People in relationships with narcissists often find themselves in a constant state of “reading the room” or “walking on eggshells” in hopes of navigating the large number of hidden, emotional landmines. But one wrong step and a landmine explodes, leaving a trail of destruction to the self-esteem of the narcissist’s victims. Today Tony sheds light on the reasons behind the black or white, all or nothing thinking, a concept called “object constancy.” Tony refers to the article “The truth about narcissistic personality disorder” by Elinor Greenberg, Ph.D. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/understanding-narcissism/201708/the-truth-about-narcissistic-personality-disorder You can read more about the wonderful work that Elinor has done by visiting her website here www.elinorgreenberg.com
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[00:00:12] Hey, everybody, welcome to episode nine of Waking Up to narcissism, I'm your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, host of the Virtual Couch podcast, and welcome to people that are watching on YouTube. You can go find the virtual couch channel on YouTube if you would like, and I realize I'm wearing a loud shirt when it comes to the camera, so hopefully the focus won't go in and out too much. But I want to continue to just thank you. I cannot thank you enough for the feedback and I'm reading them. I apologize that I can't get back to everybody at this point, but they're there because of the feedback, because of the numbers of downloads and the support of the show. There's there's some cool changes that are coming and that'll be. We'll talk more about that in the next two or three weeks, but you can go to Tony over the contact form there and please continue to send me examples. Those are going to be used in different ways in the future. And also your questions. There are I have guests lined up. I've got so much, but the feedback has just been again overwhelming to the point where I just want to get some of this content out and we'll settle in. We'll find our stride. There's some amazing guests to have on people that are in it, in the trenches, and I think that'll be pretty powerful too, because a lot of the feedback that I'm receiving is from people that just feel heard.
[00:01:26] They feel heard, they feel seen, they feel understood for sometimes the first time. But I want to get to the content today because if you we're going to, we're going to build a little bit on my episode a couple of weeks ago talking about the waking up, the narcissism in general, that you are possibly the person who is waking up to the narcissism of a spouse or somebody in your life, or you're maybe starting to wake up to your own narcissistic traits or tendencies. And I hope that that was pretty clear in an episode where I talked about narcissistic personality disorder versus narcissistic traits and tendencies. And what I love about the comments that I've been receiving are from people that are saying, OK, hold up, maybe this is me, maybe I have some of these challenges and and so a little bit of that and then a lot of people that are saying, I finally don't feel crazy. I don't feel like I am the only one that's going through what I'm going through in my relationships. But today we're going to go deep, we're going to go really deep. There's an article, there's two articles that I hope to get time to. I might. This might end up being a two part episode, but there's an article by Eleanor Greenberg, PhD, and it's from Psychology Today, and I'll have the links to the articles that I refer to today in the show notes.
[00:02:36] But it's the article is simply called The Truth About Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and the subheading is what therapists know about narcissism that you need to know. And it's it's significant, too, because this was posted four years ago in August of twenty seventeen. And the reason I say that is it feels like narcissism. The phrase the term is in the zeitgeist. It's what people are talking about. A lot and a lot of people have asked, Is this something that is on the rise or are we just talking about it more? And I think there's a little bit of both, but I just this makes so much sense because it was around this time frame where I felt like all of a sudden I have this confirmation bias, and I think my wife would joke that, well, do you think everybody is a narcissist? And I said, Well, it feels that way at times. But then we go on to learn more about these narcissistic traits and tendencies, but it just has been talked about so much. So if you're new to this show on my Virtual Couch podcast, which is pushing three hundred episodes now and five years, I like to think that I don't just want to throw out pop psychology or just my thoughts or ideas. I've done a little bit of that here on waking up the narcissism, and I'll always let you know if this is.
[00:03:45] This is my unscientific, anecdotal data from 15 20 years of being a therapist or if there's some research, or if I'm referring to another article. And then a lot of times, I think the kids these days call it reaction videos, or I will be reacting somewhat or reading an article that hopefully I want you to be able to go. Read this yourself. And there's the articles are based off of good old, evidence based data, and then I'll try to throw my own spin or my own flair on this as well. So I'm going to read a lot from this article, and I'll throw some comments in here. But Eleanor starts by saying every once in a while, a new diagnostic label emerges into the mass consciousness and people start to use it. And very good point. Misuse it as a synonym for bad behavior. And she said this year's label so again, go back to twenty seventeen. She said this year's label seems to be nursing narcissist, and so she goes into what I went into an episode or two ago of actual narcissistic personality disorder, but she doesn't lay it out just from the definition from the diagnostic and statistical manual of diagnoses that therapists use. She said narcissistic personality disorder is the name for a series of coping strategies that began as an adaptation to a childhood family situation that left the person with unstable self-esteem, the inability to regulate their self-esteem without external validation.
[00:04:59] Boy, we're going to talk about that. This need for external validation and low empathy. And, she said, is with all of the major categories of personality disorders, which are borderline narcissistic and schizoid people with. Narcissistic personality disorder also lack whole object relations and object constancy, and that might sound a little bit like psychobabble, but I first wanted on this episode, I have another article where I talk about object constancy because it's it's pretty fascinating when you learn what this term means and then how it relates to narcissistic tendencies, traits or personality disorder. So she talks about a whole object relations that she said this is the capacity to see oneself and others in a stable and integrated way that acknowledges both the person's good and bad qualities. So that's whole object relations and an object constancy, which we could do an entire episode on that itself. This is the ability to maintain a positive emotional connection with somebody that you like while you're angry or hurt or frustrated or disappointed by his or her behavior. So you can maybe see where we're going to go a little bit today. If you have a narcissist in your midst or if you sometimes feel yourself like this, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde pull that that's that's what object constancy is. Can you be frustrated or angry with someone and then still maintain this connection or love for them? And so I so, so often hear this yo yo effect, this boy.
