Commonly Misused Psychology Terms – Part 2

Last week’s post dealt with “acting-out,” arguably one of the most (if not the most) misunderstood and misused (even by professionals) psychological terms (see: Acting Out and Other Commonly Misused Psychology Terms).  It’s important to understand and speak about certain concepts correctly because holding erroneous perspectives on behavior, especially the behavior of disturbed characters, is one of the main reasons people get bamboozled and otherwise victimized by bad actors. And it’s certainly no help that traditional psychology paradigms, much of the “pop psychology” literature, and ill-informed mental health professionals have all inadvertently contributed to and even promoted many of these erroneous perspectives.  This week’s article discusses other commonly misconstrued concepts and terms.  I’ve written about some of them before, sometimes in depth, and links to the relevant articles are provided. 

Here are some other of the more commonly misused and misunderstood psychology terms:

  • Codependency
  • Passive-Aggression
  • Denial
  • Rationalization
  • Addiction
  • Defensive
  • Needs
  • Self-esteem
  • Splitting
  • Symptoms
  • Projection
  • Paranoia

For starters, let’s clear the air a bit on codependency. I get lots of emails from folks who reference this term.  And I’ve been asked by many clients as well as the folks who’ve written to me whether I think they might be codependent.  To help determine this I always ask: “With whom, and upon what, do you think you might be dependent?”  Usually, this question is met with some surprise and a fair amount of curiosity.  But depending upon how the question is answered, I’m usually able to glean whether codependency is indeed an issue.

Most of the time, when folks (especially professionals) use the term “codependent,” they don’t mean codependent at all. Sometimes what they describe sounds much more like mutual dependency.  Other times they seem to be referencing interdependence.  But by far, the vast majority of the time I hear someone use the term codependency what they’re really describing is just plain dependency, or more specifically, emotional dependency.

The term codependence came out of the self-help “recovery” literature (based on the 12-step model of addiction treatment) of the 70s and 80s and was originally meant to describe the phenomenon whereby the life of the non-using spouse, partner, or other family member became just as governed by the substance(s) involved as the life of the active substance user.  So, in effect, both the user and the non-user were in some way dependent (i.e. co-dependent) upon the same substance(s), even though one was not technically addicted.  The concept of “enabling” also came out of this formulation.  The active user was often viewed as being “dependent upon” the non-using spouse or partner for the management of all household responsibilities (e.g., paying the bills, seeing to the welfare of children, dealing with all the consequences of the user’s irresponsible behavior, etc.) and the non-using spouse was viewed as being dependent upon the substance user for a sense of worth and purpose.  But while the active user might truly be in the throes of a genuine addiction and, therefore, chemically dependent, their abdication of responsibility for matters that by default were assumed by the more responsible partner cannot be rightfully construed as an issue of dependency.  Rather, that type of situation is clearly one of abuse.  And sometimes, the main reason the other party tolerates or even unwittingly perpetuates or “enables” the abuse is because of their emotional dependency (Now, there are certainly other reasons why a person endures this kind of abuse, none of which involves any true dependency at all, but I’m referencing here a particular kind of common circumstance).  If this kind of dependency is present and not addressed, the cycle of abuse is not only “enabled,” but most likely intensifies, and the dependent party’s emotional growth remains severely stunted. That’s how ancillary groups using the same treatment model became popular for the non-using partner.  And, as you might expect, given the dynamics at work in that partner, such groups and programs proved to be of great value, often proving more successful for the non-using partner than for the addict (or more often more accurately, the substance abuser). 

I’ve long had the feeling that the main reason some folks seem to find the notion of codependency appealing (I’ve had hundreds of folks readily and almost happily report their so-called codependency), even when it’s not genuinely present, is because to think of oneself as just one-half of a co-dependent “system” is a lot more acceptable to one’s self-image than acknowledging and “owning” one’s stunted emotional health or facing the harsh realities of being the duped party in an abusive, exploitative relationship.

Passive-Aggression is another term that’s rampantly misused both in general parlance and also by professionals.  But the word “passive” has meaning, which becomes clearer when viewed in relationship to it’s opposite:  “active.”  Perhaps an example will help clarify here:  There are such things as passive water filters.  These filters don’t actively do anything nor do they require power or circuitry.  They’re comprised of a series of meshes and fine particles that simply allow water to pass freely while passively affording resistance to the passage of metals and other contaminants.  They are different from active filters that apply electric charges to the water or heat it to boiling then refrigerate to distill a pure product. Active filters do something to the water to purify it.  Passive and active aggression work the same way.  In one case, conflict arises from what a person fails to do or resists doing.  In the other case, it’s accomplished by what the person very actively and deliberately does.  Many times, when people (professionals and lay persons alike) use the term passive-aggression, they really mean covert-aggression.  Both forms of aggression can involve indirect (as opposed to direct) expressions of anger.  But the two types of aggression are very different from one another on many other dimensions.  I’ve written several articles on this (see, for example: Passive-Aggression: Top 5 Misused Psychology Terms – Part 3 and When Passive-Aggression Isn’t Very Passive) and also discuss it in my books In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance. More importantly, the impact of these two types of behaviors couldn’t be more disparate.  For one thing, passive-aggressive behavior (e.g., not so “accidentally” forgetting to do something for someone you’re unhappy with, giving someone you’re mad at the silent treatment, not cooperating with someone because they hurt your feelings) is almost always far more self-defeating in the long run than it is truly injurious to the target of that behavior.  It may cause the person on the receiving end a fair amount of frustration, but it certainly doesn’t seriously wound them.  Covert-aggression is very different.  Slickly trying to get at someone, trying to get the better of them or trying to dominate or control them while keeping your aggressive intentions concealed or intentionally misrepresented is almost always self-advancing and generally at the other person’s expense.  Make no mistake, as I insist in all my writings, covert-aggression is very active (as opposed to passive) albeit concealed or disguised aggression, which is just one reason why erroneously labeling it passive-aggression distorts the reality of things.  And the person on the receiving end of covert-aggression has usually been directly targeted as well.

