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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever received accusations from a narcissist or emotionally immature person, left bewildered by claims about your words or actions? Have you ever been blamed for instructing your father on roofing specifics when you know nothing about roofs, even though your spouse is a roofer? In this episode, Tony delves into real-life stories from his exclusive women's Facebook group, examining instances where the narcissist or emotionally immature person is clueless about the extent of their gaslighting. These individuals share experiences of being accused of actions or words they genuinely couldn’t have come up with. Alongside these stories, Tony explores the concept of betrayal trauma and introduces listeners to the "attachment injury apology." Tune in to understand, unravel, and ultimately untangle the complex world of emotional manipulation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 

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

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

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

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

Tony 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

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-narcissist-in-your-life/202107/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. 

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

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

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

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

People in relationships with narcissists, or extremely emotionally immature people, are often convinced, coerced, or controlled into believing that certain universal rules or commandments must be followed to continue in the relationship. In healthy relationships, both people are free to express how they do things and their likes and dislikes. Then if a change is necessary, it comes from mutually respectful conversations. Tony turned to the private women’s Facebook group to receive dozens of rules and commandments that many people kept to keep the peace in the home or because, over time, they believed that these were “universal truths.” It can take time to unlearn many of these rules, and they can even affect future relationships. Tony shares many rules and how to avoid them playing a negative role in relationships.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transcript

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 contactth@tonyoverbay.com. And I want to know your questions. I want your stories. I want some poetry. We're going to talk about that today. And, I also want to encourage you to look in the show notes as well and find the Waking Up to Narcissism premium question and answer podcast. It's 4.99 a month. And those proceeds do go to help people that are dealing with emotionally immature/narcissistic relationships, everything from paying for some therapy courses, programs, hopefully if the funds can grow to be able to help people with everything from legal expenses and moving costs. Because, a lot of times, financial abuse is one of the things that keeps people in unhealthy relationships and it is an absolute form of control. And that's some of the things that just, it breaks my heart. 

So today we're going to talk about the difference between rules and cuts. And, at the time of this recording, I still, for the life of me, want to find some sort of creative title. So if you are listening to this, you have already seen what the title of the episode will be. And you will know if I finally just said, forget it, rules versus cuts. Or if I came up with some clever something around commandments of narcissism or something to that effect, but when we're talking about rules versus cuts and, you'll get some examples of that. A lot of examples of that today from the private women's Facebook group. But there's a poem that I want to read first. And there's a thread in the group that is, it's amazing. It's beautiful. Where a lot of people will share poetry. So I just asked if maybe we could put everything in one place. And so I really feel like this poem. It just encapsulates and captures what those cuts do or what those are like. And then I think that will then help us frame what the rules feel like when you are in these narcissistic or emotionally immature relationships, especially when you wake up to the fact that it's okay for you to have your own opinion. 

And a little foreshadowing, things like a toothpaste tube do not always have to have a flip top, that it can have a turning top as well. And that does not make you a horrible human being if you like one versus the other. So, let me start with this poem and let me get a joke out of the way first, because I think this is, it's a beautiful poem. I think it's touching, people in the group talked about how it really brought a lot of big emotions out. But I was talking with someone else about poetry and the narcissist in their life. And they just, we were making a light-hearted comment about the fact that this person never appreciated the client that was in my office as poetry, because it didn't rhyme. And poetry is okay to not rhyme. So this does not rhyme , and it is powerful, nonetheless. So, let me read this, author unknown, because I want to keep that, keep that confidential. But there are a lot of poems in the group that I want to read over the coming weeks. So we'll do that as well. 

So it says, “I'm lost in your fears. They twist and turn, winding this way in that, then back again, an infinite circle, the lies slide like vines over the forest floor. I trip over the rocks of blame that you throw at my feet. I get peaks of sunlight, but catch only glimpses. The thick branches and leaves shroud the light and crowd the path. I find myself crouching lower and lower, taking up less space to make room for your ego. The night is drawing, but now I see the stars. They are my hopes and dreams. It surprised me when I learned the opposite of love is not hate, but fear. And the more I love, the less I fear. I no longer hack away desperately at your fears. I trace them. And I see them for what they are. Fear of showing yourself, because who you are might not be good enough. Fear of owning your choices, because if you do, you'd have to accept the consequences. Fear of taking off your mask because being vulnerable can leave you open for hurt. Fear of being wrong, because being right gives you a false sense of worth. The more I love and respect myself, the more clearly I see you. Your fears are not for me to hack away. I loosen my grip and climb. My view of this forest path has changed. Where it leads, I do not know. I look around and notice the air is thin up here and I'm afraid of heights, but here my wings can grow. And the light of truth heals me.”

It's beautiful. It really is. And talks about just what it feels like to trip over someone else's ego and to find yourself being small. And I just, I love that analogy of climbing up to the top of the trees and sure, it's going to be scary and you're afraid of heights, but ultimately that is the place where you'll grow. So I'm just really, I appreciate people that have creative talents like that. I feel like that poem, it says more in about two minutes then I'm going to try to communicate to you in the next 30 or 40 minutes with just trying to make sense of things that really just don't make sense. So on that note, there was a post that I thought was a short post that then just ended up bringing so much, so much content. In the group, one of the members said, even though I've been out for almost two years, I find it amazing how many rules I still catch myself following. Tony talks about death by a thousand cuts, but I feel like I've had to live by a thousand rules. I can see it's going to take a long time to figure out what are truly my own choices instead of old programming. And then she said, anybody else struggle with this? Which I can guess everybody that is in this situation, struggles with this. And a couple of people commented and said, they've been out for a year and it's amazing how far they've come, but how many rules they still think about. 

And somebody said, and not feel anxious while you're doing a specific task. And the person commenting there said that they were still in the relationship. So they don't really, they weren't necessarily thinking in terms of looking at the rules that they were now trying to. I don't know, un-attach from. So someone else just said that there are so many rules and that were introduced so passive aggressively, that it's hard to even remember. She said, when we started following the rules and she said she had been separated for almost two years and she was currently going through a divorce. But she said she was getting better at catching them now and slowly working to undo each rule one by one. But that can be really exhausting. And she says, I just asked myself, how do I want to handle this? What works for me? And do I really care about this? And someone else chimed in and said that sometimes they feel like they need to ask for their spouse's input on things if they're not intelligent enough to decide for themselves, and I almost feel like that's where I want to jump in and say, you're an adult. You've been getting along well up to this point in your life. And so it's okay for you to like the things you like and do things the way that you would like to do them. And what can sound so probably off-putting to the pathologically kind person it feels like, well, but then I'm just saying that well, we're going to do it my way. And there's really, there's middle ground. I don't want to just immediately go to this concept of compromise because I think that's where our brain wants to try to make sense of what that would look like. And sometimes we feel like, okay, well, I know what compromise is going to look like. He's going to get his way. So I might as well just acquiesce and give in. 

And it's not that bad anyway. But it's okay to have a conversation around well, we'll get there with some of these examples, but honest to goodness toothpaste lids, there were, you're going to hear some really interesting ones today where the more emotionally immature or narcissistic person just says, this is how it works. And then everybody knows it is not an answer because I will give this example until the cows come home. I still remember someone talking about the concept of common sense. And then I bring up the example of in some countries where a baby sneezes and a parent immediately puts their mouth around that nose and sucks up and spits out. And that's common sense to that person and then to somebody else that might be the most disgusting thing they've ever heard of. And why don't they use a tissue? Yet then for another person using a tissue just seems crazy because why am I wasting tissue paper and I'm going to get it all in my face. And I'm going to walk around. So let's just look at the way that people do things and why they like doing them the way they do. And if we start from there, now we're going to actually have adult mature conversations. Love or control. Not both in an adult relationship. So to the original poster, I had said once again, you're creating content for me and for the world. And I had just said that to anybody seeing this post, let's talk about rules. And I just said, can you share the rules that you heard? And I feel like, okay, we've got death by a thousand cuts, but I don't know, control by a thousand rules, but I really feel like this is something that will resonate. 

So the first person that chimed in with a lot of rules, she said, here are a few rules off the top of my head. Protein is the cornerstone of every meal and must be present. So you can see already where we're going to go, that this is something that is being preached and told. And while there may be some truth in some of the rules, we're open to interpretation. Or, and I know my wife and I talk about this so often that let's just take this one, for example, protein as the staple of every meal. And then it's, who's to say that in a few years, we will find out that the nation is over protein. So being able to make an informed decision is wonderful and being able to also have your choice in that decision is a powerful thing as well. So back to her rules, she said, here are the rules that she had heard. Again, protein, the cornerstone of every meal must be present. If meat wasn't highly visible, it was a constant barrage of complaints and questions. Is there meat in this? Where's the meat? I can't taste the meat. Now someone that is on a plant based diet, then if they are hearing that, sometimes the word meat can literally give a visceral reaction. But then to the person who is saying where's the meat, then they are going to say that the person on a plant-based diet doesn't know what they're talking about. So we can have different opinions. And here's the one I've alluded to two times already. All toothpastes must have a screw on cap instead of a flip cap, regardless of brand. Rationalized by flip caps are messier. If I did happen to buy a flip cap then I would hear comments about it almost daily until it was gone. And I understand that unfortunately, that's the relationship that some people are in, where they feel like, you know, it's not a big deal. I'll get the screw cap. Or whatever that looks like, 

But we're back to that death by a thousand cuts vibe or control by a thousand rules. She said next, we don't waste food in this house. There's the rule. If I needed to throw away rotted expired or moldy food, I had to justify and defend it. So much so that I struggled to throw anything away. She said he would also go through the trash to make sure I wasn't throwing things away without him knowing. So apparently it was very important for him to be the throwaway police or the wasted food police, or fill in the blank, which if we go back to control, I think that's pretty obvious that that's what we're hearing. She said, if I didn't wear a certain color nail polish or I didn't wear a certain nail polish color for over 10 years, because he doesn't like that color. But she said no rhyme or reason. He was also very rigid about my hair length, our kids' hair length. I had to tell him after the fact, if I was getting even a single trim on my hair. Otherwise, I had to promise not to cut too much because the kids needed to have certain lengths of hair. She said the bed must be made at all times unless being slept in, of course. And so if some of you were saying, okay, well, see, you know, it sounds reasonable, but then she goes on to say, this was hard to navigate because even washing the sheets was difficult because if he came home to no sheets on the bed, because they were being washed, he would panic. And I would hear about it for the rest of the night. 

Another common one. If dad is working, then everybody is working. She said, this is present both in my childhood home and my home with my husband. If dad was doing chores, then everyone else had better be doing chores. But she said, the thing is the distribution of work was already highly imbalanced. The rest of us did chores on a regular basis, while dad did them when and if convenient and only sporadically. So when it came to making plans for the holidays, his family came first because he had very close siblings and siblings cannot be apart. Or she said another one. The kids had to read for 30 minutes every night. And again, here's where I think that there's a tie in with death by a thousand cuts. And along with these rules, because somebody will say, well, it doesn't sound so bad. But she said this one was clever because it was hidden behind sound guidance for raising kids. Reading is good. But he would only allow them to read his books. She said the kids were little. At some point in kindergarten or first grade, they were expected to read Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. So she said her kids grew to really hate it. And it was a, like she said, world war three, to get him to compromise because it was all about control. And I think one of the unfortunate things is that this is a point where I would, I would be curious to know what their relationship is with reading at this point in their lives. She said I had to be ready for physical intimacy at his request. It wasn't always granted, but it was an expectation met with pouting in the silent treatment if I said no. She said the kids were only allowed to have dessert on Tuesdays and Fridays. And I hear versions of this one often, and I think it's so interesting. So, let me, let me dig a little deeper here. So again, kids were only allowed to have dessert on Tuesdays and Fridays, but she said it was so rigid in his mind that if someone's birthday was on a day of the week, that was not on treat day, then it was a battle to get them to be flexible on having birthday cake. And she said the same goes for any holidays, if he did compromise, it became about a trade. And this is where I wanted to get into this fine. He said, I'll allow birthday cake on Wednesday. But that means no dessert for the rest of the week. And she said, I had to fight that battle many times. 

So you're here, I imagine a lot of the people that are listening to this content have similar experiences. And if you're someone listening to it and these are the rules that you give someone. And if you're saying well, right, but now is the time, welcome to the world of self confrontation. So if you are saying, everybody knows, but this is the best way. Then I'm grateful that you have found the best way for you. And if you think to yourself, will it just make sense to you or everybody knows? Well, I think I could probably question, I don't know if I was, I was asked, so I know that it's probably not everybody. I know I'm being a little facetious, but I want the people hearing this, that if you're one who has been living by these thousand or 2000 rules, To know that I just, even, this is where I just want to bring that awareness that that's not healthy in a relationship. That relationships are built upon. Tell me more, curiosity. What's your experience? What matters to you? And then eventually we work toward a compromise and I stumble over the word compromise so often because there are so many steps of communication that need to be had before we get the compromise. I understand compromise in a business setting is this art of war negotiation compromise. And, in that point, I think often if people are being real with themselves in a business setting that the compromises that they win, if they get more out of the deal. But I know there's also this belief that they, every, both people want to walk away and feel like they win. And I think there's psychology around that too. Maybe we have to confabulate a narrative that says, oh yeah, this is exactly what I wanted. But in adult human relationships, I'm you know, I'm feeling like I want to say I will grant the concept of compromise and negotiation. 

But it needs to be from a very healthy place of tell me more, what's your experience? Because we'll often find that people don't really care about certain things. Or we'll find that people had completely different experiences growing up, which led to completely different experiences or expectations as an adult. And so we want to have a tool to communicate about these things before we try to work out what that's gonna look like for our family, because inevitably the more alpha, the more dominant, the more direct, the more intense that person is going to most likely get their needs met. And then feel like, okay, good. We agree because the kinder person, the more emotionally sensitive or pathologically kind or highly sensitive person is going to find themselves over and over again, just acquiescing for the sake of, it's not worth the fight. But meanwhile, the message to the person that continually seems to get their way is that I'm right. But it's really, I am too controlling to really hear and understand my partner. Another person said that when I was married, I was told that we had to have sex at least every 48 hours to keep him satisfied. So he wouldn't look for other avenues of relief. She said, I followed this for the first few years of our marriage. It didn't work. I had to learn that this was his issue and not mine to fix. 

And, you know, at times I don't know why, but I feel like, I mean, I'm a marriage and family therapist. I've seen well over a thousand couples and a sex therapist talked about this all the time, but then I don't talk a lot about it on the podcast. And I think I confessed it on one of the podcasts that for some reason, I still imagine that a mom is playing this while the kids are in the van. And all of a sudden I'm talking about it trying to do these code words around intimacy. When in reality, this is one that I think is very, very poignant and timely. And I hear on a regular basis, that is not what I hear in emotionally healthy relationships. And that is the fact that from a guy saying to his wife, what am I supposed to do? Do you know how bad it hurts down there? If I don't have a release every 48 hours or 72 hours. And then a guy will then be in actual visceral pain. Oh my gosh, you have to relieve me. And, and I worry. And I feel confident that that is just really an unhealthy way. For somebody to get rid of their discomfort, the discomfort is that they would like to have sex. They would like friction on their genitalia, quite frankly. I feel like that is not saying I desire a deep connection. I desire an emotional connection. We are not working up the ladders of intimacy. There is not verbal intimacy. We could talk, we just have this deep connection, which leads to emotional intimacy. Now I feel like we can open up and talk about anything, which above that is cognitive and intellectual intimacy. This is where I like to say that one person can have their PhD and the other, their GED, but we're so connected verbally and emotionally that we're even having conversations about things that, we absolutely know that the other person doesn't know, but there's so much curiosity there because there's mutual respect. 

