Tony gives a "state of the union" address on working with people struggling with turning to pornography as a coping mechanism. He then interviews Chandler Rogers, CEO of Relay, an app that helps people stay connected and accountable on their recovery journey. Relay makes it easy to connect with a shame-free support group, an essential tool helping access recovery tools. 

Chandler personally overcame a struggle with compulsive pornography use and then used his experience to give back to others by creating a group-based recovery app called Relay for people seeking freedom from unwanted sexual behavior. He built what he wished he had during his healing journey - tools to manage recovery goals, an SOS button to reach out when feeling triggered, and a system for accountability with peers, all in a private safe space.

Learn more about Relay and try a recovery group for free today: https://bit.ly/virtualcouch-relay

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

Inside ACT for Anxiety Disorder Course is Open! Visit https://praxiscet.com/virtualcouch Inside ACT for Anxiety Disorders, Dr. Michael Twohig will teach you the industry-standard treatment anxiety-treatment experts use worldwide. Through 6 modules of clear instruction and clinical demonstrations, you will learn how to create opportunities for clients to practice psychological flexibility in the presence of anxiety. 

After completing the course material, you'll have a new, highly effective anxiety treatment tool that can be used with every anxiety-related disorder, from OCD to panic disorder to generalized anxiety disorder.

And follow Tony on the Virtual Couch YouTube channel for a sneak preview of his upcoming podcast "Murder on the Couch," where True Crime meets therapy, co-hosted with his daughter Sydney. 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

Chandler Rogers Relay Transcript

Tony: Chandler Rogers, welcome to the Virtual Couch. How are you doing?

Chandler: Great. Happy to be here. Thanks, Tony.

Tony: Yeah, and Chandler and I were talking off the air. That's the official term, right? Like what the kids call it. And I, and the platform I'm using right now, which I'm not talking about openly just yet, because I had one bad experience, but other than that it's been amazing and Chandler has been a part of one experience where it didn't go so well. So, there's a part of me that is gun shy. We're gonna probably spin some gold and then the file's gonna be corrupt. 

Chandler: Let's pray for some good luck today.

Tony: There you go. Let's just go for it. So Chandler, I think it's kind of funny, the way that you and I met was through the co-founder of the company that you work with named, Jace. And then Jace, talking about the way back machine, I think is like a nephew or something. To some friends of mine from high school, and I'm a very old man. So when they reached out to me and said, hey, we want to put you in contact with our nephew, honestly, I'm so used to people saying, because he needs therapy, right? And so then I half read the message and I think that's why I didn't get back quick because you know, I thought, oh, bless his heart, I don't know if I can help, but man, once I started reading why we're talking, it's kinda exciting. So maybe, why don't you tell my listeners, why are we talking, what are you guys, what are you doing?

Chandler: Yeah, so, you know, struggling with pornography was something that was always kind of a theme for me growing up, and one of the big lessons that is key to my story is realizing that not only was I not alone, but it is so much more effective to work through this not alone, to band together with other people who are in the same boat and to find a strong support system. We can talk, you know, more about this later in the episode, but Jace and I served, you know, in the same mission together for the LDS church. We went to New York City, we were out there and actually a big part of what we spent time doing those two years was helping a lot of people overcoming various addictions. And so it resonated with me a lot with my personal story and he and I came back to school and we were both in a coding class together, and I basically pitched him on the idea, like, let's build an app. And everyone was building kind of these random things that like no one was gonna use whatever people were building. It was just a project. But I was like, hey, what if we build something that actually could be meaningful? 

And then built something actually totally not related to addiction. So we were like, maybe it would be, maybe it'd be cool to have an app that makes it easier for long distance family members. So kids that have gone off to college or moved outta the house, or even extended family, like grandparents. What if there's a platform better than other social media that was tailored towards families, helping them stay connected. And I think it was an interesting idea, but just didn't really get any, you know, traction to it, but I continued to think about some of the pain points and things that I had experienced and talked to a lot of friends who had experienced with overcoming pornography and continued to come back to a few themes. And we just realized we wanted to try to help make a difference, particularly in making it easier for people to find a good support system. That's what we ended up doing. 

Tony: How long does it take to, this is kind of cool, how long did it take to build?

Chandler: Yeah. So we were total noobs at the beginning. We had no idea what we were doing. We were not like these engineering wizards going into this. Okay, I won't say we're engineering wizards now, you know, hopefully the users on the app don't know that, but no, it probably took us six months to get the first version out there, so it wasn't terribly long. But we learned a ton along the way. Tons of fun from a learning perspective, but meaningful at the same time because we were trying to actually get something that worked and actually worked really well into people's hands. 

Tony: So was this the classic, this was the project that you were doing for school and then you end up getting a bad grade, but go on to make millions of dollars? I mean, are you starting with that? 

Chandler: Well, the end of the story still has yet to be written. So millions of dollars, definitely not, you know, haven't paid ourselves anything from it yet, but, it quickly transitioned from just a project to, we were graduating and we had other job offers, like Jace was gonna go to Apple and do much cooler things there, probably. But, you know, we had started to actually see some really good signs of traction. And we had launched the app like six months before we graduated, and I think we had five or 600 paying users on the product that were interacting in these small, tight-knit teams. And they were getting, you know, results.Like we weren't necessarily, you know, nailing every aspect of it. And the way we look at it is like, we wanna continue to improve this thing for years, so it's not done, but we were really excited about what we were seeing so far, and we realized that we care a lot about helping people more than going and, you know, working for big tech companies. And so we decided this is what we wanna do. And so we didn't show up to our other jobs and instead we're doing this now full-time. 

Tony: Okay. And so then the, and it's funny, full transparency, I didn't read the material initially and then I had a client where he was looking for something from an accountability standpoint, and then I was trying to sound really cool and I said, oh, I think I've got like a really cool, brand new thing that nobody knows about. And then I, and then when I started reading about it, then I really did feel like I could see how interesting or important this could be in the world of addiction, because the connection is so important. And I feel like I've facilitated 12 step groups forever. You know, I've worked with, I don't know, I think 1500 plus individuals trying to overcome pornography or other unhealthy coping mechanisms. And I feel like there's that part where the one-on-one concept of an accountability partner sounds great, but then I find that, man, it's one of those things where it sounds good until it doesn't, until they can't get ahold of somebody until they feel like the person's gonna, you know, they're just checking a box until they feel like they're bothering somebody. Or, I mean, so is that kind of some of the things that you guys ran into? Or why you created it?

Chandler: I remember from my story growing up, like I, you know, for many years thought, you know, let's try to do this on my own. Right? And so this is even a step before what you're talking about and quickly realize, I think that it just, A, sucks to try to get through this alone, it's really miserable. And then B, I just realized that it wasn't very effective. Like they, there's a, I think things about trying to work through a personal challenge like this and, and even other, you know, challenges not pornography, I think human beings I don't believe are designed to just navigate these personal trials alone.I think even like between us and God, like from a faith perspective, I think God wants us to leverage each other and work together. We're placed on this world together for a reason, I believe, but yeah, I think, you know, when I started adding just my bishop, my church leader as my one accountability person, just my therapist at another point in time, or just my wife, you know, in our marriage. None of those setups worked very well, and all of them actually were really tough for me personally because I had an existing relationship with them. So for me, the shame factor was magnified. Because I was like, yeah, it was, it was either kind of checking the box or there was a little bit of extra barrier to be honest, just because I hated letting them down and I felt like I was letting myself down when I let them down. 

Because I think what I struggle with internally really with this challenge growing up was like, from the outside, people saw Chandler Rogers as this kid who was like doing well in a lot of things and did well at school and sports and like, and career stuff, right? And, at least I thought like no one would know the side of me and think that I'm the same person. So I struggle with this concept of self-worth, but I think a lot of people can struggle with this and still be a good person, still be a good follower of God, husband, like whatever it is, career professional. And, I think I had this light bulb moment as I realized I needed to expand my support system. Like at the same time I realized that it's not how many days in a row that I haven't looked at pornography that defines how solid of a person I am. We're all struggling with really difficult things and it's okay to be working through compulsive behavior and it's okay to need a wider support system to help them through it.

Tony: So tell me about how, I mean, I really am curious, I was joking with you beforehand of okay, I really wanna hear your story, I won't get into the nitty gritty of the product, but I really like this a lot because I do feel like, I always talk about, you know, you got your trigger. And with porn, I think it's more, it's typically, I call it crimes of opportunity. Somebody's bored or they just can, and so then, you know, you have the thought I could do this, and then the action, and I always say it's putting distance between thought and action. So I feel like that's where this could really come in handy of just to try to make a connection period that it isn't, hey, I'm struggling or, so what does it look like? What do you do? What's your group look like? How do you reach out to people within the app?

Chandler: Yeah, totally. So when I come into the app, the first thing that it will help me do is get matched with four to eight other people that are in the same boat as me working through the same thing in a way that's not scary and awkward. So it's not me having to go to my roommates or my buddies from work and having to open up. But these are people who are actively working towards the same goal. So I go through a little questionnaire and it helps first, find a team for me. Or if I'm already with an existing group, we have a lot of people in the app that are meeting, you know, Wednesday nights and they're using the app with their existing group because they realize, and this was my experience with the 12 step group or other programs that our group based the other six days of the week, we largely did not leverage that group and it was super dumb on us.

Tony: No, I think, and I think this would be amazing because the group, I do have my Path Back men's group is just growing and I feel like we all dig each other so much, but then people talk about, they look forward to yeah, the one hour on Wednesday and then there's this just, exactly.

Chandler: Yeah. It's like unsurprisingly, you know, WhatsApp and GroupMe weren't built to help recovery groups stay connected and accountable in an effective way. You know, they're good chat, you know, messaging platforms, but so, so this theme of like, what, what really is, it's more than a group chat. There is the group chat component, but once I'm in the group, we actually, on the connection component, we try to help make it easier for you to stay connected with your, whether it's like more than just that Wednesday night group or if it's a group that you're, you know, not meeting with live, we just help facilitate connections. So for example, we have some guided conversation prompts that will get auto generated or, or we'll help people select meaningful conversation prompts that we've worked with other clinicians to help, you know, generate different ways in which we can help people go deeper and form connection that's not just based around guys talking about how are you doing with porn today, but actually like what we were talking about, like, more substance than that. And also focusing on, you know, higher up the chain, I think on what's helpful. 

But then what's really helpful, I think a lot of people have found about the app is this red flag feature. So a lot of people, I remember we'd come to group and we'd be like, hey, I had a setback or relapse this week. The guys are like, why didn't you reach out in the group chat? And I'm like, I have no idea. And so we tested this out early on and we didn't actually think this would be the thing people loved about the app, but it's really simple. It's literally just this button that's a flag that you press with one tap instead of having to type out a message and say, hey, I'm not doing well, or I'm feeling tempted right now. It can send a notification and it just lets the group, it doesn't even have to be like that you're tempted right now, we're trying to help train the emotional awareness piece like you were talking about, like I'm feeling bored. And I'm feeling stressed or anxious or whatever it is. That'd be a red flag. And then what's really cool is people want to respond to the red flags. So people I think are just as excited about how do I give support through Relay and not just get support. And I think that's helped a lot of people too, as we're trying to reduce the friction so that, you know, I can turn outwards a little easier than having to, you know, go through my phone and text people and ask how they're doing. There's a little bit more visibility in the app there. And so there are kind of like these daily check-ins too that I can schedule and customize that are more emotional oriented to help me understand that I am feeling bored in the first place so that I can raise the red flag and even if I don't raise that red flag, we have kind of some transparency and we're still maintaining user privacy and making it so it is, it is your personal journey, but for example, let's say, Tony, that I log this morning that I'm feeling stressed or tired cause I didn't get good sleep and you're in my group, you could actually come in and see, even if I didn't throw that red flag, that I was feeling stressed and tired and you could reach out to me and be there for me.

Tony: So could you even say, hey, what's the, what's up with the sleep? I mean, is it literally like, you can see, it looks like Chandler slept three and a half hours? 

Chandler: Not that level of detail. Just like it's kinda logging, I'm feeling tired, I'm feeling bored. And usually, that's sparking conversations like, hey man, you've been putting that you've been feeling bored every day for the last few days you know, do you, do you have anything meaningful going on with work right now? Getting engaged in these different areas of your life. It's helping draw that awareness for people. The other component, kind of on the flip side of the coin is maybe you already have some things that you are trying to work on. So I am trying to spend, you know, time journaling every day to help me, you know, be more aware or I'm trying to exercise to be engaged in that area, my physical health, users can track that in the app. It's not just logging your sobriety with pornography, it's tracking those types of things. And then we're helping also surface that as a group so they can hold each other accountable on those types of things. And I can say, hey man, like how's your exercise going? I know you've been wanting to get more engaged in that area. 

Tony: So okay, I'm thinking through this from the therapist lens of, we need, you know, I tell people all the time, all right, we need to go from not needing external validation to validating yourself internally, but then the reality is we still want, we sometimes want the attaboys, the kudos, and I feel like this is the challenge when somebody's accountability partner is their spouse or their bishop or somebody like that of where, I don't know it, sometimes it can almost seem pretty clingy or needy to then say, hey, I'm, you know, I'm exercising, you know, and I know that if the spouse is having a struggle or if they feel like if I don't give him praise and then he acts out, then he's gonna turn it on me, or, so I like this concept of we got a group of people and maybe it's a little easier to say to a group of guys, hey, I need some, I need some attaboys today. Because I feel like if you got a bunch of guys that want the words of affirmation as a way to connect that they're probably more willing to give it in other than a spouse that's saying, okay, if I don't respond or I respond the wrong way, for some reason, you know, maybe in the past it's been turned around and put on that spouse because you know, I think I see that all as a therapist.

Chandler: It can be super hard. I think, you know, tons of therapists that I've talked to have all sorts of thoughts about why the spouse is kind of the primary accountability is hard for both people. And so I think spouses actually have loved Relay, maybe even more than the dudes themselves, because they're like, okay, because I remember my wife asking me early on, she was like, so you've been open and like went to groups and stuff. She's like, you have all these people in your phone as contacts that you could be working more proactively with staying accountable to just connecting with more. But it sounds like I'm like your only accountability partner. Like I was being open with her, you know, what she wanted. And we talked about what was gonna work for us, but she kind of nudged me and she was like, why are you not like, I need it to not just be me essentially. And I think that's been really helpful for a lot of spouses.

Tony: It's funny too, part of when I started my group and no, I mean, 12 step groups work for so many people. They've been around for such a long time. But the part with the no crosstalk, and I understand that that's protecting people from the, you know, the grizzled sea captain in the corner that's saying, you don't get a kid, you know, or that kind of thing. But I feel like I kind of want some crosstalk from time to time with people. What's working for you? What's not working for you? And I even feel like in my, in my men's group, I've got some stuff I want to share. We've got some questions or prompts. And so I even feel like at times there's not enough of that, tell me about a victory or tell me what's working for you. So I'd imagine this would probably give a way to facilitate more of that too. 

Chandler: Yeah. Maybe we're a little rebellious, it is more of the latter and not kind of the traditional avoiding crosstalk. But I mean, those are things that for me personally and as I've talked to tons of other guys, I think they feel kind of energized having that. And I don't think it's absolutely, it's not a silver bullet, right? Like it's not, you know, it's not something someone's gonna say as a brilliant idea of what's working for them. That's probably gonna change the game for me, but I think having that environment can be really helpful. 

Tony: No, I like what you're saying because I do, one of my go-to lines is when somebody comes in and they've worked with other people in the past and I will often just say, hey, are you expecting that I've got some magic pill or secret phrase that once you learn and this thing's gonna be easier. And I've been talking a lot lately too, Chandler, about, I feel like it's, I've been calling it an individualized customized treatment program for each individual because I feel like my path back program is gold and if people adhere to it, then it's gonna change their whole life. But, I know that everybody's got their own stuff they bring to the table. And so anyway, I'm now, I feel like I'm now singing your praises, I just like that idea of a connection with a small group or even a larger group of people. I like the idea of hitting a red flag instead of even saying I'm struggling. And then I like the idea that you can have a variety of ways to respond because I like, and so I'll have clients from time to time. I'll say, you can text me, I might end up just sending you a meme or something. And I dunno, so can you guys do that within the app? 

Chandler: That’s been one of our most requested features, Tony. I didn't realize that the memes were gonna be a huge part of it, but they were like, hey, we need to send these gifs, however you pronounce it, right? We're working on that right now actually.

Tony: Okay, so then do you guys have, and not that you have to have data or results or it shows that it helps you know this much more, or do you have that kind of data behind this as well? 

Chandler: One of the things that we've actually been tracking that we are interested in is people's perception of how they feel like things are trending because we can't see and they're logging, you know, if they are logging it, there's sobriety data, right? Like how are the results going from an outcome perspective? And then we can see, which I think is even a little more interesting, how are people doing at those input type goals and systems and habits? Like I'm tracking my exercise, my sleep, my journal, spiritual habits, whatever it is, but we're asking people in a weekly reflection how they feel about the level of connection with their group because really one of the main outcomes we want is to help people feel more connected. And then we're asking them how they feel, do they feel like things are getting better, staying the same or getting worse? And 79% of our users report feeling like things are getting better within the first month of using the app. So that's kinda the main, you know, data we've found so far. And it's still early. Like we launched this thing a year ago but we're really excited and one of the things that I believe in to keep improving the results there is I want our users to talk to me. And so I make my phone number and my email very available because I just want to understand what people find really effective in the app and what they wish was different. And that's how people are like, yeah, I wanna send memes. And we're like, okay, we can go add that. 

