Tony talks more about anxiety, uncertainty, and the brain’s adorable desire to make sense of things that often don’t make sense. He reads a haiku and a poem from the women’s private Facebook group, and then he references “Narcissistic Victim Syndrome” from the article “12 Signs You’ve Experienced Narcissistic Abuse (Plus How to Get Help) by Crystal Raypole https://www.healthline.com/health/narcissistic-victim-syndrome#freezing
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WUTN Episode 69 Transcript
Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 69 of Waking Up to Narcissism. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist. And host of the Virtual Couch podcast and the Waking Up to Narcissism Premium Question and Answer podcast, and soon to come Murder On the Couch, therapy meets true crime. And if you want to find out more about any of the podcasts or the Magnetic Marriage workshop, which is a $19, you didn't know what you didn't know about marriage and relationships workshop. It's an hour and a half long. If you go to the show notes, there's a link tree link, it's link.tree/virtualcouch. And there you can sign up for the newsletter and you can find the links to the courses and programs and all the things that are coming up, that would be wonderful. And if you would be so inclined, if you are one who would write a review or subscribe or rate, wherever you listen to podcasts, that is always something that will be appreciated. And I'm trying to do more with clips on the YouTube channel. So if you find the Virtual Couch YouTube channel, subscribing to that would be wonderful as well.
And I think I mentioned in the past that I'm putting up more reels on Instagram and those are making it up, so if you find it's Tony Overbay underscore LMFT, and a lot of content going up on a pretty much a daily basis over on TikTok. The world of TikTok therapy is pretty fascinating. So let's get to today's topic. We're going to talk about anxiety, but one of the things I want to do first is I just have so many poems now from the women's Facebook group. And I would love if any of the men listening that are poets as well, that would like to express maybe the frustration that they're having, whether it's in their own relationships to emotionally immature or narcissistic women, or if they are poetic and waking up to their own emotional immaturity, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I continue to get a few more emails this week from therapists, which is wonderful because I want to do more with that, therapists who are referring people to the podcast. Or a therapist who is also working in the world of emotional immaturity or narcissism and men who are ready to group, then that would be wonderful. So please continue to reach out at email@example.com.
So let me start. Well, actually, before I start with a poem, I just want to take you on a little train of thought. I think this will have to do with the topic today. Today, we're going to talk about anxiety. We're going to talk about uncertainty. We're going to talk about the unknown and that plays, I think a much larger role in the world of emotional immaturity and people that are in relationships with emotionally immature people because they are continually trying to manage other people's emotions or manage their own anxiety, which doesn't allow a lot of space or opportunity for people to just be for people to just be and explore and do and figure out what matters to them when they don't even realize how much emotional bandwidth is being spent on trying to manage their emotions, manage other people, but then when you do have people that start to recognize that they are enough, they start to recognize their own worth. They start to recognize that it's okay to tap into what they want to do and how they want to feel. Then I find that people will just start to say, okay, I don't even know what to do next. And I remember a time long ago, I was working with a guy and he loved movies. He loved movies and TV shows. And we were talking about movies and TV shows often because that was, you could tell it was his happy place. And for me, growing up, movies were just, they were an escape. They were a retreat. I just, I loved everything about them. And so he would just give me these in-depth movie reviews as if he were a real Siskel and Ebert. And if you know who they are, then you're probably of my age. If not, I don't know who the normal or who the current movie reviewers are.
But he would just go in depth about movie reviews. And so when he started to really feel like, okay, I want to figure out who I am, but I don't even know what to do first, you kind of go for a little bit of what seems like the low hanging fruit. And I said, what would that look like if you wrote movie reviews and at the time everybody had a blog, I think the sites were called blogger, I think maybe Google bought that out, but you had a blog. And then he said, well, I don't know. And nobody would listen. Nobody would read it. And I don't know if it would go anywhere. And that's part of the yeah, buts. Yeah, but maybe I would want to, but yeah, but nobody's going to care and I don't know how to promote it and that's not even the point. So if the point is that you start doing instead of ruminating or worrying, then we suggested that this guy just start writing reviews. And so then we just had a, we were kind of having fun, just Googling different review sites. And then he was saying, okay, I wonder if I could pack in the review to just a few lines. Because he was a man of few words, a lot of depth, but few words. And so just joking, I said, what if you did a haiku and you did haiku movie reviews. And then he said he joked and he said, oh, they're probably already being done. And then I really did think to myself, man, in this day and age, and this was years and years ago, I thought he's probably right. So we Googled and sure enough, we found a review site that the reviews were all haikus. So I'm going to read a haiku from the narcissistic women's Facebook group, which is so simple, to the point, but yet beautiful and profound. But before I do that, let me read you a couple of haiku movie reviews.
So the first one is about Pixar's “Up”. “Love, loss, and regret. All in the first 10 minutes. Better pack Kleenex.” That's it, but boy, it kind of encapsulates everything. There's another one. Haiku from “Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King”. Not only that, but the extended edition. “Couldn't the Eagles simply fly the ring, bear all the way to doom.” That is deep and it is true. I've wondered the same thing. So here is the haiku from the Facebook group. And actually what I should do is it's going to sound like I'm doing this in real time, or I already know this, but I am going to pause and remind people and myself what a haiku consists of. So I Googled what is a haiku and it is a Japanese poem of 17 syllables in three lines of five, seven, and five. Traditionally evoking images of the natural world. And now let me tell you what ADHD looks like. There was a haiku generator and I'm doing everything within my power to not just go play with that because I only have a few minutes before my first client arrives and I would like to lay down some of this content, so I can come back and finish it in the not too distant future. So back to the haiku, the haiku from the women's narcissistic Facebook group. Just simply says, “I was so alone waiting for him to love me, now I love myself.” So I believe that just is so powerful and so simplistic and it fits the five, seven and five lines of syllables.
If that really resonated with you, and you feel like, man, I don't know how to do a lengthy poem and share the depths of my soul. It's really interesting because I feel like just even taking a look at something like haikus could be something that could raise your emotional baseline and just even starting to do, do what, start to read haikus, learn what they are, start to try to write haikus. It's all better than ruminating and worrying. Let me get to the full poem that I want to read, this is also from the group. “When darkness comes, that comes quietly. It tiptoes inside, slipping through the doorway. Tip tap tip tap, the faint sound of bare feet on the wood floor. It creeps its way in finding a way into every crack and crevice. Slowly, deliberately methodically. It wraps its long twisted gnarled fingers around my neck and I cannot breathe. It claws and tears at my heart, leaving me in agony like a parasite that infects my mind. It controls me. I cannot think. Bewildered and confused. I stagger up the stairs. The hallway mirror startles me. And I see gaping holes in my reflection. Where have I gone? What has become of me? Barely anything recognizable or a value, a stained and tattered t-shirt tossed into the corner of the dirty bathroom floor.”
I feel like the poetry just so resonates. And I think in the last three or four weeks of the Waking Up to Narcissism podcast, that poetry really has just expressed how people feel this loss of self. And then recognizing that they are no longer, they don't know what it truly feels like to be the person that they were or want to be. And so I feel like this act of poetry truly is this expressing the fact that these people that are in these relationships start to just slowly but surely recognize this, this dying on the inside. And then, this desire or this now opportunity for new growth or rebirth. So today I want to talk about anxiety and I want to talk about uncertainty. And I think that you'll see how these really play into where many people are, especially when they find a podcast like Waking Up to Narcissism or somebody that likes to talk about interacting with emotionally immature people, whether it's a me or a Dr. Romney or a Ross Rosenberg. Whoever it is, Christine Hammond, but at that point, there's a lot of anxiety that has led the person to finally look for more or look for answers. And then the answers come. And here it begins that narcissistic awareness, grief, where the answers can often feel overwhelming and cause even more anxiety because the certainty that people were trying to cling onto or hope for in their, their marriage or in their lives of that, it will get better. And it will eventually look like this and he, or she eventually will get it.
That's seeking certainty and the brain desperately wants certainty. But then when things aren't playing out the way that we hope that they will, then that uncertainty absolutely will cause just more and more anxiety. And it's so hard at first to try to just say to somebody, hey, let's just accept the fact that things might not be certain because then if we're understanding that they aren't what we thought that they were, now we can just truly be in each moment. And instead of trying to manage anxiety around trying to alleviate anything that will cause additional anxiety or will, that will cause additional pain, then we just accept the fact that there will be moments of anxiety and there will be moments of pain. But then what also comes along with that is the opportunity to have moments of joy, moments of calm, moments of peace. And I did an episode a few weeks ago, I think on the Virtual Couch, just talking about acceptance. And this isn't that acceptance of something like anxiety or acceptance of something like uncertainty. It doesn't just mean that I just given that I just acquiesce and that I am just saying, okay, I give up. But acceptance means to take in. And it's in its entirety without defense. So I'm accepting in the world of acceptance and commitment therapy. There's this principle or this concept that if I am unwilling to have it, I will. Meaning that if I'm unwilling to be anxious, then I will be spending so much emotional calories and bandwidth trying to make sure I am not anxious, that that alone will cause more anxiety. So, if I am unwilling to have uncertainty, then I will have even more because the desire to make sure of things or try to make sense of things or find certainty in every bit of my life is going to cause more anxiety and more uncertainty.
So I'm going to use, here's where I feel like the, about as creative as I get, I'm going to use this, my muse today, an article from healthline.com, it's medically reviewed by Daniel Wade. Who's a licensed clinical social worker. And written by Crystal Raypole and it is called “12 signs that you've experienced narcissistic abuse, plus how to get help.” The article begins with a definition of narcissistic personality disorder, talking about it being a complex mental health condition. This typically involves a grandiose or inflated sense of self extreme need for admiration and attention among other symptoms. And so this is where I want to jump off the map a tiny bit and talk about, again, I think that narcissistic personality disorder is being talked about a lot, but it's a pretty small percentage of the population. But if we talk about emotional immaturity and start with a place where we are pretty much all emotionally immature in so many different areas, but then those who are seeking help are looking to become more emotionally mature. And that requires a lot of introspection, a lot of self confrontation. And so if you are asking yourself again, if I am the narcissist. If you were literally asking yourself that you're probably asking, because you've been listening and researching and wondering, and doing, and trying to read and discover and find out.
And those are not traits or characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder. So there may be some emotional immaturity on the way to maturity. But definitely not, not narcissistic personality disorder at that point. She says that common types of narcissistic manipulation include triangulation, which is somebody who is trying to pull someone else, a third person, into your conflict. And that is trying to reinforce their own opinion or their position. And this can happen in so many different ways. Once you're aware of triangulation. One of the examples that I will often give is somebody coming into my office and saying that they were talking with their friends, they were talking with a coworker, they were talking with their doctor at, and their doctor even agrees that their wife should change her behavior, or, you know, was talking to my doctor about my wife and even the doctor thinks that my wife should get on antidepressants. And I remember that one in particular, that was a very real scenario. And at the time I didn't stop and say this. And in hindsight, I wish I would have, but if you just break that one down, so, okay. So you, the person in this situation, the more emotionally immature narcissist was the male. So he then goes to his doctor who in this day and age, it takes a little while to get an appointment for a doctor. You're probably going to have five or 10 minutes to lay out. And then in those five or 10 minutes with your doctor, you laid out a scenario so, so perfectly that then your doctor, who does not know your wife, was able to diagnose your wife with depression or major depressive disorder, including which medications that your wife should take. So triangulation just makes no sense whatsoever. And that was one of those things as a therapist, that the more that I was working with clients over the years, and couples where that was one of the situations where that was just not the way that we normally work in couples therapy where someone's coming in and saying, yeah, I was talking to your sister. I was talking to your brother. I was talking to my friends at work and it was all about, I was talking to them about you. And I mean, they agree that you should get help. You should change. And that's just not the way an emotionally mature person interacts.
Actually, talking about the narcissistic manipulative tactic of gaslighting, someone trying to gaslight you tries to get you to doubt your own perspective and reality often by twisting facts or insisting things you remember that didn't actually happen. Hoovering, we don't talk about this one very often on the podcast. And I would like to give this one a little more attention. But this tactic involves attempts to reconnect or pull you back into a toxic or abusive relationship. So in hoovering, the emotionally immature and narcissistic person, they feel so uncomfortable because they have lost. Even if it's temporarily that ability to manipulate you, because if you've just had enough, you've shut down. You've started to withdraw or retreat, then the hoovering will just be just hanging around and just wanting to get you to engage, trying anything. And this is where I'm trying to push the positive buttons if they can't even to try to get you to think, okay. He gets it. This one feels a little bit better. The silent treatment. This is one that I think is more common than we know. And in the world of emotionally mature relationships, I'm sure there can be some time that people need to step back and get their bearings, but then they come back because they have the tools to communicate effectively. And the silent treatment and especially in the, some examples that are given in my women's Facebook group, where the guys in those scenarios can go days, days without communicating with their spouse.
So this behavior becomes manipulation. When somebody purposely ignores you to control you or to make you feel isolated. So then at some point the discomfort becomes so intense that then the more emotionally mature person finally will just say, okay, I apologize because I don't like the way this feels, but unfortunately to the more emotionally immature or narcissistic person that can, the more palpable you can feel that tension. It's almost as if they are gathering more power. And so that when you do finally go and apologize as the more emotionally kind person, pathologically kind person, then it gives you a sense of relief, but then it also gives them more power and they now have more data that says the longer I hold out, then I will eventually get my way. Scapegoating parents who use narcissistic manipulation may place all the blame on one child that they designate as a scapegoat. And in the world of narcissistic family systems, you'll start to see that there's typically a scapegoat and there's typically a golden child and you may even have different golden children depending on what the scenario is. But typically there's just one scapegoat and that can be really difficult. And because that scapegoat then is the one that is more than not trying to show up and be the best version of themselves that they can be in hopes that it will change the dynamic in the family. But if they've already been deemed the scapegoat by the emotionally immature parent, and then passive aggression, indirect blame shifting, sabotage, sarcasm can all point to covert narcissistic manipulation. And those passive aggressive ways that people interact with one another can really be the point where people will sometimes say, and of course, if you are in a emotionally or viewer in a physically abusive relationship, then by all means there's absolutely no reason to put up with that at all. And please seek help. Safety, a safety plan. A domestic violence shelter, whatever you can do. But passive aggression can be that emotional abuse.
And you'll hear people often say that at times they almost wish that their partner would hit them because then they would at least know, okay, this is what this is because the passive aggression or covert narcissistic manipulation can just be part of it just helped you, you lose your soul, you lose your sense of self because the words can just be so cutting and the things that are really important to you, the narcissist will then criticize and attack you for. You know, you're a horrible parent. You never show up for me. You don't do enough for the family and those things that will just hurt because they truly don't see you, but they know that those are the things that will get you to react. But she goes on to say that these tactics will confuse you. They can make you question your sense of reality. They damage your self esteem. So Crystal brings up a term that I haven't used on the podcast. It's narcissistic victim syndrome. And he said, it's a term that collectively describes the specific and often severe effects of narcissistic manipulation. So while it isn't a recognized mental health condition, many experts acknowledge narcissistic abuse can have a serious, long lasting impact on mental health, which it can. It absolutely will rob you of your sense of self.
And she said keep in mind that abuse and narcissism aren't always related to diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder and don't automatically translate to abusive behavior. Many people who engage in abuse don't have narcissistic personality disorder, but regardless of mental health diagnosis never excuses abusive behavior. She said that people choose to abuse and manipulate others. And it's possible to live with traits of narcissism or any personality disorder without becoming abusive. And I think that what can be really difficult in that scenario is if somebody is opening up about their own emotional immaturity, and then they hear a phrase or a sentence like that, where it's people who choose to abuse and manipulate others that is true by definition. It's true. And it can feel really difficult for somebody that has extreme emotional immaturity, bordering on narcissistic traits and tendencies or personality disorders. When in those moments they feel as if they do not have a choice. But that is often because they weren't modeled the correct behavior. Or they weren't modeled a healthier coping mechanisms or ways to communicate or ways to self-soothe or self-regulate or self-control. And so when they feel this deep wounding or they feel this deep abandonment issue, then instead of being able to sit with that discomfort and self confront, then that's where often they will abuse to try to get somebody back into that in measurement or that codependency. And so then, you know, again I'm not trying to split hairs here, but I feel like I do have people that are listening to the Waking Up to Narcissism podcasts that are starting to do a little self confrontation. And so if you feel, if you almost feel offended when you hear that, well, I'm not choosing to abuse or manipulate. I'm just now starting to understand or wake up.
Well, I'm grateful that that's the place that you're at. But that's even more of a reason to try to go find help from somebody that knows a little bit more about emotional immaturity or narcissistic personality disorder or any of those narcissistic traits and tendencies. Because, yeah, it might be something where before, you know, if you're in this amygdala hijack state because of this deep fear of abandonment. But then that's the area to self confront. That's the area to sit with that discomfort. And then and really you can grow from there. So she said with that in mind here, 12 signs that might suggest you've experienced narcissistic abuse. The first is that they seem so perfect. At first narcissistic abuse tends to follow a clear pattern though. This pattern might look a little different depending on the type of the relationship. Research from 2019 suggests that in a romantic relationship, this abuse typically begins slowly after you've fallen hard and fast, we call that one the love bombing. She said, it's no wonder you fell during the love bombing phase, they seem loving and kind and generous. They made you feel special and adored with gushy compliments, affectionate displays. And expensive gifts. And I often add that in that love bombing phase, this is where the person is, in essence, trying to consciously or subconsciously become the person that you hope that they are, because then they like that dopamine dump of this connection as well.
And I give those examples of, if you say, I like whatever, I like country music. And if they are not country music fans, rather than being where they are stepping into their true self and saying, yeah, I'm not a big fan, but tell me what you like about it. It's like, I love country music, but then because in their mind they think, oh, I really liked the feeling that I'm getting right now with this person. And if they like country music, then I'm sure I'll grow to like it. But if that's something that they don't really enjoy. Then they're right out of the gate. They're being insincere or they're or they're not being willing to confront and say, hey, it's okay for me to have a different opinion or a different thought. And so it can be as simple as a different music taste or a different type of food or movie that you like. And the person is unable to express an opinion that they feel like someone else might disagree with. She said the early stage might've felt so intense and overwhelming that you never stopped to consider whether they might be too fantastic. Then slowly these other manipulative tactics begin to replace the gifts and declarations of love. And narcissistic parents might also offer love or adoration, praise, and financial support. Until you do something to displease them and then lose their favor. And then they too often turn to those tactics, like the silent treatment and gaslighting.
Next, she says that people doubt that the abuse took place. Narcissistic manipulation and abuse are often so subtle that in public, these behaviors might be so well disguised that others hear or see the same behaviors. And they failed to recognize them as abuse. This is where we come up with the death by a thousand cuts episode. She said you might not even fully understand what's happening. You only know that you feel confused or upset or even guilty for your “mistakes”. And even in the scenario of parenting, a narcissistic parent might gently say, are you sure you want to eat dessert? Or they might turn a broken dish into a joke at your expense, man, you're so clumsy. You just can't help yourself, can you? And they laugh with everybody in the room while patting your shoulder to make the insult seem well intentioned. And she said that you would hope that friends and loved ones believe you, but unfortunately it doesn't always happen. Your loved ones might not doubt your belief that you are abused, but they might question your perception of the events and assure you. You might've just misunderstood those things. I'm sure that they never meant to hurt you. And that's where we get back into that world of the Switzerland friends, well, at least it wasn't this bad or I'm sure you're not remembering everything correctly. And this doubt that people instill can be harmful. Because not only does it dismantle your faith and your loved ones, but it can also lead you to wonder whether the abuse took place at all.
She said, maybe you did read too much into their words, or just imagined that look on their face. And this is where it's so difficult because I want you to start to trust your gut. And operate from a place of, here is my memory. This is what happened. Crystal talks about the other sign of this narcissistic victim abuse that they've started a smear campaign. She said people with narcissistic traits often need to maintain their image of perfection in order to keep earning admiration from others. And to do this, they may try and make you look bad. And once you begin pointing out problems or questioning their behavior, then they may lash out by openly directing the rage toward you with insults and threats. Or here we go back into triangulation involving others and criticizing you by telling stories to your loved ones that twist the facts about your harmful or your unstable behavior, the narcissist tries to discredit you and even worse when you then act or react angrily, because who wouldn't, if you're being accused of these things that you know, to be false or you believe are false, then they use your response, your getting frustrated or upset the backup there lies. She said people with narcissism often have a knack for charming others, that persona that they showed you in the beginning, that everybody else still gets to see on a day-to-day basis. So then they can often win support from your loved ones who haven't seen through that facade by insisting that they only have your best interests at heart. And then when you try explaining the abuse, then your loved ones might side with them. She said that part of this narcissistic victim abuse makes you feel isolated. She said, if your loved ones don't understand, you'll likely feel pretty alone, which only increases your vulnerability to further narcissistic manipulation, because then the person that's abusing you may pull you back in with kindness or even apologies or pretend the abuse never happened.
And there's that cycle, that continued cycle of abuse. So hoovering, as it's often called, tends to work better when you lack support, you're more likely to doubt your perception of the abuse when you can't talk with anybody about it. So if your loved ones reach out to tell you that you've made a mistake and they encourage you to give the abusive partner another chance, then you might end up doing so to simply regain your closeness with your family and friends. Because one of the most difficult things is that person that continues to go back into the trauma bond is that they may not have those skills from the factory to stand on their own. And we are again, while I love the phrase where we're designed to deal with emotion in concert with another human, but it's another emotionally mature human being, not someone that's going to take advantage of or manipulate you and the things that you hope to connect on. She talks about one of the signs that you freeze up. People respond to abuse and other trauma in so many different ways that you might attempt to confront the abuse of a person, which is the fight. Or escape the situation, which is flight. And if these methods don't work, you may feel unable to use them and you might respond over time, especially by freezing or fawning. And that freeze response usually happens when you feel helpless. And it often involves almost this feeling of disassociation because you're trying to emotionally distance yourself, but from the abuse and often you don't feel like you can even leave.
That freeze response, you may just be battening down the hatches internally and waiting for this emotional storm to end. And so when you distance yourself from the abuse, it will help decrease its intensity, in essence, effectively numbing some of that pain and distress that you experience. She goes on to talk about freezing can have some benefits in certain situations, but it doesn't help when you can escape from danger. But if you believe there's no way out of the relationship, then you might remain in it. And perhaps even to respond by fawning, which is working to keep your partner happy. So we get that fight or flight. We've got the freeze, then we have the fawn, the fawning is where it's, so, yeah, you're right. Just to try to get that out of that, that uncomfortable moment. Here's the stuff that I start seeing as a therapist, she talks about one of the results of this narcissistic victim abuse. As you have trouble making decisions, she sets a pattern of devaluation and criticism can leave you with very little self-esteem and confidence. This narcissistic manipulation often involves frequent implications that you make bad decisions and you can't do anything right. And aren't you glad that you have that narcissist in your life?
So an abusive partner may call you stupid or ignorant outright, or often with a falsely affectionate tone, honey, you're just so dumb. How will you manage without my help? I don't even know how you'd make it through a day. And over time, you might start absorbing these insults and attaching them to your perception. And then constantly second, guess yourself as a result. And unfortunately I see that in my office so often. Where people even say, I don't know. I didn't even know if I'm making any sense. I don't know if I'm right. I don't know what the right thing to do is because his gaslighting tactics can also make you doubt your decision making abilities. So if somebody is manipulating you into believing that you imagined things that actually took place, you might continue doubting your perception of events. And then this uncertainty can affect your ability to make decisions well into the future. And I want you to, even if you're doing this on the inside, start recognizing how you feel, what you think. And we want to get to this place where you eventually, we'll start trusting your gut. We want to operate from that place of trusting your gut and emotionally healthy and mature relationships. That's where we start. I may have my opinion, but my wife is certainly going to have her opinion. And I want to say, tell me more. What's that like, because we're in this together. It's this edification one plus one is three. Not, the person is right. Therefore the other one must be wrong. She said one of the other traits of this narcissistic victim abuse is you always feel like you've done something wrong. This key characteristic of narcissism is difficulty taking responsibility for any negative actions or harmful behaviors.
If your partner literally doesn't say, I'm sorry. He hasn't said I'm sorry. Or that's the one of the narcissistic apologies of, okay, fine. I guess I'm sorry, but then you are going to feel like you're the one that has done things wrong. And so often the pathologically kind person will then apologize in hopes that they are modeling behavior to their spouse of saying, you know what I am sorry about what I said or how I showed up and hoping that the, even a spouse at that point will say, you know what, I'm sorry to, but not okay. Good. I'm glad you are acknowledging that. So these abusive partners typically find some way to cast blame on you. And they might accomplish this through the seat. And she gives a couple of examples often by insisting that they said something that you have no recollection of, or getting so angry that you end up soothing them by apologizing and agreeing that you were wrong. And so often again, this is just to get out of the discomfort of the moment. Unfortunately, a narcissist can just be so fascinating that they can either sit with this incredible discomfort of things like the silent treatment. Until then you finally break. Or they can't sit with a millisecond of discomfort and that's where they have to then get angry or take the complete victim stance.
