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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

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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 reads an email from a listener who shares their “waking up” experience and how difficult it can be to break free from a “trauma bond” and stay strong when the narcissist/emotionally immature partner pushes all the buttons to get you back. He also discusses the origins of “pathological kindness” and shares more from Ross Rosenberg’s book, “The Human Magnetic Syndrome.” https://amzn.to/3iRBsvA Tony shares a theory of how the narcissist and the kind person meet based on the article “Discovery: Kindness Gene So Powerful It Can Be Detected by Strangers in 20 Seconds,” https://charterforcompassion.org/discovering-kindness/discovery-kindness-gene-so-powerful-it-can-be-detected-by-strangers-in-20-seconds

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

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

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

Transcript

Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 57 of Waking Up to Narcissism. I'm your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of the Virtual Couch podcast. And soon, a brand new podcast called Murder on the Couch. I know, true crime. There's a lot of them, but this is one that I'm doing with my wonderful, amazing daughter, Sydney, who is a true crime aficionado. And we talk about this stuff often, whenever she's in town, we talk about cases, true crime podcasts. And then I can't help myself, I like to throw a little bit of a therapy or psychology spin.  So at one point we decided let's just record some things. So if you go, I'll put it in the show notes, but if you go to the Virtual Couch YouTube channel, there's about a minute and a half sneak preview clip that I think that you will really enjoy, and that is going to be coming out pretty soon. 

And thank you so much for all the feedback from episode 56 with Ashley Boyson. That episode, it just kind of went insane, but I know that she has a tremendous following, but even more so than just having a following, she has that because she is a powerful, powerful person. And just the mix that the feedback I've got has been really cool because it's people that are saying, here's somebody that has been through just one of the most horrific things that you could even imagine. Literally, the thing that true crime shows are made of. But she made no secret about how difficult things were, how she didn't know what she didn't know, how there was a process of waking up to the narcissism in the relationship of her husband that had been murdered and then also experiencing narcissism and the next relationship. And now she's in a really good place and she's doing big things with her life and helping people and being there for her kids. And so it just shows you that life will continue to move on, and this entire waking up to, whether it's the again, narcissism in a relationship with your spouse or with a parent or an in-law, an employer, any of that, that it's just a process that takes time. It's going to take a little bit longer than you probably would like for it to take and wherever you are, that's right where you're at and that's the place you need to be. Because if you're even listening to this, that means that at some point you weren't aware of what narcissism or emotional immaturity even was. And now you're aware and you're thinking about it more and you're listening to things and reading things. 

And now you have a nice little confirmation bias. We're talking about the good kind. We're talking about the kind, when you buy a cool new car and then you see them everywhere and you feel pretty validated, I'm thinking, okay, that must be a good car. So now you're starting to recognize the emotional immaturity in the relationships around you and maybe not feeling as crazy. And again, it takes a little bit longer. A lot longer than we would like for it to start to really gel and feel like, okay, I think I'm going to be okay. So right now, if you're listening and you still feel like this whole thing is overwhelming, then you're a human being and you're going through a process and I will say this until the cows come home, wherever that phrase came from. But you did not know what you did not know. And now, you know. And you're starting to learn the tools, but guess what? You're probably not implementing the tools, and that's no shame or guilt intended again, it's because it's part of the process of being a human being, our brains like to go down the path of least resistance. And this is all new and scary. 

So you go from, I didn't know what I didn't know, to I know, now I’m kind of not doing, and that's a pretty scary place to be because it can feel sometimes like, I wish I didn't know. But you do. And, you know, and eventually you're going to start doing more of the things that will help you raise that emotional baseline. Get that PhD in gaslighting, get out of those unproductive conversations, set healthy boundaries, and know that a boundary is a challenge to the emotionally immature or narcissist. And then, that last little lever is going to fall into place where you'll recognize that there is nothing that I can do, me, that I can do to cause them to have the aha moment or the epiphany. That needs to come from them. And so often, the more that I try to give them that aha moment or that epiphany, I'm an essence just saying, hey, I found a new page in this playbook of the buttons you can press later on. But, I'm going to hand it to you anyway, because I think maybe this one might be different. And that is the tale of the pathologically kind. 

And that's maybe a little bit of a plug too, if you are someone that is in a relationship with the narcissistic, fill in the blank, fill in the blank does not mean “a hole”, fill in the blank can be a spouse, you know, again, an in law, an entity, an employer, a friend. And you just feel like you are made to feel insane. Reach out because I've got a private women's Facebook group now that is just amazing. I've got enough men now that are in these relationships as well, that I think we're ready to fire that group up in an even more interesting population. 

And I'm grateful for this or the people that are saying, I think I might be the narcissist and not the one where you're the person saying, okay. I feel crazy in the relationship. And now am I the narcissist? Because I'm hearing all these things or if you are the person who is starting to say, oh, I am extremely emotionally immature, manipulative, I gaslight and I can't help myself. And my spouse probably is going through all of these things, then reach out, let me know, because we're putting a lot of groups together, which is actually a plug for next week, so that would be the week of January 20 something, then the Waking Up to Narcissism premium podcast question and answer podcast episode will be released and there is going to be, in essence, a trailer or a zero episode. And I'm going to explain a lot more about what that project is about. It is going to be a premium paid subscription-based podcast that will be nothing but questions and answers. And that's because of the questions that are coming in from this podcast. I think now we're up to maybe a hundred pages of single-spaced Google document questions. And I know that there's just not enough resources out there. And when people are in that “I'm starting to learn” phase, they really are just taking in so much data and have so many questions. And, if you can't find the right place to ask those questions, and if you are trying to work with a therapist who maybe doesn't really understand emotional immaturity personality disorders, it can be maddening. So I want to answer those questions and then the money from that premium podcast proceeds will go to fund the nonprofit that is going to be there to help people in these narcissistic or emotionally abusive relationships. So look for that. One of the quickest ways to know when that's going to be available is sign up for my newsletter at tonyoverbay.com or also you can follow me on social media, TonyOverbay underscore LMFT on Instagram is probably the easiest way. So, let me read the question. And then I want to talk about an article that I found that is so, so fascinating.

So the person says, “Hi, Tony. I just listened to my first Waking Up to Narcissism podcast last night. And I can't believe how accurate, absolutely spooky,” which I love that word spooky, “it was to hear your words. I recently became aware or more fully aware of what my husband is. So many of the tools for communicating and interacting with him I'd already come to understand and employ, but it was striking to hear them out loud from somebody else. I never knew before now what to label him and his behaviors. And I always felt like this was something unique to him or us. And that no one would ever understand or be able to help. And more than that, that it was all just me that I was overreacting or making anything a bigger deal than it really was. That if I just went along, agreed and complied with everything he wanted, everything will be fine. That we'd be able to make a nice home and raise our kids to be happy, healthy, and ready to take on their own life and embrace their path enthusiastically and well-balanced. So wrong. I feel I'm so overwhelmed with the amount of damage that's been done as a result of this 25 plus year engagement and marriage with a narcissist or an emotionally immature husband. Despite so many attempts to leave and repeated returns to this marriage, I was never able to fully disengage and I kept getting sucked back in his capacity to find and exploit vulnerability, fear and doubt has no end.  I've been away from him and our home for the last six months. And now I never would have thought this, but I'm happy in the moment, day to day. I feel so much lighter, not being around him and subjected to his non-stop toxicity. And so now I'm looking for tools I need now that I'm in this space. Separated physically and living a life apart from him to stay apart. Try not to be drawn back into his conspiracies, his attempts to instill fear, doubt, or the syrupy pleading about how wonderful we are together and how foolish it is to throw away all of these years and how we're soulmates. And especially since our repeated history has been that I always do return. I want to, and I'm determined to break this cycle. I don't have any more time to waste on this relationship. So how do I maintain this long term? What resources or support is there for people like me that have sustained so many years of emotional abuse, gaslighting, mental abuse, and all the damage as a result. I would like my amygdala to return to normal, please. I appreciate the opportunity to reach out. And thankful to have happened upon your show.”

So much gold here. And I think these are, this is the framework of most of the emails that I get is someone that is finally recognized. And this person, she says so much, there's so much in just a couple of these sentences in particular. Where she talks about being sucked back in and his capacity to find an exploit, vulnerability, fear, and doubt has no end. And I've been going pretty big on this, I think the last few months. And that is the concept that as someone starts to wake up to that emotional immaturity or narcissism in the relationship and they start to recognize they have a voice that their opinions matter. And, and I don't, I'm going to say that I, you know, this might sound negative, but I'm kind of wanting to just normalize this process. That it's a real difficult thing to start to recognize this and not start to express yourself and start to try and do that fifth rule of interacting with the narcissist that I talk often about, still wanting to just try to give them that “aha” moment, but just the oh, an aggressive “aha” moment that they will understand now that it is okay for you to have your own opinion. 

And that is okay for you to speak up and you are going to start doing that more. And unfortunately that isn't what is going to change that other person. As a matter of fact, you're handing them this data in real time of what other buttons to push and those buttons come reflexively from the narcissist or the emotionally immature. So when you say I finally am going to speak my voice, you can watch as a variety of responses that I could probably put on this wheel of narcissism could ensue. Finally, I've been begging you to say something our whole life. I ask your opinion all the time. You never give it or it could even be an oh, okay, so now you've got everything figured out. You're the smart one now, I guess I'm the dumb one. You know, or okay, well, yeah, you go and do whatever the heck it is you want to do and see how you like it there, because I'm going to tell your parents, I'm going to tell the courts or everybody that you're crazy. And you remember that one time that you didn't help the kids with their homework. And I'm going to show that you're an unfit mother. And so the emotional immature narcissist at that point is it's not like there's going to be anything different where that “aha” moment is still going to come. So unfortunately, when you get more angry and frustrated and fired up, then that is now just aggressively, just throwing these buttons over to your partner where maybe you used to hand them the buttons kind of kindly. Hey, you could talk a little nicer to the kids like that, and that's like a kind handing over of the button. And now you're just chucking those buttons at him as hard as you can. So yeah, they might hurt a little bit, but man, he's going to throw them right back at you and throw them back probably even harder. 

