I recently received an email asking me why I never write about codependency and requesting I do so. I had to think about why I don’t write about it, I don’t think it was a conscious decision on my part, it has crossed my mind but I think because I don’t consider myself codependent and contrary to what appears to be popular opinion, I do not believe that most victims of abuse are codependent. In fact I feel very few victims of narc abuse are codependent going into the relationship but a relationship with a narcissist usually ends up with the victim being diagnosed as codependent when it could be they have PTSD.
Below is a list of the signs you are codependent.
– Low self-esteem. Feeling that you’re not good enough or comparing yourself to others are signs of low self-esteem. The tricky thing about self-esteem is that some people think highly of themselves, but it’s only a disguise — they actually feel unlovable or inadequate. Underneath, usually hidden from consciousness, are feelings of shame.Guilt and perfectionism often go along with low self-esteem. If everything is perfect, you don’t feel bad about yourself.
– People-pleasing. It’s fine to want to please someone you care about, but codependents usually don’t think they have a choice. Saying “No” causes them anxiety. Some codependents have a hard time saying “No” to anyone. They go out of their way and sacrifice their own needs to accommodate other people.
– Poor boundaries. Boundaries are sort of an imaginary line between you and others. It divides up what’s yours and somebody else’s, and that applies not only to your body, money, and belongings, but also to your feelings, thoughts and needs. That’s especially where codependents get into trouble. They have blurry or weak boundaries. They feel responsible for other people’s feelings and problems or blame their own on someone else.Some codependents have rigid boundaries. They are closed off and withdrawn, making it hard for other people to get close to them. Sometimes, people flip back and forth between having weak boundaries and having rigid ones.
– Reactivity. A consequence of poor boundaries is that you react to everyone’s thoughts and feelings. If someone says something you disagree with, you either believe it or become defensive. You absorb their words, because there’s no boundary. With a boundary, you’d realize it was just their opinion and not a reflection of you and not feel threatened by disagreements.
– Caretaking. Another effect of poor boundaries is that if someone else has a problem, you want to help them to the point that you give up yourself. It’s natural to feel empathy and sympathy for someone, but codependents start putting other people ahead of themselves. In fact, they need to help and might feel rejected if another person doesn’t want help. Moreover, they keep trying to help and fix the other person, even when that person clearly isn’t taking their advice.
– Control. Control helps codependents feel safe and secure. Everyone needs some control over events in their life. You wouldn’t want to live in constant uncertainty and chaos, but for codependents, control limits their ability to take risks and share their feelings. Sometimes they have an addiction that either helps them loosen up, like alcoholism, or helps them hold their feelings down, like workaholism, so that they don’t feel out of control.Codependents also need to control those close to them, because they need other people to behave in a certain way to feel okay. In fact, people-pleasing and care-taking can be used to control and manipulate people. Alternatively, codependents are bossy and tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. This is a violation of someone else’s boundary.
– Dysfunctional communication. Codependents have trouble when it comes to communicating their thoughts, feelings and needs. Of course, if you don’t know what you think, feel or need, this becomes a problem. Other times, you know, but you won’t own up to your truth. You’re afraid to be truthful, because you don’t want to upset someone else. Instead of saying, “I don’t like that,” you might pretend that it’s okay or tell someone what to do. Communication becomes dishonest and confusing when you try to manipulate the other person out of fear.
– Obsessions. Codependents have a tendency to spend their time thinking about other people or relationships. This is caused by their dependency and anxieties and fears. They can also become obsessed when they think they’ve made or might make a “mistake.” Sometimes you can lapse into fantasy about how you’d like things to be or about someone you love as a way to avoid the pain of the present. This is one way to stay in denial, discussed below, but it keeps you from living your life.
– Dependency. Codependents need other people to like them to feel okay about themselves. They’re afraid of being rejected or abandoned, even if they can function on their own. Others need always to be in a relationship, because they feel depressed or lonely when they’re by themselves for too long. This trait makes it hard for them to end a relationship, even when the relationship is painful or abusive. They end up feeling trapped.
