Problem-Solving: The Work of Satisfying Relationships

Smiley_svgUnresolved problems and conflicts in your relationship contribute to stress and tension, which leads to relationship dissatisfaction. Ask yourself, “Is it okay in my partnership to identify, have, and talk about problems?” All people have problems to work through. To create healthy communication we must not deny problems as a way of dealing with them and we must be able to discuss them. When we deny our problems we can become depressed, overeat, drink, and otherwise act-out compulsively. In contrast, addressing problems as they occur contributes to feeling connected to our loved ones, which leads to lower levels of stress, spontaneous expressions of affection, and improved mood.  Keep in mind that the best time to resolve a conflict may not be immediately. It is not unusual for one or both partners to need some time to cool off.

Problems are part of life and the work of long-term relationships.  So are solutions. We may spend more time in the drama of a problem than solving it. We end up missing the point, the lesson, and the gift.  Successful partnerships involve a willingness to listen to and be influenced by the needs and opinions of one another.  It’s necessary to talk about and solve our problems if we want a decent manageable life together.  Starting a discussion with criticism or blame is a common way two people escalate to hurting each other.

During conflict a means of monitoring anger is to notice when your voice rises, this is a warning signal that you are getting closer to blaming or having an outburst. When you lash out you become the “problem” and the drama continues.  You step into the role of the persecutor, your partner becomes a victim to your ranting, and eventually someone will take the rescuer role to make things better.  The problem often does not get addressed.  Eventually intimacy and your sex life are ruined with this ongoing pattern of relating.  Problem-solving skills can be developed and used to cope with relationship disputes and can also be helpful in other areas of your life.

Problem-solving techniques are effective when applied to problems of conflict directly or to problems that might contribute to disagreements (e.g. work conditions, financial concerns, health problems, etc.). Good problem-solving is closely related to changing your thinking; it’s changing your belief that problems are overwhelming and impossible into a belief that they can be addressed successfully. You and your partner need to attack the problem and not each other.  Start discussions with a positive meaningful comment about your partner’s strengths before sharing the issue(s). End your communication with a positive statement about how you will do your part to making the connection stronger.  Be willing to discover and correct blind spots about your behavior.  Resolving problems requires clearly defining the issue to overcome obstacles and find solutions.

Example: Poorly defined problem:

“I’m unhappy and depressed in my relationship.”

Example: Well-defined problem:

“I feel unhappy with my relationship for most of the day, every day because my partner is not affectionate. When I’m unhappy, it’s hard for me to interact with my partner and I end up sitting by myself watching TV for hours or I call a friend to discuss the state of my unhappiness. This makes me feel unloved, lonely and frustrated. My friends are irritated with me for my constant complaining, and my partner is angry at me for my emotional distancing and isolation.”

Resolve your frustration by clearly stating what you need from the other person.  Describe your request in clear terms. For example, you might say, “I would like you to hold my hand more often” rather than, “I wish you were more caring.”  Wait for a response. Be a good listener and don’t interrupt, focus on what is being expressed and check out what you heard your partner say.  Edit unnecessary negative comments.

Next, how do you want to change? Set realistic, specific, concrete goals.

Example: 1) I would like critical thoughts about my partner to be less often and 2) less frequent 3) I would like to be able to spend time with my partner and share affection 4) I would like to communicate to my partner about what is making me angry.

Now for the fun part of solving problems, this is a time to loosen up thinking and to generate as many solutions as possible, even if they seem dumb or impractical.

Example:

1) Stop talking about my anger to friends and start talking to my partner.

2) Talk to my doctor about my depression and/or couples counseling.

3) Ask my friends to talk to me and urge me to think positively.

4) Practice taking deep breaths when I start to have critical thoughts.

5) Exercise when depressive and critical thoughts start.

6) Go on a weekend getaway to relax and connect with my partner.

7) Give to my partner what I need from him or her (e.g., affection, patience, acceptance, etc.).

Now go for the solution. Try out the top 2 or 3 solutions. Give 110% effort – it will only work if you really want to change.  Expect to be challenged, as it often takes some persistence before a problem is fully solved, but give yourself kudos for the effort.

Example: I will plan to talk about my feelings regularly, I will practice deep breathing when I start thinking critically, and I will show appreciation to my partner.

Solving problems involves accountability for one’s actions and giving up the role of a victim.  The feeling of anger is normal and healthy in long-term relationships.  When anger is appropriately expressed it draws people closer to each other, increasing satisfaction.  Anger is always a secondary emotion to the feelings of hurt and/or fear.  Expressing anger aggressively is temporary relief from shame and feelings of powerlessness.  Everyone feels trapped from aggressive communication.  Aggression is fueled by rage not anger.  If aggression is a problem outside intervention will be necessary. Co-creating a satisfying relationship involves understanding each other’s perspective, not taking another’s communication as a personal attack, and sympathizing with feelings, especially when there is conflict.

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Thank you for reading this post. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience.  As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to create healthy relationships.  And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.

 Roberta

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Trusting Ourselves to Leave an Abusive Relationship

Broken Heart Courtesy Wikipedia

Broken Heart – Wikipedia

Trusting yourself is the key to living well and being capable of trusting others.  You learn to trust yourself to leave any abusive relationship by listening and following through on your inner wisdom.  This is the start of practicing self-care and self-respect by doing what is true and right and what is best for you.   Falling for partners who deceived, abused, manipulated, and otherwise exploited you is not trusting your instincts.  Chances are there was a small voice that said, “Something doesn’t feel right” or maybe you didn’t feel uncomfortable and are shocked about your choice.   How could someone who felt so right be a total mistake?  Belief in yourself may be shaken.  There are times when we are challenged with change in relationships and fear we can’t take care of ourselves.  Listening to self-talk that says I don’t deserve to love or be loved keeps you stuck.   Believing you deserve a manageable relationship and acting on your intuition ends the abuse.

We may have a partner that tells us we cannot believe in ourselves; we are off base and nuts.  They benefit from mistrust because it keeps the cycle of abuse going.  Fear, panic, and doubt are an enemy to leaving an abusive situation and feelings you do not want to entertain.  You can stand in your truth and trust your own gut.  Accepting your mistakes when you thought you were making a good decision and trusting yourself anyway is important.  The rigid rules and demands for perfect decision-making are self-punishing.  You have the power to make healthy choices.  Are you wondering how you can count on your relationship choices when things went so wrong?   Each person that comes into your life has unique lessons to teach you.  You have no control over anyone’s actions or emotions.  Protect yourself by listening to your heart and no longer placing faith in partners that are destructive.  As you attract healthy partners with your intimate self, you will trust your thoughts and your own emotions. Letting your past interfere with self-trust keeps you trapped in fear and abuse.  You can learn, grow, and improve from your mistakes.  You can make better choices and leave situations with abusive partners.  By accepting your mistakes and being grateful for the lessons, you don’t have to repeat them.   You can make decisions based on what you know now.  Trust your decision to leave and do the best you can.  From your past unwise relationship decisions you experience growth.  Feel good about your decision to change and about your mistakes. Acknowledge your newly acquired awareness and treat yourself kindly when you wonder how you could have been so naïve or blind.  Realize that you were not as aware then as you are now.  Accept your inner knowing and listen attentively.  Know you will survive the abuse, learn from the experience and have deeper self-knowledge.  Begin once more; it is never too late to begin again.  The way to heal a broken heart is to keep on loving.

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Thank you for reading this post. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience.  As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to create healthy relationships.  And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.

 Roberta

Energy Vampires: Emotional Sadism and the Narcissistic Relationship

master of mirrorsThe narcissist is clearly sadistic in his or her rejection of others and in feelings of superiority.  What is a narcissist? Narcissism is a condition in which a person feels pathological self-hatred and is preoccupied with projecting a lovable image.  They are obsessed with this false image and direct tremendous energy to other people’s impressions of them.  Because the projected image is so loveable they are effective in eliciting real love from others.  People’s impression of the false image feels like self-love to the narcissist.  They are incapable of loving themselves or others, but want to be loved.  The narcissist craves admiration and will manipulate the needs and wishes of everyone to obtain it.  When a partner falls for the “lovable” image the narcissist acquires a sense of self through the look of love reflected back in the eyes and actions of the person.  The narcissist needs for constant attention and caretaking takes center stage as desires of others are ignored and denied.  As a relationship progresses the narcissist will not celebrate a partner’s accomplishments, compliment them on anything, and will ignore you in social settings.  They genuinely don’t care about your needs and are experts at pretending they do until they have control. Than the self-involved energy vampire punishes you for having desires because they demand that all of your attention and energy be focused on them.  They suck the life force and joy out of everyone they can take hostage. They prefer your admiration and awe, but eventually their behavior destroys any feelings of love and they will then settle for negative attention. This makes the emotional sadist feel all-powerful and capable of any cruelty.

The narcissist slowly progresses from minimal emotional assaults to intentionally deliberate attacks.  Distancing and cold rejecting aloofness is a favorite weapon.  It doesn’t matter to him if you cry because he is not affected and doesn’t care.  He feels nothing and is not concerned about what you are feeling.  The energy vampire is not interested in your character.  The emotionally sadistic narcissist gets enjoyment from hurting someone.  They are experts at manipulating people’s emotions until they are hurt more than physical abuse.  He intimidates his partners to avoid expressing criticism and disapproval of his actions and decisions.  His partner or children learn that this triggers fits of temper and rage attacks and turns him into an argumentative and irritable person.  His extreme reactions are a punishment for perceived inconsiderateness and insensitivity of his true inner state.  The narcissist blames his partner for his behavior, accuses them of provoking his outbursts and believes that they should be punished for their misbehavior.  Apologies, unless accompanied by requests for forgiveness are not enough.  The fuel of the narcissist’s rage is expended mainly on bizarre verbal accusations directed at made-up and imaginary intentions of the victim.  If you question the appropriateness of the behavior, no longer mirroring admiration and submissiveness, this causes him or her to doubt their illusory self-esteem.  You are then subjected to a period of terror where they try to hurt you for not recognizing their entitlement to your unquestioned obedience.  You will be belittled and humiliated with displays of aggression and emotional violence in countless forms.  His or her behavior changes from putting you on a pedestal to a severe devaluing of you as a worthy person.  The narcissist is repulsed by people judged by him to be useless.  These extreme alterations between seeing you as flawless to complete unworthiness make long-term relationships with the narcissist all but impossible.  He will exploit you cruelly and severely.  He uses you to get confirmation of the accuracy of his superior false image.

The emotional sadist’s abuse is kept secret by conditioning his partners, children, and sometimes colleagues or employees to not tell.  People often find themselves involved emotionally in an intimate or employment relationship before they discover the narcissist true nature.  His victims typically come from family environments where there is abuse and a “don’t talk” rule.  This especially is the case in families with sexual abuse and alcoholism to hide.  So secrecy is a major weapon in keeping the mistreatment confidential.  They keep up a public façade appearing nonthreatening and even altruistic and in private are evil and aggressive.  The victims keep the secrets safe by constructing an explanation to make sense of the cruelty, “He just can’t deal with intimacy” or “She had a bad childhood.”  Some victims are raised to not “air dirty laundry” and keep silent about the abuse to family and friends. The victim is held in traumatic bondage by being convinced they are the problem and to be blamed for the misconduct.  By the time the victim discovers the truth they find it difficult to leave the relationship.  The emotional battering renders the wounded with feelings of helplessness and shame for not seeing through the angelic façade.

Dealing with a narcissists sadistic behavior is pretty dismal.  Their numbers in society are great and it is imperative that this personality disorder becomes readily recognizable.  I have worked with countless numbers of violent narcissistic men and women, many more I am sure that missed my clinical recognition.  If you have found yourself living in quiet desperation or working with an emotional and/or physically abusive narcissist, please educate yourself and others about the abuse.  I have written a post on “How Codependents Leave Abusive Narcissistic Relationships” and “How Codependents Leave Employment with Narcissistic Boss” that you might find helpful to read.

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Thank you for reading this post.  I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience.  As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to create healthy relationships.  And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.

Roberta

Telling Family Secrets about Abuse

The_Hero_Illustration

The Hero Illustration

Be quiet, don’t tell anyone ever.  Suck it up.  The child raised this way is a very special person.   The denial required of children in their effort to protect family secrets creates feelings of helplessness.   This is the legacy of family secrets from the loyalty of children who do not wish to speak out against their parents.   Children involved in keeping family secrets have a high potential for participating in an abusive relationship as an adult.  Keeping secrets, as a family illness, parallels emotional and compulsive disorders.  There is a strong association between compulsive behavior (alcoholism, gambling, physical abuse, and/or sexual abuse, etc.) consistently identified in families with a “don’t tell” rule.  Regardless of the disorder, family members are often unaware of their own pain when the family does not even acknowledge there is a problem.   This makes it impossible to heal what we don’t allow ourselves to feel.  No one speaks of his or her loneliness and loss of sense of self.  Abuse is abandonment because when children are abused no one is there for them.   Toxic secrets lower self-esteem, increase shame/guilt, and block a child’s ability to grieve losses and hurts.

The impressions and feelings caused by keeping family secrets remain with those children and tend to be carried into adulthood.   Adult children often continue to experience problems related to talking about relationship abuse.  They have learned to tolerate whatever abuse is being handed out in intimate partnerships. To heal adult children must come out of hiding.  As long as your secrets are hidden, there is nothing you can do about it.  Sometimes secrets may have been repressed because they are emotionally charged or threatening to you.  It’s possible to have secrets you are unaware of or may minimize to protect yourself.

The best way to come out of hiding is to find a supportive intimate social network.   Choosing a safe person or group needs to be done carefully and over a length of time.  True love heals and affects personal growth.   To heal you have to risk exposing yourself to someone else.   You have a right to talk about problems and you have a right to feel.  You don’t have to pretend that keeping secrets isn’t making you feel crazy, lonely or confused.  You don’t have to analyze or justify your feelings.   What is most healing is to acknowledge secrets and sharing secrets that may be damaging you.  Telling what happen can increase self-esteem, decrease shame, allow you to grieve, to feel love and be loved.  You may find feelings associated with the secrets and repetitive self-destructive behavior or choosing abusive relationships end.  You will then choose relationships that grow out of awareness and sensitivity to your innermost needs.

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Thank you for reading this article. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience.  As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to create healthy relationships.  And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.

 Roberta

Damage from Toxic Parents is not a Life Sentence

Unchain-My-Heart Courtesy of Wikipedia

Unchain-My-Heart Courtesy of Wikipedia

The adult behavior modeled in our family deeply affects the core beliefs we hold about ourselves and has long-lasting impacts on trust, self-esteem, and the ability to form or maintain healthy relationships. Our caregivers teach us what it means to be a male or female, how to believe in ourselves, how to love others, complete goals, grow up and compete in the world. What is a toxic parent? A toxic parent is often personality disordered, constitutionally incapable of changing, and a professional victim. They wreak havoc in the emotional lives of their children and teach self-hatred among other things. Some adult children of abuse externalize their rage. They fill our prison systems, rehab facilities, abuse our children, and inflict violence in our society. I have worked most of my professional life intervening with the externalized rage in male and female domestic violence offenders from toxic families. Self-hatred and depression are a driving force in their contempt and violence. The child that internalizes their toxic caregivers rage tends to partner with this “familiar” abusive person. Internalized rage can present as depression, anxiety, self-blame, shame, low self-esteem, substance abuse, and people pleasing behaviors.