And so I think this is one of the most difficult things is that the whole body keeps the score trauma vibe. When you finally feel like, I just can't take it anymore. And now I've been given a voice and I hear about other people that have a similar problem. And that my relationship isn't the only one. And that holy cow, I did not even know what I didn't know. I mean, even as I'm saying it right now, I feel like, you know, my own heart rate is elevating. And so that's that part where I like what she said at the end, I would like to be able to get my amygdala back to normal. So I feel like the unfortunate part is when somebody gets angry and frustrated, then their fight or flight response kicks in. We talk so often about the flight. You know, or even the fon where somebody just shuts down. But when you start to realize, oh my gosh, I did not have to be dealing with this my whole life, then that fight response kicks in. And unfortunately, when your heart rate elevates and you go into that fight or flight response, and it's that fight one in particular, then that is also triggering the person that you are now in conflict with. 

And now their amygdala is right there, hijacked as well. But unfortunately now you're dealing with the emotional immaturity of a 10 year old boy who is now just going to throw out all kinds of things to try to hurt you at that moment. And it can be very, very bad. A thing is very bad accusations and words. So just know that unfortunately that's part of this process. So when you then are able to step back from that moment, that's the part where you’ve got to give yourself grace. You know, take a breather. And that's why I appreciate this person saying they did have to get away from this person to even start to feel like they were okay. And so when she said, when I left home, now I'm so happy in the moment, day to day, I feel so much lighter not being around him. And that goes back to that visceral or gut reaction that your emotions travel two and a half times faster than your logic. When data comes in through your eyes or your ears, it's converted these little electrical signals that go right to that amygdala and it says, okay, is this safe? And if you do not feel safe, then your brain is going to say, well, we don't even need those frontal lobes. We don't need logic or reason right now. We need adrenaline. We need cortisol. We need to shut down that logical part of the brain. Because there's no negotiating with a saber tooth tiger. 

And now it is on. And so that is going to happen the more that you're around somebody that has been emotionally, physically, sexually, verbally, spiritually, financially abusive. So part of that waking up process is going to be this frustration. So if at any point when you recognize, oh, my amygdala is on its way to getting hijacked right now. I'm noticing people getting out of their seats on my amygdala plane and they look a little sketchy. They’re probably hijackers. At that point, we need to land that plane. You need to get out of the room and you will hear things on your way out of, okay. Fine, run. Leave. What about me? I mean, the buttons. That doesn't mean the buttons are not gonna be pushed. Again, if you're setting a boundary that whenever things are starting to go south, I'm going to exit the conversation. I'm going to exit the situation. I then know that that boundary now became a challenge. Oh, sure you will. Like you always do your runaway, this, the shows I'm going to tell everybody about this. All the buttons will just keep being pressed even on your way out. So back to when some determined to break this cycle, hey, you are, you know, you are because you're figuring it out. You're writing into a podcast, you're listening to a podcast, you're getting out of the environment. So your amygdala will calm down. I don't have any more time to waste on the relationship. 

I can appreciate that. But how do I maintain this long term? I go back to the first rule of those five rules I like to talk about, and this is raising that emotional baseline. This is you time. This is self care, it is not a selfish time. So I want to talk about this big, big soapbox of mine is how we handle our thoughts. And so I feel like there's three things that I think that we just don't quite do correctly or we could do better with our thoughts. So the first thing is that when we are left to just ruminate and contemplate and try to figure out and try to make sense, that's not the most productive thing to do right now. Not, not at all as a matter of fact. Because right now, what you need to do is do things because the more that you try to just sit and figure out and stew and ruminate, then the more that you are going to start to feel that guilt, that shame that maybe it was me. Maybe I did something wrong. Okay. I understand. Now maybe I can go back in. 

And Michael Twohig is a world-renowned acceptance and commitment therapy researcher that was on the Virtual Couch a few weeks ago. He had some amazing quotes. And one of those was he talked about healthy, happy people spend 80% of their time doing things that are important. And he made a point to say, it's not just doing things that are fun, but doing things that are important. So doing things that are important is not ruminating, doing things that are important are doing things. Things that are of value to you, things that will, at some point, even a healthy distraction, it will occupy your time. Because again, sitting in that discomfort of the relationship and the potential breaking of a relationship. Then that's where you're going to start to feel all those emotions and you're going to want to alleviate that feeling of discomfort by wanting to go and make peace with the emotionally immature person.

Now Michael Twohig also said that unhealthy, unhappy people spend 80% of their time in essence chasing pleasure or fun. And then I have since added to his quote. So, I'm hoping that he would be fine with this. But I have since added to his quote that then, yeah, 80% are unhappy, unhealthy people spend 80% of their time seeking this pleasure, but also trying to avoid discomfort or pain. And when we're trying to get rid of that, then it becomes even more prevalent and just upfront. So with that said, I feel like it is so important to just go and do, do things, do things that matter, do things that are important. Because that is going to keep you out of the rumination phase. And really at that point early on, you're trying to make sense of things that just don't make sense.But back to the concepts around things, I think we can do better when it comes to our thoughts. First thing that I think we do that is unproductive is we say, what's wrong with me? Why am I even thinking about this? Why am I doing this? Why am I going through this? Why is this so difficult? Why, why, why?

And let's start with, nothing's wrong with you. You're a human and you think and feel and behave the way you do because you're, you. Again, you are the product of your nature, your nurture, your birth order, your DNA, abandonment, rejection hopes, fears, dreams. That is what makes you, you. So guess what comes along with that? Your thoughts, your feelings and your emotions. Nothing's wrong with you. You're not broken. You're a human being. So when we say, what's wrong with me? Nothing. Part two is I need to stop thinking about this. I need to stop thinking about him. I need to stop thinking about how I can fix this, but then that's also saying I need to stop thinking about the plaid elephant wearing a tan, cowboy hat. So right now I'd imagine we all just thought of a plaid elephant wearing a tan cowboy hat and even tried to do one that I can't even quite muster up the image, but I sure did. So when you tell yourself, don't think of something, your brain's like, I will continue to think it. Psychological reactants, that instant negative reaction to being told what to do. It is built in, it’s innate, it's a survival mechanism. So instead of, what's wrong with me? Nothing. I need to stop thinking that. Now I just need to notice that I'm thinking that. 

And then the other portion of that, that I think that we don't quite do as productive as we can, as we think is well, okay, instead of thinking about all the bad things or instead of trying to think about how it could work, I'm going to think about all the horrible things that he's done. But even then we're still paying way too much emotional, we're burning emotional calories, and spending this extra energy on still thinking about him. We have to think about the positive, but then think about the negative. So instead, this is just a moment to say, man, check that out. Look at what I'm thinking right now. Thinking about, I'm telling myself the old, “I can figure it out” story. I'm telling myself the old, “if I would have only done this” story, that's adorable. Thank you brain. That's what you've been doing. I appreciate it. Hasn't really worked very well. So now I'm going to go do. And then your brains going to say, oh, what are you going to do? You don't even know what to do. And there we go again. You know, oh, it's the old, “I'm not even sure what to do” story. So right now I'm going to do anything. I am going to walk outside and interact with the world. Life. I'm going to watch a show that I've heard about. I'm going to play a game. I mean, those don't sound like the most productive things in the world, but they are far more productive than trying to figure out how can I go back into the relationship and make it different when I've been trying that for two decades? 

Okay. I want to shift gears a little bit because I found an article that I stumbled upon. And I know I use the phrase pathologically kind often, and I believe it was a couple of episodes ago where I was going through the five rules of interacting with a narcissist. And I might've answered that question about where did that pathologically kind concept come from, and it comes from Ross Rosenberg's work and the human magnet syndrome, but it turns out he didn't actually say pathologically kind, he was talking about that the kind people that are assuming the best or are thinking the best in others. And as a matter of fact, let me pull up human magnet syndrome. And I love Ross's work and he's been a guest on the podcast and here is what he says. So the human magnet syndrome thesis. He said, “Due to unconscious trauma based psychological forces, co-dependence and pathological narcissists are almost always attracted to each other. The resulting relationship is mostly breakup resistant and narcissists benefit the most from this situation.” And here's what I appreciate is he takes on the term codependency. He says, “Codependency is both a relationship and an individual condition that can only be resolved by the codependent. Many codependents are attracted to and maintain long term breakup resistant relationships with pathological narcissists.” And here's where I think I got the pathological kindness, this next concept that he talks about. He said, “Most codependents are selfless and deferential to the needs and desires of others over themselves. They are pathologically caring, responsible and sacrificing people whose altruism and good deeds are rarely reciprocated.” 

So I love the concept. Even when we talk about confabulated memory, look at me. Confabulating that story right there. After reading that, and I had read it many times, then I jump on when I do an episode about pathological loneliness and I find his, the more about the human magnet syndrome and what Ross talks about as self-love deficit disorder, which is one of the things that he's bringing into the zeitgeists to address the almost formerly known as codependency. And so he talks about pathologically caring and then I moved forward from there calling the people pathologically kind, and I think it really does still fit. So he said that they are pathologically caring, responsible, and sacrificing people whose altruism and good deeds are rarely reciprocated. So he says, “While some codependents are resigned to their seemingly permanent relationship role, others actively, albeit unsuccessfully, attempt to change it. These people have become preoccupied with opportunities to avoid change and or control their narcissistic partners. And despite the inequities in their relationships and the consequence suffering, they do not end their partnerships.” So he said codependency is not just limited to romantic couplings as it manifests itself in varying degrees and most other significant relationships. 

