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In today's episode, we dive deep into the complexities of neurodiversity and narcissism in relationships. Our guest, Jodi Carlton, brings a wealth of expertise, drawing from over two decades of experience as a therapist, educator, and coach, with a special focus on neurodiversity. She has an intimate understanding of neurodivergent individuals. She has worked extensively with individuals and couples across 13 countries, dealing with a spectrum of conditions, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and brain injury.

In this conversation, Jodi offers her invaluable insights into the often misunderstood correlations and distinctions between autism and narcissism. She shares her perspective on the possibility of ADHD being recognized as part of the autism spectrum, a debate that continues to influence how we understand and support neurodivergent individuals.

Moreover, Jodi delves into the potentially harmful dynamics of relationships with narcissists, drawing from her own experiences as a survivor of narcissistic abuse. Her personal journey of recovery from codependency provides a poignant backdrop for this discussion, highlighting the strength, resilience, and hope that can emerge from the darkest of times.

Join us as we navigate the intricate webs of human behavior, emotions, and relationships, and gain a more profound understanding of the complexities of the human mind. This episode is a must-listen for anyone seeking to deepen their understanding of neurodiversity and narcissism and their impact on personal and interpersonal well-being.

You can learn more about Jodi by taking her quizzes and courses at http://jodicarlton.com

Use the following code to purchase the 2023 Sex Summit for only $35 featuring Tony's presentation: Relationship Tools You Don't Know You Need - Tips and Tools Born From 15 Years of Practice w/1500 Couples. https://thedatingdivas.myshopify.com/discount/TONY23?redirect=%2Fproducts%2Fsex-seminar-2023

Or use the following code to purchase 2020, 2021, 2023, and 2024 seminars for only $80: https://thedatingdivas.myshopify.com/discount/TONYBUNDLE23?redirect=%2Fproducts%2Fsex-seminar-2023-bundle

Find all the latest links to podcasts, courses, Tony's newsletter, and more at https://linktr.ee/virtualcouch

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

Subscribe to Tony's latest podcast, "Waking Up to Narcissism Q&A - Premium Podcast," on the Apple Podcast App. 

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/waking-up-to-narcissism-q-a/id1667287384

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

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs and podcasts.

Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here https://descript.com?lmref=bSWcEQ

True or false? You only use 10 percent of your brain? Albert Einstein was a lousy student, and look how he turned out! Positive affirmations will lead you to self-love and happiness. To get the answers, you'll need to listen to this episode, but (spoiler alert) we are often building meaning and judging ourselves based on stories that aren't true and, in some cases, cause us to feel deep shame and fear. Tony talks about how certain myths around fear stunt our growth and what we can do to resolve our fears and doubts. Tony references "The Confidence Gap" https://amzn.to/3AuBPlb by Russ Harris for this episode. 

Find all the latest links to podcasts, courses, Tony's newsletter, and more at https://linktr.ee/virtualcouch

Inside ACT for Anxiety Disorder Course is Open! Visit https://praxiscet.com/virtualcouch Inside ACT for Anxiety Disorders; Dr. Michael Twohig will teach you the industry-standard treatment used by anxiety-treatment experts around the world. Through 6 modules of clear instruction and clinical demonstrations, you will learn how to create opportunities for clients to practice psychological flexibility in the presence of anxiety. 

After completing the course material, you'll have a new, highly effective anxiety treatment tool that can be used with every anxiety-related disorder, from OCD to panic disorder to generalized anxiety disorder.

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

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

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

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs and podcasts.

Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here https://descript.com?lmref=bSWcEQ

Today we dig more into the age-old question, "Should I stay or should I go?" And if I'm staying, what are some strategies to help maintain one's sanity? Tony unpacks a poignant email from a listener, shedding light on the subtle nuances of gaslighting - a common manipulation tactic used by narcissists. Through this exploration, you'll learn to identify these underhanded strategies, empowering you to take a step back and view the situation through an informed lens.

Tony also shares a captivating story about letting go of the need for validation from a narcissistic partner. He emphasizes the importance of reclaiming personal power, urging listeners to prioritize their emotional well-being and regain self-confidence. This tale exemplifies the journey to self-discovery and showcases the strength of spirit it takes to break free from these relationships.

Use the following code to purchase the 2023 Sex Summit for only $35 featuring Tony's presentation: Relationship Tools You Don't Know You Need - Tips and Tools Born From 15 Years of Practice w/1500 Couples. https://thedatingdivas.myshopify.com/discount/TONY23?redirect=%2Fproducts%2Fsex-seminar-2023

Or use the following code to purchase 2020, 2021, 2023, and 2024 seminars for only $80: https://thedatingdivas.myshopify.com/discount/TONYBUNDLE23?redirect=%2Fproducts%2Fsex-seminar-2023-bundle

Find all the latest links to podcasts, courses, Tony's newsletter, and more at https://linktr.ee/virtualcouch

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

Subscribe to Tony's latest podcast, "Waking Up to Narcissism Q&A - Premium Podcast," on the Apple Podcast App. 

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/waking-up-to-narcissism-q-a/id1667287384

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

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs and podcasts.

Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here https://descript.com?lmref=bSWcEQ

Let's talk about S to the E-X, aka "intimacy." Dan Purcell, host of the "Get Your Marriage On" podcast as well as the "Intimately Us" app https://r.intimately.us/tonyoverbay joins Tony to talk about the mission that he, along with his wife Emily, share of strengthening marriages by helping them deepen their connection through both physical and emotional intimacy. They are the creator of the popular "Intimately Us" app that has been downloaded over 300,000 times. They host romantic retreat getaways for couples and host the "Get Your Marriage On! Podcast and coach couples on how to have a great sex life and deeper intimacy. 

You can find out more about Dan and Emily at http://getyourmarriageon.com or on Instagram https://instagram.com/getyourmarriageon/

Find all the latest links to podcasts, courses, Tony's newsletter, and more at https://linktr.ee/virtualcouch

Inside ACT for Anxiety Disorder Course is Open! Visit https://praxiscet.com/virtualcouch Inside ACT for Anxiety Disorders; Dr. Michael Twohig will teach you the industry-standard treatment used by anxiety-treatment experts around the world. Through 6 modules of clear instruction and clinical demonstrations, you will learn how to create opportunities for clients to practice psychological flexibility in the presence of anxiety. 

After completing the course material, you'll have a new, highly effective anxiety treatment tool that can be used with every anxiety-related disorder, from OCD to panic disorder to generalized anxiety disorder.

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

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

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

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs and podcasts.

Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here https://descript.com?lmref=bSWcEQ

Virtual Couch- Dan Purcell Transcript

Tony: Okay, Dan, welcome to the Virtual Couch. How are you? 

Dan: Thank you. So happy to be here, Tony. 

Tony: Okay, so this is the part where I told Dan we got on and I said, Dan, don't say a word. Because I just want to just capture this pure gold because I really enjoyed being on your podcast. I felt like we had a real fun interaction and I feel like we covered three hours in about 45 minutes, so I'm gonna link that in show notes, but then I sat there thinking about that and I thought, man, I forgot that I'm the one that I think the first time we were supposed to record, I got a notification. I was on my way to Disneyland a couple days before Christmas and I felt horrible calling that off. And then I think last week, I think the morning of, I realized I had someone else in your spot. It's bad. It makes me sound like I'm completely disorganized, but so you've been so patient, and I really appreciate that. So here we are. 

Dan:And you've had a death in the family too?

Tony: That’s right. Okay, man, yeah my mother-in-law. And what an amazing woman. So you're right. So I'm just grateful that we are here and we're talking. So there's my first just thank you so much, but okay. Here's the funny part to me, Dan, and I'm gonna take you on my train of thought, I'm gonna do all this. I'm gonna be emotionally immature. I'm gonna talk about healthy ego. I'll make it really quick, but I realize that, you know, I'm a marriage therapist. I've been doing it for 17, 18 years. When I put your episode out here, I think it'll be pushing close to 370 episodes of the Virtual Couch. And I realize what we're probably gonna talk about today, one of your areas of expertise. As a couple's therapist, I talk about every day, multiple times a day, but I haven't really talked about it much on the podcast, which is really funny. And it's not like I'm afraid of talking about sex or intimacy or anything. So I really don't have a good reason why. I mean, I don't, I literally talk about it for hours every day for 15 years, and so I don't know, and I was thinking about that because you and I talked on yours about self confrontation and sitting with uncomfortable feelings and, you know, I'm not uncomfortable with it.

Again, haven't done this for a long time. And all I kept thinking about was, there's a part of me that still thinks that for some reason, moms are listening to the Virtual Couch in the minivan and the kids are back there, you know, listening along. But I don't think so, because I got one email about five years ago of somebody saying that. So, but I think that was probably the one person that was listening to it in the minivan. So there's that part of me that still feels like, oh, the kids are present. We can't talk about s e x, you know, so that's all I could come up with. So, I'm excited to see where we go today. So there's self confrontation, number one, and then self confrontation number two is, I'm really gonna check my ego because I want, you're the guest and I want to hear everything that you have to offer, and I kind of think that early on. This is why I love what we talked about in your podcast, and I still recommend my listeners to go, listen. We talked a lot about that self confrontation and differentiation and not needing your spouse to validate you. And I really worry, thank goodness, I don't like to hear myself talk, so I'm not gonna go back and listen, but I would imagine early on in my interviews, I wanted to make sure that the people knew I knew what I'm talking about. You know, because I'm a therapist and so this is, I'm also gonna sit with the perhaps potential uncomfortable feelings of wanting you to know that I'm smart too, Dan. So I'm, I am not gonna, I want to hear your story. I want you to go, I'm not gonna, I'm gonna try not to say, you know what, I think about that, Dan, because I want to know what you think about the things we're gonna talk about. So if you're okay with that, I really would love for you to do a lot of the driving and let's, I just want to kind of hear your story, how you got where you are and what you like talking about and working with and I don't know. How's that sound? 

Dan: Sounds great. Sounds great. Okay. Let's see, so my wife and I have been married over 19 years. And we met each other in eighth grade, so we've known each other for a really long time.

Tony: Were there breakups along the way or was it love at first sight?

Dan: It's not that romantic. We were just in the same group of friends. We went on a few dance dates together, but I was really shy and she was popular, so there wasn't a chance back then.

Tony: Just trying to stay in her orbit, so to speak, in a sense. Is that what the goal was? Okay. Right. 

Dan: But we never dated seriously in high school. I served a mission and had a fantastic experience.

Tony: Where'd you go?

Dan: I served in Japan.

Tony: This is about the only phrase I used to travel. Look at me. I'm already like let me tell you about my experiences in Japan, Dan. No, that's fascinating because I do, I used to go there when I was in my computer career, and I love, I loved everything about Japan. Did you enjoy your time there out of curiosity? 

Dan: Yes. Yeah. In fact, I was born in Japan, so I lived there for, yeah, I went up through second grade in Japan. So, I already knew Japanese. They kicked me outta the MTC early, so I got more time than my peers in Japan. It was really good.  

Tony: Where? 

Dan: I served in Hokkaido, which is the most northern island.

Tony: Okay. Oh, wow. That's quite a, that's a different experience than Tokyo I would imagine. 

Dan: It’s like the Montana of Japan. Really cold.

Tony: So, outta curiosity, do you still use your Japanese skills or the language skills at this point? 

Dan: So my dad served his mission in Japan, so he speaks Japanese. My younger brother served in Japan too, so we speak Japanese and we grew up there. So as a family, yeah, within our family, we can speak Japanese to each other. And it comes really in handy when we're out in public. We don't want others around us to know what we're talking about.

Tony: Oh, I think that, and that's actually where I was going with it, I think that would just be so amazing and fun to be able to do that. Okay. Last quick Japanese point. I love the food. And there was a thing there called shabu shabu. Are you familiar with that? 

Dan: Yeah. Yeah. They're really thin sliced beef.

Tony: Yeah. You just drag around in boiling water and then it's pretty, pretty amazing. Yeah. So, I don't know, like what was your favorite, what were your favorite foods? Or what, what's your favorite Japanese food? 

Dan: I don’t know. Uh, if I had to pick one, it'd be street ramen. And the ramen shops not like the ramen here. No, it's on a class of its own. I miss that, especially when it's wintertime.

Tony: Okay this is fun. We will get to, for those listening, we are gonna get to an incredible topic, but I enjoy here we are being in the moment. And, boy, I love that when you can connect and if I throw my, now I'll throw my therapy hat because don't forget, Dan, I want you to know I'm a therapist, but now Dan and I are having a shared experience and now we will always remember this and, and it will be amazing and wonderful. Very quickly on that, the ramen to me, like the, the why that's significant is, I probably was there 10 times before I tried sushi. I didn't like sushi at all, so then I would just devour ramen everywhere I went until I finally did try the sushi. And now, you know, 25 years later and I've loved it ever since but yes, nothing like Japanese Ramen.

Dan: Yeah. Yeah. In fact, that reminds me of his story. I didn't like the idea of eating anything raw, like sashimi or la sushi. And, I didn't like sushi either because to me rice should be hot and steamy. Not cold and sweet. And vinegar, like the sushi rice usually is. And I served in a very cold part of Japan, and one particular day we had no appointments, so we were just outside all day snow up to our waist just knocking on door after door. No one's letting us in. And it was just a really miserable day. It was cloudy. We're just frozen. But we had one appointment at 8:30 at night at the very tail end and it was really on the outskirts of town, we had a hard time finding them, they lived at the top of this hill and so it was like we're slipping on the ice and snow, you know, giving it to their house and the very modest home. They don't have a traditional western door. They had the eastern sliding door sliding. Okay. We opened that, came inside and guess what they had served us for dinner? Sashimi and sushi. The raw stuff, right? And I was so hungry. I was so tired. And after being rejected all day long, to have someone go through this, it's expensive. It's an expensive meal. They're really putting out to have the missionaries come over. And, I couldn't turn 'em down. Anyway, that was the best sushi and sashimi I ever had. And from that point forward, I didn't have a problem with it because I love it, you know? In that moment it was meaningful.

