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"The Human Magnet Syndrome": a book about dysfunctional attraction

July 14, 2024

Many times we tend to assume that, in romantic relationships, the rational and objective calculation of costs and benefits has a very important role. That, although it is true that love has no meaning without emotions, there is always the ability to take control of the situation and act according to what is most healthy for us.

Certainly, in many cases this is something that is usually met, but it is very important to keep in mind that this is not always the case. Many people are totally involved in dysfunctional love relationships that can not leave and whose disadvantages and obvious negative aspects are not able to perceive. In fact, the propensity to fall into this type of harmful relational dynamics is regulated, in large part, by the personality style of each one.


"The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Want Those Who Hurt Us", by Ross Rosenberg, is a book that explains precisely why the fact of feeling pain for a loving relationship does not always lead to a separation or a break, and In what way, even though the context and the cultural environment influence, the fit between two specific types of personality can feed the appearance of these problems.

  • Related article: "The 6 theories of interpersonal attraction"

Interview with Ross Rosenberg, psychotherapist, writer and lecturer

Rosenberg Ross is known by thousands of people, both for his videos published on YouTube (platform that has more than 75 thousand subscribers) and for his book "The Human Magnet Syndrome." The latter is a work that has already sold more than 65,000 copies and has been translated into several languages, including Spanish.


On this occasion we interviewed this interesting author to explain more about the book, the ideas that this exposes about love and related psychological phenomena, such as loneliness and personality.

The book talks a lot about the bond that tends to keep pathological and codependent narcissists together. How would you summarize the way of being of each of these two profiles?

Codependence is both a relationship and an individual condition that can only be resolved by the codependent himself. Many codependents are attracted and maintain long-term relationships, resistant to rupture, with pathological narcissists. Most codependents are people considered and respectful of the needs and desires of others, above their own. They are pathologically kind, responsible and sacrificed people whose altruism and good deeds are rarely rewarded.


While some codependents resign themselves to having this seemingly permanent role, others try to change it, although without success. These people focus on opportunities to avoid, change and / or control their narcissistic partners. Despite the inequality in their relationships and the resulting suffering, they do not end them. Codependency is not limited to romantic couples as it manifests, to varying degrees, in most other interpersonal relationships.

Although pathological narcissism is not a new term, I use it in this book to represent a person with one of the following four disorders. Pathological narcissists are people who meet the diagnostic criteria of: Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPT), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Antisocial Personality Disorder (TAP) and / or addicts. Despite the many differences between these four disorders, they all share the characteristics of personality, thought and emotions of a narcissistic nature.

To varying degrees, all pathological narcissists are selfish, demanding and controlling. They are exploiters who seldom or selectively give back some kind of generosity. Pathological narcissists are only empathetic or sensitive to others, when doing so gives them a tangible reward and / or when it makes them feel valued, important and appreciated. Because narcissists are deeply affected by their personal shame and loneliness, but unaware of it, they do not end their relationships either.

Although active addicts are included as one of the four disorders of pathological narcissism, their narcissism may be specific to addiction. In other words, when they are sober and in recovery, their true personality type will come to the surface, which can be any possibility.

How do pathological narcissists and codependents often behave in therapy?

The degree of attachment trauma is predictive of the type of adult psychopathology.The child with deep attachment trauma who is deprived of a positive emotional force will probably become an adult with one of the pathological personality disorders narcissistic (TNP, Borderline or TAP). The extreme shame that accompanies any of these disorders requires that the child be emotionally dissociated, forgotten and / or not think about it (attachment trauma). The memory of the trauma would be a break in the psychological protection that the brain built for self-preservation. The way the brain defended itself against the trauma of attachment will inhibit its ability to understand, recognize and feel bad by (empathizing) the harm caused to others. Therefore, it is likely that adult pathological narcissists avoid psychotherapy or are not good candidates for it.

This pathological narcissist as a psychotherapy client will blame others for their problems. If they are forced or forced to attend some type of therapy, their participation will depend on not experiencing a narcissistic wound. In other words, they can seek psychotherapy and / or continue with it, as long as they are not blamed or blamed for the harm they cause to others, which unconsciously triggers their internal shame. For the narcissists, the positive results of some treatment are rare.