She said, say you suspect that your spouse or your narcissistic partners cheat on you and you explain the concerning behaviors that you've noticed and ask if something's going on. A partner using narcissistic manipulation might respond with extreme anger. They may respond with accusations of their own, redirect the blame saying that these things that are intended to hurt and belittle you. So that then the focus is off of them. So these barrages of rage can leave you feeling helpless and dependent and grateful that they're willing to remain with somebody who makes so many mistakes. So then even after leaving the relationship, you might carry forward the belief that you can't do anything right. That when things go wrong or in other areas of your life, that you might start to blame yourself for causing those problems. I appreciate that. She was so brought up that one of the traits of this narcissistic victim of abuse is you have unexplained physical symptoms, and we talk so much about “The Body Keeps the Score”, Bessel van der Kolk’s amazing book. But you'll find that when people are starting to just lose themselves, that they will often have a lot of aches, a lot of pains, a lot of things, everything from fibromyalgia, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, backaches, neck aches, hypertension. You name it, there are so many things. Is chronic fatigue, or why am I drawing a blank on migraines? There we go. But she says that abuse can trigger anxious and nervous feelings that sometimes lead to physical symptoms. You might notice appetite changes, upset, stomach or nausea. Stomach pain and other gastrointestinal distress, muscle aches and pains, insomnia fatigue. And then she said using alcohol and other substances can sometimes seem like a helpful way to manage these symptoms, especially insomnia. So then as a result, you end up consuming more than you'd like in an effort to manage these unwanted feelings of physical distress.
And I have this co-occurring situation where you are. I mean, I've worked with people that are drinking heavily. They're turning to smoking pot. They're doing these things to just try to tune out of life. Because they just feel so off. So imbalanced. Which leads to another form of, another symptom of narcissistic abuse as you feel restless and unsettled because she said it's so unpredictable. You may not know whether they're going to criticize you or surprise you with a gift. And if you don't want some, if you don't really feel like there's consistency or know what someone will do or say at any given moment, you may start to develop a lot of tension from needing to regularly prepare yourself to face conflict. And there's almost this just insane tension. And then there's this feeling of relief, but over time, that relief when they're, when they aren't being mean. It starts to just become this flat affect or this feeling of what's called this Anna Donya, she said, worries about the constant stream of criticism and how to best handle the abusive behaviors that you're beginning to recognize constantly leave you on edge and you may not even know how to relax anymore. Since you might not feel safe, letting your guard down. And I think that's one of the difficult things is people start having trouble with things like sleep and sleep is where you reset those cortisol levels in the brain. And so even if you're just having these fits and spurts of sleep off and on, and then you're hitting the next day and your brain hasn't fully had a chance to recuperate and to flush out the, you know, the bad things from the day before.
Then it's as if your baseline of cortisol or this stress hormone, the stress drug in your brain is operating from a higher baseline. So then you may just snap or respond. It's the, you have a very small runway until you're at that place where you just feel like you are going to lose your mind. So she said you don't recognize yourself when facing abuse. Many people eventually adjust their self identity to accommodate the abusive partner. So she said, say your partner insists that when you go out with your friends, you're telling me that you don't love me. You'd rather see them instead. She has, of course you love him. So you stopped going out with your friends. Next, you give up your hobbies. You skip after work happy hour with coworkers, eventually you cancel your weekly visit with your sister. You spend time doing what your partner wants to do. So that they really will feel like you do care. So then she says these changes often lead to a loss of your sense of self, which can leave you feeling lost and empty. And you might have a hard time enjoying life and losing sight of your sense and your purpose. And that's the situation where in healthy relationships, people both are enjoying a vibrant version of life. And then we are coming together. And with curiosity, we're having shared experiences and it's all part of the maturation process. That of course we're gonna have relationships with other people that are healthy, that are empowering, that are emboldening, that are helping us raise our own emotional baseline.
And our spouses are saying, tell me more, what's that like? What are you learning? And then how can we create meaning or shared experience together? She said that you have trouble setting boundaries. This is such a big one. So someone engaging in narcissistic abuse often has little respect for boundaries. And so when you try to set or enforce limits, they might challenge them. Completely ignore them, or even give the silent treatment until you do what they want. Eventually you might give up on your boundaries. And once you end a relationship or you get distanced from a narcissistic parent, for example, you promise yourself that you will not answer their calls and texts, or you won't see them at all. But if they know that they can eventually wear you down though, then they may or may not let you go easily. Instead, they'll keep calling they'll texts in hopes of getting you to set aside those boundaries again, because it's like saying a boundary, unfortunately in the world of narcissism is a challenge. It's almost as if you are handing the narcissist some food here, here you go. Here's my boundary. And as you can just run right through it or devour it, then it gives them more power of, okay see, you don't even understand yourself because you try to hold these adorable little boundaries, but I know best.
And so if you've experienced that narcissistic abuse, you might also have trouble setting healthy boundaries in your relationships with others. And here's kind of wrapping things up. We get back to that concept around anxiety. As that she said that this narcissistic abuse can lead to these symptoms of anxiety and depression. That anxiety and depression commonly developed as a result of this narcissistic abuse. So the significant stress that you face can trigger these persistent feelings of worry, nervousness and fear. Especially when you never know what to expect from the behavior of the emotionally abusive, the emotionally immature. You might feel hopeless. You might feel worthless. You might lose interest in things that used to bring you joy. And you have a hard time seeing a hopeful outcome for the future. And I would just want to say in that moment that your, you know, your brain again, is this don't get killed device and it's trying to just manage and it's trying to manage relationships and situations. And so when you start to notice that you are losing just any joy in your life. I don't believe that it is your brain saying, okay, let's shut it all down. But your brain wants to live. And so it is, it is telling you, okay, I'm trying to use anxiety for good. I'm trying to make you aware. And if that isn't working, then let's, they may turn your brain to a little bit of depression and say, okay, let's, let's sit this one out because you going in there is not making you feel better going in there, meaning interacting with this emotionally abusive person.
And at some point, I think your body, your brain is trying to tell you, hey, do something help me out here? I feel like even the manifestations of pain from these emotional situations when the body then takes that emotional pain. And then almost as if it transfigured it to physical pain is saying okay, you're not dealing with the emotional pain. Maybe if I give you this physical pain, then you'll, you'll take care of it. You'll address it. Because your body doesn't want you to be emotionally abused. It doesn't want you to shut down. It wants you to live. And once you find your sense of self, your sense of purpose and so that you can just be, be in the world and just enjoy and just let your light so shine and lift others around you and all those wonderful things. So if you find that you are overly anxious, trying to predict what can happen next, or if you find that you are depressed and just continually wanting to sit this one out, then I really believe that that is your body saying, hey this is hard and I want you to do something to take care of yourself.
She said it's also common to have a lot of confusion over what caused them to change so abruptly, especially if you don't know much about narcissism and manipulation. This is part of those popcorn moments where if the narcissist can then find whatever button works, if all of a sudden they pushed you too far, you withdraw and then they come back and love bomb. Well, whatever works. If that doesn't work now, they may even go with the pull, push new buttons. Now go back to the you're a horrible person or I know you're an unfit father or mother. And so it's a continual battle to find the right buttons to get you back into enmeshment. She said you might even shoulder the blame for the abuse, perhaps believing their accusations, that you must not care about them enough or blame yourself for falling. For their deception in the first place, but either can add to feelings of worthlessness and further diminish your self esteem. So, what do you do? How do you find help? Any kind of abuse can take a real toll on your mental and physical health. In her article, Crystal said if your loved ones still doubt you or tell you to just move on, you may feel unheard and unsupported. A lot of the basis around the entire Waking Up to Narcissism podcast is that when you start feeling these things, hearing these things that when you talk to somebody and if they are not being a Switzerland friend, they may just say, well just get out right now. But I know it's not that easy. And you still, for most of the time, want to determine, okay, but is it me that's one of the number one questions I get, but is it me? And what would it look like if I change.
She said, if your loved ones again, still doubt you, or just tell you to move on. You feel unheard and unsupported. That can make it really hard to trust people again, leaving you feeling isolated and alone. So, whether you're just beginning to notice the first signs of narcissistic manipulation are still trying to make sense of an abusive relationship that you maybe even already left. Then therapy can really help you begin healing. And she said, therapy offers a safe place to learn coping strategies to manage mental health symptoms. Practice setting healthy boundaries, explore ways to rebuild your sense of self. But it's really important to find a therapist who specializes in abuse, recovery. Because that can validate your experience. It can help you understand that you aren't at fault. And offer support through these early stages of recovery. So it's important to get help and there you can get emergency support 24 hours a day, seven days a week from the national domestic violence hotline. There you can text a love is. L O V E I S to 8 6 6 3 3 1 9 4 7 4. You can call 1 807 9 9 7 2 3 3. This is again, the national domestic violence hotline.
Or they even have an online chat available. But one of the most important things that you can do is start to find help in that might even be just a phase of you starting to listen to more podcasts and watch more YouTube videos and read more books. And that is being you're on the path of awareness of a light enlightenment. You didn't know what you didn't know. And now you're starting to learn. You're starting to learn more about what is happening in your life, but it's still gonna be really hard to do anything about it. And just know that that's a really difficult place to be, but it's a real normal place to be. And eventually you're going to have more of a path of knowing what to do and you'll do it more than you don't. And eventually you're going to become, you're going to become this person that now is aware, is helping yourself, helping others, which is eventually going to help your family, your kids, those around you. And boy, I see you and I know that it's hard to be on this path or this journey.
But just know that I'm glad you're on the path and I'm not just going to drop the old, well, at least you're on the path because that might feel invalidating, but I'm grateful that you're on the path. So reach out if you have additional questions, comments. Share this with somebody if you think that'll help. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through a verite, whatever the various social media platforms are as well. And, hang in there. I, again, I see you. I know the work you're doing and I'll see you next week on Waking Up to Narcissism.
People in relationships with narcissists, or extremely emotionally immature people, are often convinced, coerced, or controlled into believing that certain universal rules or commandments must be followed to continue in the relationship. In healthy relationships, both people are free to express how they do things and their likes and dislikes. Then if a change is necessary, it comes from mutually respectful conversations. Tony turned to the private women’s Facebook group to receive dozens of rules and commandments that many people kept to keep the peace in the home or because, over time, they believed that these were “universal truths.” It can take time to unlearn many of these rules, and they can even affect future relationships. Tony shares many rules and how to avoid them playing a negative role in relationships.
And follow Tony on the Virtual Couch YouTube channel for 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
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
Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 66 of Waking Up to Narcissism. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, host of the Virtual Couch podcast. As well as a few others, Murder On the Couch, true crime meets therapy. Which maybe by the time you hear this, it is being queued up and ready to be released. And the best way to find out what is coming next is please sign up for my newsletter. If you go to the show notes, there's a link tree link that will say link dot tree, something like that slash virtual couch and sign up for the newsletter. And you can also send me questions. I've been told that there might be a little bit of a challenge with the contact form, but if so, just send me an email at email@example.com. And I want to know your questions. I want your stories. I want some poetry. We're going to talk about that today. And, I also want to encourage you to look in the show notes as well and find the Waking Up to Narcissism premium question and answer podcast. It's 4.99 a month. And those proceeds do go to help people that are dealing with emotionally immature/narcissistic relationships, everything from paying for some therapy courses, programs, hopefully if the funds can grow to be able to help people with everything from legal expenses and moving costs. Because, a lot of times, financial abuse is one of the things that keeps people in unhealthy relationships and it is an absolute form of control. And that's some of the things that just, it breaks my heart.
So today we're going to talk about the difference between rules and cuts. And, at the time of this recording, I still, for the life of me, want to find some sort of creative title. So if you are listening to this, you have already seen what the title of the episode will be. And you will know if I finally just said, forget it, rules versus cuts. Or if I came up with some clever something around commandments of narcissism or something to that effect, but when we're talking about rules versus cuts and, you'll get some examples of that. A lot of examples of that today from the private women's Facebook group. But there's a poem that I want to read first. And there's a thread in the group that is, it's amazing. It's beautiful. Where a lot of people will share poetry. So I just asked if maybe we could put everything in one place. And so I really feel like this poem. It just encapsulates and captures what those cuts do or what those are like. And then I think that will then help us frame what the rules feel like when you are in these narcissistic or emotionally immature relationships, especially when you wake up to the fact that it's okay for you to have your own opinion.
And a little foreshadowing, things like a toothpaste tube do not always have to have a flip top, that it can have a turning top as well. And that does not make you a horrible human being if you like one versus the other. So, let me start with this poem and let me get a joke out of the way first, because I think this is, it's a beautiful poem. I think it's touching, people in the group talked about how it really brought a lot of big emotions out. But I was talking with someone else about poetry and the narcissist in their life. And they just, we were making a light-hearted comment about the fact that this person never appreciated the client that was in my office as poetry, because it didn't rhyme. And poetry is okay to not rhyme. So this does not rhyme , and it is powerful, nonetheless. So, let me read this, author unknown, because I want to keep that, keep that confidential. But there are a lot of poems in the group that I want to read over the coming weeks. So we'll do that as well.
So it says, “I'm lost in your fears. They twist and turn, winding this way in that, then back again, an infinite circle, the lies slide like vines over the forest floor. I trip over the rocks of blame that you throw at my feet. I get peaks of sunlight, but catch only glimpses. The thick branches and leaves shroud the light and crowd the path. I find myself crouching lower and lower, taking up less space to make room for your ego. The night is drawing, but now I see the stars. They are my hopes and dreams. It surprised me when I learned the opposite of love is not hate, but fear. And the more I love, the less I fear. I no longer hack away desperately at your fears. I trace them. And I see them for what they are. Fear of showing yourself, because who you are might not be good enough. Fear of owning your choices, because if you do, you'd have to accept the consequences. Fear of taking off your mask because being vulnerable can leave you open for hurt. Fear of being wrong, because being right gives you a false sense of worth. The more I love and respect myself, the more clearly I see you. Your fears are not for me to hack away. I loosen my grip and climb. My view of this forest path has changed. Where it leads, I do not know. I look around and notice the air is thin up here and I'm afraid of heights, but here my wings can grow. And the light of truth heals me.”
It's beautiful. It really is. And talks about just what it feels like to trip over someone else's ego and to find yourself being small. And I just, I love that analogy of climbing up to the top of the trees and sure, it's going to be scary and you're afraid of heights, but ultimately that is the place where you'll grow. So I'm just really, I appreciate people that have creative talents like that. I feel like that poem, it says more in about two minutes then I'm going to try to communicate to you in the next 30 or 40 minutes with just trying to make sense of things that really just don't make sense. So on that note, there was a post that I thought was a short post that then just ended up bringing so much, so much content. In the group, one of the members said, even though I've been out for almost two years, I find it amazing how many rules I still catch myself following. Tony talks about death by a thousand cuts, but I feel like I've had to live by a thousand rules. I can see it's going to take a long time to figure out what are truly my own choices instead of old programming. And then she said, anybody else struggle with this? Which I can guess everybody that is in this situation, struggles with this. And a couple of people commented and said, they've been out for a year and it's amazing how far they've come, but how many rules they still think about.
And somebody said, and not feel anxious while you're doing a specific task. And the person commenting there said that they were still in the relationship. So they don't really, they weren't necessarily thinking in terms of looking at the rules that they were now trying to. I don't know, un-attach from. So someone else just said that there are so many rules and that were introduced so passive aggressively, that it's hard to even remember. She said, when we started following the rules and she said she had been separated for almost two years and she was currently going through a divorce. But she said she was getting better at catching them now and slowly working to undo each rule one by one. But that can be really exhausting. And she says, I just asked myself, how do I want to handle this? What works for me? And do I really care about this? And someone else chimed in and said that sometimes they feel like they need to ask for their spouse's input on things if they're not intelligent enough to decide for themselves, and I almost feel like that's where I want to jump in and say, you're an adult. You've been getting along well up to this point in your life. And so it's okay for you to like the things you like and do things the way that you would like to do them. And what can sound so probably off-putting to the pathologically kind person it feels like, well, but then I'm just saying that well, we're going to do it my way. And there's really, there's middle ground. I don't want to just immediately go to this concept of compromise because I think that's where our brain wants to try to make sense of what that would look like. And sometimes we feel like, okay, well, I know what compromise is going to look like. He's going to get his way. So I might as well just acquiesce and give in.
And it's not that bad anyway. But it's okay to have a conversation around well, we'll get there with some of these examples, but honest to goodness toothpaste lids, there were, you're going to hear some really interesting ones today where the more emotionally immature or narcissistic person just says, this is how it works. And then everybody knows it is not an answer because I will give this example until the cows come home. I still remember someone talking about the concept of common sense. And then I bring up the example of in some countries where a baby sneezes and a parent immediately puts their mouth around that nose and sucks up and spits out. And that's common sense to that person and then to somebody else that might be the most disgusting thing they've ever heard of. And why don't they use a tissue? Yet then for another person using a tissue just seems crazy because why am I wasting tissue paper and I'm going to get it all in my face. And I'm going to walk around. So let's just look at the way that people do things and why they like doing them the way they do. And if we start from there, now we're going to actually have adult mature conversations. Love or control. Not both in an adult relationship. So to the original poster, I had said once again, you're creating content for me and for the world. And I had just said that to anybody seeing this post, let's talk about rules. And I just said, can you share the rules that you heard? And I feel like, okay, we've got death by a thousand cuts, but I don't know, control by a thousand rules, but I really feel like this is something that will resonate.
So the first person that chimed in with a lot of rules, she said, here are a few rules off the top of my head. Protein is the cornerstone of every meal and must be present. So you can see already where we're going to go, that this is something that is being preached and told. And while there may be some truth in some of the rules, we're open to interpretation. Or, and I know my wife and I talk about this so often that let's just take this one, for example, protein as the staple of every meal. And then it's, who's to say that in a few years, we will find out that the nation is over protein. So being able to make an informed decision is wonderful and being able to also have your choice in that decision is a powerful thing as well. So back to her rules, she said, here are the rules that she had heard. Again, protein, the cornerstone of every meal must be present. If meat wasn't highly visible, it was a constant barrage of complaints and questions. Is there meat in this? Where's the meat? I can't taste the meat. Now someone that is on a plant based diet, then if they are hearing that, sometimes the word meat can literally give a visceral reaction. But then to the person who is saying where's the meat, then they are going to say that the person on a plant-based diet doesn't know what they're talking about. So we can have different opinions. And here's the one I've alluded to two times already. All toothpastes must have a screw on cap instead of a flip cap, regardless of brand. Rationalized by flip caps are messier. If I did happen to buy a flip cap then I would hear comments about it almost daily until it was gone. And I understand that unfortunately, that's the relationship that some people are in, where they feel like, you know, it's not a big deal. I'll get the screw cap. Or whatever that looks like,
But we're back to that death by a thousand cuts vibe or control by a thousand rules. She said next, we don't waste food in this house. There's the rule. If I needed to throw away rotted expired or moldy food, I had to justify and defend it. So much so that I struggled to throw anything away. She said he would also go through the trash to make sure I wasn't throwing things away without him knowing. So apparently it was very important for him to be the throwaway police or the wasted food police, or fill in the blank, which if we go back to control, I think that's pretty obvious that that's what we're hearing. She said, if I didn't wear a certain color nail polish or I didn't wear a certain nail polish color for over 10 years, because he doesn't like that color. But she said no rhyme or reason. He was also very rigid about my hair length, our kids' hair length. I had to tell him after the fact, if I was getting even a single trim on my hair. Otherwise, I had to promise not to cut too much because the kids needed to have certain lengths of hair. She said the bed must be made at all times unless being slept in, of course. And so if some of you were saying, okay, well, see, you know, it sounds reasonable, but then she goes on to say, this was hard to navigate because even washing the sheets was difficult because if he came home to no sheets on the bed, because they were being washed, he would panic. And I would hear about it for the rest of the night.
Another common one. If dad is working, then everybody is working. She said, this is present both in my childhood home and my home with my husband. If dad was doing chores, then everyone else had better be doing chores. But she said, the thing is the distribution of work was already highly imbalanced. The rest of us did chores on a regular basis, while dad did them when and if convenient and only sporadically. So when it came to making plans for the holidays, his family came first because he had very close siblings and siblings cannot be apart. Or she said another one. The kids had to read for 30 minutes every night. And again, here's where I think that there's a tie in with death by a thousand cuts. And along with these rules, because somebody will say, well, it doesn't sound so bad. But she said this one was clever because it was hidden behind sound guidance for raising kids. Reading is good. But he would only allow them to read his books. She said the kids were little. At some point in kindergarten or first grade, they were expected to read Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. So she said her kids grew to really hate it. And it was a, like she said, world war three, to get him to compromise because it was all about control. And I think one of the unfortunate things is that this is a point where I would, I would be curious to know what their relationship is with reading at this point in their lives. She said I had to be ready for physical intimacy at his request. It wasn't always granted, but it was an expectation met with pouting in the silent treatment if I said no. She said the kids were only allowed to have dessert on Tuesdays and Fridays. And I hear versions of this one often, and I think it's so interesting. So, let me, let me dig a little deeper here. So again, kids were only allowed to have dessert on Tuesdays and Fridays, but she said it was so rigid in his mind that if someone's birthday was on a day of the week, that was not on treat day, then it was a battle to get them to be flexible on having birthday cake. And she said the same goes for any holidays, if he did compromise, it became about a trade. And this is where I wanted to get into this fine. He said, I'll allow birthday cake on Wednesday. But that means no dessert for the rest of the week. And she said, I had to fight that battle many times.
So you're here, I imagine a lot of the people that are listening to this content have similar experiences. And if you're someone listening to it and these are the rules that you give someone. And if you're saying well, right, but now is the time, welcome to the world of self confrontation. So if you are saying, everybody knows, but this is the best way. Then I'm grateful that you have found the best way for you. And if you think to yourself, will it just make sense to you or everybody knows? Well, I think I could probably question, I don't know if I was, I was asked, so I know that it's probably not everybody. I know I'm being a little facetious, but I want the people hearing this, that if you're one who has been living by these thousand or 2000 rules, To know that I just, even, this is where I just want to bring that awareness that that's not healthy in a relationship. That relationships are built upon. Tell me more, curiosity. What's your experience? What matters to you? And then eventually we work toward a compromise and I stumble over the word compromise so often because there are so many steps of communication that need to be had before we get the compromise. I understand compromise in a business setting is this art of war negotiation compromise. And, in that point, I think often if people are being real with themselves in a business setting that the compromises that they win, if they get more out of the deal. But I know there's also this belief that they, every, both people want to walk away and feel like they win. And I think there's psychology around that too. Maybe we have to confabulate a narrative that says, oh yeah, this is exactly what I wanted. But in adult human relationships, I'm you know, I'm feeling like I want to say I will grant the concept of compromise and negotiation.
But it needs to be from a very healthy place of tell me more, what's your experience? Because we'll often find that people don't really care about certain things. Or we'll find that people had completely different experiences growing up, which led to completely different experiences or expectations as an adult. And so we want to have a tool to communicate about these things before we try to work out what that's gonna look like for our family, because inevitably the more alpha, the more dominant, the more direct, the more intense that person is going to most likely get their needs met. And then feel like, okay, good. We agree because the kinder person, the more emotionally sensitive or pathologically kind or highly sensitive person is going to find themselves over and over again, just acquiescing for the sake of, it's not worth the fight. But meanwhile, the message to the person that continually seems to get their way is that I'm right. But it's really, I am too controlling to really hear and understand my partner. Another person said that when I was married, I was told that we had to have sex at least every 48 hours to keep him satisfied. So he wouldn't look for other avenues of relief. She said, I followed this for the first few years of our marriage. It didn't work. I had to learn that this was his issue and not mine to fix.
And, you know, at times I don't know why, but I feel like, I mean, I'm a marriage and family therapist. I've seen well over a thousand couples and a sex therapist talked about this all the time, but then I don't talk a lot about it on the podcast. And I think I confessed it on one of the podcasts that for some reason, I still imagine that a mom is playing this while the kids are in the van. And all of a sudden I'm talking about it trying to do these code words around intimacy. When in reality, this is one that I think is very, very poignant and timely. And I hear on a regular basis, that is not what I hear in emotionally healthy relationships. And that is the fact that from a guy saying to his wife, what am I supposed to do? Do you know how bad it hurts down there? If I don't have a release every 48 hours or 72 hours. And then a guy will then be in actual visceral pain. Oh my gosh, you have to relieve me. And, and I worry. And I feel confident that that is just really an unhealthy way. For somebody to get rid of their discomfort, the discomfort is that they would like to have sex. They would like friction on their genitalia, quite frankly. I feel like that is not saying I desire a deep connection. I desire an emotional connection. We are not working up the ladders of intimacy. There is not verbal intimacy. We could talk, we just have this deep connection, which leads to emotional intimacy. Now I feel like we can open up and talk about anything, which above that is cognitive and intellectual intimacy. This is where I like to say that one person can have their PhD and the other, their GED, but we're so connected verbally and emotionally that we're even having conversations about things that, we absolutely know that the other person doesn't know, but there's so much curiosity there because there's mutual respect.
