Tony talks with Kristin Hill, a fellow therapist, about her “waking up” to the narcissism of an in-law and the challenges that come along with interrupting a “family system” that already has an established pattern of behavior around an emotionally immature individual. Kristin is a mental health counselor based in Washington specializing in postpartum mood and anxiety disorders and providing birth trauma support. Kristin is trained in EMDR and emotionally focused therapy, attachment, and working within a family system.
In October 2013, Kristin experienced a traumatic birth and birth injury. As a result, she suffered from Postpartum PTSD. Kristin said it took almost one year until she found a perinatal therapist to help her in her journey.
You can learn more about Kristin’s work at http://www.kristinhilltherapy.com or email her at email@example.com. Tony referenced EMDR, and you can find a quick overview of EMDR here https://maibergerinstitute.com/emdr-training/
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Tony: Okay. Kristen Hill, waking, waking. Take three at this point. Welcome. Here we go. Welcome to a podcast. I was going to say Waking Up to Narcissism, but part of me wonders, I think this might be a Virtual Couch and Waking Up to Narcissism material. But I love, here's a quick train of thought. I love going to movies and every now and again, I can go to one and I know nothing about the movie, and I just think it's so, I enjoy it a little bit more, but sometimes there's dud. That's not me saying that there's a potential dud in the interview. Don't get me wrong, but we had exchanged a couple emails and you have your own experiences around narcissism, and you are also a therapist. So I'm really just going to step back and say, okay, Kristin, take it away and tell me about who you are. And then tell me your story and I'm looking forward to this.
Kristin: Well, feel free to interject at any point. Well, I'm in Seattle. And I've been a therapist for, God, I don't know, like 14 years. I specialize in perinatal therapy, so any of the infertility, postpartum birth, trauma, all that stuff.
Tony: That's my, can I ask you, can I ask you a question about being in Seattle, and this might sound like a therapist hack bit, but do you find that people are more or less depressed because of the rain or the gloom or that sort of thing?
Kristin: I guess, I don't know because I don't have a lot to compare it to. You know, because I mean, I practiced briefly in Kansas City and then we moved. But I mean, everyone is definitely deficient in vitamin D, I mean I think that's just a thing.
Tony: Yeah. Do you, do you ever do you have people that use the light boxes or light therapy?
Tony: Ok. I just bought one. They’re very bright.
Kristin: Yeah. They're very bright. Yeah. I don't know. I don't know. It's hard because I think I'm seeing people too, under such specific depressed situations for the most part. So it's hard to know what's always what, but, yeah.
Tony: And what I don't, I haven't really worked with that population, so really what does your typical client come in and what are their challenges and how does that look?
Kristin: Yeah. Usually they come to me if they're pregnant and have had like, so I have a specific specialty in birth trauma. I came to it by way of myself experiencing it, and that's kind of how we sometimes do go through that. Right? We then find a passion. And so a lot of people come to me if they've had a traumatic birth, if they have had a previous one and are pregnant again. If they are having anxiety or depression while they're pregnant, wanting to kind of get ahead of it. Or often, most often after they're pregnant and really struggling with anxiety, depression and any ptsd symptoms from birth, which like one in three women view their birth as traumatic. So quite a few women, actually, that struggle with symptoms.
Tony: Okay I haven't really thought of it that way. So then if that's the case, somebody's just had this traumatic experience and now they are also supposed to now bond with this tiny human being. I can imagine what, that there's, that could be a challenge. What kind of therapy modality or what kind of things do you do in that situation?
Kristin: Well, I'm trained in emdr so that is super effective. Just any of the pieces of, you know, just using any parts of emdr, even if we don't always do reprocessing, any of the strategies connected to it are so, so helpful. So I really come from that lens. And then my history before getting trained and that is like attachment focused and yeah, I used to do more couples work, so I was trained in EFT so I kind of come from that space too, and a family, whole picture obviously, which as you know, cause you're a dad too, family issues, which is something I've noticed just really blow up after you have kids. And yeah, that's also what I kind of end up doing is helping these new mothers and fathers manage that aspect too, of family dynamics that they didn't see before. And a lot of it, I think I had mentioned to you in one of our messages is that a lot of my clients have parents with narcissistic tendencies, and so kind of, I'm like, wow, that's something that just kind of fell in my lap, but I've already had a lot of experience with it, so yeah, it's fine.
Tony: I like what you're, I like what you're saying though. It does come from experience because you start to see a pattern. Yeah. Is that what?
Kristin: Yeah. And so then I kind of end up also coaching them to like how to create their boundaries and, you know, just how to communicate with which, that's kind of how I found your podcast. Actually a client sent me your podcast cause we were working through some of that. And I was like, oh, cool. And I started listening to it and so I've sent it to other clients over the years, because it's nice to give them something to listen to more than just me.
Tony: I like what you're saying though too, because the part where people say, but our relationship was fine, and it was until, I like what you're saying and then whatever the traumatic life event is, which could be kids, moving, death, any of those, and then it's almost like that unlocks this part of this person and now how do they show up in the relationship? Okay. So what's your story? We could talk, I want to talk to you sometime real, real quick on the EMDR front too. I'm curious what your thoughts are, maybe this is, we'll have to dig into this in another episode sometime but do you feel like EMDR can work with relationship trauma as well?
