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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

True or false? You only use 10 percent of your brain? Albert Einstein was a lousy student, and look how he turned out! Positive affirmations will lead you to self-love and happiness. To get the answers, you'll need to listen to this episode, but (spoiler alert) we are often building meaning and judging ourselves based on stories that aren't true and, in some cases, cause us to feel deep shame and fear. Tony talks about how certain myths around fear stunt our growth and what we can do to resolve our fears and doubts. Tony references "The Confidence Gap" https://amzn.to/3AuBPlb by Russ Harris for this episode. 

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 used by anxiety-treatment experts around the world. 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 to see a sneak preview of his upcoming podcast "Murder on the Couch," where True Crime meets therapy, co-hosted with his daughter Sydney. You can watch a pre-release clip here https://youtu.be/-RkRq8SrQy0

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

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

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

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

Today we dig more into the age-old question, "Should I stay or should I go?" And if I'm staying, what are some strategies to help maintain one's sanity? Tony unpacks a poignant email from a listener, shedding light on the subtle nuances of gaslighting - a common manipulation tactic used by narcissists. Through this exploration, you'll learn to identify these underhanded strategies, empowering you to take a step back and view the situation through an informed lens.

Tony also shares a captivating story about letting go of the need for validation from a narcissistic partner. He emphasizes the importance of reclaiming personal power, urging listeners to prioritize their emotional well-being and regain self-confidence. This tale exemplifies the journey to self-discovery and showcases the strength of spirit it takes to break free from these relationships.

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

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

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

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

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


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

Let's talk about S to the E-X, aka "intimacy." Dan Purcell, host of the "Get Your Marriage On" podcast as well as the "Intimately Us" app https://r.intimately.us/tonyoverbay joins Tony to talk about the mission that he, along with his wife Emily, share of strengthening marriages by helping them deepen their connection through both physical and emotional intimacy. They are the creator of the popular "Intimately Us" app that has been downloaded over 300,000 times. They host romantic retreat getaways for couples and host the "Get Your Marriage On! Podcast and coach couples on how to have a great sex life and deeper intimacy. 

You can find out more about Dan and Emily at http://getyourmarriageon.com or on Instagram https://instagram.com/getyourmarriageon/

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 used by anxiety-treatment experts around the world. 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 to see a sneak preview of his upcoming podcast "Murder on the Couch," where True Crime meets therapy, co-hosted with his daughter Sydney. You can watch a pre-release clip here https://youtu.be/-RkRq8SrQy0

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

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

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

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

Virtual Couch- Dan Purcell Transcript

Tony: Okay, Dan, welcome to the Virtual Couch. How are you? 

Dan: Thank you. So happy to be here, Tony. 

Tony: Okay, so this is the part where I told Dan we got on and I said, Dan, don't say a word. Because I just want to just capture this pure gold because I really enjoyed being on your podcast. I felt like we had a real fun interaction and I feel like we covered three hours in about 45 minutes, so I'm gonna link that in show notes, but then I sat there thinking about that and I thought, man, I forgot that I'm the one that I think the first time we were supposed to record, I got a notification. I was on my way to Disneyland a couple days before Christmas and I felt horrible calling that off. And then I think last week, I think the morning of, I realized I had someone else in your spot. It's bad. It makes me sound like I'm completely disorganized, but so you've been so patient, and I really appreciate that. So here we are. 

Dan:And you've had a death in the family too?

Tony: That’s right. Okay, man, yeah my mother-in-law. And what an amazing woman. So you're right. So I'm just grateful that we are here and we're talking. So there's my first just thank you so much, but okay. Here's the funny part to me, Dan, and I'm gonna take you on my train of thought, I'm gonna do all this. I'm gonna be emotionally immature. I'm gonna talk about healthy ego. I'll make it really quick, but I realize that, you know, I'm a marriage therapist. I've been doing it for 17, 18 years. When I put your episode out here, I think it'll be pushing close to 370 episodes of the Virtual Couch. And I realize what we're probably gonna talk about today, one of your areas of expertise. As a couple's therapist, I talk about every day, multiple times a day, but I haven't really talked about it much on the podcast, which is really funny. And it's not like I'm afraid of talking about sex or intimacy or anything. So I really don't have a good reason why. I mean, I don't, I literally talk about it for hours every day for 15 years, and so I don't know, and I was thinking about that because you and I talked on yours about self confrontation and sitting with uncomfortable feelings and, you know, I'm not uncomfortable with it.

Again, haven't done this for a long time. And all I kept thinking about was, there's a part of me that still thinks that for some reason, moms are listening to the Virtual Couch in the minivan and the kids are back there, you know, listening along. But I don't think so, because I got one email about five years ago of somebody saying that. So, but I think that was probably the one person that was listening to it in the minivan. So there's that part of me that still feels like, oh, the kids are present. We can't talk about s e x, you know, so that's all I could come up with. So, I'm excited to see where we go today. So there's self confrontation, number one, and then self confrontation number two is, I'm really gonna check my ego because I want, you're the guest and I want to hear everything that you have to offer, and I kind of think that early on. This is why I love what we talked about in your podcast, and I still recommend my listeners to go, listen. We talked a lot about that self confrontation and differentiation and not needing your spouse to validate you. And I really worry, thank goodness, I don't like to hear myself talk, so I'm not gonna go back and listen, but I would imagine early on in my interviews, I wanted to make sure that the people knew I knew what I'm talking about. You know, because I'm a therapist and so this is, I'm also gonna sit with the perhaps potential uncomfortable feelings of wanting you to know that I'm smart too, Dan. So I'm, I am not gonna, I want to hear your story. I want you to go, I'm not gonna, I'm gonna try not to say, you know what, I think about that, Dan, because I want to know what you think about the things we're gonna talk about. So if you're okay with that, I really would love for you to do a lot of the driving and let's, I just want to kind of hear your story, how you got where you are and what you like talking about and working with and I don't know. How's that sound? 

Dan: Sounds great. Sounds great. Okay. Let's see, so my wife and I have been married over 19 years. And we met each other in eighth grade, so we've known each other for a really long time.

Tony: Were there breakups along the way or was it love at first sight?

Dan: It's not that romantic. We were just in the same group of friends. We went on a few dance dates together, but I was really shy and she was popular, so there wasn't a chance back then.

Tony: Just trying to stay in her orbit, so to speak, in a sense. Is that what the goal was? Okay. Right. 

Dan: But we never dated seriously in high school. I served a mission and had a fantastic experience.

Tony: Where'd you go?

Dan: I served in Japan.

Tony: This is about the only phrase I used to travel. Look at me. I'm already like let me tell you about my experiences in Japan, Dan. No, that's fascinating because I do, I used to go there when I was in my computer career, and I love, I loved everything about Japan. Did you enjoy your time there out of curiosity? 

Dan: Yes. Yeah. In fact, I was born in Japan, so I lived there for, yeah, I went up through second grade in Japan. So, I already knew Japanese. They kicked me outta the MTC early, so I got more time than my peers in Japan. It was really good.  

Tony: Where? 

Dan: I served in Hokkaido, which is the most northern island.

Tony: Okay. Oh, wow. That's quite a, that's a different experience than Tokyo I would imagine. 

Dan: It’s like the Montana of Japan. Really cold.

Tony: So, outta curiosity, do you still use your Japanese skills or the language skills at this point? 

Dan: So my dad served his mission in Japan, so he speaks Japanese. My younger brother served in Japan too, so we speak Japanese and we grew up there. So as a family, yeah, within our family, we can speak Japanese to each other. And it comes really in handy when we're out in public. We don't want others around us to know what we're talking about.

Tony: Oh, I think that, and that's actually where I was going with it, I think that would just be so amazing and fun to be able to do that. Okay. Last quick Japanese point. I love the food. And there was a thing there called shabu shabu. Are you familiar with that? 

Dan: Yeah. Yeah. They're really thin sliced beef.

Tony: Yeah. You just drag around in boiling water and then it's pretty, pretty amazing. Yeah. So, I don't know, like what was your favorite, what were your favorite foods? Or what, what's your favorite Japanese food? 

Dan: I don’t know. Uh, if I had to pick one, it'd be street ramen. And the ramen shops not like the ramen here. No, it's on a class of its own. I miss that, especially when it's wintertime.

Tony: Okay this is fun. We will get to, for those listening, we are gonna get to an incredible topic, but I enjoy here we are being in the moment. And, boy, I love that when you can connect and if I throw my, now I'll throw my therapy hat because don't forget, Dan, I want you to know I'm a therapist, but now Dan and I are having a shared experience and now we will always remember this and, and it will be amazing and wonderful. Very quickly on that, the ramen to me, like the, the why that's significant is, I probably was there 10 times before I tried sushi. I didn't like sushi at all, so then I would just devour ramen everywhere I went until I finally did try the sushi. And now, you know, 25 years later and I've loved it ever since but yes, nothing like Japanese Ramen.

Dan: Yeah. Yeah. In fact, that reminds me of his story. I didn't like the idea of eating anything raw, like sashimi or la sushi. And, I didn't like sushi either because to me rice should be hot and steamy. Not cold and sweet. And vinegar, like the sushi rice usually is. And I served in a very cold part of Japan, and one particular day we had no appointments, so we were just outside all day snow up to our waist just knocking on door after door. No one's letting us in. And it was just a really miserable day. It was cloudy. We're just frozen. But we had one appointment at 8:30 at night at the very tail end and it was really on the outskirts of town, we had a hard time finding them, they lived at the top of this hill and so it was like we're slipping on the ice and snow, you know, giving it to their house and the very modest home. They don't have a traditional western door. They had the eastern sliding door sliding. Okay. We opened that, came inside and guess what they had served us for dinner? Sashimi and sushi. The raw stuff, right? And I was so hungry. I was so tired. And after being rejected all day long, to have someone go through this, it's expensive. It's an expensive meal. They're really putting out to have the missionaries come over. And, I couldn't turn 'em down. Anyway, that was the best sushi and sashimi I ever had. And from that point forward, I didn't have a problem with it because I love it, you know? In that moment it was meaningful.

Tony: Yeah, again, being very present there. And, were you a fan ever since? Was that, did that sell you or was that just an isolated experience based off of all the things that led up to that moment?

Dan: From that point forward, I didn't have a problem with it. I love it. Well if I can do it there, I can do it there. And I think that's like a principle that we can really build on for our conversation today, because it's like faith. We need to try things. We need to do an experiment on things, but we also need to do things with a willing heart. So my wife and I both come from really good families, but sex wasn't talked about much at all in our homes. And if it was, it was either about biological reproduction or the thou shall not talk, but not a lot of conversation about how to build a great and exciting sex because no one really ever talked about it. We kind of inherited some anxieties about it. I remember our wedding night, we were so excited to be together and to have this new experience together, but I didn't know, I kind of had an idea what was supposed to happen because all the lyrics to all the love songs say, you know, you make love all night. And so we make love for the first time. And my body, you know, doesn't last all night long.

Tony: I think Hall Oates has a song, “did it in a minute”. Maybe that's more applicable, right? 

Dan: Probably. Yeah. 

Tony: But I love what you're saying though and you're right. It does tie into your sashimi and sushi experience. I mean, you absolutely in that sense don't know what you don't know until you know it. Knowledge can be such a hindsight principle because you wouldn't have even known the right questions to ask heading into your wedding night because you weren't modeled a way to talk about it. And now back into that role of marriage therapist, I do most of the conversations when we finally start talking about sex are, well, tell me what that was like growing up. Tell me what certain things meant. What are expectations? And, it is just a conversation that gets really immediately awkward and full of a lot of judgment and a lot of assumptions and then a lot of shame. So how'd you navigate from there? 

Dan: Not very well because I had a hard time reconciling spirituality and sexuality. Like spiritual people aren't sexual, yet I have sexual desires. And so that for constant combat and like kind of the running story in my head was like, sex is all about the quote unquote the natural man because I really didn't understand then what natural man really meant. I thought it meant any natural desires. So, I tried to suppress my sexuality, sexual desires, like here's an example, maybe two weeks after I was married, sex is so new, I'm excited about it and I have all these questions and I'm at BYU Idaho at the time and I go to the library and I get the courage to search something about sex or something. And I found a textbook on human sexuality and thought if this library has such a book, I'm sure it'd be a helpful resource for me. So I write down the call number. I go to that section of the library and I don't want anyone to know that I'm there becauseI don't want anyone, so like make sure no one's like looking at me as I take that book off the shelf, I tuck it under my arm and to my bad luck, it was like a woman at the checkout, like scanning, checking out my book. I didn't make any eye contact with her. Like, I don't want you to know I'm getting this book. I put it in my backpack. And anyway, later on, like that night, I open, I flip open the book. I'm just leafing through the pages. And I see an illustration of a couple having sex, like in the 69 position or something like that, just a drawing. And I freaked out like, oh no, this is pornography. I'm not supposed to be looking at this. So I shut the book and I promptly returned the book, never to get any answers to my questions, because I thought I shouldn't be looking.

Tony: And look, and look at that right there, Dan. Even like you're going into some, I'm a very old man and I worked in the video store industry, 30 years ago. And it, and it's as if you were going into that, behind that back wall where all the R-rated and pornography movies were, and your trench coat with your hat pulled down. And yes, all you're trying to do is learn, learn about this natural thing that occurs with couples. I mean, so that, and then the fact that you're going to a, literally a clinical textbook for it, and then you even see the things and then feel like I did something wrong. There's so much there.

Dan: Yes. I felt like I did something wrong. Right? So, my wife and I have always, I guess you could say, a really good marriage. Like we have a great emotional connection. We know how to play together. We're good. We have prioritized date nights throughout our marriage. Like we've been comfortable talking about a lot of things. Fast forward 13 years, so 13 years into my marriage, I am having a conversation with a friend and he opens up to me about his sex. He starts telling me some of the things he and his wife are doing in bed. And I'm like, really good people do those things? And he is, and he has a very vibrant and creative sex life. I guess you could call it. I had more bed curiosity. It's like, oh, no, no. Wait, tell me more. Tell me more. No, no, no. Don't tell me, but tell me a little more. I was so fascinated that here's a good man that enjoys sex with his wife, and they're very creative and the reason why he was telling me these things wasn't to brag or anything like that, it was, he was trying to tell me that ever since he and his wife really started working on their sexual relationship, their bond, became a lot stronger. They're better friends. They communicate better, they parent together better. Like there's all these benefits he's experienced in his life when he's really put the effort into making sex great for him and his wife. And he had something that I did not have. I could notice that. And yeah, so this was kind of my moment where I'm like, well, maybe all along I've been wrong. Maybe there is more to sex. Maybe there's a lot of goodness in sex that I've just been dismissing because of the way I've been thinking. So it really forced me to really confront my thoughts about it.

Tony: Tell me about that too. I mean, when you think that is there, okay, you may start to feel like, yeah, maybe I am. But is that still something that is scary to try to bring to your wife? Were you nervous for that? 

