Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, author and psychotherapist, has shifted the conversation around codependency into a different place, renaming it Self-Love Deficit Disorder.
This is because he views the behavior of codependency as symptom of not loving your Self. I happen to agree.
He states that the origin for a lack of self love comes from a caretaker (notice I’m not saying careGIVER) being narcissistic, conditionally offering love within judgmental and withholding interactions. This causes an attachment trauma, which essentially means that the child does not feel enough safety in the relationship to rely on it or the care taker for anything.
Without any information to the contrary, and an environment that supports this behavior, a child then develops the sense that they are the reason for the lack of connection. I’ve spoken about this before. Rosenberg describes this issue as the starting point for core shame; the child is reduced to seeing themself only through the eyes of another, and therefore their value only in service to that effort.
In this dynamic, the child as an individual with their own feelings, experiences, talents, wants and needs is not validated for these things. They are only validated for their willingness and ability to meet the needs of the caretaker.
This, Rosenberg says, results in pathological loneliness – a deep, aching hole in which a person loses their value and Self even more.
No wonder, then, that to ease this ache a person is willing to go to great lengths to be seen! In doing for others, there is a purpose and a value. This fills the void and relieves pain. What an amazing survival skill.
Of course, we codependents don’t realize all of this is happening; we just find ourselves in the same relationship patterns because they make sense to us. There is a familiarity, and a sense of relief that comes when we not only know how to act, but we are validated for it. Relief from pain and feedback that it makes sense to and for other people? Sign us up.
What to do when this stops working, though? When the pain continues to bubble up because it’s only being held back, not eliminated? How to heal the trauma and the resulting loneliness?
We have to learn to love our Selves.
And not just love … Rosenberg says we need self-love ABUNDANCE.
I just love this idea. Not only does it teach us that It’s not enough to just love ourselves (we have to be abundant in that emotion and experience!), but it also demonstrates that we can absolutely turn this dynamic around.
In pursuit of abundant self love, it helps me to think of my most favorite person in the whole wide world. What would I do for them? How would I feel about them? What do I think are their most amazing qualities? How fascinating do I find them? How incredibly powerful is their presence in my life? How grateful am I for my relationship with them?
Now – take these questions and ask them back to your Self.
Replace the word “them” with the word “me.”
I’m guessing that’s a lot harder to do. But this is where the change can happen.
Turning inward, finding some answers about our Self, shedding any judgement and becoming abundantly, generously loving to the most important person in your life.
I invite your questions and comments, and, as always, am here to help.
For more information, I offer these resources. Please note that there is a lot of clinical terminology included here, some of which I’m a little reticent to use (i.e. addicted, diagnosed, labels of pathology), but are reflective of the origins of this framework and approach to the dynamic discussed: