What do you grab on to, when all you know is gone?

 

Change and transformation.  Many people are fortunate enough not to be faced with having to change or transform themselves during their lifetime.  Most people who are fortunate in this way, don’t ask or have to ask those inner-world questions such as, “who am I separate from my parents?” “Do I believe [xyz] like my parents do?”  “Am I living for the approval/validation of my parents or society?”   Change is difficult but transformation is gut-wrenching.  You can change jobs, cars, houses, cities, spouses, lovers and friends, but transformation is about altering or creating a new self-identity.  I disliked the word transformation when used for counseling and coaching, because transformation is such a loaded word with so many expectations attached.  But, I do use it when there is no other word to describe a situation for someone having to build themselves again from the ground up because everything they’ve known has been removed or torn away.

Identity is like a house.  To build a strong or sturdy house, you need a foundation that supports it.  Guess who primarily laid that foundation?  Your parents or primary caregiver and to a lesser extent, society.  Who you are, who you believe yourself to be, are shaped by your family and environment.  Your parents, no matter how old you get, are still a foundation.  As a child, you relied on your parents for comfort, support, love, nurturing, feeding, shelter etc.  You may be an independent and self-sufficient adult,  but this subconscious feeling of relying on your parents doesn’t necessarily go away, until you have to grapple with the finality of the loss of your parents.

Identity, in this society is also shaped by work.  We live to work (sadly), so work is important.  It’s important because it provides a foundation for you as an adult in which you rely to take care of yourself. Providing for yourself allows you independence from your parents and an opportunity to create and provide for your own family.  However, we, through society have intertwined who we are (be-ing) with what we do (do-ing/job).  Don’t believe me?  A common question we ask children is “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We ask a college-aged person the same question in the form of, “What do you want to study?”  As you get further into adulthood, when you first meet someone, how long in the conversation until someone asks, “So, what do you do?”  I get it.  Knowing what someone does for a job may tell you a little, a lot or nothing about that individual.  It’s  the ‘I do” vs ‘I am (Be).’  For instance, I do counseling vs. I am a counselor, I practice law vs. I am a lawyer, I practice medicine vs. I am a doctor.  The job can be anything.  Mom, Dad, Welder, Writer, Plumber, Chef etc… We often identify ourselves by what we do.

But what happens when your foundations are removed?  How sturdy is a house without a foundation?

Tiger woods was recently arrested on a DUI and his mugshot plastered across every news outlet.  There seemed to be a certain amount of glee in the media.  Understanding someone else’s experience leads to compassion and empathy.  In 2010, it was reported that Woods entered an in-treatment facility regarding his behavior (multiple women).  Since that time, I have wondered if Woods would remain in competitive golf or give it up.  First let me state my disclaimer.  ***I don’t know Tiger Woods.  Period. Because I don’t know you, the reader personally,  your individual behaviors or family dynamics, I cannot use your personal experiences as examples to explain psychology, behavior and family insights to educate, so I identify people already in the public eye.  Although we’re all different, we all pretty much have similar family and life issues no matter how much money or fame you have.  Ok, end of disclaimer.***

Here’s why I wondered about Woods’ remaining in golf.   When someone enters into in-treatment rehab, the program usually consists of 4-5 weeks of intensive inner-work. The individual is invited to excavate and explore their inner world.  Part of that program, depending on the facility, focuses on what led to this behavior such as family history, family patterns and looking at and sharing past experiences that may or may not be trauma related.  So, when Tiger entered rehab he most likely looked at those aspects of self.  I figured it was only a matter of time that he would let go of competitive golf.

 

 

  1. He most likely looked at golf from various perspectives.  Perfection being one.  His dad was in the military, so there’s a certain amount of perfection that gets passed down to kids, even subconsciously.  I haven’t met an adult child raised in a military family that doesn’t have some sort of perfectionism, no matter the outward appearances, me included.  Golf is a game of perfection.  You compete, first with yourself then with others.  After so many divots, I didn’t have the patience for it.  Bye-bye golf.  Anyhoo, the amount of pressure that comes with sustaining perfection is unsustainable.  At some point, there is a breaking point.  Sustaining perfection for many years only leads to combustion.  Many people can cope with perfection, striving for perfection their whole life, but for the most part people get burned out and tired.  Or they find some unhealthy coping mechanism to blow off steam.  Perfectionism is also about what you tell yourself mentally, do you ruminate over and over about your bad decisions with regret, wanting to do it over, perfectly or the right way?  Otherwise, a mistake = failure.  This is the psychology of perfection and it eats away at your spirit.
  2. Tiger was introduced to golf at a young age by his father.  It was a shared experience with his father, something that they bonded over.  How many fathers bond with their sons through sports?  How many fathers want to bond with their sons through sports?  How many fathers don’t know what to do or how to bond when their sons don’t like sports? Lastly, how many sons who may or may not be athletically inclined want to bond with their father?   Umm..every son.  This is a form of enmeshment, where the needs/desires of the parent takes precedence over the child’s needs.  The parent who subconsciously lives through their child, covertly or overtly pushing their child to fulfill the parents’ unfilled passions, desires or dreams.   Example: pageant moms.  This is an extreme example, but this can be any dream, passion or family business such as lawyer, military, police, fireman, politician, etc etc…Now, I’m not saying that was the intention of Tiger’s father or any parent.  It could’ve been simply wanting to share his passion with his son, but the parent’s passion became the son’s.   It’s like wearing a coat of your parents and you make it fit, but after a while, as you grow up, the coat becomes a bit too tight realizing that the coat was never really ‘you’ to begin with.  Most, if not all kids will do what pleases their parent even if it’s not important to the parent.  This could be going into a certain line of work, study, marriage, or family business, based on your parent’s desire or to make your parent proud.
  3. Tiger Woods began golfing at the age of 3! He is now 41. He has trained for hours, daily for years on end. Golf was and has been his LIFE.  This is like a 40 year marriage.  Did Tiger go into this as a professional because he enjoyed it and excelled or were those by-products of choosing a profession that would make his father proud?  Did Tiger really enjoy playing competitive golf, or was it what he knew or was expected to do? There is no doubt that Tiger’s identity is and has been intertwined with golf and his father.  Golf has been, virtually his longest relationship.
  4. Tigers marriage also dissolved, yes, due to his own behavior.  That’s another loss.  I’m not making excuses for his behavior nor absolving his accountability.  Woods himself, has repeatedly owned up to his behavior throughout his process, at least in the public eye.

