Can communication be a form of violence? According to communication expert Marshall Rosenberg, it can if you consider "violence" to include attempts at cutting others down to size and/or coercing them into doing what we want. Tony discusses "Nonviolent Communication," and the importance of separating an observation from a judgment, something narcissists or highly emotionally immature people struggle to do to manage their own anxiety.
Tony references Pamela Hobart's review of Marshall Rosenberg’s book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life https://fourminutebooks.com/nonviolent-communication-summary/
If you are interested in being coached in Tony's upcoming "Magnetic Marriage Podcast," please email him for more information. You will receive free marriage coaching and remain anonymous when the episode airs.
Go to http://tonyoverbay.com/workshop to sign up for Tony's "Magnetize Your Marriage" virtual workshop. The cost is only $19, and you'll learn the top 3 things you can do NOW to create a Magnetic Marriage.
You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs and podcasts.
Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here https://descript.com?lmref=bSWcEQ
Hey, everybody. Welcome to Waking Up to Narcissism. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of the Virtual Couch podcast, and also host of the very soon to be released Magnetic Marriage podcast, which is going to be a subscription based podcast. The cost per year is going to be far, far less than one session of therapy, but this is real couples, real coaching/therapy. And I have about 15 to 20 episodes in the can.
And we are going to come out with one every week and you're going to hear me coach and do therapy with real life couples. And if you want to know more about that, just go to Tonyoverbay.com and sign up for the newsletter. And you will be the first to know when it is going to launch. It looks like it's probably going to be around the first week of December, and I am going to run a special or two between now and then. So go to Tonyoverbay.com and sign up for my newsletter and you'll be one of the first to know more about that. I'm very excited about it because I feel like, especially my Waking Up to Narcissism audiences, a lot of people have not been in a position to get their spouse, or their partner, to go to counseling. Or they've possibly had bad experiences in counseling. So this is really like being able to just watch what, I feel like, a productive couple session can look like, and we've been able to cover everything from emotional immaturity to navigating a faith journey or a faith deconstruction, to parenting, to just arguing, ineffective communication, blended families, and everything that you can imagine up to this point. So I can't wait, if you can tell by my voice, for people to find this podcast and hopefully it will help in their relationships. And speaking of relationships, you can also go to Tonyoverbay.com/workshop. And I am leaving the $19 workshop up there, which does a lot of what I just like to say, we don't know that we don't know about how to have a good relationship and how to communicate effectively. I lay out my four pillars in more detail, as well as a lot of the other challenges that I see as a couples therapist. So that's $19 money back guarantee. Tonyoverbay.com/workshop. But let's get to the topic today. And this one has been a bit of a therapeutic whirlwind for me.
I had heard about a concept called “nonviolent communication” a few years ago from a listener. And I had Googled the concept a little bit. Not enough to really understand what the concept was about. And at one point I even had an audible book of the day or deal of the day come up that was about a review of a book about nonviolent communication. That was a little over an hour.
And I listened and I really appreciated that. But for some reason it didn't really click until a couple of weeks ago when someone was talking about the concepts around nonviolent communication in my office. And it really got me thinking, and I did a little bit of a deep dive on the author or the person who came up with the concepts around nonviolent communication. Marshall Rosenberg. And now it's one of those things where I just feel like it's another puzzle piece that helps make sense of things that really don't make sense. So, let me take you on my train of thought here. First let's talk about what nonviolent communication is. And the best place to talk about this, I found, was a four minute book review on a site called fourminutebooks.com. And the person who wrote the article is Pamela Hobart. And it is, “nonviolent communication summary”. So Pamela gives a one sentence summary, “Nonviolent communication explains how focusing on people's underlying needs and making observations instead of judgments can revolutionize the way you interact with anybody.”
She says, “even your worst enemies.” And I think one of the reasons I shied away from digging deeper in the past, into the topic in general non-violent communication, Pamela sums it up perfectly. She said, “Free speech advocates commonly argue that speech is the opposite of violence. Words can offend us, but they don't actually do harm.” So she said, “From this point of view, nonviolent communication is practically an oxymoron.” And I think that maybe in my subconscious, I felt the same. But communications expert Marshall Rosenberg begs to differ. Now, according to him, and I think you'll see where this really starts to fit into the things we talk about on waking up the narcissism, whether we're talking about full blown narcissistic personality disorder, or extreme emotional immaturity, Marshall Rosenberg says, “Most people's default manner of speaking to others is highly violent. That is if you consider violence to include attempts at cutting others down to size. And coercing them into doing what we want.” Now, I did an episode about this a couple of weeks ago, over on the Virtual Couch.
And I really feel like it helps in the context of if you are someone who is self-aware. I think that we will often recognize after you hear what I'm going to talk about next, our role in certain things. And I think the difference in somebody that has narcissistic traits, tendencies, personality disorder, or extreme emotional immaturity is, they're not the one that is listening to this podcast most likely, or if they are, they may be listening with their elbow, meaning, okay, I'm poking my partner saying, yeah, you really need to listen to this. And I feel like most of the people that I think are tuning in are people that are wanting to figure out things, figure out, okay, what is off in my relationship? And again, is it me? And am I the narcissist, which I will maintain if you are listening to this and asking the question. No. Because you have enough self-awareness and curiosity and concern to ask that question and to go seeking help.