Dan: Yeah. So I go home that night, say, hey Emily, you'd never guess what kind of conversation I had today. Now part of the conversation with my friend is he told me that I think in his marriage, his wife is the one who has the higher desire for sex. So, okay. She basically told him that he's not a good enough lover at the time and he needs to figure things out because she's not satisfied or whatever. And which he took very personally at first, he didn't like hearing that from her, but since, like, I made an effort to make it great for her and then it's great for him that that's kind of how the story evolved. So I'm really self-conscious now with my wife, like, am I a good enough lover? Are you enjoying our time together? And our model, I guess our model of what sex looks like or what it was supposed to look like up until then was in the dark 10 minutes missionary position, and you're done.

Yeah, just that, that's kind of a quote unquote, avoiding anything unnatural and not knowing what that was, what that meant, and just being modeled that that was probably the way we do things. And so my mind's blown like, no, there's other ways to do this. So now my wife and I are having this conversation about us and our sex life, and we probably had the most vulnerable conversation about sex in our marriage to that point in our marriage. Then we were up to like 2:00 AM talking that night about us and what we think about this. What do you think about this? Is this okay? How do we know if this is okay? This is so different from our experience. There seems to be more here than we're experiencing. 

Tony: I appreciate that because I feel like people will have these, like when you said the most vulnerable conversation and I won't go into, you know, I love my four pillars and there needs to have, I think a framework is ideal, but I do feel like at times when we get vulnerable, it is more of a, do you feel like you were coming from this place of curiosity and then just, you know, this collaboration versus, you know, why don't you, or you know, do you feel like it was a different vibe in the conversation altogether?

Dan: Yeah. But we're both, I was really scared talking about these things because we haven't, we didn't talk about these things ever. And there's a lot of judgment involved. A lot of self judgment. What does she think about me? Like, does she think I'm gonna be some, like, you know, sex maniac or something? Like there's, there's a lot of that self-judgment too. You're really going into that conversation. What will she think if I really tell her my experience of what I think?

Tony: Well, and I think this is why it is so important to talk about this as a couple's therapist, I always talk about this as one of those, I call them a high charge topic, and then I almost feel bad because that puts such pressure on having the conversation but I really do feel like having a good foundational principle of a connection and having a way to communicate is necessary so that it doesn't happen, like what you're saying because I think we're all gonna worry that, okay, if I really say this, she's gonna think that I am a deviant and then she's gonna wanna leave. And I think it hits at that core attachment wound of, you know, will you still care about me? Do you love me? And so that's where I feel like I even like when you're saying, you know, guess what conversation I had? And we still almost wanna put it out there, testing the waters. I mean, almost like worried that if she says, you better not have talked to one of your friends about sex, you know, because then, then we would probably go, no, no. It wasn't that. Of course it wasn't. We're still wanting to, you know, lean into that. But I appreciate what you're saying though, because we're going into it already worried. And I think that's that part where we're all a little bit enmeshed in codependent to a point, but then have these different experiences in life. And then, but when we start talking about them, there's that fear. If I say the wrong thing, you know, it's just all or nothing, they're gone. They'll leave me. Which is not, not the case.

Dan: But there is a reason why we haven't talked about it to that point. 

Tony: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Right.

Dan: So we went through it from there. We push, like courage, courage forward, onward. 

Tony: And do you feel like Dan, at that moment, do you feel like there were, I don't know if you had to rate your assumptions around what her beliefs were, were you close to the mark or did you learn a lot that you weren't aware of? Or what was that like? 

Dan: I would say, that's a both and, or yes and no. Like, yeah. I live with her. I know her. I've known her for a long, long time, so I know pretty much how she's gonna respond to things yet, I was blown away at her compassion and her openness and understanding. I didn't expect that much. Like that she held space for me to kind of explore this with her, you know, during that conversation. And likewise, I wanted to hold space for her to explore her thoughts because we really haven't put a lot of brain power to really, you know, examine this topic of our marriage. Because we always thought this is a topic of marriage.You don't examine, you kind of let it be. 

Tony: I love your answer because it's the yes, and because I really do feel like this is where we observe and we judge in the same motion with our spouse. So, and that's where I feel like even the concepts around, oh man, can you believe that so and so, you know, whatever, that they do this in their life or, and we're, we're kind of making that, that bid to our partner of what do you think? Because if you really get angry about this, then I'm, then I know, or then we observe things where, you know, I've had some really good sessions with people where maybe a wife has started to open up about why she may feel shut down at certain times during sex. And where the guy has then said, no, I know, I know that that's because of this. And she, and then she's saying, I, no, I, it's, you know, might date back to previous relationship or some childhood trauma. And so I, I like what you're saying because I think we, over time, even if we think, oh no, I know my spouse. No, we know what we're observing and we know the judgments that we make, but we're, and then we do that long enough and now we even just assume. And even when they try to open up to us often, I think we say, no, no, no. I know, I know you, you can be honest with me when I mean, they're trying, you know, so I love what you're saying there. So then, what was that process like? From there you have that vulnerable conversation and then the next day, did you feel an emotional hangover or did you feel excitement or what was that?

Dan: I guess excitement because that conversation didn't end then. Right? For the next two weeks. We're up late every night talking about things and what do you think about things like that? So, we both concluded we needed more information and being kind of scared to even Google our sex questions, we thought maybe a book would be helpful. So we did Google, like a Christian author like sex book. And found one, it came in the mail. We read a little bit together that night. She fell asleep, because you know, she's tired and I think I stayed at 4:00 AM and I binge read and finished it in one night. It was awesome. 

Tony: Like you had the permission now to read that kind of thing. Getting rid of those BYU Idaho library days at that very moment. 

Dan: Yeah and the vibe of this particular book was like, perfect for what I needed at that time because it was basically giving me permission that sex is a good and helpful and wholesome and amazing thing which is very different than the narrative I have been giving myself. It was something to be tolerated, not something to be very embraced and celebrated. So that's what I needed at that time.

Tony: So where do things go from there? So now a couple of weeks and you're still talking, you're reading books and then you know, then what happens? 

Dan: Right, I should also mention, I had a lot of questions about what's okay and not okay. I think a lot of people have that. So, do you know Jeff Stewart?

Tony: Jeff and I have had our Home and Away podcast as well. And what's funny that you're talking about this too, I have him coming up soon to talk about consent in relationships, and, you know, in my world a lot when I'm working with clients, I don't know and we can maybe get to this in a minute, but I find that people do fall into these particular patterns or ruts in sex whether it's talking about things like duty sex or whether the guy is going to, I mean, I had a guy put it so well, and I'm sorry. Now I am going on a tangent, but Jeff is, is such a good person to talk about this with, but the concepts around consent, where if a wife is saying, I don't necessarily feel like doing a certain thing, but then the guy is saying, okay, but I can, I can get you to orgasm, for example, and then he feels like, see, that was worth it. But the wife said, I don't want to, to begin with, and then, I've had that conversation so many times where the guy feels like, no, but I got us, I mean, a guy said recently and I appreciate it. He said, no, I got us to the promised land, you know? And she said, no, you, you know, you didn't respect my boundaries. And then, and so often I will have a guy say, but you, you had an orgasm. And that's where I have a classic line of, okay, well yeah, if you're asking if the 20,000 nerve endings and her vagina responded to stimulation, then yes. But was she a part of that? No, not mentally. And so anyway, Jeff's gonna come on and talk more about that concept of consent. You know, because consent sounds like things and dating or that sort of thing. But, I think in the marital relationship that's important. 

Dan: So Jeff and I live in the same neighborhood. So we see each other at church. And, I really respect Jeff and I figured of all the people to help me understand where's the line of like, what's, okay, not okay. Like, yeah, he'd be it. So I say, Jeff, can we go to lunch? And he's like, sure, we'll go to lunch. So we're at Chick-fil-A and I get all my courage and I ask them all my questions. And so we're talking about everything in explicit detail. And I feel so sorry for the family sitting next to us.

Tony: Sending the kids into the ball pit though. Like voluntarily, right? 

Dan: But this is my chance. And he was so encouraging. He was so like, he was so amazing yeah, this stuff is fantastic. Keep like, he was encouraging, like, keep going. This is good, you'll figure this out. So I guess we just started progressing a little more. And then within a few months, I'd say within two months, our sex life went from good to, I guess it wasn't bad, but we didn't know any better, right? To like amazing. Like we started experiencing a lot of change, a lot of excitement and vibrancy and, and then all the things my friend talked about, our bond being stronger. We were communicating. If we could talk about that, we can talk about anything. So our level of communication just deepened and all of a sudden the sky was bluer, the grass was greener. I'm performing better at work. Like I'm whistling. There's like the pep in my step. Like there's so much in life that was like, so much better when our sex life just became amazing. Those twitter painted feelings I had early on in our relationship all came flooding back in full force. And, we're flirting with each other all the time. Just the level of, in our relationship just went up like an order because of the vibrancy of what we're experiencing together. 

Tony: And then, and so I'm curious too, do you feel like, were there still these experiences where there were, you know, not tonight? Or did you feel like it was, if somebody was saying that this was something that you wanted to do, then okay, we're doing this. I mean, was there any of the letdown, not even letdown, that's the wrong way to frame it. But do you know what I mean though? Because it sounds like right now when you're saying, okay, it was just this euphoric high. And I think a lot of couples that I work with will often feel that, because we finally talked about the elephant in the room. But then it's, but we still don't really necessarily talk about when maybe the euphoria dips a bit. It doesn't mean that, okay, now we're gonna go all the way back to where we were and, and how to find that area in the middle, the gray or that, that kind of thing.

Dan: Yeah, so I am still very immature and have a lot of growing to do. So yes, we've experienced all of those things and I'm still growing in all those areas. However, I gotta say, I think growth and progression happens. Not, it's not so linear, right? Our growth isn't so linear. Like we have growth spurts where you grow, grow, grow, and then you hit a limit, and then you kind of stay at that plateau for a while, or it might feel like you digress for a little bit and then something else happens and then you have another growth spurt, so you hit your next limit and you progress for a while. That's been my experience and I think that's an experience for a lot of couples. So, yeah, I like that there was like, we're on this high for a while. Feels like the honeymoon again. And the honeymoon phase kind of, you know, wears off a little bit. But then, we don't stay there for a very long time. We want to keep growing and progressing and so you kind of go there. And in all of that, because we're at a different level, the challenges that we now have in our marriage are gonna look very different at that level than they were at the lower level. So yeah, things are better in some ways, but we have different new challenges so things feel worse sometimes because the challenges look different. So, yeah, we're always leveling up because there's always another level I think.

Tony: Do you start to identify patterns of when things start to maybe flatten out. I mean, is there, I dunno, the seasonal things, work related things, kid related things. I mean, do you start to identify things that then you can bring awareness to foster that growth in a sense?

Dan: Okay, yes. So as far as patterns go, well, there's life and life happens. Like my, my daughter, my 16 year old daughter's in a, just finished, she was in a production. She had a, anyway, it means late nights. And I'm driving her there to play practice and picking her up late at night. And it kind of disrupted our, my wife and I, our mojo and how we spend our evenings together. So yeah, things like that do happen. Life happens.

Tony: And do you feel like you guys were communicating about that in real time or was that something where you would then all of a sudden feel like, okay, something's off and, and then we go back and review the game film?

Dan: I guess. We go into it knowing that, all right, okay, daughters play practice. This means this is gonna happen. So, yeah, part of my personal growth is I've, I guess, learning how to self soothe a lot better around things like this. And that's a skill I don't think people teach enough, learning how to like, calm the heck down around things when they don't go exactly the way you had hoped to go and just being okay with that.

Tony: What and what's that look like? And I think this is some of the stuff we talked about on your podcast which I so appreciate and maybe that's a good context and I hope it doesn't feel like I was trying to set you up for an answer or anything, but I like what you're saying because I feel like in the perfect world, we know and we can say, okay, what are things gonna look like while our daughters at play practice? One of us can be driving. We may be tired, we may need to communicate more. Or I find the couples that in the middle of it, they recognize something's off and then they're able to communicate about it, assuming the good intentions. And so now we recognize, okay, oh, this is what's happening. Can we adjust? And I worry that too often it's the, now we realize we are just off and then we start trying to take a look at what happened and, you know, and now in hindsight I've built like that hindsight piece is pretty important. And I worry at times that couples, you know, they don't want to quote, dredge up the past or, you know, well that's, but I really feel like you can analyze that data if you have a nice framework and look at it at a place of, okay, that happened. You know, what was my role? And so that's where I was going by I like what you're saying about this self soothing too, because what does that look like? What have you learned? 

Dan: I've got a few thoughts on this, and I'm not saying I'm always, you know, really good at this, but I'm getting better and better at it. The first thought I have is, you know the old story about the Indian chief teaching his son that there are two wolves. One has a death instinct, one has a life instinct. Well, which one wins? The one you feed, right? And it happens on a microscopic level in our marriages. Like it's this idea of are things a year from now gonna be worse between us or things between us are gonna be better a year between us a year from now. So it's, I guess, kinda like an optimism versus a pessimistic outlook. And it might sound silly to say, but when you feed the wolf that says things are gonna be worse, you know, a year from now because this or that? It does manifest itself in the way you relate to each other because you tend to withdraw a little more or justify your resentments or there's, because you're like, well, we're already heading down this path. And that's the wolf you're feeding. But there's also the other wolf you can feed. Now it could be a lot worse, but if things can be worse, I think that means things could be better. So I'm going to do those things, that advocate for or fight for something better. There's also, entropy is at stake. I mean, it is a very powerful force in any relationship.

Tony: Yeah, talk about that. The marital entropy. If you just leave things as they are, do they deteriorate? Is that the concept?

Dan: Yeah. So it is a constant uphill thing, so it's exhausting sometimes, but it is a fight. Prioritize each other. It's a fight to make sure we're connecting. It's a fight to make space for both of us to express what we need or what we want out of our relationship together. Those are forces to fight against. 

Tony: I love the, I haven't thought about the wolf you feed in a long time, because I do feel like there's so much there where you know what you seek, you will find, if you want to find the ways that your spouse is, is not there for you the way you would like, you are gonna find that, you know, if you're gonna find the ways that you can show up different, you will find that. And I like what you're saying, I haven't put that in the context of that wolf you feed analogy because I really do like that a lot because if I want to find my part in something, I'll find it. If I wanna find her part in something, I'll find it. And then I really feel like, if I'm gonna look for the part, what she's doing, then I have to acknowledge the fact that I am basically saying that I'm not at fault. I mean this isn't, this isn't a me issue. And, I would rather have somebody start with a, oh it's, it's a me issue because I only really know what I'm doing.

