Can Therapy with a Narcissist Help, or Does It Make Things Worse?

Originally Recorded 2/11/22

Tony answers questions about the importance of working with a therapist that is familiar with emotional immaturity, or narcissistic traits and tendencies, and he shares listener stories of the positives and negatives of trying to attend couples therapy with a narcissist.

With the continuing “sheltering” rules spreading across the country, PLEASE do not think you can’t continue or begin therapy now. can put you quickly in touch with licensed mental health professionals who can meet through text, email, or videoconference often as soon as 24-48 hours. And if you use the link, you will receive 10% off your first month of services. Please make your mental health a priority, offers affordable counseling, and they even have sliding scale options if your budget is tight.

You can learn more about Tony’s pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting And visit and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs and podcasts.

Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the “uh’s” and “um’s” that, in his words, “must be created by wizards and magic!” because it’s that good! To learn more about Descript, click here


[00:00:08] Hey, everybody. Welcome to episode twenty three of Waking

[00:00:11] Up the narcissism, I’m your host, Tony Overbay.

[00:00:13] I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of the Virtual Couch podcast, and today we’re going to talk a little bit more about therapy. I turn to my

[00:00:21] Private women’s Facebook group and ask the question about what people’s experience

[00:00:26] Has been with therapy and are there therapists that they would recommend as there? Have they

[00:00:30] Been as just individuals

[00:00:32] Or as couples? And the group never disappoints?

[00:00:35] There’s some, some amazing examples and stories and suggestions and that sort of thing, so we’re going to get to some real examples today. I feel like the most feedback

[00:00:42] I receive is from people hearing these examples because they feel heard and understood

[00:00:47] And feel like they’re not alone and they have a lot of these similar

[00:00:49] Experiences. But before we even dove

[00:00:51] Into the the emails, the Facebook posts, I wanted to talk about another

[00:00:57] Concept that was shared on the group

[00:00:59] And someone there’s a

[00:01:01] Lot of people share memes,

[00:01:03] And I used to think that a meme was just something that always had to be funny. But by definition, a meme is something that does deliver information. So someone shared a

[00:01:12] Meme that said as a result of

[00:01:14] Trauma, you may have. And then it has a

[00:01:17] List kept secrets. We’re mature for your age, pushed people away.

[00:01:21] Learn how to sense danger, engaged

[00:01:23] In self-destructive behaviors, barely ever trust anybody or pretended to be OK when you weren’t.

[00:01:28] And I just was was just, I think, waiting for some laundry last night and I just jumped on and I just commented just a little bit impulsively that

[00:01:37] That mature for your age is a

[00:01:39] Fascinating one.

[00:01:40] Because when you’re told that you’re an old soul when you

[00:01:43] Are young, it typically means that you’ve had to protect yourself, often because you weren’t protected. And there’s been a couple of people that have commented and agreed.

[00:01:49] And I remember seeing that hearing that at a training

[00:01:52] Once where the concept of someone feeling like an old soul that it can be viewed by adults as,

[00:01:58] Oh, that’s endearing. But the more that we learn about old soul

[00:02:01] Was, did someone have to grow up a little bit sooner? Did somebody have to protect themselves more? That concept of old soul is also associated with highly sensitive people often. And so then I decided to do a little bit of a little bit of Googling and see if I

[00:02:14] Could find a good article or some data or research that backed that

[00:02:17] Up, and he couldn’t really find anything specific. I found a pretty interesting article that talked about old soul and what that means, and they talked about the high sensitivity is where the trait might come from. Research suggests that people with high sensitivity have finely tuned nervous systems and brains that process information in a complex way. We’ve talked about highly sensitive people here, and some experts consider this an evolutionary survival strategy. And then in this, it’s a Healthline article, but it said when you can analyze

[00:02:44] Sensory information from your environment more thoroughly, you’ll probably notice threats earlier.

[00:02:48] So a strong intuition can also help you recognize when people or situations just don’t feel right. And then they also talked about childhood trauma. Children who experience adversity in the form of trauma or violence, but not necessarily deprivation or neglect, may age faster than children who don’t, according to a 2020 research review, and says the researchers note that children exposed to this type of adversity

[00:03:07] Often hit puberty earlier

[00:03:09] Than others and show signs of faster cellular aging. So they they say that there’s no question that adversity can get in the

[00:03:15] Way of a happy, carefree childhood, and

[00:03:17] Trauma survivors may see the world differently. And to others, this perspective might look like old soul maturity.

[00:03:23] So I followed the link

[00:03:24] To the Twenty Twenty research review, and it is. It’s a handful. It is one of the it’s not a clear study, but it is a it’s a meta analysis or systematic review of testing this hypothesis that what they called early life adversity and they called the ELA. They said life

[00:03:42] History theory argues that exposure to early life adversity accelerates

[00:03:46] Development, although existing evidence for this

[00:03:49] Varies.

[00:03:49] So then they do a meta analysis of I think it’s

[00:03:52] Fifty four different

[00:03:53] Studies examining associations with

[00:03:55] Early life adversity with man, they get nerdy here, pubertal timing and cellular

[00:04:00] Aging, and by cellular aging.

[00:04:02] They’re looking at the length of your telomeres and

[00:04:04] Dna methylation age. So what does that mean? The impact statement At the end of this meta analysis, that’s a meta analysis suggests that biological

[00:04:12] Aging following early life adversity, including earlier so people reached puberty earlier. Their they, their telomeres, their cells

[00:04:20] Show advanced aging signs and accelerated

[00:04:22] Thinning of the cortex of the brain may

[00:04:24] Be specific to children and adolescents who

[00:04:26] Experienced violent or traumatic experiences early in childhood.