And up above that one is a spiritual intimacy. So at that point, if we're connected verbally and emotionally cognitive intellectually, then we can be in two completely different places from a spiritual place as well, because we respect each other and we are, of course we have different opinions. And how fascinating it is that I can have this opportunity to connect with another human being that has such different experiences, but we care about each other. And that is what leads to physical intimacy. It's a by-product of those other levels of intimacy. So if a person is saying my nether regions are in pain, please relieve them for me by friction on my genitalia, we're kind of missing the boat, but then other times I want you to desire me and I want you to praise me. And that is just, it's just not a setup for any type of real consistency with a connection in the relationship. So, she goes on to say other ones. She says, as a child, I was not allowed to pursue new interests. If I didn't show an aptitude for those interests. She said, for example, I really wanted to play soccer, but I wasn't athletic. So my dad only let me pursue art activities because I was creatively inclined. But she said for many years, I believe that exercise just wasn't for me, because I wasn't athletic enough. Now, right there, you can probably see where this is going. So I would imagine that the dad in this scenario, he maybe didn't like seeing his kid out there not being the best, because that would reflect on the dad that is making it about him. But if the kid wants to play sports and wants to play soccer, then that sounds like a great idea. And let them be the ones that are going to go and explore that and not live with this life of regret because they were unable to do the things that they wanted to do, that they saw their friends doing as well because then how does that carry over into adulthood? Like she said for many years, I believe that exercise just wasn't for me, because I wasn't athletic enough. She said, I even tried to go out for track and my dad, who happened to be a long distance runner, made me run a mile with him, she said, when I had never run a mile before. And then he told me, see, you can't do it. So you probably wouldn't be very good or successful in track or cross country. 

I know. I've paused dramatically. I think I need a sound effect of a record scratch at some point in every episode. Because, so long distance running, father says, come with me child and run a mile for the first time. Number one, look how easy it was for me. Number two, I beat you. Number three, I was probably even faster than you were at your age. Number four, see, this isn't something for you. And it's insane. It really, it really is. So then she said that she felt like she internalized that if I couldn't do something well or perfect, I should not pursue it at all. She said I had to learn that mistakes and failing or just learning opportunities and not character flaws. So if you are a parent that is not wanting your kid to do something, I would love for a quick self check-in. Now there are real things like financial burdens and issues. And I would say that if you're in a position where finances are an issue, then I would also look for other ways there oftentimes that clubs and teams will have scholarship opportunities, or there's the rec programs. And so I feel like there's often a way to have someone be able to at least somewhat explore the opportunities that they would like to. But I do know that there are financial burdens. But if you don't want to take them because you are worried that they will not be good. Now that's a you thing. If you were telling yourself, but I don't want them to do it because I don't want them to get picked on or bullied because kids are mean. Which I understand, but I will just say, go ahead and set a few bucks aside each month for therapy someday for the kid, then to say I was never even given a chance for the kids to bully me. I was never even given him the opportunity to see if it was something that I liked.

And I feel like that's one that I hear often. She said from a religious community that she said she's no longer a part of. And she said, and from her spouse, when she was newly married, there was an expectation to be the ideal, what she referred to as a Proverbs 31 wife, she was said I was expected to take on all the home duties, the laundry, the cooking, the meal, planning, the grocery, shopping, the cleaning, the organizing. Along with finances, bill paying, taxes, budgeting, because she said I was quote better at it. When in reality, she said, my spouse didn't know how to do it. And she also worked a full-time job where she commuted quite a bit each day while her spouse was finishing school. He would say they are far more important than sharing the duties. So at that point she had already graduated with a degree and she set a precedent for the rest of our marriage in which I was expected to carry a lot of the household duties on my own. She said when we started having children this included taking care of them and all that entailed. She said her opinion really wasn't asked after that point. She said he had to have the clothes he needed each day. I needed to have dinner on the table when he wanted. And she said, I thought it was being a good wife. I was actually being used and abused while my spouse had a lot less stress than I had. And she said, this made me susceptible to depression. She had sleep issues and reactive abuse. She said, I internalized that his life, activities and choices were the most important in our home. And she said and sent him the message that it was okay to ignore my needs. And she said I've had to learn to recognize what my responsibilities truly are and ask for help when I need it. And let go of the things that aren't that important. 

And let me just take a moment here. When she said I internalized that his life, activities and choices were the most important in our home. And I sent the message that it was okay to ignore my own needs. This is one of the things that if you are struggling with, if I stay in an unhealthy relationship for the kids and I understand that there is so much unknown out there, but I worry. As a therapist, as a podcaster, as somebody that works with this population. So often that I worry that this is the message that's being sent to the kids. That, that if the, let's say in this scenario and I’m working with men that are in incredibly unhealthy relationships with narcissistic and emotionally immature and abusive women. Which is a whole, again, I know I did an episode about it a few weeks ago, but it's a whole different ball game and it is really scary because the man often is not being given any benefit of a doubt. But in this scenario, if you are buffering and trying to manage your husband's relationship to protect the kids. Because you're worried that divorce will be bad for the kids. It's just, these are the things that I worry about. Again, a kid gets their external validation from their parents. And so if the validation that they are going to have, if the validation that they are going to get is going to, in essence, be trying to learn how to navigate the emotions of a large adult human being that is their parent, that they are seeking to go to for guidance and for support and for safety. Then that's what it feels like to be them. They are going to be someone that is learning how to read the room and put their needs second, and try to go small when the other person goes big. But if you are developing a secure attachment with your kid, which means that they're the ones that are actually going through and experiencing life, and you are there to say, tell me about it. How was it? What was that like? Do you want to keep doing that? Or what else are you thinking? 

Instead of, I don't like that. I don't think you should do that. I can't believe you're asking me that. Do you know how that affects me? There's a lot of I’s and me’s. They're not the cool kind that worry or I wonder, or I would like to know. So that message is being sent. Again, that breaks my heart. The message we're sending is that someone else's life, their activities and choices are far more important than mine. And instead it is not unhealthy. It is not narcissistic or egotistical to be able to have your thoughts, your needs and your wants, and be able to express them. But to someone that's safe because that's where it becomes a whole different experience. She said I've been ashamed for spending too much money. And she said, I've had to account for whatever I buy when we have financial discussions, but I'm not supposed to ask anything about my spouse's purchase. She said, even though we have Amazon packages coming to our home almost daily. She said we have separate checking accounts, but he makes more money than I do. And it's always questioning what I spend my money on, but it's not forthcoming on how he spends his money. She said I've learned not to ask about financial matters unless he is in the right mood. And I'm prepared to share my list of purchases. But still working on this one, reset has been asking for financial information for months, and I've decided that I need to budget my own money appropriately for now. And again, it is well within your right to have the financial information. It is well within your right to have a mutually reciprocal relationship where both of you are able to express concerns about money and purchases and be accountable for it. And it's uncomfortable. And that's again, where I go back to a narcissist or an emotionally immature person who is so prone to just dismiss and just run away from discomfort at all costs. So they don't want to have to admit that. Yeah, you're right. Sometimes I'm a little bit controlling about money and other times I just spend. I'm impulsive. Because that would be scary to say that, and it might be uncomfortable, but, but that's what adult mature human beings do in their conversations. 

They say, check this out. I impulsively bought something again today. Because if the other spouse is going to say. Oh man. Tell me what that's like. I know I've been there before, you know, I worry because I feel like we struggle with the budget, but maybe we can get on the same page. Can we hold ourselves? Can we work on this together? Can we deal with emotion in concert with each other, with another human being? Because that is where growth occurs, not in hiding, not in playing small. There is no growth in trying to manage someone else's emotions. Or just trying to continually rid myself of discomfort by giving in to the needs of others. The growth comes from feeling safe and secure as I express things that I'm going through for the first time in my life and having somebody there empathetically, caring, and saying, tell me more and what's that like for you? Because then I get to say, man, let me see what that is like for me. Let me do a little self confrontation, check this out. Here's how I'm feeling now. And I never realized what your experience was. And I'm not saying then the unicorn comes out and they point their horn behind a tree. And there's a pot of gold. It isn't that, you know, fictitious. To them, these types of conversations and relationships do exist in the world so if that is not what you are having you deserve to have better relationships and better conversations. So here is where I almost just went with commandments. So, the word commandments may still be used. You may have read that in the title. This person said you can use all of the following. So she said, you shall, shall never stop at target because they disallowed salvation army bell ringers at Christmas. You shall always buy American made. He checked my clothing for tags for years. Shall never put any type of flavored coffee in the coffee maker, shall always wash all new clothing and bedding before use. Shall never ask for things. This almost always was guaranteed by you. You would not get them. Shall not complain because doing so indicates that you're not grateful. Again, these are, this is an adult human being in a marriage where the other adult human being is saying that this is how you must be. And, and this is what, how our, our relationship needs to be framed. Just let that sink in. Because that is not a way to build connections. But she has plenty more. 

You shall not open the sunroof if he is in the car, you shall always check all of his pockets before washing his clothes because he could have forgotten something. You shall watch the salt. He monitored that like crazy. You shall get out of his chair. Particularly the kids when he would walk up to the chair and stand there and wait, you shall not open the bedroom window at night. You shall never tell anyone how many animals that we have, you shall not expect anything from him. He may or may not do what he said he would do. It depended on if he wanted to do that in the end. And you shall not question. Servers shall never be tipped. TV or music shall be played at his preferred volume. If it was too loud for his liking, then he would turn it off. And if you wanted it louder and he did not, that was incorrect. And if he wanted it down, you get the point. So she said, is that enough? She said, oh my goodness, what a miserable situation. So then someone else had chimed in and said, okay, maybe the title is going to be the false commandments of narcissism. So I think that that does speak to this quite well. Another person chimed in and said the one that I still catch myself abiding by is how to load the dishwasher. And I've already commented on this. I think in previous episodes, maybe even in the death by a thousand cuts. But she said, it's funny how the rules were always for things that he felt were primarily my responsibility, because of course he knew better how I should do everything. And to that one I did, I did say, I have literally, and probably shared with other people that I could do an entire episode on narcissism and dishwashers. She's in a new relationship and she said when her new partner was over, he was helping her with the dishes, and she says, because that's the thing that happens in healthy relationships without the expectation of sex later, by the way. 

He asked how I like things put in the dishwasher and she said, I sat there dumbfounded and I thought what's the angle. And then I told him about my ex's rules with the dishwasher, somebody else then just also chimed in and said that they also said, man, the dishwasher, why is this a thing? This is definitely how the rules played out in their home as well. And then other people chimed in and said, what is it about the dishwasher? And so I think that that is one of those things that it just it's, because it's a simple thing that then someone can criticize someone else about when, in reality, you can load or unload the dishwasher, to be honest, however, you would like now, are there more efficient ways? First of all, let's define efficiency. But even if that's the case, is your goal to get into a relationship so that you can finally have your way and let somebody know how much better your way of loading or unloading the dishwasher is because if that is your goal for the relationship, then I would love for you to be able to make that a clear maybe from the outset. Or from the onset of the relationship that, if somebody says, hey, what are your hopes and dreams? What do you want to get out of this? Do we wanna have kids? We want to be able to save together. Do we want to retire? I'm going to go on vacations. And if he says I would rather have somebody say at the beginning, to be quite honest, I've got this whole idea around how a dishwasher should be loaded or unloaded. And so that's really, my goal is to find someone that is doing it wrong so that then I can correct them. And then they will then applaud me. And then I will feel like my life is complete, which I don't think is going to be the case.

Someone else said that a memory was sparked. She said another rule of the household that they were not allowed to use their dishwasher at all. Even though it was brand new, we had to hand wash everything. If we dared use the dishwasher, then there was a litany of complaints. The dishwashers are a waste of time. My family had to wash our dishes. So your family should too. I'll drink from this cup, but I'll bet it's dirty because you use the dishwasher because the dishwasher actually doesn't do a good job. Or the dishwasher is too noisy. It is confusing. She said which it wasn't and I could go on and then more people chimed in about the dishwasher. Someone else has commented and said the rules are so many, so unpredictable, it felt like yet he would rail. On work or outside sources that would have a preference, not a policy that he would never follow those preferences himself. She said the rules happen to be on the things that I did and not him. The kids couldn't have donuts for breakfast, because donuts aren't breakfast. But then on the days that he would go out or maybe a Saturday morning and he would go out and run errands, then he would get them donuts and other pastries. But that was different because it was the weekend and he didn't have a chance to interact with them often. The kid should exercise a certain amount of time every day, but he would not put any effort into it. It was just a directive to me and I also happen to be working full time. She said he had preferences on everything that he passive aggressively let known. 

And she said, then I would hear about if I didn't follow the dog food, for example, needed to be left in the dog food bag and sealed until I scooped out the food at the time that the dog was going to eat, even though digging my hand in the bag would scratch my hand, whatever that would look like when I scoop the food, she said he left for quite a while, an extended amount of time for work. And she said, I started to feel rebellious and I started to break the rules. She said it and it still made me feel so anxious. She said therapy helped her realize how silly it all was from the outside. And that's the vibe that I would love for you to get from this episode of how silly it is from the outside, that I am an adult with a mind and opinion. I can make decisions and calls on my own, even without consulting my spouse's opinion. And she said, I have no idea when I started to follow his rules and I still catch myself following them without realizing it. I'm taking it day by day. She said, I don't have to give them a full report of every bite that the kids have eaten today. Because when I do then that's, I'm open for criticism. I can buy and use a dog food bin since I'm the only one who feeds the dog. And I prefer it that way. She said I can let the kids brush their teeth and the downstairs bathroom on occasion. Even if a kid tells me that dad wouldn't let me do that. I can even give my kids mac and cheese for a second day in a row. If that's how life is rolling that day and the kids can even have a cinnamon roll for breakfast. Even when it's not a weekend and it's not something that he does. Somebody else commented that it's the directives, the rules that are expected to be enforced, just not by the person giving the rules. 

Just a few more. There's another person that I just, I really appreciate this tape. She said, this is why I'm even struggling to figure out how to have a healthy relationship with her new husband. And she's in a very healthy, happy relationship now. She said there are all these unwritten laws in my head about how marriage works based on my old neural pathways that were created from a 20 year relationship with a narcissistic ex, she said, it seemed as if there was some sort of invisible exchange system that in order to ask a favor of him, I had to do something for him. If I wanted to have a girl's night out, he needed a week away on a hunting trip. If I asked him to help with some of the household duties, then I had to go out and do a big chunk of the yard work. If I wanted to spend money on something for myself, then he got to buy a new gun or something. And she said she has just a million more examples of this. And she said, I don't think I ever would have noticed how this is not a great foundation for a relationship, and how I did not feel like there was unconditional love. She said my husband now calls me out on it all the time, and calls me out, let me say in a good way. She said that he points out that there are just times in life when he is more available and will step up in times when I am more available and then I can do more. And it's not an exchange system. That love should not be conditional and full of unwritten laws and expectations of reciprocation all the time and I couldn't agree more. 

Other people chimed in and talked about how relatable that was, the silent what's in it for me attitude is so real. And then I just wanted to, I chimed in on this one and said, it's something that shows up unconsciously in new relationships. Because at that time, when I was reading through this thread for the first time, I had a session with somebody pretty recently. That was just, they were worried about what they didn't know that they didn't know about relationships. Entering a new one. And the fact that they just felt so anxious about. What are the things I don't know about a relationship? And when you're in a healthy relationship, of course you don't know what you don't know, but you're going to discover together, which then the relationship is filled with curiosity, which is amazing. She was very nice and chimed back in and said, it's interesting navigating a new, healthy relationship with past unhealthy survival tendencies. And I really appreciated that phrase that she used. She said, my eyes are wide open as I've learned a lot in this past year. And she said she hopes that she can use this understanding to reach out and help even more people navigate this unknown. And I thought this was a really good take too, another person chimed in and said that they also felt that they were living from these, these rules. And she said, I found myself guilting out whenever the narcissist, her narcissistic ex-husband, has the kids and has an appointment falls on his mornings or when he has the kids and that responsibility falls on him. She said, even if I tend to everything else on their schedules, she said, the one I'm feeling guilty about now is to drop off our son at a therapist, then wait for 30 minutes with wifi, comfy sofas, good free coffee, during a time that he has a break in his work schedule. 

She said here, the rule is everything to do with the children that does not involve a trampoline park or a swim park, is mine to do, not his. And I think that's one of the things that can be so difficult is you do want the best for your kids. And so if there is a chance that your ex and then we can stay in this scenario, whether it's the husband in the relationship with the immature woman, wife, or if it's the wife and the relationship with the immature husband, I feel like I could just continue to go on. There's so many. Let me just go through a speed round. Someone else said, I can't believe what a chord this struck, she said there were colors. He didn't like smells. He couldn't stand rules about candles, haircuts, clothing, perfume, purses, my jewelry, how to make the bed, how to fold the laundry, how to clean the lights, the thermostat, the air conditioner. Even how to sit on the furniture, how to arrive early, how long to stay, how I talked on the phone, what I said to the neighbors, the exhaust fan in the bathroom, the refrigerator, the car, she said so many issues around the car. There were rules about shopping for food, eating habits, rules for the curtains. No plants, no pets. And she said, and I felt like I was always in trouble if family or guests violated his rules, somehow it was my responsibility and I would pay the price after they were gone. She said, I swear, I could go on for a week and still be reciting the rules. I catch myself off these days, realizing. Did I get, she said, a lovely little, just a bit of pleasure. Every time I'm breaking one of his rules, the enormity of how bad it was, has never been a real eye-opener. She said, I think I'd become so programmed that it was second nature. But never again. And she said my house is now my rules and then other people chimed in. 