Tony: Yeah, again, being very present there. And, were you a fan ever since? Was that, did that sell you or was that just an isolated experience based off of all the things that led up to that moment?

Dan: From that point forward, I didn't have a problem with it. I love it. Well if I can do it there, I can do it there. And I think that's like a principle that we can really build on for our conversation today, because it's like faith. We need to try things. We need to do an experiment on things, but we also need to do things with a willing heart. So my wife and I both come from really good families, but sex wasn't talked about much at all in our homes. And if it was, it was either about biological reproduction or the thou shall not talk, but not a lot of conversation about how to build a great and exciting sex because no one really ever talked about it. We kind of inherited some anxieties about it. I remember our wedding night, we were so excited to be together and to have this new experience together, but I didn't know, I kind of had an idea what was supposed to happen because all the lyrics to all the love songs say, you know, you make love all night. And so we make love for the first time. And my body, you know, doesn't last all night long.

Tony: I think Hall Oates has a song, “did it in a minute”. Maybe that's more applicable, right? 

Dan: Probably. Yeah. 

Tony: But I love what you're saying though and you're right. It does tie into your sashimi and sushi experience. I mean, you absolutely in that sense don't know what you don't know until you know it. Knowledge can be such a hindsight principle because you wouldn't have even known the right questions to ask heading into your wedding night because you weren't modeled a way to talk about it. And now back into that role of marriage therapist, I do most of the conversations when we finally start talking about sex are, well, tell me what that was like growing up. Tell me what certain things meant. What are expectations? And, it is just a conversation that gets really immediately awkward and full of a lot of judgment and a lot of assumptions and then a lot of shame. So how'd you navigate from there? 

Dan: Not very well because I had a hard time reconciling spirituality and sexuality. Like spiritual people aren't sexual, yet I have sexual desires. And so that for constant combat and like kind of the running story in my head was like, sex is all about the quote unquote the natural man because I really didn't understand then what natural man really meant. I thought it meant any natural desires. So, I tried to suppress my sexuality, sexual desires, like here's an example, maybe two weeks after I was married, sex is so new, I'm excited about it and I have all these questions and I'm at BYU Idaho at the time and I go to the library and I get the courage to search something about sex or something. And I found a textbook on human sexuality and thought if this library has such a book, I'm sure it'd be a helpful resource for me. So I write down the call number. I go to that section of the library and I don't want anyone to know that I'm there becauseI don't want anyone, so like make sure no one's like looking at me as I take that book off the shelf, I tuck it under my arm and to my bad luck, it was like a woman at the checkout, like scanning, checking out my book. I didn't make any eye contact with her. Like, I don't want you to know I'm getting this book. I put it in my backpack. And anyway, later on, like that night, I open, I flip open the book. I'm just leafing through the pages. And I see an illustration of a couple having sex, like in the 69 position or something like that, just a drawing. And I freaked out like, oh no, this is pornography. I'm not supposed to be looking at this. So I shut the book and I promptly returned the book, never to get any answers to my questions, because I thought I shouldn't be looking.

Tony: And look, and look at that right there, Dan. Even like you're going into some, I'm a very old man and I worked in the video store industry, 30 years ago. And it, and it's as if you were going into that, behind that back wall where all the R-rated and pornography movies were, and your trench coat with your hat pulled down. And yes, all you're trying to do is learn, learn about this natural thing that occurs with couples. I mean, so that, and then the fact that you're going to a, literally a clinical textbook for it, and then you even see the things and then feel like I did something wrong. There's so much there.

Dan: Yes. I felt like I did something wrong. Right? So, my wife and I have always, I guess you could say, a really good marriage. Like we have a great emotional connection. We know how to play together. We're good. We have prioritized date nights throughout our marriage. Like we've been comfortable talking about a lot of things. Fast forward 13 years, so 13 years into my marriage, I am having a conversation with a friend and he opens up to me about his sex. He starts telling me some of the things he and his wife are doing in bed. And I'm like, really good people do those things? And he is, and he has a very vibrant and creative sex life. I guess you could call it. I had more bed curiosity. It's like, oh, no, no. Wait, tell me more. Tell me more. No, no, no. Don't tell me, but tell me a little more. I was so fascinated that here's a good man that enjoys sex with his wife, and they're very creative and the reason why he was telling me these things wasn't to brag or anything like that, it was, he was trying to tell me that ever since he and his wife really started working on their sexual relationship, their bond, became a lot stronger. They're better friends. They communicate better, they parent together better. Like there's all these benefits he's experienced in his life when he's really put the effort into making sex great for him and his wife. And he had something that I did not have. I could notice that. And yeah, so this was kind of my moment where I'm like, well, maybe all along I've been wrong. Maybe there is more to sex. Maybe there's a lot of goodness in sex that I've just been dismissing because of the way I've been thinking. So it really forced me to really confront my thoughts about it.

Tony: Tell me about that too. I mean, when you think that is there, okay, you may start to feel like, yeah, maybe I am. But is that still something that is scary to try to bring to your wife? Were you nervous for that? 

Dan: Yeah. So I go home that night, say, hey Emily, you'd never guess what kind of conversation I had today. Now part of the conversation with my friend is he told me that I think in his marriage, his wife is the one who has the higher desire for sex. So, okay. She basically told him that he's not a good enough lover at the time and he needs to figure things out because she's not satisfied or whatever. And which he took very personally at first, he didn't like hearing that from her, but since, like, I made an effort to make it great for her and then it's great for him that that's kind of how the story evolved. So I'm really self-conscious now with my wife, like, am I a good enough lover? Are you enjoying our time together? And our model, I guess our model of what sex looks like or what it was supposed to look like up until then was in the dark 10 minutes missionary position, and you're done.

Yeah, just that, that's kind of a quote unquote, avoiding anything unnatural and not knowing what that was, what that meant, and just being modeled that that was probably the way we do things. And so my mind's blown like, no, there's other ways to do this. So now my wife and I are having this conversation about us and our sex life, and we probably had the most vulnerable conversation about sex in our marriage to that point in our marriage. Then we were up to like 2:00 AM talking that night about us and what we think about this. What do you think about this? Is this okay? How do we know if this is okay? This is so different from our experience. There seems to be more here than we're experiencing. 

Tony: I appreciate that because I feel like people will have these, like when you said the most vulnerable conversation and I won't go into, you know, I love my four pillars and there needs to have, I think a framework is ideal, but I do feel like at times when we get vulnerable, it is more of a, do you feel like you were coming from this place of curiosity and then just, you know, this collaboration versus, you know, why don't you, or you know, do you feel like it was a different vibe in the conversation altogether?

Dan: Yeah. But we're both, I was really scared talking about these things because we haven't, we didn't talk about these things ever. And there's a lot of judgment involved. A lot of self judgment. What does she think about me? Like, does she think I'm gonna be some, like, you know, sex maniac or something? Like there's, there's a lot of that self-judgment too. You're really going into that conversation. What will she think if I really tell her my experience of what I think?

Tony: Well, and I think this is why it is so important to talk about this as a couple's therapist, I always talk about this as one of those, I call them a high charge topic, and then I almost feel bad because that puts such pressure on having the conversation but I really do feel like having a good foundational principle of a connection and having a way to communicate is necessary so that it doesn't happen, like what you're saying because I think we're all gonna worry that, okay, if I really say this, she's gonna think that I am a deviant and then she's gonna wanna leave. And I think it hits at that core attachment wound of, you know, will you still care about me? Do you love me? And so that's where I feel like I even like when you're saying, you know, guess what conversation I had? And we still almost wanna put it out there, testing the waters. I mean, almost like worried that if she says, you better not have talked to one of your friends about sex, you know, because then, then we would probably go, no, no. It wasn't that. Of course it wasn't. We're still wanting to, you know, lean into that. But I appreciate what you're saying though, because we're going into it already worried. And I think that's that part where we're all a little bit enmeshed in codependent to a point, but then have these different experiences in life. And then, but when we start talking about them, there's that fear. If I say the wrong thing, you know, it's just all or nothing, they're gone. They'll leave me. Which is not, not the case.

Dan: But there is a reason why we haven't talked about it to that point. 

Tony: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Right.

Dan: So we went through it from there. We push, like courage, courage forward, onward. 

Tony: And do you feel like Dan, at that moment, do you feel like there were, I don't know if you had to rate your assumptions around what her beliefs were, were you close to the mark or did you learn a lot that you weren't aware of? Or what was that like? 

Dan: I would say, that's a both and, or yes and no. Like, yeah. I live with her. I know her. I've known her for a long, long time, so I know pretty much how she's gonna respond to things yet, I was blown away at her compassion and her openness and understanding. I didn't expect that much. Like that she held space for me to kind of explore this with her, you know, during that conversation. And likewise, I wanted to hold space for her to explore her thoughts because we really haven't put a lot of brain power to really, you know, examine this topic of our marriage. Because we always thought this is a topic of marriage.You don't examine, you kind of let it be. 

Tony: I love your answer because it's the yes, and because I really do feel like this is where we observe and we judge in the same motion with our spouse. So, and that's where I feel like even the concepts around, oh man, can you believe that so and so, you know, whatever, that they do this in their life or, and we're, we're kind of making that, that bid to our partner of what do you think? Because if you really get angry about this, then I'm, then I know, or then we observe things where, you know, I've had some really good sessions with people where maybe a wife has started to open up about why she may feel shut down at certain times during sex. And where the guy has then said, no, I know, I know that that's because of this. And she, and then she's saying, I, no, I, it's, you know, might date back to previous relationship or some childhood trauma. And so I, I like what you're saying because I think we, over time, even if we think, oh no, I know my spouse. No, we know what we're observing and we know the judgments that we make, but we're, and then we do that long enough and now we even just assume. And even when they try to open up to us often, I think we say, no, no, no. I know, I know you, you can be honest with me when I mean, they're trying, you know, so I love what you're saying there. So then, what was that process like? From there you have that vulnerable conversation and then the next day, did you feel an emotional hangover or did you feel excitement or what was that?

Dan: I guess excitement because that conversation didn't end then. Right? For the next two weeks. We're up late every night talking about things and what do you think about things like that? So, we both concluded we needed more information and being kind of scared to even Google our sex questions, we thought maybe a book would be helpful. So we did Google, like a Christian author like sex book. And found one, it came in the mail. We read a little bit together that night. She fell asleep, because you know, she's tired and I think I stayed at 4:00 AM and I binge read and finished it in one night. It was awesome. 

Tony: Like you had the permission now to read that kind of thing. Getting rid of those BYU Idaho library days at that very moment. 

Dan: Yeah and the vibe of this particular book was like, perfect for what I needed at that time because it was basically giving me permission that sex is a good and helpful and wholesome and amazing thing which is very different than the narrative I have been giving myself. It was something to be tolerated, not something to be very embraced and celebrated. So that's what I needed at that time.

Tony: So where do things go from there? So now a couple of weeks and you're still talking, you're reading books and then you know, then what happens? 

Dan: Right, I should also mention, I had a lot of questions about what's okay and not okay. I think a lot of people have that. So, do you know Jeff Stewart?

Tony: Jeff and I have had our Home and Away podcast as well. And what's funny that you're talking about this too, I have him coming up soon to talk about consent in relationships, and, you know, in my world a lot when I'm working with clients, I don't know and we can maybe get to this in a minute, but I find that people do fall into these particular patterns or ruts in sex whether it's talking about things like duty sex or whether the guy is going to, I mean, I had a guy put it so well, and I'm sorry. Now I am going on a tangent, but Jeff is, is such a good person to talk about this with, but the concepts around consent, where if a wife is saying, I don't necessarily feel like doing a certain thing, but then the guy is saying, okay, but I can, I can get you to orgasm, for example, and then he feels like, see, that was worth it. But the wife said, I don't want to, to begin with, and then, I've had that conversation so many times where the guy feels like, no, but I got us, I mean, a guy said recently and I appreciate it. He said, no, I got us to the promised land, you know? And she said, no, you, you know, you didn't respect my boundaries. And then, and so often I will have a guy say, but you, you had an orgasm. And that's where I have a classic line of, okay, well yeah, if you're asking if the 20,000 nerve endings and her vagina responded to stimulation, then yes. But was she a part of that? No, not mentally. And so anyway, Jeff's gonna come on and talk more about that concept of consent. You know, because consent sounds like things and dating or that sort of thing. But, I think in the marital relationship that's important. 

Dan: So Jeff and I live in the same neighborhood. So we see each other at church. And, I really respect Jeff and I figured of all the people to help me understand where's the line of like, what's, okay, not okay. Like, yeah, he'd be it. So I say, Jeff, can we go to lunch? And he's like, sure, we'll go to lunch. So we're at Chick-fil-A and I get all my courage and I ask them all my questions. And so we're talking about everything in explicit detail. And I feel so sorry for the family sitting next to us.

Tony: Sending the kids into the ball pit though. Like voluntarily, right? 