Dan: Another tactic that helps me is paying attention to the story I'm telling myself and I play the game two truths and a lie. So often it's like, we'll never, you know, X, Y, Z, or she'll never want this, or whatever. And so, then I kind of build this story in my head. I keep telling myself the story over and over. She's never gonna want to do X in bed with me or whatever it might be, right? We'll never achieve this or whatever. And sometimes the story we tell ourselves has a lot of truth, but there's a little bit of a lie embedded in it. Okay, so identifying what about it? The story I'm telling myself what's true and what really isn't that completely true. We like to self deceive ourselves in a way. We like to set up a story that makes us feel better or superior, or we're the ones in the right, they're in the wrong or whatever. But identifying really, that's not completely true. I mean, it's a little bit of a stretch in this area. As not me, but identifying, that's tricky. So one tool that I've helped that helps me with that is I type up a dialogue so this takes time. So you gotta be willing to set aside some quiet time. I open up a Google doc and I will type up like the dialogue of the last conflict we've had around, or a conflict I anticipate we're having, I say this, she says this, then I'm gonna say this, and if I say this, I think this is how she's gonna respond, or this is how she does respond. So I kind of type up this dialogue, and that practice of typing up this dialogue helps me at least on paper, kind of take a step back and say, I can see here where I'm a little bit, I'm a little, I like for me, my tendencies to take the superior stance. Like, okay, I'm more evolved than you. I know what's going on.

And you don't like that, that doesn't create a marriage where, where we're equals, right? Because I'm condescending. So I know this, these tendencies. I mean, I can like, after the dialogue's like. Or another one I tend to do is play the victim really well. We're good at that. It's your fault on the way like this, I have no choice in this matter. And then as I go through dialogue, I can go, wait a minute, I'm playing the victim here. And the victim pattern for me is always the, I don't have a choice. When in reality I remind myself I always have a choice. What are my options? Even if they're all crappy options, what's the least crappy option of all my options I can still make? And when I look for those things, then it's all on me again. I kind of keep the focus on me. This is the step I need to take for me in this, in light of these things. 

Tony: I like it. And I think, again, back to the things that we talked about on your, on your show, all of those options may cause discomfort and we are not huge fans of discomfort and rather than feel uncomfortable, it's easier to pull that victim card or that it'll never work card. Or why would I even bring it up card? Because then I can still stay in that victim mentality and I don't have to be uncomfortable. And now I get to tell a story to myself. About something that she's unaware of the task, something she's failed at and she didn't even know she was taking the test. So, I mean, that's a, that's a lot, right? I like what you're saying too, when you lay the narrative out, I do not journal. I love giving journaling homework. I'm not saying it as if I think I would never do it. I wish I journaled and I haven't aired his episode yet, but he's been writing every day for a year now, and he wasn't a journal writer at all. And we were just talking about that concept of laying things out, when you put things out linearly, it almost does it, it declutters from your mind. And I love that you just put another piece to that puzzle together and then you could identify, oh, when I lay it out that way, I take, I try to take that one up and I think if things are just in our heads and that we got all kinds of stories going, I wonder that might be harder to see that that's the pattern, do you think? 

Dan: Yes. But I do also admit there's also times when I've typed it out and I still can't see it. And that's the next stage I go in and get help. So I have friends, I'm in a great group of other men that I can trust with some of these things and they're willing to look at my dialogue or whatever it is, help identify things, right. I believe in marriage coaching. I have a marriage coach that I have that I go to and helps me see things when I have trouble seeing it myself. And because I think we still will always have blind spots. There's only so much.

Tony: Absolutely. We can see. And I like the group. I wouldn't say I really like a group like that because, you know, if we're in our own echo chamber, that's one thing. And then if we're wanting someone to be gentle with us, you know, bring gentle awareness. And sometimes I do feel like we need that, you need a little, little, little taste of reality there. And so I think that they, the more real that somebody can be, because you can still have, you still have the option to disagree with them, but you'll never have that option if you don't have somebody willing to confront you with what they notice. And I think that plays into it, we put out a version of ourselves to the world and we say, hey everybody, validate this guy right here. And then if people really don't feel like, okay, but that's not the version I see, I'll try. And then if somebody is being insincere and trying to validate the version of you that you think you are, then you pick up on that. And then you say, okay, you don't even care about me. And I feel like that's the position we put our spouses in or our friends in at times of, you know, then we get to play the victim as well. So I love having a group that you can go to with that. When I was starting on your journey, and we only have a few more minutes and I didn't even, tell us what you do and you offer and how you help people. I mean, you've got an amazing podcast, you've got a big following on Instagram. What are all the things you do and how do you help people? 

Dan: So the first thing I did after our, I guess you call it our marriage renaissance, the rebirth. We're like, this is so amazing. I wish more people knew about this. I'm an app developer, I'm from a software development background, myself and my wife created a bedroom game app. I'm also really creative and being really creative in the bedroom sounds great to me. So we made a collection of bedroom games we put on the app store. And it took off because I think we hit an underserved market. It's not craft, it's not raunchy. It's not, it's full of really good information and it's fun, but in the process of marketing that app, I connected with that author of that book that I stayed up really late reading, I connected with her and I connected with other authors and other bloggers and Instagrammers and podcasters. Like, wow, these are the people that I admire and learn a lot from and say, hey, I have this app. Would you like to share it with your audience? And they check it out and say, yeah, we love it too. Of course we'll share it. So I kind of developed these relationships with others in this like conservative Christian sex positive community, which I didn't know existed. 

Tony: I was gonna make a joke there, Dan. Like, yeah, you found all 20 of them, you know, but I'm joking.

Dan: There's probably 2000 of them, but, right. No, exactly. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Right. Exactly, so one thing led to another and then a year after, so this is in 2018, my wife and I had this hair-brained idea to put on a marriage conference. We are both kind of introverted, right? We have no idea what this is like, but like we have the anti pornography conference in St. George which is a real downer. If you ever go to it, you walk away feeling scared for your life. You want to cut, you know, the internet, right? It's not an upbeat event. And then we have the family history conference. But we don't have anything like marriage enrichment. So we're like, let's do it, let's do it. And 550 people came to our first conference.

Tony: It was when I saw on your website that you have the couples retreats and that sort of thing. And you know, I've been doing this forever in my podcast and I even thought, oh, I would be, I would, that would be very difficult to put one of those together. What if no one comes? I went into all those stories and I can't imagine what it's like to have 500 people. That's amazing. 

Dan: Yeah. So it was way better, and that's the day I got the shot in the arm. Like I think I found my calling in life Love. I love it, I love it. Love helping couples have a great sex life. That's, that's it. So ever since then I've continued to develop apps. I have about five apps on the app store. The main one is intimately us and the second one is just between. And we've put on marriage retreats, we've switched from the conference format to a retreat format to do those annually. My next retreat's coming up in three weeks, so I'm really excited for that. 

Tony: Well, I will get this out quickly then. What's the date of the retreat? 

Dan: It's sold out.

Tony: Okay. All right. But that's exciting.

Dan: They sell out within a few weeks when we announce our retreat. So get on our waiting list if you want. Okay, that sounds good, then I really wanted to help other couples, kind of like what you do, Tony. So I've gone through a lot of training on how to coach other couples. And coach on sexuality. I'm a pretty good student. I can hit the books and I can, anyway, so I have a handful of clients that I coach and I launched a program called Next Level, and it was something that I wish I had. It's a low barrier to entry. It's a low cost, but group coaching program for couples that wanna take their intimacy to the next level. And it's myself and another trained marriage coach in there, and we have weekly meetings. We have a private podcast, kinda like what you have the marriage matters. Is that what it is?

Tony: Magnetic marriage. Oh, you're fine. 

Dan: Yeah. Where as you subscribe, you can listen to other couples being coached anonymously. We've kind of created this kind of community and that's called Next Level and that's growing pretty big.

Tony: This is exciting. We'll have to have you back on again too. But I did a podcast recently where it was all about therapy versus coaching, and I talked a lot about, there's a, I did, I wasn't aware that and I'm kind of joking here, but that there was this therapist versus coach vibe that I wasn't aware I was supposed to have, because I really appreciate coaches and I know that, I think that as I often kind of joke about the fact that I think a coach is necessary to say, okay, here are the next steps. Here's what's worked for me. Here's what I feel like will help. And then I'm, you know, then I feel like the therapist is almost right there beside the couple, and then if and when those things work until they don't, or the challenges they have with continuing on whatever that the program is. They bought the book, they bought the course that they maybe didn't finish, you know, then, then here comes the therapist to say, all right, let's figure that out because I feel like, you know, it's a nice balance of both because I've bought courses and got the dopamine hit and done a couple the modules and then thought, man, okay, I'll do, I'll do something later, you know, and then I thought, what's wrong with me? And I paid the money and why did I fizzle out? And then I've had to put my therapist brain on and have some good acceptance. And anyway, I really love what you're doing and I feel like a perfect balance of coaching and therapy is probably a nice mix. A little bit of chocolate meets peanut butter kind of.

Dan: I like that. Chocolate and peanut butter. That's a good idea. The way I look at it too is therapists are licensed and trained for treating that mental illness too. And there's I, or something that like with dealing with trauma or those really, really specific trainings that I don't touch, but if it's about overcoming differences in sexual desire, I can totally coach you through that. Or if it's about I need more creativity in the bedroom. Or help us where we have this dynamic where it's the pursuer distance or dynamic, I can help you with all those common patterns that a lot of couples struggle with. I can help you with many of those. And that's, and people do come and their marriages are changed for the better as a result of this. They're learning new habits and new tools that help them, you know? Like what we talked about today, for example, self soothing, if that's what they need, or if it's learning how to have those difficult conversations that need to happen. And how to have those are all things that I think couples benefit from things like this.

Tony: So I love it. I do. And then, so then if we kinda wrap up where we started there, I honestly, part of what I was excited, because I really liked your vibe when I was on your show and I know that even as we were talking, I know as the therapist and whatever, 1300 couples later, my default at times is to already anticipate the yeah, buts that are happening. But then, you know, the people need to try to understand the things they don't understand and maybe those yeah, buts won't be as strong and that big fear of the unknown that's there. A lot of times I almost feel like as a therapist, I'm trying to walk us gently to discover the unknown. And I feel like sometimes maybe the services you offer saying, hey, here it is. And it works. And I know it works and it's exciting. And then as people, you know that they didn't know that, and so they start moving toward that a little quicker. And then just know that, you can have a good therapist there if that trauma response does come up. Or if you start doing the, okay, everybody else seems to agree, what's wrong with me? Maybe that's then where the work kicks in. So, I love, I love what you're doing, that's awesome. So I'll, I'll put links to everything. I love that. The next retreat you've got is sold out, so get on, get on your waiting list, listen to your podcast and then, we should do this again.

Dan: Yeah. Let's do, let's do, I do, I guess I can announce. We will be having a virtual marriage retreat on June 9th of this year. June 9th is International love making day because it's six nine on a calendar. Get it, and it's also a Friday. And so we're gonna have a two day virtual love making retreat so you and your spouse are, it's up to you to get your own hotel or kick the kids outta the house for the weekend or whatever. And then, we have sessions where we're meeting with you and giving you very specific ideas to help you explore your own eroticism in your own marriage. So you have a very wonderful love making retreat that weekend for the two of you.

Tony: Perfect. All right. Dan, what a, what a joy. Thanks for coming, we'll talk to you again soon and I'll have all the notes that we can put in the show notes and we'll try to get this out pretty quick because I think there's a lot of good stuff here. So thanks for coming on, and thanks for having me on your show. That was a blast. 

Dan: Thanks. My pleasure. 

Tony: Okay. All right. We'll talk again soon. Thanks so much. 

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Tony dissects a couple's potentially destructive conversation, examining discomfort and anxiety's role in our relationships. He also talks about the challenges of relying on memory when attempting to have difficult conversations.  

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

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

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

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

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


Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 362 of the Virtual Couch. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of Waking Up to Narcissism, as well as the soon to be released Murder on the Couch. So if you go to the notes wherever you're listening to this podcast, there will be a link to a YouTube preview of that podcast. It is coming soon. I am, I'm ecstatic about it. I've done that with my daughter Sydney and it is true crime meets therapy and it is just, I can't wait. We've got six episodes recorded and we are gonna be recording more and there's just a lot that is gonna happen with the Murder on the Couch podcast. But, I wanna get to today's topic and therefore, while you are in those show notes, there is gonna be a link. It's a link tree link that will then, if you click on that, it will take you to the latest episodes of any of the podcasts that I'm doing. It will take you to the Magnetic Marriage Workshop. It will take you to a way to sign up for my mailing list. So I think that's the easiest way to find out what's going on, or you can go to tonyoverbay.com and sign up for my newsletter there or go to Instagram, Tony Overbay underscore LMFT, or go find me on TikTok. I am having a blast on TikTok.

My daughter Sydney is managing that TikTok account and uploading videos and I'm doing one or two a day and it's just a way to just share therapy tips and I'm answering therapy questions, telling therapy stories, and it's just been a real fun engagement on TikTok. So here's why I'm excited about today's episode. When I first started the Virtual Couch, and again, this is episode 362, so I put one out a week with a few bonus episodes here and there. I am not good at math, but I think it's been six or seven years now, but I envision every few episodes having an episode where I just kind of went on my train of thought and just talked about the things that I was seeing in my office or in therapy in general. And then I got rolling with the podcast and I would have a guest, or I really felt a strong desire to talk about an evidence-based model that I was using, or I would refer to an article often and talk about a therapy concept and say, hey, here's the data on it. And I realize now that that was a part of me that just desperately didn't want it to sound like I was just giving my opinion, which, five or six years ago, that was really important for me to say, hey, look, I have the credentials and I'm talking about evidence-based things. I'm adding my opinion to them and therefore I think that this is something you will benefit from. And I've realized over the years that they're just things that I really feel confident and passionate about that are all based off of these nice evidence-based models, but also based off of sitting in my therapy chair for over 15 years. And just then, if you can tell from the way that I put this podcast out, that there are just so many topics that I really do just get so excited about. 

I absolutely love my job and everything about therapy. And you do start seeing things from individual therapy that blend into couples therapy. And when I'm talking about things like addiction or people who turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms that I often talk about when I really felt like I had a way to help people that were struggling with turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms. I identified these voids in their life. You know, I felt like they turned to unhealthy coping mechanisms if they didn't feel a connection in their marriage, their relationship, or if they didn't really have a framework to operate from as how to be a parent or if they were struggling with their spirituality or faith, or if they didn't really find joy in their job or if they just didn't feel good about their health. And then as I went and attacked or found ways to work with each one of those things, then the desire to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms lessened. But in the meantime, you start to see how all of these things play together. When it comes to one's mental health, then add to that finding acceptance and commitment therapy about seven or eight years into my practice and that was an absolute game changer for me personally and also for my practice. So that's a way to say that everything that I wanna share today is really just coming from a place of, let me take you on my train of thought. And I'm not 100% sure which direction we'll go, but today we're gonna talk a little bit about marriage, and we're gonna talk about four pillars of a connected conversation, but I'm also gonna talk a lot about the concept around we have such a hard time sitting with discomfort or uncomfortable feelings, and what do we do with that? So if someone expresses something to us and we feel uncomfortable, that is often when we then either control the conversation with anger, or maybe we go into a victim mentality or we withdraw.

