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"If you feel safe and loved, your brain becomes specialized in exploration, play, and cooperation; if you are frightened and unwanted, it specializes in managing feelings of fear and abandonment," says Bessel van der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score (https://amzn.to/3QtMBPG). In today's episode, Tony explores what unresolved trauma can look like in adult relationships and what steps can be taken to overcome trauma and rewire the brain for connection. Tony completes the long-awaited part 2 of his review of "The Body Keeps the Score." You can find part 1 at https://www.tonyoverbay.com/how-trauma-impacts-us-all-the-body-keeps-the-score-review-pt1/ 

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Transcript

Tony: So let me take you back to the summer of 1988. Yes. The year that I graduated high school. The top movies, and I had to look these up, “Who framed Roger Rabbit?”, “Coming to America”, “Crocodile Dundee”. Not part one, no, we're talking part two. “Big”, “Willow”, “Diehard”. And music, George Michael topped the charts with “Faith”, INXS with “Need You Tonight” and Rick Astley was never gonna give you up.

So I was a high school senior. I was growing up in Sandy, Utah, and we had a very late winter and the high school baseball season was gonna consist of probably about a dozen games. So much different than where I live now in California where the baseball season can last all year long. So I was actually looking forward to summer leagues and I had been talking to a couple of college scouts and I was really hoping to be able to play somewhere in college.

And then we head out on a senior trip to St. George where I ended up getting run over by a 20 foot dual prop ski boat and cut up both of my legs and that in essence put a little bit of an end to my baseball hopes and dreams. And then on July 31st, 1988, one of my very best friends, Trent Curl, along with his brother Toby, and Trent's girlfriend, Lisa Warren, who actually had been my eighth grade crush and Toby's best friend Jeremy were killed tragically when their car drifted into oncoming traffic on the way back home from a trip to Jackson Hole. Then a couple of years later, I remember vividly receiving a call from my dad that my brother had passed away. I had just turned 21, so that would've made him 24. And now fast forward to just two or three years ago, my daughter, McKinley, my wife, Wendy, and I were preparing to run a half marathon and we were listening to music and I was playing some Jackson Five. Now don't judge, but this is when little Michael is going all in on who's loving you, which reminded me of another version of that song by Terrence Trent D'arby. Now, Trent, my aforementioned best friend who unfortunately had passed away and my best friend Grant and I wore out this CD of Terrence Trent D'arby, I think it was called, “Introducing the Hard Line” and Terrence's version of “Who's Loving You” came on, and I just started bawling. I couldn't stop and it was out of nowhere. And here we are preparing to run this race and I feel like I'm gonna get dehydrated from the amount of tears that are flowing from my eyes. And it was visceral. It was this gut reaction, and again, it just hit me so hard and out of nowhere. And I pictured my friend Trent, the only one of us with rhythm, singing and dancing to that song.

And then just a few weeks ago, my son, his girlfriend, my wife and I were driving back from Vallejo, California. Where my son's college basketball team had played a game and we passed a sign for Mayor Island. Now it's a naval base and it's where my brother died over 30 years ago. And at the time of his passing, I didn't even know where Mayor Island was. But in 1993 when we moved to California, I didn't even realize that I would be an hour and change from where he died. And so each and every time that we drive to the Bay Area, to San Francisco, to the beach, every time we drive through that area and I pass that sign that says Mayor Island, I'm just hit with these memories of my brother. Or even more recently, just a week ago with my family in town for Christmas, we drove up to the scene of an accident. And I immediately just panic and terror just overcame me. And I had my daughter McKinley with me, and I immediately just asked her if she could pull up find my phone and make sure where all the kids were, because that just brought such a horrific feeling and thought of my daughter Alex, and the ordeal that she went through almost a year ago, and the accident that she is going to be recovering from for the rest of her life.

So today we're gonna talk about trauma. And we're gonna be using Bessel van der Kolk's book, The Body Keeps the Score as our guide because as you can see in each one of these situations, the body really does keep the score and it holds on to certain feelings, thoughts, memories, and emotions, and they can come up out of nowhere. So today in keeping The Body Keeps the Score as our guide, I wanna share some information that I think will help you start to recognize how trauma shows up in your life, and maybe more importantly, as well as what to do. So we're gonna talk about that and so much more coming up on today's episode of the Virtual Couch.

Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 356 of the Virtual Couch. I'm your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of the Waking Up to Narcissism podcast as well, which I would encourage you to go listen to this week. You're probably gonna get this Virtual Couch episode on a Wednesday, and my plan on Friday is to release an episode with an amazing woman named Ashley Boyson and she has a very popular Instagram account called The Moments We Stand and I feel like for some reason, I want to say spoiler alert, but I feel like in this day and age, a quick search, a Google search on anybody can find out what the story would be, but she tells a pretty harrowing story of feeling like everything in her life was going perfectly. Five kids, a dream home, her husband's an attorney, and just things had seemed off, but she had been overlooking a lot of red flags. And in the episode we talk about turning red flags yellow. But eventually she learns to find out that he was murdered. And I will leave it there, but it's just not even what you would probably think there and it's one of the first guests, I think when I was doing a little bit of digging before the episode where I could have watched the Dateline NBC of her, or I think maybe the true crime report or the forensic files. But she's an amazing woman with an amazing story and is really doing some great work and helping others go through tragedy and go through trauma.

And that leads a little bit into what we're talking about today. We are talking about trauma and before we jump to the episode, then please just sign up for my newsletter. I think I'm just going down that path. Just go to tonyoverbay.com and sign up for the newsletter and you will not get inundated with information. As a matter of fact, I just haven't put one out for a little while. There's a goal to be more consistent with that, but there's just a lot coming here in 2023. There are a few new podcasts. There's still the magnetic marriage subscription based podcast where you're gonna hear real coaching. There's a revamp, an upgrade to the magnetic marriage course that is coming. And now the course is different from the workshop. If you go to tonyoverbay.com/workshop, there's a $19, everything you didn't know, you didn't know about your marriage and how we show up in marriages and relationships. And that is still available. Again, that's $19 money back guarantee. And that's at tonyoverbay.com/workshop. And I still have the Path Back Pornography Recovery Program and there's actually a discount going for the month of January on that, but act fast. And my social media team, the Amazing Yeah Yeah agency has put some things together there and you can find that on my Instagram account, which is Tonyoverbay, underscore LMFT. And you can also go to Tony Overbay Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist on Facebook. And I'm there on LinkedIn and other places like that as well. So just go find those things and you'll see a lot more content and information about the things that are coming. The most exciting thing though, is a True Crime podcast that I've done with one of my daughters, and it's one of my daughters that has not been on the show. And she's amazing. She's hilarious, and she is a true crime fan. And so she has brought in a very big case from the past. There's a Netflix documentary made of it, and we're gonna talk about that for a few episodes. We've already got those filmed where she's gonna bring the facts of the crime, and I'm gonna talk as much therapy and psychology as I can, and we plan on doing this on a regular basis. So if you go to tonyoverbay.com and sign up for the newsletter, you're gonna find out a lot more about that when those things come out.

So today I want to get to trauma and I'm going to refer to a document and now I look back on this and I did an episode a part one episode on The Body Keeps the Score and it was back in episode, oh, I had the notes, but it was in the 200 and twenties I think. So we're at 356 now. So we're talking a couple of years ago is when I did this and I did something that I do on occasion where I finished that episode, I got through a little bit of the notes that I had on The Body Keeps the Score, and then I looked back at the transcript and I said, okay, we're gonna do a part two, probably a part three, maybe even a part four. Stay tuned. So here we are two years later. Let's get to part two.

But, I also want to share that the notes that I'm referring to, and I believe I shared this back two years ago. I found an amazing, just an amazing book review of The Body Keeps the Score. So I listened to the audio book and it really is, it's a game changer. I know that gets used an awful lot, but the book, The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk is, I feel like a little bit of the bible of trauma in a sense. And this is someone's notes, 10 pages worth of single space notes. And they have just made this available on the internet, but I could not find who created this 10 page document of notes and so I'm gonna refer to that and all credit goes to this unnamed person, but I wanna read the summary that they did and then we're gonna jump down into more of where we left off in that part one.

So I'm gonna jump down into just really getting into more of the, what do we do about trauma? But here's what the person said about their book club notes on The Body Keeps the Score. They said, “My top takeaways from The Body Keeps the Score is that there are many different types of trauma that a person can and most likely will experience during their life, from childhood abuse and or emotional neglect, to an auto accident, war, a terrorist attack, or sudden death of a loved one. Much of trauma is a normal, albeit, uncomfortable neurological response to a dangerous situation, and so once a person experiences a trauma on a subconscious level, their brain, again, on a subconscious level, begins to not only organize their worldview, but also create actions around their response to those traumas in an attempt to keep them safe. So this can lead to a lot of problematic behaviors if the person is trying to numb out or escape from remembering what happened. Or it can lead them to feeling crazy because we are unable to numb out and feel stuck in a state of being hyper aroused, such as feeling chronically anxious or on edge or chronically hyper-vigilant about people and places and things.”

