Sorry, It Never Gets Better with a Narcissist

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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.

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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 ‘Secret’ to a long lasting relationship

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Here’s the secret to a long lasting relationship.

  1. Love
  2. Co-dependency
  3. Acceptance

I know there are many articles about what makes a long-lasting or a more intimate relationship.  I could go into the ‘need’ for intimacy building, communication, having things in common, being on the same page with external aspects such as disciplining and raising your children, money matters, or sex etc, but I’m not.   I could also go into the attachment theory and write how attachment styles (secure, avoidant, anxious, disorganized) contributes to relationship dynamics and how one partner can do XYZ to calm her partner or support his partner.  But I’m not going to, because they don’t matter. That’s right, they don’t matter.   Blasphemy in the therapy world.  Instead, I’m taking a very bare bones realistic view at what it ‘takes’ to make a relationship long-lasting, and by long-lasting I’m talking about ’til death do us part.  I am sharing with you from my own experience in working with couples directly and indirectly as well as personally observing others that are still together after decades.

First, let’s look at a couple of fundamental truths:

Everybody has a deep unexplained fear of being abandoned, rejected or left by someone they love or by someone they’ve invested in emotionally.  And I do mean Errbody.   It’s a very human element to want to be accepted, loved and adored by others, especially someone you’re interested in. If you don’t believe me, think about a time when you didn’t say how you really felt or what you really thought because you wanted to be accepted.

Many, most, all of us have a pervasive thought or belief that we picked from some experience(s) that say a) I don’t matter or b) I’m not lovable as I am, which leads to all sorts of interesting behavior.  I know some may say that confident people don’t have a belief like this, I beg to differ.  Some people are more adept in masking and marketing themselves than others.

These two fundamental truths will lead you in attempting to cover up and put on a certain face, but that face begins to exhibit cracks around the 3-6 month mark in relationship and the face all but gets dismantled by the 1 1/2 year mark when you REALLY see each other in all of your wonderful, beautiful, ugly and chaotic glory.  Everyone does this too.  Errbody.

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We can study and do clinical trials of techniques to help relationships, but do they really work? Yes, of course, when both partners are invested in the relationship, couples counseling is great for helping during tough periods in your relationship.   But, behavior doesn’t change overnight, and most likely, you and your partner will revert back to the same or similar behavior (i.e. communication, intimacy patterns) at some point in your relationship.   In my realistic view, here are the qualities to a long-lasting relationship.

  1. LOVE.  Love is such a wonderful feeling that when you fall in love you’re literally high off feel good chemicals that flood your brain (Central Nervous System).  You feel good all the time, excited and walking on clouds.  This high begins to calm down around the 6th month mark, where you’re still excited but less likely to leave work early to see your partner.  Love is like Elmer’s Glue, but unlike Captain and Tenille’s song, Love doesn’t keep you together.  Love can bind people, make you want to pair up, but love is also so fragile that it can dissipate as quickly as it was created.
  2. Co-DEPENDENCY.  You might be thinking WTF???  Yep. I said it.  First, let me say that I’ve worked in the field of addiction, and at most if not all treatment centers you’re basically taught as a counselor and patient that co-dependency is bad. No Exceptions. Co-dependency isn’t all bad.  Co-dependency is like Cement Glue. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “why does she/he stay?” or “Why do I stay with him/her?’ or ‘Why do I keep going back?” what you’re witnessing or experiencing is probably more co-dependency than love.  We may call it love but co-dependency binds together and it’s tough or damn near impossible to take apart.  You may stay in the relationship out of love, fear (of being alone), want, need (for the kids, financial reasons), belief, cultural and family obligation, maybe you don’t want to be seen as the ‘bad guy’ or you may stay out of a sense of duty.  This is co-dependency.  There are many reasons for it and it’s different for everyone.  Co-Dependency is also about taking care of your partner, tending to their needs and well-being before yours if needed.  This is the make it or break it part of the relationship. Here is when you decide whether to stay through your partners Sh!t, or he stays with you. This is also where you decide if you can live with her Sh!t for the rest of your life and stay or put the pedal to the metal and leave.  Co-dependency becomes troublesome when you lose your sense of self, stop taking care of you to the detriment of your (and your children’s) emotional, mental and physical well-being.  Abusive relationships, being with a partner who is an active addict, refusing to take medication for her mental illness, having multiple affairs etc can pummel anyone’s spirit over time.  I do not advocate staying in these relationships unless the partner receives help and stops the behavior, but it’s not my decision to make.
  3. ACCEPTANCE.  This is another no-brainer, but how often do you think or want to change something about your partner? How often do you criticize or suggest to your partner a certain way of doing things?  How often do you wish your partner communicated more with you on an intimate level and not just about schedules with the kids?  What if she was never really big on intimate communication?  What if he’s big on keeping the house super organized to almost OCD levels?  Working with couples, usually one partner wants the other partner to change without changing themselves.  What I’ve noticed with couples in long-term relationships is that they (at some point) accepted their partner as is, the good and the bad without trying to change them.  It could be after decades together, arguing with so many years of trying to change their partner with no success, they just surrender.  He may realize that she may not be the best communicator but she’s committed and they take care of each other.  She may realize his need for a super organized household is his expression of his anxiety and his way to feel calm.  Do you see what happens with acceptance? It becomes about not taking your partners behavior as a personal affront.  Her lack of communication isn’t about him, just as his behavior isn’t about her. When you accept your partner as they are, behaviors that bothered you or you argued about stop being so irritating.