[00:04:30] And they do point out that the same effect wasn’t noticed for children who experienced

[00:04:34] Deprivation or just a lack of or poverty and

[00:04:37] The absence of violence or trauma. But if there was violence and trauma, then there was often

[00:04:41] Deprivation

[00:04:42] And poverty that went along with it. So they say that these findings highlight a potential role that accelerated

[00:04:47] Biological, aging and health disparities associated

[00:04:50] With early life trauma and

[00:04:51] A potential target for early intervention. So there is the nerdy

[00:04:55] Explanation of what an old soul is, but it’s just people that have had to maybe be

[00:05:01] Parented early or people that weren’t protected necessarily.

[00:05:05] And it could be emotionally. It could be physically. But that they did almost have to age a little bit sooner. And it’s just wild when

[00:05:12] You really look at the more we’re going to learn about the brain, the mirror neurons, the telomeres, all of these parts of the brain

[00:05:19] That you can see that just even having to be having to go through and experience that

[00:05:24] Trauma early can literally take effect or change our

[00:05:29] Makeup and age sooner.

[00:05:31] So if you were an old soul or were often described as an

[00:05:37] Old soul growing up, then at night might not be a bad idea. To take a look at that, maybe go

[00:05:41] Get a little therapy around that

[00:05:43] And find out where that comes from. And man, I’m not going to go into much depth on this, but the Virtual Couch podcast episode this week I actually talk about there’s been a pretty big tragedy or some definitely trauma in my own family, and it has really taught me a lot.

[00:05:59] And even where I thought that I had grown to have

[00:06:03] A significant amount of empathy, I feel like my empathy meter just went up about five notches because of some things that have been going on. So I am not trying to do that as, hey, now go listen to the virtual couch. But just talking about this concept of trauma or even we don’t know what we don’t know. I know that sounds so clichéd, but just an experience that I had in my life just over the last seven days actually just really caused me to understand the fact that we really don’t understand what anyone else is going through, even if we go through something similar, but especially until we

[00:06:34] Go through our own trauma or tragedy.

[00:06:36] And that often I find myself this week that if someone was just telling me, you know? Yeah, but yeah, but at least this didn’t happen, or you just need to look at it this way. Boy, I know that they mean well, and I’ve even been the guy that’s probably said those things. But when you actually experience trauma, you’ve got to process it, you’ve got to feel it. Sometimes we try to run away from those emotions too soon. I know that sounds a little bit too teaser and as if I’m wanting you to just go listen to that episode, but I want to get to some different things today. There’s that concept of an old soul. Let’s jump into one of the questions I get often is

[00:07:09] Just as therapy work.

[00:07:10] When you’re talking about narcissistic traits, tendencies, full-blown narcissistic personality disorder.

[00:07:15] What I posed to the group, I said, I’m going to start talking more about finding a good therapist who is familiar with

[00:07:21] Narcissistic traits and tendencies or emotional immaturity. And I said, I’m going to put

[00:07:27] Out a call out to therapists to reach

[00:07:28] Out to me if they feel comfortable working with this population.

[00:07:31] So that’s what I’m doing right now. I’m understanding more and more that there are a lot of therapists that

[00:07:35] Listen to this podcast in particular and that I say, thank you. Thank you so much. Welcome.

[00:07:40] And if you are a therapist and

[00:07:42] You would just be interested in maybe even

[00:07:45] Learning more or collaborating, or possibly

[00:07:48] At some point getting on some

[00:07:50] Sort of list or index or registry of therapists who are OK or comfortable

[00:07:56] Working with this population, please reach out to me through the contact form on Tony over. I would love to talk to you more, but I said that the more I’m continuing to inundated with emails as people find the podcast and listen to the back catalog and one of the most frequently asked questions over the past month in particular has been How do you find a therapist who can quote see through narcissism? Because as I talk about on the group, I’m sure that so many

[00:08:18] People have discovered that therapy can

[00:08:19] Even seem to make the situation

[00:08:22] Worse if the

[00:08:23] Person doesn’t know what narcissistic traits or tendencies or emotional immaturity looks like. So I posed this to the group. I said this post is morphing into two things one of you

[00:08:32] Have had a good therapist who you believe understands what we’re

[00:08:34] Talking about, and maybe they even pointed to the podcast

[00:08:37] Then. Can you share their website

[00:08:39] Or contact info in the comment? So I’m starting to put that list together,

[00:08:42] But I said, I’m also really interested in your stories about how therapy and your narcissist has hurt or helped.

[00:08:47] How has it been used against you? What does it expose you to in your relationship? What’s to help you see more clearly? And then I just asked if they

[00:08:54] Do share stories if that’s OK to share on the podcast, I think that would be really important.

[00:08:59] So I’m going to just jump in with a pretty big one to start. This person said that they

[00:09:03] Went to couples therapy a couple of years ago, and the therapist was a faith based therapist,

[00:09:07] And she agreed with him on a lot of things.

[00:09:10] But she said it was really hard to talk about the things that were really happening in the

[00:09:12] Relationship and that the therapist focused on the five love languages and

[00:09:16] That made her feel like the one who needed to give love more. And she said it was frustrating and very invalidating for her. She said she realized

[00:09:23] That this was like taking vitamins when we needed some major medication, and she said she couldn’t

[00:09:27] Take it anymore. And the reason I started with this

[00:09:29] One is I just wanted to comment on the concept of the five love languages.