Kristin: Actually I do. And I, yeah. I haven't been, I should say I haven't been specifically trained in that EMDR and relationship, but I use it with couples anyway. So, you know, anyone who's listening to this, if they're like, what are you doing? I know that there is training for relationships, EMDR, but I just, I do use it with them. Sometimes I'll have a client, she'll, he or she will do a set of reprocessing EMDR and have the partner there. Just to kind of be, I like it because it's like that attachment piece, like they're, it's creating that secure attachment within that space. So if they feel safe to do it I'll do that. But I often just use the tools from EMDR with the couple, like doing , I don't know how familiar you are and you know, with all of that.
Tony: I actually just bought all my equipment and I've done a couple of online trainings, but not the certification. So I'm very fascinated by this.
Kristin: Yeah. Well, and I think what's interesting is, like I learned, so I got trained in EMDR during the pandemic. So I haven't used any of the tools. I've just been doing virtual. And so we use bilateral tapping like this to do all the reprocessing. And so I use that with couples all the time just to help them regulate and you know, it's really effective and helps them just come down from, if they're in a space of strangulation and anger.
Tony: Yeah. And I like what you're saying, and I feel like it sounds like you've been doing this for a while. 14 years and I've been doing it, I don't know, 16, 17 years. And I feel like we do start to really find, based on our experiences a little bit of what a, I've been calling it lately in my head, a customized treatment plan. So yes, I may pull some attachment things, some EFT related things, some ACT things. And so I'm trying to look at the EMDR piece as something to maybe put into my repertoire, I guess in a sense. So, I like what you're saying, and if people are out hearing this, then they, that isn't part of their experience and they say, well, that you shouldn't do that, then that's where I go with a good old, bless your heart, because I'm going to do what works. And so I'll say this real quick and then I want to get your story because I'm looking up this document that I found that I really thought was interesting. So this is where I'm curious to know your thoughts around EMDR. It's from, are you familiar with Andrew Huberman? He's got a lot of, he's got a lot of videos on YouTube and his podcast is really good as well. And here it is. Okay, so I have a transcript of one of his, just a five minute YouTube video, and he said, “Talk therapy where people would feel a positive relationship with a therapist,” So he said, “that was the primary rationale and association with these traumatic, sometimes shameful type events. The idea is that you would simultaneously have two experiences, a negative one with the feeling of safety, and that would start to rewire the circuitry.” And so I liked how he said that, and then he talked about that with the EMDR that, and tell me if this is your thoughts too, but he said, so it's in essence speeding up that process of being able to have a traumatic experience with a safe experience. And then the part that sold me on it was where he said that when you were a kid and you're just up and you're moving forward, your eyes are moving back and forth , to scan for safety. And the cool way the brain works is according to what he said, and that's why I had to get the transcript of this is that it then suppresses like the fight or flight chemicals in the amygdala when we can see that I'm safe. And then, and this is where the stuff that I talk about with the brain that I'm now putting these pieces together. So I may be wrong, but then the brain starts to skip steps and it says, okay, I don't have to be up and looking back and forth, moving around. Eventually I trust that my eyes are moving back and forth. I must be safe. And so then, I'm suppressing the cortisol in the brain. Yeah. And so then, and then eventually it's like I don't even have to have my eyes doing it. I can be doing it with the tapping. I don't know. And I may be making all of that up.
Kristin: No, I think that's an interesting way to put it. Because I haven't used eye movement a whole lot. I look at it more as grounding and being really present. Like it's taking you away from that trauma memory, sucks you back like you think you're there again. It takes you back to the here and now. Like I'm not actually in that space anymore. And then you experience that groundedness with a safe other person that's you know, so, it's like you can experience the trauma in a safe place and remember that, oh, it's not actually happening now. It's over. So I don't know. I think that's interesting what he's saying though. For sure. Yeah. There's, yeah, I don't get, I don't nerd out super like a whole lot on all the scientific neurological, I wish I did more.
Tony: Okay. But what's funny is I realized the reason I do is because I want validation and I want people to think I'm smart because I was never very, right? So now that I'm coming to terms, but anyway. Okay. See we can just keep going. All right. So then that brings us to your story and working with narcissistic family systems. So now tell me more.
Kristin: Okay, well, okay, so before I worked with narcissistic families, I came into a situation where, very young, at 20, I started dating my husband and didn't know at the time, he didn't either, but his mom is a pathological narcissist. And this is what I'm finding with a lot of my clients who have narcissistic in-laws, you, you start dating someone and you're young and you don't know what's what, right? You don't, you're coming into a family or trying to respect their whole deal and make a good impression. And you know, I think generationally like we've all grown up, it's you know, family is important and respect family and there's been a lot of emphasis on don't make waves and just accept whatever's happening. So there's all that playing in the background.
Tony: Can I tell you, this is an ADHD joke, but I saw a shirt one time and it was this shirt and a bunch of people wearing it. It was a family reunion and it said “family over everything”. I know, right? And I said to my wife, I'm like, oh, family over emotional abuse, family over mental abuse, family over, and I thought, man, that is, but understand that's where people are coming from. So then it's like, yeah, I mean, you know, I can't, I can't question them or they're allowed to treat me like crap because they're family, and that's not okay.
