A growing body of research now shows how long-term narcissistic abuse affects the hippocampus and the amygdala of the brain, areas that regulate memory and control emotion. And while someone may not be your classic, malicious or malignant narcissist (there are several sub-types of narcissism), even someone with narcissistic tendencies, traits, or "dustings" can do emotional and physical damage to those they interact with. Tony also gives his five tips for surviving narcissistic abuse. Tony refers to the article "Neuroscience: The shocking impact narcissistic abuse has on the brain," by Lachlan Brown from https://hackspirit.com/3859-2/
With the continuing "sheltering" rules spreading across the country, PLEASE do not think you can't continue or begin therapy now. http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch can put you quickly in touch with licensed mental health professionals who can meet through text, email, or videoconference often as soon as 24-48 hours. And if you use the link http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch, you will receive 10% off your first month of services. Please make your mental health a priority, http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch offers affordable counseling, and they even have sliding scale options if your budget is tight.
You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs and podcasts.
Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here https://descript.com?lmref=v95myQ
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[00:00:11] Hey, everybody, welcome to episode 10 of
[00:00:13] Waking Up the Narcissism, I'm your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of the Virtual Couch podcast, where I will throw a plug in will know today, this week, this week. Earlier this week, I did an episode on Seeking External Validation, which referred to my Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde episode of Waking Up to Narcissism last week, and I really do feel like they they're starting to just vibe together at times. So if you haven't listened to the virtual couch, please go take a look at that.
[00:00:40] And here is where
[00:00:41] I will be is authentic and raw and vulnerable as I can. I am sitting here recording this intro, and I'm going to share an older episode of the virtual couch on complex post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD and the effect that narcissistic abuse can have on the short term memory and the amygdala. Now, why might you ask I again, in the vein of full authenticity I have over the last two or three days at different times, been recording an episode on narcissistic family systems and scapegoat children and the golden child and putting all these pieces together. And I have part of one of the files. It's about twenty five minutes long that has no audio. So I have spent a couple of hours this morning, nice and early trying to figure out my issues, and then I submitted the file to the company that my record with. And it looks like there just might have been a glitch and the audio didn't record.
[00:01:37] So I have sat here for
[00:01:39] About five minutes just staring at my computer screen, but the show must go on. I want this consistency, so we're going to do this bonus episode, but I will if I have to rerecord the stuff about narcissistic family systems and scapegoat child and golden child, then I will do that and I will get that episode out to you next year. Next year I am. Let me bring myself back to present. Next week we'll get one that that one out to you next week. But in the interim, I would. I'm going to read a couple of emails because I just continue to get the emails. And if you are interested in more information on the women's group, the private women's group for people that are in relationships with narcissistic men or and that can be whether it's a spouse, whether it's a sibling, whether it's a boss, whether it's a feeling that way in a church leader, it really is a it's just a support group and it's just phenomenal. And a lot of the things that were part of this recording, this lost episode, this lost recording where I had posed some questions to the group and they had amazing things to say, and now I do not have access to that. So I will rerecord that if we need to. But there's just a few emails. I'm getting a few every day, which is still just so I'm so grateful for. But here's here's some of the ones that I think are just really interesting.
[00:02:48] I'll change some of the details, but someone sent one recently that said they listen to the episode about narcissistic awareness grief and then just finished a session with their therapist. And I love that people are bringing this into therapy. And she said, I have been so excited to bring her up to date on my recent AHA moments, and the session just flew by. And as a therapist man, I love those sessions. And she said, I now am just feeling so incredibly proud of myself and I love that she is saying this. Everything that I had described in that narcissistic awareness grief episode was, she said, it's exactly her own recent awakenings and that that she had heard put into words exactly what she was describing to her about her most recent breakthroughs. And so it's like a shot in the arm. It's so validating to realize that I've got this and I'm on the right path, and she shares some more stuff. And it's just it's really nice to hear people feel like they are. I love the way she's saying that, that it's realizing the awakening, it's validating that I'm on the right path. That doesn't mean that it is going to be a real smooth path, but you are on the right path and just know that that path is going to have bumps and and ruts and those things along the way. But you're on your way to a more, more sense of purpose finding out who you really are.
[00:03:52] And ultimately, that is what builds that confidence. And it raises the waters around you when you let your light so shine that others will then feel that that power, then Marianne Williamson poem that I love. Who are you to play small so that others around you will not feel insecure because your job is to be the best version of you? You can be for yourself, for your family, your kids, that sort of thing. So I was grateful for that. And then I also get emails that are, they're hard. They're sad. The person shared that they're their husband, their spouse had stopped speaking to them over the weekend, this past weekend because they are about to start a new job. And she has been staying home with the kids, and she's aware, she's aware that she probably won't get the payment that she deserves because she's been out of work. But it's the first offer she's got and she is taking action. And I love that because we too often just feel stuck and we feel like I don't know what to do. And we think and we think and we ruminate, but we need to start taking action. And maybe this job isn't the ideal job, but it's it's getting her on a path of self-confidence. But of course, even though her narcissistic tendency traits husband has been saying that he feels like she waste time when she's not working now, of course, he's saying that he's going to be wasting his time with this job, even though he, she says.