And so what I appreciate about that is that fits right into my number five rule, the nothing you will say or do will cause them to have the aha moment or the epiphany. And so I feel like that's where he talks about these in his view of codependency. Or these pathologically caring, or I call them now pathologically kind people. That they are almost what he says, resigned to the seemingly permanent relationship role, others actively albeit unsuccessfully attempting to change it. But the people become preoccupied where I would say you're spending a lot of emotional energy and burning a lot of emotional calories, which literally will leave people feeling absolutely exhausted and sometimes unable to show up as the best version of themselves with their kids or in their workplace or with their friends, because they are preoccupied with opportunities to avoid change and/or control their narcissistic partners. And again, he says, despite that inequity, because they can never cause that other person to have the aha moment. Then it leads to this consequence suffering, but they are not the ones to end the partnerships. And as a matter of fact, when you have that pathological narcissist, incredibly, emotionally immature person, when you provide them more data in your attempt to try and solve or fix the relationship in general, then that will come back to bite you. 

I was talking with someone recently and they said that they, in a moment of just tenderness, it was a guy who said he reached out to his partner and said, hey, I realized that I wasn't the best person years ago. I didn't give you the attention or the love that you really desired and this is somebody who I think has continually gone back and tried to give that other person the aha moment. And then sure enough, this person said that it wasn't very long before that was then used against them. So now every time that, the all every time there's an all or nothing statement, but often now when they argue, then his spouse will bring up the, okay, see, you've already admitted that you weren't that great of a person or you didn't give me what I need. So now you must be doing that again. So here in a moment of tenderness where this person offered up this, you know, the guy itself confronted and he had really realized that he had, he played a role in this. That when he presented that to his partner, now it continually gets used against them. So that's the concept around that human magnet syndrome, the pathologically kind. And that is what has led to me wanting to break down this article because I think that this thing is just so fascinating because of that topic of kindness.

And kindness is a good thing. One of the women's group calls a couple of weeks ago I really tried to go into some depth about it's a form of betrayal when someone that takes that gift that you have, and then turns it around against you and then makes you feel like the gift of kindness or compassion is actually a negative thing because in a healthy, emotionally mature relationship, that kindness can be an amazing thing. Now, the kindness of trying to control or change others can be something that we could take a look at, but just a value of kindness or compassion, that is a beautiful, amazing thing. And will lead people to do really good things. But I think the part that, in this scenario pathologically kind, Ross talks about the codependent person. That kindness is putting the needs of others far ahead of the needs of themselves. And that's where I feel like when people are in healthy relationships, what happens over time is that kindness becomes nurtured and the person starts to feel like that really is one of their super powers. And they don't do that at the cost of their own self-esteem or their own self image, they raise their emotional baseline up so they can be the best version of themselves. And then use that kindness for good, not to try to explain or try to convince. And so, I'm going to read an article off of a website called charterforcompassion.org. 

And just listen to this title alone, “Discovery: ‘Kindness’ Gene So Powerful It Can Be Detected by Strangers in 20 Seconds.” And this is some of that stuff that I really feel like three, four years ago, I would've looked at as, man, is that a little bit woowoo? Or now that we actually are finding the psychology and the science, the backup, the woowoo around energy and vibes and all of these things. I mean, whether it's mirror neurons or pheromones or whatever that looks like, but now, let's talk about your alleles and your DNA. So this is by Tima Vlasto, again, the article is titled “Discovery: ‘Kindness’ Gene So Powerful It Can Be Detected by Strangers in 20 Seconds.” Tima writes that man or woman across the bar, somebody you can trust or empathetic enough to spill out your story of pain and suffering to. “Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have found compelling evidence that healthy humans are hardwired to recognize empathetic strangers who can help them within 20 seconds. So if we go back to Ross's human magnet syndrome hypothesis, that the pathologically caring, pathologically kind person, if they are the ones that are putting out this kindness, energy vibe. And we're going to see if it's literally in their DNA. That then somebody can be hardwired to recognize that empathetic person within 20 seconds. So then is that where the human magnet begins to form. So there's a quote we've known that genotype can influence personality, but we'd only ever studied what goes on inside a person. 

Things like behavioral scales and heart rate measurements, says Rodrigues Saturn PhD, A senior author of the study and an assistant professor of psychology at Oregon state university in Corvallis. This is the first time anyone has observed how different genotypes manifest themselves and behaviors. That complete strangers can pick up on. So over the past five to seven years, researchers have been exploring how genetics affect emotions, says Alexander Cogan, lead author of the study, and a postdoctoral student at the University of Toronto at Mississauga. What we're learning is that to a certain extent, we have a genetic basis that supports a lot of the processes that make us nice. So you could have kindness and niceness, literally in your DNA in particular, researchers have focused on a hormone called oxytocin. I've done an episode on the Virtual Couch. It's called the cuddle hormone, the feel good drug, that brings us together. So oxytocin has been linked to emotions like love and trust, and it's found in a variety of animals. “Higher levels of oxytocin have been linked to higher levels of trustworthiness, empathy, and willingness to sacrifice,” Cogan said. Widely known as the cuddle or love hormone. Oxytocin is secreted into the bloodstream and the brain. Where it promotes social interaction, bonding, and romantic love among other functions. 

So in this UC Berkeley study, 24 couples provided their DNA and then researchers documented the couples while they discussed the times when they had suffered and video recorded the partner who was listening. So later a separate group of 116 observers viewed the 22nd video clips of the listeners. And it says then we asked to rate which seemed the most trustworthy kind and compassionate based on their facial expressions and body language. None of the viewers knew the video subjects and they watched the clips with the sound off. So they had no knowledge of the situation being discussed. They were then asked to rate how kind, caring, and trustworthy the listening partner seemed based only on visual cues. So the listeners who got the highest ratings for empathy, it turned out and here's where it gets kind of spooky, possess a particular variation of the oxytocin receptor gene known as the GG genotype. So, the article says all humans inherit a variation of this gene or an allele from each parent. So the UC Berkeley study looked at the three combinations of gene variations of the oxytocin receptor. The most empathetic, able to get an accurate read on other's emotions had two copies of this G allele. So in contrast, members of the AA and AG allele groups were found to be less capable of putting themselves in the shoes of others. And more likely to get stressed out in difficult situations. So, I mean, I'm not a genetics expert or aficionado, but here is where if you have these two G alleles and getting each one of those from a parent, then you will literally have a greater capacity to put yourself in the shoes of others. And it looks like that is something that then can be outwardly, I don't know if it's manifested, or if people just pick up on that. So, Cogan said people can't see genes, so there has to be something going on that is signaling these genetic differences to strangers. 

He said, “What we found is that people who had two copies of the G version displayed more trustworthy behaviors, more head nods, more eye contact, more smiling, more open body posture. And it was these behaviors that signaled kindness to the strangers.” So I wonder then if this empathetic two GG alleles in their genetic makeup person. As they head nod, make more eye contact, more smiling, more open body posture, now meet up with the pathological narcissist or the incredibly, emotionally immature person who desperately subconsciously from childhood wanted that validation. And wanted to know that they matter. And if we look at deep attachment theory, if somebody didn't have a secure attachment with a parent, then they just need to know that they exist in the way that they know that they exist is to absolutely, I want to say ensnare or entrap someone, so that they will always have this person. They're there, period. Not saying a loving, mutually beneficial reciprocal relationship, but let's say, this is my hypothesis, that pathological narcissist meets this double G allele, oxytocin, super power, empathetic kind person who all of a sudden is putting out this vibe or energy to the person who desperately at their core just desires connection, but doesn't know how to do it accurately or correctly. They only know how to do that in a controlling way. Not taking ownership of things. 

And then you've got the person continuing to head nod, make eye contact, smile, and open body posture. And it just seems like you can almost see the pieces starting to fit together of what creates this human magnet syndrome. So Cogan pointed out that having the AA or AG instead of the GG genotype does not mark a person as unsympathetic. So this isn't an all or nothing kind of concept. And he says, although scientists used to refer to the gene A variant as a risk variant because it increases risk of autism and social dysfunction. Many experts now think of the variation as just that variation that may along with other forces play out in personalities. Rodrigues, Saturn said it's important to understand that some people are naturally more held back or may be overcome by their own personal stresses and have a hard time relating to others. She says, “These are people who just may need to be coaxed out of their shells a little, it may not be that we need to fix people who exhibit less social traits, but that we recognize that they are overcoming a genetically influenced trait and they may need more understanding and encouragement.” 

And this is where that just fine line or there's so much gray area where, when I like to say that, okay, let's start with almost the hypothesis with the assumption that we really, none of us have the right tools to communicate effectively. And so then it's a matter of, we go through things and then we have to find tools. We have to get help. But then that process now finding the right tool. And then implementing the tool. And now you've got two people in the relationship. So as one person changes the dynamic, the relationship, it really is up to them now to self confront and really say, okay, now I get it. It's my opportunity for me to be a better person to show up differently in this relationship and not try to fix the other person. But at that point then is the other person going to recognize they too don't know what they don't know. And is that going to be an opportunity to self confront. So I feel like that can start to sound a little bit overwhelming, but if we start knowing what we didn't know, then now we can have this opportunity to change. So Cogan said that many factors ultimately influenced kindness and cooperation. He said, “The oxytocin receptor gene is one of those factors, but there are many other forces in play, both genetic and non-genetics.” Here we go into nature or nurture. Cogan said, “How all these pieces fit together to create the coherent whole of an individual who is, or is not, kind is still a great mystery that we're only beginning to scratch.” 