CLUSTER B PERSONALITY DISORDERS DSM-IV
Personality disorders are associated with significant disturbances in personal and social functioning. The disorders are characterized with inflexible and pervasive destructive behavior patterns in most situations. The person perceives their behavior to be appropriate. Personality disorders are chronic, life long, and highly incurable.

Antisocial– Characterized by a lack of empathy, violation of social norms, and a pattern of criminal activity.
Borderline– Instability of mood, relationships and self-image, history of self-harm (e.g. cutting) and impulsivity. Extreme “black and white” thinking.
Histrionic– Person displays shallow or exaggerated emotions (drama queen or king), excessive attention-seeking, and inappropriately seductive behavior.
Narcissistic– Characterized by a lack of empathy or remorse, pervasive pattern of grandiosity and excessive need for admiration. Person feels a sense of entitlement, displays arrogance, and extreme levels of jealousy. Person is preoccupied with fantasies of idealized love, fame, and self-importance.

When a child’s early developmental needs are not met by supportive positive role models it can lead to core beliefs that make healthy friendships and adult relationships nearly impossible. Lacking self-worth and not feeling loved or a sense of belonging can make children more vulnerable to emotional and physical abuse, and general feelings of discontent. Fear of losing control of emotions tends to result in coping strategies such as denial or suppression. I believe one of the early childhood traumatic suppressions is profound sadness. Recent research evidence (Terrence Real, 1997) points to suppression of sadness (depression) as a link to violent behavior. Especially vulnerable are boys and men that learn to control by using force, fueled by denying feelings of depression, not trusting feelings, or talking about feelings. Maintaining control of emotions, thoughts, feelings, actions, and relationships is a way to survive in emotionally impoverished chaotic environments. Showing feelings in toxic environments is often met with disapproval, rejection, criticism, and belittlement. This mistreatment makes trust of our caregiver(s) difficult as is the development of self-reliance on our own perceptions and feelings. As adults this makes expression of true emotions in relationships a challenge.

A developmental task that tends to be stifled by toxic parenting is the ability to be spontaneous, have fun, and stay flexible with change. Often a child feels blame and shame for the family chaos believing that they are the cause of a parent’s cruelty. The first-born and or the sensitive child may become overly responsible for the family pain in trying to control the dysfunction. If efforts to make family life better continuously fail, he or she may give up on being responsible and become irresponsible in completing goals in adulthood. This sets the pattern for ignoring emotional needs and not setting psychological boundaries in intimate relationships.

For an adult child’s well-being foregoing a relationship with a parent(s) sometimes is necessary, at least for the short-term while changing the negative feelings and thoughts about oneself. You do this to protect “you” from further psychological harm. This self-care can be difficult because even the most abusive parents can sometimes be loving and makes severing the bond harder. Basically any behavior that shames the child or makes them feel guilty contributes to a lack of entitlement to feelings. This is an emotional trap!

Damage from growing up with toxic parents is not a life sentence of doom and gloom. Repair of self-esteem begins with a commitment to re-parent ourselves. You must go through the process of growing up again. You will need to uncover the core messages you believe about yourself. For example, “I’m not good enough,” “I’m unlovable,” “I’m weak,” “I’m stupid,” “I’m a bad person,” “I deserved the abuse,” “Nobody will ever love me,” etc. One way of discovering your core beliefs is to write a relationship inventory. Sit down and list all the behaviors that have hurt and you feel resentment about from your current/past relationships with friends and partners. Evaluating the list of painful behaviors, ask yourself what a person would have to think about themselves to stay in the relationship. This exercise is not about reinforcing self-blame. It’s a process done to revisit your childhood and recover your true self. Have your partners been unloving, demeaning, disrespectful, cold-hearted, cruel, or physically violent? Your core beliefs might look like the list in the example above.

Look at the inventory list of behaviors again and see if what you described matches the abusive treatment from a caregiver, difficult relative, or a sibling. This is an opportunity to understand and address unresolved issues within yourself and family of origin. Changing your core messages requires the practice of listening to how you talk to yourself and correcting demeaning thoughts and put-downs. Practice being aware of your core belief triggers, especially when a parent is abusing you. For example, when your mother is making critical statements, you are thinking, “This where I tell myself I’m not good enough.” Change the negative belief by repeating silently to yourself, “I am a worthy person” while looking your mother in the eye. Eventually you will get good at observing your thoughts and changing them. You will learn to witness your mind in conversation with another person. I suggest keeping a journal to affirm the reality of your life and give voice to expression of feelings.

Re-parenting yourself requires correcting negative core beliefs and acknowledging the abuse you received from your caregivers. This isn’t about blaming your parents for why your adult life is not working. The truth is no matter how pathetic their behavior has been it’s the best they can do with the emotional maturity they have. Acknowledging who is responsible for whatever type of abuse occurred is a process of understanding what happen to you. You will then be clear about the resentments you are letting go. I don’t believe you can just get over toxic parenting by putting it in the past without examination. You cannot live in your past or blame others for your conflicts and problems if you really want to live your life and be a healthy parent and partner. You deserve a life that is manageable and full of love. Commit to investing in yourself and possibilities for living well will be unlimited. Remain a victim and your life will be predictable.
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Thank you for reading this article. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience. As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to create healthy relationships. And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.

Roberta

Sensitive Children and the Adult Child in the Abusive Narcissistic Home

flute-player-h7x

In a home affected with an abusive narcissistic parent emotions are repressed and become twisted.  Rules are built on shame, guilt, or fear.  Feelings are often not shared and when they are expressed, it is done in a judgmental manner placing blame on one another.  The narcissistic parent is self-involved and feels no empathy for their children.  They are incapable of mirroring real love and try to get their children to fulfill their unmet dependency needs.  The narcissistic parent’s unresolved drives for attention and caretaking takes center stage as the child’s early developmental needs are ignored and denied.  The self-involved parent shames the child for having desires and makes them feel guilty.  All of the family attention and energy is focused on the demands of the narcissist.

Sensitive children growing up in abusive narcissistic homes build their personalities based on what they have to do to survive.  Many of these children learn early in their development to hide out and not draw attention to his or her needs.  They learn to act busy and look good.  Because they lack the needed support and positive role models they are more vulnerable to certain emotional and relationship problems.  This makes maintaining healthy boundaries in relationships difficult. A common personality pattern of sensitive children is that of a people pleaser or a codependent.  Sensitive children try to make others in the home feel better.  As adults they find it difficult to ask for what they need and tend to seek validation and reassurance from others (their parents) who are unwilling to give them this type of support.  They develop an exceptionally high tolerance for emotional pain and inappropriate behavior.  They are very responsive to the family’s feelings and in adulthood this coping behavior often leads to unhealthy extremes.   Codependent children spend their early childhood development years trying to “fix” the family sadness, fears, anger, and problems of everyone.   The sensitive child is always trying to make life easier for others.  The damage from pleasing others and making them feel better is never showing their own disappointment to anyone.  They tend to never disagree and are the first to apologize when they are being abused.  Perpetrators are attracted to them and enjoy witnessing their apologizing while they abuse.  The codependent adult becomes the narcissist’s perfect victim for contempt and feelings of omnipotence.

In adulthood the effects of growing up in a narcissistic family become apparent.  These adult children begin to feel a loneliness that doesn’t make sense to them.  They feel different from others and often find themselves depressed.  They might experience increasing feelings of fear and anxiety.  They have problems with intimacy and maintaining a close relationship.  They tend to find themselves in relationships with abusive partners (narcissists) and or substance abusers.  Codependent’s may develop problems of their own with substance abuse, alcohol, food, spending and compulsive caretaking.  They begin to rationalize these behaviors and those of their partners.  As their partner’s (friends, bosses) abusive behaviors increase their rationalizations for inappropriate behavior have already become a normal way of life.  They learn early to act as if nothing is out of the ordinary when someone is acting abusive.  They feel totally alone and believe talking to the abuser will not help.  And they are right because the people around them are not sane.  They have learned others will not be there for them emotionally and this belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hiding feelings leads to repressing, denying, and minimizing and makes true expression of emotions in relationships challenging.