Dan: But this is my chance. And he was so encouraging. He was so like, he was so amazing yeah, this stuff is fantastic. Keep like, he was encouraging, like, keep going. This is good, you'll figure this out. So I guess we just started progressing a little more. And then within a few months, I'd say within two months, our sex life went from good to, I guess it wasn't bad, but we didn't know any better, right? To like amazing. Like we started experiencing a lot of change, a lot of excitement and vibrancy and, and then all the things my friend talked about, our bond being stronger. We were communicating. If we could talk about that, we can talk about anything. So our level of communication just deepened and all of a sudden the sky was bluer, the grass was greener. I'm performing better at work. Like I'm whistling. There's like the pep in my step. Like there's so much in life that was like, so much better when our sex life just became amazing. Those twitter painted feelings I had early on in our relationship all came flooding back in full force. And, we're flirting with each other all the time. Just the level of, in our relationship just went up like an order because of the vibrancy of what we're experiencing together. 

Tony: And then, and so I'm curious too, do you feel like, were there still these experiences where there were, you know, not tonight? Or did you feel like it was, if somebody was saying that this was something that you wanted to do, then okay, we're doing this. I mean, was there any of the letdown, not even letdown, that's the wrong way to frame it. But do you know what I mean though? Because it sounds like right now when you're saying, okay, it was just this euphoric high. And I think a lot of couples that I work with will often feel that, because we finally talked about the elephant in the room. But then it's, but we still don't really necessarily talk about when maybe the euphoria dips a bit. It doesn't mean that, okay, now we're gonna go all the way back to where we were and, and how to find that area in the middle, the gray or that, that kind of thing.

Dan: Yeah, so I am still very immature and have a lot of growing to do. So yes, we've experienced all of those things and I'm still growing in all those areas. However, I gotta say, I think growth and progression happens. Not, it's not so linear, right? Our growth isn't so linear. Like we have growth spurts where you grow, grow, grow, and then you hit a limit, and then you kind of stay at that plateau for a while, or it might feel like you digress for a little bit and then something else happens and then you have another growth spurt, so you hit your next limit and you progress for a while. That's been my experience and I think that's an experience for a lot of couples. So, yeah, I like that there was like, we're on this high for a while. Feels like the honeymoon again. And the honeymoon phase kind of, you know, wears off a little bit. But then, we don't stay there for a very long time. We want to keep growing and progressing and so you kind of go there. And in all of that, because we're at a different level, the challenges that we now have in our marriage are gonna look very different at that level than they were at the lower level. So yeah, things are better in some ways, but we have different new challenges so things feel worse sometimes because the challenges look different. So, yeah, we're always leveling up because there's always another level I think.

Tony: Do you start to identify patterns of when things start to maybe flatten out. I mean, is there, I dunno, the seasonal things, work related things, kid related things. I mean, do you start to identify things that then you can bring awareness to foster that growth in a sense?

Dan: Okay, yes. So as far as patterns go, well, there's life and life happens. Like my, my daughter, my 16 year old daughter's in a, just finished, she was in a production. She had a, anyway, it means late nights. And I'm driving her there to play practice and picking her up late at night. And it kind of disrupted our, my wife and I, our mojo and how we spend our evenings together. So yeah, things like that do happen. Life happens.

Tony: And do you feel like you guys were communicating about that in real time or was that something where you would then all of a sudden feel like, okay, something's off and, and then we go back and review the game film?

Dan: I guess. We go into it knowing that, all right, okay, daughters play practice. This means this is gonna happen. So, yeah, part of my personal growth is I've, I guess, learning how to self soothe a lot better around things like this. And that's a skill I don't think people teach enough, learning how to like, calm the heck down around things when they don't go exactly the way you had hoped to go and just being okay with that.

Tony: What and what's that look like? And I think this is some of the stuff we talked about on your podcast which I so appreciate and maybe that's a good context and I hope it doesn't feel like I was trying to set you up for an answer or anything, but I like what you're saying because I feel like in the perfect world, we know and we can say, okay, what are things gonna look like while our daughters at play practice? One of us can be driving. We may be tired, we may need to communicate more. Or I find the couples that in the middle of it, they recognize something's off and then they're able to communicate about it, assuming the good intentions. And so now we recognize, okay, oh, this is what's happening. Can we adjust? And I worry that too often it's the, now we realize we are just off and then we start trying to take a look at what happened and, you know, and now in hindsight I've built like that hindsight piece is pretty important. And I worry at times that couples, you know, they don't want to quote, dredge up the past or, you know, well that's, but I really feel like you can analyze that data if you have a nice framework and look at it at a place of, okay, that happened. You know, what was my role? And so that's where I was going by I like what you're saying about this self soothing too, because what does that look like? What have you learned? 

Dan: I've got a few thoughts on this, and I'm not saying I'm always, you know, really good at this, but I'm getting better and better at it. The first thought I have is, you know the old story about the Indian chief teaching his son that there are two wolves. One has a death instinct, one has a life instinct. Well, which one wins? The one you feed, right? And it happens on a microscopic level in our marriages. Like it's this idea of are things a year from now gonna be worse between us or things between us are gonna be better a year between us a year from now. So it's, I guess, kinda like an optimism versus a pessimistic outlook. And it might sound silly to say, but when you feed the wolf that says things are gonna be worse, you know, a year from now because this or that? It does manifest itself in the way you relate to each other because you tend to withdraw a little more or justify your resentments or there's, because you're like, well, we're already heading down this path. And that's the wolf you're feeding. But there's also the other wolf you can feed. Now it could be a lot worse, but if things can be worse, I think that means things could be better. So I'm going to do those things, that advocate for or fight for something better. There's also, entropy is at stake. I mean, it is a very powerful force in any relationship.

Tony: Yeah, talk about that. The marital entropy. If you just leave things as they are, do they deteriorate? Is that the concept?

Dan: Yeah. So it is a constant uphill thing, so it's exhausting sometimes, but it is a fight. Prioritize each other. It's a fight to make sure we're connecting. It's a fight to make space for both of us to express what we need or what we want out of our relationship together. Those are forces to fight against. 

Tony: I love the, I haven't thought about the wolf you feed in a long time, because I do feel like there's so much there where you know what you seek, you will find, if you want to find the ways that your spouse is, is not there for you the way you would like, you are gonna find that, you know, if you're gonna find the ways that you can show up different, you will find that. And I like what you're saying, I haven't put that in the context of that wolf you feed analogy because I really do like that a lot because if I want to find my part in something, I'll find it. If I wanna find her part in something, I'll find it. And then I really feel like, if I'm gonna look for the part, what she's doing, then I have to acknowledge the fact that I am basically saying that I'm not at fault. I mean this isn't, this isn't a me issue. And, I would rather have somebody start with a, oh it's, it's a me issue because I only really know what I'm doing.

Dan: Another tactic that helps me is paying attention to the story I'm telling myself and I play the game two truths and a lie. So often it's like, we'll never, you know, X, Y, Z, or she'll never want this, or whatever. And so, then I kind of build this story in my head. I keep telling myself the story over and over. She's never gonna want to do X in bed with me or whatever it might be, right? We'll never achieve this or whatever. And sometimes the story we tell ourselves has a lot of truth, but there's a little bit of a lie embedded in it. Okay, so identifying what about it? The story I'm telling myself what's true and what really isn't that completely true. We like to self deceive ourselves in a way. We like to set up a story that makes us feel better or superior, or we're the ones in the right, they're in the wrong or whatever. But identifying really, that's not completely true. I mean, it's a little bit of a stretch in this area. As not me, but identifying, that's tricky. So one tool that I've helped that helps me with that is I type up a dialogue so this takes time. So you gotta be willing to set aside some quiet time. I open up a Google doc and I will type up like the dialogue of the last conflict we've had around, or a conflict I anticipate we're having, I say this, she says this, then I'm gonna say this, and if I say this, I think this is how she's gonna respond, or this is how she does respond. So I kind of type up this dialogue, and that practice of typing up this dialogue helps me at least on paper, kind of take a step back and say, I can see here where I'm a little bit, I'm a little, I like for me, my tendencies to take the superior stance. Like, okay, I'm more evolved than you. I know what's going on.

And you don't like that, that doesn't create a marriage where, where we're equals, right? Because I'm condescending. So I know this, these tendencies. I mean, I can like, after the dialogue's like. Or another one I tend to do is play the victim really well. We're good at that. It's your fault on the way like this, I have no choice in this matter. And then as I go through dialogue, I can go, wait a minute, I'm playing the victim here. And the victim pattern for me is always the, I don't have a choice. When in reality I remind myself I always have a choice. What are my options? Even if they're all crappy options, what's the least crappy option of all my options I can still make? And when I look for those things, then it's all on me again. I kind of keep the focus on me. This is the step I need to take for me in this, in light of these things. 

Tony: I like it. And I think, again, back to the things that we talked about on your, on your show, all of those options may cause discomfort and we are not huge fans of discomfort and rather than feel uncomfortable, it's easier to pull that victim card or that it'll never work card. Or why would I even bring it up card? Because then I can still stay in that victim mentality and I don't have to be uncomfortable. And now I get to tell a story to myself. About something that she's unaware of the task, something she's failed at and she didn't even know she was taking the test. So, I mean, that's a, that's a lot, right? I like what you're saying too, when you lay the narrative out, I do not journal. I love giving journaling homework. I'm not saying it as if I think I would never do it. I wish I journaled and I haven't aired his episode yet, but he's been writing every day for a year now, and he wasn't a journal writer at all. And we were just talking about that concept of laying things out, when you put things out linearly, it almost does it, it declutters from your mind. And I love that you just put another piece to that puzzle together and then you could identify, oh, when I lay it out that way, I take, I try to take that one up and I think if things are just in our heads and that we got all kinds of stories going, I wonder that might be harder to see that that's the pattern, do you think? 

Dan: Yes. But I do also admit there's also times when I've typed it out and I still can't see it. And that's the next stage I go in and get help. So I have friends, I'm in a great group of other men that I can trust with some of these things and they're willing to look at my dialogue or whatever it is, help identify things, right. I believe in marriage coaching. I have a marriage coach that I have that I go to and helps me see things when I have trouble seeing it myself. And because I think we still will always have blind spots. There's only so much.

Tony: Absolutely. We can see. And I like the group. I wouldn't say I really like a group like that because, you know, if we're in our own echo chamber, that's one thing. And then if we're wanting someone to be gentle with us, you know, bring gentle awareness. And sometimes I do feel like we need that, you need a little, little, little taste of reality there. And so I think that they, the more real that somebody can be, because you can still have, you still have the option to disagree with them, but you'll never have that option if you don't have somebody willing to confront you with what they notice. And I think that plays into it, we put out a version of ourselves to the world and we say, hey everybody, validate this guy right here. And then if people really don't feel like, okay, but that's not the version I see, I'll try. And then if somebody is being insincere and trying to validate the version of you that you think you are, then you pick up on that. And then you say, okay, you don't even care about me. And I feel like that's the position we put our spouses in or our friends in at times of, you know, then we get to play the victim as well. So I love having a group that you can go to with that. When I was starting on your journey, and we only have a few more minutes and I didn't even, tell us what you do and you offer and how you help people. I mean, you've got an amazing podcast, you've got a big following on Instagram. What are all the things you do and how do you help people? 

Dan: So the first thing I did after our, I guess you call it our marriage renaissance, the rebirth. We're like, this is so amazing. I wish more people knew about this. I'm an app developer, I'm from a software development background, myself and my wife created a bedroom game app. I'm also really creative and being really creative in the bedroom sounds great to me. So we made a collection of bedroom games we put on the app store. And it took off because I think we hit an underserved market. It's not craft, it's not raunchy. It's not, it's full of really good information and it's fun, but in the process of marketing that app, I connected with that author of that book that I stayed up really late reading, I connected with her and I connected with other authors and other bloggers and Instagrammers and podcasters. Like, wow, these are the people that I admire and learn a lot from and say, hey, I have this app. Would you like to share it with your audience? And they check it out and say, yeah, we love it too. Of course we'll share it. So I kind of developed these relationships with others in this like conservative Christian sex positive community, which I didn't know existed. 

Tony: I was gonna make a joke there, Dan. Like, yeah, you found all 20 of them, you know, but I'm joking.

Dan: There's probably 2000 of them, but, right. No, exactly. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Right. Exactly, so one thing led to another and then a year after, so this is in 2018, my wife and I had this hair-brained idea to put on a marriage conference. We are both kind of introverted, right? We have no idea what this is like, but like we have the anti pornography conference in St. George which is a real downer. If you ever go to it, you walk away feeling scared for your life. You want to cut, you know, the internet, right? It's not an upbeat event. And then we have the family history conference. But we don't have anything like marriage enrichment. So we're like, let's do it, let's do it. And 550 people came to our first conference.

Tony: It was when I saw on your website that you have the couples retreats and that sort of thing. And you know, I've been doing this forever in my podcast and I even thought, oh, I would be, I would, that would be very difficult to put one of those together. What if no one comes? I went into all those stories and I can't imagine what it's like to have 500 people. That's amazing. 

Dan: Yeah. So it was way better, and that's the day I got the shot in the arm. Like I think I found my calling in life Love. I love it, I love it. Love helping couples have a great sex life. That's, that's it. So ever since then I've continued to develop apps. I have about five apps on the app store. The main one is intimately us and the second one is just between. And we've put on marriage retreats, we've switched from the conference format to a retreat format to do those annually. My next retreat's coming up in three weeks, so I'm really excited for that. 

Tony: Well, I will get this out quickly then. What's the date of the retreat? 

Dan: It's sold out.

Tony: Okay. All right. But that's exciting.

Dan: They sell out within a few weeks when we announce our retreat. So get on our waiting list if you want. Okay, that sounds good, then I really wanted to help other couples, kind of like what you do, Tony. So I've gone through a lot of training on how to coach other couples. And coach on sexuality. I'm a pretty good student. I can hit the books and I can, anyway, so I have a handful of clients that I coach and I launched a program called Next Level, and it was something that I wish I had. It's a low barrier to entry. It's a low cost, but group coaching program for couples that wanna take their intimacy to the next level. And it's myself and another trained marriage coach in there, and we have weekly meetings. We have a private podcast, kinda like what you have the marriage matters. Is that what it is?