Now, if you are handed this podcast and you're listening and at first you thought, how dare somebody send me this podcast? They think I'm a narcissist? But then slowly but surely over time, you've started to recognize, oh my goodness. I do a lot of these things. Maybe I'm just on that emotionally immature spectrum. Then you are waking up to perhaps your own narcissism or your own emotional immaturity, which is absolutely what I have done, which is why I titled the podcast “Waking Up to Narcissism”. Yet I digress. In this book review, Pamela says, “Whether or not most ordinary speakers are constantly committing literal acts of violence or not, most of us can see the potential benefit of learning to communicate more effectively.” And Marshall Rosenberg's book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life provides one provocative lens for seeing what's morally and pragmatically wrong with many of the things that we tend to say in our everyday lives. Nonviolent communication, then digs a little bit deeper into what we could say instead. Now, the reason that I read that paragraph is because that leads nicely into the first lesson that Pamela pulled out of the book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. And this has been the game changer over the last couple of weeks.
“Separating observation from judgment is the first step toward reducing needless conflict.” So if you are on your journey of self-improvement, separating observation from judgment can be a really powerful tool. Now, the example I gave on the Virtual Couch podcast is if you say to yourself about, let's just say your son, you have a son and your son's struggling in school. If you say well, he doesn't do his homework or he fails that test because he's lazy. So, what do we do? There's an observation that he doesn't do his homework, and then we immediately fill in the gap with a judgment. Now that judgment, I believe strongly, is there to ease or manage our own anxiety. Now, let me tell you where I'm going with this.
So if he doesn't do his homework and we just throw that judgment in there, that it's because he's lazy. Oh, look what we get to not do. We don't have to take ownership or accountability of, well, what if it's because I did not spend much time, even when he has asked me for help with his homework.
Because, I mean, if it's like me, I couldn't do my kids' math homework after they hit about fifth grade, I'm a therapist. I took one math class in college. That's not my strong suit. And so if I feel emotionally insecure, if I feel immature or insecure about my ability to help my kid, then am I saying, oh, accountability, my bad. I have no idea what that math problem is. Or instead if I just say, oh, I'm too busy. I don't have time to help you with your homework.
So then down the road, if he is not doing well in math and I say, yeah, it's because he's lazy. He doesn't do his homework. What do I not have to deal with is, oh, I probably could have spent more time. Or that means that I might've had to get off of candy crush on my phone and actually learn sixth grade math, which would probably not have been as difficult as I would have thought it would have been.
But if you're really talking about emotional immaturity or narcissism, and as I'm talking this through well, but I also don't want to feel uncomfortable. So I'm just going to say, yeah, I don't have time champ. And so now it results in if he's not doing his homework again, I just say, well, it's because he's lazy. So I don't have to deal with my own potential role in how I could have helped. I don't have to deal with the fact that I may have just passed on some good old genetic genes and DNA that the boy is not very good, maybe he has some nice stunted neuro-transmitters and a heavy dose of ADHD. Like his dad, and so therefore that isn't his strong suit. So I don't want to deal with that either. I would rather throw that judgment card in there and say well, it’s because he's lazy. Or, I deal so much with people that are struggling with faith, faith journeys, faith transitions, faith deconstructions, all of these formerly known as a faith crisis. And so let's just say, if you are in a religion, in a church and a faith community and someone leaves, it's much easier to say well yeah, they left because they wanted to sin.
So, what am I doing there? The observation truly is that they left. My judgment comes in to say, well it's because they want to sin because, why? And this is where I feel like this is so applicable on this podcast. Waking up to narcissism. Let's take that one in particular. And even if you're not a religious person or in a faith community, I think that you'll see where I'm going here.
So if I can just throw that judgment out, it will manage my anxiety. It's obvious they left because they want to go do bad. Because, when we're being incredibly emotionally immature or narcissistic in our thoughts, then we maintain this all or nothing attitude, this black or white thinking. So if they left and it's because, well, they didn't like going to my church.
Then in our mind, we're subconsciously or just reactively what feels like to be me is, well, then what if I'm wrong? What if they're right? What if they can be happy? And they can be happy outside of my faith community. Well, it's not black or white. It's not all or nothing. So emotional maturity is me being able to say, well, they left because maybe it didn't work for them or better yet they left, period. Now I can ask them with curiosity. Hey, tell me about your journey. Tell me more about that. How are you doing now?
So when we separate observation and judgment, now we're going to give that person an opportunity to really communicate effectively. And it's not about easing or managing my anxiety. It's about the other person's experience. So if I'm again throwing these judgements in there, what else am I not having to deal with?
The fact that, what if my particular faith community is judgemental? And so someone left because they didn't feel like they fit in, and they maybe are different from me. And so then again, I go back to this all or nothing, black or white thinking where I need to throw a judgment in there, because what if I am not truly aware of what it's like to be somebody else and what their experience is in the faith community? So again, I have to put this judgment in there. Well no, it's probably because they want to go sin. It's probably because they want to go do all of these crazy behaviors. It can't be because they have a different experience.