– Denial. One of the problems people face in getting help for codependency is that they’re in denial about it, meaning that they don’t face their problem. Usually they think the problem is someone else or the situation. They either keep complaining or trying to fix the other person, or go from one relationship or job to another and never own up to the fact that they have a problem.Codependents also deny their feelings and needs. Often, they don’t know what they’re feeling and are instead focused on what others are feeling. The same thing goes for their needs. They pay attention to other people’s needs and not their own. They might be in denial of their need for space and autonomy. Although some codependents seem needy, others act like they’re self-sufficient when it comes to needing help. They won’t reach out and have trouble receiving. They are in denial of their vulnerability and need for love and intimacy.
– Problems with intimacy. By this I’m not referring to sex, although sexual dysfunction often is a reflection of an intimacy problem. I’m talking about being open and close with someone in an intimate relationship. Because of the shame and weak boundaries, you might fear that you’ll be judged, rejected, or left. On the other hand, you may fear being smothered in a relationship and losing your autonomy. You might deny your need for closeness and feel that your partner wants too much of your time; your partner complains that you’re unavailable, but he or she is denying his or her need for separateness.
– Painful emotions. Codependency creates stress and leads to painful emotions. Shame and low self-esteem create anxiety and fear about being judged, rejected or abandoned; making mistakes; being a failure; feeling trapped by being close or being alone. The other symptoms lead to feelings of anger and resentment, depression, hopelessness, and despair. When the feelings are too much, you can feel numb.
Now lets look at the traits of an Empath, these are excerpts from the article with my comments after each trait, you can read the whole article on this website
Empaths are an inquisitive bunch and just love to learn or get confirmation on our ‘suspicions’, ‘hunches’, or ‘feelings’. We question the norm and seek knowledge outside of what we are taught in schools, from family or other external influences.
I found that with my ex, what kept me hooked was the need to prove my feeling he was up to something, I could not rest until I got to the truth and proved my suspicions were valid. Sometimes it would take me months or longer.
You would probably find us choosing to go off into nature or visiting libraries and museums, pursuing art and music, science or mathematics or maybe spiritual and supernatural interests. We choose to spend our time, either online or actually, in the company of misfits and eccentrics. We love the innocent curiosity of children and animals.
30 Empath Traits at a Glance:
Empaths just know stuff, without being told. It’s a knowing that goes way beyond intuition or gut feelings, even though that is how many would describe the knowing. Some people are baffled by this & treat you differently as they don’t understand.
My whole life I have “just known” stuff, it can drive me crazy until I figure out what it is.
2. Being in public places can be overwhelming
Places like shopping centers, supermarkets, night clubs, festivals or stadiums where there are lots of people around can fill the empath with turbulently vexed & overwhelming emotions that are coming from others.
I always do my Christmas shopping a little at a time and way ahead (like I am almost done my shopping for this year) because I can not stand the crowds in the malls.
3. Feeling others emotions and taking them on as your own
They will feel emotions off those near by and with others they will feel emotions from those a vast distance away, or both.
I can remember calling my dad and demanding to know what was going on when I was in my 20’s, with my son I will know when something is going on, he won’t tell me because he doesn’t want to worry me but the thing is I am feeling it and not knowing what is going on is way worse than knowing.
4. Watching violence, cruelty or tragedy on the TV is unbearable
I have always had this problem but it seems to have gotten worse over the years. I simply can not watch violence of any kind. Just last night I was watching a video of two bears fighting and had to stop because I was getting so upset. I have heard about a fight that JC or my son have had after the fact and gotten physically ill thinking about it.
5. You know when someone is not being honest
If a friend or a loved one is telling you lies you know it (although many empaths try not to focus on this because knowing a loved one is lying can be painful & heart breaking). Or if someone is saying one thing but feeling or thinking another, wearing a mask to cover truly what is going on, you know.
For me, being with an N, this trait drove me crazy, I KNEW he was lying but could not prove it, see #1.
