Toxic relationships (for the purpose of this post, by toxic I primarily mean narcissistic) rob you of everything you have. They take away your dignity. Your self respect. Your confidence. Very often your friends and family. And even your children.
But narcissists go one further. They rob you of your sense of reality. You begin to see the world through their eyes, because that is the only view available to you.
My latest video introduces the idea of co-narcissism.
The concept of co-narcissism was first introduced by Alan Rappoport in his paper “Co-Narcissism: How We Adapt To Narcissistic Parents”. In it he looked at how children of narcissists became fused with their parent because the narcissist dominated their entire being. His theory however works with any relationship with a narcissist.
In a narcissistic encounter, there is psychologically only one person present”
What Rappoport had found during his work with children of narcissists was that they “developed their self concepts based on their parents treatment of them and therefore have very inaccurate views about who they really are”. This lead them to often worry about how others see them, struggle to form opinions of their own and often view everyone as being narcissistic. As stated in the video above, this belief results in them acting as the “regulatory object” (or thermostat) for everyone else, trying to keep everyone happy.
Narcissists are incapable of regulating their own emotions so rely on others. It could be their partner. Or their children. The narcissist will blame the other person (supply) when they begin to dysregulate, projecting all of their self-inadequacy onto the other person. This causes a lot of damage to the other person’s self esteem and places all the responsibility for the emotional presentation of the relationship upon one person. The narcissist once again refuses to accept any responsibility, even for their own emotions. The partner, or child, quickly learns to read the emotional cues of the narcissist and will adapt to restore their regulation.
But in doing so their own wants and needs are neglected. They are left feeling unloved, full of guilt, blame and shame, and unworthy. Just like the narcissist did as a child. They have not only created a co-narcissistic partner, or child, but also reenacted their own childhood drama using others to fill the roles. Creating more trauma.
When you have experienced an encounter with a narcissist, you will walk away carrying those feelings inside you. You will wear them like a badge. This acts as a kind of beacon for other narcissists to be drawn to you and the cycle of toxic relationships continues.
But you can change it, you can stop that cycle.
- Gain an understanding – this can give you a framework within which you can focus on particular areas of concern and help you to see why the pattern exists
- Consciously seek therapy – I say consciously because therapy is a scary concept for narcissists and co-narcissists. A co-narcissist will seek therapy but as they see everyone as narcissistic, will naturally try to read the therapist’s needs rather than address their own issues. Therefore it is important that you consciously seek therapy to help you learn
- Work on your personal growth – the narcissist would have been either very critical or very neglectful which would have left you feeling like you had no purpose. Begin to focus on your talents, your strengths. Start writing a list about the things you are good at and enjoy. Add to it as often as you can. Rewrite your own beliefs about yourself.
Finally, you are not your past. The future is yet unwritten. You can be and do anything you want. Go out there and live it.
If you would like to discuss anything raised in this post in further detail please do get in touch.