Tag Archives: Health

Second Breath of Apology ~ Feelings

If you’ve just stumbled upon this post, it will make more sense if you read the summary below, and then Breath 1.

If you’ve read Breath 1 – skip down to Lucy, below.

Summary

When someone you love does something that hurts you emotionally, it’s quite common to find yourself caught between two opposing desires:

  • Revenge – make ‘em pay for your hurt
  • Forgive – and forget as quickly as possible to remove the pain.

Neither is great.

If you practice revenge you reinforce your own pain since (think about this) emotional pain arises from our story about an event – not the event itself.

If you rush to forgive, forget and avoid having an honest conversation with yourself and whoever hurt you, you practice being a coward in the face of your true experience.

A robust reconciliation, based upon an artful apology, avoids both these problems. In my work I’ve found there are five stages or “breaths” you need to take. Why “breaths”?

  1. When we are stressed it really helps to breathe: Keep breathing!
  2. There are in-breaths and out-breaths.  To stay alive, you need both.  A reconciliation between 2 people that avoids revenge or victim-hood needs both these perspectives.

Breath 2  ~  FEELINGS

Screen shot 2013-06-11 at 1.14.34 PM

ACCUSED  

Acknowledge the other person’s FEELINGS  ~

Put yourself in your accuser’s shoes and imagine how they felt, even if they have not expressed any feelings beyond anger. Until you have done this they will continue to have no interest in anything you have to say.

Trust me!

It will not help them one iota for you to tell them:

  • But I didn’t mean to.
  • It wasn’t my intention to hurt you.
  • Let me just explain.
  • You have no idea the pressure I was under.
  • Hey, you could have done something.
  • I did not do this on purpose for heaven’s sake!
  • Can’t a person make a mistake?

In fact,  these tend to make things worse. Have you noticed?

So, resist the urge – which will be strong!   Instead, try this ~

Oh Fiona, you felt awful that night!  You felt abandoned by me when I did not introduce you to those folks we were talking to. And then at dinner, it sounds as though you felt jealous that I had someone to talk to – and it did not help that it was a woman – and you were stuck between two folks you did not enjoy.  And for sure you don’t want to get put in a situation like that again. Did I get this right, or am I missing some parts still?”

ADVANTAGES?

Cultivating the will-power to curb your righteous-indignation and make the effort to see a situation from another person’s point of view is like weight-lifting for the soul. It’s very hard, takes vast effort, is super good for you, and (I promise) gets easier with repetition. If you can start by practicing this with people you love – your children, partner, family members and friends – one day you might find yourself being able to empathize effectively with someone at work. Or , you might even find yourself being able to talk down an angry, violent person who simply needs someone to listen to them. You never know how this sort of inner strength will come in handy.

Screen shot 2013-06-11 at 1.08.53 PM ACCUSER   

Continue to clarify your  FEELINGS ~

Did the person who triggered your pain manage to express accurately enough how you are feeling? Do you need to have them understand any aspect of that painful event more fully?  Now is your chance to see if you feel genuinely and fully understood. It’s your job to help the accused understand you – there is only so much they can guess.

Well, you’ve got most of it right. I did feel abandoned and jealous. I think what made it worse for me is that you know how vulnerable I feel amongst your super-smart financial market friends. Right in the midst of my six month parenting leave and all I can think to talk about is Sylvia sitting up and how cute she is. I ended up feeling boring, dumb and unattractive.”

ADVANTAGES?  This is a gift for you. When someone has – inadvertently or otherwise – triggered some hot buttons for you, being invited to name and share your feelings will help you get over your pain more quickly than any other way I know of.  You can help the pair of you by staying present. What are you feeling?  Need help identifying your feelings? Click here – parrott-emotions-tree-2001(3).  Remember, emotional pain arises from our story about an event – not the event itself. You are in pain because of these feelings which have been triggered in you. This means your way out, is through.

Screen shot 2013-06-11 at 1.44.02 PM

ACCUSED   Repeat Breath 2  ~  Keep going around by inviting your accuser to say more about their feelings while you continue to acknowledge what they are saying.

Again remind yourself – you are not pleading guilty. You are simply helping someone in pain to identify precisely how they are in pain, so they can feel better. You did not plant these feelings. These feelings were triggered by the other person – it is important they feel them so they can start to understand how they were triggered and maybe how to not have them be triggered next time.

This is Part 2 of 5.

Check back tomorrow for Third Breath of Apology ~ COMPASSION

First Breath of Apology ~ The Story

Summary

When someone you love does something that hurts you emotionally, it’s quite common to find yourself caught between two opposing desires:

  • Revenge – make ‘em pay for your hurt
  • Forgive – and forget as quickly as possible to remove the pain.

Neither is great.

If you practice revenge you reinforce your own pain since (think about this) emotional pain arises from our story about an event – not the event itself.

If you rush to forgive, forget and avoid having an honest conversation with yourself and whoever hurt you, you practice being a coward in the face of your true experience.

A robust reconciliation, based upon an artful apology, avoids both these problems. In my work I’ve found there are five stages or “breaths” you need to take. Why “breaths”?

  • When we are stressed it really helps to breathe: Keep breathing!
  • There are in-breaths and out-breaths.  To stay alive, you need both.  A reconciliation between 2 people that avoids revenge or victim-hood needs both these perspectives.

First Breath ~ THE STORY

Screen shot 2013-06-10 at 1.22.45 PMACCUSER   Be brave and speak up

Feel entitled.  Say “Listen to me!”  Let your story out. Tell your partner what is going on for you and why you are so upset.  Give as many details as you can to help the accused see things from your point of view.