If any of the answers above were because it was expected, implied or would make his father proud, then golf was not his true choice and had a definite shelf life.  After the passing of his father, there was nothing really tethering him to golf.  It’s as if his body has been telling him, “I’m done with golf” but his mind said otherwise.  Golf has been a foundation in his life, something that he knew, was comfortable with, excelled at, relied upon, and enjoyed unlimited success, until he didn’t any longer.  Grief alone is a loss of foundation and extremely overwhelming to navigate.  No matter what your relationship with is/was with your mom/dad, the loss of your parent is the loss of a foundation.  Someone who nurtured you, supported you, loved you no matter what.

I understand the difficulty for people to have compassion and empathy for someone who has the financial means to give up a career and explore their next stage in life without the fear or worry about taking care of their needs. Most people, who lose their foundations, or just about everything, don’t have the luxury of financial freedom.  However, losing and building your self-identity is a struggle regardless because your self-identity isn’t linear, tangible, nor can you hold it in your hand like you can an object. Your self-Identity is fluid.

Without a foundation, or with your identity in flux, is like standing on a piece of flat wood in the middle of the ocean.  You’re alone, struggling to feel some sense stability and strength within yourself, and grasping at something that isn’t there to support you.  This seems to be what Tiger has been doing since 2010, trying to catch his footing but he’s been doing it by going back to the thing that he’s outgrown; golf.  Golf is no longer sustaining him, and he hasn’t yet ‘found’ what will.   Have you gone back to an old lover only to be reminded that, “Oh, yeah. That’s why we didn’t work out the first time.” Or, maybe you went back to an old job position or career because you don’t know how to change it, or you can’t see another, better possibility.   What about remaining in job or relationship in which the stress is literally making you sick? Would you find it easy to leave?  Would you find it easy to leave a 40 year marriage?  No one jumps from the fall of an identity directly to a new fully-formed identity (foundation).  It is a process that could take someone months or years to create.  The best anyone can do in times of major flux is to let go and work with the flow. There is no control in that, and that’s scary..for everyone.

Questions to ponder:

What makes up your identity?

If all you knew was gone, what would you reach for?  When there is uncontrollable change in your life, do you attempt to control it or go with the flow?  Have you ever gone back to something familiar knowing that it wasn’t the best decision for you, knowing that you’ve outgrown it?

 

**Lastly, there’s a caveat to this situation.  Woods clarified that it wasn’t alcohol but a mixing of prescribed pain medications. Unless he was just being honest, there’s an issue with this statement because it implies a justification of use and a DUI because they were prescribed medications.  For many people, the fact that the pills are prescribed means they cannot abuse them. It’s like a glorified drug-user. By no means, do I think or know if Woods’ has an issue with pills, but the statement would lean toward a future possibility.  I hope I’m wrong.

 

Entitlement – The Slow Erosion of Morality

Entitlement has been discussed when talking about younger generations, as in being entitled to something without working for it.  But entitlement entails much more, and just because you work hard doesn’t mean you’re any more or less entitled.   What happens when the highest office in America continues to behave entitled?  By most accounts I haven’t been phased by Trump’s behavior because it’s been expected, however, what concerns, appalls, and scares me is the lack of accountability or denouncement of his behavior or rhetoric by Congress or the Department of Justice.  Where is the integrity?  Should I be surprised? No.  Congress is happy to enable and co-sign this madness just so they can squeeze whatever reforms and laws into existence.  There is no better diversion than chaos.  There has been no checks and balances, until recently.  People may have continued their validation of electing Trump by stating that, “Well, it doesn’t really matter who the President is or what he does.”  But it does and it’s disheartening and appalling on so many levels.

This is Entitlement at its finest and clearest.  I’m not talking about entitlement to unalienable truths as stated in the Constitution, such as Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. This entitlement comes from a place of empowerment.  I am talking about entitlement that takes power from others, walks on, and abuses another for the gratification of your own desires and wants regardless of the impact to another.  Entitlement is self-serving, taking what you want, when you want and from whom you choose simply because you think, believe and feel you have a right to do so.  Like most behavior, Entitlement is learned and entitlement is not always connected to privilege.  A broke thief can steal your money just as easily as a wealthy thief, and a poor person can take your life just as easily as a wealthy person.   Entitlement crosses all demographics, genders, socio-economic levels, cultures, and colors etc.  We all feel entitled to some degree, some more than others.   `Entitlement is created and flourishes because there are no boundaries and no accountability.  When you are entitled, then you won’t know, care or respect boundaries.  Boundaries are meant to be crossed because they don’t really apply to you, at least that’s the belief of ‘being above it all,’  the hallmark of a narcissist.