So I want to be very clear that I just found this fascinating in all of these, or I'm just throwing out some hypotheses, but when you combine this kindness, this kindness gene. And then you look at pathological narcissism and you look at pathological caring and kindness as Ross Rosenberg has talked about. I just feel like, okay. The picture is starting to become a little more clear, but then I find myself being guilty of what I say so often of, you know, sometimes we try to make sense of things that don't make sense. So it's nice to bring awareness, kind of a check this out. I wonder if it may be that helps us move forward as individuals on starting to recognize, okay. If I have two of these GG alleles and I have this superpower gift of empathy and my oxytocin is flowing, then that means I'm actually, I'm okay. And if the other person in the relationship is not someone who is able to recognize, appreciate, or support the emotionally kind person, then that doesn't mean that you can go against your genetic code, your DNA. If anything, man, what an opportunity to lean into that. So in an emotionally mature relationship, I would hope that the partner of somebody that is kind and compassionate can start to really recognize that as, that is them. What an amazing gift and opportunity it is to be in a relationship with somebody who is pathologically kind, who has these double GG alleles sitting in their DNA that makes that oxytocin flow. And if somebody, then let's say the more emotionally immature person can recognize, man, you know, I'm the one that is dealing with my discomfort in an unhealthy way. And I can recognize that my partner is my partner and what a gift. And then hopefully that will allow them to start to do their own work and self confront. And the two of you maybe can meet in both emotionally mature and healthy ways. And I find that even right now, as I'm saying that, what a mix. I'm sure the people that are hearing this, because there are people that still just desperately want to believe that this can be their situation, their relationship, and that's where I want to say this entire podcast is designed to meet you where you're at, but ultimately know that you are okay, that you are enough. That it's okay for you to have your own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. And the more we start learning about the brain, DNA, alleles that are sitting on chromosomes, that it really is who you are. And so someone telling you not to be who you are is not a helpful, productive thought or exercise. 

And the more that you are trying to defend who you are, or the more that you are shrinking so that others around you won't feel uncomfortable, then that is going against your very nature. You know, the very core of who you are all the way down to your chromosomal level. So, hopefully this is something that can help you feel a little bit more of acceptance of what a gift. And if someone is trying to say, I don't like that gift, well, bless their heart. They don't really know what that gift is like. And unfortunately they may spend so much time trying to control your gift, your thoughts, your experience, that they too are missing out on a whole important part of life, which is trying to figure out who they are, but that's not on you. 

So, I would love to know your thoughts. If you have additional questions, comments, anything like that, feel free to send them to me. Through the website, tonyoverbay.com, or send them to me at contact@tonyoverbay.com. Or you can interact with the post or the story that will go up about this on Instagram or on Facebook. And, I just appreciate you being here. And just know that man, you really, as cliche as that sounds, you're good. You're enough. I see you. And, wherever you're at is where you are right now. And that's okay. Check that out. You're not doing anything wrong. You're just starting to figure things out. And it can feel uncomfortable. A lot of the times we don't like discomfort. Sometimes being able to sit with a little bit of discomfort, you find out that, hey, I survived and I'm okay. And that'll start to give you a little bit of momentum. So work on that emotional baseline. Self care is not selfish. That's the first step. After recognizing that, okay, this is a thing, something's happening here. So get yourself in a place where you can do even more work to better yourself. To put yourself in a better position. And then either that person that you're in a relationship with is maybe going to say, all right, man, I don't want to miss out on that, but in reality, you're going to discover that, oh, I'm okay. I'm a pretty amazing person. And that's what's going to lift those around you as well as yourself. So, thanks again for joining me. We'll see you next week on Waking Up to Narcissism.

Tony reads a message from a listener who asks, "why won't their therapist confront their narcissistic spouse?". He explains more of the origin story of narcissism and how the path of the narcissist leads them to a place where they can't possibly be the problem and why, if you confront the narcissist, it can make matters worse.

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

WUTN 50 Transcript

Today, I want to start with an email. 

It says, “Dear Tony, I have a personal counselor who recommended me to your waking up to narcissism podcast. She said all she could do was think of me as she's been listening to your podcast. I've been in my marriage for over 20 years, we have children and I've been dealing with this throughout my marriage. Obviously not everything in the podcast applies to us, but too much of it does. It's taken a toll on my mental and physical health and has killed my self esteem. I've been listening to your podcast nonstop because I had no idea what was happening to me had a name. And it has been so validating for me to know somebody understands my life. You put into words, my exact experiences, the thoughts, questioning myself and torments that floods my mind. You also accurately described how the treatment has made me react over the years and why I feel crazy. I have a family that I love, and I really want this man to love me. I want to be treated well, and I want my family to remain intact. However, no counselor that we have has ever addressed the issue. I've never felt that much gets resolved at all. And we haven't been able to receive the help that we need and that I need.”

 So she said that she's really writing in one last attempt to salvage the marriage because she feels like if those things could be addressed once and for all, then maybe she could find hope. And I receive a lot of emails with questions similar to this, and it is normal because as you start to wake up and understand that there are answers and see the similarities and patterns, it only makes sense. 

Why don't we tell my spouse because then they too will have this aha moment or this epiphany. And how frustrating that can be to finally feel like after all of these years that there's something that we can do. That we can put a name on this and here's a podcast and books and tools. So I need to let them know, right? 

And if you've also heard a lot of the episodes, one of the first things that I talk about is one thing that we don't do is go confront the narcissist or the incredibly emotionally immature person. 

The thing that you don't do is say, hey I think I know what we're dealing with. I think you may be a narcissist. And even though that feels like the exact thing that I want to do so that we can hurry up and get through this and have a better relationship, that's actually not the right thing to do. As a matter of fact, it can be counterintuitive. It can be the wrong thing to do. 

So, coming up on today's episode of waking up to narcissism, we're going to dig deep into why confronting the narcissist or the emotionally immature person may feel, again, like the answer. It may feel like it's perfectly normal, but how it actually feeds the problem and can make things worse. We'll talk about that and so much more coming up on today's episode of Waking Up to Narcissism.

Hey everybody, welcome to episode 50 of Waking Up to Narcissism. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, and also host of the Virtual Couch podcast, and a few more podcasts that are coming down the pipeline, which is exactly the reason that I would love to just simply encourage you. 

Go to my website, tonyoverbay.com, just sign up for the newsletter. That'll get you in the know of everything that you need to know. The newsletter is going to start to contain many big and wonderful things, including the first of which is you will find out about the launch of the Magnetic Marriage podcast. It is a subscription-based podcast, but it is full of real life couples, anonymous couples that have come forward and wanted help in their marriages. 

And the episodes are real and raw and full of emotion. And I lay out how to put the tools in a practice that people didn't even know that they didn't know and that they needed. And we talk about communication. We talk about infidelity, faith deconstructions, power struggles, parenting, all these things that couples are dealing with. 

And often if you've been one who has tried to get your spouse into counseling and it hasn't worked, or if you have been to counseling and you feel like that has been a dead end or hasn't worked, or might even have made things worse, then I really feel like this might be a nice way to see what counseling could actually look like and how it can help if it is possible to see that change in the relationship. And so it might be easier to put this podcast in front of a person who is, let's say counseling averse, than just to say, I think you need to go to counseling while you're not going to counseling. So that's coming very soon as matter of fact, there's probably going to be an announcement in the next week or so of the exact launch date and maybe a sale coming up soon. 

But just know that the price of this is going to be far less than one session with me, and it's going to be a subscription for an entire year of access to the podcast. So go to tonyoverbay.com, sign up to find more about that. You'll hear that through the newsletter. And I'm also revamping a parenting course that I have. 

So I think that'll be fun. And also I'm going to continue to leave out at tonyoverbay.com/workshop, a $19 couples communication workshop that will give you some more of the things to talk about in your relationship and hopefully will eventually lead to more communication, but I give some solid tools. They are real tools and tips. Again, $19 money back guarantee. 

And I would also love to encourage you to go follow me on Instagram or Facebook. I have some amazing people that are working behind the scenes now with social media and creating content. And just specific to this podcast, Waking Up to Narcissism, I started recording some clips that there are things that the narcissist would never say, and the clips are less than a minute. 

And I think there are three or four, maybe five of those out there now. And I think it's one of those things that I like using my true core value of humor. So these are not heavy tomes. I think we need humor to deal with some of the relationship issues that we have. We have something that we need to cope with and humor is often a wonderful way to cope. Let me just give you a small example. I think one of the first ones I did have, here we go. 

Things that a narcissist won't say. I've never thought of that. Or that's a great idea, or I don't know if I can do that or last but not least. You're right. So there's just some of the things you can find and very, last, very quickly, if you listen to episode 49 and your experience was that it was a repeat of episode 48, which was a wonderful interview with McKayla Renee Johnson, then please go back to episode 49, refresh your podcast player, whatever that looks like, I accidentally uploaded the very same file from 48 into 49. And within the first 24 hours is when there are a few thousand downloads and it was that repeat. So I got a lot of messages that said, did you mean to do that? 

And no, I did not. And I quickly posted to Facebook and my social media, my Instagram account that I owned up to that mistake and said, please go and relisten to 49 because 49, I really do feel I'm gonna stand in that healthy ego and say, I think it can really help. I dig deeper into Marshall Rosenberg's nonviolent communication in particular when talking or trying to communicate with a narcissist, an extremely emotionally immature person, and I titled that one “waving the white flag against violent communication” because I do think it's a little bit of a preview or a precursor to even more about what we'll talk about today, because it just shows that the more that you're making this observation, and then with an observation, we have these judgements that go right along. 

That maybe again, the pathologically kind person, that judgment, when you observe that the emotionally immature or narcissistic person in your life is doing a certain thing, maybe he just doesn't understand, or maybe she just doesn't really understand what I'm saying. So I'm going to keep trying to explain myself, but then unfortunately in this world of nonviolent communication, that person is not taking in the data. 

And the more you try to explain the more you try to show them your point of view, you're actually feeding them data that then they can use when they have a tirade or a tantrum, or they become incredibly emotionally immature or dysregulated, that sort of thing. If you have a chance, I would encourage you to go listen to episode 49. If you tried to listen to that and it wasn't, it was a repeat of 48. 

