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Tony shares the 4th installment in the "Death By a Thousand Cuts" series. He gives examples of how being in a relationship with a narcissist or extremely emotionally immature person can feel like "death by a thousand cuts." All of the examples used in this episode come directly from his private women’s Facebook group for women in relationships with narcissistic or emotionally immature people in their lives, whether it is their spouse, parent, adult child, friend, boss, or religious institution. If you are interested in joining one of Tony’s groups for people in relationships with narcissists, please reach out to him through his website http://tonyoverbay.com

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

59 Transcript

Hey, everybody. Welcome to Waking Up to Narcissism episode 59. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of the Virtual Couch podcast. And soon, many other podcasts, Murder On the Couch, cue ominous music, is a podcast that I'm doing with my daughter Sydney, and she is a huge, true crime fan. And I am going to throw my therapist's spin on some cases. We've already got a few episodes recorded, and I just, I cannot wait for you to see this. My daughter Sydney is hilarious and adorable and the energy that I think we have back and forth is so much fun. And if you look in the show notes of today's episode, there's going to be a link to a YouTube clip of the podcast. So stay tuned. One is coming soon and Waking Up to Narcissism, I always feel like I want to say the musical, but that is not a thing. But Waking Up to Narcissism the premium question and answer trailer is up on apple podcast. And the subscription, the ability to subscribe is, I want to say, it's there now because these podcasts are evergreen. 

And hopefully that will be figured out by the time this one even makes it to the air. But I know that there've been people that have heard the trailer and then have contacted me and said, there's no way to subscribe. And bless your heart for wanting to subscribe. It will be a small monthly fee and the proceeds will go to a non-profit that is designed to help people with the things that they need that are in emotionally unhealthy relationships, whether it's therapy or legal costs. So there's a lot of fun and exciting, fun, the wrong word when I'm talking about people that are in these emotionally unhealthy relationships, I'm grateful to be able to do the work that I do and that podcast is only there because I think that my assistant Naomi and I have a hundred or so questions already that have come in about narcissism and emotional maturity. And so I really want to start answering those and then the ability to help fund this nonprofit is going to be incredible. Really just go to tonyoverbay.com and sign up for my newsletter. And that will, that will get you where you need to go, because we're going to have a lot of information there. 

And I can't help but say this, if you are somebody who is on TikToK, find Virtual Couch on TikToK. One of my daughters is putting out a lot of the content that I've created, and that has been fun to watch the reaction there. So, that is where I definitely feel like an old man but it is fun to see the feedback. So find Virtual Couch on TikToK or at Tony Overbay underscore LMFT on Instagram. So let's get to today's episode. We're going to talk about, this is the fourth installment of the death by a thousand cuts concept. And these are the episodes that I feel like resonate the most, where people start to realize that they are not crazy or all of these small things that happen in their relationships. And again, it can be the male or the female. I want to acknowledge that, and it can be in a relationship with the spouse or an adult, parent, or child or entity or boss, friends, you name it. If that is an emotionally unhealthy relationship, sometimes when you want to express why you don't want to continue in a relationship, people will say, well, why? And when you tell them things that just don't seem as significant as you feel that they should be in order for you to have space or set boundaries or leave a relationship, it can feel pretty maddening. So it is this concept of as if you were dying by a thousand cuts. And just for fun, I did go and look up where the death by a thousand cuts comes from and it was a, it appears, and here I say this, and I am going to tell you that I Googled it. 

So, I'm not really exactly sure how correct or accurate this is, but, it's on Wikipedia. And so that means it's correct. Right? Death by a thousand cuts is a form of torture and execution originating from Imperial China. And where people literally would be given tiny little cuts, and there's a belief that it could take hours and hours. You have to lose, I think 40% of your blood to eventually die. So that took a turn, but the concept is that these little hurts in our relationship, or little wounds that eventually become too much, the way these, these little events, these negative events slowly, but surely, in these unnoticed increments, then grow into these big gaping wounds that then you do feel like you have lost yourself. There has been a death of the relationship or a death of self. And so I reached out to my private women's Facebook group and said, hey, it's time for a fourth episode of death by a thousand cuts. And so the group has grown significantly. And so there were enough responses within about a 12 hour period that we could do episodes four, five, and six right now. And so I'm sure that this will be a continuing series. 

