People often stay in relationships with narcissistic or emotionally immature partners in hopes that it will be better in the long run for the kids. Unfortunately, staying can often send the exact opposite message. Tony reads another poem from his private women's Facebook group and a letter from the son of a narcissistic father. He then shares Karyl McBride's article "How Narcissistic Parenting Can Affect Children" https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-legacy-of-distorted-love/201802/how-narcissistic-parenting-can-affect-children Karyl is the author of the book "Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers" https://amzn.to/40P1ZdT

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Narcissistic Mothers Transcript

Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 68 of Waking Up to Narcissism. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, host of the Virtual Couch podcast and one that I would be just so grateful that you, if you will go check that out, is the Waking Up to Narcissism premium question and answer podcast. So the links for all of the above will be in the show notes. Just look for a, it's a link tree slash Virtual Couch. And then that has links to everything, including marriage course, marriage workshop, Instagram accounts and TikTok and all those sorts of things. But let's get to today's topic. I want to start with another poem that comes from my women's private Facebook group. 

I wish I was a poet. I wish I was creative and thought in the ways that the people that are sharing their talents around this difficult topic of narcissism and emotional immaturity. So I'm going to start with a poem and then, boy, today, we're going to talk about the effects of narcissism and extreme emotional immaturity on children and someone in the group, they had a teenage son write a letter to their dad and they said that they were okay if we just kept the name out of it, anonymous, and shared that on the podcast and it's powerful. And then I found a really good article by someone that has done some amazing work with narcissism and emotional immaturity. Carol McBride. She's a licensed marriage and family therapist and she's the author of a book called “Will I ever be good enough? Healing the daughters of narcissistic mothers”. And I'll have the link to that in the show notes as well. If you just read the reviews alone, it just speaks to people that weren't even aware of the effect of having a narcissistic parent and specifically in our system, mother had on their life. So let's get to the show. Let me start with this poem from one of the women in the group and she titled it, “Let me go”.

“Let me go, release me. Let me be on my way. And no, there's not one bit of me that would willingly stay. You revealed to me a part of you I've not seen before, and I'll never forget. It was cold contemptuous, a looming shadow of terrifying threat. You acted fast at the start, setting me up for this gradual fall. Conditioning my mind. So I couldn't think clearly at all. Confusion and self doubt became the biggest parts of me. You took my freedom, stripped away my self esteem. It was inevitable. Impossible to see. You know, I'd never hit you is what you would always say is that reassuring. I wondered in a hazy fog of dismay. Silently. I thought if you did, at least I would understand this underlying feeling that somehow I was under your command. You worked relentlessly. I was questioning myself every single day. Pieces of me were being chipped at gradually floating away. I started not to recognize the person I saw in the mirror. The truth is I was too trusting, too naive even to consider. Why would a person want to do this to another human? Dismantled their brain. Keep them prisoner in a state of delusion. Surely only a person who's hurting to the very depth of their core. As you like to remind me often to fix me, the body keeps the score. But the pieces of me, I thought had gone, were waiting for me somewhere else. 

I was forming another version of me with a stronger sense of self. I could see glimmers of her and momentary flashes. It took some time, but she started to emerge rising from the ashes. I'm not asking you to let me go. I'm telling you I'm on my way. And whilst I'm edit, you'll never have another opportunity to make me obey. I'm sorry, you have so much pain that you chose to act as you do. But for me, I'll no longer take part in your play.”

The taming of the Shrew. I think we can just let that one sit there on its own, but it just speaks so beautifully to just the awakening of, that it's okay to have your own thoughts and opinions and to recognize how unhealthy that control and manipulation is in a relationship. And, I will beat this drum every chance I get that that is not part of a healthy human relationship. You're allowed to have your own thoughts and opinions. And if you are continually trying to figure out how to negotiate the complicated nature of trying to communicate with someone else at the risk of who you are and your own self-development, then, welcome, welcome to the podcast. And in this, getting your, in essence, your PhD and personality disorders and extreme emotional immaturity. And it can be difficult and the process can be lengthy. But there is hope there, there is absolute hope. Let me jump right to this letter. I'm going to read this letter from a son, a teenage son that again, was given full permission to share on the podcast and share with my women's group in emotionally immature relationships or narcissistic relationships. And then we're going to talk about narcissism and the effect on kids. The person in the group said that her son who is 18 sent this to her to get her thoughts on it. And she said she bawled. She went downstairs. She bawled some more while hugging him and telling him how sorry she was, that he had to deal with this. 