On the other hand, the codependent adult was that child capable of making his narcissistic father feel good about raising him, so he will have experienced a milder version of the attachment trauma. His ability to adapt to the pathological narcissism of his parents, will make him the "trophy son", which is subject to much less psychological damage (trauma). These children will not need dissociative psychological defenses. They will become codependent adults, who will not only remember their attachment trauma, but will be able to accept and address their own shame. This type of person is able to recognize their mistakes, feel bad for them (have empathy) and have the internal psychological resources to solve them with the help of a psychotherapist.

Between the pages of this work a comparison is drawn between the phenomenon of codependence and alcoholism. In what aspects of the day to day are these similarities expressed?

A basic explanation of why codependents often lack the emotional strength to end their narcissistic partners forever is what I refer to as "addiction to codependency." Like addicts who are chemically dependent, codependents compulsively seek the company of a romantic partner to quell the intense emotional pain that has tormented them throughout their lives. When the codependents meet the narcissist for the first time, they experience the limerencia, a blow of intense pleasure and euphoria, which immediately numbs their battle with shame and loneliness. Codependents are prone to this addiction, since it is their drug of choice.

Although this euphoria is indescribably pleasurable at first, it can not be maintained for a long time. After a prolonged exposure to this "drug", a tolerance develops. From this moment, more drugs are needed to provide the same amount of euphoria. This is parallel to the moment when the relationship with the narcissist begins to change towards one of conflict, consternation and disappointment. Like other drug addictions, there is a transition to the moment when the drug is no longer taken for the pure experience of euphoria, but to eliminate the pain that is felt when it disappears.

Despite the growing consequences, the codependent "addict" does not dare to stop taking the drug, since doing so would trigger his main symptom of abstinence: pathological loneliness. Most codependents describe this as the most painful of all emotions. The intense anguish it causes, like other withdrawal symptoms, creates irrational desires to reconnect with the narcissist, his main drug of choice. Despite the broken promises, as well as the damage and abuse endured, they voluntarily return to what they knew was intolerable. If the relationship is irreconcilable or too risky to return, the codependent looks for other possible "sources of drugs". Therefore, for a codependent, it is necessary to address the addiction; because if it is not addressed, there is a high probability of relapse.

In short, how do you create this type of dysfunctional romantic unions between these two profiles, the narcissist and the codependent?

Through the use of metaphors and analogies, my essay "Codependent, do not dance" explains why opposites, codependent and pathological narcissist, attract each other:

It can be said that for the "dance of codependency" to occur, the participation of two people is needed: the narcissist who takes control, and the codependent who accommodates the dance partner. These dancers, codependent and narcissistic, are opposites, but they are synchronized and fit perfectly.The codependent is incapable of emotionally disconnecting from the other, and is consumed as he attends to the wishes of others, while the selfish, egocentric and controlling part of the dance partner is reinforced its role of domination and tends to continue with this relational dynamic .

What is it that, despite the fact that this type of dysfunctional romantic relationships (narcissistic - codependent) cause discomfort in objective terms, is so complicated that a rupture occurs?

In the relationships based on the Human Magnet Syndrome the ruptures to finish are not common, due to the pathological loneliness of both parties. Because both the codependent and the pathological narcissist are burdened by their own shame, they need to be in a relationship where this shame does not arise. For the codependent, this comes in the form of conscious pathological loneliness: the main symptom of abstinence from addiction to codependence. The loneliness of the codependent reminds them of their shame, which is essentially their belief that they are fundamentally damaged people.

The narcissistic experience of pathological loneliness differs in that it does not emanate from within. His loneliness is caused by another person, who deserves to be punished and / or manipulated in his role as caregiver, sacrificial and invisible lover. If the relationship breaks down and both individuals have not made significant progress in mental health treatment, they will fall prey to the forces of the Human Magnet Syndrome. They will fall in love with another "dancer" who initially feels like a "soul mate" but will soon become his "cellmate".

The Human Magnet Syndrome would describe a phenomenon whereby a couple tends to stay together for reasons that escape the rational analysis of the situation that is being lived, due to the biases. Should we strive to enhance logic and rationality in relationships, or would it be better to accept that we can never coldly analyze these affective bonds and dedicate ourselves to combating only the most harmful and destructive biases?

Logic and rational thinking are no match for the Human Magnet Syndrome. The cause of this is based on the hierarchical stratification of attachment trauma, the core of shame, the pathological loneliness, the addiction to codependence and, finally, the problem known as "codependency". This graphic shows it.