So let me just, I'm going to read a lot of the examples, everybody that is sharing the examples has given me permission, and then I'm sure that I will go off on some tangents and riffs about my thoughts on the reading between the lines of some of these examples. So one person just in essence started off best by saying, “This is the hard part of paper cuts or the one-offs don't seem so bad”. And she said, “I mentioned to somebody at her church that her daughter isn't living with or speaking to her dad, and then that person at church said, ‘well, has the dad done something egregious?’” And she said, “‘No, he hasn't.’ But that's the thing. Nobody gets that there can still be abuse that isn't physical or sexual.” She said, “Even sometimes I forget why she's mad at him because there really isn't one big thing.” All that being said, she did share some examples. So her teenage daughter, this is a talking in regard to her teenage daughter, her ex or the teenage daughter's father, he told her that he took down pictures of her in his house because he doesn't like being reminded of her. So right out of the gate, talk about emotional immaturity. And these narcissistic traits or tendencies all the way up to the narcissistic personality disorder. But that an adult human being can tell their teenage daughter that they are taking down all the pictures in the home, because he doesn't want to be reminded of her because she is not doing what he wants her to do and then assuming that father thinks that for some reason that is going to then cause the daughter, the teenage daughter, oh, I could just go on with this to then go, oh my gosh. I am not showing up the way that my dad would like for me to show up. It is on the father in that situation to recognize that my daughter does not feel safe or comfortable with me. So that is a me thing. So I need to go in with curiosity and empathy and patience and long suffering and kindness and charity and on and on and on, and then nurture and develop that relationship with that daughter. Here's the problem. If we are in that situation where that is happening, then I realized that train left that station a long time ago. 

So I want you to know the reason I like starting with this as an example is that this episode really is more for the person that is trying to make sense of the nonsense or who is trying to say, okay, but what was I not nice enough to, did I not tell my daughter that she needs to go and be with him more because that's no, that's not your job as the buffer. Because if anything, that is you being, you know, and I get it. Wanting to be protective because you don't want to see your daughter hurt, but then all that is setting up is that the narcissistic ex-husband in this scenario gets to continue to say, well, I don't have a relationship because you didn't tell her to come talk to me. And sometimes the pathologically kind person will think I haven't been, you know, so he's got a point and I want her to say, wait a minute. He just did it again. Now he can blame it on me. He takes no accountability. So other things that this particular person shared, she said, that her narcissistic ex told his brother. So the narcissistic ex's brother, not to support his daughter's tennis fundraiser because she's not living with him. So let's now get the entire family now to go against the teenage daughter. And what emotional immaturity that is. He also told her that he wasn't going to take her to a family party because she, the teenage daughter had set a boundary of meeting him and he wanted to meet alone to talk. And she said that she would go if a friend could come. So she did not feel safe. And so he said, okay, well then if you don't feel safe, then I will not let you bring a friend. And now you can't, in essence, you can't have the pony, you can't go to Disneyland. You can't go to the family party, so I will punish you. And then you will see, and then you'll come around and the, you will do things my way, which is going to be a theme of some of the things that we're talking about today. 

Okay for this next one, we're going to be talking about the body keeps the score or the complex post-traumatic stress disorder. And I'm so grateful this was someone that is new in the group. And so I think it took a lot for her to share. She said, “I would say my death by a thousand cuts would be how he has traumatized my nervous system. Not only does this come into play when I'm around him, but it is now also bled into my entire life. At home I'm so jumpy, even when there isn't an altercation. He has to know what I'm doing at all times.” She said, “Not only that I have to have an explanation ready to go when he questions, even the smallest of things, I feel that there are things that people in a normal relationship take for granted. When they really just don't even think twice about it.” And well, I'll read her entire and then I'll go back and make some comments. She said, “I get nervous when I get in the shower. When I pick up my phone, if I have a smile on my face that doesn't pertain to him. If I'm doing anything out of what he perceives is my normal routine. If I walk outside to take the trash out. If I take our baby on a walk around the block, if I have my headphones on, if I'm writing in my journal, there are so many things that I have to second guess before doing them. Anticipating his accusation based questions I find even away from home or when he's working, I still get jumpy about these things, partly because it has happened over and over and over, but also because even when I'm away from him, he's checking up on me. I could answer the phone as soon as he calls and be doing something as simple as watching TV, but it still warrants the questioning. ‘Are you sure that's what you're doing? Well, what else have you been doing? What have you been doing the last hour? Who'd you talk to today? And what were you talking about? What are your plans? What are you about to do? Why did you take a shower that early?’” She said, “It's amazing how this has become my life. And I didn't realize how draining it's been. His actions have transformed me into this person that he sees as acceptable doing as much as I can to avoid questioning. This usually involves keeping myself busy with chores and cleaning up, for example, because then I usually don't get all the other questions. I even feel the need to go into detail about exactly what I've cleaned or the errands I ran, because if not, then he doesn't believe that that's taken the time that it has.” She said, “I feel as if I'm doing something wrong. If my daily routine isn't circled around things that need to be done. The moment I take time for myself,” she said, “heaven forbid do nothing and relax, it's absolutely questioned.” She said, “It's just a very stressful state to be in.” And she said she doesn't mind me sharing. So the reason I appreciate this is I think that this is an extreme example of just feeling like she is walking on eggshells. 