Entitlement is learned and created.  For example, a parent buys their child a toy every time they go to the store.  The parent does this to silence the child so the parent can have a ‘smoother’ or quicker experience shopping.  Only thing is, the child has learned that when he/she goes to the store, he/she will get another toy.  The problem becomes when the parent sets a boundary, the child throws a tantrum and the parent, in a rush to calm the child, acquiesces to their child’s desires. The child knows what he/she needs to do to get what they want.  Fast forward to teenage years, and let’s say the teen wants a car but not any car will do.  The parent wanting to please their child (for whatever reason, validation, outside image etc) buys their teen a muscle car, BMW or Mercedes.  This isn’t a problem within itself, unless the message that the teen gets is that “I can get/have anything I want” and also where does the teen go next?  What is the next level of satisfaction?  This is how entitlement is learned.  Entitlement can also be created even if you didn’t have experiences as a child.  Celebrities, politicians, athletes, lawyers etc can become entitled based on their position, performance and power within society.  These individuals may have worked extremely hard to attain their success and status.  This hard work can also be justification for their entitlement as in, “I deserve xyz because I’ve sacrificed so much or worked so hard.”  The problem with this statement suggests that anyone else with less financial success and status doesn’t work hard.   Also, no one can deny that certain doors and experiences open up to these individuals and over time they become used to preferential treatment and begin to expect it, regardless of their behavior or status.  For example, an individual that gets probation for a crime (theft, assault, drug use) that others would be imprisoned for.   For entitlement to flourish, it must be enabled. Congress is enabling. DOJ is enabling. Citizens are enabling.  Enabling says, “It’s ok. You keep behaving this way, and I’ll keep making excuses and defending you and your behavior.  Business as usual’

Why is entitlement so important?  A lack of boundaries, limits and being held accountable tells the Entitled that they literally can do anything and get away with it, that they are untouchable and above the law.  Entitlement means that nothing is ever enough and can set someone up to be a never-satisfied pit of wanting, having and taking. Without accountability, entitlement slowly erodes your moral compass and values. Entitlement doesn’t have integrity.  We can see this now, more in our country and society.

Here’s the trickle down effect of entitlement from a mass psychology perspective.

When the highest office in the USA employs a man who is entitled, it reverberates through all of society.  Trump stated before being elected: “when you’re a star [women] they let you do it, you can do anything … grab them by the pu$$y,” and “I could shoot somebody and not lose voters.’  He told us just how entitled he was and felt.  As it has trickled down, you can see the entitlement in the people and industries that are important to or at a minimum represent the president and his congress.  Businesses such as the Airlines injuring and dragging passengers off the plane; law enforcement harassing, arresting and killing individuals just because with little to no accountability; public servants (government officials) assaulting reporters and hate crimes being lobbed across the country.  Just today, a man who harassed two women on a train in Portland with ‘go back to your country,’ stabbed and killed two men that intervened.  This man felt entitled to harass these women and take the lives of two people in the process.  Click here  There is no empathy, shame or remorse in any of these behaviors which is the height of entitlement.

What is appalling and disheartening about all of this, is that there is no accountability. Not from Congress who is supposed to be the checks and balances. There is no denouncing of any of this behavior and especially these awful hate crimes from the highest office in the land.  There is no denouncing from the Department of Justice.  When will it be enough for the presidency, his administration and congress to denounce these behaviors and say and mean “Enough is enough, this is not who we are as a people, as a nation.”?

This entitlement needs to stop for the health and well-being of this country or this cancer will continue to spread throughout our  society.   This entitlement needs to stop lest we all become morally bankrupt in the process.

 

 

 

 

 

The Gift of Grief

In our society, you are revered when you ‘don’t let your emotions get the best of you.”  Grief is rarely talked about openly and is considered taboo. The average bereavement time a person receives after the loss of a family member is around 3 days and that might be generous. Three days is just enough time to attend the funeral/memorial services but not enough to mourn, yet we are expected to return to our jobs and lives without missing a beat and be fully functional. The loss of a family member is a devastating experience that alters a person for the remainder of their lives.  Grief can encompass many losses in your life such as divorce, loss of a job, house or a stage of life.   Even with good changes, there is still a feeling of sadness and loss of what was.  Grief is relative.  Some people say that divorce is like a death, and it is in the aspect that your hopes and expectations die, such as of growing old with your partner and being a support to one another.  However, with the change and death of a relationship, you still have a choice on how you want your Ex to be a part of your life going forward. When you lose a family member to actual death, you have no choice.  You have no choice on burying the hatchet in the future, sharing time or a conversation with each other, or co-parenting.  These are all choices that you still have, whether you choose to exercise them or not.

We don’t talk about grief, unless it comes in the form of a divorce or loss of a job, things we know we can replace.  Your grief will unknowingly make people uncomfortable.  It’s easier for people to digest the loss of a job, house or relationship because they often come with inspirational sayings such as, ‘when one door closes another one opens,’ or ‘you’ll get a better job, there’s someone better suited for you out there’ and on and on.  But, when you lose someone to death, the people around you won’t know what to say or what to do, some may even disappear from your life.  As you attempt to step outside of your grief for a brief moment and into your old routine seeking some normalcy or respite from your new reality, people may wonder ‘how can they do (that),’ ‘why aren’t they at home grieving,’ ‘there’s no way I could do that?’  This will  have little to do with you, and more to do with the person’s difficulty and inability in dealing with the enormity of the situation and sometimes their own emotions. The secondary experience of grief may feel too intimate, too real for someone in your orbit.  I don’t necessarily think this is a fault, it is just a response, some people just can’t be present to another person’s pain or because they can’t take your pain away and fix it.  Grief can make the people around you take stock in their own lives, questioning what is real and worthy in their own lives and this is uncomfortable for most everyone regardless of the circumstances that precipitated it.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross has identified the 5 stages of grief, but know there is no right or wrong way to grieve there is only your way. The stages of grief are fluid.  You might stay in one stage much longer than other stages, you may go back and forth between the stages and right when you think and feel you’re at the tail end to acceptance, you might circle right back to the beginning stage during your grief. Because of this, grief can feel like it’s The Never-ending Story or Groundhog Day the movie only not a fantasy nor funny. Grief isn’t linear and if you think it is, you are being a disservice to yourself and others.