[00:05:09] All you do is waste his money, which I hate that phrase, I don't usually the word the hate. But I the wasting my money. If you're in a marriage, you're working with a deliberate, Dyadic collaborative process. It's our money. It's the family's money, but wasting his money. So now she goes to try to make money, and now it is going to be a waste of time. So I get the point that it's going to feel like you can't do anything right regardless. So I just love this person's email because it is. It is her saying, you know, the old darned, if I do, darned if I don't. But if I'm going to start doing and I'm going to do things that are going to start to raise my emotional baseline and help me now learn, maybe I like this job. Maybe I meet people here. Maybe I start to connect with others. Maybe I start to feel better about bringing in some whatever it is it is doing, instead of just continually thinking and ruminating because of the gaslighting or the nurses can make you feel so crazy. So an example there. There's another one. This is talking about therapy. Someone also sent me one Hi Tony, my therapist recommended your podcast and I've really appreciated it. So many things have rung true and help me feel seen, and it is truly difficult to be in a relationship with someone with narcissistic tendencies.
[00:06:16] And then she goes on to share a lot of examples, and I just want her to know I. I've read them all, and there are so many here that are so, so good, but also break my heart where I wanted to read a little bit of one where she said that he will say often that he feels like he hasn't met. She doesn't meet his needs that are not being met physically and emotionally, and he doesn't feel like anything has changed that. He says he hasn't seen her making any progress. But I feel like that alone is coming from not a place of curiosity where he's saying, I haven't seen you make progress instead of saying, Tell me about you. You know, tell me what's going on. Tell me what you're working on. I'm looking at this with genuine curiosity because she shared that rewinding the week before, she had sent nice messages at work different, you know, saying that, Hey, I'm thinking about you messages that he did not respond to all day where I can imagine that he's saying, You don't think about me because I hear that one so often, not even to say that he's on his way home and she and her kind, probably pathological kindness as which I understand. But if I had a busy day, then it's not OK that my messages aren't over the top, or I'm sure that she's heard the if she's had a busy day, then he will most likely say, Well, you know, I still think of you when I'm having when you're having a busy day.
[00:07:24] So she said that she wrote notes, put them in his lunch, put them around different places so that letting him know that his work doesn't go unnoticed. And but he just keeps saying how he he thinks that that is whether it's too little, too late or not enough or. And so again, from that vein of just feeling like you, you're going crazy and that you're told you don't do enough of this, whatever this is, you don't you don't send me notes now the person sends notes, and now they're not acknowledged. And now if you say, Hey, what about those notes? Oh, well, now you know you only did it because I asked you to do it. So I get the crazy making. And so I just love when people are sending things and they're saying that they they are feeling more heard that they're feeling more understood. And so that is maybe the opening to say, continue to send those emails, those messages. But let's get now to this episode on complex post-traumatic stress disorder and a tiny bit of background on this as well. I held off on this one a long time because I worried that people would would feel like this is even more of the crazy making and the effect it can have.
[00:08:27] But then I realized after airing this episode and it's it was episode two hundred and something early to hundreds on the virtual couch. So it was well over a year ago. This one gets referred to a lot as one of the episodes where people started to say, I have to do something this. This is proof that this this emotional abuse or this the gaslighting, the not feeling understood or heard or feeling this crazy making can literally take a negative effect on the brain. And so there is nothing better than starting to take action so that you can put yourself in a better place because this complex post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can affect you in ways that then you are more in your reactionary brain. So then when I get the people that are so nice and kind that are trying to make the best of things and make things work, and they respond to me and say, But he is right, you know, I do get angry. I do say mean things. But this is where I often say, Do you just get angry and say, mean things out in the wild? Or are you getting angry and saying mean things in more of a reaction to feeling like you are not being understood or there is no curiosity in the relationship, or that you're continually being told that your view of things is wrong, because then that's your human.
[00:09:32] You are being reactionary. And so the more you're going to learn about this complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and the more you're going to learn about gaslighting and raising your emotional baseline and truly finding your sense of self and purpose, then the more confident you will be. And we've already identified that, unfortunately, the more confident you will be, the more that will now be viewed as most likely a threat to the person with the narcissistic tendencies because they view it in this black or white. If you have a different opinion, you are telling me mine's wrong, so then therefore I must I must defeat you. And that is not a mature adult relationship. So let's get to this episode on PTSD. Two seconds more of housekeeping if you are. And for therapy counseling, and you're not quite sure where to go and you don't really and I really feel like this is really applicable in that, yes, this is about to be a quick ad, but I think it's really applicable in this situation because I know a lot of people that are in these relationships with narcissistic traits or tendencies, people or full blown narcissistic personality disorder. I have women that won't participate in the group call because they, your husband will know and they can't have that happen. So if you go to Betterhelp.com Betterhelp.com virtual couch, then there is their therapy options there that are literally therapy, text therapy, messaging therapy, video chats.
[00:10:44] And so where early on in my own therapeutic career, I thought, Well, I don't know if that's very effective. Well, we got to meet people where they're at. So if you feel like you need help and you feel like you're not quite sure where to go or you don't want to go somewhere in person or out in public, then this might be a good option and go to Betterhelp.com virtual couch and you'll get 10 percent off your first months of counseling services, and they are licensed professional counselors and therapists. And during the assessment process, and it's all a form you fill out online, then I would be pretty open and honest in about worrying about emotional abuse or those sort of things so that they can put you with the right counselor. And the best part about this one is that if you do not have a fit with your counselor, it is very, very easy to lovingly break up with your counselor, your therapist on better help because you can just open up your online portal and say, I think I want another therapist, so go to Betterhelp.com slash virtual couch, get 10 percent off of your first month's services, and then let's get to this episode on complex post-traumatic stress disorder. Send me your messages. Go to Tony Orbcomm, send through the contact form, and next week we'll get back to that family systems and narcissistic family systems.