And that might not even seem like it's related to our trauma. So if you are someone that just runs more anxious in general, or somebody that is more depressed than normal or usual. These are things that I feel like, especially as a therapist, that it can be really good to go in and talk through, because a lot of times these things can just be responses to trauma. And trauma, and I love how this person lays that out, that it can be everything from the things that we often think of, childhood abuse, but it can also be emotional neglect. It can also be accidents, car accidents. But that part about emotional neglect, and this is something that I talk so much about on this podcast, is I really feel like we can bless all of our parents' hearts, but I just feel like it's almost impossible to get that right, meaning parenting, because, and I overuse this very simplistic example, but if a seven year old kid asked for a pony for their birthday and they don't get the pony, they don't say, yeah, that was a pretty big stretch because we live in an apartment and there's no room for a pony. The seven year old said, I would like a pony, please. And so in their mind, they have concocted some version of a reality where who knows, maybe they're gonna keep the pony in the bathroom, or maybe they'll just take it out for walks. I mean, people have dogs. Why not a pony? But they've created some sort of narrative that is gonna make sense. So then when they're not given that pony, then they don't just say, yeah, I understand that didn't make a lot of sense. Maybe we don't have the financial means for a pony. And where will we put a pony? In their mind they think, oh, my parents don't like me because I asked for a pony and I didn't get it. Now that's again, oversimplified, but when we really look at the concepts around what abandonment feels like as a kid, it's that we come out of the womb and we utter a small whimper and everyone jumps to attention and takes care of us. And so that's our factory setting. And that's the way that we survive, is that we express our needs and then when we're young, people meet our needs. And as we get older and we start to just go through life, everybody isn't jumping up and down to meet our needs. So then we make these pretty big demands or requests and people don't respond.

Then we can start to feel like what's wrong with me? And we have this default programming of shame because it must be because people don't love me, that I didn't get the pony for my seventh birthday, or that I don't get to eat candy corn for every meal. I mean, it is corn. The word corn is there, so what's the big deal? And so trying to make sense of things when we're a kid, when we don't even know what is going on, in essence, can lead to those deeper feelings of abandonment, which then leads on into that world of attachment. And attachment is what do I have to do to get my needs met? Do I have to be incredibly hilarious and funny? Do I have to be the athlete that gets everyone to notice me? Do I need to be the one who just keeps the peace in the home, or do I need to be the one that always gets bad grades and so everybody puts their attention on me? So there's so many different roles that we almost slide into in order to get our needs met, and we wanna get those needs met because we feel like if we don't get those needs met, we're gonna die.

And so emotional neglect can also feel like trauma. So now all of a sudden we come into our adult years, and if we were that person that was in charge of managing everybody else's emotions, and that was the way that we got our needs met, or that's the way we were noticed or seen, or the way that we felt validated, then we can bring that into our adult relationships. And all of a sudden when everybody is just doing their own thing comes the feeling of trauma or what it can feel like to be, you can be, nobody cares about me, or I'm unlovable. And I feel like if you go back through these Virtual Couch archives in a sense, there's so much that I feel like we've discussed over the last year or two about different things from everything from attachment styles, I mean, look at that concept around an anxious attachment. Here's somebody that, as a kid said, oh, I want love. I really desperately want love. But if their parent, and again, this is a, bless their parent's heart. If their parent is saying, hey, not right now, champ, I got a lot going on. Or, you know, this TV show's about to start, or, I'll get to you later tomorrow. Or, hey, actually you're fine. Don't worry about it. If things aren't really as big of a deal as you think they are, then when the kid is saying, hey, I need connection. I need to know that I matter. And then, again, even when they're doing their best is saying, hey, not right now. But then if the parent all of a sudden is feeling down, sad, and says, man, I really want to feel like I'm a good parent, and they go to their kid and say, hey, come give mom or dad a hug, or, you know, I love you. Right? Or do you see all these things that we're doing for you? So then when the kid maybe isn't necessarily looking for somebody to be there for them, but the parents saying, I'm ready. Come over here, gimme a hug. So we almost have this mixed view of attachment. So now all of a sudden we get into our adult relationships and we say, the only thing I want in life is to be loved. And then someone focuses that bright spotlight of love or attention onto us, and all of a sudden, we feel like, I don't really know how to do this. I mean, this is what I want. And so now we're looking for that external validation and we're telling the person that we've desperately wanted to love us. Well, not that way, maybe do it a different way. 

So we bring all of these traumas, and that may sound like a big word, but for today we're gonna use trauma a lot. But we bring those traumas into our adult relationship. And that's why I feel like this book, The Body Keeps the Score, just hits on so many different levels because then, again, we're talking about everything from childhood abuse, and we can have sexual abuse, physical abuse, but we're also getting into that emotional neglect. And I feel like that is more probably common of a form of trauma that I see in my office than the physical or the sexual abuse. So the author of this paper again says, “We begin to organize on a subconscious level, things into our worldview, and we create actions around our responses to these traumas and in an attempt to keep us safe, but it can lead to a lot of problematic behaviors if we're trying to numb out or not remember what happened. We can feel crazy because we're unable to numb out and we feel stuck in the state of being hyper aroused, feeling chronically anxious, on edge, hyper-vigilant. And we may not even recognize that these are things that are related to trauma,” and they say, “while there is a lot of emotional and physical pain associated with trauma, we can overcome it.”

There's the big takeaway that we're gonna get to today, and this is why this book is so incredible because it gives solutions on how to overcome it. And I feel like as so many things with mental health, the exact opposite of what we're probably doing the most of right now, such as running away from our feelings, thoughts, and, emotions and dealing with them later are feeling like they aren't as big of a deal as we think they are, not the greatest idea for dealing with or processing trauma. So I'm gonna give you some tips on how to deal with that today. So they go on to say that, yeah, “So while there's a lot of emotional and physical pain associated with trauma, we can overcome it. This is done by understanding that what we are experiencing is largely neurological and that we aren't crazy or somehow beyond help. That once we bring awareness to our feelings and our actions and we see them as more of a defense mechanism than something that makes logical sense, then we can start to regain control of our brain, our body, and our life.” So when you start to just look at this, and I love it, it's an acceptance and commitment therapy model of check this out, look at how I'm behaving, that's interesting. So based on these situations, these circumstances that I'm going through at this very moment in time, here's how I react. Because when you can take yourself out of that moment, see yourself in the context of that moment, then we can start to look at, what is the trauma maybe that has led to that response in that moment?

So, the person said, “The big gift in trauma is self-awareness, but it's a gift that we have to work hard at unwrapping,” but then they say, “but boy, is it worth it.” So they go on to say that they hope you enjoy this book as much as I did, and my notes are below. So thank you person who created all of these notes, and if you want a quick recap on the first part of the book, then I do, I highly recommend that you go check out episode 220 something or 200 and something. I'll put a note, I'll put a link to the episode in the show notes. But that's the first part of this episode on trauma. 

So where I'm gonna jump in is we left off on the other episode talking about trauma being misdiagnosed and mistreated and talking about the diagnostic criteria for trauma, so I'm gonna jump into this person's notes right after that trauma is largely neurological, so that's what we talked about a little bit in the opening. So when people are really upset, they often feel like they are losing their mind. Now in technical terms, they're experiencing the loss of their executive functioning. You might hear this from time to time, this loss of executive functioning, because that's a big part of other things such as Asperger's or some of these disorders. And the loss of executive functioning is, in essence the loss of being able to, that executive functioning area is the area where we make sense of things. It's often called our rational brain, our logical brain. So, the brain on trauma. The limbic brain and the visual cortex show increased activation and the speech center shows markedly decreased activation. So the more intense that our emotions are, it activates that amygdala, our fight or flight part of our brain. And so then our rational, our cognitive brain, and I love how Bessel van der Kolk says that our rational cognitive part of the brain is the youngest part of our brain, and it only occupies about 30% of your skull. And its primary concerns with the world outside of us are understanding how things and people work and figuring out how to accomplish goals, manage our time, and then sequence our actions. And I love how he says that's the youngest part of our brain, so intense emotion and this, hyperactivated amygdala, the fight or flight response, now that's the old guard, the OG, that's been there forever, that's there to protect us. So it's this newer part of the brain is the one that says, okay, I think we're safe now, what do you wanna do? And so Bessel van der Kolk says, “The brain is built from the bottom up. So the most primitive part, also known as the reptilian brain, is located in the brainstem just above the place where our spinal cord enters the skull.” And that reptilian part of the brain is responsible for hunger and thirst, pain, breathing, pretty important, ridding the body of toxins, meaning urinating, defecating, poo poo, pee pee jokes. Uh, anybody as a dad that's getting older. The brainstem, the hypothalamus, which sits directly above it, controls the energy levels of the body. 

So again, we've got this very base version of the brain that is eat, drink, pain, react, emote, breathe, poop, pee. And from there we get right above that, the hypothalamus that controls the energy level of the body and it coordinates the endocrine and immune systems and keeps the internal balance that we know as homeostasis. So we go right up from the reptilian brain and we've got the limbic system, or they call it the mammal brain. This is the seed of emotions. This is the monitor of danger, the judge of what is pleasurable or scary, the arbiter of what is or is not important for survival purposes. So the limbic system is shaped in response to experience. So the more that you do, the more that you think and feel, that shapes the limbic system. Again, this mammal brain, so that in partnership with the, you know, as an infant, your own genetic makeup and your inborn temperament, those are what starts to shape what it feels like to be you. So, this limbic system, so that's when I talk about nature and nurture, birth order, DNA abandonment, rejection. Now we're talking limbic system. And so whatever happens to a baby contributes to the emotional and perceptual map of the world that it's developing and that its brain creates. This is where he says, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” Also known as neuroplasticity. And that's not something that's just set in concrete at birth or at age three, or five, or 12, or 19 or 25.