This is not a life sentence because new behavior can be learned.  Hope lies in learning a language for what happen to you growing up and using your emotional pain to motivate change.  Change and growth are possible.  You can learn entitlement to your feelings and give yourself permission to say no to what feels bad. Many adult children of narcissistic parents do best by taking a break from their family of origin to stop more damage to self-esteem.  The biggest challenge is giving yourself permission to learn what is right for you and developing endurance for sitting with the bad feelings that come up when you are breaking the family rules.  You are likely the only one who can change in your family and will need to accept that your parents are incapable of loving you in a healthy way.  It is important to find mentors or healthy friends that support your courage to experience the love and life you deserve. The development of self-acceptance from facing adversity is your freedom from quiet desperation and will be a great gift you earn.

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Thank you for reading this article. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience.  As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to create healthy relationships.  And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.

Roberta

Partners Who Are Incapable of Feeling Love

Broken Heart Courtesy Wikipedia

Broken Heart Courtesy Wikipedia

Each person who enters your life has a unique lesson to teach you

What if your partner is incapable of feeling love? Chances are they have a deep-seated fear that if they love you (or anyone) that will give you the power to hurt them, deprive them, and to abandon them. What he or she is feeling and thinking is what causes extreme fears, not what a you are saying or doing. To ease these fears this person will strip you of self-confidence to make you weak so that you are afraid to leave the relationship. To calm fears of being abandoned they will make you a focus of their rage, panic, fears, and inevitably their hatred. These behaviors effectively sabotage the relationship. Your partner controls the relationship abandonment through abuse because they are terrified of your ability to leave them. The partner incapable of love sets-up their own abandonment. The fear of rejection runs profoundly deep.

Falling for someone incapable of love locks you into whatever false image the person is projecting. You fall in love with an illusion. During the honeymoon phase of the courtship you see a person who seems to want and needs love.  Once you commit they begin to ignore your emotional needs and sometimes are unfaithful. Suddenly the partner begins to withdraw and provoke arguments. You wonder how could your partner who seemed to love you change so totally toward you. The relationship becomes too close for comfort for the person who is incapable of love. You as a person are not seen as a separate self with needs and a separate identity. This means you end up taking part in the relationship at the cost of not being yourself.

Why do you stay with someone incapable of loving you? Usually something in your history has led you to this place and what keeps you in a loveless relationship. Being loved is what most of us really want and often we are afraid of love without consciously knowing it. This is especially true if you have a history of over functioning and avoid worrying about your own personal goals and problems by focusing on others. This caretaking becomes a way of managing anxiety in relationships under stress. Developing a clear and authentic self means you can be pretty much be who you are. When you are not able to leave an emotionally painful relationship the tendency is to construct an explanation to make sense of your experience, “He just can’t deal with intimacy” or “She had a bad childhood.” The cost of not leaving may include chronic anger, resentments, feelings of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, or even self-blame (i.e., “I am such a loser for not leaving”). When you sacrifice your well-being you might also experience sexual problems, physical complaints, or compulsive behaviors. This leaves you angry at how badly you are being treated and with an overwhelming need to hold on to your relationship no matter how it is hurting you.

Acknowledging that your partnership is destructive and deciding to leave is not easy. Often there is regret, disappointed dreams, and damaged self-esteem. You may feel leaving is wrong and a sign of failure, especially if children are involved. In truth, what is wrong is to accept cruelty, abuse, and unhappiness. The abuse is a deal breaker.  The relationship will be more painful in the long run than the temporary pain of leaving. If you don’t take responsibility for your life, you aren’t really living. Establishing a good relationship with yourself allows you to find love with others. If you are afraid to leave the relationship, please give yourself permission to ask for help.

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Thank you for reading this post. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience.  As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to create healthy relationships.  And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.

Roberta

Why Do I Feel So Crazy? Recovering From a Narcissistic Relationship

Narcissus Courtesy of Wikipedia

Narcissus Courtesy of Wikipedia

“Am I crazy?”  Is a burning question for the partner of a narcissist.  Many victims suffer from symptoms of Post Traumatic Narcissism Syndrome (PTNS).  PTNS is a condition in which the affected person’s memory, emotional, and physical systems have been traumatized.  PTNS is an experience not a diagnosis.  For sufferers, certain flashbacks of the abuse turn up repeatedly with endless variations.  Victims tend to remain in large part controlled by the abuser, their mind and emotions in bondage.  This elicits a terrible and terrifying combination of helplessness and rage; unbearable feelings that had to be suppressed for the victim to stay in the relationship.  Following are symptoms of PTNS.

Symptoms of Post Traumatic Narcissism Syndrome:

● Flashbacks of the cruel behavior and trauma

Hyperarousal (i.e., extreme fear of personal safety)

Hypervigilance (i.e., scanning your environs for constant threats, stalking, violence)

● Irritability

● Depression & Guilt

● Multiple physical complaints

● Numbing

● Impaired concentration and memory

● Disturbed sleep & distressing dreams

What is a narcissist? A narcissist is a person who deprives their partners of the ability to feel joy and love as a separate person in relationships.  They deliberately attempt to destroy or compromise the separate identity of another.  The longer the relationship continues, the narcissist not only becomes less considerate, but actively cruel.  Many victims end up feeling hollow because the narcissist squeezes them empty.  The emotional deprivation, physical and mental torture can result in a type of soul murder.  Brainwashing their partners into believing they are the problem keeps the emotional bondage going.  This leaves survivors not knowing what they want and what they feel, or what they have done and what has been done to them.

A victim might question whether abuse really did happen.  Acknowledging victimization is crucially important to the person’s ability to control obsessive thoughts of the past and recover. The survivor can then begin to separate and achieve independence from the narcissist. It is important that you do not turn this new awareness against yourself.  For example, “I may be angry at him, but I’m even angrier at myself for putting up with it.”  Using self-compassion, the trauma can contribute to the strengths and talents of the injured as they reclaim self-confidence.  Be alert to self-blaming and change the negative thoughts when you hear them.  You might say, Stop! Get out of my head.

One of the steps in recovering from the abuse is recognizing that you are angry and admitting it.  It is essential to uncover your feelings, so you can begin the process of healing. Know where anger is coming from inside you.  Emotions repressed are harmful and keep you trapped and powerless to face the situation or feel happiness.  Acknowledging anger, usually disguised as depression, allows you to decide what to do about it and deal with it.  Another step is to understand why you are so angry.  Are you angry because you have been hurt, physically, emotionally, financially, etc.?  Are you furious because of the way you have been treated and the emotional impoverishment you lived with?  Are you resentful because you are the only who can change?  Are you angry at being labled Bipolar?  The mood swings from the stress of living in a war zone while dodging the narcissist’s land mines can look like a mental health disorder.

Once your anger is out in the open it is less likely to cause problems for you.  It is necessary for you to change because you are the one who has been made sick by the existing situation. The ability to enjoy what you are doing, your daily living, and your recovery from PTNS are constantly influenced by emotions.  Nurturing yourself when you are hurting is imperative.  Devote time each day to doing things that make you feel good. Establishing a daily routine is essential to your mental health.  Get professional help if needed.  Invest in your well-being so that you can create what you need, deserve, and want in a relationship with yourself. Below are the criteria for the diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

According to the DSM-IV-TR, a patient must exhibit five or more of the following traits to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

● Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

● Grandiose sense of self-importance

● Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

● Belief that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

● Need for excessive admiration

● Sense of entitlement

● Takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

● Lacks empathy

● Often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her

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Thank you for reading this article. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience.  As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to create healthy relationships.  And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.