[00:06:28] One minute he's telling me, literally using the most foul language, and then five minutes later, he says, Hey, so what do you want for dinner? And when I'm talking with people in my office, I often talk about, that's what it feels like. You're arguing with the 10 year old boy and or I might be given too much credit in those moments. And then ten minutes later, I call it the Hey, do you want to go ride bikes theory where you're feeling like, Wait, you just eviscerated me emotionally, verbally told me all these things. But now you want to go ride bikes you metaphorically or you you want to go get dinner or what you want to watch on TV where you're sitting there thinking, I'm kind of crushed and devastated that the person I care about just called me these horrific names. And that's that's that struggle with object constancy. Eleanor says without a whole object relations and object constancy, people with narcissistic personality disorder can only see themselves in other people. So that alone is significant. They can only see themselves in other people. One of two ways either they are a special, unique, omnipotent, perfect and entitled high status, or they are defective, worthless, and she says, garbage, which is low status. So this means that that person is struggling with these narcissistic tendencies or traits can't hold on to his or her good opinion and good feelings about somebody.
[00:07:43] Once he or she notices, the other person has a flaw that the other person goes from being special and put on a pedestal to being devalued as nothing special. So when they lack this object constancy, there's this constant battle, this back and forth. Eleanor calls it the seesaw back and forth between these two of is someone special, unique, omnipotent, or are they this low status meaning? Are they defective and worthless? And then they are trying to see themselves in relation to that other person. So she said, while they're feeling good about you or more accurately, you are making them feel good about themselves. They see you as special because they are special. Everyone around them is special. This is the best. This is the the best person I've ever met. We had the connection like I've never had. This is the best restaurant I've ever been to. This is the best show I have ever seen. And there's someone was telling me about they know they just started to grate on them when somebody said this was the best burrito I have ever had in my entire life. Until we find the next best burrito we've ever had in my entire life. But it's not about the burrito, it's about how special they felt in that moment or how they felt that you had. You made them feel special or they were they had this elevated status, this high status.
[00:08:55] So then therefore everything it's this all or nothing, this black or white, this Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde, because there isn't this object constancy. So then you do something like, say, no, it's one of their requests. Suddenly, now you are all bad or worthless. And then later on, you might do something that makes them feel good again, and they're back to seeing you as special. So I feel like this is I hear this in my office often, and I've even experienced this when I've worked with couples where one of the partners was on the very high side of narcissistic tendencies, traits or full-blown narcissistic personality disorder. And I am all of a sudden the greatest therapist that has ever lived. No one has ever told them the things, and it's because they have felt heard or understood. They felt special. Kind of a unique example of this at one point. And this, I mean, I always want to be as authentic and open as I can be. I felt like I was well into my practice. This was just a few years ago. I can literally think of the person that that I had this aha moment with. But they were, we're talking narcissistic personality disorder. I was working with them as as a couple. They wanted an individual session and I bring them in and they are telling me all these things. Well, hey, only I can do this because she keeps doing this and this and this.
[00:10:07] And it's clearly I'm aware that this person will not take ownership. Accountability of anything, literally anything. And so I'm what I mean, if I say, well, yeah, but you need to understand this, then we're just in this psychological reactants battle again, psychological reactants the instant negative reaction of being told what to do. It is not like this person is going to say, Oh, wow, I hadn't thought of that. They're going to say, Oh no, I've done that or I've tried that, or you don't understand. So rather than do that, I'm empathizing with them. I'm validating them because I am hearing them and I'm understanding them. So if they are saying, Look, I've done all I can do, she she has changed and we know from earlier episodes that what that means is she is now having her own opinion. She is now standing up for herself and she is not acquiescing to my greatness. She is not telling me that I am right and giving in to everything that I need. So all of a sudden now she has become difficult and he doesn't know if he can do this anymore. So then I simply say, Well, that sounds. It sounds really hard. And if you feel like that's all you can do or you've done all you can, then yeah, I can understand why you are. You're pretty frustrated. So that person then goes on and relates to his spouse that Tony agrees with me.
[00:11:14] He he really thinks that we both think you're you're crazy. And we both think that there's nothing I can do. So they cannot sit in their own sense of self. They have to then say external validation. Even this therapist agrees. And this is where you can see the layers of narcissism and how difficult it can be. Because going back to the scenario I'm painting for you, I did not say any of that. But when the person actually feels validated, then they mistake validation for agreeing. So if someone because they're so used to people saying, Yeah, but or you don't understand or and then finally, people just giving in and just saying, OK, sure, yeah, whatever you think, which then elevates their status, they feel like they were right. That is why they feel right about so many things. And then if anybody finally does to say, Huh, OK, that's interesting, that would be hard. Then they say, and they agree with me as well. So it's such this difficult dance with the narcissism wanting to not try to change them. Give them this aha moment or epiphany, because we talked about in episode one. That's one of my five rules of interacting or trying to save your sanity with someone in a narcissistic relationship is you have to realize there is no aha moment or anything you can say that will cause them to have the epiphany. So when we finally drop the rope of the tug of war, of trying to say what you don't understand is or OK, but last time you said this or when you just realize this isn't helpful or productive, unfortunately, it then also causes them to feel like they are right.
[00:12:42] But the fascinating thing is they're going to feel right regardless, because gaslighting comes as this childhood defense mechanism, it's it's in the air they breathe. And so when they continually are going to flip things to make them right or flip things to make you feel less than then, does it truly matter whether or not you try to engage in battle and try to prove them wrong? Or if you just have acceptance and say, OK, I didn't realize that whatever they're saying and then knowing that they are going to then say, See you think I'm right again? My point being, if they are going to feel right regardless, now this becomes about you and your sanity of you getting out of unproductive conversations, getting your PhD and gaslighting, setting healthy boundaries. When you say this, I will leave the room. So Eleanor talks about normal versus pathological narcissism. So this goes also into a little bit of what we talked about a couple of weeks ago with the narcissistic traits, tendencies, and I really feel like she she has some concepts here that I haven't really covered before, so I like this, she says. Unfortunately, in the English language, the word narcissism has come to mean two entirely different things, depending on whether it's being used formally as a diagnosis, as a narcissistic personality disorder or informally as a synonym for positive self-regard.
