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.