I’m never ever going to an office party with you again! You abandon me the moment we get there, you schmooze with everyone and don’t introduce me to half of them. And then, at dinner, you sit next to that new woman and spend the whole night in quiet conversation leaving me across from you between two crashing bores whom I didn’t even know!”

ADVANTAGES?   In any reconciliation process, the person who has experienced something painful needs to tell their story.  It’s a bit like rounding up the all the loose edges of a tumour in surgery. If you leave tendrils of cancer behind, the cells will re-grow.  Telling your story as fully and honestly as you possibly can will allow you to eventually let it go.

Screen shot 2013-06-07 at 2.35.49 PMACCUSED   Close that beak & listen quietly to the accusation.

Face your accuser. Breathe deeply. Give this issue your full attention. Do not, under any circumstances, explain, justify, defend or deny. Zip it and listen. If your mind is busy doing anything other than listening, you’ll miss too much.

ADVANTAGES?   This step is the key to your success. As long as someone is feeling hurt they will have no interest in hearing anything from you: no whys, excuses, justifications or pleas for forgiveness will trump their need to just spit out the pain.   All the things we usually do actually make things worse. This is not about you. This is about the impact something you have done (or not done, or said)  has had on someone else. Sure, you may feel they have over-reacted or might not feel so dreadful if they only understood things from your point of view.  Maybe. However, given that “ultimate reality” is up for grabs in any given situation, what I’m advocating for here is “what is most helpful in this situation right now?”  This step is the most helpful thing you can do.

This is Part 1 of 5.

Check back tomorrow for Second Breath of Apology ~ FEELINGS

The Art of Apologizing ~ in 5 Calming Breaths

Screen shot 2013-06-07 at 2.35.49 PMWhen someone you love does something that hurts you, it’s quite common to find you are caught between two opposing desires:

  • Revenge – make ‘em pay for your hurt
  • Forgive – and forget as quickly as possible to remove the pain.

 

 

However, neither revenge nor forgiveness are the best idea on their own, since they can both block genuine reconciliation. This is the place where each of you gets to do some emotional homework .  Screen shot 2013-06-07 at 12.51.58 PM

 

If the hurt partner stays in revenge, it will eat away at their soul, heart and mind and destroy them from within like a worm in an apple.

Screen shot 2013-06-07 at 3.22.45 PM

 

If the hurt partner is too quick to jump to forgiveness, they run the risk of losing their voice, and becoming  dis-empowered, like it feels when someone offers you a limp-fish handshake.

 

 

This is where the Art of the Apology comes in.

A genuine, full heartfelt apology – coupled with the self-awareness this process fosters – can actually serve to bring two people closer.  While the person who has been accused of doing (or being) hurtful can do an awful lot of reparation using the Breaths I suggest below, if the two of you get fully engaged, you can use this episode to create a deep and genuine reconciliation.

I use the metaphor of the Breath (rather than the Step) for two reasons:

  1. When we are stressed it really helps to breathe: Keep breathing!
  2. There are in-breaths and out-breaths.  To stay alive, you need both.  This process works to bring two hurting people closer because it softens those edges between in and out, right and wrong, accused and accuser,  victim and culprit.

This is what makes apologizing an art form. With practice you can cultivate this ability to mastery. And as you do, you’ll be modeling the process for your partner and your children. And they, in turn, can model it for theirs. Lord knows, we need more reconciliation on the planet!

NOTE: Each of the Five Breaths has a role for both the Accuser and the Accused. Try on both roles from some past issue. Walk yourself through how the process might have gone had you tried it.  What do you notice?

Breath 1  ~  STORY

ACCUSER   Just let it out!  Tell your partner the story of why you are so upset  ~  Give as many details as you can to help the accused see things from your point of view.

“I’m never ever going to an office party with you again! You abandon me the moment we get there, you schmooze with everyone and don’t introduce me to half of them. And then, at dinner, you sit next to that new woman and spend the whole night in quiet conversation leaving me across from you between two crashing bores whom I didn’t even know!”

ACCUSED   Listen quietly to the accusation  ~  Face your accuser. Breathe deeply. Give this issue your full attention. Do not, under any circumstances, explain, justify, defend or deny. Zip it and listen. If your mind is busy doing anything other than listening, you’ll miss too much.

Breath 2  ~  FEELINGS

ACCUSED   Acknowledge the other person’s FEELINGS  ~  Put yourself in your accuser’s shoes and imagine how they felt, even if they have not expressed any feelings beyond anger. Until you have done this they have no interest in anything you have to say. Trust me! It will not help them one iota for you to tell them:

  • But I didn’t mean to . .
  • You have no idea the pressures I was under!
  • Hey, you could have  . . .
  • No, I did not do these things!
  • In fact, I did the opposite of this most of the time.

So, do not. Instead, try this ~

“Oh Fiona, you felt awful that night!  You felt abandoned by me when I did not introduce you to those folks we were talking to. And then at dinner, it sounds as though you felt jealous that I had someone to talk to – and it did not help that it was a woman – and you were stuck between two folks you did not enjoy.  And for sure you don’t want to get put in a situation like that again. Did I get this right, or am I missing some parts still?”

ACCUSER    Continue to clarify your  FEELINGS   ~  Did they express accurately how you were feeling? Do you need to have them understand any aspect of that painful event more fully?  Now is your chance to see if you feel genuinely and fully understood. It’s your job to help the accused understand you – there is only so much they can guess.