Tony: I noticed on the website too, Johann Hari, I dig, yeah, that, so that Ted talk, I mean the connection's the opposite of addiction. So is that a lot of what this, the whole concept is based off of? 

Chandler: Yeah. And it, I would say too, like that that talk was one of the things that really connected the dots for me. And he really just talks about a few studies that they'd done. Even with substance abuse, so not just pornography addiction, they found that connection.

Tony: The rat amusement park, isn't it? Do you know that one off the top of your head, Chandler? I was just telling this in one of the groups. 

Chandler: I’ll try to summarize this so I may butcher it. 

Tony: I literally just had somebody text it to me a couple days ago, so no, let's talk about this before we wrap up.

Chandler: So I believe what happened, they had these rats in a cage, right? And I can't remember what the substance was. It was essentially they laced the water with…

Tony: They said it was cocaine, I believe it was. Is that what it was? 

Chandler: Yeah, that sounds right. So they laced the water with cocaine and of course, essentially they found the rats wanted the cocaine water but the thing was that these rats were alone. They were individually contained like in their own cages. And then they set up the second test essentially with the rats together. So they had companionship, they had other rats with them. And what they found is actually that they stopped choosing the cocaine water and then said they essentially were choosing socialization and connection. And they reviewed the study multiple times and concluded there was something about connection that helped. I don't know if it is, you know, scientifically rewiring or just helping the healing process of overcoming compulsive behavior, and so that, you know, whether or not that's kind of a, I don't know, like a really clear cut principle or how that actually applies or what exactly that means for it to work. I don't know. But generally I think about the principle connection, helping and actually being central to the healing process. Not just trying to figure out, how do I stop a behavior? How do I get more meaningfully connected in my life and in my relationships and I think even connected with the things that I'm doing in a good way. Like you were talking about, whether it's my work or my family or other things.

Tony: Well, I was gonna say before, and that was before we jumped on, I told Chandler, and I think most of the people that listen to my podcast, if I tell them I don't do enough, I don't talk enough about this, but, yeah, I say that turning to porn is a coping mechanism when you don't feel connected in your marriage or your parenting, your health, your faith or your career in a nutshell. And I pulled up this study and I do, I love it. He says, Rat Park. They don't drink the drugged water. It was everything the rat could want food and other rats to befriend and colored things, shiny things. And then both water bottles are there, one with water and one with the drugged water, and they don't drink the drugged water.They hardly used it. None of them overdosed and so he talked about how addiction is largely an adaptation to your environment. And so I just, I think that's so fascinating because I often say even when people accept the fact that they can maybe drink the water or they can turn to porn, they would rather make a connection or do something that is of value because then they feel a greater sense of purpose. I like that a lot. Okay. So where do people find you? Where do we go? 

Chandler: It's join relay.app.

Tony: Join relay.app. So, okay. Chandler, anything else that you want to share? I mean, I just, first of all, can I ask you, can you tell if you or Jace are the better coder? I mean, is that, is that a thing?

Chandler: Well, I'll give that title to Jace for sure. He has a lot more of it these days than I do. I've, you know, I stepped away from doing that a ton. Jace is great.

Tony: I was gonna say real quick, I just remembered, any on the streets of New York stories? I mean, did you guys have to get scrappy or throw it down at all, or did you get really good at, I dunno, what'd you see there?

Chandler: Man. I love New York. We didn't see too many sketchy things. I don't have that many funny stories. Some kind of wild things that just, you'd expect to see, you know, people peeing in random places and stuff like that. But Jace and I, I remember, we had a really fun day together out in the Hamptons, like the end of Long Island. So it's not probably what you're thinking of with like the city. We did both spend some time there, but yeah, I remember even when I met Jace that like, I don't know, we just clicked really well together and we were both just really passionate about trying to help the people out there, and I think we, we were both Spanish speaking, and so we saw a lot of people who were very isolated. So it again ties back to this theme of connection. We're trying to work through all sorts of personal challenges and just like realized how important, I guess that theme was as we were out there in New York together. So, no, no crazy stories. I kind of wanted more, I remember leaving being like, I hope, like I get shot at, but I live like that would be cool.

Tony: And do you miss any of the food?  

Chandler: Yeah. I was telling my wife I'd love to move back there for the food.

Tony: What do you miss in particular? What was your favorite food? 

Chandler: I mean, the Dominican food is really good. Just all, all of that, all of their types of food is really good. I also love Pupusa from El Salvador. It's hard to describe. They're like these little tortillas, filled with beans and meat and cheese, but it's a little thicker, like, okay. Anyways, it's super good. You're in California, right? You should go, they definitely have them there.

Tony: Oh, I'm sure they do. Okay. No, that sounds good, alright, Chandler Rogers, thank you for coming on the Virtual Couch, I look forward to seeing you maybe in the app and we can share a meme or two. 

Chandler: For sure. Let's do it. Thanks, Tony. 

Tony: Okay. All right. Thanks Chandler. 

The science is solid; gratitude makes you poop! We often hear that we need to be more grateful to truly be happy. Is gratitude simply born of pop-psychology psychobabble, or is it actually an evidence-based way to improve our lives? Tony flushes out the details on how being more intentional about gratitude can improve your mental and physical health and can lead to less time in the bathroom. Tony also shares the story of why he still holds one of the top running times from Sycamore Street to the Covell loop in Davis, CA (yes, it too has to do with pooping).

Tony references the article “The Science of Gratitude: How Thankfulness Impacts Our Brains and Business” by Kevin Kruse https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2021/11/22/the-science-of-gratitude-how-thankfulness-impacts-our-brains-and-business/?sh=75faa7e720cc as well as “The Science of Gratitude” by Misty Pratt https://www.mindful.org/the-science-of-gratitude/

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 visitinghttp://pathbackrecovery.com And visithttp://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 herehttps://descript.com?lmref=bSWcEQ

How do you know what you don’t know? Tony shares an example of what it feels like to speak to a group of people when you seek validation versus speaking because you care deeply about the topic you are presenting. Often we hear people talk about being authentic, but what does that look like in real life, and what additional benefits come when you live and operate from a place of authenticity? Tony also discusses what it means to stand in your “healthy ego” vs. “pathological defensive narcissism,” and finally, he discusses Marshall Rosenberg’s book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life from a summary by Pamela Hobart https://fourminutebooks.com/nonviolent-communication-summary/

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.

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Hey, everybody. Welcome to episode 345 of “The Virtual Couch”. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist. Certified mindful habit coach, writer, speaker, husband, father of four, and creator The Path Back, an online pornography recovery program that is helping people reclaim their lives from turning to the unhealthy coping mechanisms of pornography, go to pathbackrecovery.com and the rest you'll find out all the information you need there. It's an incredible program and I'm very excited about that. 

And the “Magnetic Marriage” paid subscription podcast that is going to cost less than less than even a half of one session with me. And you're going to get access to a year's worth of these coaching calls. It is going to launch in the first week of December. So please go to tonyoverbay.com and go to my contact page. And reach out and say, I want to know when this launches or better yet sign up for my newsletter, go to tonyoverbay.com and just find the little place there that says “sign up” because it is good. It is really good. We're going to try to get some samples out soon. So you'll get a feel for what that is going to sound like, but I have a lot of episodes recorded and even a couple of second episodes with people, follow up episodes, and it's phenomenal. It really is phenomenal. And I really cannot wait until you get to see what it looks like to be couples therapy or couples coached.

So sign up and find out about that right now. Let's start. Story time. So I have changed some of the finer details and timeframes to protect the innocent and that alone sounds very dramatic because I simply want to tell a story that will show probably more of my own emotional immaturity, as much as anything else. And this starts with a speaking opportunity I had with a group of youth just this past Sunday.

And, okay, so quick side note. If you are listening to this episode the first week of November in real time, I think I'm recording this on November 1st and you happen to be single and over 30 and live in the Phoenix or Gilbert or Queen Creek area of Arizona. I'm going to be speaking this Sunday, November 6th at the Casa Grande's state center in Casa Grande, Arizona, and the topic of my talk is nothing less than the secrets of life. Now I joke, but honestly, I feel like I'm putting together a big old package of what we really didn't know that we didn't know about life and relationships and how we show up. And that is going to include bonus content of what to do with that information, once you have the information of what you didn't know that you didn't know, and then how to slowly but surely change your inner landscape or what it truly feels like to be you.

So if you're in the area, it is free and I would love for you to stick around and say, hi afterward. All right. So this gig, this past weekend, I did not know the youth. I had not presented at this particular church congregation. And typically I'm asked to speak and standing in my healthy ego, we're going to talk about that a little bit more and a bit, I'm almost exclusively asked to speak these days by people who listen to the podcast or who've taken a course of mine or who have read my book. So a couple of weeks ago, a fellow therapist said that this particular congregation was looking for a speaker. And they couldn't do it. So they asked if I could step in and my family was for the most part, all out of town. So I said, no problem. I would love to. So I was contacted by somebody in leadership for this congregation and the person was incredibly nice. And they asked me if I could give them a call.

So they could see if I would be a good fit. Now, emotionally immature response. I am taking ownership of this. Emotionally immature. Response number oh, uh, wondering if I'm a great fit, we'll I am a great fit. All right. And I will send you, let me individually send you 450 links to podcast episodes and interviews. And did I mention that we are talking in an airport right now as I wait to board my plane back home from speaking to an entire state full of marriage and family therapists.

But yeah, let's jump on the horn and see if I have what you're looking for. And I thought, oh my goodness. Okay. That was incredibly emotionally immature. Thank goodness I did not say those things, but I thought, where did that come from? And it was my ego, that is on me. If this guy does not know me, then he does not know me. How dare he ask me if I'm a good fit to talk to, the future people of the world, the youth who attend his congregation. Oh, the horror. Instead I texted back and I said, yeah, no problem. And we ended up talking in that airport that day and he was incredibly nice and caring and we had a really good chat and he had asked if I had any examples of some of the talks I've done with youth. And I literally the week before, just on a digital virtual fireside talk to an amazing group of youth in Ririe, Idaho of all places. And I had the video to prove it. So I uploaded it to my YouTube channel. And I sent him the link and thought, okay, we're done with it. He'll see that. And he'll say, okay, this guy's fine. But he texted a few days before the event and then asked if we could go over the content.

So here's where things get interesting. And what is really framed where we're going to go today. I still wanted to essentially tell him to Google me. Which is, how immature is that?  So I noticed that thought and I did not express it. But he said that he would love for me to address the dangers of social media and how the youth need to curb the need for social media and that they're on their phones too much and could I make sure and let them know that, in not so many words.

And while I absolutely can see where he's coming from. And I agree with the message he is sharing with me. And the father in me thinks those things often, but that's not the message that I personally can deliver authentically. The, hey, how about you get off your phones and go outside? And because while I'm at it, I might as well tell them that it would be easier if they did what I asked them to do with their chores for the first time. And if they could not take food into their rooms for the thousandth time, and maybe I can even throw a bit of, hey and all your online friends aren't actually your age. They are men in their sixties in Velour sweatsuits, trying to lure you into their layer via two years of daily interactions playing call of duty with you.

But every, I feel like most, every youth under the age of 20 or 25 has grown up with an incredibly steady diet of being reminded that us older folks played outside and we didn't have phones. And I really don't know if I've ever met somebody under that age who has heard someone like me tell them that, and then have them say, man, you know what, tell me more about that old man, you know, I think I'm going to get rid of my phone. And I think I'm going to try to call my friends on a rotary phone. But what I can do is talk about how the brain is a don't get killed device. It is a comparison making machine. And how the need to fit in is so hardwired into us as a survival mechanism. So comparisons are natural.

But when we don't feel good about ourselves, we naturally want others to validate us. We want external validation. And we think that will happen through posts and likes. And I can ask the youth how they feel when they check their number of likes or posts. But if I'm being asked to tell kids to get off their phones, then oh, no, I won't be saying that.

But an interesting thing occurred. We traded some messages and I made myself available. He ended up having to go out of town and we didn't even have that conversation. But what that caused me to reflect on was, again, another experience just, it was a few years ago and I have been speaking to groups and youth groups and adults and training for literally about 25 years before I was a therapist. I spoke in the computer industry. And then before that I wrote a humor column in a newspaper. And so I would find myself in situations where I would speak often. And I thought about this and it was really fascinating to me.

That I would often say, okay, well, what would you like for me to say? What would you like for me to say to your crowd, your audience, your people. And I would be told what to say, and then I would do my best to say it. Now I am oversimplifying this, but I think you'll get the point because I would say what they wanted me to say. In essence, I was just the vessel, the delivery vessel.

And then I would want validation. I would say things like, oh, I hope that's what you wanted me to say. Or I hope that things came out the way you were hoping for. I hope that was okay. Did I do good? Or then I would find myself saying, man, not many of the people came up to me afterward and told me I did a good job. And then the ones that did say you did a good job. Well, what else were they supposed to say? They had to say that.

So there was no winning there because I was just repeating words that I wanted people to validate. And then if they validated me, I thought, well, of course they have to say that. And if they didn't validate me, I got to say, man, I must not have done well. And they must be really disappointed with me.

So, because at the core of that entire situation, is the fact that I was not speaking from a place of authenticity. From a place of real, like a passion or a connection. I was being told what to do and what to say by somebody else. Now, again, I'm not saying that that is one of the number one problems in society. No, I feel like that's what we do.

We do that until we don't do that, especially if we're in jobs that we don't necessarily feel connected to, or we don't feel confident in our marriages, we don't feel like we have tools or the opportunity to really speak what matters to us. Or it might be our church where we feel like, okay, if I express my opinion, that I'm going to be banned from the group. I'm going to be kicked out of the tribe. So if we're struggling with our faith or with any of these things, are we still just placing our happiness so often in the hands of others? Saying, well, what do you think about me or what I'm doing or what I just said? 

And if the other person invalidates us, then over time, what it feels like to be us is we don't express ourselves, because we feel like I can't even believe I'm thinking that, nobody else is talking about this, or when people do talk about the things that I probably want to talk about, then other people say bad things about them. So when we're still coming from this place of just desperately needing that external validation, we are not going to feel connected or happy or authentic, or any of those things.

But when you're coming from a place of authenticity, when you are talking about the things that you know and that you care about, and you don't have to be an expert, but it's things that you care about. It's the things that line up with your values. It's the things that you've always been interested in because they are the things that you are interested in. And you are the only version of you that has ever walked the face of the earth. Your thoughts, your feelings, your emotions, all those things, are absolutely valid because they're your thoughts and feelings and emotions. So, when you are really living from this place of authenticity, or in alignment with all the things that matter, you are far less likely to be swayed by or to feel bad about other people's opinions. 

I still have people say, oh, hey, I think something different. But when you're coming from a place of authenticity, really feeling like you're living your best life, then the answer to somebody saying I disagree is, oh, thank you. Tell me more about that. Not, oh yeah. Well, you don't know what you're talking about.

Earlier I had stated that I was going to stand in my healthy ego, so I really do. I jotted down a few notes. I think I want to go back and take a second and explain. Because I really feel like this concept cannot be shared enough. I say it so often that I assume that people know what I'm talking about, but here's what I mean when I'm talking about a healthy ego. So in the article, the truth about narcissistic personality disorder, we didn't know we were going down the narcissist path today, did we?

But in the article, “The Truth About Narcissistic Personality Disorder'' by Eleanor Greenberg from Psychology Today, she is addressing the question that I have been asked on several occasions and it's somewhere around the concept that a four time leading Virtual Couch guest, Jennifer Finlayson-Fife shared with me on one of her appearances where we were talking about narcissism and she said, “Well, you know, we're all a little bit narcissistic though. Aren't we?” And I remember at first I thought. She called me a narcissist. But are we? But I know, I know where she's coming from when she first shared that, I thought that that was pretty interesting. Then I went on my “Waking Up to Narcissism” podcast, I think it was 8, 9, 10 episodes in, to record an episode called Am I the Narcissist?

Where I shared, first of all, that, if you're asking yourself that, the answer is no. But I shared that the actual narcissistic personality disorder really only applies to somewhere around 2 to 3% of the population. But when we're talking about emotional immaturity, well, I think that we are all emotionally immature until we, I don't know until we become more emotionally mature and it's a process.

You are not aware of the things that you're unaware of. How often are we just wanting to control someone to manage our own anxiety? Or we want to feel like we are special, so that people need to do the things that we ask them to do. So, again, that's all coming from a place of emotional immaturity.

And the growth process from that takes awareness and takes being aware that that's even a thing. Am I being emotionally immature? Then it takes introspection. It takes self confrontation. And it takes being able and willing to self-sooth. Not to rely on others to manage your ego or manage your anxiety.

Or to continually validate you. So at the heart of a simple phrase, like, well, you know what I want you to do? As the assumption that you know, better than I do. And that I would do incredibly well to listen to you, to abide by what you are telling me to do all the while without the person first coming from a place of curiosity. First checking in and asking me about what my experience is. So in the earlier example, rather than starting with, hey, what are your thoughts about social media and what direction would you go with this topic? It was presented as, hey, here's what I need you to say.