And up above that one is a spiritual intimacy. So at that point, if we're connected verbally and emotionally cognitive intellectually, then we can be in two completely different places from a spiritual place as well, because we respect each other and we are, of course we have different opinions. And how fascinating it is that I can have this opportunity to connect with another human being that has such different experiences, but we care about each other. And that is what leads to physical intimacy. It's a by-product of those other levels of intimacy. So if a person is saying my nether regions are in pain, please relieve them for me by friction on my genitalia, we're kind of missing the boat, but then other times I want you to desire me and I want you to praise me. And that is just, it's just not a setup for any type of real consistency with a connection in the relationship. So, she goes on to say other ones. She says, as a child, I was not allowed to pursue new interests. If I didn't show an aptitude for those interests. She said, for example, I really wanted to play soccer, but I wasn't athletic. So my dad only let me pursue art activities because I was creatively inclined. But she said for many years, I believe that exercise just wasn't for me, because I wasn't athletic enough. Now, right there, you can probably see where this is going. So I would imagine that the dad in this scenario, he maybe didn't like seeing his kid out there not being the best, because that would reflect on the dad that is making it about him. But if the kid wants to play sports and wants to play soccer, then that sounds like a great idea. And let them be the ones that are going to go and explore that and not live with this life of regret because they were unable to do the things that they wanted to do, that they saw their friends doing as well because then how does that carry over into adulthood? Like she said for many years, I believe that exercise just wasn't for me, because I wasn't athletic enough. She said, I even tried to go out for track and my dad, who happened to be a long distance runner, made me run a mile with him, she said, when I had never run a mile before. And then he told me, see, you can't do it. So you probably wouldn't be very good or successful in track or cross country.
I know. I've paused dramatically. I think I need a sound effect of a record scratch at some point in every episode. Because, so long distance running, father says, come with me child and run a mile for the first time. Number one, look how easy it was for me. Number two, I beat you. Number three, I was probably even faster than you were at your age. Number four, see, this isn't something for you. And it's insane. It really, it really is. So then she said that she felt like she internalized that if I couldn't do something well or perfect, I should not pursue it at all. She said I had to learn that mistakes and failing or just learning opportunities and not character flaws. So if you are a parent that is not wanting your kid to do something, I would love for a quick self check-in. Now there are real things like financial burdens and issues. And I would say that if you're in a position where finances are an issue, then I would also look for other ways there oftentimes that clubs and teams will have scholarship opportunities, or there's the rec programs. And so I feel like there's often a way to have someone be able to at least somewhat explore the opportunities that they would like to. But I do know that there are financial burdens. But if you don't want to take them because you are worried that they will not be good. Now that's a you thing. If you were telling yourself, but I don't want them to do it because I don't want them to get picked on or bullied because kids are mean. Which I understand, but I will just say, go ahead and set a few bucks aside each month for therapy someday for the kid, then to say I was never even given a chance for the kids to bully me. I was never even given him the opportunity to see if it was something that I liked.
And I feel like that's one that I hear often. She said from a religious community that she said she's no longer a part of. And she said, and from her spouse, when she was newly married, there was an expectation to be the ideal, what she referred to as a Proverbs 31 wife, she was said I was expected to take on all the home duties, the laundry, the cooking, the meal, planning, the grocery, shopping, the cleaning, the organizing. Along with finances, bill paying, taxes, budgeting, because she said I was quote better at it. When in reality, she said, my spouse didn't know how to do it. And she also worked a full-time job where she commuted quite a bit each day while her spouse was finishing school. He would say they are far more important than sharing the duties. So at that point she had already graduated with a degree and she set a precedent for the rest of our marriage in which I was expected to carry a lot of the household duties on my own. She said when we started having children this included taking care of them and all that entailed. She said her opinion really wasn't asked after that point. She said he had to have the clothes he needed each day. I needed to have dinner on the table when he wanted. And she said, I thought it was being a good wife. I was actually being used and abused while my spouse had a lot less stress than I had. And she said, this made me susceptible to depression. She had sleep issues and reactive abuse. She said, I internalized that his life, activities and choices were the most important in our home. And she said and sent him the message that it was okay to ignore my needs. And she said I've had to learn to recognize what my responsibilities truly are and ask for help when I need it. And let go of the things that aren't that important.
And let me just take a moment here. When she said I internalized that his life, activities and choices were the most important in our home. And I sent the message that it was okay to ignore my own needs. This is one of the things that if you are struggling with, if I stay in an unhealthy relationship for the kids and I understand that there is so much unknown out there, but I worry. As a therapist, as a podcaster, as somebody that works with this population. So often that I worry that this is the message that's being sent to the kids. That, that if the, let's say in this scenario and I’m working with men that are in incredibly unhealthy relationships with narcissistic and emotionally immature and abusive women. Which is a whole, again, I know I did an episode about it a few weeks ago, but it's a whole different ball game and it is really scary because the man often is not being given any benefit of a doubt. But in this scenario, if you are buffering and trying to manage your husband's relationship to protect the kids. Because you're worried that divorce will be bad for the kids. It's just, these are the things that I worry about. Again, a kid gets their external validation from their parents. And so if the validation that they are going to have, if the validation that they are going to get is going to, in essence, be trying to learn how to navigate the emotions of a large adult human being that is their parent, that they are seeking to go to for guidance and for support and for safety. Then that's what it feels like to be them. They are going to be someone that is learning how to read the room and put their needs second, and try to go small when the other person goes big. But if you are developing a secure attachment with your kid, which means that they're the ones that are actually going through and experiencing life, and you are there to say, tell me about it. How was it? What was that like? Do you want to keep doing that? Or what else are you thinking?
Instead of, I don't like that. I don't think you should do that. I can't believe you're asking me that. Do you know how that affects me? There's a lot of I’s and me’s. They're not the cool kind that worry or I wonder, or I would like to know. So that message is being sent. Again, that breaks my heart. The message we're sending is that someone else's life, their activities and choices are far more important than mine. And instead it is not unhealthy. It is not narcissistic or egotistical to be able to have your thoughts, your needs and your wants, and be able to express them. But to someone that's safe because that's where it becomes a whole different experience. She said I've been ashamed for spending too much money. And she said, I've had to account for whatever I buy when we have financial discussions, but I'm not supposed to ask anything about my spouse's purchase. She said, even though we have Amazon packages coming to our home almost daily. She said we have separate checking accounts, but he makes more money than I do. And it's always questioning what I spend my money on, but it's not forthcoming on how he spends his money. She said I've learned not to ask about financial matters unless he is in the right mood. And I'm prepared to share my list of purchases. But still working on this one, reset has been asking for financial information for months, and I've decided that I need to budget my own money appropriately for now. And again, it is well within your right to have the financial information. It is well within your right to have a mutually reciprocal relationship where both of you are able to express concerns about money and purchases and be accountable for it. And it's uncomfortable. And that's again, where I go back to a narcissist or an emotionally immature person who is so prone to just dismiss and just run away from discomfort at all costs. So they don't want to have to admit that. Yeah, you're right. Sometimes I'm a little bit controlling about money and other times I just spend. I'm impulsive. Because that would be scary to say that, and it might be uncomfortable, but, but that's what adult mature human beings do in their conversations.
They say, check this out. I impulsively bought something again today. Because if the other spouse is going to say. Oh man. Tell me what that's like. I know I've been there before, you know, I worry because I feel like we struggle with the budget, but maybe we can get on the same page. Can we hold ourselves? Can we work on this together? Can we deal with emotion in concert with each other, with another human being? Because that is where growth occurs, not in hiding, not in playing small. There is no growth in trying to manage someone else's emotions. Or just trying to continually rid myself of discomfort by giving in to the needs of others. The growth comes from feeling safe and secure as I express things that I'm going through for the first time in my life and having somebody there empathetically, caring, and saying, tell me more and what's that like for you? Because then I get to say, man, let me see what that is like for me. Let me do a little self confrontation, check this out. Here's how I'm feeling now. And I never realized what your experience was. And I'm not saying then the unicorn comes out and they point their horn behind a tree. And there's a pot of gold. It isn't that, you know, fictitious. To them, these types of conversations and relationships do exist in the world so if that is not what you are having you deserve to have better relationships and better conversations. So here is where I almost just went with commandments. So, the word commandments may still be used. You may have read that in the title. This person said you can use all of the following. So she said, you shall, shall never stop at target because they disallowed salvation army bell ringers at Christmas. You shall always buy American made. He checked my clothing for tags for years. Shall never put any type of flavored coffee in the coffee maker, shall always wash all new clothing and bedding before use. Shall never ask for things. This almost always was guaranteed by you. You would not get them. Shall not complain because doing so indicates that you're not grateful. Again, these are, this is an adult human being in a marriage where the other adult human being is saying that this is how you must be. And, and this is what, how our, our relationship needs to be framed. Just let that sink in. Because that is not a way to build connections. But she has plenty more.
You shall not open the sunroof if he is in the car, you shall always check all of his pockets before washing his clothes because he could have forgotten something. You shall watch the salt. He monitored that like crazy. You shall get out of his chair. Particularly the kids when he would walk up to the chair and stand there and wait, you shall not open the bedroom window at night. You shall never tell anyone how many animals that we have, you shall not expect anything from him. He may or may not do what he said he would do. It depended on if he wanted to do that in the end. And you shall not question. Servers shall never be tipped. TV or music shall be played at his preferred volume. If it was too loud for his liking, then he would turn it off. And if you wanted it louder and he did not, that was incorrect. And if he wanted it down, you get the point. So she said, is that enough? She said, oh my goodness, what a miserable situation. So then someone else had chimed in and said, okay, maybe the title is going to be the false commandments of narcissism. So I think that that does speak to this quite well. Another person chimed in and said the one that I still catch myself abiding by is how to load the dishwasher. And I've already commented on this. I think in previous episodes, maybe even in the death by a thousand cuts. But she said, it's funny how the rules were always for things that he felt were primarily my responsibility, because of course he knew better how I should do everything. And to that one I did, I did say, I have literally, and probably shared with other people that I could do an entire episode on narcissism and dishwashers. She's in a new relationship and she said when her new partner was over, he was helping her with the dishes, and she says, because that's the thing that happens in healthy relationships without the expectation of sex later, by the way.
He asked how I like things put in the dishwasher and she said, I sat there dumbfounded and I thought what's the angle. And then I told him about my ex's rules with the dishwasher, somebody else then just also chimed in and said that they also said, man, the dishwasher, why is this a thing? This is definitely how the rules played out in their home as well. And then other people chimed in and said, what is it about the dishwasher? And so I think that that is one of those things that it just it's, because it's a simple thing that then someone can criticize someone else about when, in reality, you can load or unload the dishwasher, to be honest, however, you would like now, are there more efficient ways? First of all, let's define efficiency. But even if that's the case, is your goal to get into a relationship so that you can finally have your way and let somebody know how much better your way of loading or unloading the dishwasher is because if that is your goal for the relationship, then I would love for you to be able to make that a clear maybe from the outset. Or from the onset of the relationship that, if somebody says, hey, what are your hopes and dreams? What do you want to get out of this? Do we wanna have kids? We want to be able to save together. Do we want to retire? I'm going to go on vacations. And if he says I would rather have somebody say at the beginning, to be quite honest, I've got this whole idea around how a dishwasher should be loaded or unloaded. And so that's really, my goal is to find someone that is doing it wrong so that then I can correct them. And then they will then applaud me. And then I will feel like my life is complete, which I don't think is going to be the case.
Someone else said that a memory was sparked. She said another rule of the household that they were not allowed to use their dishwasher at all. Even though it was brand new, we had to hand wash everything. If we dared use the dishwasher, then there was a litany of complaints. The dishwashers are a waste of time. My family had to wash our dishes. So your family should too. I'll drink from this cup, but I'll bet it's dirty because you use the dishwasher because the dishwasher actually doesn't do a good job. Or the dishwasher is too noisy. It is confusing. She said which it wasn't and I could go on and then more people chimed in about the dishwasher. Someone else has commented and said the rules are so many, so unpredictable, it felt like yet he would rail. On work or outside sources that would have a preference, not a policy that he would never follow those preferences himself. She said the rules happen to be on the things that I did and not him. The kids couldn't have donuts for breakfast, because donuts aren't breakfast. But then on the days that he would go out or maybe a Saturday morning and he would go out and run errands, then he would get them donuts and other pastries. But that was different because it was the weekend and he didn't have a chance to interact with them often. The kid should exercise a certain amount of time every day, but he would not put any effort into it. It was just a directive to me and I also happen to be working full time. She said he had preferences on everything that he passive aggressively let known.
And she said, then I would hear about if I didn't follow the dog food, for example, needed to be left in the dog food bag and sealed until I scooped out the food at the time that the dog was going to eat, even though digging my hand in the bag would scratch my hand, whatever that would look like when I scoop the food, she said he left for quite a while, an extended amount of time for work. And she said, I started to feel rebellious and I started to break the rules. She said it and it still made me feel so anxious. She said therapy helped her realize how silly it all was from the outside. And that's the vibe that I would love for you to get from this episode of how silly it is from the outside, that I am an adult with a mind and opinion. I can make decisions and calls on my own, even without consulting my spouse's opinion. And she said, I have no idea when I started to follow his rules and I still catch myself following them without realizing it. I'm taking it day by day. She said, I don't have to give them a full report of every bite that the kids have eaten today. Because when I do then that's, I'm open for criticism. I can buy and use a dog food bin since I'm the only one who feeds the dog. And I prefer it that way. She said I can let the kids brush their teeth and the downstairs bathroom on occasion. Even if a kid tells me that dad wouldn't let me do that. I can even give my kids mac and cheese for a second day in a row. If that's how life is rolling that day and the kids can even have a cinnamon roll for breakfast. Even when it's not a weekend and it's not something that he does. Somebody else commented that it's the directives, the rules that are expected to be enforced, just not by the person giving the rules.
Just a few more. There's another person that I just, I really appreciate this tape. She said, this is why I'm even struggling to figure out how to have a healthy relationship with her new husband. And she's in a very healthy, happy relationship now. She said there are all these unwritten laws in my head about how marriage works based on my old neural pathways that were created from a 20 year relationship with a narcissistic ex, she said, it seemed as if there was some sort of invisible exchange system that in order to ask a favor of him, I had to do something for him. If I wanted to have a girl's night out, he needed a week away on a hunting trip. If I asked him to help with some of the household duties, then I had to go out and do a big chunk of the yard work. If I wanted to spend money on something for myself, then he got to buy a new gun or something. And she said she has just a million more examples of this. And she said, I don't think I ever would have noticed how this is not a great foundation for a relationship, and how I did not feel like there was unconditional love. She said my husband now calls me out on it all the time, and calls me out, let me say in a good way. She said that he points out that there are just times in life when he is more available and will step up in times when I am more available and then I can do more. And it's not an exchange system. That love should not be conditional and full of unwritten laws and expectations of reciprocation all the time and I couldn't agree more.
Other people chimed in and talked about how relatable that was, the silent what's in it for me attitude is so real. And then I just wanted to, I chimed in on this one and said, it's something that shows up unconsciously in new relationships. Because at that time, when I was reading through this thread for the first time, I had a session with somebody pretty recently. That was just, they were worried about what they didn't know that they didn't know about relationships. Entering a new one. And the fact that they just felt so anxious about. What are the things I don't know about a relationship? And when you're in a healthy relationship, of course you don't know what you don't know, but you're going to discover together, which then the relationship is filled with curiosity, which is amazing. She was very nice and chimed back in and said, it's interesting navigating a new, healthy relationship with past unhealthy survival tendencies. And I really appreciated that phrase that she used. She said, my eyes are wide open as I've learned a lot in this past year. And she said she hopes that she can use this understanding to reach out and help even more people navigate this unknown. And I thought this was a really good take too, another person chimed in and said that they also felt that they were living from these, these rules. And she said, I found myself guilting out whenever the narcissist, her narcissistic ex-husband, has the kids and has an appointment falls on his mornings or when he has the kids and that responsibility falls on him. She said, even if I tend to everything else on their schedules, she said, the one I'm feeling guilty about now is to drop off our son at a therapist, then wait for 30 minutes with wifi, comfy sofas, good free coffee, during a time that he has a break in his work schedule.
She said here, the rule is everything to do with the children that does not involve a trampoline park or a swim park, is mine to do, not his. And I think that's one of the things that can be so difficult is you do want the best for your kids. And so if there is a chance that your ex and then we can stay in this scenario, whether it's the husband in the relationship with the immature woman, wife, or if it's the wife and the relationship with the immature husband, I feel like I could just continue to go on. There's so many. Let me just go through a speed round. Someone else said, I can't believe what a chord this struck, she said there were colors. He didn't like smells. He couldn't stand rules about candles, haircuts, clothing, perfume, purses, my jewelry, how to make the bed, how to fold the laundry, how to clean the lights, the thermostat, the air conditioner. Even how to sit on the furniture, how to arrive early, how long to stay, how I talked on the phone, what I said to the neighbors, the exhaust fan in the bathroom, the refrigerator, the car, she said so many issues around the car. There were rules about shopping for food, eating habits, rules for the curtains. No plants, no pets. And she said, and I felt like I was always in trouble if family or guests violated his rules, somehow it was my responsibility and I would pay the price after they were gone. She said, I swear, I could go on for a week and still be reciting the rules. I catch myself off these days, realizing. Did I get, she said, a lovely little, just a bit of pleasure. Every time I'm breaking one of his rules, the enormity of how bad it was, has never been a real eye-opener. She said, I think I'd become so programmed that it was second nature. But never again. And she said my house is now my rules and then other people chimed in.
One saying I lived so many of these same rules and I was made to pay of guests, broke them. I needed to contemplate this better. Someone else then chimed in and said the smells. She said, ah, I can't use dry shampoo without him complaining about the smell. Candles, forget about it. Unless it's pine scented. If I wear perfume, he complains, I put makeup on, it’s who are you trying to impress? I don't care how you look because I'm doing it for myself, isn't enough. And I could go on. Another person said he didn't like certain restaurants because their sweet tea was awful, but made our kids order water everywhere, showers should last no more than eight minutes, but he never was able to provide the data of where the eight minutes came from. Picky eaters were not allowed, but he could declare boldly what foods he refused to eat such as oysters. The menu of dinners for the week couldn't have too much rice or pasta, but he was okay with potatoes. And she said she grew up in an area where rice and pasta were the staple, but then she also said, but that was part of what he despised of me being proud of my roots yet he was beyond proud of his. So basically anything that a double standard could be attached to, we'll go through a speed round and then we'll wrap this one up. Another person said, had to buy his favorite brands, or they were called poop brands. If we weren't 15 minutes early, we were late. If I didn't dry out chicken, he would complain that I was going to make everybody sick with salmonella. I couldn't turn the AC above 60 degrees for years, even though I have Raynaud's and my fingers will be numb, with a sweatshirt and pants. And then we would proceed to get mad that we wouldn't go to sleep naked because it was a freezing cold room. If I complained that meant I was ungrateful. I had to speak to them about feelings or important stuff at the exact right time. Not after work, not when he was hungry and not before bed.
He made it clear that he liked all the girls' hair long. We couldn't cut it short. Also he didn't like it up. He didn't like it when I wore too much makeup or skinny jeans or capris. We wanted time to go to bed early with him, but he wouldn't help get the kids ready to bed for years. So when he finally did, he rushed them and made them upset before bed. We had rules on how many nights he would prefer I stay up late versus I go to bed with him. I was a night owl and he went to bed as the kids were going to bed. The dog was never allowed upstairs because of his allergies, but he was the one who insisted on getting the dog, even though he knew he was allergic. So many rules around air conditioning, haircuts and spending money, but she said there were also other rules like if you're tired, go to bed without reading or else he gets mad at you about it. Or if you say you're going to read, but you're on your phone and he gets mad about that. Or if you say you're tired, then don't go to bed. He gets mad at you. If you turn out the lights, but if you go to bed with the lights on, then he gets mad that you didn't wait up for him. Or he asks you a yes, no question, that feels like a loaded agenda. You have to guess the right answer. He gets mad. And if you try a clarifying question, he gets mad and barks, it's a yes or no question. Now I read those as quickly as I could, because that's the confusion. That even if you try to slow down and stop and make sense of these things, they're going to change.
More people chimed in that you're so right, rules. Like when the movie is over, you have to stay in your seat and watch the credits until the credits are all the way done. Somebody else chimed in and said, yep. That's one for me too. And another person did say reading all of this made me realize something that my husband is hypervigilant about. Not appearing controlling that there are definitely examples of him having rules around kitchen cleaning, money, et cetera. But she said, here's what's funny or weird about it. He uses himself as the standard, which I should be measuring myself. He's under the impression that if he's doing or not doing something, I should be this way, he doesn't think he's being controlling. For example, she said he decided to stop buying his protein powder because of costs. And so now he's recently berated me about not using mine. He stopped buying his, so I should too. Same happens with cleaning the kitchen. Now that he's cleaning it more, everybody needs to be better about putting their dishes in the dishwasher right away. Even though he was never that diligent about the dishes when I was the one cleaning. Has controlled a super covert to me. And like others have said, uses a great deal of guilt. And even more so though, he puts rules on communication because that's less tangible than him controlling how much money I spend. I'm not allowed to make faces when I talk, no interrupting him. And as long rants don't be on my phone while he's talking, act very interested, but not too emotional. None of these rules apply to him. And if I break one, then he uses that as an excuse to turn into a raging teenager and say whatever harsh, cruel things he wants.
And while I feel we could go on and maybe we'll save this for a part two, but I'll wrap it up with a comment that really did, I know I can, I use this phrase a lot, it breaks my heart. But one of the women in the group said, one thing that I really am having issues on learning in my brain, even though I'm still married, she said, is that my worth or worthiness of love directly correlates with my productivity. If I do enough, things are copacetic. If I'm not productive enough, I am met with anger, tantrums, name calling. She said my therapist is trying to really drill into me that my worth is not based on productivity. And I think that's one of the challenges here and people have chimed in and related as well. One of the people said I can really relate when my therapist sent me a copy of my treatment plan for therapy, the word busy-ness was highlighted and underlined. That we're so much more than that, but it's so hard to undo and we didn't become busy producers in a vacuum. It was an important protector at some point. And maybe still is. And I think that's one of the most, the largest challenges with this, the group of kind people that are in these relationships with emotionally immature or narcissistic people, whether again, male, female, whatever the dynamic is, that you're a kind person trying to make sense of things, trying to do enough. Because when you do, then that's some of the times where you are met with some bit of validation, but then when these rules, these rules just continue to change. And they aren't enough and they are crazy making because you are absolutely losing your sense of self. Then that can be this position where you just start to feel like I just can't make sense of anything because it's nonsense.
So, if you have additional examples of these rules, send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll do additional episodes based off of this because I guarantee that there are going to be people that are going to just resonate with this concept of these rules, these, just double standard or passive aggressive, or do as I say, not as I do rules. And again, just know that if that's what you're dealing with in your relationship, it's not an emotionally mature, healthy relationship and it's okay for you to do things the way that you want to do them and especially to be able to have conversations about this. So I appreciate your time and I will see you next week on Waking Up to Narcissism.
Author Dana Killion joins Tony to discuss her memoir “Where the Shadows Dance,” available for pre-order at https://amzn.to/3yR0gIp Dana’s story is born of a life in turmoil and her husband’s addiction, a situation where the only way through was to write it. And as she wrote, the themes of her personal trauma became clear and loud. They screamed for attention because they are the themes of many women, not just women with an addict in their life, but women who have been silent and have set aside their truth for the benefit of another. Women who are ready to find the strength and solace Dana has found through her reinvention. Tony and Dana discuss similarities in Dana’s story with those of the women and men who find themselves in relationships with emotionally immature or narcissistic people in their lives and how vital the need for self-care and listening to one's instincts can literally be life-saving.
Dana Killion is the author of several fiction books in the mystery/thriller/suspense category, including the Andrea Kellner series “Lies in High Places” https://amzn.to/3FzQQF7 “The Last Lie” https://amzn.to/3yPhqGn and her latest offering, her memoir “Where the Shadows Dance” which can be pre-ordered on Amazon at https://amzn.to/3yR0gIp
And follow Tony on the Virtual Couch YouTube channel for 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
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
Tony: Dana Killian, welcome to, and as I was sharing with you before, probably the Virtual Couch, Waking Up to Narcissism, I have a true crime meets therapy podcast, and I feel like your story's so good, I think that, welcome, welcome to the Virtual Couch Network. Let's put it that way.
Dana: Thank you so much. I'm thrilled to be here.
Tony: Yeah, it's nice to have you and my audience will know that I really like to just kind of go back and forth, but I actually wrote questions because I just feel like your story is so fascinating and there's something that I actually heard in another interview that you gave where you talked about you were journaling in addition to therapy. So there's a part of me that wants to just ease into your story but, as a therapist, I applaud you for journaling, and I'm curious, what was that process like and how did it differ from how you write fiction novels as well?