She said that she was racked with guilt, that she didn't know how bad it was. And then she said, I asked if I could share this with a group. And he agreed as long as it was anonymous. And then I had asked permission to share on the podcast as well. But I believe the comment that I made to her even in the group was I'm so sorry that she feels the way that she did. But she truly did not know what she did not know. And I believe was 100% trying her best because this whole process of awakening to this, it can be really difficult because none of us want to think that we ever put our kids in a position where they weren't allowed to grow and thrive and emotionally mature because the people that are waking up to this and themselves have to come to this realization of what that's been like for them to even start to understand what that's been like for their kids. And this is where I just, I implore you to give yourself grace beyond anything else, because if you are listening to this, if you're starting to do your homework, if you're starting to recognize and learn the things you didn't know that you didn't know, then you are changing the dynamic and the pattern in your family, there's no doubt about that. And your kids will appreciate that. And it may take a while and some will be like this letter that I'm going to read. And they're gonna, they're gonna really understand that boy you weren't aware of what you weren't aware of just as they weren't as well. And so the fact that you are starting to open up to this will give them a voice because you're going to be a safer place for them to be able to share and express their feelings and emotions. 

So here's the letter. And the son said for dad, been working on this, let me know what you think. And then it had the crying face emojis. I mean, you can tell that, that he's saying, okay. You know, here we go. We'll see how this, how this goes. So the letter that he wrote, the teenage son said, “I hate you. I think you should know that. I've thought about you a lot recently, actually, and I realized something. I have no happy memories with you. Everyone I have, there's a sense of fear or guilt or anger or something along those lines that pops up. I avoid you now, because anytime I speak to you, there's an inescapable feeling of rage that boils up.” So if I just pause, I wasn't going to commentate on the letter itself, but even this teenage boy and boys that, that most teenage boys, like to watch cartoons, eat cereal, play video games and compartmentalize. So the fact that his own body keeps the score is pretty phenomenal. That even when he's in the same room, he has that inescapable feeling of rage that boils up. So back to the letter. Like I said, “there's no happy memories. You know what I do remember? I remember you telling me not to wear my favorite color to school because it was a girly color.” And he said, “literally it was red. I remember you commanding me from the couch to refill your whiskey glass. I remember you driving 80 to 90 miles an hour on gravel roads at night drunk with me and others in the car as you swerved all over, not being scared for myself and the others safety. I remember you blocking the doors out of the house, stealing my keys. So I couldn't get away from you. I remember walking miles down a driveway in boots with no socks to get away from you so [the mom] could drive over an hour to come and get me. I remember you threw me around into the walls of the house. I remember you throwing me into the bathtub when I was younger because I accidentally woke others up before school. I remember the sound of you screaming in my face and I could smell your nasty breath from it. I remember the emotional manipulation that you put me through. You made me feel guilty for seeing who you are. And as I got older and I learned more, you got angrier. I remember you playing with my emotions to make me compete in sports year after year, when it was clear that I didn't enjoy those particular sports and the list goes on and on. Some thinking about all these things. And I realized that you never saw me as a human being and you still don't. You have no sense of respect or love for me, I'm nothing more than an extension of yourself and your eyes. You made me do the things that you wanted me to do my whole life with no regard for what I wanted. I realized that what you wanted so badly for me to be with something that you were. I realized that you wanted so badly for me to be something because you're nothing, you're a liar, a manipulator and an abuser, nothing more. You wanted to parade me and my siblings around like prize possessions to make up for the fact that you've done nothing inherently good your whole life. You want to throw it in mom's face, you've got more money than her, and you can afford to buy all these things, but you still don't manage to pay your child support on time because you don't give a crap about us. Which sucks because your money is the only thing you're good for. I've also realized through all of this that you don't love me. And that the only reason you say it so much is to make up for the fact that you don't and to try to convince yourself that you do. You're a pathetic father, a sad man, any decent man is supposed to protect his children and loved ones, not be the person that endangers and hurts them. I'm done talking to you even after all these years, you're still putting on an act for everybody else. You still want to portray yourself as the almighty loving father and take credit for everything you didn't do. And then deny the blame for everything you did. Do I see your whole act of getting quotes, changing? Out in public, but you're still the same miserable, horrible person when it really comes down to it. And when you're behind closed doors, don't respond to this. Don't try talking to me. I'm done with it. Just sit this, read it and sit in it.” 

So you can feel that emotion. And I'm trusting that if you are already here and listening to this podcast, that there isn't judgment at all on that letter, that there's empathy, compassion. You can feel the strength and the, just the anger and the power and the just trying to see someone take control of their life. And at 18 to have to have this kind of awareness over some human being, you know, you hear that concept of an old soul and sometimes it sounds like it's pretty cool. Like this 16 year old is going to fire up a bass guitar and play jazz, like that's your old soul, but really an old soul is somebody that has not been able to really find their sense of self as a kid. And they've been having to figure out how to survive and how to cope and how to not get in trouble and how to protect siblings sometimes. And how to just say, man, there's nothing I can do right now. I gotta get out. Instead of just being a kid and being a teenager and just caring about school and relationships and movies and all the things that a teenager is missing out on because they have to grow up and they have to protect and they have to learn to read the room and manage others expectations. So I'm just, I'm grateful that he took the time to write this, that he shared it with his mom, that his mom shared it with the group. And so I often find myself getting asked questions about children and co-parenting with a narcissist and staying in the relationship. So that at least they have a mom or a dad, whoever is the more emotionally immature. 