 


One thing for sure is that grief will change you in some may. One never really heals from the loss, instead you accept the circumstance.  To ‘heal’ would suggest that you are the same as before the loss, that you will never feel the pain or think of the loss.  You may be able to organize the loss in such a way that it ‘makes sense’ to you, but you can’t really go back to who you were prior to losing someone close to you.  The term, “Time Heals All Wounds’ really isn’t true.  What Time gives you is the opportunity to accept the reality of the loss and get comfortable with not seeing, hearing, speaking to or sharing milestones with your loved one.

The loss of a loved one can set the stage for self-examination and can be an opportunity to re-evaluate what is important to you.  What you value may become crystal clear to you and others.  This is the biggest gift because the loss may propel you to live as authentic and honest as you want. Forget about living via the constructed expectations of society, family, friends, or self.

Loss will change you, even when you think it hasn’t.  The experience of losing someone you love is traumatic and therefore will alter you in some way. You will be changed regardless of how much you want to be yourself prior to the loss. Loss is experienced viscerally in the depths of your nervous system. The bigger the shock the bigger the trauma. Put it in simpler terms, shock gets experienced by your body (nervous system) and becomes registered in your long-term memory. Once an overwhelming experience becomes locked in your long-term memory, you register it as trauma. Because this trauma is recorded in the limbic system, your behavior may change based on subconscious experience.  For instance, abandonment and trust issues may be amplified.  Such as, ‘I don’t (subconsciously) trust you to be here for me, you will leave me, I can’t rely on you.’  Have compassion for yourself.

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The loss of a family member is devastating, even when a loved one has lived a long life. To lose a parent is tantamount to losing the foundation beneath you. You are having to grapple with the loss of your life-long and unconditional support/love and not being ‘taken care of’ any longer even though you’ve been self-sustaining for years and also have your own family. To lose a child, well, I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.  To lose a sibling is like losing your childhood, your camaraderie.

For myself, the loss of my brother in my teens changed me and family. It is no wonder that I became fascinated with psychology with ‘what makes people tick’ and spirituality with ‘what does all of this mean?’ in a search to answer my own internal questions.  Since the loss, what I value most is Time, family and real, honest conversations.  I value the time that I have and others take to spend together, however mundane.  I also value deeper conversations with others, so I have little interest in the superfluous conversations.  Money, things, jobs I can always replace, but I can never get back Time to spend with my brother.

Activity:

What or whom have you lost?

What do you value most now?

 

Know that:

You will laugh again, for real.

You will feel joy again.

Your life may change to exemplify what is truly important to you.

Your empathy may increase.

Remember to:  Be patient with yourself. To love yourself. To have compassion for yourself.

 

Sorry, It Never Gets Better with a Narcissist

narcissism2

Have you had the opportunity to experience being in a relationship with a narcissist/sociopath?  I’ve wanted to put out a PSA about it months ago.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to be in a personal one-on-one relationship, you are now.  You’re in a relationship with a narcissist/sociopath, yep and it’s the current POTUS.  Personally, I think many politicians are narcissists/sociopath because they’re just out for themselves, but this POTUS is such a classic textbook narcissist/sociopath that my therapist friends and I watched his campaign with bulging eye sockets, saying, “Can you believe this sh!t?!”   This real life living textbook example of what a narcissist/sociopath is a dream come true for the psychology instructor.

I don’t want to see the POTUS fail, yet in all honesty I am having difficulty with compassion considering there isn’t any compassion being displayed from him, his Fright Night cabinet or Congress. Some people aren’t aware of such behavior so they may not be able to see it, instead thinking that this is just for show. Some people are in denial and make excuses for his behavior, and still others are ‘comfortable’ with narcissistic behavior and don’t care.  But, anyone that has been in any kind of relationship or familiarity with a narcissist/sociopath knows that it never gets better.  It’s been less than 2 weeks and already it looks like a Comedy of Errors, only it’s not funny.  I wouldn’t be surprised if POTUS, his cabinet and Congress sought ways to limit the free press, access to it or instill the slow decimation of our constitutional rights. Watch, it will happen. For the people who think you’re safe, you’re not.  A narcissist/sociopath will turn on you and discard you just as soon as you are no longer needed for his plans.

Here’s what you can look froward to being in a personal relationship with a Narcissist/Sociopath. Red lettering are broad examples via the current POTUS.

In the beginning of the relationship (Campaign) you can look forward to:

  • Being swept off your feet through gestures of buying material objects, gifts, and trips.
  • Image is EVERYTHING to them and your image matters too. Makes a great impression in the beginning.  Needs the best of everything and extremely status/fame (recognition/adoration) oriented.  Loves adoration. Ever seen him or his family in a pair of sweats, with messed up hair walking on the streets of New York?
  • Being told exactly what you want to hear. Building a wall, Muslim Ban.
  • Moving fast (emotional or sexual intimacy) into a relationship, using terms such as WE and US.