“Well, you’ve got most of it right. I did feel abandoned and jealous. I think what made it worse for me is that you know how vulnerable I feel amongst your super-smart financial market friends. Right in the midst of my six month parenting leave and all I can think to talk about is Sylvia sitting up and how cute she is. I ended up feeling boring, dumb and unattractive.”

ACCUSED   Repeat Breath 2  ~  Keep going around by inviting the accuser to say more about feelings while you continue to acknowledge what they are saying.

Again remind yourself – you are not pleading guilty. You are simply helping someone in pain name their symptoms.

Breath 3  ~  REPENTANCE 

ACCUSED   Say Sorry  ~  If you can hold-on to the idea that this person is simply telling you they are hurt; and if you can refrain from taking the focus back to you by explaining,  justifying, denying, or accusing*,  you may be able to offer a heartfelt. . .

“I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry you felt abandoned by me and jealous and boring and all those awful feelings you just shared with me.”

ACCUSER   Receive their sorrow  ~  Listen with your heart. If the accused has genuinely sought to understand how dreadful you felt, you can most likely be sure that they are genuinely sorry you felt that way.

Breath 4  ~  OWNERSHIP

ACCUSED   Accept responsibility for the parts you feel you can genuinely accept responsibility for. This empowers you to see how you could have done things differently  ~  Not everything is 100% within our control so the trick here is to take ownership of what is  Own up to the parts you can own up to.  You do not have to lie down and be a whipping boy. If there are things beyond your control, or actually more within your accuser’s control, don’t take those on.

“Fiona, I totally see how I blew it with the introductions. Truth was I blew it even more by not remember those guys names. I could have just spoken up and said ‘Hey – I’d like you to meet my wife” and hoped they’d have offered their names! And I did get way too interested in the things Betty had to say – that woman you spoke of. She’s from corporate so I was being a bit of a brown-nose I know. I can see how that must have looked to you.”

ACCUSER   Listen as your partner accepts responsibility  ~  You’ll know if this is genuine. You may find he or she is not taking responsibility for absolutely everything.  This is actually good. If you choose to notice what items were left on the table, you could – under calmer conditions – explore the extent to which you could have done something to help yourself under those circumstances. Own your own piece.

“Well thanks. I know I blame you for the two bores I sat between too – but I see I could have asked them about their kids and maybe sparked some sort of conversation I was interested in. Hey – I possibly could have asked to swap seats with someone after coffee too.”

Breath 5  ~ RECONCILIATION

ACCUSED   Seek forgiveness  ~  After you’ve heard the story and understood the feelings, after you’ve repented and taken ownership for what went down and how things could be different next time, you may want to ask for forgiveness.  I have noticed that when this process has moved successfully through these four stages, not everyone feels the need for this final step.  However, it can’t hurt!

“Fiona – I’m really glad we talked about this today. I want us to be close again. I’d love it if you could forgive me. Is there anything else  I need to do? Will you tell me?”

ACCUSER   Offer forgiveness when you are ready  ~  You may need some time;  you may not. Sometimes it helps to have a little ritual – like the confessional for Catholics when the priest dolls out “Five Our Fathers and Three Hail Marys”. 

“Yes. I’m glad I got this out. I felt so hurt I thought it was the beginning of the end for us. But I see things much more clearly now.  So – I’d say forgiveness will cost you dinner for two at that new wine-bar next week!”

That’s it. Give it a go. I’d love to know if you have anything to add.

*  So what to do with all your pent-up desire to explain, justify, deny or counter attack?  I’ve noticed one of two things might help.

  1. You may just be able to let them go. The whole point of all that was to try to make your accuser feel better and not think you were a jerk – right?  Well, now they feel better and probably feel great about you too. Can be best to just dump ’em.
  2. If you feel stuck, then one day – when the issue has cooled down a bit – you could bring these up more as a reporter of the event than protagonist.  “You know, I find I still hang on to wanting to let you know why I didn’t introduce you to those chaps at the office party. Funny really. I guess I wanted you to know I didn’t intend to hurt you. Can I tell you about things from my perspective, now that it’s all behind us?”

 

 

Dating~When to call it quits

Twelve Questions to ask yourself if you’re wondering whether you are dating the right person

Show up honestly to these twelve questions and really listen to your answers. If you are still not sure, seek a few sessions with a good relationship therapist since possibly some family-of-origin ghosts are getting in your way.

1. Do you like who you are in this relationship?

2. Think of someone who loves you very much (parent, sibling, grandparent, coach, your child…) would they think this was the best you could do relationship-wise? If not, what’s getting in the way of that?

3. Are you growing in a way you like, or stuck in a place you dislike?

4. After a fight, can you get back together and talk about what the real issues were until you each understand what precisely each of you was upset about? In other words, do your fights bring you closer or build a wedge between you? *(see NOTE below)

5. Is there a healthy balance of give and take? If any of these statements are true, read number #6

  • “I show my love by fixing my sweetie’s problems.”
  • “My sweetie is just going through a rough patch.”
  • “Love is all about giving.”
  • “I’m sure my turn to receive will come.”

6. Do you know the difference between healthy helping & enabling helping? Healthy helping is stepping in when someone really can’t manage on their own, like driving someone to the hospital when they are sick. Enabling helping is preventing someone from experiencing the consequences of their own behavior or choices, like endlessly listening to your friend kvetch and complain about how much they hate their life – so you run around endlessly trying to make the edges better – when actually, your friend needs to make some drastic changes.