And their different experience might be okay. Because that doesn't invalidate my experience in this example with my faith community. What if we both can have good experiences, one within the faith community and one outside of the faith community. That would be absolutely okay. Nonviolent communication, I think now we can start to see where that concept of violence comes in. Because if I am immediately throwing that judgment on there, now if I'm going to have that conversation with that person, I've already judged the fact that they left the faith community because they want to sin.
So now if I'm saying, hey, how are things going? And if they're saying, oh, it's great. I'm doing well. Then I'm already looking through this lens of, sure you are. I've already made the judgment. I know why you left. You left because you want to go and shoot heroin between your toes. I mean, it's not because you wanted to have a different experience. So if you're telling me it's okay, sure it’s okay.
And boy, talk about then a violent communication tactic. Because I'm already putting that person on the defensive and now it's up to them to prove to me that I am wrong when I'm already thinking I'm right. So there is a no win situation there. So that person is absolutely going to feel unheard.
And they're going to feel like you know, you don't even really want to know about why I left the faith community. You've already got your judgment and we can see that on your face. Or I feel that energy. So one of the beautiful things I’ve noticed, the more I learn about this concept of nonviolent communication, is separating observation from judgment. That is going to lead us to curiosity. And curiosity is our best chance at actually having a true connection, a connected conversation where we can both have our own experiences and someone else's experience doesn't invalidate my experience.
So one of the things that also had me looking more into nonviolent communication was something that someone shared with me from a book called The Yamas and the Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice by a woman named Deborah Adele. Now, how does that fit in? Deborah Adele is not quoting Marshall Rosenberg's nonviolent communication book, but listen to this page. And I think this fits so nicely into what we've already talked about so far.
She says, “Thinking that we know what is better for others becomes a subtle way that we do violence. When we take it upon ourselves to ‘help the other’, we whittle away at their sense of autonomy. Non-violence assets to trust the other's ability to find the answer that they are seeking. It asks us to have faith in the other, not feel sorry for them. Non-violence asks us to trust the other's journey and love and support others to their highest image of themselves. Not our highest image of them. It asks that we stop managing ourselves, our experience, others and others' experiences of us. Leave the other person free of our needs, free to be themselves, and free to see us as they choose.”
Now on the Virtual Couch, I just blasted right past that. I thought it fit in nicely with the episode. And I was talking more about the concepts around healthy ego and finding what really matters to you versus pathological defensive ego or narcissism. But why I think this is more applicable on Waking Up to Narcissism, and I want to do a little bit of a deep dive here, is I want you to listen. If you can, if right now you're thinking, okay, but I'm then doing violence to my children or but I'm the one, me, I am the problem.
I want you to take a breath. Square up those shoulders, in through the nose, out through the mouth. And I'm encouraging you to put your pathologically kind shield down. And now lean into the concepts of what this is like in your relationship, because we could do an entirely different episode on yeah, we're probably by definition doing a little bit more of that violent communication with our children, because I'm going to maintain that our job as a parent starts as we are a coach when they are young. I heard this a long time ago. And so we are calling a lot of the plays. We're doing a lot of the guidance when they're young. And then as they get older, we move into more of a managerial role. If you're familiar with that sports analogy, we're no longer the coach on the field, but we're the general manager. So we can get some funding together. We can raise money from the boosters. We can maybe work a couple of trades.
We can even have you maybe move to a different location and I can help with that. But ultimately you're the one that is playing, talking about my kid. So what I'm really talking about with that quote is what is happening to you. So if your partner is thinking that they know what is better for you, that is a subtle way that they do violence. When that person takes it upon themselves to help you, they whittle away at your sense of autonomy. And I can't even keep track of the amount of emails that come in now of people saying that they have lost their sense of self. That they've whittled it, this sense of autonomy is absolutely it's not been whittled away, it's been chopped away with an ax.
So at that point, I feel like the concepts around violent communication become even more powerful or clear because if you are constantly having to defend yourself or try to figure out the other person, and meanwhile being told that most everything that you do is not the right thing to do, which leaves you feeling like you're not enough, then you are operating from such a deep hole that you can't get out of that you don't even have a moment to try to find your sense of self. And so absolutely your autonomy has just been destroyed. So that is because you have been communicated to violently. Because everything you've had to say, I know that's an all or nothing statement, most everything that you've had to say then has come from a place of defense. And then when you are trying to defend, and the other person has been making judgements to manage their anxiety. Let's go back to their own childhood abandonment and trauma wounds. And again, narcissism. If we really take a step back, one of the definitions I think is so good is from Eleanor Greenberg from her Psychology Today article, “The Truth About Narcissistic Personality Disorder”. “Narcissistic personality disorder is the name for a series of coping strategies that began as an adaptation to a childhood family situation that left the person with unstable self-esteem, the inability to regulate their self-esteem without external validation, and low empathy.” So now go back to when you are communicating with your narcissistic partner or a narcissistic adult parent or narcissistic older child or narcissistic leader or boss or entity of any kind. And they are coming at every situation that they're looking at. And they’re coming in there with unstable self-esteem and the inability to regulate that self-esteem without external validation and lower empathy, then they are throwing huge judgements on with their observation of you. They already know why you're doing the things that you're doing because that helps them try to make sense of their own life.