But a lot of those are just ways that we're trying to deal with our anxiety or those uncomfortable feelings because we don't like feeling uncomfortable. So whether we turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms when we just don't feel good about ourselves, but in relationships, I feel like so often when somebody says something or they suggest something or they say, you know, here's how I feel, or you don't really understand what you're doing does to me, that then we feel uncomfortable and then we have to manage that discomfort or manage that anxiety by either explaining that that person is maybe even to the point of gaslighting, or we have to then withdraw and say, no, you're right, you're right. I'll just stop doing that. I'll just stop being who I am. Or we just sometimes shut down altogether and then the other person eventually just feels like, okay, well I guess we'll change the subject. So there's so many ways that we just try to manage this discomfort. So I wanna talk about that today, but I think I've, to me, it's a funny way to ease into this. So, talk about train of thought. I often have people that will ask about homework and long ago, as a new therapist, I felt like every session needed to end with some homework, but then I remember when, you know, the more that I would give out homework and the more I would follow up on the homework, and it seemed like more often than not, see, I want to say all the time, every time, never. But more often than not, people wouldn't necessarily follow through on the homework. And then I felt like we had to spend a few minutes talking about the reason why they weren't able to do their homework.

And it was, I felt like the person was coming in, they felt bad and they almost were making excuses. I can even remember certain situations or people where I felt like we both knew you maybe had a busy week or you even forgot, but instead of saying that, then the person would, I feel like, would just make some excuses and then they would even feel bad. And we'd have an awkward moment in the therapy session. And I know that if a therapist listening to this, or maybe even somebody that's done a lot of their own mental health work, would say, well, Tony, that's your opportunity to confront that person, which it is, unless it isn't. Because people are in these different places when it comes to where they are in therapy. So then I found and then clung to some data that I found a long time ago that talked about that more often than not, a client won't do homework. And so, if you want to give out homework, then give it out with the expectation that, hey, this is just some additional information that could help. And if you get a chance to do this homework, then I would love for you to, and then we'll talk about it. But, I found myself more often than not, not assigning homework and then having the person come back in and then if they ever do say, hey, I really would like some homework, I now am to the point where I feel like, oh, absolutely, I will give this homework to you.

And then again, more often than not, the person doesn't do the homework. And then we can normalize that. And then maybe we can get into the, hey, when you asked for the homework, did you feel like in that moment, oh, I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna change my life, or did you feel like in that moment that you wanted to please me as the therapist and say, I feel such strong motivation to change that I will do anything this week? But then knowing that when you leave that room, that now life is gonna life all over you and you may not have a chance to do the homework. So that is, that is a tangent, but it's gonna get us where we need to go today. So I did a little Googling and I was gonna find that article that talked about not doing homework. And instead, I found a psychologist named David McFee. And I just loved the point where someone had asked the question, can I ask my therapist to stop making me do homework? And then David Mcfee said, “making you?”, he said, “I'm trying to imagine how that happens”. He said, it's a new one for me. I guess the question is, if you choose not to do homework, what would the therapist do to you? He said therapy is supposed to be a collaboration between two adults based on unconditional positive regard, one for the other. The commitment to the client's progress. It's not seventh grade geography. And he says, I believe in certain types of homework, but never assigned, always negotiated. And of course, the client has the final say. So I really liked that. I don't know who David Mcfee is. He's a clinical psychologist that says he's a therapist for kids and adults. But I really like his answer there because I feel like this is something where if I want to offer up the homework and someone says, well, let's talk about it, that it is this negotiation. It's never assigned. And then the client has the final say, and then even if they then find themselves not doing it, then they can come back and we'll talk about it. Because if the person continually feels like they're letting the therapist down, then I worry that that client will stop coming to therapy. So here's where I'm going with that.

I had a session a few weeks ago that reminded me of a, what I think is a funny homework story. And so in the vein of full confidentiality, a lot of the details have been changed, but I really feel like stories are what can really convey a message. So the story or the principle that I am gonna talk about is absolutely true. So a couple came in a few weeks ago. The wife had let me know that the husband really likes homework. That he really enjoys homework, wants to do homework, and at this point I wasn't gonna give them the he does until he doesn't speech. So I gave them some homework. And the homework is based off of a module that my friend Preston Pugmire and I created for our Magnetic Marriage course. Not the workshop, but the course and the homework is, it has a lot of questions that ask you, it's everything from really, it is trying to figure out or understand your spouse's favorite foods and colors and places to go and what they really enjoy on their ideal day and their dream vacation. And while that may sound at times cliched, I really, I was gonna say, I guarantee you, but I feel strongly that those are things that sometimes we assume we know about our spouse, but I think it's very good to go back and explore those things and do those with absolute curiosity, no judgment. I don't want the other spouse to say, really, you don't know what my favorite food is, but, so I think that can be a really fun exploration. And in our module, there are some questions and I have the module, the questions up right now. There's one that says things I would like you to do for me. Now, this is on a page that says everything from favorite things to do with my free time, type of gifts. I do enjoy receiving my favorite gift that you have ever given me, a gift that would mean a lot to me, and then here it says “things I would like you to do for me”. So just keep that in context or put that over on the side so I go back to a year or two ago where I had a couple that had come in and Preston had finished this module, and then I would oftentimes take the modules, some of the homework, and then I would introduce those into my on the ground boots, on the ground therapy sessions.

And it was a way to almost field test these principles and concepts. And Preston does an amazing job putting together a lot of the course materials. And so I had a couple at that point that said we would like homework. And so I said, absolutely. Let me give you this. And so then I gave them this homework and I glanced, I'd given a cursory glance over this module, and I felt like, well, this is a great exercise, and I had actually handed it out to a couple of other people who had not done it and that was the part where I, so I didn't have any necessarily any feedback from the homework. And so then this couple came in and then they said, hey, we really have some difficult conversations that we need to have today. And I thought, wow, okay. This is, I'm glad they're here. And I'm grateful to be a couple's therapist. And I had laid out, we had already had a few sessions under our belt around the four pillars of a connected conversation. We had talked about what we'll talk about even more today, sitting with some discomfort. I felt like that this is gonna be a pretty big reveal. We might even be talking about some betrayal, some infidelity, maybe there's some real dishonesty.

And so this is gonna be a difficult conversation. And so I said, okay, let's jump in. Who wants to go first? And the husband at that point said, well, I have to be honest, I'm really struggling with one of the questions in the homework, and he said, I'm curious if you could even take a guess. And it was at this point that I realized I had not read all the way through the homework. And so I just thought, oh my gosh, what is this question that the homework says? So at that moment, I have this time to self confront as a therapist, as a human being, and to either take ownership and accountability and say you know what, actually, I don't have a clue because I never read all the way through the homework, and risk the feeling of invalidation from these people that were paying me to help them with their marriage. And so I remember that was one of these moments where I'm grateful for the fact that I know there maybe have been times in the past where I could have pulled a therapeutic Jedi mind trick and said, well, you know what, tell me what you're feeling. I mean, this is about you. What is the question that you're struggling with? Let's kind of go there, but I felt like this was a time to truly model the things that I preach around authenticity and sitting with discomfort and the potential invalidation. So in that scenario, I was able to say, I am going to be honest. If you are not talking about a difficult conversation around my favorite food to eat or my favorite holiday, then I'm, I'm not really sure because I haven't read through the homework page. And in that moment, the couple was great and they just said, oh, okay. Where I know that there could be some that would say, oh, you haven't read the homework, which I would've had to say I again, I haven't. So let's talk about it. But in this scenario, here's what I thought was really interesting. The question, and I'll read it again, is “things I would like you to do for me” and the couple, and this is where I love the concepts around confabulated memory.

So we remember something, we hear something and we remember it the way we remember it. And then we almost lock it in how we remember it. It's called the mechanisms of memory. Every time we bring that memory back out, then we fill in the details with things that maybe even are happening in the moment, the feelings we have. And so then we put that memory back away, and then now it carries even more significance to whatever, however we've built that memory. Let me give you a very funny example, and this has happened a couple of weeks ago, and I know the person would have no problem if they, they would know that this is me talking about this scenario. I had someone that said, they texted me and said, I'm gonna be about five minutes late, and this person has said that they're gonna be five minutes late before and been two minutes late, and then has let me know that they have maybe pushed the speed limit a little bit. So I sit down at my desk and the door is open and I'm working on something, and they come in at six minutes after the hour. So then I jokingly say, hey, you're late from being on time, of being late, thinking I'm being hilarious. And then he says, oh no, I said that I would be 10 minutes late. And I said, ah, touche, you said five minutes late. And we both pull up our phones and what he actually said is, I'm gonna be a few minutes late.

And we both just sat there and actually made a pretty big deal about the fact that that had happened 10 minutes earlier and we both were convinced, I was convinced that I could picture as if I had a photographic memory, his texting, I will be five minutes late. Because then I built a complete narrative around, oh, when he says five minutes late, he's probably gonna be here a little bit early. I'm gonna make that joke that, hey, did you go too fast? And then he's sitting there thinking I said 10 minutes late. And then I showed up five, four minutes early. So I'm gonna tell him hilariously again that I sped and neither one of us was correct. And we sat there and it just gave us an opportunity to talk about the concepts around that and how in that moment, and it was a peaceful exchange and there wasn't anything intense or big emotions on the line, and yet we were both absolutely incorrect about what we saw on the text, but we were both convinced. I know that if I had taken a polygraph test at that moment that oh, absolutely, it said five minutes. He said, I will be five minutes late and he did not. So what I think is so fascinating about that is when we get to my four pillars, that is why I feel such a, I mean, I love all four pillars, as if they were my four children themselves. But that second pillar, again, first pillar, assuming good intentions, there's a reason why somebody is saying what they're saying, doing what they're doing, feeling what they're feeling, and that nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks I want to hurt my spouse.

And that pillar two is, and I cannot say you're wrong or I disagree with you, even if I think they're wrong or if I disagree with them. Pillar three would then be questions before comments. And pillar four is I'm gonna stay present and I'm not gonna go into a victim mentality and then want the other person to rescue me. And so I feel like that is such a good example of my pillar two, where when he said no, I said 10 minutes. I knew he was wrong. Now it turns out technically he was wrong, but so was I. But in pillar two, I really did wanna say, no, that's crazy. You're wrong. But instead, and I'm grateful that I feel that the four pillars become the air that I breathe, which I would love if that was the entire world was breathing the air of the four pillars of a connected conversation. But in this scenario, so then when he said, oh no, I said 10, then I said, oh, man, okay. That's so funny. I thought it said five because that's a much better way than to say no, you, you said five. Like, that's crazy. I can't even believe that you think that. So at that point then, my pillar three of questions before comments was almost implied. So we both pulled out our phones and, and then we just, we had a good laugh. And it was funny because I do feel like this person had a move toward not staying present in pillar four, almost wanting to say, oh, sorry. You know, as if he had done something wrong by simply thinking what he thought and believing what he believed.

And then we had, so there probably was a moment of tension, and that's, again, we're so afraid of contention, that we avoid tension altogether. And then that tension is where the growth occurred. So back to the story though, of the couple, and the things I would like you to do for me, the reason why I went down that confabulated memory and the four pillars for that scenario is because the wife in the scenario said, well, you know, it's the question that says, tell me three things that you in essence don't like about me. And I, and that's where I thought, oh my gosh, I don't, not only have I not read the homework, but really we, we say that in there? And so I'm trying to pull up the page on my iPad. And then, the husband said, I, you know, I don't, I don't think it actually says that, but I think that's maybe where we went with it. And then I was grateful for the work that they were doing because then they both kind of said, okay, yeah, maybe there's a disagreement there, but, so I just, I want to go on that, just sit with that for a second and just when you are convinced that your spouse said something, then just think of how often is the case that you do find out that, oh, it really wasn't the, something wasn't the way that you remember it because I feel like that is gonna allow you to have more grace and compassion on yourself as well as keep us in the conversation. If I know that if the person says, well, you said you were gonna pick me up at three, that I'm, I am open to that possibility, I may think that I absolutely said three, but if that is what they are stating, then oh, that would be hard if they feel like I said three, if I really didn't say that I was coming at three, and again, this is why the goal of the four pillars is to be heard, it isn't going to always work to resolution. The goal is to feel safe in our conversations so that we can get even a place of accountability. So back to the story in the scenario, the wife then had said that the husband said, what I'm struggling with is I feel attacked by what she shared. And he had said at that moment that he said, you know, I really couldn't even come up with anything that I would like for her to change or as the question actually says, things that I would like you to do for me. But they both were looking at it from things you would like for me to change. He had, his wife didn't share and she said, well, I mentioned that I really struggle with him just eating and leaving his dishes all over the house, even paper plates and wherever he eats it just really, she said, it really bothers me and I wish he would change that. And so you could watch him get tense and feel like he wants to go into defense mode. And so what I was so grateful for, again, in that moment of, first of all, I don't believe that's what the question said, and in essence it didn't say that.

But now I had to meet the couple where they were, and I wasn't gonna say, oh no, you guys got it all wrong. That isn't what the question says. Because that was what they were, that was what they were working with. So meeting them where they were at, then I still was able to say, okay, let's look at what the purpose of this exercise can be. So what it can be is when somebody says things I would like for you to do, for me, even in a scenario where let's say that it is the things that I would like for you to change. So now for that husband, if he is now going to step into the four pillars and assume good intentions, or there's a reason why his wife says that, I would, I would love for you to not, let's just kind of go specific, eat in the bedroom. And so then if he would say, okay, yeah, I feel attacked. You know, I'm noticing I feel attacked. I'm noticing I believe that she is judging me and I feel shame. So those are all things that he is feeling because she has shared her opinion. So in that scenario, again, if I can keep him in a four pillar framework, then he is gonna assume that there's some good intentions or there's a reason why she's expressing that.

And then that pillar two, I can't tell her I don't do that, or, that's ridiculous. Really, that's what you're worried about? So that pillar two again, is more of a mindset, which leads us into pillar three questions before comments. So at that point then I played the role of him in a little bit of a role play, and just said, okay, hey, thank you for sharing that and help me, help me understand, tell me more. Why is that something that is difficult? And I feel like there are probably some people that are listening right now that are saying, well, that seems obvious. Well, we are not going with anything that seems obvious. The ways to a connected conversation are to be able to just, I want to have the conversation because I want to hear my spouse and I want to hear, I want her to go on her train of thought. So in this scenario, it was beautiful because when I said, okay, tell me more, then she was able to say, I grew up in a very, very clean home, and she said, there are so many things that I don't like about the way that I grew up, but she said, I notice that that is something that brings me some calm or some peace. So when I see the mess that he leaves in his room, then I immediately feel, I notice that I'm feeling more just anxious. Here's what I talked about earlier. What a great opportunity if we can actually stay in a framework to have a connected conversation, to be able to look at all the variables here. So first of all, I love that she was able to say, when I see that food left upstairs, I notice these things about me. So this isn't a direct attack toward him, but if we can get to this framework of a healthy conversation, now we're looking at this as, hey, check this out, you know, we're married. Now I have an opportunity to then look at these things that are happening for me. So now I have an opportunity to self confront. And say, what is that about me that feels anxious? Or What is that about me that feels less anxiety when things are clean because that is not everybody's situation. So in that scenario, then she went on to even say that she had visited a cousin at one point that had an incredibly messy apartment, and that at one point she saw a trail of ants that were going from, I forget, she said one place to the other. And so she just said, when I see food, when I see clutter, I get anxious and then I worry. I worry about insects and I worry about insects, and I can't imagine living in a home where that's happening. And so again, this is her experience, and if anyone listening right now says, well, she just needs to not worry about it. She just needs to get over it. Now we're using Marshall Rosenberg's nonviolent communication, that tenant where if you are hearing that, and now in essence you're making an observation that she is assuming that then that food is gonna lead to ants and that's gonna be uncomfortable.