One saying I lived so many of these same rules and I was made to pay of guests, broke them. I needed to contemplate this better. Someone else then chimed in and said the smells. She said, ah, I can't use dry shampoo without him complaining about the smell. Candles, forget about it. Unless it's pine scented. If I wear perfume, he complains, I put makeup on, it’s who are you trying to impress? I don't care how you look because I'm doing it for myself, isn't enough. And I could go on. Another person said he didn't like certain restaurants because their sweet tea was awful, but made our kids order water everywhere, showers should last no more than eight minutes, but he never was able to provide the data of where the eight minutes came from. Picky eaters were not allowed, but he could declare boldly what foods he refused to eat such as oysters. The menu of dinners for the week couldn't have too much rice or pasta, but he was okay with potatoes. And she said she grew up in an area where rice and pasta were the staple, but then she also said, but that was part of what he despised of me being proud of my roots yet he was beyond proud of his. So basically anything that a double standard could be attached to, we'll go through a speed round and then we'll wrap this one up. Another person said, had to buy his favorite brands, or they were called poop brands. If we weren't 15 minutes early, we were late. If I didn't dry out chicken, he would complain that I was going to make everybody sick with salmonella. I couldn't turn the AC above 60 degrees for years, even though I have Raynaud's and my fingers will be numb, with a sweatshirt and pants. And then we would proceed to get mad that we wouldn't go to sleep naked because it was a freezing cold room. If I complained that meant I was ungrateful. I had to speak to them about feelings or important stuff at the exact right time. Not after work, not when he was hungry and not before bed. 

He made it clear that he liked all the girls' hair long. We couldn't cut it short. Also he didn't like it up. He didn't like it when I wore too much makeup or skinny jeans or capris. We wanted time to go to bed early with him, but he wouldn't help get the kids ready to bed for years. So when he finally did, he rushed them and made them upset before bed. We had rules on how many nights he would prefer I stay up late versus I go to bed with him. I was a night owl and he went to bed as the kids were going to bed. The dog was never allowed upstairs because of his allergies, but he was the one who insisted on getting the dog, even though he knew he was allergic. So many rules around air conditioning, haircuts and spending money, but she said there were also other rules like if you're tired, go to bed without reading or else he gets mad at you about it. Or if you say you're going to read, but you're on your phone and he gets mad about that. Or if you say you're tired, then don't go to bed. He gets mad at you. If you turn out the lights, but if you go to bed with the lights on, then he gets mad that you didn't wait up for him. Or he asks you a yes, no question, that feels like a loaded agenda. You have to guess the right answer. He gets mad. And if you try a clarifying question, he gets mad and barks, it's a yes or no question. Now I read those as quickly as I could, because that's the confusion. That even if you try to slow down and stop and make sense of these things, they're going to change. 

More people chimed in that you're so right, rules. Like when the movie is over, you have to stay in your seat and watch the credits until the credits are all the way done. Somebody else chimed in and said, yep. That's one for me too. And another person did say reading all of this made me realize something that my husband is hypervigilant about. Not appearing controlling that there are definitely examples of him having rules around kitchen cleaning, money, et cetera. But she said, here's what's funny or weird about it. He uses himself as the standard, which I should be measuring myself. He's under the impression that if he's doing or not doing something, I should be this way, he doesn't think he's being controlling. For example, she said he decided to stop buying his protein powder because of costs. And so now he's recently berated me about not using mine. He stopped buying his, so I should too. Same happens with cleaning the kitchen. Now that he's cleaning it more, everybody needs to be better about putting their dishes in the dishwasher right away. Even though he was never that diligent about the dishes when I was the one cleaning. Has controlled a super covert to me. And like others have said, uses a great deal of guilt. And even more so though, he puts rules on communication because that's less tangible than him controlling how much money I spend. I'm not allowed to make faces when I talk, no interrupting him. And as long rants don't be on my phone while he's talking, act very interested, but not too emotional. None of these rules apply to him. And if I break one, then he uses that as an excuse to turn into a raging teenager and say whatever harsh, cruel things he wants. 

And while I feel we could go on and maybe we'll save this for a part two, but I'll wrap it up with a comment that really did, I know I can, I use this phrase a lot, it breaks my heart. But one of the women in the group said, one thing that I really am having issues on learning in my brain, even though I'm still married, she said, is that my worth or worthiness of love directly correlates with my productivity. If I do enough, things are copacetic. If I'm not productive enough, I am met with anger, tantrums, name calling. She said my therapist is trying to really drill into me that my worth is not based on productivity. And I think that's one of the challenges here and people have chimed in and related as well. One of the people said I can really relate when my therapist sent me a copy of my treatment plan for therapy, the word busy-ness was highlighted and underlined. That we're so much more than that, but it's so hard to undo and we didn't become busy producers in a vacuum. It was an important protector at some point. And maybe still is. And I think that's one of the most, the largest challenges with this, the group of kind people that are in these relationships with emotionally immature or narcissistic people, whether again, male, female, whatever the dynamic is, that you're a kind person trying to make sense of things, trying to do enough. Because when you do, then that's some of the times where you are met with some bit of validation, but then when these rules, these rules just continue to change. And they aren't enough and they are crazy making because you are absolutely losing your sense of self. Then that can be this position where you just start to feel like I just can't make sense of anything because it's nonsense. 

So, if you have additional examples of these rules, send them to me at contact@tonyoverbay.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.

Author Dana Killion joins Tony to discuss her memoir “Where the Shadows Dance,” available for pre-order at https://amzn.to/3yR0gIp Dana’s story is born of a life in turmoil and her husband’s addiction, a situation where the only way through was to write it. And as she wrote, the themes of her personal trauma became clear and loud. They screamed for attention because they are the themes of many women, not just women with an addict in their life, but women who have been silent and have set aside their truth for the benefit of another. Women who are ready to find the strength and solace Dana has found through her reinvention. Tony and Dana discuss similarities in Dana’s story with those of the women and men who find themselves in relationships with emotionally immature or narcissistic people in their lives and how vital the need for self-care and listening to one's instincts can literally be life-saving. 

Dana Killion is the author of several fiction books in the mystery/thriller/suspense category, including the Andrea Kellner series “Lies in High Places” https://amzn.to/3FzQQF7 “The Last Lie” https://amzn.to/3yPhqGn and her latest offering, her memoir “Where the Shadows Dance” which can be pre-ordered on Amazon at https://amzn.to/3yR0gIp

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transcript

Tony: Dana Killian, welcome to, and as I was sharing with you before, probably the Virtual Couch, Waking Up to Narcissism, I have a true crime meets therapy podcast, and I feel like your story's so good, I think that, welcome, welcome to the Virtual Couch Network. Let's put it that way.

Dana: Thank you so much. I'm thrilled to be here. 

Tony: Yeah, it's nice to have you and my audience will know that I really like to just kind of go back and forth, but I actually wrote questions because I just feel like your story is so fascinating and there's something that I actually heard in another interview that you gave where you talked about you were journaling in addition to therapy. So there's a part of me that wants to just ease into your story but, as a therapist, I applaud you for journaling, and I'm curious, what was that process like and how did it differ from how you write fiction novels as well?

Dana: I do. Yeah. Journaling was something I wasn't immediately drawn to. I had a therapist suggest it and my first reaction was horror.

Tony: Tell me why. What, what came up for you? 

Dana: I was still at that place, at that point of the fear of being discovered, my internal thoughts. I was still in the marriage at this point. I was still going through a great deal of pain and I wasn't ready to share. And I felt that journal would be discovered. And so it was a scary thing for me, but later on, I was in a different place. I was in a place of such emptiness that therapy was fine, but it really wasn't getting loosened up, all the stuff that kind of comes up in between the things that you can't cover in an hour, the things that were just really, for me, lots and lots of questioning. So I found a journal and I just started downloading and I, and I don't have any other way to, to frame it other than downloading questions, pain, how I'm feeling, without any purpose other than to get it out of my head and out of my heart. 

Tony: No, I love that. To get it out of your head, I often find that people are so afraid of, and you can have all kinds of yeah, buts. The yeah, but it will get discovered or yeah, but it will just go darker or, yeah, but it will make me feel worse. And it sounds like you had those thoughts as well. 

Dana: Once I actually started journaling, I was really excited to do it. Okay. It felt like I'd found a release and I was less afraid of discovery at that point. There'd been a lot of other conversations and I knew that at that point I needed to worry about myself and I needed to worry about finding a way to deal with the pain and the emptiness that was inside me and the journaling was something I was thrilled to do. 

Tony: And did that happen pretty quickly after you started the process or did that take a little time? Okay. I love that. I'm going to cut this clip and then send it to every client that I have, everyone I will have in the future, so I appreciate you sharing that. You talked about that you needed to think more about or do that for yourself. And maybe that might be a nice transition into, I would love to just hear your story because, part of the, where I felt like this would fit in the narcissism world or emotional immature world, I often identify this, there's an author, Ross Rosenberg that calls it the human magnet syndrome, where there's a pathologically kind person who then is with an emotionally immature, narcissistic person. And then it forms this human magnet where you've got the kind person continually caretaking, buffering, you know, looking for it. And I'm curious, Dana, and maybe let's just let you tell your story, but I just wanted you to know that's what a lot of my listeners are probably, coming at that from their own experiences being that pathologically kind or caretaker that has felt in this human magnet. So I'm curious if that was a similar feeling that you had. 

Dana: Well, so the, the quick version of my story is I was in a 25 year marriage to a very high functioning alcoholic. And he eventually went into inpatient treatment and did get sober. At that point, he had had therapy, but not rehab. But while he was at rehab, I then learned another part of our story that I hadn't known. He had been living a secret life, a life of other women throughout our marriage. An unknown number. This is kind of where the journaling process comes in. As I was trying to deal with the why's of all of that because he had gotten sober, he'd gotten sober for me, and now I've got this new hurt, this new problem, this new crushing blow to deal with. And journaling became a bigger part of my life at that point. And through the journaling, yes, I write fiction, so through the journaling, I began to see that I did have, and that writing that story, at least for me, was a good way to gain perspective on what had happened in my life. Because as you and all your listeners know, when you are in the middle of trauma and pain, you can't see the big picture, you can't step away from it. And there was so much in that stage of questioning myself and questioning him what has been real in my life. And the journaling gave me that opportunity to see that I had a story there, but I didn't know that was a story that I needed to write, but writing a book is not the same as publishing a book. That's how I incrementally got into this process. So I decided to write, and I wrote that awful dirty first draft, as we call it. And it was garbage and it was full of all this protective language. I tried to still, I tried to tell the story, I tried to use distancing language. I used every trick in the book to not face the reality of, and not to not say it all.

Tony: And Dana, at that point, did you feel, was it a, I didn't know what I didn't know, or I wasn't willing to confront, or were you aware that I am doing this because I don't want to get that close.

Dana: I was not aware that I was doing it until after that draft was done and I read it and went, oh no, this is not working. I can't do this if I am not as real and raw and honest as I can be. I mean, I can write it, but it's just therapy for me. I'm gonna do something else with this and I had to make that decision, the only way that it made any sense or had any value to me in the long run and to other people in the near term, was that I had to find a way to be as vulnerable and raw and human and full of flaws and embarrassment as I could, and I had to tell it from the truth. 

Tony: I'm probably just making assumptions, but as a fiction writer I often assume that someone who writes fiction, there's a lot of their story or truth in those characters, or is that the case with your regular books and then was there a point where you thought about turning this story into a fictional story?

Dana: Those are really good questions. Yes. In my fiction, they're small parts of me, and interestingly enough, there's small parts of me that I wish I had; I could make my character a little more confident, a little bolder, a little more persistent than I was because some of this, a lot of the the most difficult parts of the drinking stage were happening as I was writing these books. So my real life inched in, but I couldn't admit to that. It's not a hundred percent representation, but small parts of who I was and who I wanted to be came in. Did I ever think about fictionalizing my personal story? Not for a second. 

Tony: Okay. Oh, I love that. what you said a minute ago where even though this story is gonna be raw and vulnerable and full of flaws and you will most likely be open to others saying, well, why didn't you and I don't know if you've already had that reaction. 

Dana: I've had, one of the things that, again, you know very well is that there's so much silence around an issue that we feel guilt and we feel remorse and shame. And we're just trying to be silent to protect ourselves and to protect others. And so as I've begun to talk about this book, you know, and I was no different. I was very silent about what was going on, but as I was beginning to share parts of my story with people who knew me, the thing I heard is I wish I had known, I could have helped you, I could have done something for you. But by that time that comes along, there's so much silence. The story is too big, you don't know how to break it down. It's almost better, easier for me to say, here, just read my book, you know? 

Tony: I bet. Okay. So what I'm hearing Dana say is everyone that has gone through, but I mean, it really would, the journaling process alone, if you looked at it, if someday it would become a book, whatever it would take, I think to get that written out I think is such a good message.

Dana: It's immensely freeing. And that was, that was a wonderful surprise to me and as I've spoken to people who have been in difficult situations and who say, gosh, I've thought about writing a book, I just say, write it. You don't have to publish it. Take it in little steps. Get that stuff out of you, gain perspective.

Tony: How many years into your marriage was that moment where you found out about the second life?

Dana: We were 20 years in.

Tony: And then you stayed at another five, is that how long? 

Dana: Yeah. There were, we made two attempts at divorce. Okay, of this is devastating information in marriage and, yeah. I was a mess. I was in shock. I was curled up in a ball on the floor for a year at least. And there was an eventual attempt at divorce, but there was still so much love between us, which sounds bizarre, even as I'm saying it about myself, but there was, and we hadn't played out all of that love. We hadn't played out all of the work that he had done in getting sober to try to keep me in his life.

Tony: Well, and I would love to talk about that. And I feel like I do, I hear you with that. And I think a lot of the people on the, I mentioned off air that I have this private women's Facebook group for women in relationships with emotionally immature or narcissistic, and I say, fill in the blank. It can be a spouse, it can be an adult child, it can be a parent, and there's that, just dance, the trauma bond, that there are good times and so we wanna look at those. So when you say we tried to divorce in that world of emotional immaturity or narcissism, when somebody gets to the point where they say, I'm done, you know, I feel like, man, none of us like to sit with that discomfort. And so we want that relief. And sometimes all it takes, I notice, is a partner to say, hey, I get it and I'm gonna change. And now that makes that person feel better. And then the person who is fed up feels relief. And I'm curious, was that playing out as well? 

Dana: Absolutely. I think that when you've had a partner for so many years, and the most important thing, the thing that makes you safest is to be in his arms. How do you walk away or it's difficult to walk away. You love this person for a reason. And part of being in an addictive relationship is that you do understand you're forced to understand the compartmentalization that addicts are masters at. And so they put their drinking in a box over on the side and the whole of who they are is not the booze, it’s the bad behavior.

Tony: So of course you're gonna look for that, but here's this good, and would that, when I talk about the pathologically kind, I feel like it's in, in one's nature to want to just not focus on the negative but in you and be the cheerleader and you can do this and I see you. And would you, were you that role at all in the marriage? 

Dana: I had part of that role. Certainly. I think, I think we all do. Again, this is, this is someone we love. And we know the reasons we love them and we also have this sense of responsibility that if I leave, he's going to die. You know? At its bottom line, we have, we take on some responsibility, but what we don't see is, if we stay, we are dying, we're dying emotionally. And it is this dance until one of you breaks. It’s the question of who’s gonna break first.

Tony: Amen. It is, and I talk often about the, there's a book about trauma, I dunno if you're familiar. It's called The Body Keeps the Score by Vessel VanDerKolk. And that's where I feel like when the person who is losing their sense of self continues to go back in and say, we can do this. Eventually their body says we can't, so well, let's give you some anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, hypertension, let's throw some, you know, chronic pain in there and whatever that takes. But the person says, man, I,  but I love this person or we can make this work. So did you ever feel physical symptoms like that? 