And speaking to aren't, we all, a little narcissistic, Eleanor Greenberg shares the concepts of healthy and unhealthy narcissism. And because narcissism is an incredibly charged word, I made the decision in that episode, and have done so since, of replacing the word narcissism with the word ego. When talking about the healthy version.

So in this article, “The Truth About Narcissistic Personality Disorder”, Eleanor says “normal versus pathological narcissism”. She says, “unfortunately, in the English language, the word narcissism has come to mean two entirely different things. Depending on whether it's being used formally as a diagnosis, as in narcissistic personality disorder.

Or informally as a synonym for positive self regard”. So often, do we hear it used as a synonym for positive self regard?  I don't even know if that would be possible in this day and age with the way that the word narcissism is thrown around. And that is coming from a person who hosts a podcast, literally called waking up to narcissism.

So she said, “I am often asked, isn't a little bit of narcissism healthy and normal?” And so Eleanor says, “I would like to clarify that distinction.” So normal, healthy narcissism, and I am now taking ownership of Eleanor's words. They're wonderful. What you're about to hear, but I'm going to say normal, healthy ego.

So she says, “this is a realistic sense of positive self regard that is based on the person's actual accomplishments. It is relatively stable because the person has assimilated into their self image. The successes that came as a result of their actual hard work to overcome real life obstacles. Because it is based on real achievements, normal, healthy ego is relatively impervious to the minor slights and setbacks that we all experience as we go through life. Normal ego causes us to care about ourselves. Do things that are in our real self-interest and is associated with genuine self-respect. One can think of it as something that is inside of us.”

When you find those things that make you tick, those things that you are passionate about, now you can start to step into that healthy ego because it is going to be relatively stable because. This is because it's been assimilated into your self image by the successes that came as a result of your actual hard work.

So the more that I learn about mental health, the more that I talk about helping somebody navigate a faith journey, using the stages of faith. The more I use my four pillars to connect a couple and help them be able to communicate like they've never communicated before. And the more that I learn as the brain is a don't get killed device. And the reason that anxiety is there and how we all fear this abandonment, we have these attachment issues and these things that I just feel such a passion about. Then I'm going to stand in my healthy ego and I'm going to answer questions based on the things that I know, because I have gathered those things as a result of my actual hard work to overcome real life obstacles. Because those things are based on real achievements, my normal, healthy ego is relatively, not completely impervious, but relatively impervious to the slights and setbacks that we all experience as we go through life.

So, a normal healthy ego causes us to care about ourselves and do things that are in our real self-interest. Not being self-centered, but in our real self-interest and is associated with self-respect. So one can think of it as something that is inside of us. So when I say that I am standing in a place of my healthy ego, it is that  I'm about to communicate something that I feel confident about and that I feel passionate about.

Now I have come to learn the things that I have learned from things that I did not know. So one of the most amazing things I feel like when you really find you are working in a place of alignment with the things that matter to you is of course you don't have the full story. Of course you don't know everything that you don't know. So that gets exciting. So here's what I know now.

And I'm going to continue to explore. When I go back two or three years ago, I wasn't talking about differentiation. I was talking about my four pillars. But I wasn't talking about differentiation. I didn't have my big abandonment and attachment speech all down. I didn't really understand the concepts of external validation and boy coming up over the next two, three months, I've been learning more about just being able to hold this frame, this presence, to an unhealthy radiance. And I'll talk more about that in the coming episodes. But so that is a normal, healthy ego. Now let's talk about what Eleanor says is pathological defensive narcissism. So maybe we could call it, I've never actually done this, but pathological defensive ego, because again, the narcissism word is so triggering.

But she says, this is a defense against feelings of inferiority. This is why when you see somebody that is just throwing a fit, an adult tantrum, or they need control over everybody around them. That is a defense against feelings of inferiority. The person dawns a mask of arrogant superiority in an attempt to convince the world that he or she is special. Inside, the person feels very insecure about their actual self-worth.

And this facade of superiority is so thin that it's like a helium balloon. One small pinprick will deflate it. So this makes that person hyper sensitive to minor slights that somebody with a healthy ego would not even notice. Instead, somebody with this type of defensive ego or defensive narcissism is easily wounded.

I think the kids call it butt-hurt these days. Or probably a decade ago. But they frequently take any form of disagreement as a serious criticism. And then they are likely to lash out and devalue anybody who they think is disagreeing with them. They're constantly on guard trying to protect their status. So pathological narcissism or pathological defensive ego can be thought of as a protective armor that is on the outside of us.

Protecting people from really seeing inside and seeing who we are. When I was living my life in that computer industry, I absolutely was working out of a defensive, pathological, ego where I needed people to think that I was special because I felt so insecure. Because I was in this job that I did not feel a connection with. Yet, I was on the hook to provide a living for my family. And at that point it was my ever-growing family and trying to buy a house and living in California and my wife wanting to be a stay-at-home mom.

So I needed people to think that I was something special because my fear was that if they saw inside of me, then everything would crumble. Everything would fall apart. And then I would be a failure. But little did I know that I didn't even understand what a healthy ego could look like when one truly finds the things that matter to them.

And you find the things that matter to you, because again, you're the only version of you. So things are going to matter to you that may not matter to other people. So, why do I bring that up? Let me talk a little bit more about my days working in the computer software industry.

So I was in that industry for over 10 years and I did okay. I mean as a career, financially, that sort of thing. I spoke at conferences. I gave a lot of presentations. I spoke in Europe and Japan and Russia and China. And many places where I talked about the technology that we were selling. But honestly, I didn't know what I didn't know about speaking from a place of authenticity. So I learned about my product. We did device drivers. And if you're not familiar with device drivers, they are not exciting at all. So I had to be excited to talk about code that helped move data. Data on CD's, data across hard drives. And then we branched out a bit from there, but I was basically memorizing our feature set.

I was learning the selling points. And then if I was asked detailed questions, I would have a programmer with me, and then he would either baffle the crowd with insanely low level programming talk or worst case, we would just say that we couldn't answer that question because that would be sharing proprietary information.

So in essence, we had an out. So I was absolutely operating from a place by definition of pathological defensive narcissism or defensive ego.  I wanted people to think that I knew what I was talking about. And I absolutely was insecure about people thinking that I didn't know what I was talking about, which is so fascinating now, as I speak from the heart, I share what I'm passionate about, which gets me less in the mindset of, well, what do you think about what I said or how did I do? And you can see how it's borderline me sounding like a jerk is I think one of the biggest worries when you start acting in alignment with your values or your true sense of self. Or you find these passions. That then you, when you speak confidently, there's always that fear of, oh, am I being prideful? But if you are letting your light so shine, so that others around you will be lifted, then I feel like that is truly stepping into who you really are as a person. And maybe what your purpose is here upon the earth to, to spread light and knowledge, the things that you know, and truly understand, and not from a place of, so that people will like me, but from a place of, oh my gosh, this I am so grateful to know the things that I know, and I want to share those things. And then if people have a different opinion, then I can say, tell me more about that. We're differentiated. I want to hear more because obviously I don't know what I don't know. And what a chance to grow, but if I'm coming from a place of pathological defensive ego or defensive narcissism, then I'm going to lash back out and try to attack you about the things that you don't know, what you're talking about.

Because I'm so afraid that you will see through me and see that I'm not being my authentic self.

So again, this little side note here is that I didn't even realize again, that when you find your passion or when you find things you're truly interested in, you are more curious about those things. So then you live in a way where you read more about the things you care about. You talk more about them, you find yourself around more people who also care about those things that you care about.

And here then is the interesting bonus. Just standing in your healthy ego. That as you lean into the things that you actually do care about, the things that matter to you, I personally have found it far easier to acknowledge the things that I don't know. It seems so much easier when you have a healthier ego or a sense of self to simply say, oh, I don't know.

I brought on a social media team and I'm so excited about them and it's so easy to say, oh, I don't have a clue how any of that works. I even went back two or three years ago, and I thought, oh, I know what I want to do with my social media presence. While that really hasn't worked, has it? So in that scenario, I don't know what I don't know. So at times they'll say, well, are you okay if we do this? Or what do you think about this? And I say, oh, I have no idea.

But I know that that's what you guys do, and I know that that's what you know, and I'm excited. I'm excited about that. Being able to step into the things that you really care about and are acting in more alignment with really the, your passions have allowed me to give up on a lot of things that I used to pretend that I thought I needed to know. At one point I went to a quick book seminar because I thought, well, I better know how to do QuickBooks, but I made it through a few hours and then I was starting to nod off and I left and I think I called my wife and we ended up having a fantastic weekend because it was it was in a whole different city that was within driving distance of where we live. But, oh, I know nothing about that, but why should I, that's not something that is a passion of mine. And I'm grateful that there are people that like numbers and math and all of those kinds of things. So then that is not something that I feel is in alignment with my values or something that really speaks to me.

As well as I went on forever trying to do my own website on the various plug and play, build your own websites. But I don't know that stuff either. Not a big fan. So the more that you find the things that really matter to you, the easier it is to let go of that idea that you need to know everything, because that knowing everything is coming from a place, that I feel, of pathological defensive ego, where if people think that I don't know things, then they might not think I'm cool and they might not like me. And they might boot me out of the tribe and I'm going to be devoured by a saber tooth tiger and die.

So I have found myself, far far more often saying, oh, I don't know. Because I know the things that I do know. So let me give you a quick example. And pay attention to how often people around you are saying, well, you know what I think, I think that this person really does know, I think they know what they're doing and I think they just don't want to admit it. To which I used to say a lot of things like, yeah or maybe they're just forgetting, or maybe they think this, or maybe they think that, because I want the person I'm talking to to value my opinion.

But now, because I absolutely feel confident about the things that I do know, it is far easier to simply reply to the person and say, oh, yeah. I don't know. We'll probably have to ask that person. Let me give you a hypothetical example. This one came to mind. We're doing a little bit of traveling again, going to Arizona to speak over the weekend. So let's say that my wife asked me, oh, do you think that we'll be able to make the connecting flight in Vegas? The time between flights is only 55 minutes and I don't know how far away the next gate is. So I feel like in the past, I would definitely want to manage her anxiety. I would want to reassure her and I might say things like, yeah, I'm sure they wouldn't let us book a connecting flight if it was going to be that close, or I might say, yeah, that's not something you really need to worry about right now.

Or I might say, you know, we can change the second flight, if that will make you happy. And although that may be true, is she looking for me to fix it or does she simply want validation? Is she needing me to help manage her anxiety? So remember when we don't often feel good about anything and I'm talking about ourselves, or a situation like this one about whether or not we'll be able to make a connecting flight, that causes us to have anxiety. Anxiety comes from uncertainty. And if we aren't operating from a place of a healthier ego, then we are most likely looking for someone else to make us feel better or to manage our anxiety. We're looking for that external validation.

But we aren't exactly sure what it will take for us to feel better. So there is a good chance, actually, an almost certain chance that whatever I say in that scenario about the flights is not going to be exactly the right thing. And then again, in this situation, my wife will most likely then feel like I just don't understand her.

Because she may not be wanting me to fix it. She just wants for me to hear her, to validate her, to say, man, that sounds hard. Or if I don't hear, she might even go to the place of, you know, he must not care about me. So, coming from a healthy ego and feeling more authentic in life allows us to show up differently in those situations, it allows our partners to start operating more from a place of trust because we feel more confident in the things that we do feel confident in.

Because now we're doing things that we care about, that we feel connected to. So in those areas, we're going to speak from a place of confidence and healthy ego, not requiring or relying on external validation. So when you come to the table, feeling more confident and connected because you feel like you are living in alignment with your values and what matters to you, then you speak with authority and confidence of the things that you know and you believe, and therefore, of course, you say, I don't know, do the things that I'm not certain of or that I'm not connected to. And that doesn't make me less than, that doesn't mean that my wife is going to think that I am less than, as a matter of fact, it's quite the opposite.

I've had people literally say in my office that man, no I literally find it attractive if he says, yeah, I'm not really sure about that. But we can discover that together or let's find somebody who does know. Rather than the guy saying, don't worry about it. Right. Or you shouldn't worry about that or, well, I'm sure that this is the answer because that does not give us a sense of safety or certainty in our relationships.

It's the opposite. So I may frame the conversation differently, like in this scenario about the airport, I may say, you know, I really don't know how that works with gate changes or time between flights. But I wonder if there's a system that keeps track of that and hopes that people won't miss their flights or, let's Google that together. I don't know.  I'll ask Siri a question.

And now we're having a conversation based on curiosity. Off of, oh yeah, I don't know the things that I don't know, but I'm here with you. Let's go through this together. If there was something that I do know, you can be certain I'll share it. Oh, I know this thing. But on the flip side. Yeah, I don't know what I don't know because how could I? Because in that world of emotional immaturity or unhealthy ego, you hear a lot of things like, I'm sure the doctor's just going to tell me it's not a big deal. Okay. How do you? Or you find from a place of emotional immaturity, a conversation I heard recently where someone said, yeah you know, my spouse says that they're not going to go into the doctor because they know more than 90% of all doctors do. Says the person who's never been in medical school or never practiced medicine. Or here's one I hear, you're just going to tell me to start up a mindfulness practice, says the person who has never regularly meditated to the person, me in this scenario, who also spent an entire life well into my forties, also never meditating, until I did. And then I didn't again, and then I did regularly and many, many years later now I just can't believe that I didn't know what I didn't know. I didn't know what that could feel like to have a built-in pause to allow you to then tap into that prefrontal cortex, those frontal lobes and access my tools instead of just sitting around in a fight or flight response all the time. And that has been because of a mindfulness practice. I didn't know what I didn't know. And so now when people are letting me know the reasons why that won't work they tell me that as they haven't tried that over a sustained period of time. Then that can be difficult because I know that they can feel like I am not hearing them. Yeah, no, I don't think that will work. I don't think that will work, says the person who hasn't tried it regularly to the person who did, and it has changed their life.

Let me change gears just a tiny bit. And I think that this will actually resonate or make more sense. It's along these lines because it goes along with needing somebody else to manage your anxiety or telling someone else what to do or how they're supposed to think or feel. Quite a while ago, I had someone reach out to me and they had asked me if I would take a look at a gentleman named Marshall Rosenberg's work around what's called nonviolent communication.

And I remember just not really understanding the term nonviolent communication. And just in that context, that just seemed like those words didn't necessarily go together. Because I think of violence as physical violence, that sort of thing. And I want to turn to a site called four minute books. And this is a summary of Marshall Rosenberg's book about nonviolent communication by Pamela Hobart.

So I, but I really feel like this is a really fascinating concept. And before I even read this, I also saw someone had shared with me and I thought this was just really, really interesting. They shared a quote and this is from a book called, The Yamas and Niyamas, which is about exploring the ethical practices of yoga, which is a really interesting principle or concept. If you really look into it.

And they had shared a page of a book that I thought was so well said, and this is around why I wanted to go down this path of nonviolent communication. In this chapter of this book, it says, “thinking that we know what is better for others becomes a subtle way we do violence. When we take it upon ourselves to ‘help the other’ we whittle away their sense of autonomy. Nonviolence asks us to trust the other's ability to find the answer that they are seeking. And asks us to have faith in the other, not feel sorry for them. Nonviolence asks us to trust the other's journey. And love and support others to their highest image of themselves. Not our highest image of them. It asks that we stop managing ourselves, our experience, others, and other’s experiences of us. Leave the other person free of our needs, free to be themselves, and free to see us as they choose.” So they go on to say, “the violence we do to others by thinking we know what is best for them is dramatically illustrated and they tell a story.” 

But nonviolent communication, and the reason I hope you can see why I think this fits, is maybe a nice way to end today's episode is the way to find that true sense of passion, sense of self to be able to actually act in alignment with the values that are important to you. And they're important to you because of all of the tiny little things that you've been through your entire life. The nature, the nurture, the birth order, the DNA, the abandonment, the rejection, the hopes, the dreams, the loss, the growth, the people that have moved, the people that have passed. All of those things that make you who you are, are the things that also guide your values. So when someone else is telling us what they think that we need to do, thinking that they know what is better for us.

I can understand or appreciate this concept of nonviolent communication because it is not allowing the trust, the other person's journey, love and support. It is supporting them and helping them view themselves as the highest image of themselves, not our highest image of them. In the world of parenting, I know it's a balance because we are the ones that are guiding our kids when they're young, but as they start to mature and grow and start to become them, then doesn't that phrase just fit so well. Nonviolent communication means allowing us to trust our children’s journey, and love and support them to their highest image of themselves, not our highest image of them. When we're trying to manage our highest images of them, I feel like what we're doing is we want them to manage our anxiety.

We are worried that we won't be viewed as a good parent. We're worried that someone will think that we didn't do our job, or we didn't do enough if our kid isn't living the life that we think that they should live. But in reality, we need to help them find the highest image of themselves. And so we need to stop managing our experience of others and let them start to figure out what matters to them. The sooner that we can help our kids do that and the sooner you do that, I promise you the better place that you're going to be operating from. And you are going to be able to do more good for yourself, for your family, for the world, not to sound overly dramatic but when you find what really matters and you act in alignment with the things that matter to you, you are going to be speaking from this place of healthy ego. And it is relatively impervious to the slights and setbacks that we all go through on a day-to-day basis. So I'm going to blast through this four minute books on nonviolent communication, and maybe we can tackle this in a completely separate episode.

