Saturday, October 29, 2016

Individuality and relationship- PART TWO

I met someone recently who said he’d sacrificed his individuality in his previous marriage.  He used to defer to his wife, thinking that if he did what she asked, he would make her happy.  He thought this was the key to a successful marriage.  But his wife was unhappy, constantly complaining and criticizing.  In the end he was unable to satisfy her, and she rejected him and ended the relationship.

He left his marriage stripped of his identity, disconnected from all the things he used to like.  He had fallen into the “nice guy” trap and carried deep hurt around everything he had given up for his ex.

He stayed away from relationships for a while.

Now that he’s dating again, he’s scared of losing his individuality; and with good reason.  Nice guys usually end up either rejected by a chronically dissatisfied mate, or become chronically angry and resentful themselves.

So he’s trying to do what he wants when he wants; sticking to his plans and trying not to be swayed when he feels pressured by others’ needs (after all, he is a sensitive man).  This is not a bad strategy.  But it is still a defensive one.  And will likely drive away potential partners.

We need to avoid the extremes of personal sacrifice and ego-centrism, between negating our own needs and those of our partner’s.

But to do this we need to say what we want and need in an honest conversation.  This is something nice guys have a hard time doing.  But that is the necessary first step.

Individuality and relationship- PART ONE

A lot of people come into my office hoping they can fix themselves between relationships.  They think of therapy as a surgery or garage, a process that can reset your factory default settings before the screw-ups, before heartbreak, before hardship and scars.  They say, “I want to get healthy so I can have better relationships."

It doesn’t quite work that way.
On our own, we are one person.  In relationship, another.  (Unless we choose to remain a disconnected monad, a world unto ourselves, living in a parallel universe, i.e. not relating….)  

The only way to have a healthy relationship is to know ourselves, know our triggers and our past strategies, the ones that worked and the ones that didn’t, and try to do something different next time round.  We can figure that out in therapy but we cannot apply it.  It is like the difference between having a safe car and being a good driver.  

Relationships are where the rubber meets the road… 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

red flags of covert narcissism?

Lately with Donald Trump running for President of the United States, there has been a lot of talk about narcissism. Trump’s flagrant displays are typical of overt narcissism. But there is another, more insidious, kind of covert narcissism which is just as (if not more) dangerous because it is skillfully concealed behind a deliberately cultivated mask of kindness.

Covert narcissists use kindness and caring to seduce and charm. They feed off making others feel good and cared for, not because it makes them happy but because it makes them feel strong. They hunger for power, and love to stir up emotions, getting off on others' reactions which they take as testimony to their profound influence. Once influence is secured, they get bored and withdraw because, like all narcissists, they are unable to form (and uninterested in forming) deeper attachments.

An overt narcissist can be easily spotted among lawyers, politicians and cops. He is the one acting belligerent, ugly and mean. But the covert hides out among the clergy, doctors, caregivers, masseurs, actors, chefs or others whose unsavoury intentions may be disguised, like the witch in her candy house or the wolf in grandma's clothing. This provides the perfect opportunity to groom unsuspecting targets before they go in for the kill.

The red flags of overt narcissism are obvious, that is why they are overt: grandiosity, self-importance, superficiality, lack of sensitivity to others’ feelings. But what are the red flags of the covert?

A covert red flag is an oxymoron.  

But counterfeit kindness cannot be sustained.  Beware of those who love too much too soon, or who become intimate and cultivate your dependency on them too quickly. Intimacy fosters bonds that are hard to break. This is the covert plan.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

trying to get through

I am so tired of trying to get through to my husband.  I cannot seem to find the right words.  He wants to spend all his free time with his family and this really infuriates me. 
How do I help him understand why I feel that way?  Why do I feel so insecure?

Once you have shared your feelings, it is not for you to get through to your husband.  It is for him to reach out and get you.  
You should not have to convince him of your feelings.  He should try to understand them.
You should not have to fight to be #1.  He should be trying to make you feel that way.  
You should not have to listen to how he feels divided between you and other obligations.  He should be reassuring you that you are more important than any of them.
Nobody should have to listen to how their partner feels divided between their love for you and other obligations, whether family, work, play or friends....  