Kristin: Yeah, and that is, I don't know if you've, I mean you've worked with tons of, you know, clients who've been in this situation. So it is kind of the, just accept it. Just deal. It's family, you know? So I came from some of that space, obviously like many of us did. And so in my twenties I'm like, okay, this, there's something off with this person, her son who I married was her kind of favorite golden child. Right. Gotcha. The one that was, he was the oldest, he was a musical performer. Like he just, he did all the things she wanted him to do. And so I come in and I'm, you know, I'm not like a docile, quiet person. So I come in and I'm like, wait, what? You know, kind of asking questions and, and respectfully, not really to her, but to my husband, so I married into this situation where you know, while we were dating, I had many strange experiences with her kind of trying to assert power and control. Like making me put my suitcase in the garage the first time I ever stayed at their house.
Tony: Okay. How, what, what was the rationale behind that?
Kristin: Because the room I was staying in was small, so she thought that it would be nice for me to have more space in the room. To then walk out in the winter, in the cold garage to get my clothes. So, and you know, when you're 20 and you're like, okay, like, I want to respect this person, so as you can imagine, over the years, lots of buildup of many things. And yet, because we were young, and navigating this dynamic for the first time, we tried to kind of go with the flow and not make a lot of waves. But it was hard because I'm like, this is weird, like the family really just kind of, she was the center and they tiptoed around her. I mean, the way they survived was how you do with a narcissist, you just don't make waves. You just kind of like go around her, go behind her because that's how his dad survived. And so that's how he and his brother survived also. And then I come in, I start going to grad school and I'm like, hey, you know, this is weird. I think your mom might be a narcissist, and we start having these conversations.
Tony: How did he take that initially? Was that like, I feel like sometimes it's the, was he okay with that?
Kristin: Oh he was okay because he knew she was weird and odd like, he knew that her behavior was strange and he was okay with it. But then it's like the dynamic of, okay, well how do we, and we were still, you know, mid twenties, he wants a relationship with his parents, you know, it's that whole thing where you feel that as the child you want to have a connection with the parent, even though there's this whole thing going on. Then that's dysfunctional. And of course he had all, I think it made sense to him suddenly, because he had all these stories with his mom of all this bizarre stuff she would do and put them through their whole life. And so I think it maybe in a way was a relief because he was like, oh, that's what's happening, right? But we lived far away from them, so we didn't have to deal with them a whole lot, you know? And so that was kind of nice, but then at the same time, we didn't have to learn, I think, how to push, how to set some boundaries, right? Because we would just kind of survive visits and then leave, and then there'd be all this residual stuff to the point where I would get really panicky when we would have to see them because she was so against me.
Tony: Yeah. And how many years into, how many years into the marriage was that when you started to really realize that?
Kristin: Oh, I mean, five years probably. I think I got panicky before then. It was a long time of me just trying to muscle through because I had a sister-in-law who is very sweet and didn't question things and just, and here I was like, what is happening? And I was kind of the black sheep being like, hey, this is weird. And everyone's like, let's just be cool.
Tony: Yeah, don't rock the boat.
Kristin: Yeah. And I couldn't, I couldn't not do it. So what kind of spurred everything on is we have a child. And she unfortunately happened to be in our home visiting a week after he was born, during just a really traumatic, horrible thing that I discovered from my birth and she was there. So then we were intertwined in this traumatic birth thing. And that wasn't great, right? So we had all this stuff, just like this ball of, I don't even know what to call it.
Tony: You said meshing, just a big old mess. Mesh. Yeah.
Kristin: Yeah. Just a mess. That and all this unspoken stuff, right? Because you don't talk about it because she's not safe. So then we went on this Christmas trip, all of us together, 2013, I had a one year old, almost one, and my husband's brother had two little, little kids like babies. And we're all staying in a house together. Not smart. And my mother-in-law, usually we start noticing a pattern around day three. She can't really hold back all of her narcissistic tendencies anymore. Like she tries to kind of behave. But then she can't anymore. And so around day three, she starts kind of acting up. So one of the things she does is she just wants to kind of, you know, find ways of having power and control over everyone.
So she's like, I'm going to heat up dinner for everyone. And so my sister-in-law every year, we all do the cooking because she's a terrible cook, she doesn't like to cook. So she made a big to-do about how she made dinner by heating the leftovers. And she had this unspoken expectation that we would all just come sit at the table and start to eat, and she just kept waiting and getting frustrated. Meanwhile, we're tending to little babies and she's like bubbling up with anger in the kitchen, and so my husband tries to kind of move things along, so he goes he gets a plate and puts some food on. He goes and sits at the table. She doesn't like that because it wasn't what she imagined, which was everyone sitting at the table with this nice meal she had prepared.
She walks over to his plate, she picks the food up off the plate with her hands, and she takes it back and puts it in the kitchen. She's mad. She's very mad and we're all just like, okay. Because, her sons don't often, you know, they don't really get into it with her a whole lot. But my husband was like, just kind of went off on her like, what are you doing? That is crazy and then they kind of talked it out and then everyone's just quiet and you just move on. Like it didn't happen.
Tony: What is the talk? Because I feel like the talk it out even is, what does that look like?
Kristin: It's, it's not, it's like fighting.
Tony: Agree to disagree or whatever it is. Okay. Yeah.
Kristin: Sorry, I shouldn't have said it. That was a nice way of putting it. It was like just a little back and forth. Snap, snap, snap. And then, and as you know, as you know, narcissists, they just move right on.
Tony: So, well that, and that's why I appreciate that, because I feel like I hear you with the, and then we talked it out because I feel like too, the narcissist that really is, I mean we did, we, we worked through what we're done. Now let's go ride bikes. Yeah. I mean, we're done. Yeah.