Dana: Absolutely. I had moments where I was passing out, I was losing my hair. I had thyroid problems. Yeah, absolutely. You cannot be in a long-term chronic stress situation and not have physical effects. 

Tony: No, and I really do believe you, you know, I like to say the brain is a don't get killed device, so it's trying to say, this is not okay, this is not working. But I like when you mention, I mean, it's, again like is the wrong word at times. But as a therapist that wants people to feel heard and seen, that when you talked about that compartmentalization, just last night I ran a men's group for addiction and we really have been focusing lately on, in that moment when the person says, I will never do it again, again, it relieves that discomfort, their partner also is so grateful to hear that, so everybody feels good, but then they will never do it again until they do it again. Because once they get outta that discomfort, then that's where the work needs to occur. And I feel like that's the, but the person feels good now I'm not, I'm not gonna do it again. And then if the spouse says, okay, but what are you gonna do about it? Then all of a sudden, they're caretaking or they're, like they're overstepping their bounds. Would you have those moments where, I don't wanna say demand, but really ask him for recovery or what was that like?

Dana: Well, for us, there were just, there were kind of two stages. There was what was happening when I thought our only problem was the alcohol. And there was never a, I will never drink again conversation. It was, I will go to therapy, I'm gonna, I commit to doing this. Let me do this on my own. If I can't make this work, I will do rehab. And that continued, and he was honoring his promises. And of course there's always, oh, there it goes again. And the drinking becomes secret. And we reached a point where he only went into rehab when I said, you have a choice. You can have me or you can have vodka. That's when he went to rehab and he did get sober. So then our second stage was more, I will never hurt you again. And that was the sexual behavior. But there were lots of other, I had more guardrails I guess, around that behavior. I was far more cautious. I was far more distrustful. I had a private investigator ready, I had a postnup, I had all of these things in place and every time I erupted in any kind of fear, jealousy, concern, outrage, whatever it was, he behaved exactly as he should have. He was humble, he was contrite, he was empathetic. There was a shift in him once he got sober and that, and booze wasn't controlling his brain. He could then see some of these other behaviors. So I was still in the back and forth. What do I believe? What do I trust? What do I want? For that five year period of why am I doing this? You know? What kind of woman stays with a man who has been a serial cheater? Who was part of it and part of my own self-analysis and professional analysis too. 

Tony: Well, and I so appreciate your vulnerability here because I know it's gonna speak to so many people that are going through things like this, and they go to the, what's wrong with me? And then, I often just say, man, we don't know what we don't know. And then we find out, but we don't know what to do about it. And then we eventually do more than we don't, and then finally we become, and I know that sounds maybe a little bit out there, but that process I feel can take as long as it takes yet another cliche. But do you feel like there was a certain point where something just turned or clicked or you had made a decision, or was that more of just this gradual shading of lived experience?

Dana: Well, as I said, we made two attempts at divorce. And the first attempt, I think the way I sum it up most succinctly is there was just simply too much love. We had not played out enough of who are you after? Is there something that we can, you know, salvage isn't quite the right word, but is there something that can be made anew? Is there anything there worth? So it was a cautious stage. And I went through a great deal of time, of having second thoughts, packing a bag, moving out for a few days. It was, it was torture. But every single time, he did exactly what I would've hoped, he had become a different kind of man, a different kind of husband to me in that stage. I'm still in this place of questioning myself. And the big impetus for me to really see how empty I had become was when covid hit. There was nothing else in our lives to distract us. We simply were forced to be with each other. No diversion and to look at, I had to look at the relationship and my own life and my own self in a very different way without anything else in the way. And that's when I realized that although I think I want this relationship to find a path forward. I was never gonna get back to that place where I had adored this man. I know he's doing everything that he can to try to keep me in his life. He's doing everything I could have asked of him as a husband at that point.

Tony: Okay, yeah. 

Dana: But I was utterly empty. I opened my book with a scene where I'm standing from a 13th floor window looking out on Lake Michigan, wondering what it would feel like to stand on the edge of the water and just slip in. I wouldn't have done it. I wasn't dead. I wasn't suicidal. But to even have those thoughts because you're just so empty. You're desperate to feel something. That was what was the shift and the switch in me that said, this isn't the future I want. I want something better. I need something better for me. I still love this man. I don't love him the way I did. And we have played out everything we could play out in trying to save, protect, rebuild, however you wanna call it. A relationship that was largely wonderful. 

Tony: So Dana, I love that story because that really is, that is at the end of the day, trusting your gut and doing something that is, is scary and difficult because it would've been easier to just say, okay, I guess I'll remain numb, but at least he's trying. No, I'm grateful to hear that because I feel like a lot of the people I work with are in, they're in some really unhealthy relationships and feel same flatness or apathetic state, but then feel like, well, I guess that's just my lot in life and the people that have the courage, I think, and that's maybe a strong word, but to go through with the, what you went through, I think, you know, how are you now what do you, I guess, what advice would you give to somebody in that scenario?

Dana: Well, that's part of why I wrote this book. Because I felt that one, I need personally, I needed to heal. And speaking about everything I'd experienced would help me heal. But publishing a book would help other people who have been in the situation. Sometimes we need someone else. We need to see it through someone else's eyes in a very personal way to understand that it's okay to take a little step. I have spoken to a lot of women who have had addictive relationships, and the one thing every single one of them says to me is, I regret my silence, for as long as I was silent. We do it to protect our families. We do it for very good reasons, but ultimately that silence destroys us. Yeah. So my advice to anybody when you are, whether you're still in the relationship and trying to figure out if you should stay or you are out of the relationship and still dealing with the guilt and the regret is start first with how do I give up my silence? Who can I talk to? And it, you know, a therapist is great, but a therapist is not the same as facing your sister. And having her look at you with pity and horror and you did what? What I found as I've spoken to people, people close to me who did not know, they feel bad that they didn't know. 

They feel bad that they couldn't help me, and they are, for whatever judgment I thought might have been there in their eyes, it's not there. It was just me projecting it. That was me protecting myself. We cannot love another human being if we do not love ourselves. We can't have a decent relationship with anyone if we don't love ourselves first. And this for me, is part of going back to that place. I have to love myself. I have to be healthy myself. I have to be emotionally strong myself, and then the rest of the world will follow. And coming to the understanding that my husband's bad behavior, his drinking and his sexual behavior, were not about me. They were a hole inside of him that he was trying to fill. And he filled it in terrible ways. And his hole was, he did not believe he deserved to be loved. He didn't deserve my love. And then he just acted it out. He played it out. He made it true. And there's some comfort for me in understanding that.

Tony: Can I ask you a quick question? I love what you said about, because I think we are so afraid that if we share with people that we will be judged or there will be a lot of negative comments made. And I will say that to the narcissism or emotionally immature group, I've done a couple of episodes on what are called Switzerland friends. And what that is is when someone does open up to someone and they say, well, there's two sides in every story, or I'm sure that and that's where we talk about, if that is someone, then that isn't someone that maybe is the safest person to share with. But when you find someone that is gonna say, tell me more, or I wish I would've known or I could have helped. Did you run into any of those Switzerland type friends? 

Dana: I didn't personally. But there are, I understand where some of that came from. As I've spoken to other women, particularly when it comes, my husband was a very high functioning alcoholic. And like a lot of high, high functioning alcoholics, very smart, very successful, very charismatic. And so this is not the image that the world sees of him. And so as we began to tell close friends, they kind of minimized the drinking. They minimized it as, that's not the guy I see. Can't you just stop it? It really must not be as big of a deal as you make it out to be.

Tony: Yeah. And that's where I like what you're saying. But at some point, you know what you know, and I love that message. I have a couple of things from your book that I want to talk about, and so that reminds me of one, if I'm gonna go not in the order, but Where the Shadows Dance a memoir, I've read a lot of it and I have to tell you, Dana, a lot of times when I do the interviews, I wanna just do a quick skim, but it's a really good read and I think I'm just seeing so many things that parallel this magnet syndrome, people that are trying to get out of these unhealthy, emotionally immature, narcissistic relationships. But when you just said, when people would say, that's not the person I see. There's a, let me pull this up. Toward the end, you have a, I should have marked the chapter, but it was where you were going to see your dad about your mystery boyfriend. And I just, I love that. So I did, I wrote this down where, you know, he said, I must have a boyfriend. Your elderly father, he was unable to comprehend the divorce even years after the incidents that caused it. 

And then the quote you said, your father has concocted the only explanation that seems logical to him. I'm running off with another man. And I would love to hear what that was like. And then your sister reacted and said, dad, you know what he did.And then, and again, bless your dad's heart because I feel like this is what people, you know, we don't, none of us like to sit with discomfort. So I like when you said he concocted the only explanation that I often say, oh, we create a narrative to, you know, fit our view. But then, your dad said, yeah, but that was a while ago. I just, I don't understand. So, yeah, what was that like? And I mean, that whole dynamic, because it sounds like, you know, you were there taking care of your dad. What an admirable thing.

Dana: Yeah. It was at a stage that my father was very elderly, needing a lot of physical help. He was a man of the, you know, the John Wayne era. You don’t talk about your feelings. And this idea that I must be running off for another man. And this, to give some context, was after, you know, the real divorce and I was leaving and not only did I leave my marriage, but I moved cross country to Tucson. And he just was dumbfounded, but he couldn't say any of it to me. He could only say it to my sister because again, men of that era don't know how to discuss emotions and if I can't explain it to him in about two seconds, two, maybe two minutes. It just didn't mean anything to him. So he was just grasping for straws.

Tony: Well, and I sense that in the book, which I, that's why I just, I really feel like it's the story so well told, because I talk about this concept, this nonviolent communication where we make an observation and a judgment in an instant to try to make sense of the world. And so I think that is such a good explanation of that. And I almost feel like that's one of those tests of where you're at as an individual. If it can be a, bless his heart. You know, he was trying to make sense of that. Is that, and I felt that that was the case.

Dana: That's exactly. Exactly. At that point in his life, you know, he's an elderly man. He's set in his ways. I was not going to be able to convince him of anything. 

Tony: Well then I loved that. I feel like that must have been, was that nice to see your sister? You know, how do you know? But, you don't understand. So I felt like you got to see your sister care and your dad, bless his heart, and you know, I think I'm good and I mean, that's what I was imagining.

Dana: Yes, that's, that was exactly it. It was at a point in time that all of the hard decisions had been made. There was still a great deal of healing to happen in my heart. But yeah, a lot of the family expectation and the dynamic of who's gonna judge me and my family, what can I say, what can't I say? I had already shed that. I was firm in my convictions of what I was doing, and I didn't really need them to understand.

Tony: That's powerful right there, Dana. I mean that, and that's, I think when I work with people and whatever that shift occurs or when that happens, that it's, you know, again, I, and I say that's adorable. Like that concern they show and they look really angry and those are a lot of words. And so, but I'm good, thank you. You know, and I just, I sensed that in your book. Kind of going outta order, there was another part, chapter 19 and there were a couple things here, your 25th anniversary passes and I love how you said, okay. At first I'm okay, and as a therapist, I'm so fascinated by some people they say, oh my gosh, this date is gonna hang forever. And other people will get past the date and they think, well, it wasn't so bad. And I love that yours, I'm reading it. At first it was like, hey, that wasn't so bad. And then, 4:18 in the morning, So, and I, and I do have a quote from you that I really thought was good. But what was that like? I mean, what do you remember? 

Dana: I do remember that. I remember that very well. It was at a stage where I was caretaking for my father. I'm in this limbo stage where we are processing the divorce. I'm caring for my father. I'm in northern Wisconsin. I don't want to be there. I don't have a home. I don't know what my life and my future are gonna be. And I was back in this place of caring for another man who needed help, who was frail, and helpless and here I am repeating myself and my father also had started drinking at that point in his life in an unhealthy way. So it was a stage where I'm trying to sort through lots of complex emotions on my end, also feeling kind of frozen and stuck on where I couldn't move forward in my life yet. And so my emotions were really, a lot of rollercoaster, not stuck in the pain moments, largely. So I'm balancing out excitement for what could be and then, damn it, I'm dragged back into the past. And like anybody who's in some kind of traumatic, stressful situation, sleep can be elusive. And to wake up, four o'clock in the morning and go, here I am. Here I am. And if you, if you remember from that moment, I just, okay. I grabbed my computer and I just started downloading all the garbage that was in my head.

Tony: Again, I'm implying all these powerful therapeutic principles on you, whether you know it or not. And so that's why I love the I'm okay, now I'm not. And then I do, I say constantly when we ruminate and beat ourselves up and what's wrong with me, you know, we're looking for this certainty we won't find. So then I always say, you know, yeah, those are noted and now do, and you did. And you did, there's a quote that I really liked and you said, they say that time heals all wounds, does it heal or simply blunt the pain, the ache, instead of becoming a constant road that we no longer distinguish from the other roars, or roar, constant roar, that we no longer distinguish from the other roars assaulting our bodies and mines, I can't answer that. Not tonight, not on this day. Again, so well said. And I'm curious now, and I, you know, I have my answer that you need to say. I'm kidding, but you know, now, did that time, did it just simply blunt the pain or did time, what did time do for you? 

Dana: I think what time did was give me distance and perspective. Time itself, I don't think changes everything. Anything. If you stay stuck in your pain and your trauma, people do that. They do. I didn't know how I was going to remove that pain. But I was, I knew early on that I was committed to not letting my husband's behavior destroy me. And time for me was, it gave me a tool. It was just part of the tool. I couldn't do it alone. Speaking, writing, giving myself perspective, not only on myself, but his behavior, his addiction, his compartmentalization. It all had to work together and so time kind of helps things marinate. 

Tony: Oh, that's good. I like that. And, I want to now of course, jokingly say that was the correct answer, you know, that you, you did that correct, because I'm asked that question about time and how long, and then I unfortunately say as long as it takes and you're right where you need to be. And, but I know that can be helped when people are actively doing and then people say, do what? Well, kind of anything at first other than ruminating and thinking and so I just, I feel like your book, whether you know it or not, Dana, I mean it just laid that process out so well, and I think that it does often take longer than when people would like for it to take, but then when they're, they're through it, then it had to take as long as it takes. And I don't know if that was your experience as well. 

Dana: I think that's one of the reasons that I've, or a conclusion I've come to as I sat with the attempt at divorce number one, finally doing it, number two, so we had this, we had this five year period of being in the middle. And to be honest, I think there was a lot of healing that was going on inside of me, although inside the marriage. A healing that led to divorce. And that processing was, I think, essential. Had we divorced at our first attempt, I don't know that I would've been as healthy about it. I would've, I would've been a mess still emotionally, I would've sat with that anger longer than I did. 

Tony: That right there. I mean, that's where I will maybe go back in and edit me asking a question that sounded really smart. I'm kidding. I won't because that answer so sums up in my work as a therapist if someone wants to say, well, just tell me what I need to do and what do you think would be best? And, oh, don't hand me that power because then it will give you the opportunity that let's say, yeah. Well, I mean, I've seen that this is most 90 whatever percent of the time it won't work and you'll be happier out. But I'm not gonna say that because then if the person says, okay, because then they'll get out. And now if they don't feel good, the first thing they can do is say, well, the therapist said that it wasn't gonna work. What was I supposed to do? And I feel like what you just said there about that healing comes in that, there's a book that refers to it as the messy middle and I think that healing has to come, I mean, obviously within, but that might be within the marriage. And that is difficult because you're around the person that you're frustrated by, but you want to then talk about the frustration with the person.

Dana: Yeah, there is, and I certainly had a therapist who said, are you sure you wanna stay in this marriage?

Tony: Okay, yeah. 

Dana: And I intellectually knew I needed to leave, but emotionally I wasn't ready to do it. And so, yeah, I think this whole issue of time and how we beat ourselves up, the part to remember for all of us is that this is not linear. There is not one thing, and we will do like the addict does one step forward, two steps backwards. We'll reverse it and we'll get two steps forward and one step back. And this is normal and this is okay. As long as there's some progress and some change, what won't work is not to hold onto the pain and to that awful place where you regret and you can't even talk about it. And I'm already running into women who like, I wanna give this book to my friend because she's there and she won't even go near it. She can't even acknowledge that this was part of her life. Those are not people that are in healthy places. And it's so sad.