But I feel like this covers most, most of the people that I work with to some point. And it's even just those, oh, who were you talking to? Now in a healthy relationship, that's an opportunity for connection. Who are you talking to? But you have to feel like it. I mean, I just, I just say here's who I was talking to. And here's the crazy story we talked about, or I just say I was talking to this person and then the emotionally healthy partner says, I don't know, anything fun to talk about there? And if you say no, not really. Okay. But the control is who are you talking to? Well, why, what were you talking about really? That you said that. I mean, I, I don't know why you would've said that. I don't say those things or I kind of feel like that's the wrong thing to tell that person and you start realizing, love or control? And in those scenarios, love is, well, you're going to do whatever you're going to do. And I love you and you are the person who you are, and I love you. Not, well why did you do that? And I I don't really like when you do that. Or I don't think you should have done that. That is control. And when that just starts to bleed into everything that this person feels that they feel so controlled. And if you were listening to that, and particularly looking at the thing where she says, I'm nervous when I get in the shower, I'm nervous, you know, or even at what time did I shower? I mean, I have people that if they, if they even take care of themselves for the day, then the narcissistic spouse says, oh, why are you, why'd you get dressed up? Who are you going to see? You know, and then if you say, no, nobody, I just thought I would do this. Then that's not being believed. It goes back to that nonviolent communication concept, where the person makes an observation and a judgment. 

So observation and judgment. If your spouse looks nice today, if your observation is well, they must be going to see somebody or they must be cheating on me, and now you have to defend yourself. Then that is a really difficult place to come from. Because at that point, that is what leads to somebody just not even wanting to take care of themselves because they don't want to have to deal with the potential questioning. Or they just feel like if they take care of themselves and now they're questioned about it, they just go flat. And then they feel as if they are now handing that narcissist the confirmation that they were looking for. Okay. Well, I guess if you're not, if you're not telling me where you're going, I'm sure you're doing something bad. So those, all of these, just, she said anticipating his accusation based questions. So anything, you know, what have you been up to? What have you been up to? It can be an amazing question when it is a bid for connection, but what have you been up to is a horrible question when it is one that is fishing for, well if you start talking, then I'm sure I can find something that I don't like that you've done. Then I can now take the one up position. I can put you in the one down position. And I can maintain my narcissistic supply. So that one really does break my heart. And when she talks about the end, she said, if I feel like I'm doing something wrong, if my daily routine isn't circled around things that have to be done, the moment I take time for myself or do nothing and relax, it's questioned. Because my number one rule in interacting with the emotionally mature narcissist in your life is raise your emotional baseline. And that is self care and self care is not selfish, and boy, she nails it though, because you need to relax, you need to be able to have downtime. You need to be able to meditate. You need to be able to do things that bring you peace and joy that are things that matter to you to be able to calm the central nervous system. And then to allow you to have that confidence so that you can show up in a way that you can deal with all of the things that are happening around you in life. Because if you are constantly just in this state of, I got to just keep doing, I got to keep doing, I'm going to be questioned, you can feel your own heart rate elevate and your anxiety spike, and your cortisol starts flooding through your brain you are in fight or flight mode. And it's quoted in The Body Keeps the Score, “the neurons that fire together, wire together”. So over time, what it feels like to be you is somebody that is just on high alert, ready to go into fight or flight at any moment. 

So it takes time to get out of that situation to be able to start to slowly but surely lower your heart rate. So you can raise your emotional baseline so you can show up in a way that will be the very best version of you. This one's short and sweet, but very fascinating. Someone said “He got so mad at me when I told him I was flying to visit my mom, he was upset that I spent the money on the flight. Then I told them that my mom bought the tickets. They flew off the handle because he said that he was the provider of the family. And now the mother's going to think that he can't provide. Then in the next breath, he said that well, as a matter of fact, you should have got a job to pay for the flight yourself if you want to do things like this, then you need to get a job.” She said, “Meanwhile, he literally made me go on a work trip with him that will cost us at least double, if not triple the cost of the flight to my mom's house, which by the way, my mom was willing to pay for.” She said he's a walking contradiction. This one, every one of these breaks my heart. That's why we have these. That's why we're having this episode today. Another person said, “How about this under death by a thousand cuts, but also in the world of betrayal trauma. She said, “When we were married, I was suspecting that he was having an affair, but could never prove it. He denied always anytime I brought it up. One day I found a poem written by him on his phone about a beautiful brunette. I asked him about this. And he quickly told me that I was the brunette. It's just that I dye my hair blonde and I had been for a long time.” So she said, “I believed him like every wife is supposed to do with their husbands. But after time, he continued to ask me, ‘Why don't you ever leave your hair its natural color?’” And I can say right now you can see that now he's trying to build that case that no, no, he really was her. So she said, “I can remember him calling me a brunette in front of our friends while winking at me. And that was something that he never did before.” And that's one of those concepts that I just, I cannot describe enough of when, when someone is not doing something naturally organically. That it's more obvious than they think. So if he has never called you, why aren't you a brunette? Oh, my little brunette over there, wink, wink in front of friends. And that has never happened until he was caught with the poem about the brunette. Even he doesn't realize, oh, that's, that's not the way this normally works. And this is where I talk about if you want to watch this stuff in action, just go on YouTube and find a channel that has interrogation videos. I watched another one this morning. I'm just mesmerized by them because you watch a person who thinks that they have created a narrative of how a quote normal person would have behaved in a situation. But now they're being interrogated by people that know exactly what to look for. And I feel like at times as a marriage therapist, you're almost like a marriage interrogator. And why I love my four pillars of a connected conversation as you are giving this framework in essence, so that you can see who doesn't know how to use a framework, who doesn't play in the sandbox, who weaponizes the tool. And who takes this lifeline, this evidence-based lifeline. And finally feels like they learned how to communicate. And now the couple is excited and they grow closer together versus the, when you are, you know, when somebody, all of a sudden tells you, they know exactly where they were seven months ago on a Tuesday night, because that's when they did the in the Terry Haitian videos, that's when they murdered someone. 

