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.
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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.
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 tackles the final 2 of the 5 types of narcissism in part 2 of 2, exploring the 5 types of narcissism. In part 1, he covered Overt and Covert, and he started to discuss Antagonistic narcissism, which led to a separate episode. Today Tony discusses Communal and Malignant narcissism. He references the article "5 Types of Narcissism and How to Spot Each," Medically reviewed by Jeffrey Ditzell, DO written By Courtney Telloian — Updated on September 15, 2021http://psychcentral.com/health/types-of-narcissism
And stay tuned until the end of the podcast! Tony shares 20 minutes of the first episode of his new “true crime meets therapy” podcast “Murder on the Couch,” co-hosted by his daughter Sydney Overbay. You can watch the episode on YouTube here https://youtu.be/OKidvzLAbI0 or follow/subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts, including Apple Podcasts https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/murder-on-the-couch/id1684487066?i=1000611379631 or Spotify https://open.spotify.com/show/6GJQeJxx4elDlcaW21JsvU?si=675abf672a7941dd
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.
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 goes on a quick tangent between parts 1 and 2 of exploring the five types of narcissists to look into the antagonistic attachment style of the narcissistic person. An “antagonist,” from purely a biological, scientific point of view, is a relationship in which one organism benefits at the expense of another. People in narcissistic or emotionally immature relationships can often identify with the concept of playing the role of the organism that provides the benefit to another while losing themselves in the process. Tony references an article by Julie Hall, author of The Narcissist in Your Life https://amzn.to/3LCCyH2, and creator of The Narcissist Family Files https://narcissistfamilyfiles.com/, Understanding the Narcissists Antagonistic Attachment Style
Subscribe and follow Tony and his daughter Sydney's new "True Crime Meets Therapy" podcast "Murder on the Couch," https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/murder-on-the-couch/id1684487066
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.
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 welcomes Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife back to The Virtual Couch for the 5th time! They discuss a variety of topics, including ADHD, the challenge of helping couples envision a version of a relationship they haven't seen modeled or experienced, narcissism and emotional immaturity, and how to help a spouse "lean in" when they see their partner begin to show up differently in a relationship where the spouse had previously felt unseen. They explore Emotionally Focused Therapy, the differentiation models of couples therapy, and the role of self-confrontation not only for their clients but also in their own lives and relationships.
Jennifer is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. She focuses primarily on teaching couples and individuals how to strengthen their relationships, overcome relational and sexual roadblocks, and increase their capacity for intimacy, love, and sexual expression. You can learn more about Jennifer at https://www.finlayson-fife.com/, where she offers online courses and her subscription-based podcast “Room For Two.”
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 anxiety-treatment experts use worldwide. 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 for a sneak preview of his upcoming podcast "Murder on the Couch," where True Crime meets therapy, co-hosted with his daughter Sydney. Check out a trailer for the podcast here https://youtu.be/s7K8dqJ0uD0 and 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
Virtual Couch Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Transcript
Tony: Are you okay if I'm very, if we're very vulnerable about the fact that you were admitting that you aren't quite sure what we're talking about today? Okay. No, that's good. So, welcome Jennifer. I think this is maybe your fifth time on the couch. The Virtual Couch. So welcome back. I wonder as well, and I was even gonna, when I was thinking about the things, I would just love to know if you have thoughts on, and you may not, but ADHD in relationships. And I'm very open about my adhd. And that's taken me down this path of where I wonder if having 900 tabs open does anything as far as the bandwidth of a podcast. I dunno. Do you, do you have much experience with ADHD in relationships in coaching or therapy?
Jennifer: Yeah, actually because everybody in my family has a little bit.
Jennifer: Although, I don't know if I think of myself as an expert on it though. Certainly a topic I'd be happy to talk about.
Tony: I just started doing a little bit of research on it because I notice it more, the more that I do a little parallel processing and understanding what mine looks like in my relationship because there's rejection sensitivity and there's impulsivity in some of those things that can play a role. So, all right. Maybe that's our sixth episode, I think. I think it will be good.
Jennifer: Yeah. A lot of ADHD people marry someone who's more organized and you know, or more creative, innovative people are, they're that sort of expansive and then they kind of marry someone. That's the structure. And so then there's that tension that can get played out even though they both kind of wanted a little bit of what the other had, but it can play out in conflict
Tony: Because first of all, my first thought was, okay, I have seen this organization my wife has and it does look fascinating. I mean, but there was a book by Hallowell and Ratey called “ADHD 2.0” that I now refer to as scripture. It's really, it's incredible. But there's one part where I will say this and then we can move on. But they lay out this concept where apparently, non-ADHD people, there’s almost these switches where when they're doing, their thinking switch is also. And when the ADHD person is doing their thinking switch is still going thinking, thinking a hundred percent. And that one, so then when I see something more novel, then I'm gonna go do that. And then when somebody says, well, why don't you finish it? And that one resonated to me so much because, well, of course I'm gonna go do something else if it's really cool. But then if my wife's saying, well, why don't you finish what you were doing, then I don't have a good answer for that. Well, because I didn't, because something else. But then being aware of that's been nice because then I have to build in that pause.
Jennifer: Yeah it's an interesting concept. I, you know, anyway, I'll say this and then we can move on to what we hired. I have a sister-in-law, we used to work together back when I was working for my brother's company. The two of us were working for him in the summer between school semesters and so on. And she's just one of these people that's organized, on top of things, she just, she just has a good, and so we would be doing parallel things, the exact same thing, which was lots of just clerical, like stamping and organizing and she was just so much faster at it than me. And I'd be like, just trying so hard to keep up and I would have to make my mind stay on the activity because my mind would go to other things, which is a part of who I am, right? I was, my mind was always like figuring out ideas and things, but it would slow me down. And so I'd be like, what is the matter with me? Why is she able to be so efficient? So on task at all times? It's just not really the way my brain works.
Tony: Yeah. But I like it because that would kind of speak to even almost this spectrum concept because if you know you're a little bit off and if I'm just, I need to make jokes, I need to go get water, I need to find something else to do and come back, I'll do, and then they also, my family are much more.
Jennifer: I look like the organized one.
Tony: You do? Okay. How fun is that right?
Jennifer: Well I just look like the one who's more on task anyway. And so anyway, it's interesting because I love a lot of people that are not particularly orderly in their way of thinking and doing things. There's a lot of gifts that come with it, and then things that are there. My son right now is on his way, flying here, but he forgot his wallet, didn’t remember his passport. I don't wanna talk about him, but it's a little bit like, wow. You know, that's not easy. So, yeah.
Tony: That's great. Okay. Well, okay, I think we even started with this too, was I love your honesty about not being 100% sure what we were gonna talk about today. And then I love it because I had emailed Christie a month ago and said, I want to talk about this. And I kind of forgot about that, which maybe is part of this ADHD thing we're talking about. And so then I felt like, oh, I need to let her know. So I sent some stuff over this morning. So I do have some thoughts, but staying on this note a little bit too, I feel like maybe that the way that ADHD does show up is it does bring a lot of discomfort and I really have had to recognize and lately I'm on this kick on the Virtual Couch talking about what we do with our discomfort and, so I think that at times I want to then quickly turn to get that dopamine hit of novelty instead of sitting with feelings of discomfort. And then I'm watching that in my couple's situations. Some, even if they're using a really healthy framework to communicate, it's still gonna be uncomfortable. And then I feel like an ADHD person is really, really good at distracting or saying, but you don't understand to get outta that discomfort because by nature that's what we do. Because if we're doing something and that thinking switch keeps coming up, we're used to following that. So, I don’t know.
Jennifer: Yeah. Can I just give another idea about that? Human beings are always wrestling with anxiety and our ability to stay present and be living life within the reality of life. So that's a human challenge. People that are more impulsive or ADHD are gonna bounce quickly to a new idea. They bounce away, perhaps. And they move into activity. But you know, somebody who's more organized or routinized may well handle it by moving into routine, by moving into, so that it's not necessarily more that ADHD people are less able to be present. So what I mean is that the mind is organizing and managing stress in the ways that it knows how. But the other thing I would say is some people are very, very anxious and are really struggling with self-regulation, and it looks more like ADHD than it is. And so there may be an ADHD element there, but it might be more of an anxiety response getting handled through distraction through, high, what's the word? Frenetic energy. But that's more about anxiety.
Tony: It can be. Well, okay. And while I'm just talking, I'm giving some theories here, but the book also has a great chapter on medication, this “ADHD 2.0”. And it does say that the ADHD medication when administered properly is far more, I don't know, efficacious than other medications. And it says that how it can, it's the only thing that can change somebody's life within an hour. But then if the wrong person takes it and I think if somebody with anxiety takes it, it amps that anxiety. And so I will have people tell me, oh, I'm ADHD as well. But they say, but every time I take medication I just get really jittery or anxious. And when I took medication I felt hope. I mean it is all of the sudden everything came into place. That's a good diagnostic.
Jennifer: Yeah. Right. It’s the primary factor. Anxiety. Also, ADHD really shows prior to age 12, when it's really just adhd. So it's a fundamental feature. So this same son, you know, it's my child on the autism spectrum, that was a co-occurring reality. And yes, when he started taking it, it's like his whole life changed. It was, you know, I became an addict to his medication because when he was taking it, he was able to self-regulate. He was much more capable socially. He was kinder to his sibling, like it just helped him get a handle on something and he didn't, we sometimes wanted to give him medication holidays because we worried a little bit about a younger person taking medication. He never wanted to take them. He's like, everybody gets upset with me when I'm not taking it. And you know, his ability to be social would go up. So it was a definite indicator that, I mean, maybe he felt some anxiety because of adhd, but yes, that was not the primary issue.
Tony: No, I love that too because, man, look, we're now the, I'm gonna get to be able to put ADHD in the title with you and I'm so excited. No, I'm giddy about it, Jennifer. I am. But I had this situation where after I was, I had been on my medication and I didn't get my diagnosis till 46, so a few years ago. And, a year or two year into it, I'm supposed to go get a urine test to show that I'm, I don't know that that's what you do after a year, but I was so killing it at work and everything, and clients and writing a book and the podcast, and I didn't wanna take the time and finally they were gonna cut me off. And this is a funny thing I've learned since, is that there's two time frames with adhd. It's either now or later. So I was gonna do it later, and then later became now when they were gonna cut off my supply. Yeah. But, I think the story is, this relieved my anxiety. I would take it in the morning while I went and did the urine test later in the day. And then I get the call maybe a day or two later and they said, we need you to come in. And I thought, oh no, they found, I must have some sort of something I'm gonna die from in my urine. And I went in there and she said, hey, so why is there no methyl phenyl date? The ADHD medication, Ritalin, why is that not in your urine? And I didn't understand, and I was, I don't know I just, I take it and then I realized, I said, oh, wait a minute, you, so you think I'm selling it to middle school kids? Because it wasn't in the urine. And then, and so then I said, oh no, the last time I took it, I think it was maybe one o'clock that afternoon. And then, and I have the immediate release. So then I had metabolized it cause I drink a lot of water and yeah. And actually that made me feel good because it was something that was outta my system by the evening. And at that point I felt like, okay, you know, this is, this is really helpful.
Jennifer: Yeah, it's great.
Tony: But adhd, my go-to is I make jokes about everything internally. So when I really did say you think I'm selling it to middle school kids, and that was not funny to say to a psychiatrist apparently, because they didn't enjoy that joke at all. And I thought it was hilarious. But you know, you live and you learn a little bit, you know? So one thing that I was curious to get your take on, so I would love to know what you either tell people or what your idea of the ideal relationship is. And the tiny bit of backstory is that when I talk to people, and I think I'm so clever when I say, I laid out from the womb till the wedding. And I just said that to Christie and I said, man, I'm trademarking that because I'd never put it that way before. But like, then I can talk about abandonment and attachment issues in our childhood and then we show up in relationships and we're trying to figure out how do I show up so that this person will like me because I don't want to be alone. And then I always say we then we're enmeshed and codependent and then we go through life and we have experiences and. Say, this is how I feel, and this is how I feel. And if we're immature, then we jump back into enmeshment like, oh, I can't believe you think that. And then we're afraid of abandonment, so we jump back in. And so then I'm trying to tell people, all right, the goal is differentiated and interdependent and there's gonna be invalidation and all those things. But then at that point, I realize I sound like the, like a peanuts adult character, where I think, think that people are like, wa wa what are you talking about? And I don't know why it took me so long, Jennifer. Maybe it's because I felt like I was getting validation by people nodding their heads and, oh, I want that. But then I realized, oh, they don't even know what I'm talking about. And so do you, how do you, or do you lay out the, here's where we're headed?
Jennifer: I do a little bit, sometimes through role play or role modeling. What differentiate sounds like, and people can recognize it almost immediately as mature dealing with an issue, but not reactive or punitive or manipulative, but like anchored and centered. And so, you know, I do think it's sometimes the quickest way to give people a picture of it. But it's very conceptual for a lot of people. That there's something, this is really like, what I actually think is that this is something you feel your way towards. It's something you live your way towards, and then when you put language to it, it sounds interdependent and self-regulated. You use those words, but it's very hard to describe in words, especially because most people do not experience it. And so you're trying to use language that we don't have a lot of in our culture, in society. Because most of us are pretty immature, and so most of us are living pretty reactively in our relationships, so we know those words well, and so it, it's like trying to give people a sense of something to reach towards. And sometimes the best way to do it actually is to help people see what they're actually doing that is undermining the friendship because if they can stop doing it, what happens is their brain then has to be at a higher level. If they won't allow themselves to do the indulgent behavior, that's how people start to feel what more mature feels like.
Like if I'm not gonna manipulate my wife, but I really would like to have sex with her, maybe I need to just be more honest. But that feels scary. But yes, if I'm not gonna be manipulative and deceptive and I do really desire a sexual relationship, then maybe I need to tolerate the exposure of speaking more honestly. Well then they start to, well, you know, it doesn't mean that the partner's just gonna be like, oh, thank you so much for being honest. They may push in the opposite direction to get you back, but people start to feel better when they're functioning at a higher level. They start to acknowledge that something there feels more solid, more respect worthy. And at a minimum they start to respect themselves more. And you know, they're actually more of a force to be reckoned with in their marriage than when they were in their more petulant or reactive state. So I like your question because it's often like, how do you show people what we're talking about? But I find the most helpful thing is to help people see what they're doing and how it's interfering with their own goals.
Tony: Yeah. Right. Okay. And I like what you're saying, and it's funny because I wanted to make the joke and now that we've established adhd, I wanted to say at some point people are listening right now and hearing the wa wa wa from both of us, that's fine. Because that is okay. But I also feel like, and then if someone, when you hit on that discomfort for someone, if I'm gonna go back to the ADHD or the rejection sensitivity is, man, do you watch that? Do you see that person? Not necessarily just an ADHD person, but, shut down. Or do you see that person try to queue up their yeah, buts? I mean, when are you watching that happen as well?
Jennifer: Give me a little more of an example.
Tony: So, I feel like I love everything you're saying. And then I'm, I think maybe this is the part where now having been doing couples therapy for so long, I start thinking, I don't want to call it cynically, but the worst case scenario of what happens with that, so when I get people into that place of where, no, it's okay and you're gonna feel uncomfortable and let me show you what, what that looks like, that then when that person now is met with having to really express themselves, that I just, I watch that reactivity or I watch that, that hesitancy or hesitation and then I think that can be a hard thing to get somebody to move through.
Jennifer: It is, it is hard, but I would say when I'm being my most helpful, I'm not trying to get people to do it. I'm trying to help people see how they're capitulating to their fear, how they're, how they're moving into a guarded or deceptive position, and it becomes their own courage or their own unhappiness with themselves that pushes them into a clearer position. Now, the person on the other side may then get reactive or may want to push away from it, but then I would go to that person and help them see how they're handling themselves in the face. You know, you say you wanna know your partner, but then when he starts to talk straight to you, you punish him for that. So I'm just helping them see what they're doing, because we're so good at lying to ourselves. All of us, we're good at telling ourselves the story that we like about ourselves. Not the one that accounts most data. And so when someone is speaking honestly to you, or when a therapist or coach is being helpful, they're showing you something that you tend to stay blind to and giving you your mind the opportunity to deal with that truth better. And that's what helps people get stronger is their minds accommodate more truth about themselves.
Tony: I love your Room For Two podcasts. I do. I listen to that often, and then I find myself becoming a little, pulling some Jennifer cards out in my own sessions. Of course, I take credit for them, you know, a lot. And, even my, I always say it but I feel like that it's no scarcity mentality in mental health is what I tell, what I tell myself at least. But I, but I think you've said some things, like at one point, I think you've said something like, we put a version of ourselves out and we say, hey, validate this. And then the person is saying but what if I can't? Then it's, how dare you? But so I really like having that opportunity to say, okay, well this is some information and, yeah, it's an opportunity to self confront, but that doesn't mean the person absolutely has to. And I find that, yeah, when you frame it in a certain way, I feel like then it's almost a welcoming opportunity. Okay, I'll take a look at that. And maybe, and that does seem to go well, more than it doesn't. Maybe it's just because people are secretly we want to, we want to grow, we want to be better, but that's, it is scary.
Jennifer: Yeah. The psyche, it is scary. And I, you know, the psyche is pushing us to be whole. It is pushing us. I like that to accommodate more truth, but we then also have our reactive mind that's afraid of it. We're afraid to go to our shadow work, afraid to go to the dark parts of ourselves or the parts of ourselves that we haven't yet accommodated. And so when our spouse is the messenger, which they often are because they see us better than we see ourselves. You know, we try to take them down rather than deal with our darker selves. And that's marriage. I mean, that's really what marriage is. So often the healthier a couple is, the less pressure it takes to accommodate more truth. The more willing they are to look at themselves and how they're impacting their partner and do something about it. Not to make the partner happy, but to be a better self in relationship to their partner.
Tony: Okay, can I ask you too, Jennifer? I do feel like I don't know if we touched on this maybe the last time we spoke, but, how we become therapists and we don't think we're doing it to fix ourselves within, maybe along the way we realize, I mean, I love that opportunity to self confront and I have found, and maybe even recently where I think I wanted more interaction with my son and he's 19, and so then he threw out this offer to go play golf and I immediately reacted with a pause. And I, thank goodness, I did a little, I was able to get a do-over and was very present. But, you know, my wife then I had a good conversation about it and I loved it because she was able to say, hey, here's what that looked like. And I feel like, yeah, when you practice this and there's safety and we're not gonna be perfect at it, I was really grateful that she was able to point out a couple of things that, you know, I, and I wanted to immediately defend my ego and say, oh no, I, you know, I've read this book and masculine in the relationship, and I asked for a do-over and I was back, and that's a good thing. And I was like saying, oh, that sounds good to alleviate my discomfort. But instead, let me hear what it was like. And she had a few extra details that I think really helped with everything from body language to tone that I wasn't even aware of or I didn't want to think. Are you finding yourself doing the same thing in your own relationship or, because I imagine a lot of people feel like, well you, you must already have all this stuff down pat.
Jennifer: Well, let's see. I'm just thinking about your example. I'm trying to, I don't know if I completely followed what you're saying, but I think I know what you're saying, which is that you were getting feedback from your wife that was elucidating or showing you something like she could track your mind better than you could track your mind. Okay. Yeah, and she's saying like, you were making this gesture and you were doing this, and that's a hundred percent true. Like spouses can track our minds, kids can track our minds, like my teenager was making fun of me because he's imitating me and my false modesty about something like somebody complimented me and then afterwards he's like, oh yeah, no, it's nothing. You know? And the way he's doing it, you know, is like using my words and it's super embarrassing. He's totally, he's saying, I see you, mom. You're not that modest. You know, you love it. So, but yeah, so our, our kids, our spouses see us, but you're asking about my own marriage, how does it go? Like do you have a more specific question?
Tony: Yeah, I do actually. So I mean, have you had those opportunities that are things that you weren't necessarily aware of? And I'll tell you a more vulnerable one for me was my wife, she was sharing with me this concept around sometimes the kids aren't 100% sure or she isn't, of which version of me that she was gonna get. And thankfully I was in, I was looking for this feedback. We were talking about some things that I was sharing with her about as a couple's therapist and she said, yeah, sometimes you come in and you are really excited and happy. And in essence, I felt like she was saying, I'm making it rain, throwing out dollar bills, you know, that sort of thing. And other times I might, I might come in and I would say, man, I just feel like everybody, I'm just a paycheck and everybody's taken advantage of me. But I was so grateful to be able to say, okay, let me take a look at that and is there truth in that? And there really was. And then I was able to step back and recognize the days where I, maybe there's something else going on and then I'm coming in and I'm bringing that into the home, and I didn't like that, so I dunno. Do you have some of those?
Jennifer: Well, yeah. No, I mean, I'm trying to think of examples, but absolutely. I mean, I guess I would say that's the thing that's been, that I'm probably the most grateful for about my husband is that he really is a kind soul, like the way that people will describe him is very kind and, not nice necessarily, do you know what I mean? He's not a nice guy. He really is a kind person and he is willing to be inconvenienced to help other people. So that is really who he is, but he's also a very honest person. So he's quite loyal and I actually think he sees me through a bit of a rose colored lens a lot of the time, which I like. I'll take it. But on the other hand, he is honest and he will be honest with me and he'll say what he really thinks and he's not saying it usually to get me to think something. He's just willing to reveal his own mind. And I guess while he can get upset sometimes or be mad, I don't have the feeling like he's trying to hurt me or trying to, that's not the agenda there. And so that's extremely helpful. It doesn't mean that when he gives me, you know, says things that are truthful that I'm, you know, I'm often like, ah, you know, I often will react with, at first, like, you know, no, you're wrong. And defensively, but the thing is he makes himself highly credible because he doesn't have an agenda to hurt me or take me down or even prove his mind to me. Most of the time it's usually about just, this is what I think, or this is what I see, or this is what I see you do.
And so that's harder to do, I do care about being honest with myself. And I care about being fair to him. I don't mean to say that I'm always being honest with myself and always being fair. Of course. Right? But I do value those things and so it matters to me to deal with what he's saying. But he also really does make it easier, which I'm really grateful for because if he were meaner about it or whatever, I could justify not looking at it, if he were more defensive or had his own kind of insecurities playing out in that, even if he was saying exactly what's true about me, it would make it easier to justify not seeing myself. And so, yeah. And you know, it goes both ways. I'll give my honest thoughts about things. You know, I do think it's why we get along is because there is a basic sense of honesty, and that makes the marriage feel freer. Well, I like what you said, couples are trying to manage each other a lot that they feel, you know, I was working with a couple yesterday and the sex is just always awkward and the interactions are often awkward, but that's because they are always pretending they really struggle to be honest. And so there's a lot of manipulation and management. When I say manipulative, I don't mean dark, mean manipulative. I mean masking, managing what's said, managing what's shown, and rather than I would like to have sex, it's more like, do you wanna have sex or what do you have in mind for tonight or whatever. And there's just this kind of constant masking of minds. So it always, there's always pretending. And then whenever you're pretending with someone, it's super awkward. There's no real intimacy. And a lot of couples do a lot of pretending because they don't tolerate more honesty in themselves or in their partner or their spouse punishes a lot if they speak honestly. So they've learned to not do it. But there's, you know, that people claim to love the truth, but the truth is hard. The truth is challenging. The truth pushes us to grow up. And like you said, we want it, but we avoid it. Yung said something like, the information we most need is hiding in the places we least want to look. And that's the kind of the realities about ourselves that scare us because they push us into growth. But yeah, if we avoid them, then they really do run our lives.
Tony: I agree. And I like that because the more I think we talk about the sitting with the uncomfortable feelings and, tell me if you agree and you don't have to agree with this at all, but I feel like we are so unused to doing that, that it isn't as scary as we think it is once we practice it. There's a researcher named, well researcher, writer, Terrence McKenna of olden days. And he used to say, “it's like jumping out into the great abyss and finding out it's a feather bed”. And I love that example because I feel like when we can sit through some of that discomfort and then I love what you're saying, find then all of a sudden, well, I do, I, when you say the psyche is pushed that way, I want growth and now I'm excited about it.
Jennifer: I think the psyche, I mean, Yung talks about this a lot and you know, that we're striving for wholeness, that that's what our minds are trying to do, or you know, that our dreams are trying, is the psyche trying to reveal aspects of our lives ourselves are tending to not wanna deal with. And so it's kind of the psyche pushing towards wholeness. But we have another part of our brain that wants stasis, that wants control, that wants, it's the ego, right? And the ego, we need the ego, but the ego can be the enemy sometimes because the ego loves control. And yet we have so very little control. And the more we cling, the less and less control we actually have. And so we've got two pressures, but there's certainly one that's pushing us towards growth. Like, you know, a lot of times when the body is in reaction, I had a client who always was having pain and rashing and all these things, and she would blame her body like, my body's turned against me, my body doesn't want me to be happy. My body's working against me. But this, you know, she started working with a doctor that did this, was also a therapist in working with a lot of these kinds of meanings, and as she started to pay attention to her body, she saw that her body was trying to help her. Her body would go into a physical reaction when there was something going on in her relationships that was working against the best in her.
And so once she stopped blaming her body and understanding her body wanted her to thrive, well, then it really changed it because first of all, it allowed her to address things that were going on in her life. It allowed her to stop being in a combative relationship with her body that's really trying to sustain. And also allowed her to address things and change things, so her body reacts less, way less now, and even when it does, she sees it as a gift to pay attention to what's happening in our relationships.
Tony: Oh, that, I mean, the body keeps the score, the Bessel van der Kolk. And I have to tell you as well, I don't ever get a chance to do this, but, I've had a couple of people that have reached out to me and said that you've said nice things, referred people if I'm working in the world of emotional immaturity or narcissism or that sort of thing. And I think that that's really come up a lot there where, if I'm helping people, you know, I've got these tenants where you know, no one wants to say my partner is narcissistic, so I feel like I meet people where they're at. Because if they read material that talks about narcissism, it says don't finish the paragraph, leave. And no one, no one's gonna do that because they don't even know what that means or what that looks like. And so, yeah, so I say raise your baseline. That's self-care. Get your PhD in gaslighting. Get out of unproductive conversations, set boundaries and know that boundary is a challenge to the emotionally immature. And then I talk about, you know, nothing you will do will cause them to have this aha moment or epiphany that they have to come up with that on their own. And I feel like that one's the hardest one for people to break. And I feel like their body ends up being the thing that is the thing that I feel like they eventually realize that every time I try to go back in and try to make sense of explain, care take, you know, then they start to feel panic attacks or headaches or memory is a challenge. And so I like what you're saying because I mean, that is, yeah, I feel like that's the final straw of helping somebody recognize maybe that they aren't safe in the relationship when their body is trying to say, I'm trying everything. I'm trying anxiety, I'm trying depression. Don't make me give you a heart attack. And, that's what I think can happen.
Jennifer: Exactly. Whenever we're trying to control what we don't have control over, especially another, a partner that won't self-confront, you know, that illusion is often hard to let go of because you want the control, the fantasy that if you say the right thing, do the right thing, whatever, they're gonna space themselves, they're gonna become a kinder person or whatever. And often, you know, the body is in reaction to that, but also giving up that project is the only chance that something will shift.
Tony: Yeah. So, okay. This did actually lead to, I think what I initially reached out, to ask Christie to bring up was when I do get a guy into therapy, and I was even gonna tell you a funny thing when we were gonna jump on and then I forgot, but I was just talking with my intern, my associate, Nate Christensen, and he's a big brain guy, but he said he just was reading that therapy was initially, someone was saying that therapy was initially for women and that's why it's all about feelings. That was Freud's, I guess, goal. And that, you know, some men, he worked with a lot of women. And that men need to do things differently. And so that's why, and then he went into this thing about suppression and that it's about aggression and that men can feel close even when there is stress or aggression. And then how that can, and I thought that was an interesting thing. I thought that was really fascinating. But where I was going with that was, so I get a lot of men that come to me, I think because, I dunno, maybe it's as simple as I'm a guy, I don't know. But then when I can get a guy to feel heard and understood, maybe do a little self confrontation, I find that there are times where, I have examples, where the wife has said this is what I want. I want this guy who will hear me and open up and stay present. And now I, you know, on occasion I can get a guy to that place and then it's as if the wife now starts to push more buttons. And when I did some betrayal trauma training with Dr. Skinner, Kevin Skinner, a long time ago, he would talk about, you know, okay, that they're testing for safety or things may go well and a couple of years down the road, you know, she may say, I don't, I don't even know if this is, if I should have come back and, and if the guy says, man, thank you for sharing. I'm here. It keeps her amygdala calm, and still testing. But I found that, I'm curious if you see or what your thoughts are on that. If I do have this guy show up differently and the wife has said, this is all I've ever wanted, but now that more buttons are pressed and I will have a guy, all of a sudden I'll say, well, wait a minute. Now, is she the narcissist or is she the emotionally immature? And I wanted to say, okay, I hear you, but let's slow down a little, but it's, I don't know if that's just her body, can a change happen too fast? What do you think?
Jennifer: Well, I, you know, so a couple things. I tend, when I'm working with people, to not just think, okay, let's say that you have a narcissistic, I mean, there's a lot that I would even say about that because that's…
Tony: Yes. Let's just say like somebody that is emotionally immature.
Jennifer: Who's been emotionally immature has tended to dominate situations. And take too much. And let's say that, that there's the, let's just put it in the, this form that the woman is the one who's been kind of burned by that. And she is exhausted by it and he's starting to self confront and change. The way I tend to talk to the person in the woman's position in this example is that your goal isn't just to trust your partner and your goal isn't just to wait until they have become safe. I'm not, I don't really think in that frame so much. The goal is if you're gonna choose this person, they need to grow into somebody who's more capable of handling themselves while they know you, that they need to learn how to be a self without dominating or taking too much and that matters. But you also, wife, have been operating in a marriage in which you are an over functioner. It doesn't look like it from what I'm saying, but for the person in a relationship with a narcissist, the person is over-functioning. They're trying to make things right. They're trying to manage that guy's ego. They're trying to keep him happy, give him the sex that will keep him. And so they're doing all these things in the fantasy that if they do everything, he will be okay and they will be okay. And so she has to also grow out of that. And let's just say the guy really does start to self confront and really is dealing with him. There's a certain amount of testing you, you know, are you really legit? Are you really there for me?
But what is also, and I'm not saying this is always the case for me, it means I've gotta discern what, what's happening here? Is this guy really not as developed as he's saying, and she can track it. Or is it that she wants the too little, too late position because then she doesn't have to. Because something that's, that's trying to solve the husband all the time in this case, you know, doing everything to make that person okay, is also intimacy avoidant, even though it doesn't look like it. They want to be needed. They want to be the solution. They want to be the one that the guy needs in a sense. And so that's, that's a need-based frame, not an intimacy. Somebody that thinks they have to follow all over themselves to prove themselves to the narcissistic guy. Doesn't have a solid sense of self. Isn't clear that being knowledgeable is a safe thing for anyone, right? So part of the reason they chose this guy is because they don't have to be that known by him when he's the only party, when he's the only show in town in his mind. So if he's growing out of that, that's a very different thing than she wants to actually be. Now a lot of us talk about, I don't feel seen, don't feel well. I don't know that many people that actually wanna be seen. They just want the good parts to be seen, you know?
Jennifer: A lot of times people are complaining about that.
Tony: Let me just, I have to tell you, Jennifer, as you were saying this, and this is actually, this is so good because I could talk about this, for the light, then went through your blinds and shown, and it was just you. All of a sudden, you, the sky's parted, heaven smiled upon you and then you, you gave the world this gift. Exactly right?
Jennifer: Yeah totally, that’s what it was. So, her ability to actually be knowable, right? How many of us really want our partner to look into our soul? Unmitigated, right. Flaws and all. I mean, you know, that takes some real, that's scary. Courage. Scary. Yeah. And so, it's often like, I still don't trust you. I still don't trust you. Is a way of getting away from that anxiety, all of that. And you know, and there may be things going on on his side, but you don't want to keep his growth from, it doesn't have to be, he must be fully grown up before you deal with yourself. She also needs to be dealing with her own over-functioning and her need to be needed and her anxiety about her.