So let's start today. This is one of those things that I get so often is that question of, I know you said not to tell the narcissist that they are a narcissist, but I felt like I could. And this is where, when I talk about these five rules of interacting with someone with narcissistic traits or emotional immaturity, that number one, we want to raise that emotional baseline. We want you to do some self care and it doesn't mean you just have to go run a marathon, but it's even starting to dream and to hope and to think, and just to even think about what it would start to look like now that I'm recognizing that I've lost my sense of self, what do I really want to do? What do I feel like I've possibly missed out on. 

And not from a place of beating yourself up because, oh, what, I could've done all these things different, because again, you did not know what you did not know. And now you're starting to know. So what have you always wanted to do that you maybe haven't felt supported in, or maybe haven't even felt you could express. 

And even that is starting to shift this interior landscape of your mind or what it feels like to be you. So raising that baseline is absolutely necessary to put you in a place to be able to interact more and whatever that looks like. But that interaction needs to come from as good of a version of you as we can get. And I want to say this very best version of you and you're going to get there because so many people are in this predicament or in these relationships really don't even recognize how much of their self that they've lost because they spent so much time, so much energy, so many emotional calories and effort on trying to manage a family, manage a situation, buffer for the kids, try to figure out why this didn't work, why he didn't say this or why she responded the way that she did. 

And maybe if I say it a little differently, maybe it will go differently. In an emotionally mature, healthy relationship, all of that time is just spent doing and being the best version of yourself, or learning more about the things that you care about and then being able to go to a partner and have a shared experience and not be made to feel crazy or put in this one down position. 

Mature conversations are about curiosity, but anyway, raise that emotional baseline and then get that PhD in gaslighting, understand that when you are very confident that you did express yourself or that he, or she said something, and you had heard that earlier and now you're being told that you did not, they did not absolutely say that. 

That's okay. If you recognize that, I feel like that's not the truth. But then not necessarily jumping back in and saying, but you did say that because that third part then is getting out of unproductive conversations because that's when the gaslighting occurs. And when it's really coming from a very emotionally immature place with your partner. Now all of a sudden you're in it. 

Someone the other day said that when they started falling into the feeling of gas lit and trying to explain their way out of things or trying to stand up for themselves in those situations that they felt like all of a sudden, now they're wrestling with a pig and that is not going to get anywhere. 

Which then leads to the fourth rule, which is learning to set healthy boundaries, but also understanding that when you set a boundary, that does not mean that the emotionally mature narcissistic person says, oh, a boundary. Okay. I will respect that. It's a boundary, it's not a kryptonite. It's actually a challenge. 

So when you set that boundary, unfortunately, while that is a good thing for you to do, you'll know that you're doing the right thing and setting that boundary if the boundary starts being pushed. And the way that boundary will be pushed is your buttons will be pushed and maybe even worse things will be said about you and I am so sorry, because that's not the way a relationship should go, but as you set the boundary, the boundary will get pushed. And then that leads to the fifth thing which is going to be such a big part of what we're talking about today. There's nothing that you will say or do that will cause them to have that aha moment, or the epiphany. That epiphany needs to come from them. That aha moment needs to come from them. And that comes from their work. Not you trying to convince them that they need to do the work. It has to happen internally to them. And I thought a lot about this as I was preparing for this episode, that the same thing that has happened to you and your own waking up to the narcissistic relationship or emotional immaturity, and the relationship that you find yourself in, that has been a process. 

Some might call it a slog. One of my friends read a book and it talked about being in the messy middle, and that might be where you're at right now, but you've had to come to that on your own. And I go back to the fact that I was very intentional in naming the podcast, waking up to narcissism, again. 

Waking up to the narcissism in the relationship that I have with my, fill in the blank, spouse, adult child, employer, religious institution, parent, whatever that is. It's waking up to that narcissism because it helps me understand that I'm not crazy. That it's okay to have my own thoughts and feelings and emotions. That I've lost myself, and I need to do something. So you have woken up to that. You have come to that conclusion through hard work. You've gathered a lot of data. And you've been on a journey and you found it and now you're here and you didn't know what you didn't know. But now, it's really hard to implement the tools and that's a tough place to be, but it's the right place to be. That's going to lead now to going from, I didn't know what I didn't know. To now I know, but it's hard to implement the tools. To now, I know what I need to do, and I'm getting better at implementing the tools. 

I start to get to this place where I implement the tools more than I don't. On one of these group calls that I do every other week with my women in narcissistic relations from my private Facebook group, we were talking about this just last night. And there was someone that jumped on there and they said, hey, I'm in that third stage of enlightenment, the one that we're talking about, where she didn't know what she didn't know. Now she knows, and she doesn't do a lot, and that was hard, but she said, I moved over into that, I know when I do more than I don't. And so it started to become easier to set the boundary. She started to be able to find herself and that is starting to feel more empowering. And then that last phase of the journey is just, this is what I do. I implement tools. I have a sense of self. I hold boundaries. I raised my baseline. I understand gaslighting. I naturally get out of unproductive conversations because they're a waste of emotional calories and time. 

And I am not responsible for making that other person understand or have that aha moment. So let's talk about that a little bit more. When I talk about that fifth rule, it's not just that you will never say anything that will cause them to have that aha moment or epiphany, but in reality, when someone is saying to their therapist or to a friend or to that parent, hey, maybe you can get through to them. That is now just saying that I now want this other person, so me as the therapist, I want you to cause him or her to have that aha moment or that epiphany. So I just wanted to start by framing it there. It makes perfect sense that if you would like to try to talk some sense into this person because of your journey and what you've learned, of course you want your partner, your spouse to have that same waking up moment because we can fix this. But look at that journey that you've been on, and there is a way to set the journey up as best as it can be to hopefully put that other person in the best position for them to hopefully self-reflect or self confront. But it isn't done by saying, look, somebody has to lay down the law. You tell them, or I will, somebody has to, because I'm tired of beating around the bush and all those things. And I've heard it many, many times. 

I've had one of my clients I adore the most, in the not too distant past, text me and say, look, are you going to tell this person that they're the narcissist?  Because if you don't, I am going to, or I will find somebody that will. And it was interesting. This person said you've been validating me, but when are you going to let my spouse know that this is not going to work? That they are the narcissist, because I will, I will find someone to do it because it has to be done. And I didn't, it broke my heart. I didn't even know where to start with that because it goes against every single thing that I lay out in podcasts, the things I say in sessions, my experience of working in this field for 17, 18 years. But then I know that it's in your relationship. It's difficult. And I hear you. 

And I understand just how desperate one can be for change. Especially when you get a little glimpse of this. There's a name for this. Here’s people talking about this, here's even people that are saying here's a way to maybe start to change. So we need to take a little bit of a step back. So I lay out those five things. 

But what we're going to do, we're going to dive back into the truth about narcissistic personality disorder from one of my favorite articles from Psychology Today by Eleanor Greenberg. So Eleanor lays out that, “Narcissistic personality disorder is the name of a series of coping strategies that began as an adaptation to a childhood family situation that left a person with unstable self-esteem.” And let's remember that word, unstable the inability to regulate their self esteem without external validation. So, if they are already operating from a place of unstable self-esteem. And that self-esteem is regulated by external validation now for the narcissist. And I am just going to lay out, I'm going to use the word narcissist for probably the rest of this episode, but please know that when I say narcissist, I am talking about the narcissist and the spectrum of the emotionally immature person all the way up to someone that is becoming more emotionally mature, because it's going to save a lot of words and it's going to save some time. So to the narcissist, then that unstable self-esteem and then the inability to regulate that self-esteem without external validation that does not mean that they are looking for the external validation of, hey, am I okay? Because that's not what they learned. What they learned was I need to be okay. I have to be right, because I cannot, I cannot even risk invalidation. Because invalidation could cause me to get booted out of my family. Again, we're talking about the little kid brain here that if I get in trouble and I have not seen my parents model, take ownership or accountability. If I have not had a secure attachment with my parents, when I have sought one as a kid. That when I have sought external validation, soothing, comforting as a child, those moments that typically my parent has not been in a position to provide that. If anything I've been told, hey, don't worry about it. Don't cry about it. It's not a big deal. You need to take care of that yourself.  Calm down, come back in here when you're in a better mindset. So my need for soothing and external validation as a child then has not been met, but when the parent needs me to say, hey come give your mom a hug and tell me I'm a good mom or come here, son, let me just, I feel like I need to just pass along some words of wisdom here and here's all the things that I went through as a kid. And so I think you need to do the same thing. 

Then all of a sudden, I feel like, you're looking at me and that's what I have to do. You know what an anxiously attached person without a secure attachment to a parental figure. All of a sudden now the kid exits into this world of relationships with unstable self-esteem and the inability to regulate that self-esteem without external validation and not the cool kind, the kind where I, now I must admit I can never be wrong because if I was wrong as a kid, I heard about it. The only time that I got validated then as a kid was when I was amazing or when I was right or when I didn't say anything. 

And somebody else had to be wrong because why?  Because if my parents were also emotionally immature or had narcissistic traits or tendencies, then, if I did something wrong, they're not saying, hey, come over here, champ, tell me about it. They're saying really, you failed that class, you failed that test. I can't believe you did that. But then if I am the star athlete or if I get the good grades or if I can learn how to juggle or do a little song and dance routine, now that's my boy. Because that is a chip off the old block, then that's what I taught them. I didn't teach them all that stuff about not being good at school. 

Yeah, that's and again, in their eyes, that parent is going to say well that’s because they're lazy or because they're not trying hard enough or because the teacher isn't teaching them well. Again, in Marshall Rosenberg's concept of nonviolent communication, there is an observation. They didn't do their homework. And then the judgment, this is again from that emotionally immature narcissistic parent, because they're lazy. It cannot be because I did not spend enough time with my kid. It cannot be because they didn't help them understand math. Because I didn't understand math after fifth grade and I couldn't help my child because I didn't want to put in the time. 

