Special Guest: Margaret Cochran

You can find Dr. Margaret Cochran on the web at:



[Jon Dabach] 00:00
Today on the relationship Revival Show, I’m joined by Dr. Margaret Cochran. Dr. Cochran is a transpersonal psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, educator, media personality and author. She has been featured in a range of media outlets throughout the country including BBC ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox affiliates, CBS Radio and media news group among many others. She’s a passionate advocate for psychological and spiritual wellness.

[Jon Dabach] 00:26
And Dr. Cochran has guided people from bedrooms to boardrooms on how to live happier, more fulfilling and joyous lives. You’re listening to the relationship revival podcast with Jon Dabach, also known as Mr. Spirituality. That’s me. I’m your host giving you insights and guidance from over 10 years in the field of this amazing journey we call romance on this show, I go over everything you need to know about how to get into a relationship, how to get the most out of a relationship, and sometimes even how to gracefully end a relationship without pulling your hair out and going crazy. And occasionally, I’m even joined by new and old friends who are also relationship experts to bring you guidance and wisdom with new perspectives.

[Jon Dabach] 01:09
Thanks for stopping by Dr. Margaret Cocker, thank you so much for being here and on the show. Oh, thank you for having me. You’ve been at this a little bit of time you said I think in our little pre interview about 40 years now. Yeah, yeah, good while and I’d love to talk to you about a couple specialties you have. We’ll start with with codependency. So you know, it’s a it’s a word that people hear. Because it’s in the culture.

[Jon Dabach] 01:34
It’s in the lexicon of just the society. But I don’t think a lot of people really understand its definition and how to recognize if you are aren’t even in a codependent relationship. And especially when you’re dealing with like a broad podcast audience. I think it’s helpful if we actually define what it is first.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 01:51
Okay, well, I actually have another name for it. I also call it nurturance deficiency disorder, okay? Because it affects people who have had disturbances in their attachment or their intimacy or their ability to give and receive nurturance as they were growing up, so they’re particularly vulnerable to this particular condition. Basically, in a nutshell, what it is, is it’s an addiction to pathological relationships,

[Jon Dabach] 02:23
And addiction to pathological relationships. Okay, that that deserves a little bit more diving into.


[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 02:30
Well, just as some people would be addicted to heroin or gambling, or you know, some other behavior, anything that can produce dopamine in the brain, I’m a Brain geek, I’m self-confessed, it’s okay. But anything that produces dopamine in the brain can produce addiction.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 02:47
And depending on what kind of opiate receptors you’ve been given, genetically, you are more or less prone to becoming an addict, of whatever, and you can be addicted to multiple things. Basically, in codependency, it’s the constellation of behaviors that does not allow you to be authentic, to be able to give and receive love in an egalitarian, equal kind of way.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 03:15
There’s no healthy loving reciprocity in those relationships. And, and one of the rules is that you must sacrifice your integrity as in any addiction, lose yourself to the other or the group system that demands your codependent behavior.

[Jon Dabach] 03:34
So let’s boil it down in very practical terms, let’s say I’m a husband listening to this, and I’m like, Okay, that sounds maybe like what are some behaviors? Like day by day behaviors? Or, you know, like, does it manifest itself most in a fight? Or do you feel like I never feel completely attached? What is the sign that like your partner might be codependent or you know, something that you could see without any kind of jargon? Like an actual behavior that you could see? Yeah, pragmatic

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 04:07
Stuff. Yeah. Well, basically, what it comes down to is that codependence exhibit a lot of people pleasing behavior, but people pleasing to the point where they sacrifice themselves their energy. As I said, their integrity, their sense of self, they disappear into what they believe other people want.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 04:32
Another really clear characteristic is that they are really, really excellent at creating narratives to make unhealthy behavior be okay. I call it the whitewash technique. You know, you’ve got a windowsill full of Wormwood, and you see oh, yeah, what are those holes? No, there’s no wholesale just painted it with white paint. Everything will be fine. Got it, but then the windows still rotten.