Dana: I do. Yeah. Journaling was something I wasn't immediately drawn to. I had a therapist suggest it and my first reaction was horror.
Tony: Tell me why. What, what came up for you?
Dana: I was still at that place, at that point of the fear of being discovered, my internal thoughts. I was still in the marriage at this point. I was still going through a great deal of pain and I wasn't ready to share. And I felt that journal would be discovered. And so it was a scary thing for me, but later on, I was in a different place. I was in a place of such emptiness that therapy was fine, but it really wasn't getting loosened up, all the stuff that kind of comes up in between the things that you can't cover in an hour, the things that were just really, for me, lots and lots of questioning. So I found a journal and I just started downloading and I, and I don't have any other way to, to frame it other than downloading questions, pain, how I'm feeling, without any purpose other than to get it out of my head and out of my heart.
Tony: No, I love that. To get it out of your head, I often find that people are so afraid of, and you can have all kinds of yeah, buts. The yeah, but it will get discovered or yeah, but it will just go darker or, yeah, but it will make me feel worse. And it sounds like you had those thoughts as well.
Dana: Once I actually started journaling, I was really excited to do it. Okay. It felt like I'd found a release and I was less afraid of discovery at that point. There'd been a lot of other conversations and I knew that at that point I needed to worry about myself and I needed to worry about finding a way to deal with the pain and the emptiness that was inside me and the journaling was something I was thrilled to do.
Tony: And did that happen pretty quickly after you started the process or did that take a little time? Okay. I love that. I'm going to cut this clip and then send it to every client that I have, everyone I will have in the future, so I appreciate you sharing that. You talked about that you needed to think more about or do that for yourself. And maybe that might be a nice transition into, I would love to just hear your story because, part of the, where I felt like this would fit in the narcissism world or emotional immature world, I often identify this, there's an author, Ross Rosenberg that calls it the human magnet syndrome, where there's a pathologically kind person who then is with an emotionally immature, narcissistic person. And then it forms this human magnet where you've got the kind person continually caretaking, buffering, you know, looking for it. And I'm curious, Dana, and maybe let's just let you tell your story, but I just wanted you to know that's what a lot of my listeners are probably, coming at that from their own experiences being that pathologically kind or caretaker that has felt in this human magnet. So I'm curious if that was a similar feeling that you had.
Dana: Well, so the, the quick version of my story is I was in a 25 year marriage to a very high functioning alcoholic. And he eventually went into inpatient treatment and did get sober. At that point, he had had therapy, but not rehab. But while he was at rehab, I then learned another part of our story that I hadn't known. He had been living a secret life, a life of other women throughout our marriage. An unknown number. This is kind of where the journaling process comes in. As I was trying to deal with the why's of all of that because he had gotten sober, he'd gotten sober for me, and now I've got this new hurt, this new problem, this new crushing blow to deal with. And journaling became a bigger part of my life at that point. And through the journaling, yes, I write fiction, so through the journaling, I began to see that I did have, and that writing that story, at least for me, was a good way to gain perspective on what had happened in my life. Because as you and all your listeners know, when you are in the middle of trauma and pain, you can't see the big picture, you can't step away from it. And there was so much in that stage of questioning myself and questioning him what has been real in my life. And the journaling gave me that opportunity to see that I had a story there, but I didn't know that was a story that I needed to write, but writing a book is not the same as publishing a book. That's how I incrementally got into this process. So I decided to write, and I wrote that awful dirty first draft, as we call it. And it was garbage and it was full of all this protective language. I tried to still, I tried to tell the story, I tried to use distancing language. I used every trick in the book to not face the reality of, and not to not say it all.
Tony: And Dana, at that point, did you feel, was it a, I didn't know what I didn't know, or I wasn't willing to confront, or were you aware that I am doing this because I don't want to get that close.
Dana: I was not aware that I was doing it until after that draft was done and I read it and went, oh no, this is not working. I can't do this if I am not as real and raw and honest as I can be. I mean, I can write it, but it's just therapy for me. I'm gonna do something else with this and I had to make that decision, the only way that it made any sense or had any value to me in the long run and to other people in the near term, was that I had to find a way to be as vulnerable and raw and human and full of flaws and embarrassment as I could, and I had to tell it from the truth.
Tony: I'm probably just making assumptions, but as a fiction writer I often assume that someone who writes fiction, there's a lot of their story or truth in those characters, or is that the case with your regular books and then was there a point where you thought about turning this story into a fictional story?
Dana: Those are really good questions. Yes. In my fiction, they're small parts of me, and interestingly enough, there's small parts of me that I wish I had; I could make my character a little more confident, a little bolder, a little more persistent than I was because some of this, a lot of the the most difficult parts of the drinking stage were happening as I was writing these books. So my real life inched in, but I couldn't admit to that. It's not a hundred percent representation, but small parts of who I was and who I wanted to be came in. Did I ever think about fictionalizing my personal story? Not for a second.
Tony: Okay. Oh, I love that. what you said a minute ago where even though this story is gonna be raw and vulnerable and full of flaws and you will most likely be open to others saying, well, why didn't you and I don't know if you've already had that reaction.
Dana: I've had, one of the things that, again, you know very well is that there's so much silence around an issue that we feel guilt and we feel remorse and shame. And we're just trying to be silent to protect ourselves and to protect others. And so as I've begun to talk about this book, you know, and I was no different. I was very silent about what was going on, but as I was beginning to share parts of my story with people who knew me, the thing I heard is I wish I had known, I could have helped you, I could have done something for you. But by that time that comes along, there's so much silence. The story is too big, you don't know how to break it down. It's almost better, easier for me to say, here, just read my book, you know?
Tony: I bet. Okay. So what I'm hearing Dana say is everyone that has gone through, but I mean, it really would, the journaling process alone, if you looked at it, if someday it would become a book, whatever it would take, I think to get that written out I think is such a good message.
Dana: It's immensely freeing. And that was, that was a wonderful surprise to me and as I've spoken to people who have been in difficult situations and who say, gosh, I've thought about writing a book, I just say, write it. You don't have to publish it. Take it in little steps. Get that stuff out of you, gain perspective.
Tony: How many years into your marriage was that moment where you found out about the second life?
Dana: We were 20 years in.
Tony: And then you stayed at another five, is that how long?
Dana: Yeah. There were, we made two attempts at divorce. Okay, of this is devastating information in marriage and, yeah. I was a mess. I was in shock. I was curled up in a ball on the floor for a year at least. And there was an eventual attempt at divorce, but there was still so much love between us, which sounds bizarre, even as I'm saying it about myself, but there was, and we hadn't played out all of that love. We hadn't played out all of the work that he had done in getting sober to try to keep me in his life.
Tony: Well, and I would love to talk about that. And I feel like I do, I hear you with that. And I think a lot of the people on the, I mentioned off air that I have this private women's Facebook group for women in relationships with emotionally immature or narcissistic, and I say, fill in the blank. It can be a spouse, it can be an adult child, it can be a parent, and there's that, just dance, the trauma bond, that there are good times and so we wanna look at those. So when you say we tried to divorce in that world of emotional immaturity or narcissism, when somebody gets to the point where they say, I'm done, you know, I feel like, man, none of us like to sit with that discomfort. And so we want that relief. And sometimes all it takes, I notice, is a partner to say, hey, I get it and I'm gonna change. And now that makes that person feel better. And then the person who is fed up feels relief. And I'm curious, was that playing out as well?
Dana: Absolutely. I think that when you've had a partner for so many years, and the most important thing, the thing that makes you safest is to be in his arms. How do you walk away or it's difficult to walk away. You love this person for a reason. And part of being in an addictive relationship is that you do understand you're forced to understand the compartmentalization that addicts are masters at. And so they put their drinking in a box over on the side and the whole of who they are is not the booze, it’s the bad behavior.
Tony: So of course you're gonna look for that, but here's this good, and would that, when I talk about the pathologically kind, I feel like it's in, in one's nature to want to just not focus on the negative but in you and be the cheerleader and you can do this and I see you. And would you, were you that role at all in the marriage?
Dana: I had part of that role. Certainly. I think, I think we all do. Again, this is, this is someone we love. And we know the reasons we love them and we also have this sense of responsibility that if I leave, he's going to die. You know? At its bottom line, we have, we take on some responsibility, but what we don't see is, if we stay, we are dying, we're dying emotionally. And it is this dance until one of you breaks. It’s the question of who’s gonna break first.
Tony: Amen. It is, and I talk often about the, there's a book about trauma, I dunno if you're familiar. It's called The Body Keeps the Score by Vessel VanDerKolk. And that's where I feel like when the person who is losing their sense of self continues to go back in and say, we can do this. Eventually their body says we can't, so well, let's give you some anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, hypertension, let's throw some, you know, chronic pain in there and whatever that takes. But the person says, man, I, but I love this person or we can make this work. So did you ever feel physical symptoms like that?
Dana: Absolutely. I had moments where I was passing out, I was losing my hair. I had thyroid problems. Yeah, absolutely. You cannot be in a long-term chronic stress situation and not have physical effects.
Tony: No, and I really do believe you, you know, I like to say the brain is a don't get killed device, so it's trying to say, this is not okay, this is not working. But I like when you mention, I mean, it's, again like is the wrong word at times. But as a therapist that wants people to feel heard and seen, that when you talked about that compartmentalization, just last night I ran a men's group for addiction and we really have been focusing lately on, in that moment when the person says, I will never do it again, again, it relieves that discomfort, their partner also is so grateful to hear that, so everybody feels good, but then they will never do it again until they do it again. Because once they get outta that discomfort, then that's where the work needs to occur. And I feel like that's the, but the person feels good now I'm not, I'm not gonna do it again. And then if the spouse says, okay, but what are you gonna do about it? Then all of a sudden, they're caretaking or they're, like they're overstepping their bounds. Would you have those moments where, I don't wanna say demand, but really ask him for recovery or what was that like?
Dana: Well, for us, there were just, there were kind of two stages. There was what was happening when I thought our only problem was the alcohol. And there was never a, I will never drink again conversation. It was, I will go to therapy, I'm gonna, I commit to doing this. Let me do this on my own. If I can't make this work, I will do rehab. And that continued, and he was honoring his promises. And of course there's always, oh, there it goes again. And the drinking becomes secret. And we reached a point where he only went into rehab when I said, you have a choice. You can have me or you can have vodka. That's when he went to rehab and he did get sober. So then our second stage was more, I will never hurt you again. And that was the sexual behavior. But there were lots of other, I had more guardrails I guess, around that behavior. I was far more cautious. I was far more distrustful. I had a private investigator ready, I had a postnup, I had all of these things in place and every time I erupted in any kind of fear, jealousy, concern, outrage, whatever it was, he behaved exactly as he should have. He was humble, he was contrite, he was empathetic. There was a shift in him once he got sober and that, and booze wasn't controlling his brain. He could then see some of these other behaviors. So I was still in the back and forth. What do I believe? What do I trust? What do I want? For that five year period of why am I doing this? You know? What kind of woman stays with a man who has been a serial cheater? Who was part of it and part of my own self-analysis and professional analysis too.
Tony: Well, and I so appreciate your vulnerability here because I know it's gonna speak to so many people that are going through things like this, and they go to the, what's wrong with me? And then, I often just say, man, we don't know what we don't know. And then we find out, but we don't know what to do about it. And then we eventually do more than we don't, and then finally we become, and I know that sounds maybe a little bit out there, but that process I feel can take as long as it takes yet another cliche. But do you feel like there was a certain point where something just turned or clicked or you had made a decision, or was that more of just this gradual shading of lived experience?
Dana: Well, as I said, we made two attempts at divorce. And the first attempt, I think the way I sum it up most succinctly is there was just simply too much love. We had not played out enough of who are you after? Is there something that we can, you know, salvage isn't quite the right word, but is there something that can be made anew? Is there anything there worth? So it was a cautious stage. And I went through a great deal of time, of having second thoughts, packing a bag, moving out for a few days. It was, it was torture. But every single time, he did exactly what I would've hoped, he had become a different kind of man, a different kind of husband to me in that stage. I'm still in this place of questioning myself. And the big impetus for me to really see how empty I had become was when covid hit. There was nothing else in our lives to distract us. We simply were forced to be with each other. No diversion and to look at, I had to look at the relationship and my own life and my own self in a very different way without anything else in the way. And that's when I realized that although I think I want this relationship to find a path forward. I was never gonna get back to that place where I had adored this man. I know he's doing everything that he can to try to keep me in his life. He's doing everything I could have asked of him as a husband at that point.
Tony: Okay, yeah.
Dana: But I was utterly empty. I opened my book with a scene where I'm standing from a 13th floor window looking out on Lake Michigan, wondering what it would feel like to stand on the edge of the water and just slip in. I wouldn't have done it. I wasn't dead. I wasn't suicidal. But to even have those thoughts because you're just so empty. You're desperate to feel something. That was what was the shift and the switch in me that said, this isn't the future I want. I want something better. I need something better for me. I still love this man. I don't love him the way I did. And we have played out everything we could play out in trying to save, protect, rebuild, however you wanna call it. A relationship that was largely wonderful.
Tony: So Dana, I love that story because that really is, that is at the end of the day, trusting your gut and doing something that is, is scary and difficult because it would've been easier to just say, okay, I guess I'll remain numb, but at least he's trying. No, I'm grateful to hear that because I feel like a lot of the people I work with are in, they're in some really unhealthy relationships and feel same flatness or apathetic state, but then feel like, well, I guess that's just my lot in life and the people that have the courage, I think, and that's maybe a strong word, but to go through with the, what you went through, I think, you know, how are you now what do you, I guess, what advice would you give to somebody in that scenario?
Dana: Well, that's part of why I wrote this book. Because I felt that one, I need personally, I needed to heal. And speaking about everything I'd experienced would help me heal. But publishing a book would help other people who have been in the situation. Sometimes we need someone else. We need to see it through someone else's eyes in a very personal way to understand that it's okay to take a little step. I have spoken to a lot of women who have had addictive relationships, and the one thing every single one of them says to me is, I regret my silence, for as long as I was silent. We do it to protect our families. We do it for very good reasons, but ultimately that silence destroys us. Yeah. So my advice to anybody when you are, whether you're still in the relationship and trying to figure out if you should stay or you are out of the relationship and still dealing with the guilt and the regret is start first with how do I give up my silence? Who can I talk to? And it, you know, a therapist is great, but a therapist is not the same as facing your sister. And having her look at you with pity and horror and you did what? What I found as I've spoken to people, people close to me who did not know, they feel bad that they didn't know.
They feel bad that they couldn't help me, and they are, for whatever judgment I thought might have been there in their eyes, it's not there. It was just me projecting it. That was me protecting myself. We cannot love another human being if we do not love ourselves. We can't have a decent relationship with anyone if we don't love ourselves first. And this for me, is part of going back to that place. I have to love myself. I have to be healthy myself. I have to be emotionally strong myself, and then the rest of the world will follow. And coming to the understanding that my husband's bad behavior, his drinking and his sexual behavior, were not about me. They were a hole inside of him that he was trying to fill. And he filled it in terrible ways. And his hole was, he did not believe he deserved to be loved. He didn't deserve my love. And then he just acted it out. He played it out. He made it true. And there's some comfort for me in understanding that.
Tony: Can I ask you a quick question? I love what you said about, because I think we are so afraid that if we share with people that we will be judged or there will be a lot of negative comments made. And I will say that to the narcissism or emotionally immature group, I've done a couple of episodes on what are called Switzerland friends. And what that is is when someone does open up to someone and they say, well, there's two sides in every story, or I'm sure that and that's where we talk about, if that is someone, then that isn't someone that maybe is the safest person to share with. But when you find someone that is gonna say, tell me more, or I wish I would've known or I could have helped. Did you run into any of those Switzerland type friends?
Dana: I didn't personally. But there are, I understand where some of that came from. As I've spoken to other women, particularly when it comes, my husband was a very high functioning alcoholic. And like a lot of high, high functioning alcoholics, very smart, very successful, very charismatic. And so this is not the image that the world sees of him. And so as we began to tell close friends, they kind of minimized the drinking. They minimized it as, that's not the guy I see. Can't you just stop it? It really must not be as big of a deal as you make it out to be.
Tony: Yeah. And that's where I like what you're saying. But at some point, you know what you know, and I love that message. I have a couple of things from your book that I want to talk about, and so that reminds me of one, if I'm gonna go not in the order, but Where the Shadows Dance a memoir, I've read a lot of it and I have to tell you, Dana, a lot of times when I do the interviews, I wanna just do a quick skim, but it's a really good read and I think I'm just seeing so many things that parallel this magnet syndrome, people that are trying to get out of these unhealthy, emotionally immature, narcissistic relationships. But when you just said, when people would say, that's not the person I see. There's a, let me pull this up. Toward the end, you have a, I should have marked the chapter, but it was where you were going to see your dad about your mystery boyfriend. And I just, I love that. So I did, I wrote this down where, you know, he said, I must have a boyfriend. Your elderly father, he was unable to comprehend the divorce even years after the incidents that caused it.
And then the quote you said, your father has concocted the only explanation that seems logical to him. I'm running off with another man. And I would love to hear what that was like. And then your sister reacted and said, dad, you know what he did.And then, and again, bless your dad's heart because I feel like this is what people, you know, we don't, none of us like to sit with discomfort. So I like when you said he concocted the only explanation that I often say, oh, we create a narrative to, you know, fit our view. But then, your dad said, yeah, but that was a while ago. I just, I don't understand. So, yeah, what was that like? And I mean, that whole dynamic, because it sounds like, you know, you were there taking care of your dad. What an admirable thing.
Dana: Yeah. It was at a stage that my father was very elderly, needing a lot of physical help. He was a man of the, you know, the John Wayne era. You don’t talk about your feelings. And this idea that I must be running off for another man. And this, to give some context, was after, you know, the real divorce and I was leaving and not only did I leave my marriage, but I moved cross country to Tucson. And he just was dumbfounded, but he couldn't say any of it to me. He could only say it to my sister because again, men of that era don't know how to discuss emotions and if I can't explain it to him in about two seconds, two, maybe two minutes. It just didn't mean anything to him. So he was just grasping for straws.
Tony: Well, and I sense that in the book, which I, that's why I just, I really feel like it's the story so well told, because I talk about this concept, this nonviolent communication where we make an observation and a judgment in an instant to try to make sense of the world. And so I think that is such a good explanation of that. And I almost feel like that's one of those tests of where you're at as an individual. If it can be a, bless his heart. You know, he was trying to make sense of that. Is that, and I felt that that was the case.
Dana: That's exactly. Exactly. At that point in his life, you know, he's an elderly man. He's set in his ways. I was not going to be able to convince him of anything.
Tony: Well then I loved that. I feel like that must have been, was that nice to see your sister? You know, how do you know? But, you don't understand. So I felt like you got to see your sister care and your dad, bless his heart, and you know, I think I'm good and I mean, that's what I was imagining.
Dana: Yes, that's, that was exactly it. It was at a point in time that all of the hard decisions had been made. There was still a great deal of healing to happen in my heart. But yeah, a lot of the family expectation and the dynamic of who's gonna judge me and my family, what can I say, what can't I say? I had already shed that. I was firm in my convictions of what I was doing, and I didn't really need them to understand.
Tony: That's powerful right there, Dana. I mean that, and that's, I think when I work with people and whatever that shift occurs or when that happens, that it's, you know, again, I, and I say that's adorable. Like that concern they show and they look really angry and those are a lot of words. And so, but I'm good, thank you. You know, and I just, I sensed that in your book. Kind of going outta order, there was another part, chapter 19 and there were a couple things here, your 25th anniversary passes and I love how you said, okay. At first I'm okay, and as a therapist, I'm so fascinated by some people they say, oh my gosh, this date is gonna hang forever. And other people will get past the date and they think, well, it wasn't so bad. And I love that yours, I'm reading it. At first it was like, hey, that wasn't so bad. And then, 4:18 in the morning, So, and I, and I do have a quote from you that I really thought was good. But what was that like? I mean, what do you remember?
Dana: I do remember that. I remember that very well. It was at a stage where I was caretaking for my father. I'm in this limbo stage where we are processing the divorce. I'm caring for my father. I'm in northern Wisconsin. I don't want to be there. I don't have a home. I don't know what my life and my future are gonna be. And I was back in this place of caring for another man who needed help, who was frail, and helpless and here I am repeating myself and my father also had started drinking at that point in his life in an unhealthy way. So it was a stage where I'm trying to sort through lots of complex emotions on my end, also feeling kind of frozen and stuck on where I couldn't move forward in my life yet. And so my emotions were really, a lot of rollercoaster, not stuck in the pain moments, largely. So I'm balancing out excitement for what could be and then, damn it, I'm dragged back into the past. And like anybody who's in some kind of traumatic, stressful situation, sleep can be elusive. And to wake up, four o'clock in the morning and go, here I am. Here I am. And if you, if you remember from that moment, I just, okay. I grabbed my computer and I just started downloading all the garbage that was in my head.
Tony: Again, I'm implying all these powerful therapeutic principles on you, whether you know it or not. And so that's why I love the I'm okay, now I'm not. And then I do, I say constantly when we ruminate and beat ourselves up and what's wrong with me, you know, we're looking for this certainty we won't find. So then I always say, you know, yeah, those are noted and now do, and you did. And you did, there's a quote that I really liked and you said, they say that time heals all wounds, does it heal or simply blunt the pain, the ache, instead of becoming a constant road that we no longer distinguish from the other roars, or roar, constant roar, that we no longer distinguish from the other roars assaulting our bodies and mines, I can't answer that. Not tonight, not on this day. Again, so well said. And I'm curious now, and I, you know, I have my answer that you need to say. I'm kidding, but you know, now, did that time, did it just simply blunt the pain or did time, what did time do for you?
Dana: I think what time did was give me distance and perspective. Time itself, I don't think changes everything. Anything. If you stay stuck in your pain and your trauma, people do that. They do. I didn't know how I was going to remove that pain. But I was, I knew early on that I was committed to not letting my husband's behavior destroy me. And time for me was, it gave me a tool. It was just part of the tool. I couldn't do it alone. Speaking, writing, giving myself perspective, not only on myself, but his behavior, his addiction, his compartmentalization. It all had to work together and so time kind of helps things marinate.
Tony: Oh, that's good. I like that. And, I want to now of course, jokingly say that was the correct answer, you know, that you, you did that correct, because I'm asked that question about time and how long, and then I unfortunately say as long as it takes and you're right where you need to be. And, but I know that can be helped when people are actively doing and then people say, do what? Well, kind of anything at first other than ruminating and thinking and so I just, I feel like your book, whether you know it or not, Dana, I mean it just laid that process out so well, and I think that it does often take longer than when people would like for it to take, but then when they're, they're through it, then it had to take as long as it takes. And I don't know if that was your experience as well.
Dana: I think that's one of the reasons that I've, or a conclusion I've come to as I sat with the attempt at divorce number one, finally doing it, number two, so we had this, we had this five year period of being in the middle. And to be honest, I think there was a lot of healing that was going on inside of me, although inside the marriage. A healing that led to divorce. And that processing was, I think, essential. Had we divorced at our first attempt, I don't know that I would've been as healthy about it. I would've, I would've been a mess still emotionally, I would've sat with that anger longer than I did.
Tony: That right there. I mean, that's where I will maybe go back in and edit me asking a question that sounded really smart. I'm kidding. I won't because that answer so sums up in my work as a therapist if someone wants to say, well, just tell me what I need to do and what do you think would be best? And, oh, don't hand me that power because then it will give you the opportunity that let's say, yeah. Well, I mean, I've seen that this is most 90 whatever percent of the time it won't work and you'll be happier out. But I'm not gonna say that because then if the person says, okay, because then they'll get out. And now if they don't feel good, the first thing they can do is say, well, the therapist said that it wasn't gonna work. What was I supposed to do? And I feel like what you just said there about that healing comes in that, there's a book that refers to it as the messy middle and I think that healing has to come, I mean, obviously within, but that might be within the marriage. And that is difficult because you're around the person that you're frustrated by, but you want to then talk about the frustration with the person.
Dana: Yeah, there is, and I certainly had a therapist who said, are you sure you wanna stay in this marriage?
Tony: Okay, yeah.
Dana: And I intellectually knew I needed to leave, but emotionally I wasn't ready to do it. And so, yeah, I think this whole issue of time and how we beat ourselves up, the part to remember for all of us is that this is not linear. There is not one thing, and we will do like the addict does one step forward, two steps backwards. We'll reverse it and we'll get two steps forward and one step back. And this is normal and this is okay. As long as there's some progress and some change, what won't work is not to hold onto the pain and to that awful place where you regret and you can't even talk about it. And I'm already running into women who like, I wanna give this book to my friend because she's there and she won't even go near it. She can't even acknowledge that this was part of her life. Those are not people that are in healthy places. And it's so sad.