We've got more and more data that say that the neurons that fire together, wire together, throughout your life. So now if you feel safe, you feel loved, then your brain becomes specialized in exploration, play, cooperation. But if you're frightened, if you feel unwanted, then it specializes in managing feelings of fear and abandonment. So in the book, The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk says, “The emotional brain equals the reptilian brain and limbic system.” So the emotional brain is at the heart of the central nervous system, and its key task is the lookout for your welfare. If it detects danger or there's any special opportunity that you need to be aware of, it alerts you by releasing a little dose of hormones, and the result is a visceral gut sensation, ranging from feeling a little bit queasy to the grip of panic in your chest, and it will interfere with whatever your mind is currently focused on, and it'll get you moving physically and mentally in a different direction. So now, well-functioning frontal lobes are crucial for a harmonious relationship with our fellow human beings. So without flexible, active frontal lobes, people become creatures of habit and their relationships start to become superficial and routine. And then he talks about invention, innovation, discovery, and wonder. They're all lacking when you are just trying to survive. And I see this so often. If I go into the people that are in emotionally abusive relationships and I talk about it, I like to call it, it's a waste of emotional calories and emotional energy when somebody is continually just trying to manage their feelings and emotions and regulate their safety when they're in a relationship with a significant other. Where when people feel safe, then they are free to explore, to play, to be cooperative, and when that is the what it feels like to be you on the inside, then you're more open to invention, innovation, discovery, and wonder. But when you are in this, I have to protect myself, then we never get to those things and it never becomes a, you are the best version of you. So, those frontal lobes, let me go over that quickly. Bessel van der Kolk says, “Our frontal lobes can also, but not always, stop us from doing things that will embarrass us or hurt others. We don't have to eat every time we're hungry or blow up every time we're angry or kiss anybody who arouses our desires,” but he says that, “it is exactly on that edge between impulse and acceptable behavior where most of our troubles begin.” So the more intense that visceral or sensory input from the emotional brain, the less capacity that the rational brain has to put a damper on it. So if you think about that, if you are one who falls prey to impulse on a regular basis, if you can start to see where I'm going here, you can start to relate that to trauma.

And I'm not saying, okay, now, you know, oh my gosh, we gotta dig in there and rewire your entire brain. But sometimes just being aware that, oh, I am a bit impulsive and I get right between that edge of impulse and acceptable behavior. And that is where my trouble begins. And so that visceral or emotional brain, if it is very impulsive, that most likely that's there to protect me for some reason. All of a sudden I feel like I have to impulsively act on something, or maybe I'll never get another chance to do that again, or that's the only time that I feel this sense of adrenaline or rush. So just being aware of that often is part of this road to recovery. So he says, “Past trauma and the ongoing threat perception system of the brain, it affects people's current reactions.”

So this amygdala, the fight or flight part of the brain makes no distinction between past and present, once it's triggered, even if the trigger isn't the same as the original trauma, then your brain is still gonna say, oh, I'm triggered. And it's not trying to say, yeah, but this one doesn't seem as real. So in the book he talks about the challenges, not so much learning to accept the terrible things that have happened, but learning how to gain mastery over one's internal sensations and emotions. Sensing the feelings and the emotions, naming the feelings and the emotions, and identifying what's going on inside of you is really the first step to recovery. And let me talk a little bit about the amygdala and then I'll get away from the brain here and we'll talk more about, I wanna hit a little bit on this concept of mirror neurons, but the amygdala's really important. It's important that our amygdala is working correctly. Bessel van der Kolk says “It's like a smoke detector for danger, we don't want to get caught unaware by a raging fire, but we also don't want to get into a frenzy every time we smell smoke.” So we need to be able to detect whether somebody is getting upset with us. But if the amygdala goes into overdrive, then we may become chronically scared that people hate us or that we feel like they are out to get us.

So our amygdala means well, but if that panic button is stuck on, then that can be something that we're gonna need to work through. And so therapy, and I love that Bessel van der Kolk talks about this, “Therapy only works if a person is grounded in the present moment,” you know he says, can feel their butt on the chair, see the light coming through the window and feel calm and safe. So, “being anchored in the present while revisiting the trauma, that's what opens up the possibility of deeply knowing that the terrible events belong to the past.” And this is one of the most powerful things about talk therapy. And I know that this is so powerful. I see it on a daily basis that when somebody can sit there and they are grounded and they are able to talk and express these feelings and emotions and tell these stories from the past or even things that are going on in the present, or their fears of the future and they can talk about those and express those in a way that is safe and have somebody there that is not trying to tell them, well, why didn't you do this? Or you should do this instead. But when somebody is really there and saying, and then what happened? And tell me what that was like, and how did you feel? That all of a sudden we're grounded, we're anchored in that moment, and we're able to express something scary and we feel safe. And that's starting to rewire or change the neuropathways of the brain. So again, therapy works when somebody's grounded, they're in that present moment. So being anchored while revisiting trauma opens that possibility of deeply knowing that the terrible events belong to the past. If a person's in a flashback or they don't feel calm or safe, if they start to feel defensive or aggressive, and feel unsafe or not believed, then therapy doesn't work and at best it can make a person almost re-traumatized. And that's the part where if, and I'm not trying to say that as a knock on therapist, but I'm trying to say that as a bless the heart of your friends, that if we start to open up about trauma to those and you do not feel believed and you do not feel safe, then again, not only does it not work as a way to help heal, but it can make you almost feel re-traumatized because there's somebody that doesn't believe you.

So I said I would move away from the brain after the amygdala, but Bessel van der Kolk has a great way to talk about the thalamus. “So our thalamus is like a cook. It takes information from all the senses, and then it blends it with our autobiographical memory. So breakdown of the thalamus explains why traumas are primarily remembered not as a story with a beginning, middle, or end, but as isolated sensory imprints, images, sounds, physical sensations that are accompanied by intense emotion, usually terror and helplessness.” And so in the book, the Buddha Brain, the author talks about the mechanisms of memory. And the way that memory works is such an interesting thing where we conjure up an image and then we fill in all the gaps. And it's a more productive use of neural real estate, I believe, the author Rick Hansen said. But that's where we start getting into this concept of confabulated memory, where every time that we recall a memory, then we're gonna fill in the gaps with different details. And then when we put that memory away, now that's the new confabulated memory. So in normal circumstances, Bessel van der Kolk says the thalamus also acts as a filter or a gatekeeper. So he says, “This makes it the central component of attention, concentration, and new learning, all of which are compromised by trauma.” So people that have PTSD have their floodgates wide open, they lack a filter, and they're on constant sensory overload. So in order to cope, they try to shut themselves down and they develop tunnel vision and hyperfocus. And if they can't shut down naturally, they may enlist drugs or alcohol to block out the world. And the tragedy is that the price of closing down includes filtering out sources of pleasure and joy as well. It's as if the brain has to do all or nothing thing, because it's so fearful or afraid of trauma. And Bessel van der Kolk talks about mirror neurons. This is a really interesting concept that there's a belief that these mirror neurons could be the key to all kinds of things in the future. Mirror neurons explain empathy, imitation synchrony in the development of language. “Mirror neurons,” he says, “are like neural wifi. We pick up not only another person's movement, but their emotional state and intentions as well.” So when people are in sync with each other, they tend to stand or sit in similar ways. Their voices take on the same rhythms, but mirror neurons also make us more vulnerable to others' negativity, so that we respond to their anger with fury or we're dragged down by their depression. And because trauma almost invariably involves not being seen or not being mirrored and not being taken into account, then treatment for trauma needs to reactivate the capacity to safely mirror and be mirrored by others, but also to resist being hijacked by others' negative emotions. And he talks about two ways to implement change.

So now we're talking top down or bottom up. “So structures in the emotional brain decide what we perceive as dangerous or safe. There are two ways of changing the threat detection system from the top down,” which he says, “is through modulating messages from the medial prefrontal cortex.” What does that mean? Mindfulness, meditation, yoga. So from the top down, being able to just have that pause and bring in information in a much more calm way. Or he says, “From the bottom up through the reptilian brain, through breathing, through movement, and through touch, which helps recalibrate your autonomic nervous system.” And he goes into a lot of detail about the autonomic nervous system as well as the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic, I'll talk about those two because people have really clever things that they remember with the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.

So the sympathetic nervous system acts as the body's accelerator. It includes the fight or flight or what Darwin referred to as the escape or avoidant behavior. Functions with the use of emotions. The parasympathetic or PNS works against emotions and it promotes self-preservation. So functions like digestion, wound healing, exhaling, that helps to calm us down. So, you know, inhaling helps to activate adrenaline. Exhaling helps us to calm down. So you can access your whole, you know, the sympathetic and parasympathetic are part of this autonomic nervous system, and you can access those through breathing, movement, touch. I mean, breathing is one of the few body functions under, it's underneath both conscious and autonomic control. There's a neuroscientist named Paul McClain. He compares the relationship between the rational brain and the emotional brain to that between more or less of a competent rider and his unruly horse. “So as long as the weather is calm and the path is smooth, the rider can feel like they are in excellent control. But then unexpected sounds or threats from other animals can make the horse bolt. So then forcing the writer to hold on for dear life.” So likewise, when people feel like their survival is at stake, or they're seized by rages, longings, fear, sexual desires, they stop listening to the voice of reason. And it makes little sense to argue with them.

 Sometimes this is that, I think I did an episode long ago on the passenger and the rider, and so it's that same thing. So the rider can be in excellent control. You know, the rider is that rational brain. And then the emotional brain is the animal that is being ridden. And then if that animal is spooked, so to speak, that emotional brain, then it can just take off. And that rational brain is literally hanging on there for dear life. So a person who has been in anger management classes, for example, maybe seven or eight times, might extol the virtue of the technique by saying they are great, they work terrific, but then they find out, as long as you're not really angry.

When our emotional and rational brains are in conflict, for example, when we're enraged with somebody that we love or frightened by somebody that we depend on, or we lust after somebody who is off limits, then a tug of war ensues and it gives us a visceral experience. Our gut, our heart, our lungs, they will lead to both physical discomfort and psychological misery. And then the next component that he talks about is adrenaline. So insults and injuries are remembered, the best because the adrenaline that we secrete to defend against potential threats helps us to engrave those incidents into our minds. So how crazy is that? So even if the content of the remark fades, our dislike for the person who made it usually persists. So that adrenaline is a pretty neat thing except for when it's not. So when, when that adrenaline is flowing, you know, and it's there to defend us against potential threats, it's saying, hey, don't forget this guy. And so now you all of a sudden almost have this anchored memory that I don't know if I'd like that person very much. So then when something reminds traumatized people of the past, their right brain reacts as if the traumatic event were happening in the present. But because their left brain isn't really working well at that moment, they may not be aware that they are re-experiencing and reenacting the past.

