Codependence & Conscience
Our Narcissistic/Codependent Society
In today’s show we discuss codependence & conscience; how codependence is formed and how it tricks us into feeling lost and empty inside.
On Sound Cloud:
STEVE: Hi everyone. Welcome to our Narcissistic-Codependent Society. I am Steve Cooper, and with me today is my lovely wife, Kim Cooper, author and expert on narcissism and codependence.
KIM: A big “hi” to everyone who has found this show. Steve, your introductions are very flattering lately. Thank you (smiling).
STEVE: Hey, it’s my pleasure.
Today, Kim, we are continuing on the subject of conscience. In our last show, we discussed narcissism and conscience—and all the comments are still coming in.
KIM: Yes, Jennifer said that the show was very interesting, and thank you for that, Jennifer. Anna liked some of the distinctions that we had made, and also mentioned that while she always feels that she has followed her conscience, she feels that having improved her self of self-worth means that she would make better decisions now than in the past. She wondered if maybe all consciences are not equal, and maybe some can be healthier than others. She also suggested maybe it’s a matter of having the keys and knowledge of how to handle various situations.
STEVE: Mmm. That is an interesting point, Kim. Maybe we can get back to that in a moment.
KIM: Yes, but first, Leslie thanked us for the show, and said she had reposted the bit about families not expecting that a narcissistic partner’s healing shouldn’t be just about them giving more to their partner. As we mentioned in the last show, a big part of overcoming our narcissism is learning to be honest when we might need to disappoint someone. Leslie also brought up the concept of an external locus of evaluation, which we will get into in a little more depth in this show.
STEVE: I’d like to just summarize the last show, if I may—not to stop anyone going back and listening, but hopefully just getting the message as clear as we can.
Basically, you were saying, Kim, that you feel as though narcissism develops when a person feels that they cannot meet the expectations that are placed on them, and that because they also feel those expectations are in some way unfair, this ends up allowing them to rationalize cheating, other things to get ahead, or other vices to soothe themselves.
KIM: Yeah, that’s basically it, in a nutshell. I think that the really ugly part is that once this pattern starts, they need to keep someone in the role of persecutor in their life, because if things stopped being unfair, they would actually have to start competing fairly again.
STEVE: Right. You mean they need to feel like they are a victim just to justify their own behavior to themselves.
KIM: That’s right. This is why they can be very oversensitive to anything they can grab hold of that maybe makes them feel like they have been victimized.
STEVE: I guess that makes a lot of sense, Kim, because if you are in a situation where you are feeling a little bit guilty about cheating—let’s just say you are a narcissistic type and you are feeling bad about cheating—it’s easy to say, “Oh, well, I’m a victim of this horrible thing that happened to me in the past, and that’s why I started cheating. It’s not really my fault. I’m the victim here.”
KIM: Mmm. Yep, that’s right.
STEVE: Yeah, so that’s a bit of a bad pattern.
KIM: But then what happens if the situation turns around and you don’t really have anybody victimizing you anymore, but you are still cheating?
STEVE: Right. Because you have developed a pattern for cheating.
KIM: Yep. So then you have to start looking for someone to play the role of persecutor.
STEVE: Right. Even though you are not being persecuted.
KIM: That’s right.
STEVE: (Laughing.) Yeah, right.
So it becomes a real, you know, poor way of relating to other people, especially those close to you, because it’s easiest to probably pretend that the people closest to you are the persecutors in your life, in that pattern.
KIM: Yeah, that’s right. And often narcissistic individuals, they will even lie about their family and say that their family is mistreating them in ways that maybe they are not, to try and get sympathy and special treatment and special consideration from people outside of the family.
But, back to Anna’s questioning whether some consciences are healthier than others, and her comment about keys and wisdom: I think that all of our consciences are probably equal, but that said, there is a lot of ways that things can play out differently. Often, we may feel that we have asked our conscience when really we haven’t and we are really simply just acting out on our own sense of justice, or on our emotions. Being true to your emotions is something very different to submitting to your consciences’ judgment on something. The other difference is our ability to act on what our conscience tells us. People who are more intelligent have more cognitive pathways, which just basically means that they can come up with more ideas of how to solve a problem. But experience is important too. And I guess experience is going to help you deal with other people in a way that is going to make following your conscience certainly less scary and less dangerous, even. (Laughing.)
STEVE: (Laughing.) Right.
KIM: But in that basic quiet place inside us, I think we all really do know what is right and what is wrong. The problem is just that we may not have been educated to tune into that, or we may choose that we don’t want to.
KIM: I’m sure most of us remember a time when we chose not to stop and ask ourselves if something was the right thing to do, because we really didn’t want to hear the answer that our conscience was going to give us.
STEVE: Yeah. Right, for sure.