It cannot be any of those things. I had to be because they're lazy. So look at that. I hope that I'm starting to lay this out in a way that makes sense. So that emotionally immature, narcissistic person, unstable self-esteem, they can't regulate that self-esteem without external validation. And that leads to lower empathy. 

So there's no empathy there. Probably not a lot of empathy modeled, not a lot of accountability modeled. Validation was given when you were doing amazing or awesome things or praising the parent. And if you hadn't trouble, it could not be your parents' fault. So now you, as the kid, are a bad person. 

And that is what leads to so many of us that have a core default setting of shame. That if my parents did not meet my needs, that I must have been bad. Not a, hey, I noticed that you did a bad thing. But that is what guilt is. Guilt is yeah, I feel bad about something. And then shame is no, you are bad at your core. You're bad. 

So that is this person that is now sitting there now, but they are in an adult human body and they have a very loud voice and they may be large and they may be strong and they may have money and they have some power and then the people around them say that they're awesome. Because so often to the narcissist or the emotionally immature person, they are not getting the validation that they need from home because the people at home that are closest to them see the hypocrisy and they call them out on things, but the people out in the community, the people in their church community, the people at work, they may just get to see all of the wonderful, amazing things this person does. And so they get that validation at work or in other situations. And then when they come home, now it's even worse because everybody else thinks I'm awesome. And my own family doesn't, and that means that my family must be wrong. And so now the family is not telling them all the time as they need this validation that they are amazing. Because the narcissist comes home, sometimes they want to be serious. And sometimes you guys aren't appreciating me. And other times I want you to tell me I'm awesome and amazing. And sometimes I want you to give me space and sometimes I can't believe you didn't say dad's home when I walk in the door. And when those things are going well for the narcissist, everybody in their life is incredible and wonderful because that's indicative of who they are. They surround themselves with these wonderful people. It's just that up and down. Rollercoaster of emotions. 

It is where they're trying to regulate their self-esteem with external validation. But again, not that good kind. So with that setup, Eleanor moves into these concepts of whole object relations and object constancy, “Things that a narcissist lacks, whole object relations is the capacity to see oneself. So the narcissist and others in a stable and integrated way that acknowledges both the person's good and bad qualities.” And that is so important. Because that emotional immaturity in general is one that sees in black and white, right and wrong, good and bad. They lack whole object relations. So I'm probably going to start alluding to a lot of the things where let's just say now that therapeutic intervention where now I am supposed to lay down the law and finally tell this person that you sir, or madam, are a narcissist. Okay. Enter whole object relations. They lack it. So now if you're telling me that I am a narcissist, then I now will process that as I am all bad and you think that you are all good.

There is no capacity to see both good and bad qualities within the same situation or person. And they lack object constancy. That is the ability to maintain a positive, emotional connection to somebody that you like while you're angry, hurt, frustrated, disappointed by his or her behavior. So when you confront the narcissist and they lack whole object relations and object constancy, then they have this unstable self-esteem, the inability to regulate it without external validation and low empathy. So I hope that we're starting to paint a picture. 

So I'm going to give you some solutions because don't worry. Hang in there. We're going to get there. But without those whole object relations and object constancy, Eleanor Greenberg says people with narcissistic personality disorder only see themselves in others in one of two ways, either they are special, they are unique, omnipotent, perfect and entitled. So she calls that “high status.”

So when everyone's praising me, then everybody's good. Everybody's cool. My family is amazing. My spouse is incredible. My kids are the best. My job is awesome. My car is amazing. The clothes I wear are sweet. My shoes are the best. Everything's amazing. Everything is awesome. I think that's a song from a Lego movie. 

But if that is not the case, then they are defective and worthless and garbage and low status. And that means that the person is struggling with these narcissistic issues can not hold on to his or her good opinion and good feelings about someone once they notice that the other person has a flaw. And let's talk about a flaw. I mean the other person goes from being special and put on a pedestal. Eleanor says, “to being devalued as nothing special”. So again, I want you to think of these things and think of them in terms of during this confrontation or this intervention with the narcissist, so this person now has gone from high status, they are amazing to now you are saying that they are now low status and they are all bad. 

And that means that if they are, if you are telling them that they are all bad, then that means that you then think you are all good. So now they have to regain that power, that status. They have to regain that one-up position. So now I am going to do anything to let you understand how bad you are, because that will make me feel better. 

So she says that narcissists often seesaw back and forth between the two. So when they are feeling good about you or more accurately, you make them feel good about themselves, you are special. Now you do something that they do not like and that can be as simple as saying no, or even, hey, why did you do that? 

And then all the sudden it happens in an instant. Now you are all bad and worthless. So at that point, that is now where the emotionally immature narcissistic person will start to use all of those buttons that you've handed them in a moment of weakness and a moment of vulnerability in a moment of wanting to share in a moment of trying to give them that aha moment or that epiphany to want them to change. Because now when they think really that's how you think, that's what you think about me. You think that now I am all bad. Well, I'll tell you what. You're a horrible mom or your horrible dad, or you're a crummy provider. Or I was talking to other people and they all told me that they don't like you. 

You're horrible and all these different areas, you do everything wrong, everything. So there's no way to keep things in the gray. It's all or nothing, black or white, good or bad, but then 10 minutes later, all of a sudden, now they come out of the room. You're still upset because you've just been called horrific things and they say, hey, where do you want to go to dinner? And I do call that one the, hey, do you wanna go ride bikes? Because that's what the emotionally immature kids do. I remember I got in a kick fight with Jimmy Faulkner. I don't even know if he's still around, in sixth grade, and by the end of the school day, we were good. 

And we went and rode bikes. So Jimmy, if you're out there that was probably an emotionally immature response of mine and my bad. So then Eleanor goes on to something where I've talked about this in other episodes: normal, healthy ego versus narcissistic, pathological defensiveness. And this is where I take great liberty in the words that she is using. And I want to take ownership of that. 

But I change healthy narcissism to healthy ego. And that is where you are getting to. Again, because you're doing the work. We're getting you to a place of healthy ego. It's a realistic sense of positive self regard that’s based on the person's actual accomplishments. It's based on the work that you're doing now, the hours that you're putting in and digesting the data on this podcast and other podcasts and YouTube channels and reading books and interacting forums and raising your baseline and understanding, whoa, I can actually have my own, my own opinion. I can have my own thoughts around everything, parenting and knowledge. And so then I want to start doing more of that. And I want to start being, and doing and finding the things that matter and not necessarily going into needing my spouse's approval or validation. So as you develop a healthy ego, a healthy sense of self, it is relatively stable because that person has assimilated that into their self image. The successes that came as a result of their actual hard work to overcome real life obstacles. So you are putting in the hard work, my friend, if you are listening to this. So to overcome real life obstacles because that is based on real achievements. Eleanor Greenberg says that is normal, healthy, what she calls narcissism and I'm going to say ego, “it's relatively impervious to the minor slights and setbacks that we all experienced as we go through life, normal [ego] causes us to care about ourselves, do things that are in our genuine, real self-interest. And as associated with self-respect, one can think of it,” she says, “as something that is inside of us.” 

I like to share that I think that people that have changed the world had a healthy ego because it was based on real life experience. Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther king, people like that have healthy ego. So, what I am hoping is that by listening to this, when you are listening to these things that you're starting to develop this healthy ego based off of the hard work that you're doing. 

And what I worry about is that now, when we just want to lay it out there and tell the narcissist, and we want them to understand, and we want to self-confront and somebody needs to tell them that we're still, even in essence, looking for them to validate the work that we're doing. But they're coming at it from this lack of object constancy, whole object relations, emotional immaturity, black and white all or nothing thinking. 

And so at that point, you are throwing a lot of shade at them and their world. And they're saying, hey, now all of a sudden, and again, this is what they are hearing. It is not even what you were saying. You're saying I am right. You are wrong. I'm right. Therapist thinks they are right. You are wrong. So now the narcissist says I disagree. 

So what are the things I know that will get to you to now make me right and you wrong? And then I will take that one up position because pathological defensive narcissism, as Eleanor Greenberg lays out, is a defense against feelings of inferiority. And we'll get back to that. The childhood defense mechanisms, gaslighting as a childhood defense mechanism. 

So pathologically, defensive narcissism. This is a defense against feelings of inferiority. So that person, the narcissist dons a mask of arrogant superiority in an attempt to convince the world that they are special, even in that moment, especially during confrontation. So now you're going to hear even more of how crazy this is that you don't even understand what you're talking about? 

So this is that attempt to convince the world, the therapist, you, anyone. That, no, they are special. But inside that person feels so insecure about their actual self that they will just lash out and they'll do anything to defend their fragile ego. They’ll hurt anybody. They'll say anything. Because at their core, they're afraid, they're scared, they're insecure. 

But that is so deep. It is buried so deep, that unfortunately, that is not your job to dig out. And as you start to find your own sense of self and they push more buttons. Yeah. That is the best case scenario of someone being able, potentially, possibly to self confront, but that's no longer, it's not your job. And that can feel like the wrong thing to do. But the right thing to do is to get yourself in the best position you can be in because it's not your responsibility to fix that other person. 

She goes on to say that that is their deep childhood abandonment wounds and fears. So she says, “This facade of superiority for the pathological defensive narcissist is so thin that it's like a helium balloon and one small pinprick will deflate it. And this makes that person hypersensitive to minor slights that somebody with a healthy [ego] wouldn't even notice.” 

So if somebody with a healthy, and in this place of differentiation, is told, hey, I feel like you exhibit some narcissistic traits or tendencies. Then that person, and I would love for them to say, okay, if I'm coming from a place of a healthy ego and I'm relatively impervious to these slights that are these jabs that I feel are thrown at me, but not from a, I think I'm better than everybody else, but to think that I'm willing to self confront and I'm willing to take a look inward because I'm aware of these things. I know the things that I know. And what comes along with that, obviously there are things that I don't know. So does that sound like a narcissist? No. They're putting up this image of arrogant superiority because they need you to know that they have everything figured out. 