Kristin: Yeah. In fact, in your podcast the other day, I was just cracking up at so many things you said, cause it was so relatable. The narcissist wants you to confront them, they love it. And you'll see that in this story. So we all sit down, we have dinner, act like nothing happened, but I am like seething at this point because I'm like, this is not okay. We're grown up adults, you can't do that. And so we get through the evening and then the next morning, so she's, I think already a little, she's more and more heightened. Right? Wants more, I don't know. She feels very, I think out of the loop because she had this whole expectation. It's so many years of stuff, but my sister-in-law and I would be close with her and we would. You know, and so she, we're not, because she's not safe and so yeah, she feels outside, right? She feels very on the outside. So she begins to act up when she starts feeling that way, you know, after a few days. And so that morning we'd asked them if they would watch our kids while we go out, just the four of us for coffee or something, we think, oh they get the grandkids all to themselves, we get a little space, and she would not do it. She just wouldn't do it. It's like, I'm not going to do this thing you want me to do, just because I don't want to.
Tony: I'll show you.I’m hurt.
Kristin: I'm hurt, I'm angry and so no, I'm not going to do this thing. And so I hear my husband and his brother arguing with her, or my husband's arguing with her and his brother's kind of playing the younger child, let's just stop, you know? Everyone fighting, and I'm in the other room and I've had it, I've just had it. I couldn't, I couldn't deal with it anymore. And I'm, you know, I have a baby and I'm tired and so I go in there for the first time, the first time I've ever pushed back or stood up or anything to her, and I'm just like, I am done with this crap. I'm like, I just am like, you've gotta stop talking to my husband this way. He's your son. You can't treat him this way anymore. This is not okay. And then I looked at his brother cause I was frustrated with him, like, why don't you stick up for him? You know? And everyone's just like, what is happening? And because no one does this with her. And I of course, and I'm like, yeah 30 years old. And I still feel just young and naive in so many ways.
Tony: And well I think that's that part where it's like, man, I think I can get her to understand and Right. Do you feel like that, that if I just stand up to her?
Kristin: I don't even know if I was trying to do that. I don't think I was trying to get her to understand. I was just like, someone has to stop this. And I knew my husband wasn't there yet. Like I knew he couldn't do that yet. Right. Yeah. Like he wasn't. He was still trying to figure out his dynamic in the family and how to separate out. Right.
Tony: I feel bad even interrupting, but I'm curious about your opinion. So I, you know, I talk about these five steps or rules of, you know, raise your baseline, and PhD in gaslighting, and get out of unproductive conversations, set boundaries, and there's nothing you'll do or say that will cause the aha moment. But then I feel like I desperate, I desperately then want, not desperately, but then I want to go back and say, yeah there's a difference between, I'm not trying to cause them to have the aha moment, but now it does become a boundary that when they do this, I will do this. Do you feel like that was kind of more of the vibe that you were putting out?
Kristin: Yes. I definitely don't think I was trying to get through to her. But like I just wanted it to stop. And no one was stopping it, right? Because everyone was just operating as the family does. It's like the unspoken rule, right? And I'm just like, I'm not doing that anymore. So it was more I think about me and us, my husband than her.
Tony: Well, and what, and what I like about that, I just did an episode of why you don't confront the narcissist. And I was, you know, I laid down basically, right. And, I really felt confident about that. But then I also got some feedback that was people saying that, man, that makes sense. But then at some point, it, and it really was , how do I show others that there is hope almost to extricate themselves from the situation and I've been thinking about that. So, it's ironic that we're talking about this today because I feel like that one, it ended with basically saying don't even engage at all, period. But I feel like even if somebody now knows what they know is their room then to have this, again, not confrontation to change, but boundary to say, I like what you're saying like enough, you know, it is finished.
Kristin: And I would add to that when I work with clients, I, you know, I leave it up to them, obviously do they want to express anything to their parent or partner or whatever. But what we have to get really solid on is their own internal kind of self and expectations and they have to be clear, why am I doing this? What do I want to get from it? Am I solid in my own self enough to do that? So, and then it's like, okay, tell them what you wanna tell them, but just know you're not going to get the response you want. And so you have to be okay with that.
Tony: Yeah. Right. And then, no, I love it. And that's where , I had a lady at one point who was gonna confront her narcissistic dad in a particular situation. And she worked hard to get to the point where she felt like, I don't think I need to, to then feel like she was in a spot where she said, but now I can and even though, even if I get gas lit, even if I, you know, because yeah, cuz it can have a net negative effect if somebody goes in with expectations.
Kristin: It just is more injury. More injury, more injury, right? And I will say at this point, even though at that moment that I was like, we're done, we're not doing this. I wasn't trying to get to her necessarily. Later something happens where we really, we really made a mistake on that one. So it gets better. So I'm, anyway, I have that confrontation. Everyone's cried. I leave crying, I'm calling my mom like, I, you know, this is so bad, blah, blah, blah. And I'm like, we need to leave. You know, I just want to leave. And my husband comes out and he's like, so our sister-in-law, bless her heart. She thought, well, maybe it would be helpful if we all sit in the living room and talk.
Tony: That's adorable. Yes, of course I will. Yeah, she'll, she'll see the error of her ways. Everybody will work it out.
Kristin: And my only thinking was, I'm like, oh, this is not going to go great. Yeah. But I said to myself, for years I had known she had set her eyes on me as her, what do you call it?
Tony: Were you the hope?
Kristin: The foe.
Tony: Oh, you're talking about the mom.