Tony: That is so good. And I feel like this is where, and I would, I mean, there is real, incredibly emotionally immature, or strong narcissistic trait and tendency, people that are still looking for the buttons pressed and the way to manipulate. So I do, you know, and I know I work a lot with that population. And that can be really difficult. But I like what you're saying because I do feel at some point, because if it really isn't the narcissist, I would imagine, in this scenario we're talking about a wife who then grew up not necessarily seeing the boundaries modeled or secure attachment in childhood. So she didn't know how to say no or that sort of thing. And so maybe that has led to that. And so I know that can be hard, but I love what you're saying because I think this is where it's hard for me because I want to at times just say, not to, hey, give him a chance. I like this concept of, I call it, introducing positive tension. So now let's, let's have a chance to really use the tools. I've got these four pillars of a connected conversation based off of emotionally focused therapy, and that's where I feel like, we no longer have to have the guy to say, no, I get it now. And she says, oh, okay. Now I want her to say, well, tell me more. What, what do you get? What do you understand? What is different now? Because I find that the real emotionally immature says it. I mean, I get, I'm telling you I get it. And that's where I feel like you'll find quickly how, if the guy is really self confronting or, or able to sit with that.
Jennifer: Yeah. Okay. Something to say about it. It's not just, you know, like sometimes, well then I went and I apologize. What did you apologize for? What exactly? Like if it's deep, if it's true, self confrontation, there's something there. I can see that I do this to you. Something that I tend to say with people is that, you know, we're all kind, we're all narcissistic. I mean, in a sense we all start out very self preoccupied. Even if we are somebody who is always nice and can never let anybody be disappointed. It's about managing our ego needs. And so there is a self-centric element to it. And as we are willing to self confront no other people's experience of us, know ourselves in relationship, we're able to grow out of our egocentrism. So narcissistic people are often ego-centric in a particular way. But I try to make a distinction with people narcissistic and narcissistically impaired. Narcissistically impaired person is a person that is not going to yield. They're not gonna change. They aren't able or willing to actually self confront. They may give all the verbiage and know how to make it look like it, but they're not actually in any kind of self confrontation in the wee hours of the night. And that's very different from somebody who's inclined to go one up, to look honestly at themselves and to start dealing with who they are.
That's a person. You don't have to be perfect to trust that person. You just have to be with someone who's willing and able to do that, and it matters to them to be a decent human. If it only matters to you when you're trying to convince your narcissistic partner that they should be a decent person, that's not gonna go. No, if they want to be a decent person and you can tell it and they're willing to deal with themselves and you see them doing it, you know that's a good person to be challenged with and to be addressing your half of that dynamic with not, because you gotta wait for them to be perfect because you can see that they do wanna grow and they wanna be better and they're willing to be honest. Even if it takes some work sometimes, they're willing to grow. That's trustworthy, the people that get entrenched and stay there and won't, won't be challenged. Well, it's not a good choice to be in a relationship.
Tony: And and I don't know if I gave you credit for this last time we spoke, but when we spoke a couple of times ago and we were talking about narcissism, you had mentioned everybody's a little narcissistic. And at that time I remember feeling a little bit like, well, well, no, I mean, I don't think, I think I framed the question wrong. You’re absolutely right. And then in, so I've got the Waking Up to Narcissism podcast, which is now as big as the Virtual Couch, and in that one I was very intentional about nine or 10 episodes in, I had an episode called, wait, am I the narcissist? And I really did lay out the narcissistic personality disorders, maybe two or 3% of the population. But if you start with, we're all emotionally immature, and that's where I give you a little nod, you know, then we can work from there. And I have found that it is a much better place to operate from. And I feel like the people I work with are willing to say, okay, I can take a look at emotional immaturity, but narcissism, I think it just carries so much. It's out in the zeitgeist so much, a lot of negativity out. Everybody’s ex is a narcissist. You know what I mean? That is a fact, I've been told on TikTok, as a matter of fact. That makes me laugh. So in that part, I appreciate that too. And, okay, if you have a couple more minutes, there is now that I feel like, boy, I feel like we've covered all these fun things today. As a, from a therapist standpoint, I would love your thoughts on another thing, and maybe I'm wanting you to validate me or compliment my fragile ego. So there are some of the, there are some groups that I'm a part of and I love, and a lot of them quote you, which is amazing and wonderful. And there will be something that we brought up where someone will talk, you know, the crucible method versus EFT, for example.
And then people will get pretty, pretty discouraged about it. And I have a copy and paste available now where I say, as an EFT therapist and a thousand couples later or whatever, and I've tried to make it into these four pillars of a connected conversation. Preston Pugmire, who I know you know, helped me create this course. And so that was him helping coach these tangible steps and I love it so much. And so then I feel like then I'm all on board with differentiation and cleaning up your side of the street and not looking for that external validation. But I find my copy and paste says that, that is amazing. But I feel like sometimes what I'm reading is somebody says, this is all I can do is take care of me, and if my partner doesn't show up, then this is not a viable relationship. And so I've been saying, well, I feel like the EFT, emotionally focused therapy, my four pillars, that's the conduit to communication to then maybe help get to that place of differentiation or, but I would love to know your thoughts. Like do you have just the overall thoughts on the EFT versus the crucible method or those two things?
Jennifer: I mean, I do, I do, I don't tend to like to get into that, well, I'm, I'm happy to answer it, but I'm just saying I don't tend to like to get in the conversation because I don't feel like I understand EFT enough. And I don't, I'm happy to give you some ideas though, but just like sometimes I will critique sex addiction programs. I've learned I don't wanna do that because some are very on point and very valuable. So it, so what I do sometimes is I say, if a program is teaching you this idea, I think it's dangerous. If a program is teaching you this idea, I think it's dangerous. So it's more like that, if it's teaching you this, it will be helpful in my view. But I think the fundamentals, so first of all, Adam Miller, and these were both people that happened to be in my ward and Hardy, I can't remember his first name right now. They wrote, they co-authored, they were Northwestern students and they co-authored a paper about really laying out the tenets of EFT and differentiation theory and kind of arguing. So, it was very, it's very well written and well done and worth reading, did I say Adam Miller? I mean Adam Fisher. Adam Fisher and Nathan Hardy, so that's worth reading. What I would say in my rudimentary understanding is the question of locus of control or where is the center of change in these models as they were originally understood.
Now how practitioners use them, it may be very different. Maybe EFT has shifted since its sort of initial idea, but that's what I think is the core issue is in the EFT model. It's that we attached, which we are, we attach at an early age, and then we have attachment styles, which all, which I agree with. But the idea of the model is often that change happens through the marriage by the partner being the attachment object that was needed, right? So validating feelings, reflecting back, communicating in a certain way. And so the change, the locus of control is in the partner.
Tony: I see what you're saying.
Jennifer: Okay. Now, I don't know. You know, somebody might say, no, no, you don't get it, and I may not get it. So I'm, I'm not here to say like, I get it and I know. I'm just saying that's my view from the first time I read about it. Where in differentiation theory, one attaches no question. And we attach and we do things in a certain way. And not only do we attach, but we also, so we, not only do we wanna be in relationship to others, we also wanna be in relationship to our, and, but the locus of change is within the self. Now this is not to say that people don't affect our sense of self. They deeply do. They're very, very entangled with other people, but what the change agent is, is helping people see how they are in relationship to others and how they're trying to have a self in relationship to others. And the ways that that effort is creating trouble in their relationships to others and themselves. And in that awakening to change, to change their behavior in relationships. So the locus of control is within the self, it's in the self-regulation. And so it's just a different, it's helping people see more. Truthfully, the problem I have with, if it's in your partners, like you both have a half empty tank of gas and you're looking for the other one to fill it up, right? Because people, your spouse doesn't have it to give usually right now. I don't mean to say your spouse doesn't affect you and when they grow, it does positively impact you.
But a lot of times we're trying to show forth love, make our spouse feel loved, give them security, and while it can help a little, I think that it's still got the focus in the wrong place. Now, I don't know if this is how EFT therapy runs or how it is at this, but to the degree that that's the model operating in any therapy, like Imago therapy, I think is almost a hundred percent that. And so to the degree that it's doing that, I think it's only minimally effectual. And there can, there can be things that are beneficial about a conversation style. I'm just gonna sit and validate what I can. I'm not saying that as a tool, there can't be some value in that for helping people to settle down, not react and just listen. But I think as a kind of fundamental model of change, I think it has some limitations.
Tony: No, Jennifer, I do love that. And there's a part of me that feels like, okay, I don't want to now throw my 2 cents in, but then I realize, oh wait, we're on my podcast. And my people, my people, that sounds very egotistical, but your listeners are, you know, I talk about my four pillars all the time, and I actually feel very validated by that because I do feel like, I look at and I think you're actually right where I may not even know where EFT, I think I've slowly morphed my own version of EFT into this. I mean, a lot of, you know, it's like, yeah, right. And so I feel like the model that I use. It really is almost as simple as someone expresses something to their partner and their partner then immediately that has a meaning to them. And they can be, they can take offense. They can. So I, you know, my first pillar is assuming good intentions or there's a reason why somebody says what they do. And I feel like it's core is because that's the way that they express themselves or that's the way that they feel like they have to show up in order to be heard. And then I, you know, my second one is, you can't tell that person they're wrong or I disagree. Even if you think they're wrong and you disagree because any of these are gonna take the conversation out into the weeds. And then my third pillar is, okay, I'm gonna ask questions before I make comments. Well, tell me what that means for you. Help me understand. And that's where that discomfort kicks in and some empathy.
And then I, and then my fourth one, I say stay present. And you can't go into a victim mentality. If you follow those first three pillars and then say, okay, no, you're right. I guess I'm a horrible piece of garbage No. To rescue me. Right. And so I do feel like I like what you're saying because I feel like I'm trying to use it as a communication tool to stay present so that then we can self because I feel like it's too easy for the emotionally mature to take any conversation out into the weeds. Then they never get to accountability or self confrontation. But I think as you're expressing that, why I feel validated is because I actually think I have taken that off on a little bit of my own path. And so yeah, when I, when I come in and say, oh, I hear people that talk about the differentiation model and then because I validate it and I feel like maybe they're waiting for me to say, that's dumb, you know, EFT is it? And I love, I love your concept about the locus of change because I think you're right and maybe we're both wrong, but we're both right as well and that sure feels good.
Jennifer: Yeah and I do think communication models, for example, can be very helpful for just giving people tools. Something to kind of anchor their anxiety to as they're walking through a difficult conversation, in online, the Strengthening Your Relationship course, I do the same thing. I'm giving them a communication model that is as anchored as I can make it in their own integrity. And self confrontation. Before they even open their app, you know that they are dealing with themselves. First, rather than trying to get their self, their spouse to buy into a view that's not even true. However, one can do that model. So what that's, your model would work very well if it's two people who are really trying to deal honestly with themselves, be fair. And that model can just help them manage themselves through, so it can really be helpful. But what I think is that people can also use models whether yours or mine to not deal with themselves, you know what I mean? Like they can go through the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law.
Tony: Absolutely, I say they weaponize the tool. And what's interesting then is in the, again, I found myself working with a lot of emotionally immature or narcissistic traits people and surprise, because I have a podcast that has narcissism in the name, so I'm not, I'm not shocked by that, but I feel like even the having a framework has allowed people to then see that the emotionally immature person can't play in the sand. That they're so special that when they tell me how crazy their wife is, even, I will put away my beloved four pillars, and now we will join in triangulation and let her know how bad she is. And, and I feel like that's what you end up seeing kind of back to what we were saying earlier versus the person saying, oh my gosh, I didn't know what I didn't know. Here's a tool, let's use it. And then I do. I feel like that's the part and then the, and then it's, our brains love that.
Jennifer: I mean, we all do that. Just start using the words differentiation and self regulation. You sound like you're really, you know, I know. I love ideas too. I'd much rather talk about ideas than actually go through the horrors of self confrontation. I mean, who wants to do that?
Jennifer: Right. So it's easy to talk about ideas. Christ talked about this. We love the letter of the law. Spirit of the law is much.
Tony: Yeah, it is. Yes. Yeah. I love it, man, Jennifer. Okay. Thank you. This was so funny because when we look back on today's interview, it was, it was kind of, it was, it was everything, which to me that felt so satisfying and very good for this interview. So thank you so much for meeting me. What a joy. And I just looked down. I can't even, I feel like it's been 30 minutes and so thank you and I would love to have you on it. I'll do the research now on ADHD and relationships and then, man, I would love to have you back on and talk about that too.
Jennifer: Sure. That would be fun.
Tony: Okay. That'd be good. All right. Thanks so much. It's always good to see you. Thanks. Bye-bye.
People often stay in relationships with narcissistic or emotionally immature partners in hopes that it will be better in the long run for the kids. Unfortunately, staying can often send the exact opposite message. Tony reads another poem from his private women's Facebook group and a letter from the son of a narcissistic father. He then shares Karyl McBride's article "How Narcissistic Parenting Can Affect Children" https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-legacy-of-distorted-love/201802/how-narcissistic-parenting-can-affect-children Karyl is the author of the book "Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers" https://amzn.to/40P1ZdT
Narcissistic Mothers Transcript
Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 68 of Waking Up to Narcissism. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, host of the Virtual Couch podcast and one that I would be just so grateful that you, if you will go check that out, is the Waking Up to Narcissism premium question and answer podcast. So the links for all of the above will be in the show notes. Just look for a, it's a link tree slash Virtual Couch. And then that has links to everything, including marriage course, marriage workshop, Instagram accounts and TikTok and all those sorts of things. But let's get to today's topic. I want to start with another poem that comes from my women's private Facebook group.
I wish I was a poet. I wish I was creative and thought in the ways that the people that are sharing their talents around this difficult topic of narcissism and emotional immaturity. So I'm going to start with a poem and then, boy, today, we're going to talk about the effects of narcissism and extreme emotional immaturity on children and someone in the group, they had a teenage son write a letter to their dad and they said that they were okay if we just kept the name out of it, anonymous, and shared that on the podcast and it's powerful. And then I found a really good article by someone that has done some amazing work with narcissism and emotional immaturity. Carol McBride. She's a licensed marriage and family therapist and she's the author of a book called “Will I ever be good enough? Healing the daughters of narcissistic mothers”. And I'll have the link to that in the show notes as well. If you just read the reviews alone, it just speaks to people that weren't even aware of the effect of having a narcissistic parent and specifically in our system, mother had on their life. So let's get to the show. Let me start with this poem from one of the women in the group and she titled it, “Let me go”.
“Let me go, release me. Let me be on my way. And no, there's not one bit of me that would willingly stay. You revealed to me a part of you I've not seen before, and I'll never forget. It was cold contemptuous, a looming shadow of terrifying threat. You acted fast at the start, setting me up for this gradual fall. Conditioning my mind. So I couldn't think clearly at all. Confusion and self doubt became the biggest parts of me. You took my freedom, stripped away my self esteem. It was inevitable. Impossible to see. You know, I'd never hit you is what you would always say is that reassuring. I wondered in a hazy fog of dismay. Silently. I thought if you did, at least I would understand this underlying feeling that somehow I was under your command. You worked relentlessly. I was questioning myself every single day. Pieces of me were being chipped at gradually floating away. I started not to recognize the person I saw in the mirror. The truth is I was too trusting, too naive even to consider. Why would a person want to do this to another human? Dismantled their brain. Keep them prisoner in a state of delusion. Surely only a person who's hurting to the very depth of their core. As you like to remind me often to fix me, the body keeps the score. But the pieces of me, I thought had gone, were waiting for me somewhere else.
I was forming another version of me with a stronger sense of self. I could see glimmers of her and momentary flashes. It took some time, but she started to emerge rising from the ashes. I'm not asking you to let me go. I'm telling you I'm on my way. And whilst I'm edit, you'll never have another opportunity to make me obey. I'm sorry, you have so much pain that you chose to act as you do. But for me, I'll no longer take part in your play.”
The taming of the Shrew. I think we can just let that one sit there on its own, but it just speaks so beautifully to just the awakening of, that it's okay to have your own thoughts and opinions and to recognize how unhealthy that control and manipulation is in a relationship. And, I will beat this drum every chance I get that that is not part of a healthy human relationship. You're allowed to have your own thoughts and opinions. And if you are continually trying to figure out how to negotiate the complicated nature of trying to communicate with someone else at the risk of who you are and your own self-development, then, welcome, welcome to the podcast. And in this, getting your, in essence, your PhD and personality disorders and extreme emotional immaturity. And it can be difficult and the process can be lengthy. But there is hope there, there is absolute hope. Let me jump right to this letter. I'm going to read this letter from a son, a teenage son that again, was given full permission to share on the podcast and share with my women's group in emotionally immature relationships or narcissistic relationships. And then we're going to talk about narcissism and the effect on kids. The person in the group said that her son who is 18 sent this to her to get her thoughts on it. And she said she bawled. She went downstairs. She bawled some more while hugging him and telling him how sorry she was, that he had to deal with this.
She said that she was racked with guilt, that she didn't know how bad it was. And then she said, I asked if I could share this with a group. And he agreed as long as it was anonymous. And then I had asked permission to share on the podcast as well. But I believe the comment that I made to her even in the group was I'm so sorry that she feels the way that she did. But she truly did not know what she did not know. And I believe was 100% trying her best because this whole process of awakening to this, it can be really difficult because none of us want to think that we ever put our kids in a position where they weren't allowed to grow and thrive and emotionally mature because the people that are waking up to this and themselves have to come to this realization of what that's been like for them to even start to understand what that's been like for their kids. And this is where I just, I implore you to give yourself grace beyond anything else, because if you are listening to this, if you're starting to do your homework, if you're starting to recognize and learn the things you didn't know that you didn't know, then you are changing the dynamic and the pattern in your family, there's no doubt about that. And your kids will appreciate that. And it may take a while and some will be like this letter that I'm going to read. And they're gonna, they're gonna really understand that boy you weren't aware of what you weren't aware of just as they weren't as well. And so the fact that you are starting to open up to this will give them a voice because you're going to be a safer place for them to be able to share and express their feelings and emotions.
So here's the letter. And the son said for dad, been working on this, let me know what you think. And then it had the crying face emojis. I mean, you can tell that, that he's saying, okay. You know, here we go. We'll see how this, how this goes. So the letter that he wrote, the teenage son said, “I hate you. I think you should know that. I've thought about you a lot recently, actually, and I realized something. I have no happy memories with you. Everyone I have, there's a sense of fear or guilt or anger or something along those lines that pops up. I avoid you now, because anytime I speak to you, there's an inescapable feeling of rage that boils up.” So if I just pause, I wasn't going to commentate on the letter itself, but even this teenage boy and boys that, that most teenage boys, like to watch cartoons, eat cereal, play video games and compartmentalize. So the fact that his own body keeps the score is pretty phenomenal. That even when he's in the same room, he has that inescapable feeling of rage that boils up. So back to the letter. Like I said, “there's no happy memories. You know what I do remember? I remember you telling me not to wear my favorite color to school because it was a girly color.” And he said, “literally it was red. I remember you commanding me from the couch to refill your whiskey glass. I remember you driving 80 to 90 miles an hour on gravel roads at night drunk with me and others in the car as you swerved all over, not being scared for myself and the others safety. I remember you blocking the doors out of the house, stealing my keys. So I couldn't get away from you. I remember walking miles down a driveway in boots with no socks to get away from you so [the mom] could drive over an hour to come and get me. I remember you threw me around into the walls of the house. I remember you throwing me into the bathtub when I was younger because I accidentally woke others up before school. I remember the sound of you screaming in my face and I could smell your nasty breath from it. I remember the emotional manipulation that you put me through. You made me feel guilty for seeing who you are. And as I got older and I learned more, you got angrier. I remember you playing with my emotions to make me compete in sports year after year, when it was clear that I didn't enjoy those particular sports and the list goes on and on. Some thinking about all these things. And I realized that you never saw me as a human being and you still don't. You have no sense of respect or love for me, I'm nothing more than an extension of yourself and your eyes. You made me do the things that you wanted me to do my whole life with no regard for what I wanted. I realized that what you wanted so badly for me to be with something that you were. I realized that you wanted so badly for me to be something because you're nothing, you're a liar, a manipulator and an abuser, nothing more. You wanted to parade me and my siblings around like prize possessions to make up for the fact that you've done nothing inherently good your whole life. You want to throw it in mom's face, you've got more money than her, and you can afford to buy all these things, but you still don't manage to pay your child support on time because you don't give a crap about us. Which sucks because your money is the only thing you're good for. I've also realized through all of this that you don't love me. And that the only reason you say it so much is to make up for the fact that you don't and to try to convince yourself that you do. You're a pathetic father, a sad man, any decent man is supposed to protect his children and loved ones, not be the person that endangers and hurts them. I'm done talking to you even after all these years, you're still putting on an act for everybody else. You still want to portray yourself as the almighty loving father and take credit for everything you didn't do. And then deny the blame for everything you did. Do I see your whole act of getting quotes, changing? Out in public, but you're still the same miserable, horrible person when it really comes down to it. And when you're behind closed doors, don't respond to this. Don't try talking to me. I'm done with it. Just sit this, read it and sit in it.”
So you can feel that emotion. And I'm trusting that if you are already here and listening to this podcast, that there isn't judgment at all on that letter, that there's empathy, compassion. You can feel the strength and the, just the anger and the power and the just trying to see someone take control of their life. And at 18 to have to have this kind of awareness over some human being, you know, you hear that concept of an old soul and sometimes it sounds like it's pretty cool. Like this 16 year old is going to fire up a bass guitar and play jazz, like that's your old soul, but really an old soul is somebody that has not been able to really find their sense of self as a kid. And they've been having to figure out how to survive and how to cope and how to not get in trouble and how to protect siblings sometimes. And how to just say, man, there's nothing I can do right now. I gotta get out. Instead of just being a kid and being a teenager and just caring about school and relationships and movies and all the things that a teenager is missing out on because they have to grow up and they have to protect and they have to learn to read the room and manage others expectations. So I'm just, I'm grateful that he took the time to write this, that he shared it with his mom, that his mom shared it with the group. And so I often find myself getting asked questions about children and co-parenting with a narcissist and staying in the relationship. So that at least they have a mom or a dad, whoever is the more emotionally immature.
And I try to, I feel like, tiptoe around this because I don't know what divorce is like. Because I am, I'm still married. My parents didn't divorce. And but I work in this world of divorce and it's easy for me to say that in these emotionally immature relationships, that when somebody gets out of that emotionally immature relationship and finds themselves, that they also become a completely different person and the way that they show up with their kids. And when a kid gets their own sense of self through external validation. That then when they, that you can really reverse the tide of who that kid is or what it feels like to be them. If you become this, not just a safe place where they can then dump and share emotions about the more emotionally immature parent. But where you can actually start to build that secure attachment with them so they can go out and explore and be, and do and know that they have a safe place to come back to. And that your interaction with them isn't constantly talking about, hey, watch out or things, you, you know, make sure you don't do this, or I understand, I understand how frustrated he is, but if it's more about, hey, how was your day? And what was that like? And how's your job going? And what do you want to be when you grow up? And what's that relationship like? And what do you like about this boy or this girl? And I mean, that's the way you build a real relationship. Not trying to continually figure out, okay, how do we all manage this? How do we see how we approach mom or how we approach dad, whoever the more emotionally immature person is.
So on that note, I want to get into an article that I really do appreciate. And the article is from Psychology Today and it's titled “How Narcissistic Parenting Can Affect Children.” And this is from Carol McBride. She's got a PhD in clinical psychology. And then she again is the author of this book that is highly recommended. The book is called, “Will I ever be good enough? Healing the daughters of narcissistic mothers.” She's also a licensed marriage and family therapist. And she has 30 traits of how narcissistic parenting affects children. So I'm going to read just a couple of paragraphs that she has as part of this article. And then I'm going to go through that list. And I'm sure that I'll comment on some of those, if not all of those how. How narcissistic parenting affects the children. She says, why does it matter if a parent is a narcissist, how does that hurt a child? She said, you might be asking this question. If you're a person that is currently co-parenting with a narcissistic ex, someone raised by a narcissistic parent or one who is in a relationship currently with a narcissist, or if you're a divorce professional working on a case that involves a narcissistic parent.
And I'll put that out there right now. I now understand a lot of therapists listen to Waking Up to Narcissism. I'm grateful for that. I am so grateful for the ones that reach out and want to be a part of the women's group or one that would love to talk about this. A group of therapists so that we can start to really address this population. But I also have a thread in the group this talking about experiences in therapy that have been detrimental because if someone, if you are going to a professional who is not familiar with emotional immaturity or narcissistic personality disorder or traits or tendencies, then it can actually be, I feel pretty detrimental because you're often being told that you're just buying into the hype of narcissism and the, what will, what are you doing and what can you do? And just stand up to him or her, just tell them. And all of those things are things that can actually end up making things worse because you're engaging. You're letting the person see, you're letting the narcissist see your buttons to push and they will do so. Carol says, given my research and clinical experience, I want to provide some education and awareness about how this disorder hurts children. She said first, let me explain it. Narcissistic personality disorder is misunderstood when applied to someone who is just boastful, arrogant and all about themselves.
So all these traits are annoying and not fun to be around. Narcissism is a deeper, more destructive disorder that has devastating effects on the people in relationships with the individual. It's a difficult disorder to treat. And some do believe it's untreatable. And she said the cornerstones of the disorder or lack of empathy. And the inability to tune into the emotional world of others. And I am hearing, I don't want to be dramatic, but on a fairly regular basis, that from those who don't understand what narcissism really is or emotional immaturity, is that just the fact of the, that the word is being used, causes a visceral reaction and people tune out. And I've also been told pretty regularly that the shifting I have been intentional on shifting the word narcissism to emotional immaturity and that, yeah, that's a lot more palatable. And then we can all take a look at the areas where we are emotionally immature. And then the key difference is the, are the people that are willing to then sit with the discomfort of the things that they are facing. And that, that is uncomfortable for them as a human being or as an adult. And then are they willing to self confront and do something? So then when somebody will inevitably, maybe even right now, the kind person is saying, okay, I got it. Tony finally gets it. He's telling me I'm the narcissist. You are not. If you are listening to this because you are trying to do something, you are trying, you’re obviously uncomfortable and you're out there seeking help, even though you're just, you're uncomfortable.
So that is, this on this road of empathy. And so you are literally tuning into the emotional world of others because you're worried about how you're responding to your maybe narcissistic spouse in this. What we now know is a reactive issue, a reactive abuse issue, or you're worried about, am I doing damage to my kids? So you've already broken the rules of being a narcissist. That you are not lacking empathy. You're maybe overly empathetic because you are just, what is wrong with me? I gotta figure this out. And then you absolutely are able to tune into the emotional world of others, maybe even your tuning fork is on high alert that if you've ever used a tuning fork, which I haven't, that might've made no sense. If we go back to Carol's list, she has a list of how narcissistic parenting affects children. The child won't feel heard or seen. The child's feelings and reality will not be acknowledged. And I just did an episode a week or so ago talking about the emotional abandonment that is there in our childhood, that then we bring into our adulthood that we don't even recognize is not normal. And that is if you are trying to manage your relationship with your parent as a child, then there is a high, I mean, I'm going to say it's pretty much a given. That you, your emotions are not being acknowledged and you are not being asked to be taken on your train of thought about how you're feeling or what you're thinking about a situation. It's, if you are trying to express emotion, you're probably getting a lot of either just indifference, a flat affect or a, not right now, or will you need to get over it, or how do you think that makes me feel, or you got the version of emotional immaturity or narcissism where a parent then says, no, I get it.
Let me tell you stories of my high school days and how I overcame it. And so the fact that if you look at how great I am, and then if you aren't doing the same, then it shows that you are not as good as I am. And then if you don't listen to me, then I can say, well, I told you. And then if you try to do what I'm asking you to, because it won't feel authentic to you, then I get to say, you're not even doing it. So it's a no, it's a no win situation. When you're trying to even express yourself as a kid, to an emotionally immature/narcissistic parent, the child will be treated like an accessory to the parent rather than a person. The chat will be more valued for what they do, usually for the parent then for who they are as a person. And I think that the letter that this teenager wrote that I read earlier. It starts to feel like that quite a bit. You're valued for what you do. You're only as good as what you do for others. I mean, that is a way you truly lose your sense of self. And that's where the pathologically kind people that find themselves in again, what Rosenberg so well says, the human magnet syndrome is that you are in this place of self-love deficit. So you feel like you are only as good as what you do. And so what do you do you continue to try to do for others to try to, to get them to love you? And that, that is working absolutely counter to the fact that you are of worth and lovable as a human being.
And so if you are trying to get people to recognize or acknowledge you or love you, then that is you're not in a healthy relationship. The child will not learn to identify or trust their own feelings and will grow up with crippling self doubt. Here's what, this is what I tried to identify last week is that if you're not allowed to explore your feelings and emotions, if you're continually told that they're wrong or not now, or just get over it or don't worry about it. Then you are continually given this message that your feelings, you don't even understand them. They're wrong. And look at how that makes me feel. So now all of a sudden, I can't trust my own gut. I can't think on my own. And what am I doing now? I'm now actually going to start going to this person to ask for their advice or their opinion or what they think I should do. And they don't have my best, they don't have what's good for me in mind. It's oh, well, what can I do? How can I manipulate this at the moment?
And that's that form of, of really, it's a form of betrayal trauma, where you're starting to go to this person. If you're a kid to your parent, or if you're a husband or wife to your more emotionally narcissistic spouse, and you're saying, hey, here's my heart. And, I need some help in managing emotions because we are inherently designed to deal with emotion in concert with another human being. It's part of our attachment. But then that other human being is taking advantage of that opportunity and manipulating it for their own gain. The child will be taught that how they look is more important than how they feel, because when there is a real lack of knowing or understanding your kid, and if they are only as good as the things they do or how they make you feel as an emotionally immature parent, then they need to look the part they need to look the part of, if you look a certain way, then that makes me look better as a parent. The child will be fearful of being real and will instead be taught. That image is more important than authenticity. And this is part of that, when I talk about abandonment and attachment issues that we bring into our relationships is that I'm so afraid that if I am being real. That then I may lose this other person. Now if a kid grows up with a secure attachment to their parent, and if they know that it is absolutely okay to be them, whatever that looks like, whatever they like to do. And again, I feel like this is where the emotionally immature person's listening to this, which I'm sure they haven't, they wouldn't have made it 24 minutes in at this point.
But it's like, oh, okay. So if they just want to go shoot heroin between their toes all day, then I got to support that. If you're at that point right now, you've already been looking to pick apart this entire podcast. So there's not much that I can do to convince you. But if they want to go be a, I don't know if they want to go be an explorer and then a pirate and then an astronaut, and then they want to become a surgeon and then they want to raise bunnies and then they want to, I want to go on that journey with them the whole way because if any of that becomes a, I don't think that would be good for you, champ. Why am I saying that? Because I have no idea what it feels like to be them. So don't be the person that gets in the way of the hopes and dreams of your spouse or your kid. Because the reality is that doesn't mean that they're going to all of a sudden, want to be a pirate, astronaut who raises bunnies. The thing is that, if they feel like, oh, it's okay for me to say that I want to do that. Actually, I don't know if I really even want to. But if I'm continually told no, there aren't even pirates anymore, whatever that looks like. Well then what, what do I feel like? Okay. I feel kind of dumb. And I don't know if I'm going to keep bringing my hopes and dreams to you as my parents. Because you're shooting those down. And what is, I had someone in my office recently and all the person said was they wanted to look at going to a particular grad school and the parent immediately said, that's too difficult. And I just thought, wow, that was within seconds of this person sharing something that no doubt they've been thinking about for quite some time. And then they were met with their parent who doesn't even really know. Hey take me on your train of thought. Tell me more about that. And I just said, no, you wouldn't be able to do that.
And in essence, implying that, hey, that's really difficult. I don't think you can do difficult things and you're not very smart. So then this person just said, okay, I guess I will not open up about anything again. The child will be taught to keep secrets, to protect the parent and the family boy triangulation. Hey, don't tell your mom, don't tell your dad. That is not a healthy way to live because then the child is now again, you know, feeling like anything they say, boy, am I split? Am I going to get anybody in trouble? Is this, wait, is dad gonna get mad at me because I said something to mom or vice versa. And the child will not be encouraged to develop their own sense of self. It goes right back to that secure attachment. They're trying to figure out what they can do to then, please me. I was going to say I'm going to be dramatic and throw out a very controversial thing and it's not that, but I was with one of my adults, two of my daughters over the weekend and we'd gone to help paint my daughter Mackie’s new salon. So as a matter of fact, plug two, if you are, if you live in the Provo/Orem area of Utah, then look up at beauty by Mackie on Instagram. And she's an amazing cosmetologist. But I had some of my nieces and nephews there while we were doing this and it was late at night and it's just so fun to talk to the kids these days and listen to how old I sound. But when we were talking, they were saying, you know, a couple of them are graduating college and they're not 100% sure what they want to do. And they were almost expressing that, like I know, I should know. And I said, oh, you know, if I can just speak from some experience as a human being and throw the therapist card in there as well.