I got another email recently from a person who had said that their spouse desperately needs to go to the doctor, but she says over and over again, well, you know that I know more than doctors do, right?

A little tangent here, but I think it's somewhat applicable. I'll give you an example of where my own emotional immaturity can come out and then where that need to self confront or take on these new tools that I learned comes into play. My wife and I are walking around a neighborhood over the weekend. It's a new one. It's a new neighborhood that's behind our neighborhood. 

And whoever developed, it made a little bit of a man-made lake. I don't really know if it's much of a lake, but it's an area that will hold a lot of water when there is a lot of rain. There have even been ducks on this thing, and there's a path, a paved path that goes around. But it's not around. It goes left and right. And there's a lot of foliage around that hasn't been knocked down. So my wife and I are walking our dogs and we're talking, and then I, if we go back to that concept of a violent non-violent communication, I violently communicated against the people that created that lake. Even though they have no idea because I just said, man, this is kind of dumb. Why didn't they do this differently? Why didn't they make the trail or why didn't they make the lake more shaped like a lake? And so there was my observation that it was a different shape that I felt, I felt like the shape was odd. So then I throw that judgment in there. That because it wasn't round, I made the judgment that this is dumb. They must be dumb. They don't know what they're doing. Says the person, me, that has never done any city planning, neighborhood planning, geological studies, environmental impact studies, paving, grading. I've never created an artificial lake. But I know what they did right there. Kind of dumb. So how emotionally immature is that? So I had to step back and I even had to say, okay, this is fascinating. I don't know a thing about what I'm talking about. 

And I got very much in that present moment and I was very grateful to be there. But we're simply just walking along the path of a man-made lake and then taking him what a wonderful opportunity this is. That is being present and that is, I didn't know what I didn't know. About this concept of things like nonviolent communication or self confrontation. 

And so then having to apply those tools, but that wasn't something that my wife had to make a comment about because if she would have I worry that in the past, especially then I would have taken that as criticism and then had to lash out and defend my fragile ego. It's interesting when, let's say that as the emotionally immature person, if I'm putting out there that I think that this lake is dumb and those guys are dumb. It's funny because what do I really want my wife to say at that moment? That's my guy. That's my hero. That's this guy. I know he knows more about creating man made lakes than civil engineers. 

So truly how emotionally immature. So then here we go back to that pathological defensive narcissism. Then they, “that facade of superiority that is so thin, like a helium balloon that then one small pinprick will deflate it. So then this makes that person hypersensitive to the minor slights that somebody with a healthy ego wouldn't even notice. 

Instead somebody with this type of defensive narcissism is easily wounded, frequently takes any form of disagreement as serious criticism. And is likely to lash out and devalue anybody who they think disagrees with them.”

So I feel like that concept of pathological defensive, narcissism, emotional immaturity, fragile ego, I can't be wrong, let me tell you what you don't understand. Not saying hey, tell me more. Tell me more about the situation, I see that you guys are all trying to confront me. I can understand, this is something that seems very serious to you. Let me understand more. That is not what is going to happen, which is again why confrontation doesn't work. So let's really start to work into what then your role could be. And what can happen. I want to pull up an article that I've been working on as well. And this is talking about the narcissist or emotionally immature concept of confabulation. And this is from Sam Vaknin who has an article called Disassociation and Confabulation and Narcissistic Disorders”. And it was first published in March of 2020 in the Herald Scholarly Open Access Journal of Addiction and Addictive Disorders. So I took that and what I've done is I've adapted a lot of that language to fit in the concept of emotional immaturity. So where Sam uses the words, narcissists and psychopaths, then I've taken the liberty to add the narcissist or emotionally immature people. So the narcissist or emotionally immature people often disassociate or erase memories and our amnesia because of their contact with this? Again, we're still talking about the concept of what if the narcissist confronted? What if there's this intervention? Why doesn't the therapist just let them know? Why doesn't he just tell him? Why can't you just wake up to your own narcissism? 

Why does it not work when they just go in attack? Why don't we just go attack the narcissist to try to help them understand? Let's just talk. So more about confabulation. The narcissist and emotionally mature immature people do not experience reality directly. They experienced it through a distorted lens. So the narcissistic lens initially developed in childhood. 

As we talked about earlier, narcissism or emotional immaturity initially develops as a series of coping strategies that began as an adaptation to a childhood family situation that left the person with unstable self-esteem and the inability to regulate that self-esteem without external validation or they have lower empathy. 

So this lens, this narcissistic lens that requires them to get rid of any information. Again, get rid of any information that challenges their grandiose self perception. And getting rid of any information that goes against this narrative that they have constructed about themselves. 

And it's because that narrative is so necessary for them to be able to explicate, excuse, legitimize their what Vaknin then says they're antisocial, self-centered and exploited behaviors, choices, and idiosyncrasies. So if you are confronting that narcissist, and this is the thing that I think is so hard to understand to the non narcissist is that the confabulation engine in their brain is working at a phenomenal master level, instant pace. 

And I've talked about once, if you're aware of confabulation, I do believe that we can all confabulate to a point. Sometimes I notice I'll find myself shading a little bit of my own experience or memory of making things a little bit better, a little bit more grandiose, and it might be either to make myself feel better. 

Or sometimes it might be to make someone else feel better. When I first did an episode on confabulation, I just, I talked about an experience where my wife had been out of town for a few months, helping my daughter who had been in a near fatal car accident. And so my wife would feel like she wasn't doing everything she could do here at home. 

And that she wasn't showing up as much for our son who was a senior in high school. Who was a senior in high school who was living his very best life, who was playing basketball and golf and has an adorable girlfriend. And he has a. He was doing what seniors who have an amazing senior year can do. 

And that is not wanting to hang out with mom and dad. We would try as much as we could, but so she would feel bad. And so on a particular weekend where she was coming back and we were going to go spend some time with one of my other daughters. I know that my wife felt guilty. She felt bad. So she had just said, hey, did you tell Jake that we're going to be away for the weekend? And I know that she feels bad. So then I said, yeah, I told him. And he said, that's awesome. And I realized in that moment, what confabulation can look like. Just from simply a place of what I said to Jake was, hey we're going to be gone this weekend. And he said, okay. 

And so my confabulation was as a matter of fact, I think I even told her, yeah we talked about it. We had a really good talk and he said, that sounds great. And so that made my wife feel better. And then I'm sure in my own mind, well, it feels pretty good to say that we had a really good talk. When in reality, I said, hey bro, we're going to be gone. And he probably said, can you leave cash? 

So I think that was the extent of it. But I confabulated that story. So to make her feel better and probably to make me feel like a better dad and so you can even see these little dustings of confabulation that happened because, and after I learned about confabulation, I did a couple of episodes on the mechanisms of memory, because memory in general is flawed. And we, when we recall memory, we recall basically a scenario, a situation, an image, and then we fill in all the blanks. It's a very effective use of the neuro landscape. And we don't even recognize that we're doing it. So to the narcissist or the emotionally immature person, what they do is they recall a memory. And then instead of just filling in gaps of just minutia of, oh, I thought it was day or I thought it was night or that sort of thing. It was like, and remember I was right and you were wrong. And now the more that they bring that memory back up, then they add more of that shading to it. So the narcissist, if you talked to him one time and came back and talked to him about something a month later, I just had this experience with someone, myself personally. That story, that the narcissist became even more of a grandiose hero and everybody else around them was a complete buffoon. A month later, the story had confabulated and changed so much in just one month. I thought it was just amazing. 

And I only mentioned that because I am confident that the pathologically kind people listening will say, I think I could be the narcissist because I confabulate as well, but we all do to a point. But let's get back to this article that the narcissistic or emotionally immature version of confabulation back into that frame, that's an attempt to compensate for these yawning gaps in memory. So then the narcissist or emotionally immature people confabulate meaning that back then it says that they're creating these plausible plugins and scenarios of how things might, could, or should have plausibly occurred. But it's not the kind to make everybody else feel better. 

To outsiders, these fictional stop gaps appear as lies, but to the narcissist or emotionally mature person individually, then they fervently believe in their reality, they may not actually remember the details of what had happened, but it could not have happened in any other way than the way that they are creating that it needed to happen. 

In order for it to fit the narrative that they've created. So then it goes back to that if you are expressing a time where you feel like they were very angry on a vacation, that did not happen. As a matter of fact, that confabulated memory is now they're going to remember that as a matter of fact, you were actually the one that got angry on the vacation. I was the one that came to the rescue and you don't even remember. 

And the kids came up to me later and they told me what's up with mom. But none of it, that's their confabulated memory that they have to believe that, they had to think and believe that because it could not be the fact that they weren't a very nice person on a family vacation. I remember reading one of the most fascinating examples of this, and I've thought about this so often, was a therapist that I know and I respect and so I very much believe, wrote me after I did this episode of confabulation. 

And they said they had a situation where they met with this young couple early in their practice. And the young couple didn't have kids and that the husband had fathered a child out of wedlock many years before. And he said that just came up in the assessment, but it didn't seem to play much of a role in what they were coming in for at that point, they were coming in there because I think the, I forget what the case was, because you'll see why that I thought this was so fascinating here in a second. So he said that he just remembered that. And then he said fast forward about, I don't know, 10 years later. And he said that they came in again and there were some accusations of infidelity. So he pulled the couple together and he could tell that there was tension in the relationship. And he wondered now, I think he said they literally had four or five kids that had happened in a 10-year period. 

And so he's really trying to do the assessment. And he always wondered what happened to that child that the husband and father had out of wedlock. And so when he then met with the wife individually, he brought that up. And he just said, hey, what's the status with that child? And he said, he knew that it didn't quite fit into what they were bringing into the session. But honestly, sometimes as therapists, we're just curious. We want to know more. 