Some of you might still be wondering if it’s worth being so apparently nit-picky about terms.  But remember, it’s largely all the misperceptions that exist about covert-aggression that allow it to be such an effective vehicle of manipulation.  Because how we see things matters.  Once you know what someone is really doing and why, everything changes.  It’s always important  to see things in the most accurate light.  We’re instantly empowered when we see things correctly and have the information we need to take the most appropriate action.  This is true in therapy, too.  And when terms are bandied about inaccurately and events are misconstrued as to their true nature, well, it’s akin to the blind leading the blind.

You might notice there’s a new tab on the homepage menu that links to the page that provides information on consultations.  And soon I’ll have information on 3 more foreign language publications of my books as well as a forthcoming Spanish language edition.

If you haven’t already done so, let me encourage you to tune in to Character Matters on Sunday evenings at 7 pm Eastern time.  It’s a great opportunity for real-time discussion of issues and information-sharing.

69 thoughts on “Commonly Misused Psychology Terms – Part 2

  1. Before I attended my first support group, the dr I was using cautioned me about the use of co-dependency in the group and how it doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone – me in particular. I have and still try to do work on my emotional health. I can see progress in that area.
    The way the group is styled and set-up, everyone has to acknowledge co-dependency. Also, the group is not set-up for interaction either which can be good/bad.
    I use the co-dependent meditation book which I find helpful in some ways but not all the things addressed in there I consider co-dependency either.

    1. Hopey, The CA’s underhanded and covert manipulation creates what looks like “co-dependent” behavior by targeting our vulnerabilities. In a sense they create the illusion that your wounds and vulnerabilities are safe in their hands and then they trigger them, rescue you from the pain and then trigger them again………..rinse and repeat. They pretend to be your “savior”, that one person you think you are finally safe enough with to disclose and experience your deepest self and with and then yank the rug out from under you in the most callous way they can. When you are writhing in pain and confusion they are right there to assure you it was all a mistake (emphasizing that you are not perfect either) and promise they didn’t mean to hurt you EVER and that you mean more to them than they can even describe. Basically they will say and do almost anything to get you back aboard the sinking ship. Once you are back on, you bail the ever accumulating water harder than before not knowing that there is a hole in the bottom of the boat the size of the Grand Canyon, patched together with their paper mache mask of undying love. You keep reaching for this carrot that not only will you never reach but isn’t even there yet are assured is. It’s nothing but mental and emotional torture.

      1. you may have some leanings towards so-dependancy but if you do, it’s only one other thing they will use to manipulate and destroy you.

        1. Spathtardx created the dependancy I had on him by ALWAYS being with me and creating the illusion that we were going to be together forever. HE is the one who couldn’t be alone. So complicated to describe.

      2. What you describe, reminds me of the – rescuer/victim triangle. I have no doubt the CD will use whatever they have available to manipulate as they are staying honest to the character, if any credit should be given them.
        Not needing rescued anymore, or realizing you need someone else (as I did) to validate real, hurt feelings or abuse, is my focus because minimization is one tactic that I bought in to on all levels (including being told by a counselor long ago my concerns were not real-or my reaction was OVER reaction).
        I can judge my own healing in that I have come to acceptance of some painful things in some areas. Acceptance doesn’t mean I allow myself to be abused or for me to become abusive. But it dang sure will mean the wool will not be easily pulled over my eyes.

        1. Hopey, please remember that you have the benefit NOW of knowing things you didn’t know then. The rescuing thing is on a very subconscious level when you are a victim being manipulated. You might not be looking for someone to rescue you when you get involved with one of these losers but they can create the environment that fosters wanting to be rescued. I was holding my own in many ways before i became involved in his game unknowingly.
          No doubt it is a triangle, they specialize in triangulation within the relationshi* and also with other people/ you. again,,,,,,,,covert manipulation. Retrospect is the only gift of one of these nightmares and at the same time, one of the most painful aspects……the looking back and realizing it was all a game at your expense. I can’t speak for you, only for me.