Curing Your Fear of Intimacy in Relationships

250px-Dramaten_mask_2008aMost everyone carries fears about intimacy and being vulnerable.  We are afraid of being hurt, abandoned, rejected, humiliated, or betrayed.   Some of us are more afraid than others because of experiences that shaped us growing up.  Attachment style with our parental relationship serves as a model for adult experiences, particularly in the most intimate of relationships.  When a parent is emotionally absent, dismissing, inattentive, constantly distracted or downright cruel and rejecting, the distress confuses the child and desperate behavior begins to intensify.  As adults these children fear the threat of rejection or abandonment more than others.  They can become extremely clingy and angry, overwhelmed by their unmet dependency needs and unable to contain anxiety.  Often, they become people pleasers to receive approval from others.

Adults that have a negative self-image are fearful and doubting in their ability to keep a partner interested and maintain a loved one’s attention.  They worry excessively about rejection.  They are emotionally dependent and constantly feel unappreciated.  In intimate relationships they are romantically obsessive and jealous.  They tend to take hostages and are preoccupied with their partners.

Some adult children are dismissing and come across as emotionally disconnected, cold, and uninterested in intimate relationships.  They can waver between being distant and cut-off emotionally, to being critical and controlling.  These people are cynical and have negative views of others.  They are particularly guarded, mistrustful, and reluctant to self-disclose in most intimate relationships.  They tend to have more break-ups and are less invested in partnerships.  They feel less grief or distress when they have break-ups than others experience.  They just don’t seem to care as much.

Those who don’t care at all and are emotionally shut down as a result of trauma are often incapable of human intimacy.   If their behavior is characterized by a lack of remorse, lack of empathy, manipulations, and emotional coldness they may be a psychopath.  True psychopaths are constitutionally incapable of normal human interaction.  If you are in a relationship with someone like this, run, get out.  You cannot experience genuine intimacy with someone who abuses power and control and deals with emotional discomfort by blaming and attacking.

Many of us have these problems because we are afraid of being hurt or betrayed.  We still want intimacy, but are afraid of depending on someone and then getting wounded again.  These experiences are a driving force in ambivalence about intimacy.  The more painful and unresolved our earlier experiences are the more we crave intimacy and the more we feel threatened by it.  This is demonstrated by “come close”, “go away” relationship behavior.  We get close, get afraid, find fault with our partner, feel hurt and sabotage the relationship.  We then find ourselves alone, crave closeness again, and the repetitive behavior starts all over.  So if you sabotage intimacy and see it as a negative behavior you want to change, focus on the fear that fuels your actions.  You can learn to be compassionate with your fears and with others.  When you can see your fears and needs more clearly you can stop the cycle.  Love is what we really want and often we are afraid of love without consciously knowing it.

If you love someone and want more intimacy, and a decent relationship, you can learn how to create intimacy better.  Find out what your partner needs and how to support those needs.  If you pay attention and care about your loved one’s feelings, you can learn to be a better (not perfect) partner.  And when you stay in a relationship over time you can build your capacity for intimacy.

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Thank you for reading this article. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience.  As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to create healthy relationships.  And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.

Roberta

Codependents Learning to Communicate Needs in Relationships

Communication

Part of having successful relationships is learning to communicate clearly, directly, and assertively. Effective communication is the key to getting what we need and want and to having satisfying relationships with others. This is especially important when acknowledging feelings such as disappointment or anger directly, as what we need and want can be very important in our love relationship. Also, having positive relationships  and addressing codependency issues are important in keeping stress down, reducing tension, and increasing positive experiences.  What is codependency in relationships?

Codependents are people who find it difficult to ask for what they need or to stand up for themselves and often let other people push them around or take advantage. They are unable to make up their mind and may evade an issue in conversation.  This communication style can make a codependent attractive to an abuser.  Signs of an abusive person is someone who talks over people, expresses feelings in a way that violates boundaries, and who makes inappropriate demands.  During an argument this person intimidates with piercing eye contact, takes an overbearing posture, makes “you” statements in a loud voice with demanding tones, and interrupts often.  And you do not have to allow their coercive demands to control the course of your life. You have the power to live your own life by not letting the demands of others control you.

Effective communication involves acknowledging feelings directly, instead of making others guess at your feelings or having your feelings come out in other ways. In most situations direct communication is the appropriate choice. However, if you are communicating with someone who is yelling, you might be more reactive by indirectly expressing angry feelings instead of openly addressing them. This creates a disconnect between what you say and what you do. Your true feelings end up being demonstrated through actions, not words.  Many codependents protect themselves from seeing things that are too painful in addictions, (alcoholism, food, sex, gambling) compulsive caretaking, feeling miserable, guilty or ashamed.  It is okay to say no to people when that is what you want. Denying feelings does not stop pain or compulsive behavior.

Being vulnerable can be frightening, especially if we have lived with people who abused, mistreated, manipulated, or did not appreciate us. By recognizing that our rights and needs are just as important as others, we learn to be direct and clear in our statements and behaviors. We use words to forge a closer connection. We disclose how we feel in a way that reflects self-responsibility, directness, and honesty. Repressing thoughts and feelings does not turn us into the person we want to be.  Give yourself permission to say what you want and stop when you are done. Codependents are usually good at respecting other people’s opinions and needs, but do not have respect for their own. You can learn new behaviors and break demeaning beliefs about yourself that can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Following are suggestions for assertive communication and how to resolve conflict in relationships:

Describe issues clearly and concisely. Let the other person know your concerns. Don’t beat around the bush. Take responsibility for what you want or don’t want and ask for it directly.

Take the initiative in bringing a topic up and show the other person that you respect your own needs.

Keep your focus on the matter at hand without getting diverted onto other issues.

Make good eye contact and face the person you’re speaking with, but don’t invade their personal space.

Speak firmly, positively and loudly enough to be heard.

Match your words with your true needs.

Bring up the issue with confidence.

Avoid attacking, threatening, or judgmental statements.

Be fair, truthful, and stick to your values.

Maintain a posture and attitude of equality.

Don’t apologize for your needs. Don’t expect people to apologize for their needs.

Use “I” statements: When you yelled at me, I felt disrespected. I need you to express  your feelings without yelling.

Talk ABOUT feelings, rather than act them out.

Edit unnecessary negative content.

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Thank you for reading my post. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience.  As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to express needs and put an end to relationship abuse.  And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.

Roberta

Amputation: A Conversation About Improving Your Body Image and Sexual Well-Being

129Amputated limbs often cause feelings of revulsion in the patient, doctors, family members, and society.  This is a common and normal reaction to seeing the residual limb (there are people who have a sexual orientation towards amputation).  When someone has suffered from limb loss it does not change the deepest, strongest most valuable part of a person.   A concern about sexuality arises from a fear that the residual limb will not be accepted by a partner.  Some people have difficulty seeing themselves as adequate sexually and have concerns about keeping or finding someone to love them.  It is important to understand that you are still a whole person who just happens to have a missing body part.  It will help to talk to your partner, family, or friends about how your changed body looks, feels, and works.

Body image affects how we feel, think and react to our self-perceived physical appearance and how we respond to life determines the quality of our relationships.  Our physical attributes, our successes and mistakes, along with our inner sense of adequacy and value form self-image.  A negative or positive belief about how important we are affects our emotional well-being.

Consequences of amputation can include feelings of hopelessness, low self-esteem, fatigue, and even suicidal ideation.  Rates of clinical depression range from 21% to 35% with individuals experiencing significant levels of anxiety, grief, and social isolation. Sometimes individual, couple, or family therapies may be needed.

People who recover psychologically from body image change accept the amputation.  They often express a desire to live and make the loss into something good.  He or she derives meaning from the amputation and often have a perspective that things could be worse.  Recovering people do not define themselves by their amputation.

People who do not recover psychologically feel depressed and bad about their appearance, have a negative outlook on life and describe themselves as feeling abnormal.  He or she is often disconnected from friends, family, and could remain isolated.  These individuals often experience delayed social and economic adjustment.