Tony: And when you were talking before, when we talk about your, that opening scene and you're looking and thinking about being on the edge of the water, or I have people that will say, hey, I'm not suicidal, but I call it the, but if a meteor hits me, that's not a bad thing, you know, theory where it's that again, the I think the brain is an absolute don't get kill device. So it is gonna do anything it can to get your attention. And so when people don't open up about things, keep things in their head, then they, I feel like, you know, unfortunately people start to get to this place of feeling everything from suicidal thoughts and ideations and especially not being willing to open up about that because that is a shame filled process as well. So I just, I think your message is really gonna resonate and I feel like hearing it from people that have been through it, I don't know what, you know, I think it really speeds up the healing process for those in it. And as a therapist I can say all the right words and people feel heard and understood, but when somebody has gone through it like you have, I feel like that just that, that it does, it speeds up the healing.

So I'm, I really, I really appreciate you coming on and your book was really, I mean, I really like it a lot. I'm a huge audio book guy, so I've already got your fiction books and they're all, can I ask a couple of just nerdy author questions? Okay. So, okay and I'll talk about some of this stuff in the intro too, but, okay, your books are, it's a Andrea Kellner series, so Lies and High Places, The Last Lie, Lies of Men. Tell me about the, tell me about your interest in lying, Dana. Tell me about the honestly, sell those fiction books because I love audiobooks and I listen constantly, so I'm excited to listen to those.

Dana: And the memoir's gonna be in audio as well. I'm working on that now. So I was starting to write the fiction as the heaviness, the worst part of my husband's drinking was happening. And I was starting to find out what was going on, what had been going on in his life. I made the decision to start writing before I knew the truth and for me, writing mystery, what I enjoy is the psychological part, the puzzle. The why, the how. I can't wait. Who's doing it? You know? I'm not into the blood and gore part. I want the psychological, behind the scenes what motivates people and kind of the short answer to the lies is in those books, my character, Andrea, she could uncover lies that I wasn't uncovering in my real life. 

Tony: Okay, now, now I have to listen. 

Dana: And lying is at the core of all of these crimes.

Tony: Okay. Well that's exciting. Okay. Can I get you to, uh, I have a new true crime meets therapy podcast coming out in a couple of weeks, Murder on the Couch, I would love to maybe have you come on there and let's break down one of your books. I think that would be a lot of fun. All right, Dana, what a, what a pleasure. I really appreciate you coming on and I think this is gonna resonate with the overall mental health audience of the Virtual Couch and then the Waking Up to Narcissism. I think it's just gonna speak volumes to people that are experiencing that. So thank you. And I'll have all this in the show notes, but where can people find you? 

Dana: I am danakillian.com, I have book pages for everything. There are links to purchase. It's available, the book is available for pre-order right now, and it will be available anywhere you like to buy books. 

Tony: Okay, and I read some of your online journal as well, and I mean, you've got a lot on your website and you are a very good writer. So I highly encourage people to go check that out. All right, Dana, I hope we will get to talk again. Thanks a lot. 

What is the best way to support somebody beginning to “wake up” to the narcissism or the emotional immaturity in their relationship but still willing to wait for a miracle to occur? And what if that “somebody” is a parent in a relationship with a step-parent that you’ve never really liked? And what that miracle would entail isn’t entirely clear either. Is it to change their narcissistic spouse or part the seas and provide them a safe passage to emotionally dry (safe) land? Tony reads a listener's question about ways to support a parent in an emotionally abusive relationship who has opened up to their adult children. Safety needs to be addressed, but what follows can go a long way toward creating an environment where the parent will feel like they have options if and when they get out of the relationship. Tony tackles the topics of sitting with discomfort and managing our own emotions, as well as the way to approach someone in an emotionally manipulative relationship in a way that will allow them their best opportunity to not only leave but recognize their worth in the process. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

WUTN 62 Transcript

Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 62 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 many podcasts to come. And I'm trying to make this really easy now. If you go to the show notes, wherever you listen to this podcast, there should be a link, a link tree that when you click on that, it will have all the information you need from the latest episodes of any of the podcasts that I am involved with as well as a way to sign up for my newsletter. And also a way to sign up for my marriage workshop. And then when my updated marriage course is out, that will all be there too. So please just sign up for the newsletter. That's probably the easiest thing to do. And I still want to hear all of your questions and your examples and your stories. And if you are a woman who is waking up to the narcissism or emotional immaturity in your relationships, whatever that may be, or if you're the man who is waking up to the narcissism in your relationships, I want to hear from you. 

We already have a thriving women's Facebook group and are putting together a men's group as well. And if you happen to be the person that's saying that, I think I am emotionally immature. That takes a lot of guts. And I want to hear from you too. And I want to help and put together a group that can address that population as well. So with that said, let's jump into today's, well, actually one more, one more thing. The release of the Waking up to Narcissism Question and Answer premium podcast, which is on apple podcasts, is going to happen this week. So just look for that. If you haven't already found it, you can find the Waking up to Narcissism Question and Answer premium edition trailer or zero episode, which is free. And then the paid subscription based episode will be out this week. And I've taken a couple of questions and answered those, and that will be a weekly subscription-based podcast where the proceeds will go to help people that need help that are in these emotionally immature narcissistic relationships. So let's get to today. It is a bit of a question actually, and then, but there's a lot of different things that we're going to add into this question. 

I was forwarded a question by somebody that I really admire, I trust. And so I was really grateful for their vulnerability. And they said that someone close to them had reached out to them and said, “Any advice for a son who is finally waking up to his mother's marriage to a narcissistic man who happens to be his stepdad?” So, this is not her first marriage. And this person, he says, has isolated and abused her for over 30 years, he says his mom finally opened up to her kids, but she is staying and admittedly waiting for, and this is in quotations, a “miracle”. So all the kids are adults and they have marriages of their own. And it has absolutely been breaking their hearts to watch her walk back into the lion's den over and over again. But it sounds like this is one of the first times that she's admitted that this is not a healthy relationship. But she has admitted that. And then willingly walked back into this lion's den. So the question was how do they support as she has asked when they want their mom back after all these years? They said they've watched her mask her life away. And now that they saw the mask come off, now they can't unsee it. And so let me first say, I drafted an outline of what I wanted to share. What I think could help this person. And then right before recording, I went back to the beginning. The outline. Ate half a sleeve of thin mint girl scout cookies. That's a random confession, but I'm just being honest. And then I jotted down a few additional notes about safety. So, let me start with a really quick, but I think it's a relevant story. 

A few years ago, I had a real brief window of opportunity to possibly look at hosting a call-in radio show, which yeah, I think those are still around and it would have been for mental health and I entertained the idea and eventually I honestly can't remember if the opportunity simply fizzled or if they never even got back to me. And what I think is kind of interesting, and I do want to bring this up, I think in my more emotionally immature days, when I was asked about this, I probably would have told you that, you know, I thought long and hard about it and I eventually turned it down and they came back begging and I still told them no. When in reality, I really think it just fizzled away. But the reason I mentioned this is that I spent a few months thinking through answers in my head if I had two to three minutes to answer a question that I really knew that I needed more information about. One of the funny things is when you first become a therapist and everybody knows that you are a therapist and they ask you for advice and questions and you, I want to say rather immaturely, provide that advice. And it comes in these little sound bites of two to three minutes. When in those situations, all people really want is validation. They want to know that what they're doing is the right thing to do. And so you often want to tell them what you think that they need to do based on what the latest thing you heard in classes or in your training. But then I feel like over time, you start to recognize, oh, that person just wants validation. They just want to be told that what they're doing is right. And if you even do say here's actually what my experience says, then you'll often hear, well yeah, but this is, you don't understand. So really people want validation. And that was one of the reasons why I felt like that would have been a challenge, even take this opportunity. 

But then I did start looking at even the situations that were coming into my office on a daily basis. And I would think, man, how would you handle this in two to three minutes? If you were trying to give somebody advice. And so this is where I feel like, you just need more information. And this is a perfect example of one where, when I first received this question, one where I would honestly, I would need to responsibly start by saying that you first need to tell your mom, if I'm talking to the guy, the seriousness of this situation or this relationship and tell them that they ideally, you would love it if they would contact the therapist as soon as possible. Somebody that specializes in personality disorders or high conflict couples communication. And then to make sure that they set up a safety plan because you and your mind, you're going to feel like you've watched enough datelines to know what can happen. And while I agree that that really would be the best angle and incredibly good angle to go, here's where I just started thinking to myself, but I also know that not everybody is a mental health professional. And most people are surprised when somebody finally does open up to them. And that is when there's typically a couple of responses. Unfortunately, so many people go immediately to Switzerland because they feel uncomfortable and they say, man, I hear you. But I'm sure you know what, he's probably going through a lot himself. So have you talked to him about it? Have you really just let him know that this is something that's frustrating to you? And so if that is something that the person finally opens up to somebody, and that's the response they get, then that's where a lot of times they'll feel like, oh yeah, no, I need to go talk to them about it because that took a lot of guts for her to open up to somebody. And so when met with the Switzerland friend, you can see now how difficult that is. But then the other side of that coin is that if you are opening up to somebody, if somebody opens up to you and all of a sudden you think, okay, finally, they finally said it. Okay. you gotta get out of that, then that can also feel overwhelming to this person. 

And so that's where I think when you look at it, the person receiving the information that they are going to feel a lot of emotions, they're going to feel anxiety, they're going to feel discomfort. And so if that is you hearing this confession from somebody that they are finally opening up to the fact that they are not happy in their relationship, or they feel like it might be in an emotionally abusive relationship. It's going to cause you a great deal of anxiety. And so make sure and check in with yourself. Okay, I got to sit with a little bit of this uncomfortable emotion and hear this person and listen to this person. So ideally you'd be prepared for this admission and you would express empathy, extreme empathy, and curiosity and compassion. Tell me more. What's that like, I am so proud of you. You're doing a really difficult thing, which gently, you know, while gently bringing awareness about the need for additional help and resources. So in that scenario, it's again, I'm so grateful and I am so proud of you and that takes a lot of guts. And man, let me just take you on my train of thought. It's hard because I really want to say, oh my gosh, go get your bags. Let's go. But I hear you and I'm just, hey, I want to be here for you. And I worry about your safety. I can't lie. I'm a human. And I care about you. And so, it's hard for me to hear this, but again, I know this is your journey, so I am so honored that you have opened up to me. 

And so then just because for the sake of what I think happens to most is evidence even by this very question. Because had the people whose mom finally opened up to them taken this route, they may have been writing, you know, later with a success story of, hey, I just thought your listeners might want to know kind of a message. So please keep in mind that professional resources and safety plans are real. They are helpful. And they are absolutely necessary, but I also want to recognize that I know that a lot of the times people get this information. And they have not heard a podcast like this, so they are a bit blindsided. So with that said, let's dig into what probably happens more often than not. So one of the things I see the most are the people that cut the mom off in this situation as a way to almost make a stand. I worked with an older woman who was involved in a romance scam. And that was bad enough in a story for another day, because honestly I can see a lot of similarities and what happened to her in her romance scam versus what happens to people in narcissistic relationships, from the extreme trauma bond of good. Oh, I just see the real him. And that's what I keep holding out for too. When he wants something he gets mean and nasty and he makes no sense. To which the woman in the scam or in the relationship says that they just need to calm him down so that she can see the version of him that she loves. And how does she calm him down when the romance scam, its money. It's literally buying gift cards, which is so crazy. And in the relationship with the narcissist it's compliance. Or it's the mom and the situation making herself small weathering the emotional storm to try to get back to peaceful waters. And then keep the peace as long as she can hoping that it will be the last time. The last outburst the last time where he'll be that hurt or mean or dismissive? But regarding this romance scam, what truly broke my heart was that her family essentially stopped talking to her until she stopped talking to the romance scammer. But that isolation, that shame that the lady felt from her family's treatment drove her even further into the virtual arms of the romance scammer. And I find that this is a similar situation that occurs in situations where a narcissist isolates or sequesters the mother in this situation. And then the entire reason that the narcissist slowly but surely cuts the wife's family out of the equation in this situation is twofold. One that is the air he breathes control. The narcissist is extremely emotionally immature. So the thought that his wife has her own opinions makes him uncomfortable, not curious. And the fact that she talks openly with family or friends makes him uncomfortable. What are they talking about? Hey, tell me. 

Or better yet, let me be there in the room, but don't tell him, let me be on the phone and let me be in the room and you put it on speaker phone and I'll be over here, mind my own business, but don't tell him, I mean, I'm just curious, I'm just curious what they're saying. Or let me see the texts that you send or even better yet, you know, I actually don't even like when you talk to them because you seem different, which translated means I begin to lose control over you. So if your adult children start talking about a vacation that they went on, then to the narcissist, he thinks, oh, okay. So now my wife thinks that I'm a bad husband because I don't take her to those places so that he may say out loud, I'm sure they can't even afford it. As a matter of fact, I know they can't afford it. Yeah, your son's in real estate, right? I mean, if you read about the horrible market's horrible. So if they are, honestly, if they're taking vacations with the market, like this. I guarantee you that they are leveraging everything for this. And as a matter of fact, he's probably going to ask you for money and I know how much you want to bail your kids out with money. The money that I worked so hard to make. And that drives me crazy. Like seriously. I'll bet if you had it your way, you would just give them my money. Here you go. Apparently my husband is just a bank. So, let me give away all this money. The wife in this situation would then find herself either apologizing or agreeing with him in order to calm down his anxiety. Now they did not share that dialogue in this question, but if you are someone in a narcissistic relationship, I would imagine that scenario just played out what seemed very real to you. 

And if you are fortunate enough to not have ever encountered a relationship like that, please know that I could pull these examples out for the next few hours right off the top of my head. Simply just thinking about the real example shared in my private women's Facebook group, or honestly, in sessions over the past few weeks. Or the letters that come in on a very regular basis. So back to the scenario. So I think we should step back too and take things from the angle of the mother. So let's take a second and talk about sitting with discomfort. The family members who are waking up to their mother's marriage are now mad. They're sad. They're frustrated. All types of feelings. I'm sure a lot of the feelings and some I'm sure that I could share if I wanted to check the explicit box before posting this episode. But I do believe that often we want to fix a situation immediately to ease our own feelings of discomfort and anxiety and anger and you name it. But helping somebody recognize and then change their relationship with a narcissist is, here comes a cliche, but it's a good one. It's not a sprint. It is not even a marathon. We are talking about an ultra marathon and as somebody who has completed a few dozen ultra marathons, including a handful of races over a hundred miles, let me tell you the long game is fascinating and it can wear you down. And you're going to feel like you hit a wall in your relationship, even with this person who is with the narcissist over and over, but you'll also find yourself getting your second and third and fourth wind. Because if you don't beat yourself up, and if you note that, okay, that happened, whatever the problem in the relationship is that happened, and you tried a certain way, maybe you tried to go big, maybe you tried to isolate your mom and get her to talk to you without him knowing. And then that didn't work well, but just know that that doesn't mean the race is over. So if you continue to show up whenever you can, even if it's just sending, hey, just thinking about you texts or intentionally just staying in contact as the narcissist will begin to isolate or sequester their spouse is a way to control the flow of information. 

So just know that you do not have to make every interaction, one to say, this way to the exit of the relationship, although you really will want to. An example that I like to share in this kind of situation is one of parenting a teenager. So in this scenario, your adult mother becomes a teenager. And I remember at one point, my wife and I came to a realization and thankfully being able to communicate with one of our teens in particular, what was that communication like with us? Because we felt like when we would say, hey champ. How was your day? That we would get back, we wouldn't really get back to the information. The answers are really short. So, let me kind of skip to the end of this example, we'll work backwards. We eventually learned that shortly after, how was your day champ? We would then pepper in a nice round of, did you do and fill in the blank? You know, did you finish your homework? Did you clean your room? Did you thank your grandma for the gift? Were you still gonna turn in those late assignments? So we learned again, thank goodness that the teenager has feelings and emotions as well. And that their own experience of us began to look like one where our initial curiosity, how was your day? It was just a warm up to what we really cared about. Did you do these things? So that was a way for us to ease our own anxiety by wanting our teen. To do things so that we felt better. So I believe that the mother in this situation is maybe experiencing a similar thing. If every time we talk to this, the mom, if we are trying to pepper in our own thoughts and feelings of what we want her to do to make us feel better. So I, you know, I believe that the mother in this situation is aware of the unhealthy nature of her relationship with this second husband or third husband. Just as she may be aware of your disapproval of the husband. Just as she is also aware that when you express frustration to her, that you would love for her to leave or when you pull away from her saying that you just can't support her relationship with him, because that only causes her to feel like she is a value if she does what you need her to do just as she is living in a marriage where she feels like she has to do what he wants her to do as well, that that's the only place that she has value as well. So this clearly won't be the case in every situation, but I have been fortunate enough to meet with the women or the men who are the mom and this story on occasion. And they so often want a safe place to talk. Or to laugh or to not feel controlled. And not have to manage other people's emotions. 