[00:11:49] Hey, coming up on today's episode of the virtual couch, we're going to get a little bit heavy. We're going to talk in the world of neuroscience and the shocking impact that narcissistic abuse can have on the brain, how it can actually impact your short term memory and also dig deep into your amygdala and cause your amygdala to flare up. That's that fight, flight or freeze response. And more importantly, we're going to talk about what you can do if you're in a situation where you may be experiencing narcissistic abuse that and so much more. Coming up on today's episode
[00:12:17] Of the virtual academy.
[00:12:28] Thank you for joining me on episode two hundred and twenty one of the virtual couch, I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, certified, mindful habit coach, writer, speaker, husband, father of four ultra marathon runner and creator of the Path Back, an online pornography recovery program that is helping people like you reclaim their lives from the harmful effects of pornography. If you or anyone that you know is trying to put pornography behind you once and for all and trust me, it can be done and a strength based hold the shame, become the person you always wanted to be way. Then head over to Pathbackrecovery.com. And there you can download a short e-book that describes five common mistakes that people make when trying to put pornography behind them once and for all. Again, that's pathbackrecovery.com, and welcome to the podcast. I am again going on YouTube so you can find the virtual couch channel on YouTube, and you can find me at all the places that people can find people at the virtual couch on Instagram or at Tony Overbay, licensed marriage and family therapist on Facebook. And I'm just glad you're here, and I am going to get to the topic today. But speaking of pornography addiction, who was? I was in the intro. I just was going to share a little bit of a moment that I had over the weekend. I thought it was pretty fascinating. I was asked to go on a national radio show was the Walter Stirling show, and it's carried nationwide, even in my local market of Sacramento and KFBK, and I was prepared for this.
[00:13:48] I knew a little bit about Walter Stirling, so I came into my office and the topic was pornography and the pandemic. Was there a rise in use pornography use? And I had a very spirited conversation with Walter. He was very respectful and I really enjoy any time that I can talk about something because I'm just going to share what I know. I'm going to share my truths. And a lot of times I've been on those kind of program situations, and I think that people maybe think I'm going to get a little bit more defensive or that I might be a little bit kooky or nutty. And I don't know. Maybe that's all relative. Anyway, maybe I am. But it was a really fun experience, and here's why I wanted to talk about it because I experienced this situation and I did record it, and I think it might be fun to share the track at some point. But he was saying that he disagreed that he didn't think that pornography addiction was real, that there was anything wrong with turning to pornography for a stress relief. That sort of thing. And here was the thing. The first thing that I tried to establish was, if that's where he's coming from, then that's great.
[00:14:46] My job is not to try to convince somebody who is not interested in moving away from pornography or lessening pornography in their life. And at this point now I've got about 15 years, and when I was promoting my book, he's a porn addict. Now, what an expert and a former addict to answer your questions, which I played the role of the expert that is a best seller on Amazon. Yes, I am self-promoting, but I'm very proud of that book with coauthor Josh Shea. I had added up at the time about twelve or thirteen hundred people that I've been able to help individually. Not just that's not including the online pornography program, the path back. And those are people that came to me and said I would like to view pornography less. So when people are coming to me, then absolutely, I can work with that. Any string pulled the shame. Become the person you always wanted to be way as I talk about in the intro. But when somebody comes to me and says, I don't think it's a problem and I don't think I should quit, then all I can say is, OK, all right. And I even introduced on his radio show one of my favorite phrases psychological reactants, which is that instant negative reaction of being told what to do. And so I let them know that, Hey, Walter, I can't tell you to stop if that's not something that you want to stop.
[00:15:50] And so I don't know if he was interested in me being more combative, but I had a nice exchange. I talked to him about how when it's used as a coping mechanism, that people are choosing pixels over people and that when people are even if a couple is looking at pornography together, if that's something that they want to do, then great. I believe that there is more of an opportunity for connection between the two of them without having to turn to a third party of sorts in that scenario. And then I barely was able to touch on the fact that pornography, addiction or pornography and even pornography addiction is not something that is a diagnosable addiction. There is compulsive sexual behavior, impulse control disorder. So I 100 percent understand that what I'm trying to do is help people move away from that. If that is something that they would like to move away from because it's a time it sucks up. The time sucks. The life out of people, warps their sexuality can make them feel like if they aren't looking at an image of someone perfect who is always, you know, the image always wants them, that that's their version of reality when it comes to intimacy. And so if someone is coming to me saying I would like to do that less, please, then we we look at their areas of their life. Are they feeling satisfied in their parenting? Are they feeling satisfied in their marriage or in their health, or in their career or in their faith? And so as we shore up those areas using my favorite modality, acceptance and commitment therapy kind of dial in their values, get them working towards something that they really believe in and parenting through the nurtured heart approach and feeling like they really have a parenting model and dialing into their couple's relationship with emotionally focused therapy.