In the middle of the relationship (now) you can look forward to:

  • Emotional distance perpetuated through physical distance such as
  • Working (a-holic), substance abuse, anywhere but with you.
  • Lack of Empathy for you and others.  This one is the most important. All other behavior stems from lack of empathy.  Throw in sociopathy and you have a lack of guilt.  Sound fun?  It’s interesting that people believe that this POTUS understands the average working man’s/woman’s plight.  Just because someone can identify someone’s vulnerability and use it for their own gain doesn’t translate into empathy.
  • Consistent criticisms, verbal abuse, anger outbursts, intimidation tactics escalating to possible physical abuse.  Angry Verbal attacks via twitter, attempted lawsuits.
  • Manipulations and lies even when faced with the facts and truth. You will hear bullshit more times than not. Inauguration photos. Making up numbers and information such as voter fraud, increase in crime, unemployment rates etc.  There will be much more.
  • Blatant disregard of and crossing of your boundaries.  Signing of defunding of Planned Parenthood after millions of women (men and children) marched around the world.
  • A sense of entitlement that is insatiable.  Multiple Executive orders WITHOUT going through the proper judicial channels.
  • Inability to physically or emotionally be present in times of crises, or when you need/want support such as having a baby, loss of family member, accident requiring hospital stay/assistance etc.  Repeal of ACA (Obamacare)Let’s see what happens when we have a natural disaster.
  • You’ll be blamed, shamed, and made wrong for their actions and behaviors. Blaming the media for calling out the lies and ‘alternative facts.’  This is the time in which you will begin to question yourself, and depending how healthy your sense of self is, you will feel crazy because you will feel like you entered the twilight zone. Seriously.  You try but just can’t make sense of his behavior. You will feel crazy and wonder if it’s you, but in order to appease the narcissist/sociopath and stay in the relationship you must buy into whatever alternate reality they spew. This will create anxiety and depression for you.
  • Inability to take accountability for actions and behaviors, hence you will rarely, if at all hear an apology UNLESS it has to do with something they want. The apology won’t be about you at all.  No apology has been stated.  Others take it as a positive as if being a maverick against political correctness. It’s not.
  • Constant effort to reassure your partner (no matter what you do, it will never be enough). You have to feed, coddle and burp a grown man!?  No thanks.  In POTUS’ administration, we can see and hear it by Spicer’s and Conway’s comments with the media. They spew alternative facts, otherwise they’d be fired. 
  • Consistent fighting, depending on if you set boundaries (use your voice) or just say yes to appease no matter what the cost is to you.  Marching is setting a boundary.
  • You will be objectified, they value by what they have and accumulate. The best of everything. You will have an undercurrent feeling of needing to be perfect (physically, intellectually, professionally, Status related) at all times. Again, no matter what you do, how great you look, how intelligent, or how successful you are, it will not be enough because the narcissist is always on the lookout for someone/something better. His Wives (previous models). Which brings us to
  • Affairs.  At some point, they will look and find someone else. They will have multiple affairs or long-term affairs.  Yes, and has been repeatedly accused of harassment by multiple women. 
  • Inability to maintain long-term relationships.  Multiple marriages.

Near the ‘end’ of the relationship you can look forward to:

  • Living separate lives under the same roof. This is done for self-protection, a boundary within the relationship.  If you choose to stay in the relationship long-term, this is how it will most likely be. Remember the media reported that his current wife wanted to stay in New York?. My therapist friends and I were like, “There it is!” Classic textbook. I feel for Melania, she was almost free.

dont-feed-the-narcissists

So, How do you deal with a narcissist/sociopath?  There are only few options.

  1. With Kid Gloves, if you want to have some sort of relationship. Just know that the relationship will be one-sided and not in your favor.  Kid gloves = saying Yes to most everything regardless if your boundary, values or morals have been crossed.
  2. Don’t give them adoration.  Shut them out. It will drive them nuts. They will either rage or do a 180 for a time to regain the adoration.
  3. Leave.  Get out ASAP.   The healthier you are, the less likely you will tolerate being treated in such a way.  The narcissist/sociopath will often prey upon empathic or vulnerable people and will often create an environment in which their partner is financially dependent upon them. This way, they have control.  Therefore, some partners find themselves financially and psychologically trapped within the relationship.

A relationship with a narcissist/sociopath will deplete you emotionally, physically and possibly financially because they will slowly and methodically tear you down by criticizing  everything you do, everything you are until you yourself begin to feel hated and resemble just a shell of what you were.

*Note: For the national scale, what will be needed is consistent and firm boundaries (Marches/Protests) by the people of this nation.

If you choose to leave the relationship (set a boundary) before your narcissist/sociopath partner wants:

  • Be prepared for revenge tactics such as increasing financial hardship by stalling divorce proceedings thereby increasing the amount of money it takes for the divorce to become final, your partner seeking to take something of value away from you (your reputation, custody of the kids, money, house, child and spousal support, pets, tarnishing your relationship with your children by blaming you for the demise of the relationship, or using manipulation of money, material objects to sway your kid’s affection etc.).  Nice huh?

How do you know when you’re dealing with a Narcissist/Sociopath?

  • Set a Boundary and most likely you will see this person go into a rage competing with the best tantrums of the most experienced 3-4 year old.  Child.  In healthy relationships, you should be able to openly communicate with your partner. A narcissist/sociopath will see a boundary as a personal attack against them and turn the tables by attacking and blaming you. It’s their way or the highway because they don’t really care about you.  Sounds harsh, yes, but true.
  • Express a need or share with your narcissist/sociopath how their behavior affected you.  You will again, most likely get a wrath of words, anger and rage rained down upon you. See above.