6. Picking up physical symptoms off another
An empath will almost always develop the ailments off another (colds, throat & eye infections, swollen glands, body aches and pains) especially those they’re closest to, somewhat like sympathy pains.
Personally I haven’t experienced this.
7. Digestive disorders and lower back problems
The solar plexus chakra is based in the center of the abdomen and it’s known as the seat of emotions. This is where empaths feel the incoming emotion of another, which can weaken the area and eventually lead to anything from acid reflux, sickness & diarrhea, stomach ulcers, to IBS (too many other conditions to list here)
I had ulcers by the time I was 9 and had to wear a neck brace, the doctor said my hair was too heavy LOL I always have lower back pain and while with JC I always had diarrhea and hemorrhoids see my post on it here.
8. Always looking out for the underdog
Anyone whose suffering, in emotional pain or being bullied draws an empath’s attention and compassion.
If any of my friends ever found a stray cat or dog they called me, if any of my son’s friends had a problem he brought them home, I have always stood up for the underdog or downtrodden. Kinda explains why I stuck around the wospos too.
9. Others will want to offload their problems on you, even strangers
I finally figured out that some friends were only friends when they had a problem and would separate myself from them.
10. Constant fatigue
Empaths often get drained of energy, either from energy vampires or just taking on too much from others.
I haven’t experienced this so much either, certainly not in the last 30 years. I learned early on that if I start to feel overwhelmed I need to take alone time to rejuvenate.
11. Addictive personality
It is a form of self-protection in order to hide from someone or something, which can ultimately lead to self-destruction.
Personally, I used to drink a lot to escape and relax, especially in crowds and at social events, if I was entertaining. I was shy and it helped me be more outgoing. But it did become a problem and I only have one drink or maybe two if I am really letting loose LOL but I don’t entertain or go to many social functions any more either.
12. Drawn to healing, holistic therapies and all things metaphysical
Anything of a supernatural nature is of interest to empaths and they don’t surprise or get shocked easily.
I am fascinated by the supernatural and believe in and have experienced many things that are unexplainable. I think an empath have a 6th sense and can pick up on spirits, that sort of thing.
From Art, singing, dancing, acting, drawing or writing an empath will have a strong creative streak and a vivid imagination.
Singing, not so much LOL ask my son, he used to ask me to stop singing along because I was ruining the song. But I have always been creative.
14. Love of nature and animals
Being outdoors in nature is a must for empaths and pets & wildlife are an essential part of their life.
I think everyone who read this blog would agree I love nature and animals.
15. Need for solitude
An empath will go stir-crazy if they don’t get quiet time. This is even obvious in empathic children.
As a kid I would spend hours alone in my bedroom listening to music to the point my parents were concerned, I still can spend days alone and not feel lonely. If I am really busy for a few days I HAVE to have my alone time or I get really out of sorts.
16. Gets bored or distracted easily if not stimulated
Guilty!! At work if I get bored I start chatting to people, making personal phone calls, I was forever in shit because I would get my work done and then get bored.
17. Finds it impossible to do things they don’t enjoy
Feels like they are living a lie by doing so. To force an empath to do something they dislike through guilt or labelling them as idle will only serve in making them unhappy.
I have gotten better with this one. I used to be a real stick in the mud if I didn’t think I would enjoy it, you couldn’t make me do it but I learned to try things because most of the time I end up enjoying myself.
18. Strives for the truth
Anything untruthful feels plain wrong.
It might as well be my mantra, as I can handle anything as long as I know what it is. I have always taught my son that honesty is the most important thing. As long as a person is honest everything will work out in the end. Honesty is the basis for everything, without honesty there can be no respect, no love, no relationship. I maintain the victim of a narcissist can not be held to blame for anything that went wrong in the relationship because it was all based on a lie.
19. Always looking for the answers and knowledge
To have unanswered questions can be frustrating for an empath and they will endeavor to find an explanation. If they have a knowing about something they will look for confirmation. The downside to this is an information overload.