[00:13:52] She says I'm often asked isn't a little bit of narcissism healthy and normal? And she said, I'd like to clarify that distinction before she goes on. And it is such a good question because I will often hear and this is again what I'm trying to convey in some of these recordings is that we we all have these narcissistic traits and tendencies. But even you can sense my hesitation and even saying that because I know the audience that I'm speaking to has such a strong, visceral, emotional negative reaction to even the word narcissism, which I absolutely understand and agree. And that's why I tried to lay out the narcissistic traits or tendencies. A couple of weeks ago, I talked about when we view things as criticism, then our own brain goes to this protective place where we feel like we are being criticized when someone is disagreeing or trying to point out what they think are our faults and again, how adorable that they feel like they know what is best for us. But our brain goes into protective mode because we are so afraid of going into this shame cycle. This shame spiral remembering that shame is very different from guilt. Guilt is I can feel bad about a situation, but then shame is I feel horrible and bad about who I am as a person.
[00:15:04] So guilt can say I feel bad that I forgot someone's birthday. Shame can say because I'm a horrible person. And. No one will ever love you. So we don't. Shame is good for nothing, absolutely nothing I often talk about with my recovery work. I've got an online pornography recovery program called The Path Back, and I say that in working with individuals, I think I'm over 16 hundred where shame is a component of recovery at all. The shame pieces is just not. There's nothing healthy about that guilt. Guilt can be a stop sign at times, man. I feel bad that I forgot somebody's birthday. I probably need to do a little better job of putting reminders in my phone or being a little more engaged and trying to follow up on people that I care about. That can come from guilt. But shame, that is that's that is not a positive thing at all. I think I get my point, but when we are trying to criticize, we do anything to defend our ego because of this fear of going into this shame cycle. So in defending our ego, then that's often where we use unhealthy or immature ways to defend that ego, such as withdrawal, such as anger, such as agreeance or in the case of some of the narcissistic traits and tendencies, the gaslighting of Oh no, no, no, that's not what I meant, or you don't even get it, or I can't believe you even said that.
[00:16:19] And so the as we grow into mature adults and we're trying to become differentiated, differentiated again as maintaining this autonomy and still having a relationship with somebody, meaning that we recognize that we literally are the only version of us that's ever walked the face of the Earth. So we have our thoughts, feelings and opinions because we're a human being. And then when you really start to stand in that confidence or understanding that this is who I am and as we grow and mature and we are aware that sometimes we are seeking this external validation. So we're handing the keys to our emotions over to another human being. And if that human being happens to be somebody that is is having this object permanence or if they are struggles with object permanence or object constancy and they don't feel good about themselves. And you just said, what do you think about me then? Now they want to take this one up position, so they will then take that opportunity to put you down. And so I've worked with a lot of clients that have talked about that feels literally like betrayal, where this is the person that I'm that I care about, that we're supposed to figure out problems together. We're supposed to grow old together. And when I hand them my emotions and say, What do you think about this? It's as if they take that those emotions and then crumple them up in their hands and throw them down on the ground and stomp on them.
[00:17:34] So how would one not feel less than? And then I started to get a little bit fired up because this is a how dare you someone that you are in a relationship, treat you that way and then leave you feeling like less than when. Now we know when we're talking about this object constancy that in that moment they just see this as a position to go one up to make themselves feel better, which then is coming from this place of low empathy or no empathy because of their own childhood wounding, of not seeing that model or having those things happen to them. And so I hope that made sense as I laid that out. So she said that she's the clarifying this distinction between normal and pathological narcissism. She says normal healthy narcissism, which again, sounds like an oxymoron. I know it does. But she said this is a realistic sense of positive self regard that is based on the person's actual accomplishments. It's a relatively stable thing because the person is assimilated into their self-image, the successes that came as a result of their actual hard work to overcome real life obstacles because it's based on real achievements. Normal healthy narcissism is relatively impervious to the minor slights and setbacks that we all experience as we go through life. Normal narcissism, she says, causes us to care about ourselves, do things that are in our self interest and associated with genuine self respect.
[00:18:49] But that does not mean that that is a so I must put someone else down. And I remember going to a training long ago, actually, I had a client talking about this yesterday, and it was I love this conversation, but we were talking about the concept of ego. And a lot of times we we are afraid of the sphere of pride or this fear of saying, no, I really do feel like I'm good at this, or I feel like this is maybe something that I have been put on the Earth to do. This is my passion. This is my mission. This is my calling because we fear this pride that other people are going to say, Well, you think you're pretty special, don't you? But there's a healthy version of Ego and this training I went to long ago, I remember I will never forget this, but the person talked about that if there are people throughout history that had they not had a healthy sense of self or ego that they would not have put themselves in positions to change the world. And they gave this list of Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Martin Luther King. I mean, there are so many people that had they not been confident and been able to embrace their sense of self, which then can come across to others as, Oh, you think that you are special or better than? But when it is based off of real, tangible things that that you feel are are part of who you are that you found your calling or your passion, then that is a healthy sense of self and.
[00:20:10] You are stepping into your ego to be able to benefit others, and this is where I just love any concept that has to do with letting your light so shine that you will lift others around you. As a matter of fact, I have thought about many times talking about my favorite poem in the world, which is the Marianne Williamson poem, and I am looking it up right now because I was not planning on saying this, but I absolutely love this poem and this is me stalling as I am. Here it is. But it's a it's our deepest fear. And if you haven't heard this poem, you've maybe heard it over and over. But listen to this because this is think about this from a term a standpoint of stepping into one's sense of self or owning one's sense of self or self confidence, but yet not to the desire to put others down. Marianne Williamson said Pop up on my computer. Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fears that we are powerful beyond measure. She says it's our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented or fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God and you're playing small does not serve the world.