Kristin: Yes. My mother-in-law. I'm the adversary. I'm the problem. And so I was like, kind of always trying to get everyone to really see it like you guys see how, but everyone would just like, no, I don't know. So I'm like, fine. This is an opportunity for everyone to see that this is true. And so we go in and everyone's sitting there and she just turns, my mother-in-law turns to me and just looks me dead in the eye and says, “well, my biggest problem is with you”. Oh, and in my mind she just says it and I'm like, okay. Everyone knows now that I'm, she has a problem with me. Of course it doesn't go great after that. Right. Everyone kind of proceeds to try to share various things and experiences. What is she doing? She's feeling attacked. Like you said, in that podcast the other day. She's feeling like you're bad, we’re good.
Tony: We're good. We're good. All or nothing. Black or white.
Kristin: Exactly. And so it doesn't go great, and even I get caught up in it, you know, because it's emotional and at some point I'm just like, this is not going anywhere. And I'm upset and angry and feeling still kind of alone. That was a lot. Being here a lot, it was very much feeling alone in the family because I was the one kind of saying, And, because, you know, I'm a therapist, I'm seeing it all, you know? Everyone doesn't have that background, but I'm trying to hold new boundaries and everyone's just like not trying that at all. I felt very alone in our family for many years. And so there, I'm just feeling it, feeling it, feeling it, and I'm just like, I'm done subjecting myself to this. And so I don't know how you feel about choice language in this episode.
Tony: I can, I can click a box that says explicit and we're good to go.
Kristin: Okay. I mean, I, I don't have to say the word, but I, I'm not a, like I grew up as a pastor's kid, so I'm not someone who's just like cussing people out or anything. But I just had it, and I just stood up in the room and I'm like, F this, I'm done, we're leaving. And she follows me into the room. I'm like, please don't follow me. Please stay away from me. You know, I'm just a mess. And I could tell in that moment, she's like, oh, shoot, if we don't fix this now, I might never see my son again, right?
Tony: Yeah. Yes, exactly.
Kristin: And so she's trying to like reel it in, reel it in, reel it in, and I'm literally like, leave me alone. Get out of this room. Like packing all the things. My husband comes in again, here comes that dysfunctional family dynamic, and he's like, let's just go for a drive and like then we'll figure stuff out. So we go for a drive and I'm just like sobbing. You know, we're talking and we get back to the house and my brother and sister-in-law are just upstairs, like nothing ever happened. We feel this feeling of like, if we leave, how does that look? We feel sort of this fear. I think he did more. But yeah, we ended up staying. And we shouldn't have. Yeah, we really shouldn't have. But it was like, well, everyone else is going to act like they're okay. And I felt a little bit of this. I was still struggling with like I'm always the bad guy in the family. I don't like that feeling. I don't want to be that. And here's my sister-in-law, just being loved and sweet and not ever making waves. And I'm kind of jealous and you know, I want to be like that. And so I'm like, well, we should maybe stay, I guess too, because I don't want to be the black sheep. I don't want to be that person. And so we stayed and that's one of the biggest regrets I have, honestly because I think that would've been a really clear boundary at that point. Like, we don't stay when this stuff happens but then we get through the next day and we leave and I could tell when we left that she was, my mother-in-law was internally scared about whether she would see any of us again.
Tony: And don't you feel like they take on that role of a little kid who got scolded and now they're bad, they're in trouble.
Kristin: Yeah, yes. I saw that from her so much. I have seen her, in fact, in the last few years we've had to deal with a lot of shit with her stuff, sorry. . . And we didn't see her for almost two and a half years. And this last time I saw her she was like a wounded bird around me. She was like, this just a crumpled little bird. And I just watched, watched it in amazement. It just was so interesting and I've seen her do that a few other times in our marriage. But, you know, I think what I learned from that whole thing was like, I feel empathy for that version of me. You know, because she just didn't know everything I know now. And I, and it's helped me to work with these other families because they could easily be in these situations on the holidays and Christmas. Had I known what I have known now, I never would've stayed home with them ever on a family vacation, there's so many things I would've done differently and because of that situation was just it was like the trauma that she was around after my birth, and then it was the family thing. I was then just an anxious wreck around her for a long time, I had to do a lot of therapy. We as a couple did a lot of therapy, I mean, this was 2013, so I think just in the last year and a half really, my husband has finally kind of come to a healthy place within himself around all of this. And there's so many things. It's complicated, but I just thought that's a fun holiday story because people are gonna find themselves in this.
Tony: They are. And just knowing that, and I, I appreciate this so much because yeah, you didn't know what you didn't know. You're giving yourself that compassion. But I feel like that part that I talk about on the podcast often is when you are standing up to the narcissist, it means they push more buttons and they get bigger. And, that's hard because typically it's the nice person that's trying to finally stand up for justice and what's right but then when the narcissist then goes big, I mean, I, yeah, that, that shows I appreciate your story because then that next day and you are feeling, I don't like being the bad guy and it shows you feel, shows how people fall in line. Yeah.
Kristin: Yeah. You feel like maybe I'm overreacting. So the gaslighting thing, right? Like there's a lot of that because everyone else in the family is like we're just going to move on. We're going to be fine. We don't, and I'm just like, wrecked inside. Yeah. And then I'm going, I spent years feeling like, am I overreacting? Am I making this too big of a thing, you know, just feeling like it was me and that is, that is not a fun place to be for that many years. And it was really hard. And yes, I dealt with tons of anxiety. I mean, every time we'd have any family visitor, my hands would sweat, my heart would be racing. It was traumatic for me, I think just because I didn't expect her to be the way she was from the get go, you know.