Again, a very bad trait when dealing with a narcissist. Where some people can just walk away a empath wants to solve the puzzle and concrete answers, and as you know, a narcissist will never give you a straight answer.
20. Likes adventure, freedom and travel
Empaths are free spirits.
Another thing that would draw us to an narcissist, narcissist are usually full of adventure.
21. Abhors clutter
I have gotten better at this also, I used to be OCD about everything having to be in its place but once again I had to let it go living with JC and now in a small space. But if I am tripping over things I get really frustrated, or when I can’t find something right away I can be very short-tempered.
22. Loves to daydream
An empath can stare into space for hours, in a world of their own and be blissfully happy.
Again, so me, especially as a child.
23. Finds routine, rules or control, imprisoning
Anything that takes away their freedom is debilitating to an empath even toxic, they feel like their air supply has been cute off & start to feel trapped, leading to feel like the walking dead.
I was going to say I don’t have a problem with rules and then remembered I let Stella run around loose all the time because I have a hard time abiding by the all dogs must be on the lease rule. The control and not having my freedom to come and go as I please is like dying a slow death to me. When the wospos would disable my vehicle and I would be stuck at home I would find some way of leaving the house even if it meant I had to walk 10 miles. I would go insane being locked up. Even if I don’t use my car, I want it sitting in the driveway ready in case I decide I want to go somewhere.
24. Prone to carry weight without necessarily overeating and also weight loss
The excess weight is a form of protection to stop the negative incoming energies having as much impact. When they are over stressed the weight can also drop off.
I can drop 10 pounds in a day it seems, I vibrate the weight off if I am stressed. While I was with the wospos I steadily lost weight the whole 10 years. I started off about 155 pounds and ended up maintaining about 130 lbs in the end. I went from a size 12 in slacks down to size 6. Much too small for 5’11”. I have had to buy all new clothes since leaving him and now am at a comfortable size 10 and I feel good at this weight.
25. Excellent listener
An empath won’t talk about themselves much unless it’s to someone they really trust. They love to learn and know about others and genuinely care. Yep
26. Intolerance to narcissism
Although kind and often very tolerant of others, empaths do not like to be around overly egotistical people, who put themselves first and refuse to consider another’s feelings or points of view other than their own.
This is true for me. I didn’t have time for braggart in fact the night I met JC I had a date with a pompous ass lawyer and I couldn’t wait to get away from him. JC was not narcissistic when I met him and for most of the relationship I always felt he was interested in what I had to say. Yes we talked a lot about him but I found him interesting and knowledgeable, I didn’t see it as being egotistical of him, I wanted him to explain things to me and he seemed interested in what I was doing, but I think now he was interested because there was something in it for him. When he was on the road trucking he would call and talk a blue streak and then say, “well I gotta go.” as soon as I started telling him what was happening in my life. I got very annoyed with it.
There are more but you can find the rest on the website. This list should give you a pretty good idea if you are an empath or not.
Or you can take the empathy test here.
From my experience codependency is a negative label put on all victims and I think too many therapists automatically diagnose the victim as codependent when in actual fact they are empaths. I was born an empath, I was always told I was too sensitive, it wasn’t until recently I discovered the information on Empaths and all of a sudden everything made so much sense!!
Being an empath is a personality trait being codependent comes from being raised in a dysfunctional family. Being codependent can be cured with therapy and going back to heal old wounds, learning to set healthy boundaries and building the victim’s self-confidence. Whereas if you are an empath you can learn to recognize when you need to control your natural tendency to empathize too strongly, learn to trust your instincts and not have to prove you are right, learn to walk away without all the answers. I found once I knew I was an empath and why I do what I do I found it a lot easier to forgive myself for getting involved with the narcissist and staying as long as I did. Knowing I am an empath gave me many of the answers I was searching for and it gave me the tools to protect myself. Once a person knows their weaknesses they are able to protect themselves. By weaknesses I don’t mean empaths are weak, unless they are not aware they are, because the narcissist will use the empath’s caring personality to manipulate them.