So then they say, if somebody says, hey, where were you on January 15th, you know, six months ago? And they say, I don't know, how about January 13th? Oh, the 13th. Oh yeah. I remember it was a Monday night. I was watching Monday night football, the Cards playing the Packers. A matter of fact, I remember having a thing of Fritos and bean dip somewhere around the third quarter, but at that point I remember I left the bean dip open cause I had to go to the bathroom and I worried, oh my gosh, will the bean dip get hard? And that would be bad, wait I can just stir it up. And so, and which no one does that has that, why, why did he remember that night? Oh, because he had murdered someone and so he'd rehearsed the narrative over and over. So I know that I went on a tangent there a little bit, but that is the, oh no, I always call you my little brunette and wink at you around our friends every single time since being caught, writing a poem about the affair partner, that's a brunette that I've lied about. So, of course she says it turns out the girl that he was cheating on with me was a brunette. And she said, I still react whenever I see a beautiful brunette or even the word, “brunette”. 

She said one day while we were married, she said I had a painting done of his hometown and a place in particular, in the hometown. She said we'd moved down to her hometown. And she said, I just thought I wanted to bring a piece of his hometown down to us. I was grateful that we were in my hometown. And I assume that that was maybe hard for him and he missed his hometown. So she said I had a giant painting completed. And I commissioned an artist and I was so excited to give it to him for his birthday. I gave it to him, the kids were there. And he looked and he said, “What is this? You actually think this looks nice? I hope you didn't pay much for this. It looks like a little kid painted it. Like where do you even find this artist?” She said, “I was devastated. I was so proud of this painting and this gift idea.” She said I still have the painting and I can't decide what to do with it. These comments he made on them went on for weeks and weeks and weeks. And this woman said in particular, feel free to share. She said I'll probably post more because I have so many of these examples now that I'm aware. I feel like this is one where, if you desire love and a connection with your spouse, this is where I really do feel like it is absolutely a good thing to take any gift and say, thank you. It really is. Because when somebody throws out really, you think this is good, this is crap. And I know people could argue, well, he's just being honest. No, he's being a jerk. I mean, that, that one. Again, what is the point of that? Even if you don't like it, then that's something that, that other person that you care about. That's their emotional bid. That, with that painting, is their heart. 

And so what a gift for somebody to hand me their heart and say, hey, I thought about you this much. Because then at that point, if I'm struggling with, I don't like it. Honestly, it's a me issue. And as you can see in this example, yeah, it's a big old him issue. Now, if he was emotionally mature, and he did say I so appreciate that. And if she, you know, she's catching the vibe and saying, I feel like there's a little something off. Oh, I mean, and I know I'm, I'm painting this amazing version of this story where there will be a pot of gold at the end. But, an emotionally healthy version would be okay. He still is so grateful and so much. And if she says, boy, you seem a little off and then they have an emotionally mature conversation, it might be because, he says, my hometown is not a place of happy memories. And that's why we moved to your hometown, but I'm so grateful that you thought of it that way. And because now, we have some good old self confrontation. We're having a shared experience, and now we can process emotion together with another human being. And how beautiful is that? So none of that is happening with the interaction that I just shared. Next, one woman just shared a lot of just the little bullet points, but I so appreciated this because these are some of the ones that came up in earlier episodes as well, that I continue to get emails about driving very very slow when I was late. Or even just if I made sure and said, we got to get somewhere on time. And she didn't write this, but I could add because I get this one on a regular basis, or of course, when he needs to get there, now here comes control. There's going to be anger and rudeness and loud voices. Because we will go or I will leave you. But if you want to go and you want to get there on time, then all of a sudden, now he is suddenly captivated by getting a toothpick and cleaning things out of the grout on a kitchen counter, which is a very real story that I heard a few years ago. 