And I try to, I feel like, tiptoe around this because I don't know what divorce is like. Because I am, I'm still married. My parents didn't divorce. And but I work in this world of divorce and it's easy for me to say that in these emotionally immature relationships, that when somebody gets out of that emotionally immature relationship and finds themselves, that they also become a completely different person and the way that they show up with their kids. And when a kid gets their own sense of self through external validation. That then when they, that you can really reverse the tide of who that kid is or what it feels like to be them. If you become this, not just a safe place where they can then dump and share emotions about the more emotionally immature parent. But where you can actually start to build that secure attachment with them so they can go out and explore and be, and do and know that they have a safe place to come back to. And that your interaction with them isn't constantly talking about, hey, watch out or things, you, you know, make sure you don't do this, or I understand, I understand how frustrated he is, but if it's more about, hey, how was your day? And what was that like? And how's your job going? And what do you want to be when you grow up? And what's that relationship like? And what do you like about this boy or this girl? And I mean, that's the way you build a real relationship. Not trying to continually figure out, okay, how do we all manage this? How do we see how we approach mom or how we approach dad, whoever the more emotionally immature person is. 

So on that note, I want to get into an article that I really do appreciate. And the article is from Psychology Today and it's titled “How Narcissistic Parenting Can Affect Children.” And this is from Carol McBride. She's got a PhD in clinical psychology. And then she again is the author of this book that is highly recommended. The book is called, “Will I ever be good enough? Healing the daughters of narcissistic mothers.” She's also a licensed marriage and family therapist. And she has 30 traits of how narcissistic parenting affects children. So I'm going to read just a couple of paragraphs that she has as part of this article. And then I'm going to go through that list. And I'm sure that I'll comment on some of those, if not all of those how. How narcissistic parenting affects the children. She says, why does it matter if a parent is a narcissist, how does that hurt a child? She said, you might be asking this question. If you're a person that is currently co-parenting with a narcissistic ex, someone raised by a narcissistic parent or one who is in a relationship currently with a narcissist, or if you're a divorce professional working on a case that involves a narcissistic parent. 

And I'll put that out there right now. I now understand a lot of therapists listen to Waking Up to Narcissism. I'm grateful for that. I am so grateful for the ones that reach out and want to be a part of the women's group or one that would love to talk about this. A group of therapists so that we can start to really address this population. But I also have a thread in the group this talking about experiences in therapy that have been detrimental because if someone, if you are going to a professional who is not familiar with emotional immaturity or narcissistic personality disorder or traits or tendencies, then it can actually be, I feel pretty detrimental because you're often being told that you're just buying into the hype of narcissism and the, what will, what are you doing and what can you do? And just stand up to him or her, just tell them. And all of those things are things that can actually end up making things worse because you're engaging. You're letting the person see, you're letting the narcissist see your buttons to push and they will do so. Carol says, given my research and clinical experience, I want to provide some education and awareness about how this disorder hurts children. She said first, let me explain it. Narcissistic personality disorder is misunderstood when applied to someone who is just boastful, arrogant and all about themselves. 

So all these traits are annoying and not fun to be around. Narcissism is a deeper, more destructive disorder that has devastating effects on the people in relationships with the individual. It's a difficult disorder to treat. And some do believe it's untreatable. And she said the cornerstones of the disorder or lack of empathy. And the inability to tune into the emotional world of others. And I am hearing, I don't want to be dramatic, but on a fairly regular basis, that from those who don't understand what narcissism really is or emotional immaturity, is that just the fact of the, that the word is being used, causes a visceral reaction and people tune out. And I've also been told pretty regularly that the shifting I have been intentional on shifting the word narcissism to emotional immaturity and that, yeah, that's a lot more palatable. And then we can all take a look at the areas where we are emotionally immature. And then the key difference is the, are the people that are willing to then sit with the discomfort of the things that they are facing. And that, that is uncomfortable for them as a human being or as an adult. And then are they willing to self confront and do something? So then when somebody will inevitably, maybe even right now, the kind person is saying, okay, I got it. Tony finally gets it. He's telling me I'm the narcissist. You are not. If you are listening to this because you are trying to do something, you are trying, you’re obviously uncomfortable and you're out there seeking help, even though you're just, you're uncomfortable. 