This is why communication, having things in common etc are icing on the cake.  They may make the relationship ‘better’ at times,  but they don’t have to make or break the relationship.  In any relationship, you have to decide what you can and will accept in relationship, what behaviors and qualities are important to you, and what are your absolute deal breakers.  Absolute deal breakers = behaviors that will cause you to walk away from the relationship. My personal deal breakers are active addiction, substance abuse, physical, verbal or emotional abuse, or an affair(s). An affair may be negotiable, but the issue would be my willingness or ability to trust again.  One last example albeit an extreme one, but I see this often.  Let’s say you fall in love, and you fall in love with someone who is a narcissist or has narcissistic characteristics but you still want to be in the relationship (this would be co-dependency).  To remain in the relationship, you have to accept certain behaviors from your partner such as not having your voice and emotional needs heard or possibly met, abuse, criticisms, affairs, substance use/abuse, inability to see your side, lack of empathy or emotional support. BTW, I’m not making these behaviors up, they come with a narcissist.   You will have to accept that these behaviors from your partner won’t change despite what you do.  So, if you can accept these behaviors without getting your spirit pummeled and you’re ok with your decision, then I say go for it. If you can’t accept it, or the price of you changing yourself to please your partner has become too much, then you might decide to leave.  Otherwise, you will have the same argument year after year.  Your partner may or may not change because of the relationship, but you, yourself can’t change your partner.

Try to go into a relationship without thinking and hoping your partner will change, instead ask yourself, “Can I live with this (behavior) for the rest of my life?”

Here are the Cliff Notes:  You Love. If you decide to Stay. You accept.

Namaste.

 

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!

 

Trump as Trigger

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I have wondered for a few months how many people, specifically women are triggered by Trump and his behavior.  Come to find out, quite a few people.  Colleagues, other counselors, myself,  have utilized our own therapy sessions to discuss his behavior, as well a number of my female clients have utilized their sessions in such a way.  A waste of time?  No.  Because Trump is a trigger and a stand-in for the men that have sexually assaulted, manipulated, lied to (consistently), and marginalized women (and men).  Trump can represent husbands, boyfriends, dates, colleagues, friends, acquaintances and even family members.  To me, Trump is the narcissist that I’ve dated and I literally thank God for not signing up to that in any long-term committed way, but for my clients he is a resemblance of their abuser (verbal, emotional, sexual).