[00:17:22] When you get all those things working together, there is less of a siren song of pornography of. Food of online gambling of any of those coping mechanisms, so I just wanted to share that it was a really fun experience. It's funny. I walk home, not walk home, I drive home, I walk in through the garage and my wife was kind and she listened to it on the local radio station and had filmed it through it up to a family chat that we have. But I love the fact that one of my daughters comes in and she's like, Hey, what were you doing tonight? I was like, I was on a national radio show. I was like, Oh, OK, I hand over to my friend's house. But I just think, like every dad's doing on a Sunday evening, jumping on a national radio show and talking about pornography, compulsive sexual behavior with someone who was trying to, I think initially maybe attack them and then coming out of that and feeling like it was OK.
[00:18:06] So anyway, that made for a fun weekend. I did enjoy that and I will put up more about that. I think I've asked Walter if I can use that clip for a future episode or that sort of thing. There is a bunch of intro in the YouTube video. I'm going to say that you can now start the real topic of narcissistic abuse and its effects on the brain at whatever this minute mark is. So thank you for hanging in there. So today I'm going to turn to an article and I'm going to do a lot of riffing, as the kids say today, because I'm going to talk a lot about narcissistic abuse. And the reason why number one is that this is an area of my practice that I do a lot of work with. I think I've shared in previous episodes where I talk about narcissism or I talk about gaslighting, any of those things that I've actually had an opportunity to testify in some court cases on narcissistic abuse or narcissism in general personality disorders. And it wasn't something that I necessarily anticipated. And I think initially when I started working with more men, that the percentage of men that suffer with narcissism or narcissistic personality disorder or traits of narcissism is much higher than that with women. So I started working a lot with men who had narcissistic personality disorder are again traits of and then working with them in their marriages.
[00:19:22] And oftentimes that led to marriage therapy and then at some point often is the case. The narcissist is not a huge fan of counseling because they, for the most part, think they're doing everything pretty darn well. And you end up working with the spouse and helping them work through dealing in a relationship where there is narcissistic personality disorder, narcissistic traits. So the title of the article that I'm referring to today is one from it's called Hack Spirit, but it's called neuroscience the shocking impact that narcissistic abuse has on the brain. And it's by a writer named Lachlan Brown. And this is from a couple of years ago, and I've been sitting on this one for a while and and there's a couple of different reasons why maybe I'll get to them in a little while, but I want to give a little bit of a background. Someone says narcissistic abuse is one of the worst types of psychological abuse that one person can do to another. But unfortunately, many people are stuck in these types of relationships, and I have done a couple of episodes on a concept called trauma bonding, and we're going to circle back around to that in this episode as well, because that trauma bond is what keeps people stuck in relationships with narcissistic individuals. And man, there's so many things I want to say in this episode, so I hope that I can bring this all together.
[00:20:31] But one of those is if you are listening to this and someone has forwarded this to you and said, Hey, I think you're a narcissist, will you just do me a favor and just sit back, relax and just listen and just take this in and try to not be so responsive? Try to not be so reactive? Because here's what happens. Often I've done a couple of episodes on gaslighting, for example. Gaslighting is that that concept where when someone is saying, Hey, I think that you have not been very nice lately, let's say the wife says that to the husband and then the husband says, Seriously, you think that I haven't been nice? Have you looked in the mirror? I can't believe you're saying this matter of fact. The fact that you are saying this to me makes me realize how mean you are. And that's so by the end, the wife is thinking, Oh my gosh, am I am? I mean, am I the one? I can't? Wow. I shouldn't have even brought that up. I guess I really am mean, and it can just be this crazy making behavior. And please go look at some of the episodes I've done on gaslighting, if that's the case. But so what has happened often is I will work with the wife who will hear that episode one of these episodes on gaslighting or one of the episodes like I'm going to do today, and they'll send it to their spouse that they worry me suffer from some narcissistic tendencies.
[00:21:44] Or I like to call Dustin's of narcissism, and then the person will hear that. And then they'll say, Yeah, you know what? She does gaslight me. And honestly, it was one of the most interesting kind of profound experiences I had where when I did an episode on gaslighting and there was one of the women that I was working with, two of the women I was working with happened to on that same day, send the episode to their spouse. And within two hours, I got texts back in. Both of the spouses said the same thing that the wives sent the episodes about gaslighting to the narcissistic husbands, and they both responded with, Thank you for sending that to me. Now I know what you're doing to me. You are gaslighting me, and I used to try to come up with something clever of a way to ensure assure the wife that that is not the case. And here's one of. The things that came up with that, I feel, is one of the best descriptions, if you take the wife out of that narcissistic relationship and put her in a new relationship, she will then be viewed as simply kind if you take that narcissistic person and put them in a different relationship. They are going to continue to have their own sets of rules when it comes to finances.
[00:22:48] They're going to continue to gaslight, they're going to continue to not apologize. They're going to continue to not own up to their behaviors. So oftentimes I almost will. I do. I say, Hey, that's one of those signs that you are being reactionary. I can remember one of the first women that ever came into my office, and she said, No, I do. I do. I get so angry with my husband. I do yell at him and I often say, OK, were you a yeller to begin with? And she says, No, I wasn't. So you are yelling in reaction. You are yelling to not feeling heard. You're yelling to not being validated, you're yelling to being made to feel crazy. If you take you into and put you in a relationship with someone who says, Hey, tell me more about that. Oh my gosh, I can understand that. I didn't realize that's what I was doing. Would you just yell at them randomly? No, you wouldn't. But take your spouse and put them in a different relationship? And most likely, the person that they would be in that relationship with is going to eventually start yelling because they feel crazy, because that person, that narcissistic person is not owning up to their part of the relationship. And one of the key things here is remembering that narcissism is a personality disorder.