So when I say that it's a long game, I feel like so often, step one, after somebody even slightly mentions the distress in their relationship. Sure. You're a human being. You first want to rescue them. And thank them for finally reaching out admitting that, you know, we've all known this for years and thank you. And I assume you have a backpack, then you're ready to go now. Right? But oh no, then they feel like perhaps they shouldn't have said anything because that causes them a tremendous amount of anxiety for you wanting them to do more right now. No, it took a tremendous amount of courage for them to finally get to the point where they could even say that something might be bad in their marriage. So I would encourage you to maybe take a step back, look at it that way. You know, as a therapist, let's say I've been working with this woman and it has taken a long time for me to get to the point where I can, I can bend. I was gonna say convince or better, I guess, better stated, encourage this woman to finally identify safe people that she could open up to. And then what would that situation look like and what would she even say? How would she open up to this person? And then when they finally opened up, then she's already overthinking the response. That's going to happen to her adult children. So it takes a lot of work to encourage this woman to open up. And then even again, if it's ever so slightly to somebody in the family and they may be so anxious to do so. 

That they simply just need you to say thank you so much again, I can only imagine how hard that was and I'm proud of you. And I want you to know that I am a safe place for you. And while I want to go say, grab a bag and leave right now. And here's where I love a little humor, maybe asking her, I mean, if that is what you're saying, then we can do that. But I'm just grateful that you opened up and you shared that with me. You know, is there anything I can do to support you right now? How would you like for me to show up for you? I really believe that to be heard is to be healed. And when someone offers you this gift of vulnerability, know that it is perfectly normal for you to be hit with such a strong bout of the feelings that you will most likely want to rescue them immediately. But this is still their life, which they may not have felt in control of. So give them the gift of their own self-discovery, let them be the captains of their own ship, but be the very best, what are they called? It's not a first meet, is it assistant captain? That doesn't sound right. That you can be, and we're not talking about, I grew up with Gilligan from Gilligan's island, a horrible first assistant captain. No we're talking about I guess I should have thought that went through because I can't really pull a great first madder out of my back pocket. But now you have this amazing opportunity to stand beside them on this journey, help them interpret what they are seeing. What they want to do next, and then you get to be the one to help them. Work through the yeah, buts. Well, yeah, but I don't know where I could even go. Mom, we have an extra room. Yeah, but we'll take all of the money. Mom, we can go get a free consultation with an attorney. I'll go with you and they can put your mind at ease and we can come up with a safety plan so we can address as many of the variables as possible that could be addressed. 

It's interesting because I feel like if you see where we're going next, I remember when I was in grad school as a therapist and having one of my favorite professors, Darlene Davis, my sensei. I had her on my Virtual Couch podcast so long ago, she has an amazing story. Around dealing with chronic pain and making this incredible decision to in essence, just say, okay, this is my identity. Versus using that as a catalyst or a catapult to then do bigger things and better things for her. But Darlene did this exercise once where she basically rearranged the room with a lot of desks and chairs, all messed up in the middle. And then she stood at one end of the room and she had one of the budding young therapists on the other side and she said, okay go take a left and go over there and walk around that desk. And now step up over that desk and basically walk the person over to the other side of the room. And we didn't really know what was going on. She was amazing with these experiential exercises and she said, all right, how was it? What do you think? And remember the person just looked at her and said I was fine, I guess. And then she had another person get over on the other side of the room again. And she went over and stood beside them and said, where are we going? And the person said, I don't know. I guess the other side of the room, she said, okay, let's do it. And then he said, which way should I go? And then she said which way are you thinking, what do you think? And he said, I, well, I guess I could go this way. Okay. Well, what's that like for you? Well, I know I don't want to have to climb over this desk. What else do you want to do? And while I guess I could crawl under it. Okay. Well, you know what, what's that like for you? And it may sound. I don't know. I don't know how it may sound for you to hear that, but I felt like that exercise was pretty amazing because even when you start to become a therapist, I think you often feel like you are the person on the other side of the room. 

And you're saying, okay, go over there and do this and do that. And what happens is that person may make it across the room, but then they're there and you say, okay, you did it. Great job. And in essence, you feel validated that you are really good at guiding people across rooms, but that person now is across the room and they're thinking, I don't even know what to do now. And I don't even know how to get back across the room. So one of the most powerful things you can do is to be there by the side of that person that's opening up to you. And then saying, where do you want to go? And how can I support you? How can I show up for you? What can I do for you? So if somebody is saying that they are opening up to you for the first time, I think so often we want to say, okay, then here's what you do. You walk in the room, you reach up in the closet and you grab your suitcase and you put it down and you unzip it and you open it and you pack it. And if the person is even doing that, all of a sudden they're saying, okay, now what now? Okay. Oh, wait. No, he's going to freak out. I can't do this and now I feel bad. I even said anything to you. Because he's going to find out and I shouldn't have told you. And now I need to, I need to go back in and I need to isolate, and I need to make sure that he doesn't find out because if he does, then he's gonna get really mad. 

And so I think you can see that it really can be more beneficial to look at this as what an incredible opportunity to stand right beside somebody as they are going through this period in their life. And what an honor for you to be the person that they are opening up to. And so as you build that trust and as you express that empathy and you build that connection, then that person is going to feel safe enough where you can start to maybe offer your advice, or they're going to feel safe enough to start to say, what do you think I should do? 

And even then be careful because if you say, well, I think you should leave. Then sit back and get ready for the yeah, buts. Yeah, but I don't even know where to go. And just know that you as the person that is, that this person is coming to that if we can get to the habits, we're getting somewhere. We really are. But then if you can still stay in that, well tell me what you think. In that example of having somebody even talk to an attorney, is one that I think takes so long for somebody to go just talk to an attorney. And I'm talking about just going to do the free consultation and guess what? You can go to a lot of free consultations. It's not like they have a little database and everybody gets together in your area and says that this person already got the free consultation. No, I would recommend that you write down the questions and you get a free consultation. And then maybe after the first one you realized I had no idea what I was even asking or looking for. And then write down some questions and then go to another consultation. Because one of the narcissist or the emotionally immature person's greatest opportunities to control is controlling that flow of information. And I find it so fascinating when I have a couple in my office and things are starting to go the route of emotional immaturity. And we're looking at this might not be a viable marriage. That is the more we'll just go with the pathologically kind person, starts to find their voice and express it and have opinions, which again is the goal. That is what we are here to do in life is to discover who we are and what makes us tick. And if we are in relationships where that's encouraged, it's incredible because that person is also finding themselves. 

And we are two people that are now attacking the world. And we are just supporting each other and asking each other what your experience is like. And I'm sharing what my experience is like. And we're processing emotion in concert with another human being. But when that isn't happening, then what is happening is the control of this other person and so back to the scenario, if we're in my office and somebody is starting to say, okay, I don't know if this relationship is viable, then that's where I often hear them more emotionally immature person, whether it's the husband or the wife. I started to say, okay, well, good luck working on your own. Or I've always been the one that has the money. And nobody's going to want to marry somebody that has four kids or hey, you never finished school. So what's that going to look like? And so they will often express these sentiments, statements, put out these vibes are these emotions that are going to make this doom and gloom vibe just come right over into the office. And so knowledge, I think it's Schoolhouse Rock taught us this back in the eighties. Knowledge is power. And so there are opportunities to get answers for things. Whether it is the internet, whether it is a consultation with somebody, whether it is a support group. A therapist or whatever that looks like. 

I highly encourage you that if you are being told all of the answers by the person that you now are recognizing may not be the safest person, then that is one of those situations where the person is saying, oh no, no I know you can't trust me on a lot of other things. But you can trust me when I'm telling you about how scary things are going to be and what it's going to look like for you. If you leave. Oh, no, those don't go together. So finding out information is just an incredibly powerful thing for, I mean, information is there, it's available and you need to be the keeper of your own information. Not continually wanting someone else to tell you what you're supposed to think, feel or do. 

I guess in conclusion, wrapping this up today. How do you support that person? You be there. And you express how grateful you are that this person feels like they could even trust you with even a little bit of that story. That must be hard for them. If they got to this place where they felt like they could open up to you. And this is where if you do get an opportunity to ask the person or to be more curious with them, then I think one of the best things you can do is to start to explore, well, tell me what that miracle looks like. And then if you can just start having conversations around that, then I think that will be incredible. The therapy model. I love acceptance and commitment therapy. One of my favorite books by author, Russ Harris is called The Confidence Gap. And that sentiment alone is just so powerful. What The Confidence Gap book is saying is that we often feel like, well, when I am confident, then I will do the thing. So in this scenario, it's waiting for the miracle or it's, you know, when I finally have my confidence up, then I'll go. But ironically with The Confidence Gap, the acceptance and commitment therapy really teaches us that in order to get the confidence, we often have to do the thing. But then when we say I'm going to do the thing. So in this scenario, I'm going to start speaking my own voice. That might give us a little dopamine bump of that feels right. But then sit back and listen to the yeah buts you have. I don't even know what to say. Or you have, but what if he gets mad or, yeah, but yeah, but. And I think what is important to note here is that our brain desperately, especially in a time where we may feel like we are unsafe in our relationship. Our brain's going to feel like we have to have all those yeah, buts worked out. We have to have the answers and the solutions, and we need certainty because that is scary. 

And if we go back to the way the brain wants certainty is so adorable yet frustrating. Because we have this concept in our mind where we know what two plus two equals four feels like, ah, that feels, that feels certain. And now we want, we desperately want that same ah, feeling. With all the decisions that we make. So especially these complicated ones. And so those yeah, buts are there. And then our brain is saying, yeah, but I do, I need to have all these things addressed before I jump out into the great abyss. And that sounds really scary. And so it does become almost this balance between recognizing that I will yeah, but my brain. That don't get killed device in my brain. Until I want to say the proverbial cows come home, not even knowing what that really means, but I could yeah but all this uncertainty forever, but at some point, then I need to know that I have these people, these safe people that are there for me, that aren't going to continually tell me, this is what you need to do. And they're going to be there to hear my habits. And they're going to be some of those habits that they may be able to address the yeah, but financially, oh, we can work through that. And that's going to lead to a yeah, but what if that doesn't last? Or what if that isn't enough? So I just want to acknowledge the fact that that's going to be part of this process and the more that that person feels safe and being able to know that they were able to express that this relationship seems hard to somebody. And that person didn't then judge them, wanting them to immediately leave that very second while they may want them to, but they know that that isn't what that person has to do in order to still be cared about. That then that person, and I'm going back to the mom in the scenario that now what it feels like to be her. She has been on a journey, no doubt, a journey of awareness, a journey of starting to want more and starting to not acknowledge that she doesn't feel safe. So then she did open up very briefly and let her children know that this is really difficult but I'm gonna, I'm gonna hang in here and wait for the miracle. And if we can recognize that that's a miracle in itself that she was able to self confront, acknowledge, be vulnerable enough and turn to you even if you then have that feeling that you want to just send a SWAT team in there and rescue her right now. And if you had it all your way, you would in fact do that because you feel very confident that that would ultimately be what was best for her, but understanding that you don't know what it is like to be her. And there's a lot going on there of what that feels like to be her. So just revel in the fact that she opened up to you, and this is your opportunity to maintain that relationship. And it doesn't always have to be about here’s what you need to do. And here's a podcast that says you are really in danger. And here's an article.

Now, those are not going to be out of the question. I still want you to be, however you want to really feel like you show up authentically, but just know that being able to provide that safety for that person over time. It is going to allow them to then if, and when they are ready to say, I am done they are going to go to you and they know that you're not going to say. I told you so, or it's about time. That they know that you are going to say, what can I do to help? Tell me what this is like for you. How can I show up for you? Because that's how you've been showing up ever since they really opened up to you. So again, I'm just, I'm grateful for these questions and I feel like there's so many different principles that we can talk about when we just break down a question. I guess in essence, this would be then a plug for the Waking up to Narcissism Premium Question and Answer episode because on the free episodes, these, the ones that you're listening to now, we're going to, we're going to go in a lot of different directions and talk about a lot of the traits and characteristics of narcissism. And we're going to break down the definitions of, and we're going to do a lot of the stories of what people have been through. And over there, we're going to just specifically focus on the questions. Because I have more questions than I can answer in the next two or three years. So we'll get to those, but if you have questions and if you don't know where to turn and you don't feel like you can reach out to anybody and you are not in a position where you feel like you can embrace counseling or afford counseling, try to just find somebody safe that you can just start to talk to communicate with or shoot me an email contact@tonyoverbay.com. Let me know your questions and just know that again, you are on a journey and you're there. If you are listening to this, that means you've taken a lot of big steps along that path of self discovery or awakening. And the path is going to be bumpy at times. There's going to be some juts in the road, maybe some big boulders or rocks, but eventually it is going to lead to a place where you are going to feel like you get to be yourself. Because it is absolutely okay to have your own thoughts, feelings, emotions, opinions, and to not have them continually questioned or put down or not questioning your own reality because it turns out that the person who is designed to know the most about you, is you. So if you're in a relationship where somebody else is continually thinking that they know you better than you know yourself, then I worry that it's because they have created a version of you that they need to feel this control over. 

So then therefore they know that version of you that they've created better than you do, because that's not you. That's you showing up trying to manage somebody else's emotions and anxiety. Or buffer for other people and, and that is not you living your best, most authentic self. So let's get heading toward that direction and then we'll deal with all those habits around the way. So thanks for taking the time today and we will see you next week on Waking up to Narcissism

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

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

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

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

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

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

59 Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Susie Pettit is a Podcast Host (Love Your Life Show), the founder of Strength: Mind and Body, and a Mindfullness-Based Cognitive Life Coach. Susie has made a career helping women "live lives that feel as good on the inside as they look on the outside." But before finding her calling in helping others, she spent more than half her life living a life she did not love, as a people pleaser and a codependent perfectionist. Susie shares her story of growing up in a narcissistic home only to find herself in an emotionally, and financially abusive marriage, trying desperately to do whatever she could to keep peace in her home, her life, and in the lives of her children. Susie's story finds her hitting rock bottom, only to use her experiences to turn her into the "Midlife Warrior" she is today. You can find out more about Susie at http://smbwell.com/tony

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=bSWcEQTranscript

Transcript

Tony: Okay, Susie Pettit, round two or three. What would we call this one? It's all been, let's call it two. 

Susie: It's on me. Ok. 

Tony: It's all part of one. You've been smiling the whole way. 

Susie: It’s all going exactly as planned.  

Tony: Absolutely. That's the case. So, welcome to the Virtual Couch, as well as probably the Waking Up to Narcissism podcast as well. So thanks for joining me. 

Susie: Great. Thank you for having me. It’s exciting.

Tony: Yeah. I loved being on your podcast, and I just felt like, boy, we, I don't know, that felt like 10 minutes and I felt like we could have talked all day, and I think at that point we said, okay, let's continue this over on mine. So, yeah. So here we are and I'm looking forward to this. I would love to maybe, if you're open to it, just tell my listeners who you are and a little bit about you because there's a couple of really fascinating things about where you are and more. So why don't you lay that story out. So Susie, take us on your train of thought. 

Susie: Okay. Well, my name is Susie Pettit and I am currently a 51 year old successful life coach for moms of teens, and I help women you know, really learn habits. I'm very into brain science and how our brain likes habits and ease and help women lay habits and create habits to live a life they love. Now the backstory of that is because I lived a life I did not love for many, many years. I grew up in a family. I was one of three daughters. I was the oldest and I grew up with a dad who, from my very earliest memories I remember him saying, you should have been a boy, and I wanted a boy. And even my third sister is named Jill, and he said, that's because I could never get my Bill. So I grew up in a very male dominated house. With a, you know, really we were tiptoeing around my dad the whole time. So that's where this might fit into your Waking Up to Narcissism podcast. 

Tony: And Susie, I feel like this is one of those situations where if somebody hasn't experienced that, I would imagine if somebody was saying, well, I'm sure that he was joking, you know, or I'm sure that he didn't really mean it, but I mean, that was your everyday experience. 