[00:09:33] And as a therapist that is brought up often and early in my therapy career, I use that often and Preston pug Maya and I who created the magnetic marriage course. We even have a part of that in there and one of the modules where we’re just talking

[00:09:46] About how seeing

[00:09:47] That we all have different experiences or we view things differently, but I really do feel like

[00:09:52] It’s it’s often used against somebody.

[00:09:55] So I do believe that

[00:09:56] Talking about the five love languages can absolutely be

[00:09:59] A tool. But I think what the tool is conveying is that we are two different people that were two different

[00:10:04] Individuals and that the way that.

[00:10:06] We grew up receiving love, showing love that it’s different based on the way that we were raised or based on our expectations and marriage and and if you really look at the approach, it’s really about

[00:10:17] An approach to communication and it wasn’t based off

[00:10:20] Of clinical research. But because of its popularity, there has been a lot of research done

[00:10:25] On the effectiveness of talking about the five love languages

[00:10:28] And remembering that it was released

[00:10:29] In nineteen ninety two. But even if you go dig up the there’s the small amount of data on love languages. Even that is mixed. There was a 2000 year 2000 study that indicated that the five love languages can be more and more effective framework than other approaches to helping couples communicate. But then some more recent research in 2017 suggest that the five love languages only work when, and I think this is so key both spouses

[00:10:52] Exhibit appropriate self-regulatory behaviors.

[00:10:56] So what does that mean that the concept works?

[00:10:59] If both partners are able to be emotionally mature and talk about it, talk about it from a

[00:11:05] Non-judgmental, Hey, check this out. If I plug that into my four pillars assuming good intentions, that there’s a reason why somebody shows up and wants

[00:11:13] Or feels like they give love a certain way and are interested in receiving love a certain

[00:11:18] Way so too often. And I feel like especially in the emotionally immature or narcissistic relationships that the five love languages is used as a Hey, how many times do I have to tell you that I want you to tell me I’m amazing and then be more intimate with me? Because then what does that leave? And in this scenario, if the husband is the one that typically has

[00:11:34] The I like words of affirmation and physical

[00:11:37] Touch, then the wife feels like, OK, I guess I have

[00:11:39] To do more of that in order for him to maybe meet my

[00:11:43] Love languages of quality time and acts of service. And so it becomes this. All right? Who’s going to go first? And I feel like that’s so often the person that is not the

[00:11:53] Physical touch or words of affirmation person. They are the ones that

[00:11:57] Feel like this is a bucket with a hole in the bottom of it. I’ll never be able to do that enough so that this person feels like it is OK. And that’s because to the

[00:12:05] Emotionally immature and this is where I’m telling you,

[00:12:07] I have been this

[00:12:08] Guy where you feel like,

[00:12:10] Ok, then when let’s say that, then the spouse does

[00:12:13] Tell you you’re awesome or and want to be physically intimate more then

[00:12:17] The emotionally immature says, OK, but isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that awesome? So why don’t we just do

[00:12:22] This even more? And so

[00:12:23] It does

[00:12:23] Feel like it’s never enough, because

[00:12:25] That isn’t what it’s about, even

[00:12:27] For the emotionally immature the person who says,

[00:12:29] No, I just need to be told I’m awesome and I need more physical intimacy. If you think about

[00:12:33] That, they’re basically saying, I need more external validation and more external validation when in reality, they need to become more be they need to become better at internal validation of feeling like, Oh, I

[00:12:45] Don’t need these someone else to tell me that I’m awesome or I don’t need a physical sensation to tell me that then everything is going to be OK. I need to learn to be OK. So that I can show up in my relationship and

[00:12:56] In essence, be more desirable.

[00:12:57] So the five love languages is something that can be a

[00:13:00] Little bit frustrating when brought up in therapy. So she said that there are now over two decades into their relationship and they’ve been separated for a little while. They had started couples therapy with a therapist that her husband had actually found.

[00:13:11] And she said that she did consult

[00:13:13] With the therapist

[00:13:14] And was excited to learn that she was familiar with narcissism and even had her own narcissistic relationship. The the person posting this that I had already been

[00:13:21] Deep into the narcissism research now for a couple of years, and she shared that she would do real talk therapy and really get down to the patterns and behaviors that were going on in the relationship. She said that the therapist did such a great job of connecting with her husband and

[00:13:34] Building a relationship with him

[00:13:35] That he really liked her and she really did

[00:13:37] Understand what was going on with him. And she did open up some big things with him. But she said it was still

[00:13:42] Infuriating to her that

[00:13:43] Each week he showed up as the victim. He showed up each week. So sorry, so sad. And she said that I realized that I was going to learn a lot just

[00:13:51] By listening to her conversations with him. And she said that the therapist gave them

[00:13:56] Excellent tools to try each week and each week. She gave very clear directions on boundaries, but each week we had to go back and revisit those boundaries and

[00:14:02] Tools as they were continually being violated. And that is that part with emotional immaturity or narcissism.