Because to them, they're furious, they're terrified, they're enraged, they're ashamed, they're frozen. And after that emotional storm passes, then they might look for something or somebody to blame it on. Well, look at what you made me do, and if we're honest, I think most of us have blamed others for our behavior from time to time. But hopefully once we cool down, hopefully we can admit mistakes. But trauma absolutely interferes with this kind of awareness, and that's what I talk often about over in the world of emotional immaturity or narcissism, that it really is, it's a response to childhood trauma where somebody is left without a real sense of self needing external validation and lowered empathy because that trauma interferes with our awareness, people don't experience trauma in the same way. So not everybody experiences trauma in the same way. Some are on hyper alert, some go numb and have decreased activation, blank stares, absent minds. Those are the outward manifestation of the freeze function and so much of how we react to trauma, which survival mode we go into as adults, is how we learn to react to trauma as children. If we numb out as kids, we might numb out as adults, and if we went into fix it mode as kids, or if we had to get our needs met, we had to go juggle or clean the house, we might do that stuff when we're older as well. But after trauma, then many people are either hypervigilant or they're numb. So if they're hypervigilant, then they can't enjoy the ordinary pleasures that life has to offer. And if they're numb, then they have trouble absorbing new experiences, or they may not be alert to signs of real danger. And what Bessel van der Kolk talks about is when that amygdala, what he calls malfunctions, “People no longer run when they should be trying to escape, or they no longer fight back when they should be defending themselves.”

So it can be really challenging to help people deactivate these defense mechanisms that once ensured their survival. So the key about working with trauma is it's not about stopping a behavior like yelling, it's about deactivating a defense mechanism that leads to that yelling. So, to sum this up really quick, it says four main points to know about trauma. “People are patients, but their participants and their healing, and they need to restore their autonomy. Victims of trauma continue to be there instead of here.” So when somebody is in their trauma response, they're there, not here and we need to get them back to here. And you can only be fully in charge of your life if you acknowledge the reality of your body and you're aware of all of its visceral dimensions. And then he also says that “People who suffer from flashbacks,” and I think the vast majority of us do in some form or fashion, maybe that sounds like a dramatic concept, but it's not, “often consciously or unconsciously organize their lives around trying to protect against them.” And this is where I feel like the concepts around we're trying to manage our own anxiety and we do that often through the control of others or trying to control our own environment where in reality when all we're trying to do is control ourselves or others, the truth is there's a lot of disorder or there's a lack of control in the world, and that's where acceptance can come in.

And acceptance can be scary, especially when our body is trying to protect itself by gaining control. So again, they organize their lives, trying to protect themselves. They might work out trying to be strong enough to fend off an attacker or numb themselves with drugs to try to cultivate an illusionary sense of control in highly dangerous situations like bungee jumping and skydiving. Fighting unseen dangers is exhausting and it leaves people fatigued and depressed and weary. And so if the elements of trauma are replayed over and over, then the accompanying stress hormones engrave those memories even more deeply. Again, the neurons that fire together wire together, and all of a sudden then ordinary day-to-day events become less and less compelling. Not being able to deeply take in what's going on around you, it can make it impossible to feel alive. And it becomes really difficult to feel the joy as well as the aggravation of ordinary life. It can be harder to concentrate on the tasks that are in front of you if you're not feeling fully alive in the present. You know? And when you're not, Vessel van der Kolk says, “Not being fully alive in the present, it keeps you more firmly imprisoned in your past.” So there's a lot of different responses to trauma. It can be everything from frantic to collapse. It can be focused, it can depend on your level of danger, but he says that angry people live in angry bodies. That the body of trauma victims are tense and defensive until they find a way to relax and feel safe. And one of the best ways to do that really is to begin by describing physical sensations that are beneath those emotions. The pressure, the heat, the muscular tension, the tingling, the caving in, the feeling hollow. And then work on identifying sensations that are associated with relaxing or pleasure. You know, part of the job as a therapist is to help people become more aware of literally their breathing, their gestures, their movements, paying attention to subtle shifts in your body, such as tightness in your chest or gnawing in your belly, or especially when you talk about negative events that sometimes people claim, well, no, that those things aren't a big deal. The most natural way for human beings to calm themselves when they're upset is by clinging to another person. But this is hard if the person was physically or sexually violated, because they often then are terrified of bodily conduct.

He talks about the power of hitting rock bottom. I think about this often that rock bottom truly is this principle of hindsight. But he says, “Therapy often starts due to some inexplicable or problematic behavior. Not sleeping or eating, fear of others, partner cheating, jumping into the fix of the problem is not the solution. It takes time and patience to allow the reality behind these symptoms to reveal themselves.” So you can't just jump in there and fix something in a session or two, but starting to be aware and knowing that I think I want to get some help is a huge step. And he says, “Many traumatized people find themselves chronically out of sync with the people around them and many find comfort in groups where they can talk about what happened to them with others who have gone through things that are similar.” This often helps alleviate this sense of isolation, but usually at the price of having to deny their individual difference or isolating oneself into a narrowly defined victim group can promote a view of others as irrelevant or at best dangerous.

Which eventually only leads to further alienation. So a lot of times people then stay away from these groups or people that have had similar experiences because their brain tells them stories like, well, I just don't wanna get in there and just complain all the time. And I feel like that's an adorable story that your brain is telling you to keep you away from the unknown, when in reality that unknown is what can heal you. If relationships with people don't help, relationships with other mammals can, animal therapy, it's very real. But talking through things is really important. Sigmund Freud saw or thought that the lack of verbal memory is central and trauma, and that if a person does not remember that he is likely to act it out. I thought that was such a deep thought. Freud said he reproduces it, not as a memory, but as an action. He repeats it without knowing, of course, that he's repeating it. And in the end we understand that this is his way of remembering. As early as 1893, there was a study called The Talking Cure, Freud's and Brewer, the individual hysterical symptoms immediately and permanently disappeared when we had succeeded in bringing clearly to light the memory of the event by which it was provoked. So when the patient had described what that event was in the greatest possible detail and had put that affect into words. So there needs to be, this was a quote from that study. “There needs to be an energetic reaction to traumatic events. And if there isn't, the affect remains attached to the memory and cannot be discharged.” Tears and acts of revenge are how most people discharge their trauma. So if people don't consciously remember, they react. So if you've been hurt, you need to acknowledge and learn how to name what happened to you. 

I'm gonna wrap this up with a couple more things real quick here. In 2002, Dr. Spencer Eth interviewed 225 people who had escaped the Twin Towers. And when asked what had helped them recover the most, the survivors credited acupuncture, massage, yoga, and EMDR, in that order. And massage was particularly helpful among rescue workers. So the survey suggested that most helpful interventions focused on relieving the physical burdens generated by trauma. So trauma makes people feel like either somebody else or like nobody. And people often lose their ability to speak. And in order to overcome trauma, you need to help get back in touch with your body and with yourself because our sense of ourselves is anchored in a vital connection with our bodies. We do not truly know ourselves until we can feel and interpret our physical sensations. And we need to be able to register and act on these sensations to navigate safely throughout life. So if you are unaware of what your body needs, you can't take care of it. If you don't feel hunger, you can't nourish yourself. If you mistake anxiety for hunger, you may eat too much. And if you can't feel when you are full, you'll keep eating. So this is why cultivating this sensory awareness is such a critical aspect of trauma recovery. Traumatized people need to learn that they can tolerate their sensations, that they can befriend these inner experiences and they can cultivate new action patterns. And that's done through everything from talk therapy to yoga, to, as you mentioned, everything from massage and emdr.

But moving forward into healing, no one can treat away abuse or rape, molestation, or any other horrendous event and what has happened can't be undone, and that's not said in a negative way, but what can be dealt with are the imprints of the trauma on the body, the mind, and the soul, so that crushing sensation in your chest that you may label as anxiety or depression, the fear of losing control, always being on alert for danger or rejection, the self-loathing, the nightmares, the flashbacks, maybe the fog that keeps you from staying on task or fully engaging in what you’re doing. Or being unable to fully open your heart to another human being. Trauma robs you of the feeling that you are in charge of yourself. So the challenge of recovery is to reestablish ownership of your body and your mind, and to feel what you feel without becoming overwhelmed or enraged or ashamed or collapsed. So for most people, there's four things. Finding a way to become calm and focused. Learning to maintain that calm in response to images or thoughts, sounds or physical sensations that remind you of your past, or finding a way to be fully alive in the present and engage with the people around you and not having to keep secrets from yourself, including secrets about the ways that you've managed to survive.

And one of the key things of doing this is finding yourself around safe people and also finding out things that matter to you. It goes back to are you acting in accordance, in alignment with your values or are you living a life full of socially compliant goals or doing things that you feel like you're supposed to do or you'll let other people down? Because that feeling that I may let someone else down can absolutely be tied back to some childhood trauma because you're responsible for you and the best way to find out who you are is to start to take action on things that matter to you and see where that takes you. So, welcome to the world of trauma recovery.

If you have questions, thoughts, or any other things that maybe we can address in future episodes, then send me a note contact@tonyoverbay.com or through my website or comment on the post that will go up about this on my social media feeds on Instagram. I would love to get your opinions because trauma can absolutely be overcome, but the exact thing that we often are afraid of, of talking about it and I hope you heard that part where needing to be able to talk about it with people that do feel safe, can absolutely help you move through and pass trauma, and be able to invite it to come along with you while you start to take action on things that matter. And then you really start to find yourself and live this more purposeful, intentional, value-based life. And that's an amazing place to be, rather than wasting all of your time in emotional calories and energy trying to manage your emotions, manage your anxiety, or control your environment. All right, send me your questions and we'll see you next time and taking us out per usual, the wonderful, the talented Aurora Florence with her song, “It's Wonderful”. We'll see you next week and have an amazing time. See you next week on the virtual Couch.