Well, Kim, this show we are going to get a little bit deeper into those distinctions.
KIM: Yeah, we sure are.
We are talking about codependence and conscience today, and I am really looking forward to this. The reason why, is that I hope in this show we can really get the message out that narcissists are not the sole guilty party in a narcissistic-codependent relationship. We hear narcissists attacked constantly online, with hardly anyone mentioning that codependent behavior is abusive too, and often really where the whole dysfunctional pattern begins.
I am also excited, because I plan on doing a bit of a plug for the books and support services we offer—which I don’t do on these shows very often—so I hope you will stay tuned to hear what it is we have to offer.
STEVE: So, Kim, on the last show you described how narcissism begins. Maybe we can start there with this show: How does codependence begin?
KIM: Good idea.
The story of how codependence begins is a pretty sad one, and, you know, the stereotype story is with a drug-addicted or alcoholic parent. This child, instead of having expectations to succeed in the outside world—like the narcissistic child did—the expectations on them is really the opposite, and that is that they stay home basically and keep their mom and dad happy. Or, maybe it’s their younger brothers and sisters that they need to look after and keep happy. They are really given the idea that this is what will make them a good person is if they do that—if they keep other people happy.
But really there isn’t any reward for this, and it doesn’t end up making them a good person. In fact, it actually often damages them.
KIM: One of the first things that we have seen that it does often damage is their conversation skills.
STEVE: Yeah, for sure.
KIM: Because hanging out with an alcoholic or a drug-addicted parent, or with your little brothers and sisters really doesn’t teach a child anything about how to converse well with people outside of their family, and that really can put them at a fairly extreme disadvantage when it comes to them having any kind of real success, rewards, or life outside of their home and their family.
STEVE: Yeah. So that’s a warning to all alcoholic parents—please don’t force your children to talk to you when you are drunk. We can’t tell you to stop drinking, but stop forcing your kids to talk to you when you are drunk, because it doesn’t teach them anything.
KIM: (Laughing.) Well, you know.
STEVE: It teaches them a bad pattern.
KIM: (Laughing.) If you are an alcoholic, certainly we would encourage you to get help for that. We have always recommended the Health Recovery Center, and their supplements-based approach that really will help relieve cravings and whatever—but I think it is important that you don’t necessarily wait until you’ve got that determination and conviction to stop drinking before you realize that expecting your children to socialize with, or keep you company, or stop you from being lonely, or keep you happy—especially when you have been drinking—really is damaging to them. Children really need to be exposed to and learn better conversation skills than that in better social situations than that.
The next thing that I want to mention it damages is this child’s understanding of how emotions are regulated by healthy adults. It’s not normal to have to walk on eggshells around someone else and keep them happy. Because emotions don’t really work that way, it never really works anyway. This child never can actually succeed in keeping this parent or their brothers and sisters happy, and so they are being set up to failure in a game that really also already had no real rewards in the first place.
STEVE: So, if there isn’t any rewards for that, why do they keep on doing it?
KIM: Well, I think the reason is that there are present rewards.
KIM: And most of these are actually damaging too. The child will be told that they are good and special, and even that they are better than other people. But usually this will only happen when they have really had to take care of their parent in ways that an adult really shouldn’t be needing to be looked after. And I guess really if this person was so good and special, they would be telling that parent that they needed to take care of themselves better, and that they are sorry they can’t help them if they are going to abuse themselves. But because the codependent child has learned this pattern of behavior, or the codependent adult has learned this pattern of behavior from childhood, they don’t really ever learn to set those kind of boundaries. And, in fact, usually even in their adult life, it is really terrifying and it’s really difficult for them to begin to do this.
STEVE: Mmm. And so through this, how does the codependent become abusive? And, more importantly, how does this relate to conscience, Kim?
KIM: Well, while the narcissist is self-focused, feeling sorry for themselves and figuring out how to cheat the system that they feel is stacked against them, the codependent actually becomes other focused, and they are really hungry for recognition for the same kind of emotional caregiving that they have been involved in giving to their family. And so, often the codependent will actually seize on any small bits of external praise that they get, and end up amplifying them in their own mind, and maybe repeating them too often to other people. You know, somebody said this nice thing about me; somebody said how good I was. I think we all maybe have been there or know people who sometimes do this too often, and it can even be a little bit uncomfortable or embarrassing to be around. (Laughing.)
KIM: And it also is these bits of external praise end up meaning more than they really do to the person. And when nothing actually really comes back to them—for taking what, I guess, has really been an enabling role—they usually start to feel angry or desperate that it’s their turn, and that now someone should be taking care of them.
KIM: And then, when this person becomes a parent, they will usually expect that one child in their family—one of their own children will go out and win recognition for the family while the other child will then be expected to stay home and care for them, just like they had to care for their parent.