And they lack that true sense of self or a sense of purpose. So then what that sense of self or purpose becomes is all about managing their anxiety through judgment statements. So everything that they see, they know they understand, this is why you're doing that. And that's why, at the core gaslighting is, then if you try to defend yourself because you have to defend yourself because they've already thrown you into this quagmire of judgment with whatever you're doing. Now as you try to defend yourself, you're actually giving them more fire, more juice, more power, because it can't be that way. This is that concept of confabulation. They're creating a narrative in real time so anything that you say, then that goes against the judgment statement that they've already crafted in their mind is invalidating their experience and causing them to have more stress and anxiety, and they need to manage that anxiety, not with curiosity, not with self confrontation, not with accountability, but with control. So now I have to think of you in this negative light, says the narcissist or the emotionally immature person, or else it's going to cause me a lot of anxiety and it's going to cause me to have to take a look inward and own my own crap. And I'm not willing to do that.
So I have now judged what you are doing. And as a matter of fact, it has to be that way. So now if you try to argue against me, I get to even say, you don't even understand yourself. I do. Which is why arguing with someone that truly is on that highly emotionally immature scale or narcissistic personality disorder scale is going to actually leave you feeling worse. Which brings us into the next part of today's podcast on Marshall Rosenberg's site, it's the NVC, it's nonviolent communication. Okay on nonviolentcommunication.com, you can find a lot of resources and he has a lot of free resources and there is an email that is on there that I found when I was searching for some resources on nonviolent communication and narcissism. So I'm going to claim the, hey, it's on the internet. And so I'm going to read it. So giving full attribution, this is at nonviolentcommunication.com/email. And then it says “non-violent communication and narcissist”, and it's a PDF email. I don't know any other context. And I really tried to find it. But it's by a gentleman named Tim Buckley and it looks like it's an email that they received that Tim must have written or sent. And I'm going to go through this because I think that he does such a nice, amazing job at laying out what nonviolent communication would look like for the person, the pathologically kind person attempting to communicate with a narcissist. So Tim says, “Covid didn't create narcissism, but the isolation created by the pandemic may have increased the challenges we face trying to meet the needs of a shared reality and meaningful connection with others.” He said, “Recently, a friend asked whether there is an antidote to ‘dealing with a narcissist’. He said that providing empathy for that person had become emotionally taxing. And that more empathy seemed only to encourage the other person to go on and on. Inviting more empathy and thus creating compassion fatigue for me.” Boy, we could do a whole episode on that paragraph. “Compassion fatigue”. And this person who was saying, hey, I listened and I gave empathy and all that did was cause the person to want to go on and on and more and more until I felt this compassion fatigue.
So Tim said, “Before I answered his email, I did a bit of research.” So this first one is just kind of fun. There's a couple of things here. He said, “Narcissist was a mythical Greek character developed as a morality lesson. The young man was classically beautiful and he fell deeply in love with his reflection in a pool. Obvious to us, and eventually to him, the relationship was not destined for satisfaction. Narcissist became sad, then despairing that his love could not be reciprocated.” Boy that resonates. “So he ultimately killed himself and after his death, the flower of great beauty was born bearing his name.” So there's the history or the mythology around narcissism. Then he says, “A foundational premise of nonviolent communication is that moral judgements proceed all acts of violence.” So what we've been talking about here, that a moral judgment on an observation is kind of hardwired, until we're aware and we try not to. So again, he says, “A foundational premise of nonviolent communication is that moral judgments precede all acts of violence. Narcissism, nonviolent communication founder Marshall Rosenberg would say, is a diagnosis.” So the thought, and again stick with me here because I, again, I know I'm dealing with the pathologically kind audience for the most part. And so I worry you'll hear this next sentence and then say, oh my gosh, I need to stop doing this. But, hang on.
So he says, “Marshall Rosenberg would say that narcissism is a diagnosis. So the thought he's a narcissist creates separation between me, the judge, and you, the object. As soon as those thoughts enter our minds, that he's a narcissist, so whether they are good and bad right and wrong,” now he says, “we're knocking at moral judgments front door.”
So instead of labeling the other person as a narcissist, Tim Buckley is saying that this is what he understands about nonviolent communication, that it is possible with practice to refrain from knocking on that door altogether. So that door of judgment, instead as nonviolent communication teaches us, he says, “Form an observation. So every time I spoke to my brother-in-law last weekend, he talked about his accomplishments and didn't ask me once about what I think, how I am, or what I've been doing.” So I really do like the premise where Tim is setting this up. So from a nonviolent communication standpoint, and that's why I tried to spend the first half of this email on, when you are being communicated at violently, you're already in a one, two or I won't say a three down position. And you are trying to defend yourself like crazy. And you're trying to defend something that if we really step back, I don't need to defend. That's the other person's judgment on their observation of me.
And now we can realize that and that judgment is there to manage their anxiety. So if I'm dealing with a narcissist or someone that's extremely emotionally immature, they are not looking at me with curiosity. They're looking to validate their judgment of me because that will ease their anxiety and make them feel better about themselves. And that is the air that they breathe.