Tony: Magnetic marriage. Oh, you're fine. 

Dan: Yeah. Where as you subscribe, you can listen to other couples being coached anonymously. We've kind of created this kind of community and that's called Next Level and that's growing pretty big.

Tony: This is exciting. We'll have to have you back on again too. But I did a podcast recently where it was all about therapy versus coaching, and I talked a lot about, there's a, I did, I wasn't aware that and I'm kind of joking here, but that there was this therapist versus coach vibe that I wasn't aware I was supposed to have, because I really appreciate coaches and I know that, I think that as I often kind of joke about the fact that I think a coach is necessary to say, okay, here are the next steps. Here's what's worked for me. Here's what I feel like will help. And then I'm, you know, then I feel like the therapist is almost right there beside the couple, and then if and when those things work until they don't, or the challenges they have with continuing on whatever that the program is. They bought the book, they bought the course that they maybe didn't finish, you know, then, then here comes the therapist to say, all right, let's figure that out because I feel like, you know, it's a nice balance of both because I've bought courses and got the dopamine hit and done a couple the modules and then thought, man, okay, I'll do, I'll do something later, you know, and then I thought, what's wrong with me? And I paid the money and why did I fizzle out? And then I've had to put my therapist brain on and have some good acceptance. And anyway, I really love what you're doing and I feel like a perfect balance of coaching and therapy is probably a nice mix. A little bit of chocolate meets peanut butter kind of.

Dan: I like that. Chocolate and peanut butter. That's a good idea. The way I look at it too is therapists are licensed and trained for treating that mental illness too. And there's I, or something that like with dealing with trauma or those really, really specific trainings that I don't touch, but if it's about overcoming differences in sexual desire, I can totally coach you through that. Or if it's about I need more creativity in the bedroom. Or help us where we have this dynamic where it's the pursuer distance or dynamic, I can help you with all those common patterns that a lot of couples struggle with. I can help you with many of those. And that's, and people do come and their marriages are changed for the better as a result of this. They're learning new habits and new tools that help them, you know? Like what we talked about today, for example, self soothing, if that's what they need, or if it's learning how to have those difficult conversations that need to happen. And how to have those are all things that I think couples benefit from things like this.

Tony: So I love it. I do. And then, so then if we kinda wrap up where we started there, I honestly, part of what I was excited, because I really liked your vibe when I was on your show and I know that even as we were talking, I know as the therapist and whatever, 1300 couples later, my default at times is to already anticipate the yeah, buts that are happening. But then, you know, the people need to try to understand the things they don't understand and maybe those yeah, buts won't be as strong and that big fear of the unknown that's there. A lot of times I almost feel like as a therapist, I'm trying to walk us gently to discover the unknown. And I feel like sometimes maybe the services you offer saying, hey, here it is. And it works. And I know it works and it's exciting. And then as people, you know that they didn't know that, and so they start moving toward that a little quicker. And then just know that, you can have a good therapist there if that trauma response does come up. Or if you start doing the, okay, everybody else seems to agree, what's wrong with me? Maybe that's then where the work kicks in. So, I love, I love what you're doing, that's awesome. So I'll, I'll put links to everything. I love that. The next retreat you've got is sold out, so get on, get on your waiting list, listen to your podcast and then, we should do this again.

Dan: Yeah. Let's do, let's do, I do, I guess I can announce. We will be having a virtual marriage retreat on June 9th of this year. June 9th is International love making day because it's six nine on a calendar. Get it, and it's also a Friday. And so we're gonna have a two day virtual love making retreat so you and your spouse are, it's up to you to get your own hotel or kick the kids outta the house for the weekend or whatever. And then, we have sessions where we're meeting with you and giving you very specific ideas to help you explore your own eroticism in your own marriage. So you have a very wonderful love making retreat that weekend for the two of you.

Tony: Perfect. All right. Dan, what a, what a joy. Thanks for coming, we'll talk to you again soon and I'll have all the notes that we can put in the show notes and we'll try to get this out pretty quick because I think there's a lot of good stuff here. So thanks for coming on, and thanks for having me on your show. That was a blast. 

Dan: Thanks. My pleasure. 

Tony: Okay. All right. We'll talk again soon. Thanks so much. 

Today’s show notes have been generated by ChatGPT-4 based on the transcript of the episode: Tony takes a deep dive into understanding and distinguishing between three complex behavioral patterns - Nice Guy/Girl Syndrome, Emotional Immaturity, and Narcissism. 

Tony kicks off the discussion with a comprehensive analysis of Nice Guy/Girl Syndrome. He defines the syndrome, deciphers its impact on relationships, and shares practical strategies to overcome it. He draws on his vast professional experience to provide examples, demonstrating how it manifests in everyday life and highlighting the detrimental cycle it can trigger if not addressed.

Moving forward, Tony navigates us through the intricate world of Emotional Immaturity. He elucidates the signs of emotional immaturity, its roots in childhood experiences, and how it can stifle personal growth and sabotage relationships. Moreover, Tony explores how emotional immaturity differs from other behavior patterns, creating a clearer picture of this often misunderstood condition.

The third segment of the episode is dedicated to a robust discussion on Narcissism. Tony breaks down the classic narcissistic traits and explains the critical differences between Narcissistic Personality Disorder and self-centered behaviors. With his unique therapeutic approach, he offers insight into how to cope if you find yourself in a relationship with a narcissist.

For the second half of the episode, Tony enters the lively arena of a private women's Facebook group, addressing a burning question - is the change in an emotionally immature husband real, or only temporary? To answer this, Tony explains the difference between genuine change and manipulation, providing actionable advice for those grappling with such doubts in their relationships. He highlights key indicators of authentic personal growth, empowering listeners to discern between genuine transformation and superficial change.

Join Tony for this enlightening episode as he distills complex psychological concepts into digestible insights and practical advice. Whether you're trying to better understand yourself, navigate your relationship, or support a loved one, this episode offers invaluable guidance. Don't miss this opportunity to deepen your understanding of these common but often misunderstood behavioral patterns.

Use the following code to purchase the 2023 Sex Summit for only $35 featuring Tony's presentation: Relationship Tools You Don't Know You Need - Tips and Tools Born From 15 Years of Practice w/1500 Couples. https://thedatingdivas.myshopify.com/discount/TONY23?redirect=%2Fproducts%2Fsex-seminar-2023

Or use the following code to purchase 2020, 2021, 2023, and 2024 seminars for only $80: https://thedatingdivas.myshopify.com/discount/TONYBUNDLE23?redirect=%2Fproducts%2Fsex-seminar-2023-bundle

Find all the latest links to podcasts, courses, Tony's newsletter, and more at https://linktr.ee/virtualcouch

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

Subscribe to Tony's latest podcast, "Waking Up to Narcissism Q&A - Premium Podcast," on the Apple Podcast App. 

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/waking-up-to-narcissism-q-a/id1667287384

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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

Childhood abandonment and neglect issues can manifest in seemingly unrelated ways in adulthood. In this episode, Tony helps you identify how they show up and how you can help your kids become more emotionally intelligent and resilient. Tony's muse today is an article by Jonice Webb, a licensed psychologist and author of two books, Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect https://amzn.to/3GewB03 and Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships with Your Partner, Your Parents, and Your Children https://amzn.to/3m9fw0B He discusses the impact of emotional abandonment and neglect on your children and yourself. Why Emotional Neglect Can Feel Like Abandonment by Jonice Webb Ph.D. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/childhood-emotional-neglect/202303/why-emotional-neglect-can-feel-like-abandonment

Tony also references the article "Attachment Woes Between Anxious and Avoidant Partners" by Darlene Lancer, JD, LMFT from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/toxic-relationships/202008/attachment-woes-between-anxious-and-avoidant-partners

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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

Transcript Ep370 Childhood Neglect

Hey, everybody. Welcome to episode 370 of the Virtual Couch. I'm your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist. And just go to the show notes, sign up for my newsletter, plain and simple, my wonderful social media agency, the yeah yeah agency continues to knock it out of the park with posts and reels. And this past week we got out a newsletter that features a little bit of everything. So please go follow me on Instagram and Facebook and LinkedIn and TikTok. We're getting content out there in hopes of helping people. And I welcome your feedback and your questions and your show ideas. And if you're interested in having me come speak or you name it, just reach out at contact@tonyoverbay.com. So let's go on a little bit of a train of thought that leads to today's topic, which I am very excited to talk about because it has to do with everything from being a parent to parenting, to how to teach your kids empathy and emotional resilience, to even maybe doing a little bit of healing that inner child. 

So from time to time, I'll be interviewed by somebody as part of a psychological evaluation or a profile for a client or a client that I've been working with for things like, I don't know everything from child custody arrangements that sort of thing. And I don't actually do the psych evaluations. That's reserved for the likes of a clinical psychologist. And so my role in these evaluations is pretty minor. I'm just typically interviewed and asked my thoughts on some things that it's not typically about, well, it isn't about the kids. It's about the parents and maybe some of the observations that I will see. But on occasion, I also get the opportunity to read the evaluations and they're pretty fascinating. And something that will stand out is the way that the parents will show up in these evaluations. And my goal is never to throw shade or try to shame anybody listening. This is just my observation. 

And as I've been talking a little bit in the, as of late about observation and judgment of Marshall Rosenberg's concepts around nonviolent communication, I'm going to take ownership. That I will observe something, a behavior. And it's pretty natural to make a judgment, but I'm trying to recognize more and more that that is just my judgment of something that I'm observing. So I may see the way that a parent interacts with a kid in line at Walmart and just make that judgment of, oh man, they must be very frustrated or they must not be a very good parent. And then I have to catch myself and say, okay, or I'm observing a parent that appears to be frustrated. And I don't really have context about that at all. Back to these observations, but in these psych evaluations and I'm reading these, it's almost like you'll learn that you're having this incredibly important test, maybe as a parent, one that is going to not only be there's like a written portion, which might be truly a personality test or a profile. But then you also learned that you are going to have an oral portion where you're going to be quizzed by somebody that you find out happens to be an expert at their craft. And there can be some pressure in this interview as well. And you only have a few days to study and you're not even sure what to study. And this particular class has been one that is forged more by participation. So, not only are you not sure what to study, but you're not even sure how to show up with this evaluator. Actually, let me see if this example will work. I'm going to just kind of spitball this one. 

So in this world of examples, let me take you back to the height of my ultra running career. I was putting in a lot of miles. I was doing at the very least about a marathon distance, 20 to 25, 26 miles on a Saturday, and then running throughout the week. And that would be every Saturday and every week. And I was running a race of 32 miles or more, or a 50K once a month with a couple of 50 mile races peppered in there, trying to get in 100K or a 62 mile race, at least one of those. And then I liked having a hundred miler on the calendar every year as well, something in the summer. And I was also running around the track for 24 hours in my town to raise money for local schools. And that was every spring. So on occasion, then, I would run into somebody and they would also claim to be a runner, which is great. But on more than one occasion, I would have somebody come up to me and they would just start telling me what it is like being an ultra runner and almost as if they're wanting validation for the amount that they run, which it wasn't a contest or a competition per se. 

But they would just start telling me the things that I'm sure that we were on the same page about and instead of being more curious because I remember one time in particular, this person was just talking to me a little bit about what we both knew about how the body works when you run long distances. And it was pretty obvious that this person didn't know what they didn't know that they didn't have their own body science down to the amount of calories that they needed to ingest hourly, to offset how many calories their gut could actually take in and process without spilling their contents while fingering the amount of salt tablets necessary to balance the need for electrolytes and knowing what propensity they had to basically sweat, I'm a heavy sweater, versus just water. So you don't experience the fatal condition of hyponatremia. Even better examples: on one occasion, somebody wanted to go on a run with me. They also claimed to be an ultra runner. They later went on to an essence, challenge me to a 50 mile run, even though they had not run since high school. 

And so they, I can only imagine, that they Googled something maybe a day or two before we were going to go out on this long run with a group of other ultra runners. And they must've seen something about vitamins or nutrition in their water. So right before the run, they popped a multivitamin in the bottom of their store-bought water bottle. Just one water bottle while the rest of us there, we had our handheld water bottles or our Camelbak hydration systems along with our gels and our salt tabs and glide to rub on certain parts and pieces of the body that would chafe as you ran for hours. As well as SPF. And these, even these things at the time called Gators that covered your shoes because you're going to be running on the trails and they covered your shoelaces. So you didn't get pokey stickery things in your socks or shoelaces as you ran. So this guy ended up chafed to the point of seeing those two round circles of blood in the front of their shirt. They are, their nipples are rubbed raw. And they were sunburned and they ended up having blisters on their feet from the thick cotton socks and not the type of socks that were made for ultra running. And they were cramping from dehydration and that men's centra multivitamin was still solid as could be in the bottom of that water bottle that he clutched in a death grip as we neared the halfway point of our run, which was an out and back. So thankfully that was at a particular town that we had run to. 

He still had so far to go. So we ended up calling it quits halfway and had somebody come pick them up. But my point is you can't cram for the test or the long run. Or the parenting evaluation. If you haven't already done the work and reading an evaluation or two in my day, it's clear when one parent just shows up with the kids and has things that they normally have with them and the kids do the things they essentially normally do with that parent. And then if a parent has been less involved and I'm not talking about one of the parents, so it works and the other parent doesn't. Because even if you're gone and you work, there are still ways to be intentional about building your relationship and a bond with your kids so that you have a more genuine, authentic relationship with them. So in those reports, it's almost as if the parent who cannot cram for this test. Thanks. Well, what would a, what would a good dad or a good mom do when they're going to be in front of an evaluator so that they look their best? So that evaluator will think the best of the parent. So they go out and they buy coloring books and they buy these fruit snacks and they give them to the kids during the evaluation. And then the kid says out loud why did you get me a coloring book for a five-year-old when I'm eight? Or they say, they hold up the fruit snacks and say, what are these? And then the parent is saying, oh, you know, to the evaluator, you love fruit snacks, kids, and then they look awkwardly at the evaluator saying, you know kids, they're just so nervous around strangers. 