And the wife broke down. He said that she started crying and she said, thank you. He honestly doesn't even acknowledge that ever happened, that he had a child out of wedlock. 

And my friend, the therapist said that he was so confused that when he met individually with the husband, he brought it up and he said he just did it very confidently because he knew that was something that they had talked about this decade or more earlier. And he said the husband got irate immediately and said, what, what has she been telling you? She's got this idea in her head that I fathered a child out of wedlock. And the therapist said at that point, he decided not to go in and dig deeper, but he just did not know what to do with that. And then he even said that later during the counseling that she forwarded an email I think it was from the from her husband's uncle, somebody that he had been close with, and the uncle even said, yeah, we tried talking to him about a too and we just have given up on talking about it because he doesn't believe it happened. 

So everybody around this person knows that this event happened, that he had fathered a child out of wedlock, but then everybody, but the person who fathered the child out of wedlock. So this therapist was writing to me to say that once he heard me talk about confabulation, he said that he wondered now then if once this guy started having kids and interacting with kids and recognizing that kids are a lot of work and recognizing the importance of him showing up in his child's relationship in this child's life, that his brain could not deal with the fact that he had so dismissed this child, that he had fathered out of wedlock so long ago. And so he not only, he'd, confabulated the memory to this point where it did not exist. So when everybody around him is saying, don't you remember? 

Or shouldn't you reach out to, or have you heard from this person? That he thinks they are insane. And the reason I mentioned that when I talk about confabulation is it just had me thinking of what that must feel like to this person. And I thought, man, imagine if somebody came up to me and said hey, how's how's the kid? Do you have much interaction with the kid that you had with your high school girlfriend, Betty, I'm making that name up because I did not have a high school girlfriend named Betty. But whatever happened, whatever happened to that kid. And if I just said, I honestly don't know what you're talking about. I don't even know Betty and I certainly didn't have a child with her. 

And, imagine. What if you have confabulated that completely out of your memory? And then let's say that then somebody even shows you a picture of you and Betty, and there you are, and you're 18 and you actually still have hair and you look young and you're holding the kid, or maybe you're even like in the delivery room and it's an old Polaroid. 

That if you have literally confabulated this out of your memory, now you can, I feel like you can understand why gaslighting can be so powerful to the emotional immature narcissist, because it could not have happened that way. And so that does not exist. And so now they can make you feel insane, I have no idea how you photoshopped that picture. Or that did not happen. You guys are all insane to the point where you do start to say. Okay, wait, do I not remember that? Right? This is literally a picture, but he does not seem to have any memory or recollection of this. It's, if that brain has confabulated to the point that there is zero chance that something didn't happen, it cannot have happened. 

This is why I go so big on this example, I spent so much time on this because I go back to that concept of confronting the narcissist and I hope I've laid out so many things that are already an issue with the person then showing up in the room. But now most likely they have confabulated memory after memory after memory, because it can not be their fault. 

So now the fact that you're dealing with all of these other precursors we've talked about, and then we confront the narcissist and that actually isn't what happened, then they probably can't even fathom what you're talking about, and now you brought a therapist in to confront me or you're having someone else do that. 

And that just lets them even, they feel even more empowered that you are crazy. That you are just that they can't even believe that you are doing what you're doing. Because we go back to that they cannot be narcissist. They cannot be the person that's emotionally abusing their spouse or their family. 

They cannot be the person who doesn't take ownership or accountability, that thing you're telling them that they need to take ownership or accountability of. That can't be them. And it harkens all the way back to that gaslighting as a childhood defense mechanism. 

And why did they need a defense mechanism? Because they had unstable self-esteem they needed external validation. And the only validation they got as a kid was when they were the star student, the wonderful athlete, the person who could do amazing things. They did not have a secure attachment and they were not provided a place to be able to process intense emotion. 

And let's face it, most of us don't want to sit with discomfort, but for the emotionally immature or narcissistic person, it's not even a possibility at this point for them to sit with discomfort, it has to be your fault. That's it, has to be. And, I deal with so many people that turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like pornography or sexual compulsions, and there's a high comorbidity or there's an association with the extreme narcissistic personality or traits emotional immaturity. And then impulsive behaviors, and impulsive behaviors happen because we turned to coping mechanisms and we don't want to feel negative emotion. And then if you confront the person about their unhealthy coping mechanism, be it turning to porn or gambling or food or their phones, well, yeah, it's because of you, you're the one that makes them do that. And again, that is the extreme emotional immaturity. And somebody not taking ownership of that. No, they are doing that. So it cannot be them. They can't sit with discomfort. It is your fault. And that is what their implicit memory is built on or what it feels like to be them. So put all these pieces together. 

Vaknin then says, “These tenuous concocted fillers are the subject of frequent revision. That as the narcissist or emotionally immature individual, as their inner world and external circumstances are constantly evolving. So unlike somebody with self-awareness, they are constantly working from a place of such deep insecurity that it absolutely cannot be their fault because that would disrupt their intense internal narrative.” 

If they are wrong, you will never love them, all or nothing. Black or white. And they must control that narrative in order to control the relationship. So they will either coerce someone into loving them or control somebody into loving them. But they cannot risk having somebody else have any control in that relationship. 

Because if they lack control, then they feel like they will be taken advantage of, they feel like they will be destroyed. They feel like they will be abandoned and that they'll be seen through. So even though the right thing in that situation is to be open and to be emotionally vulnerable and it is not as scary as it feels, but it is to that narcissist. It is all or nothing. It is life or death. They can't even risk it. They can't risk it for a second. 

Because of this different version of reality they're going to feel like it is all their fault and they cannot even come close to dealing with that. They have not been doing that work in that growth that you have been, because now you're saying, hey, I'm open to it. I understand. I'm trying to do the self confrontation. Here's the things I didn't know, here's these labels and terms and podcasts, and I'm even learning that I'm emotionally immature. We all are. And even when we want to say that, you just want to share these things because you're a kind individual, you're a good human being. And that's part of the reason why I made the big shift to talk about emotional immaturity from narcissism early on, because it's on the spectrum. But it also doesn't mean that when somebody is told that you are emotionally immature, that they don't still revert to that all or nothing behavior. Unfortunately again, tell that to the narcissist, because all they are hearing is you think they are bad. What do you do? I feel like one of the best things that you can do is continue to rely on raising your baseline, getting your PhD in gaslighting, get out of those unproductive conversations, set healthy boundaries, and continue to go back to the fact that you cannot provide them with the aha moment or the epiphany. Whether it's from you, by way of a therapist, by way of a good friend, or somebody that's close to them, they are not doing that work. And the crazy part is, as you pull away, as you pull back from the relationship, you're going to feel like you're doing the wrong thing. But this is where it happens to be the right thing. And that doesn't mean. And even our own minds go to all or nothing or black or white. 

That when we feel like, well, if I have to pull away, then I have to be a jerk. No, you don't. You can still be your kind compassionate self, but you're not going to put up with the emotional maturity or the lack of accountability, or the gaslighting, and you're going to cause you're doing that work and when you step out of that role, that you have played as buffer or that role you have played as peacekeeper and you see other buttons be pushed, I hope that you can start to say, I am doing the right. I'm doing it right. Because the thing I've been doing, I've been doing over and over and over again, and it has not worked. 

It can be scary now to trust some process that feels completely foreign. But that's because you didn't know what you didn't know. Then you know it, and you don't do it very often, and it feels scary. And eventually you do it more often than not, and you start to see some growth and change, and then eventually it just becomes who you are as a person. 

And then by you stepping out of that role, that is going to change the dynamic of the relationship. And most likely the dynamic in your family, your family system, and that is the opportunity for others to step up or to self confront. And those around you, let's say your kids are those that are close to you, if they see you taking ownership and standing up for yourself and doing the work and not taking the bait and going back into these unhealthy unproductive conversations, a kid gets their sense of self through external validation. And so external validation. Meanwhile, they're watching, they're buffering, they're modeling. They're trying to read the room. They're trying to figure out are mom and dad okay? Why are they sad? I'm going to comfort one of them. I'm going to put my own emotions and feelings aside. But if they start to see you, mom or dad, start to do the things that you need to do to be the best version of yourself, then that also gives them the opportunity and it gives them the ability. It gives them permission to also start to do those same things. And that is how you change a dynamic in a family, in a family system, in a narcissistic family system. That's how you help that person, your kid, start to become the transformational figure that goes against the grain of the things that so many of us do, or we just follow the patterns that are taught to us as a kid. And then hopefully we do our own work as an adult. You're doing the work, you are, you're here, especially if you're still listening at this point. So I hope that gives a little more clarity of why we don't have that confrontation with the narcissist. . 

If you have experiences, examples that you would like to share, please, by all means email me. I would love to have those. I'll read some of those as a follow-up and if you have questions, send them. There's a really cool opportunity that might be coming up soon. A big cool partnership where it might be all about just taking an opportunity once a week to do a separate podcast and just answer a bunch of questions. So send them, send those questions, share this episode. If you think that it will help somebody else. 

I've been fascinated and just just, I love to hear that people have forwarded people episodes, and that's when the person has said, man, that is me. That is my situation. And I try not to be a big, hey, go review my stuff. But if you can rate and review and you happen to think that you have a positive review or rating of the podcast. 

It really does get it in the algorithm so that other people will find it. And if you have been helped by finding out more information and data, there are people out there, and maybe you are one of them that are just, it takes them a while, but then they just type in the word narcissist into their podcast player and they're going to find the things that are suggested in the algorithm. So I would be honored if you would take the time to review and rate it wherever you listen to podcasts. And that's going to help other people get to the podcast so thanks so much for joining me today and I will see you next time on Waking Up to Narcissism.

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