[00:23:52] There are certain things that are we call them personality disorders. And one of the key components of a personality disorder is that person is stuck in their ego. They cannot step outside of their ego and see things from another's point of view, so they don't believe that they're doing anything contrary to what is right, which is why things like gaslighting just flow. And again, as narcissism nature is it nurture? There is belief that it is a little bit of both, and it typically comes from childhood trauma or abandonment, where then a a kid, every kid is designed to go from self-centered kids or self-centered. That's what we do when we're kids. We don't know how to fend for ourselves, so it's just everything is about me. Give me that. That is mine. What about me? And then when there is not secure attachments with caregivers or when there is abuse or there is abandonment, or if the kid's parents are narcissists, so that's model behavior, then they never make that jump from self-centered to self-confident, so they move forward as a self-centered individual into adulthood. So that is why it can feel like you're arguing at times with a 10 to 12 year old boy when you're arguing with someone that suffers with narcissistic personality disorder or traits of narcissism. And again, narcissism is not just this always this grandiose, malicious look at me in the mirror. There are various subtypes of narcissism, and I've done an episode or two on that as well.
[00:25:15] So there's a little bit of just an overview or a background. And one of the things that I find interesting is that when I started working with more people that struggle with their in relationships with narcissists, and you'll see this as we read through this article today that a lot of people, when they find out that they are being gaslit or they realize, Oh my gosh, he has never owned up to anything or he completely lacks empathy and we can switch it around he or she. But I'm going to say he for the most part today at that point, if you Google, that you are going to see that the everything on the internet says Run immediately be done and go. And I completely understand that if somebody has worked with hundreds now of couples where there is a narcissist involved, it's really difficult. And so I made a decision long ago that I wanted to. And this is what a therapist is supposed to do. Meet the client where they're at. That client is going to read that article on the internet that says Run, and it's not like they're going to immediately say, Oh my gosh, I don't even think about that. I'm going to pack my bags. I'm going to get out of here. No, they're typically going to go through a process of, first of all, it's it's not that bad or he's he's a good guy or he's nice.
[00:26:22] So I think I can make this work. I think I'll tell him that that he's a narcissist. Maybe that'll work, which I always say one of the first rules of Narcissist Club is you don't tell the narcissist, Hey, think you're a narcissist? Because they're not? That's part of the problem. They're not going to say, Oh my gosh, tell me more about that. I didn't even realize that. So I'm going to get into more of that. In fact, let me just give an overview right now. Quick drink. I have five things that I do talk about when I'm working with someone that is in a relationship with someone who may be suffering from narcissistic personality disorder are traits of narcissism. The first thing I asked my client to do is raise their emotional baseline. And by that, I mean self-care. They need to put themselves in a position where they can make good decisions and when they are continually being beaten down emotionally. If they are physically drained, if they're not getting sleep that they need, if they don't feel like they have any emotional support they bear, they're being gaslit. A lot of times with narcissists, they sequester, which means that they make it not very exciting or difficult to reach out to family or friends, any of those things that lowers their emotional baseline. They don't feel good about themselves, and that does not put someone in a position to make the best decisions for their life or their family moving forward.
[00:27:31] Number one, I say, raise your emotional baseline. Number two, I say, get a PhD in gaslighting now, not literally a PhD, but learn all you can about gaslighting, because that is one of the key components to recognize when you are being gaslit, because that is when you can realize I'm not crazy. I really do understand and I have so many examples that I've worked with, and I think I gave one not too long ago. That was literally one where it was a guy that had spent a decade enjoying peanut M&Ms in front of his wife. And then at one point she gets some peanut M&Ms. And I don't know what the narcissistic trigger was that day. But he says, Why did you give me these? And she says, because you love them. And he said, I've never enjoyed these. I can't believe that you got me peanut M&Ms. And she's going back to basically literally conversations on how the peanut M&M is the finest of all the M&Ms and how anyone that doesn't enjoy these must be crazy. And how sometimes if you leave them out on the dash, they melt just a little bit and they're perfect and they're wonderful. And she has all of this data and he's saying, I never said that and I and really, you don't even know me.
[00:28:33] If you think that I enjoy peanut M&Ms, I mean gaslighting getting your PhD and gaslighting and understanding in that moment. I don't know why he's doing this, but I know he likes peanut Eminem. So that's the bottom line. So getting the PhD in gaslighting. Another one is learning how to disengage from unproductive conversations, which kind of follows that once I understand gaslighting. I'm not going to continue to participate because the narcissist is not going to own their own crap. They're not going to own their own part of the conversation. The fourth one is setting boundaries. A boundary might be, Hey, when you started swearing at me, I'm going to walk out the door and being able to commit to that because that's when the gas line, oh, fine, walk away. You never want to deal with things, but that's a boundary. But the fifth one, which is the most difficult one, and this goes back to an article that actually a client had sent me years ago from a blog. I think it's called Ask Men. It's by this, this researcher, PhD candidate. I'll have to put that a link to that somewhere in the show notes. But it talked about narcissistic, emotional trauma and abuse. But that fifth thing that I like to share is you have to realize that there is nothing that you will say or do that will cause the aha moment for the narcissist to go, Oh my gosh, I finally get it.