Tony shares the 4th installment in the "Death By a Thousand Cuts" series. He gives examples of how being in a relationship with a narcissist or extremely emotionally immature person can feel like "death by a thousand cuts." All of the examples used in this episode come directly from his private women’s Facebook group for women in relationships with narcissistic or emotionally immature people in their lives, whether it is their spouse, parent, adult child, friend, boss, or religious institution. If you are interested in joining one of Tony’s groups for people in relationships with narcissists, please reach out to him through his website http://tonyoverbay.com

And follow Tony on the Virtual Couch YouTube channel to see a sneak preview of his upcoming podcast "Murder on the Couch," where True Crime meets therapy, co-hosted with his daughter Sydney. You can watch a pre-release clip here https://youtu.be/-RkRq8SrQy0

Subscribe to Tony's latest podcast, "Waking Up to Narcissism Q&A - Premium Podcast," on the Apple Podcast App. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/waking-up-to-narcissism-q-a/id1667287384

Go to http://tonyoverbay.com/workshop to sign up for Tony's "Magnetize Your Marriage" virtual workshop. The cost is only $19, and you'll learn the top 3 things you can do NOW to create a Magnetic Marriage. 

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=bSWcEQ

59 Transcript

Hey, everybody. Welcome to Waking Up to Narcissism episode 59. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of the Virtual Couch podcast. And soon, many other podcasts, Murder On the Couch, cue ominous music, is a podcast that I'm doing with my daughter Sydney, and she is a huge, true crime fan. And I am going to throw my therapist's spin on some cases. We've already got a few episodes recorded, and I just, I cannot wait for you to see this. My daughter Sydney is hilarious and adorable and the energy that I think we have back and forth is so much fun. And if you look in the show notes of today's episode, there's going to be a link to a YouTube clip of the podcast. So stay tuned. One is coming soon and Waking Up to Narcissism, I always feel like I want to say the musical, but that is not a thing. But Waking Up to Narcissism the premium question and answer trailer is up on apple podcast. And the subscription, the ability to subscribe is, I want to say, it's there now because these podcasts are evergreen. 

And hopefully that will be figured out by the time this one even makes it to the air. But I know that there've been people that have heard the trailer and then have contacted me and said, there's no way to subscribe. And bless your heart for wanting to subscribe. It will be a small monthly fee and the proceeds will go to a non-profit that is designed to help people with the things that they need that are in emotionally unhealthy relationships, whether it's therapy or legal costs. So there's a lot of fun and exciting, fun, the wrong word when I'm talking about people that are in these emotionally unhealthy relationships, I'm grateful to be able to do the work that I do and that podcast is only there because I think that my assistant Naomi and I have a hundred or so questions already that have come in about narcissism and emotional maturity. And so I really want to start answering those and then the ability to help fund this nonprofit is going to be incredible. Really just go to tonyoverbay.com and sign up for my newsletter. And that will, that will get you where you need to go, because we're going to have a lot of information there. 

And I can't help but say this, if you are somebody who is on TikToK, find Virtual Couch on TikToK. One of my daughters is putting out a lot of the content that I've created, and that has been fun to watch the reaction there. So, that is where I definitely feel like an old man but it is fun to see the feedback. So find Virtual Couch on TikToK or at Tony Overbay underscore LMFT on Instagram. So let's get to today's episode. We're going to talk about, this is the fourth installment of the death by a thousand cuts concept. And these are the episodes that I feel like resonate the most, where people start to realize that they are not crazy or all of these small things that happen in their relationships. And again, it can be the male or the female. I want to acknowledge that, and it can be in a relationship with the spouse or an adult, parent, or child or entity or boss, friends, you name it. If that is an emotionally unhealthy relationship, sometimes when you want to express why you don't want to continue in a relationship, people will say, well, why? And when you tell them things that just don't seem as significant as you feel that they should be in order for you to have space or set boundaries or leave a relationship, it can feel pretty maddening. So it is this concept of as if you were dying by a thousand cuts. And just for fun, I did go and look up where the death by a thousand cuts comes from and it was a, it appears, and here I say this, and I am going to tell you that I Googled it. 

So, I'm not really exactly sure how correct or accurate this is, but, it's on Wikipedia. And so that means it's correct. Right? Death by a thousand cuts is a form of torture and execution originating from Imperial China. And where people literally would be given tiny little cuts, and there's a belief that it could take hours and hours. You have to lose, I think 40% of your blood to eventually die. So that took a turn, but the concept is that these little hurts in our relationship, or little wounds that eventually become too much, the way these, these little events, these negative events slowly, but surely, in these unnoticed increments, then grow into these big gaping wounds that then you do feel like you have lost yourself. There has been a death of the relationship or a death of self. And so I reached out to my private women's Facebook group and said, hey, it's time for a fourth episode of death by a thousand cuts. And so the group has grown significantly. And so there were enough responses within about a 12 hour period that we could do episodes four, five, and six right now. And so I'm sure that this will be a continuing series. 

So let me just, I'm going to read a lot of the examples, everybody that is sharing the examples has given me permission, and then I'm sure that I will go off on some tangents and riffs about my thoughts on the reading between the lines of some of these examples. So one person just in essence started off best by saying, “This is the hard part of paper cuts or the one-offs don't seem so bad”. And she said, “I mentioned to somebody at her church that her daughter isn't living with or speaking to her dad, and then that person at church said, ‘well, has the dad done something egregious?’” And she said, “‘No, he hasn't.’ But that's the thing. Nobody gets that there can still be abuse that isn't physical or sexual.” She said, “Even sometimes I forget why she's mad at him because there really isn't one big thing.” All that being said, she did share some examples. So her teenage daughter, this is a talking in regard to her teenage daughter, her ex or the teenage daughter's father, he told her that he took down pictures of her in his house because he doesn't like being reminded of her. So right out of the gate, talk about emotional immaturity. And these narcissistic traits or tendencies all the way up to the narcissistic personality disorder. But that an adult human being can tell their teenage daughter that they are taking down all the pictures in the home, because he doesn't want to be reminded of her because she is not doing what he wants her to do and then assuming that father thinks that for some reason that is going to then cause the daughter, the teenage daughter, oh, I could just go on with this to then go, oh my gosh. I am not showing up the way that my dad would like for me to show up. It is on the father in that situation to recognize that my daughter does not feel safe or comfortable with me. So that is a me thing. So I need to go in with curiosity and empathy and patience and long suffering and kindness and charity and on and on and on, and then nurture and develop that relationship with that daughter. Here's the problem. If we are in that situation where that is happening, then I realized that train left that station a long time ago. 

So I want you to know the reason I like starting with this as an example is that this episode really is more for the person that is trying to make sense of the nonsense or who is trying to say, okay, but what was I not nice enough to, did I not tell my daughter that she needs to go and be with him more because that's no, that's not your job as the buffer. Because if anything, that is you being, you know, and I get it. Wanting to be protective because you don't want to see your daughter hurt, but then all that is setting up is that the narcissistic ex-husband in this scenario gets to continue to say, well, I don't have a relationship because you didn't tell her to come talk to me. And sometimes the pathologically kind person will think I haven't been, you know, so he's got a point and I want her to say, wait a minute. He just did it again. Now he can blame it on me. He takes no accountability. So other things that this particular person shared, she said, that her narcissistic ex told his brother. So the narcissistic ex's brother, not to support his daughter's tennis fundraiser because she's not living with him. So let's now get the entire family now to go against the teenage daughter. And what emotional immaturity that is. He also told her that he wasn't going to take her to a family party because she, the teenage daughter had set a boundary of meeting him and he wanted to meet alone to talk. And she said that she would go if a friend could come. So she did not feel safe. And so he said, okay, well then if you don't feel safe, then I will not let you bring a friend. And now you can't, in essence, you can't have the pony, you can't go to Disneyland. You can't go to the family party, so I will punish you. And then you will see, and then you'll come around and the, you will do things my way, which is going to be a theme of some of the things that we're talking about today. 

Okay for this next one, we're going to be talking about the body keeps the score or the complex post-traumatic stress disorder. And I'm so grateful this was someone that is new in the group. And so I think it took a lot for her to share. She said, “I would say my death by a thousand cuts would be how he has traumatized my nervous system. Not only does this come into play when I'm around him, but it is now also bled into my entire life. At home I'm so jumpy, even when there isn't an altercation. He has to know what I'm doing at all times.” She said, “Not only that I have to have an explanation ready to go when he questions, even the smallest of things, I feel that there are things that people in a normal relationship take for granted. When they really just don't even think twice about it.” And well, I'll read her entire and then I'll go back and make some comments. She said, “I get nervous when I get in the shower. When I pick up my phone, if I have a smile on my face that doesn't pertain to him. If I'm doing anything out of what he perceives is my normal routine. If I walk outside to take the trash out. If I take our baby on a walk around the block, if I have my headphones on, if I'm writing in my journal, there are so many things that I have to second guess before doing them. Anticipating his accusation based questions I find even away from home or when he's working, I still get jumpy about these things, partly because it has happened over and over and over, but also because even when I'm away from him, he's checking up on me. I could answer the phone as soon as he calls and be doing something as simple as watching TV, but it still warrants the questioning. ‘Are you sure that's what you're doing? Well, what else have you been doing? What have you been doing the last hour? Who'd you talk to today? And what were you talking about? What are your plans? What are you about to do? Why did you take a shower that early?’” She said, “It's amazing how this has become my life. And I didn't realize how draining it's been. His actions have transformed me into this person that he sees as acceptable doing as much as I can to avoid questioning. This usually involves keeping myself busy with chores and cleaning up, for example, because then I usually don't get all the other questions. I even feel the need to go into detail about exactly what I've cleaned or the errands I ran, because if not, then he doesn't believe that that's taken the time that it has.” She said, “I feel as if I'm doing something wrong. If my daily routine isn't circled around things that need to be done. The moment I take time for myself,” she said, “heaven forbid do nothing and relax, it's absolutely questioned.” She said, “It's just a very stressful state to be in.” And she said she doesn't mind me sharing. So the reason I appreciate this is I think that this is an extreme example of just feeling like she is walking on eggshells. 