So, Pamela Hobart. She's the one that wrote this summary. So she says, “Free speech advocates commonly argue that speech is the opposite of violence. Words can offend us, but they don't actually do harm. So from this point of view, nonviolent communication is practically an oxymoron.” Exactly what I was feeling. So thank you, Pamela.

But then she goes on to say “Communications expert Marshall Rosenberg, begs to differ. According to Marshall, most people's default manner of speaking to others is highly violent. Because he says that is if you consider violence to include attempts at cutting others down to size and coercing them into doing what we want. So that that would fit more in that concept of violence. So whether or not most ordinary speakers are constantly committing literal acts of violence or not, most of us can see the potential benefit in learning to communicate more effectively. Nonviolent Communication, A Language of Life provides one provocative lens per seeing what's morally and pragmatically wrong with many of the things we tend to say in our everyday lives. Nonviolent communication also helps us to figure out what we can say instead.” So Pamela says, here are the three lessons that she's learned from the book, Nonviolent Communications, A Language of Life.

Number one is, “separating observation from judgment is the first step toward reducing needless conflict.” The second thing she says is “connecting actions and requests to people's specific needs points the way towards solutions to any problems.” And number three, she says “you can use nonviolent communication to improve how you talk with yourself too.”

She talks about these nonviolent communication touch points. Lesson one, and I think this one is so, so good. “Keep your observations and your judgments separate in order to keep others from feeling defensive.” She said, “often our brains leap to label somebody, ‘that student is lazy. My husband is careless,’ and so often our mouths rush to speak judgment too,” but she says, “does it really work to go around judging people? How do they tend to respond when you judge them? How do you respond when other people judge you? A person who's feeling judged typically goes on the defensive or just shuts down.” Again, I feel like that's the psychological reactance or that instant negative reaction of being told what to do, being judged. She said, “judging someone is about the worst thing you can do i f what you want is for them to listen to you or admittedly, if you would like to change something about their behavior.”

So I think I could kind of step away and take exception with me wanting to change something about their behavior, but, She makes a good point here. So, Rosenberg suggests a foundational habit for nonviolent communication that we learned to separate observations about what happened from our judgments about them and observation is objective, it's concrete and neutral.

Instead of a lazy student, learn to think that student did not complete their homework. Instead of a careless husband, think he left toothpaste in the sink. Because if you can start from a place of, he didn't complete his homework or he left toothpaste in the sink and we removed the judgment statement. Now we're going to go in there with curiosity. Perhaps he received a dollar every time he left his toothpaste in the sink as a kid. Because his dad worked for Colgate and the more toothpaste they could buy the more his yearly bonus would be. Oh, that was good. Made that one up on the spot. But instead, if we just say, we love this toothpaste in the sink, he must not care about me. He thinks that I'm the toothpaste cleaner.

So in order to separate judgment from what an observation is, then we can get to the conversation. So, she said, “straightforward observations leave much more space for potentially understanding the reasons why people did what they did, rather than making a lot of assumptions. Others' actions might provide a stimulus for us feeling the way we do, but they don't literally cause our emotions. We must distinguish between our own stuff and what happened in the world.” I had a couple recently where someone said, well you’re the one that makes me do this. That old chestnut. But in the world of nonviolent communication, if the person is staring at their phone, if they just say, okay I'm noticing that you're looking at your phone while we're talking.

That is a statement. That's an observation. But if they say you obviously don't care about me because you're staring at your phone, that's a judgment and that's going to put somebody on the defensive. So lesson two in this book, connecting actions and requests to people's specific needs can diffuse tension and point toward possible resolution.

She says, “Why are we so judgmental if it's not usually productive?” Rosenberg explains that analyses of others are actually expressions of our own needs and values. In other words, when a teacher labels a student lazy, perhaps she's stressed because she doesn't know how to motivate them. Or the wife of that careless husband values neatness much more than he does, but she doesn't see a way to resolve their preferences. So this is why I thought this would be a perfect cap to this episode where I was talking about managing someone else's anxiety. So if we aren't even looking at things as observations, if we're making judgments about them. Then when we make a judgment, we're typically judging that this is about me. That they must not care or the student isn't listening. So that must mean I'm a bad teacher or my husband must not care about me because he obviously leaves his toothpaste in the sink and he should know that I care that I really want everything neat and orderly. So, she said, “people's needs are more alike than different. We have physical needs as well as needs for autonomy, positive, emotional experiences, positive social experiences, spiritual experiences of some kind and the need to play. So the teacher who judges her student, maybe trying to fulfill her need to feel competent at her job. The wife who leaps to judgment of her husband needs to feel comfortable in her own home. So understanding others' frustrating behaviors as manifestations of their genuine needs helps the humanized conflict.” It goes back to my pillar one of my four pillars. Assuming good intentions or there's a reason why someone shows up or does the things they do.

She goes on to say, “people mostly aren't just wandering around trying to cause problems,” validation galore for my four pillars. “They're trying to take care of themselves and they deserve empathy. So if you first find a way to show others that you truly understand their needs, you're likely to receive a respectful response to your request of them whether it's exactly what you wanted or not.” And then lesson three from this book, “using non-violent communication on yourself can alleviate feelings of regret and anxiety. Since all people have needs and deserve empathy, that includes your past and current selves too. So perhaps you're harboring painful, longstanding regrets about something you did a long time ago. Can you find a way to empathize with who you were back then. Which needs were little you trying to get met, however, mistakenly. How were you trying to fulfill the things that mattered to you at that time when you made maybe it was a regrettable decision. Or maybe you're facing a difficult decision right now. And by setting aside what you think you ‘should do’ and focusing on the needs of people involved. You'll enable a comfortable resolution. So nonviolent communication even provides a better way of giving compliments after all even positive judgements are still judgments. And they remind people that you're critiquing them instead of just giving a conventional compliment, try explaining to somebody how something specific they did met one of your needs.”

I really appreciate you cleaning up the house because it really helped me come home and feel more calm in my home. So that was all about me and thanking them for what they do. These kinds of compliments are much clearer and more meaningful than hey, you finally cleaned up. I mean that one has judgment written all over it.

So she said, “a review and some of the ways of speaking endorsed and nonviolent communication,” she said,” do sound a little bit stilted.” But she said, “as she read it, she had a hard time imagining herself saying some of the things. However, the nonviolent communications core lesson seemed sound. It's really about people judging less and then being able to understand people's needs more.”

And given how many problems in life come from communication breakdowns. I really do feel like this is something that really resonates to me, or it really does fit. So I would highly recommend the book Nonviolent Communication, A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg. So in summary today boy, how important is it to really try to find what really matters to you so that you can act in alignment with your core values and some of the bonuses that come from that is, you really do know what you know. And people are going to start to be able to trust you more because when you are saying, I know this thing, it's coming from a healthy ego. It's coming from something that you actually do know, and you care about and matters to you. And then when you say I'm not sure, rather than them feeling like, oh my gosh, you must not care about me.

Then they know that you are just acting in alignment. And I feel like that is a calm, confident, energetic person. And those are the type of people that I really feel like we tend to be drawn to. Because it's a wonderful example of how to live your life. You're still going to have the ups and downs of regular day-to-day life. But when you are acting in alignment with your values and living in a way that feels authentic to you, then you are less needy and less in need of somebody to self-soothe you or to validate you. And we're so afraid of, I think at times, is that if I, then all of a sudden give up this control over somebody else to manage my anxiety, that things will be worse.

But this is part of that, we don't know what we don't know. Imagine a world where you're showing up in your relationship as confident. And it doesn't mean that your partner is going to leave you. It means, oh my gosh, of course we want to enjoy life together because we're both two autonomous amazing, wonderful people that have really found out who we are. And now we can go through life together with two completely different experiences. And the one plus one is three and what an amazing way to live. And I don't need my partner to manage my anxiety. And that is going to look so much different in your relationship. And it is going to cause a connection. The likes of which we really have never known. Because we didn't know what that looked like. All right. If you have comments, questions, feedback on this episode, feel free to send it to me through contact@tonyoverbay.com and as always I appreciate the support and I will see you next time on “The Virtual Couch”.  Taking us away, the wonderful, the talented, the now on TikTok, Aurora Florence with her song, “It's wonderful”.

Preston Pugmire is the host of the Next Level Life podcast, an award-winning life coach, and co-creator of The Magnetic Marriage couples communication course. Preston joins Tony to discuss the importance of discovering and living by your values. Preston shares his story of spending many years and tens of thousands of dollars taking in information from various courses, attending seminars, reading books, and meeting with experts to create his M.V.P. or "Mission, Values, Purpose" masterclass. In the class, you will learn your unique MISSION. Your chosen VALUES. Your identified PURPOSE. Your articulated SUPERPOWERS and GIFTS. And you will create your CUSTOMIZED plan for how to make decisions and be confident in any situation. Preston's MVP Contract Masterclass is available now, but space is limited. To learn more, visit http://tonyoverbay.com/contract

If you are interested in being coached in Tony's upcoming "Magnetic Marriage Podcast," please email him for more information. You will receive free marriage coaching and remain anonymous when the episode airs. 

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

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

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


Tony: Preston Pugmire, welcome to the Virtual Couch. I think what's fun about this is we've recorded several episodes where we're talking about the magnetic marriage, and that is still the greatest marriage course known to man that you and I created. But today we are. Well, allow me to, well it's story time.

Preston, let me take my listeners on a train of thought. So, you and I talk often. We talk a lot and I love that. And we bounce ideas off each other. And, I've told Preston many times, I feel like, this is where you build this relationship with trust and Preston can say, Hey, wait, tell me more about what you're saying old man, and he doesn't always say old man. And I feel like I don't take offense. I trust Preston. I feel like he's very good at what he does. And so, I feel like, man, I want to understand or tell me more. Preston, I feel very safe and will explore these different things. Any virtual couch listener knows as I talk so often about the values.

And when I changed over from being this cognitive behavioral therapist, this acceptance and commitment therapy therapist, and hey, you're the only version of you and you're not broken, you're human. And now the next part of this is you're going to find your values and you're going to start taking action on things that matter and value-based goals.

And I get so passionate about that and then I tell people, Hey, email in and I've got the list of values you can work from, which is literally Preston, just a list of words. And so, then I feel like why can't people figure out what their values are? And so, Preston's telling me about this program he's been working on and he gets so excited about it and he's telling me about it, and I'm like, man, Preston, this is a great way to figure out your values.

And I think you were like, yeah, it is. And then suddenly it hits me, oh so, I just tell people, go find those values. It's so key, it's so important. Here's a list of words. And then I realized, oh my gosh, literally the guy that I talk to on a weekly basis that helped me create the world's greatest marriage course and literally has the keys to the values kingdom.

And so, that's what we're going to talk about today. So, I'm so excited.

Preston: Me too, man. The, the idea of like, oh, value-based goals, cool. What does that mean? And then, go find your values. How do I do that? It’s easy to get a Google search, but then okay, what do I do with this list? And what I've found is that you must have an intentional process to be able to figure out not only what your values are, but why those are your values. And, even more important, what order the values go in, because the hierarchy of how you approach those in your life will determine how you react to events, how you approach events, how you approach other people, what you're going to do, and we'll talk about that in just a minute, but it's not just go find your values, there's more. There's so much more to it because they align with your mission, your personal purpose, mission, values, and purpose. And then also what your gifts, talents, and abilities are that you bring to the table in your life. So, it just rolls together with who you are, what you want to do, why you want to do it, and how you're going to do it so that you can feel fulfilled.

Tony: And what I love about that is one of the stories that I run into people fusing to so often is the man, I still need to work on my values, or I haven't figured out my values yet, or I'm not sure where to start with my values. And it's funny because I would sit in my office and think, Okay, well, at least they're saying the word values.

So, I mean, they're on the right path, but then your own brain will get you stuck in that I still need to figure out my values story because then I don't have to take action on them because once I figure them out, I need to do something. And so, when we were talking about it, I like that it isn't just, I identify them, but then it is what do I do with them and not just what do I do? But I appreciate it when you are saying it really helps you understand who you are as a person, which puts you in a direction. So, I want to step back here. And I just want you to drive because I do trust you driving the car. You have the keys to my car. So, I would love for you to just take us on your train of thought and what this whole process looks like and maybe, how you came up with it and what do you do?

Preston: So, thanks so much, man. Working with you as you know, as a therapist and as a business partner, and just as a friend, all these different things, I've learned so much from you, and what I've done is I've taken what a lot of different people have taught me; you, Tony Robbins, James Wedmore, Garrett Whites, just like a lot of different teachers, just lively.

People that I've worked with personally, one on one, people that I've taken their courses, people that I've done their seminars, and books that I've read, and I've just searched, searched, searched, searched. And then I've created kind of like this Frankenstein's monster of what everything kind of builds towards, and I call it a personal MVP contract.

What I mean by that is MVP, mission, values, purpose, mission, values, purpose, and your contract. And it's like for me, it's my contract with my life, with my creator, with the world, with my relationships, with everything that I am. It's who I am. What I want, how I'm going to do it, why I'm going to do it, and my gifts and powers, my superpowers that I bring to the table and all of it together is this personal MVP contract.

And I was thinking about this. Honestly, it took me about three years to create because I was putting little pieces of it together, like my mission statement, my purpose of life, my values, the order of them. Another, like a primary question that I'm always asking myself. I call it a foundational filter.

We'll get into that. But I was thinking about it like all this stuff is out there. It's all out there. All you must do is go to six different seminars and hire four different personal coaches and do 10,000 hours of Google research and 40 hours of meditation. And you must fill up six journals and stuff like that.

It's all out there. You can just go do it

Tony: now that I have that info, yeah.

Preston: I mean, uh, it's all fair. But why do people hire personal trainers? Why do people buy like a workout program, right? Because every single fitness routine, every single workout program, every single nutrition plan or supplement plan or everything like that, it's on YouTube, it just is. Or at bodybuilding.com or something like that. It's just, it's all there. So why do people buy a program? I'll ask you why you think people buy a program?

Tony: Oh, okay. Well, it's funny because this is one of those things when we were putting our program together, and we would go over this, over and over cause I would just want to spout off this knowledge. And then, you would talk about, I mean, people buy a program because there's some accountability there. It's somebody that they trust. It's what the person is saying. Look, I've taken all this data and do you want these things? Because I can give you a very specific set of things and it's a kit. I want those things. And I like that a lot.

Preston: That's why I initially started working with you. You had basically a kit that you had all this experience and it was just really, cool. And that's why I work with other coaches and other people.

Tony: On that note, Preston, you're being too humble, and I feel like this is going to make your point even better. I had a kit. I was holding like a bunch of scraps of paper together and saying, Preston, here's the way. This is the key to marriage, right here. You know, and what Preston has a good ability to do is then put that into these tangible action steps. And I was pulling a very, very haughty therapist card and saying, oh no, they must find this journey on themselves. And here's these things that they could take along with them. And you were saying, no, we need to understand how to do it. And I fought on that for how long? I mean, it was a while, right?

It was just like a year. It was, right. And then, the best part though is now what do I talk about, the four pillars, the connected conversation scripts, the magnetic agreement plans, the tools, the steps, the acronyms, and they resonate, and they give you a framework to operate from.

Preston: That’s the cool part. It's a framework. And so, one of the things that I realized as I went through this whole process you're talking about. What I'm able to do. I had, man, I had a huge epiphany about one of the things that I'm honestly, that I'm really good at. And what it allowed me to do is it allowed me to really see how good other people are at specific things that are just, they're effortless to them, and so they just seem invisible. But I'm like, oh my gosh, you're so freaking good at that. An example of this is my brother. My brother is a wizard at Excel. Just the things he can whip up are just, it'll take me, you know, three days to figure all this out and how does this formula work on Excel? I can create this spreadsheet and my brother can just do it in five minutes. It's nothing to him. And. Another one of my friends, I talked to him about how I can structure this, like maybe this coaching program or this business. And I'm thinking about, okay, how should I do this? And I feel like I'm too close to it, right? But then he can just be like, oh, just do boom, boom, boom, boom. That right there. I can see that. And I was like, wow, how do you do that? And then I realized that one of the things that I'm really good at is I call it being a synthesizer.

I can connect the dots that other people can't connect. I can see things and combine things into a coherent hole. I'm a really agile decision maker and I can easily find solutions, strategy, scrutinize, assess, exam, and evaluate people, processes and plans and systems. I can do all that stuff effortlessly, and I used to not think that it was valuable because it came easily to me. And then I realized that my unique skills are valuable to other people who don't have them, and vice versa. There are people that I will pay a lot of money to help me out with something that will take them one hour to do. I'm like, dude I could never even figure that out. But it's just so easy for them.

And this is the thing that I help people discover, is once you know, like really who you are, your personal contract, your IM statement, your mission. Your purpose, your values, the hierarchy that they go in, and then your natural gift and superpowers, your talent, and abilities that you bring to the table, that are natural to you, and everybody has them. If you're listening to this right now and you think, oh man, I don't know if I'm good at anything, it's BS. The reason you don't see them is because they're invisible to you, and I can help people really understand how or why these things are invisible to them, what they're good at. And then the coolest part is you take it, and you say, okay, now what do I do with this? Then you take it, and you apply it to your goals and everything is just aligned. Rocket fuel. I started thinking like, what would it look like in my life if I knew what the purpose of my life was? Like I could just spout it off at any time if I really knew who I was as a human, as a soul, as a spirit. If I really knew that and I knew what was important to me, what was not important to me, why it was important to me, if I really understood what I was good at, so that I could lean into that, like double down on the things, like use leverage. Leverage the things that I'm really good at, and then take all of that and apply it to my specific goals.