Even then I don’t believe only Empaths and Codependents are victims of narcissist or psychopaths.
I believe that everyone is a potential target to a narcissist, male, female, pensioner, child, any colour, any age, is fair game to the narcissist. Everyone the narcissist meets is assessed by what they have to offer the N. He weighs if he can benefit socially, financially, or in any other way and then he will work on winning them over, narcissists do not just abuse the people they are involved with romantically, they are just as happy taking the money of a trusting elderly lady, or screwing someone in a business deal or using a “friend” to get ahead socially. For 10 years I watched my ex make friends easily where ever we lived but they never lasted long, he either deemed them not worthy of his time or they saw him for what he was, eventually his mask dropped with everyone. They would go from thinking he was the greatest guy around to making jokes behind his back because he was so full of BS.
It took awhile, but eventually I could predict exactly what would happen; he would meet someone and, male or female; he treated them all the same. I would get put on the back burner every time he met a new friend and he would concentrate on building that relationship. He would call the new friend many times in the day, take them gifts, take on their likes and dislikes, values and morals, it would creep me out with men because it was like he had a crush on them. It always ended the same way, the new friend laughing behind his back. I felt sorry for him at first and then I started to be embarrassed for him. There is no way all these people were co-dependent.
Personally I don’t think a codependent personality is exciting enough for the narcissist, not a big enough challenge. In my case, it was the challenge of taking a strong independent woman and making her co-dependent that fed the wospos’s ego. Perhaps the N will be initially attracted to a codependent but from what I have seen the N usually doesn’t stick around for long. The codependent is an easy win over and once the N has his target hooked he starts to lose interest. If the relationship does last any length of time it is more due to the victim not letting go than effort on the N’s part. There are victims of an N who will say there never was a whirlwind romance or honeymoon periods and that the N always treated them like crap; these are the codependents in my opinion, clinging to someone who obviously doesn’t care about them just to have a man in their life and deriving all their self-worth from this one person. Giving sex for love, catering to their every whim in hopes the guy will love them, reading more into simple niceties and from day one accepting being treated with disrespect. Codependency can be instilled in a child by a well-meaning parent, it doesn’t have to be a dysfunctional family. Besides, these days how many families do you know of where there isn’t some dysfunction. I never knew I was raised in a dysfunctional home until I was an adult and I am sure my parents didn’t mean to give me hangups.
I recently made note of something with my granddaughter that concerned me and I brought it up to my son. She is very concerned about what Kris thinks of what she is wearing, if he thinks she is a baby (she doesn’t want him to think she is a baby or dresses like a tomboy) I said to her, “You know daddy loves you very much, right?” She said, “Well most of the time,” I said, “No honey, he loves you all the time, no matter what, he will always love you.” She looked at me like she didn’t believe me. I said, “Even if he is angry with you for something he is still going to love you, what you wear or do is never going to change that. and he will always be there for you.”
But for the first four years of her life another man was daddy to her and then him and mommy broke up and now Kris is her daddy. Confusing for a wee one, who knows what is going through her little mind. I remember when I was about that age, I was checking to see if my toothbrush fit down the drain in the bathroom sink and I accidentally dropped it. We moved shortly after that and I always thought we had to move because I had put my toothbrush down the drain. You just don’t know how a small child processes things.
My father used to threaten to take my little brother and leave if I didn’t behave, I used to lay awake at night listening to my parents arguing, my dad threatening to leave, I used to wish they would just split already! So I swore I would never put my child through that, I didn’t want my kids hearing fighting or feeling responsible for keeping the family together. So when I got into relationships I always made sure I was self-sufficient, independent and able to walk away if I needed. I was always the one to walk away from a relationship first, especially if I felt it was affecting Kris.
Now, Kris, because he didn’t have a dad at home (and his dad was not reliable and in his life on a regular basis) wants nothing more than to raise his daughter full-time and I think he would probably stick it out in an unhappy union in order to do that.