Since the trauma of attachment is unconsciously stored in a part of the brain that conscious thought has no access to (the limbic system, or specifically, the amygdala), the only way to cure codependence is to access these traumatic memories and integrate them into the conscious experience. With such integration, logic, education and other rational cognitive processes are extremely important for the treatment of codependency. In fact, they are specifically listed in my 10-Stage Treatment Program for Self-Deficit Disorder (codependency). All stages, especially 1 - 4, require a rational analysis.

Another way to illustrate the uselessness of rational analysis is the concept of "addiction to codependence". All addictions, especially this one, are driven by an insatiable impulse and the compulsion to look for a specific "drug" that is believed to be the answer to all problems, but predictably it is a destructive force that undermines everything that the person values ​​and love

The book talks about the Theory of the Continuum of the Self, which acts as the theoretical and conceptual sustenance of the Human Magnet Syndrome. However, this theory explains a phenomenon that occurs in all relationships, not only those that have narcissists and codependents: we are attracted to people very different from us in certain aspects. How does this interest manifest itself as opposed to us?

As I described earlier, the interest in "opposite" lovers is not conscious. The only element that is conscious is the feeling of chemistry, which is experienced as a perfect romance and happiness. In the middle of this experience of "true love" or "soulmates", both lovers feel more similar than different. The temporary cessation of severe pathological loneliness and the core of shame, results in emotions of intense joy and optimism (limerencia), and the belief that they are perfectly matched lovers and that they are made for each other. Conscious thinking can not compete with the unconscious and omnipotent force of the Human Magnet Syndrome.

This unconscious interest is the pairing of relationship models, which are the direct result of their experiences of attachment trauma, and how each of them managed. The relationship model is an instruction manual that unconsciously guides all people, healthy or not, in their choice of romantic partners. Specifies and instructs relational behavior through patterns and roles. It also represents the unconscious processes responsible for the pairing of "opposing personalities", together with the comfort and ease of the dance partner.When these psychological and relational processes are combined, the lovers believe (and feel) that they have finally reached a sanctuary, where loneliness and the core of basic shame no longer walk on their heels.

According to most mental health professionals oriented to development and psychodynamics, people tend to replicate childhood experiences of father-son in their adult relationships. Suffice it to say that attachment in childhood creates a manual of instructions for all future relationships. He is the director of interpersonal preferences, conscious and unconscious, also known as instincts in relationships. Teach people the various "rules" for their relationships.

The relationship model obliges unconsciously to gravitate towards an attractive and apparently secure person. In psychodynamic terms, the emotional energy of the once traumatized inner child, which is repressed or blocked from memory, directs the attraction and process of courtship. The "traumatized child" communicates clearly with his or her adult being through what people call "intuition" and somatic (body) reflexive responses. An example of positive somatic messages would be the "butterflies" in the stomach. The negatives may be experiencing nausea or back pain.

When you are in the company of a romantic interest that has a compatible relationship model, people instinctively experience a sense of familiarity and security. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. The patterns of attraction of a person are driven, almost exclusively, by the model of a person's relationship: the Human Magnet Syndrome.

Any codependent, including myself, can attest to this conclusion. I was a psychotherapist who claimed to be intelligent, educated and good at his job, however, I fell prey twice to pathological narcissistic wives. Despite the terrible consequences and humiliation I suffered due to the election of my first wife, I made the same mistake with my second marriage.

Finally, what kind of readers do you think you will enjoy especially with this book?

My book was written for both the general public and professionals. During the six years in which I presented the material of the Human Magnet Syndrome (more than 100 times), my presentation style became progressively more neutral (pleasant and understandable for both groups). The most common and predictable case is to have at least 25% of the members of my professional audience in tears. Professionals do not bother about my use of simpler terminology, as they benefit from both personal and professional material. According to anecdotal evidence, at least half of the 60,000 books sold of the Human Magnet Syndrome in English were purchased due to the recommendation of a psychotherapist.

Considering that most psychotherapists began their careers as codependents, this book makes a lot of sense to them. I know this from the 80 seminars I have given on the subject, the 600 reviews of my books and the tens of thousands of comments in my YouTube videos.


The Human Magnet Syndrome Explained. Rosenberg's Breakthrough Theory and Book. Codependency Expert (July 2024).


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