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. 


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

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

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

Tony tackles the final 2 of the 5 types of narcissism in part 2 of 2, exploring the 5 types of narcissism. In part 1, he covered Overt and Covert, and he started to discuss Antagonistic narcissism, which led to a separate episode. Today Tony discusses Communal and Malignant narcissism. He references the article "5 Types of Narcissism and How to Spot Each," Medically reviewed by Jeffrey Ditzell, DO written By Courtney Telloian — Updated on September 15, 2021http://psychcentral.com/health/types-of-narcissism

And stay tuned until the end of the podcast! Tony shares 20 minutes of the first episode of his new “true crime meets therapy” podcast “Murder on the Couch,” co-hosted by his daughter Sydney Overbay. You can watch the episode on YouTube here https://youtu.be/OKidvzLAbI0 or follow/subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts, including Apple Podcasts https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/murder-on-the-couch/id1684487066?i=1000611379631 or Spotify https://open.spotify.com/show/6GJQeJxx4elDlcaW21JsvU?si=675abf672a7941dd

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

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

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


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

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

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

Tony goes on a quick tangent between parts 1 and 2 of exploring the five types of narcissists to look into the antagonistic attachment style of the narcissistic person. An “antagonist,” from purely a biological, scientific point of view, is a relationship in which one organism benefits at the expense of another. People in narcissistic or emotionally immature relationships can often identify with the concept of playing the role of the organism that provides the benefit to another while losing themselves in the process. Tony references an article by Julie Hall, author of The Narcissist in Your Life https://amzn.to/3LCCyH2, and creator of The Narcissist Family Files https://narcissistfamilyfiles.com/, Understanding the Narcissists Antagonistic Attachment Style


Subscribe and follow Tony and his daughter Sydney's new "True Crime Meets Therapy" podcast "Murder on the Couch," https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/murder-on-the-couch/id1684487066

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

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

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


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

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

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

Why do people stay in unhealthy relationships? Many don't believe they are deserving of happiness. Tony tackles this topic using "When You Don't Feel You Deserve to Be Happy" by Robert Taibbi as his muse and a post from his women's private Facebook group. The article can be found at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fixing-families/201901/when-you-feel-you-dont-deserve-be-happy 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

63 Transcript

Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 63 of Waking Up to Narcissism. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of the Virtual Couch podcast, as well as the Waking Up to Narcissism premium edition question and answer podcast, which I am somewhat confident by the time you hear this episode 63, whether it is when it is released somewhere around the weekend of March 4th or fifth of the year, 2023, or if you're hearing this in the distant future, that you can find the Waking Up to Narcissism premium podcast online. It's an Apple podcast and I just highly encourage you to go check that out. It's a subscription-based podcast. It is $5 a month and you will have access to weekly question and answer episodes as well as there's going to be some bonus content there and all proceeds go to an incredibly good cause. And go find the link tree in the show notes, and that is link tree slash virtual couch. And that will then tell you all the things that you need to know about the various episodes and newsletters you can sign up for and online programs and courses. My marriage workshop is still there which is a $19 money back guarantee telling you all the things you didn't know that you didn't know about what a healthy relationship looks like. And I think that's very important. 

And that is leading up to an updated version of my Magnetic Marriage course, which will be coming very, very soon. And I just encourage you to sign up for the newsletter no matter what, because that's where you're going to find out a lot of information and free therapy, in essence, I guess that is probably not very responsible of me. There is advice given on the internet and that is through Tony Overbay underscore LMFT I'm doing more reels there and then virtual couch on Tik Tok and putting out a lot of content there, maybe one or two things a day that are all mental health or therapy related. 

Okay. So let's get to today's episode and whether you are the pathologically kind, whether you are the emotionally immature, whether you are the person with the higher amount of narcissistic traits or tendencies, you may even be the narcissist that all of a sudden discovered this foreign podcast on your wife or husband's phone. And you're thinking, oh, really, waking up to narcissism. What does this guy know? And if you're here, welcome. I am a friend. I feel your pain. Waking Up to Narcissism was a very intentional name of this podcast. As I woke up to my own narcissistic traits and tendencies and emotional immaturity. So before you decide to trash me for my nasally tone or heaven forbid you look me up and see that I am incredibly bald, hang on here for a minute, because this is literally for everyone that is listening to my voice right now that I want to say in a very, very dramatic, low tone that you are absolutely okay. You are enough. You are lovable. And you should not have to, and I don't normally should on people, but you should not have to beg someone to love you. You should not have to feel like what is wrong with you because someone is not loving you. And you are absolutely okay. But most likely you didn't have the upbringing that taught you the things that you needed to know about a secure attachment or what it feels like to actually be loved. And not to be controlled. 

So today we're going to go into some detail about where that really resides, where that comes from and why it can be so difficult to feel like you deserve love, because so often, when people are in these emotionally immature or narcissistic relationships, and they are part of this trauma bond, I realize some 17 years and 13 or 1400 couples in therapy later, that when I am trying to preach my four pillars of a connected conversation or here's what a secure attached relationship looks like, or here's the dangerous dance between the avoidant and the anxious attached couple. That I am just saying words, if you remember the peanuts characters and any adult just said, wah wah wah wah wah. And I feel like that is what I am saying. And then when I am done with my words, then they say, so do we, are we in agreement that she's crazy? Can you agree with me? And that is absolutely not the point, because if you are still trying to find a way to convince your partner that you are not crazy, so if you are that pathologically kind person thinking I can get through, I can cause him or her to have that aha moment. They must just misunderstand me. You are wasting emotional calories and energy if that has been the experience of your entire relationship. And you are absolutely okay and within your right to know that you are lovable just as you are. 

I have two muses, I guess we'll say today. One is from a post in the women's Facebook group, the private women's Facebook group for women in relationships with narcissistic people, fill in the blank. And the person says, “In tears today after my therapy appointment, realizing that the main reasons I've stayed in this relationship so long are a deep sense of shame for mistakes I've made and the belief that not only is there nothing better out there. But that I don't deserve any better. Like he's treated me badly, but I should still be grateful to have him at all.” And she said, “I am starting to not believe that anymore, but it's really hard.” And she said, she knows this is a lot, but she really does feel pretty alone. And this is one of those posts where the power of a group is just incredible. 

People saying that they could have written this they're in the thick of these realizations too, that their particular sessions of therapy have been good but really difficult. This one person said, almost a year out of their marriage and that you're not alone. Another person commented and said that they felt the pain too. It's hard. “We stay for so many reasons and I spent a long time believing that my husband's breadcrumbs were all I deserved. And it took me months to realize that that was his belief, not mine.” And she said, “All of the shame and the guilt, the blame, the worthlessness was handed to me by others who wanted me to carry their pain. First it was my parents. Then it was my husband.” And she said, “I'm really sorry that today was hard, but if you can find a little something to do for yourself to show your kindness, you deserve all the good things, the peace, the joy, the compassion. You deserve all the qualities that you've poured into your marriage returned to you tenfold.” And more people jumped in there and said, you're not alone. I feel the same way. Another person said they brainwash you to feel that way so you don't leave. Glad you're starting to see things differently. And people are just jumping in and saying, I've been where you're at. It's so hard. Grieve the past, mourn in the loss. Look forward with hope. And someone else saying, though, I'm glad you had this breakthrough. My heart breaks for you. But now you can get to the healing. And she said, I can't believe how many of us there are out there. So you may feel alone, but everybody is here for you. And that is the story of the pathologically kind, who has been continually thinking what's wrong with me? And I don't deserve more. 

So I also want to go to muse number two, and this is an article that I found in “Psychology Today” that I really feel I'll provide a bit of a backdrop for the way that I think that we can address this the best way. It's by a licensed clinical social worker named Bob, I think it's Taibbi. And I'll put a link to his website in the show notes, but it's an article he did back in 2019. It's on “Psychology Today”. And it says, “When you feel you don't deserve to be happy,” and he said, “consciously or unconsciously, our past can undermine our present happiness.” So I appreciate Bob's articles so much. And what I want to do is he has a bit of an introduction and he just talks about some of the things that, you know, life, he says life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that we know these words from the declaration of independence, but many folks gave up the pursuit a long time ago, and some can even mark the day and the time when their view of life and themselves changed. He said, think of that poor secret service agent who 40 years later said when interviewed that he could never forgive himself because he believed that if he had only acted more quickly, he could have prevented the assassination of John Kennedy. Or first responders who feel like if only they'd acted more quickly, they could have saved someone's life. 

But he says, “For many others, the moments are less defined. And instead the belief that they are not worthy of happiness goes underground and actively yes, subtly sabotages any attempt to be happy. So then they struggle with low level, but chronic depression, or they never go beyond a first date or talk about their passions. And they never fully pursue them. Or they live in a constant state of anxiety, even though they can't pinpoint the source. So whether their beliefs about themselves are conscious or not, the end product is the same”. And this is the phrase. I think he nailed so well: there's an erosion of their lives. So he goes over a lot of the common sources of the self-sabotage and that's where I really want to jump in and just throw my own 2 cents. So I really appreciate that setting the table because you can see that there are those traumatic moments where we feel like our life has changed, but this is part of the challenge, the problem of being in a relationship with an emotionally immature, narcissistic person. And I think it really goes back to that concept of implicit memory from the book, the Buddha Brain by Rick Hanson where he talks about your body being built from the food you eat. But your mind is from the experiences that you have and that concept around implicit memory or what it feels like to be you is from this flow of experience. And that flow of experience includes expectations, models of relationships, emotional tendencies, and this overall outlook of your life. And so that implicit memory establishes the interior landscape of your mind or what it feels like to be, you. And it is based on slow accumulation of lived experience. And then he goes on to say, here's the problem that your brain preferentially scans for registers stores recalls and reacts to unpleasant experiences. 

And he says that your brain is like Velcro for the negative experiences, that it hangs onto those negative experiences. But Teflon for the positive ones that they just roll right off. So consequently, even when positive experiences do start to outnumber the negative ones. And I would imagine if you're listening to this podcast, that hasn't probably been the case for maybe a long time. That the pile of negative implicit memories grows faster. So then that overall, that background feeling of what it feels like to be, you can start to be undeservedly glum and pessimistic. And I think one of the biggest challenges when people are in unhealthy relationships is as Rick Hanson goes on to say, the remedy is not to suppress negative experiences when they happen, they happen. But it's to foster the positive experiences in particular to take them in. So they become a permanent part of you. Now that is ideal when you are not in an emotionally abusive or manipulative relationship. As a couples therapist, and I mentioned this often, that still the majority, even though I put out podcasts that talk about narcissism and emotional immaturity, that the majority of couples that I am working with are people that can gain a new skill or tool. And their relationship has grown incredibly flat, or they've been waiting. I'll be happy when my kids are out of the house and then their kids are out of the house, and all of a sudden they realize they really don't know who each other is. 

You can hand those people a tool and that tool is going to help them build a beautiful relationship. But for people that have been in this emotionally abusive relationship, there is such a net negative effect that it is causing them to feel like they are less than they have lost their sense of self. So it's not just a matter of feeling a little bit flat. It's a matter of not feeling safe and that body keeps the score is on high alert that your cortisol level is so high that a couple of things happen again. Number one, complex post-traumatic stress disorder. The longer that you are in this constant fight or flight response, the more your brain says, okay well, we don't need access to certain parts of our brain, especially our short-term memory. That hippocampus is adorable, but it's not really necessary when everything I'm being told is I'm being told that I'm wrong. So let's send a little more blood flow to the amygdala because that sure seems to be used on a constant basis. And then over time, the neurons that fire together, wire together. So if you are constantly in a state of distress, then that background feeling or implicit memory or what it feels like to be you is continually feeling this sense of stress or doom. And then you can't access, not only your short-term memory, but you can't even access the logical part of your brain half the time, because there are so many triggers around you that cause you to go back into this fight or flight mode, and now at that point, add the gaslighting and you really do lose your sense of self and feel like what is wrong with me? I must be crazy. And you're not, and you have to be able to get away from that emotional abuse. Even if just for brief periods of time, to be very intentional about it, to breathe in the fresh air, to get some exercise, to get the blood flow going, meditate, mindfulness, stretch, do yoga, read a book, dream, watch something that you like. 

And all of those things now matter because they are starting to gradually shape that residue, that background, of what it feels like to be you. So that can be really difficult though to suppress these negative experiences, when you are in a situation where your body now is just queued and ready for those negative experiences, and then you go into that protective mode, especially if I have to protect my kids. Or if I'm trying to protect my sanity. Then that becomes just what it feels like to be you. So back to this article by Bob, because I cannot, I don't want to continue to butcher his last name. He says, here are the common sources for this self-sabotage or why then we really feel like we don't deserve to be happy. The first thing, he talks about his past and he says, sins. And I want to, and this is, this is me to talk about sins. And then I was going to give the old, the gospel, according to me line, maybe see kind of the humor there. But I do a lot of helping people navigate faith journeys, formerly known as faith crisis. That's one of the things that I honestly appreciate and enjoy doing the most, because I know from firsthand experience that when somebody can feel lost, that they can turn to a faith community and it can be just a life preserver. It can be a raft in a giant sea. But then there are times where that raft may get them to dry land. And then people are still saying, hey, get back on the raft because we need you on the raft. And then they can start to feel disenchanted with their faith community. And over on the Virtual Couch, I've done a number of episodes where I talk about a concept of James Fowler’s stages of faith, which is just a phenomenal concept. So if you are starting to challenge your relationship with the divine, you know, with God, with your faith community, and that has been something that's been really important to you, then I would highly encourage you to find, there was an episode I did a couple of months ago about navigating a faith journey. 

But for right now, can you do me a huge favor? And let's just put aside that concept of sin. Lets talk about behavior. I spoke one time to a group of religious leaders and one of them, and I really know this person means so incredibly well, but I was talking about my four pillars of a connected conversation. I was talking about Fowler’s stages of faith. And the leader meant so well. And he had just mentioned that, he said, you know, if I'm going to do these four pillars and assume the good intentions and not tell the person they're wrong and say, tell me more. He had put it in a way of, would that in essence, be condoning the sin or the behavior? And, I will admit my immaturity in that moment, I think I probably did a dramatic pause and sigh. And then I just said, boy, you know, I appreciate the question. And from where I'm coming from, I'm not looking at that as this person is coming to you to confess a sin, but this person is coming to you to share an experience because this is the first time that they've gone through life as them. And then check it out, in that moment, this is how they reacted. This is how they were showing up. And there is so much that can be happening behind the scenes that leads someone to the behavior that they do. I work with plenty of people that will feel bad that they're in unhealthy marital relationships, and we're not even talking about infidelity, but they will find a connection with someone of the opposite sex that is not their spouse. And they will start that typically with the, I know I shouldn't, what's wrong with me. I need to not do that. 

And I like to come at it from a place of, okay. So check this out. I'm noticing I have a connection with this other person. Because if we're looking at it from a man, check this out, when I have felt unsafe or unheard in my relationship, here's someone that I feel like, here's me. And that can really give quite a dopamine dump. It can be, there can be a rush there to feel heard and understood. So as you are starting to move away from the what's wrong with me and I don't deserve happiness concept or thought process. Then, can you also suspend the concepts around this past sin? Because he talks about, Bob says, here folks look back on their lives and only see what they've done wrong. And the people that they've hurt and their lives are a chronicle of destruction and sadness, guilt and regret are their primary emotions. And their unhappiness is then they feel like this penance that they forever play. And so when you can really start acknowledging the fact that I did what I did, period. Or this is what happened, period. Then we can look at that with curiosity and say, why did that happen? And that's where we can start to trace back it's because I didn't feel safe in my relationship or it can even, I mean, you can, we can all go all the way back to, I saw that behavior modeled in my childhood. That's the only way that I know that I can get attention because that's the way I saw my mom behave. 