I feel like it's very rare that somebody at the age of 22 says, I think I know what I want to do for the next 50 years of my life. I've made this choice over the last two or three as an emotionally immature individual. But in reality if you are just on the path of just trying to learn and do and be that then you're going to develop your sense of self. Now, the controversial point I made was that I just threw out that I've worked with enough people that are people like lawyers and doctors and some of those professions that you've had to spend a tremendous amount of schooling on. And just, I'm just talking about anecdotal evidence that I have as a therapist for the first 15, 16, 17 years. And talking with some of those professionals and then I'm getting them in their mid thirties to early forties and their midlife crisis phase. And that's because when we sometimes dig back and go deep, they want it to be the let's just take a doctor for example. As long as they can remember, but when you go back and look at why. That it was because whenever they said, I want to be a doctor, you watched the parents beam because boy, talk about external validation. And then whenever you talk to your friends and if your friends saying, I don't even know what I want to do. And if you say I want to be a doctor, then all of a sudden, everybody kind of lights up and like, oh, that's cool. And then if you're a kid. Oh, you're gonna be so rich and you're gonna get to do all these cool things. So then the person got the validation and then that might've carried them all the way, even through medical school for some, it hasn't for some, they get two or three years in and then at that point, they're in a crippling amount of debt and they feel stuck. They really do.
Or others, I remember talking to a podiatrist a long time ago. And he was talking about we're looking at scheduling and he said, I can't come in on, it was like Tuesdays or Thursdays because those were surgery days. And I said, oh my gosh, what is that like? I mean, that's just gotta be crazy. And then he just said you know, he's like after about the 2000 at the time that I released the plantar fascia, he just said, yeah, not so crazy. They all kind of look the same. And I just thought, oh, to that person that was thinking, this'll be amazing. They just have foot lined up after foot lined up and slice cut into that release of a plaintiff. Release the fascist to get rid of the plantar fasciitis. And so he said, I don't mind surgery. It's still a little bit cooler than just the office days, but the only point that I'm making is that boy, when you know, or you think, you know, that young, a lot of times that's because of that, I believe that external validation from parents. So the child won't be encouraged to develop their own sense of self. They may want to then say the things that will get them, if they are just truly being an extension of their emotionally immature/narcissistic parent.
Then, if they say I'm going to be whatever and the parent goes, yeah, that's, that's my boy. Then they're going to be driven more to do that. Even if that isn't something they feel passionate about. The child will feel emotionally empty and not nurtured. The child will learn not to trust others because boy, if you've grown up in an emotionally immature household, there are going to be times where you have said something and you felt like that was in confidence, but then your narcissistic parent has then told somebody else that is that when it happens so often. And it's because that narcissistic parent in that moment is getting the validation off of you giving them a secret, promise you won't say anything, mom. And it's like, hey, you bet champ. And then as soon as I, mom's talking to her sister, well, no, I just told her because she lives in a different state. Or then telling a neighbor like, no, I told them, but they don't, I mean, they don't run in the same circles as you do. So it's like, oh, I'll absolutely keep your promise. I mean, until I don't, that's basically the creed of the narcissist in a sense. The child will learn. And that's not trusting. The child will feel used and manipulated. And I feel like that's where you start. Getting the vibes of highly sensitive people or the body keeps the score. The child will be there for the parent rather than the other way around as it should be. And that's what starts to create that anxious attachment vibe is that when the child needs the parent from an emotional standpoint, and the parent is, it's not a good time, which I, and I know we're all human, but I want to say which should not be the answer because if you're the parent, then I would love for you to model the fact that, hey for you, now is a good time because this now isn't about me. It's about the tiny human being that I've helped create.
In that scenario then you're going to be there for your kid because if it's the other way around, that's where you start seeing this anxious attachment show up in adult relationships where you've said all I ever wanted to do was feel heard and understood. And then when the spouse finally says, okay, I hear you. And I want to understand you. It can feel emotionally overwhelming and engulfing, and it really can. The child's emotional development will be stunted. The child will feel criticized and judged rather than accepted and loved. And that's again where we have this vibe where we say, hey, champ, you can come and talk to me about anything. And then you come and say, I think I want to quit school. Or I think I want to join the army or I think I want to, and if the parent is saying, okay. That's just ridiculous. Why do you know how much time and effort I put into your schooling or if I really didn't teach you well enough to want to continue to be an attorney like me. And so when you're putting that vibe out again, it is all about you, not your kid. And so in that scenario, then the kid's going to feel criticized and judged. The child will grow frustrated, trying to seek love approval and intention and attention to no avail. Which will often then lead them to looking for external sources to provide them with the love approval and attention.
And I'll just talk about, I was speaking at a conference not long ago. And somebody asks a question about, all the kids, everybody's smoking pot these days was the way that the question was put. And I just said, here's the challenge. And, and I'm with them, I'm with them on that. I feel like I still grew up in a time where, you know, that was the stoner. And I don't know what it's like to be a kid that is in their early twenties that has in essence grown up within most of the states, it's legal. So that's a whole different ball game. But I mentioned that I often talk with kids when they were feeling judged by their peers and especially if you're, I work in an area where there are a lot of people that are part of a religious community. And so then if that religious community says, hey, we're all together, we're all a community. But now within that community, let me do some judging. You drink energy drinks or your shorts are too short. Are you swear yeah, we're all the same. Except for now. I'm going to judge you about those things. And I said but pot, that world has no respect for the people that they're, we don't care what you're wearing or what you're saying or what you're doing because we all have this, this shared sense of purpose, which is, it's sad in that regard. But so in that scenario, though, if they're going to find love, approval and attention and not, if that is not provided in the home. Then they will seek that elsewhere. The child will grow up, not feeling good enough. The child won't have a healthy role model for emotional connection which then starts leading into the, when I say we don't have the tools from the factory to be able to communicate in a healthy way or to hold boundaries. Because, I feel like, I want to say, just remember that if you have grown up with a secure attachment as a child, and now you're a teenager and you know that you're okay because your parent has never continued to, I mean, they haven't hammered you with, I can't believe you said that, right?
I don't, you know what, that, how that impacts me, if you just be able to say and feel and be, and now you go on a date and somebody says, oh, I don't think you should do that in college. Then your radar is going to be off the charts. You're gonna think, okay. I wasn't asking you for your opinion on what I should do with my career. But if you've been judged and manipulated and not heard or seen. And so you've tried to recognize, man, how do I show up? So I don't get this person mad. And then you say, you know, I want to be a, I don't know, computer programmer. And then that person, the person that you're sitting across the table from who you don't even really know. And they say, oh boy I've heard that those computer programmers now work long hours or are they sleeping all the time? Or, you know, you have to drink four liters of Mountain Dew every day. And they rot their teeth. I don't know, whatever it would be. But then if you as a person, then go, yeah, maybe I don't want to be one. And maybe I don't want to be a computer programmer. That's insane. I want the person who wants to be the computer program or showing up on a date. And if they've grown up and their parent has said, what do you want to do? And they've already explored pirates, they've already looked at astronauts, but they kind of found a sense of purpose with computer programming.
So then the parent may not know anything about computer programming, but that doesn't mean that then, oh, you think you're better than me or smarter than me, but it's a holy cow. This is incredible that they're already finding and enjoying something. Let me get them all the computer stuff they need. And let me now ask them questions like, hey, what are you working on? And what does that like in, How hard is that and what do you love about it? Imagine being that parent. Now that computer programmer goes out into the dating world. And if anybody says, I don't think you should do that. They're saying, I don't understand why you're telling me what you think I should do. I mean, we're just here trying to order appetizers at this point and get to know each other, not tell each other what to do. Which I think that's the big key there. Which then leads into, she says the child will not learn appropriate boundaries for relationships. The child won't learn healthy self care, but instead will be at risk of becoming codependent. Taking care of others to the exclusion of taking care of self, not wanting to rock the boat. But not wanting to then question my sense of self, because that's what it's been like to be me growing up in a home where the parent was even letting you know that they did things better than you. When they were your age, the child will have difficulty with the necessary individuation from the parent when he or she grows older.
I was talking with somebody recently and we were talking about the enmeshment that they felt as they, after they got married, where their parents still felt, they wanted to say, I don't know, you don't seem like yourself. And this person was saying, I actually feel better than I've felt before with this connection, with my new spouse. But the narcissistic parent, they were not in essence saying, okay, we have done all we can do. And we have created a secure attachment with our, with this person. And now we hand them into the world of marital relationships. This individuated person and they are now going to go now, go, go and couple and thrive and start to form a secure attachment with your spouse. And then you guys will live happily forever and we're over here. And if you need us, let's go on vacation together. No, it's hey, let's talk every, you know, a couple of times a week and let me just make it all about myself. And let me start to tell you that you don't seem like yourself. When in reality, that means that you don't understand who I am. The child will get a mix of mixed and crazy making messages of do well. Make me proud as an extension of the parent, but don't do too well and don't outshine me because then you're going to think that you're better than me.
I hope my kids turn out better than me, please. That would be a wonderful thing. Because, you know, we want to, I hope we want to advance those generations and every generation gets better. That would be a wonderful thing. I don't need to say, I always have felt like I was better than all of my kids. That's crazy. If the child out shines the parent, then they may experience jealousy from the parent. The child is not taught to give credit to self when deserved. Yeah, one of the things that drives me crazy is this concept around it's so bad to be proud of yourself, pride is bad. No, there's a healthy ego and healthy ego changes the world. Healthy ego is based on real life experience. If you can help somebody find the real sense of self and security, and then they start to go and do and achieve and explore, they change the world. But if that person is always worried about, I don't want to make anybody mad. And yeah, maybe I don't want to do that then, they're taught to burn all these emotional calories. Just trying to figure out how to manage emotion, relationships around them and trying to figure out is it okay to be me? I waited, I don't even know who I am versus the person that has been given the secure attachment. And again, they are going out and doing, and being, and finding and discovering and loving and connecting.
Because that will, without that the child, again, if they haven't been taught to give credit where their own credit is due or self deserved, ultimately they'll start to suffer from a level of post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, in adulthood. The child will grow up believing that he or she is unworthy and unlovable, because if my parent can't love me, then who will be that one that resonates. If you create that secure attachment and that love with your kid. And they know that they are worthy of love, then they don't, are they going to be less likely to find themselves in relationships where they're trying to prove their worth or their love, they just get to be and do. The child will often become either a high achiever or a self sabotage or are both high achievers, because I'll be darned if I'm going to, that's the only way I got my validation. So I got to go above and beyond and I got to go overboard. And then I have to even puff myself up because I want to make sure that everybody knows that I'm good. Look you'll love me now, if I'm really special, right. And this one's hard that the last one that she talks about as a child will need trauma, recovery and want to reparent themselves in adulthood. Carol then concludes her article by saying, being raised by a narcissistic parent is emotionally and psychologically abusive. And it causes debilitating long lasting effects on children. It's often missed by professionals because the narcissist or emotionally immature person can be charming in their presentation. Displaying an image of how they wish to be seen.
Now behind closed doors, the children feel the suffocation of self and struggle with loneliness and pain. The narcissist is not accountable for their own mistakes or behaviors. So the child believes that they are to blame. That they've flunked childhood. Sad, but I appreciate the way she says that, she said having worked as a mental health provider with thousands of children, as well as the adult children of narcissistic parents. She said, I see the above symptoms over and over again. And, boy, amen to that. I agree. And this is what I love that she said, because it's, I think this says this so well, the lifestyles differ and the stories differ, but they all have the same emotional banners and it's quite a list and it takes serious recovery work to get better and feel better. So she said, if you are the other parent or part of the extended family and are trying to ward off the effects of a narcissistic parent, then you'll have to double do it. You'll have to do double duty as the responsible one. And the best approach is to parent with empathy, the antithesis of narcissism. If you are a divorced professional working with a case that involves, help the kids. By first really understanding the dynamics of the disorder, don't minimize it. Make sure the children are in therapy and learning assertiveness skills to use with the parent who does not emotionally tune into them. Put the kids first.
And I feel like in the work that I do, it really is approached by the pathologically kind person with empathy. The, and to the system narcissism. And help that person realize that they need to understand the dynamics of the disorder. Even if it's just along the lines of emotional immaturity, don't minimize it. And, and then if I'm talking to them, hopefully they are in therapy. And they're learning these skills. Now, the place where I feel a little bit different is that learning those assertiveness skills can be okay. But sometimes that's going to be just from a place of, I need to practice being heard and seen, even if I recognize that it's not going to be the case, but it's going to start to help define what it feels like to be you.
So this one resonated. If you, if you feel like this would help anyone in their situation, feel free to forward it. If you have additional questions for me, reach out at email@example.com or get ahold of me through Instagram at, I think Tony Overbay underscore LMFT or TikToK, if that continues to be a thing, the therapy account just cracks me up because it's, so it's so funny to watch, uh, just little random, uh, uh, videos that can be a minute, two minutes, go from just a few thousand views to all of a sudden you just watch one, just kind of take off for no reason. And then you refresh every hour and it's another. I don't know, 20, 30,000 views. And it's just interesting to see what people connect with, most of the stuff does have to do with traits and tendencies around narcissism or emotional immaturity. So it's just fascinating. Okay. Have an amazing week. And I will see you next time on Waking Up to Narcissism.
People in relationships with narcissists, or extremely emotionally immature people, are often convinced, coerced, or controlled into believing that certain universal rules or commandments must be followed to continue in the relationship. In healthy relationships, both people are free to express how they do things and their likes and dislikes. Then if a change is necessary, it comes from mutually respectful conversations. Tony turned to the private women’s Facebook group to receive dozens of rules and commandments that many people kept to keep the peace in the home or because, over time, they believed that these were “universal truths.” It can take time to unlearn many of these rules, and they can even affect future relationships. Tony shares many rules and how to avoid them playing a negative role in relationships.
Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 66 of Waking Up to Narcissism. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, host of the Virtual Couch podcast. As well as a few others, Murder On the Couch, true crime meets therapy. Which maybe by the time you hear this, it is being queued up and ready to be released. And the best way to find out what is coming next is please sign up for my newsletter. If you go to the show notes, there's a link tree link that will say link dot tree, something like that slash virtual couch and sign up for the newsletter. And you can also send me questions. I've been told that there might be a little bit of a challenge with the contact form, but if so, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I want to know your questions. I want your stories. I want some poetry. We're going to talk about that today. And, I also want to encourage you to look in the show notes as well and find the Waking Up to Narcissism premium question and answer podcast. It's 4.99 a month. And those proceeds do go to help people that are dealing with emotionally immature/narcissistic relationships, everything from paying for some therapy courses, programs, hopefully if the funds can grow to be able to help people with everything from legal expenses and moving costs. Because, a lot of times, financial abuse is one of the things that keeps people in unhealthy relationships and it is an absolute form of control. And that's some of the things that just, it breaks my heart.
So today we're going to talk about the difference between rules and cuts. And, at the time of this recording, I still, for the life of me, want to find some sort of creative title. So if you are listening to this, you have already seen what the title of the episode will be. And you will know if I finally just said, forget it, rules versus cuts. Or if I came up with some clever something around commandments of narcissism or something to that effect, but when we're talking about rules versus cuts and, you'll get some examples of that. A lot of examples of that today from the private women's Facebook group. But there's a poem that I want to read first. And there's a thread in the group that is, it's amazing. It's beautiful. Where a lot of people will share poetry. So I just asked if maybe we could put everything in one place. And so I really feel like this poem. It just encapsulates and captures what those cuts do or what those are like. And then I think that will then help us frame what the rules feel like when you are in these narcissistic or emotionally immature relationships, especially when you wake up to the fact that it's okay for you to have your own opinion.
And a little foreshadowing, things like a toothpaste tube do not always have to have a flip top, that it can have a turning top as well. And that does not make you a horrible human being if you like one versus the other. So, let me start with this poem and let me get a joke out of the way first, because I think this is, it's a beautiful poem. I think it's touching, people in the group talked about how it really brought a lot of big emotions out. But I was talking with someone else about poetry and the narcissist in their life. And they just, we were making a light-hearted comment about the fact that this person never appreciated the client that was in my office as poetry, because it didn't rhyme. And poetry is okay to not rhyme. So this does not rhyme , and it is powerful, nonetheless. So, let me read this, author unknown, because I want to keep that, keep that confidential. But there are a lot of poems in the group that I want to read over the coming weeks. So we'll do that as well.
So it says, “I'm lost in your fears. They twist and turn, winding this way in that, then back again, an infinite circle, the lies slide like vines over the forest floor. I trip over the rocks of blame that you throw at my feet. I get peaks of sunlight, but catch only glimpses. The thick branches and leaves shroud the light and crowd the path. I find myself crouching lower and lower, taking up less space to make room for your ego. The night is drawing, but now I see the stars. They are my hopes and dreams. It surprised me when I learned the opposite of love is not hate, but fear. And the more I love, the less I fear. I no longer hack away desperately at your fears. I trace them. And I see them for what they are. Fear of showing yourself, because who you are might not be good enough. Fear of owning your choices, because if you do, you'd have to accept the consequences. Fear of taking off your mask because being vulnerable can leave you open for hurt. Fear of being wrong, because being right gives you a false sense of worth. The more I love and respect myself, the more clearly I see you. Your fears are not for me to hack away. I loosen my grip and climb. My view of this forest path has changed. Where it leads, I do not know. I look around and notice the air is thin up here and I'm afraid of heights, but here my wings can grow. And the light of truth heals me.”
It's beautiful. It really is. And talks about just what it feels like to trip over someone else's ego and to find yourself being small. And I just, I love that analogy of climbing up to the top of the trees and sure, it's going to be scary and you're afraid of heights, but ultimately that is the place where you'll grow. So I'm just really, I appreciate people that have creative talents like that. I feel like that poem, it says more in about two minutes then I'm going to try to communicate to you in the next 30 or 40 minutes with just trying to make sense of things that really just don't make sense. So on that note, there was a post that I thought was a short post that then just ended up bringing so much, so much content. In the group, one of the members said, even though I've been out for almost two years, I find it amazing how many rules I still catch myself following. Tony talks about death by a thousand cuts, but I feel like I've had to live by a thousand rules. I can see it's going to take a long time to figure out what are truly my own choices instead of old programming. And then she said, anybody else struggle with this? Which I can guess everybody that is in this situation, struggles with this. And a couple of people commented and said, they've been out for a year and it's amazing how far they've come, but how many rules they still think about.
And somebody said, and not feel anxious while you're doing a specific task. And the person commenting there said that they were still in the relationship. So they don't really, they weren't necessarily thinking in terms of looking at the rules that they were now trying to. I don't know, un-attach from. So someone else just said that there are so many rules and that were introduced so passive aggressively, that it's hard to even remember. She said, when we started following the rules and she said she had been separated for almost two years and she was currently going through a divorce. But she said she was getting better at catching them now and slowly working to undo each rule one by one. But that can be really exhausting. And she says, I just asked myself, how do I want to handle this? What works for me? And do I really care about this? And someone else chimed in and said that sometimes they feel like they need to ask for their spouse's input on things if they're not intelligent enough to decide for themselves, and I almost feel like that's where I want to jump in and say, you're an adult. You've been getting along well up to this point in your life. And so it's okay for you to like the things you like and do things the way that you would like to do them. And what can sound so probably off-putting to the pathologically kind person it feels like, well, but then I'm just saying that well, we're going to do it my way. And there's really, there's middle ground. I don't want to just immediately go to this concept of compromise because I think that's where our brain wants to try to make sense of what that would look like. And sometimes we feel like, okay, well, I know what compromise is going to look like. He's going to get his way. So I might as well just acquiesce and give in.
And it's not that bad anyway. But it's okay to have a conversation around well, we'll get there with some of these examples, but honest to goodness toothpaste lids, there were, you're going to hear some really interesting ones today where the more emotionally immature or narcissistic person just says, this is how it works. And then everybody knows it is not an answer because I will give this example until the cows come home. I still remember someone talking about the concept of common sense. And then I bring up the example of in some countries where a baby sneezes and a parent immediately puts their mouth around that nose and sucks up and spits out. And that's common sense to that person and then to somebody else that might be the most disgusting thing they've ever heard of. And why don't they use a tissue? Yet then for another person using a tissue just seems crazy because why am I wasting tissue paper and I'm going to get it all in my face. And I'm going to walk around. So let's just look at the way that people do things and why they like doing them the way they do. And if we start from there, now we're going to actually have adult mature conversations. Love or control. Not both in an adult relationship. So to the original poster, I had said once again, you're creating content for me and for the world. And I had just said that to anybody seeing this post, let's talk about rules. And I just said, can you share the rules that you heard? And I feel like, okay, we've got death by a thousand cuts, but I don't know, control by a thousand rules, but I really feel like this is something that will resonate.
So the first person that chimed in with a lot of rules, she said, here are a few rules off the top of my head. Protein is the cornerstone of every meal and must be present. So you can see already where we're going to go, that this is something that is being preached and told. And while there may be some truth in some of the rules, we're open to interpretation. Or, and I know my wife and I talk about this so often that let's just take this one, for example, protein as the staple of every meal. And then it's, who's to say that in a few years, we will find out that the nation is over protein. So being able to make an informed decision is wonderful and being able to also have your choice in that decision is a powerful thing as well. So back to her rules, she said, here are the rules that she had heard. Again, protein, the cornerstone of every meal must be present. If meat wasn't highly visible, it was a constant barrage of complaints and questions. Is there meat in this? Where's the meat? I can't taste the meat. Now someone that is on a plant based diet, then if they are hearing that, sometimes the word meat can literally give a visceral reaction. But then to the person who is saying where's the meat, then they are going to say that the person on a plant-based diet doesn't know what they're talking about. So we can have different opinions. And here's the one I've alluded to two times already. All toothpastes must have a screw on cap instead of a flip cap, regardless of brand. Rationalized by flip caps are messier. If I did happen to buy a flip cap then I would hear comments about it almost daily until it was gone. And I understand that unfortunately, that's the relationship that some people are in, where they feel like, you know, it's not a big deal. I'll get the screw cap. Or whatever that looks like,
But we're back to that death by a thousand cuts vibe or control by a thousand rules. She said next, we don't waste food in this house. There's the rule. If I needed to throw away rotted expired or moldy food, I had to justify and defend it. So much so that I struggled to throw anything away. She said he would also go through the trash to make sure I wasn't throwing things away without him knowing. So apparently it was very important for him to be the throwaway police or the wasted food police, or fill in the blank, which if we go back to control, I think that's pretty obvious that that's what we're hearing. She said, if I didn't wear a certain color nail polish or I didn't wear a certain nail polish color for over 10 years, because he doesn't like that color. But she said no rhyme or reason. He was also very rigid about my hair length, our kids' hair length. I had to tell him after the fact, if I was getting even a single trim on my hair. Otherwise, I had to promise not to cut too much because the kids needed to have certain lengths of hair. She said the bed must be made at all times unless being slept in, of course. And so if some of you were saying, okay, well, see, you know, it sounds reasonable, but then she goes on to say, this was hard to navigate because even washing the sheets was difficult because if he came home to no sheets on the bed, because they were being washed, he would panic. And I would hear about it for the rest of the night.
Another common one. If dad is working, then everybody is working. She said, this is present both in my childhood home and my home with my husband. If dad was doing chores, then everyone else had better be doing chores. But she said, the thing is the distribution of work was already highly imbalanced. The rest of us did chores on a regular basis, while dad did them when and if convenient and only sporadically. So when it came to making plans for the holidays, his family came first because he had very close siblings and siblings cannot be apart. Or she said another one. The kids had to read for 30 minutes every night. And again, here's where I think that there's a tie in with death by a thousand cuts. And along with these rules, because somebody will say, well, it doesn't sound so bad. But she said this one was clever because it was hidden behind sound guidance for raising kids. Reading is good. But he would only allow them to read his books. She said the kids were little. At some point in kindergarten or first grade, they were expected to read Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. So she said her kids grew to really hate it. And it was a, like she said, world war three, to get him to compromise because it was all about control. And I think one of the unfortunate things is that this is a point where I would, I would be curious to know what their relationship is with reading at this point in their lives. She said I had to be ready for physical intimacy at his request. It wasn't always granted, but it was an expectation met with pouting in the silent treatment if I said no. She said the kids were only allowed to have dessert on Tuesdays and Fridays. And I hear versions of this one often, and I think it's so interesting. So, let me, let me dig a little deeper here. So again, kids were only allowed to have dessert on Tuesdays and Fridays, but she said it was so rigid in his mind that if someone's birthday was on a day of the week, that was not on treat day, then it was a battle to get them to be flexible on having birthday cake. And she said the same goes for any holidays, if he did compromise, it became about a trade. And this is where I wanted to get into this fine. He said, I'll allow birthday cake on Wednesday. But that means no dessert for the rest of the week. And she said, I had to fight that battle many times.
So you're here, I imagine a lot of the people that are listening to this content have similar experiences. And if you're someone listening to it and these are the rules that you give someone. And if you're saying well, right, but now is the time, welcome to the world of self confrontation. So if you are saying, everybody knows, but this is the best way. Then I'm grateful that you have found the best way for you. And if you think to yourself, will it just make sense to you or everybody knows? Well, I think I could probably question, I don't know if I was, I was asked, so I know that it's probably not everybody. I know I'm being a little facetious, but I want the people hearing this, that if you're one who has been living by these thousand or 2000 rules, To know that I just, even, this is where I just want to bring that awareness that that's not healthy in a relationship. That relationships are built upon. Tell me more, curiosity. What's your experience? What matters to you? And then eventually we work toward a compromise and I stumble over the word compromise so often because there are so many steps of communication that need to be had before we get the compromise. I understand compromise in a business setting is this art of war negotiation compromise. And, in that point, I think often if people are being real with themselves in a business setting that the compromises that they win, if they get more out of the deal. But I know there's also this belief that they, every, both people want to walk away and feel like they win. And I think there's psychology around that too. Maybe we have to confabulate a narrative that says, oh yeah, this is exactly what I wanted. But in adult human relationships, I'm you know, I'm feeling like I want to say I will grant the concept of compromise and negotiation.
But it needs to be from a very healthy place of tell me more, what's your experience? Because we'll often find that people don't really care about certain things. Or we'll find that people had completely different experiences growing up, which led to completely different experiences or expectations as an adult. And so we want to have a tool to communicate about these things before we try to work out what that's gonna look like for our family, because inevitably the more alpha, the more dominant, the more direct, the more intense that person is going to most likely get their needs met. And then feel like, okay, good. We agree because the kinder person, the more emotionally sensitive or pathologically kind or highly sensitive person is going to find themselves over and over again, just acquiescing for the sake of, it's not worth the fight. But meanwhile, the message to the person that continually seems to get their way is that I'm right. But it's really, I am too controlling to really hear and understand my partner. Another person said that when I was married, I was told that we had to have sex at least every 48 hours to keep him satisfied. So he wouldn't look for other avenues of relief. She said, I followed this for the first few years of our marriage. It didn't work. I had to learn that this was his issue and not mine to fix.
And, you know, at times I don't know why, but I feel like, I mean, I'm a marriage and family therapist. I've seen well over a thousand couples and a sex therapist talked about this all the time, but then I don't talk a lot about it on the podcast. And I think I confessed it on one of the podcasts that for some reason, I still imagine that a mom is playing this while the kids are in the van. And all of a sudden I'm talking about it trying to do these code words around intimacy. When in reality, this is one that I think is very, very poignant and timely. And I hear on a regular basis, that is not what I hear in emotionally healthy relationships. And that is the fact that from a guy saying to his wife, what am I supposed to do? Do you know how bad it hurts down there? If I don't have a release every 48 hours or 72 hours. And then a guy will then be in actual visceral pain. Oh my gosh, you have to relieve me. And, and I worry. And I feel confident that that is just really an unhealthy way. For somebody to get rid of their discomfort, the discomfort is that they would like to have sex. They would like friction on their genitalia, quite frankly. I feel like that is not saying I desire a deep connection. I desire an emotional connection. We are not working up the ladders of intimacy. There is not verbal intimacy. We could talk, we just have this deep connection, which leads to emotional intimacy. Now I feel like we can open up and talk about anything, which above that is cognitive and intellectual intimacy. This is where I like to say that one person can have their PhD and the other, their GED, but we're so connected verbally and emotionally that we're even having conversations about things that, we absolutely know that the other person doesn't know, but there's so much curiosity there because there's mutual respect.
And up above that one is a spiritual intimacy. So at that point, if we're connected verbally and emotionally cognitive intellectually, then we can be in two completely different places from a spiritual place as well, because we respect each other and we are, of course we have different opinions. And how fascinating it is that I can have this opportunity to connect with another human being that has such different experiences, but we care about each other. And that is what leads to physical intimacy. It's a by-product of those other levels of intimacy. So if a person is saying my nether regions are in pain, please relieve them for me by friction on my genitalia, we're kind of missing the boat, but then other times I want you to desire me and I want you to praise me. And that is just, it's just not a setup for any type of real consistency with a connection in the relationship. So, she goes on to say other ones. She says, as a child, I was not allowed to pursue new interests. If I didn't show an aptitude for those interests. She said, for example, I really wanted to play soccer, but I wasn't athletic. So my dad only let me pursue art activities because I was creatively inclined. But she said for many years, I believe that exercise just wasn't for me, because I wasn't athletic enough. Now, right there, you can probably see where this is going. So I would imagine that the dad in this scenario, he maybe didn't like seeing his kid out there not being the best, because that would reflect on the dad that is making it about him. But if the kid wants to play sports and wants to play soccer, then that sounds like a great idea. And let them be the ones that are going to go and explore that and not live with this life of regret because they were unable to do the things that they wanted to do, that they saw their friends doing as well because then how does that carry over into adulthood? Like she said for many years, I believe that exercise just wasn't for me, because I wasn't athletic enough. She said, I even tried to go out for track and my dad, who happened to be a long distance runner, made me run a mile with him, she said, when I had never run a mile before. And then he told me, see, you can't do it. So you probably wouldn't be very good or successful in track or cross country.
I know. I've paused dramatically. I think I need a sound effect of a record scratch at some point in every episode. Because, so long distance running, father says, come with me child and run a mile for the first time. Number one, look how easy it was for me. Number two, I beat you. Number three, I was probably even faster than you were at your age. Number four, see, this isn't something for you. And it's insane. It really, it really is. So then she said that she felt like she internalized that if I couldn't do something well or perfect, I should not pursue it at all. She said I had to learn that mistakes and failing or just learning opportunities and not character flaws. So if you are a parent that is not wanting your kid to do something, I would love for a quick self check-in. Now there are real things like financial burdens and issues. And I would say that if you're in a position where finances are an issue, then I would also look for other ways there oftentimes that clubs and teams will have scholarship opportunities, or there's the rec programs. And so I feel like there's often a way to have someone be able to at least somewhat explore the opportunities that they would like to. But I do know that there are financial burdens. But if you don't want to take them because you are worried that they will not be good. Now that's a you thing. If you were telling yourself, but I don't want them to do it because I don't want them to get picked on or bullied because kids are mean. Which I understand, but I will just say, go ahead and set a few bucks aside each month for therapy someday for the kid, then to say I was never even given a chance for the kids to bully me. I was never even given him the opportunity to see if it was something that I liked.
And I feel like that's one that I hear often. She said from a religious community that she said she's no longer a part of. And she said, and from her spouse, when she was newly married, there was an expectation to be the ideal, what she referred to as a Proverbs 31 wife, she was said I was expected to take on all the home duties, the laundry, the cooking, the meal, planning, the grocery, shopping, the cleaning, the organizing. Along with finances, bill paying, taxes, budgeting, because she said I was quote better at it. When in reality, she said, my spouse didn't know how to do it. And she also worked a full-time job where she commuted quite a bit each day while her spouse was finishing school. He would say they are far more important than sharing the duties. So at that point she had already graduated with a degree and she set a precedent for the rest of our marriage in which I was expected to carry a lot of the household duties on my own. She said when we started having children this included taking care of them and all that entailed. She said her opinion really wasn't asked after that point. She said he had to have the clothes he needed each day. I needed to have dinner on the table when he wanted. And she said, I thought it was being a good wife. I was actually being used and abused while my spouse had a lot less stress than I had. And she said, this made me susceptible to depression. She had sleep issues and reactive abuse. She said, I internalized that his life, activities and choices were the most important in our home. And she said and sent him the message that it was okay to ignore my needs. And she said I've had to learn to recognize what my responsibilities truly are and ask for help when I need it. And let go of the things that aren't that important.