So that is, this on this road of empathy. And so you are literally tuning into the emotional world of others because you're worried about how you're responding to your maybe narcissistic spouse in this. What we now know is a reactive issue, a reactive abuse issue, or you're worried about, am I doing damage to my kids? So you've already broken the rules of being a narcissist. That you are not lacking empathy. You're maybe overly empathetic because you are just, what is wrong with me? I gotta figure this out. And then you absolutely are able to tune into the emotional world of others, maybe even your tuning fork is on high alert that if you've ever used a tuning fork, which I haven't, that might've made no sense. If we go back to Carol's list, she has a list of how narcissistic parenting affects children. The child won't feel heard or seen. The child's feelings and reality will not be acknowledged. And I just did an episode a week or so ago talking about the emotional abandonment that is there in our childhood, that then we bring into our adulthood that we don't even recognize is not normal. And that is if you are trying to manage your relationship with your parent as a child, then there is a high, I mean, I'm going to say it's pretty much a given. That you, your emotions are not being acknowledged and you are not being asked to be taken on your train of thought about how you're feeling or what you're thinking about a situation. It's, if you are trying to express emotion, you're probably getting a lot of either just indifference, a flat affect or a, not right now, or will you need to get over it, or how do you think that makes me feel, or you got the version of emotional immaturity or narcissism where a parent then says, no, I get it. 

Let me tell you stories of my high school days and how I overcame it. And so the fact that if you look at how great I am, and then if you aren't doing the same, then it shows that you are not as good as I am. And then if you don't listen to me, then I can say, well, I told you. And then if you try to do what I'm asking you to, because it won't feel authentic to you, then I get to say, you're not even doing it. So it's a no, it's a no win situation. When you're trying to even express yourself as a kid, to an emotionally immature/narcissistic parent, the child will be treated like an accessory to the parent rather than a person. The chat will be more valued for what they do, usually for the parent then for who they are as a person. And I think that the letter that this teenager wrote that I read earlier. It starts to feel like that quite a bit. You're valued for what you do. You're only as good as what you do for others. I mean, that is a way you truly lose your sense of self. And that's where the pathologically kind people that find themselves in again, what Rosenberg so well says, the human magnet syndrome is that you are in this place of self-love deficit. So you feel like you are only as good as what you do. And so what do you do you continue to try to do for others to try to, to get them to love you? And that, that is working absolutely counter to the fact that you are of worth and lovable as a human being. 

And so if you are trying to get people to recognize or acknowledge you or love you, then that is you're not in a healthy relationship. The child will not learn to identify or trust their own feelings and will grow up with crippling self doubt. Here's what, this is what I tried to identify last week is that if you're not allowed to explore your feelings and emotions, if you're continually told that they're wrong or not now, or just get over it or don't worry about it. Then you are continually given this message that your feelings, you don't even understand them. They're wrong. And look at how that makes me feel. So now all of a sudden, I can't trust my own gut. I can't think on my own. And what am I doing now? I'm now actually going to start going to this person to ask for their advice or their opinion or what they think I should do. And they don't have my best, they don't have what's good for me in mind. It's oh, well, what can I do? How can I manipulate this at the moment? 

And that's that form of, of really, it's a form of betrayal trauma, where you're starting to go to this person. If you're a kid to your parent, or if you're a husband or wife to your more emotionally narcissistic spouse, and you're saying, hey, here's my heart. And, I need some help in managing emotions because we are inherently designed to deal with emotion in concert with another human being. It's part of our attachment. But then that other human being is taking advantage of that opportunity and manipulating it for their own gain. The child will be taught that how they look is more important than how they feel, because when there is a real lack of knowing or understanding your kid, and if they are only as good as the things they do or how they make you feel as an emotionally immature parent, then they need to look the part they need to look the part of, if you look a certain way, then that makes me look better as a parent. The child will be fearful of being real and will instead be taught. That image is more important than authenticity. And this is part of that, when I talk about abandonment and attachment issues that we bring into our relationships is that I'm so afraid that if I am being real. That then I may lose this other person. Now if a kid grows up with a secure attachment to their parent, and if they know that it is absolutely okay to be them, whatever that looks like, whatever they like to do. And again, I feel like this is where the emotionally immature person's listening to this, which I'm sure they haven't, they wouldn't have made it 24 minutes in at this point. 