  2. I think I see what you are saying and I agree, it is only looking back that one can see the “game” and identify it.
    For me, the group I belong to, I internalize although all or most of their material assumes the spouse/family member, etc is a co-dependent, that may not be the case or doesn’t have to stay that way.
    Also, being able to identify what I need and validate it for myself was very hard. Very hard.
    When I know what I need (sympathetic ear, etc) I know only now how to go about getting that without getting mixed up in the “game”.

    1. right. It’s just all too easy to think things like…..” I can’t believe I didn’t KOWN” Or to feel stupid because you let yourself be taken advantage of. NO!! I finally stopped that kind of thinking when I realized how uneven the playing field was from the get go. I was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination an i did things that were wrong of unskilful or whatever……BUT, my intentions were not malevolent and it was not all about me and what I wanted or needed, far from it. I was not stupid I was naive. I saw things that I did not know how to interpret. I believed him while having my doubts. I was manipulated, deceived and betrayed period. They have a way of taking a crap on you and making you think you are the one who should be cleaning it up. it’s the most pathetic and disgusting thing I have ever encountered in my well rounded life. I had no clue that someone could do this to me and I say that having been raised with a full on sociopathic brother.

      1. They force something down your throat that you never even dreamed of before…..something too good to be true and it’s not. something you would never have asked for from anyone but there it is and the good parts of it are so wonderful and very addicting, emotionally and physically addicting….like crack cocaine. That would be my comparison…….someone covertly getting you addicted to crack cocaine without your knowledge and then they take it away to create a craving you never dreamed you could have, then coming back and giving you more only to take it away again. and when it’s finally over because they are sick of the maintenance of propping up their created junky’s habit, it’s become too much trouble,,,,,,they discard you to fend for yourself and repair the damage.

  3. Wonderful explanation and examples. Unfortunately the errors are well ingrained though the many books and internet sites. Maybe people think it is better to be co dependant than emotionally used and abused. I don’t need a therapist to tell me I was used, I know that. It hurts like hell, but to see it and call it by it’s true name is a revelation. Takes the sting out of it.

  4. “Once you know what someone is really doing and why, everything changes. ”

    Amen!

    I can’t tell you how many times people say “don’t worry about why someone is doing what they are doing”. And that made me angry.

    I can see why we should not take things too personally. But when someone is targeting you , it is important to understand that – they are doing something BECAUSE they are trying to control you and trying to hurt you. Understanding that allows us to protect ourselves.

    1. I agree Claire. You can’t protect yourself unless you understand the threat, and you can’t heal until you understand what happened to you.

      There are situations in life when it doesn’t matter ‘why’ somebody did something…..this is NOT one of those cases.

  5. Do they have no empathy or do they resist sympathetic empathy because that is too submissive? I think it is the latter. My NM would complain of being “hooked” by me, and I think she was merely describing getting “caught up” in regular empathy.

    1. Claire, I have read that they can have some form of empathy when it suits them. Probably for someone who doesn’t challenge them in any way what so ever. What I saw in Spathtard and what he eluded to was that he wanted someone to love him unconditionally……you know, like mommy does by allowing his highness to live like a frigging teenager in her basement for free at the age of 48. Guess what?? Unconditional love in an adult love is not reality. adults have needs and desires and unless your needs and desires are being met and respected by your partner, what is the point of the relationship?? He acted like he was doing me some kind of favor by gracing my life with his mere presence, like that alone was his contribution to the “””””partnership”””””.
      Anyhow, I have no clue what he really felt/ feels/ is/ was, etc……it’s the nature of the beast. I think it’s perfectly safe to assume that nothing about the person I was with was real and I mean nothing.

    2. Is it really empathy, if someone wants the world to accommodate them while they themselves are intolerant nad unreasonable?

      Puddle, I don’t know what it’s like to face a sociopath and I don’t want to, but in one book I’ve read(that one by Robert Moore) I’ve run into an interesting description. I quoted a passage talking about autonomous complexes and some other type of complexes called spirit complexes, two examples being Christ complex and Lucifer complex. Describing briefly the latter, Moore states patterns of sociopathic evil are archetypal. So I guess the best way to characterize a sociopath is that their psyche is one huge Satan complex.

      I’m saying this, because we people need to make sense of things, right? (although I think that also might be a huge mystery, why humans need to make sense of everything)

      1. J, So many things are really a mystery. Humans think they have it figured out or solved and then along comes another discovery that turns the previous ones on their heads! It’s amazing what people died for in the past……..the earth being flat/ round, the sun vs the earth at the center of the solar system, endless examples.
        Regarding Sociopaths/ Psychopaths………you do not want to encounter one EVER! And I’ve had my fair share of them in my life………I put Spathtardx in a completely different category than any disordered person I had encountered though. he takes the cake in many many ways and without a doubt is the most pathetic loser I’ve ever known. It’s hard to imagine now that I “ignored” so much although that’s really not the right wording. My brother is a very close second place but in many ways they are tied.
        I think we want to make sense of things so we can hopefully prevent something from happening again. We want to FEEL like we have some power over our destiny but do we really ever? Even when we think we do? Things can change in the blink of an eye and everything you thought you had control of can change in a split second! It’s amazing when you think of it.

