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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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.

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

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.

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

Does the Violent Sociopath, Narcissist, and the Emotionally Immature Male Change?

I have facilitated court mandated 52-week intervention groups for the male perpetrators of domestic violence for almost two decades and have become convinced that change happens only in an environment of love, where each group member has something to offer all the others. The violent person needs not only to receive love but also to give love in return.  The more lethal members have much to give; they can heal other members by sharing the severity of their violence.  As group cohesiveness develops, the truly violent member can reveal to the other group members his lethality without offense and without being shamed.  I have observed with my clients that through listening and sharing their stories they discover and learn a new way of viewing their problems and interacting with the world.  They start to feel safe and their life takes on a new meaning as they begin to own the stories they tell.

The abuser that accepts 100% responsibility for their own actions comes to view violence (emotional, verbal, physical, etc.) as never being an acceptable solution when solving problems.  These men come to see that their impulse control problem fueled by self-hatred is more powerful than they are.  Dealing with their anger problems alone is ineffective and not enough.  They need others to help them; and need others to give back what they have received.  In a group of fellow batterers they can face themselves, they hear their life story and experience the feeling of self-acceptance. This experience of being understood and fitting in involves honesty.  This happens by telling the truth about their violent behavior.  They also learn where they fit by listening to how others have handled or are attempting to handle similar situations.  By listening they discover a way of life that really works.  Listening and telling is how they participate and how they learn to stop violence.

The narcissist and sociopathic clients seem to not experience a need to belong.  I believe their profound self-hatred stops the development of real love for self and others. They are constitutionally incapable of empathizing with their victims and often inflict great (physical or emotional) pain on meaningful others while enjoying their writhing and suffering.  Some of these clients openly admit to the purgatory they put their partners through. The sociopath in particular does it for pure pleasure.  Impressing upon the personality disordered defendant that greater legal punishment will be the consequence if they get caught for continued violence appears to be the only effective tool for impulse control while they are in intervention.  These men are powerful teachers for group members.

As a professional working with violent men my duty is to be an instrument of change and putting the injured parts of my clients together into some kind of whole.  I do not abuse power or control and I model self-love and compassion.  The same assertive, trustworthy, and caring woman shows up each week to group.  I have found that many clients experience alienation and separation because the connection with something larger than oneself is missing.  Creating a non-shaming group environment is essential to the acceptance of outside help.

An argument for the principles that being good and fitting in involves honesty with self pervades all spiritual visions.  The act of confronting the truth of one’s own violence begins the development of empathy and the recognition that others weaknesses make them not different from, but like oneself.  Being an instrument in raising tolerance for differences, along with an understanding that we all struggle with the same demons, we all share the same fears and sorrows, we all do the best we can with what we have is the foundation for conflict resolution and self-responsibility.

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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 abusive relationships and what it takes to put an end to the violence.  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.