Things become significantly easier when you have all those pieces, like literally written out in a document.

Tony: Yeah. And Preston, there's a couple things I think are so. You and I both had previous careers and we both love what we do now, and I feel like this is part of that when you start acting in alignment with your values and you take action on them and you find the things that you really feel passionate about, you're so right where you didn't know what you didn't know.

When I was in the computer industry, I didn't even realize how much I didn’t care about it or didn't like it until I found the thing that I actually like and enjoy. And then I wanted to read about it, watch shows about it, see YouTube videos about it, talk about it, talk to other people about it. And that raises your whole what? Energy and baseline. So, you just want more of that. So, I love what you're saying, and you said something smart there a minute ago where you said, I didn't value it because it came easy to me. And I'm telling you, and I was sitting in my office a couple years ago and somebody said, you know, well I don't want to do something that I really enjoy because then it will become a labor.

And I was like, yeah, that's right. And I sat there thinking, wait a minute, that's literally what I do every day for a living. And it just gets better and better. And I feel like those are stories that our brains try to hook us to. Well, if I just start doing the thing I like all the time, then all of a sudden, I probably won't like it.

Oh no let's kind of reel that back in. So, yeah, keep going.

Preston: Is that a story that people tell themselves?

Tony: I remember a guy that would say, I love fishing, you know, and I said, well, what would that look like if you, because he thought about it, I would love to maybe shoot a video or two about it or here's how I bait a hook, or whatever. But I don't want to start doing that, because then it won't be fun anymore. It'll be a job. That's the version that I get. Or if I'm doing this thing that I'm passionate about all the time, then it will become work and then it will no longer interest me and says the person who has never taken that leap or taken action on that thing.

Preston: I mean, that's a belief. That's just a belief. And I don't think that that belief serves you, but I don't care if you have it, honestly. Like if you don't want to do something, that's fine. But give it a go. I mean, you can always stop shooting videos about fishing. I did it all last month. I didn't make a single video about fishing. Like, seriously, it was so simple. No, I was just trying to make a joke. You can always stop doing that. I understand what you're saying, but one of the things that's important to understand about this is it's all kind of abstract. Cool. My mission, my values, my purpose, my gifts, all these things.

But how do you apply it? I'll tell you specifically how I apply it. I have a mission statement, a personal contract, and it's my “I am” statement. And I don't walk around with massive confidence 24 hours a day. Spoiler alert, I'm a human. But when I need to summon that, which is often, I do speaking engagements, I do coaching, I do performances, I will have sales calls, I'll have business meetings. I just, things that I need to be like, you know, I need to be in a good state right now. I used to just be like, okay, maybe I'll listen to some music, or I'll do this. It was just kind of a hodgepodge and now I have a very, very intentional, specific thing that I do.

I go to a room or a place where I'm by myself. I've done it in closets in the back of the performance halls. I've done it in a bathroom, I've done it in my office, I've done it in my car. I go somewhere where I'm by myself, take a couple breaths, center myself, and then I ask myself, who am I?

Because when I get into alignment with who I am and really tap into that, it gives me a sense of power and connection to my creator, to all the things around me, to the energy that is around me, to the energy in myself, like it gives me this confidence that really carries me into the situation. And so, here's mine. I say, who am I? I center myself. I say, I am a powerful, kind, joyful man of light. I body inspiration and creativity, and the purpose of my life is to be a magnetic light, to live an authentic, fulfilled life, and to inspire and guide others to do the same. And so, it is. So, I say that to myself and for me that resonates.

Because I took a long time to really come up with that. Specific words that meant a lot to me. Specific phrases, I'll say a phrase and it embodies a whole host of things that makes sense to me in my life with my kids, with my job, with my passions and stuff like that. I understand that, and it brings me back to, instead of saying, oh, can I do this? Should I do this? Is it okay if I try this? It's like, uh, no. Centered. This is who I am. Go and do it. And it completely changes the energy of how I approach things. And before I had this tool, I would just try to pump myself up. But it wasn't like something that was a protocol, right? And now it's so intentional.

Tony: And I know you'll get to this, but I think the depth of work that you've put in to get to that place, I don't think people understand that every word you're talking about, every phrase is intentional.

And so, the more that you say that, I can only imagine, I can watch you do it, if anybody's watching the video, but you feel you could almost watch you just start to fill your chest, right? And you can just feel that. Because I feel like maybe there's been many of us that have said, okay, I'm going to just tell myself, give some positive affirmations and go do this.

But, if it isn't who I am or doesn't resonate with me, or doesn't speak directly to my soul.

Preston: So, that’s the thing is I have a whole process that I take people. I've done this in big groups of people like with, a hundred people in the room, like a big coaching presentation. I've done it in small groups where it's just me and one person that's one on one. I've done it in business sessions and corporate, like I've gone into corporations and said, Okay, let's take your whole leadership team and we're going to say, let's get back to bare bones. We're going to talk about marketing later, but right now who are you? Why are you here? What's going on? Because each of you are individuals, and when you have this intentional way to approach the way that you live, it changes what you're doing. Because then instead of just drifting, you're following a specific path that you create. And that's the brilliant part about it.

Tony: What are some of the I don’t know, what are the biggest challenges, roadblocks, that sort of thing that you see when you're starting to help people dig into their values?

Preston: So yeah, we’ll move to values. One of the biggest roadblocks I see is people second guess themselves about what should I choose as a value.

Okay, here's a list of a hundred things, and I, again, I have a process that I take people through that makes it very, very simple. And the way that you approach it makes it obvious. And then it creates certainty around what you're doing and how you're doing it. So, the number one problem that I see that people have when they're trying to create their values is overwhelm around, should I put this one on my list?

What, if I want, you know, growth is my value, but I also want courage is my value and like, ah, should I just. And what they need as their number one value is to fricking relax. I have a whole process that includes comparing the different values to each other, creating a hierarchy of them, and then identifying and naming the value, instead of just saying, courage.

Okay, cool. What does courage mean? Courage means something different to you than it does to me, and so if you not only name it, but then I meant to say identify or define is a better word, define what that is. For me, courage means I am willing to face discomfort and lean into situations that stretch me.

Okay. That's what it means. So, when I come up against it, I want to make this sales call, but I'm feeling a little bit like anxiety or hesitation around it, I go back to who am I? Look at my list of values. Boom. Courage is number two on my list of values. I am willing to face discomfort, okay?

If I'm going to live in alignment. Or if I'm going to live on contract, I call it living on contract means I am going to face this discomfort. I'm not going to pretend that it's comfortable. I'm not going to say to myself, I can do hard things. No, it's not about that. I'm willing to face discomfort and I've defined that for me.

Another one of my values is allowance. Allowing, and for me, this is really important. I let go of control and other people might not have this as like a need, but for me, I let go of control and, this is going to sound really, prideful, but this is something I'm working on. I allow others to have their own ideas without controlling how they think and act for other people.

Tony: Oh yes, Preston. Yeah, go.

Preston: Yeah. They might be like, uh, why would you even need to put that on there? Because it's me. Okay, so maybe a value that you have on your list is something that I don't even have on my list, because it's my natural way of operating. It just is.

Tony: I would say what I like about that so much is when you were talking about, yeah, people need to relax, and I feel like people do this constantly, then I know I shouldn't care about this, or I should, should I have this value or am I supposed to do this one? And then that shows the tool that you're using gets the depth of something like giving up control. Because I feel like that's a whole other layer, you know, you must get to, to get to that realization of how much we do. We are trying to control others around us, bless our hearts, because it's scary sometimes when people have their own thoughts and opinions, because we immediately go to, oh my gosh, that means they think I'm bad or crazy. So that takes a lot, to get to that place of acceptance of having a value like that. Because that one can be scary.

Preston: And for me to define that and then put it on my list, I was like, oh shoot. If I put this on my list, I'm going to be held to it. And that's scary because it's something that I struggle with. Okay. That means that I need to put it on my list because it's going to guide me toward what I actually want to live, which is a fulfilled life. My wife does not need to put that on her values list. She's really good at just letting other people have their own ideas and not trying to control. She's so good at that. It's one of, it's one of her natural gifts and talents and superpowers that she brings to the table is this, genuine acceptance, and compassion for people.

And it's really inspiring to me, but I need to put it on my list because it's not something that comes innately to me. These are things that I'm being intentional about and that I want to use. So, when I find that people are like, oh what should I put? How should I put them? And then what order should I put them in? And the hesitation is based around, I don't know if I can do this. I don't know if I'm going to be held to this. What if I mess up? What if I, all this stuff. And again, like maybe you need to put forgiveness on your values list. Because you're going to mess up at it.

This is a map. This whole contract is a map and you're not always going be always on course. It's a way for you to redirect. It's kind of like a rumble strip when you're driving down the road and you hit the rumble strip. And then that doesn't mean that you're a bad driver, it just means, oh, I need to pull back onto the middle of the lane because this is where I'm headed. And so, people don't know exactly where they're going. I remember one time I was hiking down in the Grand Canyon at Havasupai. Have you ever been down there? No. No. Havasu Falls, I think. Beautiful. And when you hike back out, it's oh, like 10, 12-mile hike or something like that.

There's a specific part where you must turn and then you have to go up these switchbacks. And if you don't know where to turn, then you miss it and it's not marked because it's just in the Grand Canyon. And me and my wife and my stepbrother, we were walking together. We got separated from the group a little bit. We were just kind of walking. We didn't really know. Oh, we kind of want to go to the top of the rim. But we didn't have a specific plan. We didn't have a specific map. We were just walking and we're just one foot in front of the other. Cool, cool, cool.

Doing our thing. And then we looked up. And it started, it was starting to get dark. We looked up and we're like, none of this looks familiar. And we look up and, oh wait. Oh my gosh. The top is kind of behind us. I can see some lights up there in the parking lot, like, oh, where are we at? And we had just been walking and we passed the turnoff and we had gone three or four miles without even thinking. And then we had to end up turning around, walking all the way back to it, and we passed it a second time. Oh dang. Okay. Another mile down the road. So, we're walking an additional, six, eight miles than we should have been walking. Running out of water. We have no food. It's getting dark. We had passed another group of people a couple hours earlier who had seen a bobcat. It was not a good situation. Now I'm here today. We made it out. Made it, okay. Because my dad and the people that were with us on the crew, they hiked back down the whole freaking canyon down the switchbacks and they ended up finding us down below the turnoff.

But what I took away from that was if you're just walking and you're just walking, how many people just drift? Like, why are you doing the things that you're doing today? Are they just because they're the same things that you did yesterday? Are you living with intention? Are you being intentional? Are you being honest with who you are, what you are, what you're doing and why you're doing it? Do you have a personal, a roadmap? And if you don't, don't judge yourself. Just be intentional about doing that or else, five years down the road you're going to just realize, oh, I've just been walking.

Tony: I think what you're saying, is such an important part, I think, of becoming the best version of you that you can be is that I think a lot of people will even hear this and say, okay, no, great point. But right now, it's a busy time of life. Or I’m going to wait until the kids are older, or wait till the job is better, or wait till I, and it's that proverbial kicking that can down the road. And I think what you're saying is so true. This is a big old, you don't know what you don't know of what it feels like to know what those values are and to live with purpose and intention.

And then when people finally do it, and the joke I'm making in my office is where they may be a couple years into working with me, and all of a sudden, they say, why didn't you tell me this in the beginning? Now I did. I begged you to do this and which is why again, I'm so grateful that you have a program because I feel like it needs to be a part of if somebody's starting anything, therapy, or a new job, or a marriage or whatever, it would be ideal to go into it having an idea of who you are.

Preston: Dude, the time is never going to be ideal. It just never is. Like, when's the last time that you said, oh, I'll start that when and then something else comes up? Life. Here's the thing I know about life. Life is going to life at you. It's going to life all over you. It's just going to life. And you get to be either a reactor, or a creator. In your life, are you acting or are you being acted upon? Are you being intentional or are you being a victim? Here's the thing. The job, the kids, the crazy time. The stuff, all the things; It's happening. Do you really think that things are going to get easier or calm down six months from now?

Tony: Right. No, that's adorable.

Preston: I mean, in rare exceptions. Yeah, sure. But I'm not talking to you. Like maybe you're in the middle of your PhD, Dissertation. What's that called? Something like that? Maybe in the middle of that. Okay, cool. Yeah, things will slow down when you're done with that.

Not very many people are in the middle of that. So how about this? Would it be helpful for you to have a specific guide that you can look at as you're approaching your job, as you're approaching your kids, as you're growing up, as you're approaching your relationship, as you're approaching your new health and fitness goals, or a new move, a new relationship. As you're approaching these things, would it help you to have your own guide about who I am, what's important to me? What do I want? What am I good at? What do I want to avoid? What questions can I ask myself daily that will really serve me? So, I talked earlier about how I use my contract, my mission statement, before I go on stage or all those different things. But let's talk about how I use values.

Okay? Because say if like, this is why I'm talking about the energy of, or not the energy. This is the reason the hierarchy of values is really important because if somebody has adventure on their list, right? And then that same person has friendship on their list, and then that same person has health and safety on their list.

The order that they're going to get put in is going to determine how they're going to react to certain situations. Because what if adventure is at the top? One of the most important things to me. And what if friendship is at the bottom? Okay? And then, somebody says, hey, we're all going to go skydiving, and then everybody backs out and then they're going to go do something else. But you've already signed up for skydiving. If adventure is your number one goal and friendship is down here, where are you going to go? You're going to go skydiving, you're not going to go with your friends.

Now, that's not good or bad. It's neither, it's just, this is going to dictate what you do. Then take this, what if you have security and safety and health in your top, but then you also want to be adventurous. So, you put that down there seventh or something like that. Hey, we're all going skydiving. What are you going to do?

Tony: You are not going skydiving. Why not? Because that might not be safe Preston.

Preston: Because one of them is more important than another one. Yeah. Yeah. And so, you must figure out. Some of your values can be contradictory. Like I want to have love and connection with people, but I also want to have, that's not a very good example. Let's just take the adventure versus safety, those two things can be important. Those things are both important to me. I love those things. For me, adventure is a little bit higher on the list, and so it is going to beat safety. For my wife, she's also very adventurous. She also wants that security and safety, so for her it's going to beat the adventure. So, it's just going to determine how you react to things. And so, you must decide what are the things that I'm moving toward and what are the things that I'm moving away from. Because sometimes people will do anything to not experience, it's called an away value for me. Shame. Shame is one of my just away values. I will do almost anything to not experience shame or humiliation. And it will even beat out some of my toward values of courage. Because if I have this courage, like I'm willing to face discomfort, but then if I'm not being intentional about this, all of this is like things that we fall into when we're not intentional.

If I want to be courageous about something, but I also don't want to experience shame or humiliation, this courageous thing that I want to do has a pretty high potential of making me experience shame or humiliation. If I'm not being intentional and reading my contract and saying my mission statement and moving toward these things, then my away value is going to beat that out.

And then, I'm going to shrink. I'm going to shrink and I'm not going to do it. And so, we need to be aware of what our away values are, what our toward values are, and how they interact with our mission, how they interact with our purpose and how they interact with each other in the hierarchy.

And all of this can be overwhelming. That's why I created a process to take people through it. So that dude, it takes all the cloudiness of your life about why I am how I am, why I act this way, what's going on. And it just clears everything up and it just puts all the pieces into place, and it makes everything clear so that you can take the action that you want to take and understand the action that you have taken and be intentional instead of just drifting.

Tony: Preston every single, I mean, I dig this stuff so much and why? I just felt like, I can't believe, I didn't realize that the answers were literally with my friend Preston here. But also, and I know we've talked about this, what I think is amazing and I love that you're talking about being very intentional about this and I think we were talking as well, once you're aware of these, and let's say that you're just feeling disconnected or you're feeling down, and then it's like, what do I do? And, that can come into play here too. Okay. I'm going to take action on anything of value. So if I have that value of adventure, I'm going to go do something adventurous at that moment. You know, even if my brain's telling me I'd rather not. And I love that concept as well. Again, another reason why this is so important to just figure out, because it's not just when I get into this choice point of what to do and how to line them up, but if I don't even know what to do or I'm feeling down or I just don't want to get out of bed at times, this is where I say, okay, what are your values? And you do something of value. And it is going to be something that is going to be far more doable than when somebody's just saying, well, you just need to get up and just be happy or just take action or you got to know what to do in those scenarios.

Preston: And when you have a goal, like an intentional goal, all these things are easy to put together when you do have a goal, like some specific things that you're trying to accomplish and that leads me to the next point talking about natural superpowers, your gifts and talents and abilities. I'll call them your superpowers because it's fun to talk about it in that way. But the things that you uniquely bring to the table, your strengths, there's a way to approach this.

There's, some personality tests you can take. When I did this, I took these tests and I understood okay, this is how I can have somebody help me and walk through them like what they meant. And I put them into different hierarchies and how they related to stuff. It was really, really eye opening for me.