[00:29:42] And that one is hard. I've been doing this a long time, and when I share that with people, that one can feel a little bit hopeless. I understand, but I can also think of people I work with on a daily basis, who once they know that they'll identify these situations where they were saying, and then I found myself thinking, if I say it this way, if I'm really nice, if I withdraw, if I get angry, there's some way that I will be able to express myself. But then he will finally go, Oh my gosh, I get it. So those are those five things that I typically say to keep an eye out for. But again, I know that it's not just as easy as understanding, Oh my gosh, I think he might be a narcissist. I have been gaslit my entire life. And once you hear this more about the narcissistic, long term narcissistic effects on the brain that it's not so easy just to say, pack up the bags, kids, we're heading out. So I get that. So back to this, whether it's a child and an emotionally abusive parent or an adult with a narcissistic partner, the effect is the same narcissistic abuse can leave much more than emotional damage. So according to recent studies, and this is from around twenty seventeen, is when the first of these studies came out.
[00:30:45] Neuroscientists have discovered that long term narcissistic abuse can lead to actual physical brain damage. And so there's a pretty fascinating some picture, some functional MRIs that if you go look up an article on this that it will show the effects of long term narcissistic abuse. So we know now that constant emotional trauma over a long period of time can cause PTSD like symptoms. I did an episode on PTSD complex post-traumatic stress disorder, which is what long term emotional abuse can lead to. But we also know that in the world of betrayal, trauma, when someone finds out about a significant event or betrayal that also can have these similar effects of PTSD, where there can be triggers that can cause someone to go into fight or flight mode where their amygdala, which is what? What supplies the cortisol, the stress hormone, the adrenaline that will then overcome the prefrontal cortex or the part of the brain that makes logical sense the amygdala fires. It was in the fight or flight mode, the prefrontal cortex, the decision making part of the brain says we're not needed here. We're about to go into battle with the saber tooth tiger. We're going to shut down. So then the person becomes just pretty used to when they get triggered and it can be the gaslighting, it can be just not being heard. It can be emotional withdraw, but then their brain is triggered and they go into this fight or flight response and that prefrontal cortex shuts down.
[00:32:05] So this neural pathway is created where long term narcissistic abuse can cause that amygdala to fire, just to fire and go from zero to 60 and have someone just feel like just panic or anxiety or that fight or flight or freeze. Lachlan goes on to say, this is why anyone in a destructive relationship with a partner who cares little for the emotional well-being of their family should leave immediately, especially when children are involved. See, there's that component there that when someone reads that, I think it doesn't often feel for the person who is in that narcissistic relationship or trauma bond. They may read that, and it's OK. Maybe some of these things are true, but how easy is it to just leave immediately? And I understand that it's difficult. Seek help. Go meet with somebody who understands personality disorders, he says. However, some people don't take this warning too seriously because of it. It's emotional basis, which is very well said. What many people fail to realize is that emotional and psychological distress is only one side of the coin that victims of long term narcissistic abuse experience. There is also this physical aspect of brain. It's in essence brain damage. So when suffering consistent emotional abuse victims experiencing and here's where it really starts to make sense. A shrinking of the hippocampus and a swelling of the amygdala, and both of those can lead to long term effects.
[00:33:24] It's important to know what is the hippocampus. The hippocampus is crucial in learning and developing memory, especially the hippocampus is a big part of short term memory, and the amygdala is where, again, fight or flight response. It's where negative emotions reside, which cause the fight or flight response. So the amygdala is the home of shame and fear and envy and guilt, and all of those emotions that cause one to go into fight flight or freeze mode. So think about that. It affects the shrinking of the hippocampus, which is memory and the enlarging of the amygdala, which is where these negative emotions reside. I like that he goes into the hippocampus Greek for the word seahorse. It's part of the brain that's hidden inside of each temporal lobe, and it's shaped distinctly like two seahorses, the hippocampus. They look like the little highways I've heard them described as it looks like a kind of like a green bean shell or that sort of thing. But I can see I could see Seahorse a little bit of a boring seahorse. Maybe not the seahorse that was the most popular on campus, but a seahorse nonetheless. And so one of the most important functions in the hippocampus is for short term memory, which is the first step to learning. So information is first stored in short term memory before it can be converted into permanent memory. So without short term memory, it can be very difficult to learn.
[00:34:41] So damage to the hippocampus is a lot more disturbing than scientists initially thought. In a study from Stanford University and the University of New Orleans, they found that there was a strict correlation between high levels of cortisol. Again, that's the hormone caused by stress and a decreased volume in the hippocampus. So when the brain is so active in fight flight or freeze mode, when that amygdala is enlarged or enraged, then the hippocampus the part of the brain for memory is taken a backseat. So the more stress that people become, the smaller the hippocampus became, which is just another reason why learning how to be mindful meditative can be such a powerful thing. So now understanding the amygdala, let's talk about that. So the amygdala often people recall or refer to it as the reptilian brain. The Neanderthal brain. And that's because it controls our primal emotions functions, including fear and hate and lust, as well as your heart rate and breathing. So those are very important things, right in the amygdala. So when triggered, the amygdala is where the fight or flight response is made, and so narcissists keep their victims in a state where their amygdala is constantly on alert. So when they walk into the room and they constantly are, I don't know, is he in a good mood or is he in a bad mood? Or is he going to talk about, Hey, today, let's go on an expensive vacation? Or is it going to be tomorrow where he says, I don't know, we're going be able to make it this month.