And so that's you making an observation and a judgment that she just needs to not do that. She just needs to relax. She needs to realize that that isn't probably gonna happen. No. Now if you're the listener thinking that now that becomes a you issue because you don't really even know her entire experience. So what is it about you that hears her saying that she gets anxious or she worries that causes you to feel like, well, I just, she just needs to not worry about it. That's the stuff that I really start to just absolutely love about mental health, about relationships, about how all these pieces come together. So back to the scenario, she then shared that this, so this was all about these ants. It was about the clutter. It was about feeling anxious when she saw that happening. We had to really keep him very, very present because that's where somebody in his shoes could violate my pillar four very easily and just say, okay, just tell me wherever I can eat and what I can do and when I can do it. Like, that's fine, you know, and that's where somebody will go into this victim mentality because that is wanting, in essence, the woman in the scenario to say, no, you know what? I shouldn't have brought it up. It actually, don't even, don't even worry about it. But that's where if we can't have these conversations then, then they're slowly but surely going to build, I believe, some resentment.

And that's the sort of thing that happens over the course of 10, 15, 20 years where then a couple just doesn't feel a connection. Then they come into therapy and now we're processing things around leaving food in a room or, I mentioned these concepts like a situation at a Taco Bell drive-through for 45 minutes and the couple feels like, I can't believe we're talking about this, but it's not about the Taco Bell drive-through, and it's not about leaving food up in the bedroom. It's more about what this brings up for you. Why does this make you feel anxious? And then when your partner hears what that experience is like for you, then he now has this opportunity to self confront. Is that something that he has no problem with leaving the food wherever he goes. And this is what was a beautiful moment here. So she then felt, heard and understood that it causes her anxiety. She goes on this train of thought to these insects and living in squalor and all these things. And then, once he said I so appreciate that and I can understand why that would be hard and that would be difficult. Now we turn to him and say, okay, you are now the speaker. She's the listener. Four pillars still are at play. So then he said, so I also grew up in a home where he said it was incredibly controlling and there were just chore after chore after chore. And I never felt like there was an end to them, but yet I was always told there would be an end and he said, I have noticed that now that I am an adult and I, and when he said he lived on his own, that he basically did live in this squalor or pigsty, and he said it, it almost brought him an odd comfort because he felt like, hey, this is my pigsty. This is my squalor, and that therefore I do feel comfortable.

But he said if he could just sit with that though, that he knew that that wasn't something that he wanted for the rest of his life, but he worried now when we were talking about it because he had been that way for so long, it had been a few years that he said, now he almost felt like this is just something that he wasn't even exactly aware of because it didn't cause him any discomfort or anxiety. And that's where I go back to the book Buddha Brain where the author Rick Hansen, when he is talking about implicit memory, you know, he says again, “much as your body is built from the foods you eat, your brain is built from the experiences you have” and that flow of experience gradually sculptures your most of that shaping of your mind forever remains unconscious. This is what's called implicit memory, and he says it includes your expectations, your models of relationships, your emotional tendencies, your general outlook, and that implicit memory establishes the interior landscape of your mind or what it feels like to be you based on the slow accumulating residue of lived experience.

So what I love about that concept of implicit memory is it was such a good example of this person who had gone from basically absolute control needing to clean everything and feeling like it was never gonna be enough, so what was the point to then living on his own and saying, oh, I am not worrying about cleaning anything. So it went literally from that all or nothing, black or white view, but then he did that long enough that what it felt like to be him or his implicit memory was, I don't even really think about it anymore because I've let myself go to that place that it just, who cares if something's clean or if it's not clean and I'll clean it if I need to. So, because of this homework that I didn't know that was assigned, that they interpreted slightly incorrect to begin with. And then we had this four pillared conversation around something that really felt uncomfortable. There was tremendous growth because what does that look like then, then it isn't that, you know, the guy said, okay, so yeah, I'll never do that again.

But then that was an amazing moment too, so, okay. What's gonna happen when he doesn't think about it because this is more of his implicit memory or what it feels like to be him? Then at that point, will he beat himself up? Will he then say, man, I told her I would never do it again, and now I'm doing it again. And that's where I worry at times that then people will hide things because they don't feel like they can go to their spouse and say, okay, check this out. We just had this therapy conversation and we both, I can understand where you're coming from more, I really feel like this is something that I want to change or something I do want to do for you because I want that for myself as well. And then I didn't, because that is where we go to that, that Sue Johnson quote of, “we're designed to deal with emotion in concert with another human.” Because if he then felt this guilt or shame to the point where then he just says, I can't bring this up. I just gotta figure this out, and hope that she doesn't notice, then that is still gonna put him back into this place of isolation and shame and what's wrong with me? And unfortunately what's wrong with me is what often leads to people that want to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms or they want to isolate or not say, hey, check this out. Let me take you on my train of thought. We had this therapy conversation three days in a row. Now I've still left food all over the place, you know, had this interesting, because then we can explore even more, you know?

And later with that person, we were able to poke around concepts around maybe even if there were some ADHD tendencies. If there was some in that moment where he really did say, I'll just come pick this up later, but first I'm gonna do this other thing. And then I love the concepts in ADHD have driven to distraction, where then at that point, he's on the eighth project and now he's so far away from just cleaning up dishes or his clutter, that it is completely outta sight outta mind. So in that scenario, that's where I feel like there were so many things that came true, so many things that came into play of just being open and honest about, you know, the discomfort that we feel. And I feel like from moving forward with that couple, there were some pretty amazing moments in future sessions where we would even be able to check in and say, okay, when somebody is saying, hey, let me take you on my train of thought. Let's just say, you know, I feel like it would be nice for you to spend more time with the kids. And then we could turn to the husband and say, okay, let's check in. What are you feeling? And he would say, I'm feeling uncomfortable. I really am. I'm feeling discomfort. I feel it in my chest. Feel my heart start to raise a little bit. My heart rate starts to elevate. And when I feel that I'm noticing that I really want, I want to just get rid of it and then I would say, how, how do you wanna get rid of it?

And he said, honestly, I want to get angry. I want to say, fine. Just tell me what you think I should do. Or I want to point out, well here's times where you aren't doing your best with the kids. And so I just feel like you can really see that, that sitting with that discomfort, it's just so uncomfortable that we want to get rid of it at any cost. And unfortunately, the way that we get rid of it is typically through unhealthy means. We typically turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, anger, gaslighting, withdrawal, victim mindset instead of sitting with the discomfort and learning these concepts of being more emotionally mature and knowing that it's not gonna kill me. This is the part that I want to go so big on in the coming weeks and months as I talk more about really throwing the four pillars out there and wanting them to just be on the tip of people's tongues or starting to again, be the air that they breathe, is that if we can start to look at our relationships once we can get out of clutter of the back and forth of the tit for tat of the pursue, withdrawal of the freeze and flea. We can learn that there are tools that will allow us to stay present in the moment, assuming that my partner is not out to get me. And then not just shooting them down and saying, that's ridiculous. You didn't say that. You don't know what you're talking about. And then once we can master those concepts, now we're starting to lean forward a little bit and now we're saying, tell me more. And then that still is gonna bring with it some discomfort because I'm gonna hear things about their experience that will make me feel uncomfortable because I'm going to internalize those and my immediate response is gonna be to think that they are attacking me, or they're saying that something is fundamentally wrong with me because they are unhappy.

Then for me to stay present in that fourth pillar and just hold this frame and just say, thank you so much for sharing that, and I appreciate that, and that sounds hard or I'm grateful that you shared that. And yeah, it's uncomfortable for me, but I'm a mature human being, or I'm becoming more mature and I can sit with this discomfort because if I can take a breath in through the nose, out through the mouth, lower my cortisol, my stress hormone, kind of come out of this fight or flight response. Now all of a sudden, I'm changing an entire dynamic as a human being in a relationship as a parent that I'm now showing that I can sit through someone else's experience and I can be there and I can stay grounded and I can say, thank you so much for sharing. Now I'm gonna self confront and I'm gonna take a look and say, okay, is there some truth in that? And if there is truth in that, is that something I want to because ultimately what that concept of differentiation is, again, where one person ends and the other begins, and there's invalidation in the middle. But if I can have a relationship with someone and I can maintain that we both have our own experiences, then a differentiated relationship is that they can offer me some data and since I care about this person, I'll take that data and then I'll use it and I'll do a little self confrontation.

And is this something that I agree with or I'm aware of or that I really wanna work on and I might not be able to make that decision at that moment. I might have to say, man, I appreciate you sharing that, and that's something I really need to take a look at or internalize and see if that's something that I want to do some work on myself now, I hope, because, and I'm jumping way too far ahead, but I like this concept that we are putting out a version of ourselves and I'm, if you're watching this on YouTube, I got my hand up because this is my ball. Ball up your fist and this is you and you're holding it out to your partner and you're saying, this is who I am now. Validate this person. I am a nice, kind person who is always compassionate and wonderful. And we're saying to our spouse or our kids, right? Kids, right, wife, right husband? But if that is not the experience that they feel, then we're asking them to do something that goes completely against who they are. And we'll feel that and then we will feel offended that will you pause, you don't think I'm the most amazing individual that you've ever met in the face of the earth, but if they say, man, I appreciate you sharing that, and I can understand that, that there are so many times where I do feel like you were this most amazing person but there are also times where I worry that we're not quite sure which version of dad we're gonna get. And this is a very real example that I think I've shared on my Waking Up to Narcissism podcast. But I remember when I was sharing some of this with my wife one of the first times, and I really appreciated her saying, well, you know, sometimes we're not quite sure which version of you is walking in the front door.

That is not the version of me that I put out and say validate my version, I'm always on, always fun, it's amazing, but this is a person I care about. And so I had to, in real time, assume good intentions. She's not trying to hurt me. I can't say you're wrong. And at that point it was, tell me more. And she said, there are times where if I'm feeling, you can tell if I feel like I'm on top of the world, that I come in and it's almost, you know, that I picture, I know that my wife wouldn't think this same way, that I'm coming in there and throwing out a hundred dollars bills, everybody making it rain, I think as the kids say, probably not. And just saying, everything's great, everything is awesome. Let's go to dinner, spend all the money, find arcades, buy things, let's do everything. Everything is great. But then there might be a day where, let's say that I have paid bills or I have forgotten to do something, or it's been some tough client cases during the day. And I come home and I'm a little bit more down and all of a sudden the kids are, oh, dad's home. Make it rain, you know, get the butterfly net out to catch all the a hundred dollars bills. So not true, by the way. And then, and then I'm like, oh man, hey guys. Like, geez, I'm not a bank. You know, all of a sudden I had to self confront and say, is there truth? Because I don't believe that she would just be saying this to hurt me. And I remember feeling like there's some truth there. Yeah, there is. Because, and I started to realize my own emotional immaturity at times might be to walk in the front door and want people to then come say, dad, what's up? Oh, I don't know how you do it. You're the man. 

But then other times I come in and they're like, dad, you're the man and that's unfair to put that on somebody else to hold my fragile ego and then be the ones to manage it. Because if I'm looking for that kind of external validation to make me feel good, then I'm not even quite sure at that moment what it is that's gonna make me feel good. So then it's basically okay family, give it your best shot, and if it doesn't work, then I'm gonna be mad at you because I still don't feel. No, I have to know that this is a me issue and I need to be able to process and deal with the things that I'm dealing with, and then come home and just be and be my most authentic self. Now, does that mean I can't have feelings and emotions? No, absolutely not. Of course I can but I can be honest with my feelings and honest with my emotions and try to remain more consistent as a human being, and then be able to process those things, whether it's with my spouse or maybe it's with a therapist, where I can recognize that sometimes that self confrontation can be done but eventually that is one of the, one of the watershed moments of, I feel like my own journey of becoming more emotionally mature. Because I still remember that and that was years ago. And so now I'm aware that if I have had an off day that I can share that with my wife and say, but man, I'm noticing that I'm feeling that way and absolutely, I feel all those feelings. And what I'm actually gonna do is invite those to come along with me while I am, as present as I can be with my kids or with things, activities, so that I can train my brain over time that there is gonna be good and bad and that I can remain more emotionally consistent. And show up in a way that isn't seeking someone else to manage my emotions because I'm getting quite good at it myself.

So, we'll leave it there, but I feel like some of the things I would like to talk about the next time that I do one of these, let me take you on my train of thought episodes would be, we'll sit with it, we'll talk a little bit more about that concept around self confrontation. And so maybe my challenge to you, the homework that I would love for you to do and report back. If you can't hear, there's a little bit of sarcasm in my voice, but I really do feel like just being aware of some of the things that we talked about today can be very helpful. In Rick Hansen's, the Buddha Brain, he has a part of the book that I have now taken and made my own and confabulated and changed altogether. I know it's based on what are the things he talks about, which is even, it's the path of awakening, the path of enlightenment, it might not even be but the concept in essence that I love, that I gathered from that book is that we go from being unaware of what we're unaware of. We don't know what we don't know. Now all of a sudden we are more aware. Now we know, but we don't really do the new thing that we wanna do very often, and that is a, that's a rough place to be on this second stage or second goal or second level of your path of enlightenment or awakening. I should probably put some IP around this because in that moment sometimes we feel like, I wish I didn't even know. Or, okay, now that I know, why am I not doing well? It's because you're human and it takes time. And unfortunately things take a lot longer than we want them to take. 

The third level path rung on enlightenment or accountability. Now I know I'm having fun with that myself, but it may be frustrating to the listener. But on the third piece of this path of enlightenment is now I know and I do more than I used to. So now I'm aware of the things I'm aware of. I'm aware that, yeah, there I do struggle with sitting with discomfort. But now, more often than not, I'm able to stay present and I'm able to conjure up the four pillars of a connected conversation. And I'm able to come out of that and feel like I survived. Not only did I survive, but I have more of a connection with the person that I'm communicating with than I care about. And then eventually that fourth level of enlightenment or on the path of enlightenment is I just am. So I go from, I didn't know what I didn't know to, now I know, but I don't really do much about it, to then I know, and I do things about whatever it is more often than I don't. And then finally I just am and I become, and that is an amazing place to be and it does take more time than we would like, but the journey is, is so worth it because that is what will start to bring you far more emotional maturity, which I believe also leads to more of a healthy ego and confidence, which allows you to show up better for those for yourself, and then for those that you are around. And then the more that you are able to embrace your healthy ego, your God-given talents and abilities, get away from socially compliant goals, or the things that you think you're supposed to do, or else you're gonna let somebody else down. And then just be able to step into that what it feels like to be you. That implicit memory, which is based on the residue of lived experience and that lived experience is you knowing how to sit with discomfort and knowing I'm gonna be okay.