So when we can look at that, as the things that you have done, if we can suspend this concept of your sins and say, these are the things that happened. And these are the consequences that may have come from that. And then, look at that with curiosity and acceptance and just say, okay, now that that happened now, what can I take away? How can I look at that? Maybe do a little bit of self confrontation, sit with a little bit of uncomfortable feeling because that's going to come into play in a very big way. As we talk more about ways to recognize that I am okay. I'm getting to learn to sit with some discomfort. But then that unhappiness that you may feel because of the actions you have done in the past, which were the first time you had gone through life in that very moment as you, then your unhappiness is not a penance that you must pay. Because that penance, there will never be enough emotional coins paid where you then feel like you can get out of that emotional prison. He then mentioned survivor's guilt and there's a special brand or type of survivor's guilt that can happen here. And that can be, I think it's a little bit more rare, but when somebody has maybe lost a loved one in their life, and then for some reason, their brain wants to attach meaning to that if they could have, if the person, the pathologically kind person could have only done something more than maybe that person would be, would be happier. I've run into this on occasion when maybe there has been the death or suicide of a loved one and where someone can feel this survivor's guilt, and then they almost take that into their relationship. 

And then feel like, okay, this must be again, it almost goes back to that penance that I must pay, because I could have done more to help this person that is close to me, and that is, if you look through those stages of grief and loss, Elizabeth Kubler Ross data, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. That bargaining is an interesting one because bargaining, when somebody is on their deathbed, that's the proverbial eighties sit-com where then you combat that if you can make it out of this situation in the live or view, if your person close to you will pull through, you will become a priest and then that person pulls through and then you say, oh, I had my fingers crossed. And then the laugh track ensues. But in reality, bargaining is often something where you feel like, oh, I could have done more. I should have done more. Had I done more, then that person would be alive. And so that can sometimes manifest a survivor's guilt in a relationship. But trauma is the one that really starts to resonate, he said he's met with women who were sexually abused as children who came away from that trauma, thinking that they were dirty. And because they believed they were, they felt that they were not worthy to have children on their own. And he said, childhood trauma not only leaves emotional scars, but it leaves somebody with a distorted view of themselves. They live with self-blame with the fear of replicating these wounds with a view of a world forever unsafe. Clouding any feelings of unhappiness. And I think that's the part that just resonates is that if you did not, again, feel safe as a child and if there was physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse. Then you won't feel safe as a child because no child deserves any of those. They really don't. It breaks my heart how often that is a part of somebody's growing up. 

And so that is then if it's this unresolved guilt or the shame where they feel like, well, I was a pretty bad kid and I remember how I remember just so clearly working with someone many years ago through some marital things and then they came back and they said they needed to process some trauma from childhood. And this was someone that I think just if you looked at their gruff exterior nature, that you would not anticipate that they were number one, going to talk about their emotions in this way. But number two, you couldn't even picture this person going through this trauma, but then they opened up about some severe neglect and physical abuse and childhood, and there was a moment where he was talking about his own kids and he was talking about how they can be frustrating. And he said, So, you know, I know my parents were doing their best and he said I probably was a pretty bad kid. And man, we let that one sit for a second. And then I just said, is there ever a time where you feel like that would be justified? The things that you had been through with your own children? And he said, no, not at all. And that just shows you the depth of where, when you are a kid, you are ego centered because you're a kid. You only know the world through your lens. And you don't really understand what's going on with people around you. So the fact that mom or dad are going through something, or somebody is now abusing me. Which again is not okay. It's not an okay excuse to take that out on a helpless child. But to that child, all they know is that life comes at them through their lens period. So then if that is happening, man, they must have really made mom or dad mad. 

Or they must have done something to make this person do what they're doing. And so that is really, that is something that we carry forward with us into adulthood. And that can really have somebody feel this trauma reaction whenever they feel unsafe. Or when someone gets mad, then they immediately resort to this is my fault. And I need to calm that person's emotions and anxiety down. I will do whatever it takes. And that can really be a difficult place to operate from. And especially when you're in a relationship with someone who is emotionally immature. Because let's take a step back again and look at what a healthy or an emotionally mature relationship, what the goal is because we go into relationships, emotionally immature and a little bit codependent and enmeshed. Because that's in essence, the way that we evolve from childhood, it's the way that we feel like we need to go into a relationship. 

That we are going to try to present ourselves in a way that the other person will find attractive or will like us. We laugh at their jokes a little bit more. We agree with things that maybe we don't necessarily really agree with because we feel like man, with this connection, I'm sure we're going to figure things out. Or if it's something that I really don't know about, instead of me saying, yeah, I don't really know. We're afraid that that person may leave us if we don't know. So we say, well, yeah, I do kind of like that too. Or tell me what you think about it. And so we go into those relationships absolutely not knowing what we don't know. But where this veers off or takes a fork in the road is that if you get in a relationship and you're both just, I want to say a standard amount of emotionally immature and you at least saw decently modeled relationships growing up, then as you start to go through life, you start to have life experiences, you graduate college, or you move, or you get new jobs or you have kids, or you go through financial struggles. And at that point, now it unpacks what that feels like for you based on the experiences of you growing up. 

And now you're communicating with another person. We're designed to deal with emotion in concert with another human being. And so we're starting to say, well, what's this like for you? Because this is what that's like for me. And then you mature together. So when you are struggling and you are feeling safe and then you can do a little bit of introspection and say, man, you know, when we are struggling financially, here's where I go with that, because this is what that was like for me growing up. And if that person then says, I can't believe you just said that. And it sounds to me like you don't think I'm a provider. Then I'm going to start to withdraw what I said and say, well, no, I mean, I guess I don't really think that. And now I'm going to feel like I got to figure things out on my own because this doesn't feel safe. But if you express that, when we're struggling financially, I go back to this place where it was really hard growing up and we really had to scrimp and save. And then if your partner says, man, I appreciate you sharing that because my family, maybe my dad was a commissioned salesman our whole life. And so I guess I really don't see it as scary as maybe you do, because it seems like everything always worked out. Now we both feel heard and we both feel understood, and we're not trying to tell the other person they're wrong. And so then we can start to work together and we can start coming up with solutions. And we can grow. 

And when we can become better people, because now we're taking in more of life's experience as we hit these new things that are happening to us in our lives. So, what is so hard about that is if you have been trying, because it's part of the human condition, to share thoughts and feelings and emotions, but then you're met by that emotionally immature or narcissistic person who is constantly viewing every interaction as an opportunity to get their supply, it's like, okay well, how do I control the situation? I'm going to tell you that you're wrong. I'm going to tell you that I can't believe you said that I'm going to tell you that I know better than you because then that gives that emotionally immature person, in essence, the fuel they need, because they don't have a sense of self without external validation. And this is not the good kind of external validation. This is the kind of validation that is a deep childhood abandonment wound that says, I just need interaction and I never saw healthy interactions modeled. So as long as I can keep this person in my life, even if it's through control and primarily through control, then I'm going to be okay. And that is without a lot of regard toward the non narcissistic partner. So now is when it really does start to look like a form of betrayal, betrayal trauma, as a matter of fact, because now if the nice, pathologically kind person is saying, here's how I feel, here are my emotions. I need to process them. I'm putting out this emotional bit. I'm handing you my heart. And then you take it and you throw it on the ground. 

Then this whole part of why we couple, why we get in serious relationships, so that we can grow together as people is being taken and it's being devalued and it's actually being broken and it's being thrown back in my face. And so I had someone recently say that they realized that they were looking for the person who had done the damage as to be the person to help them heal. So every time they went back in and tried to say, here's how I'm feeling and can we process this and can we talk about it? Can we work this out? That person would then take that as new buttons to push. And that is what can be so difficult when people are in these narcissistic or emotionally unhealthy and abusive relationships. So when they're continually even being told by the person that says, no, I do, I do. I, you know, I want you to tell me how you feel. And then as soon as you tell them how you feel, and then they say, well, that's actually wrong. I mean, that's not how it happened, and so then it's not safe. We can't open up. So I feel like the trauma response just is there in spades. And I feel like that is part of what keeps people in this cycle of feeling like they must not deserve to be happy because they must be the problem. Because of this trauma and then here they are trying to open up to somebody and then that person is routinely telling them that it's your fault. It's actually not my fault. You're actually the one that doesn't really understand. And if I have to say, sorry, then. Okay, fine. Sorry. But I, I really don't think I did it. And if I did, you're the one that made me do it. And now I really can't believe that we're even having this conversation. And so that's, that is messed up that now you just brought that to me. So you feel crazy. So that is that trauma. 

I think Robert's next example definitely applies and he's talking about parental worry, but he frames it from a place of a parent is only as happy as their unhappiest child. And many parents feel this because parenting doesn't get switched off at age 18. Their worries at times, their guilt, and their feelings of helplessness can become a drag on everyday life. But if we frame this in the context of trying to buffer for the kids and this almost this parental worry of, am I doing the right thing by staying in an abusive relationship? Which to me, the answer is no. Because in that scenario, you are modeling unhealthy behavior to the kids. And I think where I see this start to show up the most is that if someone, if I'm working with a client, let's just say a 25 year old female who has been in two or three different relationships and is playing the familiar song of what is wrong with me? I must be broken. And then when we really start to break down the game film, if they grew up with the narcissistic dad, for example, then they are afraid to introduce tension or to set boundaries in the relationship because that is not what they saw modeled growing up. And as a matter of fact, everybody just had to keep dad happy. So if dad started to raise his voice or just become agitated or emotionally unavailable, then it was a you problem. You had to figure out how to show up to make sure that you didn't get in trouble or you didn't get the brunt of his emotions or his emotional outbursts or even physical outbursts. So then you show up in your relationships and you're more drawn toward someone that is more of this unavailable person or this person who is really good with the love bombing, but, you know that one well, but then they can also absolutely withdraw. And then you are now coming into the caretaker role. 

And then I guess this might be a slight plug for the premium episode of Waking Up to Narcissism, the paid premium podcast on apple podcasts. Because I talked a lot about this, there was a question that was asked about validating our kid's experience versus not throwing dad under the bus. And so I did talk about the importance of being able to not tell them to not worry about it and dads going through something, and it's not a big deal because we're in essence teaching you to not be in touch with your emotions and your feelings and you're wrong. And then I'm not modeling the right behavior. So next up, we have a critical self image. So he says those who are constantly critical of themselves, those who are perfectionistic, hard driven, who come from critical or abusive childhoods are essentially stuck at the bottom of a well with few or no ways to get out. And if happiness is based on who you are and who you are is based on what you do. And if everything has to be perfect, then your successes are rare. And while you may try for a time to hit the mark over time, you might begin to realize that you can't. All you're left with is this angry voice in your head reminding you how you always screw up, how you are a loser, how you'll never be good enough. And he says that is a recipe for chronic unhappiness. So that critical self image is I believe part of that, just internal shame, this shame compass that we operate from, and that does come from this childhood abandonment wound, where if we are seeing people not show up for us consistently, we don't have that secure attachment as a kid. 

And again, we have no idea what that looks like. We are just being a kid. So this is something that is happening to us. And we don't have much say in the matter, but if people are not showing up for us, then we have this lens that we are looking through, that is, it has to be me. I don't understand what the world of adult problems are. So it's me, it's a me thing, but we can't even articulate that. So it just becomes more of a feeling. And that feeling is going to feel like shame. It's going to feel bad. And so that feeling is going to come around. If you are not, if you're not really feeling good, or if things aren't necessarily going your way, or if people aren't even reading your cues, because you may not even know what that's like to ask for the things that you need in your life. And then if people don't meet your needs, and this is in a situation where there are needs that you can meet on your own, then you feel like, something is wrong with me. And therefore we try to make up for that. The only way that in essence, a child knows how is to perform and to, and that's where that perfectionism can really come in. And I think I talked about this a couple of weeks ago, but when you look at this, a concept called internal family systems, it's a type of therapy that looks at your family as a variety of sub personalities. And so if you grew up and you were being told that you are not enough literally, or that you're dumb, or you're being abused, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, there's a belief that you may splinter off this emotion of just absolute fear or pain, or just self-loathing. And then you're going to have a protector, almost like a protector sub personality, that's going to come in there and it is going to drive this perfectionism because if you can be perfect and not get anything wrong, then you will never have to even come remotely close to being called stupid again. 

Because that feeling just feels like such a core loading or lack of self worth that you really do want to do whatever you can to stay away from it. But the problem is that that perfectionist quality is just, it is always on. And so then you grow to beat yourself up because then you feel like it will, if I am not perfect, then this is not going to go well. So I have to try harder and try harder. And that is a lot of pressure to put on somebody. It really is because like Robert says, that you will never actually feel like you're good enough. And that will be a recipe for chronic unhappiness. A couple more and then we'll wrap this one up today. One of them is feeling guilty if you're happy. And I see this one so often, and I believe that this one is part of, if someone is in an emotionally abusive or narcissistic relationship, then if they are feeling good, it's almost like the narcissist has to now be feeling bad because the narcissist needs to control the environment. So if I'm feeling good, it says to the narcissist, yeah. Then we're all doing well, but if I'm not feeling good, how on earth are you guys feeling good? So I'm going to regulate everybody's mood and emotion. So there are times where someone, if they are noticing that they're feeling happy and they're even out and about or on their own, all of a sudden that trauma response kicks in and they almost feel like, oh my gosh, where is he? I better not be happy. 

And so that's where Robert says, I feel guilty if I laugh at something or unexpectedly feel like I'm in a good mood. He says I've been down and depressed for so long that I'm afraid that if I don't seem that way, then I've been lying to myself and those close to me. And this is, I think this one is difficult at times to even recognize because if around the narcissist, especially, are they incredibly, emotionally mature? I see a lot of people that exhibit the typical, I talked about them, the narcissistic medical exits, or they have this grandiose things such as, pain and things like that that seemed to come at the most inopportune times and be gone when the narcissist is feeling fine. And in these areas, a lot of times the narcissist feels like they have to continually, just be either chronically down or something's wrong, or this victim mentality, because that's the way that they get their validation. So if you ever say, Hey, how are you feeling today? And if they say, no, I'm having a decent day and you say, well, good. Then like, I mean, no, it's, I'm sure it's going to disappear at any moment now, because their identity is that concept of being unhappier, being broken or being the victim. Then if heaven forbid, they feel like you are saying they are no longer the victim, then you may not care about them. And if you don't care about them, then they may die in their mind. 

So they have to continually keep you in this kind of this emotionally disruptive state where they are when they are feeling bad, then they have all kinds of ailments. But then if they want to go to the beach, all of a sudden, I'm having an amazing day. How about that? He also then kind of, I think a close cousin to feeling guilty. If you're happy then would you even feel like, do you deserve happiness? And he said, what keeps this way of looking at your life alive or the underlying wounds? From the past or present that continue to fester. And here's the thing you absolutely deserve to be happy now: is happiness continually achievable all the time? No. And there's a great book called The Road Less Traveled that I believe starts with, “Life is difficult. And once you accept the fact that life is difficult, then the fact that life is difficult no longer is what we're debating. But then once you accept that it can be difficult. Now, what do I do with it?” Because when we aren't accepting of that, yeah life is going to be hard. There are going to be ups and downs. Then when we run into a down, we go immediately to the what's wrong with me? Where in reality, we're all dealing with things that are difficult and they can be a challenge. And I'm not saying that you just say, well now what are you going to do? But in essence it is okay. Man. Why is this mountain in front of me? Must be me. I must be doing something wrong. Or okay, there is a mountain. What are we going to do? We're going to climb over it. We're going to go around it. We dig under it. And then that's almost this acceptance. So that is that you do deserve happiness. But what we look at as far as how we obtain happiness can be a completely different story. 

