co-dependency,  Narcissism

Narcissism, Echoism and Abuse in Adult Relationships

Narcissism is one of those topics with a lot of emotional energy attached to it, due to the extreme pain experienced by anyone that becomes romantically involved with people with personality disorders.

If you go on the internet there is a tidal wave of information about narcissism.   There are a lot of Ph. Ds and life coaches giving their approaches.  I have watched a LOT of videos on this topic but the one thing you need to keep in mind is that these behaviors occur on a spectrum and not everyone falls into the clinically disordered category.  To be fair, there is also healthy narcissism.  This is what creates a realistic self-esteem and high levels of self-awareness. 

Emotionally damaged people, both narcissists and co-dependents, are drawn toward each other in a complimentary way because they have the same type of underlying shame-based emotional wounds from childhood.  I gravitate toward those professionals that deal with the issue of narcissism in a balanced way by recognizing that both parties are damaged people, but narcissists are abusive by nature.

Dr. Craig Malkin coined the term Echoist to describe the role of the narcissistic counterpart in this type of relationship. Echo is the nymph in the myth who was cursed to repeat back the last words that she heard and had no voice on her own.  The spouse of the narcissist often echoes the needs and desires of the other person while losing their own.  Ecoists are fearful of seeming narcissistic and they struggle to have a voice of their own and speak up about their needs and wants.  They also take on the blame for the problems in the relationship, which is often what keeps them stuck.  Echoists are often highly sensitive people (HSPs).

It is worth noting, that people with chemical dependencies, or other addictions, act very narcissistically but are not necessarily a narcissist.  You need to keep in mind if your situation doesn’t quite fit the description of narcissism.  The most difficult thing is figuring out your situation and what in you drew you to this person.

The co-dependent (Echoist) become addicted to the narcissist who cannot fulfil their needs for connection. The narcissist is addicted to the attention provided to them by the co-dependent, or they have a secondary addiction that triggers the co-dependent’s caretaking/rescuing behavior. The co-dependent then becomes dependent on the narcissist to make them feel good about themselves. 

The good news is that you can heal yourself by improving your self-esteem and self-worth so that these types of personalities are no longer attractive to you.  Narcissistic people will always be in the world but we can learn to protect ourselves.  One of the best things you can do is to become more assertive and set strong boundaries.    Learning to say “no” is one of the most powerful things you can do to get you moving in a new direction.  Below is a list of the resources that I found helpful:



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