[00:21:17] There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that's within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our light shine, as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. And as we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. I love everything about that poem because if you break it down from a I want my children to feel I can find their sense of self and sense of purpose, and that when we are saying, Oh, don't don't say that or don't be, you need to be humble and you need to, I don't know, not not feel prideful that I understand where that comes from, when it is this false sense of self or false pride, or doing it to the detriment of someone of putting someone else down. But when we can help lift somebody up and really find their passion, then they literally do let their light so shine that it lifts others around them. And this phrase here's the healthy sense of ego, as there's nothing enlightened about us shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
[00:22:20] And when she says again, as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. When I am doing couples therapy, I want people so desperately to realize that the codependent and enmeshment that is what happens when we are all getting together with somebody else, just trying to put out our best self and not say anything that will ruffle the other person's feathers. And I understand that. But then we want the goal is to be with another human being and then edify each other. We are designed to deal with emotion in concert with another human being, but it is not from I can't believe you think that you shouldn't think that you don't get it. It's from a tell me more. What's that like for you? Because you're two independent people in the relationship. You are two people with your own experiences so that in a healthy way will breed curiosity. And when you recognize that you both have two different experiences and you can share those and not from a place of wanting to put the other person down, then that that is when you just let your light so shine that others around you are lifted up. And it isn't a situation where people are. They walk into the room and they have to read the room. Oh, it's bad man, or what's mom of two today? It's a man.
[00:23:25] I want to be around these people because they lift me up because of their positive energy, because they are finding out who they are and they are encouraging anyone around them to discover who they are as well. I'm on my soapbox. This is so that's that's what we're talking about normal, healthy narcissism that one can think of it as something that is inside of us pathological or defensive narcissism. She said this is a defense against feelings of inferiority and when we are young children, as I've laid out in previous episodes, I can understand when people feel less than because they are young children and they are egocentric and the world revolves around them, and they don't have an understanding of the plight of their caregiver. But that is this self-centered view of the child and then boy, bless their heart if they didn't have the modeling as a child to then go from self-centered to self-confident. See, this is where that self-confidence is. This is what that self-confidence looks like. It is not a self-confidence to put others down. It's a self-confidence to say, Oh my gosh, I'm finding my sense of self and my purpose in life. And if I can find another partner who is going to help me bring that out as I will help it bring them, bring it out with them, then we can we can change the world. And again, not in a change the world. Look at me how special I am, but as we are just stepping into our own sense of self, that it will lift the waters around us for everyone.
[00:24:40] Pathological defensive narcissism again, defense against feelings of inferiority. This person dons a mask of arrogant superiority and an attempt to convince the world that he or she is special. Inside the person feels very insecure about his or her actual self-worth, and the facade of superiority is so thin that it's like a helium balloon. One small pinprick will deflate it. So Eleanor said this makes the person hypersensitive to minor slights that someone with healthy narcissism would not even notice. It's kind of a fascinating trait, and I have found and this is where. You can start to see I still have such a fear of sounding like the narcissist that I have been or the ones that I work with that don't have the awareness, they aren't waking up to this narcissistic traits or tendencies. But when I hear that or when I read that phrase where it says minor slights that somebody with healthy narcissism would even notice as you become self-confident and as you become differentiated, meaning I'm going to maintain my autonomy. And then it really is a bless someone's heart who thinks that they can tell me how I'm supposed to think or feel or what I'm supposed to do. And it takes an intentional effort and work because when we laid our foot off the gas of this work that we're doing, our default is to go back to this wounded child who seeks validation from the world around them.
[00:25:52] So I find myself over the years when somebody is saying, I don't even know if I want to tell you this thing that I think about your podcast. And I understand that long ago, I probably would have felt like, Oh no, what are they going to say? They don't like it. Very true. Not a story. And I read one of these last week, actually, but at the beginning I would. I would say, Hey, here's who I am, and here's some stories from the week. And people would say there would be these reviews that would say, just skip the minute 12 and get to the point. Or he rambles too much or he goes on tangents, and I would still find this little this little pinprick of, oh, that's criticism. But then I would want to then respond with defense, saying, OK, well, when you have your podcast, you can skip right to the point. But this is my podcast. This is my my. This is the way I'm doing this, and that's OK. And so I still notice there's an IV. So oh my goodness, I appreciate the reviews. And if you have a second and you can go review wherever you listen to your podcasts rate and review because it is really fascinating. And it sounds like I'm see this list. It sounds like I'm begging for reviews, but it really is that people are saying it's a five or one because I feel like the ones are saying, Who does he think he is? He's the actual narcissist, blah blah blah.
[00:27:03] And the fives are saying, Man, I feel heard and understood, and you're relatable in those sort of things. But I got another one last week that said tangential rambles too much circles back on things. These are to get to the point. And then I thought, Oh, bless their heart, how do they know what my point was and how do they not know that I have been going off on tangents and circling back to things my entire life? That is who I am, and I feel confident that that is who I am. So that's OK. So that this pathological defense of narcissism, then major slights feel like criticism. And we've already talked about what criticism can do. Then we go to great lengths to defend our fragile egos. She also says the let's see narcissism instead. Someone with this type of defensive narcissism is easily wounded, frequently takes any form of disagreement as a serious criticism like we talked about and is likely to lash out and devalue anyone who they think is disagreeing with them. She says they are constantly on guard trying to protect their status. Pathological narcissism can be thought of as a protective armor that is on the outside of us. So Eleanor said, and I still agree with what I'm talking about narcissism in the article now.
[00:28:07] She says that she is thinking about pathological defensive, narcissistic strategies that people with narcissistic personality disorder developed to deal with the life that began as an adaptation to their childhood experience, not healthy internal self-regard. That's our goal healthy internal self-regard. So then, she says, why is why is defensive narcissism then unhealthy? She said having narcissistic personality disorder. So then I would add in there or traits or tendencies, or maybe high on this narcissistic spectrum. She said it is like going through life, always on the defensive. And man, I feel like you can probably sense that with the narcissist in your life. She said If you are narcissistic, your self-esteem is always on the line, and I hope you're seeing this abyss where we're going or how we're building this case here today, she said. You tend to feel insulted and criticized when no insult or criticism is intended. And in addition, you lack emotional empathy. Now please listen right here if you are the sensitive person, if you are the one that is listening to this because you finally feel heard and understood, but you keep circling back to wait a minute. Am I a narcissist? Because Tony just said that this is you feel insulted and criticized when no insult or criticism is intended. This is the thing where I say, if you just dropped you into a healthy relationship where you felt heard and understood and you were in this world of tell me more and oh my gosh, I want to know all about what your experience is, and there is no part of trying to put you down or tell you you're wrong consistently or there isn't this emotional dysregulation or weight.