Some people think that a narcissist can change.  There can be change with consistent long-term therapy.  However, I would say the change that will be seen will be fairly small. A baby takes bigger steps.  Without the empathy muscle, change is minimal.  I know I sound harsh maybe even gloomy, but this is reality when you’re dealing with a personality disorder and times2.   For the people refusing to see that this behavior is not ok because you think you’re safe, well, you’re not.  It NEVER gets better with a narcissist/sociopath.  It may appear so in the beginning, but underneath the smoke and mirrors is the truth.

“Don’t Believe the Hype.”

The Avoidant Relational Style

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Ahhh..the avoidant relational style. This is the opposite extreme of the Anxious.  The Anxious style needs to be close and needs to be in relationship.  The Avoidant is, well, opposite.  The avoidant pushes away, looks away.  This relational style is relatively easy to identify simply because Avoidant’s don’t do emotions and feelings very well, their own or another’s.

Attachment theory suggests toddlers/children who show no preference for who provides nurturing are avoidant relational style. When the parents left the room, the child did not become distressed, instead, the child simply noticed his parents weren’t there and went back to what he was doing. Furthermore, the child had no preference and was able to be consoled by ‘anyone.’

There are two rules of thought of what may contribute to the Avoidant relational style.  Some children may enjoy playing alone and some children adapt to playing alone.  For a child to find themselves playing often alone, makes me wonder.  I wonder does the child have anyone else to play with, and I wonder how engaged are the parents? Are the parents reading and spending time with their child or are they making their child take care of his/her own emotional/play needs?  Were ‘I Love you’s,’  hugs, physical comforting expressed consistently and freely, or were they sparse?  A consistent lack in these areas can contribute to a child’s avoidant style.

Because adult Avoidant’s don’t do well with emotions, as a child, he may have had to suppress his emotions or have had to be responsible at a young age. For example, a child that has been beaten and abused may not have had the protection and comforting of another family member. So, how did the child take care of his emotions?  Who did she go to for comfort if there was no-one to go to? How does a child survive and adapt to such a situation? He finds solace within his own company and stuff’s/shut’s off his emotions.  To adapt further, he performs. Performs by doing anything and everything that would prevent him from being beaten again, such as becoming the perfect child. Another example would be the child has taken on responsibility at a young age, becoming her parent’s confidant or surrogate spouse.  Maybe she has had to protect her dad from her mother’s verbal abuse and console her dad, becoming a surrogate spouse to her father, filling the emotional void vacated by her father’s wife (her mother).  This experience is a lot of responsibility for a child.

How does the above translate to adult Avoidant relational style?  Avoidant’s push away, look away in relationship, they enjoy their time alone, control or controlling behavior may be an issue, they may take more time alone or withdraw when feeling overwhelmed, preferring to take care of themselves rather than reach out, so trust and trusting others is also an issue.  They may often prefer time alone, rather than be with other people, which can include family.  What is interesting about this relational style, is Avoidant’s often don’t present as avoidant in the early stages of relationship. Avoidant’s can start out strong in the beginning of a relationship because of the newness and excitement. He/she will want to be with you, call you, make all the time for you.  The avoidant may present and appear as Anxious style, wanting to spend a lot of time with you, courting you, while you’re thinking, “This is great! She’s open, present, and emotionally available.”  However, once the newness and masks fall off, the avoidant is left with the realness of their partner and the beginnings of intimacy which equal to ‘your demands and the demands of the relationship.’   This is uncomfortable because connection (relationship) requires the Avoidant to be present, open and engaged with her partner.

Avoidants often become uncomfortable with emotions, so if you’re dealing with a situation that is emotional (positive or negative) for you, such as a loss of family member, loss/change of job, birth of a child etc, he will most likely have difficulty offering emotional support because he doesn’t know how to deal with his own emotions.   Some avoidants just don’t know what to do and other avoidants don’t have much empathy. As such, emotional situations can be a catalyst for the avoidant to check out of the relationship.

The avoidant will subtly create some distance between himself and his partner.  Distance often looks like using work, alcohol, drugs, spending more time with friends, having multiple partners (affairs), getting lost in tv/phone/games- anything that will take him away from the relationship. Intimacy becomes a threat to the avoidant.  The avoidant would be perfectly happy living under the same roof with his partner, yet living separately, that way he still feels secure WITHOUT having to be present emotionally or providing emotional support for his partner.  Needless to say, his partner will often feel lonely within the relationship unless he’s paired up with another avoidant.  That could be bliss, a meeting of the minds and practicality.

The homework for the avoidant: To engage, or re-engage in relationship on a consistent basis without becoming overwhelmed. Meaning, you re-engage to the point right before you feel overwhelmed (you want to push away) then you take a break (disengage) but come back into the relationship.    This can be done through communication (with eye contact) or physical touch such as hand holding, cuddling, or hugs.

 

FYI: If you think just because someone habitually posts stuff on Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter doesn’t make them not Avoidant, think again.  Many individuals find solace in displaying their lives on social media, yet struggle with connecting in real life.

As always, I hope this helps.

Is doing the right thing, the right thing to do?

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Is doing the right thing always the right thing to do? I don’t know.   Looking for images on google tells me that the only way is, to do the right thing and any other way is wrong.  You’re either blessed or compensated for doing the right thing or you’re demonized for doing the wrong thing.  Hence the image above.  But, is not doing the right thing, doing the wrong thing?  Clearly, I’ve been thinking about this lately as well as some of my clients.  Maybe I’ve been thinking about this now that I’m in my 40’s taking a panoramic view of my life, because apparently my view wasn’t wide enough a few years ago.  You’re right, I’m not too happy about this.