And knowing I don't know what I don't know, which is ultimately gonna lead to you being very confident in the things you do know, which is gonna start to build your self-confidence and it will allow those around you to even breathe a little easier because they know that you know the things you're gonna take ownership of the things you don't, and that's gonna be a pretty incredible way to live and to show that to the people that are around you that you care about. So if you have questions, thoughts, please get them back to me through the social media channels or email me and we'll do more of these versions of, let me take you on my train of thought.

So, taking us out per usual, the wonderful, the talented, also on TikTok, Aurora Florence with her song “It's Wonderful”. We'll see you next week on the Virtual Couch.

When asked if Tony had a podcast to refer to people who were moderately interested in learning about narcissism, he said, "of course I do!" And then he couldn't find one. This episode is for those of you who want to try and explain your situation to people you care about who want to know but who a) don't know what they don't know, b) you worry that without a bit of background, they will throw judgment your way and c) don't want to spend a lot of time researching something that they don't believe that they've experienced in their own relationships. Tony references “17 Signs That You’re in a Narcissistic Marriage or Relationship” by Arlin Cunic, medically reviewed by Ivy Kwong LMFT


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

Episode 64 Transcript

Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 64 of Waking Up to Narcissism. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of the Virtual Couch Podcast, creator of the Magnetic Marriage Program, which is getting a revamp here in the next month or two. So if you want to find out more about the Magnetic Marriage Course, I've got an online pornography recovery program called The Path Back. There's a Magnetic Marriage Workshop, which is a $19, 90 minute, all the things you didn't know, you didn't know about your relationship that is available. Some new podcasts are coming out, one based off of a book about addiction that I co-authored with a gentleman named Joshua Shea and an upcoming podcast called Murder on the Couch, which is psychology and therapy meets true crime. So just the easiest way to find out about all those things. Oh, and we're here on Waking Up to Narcissism and the Waking Up to Narcissism Premium question and answer Apple Podcast is now available and you can find that, it's specifically on the Apple Podcast platform, and I will have links to everything in the show notes. And there's a link called a link tree that you can go to that will have everything you can find there as well. Sign up for the newsletter. I think that's the quickest way to get all the content that is going out. 

Someone reached out a while ago, and they just said, hey, do you have a podcast episode that you recommend for people to start with who don't know anything about narcissism or what a relationship with a narcissist or an emotionally immature person looks like. And as I traded messages with this person they went on to say that they had been out of their emotionally immature, narcissistic relationship for a while, and as they were starting to heal, they were starting to be a little bit more open with the people they felt safe with. And those people still, even the people that they really felt like were more than just Switzerland friends, were saying, well, tell me, tell me what that's like because I don't know, I don't know what to look like. I don't know really how to support you moving forward, which I'll, I appreciate that. And the person said well, first I responded and just caught me in a real good time and I said, I do, I absolutely have this. Let me look at the Waking Up to Narcissism episodes, I said, I swear I've tried to cover this on a couple of different episodes and I will get back to you. And then I did, I spent some time looking and then I responded again and said, okay, so I have episodes about who you can tell, how to interact with people who don't know that they are in a narcissistic relationship. But I did not see what I was looking for at first glance. So I think I need to actually do one.

So I said don't have one planned. So I'll get it, so then this person responded back and they said, okay, no worries. And they said they just had a lot of people who don't necessarily want to invest tons of time reading or listening to a lot of things, but they still would be interested and they want to support others. Just this person said a basic overview of the most important things to know might really help people understand. And they said that they typically point the people to the death by a thousand cuts episodes, and those by far are the episodes that have the most views. But I do feel like if someone, it will help someone get a little bit of an overview of what that would look like. But if a person is not in that relationship or has been in a relationship with the emotionally immature, it can still feel like you're being a bit petty if you are saying, well, here's a thousand little ways that they just annoy me because I find that the person who has not been in that situation, almost their first response is gonna be a yeah, but. Well, yeah, but have you ever been really honest or, yeah, but have you tried or, yeah, but have you looked at maybe some of the things that you're doing and then all of a sudden they move back into that category of a Switzerland friend. So this took me on an interesting ride of trying to find out the best content or identify the best content that I can share to then give someone that is just now tuning a better understanding of maybe what their friend is going through or maybe somebody in their family is going through as are leaving a narcissistic or emotionally immature relationship.

I started Googling how can you, I don't even remember what I started googling with this, but what do you tell people to explain that you are coming out of a narcissistic relationship? That is exactly not what I Googled, but I really spent some time because I had assumed that I had an episode on this and I came to the realization that it's a hard thing to cover with the other experts that are out as well, because if you are trying to explain what narcissism is in a nutshell to people that, number one probably don't really either they don't care and not saying that in a negative way, but that just hasn't been part of their vocabulary, part of their world and quite frankly, I know that people feel like the term narcissism is overused right now, and it is. It's being used a lot, which is why I've also made that shift to narcissism and emotional immaturity. I think that's pretty significant, but if you aren't in the relationship, it's one of those. I think here's another thing, another hashtag you can see on TikTok or any social media app, if you know, you know, so if you know what emotional immaturity and narcissism really is, it's because you're most likely in that in a relationship with someone that exhibits those traits and tendencies. And if you are not, you don't know what you don't know. So then if somebody is saying to you, hey, my marriage ended and it's and I trust you, and it's because I've got my PhD in gas lighting I think the person would literally say, I didn't even know you went back to, or if you want to then share something, this is that concept where when we are given something to observe, we also immediately throw a judgment in there.

So as soon as somebody says, well, I was, I'm coming out of a narcissistic relationship. The other person's immediate response is they're gonna view things from their own lens and they are going to observe what you're saying and they're gonna create a judgment in that very moment just to try to make sense of things for them or to ease their own anxiety because if they now feel like that you even just saying that are somehow implying that, well, how could you not have known it would've helped if I would've had your support earlier, which is not what you're saying, then that person receiving that information, they may say, well, I mean that that's a real strong term. Or, well, I think everybody kind of throws out that term, says the person who just needed to throw out a judgment along with their observation. And so that again, is why even when you're trying to share with people that you think are safe, it can feel unsafe. Here's the direction that I think is going to make the most sense, I found an article and it's from verywellmind.com. I like that site. And it is “17 signs that you are in a narcissistic marriage or a relationship”, it's by Arlen Kuk and it's medically reviewed by Ivy K Quang, who's a LMFT, like myself. And the reason I think that this is the angle to go is because I could not find an article that just perfectly addressed the question that this person had sent. So we're gonna go over these 17 signs, and I'm gonna give some concepts coming from a point of where I'm gonna assume that if you are listening to this, it's that somebody's maybe asked you to listen to this or you really are trying to understand emotional immaturity or narcissism.

So I'm gonna read a bit from this article and then I will make my own thoughts and comments kind of from the angle of this question that was posed earlier. The article starts by showing a graphic that says, narcissistic traits to look out for in a partner. So you feel like you have to walk on eggshells, or they lose their charm behind closed doors, or you're constantly criticized, they break promises, you get the silent treatment, maybe they've cheated, and I think even just starting with those six things from this graphic of narcissistic traits to look out for in a partner. Again, I'm assuming, or I'm taking the angle that you, the person that is listening at this point is listening because maybe somebody's forwarded you this podcast and you are really trying to understand more about the situation that this person's been in that I think this is why this is so significant because you may not be, you probably aren't aware that they have been walking on eggshells around their spouse, that their spouse has lost their charm behind closed doors that their spouse is constantly criticizing them, which then if you only see the good side of that spouse or former spouse, and the person that is coming to you now feels like they can trust you enough that they want to start opening up to, then I want you to even just sit right there. And if this is a big surprise to you, then that actually is, is one the warning signs or the red flags because that means that the face, that the person that you were unaware is being now these accusations of this person's a narcissist or has these emotional immature tendencies that you have never seen them before. 

So now all of a sudden, I want you to step into that, the shoes of the person that recommended this episode for you and think, man, okay, I need to start putting my empathy gear on, because that would be really hard if this person that is now coming to me and sharing this information with me is doing so, coming out of a marriage, coming out of a relationship, I, the observer made the judgment that everything is great. So Wow. And that now that marriage is dissolved or is on the way to divorce and this person is coming to me I need to believe them. I need to meet them where they're at. And that would be really difficult then if they were being constantly criticized or the person that this person's married to loses their charm behind closed doors or gives them the silent treatment or is continually breaking promises or has cheated or so, I hope you can see the direction that we're heading today. So in the article Arlen then says, signs of narcissism are often hard to spot in the beginning stages of a relationship, but over time, the can be seen more clearly, which is a bit of an understatement. If you are in this relationship and all of a sudden you find the life preserver that is a book, a podcast, a group of people that are having a similar experience, all of a sudden it is very clear. And as a matter of fact, it is so consistent and patronistic that it almost becomes a bit mind blowing. And the emails that I have I think well over a hundred pages now, single spaced on a Google document that say, hey, it sounds like you're reading my mind, you were there in the bedroom as we argued last night, or you're sitting in the backseat of our car, or you're, you know, any of those emails, it really is because it becomes so incredibly predictable that all I'm doing is just commenting on the things that I see in my office on literally a daily basis. The article, they go into the DSM five. The diagnostic manual for clinicians about narcissism, and they give the view, and this is why narcissism is not always understood.

It really isn't because they go into the grandiose sense of self importance preoccupation with fantasies is of unlimited success and power. Belief that they are special and unique and can only be understood by or associate with other special status or high status people, a need for excessive admiration, a sense of entitlement, interpersonally, exploitive behavior, a lack of empathy, envy of others, or a belief that others are envious of them, a demonstration of arrogant or haughty behaviors and attitudes. So at least five of those criteria must be met for a specific diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder, and that's why I will say, okay, there are two or 3% of the population that may fit that five out of nine criteria for narcissistic personality disorder. But what's funny about something even like that is let's say that the person meets four of those, then you go, ooh, okay, I almost thought he was a narcissist. But, no, he's, uh, he's one, one of those away. Or if somebody, you know, hits six outta nine, then all of a sudden are we bordering on psychopathy or sociopathy?

So I, a little bit of a struggle for me when people are talking about, can you diagnose my spouse? Well, I can't diagnose your spouse for sure. Or can you, yeah, I thought you said he was a narcissist, or I thought you said she is a narcissist. Oh, I will never say that. I will say, boy, they, they show signs of narcissistic traits or tendencies, but really we're talking more about emotional immaturity. And that's where I think that things start to be a little bit easier to understand. And, I have taken great liberty in an article by Eleanor Greenberg, which says “The Truth about Narcissistic Personality Disorder”, I think that this is one of the best articles as far as I'm trying to make sense of narcissism but Eleanor Greenberg says, this is so well put, and so, so put in a very simple manner, but she says that narcissistic personality disorder, she says it's 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, and that need for external validation and unstable self-esteem is really, those are the traits of the emotionally immature person with narcissistic traits and tendencies because emotional immaturity then is where it is my way. I cannot be wrong. Gaslighting is a childhood defense mechanism. It's not my fault, it's your fault. And that has been the air that this person has breathed since childhood. Because if they got in trouble or if they took accountability or ownership of something, then they would hear about it and boy would they hear about it. And as a child that attachment wound is deep. So the fact is, you want to do anything you can to know that you matter and to survive in that relationship. And so the way that you get those needs met is to not not react when you are being blamed for something because if you get in, you may die. And meanwhile, your own parents have most likely not modeled, taking ownership or accountability of things. They've either just given the silent treatment or they said, well, I wouldn't have done it if you kids would've cleaned up your room, whatever that looks like.

So narcissistic traits and tendencies are emotionally immature, I think is a little bit easier to digest. So we get back to this article then so I'm not really looking at the concept of well what's the proof that this person's a narcissist, if, again, you, as the person listening to this episode, I would love for you just to just try to get into the shoes or the, into the experience that the person who is sending this to you what that experience is like for them. So they go on to, here's some of the behaviors they say of people with narcissistic personality disorder, and I will add in our narcissistic traits and tendencies or emotionally immature people. And, I do appreciate Arlan says, well, many of the following behaviors can be indicative of a narcissistic personality disorder. Only a mental health professional can provide an accurate diagnosis. And this is, this is why I don't talk about things in the way that this article does. And again, I'm referring to the article. I really like the article, but I am just gonna address the concepts of emotional immaturity and narcissistic traits and tendencies. If someone needs the full-blown narcissistic personality disorder diagnosis, then that is the, that is something that the person needs to do through I dunno, a mental health exam or those sort of things. So let's get into those signs so you don't feel connected, says that your partner talks with you when it's convenient.

However, they've never actually asked what your plans are for the future, or how can we work together to build the life. They constantly brag about themselves and their accomplishments, and they rarely show interest or ask questions about anything going on in your life. Their happiness comes from external sources, such as prestige at work or money, and you wonder if they're even capable of feeling romantic love or an emotional connection. So let the games begin. Here we go. And, and I appreciate when he says, don't ask what your plans are for the future, or if they do, there's an angle, if there's a, hey, so what do you wanna do this? And this is where it's gonna start sounding like all or nothing behavior, but it's because of the person that has left a relationship and that is saying, hey, can you listen to this podcast? I think this will explain things a little bit better than I can. At the point where that person is left, I feel very safe in saying that they have spent years most likely trying to, trying to manage the relationship, trying to care, take the relationship, taking more ownership for things than, than I wanna say it's humanly possible, in hopes of keeping the peace. They've been questioning their own reality. They've been gaslighting themselves, they've been being gas lit, and they've continued to try and explain things so that this emotionally immature and narcissistic person will understand. But, Arlen, put it simply, this is the thing where their happiness comes from external sources such as prestige at work or money or power and control. So this is where the concepts of control are interesting. And now if this person wants, if the, let's say the narcissist says, well, I didn't know what I wanna do this weekend. Instead of it's, this is the part that is so just, it's hard to, to imagine if this isn't the way that you operate, but let's say that they, I don't know, they wanna go to a movie on a Saturday night and they say, hey, what are your plans on Saturday?

Now, in a healthy relationship, you might say, oh, I was, I don't know, I was going out with some friends. And then, that scenario, healthy relationship, you might say, oh man, that sounds, period, because I want that person to thrive or have fun or I, I will make my, my desires and needs known, but I'm just gonna bring awareness to that because I know that if my spouse already had plans, then I, who am I to say, well, you must change them. So if I said, oh, I, man, I wish I would've jumped on that earlier. I was thinking about it, I thought it would be fun to go see this movie, but I didn't even, it, it's on me. I didn't. I mean, look at this accountability, right? This is something that is not common or isn't really happening in a narcissistic relationship where your, your partner is going to say, oh, man, I, if I would've mentioned that earlier then, then maybe that would've been an option, but you already have plans, so we will go do something another time.I want you do do the things that you would like to do. I mean, because then at that point, if she says, oh no, I actually, I was, I was trying to find a way to get out of going with my friends because they're going somewhere I don't really like, it's loud there or, that's a healthy relationship. 