[Jon Dabach] 04:56
Is it possible to be in a codependent or have a codependent part? Dinner with a partner who’s healthy and recognizes it and says, hey, this isn’t healthy, you need to stop.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 05:08
It is possible. But relatively unlikely because what would happen during the dating process is that the person would be so anxious about how you are where you are, what are you doing, I’m hypersensitive to anything you’re thinking and feeling.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 05:25
And anytime you asked me where I want, I don’t know. Whatever you say whatever you want, you know, I may be filled with self-loathing, I would have a lot of trouble accepting compliments. Basically, what you would get is, if I’m the codependent I would do my best to mirror you. And you don’t want to be in a relationship with you. You want to zone out so as a healthy person with good boundaries, which is what codependents lack, you’re going to say, this person is getting in meshed with me, there’s no separation between us. And you must have boundaries to have real adult authentic intimacy. It’s vital.

[Jon Dabach] 06:05
So if a couple where there was a codependent partner comes into your practice, as I don’t even know do you still practice with? Oh, yeah. Okay. So if they come into your practice, and you recognize that someone’s codependent, how do you then break the news to them?

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 06:24
Ah, well, generally speaking, I in couples situations, sometimes you separate out one person or the other to work on a particular issue. So rather than break the news, as you say, with both of them there, I would call him or her aside and say, Listen, I’m seeing these things and this is what this means. I’m concerned for you. And either we need to do a little work together or you need to find another therapist and work on that. And then bring that work back into the couple got it.

[Jon Dabach] 06:56
What type of partner does a codependent typically end up with? Is it narcissistic? Is it me because it takes a split sounds like it takes a special person to be okay with having a codependent partner and being okay being okay with someone who is able to sacrifice almost all sense of individuality in service to themselves.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 07:19
Absolutely. Yes. In fact, codependence attract predators. And so you get narcissistic personalities, antisocial personalities. Sometimes avoidant personalities because codependents are all about fixing everything for them. Alcoholics, other kinds of addicts. People who have fetishes people who like dangerous fetishes people who have who are sexual abusers who have been sexually abused.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 07:50
And the thing that’s confusing to the codependent is I don’t know why I keep attracting these people. I’m a good person, I’m kind why, why do I keep attracting these people to mean to me? And then when they are mean to me? And I use that in quotes? Why can’t I leave?

[Jon Dabach] 08:10
So what’s the answer that you would give them? Because those are great questions? Why am I attracting them? And why can I leave?

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 08:16
Well, the first thing is, we draw to us who we are. So if we are fundamentally wounded and have serious problems with boundaries, guess what kind of people we’re going to attract, right? That’s it. Okay, and why can’t I leave, because that’s what I know? And that’s what I have gone through my life believing love was. And my great deep, deep dark fear is that if this person fill in the blank person leaves me I will have nothing. I will be alone, I will be in despair. Because since I don’t have a core sense of self, I require the other to feel like a person.

[Jon Dabach] 09:01
Such a big gap to fill, gosh.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 09:05
Well, it can be it can be difficult. On the other hand, if you’re ready, if you’re ready to do it, it’s like any other process, it’s you first of all, you say okay, this is what I’m dealing with, right? And then you begin to break it down into the different pieces.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 09:21
And you begin to learn new coping mechanisms, new ways. Like for example, one thing that codependents have a lot of trouble with is accepting compliments. Yeah. And one of the first things I teach them is, well, I’ll ask them, you know, do you give compliments? Oh, yes. All the time I give compliments. And I said, how do you feel when you give compliments? Well, good. I liked doing that. Okay. So what do you suppose people feel when they give compliments to you? Oh, well, I suppose they feel good.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 09:51
Okay. And so when you take the compliments and you throw them back in their face and say, No, that’s not true. How do you think they feel? Oh, I guess no. Very good. So you see, as you begin to explore with the person, what does your behavior really mean?

