Narcissism & Codependence – Part 3


by Anne Dranitsaris, Ph.D.

Our early experiences affect the development of the architecture of the brain. In addition to providing a foundation for all learning and health, it lays the groundwork in our relationships.  Our brains are build from the brainstem up, with the rational brain (neocortex) forming connections to the emotional brain last. During the first years of an infant’s life, the mother (primary caretaker) stands in for the undeveloped cortex of the infant. In this way, the infant does not experience any separation between themselves and their mother. They are indeed a “we” rather than two “I’s.”

The transition from dependence (we) to independence (I + I) has to do with the successful separation from the mother and the development of the ego and the self in the child. The ego function of the brain is a part of the totality of the self. The self includes the ego, consciousness and unconsciousness.

A good way of understanding this is by thinking of the self as a greater circle with the ego is a self-contained little center of the circle contained within the whole. While the self is meant to be the center of the personality, when developmental arrests occur, we construct ego defenses and the architecture of our brain remains weak. This leads to lifelong emotional and relationship issues.

Ongoing stress and neglect also results in the development of dysfunctional patterns of behavior to protect the infant from perceived threats. For example, strong negative emotions occurring around the child without supportive relationships to help calm them leads to the failure of development of neural connections, especially in the areas of the brain dedicated to higher-order skills.  We remain dependent on others for emotional regulation and develop dependency disorders such as narcissistic or codependent disorders.

For more information on how you can get help for narcissistic or codependent behavior or relationship issues, contact me at

Our next blog provides more information on what goes on during the “We” Stage.

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