So back Tim Buckley saying, “Instead of labeling the other person as a narcissist, then it's possible with practice to refrain from knocking on that door of judgment altogether. So form an observation. Again, every time I spoke to my brother-in-law last weekend, he talked about his accomplishment and didn't ask me once about what I think, how I am, or what I've been doing.” So that's the observation. And it can be really hard to separate that judgment for ourselves, especially if we have been in a pattern of narcissistic or emotional abuse, especially in conversation for a long period of time, because like we've talked about the body keeps the score. My visceral reaction is going to lead the way my emotions are going to travel faster than my logic.
So that's why I want to set the table and say, this is great, what we're talking about, from an awareness standpoint. But I know that for the population that I'm talking to right now for most, your body is already heading toward fight or flight, even when you get around the person. So, what he says then is the observation is that my brother-in-law only talked about his accomplishments. Didn't ask me once about what I was thinking, how I'm doing or what I've been doing. And I feel like most people listening can probably resonate with that. That is the observation. Then he says self empathy, identifying the feelings I have about that. Well, I felt irritated. I felt hopeless. I felt unseen. I felt unheard. I felt unloved.
So self empathy, identify the needs not met. Well, I would like a real conversation. I would like to be heard. I would like to be acknowledged. I would like to know that I matter. So then here's the part where I feel like, I don't know where I'm at yet, as far as nonviolent communication, when communicating with the narcissist, because in nonviolent communication, he says, then request at this point.
So the request, you now have a choice. You can interrupt your brother-in-law and lay out your observations, your feelings, and needs. So this is what I love. If you are in an emotionally healthy relationship, then separating your observation from your emotion will then allow you to give them space and have more curiosity to have a truly connected conversation. And then, at that point, then you can even start to express your needs. I would love a connection. I would love to be heard and understood.
But, I feel like if you're, if you see where I'm going with this, if you're in a relationship with a narcissist, then that is adorable to think that I'm going to express that. And they're going to say, oh my gosh, am I doing that? I did not know that. Which boy, quick plug, please, if you don't go follow me on Instagram @ virtual couch.
I have an amazing social media team that is now starting to put a lot of content out there. And I've been recording reels, and I feel like an old man, reels as the kids say, but, I just always wanted to do something with, in my mind when I have a narcissist, maybe in my office, I maybe will ask a question and then, you know, I've identified my ADHD on numerous occasions and my secondary emotion of humor, which leads the way. So my internal dialogue often is jokes. I can't help it.
So oftentimes when I set the table for an emotionally immature narcissistic person, during a conversation to really show up with empathy or curiosity. And then oftentimes I think, oh, here's something that a narcissist will never say. Things like, oh, I hadn't thought of that or my bad, or, tell me more about how you feel. So go follow me on Instagram or Facebook at Tony Overbay, licensed marriage and family therapist, or on Instagram @ virtual couch.
And we're starting to get more and more of that content, reels and trying to, you know, use some humor there as well about a situation that maybe isn't feeling as humorous. So if we identify those needs not met, I'd like a real conversation to be heard and acknowledged. Two, the request. You have a choice, you can interrupt your brother-in-law and lay out your observations, your feelings and your needs.
Or you could decide to empathize with them so that you meet other important needs of yours, like kindness, consideration, respect, and empathy. But in this email, and I think this is where I think this is so applicable. Tim says, “But as in my friend's case, the unmet needs continue to come up and the choice to listen empathetically to his brother-in-law became emotionally burdensome. So then what? So Rosenberg teaches us to notice the moment we're no longer enjoying the choice we made.” I know that sounds simple, but I love the simplicity. So notice the moment that we're no longer enjoying the choice we made, the choice that I've made to continue to listen to the narcissistic person who never reciprocates in the conversation.
So at some point I noticed I'm no longer enjoying this. And he said, “And then make another choice to better meet our own need. When we can no longer be present to the other in a state of empathy, it's important to say what has become more important. Not doing so can rapidly give rise to thoughts, like he's a narcissist or he's so self-centered.” So, Tim said, “Here's how that might sound.” So he says, “Me. ‘Excuse me a minute, Rob, I'd like to check with you on something. I've been listening to you for a while and asking questions about what you've been saying. I wonder if you can say how my listening and my questions have landed for you. Has it been pleasurable for you to have me be present with what's going on for you.’ and Rob,” who I think in this scenario is the emotionally immature or narcissistic person, “says, ‘Yeah, thanks. I really have enjoyed talking with you and it's rare to have somebody express interest in what's going on for me.’” Now let's pause. This is why I feel like, if you are the pathologically kind person and you are continuing to talk to the narcissist and they continually tell them about all their amazing accomplishments over and over again, and they don't ask you anything about you.