[00:29:30] I thought you said this one minute and this another minute, then you would be a completely different person. Because when people have been in these cycles of emotional abuse, spiritual abuse, financial abuse, physical abuse, when they have been in these toxic, unhealthy narcissistic relationships, then yes, they may feel criticized. When then when their spouse says, I didn't mean to criticize you, you took it that way. I can't be in charge of how you feel. That sounds familiar. That that is not. I want you to. Not only tonight. I hope that as you hear things where I say that you feel insulted and criticized and no insult or criticism is intended that you recognize that now the more your understanding are waking up to the narcissism of the person in your life that now you're seeing no, there was an insult or a criticism because of their own lack of self regard of their own wounded childhood showing up here as an adult so they are criticizing or insulting because they don't have that object constancy. Because in this moment, because they feel bad, they need to put you down. You can even say how much you like doing something.
[00:30:33] And this is where that mimicking often comes in, where they're like, Oh yeah, I love doing that to me. I think I'm really good at it, because if you all of a sudden are this elevated status, then they don't have that consistency or that object constancy to be able to say, Oh man, you, you are so good at that you go and you do your thing because they now feel attacked. They feel on the defense, and you can quickly hear examples where people within all of a sudden will say, Man, well, I wish, I wish. I would have had that opportunity probably been really good at that, too. So now they just said, Oh no, I would have been better if I would have had more time or. Well, that's that's why I'm glad you can do that, and I hope you're grateful for the sacrifices that I have made so that you have been able to do that. And that is where instead of somebody just saying, Oh man, you are good at that, I love that you're doing that. Tell me about your journey of whatever that is. No, it can't be about that, because that is making it about the other person. That is the that would require the nurses to say, I'm curious and I want to know more about you. And they would have to check their ego at the door instead of defending their ego.
[00:31:33] Wait, if you're better than me, then I'm less than. And so that constant black or white up or down Dr. Jekyll or I so hope this is making sense. This is that stuff sometimes where I feel like, Oh my gosh, that makes so much sense, and I just want to share this with the world, but I worry that it maybe isn't coming across that way. She said that in when you're talking about this defense of narcissism and the unhealthiness of it says you don't feel any pain when you hurt other people or if you do, it is so much less than the average person feels. As a result, your sensitivity is all one way. She said you may attack someone else for the slightest misstep or even use the or for somebody using the wrong word while you know in your heart that the person could be dying in front of you. And all you want is you feel annoyed at that inconvenience of them dying in front of you. I have so many email examples of this concept of people that are literally broken legs on their deathbed, having babies, whatever it is and the narcissist in their life is annoyed because it is inconveniencing them. They. Who is going to, who's going to praise them, who's going to get their dinner, or they're not going to able to have sex with somebody for a while, whatever it is. What a what an inconvenience that you are having this baby.
[00:32:39] Oh, what an inconvenience that you now want to go. Or that I was going to go do something. And now you, you are going to affect my plans that I have so many examples of that, of the emails that have come in. So she said, all of this makes it hard for narcissist to sustain serious intimate relationships after the early stages of the relationship. Significance there because after that honeymoon period, after that love bombing, because she said they are continually trying to prove that they are superior because they are constantly defending their fragile egos. They are constantly in this world of everything is a criticism, and if someone else is is better than them, then that makes them worse. They can't have that object constancy in their lives. It's black or white. It's Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. And funny story about that. People bring up the doctor just like he's Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. And I just have to tell you one of the funniest things, and I know I'm not going to do this right now because because I think this is how funny it is. I don't know if anyone really ever knows which one is the good one, which one's the bad one, Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. And so I love when somebody brings it up in a session because it's usually a pretty, pretty powerful moment where they will say, no, it's this black or white or on or off or all or nothing.
[00:33:42] It's like they're Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. And I almost count down on my head three to one, and then they say, which one is the bad one? And I would say, I don't know, and I feel like I've looked it up a dozen times. So I think that one's kind of funny. So they're continually trying to prove that they're superior. They tend to misperceive and overreact to other people's behaviors. They are extremely self-centered. They lack empathy for other people's feelings, and they are willing to devalue and humiliate other people. I still remember one of the first women I ever worked with would continually talk about her soon to be nurse. Sadistic acts and just how he he would constantly talk about how I owned that person, meaning that I put them down, I put them in their place and showing trying to present to her now. Aren't you impressed because I have this one up position on everybody I put them down or people that are going to pick apart anything about somebody else because that puts them as superior, she says. Red flags for a narcissistic personality disorder. She said although diagnosis is best left to the mental health professionals, there are common signs of defensive pathological narcissism that the average person can learn to recognize. She said I think of these as red flags for narcissistic personality. These are really good.
[00:34:46] She says status consciousness narcissists make statements that show that they are extremely aware of status markers and frequently call attention to their own or other people's status. They may make comments such as Do you know how rich he is or every important person in the city will be at this charity party or this person is such an important person? And they say that I have to be there. Everybody will think I didn't get an invite. So this making statements to show extremely aware of status markers, I being completely honest again, I love everything about my job. I love being a therapist. A lot of times I will say that early on, as I started working more with this population of trying to, I want to help people. I want to work with the people that feel when they are starting to wake up to narcissism in their spouse or someone in their life. And again, as I've said in many of the episodes, they will read something that says, Don't finish this paragraph and leave the relationship whatever it is, and I understand it is not that easy. So as I started to say, OK, I want to be able to work with this population, these people, and then help them figure out what they can do to raise their emotional baselines and put them in a position where they can thrive, where they probably spent so many years of doing the opposite of thriving, of just being desperate to survive.
