The masses of literature available on the Codependency-Narcissism dance will tell you there are enough of both in this world to make it a big issue. There are many relationships I come across where all logic has apparently been thrown to one side and it is very difficult to understand sometimes why things happen the way they do.
As a therapist, my approach is evidence based, logical and solution focused. I encourage my clients to believe that much of the good work they can do is done in the present moment where their reality is accepted. This acceptance of reality, that is understanding truly the situation they are in, can lead with guidance to a plan to change the issues they can influence but accepting that there are some things that are out of their control.
In the mind of a codependent (and others), fantasy subdues reality and they hang onto this fantasy with all their might. It is the ultimate in avoidance and in the case of codependency is an actively managed strategy. Even when there is a mounting body of evidence that might convince them that their efforts will go unrewarded in a relationship, it is difficult to take that final step. I often hear “I get it rationally but emotionally I don’t”. My answer always is, why is it wrong to listen to the logical side of the argument? The emotional side is often where our child-like needs based behaviour is played out. It is the part of us with tentacles to our deepest past. It is the place where we are subconsciously trying to connect with our caregivers again. It is often an irrational and illogical place to look for guidance. It does however, keep codependents stuck in fantasy, hoping and wishing that their partner can or can be changed.
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It always amazes me that many people who can be classed as codependent find themselves stuck in or returning to relationships that are obviously not right for them, are abusive or are clearly not going anywhere. The case described below is real and typical of this situation:
W was a divorcee in her early forties. She had recently separated from her husband of 20 years who had regularly cheated on her. She took him back after every occasion. Her life was one of subduing her needs to keep her husband happy. She blamed herself when he cheated and did more and more. She finally gave up when he ran away with another woman for a month before begging to come back. With the help of friends and professionals, she made the decision not to take him back and to try to move on. This was very difficult for her and the void she felt without anyone in her life was immense. Consequently, she jumped from one relationship to another for a period of a year until she met N, who initially gave all the signs that she could trust him and she started to look forward to being in a relationship with him. After a period of time, N became more demanding and critical of W and her codependent tendencies started to resurface. Two months later, N left for another woman blaming W for being too needy, emotional and lacking understanding of his situation. She later found out that N had been having an affair for six months prior to him leaving. W was devastated and decided to seek professional help. W had eight sessions of therapy targeting her codependent issues and learnt why she had allowed herself to be abused. All was progressing in the right direction until N made contact saying he would like to meet up again and he had missed her. W failed to turn up to her next therapy session and when her therapist called her, she said that she had decided with advice from N, that the therapy was designed to make her hate N and keep her away from a good relationship. Despite the therapist countering this argument, she said therapy was over for her, she was happy and N was a changed man. She said that she didn’t need to be fixed, there was nothing wrong with her relationship and the therapist should stop saying so. W ended therapy and the therapist heard nothing more until a phone call three months later. W was on the other end of the call asking “why does this always happen to me? I need your help”
W faces a recovery process that does not only look at her codependent tendencies on a deeper level but one where the choices that she has made are analysed. At the present time, there is no guarantee that she will not fall again for the illusion that N creates and she has admitted that the concept of “No-Contact” and maintaining that is a difficult one for her to imagine. She is working hard again in therapy but it makes sense only because she is keeping N out of her life. However, she is only one thought away from relapse and she may need to be saved from herself again.
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Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner’s approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients’ internal “parts,” or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.