This one. They all again, they break my heart, taunting me with grocery money, holding it out and pulling it back. Hiding my bank card if I left it out to teach me a lesson, that one hiding my “fill in the blank”, hiding my shoes, hiding my purse, hiding my coat, hiding my keys. And that one, I hear over and over again to teach me a lesson. So if anyone is more on the emotionally immature side and listening at this point, if somebody leaves something out, try this one, hey, you forgot your keys, and I am putting a dramatic pause in here. Because that is an opportunity for the other person to say, thank you. I really appreciate that. And then, or sometimes you might say, I think you forgot your keys and they may say, oh, I have another set. And then you say, oh, okay. And you leave together. It's an amazing experience. I sound like I'm being facetious and there's a little bit of that, but, if I have to teach my spouse a lesson, I am a jerk. This is plain and simple. If I see an opportunity where I can be of service and help to my spouse so that she will not feel less than, or feel dumb, what an opportunity, what a joy. She also shared refusing to be a boy scout dad until it was time for the Pinewood Derby when then he showed up looking like an involved dad. I can do episodes completely on, I don't know how many times I've had this conversation with people, and what's funny is I didn't grow up a scout. My son gave it a shot. And when it was Pinewood Derby time, I actually had post-traumatic stress disorder as a kid doing my own Pinewood Derby car and taking dead last. 

So at that moment, it was funny because I just thought how many of these things are happening at Pinewood Derby day? Are there the insecure dads like myself that don't know how to build things or are there the kids that all they want to do is win because their dad is going to get mad at them if they don't win, because I've processed plenty of those sessions as well. Or in walks dad of the year who, especially lately I've had a couple of examples of people that go and buy their Pinewood Derby car kit off of eBay or online, which, oh, if I would've had that opportunity when I was younger, but I digress. But those times, none of those are somebody showing up organically. Another woman said, how about the inability to resist interrupting with what he would have said or done when somebody is trying to concentrate or somebody is trying to study, or him coming in with stupid jokes or making noise, anything for attention. Now here is where I can go back to my waking up to narcissism, my own narcissism, my own emotional immaturity. That one resonates because if I can make a funny face or a goofy noise, or if I can tell somebody a funny joke when they are busy, I realized that is something that the emotionally immature does often, and that is something I have noticed myself still at times, wanting to all of a sudden remember. So I remember something from earlier in the day and I want to show someone a video or picture while they're doing something completely different. And so while I absolutely believe in spontaneity, there's a, I feel like there is now a difference between being spontaneous and then just saying, hey, we haven't had any attention on me and a little bit, so can we do that? Can I show you something or can I make a funny face? And then you'll like it. I'm watching, I’m really obsessed a little bit with the show Sister Wives. And there are multiple occasions where the husband, Cody, will just all of a sudden take center stage. And there's been, I think, one or two weddings where, you know, he makes sure and does that and at the last minute, and it's just one of those things where it's like, hey, nobody's looking at me. Look, I just did a thing. I know it's their wedding, but look at me. She said also a time that we met downtown, my car got towed because I misunderstood a parking sign and he just drove off and he left me just walking along the city that I was unfamiliar with that we had just moved to and eventually came back to me. And I would add in here and with the hopes that I had learned my lesson. Or chronically getting terse and grumpy on the kids' birthdays and sucking the oxygen out of the celebrations. This one becomes one of those that just becomes so consistent of the emotional immature or narcissist. And I appreciate that “sucking the oxygen out of celebrations”. And I think in one of the earlier episodes I talked about a woman who, even in every one of their births and then she'd had a few kids, there was an event and one of the times the guy missed the actual birth because Carl's Jr. I think had two sausage and egg biscuits for $5. So what are you going to do right? Or times where then just things were made about him. And it was almost as if subconsciously if there was something that was going to absolutely be about somebody else, she said you could count on that sabotage is going to occur. And it would, it would happen in all kinds of things, not having things ready to go for a party showing up late, leaving late, just, there were so many different things that were just so consistent on celebrations. 