      2. That can turn into its own kind of evil psychic force. Really, if we didn’t have a choice at all, if it really was meant only for aggressors to thrive and survive, where would we be?

        1. J, we do have choice no doubt but only in varying degrees. When outside conditions are favorable we have a lot of choice but when outside forces are not favorable, our choices can become extremely limited. we always have choice over how we respond, even in tough situations but a person can also be broken down and betray even themselves and their own values. that would be extreme situations, prisoners of war, psychological/ physical torture……… it’s utterly baffling to me that humans can do what they do to other humans but it’s been going on for a very very long time. It’s overwhelming to think about really…..animal abuse,,, same thing. But, i eat commercially raised meat and feel like a hypocrite like that because of the horrific conditions that exist in the commercial agriculture INDUSTRY in this country. We could do so much better by the creatures who sustain us and we don’t. I wish we did.

        2. “[A] person can also be broken down and betray even themselves and their own values.”

          Another disturbing aspect of reality: Aggressors persist because of their very tenacity. Of course, even they can break down and have such a narcissistic injury they prefer suicide.

          Another thread of thought: For aggressors there IS pain, losing. It’s a very different pain from having values and betraying them.

          1. I don’t think it is pain though……it’s what I would call incredulous, self entitled RAGE!

          2. True, pain can so be understood in that certain way. Sure, I’ve heard people being described as being driven by pain and pleasure. Still, “unpleasant” catches the feel better for some folks.

        3. I think there has to be a mindset geared for choice that helps a lot. If it was just fate, then then the world would be senseless and we humans have the curse of making sense of things. Any ways to accept that the world is senseless? Or other options?

          1. I think a lot of things in the world ARE senseless………..to me anyhow,,,,,,a mere mortal. And what other choice do you have but to accept it? Do what you can but accept it.

  6. I’ve always hated it when someone tries to tell me that my relationship was co-dependent relationship. It wasn’t though I will acknowledge that I did enable in many ways and all was because I didn’t have the emotional strength to stand my ground. I’d make attempts but sometimes it seemed easier to go with the flow. At other times I felt like I was standing my ground but again you end up somehow losing… like a conversation that just went in circles until you started believing you were the problem. I only wish now I’d been able to see then what was happening. I think your clear terms Dr Simon help enormously. I know I was losing my emotional well being and I had known it for a long time. I did depend on him for my emotional worth to a certain extent but then so many other circumstances come into play when you’re living in this kind of relationship. I think someone mentioned earlier the rescuer type which I think also applies to my situation. If you’re in love with the person then of course you want to help them but not having the knowledge on how to help or if you can help is like the blind leading the blind until suddenly you realise you have to get out for your own well being.
    Through all of this that’s the hardest part to come to grips with loving that person who hurt you so badly. He was my husband… letting go of that is really difficult even though I KNOW how dangerous this man was and is, it still feels inexplicable. For me it’s like my husband died but he didn’t… yet now he shows the true nature all the time and it’s much worse. Though thankfully now I am truly free and making my own life. It still feels weird to be able to stand strong and know that I am fine, that I am not and really wasn’t co-dependent but the best thing is feeling emotionally balanced. Except for those times when I find myself missing the good times and hate to say it but I do have feelings and think of him so much. I think that’s just grief of the loss for the most part now. Though once fully established in a new home I am hoping that those feelings will start to fade. Mind you I know I’ll never be the same person that I was before all this.

    1. Tori, of course you think of him all the time, again it’s the nature of the beast. It’s an un solvable puzzle and when we see or encounter something that we’ve never seen and is unexplainable, it’s the mind’s nature to want to understand. Sadly, in my opinion and situation, this is the pollution he has left in me and in my mind. The “good times” were an illusion and only part of the game or there because he wanted them there. They had nothing to do with you (me). HORRIBLlY bitter pill to swallow but I have found that the further down my throat that bitter pill goes the less I miss ANYTHING to do with that scumbag lowlife so WHEW HOO!! It’s a horrible process though, like swallowing broken glass. I never thought anything could hurt as much as this has.
      I’m so fortunate that I don’t have to see him at all because to see the real him would make me sick. I’m sorry that you have to face the real him Tori but it actually might be good in a way except for all the carp he is doing to hurt you. at least your illusions will be wiped away more quickly?

    2. “For me it’s like my husband died but he didn’t… yet now he shows the true nature all the time and it’s much worse.”

      Tori, My analogy for how this feels is this…….it’s like loosing an arm or a leg but they can’t reattach it because they found cancer in it.