And now this is where I, I kind of joke about the fight is then her saying, I would actually really love to go to the movie and him saying, oh no, I really don't wanna be the person that got in the way of your plans are you with your, and that's a healthy way, the unhealthy way is that the guy just said, oh, okay. No guy, go ahead. Like you, yeah, you always go with your friends, but yeah, that's fine. I just thought maybe one, we would go to a movie, you know, because he wants to go to the movie and most likely he probably knew that she had plans with her friends, but he's now, oh, I forgot. I forgot. I just, I thought I had mentioned this movie and it's just, I dunno so I wanted to see it for a long time, you know, and this is one where if the, if the wife knows that also earlier in the week, he said, I didn't know that this, that this was a movie, but now she's made to question her own reality. If he's saying, if she says, oh, I thought earlier you mentioned that you weren't even familiar, that this had been adapted into a movie and no, he wants to go see the movie. So instead of him saying, uh oh yeah, no, you're right because he wouldn't, and that scenario's like, oh no, I didn't say that. I said, no, I'm glad that this thing has been adapted into a movie. I mean, this is, and here's what the gaslighting looks like, I've actually, I dunno, I've kind of enjoyed this story since I was a kid. I mean, I remember my grandpa telling me the story, so, no, I've actually been wondering when this would be a movie since I think about the time I was 10. But that's kind of funny that you think on Monday that I said that I, that I wasn't even aware that this had been adapted to a movie. I mean, it just kind of shows me that you don't really hear what I say. And you, matter of fact, that's kinda a theme in our, in our relationship. So now that went from all of a sudden this guy, instead of him just saying, oh my bad, I was thinking it would be fun to go to a movie, and I just saw that this thing had been adapted into a movie. And I like this story as a kid, but we've got all the time in the world, how the vibe, the energy there, the emotional immaturity is, is amazing.

But in this narcissistic relationship, that is the vibe that we get. So the person can't just say, here's what I would like to do. Because then they're gonna have to take ownership of the fact that they forgot to mention it earlier. And now when the, the kind, the pathologically kind person, as I like to call them, says, uh oh, ah, my bad. I thought that you, I didn't even know you wanted to see that now you just handed them your buttons. What you, you didn't know. You don't know. You don't really know a lot about me. I don't really feel like you really understand me or hear me. So by the end now, the narcissist gets to go see the movie that he just found out about on Monday, but that he confabulated this narrative that is he's, that's his only wish from his dying grandpa, was that someday they'll make this movie and you'll go see it on the first Saturday evening after it comes out. So now he also gets to go to that movie feeling in control and power and getting that narcissistic supply of control because at his core, unfortunately, that means I, we will still be together because I must maintain control because if I am vulnerable and open, this person might lead me because I have no idea what that feels like to be an interdependent, differentiated human being having two different life experiences, where in reality that is absolutely the goal of a relationship. So, you don't feel connected. That's item number one, I think of 17. I don't think we're gonna make it through all 17. 

The next one, you'll feel manipulated. Your partner will make subtle threats throughout the relationship; they may not be direct with their words, but you get a sense that if you don't do something for them or give in to what they want, bad things will happen. Sometimes it's easier to just go along with what they want, even if you don't agree. And this is a way of controlling and manipulating their partners to get what and often people in this kind of relationship, what life was like before the manipulation started. And, I'll tell you, this is just on my mind right now because I'm having an expert, a friend, a current therapist Jeff Stewart, he's gonna come on and talk about coercion and especially coercion in intimacy. Because one of the dynamics that happens so often in emotionally immature relationships, and I'm gonna go right now with the, again, the, what we're gonna say, the guy is the narcissist or the person that's incredibly emotionally immature, but the, this coercion. So even if we're talking about things like intimacy and sexuality, where if the guy wants to have sex with his wife instead of being able to put that out in a confident way and having adult healthy conversations around intimacy and sexuality. And maybe him respecting the fact that she may not want to when she's been with the kids all day, or if kids keep running into the bedroom or whatever that looks like, then he may then start to pout or he may start to withdraw, or he may start to just feel like, man, you just don't care about me. I mean, I don't even know why I'm here. And so then she knows, okay, I know how to get out of this. Then we will have sex and then he'll be good for a few days. And then equally then he'll say, you know, you don't, you don't initiate enough. You don't, you don't desire me. I want you to do that. So I want you to desire me, but then I also want in essence to do duty, sex, or, you know, transactional sex because that's what I want when I want it. So that can really feel like manipulation. 

And then I appreciate the way Arlen says that sometimes it's easier just to go along with what they want, even if you don't really agree. And that's a way of controlling and manipulating your partner to get what you. And so to the emotionally immature, narcissistic person that that is, that continuous, almost push and pull of, of pushing their agenda and then withdrawing and pulling their agenda along and having you as the spouse or the partner just in this unsettled state, constantly trying to figure out, okay, is this the part where I'm supposed to praise him. He's the man or is this the part where I need to pity him and then go rescue him. I'm not really sure because the reality is the narcissist isn't really sure because it can change in any given moment. Arlan goes on to talk about the next one. You don't feel good enough and this one is such a common theme, such a common theme. You have feelings of inadequacy that don't match what you've accomplished in your life. You know, you go into the relationship feeling like this is gonna be one of the greatest things in the world and we're gonna thrive and grow. And I, we're gonna be a power couple, but then your partner tends to put you down or make negative comments about the things that you do.

You've lost touch with the things that you used to enjoy doing because you don't have time for them anymore. And, here's where I think things are really fascinating. He says, maybe you're always tired. It's difficult to get out of bed in the morning. You become hiding things from family and friends or feel ashamed about what goes on in your life. And then you start to lie to cover up the things that your partner does or doesn't because that's what people start to do when they lose their sense of self because they are spending so many emotional calories and so much time trying to manage their emotions, manage their partner's emotions, manage the room, to buffer for the kids that they, that is the part where they are not, they're not exploring and thriving and growing and continuing to nurture hobbies and friendships and passion because there's no time for that. When you're trying to figure out what's wrong with me, why can't I get him to hear me or understand me? Why do I feel like I'm not being seen in anything that I do? And what can be so difficult is now added to that if the wife is spending the majority of time with kids as caretaker, because little kids by nature are little narcissists, but that's a, bless their heart kind of way, but they're egocentric. Everything's about them. So they're absolutely not gonna validate mom at all times. 

So now if she's not getting that support or validation from the relationship as well, then she really does start to feel like, what, what is my purpose? I mean, I must be doing everything wrong because nobody is listening to me. And that can just start to break someone down. So again, if this is the listener who is hearing this, that someone suggested that you listen or if you caught the title of this, which I haven't named yet, but hopefully I'll put something very clever about, what you need to know about your friends that are claiming to be a narcissistic or emotionally immature relationships. It's probably a little bit too long, but that person has not felt good enough. This person feels manipulated, that the person doesn't feel a connection or didn't feel a connection with their spouse. The next one, he says, you're constantly being gaslit. when somebody constantly denies things that you know to be true, such as you're pretty confident in that example earlier that he really did say, I did not know that a movie had been made about this story that I had heard as a kid, you heard that you know the things you know because you're willing to admit the things that you don't. So in that scenario, oh no, I remember that. There are other things, plenty of things I don't. He says, for example, your spouse might make a comment like, you just don't remember right about something that you know happened. They'll gaslight you into believing that certain things never happened or that they did things because of something that you did or you said. 

First your partner may tell lies about your behavior and then try to twist reality so that it fits their version of events rather than what really happened. And you might begin second guessing yourself, and that is part of that feeling like you are going crazy. And if they do this in front of family members or friends, which they often do, then those people may start to think that the problem is with you instead of your partner. And here's the problem, because you as a kind person don't want to, don't, you don't wanna be mean. So it's hard for you to say that is absolutely not true because most likely by the time that he is sharing that information to friends or family, you've already been in this situation for quite a while and at that point you've probably questioned your own reality or you definitely know if I say anything right now, he is going to lose his crap when we get home. So, it can be really difficult for others to realize what happens behind closed doors because your partner appears charming on the surface. You avoid conversations. It may seem as though every conversation with your partner ends up in an argument, no matter how hard you try and stay calm and not get upset by what they say or do.

The narcissist constantly tries to push your buttons to get you to react. Controlling others' emotions gives them a sense of satisfaction, so it's easier to just avoid conversations. But at some point, if you're in an adult relationship with a partner, conversations need to occur or they are going to occur when you finally need to make them happen, and you start to realize that, man, I just don't like bringing things up around him. And then your body starts keeping the score, your heart rate starts to elevate, you start to get panic attacks or sweats. And then just the ramifications or the, just the, it's almost like this ball rolling downhill and picking up momentum is that at this point now, you already know this is not gonna go well. My body is telling me this is not safe. But at some point we have to have a conversation about, you know, the finances or the car or the, or the kid going to college or needing to pay for something. And you just think, okay, here we go, and now whatever button, whatever button I expose so that if I say, hey, so I've been meaning to talk to you about this, but I just, I'm, so, I just feel like our conversations don't go well. And then your spouse will say, um, yeah, they don't go well because of the way you're, look at how you're showing up. What am I supposed to do? And, this is all here we go. So batting down the hatches, we're going into battle. That is not a way to be in a relationship. And again, I have to keep reminding myself, if you are the person hearing this, this has been the experience of the person that is now saying to you, I know it looked great on the surface, but the reason why I would just smile and just giggle when he would say, yeah, she doesn't really know much about what she, she's horrible with money. Am I right, guys? That is not an okay way to communicate, especially how and if that person now is willing to put that face out there in public. 

You can only imagine or can't imagine what's going on behind closed doors. You're made to feel responsible for everything. Narcissists think that everything that they do is always somebody else's fault, including the things they do wrong. So you won't get an apology from a narcissistic person. They don't see other people as being on unequal footing. And your partner will not take responsibility and they will blame you. And that is, that is, again, this is that concept of the air they breathe. And so when I talk about, so person listening, when I talk about, I give these five rules of the way to, in essence, show up or interact with someone that is narcissistic or emotionally immature in your life. And, I would take another 10 minutes to explain the reason why I, I even hesitate on the phrasing of these five things because I am meeting people, my goal is to meet people where they're at. When people first start finding out about emotional immaturity and narcissism, they're typically met with a, hey, leave your relationship right now. But when the person finds this information, they think, no, I, number one, that would be scary to leave my relationship. Or we have kids, or we're a financial mess. And so I can't just do that. So maybe with this information, then I can change the dynamic. So I say, raise your emotional baseline, which means I want that to start really exploring self-care, and even if it's starting with having hopes and dreams, because already their life has been consumed with trying to manage their relationship, that the last thing they're doing is thinking about themselves other than from a survival instinct.

Raise your emotional baseline. Self-care is not selfish. The second one I talk about is getting your PhD in gaslighting. So just meaning what we talked about earlier with gaslighting, that is the world that this person is living in that has probably sent you this podcast or that you're aware of that was trying to open up to you. And that would be hard if they're now, now even look, if you are saying to them, and this is a, bless your heart, you're just now listening to this yourself, but if you're now saying, oh no, I don't think narcissism is a, well, by definition, you kinda just gaslit them. So now you can go back and say, hey, my bad, I'm now understanding I'm starting to learn more. The third thing is to get out of unproductive conversations. I tell them, please, because the conversations are where you are continually just handing them your buttons, handing them your buttons, and they will use those later. The fourth thing is learning to set healthy boundaries, but unfortunately, know that boundary, a boundary is a challenge for the narcissist or the emotionally immature. But here's the big one, the fifth thing, there is nothing you will ever do, I tell them, that will cause your partner to have the aha moment or the epiphany- that has to happen on their own. And a huge part of the challenge is the kind person has been trying to get through to the emotionally immature, narcissistic person, without understanding that that is, that is not gonna happen. So they've continually given examples and talked about their feelings, and this is hard for me, and continually going on and on in that regard. In the hopes that this narcissistic person will then at some point say, oh, gotcha. Okay man, I, I didn't really understand what was going on. But that's not gonna happen.

So then the more things that you say and do, the more ammunition that you're typically giving that person. The next one that he talks about is that you feel responsible for everything. And narcissists think that everything is always someone else's fault. And I love that I'm not a big all or nothing statement guy, but I have no problem with this one saying, I think that everything is always someone else's fault, including the things that they do wrong. You won't get an apology from a narcissistic person. And this is a fascinating one because I have tried, I have literally tried especially well before I understood narcissistic traits, tendencies, emotional immaturity, but I still remember the very moment that a person, the wife had said, he's literally never said he’s sorry. And she brought up some pretty hurtful things that had happened in the relationship. And I said, is that true? And he blank stared at me. And then at the time I didn't realize that this is where you can watch an extremely emotionally immature or narcissistic person revert right back to this childhood defense mechanism. So when I talk about gaslighting as a childhood defense mechanism, there's also fight, flight, freeze, fawn. And that freeze is where, where the person will literally just go blank and it's as if they emotionally shut down, because that is definitely a defense strategy of having to take ownership of something until you just say, okay, well, I guess we aren't going to have this conversation. 

And I have watched that on the couch where you can watch a successful older male or female person, successful meaning they get to have financial means positions in the community, but when it comes down to the point where they feel that they may have hurt that someone in their family or they may have done something wrong where they will, they may try to get angry. They may try to withdraw, but at times they will just go blank slate, and then you eventually say, okay, this is just pointless. And move on. It's really interesting. So, they just will not take responsibility because ultimately that responsibility could mean that they did something wrong and it goes back to what it feels like to be them when they were younger is a no, I can not get in trouble. As if from childhood, they're screaming subconsciously that you don't understand people who get in trouble, their families get really angry with them and they cut them off. A matter of fact, there's a concept called the narcissistic discard, where once you are no longer serving their purpose, it's really easy for them to move on to another supply. And that's where you'll even see in narcissistic family systems where the parent, when they don't feel like they are getting validation from their kid will often then discard the kid in a sense. And that's where you start looking at the concepts around a scapegoat child in the family. And if you have been in a narcissistic family system, or if you even are around people that this is maybe what's happening in their family, you will often notice that one of the kids seems to just get an awful load of, I was going to say crap. I know that's not a psychology term, but they're going to get the brunt of the negativity in the relationship. 

And then that will typically mean that there is someone else in the family that is the golden child. And the golden child has consciously or subconsciously learned how to play the game to make the parents feel good about themselves. And then it's that back to that black or white all or nothing thinking of the emotional immature, where then that must mean that there is someone in the family that then will get the brunt, will get, in essence, blamed for everything. So even if a parent gets angry, yeah, okay, sure, fine. I'm sorry. I got angry, but I wouldn't have been angry if you would've just listened to me or if you wouldn't have done those things that you were doing. And as a matter of fact, now, I can't believe that I'm the one that has to apologize. And now I'm really frustrated at you again. So that's even that concept of a narcissistic apology. Is one where it will still end up being about the narcissist being right. And you being wrong. You're walking on eggshells, it says. Do you ever feel as though you're walking on eggshells because you never know when your partner is going to explode or be in one of their moods? Typically it goes like this, everything seems fine, but then something minor happens and they go into a rage, even a small thing, like somebody at work being recognized for an accomplishment while your partner feels overlooked. 