Not knowing what they don't know, not knowing that when their spouse was viewed, interacting with the kids and the evaluator, a couple of days earlier, the son's waving a foot-long beef stick around, like it's a lightsaber and the parent just looks over at the evaluator and said, give them a second to defeat the evil emperor reserve before he eats that bad boy in five bites. No, not four, not six but five. So hopefully you see my point. I want to help you start learning how to create that attachment, that bond with your kids. Not so that you can be more prepared so you eventually go through divorce and you'll know the right beef stick to bring to the psych evaluation, but so that you won't feel like you're ever in a position to be cramming for this parenting evaluation of life. And what comes with that, thank goodness, is an actual relationship with your kids and they start to develop more emotional resilience, or they might even learn concepts around empathy. And you're starting to learn some things yourself, maybe starting to even heal that inner child wound of your own. 

So my muse today is an article. It's a pretty short read, but it's a really good article. By Jonice Webb, who is a licensed psychologist and author of two books: “Overcome your childhood, emotional neglect”, and “Running on empty: Transform your relationships with your partner, your parents, and your children.” And I have a link to both of those in the show notes. And I'm familiar with them. I can be honest and say that I have not read them. I do not own them. But I have been told that these are wonderful books when it comes to talking about ways to heal the emotional neglect or abandonment from your childhood. And this is an article, this is from Psychology Today and I will be reading and commenting on this is why emotional neglect can feel like abandonment. So prior to getting into the meat of the article, she has some key points. She says emotional abandonment can happen silently. And it's not always easy to see because it's something that's happening internally to the child. But ultimately childhood emotional neglect teaches you as a child not only to abandon your emotions, but also abandoning yourself. And she says that many emotionally abandoned adults describe feeling alone or flawed or different from others. And as I'm getting more into helping people through trauma, it is pretty fascinating to see that you can have somebody start to feel where they feel their emotions, this tightness in their chest, or this just churning in their stomach. 

And if you really stop and say, okay, when have you felt that before, often you will recognize that man, I had that feeling when I was a kid and you work through what that memory was about in childhood and you'll find out that, oh, wow. Yeah, my body has been again, my body's been keeping that score my entire life. And so now I ignored that feeling as a child, that gut tummy twisting feeling when I didn't feel like I was heard or seen, or when I felt like I had to be less than, or play small. And now here I am in my adult relationships and oh yeah, that one's familiar. Because it's something that hasn't been worked through. And I know it's not as simple as then just having this aha moment where you say, oh, okay. So I didn't have the support I needed as a kid. And so my body is telling me, hey, this is still an issue. So if I'm seeing that come up in my adult relationship. What an opportunity to work through that. So self confront and then be able to realize, oh, okay. Those feelings made me feel unsafe when I was a kid. But I'm actually an adult now. So if I can get myself into this present moment and know that it's okay to have my own feelings of my emotions, we'll let the healing begin. So Jonice gives an example about abandonment and I really like this. 

She says a rundown building or an old car on the side of the road or a father who hasn't seen his child in years. These are the things that typically come to mind when we think of the word abandonment, but emotional abandonment is very different because it's not noticeable like a rundown building. She said to understand what emotional abandonment feels like. We have to first talk about the inner workings of emotional neglect. So childhood emotional neglect is far more common than you might think. And it happens when parents fail to respond enough to their child's emotional needs. And this is where I just so want right now, if you are a parent and you're thinking, oh, this one doesn't feel very good. This is why I say that we all don't know what we don't know. So rule number one for me is please give yourself grace. Because we don't know what we don't know. And so then how could you possibly know what you don't know? You know? And when you don't know what you don't know, the next thing that you can do from there to grow is now you start to find out things that you didn't know, and that feels uncomfortable. And we are so conditioned to get rid of that discomfort. I don't want to think about this. So I need to hurry up and create a quick narrative of that. No, I don't, this isn't happening in my family. Or well certainly my kids don't feel that way or, well, my parents were good and nice and everybody liked them. So they couldn't have been bad parents. 

And that's where I'm not talking about bad or good or anything like that. Right now we're just talking about, hey, let's get this information out there and let's start to think about it. And then as we think about things and we start to become more aware, we can start to take action on things. So she said that even though it happens in a real simple way, it's not very simple to see. Childhood emotional neglect goes easily undetected. So an outsider might see a kid living in a nice home attending a nice school. Maybe they dress nice. Their parents look the part. But what they don't see is an emotional void creeping through every encounter and experience that a child might have with their parents are all add their caregivers or their teachers or their, anybody that they're interacting with. So she said, even though your emotions may be invisible, they are no less important than your basic needs for food and shelter. In fact, emotional connection is a basic human need. Everybody requires this to thrive in the world. And children need enough emotional response and emotional validation and emotional education to grow into adults. And I like where she goes next. She says that emotions are the biological essence of who you are. Your emotions send you important messages about what to do, when to do it, and why they engage you. They motivate you, they connect you and they guide you to live your life aligned with who you are. And what you value. 

And I think one of the biggest challenges in my opinion is that we form these emotions based off of these experiences that we have in our childhood. And I like the concepts in acceptance and commitment therapy that are saying in essence, things just happen. So you could be really, really good parents. And your child is having their own experience. And it isn't just based on the things that you say or do, although that plays such a major role. But they're also, this is where I go into, it's their birth order. It's their own DNA, their genetic makeup. It's the places that you live. It's the sounds that they hear, it's the people that they interact with. It's the friends that they have. It's the school that they go to. So much goes into making you who you are. Again, that concept around implicit memory or what it feels like to be you is based off of the slow residue of lived experience. And those lived experiences are happening every second that you are alive. And so they are making an imprint on what it feels like to be you. So these emotions, especially as a kid, are there to guide us, but so often we stuff those emotions and we're teaching ourselves that I can't express my emotions. And as a matter of fact, I need to start managing the emotions of other people. 

So if I'm a kid and I grew up in a little bit of a chaotic home or one, or both of my parents are really struggling with their own mental health or financial issues or, you know, faith journeys or crises or job loss and any of these things, then they're putting out an energy or a vibe in the air. And so when a kid is wanting to play, explore and to grow. And to just be, oftentimes that might be, for lack of a better word, it might come across as somewhat annoying to a parent that is going through something in that moment. And so instead of turning to that kid and saying, man, here's my chance to give them the external validation they need so that they know that I'm a safe, secure place. The parent might not be aware of what they're not aware of and they might be withdrawn or shut down. And then the kid comes to them and says, in essence, do you see me? And if the parent says, hey, not right now, champ. Then it's, it's not a stretch to think that the kid may start to feel small or less than, or like, okay, well, I need to figure out when am I allowed to show my emotion and when am I not? Or this is the part where sometimes if we, as parents, think that we're doing the right thing. We could actually be telling our kids that, hey, suppress that emotion of yours. Why don't you? So if a kid is angry or frustrated about something at work, if a kid is frustrated about something that they've experienced at school, they come home and they're angry and the parent just says, man, not right now. I've got enough on my plate. So, you know, you need to, you just need to get over it. Or you need to think of others, or you need to realize that that anger is going to get you nowhere and you just need to, you just need to not worry about things. 

So many of those things that we say somewhat impulsively when we're not as aware as we need to be, are basically communicating to a kid, hey stuff those emotions. And again, those emotions are there naturally as a guide. So then if we grow up and we're stuffing those emotions and we're questioning those emotions and we're trying to figure out how to manage other people's emotions, then it can lead to things like not being able to set boundaries or not being able to just stand up for oneself. And we find ourselves often just caught up in these emotionally immature relationships, because we don't feel like we can be ourselves or we don't want to make anybody else uncomfortable. So back to the article from Jonice, she said, and again, I'll repeat this, emotions are the biological essence of who you are and they send you important messages about what to do when to do it. And why. So she said, when you experience emotional neglect as a child, you are kept in the dark from this rich and engaging emotional world. You incorrectly learn that your feelings aren't important. So let's start even looking at you in the present day as an adult. Then, have you experienced this emotional neglect, whether it's in your childhood or whether it's in your relationship right now? Because if so, and if you are trying to manage your spouse's emotions or your, the person that has to just control the environment, you're missing out on what she says is this rich and engaging emotional world when you can really embrace your emotions, listen to your body, let your body not just keep the score. But trust your gut. Let your body guide. 

Then what it starts to feel like to be you as somebody who takes action on things that matter, because you start to figure out what matters because you are the only version of you. So what matters to you is actually what matters to you? So she says ultimately, childhood emotional neglect teaches you to not only abandon your emotions. But also abandon yourself. She said three emotional needs of every child and adult. First an emotional response, and I love this one and the nurtured heart approach, my parenting approach of choice. I feel like this is the concept they call active recognition. If one of my kids walks in the room, it’s as simple as saying Jake, you know, or say, hey, what's up Mac, Alex, what's going on? And because you're literally just sending this message of I see you. And that leads to an even deeper emotional response, because if all of a sudden you don't even acknowledge your kid, but then you out of the blue say, hey, I noticed she got quiet. Are you sad? All of a sudden, it feels like, oh, I'm being interrogated. The spotlight's on me. Hey, why do you care, old man? You know, you don't even know I exist half the time. So that act of recognition, that emotional response, I see you as so important to get to that point where, hey, I noticed you got quiet right now. What's going on? Tell me more. Are you sad? 

Because you're trying to start to develop this secure attachment with your kid where they really can open up. Or feel safe enough to share, because again, we so often as parents say, hey, you know, you can come and talk to me about anything, because that feels good for me to say that boy that alleviates my discomfort. I'm already filling out my application for dad of the year after that one. But if they show up late for curfew or they get caught stealing something or they get a ticket or they're smoking pot or something like that, then they want to talk to you about it. And you're like, oh, really. Are you not disappointed? I am. So what a mixed message I just sent there. You know, hopefully now we're ripping up my dad of the year application. Being able to say or provide that secure attachment and that emotional safety starts with that emotional response. I see you. I see you're disappointed, man, I can see that you're angry right now. Jonice says it's crucial that parents notice what their child is feeling and communicating it to them. 

This teaches a child that their emotions are important and that other people see them and notice them. Responding to a child's emotions sends the message that their feelings are real and they deserve attention. And this sets a precedent for how your child responds to their own feelings in the future. Now I want to take a quick side note here and talk about what we do with our discomfort. So when our kids are sad or when our kids are angry or frustrated, even if we are not experiencing some traumatic event at that moment, we often, though, want to get rid of our own discomfort. We might not even be aware that it's discomfort by saying something very motivational. Hey, bud, you know what. Things are gonna happen in your life and you just need to learn how to deal with them. While that may sound like solid advice, what we're saying is, hey bud, stuff those emotions and feelings down and only come to me when you're saying things that make me feel better, when you're saying things that make me go, that's my boy. Instead of things that, where you say, oh, man, tell me more about that. 

So that leads to number two. She says, this is again, I'm emotional. Three emotional needs of every child and adult emotional validation. Saying things like that makes so much sense that you're sad, I can see that. And I'm here for you while you're feeling this. Or man, I would feel disappointed too. Of course you're feeling disappointed. It's a bummer when things don't work out the way that we want them to. Now did you hear that? I didn't. Didn't say, but you just need to know. No, that's it. That is a bummer. Or I can, I feel like I can, I hear you. I feel like I can understand why you're angry. Um, tell me more about that. And boy, yeah, that doesn't sound very fair that that happened to you. And that doesn't mean that now queue up my old high school story of where things weren't fair for me either. Because this is a moment that we're not going to make it about us. We're going to sit there with that discomfort and sit in that pain. And that emotion and those big emotions with our kids, I'm here with you. I'm here beside you. And it may feel just natural to say, let me guide you out of this. And there might be a time for that after the person feels heard and understood. Jonice has said that children need to know that their feelings make sense and that they're valid. Again, a kid gets their sense of self from external validation. Not from being told what to do, how to think and what your experience was. So they need to know that their, they exist that their emotions are valid. So when you affirm a child's emotional experience, let them know that what they're experiencing makes some sense. It's understandable. I can understand. And this is a little bit, I get that. 

This is a little contrary to when I talk about adults and emotional relationships where we may say, I know exactly what you're going through and you don't, and it can feel very invalidating when you're starting to teach a kid emotional validation and that their feelings matter. Then that's when we, where we are going to be a little bit more of a guide in that sense and say, man, I hear you. And that makes a lot of sense. I appreciate your sharing that. And so that would be hard. So again, she says, when you affirm a child's emotional experience, you let them know that what they're experiencing is understandable to others. Because she says, since emotions are the deepest, most personal expression of who a child is validating their emotions confirms that they are there to guide and that you are there to guide them. And they should be listened to. So they'll let the third thing, the third need she talks about is that emotional education. You know, you seem sad. I can tell by that look on your face. So let's talk. Because I want to understand what's going on. And who knows you might even feel better after talking this out. Or saying things like, I know you had your hopes up and it can be really disappointing when things don't work out our way or work out the way that you want them to. So it makes sense. It's okay to feel this way right now. And, you know, I feel like these hard feelings will pass. But boy, you got to give it some time. 