[00:14:08] A boundary almost seems like a challenge now, whether that’s subconscious or conscious, when there’s

[00:14:12] A boundary there, then it is regularly

[00:14:14] Pushed. So, she said after a couple of months, then she

[00:14:18] Brought up narcissistic personality disorder the therapist did. She said that she had never done that before with the client and had never felt that she could. But she said her husband had gotten really open to her, calling

[00:14:27] Him out on things, and that he even wrote pages to talk about the things that he had done wrong, how he realized all of his faults. He became open to working on his narcissism, and at some point, though, the narcissism started to become an excuse. And I could do a whole episode on this concept of I am open about my ADHD inattentive type, but I don’t use that as well. What am I going to do? It’s my ADHD

[00:14:49] That once you understand that, Oh, this is a thing now, what do I do about that thing? I need to employ new tools. I need to be even better about reminders. I need to be even better about being open

[00:14:59] And vulnerable, and so that I can then use this data to become

[00:15:03] A better person. But I go back. Emotional maturity where

[00:15:07] If that if I was just going to say, OK, I

[00:15:10] Am, who am I fooling? I really didn’t set up a reminder and I

[00:15:12] Missed something and then I say, Man, it’s my ADHD, what am I going to do? But then to somebody that’s more

[00:15:18] Emotionally mature, what am I

[00:15:19] Going to do? Ok, I’m going to break down the game film. I’m not going to beat myself up about the fact that I forgot to do something, but I’m going to say, I have to be honest with myself. I can’t. I can’t put this on anyone else. And so I need to be the one that continues to try to find solutions

[00:15:32] Or but I need to

[00:15:33] Use the

[00:15:33] Tools that are available now that I’m aware that I have ADHD. So I appreciate what she’s

[00:15:38] Saying that then at some point, then the narcissism started to become an excuse.

[00:15:41] It’s almost and I hear that where people will say, well, it’s just my narcissistic traits or tendencies or behaviors. So she said after a couple more months, his true colors came out in an argument that just went in circles. So then after a really bad weekend with him pressuring her so bad that she had to threaten

[00:15:56] To call the police to get him to leave. She said I made the

[00:15:59] Call to move from separation to divorce, and she said

[00:16:02] I requested that we go to counseling to split amicably. And he has showed up the past few weeks still trying to convince her not to leave. And she said that both times, he still continued to show what she calls his true colors that one of the sessions that he said, OK, here’s I’m proclaiming my love. I’m committing. I will change. But then it was. The session ended by saying, but he just needed to get these things off of his chest and saying all kinds of allegations then of abuse from her, then he even stayed back, told the counselor that she had done just done. He was making up things and saying that he had proof, and then he was blaming

[00:16:37] The counselor for everything.

[00:16:38] And then this, this person who posted said that she was able to then even watch the

[00:16:45] Counselor become the target of his anger.

[00:16:48] And she said that was really eye opening. So now the the the spouse

[00:16:53] Feels betrayed by the therapist and now says the therapist didn’t do a

[00:16:57] Good job. The spouse said

[00:16:59] He that he told the therapist that he is worried for any of the new couples to come in to her because

[00:17:04] She obviously doesn’t do a good job. So you can just see that it can just be a slog when somebody

[00:17:11] Goes to therapy, even with the right therapist. But sometimes and I know that when people go to therapy, they’re saying, I don’t know what else to do and we need tools and we need help. And as a therapist that has worked with

[00:17:23] So many

[00:17:24] Couples that I realized that both people are not coming in equally yoked.

[00:17:28] You get those situations where both people come in and say, Yeah, I don’t know what else to do.

[00:17:32] And they are just saying, give us the tools. We practice

[00:17:35] The tools. Then they come in with questions about the tools.

[00:17:37] But there are often times where couples come in

[00:17:40] And then it’s almost as if they’re trying to

[00:17:42] Say, I really don’t even know what to do here because I feel insane. I feel crazy.

[00:17:46] I feel like the goalposts keep moving. I feel like the there’s

[00:17:49] Too many variables. I feel like I can check

[00:17:51] All these boxes, and there’s just a whole

[00:17:53] Bunch of other boxes

[00:17:54] To check.

[00:17:54] So sometimes therapy becomes the OK, I now understand,

[00:17:59] Or I can see the situation more clearly, and I really feel like that’s what this person was talking about. Let me go to a couple of others. There’s another person that said that they went to a handful of therapy sessions with somebody that that she

[00:18:08] Didn’t necessarily like. She said the therapist was fine, but not great. But then afterward, X now was really upset

[00:18:14] Because he said that she had

[00:18:15] Specifically found a therapist that only agreed with her and didn’t agree with anything

[00:18:19] That he was saying. And I just find that that is one of those fascinating things that you see

[00:18:23] As the therapist where when even if I’m just trying to explain tools, what I’m trying to just set up a framework, let’s say, of my four

[00:18:30] Pillars of a connected conversation and can I can talk about attachment. I can talk about any of those things, but you can see that. Then let’s just say in this situation, and I know

[00:18:38] Again, I want to be very aware of

[00:18:40] That. It’s not always the man who is the narcissist that can be the woman,

[00:18:43] But I’m reading from my private women’s Facebook group. But in this scenario, you can sit there as the therapist and you’re laying out a framework. And if one person, let’s say the

[00:18:52] Wife in that situation, is coming in saying, help us. And if the husband’s coming in saying, OK, fine,

[00:18:57] I will come in, I will participate.

[00:18:59] But let me just explain to you what the situation is from

[00:19:03] My angle so that you can help her in that vibe is really clear. So then if the therapist now is saying, OK, I hear

[00:19:10] You, so let

[00:19:11] Me set up this framework, then what

[00:19:12] Is that going to feel like?

[00:19:13] Oh, the therapist didn’t listen to me.

[00:19:15] The guy would say he didn’t

[00:19:17] Agree with me and just point out that her craziness

[00:19:20] And I just told him all the things that that I

[00:19:22] Feel then that is going to look like the therapist is aligning with the wife in that scenario, when in reality, the therapist may just be setting up a framework to be able to communicate. Because if people don’t even have a framework to communicate, how on earth are we going to talk about these high charge topics?

[00:19:35] That is just that one. That one’s really interesting. I’m going to read a long one, and this one is it’s a difficult one, but I think there’s

[00:19:41] So much here that I think people will be able to pull from. And the person who

[00:19:45] Posted this said,

[00:19:46] You are absolutely welcome to share.