But it's like, oh, okay. So if they just want to go shoot heroin between their toes all day, then I got to support that. If you're at that point right now, you've already been looking to pick apart this entire podcast. So there's not much that I can do to convince you. But if they want to go be a, I don't know if they want to go be an explorer and then a pirate and then an astronaut, and then they want to become a surgeon and then they want to raise bunnies and then they want to, I want to go on that journey with them the whole way because if any of that becomes a, I don't think that would be good for you, champ. Why am I saying that? Because I have no idea what it feels like to be them. So don't be the person that gets in the way of the hopes and dreams of your spouse or your kid. Because the reality is that doesn't mean that they're going to all of a sudden, want to be a pirate, astronaut who raises bunnies. The thing is that, if they feel like, oh, it's okay for me to say that I want to do that. Actually, I don't know if I really even want to. But if I'm continually told no, there aren't even pirates anymore, whatever that looks like. Well then what, what do I feel like? Okay. I feel kind of dumb. And I don't know if I'm going to keep bringing my hopes and dreams to you as my parents. Because you're shooting those down. And what is, I had someone in my office recently and all the person said was they wanted to look at going to a particular grad school and the parent immediately said, that's too difficult. And I just thought, wow, that was within seconds of this person sharing something that no doubt they've been thinking about for quite some time. And then they were met with their parent who doesn't even really know. Hey take me on your train of thought. Tell me more about that. And I just said, no, you wouldn't be able to do that. 

And in essence, implying that, hey, that's really difficult. I don't think you can do difficult things and you're not very smart. So then this person just said, okay, I guess I will not open up about anything again. The child will be taught to keep secrets, to protect the parent and the family boy triangulation. Hey, don't tell your mom, don't tell your dad. That is not a healthy way to live because then the child is now again, you know, feeling like anything they say, boy, am I split? Am I going to get anybody in trouble? Is this, wait, is dad gonna get mad at me because I said something to mom or vice versa. And the child will not be encouraged to develop their own sense of self. It goes right back to that secure attachment. They're trying to figure out what they can do to then, please me. I was going to say I'm going to be dramatic and throw out a very controversial thing and it's not that, but I was with one of my adults, two of my daughters over the weekend and we'd gone to help paint my daughter Mackie’s new salon. So as a matter of fact, plug two, if you are, if you live in the Provo/Orem area of Utah, then look up at beauty by Mackie on Instagram. And she's an amazing cosmetologist. But I had some of my nieces and nephews there while we were doing this and it was late at night and it's just so fun to talk to the kids these days and listen to how old I sound. But when we were talking, they were saying, you know, a couple of them are graduating college and they're not 100% sure what they want to do. And they were almost expressing that, like I know, I should know. And I said, oh, you know, if I can just speak from some experience as a human being and throw the therapist card in there as well. 

I feel like it's very rare that somebody at the age of 22 says, I think I know what I want to do for the next 50 years of my life. I've made this choice over the last two or three as an emotionally immature individual. But in reality if you are just on the path of just trying to learn and do and be that then you're going to develop your sense of self. Now, the controversial point I made was that I just threw out that I've worked with enough people that are people like lawyers and doctors and some of those professions that you've had to spend a tremendous amount of schooling on. And just, I'm just talking about anecdotal evidence that I have as a therapist for the first 15, 16, 17 years. And talking with some of those professionals and then I'm getting them in their mid thirties to early forties and their midlife crisis phase. And that's because when we sometimes dig back and go deep, they want it to be the let's just take a doctor for example. As long as they can remember, but when you go back and look at why. That it was because whenever they said, I want to be a doctor, you watched the parents beam because boy, talk about external validation. And then whenever you talk to your friends and if your friends saying, I don't even know what I want to do. And if you say I want to be a doctor, then all of a sudden, everybody kind of lights up and like, oh, that's cool. And then if you're a kid. Oh, you're gonna be so rich and you're gonna get to do all these cool things. So then the person got the validation and then that might've carried them all the way, even through medical school for some, it hasn't for some, they get two or three years in and then at that point, they're in a crippling amount of debt and they feel stuck. They really do. 

Or others, I remember talking to a podiatrist a long time ago. And he was talking about we're looking at scheduling and he said, I can't come in on, it was like Tuesdays or Thursdays because those were surgery days. And I said, oh my gosh, what is that like? I mean, that's just gotta be crazy. And then he just said you know, he's like after about the 2000 at the time that I released the plantar fascia, he just said, yeah, not so crazy. They all kind of look the same. And I just thought, oh, to that person that was thinking, this'll be amazing. They just have foot lined up after foot lined up and slice cut into that release of a plaintiff. Release the fascist to get rid of the plantar fasciitis. And so he said, I don't mind surgery. It's still a little bit cooler than just the office days, but the only point that I'm making is that boy, when you know, or you think, you know, that young, a lot of times that's because of that, I believe that external validation from parents. So the child won't be encouraged to develop their own sense of self. They may want to then say the things that will get them, if they are just truly being an extension of their emotionally immature/narcissistic parent. 