      1. Very good analogy Puddle. They’re like really bad phantom pains. Oh I soon hope to be so busy that he’s just a minor blimp on my inner radar. That day can’t come quickly enough! 🙂 (hugs to you Puddle)

        1. Tori, like I said…..it may have a hidden benefit to have had to still be in contact with him because it forces you to really see him for what he is. It was so hard for me to come to terms with reality. I am so much more in touch with what it all was/ wasn’t now but I had a year at least, post break up,,,,,,,maybe more,,,,,that I struggled. It was a Hell that I can’t really describe to anyone, even people who understand, because in reality……no one can really really entirely understand another persons subjective reality. And that was one of the worst things about it, I almost felt like someone who is mute but trying to call out for help. There was no help Tori…….just trying to find the help i so desperately needed was a nightmare in and of it’s self and I still cry just typing that.
          I don’t know if i can say I’m “over it”……it did something to me, broke something that I don’t know can be fixed and I had fractures before I ever met him…… He sure picked an easy target in many ways…….what a POS.

  7. Emotionally dependent and a fraction looking to be completed in another is one misunderstanding I had, mislabel it as co-dependent.
    I think it is a secular idea that we are all halves (1/2) looking for our other halves (1/2).
    But, if we do the math, it is not in our favor and bears out what Dr. Simon is trying to get across.
    This is what I see.
    In math, “of” indicates multiplication. (Let’s assume it is a mystery that two people can come together and become one, but hear me out).
    So, you have two broken people (emotional dep) 1/2 OF 1/2 (CD). The answer is not ONE but 1/4.
    You will only get the ONE (two becoming one, flesh) when you multiply 1*1.
    Of course, if you were taking the emotionally dependent and giving them 1/2, I think the CD would be more like 1/16 or even less of a fraction – zero?
    It is interesting that this is reflected even in math.

    1. Hopey………….That’s kind of interesting, an interesting way to look at it although math is my weak link! But yes……You have a great point.
      I think it’s true that everyone to varying degrees is “looking” for connection and relationship with their other, maybe counterpart would be a way to put it into words. We are group creatures not solitary. A woman needs the strength of a man and a man needs the warmth and softness of a woman. That may sound sexist and I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions.
      My whole life I tried to be tough, I can do it myself……….I had never had anyone in my entire youth that I really felt stood up for ME and was there for ME, the real ME. I have a picture of myself as a very young teen, 12? and I am the tinniest little scrawny hard butt you can imagine. Talk about body language!
      So in the situation i was in, I was allowing myself to be softer and more affectionate, and many other things,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,with a psychopath that ate me up and spit me out! Because he was doing “of” math, he was cooking the books and taking, depleting the resources of love, trust, etc.
      It’s almost pointless to me at this point to even talk about him in regards to any “”relationship” dynamics because now I know there wasn’t a relationship at all. Not a healthy one, not an unhealthy one, not a co-dependent one, only a sick and twisted, abusive game of one. it was HIS game not mine and i was just a game piece……nothing more.

      1. I did something similar, tough beyond words – can do it all on my own, etc. It is hard to become not only vulnerable again BUT to be able to see who is worthy of sharing with us which is a relationship.
        I agree that a true CD, in my math equation, probably should get a zero value as when multiplied out, nothing is left, no relationship really.
        Don’t give up hope. We can heal. We can come out stronger and wiser and help those going through this too.
        BTW, a true relationship is give and take, not just take as they tend to do – NOR for us to keep to ourselves (guarded because of fear). We are supposed to be able enter into a vulnerability with a spouse that doesn’t exist with others.

  8. …And how about misused ‘principles’ or ‘insights’ – that are false at least some of the time.
    My personal hitlist, since discovering Dr Simon’s work:

    “Anyone that seems to be arrogant or thinks they’re superior / anyone who is a bully or aggressive, underneath is really insecure and feels inadequate even though it doesn’t look that way.”
    “They lash out because they’re hurting inside.” (Dr S is good at demolishing this one.)
    “Relationship difficulties are 50/50. It’s not just one person’s fault.”
    “Women (sorry, people!) stay in abusive relationships because secretly they are getting some kind of perverse pay-off from it.”

    …as well as the many others Dr S deals with in the last month!

    1. Hi there, I don’t reply often, but read articles and the comments. Been There Often quoted Dr. Simon (as it is in inverted commas). Can anybody, or you Been There Often, help to find where Dr. Simon says that. To my understanding, his very core idea is, that traditional psychodynamics, based on subconscious/unconscious don’t apply to these characters. This because they ‘know exactly what they are doing’, as they TRULY believe they are superior. They therefore, don’t have any insecurities underneath, unless they are partly Ps, Ns itc., but as he says, it is even worse. May be I didn’t catch something….

  9. This isn’t a misused term as it is understanding, but I heard something similar at my group.
    The statement was, all men who use porn have been abused as a child/or adulthood.
    It seems to go along with the “everyone is a neurotic at heart” and why some people do not get better with therapy, wrong therapy.
    I take the word of the user – if they say they started because they liked it (and this keeps in line with how men are stimulated – visually) and it grew out of control, it seems going with that will only help them recover. The other seems like you are looking for something that may not be there at all.