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 10:08
You learn the value and importance of receiving a compliment not only for the other person, but also because in every in all of us, we have what I call the secret treasure box. And in the secret treasure boxes, where we keep all the good things that people have said and have happened to us. And so when the bad days come, we can open the treasure box and say, Okay, I’m still loved, it’s going to be okay, and I’m going to be all right.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 10:34
Well, for codependent, they don’t have a treasure box. So any little thing that comes along is, is a huge disaster, and they have no comfort. So what I teach them is those compliments that you’ve been refusing, we’re going to build you a treasure box and emotional treasure box, you’re going to put those in there. And then when you need them, they’re there for you, support you and bore you.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 10:55
Because being selfish, allows us to be self-less, let me repeat that. Being selfish, allows us to be self-less selfish is separate from self-centered. Okay, so if I’m selfish, that’s what’s called Healthy narcissism. I know who I am, what I need, I make sure I get my needs met. And then I can meet your needs joyfully.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 11:19
And without resentment or frustration. But if I’m selfish, there’s no room for anybody but me. Everything is about me. And life is pretty much of misery. So teaching codependents how to receive how to be selfish, teaches them how to be able to attach and connect differently than they’ve ever been able to before. Yeah, it’s beautiful to see. It’s a beautiful thing.

[Jon Dabach] 11:44
When you’re dealing with someone who, who kind of makes it over the hump, and you know, you can get them there. How likely is it because they have a partner now that they maybe start recognizing as being a predator or being a narcissist? How likely is it for that relationship to actually survive versus it kind of dissolving?

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 12:04
Well, it really depends on the partner. Sometimes the partner for example, let’s say we have someone who has narcissistic traits, versus a full blown narcissistic personality. Now narcissistic personality, you can’t fix but narcissistic traits. Yeah, you can correct those. Okay.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 12:25
So let’s say I’m a codependent. And I’ve chosen someone with narcissistic traits. And that person begins to see me grow and change, and ask questions and receive compliments and actually have needs and feelings of my own. They’re going to do one of two things.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 12:40
They’re going to get really upset and say you need to stop therapy. This is you’re turning into someone I don’t like or they’re going to say, Wow, I need to catch up here. Yeah, because I love this person.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 12:51
And I really want to stay connected with them. But when you go into therapy of any kind, it’s either going to increase love and positivity in your life, where you’re going to see a lot of people that have to fall away, because they’re not healthy. It’s like sending an alcoholic in recovery back to a bar to drink with their friends. It doesn’t work. Yeah.

[Jon Dabach] 13:17
Yeah. So there’s, I could see why you have such a connection to addiction, from codependency because it is, in effect, a form of addiction right there. Yes.

[Jon Dabach] 13:30
So let’s talk about the way the brain works and addiction and kind of shift gears a bit and talk about maybe a substance abuse, addiction, some kind of more what people associate naturally when they hear the word addiction, and how that affects relationships and how that manifests.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 13:49
Well, there are three main defenses in addiction of any kind, rationalization, minimization and denial.

[Jon Dabach] 13:59
So it’s a rationalization, rationalization and a minimization of denial and denial.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 14:05
Okay. So rationalization is when you have an explanation for everything. Well, this happened in the minimization as well, I only did that. I mean, I only broke her arm. It’s not like I broke both legs to Hey, I’ve heard that one. Trust me. I’ve heard that one.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 14:22
And then there’s denial, which is yet you’re crazy. This isn’t happening. I don’t know what she’s talking about. We’re getting into gas lighting now. Right? I’m messing with your reality. So when you cross over, there’s use, then there’s abuse. And then there’s addiction.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 14:44
And when you cross over from a beat, abuse into addiction, the big three kick in in a big way. Because when you’re still in abuse territory, you’re still reachable. I can still say hey, you know you had an awful lot of cocktails last night. You know, I’m concerned I’ve seen you do this, you know to that and the other the person says, oh, yeah, maybe I did. Maybe I need to kind of look at that.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 15:04
But if you’re an addiction, yeah, you’re not seeing that you’re picking on me, You’re being mean to me, because I’ve concocted this whole narrative around maintaining that dopamine I so desperately need. And what begins to happen once you’ve crossed that threshold into addiction is you need your fill in the blank, not just for the dopamine, but to feel normal now.