And let me just take a moment here. When she said I internalized that his life, activities and choices were the most important in our home. And I sent the message that it was okay to ignore my own needs. This is one of the things that if you are struggling with, if I stay in an unhealthy relationship for the kids and I understand that there is so much unknown out there, but I worry. As a therapist, as a podcaster, as somebody that works with this population. So often that I worry that this is the message that's being sent to the kids. That, that if the, let's say in this scenario and I’m working with men that are in incredibly unhealthy relationships with narcissistic and emotionally immature and abusive women. Which is a whole, again, I know I did an episode about it a few weeks ago, but it's a whole different ball game and it is really scary because the man often is not being given any benefit of a doubt. But in this scenario, if you are buffering and trying to manage your husband's relationship to protect the kids. Because you're worried that divorce will be bad for the kids. It's just, these are the things that I worry about. Again, a kid gets their external validation from their parents. And so if the validation that they are going to have, if the validation that they are going to get is going to, in essence, be trying to learn how to navigate the emotions of a large adult human being that is their parent, that they are seeking to go to for guidance and for support and for safety. Then that's what it feels like to be them. They are going to be someone that is learning how to read the room and put their needs second, and try to go small when the other person goes big. But if you are developing a secure attachment with your kid, which means that they're the ones that are actually going through and experiencing life, and you are there to say, tell me about it. How was it? What was that like? Do you want to keep doing that? Or what else are you thinking?
Instead of, I don't like that. I don't think you should do that. I can't believe you're asking me that. Do you know how that affects me? There's a lot of I’s and me’s. They're not the cool kind that worry or I wonder, or I would like to know. So that message is being sent. Again, that breaks my heart. The message we're sending is that someone else's life, their activities and choices are far more important than mine. And instead it is not unhealthy. It is not narcissistic or egotistical to be able to have your thoughts, your needs and your wants, and be able to express them. But to someone that's safe because that's where it becomes a whole different experience. She said I've been ashamed for spending too much money. And she said, I've had to account for whatever I buy when we have financial discussions, but I'm not supposed to ask anything about my spouse's purchase. She said, even though we have Amazon packages coming to our home almost daily. She said we have separate checking accounts, but he makes more money than I do. And it's always questioning what I spend my money on, but it's not forthcoming on how he spends his money. She said I've learned not to ask about financial matters unless he is in the right mood. And I'm prepared to share my list of purchases. But still working on this one, reset has been asking for financial information for months, and I've decided that I need to budget my own money appropriately for now. And again, it is well within your right to have the financial information. It is well within your right to have a mutually reciprocal relationship where both of you are able to express concerns about money and purchases and be accountable for it. And it's uncomfortable. And that's again, where I go back to a narcissist or an emotionally immature person who is so prone to just dismiss and just run away from discomfort at all costs. So they don't want to have to admit that. Yeah, you're right. Sometimes I'm a little bit controlling about money and other times I just spend. I'm impulsive. Because that would be scary to say that, and it might be uncomfortable, but, but that's what adult mature human beings do in their conversations.
They say, check this out. I impulsively bought something again today. Because if the other spouse is going to say. Oh man. Tell me what that's like. I know I've been there before, you know, I worry because I feel like we struggle with the budget, but maybe we can get on the same page. Can we hold ourselves? Can we work on this together? Can we deal with emotion in concert with each other, with another human being? Because that is where growth occurs, not in hiding, not in playing small. There is no growth in trying to manage someone else's emotions. Or just trying to continually rid myself of discomfort by giving in to the needs of others. The growth comes from feeling safe and secure as I express things that I'm going through for the first time in my life and having somebody there empathetically, caring, and saying, tell me more and what's that like for you? Because then I get to say, man, let me see what that is like for me. Let me do a little self confrontation, check this out. Here's how I'm feeling now. And I never realized what your experience was. And I'm not saying then the unicorn comes out and they point their horn behind a tree. And there's a pot of gold. It isn't that, you know, fictitious. To them, these types of conversations and relationships do exist in the world so if that is not what you are having you deserve to have better relationships and better conversations. So here is where I almost just went with commandments. So, the word commandments may still be used. You may have read that in the title. This person said you can use all of the following. So she said, you shall, shall never stop at target because they disallowed salvation army bell ringers at Christmas. You shall always buy American made. He checked my clothing for tags for years. Shall never put any type of flavored coffee in the coffee maker, shall always wash all new clothing and bedding before use. Shall never ask for things. This almost always was guaranteed by you. You would not get them. Shall not complain because doing so indicates that you're not grateful. Again, these are, this is an adult human being in a marriage where the other adult human being is saying that this is how you must be. And, and this is what, how our, our relationship needs to be framed. Just let that sink in. Because that is not a way to build connections. But she has plenty more.
You shall not open the sunroof if he is in the car, you shall always check all of his pockets before washing his clothes because he could have forgotten something. You shall watch the salt. He monitored that like crazy. You shall get out of his chair. Particularly the kids when he would walk up to the chair and stand there and wait, you shall not open the bedroom window at night. You shall never tell anyone how many animals that we have, you shall not expect anything from him. He may or may not do what he said he would do. It depended on if he wanted to do that in the end. And you shall not question. Servers shall never be tipped. TV or music shall be played at his preferred volume. If it was too loud for his liking, then he would turn it off. And if you wanted it louder and he did not, that was incorrect. And if he wanted it down, you get the point. So she said, is that enough? She said, oh my goodness, what a miserable situation. So then someone else had chimed in and said, okay, maybe the title is going to be the false commandments of narcissism. So I think that that does speak to this quite well. Another person chimed in and said the one that I still catch myself abiding by is how to load the dishwasher. And I've already commented on this. I think in previous episodes, maybe even in the death by a thousand cuts. But she said, it's funny how the rules were always for things that he felt were primarily my responsibility, because of course he knew better how I should do everything. And to that one I did, I did say, I have literally, and probably shared with other people that I could do an entire episode on narcissism and dishwashers. She's in a new relationship and she said when her new partner was over, he was helping her with the dishes, and she says, because that's the thing that happens in healthy relationships without the expectation of sex later, by the way.
He asked how I like things put in the dishwasher and she said, I sat there dumbfounded and I thought what's the angle. And then I told him about my ex's rules with the dishwasher, somebody else then just also chimed in and said that they also said, man, the dishwasher, why is this a thing? This is definitely how the rules played out in their home as well. And then other people chimed in and said, what is it about the dishwasher? And so I think that that is one of those things that it just it's, because it's a simple thing that then someone can criticize someone else about when, in reality, you can load or unload the dishwasher, to be honest, however, you would like now, are there more efficient ways? First of all, let's define efficiency. But even if that's the case, is your goal to get into a relationship so that you can finally have your way and let somebody know how much better your way of loading or unloading the dishwasher is because if that is your goal for the relationship, then I would love for you to be able to make that a clear maybe from the outset. Or from the onset of the relationship that, if somebody says, hey, what are your hopes and dreams? What do you want to get out of this? Do we wanna have kids? We want to be able to save together. Do we want to retire? I'm going to go on vacations. And if he says I would rather have somebody say at the beginning, to be quite honest, I've got this whole idea around how a dishwasher should be loaded or unloaded. And so that's really, my goal is to find someone that is doing it wrong so that then I can correct them. And then they will then applaud me. And then I will feel like my life is complete, which I don't think is going to be the case.
Someone else said that a memory was sparked. She said another rule of the household that they were not allowed to use their dishwasher at all. Even though it was brand new, we had to hand wash everything. If we dared use the dishwasher, then there was a litany of complaints. The dishwashers are a waste of time. My family had to wash our dishes. So your family should too. I'll drink from this cup, but I'll bet it's dirty because you use the dishwasher because the dishwasher actually doesn't do a good job. Or the dishwasher is too noisy. It is confusing. She said which it wasn't and I could go on and then more people chimed in about the dishwasher. Someone else has commented and said the rules are so many, so unpredictable, it felt like yet he would rail. On work or outside sources that would have a preference, not a policy that he would never follow those preferences himself. She said the rules happen to be on the things that I did and not him. The kids couldn't have donuts for breakfast, because donuts aren't breakfast. But then on the days that he would go out or maybe a Saturday morning and he would go out and run errands, then he would get them donuts and other pastries. But that was different because it was the weekend and he didn't have a chance to interact with them often. The kid should exercise a certain amount of time every day, but he would not put any effort into it. It was just a directive to me and I also happen to be working full time. She said he had preferences on everything that he passive aggressively let known.
And she said, then I would hear about if I didn't follow the dog food, for example, needed to be left in the dog food bag and sealed until I scooped out the food at the time that the dog was going to eat, even though digging my hand in the bag would scratch my hand, whatever that would look like when I scoop the food, she said he left for quite a while, an extended amount of time for work. And she said, I started to feel rebellious and I started to break the rules. She said it and it still made me feel so anxious. She said therapy helped her realize how silly it all was from the outside. And that's the vibe that I would love for you to get from this episode of how silly it is from the outside, that I am an adult with a mind and opinion. I can make decisions and calls on my own, even without consulting my spouse's opinion. And she said, I have no idea when I started to follow his rules and I still catch myself following them without realizing it. I'm taking it day by day. She said, I don't have to give them a full report of every bite that the kids have eaten today. Because when I do then that's, I'm open for criticism. I can buy and use a dog food bin since I'm the only one who feeds the dog. And I prefer it that way. She said I can let the kids brush their teeth and the downstairs bathroom on occasion. Even if a kid tells me that dad wouldn't let me do that. I can even give my kids mac and cheese for a second day in a row. If that's how life is rolling that day and the kids can even have a cinnamon roll for breakfast. Even when it's not a weekend and it's not something that he does. Somebody else commented that it's the directives, the rules that are expected to be enforced, just not by the person giving the rules.
Just a few more. There's another person that I just, I really appreciate this tape. She said, this is why I'm even struggling to figure out how to have a healthy relationship with her new husband. And she's in a very healthy, happy relationship now. She said there are all these unwritten laws in my head about how marriage works based on my old neural pathways that were created from a 20 year relationship with a narcissistic ex, she said, it seemed as if there was some sort of invisible exchange system that in order to ask a favor of him, I had to do something for him. If I wanted to have a girl's night out, he needed a week away on a hunting trip. If I asked him to help with some of the household duties, then I had to go out and do a big chunk of the yard work. If I wanted to spend money on something for myself, then he got to buy a new gun or something. And she said she has just a million more examples of this. And she said, I don't think I ever would have noticed how this is not a great foundation for a relationship, and how I did not feel like there was unconditional love. She said my husband now calls me out on it all the time, and calls me out, let me say in a good way. She said that he points out that there are just times in life when he is more available and will step up in times when I am more available and then I can do more. And it's not an exchange system. That love should not be conditional and full of unwritten laws and expectations of reciprocation all the time and I couldn't agree more.
Other people chimed in and talked about how relatable that was, the silent what's in it for me attitude is so real. And then I just wanted to, I chimed in on this one and said, it's something that shows up unconsciously in new relationships. Because at that time, when I was reading through this thread for the first time, I had a session with somebody pretty recently. That was just, they were worried about what they didn't know that they didn't know about relationships. Entering a new one. And the fact that they just felt so anxious about. What are the things I don't know about a relationship? And when you're in a healthy relationship, of course you don't know what you don't know, but you're going to discover together, which then the relationship is filled with curiosity, which is amazing. She was very nice and chimed back in and said, it's interesting navigating a new, healthy relationship with past unhealthy survival tendencies. And I really appreciated that phrase that she used. She said, my eyes are wide open as I've learned a lot in this past year. And she said she hopes that she can use this understanding to reach out and help even more people navigate this unknown. And I thought this was a really good take too, another person chimed in and said that they also felt that they were living from these, these rules. And she said, I found myself guilting out whenever the narcissist, her narcissistic ex-husband, has the kids and has an appointment falls on his mornings or when he has the kids and that responsibility falls on him. She said, even if I tend to everything else on their schedules, she said, the one I'm feeling guilty about now is to drop off our son at a therapist, then wait for 30 minutes with wifi, comfy sofas, good free coffee, during a time that he has a break in his work schedule.
She said here, the rule is everything to do with the children that does not involve a trampoline park or a swim park, is mine to do, not his. And I think that's one of the things that can be so difficult is you do want the best for your kids. And so if there is a chance that your ex and then we can stay in this scenario, whether it's the husband in the relationship with the immature woman, wife, or if it's the wife and the relationship with the immature husband, I feel like I could just continue to go on. There's so many. Let me just go through a speed round. Someone else said, I can't believe what a chord this struck, she said there were colors. He didn't like smells. He couldn't stand rules about candles, haircuts, clothing, perfume, purses, my jewelry, how to make the bed, how to fold the laundry, how to clean the lights, the thermostat, the air conditioner. Even how to sit on the furniture, how to arrive early, how long to stay, how I talked on the phone, what I said to the neighbors, the exhaust fan in the bathroom, the refrigerator, the car, she said so many issues around the car. There were rules about shopping for food, eating habits, rules for the curtains. No plants, no pets. And she said, and I felt like I was always in trouble if family or guests violated his rules, somehow it was my responsibility and I would pay the price after they were gone. She said, I swear, I could go on for a week and still be reciting the rules. I catch myself off these days, realizing. Did I get, she said, a lovely little, just a bit of pleasure. Every time I'm breaking one of his rules, the enormity of how bad it was, has never been a real eye-opener. She said, I think I'd become so programmed that it was second nature. But never again. And she said my house is now my rules and then other people chimed in.
One saying I lived so many of these same rules and I was made to pay of guests, broke them. I needed to contemplate this better. Someone else then chimed in and said the smells. She said, ah, I can't use dry shampoo without him complaining about the smell. Candles, forget about it. Unless it's pine scented. If I wear perfume, he complains, I put makeup on, it’s who are you trying to impress? I don't care how you look because I'm doing it for myself, isn't enough. And I could go on. Another person said he didn't like certain restaurants because their sweet tea was awful, but made our kids order water everywhere, showers should last no more than eight minutes, but he never was able to provide the data of where the eight minutes came from. Picky eaters were not allowed, but he could declare boldly what foods he refused to eat such as oysters. The menu of dinners for the week couldn't have too much rice or pasta, but he was okay with potatoes. And she said she grew up in an area where rice and pasta were the staple, but then she also said, but that was part of what he despised of me being proud of my roots yet he was beyond proud of his. So basically anything that a double standard could be attached to, we'll go through a speed round and then we'll wrap this one up. Another person said, had to buy his favorite brands, or they were called poop brands. If we weren't 15 minutes early, we were late. If I didn't dry out chicken, he would complain that I was going to make everybody sick with salmonella. I couldn't turn the AC above 60 degrees for years, even though I have Raynaud's and my fingers will be numb, with a sweatshirt and pants. And then we would proceed to get mad that we wouldn't go to sleep naked because it was a freezing cold room. If I complained that meant I was ungrateful. I had to speak to them about feelings or important stuff at the exact right time. Not after work, not when he was hungry and not before bed.
He made it clear that he liked all the girls' hair long. We couldn't cut it short. Also he didn't like it up. He didn't like it when I wore too much makeup or skinny jeans or capris. We wanted time to go to bed early with him, but he wouldn't help get the kids ready to bed for years. So when he finally did, he rushed them and made them upset before bed. We had rules on how many nights he would prefer I stay up late versus I go to bed with him. I was a night owl and he went to bed as the kids were going to bed. The dog was never allowed upstairs because of his allergies, but he was the one who insisted on getting the dog, even though he knew he was allergic. So many rules around air conditioning, haircuts and spending money, but she said there were also other rules like if you're tired, go to bed without reading or else he gets mad at you about it. Or if you say you're going to read, but you're on your phone and he gets mad about that. Or if you say you're tired, then don't go to bed. He gets mad at you. If you turn out the lights, but if you go to bed with the lights on, then he gets mad that you didn't wait up for him. Or he asks you a yes, no question, that feels like a loaded agenda. You have to guess the right answer. He gets mad. And if you try a clarifying question, he gets mad and barks, it's a yes or no question. Now I read those as quickly as I could, because that's the confusion. That even if you try to slow down and stop and make sense of these things, they're going to change.
More people chimed in that you're so right, rules. Like when the movie is over, you have to stay in your seat and watch the credits until the credits are all the way done. Somebody else chimed in and said, yep. That's one for me too. And another person did say reading all of this made me realize something that my husband is hypervigilant about. Not appearing controlling that there are definitely examples of him having rules around kitchen cleaning, money, et cetera. But she said, here's what's funny or weird about it. He uses himself as the standard, which I should be measuring myself. He's under the impression that if he's doing or not doing something, I should be this way, he doesn't think he's being controlling. For example, she said he decided to stop buying his protein powder because of costs. And so now he's recently berated me about not using mine. He stopped buying his, so I should too. Same happens with cleaning the kitchen. Now that he's cleaning it more, everybody needs to be better about putting their dishes in the dishwasher right away. Even though he was never that diligent about the dishes when I was the one cleaning. Has controlled a super covert to me. And like others have said, uses a great deal of guilt. And even more so though, he puts rules on communication because that's less tangible than him controlling how much money I spend. I'm not allowed to make faces when I talk, no interrupting him. And as long rants don't be on my phone while he's talking, act very interested, but not too emotional. None of these rules apply to him. And if I break one, then he uses that as an excuse to turn into a raging teenager and say whatever harsh, cruel things he wants.
And while I feel we could go on and maybe we'll save this for a part two, but I'll wrap it up with a comment that really did, I know I can, I use this phrase a lot, it breaks my heart. But one of the women in the group said, one thing that I really am having issues on learning in my brain, even though I'm still married, she said, is that my worth or worthiness of love directly correlates with my productivity. If I do enough, things are copacetic. If I'm not productive enough, I am met with anger, tantrums, name calling. She said my therapist is trying to really drill into me that my worth is not based on productivity. And I think that's one of the challenges here and people have chimed in and related as well. One of the people said I can really relate when my therapist sent me a copy of my treatment plan for therapy, the word busy-ness was highlighted and underlined. That we're so much more than that, but it's so hard to undo and we didn't become busy producers in a vacuum. It was an important protector at some point. And maybe still is. And I think that's one of the most, the largest challenges with this, the group of kind people that are in these relationships with emotionally immature or narcissistic people, whether again, male, female, whatever the dynamic is, that you're a kind person trying to make sense of things, trying to do enough. Because when you do, then that's some of the times where you are met with some bit of validation, but then when these rules, these rules just continue to change. And they aren't enough and they are crazy making because you are absolutely losing your sense of self. Then that can be this position where you just start to feel like I just can't make sense of anything because it's nonsense.
So, if you have additional examples of these rules, send them to me at email@example.com and we'll do additional episodes based off of this because I guarantee that there are going to be people that are going to just resonate with this concept of these rules, these, just double standard or passive aggressive, or do as I say, not as I do rules. And again, just know that if that's what you're dealing with in your relationship, it's not an emotionally mature, healthy relationship and it's okay for you to do things the way that you want to do them and especially to be able to have conversations about this. So I appreciate your time and I will see you next week on Waking Up to Narcissism.
Virtual Couch favorite and Tony's daughter, McKinley "Mackie" Overbay, joins the podcast to talk about some big changes happening in her life and how she has been able to do difficult, scary things despite having "all of the emotions." You can follow Mackie on Instagram @beautybymackie and mention the Virtual Couch Podcast for $10 off any service with Mackie.
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
New Mackie/Tony Transcript
Mackie: I'm sweaty already.
Tony: Nervous and sweaty. And what's the Eminem lines? What? You only get one shot. Don't you know that one? You're nervous and sweaty. Mom, spaghetti. What about mom's spaghetti? Mom's spaghetti. But at some point he looks calm and ready. Doesn't he throw up mom's spaghetti at some time?
Mackie: Yeah, that's what it is. There's vomit on his sweater already.
Tony: Okay. Do you feel like throwing up mom’s spaghetti?
Mackie: No, I didn't have any spaghetti.
Tony: But you're just a little nervous sometimes. But you know what? That is okay to have emotions, speaking of that McKinley Overbay, welcome to the Virtual Couch.
Mackie: Thank you, Tony.
Tony: This is so funny. When you guys call me my name, can I just tell you that?
Mackie: I think it's so funny and so I do it every chance I can.
Tony: Thank you. Does it sound different if I call you McKinley versus Mackie?
Mackie: Yeah, my brain kind of shuts off.
Tony: Well, same when you call me Tony. Okay. McKinley, are you ready for your record fifth time on the Virtual Couch? Hey, so to sound a little bit dramatic though, I think I had almost called this an emergency podcast recording, but that does sound too dramatic. But you are doing some life things, big, changing things, is that correct? Do you not like the phrase, I used to think this was hilarious, but now I think it was years and years ago, because somebody last week mentioned that they didn't like this phrase at all, but adulting. Are you tired of that one?
Mackie: Not tired of it. It is kind of silly, but it's also, how else do you describe it?
Tony: Okay. Because I think this is the point. An adulting moment is that, don't you think?
Mackie: Yeah. Yeah. I don't think there's any other way to describe it.
Tony: Okay. Because Mackie, what are you doing?
Mackie: Adulting, being a full grown adult.
Tony: By opening your own salon. Your own suite. Okay, well, we'll get to that too. And so the dramatic part, and I tried to tamper that down a bit, was, I was gonna say the last time we recorded, you were venturing out and going and doing hard things. You graduated cosmetology school and that's a whole amazing episode in itself because we talked about how you had felt, even though we were the most supportive parents in the entire world, oh yeah. Ok. I dunno how I like that. But that you even felt like you still needed to do some college and we were saying, hey, go find your passion and then you graduate cosmetology school. You move out to Utah from Idaho and you go to work with somebody that had a pretty established salon and that was scary. And you had all the fears of what if you don't know what you're doing and what if nobody shows up, and what if you don't make any money? And all of those things. And now what are the new fears in starting your own suite or your own salon?
Mackie: I mean, it kind of goes back to a lot of the same things. Which is funny, but in a different way. Because like, I’m still scared that I won't have clients or I won't be successful or, blah, blah, blah. But I have a little bit more experience now, and I know a little bit more and I know what I'm doing now. So that's good.
Tony: I love that. That's why I think it is fascinating that you have similar thoughts. But they are, they're similar, yet different, because this last, I guess it's been about a year and a half where you've been working at Ivory, you've been working with and I only know, I always joke about knowing her Instagram name first and foremost, which was Meg Brown Balayage. But that isn't, I don't think Balayage is an official part of her name, is that right?
Mackie: Not that I'm aware of.
Tony: Okay. But you had an amazing experience there. Maybe talk about the last year and a half. What's that been like?
Mackie: It's been, I mean, it's been great. It was definitely scary and I was pushed outta my comfort zone a lot. Then the last little bit, I feel like I was at the point where everything was good and I was comfortable, and I was just ready for the next thing, the next scary thing.
Tony: Well, and Meg's been good about saying that, and I love this because I have an intern and the things where if you're doing it right, you want your intern to launch and grow and be successful. And so this was always the plan I would imagine.
Mackie: Yeah. Ivory was supposed to be a stepping stone into my career. And so then I just recently then took that career leap. Yeah, that spooky leap.
Tony: Very spooky, very scary. Hey, tell me if this even applies, but I often say “you don't know what you don't know”. Because you, how could you have known, what in hindsight, looking back over the last year and a half, are there things that you didn't even know, that you didn't know, that you learned that would be helpful to share with somebody else, or that are just some interesting things that you didn't anticipate about working with Meg and working in the industry in general?
Mackie: Yeah. I mean, I'm sure there are a million, but like, yeah, on the spot, nothing super specific comes to mind. But in general, that concept that you don't know what you don't know, I think it, I was just thrown into that so heavily because I realized going into this industry and everything, I knew nothing at the beginning, I knew nothing and I seriously said like the first week I was working with Meg full-time in an actual salon, I learned more than I had the last year and a half of being in school. Like just being thrown into the real experience and actually doing it. And so I feel like it is just one of those scary things where, and I was, I would imagine this applies to other careers too, where it's like you just have to do it. Even though it's scary and knowing that as you keep going, you'll continue to learn more and you'll become more comfortable and you can lean into it and it'll be a good thing. But I definitely, yeah, I didn't know anything about the industry, and I think that's normal for certain things. The best way to learn is to just do it.
Tony: It really is. Because even as you're about to go into this new experience, and maybe I'm jumping too far ahead and we can go back, but all the things you had to learn with setting up your business and insurance and business expenses, a business name, all those things, you've just had to figure it out.
Mackie: Lots of things that, again, I just didn't know and there's still, I literally saw a TikTok today of someone who had just opened up a suite like I did, and she was like, okay, number one thing you have to do, get an accountant right off the bat. And I was just sitting there going, I don't have one. And then immediately going into panic mode, adding that to my list and being like, okay, there's another thing I have to pay for and another thing I have to deal with and so it is just that, yeah, just trying to figure out all the things and learning without becoming discouraged and getting too afraid or giving up, you know, which is scary, but again, all those are, the best way to do it.
Tony: I think anticipating now or having the emotional maturity to know that, how could I have known that? And so don't beat myself up about it, and then just be open to whatever that new experience is.
Mackie: Just add it to the list and be like, I've done all these other things. I can do that one too. But yeah, lots of scary business things and I'm just like a silly little girl and I don't, I don't know anything.
Tony: But yet, you do Mackie.
Mackie: But I'm learning.
Tony: Hey I love the story too where you, when you told Meg that you were ready to venture out on your own, because I think this so well illustrates how we can have all these emotions and feelings, even to the point of letting those feelings out, if you know what I'm saying, and then still be able to go through with a scary thing. So tell us that story,
Mackie: That's such a fun story. No, it's funny, I just, I was a little anxious and I was a little nervous to talk to my boss and so I went to work that morning and I just threw up a little bit because I was scared. Just quick, you know, whatever. No big deal. Did that, went back, gave my boss a quick call. I was like, you know, I think I need to talk to you before something worse happens. So that was, yeah, that was intense. But you know what? I did it and it was okay, and I only threw up the one.
Tony: Which is amazing. Yeah. And, when your mother, we will call her Wendy now that we're using all the formal names, when she was telling me the story about it, I think that day I had said, hey did you hear from Mac? Did she end up telling Megan? And Wendy said, yeah, she did. And she was so nervous she threw up. And I, it's funny because immediately I'm already thinking, oh man. And then that means she didn't tell her and I feel so bad, I think I'm probably pulling up my phone to send you a text. Or, hey, how are you? And then she said, and then she told her and Meg was amazing and it was awesome. And that happened.
Mackie: Nothing to be afraid of. But I think that's a whole thing in itself about life right there.
Tony: It really is.
Mackie: You just kinda have to do the things and it usually ends up okay.
Tony: And I love that because I feel like that's been a process for you to acknowledge that, okay, here's the anxiety and I can feel it and I can get frustrated with it. But then it seems like very much very often you then still follow through with whatever you feel like you need to. Has that been a hard thing?
Mackie: Yeah. It's a hard thing and it's something that I deal with every single day, like with my anxiety. That just, every time I have to do anything really, it's like I feel that anxiety and I panic and I think I'm gonna die, or, something horrible is gonna happen. It's gonna be the end of the world. And then so far up to this point, which is something you like to rub in my face all the time, nothing bad has happened. I always say with my anxiety, I say things like, I think I'm gonna throw up or I'm gonna pass out. And you always go, okay, but have you ever?
Tony: I say it really nice though, right?
Mackie: Yeah. You really do. You say it's so nice. No, but you really because I'll say, I think I'm gonna pass out. And then you go, have you ever passed out from your anxiety? And then I go, no, and then you just roast me.
Tony: Okay. Very well. Okay. This is funny though. I think that you were telling me maybe it was a psychiatrist or something at one point that had even talked about, okay, in heaven forbid, if you do pass out your body is basically saying, hey, I can't, you're freaking me out, so I just need to breathe, so I'm gonna tap you out for a little while so I can just be on my own.
Mackie: It's one of the most comforting things I think with anxiety. For anyone out there that's super anxious, worst case you pass out, your body does a quick little reset and people even say passing out's kind of euphoric and you just kind of, you know, whatever. And then you come too and you're breathing normal again and everything's fine.
Tony: Okay. Here's the one that I sound, here's where I probably don't sound as sensitive, Mackie. I think when you'll say things like, I don't feel like I can breathe. I think sometimes I think I'm hilarious when I say, hey, you've been good at it your whole life. I'm telling you right now.
Mackie: You say that to me all the time and I feel like I'm dying in those moments. And then you say that to me and I'm so mad. But you're right.
Tony: Oh, that makes me laugh so much. Now, I'm, now I feel like I'm almost trying to pull things out of you, but I think when we were talking about this just offhand one time, there was also a concept that you had mentioned that had to do with a particular time frame of seconds that were not 15 seconds, but?
Mackie: Not 25 seconds.
Tony: That's it. No, but 20 seconds. Yes, Mackie. Oh, what was that about? Tell me what you were telling me about the 20 second thing. Because this one, I really have thought about this a lot.
Mackie: Yeah. This is one thing that's always stuck with me also in terms of anxiety, but I think when we were initially talking about it, it was in terms of when I decided to sign for my suite and go through with it and just decide to quit my job and do this big scary thing is like I do this thing and it's, it's, you looked it up. It's from a, a dumb movie or something,
Tony: Hey, this is the best. Wait real quick, this story. So it's 20 seconds of insane courage. And then Alex, I was talking to her about it and she said that, yes, she didn't even, I think, realize it was from a movie. I found the movie, it's, “We Bought a Zoo”.
Mackie: I didn't know that either.
Tony: Yeah, but she said apparently it was Alex and her friends. Well, and it was this legendary or urban legend example of some people that were spying on a kid that had went up to a doorstep situation to kiss a girl. And apparently he didn't kiss her. But then walking away, he just said something like, 20 seconds of insane courage, you know? And then that was then made fun of, I think, for a while. But yeah, it's from the movie. “We Bought a Zoo”. And I don't really know the context there, but tell me what it means to you.
Mackie: I just think I do this in terms, whether it's job interviews or dates or making big scary decisions, or like whatever it is, it's just the concept that you can do, I mean, you can do anything for 20 seconds, like anything in the whole world you can do for 20 seconds and you'll be just fine. But also just the fact of like those big decisions and those, the big scary part, like the, at the height of my anxious moments, usually if I can just get through the initial whatever it is, I end up being fine. Usually it's more 10, 15 minutes realistically. But it's just the concept that, like for example, if I'm going on a date, it's just getting out the door. Because it's the, when I'm in my apartment, I'm freaking out and I'm like, I can't breathe. And I'm like, I can't go. I'm gonna die, like all this stuff. But then I get out the door, I realize, oh, you're okay. Like you're actually fine. And then the date's usually fine and it's whatever. So it's just that concept of you just you just have to kind of shut your brain off, just for a second, do the thing and then feel the other things later. But in a nice, positive way. Because I feel like it can kind of sound dumb because in terms of, I'm like, yeah, I signed this year lease for my suite and I just shut my brain off to do it. That makes it sound kind of dumb. But if you look at it in a different way, then it's like, okay, instead of leaning into the fears and the anxiety of taking the leap to do this big, scary independent career thing, it's like I didn’t even let myself even think about the scary things. And I had done research prior, I had, you know, crunched the numbers and done it's, you know, yeah. Knew it was a, it would be a good thing. I knew what my budget was, I knew all the good things, but then in that moment just had to say, okay, we're not even gonna think about failing or any of the potential scary things and just going to say, yeah, I'll do it. I'll sign it. Give me the paper. And then you just sign it. And then after. I like called Wendy and I was like, I was like, was that stupid?
Tony: At that point you want, all you want is validation at that point, right? So at that point it's like, it is not stupid, it’s wonderful.
Mackie: You don't tell me stupid. But no, and then she reassured me like, no, you knew your numbers, you knew what you could take. Like you knew what you were capable of signing for it. So everything's good and this is what you want and whatever. But all goes back to that, just sometimes you just have to be strong and courageous and have no anxiety for 20 seconds and then you can go back to feeling all your scary feelings.
Tony: I love it. I can frame that from a psychology standpoint. You know, my favorite acceptance and commitment therapy, there's a researcher I had on Michael Twohig that said, “Happy healthy people spend 80% of their time doing things that are important, not things that are fun necessarily, but things that are important.” And then it was the unhealthy, unhappy people spend 80% of their time, in essence, trying to just seek joyous activities or avoid discomfort. And so, you did things that were important to you and then you can sit back and I say watch the “Yeah, Buts”. The yeah, but what if it doesn't work? And yeah, but it's scary and yeah, but I've never done it before. And all those may be true, but those are not productive thoughts when you're gathering up those 20 seconds of insane courage to do something that you already know matters to you. This is the direction I wanna go.