Or she said we're giving the dead or indifferent effect on conversations to get me to be quiet or get to the point more quickly. And I feel like that's one that is so difficult for the narcissist or the emotionally immature, if it doesn't pertain to them or they don't feel like it matters, then it's hard for them to not show that on their face and they shut down. I remember having a conversation with someone at one point that I was fairly certain was narcissistic and I couldn't help myself, but I just mentioned, hey, you know, I feel like you're not really very interested and that's okay. I think I'll just, I'm going to take off. And then all of a sudden they said, no, no, I am. I am. And then they just looked directly at me. And then as I'm talking, they nodded their head about three times more than is normal. And then started saying. Oh, well, wow. Oh boy. Okay. And I thought, oh, that's actually not the way a real conversation occurs. So while I could appreciate the effort, it was just really interesting at that moment where they went from, I could tell that they had a flat affect, but then they wanted to pretend that they were very interested. Let's get through a couple more. Okay. This one. I think this one's really, really difficult. And I actually have had multiple conversations around this. So this, and thank you to this woman for expressing this. She said, “I had a breast augmentation surgery after my last baby turned one. My husband was fully supportive of it. But wanted me to go quite big.” She, and again, I feel like I just wanted to tell this woman, so far, I've had several of these conversations. She said, “I had saved money for it myself while working,” at her job while pregnant. She said, “I wanted to go a natural looking normal size just to feel like me again, my husband insisted on coming to the two pre op appointments and he was pushing for the much bigger sizes on me. The nurse practitioner kept reiterating that those sizes were way too big for my body size. So we finally agreed on a size, the day of surgery. I ended up telling the surgeon to go 15 CC smaller than what I told my husband prior.” And she said the 15 CCS is like, if you are somewhat a religious person, the sacrament cup that you drink water or the grape juice out of, she said, “I texted my husband just to let them know that the surgery went well. And the size that I ended up going with. His response was so cruel and hurtful saying that I was a deceitful liar. He can't believe that I would do that. And it's going to look awful and disgusting on me.” She said, “I then stayed at my mom's house that weekend to recover and he didn't text or call once. When I came back home after two days, he moved out of our bedroom and continued to call me a liar and tell me I had a botched boob job. And I wasted my money because they looked terrible and he continued to say that narrative for the next six months. He never once in the days or weeks following ever asked how I was feeling. The surgeon told me that there is literally no noticeable difference in 15 cc's bigger. So those are the things that just break my heart, any opportunity that the person has for control, because first of all, the answer is whatever size you would like. Period. So then for him going in to try to talk her into what she needed to do with her body, it just becomes beyond frustrating. And so then even if she decides, okay, I'm not going to go with that size, then nothing more for a husband than, okay. Thanks for letting me know. 

So I think that people hearing this, it won't necessarily just be about the breast augmentation surgery. It will be about coming home from the hospital after birth, you know, it can be, I've had an example of a guy who got an ACL surgery and his wife not showing up for him post-op. But it will be that concept of where, if that person, if the narcissist in the relationship has a medical procedure, the pathological kind person will do anything and everything they can to take care of that person. But then if the pathologically kind person is taken care of or has something go on, then that really is an inconvenience for the narcissist and they still have work to do they still have things to do and so what were you expecting and just that inconsistency or the consistency of the invalidation speaks volumes. Let's get to a couple more and then we'll wrap things up today. Another interesting antidote that someone shared to me, she said that on her wedding day, so given a little bit of context, she was talking about the wedding day being a difficult moment or being a difficult day as it would come up each year as the relationship continued to get worse. And then at one point when they had separated, now, this brings us up to where she's telling the story. She says another interesting anecdote is that on our wedding day, a year later, this was just this past year. She said, I tried to forget all about the day. She said I was also gray rocking and not giving him much attention at all those days. And for those who are unfamiliar with gray, rocking and gray rocking is one of  the many techniques that people use to protect themselves from abuse, I'm reading from medicalnewstoday.com. It involves becoming as uninteresting as possible to the abusive person. This may require a person to hide their feelings, avoid revealing personal information and minimizing contact. And sometimes people use the gray rock method when interacting with people they believe have narcissistic personality disorder or traits and tendencies. 

And according to medicalnewstoday, however, a relationship can be harmful regardless of whether a person has a personality disorder and whether the abuse is intentional. And they've been going to say it's unclear whether the gray rock method reliably works, that may have risks as long as the person is in contact with the perpetrator. And I would say that the gray rock method is similar to my popcorn moments. You're just sitting back and watching the show. But she said that she had been gray rocking him and not giving me much attention. She said he knew I was feeling bad about some other things. I believe they might've had some co-parenting challenges or issues. So she said, “At one point he called me,” and again, this was on the day, the wedding day, but while they've been separated, she said, “I didn't respond.” And then he texted me an emoji flower and she said, I didn't respond. A few days later, we were talking and he blamed me for being distant and neglectful. And she said it turned out the flower emoji was sent to me on our wedding day. And I hadn't even registered because I wouldn't even have imagined that he cared. So he had sent this wedding, this flower emoji back when they were actually married. He then said I wanted to come over on our wedding day. I thought it would have been nice to bring you some flowers, just to have a glass of wine. And she says I was shocked and I told him I wouldn't have been able to do that, I don't think. And because of what has happened in our past, on wedding days, she said, I couldn't have done that. But then here's the part that I really appreciate about this story. She said later I processed and I thought if he actually had wanted to do that, then why didn't he text me exactly what he wanted to do? Why didn't even mention our wedding day and his message, it was a flower emoji. And I told him I was having a bad time over some other stuff. So I thought it was about that. And I love that she went on to say, she's having many revelations like that. When you realize how a normal human being operates. And if they want to share a thought or a story, then they share a thought or a story. So they don't just send some coded message out and then see if the person takes the bait. Because now he can say, oh, I had perfectly good intentions if you want to reach back out to me, we would have had an amazing experience. I would have been incredibly, emotionally mature. We could have talked about the kids and co-parenting. And you would have seen that I have changed. But instead he, I believe, and I don't know him, but confabulated a good narrative that well, how can I, how can I make her feel bad? Oh, I'll tell, I'll tell you what. Oh, yeah, that, that's what I meant with that flower emoji. And she said, as I write this, I have so many revelations and she said she's going to talk to her therapist about it. And I love that. She said that with her therapist, they're having amazing conversations where she said, I talked to my narcissistic ex as if he's in the other chair. And then I take his perspective and I change chairs and talk as if I was him. She said, it's really helping her process and seeing the craziness of the conversations and the dynamics. And I love that, I have not done, they call that a little bit of an empty chair technique, and I have not done that myself in my practice, but I know that that is a, it can be a very powerful technique. I think often, even in the way that I do this, I love having somebody talk through. And then what did he say or what did she say? And so when the person, the pathologically kind person in my office the same, but maybe I took things wrong. And, but then when they start talking through, they know what that conversation would sound like. So I love what she's saying. And then when they say it out loud, which is the key, then you can typically get to the point where, okay. This is where again, I have overlooked a lot of these. I turned some red flags, yellow, I guess, as a better way to put that. 