Tony: And how could you, I mean, especially when we just go in with these expectations and assumptions that people do think relatively similar to how we do. And, and I think that's hard because I feel like the people in my office spend so much time even trying to make sense of what doesn't make sense. Or you know, I'm sure they're hurting or I'm sure they're struggling too. And so I don't like that feeling, so maybe I need to let them know or reach out to them and you know, maybe we can just now have a conversation. All those things that are, it's part of that, I feel like that process that you have to go through and you have to go through it.
Kristin: Yeah, you kind of do. Yeah. Which is unfortunate.
Tony: Yeah, but I feel like stories like yours or when people can listen to podcasts or I've got this private women's group, or I feel like the more that they hear the stories I feel like it can maybe speed up the process, I don't know 10%, 15%, which I know doesn't sound incredible, but if that's a year or more that it can help somebody get through this quicker because boy, it does it when you think about all the emotional calories spent and energy spent on trying to figure out or what's wrong with, or yeah.
Kristin: And you know, I have to credit my, I had an EMDR therapist for four years. She's just, I love her to death and she helped me work through so much of that. And the thing, I think one of the things that really stuck with me is giving that negative energy to the person. Like I realized the more that I kept kind of ruminating , and hyper focusing on awful stuff she would do, right? Because she would do some awful stuff over the years, but all it did was hurt me because I wasn't helping anything by just trying to get justice or trying to fight back, or trying to get my husband to fight back. It only really hurt me and it actually continued to give her power in our marriage and I just was like, I don't want to do that anymore. I don't want to give that to her anymore.
Tony: , when I go back, even when we were talking earlier and I'm saying, okay, but can it be set in a boundary and not trying to have the aha moment , and I still feel like at, when somebody is through it, well past whatever , the break was with the narcissist mm-hmm.
that they often do almost find themselves in a spot where they feel like maybe if I would've been able to just pull this Zen mindfulness thing, . I would've calmly just grabbed my stuff and left, you know? And that I, yeah. But I feel like, again, we, but we have to go through it because I still feel like our brain's still trying , to make sense of things, even if we are aware, because, and I think that's why I struggle with that, going back from, all right, I promise I'm not trying to get them to understand, but, here's this boundary.
Even if it's to lead the people out of the wilderness or whatever. , but then I still kind of go back to this place of, but then I feel like down the road, We do, we kind of feel like, ah, , what would that have looked like if I could have , just left calmly and quietly and known that I never was gonna get that exactly right.
But then I don't think that can happen in the moment. I, I don't think it can. I don't know if that's something. Yeah.
Kristin: Cause we're just, no, I just think we're so heightened in our own emotional state. Right. We're human. We're human, we're not, yeah. , and especially when you have so many years built up of stuff, right?
Yeah. And then that situation like that where everyone's talking about all the things and the family that have happened, you just, you're human. You're gonna respond in a human way. Yeah. Even if you know the right way to be in that moment.
Tony: You know what's funny? I, I ran into one, , story of someone telling me about a friend of theirs.
And this is so funny cuz I feel like I've got one example of where a woman was in a relationship with a guy that had extreme narcissistic traits. And then when she was aware, Then she left. Mm-hmm. and, and it sounds so simplistic, but even then this person, this was saying, , , how did she do it?
And then she identified that she grew up , with a secure attachment at home, so Right. She had been taught that, well, you don't put up with that sort of thing. Yeah. You don't waste time or energy. And so I feel like it's almost sad to think that I've got one anecdotal , example of that, cuz I think maybe that's what my brain wants to say.
How do we help people get to the point where, oh, I'm not putting up with this at all, but Yes. Yeah. ,
Kristin: but if most people don't come from healthy attachments. Yeah. Which I would find, I have a curiosity about all of it too, the thing I wonder about, just because I have, I would say like 70% of who I see, they have some family member with narcissistic traits.
Yeah. You know, they're dealing with, I'm like, why is it so pervasive? Have you thought about this? Like,
Tony: no. All the time.
Kristin: is it like because of the generational stuff, like the parents in our, you know, parents' generation were just not very emotional and they didn't Yep. You know, I mean, I know why my mother-in-law's the way she is.
She came from a ton of abuse and yeah. All that stuff. But you know, , oh, oh,
Tony: Kristen. So I'm, I'm getting all excited now cuz I feel like this, I think about this constantly because yeah, when, when I started identifying this population, working more and more with it, identifying my own narcissistic traits, tendencies, uhhuh, emotional maturity, uh, then I think it was early on in the Waking Up the Narcissism podcast where I, I was very intentional , on shifting it to emotional immaturity versus.
Narcissistic traits and tendencies because I feel like when you look at it through the, , we're all emotionally immature until we're not uhhuh, , then I go uhhuh. I do, I do kind of call it generational narcissism because I feel like, , you go back to like my parents or my parents' parents, And , nobody dealt with emotion like that was weakness.
No. And so then you, the kids were growing up Absolutely not seeing it modeled and not having somebody take ownership and you don't, and you rub a little dirt in it. Mm-hmm. and, and I did one on the virtual couch recently about anxious attachment where it was kind of, you know, sorry, moms in a sense. Right.