Mackie: You know it's a good thing. And it's like you just, it just comes down to like, okay.
Tony: Yeah, so like if I were to do 20 seconds, if I did 20 seconds of insane courage to eat a ghost pepper Mackie, because you know how my heat meter is, that would be the dumbest thing that I could ever do in my whole life. That or a warhead.
Mackie: Exactly. So there are things I mean, you can add a million things you maybe shouldn't just, I don't know, get a tattoo in 20 seconds, or there's things that maybe think about it for at least, at least like 10 minutes.
Tony: Okay, is that what it is?
Mackie: I don’t know the real rules, but you know, that's right. Not everything's gonna be 20 seconds.
Tony: But as long as it says pa and not ma, or I love pa, then that's okay.
Mackie: No, as long as you don't forget to think things through. Have plans a little bit, but just also don't let the whole point just, don't let the scary, anxious stuff take over.
Tony: I love it. You mentioned plans. Can we talk about this is one that I feel like will be, I'm so convinced that this, I know I am leading the witness, I am confirmation biasing, I am doing all these things. And so I want you to tell me “back off, old man”, or “it's not that easy”, or those sorts of things. And you may know where I'm going here next, but, so here's that part where, you know, plans, this wasn't your initial plan as a somewhere between 21 and 24 year old human being that you are right now. But I almost feel like who wants to go first? Do you wanna talk about what your plan was or do you want me to tell everybody why I was right? And then you agree with me? Which one? No, you tell me about where you kind of anticipated things at this point?
Mackie: I really, and I mean, I can blame you and Wendy for part of this because you guys got married when you were 10, and like so did and so did all my friends and whatever.
Tony: Oh that's loud. Sorry for Alex editing the video, that probably just blew her eardrums out. Okay, we were not 10.
Mackie: Whatever you basically were, you might as well have been. You round it up, it's the same thing. But anyways, I just genuinely thought I'd be married by now, which I know is so young and I know it's kind of silly to be like, I am young and that's silly, but full, complete honesty. I really did think that I would, I would be one of those people that went off to college and in my first couple of semesters, meet somebody and then stop going to college and then just got to go be a mom.
Tony: So get your MRS degree. Am I right? Lemme get that joke in there. That one used to make me laugh is that one's super offensive.
Mackie: But no, I really did just, and I was like, I thought that was the dream and that was exactly what I wanted. And then all of a sudden I was 20 and I still wasn't married and then I was 21 and then I was 22, and now I'm 23 and I'm not even close. Not even, you know, not even, yeah. Nothing. Nothing coming up. So anyways, so I just thought I'd be married and get to be a mom because that is really what I want.
Tony: And you will be amazing. You'll be amazing at that.
Mackie: It'll be, it's slightly my calling in life to be a mom, I'd say. But sometimes life doesn't always go the way that you planned, well, it never does basically. Never you know, whatever. Yeah. All the things you plan. So that has not been the way that my life is gone, and I always just thought I'd be a mom and then I could do like hair or something with the beauty industry, like kind of on the side, like out of my house or something where it was just, I could choose a day or two here and there and do something that I knew I could be passionate about, but I never thought that I would have to, or I never saw myself being an entrepreneur, like a career woman or a boss lady, or, you know, anything like that. And I just didn't really have any interest in it. And I didn't, I just figured like, oh, I won't need to do that. It just won't be a thing. And then, naturally my life has not gone exactly how I planned it out in my head when I was like 14 or whatever. And I've had to then make this shift of still keeping my goals and my dreams, but then also healthily leaning into something that I know I'm passionate about. Which is all the hair stuff and the beauty industry. And I don't know, it's, yeah, it's been a weird thing, but it's been strange. The best thing that could happen, in a weird way, which is, this is kind of where it starts to become where you're right and whatever.
Tony: Wait, wait, hold on, hold on.
Mackie: No, I didn’t say anything.
Tony: I think I heard. I think it cut out. What'd you say?
Mackie: No, nothing.
Tony: Oh, I will, I will replay that clip over and over.
Mackie: Whatever. Whatever. But it is the thing that I've learned so much about myself and I've had this opportunity to learn more about who I am, who I want to be, what I want out of life, what I can offer to others, just so many things that I wouldn't have necessarily had the opportunity had my life gone the way that initially thought it would.
Tony: And can I go on a little soapbox rant here for a second? Because I feel like this is where, and it's so interesting because had you gotten married at 10 or 11, like your mother and I, which by the way, I think I was 19, almost 20, and she was 18, almost 19. So very much older than 10. But it was interesting because well, we thought we, you know, we thought we were so old and this is where anybody listening that is already married or young, of course, I'm not saying, wait, you need to break up right now. That's silly, right? Because for some people it works and it's great. But I do, I honestly, and I will speak about this with such passion, but I feel like as a marriage therapist, 1300 couples into this thing, that no one, no, absolutely no one knows what they don't know about relationships. They don't have the tools to communicate effectively. And I do, I call it the crapshoot theory. And your mom and I got lucky that we happen to just like a lot of the similar things and things seem fairly easy. And so then, you know, it isn't until later in your relationship where all of a sudden you start to deal with difficult things and you like each other so it's a little bit easier to work through. So it ends up being okay, but yeah, if there's a lot, yeah. But I'm convinced that, you know, it should be 25 or 30 or something and this is where I know it's gonna sound like I'm saying it just because you're my daughter, but I would say this to anybody, but when people are spending their 19, 20, 21 trying to figure out who they need to be in order to try to keep a relationship or get a relationship that they're not learning who they are.
And so, you have slowly but surely been finding out who you are as you learn to do the things that you like to do and you're really good at. Because I know we haven't even talked about all the opportunities you have to basically be a therapist in a chair. I wanna talk about that and we were talking about when we were kind of doing a little pre-interview, but the stuff where I want to ask you in a minute about why you like doing things like color and just getting to see the change in people. And there are so many things I had no idea that really was behind what you're doing. That I feel like that raises your emotional, emotional baseline really and so you are this different person now and I feel like you're putting yourself now, you're a stronger, more confident person that will now show up in a relationship versus trying to figure out who do I need to be?
Mackie: Well, I, no, I just think because it wasn't, it was something I knew I could be passionate about, but I don't even think I knew, like I didn't, I didn't know what I didn't know. And I didn't realize that that was even, I didn't know what that even meant because I'd hear people say, you gotta find something you're passionate about and whatever. And at the time I'm like, well, I like makeup. And so in my head I was like, I could be passionate about that. I could like it, but I didn't know what that would feel like and what that would look like and how incredible it is to actually be passionate about something and to yeah, get to do it every single day and live like that. And then, yeah, as I'm young and I'm learning and I'm growing and I'm finding out more about myself, it's like I'm able to do that through this thing that I'm passionate about, if that makes any sense. And it's just this kind of unreal experience when I step back and look at it because it is, this is my job. All these amazing things are happening, but it's my job.
Tony: Tell me about, like, you were telling cool stories about when I was asking about what do you like about the things you do now? And of course I literally sometimes think back to when I used to get my haircut, which was literally 20 years ago and it's, you know, you're doing all kinds of color and extensions and you're spending hours with people, and so talk about that. What are you seeing and doing and what is that part where now you feel like, oh man, I love this. What all is that?
Mackie: Yeah, I mean, there's, there's so much to it because I think initially it was just, I just didn't know what went into it. Like, you know, in school and everything. I was just like, okay, I don't really get what I'm doing here, but there's so many sides to doing hair that I don’t think people even realize, just from a technical standpoint, there's science to it, and there's like all this, color wheel and canceling things, and there's pH balances and there's like just all this stuff that you don't really think about that factors into it. So you're doing all this like science.
Tony: Because one could do damage, right? I mean, you could damage, do some damage.
Mackie: Oh, yeah. Oh yeah. Like fry people's hair off. There's scary things that can happen. So it's like you're doing all this scientific, but then it's also this really artistic creative outlet and I've always been someone who's been fairly artistic throughout my life. That's always been kind of an outlet of mine.
Tony: Well, can I pause right there, Mac? I don't like, I hate to feel like, I feel like I'm talking over you, but it's like that's the part I didn't even understand the depth of that because I mean, the things like the way you blend things and the looks and then the somebody's head shaped and all the stuff you were telling me about. And I go back to you know, you, you taught yourself music, you taught yourself piano and how to sing and you draw and I mean, poetry, all those things that you've just done that I never realized that creativity or that creative outlet could then be expressed in somebody's whole countenance and appearance. That blows my mind when you talk about that.
Mackie: Right. And like, same with the makeup and all that. So it's this thing that I've always been low key really passionate about in my life. I've been able to make a career out of it because there is this artistic side and I do just get to zone out and do this thing that I love and I get to channel that creativity. Which is just so fun. But then I'm also doing this technical scientific stuff, which is also fun in a nerdy way. So that's cool. But then on top of all of, I guess two things, I get to make these connections with people that I don't think you, obviously there's a million careers that you get to make connections with people, but there's something different about this career that, and the connections that can be made because it is this kind of vulnerable one-on-one setting, which is kind of weird, but then it's casual. It's so casual and it's so, I mean, people open up and people are just themselves. And again, it's just vulnerable and it's, and so it's like I get to really connect with people in ways that I didn't think would ever happen. I never really thought going into it, like I didn't think about the conversations that I would have and the things I would learn about people or any of that stuff. It never crossed my mind. And then it's all day, every day I'm spending hours with individuals and I get to see them for exactly who they are, and I get to love them and I get to know them and I get to know all this stuff. And so that's a whole amazing thing in itself. So I listen a lot and there is an aspect of it that sometimes feels a little therapy-like, obviously an amateur and it's mediocre therapy that I'd be giving.
Tony: People just wanna be heard though, man, they wanna be heard and they're in this position of vulnerability. I'm not sitting there also holding someone's potential look in my hands as well as you are. So that’s powerful.
Mackie: And so it is just, there's this different side of it there that is just amazing though. And I think it's like you just become friends with everyone you get to interact with. And it's just a positive space. And I don't know, there's just something about it and about those connections that again, I just didn't think would be a part of this career. I thought I'd just be slapping color on people's hair and sending them on their way and like, yeah, none of this personal connection part. And then there's also just this, you get to see, I mean, there's always a big reveal at the end, right?
Tony: And I never thought about this. What is that like?
Mackie: Because like I put in hours of work and I've done all this science and art and all this stuff, and then I get to see it come to life. And then I also get to see people's reaction to my hard work, which is fun. It's always fun to feel validated about your own work. But it's also just this cool thing where I do get to see people's confidence shift, or I get to see people kind of feel like themselves again, or just all these little things. Maybe to someone, no offense with no hair, wouldn't really understand.
Tony: I wish I had it, Mackie. I think that could be fun. A different look.
Mackie: Where it's like, because some people, their hair doesn't mean a whole lot to them, but other people it's, it's really important and it is this really special moment for them and it's their self-care time and it's their time that they get to just take for themselves. The thing I feel like I say the most is anytime anyone apologizes if they're busy or on their phone or I'm always like, it's your time. You do whatever you want. And if they wanna be silent the whole time, they get to be silent. If we just wanna turn up the music, we turn up the music if they wanna talk, like it's, yeah, it's whatever they need. And I get to be the person who advocates that. And I don't know, it's just really special, which I noticed. Some people, they're probably just like, it's just hair. Even people that get their hair done, to some of them, they're just like, it's hair, it's just an appointment, whatever. But there are those really just amazing moments within it and it is just something that I feel like I've got, I've come to be so much more passionate about than I even thought was possible.
Tony: Yeah. No, I love everything about you. No, that was so good, Mac. And I feel like if anybody is listening right now, maybe this is the sneak, sneak sneak preview too. We've been talking about even creating a tiny little workshop around the therapy of the hair chair and that sort of thing. And Mackie and I are at some point we're, we've got some we're laying out the bones of a little course that we wanna put together because I think about that, even what you were talking about there is even if somebody says, I want you, I want your people to be able to, even if they don't necessarily think it's exactly what they want, what an opportunity, because I think this is times where sometimes people don't even really know what they want or what they like, and they are almost probably saying, okay, make me beautiful and probably, I don't know, 90% of the time you do, and that other 10%, then what a time for them to say, okay, yeah, I really didn't even know. So what is it I like about this or don't like about this? And so, in the world of therapy, a lot of times when people say, I don't even know what I want to do, and that's even just a story their brain will hook them to, because in reality, then start doing. And now we'll figure out, okay, I like that. I don't like that. And I was thinking about that with hair. I mean, even if somebody is like, okay, I'm gonna, I'm gonna go in and self care and I'm gonna do something with my hair. And then I want them to be able to be honest and say, okay, I like some of this. And maybe not all of this because at least now, now they're starting to think. So I think that's, I don't know if I'm even making sense there to a professional.
Mackie: No, you totally are. And yeah, I love my clients that will just be honest with me. You know, they can, and we can have those kinds of tough conversations, kind of a, I didn't like this, but I like this, or we want this and I didn't, you know, whatever. And it's like you do kind of have those conversations which are uncomfortable at times, but good for me in terms of I get to grow.
Tony: I love that, honestly. And this is where, I feel like it's almost like everybody now that the mental health stigma is lessening that your therapist becomes part of your, I don't know, your life and I wanna think your hairstylist or cosmetologist does as well. And that then because they get to know you so well, that then they can say, man, yeah, I don't know what it is about this one that I, I like this or not this or, and feel safe enough. I mean, then that's where I start getting all therapist about it, where you feel safe that you can be open and vulnerable with another human being, because that's where we're so afraid of contention that I think people won't even, won't even bring something up. They'll just go somewhere else. Well, it'll be better over here with somebody else, but in reality, tension is where it’s like, no, we can talk about it. Yeah, talk's, that's a big boy principle right there. That really is. So that's where I feel like, oh, Mackie, you just wait. You've got all the tools and we're gonna solve the world's problems. And I'll take the therapy angle. You got the hair angle, we'll meet in, somewhere in the middle. So with that said and I really appreciate that too, the science part, the creativity part, but you're also nervous and this is a brand new opportunity and so this is where it will sound like the world's biggest commercial and I kind of don't care because I want people to go and see you. So how do they find you at this point? Is that scary? Like how do you get the word out? What do you do?
Mackie: Yeah. That it's all like social media these days, which I don't know how to do that. Yeah. But no, I just, I have an Instagram. It's Beauty by Mackie.And I'll link all these things under the booking. Or you can message me, whatever. But that's how to find me.
Tony: Okay. And then your place, and I like this too, tell me if this is too much, but you, this is the stuff I've been proud as a father to watch you create the environment that you want to create because you have a very specific, what, a vision of what your salon, your suite will feel like or be. What is that?
Mackie: My favorite place in the whole world is my bed. That is just where I feel safest. It's whatever. Yes. I know. Crazy. So I just really want that to translate to my suite and my space, and I want it to just be cozy and safe. Like those are kinda my two initial words that I was like, okay, cozy and safe and just really like a safe haven. Like a little, what my bedroom feels like to me. I want that space, and I want it to be a space that clients coming in just to come into and put everything else aside and just get whatever they need out of it. Whether that's, again, sitting in silence and just having a minute to themselves, or talking about all the crazy things in the world, or talking about the heavy things or whatever. It's like I just, I want it to be cozy and safe, and I wanna be able to be whatever they need me to be in that moment to get them what they need and let it just be this good positive thing in their life. Even if it's just this one small thing, a couple hours every, however long I just, yeah. Cozy and safe.
Tony: I forgot also, you are doing different certifications and hollow needle piercing, which sounded scary. And I remember the first time that you called home after that and you said there was real blood involved and things like that, not in a scary way.
Mackie: No, no. But there was blood. Yeah, so I did get certified in piercings and I plan on getting certified in other things I think later on. But it's just a, it's another fun little thing and it's fun for me to do cause it's like a weird little adrenaline rush to be the piercer. But then it's also, again, just this other, it's just another thing for people to come in and be like, oh, I wanna get a piercing and it's this fun thing for them. And it's like another way to express themselves or have a fun little thing that's just for them. And just another fun thing.
Tony: When you were at home and maybe doing some of those things, very very safe and very clean, of course. But I loved nothing more than slow motion videoing the person's as the needle went through their ear. And every, I promise, every single time though it was there, the anticipation was so scary. But then it seems like the thing happened and that it was routinely met with a, oh, is that, was that it? And I think that was hilarious. I got to the point where I thought that was really funny to see. So I don't know. I can't imagine what that feels like for you.
Mackie: It's funny, but that just went full circle back to what we were talking about at the beginning. Things seem really scary at first. And then you do it. And it's not that bad.
Tony: I feel like that should be a mic drop moment and we just end. That's true. Interesting. Hey, so, but I do also okay. I just have to be very transparent and we had a, I thought, a hilarious conversation when we were talking before, and I was saying, okay, Mackie, you were as gracious to say that if somebody mentions the podcast, you're gonna do what? $10 off. Yeah. Which I think is great. And then I said Mac, oh I think the Virtual Couch wants to pay for the first person who comes and does like a full whatever they need to do, let the Virtual Couch pay for it. And, if I remember correctly, and I don't know if you start it with old man, when's, when's the last time you got your haircut? And I said 2003. And it was by George the barber and literally rest in peace. What a great guy he was. And he was kind and he would, he would move his scissors above my head. I know he wasn't cutting anything and kind of just move his hands through it a little bit. And I thought, oh, bless his heart, he's making me get my $12 worth. And so then I realized that's probably not what we're talking about here.
Mackie: It has been 20 years since you got that haircut.
Tony: And it was a comb over haircut. Like, it wasn't a haircut, it was like a hair. I don't even know. I don't even, I can't even come up with something funny. Yeah, just a little messing around up there. A little bit silly. Yeah I don't, I know it can be a very expensive process, so then I, but I still told Mackie the first person who does a bigger thing there, I would love to take half of it as a Virtual Couch discount. Where are you located?
Mackie: I'm located in Orem, Utah. That would help, Utah County for anyone.
Tony: I love the concepts around trivia. And so the first Virtual Couch client to go to Mackie and then get something done, then we wanna document that on social media and that will forever be in the archives. So somebody there can reach out to you as well. And then it has to be somebody that you've never seen and they want, they, they've reached out cause they heard you on the podcast. I think that sounds fun too. Yeah. Okay. I'm impressed. I really am not just as your father but also as the fact that, holy cow, for some of the things that you've come on in the past and we talked about depression, we talked about some anxiety, we talked about fear and scary things and a lot of people, when I go look at those episodes, and I'm not just saying this because you're here and you're my daughter but I mean, I think I was sharing them with you. I mean, a couple, one or two of them are definitely in the top 20 of all time downloads, one's in the top 10, and that people really have resonated with your honesty and your vulnerability. And so here you are doing scary things and doing things that you didn't anticipate doing at this point in your life. And you're being so honest about not saying, oh yeah, anxiety gone, done. Don't even see it around anymore. Potentially even worse.
Mackie: No, it’s terrible.
Tony: But then still be able to do these things.
Mackie: You do it scared. Do it scared and that's okay.
Tony: Proud, proud of you. Love you. What an impressive human being. This is exciting stuff. Thank you. So, I can't wait. We'll have you back on in a little while and just see how things are going. Sounds good.
Tony discusses the differences between false memories and confabulation. He then reads a message from the "women in relationships with narcissistic 'fill in the blank'" Facebook group that leads to a breakdown of "Switzerland Friends," as well as how we deal with discomfort, as well as how "family systems theory" could provide an answer to the difficulty the "pathologically kind" person has in stepping out of their role in the various "families" they are in.
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
Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 61 of Waking Up to Narcissism. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, host of the Virtual Couch podcast, as well as the soon to be released Murder On the Couch, a true crime meets therapy podcast and Waking Up to Narcissism the Question and Answer premium podcast, and you'll find a link to all of those in the show notes of today's episode, or you can go to Tony Overbay underscore LMFT on Instagram. Or Tony Overbay licensed marriage and family therapist on Facebook. And you can find more information there, or just go to tonyoverbay.com and sign up for the newsletter. That really is coming soon. And there will be a lot of information in the newsletter. Let's get to today's, actually before we get to today's topic, I had a quick story that I wanted to talk about. And it has to do with something that I refer to often that I get questions about, because I think the genesis of the term confabulation is something that was many, many episodes ago. And I know a lot of people are, most people are not going back and starting at episode one.
So when I talk about confabulated memory, I recognize that I'm taking a little bit of license with that as well, what confabulation is, if we just purely go with a definition and here I'm looking at the national library of medicine, “confabulation is a neuro psychiatric disorder where in a patient generates a false memory without the intention of deceit.” The patient believes this statement to be truthful. Hence the descriptive term, honest lying. The hypothesis is that the patient generates information as a compensatory mechanism to fill holes in one's memory. And you can see then how that, when we talk about that in the case of someone with narcissism or extreme, extreme, emotional immaturity, the confabulated memory comes from a place of it can't be what you think that I did, because that might mean that I did something wrong or I did something bad so they can fabricate a memory in real time and then just believe with every fiber of their being that that is what happened. And if you go all the way back to childhood and look at that concept of gaslighting as a childhood defense mechanism, then it can make sense that if I was going to get in trouble as a kid, that I could, I could literally get physically beat. I could get emotionally starved. Or anything like that. Then, as a child, you will do anything to avoid that. So I definitely do not want to get in trouble. So, therefore I didn't do it. And as a matter of fact, I can't just get away with, I didn't do it. I didn't do it. My brother did it or the dog did it. And then over time that just becomes the air that emotionally immature or narcissists believe.
And so then it did not happen the way that you think that it happened. And it's believed with such veracity that then even trying to argue with somebody who has this confabulated memory, they now can absolutely validate the fact to themselves that you do not know what you're talking about. You must be crazy because it definitely didn't happen that way, because that would mean that I'm wrong and that I could have done something wrong. But if we, if we go a little bit, a softer example is if we're looking in the realm of just overall psychology is that when the person has these gaps in their memory, and maybe they're asked to remember described details of a past event. And rather than just saying, I'm not sure. I don't know. The person's mind does fill in missing details with confabulated memories of the event. And now let me add one more piece to the puzzle. There is often a question when you start talking about confabulation, that comes, that is, what is the difference between a false memory and confabulation? And I really appreciate this is where the nuance, the subtlety comes in, that memory errors are often looked at in a couple of categories. There's the air from omission. Or errors from commission. So emissions are forgetting errors and then commissions are in essence, false memories. So confabulation is a kind of commission error that occurs when somebody then fills in the gaps of their memory with stories. So that's what I think is pretty interesting. So with the narcissist or emotionally immature, you can see where that angle of, well, of course I know, and this is what happened. It's really hard for them to say, I don't know. Because if you are truly emotionally immature and narcissistic, then I feel like I have to weigh in and I'm probably right. So it probably happened this way. And so therefore I will congratulate this story or this narrative.
So here's where I now want to enter the pathologically kind person who is still trying desperately to figure out, wait a minute. Am I the narcissist? Because I confabulate. I do. And so that must mean that I'm a narcissist. And this is where I feel like the concept of confabulation is often just associated with this intense negative, you know, from the medical definition. To then the clinical psychology definition. And then we start getting into the concepts around just forgetting something versus creating a narrative. And so then does everybody that fills in the gaps with what they think happened then? Are they therefore a narcissist or emotionally immature? And this is where I feel like no, this happens and it's one of the main things of why when I lay out my four pillars of a connected conversation that after assuming good intentions or knowing, there's a reason why somebody does what they do and says what they say, shows up the way they show up, that my pillar two is I can't say, are you kidding me? That didn't happen. That isn't the way it happened. I don't believe you, even if you believe that that is not what happened and you don't believe the person. This is where I feel like confabulation as just part of the human experience needs to be discussed more.
Here's the story. This is the lead in to tell you this story. Earlier in the week I had someone come in and well, before they came in, they shot me a text and said, I'm going to be five minutes late. And I thought, oh, okay. That's kind of funny. This person will send me that kind of a text from time to time. They're not always late. But then when they do, they typically arrive a couple of minutes before whatever time that they say that they will be. So if they say I'm going to be 10 minutes late, they're there in seven, five minutes late, they're there in three. And then I will say, hey, you got here early, late. And the person will let me know that they've sped or something like that and hilarity ensues, and then the session begins. So it's a normal situation where the person says, hey, I'm gonna be five minutes late. I say, no problem. See you when you get here. They show up and I'm just working on some things at my desk. And then I say, hey, you're a minute late because they got there six minutes after, so I was being hilarious. Of course. And then this person said, oh no, I'm actually four minutes early. And I said, no, you said five, you were gonna be five minutes late. They said, no, I'm gonna be 10 minutes late. And then we both went to the proof. We pulled out our phones and this person literally texted, hey, I'm going to be a few minutes late. And I said, see you when you get here. So right in that moment, I thought that was such a good, simple example of where confabulation can occur just to regular human beings on a normal basis where there isn't something just incredibly important at stake. Because if you would have put me in, having me take a polygraph at that moment, I knew I was convinced. I absolutely could see it in my head as if I had photographic memory, which I do not, that it said five. He said five minutes late. And then this person was also convinced. Absolutely. Without a doubt he said 10 minutes late. So I really feel like that's such a good example of how I have this narrative that was already sitting in my mind about this person when he texts that he's normally early. And so if he says five, it's going to be three.
And so I believe that that plays a role in the concepts around confabulation. So if you're having a discussion with somebody, that's why I feel it's important if they said, no, you were, when we had that conversation, I remember very well, you were in the kitchen and because you were sitting by the table and then if you remember that, I really think we were in the living room and I was standing by the TV. That part of my four pillars, the reason why I say, okay, I don't, that's fine. If one of you remembers one way and the other remembers that the other way. Then okay, man, I appreciate that. So now let's get into more of the content of the conversation because I feel like so often now the argument goes off into the weeds and trying to prove that I am right. That we were in the kitchen and the other person saying, no, you're wrong. We were in the family room. And when somebody, typically this is where the more pathologically kind person is going to at some point say, you know what? It doesn't matter. And this person is going to stay on this until I finally agree. So then I say, no. Okay, fine. I'm probably wrong, yeah, we were probably in the kitchen, but just the mental calories spent on arguing a tit for tat back and forth fact that was most likely confabulated to begin with is where I feel like that is what can just zap the life out of somebody that's trying to stay present in a conversation.
And then the person that just hung on to I am right. Then that person ends that conversation feeling like I am right. They know I was right. And once again, I had to just keep hammering them until they remembered that I am right. And I feel like that can just be so damaging and destructive in a relationship. So I just thought that was a really interesting experience. Just as simple as a text, five minutes late, 10 minutes late. And in reality it was a few minutes late, but I often get people that are still trying to convince themselves that they must be the narcissist, even though they're the ones that have now sought out the podcast, the YouTube videos, they've emailed and they're the ones that are just, they're the ones doing the work to try to figure out, what is going on in the relationship, which again, if that is who you are, and you're asking that question of, am I the narcissist? You are not. You are a human being who is experiencing some events that have caused you to go on a journey to try and figure out what is going on in this relationship and in me. And so what an opportunity to start down this journey and get to this ultimate destination of just awareness and understanding that you are okay. You are lovable, you are enough, you are figuring things out. You're willing to do the work. And so on.
So let's get to the body of today's episode. We're going to go to the narcissistic women's Facebook group. Again, women who are in relationships with narcissistic fill in the blank whether it’s a spouse, a parent, an adult child, a boss, a coworker, an entity, a pet. That one kind of just came out. I've never really looked into the concepts around emotional immaturity or narcissism on a pet, but I guess a pet can be very anxious. Anyway, I do not want to go off on that tangent, so I'll change a few of the details just for the sake of confidentiality. And I will comment or I'll address some of the comments that people made to the post, which are just amazing. One of the things I find is so powerful, if you can find a group for whatever you may be struggling with or working through, when you can find a group of people that have been in similar situations, there's just definitely a, you don't know what you don't know component. And when people are just asking questions and offering suggestions, not saying, here's what you need to do, but here's what worked for me. It can just be incredibly empowering and it can really help people get out of their fight or flight part of their brain out of that amygdala hijack and really start looking at some alternative answers to maybe some of the things that they're dealing with. So I'll hit some of the answers too, because they're just, they're beautiful. They're brilliant.
But the person had said that they're feeling crazy right now, they said they had a really tough week and they were talking with some friends who had been some of their closest friends and most trusted people. Especially since she had gone through the divorce with her narcissistic partner. And she said, she's tried to be careful not to share too much. She was worried that it would sound like she was bashing him because she's noticing more and more that these people are starting to become more of these Switzerland friends. And if you're not familiar, the Switzerland friend concept, someday I worry that I'm not going to be welcome into Switzerland, but Switzerland is an amazing place. And it has the vibe or the stereotype that there's neutrality there. And so a Switzerland friend would be one that is saying, hey, I really don't want to get in the middle of anything. And I'm sure you both played a role in this and there's good and bad in everyone. And while that is a very good answer, if you have been in this type of a relationship, that isn't the correct answer and so, this is where I know it can sound complicated if somebody is listening to this and they haven't experienced being in a relationship with someone who is emotionally immature, has these narcissistic traits and tendencies.
And as a matter of fact, I found an article on goodpsychology.net. And it's an article about becoming a Switzerland friend when your friends divorce. And it is fascinating because if you read it from the lens of, hey, there's two sides to every story and you want to be there for both people and don't judge and don't diminish either friend's pain and don't act as the go-between and keep your agenda out of it. And don't trash the ex’s. And don't gossip and don't compare their new partners. It is all solid advice. But what I often say is there's an asterisk at some point. That says, except for personality disorders or emotional immaturity, narcissistic traits and tendencies. Because we're playing by a whole new set of rules that unfortunately only the people that have played that game know what the rules are. And it's really difficult to even get to the point where you have an awareness that there are different rules. So a Switzerland friend, I want you to know, is a very good thing in a lot of situations, but in this situation, it can feel like the person who gets out of this relationship with an emotionally immature person or a narcissist has been someone that their own thoughts, feelings, and emotions have been squelched and put down for the entire most, if not the entire relationship. So now when they are trying to open up to someone and that person is saying, yeah, but it feels like trauma, the complex post-traumatic stress disorder, the relationship trauma where once again, all of a sudden your body keeps the score. And that visceral, that gut reaction is going to just fire up and you are not going to feel very safe.
So she's talking about, she's noticing that these friends are becoming more and more Switzerland friends, but she said that she just had such an incredible experience that she wanted to share, and it was having to interact with this narcissistic ex partner. And, just being, in essence, forced to be around this person for a few days. And so she wanted to just share the things that are really interesting that she's noticed and that can be a real time for self-reflection. Because when you do find yourself outside of that unhealthy relationship and you can calm down your fight or flight response, then you can start to look at things with more curiosity and you can see how things were when you were in the context of where you were before. So you can, it's almost as if you're looking in on yourself and now you recognize, oh man, that's when I would try to manage my own anxiety by being a people pleaser or that's where, if I was trying to figure out the right thing to say to keep him calm. And so that can be a really interesting thing when you can step away from it enough to see that.
So she said I wanted to share these things, I really did. And so I started to tell a little bit, I didn't want to bash him, but she said it ended up being an incredibly, very invalidating and very validating of him and his situation and feelings. And I appreciate this. She said, I noticed at first that it didn't seem to affect me as if now I was immune and I could see it as a popcorn moment, which is one of those situations where I'm just sitting back and I'm eating popcorn. I'm watching the show, I'm watching the show of, oh, they have been bamboozled by this person and now they too are buying into that narrative. And isn't that adorable? Because I did that for 20 years. And so that makes sense. I can understand, but having a popcorn moment, but then the more that the conversation went on and on then it just started to not feel like so much of a popcorn moment, but we slip right back into that deeply rutted neural pathway of what is wrong with me? Maybe it is me. Maybe I am the problem. She said she just started to feel crazier than ever. She said he left me, he cheated on me still. He is being validated by everyone. He talks to even her friends and her family. So she started saying, I start feeling like there must be something wrong with me for not seeing myself in this. And she said, if everybody thinks he's fine and I am crazy, then that must mean that I am having very irrational reactions. Right? And then she said, then I thought, man, I am so glad that I'm seeing an amazing therapist tomorrow, but then she said, but then I even noticed that being broken because I kept thinking, well, my therapist, she's paid to validate me. It's her job. So I'm sure she actually thinks I'm acting crazy too. And it's been just total crazy-making. So she said I've gone deep into this feeling of not being in touch with reality. And I feel now, like I'm starting to lose it again completely. And she said, any advice on how to get out of this state?