7. When you think about yourself 3 years out – do you feel excited at the thought you’ll still be with this person, or  poundingly depressed?

8. Do you know, in your heart of hearts, you need to move on, but can’t bear the pain this might cause the other? If so, read #9.

9. As a parent, will you let your kid’s teeth rot in their heads rather than expose them to the dentist? Will you continue to enable this person to live a lie? If they’d be devastated by you moving on, they must think you love them more than you do. Respect them enough to tell your own truth. You will both be the better for it.

10. Are you stuck because you made some dumb decisions that have you all muddled up financially – like buying something big together (house, car, boat, time payments on a costly trip?)  If yes, see #11.

11. Debt together is different from life together. Grow up, get out the spread sheets and talk to a lawyer if you need to get some teeth into independent repayment plans for these once joint financial commitments.  You get to enjoy the consequences of your action which means you won’t make this mistake again – right?

12. Do you keep circling around to “But I love him/her?”  Love is so much more than a fuzzy feeling. It’s a verb in the most life-affirming sense. Love is a crucible for growth like no other. If – despite your fuzzy, lovey-dovey, achingly addictive feeling – you can also check these boxes…

  • It brings out the best in each of you;
  • Your friends and family see you expand in confidence;
  • You care enough to drill down to understand your differences;
  • You willingly try on new ways of being;
  • You allow one another to take risks and to comfort one another when you fall – you don’t wrap each other up in cotton wool and hide;
  • You savor the moment and feel optimistic about the future;
  • Your expression of love and your experience of love are fully congruent;
  • You can show up wholeheartedly and truthfully;
  • As a team you are more powerful than you were as two individuals;
  • Your love is emotional (and chemical) yes, but also born of intellect (you’ve thought this through) and spirit (you choose to grow within this co-created crucible) and flesh (you willingly surrender your precious body into those arms for cherishing);

. . .  why then, you might be on to something very valuable.

*NOTE ~ While the content of each fight can vary, the values you each hold that might have been compromised are often the same ones.  So, if you can’t figure out what the real issue is now – before you make a long-term commitment  – it’s like jumping into a swimming pool with alligators in. If you know there are there – better to get them out first.

Coming:  Dating~How to call it quits

 

Suicide, who’s at risk?

If you’ve stumbled upon this post, it’s part 2 of a 4-part mini-series on suicide, dedicated to a dear man, Simon “Sketch” Ellis, who spent over 20 years travelling the world, making friends as he went. Sketch ended his own life earlier this year and those of us left are wondering what drew him toward that decision. This post  explores some of the facts about suicide, and draws attention to the risk factors that are most typically in play for someone who opts for death at their own hand.  The final 2 posts offer suggestions for how to help a friend in need, (what to say, what not to say, how to think about your friend so you feel empowered to take action), and finally how to survive life after death, if you’ve lost a loved one to suicide.

First of all, if you are in crisis now, or if you know of someone who is, take action. It is the rare soul who is 100% committed to death (see April 2nd post). Intervention can help.

In Crisis Now?

In New Zealand call            0800 611 116 National Healthline

In United States call            1-800-273-TALK (8255) National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

 These lines are free, open all the time and available to anyone in need.

A few facts

  • In New Zealand in 2010 ,
  • of a total population of 4,367,700
  • 522 people killed themselves
  • Thus in 2010, the average suicides per 100,000 people = 11.9
  • In the United States in 2010
  • of a total population of  308,745,538.
  • 38,000 killed themselves
  • Thus in 2010, the average suicides per 100,000 people = 12.3

Read by friends at Sketch’s Memorial

He was humble, kind, generous, and considerate. His positive energy permeated into the souls of us all. He followed his dreams. He led the most colorful life filled with challenges that he embraced with open arms. He travelled the world; saw places, experienced different cultures that would make the likes of David Palin and Richard Attenborough jealous! Unlike the great explorers, we read about in our history books, he did not come to take he came to give. His ability to communicate with every walk of life, the nomads in Mongolia, the one-eyed guard in DR Congo, the Pakistani patient in the hospital in Qatar, the Cambodian rice farmer to name a few, made him welcome everywhere. He radiated trust and kindness. He was never afraid of hard work. He was happiest getting his hands dirty to help others. He was the most giving person I have ever met.

Rebecca

Drilling into the data a bit more we learn that  ~

  • Suicide is around the 10th leading cause of death
  • In most countries, women continue to attempt suicide more often than men
  • Men however, tend to be 4 times more successful
  • Firearms are the most common method of suicide in the USA for men
  • Suffocation (including hanging) and poisoning are the next most common methods
  • There is 1 suicide for every 25 attempts
  • The poor, minorities and disenfranchised kill themselves more often

In autopsies of those who commit suicide, US data discovered:

  • 33.3% tested positive for alcohol
  • 23% for antidepressants
  • 20.8% for opiates, including heroin and prescription painkillers

Not only did you travel to all those many countries, cities, towns and villages… You helped make things better along the way, fighting against poachers, helping reintroduce rehabbed  rhinos back into the wild, working with children just to name a  few…. You always gave so much of yourself and asked for so little in return.

Suzanne Stafford, USA

What are the risk factors for suicide?

More than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have these risk factors ~

  • depression and other mental disorders, or a substance-abuse disorder (9 in 10 report this)
  • prior suicide attempt
  • family history of mental disorder or substance abuse
  • family history of suicide
  • family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • firearms in the home (used in more than half of suicides)
  • incarceration
  • exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, such as family members, peers, or media figures.