When you leave that conversation, they say, man, this was great. I mean, I feel like we have a real connection. Because you just listened and validated. So, this Rob in this scenario says, yeah, I enjoyed talking with you. It's rare to have somebody express interest in what's going on for me. Expressing interest to the narcissist can simply be saying, oh man, really. What was that like? Oh, okay. Instead of trying to combat or leave the conversation. Because again, that narcissist is a very emotionally insecure person at their core. So then in this scenario, the person speaking says, “‘Okay, I'm glad you're saying you long to be heard. And that doesn't happen as much as you would like. So when that happens, like with me just now, do you get the sense that you are appreciated and respected?’ To which then Rob says, ‘Yes, very much.’” So then the person says, “‘I understand, and I feel the same way. So this last year being isolated because of COVID has been hard for me and I long for the same things that you spoke about. So would you be willing to listen to me for a while so that I can be heard and appreciated for what's going on for me?’, Rob says, ‘sure.’” So then he says, “Before I get more than a couple of sentences into my list of things, however, Rob cuts in and begins to talk about himself. Often something we say stimulates a thought in the other and rather than hanging onto the thought. They interrupt with oh yeah, that happened to me too. And then they continue to dominate the conversation.”
And in my imagination, probably also one-upping the conversation. So then he says, “Me internally, oh boy, here we go. Again, me internally, self empathy, I'm irritated because he said he would listen. And now it appears that he's not interested. I'd really like to keep my relationship with him solid. So I want to be understood for this point. I think I'm going to say something now.”
So, you know where this is going, right. “Me. ‘Rob’, I say, interrupting him. ‘I noticed this, now that you jumped in, when I was talking about my life and just after you said you were willing to listen to me, like I listened to you.’ Rob says, ‘Oh yeah, but I was just, I was just saying, I was just saying how I'm having some of those same issues.’
And then me, I say, ‘Well, yeah, I get that. And I want to make sure that you're still okay with your agreement to listen to me. So it's important for me to finish what's on my mind, you know, it helps me get grounded in my need for respect to mattering.’” Okay. And I would imagine Rob, at this point, it looks like you just took his puppy and you just popped the tires of his bike. Okay.
And he says, “Perhaps the speaker now is thinking Rob may be better able to stay focused on listening. If so, I would certainly end our conversation with a sincere thanks for his willingness to be present and attentive. And to say that his doing so met my need for mutual respect.
However, perhaps he's unable or unwilling to abide with that agreement. So if Rob continues to interrupt and bring the subject back to himself, then I might end the conversation this way.” He says, “‘ Rob. I'm interrupting again, only to say that I'm tired and I want to talk to other people right now. I'm disappointed that my need to be heard, like I wanted, wasn't met.
And I noticed I was getting fidgety and frustrated when you continued to talk about yourself, my relationship with you is important. And I'd like to talk to you about this some more at some point.’ Me, now internally formulating a request, I'm hesitant to ask him if he'd be willing to tell me what he heard me say fearing that he would be defensive and would eat up another five minutes about himself.” And that is absolutely the case. So that's why I, again, I love this concept of nonviolent communication, but more from just a standpoint of awareness, as you are waking up to the narcissism around you, I think it's important to recognize when someone is communicating at you violently, because they have put a judgment onto an observation about you to manage their anxiety or their experience. They can't make room that you also have an experience. So then you are being violently communicated with, and you have to defend yourself. Now in nonviolent communication, as the listener you're now encouraged to separate your judgment, he's a narcissist, from the actual observation, he will not stop talking about himself. He doesn't ask me about anything. And, he just will continue on and on and on. And the observation, he will also tell me I'm wrong. He will also cut me off. So those are all observations. So the judgment is that he's a narcissist. I appreciate where this is going, because then, what nonviolent communication says is once I recognize that now I have to acknowledge the fact that this is not helpful, it's not reciprocal. It's not something that I am interested in continuing with.
The part that I struggle with that I think there maybe needs to be a whole other branch of in this world of nonviolent communication with narcissists, is that just becomes more data for me. It's more research. It's more of what will eventually play into the rule outs of whether or not this is a healthy relationship.
Because then if I express exactly the way that Tim wrote in this email that, hey, I have been listening and I would also like to be listened to. Then I feel like we're going to watch the narcissist, then take great offense because, go back to some of the stuff that I've talked about in earlier episodes. Narcissism comes from a place of severe childhood wounding, abandonment, neglect, emotional abuse, or lack of validation. So when you disagree with the narcissist, it can literally be just saying, hey, you had said you were going to do this a minute ago and you didn't.
When you do that, and I go back to the article by Eleanor Greenberg, she talks about “whole object relations, the capacity to see oneself and others in stable and integrated ways and acknowledge both a person's good and bad qualities and object constancy, the ability to maintain a positive, emotional connection to somebody that you like while you're angry, hurt, frustrated, or disappointed by her behavior.” So without these things, without whole object relations and without object constancy, people on the narcissistic spectrum can only see themselves and other people in one of two ways. And this is, we were alluding to this earlier, all or nothing, black or white. They see the people as special, unique, omnipotent, perfect, and entitled to what she calls “high status”. “Or they're defective, worthless, garbage, low status. This means that the person struggling with narcissistic issues cannot hold onto his or her good opinion and good feelings about someone once he or she notices the other person has a flaw.” The other person goes from being special and put on a pedestal, which is where I think in this example of the email Tim's reading is where the person is just listening to the narcissist. So at that point, now the narcissist feels like this is good. We've got a good thing happening here. We're vibing. We're having conversations. Not reciprocal conversations, not back and forth conversations, not empathetic conversations, but this person is listening to me and they are nodding their head and they are smiling and they're not leaving. They're not running away.