But I feel like this covers most, most of the people that I work with to some point. And it's even just those, oh, who were you talking to? Now in a healthy relationship, that's an opportunity for connection. Who are you talking to? But you have to feel like it. I mean, I just, I just say here's who I was talking to. And here's the crazy story we talked about, or I just say I was talking to this person and then the emotionally healthy partner says, I don't know, anything fun to talk about there? And if you say no, not really. Okay. But the control is who are you talking to? Well, why, what were you talking about really? That you said that. I mean, I, I don't know why you would've said that. I don't say those things or I kind of feel like that's the wrong thing to tell that person and you start realizing, love or control? And in those scenarios, love is, well, you're going to do whatever you're going to do. And I love you and you are the person who you are, and I love you. Not, well why did you do that? And I I don't really like when you do that. Or I don't think you should have done that. That is control. And when that just starts to bleed into everything that this person feels that they feel so controlled. And if you were listening to that, and particularly looking at the thing where she says, I'm nervous when I get in the shower, I'm nervous, you know, or even at what time did I shower? I mean, I have people that if they, if they even take care of themselves for the day, then the narcissistic spouse says, oh, why are you, why'd you get dressed up? Who are you going to see? You know, and then if you say, no, nobody, I just thought I would do this. Then that's not being believed. It goes back to that nonviolent communication concept, where the person makes an observation and a judgment. 

So observation and judgment. If your spouse looks nice today, if your observation is well, they must be going to see somebody or they must be cheating on me, and now you have to defend yourself. Then that is a really difficult place to come from. Because at that point, that is what leads to somebody just not even wanting to take care of themselves because they don't want to have to deal with the potential questioning. Or they just feel like if they take care of themselves and now they're questioned about it, they just go flat. And then they feel as if they are now handing that narcissist the confirmation that they were looking for. Okay. Well, I guess if you're not, if you're not telling me where you're going, I'm sure you're doing something bad. So those, all of these, just, she said anticipating his accusation based questions. So anything, you know, what have you been up to? What have you been up to? It can be an amazing question when it is a bid for connection, but what have you been up to is a horrible question when it is one that is fishing for, well if you start talking, then I'm sure I can find something that I don't like that you've done. Then I can now take the one up position. I can put you in the one down position. And I can maintain my narcissistic supply. So that one really does break my heart. And when she talks about the end, she said, if I feel like I'm doing something wrong, if my daily routine isn't circled around things that have to be done, the moment I take time for myself or do nothing and relax, it's questioned. Because my number one rule in interacting with the emotionally mature narcissist in your life is raise your emotional baseline. And that is self care and self care is not selfish, and boy, she nails it though, because you need to relax, you need to be able to have downtime. You need to be able to meditate. You need to be able to do things that bring you peace and joy that are things that matter to you to be able to calm the central nervous system. And then to allow you to have that confidence so that you can show up in a way that you can deal with all of the things that are happening around you in life. Because if you are constantly just in this state of, I got to just keep doing, I got to keep doing, I'm going to be questioned, you can feel your own heart rate elevate and your anxiety spike, and your cortisol starts flooding through your brain you are in fight or flight mode. And it's quoted in The Body Keeps the Score, “the neurons that fire together, wire together”. So over time, what it feels like to be you is somebody that is just on high alert, ready to go into fight or flight at any moment. 

So it takes time to get out of that situation to be able to start to slowly but surely lower your heart rate. So you can raise your emotional baseline so you can show up in a way that will be the very best version of you. This one's short and sweet, but very fascinating. Someone said “He got so mad at me when I told him I was flying to visit my mom, he was upset that I spent the money on the flight. Then I told them that my mom bought the tickets. They flew off the handle because he said that he was the provider of the family. And now the mother's going to think that he can't provide. Then in the next breath, he said that well, as a matter of fact, you should have got a job to pay for the flight yourself if you want to do things like this, then you need to get a job.” She said, “Meanwhile, he literally made me go on a work trip with him that will cost us at least double, if not triple the cost of the flight to my mom's house, which by the way, my mom was willing to pay for.” She said he's a walking contradiction. This one, every one of these breaks my heart. That's why we have these. That's why we're having this episode today. Another person said, “How about this under death by a thousand cuts, but also in the world of betrayal trauma. She said, “When we were married, I was suspecting that he was having an affair, but could never prove it. He denied always anytime I brought it up. One day I found a poem written by him on his phone about a beautiful brunette. I asked him about this. And he quickly told me that I was the brunette. It's just that I dye my hair blonde and I had been for a long time.” So she said, “I believed him like every wife is supposed to do with their husbands. But after time, he continued to ask me, ‘Why don't you ever leave your hair its natural color?’” And I can say right now you can see that now he's trying to build that case that no, no, he really was her. So she said, “I can remember him calling me a brunette in front of our friends while winking at me. And that was something that he never did before.” And that's one of those concepts that I just, I cannot describe enough of when, when someone is not doing something naturally organically. That it's more obvious than they think. So if he has never called you, why aren't you a brunette? Oh, my little brunette over there, wink, wink in front of friends. And that has never happened until he was caught with the poem about the brunette. Even he doesn't realize, oh, that's, that's not the way this normally works. And this is where I talk about if you want to watch this stuff in action, just go on YouTube and find a channel that has interrogation videos. I watched another one this morning. I'm just mesmerized by them because you watch a person who thinks that they have created a narrative of how a quote normal person would have behaved in a situation. But now they're being interrogated by people that know exactly what to look for. And I feel like at times as a marriage therapist, you're almost like a marriage interrogator. And why I love my four pillars of a connected conversation as you are giving this framework in essence, so that you can see who doesn't know how to use a framework, who doesn't play in the sandbox, who weaponizes the tool. And who takes this lifeline, this evidence-based lifeline. And finally feels like they learned how to communicate. And now the couple is excited and they grow closer together versus the, when you are, you know, when somebody, all of a sudden tells you, they know exactly where they were seven months ago on a Tuesday night, because that's when they did the in the Terry Haitian videos, that's when they murdered someone. 

So then they say, if somebody says, hey, where were you on January 15th, you know, six months ago? And they say, I don't know, how about January 13th? Oh, the 13th. Oh yeah. I remember it was a Monday night. I was watching Monday night football, the Cards playing the Packers. A matter of fact, I remember having a thing of Fritos and bean dip somewhere around the third quarter, but at that point I remember I left the bean dip open cause I had to go to the bathroom and I worried, oh my gosh, will the bean dip get hard? And that would be bad, wait I can just stir it up. And so, and which no one does that has that, why, why did he remember that night? Oh, because he had murdered someone and so he'd rehearsed the narrative over and over. So I know that I went on a tangent there a little bit, but that is the, oh no, I always call you my little brunette and wink at you around our friends every single time since being caught, writing a poem about the affair partner, that's a brunette that I've lied about. So, of course she says it turns out the girl that he was cheating on with me was a brunette. And she said, I still react whenever I see a beautiful brunette or even the word, “brunette”. 

She said one day while we were married, she said I had a painting done of his hometown and a place in particular, in the hometown. She said we'd moved down to her hometown. And she said, I just thought I wanted to bring a piece of his hometown down to us. I was grateful that we were in my hometown. And I assume that that was maybe hard for him and he missed his hometown. So she said I had a giant painting completed. And I commissioned an artist and I was so excited to give it to him for his birthday. I gave it to him, the kids were there. And he looked and he said, “What is this? You actually think this looks nice? I hope you didn't pay much for this. It looks like a little kid painted it. Like where do you even find this artist?” She said, “I was devastated. I was so proud of this painting and this gift idea.” She said I still have the painting and I can't decide what to do with it. These comments he made on them went on for weeks and weeks and weeks. And this woman said in particular, feel free to share. She said I'll probably post more because I have so many of these examples now that I'm aware. I feel like this is one where, if you desire love and a connection with your spouse, this is where I really do feel like it is absolutely a good thing to take any gift and say, thank you. It really is. Because when somebody throws out really, you think this is good, this is crap. And I know people could argue, well, he's just being honest. No, he's being a jerk. I mean, that, that one. Again, what is the point of that? Even if you don't like it, then that's something that, that other person that you care about. That's their emotional bid. That, with that painting, is their heart. 

And so what a gift for somebody to hand me their heart and say, hey, I thought about you this much. Because then at that point, if I'm struggling with, I don't like it. Honestly, it's a me issue. And as you can see in this example, yeah, it's a big old him issue. Now, if he was emotionally mature, and he did say I so appreciate that. And if she, you know, she's catching the vibe and saying, I feel like there's a little something off. Oh, I mean, and I know I'm, I'm painting this amazing version of this story where there will be a pot of gold at the end. But, an emotionally healthy version would be okay. He still is so grateful and so much. And if she says, boy, you seem a little off and then they have an emotionally mature conversation, it might be because, he says, my hometown is not a place of happy memories. And that's why we moved to your hometown, but I'm so grateful that you thought of it that way. And because now, we have some good old self confrontation. We're having a shared experience, and now we can process emotion together with another human being. And how beautiful is that? So none of that is happening with the interaction that I just shared. Next, one woman just shared a lot of just the little bullet points, but I so appreciated this because these are some of the ones that came up in earlier episodes as well, that I continue to get emails about driving very very slow when I was late. Or even just if I made sure and said, we got to get somewhere on time. And she didn't write this, but I could add because I get this one on a regular basis, or of course, when he needs to get there, now here comes control. There's going to be anger and rudeness and loud voices. Because we will go or I will leave you. But if you want to go and you want to get there on time, then all of a sudden, now he is suddenly captivated by getting a toothpick and cleaning things out of the grout on a kitchen counter, which is a very real story that I heard a few years ago. 