[Jon Dabach] 15:32
And is it one of those things where the person is aware of what they’re doing on some level? Or has the brain kind of taken over? And it’s driving the train at that point?

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 15:50
Well, that’s an interesting thing. I’m sure you’ve heard of interventions. Yeah, sure. Okay. Well, when you do an intervention, you do it by surprise, you don’t let the person know this is going to happen. And the reason that you do that is you’re attempting to shock the brain. So it’s not using the big three, yeah. And you sneak in under those and they can hear you for a minute.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 16:13
I love you, please get help. I love you. You’re destroying our family, I love you. I don’t know how to reach you anymore. And 50% of the time, whenever I do one of those, it’s a 5050 shot. I never know going I mean, I’ve done interventions at the bedside in the hospital, where the patient was yellow with jaundice from drinking,

[Jon Dabach] 16:31
And its father had died of his disease, it’s still a coin toss.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 16:35
And it’s still a coin toss. Good news isn’t that case, she was strapped to the bed with wires and tubes, and she couldn’t get away. But it is intellectually emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, such coin toss, I don’t know what’s going to happen, you know, ultimately.

[Jon Dabach] 16:50
So it does affect that’s a great, it’s a great kind of example that you put in putting it in the frame of context of an intervention. If I could, just going back to the question, Are they aware of it or not? So it’s kind of a gray area. So it’s like they are aware of it, but at the same time, they can’t stop it.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 17:08
Yes, if their defenses are switched on, they’re not seeing what they’re doing. If you if you somehow shock them into getting underneath them. They can realize, oh, my god, yeah. And they’re shocked and usually moved to tears, right? What have I done? You know, what’s happened to me? How do I lose myself in all of this? Which brings us back to codependency because that’s, it’s that same feeling. Where am I? Where have I gone? How do I find myself and get myself back again?

[Jon Dabach] 17:39
So it’s almost like if you’re, if you’re, I’ve never put it in this phrasing. But, you know, an addiction is when you have a codependency on the substance.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 17:50
Yep. It becomes your new best friend. Some people, some addicts have written about their romance with their substance. Yeah. I like a lover. I

[Jon Dabach] 17:59
Remember F Scott Fitzgerald. He wrote a, an autobiography. And it was part of a collection of short stories. I’m like, how did he have an autobiography because I saw it in the table of contents when I was looking for it. And if you open it up his autobiography lists a year, and his favorite drink of that year. And that’s it. And it goes through about 20 it’s almost like a poem.

[Jon Dabach] 18:21
And it’s like, you know, French 60 two’s at this hotel, or, you know, the whiskey in this in this bedroom. And it’s like, that’s, that was his life. You know, that’s what marks the passage of time is like, what am I drinking this year? Which is a shock to the system that I laugh out of nervousness. It’s like, what do you do with that information?

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 18:41
Yeah, well, you watch someone slowly disintegrate. You know, the alcohol addiction. Alcohol can also be used as can THC, the active ingredient marijuana can be used to mask symptoms of other things. So if the person is feeling bad, say they’re lapsing into depression?

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 19:05
Yeah, they’ll start using alcohol or marijuana in order to not feel so bad. Sure. The problem is, of course, that Alcohol is a depressant, right? So you know, if you sober up at all, you start to feel really bad because you got your depression and you got your hangover. And you got the it’s not a good thing. Not good. But alcohol is so powerful, that it is a one of the few substances that can kill you in withdrawal.

