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It’s easy to complain about a narcissistic partner without owning the part of the dysfunction that enables them. They must create and maintain a model of the world that pleases them. I have stuck around many times when I really should have left. They will assert this reality onto the codependent, and others, insisting that the other believes it. Narcissism and codependence are both diseases of responsibility. After enough of these relationships, it becomes possible to know what is happening inside the narcissist, or in their world, simply by listening to their accusations. The narcissist takes too little responsibility, while the codependent takes too much responsibility. This example also demonstrates projective identification, where the codependent enabler actually starts to take on the projected role.

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Most of us can express traits of narcissism and codependence at different times in our lives, and in different relationships, especially when under stress. The narcissistic process, needing to maintain a perfect self-image, will project all negative qualities onto others, particularly the codependent. Me: I feel scared that you might start yelling at me. In a healthy system, responsibility is well aligned with response-ability, so that adaptive action can be taken. When ability to respond is decoupled from responsibility, people start to get disabled. Her: I thought about something you said and that made me angry! I recommend that you contact her for a free consultation.

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