The book, The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris gives two different meanings to happiness. And I think this is so applicable here. He says the word happiness has two very different meanings. The common meaning of the word is feeling good. In other words, feeling a sense of pleasure, gladness or gratification. We all enjoy these feelings. So it's no surprise that we chase them. However, like all human emotion, feelings of happiness don't last. No matter how hard we try to hold onto them. They slip away every time. And as we shall see a life spent in pursuit of those good feelings is in the long term deeply unsatisfying. In fact, the harder we chase after pleasurable feelings, the more we are likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. But he said the other far less common meaning of happiness is living a rich, full and meaningful life. So when we take action on the things that truly matter, deepen our hearts, move in directions that we consider valuable and worthy, clarify what we stand for in life and act accordingly then our lives become rich and full and meaningful, and we experience a powerful sense of vitality. And this is not a fleeting feeling. It's a profound sense of a life well lived. And although such a life will undoubtedly give us many pleasurable feelings. It'll also give us uncomfortable ones, such as sadness and fear and anger, but this is only to be expected because if we live a full life, we will feel the full range of human emotion. 

And what is so powerful about that second definition is that life will undoubtedly give us pleasurable feelings, but will also give us uncomfortable ones. And what do we do with that discomfort? Do we allow ourselves to feel sad or to feel fear or to feel anger? We need to, and if we can allow ourselves to sit with those uncomfortable emotions and then what are they telling us? What are the lessons we can learn? Then we can move on. We can turn toward things of value, value based activities, value based goals. And then that's where we can start to live this more, this meaningful, this purpose driven value based life. And I just want to make the point that when we are so busy, trying to figure out what is wrong with us, do we deserve love? Why am I broken? How can I convince somebody that I'm okay? The more that we spend time doing that then that is absolutely the less time we're spending on trying to find this sense of purpose or these values, these value based goals. And the more that we're doing that, I feel like you can make the leap to say that in that process of trying to say, what's wrong with me and how do I get this person to love me? And maybe things weren't as bad as I think they are. And it must be me and I don't deserve to be happy that all of those things run counterintuitive to this definition of what true happiness can be. Which is finding your purpose. So finding your purpose, finding what makes you tick, finding what matters to you. And I think the unfortunate part about people that are in these emotionally abusive or emotionally immature relationships, is that they don't have the opportunity to find themselves in what matters to them because they're so busy trying to manage their own discomfort and emotions. And buffer and try to caretake this emotionally immature person that is going to go off at any moment. And change the rules that have been in the family up until that point, because that's a, it's a moving target. So just wrapping things up. 

He does finish the article and I want to, again, I really appreciate him acting as my muse today. But he does finish the article saying how do you, how do you move forward? And how can you convince yourself that you deserve happiness? And I hope that we've made a fair enough point of why it can be hard to be happy and why we feel like we don't deserve to be happy and knowing that you do. And if you still don't believe that you do, I want you to lean on me right now. Trust me. Because you are most likely continuing to think those thoughts that I do not deserve. I'm not deserving of happiness. And when the what's wrong with me and that is not suited you well up to this point. It's time to try something new. It's time to start carving out a new neuropathway. And just remember that your brain is a don't get killed device, it’s an I'll do it later device, it’s a that sounds really difficult device. That when you're trying to carve out a new neuropathway, it's going to take a little bit of effort and energy. And then when you let your foot off the gas of being intentional, then you'll go right back to the path of least resistance, but he says one of the things he suggests is as you can make amends and I do feel like this is the one that I would, I would put a little bit of an asterisk by when we're talking about working with people that do have personality disorders, because he's saying here's where you could send the letter to somebody that you feel hurt you, or you apologize for some wrong. 

And I know that the people that are listening to this podcast and especially somebody that's already listed or that is still listening over 40 minutes in, that you most likely tried that a lot. Writing the text, the letter, the email apologizing. And if that's the case you've probably experienced times where that hasn't been met with a man. Thank you so much. You know, I wasn't, I didn't realize the impact that I was having. It's more like it's about time or then that's used against you. He does also have a good idea, which is writing. If you need to write a letter to somebody and not send it. Then there's real power in doing things like journaling and writing letters, because when the thoughts are all in your head and they're, they're acting in a jumbled way. Then when you write them out linearly, it does tend to help. Get those things in a more cohesive, I don't know, understandable order. And then you can often move on from there. I like that he says, realize you did the very best you could at that time. This is the part where I love talking about. This is your very first go round on this merry-go-round of life, I guess, depending on your belief system, but as the time that is right now you know what you know right now. And you knew what you knew back then at that time. So you absolutely need to give yourself some grace and some compassion, because you really were just doing the best you could with the tools that you have. And as the pathologically kind person, if you just now thought of that very moment. Oh, okay. So he or she, well, got to give them credit too. They're doing the best that they can. And that may be true, but that doesn't mean that you have to put yourself in harm's way, if that's the case. 

So realize that you did the best you could, and it's going to take time. It's going to take work. Your, this is where real, real good therapy or, a true skill of being able to sit with the motion. Take up a mindfulness skill learned to notice that these are all just thoughts and feelings. And I noticed them and I feel them and they are things and I don't have to stop them. And I don't have to tell myself what's wrong with them. And I can't just magically change them. But the more I recognize that I can change the relationship that I have with my thoughts, he says, resolve your trauma and that can be a very powerful thing. And trauma often comes in layers. And so sometimes you will start to uncover things and feel a little bit better. And then here comes another layer of trauma. So just that, if you really have some deep trauma and wounds, I think that it might be best to get help from a professional. And he talks about working on your self criticism, directly treat your anxiety or depression that if there is if I do. Recommend seeing a medical professional, especially if you do feel anxious or if you feel like you have an elevated heart rate, or if you jump into fight or flight mode, all right away. We've had a couple of group calls on the women's group, the Facebook group, and have a nurse that is very knowledgeable, who has given us a lot of information about even the things that can happen like the chronic fatigue or the adrenal fatigue or the higher blood pressure and these things can happen. 

And when the body keeps the score, as somebody is in an emotionally unhealthy relationship. And while I would love to say that, just go do all of these things starting today. The reality is you may start thinking about some new things to do. And your brain is still going to come up with the well, yeah, but I don't have time or, yeah, but I don't know where to start. And just know that you are on the path toward healing and enlightenment and over time, if you will start just looking at things this new way that you are deserving of love you are lovable as you are, and it is absolutely okay for you to have your own thoughts and feelings and opinions and emotions. And if somebody is trained to control those, that is absolutely not a form of love. And as you put these pieces together than what it feels like to be you is a, is a pretty good feeling. And you're going to start to thrive and let that light so shine that you are just making a difference to yourself first and then that's where you're going to be able to be a lifeline to those around you as well. So thanks for joining me this week, and I hope you have an amazing week. I will see you next week on Waking Up to Narcissism

Tony discusses the differences between false memories and confabulation. He then reads a message from the "women in relationships with narcissistic 'fill in the blank'" Facebook group that leads to a breakdown of "Switzerland Friends," as well as how we deal with discomfort, as well as how "family systems theory" could provide an answer to the difficulty the "pathologically kind" person has in stepping out of their role in the various "families" they are in.

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

61 Transcript

Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 61 of Waking Up to Narcissism. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, host of the Virtual Couch podcast, as well as the soon to be released Murder On the Couch, a true crime meets therapy podcast and Waking Up to Narcissism the Question and Answer premium podcast, and you'll find a link to all of those in the show notes of today's episode, or you can go to Tony Overbay underscore LMFT on Instagram. Or Tony Overbay licensed marriage and family therapist on Facebook. And you can find more information there, or just go to tonyoverbay.com and sign up for the newsletter. That really is coming soon. And there will be a lot of information in the newsletter. Let's get to today's, actually before we get to today's topic, I had a quick story that I wanted to talk about. And it has to do with something that I refer to often that I get questions about, because I think the genesis of the term confabulation is something that was many, many episodes ago. And I know a lot of people are, most people are not going back and starting at episode one. 

So when I talk about confabulated memory, I recognize that I'm taking a little bit of license with that as well, what confabulation is, if we just purely go with a definition and here I'm looking at the national library of medicine, “confabulation is a neuro psychiatric disorder where in a patient generates a false memory without the intention of deceit.” The patient believes this statement to be truthful. Hence the descriptive term, honest lying. The hypothesis is that the patient generates information as a compensatory mechanism to fill holes in one's memory. And you can see then how that, when we talk about that in the case of someone with narcissism or extreme, extreme, emotional immaturity, the confabulated memory comes from a place of it can't be what you think that I did, because that might mean that I did something wrong or I did something bad so they can fabricate a memory in real time and then just believe with every fiber of their being that that is what happened. And if you go all the way back to childhood and look at that concept of gaslighting as a childhood defense mechanism, then it can make sense that if I was going to get in trouble as a kid, that I could, I could literally get physically beat. I could get emotionally starved. Or anything like that. Then, as a child, you will do anything to avoid that. So I definitely do not want to get in trouble. So, therefore I didn't do it. And as a matter of fact, I can't just get away with, I didn't do it. I didn't do it. My brother did it or the dog did it. And then over time that just becomes the air that emotionally immature or narcissists believe. 

And so then it did not happen the way that you think that it happened. And it's believed with such veracity that then even trying to argue with somebody who has this confabulated memory, they now can absolutely validate the fact to themselves that you do not know what you're talking about. You must be crazy because it definitely didn't happen that way, because that would mean that I'm wrong and that I could have done something wrong. But if we, if we go a little bit, a softer example is if we're looking in the realm of just overall psychology is that when the person has these gaps in their memory, and maybe they're asked to remember described details of a past event. And rather than just saying, I'm not sure. I don't know. The person's mind does fill in missing details with confabulated memories of the event. And now let me add one more piece to the puzzle. There is often a question when you start talking about confabulation, that comes, that is, what is the difference between a false memory and confabulation? And I really appreciate this is where the nuance, the subtlety comes in, that memory errors are often looked at in a couple of categories. There's the air from omission. Or errors from commission. So emissions are forgetting errors and then commissions are in essence, false memories. So confabulation is a kind of commission error that occurs when somebody then fills in the gaps of their memory with stories. So that's what I think is pretty interesting. So with the narcissist or emotionally immature, you can see where that angle of, well, of course I know, and this is what happened. It's really hard for them to say, I don't know. Because if you are truly emotionally immature and narcissistic, then I feel like I have to weigh in and I'm probably right. So it probably happened this way. And so therefore I will congratulate this story or this narrative. 

So here's where I now want to enter the pathologically kind person who is still trying desperately to figure out, wait a minute. Am I the narcissist? Because I confabulate. I do. And so that must mean that I'm a narcissist. And this is where I feel like the concept of confabulation is often just associated with this intense negative, you know, from the medical definition. To then the clinical psychology definition. And then we start getting into the concepts around just forgetting something versus creating a narrative. And so then does everybody that fills in the gaps with what they think happened then? Are they therefore a narcissist or emotionally immature? And this is where I feel like no, this happens and it's one of the main things of why when I lay out my four pillars of a connected conversation that after assuming good intentions or knowing, there's a reason why somebody does what they do and says what they say, shows up the way they show up, that my pillar two is I can't say, are you kidding me? That didn't happen. That isn't the way it happened. I don't believe you, even if you believe that that is not what happened and you don't believe the person. This is where I feel like confabulation as just part of the human experience needs to be discussed more.

Here's the story. This is the lead in to tell you this story. Earlier in the week I had someone come in and well, before they came in, they shot me a text and said, I'm going to be five minutes late. And I thought, oh, okay. That's kind of funny. This person will send me that kind of a text from time to time. They're not always late. But then when they do, they typically arrive a couple of minutes before whatever time that they say that they will be. So if they say I'm going to be 10 minutes late, they're there in seven, five minutes late, they're there in three. And then I will say, hey, you got here early, late. And the person will let me know that they've sped or something like that and hilarity ensues, and then the session begins. So it's a normal situation where the person says, hey, I'm gonna be five minutes late. I say, no problem. See you when you get here. They show up and I'm just working on some things at my desk. And then I say, hey, you're a minute late because they got there six minutes after, so I was being hilarious. Of course. And then this person said, oh no, I'm actually four minutes early. And I said, no, you said five, you were gonna be five minutes late. They said, no, I'm gonna be 10 minutes late. And then we both went to the proof. We pulled out our phones and this person literally texted, hey, I'm going to be a few minutes late. And I said, see you when you get here. So right in that moment, I thought that was such a good, simple example of where confabulation can occur just to regular human beings on a normal basis where there isn't something just incredibly important at stake. Because if you would have put me in, having me take a polygraph at that moment, I knew I was convinced. I absolutely could see it in my head as if I had photographic memory, which I do not, that it said five. He said five minutes late. And then this person was also convinced. Absolutely. Without a doubt he said 10 minutes late. So I really feel like that's such a good example of how I have this narrative that was already sitting in my mind about this person when he texts that he's normally early. And so if he says five, it's going to be three. 

And so I believe that that plays a role in the concepts around confabulation. So if you're having a discussion with somebody, that's why I feel it's important if they said, no, you were, when we had that conversation, I remember very well, you were in the kitchen and because you were sitting by the table and then if you remember that, I really think we were in the living room and I was standing by the TV. That part of my four pillars, the reason why I say, okay, I don't, that's fine. If one of you remembers one way and the other remembers that the other way. Then okay, man, I appreciate that. So now let's get into more of the content of the conversation because I feel like so often now the argument goes off into the weeds and trying to prove that I am right. That we were in the kitchen and the other person saying, no, you're wrong. We were in the family room. And when somebody, typically this is where the more pathologically kind person is going to at some point say, you know what? It doesn't matter. And this person is going to stay on this until I finally agree. So then I say, no. Okay, fine. I'm probably wrong, yeah, we were probably in the kitchen, but just the mental calories spent on arguing a tit for tat back and forth fact that was most likely confabulated to begin with is where I feel like that is what can just zap the life out of somebody that's trying to stay present in a conversation. 

And then the person that just hung on to I am right. Then that person ends that conversation feeling like I am right. They know I was right. And once again, I had to just keep hammering them until they remembered that I am right. And I feel like that can just be so damaging and destructive in a relationship. So I just thought that was a really interesting experience. Just as simple as a text, five minutes late, 10 minutes late. And in reality it was a few minutes late, but I often get people that are still trying to convince themselves that they must be the narcissist, even though they're the ones that have now sought out the podcast, the YouTube videos, they've emailed and they're the ones that are just, they're the ones doing the work to try to figure out, what is going on in the relationship, which again, if that is who you are, and you're asking that question of, am I the narcissist? You are not. You are a human being who is experiencing some events that have caused you to go on a journey to try and figure out what is going on in this relationship and in me. And so what an opportunity to start down this journey and get to this ultimate destination of just awareness and understanding that you are okay. You are lovable, you are enough, you are figuring things out. You're willing to do the work. And so on. 

So let's get to the body of today's episode. We're going to go to the narcissistic women's Facebook group. Again, women who are in relationships with narcissistic fill in the blank whether it’s a spouse, a parent, an adult child, a boss, a coworker, an entity, a pet. That one kind of just came out. I've never really looked into the concepts around emotional immaturity or narcissism on a pet, but I guess a pet can be very anxious. Anyway, I do not want to go off on that tangent, so I'll change a few of the details just for the sake of confidentiality. And I will comment or I'll address some of the comments that people made to the post, which are just amazing. One of the things I find is so powerful, if you can find a group for whatever you may be struggling with or working through, when you can find a group of people that have been in similar situations, there's just definitely a, you don't know what you don't know component. And when people are just asking questions and offering suggestions, not saying, here's what you need to do, but here's what worked for me. It can just be incredibly empowering and it can really help people get out of their fight or flight part of their brain out of that amygdala hijack and really start looking at some alternative answers to maybe some of the things that they're dealing with. So I'll hit some of the answers too, because they're just, they're beautiful. They're brilliant. 