[00:35:53] And so then in order to get the people here on my couch or in my chair, I realized that my opening of my virtual couch podcast was a licensed marriage and family therapist certified my employment coach, a writer, a speaker, a husband of father of four ultra marathon runner. And so I would talk about often my accomplishments, which again, I feel like was saying, Hey, look at all the things I am doing, please validate me. But I feel like it also helps bring in people that if they have this status consciousness, that they don't want to just go see some guy that's going to sit back and with the patches on his elbows. And I think in olden days, the therapist is smoking a pipe or something, and he just continually says, Tell me how you feel about that, because it's fascinating to see that the status consciousness that narcissist often do want to say, Wait, I'm working with the best. This guy has a podcast. He isn't just a therapist, he runs or does all these sort of things. So. So it is. It is interesting because sometimes you do want to meet the person where they're at just so that you can start to have the conversation. She talks about hierarchical thinking. She said they place every person, every place and every object that catches their attention on a hierarchy from lowest to highest, according to some status markers that they value with regard to people.
[00:37:00] They tend to be deferential and super nice to the people that they consider above them, those that they consider below them, they look down on, or they mistreat or ignore or graciously condescend to treat well, depending on their mood. The examples they hear often are people and the way that they relate to, let's say, a waiter or waitress at a restaurant that I thought, this line is so good where she said those they consider below them, they look down on mistreat, ignore or graciously condescend to treat well, depending on their mood that oftentimes I've had people talk about in the love bombing stage how the person is a generous tipper, that they say so many nice things to the the waiter or waitress. And then when they continue to go on dates with the person or the married with the person, that over time they start to feel like the person is quite rude to waitstaff or that sort of thing. And often it's because, OK, this doesn't. They don't. Being nice to them doesn't serve my purpose any longer. Now we're back to this hierarchical thinking, and I want them to know that I am this elevated human being and that makes me feel better. She said they tend to get into dominance fights with people who are on approximately their own level and have trouble with the idea that anyone may be their love. That's probably a little bit dramatic, but when the narcissist then does want to battle me and try to say, What about this or you don't know this, or you're only saying that because you want money or you're only saying this and it does, it takes a lot of, I guess, that healthy version of the self-confidence or ego to stay present when somebody is on the attack and trying to devalue you because but it helps so much when you recognize they're trying to break me down or they're trying to devalue me to lift them up and then, oh, bless their heart that they feel like that's the way that you interact with human beings that you feel like.
[00:38:33] If you OK, you win, you win the argument. You get nothing. There's no trophy. You get the you may feel this temporary bump of superiority, but you have left just a path of decimation in your midst of then as you have felt better about yourself, how do your how does your spouse feel now? How do your kids feel now? They don't look at you and say, Oh my gosh, dad's amazing because he just eviscerated us with his words and he won. It doesn't work that way. So she said that back to this hierarchical thinking with regard to people, they tend to be differential super nice to those they consider above them. Ok, those they consider below them, they look down on mistreat, ignore, again, condescend, treat well, depending on their mood.
[00:39:08] These dominance fights happen, she says. They're hierarchical thinking and their emphasis on their status. Leave them to continually make comparisons about everything in these comparisons. One thing will be marked off is better, which is higher in the hierarchy. Again, I talked about earlier Best Burrito, Best Vacation, Best Show. Then the other. And she said they're likely to pepper their conversation with references to where people are with regard to their place on some hierarchy, such as I belong to a much exclusive club than they do or yeah, I mean, I've scored higher on my sats in that person. Did you know I found out that I went to a better college than they did? Or, yeah, you know, they drive a much older car than I do, and everything becomes this hierarchical, which is the opposite. They drive this car or in reality, are we even giving? Do we care about the car that they drive? She said to a narcissist. Nothing has inherent value aside from its status. Therefore, the value of anything and everything can and will change when its current status in the narcissist reference group changes. So something can be important. Somebody can. Let's take the car example. I remember at one point someone talking about their husband was obsessed with Teslas wanting to get a Tesla. They were going to get a Tesla, couldn't wait to get a Tesla, and then they realized that they couldn't afford a Tesla.
[00:40:16] So rather than say, Oh man, I thought I could afford one there, much more help. I want to say, how easy is that? How simple is that to say it's in essence taking accountability or ownership or saying, Oh my bad, I thought they weren't so expensive. But then instead, she said that Oh no. Now anyone that drove a Tesla was most likely one of the most the dumbest human beings on the planet because they could be using that money for this or this or this, where this person had literally been obsessed with it and telling everybody about it for over a year. But as soon as it wasn't, it didn't have value for them that they couldn't hold that status. Then they had to then make it the worst thing in the world. No object constancy, right? One mindedness true narcissist can only see things from their own perspective. This is similar to how very small children view the world. They can't understand how two people might have different yet equally valid points of view. And if they offer their view and you offer them a different one, they assume you were telling them they are wrong. Fascinating. And if they if you were telling them wrong, that is criticism. So they feel like a little kid that you are, then not only you're telling them wrong, but you are going to put them down and you are going to abandon them. And if you remember a couple of weeks ago, a couple of times throughout this podcast, I talked about what abandonment an attachment looks like, that abandonment is in our program and our DNA that if we are abandoned, abandonment equals death.
[00:41:34] That is why we come from the womb expressing ourselves to get our needs met and people meet our needs as a baby. But then as we grow into childhood, adolescence, young adult adulthood, we have to realize that when people don't meet our needs, it's not because we are broken. It's not because something's wrong with us. It's because people doing people, things imperfect people, imperfect world. And but when the narcissist is still stuck in this childhood adolescent state of mind, then if someone isn't meeting their needs, then they fear this abandonment to the point of they will do anything to get those needs met, even putting someone down or elevating themselves up. And again, it just starts to make more sense, which doesn't mean that it doesn't still hurt, or you don't still feel the emotions in those moments. So she said back in this, if they are offended, yeah, and you offer them a different view, they assume you're telling they're wrong. They're likely to react as if you are attacking them. Rather than you simply giving your opinion. They will project the source of the problem onto you. You are likely to hear statements like Why do you always have to disagree with everything that I say instead of saying, Tell me more about that.