This one. They all again, they break my heart, taunting me with grocery money, holding it out and pulling it back. Hiding my bank card if I left it out to teach me a lesson, that one hiding my “fill in the blank”, hiding my shoes, hiding my purse, hiding my coat, hiding my keys. And that one, I hear over and over again to teach me a lesson. So if anyone is more on the emotionally immature side and listening at this point, if somebody leaves something out, try this one, hey, you forgot your keys, and I am putting a dramatic pause in here. Because that is an opportunity for the other person to say, thank you. I really appreciate that. And then, or sometimes you might say, I think you forgot your keys and they may say, oh, I have another set. And then you say, oh, okay. And you leave together. It's an amazing experience. I sound like I'm being facetious and there's a little bit of that, but, if I have to teach my spouse a lesson, I am a jerk. This is plain and simple. If I see an opportunity where I can be of service and help to my spouse so that she will not feel less than, or feel dumb, what an opportunity, what a joy. She also shared refusing to be a boy scout dad until it was time for the Pinewood Derby when then he showed up looking like an involved dad. I can do episodes completely on, I don't know how many times I've had this conversation with people, and what's funny is I didn't grow up a scout. My son gave it a shot. And when it was Pinewood Derby time, I actually had post-traumatic stress disorder as a kid doing my own Pinewood Derby car and taking dead last. 

So at that moment, it was funny because I just thought how many of these things are happening at Pinewood Derby day? Are there the insecure dads like myself that don't know how to build things or are there the kids that all they want to do is win because their dad is going to get mad at them if they don't win, because I've processed plenty of those sessions as well. Or in walks dad of the year who, especially lately I've had a couple of examples of people that go and buy their Pinewood Derby car kit off of eBay or online, which, oh, if I would've had that opportunity when I was younger, but I digress. But those times, none of those are somebody showing up organically. Another woman said, how about the inability to resist interrupting with what he would have said or done when somebody is trying to concentrate or somebody is trying to study, or him coming in with stupid jokes or making noise, anything for attention. Now here is where I can go back to my waking up to narcissism, my own narcissism, my own emotional immaturity. That one resonates because if I can make a funny face or a goofy noise, or if I can tell somebody a funny joke when they are busy, I realized that is something that the emotionally immature does often, and that is something I have noticed myself still at times, wanting to all of a sudden remember. So I remember something from earlier in the day and I want to show someone a video or picture while they're doing something completely different. And so while I absolutely believe in spontaneity, there's a, I feel like there is now a difference between being spontaneous and then just saying, hey, we haven't had any attention on me and a little bit, so can we do that? Can I show you something or can I make a funny face? And then you'll like it. I'm watching, I’m really obsessed a little bit with the show Sister Wives. And there are multiple occasions where the husband, Cody, will just all of a sudden take center stage. And there's been, I think, one or two weddings where, you know, he makes sure and does that and at the last minute, and it's just one of those things where it's like, hey, nobody's looking at me. Look, I just did a thing. I know it's their wedding, but look at me. She said also a time that we met downtown, my car got towed because I misunderstood a parking sign and he just drove off and he left me just walking along the city that I was unfamiliar with that we had just moved to and eventually came back to me. And I would add in here and with the hopes that I had learned my lesson. Or chronically getting terse and grumpy on the kids' birthdays and sucking the oxygen out of the celebrations. This one becomes one of those that just becomes so consistent of the emotional immature or narcissist. And I appreciate that “sucking the oxygen out of celebrations”. And I think in one of the earlier episodes I talked about a woman who, even in every one of their births and then she'd had a few kids, there was an event and one of the times the guy missed the actual birth because Carl's Jr. I think had two sausage and egg biscuits for $5. So what are you going to do right? Or times where then just things were made about him. And it was almost as if subconsciously if there was something that was going to absolutely be about somebody else, she said you could count on that sabotage is going to occur. And it would, it would happen in all kinds of things, not having things ready to go for a party showing up late, leaving late, just, there were so many different things that were just so consistent on celebrations. 

Or she said we're giving the dead or indifferent effect on conversations to get me to be quiet or get to the point more quickly. And I feel like that's one that is so difficult for the narcissist or the emotionally immature, if it doesn't pertain to them or they don't feel like it matters, then it's hard for them to not show that on their face and they shut down. I remember having a conversation with someone at one point that I was fairly certain was narcissistic and I couldn't help myself, but I just mentioned, hey, you know, I feel like you're not really very interested and that's okay. I think I'll just, I'm going to take off. And then all of a sudden they said, no, no, I am. I am. And then they just looked directly at me. And then as I'm talking, they nodded their head about three times more than is normal. And then started saying. Oh, well, wow. Oh boy. Okay. And I thought, oh, that's actually not the way a real conversation occurs. So while I could appreciate the effort, it was just really interesting at that moment where they went from, I could tell that they had a flat affect, but then they wanted to pretend that they were very interested. Let's get through a couple more. Okay. This one. I think this one's really, really difficult. And I actually have had multiple conversations around this. So this, and thank you to this woman for expressing this. She said, “I had a breast augmentation surgery after my last baby turned one. My husband was fully supportive of it. But wanted me to go quite big.” She, and again, I feel like I just wanted to tell this woman, so far, I've had several of these conversations. She said, “I had saved money for it myself while working,” at her job while pregnant. She said, “I wanted to go a natural looking normal size just to feel like me again, my husband insisted on coming to the two pre op appointments and he was pushing for the much bigger sizes on me. The nurse practitioner kept reiterating that those sizes were way too big for my body size. So we finally agreed on a size, the day of surgery. I ended up telling the surgeon to go 15 CC smaller than what I told my husband prior.” And she said the 15 CCS is like, if you are somewhat a religious person, the sacrament cup that you drink water or the grape juice out of, she said, “I texted my husband just to let them know that the surgery went well. And the size that I ended up going with. His response was so cruel and hurtful saying that I was a deceitful liar. He can't believe that I would do that. And it's going to look awful and disgusting on me.” She said, “I then stayed at my mom's house that weekend to recover and he didn't text or call once. When I came back home after two days, he moved out of our bedroom and continued to call me a liar and tell me I had a botched boob job. And I wasted my money because they looked terrible and he continued to say that narrative for the next six months. He never once in the days or weeks following ever asked how I was feeling. The surgeon told me that there is literally no noticeable difference in 15 cc's bigger. So those are the things that just break my heart, any opportunity that the person has for control, because first of all, the answer is whatever size you would like. Period. So then for him going in to try to talk her into what she needed to do with her body, it just becomes beyond frustrating. And so then even if she decides, okay, I'm not going to go with that size, then nothing more for a husband than, okay. Thanks for letting me know. 

So I think that people hearing this, it won't necessarily just be about the breast augmentation surgery. It will be about coming home from the hospital after birth, you know, it can be, I've had an example of a guy who got an ACL surgery and his wife not showing up for him post-op. But it will be that concept of where, if that person, if the narcissist in the relationship has a medical procedure, the pathological kind person will do anything and everything they can to take care of that person. But then if the pathologically kind person is taken care of or has something go on, then that really is an inconvenience for the narcissist and they still have work to do they still have things to do and so what were you expecting and just that inconsistency or the consistency of the invalidation speaks volumes. Let's get to a couple more and then we'll wrap things up today. Another interesting antidote that someone shared to me, she said that on her wedding day, so given a little bit of context, she was talking about the wedding day being a difficult moment or being a difficult day as it would come up each year as the relationship continued to get worse. And then at one point when they had separated, now, this brings us up to where she's telling the story. She says another interesting anecdote is that on our wedding day, a year later, this was just this past year. She said, I tried to forget all about the day. She said I was also gray rocking and not giving him much attention at all those days. And for those who are unfamiliar with gray, rocking and gray rocking is one of  the many techniques that people use to protect themselves from abuse, I'm reading from medicalnewstoday.com. It involves becoming as uninteresting as possible to the abusive person. This may require a person to hide their feelings, avoid revealing personal information and minimizing contact. And sometimes people use the gray rock method when interacting with people they believe have narcissistic personality disorder or traits and tendencies. 

And according to medicalnewstoday, however, a relationship can be harmful regardless of whether a person has a personality disorder and whether the abuse is intentional. And they've been going to say it's unclear whether the gray rock method reliably works, that may have risks as long as the person is in contact with the perpetrator. And I would say that the gray rock method is similar to my popcorn moments. You're just sitting back and watching the show. But she said that she had been gray rocking him and not giving me much attention. She said he knew I was feeling bad about some other things. I believe they might've had some co-parenting challenges or issues. So she said, “At one point he called me,” and again, this was on the day, the wedding day, but while they've been separated, she said, “I didn't respond.” And then he texted me an emoji flower and she said, I didn't respond. A few days later, we were talking and he blamed me for being distant and neglectful. And she said it turned out the flower emoji was sent to me on our wedding day. And I hadn't even registered because I wouldn't even have imagined that he cared. So he had sent this wedding, this flower emoji back when they were actually married. He then said I wanted to come over on our wedding day. I thought it would have been nice to bring you some flowers, just to have a glass of wine. And she says I was shocked and I told him I wouldn't have been able to do that, I don't think. And because of what has happened in our past, on wedding days, she said, I couldn't have done that. But then here's the part that I really appreciate about this story. She said later I processed and I thought if he actually had wanted to do that, then why didn't he text me exactly what he wanted to do? Why didn't even mention our wedding day and his message, it was a flower emoji. And I told him I was having a bad time over some other stuff. So I thought it was about that. And I love that she went on to say, she's having many revelations like that. When you realize how a normal human being operates. And if they want to share a thought or a story, then they share a thought or a story. So they don't just send some coded message out and then see if the person takes the bait. Because now he can say, oh, I had perfectly good intentions if you want to reach back out to me, we would have had an amazing experience. I would have been incredibly, emotionally mature. We could have talked about the kids and co-parenting. And you would have seen that I have changed. But instead he, I believe, and I don't know him, but confabulated a good narrative that well, how can I, how can I make her feel bad? Oh, I'll tell, I'll tell you what. Oh, yeah, that, that's what I meant with that flower emoji. And she said, as I write this, I have so many revelations and she said she's going to talk to her therapist about it. And I love that. She said that with her therapist, they're having amazing conversations where she said, I talked to my narcissistic ex as if he's in the other chair. And then I take his perspective and I change chairs and talk as if I was him. She said, it's really helping her process and seeing the craziness of the conversations and the dynamics. And I love that, I have not done, they call that a little bit of an empty chair technique, and I have not done that myself in my practice, but I know that that is a, it can be a very powerful technique. I think often, even in the way that I do this, I love having somebody talk through. And then what did he say or what did she say? And so when the person, the pathologically kind person in my office the same, but maybe I took things wrong. And, but then when they start talking through, they know what that conversation would sound like. So I love what she's saying. And then when they say it out loud, which is the key, then you can typically get to the point where, okay. This is where again, I have overlooked a lot of these. I turned some red flags, yellow, I guess, as a better way to put that. 