This is good. We got a thing. But then if they notice that the other person has a flaw, the person goes from being special and put on a pedestal to being devalued as nothing special. Now, what can that flaw be? Eleanor says, “Narcissists often seesaw back and forth between these things, whole object relations and object constancy. So when they're feeling good about you or more accurately”, and here we go, “you are making them feel good about themselves, then they see you as special.” We're vibing. We got a good thing going on, I feel like we have a connection. Then you do something that they do not like, such as say no to a request. Or dare I make a request myself. I would love a mutually reciprocal conversation. Suddenly you are now all bad and worthless.
Now later you might do something that makes them feel good again. And they're back to seeing you as special. But when you say no to a request or when you make your own request, here's where the narcissist, their core, their core is shame. Because shame happens in our childhood, shame is a default mechanism. Unfortunately.
Unfortunately, this goes to our abandonment and our attachment issues. And I know this is a. silly example, but, if I'm six years old and I want a pony for my birthday and we live in an apartment. I'm six years old, I don't even know what that means to live in an apartment. I just want to pony.
And the whole world is all, I see things through my lens and I lack empathy. Again, I'm six. So I want a pony, so my parents don't have a pony in the kitchen on my birthday, they don't like me. It's not that we're in an apartment that we can't afford a pony. I don't know what that is, you know, but as if I'm six, I wanted a pony. You did not deliver the pony.
It can't be because of anything else. Because I don't even know what that means. Anything else? It means that something must be wrong with me. You don't care about me. And so shame, guilt, guilt says you did something bad. Shame says you are bad. So shame is where we default to, especially when we had an unhealthy childhood.
Or, we did not have a secure attachment in childhood, so then we were continually trying to seek this validation. We wanted external validation and if we didn't get it, it must be because something is wrong with us. We are damaged. We are bad. So when you go back into the scenario of saying no to the narcissist request or expressing your own, then they immediately default to criticism and shame. So therefore, if you are saying, hey, I would like something else in our relationship. Or if I disagree with you, then they immediately think I'm a bad husband and a bad father. Now I will lash out and defend my fragile ego, whole object relations. I will go whole object relations on you.
And in that scenario, you are now all bad. I am taking my ball and I'm leaving. That's it. We're done, game over. Now five minutes later, Mr. And Mrs. pathologically kind person comes back and says, hey, I'm sorry. Are we cool? Well now they're saying yeah, actually. Yeah, we're good.
And I call that the, do you want to go ride bikes? So the narcissist can have defended their fragile ego, through shutdown, through anger, through gaslighting, through, I mean, tirades, calling you the most horrific names, but then five minutes later, do you want to go ride bikes? Hey, what are we doing for dinner?
And literally he just called me, you know, think of your worst name that you'd never want to hear. So that can be so difficult because that emotional seesaw back and forth to somebody that does have empathy and does have concern, it can break your heart and it can break your will and it can break your spirit. It can put you in this defensive place where again, I'm being attacked. It's violent communication.
So, let me finish up with this email because I really, I hope you can see why I appreciate this email so much. Back to the dialogue. So the person, I believe it's Tim then says, “If he is internally formulating his request,” and he says, I'm hesitant to ask him if he'd be willing to tell me what he heard me say, fearing he'd be defensive and would eat up another five minutes about himself. But then here we go. Tim says, “Request. ‘So would you be willing to exchange emails now and then make an arrangement to talk by phone next week?’ And then Rob says, ‘Yeah, but I wish you weren't so sensitive about being heard. It's kind of needy, you know.’
Me. ‘Okay. I think I understand what you're saying and Rob and I hope we can discuss that more when we talk next week. Okay?’ Rob, ‘Uh, yeah, sure.’” And so then Tim goes on to say, before he makes the phone call, he would do a preparatory check-in with himself. “What's my motivation for connection, connecting with Rob? What would I like in the outcome? Empathy for Rob? What needs is he trying to meet in his behavior with me in dominating the conversation? But more importantly, empathy for myself. What needs am I hoping to meet in a relationship with Rob? Is that even realistic? Is it possible?” Because if Rob isn't interested or available, or I would then add in there or capable, and bless his heart, for that kind of a relationship, then I need to get those needs met elsewhere. I don't need to keep continuing to beat my head against the wall to say, can you love me now? Instead, because that will cause me to feel unloved or unlovable or broken or what's wrong with me. And I will go to my own shame cave.
Because here's the deal. Nothing is wrong with you. It is absolutely human and normal and okay to want a mutually reciprocal relationship where we both feel heard and understood and seen. And so that's why I feel like this concept of nonviolent communication, I hope it starts to resonate and it starts to make sense. And it's just yet another piece of a puzzle.
That ,yeah, you can take this tool and use it beautifully. Your son doesn't do his homework instead of me saying he's probably lazy. It's like, oh man, observation. And the judgment I'm going to put on there is going to now put him in a defensive stance. Hey champ, tell me more about what's going on with your homework.