Then, if they say I'm going to be whatever and the parent goes, yeah, that's, that's my boy. Then they're going to be driven more to do that. Even if that isn't something they feel passionate about. The child will feel emotionally empty and not nurtured. The child will learn not to trust others because boy, if you've grown up in an emotionally immature household, there are going to be times where you have said something and you felt like that was in confidence, but then your narcissistic parent has then told somebody else that is that when it happens so often. And it's because that narcissistic parent in that moment is getting the validation off of you giving them a secret, promise you won't say anything, mom. And it's like, hey, you bet champ. And then as soon as I, mom's talking to her sister, well, no, I just told her because she lives in a different state. Or then telling a neighbor like, no, I told them, but they don't, I mean, they don't run in the same circles as you do. So it's like, oh, I'll absolutely keep your promise. I mean, until I don't, that's basically the creed of the narcissist in a sense. The child will learn. And that's not trusting. The child will feel used and manipulated. And I feel like that's where you start. Getting the vibes of highly sensitive people or the body keeps the score. The child will be there for the parent rather than the other way around as it should be. And that's what starts to create that anxious attachment vibe is that when the child needs the parent from an emotional standpoint, and the parent is, it's not a good time, which I, and I know we're all human, but I want to say which should not be the answer because if you're the parent, then I would love for you to model the fact that, hey for you, now is a good time because this now isn't about me. It's about the tiny human being that I've helped create. 

In that scenario then you're going to be there for your kid because if it's the other way around, that's where you start seeing this anxious attachment show up in adult relationships where you've said all I ever wanted to do was feel heard and understood. And then when the spouse finally says, okay, I hear you. And I want to understand you. It can feel emotionally overwhelming and engulfing, and it really can. The child's emotional development will be stunted. The child will feel criticized and judged rather than accepted and loved. And that's again where we have this vibe where we say, hey, champ, you can come and talk to me about anything. And then you come and say, I think I want to quit school. Or I think I want to join the army or I think I want to, and if the parent is saying, okay. That's just ridiculous. Why do you know how much time and effort I put into your schooling or if I really didn't teach you well enough to want to continue to be an attorney like me. And so when you're putting that vibe out again, it is all about you, not your kid. And so in that scenario, then the kid's going to feel criticized and judged. The child will grow frustrated, trying to seek love approval and intention and attention to no avail. Which will often then lead them to looking for external sources to provide them with the love approval and attention. 

And I'll just talk about, I was speaking at a conference not long ago. And somebody asks a question about, all the kids, everybody's smoking pot these days was the way that the question was put. And I just said, here's the challenge. And, and I'm with them, I'm with them on that. I feel like I still grew up in a time where, you know, that was the stoner. And I don't know what it's like to be a kid that is in their early twenties that has in essence grown up within most of the states, it's legal. So that's a whole different ball game. But I mentioned that I often talk with kids when they were feeling judged by their peers and especially if you're, I work in an area where there are a lot of people that are part of a religious community. And so then if that religious community says, hey, we're all together, we're all a community. But now within that community, let me do some judging. You drink energy drinks or your shorts are too short. Are you swear yeah, we're all the same. Except for now. I'm going to judge you about those things. And I said but pot, that world has no respect for the people that they're, we don't care what you're wearing or what you're saying or what you're doing because we all have this, this shared sense of purpose, which is, it's sad in that regard. But so in that scenario, though, if they're going to find love, approval and attention and not, if that is not provided in the home. Then they will seek that elsewhere. The child will grow up, not feeling good enough. The child won't have a healthy role model for emotional connection which then starts leading into the, when I say we don't have the tools from the factory to be able to communicate in a healthy way or to hold boundaries. Because, I feel like, I want to say, just remember that if you have grown up with a secure attachment as a child, and now you're a teenager and you know that you're okay because your parent has never continued to, I mean, they haven't hammered you with, I can't believe you said that, right? 

I don't, you know what, that, how that impacts me, if you just be able to say and feel and be, and now you go on a date and somebody says, oh, I don't think you should do that in college. Then your radar is going to be off the charts. You're gonna think, okay. I wasn't asking you for your opinion on what I should do with my career. But if you've been judged and manipulated and not heard or seen. And so you've tried to recognize, man, how do I show up? So I don't get this person mad. And then you say, you know, I want to be a, I don't know, computer programmer. And then that person, the person that you're sitting across the table from who you don't even really know. And they say, oh boy I've heard that those computer programmers now work long hours or are they sleeping all the time? Or, you know, you have to drink four liters of Mountain Dew every day. And they rot their teeth. I don't know, whatever it would be. But then if you as a person, then go, yeah, maybe I don't want to be one. And maybe I don't want to be a computer programmer. That's insane. I want the person who wants to be the computer program or showing up on a date. And if they've grown up and their parent has said, what do you want to do? And they've already explored pirates, they've already looked at astronauts, but they kind of found a sense of purpose with computer programming. 

