic traits as a coping tool and harm people in the process who may not meet the criteria of NPD. Those people are dangerous and maybe able to get help and treatment if they want to BUT it is not OUR job to fix them, convince them, or dedicate a lifetime waiting for them to change.
What we CAN do is empower ourselves with KNOWLEDGE as to why they are the way they are, and why codependents seem to fall victim to their tactics.
I have extensively studied both codependency and narcissism as a survivor of intimate partner violence and a lifetime of trauma from abuse, determining what my issues were and why I kept repeating cycles of behavior and relationships became a passion of mine. I was lucky to have resources to get the help I needed. I am gifting my research and information to you because mental healthcare and basic coping skills, foundational tools should not be held hostage by the few who can afford therapy. I am attempting to give you what I have learned and I stress to you that I am not yet finished with my Masters, I am not a therapist, I am a student and survivor and in recovery. I don't have all the answers, I am only sharing what I have found to be true, what has worked for me, and what I have found substantial evidence that supports the information I am providing. PLEASE seek counseling and even online options like talkspace and betterhealth and I do have resources to assist you in finding low or no cost counseling services...so please reach out if you need assistance.
I have an understanding of what codependency and narcissism have in common and they both come from individuals that need external things, people, experiences, drugs, alcohol, food, you name it...to fill the void they were never told was actually already full. The need for others approval, for others attention, affection, love, safety, is not in and of itself negative, Extremes are not healthy, staying in an extreme state can lead to desensitization and then you will become numb to "it", as Co-Dependents Anonymous states as a pattern of codependency "stay in unhealthy relationships too long".
Codependency has been defined as, “a behavioral condition in a relationship where one person enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, abusive behavior, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement.” — Shawn Meghan Burn, Ph.D.
I find myself explaining the behaviors on a spectrum and I have made a PowerPoint that reviews this concept and shows the extremes connect on both ends of each spectrum. Most people go between the extremes and others stay on one side or the other. There are so many variables to each of the behaviors the review of the info gets complicated. I attempted to summarize the details in the hope that you can get a better understanding of what each behavior looks like when taken side by side.
I want you to know that we can learn to read the red flags, to stay healthy and free from narcissist's relationships. We can recover...many of us find we have been raised by Narcissist or have friends or other loved ones who are also Narcissists. They are NOT all men, they can be covert and appear super sweet, even innocent as they harm and manipulate, control and abuse their victims. They are NOT all aggressive and mean, they can be the exact opposite. Do not fool yourself...they don't always appear the way we think they will, BUT if you learn to spot them, learn to hold boundaries (huge deterrent for a Narc) you are better able to leave the situations before you get entangled again.
NO CONTACT is the only way to get out of the trap of a Narcissistic Relationship. PERIOD....if you have to maintain contact...seek professional support.
I will post the PowerPoint Presentation soon on our website....I have added links within this post to help those of you seeking more information to get that immediately while you wait for our meeting info.
I hope you will consider attending our next meeting this Friday at 6PM Central Time Zone. In the meantime, if you want to talk more on this topic...contact me and we can meet on zoom to discuss...we can even hold a secondary meeting on it as well. This issue is complex and one meeting is not enough to fully grasp the issue, but it is a START.
Kimberly Sprintz, Founder & Director
Women Empowering Women Support Groups
Books that I found helpful and have suggested to my sponsee's for years to read when Narcissism is an issue for them:
If you want to take a DEEP dive into possible reasons you have codependent behavior and or suffer from it within relationships with addicts...this woman in my opinion is the QUEEN of Codependency... PIA MELODY runners up are of course Melody Beattie and Darlene Lancer...