But the person had said that they're feeling crazy right now, they said they had a really tough week and they were talking with some friends who had been some of their closest friends and most trusted people. Especially since she had gone through the divorce with her narcissistic partner. And she said, she's tried to be careful not to share too much. She was worried that it would sound like she was bashing him because she's noticing more and more that these people are starting to become more of these Switzerland friends. And if you're not familiar, the Switzerland friend concept, someday I worry that I'm not going to be welcome into Switzerland, but Switzerland is an amazing place. And it has the vibe or the stereotype that there's neutrality there. And so a Switzerland friend would be one that is saying, hey, I really don't want to get in the middle of anything. And I'm sure you both played a role in this and there's good and bad in everyone. And while that is a very good answer, if you have been in this type of a relationship, that isn't the correct answer and so, this is where I know it can sound complicated if somebody is listening to this and they haven't experienced being in a relationship with someone who is emotionally immature, has these narcissistic traits and tendencies. 

And as a matter of fact, I found an article on goodpsychology.net. And it's an article about becoming a Switzerland friend when your friends divorce. And it is fascinating because if you read it from the lens of, hey, there's two sides to every story and you want to be there for both people and don't judge and don't diminish either friend's pain and don't act as the go-between and keep your agenda out of it. And don't trash the ex’s. And don't gossip and don't compare their new partners. It is all solid advice. But what I often say is there's an asterisk at some point. That says, except for personality disorders or emotional immaturity, narcissistic traits and tendencies. Because we're playing by a whole new set of rules that unfortunately only the people that have played that game know what the rules are. And it's really difficult to even get to the point where you have an awareness that there are different rules. So a Switzerland friend, I want you to know, is a very good thing in a lot of situations, but in this situation, it can feel like the person who gets out of this relationship with an emotionally immature person or a narcissist has been someone that their own thoughts, feelings, and emotions have been squelched and put down for the entire most, if not the entire relationship. So now when they are trying to open up to someone and that person is saying, yeah, but it feels like trauma, the complex post-traumatic stress disorder, the relationship trauma where once again, all of a sudden your body keeps the score. And that visceral, that gut reaction is going to just fire up and you are not going to feel very safe. 

So she's talking about, she's noticing that these friends are becoming more and more Switzerland friends, but she said that she just had such an incredible experience that she wanted to share, and it was having to interact with this narcissistic ex partner. And, just being, in essence, forced to be around this person for a few days. And so she wanted to just share the things that are really interesting that she's noticed and that can be a real time for self-reflection. Because when you do find yourself outside of that unhealthy relationship and you can calm down your fight or flight response, then you can start to look at things with more curiosity and you can see how things were when you were in the context of where you were before. So you can, it's almost as if you're looking in on yourself and now you recognize, oh man, that's when I would try to manage my own anxiety by being a people pleaser or that's where, if I was trying to figure out the right thing to say to keep him calm. And so that can be a really interesting thing when you can step away from it enough to see that. 

So she said I wanted to share these things, I really did. And so I started to tell a little bit, I didn't want to bash him, but she said it ended up being an incredibly, very invalidating and very validating of him and his situation and feelings. And I appreciate this. She said, I noticed at first that it didn't seem to affect me as if now I was immune and I could see it as a popcorn moment, which is one of those situations where I'm just sitting back and I'm eating popcorn. I'm watching the show, I'm watching the show of, oh, they have been bamboozled by this person and now they too are buying into that narrative. And isn't that adorable? Because I did that for 20 years. And so that makes sense. I can understand, but having a popcorn moment, but then the more that the conversation went on and on then it just started to not feel like so much of a popcorn moment, but we slip right back into that deeply rutted neural pathway of what is wrong with me? Maybe it is me. Maybe I am the problem. She said she just started to feel crazier than ever. She said he left me, he cheated on me still. He is being validated by everyone. He talks to even her friends and her family. So she started saying, I start feeling like there must be something wrong with me for not seeing myself in this. And she said, if everybody thinks he's fine and I am crazy, then that must mean that I am having very irrational reactions. Right? And then she said, then I thought, man, I am so glad that I'm seeing an amazing therapist tomorrow, but then she said, but then I even noticed that being broken because I kept thinking, well, my therapist, she's paid to validate me. It's her job. So I'm sure she actually thinks I'm acting crazy too. And it's been just total crazy-making. So she said I've gone deep into this feeling of not being in touch with reality. And I feel now, like I'm starting to lose it again completely. And she said, any advice on how to get out of this state?

And I just wanted to address that. And I want to start with a concept that I did a Virtual Couch episode a week or two ago. And I just went off on a little bit of a tangent, an intentional tangent, around managing our emotions, managing our anxiety. Especially if once you become aware, this is one of these concepts that I just love, because when you become aware of this, what we're going to talk about next, you can't unsee it. So, what that looks like is how often do you feel, let's say that you are talking, let's just go with an easy one. Let's say you're talking with a teenager, I will say one of my teenage daughters and one of my teenage daughters is really anxious and upset and she doesn't feel like her friends are listening to her. And if I say, first of all, one of the worst things I can do is say, well, it's not that big of a deal. Or, you know, well, I'm sure that they have some problems that they're working through too, then that is going to feel completely invalidating. So in my four pillars of a connected conversation, pillar one, I'm assuming good intentions that my daughter is expressing herself the way she is, or there's a reason why, because she may already be in that amygdala hijack. So pillar one is, I'm assuming those good intentions are there's a reason why she's saying what she's saying. Which leads to pillar two where if I'm telling you it's not a big deal, or just look at it this way, that is an indirect way of saying, hey, you're wrong. Your feelings and your emotions, they're wrong. 

And so I need you to think in a different way. And here's where I want to jump into even more about today's topic. So part of why we like to tell people what to do or why we like to tell people that they're wrong, or why we like to tell people that you just need to look at it a different way, I believe if I am being selfish, self confronting, that that really is about me and my anxiety, my emotions. If my daughter is having a really difficult time and she's being emotionally expressive and she is just crying and sobbing and becoming inconsolable. That makes me feel uncomfortable. So what do I do with that discomfort? Then I want to tell her to calm down. I want to tell her it's not a big deal. I want to tell her, hey, they probably have a different side to this. So all of a sudden I've taken her pain and her emotions, what she's feeling, her reality, her experience. She knows those people better than I do, but I just made it about me. But without even really realizing that. Because I don't like the discomfort of seeing someone I care about upset. So I want to calm her anxiety down. I want to tell her to not worry about it as a way to calm my own feelings down. 

And I think that is such a fascinating thing that when you, again, when you see that and learn that. That it just becomes prevalent. And you see that in so many different areas. I've got someone right now that I'm talking to that is having a struggle with their boss. And when they are talking with their boss, their boss doesn't want to take the time to listen to this person that I'm working with. And that can sound like, oh, it's just the way that businesses work. And they operate. But as we've broken down a little bit more of the game film of this person's workplace and the qualifications of their boss, it's pretty clear that their boss is there as more of a figurehead. And so this person knows the person I'm working with. They know what they're talking about, and when they try to express that to their boss, I believe their boss takes that as you're telling me I'm wrong and you're telling me that I don't know what I'm talking about. And quite frankly, I think the boss may not necessarily know exactly what they're talking about. So then that causes them anxiety. And instead of then saying, oh man, I don't know. I don't know. I don't know enough about this situation at work to yes, I would love your input. They feel like, oh my gosh, I'm the boss. And if I don't know, then I may get fired or that my boss, my boss might get upset with me. So it was a way to manage my anxiety. I am going to tell that person that is coming in and that they seem frustrated with me that I don't have time to talk with them, or I might even send them to do some busy work because that's a way to manage my own anxiety. 

So I just think that's such a fascinating concept. And when I look back at the concepts around Switzerland friends, you know, I feel like, of course there's things that are on the spectrum, or I don't know what everyone is going through, but I feel like so often a Switzerland friend, what they truly are experiencing is they’re having you come to them and explain things about their ex partner that you weren't aware of. And so I believe that there are certain times where the Switzerland friend is sitting there and now all of a sudden they're uncomfortable because they're starting to even realize, and maybe it's at a subconscious level, I had no idea. And if I had no idea that means if I would have had an idea, then I could have helped, helped my friend more. I could help them early on. So I feel like often even the Switzerland friend concept is just a way for that person, this Switzerland friend to say, hey, but it's probably not as bad as you think, or I think he's probably hurting too. But if we're being really honest, speaking to the Switzerland friends is just a way, even if it doesn't feel like this is what I'm doing consciously, could there be a chance that that's a way to manage your own anxiety? Because if you have to sit there in the trenches with your friend and say, oh my gosh, I had no idea, then all of a sudden now, you know, that person is going to feel heard and understood and I'm going to have to sit with some discomfort. And I think at the core of when we want to get rid of our own discomfort, our own anxiety, our own emotions and feelings, that's when we start telling others how they need to feel or think or what the situation probably was. 

That is really a place where it's, because I don't like sitting with discomfort. And if I look in the world, I do work a lot with addiction. And I really feel like at the core of addiction are people that feel discomfort. And they want to alleviate that discomfort by turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms, whether it's pornography or gambling or alcohol or their phones, or you name it. That I just feel as a people, we don't do a good enough job. That sounds really judgmental. I feel like we can do a better job. That's reframed better. I think we can do a better job at learning how to sit with discomfort. Learning how to sit with uncomfortable emotions. And that is where the concepts around things like mindfulness come in. Can I sit and can I just acknowledge that I am noticing that I am feeling anxious, that I am noticing that I am feeling, I'm feeling sad for my friend. And so instead of me needing to alleviate my sadness or get rid of my anxiety by telling them that, hey, he's sad too. Or by saying you, you probably don't even know what he's going through or yeah, I'm sure that you played a role in this as well. That am I really saying that because it's coming from a place of, I don't want to sit with discomfort and at what layer, what level is that? That I don't want to sit with that discomfort. Is it because I don't know how to help this person, this friend of mine. Is it because I may actually be in a relationship that I don't feel is necessarily the best as well? On that note, I was talking with someone just a couple of days ago, not in a therapeutic setting, but I thought this was really fascinating. This person is starting to really figure out what they want to do with their life. And they're trying a lot of different things. And a friend of theirs had approached them and said, man, what's it like to really not feel like you're doing a lot with your life? And it really crushed this person that I was talking to. 

And it really did break my heart because there was no curiosity. There was no, hey, what are you up to? What are you up to in your life? This person that had projected this, that was, I believe most likely already in a career or a situation or a relationship that they didn't really want to be in. But as a way for them to feel better about it, they felt like, okay, I can alleviate my pain or my discomfort by in essence, projecting this onto someone else. And if I can make them feel bad, it puts me in this one-up position. And I say all this stuff that so much of it happens at this subconscious level. And it's because I really feel like so many people aren't really willing to do that work, that self confrontation. Or the mindfulness practice or an ability to sit with that uncomfortable feeling or emotion and acknowledge it. And even thank my body for the feelings and the emotions I'm feeling. And this is because, you know, when we're young, it's so easy. Even the very best intention parent to tell a kid to, hey, don't worry about it, it's not a big deal, that's probably not what they meant. And so even when we mean that well, even in that parenting situation like that we may even say to ourselves, no I'm doing that because I really, I want to let them know that sometimes they don't need to worry about things, but what I'm saying is I'm telling them, hey, don't worry about your own feelings or emotions. And in essence, I don't really want to sit with this uncomfortable feeling of you expressing your emotions with me. How often do parents say things like, hey, you know, don't cry, buddy. Don't cry. It's not a big deal. It's okay. Everything's gonna be okay. And so we're just telling somebody, hey, get rid of those emotions as quick as you can, because I'm feeling really uncomfortable and you might embarrass me cause we're out in public. Nobody likes a kid crying at Chuck E Cheese. Although really there's like tons of kids crying at Chuck E Cheese because those giant animatronic mice. 

But anyway. But I really want to help people learn to sit with that discomfort. And notice where that's at in my body. And even be able to say, hey, I appreciate my body giving me these emotions because my emotions are there for a reason. A lot of times, you know, anxiety, there's a warning. Or anger is there as a way to make sure that we're not being tread upon or that there's not injustice. And so those feelings, those emotions really do need to be felt and heard and understood. And so even a Switzerland friend getting back to that can often just be someone that is an essence communicating, hey, I don't like feeling uncomfortable and having to take a side, then I worry that somebody else is going to find out. And then they're going to tell me, I can't believe you took a side. When in reality, if you know that your friend has gone through a lot, and you've been able to hear her and listen to her and you know that spouse and you've witnessed that behavior as well. That it really is okay to be yourself, to be true to yourself. And be able to express to your friend that man, I hear you. And I see you and I'm here for you. And I can't believe, like, tell me more. What is that like? What are those things that you're observing? And what's that like for you? That must be crazy. It was, I don't even have to express my opinion. Because so often that expression of opinion. I want somebody to come from a confident place. And express their opinion. But not if it's only about alleviating their anxiety. 

So I want to move on to another. And this is, these are today, what I'm talking about, in this article, this expert says this. I really feel like those concepts around alleviating anxiety, not sitting with discomfort or things that I feel confident of from the years of just helping people and spending time in the chair, getting the reps in, so to speak. But on that same note, there's another concept that I think is really interesting to explore. And someone in the group had responded and they were talking about doing some IFS or internal family systems work. And internal family systems is a really fascinating type of therapy. That I will, I would love to know more about, and an internal family system, it basically is taking a look at your whole person. Your personality is, there's almost these multiple sub personalities or families within each person's mental system. And in my recovery program, the path back, my online pornography recovery program. There's actually a module that I do in there where we address, we personify the sub personality. And the belief, just a real general overview of internal family systems. It really is fascinating that there were parts of your life where there had been trauma or abuse, that sort of thing. And then you almost break off this exiled emotion and then you have a protector there as well. And I think one of the easiest ways to the, one of the examples, I remember hearing at a training I went to once and again, I don't know enough about internal family systems and I would love to, because I think it sounds just fascinating. 

But someone had talked about being, in essence, perfectionist and they had a, I didn't even realize you could get above a 4.0 in school and they had a four point whatever, 5, 6, 7. And particularly they were incredibly intelligent in math and those stem subjects. And when we were talking about it, this person had identified that their father had told him that he thought that she was dumb was the word he used and stupid. And these words when she was little, a lot. And so that just crushed her but the way to survive is through her internal family system breaking off this exiled emotion of just sadness and grief and pain and fear. And there was a protector, there was a protector there. This person out of the sub personality is a protector that then was going to do anything within its power to never to make sure that we never were called stupid again. So I will work harder. I will do better. I will become the very best and smartest. Because that hurts so bad to be called stupid or dumb by a parent when this person was young. So the internal family systems model talks about these sub-personalities that have developed as protectors for these exiled emotions. So one of the theories that I am working with is you've got internal family systems and then you've got family systems theory. And so with family systems theory, that is, in essence, talking about, and I think this is a, I think you'll maybe see where I'm going to go with this too. It is family systems theory, I believe applies to friendships and entire family organizations, whether it's your nuclear family, mom, dad, and the kids, or a blended family, or if it's, even if you're just, your work family. But family systems theory, it's a theory of human behavior that defines the family unit as a complex social system. Where the members interact and influence each other's behavior. And so I really believe that when you look at things like Switzerland friends, I think that again, we were dealing with the discomfort and people managing their emotions and anxiety through other people. 

But then I also feel like if you're looking at the family systems theory and you look at your friendships as a family system, what role do you typically find yourself in? And I find that so many of the people that are pathologically kind people have these relationships with the emotionally immature narcissistic people in their lives. That they are often that scapegoat or there's a phrase that's been going around the world of things like Tik Tok of trauma dump, you know, trauma dumpster, or somebody that you are the person that people go to and dump their trauma because you'll listen and you're kind, and you'll say all the nice things. But then when it comes time for you to express yourself, then those people don't want to hear it. Why? It gives them anxiety. Because that's not the role that they play. They play that role where they say things to you. And you thank them for it. And you tell them they're handling it very well and you tell them they're amazing and wonderful, but now all of a sudden, if they are going through something, then those people that were the deliverers of the trauma in that family system, that was their role. So when somebody steps out of the family role that they have in this family systems theory, then it disrupts the entire family system. And this is where I believe that most of the people that are interacting in a lot of these family systems would be deemed a bit emotionally immature. 