And I can listen and I can be there and I can start to change the way I communicate with others. If someone is communicating with you and they're letting you know what they know about you as if they know you better. Violence, how dare they? . It's ridiculous. And that isn't something that you need to try to figure out a way to get them to understand that it's ridiculous, because if you are two adult human beings that have been in a relationship for quite a while now, then that may be the air that they breathe and it's because of their own experiences that they've had. So that's where again, I'm saying, oh, it gives me great empathy for that person, because I want people to wake up to their own narcissism and their own narcissistic traits and tendencies and their emotional immaturity.
Because let me just end by painting a picture that I understand doesn't even make sense for so many people, because I don't think many people, if any, had a really healthy relationship modeled in their childhood, just because our parents didn't know what they didn't know. So we're really slowly starting to change a dynamic, which is all the more important that we need to do what's best for ourselves, so we can show up better for our kids so we can continue to help change the dynamics or what it feels like to be in a relationship.
That it doesn't mean I have to continually try to figure out how we can get this person to want to know me and to want to be with me. I need to just be and do and be the best version of myself and that's okay. And the more I do that, if I watch my partner beside me, make judgements about it. Oh, you think you are, or I liked you better when. Then that is them trying to manage their own insecurities, their own anxiety. And that is emotionally stunting and it's emotionally unhealthy and it's emotionally abusive.
Because the things that we all don't know that we don't know, is that part of the maturation process of growing up and getting into relationships is an amazing opportunity to now recognize that even if we met and we were emotionally immature, that as we grow together and as we go through experiences together, and as we have kids together, and as we go through financial setbacks and losses, and celebrations, deaths, moves, and all of these changes, of course we're going to have different experiences. So instead of me trying to manage my partner's experience so that it will make me feel more in control, I need to start to learn how to sit with some discomfort. I need to learn how to live in a world that has some tension and not be so afraid it's going to grow to contention, because tension is where some real growth occurs. Now, if it's continually going to contention, you need to start making a plan to get out because that is going to cause you a tremendous amount of emotional abuse and damage.
And eventually your blood pressure is going to rise. You're gonna blow out your adrenal system. You're going to stop producing cortisol. You're going to get a flat affect. Your body is going to have a conversion disorder. Suddenly, you’re going to have back pain or you're going to have irritable bowel syndrome. Or you’re going to have Crohn's disease or, you know, all these things that your body's going to say, I don't know what else to do to get your attention, but every time you go back in there trying to make sense of this thing, that makes absolutely no sense, it makes you worse and your brain is saying, this is not the way to live. And I'm a brain, I want to live forever. So I would really rather you not do this.
If you need help, you're on the right path and it is a path of awakening and growth. And unfortunately it has a slow moving ship. I know it is. You go from, I don't know what I don't know. To now, I'm learning about things I can do, but unfortunately it's still gonna be really hard to do them and know that that is normal.
And that's a really tough place to be for a while, but know that you're in the right place. And then slowly. So you go from, I didn't know what I didn't know to now, I know, and I'm starting to understand more, but I'm still unable to do. To now, I know, I understand quite a bit more and I'm starting to do, and unfortunately, I'm going to get more pushback.
Because I'm now starting to change the dynamic of the relationship, which is going to cause my emotionally mature partner to have more anxiety, more stress. And they want to manage that by controlling you and your narrative to make them feel better about themselves. So that's a difficult place to be as well, but eventually you start to learn, oh my gosh, I am okay. I am lovable. I am of worth, I have unique gifts and talents and abilities. And the more I step into those, then either that person that I'm in the relationship with can then say, oh my gosh, this is amazing and incredible, or I need to just know that this is amazing and incredible. And if they don't want to participate anymore in the relationship, then that's not on me because I am now becoming the best version of me, which is going to help change the world. And it's going to help change the dynamic of what the future of my kids' lives will be in the relationships that they see.
And over time, what it feels like to be you is this incredible dynamic, interdependent differentiated person with a unique set of gifts and talents and skills. And all of a sudden, you radiate, you don't waste emotional calories trying to figure out how can I get this person to love me? You love yourself. And it is not from an arrogant standpoint. It is a healthy ego because you've done the work and that light will shine and it will lift others around you.
And if there are others that feel insecure because of that light shining, I wanted to say screw them, but then that didn't really play into the whole motivational speech there that I was saying. But in essence, that's kind of where I'm going. No, bless their heart because that's no longer your burden. Thanks for joining me today. If you like what you hear, feel free to pass this along to somebody that you think might be in need.
And if you're still listening, first of all, thank you. And if you do, I don't like making these pleas, I feel a little bit needy or that sort of thing, but the more that you do review the podcast wherever you listen to it, or the more that you rate it, it really does start to get into the algorithm, I guess, as the kids say, and with this one in particular, I love doing podcasts. I love when the Virtual Couch is growing and people share it.
But this Waking Up to Narcissism one is one that people are just finding because they start to Google things. And so I feel like I recognize even more so I think that algorithm is important because there are going to be people that are going to be down. And the first thing they're going to do is start searching.
And so they need to start finding tools and resources. So if you could rate and review and all those things, it will help get this podcast out into the algorithm and then we can help more people. Have a great week. And I will see you next time on Waking Up to Narcissism.