KIM: Or, if they only have one child or their eldest child is a daughter, they might expect one child in their family to actually fill both of these roles.
STEVE: Right. And filling both of those roles—that’s what happened to you, wasn’t it, Kim?
KIM: Yeah, and the confusion that that causes a person and the lack of identity, I guess, is really very hard to live with. In the end, I guess, it still was what forced me to examine the conditioning that I had been brought up with, because really the two roles are just completely incompatible.
STEVE: Mmm. But they are both so unhealthy, so I guess in the end you were lucky to escape, Kim.
KIM: Yeah, I was, certainly. But no matter what anyone says, I think recovery from this is a lifelong process, and if you learned these patterns of behavior from when you were very young, it’s kind of like your instincts have become impaired, and you do need guidance in things that maybe a healthy person would find, you know, came more naturally to them.
KIM: But, I still would really recommend and say that it’s definitely worth the effort, because not only will healing help, you know, if you have been through this yourself, or if you can identify what I am talking about here: Not only will healing help you feel more secure and confident in yourself, it will also help you not to pass on these patterns to your own children.
STEVE: Yeah, that’s so important, Kim. And what about conscience, though? Where does that come into this?
KIM: Well, while the narcissist feels that they have been banished from their sort of internal compass because the game is rigged and they really don’t have any idea how they can admit that they can’t do what it is that everybody is expecting of them—the codependent is really in an even worse situation, because the game is basically that you need to care for someone else to be a good person. But then, no matter how hard this person tries to be good, they never really end up getting much recognition.
KIM: And the little bits of recognition that they do get end up going to their head and end up confusing them even further. So, eventually, they kind of come to this point where they have invested so much time into being good, that even if people around them start sort of questioning their behavior or try and give them any feedback that maybe they can’t really help this person in all the ways this person wants to be helped, it is still very hard for them to see the truth—which is really that they have actually just been exploited and they are actually really behind in the whole game, and there really isn’t any reward coming. And I guess the real problem here is that the codependent has actually allowed their parent’s or their teacher’s voice to end up replacing the voice of their conscience.
STEVE: Hmm. Yep.
KIM: And they are not looking inside for the loving guidance of what they really need to do to take care of themselves and start succeeding in life. Inside, they feel empty, and that only external praise and guidance is real and valuable.
I think it’s funny that most codependents complain that their narcissistic partner is always craving validation, but really, the codependent is looking for even more than this.
STEVE: Yeah, absolutely.
KIM: The narcissist might want people to tell them that they are great to relieve this sort of unrealistic expectations and pressure that they are under, but deep down the narcissist is really looking for a scapegoat.
STEVE: Hmm. Yep.
KIM: They turn on their partner the minute that they get the chance, because they need to make their cheating and their lack of success someone else’s fault.
KIM: The codependent, however, they want everything from their partner. They want validation. They want their partner to help them with their own emotional regulation. They want recognition that they are worthy and good. And they want rewards for the sacrifices that they have made. You know, they want everything from their partner.
STEVE: Yeah, and this obviously puts a lot of unwanted pressure on the narcissist.
KIM: Yeah, yeah, certainly. But there is a mistake I want to clear up here. You know, I hear some people say, “I want my husband to come with me to this or that, and I shouldn’t be so codependent—I should just go by myself.”
KIM: But this really isn’t it. Of course, it’s okay to want and expect your partner to do things with you. Codependence is really when you start looking to your partner instead of your own conscience to know what is right and wrong.
STEVE: Yeah, because if your job as a child was to keep someone else happy, I guess you learn to look outside, you know, of yourself for cues and what you need to be doing, and if you are doing the right thing, and if it’s right or wrong.
KIM: That’s it; perfect. This is why it’s so essential that the codependent learn to tune into their own emotional signaling system, and also to learn to access their own conscience. Because otherwise the first thing they are going to say is, “I really want to do this, but I know the right thing for me to do is just to stay home and look after mum.”
STEVE: Yeah. So, Kim, let’s talk a little bit about our books and services that we offer.
KIM: Sure. Well, I guess, the best place to start is on the front page of TheNCMarriage.com. There is an introductory, free tutorial there. We don’t spam. If you give us your name and your e-mail address, it’s really just to help us make the process of offering what we teach more enjoyable for you, and so that we can send you reminder e-mails that are sent to you with your name at the beginning of them, and that you can go through the system that we have set up in the right order, so that you get the material in the order that you need to get it. The introductory tutorial is not just a sales pitch, which I know is very uncommon these days. There really is a lot of very valuable information in that tutorial, I would say, definitely probably even more than a lot of self-help books that you can buy these days with far less padding.