So if all of a sudden, one of you is waking up to this emotional immaturity or narcissism in the family system or in a relationship that is within the family system and you start to speak your mind, then you are disrupting that whole complex social system and other people will now react to get you back in alignment with the role that you play. Because if you are not there to continue to take their trauma or tell them that they're okay. Then they all the sudden feel discomfort. They feel uncomfortable. And so in that scenario, they're going to say things like, well, I'm sure that you played a role in that too. And that will put you right back into that same role that you play in the family. There's these different concepts. And the family systems theory is just looking at the families, this whole complex, single system where every member's behavior impacts another member and you start dealing with in the world of family systems, theory, things like boundaries, equilibrium are things bi-directional, are they reciprocal? And then what are the patterns and what are the roles that people play and the functions. So, just a little bit more. And I think that I just wanted to kind of express this or get a little bit of this out there today, just to recognize that so often why we start to feel crazy when we get out of these emotionally immature relationships is number one, now all of a sudden it really has. It has disrupted the apple cart, so to speak, the family system. 

And so there will be people, especially the emotionally immature person, the partner that's part of what the whole popcorn moment scenario is. They need to get you back in enmeshment and alignment so they can have a fix, they can have their drug of choice. And if not, then that's why they continue to push more and more buttons as you try to step away from this relationship. That the more you find your voice. And again, this is why I'd love to go so big on it isn't just finding my voice. It's starting to recognize I am a human being that has feelings and emotions. And those are absolutely 100% okay to have and express. And that if I express them and someone else gets angry or tells me that, I shouldn't say that. Or look at how that makes me feel. That is them feeling uncomfortable because you have an opinion and a behavior and a thought. And an emotion that is something that they do not want to deal with. And that's where you start to look at the selfishness of control. And somebody's trying to control someone else's opinion, thought, or emotion. That is selfish because it is saying the person that is trying to do the controlling is saying, I don't like how you are acting. It makes me uncomfortable. So please stop it. When in reality, the answer needs to be, hey, tell me what's going on. I'm noticing you seem frustrated, I'm noticing, and that's where we get into all these other things. I love talking about so much that let's tap into what matters to you. You know, you go through life and you start to go through different experiences. And now of course, you're going to have different opinions. You're two human beings that have 3 billion neurons that are just, you know, you're walking around this human suit that's interacting to things, you know, for the first time in that very moment of your life. Of course, you're going to have different thoughts, feelings, and experiences. And how cool is that? If you're two emotionally mature people, then you realize, wow, this is amazing. What do you think? I mean, this is, these are my thoughts. So anyway, there's so much there. 

But one of the things that can be a challenge, if you really look up the world of family systems theory, is that the couple of the criticisms there, one of the problems is that this kind of therapy family systems therapy, or it includes, failing to address these like neuro-biological things or mental health issues like personality disorders. So if you have severe emotional immaturity in the family system, then when you try to change up the family system, then that emotionally immature narcissistic person is going to lose their mind and trying to keep the family system intact because that's what they've set up to work for them to give them this again, this supply that they need for power and for validation. And that's the way that they feel like they are. That they matter is by having this control or power. So I'm going to leave it there. I'd promise that I would, well I mentioned that I would get to some of the comments that are in the group, but I realized this one is starting to go a little bit long and so I will wrap it up there and maybe we'll get a part two down the road or a bonus episode. 

But, even for the people that are in the group that commented on this post, the comments were amazing. And really there were people that were talking about doing everything from, some somatic work, to breath work, to being able to stay in the present moment. To be able to reach out to friends, to just be able to go back through the narrative and know that you've done a lot of work to get to that place that you are and then just being able to say, hey, check this out. Here's what I learned today. I learned that when I really want to open up about some situations, that seems pretty crazy with me interacting with my narcissistic ex. Then in those scenarios, I need to make sure that I'm not talking to a Switzerland friend and maybe that's where you need a support group or a good therapist that you can talk to because the more that you put yourself out there and if you're met with this invalidation or these yeah but it could have been, you know, what about him? That that isn't going to be those aren't the friendships that are going to be necessarily there, over the long haul. And this is where you have this opportunity now to trust your gut and to create friendships, not just with people that are filled with yes-men, but people that are willing to understand where you're coming from. And not just immediately need to quell their own anxiety by saying, well, it could have been this, or it could have been that, you know, it could be something that you're not aware of instead of starting with the, tell me more about that. So I really appreciate, as always, people that are here and listening, and I appreciate your feedback, your comments, please continue to send your stories and your questions. 

And I do, I read them. I see you. I hear you. If you're interested in joining a support group, I have the one with the women in the relationship with narcissistic fill in the blank entities. And I, after that last episode where I talked a lot about the men's experience, I've had more men reach out. So coming soon is going to be a men's group as well. And then I just, again, thank you for your support, the numbers continue to just grow and rise. And so I'm grateful that we're finding the people that are really looking to feel heard and understood. And it is, it is part of the process. How long does it take? It takes as long as it takes. And I know that's such a cheesy, horrible answer, but at some point it will change and things are gonna change for the better. And you are starting to understand and figure out that you are okay. And it's okay to have your own thoughts and feelings and emotions. You're not crazy at all. You've been made to think that, but you're not. And you're on that road to figuring that out. So send me your questions, I mean your stories, and we'll see you next time on Waking Up to Narcissism

Sarah Doucette, author of the book "Stronger Than That: A Domestic Violence Survivor Uncovers the Truth About Her Abuser" https://amzn.to/3FoX5MI joins Tony to share her "harrowing story of a domestic victim's search for the truth about her marriage. Twenty-one-year-old Sarah Doucette married a charming, gregarious and attentive man. Six years later, she left the marriage, lucky to be alive. Suffering from PTSD and dissociation after years of physical and emotional abuse, Sarah could barely remember the details of her marriage. After her ex-husband's death by suicide, Sarah set out to interview those who knew him, piecing together the destructive patterns in his life and how it affected her even years later. This book is a cautionary tale about trusting one's inner voice in order to leave an abusive relationship. It is a story of domestic abuse survival that can help others survive their trauma while outlining the many kinds of domestic abuse."

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


Tony:  Okay. Sarah Doucette, welcome to “Waking Up to Narcissism”.

Sarah: Hey Tony. Thanks for having me.

Tony: Take seven, I think? Just for the listeners, we were talking, and I was going over a few things and all of a sudden I felt like we were deep in a very productive conversation.

So, I said, hang on, don't say another word, which is probably very awkward for a host to do to a guest. And then we jumped back on and then things were downloading and dinging and pausing and freezing. So, I think we're ready. Yeah, I think so. Okay. I'd love to, that I was saying is it okay if we're conversational and you were sharing a little bit of you maybe had a couple of interviews that have not been quite conversational.

What's that been like?

Sarah: It's been fine. I, yeah, I just am not great at pontificating about myself for 40 minutes without, you know, the give and take and really, my goal with putting this book out here is to have dialogue and conversation about intimate partner violence and abuse. Yeah, I just think it's super important to have conversations about it, and it's so natural for people to have questions, especially if they maybe have never been in that situation, or they know someone who has, and they're just dying to know.

But it can be really uncomfortable to ask. And so, I've put myself out there to not represent everyone in that community but try to help answer some of those questions.

Tony: And I think it's interesting. Tell me if this is true about you, Sarah. So, in the “Waking Up to Narcissism” podcast, I have a private women's Facebook group for women who are in emotionally abusive or relationships with narcissistic people and emotionally immature people.

Most of the group are, we call them, pathologically kind people. They are people that don't typically put themselves out there, and they find themselves in that relationship with the more dynamic, narcissistic, emotionally abusive person. So, would you consider yourself one of these pathologically kind people who doesn't normally put themselves out there?

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that would describe me to a T you know. And, you know, I'm very empathic. So, I think a lot of people who have that trait tend to find themselves in relationships with narcissists because they just suck all the energy and life out of you. And as an empath, like you just give all the time. And so, it's so easy for them to kind of latch onto.

Tony: Absolutely. And so that's a perfect segue too. Your book is amazing. I didn't, it's a little bit of true crime. It's also a story of survival and people, you didn't know what you didn't know. How about you set this stage and tell us a little bit about your book and your story, and I promise I will jump in and ask questions. I won't leave you hanging.

Sarah: Okay, perfect. Yeah. So, I met my ex-husband my sophomore year of college. So, we were really young, and it was kind of a whirlwind romance as it were. You know, he was very charismatic. He had a big, gregarious personality. Everyone knew. Steven, Steve-O, The Steven, like he had all these different personas that he went by, and I was very quiet and very shy.

You know, I grew up fairly sheltered and then I left small town Maine and went to Florida for college. And um, it was like latching onto him and being pulled into his world. I immediately had this great group of friends. And being shy and introverted, that was hard for me. So it was, it was so fun for that year of us dating. And we got engaged and we got married when I was 20.

Tony: Can I ask you really quick, Sarah and, I do feel like so often people do say, but everything did seem fine. Did you experience the love bombing? Did you feel like this was just the most incredible connection and person I've ever met. Or were there, were there red flags or warning signs, and did you just maybe overlook them?

Sarah: I think there was all of the above. I mean, this was the guy who would, you know, just show up at my dorm room with like a bouquet of a dozen long stem pink roses for no reason. Like he would just show up. You know, he was always doing great, nice things for me and including my friends, which was really important to me.

And then there were red flags that I think if I maybe had had experience with someone with this personality, I would've picked up on, but you don't know what you don't know.

Tony:  What were some of those red flags?

Sarah: I put out an example in the book of this incident where we were arguing about something so silly. It was a very common argument for us, and that was, where are we going to eat? And you know, I would go through listing off every restaurant, like within a 30-mile radius, and he would say no to every single one of them. And so finally I just said, okay, well then, we don't need to go get lunch. We'll forget about getting lunch. And he just gets really quiet, and I could just feel the energy coming off of him. And so, I ask him, I'm like, are you mad at me? And he says, I'm not mad at you. You wouldn't want to see me when I'm angry. And that's kind of a big red flag.

But in my like 19-year-old brain, I was just like, oh, he's protecting me from his anger. How sweet of him. And that's where my head went. And so, I just was kind of, oh, okay, let's move on. And so it was little, little things like that. With my hindsight being 2020, I would've been like, oh girl, run. Get out of there.

Tony: Well, and you bring up a couple of really good points too, Sarah. One is, I feel like the pathologically kind person is predestined to give the benefit of the doubt and I mean, I love what you're saying. That exact example of always protecting me or I feel like so often I hear as a therapist the examples of people saying, oh, I'm sure I read that wrong, I'm sure it isn't as big of a deal as I think it is and, you know, versus the, somebody grew up in a home where there, there was no tolerance for that, would they have just not even attracted that person to begin with?

Sarah: Yeah. No, I think it's, it's so complicated because I find myself even in other relationships, and this is something that, you know, I mean, I've been in talk therapy since getting divorced and you know, one of the things that I actively work on is not creating excuses for people.

Like they don't need me to make excuses for them. And yeah, I will do everything in my power to be like, oh, well they're doing this because. And that's not my role.

Tony: I love it. I do. So then, you get married, so a year in college and then you get married and then what was that like?

Sarah: The chapter in my book that talks about right after we got married starts with the simple sentence of “the honeymoon was over as soon as it started.” Things went south immediately, like in the airport on the way to our honeymoon. His true personality started just kind of rearing its ugly head.

And so, our honeymoon was horrible. He had me in tears several times there, and on the way back it didn't get any better. And so, within the first year, and I think this is a super important point to make, and I think a lot of people find, you know, shame in this, but within the first year I left. Things got really bad.

And I left. And we were living in Massachusetts at the time. My family was in Maine, so I just hopped in my car, and I drove home. And he came and got me, and you know, we went out on a drive, we had this whole long, deep conversation about like, how he's sorry, he's going to change, he's going to fix things, but you do these things that make me do that. So, you also need to change, so enter gas lighting.  

Tony: Yeah. And Sarah, I so appreciate you giving that example because I've got a whole episode called the Narcissistic Apology, and it's like, okay, fine. You know, you're right, I'm sorry. And then it turns to, but you made me do it and it's your fault and, what are you going to take ownership of?

And at that time did you recognize that as a, you know, let's call it now a narcissistic apology or did you feel like, okay, that's fair, he's taken ownership. I probably need to.

Sarah: Yep. I completely fell into it. I was just like, you know, it takes two to tango. There are two sides to every story kind of mentality.

And so, I was like, you're right. I'll take ownership that I'm not perfect and I'm sure there's things that I do that upset you and have driven you to some of these behaviors. And so also, growing up in a very religious background, divorce was unheard of. And so it was like, you have to do everything possible to save your marriage.

And I was like, okay. He's admitting to things. Some give and take. I admitted to things. I went back. And probably within three or four months of going back, I ended up leaving again. And the same cycle, right back, you know. And I ended up going back again and shortly after that, he got in some trouble at work, and we ended up moving back to Florida, which is where I was when I met him.

And from there it became easier for him to kind of separate me from my support network, which was my family and my friends from up here. And you know, I make mention of this specifically because I think people don't understand that it takes an average of seven attempts at leaving an abusive relationship for it to finally take. And then those two weeks after you leave are probably the most dangerous time of your life.

Tony: Wow. Okay. And thanks for bringing that too. I mean, I do, I call them rule outs. And a lot of times when people say, okay, no, I understand more. And did you ever feel that way? Like, I'm going back in, but I have new knowledge, or I can work with this better.

Sarah: Yeah. You know, people judge a lot. You know, I hear from people all the time, oh, if my husband ever did that to me, I'd be out the door like that and it's so easy to say that and it's so easy to say, oh, if my husband ever laid a hand on me, I've heard people say all the time, that I'd hit them right back or stuff like that. And I'm like, it's so easy to say that when you're hard of heart, that if something like that happened, your husband wouldn't kill you. But if you don't know that for sure, it's not as easy to just say okay bye. One of the things that I talk about a lot, I spent a few years as a financial advisor because there's something called coercive debt that happens in domestic violence relationships. This was not a term I had any clue about while I was here.

Tony: I’ve never heard of this? Tell me about it.

Sarah: So coercive debt is when your husband, or your partner, intimate partner, they either strip you of your job, and then they spend money in your name, they convince you to take out credit cards. When we got married, my credit was much better than my ex-husband’s, so we used my credit to finance a vehicle. And then during our marriage, unbeknownst to me, he actually had used my social and my identity basically to finance tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of stuff and then never made a payment.

And so, he hid the bills for me. I never saw any of this stuff until we got divorced and because all our property was in his name, he demanded that I give him my car back, so I had to go buy a new car. And when I went to buy a car, my perfect credit was in the four hundreds, and I only got financed with a 16% interest rate. And at the time, I was living in that car, so losing my car was a big deal.

Tony: Oh man, Sarah. Did you see signs of that? It’s interesting when you, I didn't know there was a name for that, but so often I do, I hear those stories in my office of people that, the husband or the wife, whoever the more emotionally immature person was, has just made a lot of decisions.

And in their mind, I think they justify it, saying that they'll eventually pay these things off, or it won't matter down the road, so they don't feel like they need to share those with their spouse. I mean, did you see signs of that along the way? When he would bring home big purchases, would he gaslight you about how he made those?

Sarah: Yeah. There's an example in the book, we got married in January of 2006, and in February of 2006, we had left Florida and moved to Maine, and he'd become a general manager of the company he worked for. And one day he comes home with this gorgeous Dell laptop, super expensive, top of the line. And I was like, where did you get this? And he tells me that they give them to all new managers, and all new GMs at the company get them. Lo and behold, no. He used my social, he went on the Dell website and financed this $3,000 laptop back in 2006. And then when we got divorced in 2012, You know that $3,000 laptop was now over $6,000 in interest charges and late fees and penalties because he just never paid on it.