Susie: Well, and the tricky part is, is that when we're dealing with people who are narcissists or emotionally immature, they might say it in a joking way. Like, oh, I'm just joking, or, yeah. Or you know, one of the things, one of my memories, so, a lot of growing up with my dad was to be a woman, you needed to look a certain way. You needed to be a certain way or else, since you weren't a man and you're already starting back a step. Like if you weren't this perfect little image of a woman, then there you go. And, just thinking of jokes, one of the things my dad used to say is he used to be very controlling around food, and I can remember that when we were quote unquote allowed a treat, he would get two donuts and he would have one donut, and then the other donut, he would split in quarters. And he would give one to my mom and one quarter to me and my other two sisters and he would, you know, he would say like a moment on your lips, forever on your hips. And he'd just sort of be smiling in that like, you know, oh here you go. And here I am, I get to have the whole donut because I'm a man. So there's a lot of that joking. When people hear this for sure, you know, they may think, okay, well, you know, people have said this to me too, but the cumulative effect of years of this then led me into a marriage where I had a very similar relationship, where I was constantly looking for external approval and external approval and validation of is this okay? Can I, it's funny, I didn't even play on this today, Tony, but I'm wearing a button down shirt and my first husband said I could never wear button down shirts, that it was slutty and women don't wear those. And so I like now I wear button down shirts like all the time because I'm like, check me out. But it's, it is, I have come from a lot of programming and wounding. 

Tony: Yeah. So, that shirt example is such a good one as well, because in that moment, because that's how you grew up and that's what you were hearing in the marriage. I mean, did you question that at first or did you just feel like this is the way the world works? I do need to check in and see if this is okay?

Susie: Yeah. I think what I don't want to skip over is the massive toll that many of us have, whether we had an upbringing like mine or not, where I do believe my dad was doing the best he could but whether we had that upbringing or not, the toll that it takes in getting the message that we don't know what's right for us and we need to look externally from ourselves for what is right, and that is not just me being raised with a narcissistic father. That is a lot of people raised in this society, whether you're a boy or a girl. Just this idea, you know, when we're talking about emotions, like, oh no, you're not, like, don't be sad about that. Or it can be to lesser degrees. Mine is obviously at one end of the spectrum. But having grown up in that household where I was absolutely programmed to think that I did not know what was right for me. That a quarter of a donut was the best thing. And that I am lucky that my dad isn't mad at me, that I'm, you know, playing my music too loud or something. When I was with a husband who said these same things, I was like, okay, okay, let's get in line, Susie. And I very much was looking back at what I think many of us define as a people pleaser. When he told me, and maybe he just told me twice, like, don't wear a button down shirt. It's not like that was a conversation we had every moment of our 26 years together but that's all I needed because I was so in, you know, as we know from narcissism, I was so in this lack of self-confidence in my own self regard, that I was like, okay, so if I can get his vote of approval by not wearing a button down, there you go. And the button down shirt is just one example. I mean, there was, I was not allowed to talk to certain people, and I say this, and yet he wasn't holding me down, I could have gone out of the house and talked to someone or bought a self-help book, or it was just more the emotional turmoil and backlash from that.

Tony: Well, I feel like that, that part, again, if anybody hasn't been in that situation, it does sound so easy to say, were you being held down? But there was so much, I can only imagine there was so much more to that as well and I do feel like when you're talking about that need for external validation or the people pleasing, tell me if this resonates because I think a lot of times when people stay, and I guess I'm just jumping right into the deep end as well, but when people stay in relationships, let's say for example for the kids because we hear that so often, and I feel like it's hard to say this to somebody that's trying their best, and they might be in this rough relationship, but I feel like often they are in essence teaching their kids, hey, here's how we manage dad's emotions, or here's how we manage mom's emotions. Almost like, this is all I know and so I'm going to teach that to my kid. And then what does it do? Then that's what they feel like that is what you do in a relationship, rather than, oh, I'm allowed to have my own feelings and emotion. 

Susie: 100%. That's what I was taught as a kid. But it was, it was this, be careful. It was that walking on eggshells, you know? Oh, dad's had a tough day at work. So you know, when you get home on your best behavior, like I can influence his mood. I was taught very much that my behavior could be responsible for an adult's emotions, which we know it's their thoughts that are creating their feelings and yet, you know, I just tiptoed around so much. Don't play the music too loud, you know, and don't talk about your tough, so I was taught at a young age that my behavior could impact some, not even could, but like did, did impact some, you know, like he absolutely handed over his emotional control to me. And then when I moved into a more mature relationship, that absolutely was the case for me in marriage too. So your point to, you know, staying in this for the kids, what was another little factor in my life is that really was a turning point for me is I had a friend, a dear friend, who we were living sort of parallel lives. Like I had three kids, she had two kids. We would go to playgroups every week and we would complain about our husbands and our life and our you know, whatever. And then we'd get all our energy out and complain to each other, and then we'd go out in our lives, live the same life, like rinse, repeat, come back the next week. That woman was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer and within several years passed, and it was a massive wake up call for me because she never got that chance to sort of look and be like, what kind of legacy am I leaving for my kids and for me that really was the moment where I feel like there was a part of me that just woke up, like, I came out of a trance. I speak of it in a recent podcast episode I just did where I felt like I woke up and saw this model that I was setting for my kids, which was very similar to the model that my family of origin that I had been raised in. And I actually, there was one day I was in a store called Marshalls, which I think people are familiar with. And there was a sign that said, “dysfunction stops here”. And I now have that in my house. And that is, I just drew a line in the sand. And I just, I knew from that moment forward, there was something that clicked in me that was you know, hold on. Like, yes, my kids matter so much to me and what am I modeling for them? And so that was a question I asked myself, is this a marriage that I would want for my three sons? And my answer was a big old, hell no. And so from that, I started to shift the marriage and I, you know, tried to do what I could do.

Tony: What'd you do? What do you remember about doing? Because I feel like you're so spot on. And I feel like the thing that's difficult in the women's Facebook group that I have or that sort of thing is, that I feel bad saying that when you start to stand up for yourself or know that it's okay for you to have thoughts, feelings, and emotions, that it's almost unfortunate that if you're doing it right, you're going to get more buttons pushed. So did that happen for you?

Susie: 100%. Yeah, 100% with everyone in my original circle, you know, like my mom, my dad, my sisters, my mother-in-law, like everyone who was, who mattered to me absolutely did turn on me. And it is something that I spoke about in that episode, it's SMBwell.com/230. But I speak of how you know, something I heard in that period of time when my friend passed and I was like, oh, something's gotta change, Susie. I heard about the idea of what happens to crabs in a bucket. Have you heard of this?

Tony: Oh, a little bit, but please talk to this. 

Susie: I love it, so when you have crabs in a bucket, so imagine I'm a crab in a bucket and my mom is a crab in them by my dad and my husband and my, we're all in that bucket and we're all sort of living maybe in a like, and we know maybe that our end is soon because we're in this bucket. Like, why are we in a bucket? So we're in the bucket and if one of those crabs tries to get out of that uncomfortable situation and crawls up the other crabs instead of helping it or maybe thinking it can get out and help, they try to pull that crab down and they'll pull it down. They will not give up until they have pulled that crab down and torn that crab to shreds. That's what crabs will do. And so for me, I just was like, I'm that crab in the bucket and I need to get out. And so when I saw my parents, my parents did many things. My parents were incredibly, and still are incredibly wealthy, and said that they would support my husband's legal team. My sister turned over emails that I had written to her at different times, before we sort of had texts. And I would say, I had such a bad parenting moment. God today was really hard. She turned those over to my husband's lawyers to use against me in court showing that I was an inept mother. You know, just the root. I had some premarital earnings that I was, we were married in 1996 before, you know, electronic files. And there was one piece of paper that showed that it was in my maiden name, not my married name. And I needed that paper to give me that earning. And my dad on a video with me and he was with my sister, shredded that document. So $480,000. $480,000. Went to my ex, not a penny of the like, it wasn't split then because of the state I was living in, in America, Virginia, still at the time that I was divorced in 2014, you are the property of your husband. He got every penny, which rendered me essentially bankrupt. And I had, you know, little money for a legal team knowing that my dad also had massive money for my husband's legal team. So I spent a year in the basement of our unfinished house, the marital house where my kids were still living. I told them I had a bad back. Mom's sleeping downstairs. Because if I had left, the state could say that I was abandoning my children and I would've given up rights to see my three darling boys. And if I left with them, which two of them were begging me to do, they would've said I kidnapped them and I could have ended up in prison. So, I mean, those crabs are for real, Tony.

Tony: They really are Susie and it's so crazy because I say, probably on every one of the Waking Up to Narcissism podcasts of that, and we can't try to make sense of the nonsense, but yet I find myself wanting to ask you, you know, boy, why, why did your dad do that?

Susie: Oh, I get it. So my in-laws were in on that too, which I get more details too in that podcast episode. But yeah, all of them, I, you know, I call them sort of the four headed dragon, like my mother-in-law, father-in-law, dad, and mom. If they believed that what I was doing was possible, which was saying that this marriage is not okay for me, like if you think of my mom living with my father for however many years they were married and then when I went to my parents and said, you know, I am thinking of ending this, and they said, oh hell no. They were like, you cannot. If I was showing them a different way of living, they would have to address it. Maybe that could have been possible for them. And that is not something, they would rather close it off and fight against me. I mean, my mother said it would be easier if I had died like my friend. I don't know what they like, it's an interesting thing. I can see where they are coming from. 

And it is, I guess another helpful story that I, I really like stories and I know that you do too. But one thing that has really helped me, and I don't know where I think I heard it from Tara Brock, so it might be a Buddhist story, but of a dog at a tree, and I think of my parents as a dog by this tree. And so you're walking through the forest and you see this dog by the tree and you go to pet the dog and the dog bites you and you're like, whoa, what's going on? And then you, when you back up, you see the dog is caught in this massive, extensive, awful trap. And there is nothing that you, as the person can do to get that dog out of the trap, like you cannot get it out. All I can do with my parents or that dog is decide whether I'm going to go back and keep getting my hand bit because and so it's that like the biting of the hand. So I heard that story first from Tara and that was so helpful. I thought, okay, my parents like they are not doing this to me. This is their wounding, their past, this harmful piece that's, you know, that is there. And that has brought me a lot of freedom. When I met with a coach, I was telling her my whole story and I was very much in the victim mindset and yeah, well, woe is me, look at all this and she just, she's like stop, Susie, stop. And I was like, whoop, I need to talk more about this. And I can still remember where I was sitting and the sunlight coming in, and she said, what if you had the exact parents you needed to have to become the woman you are today? And with that I was like, I'm the one, the dysfunction stops here. This is over. My boys are going to have a different future. We are not continuing this down the line. A lot of fear, a lot of terror . 

Tony: How many, how many years were you into the recovery or the separation when you had that moment? I'm curious. 

Susie: That was while I was still living in the house. So, I think to your point with the women in the Facebook group and people, when they're starting to see, yeah, you know, whether they're in that extreme narcissist relationship or whether they're listening on your other podcast, the Virtual Couch, and they're just sort of in an uncomfortable period. It's just, you just need to take that next right step. So for me, I didn't go from this, like all of these are sort of like little step posts to where I am now. I didn't go from that basement to living to right now I'm in Australia in a dream location with a man who's totally supportive and lets me wear anything I want. And eat as many donuts as I wanna eat. I didn't go from there to here, but it was more these little steps. You know, first I would, I talked my first husband into therapy, and then we got fired from that therapist when we moved to the next one. You know, and we just, so it's taking whatever step seems doable for you in the moment. Maybe it's just buying a self-help book. Maybe it's, I started, the reason why I podcast now is because I started with podcasts. That was something that my ex would not see me doing so I could do it. And it was sort of this, like, if he found out, he would've been raging mad, but I could do it in a safe way. So I always encourage people to just take that next step. Another big piece of that is your Facebook group to get that support because when you are doing things differently, like I was doing, you might be surrounded by crabs also. And, so saying like, anything, say it's not a massive marriage that you're trying to get out of, but just a boundary you're trying to set with, you know, your mother-in-law who's always dropping by unexpected and it's really infuriating. You know, so say you're trying to set that boundary like, hey mom, could you send me a text before you come over. You're going to feel physically uncomfortable if you've been raised in an environment where you need to.

Tony: Because you're, you're asking for your needs, right? And you want someone to say, okay, versus, I mean, even if they're not going to say, okay.

Susie: They’re not. You need podcasts like ours that are like, they're not going to say it. Like, you what, for 12 years, you've let your mother come by. You know, without any sort of, so why now would she be like, oh, okay, great idea. So, we need that sort of, the guidance of podcasts , and knowledge. But then we also need the support of a group to remind us you're not doing anything wrong. We want to have the like Tony or the Susie or the other women in there that are like, oh honey, I get it. That's hard. 

Tony: Well, and I appreciate you saying that too because I feel like it's when people get out and then they feel liberated and they want to share that story and I almost feel like you've got so many in that group. For example, there are people that are just starting to, I mean, they're still scared to even log into Facebook at this point and worried that somebody's going to see or read or whatever and I feel like that person can all of a sudden hear, man, now you know I got out and I did this, and now I'm in this happy relationship. And it can just feel overwhelming even to I don't know if I can get there, you know, it's so easy. 

Susie: Oh for sure. That's why it has to be that next little step. Like maybe it's just listening to a podcast or maybe it's, I would get a book from the library, but that was a little risky because then you could see it. So I actually just found, it’s so funny because I did move across, I moved internationally and so a lot of my stuff I had to get rid of. But I just found a book that I had had from back when I was married and it's, I can't get it now with my headphones, but I have duct tape over the cover of it, like white duct tape so that you can't see the type. I think it's, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers, but you can't see it. So, just whatever, like I've been scared, whoever's been scared, but we need to take that little step that seems okay. 

Tony: Is that a library book, Susie? I mean, do you have a very late fee on that?

Susie: No, that's not a library book. But I'm sure, I mean, everything was controlled in my life. Finances, I'm sure it was a used book I got somewhere where I could sneak like maybe a dollar and change.

Tony: No, it's totally, but I like what you're saying that next little step because we did a group call a few weeks ago and I was talking about self-care and I realized even when people hear self-care, they think, okay, I need to go run a marathon. But it can be to dream. It can be to think. It can be to hope. I mean it can happen internally. 

Susie: Without anyone knowing. And so that's a very good point because a lot of what I do are habits and we're recording this around the new year when people, you know, maybe sedentary people are like, I'm gonna go to the gym every day. And I'm like, let's not go that big. That's like saying, you know, you haven't spoken up to your husband of 19 years, and you're like, let's go to therapy. Like, that's, that's too big a jump. So it's this, you know, when I'm working with people, I'm like, well, what's the minimum thing that you could do? Could you walk for one minute a day? One minute a day? And they're like, that's not big enough. But it's actually, it is. I actually have a client who last year said she was gonna walk for five minutes a day every day. She walked for five minutes, and then she added five minutes every month. So by the end of the year, how much is she walking? An hour a day. Yeah. And she's, but because she started small it is that, we have to start small. 

Tony: Yeah. And I love this. I really do. And I also like having people hear success stories and that and what was that like for your kids too? I'm curious when you got out of the relationship, what, I mean, what were those conversations like? You said that one of your sons wanted you to leave early on. Is that the case? 

Susie: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think if I had looked back to me when I made the ultimate decision to leave and move forward with the divorce, because my self-confidence was so low that to say to do it for Susie was too far elite. But I saw myself doing it for my kids because my oldest son was entering preteen and teen years and there was a lot of conflict in parenting and how, you know, it sort of that my way is the right way authoritative. Which is why I now help parents of teens because we need to parent that age differently than we did the zero to 10 year olds. I mean, it is, my background is a master's of education. And it was interesting. I had a master's of education and then became the stay-at-home mom and then suddenly, you know, so there's this conflict in parenting. And that was the impetus for me to say, okay, enough. Like it stops here, and that started probably before my friend passed, that I would have the courage to speak up to my ex if it had things to do with parenting. Okay. And then, When that ball sort of started getting rolling, which it was not something that he was open to at all, but when that started to get rolling, it was continuing to return to my kids. Now, my kids now so much of my job is to recognize that they have a father and there is nothing I can do that can, like, I can't out mother their father, I can be the best mother I'm gonna be. And they are always going to have that father. And so I can help them, you know, we role play sort of how to speak up for yourself or how to say, okay, you know, I don't have that thought dad, or, but they're, I have three sons and they are still very much in the dance of figuring this out. They're 18, 20, and 24. I think I just did that wrong.