I’m sure you’ve come across someone who has done all the right things, yet has had ‘bad things’ happen to them, and someone who didn’t do the right thing, has had something great happen.  For example, someone who has done the right thing by taking great care of themselves such as eating organic, exercising, taking their vitamins, and meditating still ends up getting some type of cancer.  Meanwhile, the couch-potato that eats all kinds of fast food chasing it with a diet coke and a cigarette ends up cancer (and diabetes) free.  The person who did the right thing was left wondering, ‘how,’ and ‘why me?’ feeling somewhat betrayed, regretful and resentful. But at whom?  Betrayed by their body and the Universe. Regretful that they spent so much time doing what they did to be healthy. Resentful toward their body, society, the Universe and themselves for drinking the kool-aid.?

Does adhering to the rules or doing the right thing contribute to restrictive thinking?  Thinking that there is only ‘this way.’  Does always doing the right thing keep you from seeing the panoramic view?  Is there fear around not doing the right thing, that something bad will happen or a feeling of having failed at something. What if doing the right thing has no bearing on your payoff or what you will get out of it. Will you get satisfaction knowing you do the right thing? Will you have peace? Or, will you have regret?

Ex. 1  What about leaving your marriage partner for someone else you fell in love with. Right/not right? What if the panoramic view was that the partner who left the marriage was happily remarried in a long-term ’til death-do-us-part relationship.

Ex. 2  What if you wanted children for many years but the circumstance(s) didn’t present itself and you’ve written the possibility off.  You had an affair or one night stand with someone and became pregnant and had the baby (out-of-wedlock).  Right thing to do or not the right thing?  What if the panoramic view was: the child, regardless of how she was conceived was deeply loved, fulfilling a long-term wish of her mother, as well the child grows up to invent a cure for a deadly disease.  Is it still not the right thing to have done?

Ex. 3  What if you’re financially holding on by your fingernails and instead of paying your bills, you file for bankruptcy or foreclosure?  Right thing/Not right?  What if the panoramic view was to let go to make room to make much more money than you could conceive, doing what you enjoy.   Holding on kept you seeing what is and prevented you from seeing what can be.

This is life and walking the spiritual path isn’t so cut and dry regardless of what guidelines and rules that each philosophy suggests to follow whether it’s the 10 commandments, New Age thought or the Right Action of Buddhism.  It’s very easy, especially from afar to look at a situation and say what is right or what is wrong.  But, does not doing the right thing make it wrong?  It can make it painful (all examples have pain for all involved) but does it make it not the right thing to do?

 

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I’m not quite sure about this……

 

Do you do the right thing but end up at a crossroads in your life wondering why? Have you ever felt that your life was restricted because you were following the straight and narrow path?   Do you follow or not follow your heart because you think it’s the right thing to do?  What if you don’t get the payoff for doing the right thing? What if you do get the payoff you wanted by not doing the right thing?  Like life, the answer is convoluted and messy. In the end, it really depends on you and what is right for you, in any situation, regardless of what others, your culture or society says. I know this is easier said than done. In some cultures, you may not have a say, and in other cultures, where you have a say, it may be equally difficult to follow a different path.

I don’t know what the answer is. For me, I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes Not doing the right thing, is doing the right thing. The right thing for you, may not be the right thing for me.  Only you can answer what is the right thing for you to do for your life, no one else can answer that for you.

I can tell you one thing for sure, I’m kinda over needing to upgrade my panoramic view.

Questions for you:

Is doing the right thing synonymous with integrity and congruence?  Do you think it is possible to live 100% in integrity 100% of the time?  If so, how does Life happen for you?  Who are you doing the right thing for? You? Your family? Society? Your image? Your pride?  Do you ever feel doing the right thing just isn’t sitting too well with you, so there’s incongruence within you, internal strife?  If you do the right thing, even though it’s not working or it doesn’t feel right, do you continue to do the right thing?

Have a great Weekend!

 

Attachment Theory Explained through the Senses- Part 2

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Attachment theory is based on the connection between parent and child. How we connect to our parents can impact how we connect as adults to partner’s as well as impact our long term health and well-being. Part 1 discussed the importance of eye contact and touch in development.  Here’s part 2.

Voice (Tone/language).

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Often when we speak to our baby (babies), we often use a rhythmic or melodic tone.  This also builds a comforting connection with your baby because it is soothing. Tone is important obviously, because tone can also be rage filled, angry, or aggressive etc and your child’s nervous system will pick up on that too as it is stress inducing.

Language-

Reading to your baby/child has been the foundation for early childhood education.  Every teacher knows that reading and engaging your child in conversation helps to engage your child’s brain, creating more neural networks (brain pathways). In doing so, it increases your child’s learning ability.  There have been studies regarding the differences in learning abilities of children from affluent environments and less affluent environments, with children from affluent environments flourishing in school while children from the less affluent environments have difficulties excelling.  How does this happen?  There are various layered reasons or contributing factors as to why children from more affluent environments have been found to have greater learning abilities, but I’m only going to address one aspect contributing to this issue: Stress.  Stress impacts your connection with your child.  Stress impacts every connection in your life, period.