And you know, we always lived in apartments. They give you one mailbox key and he had that on his keyring. So, he would get the mail and just dump the bills in the dumpster before he'd come home. So, I literally had, I had no idea. It was the shock of my life when I went to try to finance a car.

Tony: I bet. I bet. And so, you talk about you having made a couple of attempts to leave and then he would get you back in and I think I had maybe taken you on a different path when you were talking about it can take seven times, so how long were those? Was there more time between attempts to leave or was it getting shorter? Or what are some of those things that you remember?

Sarah: So, the first two times were pretty quick. It was within the first year, and I tried to leave twice after that. When we moved back to Florida, we kind of went through a honeymoon period, like we had moved, we were back in Florida. He was around his family again. So, there was a little bit of a buffer. It was never perfect, but it was better. And then I had some support from his aunt who lived nearby. But it wasn't until we were married six years total. So it was five years later before I officially tried to leave again, and ended up successfully leaving that time.

Tony: What was the key to that?

Sarah: So, he came home one night with this crazy idea that like, what if we got divorced, didn't tell anyone, and then threw a party and were “like surprise we're divorced”, and I was just completely taken back by this. I thought this was the craziest thing I'd ever heard in my life.

But I was also like, okay, he wants a divorce too. So, now's my opportunity. So, he was like, let's think about it for a couple of days and then let's talk about it again. Do we want to get divorced, or do we want to stay together? And so, I waited a couple of days, and this was like a couple of days after Christmas. And so, I was like, have you thought about it?

And he said, no. And I said, well, I have, and I think we should get a divorce. And he literally just grabbed a soda from the fridge, and he was like, okay. And he just went to the bedroom. So, I was like, yes, I'm doing this. Like he's not fighting me. So, at the time I was like, listen, I'm just going to move myself into the spare bedroom. You can have the master. I'll move into the spare room. There's a little twin sized bed, it'll be fine. So, less than a week later was our six-year wedding anniversary, and I was home in bed. He came home super late, and he was drunk, and he spent hours just yelling at me and just like verbally assaulting me.

And then finally he came in and physically assaulted me. And at that time, I was just like, I was scared for my life. I mean, he had, you know, basically slammed me up against the wall, cracked my head up against the wall, and I was just like, I must get out of here. It's me or him at this point.

And so, I waited until he had passed out from, you know, all the drinking and I don't know what else he might have been on. And I just grabbed what I could, and I took off in my car and never went back.

Tony: Did he pursue you after that?

Sarah: He would text me just vile things and just be really rude. And I relay some of those text conversations in the book. But I went into hiding after that. I worked for a company that had armed security at the doors. So he couldn't get into me at work. When I eventually got money and found an apartment, he never knew where I lived.

I'd ended up, after the divorce was final, changing my phone number. So, I never saw him again. Yeah, after, everything was kind of final and he never even showed up for the divorce proceedings. He didn’t sign the papers. I ended up having to file a motion for default.

Tony: So Sarah, during the six years, did you guys try counseling or what was that experience like? Did you try to get help?

Sarah: Um, no. I had talked about it, but in my experience with this particular narcissistic personality, there was “nothing wrong” with him, of course, right? So, there was no counseling for him? So, it just, it never worked. I talked about like, well maybe let's go talk to our pastor. Because we were members of his family church and he was, no, he was not interested in that. No.

Tony: And like you say, “nothing's wrong” with him. And I appreciate, and I hope that, I should have maybe even prefaced that by saying that if someone, you know is going, it's typically, it's the husband saying, okay, fine. That way the counselor can say that you are crazy. A lot of times they end up going to multiple therapists or that sort of thing because they need to find the one that backs up there. But your situation, I think, is far more out of the norm because why would they if they're “fine” and you can go figure your stuff out if you need to.

What was your family support like? What was your family saying throughout this process?

Sarah: Oh, so my parents never liked him. And here's the thing about that. I get it. I know why they didn't like him. You know, they got bad vibes from him, but they were very far away. You know, they were in Maine, and I was in Florida, so they couldn't see all the everyday stuff going on, and it wasn't super easy for them to be involved. And then one of the things that happens in relationships like this is my ex-husband was very manipulative and he would find ways to kind of turn me against people and people against me.

So, towards the end, my mom and I had a very surface level relationship. We weren't talking as much; we weren't super close. A lot of it is because my mom has a very strong personality. Very sure of herself. And so, she would have very strong opinions about my ex-husband. I was not in a place where I was ready to hear any of that.

And so, I couldn't receive what she was saying to me. I mostly just resented it. I was like, why can't you just support me in this relationship? But I get it, as I'm a new parent myself. So, I get it. Like, you see your kids suffering. You see them in a situation you don't want, and you just want to rip them out of it.

But in this type of situation, when you're not ready to hear it, you're not ready to hear it. I wasn't ready. I wasn't ready to go. I was still fighting the good fight.

Tony: Well, and Sarah, I feel like wanting to say, I don't know you well, I love your vibe and your energy, and we haven't even gotten to the part of the book that is just so wild. It takes almost like a true crime turn.  So I don't want anything to feel like I'm saying, here's what you should have done because , you did everything that you could do but that concept with your mom, I think is so fascinating because, here, I just was wanting to tell you that, hey, you're okay, but I really am going to say things about your mom and I know that she was doing the best that she could do.

So, I want to preface it by saying that too. But I feel like it feels natural for a parent to then want to say, I don't like him, and I think you should get away from him and that sort of thing. But I love that you're bringing this up because, as a parent, my kids are adults and, even some of the relationships they've been in, my wife and I had to have had to be very intentional of, I need to put that almost aside.

It almost feels counterintuitive to be able to say, I'm going to support my daughter through this relationship so that when, and if, she finally has enough that she knows she can come and say, I need help. Versus the, I don't know if you've had moments where you felt like, I can't go. I need to show them that I can do this. Did you have any of those moments?

Sarah: Oh, absolutely. I talk about that quite actually in depth in the book as well. About, obviously hindsight is 2020, and so at the time, yeah, I felt like I was being so strong, like doing this myself. Yeah. I was like, I've got this. Now that being said, I do have a cousin who's also like my absolute best friend in this world.

She has a PhD in social work, and she was right there with me. She was the person that could tolerate my ex-husband. So, she was really kind of the only family that I had contact with. Like we would go on vacation and go visit her, and I mean, talking to her now, like they hated every minute of having him in their home.

But just what you said, she needed to make sure that she was a safe place for me to come and talk to him, and that I felt like she had an unbiased opinion. So, I would talk to his family about my problems with him. And I would just, I just remember, and I tell this story in the book as well.

I'm like, why is he so mean? And I'm just pleading with his mother and his father. Like, why, what have I done to deserve him being so mean to me? And his mother turns and looks at me and says, “It's the woman's lot in life to suffer.” And that was her advice.

Tony: I know I don't know them as well and I told Sarah and I talked before and I said, are you okay if I end up doing humor? And I know this isn't a humorous thing and I appreciate it. And you said, absolutely. Because I want to say, if I say, bless their heart, I can say anything I want about them. So, bless their hearts, I don't know her. Right. But I feel like that concept of. Hey, look. If you now suddenly say he's bad, then a parent will often say, well, then apparently you must think that I'm bad too. And so, then I just need to gaslight you with that. And what an example that is. Right? Well, a woman's lot in life, I mean, I feel like says the person who unfortunately probably was not in the healthiest relationship themselves. So, if they can convince others that, well, this is the way life is, then it justifies that was how their life has been.

Sarah: Yeah. It was just, just like a moment, I was like, what in that, what are we saying right now?

And so, you know, at that point I just kind of stopped talking to them about it too. And it was just so insane. And I think I was really nice to her. She and I were very close. I think that she was afraid that she would lose that relationship. I think a little bit of her advice was self-serving.

Tony: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. And that's why I say bless her heart. I mean, people are trying their best and I know that is what can be so hard. I love that you had, did you say it was your cousin that was the social worker? Yeah. Okay. And so, I'm grateful that you had that example and, when you found out, when she said afterward that we didn't like him the whole time, did that feel validating or did you have that moment of, why didn't you tell me? What was that like for you?

Sarah: No, I never, but it's just not my personality. I just never like begrudging to anyone about it. It was very much more validating to me. And then finally we got to like talk very candidly about all this stuff going on. So, it was more of a relief. And like, writing this book and, okay, so we'll kind of jump over it a little bit, I guess to the true crime aspect of this. Yeah. I'll give you the quick 30 second synopsis of where the true crime element comes into this.

For the listeners, if you haven't read the book yet, basically, part of what spurred me on to write this book is I received a phone call from my former mother-in-law. It was about two and a half years after our divorce, and she called me. Late at night, so I missed the call. And something in like, my spirit just told me something's not right.

Like she shouldn't be calling me. And so, I called her back and I said, what's up with Steven? I didn't even say hi. I just, I knew, I was like, what? What's going on? What's up with Steven? And she said that his body had been found in the woods and it was either homicide or suicide. I just, I just didn't even know where to go from there.

I just remember sitting down, it was in my bedroom. I just sat down on my bed, and I was like, well, when did this happen? And the second shock of my life, she's like, about 30 minutes ago.

Tony: Wow. Oh, Sarah.

Sarah: I've been divorced from your son for two and a half years. Why are you calling me 30 minutes later?

Like finding out that he's deceased it was just so surreal for me. I didn't even know how to process it. Uh, so after that, I tried to be there for his family, they wanted me to come down to the funeral. I was like, I can't do that. I can't go to a place where everyone's going to be honoring the memory of someone that I just physically couldn't stand. So, I respectfully declined. But they would call me like, when they left the funeral home. They called me, when they left the morgue after identifying his body and they called me, and it was just so weird to be a part of.

Tony: When you say that they were calling you, were you taking those phone calls or was that too much? Were you talking to different family members? Tell me about that whole experience.

Sarah: So, I would take the phone calls, you know, his mother and I, like I said, were super, super close when I was married to her son, and I knew she was hurting and for some reason I was the person she wanted to reach out to. And so, I just felt like, not that I owed it to her, but that, if she needed me to be a part of this portion of her journey, I would do it and hold my tongue. And I also wanted to know what was going on in his life. Because he loved nothing in this world more than himself. And it was hard for me to come to terms with the fact that he may have ended his life by suicide. And I was trying to understand. I would totally get if he upset someone enough to have them murder him. But I couldn't wrap my head around suicide for him. And so, it did come out that he ended his life by suicide. His parents never really gave me a straight answer as far as what happened.

His mother just kept saying that he died of a broken heart. And, not indicating to me, but there was a girl that he was pursuing at the time that I guess they had broken up with and I didn't know why. So, it was really interesting in doing the investigation and writing this book, because I had the story from his family that he died of a broken heart.

Someone wrote an article about him, and they listed all these crimes. And I was shocked when I saw that. And then they called him a force for good. They said, I don't care what he did in his crimes, he was a force for good in this world. And that really upset me.

Tony: Okay. Tell me why. Take me on your train of thought.

Sarah: So, I knew this person very well and I was really good friends with his fiancé. Years ago, when my ex-husband and I were in Massachusetts, they got engaged and they literally pulled me aside and said, we would really love to have you as a bridesmaid in our wedding, but we can't do it because we can't have your husband there. He's too much of a jerk and he's embarrassing. So, for him to then come back years later, and write an article that he called “How to Deal with the Suicide of a Mentor”, I just felt was so dishonest. And he had mentioned me specifically in there, like coming to my house for dinner and all of this stuff and how much he loved my ex-husband and up to this point, I really kept quiet. You know, people kept saying all these nice things about him and I just kept quiet. They say, don’t speak ill of the dead. I was just like, well, he's gone. What good is it going to do? And when I read that article, it's hard to explain or maybe to understand, but I felt like my life got stolen from me.

Tony: Okay. Like what?

Sarah: He had invalidated my entire life experience by saying that this guy who had basically ruined my life. To this day, I'm still in treatment for PTSD and then he was like, eh, it doesn't matter all the bad stuff he did, he was still a force for good in the world.

Tony: And a “mentor” and yeah.

Sarah: And I kind of found my voice at that moment, and he had posted this article on LinkedIn, all these comments of sympathy to him. And, I felt like it was attention seeking. And so, I just posted a message back and I just said, I don't know why you wrote this article. Please don't use my life to get whatever it is you're looking for. Whether that's attention, sympathy, I don't really know, but you and I both know the truth about Steven.

Tony: Okay. So, was there any feedback to that?

Sarah: Within five minutes, the article was gone. And then he sent me a private message telling me that I'm not the first person to have read the article and told him that my ex-husband was a terrible person. And he apologized that he should have taken the article down a long time ago. And then I asked him, I was like, well, how did you find out about these crimes?

And apparently, he just, I didn't know you could do this at the time. He just called the police departments and got the police reports. And so, he shared all of that with me, so these were police reports for charges of felony, grand larceny, and swindling of over $250,000.

Tony: And, and Sarah, was that the time when you were with him?

Sarah: It was not. So, I like to consider myself if we reflect back to the coercive debt conversation. I was his trial ground for that. And so, he ended up doing the same thing to a business partner. And so, he got arrested for that and while he was out on bond is when he chose to end his life by suicide.

Tony: So, needless to say, had you not gotten out of that relationship, where would that have gone as far as the debt and the ruining your credit, your name, your financial future? I mean, I can't imagine there would've been an end to that.

Sarah: And. You know, I also just feel like a lot of times with people like this, they get backed into that corner, which is what happened to him. Like the mask was gone. He couldn't hide himself anymore. Like the police came, they got him, he spent a few weeks in jail until his parents could get him out on bond.

It was over for him, the charade. And, he had an arsenal of guns. He was an avid collector of guns. And he loved to pull them out. And clean them and play with them and whatever. And I just think about myself or the girl that he was with at the time. If she had been with him, would he have taken either one of us out with him?

Tony: Yeah. And that's real. And I feel like that's where, when, I think you had mentioned earlier, when people aren't in these types of relationships, it's easy for people to say, I'm sure that wouldn't have really happened, but so says people until it happens, right?

Yeah. Sarah, you mentioned that people reach out to you after they read the book and they're sharing their stories. What's that been like for you? Has it been overwhelming? Has it been validating or what's that like?

Sarah: It's been overwhelming, but what a complete honor it is to have people trust me with their own story. It's such a vulnerable place to be, to say, this happened to me as well. And so, by telling my story, I've kind of given people an opportunity to at least have one person that they can reach out to and know that they won't be judged.

Tony: Yeah. Okay. And I think I was sharing with you that I'm getting a dozen or more emails a day from the “Waking Up to Narcissism” podcast, because people just feel like they're alone or they're crazy. And then they hear a story like yours. And the reach is just profound for people to feel like they aren't the only one. They're not alone. And did you have those moments when you were in that relationship or would you read other people's stories or did you feel like you were kind of going it alone for a long period of time?

Sarah: You know, I never knew of anyone else going through this situation. Okay. So I was very much confused and alone, I mean, I was young, right? Like I was 20 when we got married, 26 when we got divorced. And the words I just kept using wasn’t abusive. It wasn't domestic violence. I didn't know those terms. I was just like, he's just so mean. And it wasn't until I had my own dark moment of, so when I finally left and I got into my apartment, I started having this recurring nightmare and I won't spoil all the good stories, but I do tell the nightmare in the book, and I would wake up every night from this nightmare.

And it was one of those nightmares where you would wake up and still be in the nightmare and then, you know, kind of finally actually wake up, and I got really close to my own, like struggle with suicidal thoughts. And I just didn't know what else to do. I was like, I'm stuck in this. How do I get divorced?