Another person shared. And she said, one thing that I noticed the other day is how my emotionally immature husband seems to see everything as a slight against them and can play the victim in such odd ways. This is a fabulous story. I'm going to change a little bit of the details. But she said she went with their son to a music class. And he usually isn't able to go and the son is under the age of three. And when the son's at music class, he mostly just runs around because it's encouraged because he's under three and he comes up every once in a while and he will hug his mom. So with both of the people being there, he just went over and would hug one of them and then run off again. But she said it was split pretty evenly. However, almost every single time that he would hug the wife, then the husband would comment something like, oh, okay. Mom's your favorite? I'm just second fiddle, but I'm okay with that. All while smiling, looking around at everybody else for approval. She said it took me a while to figure out why it bothered me so much because if he really didn't care, he wouldn't feel the need to comment every time that that happened. And how will that make the son feel when he's old enough to understand that showing affection toward the wife, his mom, is going to hurt dad's feelings? And the way that he's expressing his hurt while pretending that he's not hurt at all can be crazy-making. And that point alone. Is showing how that's going to be modeled. So you better choose dad or dad is going to be upset. And so the kid is going to freeze and they're going to start now in their own caretaking role and having to try to manage the emotions of let's just say that even sees that mom's hurt later, emotionally down or withdrawn and he wants to go rescue because now he's programmed to rescue. And then, but then he sees dad walk in the room and all of a sudden he's got a decision to make. I know dad will get mad. And mom, I don't know, she's the one that usually buffers. And you can just see that now we're teaching our kids to caretake and to put their needs aside and to try to manage the room. And then to try to calm everyone's anxiety. So we're creating, in essence, a highly sensitive person who will then look for someone that they may need to caretake and that can be really difficult to watch as that child grows up. 

Another person that simply said when she's crying or frustrated and she said, “I need you. I would just love for you just to be nice.” And then her husband shouting, “I was nice to you all morning. Doesn't that count for anything?” We'll wrap this up with another person who shared, “When my sister passed away, who was my best friend, we were at the grave side and it was a very sudden death and I was barely able to function and he was just hugging and talking to everybody.” And she said, “I was standing there basically by myself and finally had to say, ‘Can I get a hug from you?’” And she said that was one of her aha moments because of his, even his reaction to her request or ask where she realized he doesn't really care about me. Now again, here's what I want to share. That one, as we wrap things up, as somebody simply hearing this example, especially maybe someone that we've referred to in the past as a Switzerland friend, meaning that they are one who just immediately, and I understand this goes to, well, there's two sides to every story. Maybe he was going through a lot himself, maybe that he was close to her as well. And he knew that the two of you would be able to reconnect later. So they may say that this person that is sharing this example is being a bit more dramatic. But here's where I want to say that with that person who left the last comment, I know far more to that story, and I know that this person was often told by their husband that she was the problem. There was one time that I think this is just such a phenomenal example that I would see over and over again in my practice when working with the narcissistic or emotionally immature. 

One time he had mentioned that even his doctor agreed that his wife at that time needed to be on medication and needed professional help. So let's just pause. Let's break this one down for a second and go back to that example that I gave about watching the interrogation videos. And the person who is being interrogated thinks that they are saying things that make absolute perfect sense. Saying things that will prove their point, their manipulative point. That all of these people agree with them, that their wife is crazy. And therefore she is the problem. She needs to do something, not him, but her. He has to have that external validation because he's making things up. But he's unwilling to self confront. And so he's literally creating that narrative on the fly and believing it in real time, which makes the gaslighting just flow out of them like water. Because in that scenario, I did, I specifically said, well we should probably get on a call with that doctor, because if the doctor was able to make a diagnosis off of the husband's description of his wife during his appointment, I might add, because how many times have you been to the doctor and they just had some time to kill, and you go through all the things that you were there to talk to the doctor about, and then you say, hey doc, let me tell you a couple of things about my wife, who you don't know by the way. And then can you give me your professional opinion, one that ends with, I might add any medical diagnosis that you are so sure of that she needs medical intervention. I mean, it's insanity. 