  10. “..to think of oneself as just one-half of a codependent “system” is a lot more acceptable to one’s self concept than acknowledging and “owning” one’s stunted emotional health.” YES! I’ve also observed this in relationships that are Complementary: “I am the way I am because of THE OTHER, so I have surrendered any agency in making my own choices because of THEM and what THEY’RE doing.” To embrace and understand we are effectively powerless over other’s does not exempt us from personal agency or render *us* powerless over ourselves. When confronted with this reality, the “co-dependent” then responds with something to the effect you’re “Blaming the victim” rather than inviting them to dig deeper within themselves. If the goal is truly detachment, it can not be achieved by focusing on the other rather than yourself. The “Co-dependants” become reactors rather than authors in their own lives even as they’re circling the proverbial drain of the relationship death-spiral or continue engaging in a Complementary relationship (sometimes for years.)
    Excellent Post-Thanks! IMO, you’re not “splitting hairs” at all in clarifying these terms and their rampant bastardization to the point they become incorrect, meaningless and useless in terms of framing an accurate paradigm in which to think-and ultimately act.

    1. Tundra Woman, I agree with what you are saying but also believe it all flies out the window in a covertly abusive and manipulative “relationshi*.

      1. How so? As you’ve observed, we don’t know what we don’t know. Dr. S’s point is often people use terms without understanding what they really mean and consequently may not be applicable to their situation at all. In the example he used, the individual is *not* “codependent” but “emotionally dependent” on the other in a “…type of relationship (that) is one of *abuse*.” It made a lot of sense to me in terms of my relationship with a CD in that although I never used the term “co-dependence” it took me, oh, just about a couple of decades, to use the word “abuse” to correctly identify the dynamics of the relationship.
        (Hey, I’m a slow learner!)
        That one word used correctly changed the paradigm I was using significantly: I wasn’t “stuck” any longer and my CD “mother” was most certainly abusive. She had cultivated emotional dependence from birth continuing throughout my life and certainly, a child is emotionally dependent on their primary caretaker. And adult is not unless they choose to be: I was not without personal agency and now that I had correctly identified the nature of the relationship, it was my choice to move on and terminate the relationship with her completely.
        (Did she accept my decision? OH HELL NO!! And that was OK too: I.wasn’t.BUDGING!)

        1. TundraWoman….Maybe we are on different pages? Talking about different types of situations. Or I might be misunderstanding your comment, the wording was a little confusing *to me*.
          I was referring to the ability to make choices in the relationship, “personal agency”? In my opinion, that is exactly what a Spath/ CA does to his victim…….takes away their ability to make informed choices because the only one in the relationship that knows what is REALLY going on is them (the Spath/ CA). Maybe I’m not understanding “personal agency”!

  11. Dr Simon, since you’re clearing up misconceptions, what about the concept of deindividuation and that of the weapons effect(invented by Leonard Berkowitz)?

  12. I so hate the co-dependent label that is forced on anybody and everybody who had the misfortune of getting mixed up with an addict or other disturbed character. I may not be the most emotionally healthy person on the planet, but I have no uncontrollable need to be with an ass.

    I had read an article by some psychologist a while back that defined co-dependence as the emotional damage sustained by people who have been involved with a disordered person. Yeah….I fit that, but I like what Dr. Simon called it – abuse.

  13. seems like most of the comment sections are clogged with
    puddles whining about her past, and holding onto the victim
    role.
    along with wanting to be consoled endlessly, all while not practicing forgiveness but rather killing with her tongue herself.i think people get it already.
    we can all claim to be victims,everyone has experienced hurt,pain ,sorrow in their lives, but not everyone has learned to be a overcomer but are rather overcome by choice.
    I think a lot of people have found this blog seeking answers
    so let more of them have the stage to express their concerns.
    and step back a little.

    1. Xabnvet , Not really understanding your wording entirely but I can tell you that while I no longer feel the need to be consoled, I did need that at one time. I would not even call it a need for being consoled but a need for validation. And just so you know, I am a forgiving person by nature but there is no forgivness in my heart or nature for a person like the idiot who I was involved with. There is plenty of room on this “stage”. I don’t see anyone struggling to find a place or hear anyone else complaining about my participation here. If there is someone else I would like to know.

    2. Xabrivet — I believe your comments are out of line.

      No one is keeping other people from commenting.

      Puddle has difficulties that you apparently are not aware of. To use analogies: imagine yourself trying to make your way through life with vaseline smeared on your glasses so that your vision is impaired; you have cotton balls stuffed in your ears so that you don’t hear very well; you have 40 lb. weights strapped to each ankle so that you struggle just to walk.

      In spite of Puddle’s problems, she is often the first one to welcome and encourage new posters. Can you say the same?

      Puddle, if I have misstated anything, I know I can trust you to correct my understanding. Peace on earth to men of good will, and hope for a better future.