You know, I had gone to an attorney. I didn't have $4,000, like he had stolen all my money. I barely got into my apartment. I was hardly feeding myself. How was I going to spend $4,000? Luckily in Florida, you can just go online and download the divorce papers. And so, I just did it all myself. I don't know how I did it. Looking back, I'm just like, that was crazy. But I filled out my own divorce papers. I walked down, I dropped off the papers, and then I drove the papers to the sheriff's department to have him served. And then I waited the 30 days and when he didn't respond, I printed off the paperwork to file a motion for defaults on the divorce papers. And I took those down to the courthouse and filed those papers. Yeah, so it was just like it was overwhelming. There was so much going on and then I wasn't sleeping because I was having the dream and waking up and a friend of mine had given me this book and I never wanted to open it. Because I mean, I was down in Florida, right? It's the bible belt. Everything was about church and religion. And so, this book was called What the Bible Says about Divorce. And I was like, well, the Bible obviously says you're going to go to hell if you get divorced. Like, that's where my mind was. And I was like, I'm not touching that.

So finally, one night I was at my wits end and I was like, what's it going to hurt? You know, I'm already there. So, I opened the book and the first page that I came to was a verse from Isaiah and they had, you know, paraphrased everything into more modern day English, but it said, “Your builders are working faster than your destroyers.”

And that was the turning point for me. I immediately made a list and instead of pros and cons, it was builders and destroyers. And my destroyer was my ex-husband. And I just started listing out my cousin, my parents, my friends at work, the girl who gave me the book, and the list of builders was way bigger than the list of my destroyers.

And it was at that moment that I was like, we can be faster than him. We can figure this out. And my work, just like the other day, had given me paperwork on their employee assistant program. And so, I called the number to get connected with a mental health provider. And I've been in talk therapy ever since.

Tony: I love it. I mean, what's on your wrist?

Sarah: I got the verse tattooed on my wrist. So, it says your builders are working faster than your destroyers. It's just a constant reminder.

Tony: Yeah. Like that gave me the chills, Sarah. I mean that is beautiful. And because that takes a lot of courage and I love the fact that you even said, okay, I know what this is going to say anyway. And you almost didn't, you almost didn't do it. I mean, I feel like the brain still is so afraid of that unknown, or the uncertainty of the future. Did you run into that?

Sarah: Yeah, for sure. I was just going to say it's scary when you don't know what to expect and what's going to happen.

Tony: Yeah. Well then are you getting asked a lot about the, and I know this can sound so cliche, but then advice for people, because people are going to hear this, and I think we're going to get the people, they're going to say, well, my situation isn't as bad as Sarah's. But I think that still doesn't mean that it's, you know, people shouldn't have to be in a relationship where they feel isolated or gaslit.

Like they don't have a voice or they can't be themselves so what do you say? You had also mentioned people are asking you for advice, right? When they're reaching out to you.

Sarah: Yeah, I've had a couple of women reach out to me and say, I'm in a situation right now and I want to get out, but I don't know what to do.

And as I had just mentioned, I'm a big list person. I give two pieces of advice to the people that reach out to me: man, woman, whatever you identify as these two pieces of advice have got me through.

The first one is you need to know where you're going. So, you need a list. You need to map out the steps. So, when you feel like you're losing your way, you know where you're going next. So, for me it was kind of like thinking of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, right? Food, shelter, needed to get out of my car, and needed an apartment. I needed a new bank account. So, making that list of what to do, and then it was like, okay, now I need to file for a divorce. How do I do that? And just give yourself marching orders and keep yourself on track.

The other piece of advice that I always give to people is get angry and stay angry. The anger was the fire that I needed to keep going. For people like myself, it's so easy to just backslide and not be mad anymore and then just be like, oh, okay, well, I guess, but the anger was necessary at the time, and I'm not an angry person. I hardly ever get upset or angry about anything, but I just remember as soon as I start to feel a little bit weak, think back on the stories like, stay pissed off, for lack of a better term. And then there comes a time where you have to let it go. You have to. And it sounds so easy talking about it.

Get angry, stay angry, and then forgive them. It's not easy, but I'm a firm believer in the fact that forgiveness is not for the person you're forgiving. It's for you. And you have to let it go. It's a physical feeling when you remove that burden of anger and unforgiveness from yourself. At least it is for me.

So, use the anger. Fuel the fire. And then, once you're done, it's time to let it go and move on with your life. Those are the best two pieces of advice I feel like I can give anybody.

Tony: I so appreciate that advice. And what I love about that is that we started today by talking about the pathologically kind, empathic, highly sensitive person that I can only imagine how difficult it is to conjure up that anger.

But what I love what you're saying is, emotion is there to protect us. In theory or not even in theory, in reality. Anxiety is there as a warning; anger can be used as a tool. It's your body trying to say, okay, I need to fight for this injustice. So, you laid that out perfectly. I would love for some of my pathologically kind people to be able to use that tool, that emotion, you know, those emotions are there to help them.

And I never heard it put so well, like you said to then when I'm done with my anger and it served its purpose, I can put that away. Because that maybe isn't who you are at your core, but your body needs to pull that emotion. For good, I think in that scenario.

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, like you were saying, our emotions are there for a reason.

They're there to protect us, you know, fear. Fear is important. Anger is important. So is happiness. Sadness is important. I mean, all of it's important and it's just about don't let it control you. You control it and use it.

Tony: Yeah, I love it. I do. So, Sarah, the book is Stronger Than That and I'll have links to that in the show notes. And I really appreciate your vulnerability and I know that this story is going to make its way out to a lot of people. And so, I would love for people to write in if people have questions for you.

I don't know, would you be open to coming back on and maybe doing a Q and A?

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely.

Tony: Okay, so anybody listening, I highly recommend getting the book. It's on Kindle or paperback. And then you can also send questions to me through the website or contact@tonyoverbay.com for Sarah. And then Sarah, I'll stay in touch. And then I would love to have you come back on and we can do a Q and A either, in the group for the women's group or we can do one as a bonus episode. But I really, I love your energy and I feel like you are such a survivor and what a story. So, I really appreciate you coming on.

Sarah: Oh, thank you so much. It was really great meeting and talking with you and yeah, I'd love to answer questions. That's what I'm here for.

Tony: Okay, perfect. So, we'll have all the links then in the show notes and I will talk to you again soon. Okay. Thanks so much.

Tony tackles the intricacies of the narcissistic trauma bond. For many, the harder you try to find your voice or to separate yourself from the narcissists in your life, the more difficult it becomes, which only makes the bond more challenging to break. Tony references the article "Trauma Bonding - Why You Can't Stop Loving the Narcissist." https://broxtowewomensproject.org.uk/trauma-bonding/

#therapy #virtualcouch #wakinguptonarcissism #tonyoverbay #tonyoverbayquote #quote #podcast #podcasting #acceptancecommitmenttherapy #motivation #coach #addictionrecovery #narcissism #happiness #behappy #mentalhealth #wellness #recovery #selfcare #anxiety #relax #mindfulness #happy #depression #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealthmatters #psychology #MadeWithDescript #DescriptPro

--------------------------------------TRANSCRIPT ------------------------------------------

[00:00:00] Hey, everybody, welcome to episode five of the Waking Up to Narcissism podcast, I'm your host, Tony Overbay, and I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and podcast host of the virtual couch. And I'm in private practice somewhere in Northern California, but I just want to jump in and I have so much content to cover today. I want to talk about a trauma bond, what a trauma bond is. And we're going to get to that. But I have some things I want to do up front. First, if anybody happens to be in the Salt Lake area and are interested, I'm going to be speaking at a leading Saints live event from one to five p.m. on October the 16th. And you can go to leading St. Paul Tony in Utah, or you can go find my Facebook page. Tony Overbay licensed marriage and family therapist or the virtual couch account on Instagram, and I will post more about that. But that's that's going to be exciting. It's interesting because I have four hours to cover so much material, and the host, Kurt Frankel, has asked me to cover narcissism in ecclesiastical and ecclesiastical settings. So maybe in religious leadership. So that's going to be one of the many things I'm going to try to get to. I told him I'm going to try to solve all the world's problems there because I've got four hours to do so. That's October 16th, and I also wanted to just touch on a couple of the emails.

[00:01:23] Oh, and make mention of contact me. There are a lot of emails. I'm almost overwhelmed with the amount of emails, but I don't stop. I'm looking for more examples of gaslighting. You can ask questions. I want to get to question and answer episodes. And I know I keep saying this that coming up down the road. But I have a couple of authors, one of a new book on narcissism that it's going to come on. But the real thing I'm looking forward to, I'm still trying to figure out how to do this. Behind the scenes is bringing on people that are currently in relationships with have been through relationships with people that are struggling with narcissistic personality disorder or narcissistic tendencies. And there's a lot more there if people are involved in divorces, if people are a lot of people get frustrated and angry and they want, they do want their story to be told. But then when they step back, they think, OK, if my kids hear this down the road or my community. So we're just working out some of the the finer points, but we're going to get real people, real examples, and I think that's going to be pretty fascinating. But for now, I have so many emails of examples of gaslighting, but not just people saying, Hey, here's some gaslighting, but most people are sending emails and they're asking questions like this, and this is the latest one that I received.

[00:02:32] So it was actually last night and so I didn't actually get a chance to respond and say, Are you cool if I share some of this? So I'll change up some of the things. But I think this is one of the most interesting parts or points of the type of email I receive at the end, she says. I'm one of those people and I'm not sure if I have rose colored goggles on or if I'm the problem. I feel like for the most part, I'm a very secure and hardworking person. I've dealt with this for, say I'll say, over 20 years, and it's actually improved somewhat. I think that's kind of a key. We'll get to that today on this episode about trauma bonding. And she said, I always try to replace situations of what I think a normal marriage would look like or how a husband would and should react in similar situations. And she said, I feel I'm so far down this road that I have no idea. And she says just some key things here, she said. Also, my parents divorced when I was young and my mom didn't remarry until I moved out, so it's hard for me to go by example. And so I just want you to know person who emailed me and will read a little bit more from this to that. You're asking all the right questions. And one of the things that I think is significant is when she said that she didn't know what that would look like, that she's so far down this road that she has no idea.

[00:03:40] And that's a concept that I think is why I'm so drawn to this work and working with or helping people navigate those relationships with people that may have these personality disorders because you don't know what you don't know. And a lot of the people that find themselves in these relationships, and I covered this on a previous episode are the pathologically kind people. There are a lot of times highly sensitive people, people that have grown up and have maybe been in this type of a home as well. So they have already grown up trying to read the room and feel the energy or the empathy in the room and knowing how to show up so that they can keep the peace or be the peacekeepers. So then they may find themselves in these relationships. This is part of that human magnet syndrome with some of these people that are very strong willed, very domineering, there's a lot of possibly love bombing. At first, the person shows up as this amazing knight in shining armor that the this person wants to marry or wants to be a part of or in that relationship because they may have seen that modeled by their own parent, whether it's their mom or their dad, that just ultra confident person that they can feel like they are safe or secure.

[00:04:54] But then there are all these times where their parent most likely didn't take ownership of anything or. We didn't model the my bad or I'm sorry, but there was a lot of the ignoring culpability of situations or ignoring of taking responsibility and oftentimes pushing it off on kids or spouse or you guys, you guys are driving me crazy or you're making me feel like this is what I had to do. So oftentimes the children have grown up seeing a model of parents that don't take ownership or responsibility and that often do put off the the responsibility of their actions onto those in their family, whether it's their spouse or their kids. So I appreciate that this reader, this writer, said that she doesn't know if she really knows what a healthy relationship looks like. So when I'm trying to teach people about my four pillars of a connected conversation or to be heard is to be healed or any of these concepts, I realized over the years that a lot of times I met with a blank stare because it's as if I'm telling just this fairy tale. And then the people are waiting in my office for me to be done with my fairy tale story, so then they can get back to trying to tell me that their spouse is the crazy one. And wouldn't you agree? And can you just tell them to knock it off and get back to doing the things that that they used to do so that then the controlling person in the room can feel better? Ok, we're good again.

[00:06:16] And just like this email I started with today, not sure if I am if I have rose colored goggles on or if I'm the problem. And so you don't have rose colored goggles on or if you do their goggles of kindness and you're trying to do all you can to to help and to preserve a marriage, when in reality, the tool that we need to help with are those five things I talked about of some nice self-care raising your emotional baseline, getting your PhD and gaslighting, disengaging from productive conversations and setting boundaries and recognizing that there isn't anything that you will say or do that will cause that aha moment or that epiphany. But the more that you put these other things in place and then set these boundaries and then can stay present when your I just want to say for right now, when you're a narcissist and reacts and we talked about that, I think in episode two, when they start to say, Oh my gosh, you won't let things go or you're so angry, or they start pushing all the buttons to get you to react, and that's hard, and that's scary. But as you stay present with that, then that is what we'll start to shift the dynamic and the more clarity that you can have. That's where we need to be.

[00:07:16] If you are going to start to see some change in the relationship, I feel so bad. I'm twenty seven minutes in and I haven't talked about the trauma bond, but I am going to talk about the trauma bond. This is not going to be like that narcissistic apology where I just draw this out for a few days or a few episodes. So I'm going to go right to article and I'll send I'll put a link to this in, the show notes. It looks like it's from the UK, but it's the Broxton women's project because I've done a few episodes on trauma bonding or one episode on the virtual couch I've been interviewed about at a time or two, and I felt like this is a really good article. And so I'm going to do, I think, what the kids call reaction video these days because I'm gonna do a lot of reading, so I'm going to take no credit for the reading of this, but then I'll comment on it along the way. So trauma bonding, why you can't stop loving the narcissists? They say trauma bonding makes you psychologically addicted to your abuser. This explains why trying to stop contact and feel like you're coming off of a drug. And the article doesn't have a I'm just so I'm just going to say they it doesn't have a specific author's name, but they say that survivors and perpetrators of domestic abuse often form trauma bonds, whereby they both become emotionally hooked into the relationship.

[00:08:22] This can make it extremely difficult for the survivor to unlock herself and escape from the abuse trauma. Bonding happens when an abuser provides the survivor with intermittent rewards and punishments. So in that scenario, a psychological conditioning develops. So the survivor becomes snared into the relationship, and they're just hopeful of the next reward or. And I think this is such a key point or a reprieve of the suffering. So when I'm working with people and they will often say, No, no, no, he's not that bad, there's good times that they find themselves craving those good times. So they are they become willing to deal with the bad times and they start to find any way that they can to try to get back to those good times. Basically, if you're looking at it from a concept of like addiction, they'll do anything to get that next fix, even lose their sense of self or buffer what he's saying from the kids, or make sure the kids are being calm or whatever that looks like in order to get that man. Hopefully, then he'll be nice. And there are so many times that I'm working with with someone in this scenario. And again, I'll just go with if I'm working with a woman in this situation where she'll say now was good week and I'll say, OK, why tell me why it was good? And I'm almost laughing of some of the people I've worked with.

[00:09:33] I know they know where I'm going with next. But was it that it was nice or that you had these connected conversations or that this person really said, Man, I don't know. You tell me who you are, how you know we need to connect? Or is it that there was an absence of being mean? And so if that's the case, life is not about or relationships are not about an absence of being mean. The norm is being nice and then having some incredible connected moments. It's not. Hoping that there isn't a blowup and trying to manage that situation, so then it is a good week, nobody freaked out. He didn't blow up on me. So these powerful emotional bonds, this is so wild, powerful emotional bonds develop that are extremely resistant to change. Trauma bonding involves cycles of abuse following an abusive incident or a series of incidents. Perpetrators will often offer a kind gesture to try and recover the situation, and a period of relative peace can follow before tensions start to rebuild, and the abuse inevitably starts again. So abuse that can be that can mean a lot of things can be a triggering word and with trauma bonding. We often talk about emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, spiritual abuse, financial abuse. So there are a lot of different types of abuse. So the spiritual abuse is one that I work with in my realm quite a bit where if somebody feels uncomfortable, then they will.