Another person shared. And she said, one thing that I noticed the other day is how my emotionally immature husband seems to see everything as a slight against them and can play the victim in such odd ways. This is a fabulous story. I'm going to change a little bit of the details. But she said she went with their son to a music class. And he usually isn't able to go and the son is under the age of three. And when the son's at music class, he mostly just runs around because it's encouraged because he's under three and he comes up every once in a while and he will hug his mom. So with both of the people being there, he just went over and would hug one of them and then run off again. But she said it was split pretty evenly. However, almost every single time that he would hug the wife, then the husband would comment something like, oh, okay. Mom's your favorite? I'm just second fiddle, but I'm okay with that. All while smiling, looking around at everybody else for approval. She said it took me a while to figure out why it bothered me so much because if he really didn't care, he wouldn't feel the need to comment every time that that happened. And how will that make the son feel when he's old enough to understand that showing affection toward the wife, his mom, is going to hurt dad's feelings? And the way that he's expressing his hurt while pretending that he's not hurt at all can be crazy-making. And that point alone. Is showing how that's going to be modeled. So you better choose dad or dad is going to be upset. And so the kid is going to freeze and they're going to start now in their own caretaking role and having to try to manage the emotions of let's just say that even sees that mom's hurt later, emotionally down or withdrawn and he wants to go rescue because now he's programmed to rescue. And then, but then he sees dad walk in the room and all of a sudden he's got a decision to make. I know dad will get mad. And mom, I don't know, she's the one that usually buffers. And you can just see that now we're teaching our kids to caretake and to put their needs aside and to try to manage the room. And then to try to calm everyone's anxiety. So we're creating, in essence, a highly sensitive person who will then look for someone that they may need to caretake and that can be really difficult to watch as that child grows up. 

Another person that simply said when she's crying or frustrated and she said, “I need you. I would just love for you just to be nice.” And then her husband shouting, “I was nice to you all morning. Doesn't that count for anything?” We'll wrap this up with another person who shared, “When my sister passed away, who was my best friend, we were at the grave side and it was a very sudden death and I was barely able to function and he was just hugging and talking to everybody.” And she said, “I was standing there basically by myself and finally had to say, ‘Can I get a hug from you?’” And she said that was one of her aha moments because of his, even his reaction to her request or ask where she realized he doesn't really care about me. Now again, here's what I want to share. That one, as we wrap things up, as somebody simply hearing this example, especially maybe someone that we've referred to in the past as a Switzerland friend, meaning that they are one who just immediately, and I understand this goes to, well, there's two sides to every story. Maybe he was going through a lot himself, maybe that he was close to her as well. And he knew that the two of you would be able to reconnect later. So they may say that this person that is sharing this example is being a bit more dramatic. But here's where I want to say that with that person who left the last comment, I know far more to that story, and I know that this person was often told by their husband that she was the problem. There was one time that I think this is just such a phenomenal example that I would see over and over again in my practice when working with the narcissistic or emotionally immature. 

One time he had mentioned that even his doctor agreed that his wife at that time needed to be on medication and needed professional help. So let's just pause. Let's break this one down for a second and go back to that example that I gave about watching the interrogation videos. And the person who is being interrogated thinks that they are saying things that make absolute perfect sense. Saying things that will prove their point, their manipulative point. That all of these people agree with them, that their wife is crazy. And therefore she is the problem. She needs to do something, not him, but her. He has to have that external validation because he's making things up. But he's unwilling to self confront. And so he's literally creating that narrative on the fly and believing it in real time, which makes the gaslighting just flow out of them like water. Because in that scenario, I did, I specifically said, well we should probably get on a call with that doctor, because if the doctor was able to make a diagnosis off of the husband's description of his wife during his appointment, I might add, because how many times have you been to the doctor and they just had some time to kill, and you go through all the things that you were there to talk to the doctor about, and then you say, hey doc, let me tell you a couple of things about my wife, who you don't know by the way. And then can you give me your professional opinion, one that ends with, I might add any medical diagnosis that you are so sure of that she needs medical intervention. I mean, it's insanity. 

And in that situation, admittedly that was one of the times where I suggested that we just get on a phone call with the doctor again. And shockingly, he said that he knew that doctor was busy. And he didn't want to bother her, but apparently she wasn't too busy to take the extra time out of his appointment to make a formal diagnosis, including psychopharmacological intervention on the day of his employment. So this person had other examples that were similar of it's triangulation one. He said he had been telling his sister about all of his then wife's problems. And he also brought that out in therapy. And at that point, and again, look at what that person is saying. They're looking over at me thinking, oh man. No, that this is so normal. When people come in and then tell me and even though we're here to talk about the way to communicate as a couple, but yeah, let's put the evidence-based models that I've worked with over a thousand couples on that route out emotional immaturity or personality disorders. I'm going to put those on hold because apparently you've talked to your sister and she also agrees that your wife is crazy. So a great time to bring that up and then I will agree with you. We can all tell her that she's crazy. She'll say I did not even know I was crazy. And then that will make perfect sense. Because that's the way therapy works. I mean, just if you look at it that way, it just, it's so insane. The wife at the time, at that point, she was onto it and she just said, oh, I would love to hear her opinion. Why don't we just shoot her a text right now? And shockingly, he had, again, he did not think that that was a good idea. So a death by a thousand cuts is filled with these just tiny cuts, these tiny interactions. I admitted, I mentioned Sister Wives earlier. I'm recording part of this episode, on a second day as evidenced by if you're watching this on YouTube, my change of attire. But in the episode that we were watching last night, the husband was talking about divorce with one of his wives. And as I was watching, I believe I was viewing a classic narcissistic move. I'm not diagnosing anyone mind you. That is not my place since I'm not working with anyone on the show. Not that I wouldn't love to, but I believe that I was witnessing some extreme emotional immaturity when Cody shared that if he and his wife, Christine were going to divorce, that they needed to present this co-parenting agreement or else the state would immediately take the kids. They would become wards of the state. And I bring this example simply because when I've worked with people going through divorce, for example, typically the more emotionally immature person has all kinds of thoughts, facts, ideas on what that divorce process entails despite the fact that they may have never met with an attorney or been divorced before. But they absolutely know what is going to happen. And that once again, represents a bigger picture of the person simply spouting out words in one moment, confabulating a story that fits their narrative. Even in that moment that he knew more than she did that he was smarter and she was not as smart. And she didn't even know what she was getting into, but he did. One day I would love to do a complete deep dive on a reaction to that entire series of that show. 

But I do have enough material now for additional thousand cuts episodes. But I would love to hear more. And I feel like every time that I have shared one of these episodes, the three previous ones, this is where I get a number of emails of people saying, okay, this, this is my life. And so many people feel like, well, isn't everybody going through that kind of insanity? And they're not. Relationships aren't perfect by any means, but when this is the air that you breathe in your relationship of just feeling like there's this complete insanity and these small things happen over and over again, and the gaslighting and when you cannot even have your own thoughts or feelings or opinions, and you hold back because you aren't even sure if you should even bring something up because it usually doesn't go well. And you're trying to figure out when is the best time to finally bring up something that I just have to say, because it's affecting the kids, it's affecting my mental health or it's something that we need to talk about. But when we do, then things just go bad. That is not normal. And that's what I would love for you to start to just even think about looking for help, whether it's a professional help or turning to people that are non Switzerland friends, just to start to feel like you you are not crazy because you're not you're being, there's a good chance you're being emotionally manipulated or abused. And this is just part of the process, the process of awakening. And waking up to that narcissism or if you are listening to this and I, again, I'm so open about that this was all created initially, because of understanding my own emotional immaturity, narcissistic traits and tendencies. And it can be really difficult to sit with that and to self confront. But that is the beginning of healing of your own as well. So I just appreciate you taking the time. I would love to hear more stories. I would love to hear your examples of death by a thousand cuts. 

And, and I want to say, men who were in relationships with emotionally immature women. I see you too. I do. I work with you. I am working with a few in my practice right now, and I know that you are experiencing a similar, but completely different level of your own feelings of internal guilt and shame. And it is hard to open up about your situation. But please send me your examples as well. I know the traits and tendencies know no gender, but the majority of emotionally mature narcissistic people that I see. And according to the data I've shared in previous episodes are men, but I have worked with truly hundreds of men over my career who are in similar situations. So I want your stories to, I do want to hear from you. So thanks for taking the time and feel free to share these episodes, especially these death by a thousand cuts episodes because I think these are the ones that really, really hit and people really understand these and they start to resonate and people start to wake up to their own narcissism or the emotional immaturity in their relationships. Thanks again. And we'll see you next time on Waking Up to Narcissism

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