[Jon Dabach] 19:31
Yeah, I think that’s I think the only two substances that can do that is alcohol and benzodiazepines.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 19:36
The opiate class Yeah. And for most you feel Cranky right? You don’t look she’ll survive, but with alcohol. If you stop suddenly and you already in the addiction phase, you can it’s like putting 220 through 110 all the wires lose. Everything freezes, you cease and die.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 20:00
So I, you know, when people are in that place, I say, Look, we got to get you into detox. You can’t do this by yourself, you know, and often they don’t want to, they’re very scared. They cannot imagine their lives as a codependent can’t. They cannot imagine their lives past this point. Yeah.

[Jon Dabach] 20:22
Well, so I was going to, I was going to ask you, so you said it’s a coin toss on the intervention? What happens if they say, if they walk out of the room? Or they does? It’s not successful? What’s usually the next step after that the relationships start to dissolve? I mean, what’s appropriate action to take? Like, let’s say it’s my wife? And she says no, at that point, where what are you left with?

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 20:48
Well, in the intervention process, part of what the participants do is they list their bottom line. If you choose not to get well, this is what I will do going forward. And that varies person to person. But basically, the options are you leave the relationship, you stay in the relationship and lid lead what are called parallel lives, where basically, you just don’t have much to do with each other. Or you sink deeper into your own codependency and try and fix the other person,

[Jon Dabach] 21:23
Which is, which is like the bad option that they shouldn’t choose? Well,

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 21:27
Not only is it a bad option, you will be spectacularly unsuccessful, right? You can’t fix it, you cannot control the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of other people with your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. And if you don’t remember anything else we’ve talked about, please remember that one, because that’s crucial in any relationship in any situation. You can’t do it, it’s not possible. Just any more than somebody can get well, for someone else, or silver for somebody else. It has to be an intrinsic thing, versus an extrinsic thing, or you won’t have long lasting success. Yeah,

[Jon Dabach] 22:01
The I have the same kind of motto. In my practice, I say the only thing you can control in this life is yourself. That’s it. If you think you’re you know, and people come to me saying, Can’t I fix the relationship with like, you can fix your approach to the relationship where you guys very good, yes, but I don’t think you can fix it without them also wanting to fix it. I mean, sometimes the inspiration of seeing you transform is enough to get them to kind of wake up. But it’s not a guarantee.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 22:28
That and I always reassure people, though, here’s the deal. If this relationship falls away, because you’ve grown and become healthier, then you are uniquely equipped to go out and get a very different relationship than next time. Something that is healthy and is strong and just have potential.

[Jon Dabach] 22:46
Yeah, absolutely the same problems they have in this relationship, but they don’t fix them. They’re just going to follow them to the next relationship. So it’s everywhere you go, there you are. Absolutely. If you if you have someone who comes to you, and says, I just broke up with my boyfriend.

[Jon Dabach] 23:01
And I’ve noticed that he’s the third boyfriend. It’s the third long term relationship I’ve had where they’re suffering from an addiction. What’s wrong with me? What would you do in a situation like that? How would you approach it? Because that sounds like it’s right up your alley.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 23:19
And what I do, because I do that a lot, as you’re as you might guess, is I say there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re responding very well and skillfully to what you’ve been taught to do. You pick someone who’s wounded. And then you spend all your time and energy and integrity trying to quote unquote, fix, and it will fail. Wash, rinse, repeat. Right? So it’s not that there’s anything wrong with you.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 23:45
It’s simply that you have a set of standards and behaviors and, and beliefs that is going to take you down a certain road. If you want to go down a different road. I can teach you that. No problem.

[Jon Dabach] 23:56
Yeah. Yeah, that’s wonderful. I’ll disclose a little something personal so it’s, it’s funny I had, I had a great upbringing growing up, thank God, I had great parents and stuff. And to the point where the fixit thing, I wasn’t fixing anything in my home, but it was almost this guilt complex of like, I have it so good, that I was I dated women that needed help.

[Jon Dabach] 24:18
And I It came to a head at one point in my 20s it was the most painful relationship I had where I was used for like a year. And the person was always quote unquote, sick are dealing with a physical ailment that wasn’t really there because she wanted to feed into it on a subconscious level. And at a certain point in their relationship, I realized I don’t want to do this anymore.