Trump and his behavior which are on full display 24/7 are stand-in’s for the way women (not all) have been mistreated and abused.  Women watching Trump for months felt something familiar yet uncomfortable. He seemed harmless in the beginning because we knew he was an entertainer, entertaining.  Over time, you can literally see textbook narcissism unfold.  Then came the multiple sexual assault allegations and boundary violations towards Trump.  It was this that really capped feelings of fear, anger, and disgust for my clients.   Yes, he’s Trump but he’s also a stand-in to the women (and men) that have experienced some form of abuse, assault or master manipulation.   What they’ve been witnessing is a similar timeline to their own experience.  It was either out right abuse of power (molestation) or it crept up on you first through the courtship of charm, the management of the image, the promises, which gave way to self-aggrandizement, manipulations, name-calling, lies, lack of accountability, inability to say “I’m sorry,” tantrums and intimidation tactics.

Umm..Did you see the second debate?  I was waiting for Trump to take out a knife from his coat jacket and stab Hillary in the back.  A man lurking behind, pacing back and forth.  Intimidation tactic.   I don’t know about you, but as a woman, I was uncomfortable, even knowing he wouldn’t do any physical harm. Being a woman, we automatically go there, ‘Am I safe?’  We think about those things, our safety in the most innocuous places.  Trump reminds us big time that we still have to.

Women are reminded by his words that we are objects, there for the pleasure and taking of men.  Again, we’ve heard the blaming, name calling, tantrums, manipulations, lies, lack of remorse or apology, and lack of accountability when called out.  This is all for his benefit. We’ve also seen and heard the self-aggrandized entitlement.  Entitlement so big and entrenched, that he knew, felt and stated that whatever his behavior, he was untouchable and definitely not the problem.   Imagine this behavior in a one on one relationship.  Would you want to be in this relationship? What would you call this relationship? Healthy?  Abusive? Loving? Normal?  Selfish?

I was going to wait to discuss this when sharing about disorganized relational (attachment) style and narcissism, but with so many people affected in my personal and professional circles, I am writing about this first.  I have seen the pain, anger, disgust and all around stress that is taking their toll on our well-being.  Some have withdrawn for self-protection not knowing what to say or who to trust, because sharing the impact has brought the dismissive responses from friends and family (‘don’t waste your time on that,’ or ‘don’t let it affect you,’ ‘don’t take it so personally,’) or it becomes a political monologue excusing his behavior and marginalizing one’s experience.  All the things that were done to women before.

Not talking about this, about the stress this election induces because we don’t want to offend any of our family or friends because of varied political views is the new dirty little secret.  In the spirit of Joan Rivers, ‘Can We Talk?’ about this now that it’s been confirmed recently how much stress this election cycle is placing upon each other?

The good thing about this national stand-in, is that women (people in general) can heal if they’ve been triggered by Trump as well as we become well-versed in the Art of the Con.  Because of Trump, people will be able to identify what being taken advantage of, manipulated, objectified, and eschewed looks and sounds like. There is also a great opportunity to address the misogyny and double standards that women face, if only we crossed political affiliations and had an open conversation where we really listened to each other, as people.

Something tells me that if a woman achieves POTUS status, then we will ample opportunity to address the latter.

 

Be well.

 

 

 

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).

Tone-

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.

 

Laughter really is the best medicine

 

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Laughter really is the best medicine.
Yes, I know it sounds cliché and much too simple, but it really is the best medicine. Laughter is actually the second best way to reduce your stress. Why do you think cat/dog videos are so popular? Because they make you feel good and laugh.

Life doesn’t always go as you planned or as you want it to. Sometimes you get served a big bowl of sh!t and still have to eat it. I know, gross.  In those times, it’s often difficult to see the silver lining or even imagine that things will get better. In those times, you can be susceptible to situational depression, consistent sadness, confusion, being in the doldrums where your perception is doom and gloom.  With enough consistency of that thought process and experience, your brain continues to play mean games with you by focusing on all the things in your life such as your work, your home, your body that are ‘wrong.’  You know, all the things that you say to yourself such as, “I have to, I need to, or I should or I can’t.”  When you are in this state, there isn’t much room for laughter because your mind won’t quit, it’s as if your mind is on a perpetual loop refusing you to relax and enjoy the moment, any moment. Hence, you create more stress, angst, and dislike toward yourself and your environment.