And maybe this explains what happened to someone as vivid and vital as Sketch –

  • three out of four individuals who take their own life had a physical illness when they committed suicide.

Well Nomad, you wandered this earth living life to the full and I was lucky enough that our paths crossed in Hong Kong in 96 and we traveled on in 97 to Cambodia, laughing a lot and having an adventure. It was good to catch up with you again in Cambodia just over a year ago, just didn’t expect that your travel’s would end on this earth. I expect you’re up there with your pack on your back moving from star to star ‘cause that’s what you were like. It  was a pleasure to have known you…happy travels on the other side.

Richard Williams

There’s so much yet to understand as our attitudes toward death-by-choice (including euthanasia) are pushed by the data. However, it’s important to remember that suicide is NOT a normal response to stress! Whilst the number of people suffering from depression, other mental illnesses and addictions is on the rise, “new research is showing that the risk for suicide is associated with changes in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, including serotonin. Decreased levels of serotonin have been found in people with depression, impulsive disorders, and a history of suicide attempts, and in the brains of suicide victims“.

Coming:

  • What to do if a friend is suicidal?
  • Life after death (by suicide)

 

 

Narcissist ~ Healing From One

If you’ve stumbled upon this article, it’s the last in a 5 part mini-series about living in relationship with “Narcissism.”  (Click here for Part 1, 2, 3 & 4.)

This final piece offers you my humble “take” on what others more experienced than I  (see Resources below) have identified as 6 significant rest-stops along the spiral of healing. I offer one “Top Tip” per rest-stop.

1.  Re-encounter Yourself  ~  Most everyone who emerges from time around a narcissist looses something of themselves. No matter how long this contact with narcissism has been, there will be less of the essential, unapologetic, robust, connected-to-your-own-soul YOU now than there was before this contact.  First job is to find that person once again.

Top Tip: Do The Artists Way.  Julia Cameron’s 12-part process will help you discover you are a unique, worthwhile, creative being whose only job is to express yourself. This book is a life-saver!

 2.  Embrace reality  ~  Question every assumption; examine every thought. Is this truth, or is this still crazy-talk? Come on back to the community of earthlings where you belong. Try listening to a reliable news source; go to the public library and watch normal people come and go; call a childhood friend and reminisce.

Top Tip from Blogger Lisa Arends (sent as a comment to my last postI found it invaluable to have “reality anchors,” tangible reminders of reality that kept me anchored while I navigated through the world he created through his lies. My favorite? I kept a copy of his mugshot with an article about the bigamy in my purse for several months. One glance at that paper reminded me of who he really was and motivated me to keep fighting to get away.  (Thanks Lisa!)

3.  Set boundaries  ~  It’s hard to be in relationship with someone who has no idea who they are or what they want. This is where boundaries come in: you get to say “I feel X and I need Y” and then let go. Just the fact of naming what you feel and need is a huge boundary-setting skill.

Top Tip from Life Coach Cheryl Richardson (on Oprah.com) walks you through How to Set Boundaries.

4.  Cultivate reciprocal relationships  ~  You’ve been giving, giving, giving – right? You need to discover that it’s OK to receive: To imagine you are worthwhile enough for someone to want to share with you.  If you want the safest possible two-way friendships I’d recommend animals or small children. They are genetically engineered givers.

Top Tip (not scientifically tested, but from my experience, this Tip’s from me).  Volunteer some time each week at your local Humane Society. For the gift of your time and presence, you’ll be rewarded with unconditional love from most of the four-footed brothers and sisters in the shelter. Lap up their love. Bask in it. Slowly make the transition to humans.

5.  Integrate Your Past  ~  It’s tempting to want to forget the past – especially if it now seems so false (Did my partner ever really love me? Was it all a sham?) But burying your past in an ugly bin in the basement will cause it to rot and smell.  Putting it instead in a pleasing, open wooden-frame box, turning it over, splashing it with some fresh insights, tumbling it with compassion, mixing in some understanding and wisdom will deliver a deliciously usable compost.

Top Tip  Write!  You’ll find lots of people on the Internet who have turned their difficult pasts into fruitful books, blogs, and even full “recovery courses.” 

6.  Help Others  ~ Once you’ve climbed back from the brink, re-calibrated your sense of “normal”, practiced setting boundaries and expressing feelings and needs, re-joined the larger community, made a few genuine friends and gained some perspective on your past, you’re ready for the fulfillment that comes from reaching out and helping someone else.

Top Tip Be inspired here 

RESOURCES

Caveat emptor” ~ 3 Main Points

  1. Be slow to trust.  There’s a lot of unhelpful information in print and online. Look for resources authored by professionals in the field of mental health. If you are considering a book, or reading an article on-line, read the brief author bio. Check to see if the author has an advanced degree from a reputable University. Are they working the field? Do they have a website and testimonials? Can you call them or email them if you want to? Not all information is equal.
  2. Free is good.  The library is your friend. You can spend a small fortune on books and courses and consultations.  You do not have to.
  3. Value a second opinion.  Part of your “reality check” work here. If you feel drawn toward a book you want to buy, or someone you might want to consult with – run it by someone you know and trust.  If your friend is suspicious, maybe wait a bit. Or seek a third opinion. The topic of narcissism has created a very “narcissistic” (i.e. exploitative) on-line environment and you don’t need to get burned.

That being said, there are lots of books you should be OK to review at your local library. Here is a short list. You can also go to Amazon.com and type “Narcissism” in the subject box for a longer list.