Very few people don’t have some sort of issues from their childhood, whether it was a split family, bullying at school, or severe abuse and the narcissist would immediately pick up on any areas of weakness and use them to his advantage. I have known women who grew up with both biological parents in a normal loving supportive home and because life was so normal and they had never seen dysfunction they were ill prepared to deal with the cunning narcissist. They had grown up in a home where no one lied and people respected each other so they weren’t suspicious of the narcissist and missed many of the red flags.
So what it boils down to in my mind is; no one is safe from a narcissist. They are such chameleons and expert liars (after all they can fool a lie detector test) I don’t see how a person who has never met one, or even knows they exist could possibly avoid getting sucked in, especially a psychopath who was not abused in his past. Psychopaths raised in a normal family would have had healthy examples of appropriate behavior to imitate so would be better equipped to go undetected.
Whereas a codependent clings to the narcissist and from day one relies on him for her self-worth and purpose in life, with an Empath, they may be forgiving of the N, try to help him, and get stuck in the relationship trying to figure him out but they are not lacking self-worth or confidence, they aren’t reliant on a man to feel complete, they present a challenge to the N. I remember thinking I was not going to date the wospos after about the 3rd or 4th date because I felt he was too needy and love-sick puppies annoy me. But he was so sweet, so sensitive, and kind, we did have a lot of fun together and lets face it; I was in my 40’s and the type of men I had been picking hadn’t worked out. I had been told by friends that I was too independent and I needed to allow a man to spoil me a bit. So I was honest with the wospos and told him that I needed more space and not to call so much because he was going to push me away. I knew that people don’t fall in love in a month, I had always been suspicious of a man who fell in love early; I knew I was good but lets get serious I am not THAT good. How can you love someone you don’t know? I let time tell and he remained consistent, I trusted him explicitly, he gave me no reason to doubt him. As far as I could tell he was true to his word.
When his true colours started to show I was sad but prepared to leave if that is what he wanted, I certainly was not going to stay where I was not wanted. I didn’t beg him to give it another try, I prepared to leave and did leave. That is why the N will come back time after time, because the Empath does get back on their feet and although heart-broken is able to let the N go and start to rebuild her life. As with JC and I, this presented a constant challenge for him and for me, and we repeated the cycle almost every 6 months. He would reject me, I would leave and get my own place and then he would start coming around, I often felt sorry for him because he would be homeless. He would go back to being the guy I met and be so apologetic I would forgive him and take him back, and around and around we went. Then I got sick of it and refused to let him live with me for a couple of years, I was still faithful to him alone and we saw each other daily but I would not allow him to move in and that is when he went to Sudan. I think he thought I would beg him not to go but I encouraged him.
When he came back from Sudan I knew there was something he wasn’t telling me, something big, but it took me months to get even a morsel of truth from him. Little did I know his mother was lying for him also, which all added to my confusion and frustration. I became obsessed with getting to the truth. He kept saying, “If you knew the truth you would feel really stupid for being so upset, it is nothing like what you are imagining.” I said, “So, tell me the truth then, I would love to be made to look like a fool.” His reply was, “Why bother, you never believe me anyway.”
I used to be able to predict the future, I would know how things were going to end with various ventures he got into or I would have a feeling and he would deny it, I would make a note of it and wait; sometimes it took months before the truth came out but I was never wrong. I guess I was trying to convince myself that my gut instincts weren’t wrong and to leave without needing to have all the puzzle pieces first.
I was not codependent until the very last year, after he had stripped me of every means of independence, all my personal possessions and keepsakes, my ability to earn money, and then started in on my self-esteem. It is very hard to maintain a positive self-worth when you have nothing that makes you, you. He took my personality away and I was forced to become someone I wasn’t and that is what almost killed me. He turned me into an insecure, dependent, needy, suicidal, nervous wreck and then he dumped me. If I would have been those things earlier, he would have dumped me sooner.
These aren’t proven theories, only my personal experiences and opinion, there is more than likely many people who would disagree with me. But I was asked for my opinion on codependency and I have now given it.