We all have obligations.  But it is our responsibility to attend to them without making our loved ones feel like it is their problem.

Monday, July 18, 2016

empaths and narcissists, part two: how to identify a narcissist

Thanks for that last post but it left me wondering: are there any rules to help us identify narcissists; what is it that makes them generally different from empaths?

Good question!  I think you can tell a lot about people by how they respond to hurting you.

Some people will defend their intentions sooner than apologize, but will ruthlessly prosecute you when they feel hurt.  Others will do the opposite: sooner apologize than defend themselves when they’ve hurt you, but carefully consider your point of view when you’ve hurt them.

The former deny responsibility and project blame, while the latter fully own their harmful actions and graciously forgive yours.  

Narcissists and empaths.  Opposites that (alas) attract.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

the empath and narcissist

Patricia, what do you think of this article on the signs of a narcissist?  I don't like what the last part is writing about choosing a narcissist to heal childhood drama or blaming parents. 

I think the article is good.  I especially like # 7:
An empath's light is bright; highly sensitive people have a high love quotient.
Sensitivity and empathy are strengthsBut if an empath involves herself with someone who is incapable of empathy (otherwise known as a narcissist), her love eventually becomes a one-way drain.

In terms of "choosing" a narcissist to heal ourselves, I agree with you: we do not choose someone to heal us any more than we choose him to abuse us, and it is important not to blame ourselves for the way we are mistreatedThis is called “blaming the victim”.

That said, we do choose our partner.  So, if you did end up with a narcissist, or were abused by one, you had something to do with it.  At the very least, you exercised poor judgement in choosing to be with him.  Maybe your boundaries were violated as a child, or your parents failed to protect or defend your boundaries.  If so, it may be hard for you to identify the subtle dehumanizing boundary violations typical of narcissists.  (This is where childhood stuff comes in.)   

We all need to cultivate awareness of how we get into bad situations and why we stay, or we will carry our past blindly forward into other relationships.  Call it karma, intergenerational transmission or repetition compulsion, the tendency to repeat the same mistakes needs our full attention if we wish to do something about it. 

This is the meaning of sobriety, and it goes for empaths and narcissists alike.

Monday, June 27, 2016

a letter to my daughter

Saying “I love you” is not love.
Being in love with you is not love.
Finding you beautiful is not love.
Having sex with you is not love.
Giving you massages is not love.
Giving you money is not love.
Giving you compliments is not love.
Helping you with your homework, chores, heavy or light-- none of that is love.
Serving you or your loved ones, even your children, that is not love either.

Neither is saying, doing or giving anything at all you have not asked for.  Even listening to you while you talk, vent or rant is not love.

These things make you feel good but they are NOT NECESSARILY LOVE.

They may in fact be toxic to you when they foster attachment to someone who makes you feel like you can depend on him to feel loved, special, needed or cared for— but who is not really there to give you what you need.

It is like sugar on berries:
Sweet but addictive and lacking real substance.
It is not love.

So what is love?

Above all, it is giving you what you ask for.
It is listening carefully to you.
It is not hurting you.
It is willingness to own mistakes when you do get hurt,
Receiving your grievances graciously,
Committing to refraining from all forms of violence against you, or being willing to learn how to do that.

Demand it.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

how to deal with anxious thoughts

Clients besieged by anxiety often ask me how to stop bad thoughts. My answer to them is always the same: you can’t.  Don’t even try.  By giving them any attention at all you empower them, lending them more room in your head to bully you with.

So DO NOT try to stop bad thoughts.  

Just turn your attention elsewhere, starving bad thoughts of attention while feeding your mind friendlier thoughts; not “positive thoughts” which you do not believe, but pleasant memories, comforting truths or reveries.

Finally, if anxious thoughts keep bugging you, breathe them in, imaging you are purifying the air like a fire-breathing dragon in reverse.  This is a form of Tonglen, a powerful Buddhist practice which reminds us that we are bigger than whatever thoughts besiege us.