  • Why Is It Always About You? : The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism, by Sandy Hotchkiss
  • Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed by Wendy Behary
  • Freeing Yourself from the Narcissist in Your Life by Linda Martinez-Lewi
  • The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family by Eleanor Payson

In terms of on-line resources. You can trust articles posted on ~

www.psychologytoday.com   (You can type “Narcissism” in the search box top right, or visit Topics and browse by Parenting, Divorce, Personality etc.).

http://divorcesupport.about.com   (Again, type Narcissism in the subject box top left. This is a direct link to a good article on  co-parenting with a narcissist )

Marc Hafkin also posted on this Blog – his web site seems worth reviewing.

One of my clients found this site, and I figured it might help others:  http://www.daughtersofnarcissisticmothers.com/

This seems helpful (if anyone has feedback feel free to post) http://blog.melanietoniaevans.com/

And I follow Lessons From The End of a Marriage because I’m inspired by it’s author, Lisa Arends. Lisa’s been through what she describes as a “Tsunami Divorce” but has emerged with a terrific sense of self, a good job, a luscious pen and some piercingly clear insights.

For the other posts in this series see ~

Narcissist~Leaving One

If you’ve stumbled upon this article, it’s Part 4 in a 5 part series on Narcissism*.  Today’s article offers the Top 10 Tips for how to successfully exit a relationship with someone suffering from severe narcissism.

  1. Do The Math  ~  If you’re unhappy, seem to have always been and can’t see things changing; if you’re beginning to feel you’re crazy; if fights far outnumber fun, take stock. Start a daily log of the lies, infidelity, insults, rages and abuse. After a few weeks or months do the math. Calculate what percentage of your life with this person is happy. If unhappy is a much bigger percent than happy and if every attempt to change things has resulted in things getting worse for you – it’s time to go.
  2. Prepare to Prepare  ~  Most people who leave abusive, narcissistic relationships report several “false starts.” Spontaneous “I’m leaving you” tantrums (initiated by either partner) do not last. If this is to be a true break from this nightmare you need to plan.
  3. Get Emotional Support  ~  By the time you’ve recognized how bad your relationship is and are making your plan to leave (which is right when you need to be super strong) you are probably feeling drained, lost, fragile, alienated, crazy, stupid, worthless and more. Priority #1 is to find someone who understands the nature of narcissism to help you: a therapist, minister, support group for abused women, or a forum on one of the many web sites about being involved with a narcissist. You need someone to confirm you’re not nuts, it’s not your fault and you deserve better.
  4. Get Tangible Support  ~  Since you’re planning to leave someone for whom life is “all about me” you are unlikely to get a fair distribution of your shared assets. So, get strategic. Do you have anything in your name? A car? Jewelry? Savings?  It can be wise to have a plan for where to go for the first few months – family out of the area, old friends? Take an inventory of what you might be able to hang on to, and what you are most likely to have to leave behind.
  5. Get Financially Savvy  ~  To the extent you can, take stock of where you stand financially. Familiarize yourself with credit card balances; bank balances; the mortgage; other monthly debt. You may be in for some surprizes. As you can, start a cash-stash. Even $1000 is better than ending up on the street with nothing.
  6. An Element of Surprize  ~  Be careful to keep your plan a secret. As you know, you are overly connected / addicted to the charms and terrors of the narcissist in your life and can easily fall prey to the pleas to stay, hand over money, take care of him/her etc.  Consider your safety above all else.
  7. Burn Your Bridges  ~  As miserable as you may be, the majority of people who have successfully made the break from a narcissist report it takes every ounce of their strength not to go running back. You’ve been so emptied, manipulated, put down, “rescued” and oriented by this toxic system that life beyond it seems vapid, empty, frighteningly without meaning. This is where your support system comes in. Buy a one-way ticket; have someone expecting you; make it impossible to go back.
  8. Build Your Boundaries  ~  You fell prey to the narcissist because you weren’t sure about the line between  “being nice” and “being used/abused.” There is one and it is never too soon to start building stronger boundaries. A great place to start is by reading Melody Beatie’s Codependent No More.
  9. If There Are Children  ~  Many divorces are caused by the narcissistic behaviour of one or other parent so you are not alone. Your children will survive. It will pull forth more from you than you thought you had to give but parents who’ve had the courage to leave their narcissistic partners will tell you that they are particularly motivated to make this break for the children.
  10. Harbour Hope  ~  Hold on to your self. There is no greater gift you can give yourself (or your children) than to make this move. No amount of money, real estate nor high roller distraction is worth the sacrifice of your very essence. You are not alone. Others have walked this path before you. You can make it!

*I am running a 5 part mini series ( 25-29 March 2013) on Narcissism. I am seeing more and more clients impacted by living with someone who suffers from NPD and the first step in the healing process is to learn as much as you can about this disorder.  I’ll print a list of helpful resources in Part 5.

Narcissist~Living with one

If you’ve read my two previous posts Narcissism – Symptoms and Narcissism – Now What, you may be wondering whether it’s possible to have a successful relationship with someone on the narcissism spectrum.

Both my research and my clients tell me it is possible. I’m always a little surprized by the number of people who knowingly continue to live with, or work for, a narcissist once they understand why they’ve been feeling so awful for so long. However – knowledge really is power. This post is for those of you who, for whatever reason, are choosing to stay involved with someone suffering with symptoms on that narcissism spectrum.