    3. Xabnvet, not sure why you felt the need to make this comment and frankly if anythings clogging up comments it would ones such as this.
      Puddle is a great source of inspiration and experience and without her input into this blog I doubt I would be as far along as I am. Her courage in sharing her story has allowed me to realise many things about the situation I was in…her words are a comfort to me and many who come to this site thinking they are going crazy. As much as Dr Simon has given great articles that have helped so much, it is comments such as Puddles that help others join dots of their lives. They compliment the blog and do not deter from it! Words cannot express what a difference how interacting on this blog has helped me and no doubt many others! I thank you Puddle from the bottom of my heart you have given me many answers to my questions! And I don’t forgive either and never will! We are all survivors moving forward! Thanks to all! 🙂

      1. Tori, SO very sweet and thank you for sticking up for me and this blog. Because of everyone here, I continue to learn and have things reinforced in my understanding. I hope someday I will walk away from here feeling that I am O V E R this nightmare but at the same time, I really feel a sort of obligation to continue to participate because I know how important it is to have someone in your corner when you are dealing with one of these human mutants. I personally do not see much hope in trying to warn people who have not been through something like this because I KNOW how devious and calculated they are when they “smell blood”. So, in my opinion, that makes it even more important to have sites like this to help people that have been targeted. Dr. Simon’s knowledge, wisdom and character a certainly VERY important and it’s the people who share what they have been through, experienced and figured out who can translate that all into something that an abuse victim can really relate to.
        This is a wonderful group of people. I don’t care what Xabnvet says at all, what I do care about is all of your camaraderie and validation.

    4. You seem to be new to this forum, at least as far as commenting, so allow me to make some important points: For a long while I have not had to subject comments to final approval by me before they post. That’s because while the commentators sometimes make provocative comments and even question and challenge one another, they’re generally quite careful about the manner in which that’s done. A few months ago, some comments were posted that I felt stepped over the line of respectful discussion, so I’ve been monitoring more closely. I came close to heavily editing if not deleting this comment not because of the issues it raises, the challenges it makes, or any other part of its content but rather because of the tone. You are correct, many people find this blog seeking answers but ALL have free and equal access to the “stage” of discussion so no particular individual needs to be stifled unless they violate certain boundaries. You appear to want to make some valid points about parting company with bitterness and moving on but while I think it perfectly fine to provoke good thought, even with challenging questions, I must ask that great caution be used when that’s done – using a tone that while challenging still reflects respect. And while you might take issue with my assessment, I thought this comment was on the borderline. Please continue to challenge, even positively provoke. Just be very careful of the tone. This blog is what it is not just because of my posts but also because of the commentators and their input. I’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness. Thanks!

    5. Xabnvet, I would also dare to say that your comment shows, to me anyhow, a lack of understanding as to the true nature and unique experience of being COVERTLY manipulated, used and abused. As others have said and I am among them, I have forgiven plenty of people in my past for various reasons. This particular person and involvement stands alone in not only what was done to me, the way it was done but also the INTENTIONAL damage that was done. So, unlike other people in my past that have been forgiven and I continue to have contact with, but in a different and more self protective way, I will NEVER have a place in my life for someone as low and twisted as the person who i was involved with. Someone at his low level deserves nothing he shamelessly took from me let alone my forgiveness. He hasn’t earned it and as far as anyone can tell, never will. I have the benefit of knowing his track record now. A leopard his age, with the type of spots he has, has very little chance of changing them.
      Your cutting comment was wasted on me dear……but you certainly are entitled to your opinion, informed or not.

      1. Not to mention, as I’ve known Viper and he’s still hypocritical, there’s something I can say: He doesn’t live in his mother’s house free of rent as of 50.

        Wow. Not to mention these can be the same people, who nitpickingly, hypervigilantly, combatively seek anything to mock in others. Wow.

        1. J, Well said. They keep a running tally of your supposed wrong doings (or their twisted, inflated version of them) and instead of confronting you with them in the moment, they file them in their arsenal to be used against you in the future. As LisaO said, when the person on the other end of one of these abusers brings something up, their intention is to find a resolution to the problem or a way to find a middle ground or to gain understanding. When a covert abuser brings something up, it is a trick to get you either off their back or……fill in the blank. It’s entirely underhanded and chicken s**t and down right mean, I’m sure they take great delight is watching you unknowingly hand them exactly what it is they were after. The variety and forms this dynamic can take are endless and it is absolutely pathetic yet so SO damaging on so many levels. I look back and see myself flailing but know in my heart how much I just wanted to clear up whatever it was that kept going wrong. I was baffled that two people who loved each other could not make it work. I THOUGHT he loved me so it just made no sense. I knew how I felt and what my intentions were, I just didn’t know his truth.

  14. Elva, thank you. I don’t know if the issues I face pertain to what this poster is accusing me of or if I’m as compromised as what you wrote in my defense but I do appreciate you sticking up for me and really do want to know if any of the regulars share that persons point of view. I just kind of go with the flow here and comment accordingly. I certainly don’t want to be plugging up the comment section.
    ((Hugs to you Elva, nice to hear from you. I’ve been wondering where you were!))