Social interactions after an amputation are an understandable challenge for people with limb loss; especially for someone who is shy.   People will look at us because we are different.  Factors that promote positive body image adjustment and well-being are finding positive meaning in our disabling experience.  Amputation does not always cause negative outcomes.  Coping with body image change provides an opportunity to thrive or change in beneficial ways.  Shifting our priorities and view of self changes our interactions with others.

I lost my forearm over a decade ago; it was crushed in an automobile accident.  I came to in the intensive care unit and looked at my arm in horror and said to the doctors, “Oh my god, you cut my arm off.”  The emotional pain from my changed body image was so intense; that I believe my ego was shattered.  I locked eyes with my husband and knew that this was a big life test.  My views about life commenced to change profoundly.  My compulsive drive for perfectionism was crushed along with my forearm.  As a result, I have had an extraordinary life as a woman with limb loss.

Tips For Improving Body Image:

● Smile at people when they look at you.

● Don’t limit yourself with the label of “disabled.” The focus is no longer on what is gone.

● Remember how far you have come.

● Confront your thoughts related to your body

● Talk to your partner about how your changed body looks, feels, and works.

● Focus on learning new ways to do things you enjoyed before the amputation. Be extra clever or creative.

● Have positive experiences with your body.

● Be optimistic by believing that something good has arisen from your amputation.

● Learn to accept and love yourself.

● Learn to develop a healthier more accurate view of yourself.

● Join organizations that support people with limb loss.

● Read articles on body image after amputation.

Remind yourself often that you are so much more than your appearance.

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FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH LIMB LOSS, PLEASE CLICK ON  THIS LINK FOR RESOURCES AND SUPPORT FROM THE AMPUTEE COALITION http://www.amputee-coalition.org/

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Thank you for reading this article.  My learning journey with body image challenges is a result of my experience with limb loss.  Before my limb loss, I sacrificed my emotional and spiritual well-being for perfectionism and looked to others for approval at the cost of trusting my intuition and developing my self-worth.  As a result I have learned a lot about what it takes to put an end to self-created emotional pain.  And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.

Roberta

Caring About How We Think in Abusive Relationships

"Thinking" Courtesy of Wikipedia

“Thinking” Courtesy of Wikipedia

Researchers of cognition estimate that people experience upwards to 60,000 automatic thoughts a day, and for most of us 80% of our contemplations are negative. These negative  thoughts are repetitive ideas that we continuously tell ourselves throughout our lives. They are primarily formed from experiences with feelings and actions in our family environment and intimate relationships. They are not facts and are often not accurate reflections of reality. Especially when our family communication patterns are destructive and our intimate relationships are abusive. Our inner dialogue has a strong effect on  emotional states, actions, and how we cope with life.

Imagine you have a problem with an emotionally abusive partner that you are trying to cope with. You could think, “This is not about me, I can manage, even though it is difficult,” or, you could think, “This is hopeless, there is nothing I can do right, I’m completely overwhelmed and it’s impossible to make a change.” How might you feel, think, or act differently in these situations? If you feel anger or resentment, the challenge is to acknowledge it, learn from it, and then release any self-destructive thoughts.

Thoughts can affect your reactions to your partner’s emotional abuse and your ability to cope with it too. In particular, thinking his or her abusive behavior is about you. Participating in the emotional cruelty with your partner is likely to make you feel more helpless to change and to suffer more. In contrast, thinking that makes you feel competent to cope with the relationship can make you feel better about yourself and allow you to change the circumstances. When you feel misery, force yourself to think grateful thoughts. When you feel blamed, reassure yourself that who you are is okay.

Thoughts often seem to be out of our control. Even so, the truth is that we can learn to monitor our thinking, notice thoughts that are more or less helpful, and make choices about how to counter or change those thoughts. By doing these things, we reduce thoughts that contribute to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness and increase thoughts that contribute to feelings of competence, confidence, and determination. These thoughts can then help you a) act more effectively with your partner and b) stop creating your own emotional pain c) help you leave your relationship. This also helps you make emotionally fulfilling choices like spending time with loved ones, accomplishing your work or educational goals, or reducing the negative effects of your abusive partner.

The three steps to changing your thinking are to:

1. Notice your thoughts (if you are feeling bad, you’re thinking negative thoughts).
2. Ask yourself, “Is the thought helpful or harmful. Is it accurate?”
3. Change your thought, if harmful or inaccurate; counter it with a positive coping thought and behavior.

Thoughts can be empowering thoughts or self-defeating thoughts. They can be thoughts that reinforce you to believe in your value or thoughts that punish you for being or making a mistake. Looking at your own relationship experiences, which types of thoughts are most likely to be helpful? Where does your mind hang out? Make a list of these inner dialogues to help you notice the thoughts that make you feel bad. This action will help you to stop attending to the seemingly involuntary thought processes and the continuous negative monologues.

Questions to ask for empowering coping thoughts in an emotionally abusive relationship are:

1. Am I blaming myself for something over which I do not have control?
2. Are there any strengths or positives in me or the situation that I am ignoring?
3. Have I had any experiences that show that this thought is true all the time?
4. If a friend had this thought, what would I tell him or her?
5. Have I been in this type of situation with my partners before? What happened? Is   there anything different between this situation and previous ones?
6. What have I learned from prior experiences about the signs of an abusive relationship that could help me now?

These actions will help you in emotionally destructive relationships and can help you get through times of stress in healthy relationships. Listen to that voice in your head and do what you need to do to take care of your thoughts.

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Thank you for reading this article. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience. As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to put an end to the self-judgment and critical thoughts. And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-acceptance and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.

Individuals Stuck in Abusive Relationships: Comments from Survivors of Post Traumatic Narcissism Syndrome

narcissism???

narcissism??? (Photo credit: kk+)

Individuals stuck in abusive narcissistic relationships typically have a long history of tolerating partner abuse.  No matter what abuse is inflicted, they stay in the relationship.  They feel sorry for their partners and believe they can fix them.  Excuses are made for the abusive behavior while blaming themselves.  Survivors must learn how to set boundaries for what they will accept and what they won’t accept or they will never get the love they need and deserve.  Symptoms of PostTraumatic Narcissism Syndrome (PTNS) are common reactions to the intense fear and the emotional battering experienced by survivors of narcissistic personality disordered partners.  PTNS IS AN EXPERIENCE, NOT A DIAGNOSIS.  Symptom indicators are listed below.   Further down are blog comments and my responses to survivors learning to heal from people who won’t or can’t love them.

Symptoms of Post Traumatic Narcissism Syndrome

● Flashbacks of the cruel behavior and trauma

Hyperarousal (i.e., extreme fear for personal safety)

Hypervigilance (i.e., scanning environs for constant threats, stalking, violence)

● Irritability

● Depression & Guilt

● Multiple physical complaints

● Numbing

● Impaired concentration and memory

● Disturbed sleep & distressing dreams

Comments, Questions, and Answers from Survivors of Posttraumatic Narcissism Syndrome

Roberta,

I am a man who has been sucked dry by a woman narcissist. It is just as torturous for men as for woman, if not more so, since you are raised in a society where you are expected to be a caregiver and supporter to the “weaker sex”.

Finally, when you accept the horrible truth that you gave all your heart, mind, body, spirit  and soul to a mere confabulation of a cruel deranged mind; one unable to and that never had any intention of giving in return, and all you were led to believing in doesn’t even exist, you stop. You have escaped, barley, with nothing but your life. No less than a prisoner liberated from the Nazi concentration camps. Frail, exhausted, and traumatized but finally free you stop. Stop living in fear. Stop allowing yourself to be screamed at, spit on, lied to , stolen from, smacked, ignored, degraded… flat-out abused in all ways. You thank God for spots like this on the internet so the truth of your experience hits home that it was real and you do survive and you STOP.