But it was saying if the mom didn't. You know, when she needed , to feel like a good mom. She's like, come over here and gimme a hug. But when, but then she's managing dad's emotions. She's managing all these other things. So when the kid has a need for, , validation, she may say, man, not right now. Or, you know what, it's really not a big deal.
Or even a good mom is doing that. So now the, the kid then exits into a relationship and then they're saying, all I wanna do is be loved and heard. But then when somebody turns that on 'em, then they don't know what to do with it. And I think that's why almost every relationship I see the pursuer and the withdrawal kind of a concept.
Mm-hmm. . So yeah, , right? And then you gotta deal with that and self confront. So I still feel like if we can get this message out about, , Everybody is emotionally immature and start from that, then we can, I like that. Then we can realize that then we're all enmeshed and codependent. Then we go through the, and that's why I like what you're saying earlier, then we have life things happen and that's our opportunity to say, whoa, look at how I respond.
, and how do you respond? But boy, we gotta get that message out early, you know? Yes. Instead, yeah. So, so do you mind? Yeah. Like a couple more minutes or two, do you. Know that, so, so now what does that look like in your practice then? Because when you were saying about it earlier, there's a part of me wants to try to find patterns and everything, so, you know mm-hmm.
I don't know. Does somebody, but are the traumatic experiences a lot more medical trauma? Are they emotional trauma? Are they, you know, is there a correlation of somebody that is worried they're gonna do it wrong because of their family dynamic of, of birth or, or loving their kid, or, I don't know. You see where I'm, I I know.
I'm just throwing out.
Kristin: You just mean like in. . You're not talking about narcissism, you're just talking about in my birth. No. Yeah. Yeah. What am
Tony: I seeing? Yeah.
Kristin: , I mean all of those things, . Yeah. You know, , I think what's a, a through thread probably for every single one though, is , especially if there's birth trauma, you're playing out whatever.
, unhealthy attachment you had as a child in your birth room. So whether it's I'm not heard, I'm, or it's not you're playing it out, but , , it gets played out. Okay. , so. Most people in motherhood or birth are something from their childhood's gonna come up. So it's all family connected. . Yeah. Right.
So though we're working on minimizing initial really severe symptoms first, , let's get the depression under, you know, handled whether it's like meds or , more sport or whatever. Mm-hmm. . , and then it's like usually then there's space to be like, okay, well, , you know what? Internal, like, , with , emdr, it's like what's the internal negative belief about self, right?
Yes. So usually we'll go to that place. and, oh, where did that come from? And then we end up inevitably doing family work, Uhhuh, , because it's all connected.
Tony: That's it. So that's, no, Kristen, like that's, cause I did another thing on this limiting self-limiting beliefs. Mm-hmm. and like looking at where those come from.
And so I, yeah. So yeah, I can only imagine if somebody had a traumatic experience or they experienced depression , or any of those things that, , do they go right to the, what's wrong with me? Or I must not have been doing this right. Oh, always. Gotcha.
Kristin: Okay. Oh yeah. Especially with birth trauma, every woman goes immediately to, I did something.
Aw, it was me. Instead of, oh, that doctor messed up, or those nurses weren't, you know, or something just happened. It just happened. Just happened. Yeah. Yeah. It's always, and I experienced that within my own self with my birth traumas. Like, I must have done something wrong. Yeah. So, and that's because when we were ki you know, we, it's there is that through line of like, I already believe.
That I do stuff wrong or I'm bad, or you know, I'm whatever I deserve this, or if whatever that sort of negative internal belief is, it's gonna come back. It's gonna just come up in that moment. Right? Yes.
Tony: Oh, that, I think you just, you just said that, that makes so much sense of the Yeah. As a kid, I mean, we default the shame because we have that vibe of if my parents aren't responding to my needs and we don't understand, yep.
Then it's like, well, it must be me. I had to have done something wrong. It must be.
Kristin: So then if I'm in the birth room and people aren't responding to me or listening or , I'm not pushing right or I'm, you know, and there's so much like language that happens in a birth room from doctors and nurses.
They don't realize too how they pile on that like, , you know, you're not doing this enough, or you're blah blah, blah. You know, so it just piles on. Oh, all of that already. Yeah. So, yeah, it's pretty, it's intense. .
Tony: , well then I go back to that , and when I use , the acceptance and commitment therapy skills of how about you're doing nothing wrong, that's the first time you're in that moment.
Having that experience, whether it's your first kid or your eighth kid, it's still the first time you're. . And so, oh, I can't imagine. Oh yeah.
Kristin: Yes. But , till you gotta go back and clear out where that initial negative belief came from. It's hard for them to believe that in the birth. Yeah. Um, memory.
Yeah. So it's like they, you have to kind of go backward and say, oh, where did that start? Where did that come from? You know? And then kinda
Tony: look forward, do you just see people just get rid of a lot of. Heavy, heavy guilt and shame, then yes. Because of that work or that experie.
Kristin: Wow. Yes. I find that it's very effective.
Oh. Unless the person is somewhat personality disordered, which I have a few of. Yeah. You know, that's harder. That's really hard. . Um, cuz there's that lack of insight and awareness. , yeah. But for the most part, I mean, I have women all see like, Three times and we do that trauma work and it's like thumb cleared, you know?
Okay. Yeah. Doesn't mean they won't have other stuff come up, but like Right. Some of that really intense stuff. Yeah. They,
Tony: they, they needed permission to know that they were okay or that that happened. Yeah. Or, yeah, because, oh man, look at that one. Because we get our sense of self through external validation of parent.