    1. Hi Puddle — I’m aware that your issues are not exactly what I stated, I just used those issues as an analogy, rather than try to go into the nuances of FASD. In spite of difficulties, I am constantly amazed at your good insights. To me, having to cope with a fuzzy understanding, as you have mentioned, would be crippling. As for keeping others from commenting, that is simply not true. Anyone who cares to can comment.

      I’m around, just have not seen the need to comment on each week’s new article unless I feel I have something to contribute. Peace and hope from Elva

    2. I think that this is the perfect place to be able to work through our issues, and everyone is at a different stage in their journey. It is disheartening to me when people attack or criticize others for relating comment about where they are in their journey. I am not very far along but form what I’ve read our experiences tith the CA are going to take a long time to work through, I like this forum because I’ve found that this is, for the most part, a safe place to work through these things that others can relate to. For me it’s a place where I can be me at whatever stage I’m at and not be criticized for it.
      So Puddle, I don’t think you’re clogging up the comments. Knowing that you have struggles and are willing to share those, help free me to be able to share mine and work through them. So if you are at a stage where you are not forgiving, if there are things that you are relating so that your experience is validated, or even if you are just willing to share your experiences so others know they are not alone, then more power to you, this is exactly the place to do it.

      1. Sheri, LisaO, thank you. At this stage of my recovery, the coments I post are more of a way to let other people know that I understand where they are and what they have been through. It’s just like when I first was waking up…. It really helped me to read stories from other people who had been through the same. The nature of one of these involvements is so foreign that it is easy to doubt your experience and loose your footing. It was a lifesaver and a relief to hear that I was not alone. I sincerely hope that in sharing my experience and the things I have learned will help someone know they are NOT the crazy one and why.

  15. Xabnvet,

    Puddle keeps things rolling around here. She is a great conversational catalyst, kind and caring. She is emotionally honest enough to say, “I don’t forgive.” Doesn’t mean she is stewing in hatred. It means she is getting to a place of indifference, if she hasn’t already arrived.

    Everybody who has had their lives turned upside down by a charming predator IS a victim while they are being manipulated — and through the healing process. I was manipulated by somebody who used my chronic health problems and compatibility issues with my husband as an ‘in’. Puddle has similar problems and deserves respect and consideration and the hand of friendship, not a hand slapped across her face.

    As far as ‘not being a victim’, would you encourage pow’s to haul out their ‘gratitude journals’ after a particularly invigorating day of water boarding? Perhaps while they are being tortured, “Don’t worry, be happy,” should be piped into the cell?

  16. Thanks J

    You’ve just been mugged– but— don’t call the cops. Start journaling about how glad you are that you weren’t murdered. Don’t you love it when people send you pop culture youtube vids about how you should feel? How about this approach. Instead of sending a friend or family member a video link, maybe they should pick up the phone and ask them how they are doing? If they are afraid to hear the answer they shouldn’t send the link.

    1. New Age -thinking has SOME parts to it that can be quite good like relaxing and asking one’s so-called higher self for what you want. If you feel clear of blockages, then you can contact and communicate with your higher self through your middle self(subconscious). Makes sense to me, at least.

      The problem is magical thinking pervading it. “If you think there’s no evil, there’s no evil. Thinking makes it so.” Nope, sounds like wishful, unrealistic thinking at BEST and delusional at worst. I’ve even heard talk of New Age fundamentalism.

      With prayer, meditation, visualization methods and such, it’s not really about passively sitting on your bottom and deluding yourself that you can magically make things right without effort. I see it being about changing one’s mindset, thoughtscape.

    2. I’m not being clear now. Let me try again.

      Not simply mouthing a narrow view that sounds good. Not twisting or rigidifying or being brainwashed into a cultic, fundamentalist view. Not brainwashing or deluding yourself that this is the ultimate Truth with gigantic T neatly packaged in your hands.

      Could it be rather like this: Studying and digesting different points of view, finding who you are, self-actualization and thus life transformed?

  17. J

    I think all belief systems have a shadow aspect. The focus on self illumination and looking within serves as a retreat from the crush of humanity and close, sometimes suffocating family ties in Asian countries. And a certain amount of inner work and meditation is a real positive for everybody, regardless of where they live. I think what kind of gets under my skin is that so much of Asian philosophy has to be adjusted to our culture, where people already lead lives that are too detached and atomized. In this case the concept of ‘universal love,’ is almost inappropriate. We need much more authentic person to person care and concern. Asian religions and philosophies, reworked through cultural narcissism promotes even more narcissism and concentrates too much on “energy” and not enough on real community and helping a d reaching out to those in need.

    1. LisaO, It seems like the family structure id more intact in other societies where it has broken down miserably in the West. That is a very general statement of course but I wonder if it fits into what you are saying somehow. Like maybe there are too many free agents and these spiritual principles are geared towards the individual rather than the family unit or society.

  18. Puddle,

    Absolutely and you said it more succinctly than I did. Radiating from weak family relationships are shallow friendships, too. Marriages, in our culture, are supposed to somehow make up for all of these deficits.

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