3 Key Practices for Surviving (Even Thriving in)  Life with a Narcissist

  1. Inform yourself fully ~ Learn all you can, scour the local library and internet, so you may fully understand the sort of pain, hurt, sadness and possible abuse you will be up against.
  2. Decide where you will take your stand ~ As you review the list of “Things You Cannot Change” about a narcissist below, identify any you feel you need to take a stand against. If it’s the rages you hate,  then figure out how you will behave in the face of the rages. And stick to it.
  3. Commit to on-going self-care ~ Daily contact with a narcissist can be crazy-making, isolating and lonely. If you are in this for the long haul you’ll need to identify how you’ll stay healthy, not burst a blood vessel, keep your self-esteem/self-compassion tanks topped up and meet your emotional needs outside of this relationship.

According to Dr. Judith Orloff, if you are to live or work with a narcissist, it is wise to accept that there are some things you cannot change. As you review this list  below, notice if any of these inevitable traits are particularly bugging you.  It is OK – even wise – to take a stand against those traits that you find most draining.  As we might respond to any bullying behaviour, if you say “I find your rages too huge for me and the kids. When you raise your voice I will leave the room,” and if you stick to this, you will eventually get that pattern changed between you. (Note – the narcissist does not stop raging. But what you do in the face of the rages is what can change.)

  • Be aware that the narcissist can respond negatively if you complement other people while you are in the narcissist’s company. The narcissist is likely to see a compliment paid to someone else as an indirect insult to the narcissist (e.g. the narcissist might say something like “you are always saying good things about X but you never say anything good about ME”).
  • Don’t expect the narcissist to understand jokes the way that non-narcissists do. Just accept this and go and enjoy telling jokes to people who are not narcissistic.
  • Give the narcissist what he or she wants when he or she wants it and do not expect the narcissist to reciprocate any favours.
  • Don’t expect the narcissist to take any real interest in you (unless he or she is very eager to please you, in which case the narcissist will be very good at pretending to be interested in you).
  • Do not expect the narcissist to apologise or to show any consideration for your feelings.
  • Be careful about making any expression of affection towards the narcissist as the narcissist might respond to this in a nasty manner, particularly if the narcissist thinks that you are becoming dependent upon him or her. Also, do try to keep your independence and, if possible, try to make the narcissist to some extent dependent on you.
  • Expect to have to clean up after the narcissist but don’t expect the narcissist to clean up after you.
  • Expect the narcissist to try to demand all of your time but don’t expect the narcissist to give up his or her time for you.
  • Expect the narcissist to be impossible to please. Just think how unfortunate you would be if nobody was able to make you happy.
  • Expect the narcissist to be unhappy when he or she discovers that you actually want to do what they want you to do. When you actually want to do the task which the narcissist has given you the narcissist may perceive this as being a bit like sharing, and this can make the narcissist feel disappointed.
  • Don’t ever say to the narcissist anything like “please have a heart”. Trying to appeal to the narcissist in this way is likely to make matters worse rather than better.
  • Never invite a narcissist to apologise.
  • Don’t expect a narcissist to pay attention to things which do not affect them personally (unless, of course, the narcissist is eager to impress the present company, in which case he/she will try hard to take an interest in the topic of discussion).
  • Don’t expect the narcissist to tell you the usual personal information about themselves (e.g. the narcissist may be reluctant to reveal much information about his/her childhood other than those things which he/she chooses to reveal).
  • Accept that most of the time (but not all of the time) the narcissist will find it difficult to remember back to events in his or her childhood.
  • Accept that narcissistic women will try to force their daughters to be exactly like them.
  • Don’t expect the narcissist to give you what you ask for (unless the narcissist is very eager to please you). If you actually do want what he/she gives you it will not be fun for the narcissist to give it to you.
  • Often remind members of your family that you genuinely love them. This will help to heal the family rifts which the narcissist is continually creating through his/her backbiting.
  • When a narcissist walks off in a rage, expect a return appearance with questions and criticisms. Use this time before their return to ready your answers and responses to them. Try to maintain a low tone, raising it over them will only increase the intensity of the conversation (and lead to a full-on argument).

And some helpful tips? Adapted from Connie Dieken’s Talk Less Say More

  • Give them options. Beneath their bluster, narcissistic people fear being left out of the loop. They crave control. It’s far better to offer them options to choose from, rather than feeding them ready-made decisions. They’ll tear other people’s decisions to shreds. Giving them options helps them feel respected and in control. It also prevents nasty hissy fits.
  • Focus on solutions, not problems. When you explain a problem or a challenge to a narcissist, direct their attention to the solution. Don’t allow them to dissect the problem over and over again. Narcissists love drama and revel in the chaos. They’re easily agitated when frustrated. Define problems and present possible solutions, so they don’t smell blood in the water and tear you apart.
  • Make them the hero. Narcissists are preoccupied with power and truly believe they are special and unique. They live for attention and admiration. Want them to do something? Tell them how great they are at it and watch them perform. Better yet, praise their performance in front of others. Just keep it real, please.
  • Let them think it’s their idea. Narcissists often steal the credit for ideas that aren’t theirs. Why do they do that? Strangely, they truly believe that hijacked results are their own. Grabbing credit is a driving force for them. If this gets things done, I say learn to live with it. Over time, everyone will catch on — wink, wink. Meantime, graciously transferring credit for ideas to them makes things happen.
  • Manage their emotional blind spot. Egomaniacs lack empathy. They’re so caught up in their own world that it doesn’t occur to them to consider your feelings or viewpoints. It’s a huge blind spot. You must put your own feelings on the table, if you choose to do so. Just be smart about sharing feelings with a narcissist. Brace yourself for the guilt trips and disparaging criticism that narcissists often dole out when others explain how they feel.