[00:19:48] But she also said that boy, even as she

[00:19:50] Went through this again, that it felt triggering.

[00:19:52] So I just that is why this can be so difficult. So she said,

[00:19:56] My ex had a therapist who was quite famous for her work with PTSD and was also culturally compatible

[00:20:02] So that he could express himself in his native language. She said that she had been the one to insist that he talked to somebody because it was obvious that they both had unresolved childhood trauma.

[00:20:11] And it was really causing problems in the relationship.

[00:20:14] And so she

[00:20:14] Seemed to be a really good fit for him, and he liked her a lot. It was individual therapy not specifically

[00:20:19] About the relationship. She had suggested

[00:20:21] The therapist who suggested another therapist in her practice to work with the wife.

[00:20:25] And he seemed

[00:20:27] Quite good at first, and she said I felt like I was making progress on my own issues. And he even shared that he himself had a narcissistic father and seemed to understand the generational trauma that I was dealing

[00:20:36] With, which I can only imagine how validating that felt at that time. She said that after a while, though, they suggested that we could do a few joint sessions with both of them there

[00:20:44] To support us to work on our issues with each other. And she said, I agreed, thinking that it might be helpful for our relationship,

[00:20:49] That it might be safe and that the professionals could help us communicate better

[00:20:52] With each other. And again, I will normalize that, validate that I’ve been a part of those type of sessions and they really can be helpful.

[00:20:58] But she said it

[00:20:59] Became apparent quickly in the first session that

[00:21:01] My ex

[00:21:02] Had clearly been manipulating his therapist and that the two

[00:21:04] Clinicians must have shared opinions. She said when asked, I opened up and I spoke honestly about my concerns, and he was allowed to deny,

[00:21:11] Deflect blame and attack for a long while. And I just this breaks my heart because I have seen this situation or if. Heard of these situations, and I you’re handing your emotional stability over to someone you’ve already been trying to handle your emotional stability or my Hey. Or am I

[00:21:29] Ok? You know this

[00:21:31] Again? I talk about the need for external validation, but

[00:21:33] That is that something that we need to recognize that we

[00:21:35] All come from the factory needing external validation or we want external validation to make ourselves feel better, but in the growth and becoming emotionally mature. That’s the part where we recognize that, oh man, if I’m not sure how I feel, if I don’t love myself, if I don’t know who I

[00:21:50] Am, if I don’t know my own talents, abilities, what I’m passionate about, if I

[00:21:55] Don’t go on that journey, then how on earth

[00:21:58] Am I going to expect that asking someone else

[00:22:01] To give me their opinion is going to truly resonate. And again, in an emotionally mature, healthy adult relationship, which we have to develop, then why would someone not want their spouse or their partner to to discover themselves,

[00:22:15] To figure themselves out

[00:22:16] And to be there for them to be along for the ride? Again, recognizing that we’re too autonomous people from different backgrounds that then absolutely can have different thoughts, opinions, core values and the more that we explore those together, the more that we can have this safe place of hate. Tell me more about that. What’s your experience with that? Where do you want to go

[00:22:35] With that instead of viewing that as an

[00:22:36] Attack or OK? Well, if my wife wants to dress this way or watch these things or pursue this

[00:22:42] Hobby, then if I feel like then that means that if that feels like a personal slight or an attack, that’s on me, it’s not on them. That’s my own emotional immaturity. Yet I digress. So she said, then OK, so she felt like the ex had been manipulating the therapist. And so

[00:22:58] After being where she felt like he was allowed to deny, deflect blame attack for so

[00:23:03] Long, she said, I felt like I had been sandbagged by all of them and

[00:23:07] Left feeling shattered and violated like a lab rat that they were experimenting with. She said that they all three treated her as if she was hysterical and insecure and that he

[00:23:16] Was the victim.

[00:23:17] And she said that he sat there with that little smirk on his face and that it appeared that he enjoyed the whole process. And she said, I refuse

[00:23:24] To do another session

[00:23:25] And I dropped my therapist and it was thrown in my face for years afterward that the professionals all agreed that she was the problem and that I was the one refusing to participate in future couples therapy. And I can understand that this is the part that probably feels

[00:23:37] Maddening because I want to, first of all, say, I’m

[00:23:40] Sorry for that happening and that as a professional, that that is not the way that there be needs to work, that people do need to be heard and understood. And and therapy is not a place for

[00:23:50] Somebody to just unload on their spouse.

[00:23:52] That’s why it’s so important to set up a framework. Now we want to be able to understand what each person’s experience is in the relationship,

[00:24:00] But it’s it’s not just to sit and blame and accuse

[00:24:03] And make the other person feel bad, but there is a way to share that, OK, here’s how I feel in the relationship I feel like or this is what this has been like for me.

[00:24:11] Not this is what they’ve done. This is what they make. This is what they do. This is what they don’t understand. This is how they’re showing up because that does just feel like such an attack. So she said the whole

[00:24:20] Experience set her back, and it was a long while before she felt

[00:24:23] Safe opening up to anybody else, she said. Luckily, she did find a better fit with a new therapist, and she’s back on a healthier track now. But it was traumatizing because she said she felt like she literally ended up staying almost another decade before

[00:24:34] She got herself together and she broke free, she said. On the other hand, years ago, her mother had dragged her to a joint session with a therapist to again quote Fix her

[00:24:42] After their initial joint session, where she spent the whole time listing her faults.