So then the parent may not know anything about computer programming, but that doesn't mean that then, oh, you think you're better than me or smarter than me, but it's a holy cow. This is incredible that they're already finding and enjoying something. Let me get them all the computer stuff they need. And let me now ask them questions like, hey, what are you working on? And what does that like in, How hard is that and what do you love about it? Imagine being that parent. Now that computer programmer goes out into the dating world. And if anybody says, I don't think you should do that. They're saying, I don't understand why you're telling me what you think I should do. I mean, we're just here trying to order appetizers at this point and get to know each other, not tell each other what to do. Which I think that's the big key there. Which then leads into, she says the child will not learn appropriate boundaries for relationships. The child won't learn healthy self care, but instead will be at risk of becoming codependent. Taking care of others to the exclusion of taking care of self, not wanting to rock the boat. But not wanting to then question my sense of self, because that's what it's been like to be me growing up in a home where the parent was even letting you know that they did things better than you. When they were your age, the child will have difficulty with the necessary individuation from the parent when he or she grows older.

I was talking with somebody recently and we were talking about the enmeshment that they felt as they, after they got married, where their parents still felt, they wanted to say, I don't know, you don't seem like yourself. And this person was saying, I actually feel better than I've felt before with this connection, with my new spouse. But the narcissistic parent, they were not in essence saying, okay, we have done all we can do. And we have created a secure attachment with our, with this person. And now we hand them into the world of marital relationships. This individuated person and they are now going to go now, go, go and couple and thrive and start to form a secure attachment with your spouse. And then you guys will live happily forever and we're over here. And if you need us, let's go on vacation together. No, it's hey, let's talk every, you know, a couple of times a week and let me just make it all about myself. And let me start to tell you that you don't seem like yourself. When in reality, that means that you don't understand who I am. The child will get a mix of mixed and crazy making messages of do well. Make me proud as an extension of the parent, but don't do too well and don't outshine me because then you're going to think that you're better than me. 

I hope my kids turn out better than me, please. That would be a wonderful thing. Because, you know, we want to, I hope we want to advance those generations and every generation gets better. That would be a wonderful thing. I don't need to say, I always have felt like I was better than all of my kids. That's crazy. If the child out shines the parent, then they may experience jealousy from the parent. The child is not taught to give credit to self when deserved. Yeah, one of the things that drives me crazy is this concept around it's so bad to be proud of yourself, pride is bad. No, there's a healthy ego and healthy ego changes the world. Healthy ego is based on real life experience. If you can help somebody find the real sense of self and security, and then they start to go and do and achieve and explore, they change the world. But if that person is always worried about, I don't want to make anybody mad. And yeah, maybe I don't want to do that then, they're taught to burn all these emotional calories. Just trying to figure out how to manage emotion, relationships around them and trying to figure out is it okay to be me? I waited, I don't even know who I am versus the person that has been given the secure attachment. And again, they are going out and doing, and being, and finding and discovering and loving and connecting. 

Because that will, without that the child, again, if they haven't been taught to give credit where their own credit is due or self deserved, ultimately they'll start to suffer from a level of post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, in adulthood. The child will grow up believing that he or she is unworthy and unlovable, because if my parent can't love me, then who will be that one that resonates. If you create that secure attachment and that love with your kid. And they know that they are worthy of love, then they don't, are they going to be less likely to find themselves in relationships where they're trying to prove their worth or their love, they just get to be and do. The child will often become either a high achiever or a self sabotage or are both high achievers, because I'll be darned if I'm going to, that's the only way I got my validation. So I got to go above and beyond and I got to go overboard. And then I have to even puff myself up because I want to make sure that everybody knows that I'm good. Look you'll love me now, if I'm really special, right. And this one's hard that the last one that she talks about as a child will need trauma, recovery and want to reparent themselves in adulthood. Carol then concludes her article by saying, being raised by a narcissistic parent is emotionally and psychologically abusive. And it causes debilitating long lasting effects on children. It's often missed by professionals because the narcissist or emotionally immature person can be charming in their presentation. Displaying an image of how they wish to be seen. 