[Jon Dabach] 24:42
And I never dated that way again. So I was really looking back in hindsight being 2020 I was how I was grateful for this painful relationship because I was able to say that needs to just stop and so I started dating healthy people from that point forward, until I met my beautiful wife. But what I did notice was there was some scar tissue in the marriage where now if my wife gets sick, I’m just like, I get over it.

[Jon Dabach] 25:08
Because it’s like, come on, I don’t want to hear about it. So it’s like, it’s been a process getting back there of like, oh, no, I got to be the Jewish mother. Now, you know, like, I forgot, I’m still a person. So well, let

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 25:19
I say, I love that you brought up that story, because it is something that I deal with when I work with healers quite a bit. And healers want to heal, don’t they? I mean, we don’t actually heal people, we facilitate their heavy lifting, right, our job, provide a you know, a container for them.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 25:38
But mine, they all could disclose something. My nickname when I was a little girl was doc, people have been coming to me, since I can remember with their problems. And somehow I always kind of knew what to do. Well, when you are in a healing frame of mind, or if you are a teacher, or you know, something like that.

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 25:58
Teachers tend to marry children. Healers tend to choose partners who have broken unless there’s been someone or something as experienced you had that made you realize, oh, yeah, this is what I do for work. But I don’t marry that right. Okay. And once you get that boundary straightened out, it empowers you tremendous. Oh, yeah. But but as long as you don’t have that boundary, you’re kind of side in half. And you’re weakened. Yeah.

[Jon Dabach] 26:24
It’s so fun. I remember, like, I have brothers and I have other people. And when I was dating, and they started seeing me, and when I got engaged, they’re like, well, what should I look for in a woman because everybody was such a big fan. I said, don’t pick anyone who’s sick. Like it’s like, life’s too short.

[Jon Dabach] 26:44
You got to pick healthy people. I was such a one ad got Dr. Margaret Cochran, you’ve been amazing to listen to I absolutely loved everything you said. I think anyone who’s dealing with addiction and codependency, I mean, a lot of those are when clients come in to see in my private practice, and they have those issues.

[Jon Dabach] 27:04
They’re too acute for me, it’s not my specialty. So I have a feeling I’ll actually be sending you some people in sometime in the future, because I think you know, the way you talk about and the expertise and the brain knowledge you have about it is so it’s so it’s such a relief. You know, sometimes just having the information and knowing what’s going on between our ears is so empowering. And that’s where that transformation starts. I thank you so much for being with us. Well, thank

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 27:29
You so much for having me. And I want to tell you, I had so much fun. And the reason I did is because I see the joy in you. Oh, thank you love what you do, and you love what you’re doing. Yeah. And that’s really what it’s all about.

[Jon Dabach] 27:41
Yeah. Best job I’ve ever had. Well, you could find Dr. Cochran at Dr. cochran.com You’re in the San Jose area, aren’t you? I am uh, yeah, but I’m sure you’d see clients like everybody else since COVID. A lot virtually these days, too. I do. Yeah. The only thing they’re going to miss out on is you probably I know you have a couple therapy dogs. Do

[Dr. Margaret Cochran] 28:03
They wander through periodically to check in with people you know, and they’re

[Jon Dabach] 28:07
Yeah, at least you get a glimpse of them. You can’t pet them. Yeah, thanks again Dr. Carson. If you’re interested in learning how to get the absolute most out of your romantic relationships then you’re in luck because I have put together a free workshop or masterclass if you will, about three secrets that people in happy relationships have discovered.

[Jon Dabach] 28:28
You can view the workshop and mister spirituality.com/three secrets again, it’s completely free. Just go there and watch it. It’ll help you on your journey. Give you some wisdom. Some things to think about. The website again is mrspirituality.com/three secrets. That’s mrspirituality.com/the Number three, the word secrets. It’s all yours. Enjoy.


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