[00:24:46] Then he met with her individually,

[00:24:48] And

[00:24:48] Then when he met with her individually, he told her about he. It was a rather shocking experience. She said that the therapist pulled out his

[00:24:56] Dsm so his diagnostic manual and

[00:24:58] Explained about narcissistic personality disorder. Her mom easily felt the fit the criteria so she never went back and just complained that he never completed her request to fix him. So she never went back.

[00:25:11] And then the mom just

[00:25:13] Complained that the therapist never completed the mom’s request to fix her.

[00:25:18] The person posting, she said unfortunately, though, his only advice to me was that there was nothing I could do. He told me it was like dealing with someone who was deaf

[00:25:26] Or had Alzheimer’s that she’d never be able to hear me. And I

[00:25:29] Think that because she had been

[00:25:30] The one to engage him originally, he didn’t offer me any help, but he was the beginning of a long journey toward healing. So she said she’s grateful for that. And again, I hear you, I see you. I feel that I feel every bit of that. And that’s where it has

[00:25:43] Taken a long time even to come up with the tools that that I feel like I want to

[00:25:47] Present to somebody of where I understand what that therapist was saying that there it

[00:25:51] Can feel like there’s nothing you can do, but I feel like there’s a difference between there’s nothing you can do but that and you can do something. But then I feel like that is

[00:26:00] What then starts to cause. Then the interdependence that the differentiation and where there is differentiation, there is going to

[00:26:08] Be a lot of invalidation and that can be scary. And so I feel like you need those tools. So let’s go with these five things I talk about often that I feel like, what can you do? You can really double down on self-care.

[00:26:18] The self-care is not selfish. Raise your emotional. Explain, you can get your PhD in gaslighting and understand that, man, I’m not crazy and I see this pattern that it ends up being turned back around on me and in the process of gaslighting, the other person doesn’t take ownership of anything. The third one is get out of those unproductive conversations

[00:26:35] Because once we recognize gaslighting and once we recognize that that does

[00:26:39] Nothing for my self-esteem a self-care, then it is unproductive and bit of emotional energy or calories spent once I become aware of that is

[00:26:48] Quite literally a waste of time.

[00:26:49] And then the fourth thing is to learn how to set healthy boundaries that

[00:26:52] Ok, when things when

[00:26:54] The fire hose just gets pointed right back to me, or when the person goes into narcissistic rage or fits when they start doing a tirade of profanity, or they start just accusing just becoming very accusatory, then I will leave.

[00:27:09] I’m going to leave. But again, that’s going to be met with some invalidation. But in that fifth piece is to recognize that there’s nothing

[00:27:14] That you will say or do that will cause them to have the AHA moment

[00:27:18] Or the epiphany, which can then

[00:27:20] Really help with that fourth one of setting

[00:27:21] Boundaries and setting boundaries can

[00:27:23] Really go backwards back to that, that part of helping you get out of the the unproductive conversations. So there are things you can do, but then just be aware that the

[00:27:34] Things that you do will cause a shift in the dynamic in the relationship,

[00:27:37] Whether it’s with your spouse, whether it’s with your parent, your coworker. I’ve got a couple of people that I’m working with right now

[00:27:44] That you can look at institutional narcissism and

[00:27:46] The way that their entire the corporate culture is treating them, even to the point of where saying,

[00:27:51] Hey, you can come talk to us about anything, but then they do go talk to them about something, and now they’re put on the naughty list or

[00:27:57] They’re written up or that sort of thing. Let me do one more. I’ve got several, but maybe we can save these for a later episode.

[00:28:03] I don’t want this one to get too long.

[00:28:04] This one is really interesting for a particular

[00:28:07] Reason, and I’ll tell you, she talked about how

[00:28:10] Things before they were married, before they live together had seemed to be

[00:28:14] Ok. But then so many things came

[00:28:16] To light after marriage and

[00:28:17] Enjoining homes. And she said it only took about a month for me to find myself

[00:28:21] Defending my character and my personality, Daly getting overruled and lectured in front of his kids

[00:28:26] And getting looped into

[00:28:27] Circular conversations, and with her just never coming out ahead, that the discussions always turned back to his feelings, his suffering, his perception with no curiosity about her, her feelings or her perception. And let me just start right there. There, I will never forget one of before I really feel like I understood emotional immaturity or narcissistic traits and

[00:28:47] Tendencies of a couple sitting in front of me and the wife saying that he

[00:28:52] Was a completely different person. This was before I really understood

[00:28:55] What the concept of love bombing was. Again, the emotional immaturity

[00:28:57] That I’ll do whatever I need to do to

[00:28:59] Get what that concept is. At the foundation of gaslighting, it set the foundation of manipulation and set the foundation of pathological lying.

[00:29:06] All the things that are emotionally immature is I will do

[00:29:09] Anything to get my needs met. You watch adults

[00:29:11] Lie about things to get a better deal on something or to get out of paying a late fee for something or whatever. I’ll do whatever I need to do.

[00:29:18] And so the love bombing concept comes from that similar principle

[00:29:22] Of, Oh, I want to be married to this person. I want to have sex with this person. I want I want this person’s their stability. I want their financial acumen, whatever it is. So I will love mom and then I will do. I will be the person that

[00:29:33] I need to be to get

[00:29:34] Them to love me. I will do whatever it takes. And then once we are married, then I can relax. How fascinating

[00:29:40] Is that? And again, back to this initial couple and I’m thinking of them right

[00:29:43] Now with so many years ago. But where then the guy looked at me

[00:29:47] And he said, Well, yeah,

[00:29:48] That’s what people do. That’s what every marriage is about.