Or I know you're angry. I would be angry if that happened to me too. And here's where we can start to do with that emotional education. You know, I feel like anger often gives us energy to take action when something isn't right. Let's talk more about your anger, what your anger feels like. And I don't know, what do you want to do, take me on your train of thought. Let me understand. What do you feel like doing when you're angry? Jonice says that children are not born understanding emotions and how they work. I would add to that. I don't feel like many adults really understand their own emotions either. So she said just like going to school and learning about anatomy or history, for example, we also need to learn about emotions. And she says, well, the school system can be a great way to increase the child's emotional knowledge. The best place for learning about emotional resiliency is in your own home. From the people that the kids interact with on a day-to-day basis, their best models and teachers, their parents. I threw in my notes that just referencing an article attachment was between anxious and avoidant partners by Darlene Lancer, this is a Virtual Couch episode I did quite a while ago. 

And it might seem like I'm just cramming this in there. But I think that if we just keep in mind what if we are telling our kids to stuff their emotions, how that can show up later in life. I'm gonna read a couple paragraphs from this, Attachment woes between anxious and avoidant partners. Darlene said that attachment theory is determined that the pursuer has an anxious attachment style. And that the more emotionally unavailable partner, which maybe we would call the withdrawer, has an avoidance style and research suggests that these styles and intimacy problems originate in the relationship between the mother and infant. Babies and toddlers are dependent on their mothers, empathy and regard for their needs and emotions in order to sense themselves or to feel whole. Now I would, of course, add that a dad plays a role in this too. But to an infant or toddler, physical or emotional abandonment, whether through neglect and this is what I appreciate about this article, illness, divorce, or death threatens its existence because of its co because of its dependency on the mother for validation and development of wholeness. So later as an adult being separated in intimate relationships, that experience is a painful reminder of this earlier loss in childhood. 

Darlene said that if the mother is ill or depressed or lacks wholeness, and self-esteem, then there are often no boundaries between her and her child. So rather than responding to her child, she projects and sees the child only as an extension of herself. And as an object to meet her own needs and feelings. And let me say that as a person who works in the world of emotional immaturity and narcissistic traits and tendencies, all the way up to full blown narcissistic personality disorder. I'm going to add, I feel very strongly that the dad is playing quite a role in this as well, because that line, if the rather than responding to the child, if the emotional immature male then projects and sees the child as an extension of himself, or as an object to meet his own needs and feelings, then the kid can't value themselves as a separate self. The child's boundaries are violated and their autonomy, their feelings, their thoughts, their body, or disrespected. So consequently, the child does not develop a healthy sense of self and instead, he or she discovers that love and approval. Come with meeting the mother or I'll add the father's needs. And they tune into the parents' responses and expectations. Again, trying to manage the emotions of a parent. That's not fair for the kids. 

This also leads to shame and codependency because the child learns to please or perform or rebel. But in any case, gradually tunes out their own thoughts and their needs and their feelings. So then later, intimacy, emotional intimacy, physical intimacy, verbal intimacy. Any of those may threaten that adult sense of autonomy or identity, and they may feel invaded or engulfed, controlled, shamed, rejected. So the person might feel both abandoned if his or her feelings and needs are not being responded to. But at the same time and engulfed by the needs of his or her partner. That's the part I thought was so deep where we can grow up saying no, of course I want to be heard. Of course I want to be seen and known, and I want people to be curious about me. But if we didn't have that relationship with our parents growing up, all of a sudden, our partner does turn their eyes toward us and starts to become very curious. It can feel overwhelming. Darlene said in codependent relationships where there aren't two separate, but whole people coming together. This is where I love saying that we are trying to become two interdependent, differentiated people with our own styles and our own experiences. And now we can come together in a way of being curious about each other's experience, but that isn't an all or nothing either, or right or wrong sense. It's two people that have their own experiences in life. Because again, she says in codependent relationships where there aren't two separate whole people coming together, true intimacy is not possible because of the fear of non-existence. And disillusion is so strong. 

So back to Jonice, she comments in her article talking about emotional abandonment. So how exactly does childhood emotional neglect feel like abandonment? She said the many folks who have experienced childhood emotional neglect say, but I had everything as a kid and they described having things like a home and food desk and school supplies. But the, and even the latest toys or perhaps a bike and eventually a car to drive. So their physical needs were met and they might've been met well, and this world of emotional immaturity or narcissism, I find out so often why physical things and in particular money holds such value. You know, if you leave you'll, you know, you'll never have another truck like this, so you won't have a home like this or you won't be able to afford the life that you want. Because to that person growing up, those physical needs were met. So those physical needs sometimes are in the same frame as love. So to the emotionally immature person, that's how they then start to communicate I love you by providing the gifts, the money, the physical things. I find myself doing this as I wake up to my own emotional immaturity, where, when I am just feeling like, oh my gosh, I just love these kids so much. I might even express it, but I still find myself going into my wallet almost to say, here's what love looks like. 

So Jonice said, though, did your parents meet your emotional needs that they teach you how to identify, name, respond to, validate, and express your emotion. Emotions talked about many times the emotionally neglected people that described their physical needs as being well met, have trouble remembering deep and meaningful memories from their childhood. They describe feeling alone or different from others as adults, even if they had positive childhood experiences. So parents may be fine at fulfilling the physical needs of their children, but sometimes without even knowing it. They may fail to fulfill the emotional needs that are necessary for life. Let me go through this quickly. She talks about why emotional neglect can feel like abandonment. She said, number one, lack of response, children, experience their emotions in an unfiltered raw, and sometimes overwhelming sort of way. And that's because they are new to developing their relationships with their feelings. They don't understand what their feelings are there to tell them. Or what they want or what they need, and that those are essential tools for life. So when parents don't respond to the emotions enough, their lack of response can start to feel like abandonment. The kid starts to put themselves out there over and over again. And then if the parent is just inconsistent in the way they show up, or if they show up at all, then as a kid, you're left feeling alone and confused, and you don't really have this chance to develop a healthy relationship with your emotions because you're not sure if they're okay to have or not. The second thing she says is lack of validation. The children need their experiences normalized. When your child grows bigger, they receive confirmation from others around them. All your kids are getting so big. Pretty soon, you'll be a big girl in middle school. So this child then understands, oh, it's okay to grow. That's to be expected. I loved Jonice’s example here. But parents don't communicate to their children that their feelings are normal and okay. Then it might be okay to grow in size, but it's not okay to express your feelings and emotions. So then the children start to assume that their feelings don't make sense. And I hear that every day in my practice where people will say, I don't know if that makes any sense. I don't know how to express this. 

I don't know if this makes any sense at all. If you're understanding what I'm saying. And that's where I just often will say, oh, hey, don't invalidate yourself. This is how you feel. This is the way you were expressing it. Often the kids without validation, just hold this belief that their feelings are bad. Or perhaps that you're bad, we're having the feelings and that sets you up to feel inferior to others, in comes shame, that I am a bad person. The last thing she says is lack of emotional education. And I feel like this is the thing that we just don't do well at all, but it's because I don't think we know what we don't know. She said children aren't born with emotional knowledge. They need help. They need help understanding where their feelings come from and what they mean, how to identify them and their bodies, where they are in their bodies, how to interpret and express them to others. So without education and guidance from parents, they aren't equipped with emotional intelligence. Again, I go back to, I don't think most parents have emotional intelligence. So emotional intelligence, emotional intelligence is something that can help you build healthy relationships with yourself and others and adulthood. The world of emotions to the emotionally neglected feels foreign and absolutely unsafe. So we may try to get her emotions out there in little bits and pieces. 

But especially if you're in an emotionally immature relationship, when somebody responds with even just a furrow of their brow or a sigh or an eye roll. Oh, you know, I'm not going to express that it looks apparently like that's wrong. So she says, what do you do from here? If you're identifying with childhood emotional neglect and you recognize these feelings of emotional abandonment, you are absolutely not alone. And this is where she's saying it. And as a therapist, I will say it. Recovery is possible. Get help. Go talk to somebody that can help you sort through these things. Start paying attention to your feelings when you listen, you'll soon hear that you're feeling, send you messages from your deepest self messages that are incredibly useful. And oftentimes when we're trying to just express those as an adult, and they come out of nowhere and our partner is not somebody that we necessarily feel safe with. And if they say, whoa, I did that that's crazy. I never knew you felt that way. Then we don't know. We, I want somebody to say, oh, well, you've just said, that feels crazy, but that feels crazy to you. I'm expressing my emotions. So, yeah, I do feel this way. So remembering these messages, these emotions, these feelings, they inform you about your likes and dislikes, your strengths and weaknesses, your ability to make decisions, what you want, need, what makes you happy or what hurts you? And that is how you feel. And that is okay. So when somebody else says, you know, you don't actually think that way, you don't really mean that because I know you better than you know yourself. 

Let's say it's a load of crap. I don't know if that's a psychological term or not. That is not helpful. We'll put it that way. So even though it might be scary when you turn your focus inward to your emotional world, your feelings of abandonment will diminish. You'll no longer need to ignore or discredit yourself. When Jonice says, when you choose your feelings, you choose yourself and you won't regret it. So I hope something resonated here and that this wasn't leaving you feeling like I'm a horrible parent or person because give yourself grace again, we don't know what we don't know. And the only thing that you do not, the only thing sounds so dramatic. But something powerful that you can do is start to be aware, even if you don't feel like you know how to take action yet and validate your kids and say, tell me more and sit with that discomfort. You're aware and don't I hope you won't look at that as, man. I don't know what I'm not doing. I'm not being consistent because we go from, we don't know what we don't know to now we know, but we don't really do a lot about it. That's normal. And eventually we do more about it than we don't do. And finally, we just become, we become this better person. We become somebody who expresses our emotions. We become somebody that can sit with their own discomfort and validate what's going on in our children's lives. And sometimes people even have to get out of unhealthy relationships in order to be able to breathe and to be able to express themselves and feel like it's okay to be them. 

And that's okay. Because this is your life. This is your world. This is your experience. And as we get out of these enmeshed codependent relationships, that's part of the emotional maturation process. That's part of, I feel like why we're here on earth to grow and learn and become, and do, and be, and let our light so shine so that others around us won't feel small, but they'll also have the, they feel like they have the right, I guess, to be able to express themselves as well, we have that opportunity to model that to people around us, if we can find that from within ourselves. 

Have an amazing week. Let me know if you have questions, thoughts. I'm grateful as always for those who are continuing to listen, however many, seven years later. Taking us out per usual, and this is so, so appropriate for today. The wonderful, the talented, Aurora Florence with her song, “It's wonderful” because man, when you start to tap into all this stuff, it really can be pretty wonderful. Have a great week. We'll see you next week on the Virtual Couch. 

Alexa (Overbay) Lovell survived a near-fatal accident a little over one year ago. She dives into the details of what the past year has been like, including recovery setbacks, unrealistic expectations, continued frustrations, the reality of potential addiction to pain medications, what the future looks like regarding having children, and much more. 

Find all the latest links to podcasts, courses, Tony's newsletter, and more at https://linktr.ee/virtualcouch

Inside ACT for Anxiety Disorder Course is Open! Visit https://praxiscet.com/virtualcouch Inside ACT for Anxiety Disorders; Dr. Michael Twohig will teach you the industry-standard treatment used by anxiety-treatment experts around the world. Through 6 modules of clear instruction and clinical demonstrations, you will learn how to create opportunities for clients to practice psychological flexibility in the presence of anxiety. 

After completing the course material, you'll have a new, highly effective anxiety treatment tool that can be used with every anxiety-related disorder, from OCD to panic disorder to generalized anxiety disorder.

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

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

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

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs and podcasts.

Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here https://descript.com?lmref=bSWcEQ

Zlatko "Z" Bijelic is an entrepreneur, podcaster, app developer, dog dad, former college soccer player, and foodie. He has now journaled daily for over a year and is also a highly sought-after business coach and consultant. Simply put, while Z may appear like somebody who easily takes's life's lemons and makes them into lemonade, he has been through some really high ups, and really down downs in his life, but he continues to take what life gives him and uses it to change and innovate. 

You can learn more about Z at www.twitter.com/zbijelic

www.linkedin.com/in/zbijelic www.zlatkobijelic.com

And please sign up for Zlatko's newsletter at https://zlatkobijelic.com/newsletter

Find all the latest links to podcasts, courses, Tony's newsletter, and more at https://linktr.ee/virtualcouch

Inside ACT for Anxiety Disorder Course is Open! Visit https://praxiscet.com/virtualcouch Inside ACT for Anxiety Disorders; Dr. Michael Twohig will teach you the industry-standard treatment used by anxiety-treatment experts around the world. Through 6 modules of clear instruction and clinical demonstrations, you will learn how to create opportunities for clients to practice psychological flexibility in the presence of anxiety. 

After completing the course material, you'll have a new, highly effective anxiety treatment tool that can be used with every anxiety-related disorder, from OCD to panic disorder to generalized anxiety disorder.

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

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

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

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs and podcasts.

Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here https://descript.com?lmref=bSWcEQ

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

Find all the latest links to podcasts, courses, Tony's newsletter, and more at https://linktr.ee/virtualcouch

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

Subscribe to Tony's latest podcast, "Waking Up to Narcissism Q&A - Premium Podcast," on the Apple Podcast App. 

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/waking-up-to-narcissism-q-a/id1667287384

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

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs and podcasts.

Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here https://descript.com?lmref=bSWcEQ

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 contact@tonyoverbay.com. 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 contact@tonyoverbay.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 contact@tonyoverbay.com 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. 