[00:36:01] Checking accounts kind of low, that sort of thing. And then then the next day, he wants to go out and and make giant purchases. And then it just keeps you in this walking on eggshells mode. Then that is when you can be in this constant state of alert or just fear worry. So then over time, now what this data shows is that victims fall into this permanent state of anxiety or fear. And then the amygdala reacts to the very slightest signs of abuse. The narcissists can even just utter something that is pretty basic or but not, you know, banal. And then the person in is with this trigger response is going to all of a sudden have their fight or flight response kick in. And then they feel like, I don't know what to do. I don't know what to say. So long after the victim is escaped, the relationship, according to Lachlan in this article, they will continue to live with PTSD like symptoms, including increased phobias or panic attacks due to this enlarged amygdala that has become used to living in a state of fear. This is what causes part of that trauma bond, and so that is to protect themselves from their reality. They often use defense mechanisms that make it easier to cope, such as projection.
[00:37:08] So victims often convince themselves that they're narcissistic. Abuser has positive traits and intentions, such as compassion or understanding, when in reality that might not be the case and that is part of the trauma bond. Let me flip over to I've got a tab up here from talking about healing a broken heart a few episodes ago and the amazing Ted talk by Guy Winch. In that episode, I worked in some trauma bonding information as well. Here were some of those things in his book Betrayal Bonds, Patrick Carnes, who is just a well-known researcher, talked about things to consider if you are in a tree or in a trauma bond. If you have some of these things that there's a constant pattern of nonperformance, yet you continue to believe promises to the contrary that you continue to believe that narcissistic abuser is going to do the things that they say that they're going to do. And instead of when pushed, then, you know, blame you for something not happening or others seem disturbed by something that's happened to you or was said to you. But you're not, you know where others are saying, Man, how do you let him treat you that way? Or I wouldn't do that if you constantly run into that kind of data or you feel stuck because the other person keeps doing destructive things, but you believe there's really nothing you can do about it, you try to change the person into becoming less destructive, but trying to get them to stop an addiction or try to convince them to become a non abuser.
[00:38:23] But you may try to continually talk them into being nice to the kids that seems so basic, or you keep having these repetitive, damaging fights with the person that nobody wins because he's never going to own his part of the fight or part of the situation. Or you seem unable to detach from somebody, even though you can't trust them or at times you really don't even like them. Or when you try to leave this person and you find yourself missing them to the point of longing that's so awful that you believe it's going to destroy you. And Patrick Carnes talked about unusual, unusually trauma. Bonds occur in relationships involving inconsistent reinforcement, such as those with in addictions or alcoholics or domestic violence situations. Dysfunctional marriages can also cause trauma bonds because there's always a time when things seem to be, quote normal. Other types of relationships involving trauma bonds can be in religious organizations kidnapings hostage situations, all of those things. But the environment necessary to create a trauma bond involves intensity, complexity, inconsistency and a promise. So victims stay in these trauma bonded relationships because they're holding on to that elusive promise or hope. And that is, there's always manipulation involved. Victims are prey to manipulation because they are willing to tolerate anything for the payoff, which is that elusive promise and the ever present hope for fulfillment.
[00:39:37] Some deeply personal need within the victim. So oftentimes in a traumatic relationship, they're looking right at it, but they can't see it. And then only spending time away from the unhealthy attachment can the person often see the the destruction that it's caused? So that was a little bit more about trauma bonding. And so that came from the concept of projection where victims will convince themselves they're narcissistic. Abuser has these positive traits. Another one of the defense mechanisms that the people that are in relationships with narcissistic abusers will do is compartmentalize victims focus on the positive parts of the relationship separating from them, from the abusive parts and thus ignoring them. And I will talk about this for the rest of my career. But remembering literally the first time first person where they owned up to one thing in a couples therapy situation, and then the wife and I hung on to that one thing for quite some time. It was like he told the truth this one time and then all of these other times that was not the case. And I remember just having this aha moment of thinking, Wait a minute, the relationship is supposed to be, we're telling the truth all the time. And then once in a while, there might be this, well, I wasn't completely honest because I worried that might hurt you or those sort of things, someone that's actually owning that part of it, compartmentalization.
[00:40:52] So that's what that one was or denial victim and victims end up believing that their situation is not as bad as they feel and that it's easier to live with rather than to confront it. And this is a great big dose of what's called experiential avoidance kicking that can down the road. I'll deal with this and I'll deal with it later. I'll deal with it when summer arrives, I'll deal with it. When the kids are back in school, I'll deal with it. When the kids are out of the house, I'll deal with it later. And then a damaged hippocampus, which now we're learning that is crippling most everything that we know. So back to this article. The researcher or the writer Lachlan says the hippocampus is perhaps the most crucial part of the brain when it comes to knowledge and function. Everything that we do or understand, read and learn rests solely on the hippocampus functioning properly. And so this is because the hippocampus is involved in the formation of new memories, and it's also associated with learning and emotions. But the hippocampus, when it is, it's damaged when the. Body releases the cortisol hormone, the stress hormone during these times of stress and then cortisol effectively attacks neurons in the hippocampus, causing it to literally shrink. So the amygdala is then stimulated by the cortisol, which turns our thoughts and neural activity from increasing our mental acuity to worries and stress.