I am running a 5 part mini series ( 25-29 March 2013) on Narcissism. I am seeing more and more clients impacted by living with someone who suffers from NPD and the first step in the healing process is to learn as much as you can about this disorder.  I’ll print a list of helpful resources in Part 5.

  1. Narcissism – Symptoms                       
  2. Narcissism – Now What?
  3. Narcissist – Living with one
  4. Narcissist – Leaving one
  5. Narcissist – Healing from life with one            

Narcissism~Now What?

If you read my last post and find yourself wondering whether you are in a relationship with (or related to) someone suffering from (NPD) Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I have to start off by saying, ‘I’m so sorry.”

This is a tough situation. However, despite all the oncoming tumult, if you’ll allow yourself to open your eyes, move forward and come out the other side,  you can count on 3 things:

  1. You will survive
  2. You will need support.
  3. Time does heal.

WHY this fuss?

If you’ve connected the dots correctly, reading further will have you beginning to realize that your life will never be the same again. Your (formerly?) beloved husband / wife / partner / father / mother / sibling cannot simply “decide to get better.”  You are now the adult in charge. You will need to do all the research, clear thinking, decision-making, due-diligence, self-protection, possible exit planning and face all the consequences by yourself.

You will be alone. Worse than alone – you may be actively undermined.

WHAT are you telling me?

If indeed you are discovering that you are married to / living with / being parented by someone whose symptoms are highly correlated to NPD, and if they are pretty far along (because this is a spectrum disorder – the person you are worried about may have only a few of these traits, or they may be text-book classics) you will experience ~

  • Only They Matter

You are peripheral. The narcissist orbits his/her own sun. You matter only to the extent you have what the narcissist wants. Be honest – after spending how long with this person – do they know you, cherish you, love you, help you, care for you. Do you matter just because you are you?

  • Constant Tension

In an effort to avoid feeling the emptiness inside, a narcissist depends upon external factors for their inner life. There is no stable, predictable place. In any moment this person may spin from a hyper-inflated sense of brilliance after a moment of praise, to outrage and loathing after a perceived snub. While their modus operandi is “It’s all about me” in fact the narcissist lives in a frightening smoke and mirrors reality with a capricious Oz pulling the strings.

  • Ineffective Communication

To avoid feeling vulnerable, the narcissist will come out with guns blazing. Think a large two-year-old having a tantrum. They’re prone to attack, blame, criticize, banter rudely or accuse in public. This makes having genuine friends almost impossible.

  • Being Controlled

Understanding the narcissist is reliant on the external world for their internal reality, you’ll see why they need to control everything – timing, events, people, and finances. Any breach in the choreographed plan is devastating for the narcissist, who will employ any means to prevent it.

  • Lack of Responsibility

If you believe the world revolves around you (as a narcissist does) then common, shared morality is meaningless.  The narcissist typically suffers no guilt; can’t be shamed into behaving; they’ll see no point in accepting responsibility for anything that has gone badly. In fact, because the narcissist must see themselves as superior and blameless in all situations, this trait will possibly uncover a whole heap of lies.

  • Zero Empathy

Since his or her own emotions are too painful for the narcissist to experience, they are certainly not good at empathizing with others. While you may have been told that you need to attend to the narcissist’s feelings, you’ll not get any reciprocity here.  He/she is neither interested nor capable of attending to your emotional realm. This includes never having to say they are sorry.

  • Spontaneous Rages

Living with an ugly void where a healthy self should reside, the narcissist’s inner realm is a painful mess. This means they are highly unstable. A waiter, hotel clerk, teacher, you – might trigger a violent outburst totally disproportionate to the “issue” at hand.

  • Being Exploited

Remember #1 – Only They Matter? You’ll be used. You’re a finite resource that will be mined, polluted, depleted, and possibly destroyed. All your resources – your time, expertise, help, connections, income are up for grabs.

Thanks to Clinton Power for some of this ideas.

NOTE

I am running a 5 part mini series ( 25-29 March 2013) on Narcissism. I am seeing more and more clients impacted by living with someone who suffers from NPD and the first step in the healing process is to learn as much as you can about this disorder.  I’ll print a list of helpful resources in Part 5.

  1. Narcissism – Symptoms                                
  2. Narcissism – Now What?
  3. Narcissist – Living with one
  4. Narcissist – Leaving one
  5. Narcissist – Healing from life with one            

Narcissism~Symptoms

According to the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition), someone who suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) has at least 5 of the following characteristics:

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  • Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

The DSM IV goes on to note NPD often comes with the associated features of Depressed Mood (Dramatic or Erratic), and/or Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Developmentally we all move through two stages of appropriate and necessary narcissism – as toddlers and as teens – so versions of these are for the most part familiar, maybe common and even celebrated traits today as anyone who has read much about Steve Jobs might have noticed. As Albert J. Bernstein puts it “there may be narcissism without success, but there is no success without narcissism”

However, try to live with someone who has five or more of these traits and you’ll be in your own private hell. If you want a fuller picture for what this might look like, day-to-day, I encourage you to read this.

I am running a 5 part mini series ( 25-29 March 2013) on Narcissism. I am seeing more and more clients impacted by living with someone who suffers from NPD and the first step in the healing process is to learn as much as you can about this disorder.  I’ll print a list of helpful resources in Part 5.

  1. Narcissism – Symptoms                                
  2. Narcissism – Now What?
  3. Narcissist – Living with one
  4. Narcissist – Leaving one
  5. Narcissist – Healing from life with one