[00:42:35] Tell me more about that is one of the most powerful phrases that one can say hypersensitivity to slights, he says. They're they're hypersensitive to feeling slighted or mistreated in any way. They assume that if they feel hurt, the other person is doing it on purpose and in their mind, they are always the innocent victim. And if the other person then must be the hostile perpetrator, she said, their refrain is, how could you do that to me? And she said, Fill in the blank with anything from restaurant hostess is giving them a less preferred table. So you saying something in public that they decided showed them in less than perfect light? If you make the joke about them with around your friends and all of a sudden you're going to hear about it, I can't believe you did that. But then if you say, OK, you are constantly making jokes about my hair or my teeth, my clothes, then they say, OK, well, that's different. You shouldn't be so sensitive, but I can't believe you just put me down. So that hypersensitivity to slights and in their mindset, they are always the innocent victim and the other person is the perpetrator. It is not me. It is you. It is always you. Just a disproportionate anger, she says. They get extremely mad at things that seem quite minor to most people, like waiting an extra 10 minutes for a table in a restaurant because again, it's a slight.
[00:43:34] It means that there is this hierarchy. It means they are less than in their mind. So then they feel like you are attacking them that you think that they are a horrible human being. She said their degree of fury and hurt will seem very disproportionate to the actual situation. For example, she said, Your new boyfriend wants to wear, wants you to wear a particularly sexy dress to the party where you will meet his friends. You forgot to get the dress from the cleaners plan to wear something else instead. Gets furious with you and start screaming and threatening you, I am not taking you to meet your friend, my friends, if you wear that she talks about extreme language and this is the part I think can be so hard because I see this in my office and this is again, I feel like this is the part that goes into that object constancy, that they can't maintain a relationship with someone when they feel slighted, when they feel less than. But then they go to these extreme sensitivity and then we'll just want to burn the village down behind them to put them in this elevated status. So she said, everything and everybody is either perfect, special the best or else they are the absolute worst. There's nothing in between and anyone that they are mad at automatically becomes the worst possible human being in the world, which then if you if they are mad at you at that moment, they are mad at you and you need to know how mad they are because they have to take that one up position.
[00:44:39] Because if they don't do that, then they feel like they they are not the special one. And if they're not the special one, then they may not exist. They may be abandoned and abandonment at their core equals death. She gave an example. She said Cheryl described her boyfriend, her last boyfriend, to her new boyfriend this way. He changed. I thought he was a good, decent person when I met him, but I was wrong. He was a disgusting, abusive, violent person. I should have had him arrested. She said that would be quite believable if it were not for the fact that Cheryl described her last three boyfriends and exactly the same way. So either Cheryl is the worst judge of character in the world, or she lacks whole object relations and switches from seeing the person as all good to all bad when she sees any flaws. And we're going to be doing a lot on this podcast in the not too distant future on co-parenting with narcissists or even just parenting in general, I posed a question in my group, my online group, private group for women in relationships with narcissistic men or people in their lives. And boy, the feedback has been pretty phenomenal about the co-parenting piece, and it really does feel like you often start.
[00:45:38] And as the marriage therapist, the best thing you can do. The best thing in the world you can do is if there is a divorce that you can still wish the best for your spouse. That's the mother or father of your children. And so you why would you not want to have a good relationship with them? But this object constancy, this when this thing hits, then does the personnel of a sudden have to view their ex as the worst human being? And I need to let everybody know, including the kids they need to understand because I am hurting. And that's one of those things where I feel like it. Just it doesn't. It's not helpful. It's not productive. It doesn't lead to the person ever feeling better about themselves, and it doesn't put the kids in a position where they thrive, because now they have this relationship where they are constantly feeling this stress in the home of the narcissistic parent and then they feel the exact opposite and the other. So now talk about the little kid. This is why kids that have been through trauma a lot when they're young, when they're older, you often hear refer to them as old souls y because they've had to interpret or navigate these complex situations young instead of this acceptance that this is where a relationship is. And we the relationship isn't going to work. So can we then pour into our kids the fact that they are OK, you know that we love each other.
[00:46:52] We just maybe weren't right for each other. And we want the we want mom and dad both want the other person to be happy. But the bottom line is you guys are awesome and we're going to make sure that and putting the other spouse down is the there is no part where that fits into the we want you guys to be awesome because that's going to make them feel less than the kids. Low empathy, they say, and do things to hurt other people without seeming to care about causing pain. Sometimes they're oblivious to other people's reactions because they're so focused on themselves. And if you point out that they said something that hurt you, they're likely either make light of it and it meaning that way you're too sensitive or they turn it around and attack you. Only somebody like you would think that was an insult. Or will you do this to me all the time? Now we're getting back into that, that gaslighting a couple more here. Cruel descriptions of people. Many narcissistic people use language. Other people will find cruel and inappropriate. They say things out loud that other people might think, but they keep themselves for fear of hurting someone. And this one, I have so many examples of these that just pop into my head. The one that Eleanor says is I can't believe somebody as fat as her is wearing that dress, or she thinks it makes her look good or that's the stupidest waiter I've ever had.
[00:47:55] You hear those things and people just go, Oh man, I can't believe they just said that. And but in that moment, hopefully, as you are seeing throughout this episode, that it becomes this Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, it becomes this lack of object constancy. It becomes this they must put themselves up and put somebody else down or else they are not special. They are not special. Then they fear this internal abandonment and abandonment equals death. Ok? This is my A.D.D. that just kicked in. I have been telling myself, I promise I will remember to talk about Betterhelp.com. I apologize. This is one hundred percent an ad, but there are costs involved with the podcast I keep thinking about. I've had a note here on my computer, but super quick if you are looking for counseling. If you are starting to hear things that even throughout this podcast, you realize, I need to get my sense of self. I need to discover who I am. I need to learn what healthy boundaries are. And you do not know a therapist in your area and therapists are hard to find right now because thank goodness the mental health stigma has been eroding over the years, and the worldwide pandemic has led to a lot of people now turning to needing help and even what I'm doing now with a lot.