[00:42:01] And so when these distressing emotions are pushed to the extreme, then our brain activity is pushed beyond its zones of effectiveness. And so what I appreciate is that there's along with this as you can rebuild your hippocampus and calm your amygdala. So there is always a way back to a functioning normal brain through certain methods like EMDR. I've done an episode or two on that or mindfulness or a combination yoga, talk therapy, EMDR mindfulness. All of these things have shown promise in growing the hippocampus in just a few sessions. The data that he shares here is that it can regrow up the six percent of the hippocampus in just a few sessions. Emdr can also calm the amygdala at the same time, allowing your brain to react more rationally to situations. I've had some clients that have gone and done EMDR for everything from narcissistic abuse to PTSD, first responders, car crash victims where it has allowed them to have a little bit more indifference when engaging in these powerful memories that have really taken a toll in the past. But again, he wraps up this article by saying the first step is ultimately the most important one getting out of the destructive and abusive relationship before progress can be made. And I agree. I do understand that and I and if that is possible, if someone believes that they are being very much emotionally abused in a narcissistic, abusive relationship, then that is that that is the best thing you can do is to get out of that relationship so you can start to feel like yourself.
[00:43:27] You can start to feel whole. But again, I want to let you know that I understand how difficult that is because I have worked with hundreds of people that have tried to get out of relationships with narcissists. And it is. It can be a lengthy process. It can. And so the first thing you can do is seek help. And I know that is a process in and of itself because oftentimes the narcissistic abuser does not want you to go get help. And so if you need to hear it's going to sound like a total plug, but Betterhelp.com virtual couch, they even have text therapy, email therapy. If you don't feel like you can meet with somebody through Zoom or in person or anything like that is a great place to start and gather data. Get information. Oh, there was I was going to read there's a book called The Human Magnus Syndrome, and this is about the human magnet, why it can be so difficult to get out of relationships with narcissists. And there are two things that I thought were so fascinating. I'm going to wrap this up. The author, I think it's Ross Rosenberg. And but talking about this, this human magnet, this trauma bond, he uses the phrase codependency when he's talking about the victim of narcissistic abuse.
[00:44:34] And I know that can sometimes offend people. They want to say, I'm not codependent, so just bear with me here. But he says codependency is both a relationship and an individual condition that can be only resolved by the codependent. It's fascinating, right? Many co-dependence are attracted to and maintain long term breakup resistant relationships with pathological narcissists. Most co-dependence are selfless and deferential to the needs and desires of others over themselves. They are pathologically caring. Now, I've never heard pathological use with caring, but as I have read this with several clients that are in relationships with narcissistic men or vice versa, that speaks to them, they are pathologically kind and caring people. So if that was in a a healthy relationship, that would be a strength and a gift. But he goes on to say they are pathologically caring, responsible and sacrificing people whose altruism and good deeds are rarely reciprocated. Well, some co-dependence are resigned to their seemingly permanent relationship role. There is actively, albeit unsuccessfully, attempt to change it, and these people become preoccupied with opportunities to avoid change or control their narcissistic partners. Despite the inequities in their relationships and the constant suffering they do not in their partnerships and codependency is not just limited to romantic couplings as it manifests itself in varying degrees and most other significant relationships. Three more paragraphs out of this book, then, will be done.
[00:45:56] Pathological narcissism, he says although pathological narcissism is not a new term, I use it in this book to represent a person with one of four disorders. Pathological narcissists are people who fit the diagnostic criteria for either narcissistic, borderline or antisocial, which is sociopathic personality disorders and or active addicts. Despite the many differences between these four disorders, they all share core, narcissistic personality thinking in emotional and interpersonal characteristics. Here's the key to varying degrees all pathological narcissists are selfish, self consumed, demanding, entitled, and controlling. They are exploited people who rarely or selectively reciprocate any form of generosity. Pathological narcissists are only empathetic or sensitive to others. When doing so results in a tangible reward for themselves and. Or when it makes them feel valued or important or appreciated, and this is what I really appreciate about the author in this book, he says, because narcissists are deeply impacted by their personal shame and loneliness, but consciously unaware of it. They do not in their relationships. Positive treatment results are rare for narcissistic rare, although active addicts are included as one of the four pathological narcissism disorders. Their narcissism may only be addiction specific. In other words, when sober and in recovery, their true personality type will surface. This can be any possibility reflected on the continuum of pathological selflessness to pathologically selfish personality types, so I highly recommend that book the human magnet syndrome. But so that's that's all I have for you today.
[00:47:24] If you feel that you are in an emotionally abusive relationship that may be doing a number on your amygdala and growing, your are doing a number on your hippocampus and growing your amygdala. The first step is I'm just thankful that you're listening to the podcast. Share this one with someone that you feel like might need this type of help and reach out and get some help. Talk through this with somebody because I know that it is very difficult to just immediately hear something like this and say, Oh my gosh. Pack my bags. I'm done. I get it. I do. I've worked with so many people that this is a process and that is normal. So I want to meet you right there where you're at. Thanks for joining me today. If you have questions specific about narcissistic abuse or emotional abuse, if you have examples of gaslighting, whenever I do an episode like this, I almost feel like making this call out. Send them to me firstname.lastname@example.org and and a lot of times I'll read those in a future episode and those help people understand that they're not crazy or they're not alone. All right. Hey, thanks for joining me today, and I wish you the best. I hope you will get lucky. Get lucky, get help if help is what you need. And I'll truly I'll see you next time on the. Stressed emotions flying. So heading out the other end, the pressures of the daily grind, it's wonderful.
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