KIM: It will probably only take you 15-20 minutes at the most to get through. There is a short movie that is part of it, so that might take a little bit longer, but that is me being interviewed by Dallas, who is part of our team. She is a behavioral scientist. That is on the three things that destroy love, and that you really need to stop doing straight away.
So, all of that is free. At the end of that, you will be offered three different introductory specials on our books. Our books are not expensive in the first place, so once you are offered the introductory specials on them, t hey are really very affordable. They are also available by download, which makes them even more affordable. And they are laid out in a way where you can hopefully fairly easily see which ones are going to be more applicable to your situation. Our books are quite short and to the point. They are designed as reference books that you can go back and access the information that you need quickly and easily. We don’t really go into a long, boring story about our own story. It’s really just laid out of information that you need and that you can access quickly. I like to pride myself on the fact that I think I write very short self-help books with a lot of very valuable content, where I think too many self-help books out there are very long and, you know, the actual practical advice in them is sometimes fairly meager for the amount of words.
STEVE: You are a very considerate author, Kim.
STEVE: You are very considerate of your audience. You don’t fill it up with fluff. You write direct and to the point, and keep it entertaining.
KIM: Thank you. I think we’ve had maybe one complaint in eight years, that someone complained that the books weren’t long enough, and they didn’t feel like they had got their money’s worth, but we have had heaps of people tell us the opposite of how much they appreciate the fact that we haven’t been too longwinded about it, and that we just get to the point, and actually try and provide helpful information as quickly as we can, and in a format that is also enjoyable. I mean, a lot of the books have got colored pictures, they are illustrated, they are laid out in bullet points—and, yeah, as I said they are laid out in a way that hopefully they are easy to reference. We have had quite a few people come back and say that Back from the Looking Glass—which is probably our best seller—13 Steps to a Peaceful Home. That is the book you really need if you are in an abusive or difficult relationship right now. And we have had people say that they have worn out a couple of copies of it, because they have actually gone back to it so, so frequently.
The next thing is that after you buy any one of these special offers, in about a day or so, then you will be sent an invitation to join our member’s area online. And at the moment we are really pushing my Master Class. That will give you additional training in Emotional Intelligence skills, and in what we have been speaking about in this show and in the last one, in how to access your conscience. We are not pushing any brand of religion or any school of thought. This is all information and material that I have gathered from all different sources, and things that I have worked on through trial and error, and that has developed over eight years now. Back from the Looking Glass is now in its 11th edition, so we really do take a lot of pride and a lot of time in developing the books and the material that we share with people.
But I think the best part about our member’s area certainly is that it also gives you access to a number of different, secret Facebook groups—which just means that you can converse with other people that are part of that group without it showing up on your timeline with your other friends and family, and the people that are a part of those groups is really a big, warm, very connected family now. And we all know each other, and we all support each other. It’s a very protected space online, which I think is quite uncommon these days.
STEVE: I think it’s a really wonderful forum you have set up, Kim. It’s a very warm place, you’re right, and people do feel like they get a lot of value from it. It’s very difficult when you are in a situation where you are unsure about what step to take with your family next.
STEVE: And if you’ve got to the point where you are learning about codependence and narcissism, and listening to our podcasts, it’s really important that you take the time to give it your best. This is a wonderful study time for you. Do your best now, take the time to do what’s right, and learn some of the amazing Emotional Intelligence techniques that Kim has on offer.
KIM: Mmm. Because really, this is a lifelong journey. You know, if you are 20, or 30, or 40, or 50—how many years have you spent learning and reinforcing these bad patterns of behavior? Realistically, you are only going to learn better patterns of behavior and healthier ways of interacting if you surround yourself with people that you can converse with and that you can turn to for help, support, and advice so that you are not relying on your, you know, impaired instincts (laughing), or your faulty instincts, to keep making the same bad decisions that has led you to where you are, where you may be really questioning whether you want to remain married or whether you have made a mistake or whether maybe it’s time to divorce. But saying that one of the rules of our forums and support groups is that nobody is going to judge you, and nobody is going to put pressure on you either way. We really consider that whether a couple remain married or divorce is their decision and their decision alone. We may give you help and advice of how to keep yourself safe, of how to keep your children safe. You know, you may be encouraged to make some tough decisions about things that won’t always be completely easy. Simple, but not always easy. But really, it is a rule in our forums that nobody is just going to come in and say that you are just an idiot if you don’t just divorce him (or her), which is what we usually hear on the support forums for narcissism and codependence, and I really don’t feel like it is very helpful.
STEVE: You will never get any kind of abuse like that on our forums, we promise you that.
Thanks everyone for tuning into our Narcissistic-Codependent Society. We look forward to talking to you next time.
KIM: And, hopefully we will meet you on the forums soon!