And then one of the cool things that I did is I sent a letter to, or an email or a text, whatever, to probably 25 people that are, clients. I think I probably sent one to you, family members, and friends, and people, and it was vulnerable. I asked them how they perceive me because we have this idea of how we are perceived and it's interesting to have that either confirmed or completely blown out of the water. And so, when I took these personality tests and then when I understood how these things worked together and then got feedback from people that I know and put them all together, I started to notice patterns. Patterns emerged and it was so clear. And again, I had coaches to help me work through this and kind of parse it so that I could understand and put it all together. But then I also recognized that I am a synthesizer. But for me, I found my top five. Number one, I'm an entertainer. I just am. I have always been since day one. I am a magnetic light. I bring joy to situations, and I'm a star, and I'm a leader. I love being in that role and it's so fun. It lights me up. I'm also an expander and a seeker. I'm relentless in my pursuit of growth and expansion.

I just, I love learning. I'm also an elite coach and I can explain complex concepts in concise and succinct ways, and that's again, one of my gifts and I didn't know that other people weren't able to do that, but then I take an hour to say something sometimes. So, maybe I'm not as good at that as I thought I was, but again, I'm a synthesizer.

I'm also a creator. I can activate things and when I line myself with all these things that I'm talking about, I can create things at will. It's nuts, like line everything up and just things happen and it's brilliant to understand this is what I bring to the table. And when I've helped other people create this. And then peers that I've gone through programs with, their lists are completely different. And you see it in them. I'm like, oh my gosh, you're so good at that. Can I pay you for that? Because you're so good at that. And I'm not good at that.

Tony: Well Preston, I had to tell you when that whole thing you just explained, when I first came out there and we hung out in your office for I think two, three days straight. And we mapped out the whole magnetic marriage course that was, I still look back on that as one of the most exhaustingly, wonderful moments of my life where I had no idea what we were doing and that dry erase board and the energy that you would bring and we'd go out and go on the electric skateboard for a minute, then we would get the amazing food and come back and it's like you're back on task and putting these pieces together and it was electric. And so, I know that you know what you can do and then you just do that, and you bring that energy. I was grinning when you were talking about who you are because it’s like, oh I have seen that.

Preston: And it's so fun. Here's a cool thing when people feel stuck. When you feel stuck, it is because you are not living in alignment with your mission, purpose, values, and your gifts. And it might just be because you don't know what they are because you haven't examined them. But that's what I call an MVP contract. Like your mission, values, purpose, your contract, your gifts, the things that you really just are and bring to the table and how you operate. Things can't just, seriously, things can become significantly easier when you have all this knowledge and then when you operate on it. And kind of the last little part of this that's so, so important is it's called a foundational filter. And what I mean by that is think about a filter. When you do a search, right? If you're doing a search for something inside of some data and then you say, exclude this word. Okay, I'm going to exclude this word.

That's a filter. And everything that has that word will not show up in the search, right? Everybody's had that experience. When you go through data, the foundation of how your mind operates moment to moment to moment. Tony Robbins calls it a primary question. It's the number one question that you're always asking.

And I call it a foundational filter because it filters your entire life through this. And for me it used to be because everybody has one and it's like a question. Mine used to be, how do I make this better? And I didn't even know that I was asking it because it was, I was asking it so often. In my mind subconsciously that it was the same thing as, what language are we speaking right now? Tony? English. Have you ever thought in the last 45 minutes about the fact that we're speaking English? I have not. No. Not once, because it's just what we're doing. So, what I realize is that I have this question that's always run into my mind. I walk into a room, look in the room, and the first thing that I don't even have to think about it, it just is. It's the water I'm swimming in. It's the language I'm speaking. How do I make this better? And that serves me a great deal when I walk into an event that I'm running. And then I can be like, oh, put the chairs here, put the speaker there, move that over here, do boom, boom. And then everything has a great experience.

How do I do it when I'm performing? How do I do it when I'm speaking? How do I do it when I'm putting together a business plan or a coaching program? Like how do I make this better? It's just, it makes everything amazing. When I get in, I get into my friend's car and he has a little graphic equalizer on his car, and I know a lot about sound and he has it set in a way that doesn't make the music sound very good.

And so, without thinking, without even asking him, I start messing with his graphic equalizer and changing the settings on it. So, this primary question, this foundational filter, it also gets me into trouble. Because we go back to one of my values is allowing. Okay, allowing people to have their own. I'm using the word allow. It seems, I understand that there's so much hubris involved in this. Like I have the ability to allow.

Tony: You’re stepping into a healthy ego.

Preston: What I mean is I need to chill out and just not try to control you, even though I think I can make it better. Okay, but what is “it”? So, I decided that I was going to not try to control things by trying to make them better, because it was always my idea of what was better, which is not necessarily their idea of what is better, which is so judgmental. And so, what I did is I went through this process that I take people through where they identify their old foundational filter and their old primary question.

And for some they'll walk into a room and they'll, without thinking, they'll be like, am I safe? What are the things that are not safe about this? They're always thinking that. Another one is to walk in and be like, how do I make other people happy? Another one is a walk in, say, what are people thinking about me?

So, it's a question that you're always asking that you get to the point. You don't even think about it. And if you can't ask that question, it really, really makes you uncomfortable.

Tony: Preston, can I tell you it makes so much sense too. When I think back, I remember when you talked about primary questions for me, and I really feel like I have such a value of curiosity and knowledge.

And so, I have this primary question constantly of what's this person about? Or what makes this person tick. And so, then when we would get in the room to then create a course and you're going to make this thing better, and I don't even know what it is. And so, I'm wanting to understand more about how this works?

And I remember we would have those conversations around, what we're selling and how we sell it and the way that we're going to connect and communicate. And I realized that I was kind of doing the, okay, I need to try to make sense of this, or I want to understand where you're coming from or how does this work? Or how do you tick and you're just making it better, man, you know.

Preston: But that question, if left unchecked will go and go and go and damage relationships. For me, I have one of my best friends. My best friend's primary question was, how do I make other people happy? Awesome. Lot of benefit to that question.

Also, when you take it to its natural conclusion, what happens? You lose yourself. Because you're always doing things for other people and you're selling out on what you want. And he experienced that. So, what I did is I created an intentionally new, foundational filter. My new primary question, and it is this, what else is going well for me right now?

Okay. That's what I ask when I'm intentional. So, what's the presupposition? So, what is the presupposition in the first question? How do I make this better?

Tony: That something's wrong.

Preston: That something is wrong, and we need to find out what's wrong with it. So, I'm always looking for problems. What's the presupposition in, “What else is going well for me?”

Tony: That something may not be going according to plan? No.

Preston: The presupposition that is, that something is already going well. What else is going well for me? I start by saying something's got to be going right.

Let's look for what else is going well for me. When I do that, here's the thing. I live, when I say my contract. I live in alignment with my mission, my values, and my purpose, my hierarchy. I'm intentionally acting on my natural gifts, talents, and superpowers. And then I'm asking my foundational filter question.

When I am conscious about these things, I'm on fricking fire. Because it's me. I'm in alignment and it's a completely different thing. Yours is different from mine. Your values are different. Mine, the hierarchy is different. The question is different. Your mission, your purpose, your contract, your gifts, all of them are completely different and they are unique.

And what I've done is I've put together a very specific process of helping people extract these things from their soul, from their experience, from their relationships, from their life, from their mind, from tests that you take. Just all these different things and it put them all together in your M V P contract, so you know your mission, your values, your purpose, and how you can go about creating a fulfilled life.

Tony: Man, Preston, and what we were saying earlier if your brain right now is like, that sounds amazing and I'll get to it later. I don't think you understand what it would feel like to live in alignment with your values now to deal with the things that are coming up later.

I feel, I feel it, man. I do. So where can people find you?

Preston: This is what we're going to do, okay? We're going to set up, so go to Tonyoverbay.com/contract. Okay? Cause this is your contract, Tonyoverbay.com/contract and it'll take you to a link. Because what I'm doing right now is I'm running a six week program.

We do it every single week. We're going to have coaching calls, there's going to be homework, it's a fun process. It's a fun process and you will be required to do some things. This is not going to be, it's very interactive and you're going to do some things in between the calls and take you like, you know, a couple hours a week.

But at the end of it, you come away with a specific document and right now I'm running a promotion. Like the price is going to, I'm going to, this is the only time it's ever, marketing, scarcity, whatever, whatever. Honestly, this is the only time it's ever going to be at this price because I'm running it right now and I'm going to limit it because I want to have a specific like small group of people.

Yeah, so only 20 spots in this, and it'll be double the price later on when I keep running this program. But right now, only 20 spots. And if you're feeling called to this, like, okay, I'll tell you right now. Right now, you're in one of three camps. You're like, dude, I'm a yes. I need this. I'm a yes.

Cool. In that case, go, just go to the thing. Go sign up. If you are a no, if you're like, you know what, this sounds great. Not for me. Trust yourself. That sounds freaking awesome to just know that this is not for you right now, cool. But maybe you're in the third camp, which is you're a yes, but. Like, yeah, I would love to have this.

I think it would be so valuable in my life, but I don't know if I have the time, but I don't know if I have the money, but I don't know all these different things. And I'll tell you this right now, how much longer are you going to use that excuse. Because if you're using that excuse here and you're like called to it, then you're using that excuse in other areas of your life as well.

I have put so many things off that I knew I needed to do. It’s ridiculous, and when I started proving to myself that I was willing to actually invest in myself, things changed. So if you're a “yes but”, then just allow yourself to get rid of that excuse and step into making a new decision and getting clear on who you are and what you're doing, because it changes how you approach everything.

Tony: Preston, I love it. I do. And again, what, this will be 340 something episodes of the Virtual Couch. I've only talked about values about 900,000 times, and this is the first time that it's saying, hey, and actually here's how you go figure that out. I'm grateful to you, my friend. I couldn't trust anybody else more with the keys to the car.

I mean, you, even if you're going to mess with the equalizer, I actually trust you there too. Cause I don't know enough about that.

Preston: Well, I don't do that anymore because I say, what else is going well for me, and I allow other people to have their own sound equalizing systems and I don’t need to, I don’t need to change things anymore for other people.

Tony: No, you're very kind. All right. So please go to Tonyoverbay.com/contract. And, then if you have questions, you can reach out through my website for Preston, or I'm sure you can go to Preston.

Preston: You can hit me up at Preston.Pugmire on Instagram. Or Preston Pugmire on Facebook. Like DM me. If you're listening to this episode, screenshot it and tag me and I'll send you a voice message. I send voice messages to everybody that tags me, that listens to these podcasts and tags me on those things.

And then if you have questions about it, yeah. Like if you have questions about it, send me a question, I'll talk to you about what's going on. You can email me.

Tony: Please talk to Preston if you want to feel good about yourself. Talk to Preston, please.

Preston: Tony's got too much going on. Don't email him.

Tony: That's right. Preston is my man. That's right. Okay. Preston Pugmire.

Preston: Thank you so much. Preston Pugmire. It's P U G M I R E.

Tony: Okay, Preston thank you for coming on. I want you to come back on and then talk about all the changes that the first 20 that run through this have had. And then, man, you're changing lives.

Preston: And we need to have you on my podcast. Next level life. Let's do this, a podcast called Next Level Life. And let's do an episode next week with you on it.

Tony: I would love it. Okay, Preston Pugmire, we'll talk to you later. Okay. Thanks for going on the Virtual Couch.

Preston: Bye.

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

If you are interested in being coached in Tony's upcoming "Magnetic Marriage Podcast," please email him for more information. You will receive free marriage coaching and remain anonymous when the episode airs. 

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

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

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


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

Sarah: Hey Tony. Thanks for having me.

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

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

What's that been like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tony:  What were some of those red flags?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tony: What was the key to that?

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

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

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

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

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

Tony: Did he pursue you after that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tony: Wow. Oh, Sarah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tony: Okay. Like what?

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

Tony: And a “mentor” and yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely.

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

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

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

Thanks for a slight error in uploading the correct file on Tony's "Waking Up to Narcissism" podcast; he shares the correct episode as a "crossover" on The Virtual Couch. Tony adds "The Mailbox Metaphor," a powerful Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) metaphor about how we decide to look at the "clutter" of our virtual, physical, or mental inboxes. Can communication be a form of violence? According to communication expert Marshall Rosenberg, it can if you consider "violence" to include attempts at cutting others down to size and/or coercing them into doing what we want. Tony discusses "Nonviolent Communication," and the importance of separating an observation from a judgment, something narcissists or highly emotionally immature people struggle to do to manage their own anxiety.

Tony references Pamela Hobart's review of Marshall Rosenberg's book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life https://fourminutebooks.com/nonviolent-communication-summary/

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=bSWcEQTranscript


Hey, everybody. Welcome to 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, and also host of the very soon to be released Magnetic Marriage podcast, which is going to be a subscription based podcast. The cost per year is going to be far, far less than one session of therapy, but this is real couples, real coaching/therapy. And I have about 15 to 20 episodes in the can. 

And we are going to come out with one every week and you're going to hear me coach and do therapy with real life couples. And if you want to know more about that, just go to Tonyoverbay.com and sign up for the newsletter. And you will be the first to know when it is going to launch. It looks like it's probably going to be around the first week of December, and I am going to run a special or two between now and then. So go to Tonyoverbay.com and sign up for my newsletter and you'll be one of the first to know more about that. I'm very excited about it because I feel like, especially my Waking Up to Narcissism audiences, a lot of people have not been in a position to get their spouse, or their partner, to go to counseling. Or they've possibly had bad experiences in counseling. So this is really like being able to just watch what, I feel like, a productive couple session can look like, and we've been able to cover everything from emotional immaturity to navigating a faith journey or a faith deconstruction, to parenting, to just arguing, ineffective communication, blended families, and everything that you can imagine up to this point. So I can't wait, if you can tell by my voice, for people to find this podcast and hopefully it will help in their relationships. And speaking of relationships, you can also go to Tonyoverbay.com/workshop. And I am leaving the $19 workshop up there, which does a lot of what I just like to say, we don't know that we don't know about how to have a good relationship and how to communicate effectively. I lay out my four pillars in more detail, as well as a lot of the other challenges that I see as a couples therapist. So that's $19 money back guarantee. Tonyoverbay.com/workshop. But let's get to the topic today. And this one has been a bit of a therapeutic whirlwind for me. 

I had heard about a concept called “nonviolent communication” a few years ago from a listener. And I had Googled the concept a little bit. Not enough to really understand what the concept was about. And at one point I even had an audible book of the day or deal of the day come up that was about a review of a book about nonviolent communication. That was a little over an hour. 

And I listened and I really appreciated that. But for some reason it didn't really click until a couple of weeks ago when someone was talking about the concepts around nonviolent communication in my office. And it really got me thinking, and I did a little bit of a deep dive on the author or the person who came up with the concepts around nonviolent communication. Marshall Rosenberg. And now it's one of those things where I just feel like it's another puzzle piece that helps make sense of things that really don't make sense. So, let me take you on my train of thought here. First let's talk about what nonviolent communication is. And the best place to talk about this, I found, was a four minute book review on a site called fourminutebooks.com. And the person who wrote the article is Pamela Hobart. And it is, “nonviolent communication summary”. So Pamela gives a one sentence summary, “Nonviolent communication explains how focusing on people's underlying needs and making observations instead of judgments can revolutionize the way you interact with anybody.” 

She says, “even your worst enemies.” And I think one of the reasons I shied away from digging deeper in the past, into the topic in general non-violent communication, Pamela sums it up perfectly. She said, “Free speech advocates commonly argue that speech is the opposite of violence. Words can offend us, but they don't actually do harm.” So she said, “From this point of view, nonviolent communication is practically an oxymoron.” And I think that maybe in my subconscious, I felt the same. But communications expert Marshall Rosenberg begs to differ. Now, according to him, and I think you'll see where this really starts to fit into the things we talk about on waking up the narcissism, whether we're talking about full blown narcissistic personality disorder, or extreme emotional immaturity, Marshall Rosenberg says, “Most people's default manner of speaking to others is highly violent. That is if you consider violence to include attempts at cutting others down to size. And coercing them into doing what we want.” Now, I did an episode about this a couple of weeks ago, over on the Virtual Couch

And I really feel like it helps in the context of if you are someone who is self-aware. I think that we will often recognize after you hear what I'm going to talk about next, our role in certain things. And I think the difference in somebody that has narcissistic traits, tendencies, personality disorder, or extreme emotional immaturity is, they're not the one that is listening to this podcast most likely, or if they are, they may be listening with their elbow, meaning, okay, I'm poking my partner saying, yeah, you really need to listen to this. And I feel like most of the people that I think are tuning in are people that are wanting to figure out things, figure out, okay, what is off in my relationship? And again, is it me? And am I the narcissist, which I will maintain if you are listening to this and asking the question. No. Because you have enough self-awareness and curiosity and concern to ask that question and to go seeking help. 

Now, if you are handed this podcast and you're listening and at first you thought, how dare somebody send me this podcast? They think I'm a narcissist? But then slowly but surely over time, you've started to recognize, oh my goodness. I do a lot of these things. Maybe I'm just on that emotionally immature spectrum. Then you are waking up to perhaps your own narcissism or your own emotional immaturity, which is absolutely what I have done, which is why I titled the podcast “Waking Up to Narcissism”. Yet I digress. In this book review, Pamela says, “Whether or not most ordinary speakers are constantly committing literal acts of violence or not, most of us can see the potential benefit of learning to communicate more effectively.” And Marshall Rosenberg's book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life provides one provocative lens for seeing what's morally and pragmatically wrong with many of the things that we tend to say in our everyday lives. Nonviolent communication, then digs a little bit deeper into what we could say instead. Now, the reason that I read that paragraph is because that leads nicely into the first lesson that Pamela pulled out of the book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. And this has been the game changer over the last couple of weeks. 