[00:29:50] And I just thought, Oh man, I would imagine then

[00:29:52] He probably had that modeled growing up. And so then here he was saying

[00:29:56] That, and the wife looked at me and just said,

[00:29:58] Is that normal?

[00:29:59] And that’s when I started realizing the concept

[00:30:03] Of the therapist is

[00:30:04] Somewhat playing a little

[00:30:05] Bit of a role of the normal police. And I was that was a pretty safe one to say. It’s really not. And I have so many examples over the years of that. I remember another one where the wife

[00:30:14] Was saying that the husband would

[00:30:16] Leave these notes on her car at work and that

[00:30:18] He would just send her these messages and all these things.

[00:30:20] And then when they were married,

[00:30:22] Then that was done. And then and he also,

[00:30:25] During a session down the road, said to me, Well, right, but we got married and again looking at me in that they

[00:30:31] Don’t know what they don’t know concept of. Almost like he’s saying, I don’t understand the question.

[00:30:37] Yeah, of course

[00:30:38] I did all those things.

[00:30:39] I wanted to get married to her, but we’re married now,

[00:30:41] And so that is

[00:30:42] Such A. If that is your your concept, if that’s what’s happening,

[00:30:45] Then again, something that would be a

[00:30:48] Wonderful thing to be brought up to a therapist that that

[00:30:51] Can help with that. So she said that then

[00:30:53] Two months into the marriage, then

[00:30:55] He said, Can we go to counseling? The counseling sessions turn into major gaslighting sessions, and he would change the smallest details of

[00:31:01] Things that had occurred in a way that made things appear to be my fault. And when I go back down the of my four pillars, and if I really put it in a really, really simple term that the goal is to be heard, not to resolve.

[00:31:14] So if someone absolutely tweaks a small detail and this is

[00:31:18] So frustrating, I know for the. Person that is on the target of the gas lighting, so let’s say

[00:31:23] Let’s reverse this, let’s say it’s the

[00:31:24] Wife, and the scenario is the emotionally immature or the one with the narcissistic

[00:31:28] Traits and tendencies. And so then she is saying that he had no

[00:31:32] He he never takes me out.

[00:31:33] And even the last time that he took me out, I’m the one that had to do the planning. And if the husband knows

[00:31:38] Absolutely for a fact that, OK,

[00:31:40] She doesn’t even know what she’s saying because I literally spent two weeks

[00:31:44] Planning that date and I had reached out to a friend of mine, and I have the text messages to prove it. If he goes right in and says, that’s ridiculous, it’s violating my pillar two. You can’t say that you’re wrong or I don’t believe you, even if you believe that they are wrong and you don’t believe them because then my pillar three questions have more comments than I would have him asking her, Oh man, OK, I didn’t. That would be. Yeah, that’d be hard. If you feel like I never planned dates, tell me what you remember about that experience,

[00:32:08] Because at that point, I almost feel like in that

[00:32:10] Scenario, she would be saying, Wait, this is the part where you tell me, I’m wrong. Oh, I don’t actually have real data.

[00:32:15] I I just I just want. It’s almost like I want us to get into the weeds and arguing, and that way, I’ll

[00:32:21] Never have to be accountable.

[00:32:22] So then if you

[00:32:23] Say, tell me more about that, my third pillar questions before comments and then fourth pillar, I would help him

[00:32:28] Not go into victim mode to not go back into his

[00:32:30] Bunker, to stay present. Because then if he says, OK, you’re right, whatever, you just tell me what we’re going to do and whatever, we’re going to do it because that’s that would be his desire to get her to say, No, you’re right, you’re a good person. But staying in this four pillar framework that he has to assume good intentions or that there is a reason

[00:32:44] Why she said the things that she says. The second pillar is I

[00:32:48] Can’t tell her that she’s wrong or I don’t believe her, even if I am sure that she is wrong and I definitely don’t believe her. Pillar three I’m going to ask questions. Hey, tell me more. Tell me more about that. That would be hard if you feel like that’s that’s your experience. And then the fourth pillar of him just staying present, not going into his bunker, because then once that she feels heard, that’s where now I and I want to. I want every I want to train every therapist in the world to be able to do this to use these four pillars, especially when we’re dealing with emotional maturity to then turn to him and then say, OK, same rules apply. She is going to hear you. She is going to assume good intentions or there’s a reason why you’re going to respond the way you are. And and even if she doesn’t believe you, she can’t violate that pillar two and she’s going, I’m going to help her ask questions and help her stay present in that pillar. Four. Because in that scenario, it can be as simple as, OK, I appreciate you sharing this is the husband saying this. I appreciate you sharing that that would be really hard if you feel like that. I never do anything. I never plan anything. I feel like I. I definitely plan this one because, yeah, maybe I didn’t share with you the the three emails, the

[00:33:46] Phone calls that I’ve made, and I thought that we had communicated that. And as a matter of fact, I

[00:33:50] Believe that I have a text exchange where I remember that I had shared with you that, Hey, what would you think about this or can you be ready by this time? And it’s because I had done this work in the background to make sure that

[00:34:04] The state was going to happen.