Tony: And when you were talking before, when we talk about your, that opening scene and you're looking and thinking about being on the edge of the water, or I have people that will say, hey, I'm not suicidal, but I call it the, but if a meteor hits me, that's not a bad thing, you know, theory where it's that again, the I think the brain is an absolute don't get kill device. So it is gonna do anything it can to get your attention. And so when people don't open up about things, keep things in their head, then they, I feel like, you know, unfortunately people start to get to this place of feeling everything from suicidal thoughts and ideations and especially not being willing to open up about that because that is a shame filled process as well. So I just, I think your message is really gonna resonate and I feel like hearing it from people that have been through it, I don't know what, you know, I think it really speeds up the healing process for those in it. And as a therapist I can say all the right words and people feel heard and understood, but when somebody has gone through it like you have, I feel like that just that, that it does, it speeds up the healing.
So I'm, I really, I really appreciate you coming on and your book was really, I mean, I really like it a lot. I'm a huge audio book guy, so I've already got your fiction books and they're all, can I ask a couple of just nerdy author questions? Okay. So, okay and I'll talk about some of this stuff in the intro too, but, okay, your books are, it's a Andrea Kellner series, so Lies and High Places, The Last Lie, Lies of Men. Tell me about the, tell me about your interest in lying, Dana. Tell me about the honestly, sell those fiction books because I love audiobooks and I listen constantly, so I'm excited to listen to those.
Dana: And the memoir's gonna be in audio as well. I'm working on that now. So I was starting to write the fiction as the heaviness, the worst part of my husband's drinking was happening. And I was starting to find out what was going on, what had been going on in his life. I made the decision to start writing before I knew the truth and for me, writing mystery, what I enjoy is the psychological part, the puzzle. The why, the how. I can't wait. Who's doing it? You know? I'm not into the blood and gore part. I want the psychological, behind the scenes what motivates people and kind of the short answer to the lies is in those books, my character, Andrea, she could uncover lies that I wasn't uncovering in my real life.
Tony: Okay, now, now I have to listen.
Dana: And lying is at the core of all of these crimes.
Tony: Okay. Well that's exciting. Okay. Can I get you to, uh, I have a new true crime meets therapy podcast coming out in a couple of weeks, Murder on the Couch, I would love to maybe have you come on there and let's break down one of your books. I think that would be a lot of fun. All right, Dana, what a, what a pleasure. I really appreciate you coming on and I think this is gonna resonate with the overall mental health audience of the Virtual Couch and then the Waking Up to Narcissism. I think it's just gonna speak volumes to people that are experiencing that. So thank you. And I'll have all this in the show notes, but where can people find you?
Dana: I am danakillian.com, I have book pages for everything. There are links to purchase. It's available, the book is available for pre-order right now, and it will be available anywhere you like to buy books.
Tony: Okay, and I read some of your online journal as well, and I mean, you've got a lot on your website and you are a very good writer. So I highly encourage people to go check that out. All right, Dana, I hope we will get to talk again. Thanks a lot.
Tony shares questions and answers from his forum for women in relationships with narcissistic or emotionally immature people. The questions deal with narcissistic family systems, whether or not to "confront" or air out the narcissist's drama to the entire family. Two forum members share their "aha" moments, one bringing more clarity (their narcissist having to continually explain that they were a good person vs. simply being a good person). Another brings frustration (having to do with narcissistic projection and control).
Listen to the trailer for Tony's new "Waking Up to Narcissism Q&A Premium Podcast" here https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/waking-up-to-narcissism-q-a/id1667287384
WUTN 58 Transcript
Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 58 of Waking Up to Narcissism. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist. And host of the Virtual Couch podcast. And please sign up for the newsletter, go to tonyoverbay.com. Sign up for that. I have a lot of things I want to share and I feel like it's going to be best done via the newsletter, but I will say one of those things is the Waking Up to Narcissism Question and Answer premium edition. That is a subscription-based podcast and the trailer is up. So please go find out, I'll put the link to that in the show notes, and that will be a weekly Q and A, and then the proceeds will go to help people who are in emotionally abusive relationships and help them get the help that they need.
So for today's episode, we are going to go to the Facebook group that I have for women that are in relationships with emotionally immature or narcissistic fill in the blanks, which always sounds like I'm saying that dirty rotten fill in the blank, but it's fill in the blank is it could be a spouse. It could be a parent, it could be a boss. It could be an adult child. It could be a neighbor, a friend, a company, a religious institution. You name it. So one person said that they had their big popcorn moment about a year ago, but sometimes they said, “I still get that late pop,” which I just love that concept. “The other day, my ex and I were texting regarding logistics of kids scheduling. And he states in the conversation, ‘The only reason I was asking that is because I was being nice to you.’”
And then she said, “It all the sudden dawned to me that no one else had ever said that type of phrase to me. No one else has to tell me that their actions were intended to be nice. They just let their actions speak for themselves. Then it dawned on me even more,” she said, “that I have heard him use this type of phrase to me so much more over the course of the last 15 years and to the kids and to other people. And it was just not a normal thing to do. How did I not see that until just now?” And she said it just blew my mind. And I keep a tab in my notes of talking to people when, and this is just from a curious standpoint, as a therapist, when people say things that they say them, and they assume that this is, this is a normal way that all humans communicate.
I'll give you another example. This one was pretty recent. Somebody was talking about there, there was a couple session and the person was saying, “He never got back to me.” And then the guy who initially said, “Well, I didn't get your text.” And then she said, “Well, but you then did talk about some of the things that I'd put in the text.” And then you watch him say, well, yeah. No, I may, I got your text, but, you didn't really, I didn't know that you wanted me to get back to you. And then she'd kind of brought some more awareness to something else that was in the text or the literally something that he had gotten back to her on. And then he said, “You know, I just actually had a whole lot going on right then. And it just really wasn't a good time.” And so then I felt like it was as if he looked over at me and said, how did I do? Did that work? And the reality is that isn't the way that we normally communicate as human beings that, “hey, I'm going to throw a bunch of stuff and see if any of these work, how about that?”
And I hope that both the person who would be speaking and looking at me saying, “Hey, did that work?” And the person that is listening to that conversation will see the significance of why I bring up this example. Because to the person that is listening, and if you are this kind, pathologically kind person that is just saying, “okay, well, I guess he didn't get my texts.” Except for he did. And, maybe, it was not a good time for him. Test your spidey sense? That doesn't really seem like a healthy way to communicate. Because to the other person, I want that person in this scenario, this guy to really sit with that concept, that it isn't a normal way to communicate when your first response is, “Well, I didn't get the text.” And then if she digs in and there's proof that you did get the text, then it just doesn't even dawn on you to stop in that moment and say, why, why didn't I feel that I couldn't say I just didn't respond. Or, I didn't know what to say or I feel like my response was going to sound like an excuse or any of these moments to self confront versus okay, next up, okay, I didn't get the text. It wasn't a good time for me.
Almost to say that if that one didn't work, he had plenty more coming. Probably had chambered up there, “Well, you don't always respond to my texts,” or, “Okay. What am I supposed to do to sit on my phone all day and wait for you to text?” Because I've heard all of those in my sessions as well, but that isn't a mature adult way to communicate. Because if we go back to that concept of these popcorn moments, I know I talk about them in more dramatic terms. So that concept of the popcorn moment is that the emotionally immature or narcissistic person is going to say things to try to get you to take the bait or they're pushing the buttons. So if you just sit back, and eat your popcorn and watch the show, then you'll see them start to cycle through all the different buttons that normally work. They may start with the, “Man. I am just a big piece of garbage.” and then they can almost subconsciously look over and see if you go. “No, you're not, you're a good person,” but if you just grab a bite of popcorn, watch then the next act might be, “but apparently you think that you have everything figured out.” Because that button's probably worked in the past. And then I say, I don't, I just have another bite. And then the next one might be the sad version of , “oh my gosh, what am I doing? I'm just, I'm going to lose my whole family.” Or, and it can get to be the really scary ones too that have to do with, “I don't even want to live. I hope that a boulder hits me” or these sorts of things. And then if you don't take any of those, the bait or let those buttons work, then you'll typically have the narcissistic exit where it's just the “Fine, you know what? This is a ridiculous conversation anyway, I'm leaving.” And I have more people when they learn to just stay and be present. But it's hard because those buttons are, they usually work. That's why people push those buttons.
But then they start to recognize, wow. It really is. It doesn't really matter what I say or do, because they are just looking for me to engage so that then they can get out of accountability. So I feel like the mini version of the popcorn moment, and if we call it a hot tamale moment or something, but in those moments, it would be, “I didn't get your text. Oh, that text. No. Yeah, I did. But I don't remember. You didn't really ask me anything. Okay, well, I guess that's fair. I mean, you did ask those things, but it really, it just wasn't a good time for me or, well, you don't always get back to me with your texts. I mean, if we're being honest,” so it's more of this junior version of, we called it junior mint version of the popcorn moments, but I just loved that she had shared that, once she was aware of that, she said that that just helped so much more. And a couple of the comments that I liked from people commenting about that post, someone said, you know, “Seriously, the things that we see when our minds are more clear and not being controlled anymore.” And I think that is such a good way to put it.
Someone else said, “When we were at the worst in our relationship, he would say, ‘You know, I'm not a bad person’ or sometimes, ‘You know, neither one of us is a bad person.’” And she said, “I was so baffled because I hadn't ever thought I was a bad person. And later realized he was just validating himself. But it really is telling because why would somebody really need to say that if they were showing up being authentic and emotionally mature and knowing, oh, I I'm not even, I'm not a bad person. We're just trying to learn how to communicate more effectively.” And, and so that can really, it can be an eye opener.
I want to get to a question that someone had posed, and I really feel like this is where we'll spend the time today. And I got the permission of everybody in the group or the people that had posted about this. So I'm gonna change some of the details just to preserve some of the confidentiality, but this is going to be talking about the narcissistic father. So this person said they need some perspective. And they said, “I'm so emotional that I can't even think straight,” which right out of the gate, I appreciate the vulnerability of this person, because when we are so emotional, we're, our amygdalas are hijacked. Our heart rates are elevated, our cortisol is flowing, and we can't access that prefrontal cortex frontal lobes of the brain. We can't get to our logic because we're just in this anger fight or flight mode. So she said, okay, “So my dad is the narcissist” and she said, “I've been no contact now for a few years. Until my mom's funeral, that was very recent.” And I'm so sorry to hear that. I really am. She said, “My issue is that I get a phone call from one of my siblings because my sibling is freaked out by my dad's girlfriend. And my sibling finally couldn't handle my dad's silence. So my sibling called to rant to me. She said, my dad doesn't want anybody to know that he's been dating someone since just shortly after my mom had passed away. But he is serious enough that he's introduced this person to some of his siblings and word is he's preparing to propose.” So she said, “When I say he doesn't want anybody to know, he doesn't want me or my other siblings to know. He doesn't want the members of his church to know, and he doesn't want my mom's family to know.
“So he's avoiding calls from all of these people. So she said, now I'm sitting here and I'm just really fed up with the lies and the deceit. And I just feel like I want to let everybody know. Like publish it to the world. I want everybody to know, especially my mom's family, who he really is.” And she said, “I'm guessing that's because I'm so mad because it feels like a betrayal of my mother,” but she said really doesn't her family deserve to know? And she said, “I think I would want to know if it was me, but am I just letting anger lead me to some toxic place?” She said, “I did just find out tonight, so I know that I'm super raw,” and then she just posed to the group, “is this legitimately something that needs to be shared.” So, let's break this thing down. One of the things I think is pretty fascinating, and these are the situations that I would not be aware of unless I was sitting in the chair that I'm sitting, working with, the population that I'm working with. But I can honestly say that within the last year I've had three different situations where the emotionally mature or narcissistic person got married within a month, two months, a very short period of time of the divorce or in this scenario, the passing of a spouse, and I'm, and again, who am I to be that judgemental? The point that I'm going to, well, I'm a therapist that has dealt with this, I remember one time working with somebody that had come to meet with me and they did feel guilty about moving on to a new relationship shortly after their wife had passed, but their wife, the more we broke things down, had been dealing with a terminal illness and had not really been herself for almost four years. And so this person had been reaching out and having a connection with someone for the last six months or a year of her life. And the irony here is that the wife had said, “Hey, I know you can't be alone. So I give you my blessing.”
But then he felt like if he shared that with anybody, then it was gonna make him just sound like a horrible person. So I, again, I know that the situations, every situation is different and this person had just such empathy and they were actually coming into counseling to deal with this. But the situations I'm thinking of just within the last year are, I'm just going to say the narcissistic person, who didn't even tell their children, their adult children, their teenage children, that they were even getting married. In one scenario, the person found out, the person that I, that I'm aware of, found out that their father had gotten married through a social media post of someone else. And so they just said that they just found out that this had happened. And, or another scenario where someone got married and didn't tell, they had several kids and didn't tell them. Which that's the part where that isn't and I'm going to pull the I'm the normal police card, but that isn't a normal way that people act or communicate. And I feel like that's where the emotionally mature narcissistic person does not want to deal with any discomfort or any invalidation and so they have most likely confabulated a narrative or a story that makes their version of that, the right version. That whether, well, I want to spare all of my kids, that could be painful or, well, um, nobody asked me if I was getting married, even though I haven't even introduced them to the person that I'm thinking about marrying.
So I think it's one of those just interesting things where I only see that admittedly in the emotionally immature narcissistic person, where they can quickly move on and then not tell certain parts of the family because they're still trying to control the narrative, because in my opinion, they don't want to deal with any invalidation or discomfort. So, let me start to work through what I thought were really powerful were the comments that people shared to this person that asked the question. You know, the first person and I just, I love it, just said, “I'm so sorry,” I mean, that's empathy right there. She said, “you have every right to feel the way you do.
And take a few days or weeks to think on this.” So I love the concept where the first thought is some validation, some empathy, and then saying, yeah, maybe calm that amygdala down a little bit. The next person responded and said, “I was surprised that my ex's family turned a blind eye to all his indiscretions and then decided to cut me off instead.”
And she said, you know, “Narcissists are very good at telling their victim story and oftentimes have their own set of enablers.” She said, “Just because you share the truth to them or about them doesn't mean that others will see or validate it.” And she says, I'm so sorry for what you're going through. So if we dig into that answer alone, which is so good, is that is where we start talking about the concepts around a narcissistic family system. So if the family system is more emotionally mature or narcissistic, then what ends up happening is let's just say in this scenario, the family doesn't want to think that someone in our family could do something like not tell their adult children or get married to someone so soon. So they're doing a whole family confabulated narrative of, well, what was he supposed to do?
Or, I'm sure his kids would not have approved. And he doesn't need to go to his kids and get validation. So they're creating a narrative, which is an unhealthy relationship because now we're triangulating, we're isolating. We're not being honest with our family because most likely there's been a pattern of that that has led up to this situation. And I appreciate her saying just because you share the truth of them doesn't mean others will see or validate it. And I think that is one of the most difficult things that people are dealing with, especially. When they are getting ready to end a relationship with an emotionally immature person. I have a couple of men right now that are in situations where they are looking at divorcing. And one of the things that comes up so often is the narrative that is going to be put out there that if in this scenario where the female is the narcissist or the emotionally mature person, that they are going to now spread the word that the husband was such a bad person. And he left me and I didn't want this. And so the husband at times will just be so just frozen by the narrative that's going to get out there.
That then it can cause him to start to feel like, “okay man, maybe I am the jerk.” You know, “what, what is wrong with me?” One of, I think a difficult thing is just knowing that as you come to realize what is best for you or what's best for you and your children, and need to do the thing that it might be a difficult thing to know that unfortunately, you still can't control the narrative and what someone else is going to say about why things happen the way that they did, the next comment I think is a, is a insightful one as well. The person said, “We've learned that narcissists can't be alone.” And I think, in this scenario, we're talking about the narcissist that we really go back to that whole childhood wounding and trauma, so they have no sense of self. And require external validation for their sense of self, which then also comes with a dose of no empathy or low empathy. Then they have to have someone in essence around them at all times for them to either take that one up position on or to go victim on and in order to understand how or who they are. And so they don't really have, again, that, that internal sense of self.
So she said, “We've all learned that narcissists can't be alone.” She said, “I think your mom's family will see his true colors over time. And you can be there to verify,” but she said, “I think your emotions are just super raw right now and you're hurt and you're angry.” She said, “Remind yourself, he isn't doing this to hurt anyone. He just doesn't care. He's doing this for his own selfish wellbeing. Don't give them the gift of your anger about the situation, or it will only make him happier. And you more hurt.” And I just, I think there's so much wisdom in that answer. That it can't be you, you, aren't going to be able to say, hey, everybody look at this, look what he's doing. Because it's going to make it sound like you are the one that's trying to be mean or make this person look bad. But if you just start to live more of a life of integrity and honesty, and not feeling like you have to convince others that you are in the right. If you know that you are in the right. Then you just do and you be, and you become, and people start to recognize that and those true colors do come out over time.
It's interesting if we look at that line, which I think people, if they have not been in this situation, they may think that, how does that make sense? But it's the, when she says, “Remind yourself, he isn't doing this to hurt anyone. He just doesn't care.” And that can sound really difficult, but it's not about hurting the other person. It's about needing that narcissistic supply. He is doing that for his own selfish wellbeing. And I love her phrase where she says, don't give him the gift of your anger about the situation because it will only make him happier and you hurt more.
And that will, that's where people then burn a lot of emotional calories and spend a lot of energy, trying to figure out the best way to navigate a situation with an emotionally mature narcissistic person. And that is giving them far too much of your time. It really is. Another person said, “Most men, whether they are a narcissist or not, struggle being alone.” She said, “Outside of the fact that he's a narcissist and he's been hiding this,” she said, “I might take some time to think about why it is affecting you so much.” And then she shared a story of her own mother being single for over three decades after her dad passed away. She said, “When I was younger, I didn't want her to get remarried because I didn't want a new dad.” And she said, “Now that she's in her seventies, I really do wish that she had a companion.” And this really is one of the things that I love about this group is that they are offering a variety of insights based on people's own experiences.
So in that scenario, I love that she's saying that. Okay. Yeah, it does stink and it doesn't seem healthy or the right thing to do. But every opportunity is an opportunity now for self confrontation. So is it something that just makes me mad? Is it something I have any control of, or is it just something that I need to let go? And then someone else said this and I love, I love her passion, this answer. She said, “I want you to hear me when I say this, this situation is so hard,” She said, “so many of us know. And when the information comes unsolicited from you,” she's talking about, I just want to shout, you know, shout from the rooftops that my dad's a horrible person. She said, when that information comes unsolicited from you, “it will inevitably make you look bad. Like you are the one stirring the pot or creating drama that you're the problem. And you will become the target or the scapegoat.” She's saying, “I'm not saying lie for him. If somebody were to ask or if it were to come up in conversation with other family members, confirm what, you know. But don't be the one to announce it in the world. Narcissists can't be alone. They need a supply. So it makes sense that he moved on so quickly.” And this person is so true and that is called the discard. She said, “Remember, you're no contact for a reason, not your circus, not your monkeys.” I love that phrase. “Keep your side of the street clean and you won't look like the crazy one.” She said, “Believe me when I say that this is the most frustrating and hardest thing that I was ever told to do. And when his world started to unravel, because others were starting to wake up,” she said, “I was able to witness from a distance which was the best satisfaction of all.” And I just loved this thread. And that is also hard to say, because I hate the fact that the person is posting this, but I just feel like it shows the power of people that are learning how to interact with the emotionally immature or narcissistic people in their lives and just the power that can come within a group.
And I want to share one more from the group today because I just feel this pattern is emerging of the way that the emotionally immature people communicate with others. That is not, and I'll throw out the word again, normal. Actually, let me play this one backwards. So here is an emotionally mature conversation. Let's pretend that my wife is going out to do something and it's when we had younger kids. And then I'm in charge of the nighttime routine. The healthy response or the healthy question for me to ask would be, hey, honey, what time are you gonna be home? And then she may say, I don't know, about 10. And if I know that the kids are normally down by 8:30, then. I know that that is my responsibility. And then I say, okay, have a great time. I'll see you when you get home. Period. And then I am going to take care of the kids. What a wonderful opportunity for a dad to be able to spend that one-on-one time with his kids and the nightly routine and being able to support his wife because no doubt, there are plenty of times where I would go out or I would be late, or I would be out of town for work. And she was going through the nighttime routine on her own over and over again. So there's a normal, healthy interaction. Now let's go to the way that this was presented in the group.
The person said, “I just had an aha moment about an issue that has been a huge one, our entire relationship. And it goes something like this.” She said, “I'll be planning to do something like anything, go to the store, go out with friends. Anything.” She said, “Literally go anywhere and my husband will throw out the worst case scenario. Okay, so you'll be home really late and you won't be able to help me with the kids.” So she said, I get annoyed that he's already decided what I'm doing. And immediately, I jump into defense and I say, come on. It's not going to be like that. And now he's got me saying, okay, well then I guess you'll tell me that you won't be home late.” And she said, “Without even telling you're asking me not to be home late when my plans, then if they even go slightly off what I've said, now I'm held to the decision that he made when he made me say that I would be home much earlier.” And she just said, “Does anybody else get into these twisted situations,”
And she said, “where, what would that be like if he just said, hey, what time will you be home? And then I can respond with somewhere between X and Y.” She said, “Like I know in my head that we could already have had a normal conversation.” And then, there were so many comments that were so supportive. People just saying this would literally happen all the time. And, one person said that her husband had a job where he was out most evenings. And so then when he would be home, she would try to go out and do something with her friends. And it was then continually about, well, what time and how late? And I guess now I'm, I'm in charge of everything. Someone else said, “I think we've had that exact conversation.”
And she said, “I think the key is jumping to the defense,” she said, “which is so easy in the moment. And she said, I've started just setting a boundary and saying, well, I didn't say that, which then will also turn into the, no, I didn't mean that. And I love the point that she made, where she said, they're just looking for conflict. And that is the truth in that button pushing, and let me try to just, I'm going to go on a little bit of a, just a train of thought here and talk about why does the emotionally mature narcissistic person push buttons to begin with? And here's just that scenario where it, when it wasn't modeled in childhood or when people just weren't allowed to do and be, that everything had to have an angle or everything. There was this, almost this social capital or currency in every transaction. So that, well, what are you going to do for me or, okay I need to make you feel bad so I can keep this in my back pocket and pull it out when I need something. So everything becomes this tit for tat or this, you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours, kind of a mentality. But what the emotionally immature narcissistic person doesn't realize is that isn't reciprocity. They're just trying to make sure that they will get their way.
So when the activity or the event benefits them, they're not keeping track saying, oh man, my spouse is an amazing human being. And now I owe them. I owe them the same respect if they want to do something. No, they go and do when they want to do, because that's what they want to do. But then when it's time that you want to do something, now here's an opportunity to make you feel bad or guilty. So that now they can have this, you know, again, this currency, this emotional currency to then use against you. To then make themselves feel even better when they want to do whatever they want to do, and then make you feel worse when you want to do what you want to do because that's impacting them. Because then all of a sudden, now they are being asked to take ownership or responsibility for something and it can be anything. I mean. You know, a dad can actually enjoy bath time with his kids, but it's the concept that will, where now I have to do that. Instead of looking at that as an opportunity that they have to connect with their children. So that question, it just leads to so many other, other thoughts or concepts around why the narcissist wants conflict. And it's because if you go to the very depths of attachment and attachment issues with the emotionally mature narcissistic person, this is where they weren't, they did not have a secure attachment with their parent. So it really did matter what they did or who they were, how they showed up in order to get their needs met. And so, this is that, it's that concept where a kid will do anything to know that they exist or that they matter, now matter doesn't mean that they are cared about, but matter means to know that they exist. So as a child, that constant conflict, whether they were doing something that they're, then they're emotionally immature narcissistic parent then said, hey, nice job champ. Yeah, you remind me so much of myself. Or, I notice how good you are doing whatever this, whatever it is you're doing. And that must be because I have taught you that. Or there's that conflict of the parents saying that, I see what you're doing there, and I was so much better than you at that when I was your age. But it's always, there's always a transaction happening. There's always a one up or one down position happening. So by the time this emotionally immature narcissistic person hits adulthood in their, in their relationships, that's just again, the air that they breathe. And so that can just be very, very difficult when everything does start to seem like what's the angle or why can't we just have a normal conversation or a normal night? Or why can't we just do things because we want to do them and it doesn't have to be, well, you did this and I did this and you never do this.
But that is the relationship. That's how that relationship evolves with an emotionally mature narcissistic person. So when you, then again, start to pull back, or disengage or not play into that, there's always an angle narrative. And you just start to go and do, and like this person said in the group, where they just said the key is not trying not to jump into the defensive mode, which is so easy in that moment. It's our reaction that we do. So when we can just know that it's okay for me to go out and it's okay for you to take care of your kids, because that's what we do as parents. That's why we have, when we have kids where we're signing up for that. Then I don't have to defend myself and I can come home when I'm going to come home. And I can let you know that. And then if that is something that then you will try to use against me, well then bless your heart. I mean, that's a you problem because we're too adult human beings and we're interacting in a relationship and we both have responsibility for these kids. And so we need to start changing the dynamic that the kids then are not the pawns to be used. To then have this, I don't know this emotional currency that can be used against each other.