[00:48:55] People is online therapy. Never thought I'd be doing that back in the day, but now it works. It really does. So if you go to Betterhelp.com virtual couch, you will get 10 percent off your first month's services with a real licensed therapist in your area, not even in your area, but licensed so typically licensed in your state. And the process is pretty easy online. The cool thing about doing something like online therapy, admittedly, is that if you don't have a vibe with your therapist, then you're not going to get very far. I was talking about this with my wife and my nephew, who is in grad school and starting to see clients. Just a fun story. But he was we were talking about just building that rapport and that there's some cool data that I've talked about on my virtual couch podcast where if you don't feel a connection with your therapist, then it doesn't matter what modality they use, you're not buying what they're selling. So you really need to feel that connection. Betterhelp.com If you don't feel a connection, really easy to just press a little button in your portal and say, next, it doesn't really say that, but it's that vibe. So Betterhelp.com virtual couch get 10 percent off your first month counseling, and let's get back to the show. So a couple of things left here. Cruel descriptions of people, she said. So we talked about that.
[00:50:01] Oh, that's what we talked about with the language that people use, but the inability to apologize or admit mistakes. Oh my goodness. Nurses construct a defensive facade in order to protect their shaky self-esteem, she says. They don't actually have stable enough self esteem to admit mistakes and apologize without feeling more shame than they can tolerate. That is so well, said Eleanor, as she put it that way. That and then the second part. So that's where they feel shame that awareness that they are so afraid of shame. And unfortunately, this isn't a thing where you can say, Hey, I learned today that you probably don't apologize because you are protecting your your ego from feeling shame, because shame is incredibly destructive. So I get it so you can say you're sorry. Even the person then hears that as criticism, and then they are protecting themselves from shame because you were telling them they were a horrible individual. So it is such a interesting problem or pattern, and this is why it is so hard, because what would somebody be doing in that scenario if they're violating my number five of the five rules of work with someone with narcissistic traits or tendencies? If you're doing that, you're trying to give them the AHA moment or the epiphany so that they will change. And you mean, well, I know you mean well, but unfortunately it doesn't work that way, and the person needs to come to this awareness that they need help.
[00:51:13] And a lot of times by you setting your boundaries, raising your emotional baseline, getting your PhD and gaslighting, getting out of unproductive conversations and realizing there isn't that thing you'll do or say that will cause that aha moment or the epiphany, then that is truly what will then put that distance and that distance. You will then be met with the phrases that we already know. Why are you pulling away from me? Why are you being so distant? You take everything too sensitive, all those things, and it's because you're starting to break the cycle or break the pattern. And then as you do that, I feel like you realize this is not a healthy relationship, not a viable relationship. And that is perhaps a time where they may then seek help. But even then, they may be going to help going to seek help for somebody to tell them how awesome they are and how bad you are for leaving. It is so difficult, and we're going to tackle this on a future episode, too. I feel like a couple of the main topics I get in questions are, again, the nurses change. How long do I wait? How long ago it last? And we'll start talking about that more in the coming weeks. So that inability to apologize for mistakes. So then she says that they also believe on a deep, sometimes unconscious level that if they admit that they are not as perfect as they pretend to be, the other person is going to take the admission as an opportunity to degrade them, humiliate them and I will add leave them.
[00:52:27] So instead of saying my bad and it can be that when you own up to your stuff, then the world continues to move on and it's not as scary as it feels. The problem is that if you are hearing this and you're the nice person, I'm sure that you are, you have been in a pattern of saying maybe it was my fault or my bad and hoping that then that will show them. See, I did it. But instead, oftentimes when you say my bad, I'll admit to that one. Then instead, they say, OK, what else? What else can you admit to? Now do you see how right I am and not a healthy relationship? And then she says, punch line. While narcissist are unique individuals, they usually have a number of things in common which boy? This podcast, I think, is bringing that out with the feedback I'm receiving because they share similar problems how to stabilize their shaky self esteem, how to get the admiration and validation that they crave, and how to deal with their extreme sensitivity to minor slights and criticisms. Excuse me, most of them use very similar coping strategies. She said. If you keep the above list in mind and the difference between normal and pathological narcissism, she says, you can become quite adept at recognizing the more commonly encountered narcissistic patterns.
[00:53:35] Amen. Eleanor Greenberg She's a gestalt therapy trainer who specializes in teaching the diagnosis and treatment of borderline narcissistic and schizoid adaptations. And you can find her at Eleanor Greenberg, but I think we'll wrap it up there. We're pushing an hour, and I think I initially wanted these to not be quite that long. But I hope you can see we had a lot to cover today, and I hope that you had some light bulbs go on. Some awareness and all that wonderful stuff. I would love to hear your questions if you are a woman who is in need of some additional support. Should we note, and I can put you, we can have you take a look at this private group for women in those relationships again, its relationships with the nurses in their life. We have people on there that it's their parent, it's their coworker, it's their kid, adult child, it's their spouse, it's their former spouse. It's there. There's a lot there, but boy people are starting to really speak the same language. So thank you so much for taking the time to listen. If you got a lot out of this episode, please feel free to forward it to somebody. If you or if you're a member in an online group yourself that deals with narcissism and it's not like I'm being so cheesy here, but it would literally be.
[00:54:38] It would be an honor if you posted about the podcast in those groups, because I'm not saying that from a I seek the admiration and validation of the world, but just reading the emails that come in every literally every day, people that finally feel heard or understood. And so that's the goal. I think I said this in earlier episodes, but there is no scarcity mindset by any, I hope any therapist that's working in this space because if you're working in the space, you know that people need to do a lot of research, they need to do their own digging. And it is such a process to wake up to their narcissism. And when people ask me, Well, how long is it, boy, I feel like I'm being dismissive when I say it takes as long as it takes. And what you're doing right now is what you need to be doing. And there is no what's wrong with me. Why didn't I get out faster? Why didn't I know sooner? Those aren't helpful thoughts. Bless your bless your heart for, you know, when we beat ourselves up, we have this belief that internally that someone will come and rescue us. But when we're beating ourselves up internally, it's ourselves that need to then come rescue us. And so that's what you're doing right now by finding out more information. So have an amazing week. Keep those questions coming, and I will see you next time on the Waking Up to the Narcissism podcast.