It was a point long ago when I stopped being a victim and became a volunteer. Now, since I have the testimonies of others and the truth is self-evident, I stop. I am no longer a volunteer; I breathe that sigh of relief and STOP.

Thanks for your support

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Thank you for sharing the wreckage of living in purgatory with a narcissist.  My hope is that you use your intellect and the emotional pain to banish the trauma memories from your mind.  As I’ve said in other posts, “Renting space” in your head to the narcissist allows them to punish you conceivably for forever.  Recovering from the psychic damage is a process and it sounds like you are showing up for yourself.  More power to you!  Sending positive vibes for the immense relief that comes from taking your soul back.

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Roberta,

As a child I was an older sibling to a younger child with a disability.  The family focus was on helping this other child.  As a young adult I dated guys who were unreliable, emotionally unavailable or needy. I was married to a narcissist for over 30 years.  I did not know that he was having affairs from the time our children were preschoolers.  I found out after our children were about grown up and decided to divorce him. I had the papers served without discussion.    We are divorced now for about a year or two.  We still have a house to sell and recently he left town without telling me or our realtor.  This leaves me with the homeowner chores of selling the house: mowing grass, paying utilities, freshening interior, sweeping porches etc.  When he is in town I am miserable.  When he leaves town I am miserable.  I don’t know what to do with myself.  I spent my life waiting to see what he wanted and doing that.   I don’t know what I want or what to do with the rest of my life.  I feel anxiety and for a long time low level depression.  My young adult sons do not respect me.  I feel very alone and in a lot of pain.  The adult sons will be with their Dad over the holidays & I will be alone at the holidays for the first time in my life.

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My heart goes out to you.  The emotional and psychic repair from a narcissistic relationship is a process.  Learning about what happen to you and the dynamics of the narcissistic personality will give you a language that will help you heal.  Emotional self-care needs to be your priority and planning ahead of time for the upcoming holiday season is important. Please think about participating in activities or being with people that nurture you.   I believe there are times in our lives when we are challenged with change and fear we can’t take care of ourselves.  Listening to the voices in our head that tell us we don’t deserve to love or be loved keeps us stuck in familiar pain.   So does renting space in our heads to abusive people by replaying thoughts of their cruelty.  The narcissistic personality feeds on this emotional vulnerability to keep his victim trapped (forever).  You have the strength to change and love yourself or you wouldn’t have written to me.   I am wishing you the best.

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Roberta,

I am struggling with a mother who is a passive aggressive narcissist in denial. My father is an alcoholic and a puppet that she controls (which most likely stimulates his drinking).   I am the age of 33 and have had unhealthy relationships my whole life, unknowingly attracted to narcissists. I have been through years of therapy and realized my role as a codependent in both my dysfunctional family and love relationships.  My awareness and perspective broadened and I found a man who compliments me, we married last year.

However, I still struggle with my mother as now that I am married feels neglected, as my time and attention to catering, pleasing and validating her self-worth has diminished. She plays the guilt trip with me, “I never want to bother you because you are always with your husband”, “I haven’t heard from you, and I would like to see my daughter once in a while.”

Also, she is always helping others, care taking and yet isn’t available to immediate family members that are in need. She enjoys feeling needed and being admired in the eyes of others. Everyone praising her how wonderful she is.

What do I do? How can I have a healthy daughter-mother relationship? How do I communicate myself so that she realizes the strain she has put on the relationship?

Any guidance is greatly appreciated!

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Thank you for writing to me. I feel for you in your life situation.  Giving ourselves permission to say “no” to what feels bad when it’s a parent is a sad situation to face.  Profound sadness begins early in children of alcoholics and narcissistic mothers.  Unresolved sadness from childhood can keep us stuck emotionally as adults.  Children of alcoholics/narcissist’s learn quickly to deny this sadness in order to survive.  This is how a high tolerance for emotional pain and inappropriate behavior begins to develop.  In adulthood the unresolved sadness can get expressed as clinical depression, compulsivity, or even physical violence. 

The rules in the alcoholic-narcissistic family systems typically are:  “Don’t talk,” “Don’t trust” and “Don’t feel” (John Bradshaw, 1988).   Don’t talk about the fact that you are scared, lonely, sad, angry, hurt and emotionally impoverished.  Don’t talk about dad’s alcoholism or mom’s cruelty.  Quite often these children grow up alone with the family secret while carrying the family pain.   Children learn early not to trust because the parent’s behavior is unpredictable and often combined with many broken promises.  To feel the profound sadness of abandonment is too much for a child to process.  The challenge as an adult is giving us permission to have our feelings, express them, and set boundaries.  The often unconscious buried fear of abandonment runs deep.  This is not a life sentence, you can learn new behaviors.  The healing from childhood wounds is a process and sometimes we need to take a break from our family of origin while we re-parent ourselves and learn entitlement to our feelings. 

It sounds like to be with your mom and dad you have to accept victimization.  You are probably the only one who can change and you deserve to be loved in a healthy way.  It starts with a commitment to be disciplined in your self-care.  Invest in yourself.  Learn a new language (read about alcoholic families and parents who try to get their unmet childhood dependency needs healed through their children) for what has happen to you, so you are clear on who is responsible for what and clear on what you are letting go.   This will allow you to release your resentments and be done with them.  Give yourself permission to learn what is right for you and develop endurance for sitting with the bad feelings that come up when you are breaking the family rules.   You might want to consider finding a mantra (i.e., “It’s not okay to hurt myself”) to repeat when the feelings of shame appear from setting a boundary.  Feelings of shame (Who I am is bad) for taking care of yourself are likely when you say “no more” to your mother or say, “Dad I will not be around you when you drink.”  I really believe that coming out of the family system you described requires mentors and people to support your courage to experience the love and life you deserve.  You will probably have to accept that your parents are incapable of loving you in a healthy way.  We are really not made to solve our life’s challenges alone.  As the saying goes, “It takes a village.”  Please leave yourself open to finding positive parent role models.  I am wishing you an abundance of love.

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Thank you for reading this article. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience.  As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to put an end to relationship abuse.  And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.

Roberta

How Codependents Leave Employment with a Narcissistic Boss

The Apprehensive Man Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Apprehensive Man Courtesy of Wikipedia

The narcissistic boss is a charming, beguiling, angelic nightmare who lacks empathy, has an inflexible personality, and inflicts great mental abuse on employees.  They control their staff by intimidation and fear, constant criticism and cultivating a competitive hostile work environment.

Once a codependent employee’s initial admiration ends or the narcissist gets tired of being nice they punish the person for not being docile and obedient.  What is a codependent?  Codependents are people who feel responsible for the feelings of others and tend to seek validation and reassurance from a person who is unwilling to give them this type of support.  A narcissistic boss uses this insecurity to inflict misery and make an employee feel insignificant. They are adept at finding the vulnerabilities in people’s psyches and need someone who is willing to cater to their needs and to give up their own desires. Expecting something from an abusive boss who has nothing to give can make a codependent employee feel crazy.

The narcissist damages self-esteem to assert control, superiority and grandiosity.  This cruelty is done for pleasure as they are unable to empathize with the pain they cause.  When you confront the inappropriateness of their behavior they perceive you to be intentionally frustrating and withholding admiration.  They will shift blame because they will not accept responsibility for their own abusive behavior and instead blame their mistakes and/or bad behavior on the inadequacies of others.

According to the DSM-IV-TR, a patient must exhibit five or more of the following traits to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

● shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

● grandiose sense of self-importance

● preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

● belief that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

● need for excessive admiration

● sense of entitlement

● takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own agenda

● lacks empathy

● often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her

The narcissistic boss will not praise, reward, or recognize your work, no matter how long or hard you work for him or her. To meet their demands and please them, they will expect you to work late, come in early, and give up your lunch hour.  Typically, every detail of the way they dress, their clothes, shoes, hair, make-up, accessories, are planned and usually of high quality.  Some high status bosses actually use the services of an image consultant to guide them in projecting a lovable attractive façade.  Narcissistic bosses surround themselves with “yes” people because they don’t like confrontation or anyone to disagree with them.  They insist on having everything go their way.  Employees are merely an instrument for their gratification.