So, we'll end things there today, but if you have additional questions, comments, if there's anything that this episode brought up for you, feel free to shoot that over through my website at tonyoverbay.com. And if you are looking to become part of my women's Facebook group, or if you're a guy who is in a relationship with an emotionally immature and narcissistic female, please reach out. Or if you are the person that is starting to say, hang on a minute. I do a lot of these things. I mean, and, you know, I can wrap my head around the concepts around emotional immaturity, and maybe I need some help starting to become more emotionally mature. Then I would love to hear from you too. And I just, again I appreciate all the support and we'll see you next time on Waking Up to Narcissism.
Tony reads an email from a listener who shares their “waking up” experience and how difficult it can be to break free from a “trauma bond” and stay strong when the narcissist/emotionally immature partner pushes all the buttons to get you back. He also discusses the origins of “pathological kindness” and shares more from Ross Rosenberg’s book, “The Human Magnetic Syndrome.” https://amzn.to/3iRBsvA Tony shares a theory of how the narcissist and the kind person meet based on the article “Discovery: Kindness Gene So Powerful It Can Be Detected by Strangers in 20 Seconds,” https://charterforcompassion.org/discovering-kindness/discovery-kindness-gene-so-powerful-it-can-be-detected-by-strangers-in-20-seconds
Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 57 of Waking Up to Narcissism. I'm your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of the Virtual Couch podcast. And soon, a brand new podcast called Murder on the Couch. I know, true crime. There's a lot of them, but this is one that I'm doing with my wonderful, amazing daughter, Sydney, who is a true crime aficionado. And we talk about this stuff often, whenever she's in town, we talk about cases, true crime podcasts. And then I can't help myself, I like to throw a little bit of a therapy or psychology spin. So at one point we decided let's just record some things. So if you go, I'll put it in the show notes, but if you go to the Virtual Couch YouTube channel, there's about a minute and a half sneak preview clip that I think that you will really enjoy, and that is going to be coming out pretty soon.
And thank you so much for all the feedback from episode 56 with Ashley Boyson. That episode, it just kind of went insane, but I know that she has a tremendous following, but even more so than just having a following, she has that because she is a powerful, powerful person. And just the mix that the feedback I've got has been really cool because it's people that are saying, here's somebody that has been through just one of the most horrific things that you could even imagine. Literally, the thing that true crime shows are made of. But she made no secret about how difficult things were, how she didn't know what she didn't know, how there was a process of waking up to the narcissism in the relationship of her husband that had been murdered and then also experiencing narcissism and the next relationship. And now she's in a really good place and she's doing big things with her life and helping people and being there for her kids. And so it just shows you that life will continue to move on, and this entire waking up to, whether it's the again, narcissism in a relationship with your spouse or with a parent or an in-law, an employer, any of that, that it's just a process that takes time. It's going to take a little bit longer than you probably would like for it to take and wherever you are, that's right where you're at and that's the place you need to be. Because if you're even listening to this, that means that at some point you weren't aware of what narcissism or emotional immaturity even was. And now you're aware and you're thinking about it more and you're listening to things and reading things.
And now you have a nice little confirmation bias. We're talking about the good kind. We're talking about the kind, when you buy a cool new car and then you see them everywhere and you feel pretty validated, I'm thinking, okay, that must be a good car. So now you're starting to recognize the emotional immaturity in the relationships around you and maybe not feeling as crazy. And again, it takes a little bit longer. A lot longer than we would like for it to start to really gel and feel like, okay, I think I'm going to be okay. So right now, if you're listening and you still feel like this whole thing is overwhelming, then you're a human being and you're going through a process and I will say this until the cows come home, wherever that phrase came from. But you did not know what you did not know. And now, you know. And you're starting to learn the tools, but guess what? You're probably not implementing the tools, and that's no shame or guilt intended again, it's because it's part of the process of being a human being, our brains like to go down the path of least resistance. And this is all new and scary.
So you go from, I didn't know what I didn't know, to I know, now I’m kind of not doing, and that's a pretty scary place to be because it can feel sometimes like, I wish I didn't know. But you do. And, you know, and eventually you're going to start doing more of the things that will help you raise that emotional baseline. Get that PhD in gaslighting, get out of those unproductive conversations, set healthy boundaries, and know that a boundary is a challenge to the emotionally immature or narcissist. And then, that last little lever is going to fall into place where you'll recognize that there is nothing that I can do, me, that I can do to cause them to have the aha moment or the epiphany. That needs to come from them. And so often, the more that I try to give them that aha moment or that epiphany, I'm an essence just saying, hey, I found a new page in this playbook of the buttons you can press later on. But, I'm going to hand it to you anyway, because I think maybe this one might be different. And that is the tale of the pathologically kind.
And that's maybe a little bit of a plug too, if you are someone that is in a relationship with the narcissistic, fill in the blank, fill in the blank does not mean “a hole”, fill in the blank can be a spouse, you know, again, an in law, an entity, an employer, a friend. And you just feel like you are made to feel insane. Reach out because I've got a private women's Facebook group now that is just amazing. I've got enough men now that are in these relationships as well, that I think we're ready to fire that group up in an even more interesting population.
And I'm grateful for this or the people that are saying, I think I might be the narcissist and not the one where you're the person saying, okay. I feel crazy in the relationship. And now am I the narcissist? Because I'm hearing all these things or if you are the person who is starting to say, oh, I am extremely emotionally immature, manipulative, I gaslight and I can't help myself. And my spouse probably is going through all of these things, then reach out, let me know, because we're putting a lot of groups together, which is actually a plug for next week, so that would be the week of January 20 something, then the Waking Up to Narcissism premium podcast question and answer podcast episode will be released and there is going to be, in essence, a trailer or a zero episode. And I'm going to explain a lot more about what that project is about. It is going to be a premium paid subscription-based podcast that will be nothing but questions and answers. And that's because of the questions that are coming in from this podcast. I think now we're up to maybe a hundred pages of single-spaced Google document questions. And I know that there's just not enough resources out there. And when people are in that “I'm starting to learn” phase, they really are just taking in so much data and have so many questions. And, if you can't find the right place to ask those questions, and if you are trying to work with a therapist who maybe doesn't really understand emotional immaturity personality disorders, it can be maddening. So I want to answer those questions and then the money from that premium podcast proceeds will go to fund the nonprofit that is going to be there to help people in these narcissistic or emotionally abusive relationships. So look for that. One of the quickest ways to know when that's going to be available is sign up for my newsletter at tonyoverbay.com or also you can follow me on social media, TonyOverbay underscore LMFT on Instagram is probably the easiest way. So, let me read the question. And then I want to talk about an article that I found that is so, so fascinating.
So the person says, “Hi, Tony. I just listened to my first Waking Up to Narcissism podcast last night. And I can't believe how accurate, absolutely spooky,” which I love that word spooky, “it was to hear your words. I recently became aware or more fully aware of what my husband is. So many of the tools for communicating and interacting with him I'd already come to understand and employ, but it was striking to hear them out loud from somebody else. I never knew before now what to label him and his behaviors. And I always felt like this was something unique to him or us. And that no one would ever understand or be able to help. And more than that, that it was all just me that I was overreacting or making anything a bigger deal than it really was. That if I just went along, agreed and complied with everything he wanted, everything will be fine. That we'd be able to make a nice home and raise our kids to be happy, healthy, and ready to take on their own life and embrace their path enthusiastically and well-balanced. So wrong. I feel I'm so overwhelmed with the amount of damage that's been done as a result of this 25 plus year engagement and marriage with a narcissist or an emotionally immature husband. Despite so many attempts to leave and repeated returns to this marriage, I was never able to fully disengage and I kept getting sucked back in his capacity to find and exploit vulnerability, fear and doubt has no end. I've been away from him and our home for the last six months. And now I never would have thought this, but I'm happy in the moment, day to day. I feel so much lighter, not being around him and subjected to his non-stop toxicity. And so now I'm looking for tools I need now that I'm in this space. Separated physically and living a life apart from him to stay apart. Try not to be drawn back into his conspiracies, his attempts to instill fear, doubt, or the syrupy pleading about how wonderful we are together and how foolish it is to throw away all of these years and how we're soulmates. And especially since our repeated history has been that I always do return. I want to, and I'm determined to break this cycle. I don't have any more time to waste on this relationship. So how do I maintain this long term? What resources or support is there for people like me that have sustained so many years of emotional abuse, gaslighting, mental abuse, and all the damage as a result. I would like my amygdala to return to normal, please. I appreciate the opportunity to reach out. And thankful to have happened upon your show.”
So much gold here. And I think these are, this is the framework of most of the emails that I get is someone that is finally recognized. And this person, she says so much, there's so much in just a couple of these sentences in particular. Where she talks about being sucked back in and his capacity to find an exploit, vulnerability, fear, and doubt has no end. And I've been going pretty big on this, I think the last few months. And that is the concept that as someone starts to wake up to that emotional immaturity or narcissism in the relationship and they start to recognize they have a voice that their opinions matter. And, and I don't, I'm going to say that I, you know, this might sound negative, but I'm kind of wanting to just normalize this process. That it's a real difficult thing to start to recognize this and not start to express yourself and start to try and do that fifth rule of interacting with the narcissist that I talk often about, still wanting to just try to give them that “aha” moment, but just the oh, an aggressive “aha” moment that they will understand now that it is okay for you to have your own opinion.
And that is okay for you to speak up and you are going to start doing that more. And unfortunately that isn't what is going to change that other person. As a matter of fact, you're handing them this data in real time of what other buttons to push and those buttons come reflexively from the narcissist or the emotionally immature. So when you say I finally am going to speak my voice, you can watch as a variety of responses that I could probably put on this wheel of narcissism could ensue. Finally, I've been begging you to say something our whole life. I ask your opinion all the time. You never give it or it could even be an oh, okay, so now you've got everything figured out. You're the smart one now, I guess I'm the dumb one. You know, or okay, well, yeah, you go and do whatever the heck it is you want to do and see how you like it there, because I'm going to tell your parents, I'm going to tell the courts or everybody that you're crazy. And you remember that one time that you didn't help the kids with their homework. And I'm going to show that you're an unfit mother. And so the emotional immature narcissist at that point is it's not like there's going to be anything different where that “aha” moment is still going to come. So unfortunately, when you get more angry and frustrated and fired up, then that is now just aggressively, just throwing these buttons over to your partner where maybe you used to hand them the buttons kind of kindly. Hey, you could talk a little nicer to the kids like that, and that's like a kind handing over of the button. And now you're just chucking those buttons at him as hard as you can. So yeah, they might hurt a little bit, but man, he's going to throw them right back at you and throw them back probably even harder.
And so I think this is one of the most difficult things is that the whole body keeps the score trauma vibe. When you finally feel like, I just can't take it anymore. And now I've been given a voice and I hear about other people that have a similar problem. And that my relationship isn't the only one. And that holy cow, I did not even know what I didn't know. I mean, even as I'm saying it right now, I feel like, you know, my own heart rate is elevating. And so that's that part where I like what she said at the end, I would like to be able to get my amygdala back to normal. So I feel like the unfortunate part is when somebody gets angry and frustrated, then their fight or flight response kicks in. We talk so often about the flight. You know, or even the fon where somebody just shuts down. But when you start to realize, oh my gosh, I did not have to be dealing with this my whole life, then that fight response kicks in. And unfortunately, when your heart rate elevates and you go into that fight or flight response, and it's that fight one in particular, then that is also triggering the person that you are now in conflict with.
And now their amygdala is right there, hijacked as well. But unfortunately now you're dealing with the emotional immaturity of a 10 year old boy who is now just going to throw out all kinds of things to try to hurt you at that moment. And it can be very, very bad. A thing is very bad accusations and words. So just know that unfortunately that's part of this process. So when you then are able to step back from that moment, that's the part where you’ve got to give yourself grace. You know, take a breather. And that's why I appreciate this person saying they did have to get away from this person to even start to feel like they were okay. And so when she said, when I left home, now I'm so happy in the moment, day to day, I feel so much lighter not being around him. And that goes back to that visceral or gut reaction that your emotions travel two and a half times faster than your logic. When data comes in through your eyes or your ears, it's converted these little electrical signals that go right to that amygdala and it says, okay, is this safe? And if you do not feel safe, then your brain is going to say, well, we don't even need those frontal lobes. We don't need logic or reason right now. We need adrenaline. We need cortisol. We need to shut down that logical part of the brain. Because there's no negotiating with a saber tooth tiger.
And now it is on. And so that is going to happen the more that you're around somebody that has been emotionally, physically, sexually, verbally, spiritually, financially abusive. So part of that waking up process is going to be this frustration. So if at any point when you recognize, oh, my amygdala is on its way to getting hijacked right now. I'm noticing people getting out of their seats on my amygdala plane and they look a little sketchy. They’re probably hijackers. At that point, we need to land that plane. You need to get out of the room and you will hear things on your way out of, okay. Fine, run. Leave. What about me? I mean, the buttons. That doesn't mean the buttons are not gonna be pushed. Again, if you're setting a boundary that whenever things are starting to go south, I'm going to exit the conversation. I'm going to exit the situation. I then know that that boundary now became a challenge. Oh, sure you will. Like you always do your runaway, this, the shows I'm going to tell everybody about this. All the buttons will just keep being pressed even on your way out. So back to when some determined to break this cycle, hey, you are, you know, you are because you're figuring it out. You're writing into a podcast, you're listening to a podcast, you're getting out of the environment. So your amygdala will calm down. I don't have any more time to waste on the relationship.
I can appreciate that. But how do I maintain this long term? I go back to the first rule of those five rules I like to talk about, and this is raising that emotional baseline. This is you time. This is self care, it is not a selfish time. So I want to talk about this big, big soapbox of mine is how we handle our thoughts. And so I feel like there's three things that I think that we just don't quite do correctly or we could do better with our thoughts. So the first thing is that when we are left to just ruminate and contemplate and try to figure out and try to make sense, that's not the most productive thing to do right now. Not, not at all as a matter of fact. Because right now, what you need to do is do things because the more that you try to just sit and figure out and stew and ruminate, then the more that you are going to start to feel that guilt, that shame that maybe it was me. Maybe I did something wrong. Okay. I understand. Now maybe I can go back in.
And Michael Twohig is a world-renowned acceptance and commitment therapy researcher that was on the Virtual Couch a few weeks ago. He had some amazing quotes. And one of those was he talked about healthy, happy people spend 80% of their time doing things that are important. And he made a point to say, it's not just doing things that are fun, but doing things that are important. So doing things that are important is not ruminating, doing things that are important are doing things. Things that are of value to you, things that will, at some point, even a healthy distraction, it will occupy your time. Because again, sitting in that discomfort of the relationship and the potential breaking of a relationship. Then that's where you're going to start to feel all those emotions and you're going to want to alleviate that feeling of discomfort by wanting to go and make peace with the emotionally immature person.
Now Michael Twohig also said that unhealthy, unhappy people spend 80% of their time in essence chasing pleasure or fun. And then I have since added to his quote. So, I'm hoping that he would be fine with this. But I have since added to his quote that then, yeah, 80% are unhappy, unhealthy people spend 80% of their time seeking this pleasure, but also trying to avoid discomfort or pain. And when we're trying to get rid of that, then it becomes even more prevalent and just upfront. So with that said, I feel like it is so important to just go and do, do things, do things that matter, do things that are important. Because that is going to keep you out of the rumination phase. And really at that point early on, you're trying to make sense of things that just don't make sense.But back to the concepts around things, I think we can do better when it comes to our thoughts. First thing that I think we do that is unproductive is we say, what's wrong with me? Why am I even thinking about this? Why am I doing this? Why am I going through this? Why is this so difficult? Why, why, why?
And let's start with, nothing's wrong with you. You're a human and you think and feel and behave the way you do because you're, you. Again, you are the product of your nature, your nurture, your birth order, your DNA, abandonment, rejection hopes, fears, dreams. That is what makes you, you. So guess what comes along with that? Your thoughts, your feelings and your emotions. Nothing's wrong with you. You're not broken. You're a human being. So when we say, what's wrong with me? Nothing. Part two is I need to stop thinking about this. I need to stop thinking about him. I need to stop thinking about how I can fix this, but then that's also saying I need to stop thinking about the plaid elephant wearing a tan, cowboy hat. So right now I'd imagine we all just thought of a plaid elephant wearing a tan cowboy hat and even tried to do one that I can't even quite muster up the image, but I sure did. So when you tell yourself, don't think of something, your brain's like, I will continue to think it. Psychological reactants, that instant negative reaction to being told what to do. It is built in, it’s innate, it's a survival mechanism. So instead of, what's wrong with me? Nothing. I need to stop thinking that. Now I just need to notice that I'm thinking that.
And then the other portion of that, that I think that we don't quite do as productive as we can, as we think is well, okay, instead of thinking about all the bad things or instead of trying to think about how it could work, I'm going to think about all the horrible things that he's done. But even then we're still paying way too much emotional, we're burning emotional calories, and spending this extra energy on still thinking about him. We have to think about the positive, but then think about the negative. So instead, this is just a moment to say, man, check that out. Look at what I'm thinking right now. Thinking about, I'm telling myself the old, “I can figure it out” story. I'm telling myself the old, “if I would have only done this” story, that's adorable. Thank you brain. That's what you've been doing. I appreciate it. Hasn't really worked very well. So now I'm going to go do. And then your brains going to say, oh, what are you going to do? You don't even know what to do. And there we go again. You know, oh, it's the old, “I'm not even sure what to do” story. So right now I'm going to do anything. I am going to walk outside and interact with the world. Life. I'm going to watch a show that I've heard about. I'm going to play a game. I mean, those don't sound like the most productive things in the world, but they are far more productive than trying to figure out how can I go back into the relationship and make it different when I've been trying that for two decades?
Okay. I want to shift gears a little bit because I found an article that I stumbled upon. And I know I use the phrase pathologically kind often, and I believe it was a couple of episodes ago where I was going through the five rules of interacting with a narcissist. And I might've answered that question about where did that pathologically kind concept come from, and it comes from Ross Rosenberg's work and the human magnet syndrome, but it turns out he didn't actually say pathologically kind, he was talking about that the kind people that are assuming the best or are thinking the best in others. And as a matter of fact, let me pull up human magnet syndrome. And I love Ross's work and he's been a guest on the podcast and here is what he says. So the human magnet syndrome thesis. He said, “Due to unconscious trauma based psychological forces, co-dependence and pathological narcissists are almost always attracted to each other. The resulting relationship is mostly breakup resistant and narcissists benefit the most from this situation.” And here's what I appreciate is he takes on the term codependency. He says, “Codependency is both a relationship and an individual condition that can only be resolved by the codependent. Many codependents are attracted to and maintain long term breakup resistant relationships with pathological narcissists.” And here's where I think I got the pathological kindness, this next concept that he talks about. He said, “Most codependents are selfless and deferential to the needs and desires of others over themselves. They are pathologically caring, responsible and sacrificing people whose altruism and good deeds are rarely reciprocated.”
So I love the concept. Even when we talk about confabulated memory, look at me. Confabulating that story right there. After reading that, and I had read it many times, then I jump on when I do an episode about pathological loneliness and I find his, the more about the human magnet syndrome and what Ross talks about as self-love deficit disorder, which is one of the things that he's bringing into the zeitgeists to address the almost formerly known as codependency. And so he talks about pathologically caring and then I moved forward from there calling the people pathologically kind, and I think it really does still fit. So he said that they are pathologically caring, responsible, and sacrificing people whose altruism and good deeds are rarely reciprocated. So he says, “While some codependents are resigned to their seemingly permanent relationship role, others actively, albeit unsuccessfully, attempt to change it. These people have become preoccupied with opportunities to avoid change and or control their narcissistic partners. And despite the inequities in their relationships and the consequence suffering, they do not end their partnerships.” So he said codependency is not just limited to romantic couplings as it manifests itself in varying degrees and most other significant relationships.
And so what I appreciate about that is that fits right into my number five rule, the nothing you will say or do will cause them to have the aha moment or the epiphany. And so I feel like that's where he talks about these in his view of codependency. Or these pathologically caring, or I call them now pathologically kind people. That they are almost what he says, resigned to the seemingly permanent relationship role, others actively albeit unsuccessfully attempting to change it. But the people become preoccupied where I would say you're spending a lot of emotional energy and burning a lot of emotional calories, which literally will leave people feeling absolutely exhausted and sometimes unable to show up as the best version of themselves with their kids or in their workplace or with their friends, because they are preoccupied with opportunities to avoid change and/or control their narcissistic partners. And again, he says, despite that inequity, because they can never cause that other person to have the aha moment. Then it leads to this consequence suffering, but they are not the ones to end the partnerships. And as a matter of fact, when you have that pathological narcissist, incredibly, emotionally immature person, when you provide them more data in your attempt to try and solve or fix the relationship in general, then that will come back to bite you.
I was talking with someone recently and they said that they, in a moment of just tenderness, it was a guy who said he reached out to his partner and said, hey, I realized that I wasn't the best person years ago. I didn't give you the attention or the love that you really desired and this is somebody who I think has continually gone back and tried to give that other person the aha moment. And then sure enough, this person said that it wasn't very long before that was then used against them. So now every time that, the all every time there's an all or nothing statement, but often now when they argue, then his spouse will bring up the, okay, see, you've already admitted that you weren't that great of a person or you didn't give me what I need. So now you must be doing that again. So here in a moment of tenderness where this person offered up this, you know, the guy itself confronted and he had really realized that he had, he played a role in this. That when he presented that to his partner, now it continually gets used against them. So that's the concept around that human magnet syndrome, the pathologically kind. And that is what has led to me wanting to break down this article because I think that this thing is just so fascinating because of that topic of kindness.
And kindness is a good thing. One of the women's group calls a couple of weeks ago I really tried to go into some depth about it's a form of betrayal when someone that takes that gift that you have, and then turns it around against you and then makes you feel like the gift of kindness or compassion is actually a negative thing because in a healthy, emotionally mature relationship, that kindness can be an amazing thing. Now, the kindness of trying to control or change others can be something that we could take a look at, but just a value of kindness or compassion, that is a beautiful, amazing thing. And will lead people to do really good things. But I think the part that, in this scenario pathologically kind, Ross talks about the codependent person. That kindness is putting the needs of others far ahead of the needs of themselves. And that's where I feel like when people are in healthy relationships, what happens over time is that kindness becomes nurtured and the person starts to feel like that really is one of their super powers. And they don't do that at the cost of their own self-esteem or their own self image, they raise their emotional baseline up so they can be the best version of themselves. And then use that kindness for good, not to try to explain or try to convince. And so, I'm going to read an article off of a website called charterforcompassion.org.
And just listen to this title alone, “Discovery: ‘Kindness’ Gene So Powerful It Can Be Detected by Strangers in 20 Seconds.” And this is some of that stuff that I really feel like three, four years ago, I would've looked at as, man, is that a little bit woowoo? Or now that we actually are finding the psychology and the science, the backup, the woowoo around energy and vibes and all of these things. I mean, whether it's mirror neurons or pheromones or whatever that looks like, but now, let's talk about your alleles and your DNA. So this is by Tima Vlasto, again, the article is titled “Discovery: ‘Kindness’ Gene So Powerful It Can Be Detected by Strangers in 20 Seconds.” Tima writes that man or woman across the bar, somebody you can trust or empathetic enough to spill out your story of pain and suffering to. “Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have found compelling evidence that healthy humans are hardwired to recognize empathetic strangers who can help them within 20 seconds. So if we go back to Ross's human magnet syndrome hypothesis, that the pathologically caring, pathologically kind person, if they are the ones that are putting out this kindness, energy vibe. And we're going to see if it's literally in their DNA. That then somebody can be hardwired to recognize that empathetic person within 20 seconds. So then is that where the human magnet begins to form. So there's a quote we've known that genotype can influence personality, but we'd only ever studied what goes on inside a person.
Things like behavioral scales and heart rate measurements, says Rodrigues Saturn PhD, A senior author of the study and an assistant professor of psychology at Oregon state university in Corvallis. This is the first time anyone has observed how different genotypes manifest themselves and behaviors. That complete strangers can pick up on. So over the past five to seven years, researchers have been exploring how genetics affect emotions, says Alexander Cogan, lead author of the study, and a postdoctoral student at the University of Toronto at Mississauga. What we're learning is that to a certain extent, we have a genetic basis that supports a lot of the processes that make us nice. So you could have kindness and niceness, literally in your DNA in particular, researchers have focused on a hormone called oxytocin. I've done an episode on the Virtual Couch. It's called the cuddle hormone, the feel good drug, that brings us together. So oxytocin has been linked to emotions like love and trust, and it's found in a variety of animals. “Higher levels of oxytocin have been linked to higher levels of trustworthiness, empathy, and willingness to sacrifice,” Cogan said. Widely known as the cuddle or love hormone. Oxytocin is secreted into the bloodstream and the brain. Where it promotes social interaction, bonding, and romantic love among other functions.