Here’s where laughter comes in.

Laughter breaks up that pattern. Laughter breaks up any stress pattern. Comedians are adept at this. They take painful experiences and tell it in a way that makes it funny.
Laughter actually sets off chemicals and hormones that make you feel good by increasing dopamine levels. If you’re flooded with dopamine, you’re feeling pretty good, thereby reducing your stress levels by reducing the cortisol and epinephrine in your system.  This increases your immune system and mood.

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What Joy in this little face.

The field of psychology has many theories and thought forms with positive psychology being one disciple.  Positive psychology is self-explanatory, focusing on the positive (your strengths) changes/increases your mood and overall satisfaction in life. This is a fairly different perspective than primarily focusing on problems (what’s wrong) within your therapy.  For some people, positive psychology may sound too simple, quackish or too woo-woo.  But, you don’t treat or heal trauma and stress with more trauma and stress. Doesn’t happen. That’s science.

Truth be told, there was a time in my life where I struggled with situational depression/overwhelm meaning that I was so focused on feeling sad, focused on what was wrong that I trained my brain to keep focusing on what was wrong, what needed to be fixed or changed in some way instead of what was right as it was. When I was stressed to the point of literal burnout and my health was impacted, intuitively my body turned toward joy and laughter.  I was so stressed that I literally couldn’t take in any more trauma or stress in any way, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, or energetically. Instinctively, I stopped watching or surfing the news online, if I did look at the news, it was only good news. I didn’t look at anything gruesome or violent nor any entertainment gossip. I didn’t reach for my phone first thing in the morning.  Here’s what I did. I only looked at feel good cheesy movies, good news, funny tv shows,  stand-up comedians, and movie cartoons. Although movie cartoons always make me cry, a la The Lion King etc., I laughed and enjoyed myself more often than I worried or felt stressed.

Guess what happened next?  My stress levels went down, I began to lose weight without trying, I wasn’t anxious, sad or irritable, I slept through the night, and my body began to heal.  I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the silver lining, the possibilities in my life.

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Even the President takes time to laugh…

Colleagues and friends looked at me strange after I disclosed, thinking I put my head in the sand, away from the world or lived in woo-woo land. I didn’t put my head in the sand but I did disconnect from taking in all the doom and gloom, the violence, abuse and neglect that permeates the news, many people’s experiences and the world in general.

I recommended and still recommend unplugging from stress as homework to clients. However, clients are also hesitant to do this as homework, even though they want to change their lives and experience less stress.  They often think, “How can something I see online or TV, or the conversations I have with others impact my sadness or depression?”  There is often resistance for various of reasons,

  1. It’s ‘too simple.’
  2. It’s work. Some say they want change but don’t really want to do the work.
  3. It disrupts their life in a different way, meaning it changes their life in some way.
  4. They’re stuck in their negative frame of thinking.

We are taught to believe that ‘it can’t be this simple,” but it can.

For the person who has difficulty with seeing the positive in self, life, or your environment, begin with laughter.  Laughter is contagious, it lifts your mood, helps you forget just for a moment about what’s ailing you. Laughter decreases your stress hormones and increases your feel-good chemical hormones, thereby increasing your immune system.

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For a 1 week: Shut off the news, watch only things that make you laugh or feel good. Engage in conversations that are positive.  If you find this difficult to do without hurting others’ feelings, take some alone time away from the situation or people involved if you can.  Notice what happens. Notice what happens if you find it difficult to do. Do you automatically reach for something negative, that will induce negative feelings and stress in you such as judgement, scorn, sadness, anger, apathy, or overwhelm?

I’d love to know how it goes, if you’re willing to share.

 

I love the woo-woo with a science eye.