Tony: Well, and Susie, what I like, what I appreciate about that too is I think one of the things when I talk about co-parenting with a narcissist or an incredibly emotionally immature person, again, back to the, if somebody hasn't had that experience, it sounds like, this is not fair or you're throwing dad under the bus. But I love what you're saying about how we have to learn to validate the kids' emotions because I don't know if you made a lot of excuses for him, as you were growing up with the kids and I give this example often of somebody that the dad was really late to pick the daughter up from high school. The mom's sitting in the car and the dad's often, probably always late. And then this lady said that when her daughter got frustrated, you know, she said, I wanted to say, oh, I'm sure he cares, or I'm sure he's just running late. But she finally felt like, man, I'm not validating her experience. And said, man, what is that like? And it's frustrating. And then she shared, yeah, I get frustrated too. And it was a really powerful moment for her. And she said , she was coming in asking me did I do the wrong thing? You know, did I throw him under the bus? But I feel like we have to validate our kids' experience versus.

Susie: So that, I think it's very important. And I started to do that when I was still married to my first husband. If I look at what I used to do, I'd triangulate. So the kids would have, you know, maybe they'd wanna go to a skiing outing or something and they'd say I need to ask dad, but can you ask dad? Because they know that dad is probably, and so I would get involved in that triangle and I would ask dad and then, you know, and that what I have done is I've flattened that triangle because we know triangles are not great. So I started by, you know, like, you ask, you can do it. Let's role play. Let's think of how you can ask dad and then if dad said something like, no or yes, or you know what, no. Usually I would say, I'm really sorry. That's hard. There you go. I wouldn't, I would really try to step back from the advice. One of my favorite parenting tools I call sucks and handle, or stinks and handle. So it's like, all that stinks, how are you gonna handle it? And sometimes, the stink or the sucks part is where we are validating. And sometimes we need to stay there a little longer, so it's like, oh, I'm really sorry that he said no and I'm really sorry that that happened. How does that feel? Like, what are you thinking? And then maybe like a day passes, what are you gonna do about it? But that helps me stay away from throwing my ex under the bus. I used to throw him under the bus more when I was in the divorce and the contention because I was in a very angry place towards him. But I really was like, this is not fair to my kids, because this is the only dad they have. So they don't, they need to come to their awareness of who their dad is without me trying to sort of throw dirt on it.

Tony: And again, I appreciate your honesty because I feel like, you know, again you're bubbly, you're successful, you're in a happy relationship, you can feel that energy. And so I do feel like sometimes people think, oh man, well, when I try it's really difficult when I interact with the narcissist. 

Susie: Well, I'm glad that you said that because I do wanna say that co-parenting is, I don't co-parent with him. I parallel parent.

Tony: Parallel parent. Talk about that, Susie. I realize I mentioned that I think in one episode a while ago, and it was brought up in, actually in a session earlier today and I thought to myself, oh I need to talk about that more. So talk about parallel parenting. 

Susie: Because co-parenting, I wanted to do. Like the optimist in me and the self-help guru. I'm like, oh, this would be, and that possibly is the best path for children when they're not in a sort of contentious, or the relationship that me and my ex were in. But parallel parenting is absolutely, you are not co-anything. You are parallel. So the rules he has at his house are his rules. And mom has rules at my, you know, so like my kids plug their cell phones in downstairs, not in their room. Well dad lets us. I get it. Different rules, different houses, you know, and also we do not coordinate on discipline, because that was something that we couldn't absolutely coordinate on when we were in, you know, a marriage. So, it is like we don't do anything. And then I needed to have very strong boundaries with him so that he's not, he does not call. Unless, and I got very descriptive, unless there's a hospital involved. Like it's because an emergency wasn't enough. So an emergency could be like you didn't respond to the teachers. It's like that's not an emergency. So you can call me if there's a hospital involved and otherwise it is an email. There are no texts unless again, it's something urgent and needs a response within 24 days. I've gotten a little more lenient with that as we've moved out from, you know, the relationship, but that's also because I held that boundary strong and he got used to not being able to just ping me once.

Tony: Well talk about that too, Susie. So if you are saying, okay, only the phone call, if this under this scenario, then when he would text and what didn't fall under that, what would you do? Would you just ignore or would you respond back with that?

Susie: I needed to ignore, I put his text on silent because even the, as people you know in this sort of relationship will understand even seeing. It would trigger my nervous system. And so I needed to put it on silent, so I didn't even, like, somehow you could do it on our phones and I figured it out. And I'm not a tech guru, so it doesn't come up on the main, you know, you don't need the notification, what it looks like on the thing is like a number, I'll see number two and I'm like, oh, okay, that's him. And then I need to use my constraint and my willpower to, and I would set an internal boundary of saying in the early days, I would say, I'm only gonna check these at 4:00 PM or something. Actually for me it was more, I would only check these at 9:00 AM because 4:00 PM was right before the kids came home from school and I knew if I checked them I was probably gonna be in an agitated state. So I would wanna check them at 9:00 AM and have the whole day to manage whatever my emotions were gonna send my way and oftentimes I would really try not to reply or I would reply on email. Now email. I don't have any notifications. And then email. I have a podcast episode on my favorite narcissist tools. But, you know, one of them is, BIFF, brief, informative, formal, and firm. So when I'm writing an email, I'm trying to get out of my old pattern, which is to over explain. And so I'm just like firm, formal, informative it. There is none of that. Another tool that really helped me with him in terms of parenting and moving on was thinking of him. I would say to myself, I'm like, he's just another man, like to stop thinking of him as a father or like adding this sort of weight and expectation to how he should be acting or what he should be doing. Because whenever I was “shoulding” on him, I was getting into emotional drama. So like, he should be interested in that, you know, son B has a play tomorrow. It's like he's just another man. Like let's just, let's let him do him. Are you interested that son B has a play tomorrow? And let him act the way he's gonna act, which in my caring mind was like, oh, that's gonna harm my kids. But I'm like, but that is, he's the dad. In the same way my parents are the parents. I need to become the woman I am. He's the dad. My boys need to become the amazing human beings they're gonna become. And so they need that experience of maybe someone talking back to them or being more emotionally immature to learn tools so that they don't enter into, you know, a 26 year relationship with their own narcissist. 

Tony: Well, I like the way you put that because I feel like that is where then they can learn, and this is where I feel like , if it's unhealthy and emotionally abusive, and your scenario, you get out. Kids, any kid, doesn't matter how old, gets their sense of self from external validation. And that comes primarily, it can be from the parent. And if the parent is continually spending emotional calories and energy trying to manage the emotions of the narcissist, then they, that is how their, that the kids get validation by also managing, you know, the emotions of the narcissist and then when you're in your best version of you that's where I explain to parents. Now you get to validate them in an incredibly healthy way and be there for them. And tell me more. And it's not always trying to manage the emotions of the emotionally immature. Because that, and I've never thought of it until you just said it that way, because now maybe they learn, oh, I'm not gonna open up emotionally to somebody that's unsafe, or I'm gonna learn to have a surface relationship for somebody and we'll talk about sports and we'll talk about the weather, and if I want this relationship, then it may be based off of that. And then I can trust my own intuition on who I really can't open up with. 

Susie: Which is really hard. And yet, like my definition of suffering is resisting what is, like resisting reality. And so, for me, many years I suffered because I thought my dad should be a certain way. And should, I shouldn't say things that he says. But when I accepted that this is the man I have as my dad, I lost a lot of that suffering. So with my children, when I think of them, and I would say that my ex can be emotionally abusive. So when I think of them in that situation, my heart breaks. And I am like, I am not gonna be there to buffer or be that triangle anymore, and to hide from them what is with their father. Like they are now, you know, 18 and over, I do need to say that if the option had been there for me to get more custody, it would've been, but I had my father throw away, so I couldn't, you know, my hands were tied. So one thought that I had that may help your listeners that maybe are in a similar situation that you know, no matter what, like often we have some custody sharing. I would think that in the past I was married and the kids were in this environment a hundred percent of the time. And so then when we split, they're with me 50% of the time. And so then I like to think that at least 50% of the time, I am validating their emotions. I am pouring love on them. I am letting them know that no matter what they do, you know, all of that, and I'm doing that from a much less scared, more whole place, because I'm no longer in this environment and I can't control this, which is unfortunate. I mean, and that's where I need to get back to sort of my more universal belief that they have the exact, I am not God. I don't know why they're having this experience, but I need to believe that they are having this exact experience to become the amazing humans they're gonna become. And I do have the underlying belief that the universe supports me and my boys that things work out for us. I'm in frigging Australia living by the beach. Like I have so much evidence. My boys are thriving. You know, I mean, everyone has ups and downs. Sure. And yet I like to focus on the gain instead of the gap, like, yes, they still are around this man, I can't remove him as the father from their life. You know? And yet I have the gain that I have a new man in their life, you know, their stepfather, who can pour love on them. I have, I am showing a new model of marriage. I am showing a new model of validation and, and self-care.

Tony: As a better version of you. Hey, Susie, can you tell the story about how you met your current husband because that's what I loved when I was on your episode. Is that one you tell out in the open? 

Susie: Yeah, it’s so fun. So speaking of habits, in 2015, for my birthday in October, I decided that I was gonna start meditating every day. I wanted to do it every day. I had heard from so many experts like you that like, okay, meditation's good. So I said I was gonna meditate for one minute a day. And that's what I committed to. I have, and now here it is, 2023 and I have been meditating every day. So that works, warriors. But so meditating one minute a day, and the app I chose to meditate on was Insight Timer. Which is a, they have a free edition and I got on the free edition. And so I would just meditate with that. So I would do my one minute a day, and then at times at night when I'm going through this turmoil of, you know, parallel parenting and all that, I would try a sleep meditation. And so one day in February I did a sleep meditation. I still remember it was Bethany Webster or something and I wrote a review on it that said like, great meditation. And then a couple days later, it was February, I looked at the review and there was a comment to my review on her review that said, Hey Susie, you know, if you liked this meditation, you might like this one. And it said, Paul from Wollongong. And I was like, okay. So I just replied back. Thanks, anyhow, we started a conversation, this Paul from Wollongong, who at the time I'm in Arlington, Virginia. I was like what kind of name did he make up? Like who is, I thought it was like some security measure. I'm like, yeah, you just make up like the name of a Paul from Wal, like, yes. Now, meanwhile my middle son is at the University of Wollongong, so it's so funny. Wollongong is a place, but, so we started going back and forth on the reviews, chatting, and then he, you know, and at some point I was, Hey, are you over the age of 18? We were like, let's move to WhatsApp. So I think that I possibly wanna go back, slide that meditation because I imagine we did wonders for her algorithm cause there were 40 different responses back and forth, but we just started talking on WhatsApp and sending videos and that was February 10th was when that first review was done. And then, I, you know, I really had changed the way I lived my life. That losing all that money again. Horrible. Yet also a really big wake up call for me, one of the best things that happened because I was such a saver and such a like, I must put this away for a rainy day and then it's gone and I'm like, okay, so what was that for? And so then I really thought, if that hadn't happened to me, I don't think there's any way I would've, which I did in June of 2016, chose to fly to Australia. I was like, well, what? See what's happened? Let's jump in with both feet. Like my word of the year for 2016 was joy. And I like to align my actions with joy. And so I just flew over and my friends were very concerned. They were like, Susie, he's gonna cut you into tiny pieces and send you back. I remember one of my best friends, I was in the airport getting ready to fly out of Dull International in Virginia and she said, well at least send me his address. And then I looked and I was, the only address I had, Tony was a PO Box, they do that a lot in Australia. But like, I don’t know, things work out for me. I am not a, this sounds like I'm an irresponsible woman. I'm very thorough and I, you know, I had been videoing and talking to him.

Tony: I would say right now, uh, Susie blinked twice if you're, if you're unsafe. Right. There we go. No, yeah, exactly. I'm safe. You're fine and that, no, I love that story because I will even have people that will say, I don't know how to meet somebody. I've tried the apps. I've tried whatever. And I even feel like I know that one is, I mean, I don't know if there's a lot of other people that met on the review page of Insight Timer, but I mean, just, just being and doing, just continuing to be and doing it.

Susie: I have a lot of people that I coach through divorce and with divorce and that's, so first of all, the thought that I can't find someone is a thought. And if we're thinking that thought, that's gonna create sort of our results. So let's think, I wonder how I can find it to just shift that thought around a little. I like thinking about dates and sometimes I have my clients make a chart of a hundred, and I'm like, so go on a hundred first dates, after you've done a hundred first dates, then maybe we can entertain that thought that you can't find anyone. But go and apps work. Everything works. Like Bumble works. Tinder, like all these things work. You can, like what we look for, we will find, we will find examples of like, look it, I've been on three dates and they haven't worked. That's focusing on the gap, focus on the gain. You can find, Susie met someone random. I need to add to that because it's so ironic. I had started dating again after my divorce and I had just broken up with someone who lived, I lived in Arlington and if anyone knows the Virginia area, he lived in Reston, which was like, 30 minutes away. And my excuse for breaking up with him is that he lived too far away. Then I go to the other side of the world.

Tony: That is funny though, because that, I mean the yeah, buts.

Susie: And that’s what I thought, like I thought, right. But it is, it's just examining our thoughts. I like having clients just do what they love. A lot of what you talk about, like turning back to yourself, learn about yourself, love yourself, go meditate. You might meet someone there. And again, with relationships, they're not here to complete us. They're not here to fill a gap like I was taught growing up that I am a woman, and being a girl is a subpar way of living. So you need a man to make you whole. We need to be whole. And then once we're whole, they augment us. They absolutely shine up. Like my husband helps me shine my light out now, but he doesn't make me, me. 

Tony: And I feel like that's the message that is so hard to convey to somebody early or young. And I feel like that's where most people just don't know what they don't know. And so when, when right, when they wake up to this emotional immaturity or narcissism, I mean that is that opportunity to then test and see, okay, maybe did we both not have the tools, but all you can be responsible for is in how you start to wake up to that and how you show up. And I appreciate the way you started this today by saying it will change the dynamic in a relationship. And then are we looking at crabs or, I don't know. Something that would help lift somebody outta of the bucket. 

Susie: And just like not spending too much time on regret. Like I couldn't absolutely sit here. One of my favorite exercises is like replaying my past and telling the doomsday and I could sit here and talk about like, why did I marry this man? Like what is going and how did this happen and what was, and sort of the self blame part. And I just think there is no point. And I like to retell my past and I had an amazing, you know, I had a father who supported travel and there's so many ways to tell our stories and to just make sure that the story you're telling is helpful for you. So when we look back and maybe we're waking up that we're in a narcissistic relationship. That is hard. That is awful. But we don't want to add to that, what I call it like, that sort of awfulness is clean pain. I say we often add in dirty pain. Let's not add the dirty pain that you should have known better. You shouldn't have, like you're exactly where you're meant to be. You're having the exact experience you're meant to have at the exact time you're meant to have it. 

Tony: I love it. Hey, where can people find you? So you've got a podcast and where else? 

Susie: Yeah, I have a podcast. I put together a page, smbwell.com/tony. Which will bring people to my podcast roadmap, which has really the foundations of a lot of the work that I do. Or just any platform, the Love Your Life show, Susie Pettit. 

Tony: No, I'll promote that. And because I mean, your energy's fantastic. And then, what I really appreciate about somebody that's been in your situation is I can say these things and I can be confident of the way to help people, but I really do feel like somebody that's lived it and come through it, that I just believe you can help people, I don't know, get through it however many percent faster because you really do know. 

Susie: I get it. And the parenting and just the nervous system response, I do get it. So also, connect with me on Instagram, SMB.Wellness because yeah, I answer my own DM’s and I know you're on there too, Tony and I love it. And I would love to support anyone. I love people. 

Tony: We're gonna have you back on, so thanks so much for coming on. All right, thanks Susie.

Susie: Okay. Take care. I love the work you're doing. 

Tony: Thanks so much. You too. All right. Bye. Bye-Bye.

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 kristinhilltherapy@gmail.com. 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. 

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

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

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

Transcript

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?

Kristin: Yeah. 

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. 

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