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Transcript

So I recently found myself on a run and I was, I was cold. I was freezing and my wife was under the weather. We typically ran together on Saturday mornings back in my active ultra running days. I would spend a few hours early, really early on a Saturday morning, trying to get all my miles in, but now a couple, two or three years post meniscus tear, I'm giddy to be able to just bust out, I don't know, 8, 10, 12 miles for my long run on a Saturday, and especially when I can go with my wife, but on this particular day, she was not feeling up to it. And to be honest, I kind of wasn't feeling it either. So it doesn't surprise me that I neglected to check the weather before I headed out. And it was cold and it was windy and I was a few miles away from home and I hadn't really thought out my route. So instead of finishing with a strong wind against my back, I had opted for that strong wind to carry me as far away from my house as possible, which at this point only meant about three or four miles. 

But that absolutely meant that the run home was not going to be easy. It's one of the things that I'm truly grateful for as a mental health provider is continually trying to learn about things that I think can help my clients. And I have now been practicing long enough to know that if I'm being honest, everything, I find myself embracing and putting into my practice. I embrace and put into my practice because it truly resonates with me. And I've accepted the fact that I think kind of long ago that, yeah, in fact, I did become a therapist many, many years ago, apparently to deal with my own issues. So I found myself thinking about a phrase that I often say that I don't think people find as powerful as maybe I do. And I also realize thank you, therapy. That is an observation that I make. When I say this phrase people don't leap off my couch and say, oh, my gosh. That's the one. That's it. You, you did it. You just changed my life with that one phrase. If that is not what I observe, then I quickly make a judgment I make at that very moment. To maybe ease my own anxiety or to make sense of that moment for me is that person on my couch just really couldn't give two rips about this life-changing phrase that I'm actually about to share with you. And that phrase is coming up next on the Virtual Couch

Hey, everybody. Welcome to episode 365 of the Virtual Couch. I am your host, Tony Overbay, I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, and it actually hit me today that if you truly wanted to lose your mind, you can now listen to an episode of the Virtual Couch each and every day for an entire year. And I will just let that sit there and I will actually let you observe and judge. Some of those judgements may include, is he serious? What an ego. Is he saying that people would really do that and I really am not, but I feel like I'm almost required, I don't know by the podcast gods, to say that I never honestly would have imagined in a million years when I started the podcast that I would have 365 episodes, not to mention that Waking Up to Narcissism, my other podcast is now on episode 60 something. And on that note actually just released a third podcast and that is Waking Up to Narcissism premium edition question and answer, that's over on the apple podcast app and episode one of that is now available. I have a Google document that has more questions about narcissism and emotional immaturity and what to do about it and how to live with it and why does it happen and who does it happen to and all of those questions. It's $4.99 a month and hopefully it will raise money that we'll be able to fund a nonprofit that has been set up to help people that are in these difficult relationships with truly narcissistic people or extremely emotionally immature people that are definitely opting for control over love. 

And while I'm talking about podcasts, I really do appreciate when somebody gets pretty real about the behind the scenes things, the numbers, or the reach of a particular podcast. And I just have to comment on the fact that while the Virtual Couch has 300 more episodes than Waking Up to Narcissism, and it is a given that I never anticipated that the Virtual Couch would have the reach that it does, Waking Up to Narcissism just this morning crossed over more average daily downloads than the Virtual Couch. So the Virtual Couch has a few million more downloads overall, but each now Waking Up to Narcissism episode is starting to approach and show more downloads per episode, which again, sharing numbers that I think is fun, it could be around 15 to 20,000 per episode, depending on the episode. So I just feel like that's mind blowing that that podcast really does resonate, but I think it's definitely a, if, you know, you know, so people that are in those relationships with emotionally immature individuals and it doesn't just have to be a spouse, we are interacting with emotionally immature or people with narcissistic traits and tendencies on a daily basis. So that could even be somebody in the workplace, a neighbor, it could even be an institution or an entity that you are working with, it can be an adult child, or it can be a sibling, an adult sibling. So there's just a lot of information there that I feel I can help people just stay more present, know that they're okay. 

Know that it is 100% and that's an all or nothing statement that I stand behind for you to have your own thoughts and feelings and emotions. And you are not crazy for having them. And if you are in a relationship where those are continually being challenged or you are made to feel less than, then I really would recommend that you check that podcast out. Just check out the show notes and click on there's a link tree link, and it will give you access to the newsletter, the latest podcast episodes, the trailer for Murder On the Couch, the upcoming true crime meets psychology with my daughter Sydney. And I think it will also link to the Virtual Couch accounts on TikTok and Instagram and Facebook and the Magnetic Marriage workshop, which is a 90 minute workshop. And the updated full marriage course is going to be released shortly and I'll make a lot of noise when that is ready. So, where were we? 

That phrase, the phrase that I was alluding to. Let me in almost like a true reality show TV format, where we ended the scene, let me come back to the show and I will set the stage. I'll read the last sentence or two from the transcript, and this is where we left off. When people do not leap off of my couch after I say this phrase, and when they do not say that's the, there it is, that's it. You did it. You just changed my life with that phrase. If that is not what I'm observing, then I make this judgment at that very moment again, to maybe ease my own anxiety or make sense of the moment for me, that the person on the couch can not give two rips about the life-changing phrase that I've just shared. And that phrase is, “acceptance does not mean apathy”. And I feel like if I had sound effects that might go, maybe not as exciting as you think. But let me break that down a little bit today because we're going to talk about acceptance and willingness in a way that I think is going to help. It's going to help in a lot of ways, it's going to help with anxiety. It's going to help with fear. It's going to help when trying to take on something new. So why don't we start with, what does apathy even mean? And then I'm going to spend some time in the book by Dr. Steven Hayes, the founder of acceptance and commitment therapy, his book called “Get out of your mind and into your life”, which being completely honest for some insane reason, queues me to sing in my head each and every time the Billy Ocean classic from 1988, “get out of my dreams and into my car”, which I shared with someone in a session last night and she is in her twenties and she said, that was literally, that was really a song title? And it was 1988. The year I graduated high school again, Billy Ocean “get out of my dreams and into my car” which must be some sort of cue or trigger because that is the year that I graduated high school. So on that note too, I just hit pause. I came back and I did Google top songs of 1988 to see why wasn't another song stuck in my head, more iconically than this Billy Ocean song that I was never a fan of. 

And ironically, that is also the year of Rick Astley's hit “never going to give you up”. So, I guess in essence, you were just verbally Rick rolled. So back to apathy. Apathy by definition is a lack of interest or concern especially regarding matters of general importance or appeal. It's a feeling of indifference, lack of emotion or feeling impassiveness, it's not having a, want a feeling it's an absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement. Insensibility indifference. So when I give you that phrase, that acceptance does not mean apathy, that what I'm saying is that if we accept things, if we accept the fact that I am feeling anxious, if I accept the fact that I am afraid or scared, then that does not mean game over. So in this scenario where I was out on the run, I had to do some, some true acceptance of the fact that I was at that three and a half, four miles away from home. I was under dressed. I didn't have my beanie on, I have a giant bald head. I didn't have gloves on and my hands were feeling very numb and cold. 

I think I had a short sleeve shirt on and I was about to run headfirst into the wind for the next little while. So acceptance doesn't mean then at that point that I might as well give up because in a situation like that there really wasn't an option to give up, not to sound very dramatic, but I was a little bit off the beaten path. And there wasn't a, I couldn't just flag down a taxi or even know if attack, think I need to use Uber all the time now. But I didn't, I don't even think I probably had cell phone service where I was and I just had to accept the fact that this was going to be rough or difficult. Because that acceptance again, doesn't mean that I'm just throwing in the towel, and I think we fear so often that acceptance does absolutely mean apathy and this impassiveness, this hopelessness, this absolute suppression of passion or emotion or excitement. And this indifference. And let me, let me step back and we're going to talk about how that would still work, even in the context of that run. 

But when I first started using the phrase, this acceptance doesn't mean apathy phrase. It really was showing up in the context of helping people post-divorce. And I promise it really does require you the listener or a client in my office to stay really present here for a minute, because it's going to sound at first, I worry like the complete opposite of what I am intending a true paradox, which is going to be ironic because when we get into the book by Dr. Hayes, we are going to start talking about a paradox of just great proportion. So acceptance, acceptance, not meaning apathy in the context of helping someone post divorce. I remember the person that I was first talking to about this, and the concept that we were exploring was if you accept the fact that she was afraid that she was going to be alone for the rest of her life and be single. And I was really trying to understand this acceptance and willingness from acceptance and commitment therapy, because it can be such a powerful tool. But I think it's one that is so paradoxical that it feels, it feels like we are giving up. And then it shows that sometimes the, or oftentimes the thing that is going to help us the most will sound like the craziest thing we can think of. And I think that is so often because our brain is just so used to this pattern of stick behavior and the path of least resistance. That we are handing somebody this new tool and they are going to just say, okay, that is unknown and scary. So I'm going to double or triple down on the thing that I know in hopes that at some point something's going to change. 

And if you're like me, you've probably already thought now that the definition of insanity of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result now to give us, give ourselves a little bit of credit. We are doing the same thing over and over often, but then we are hoping that things like time or being in a different location will be just the catalyst, enough so that it will not continue to be the same thing over and over, but it typically does end up netting the same results. So again, in this context, acceptance doesn't mean apathy. When this person is so worried about, I may be alone for the rest of my life, acceptance needs to look like, okay. I need to accept the fact that I may be alone for the rest of my life. And that's the part where the record scratch hits. And I believe I made the joke in that very moment of saying that does not mean that we need to back up the chocolate fountain truck and you just put your head underneath it and just hit the go button and then just indulge and do nothing and lay flat on your back for the rest of your life. 

It's actually the opposite. So if you accept the fact that you may be alone and that does feel scary and we want to get rid of scary and we want to get rid of discomfort. So we want to just get rid of it, we want to push that away. But if we accept that fact, then what she and I started working on was now she isn't going to try to become the person that someone else wants her to be in hopes that she will then find someone that will love her or find someone that will, will be willing to be with her because she will not be true to herself. But if she accepts that fact acceptance, not meaning apathy. But with that acceptance that I may not find someone. And again, how scary does that sound to somebody that's post divorce. But then I am not trying to figure out what I need to do to find someone. I am starting to figure out what to do to be the very best version of me. And then as you start to then uncouple, this needs to find the right thing to do. You start to find the things you like to do, and as you start to do those things and you realize that, okay, if I was in a relationship before where I didn't feel like I could be myself, and I did feel controlled or I felt like I didn't have a voice or I wasn't seen. And so if I really wanted to explore things that were, I really enjoy, let's say creativity or art or painting or I don't know, knife skills in a cooking class. And if you are with a spouse who says, okay, well, what about me? What am I supposed to watch the kids while you go do that? Or, do you know how much money it's going to cost? If you want to just all of a sudden paint another room and not even explore what that would feel like to really go after the things that you want in life. 

Now, those are real concepts around kids and finances, but when those conversations are shut down immediately, then you start to feel less than, and you start to feel like you lose your sense of self and as a marriage therapist, which I am, I know that then those conversations are had so quickly to just shut down some sort of feeling typically with that person who's more, a little bit reactive or emotionally immature as a way for them to get rid of their own discomfort. And so if we were sitting in front of a good marriage therapist and they were saying, okay we're understanding that this is something you want to do. You want to learn how to paint or you want to paint these rooms and you find that that would really scratch that creative itch and really help you feel alive so that you're showing up better as a better mom, as a better spouse, as a better fill in the blank because it raises your emotional baseline, then that is something worth fighting for. And if the husband then recognizes, okay, I immediately reacted because I just, all I thought about were finances and I worry that I'm not being the provider I need to be. So that makes me feel bad. So I looked at that as a threat. 

So when we can calm both people's amygdalas down and then have a productive conversation, of course, using my four pillars of a connected conversation, then we can start to say, what would it look like if we may be tightened up something over here, or, but because I want my spouse to thrive, I want them to be able to be the very best version that they can be of themselves. Because that does not mean that once they learn how to paint all the rooms and they feel confident, they will leave me. As a matter of fact, it means they're going to show up better in the relationship. So again, acceptance does not mean apathy. If I accept the fact in that scenario, post divorce, that I may end up single for the rest of my life. Now I'm not even fighting, I'm not even saying, oh my gosh, that's so bad. And it's horrible. And what if it's like, okay, I'm gonna sit with that, that is uncomfortable and now I'm going to step into things I like to do. And now all of a sudden, if I am taking a culinary class and I'm thriving and I have so much curiosity, and now I'm really connecting with the other people in my class, again, and we'll get to this in the, in the book, but I can't be doing it so that I will then, well, maybe that's how I'll find someone, but the chances of you finding someone with the shared experience or and mutual passion or some of the, you can really just bounce ideas off and they won't necessarily feel attacked or criticized may come from this place where you are operating as your very best self. 

So acceptance does not mean apathy. Let's go to the book. And this is the book, “Get out of your mind and into your life” by Dr. Steven Hayes. And I'm jumping over into chapter four and it's called “letting go”. And this is one of the key chapters to, I think that will really, it really helps you start to understand the things that we are not doing correctly in the mental health field. So Dr. Hayes talks about in the first couple of chapters, he really talked about your suffering. And your efforts to cope with it, because if you really look at the fact that life, yeah, life can be a real challenge. It can be difficult. And I feel like at any given moment, we can all identify areas of our life, where we are suffering and then he talked about this trap or this pitfall that is inherent to human thought because of the way that we try to handle the suffering. And he talks about experiential avoidance. That we try to find anything else to do to alleviate the suffering. So we turned to these experiential avoidance activities, which means our phones or unhealthy coping mechanisms or just tuning out of life because we want to feel better. And we are chasing this concept of just pure, euphoric joy and happiness, because we don't want to feel uncomfortable. We don't want to acknowledge this suffering. 