And I just wanted to address that. And I want to start with a concept that I did a Virtual Couch episode a week or two ago. And I just went off on a little bit of a tangent, an intentional tangent, around managing our emotions, managing our anxiety. Especially if once you become aware, this is one of these concepts that I just love, because when you become aware of this, what we're going to talk about next, you can't unsee it. So, what that looks like is how often do you feel, let's say that you are talking, let's just go with an easy one. Let's say you're talking with a teenager, I will say one of my teenage daughters and one of my teenage daughters is really anxious and upset and she doesn't feel like her friends are listening to her. And if I say, first of all, one of the worst things I can do is say, well, it's not that big of a deal. Or, you know, well, I'm sure that they have some problems that they're working through too, then that is going to feel completely invalidating. So in my four pillars of a connected conversation, pillar one, I'm assuming good intentions that my daughter is expressing herself the way she is, or there's a reason why, because she may already be in that amygdala hijack. So pillar one is, I'm assuming those good intentions are there's a reason why she's saying what she's saying. Which leads to pillar two where if I'm telling you it's not a big deal, or just look at it this way, that is an indirect way of saying, hey, you're wrong. Your feelings and your emotions, they're wrong.
And so I need you to think in a different way. And here's where I want to jump into even more about today's topic. So part of why we like to tell people what to do or why we like to tell people that they're wrong, or why we like to tell people that you just need to look at it a different way, I believe if I am being selfish, self confronting, that that really is about me and my anxiety, my emotions. If my daughter is having a really difficult time and she's being emotionally expressive and she is just crying and sobbing and becoming inconsolable. That makes me feel uncomfortable. So what do I do with that discomfort? Then I want to tell her to calm down. I want to tell her it's not a big deal. I want to tell her, hey, they probably have a different side to this. So all of a sudden I've taken her pain and her emotions, what she's feeling, her reality, her experience. She knows those people better than I do, but I just made it about me. But without even really realizing that. Because I don't like the discomfort of seeing someone I care about upset. So I want to calm her anxiety down. I want to tell her to not worry about it as a way to calm my own feelings down.
And I think that is such a fascinating thing that when you, again, when you see that and learn that. That it just becomes prevalent. And you see that in so many different areas. I've got someone right now that I'm talking to that is having a struggle with their boss. And when they are talking with their boss, their boss doesn't want to take the time to listen to this person that I'm working with. And that can sound like, oh, it's just the way that businesses work. And they operate. But as we've broken down a little bit more of the game film of this person's workplace and the qualifications of their boss, it's pretty clear that their boss is there as more of a figurehead. And so this person knows the person I'm working with. They know what they're talking about, and when they try to express that to their boss, I believe their boss takes that as you're telling me I'm wrong and you're telling me that I don't know what I'm talking about. And quite frankly, I think the boss may not necessarily know exactly what they're talking about. So then that causes them anxiety. And instead of then saying, oh man, I don't know. I don't know. I don't know enough about this situation at work to yes, I would love your input. They feel like, oh my gosh, I'm the boss. And if I don't know, then I may get fired or that my boss, my boss might get upset with me. So it was a way to manage my anxiety. I am going to tell that person that is coming in and that they seem frustrated with me that I don't have time to talk with them, or I might even send them to do some busy work because that's a way to manage my own anxiety.
So I just think that's such a fascinating concept. And when I look back at the concepts around Switzerland friends, you know, I feel like, of course there's things that are on the spectrum, or I don't know what everyone is going through, but I feel like so often a Switzerland friend, what they truly are experiencing is they’re having you come to them and explain things about their ex partner that you weren't aware of. And so I believe that there are certain times where the Switzerland friend is sitting there and now all of a sudden they're uncomfortable because they're starting to even realize, and maybe it's at a subconscious level, I had no idea. And if I had no idea that means if I would have had an idea, then I could have helped, helped my friend more. I could help them early on. So I feel like often even the Switzerland friend concept is just a way for that person, this Switzerland friend to say, hey, but it's probably not as bad as you think, or I think he's probably hurting too. But if we're being really honest, speaking to the Switzerland friends is just a way, even if it doesn't feel like this is what I'm doing consciously, could there be a chance that that's a way to manage your own anxiety? Because if you have to sit there in the trenches with your friend and say, oh my gosh, I had no idea, then all of a sudden now, you know, that person is going to feel heard and understood and I'm going to have to sit with some discomfort. And I think at the core of when we want to get rid of our own discomfort, our own anxiety, our own emotions and feelings, that's when we start telling others how they need to feel or think or what the situation probably was.
That is really a place where it's, because I don't like sitting with discomfort. And if I look in the world, I do work a lot with addiction. And I really feel like at the core of addiction are people that feel discomfort. And they want to alleviate that discomfort by turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms, whether it's pornography or gambling or alcohol or their phones, or you name it. That I just feel as a people, we don't do a good enough job. That sounds really judgmental. I feel like we can do a better job. That's reframed better. I think we can do a better job at learning how to sit with discomfort. Learning how to sit with uncomfortable emotions. And that is where the concepts around things like mindfulness come in. Can I sit and can I just acknowledge that I am noticing that I am feeling anxious, that I am noticing that I am feeling, I'm feeling sad for my friend. And so instead of me needing to alleviate my sadness or get rid of my anxiety by telling them that, hey, he's sad too. Or by saying you, you probably don't even know what he's going through or yeah, I'm sure that you played a role in this as well. That am I really saying that because it's coming from a place of, I don't want to sit with discomfort and at what layer, what level is that? That I don't want to sit with that discomfort. Is it because I don't know how to help this person, this friend of mine. Is it because I may actually be in a relationship that I don't feel is necessarily the best as well? On that note, I was talking with someone just a couple of days ago, not in a therapeutic setting, but I thought this was really fascinating. This person is starting to really figure out what they want to do with their life. And they're trying a lot of different things. And a friend of theirs had approached them and said, man, what's it like to really not feel like you're doing a lot with your life? And it really crushed this person that I was talking to.
And it really did break my heart because there was no curiosity. There was no, hey, what are you up to? What are you up to in your life? This person that had projected this, that was, I believe most likely already in a career or a situation or a relationship that they didn't really want to be in. But as a way for them to feel better about it, they felt like, okay, I can alleviate my pain or my discomfort by in essence, projecting this onto someone else. And if I can make them feel bad, it puts me in this one-up position. And I say all this stuff that so much of it happens at this subconscious level. And it's because I really feel like so many people aren't really willing to do that work, that self confrontation. Or the mindfulness practice or an ability to sit with that uncomfortable feeling or emotion and acknowledge it. And even thank my body for the feelings and the emotions I'm feeling. And this is because, you know, when we're young, it's so easy. Even the very best intention parent to tell a kid to, hey, don't worry about it, it's not a big deal, that's probably not what they meant. And so even when we mean that well, even in that parenting situation like that we may even say to ourselves, no I'm doing that because I really, I want to let them know that sometimes they don't need to worry about things, but what I'm saying is I'm telling them, hey, don't worry about your own feelings or emotions. And in essence, I don't really want to sit with this uncomfortable feeling of you expressing your emotions with me. How often do parents say things like, hey, you know, don't cry, buddy. Don't cry. It's not a big deal. It's okay. Everything's gonna be okay. And so we're just telling somebody, hey, get rid of those emotions as quick as you can, because I'm feeling really uncomfortable and you might embarrass me cause we're out in public. Nobody likes a kid crying at Chuck E Cheese. Although really there's like tons of kids crying at Chuck E Cheese because those giant animatronic mice.
But anyway. But I really want to help people learn to sit with that discomfort. And notice where that's at in my body. And even be able to say, hey, I appreciate my body giving me these emotions because my emotions are there for a reason. A lot of times, you know, anxiety, there's a warning. Or anger is there as a way to make sure that we're not being tread upon or that there's not injustice. And so those feelings, those emotions really do need to be felt and heard and understood. And so even a Switzerland friend getting back to that can often just be someone that is an essence communicating, hey, I don't like feeling uncomfortable and having to take a side, then I worry that somebody else is going to find out. And then they're going to tell me, I can't believe you took a side. When in reality, if you know that your friend has gone through a lot, and you've been able to hear her and listen to her and you know that spouse and you've witnessed that behavior as well. That it really is okay to be yourself, to be true to yourself. And be able to express to your friend that man, I hear you. And I see you and I'm here for you. And I can't believe, like, tell me more. What is that like? What are those things that you're observing? And what's that like for you? That must be crazy. It was, I don't even have to express my opinion. Because so often that expression of opinion. I want somebody to come from a confident place. And express their opinion. But not if it's only about alleviating their anxiety.
So I want to move on to another. And this is, these are today, what I'm talking about, in this article, this expert says this. I really feel like those concepts around alleviating anxiety, not sitting with discomfort or things that I feel confident of from the years of just helping people and spending time in the chair, getting the reps in, so to speak. But on that same note, there's another concept that I think is really interesting to explore. And someone in the group had responded and they were talking about doing some IFS or internal family systems work. And internal family systems is a really fascinating type of therapy. That I will, I would love to know more about, and an internal family system, it basically is taking a look at your whole person. Your personality is, there's almost these multiple sub personalities or families within each person's mental system. And in my recovery program, the path back, my online pornography recovery program. There's actually a module that I do in there where we address, we personify the sub personality. And the belief, just a real general overview of internal family systems. It really is fascinating that there were parts of your life where there had been trauma or abuse, that sort of thing. And then you almost break off this exiled emotion and then you have a protector there as well. And I think one of the easiest ways to the, one of the examples, I remember hearing at a training I went to once and again, I don't know enough about internal family systems and I would love to, because I think it sounds just fascinating.
But someone had talked about being, in essence, perfectionist and they had a, I didn't even realize you could get above a 4.0 in school and they had a four point whatever, 5, 6, 7. And particularly they were incredibly intelligent in math and those stem subjects. And when we were talking about it, this person had identified that their father had told him that he thought that she was dumb was the word he used and stupid. And these words when she was little, a lot. And so that just crushed her but the way to survive is through her internal family system breaking off this exiled emotion of just sadness and grief and pain and fear. And there was a protector, there was a protector there. This person out of the sub personality is a protector that then was going to do anything within its power to never to make sure that we never were called stupid again. So I will work harder. I will do better. I will become the very best and smartest. Because that hurts so bad to be called stupid or dumb by a parent when this person was young. So the internal family systems model talks about these sub-personalities that have developed as protectors for these exiled emotions. So one of the theories that I am working with is you've got internal family systems and then you've got family systems theory. And so with family systems theory, that is, in essence, talking about, and I think this is a, I think you'll maybe see where I'm going to go with this too. It is family systems theory, I believe applies to friendships and entire family organizations, whether it's your nuclear family, mom, dad, and the kids, or a blended family, or if it's, even if you're just, your work family. But family systems theory, it's a theory of human behavior that defines the family unit as a complex social system. Where the members interact and influence each other's behavior. And so I really believe that when you look at things like Switzerland friends, I think that again, we were dealing with the discomfort and people managing their emotions and anxiety through other people.
But then I also feel like if you're looking at the family systems theory and you look at your friendships as a family system, what role do you typically find yourself in? And I find that so many of the people that are pathologically kind people have these relationships with the emotionally immature narcissistic people in their lives. That they are often that scapegoat or there's a phrase that's been going around the world of things like Tik Tok of trauma dump, you know, trauma dumpster, or somebody that you are the person that people go to and dump their trauma because you'll listen and you're kind, and you'll say all the nice things. But then when it comes time for you to express yourself, then those people don't want to hear it. Why? It gives them anxiety. Because that's not the role that they play. They play that role where they say things to you. And you thank them for it. And you tell them they're handling it very well and you tell them they're amazing and wonderful, but now all of a sudden, if they are going through something, then those people that were the deliverers of the trauma in that family system, that was their role. So when somebody steps out of the family role that they have in this family systems theory, then it disrupts the entire family system. And this is where I believe that most of the people that are interacting in a lot of these family systems would be deemed a bit emotionally immature.
So if all of a sudden, one of you is waking up to this emotional immaturity or narcissism in the family system or in a relationship that is within the family system and you start to speak your mind, then you are disrupting that whole complex social system and other people will now react to get you back in alignment with the role that you play. Because if you are not there to continue to take their trauma or tell them that they're okay. Then they all the sudden feel discomfort. They feel uncomfortable. And so in that scenario, they're going to say things like, well, I'm sure that you played a role in that too. And that will put you right back into that same role that you play in the family. There's these different concepts. And the family systems theory is just looking at the families, this whole complex, single system where every member's behavior impacts another member and you start dealing with in the world of family systems, theory, things like boundaries, equilibrium are things bi-directional, are they reciprocal? And then what are the patterns and what are the roles that people play and the functions. So, just a little bit more. And I think that I just wanted to kind of express this or get a little bit of this out there today, just to recognize that so often why we start to feel crazy when we get out of these emotionally immature relationships is number one, now all of a sudden it really has. It has disrupted the apple cart, so to speak, the family system.
And so there will be people, especially the emotionally immature person, the partner that's part of what the whole popcorn moment scenario is. They need to get you back in enmeshment and alignment so they can have a fix, they can have their drug of choice. And if not, then that's why they continue to push more and more buttons as you try to step away from this relationship. That the more you find your voice. And again, this is why I'd love to go so big on it isn't just finding my voice. It's starting to recognize I am a human being that has feelings and emotions. And those are absolutely 100% okay to have and express. And that if I express them and someone else gets angry or tells me that, I shouldn't say that. Or look at how that makes me feel. That is them feeling uncomfortable because you have an opinion and a behavior and a thought. And an emotion that is something that they do not want to deal with. And that's where you start to look at the selfishness of control. And somebody's trying to control someone else's opinion, thought, or emotion. That is selfish because it is saying the person that is trying to do the controlling is saying, I don't like how you are acting. It makes me uncomfortable. So please stop it. When in reality, the answer needs to be, hey, tell me what's going on. I'm noticing you seem frustrated, I'm noticing, and that's where we get into all these other things. I love talking about so much that let's tap into what matters to you. You know, you go through life and you start to go through different experiences. And now of course, you're going to have different opinions. You're two human beings that have 3 billion neurons that are just, you know, you're walking around this human suit that's interacting to things, you know, for the first time in that very moment of your life. Of course, you're going to have different thoughts, feelings, and experiences. And how cool is that? If you're two emotionally mature people, then you realize, wow, this is amazing. What do you think? I mean, this is, these are my thoughts. So anyway, there's so much there.
But one of the things that can be a challenge, if you really look up the world of family systems theory, is that the couple of the criticisms there, one of the problems is that this kind of therapy family systems therapy, or it includes, failing to address these like neuro-biological things or mental health issues like personality disorders. So if you have severe emotional immaturity in the family system, then when you try to change up the family system, then that emotionally immature narcissistic person is going to lose their mind and trying to keep the family system intact because that's what they've set up to work for them to give them this again, this supply that they need for power and for validation. And that's the way that they feel like they are. That they matter is by having this control or power. So I'm going to leave it there. I'd promise that I would, well I mentioned that I would get to some of the comments that are in the group, but I realized this one is starting to go a little bit long and so I will wrap it up there and maybe we'll get a part two down the road or a bonus episode.
But, even for the people that are in the group that commented on this post, the comments were amazing. And really there were people that were talking about doing everything from, some somatic work, to breath work, to being able to stay in the present moment. To be able to reach out to friends, to just be able to go back through the narrative and know that you've done a lot of work to get to that place that you are and then just being able to say, hey, check this out. Here's what I learned today. I learned that when I really want to open up about some situations, that seems pretty crazy with me interacting with my narcissistic ex. Then in those scenarios, I need to make sure that I'm not talking to a Switzerland friend and maybe that's where you need a support group or a good therapist that you can talk to because the more that you put yourself out there and if you're met with this invalidation or these yeah but it could have been, you know, what about him? That that isn't going to be those aren't the friendships that are going to be necessarily there, over the long haul. And this is where you have this opportunity now to trust your gut and to create friendships, not just with people that are filled with yes-men, but people that are willing to understand where you're coming from. And not just immediately need to quell their own anxiety by saying, well, it could have been this, or it could have been that, you know, it could be something that you're not aware of instead of starting with the, tell me more about that. So I really appreciate, as always, people that are here and listening, and I appreciate your feedback, your comments, please continue to send your stories and your questions.
And I do, I read them. I see you. I hear you. If you're interested in joining a support group, I have the one with the women in the relationship with narcissistic fill in the blank entities. And I, after that last episode where I talked a lot about the men's experience, I've had more men reach out. So coming soon is going to be a men's group as well. And then I just, again, thank you for your support, the numbers continue to just grow and rise. And so I'm grateful that we're finding the people that are really looking to feel heard and understood. And it is, it is part of the process. How long does it take? It takes as long as it takes. And I know that's such a cheesy, horrible answer, but at some point it will change and things are gonna change for the better. And you are starting to understand and figure out that you are okay. And it's okay to have your own thoughts and feelings and emotions. You're not crazy at all. You've been made to think that, but you're not. And you're on that road to figuring that out. So send me your questions, I mean your stories, and we'll see you next time on Waking Up to Narcissism.
Tony interviews Ashlee Boyson. Ashlee is an author, trauma survivor, and victim advocate. In 2011 Ashlee’s life changed forever when her husband’s murder revealed his secret life.
Ashlee’s book “ The Moments We Stand: Silence Breaks: Book 1” is available at
https://amzn.to/3CMwO8Y You can find out more about Ashlee on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/themomentswestand/ or her website http://themomentswestand.com Ashlee has 4 courses available; use coupon code: virtualcouch to receive a 40% discount. Ashlee’s courses include: “Surviving Infidelity,” “The Light Within: a guided course for widows,” and the Pre-Launch of “Trauma Mama - Parenting the Hurting Child” and “Breaking the Chains of Eating Disorders.” https://www.themomentswestand.com/store
Tony: Ashlee, how are you?
Ashlee: Hello, I'm so good. How are you?
Tony: Oh, I think I'm supposed to be all mindful and zen, but I think what was, 13 minutes after the hour of trying to find out the technical difficulties. And it turns out I was, I mean, this is probably a good segue. I was technologically gaslighting you wasn't I? It was my problem the whole time.
Ashlee: Seriously, I was starting to be triggered a lot.
Tony: I know. And I feel so bad because I was, I was like hitting the “Ashley point at your ears” and that sort of thing. Thank you for your patience. I know. And, and I'm grateful that you're here and, I know I'm jumping right in with humor and from looking at your account and listening to the things that you say, I think you're a fan of humor as well.
Ashlee: I'm a fan of humor, man.
Tony: Right. But you've, and, meanwhile, when my audience hears what you've been through, that is a real gift to be able to turn to humor. And I feel like just saying, man, I just want you to talk. And then, the me wanting validation also wants to tell the story of how we met, which is really emotionally insecure of me, but I'm really excited to talk to you, but yet then I know we're gonna talk about difficult things.
Ashlee: I'm excited too. It's gonna be awesome. Yeah, and we met because one of my good friends from high school who happens to live not far from me now, we had both been through similar things and she was like, let's meet up for lunch. And we were talking about a couple of things I said, she's like, oh my gosh, you have to meet this guy I know. And I was like, yeah, yeah. Everybody is always sending me stuff, but she sends me your podcast. And I'm sitting there listening to it and I was like, oh my gosh. I do have to meet this guy that you know, and I text her I'm like, this is amazing. This podcast about narcissism, like years ago when I was going through stuff with, I didn't even know what that word was. So to have this at people's fingertips is unreal and it's gonna help so many people go, wait a second, this sounds so familiar. Yeah. Oh my gosh. And I wish I would've had that a long time ago.
Tony: Well, I appreciate that but I can't imagine what you have been through now and looking over your story. And I will be honest, the first time I've met with somebody that their credits include forensic investigation or Dateline, NBC, or, I mean, your story is, it is that big and crazy. And so then that's I think why I go to the part where I feel like I'm really honored that I can provide something that will resonate with you. And so maybe we just dive in and where do we start with your story?
Ashlee: Oh man. Where do you want to start?
Tony: Your website is so good where it just jumps in, and basically the part where your husband was missing and you had just had your fifth child, I think, and then this just picturesque life and he was an attorney and you had the five kids and just everything just was amazing. I mean, is that kind of the case?
Ashlee: Yeah, that's where we were. That was 2011, and I literally was living my dream life. I just had my fifth baby, my son had a brother. Like everything was aligning. The market was low. We were just outta law school, bought our dream house. So it was kind of one of those, you know those times where you're like, I did it. I followed the list. And I checked the boxes. And when I was younger I learned that I would be blessed if I checked these boxes and here I am. I'm blessed. So it's kinda one of those times where I was almost patting myself on the back, look how much I've done. Here we are, we've made it. And yeah, there was just a few months that it started to feel like things were just like falling through the cracks.
Tony: What did that look like? What was that? What were the things?
Ashlee: It was a lot of moments that I felt like I was crazy. Like things wouldn't add up or things just fell off. Or I'd ask questions to my husband and it just, something didn't sit right and the, it was like the more I dug though, the more I asked questions, the crazier I felt. Because he always had a good excuse and there was always a reason why I just needed to be patient and he'd be back at spending time with the family once he got this or this or this, you know? So it was kinda just crazy making all the time. And I got to the point, like I always say, any normal crazy person going through the garbage, like is there any evidence here because I'm losing it. Everyone around me thinks we're the perfect family. I thought we were too, but something feels off. So I spent a lot of time doing normal, crazy person stuff. When you start to feel crazy, I was like trying to hack into his phone when he was in the shower. Never got in that I was trying to, like, I'd go through his car when he is in the shower, just like am I so insecure? And I started digging into my past like, okay, my parents got divorce. Maybe I'm broken. Maybe I just don't trust people. And I went to a marriage counselor saying that, by myself, I went to a marriage counselor by myself. We're gonna get that out there. Okay. And I begged him to just fix me because I think I have trust issues or something. Because all of a sudden I feel like I'm crazy and I feel like something's not right. But he says everything's fine. He comes home most nights, and even when he doesn't, there's an amazing reason why he has to be at the jail with a client or something. So I'm crazy and I need you to fix me. That's kind of what it looked like for me.
Tony: How did he handle that?
Ashlee: He was always like, oh my gosh, can you not handle just being a mom? Like this is your one job is to take care of the kids and I have to go to the jail. It's not like I can just say, sorry, I have a family. So it was always just kind of like making me feel guilty, like asking for his time was something that I should just buck up and be doing it all myself, which I pretty much was. But I was such that person who, you know, I've always been, I just love big. And I loved being a mom and every single detail of being a mom, I didn't wanna miss it anyway, like I wanted to be there. But then having this longing for a partner to do it with me, got bigger and bigger through law school I just did it because he was in law school and then through this, I just did it because he was always busy with clients, but, I just got that feeling like he has to be part of this. They're growing and I'm doing it by myself. And the more I beg him, the more it's like he's frustrated with me. Like I'm asking for something more than just even five minutes a day instead of watching my son watch the neighbor play baseball with his dad outside, I want you to be here playing baseball with him. Not just promising him that you're gonna sponsor his baseball team. Actually be the dad with him.
Tony: And did you feel like you had to buffer for the kids as well?
Ashlee: Oh all the time. I thought even his, his own family, like there was a Christmas where we were planning on going and like the day before this was I think it was the Christmas before he died, maybe two Christmases. The day we were supposed to leave it was like, oh let's tell them the kids are sick. And so I'm like, I'm not gonna tell him that, you can tell them that, nobody's sick. We're ready, we're packed, we're ready to go. But it was always like I was trying to cover for him. Even though, even though I tried to genuinely believe him, there was always that pit in my stomach like this, something's just not right.
Tony: Yeah. Ashley, I'm curious too, when you went to therapy, what did the therapist do or how did he try to work with you?
Ashlee: Um, that day he listened to me rant about all these things that fell off and then begged him to fix my issues and yeah, heal my past. And he stopped me right at the end. We were almost outta time and he is like, you know, I just feel like I need to say this. Sometimes those feelings deep down that something's not right, what if something really isn't right? And you almost panic when you've spent so much time covering and loving with all your heart, you almost panic because you don't wanna go there because that's really scary. It's a lot easier to live in your fantasy world, you know? So I said, well, no, no, no. It has to be me. Like he reassures me every day and he just tells me I need to get better at communicating and just tells me I need to get better at like, healing from my, my mom and dad's stuff. And so he literally said, bring him in next week and you guys can sit here together and we can work on this. I think you and him together will be the best way to figure out what's really going on so you can both be there for each other. And then next week, I guess we'll tell you what happened next week.
Tony: Yeah. And I appreciate the way you handled that, because I do feel like when that person is in my office, you, in that role that it is the, tell me what I need to do different, but so often it's the, hey, it sounds like you're trying to do everything is maybe the problem. And it sounds like that was what you were doing. I mean, just trying to figure I can figure this out. I can fix this.
Ashlee: Absolutely. Yeah, you fix me and I’ll fix this.
Tony: And we'll be good. Yeah. Yeah. So then did you ask your husband to come in?
Ashlee: So I did. He at that time had gone on a trip with his stepbrother and came home and things were like way worse, like they'd been off, but he got home and something had like snapped. He was not even trying to be kind, like he was yelling a lot. He was more aggressive. He was frustrated with the kids and he wasn't home most of that week and I remember it was a Friday morning and I woke up and I got on my knees. I am a praying woman, I thought, you know, with God, I can figure out what's going on and we're gonna fix it. Because that's what us women do anyway. You know, you've worked with enough women, you know we, we know we can fix it if we just have the tools and the answers. So that's what I prayed for. Just give me one answer. And once I have that answer, I promise you I will do whatever it takes. I will lose weight. I just had a baby. If that's what it is, I will change who I am. I will change my character if I have to. Because I want this and I love him and I love this family. And so it was kind of that kind of a day Where I, I could feel it was almost like I could feel this moment had to happen where we saw each other and we worked on whatever it was , and honestly, a few times it crossed my mind, maybe he's having an affair and he's gonna tell me. But, it would always be in weird, bizarre moments, like when I was in his office and his paralegal would give me a weird vibe. But then I'm like, no, she's 40 years old. I'm 28 years old. I just had his fifth kid. There is no way. And then I feel more crazy. So every time I had that thought, it was like I shamed myself for even thinking, like there's no way you're not enough for him. Like he would never pick this lady. And my thoughts would just kind of go in a circle. So anyway, that morning it was kind of finally, it felt like it was coming to a head. And I know so many people in this situation have felt that like, I have to find out now, it's here. I can feel it, so I got up and just did crazy people's stuff. Like I went to Target and spent a bunch of money on random things, like $200 in laundry baskets and things that we do to cope, you know? You've worked with these, I know you've worked with these. We have our coping mechanisms.
Tony: To be fair, I've never had the buying all the laundry baskets.
Ashlee: I was redoing the laundry room. That's the, that was the goal to keep me, to keep me, you know, focused that day. I went to the grocery store and bought all of his favorite food and we're not just talking like his favorite meal, like I went nuts. I bought everything. There was a whole array of food. By the time he was supposed to be home, the kids were decked out in their clothes. I'd sent him pictures of the kids. I wanted him to see what he had even though I wasn't changing much, like I just, I wanted the best version of us when he walked through the door that day. And he walked in a couple hours late. The food was cold. The babies were so tired, but I was like, no, we're gonna do this. He's gonna come in, he's gonna see your cute faces, and he's gonna remember why he wants to be here because it really doesn't feel like he wants to be here. And we sat down and ate. He didn't touch the food. It was kind of one of those, when he walked in the door, I tried to kiss him and he kind of brushed me away and I just sun deeper and deeper into this insignificant person who just felt so small. And pretty soon I could hear his phone ringing and he went in the back room which happened to be where the baby monitor was, and I'm like, maybe this, I'm gonna get my one answer. And I had asked this person who was a therapist to reach out to him, and it was one of those things that I'm like, maybe if he can tell me what's going on, I can fix it. But I listened over the monitor and everything he was saying wasn't even true. He was saying stuff about me like I had done, I was out sleeping around and I wasn't taking care of the kids. Like all the things that I knew weren't the answer I was looking for. But at the same time, played onto the crazy. And so by the time he got off, I went in the back room and called the same person, like will you help me out? And he validated that fear of being crazy? He's like, are you crazy? What are you doing? You're not taking care of your kids. You're not taking care of. So he went through, I mean, he was lawyered, my husband was a lawyer. He was lawyered. He believed everything he heard. And in the middle of our conversation, Emmett came in and said, hey, I'm gonna go run to Walgreens. I'll be right back. And it had been a few weeks of, I'm gonna go run here, and he'd be gone till 12 o'clock at night.
So I kind of panicked and held the phone away and, I need you to stay. Just stay here. Let's talk about everything. All the things that the kids are going through at school, like weird stuff is happening. And I just, I feel like I need you to be here with me tonight. And he literally looked into my eyes, and he said, don't tell me what to do. I'm gonna go, walked out the door, slammed the door. The babies were waking up. Just the baby, the young, almost seven week old baby. And I picked him up, got off the phone. And for seriously hours, I just sat there and rocked this baby trying to piece together what does this look like if I reach out to people? I've already reached out and said, pray for us, and people are like, well, what do you need me to pray for? And I felt more crazy because I'm like, I don't know, something's wrong. I know something's wrong. So I held this baby and just promised him for hours that everything is gonna be okay. And I read my self-help book that my marriage counselor had given me to read and I got on my knees and said many prayers, just, I need an answer tonight. I don't know what to do. And the baby finally fell asleep about right after I panicked. The baby fell asleep about 10 o'clock. He panicked and I panicked and I just felt it. And I called Emmett like four times in a row and texted him, are you okay? Please come home. And nothing, heard nothing. The baby finally fell asleep. And, I kind of felt more alone. I'm like, I kind of wish the baby was awake because I'm just sitting here. So I ended up laying down and falling asleep at about one o'clock in the morning. I heard just this pounding on my front door and I almost got excited. I'm gonna be honest. When you feel crazy and you're like, maybe this is hope, there's an answer. I was like, okay, you just bought a new truck. This is, this is what it's gonna look like. He got in a wreck and there's a policeman coming to say, hey, your husband's hurt, broke his leg, got in a wreck. His car's totaled, but he needs you.
Tony: Now I know what to do with that. Right.
Ashlee: I know how to, that's what I've been craving for so long. I need him to need me. So as I walked into the door, I'm like, okay, he needs me. I'm gonna, they're gonna take me to him. He's gonna see us, and he is gonna be in a spot where he needs us to take care of him. And I thought this gift was gonna be handed to me and I didn't even care if he wrecked his brand new truck. Like I just wanted him to see us. And I opened the door and it was just three people wearing random street clothes holding up a badge and saying, we need to come in. And I was just so overwhelmed. And by the time we sat on my couch, I didn't think, like, I, I never imagined the scenario that we were, we were gonna sit around and talk about. And they just said, hey, do you know this woman? And it was the paralegal that worked for us. And I was like yeah, I know, I know her, she works at our office. She literally just sent me a present home the other day for the new baby. And they just kept talking. I don't, I honestly still don't know exactly everything that they said. The weight on my chest as they were explaining this whole situation still is, even if I talk about it, it's just, it's still there.
And I know I've worked, I've done so much work to try to work through, but at that moment, that moment where you, first of all for me, they said your husband was there with her. They were having an affair. Her husband came and, they literally just spilled it all, he came with a gun. And your husband was shot once in the forehead and once in the heart and he died literally in her arms. And I, when I go back to that moment, it's not just about that, that pain of, hey, you really weren't enough, sis, let's talk about it. It was like, you know that dude in your head that plays him is like, hey, you little loser. See? See, you are so dumb. Look at you. You didn't even, you couldn't even figure this out. It took him dying in another woman's arms fighting for her because you're not enough. And that was kind of the core belief that just in that moment just grew and built and took over my every breath. He was gone. But not only was he gone, let me tell you what, he was gone because you weren't enough. That's what I believed in that moment.