So a parent is emotionally unavailable , or emotionally immature. Then we never got validation for much of anything, so sometimes, , you know, just having somebody say, Hey, you're okay. , that's all right. You did your best. Yes. Yeah. All that's stuff. But
Kristin: then getting them to say it to them Yeah.
Themselves, right? Yeah. They have to kind of parent their own self too. Not just from me. Well, you know, I'm saying and it's like I
Tony: give them permission. Yeah. Okay. And I like that cuz one of the things I'm, I've been writing about, and I haven't really talked about it much, but was the concept of where, so you take a, let's just take the stereotype, you know, cause I have guys that will say, you always talk about the guy being the narcissist, but just for the sake of argument, , the wife gets outta.
a narcissistic relationship. So one could, yeah, one could say that they got into that relationship because they didn't know what they didn't know, and they saw unhealthy. , relationship modeled in as a kid, which would probably come with the, they didn't get the external validation, so they were trying to fix and smooth and be the peacekeeper and they go into the relationship as the one that, you know, I gotta be kind and fix and be whoever I need to be.
Mm-hmm. to keep the peace. Mm-hmm. so no sense of self. And so then they get in the narcissistic relationship and then absolutely don't find themselves because they're continually trying to manage the emotions of a, you know, a 10 year old boy that's in an adult. Suit. Right? And so then they get outta that relationship.
And I've noticed that now when I'm helping that person. Now it says, I say, okay, you get to be whoever you wanna be, but then, yes, but then it's, there're saying, okay, who is that right? And I'm like, oh, no, no, no. This is you now. Uhhuh. , right? But now you're dealing with this adult person who has never had the validation from another human being.
Yes. And that can be a really scary. Yes.
Kristin: Yes. So I, that makes me think of a couple times that's similar.
Tony: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. So I like what you're saying, but then I also make, yes. Oh, you go. Yeah. No, go ahead, . Well, well, I was gonna say, so I saw it's nerding out here. I know, right? But I like what you're saying about though giving 'em permission, because I've been really looking at the fact of, okay, I don't want to step into a another narcissistic.
Space and then say, , I will volunteer to be the person to give you validation. But there is a right. A part where it's like, okay, but they do need to, as Sue Johnson says, in E F T, we we're designed to deal with motion and concert with another human, , but it's not supposed to be the human that's only dealing with us in concert to get their needs met.
You know? Yes. Yeah. Yeah. So, I don't know. Yeah. So we gotta figure out who that person is, but maybe if it's with the permission to then do and be, even if it doesn't feel like. the right thing mean. I would even challenge what that means. So you're right, we're nerding out. Yeah.
Kristin: Yeah. . Um, well, cause that made, go on another line.
Oh, sorry. No, I just was thinking about how, I'm noticing , the men, the men in the immaturity there in marriage
Tony: and it's pervasive. Yes. and that's where I feel like that one as a guy and dealing with a lot of that population, Uhhuh, and getting a lot of, I mean , the feedback from the Narcissism podcast is almost overwhelming with the amount of it, which I'm grateful for, but it's people that are pouring their heart out, wanting help because they finally feel heard or have a voice.
And so yeah, the men, the men that reach out to me, and I'm getting more of those, I'm gonna do something with , a men's group, but where they're saying, okay, I know I have this emotional immaturity or , these traits or tendencies. Mm-hmm. , but I don't know how to stop 'em because I feel like, you know, right.
Male brain is hardwired to, , yeah. Things go through this part of the brain that has , the emotional empathy. , it does such a brief stop to get right to the, but what do we do about it? So, and then, yes, I've been talking about like implicit memory or what it feels like to be you based off residue of lived experience year after year.
Mm-hmm. . And so their brain just jumps right to it. So even when I give somebody these four pillars and they're saying, no, I'm aware of my emotional maturity and I wanna change, it's like, it is hard to get 'em to pause long enough to say, tell me more. Or What does that feel like? Because even when they feel like they get it, it's like, No.
Okay, I get it. , so that's hard. , I'm glad she said it, but so now, you know, they go right to solution, which can still leave , the wife feeling unheard. Mm-hmm. and unseen. , and then when I stop the guy and say, man, you are doing great, but can you pause and really sit with that discomfort and try to feel what she's feeling.
That's the part where I watched somebody who's trying hard but go little kid-like, like, I don't want him like, ah-huh. just feels icky, you know? Yeah. Okay. Yes, I scheduled, I, I unfortunately scheduled a client after our interview. No worries. Else we talked.
Kristin: No, I actually, I also have
Tony: one. You do you.
Okay. So Kristen, so can people, can people get ahold of you? I mean, I was curious. , that was one of the things that was interesting. I love that , you sent like, Hey, I've got a story. And I, and now I feel like people are gonna listen to this and say, I would like to talk to her. So, or I mean, are you, oh, that's nice.
Yeah. Do you feel like you are open to people reaching out? . , yeah, sure. Okay. So , do you want 'em to contact you through my stuff or do you want, do you have a website or email? I can
Kristin: just email me. Ok. I mean, , I have a website. My website's just Kristen Hill Therapy. Perfect. Okay. , then I have an email, I think, and your assistant, I think has it too, but, okay.
, kristen health therapy gmail.com. Perfect.
Tony: Okay, so I'll put that in the show notes and then, , please come back on, , let's nerd out again. Oh yeah, that,, that was fun. Yeah, I love it. That was a lot of fun.