It can cause a narcissist to throw a fit. And this is known as narcissistic rage. And you probably will feel like you've lost yourself now because all of your decisions are based on what will keep your narcissistic partner happy. So if you are listening and then you are starting to try to put the puzzle pieces together that maybe someone that you love or are aware of or somebody who even suggested you listened to this podcast, or even if it, again, as you listening to this and starting to wake up to the narcissism in the relationship. That is a major one where you start to feel like all of my decisions are based on what will keep this other person happy. And now I'm even putting that on my kids. And I'm putting that on those around me of, hey, a mom's having a rough day today, so everybody needs to kind of back off and so we're, we're putting that emotionally immature narcissist person's needs ahead of all of the rest of ours. And that is one of the things where people stay in these emotionally immature or unhealthy relationships, and they sometimes say, no, I'm doing it for the kids. But in reality, you're teaching the kids to learn to suppress their emotions and to read the room and try to figure out how to show up so that somebody won't get mad at me rather than just showing up and being. And having a secure attachment with a parent or the ability to go out and do, and possibly even make mistakes and then come back and it doesn't become something that then the parent says, see, I told you so, or the parent gets to take the one-up position and say, man, I never would have done that when I was your age or, or why didn't you learn from the stories that I've told you? So the narcissistic or emotionally immature parent can go right back to making it about themselves. 

You see through the charm, he says on the surface, your partner can be charming and confident and accomplished. However, this seems this way only because they're so skillful at hiding their true colors in public. They say all the right things and people love them. But the second that you're alone with them, then things change. And it's really fascinating. A lot of the examples when I'm working with individuals directly, where as the mask starts to drop on their emotional immature partner. They will, and I do sound like I'm being almost in my own all or nothing thinking where, when they start to identify these patterns, they're so strong. The traits are so strong that then they will say, but sometimes, my spouse will be really nice to me. And then I often say, okay, well, right now let's just put a little pin in that and say, what's the angle? And then typically you'll circle back around and find one recently where the person had shared that they realized, oh, it was because someone else was in the room. Or it was because they were being nice because they knew now they found out in hindsight that whatever the situation was that their spouse had now had done a 180 on and said, oh no, I, you know what I think I would like to do that. It was because when they got to this place, then they were, in essence, given praise for going to this place. So, there is this angle. And so you may see through that charm that others do not. 

Feeling constantly criticized, and I wanted to make sure that I got to this one and the next one, your needs are ignored because either some of those people that I think that didn't grow up with a healthy relationship modeled, or they are in an emotionally abusive or emotionally immature relationship, don't realize that this is not part of a healthy relationship. So Arlen says your partner is excessively critical of your parents. They might make comments about your weight, your clothing, your choice of hairstyle. They make fun of you or put you down, and this might happen behind your back and or to your face. They also make fun of others, especially people they perceive as lesser than them. Someone they deem as less attractive or wealthy in general. They're highly critical of everyone. So one of the things that I will hear is if somebody will say, well, yeah, he comments about my weight often. You know, I remember just a heartbreaking story early on in my therapy career of a woman who had had a couple of kids and her husband would just continually, when she would get out of the shower just make fun of her weight and just criticize her. And she, I remember her saying in my office, she said, I mean, but it's a fair point. I mean, I have put on some weight. I said, it's not a fair point. How much weight did he put on when he had kids? Which isn't even the point. I mean, you're going to show up in the relationship and when you have a healthy relationship, then you want to be there to support each other. And so the narcissist who, or the emotional immature, is saying things that being hypercritical of someone to put them in a one-down position. Because let's say that that person now, I don't know, got in perfect shape, then that narcissist isn't going to go, okay, everything is great. Now I will stop criticizing you because unfortunately that's the way that they show up in the relationship because they still feel that they need this control or power. 

And so one of the ways that you can gain control or power is to put someone down. And criticize them. And it's really hard because if I'm working with the individual who is being criticized, then I'm saying, okay, this is a concept where I really don't want you to even engage or to give that any validity. So if you know that you are doing your best really is what it is. And let's say this woman who had had a couple of kids and she was just trying to do her best and survive and hang on, then the last thing I wanted her to do was then say, try to say well, but you don't understand. And because once you engage with the emotionally immature narcissistic person, then now they are now again, they get that dopamine bump because now they feel alive because that's their, in essence, their sense of purpose is getting their validation through other people. And it rarely means a positive version of getting validation. It typically means a way to control and a way to manipulate. And then he says your needs are ignored. Your partner thinks only about their own needs and how things affect them, not you or anything else, including the kids, if you have a family. And they'll end up doing things that benefit themselves, not you or the relationship together. And you give some examples of, they may want to have sex when they want it, but not when you do. They expect you to pick up after them and they take credit for your hard work. They get upset when others treat their family better than yours. They favor certain children over others in the family, if they feel that child actually makes them look better or that child is the one that listens to them. 

And along those lines, your needs are being ignored. I think that this is the part where when you start to look at the selfishness of narcissism, that you really can step back when you can step back and take a look at the situation in the context of the event, let's say is that if the narcissist wants to go to a basketball game, then they are going to come up with every reason that they can, that this is the most special basketball game. This is all they've ever wanted to do is go to this one game. If you want to go to the game and they don't feel like it, then you're going to hear that it's pretty expensive and it's a school night. And I don't think that we really need to stay out late. And so that's the part where you will find yourself confused at times, because if you want to do something and they want to do it, then, okay that works. If you want to do something and they don't, then sometimes you feel like, why do I even bring it up? Because I know where this is, this is heading. Or if I go do it, then I'm going to hear about it and now it is going to be this thing that is going to be used against me. Your family is warning you or is oblivious. I thought that was a really interesting part because it's true. He says your family has told you, they don't like how your partner treats you or your family is oblivious to anything wrong because your partner has been feeding them the lies about you. Either way, your partner is a point of contention when it comes to family relations. 

And there's a concept that he doesn't talk about here, but it's also called, well, it's sequestering, where you will often find that the person in the relationship with the narcissist is often told don't, don't talk about this to other people,that's embarrassing. We don't air our dirty laundry out to others. So you can often feel isolated. And so if your partner is showing up as the wonderful person that they are trying to present themselves as, that's part of what can make you just feel crazy is if you feel like no one else really understands what I'm going through or seeing this, but so often, and this is just something to note. So often when people get out of these relationships, they will hear many people say, man, you know, yeah, I didn't think that looked very good or I don't think that looked very healthy and the person getting out of the relationship will often talk with me in my office about, why didn't they say or why didn't they tell me before? And then that one's a pretty quick version of me asking the client, well, what would you have thought at that time? Because when you are in that relationship, you are also trying to defend the emotional abuser, or even it can be at times the physical abuser. Because if you have to admit that your relationship is not good, we have this just survival mechanism that kicks in that we want to go to this place where we say, okay, then something's wrong with me so I can make this work. So it's a, one of those concepts where until you were in that position to be able to do this work to self confront, and maybe start to really sit with that discomfort and then be open and start to take in this new data. 

It can be the exact opposite where you feel like you need to defend the person. I will often find that in the beginning of those types of relationships, if somebody will come in and seek help from me that they are going over and over with what's wrong with me, I must be broken. And then they will start to open up a little bit about the relationship. And often during that opening up process, I will hear, I mean, but I've got my faults too, or I know, I know he means well, or none of us are perfect and those sorts of things are, they are, in essence, invalidating themselves and what their experiences and wanting to just say, if I can figure this out, and so that can just be a really difficult situation for somebody as they are starting to just wake up to this overall unhealthy relationship that they're in, he says, one of the other key signs, if you've been cheated on in our system often is often a master flirt might be cheating on you. They're very charming and not as sweet people off their feet. That's the love bombing side of things. Here's something that I won't go into too much detail because this would probably be a completely different podcast, but there's, it's that paradox of the emotionally immature narcissistic relationship with the pathologically kind person. And what I mean by that is, when Arlen's talking here about you've been cheated on, is that the narcissist will often just go seek the dopamine dump for the supply of adoration. And when they do that, that can lead to physical affairs, emotional affairs. But I will often find a good pathologically kind person that is coming in because they feel so incredibly guilty about turning to another person emotionally and yeah, sometimes physically as well. 

And this is going to sound again, here's what I call this, this paradox of this relationship where it can be someone who has been, in essence, driven into a relationship with someone else who sees them and hears them and understands them because we crave to be seen and understood. So if we aren't getting any of that in our, in our marital relationship or our long-term committed relationship, and then somebody at work or a neighbor or someone else truly sees us and hears us and really is inquisitive and curious, that can be almost like a drug in and of itself. So when you have the version you've been cheated on and this article where it's the narcissist, who is in a moment, and then feels like they are just getting this dopamine bump of this person, just adores them and puts them in this just high status situation. Then they may act out sexually. And then in that same narcissistic way of, and then just immediately, okay. I can be done with that, but then meanwhile, you've got the pathologically kind person who has tried for decades to make a relationship work. And now they're coming in because they feel incredibly guilty because they like communicating with, I don't know, the school crossing guard or the person, the barista at Starbucks or the person at work, because they feel like here's somebody that actually is asking them questions and wanting to know more about them, which it can just, that can be like a drug itself. 

Which can lead to that next one, where he talks about feeling unloved. When you got together, you felt like the most amazing person in the world. However, as time went on and problems arose, your partner starts to de-value and ignore you. And this is a red flag that they're not who they made themselves out to be in the first place. And, I'll pull the marriage therapist card here and say that I have sat with a number of emotionally immature people who, when we're having the couples therapy, they will say, let's say that it's I know I keep going with the that's what I typically see my office, but I know it can be the reverse. But if the wife is saying, okay, this, he was this amazing person who wrote love notes and we did fun dates and we just had all this spontaneity when, before we were married. And now that's changed. And I have numerous examples that come to mind of where the husband will look at me and say, yeah, that's the way marriage works. Can you tell her? And that's, you know, never ask the therapist a question that you don't know the answer to, because that is not the way it works. That you don't love bomb someone to get them into your grasp and then just settle back down and say, okay. All right now, we just, now let's just settle into life. It's now we're trying to find a partner who we can go through life with. So as we go through experiences in life, then we can start to process them together, live them together so that I can really share my hopes and dreams with a spouse and that I can also be open and willing to comment that they may have questions, or even healthy criticism at times. 

Or if someone will say, hey, tell me more about that interaction you just had with one of the kids, like help me understand what’s going through your mind and not in a oh, okay, really? What's going through your mind right now? But help me understand so we can grow to be better people and in a stronger couple. You get the silent treatment, this, this one's huge in the world of emotionally immature, your partner uses a silent treatment as a power play to control you. And they will withhold affection and they'll ignore your existence until they feel like being nice again, which is when I call, hey, do you want to ride bikes? And that's only usually, well, no, it is not usually, it is when it will benefit them again, like getting what they want a lot of times it's when, okay, now they're ready to be intimate again, or when they feel like, okay, they need you to do something for them, he also mentions you can be stuck financially. Maybe we'll explore that in a future episode, but an emotionally immature narcissistic person is very impulsive and doesn't take a lot of ownership for the things that they do. So they make bad financial decisions and choices. And that's just one of the things that happens. That doesn't mean that everybody that makes bad financial decisions is emotionally immature or a narcissist. 

And then just a couple more. You can't rely on your partner. When they make promises, you never know if they're going to keep them. Narcissists are notorious for making promises and then breaking them when it's convenient. You don't feel as though you have a partner that you can rely on and you find yourself having to do everything yourself. And a lot of, again, all or nothing or everything statements there, but one of the consistencies that I've been noticing a lot lately and trying to write more about is that I really do feel like when I am working with someone that is just struggling with emotional immaturity and they are coming in and they are seeking help and they want, they're willing to self confront, that we get back to that concept of, we don't like to sit with discomfort. And so, especially if somebody is more on the emotionally immature scale, it can be really easy when they feel uncomfortable to be put on the spot and with someone saying, hey, can I count on you? I need to buy these tickets in two weeks. Can you do this thing with me? Then it feels good. One way that they will alleviate that discomfort is to say, yeah, I want to do it because I think that they really do, maybe in that moment, want to do it. But that also is just a way for them to say, okay, I've alleviated that discomfort. I will kick that down the road. And there's a lot of kicking the can and the world of the emotionally immature that I will do a lot of things later. But then when later comes, then, if that has not been something that's put on their radar or something else comes up that they would rather do, then here comes the gaslighting. The, you know, I'd only said that at the time, because I thought that was what you wanted, but the more I thought about it, I'm kind of, I can't believe you put me in that spot. 

And that's not, or, you know what, you can take one of the kids that I'm sure that they would love it. As a matter of fact, I think that that's kind of what you probably should do, but really it's not me being willing to say, hey, I said that in the moment, because that is what I wanted to do, but then I should've let you know that I was only saying that because I really wanted to make you happy and get rid of my discomfort, but no one emotionally immature is going to have that kind of insight, especially right early on when you're trying to wake up to this narcissism or emotional immaturity in your relationships. He ends by saying you've asked and they won't change, narcissists aren't willing to change because that would mean admitting something is wrong. And we've spent a little bit of time today talking about that is just the air that they breathe. That admission of being wrong feels like the end of their world. It feels like that will lead to sure abandonment, which will eventually lead to death. And so rather than just saying, taking ownership and accountability, my bad, what can I learn from this? What do I need to own up to? It’s a lot easier to just say that that's ridiculous. I don't, I don't do those things or, well, when you start working on your stuff, then come back and talk to me and then I'll see what I can do about mine. So, your partner isn't willing to change their behavior, then he ends by in essence saying, well, you might be in a relationship with a narcissist. 

So if you have made it this far, I appreciate that. If you're the person that's in this relationship with the emotionally immature or someone that is struggling with narcissistic traits or tendencies, then you know, you're on this journey. You're starting to wake up to this in the relationship. And just, if you can go back and find those episodes that talk about the five things that I recommend that you can do, if you feel like you're in this emotionally immature or narcissistic relationship. And if you're somebody that is trying to understand more about what someone is going through, if they have said, if they have mentioned the concepts around narcissism or emotional immaturity, I hope that you can see that this is a, this is one article that has 17 different things that say you may be in a relationship with a narcissist or an emotionally immature person and boy again, I will acknowledge that if you Google this concept, you will see that there are 17 things, 30 things, 50 things. There are so many different articles that talk about these consistent patterns of behavior. And it's because they're very consistent. So, please don't take it lightly if someone is saying that they are in a relationship or escaping or getting out of a relationship with someone that they feel is emotionally immature or narcissistic, because it has been a slow process, a death by a thousand cuts process to get them to the point that wherever they are right now. So what they really need is somebody to say, man, tell me more. And that sounds hard and I'm here for you and what can I do to help? That's some of the best advice that I can give if somebody is asking you to take a look at what these concepts of emotional immaturity or narcissism look like. 

All right. Hey, thanks for taking the time. If you have questions, feel free to send them, and contact me through my social media contact at Tony Overbay underscore LMFT on Instagram, at Virtual Couch on TikTok or Tony Overbay licensed marriage and family therapist on Facebook, or you can email me contact@tonyoverbay.com and I will see you next week on Waking Up to Narcissism. 

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

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

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

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

63 Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WUTN 62 Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

61 Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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