Here’s how stress can impact the child’s learning abilities.  A parent(s) from a lower socio-economic situation is concerned with the basic survival of their family.  In addition to raising their child and worrying about their well-being, parents from a lower socioeconomic background have the stress of making/finding enough money to pay the bills and put food on the table etc.  Single parents can go in this category too.  The more stressed you are, the more limited you get in your thinking.  Meaning, you don’t have the time, space or the luxury to contemplate the meaning of (your) life.  This can carry over unknowingly in how a parent interacts and engages with their child.  One’s scope gets smaller under stress and that can include language. The parent may be focused on “don’t do that, you can’t do that, stop it, be quiet etc.”   If this is the most of the conversation you have with your child, then your child’s vocabulary will reflect that, limited vocabulary.  Lack of engagement also impacts the brain’s development where the brain becomes pruned in that area (no new brain networks are created), limiting their learning abilities as they grow older.  Expand your child’s language through conversation and reading and you expand their ability to learn. With each conversation, you’re  helping your child create new brain neural connections and pathways.  From an attachment perspective, when you’re reading and engaging with your child, you’re also being present with them, connecting with them.  This is something that you can do and change right now, in your own home.  Teachers can only do so much.

Which brings us to Energy.  This isn’t one of the 5 tangible senses but it’s important because it’s about being present, energetically present to your baby/child. I know it’s impossible to be 100% present 100% of the time, but in the field of attachment (connection) we’re concerned more with consistency and quality.   Many adults will often say, “My child is too young to realize what’s going on.”  Ummmm…yes they do.  Children/babies soak up their environment and their experiences through their senses and nervous system (body memory).

A parent can be physically present but not energetically/emotionally present and various behaviors can contribute to a sense of disconnect, such as depression, addiction (including workaholic), substance abuse, video games etc.   This can translate into a parent being physically present yet emotionally/energetically distant and unavailable.  Some of you reading can relate personally to this, or some of you can relate by the men/women you attract into your life.  If you’re still negating the energy aspect of this:  Think of a time you spoke to someone, a family member, partner, spouse or co-worker. As you spoke, they bobbed their head to acknowledge they were listening, however, you could feel or sense that they weren’t really listening to you. They were physically present, but not energetically present to you and you felt a disconnect in that moment.   It’s the same for a baby/child.

Lastly, smell.   Babies can identify you and connect through their sense of smell. Having a blankie with your smell on it as they go off to childcare will keep your baby connected to you through smell.

In the theory of attachment, connection is the name of the game.  Connection = Better Health.

Attachment Theory Explained Through the Senses- Part 1

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I’ve been interested in attachment theory since I studied the theory during my master’s program. I look at the world through the eyes of attachment (connection),  how that connection can be altered or disrupted,  how does connection or lack there of affect a child’s development (and adult) and how can it help us heal.  I know, it sounds like I’m in a proverbial existential crisis.  For me, attachment is actually the science of spirituality of all things being connected. So, let’s get started.

Attachment theory was created by John Bowlby and further studied with Mary Ainsworth. Attachment theory is basically the study between parent and infant/child. The way I interpret this is: it’s a theory based on connection.  And how we connect with infants and children is through the senses.  We feel life, we feel through life.  We are all experiential beings, and kids more so simply because their brains aren’t developed to organize or make reason from their experiences like you can.  For this video, I explain the theory of attachment through the senses of eye contact and touch.

Eye contact is beneficial in creating and maintaining a bond with your child. When you look into your infant’s/child’s eyes and they look at you, a wonderful thing happens. You release a chemical called oxytocin which is the feel good, ‘Im in love’ chemical.  That’s why new moms will often say, “I’m so in love with my baby!” And its true. You are.  This feeling is also great because if you’re feeling so good, so in love then you’re more likely to continue caring, bonding and connecting with your baby/child. This is necessary for your baby’s survival.

The area of the eyes is important because this is also how your baby can develop mirror neurons by teaching through your facial expressions and emotions.  Facial expressions allow your face to come alive and show emotion and we connect through mirror neurons.  When your face expresses sadness, anger, frustration, joy, love, guilt etc, you’re teaching your baby to attune to you which in turn your baby/child will attune to others. This helps in emotional development, emotional recognition (emotional intelligence) and empathy. When this area around the eyes and forehead are in a state of freeze (expressionless) through brow lifts and botox, this can disrupt the emotional development of your baby because you aren’t mirroring those emotions via your face making it more difficult for your baby/child to fully develop the part of the brain that identifies and expresses emotions.  As adults, we can see and know (cognitively) that we are connecting with another regardless if they have had a brow lift or botox.  A baby’s/child’s brain isn’t nearly developed as adults.  They can’t make sense of it and the child may feel a ‘lack’ of connection to their parent because they have difficulty ‘reading’ the parents face.  I have wondered about the long-term impact on children as they grow up – will this stunt their ability to attune to another, to have empathy for another and to identify and express their own emotions.  Also, what is the impact on their relationships as adults?

The second sense is touch.  Healthy touch is imperative for the development of children on all spheres: mentally, emotionally, physically.   There is a school of thought of letting your baby cry themselves to sleep-on a regular basis.  In the theory of attachment, that would be a basic no-no if done on a consistent basis. The reason?  When your baby/child is crying they’re usually in a state of distress and when they’re in a state of distress, their little bodies are flooded with cortisol, the stress hormone.  If the parent doesn’t come to the baby’s rescue or protection to provide nurturing or consoling, then the baby can get the message that:

  1. She/he cannot fully rely on you when upset and distressed (stressed)
  2. The baby/child will have to learn to take care of their own distress and emotions the best way they can. And the only way a baby can take care of her/his own feelings is to fall asleep.

Another aspect is, if your baby/child becomes flooded with stress (cortisol) on a consistent basis with little/no nurturing/consoling, then it can set up your child to turn to other ways of soothing their distress (emotions, stress) as they get older which may impact their emotional, physical and mental well-being.

As always, I hope you learned something new or different.

Remember, if you don’t have kids,  you were one.