Tony: Oh, Ashlee. And that default programming that we go to, I mean, that is just, it's unavoidable. And I'm so sorry you even had to deal with that. But I hear that, I mean, I've never heard a version like this, but to show that it can go there, even in that depth of, of that moment, just shows how deeply at our core we have that internal battle of I'm not enough. I mean, I almost feel like that's our default setting, and then we're trying to just beg someone to tell us that we're not. So I can't imagine that, Ashlee. And do you feel like, and this might be a silly question, but when you just said yeah, they just dumped all that on you, you know, at one time, I mean, do you feel like that was something that had to happen that way? Do you feel like it could have been broached in a different way? What are your thoughts?
Ashlee: Oh, you know, it was kind of like I wanted to make up a different scenario for my kids the next morning when they came running down the stairs. But it was one of those things that they, I needed the full truth because that crazy part of me that if he was there and he told me all of that, would've had the option to do crazy things and kick him in the face and be mad and decide for myself what my future looks like. It was kind of ripped from me because of this. It wasn't just a murder. It was almost like, hey, here's a reason why you felt crazy. And honestly, the first emotion that I felt when those detectives left my house, they spent a long time at my house and I remember calling people and telling people, I'm like, they were right there. But mainly I remember they shut the door and this wave of relief came over me. Not, not the relief that hey, your husband and the father of your children is dead. That, absolutely not. That was the guy that I was ready to give my entire life to it, and I gave my entire heart to. But the relief that so many women talk about when they find out finally, like their husband finally admits that he was having an affair. That relief is so powerful because you do start to feel crazy. You feel just trapped inside this twilight zone all the time. So that lasted about three seconds. But I just remember slapping, I remember slapping my couch, like I wasn't crazy. I wasn't crazy, just screaming, excited that I wasn't crazy. And then the guilt of having relief set in, because now this, I mean the life that you had. Like, you're literally gonna have to tell five kids that their dad was murdered. They don't even know how to spell the word murder or know what that means. And you're gonna have to figure out a way to tell them in about three hours. The relief didn't last long.
Tony: Well and one of the messages that you sent, and I appreciate you saying that. You said to remind you about that relief, and then you said that followed by shame because he was gone and so was my chance of saving him and that's the part where I feel like, man, I can't imagine how hard that is of feeling like, I mean, I wonder if the brain even goes in double time of saying, but I could've. I mean, now I'll never know, but I could've. Was that what that was like?
Ashlee: Absolutely. I walk into my closet literally begging. I'm like, I have seen it on the movies. I have to have a do over, rewind. I wanna see the alternative ending where I get to choose and guess what? I could have saved him. And I truly believed that to my core until I was given a second marriage with a similar scenario. Because I never did heal any of it inside me. Right? And I was given that second chance in a totally different way, but that's another story. But having that belief that I could have saved him and I was robbed. Literally the guy that shot him was named Rob. I was robbed of being able to save my marriage, save my husband, help him through whatever, pornography, whatever he was going through, which he was. I would've been able to save him and I truly believed that to my core.
Tony: What has that been like, I mean, this is where I feel like the, I don’t know if it's the confabulation that our brain does or to make sense of things. Or if that's just catastrophizing and we're gonna pile on when we're beating ourselves up, what has that been like to, or what has it taken to overcome that? I mean, do you still find yourself at times thinking, the more I learned, the more I know I could have? Or is it, the more I learned, the more I know I couldn't have?
Ashlee: It's more like, the more I learned, the more I know I was worth so much more. So it started out for years, even into my second marriage, like I said, I was insignificant in my own mind, right? Just like a narcissist is insignificant in their own mind, and they don't want anybody to know, so they make it all about them. I was so insignificant in my own mind, whether it was from my parents' divorce or whatever, that I really didn't have a healthy view of myself, similar to a narcissist, but the ones that attract narcissists, we go to the, we'll make it all about them. Because they like it about them and I want to give that to them. And that's the way I'm gonna love. But you don't know in the moment that it's really just you being insecure and them being insecure and both have a different reaction. So that's where I've come 180. And in my second marriage, when I, one one of the answers to my prayer I see now, it wasn't like I need to heal from my parents' divorce and I needed to fix that. It was like, it's from my last marriage that I need to heal. And so it was like I was constantly trying to heal that and I was going to counseling and trying to heal that so this marriage could be different. Even though I was at the same spot and I attracted the same type of person, right?
So, it began to be more like, I felt like God gave me these gifts. I one day, no joke, I literally heard a voice say, I need you to start a blog, which, I don't even, I don't even do this kinda stuff, and I need you to write this story. And I was like, all right. My mom and my sisters could read a blog, but I fought it all weekend and by the end of the weekend, I just kept getting it. And I got a blessing from my church. I got a blessing that said the exact same words. I need you to start writing for some of my children who aren't listening. And I'm like, write what? I can write a story. I can be pissed off and I can just, and I started writing this story and I, I, that's when my blog started. But, I thought I was gonna get this gift of get it all out right? Be pissed off. You were stuck, you're a victim, you're hurt. And I started writing and at one time, my computer just totally shut down. At that time, I was just writing straight to the blog, so it would just like auto save and not one word saved. It was a blank screen again, and I had spent hours just talking about hate and talking about how people are awful and all the things that I wanted to say, and I got this feeling like, I need you to start again, and this time I want you to remember how strong you were. I want you to write this story with grace in it. Same story. I wrote the same story, but I got this chance to figure out who I was, not who someone could tell me I was or being in a relationship could give me. And while in a really hard relationship that ended in divorce, years later, I got this new view of me. So anyways, I think that’s how we get out of, we can't change another person. I couldn't have saved Emmett. In my next marriage, I didn't save him. But we have to get strong enough so we can hear the inspiration that's coming. Because sometimes when we're stuck as that insignificant person who's making it all about the narcissist, right? In our relationship, we start going, well, what do you think I should do? Because they give us the validation when they want to. And if not, they take it away and then we feel small again. But getting that validation from your higher power, getting that validation from your inner self, the strength that you have, is the time where you're gonna be able to make decisions.
Whether you stay and put up with whatever is gonna happen, or you watch them find their healing and, and I don't know about you, Tony, maybe that is possible. But a lot of people that are in my spot eventually either end a divorce or they go crazy, which I've done both, but maybe you are told to stay, maybe as you pray and fight, you're just told to stay, but you have to strengthen yourself. And that's what I wish I would've known back then. Not I could go back and save them. I wish I would've known my worth. I wish I would've not, not gotten married to validate myself or to, or been a great mom for him. I wish I would've just done it for me.
Tony: I love that you used the word grace earlier. And I don’t know if you've heard me talk about this on the podcast, but I feel like we have to start from that we absolutely don't know what we don't know. And so everybody goes in and the assumption is that we'll all work out and we'll live happily ever after. And then I feel like that concept of, you know, then we hit life and things happen and now we both start to express how we feel about these situations. And that's really where you start to learn. Is it okay for me to have my own opinion, or does my opinion cause this other person to feel less than or feel attacked? And then are they gonna put me down? Are they gonna take that one up position? Are they gonna go victim mentality? And I think it does start that crazy making where now all of a sudden you're back in that I gotta figure out how to manage this person and I love what you said earlier, and you say it on your website too, of that loving big, because I feel like that's one of those concepts that can sound negative. But then, I know this can seem so cliche, but when you're loving yourself big, now you're putting out just vibes that can change the world. And I get that from you now and everything that I watch you do on social media, which is pretty amazing. So what does that shift, how does that feel internally? I mean, do you feel confident now? What's that self-love feel like for you?
Ashlee: Oh, I guess it's been more for me, just knowing that until I actually do love myself, not just the cocky, kind of like, oh yeah, I got this because that's what the narcissist does. They go to cocky, they're not confident. Because as soon as you shatter something or you say it the wrong way or you even if you did it yesterday and it worked and you had a good day, you could do it the exact same way and it doesn't work because they're just so unstable. So just knowing inside, I have to love myself before I'm gonna attract someone who's gonna love me. I have to love myself before I can actually fully give that heart. Because if I'm just making it all about somebody else, even if I'm okay with it, eventually, I'm gonna just be giving and giving and giving. And there's gonna be a moment, even if you don't ever think it, there's, there needs to be a moment where you do think, I, I need something back from this relationship. Not just when it's convenient for you or you wanna buy a new car, or you wanna control a situation. I actually need you to care. And when I'm on my low days, it's not an excuse to lash out at you, which I'm never gonna do, but I want you to come to me and I want you to be there for me too. Because I've been doing that over and over and over and over. So just, yeah. Even with my kids, I've realized the more I love myself, the more I have the capacity to love them and the more I see them love themselves. Because really we think I, I've heard so many wives, and I'm sure there's husbands in this situation that go, you know, I stayed for the kids. And I'm like, yes, but guess what? You just showed the kids how to be abused. Because even if it's not physical or sexual abuse, emotional, financial, all those kind of abuse, they're watching to see what their life should look like. And they're gonna try to emulate that. So don't, my advice is, don't ever stay for the kids, they will watch your strength. If it's time for you to go and that's your answer, they'll watch you leave with grace, and if it's time to stay and you fight, but you fight for you first. You fight to find yourself and you find your worth and you find your significance, regardless if anybody else is giving it to you, that's when your kids are gonna grow stronger.
Tony: So actually that, and I'm so grateful you're saying that cause I feel like that's the stuff where I can say it from a clinician's point of view, but then having not gone through that, I feel like people can easily just say, well, you don't understand. And that's where I appreciate, you're in it and you're going through that, and I've been saying a lot lately, I feel like, okay, so we get our sense of self from external validation and it's gonna start from our parents. And so then if we're able to be there and form that secure bond and attachment with them and hear all their hopes and dreams. I mean, that's amazing. But if we're continually trying to figure out how to manage their emotions from the narcissist and the relationship, and they're not seeing my best version of myself, I, I feel like it makes sense that then that's what their sense of self is gonna be. That they're also now gonna go be the person that's gonna try to, you know, the people pleaser or the person that's gonna try to keep the peace. And, and I had a situation a little while ago too actually, that there was kind of mind blowing where somebody was expressing to me that they were in the dating world. It was an amazing 20 something and a guy was starting to really just be a little bit more inappropriate. And then she said, you know, I thought that he was starting to get to that point, but I really didn't want to make him uncomfortable or feel bad. And I feel like that's part of maybe what, you know, this person will see in their childhood is watching, maybe their parent try to keep that peace and not want somebody to feel bad because if the person feels bad, then they're gonna be angry and then the whole house is gonna have to pay. Is that part of what you were doing with the kids?
Ashlee: Oh, absolutely. I was always trying to buffer and, oh no, everything's great. We're, we're doing great. And I, I do see people, and I see the world in a positive way because that's kind of just part of me. But that becomes I feel like it's almost used as your weakness and you become a liar. You start to lie for people. And you start to cover up what's truth, because truth is gonna hurt. I feel like either way, your kids, when they're watching you be that insignificant person that's allowing narcissist things around and they're watching their father being this person who feels insignificant, who's created this monster and made the world about him. Either way, they're gonna fail at life. And I watched my kids go through a lot of that stuff. And it wasn't until we stepped away from all of those patterns that my kids started actually even grieving their father. And actually, actually grieving their childhood and they started having things like eating disorders come up, but it was because they were finally in a safe place that those emotions could come out. So before it came out really sideways and then it came out really sideways for a while, and now we're like on the other side where there's peace and calm, and it's amazing to think that I thought I would have to stay with that for them to succeed. Because they absolutely, they're succeeding beyond my wildest dreams. And there were times where I was like, you know what? They all grew up and be strippers or what, no judgment. But if, if they all grow up and they're just on drugs, whatever happens in their life, it's because this happened to them. And then there was a point where I had the shift that I'm like, oh, heck no. They're gonna grow up and be the best version of themselves because I'm not gonna stop fighting to figure out how to become the best version of myself and give them all the tools and send them out in the world looking for the red flags, but not in a fearful way. And I have the knowledge, I have the worth, and I'm gonna be treated this way because I'm worth it. And that's the strength that I'm gonna give to my kids, and that's gonna be my goal for the rest of my life.
Tony: So Ashlee, I talk often about this concept of healthy ego versus the pathological defensive narcissism. And I feel like you're inspiring me in the sense that you knew you were a good mom, you knew you could love big. I mean, did you feel confident about your momming skills? Okay. So, when I talk about this healthy ego and this is from an author named Eleanor Greenberg who writes about narcissism, but, “Realistic sense of positive self regard based on the person's actual accomplishments and relatively stable, because you've assimilated into your self-image the success that came as a result of actual hard work to overcome real life obstacles,” So a mother of five and somebody who loves big, I can imagine that we could say that's real life obstacles. And then I love that she says, “because it's based on real achievement, it's relatively impervious to the slight and setbacks we experience as we go through life, it causes us to care about ourselves, do things in our self-interest and associated with genuine self-respect, something inside of us.” And now contrast that with pathological defensive narcissism defense against feelings of inferiority, like you said earlier. “And this person dawns a mask of arrogant superiority to convince the world he or she is special. But inside the person is so insecure about their self-worth and that facade is so thin that one pin prick will deflate it.” So that person is, they’re hypersensitive to minor slights that somebody that has a healthy ego wouldn't notice. And so instead, somebody with that type of defensive narcissism is wounded, takes disagreement as criticism, and then at that point they have to then put that person, you know, in their place. And so there's that part of me that feels like, man, your story is so good. And that I wonder if women here in this now and they know, no, I am a good mom, that that is one of those things where they can start to get a little bit of self-confidence in. And unfortunately, and I think maybe I talk about this on the podcast, but when you start to stand up for yourself, if you were doing it right with the narcissist, they are going to push more buttons and try to put you down. And I think that's one of those difficult parts. So would you have moments where you started to have your voice, and then what would happen?
Ashlee: Absolutely. The moments when I started to find my voice and actually find my worth, which I honestly did not have, I found my worth as a mother, but as an individual, I had not, I had not seen glimpses of that, I think, most of my life, to be honest. I noticed that as soon as I started to find my voice and I started to find a purpose beyond just being there for every whim, you know? It got louder, it got bigger, there were more swear words. There were more locked doors. Like everything got bigger because I think narcissists like us broken. They like us small. And when you start to find an option beyond that, they are scared. They're scared they're gonna be seen. For me it was definitely a battle of finding my worth despite it getting louder and bigger. It was almost like it fueled me to go, I'm on the right path. Sometimes when we start praying for something, you know, we get more opportunities to do it. It was kind of one of those like, I'm going in the right direction. The more I got put down, sometimes it would break me, to be honest, because that was the cycle. As soon as I start to get a little confidence, you just kind of get shoved back down. But when I started getting my feet under me a little more, I would break me less and less. And then it would just start to just empower me.
Tony: That, whatever you did there, if you can bottle that up. And then I went in on like a supplement deal maybe. Because I feel like that's that part where somebody does start to, to feel better. And we talked earlier I think people will say, man, if I would've known this stuff earlier and I was doing that, we don't know what we don't know, but I've got these five things I talk about. You know, you're gonna raise your baseline that's self-care and then get yourself in a better position. But meanwhile, if you're starting to do things that are self-care-like, then that is gonna be attacked by the narcissist, and then people are almost having to hide their self care and then get that PhD in gaslighting and get out of unhealthy conversations and set boundaries. But I feel like, tell me if this was difficult for you, but the last thing that I talk about in that, ways to interact with the narcissist, is recognizing there's nothing you will say or do that will cause them to have the aha moment or the epiphany. And sometimes I feel like that is the thing where the hardworking, good person is gonna, no, I can, I can find this aha moment or epiphany. Did you chase that?
Ashlee: I chased it like it was the only dream I ever had. It was like, okay we got it. We just had the best conversation. He said, next time, you just have to communicate better and then I'm gonna do this better and it's gonna be different. And then the next day it wasn't different or way worse, and then we'd go to a therapist or we go and it, it's just like you're constantly chasing this dream that you are gonna save somebody. I think some of the red flags that I wished I would've known, if you are in a relationship where you literally feel crazy more than you don't like that's a red flag. If you are constantly going, well, I can't talk to him about that today because today's not gonna be a good day. That's a red flag. Or you're like, oh, well he shouldn't know about this thing that I'm doing or buying or, you know. Communication like you've talked about. Communication is what relationships are built on. And if you can't say, “hey, I'm having a hard time with this”, and your partner can't hear that without taking it personal and making it about them, that’s a red flag.
Tony: It is. And, man, Ashley, I haven't busted this one out yet. So, Waking Up to Narcissism and Virtual Couch exclusive with you, which I appreciate as I've been thinking, I had somebody. Somebody brought up in my office a couple of weeks ago, the idea of turning red flags yellow. And they realized how many times they were doing that. And it was, especially when there was tension in the relationship. And then all of a sudden they would then okay, well I, I'll back down because I don't want that red flag to seem so dramatic, so I'm gonna turn that red flag yellow. And then once they did that, then they felt like, okay, now it's on me. I can work with a yellow flag. But then the red flag, I guess, is where I'm gonna have to do something. I don't know. Any thoughts on that?
Ashlee: Yeah, I just was picturing different times where I had a couple of times where some big companies asked me to come and do like seminars and stuff, and I told them no because I was afraid to be too big. Like when a narcissist wants to feel successful, you have to stay under their level of success, right? Because that's when you get the worst jobs. That's when you get put down the most. That's when you feel that weight of all of their problems become yours, and you're like, okay, I'll carry these for you. I got this, and I'll just stay down here, down at the bottom and I'll carry them. So you do, you just, you'll create different scenarios than one that would actually bring your success or bring you to light, or even make you feel like you're living in the light. You just kind of live in the dark halfway.
Tony: I’m kind of being maybe too humorous for this, but I've had people talk about situations where they've tried to do that, which I love the way you put that, where I'm gonna prop my partner up and then gonna say, see, look at how well you did. And then that person not only says, yeah, I did, you know, and, no thanks to you. You know, and this is the person that, that literally propped that person up. Did you ever have that experience?
Ashlee: Oh yeah. I even heard a few times just like, well, you're such an amazing mom, but you're just such a bad wife. Everything you do. And I'm like, I give the same love. Like that's just who I am. I had a stepdaughter and I still love her. I still connect with her. Like I just love people. And so to have a relationship where you feel like, first of all, you always feel like you're crazy, but second of all, you're just constantly being told that you're something that you're not. You really, do start to question like, oh did I do something bad? Maybe I shouldn't, he said he doesn't like tacos, dang it. Why did I make tacos? And you just start second guessing every little detail of your life.
Tony: Yeah, you said something that was so good there where, or it breaks my heart as well, but being told what you like or what you think or how you feel, and I feel like that's another one of those just ginormous red flags, that it's nails on a chalkboard for me. And I know it's not just as a therapist, but as a human, where somebody's saying, well, you don't even realize what you're doing and you're doing this and you don't even know this. And so if anybody is, if they're in a relationship where their spouse is continually letting them know what they think or feel, then that's a red flag.
Ashlee: Yeah, if someone said to me like, hey, what do you guys wanna do on our double date? And I'm like, I don't know what I wanna do. I'm gonna have to ask him, you know, like you can have an opinion, even if you have a spouse who's really, really smart and really, really good at a lot of things and really successful, you can be too. And that's the part that I really got to the point where I didn't even believe, like I have to be small. I have to be broken to be loved by this person. So it's either him or it, I mean it's, if I'm gonna build me, I'm not gonna have him. And that's a scary thing because you're so connected to that cycle and to that person.
Tony: And I feel like that's the part where people don't know what it looks like to be too interdependent, autonomous, differentiated people with two different life experiences and how amazing that can be. Because they go into that marriage feeling like, no, we're enmeshed and we're the good kind of co-dependent. And if we were two individuals, then why would we need each other? And no, it's like, that's when it's exciting to be together. And I feel like I was gonna say, man, don't make me bust out our deepest fear by Maryanne Williamson. But when you kept saying small, Ashlee, my favorite part of this poem is she says, “Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.” And I've never looked at that from the narcissist’s lens. So that's exactly what people do. Play small so that that person that's insecure won't feel worse. Or the hope is that well, they'll feel better, they'll get it, and then they'll understand, have the aha moment, and then we'll be happy forever.
Ashlee: And then I can start being me and letting my light shine. Once they figure out their stuff, I gotta say small until they do.
Tony: And in reality, you gotta start letting that light shine. And then if they don't, then they can go pound sand. I was gonna say swear words, but I don't have to click the explicit.
Ashlee: One thing I was thinking, yeah. So a goal that I always had was like, I've gotta help him find his worth. I gotta help him build. But that's not your job. If you're in a relationship. And a lot of people that are in these relationships don't even realize they are because it's so hard to see it when you're in it. Because it's just the cycle that you're used to. You're used to having really big days and really bad days and really ups and downs. But the only thing that you have power of is finding your significance. Finding your connection to your higher power. Finding your relationships that enrich your life and connecting to those even if you feel like you're not allowed to. So that would be my main advice. Figure out how to be significant. Because you are. Because we were created to have this mission and a purpose on earth. And our mission and purpose is not to just lift up other people. It's also to let our light shine and to become the best version of ourselves, and all the good things that life has to offer.
Tony: I love it. And I almost feel like if we were gonna do a cheesy role play, Ashlee, then if I were saying to you, hey, if you came in and said you're, you found some new hobby, you like, I mean, I feel like yeah. The correct answers for me to say, oh man, tell me more. What's that like? How long have you felt this way? And I feel like the narcissist version would be, well, why do you wanna do that? I don't remember you saying anything about this. And do you know what that would feel like for me? Or what am I gonna find time to do the things I like? And then all of a sudden now it's like, oh, now you know what I, yeah. I probably don't wanna do that. And I wonder how many people have that experience versus the, oh my gosh, tell me more, that sounds exciting. Which if that doesn't happen in your relationship, then, then that's a red flag. Right. Ashlee, where can people find you? I wish we had another hour and maybe you can come back on again. Would that be okay?
Ashlee: I would love that. Absolutely. I'm on Facebook and Instagram. “The moments we stand”. And then my website is themomentswestand.com. And right now I'm doing a lot online, I used to do a lot of public speaking, and I do it a few times a year, but I have little babies right now and seniors in high school that I really can't miss life right now. So I do a lot of online stuff. I have some courses available on my website. I do some podcasts, like different podcasts with people. I've done a lot of interviews and anyways, so that's mainly where you can find me. I think I got everything.
Tony: And I appreciate it so much and I hope that we can maybe do something again soon or do something together because I really love your energy and I have to tell you there's one, I don't know if it was on a story or it was a post or something and you were literally just kind of dancing and having fun with your kids. And if you go through my TikTok, it's almost all just people dancing and I have zero rhythm. And there was a part of me that thought, okay, look at Ashlee looks just normal. And just like in the moment and it just made it look fun. So I appreciate how much you kind of look like you're just being in that moment as a parent. That looks like a good time. Alright, Ashley, then I will put all the links everywhere that I can and then next time we talk, I won't technologically gaslight you and we'll have the whole hour. How does that sound?
Ashlee: Deal. Thank you so much and thank you for all that you do. I love, I love what you're doing.
Tony: No, that makes me, I appreciate it. I really do.
Tony talks with Kristin Hill, a fellow therapist, about her “waking up” to the narcissism of an in-law and the challenges that come along with interrupting a “family system” that already has an established pattern of behavior around an emotionally immature individual. Kristin is a mental health counselor based in Washington specializing in postpartum mood and anxiety disorders and providing birth trauma support. Kristin is trained in EMDR and emotionally focused therapy, attachment, and working within a family system.
In October 2013, Kristin experienced a traumatic birth and birth injury. As a result, she suffered from Postpartum PTSD. Kristin said it took almost one year until she found a perinatal therapist to help her in her journey.
You can learn more about Kristin’s work at http://www.kristinhilltherapy.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tony referenced EMDR, and you can find a quick overview of EMDR here https://maibergerinstitute.com/emdr-training/
If you are interested in being coached in Tony's upcoming "Magnetic Marriage Podcast," please email him for more information. You will receive free marriage coaching and remain anonymous when the episode airs.
Tony: Okay. Kristen Hill, waking, waking. Take three at this point. Welcome. Here we go. Welcome to a podcast. I was going to say Waking Up to Narcissism, but part of me wonders, I think this might be a Virtual Couch and Waking Up to Narcissism material. But I love, here's a quick train of thought. I love going to movies and every now and again, I can go to one and I know nothing about the movie, and I just think it's so, I enjoy it a little bit more, but sometimes there's dud. That's not me saying that there's a potential dud in the interview. Don't get me wrong, but we had exchanged a couple emails and you have your own experiences around narcissism, and you are also a therapist. So I'm really just going to step back and say, okay, Kristin, take it away and tell me about who you are. And then tell me your story and I'm looking forward to this.
Kristin: Well, feel free to interject at any point. Well, I'm in Seattle. And I've been a therapist for, God, I don't know, like 14 years. I specialize in perinatal therapy, so any of the infertility, postpartum birth, trauma, all that stuff.
Tony: That's my, can I ask you, can I ask you a question about being in Seattle, and this might sound like a therapist hack bit, but do you find that people are more or less depressed because of the rain or the gloom or that sort of thing?
Kristin: I guess, I don't know because I don't have a lot to compare it to. You know, because I mean, I practiced briefly in Kansas City and then we moved. But I mean, everyone is definitely deficient in vitamin D, I mean I think that's just a thing.
Tony: Yeah. Do you, do you ever do you have people that use the light boxes or light therapy?
Tony: Ok. I just bought one. They’re very bright.
Kristin: Yeah. They're very bright. Yeah. I don't know. I don't know. It's hard because I think I'm seeing people too, under such specific depressed situations for the most part. So it's hard to know what's always what, but, yeah.
Tony: And what I don't, I haven't really worked with that population, so really what does your typical client come in and what are their challenges and how does that look?
Kristin: Yeah. Usually they come to me if they're pregnant and have had like, so I have a specific specialty in birth trauma. I came to it by way of myself experiencing it, and that's kind of how we sometimes do go through that. Right? We then find a passion. And so a lot of people come to me if they've had a traumatic birth, if they have had a previous one and are pregnant again. If they are having anxiety or depression while they're pregnant, wanting to kind of get ahead of it. Or often, most often after they're pregnant and really struggling with anxiety, depression and any ptsd symptoms from birth, which like one in three women view their birth as traumatic. So quite a few women, actually, that struggle with symptoms.
Tony: Okay I haven't really thought of it that way. So then if that's the case, somebody's just had this traumatic experience and now they are also supposed to now bond with this tiny human being. I can imagine what, that there's, that could be a challenge. What kind of therapy modality or what kind of things do you do in that situation?
Kristin: Well, I'm trained in emdr so that is super effective. Just any of the pieces of, you know, just using any parts of emdr, even if we don't always do reprocessing, any of the strategies connected to it are so, so helpful. So I really come from that lens. And then my history before getting trained and that is like attachment focused and yeah, I used to do more couples work, so I was trained in EFT so I kind of come from that space too, and a family, whole picture obviously, which as you know, cause you're a dad too, family issues, which is something I've noticed just really blow up after you have kids. And yeah, that's also what I kind of end up doing is helping these new mothers and fathers manage that aspect too, of family dynamics that they didn't see before. And a lot of it, I think I had mentioned to you in one of our messages is that a lot of my clients have parents with narcissistic tendencies, and so kind of, I'm like, wow, that's something that just kind of fell in my lap, but I've already had a lot of experience with it, so yeah, it's fine.
Tony: I like what you're, I like what you're saying though. It does come from experience because you start to see a pattern. Yeah. Is that what?
Kristin: Yeah. And so then I kind of end up also coaching them to like how to create their boundaries and, you know, just how to communicate with which, that's kind of how I found your podcast. Actually a client sent me your podcast cause we were working through some of that. And I was like, oh, cool. And I started listening to it and so I've sent it to other clients over the years, because it's nice to give them something to listen to more than just me.
Tony: I like what you're saying though too, because the part where people say, but our relationship was fine, and it was until, I like what you're saying and then whatever the traumatic life event is, which could be kids, moving, death, any of those, and then it's almost like that unlocks this part of this person and now how do they show up in the relationship? Okay. So what's your story? We could talk, I want to talk to you sometime real, real quick on the EMDR front too. I'm curious what your thoughts are, maybe this is, we'll have to dig into this in another episode sometime but do you feel like EMDR can work with relationship trauma as well?
Kristin: Actually I do. And I, yeah. I haven't been, I should say I haven't been specifically trained in that EMDR and relationship, but I use it with couples anyway. So, you know, anyone who's listening to this, if they're like, what are you doing? I know that there is training for relationships, EMDR, but I just, I do use it with them. Sometimes I'll have a client, she'll, he or she will do a set of reprocessing EMDR and have the partner there. Just to kind of be, I like it because it's like that attachment piece, like they're, it's creating that secure attachment within that space. So if they feel safe to do it I'll do that. But I often just use the tools from EMDR with the couple, like doing , I don't know how familiar you are and you know, with all of that.
Tony: I actually just bought all my equipment and I've done a couple of online trainings, but not the certification. So I'm very fascinated by this.
Kristin: Yeah. Well, and I think what's interesting is, like I learned, so I got trained in EMDR during the pandemic. So I haven't used any of the tools. I've just been doing virtual. And so we use bilateral tapping like this to do all the reprocessing. And so I use that with couples all the time just to help them regulate and you know, it's really effective and helps them just come down from, if they're in a space of strangulation and anger.
Tony: Yeah. And I like what you're saying, and I feel like it sounds like you've been doing this for a while. 14 years and I've been doing it, I don't know, 16, 17 years. And I feel like we do start to really find, based on our experiences a little bit of what a, I've been calling it lately in my head, a customized treatment plan. So yes, I may pull some attachment things, some EFT related things, some ACT things. And so I'm trying to look at the EMDR piece as something to maybe put into my repertoire, I guess in a sense. So, I like what you're saying, and if people are out hearing this, then they, that isn't part of their experience and they say, well, that you shouldn't do that, then that's where I go with a good old, bless your heart, because I'm going to do what works. And so I'll say this real quick and then I want to get your story because I'm looking up this document that I found that I really thought was interesting. So this is where I'm curious to know your thoughts around EMDR. It's from, are you familiar with Andrew Huberman? He's got a lot of, he's got a lot of videos on YouTube and his podcast is really good as well. And here it is. Okay, so I have a transcript of one of his, just a five minute YouTube video, and he said, “Talk therapy where people would feel a positive relationship with a therapist,” So he said, “that was the primary rationale and association with these traumatic, sometimes shameful type events. The idea is that you would simultaneously have two experiences, a negative one with the feeling of safety, and that would start to rewire the circuitry.” And so I liked how he said that, and then he talked about that with the EMDR that, and tell me if this is your thoughts too, but he said, so it's in essence speeding up that process of being able to have a traumatic experience with a safe experience. And then the part that sold me on it was where he said that when you were a kid and you're just up and you're moving forward, your eyes are moving back and forth , to scan for safety. And the cool way the brain works is according to what he said, and that's why I had to get the transcript of this is that it then suppresses like the fight or flight chemicals in the amygdala when we can see that I'm safe. And then, and this is where the stuff that I talk about with the brain that I'm now putting these pieces together. So I may be wrong, but then the brain starts to skip steps and it says, okay, I don't have to be up and looking back and forth, moving around. Eventually I trust that my eyes are moving back and forth. I must be safe. And so then, I'm suppressing the cortisol in the brain. Yeah. And so then, and then eventually it's like I don't even have to have my eyes doing it. I can be doing it with the tapping. I don't know. And I may be making all of that up.
Kristin: No, I think that's an interesting way to put it. Because I haven't used eye movement a whole lot. I look at it more as grounding and being really present. Like it's taking you away from that trauma memory, sucks you back like you think you're there again. It takes you back to the here and now. Like I'm not actually in that space anymore. And then you experience that groundedness with a safe other person that's you know, so, it's like you can experience the trauma in a safe place and remember that, oh, it's not actually happening now. It's over. So I don't know. I think that's interesting what he's saying though. For sure. Yeah. There's, yeah, I don't get, I don't nerd out super like a whole lot on all the scientific neurological, I wish I did more.
Tony: Okay. But what's funny is I realized the reason I do is because I want validation and I want people to think I'm smart because I was never very, right? So now that I'm coming to terms, but anyway. Okay. See we can just keep going. All right. So then that brings us to your story and working with narcissistic family systems. So now tell me more.
Kristin: Okay, well, okay, so before I worked with narcissistic families, I came into a situation where, very young, at 20, I started dating my husband and didn't know at the time, he didn't either, but his mom is a pathological narcissist. And this is what I'm finding with a lot of my clients who have narcissistic in-laws, you, you start dating someone and you're young and you don't know what's what, right? You don't, you're coming into a family or trying to respect their whole deal and make a good impression. And you know, I think generationally like we've all grown up, it's you know, family is important and respect family and there's been a lot of emphasis on don't make waves and just accept whatever's happening. So there's all that playing in the background.