And in that situation, admittedly that was one of the times where I suggested that we just get on a phone call with the doctor again. And shockingly, he said that he knew that doctor was busy. And he didn't want to bother her, but apparently she wasn't too busy to take the extra time out of his appointment to make a formal diagnosis, including psychopharmacological intervention on the day of his employment. So this person had other examples that were similar of it's triangulation one. He said he had been telling his sister about all of his then wife's problems. And he also brought that out in therapy. And at that point, and again, look at what that person is saying. They're looking over at me thinking, oh man. No, that this is so normal. When people come in and then tell me and even though we're here to talk about the way to communicate as a couple, but yeah, let's put the evidence-based models that I've worked with over a thousand couples on that route out emotional immaturity or personality disorders. I'm going to put those on hold because apparently you've talked to your sister and she also agrees that your wife is crazy. So a great time to bring that up and then I will agree with you. We can all tell her that she's crazy. She'll say I did not even know I was crazy. And then that will make perfect sense. Because that's the way therapy works. I mean, just if you look at it that way, it just, it's so insane. The wife at the time, at that point, she was onto it and she just said, oh, I would love to hear her opinion. Why don't we just shoot her a text right now? And shockingly, he had, again, he did not think that that was a good idea. So a death by a thousand cuts is filled with these just tiny cuts, these tiny interactions. I admitted, I mentioned Sister Wives earlier. I'm recording part of this episode, on a second day as evidenced by if you're watching this on YouTube, my change of attire. But in the episode that we were watching last night, the husband was talking about divorce with one of his wives. And as I was watching, I believe I was viewing a classic narcissistic move. I'm not diagnosing anyone mind you. That is not my place since I'm not working with anyone on the show. Not that I wouldn't love to, but I believe that I was witnessing some extreme emotional immaturity when Cody shared that if he and his wife, Christine were going to divorce, that they needed to present this co-parenting agreement or else the state would immediately take the kids. They would become wards of the state. And I bring this example simply because when I've worked with people going through divorce, for example, typically the more emotionally immature person has all kinds of thoughts, facts, ideas on what that divorce process entails despite the fact that they may have never met with an attorney or been divorced before. But they absolutely know what is going to happen. And that once again, represents a bigger picture of the person simply spouting out words in one moment, confabulating a story that fits their narrative. Even in that moment that he knew more than she did that he was smarter and she was not as smart. And she didn't even know what she was getting into, but he did. One day I would love to do a complete deep dive on a reaction to that entire series of that show. 

But I do have enough material now for additional thousand cuts episodes. But I would love to hear more. And I feel like every time that I have shared one of these episodes, the three previous ones, this is where I get a number of emails of people saying, okay, this, this is my life. And so many people feel like, well, isn't everybody going through that kind of insanity? And they're not. Relationships aren't perfect by any means, but when this is the air that you breathe in your relationship of just feeling like there's this complete insanity and these small things happen over and over again, and the gaslighting and when you cannot even have your own thoughts or feelings or opinions, and you hold back because you aren't even sure if you should even bring something up because it usually doesn't go well. And you're trying to figure out when is the best time to finally bring up something that I just have to say, because it's affecting the kids, it's affecting my mental health or it's something that we need to talk about. But when we do, then things just go bad. That is not normal. And that's what I would love for you to start to just even think about looking for help, whether it's a professional help or turning to people that are non Switzerland friends, just to start to feel like you you are not crazy because you're not you're being, there's a good chance you're being emotionally manipulated or abused. And this is just part of the process, the process of awakening. And waking up to that narcissism or if you are listening to this and I, again, I'm so open about that this was all created initially, because of understanding my own emotional immaturity, narcissistic traits and tendencies. And it can be really difficult to sit with that and to self confront. But that is the beginning of healing of your own as well. So I just appreciate you taking the time. I would love to hear more stories. I would love to hear your examples of death by a thousand cuts. 

And, and I want to say, men who were in relationships with emotionally immature women. I see you too. I do. I work with you. I am working with a few in my practice right now, and I know that you are experiencing a similar, but completely different level of your own feelings of internal guilt and shame. And it is hard to open up about your situation. But please send me your examples as well. I know the traits and tendencies know no gender, but the majority of emotionally mature narcissistic people that I see. And according to the data I've shared in previous episodes are men, but I have worked with truly hundreds of men over my career who are in similar situations. So I want your stories to, I do want to hear from you. So thanks for taking the time and feel free to share these episodes, especially these death by a thousand cuts episodes because I think these are the ones that really, really hit and people really understand these and they start to resonate and people start to wake up to their own narcissism or the emotional immaturity in their relationships. Thanks again. And we'll see you next time on Waking Up to Narcissism

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

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

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

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

Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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