“Separating observation from judgment is the first step toward reducing needless conflict.” So if you are on your journey of self-improvement, separating observation from judgment can be a really powerful tool. Now, the example I gave on the Virtual Couch podcast is if you say to yourself about, let's just say your son, you have a son and your son's struggling in school. If you say well, he doesn't do his homework or he fails that test because he's lazy. So, what do we do? There's an observation that he doesn't do his homework, and then we immediately fill in the gap with a judgment. Now that judgment, I believe strongly, is there to ease or manage our own anxiety. Now, let me tell you where I'm going with this. 

So if he doesn't do his homework and we just throw that judgment in there, that it's because he's lazy. Oh, look what we get to not do. We don't have to take ownership or accountability of, well, what if it's because I did not spend much time, even when he has asked me for help with his homework. 

Because, I mean, if it's like me, I couldn't do my kids' math homework after they hit about fifth grade, I'm a therapist. I took one math class in college. That's not my strong suit. And so if I feel emotionally insecure, if I feel immature or insecure about my ability to help my kid, then am I saying, oh, accountability, my bad. I have no idea what that math problem is. Or instead if I just say, oh, I'm too busy. I don't have time to help you with your homework. 

So then down the road, if he is not doing well in math and I say, yeah, it's because he's lazy. He doesn't do his homework. What do I not have to deal with is, oh, I probably could have spent more time. Or that means that I might've had to get off of candy crush on my phone and actually learn sixth grade math, which would probably not have been as difficult as I would have thought it would have been. 

But if you're really talking about emotional immaturity or narcissism, and as I'm talking this through well, but I also don't want to feel uncomfortable. So I'm just going to say, yeah, I don't have time champ. And so now it results in if he's not doing his homework again, I just say, well, it's because he's lazy. So I don't have to deal with my own potential role in how I could have helped. I don't have to deal with the fact that I may have just passed on some good old genetic genes and DNA that the boy is not very good, maybe he has some nice stunted neuro-transmitters and a heavy dose of ADHD. Like his dad, and so therefore that isn't his strong suit. So I don't want to deal with that either. I would rather throw that judgment card in there and say well, it’s because he's lazy. Or, I deal so much with people that are struggling with faith, faith journeys, faith transitions, faith deconstructions, all of these formerly known as a faith crisis. And so let's just say, if you are in a religion, in a church and a faith community and someone leaves, it's much easier to say well yeah, they left because they wanted to sin. 

So, what am I doing there? The observation truly is that they left. My judgment comes in to say, well it's because they want to sin because, why? And this is where I feel like this is so applicable on this podcast. Waking up to narcissism. Let's take that one in particular. And even if you're not a religious person or in a faith community, I think that you'll see where I'm going here. 

So if I can just throw that judgment out, it will manage my anxiety. It's obvious they left because they want to go do bad. Because, when we're being incredibly emotionally immature or narcissistic in our thoughts, then we maintain this all or nothing attitude, this black or white thinking. So if they left and it's because, well, they didn't like going to my church. 

Then in our mind, we're subconsciously or just reactively what feels like to be me is, well, then what if I'm wrong? What if they're right? What if they can be happy? And they can be happy outside of my faith community. Well, it's not black or white. It's not all or nothing. So emotional maturity is me being able to say, well, they left because maybe it didn't work for them or better yet they left, period. Now I can ask them with curiosity. Hey, tell me about your journey. Tell me more about that. How are you doing now? 

So when we separate observation and judgment, now we're going to give that person an opportunity to really communicate effectively. And it's not about easing or managing my anxiety. It's about the other person's experience. So if I'm again throwing these judgements in there, what else am I not having to deal with? 

The fact that, what if my particular faith community is judgemental? And so someone left because they didn't feel like they fit in, and they maybe are different from me. And so then again, I go back to this all or nothing, black or white thinking where I need to throw a judgment in there, because what if I am not truly aware of what it's like to be somebody else and what their experience is in the faith community? So again, I have to put this judgment in there. Well no, it's probably because they want to go sin. It's probably because they want to go do all of these crazy behaviors. It can't be because they have a different experience. 

And their different experience might be okay. Because that doesn't invalidate my experience in this example with my faith community. What if we both can have good experiences, one within the faith community and one outside of the faith community. That would be absolutely okay. Nonviolent communication, I think now we can start to see where that concept of violence comes in. Because if I am immediately throwing that judgment on there, now if I'm going to have that conversation with that person, I've already judged the fact that they left the faith community because they want to sin. 

So now if I'm saying, hey, how are things going? And if they're saying, oh, it's great. I'm doing well. Then I'm already looking through this lens of, sure you are. I've already made the judgment. I know why you left. You left because you want to go and shoot heroin between your toes. I mean, it's not because you wanted to have a different experience. So if you're telling me it's okay, sure it’s okay. 

And boy, talk about then a violent communication tactic. Because I'm already putting that person on the defensive and now it's up to them to prove to me that I am wrong when I'm already thinking I'm right. So there is a no win situation there. So that person is absolutely going to feel unheard. 

And they're going to feel like you know, you don't even really want to know about why I left the faith community. You've already got your judgment and we can see that on your face. Or I feel that energy. So one of the beautiful things I’ve noticed, the more I learn about this concept of nonviolent communication, is separating observation from judgment. That is going to lead us to curiosity. And curiosity is our best chance at actually having a true connection, a connected conversation where we can both have our own experiences and someone else's experience doesn't invalidate my experience. 

So one of the things that also had me looking more into nonviolent communication was something that someone shared with me from a book called The Yamas and the Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice by a woman named Deborah Adele. Now, how does that fit in? Deborah Adele is not quoting Marshall Rosenberg's nonviolent communication book, but listen to this page. And I think this fits so nicely into what we've already talked about so far. 

She says, “Thinking that we know what is better for others becomes a subtle way that we do violence. When we take it upon ourselves to ‘help the other’, we whittle away at their sense of autonomy. Non-violence assets to trust the other's ability to find the answer that they are seeking. It asks us to have faith in the other, not feel sorry for them. Non-violence asks us to trust the other's journey and love and support others to their highest image of themselves. Not our highest image of them. It asks that we stop managing ourselves, our experience, others and others' experiences of us. Leave the other person free of our needs, free to be themselves, and free to see us as they choose.” 

Now on the Virtual Couch, I just blasted right past that. I thought it fit in nicely with the episode. And I was talking more about the concepts around healthy ego and finding what really matters to you versus pathological defensive ego or narcissism. But why I think this is more applicable on Waking Up to Narcissism, and I want to do a little bit of a deep dive here, is I want you to listen. If you can, if right now you're thinking, okay, but I'm then doing violence to my children or but I'm the one, me, I am the problem. 

I want you to take a breath. Square up those shoulders, in through the nose, out through the mouth. And I'm encouraging you to put your pathologically kind shield down. And now lean into the concepts of what this is like in your relationship, because we could do an entirely different episode on yeah, we're probably by definition doing a little bit more of that violent communication with our children, because I'm going to maintain that our job as a parent starts as we are a coach when they are young. I heard this a long time ago. And so we are calling a lot of the plays. We're doing a lot of the guidance when they're young. And then as they get older, we move into more of a managerial role. If you're familiar with that sports analogy, we're no longer the coach on the field, but we're the general manager. So we can get some funding together. We can raise money from the boosters. We can maybe work a couple of trades. 

We can even have you maybe move to a different location and I can help with that. But ultimately you're the one that is playing, talking about my kid. So what I'm really talking about with that quote is what is happening to you. So if your partner is thinking that they know what is better for you, that is a subtle way that they do violence. When that person takes it upon themselves to help you, they whittle away at your sense of autonomy. And I can't even keep track of the amount of emails that come in now of people saying that they have lost their sense of self. That they've whittled it, this sense of autonomy is absolutely it's not been whittled away, it's been chopped away with an ax. 

So at that point, I feel like the concepts around violent communication become even more powerful or clear because if you are constantly having to defend yourself or try to figure out the other person, and meanwhile being told that most everything that you do is not the right thing to do, which leaves you feeling like you're not enough, then you are operating from such a deep hole that you can't get out of that you don't even have a moment to try to find your sense of self. And so absolutely your autonomy has just been destroyed. So that is because you have been communicated to violently. Because everything you've had to say, I know that's an all or nothing statement, most everything that you've had to say then has come from a place of defense. And then when you are trying to defend, and the other person has been making judgements to manage their anxiety. Let's go back to their own childhood abandonment and trauma wounds. And again, narcissism. If we really take a step back, one of the definitions I think is so good is from Eleanor Greenberg from her Psychology Today article, “The Truth About Narcissistic Personality Disorder”. “Narcissistic personality disorder is the name for a series of coping strategies that began as an adaptation to a childhood family situation that left the person with unstable self-esteem, the inability to regulate their self-esteem without external validation, and low empathy.” So now go back to when you are communicating with your narcissistic partner or a narcissistic adult parent or narcissistic older child or narcissistic leader or boss or entity of any kind. And they are coming at every situation that they're looking at.  And they’re coming in there with unstable self-esteem and the inability to regulate that self-esteem without external validation and lower empathy, then they are throwing huge judgements on with their observation of you. They already know why you're doing the things that you're doing because that helps them try to make sense of their own life. 

And they lack that true sense of self or a sense of purpose. So then what that sense of self or purpose becomes is all about managing their anxiety through judgment statements. So everything that they see, they know they understand, this is why you're doing that. And that's why, at the core gaslighting is, then if you try to defend yourself because you have to defend yourself because they've already thrown you into this quagmire of judgment with whatever you're doing. Now as you try to defend yourself, you're actually giving them more fire, more juice, more power, because it can't be that way. This is that concept of confabulation. They're creating a narrative in real time so anything that you say, then that goes against the judgment statement that they've already crafted in their mind is invalidating their experience and causing them to have more stress and anxiety, and they need to manage that anxiety, not with curiosity, not with self confrontation, not with accountability, but with control. So now I have to think of you in this negative light, says the narcissist or the emotionally immature person, or else it's going to cause me a lot of anxiety and it's going to cause me to have to take a look inward and own my own crap. And I'm not willing to do that. 

So I have now judged what you are doing. And as a matter of fact, it has to be that way. So now if you try to argue against me, I get to even say, you don't even understand yourself. I do. Which is why arguing with someone that truly is on that highly emotionally immature scale or narcissistic personality disorder scale is going to actually leave you feeling worse. Which brings us into the next part of today's podcast on Marshall Rosenberg's site, it's the NVC, it's nonviolent communication. Okay on nonviolentcommunication.com, you can find a lot of resources and he has a lot of free resources and there is an email that is on there that I found when I was searching for some resources on nonviolent communication and narcissism. So I'm going to claim the, hey, it's on the internet. And so I'm going to read it. So giving full attribution, this is at nonviolentcommunication.com/email. And then it says “non-violent communication and narcissist”, and it's a PDF email. I don't know any other context. And I really tried to find it. But it's by a gentleman named Tim Buckley and it looks like it's an email that they received that Tim must have written or sent. And I'm going to go through this because I think that he does such a nice, amazing job at laying out what nonviolent communication would look like for the person, the pathologically kind person attempting to communicate with a narcissist. So Tim says, “Covid didn't create narcissism, but the isolation created by the pandemic may have increased the challenges we face trying to meet the needs of a shared reality and meaningful connection with others.” He said, “Recently, a friend asked whether there is an antidote to ‘dealing with a narcissist’. He said that providing empathy for that person had become emotionally taxing. And that more empathy seemed only to encourage the other person to go on and on. Inviting more empathy and thus creating compassion fatigue for me.” Boy, we could do a whole episode on that paragraph. “Compassion fatigue”. And this person who was saying, hey, I listened and I gave empathy and all that did was cause the person to want to go on and on and more and more until I felt this compassion fatigue. 

So Tim said, “Before I answered his email, I did a bit of research.” So this first one is just kind of fun. There's a couple of things here. He said, “Narcissist was a mythical Greek character developed as a morality lesson. The young man was classically beautiful and he fell deeply in love with his reflection in a pool. Obvious to us, and eventually to him, the relationship was not destined for satisfaction. Narcissist became sad, then despairing that his love could not be reciprocated.” Boy that resonates. “So he ultimately killed himself and after his death, the flower of great beauty was born bearing his name.” So there's the history or the mythology around narcissism. Then he says, “A foundational premise of nonviolent communication is that moral judgements proceed all acts of violence.” So what we've been talking about here, that a moral judgment on an observation is kind of hardwired, until we're aware and we try not to. So again, he says, “A foundational premise of nonviolent communication is that moral judgments precede all acts of violence. Narcissism, nonviolent communication founder Marshall Rosenberg would say, is a diagnosis.” So the thought, and again stick with me here because I, again, I know I'm dealing with the pathologically kind audience for the most part. And so I worry you'll hear this next sentence and then say, oh my gosh, I need to stop doing this. But, hang on.

So he says, “Marshall Rosenberg would say that narcissism is a diagnosis. So the thought he's a narcissist creates separation between me, the judge, and you, the object. As soon as those thoughts enter our minds, that he's a narcissist, so whether they are good and bad right and wrong,” now he says, “we're knocking at moral judgments front door.”

So instead of labeling the other person as a narcissist, Tim Buckley is saying that this is what he understands about nonviolent communication, that it is possible with practice to refrain from knocking on that door altogether. So that door of judgment, instead as nonviolent communication teaches us, he says, “Form an observation. So every time I spoke to my brother-in-law last weekend, he talked about his accomplishments and didn't ask me once about what I think, how I am, or what I've been doing.” So I really do like the premise where Tim is setting this up. So from a nonviolent communication standpoint, and that's why I tried to spend the first half of this email on, when you are being communicated at violently, you're already in a one, two or I won't say a three down position. And you are trying to defend yourself like crazy. And you're trying to defend something that if we really step back, I don't need to defend. That's the other person's judgment on their observation of me. 

And now we can realize that and that judgment is there to manage their anxiety. So if I'm dealing with a narcissist or someone that's extremely emotionally immature, they are not looking at me with curiosity. They're looking to validate their judgment of me because that will ease their anxiety and make them feel better about themselves. And that is the air that they breathe. 

So back Tim Buckley saying, “Instead of labeling the other person as a narcissist, then it's possible with practice to refrain from knocking on that door of judgment altogether. So form an observation. Again, every time I spoke to my brother-in-law last weekend, he talked about his accomplishment and didn't ask me once about what I think, how I am, or what I've been doing.” So that's the observation. And it can be really hard to separate that judgment for ourselves, especially if we have been in a pattern of narcissistic or emotional abuse, especially in conversation for a long period of time, because like we've talked about the body keeps the score. My visceral reaction is going to lead the way my emotions are going to travel faster than my logic. 

So that's why I want to set the table and say, this is great, what we're talking about, from an awareness standpoint. But I know that for the population that I'm talking to right now for most, your body is already heading toward fight or flight, even when you get around the person. So, what he says then is the observation is that my brother-in-law only talked about his accomplishments. Didn't ask me once about what I was thinking, how I'm doing or what I've been doing. And I feel like most people listening can probably resonate with that. That is the observation. Then he says self empathy, identifying the feelings I have about that. Well, I felt irritated. I felt hopeless. I felt unseen. I felt unheard. I felt unloved. 

So self empathy, identify the needs not met. Well, I would like a real conversation. I would like to be heard. I would like to be acknowledged. I would like to know that I matter. So then here's the part where I feel like, I don't know where I'm at yet, as far as nonviolent communication, when communicating with the narcissist, because in nonviolent communication, he says, then request at this point.

So the request, you now have a choice. You can interrupt your brother-in-law and lay out your observations, your feelings, and needs. So this is what I love. If you are in an emotionally healthy relationship, then separating your observation from your emotion will then allow you to give them space and have more curiosity to have a truly connected conversation. And then, at that point, then you can even start to express your needs. I would love a connection. I would love to be heard and understood. 

But, I feel like if you're, if you see where I'm going with this, if you're in a relationship with a narcissist, then that is adorable to think that I'm going to express that. And they're going to say, oh my gosh, am I doing that? I did not know that. Which boy, quick plug, please, if you don't go follow me on Instagram @ virtual couch. 

I have an amazing social media team that is now starting to put a lot of content out there. And I've been recording reels, and I feel like an old man, reels as the kids say, but, I just always wanted to do something with, in my mind when I have a narcissist, maybe in my office, I maybe will ask a question and then, you know, I've identified my ADHD on numerous occasions and my secondary emotion of humor, which leads the way. So my internal dialogue often is jokes. I can't help it. 

So oftentimes when I set the table for an emotionally immature narcissistic person, during a conversation to really show up with empathy or curiosity. And then oftentimes I think, oh, here's something that a narcissist will never say. Things like, oh, I hadn't thought of that or my bad, or, tell me more about how you feel. So go follow me on Instagram or Facebook at Tony Overbay, licensed marriage and family therapist, or on Instagram @ virtual couch. 