So in this UC Berkeley study, 24 couples provided their DNA and then researchers documented the couples while they discussed the times when they had suffered and video recorded the partner who was listening. So later a separate group of 116 observers viewed the 22nd video clips of the listeners. And it says then we asked to rate which seemed the most trustworthy kind and compassionate based on their facial expressions and body language. None of the viewers knew the video subjects and they watched the clips with the sound off. So they had no knowledge of the situation being discussed. They were then asked to rate how kind, caring, and trustworthy the listening partner seemed based only on visual cues. So the listeners who got the highest ratings for empathy, it turned out and here's where it gets kind of spooky, possess a particular variation of the oxytocin receptor gene known as the GG genotype. So, the article says all humans inherit a variation of this gene or an allele from each parent. So the UC Berkeley study looked at the three combinations of gene variations of the oxytocin receptor. The most empathetic, able to get an accurate read on other's emotions had two copies of this G allele. So in contrast, members of the AA and AG allele groups were found to be less capable of putting themselves in the shoes of others. And more likely to get stressed out in difficult situations. So, I mean, I'm not a genetics expert or aficionado, but here is where if you have these two G alleles and getting each one of those from a parent, then you will literally have a greater capacity to put yourself in the shoes of others. And it looks like that is something that then can be outwardly, I don't know if it's manifested, or if people just pick up on that. So, Cogan said people can't see genes, so there has to be something going on that is signaling these genetic differences to strangers.
He said, “What we found is that people who had two copies of the G version displayed more trustworthy behaviors, more head nods, more eye contact, more smiling, more open body posture. And it was these behaviors that signaled kindness to the strangers.” So I wonder then if this empathetic two GG alleles in their genetic makeup person. As they head nod, make more eye contact, more smiling, more open body posture, now meet up with the pathological narcissist or the incredibly, emotionally immature person who desperately subconsciously from childhood wanted that validation. And wanted to know that they matter. And if we look at deep attachment theory, if somebody didn't have a secure attachment with a parent, then they just need to know that they exist in the way that they know that they exist is to absolutely, I want to say ensnare or entrap someone, so that they will always have this person. They're there, period. Not saying a loving, mutually beneficial reciprocal relationship, but let's say, this is my hypothesis, that pathological narcissist meets this double G allele, oxytocin, super power, empathetic kind person who all of a sudden is putting out this vibe or energy to the person who desperately at their core just desires connection, but doesn't know how to do it accurately or correctly. They only know how to do that in a controlling way. Not taking ownership of things.
And then you've got the person continuing to head nod, make eye contact, smile, and open body posture. And it just seems like you can almost see the pieces starting to fit together of what creates this human magnet syndrome. So Cogan pointed out that having the AA or AG instead of the GG genotype does not mark a person as unsympathetic. So this isn't an all or nothing kind of concept. And he says, although scientists used to refer to the gene A variant as a risk variant because it increases risk of autism and social dysfunction. Many experts now think of the variation as just that variation that may along with other forces play out in personalities. Rodrigues, Saturn said it's important to understand that some people are naturally more held back or may be overcome by their own personal stresses and have a hard time relating to others. She says, “These are people who just may need to be coaxed out of their shells a little, it may not be that we need to fix people who exhibit less social traits, but that we recognize that they are overcoming a genetically influenced trait and they may need more understanding and encouragement.”
And this is where that just fine line or there's so much gray area where, when I like to say that, okay, let's start with almost the hypothesis with the assumption that we really, none of us have the right tools to communicate effectively. And so then it's a matter of, we go through things and then we have to find tools. We have to get help. But then that process now finding the right tool. And then implementing the tool. And now you've got two people in the relationship. So as one person changes the dynamic, the relationship, it really is up to them now to self confront and really say, okay, now I get it. It's my opportunity for me to be a better person to show up differently in this relationship and not try to fix the other person. But at that point then is the other person going to recognize they too don't know what they don't know. And is that going to be an opportunity to self confront. So I feel like that can start to sound a little bit overwhelming, but if we start knowing what we didn't know, then now we can have this opportunity to change. So Cogan said that many factors ultimately influenced kindness and cooperation. He said, “The oxytocin receptor gene is one of those factors, but there are many other forces in play, both genetic and non-genetics.” Here we go into nature or nurture. Cogan said, “How all these pieces fit together to create the coherent whole of an individual who is, or is not, kind is still a great mystery that we're only beginning to scratch.”
So I want to be very clear that I just found this fascinating in all of these, or I'm just throwing out some hypotheses, but when you combine this kindness, this kindness gene. And then you look at pathological narcissism and you look at pathological caring and kindness as Ross Rosenberg has talked about. I just feel like, okay. The picture is starting to become a little more clear, but then I find myself being guilty of what I say so often of, you know, sometimes we try to make sense of things that don't make sense. So it's nice to bring awareness, kind of a check this out. I wonder if it may be that helps us move forward as individuals on starting to recognize, okay. If I have two of these GG alleles and I have this superpower gift of empathy and my oxytocin is flowing, then that means I'm actually, I'm okay. And if the other person in the relationship is not someone who is able to recognize, appreciate, or support the emotionally kind person, then that doesn't mean that you can go against your genetic code, your DNA. If anything, man, what an opportunity to lean into that. So in an emotionally mature relationship, I would hope that the partner of somebody that is kind and compassionate can start to really recognize that as, that is them. What an amazing gift and opportunity it is to be in a relationship with somebody who is pathologically kind, who has these double GG alleles sitting in their DNA that makes that oxytocin flow. And if somebody, then let's say the more emotionally immature person can recognize, man, you know, I'm the one that is dealing with my discomfort in an unhealthy way. And I can recognize that my partner is my partner and what a gift. And then hopefully that will allow them to start to do their own work and self confront. And the two of you maybe can meet in both emotionally mature and healthy ways. And I find that even right now, as I'm saying that, what a mix. I'm sure the people that are hearing this, because there are people that still just desperately want to believe that this can be their situation, their relationship, and that's where I want to say this entire podcast is designed to meet you where you're at, but ultimately know that you are okay, that you are enough. That it's okay for you to have your own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. And the more we start learning about the brain, DNA, alleles that are sitting on chromosomes, that it really is who you are. And so someone telling you not to be who you are is not a helpful, productive thought or exercise.
And the more that you are trying to defend who you are, or the more that you are shrinking so that others around you won't feel uncomfortable, then that is going against your very nature. You know, the very core of who you are all the way down to your chromosomal level. So, hopefully this is something that can help you feel a little bit more of acceptance of what a gift. And if someone is trying to say, I don't like that gift, well, bless their heart. They don't really know what that gift is like. And unfortunately they may spend so much time trying to control your gift, your thoughts, your experience, that they too are missing out on a whole important part of life, which is trying to figure out who they are, but that's not on you.
So, I would love to know your thoughts. If you have additional questions, comments, anything like that, feel free to send them to me. Through the website, tonyoverbay.com, or send them to me at email@example.com. Or you can interact with the post or the story that will go up about this on Instagram or on Facebook. And, I just appreciate you being here. And just know that man, you really, as cliche as that sounds, you're good. You're enough. I see you. And, wherever you're at is where you are right now. And that's okay. Check that out. You're not doing anything wrong. You're just starting to figure things out. And it can feel uncomfortable. A lot of the times we don't like discomfort. Sometimes being able to sit with a little bit of discomfort, you find out that, hey, I survived and I'm okay. And that'll start to give you a little bit of momentum. So work on that emotional baseline. Self care is not selfish. That's the first step. After recognizing that, okay, this is a thing, something's happening here. So get yourself in a place where you can do even more work to better yourself. To put yourself in a better position. And then either that person that you're in a relationship with is maybe going to say, all right, man, I don't want to miss out on that, but in reality, you're going to discover that, oh, I'm okay. I'm a pretty amazing person. And that's what's going to lift those around you as well as yourself. So, thanks again for joining me. We'll see you next week on Waking Up to Narcissism.
Tony talks with Kristin Hill, a fellow therapist, about her “waking up” to the narcissism of an in-law and the challenges that come along with interrupting a “family system” that already has an established pattern of behavior around an emotionally immature individual. Kristin is a mental health counselor based in Washington specializing in postpartum mood and anxiety disorders and providing birth trauma support. Kristin is trained in EMDR and emotionally focused therapy, attachment, and working within a family system.
In October 2013, Kristin experienced a traumatic birth and birth injury. As a result, she suffered from Postpartum PTSD. Kristin said it took almost one year until she found a perinatal therapist to help her in her journey.
You can learn more about Kristin’s work at http://www.kristinhilltherapy.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tony referenced EMDR, and you can find a quick overview of EMDR here https://maibergerinstitute.com/emdr-training/
If you are interested in being coached in Tony's upcoming "Magnetic Marriage Podcast," please email him for more information. You will receive free marriage coaching and remain anonymous when the episode airs.
Tony: Okay. Kristen Hill, waking, waking. Take three at this point. Welcome. Here we go. Welcome to a podcast. I was going to say Waking Up to Narcissism, but part of me wonders, I think this might be a Virtual Couch and Waking Up to Narcissism material. But I love, here's a quick train of thought. I love going to movies and every now and again, I can go to one and I know nothing about the movie, and I just think it's so, I enjoy it a little bit more, but sometimes there's dud. That's not me saying that there's a potential dud in the interview. Don't get me wrong, but we had exchanged a couple emails and you have your own experiences around narcissism, and you are also a therapist. So I'm really just going to step back and say, okay, Kristin, take it away and tell me about who you are. And then tell me your story and I'm looking forward to this.
Kristin: Well, feel free to interject at any point. Well, I'm in Seattle. And I've been a therapist for, God, I don't know, like 14 years. I specialize in perinatal therapy, so any of the infertility, postpartum birth, trauma, all that stuff.
Tony: That's my, can I ask you, can I ask you a question about being in Seattle, and this might sound like a therapist hack bit, but do you find that people are more or less depressed because of the rain or the gloom or that sort of thing?
Kristin: I guess, I don't know because I don't have a lot to compare it to. You know, because I mean, I practiced briefly in Kansas City and then we moved. But I mean, everyone is definitely deficient in vitamin D, I mean I think that's just a thing.
Tony: Yeah. Do you, do you ever do you have people that use the light boxes or light therapy?
Tony: Ok. I just bought one. They’re very bright.
Kristin: Yeah. They're very bright. Yeah. I don't know. I don't know. It's hard because I think I'm seeing people too, under such specific depressed situations for the most part. So it's hard to know what's always what, but, yeah.
Tony: And what I don't, I haven't really worked with that population, so really what does your typical client come in and what are their challenges and how does that look?
Kristin: Yeah. Usually they come to me if they're pregnant and have had like, so I have a specific specialty in birth trauma. I came to it by way of myself experiencing it, and that's kind of how we sometimes do go through that. Right? We then find a passion. And so a lot of people come to me if they've had a traumatic birth, if they have had a previous one and are pregnant again. If they are having anxiety or depression while they're pregnant, wanting to kind of get ahead of it. Or often, most often after they're pregnant and really struggling with anxiety, depression and any ptsd symptoms from birth, which like one in three women view their birth as traumatic. So quite a few women, actually, that struggle with symptoms.
Tony: Okay I haven't really thought of it that way. So then if that's the case, somebody's just had this traumatic experience and now they are also supposed to now bond with this tiny human being. I can imagine what, that there's, that could be a challenge. What kind of therapy modality or what kind of things do you do in that situation?
Kristin: Well, I'm trained in emdr so that is super effective. Just any of the pieces of, you know, just using any parts of emdr, even if we don't always do reprocessing, any of the strategies connected to it are so, so helpful. So I really come from that lens. And then my history before getting trained and that is like attachment focused and yeah, I used to do more couples work, so I was trained in EFT so I kind of come from that space too, and a family, whole picture obviously, which as you know, cause you're a dad too, family issues, which is something I've noticed just really blow up after you have kids. And yeah, that's also what I kind of end up doing is helping these new mothers and fathers manage that aspect too, of family dynamics that they didn't see before. And a lot of it, I think I had mentioned to you in one of our messages is that a lot of my clients have parents with narcissistic tendencies, and so kind of, I'm like, wow, that's something that just kind of fell in my lap, but I've already had a lot of experience with it, so yeah, it's fine.
Tony: I like what you're, I like what you're saying though. It does come from experience because you start to see a pattern. Yeah. Is that what?
Kristin: Yeah. And so then I kind of end up also coaching them to like how to create their boundaries and, you know, just how to communicate with which, that's kind of how I found your podcast. Actually a client sent me your podcast cause we were working through some of that. And I was like, oh, cool. And I started listening to it and so I've sent it to other clients over the years, because it's nice to give them something to listen to more than just me.
Tony: I like what you're saying though too, because the part where people say, but our relationship was fine, and it was until, I like what you're saying and then whatever the traumatic life event is, which could be kids, moving, death, any of those, and then it's almost like that unlocks this part of this person and now how do they show up in the relationship? Okay. So what's your story? We could talk, I want to talk to you sometime real, real quick on the EMDR front too. I'm curious what your thoughts are, maybe this is, we'll have to dig into this in another episode sometime but do you feel like EMDR can work with relationship trauma as well?
Kristin: Actually I do. And I, yeah. I haven't been, I should say I haven't been specifically trained in that EMDR and relationship, but I use it with couples anyway. So, you know, anyone who's listening to this, if they're like, what are you doing? I know that there is training for relationships, EMDR, but I just, I do use it with them. Sometimes I'll have a client, she'll, he or she will do a set of reprocessing EMDR and have the partner there. Just to kind of be, I like it because it's like that attachment piece, like they're, it's creating that secure attachment within that space. So if they feel safe to do it I'll do that. But I often just use the tools from EMDR with the couple, like doing , I don't know how familiar you are and you know, with all of that.
Tony: I actually just bought all my equipment and I've done a couple of online trainings, but not the certification. So I'm very fascinated by this.
Kristin: Yeah. Well, and I think what's interesting is, like I learned, so I got trained in EMDR during the pandemic. So I haven't used any of the tools. I've just been doing virtual. And so we use bilateral tapping like this to do all the reprocessing. And so I use that with couples all the time just to help them regulate and you know, it's really effective and helps them just come down from, if they're in a space of strangulation and anger.
Tony: Yeah. And I like what you're saying, and I feel like it sounds like you've been doing this for a while. 14 years and I've been doing it, I don't know, 16, 17 years. And I feel like we do start to really find, based on our experiences a little bit of what a, I've been calling it lately in my head, a customized treatment plan. So yes, I may pull some attachment things, some EFT related things, some ACT things. And so I'm trying to look at the EMDR piece as something to maybe put into my repertoire, I guess in a sense. So, I like what you're saying, and if people are out hearing this, then they, that isn't part of their experience and they say, well, that you shouldn't do that, then that's where I go with a good old, bless your heart, because I'm going to do what works. And so I'll say this real quick and then I want to get your story because I'm looking up this document that I found that I really thought was interesting. So this is where I'm curious to know your thoughts around EMDR. It's from, are you familiar with Andrew Huberman? He's got a lot of, he's got a lot of videos on YouTube and his podcast is really good as well. And here it is. Okay, so I have a transcript of one of his, just a five minute YouTube video, and he said, “Talk therapy where people would feel a positive relationship with a therapist,” So he said, “that was the primary rationale and association with these traumatic, sometimes shameful type events. The idea is that you would simultaneously have two experiences, a negative one with the feeling of safety, and that would start to rewire the circuitry.” And so I liked how he said that, and then he talked about that with the EMDR that, and tell me if this is your thoughts too, but he said, so it's in essence speeding up that process of being able to have a traumatic experience with a safe experience. And then the part that sold me on it was where he said that when you were a kid and you're just up and you're moving forward, your eyes are moving back and forth , to scan for safety. And the cool way the brain works is according to what he said, and that's why I had to get the transcript of this is that it then suppresses like the fight or flight chemicals in the amygdala when we can see that I'm safe. And then, and this is where the stuff that I talk about with the brain that I'm now putting these pieces together. So I may be wrong, but then the brain starts to skip steps and it says, okay, I don't have to be up and looking back and forth, moving around. Eventually I trust that my eyes are moving back and forth. I must be safe. And so then, I'm suppressing the cortisol in the brain. Yeah. And so then, and then eventually it's like I don't even have to have my eyes doing it. I can be doing it with the tapping. I don't know. And I may be making all of that up.
Kristin: No, I think that's an interesting way to put it. Because I haven't used eye movement a whole lot. I look at it more as grounding and being really present. Like it's taking you away from that trauma memory, sucks you back like you think you're there again. It takes you back to the here and now. Like I'm not actually in that space anymore. And then you experience that groundedness with a safe other person that's you know, so, it's like you can experience the trauma in a safe place and remember that, oh, it's not actually happening now. It's over. So I don't know. I think that's interesting what he's saying though. For sure. Yeah. There's, yeah, I don't get, I don't nerd out super like a whole lot on all the scientific neurological, I wish I did more.
Tony: Okay. But what's funny is I realized the reason I do is because I want validation and I want people to think I'm smart because I was never very, right? So now that I'm coming to terms, but anyway. Okay. See we can just keep going. All right. So then that brings us to your story and working with narcissistic family systems. So now tell me more.
Kristin: Okay, well, okay, so before I worked with narcissistic families, I came into a situation where, very young, at 20, I started dating my husband and didn't know at the time, he didn't either, but his mom is a pathological narcissist. And this is what I'm finding with a lot of my clients who have narcissistic in-laws, you, you start dating someone and you're young and you don't know what's what, right? You don't, you're coming into a family or trying to respect their whole deal and make a good impression. And you know, I think generationally like we've all grown up, it's you know, family is important and respect family and there's been a lot of emphasis on don't make waves and just accept whatever's happening. So there's all that playing in the background.
Tony: Can I tell you, this is an ADHD joke, but I saw a shirt one time and it was this shirt and a bunch of people wearing it. It was a family reunion and it said “family over everything”. I know, right? And I said to my wife, I'm like, oh, family over emotional abuse, family over mental abuse, family over, and I thought, man, that is, but understand that's where people are coming from. So then it's like, yeah, I mean, you know, I can't, I can't question them or they're allowed to treat me like crap because they're family, and that's not okay.
Kristin: Yeah, and that is, I don't know if you've, I mean you've worked with tons of, you know, clients who've been in this situation. So it is kind of the, just accept it. Just deal. It's family, you know? So I came from some of that space, obviously like many of us did. And so in my twenties I'm like, okay, this, there's something off with this person, her son who I married was her kind of favorite golden child. Right. Gotcha. The one that was, he was the oldest, he was a musical performer. Like he just, he did all the things she wanted him to do. And so I come in and I'm, you know, I'm not like a docile, quiet person. So I come in and I'm like, wait, what? You know, kind of asking questions and, and respectfully, not really to her, but to my husband, so I married into this situation where you know, while we were dating, I had many strange experiences with her kind of trying to assert power and control. Like making me put my suitcase in the garage the first time I ever stayed at their house.
Tony: Okay. How, what, what was the rationale behind that?
Kristin: Because the room I was staying in was small, so she thought that it would be nice for me to have more space in the room. To then walk out in the winter, in the cold garage to get my clothes. So, and you know, when you're 20 and you're like, okay, like, I want to respect this person, so as you can imagine, over the years, lots of buildup of many things. And yet, because we were young, and navigating this dynamic for the first time, we tried to kind of go with the flow and not make a lot of waves. But it was hard because I'm like, this is weird, like the family really just kind of, she was the center and they tiptoed around her. I mean, the way they survived was how you do with a narcissist, you just don't make waves. You just kind of like go around her, go behind her because that's how his dad survived. And so that's how he and his brother survived also. And then I come in, I start going to grad school and I'm like, hey, you know, this is weird. I think your mom might be a narcissist, and we start having these conversations.
Tony: How did he take that initially? Was that like, I feel like sometimes it's the, was he okay with that?
Kristin: Oh he was okay because he knew she was weird and odd like, he knew that her behavior was strange and he was okay with it. But then it's like the dynamic of, okay, well how do we, and we were still, you know, mid twenties, he wants a relationship with his parents, you know, it's that whole thing where you feel that as the child you want to have a connection with the parent, even though there's this whole thing going on. Then that's dysfunctional. And of course he had all, I think it made sense to him suddenly, because he had all these stories with his mom of all this bizarre stuff she would do and put them through their whole life. And so I think it maybe in a way was a relief because he was like, oh, that's what's happening, right? But we lived far away from them, so we didn't have to deal with them a whole lot, you know? And so that was kind of nice, but then at the same time, we didn't have to learn, I think, how to push, how to set some boundaries, right? Because we would just kind of survive visits and then leave, and then there'd be all this residual stuff to the point where I would get really panicky when we would have to see them because she was so against me.
Tony: Yeah. And how many years into, how many years into the marriage was that when you started to really realize that?
Kristin: Oh, I mean, five years probably. I think I got panicky before then. It was a long time of me just trying to muscle through because I had a sister-in-law who is very sweet and didn't question things and just, and here I was like, what is happening? And I was kind of the black sheep being like, hey, this is weird. And everyone's like, let's just be cool.
Tony: Yeah, don't rock the boat.
Kristin: Yeah. And I couldn't, I couldn't not do it. So what kind of spurred everything on is we have a child. And she unfortunately happened to be in our home visiting a week after he was born, during just a really traumatic, horrible thing that I discovered from my birth and she was there. So then we were intertwined in this traumatic birth thing. And that wasn't great, right? So we had all this stuff, just like this ball of, I don't even know what to call it.
Tony: You said meshing, just a big old mess. Mesh. Yeah.
Kristin: Yeah. Just a mess. That and all this unspoken stuff, right? Because you don't talk about it because she's not safe. So then we went on this Christmas trip, all of us together, 2013, I had a one year old, almost one, and my husband's brother had two little, little kids like babies. And we're all staying in a house together. Not smart. And my mother-in-law, usually we start noticing a pattern around day three. She can't really hold back all of her narcissistic tendencies anymore. Like she tries to kind of behave. But then she can't anymore. And so around day three, she starts kind of acting up. So one of the things she does is she just wants to kind of, you know, find ways of having power and control over everyone.
So she's like, I'm going to heat up dinner for everyone. And so my sister-in-law every year, we all do the cooking because she's a terrible cook, she doesn't like to cook. So she made a big to-do about how she made dinner by heating the leftovers. And she had this unspoken expectation that we would all just come sit at the table and start to eat, and she just kept waiting and getting frustrated. Meanwhile, we're tending to little babies and she's like bubbling up with anger in the kitchen, and so my husband tries to kind of move things along, so he goes he gets a plate and puts some food on. He goes and sits at the table. She doesn't like that because it wasn't what she imagined, which was everyone sitting at the table with this nice meal she had prepared.
She walks over to his plate, she picks the food up off the plate with her hands, and she takes it back and puts it in the kitchen. She's mad. She's very mad and we're all just like, okay. Because, her sons don't often, you know, they don't really get into it with her a whole lot. But my husband was like, just kind of went off on her like, what are you doing? That is crazy and then they kind of talked it out and then everyone's just quiet and you just move on. Like it didn't happen.
Tony: What is the talk? Because I feel like the talk it out even is, what does that look like?
Kristin: It's, it's not, it's like fighting.
Tony: Agree to disagree or whatever it is. Okay. Yeah.
Kristin: Sorry, I shouldn't have said it. That was a nice way of putting it. It was like just a little back and forth. Snap, snap, snap. And then, and as you know, as you know, narcissists, they just move right on.
Tony: So, well that, and that's why I appreciate that, because I feel like I hear you with the, and then we talked it out because I feel like too, the narcissist that really is, I mean we did, we, we worked through what we're done. Now let's go ride bikes. Yeah. I mean, we're done. Yeah.
Kristin: Yeah. In fact, in your podcast the other day, I was just cracking up at so many things you said, cause it was so relatable. The narcissist wants you to confront them, they love it. And you'll see that in this story. So we all sit down, we have dinner, act like nothing happened, but I am like seething at this point because I'm like, this is not okay. We're grown up adults, you can't do that. And so we get through the evening and then the next morning, so she's, I think already a little, she's more and more heightened. Right? Wants more, I don't know. She feels very, I think out of the loop because she had this whole expectation. It's so many years of stuff, but my sister-in-law and I would be close with her and we would. You know, and so she, we're not, because she's not safe and so yeah, she feels outside, right? She feels very on the outside. So she begins to act up when she starts feeling that way, you know, after a few days. And so that morning we'd asked them if they would watch our kids while we go out, just the four of us for coffee or something, we think, oh they get the grandkids all to themselves, we get a little space, and she would not do it. She just wouldn't do it. It's like, I'm not going to do this thing you want me to do, just because I don't want to.
Tony: I'll show you.I’m hurt.
