Toxic Love

Narcissism and codependency: Not personality disorders but strategies

I was sitting at the dinner table – at Teal’s Completion Process training – and I was talking to a classmate who has borderline. I saw a lot of myself in her…

My mind was a mess! I was so confused! I really didn’t get it anymore… During the training we talked a lot about borderline, codependency and narcissism. When they were talking about borderline I was like: yes that is definitely me! Especially during my teenage years.. I was a full blown borderliner and cutter. So I guess I was also a narcissist, because just like the narcissist, the borderliner was focused on meeting his own needs. And I know as a teenager, it was all about me! Not that I was a bitch.. not at all… it was just that I was completely broken and a total mess. I needed somebody to love me, and every time I had the slightest prove that they’d leave me or didn’t love me… I’d completely freak out!

But then they were talking about codependency. I was like: yes that is me too! Especially the last years! I had been in relationships with aggressive borderline – narcissists. I was definitely a codependent.. only thinking about their needs.. and thinking about how to behave so they’d be happy.

So I didn’t really get it anymore… I was a borderliner… a codependent… and a narcissist? How did that make any sense?

So…. back to the dinner table –  talking to that classmate –  I tried to figure it all out! I told her: I think I am a borderliner who learned to use codependency to keep people hooked… so I wouldn’t be abandoned anymore!

But that made codependency a strategy??

I was so confused and constantly thinking about what I just said! Once I arrived home I started reading and talking about narcissism and codependency. But I got more and more confused!

So let’s look at the theory! What is narcissism and what is codependency exactly?

I’m sorry if I’m describing these labels in an exaggerated way, it’s just to help you understand.

What is codependency? In the beginning of time (okay not so far back..) codependency was the label that was used for somebody who’s in a relationship with an alcoholic or a drug addict (somebody who is dependent on a substance).

Now it is used to describe every person who’s a ‘people pleaser’ or a chameleon. With chameleon I mean that you scan and read the other person completely, so you know how to behave to please that person, to see that person happy. You behave in the way this other person wants you to behave. When you meet somebody else, you will behave differently again. It’s the opposite of authenticity actually.

What’s also said is that the codependent is focused on the needs of the other person. They want them to be happy, feel loved, feel worth it,…. The codependent is the typical ‘rescuer’: Come here sweety, be with me and I’ll show you how it feels to be loved! I’ll be the one who sooths your pain and heals you! You’re so broken and I just want you to know you are the most amazing person on earth, you might not see it, because  you’re too broken, but I am here to… heal (fix) you. = the codependents. Also known as ‘the fixers’

So what’s a narcissist? A narcissist is somebody who’s self centered, who feeds off the energy of other people, the love of other people, because they have no love for their own. They use manipulation  to get what they want like: the silent treatment, anger attacks, ignoring you, or shaming and humiliating you. The partner (mostly the codependent) will then learn to behave in the way they want them to. Nobody wants an angry partner right? And when the partner is sick of it and tries to leave, the narcissist keeps them hooked by saying ‘sorry’ and really really convincing the partner they’re going to change! And some narcissist actually really mean it! No seriously! But the thing is that they fall back into their narcissistic behavior, because that’s their only known strategy to survive in this world!

Okay truth needs to be told… I was both of them… both were a perfect description of me! (and… I also had all the borderline traits…) I’m sorry but I was confuuuuuused as hell!!

In every book it said: a codependent can never be a narcissist and vice versa, the narcissist is focused on their own needs and the codependent is focused on the needs of the other.

So what… I’m a hybrid then? I have to different parts in me?

That was weird… so what label was I exactly, if I fitted in both parts? I was sometimes a narcissist? And sometimes a codependent? And where did the borderline fit into all this? So I was… abnormal? I was so confused!

Inspired by Teal’s teachings I figured it out. Forget the old theory, here’s the new theory!

Let’s start where it all begins… You grow up in a family that doesn’t meet your needs. Your needs don’t exist and your emotions are not tolerated. In fact you are the one who’s meeting the needs of the parents. But you have needs too… to be loved, to be cared for, and not abandoned!! So if you weren’t ‘loved’ by your parents, and that need wasn’t met… you had to find a way to meet those needs!

You became self centered. You had to, you need love and emotional care to survive! So you looked for strategies.

One of that strategy is codependent behavior. You became the person your parents wanted you to be, you ‘pleased’ them. And voila you were loved (but you had to lose your complete identity). By focusing on the needs of your parents – and being who they wanted you to be – you got your need of ‘being loved and cared for’ met (self centered and focused on own needs actually). It is a form of manipulation but it is seen as ‘good’ manipulation… nobody gets hurt right?

Some of you did not find a way to please their parents. They became a total mess falling in the borderline and narcissistic spectrum. The strategy they learned to use eventually –  to get love – is ‘bad’ manipulation: these are my needs and you are going to meet my needs! The narcissistic behavior. They use control tactics, manipulation tactics to make you behave in a certain way so you will meet their needs.

I was in the second category… but at some point I learned the codependent strategy to meet my needs especially with boyfriends…

As well as the narcissist as the codependent are self centered and manipulative. Both are trying to be loved and using different strategies to do that.

Actually both are narcissists because they are both self centered and focused on their own needs (being loved and not abandoned AKA surviving),  but both using different strategies:

  • Codependency strategy (pleasing): pleasing and behaving in a way they want you to behave so you won’t lose them and your needs will be met.
  • Narcissism strategy (controlling): making people behave in a way so they meet your needs and keeping them hooked so they won’t leave you, using different control techniques.

Same goals… different strategies.

So…. It are not labels or personality disorders, it are strategies! That means that today you can be a narcissist and tomorrow you can be a codependent. You can switch strategies depending on the person you’re with. Or you can switch strategies even with the same person when you see that one isn’t working anymore, so you try the other strategy.

With only one goal: to keep them hooked…. So you won’t be abandoned…

Ain’t that the typical borderline trait btw?? Fear of abandonment? So what if we are all just people with borderline personality disorder, who are so afraid of being abandoned, that we use the codependent or narcissistic strategy to keep people hooked?

Think about it 😉




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