And we're starting to get more and more of that content, reels and trying to, you know, use some humor there as well about a situation that maybe isn't feeling as humorous. So if we identify those needs not met, I'd like a real conversation to be heard and acknowledged. Two, the request. You have a choice, you can interrupt your brother-in-law and lay out your observations, your feelings and your needs. 

Or you could decide to empathize with them so that you meet other important needs of yours, like kindness, consideration, respect, and empathy. But in this email, and I think this is where I think this is so applicable. Tim says, “But as in my friend's case, the unmet needs continue to come up and the choice to listen empathetically to his brother-in-law became emotionally burdensome. So then what? So Rosenberg teaches us to notice the moment we're no longer enjoying the choice we made.” I know that sounds simple, but I love the simplicity. So notice the moment that we're no longer enjoying the choice we made, the choice that I've made to continue to listen to the narcissistic person who never reciprocates in the conversation. 

So at some point I noticed I'm no longer enjoying this. And he said, “And then make another choice to better meet our own need. When we can no longer be present to the other in a state of empathy, it's important to say what has become more important. Not doing so can rapidly give rise to thoughts, like he's a narcissist or he's so self-centered.”  So, Tim said, “Here's how that might sound.” So he says, “Me. ‘Excuse me a minute, Rob, I'd like to check with you on something. I've been listening to you for a while and asking questions about what you've been saying. I wonder if you can say how my listening and my questions have landed for you. Has it been pleasurable for you to have me be present with what's going on for you.’ and Rob,” who I think in this scenario is the emotionally immature or narcissistic person, “says, ‘Yeah, thanks. I really have enjoyed talking with you and it's rare to have somebody express interest in what's going on for me.’” Now let's pause. This is why I feel like, if you are the pathologically kind person and you are continuing to talk to the narcissist and they continually tell them about all their amazing accomplishments over and over again, and they don't ask you anything about you. 

When you leave that conversation, they say, man, this was great. I mean, I feel like we have a real connection. Because you just listened and validated. So, this Rob in this scenario says, yeah, I enjoyed talking with you. It's rare to have somebody express interest in what's going on for me. Expressing interest to the narcissist can simply be saying, oh man, really. What was that like? Oh, okay. Instead of trying to combat or leave the conversation. Because again, that narcissist is a very emotionally insecure person at their core. So then in this scenario, the person speaking says, “‘Okay, I'm glad you're saying you long to be heard. And that doesn't happen as much as you would like. So when that happens, like with me just now, do you get the sense that you are appreciated and respected?’ To which then Rob says, ‘Yes, very much.’” So then the person says, “‘I understand, and I feel the same way. So this last year being isolated because of COVID has been hard for me and I long for the same things that you spoke about. So would you be willing to listen to me for a while so that I can be heard and appreciated for what's going on for me?’, Rob says, ‘sure.’” So then he says, “Before I get more than a couple of sentences into my list of things, however, Rob cuts in and begins to talk about himself. Often something we say stimulates a thought in the other and rather than hanging onto the thought. They interrupt with oh yeah, that happened to me too. And then they continue to dominate the conversation.” 

And in my imagination, probably also one-upping the conversation. So then he says, “Me internally, oh boy, here we go. Again, me internally, self empathy, I'm irritated because he said he would listen. And now it appears that he's not interested. I'd really like to keep my relationship with him solid. So I want to be understood for this point. I think I'm going to say something now.” 

So, you know where this is going, right. “Me. ‘Rob’, I say, interrupting him. ‘I noticed this, now that you jumped in, when I was talking about my life and just after you said you were willing to listen to me, like I listened to you.’ Rob says, ‘Oh yeah, but I was just, I was just saying, I was just saying how I'm having some of those same issues.’ 

And then me, I say, ‘Well, yeah, I get that. And I want to make sure that you're still okay with your agreement to listen to me. So it's important for me to finish what's on my mind, you know, it helps me get grounded in my need for respect to mattering.’” Okay. And I would imagine Rob, at this point, it looks like you just took his puppy and you just popped the tires of his bike. Okay. 

And he says, “Perhaps the speaker now is thinking Rob may be better able to stay focused on listening. If so, I would certainly end our conversation with a sincere thanks for his willingness to be present and attentive. And to say that his doing so met my need for mutual respect. 

However, perhaps he's unable or unwilling to abide with that agreement. So if Rob continues to interrupt and bring the subject back to himself, then I might end the conversation this way.” He says, “‘ Rob. I'm interrupting again, only to say that I'm tired and I want to talk to other people right now. I'm disappointed that my need to be heard, like I wanted, wasn't met. 

And I noticed I was getting fidgety and frustrated when you continued to talk about yourself, my relationship with you is important. And I'd like to talk to you about this some more at some point.’ Me, now internally formulating a request, I'm hesitant to ask him if he'd be willing to tell me what he heard me say fearing that he would be defensive and would eat up another five minutes about himself.” And that is absolutely the case. So that's why I, again, I love this concept of nonviolent communication, but more from just a standpoint of awareness, as you are waking up to the narcissism around you, I think it's important to recognize when someone is communicating at you violently, because they have put a judgment onto an observation about you to manage their anxiety or their experience. They can't make room that you also have an experience. So then you are being violently communicated with, and you have to defend yourself. Now in nonviolent communication, as the listener you're now encouraged to separate your judgment, he's a narcissist, from the actual observation, he will not stop talking about himself. He doesn't ask me about anything. And, he just will continue on and on and on. And the observation, he will also tell me I'm wrong. He will also cut me off. So those are all observations. So the judgment is that he's a narcissist. I appreciate where this is going, because then, what nonviolent communication says is once I recognize that now I have to acknowledge the fact that this is not helpful, it's not reciprocal. It's not something that I am interested in continuing with. 

The part that I struggle with that I think there maybe needs to be a whole other branch of in this world of nonviolent communication with narcissists, is that just becomes more data for me. It's more research. It's more of what will eventually play into the rule outs of whether or not this is a healthy relationship. 

Because then if I express exactly the way that Tim wrote in this email that, hey, I have been listening and I would also like to be listened to. Then I feel like we're going to watch the narcissist, then take great offense because, go back to some of the stuff that I've talked about in earlier episodes. Narcissism comes from a place of severe childhood wounding, abandonment, neglect, emotional abuse, or lack of validation. So when you disagree with the narcissist, it can literally be just saying, hey, you had said you were going to do this a minute ago and you didn't.

When you do that, and I go back to the article by Eleanor Greenberg, she talks about “whole object relations, the capacity to see oneself and others in stable and integrated ways and acknowledge both a person's good and bad qualities and object constancy, the ability to maintain a positive, emotional connection to somebody that you like while you're angry, hurt, frustrated, or disappointed by her behavior.” So without these things, without whole object relations and without object constancy, people on the narcissistic spectrum can only see themselves and other people in one of two ways. And this is, we were alluding to this earlier, all or nothing, black or white. They see the people as special, unique, omnipotent, perfect, and entitled to what she calls “high status”. “Or they're defective, worthless, garbage, low status. This means that the person struggling with narcissistic issues cannot hold onto his or her good opinion and good feelings about someone once he or she notices the other person has a flaw.” The other person goes from being special and put on a pedestal, which is where I think in this example of the email Tim's reading is where the person is just listening to the narcissist. So at that point, now the narcissist feels like this is good. We've got a good thing happening here. We're vibing. We're having conversations. Not reciprocal conversations, not back and forth conversations, not empathetic conversations, but this person is listening to me and they are nodding their head and they are smiling and they're not leaving. They're not running away. 

This is good. We got a thing. But then if they notice that the other person has a flaw, the person goes from being special and put on a pedestal to being devalued as nothing special. Now, what can that flaw be? Eleanor says, “Narcissists often seesaw back and forth between these things, whole object relations and object constancy. So when they're feeling good about you or more accurately”, and here we go, “you are making them feel good about themselves, then they see you as special.” We're vibing. We got a good thing going on, I feel like we have a connection. Then you do something that they do not like, such as say no to a request. Or dare I make a request myself. I would love a mutually reciprocal conversation. Suddenly you are now all bad and worthless. 

Now later you might do something that makes them feel good again. And they're back to seeing you as special. But when you say no to a request or when you make your own request, here's where the narcissist, their core, their core is shame. Because shame happens in our childhood, shame is a default mechanism. Unfortunately. 

Unfortunately, this goes to our abandonment and our attachment issues. And I know this is a. silly example, but,  if I'm six years old and I want a pony for my birthday and we live in an apartment. I'm six years old, I don't even know what that means to live in an apartment. I just want to pony. 

And the whole world is all, I see things through my lens and I lack empathy. Again, I'm six. So I want a pony, so my parents don't have a pony in the kitchen on my birthday, they don't like me. It's not that we're in an apartment that we can't afford a pony. I don't know what that is, you know, but as if I'm six, I wanted a pony. You did not deliver the pony. 

It can't be because of anything else. Because I don't even know what that means. Anything else? It means that something must be wrong with me. You don't care about me. And so shame, guilt, guilt says you did something bad. Shame says you are bad. So shame is where we default to, especially when we had an unhealthy childhood. 

Or, we did not have a secure attachment in childhood, so then we were continually trying to seek this validation. We wanted external validation and if we didn't get it, it must be because something is wrong with us. We are damaged. We are bad. So when you go back into the scenario of saying no to the narcissist request or expressing your own, then they immediately default to criticism and shame. So therefore, if you are saying, hey, I would like something else in our relationship. Or if I disagree with you, then they immediately think I'm a bad husband and a bad father. Now I will lash out and defend my fragile ego, whole object relations. I will go whole object relations on you. 

And in that scenario, you are now all bad. I am taking my ball and I'm leaving. That's it. We're done, game over. Now five minutes later, Mr. And Mrs. pathologically kind person comes back and says, hey, I'm sorry. Are we cool? Well now they're saying yeah, actually. Yeah, we're good. 

And I call that the, do you want to go ride bikes? So the narcissist can have defended their fragile ego, through shutdown, through anger, through gaslighting, through, I mean, tirades, calling you the most horrific names, but then five minutes later, do you want to go ride bikes? Hey, what are we doing for dinner? 

And literally he just called me, you know, think of your worst name that you'd never want to hear. So that can be so difficult because that emotional seesaw back and forth to somebody that does have empathy and does have concern, it can break your heart and it can break your will and it can break your spirit. It can put you in this defensive place where again, I'm being attacked. It's violent communication. 

So, let me finish up with this email because I really, I hope you can see why I appreciate this email so much. Back to the dialogue. So the person, I believe it's Tim then says, “If he is internally formulating his request,” and he says, I'm hesitant to ask him if he'd be willing to tell me what he heard me say, fearing he'd be defensive and would eat up another five minutes about himself. But then here we go. Tim says, “Request. ‘So would you be willing to exchange emails now and then make an arrangement to talk by phone next week?’ And then Rob says, ‘Yeah, but I wish you weren't so sensitive about being heard. It's kind of needy, you know.’

Me. ‘Okay. I think I understand what you're saying and Rob and I hope we can discuss that more when we talk next week. Okay?’ Rob, ‘Uh, yeah, sure.’” And so then Tim goes on to say, before he makes the phone call, he would do a preparatory check-in with himself. “What's my motivation for connection, connecting with Rob? What would I like in the outcome? Empathy for Rob? What needs is he trying to meet in his behavior with me in dominating the conversation? But more importantly, empathy for myself. What needs am I hoping to meet in a relationship with Rob? Is that even realistic? Is it possible?” Because if Rob isn't interested or available, or I would then add in there or capable, and bless his heart, for that kind of a relationship, then I need to get those needs met elsewhere. I don't need to keep continuing to beat my head against the wall to say, can you love me now? Instead, because that will cause me to feel unloved or unlovable or broken or what's wrong with me. And I will go to my own shame cave. 

Because here's the deal. Nothing is wrong with you. It is absolutely human and normal and okay to want a mutually reciprocal relationship where we both feel heard and understood and seen. And so that's why I feel like this concept of nonviolent communication, I hope it starts to resonate and it starts to make sense. And it's just yet another piece of a puzzle. 

That ,yeah, you can take this tool and use it beautifully. Your son doesn't do his homework instead of me saying he's probably lazy. It's like, oh man, observation. And the judgment I'm going to put on there is going to now put him in a defensive stance. Hey champ, tell me more about what's going on with your homework. 

And I can listen and I can be there and I can start to change the way I communicate with others. If someone is communicating with you and they're letting you know what they know about you as if they know you better. Violence, how dare they? . It's ridiculous. And that isn't something that you need to try to figure out a way to get them to understand that it's ridiculous, because if you are two adult human beings that have been in a relationship for quite a while now, then that may be the air that they breathe and it's because of their own experiences that they've had. So that's where again, I'm saying, oh, it gives me great empathy for that person, because I want people to wake up to their own narcissism and their own narcissistic traits and tendencies and their emotional immaturity. 

Because let me just end by painting a picture that I understand doesn't even make sense for so many people, because I don't think many people, if any, had a really healthy relationship modeled in their childhood, just because our parents didn't know what they didn't know. So we're really slowly starting to change a dynamic, which is all the more important that we need to do what's best for ourselves, so we can show up better for our kids so we can continue to help change the dynamics or what it feels like to be in a relationship. 

That it doesn't mean I have to continually try to figure out how we can get this person to want to know me and to want to be with me. I need to just be and do and be the best version of myself and that's okay. And the more I do that, if I watch my partner beside me, make judgements about it. Oh, you think you are, or I liked you better when. Then that is them trying to manage their own insecurities, their own anxiety. And that is emotionally stunting and it's emotionally unhealthy and it's emotionally abusive. 

Because the things that we all don't know that we don't know, is that part of the maturation process of growing up and getting into relationships is an amazing opportunity to now recognize that even if we met and we were emotionally immature, that as we grow together and as we go through experiences together, and as we have kids together, and as we go through financial setbacks and losses, and celebrations, deaths, moves, and all of these changes, of course we're going to have different experiences. So instead of me trying to manage my partner's experience so that it will make me feel more in control, I need to start to learn how to sit with some discomfort. I need to learn how to live in a world that has some tension and not be so afraid it's going to grow to contention, because tension is where some real growth occurs. Now, if it's continually going to contention, you need to start making a plan to get out because that is going to cause you a tremendous amount of emotional abuse and damage.

And eventually your blood pressure is going to rise. You're gonna blow out your adrenal system. You're going to stop producing cortisol. You're going to get a flat affect. Your body is going to have a conversion disorder. Suddenly, you’re going to have back pain or you're going to have irritable bowel syndrome. Or you’re going to have Crohn's disease or, you know, all these things that your body's going to say, I don't know what else to do to get your attention, but every time you go back in there trying to make sense of this thing, that makes absolutely no sense, it makes you worse and your brain is saying, this is not the way to live. And I'm a brain, I want to live forever. So I would really rather you not do this. 

If you need help, you're on the right path and it is a path of awakening and growth. And unfortunately it has a slow moving ship. I know it is. You go from, I don't know what I don't know. To now, I'm learning about things I can do, but unfortunately it's still gonna be really hard to do them and know that that is normal. 

And that's a really tough place to be for a while, but know that you're in the right place. And then slowly. So you go from, I didn't know what I didn't know to now, I know, and I'm starting to understand more, but I'm still unable to do. To now, I know, I understand quite a bit more and I'm starting to do, and unfortunately, I'm going to get more pushback. 

Because I'm now starting to change the dynamic of the relationship, which is going to cause my emotionally mature partner to have more anxiety, more stress. And they want to manage that by controlling you and your narrative to make them feel better about themselves. So that's a difficult place to be as well, but eventually you start to learn, oh my gosh, I am okay. I am lovable. I am of worth, I have unique gifts and talents and abilities. And the more I step into those, then either that person that I'm in the relationship with can then say, oh my gosh, this is amazing and incredible, or I need to just know that this is amazing and incredible. And if they don't want to participate anymore in the relationship, then that's not on me because I am now becoming the best version of me, which is going to help change the world. And it's going to help change the dynamic of what the future of my kids' lives will be in the relationships that they see. 

And over time, what it feels like to be you is this incredible dynamic, interdependent differentiated person with a unique set of gifts and talents and skills. And all of a sudden, you radiate, you don't waste emotional calories trying to figure out how can I get this person to love me? You love yourself. And it is not from an arrogant standpoint. It is a healthy ego because you've done the work and that light will shine and it will lift others around you. 

And if there are others that feel insecure because of that light shining, I wanted to say screw them, but then that didn't really play into the whole motivational speech there that I was saying. But in essence, that's kind of where I'm going. No, bless their heart because that's no longer your burden. Thanks for joining me today. If you like what you hear, feel free to pass this along to somebody that you think might be in need. 

And if you're still listening, first of all, thank you. And if you do, I don't like making these pleas, I feel a little bit needy or that sort of thing, but the more that you do review the podcast wherever you listen to it, or the more that you rate it, it really does start to get into the algorithm, I guess, as the kids say, and with this one in particular, I love doing podcasts. I love when the Virtual Couch is growing and people share it. 

But this Waking Up to Narcissism one is one that people are just finding because they start to Google things. And so I feel like I recognize even more so I think that algorithm is important because there are going to be people that are going to be down. And the first thing they're going to do is start searching. 

And so they need to start finding tools and resources. So if you could rate and review and all those things, it will help get this podcast out into the algorithm and then we can help more people. Have a great week. And I will see you next time on Waking Up to Narcissism

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