Kristin: I'm hurt, I'm angry and so no, I'm not going to do this thing. And so I hear my husband and his brother arguing with her, or my husband's arguing with her and his brother's kind of playing the younger child, let's just stop, you know? Everyone fighting, and I'm in the other room and I've had it, I've just had it. I couldn't, I couldn't deal with it anymore. And I'm, you know, I have a baby and I'm tired and so I go in there for the first time, the first time I've ever pushed back or stood up or anything to her, and I'm just like, I am done with this crap. I'm like, I just am like, you've gotta stop talking to my husband this way. He's your son. You can't treat him this way anymore. This is not okay. And then I looked at his brother cause I was frustrated with him, like, why don't you stick up for him? You know? And everyone's just like, what is happening? And because no one does this with her. And I of course, and I'm like, yeah 30 years old. And I still feel just young and naive in so many ways.
Tony: And well I think that's that part where it's like, man, I think I can get her to understand and Right. Do you feel like that, that if I just stand up to her?
Kristin: I don't even know if I was trying to do that. I don't think I was trying to get her to understand. I was just like, someone has to stop this. And I knew my husband wasn't there yet. Like I knew he couldn't do that yet. Right. Yeah. Like he wasn't. He was still trying to figure out his dynamic in the family and how to separate out. Right.
Tony: I feel bad even interrupting, but I'm curious about your opinion. So I, you know, I talk about these five steps or rules of, you know, raise your baseline, and PhD in gaslighting, and get out of unproductive conversations, set boundaries, and there's nothing you'll do or say that will cause the aha moment. But then I feel like I desperate, I desperately then want, not desperately, but then I want to go back and say, yeah there's a difference between, I'm not trying to cause them to have the aha moment, but now it does become a boundary that when they do this, I will do this. Do you feel like that was kind of more of the vibe that you were putting out?
Kristin: Yes. I definitely don't think I was trying to get through to her. But like I just wanted it to stop. And no one was stopping it, right? Because everyone was just operating as the family does. It's like the unspoken rule, right? And I'm just like, I'm not doing that anymore. So it was more I think about me and us, my husband than her.
Tony: Well, and what, and what I like about that, I just did an episode of why you don't confront the narcissist. And I was, you know, I laid down basically, right. And, I really felt confident about that. But then I also got some feedback that was people saying that, man, that makes sense. But then at some point, it, and it really was , how do I show others that there is hope almost to extricate themselves from the situation and I've been thinking about that. So, it's ironic that we're talking about this today because I feel like that one, it ended with basically saying don't even engage at all, period. But I feel like even if somebody now knows what they know is their room then to have this, again, not confrontation to change, but boundary to say, I like what you're saying like enough, you know, it is finished.
Kristin: And I would add to that when I work with clients, I, you know, I leave it up to them, obviously do they want to express anything to their parent or partner or whatever. But what we have to get really solid on is their own internal kind of self and expectations and they have to be clear, why am I doing this? What do I want to get from it? Am I solid in my own self enough to do that? So, and then it's like, okay, tell them what you wanna tell them, but just know you're not going to get the response you want. And so you have to be okay with that.
Tony: Yeah. Right. And then, no, I love it. And that's where , I had a lady at one point who was gonna confront her narcissistic dad in a particular situation. And she worked hard to get to the point where she felt like, I don't think I need to, to then feel like she was in a spot where she said, but now I can and even though, even if I get gas lit, even if I, you know, because yeah, cuz it can have a net negative effect if somebody goes in with expectations.
Kristin: It just is more injury. More injury, more injury, right? And I will say at this point, even though at that moment that I was like, we're done, we're not doing this. I wasn't trying to get to her necessarily. Later something happens where we really, we really made a mistake on that one. So it gets better. So I'm, anyway, I have that confrontation. Everyone's cried. I leave crying, I'm calling my mom like, I, you know, this is so bad, blah, blah, blah. And I'm like, we need to leave. You know, I just want to leave. And my husband comes out and he's like, so our sister-in-law, bless her heart. She thought, well, maybe it would be helpful if we all sit in the living room and talk.
Tony: That's adorable. Yes, of course I will. Yeah, she'll, she'll see the error of her ways. Everybody will work it out.
Kristin: And my only thinking was, I'm like, oh, this is not going to go great. Yeah. But I said to myself, for years I had known she had set her eyes on me as her, what do you call it?
Tony: Were you the hope?
Kristin: The foe.
Tony: Oh, you're talking about the mom.
Kristin: Yes. My mother-in-law. I'm the adversary. I'm the problem. And so I was like, kind of always trying to get everyone to really see it like you guys see how, but everyone would just like, no, I don't know. So I'm like, fine. This is an opportunity for everyone to see that this is true. And so we go in and everyone's sitting there and she just turns, my mother-in-law turns to me and just looks me dead in the eye and says, “well, my biggest problem is with you”. Oh, and in my mind she just says it and I'm like, okay. Everyone knows now that I'm, she has a problem with me. Of course it doesn't go great after that. Right. Everyone kind of proceeds to try to share various things and experiences. What is she doing? She's feeling attacked. Like you said, in that podcast the other day. She's feeling like you're bad, we’re good.
Tony: We're good. We're good. All or nothing. Black or white.
Kristin: Exactly. And so it doesn't go great, and even I get caught up in it, you know, because it's emotional and at some point I'm just like, this is not going anywhere. And I'm upset and angry and feeling still kind of alone. That was a lot. Being here a lot, it was very much feeling alone in the family because I was the one kind of saying, And, because, you know, I'm a therapist, I'm seeing it all, you know? Everyone doesn't have that background, but I'm trying to hold new boundaries and everyone's just like not trying that at all. I felt very alone in our family for many years. And so there, I'm just feeling it, feeling it, feeling it, and I'm just like, I'm done subjecting myself to this. And so I don't know how you feel about choice language in this episode.
Tony: I can, I can click a box that says explicit and we're good to go.
Kristin: Okay. I mean, I, I don't have to say the word, but I, I'm not a, like I grew up as a pastor's kid, so I'm not someone who's just like cussing people out or anything. But I just had it, and I just stood up in the room and I'm like, F this, I'm done, we're leaving. And she follows me into the room. I'm like, please don't follow me. Please stay away from me. You know, I'm just a mess. And I could tell in that moment, she's like, oh, shoot, if we don't fix this now, I might never see my son again, right?
Tony: Yeah. Yes, exactly.
Kristin: And so she's trying to like reel it in, reel it in, reel it in, and I'm literally like, leave me alone. Get out of this room. Like packing all the things. My husband comes in again, here comes that dysfunctional family dynamic, and he's like, let's just go for a drive and like then we'll figure stuff out. So we go for a drive and I'm just like sobbing. You know, we're talking and we get back to the house and my brother and sister-in-law are just upstairs, like nothing ever happened. We feel this feeling of like, if we leave, how does that look? We feel sort of this fear. I think he did more. But yeah, we ended up staying. And we shouldn't have. Yeah, we really shouldn't have. But it was like, well, everyone else is going to act like they're okay. And I felt a little bit of this. I was still struggling with like I'm always the bad guy in the family. I don't like that feeling. I don't want to be that. And here's my sister-in-law, just being loved and sweet and not ever making waves. And I'm kind of jealous and you know, I want to be like that. And so I'm like, well, we should maybe stay, I guess too, because I don't want to be the black sheep. I don't want to be that person. And so we stayed and that's one of the biggest regrets I have, honestly because I think that would've been a really clear boundary at that point. Like, we don't stay when this stuff happens but then we get through the next day and we leave and I could tell when we left that she was, my mother-in-law was internally scared about whether she would see any of us again.
Tony: And don't you feel like they take on that role of a little kid who got scolded and now they're bad, they're in trouble.
Kristin: Yeah, yes. I saw that from her so much. I have seen her, in fact, in the last few years we've had to deal with a lot of shit with her stuff, sorry. . . And we didn't see her for almost two and a half years. And this last time I saw her she was like a wounded bird around me. She was like, this just a crumpled little bird. And I just watched, watched it in amazement. It just was so interesting and I've seen her do that a few other times in our marriage. But, you know, I think what I learned from that whole thing was like, I feel empathy for that version of me. You know, because she just didn't know everything I know now. And I, and it's helped me to work with these other families because they could easily be in these situations on the holidays and Christmas. Had I known what I have known now, I never would've stayed home with them ever on a family vacation, there's so many things I would've done differently and because of that situation was just it was like the trauma that she was around after my birth, and then it was the family thing. I was then just an anxious wreck around her for a long time, I had to do a lot of therapy. We as a couple did a lot of therapy, I mean, this was 2013, so I think just in the last year and a half really, my husband has finally kind of come to a healthy place within himself around all of this. And there's so many things. It's complicated, but I just thought that's a fun holiday story because people are gonna find themselves in this.
Tony: They are. And just knowing that, and I, I appreciate this so much because yeah, you didn't know what you didn't know. You're giving yourself that compassion. But I feel like that part that I talk about on the podcast often is when you are standing up to the narcissist, it means they push more buttons and they get bigger. And, that's hard because typically it's the nice person that's trying to finally stand up for justice and what's right but then when the narcissist then goes big, I mean, I, yeah, that, that shows I appreciate your story because then that next day and you are feeling, I don't like being the bad guy and it shows you feel, shows how people fall in line. Yeah.
Kristin: Yeah. You feel like maybe I'm overreacting. So the gaslighting thing, right? Like there's a lot of that because everyone else in the family is like we're just going to move on. We're going to be fine. We don't, and I'm just like, wrecked inside. Yeah. And then I'm going, I spent years feeling like, am I overreacting? Am I making this too big of a thing, you know, just feeling like it was me and that is, that is not a fun place to be for that many years. And it was really hard. And yes, I dealt with tons of anxiety. I mean, every time we'd have any family visitor, my hands would sweat, my heart would be racing. It was traumatic for me, I think just because I didn't expect her to be the way she was from the get go, you know.
Tony: And how could you, I mean, especially when we just go in with these expectations and assumptions that people do think relatively similar to how we do. And, and I think that's hard because I feel like the people in my office spend so much time even trying to make sense of what doesn't make sense. Or you know, I'm sure they're hurting or I'm sure they're struggling too. And so I don't like that feeling, so maybe I need to let them know or reach out to them and you know, maybe we can just now have a conversation. All those things that are, it's part of that, I feel like that process that you have to go through and you have to go through it.
Kristin: Yeah, you kind of do. Yeah. Which is unfortunate.
Tony: Yeah, but I feel like stories like yours or when people can listen to podcasts or I've got this private women's group, or I feel like the more that they hear the stories I feel like it can maybe speed up the process, I don't know 10%, 15%, which I know doesn't sound incredible, but if that's a year or more that it can help somebody get through this quicker because boy, it does it when you think about all the emotional calories spent and energy spent on trying to figure out or what's wrong with, or yeah.
Kristin: And you know, I have to credit my, I had an EMDR therapist for four years. She's just, I love her to death and she helped me work through so much of that. And the thing, I think one of the things that really stuck with me is giving that negative energy to the person. Like I realized the more that I kept kind of ruminating , and hyper focusing on awful stuff she would do, right? Because she would do some awful stuff over the years, but all it did was hurt me because I wasn't helping anything by just trying to get justice or trying to fight back, or trying to get my husband to fight back. It only really hurt me and it actually continued to give her power in our marriage and I just was like, I don't want to do that anymore. I don't want to give that to her anymore.
Tony: , when I go back, even when we were talking earlier and I'm saying, okay, but can it be set in a boundary and not trying to have the aha moment , and I still feel like at, when somebody is through it, well past whatever , the break was with the narcissist mm-hmm.
that they often do almost find themselves in a spot where they feel like maybe if I would've been able to just pull this Zen mindfulness thing, . I would've calmly just grabbed my stuff and left, you know? And that I, yeah. But I feel like, again, we, but we have to go through it because I still feel like our brain's still trying , to make sense of things, even if we are aware, because, and I think that's why I struggle with that, going back from, all right, I promise I'm not trying to get them to understand, but, here's this boundary.
Even if it's to lead the people out of the wilderness or whatever. , but then I still kind of go back to this place of, but then I feel like down the road, We do, we kind of feel like, ah, , what would that have looked like if I could have , just left calmly and quietly and known that I never was gonna get that exactly right.
But then I don't think that can happen in the moment. I, I don't think it can. I don't know if that's something. Yeah.
Kristin: Cause we're just, no, I just think we're so heightened in our own emotional state. Right. We're human. We're human, we're not, yeah. , and especially when you have so many years built up of stuff, right?
Yeah. And then that situation like that where everyone's talking about all the things and the family that have happened, you just, you're human. You're gonna respond in a human way. Yeah. Even if you know the right way to be in that moment.
Tony: You know what's funny? I, I ran into one, , story of someone telling me about a friend of theirs.
And this is so funny cuz I feel like I've got one example of where a woman was in a relationship with a guy that had extreme narcissistic traits. And then when she was aware, Then she left. Mm-hmm. and, and it sounds so simplistic, but even then this person, this was saying, , , how did she do it?
And then she identified that she grew up , with a secure attachment at home, so Right. She had been taught that, well, you don't put up with that sort of thing. Yeah. You don't waste time or energy. And so I feel like it's almost sad to think that I've got one anecdotal , example of that, cuz I think maybe that's what my brain wants to say.
How do we help people get to the point where, oh, I'm not putting up with this at all, but Yes. Yeah. ,
Kristin: but if most people don't come from healthy attachments. Yeah. Which I would find, I have a curiosity about all of it too, the thing I wonder about, just because I have, I would say like 70% of who I see, they have some family member with narcissistic traits.
Yeah. You know, they're dealing with, I'm like, why is it so pervasive? Have you thought about this? Like,
Tony: no. All the time.
Kristin: is it like because of the generational stuff, like the parents in our, you know, parents' generation were just not very emotional and they didn't Yep. You know, I mean, I know why my mother-in-law's the way she is.
She came from a ton of abuse and yeah. All that stuff. But you know, , oh, oh,
Tony: Kristen. So I'm, I'm getting all excited now cuz I feel like this, I think about this constantly because yeah, when, when I started identifying this population, working more and more with it, identifying my own narcissistic traits, tendencies, uhhuh, emotional maturity, uh, then I think it was early on in the Waking Up the Narcissism podcast where I, I was very intentional , on shifting it to emotional immaturity versus.
Narcissistic traits and tendencies because I feel like when you look at it through the, , we're all emotionally immature until we're not uhhuh, , then I go uhhuh. I do, I do kind of call it generational narcissism because I feel like, , you go back to like my parents or my parents' parents, And , nobody dealt with emotion like that was weakness.
No. And so then you, the kids were growing up Absolutely not seeing it modeled and not having somebody take ownership and you don't, and you rub a little dirt in it. Mm-hmm. and, and I did one on the virtual couch recently about anxious attachment where it was kind of, you know, sorry, moms in a sense. Right.
But it was saying if the mom didn't. You know, when she needed , to feel like a good mom. She's like, come over here and gimme a hug. But when, but then she's managing dad's emotions. She's managing all these other things. So when the kid has a need for, , validation, she may say, man, not right now. Or, you know what, it's really not a big deal.
Or even a good mom is doing that. So now the, the kid then exits into a relationship and then they're saying, all I wanna do is be loved and heard. But then when somebody turns that on 'em, then they don't know what to do with it. And I think that's why almost every relationship I see the pursuer and the withdrawal kind of a concept.
Mm-hmm. . So yeah, , right? And then you gotta deal with that and self confront. So I still feel like if we can get this message out about, , Everybody is emotionally immature and start from that, then we can, I like that. Then we can realize that then we're all enmeshed and codependent. Then we go through the, and that's why I like what you're saying earlier, then we have life things happen and that's our opportunity to say, whoa, look at how I respond.
, and how do you respond? But boy, we gotta get that message out early, you know? Yes. Instead, yeah. So, so do you mind? Yeah. Like a couple more minutes or two, do you. Know that, so, so now what does that look like in your practice then? Because when you were saying about it earlier, there's a part of me wants to try to find patterns and everything, so, you know mm-hmm.
I don't know. Does somebody, but are the traumatic experiences a lot more medical trauma? Are they emotional trauma? Are they, you know, is there a correlation of somebody that is worried they're gonna do it wrong because of their family dynamic of, of birth or, or loving their kid, or, I don't know. You see where I'm, I I know.
I'm just throwing out.
Kristin: You just mean like in. . You're not talking about narcissism, you're just talking about in my birth. No. Yeah. Yeah. What am
Tony: I seeing? Yeah.
Kristin: , I mean all of those things, . Yeah. You know, , I think what's a, a through thread probably for every single one though, is , especially if there's birth trauma, you're playing out whatever.
, unhealthy attachment you had as a child in your birth room. So whether it's I'm not heard, I'm, or it's not you're playing it out, but , , it gets played out. Okay. , so. Most people in motherhood or birth are something from their childhood's gonna come up. So it's all family connected. . Yeah. Right.
So though we're working on minimizing initial really severe symptoms first, , let's get the depression under, you know, handled whether it's like meds or , more sport or whatever. Mm-hmm. . , and then it's like usually then there's space to be like, okay, well, , you know what? Internal, like, , with , emdr, it's like what's the internal negative belief about self, right?
Yes. So usually we'll go to that place. and, oh, where did that come from? And then we end up inevitably doing family work, Uhhuh, , because it's all connected.
Tony: That's it. So that's, no, Kristen, like that's, cause I did another thing on this limiting self-limiting beliefs. Mm-hmm. and like looking at where those come from.
And so I, yeah. So yeah, I can only imagine if somebody had a traumatic experience or they experienced depression , or any of those things that, , do they go right to the, what's wrong with me? Or I must not have been doing this right. Oh, always. Gotcha.
Kristin: Okay. Oh yeah. Especially with birth trauma, every woman goes immediately to, I did something.
Aw, it was me. Instead of, oh, that doctor messed up, or those nurses weren't, you know, or something just happened. It just happened. Just happened. Yeah. Yeah. It's always, and I experienced that within my own self with my birth traumas. Like, I must have done something wrong. Yeah. So, and that's because when we were ki you know, we, it's there is that through line of like, I already believe.
That I do stuff wrong or I'm bad, or you know, I'm whatever I deserve this, or if whatever that sort of negative internal belief is, it's gonna come back. It's gonna just come up in that moment. Right? Yes.
Tony: Oh, that, I think you just, you just said that, that makes so much sense of the Yeah. As a kid, I mean, we default the shame because we have that vibe of if my parents aren't responding to my needs and we don't understand, yep.
Then it's like, well, it must be me. I had to have done something wrong. It must be.
Kristin: So then if I'm in the birth room and people aren't responding to me or listening or , I'm not pushing right or I'm, you know, and there's so much like language that happens in a birth room from doctors and nurses.
They don't realize too how they pile on that like, , you know, you're not doing this enough, or you're blah blah, blah. You know, so it just piles on. Oh, all of that already. Yeah. So, yeah, it's pretty, it's intense. .
Tony: , well then I go back to that , and when I use , the acceptance and commitment therapy skills of how about you're doing nothing wrong, that's the first time you're in that moment.
Having that experience, whether it's your first kid or your eighth kid, it's still the first time you're. . And so, oh, I can't imagine. Oh yeah.
Kristin: Yes. But , till you gotta go back and clear out where that initial negative belief came from. It's hard for them to believe that in the birth. Yeah. Um, memory.
Yeah. So it's like they, you have to kind of go backward and say, oh, where did that start? Where did that come from? You know? And then kinda
Tony: look forward, do you just see people just get rid of a lot of. Heavy, heavy guilt and shame, then yes. Because of that work or that experie.
Kristin: Wow. Yes. I find that it's very effective.
Oh. Unless the person is somewhat personality disordered, which I have a few of. Yeah. You know, that's harder. That's really hard. . Um, cuz there's that lack of insight and awareness. , yeah. But for the most part, I mean, I have women all see like, Three times and we do that trauma work and it's like thumb cleared, you know?
Okay. Yeah. Doesn't mean they won't have other stuff come up, but like Right. Some of that really intense stuff. Yeah. They,
Tony: they, they needed permission to know that they were okay or that that happened. Yeah. Or, yeah, because, oh man, look at that one. Because we get our sense of self through external validation of parent.
So a parent is emotionally unavailable , or emotionally immature. Then we never got validation for much of anything, so sometimes, , you know, just having somebody say, Hey, you're okay. , that's all right. You did your best. Yes. Yeah. All that's stuff. But
Kristin: then getting them to say it to them Yeah.
Themselves, right? Yeah. They have to kind of parent their own self too. Not just from me. Well, you know, I'm saying and it's like I
Tony: give them permission. Yeah. Okay. And I like that cuz one of the things I'm, I've been writing about, and I haven't really talked about it much, but was the concept of where, so you take a, let's just take the stereotype, you know, cause I have guys that will say, you always talk about the guy being the narcissist, but just for the sake of argument, , the wife gets outta.
a narcissistic relationship. So one could, yeah, one could say that they got into that relationship because they didn't know what they didn't know, and they saw unhealthy. , relationship modeled in as a kid, which would probably come with the, they didn't get the external validation, so they were trying to fix and smooth and be the peacekeeper and they go into the relationship as the one that, you know, I gotta be kind and fix and be whoever I need to be.
Mm-hmm. to keep the peace. Mm-hmm. so no sense of self. And so then they get in the narcissistic relationship and then absolutely don't find themselves because they're continually trying to manage the emotions of a, you know, a 10 year old boy that's in an adult. Suit. Right? And so then they get outta that relationship.
And I've noticed that now when I'm helping that person. Now it says, I say, okay, you get to be whoever you wanna be, but then, yes, but then it's, there're saying, okay, who is that right? And I'm like, oh, no, no, no. This is you now. Uhhuh. , right? But now you're dealing with this adult person who has never had the validation from another human being.
Yes. And that can be a really scary. Yes.
Kristin: Yes. So I, that makes me think of a couple times that's similar.
Tony: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. So I like what you're saying, but then I also make, yes. Oh, you go. Yeah. No, go ahead, . Well, well, I was gonna say, so I saw it's nerding out here. I know, right? But I like what you're saying about though giving 'em permission, because I've been really looking at the fact of, okay, I don't want to step into a another narcissistic.
Space and then say, , I will volunteer to be the person to give you validation. But there is a right. A part where it's like, okay, but they do need to, as Sue Johnson says, in E F T, we we're designed to deal with motion and concert with another human, , but it's not supposed to be the human that's only dealing with us in concert to get their needs met.
You know? Yes. Yeah. Yeah. So, I don't know. Yeah. So we gotta figure out who that person is, but maybe if it's with the permission to then do and be, even if it doesn't feel like. the right thing mean. I would even challenge what that means. So you're right, we're nerding out. Yeah.
Kristin: Yeah. . Um, well, cause that made, go on another line.
Oh, sorry. No, I just was thinking about how, I'm noticing , the men, the men in the immaturity there in marriage
Tony: and it's pervasive. Yes. and that's where I feel like that one as a guy and dealing with a lot of that population, Uhhuh, and getting a lot of, I mean , the feedback from the Narcissism podcast is almost overwhelming with the amount of it, which I'm grateful for, but it's people that are pouring their heart out, wanting help because they finally feel heard or have a voice.
And so yeah, the men, the men that reach out to me, and I'm getting more of those, I'm gonna do something with , a men's group, but where they're saying, okay, I know I have this emotional immaturity or , these traits or tendencies. Mm-hmm. , but I don't know how to stop 'em because I feel like, you know, right.
Male brain is hardwired to, , yeah. Things go through this part of the brain that has , the emotional empathy. , it does such a brief stop to get right to the, but what do we do about it? So, and then, yes, I've been talking about like implicit memory or what it feels like to be you based off residue of lived experience year after year.
Mm-hmm. . And so their brain just jumps right to it. So even when I give somebody these four pillars and they're saying, no, I'm aware of my emotional maturity and I wanna change, it's like, it is hard to get 'em to pause long enough to say, tell me more. Or What does that feel like? Because even when they feel like they get it, it's like, No.
Okay, I get it. , so that's hard. , I'm glad she said it, but so now, you know, they go right to solution, which can still leave , the wife feeling unheard. Mm-hmm. and unseen. , and then when I stop the guy and say, man, you are doing great, but can you pause and really sit with that discomfort and try to feel what she's feeling.
That's the part where I watched somebody who's trying hard but go little kid-like, like, I don't want him like, ah-huh. just feels icky, you know? Yeah. Okay. Yes, I scheduled, I, I unfortunately scheduled a client after our interview. No worries. Else we talked.
Kristin: No, I actually, I also have
Tony: one. You do you.
Okay. So Kristen, so can people, can people get ahold of you? I mean, I was curious. , that was one of the things that was interesting. I love that , you sent like, Hey, I've got a story. And I, and now I feel like people are gonna listen to this and say, I would like to talk to her. So, or I mean, are you, oh, that's nice.
Yeah. Do you feel like you are open to people reaching out? . , yeah, sure. Okay. So , do you want 'em to contact you through my stuff or do you want, do you have a website or email? I can
Kristin: just email me. Ok. I mean, , I have a website. My website's just Kristen Hill Therapy. Perfect. Okay. , then I have an email, I think, and your assistant, I think has it too, but, okay.
, kristen health therapy gmail.com. Perfect.
Tony: Okay, so I'll put that in the show notes and then, , please come back on, , let's nerd out again. Oh yeah, that,, that was fun. Yeah, I love it. That was a lot of fun.