Tony: Can I tell you, this is an ADHD joke, but I saw a shirt one time and it was this shirt and a bunch of people wearing it. It was a family reunion and it said “family over everything”. I know, right? And I said to my wife, I'm like, oh, family over emotional abuse, family over mental abuse, family over, and I thought, man, that is, but understand that's where people are coming from. So then it's like, yeah, I mean, you know, I can't, I can't question them or they're allowed to treat me like crap because they're family, and that's not okay.
Kristin: Yeah, and that is, I don't know if you've, I mean you've worked with tons of, you know, clients who've been in this situation. So it is kind of the, just accept it. Just deal. It's family, you know? So I came from some of that space, obviously like many of us did. And so in my twenties I'm like, okay, this, there's something off with this person, her son who I married was her kind of favorite golden child. Right. Gotcha. The one that was, he was the oldest, he was a musical performer. Like he just, he did all the things she wanted him to do. And so I come in and I'm, you know, I'm not like a docile, quiet person. So I come in and I'm like, wait, what? You know, kind of asking questions and, and respectfully, not really to her, but to my husband, so I married into this situation where you know, while we were dating, I had many strange experiences with her kind of trying to assert power and control. Like making me put my suitcase in the garage the first time I ever stayed at their house.
Tony: Okay. How, what, what was the rationale behind that?
Kristin: Because the room I was staying in was small, so she thought that it would be nice for me to have more space in the room. To then walk out in the winter, in the cold garage to get my clothes. So, and you know, when you're 20 and you're like, okay, like, I want to respect this person, so as you can imagine, over the years, lots of buildup of many things. And yet, because we were young, and navigating this dynamic for the first time, we tried to kind of go with the flow and not make a lot of waves. But it was hard because I'm like, this is weird, like the family really just kind of, she was the center and they tiptoed around her. I mean, the way they survived was how you do with a narcissist, you just don't make waves. You just kind of like go around her, go behind her because that's how his dad survived. And so that's how he and his brother survived also. And then I come in, I start going to grad school and I'm like, hey, you know, this is weird. I think your mom might be a narcissist, and we start having these conversations.
Tony: How did he take that initially? Was that like, I feel like sometimes it's the, was he okay with that?
Kristin: Oh he was okay because he knew she was weird and odd like, he knew that her behavior was strange and he was okay with it. But then it's like the dynamic of, okay, well how do we, and we were still, you know, mid twenties, he wants a relationship with his parents, you know, it's that whole thing where you feel that as the child you want to have a connection with the parent, even though there's this whole thing going on. Then that's dysfunctional. And of course he had all, I think it made sense to him suddenly, because he had all these stories with his mom of all this bizarre stuff she would do and put them through their whole life. And so I think it maybe in a way was a relief because he was like, oh, that's what's happening, right? But we lived far away from them, so we didn't have to deal with them a whole lot, you know? And so that was kind of nice, but then at the same time, we didn't have to learn, I think, how to push, how to set some boundaries, right? Because we would just kind of survive visits and then leave, and then there'd be all this residual stuff to the point where I would get really panicky when we would have to see them because she was so against me.
Tony: Yeah. And how many years into, how many years into the marriage was that when you started to really realize that?
Kristin: Oh, I mean, five years probably. I think I got panicky before then. It was a long time of me just trying to muscle through because I had a sister-in-law who is very sweet and didn't question things and just, and here I was like, what is happening? And I was kind of the black sheep being like, hey, this is weird. And everyone's like, let's just be cool.
Tony: Yeah, don't rock the boat.
Kristin: Yeah. And I couldn't, I couldn't not do it. So what kind of spurred everything on is we have a child. And she unfortunately happened to be in our home visiting a week after he was born, during just a really traumatic, horrible thing that I discovered from my birth and she was there. So then we were intertwined in this traumatic birth thing. And that wasn't great, right? So we had all this stuff, just like this ball of, I don't even know what to call it.
Tony: You said meshing, just a big old mess. Mesh. Yeah.
Kristin: Yeah. Just a mess. That and all this unspoken stuff, right? Because you don't talk about it because she's not safe. So then we went on this Christmas trip, all of us together, 2013, I had a one year old, almost one, and my husband's brother had two little, little kids like babies. And we're all staying in a house together. Not smart. And my mother-in-law, usually we start noticing a pattern around day three. She can't really hold back all of her narcissistic tendencies anymore. Like she tries to kind of behave. But then she can't anymore. And so around day three, she starts kind of acting up. So one of the things she does is she just wants to kind of, you know, find ways of having power and control over everyone.
So she's like, I'm going to heat up dinner for everyone. And so my sister-in-law every year, we all do the cooking because she's a terrible cook, she doesn't like to cook. So she made a big to-do about how she made dinner by heating the leftovers. And she had this unspoken expectation that we would all just come sit at the table and start to eat, and she just kept waiting and getting frustrated. Meanwhile, we're tending to little babies and she's like bubbling up with anger in the kitchen, and so my husband tries to kind of move things along, so he goes he gets a plate and puts some food on. He goes and sits at the table. She doesn't like that because it wasn't what she imagined, which was everyone sitting at the table with this nice meal she had prepared.
She walks over to his plate, she picks the food up off the plate with her hands, and she takes it back and puts it in the kitchen. She's mad. She's very mad and we're all just like, okay. Because, her sons don't often, you know, they don't really get into it with her a whole lot. But my husband was like, just kind of went off on her like, what are you doing? That is crazy and then they kind of talked it out and then everyone's just quiet and you just move on. Like it didn't happen.
Tony: What is the talk? Because I feel like the talk it out even is, what does that look like?
Kristin: It's, it's not, it's like fighting.
Tony: Agree to disagree or whatever it is. Okay. Yeah.
Kristin: Sorry, I shouldn't have said it. That was a nice way of putting it. It was like just a little back and forth. Snap, snap, snap. And then, and as you know, as you know, narcissists, they just move right on.
Tony: So, well that, and that's why I appreciate that, because I feel like I hear you with the, and then we talked it out because I feel like too, the narcissist that really is, I mean we did, we, we worked through what we're done. Now let's go ride bikes. Yeah. I mean, we're done. Yeah.
Kristin: Yeah. In fact, in your podcast the other day, I was just cracking up at so many things you said, cause it was so relatable. The narcissist wants you to confront them, they love it. And you'll see that in this story. So we all sit down, we have dinner, act like nothing happened, but I am like seething at this point because I'm like, this is not okay. We're grown up adults, you can't do that. And so we get through the evening and then the next morning, so she's, I think already a little, she's more and more heightened. Right? Wants more, I don't know. She feels very, I think out of the loop because she had this whole expectation. It's so many years of stuff, but my sister-in-law and I would be close with her and we would. You know, and so she, we're not, because she's not safe and so yeah, she feels outside, right? She feels very on the outside. So she begins to act up when she starts feeling that way, you know, after a few days. And so that morning we'd asked them if they would watch our kids while we go out, just the four of us for coffee or something, we think, oh they get the grandkids all to themselves, we get a little space, and she would not do it. She just wouldn't do it. It's like, I'm not going to do this thing you want me to do, just because I don't want to.
Tony: I'll show you.I’m hurt.
Kristin: I'm hurt, I'm angry and so no, I'm not going to do this thing. And so I hear my husband and his brother arguing with her, or my husband's arguing with her and his brother's kind of playing the younger child, let's just stop, you know? Everyone fighting, and I'm in the other room and I've had it, I've just had it. I couldn't, I couldn't deal with it anymore. And I'm, you know, I have a baby and I'm tired and so I go in there for the first time, the first time I've ever pushed back or stood up or anything to her, and I'm just like, I am done with this crap. I'm like, I just am like, you've gotta stop talking to my husband this way. He's your son. You can't treat him this way anymore. This is not okay. And then I looked at his brother cause I was frustrated with him, like, why don't you stick up for him? You know? And everyone's just like, what is happening? And because no one does this with her. And I of course, and I'm like, yeah 30 years old. And I still feel just young and naive in so many ways.
Tony: And well I think that's that part where it's like, man, I think I can get her to understand and Right. Do you feel like that, that if I just stand up to her?
Kristin: I don't even know if I was trying to do that. I don't think I was trying to get her to understand. I was just like, someone has to stop this. And I knew my husband wasn't there yet. Like I knew he couldn't do that yet. Right. Yeah. Like he wasn't. He was still trying to figure out his dynamic in the family and how to separate out. Right.
Tony: I feel bad even interrupting, but I'm curious about your opinion. So I, you know, I talk about these five steps or rules of, you know, raise your baseline, and PhD in gaslighting, and get out of unproductive conversations, set boundaries, and there's nothing you'll do or say that will cause the aha moment. But then I feel like I desperate, I desperately then want, not desperately, but then I want to go back and say, yeah there's a difference between, I'm not trying to cause them to have the aha moment, but now it does become a boundary that when they do this, I will do this. Do you feel like that was kind of more of the vibe that you were putting out?
Kristin: Yes. I definitely don't think I was trying to get through to her. But like I just wanted it to stop. And no one was stopping it, right? Because everyone was just operating as the family does. It's like the unspoken rule, right? And I'm just like, I'm not doing that anymore. So it was more I think about me and us, my husband than her.
Tony: Well, and what, and what I like about that, I just did an episode of why you don't confront the narcissist. And I was, you know, I laid down basically, right. And, I really felt confident about that. But then I also got some feedback that was people saying that, man, that makes sense. But then at some point, it, and it really was , how do I show others that there is hope almost to extricate themselves from the situation and I've been thinking about that. So, it's ironic that we're talking about this today because I feel like that one, it ended with basically saying don't even engage at all, period. But I feel like even if somebody now knows what they know is their room then to have this, again, not confrontation to change, but boundary to say, I like what you're saying like enough, you know, it is finished.
Kristin: And I would add to that when I work with clients, I, you know, I leave it up to them, obviously do they want to express anything to their parent or partner or whatever. But what we have to get really solid on is their own internal kind of self and expectations and they have to be clear, why am I doing this? What do I want to get from it? Am I solid in my own self enough to do that? So, and then it's like, okay, tell them what you wanna tell them, but just know you're not going to get the response you want. And so you have to be okay with that.
Tony: Yeah. Right. And then, no, I love it. And that's where , I had a lady at one point who was gonna confront her narcissistic dad in a particular situation. And she worked hard to get to the point where she felt like, I don't think I need to, to then feel like she was in a spot where she said, but now I can and even though, even if I get gas lit, even if I, you know, because yeah, cuz it can have a net negative effect if somebody goes in with expectations.
Kristin: It just is more injury. More injury, more injury, right? And I will say at this point, even though at that moment that I was like, we're done, we're not doing this. I wasn't trying to get to her necessarily. Later something happens where we really, we really made a mistake on that one. So it gets better. So I'm, anyway, I have that confrontation. Everyone's cried. I leave crying, I'm calling my mom like, I, you know, this is so bad, blah, blah, blah. And I'm like, we need to leave. You know, I just want to leave. And my husband comes out and he's like, so our sister-in-law, bless her heart. She thought, well, maybe it would be helpful if we all sit in the living room and talk.
Tony: That's adorable. Yes, of course I will. Yeah, she'll, she'll see the error of her ways. Everybody will work it out.
Kristin: And my only thinking was, I'm like, oh, this is not going to go great. Yeah. But I said to myself, for years I had known she had set her eyes on me as her, what do you call it?
Tony: Were you the hope?
Kristin: The foe.
Tony: Oh, you're talking about the mom.
Kristin: Yes. My mother-in-law. I'm the adversary. I'm the problem. And so I was like, kind of always trying to get everyone to really see it like you guys see how, but everyone would just like, no, I don't know. So I'm like, fine. This is an opportunity for everyone to see that this is true. And so we go in and everyone's sitting there and she just turns, my mother-in-law turns to me and just looks me dead in the eye and says, “well, my biggest problem is with you”. Oh, and in my mind she just says it and I'm like, okay. Everyone knows now that I'm, she has a problem with me. Of course it doesn't go great after that. Right. Everyone kind of proceeds to try to share various things and experiences. What is she doing? She's feeling attacked. Like you said, in that podcast the other day. She's feeling like you're bad, we’re good.
Tony: We're good. We're good. All or nothing. Black or white.
Kristin: Exactly. And so it doesn't go great, and even I get caught up in it, you know, because it's emotional and at some point I'm just like, this is not going anywhere. And I'm upset and angry and feeling still kind of alone. That was a lot. Being here a lot, it was very much feeling alone in the family because I was the one kind of saying, And, because, you know, I'm a therapist, I'm seeing it all, you know? Everyone doesn't have that background, but I'm trying to hold new boundaries and everyone's just like not trying that at all. I felt very alone in our family for many years. And so there, I'm just feeling it, feeling it, feeling it, and I'm just like, I'm done subjecting myself to this. And so I don't know how you feel about choice language in this episode.
Tony: I can, I can click a box that says explicit and we're good to go.
Kristin: Okay. I mean, I, I don't have to say the word, but I, I'm not a, like I grew up as a pastor's kid, so I'm not someone who's just like cussing people out or anything. But I just had it, and I just stood up in the room and I'm like, F this, I'm done, we're leaving. And she follows me into the room. I'm like, please don't follow me. Please stay away from me. You know, I'm just a mess. And I could tell in that moment, she's like, oh, shoot, if we don't fix this now, I might never see my son again, right?
Tony: Yeah. Yes, exactly.
Kristin: And so she's trying to like reel it in, reel it in, reel it in, and I'm literally like, leave me alone. Get out of this room. Like packing all the things. My husband comes in again, here comes that dysfunctional family dynamic, and he's like, let's just go for a drive and like then we'll figure stuff out. So we go for a drive and I'm just like sobbing. You know, we're talking and we get back to the house and my brother and sister-in-law are just upstairs, like nothing ever happened. We feel this feeling of like, if we leave, how does that look? We feel sort of this fear. I think he did more. But yeah, we ended up staying. And we shouldn't have. Yeah, we really shouldn't have. But it was like, well, everyone else is going to act like they're okay. And I felt a little bit of this. I was still struggling with like I'm always the bad guy in the family. I don't like that feeling. I don't want to be that. And here's my sister-in-law, just being loved and sweet and not ever making waves. And I'm kind of jealous and you know, I want to be like that. And so I'm like, well, we should maybe stay, I guess too, because I don't want to be the black sheep. I don't want to be that person. And so we stayed and that's one of the biggest regrets I have, honestly because I think that would've been a really clear boundary at that point. Like, we don't stay when this stuff happens but then we get through the next day and we leave and I could tell when we left that she was, my mother-in-law was internally scared about whether she would see any of us again.
Tony: And don't you feel like they take on that role of a little kid who got scolded and now they're bad, they're in trouble.
Kristin: Yeah, yes. I saw that from her so much. I have seen her, in fact, in the last few years we've had to deal with a lot of shit with her stuff, sorry. . . And we didn't see her for almost two and a half years. And this last time I saw her she was like a wounded bird around me. She was like, this just a crumpled little bird. And I just watched, watched it in amazement. It just was so interesting and I've seen her do that a few other times in our marriage. But, you know, I think what I learned from that whole thing was like, I feel empathy for that version of me. You know, because she just didn't know everything I know now. And I, and it's helped me to work with these other families because they could easily be in these situations on the holidays and Christmas. Had I known what I have known now, I never would've stayed home with them ever on a family vacation, there's so many things I would've done differently and because of that situation was just it was like the trauma that she was around after my birth, and then it was the family thing. I was then just an anxious wreck around her for a long time, I had to do a lot of therapy. We as a couple did a lot of therapy, I mean, this was 2013, so I think just in the last year and a half really, my husband has finally kind of come to a healthy place within himself around all of this. And there's so many things. It's complicated, but I just thought that's a fun holiday story because people are gonna find themselves in this.
Tony: They are. And just knowing that, and I, I appreciate this so much because yeah, you didn't know what you didn't know. You're giving yourself that compassion. But I feel like that part that I talk about on the podcast often is when you are standing up to the narcissist, it means they push more buttons and they get bigger. And, that's hard because typically it's the nice person that's trying to finally stand up for justice and what's right but then when the narcissist then goes big, I mean, I, yeah, that, that shows I appreciate your story because then that next day and you are feeling, I don't like being the bad guy and it shows you feel, shows how people fall in line. Yeah.
Kristin: Yeah. You feel like maybe I'm overreacting. So the gaslighting thing, right? Like there's a lot of that because everyone else in the family is like we're just going to move on. We're going to be fine. We don't, and I'm just like, wrecked inside. Yeah. And then I'm going, I spent years feeling like, am I overreacting? Am I making this too big of a thing, you know, just feeling like it was me and that is, that is not a fun place to be for that many years. And it was really hard. And yes, I dealt with tons of anxiety. I mean, every time we'd have any family visitor, my hands would sweat, my heart would be racing. It was traumatic for me, I think just because I didn't expect her to be the way she was from the get go, you know.
Tony: And how could you, I mean, especially when we just go in with these expectations and assumptions that people do think relatively similar to how we do. And, and I think that's hard because I feel like the people in my office spend so much time even trying to make sense of what doesn't make sense. Or you know, I'm sure they're hurting or I'm sure they're struggling too. And so I don't like that feeling, so maybe I need to let them know or reach out to them and you know, maybe we can just now have a conversation. All those things that are, it's part of that, I feel like that process that you have to go through and you have to go through it.
Kristin: Yeah, you kind of do. Yeah. Which is unfortunate.
Tony: Yeah, but I feel like stories like yours or when people can listen to podcasts or I've got this private women's group, or I feel like the more that they hear the stories I feel like it can maybe speed up the process, I don't know 10%, 15%, which I know doesn't sound incredible, but if that's a year or more that it can help somebody get through this quicker because boy, it does it when you think about all the emotional calories spent and energy spent on trying to figure out or what's wrong with, or yeah.
Kristin: And you know, I have to credit my, I had an EMDR therapist for four years. She's just, I love her to death and she helped me work through so much of that. And the thing, I think one of the things that really stuck with me is giving that negative energy to the person. Like I realized the more that I kept kind of ruminating , and hyper focusing on awful stuff she would do, right? Because she would do some awful stuff over the years, but all it did was hurt me because I wasn't helping anything by just trying to get justice or trying to fight back, or trying to get my husband to fight back. It only really hurt me and it actually continued to give her power in our marriage and I just was like, I don't want to do that anymore. I don't want to give that to her anymore.
Tony: , when I go back, even when we were talking earlier and I'm saying, okay, but can it be set in a boundary and not trying to have the aha moment , and I still feel like at, when somebody is through it, well past whatever , the break was with the narcissist mm-hmm.
that they often do almost find themselves in a spot where they feel like maybe if I would've been able to just pull this Zen mindfulness thing, . I would've calmly just grabbed my stuff and left, you know? And that I, yeah. But I feel like, again, we, but we have to go through it because I still feel like our brain's still trying , to make sense of things, even if we are aware, because, and I think that's why I struggle with that, going back from, all right, I promise I'm not trying to get them to understand, but, here's this boundary.
Even if it's to lead the people out of the wilderness or whatever. , but then I still kind of go back to this place of, but then I feel like down the road, We do, we kind of feel like, ah, , what would that have looked like if I could have , just left calmly and quietly and known that I never was gonna get that exactly right.
But then I don't think that can happen in the moment. I, I don't think it can. I don't know if that's something. Yeah.
Kristin: Cause we're just, no, I just think we're so heightened in our own emotional state. Right. We're human. We're human, we're not, yeah. , and especially when you have so many years built up of stuff, right?
Yeah. And then that situation like that where everyone's talking about all the things and the family that have happened, you just, you're human. You're gonna respond in a human way. Yeah. Even if you know the right way to be in that moment.
Tony: You know what's funny? I, I ran into one, , story of someone telling me about a friend of theirs.
And this is so funny cuz I feel like I've got one example of where a woman was in a relationship with a guy that had extreme narcissistic traits. And then when she was aware, Then she left. Mm-hmm. and, and it sounds so simplistic, but even then this person, this was saying, , , how did she do it?
And then she identified that she grew up , with a secure attachment at home, so Right. She had been taught that, well, you don't put up with that sort of thing. Yeah. You don't waste time or energy. And so I feel like it's almost sad to think that I've got one anecdotal , example of that, cuz I think maybe that's what my brain wants to say.
How do we help people get to the point where, oh, I'm not putting up with this at all, but Yes. Yeah. ,
Kristin: but if most people don't come from healthy attachments. Yeah. Which I would find, I have a curiosity about all of it too, the thing I wonder about, just because I have, I would say like 70% of who I see, they have some family member with narcissistic traits.
Yeah. You know, they're dealing with, I'm like, why is it so pervasive? Have you thought about this? Like,
Tony: no. All the time.
Kristin: is it like because of the generational stuff, like the parents in our, you know, parents' generation were just not very emotional and they didn't Yep. You know, I mean, I know why my mother-in-law's the way she is.
She came from a ton of abuse and yeah. All that stuff. But you know, , oh, oh,
Tony: Kristen. So I'm, I'm getting all excited now cuz I feel like this, I think about this constantly because yeah, when, when I started identifying this population, working more and more with it, identifying my own narcissistic traits, tendencies, uhhuh, emotional maturity, uh, then I think it was early on in the Waking Up the Narcissism podcast where I, I was very intentional , on shifting it to emotional immaturity versus.
Narcissistic traits and tendencies because I feel like when you look at it through the, , we're all emotionally immature until we're not uhhuh, , then I go uhhuh. I do, I do kind of call it generational narcissism because I feel like, , you go back to like my parents or my parents' parents, And , nobody dealt with emotion like that was weakness.
No. And so then you, the kids were growing up Absolutely not seeing it modeled and not having somebody take ownership and you don't, and you rub a little dirt in it. Mm-hmm. and, and I did one on the virtual couch recently about anxious attachment where it was kind of, you know, sorry, moms in a sense. Right.
But it was saying if the mom didn't. You know, when she needed , to feel like a good mom. She's like, come over here and gimme a hug. But when, but then she's managing dad's emotions. She's managing all these other things. So when the kid has a need for, , validation, she may say, man, not right now. Or, you know what, it's really not a big deal.
Or even a good mom is doing that. So now the, the kid then exits into a relationship and then they're saying, all I wanna do is be loved and heard. But then when somebody turns that on 'em, then they don't know what to do with it. And I think that's why almost every relationship I see the pursuer and the withdrawal kind of a concept.
Mm-hmm. . So yeah, , right? And then you gotta deal with that and self confront. So I still feel like if we can get this message out about, , Everybody is emotionally immature and start from that, then we can, I like that. Then we can realize that then we're all enmeshed and codependent. Then we go through the, and that's why I like what you're saying earlier, then we have life things happen and that's our opportunity to say, whoa, look at how I respond.
, and how do you respond? But boy, we gotta get that message out early, you know? Yes. Instead, yeah. So, so do you mind? Yeah. Like a couple more minutes or two, do you. Know that, so, so now what does that look like in your practice then? Because when you were saying about it earlier, there's a part of me wants to try to find patterns and everything, so, you know mm-hmm.
I don't know. Does somebody, but are the traumatic experiences a lot more medical trauma? Are they emotional trauma? Are they, you know, is there a correlation of somebody that is worried they're gonna do it wrong because of their family dynamic of, of birth or, or loving their kid, or, I don't know. You see where I'm, I I know.
I'm just throwing out.
Kristin: You just mean like in. . You're not talking about narcissism, you're just talking about in my birth. No. Yeah. Yeah. What am
Tony: I seeing? Yeah.
Kristin: , I mean all of those things, . Yeah. You know, , I think what's a, a through thread probably for every single one though, is , especially if there's birth trauma, you're playing out whatever.
, unhealthy attachment you had as a child in your birth room. So whether it's I'm not heard, I'm, or it's not you're playing it out, but , , it gets played out. Okay. , so. Most people in motherhood or birth are something from their childhood's gonna come up. So it's all family connected. . Yeah. Right.
So though we're working on minimizing initial really severe symptoms first, , let's get the depression under, you know, handled whether it's like meds or , more sport or whatever. Mm-hmm. . , and then it's like usually then there's space to be like, okay, well, , you know what? Internal, like, , with , emdr, it's like what's the internal negative belief about self, right?
Yes. So usually we'll go to that place. and, oh, where did that come from? And then we end up inevitably doing family work, Uhhuh, , because it's all connected.
Tony: That's it. So that's, no, Kristen, like that's, cause I did another thing on this limiting self-limiting beliefs. Mm-hmm. and like looking at where those come from.
And so I, yeah. So yeah, I can only imagine if somebody had a traumatic experience or they experienced depression , or any of those things that, , do they go right to the, what's wrong with me? Or I must not have been doing this right. Oh, always. Gotcha.
Kristin: Okay. Oh yeah. Especially with birth trauma, every woman goes immediately to, I did something.
Aw, it was me. Instead of, oh, that doctor messed up, or those nurses weren't, you know, or something just happened. It just happened. Just happened. Yeah. Yeah. It's always, and I experienced that within my own self with my birth traumas. Like, I must have done something wrong. Yeah. So, and that's because when we were ki you know, we, it's there is that through line of like, I already believe.
That I do stuff wrong or I'm bad, or you know, I'm whatever I deserve this, or if whatever that sort of negative internal belief is, it's gonna come back. It's gonna just come up in that moment. Right? Yes.
Tony: Oh, that, I think you just, you just said that, that makes so much sense of the Yeah. As a kid, I mean, we default the shame because we have that vibe of if my parents aren't responding to my needs and we don't understand, yep.
Then it's like, well, it must be me. I had to have done something wrong. It must be.
Kristin: So then if I'm in the birth room and people aren't responding to me or listening or , I'm not pushing right or I'm, you know, and there's so much like language that happens in a birth room from doctors and nurses.
They don't realize too how they pile on that like, , you know, you're not doing this enough, or you're blah blah, blah. You know, so it just piles on. Oh, all of that already. Yeah. So, yeah, it's pretty, it's intense. .
Tony: , well then I go back to that , and when I use , the acceptance and commitment therapy skills of how about you're doing nothing wrong, that's the first time you're in that moment.
Having that experience, whether it's your first kid or your eighth kid, it's still the first time you're. . And so, oh, I can't imagine. Oh yeah.
Kristin: Yes. But , till you gotta go back and clear out where that initial negative belief came from. It's hard for them to believe that in the birth. Yeah. Um, memory.
Yeah. So it's like they, you have to kind of go backward and say, oh, where did that start? Where did that come from? You know? And then kinda
Tony: look forward, do you just see people just get rid of a lot of. Heavy, heavy guilt and shame, then yes. Because of that work or that experie.
Kristin: Wow. Yes. I find that it's very effective.
Oh. Unless the person is somewhat personality disordered, which I have a few of. Yeah. You know, that's harder. That's really hard. . Um, cuz there's that lack of insight and awareness. , yeah. But for the most part, I mean, I have women all see like, Three times and we do that trauma work and it's like thumb cleared, you know?
Okay. Yeah. Doesn't mean they won't have other stuff come up, but like Right. Some of that really intense stuff. Yeah. They,
Tony: they, they needed permission to know that they were okay or that that happened. Yeah. Or, yeah, because, oh man, look at that one. Because we get our sense of self through external validation of parent.
So a parent is emotionally unavailable , or emotionally immature. Then we never got validation for much of anything, so sometimes, , you know, just having somebody say, Hey, you're okay. , that's all right. You did your best. Yes. Yeah. All that's stuff. But
Kristin: then getting them to say it to them Yeah.
Themselves, right? Yeah. They have to kind of parent their own self too. Not just from me. Well, you know, I'm saying and it's like I
Tony: give them permission. Yeah. Okay. And I like that cuz one of the things I'm, I've been writing about, and I haven't really talked about it much, but was the concept of where, so you take a, let's just take the stereotype, you know, cause I have guys that will say, you always talk about the guy being the narcissist, but just for the sake of argument, , the wife gets outta.
a narcissistic relationship. So one could, yeah, one could say that they got into that relationship because they didn't know what they didn't know, and they saw unhealthy. , relationship modeled in as a kid, which would probably come with the, they didn't get the external validation, so they were trying to fix and smooth and be the peacekeeper and they go into the relationship as the one that, you know, I gotta be kind and fix and be whoever I need to be.
Mm-hmm. to keep the peace. Mm-hmm. so no sense of self. And so then they get in the narcissistic relationship and then absolutely don't find themselves because they're continually trying to manage the emotions of a, you know, a 10 year old boy that's in an adult. Suit. Right? And so then they get outta that relationship.
And I've noticed that now when I'm helping that person. Now it says, I say, okay, you get to be whoever you wanna be, but then, yes, but then it's, there're saying, okay, who is that right? And I'm like, oh, no, no, no. This is you now. Uhhuh. , right? But now you're dealing with this adult person who has never had the validation from another human being.
Yes. And that can be a really scary. Yes.
Kristin: Yes. So I, that makes me think of a couple times that's similar.
Tony: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. So I like what you're saying, but then I also make, yes. Oh, you go. Yeah. No, go ahead, . Well, well, I was gonna say, so I saw it's nerding out here. I know, right? But I like what you're saying about though giving 'em permission, because I've been really looking at the fact of, okay, I don't want to step into a another narcissistic.
Space and then say, , I will volunteer to be the person to give you validation. But there is a right. A part where it's like, okay, but they do need to, as Sue Johnson says, in E F T, we we're designed to deal with motion and concert with another human, , but it's not supposed to be the human that's only dealing with us in concert to get their needs met.
You know? Yes. Yeah. Yeah. So, I don't know. Yeah. So we gotta figure out who that person is, but maybe if it's with the permission to then do and be, even if it doesn't feel like. the right thing mean. I would even challenge what that means. So you're right, we're nerding out. Yeah.
Kristin: Yeah. . Um, well, cause that made, go on another line.
Oh, sorry. No, I just was thinking about how, I'm noticing , the men, the men in the immaturity there in marriage
Tony: and it's pervasive. Yes. and that's where I feel like that one as a guy and dealing with a lot of that population, Uhhuh, and getting a lot of, I mean , the feedback from the Narcissism podcast is almost overwhelming with the amount of it, which I'm grateful for, but it's people that are pouring their heart out, wanting help because they finally feel heard or have a voice.
And so yeah, the men, the men that reach out to me, and I'm getting more of those, I'm gonna do something with , a men's group, but where they're saying, okay, I know I have this emotional immaturity or , these traits or tendencies. Mm-hmm. , but I don't know how to stop 'em because I feel like, you know, right.
Male brain is hardwired to, , yeah. Things go through this part of the brain that has , the emotional empathy. , it does such a brief stop to get right to the, but what do we do about it? So, and then, yes, I've been talking about like implicit memory or what it feels like to be you based off residue of lived experience year after year.
Mm-hmm. . And so their brain just jumps right to it. So even when I give somebody these four pillars and they're saying, no, I'm aware of my emotional maturity and I wanna change, it's like, it is hard to get 'em to pause long enough to say, tell me more. Or What does that feel like? Because even when they feel like they get it, it's like, No.
Okay, I get it. , so that's hard. , I'm glad she said it, but so now, you know, they go right to solution, which can still leave , the wife feeling unheard. Mm-hmm. and unseen. , and then when I stop the guy and say, man, you are doing great, but can you pause and really sit with that discomfort and try to feel what she's feeling.
That's the part where I watched somebody who's trying hard but go little kid-like, like, I don't want him like, ah-huh. just feels icky, you know? Yeah. Okay. Yes, I scheduled, I, I unfortunately scheduled a client after our interview. No worries. Else we talked.
Kristin: No, I actually, I also have
Tony: one. You do you.
Okay. So Kristen, so can people, can people get ahold of you? I mean, I was curious. , that was one of the things that was interesting. I love that , you sent like, Hey, I've got a story. And I, and now I feel like people are gonna listen to this and say, I would like to talk to her. So, or I mean, are you, oh, that's nice.
Yeah. Do you feel like you are open to people reaching out? . , yeah, sure. Okay. So , do you want 'em to contact you through my stuff or do you want, do you have a website or email? I can
Kristin: just email me. Ok. I mean, , I have a website. My website's just Kristen Hill Therapy. Perfect. Okay. , then I have an email, I think, and your assistant, I think has it too, but, okay.
, kristen health therapy gmail.com. Perfect.
Tony: Okay, so I'll put that in the show notes and then, , please come back on, , let's nerd out again. Oh yeah, that,, that was fun. Yeah, I love it. That was a lot of fun.