Now behind closed doors, the children feel the suffocation of self and struggle with loneliness and pain. The narcissist is not accountable for their own mistakes or behaviors. So the child believes that they are to blame. That they've flunked childhood. Sad, but I appreciate the way she says that, she said having worked as a mental health provider with thousands of children, as well as the adult children of narcissistic parents. She said, I see the above symptoms over and over again. And, boy, amen to that. I agree. And this is what I love that she said, because it's, I think this says this so well, the lifestyles differ and the stories differ, but they all have the same emotional banners and it's quite a list and it takes serious recovery work to get better and feel better. So she said, if you are the other parent or part of the extended family and are trying to ward off the effects of a narcissistic parent, then you'll have to double do it. You'll have to do double duty as the responsible one. And the best approach is to parent with empathy, the antithesis of narcissism. If you are a divorced professional working with a case that involves, help the kids. By first really understanding the dynamics of the disorder, don't minimize it. Make sure the children are in therapy and learning assertiveness skills to use with the parent who does not emotionally tune into them. Put the kids first. 

And I feel like in the work that I do, it really is approached by the pathologically kind person with empathy. The, and to the system narcissism. And help that person realize that they need to understand the dynamics of the disorder. Even if it's just along the lines of emotional immaturity, don't minimize it. And, and then if I'm talking to them, hopefully they are in therapy. And they're learning these skills. Now, the place where I feel a little bit different is that learning those assertiveness skills can be okay. But sometimes that's going to be just from a place of, I need to practice being heard and seen, even if I recognize that it's not going to be the case, but it's going to start to help define what it feels like to be you. 

So this one resonated. If you, if you feel like this would help anyone in their situation, feel free to forward it. If you have additional questions for me, reach out at contact@tonyoverbay.com or get ahold of me through Instagram at, I think Tony Overbay underscore LMFT or TikToK, if that continues to be a thing, the therapy account just cracks me up because it's, so it's so funny to watch, uh, just little random, uh, uh, videos that can be a minute, two minutes, go from just a few thousand views to all of a sudden you just watch one, just kind of take off for no reason. And then you refresh every hour and it's another. I don't know, 20, 30,000 views. And it's just interesting to see what people connect with, most of the stuff does have to do with traits and tendencies around narcissism or emotional immaturity. So it's just fascinating. Okay. Have an amazing week. And I will see you next time on Waking Up to Narcissism. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dana: We were 20 years in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tony: Okay, yeah. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tony: Okay, yeah. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tony is the interviewee on Michaela Renee Johnson's "Be You Find Happy" podcast. From the show notes on Michaela's episode, "Ha, got your attention. If you're asking yourself that you're probably not, but you might be in a relationship with someone who is "less emotionally mature." It seems narcissism is on the rise but is it? More and more people are waking up to toxic relationships no doubt and leaving one of these relationships in the words of Doctor Ramani is like "hugging a porcupine, you've got to do it carefully."

In this episode, you'll get to meet Tony Overbay, a marriage and family therapist who helps couples and families who are Waking Up To Narcissism (podcast) and the Virtual Couch (podcast). You'll walk away with insights and tangible tips on how to move forward in this."

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

Quotes

#1- “When a healthy, emotionally mature person like you in this scenario is now able to do, and be, and grow, and flourish, guess who now can also give their kid a secure attachment and external validation? It's the healthy parent.” -Tony

#2- “It's really interesting to see how people think they're doing something for the kids, or they think they're doing something for the right reasons. And maybe that's the necessary reason, but there's always another option.” -Michaela

#3- “I've come to realize when people do extract themselves out of these relationships, they flourish. You're talking about that loss of sense of self, and it's after you deal with the loss of time, right? Because that's a big thing. And sense of self, that's a big thing. Then you start to see them doing amazing things that were probably hopes and dreams that they'd had for years that they didn't allow themselves space to do at all. Or, they weren't allowed space because they were threatened or you know, et cetera.”  -Michaela

#4- “It's normal to find this codependency and this enmeshment. But then when we start going through life and we start having jobs, and kids, and opportunities, and loss, and growth, now all of a sudden, of course two people are going to start to have two different experiences. And so in an emotionally mature relationship, they're going to both be able to express them and explore those emotions. That is going to be where growth will occur.” -Tony

#5- “‘What is the intention?’ It's a question that I have to ask myself frequently while migrating through various different relationships because I feel like sometimes it's this interesting juxtaposition of trying to allow myself the freedom of expression and feeling that I'm having, and not gaslighting my own emotions.” -Michaela 

#6- “I spent 12 years of my life fixing myself to fit into a mold that was never good enough. That was my story. And I allowed it. Why? And then I think, okay, in what ways do I need to ‘unself’ help, but in what ways do I need to continue to self-help to grow from this experience?” -Michaela 

#7- “I feel like we can all take ownership of ways or places that we’re emotionally immature. And that's what I love about the highly sensitive person or the empath who finds themselves in this trauma bond or this, they call it,  human magnet syndrome with a narcissist or a severely emotionally immature person. The nice person almost inevitably thinks, wait a minute, am I the narcissist? My number one rule is no. Because you literally asked yourself the question which means you're not.” -Tony

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