Normal, ordinary, average, and hardworking employees are met with great disdain.  These employees are seen as worthless and coldly ignored after they have served their purpose.  Narcissistic bosses don’t have friends, they have fans.  An acquaintance is a more appropriate term for what they call a friend. They require a daily regimen of narcissistic supply, admiration, awe, praise and obedience.  The narcissist lacks compassion, and understanding and doesn’t identify with an employees problems or dilemmas.  They actually don’t want to hear about you being overworked.  They want to hear you call being swamped as “productive.”

Codependent employees are a perfect match for the abusive boss because they have an exceptionally high tolerance for emotional pain and inappropriate behavior. The high tolerance for pain helped them cope with family of origin dysfunction; as an adult they tend to become victims of abuse.  Codependents from toxic family systems learn that any positive feelings about self are dependent on the mood of someone else. Lacking entitlement to their feelings, they tend to be indirect about their needs, deny hurt feelings, and distrust their intuition. They have the belief that being a good employee means sacrificing for my boss and putting up with whatever the boss wants to dish out.

When you don’t speak up about the behaviors and trauma from a narcissistic employer the abuse can slowly eat at your soul.  Keeping the narcissists mistreatment a secret literally weighs you down as you eat, smoke, drug, or drink your feelings.  Staying in a toxic situation is the beginning of a physical disease process in the bodies of many employees.   Disability leave from employment stress is a prevalent issue, especially in hostile work environments.

Leaving a toxic work environment means you are ready to end the abuse, rigid rules, secrets, manipulation, betrayal, and feeling of desperation. Some codependents say leaving their job is the end of evil.  Terminating employment also means that you are ready to feel the immense relief that comes when you begin accepting the truth and stop denying reality.  You find the power to leave when you stop denying the inappropriate behavior and no longer make it okay to hurt yourself.  You stop waiting for your boss to show respect or be someone he or she is not.  You deal with your feelings and walk away from the insanity.

Tips for preparing yourself to leave employment with a narcissistic boss:

  1. Invest in yourself by learning about codependency and the narcissistic relationship.
  2. Use your deep capacity for love to develop enough love for yourself to stop the pain an unhealthy work environment causes.
  3. Work through your family of origin issues so you don’t find yourself working through them with employers.
  4. Learn to love and respect yourself so you will become attracted to employers who will respect you.
  5. Create a solid sense of self and the courage to speak up when a boss is abusing you.
  6. If you are having great difficulty leaving your employment, please seek professional counseling.

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Thank you for reading my post. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience.  As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to put an end to relationship abuse and emotional pain.  And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.

Roberta

Mirror Therapy: Seeking Relief Through the Looking Glass

6/52 "phantom limbs"

6/52 “phantom limbs” (Photo credit: porschelinn)

Phantom limb pain (PLP) and phantom limb sensation (PLS) have long intrigued physicians and clinical psychologists.  PLP is commonly seen in people who have lost a limb due to disease or trauma. Although it no longer exists, the phantom limb becomes the location of severe pain, characterized as cramping, shooting, squeezing, stabbing, throbbing or burning. In addition, phantom limbs are often perceived as paralyzed in an unnatural position or shape. Following amputation, virtually all patients experience PLS, painful or not. Essentially, the brain remembers the missing part of the limb and is still reporting its feelings. A person with PLS may feel numbness, tingling, heaviness, temperature change, pressure, constriction, reduced or changing limb length and a sense of voluntary movement in the phantom limb.

V.S. Ramachandran, MD, is the developer of the mirror box treatment for PLP. The theory proposes that when a patient gets visual feedback (i.e., using a mirror) that the phantom limb is obeying the brain’s command, the learned paralysis or pain is sometimes “unlearned.”  His original mirror box treatment evolved into the use of a single mirror.

To explore the phantom limb phenomena, Ramachandran conducted a study of 10 arm amputees using the mirror box to generate an illusion of a missing limb. Patients were instructed to place their amputated limb behind the mirror and to place their surviving limb in front of the mirror while freely moving the intact arm and hand. When the patients looked into the mirror they saw the illusion (image) of their missing limb as being intact and moving freely. Six participants experienced phantom limb movement; four experienced relief of spasms when the mirror was used to facilitate the unclenching of the phantom hand. Another participant’s pain disappeared with repeated use of the mirror over a three-week period. Participants reported that the visual image of the missing limb created a sensation of motion in the phantom limb. Three participants reported a relief of pain using the mirror image to “move” the phantom.

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Single Mirror

Despite the published success of treatment with single mirrors, many amputees experience no relief using a single mirror.  At this time, the rates of response are unknown, and the individual differences influencing mirror therapy are not well-understood.  In addition, there is some evidence that PLP is more common in below knee amputations. This may either be due to it initially being more likely to occur, or that PLP is more likely to resolve naturally in upper-limb amputations.

I have created a new mirror apparatus that has generated phantom sensations in nine pilot patients with limb loss. The new device uses three vertical mirrors, with panes oriented at angles. The tripartite mirror apparatus (TMA) enables viewers to see unusual multiple images of themselves from the side with the illusion of the missing limb intact. Two pilot patients (missing left arms) who reported their phantom hand in a painful, cramped, frozen position, felt movement, relaxation (unclenching of the phantom hand) and temporary relief of pain using the mirror image to “move” the phantom. One participant says, “When I am experiencing throbbing and stabbing feelings in my amputated arm and leg, I use the mirror.  It alleviates the pain and relaxes my phantom hand. I can then get on with what I am doing.” Another participant with a missing left arm experienced movement in his phantom limb for the first time in 18 years.  He reports feeling amazed at the sensation of his phantom hand moving and at seeing the illusion of his limb intact. A participant with a below knee amputation who reported perceptual telescoping (retraction of the phantom limb into the residual limb) experienced the lengthening of his phantom leg and a reduction in discomfort. This patient was emotionally overwhelmed by the sensation.

A common theme that emerges in response to mirror use is reports of phantom limb movement, relaxation (to a lesser degree) and pain relief. As a result of TMA use, all participants experienced phantom limb movement. A clinical trial has recently been completed with a cognitive behavioral intervention integrated with the TMA to treat phantom limb pain and psychosocial disability at the Veterans Administration Healthcare System. This data will provide further explanation of the TMA pilot study results.

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Tripartite Mirror Apparatus

The implications of the single mirror and TMA findings are that visual input (using the mirror) can reduce PLP. While most reports have used upper-limb loss patients, several case reports with lower-limb loss have also shown success in increasing perceived control over phantom limbs and reducing PLP.

Although at least 80 interventions exist to treat phantom limb pain, it is rarely treated successfully. For many sufferers, the ensuing chronic pain results in a decreased quality of life and an increased dependence upon costly medicines and medical resources. The potential efficacy of treating PLP with a single or tripartite mirror offers hope for finding a viable pain intervention.

For more mirror pictures you can read this article in InMotion magazine by clinking this link: http://www.amputee-coalition.org/inmotion_online/inmotion-22-06-web/#/1/

FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH LIMB LOSS, PLEASE CLICK ON  THIS LINK FOR RESOURCES AND SUPPORT FROM THE AMPUTEE COALITION http://www.amputee-coalition.org/

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Thank you for reading this article. I’m dedicating my personal and professional life to supporting people with limb loss.  My learning journey with chronic physical pain is a result of my personal experience with phantom limb pain.  I was graced with the gift of self-acceptance upon realization that my forearm was amputated.  As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to put an end to phantom limb and emotional pain.  And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.

Roberta