[00:10:50] If they feel really uncomfortable, sometimes they will just say that God told them to tell their spouse that they're doing something wrong. And that can be really that can that can be highly manipulative. It can. I have to tell you I was. There's a podcast called Hidden True Crime, talking about the Chad and Lori Daybell case, which I'm just fascinated by. And they were sharing at one point that that Chad Daybell's wife, Lori, who unfortunately rest in peace. She died along this process, and you can go check out the material on that case. It's it's so sad. But they were sharing that there was a time where she, Lori, really enjoyed playing a game on her phone and rather than Chad having the four pillars of a connected conversation and say, Hey, I'm noticing you're playing the game and tell me more about that. And are you? Are you feeling off or depressed or what do you like about the game on this podcast? They talked about that. He said that her grandmother had visited him and told him to tell her to not play the game. And I look at things like that as spiritual abuse of that abuse of power. And back to this article. Braxton Women's Project survivors will try their best not to anger their partner and to do everything expected of them that remember how loving their partner, Cannon was in the early days of their relationship or hoping for the return of that behavior.

[00:12:01] And they think they just need to work out what they are doing wrong to bring back the loving part of their relationship. And it won't occur to them that the loving gestures were always manipulative and never genuine, their partner being incapable of real love. Those are strong words, but I think they're very well said and I could do so many episodes or examples on that part. Where do everything expected of them, which that alone, that phrase expected of them? That's not a real relationship. You are a human being showing up in a relationship with your own unique gifts, talents and abilities just as your spouse is. So the unhealthy relationship is the what? What do I need to do for them? Not what can I do? What can he do? And as we do these things together, we edify each other. A one plus one is three type of energy. And then this part is hoping to return to that behavior. They think they need to work out what they're doing wrong to bring back that loving part of the relationship. And that part, I will see people when then the relationship, let's say it breaks apart or they're heading toward divorce, that the trauma bonded spouse will so often say, If I would have done more of this, even if they say, OK, see where things are now. If I would have treated his his my stepdaughter nicer, then things probably would have worked out better.

[00:13:13] And man, I just say, Boy, bless your heart for trying to find a way that you could have changed this dynamic. But had you then done everything quote, you were expected with this stepdaughter. Then there would have been something else, and that would have been something else. So it's this never ending just rabbit hole of things that you would not have been doing wrong because the whole point is the gaslighter, the narcissist. The manipulator is not willing to take ownership of their own things. So rather than just say, Oh my gosh, you're right, I'm not being very kind. I'm not being fair. I'm not taking accountability. They're able to say, Well, if you would have done this, the whole thing would have been different and you'll run into a consistent pattern of that. This article what I love about it, it just has these quotes throughout that are just so spot on. This says trauma bonding feels like you've broken me into pieces, but you're the only one who can fix me. That one's deep. This is the person that you can then come up with examples in your head of where you turn to them for for love or for connection. So then they are the ones that have broken you into pieces and then you want to go to them for for healing. So you do whatever you can to try to get that relationship back to a place so that you feel safer, that they will hear you.

[00:14:24] Trauma bonding has similarities with Stockholm Syndrome, where people have held captive, develop feelings of trust and affection toward their captors. Both Trauma Bonding and Stockholm Syndrome are survival strategies that developed to help survive and emotionally or physically dangerous situation, and women will hold on to toxic and abusive relationships and become more vulnerable to trauma bonding for a lot of reasons. And they go into a couple of those that I think are spot on and go a little bit toward the way the email that I started with today. Survivors who were raised in abusive households are more vulnerable to trauma bonding. And again, let's look at abuse that could be emotional abuse, spiritual abuse, financial abuse, any of the. An abusive relationship. An abusive relationship may seem more normal or acceptable to them, and this is one of the reasons why it's so important for parents to model healthy relationships to their children, which we're going to touch on that down the road when people do finally feel like this is not good for me. They will often say, I need to stay in the relationship for the kids, but we'll get to some data down the road that shows that if you are modeling an unhealthy relationship and that relationship is more likely to then move into the next generation, your kids. If your kids don't see you being able to have a voice or to do things that you love or to feel confident, then I believe that isn't what is best as a modeling form for the kids.

[00:15:42] Because then they grow up saying, I thought that was normal. I thought that was the way that relationships just worked. Women raised with abuse will also be likely to have lower self-esteem with less expectations of being treated respectfully, being in the abusive relationship will further damage self-esteem, sometimes to the point that the woman will believe she deserves the abuse she's being subjected to. The abuse becomes her norm. Despite it making her feel deeply and happy. She may stop aspiring to anything better and she doesn't feel worthy of love. And the longer the survivor remains with the narcissistic abuser, the more difficult it is to break the trauma bond. There is so much in that paragraph it's and I hate continuing to say we'll get to all these things down the road, but we could break that thing down. The five part series Trauma, Fear and Abandonment actually increase feelings of attachment. And this is this one is this is where people say, why? Why can't I leave even when I know what's going on? It's because of these all of these different factors that we're talking about today in the trauma bond. The nice person is wanting this approval, wanting to go to the very person that's hurt me to then try to make sense of everything.

[00:16:44] And so the more that one does this, then it will increase those feelings of attachment because you are so desperate to find those moments of connection, not knowing that that's not the norm or the real healthy way to be in a relationship in general. So again, trauma, fear and abandonment actually increase feelings of attachment. The more you have been hurt by him, the more intensely attached you will be. Trauma bonds are hard to break, but even harder to live with. Women and trauma bonds will tend to blame themselves for their partner's abusive behavior. She will agree with him when he tells her that she shouldn't cope with that. She couldn't cope without him, that she's not really good enough, that she's made him angry and that he wouldn't need to punish her if she tried harder. She'd also make excuses for his abuse. He had a difficult childhood. His mother didn't love him, so it's understandable why he gets angry. And she'll think that if she can stop being stupid or try harder or show more affection or intimacy or never doubt him, then things will be fine. But again, that's because anything that she is doing that he then takes as criticism, which ends up being most everything. Then he will do anything to defend that fragile ego, and that is then pointing the blame outward. And who is the number one target? It is the spouse. And if the spouse isn't around, it can be the children or it's going to be the idiots at church or the stupid neighbor, that guy on the road or whatever it is, never him.

[00:18:02] If she does manage to break free from the trauma bond, the abuser will commonly revert to the courtship phase to win her back, and she will be very vulnerable to his efforts. And think about now why as we lay it out this way, because that's what she wanted. She wants that guy who's nice and it was nice at the beginning and who she wants. He's had these dreams. I want to be able to grow old with him on the beach. I want this to be the way that our life is. Oh my gosh, now he's being nice. I think he gets it. And I hear that in my office so often and my job is to meet the client where they're at. I call them rule outs. So it's OK. No, I hear you. I will often say I want to share that. I worry that that he just found a new button to push and that this isn't who he is at his core. So then I call it a shelf life, so we'll see. Is it a week? Is it two weeks where then he just says, OK, we're good, right? And goes back to whatever he was doing before or then he says, OK, you didn't tell me that you were unhappy again. I thought everything was great.

[00:18:52] It's been a week. And so that what is he doing? Putting it on her, put it on her to you need to tell me this is on you now. Again, how crazy is that? How fascinating. So the more she reaches out to the abuser for love recognition and approval, the more the trauma bond is strengthened. This also means that she'll stay in the relationship when the abuse escalates, perpetuating the destructive cycle. Because he's the one abusing her and making her feel terrible. She will often see him as the only person able to validate her and make her feel OK again. Trauma bond this next quote Although the survivor might disclose the abuse, the trauma bond means she also may seek to receive comfort from the very person who abused her. And it's really difficult to watch that in a couple's therapist setting to see someone have that light bulb moment or that aha moment and then want, why want something different? But then he OK, he's going to be a little bit nicer. No, no, no. It's OK. I think it's OK, or they feel so. It's so scary because of what we talked about and one of those previous episodes of if all of a sudden she's like, No, I'm going to have a voice, I'm not going to just give in. Then it oftentimes, then that will amp up the the tension in the relationship. And so it can cause the the kind person to go back and say, No, you know what? I know I'm better equipped now.

[00:20:02] I think things are going to be different. And sometimes that can take honestly a year. So it really can take years for a person to then wake up to this narcissism and then know what to do with that. And I want to say, and I should do this more throughout the episodes. I do that if you are the partner because I've also had some really cool emails from the men in these relationships that are saying, OK, no, I listened and yeah, I hear you. I don't want to call it narcissism, either. Such labels with narcissism, but they say, OK, maybe at some pride, maybe it's my ego. But but it's still difficult or fine. I might have some of these tendencies, but now what do I do with them? And so I love that. I really do. But that doesn't mean that then the spouse who has been feeling unheard or unloved then just says, no, no, now's the time to do the work to find maybe a good individual. Therapist help you raise your emotional baseline or find a good couple's therapist who knows the concepts of something like emotionally focused therapy. What what I love, who can then help you give you a framework of how to communicate? I'm going to run through these real quick and then we're done. Escaping from a trauma bond is notoriously difficult. Professional help is often needed.

[00:21:06] The following steps can help liberate the survivor from this destructive relationship. If possible, this can be really difficult, but they stay physically separate from the abuser. It's essential, and although this can be difficult, it's invariably easier than emotional separation. And this is just the concept of where if over the years, that person, even though this trauma bond, even though there are times and you desperately want to love them or you try to love them, or you worry about what's wrong with you. But if they are the two of you together, if your cortisol levels are flowing high so that you are in your fight or flight response constantly, then they are triggered. You're triggered even just by being in the same room, then a physical separation can often be one of the best things. But then, boy, still, that's where I feel like you really do need professional help. That sounds like I'm saying, Boy, are you crazy? I'm not. But I'm saying then that physical separation can get you out of that fight or flight. But then unfortunately, now is where the logical brain will try to kick back in. But your pathological kindness will cause you to first go to the Oh my gosh, what did I just do? He must be feeling so hurt, and all of this is hard to say this next part at times. But bless your heart for thinking that you do understand how he feels. But that's actually the problem that has gotten you in.

[00:22:15] The situation that you're in is that you have been so worried about how he feels, what he must be going through that that is why you react the way you often do to the gaslighting or the emotional or spiritual or financial abuse. So this is a time for you to again raise your emotional baseline and show up as confident as you can be to be able to still express yourself because that's the relationship that you need and you deserve. The second thing they suggest is if you can cut off lines of communication as far as possible, and they say this can be made almost impossible if you share children, have a restricting communication to just email, for instance, or through a third party for child care. Related matters might be possible. And here's another one we'll talk about this down the road. I know how that can be really difficult, but a lot of times people, it's OK to set a boundary of I'm going to communicate through text or email because the phone calls can hearing the voice can immediately then cause that fight or flight response. And then you're prey to the gaslighting or the manipulation and at the end of that phone call. I wanted to say all these things, but I didn't, and I just ended up saying, OK, no, you're right, which is not where we want to go. The third one, and I really like this the way they put this, acknowledge you have a choice and can choose to leave the relationship because I I say so often acceptance does not mean empathy.

[00:23:28] If you accept the fact that you can leave, it doesn't mean an all or nothing thought of OK, but accepting the fact you can leave, then that allows you and they put this really well when choices acknowledge you can gain control and drive your destiny with less vulnerability to further abuse. So I always say that when you accept the fact that you could leave, then you're not continually looking for. Should I leave? Should I not leave? Wait, what if he just said that? Nice things I probably shouldn't, right? Or asking the people around you and dealing with the psychology of the peanut gallery because they don't really know what you're going through. So just accept the fact that no, what if I need to I can in that way, then you are able to be more present with your self care and in trying to figure out or communicate the best way to interact with with your the person with the narcissistic traits, self-reflection will enable you to understand how your character traits and vulnerabilities played a part in this codependent bond. Being abused is never your fault. Grateful that they said that. However, there may be aspects of your personality that made you more susceptible to this type of abuse, and that's where we talk about that kindness or that empathy or giving someone the benefit of the doubt.

[00:24:29] The quote that I almost misread that I talked about, I think in our last episode that I really think about often is it's in a podcast I did a long time ago on the virtual couch talking about narcissists or sociopaths and psychopaths. Oh my, altogether. But the quote says narcissists and sociopaths are extremely good. Sniffing out trusting vulnerable people who tend to see the good in others. So thus they can be very difficult for quote nice people to spot until the offender has reaped tremendous and undeniable havoc. Relatedly, because people tend to view others as subscribing to a generally accepted moral code such as that lying and harming others is wrong. Even an otherwise savvy person can work hard to find a good reason why somebody is acting off, rather than identifying problem personalities and behaviors for what they are and feelings of anger and distrust or fear about what we quote know about a loved one will cause a lot of distress, otherwise known as cognitive dissonance. So as a result, most of us wind up resolving the cognitive dissonance by reinterpreting facts that feel at odds with what we need and what we want to believe about somebody so that I think that just becomes such an important part of the learning about your own character traits or what got you into this relationship. So that's that self-reflection, what worked out a few more of these that they list work out what hooked you into this abusive relationship? Was it a fantasy or illusion or a perfect future? Was that your partner convinced you that he'd meet some deep felt need? Were you hoping he would make up for something you felt you were lacking and learn about the character traits of narcissistic abusers is this will help you understand what happened to you so you're less susceptible to future abusive relationships? Again, we'll cover that one down the road.

[00:25:59] Your picker is not broken because you're starting to wake up to what's going on, so you will be in a much better place. And again, we'll cover a lot of that down the road, develop a support network of professionals, friends and trusted family who will actively, positively and compassionately support you to recover from the trauma bond. Domestic abuse is an isolating experience, but prioritizing social connections is vital for recovery. The narcissistic abuse or relationships? Often there's a phrase called sequestering, just like when you sequester a jury and they have no interactions with anyone else, the person will also be sequestered. You know, you better not talk about this with your sister or hope you're not airing our dirty laundry to anyone, but you need to. That is that is sequestering. That is part of it. Sounds harsh, but the emotional abuse, because you're human, you can you can communicate with who you need to communicate with, and that's part of being an adult.

[00:26:47] And so if you are being, I then again say you can have love or control in a relationship and not both in an adult relationship, but that's maybe a good time. I think I was going to mention this at the beginning. I didn't. But do please reach out to me through the Tony over the contact section, and we've figured out a really nice way to open up the support group that I have for women who are maybe in these relationships trying to navigate through these relationships or looking for support after post relationships with narcissistic individuals, make decisions that support your self care, be self compassionate, both physically and emotionally. Don't berate yourself or quote mistakes. See recovery work as part of progress, and it's part of your journey. Live in the present notice how you're feeling now if you're still in the relationship notice. How trapped you feel. Notice how scared and unloved you feel. Notice how you've compromised your self-worth in the relationship. Stop hoping for things to be better in the future. But notice how you're feeling now, except that sadness and realize that you it's OK to grieve the end of an intensive and abusive relationship. Don't expect to feel better right away or too soon, but have confidence that better times will come. And I think honestly, that's where something like a support group or working with a professional really helps. Write a list of what you'd refuse to tolerate in a relationship.

[00:27:57] For example, I will not be intimate with someone who calls me names or I refuse to be questioned every time I go out. All right. Well, where would I like? Or I will not have conversations with someone when I feel desperate or obsessive and then start planning your future free from your abusive partner. Make life affirming, positive choices for your future. I think we'll wrap it up right there, and I really just appreciate the support again of the podcast. Reach out if you are interested in joining that support group and please continue to send me your questions. And just again, I will stop right here because I could not be more grateful or just feel blessed for the people who are sending in emails just saying that they finally feel heard or understood. Because I really, I do. I hear you, I see you, and you are going to get through this whatever stage of this year, just start. Just start devouring this data again. There's no scarcity mindset from those of us that are in the helping profession that sometimes you need to hear a lot of things from a lot of people to really make sense of things. And so I hope that this is just one of those voices. So have an amazing day week and then say, I'll see you next time on the virtual couch, but you can go look at the virtual couch as well. But I'll talk to you next week. Ok, bye.

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