But I think it's safe to say that that's one of our go-to responses to try to get rid of discomfort or suffering. Is to tune out, to use this experiential avoidance to just, just watch shows and play games and just not do and not be, not be present. So Dr. Hayes says we've hinted at an alternative to experiential avoidance. And he said it has been variously described as willingness. Acceptance or letting go. And I really want to clarify what acceptance and willingness looks like, because I think this will really help move you forward. And being more present in being more present will move you forward and figuring out what really matters to you. And Dr. Hayes says that acceptance is a skill that you may have heard about or experimented with in the past. And it's certainly something that you can learn to do, but he said, unfortunately, it's not something that your mind can do. Your mind is trying desperately not to accept uncomfortable situations or feelings. So he said, that's why learning more skills will be required before you can implement these concepts of acceptance and willingness in your daily life, because he says even after all your mind is aware of what you're reading right now. And in this area, your mind is not your ally. So welcome to the first paradox. If you're not willing to have it, you will, and he said that that is one of these rules that applies to the things that are going on internally or what they call in ACT, your private experiences. That if you aren't willing to have it, you will. And he said that we've implied that this rule is important for dealing with your suffering. 

Although he said he didn't really exactly express where that importance lies. So he said, let's take a look at what the mind does with such an idea. Again, that idea of, if you're not willing to have it, you will. So he said, suppose that the rule is true, that if you aren't willing to have it, you will. So given that you've already suffered a great deal, what can you logically do that would apply that rule to your suffering? So when I go back to my running example, I would rather not be cold. And I would rather not feel pain when running home of fatigue. I would rather not feel all of the difficulties of running into the wind when I'm tired and cold or in the situation of this person that was divorced, she does not want to suffer in feeling alone. So he says, if you're like most people, you begin thinking about how you might be willing to have these negative private experiences, if that meant that those negative experiences would begin to diminish or even disappear. He gives a really good example. So he says, for example, suppose that your anxiety, that anxiety is your main issue. And he says, you really hate how anxious you are and you just write a sentence that purports to be a rule to help you deal with your problem. And that sentence that we just read states that if you aren't willing to have it, you will. So, what would that mean for your anxiety? He said, what follows is the kind of speculation that the word machine that we call our mind does best. So your mind is going to say something like, hmm, okay. So if I'm not willing to be anxious, then I will be anxious. So, and I think we can, I think we can accept that. If I am worrying about my worry, that is going to worry me. But he said, I suppose that means if we’re more willing to be anxious, then I might not be so anxious. And I hate being anxious. So I guess I'll give it a try. I will try to be more willing to feel my anxiety. So that I won't be so anxious. You can see what we just did there with the mind dead. He said with that, the thought trap slams down around you. Because if you are willing to be anxious only in order to become less anxious, then you're not really willing to be anxious and you will become even more anxious. Now I know that there are a lot of different ages that listen to the podcast. I want to talk a little bit for a second about what this concept even looks like with regard to intimacy within a relationship, a marriage. 

I often have this conversation with couples where, and I'm just going to go some real gender stereotypes here, and I'm going to own that, so one of the common things I find is if a guy comes into my office with his wife and the guy wants to more intimacy, he says that will solve all the world's problems. So he says, well, I'm happy then I would love to, I would love to celebrate with us being intimate, or if I'm sad, there is no greater pick me up than being intimate. Or if there's a headache, I don't know why there hasn't been more research on a cure for headaches in intimacy. And so he says this as if this is just the, this is facts. And so he looks at me and then often says, okay, you know, you get it. I'm sure you're a sex therapist. Can you tell my wife? And then I look over and then I see her withdrawn. And then this is, this conversations happened so many times. Where then if I say, okay, what are you hearing? And she says, all right. I am hearing that I am in charge of his emotions. I'm in charge of managing his anxiety, his depression, his happiness and sadness. And so that makes her start to feel more like an object. So fast forward, we have a conversation about maybe changing the relationship with intimacy so that the wife will feel safe to be able to be more physically intimate without it necessarily leading to sexual intercourse. 

And often this is why I bring this story up because I get such a good example of this, where I will almost in this scenario, have a guy look over at me and say, oh, okay. So if I change my relationship with intimacy and I don't make it that I need her to manage my emotions, my anxiety. And he said, I get it almost like with a week of saying. And that'll lead to more intimacy. And it's the exact opposite. So if you change your relationship with intimacy and focus more on the connection or the relationship and know that not all roads have to lead to the intercourse, then you start to learn to be more accepting of the moments of being physically intimate without that quite frankly. And then if the guy says, oh, go okay. I got you. And now that you laid out that way. Yeah, I would love more of that, but then it will also lead to more, more intercourse to, is that what you're saying? No, this is that person's missing the point. So we go back to that again. So if I'm not willing to be anxious, I will be anxious. And I suppose that means if I were more willing to be anxious, I might not be so anxious and I don't like being anxious. So I guess I'll give it a try. I'll try to be more willing to feel my anxiety so that eventually I won't be as anxious. 

So that thought trap slams down around you, because if you're willing to only be anxious in order to become less anxious or if you're willing to then deal with a less physical intimacy so that you will then eventually get more physical intimacy, then you're not really willing to be anxious or you're not really willing to be less physically intimate. And that will cause you to become even more anxious or frustrated. And Dr. Hayes says, this is absolutely not psychobabble. He said, read the sentence again. Yes, they are paradoxical. But the paradox seems to be true. Those census demonstrate the merry-go-round ride that can result from trying to force the mind to do something it can't do. If the only reason you're willing to allow yourself to feel anxiety today, is that the hope that feeling it today will free you from it. From the necessity of feeling it in the future, then that's not going to work. Because what your willingness here really means is you just don't want to feel any anxiety. And you'll try to jump through all kinds of mental hoops, not to feel it. And he says that's not the same as being willing to feel your anxiety. And quite frankly, that can cause more anxiety. So I said, this is why we've said that the approaches that might help with the causes of your pain are difficult to learn. Not in the sense that they are effortful, but because they are tricky. And he says for that reason, we're going to put the concept of willingness on the table here. But we will deal with quite a bit of other material before returning to this topic, then try to apply it to the core areas of the things that you struggle with in your life. 

So I think this next part is so key. It says, if I'm saying you may not be listening up until now, but now really listen. But this is key acceptance and willingness. So, accept, he says, comes from the Latin root cut Perry, or I don't know my Latin, but meaning to take. Acceptance is the act of receiving or taking what is offered. But sometimes in English, accept means to tolerate or resign yourself as in, okay. I guess I have to accept that. And that's where I go with the acceptance does not mean apathy. Or just, tolerate a resign yourself to and that is so key to understand that we're not saying, okay, accept and just tolerate and resign yourself to. Dr. Hayes says that is precisely not what is meant here by accept, we mean something more like taking completely in the moment without defense. So, if we are saying, accept your anxiety, then we're saying that, take it in and be in that moment. And try not to push it away. Just be in the moment. When I am taking in or accepting that I was three and a half, whatever miles away from my house and it was cold and I had to run, then I took that moment and completely, and I truly did without defense, it was happening there. I was now in the very present moment. And in that moment now I could feel, I could honestly feel the wind on my skin. I could feel the wind up against the cold of my shirt that had sweat. I could notice my feet pounding the ground. I could feel the contractions of the muscles in my legs. And if that sounds like mumbo jumbo or psychobabble, I understand because years ago, I would have thought there is no way I'm going to be recording a podcast and I'm going to be talking about notice, notice your labored breath. Ah, isn't that beautiful. Feel the air sucking into your lungs at a rapid rate as your heart rate increases. And, but that is exactly the thing that to do to be in that moment. And what am I not doing? I'm not being angry or beating myself up or. Or feeling this just hopelessness. I'm taking in that very moment, taking completely in the moment without defense. 

So then Dr. Hayes says we use the word willing then as a synonym for accepting. So staying true to that meaning of accept, willing, he said is one of the older words in the English language, and it comes from an ancient root meaning to choose. So thus acceptance is to take it in completely in the moment. And willingness can be understood as then, and then choosing what you do with that. So it can be understood as an answer to this question. Will you take me in as I am? And that is whatever that is. Will you take me in as I am? Will you take it well, will I allow this in anxiety and just like it is because there it is. Or will I allow this moment where I am far away from home and I am cold. Will I just take it in for what it is? It is what it is. I am there. What do I do now? So you said acceptance and willingness are the opposite. The opposite of effortful control. So Dr. Hayes shares a little bit more. He said, what follows is a description of what to take me in as I am really means. He said in our context, the words willingness and acceptance mean to respond actively to your feelings by feeling them literally. Much as you might reach out and literally feel the texture of a cashmere sweater. They mean to respond actively to your thoughts by thinking them. Much as you might read poetry, just to get the flow of the words. Or an actor might rehearse lines to get a feel for the playwright's intent. To be willing and accepting. It means to respond actively to memories by remembering them. Much as you might take a friend to see a movie you've already seen. 

They mean to respond actively to bodily sensations by syncing them. Much as you might take an all over stretch in the morning, just to feel your body all over. That willingness and acceptance mean adopting a gentle, loving posture toward yourself, toward your history, your past, your programming, so that it becomes more likely for you simply to be aware of your own experience much as you would hold a fragile object in your hand and contemplate it closely and dispassionately, he says the goal of willingness is not to feel better. Because if we are continually just chasing the feel good feeling. Then we are going to just be turning from one dopamine, hit to the next, and we're going to be missing out on so many of life's experiences. Because those experiences can come with a lot of emotion. They can come with some negativity, they can come with discomfort. So we need to be willing to embrace those moments and that discomfort. And what I truly wish people could get a glimpse of is that as you start to embrace these moments and sit with the discomfort, it really turns out to not be as scary as you think it would be things like anxiety are there for a reason, they're there to warn you, but we worry about 99% of the things that will never happen. And we even convince ourselves that we're just preparing or we're just making sure, or we're just a, what if, what if, and we're avoiding and we don't, but when we start to recognize that we're also in that same process, missing out on a lot of life and figuring out who we are and what we have to offer, and when we can really change that interior landscape of your mind or what it feels like to be you based on this slow residue of lived experience and those lived experiences are far greater teachers than that experiential avoidance. 

Mike Rucker was on my podcast. He has that book, “The fun habit”. And he was talking about a concept that I think about so often where I feel like when you are in the moment and having these experiences, even the ups, the downs, all of those experiences, and you allow yourself to feel them, those become really part of what it feels like to be you. And he talked about all of the other things that you do. All of the TV shows you watch and the games you play and the, the time spent ruminating and worrying and wondering, and getting that crystal ball out and just all those things, fortune telling. That those all just get lumped into just this kind of bucket of gray and our memories. Just, you know, what did you do over the weekend? Oh, you know, just a regular weekend. Just kind of got through it, here I am, versus the, oh man. I went on a run and I didn't dress as well as I should have. And it was freezing cold, but I made it and I got the, you know, interacted with a couple of people. I saw it. I saw these, I know this animal that I'd never seen before. That sounds crazy. What like an aardvark running around Lincoln. But you were having these experiences. So what it feels like to be you as somebody who does and somebody who is participating in life and in that participation, you are going to start to connect with new things and opportunities and feel feelings and sights and smells and sounds. And that is going to help you grow in that internal landscape of what it feels like to be you is going to be one that is feeling pretty, pretty content, or even dare I say overall happy with life because you're taking more charge or control of your life. 

So again, the goal of willingness he says is not to feel better. It's to open yourself up to the vitality of the moment to move more effectively toward what you value. Dr. Hayes said in another way, the goal willingness is to feel all the feelings that come up for you more completely even, or especially the bad feelings. So you can live your life more completely in essence, instead of trying to feel better. Willingness involves learning how to feel, to feel like, feel the feelings, feel better. And to be willing and accepting is to gently push your fingers into, if you've ever seen the Chinese finger trap, in order to make more room for yourself to live in, rather than mainly struggling against your experience by trying to pull your fingers out of the trap. So to be willing and accepting means to give yourself enough room to breathe. And by assuming this stance of willingness and acceptance, now you couldn't, all of a sudden, he says open up all the blinds of the windows in your house and allow life to flow through. You start to let fresh air and light enter into what was previously closed and dark at a fear and worry. So to be willing and accepting means to be able to walk through, he says, the swamps of your difficult history. When the swamps are directly on the path that goes in a direction that you really care about. To be willing and accepting means noticing that you are the sky, not the clouds, the ocean, not the waves. He said, it means noticing that you're large enough to contain all of your experiences just as a sky can contain any cloud in the ocean, any wave. He said we don't expect this foray into poetic metaphors to make any difference yet. But the sense conveyed may give you an idea of what we're aiming for in pursuing the acceptance, the acceptance, and the book that he's talking about, or the acceptance just in life in general. 

So I would really encourage you as you go forward after listening to this podcast to just really take a look again at that willingness and acceptance. That will you take me in, that acceptance to take me in. It's not, it does not mean to tolerate or resign yourself to, but accepting we are taking that moment in completely without defense. And then that willingness, accepting, willing. Meaning to choose. So acceptance and willingness can be understood as an answer to this question. Will you take me in as I am, anxiety? And acceptance and willingness then, are the opposite of effortful control. And when you can be willing and accepting to your feelings and your experiences and you experience all of them, you feel them, you are willing to take them in, then you can just experience every bit of that moment and that is going to drive you more toward this just sense of vitality and purpose. I would go on and on, but I think you get the point. If you have questions, let me know. Share this with somebody if you think that that would really help. And if you are listening to this for the first time, welcome aboard. And send me questions if you have them, I'd love to do a podcast about them, answer them. You can send them to contact@tonyoverbay.com and taking us out per usual, the wonderful, the talented, Aurora Florence with her song, “It's wonderful”. We'll see you next week on the Virtual Couch

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