[00:34:05] But again, if your experience is, you feel like I never plan anything that I can understand why you would be frustrated. So I hope you can see the difference there is that I’m saying I’m going to I’m going to understand I’m going to here, I’m going to listen, I’m going to validate that that person’s experience is their

[00:34:18] Experience, but I’m not going to go in, become emotionally immature. I’m not going to gaslight. I’m not going to get my bunker. I’m not going to just throw out the accusations

[00:34:25] Or that’s ridiculous. Or are you serious right now? But then I’m going to say, OK, that would be hard if you feel that way

[00:34:30] And then I’m going to stand in my calm, confident energy, I’m going to be not looking for that external validation because I know this is the way I did this. This is the way I showed up,

[00:34:37] And I’m going to express that this is what I did to plan the date. But again, I appreciate you sharing that you feel like I don’t, because that would be really hard. That podcast listeners. This is where we try to get to empathy and we stay away from arguing or getting out in the weeds. Every one of those four pillars is very it’s there for a reason because those

[00:34:53] Are the ways that I feel. Most conversations get off into the weeds, and if we start arguing, we get off into the weeds, then guess what? We’re not going to talk about. We’re not going to talk about the actual event. We’re not going to talk about the actual

[00:35:03] Thing that we’re there to talk

[00:35:04] About because it’s often not about the date,

[00:35:06] It’s about feeling not heard, feeling not understood or about emotional maturity or not being able to take ownership or accountability of our actions. All right, we are going

[00:35:15] To get back to this. Let me get back to this post because you’ll see why I picked this one, because this is one of those things that I didn’t know

[00:35:21] Was a thing until I had worked with this population for quite a

[00:35:25] While. She said one time outside

[00:35:27] Of counseling, we were arguing and it wasn’t going his way. He proceeded to grab his chest and fall to the ground, saying he was having a heart attack. And I love the first reference, I said, or the first reference that she made was absolutely where I went in my head. She said, Imagine a Sanford and son moment. For those of you that are old enough to remember Sanford and Son. I think he

[00:35:43] Weezy. I’m coming to join you. I think that was it.

[00:35:45] So she said, I left the house for a few hours after that to get a mental break. And when we had our next counseling session, I brought it up. And his recap of was that in the argument, I told him I was leaving and it caused him to panic and he thought he was having a heart attack. So that’s when he grabbed his chest and fell. He painted it like I threatened him, which caused him to suffer. He changed stories this way many

[00:36:03] Times, and she said every

[00:36:05] Session I felt defeated and like the counselor was never going to believe me. After a session, one time she pulled me aside and told me that there was more than one kind

[00:36:11] Of abuse, and

[00:36:12] She wanted to be sure that I understood that she provided information on the power and control wheel. She knew before I

[00:36:18] Knew that it was abuse of. Actually, he and I started seeing her separately and after two sessions, she let him go because he was

[00:36:23] Not receiving her feedback and he showed a general disrespect for women. He then told me we need to find a counselor who could better control the tempo more like he wanted to find a counselor that would side with him. And then she left him soon thereafter, and she said, You were welcome to share the story.

[00:36:38] Absolutely the way that it is.

[00:36:40] And so I responded in the group that the heart attack piece is fascinating because they’re I call it the narcissistic out. And when someone is cornered, when they have been called on the carpet, when they can no longer gaslight their way out of a situation, then I have had people talk about getting lightheaded. They’re the narcissist gets dizzy, they have the chest pain, they have phantom pain. They they just can’t stay in the conversation. But then if you change the conversation within a few seconds, all of a sudden now they’re back and now they’re talking to you if you make it about them or and

[00:37:13] It is so

[00:37:14] Noticeable to the non narcissist that it’s just amazing. Then people chimed in in the group and said that their ex used

[00:37:20] The same tactics of chest pain to end the discussion when it wasn’t going his way. Say that I’m

[00:37:25] Causing him to have a heart attack and but then funny how he never got his heart checked and never came back to finish the conversation. And that feedback alone is what I so appreciate. There’s a concept

[00:37:33] That I just want to

[00:37:34] Get out of there, and I’m

[00:37:36] Going to be talking about this so much, I think,

[00:37:37] In the future. But they’re the narcissist or the emotionally immature person doesn’t even know what normal looks like. And I am going to pull the normal police card because if a normal person was having a real heart attack and they really were concerned about their heart, then I believe it’s safe to say that they would schedule an appointment with a doctor and get their heart checked. If that heart attack only comes up every time that they feel like they can’t have their way or the other person is disagreeing, that is emotionally immature, and I know it sounds like I’m being the jerk saying, Well, what if they’re having a real heart attack? Well, then that would be really hard, and I understand that, but I never knew the consistent pattern of this narcissistic out or exit until I had heard story after story after story. As someone the chronic nerve pain that then that would flare up every time that they felt disagreed with or a form of the gaslighting where they would up the intensity of their voice and get louder and louder. And then if that still wouldn’t stop the person who was now standing up for their own rights or their truth, then the narcissistic, sadistic exit cuts in and it can be chest pain. It can be lighthearted, it can be dizzy, it can be any of the above. And that’s what gets that person out of that situation.

[00:38:47] But if you stay present and you don’t leave and you stay there, it’s amazing to watch how quickly that heart attack can reside or how quickly that heart attack can disappear. And that or how quickly then the phantom nerve pain can go away. And then over time, then that just starts to be what their brain does, it says, Oh, when attacked, when I realize that I am wrong, then here is my narcissistic exit in that part. So I would love to talk about emails I would love to receive of those that are listening. I would love to get emails around what is your narcissistic person in your life? What is there if they have one of these medical exits, or if they have a familiar go to pattern that then can just change your turn on a dime? Please reach out through Tony over I would love to hear more about that, and I promise that I am going to be as authentic as I can be as a practicing therapist who does work in this population. We are human, we are people too. And I say that only because one of the people in the group said that they’ve asked three or four of their therapists connections for recommendations, and none have gotten back to her with a referral. She said one who I consider a friend did honestly right back that most therapists run the other direction because these

[00:40:03] People tend to be the least insightful and

[00:40:05] They do the least amount of work. And and that is true. And so I have to be honest, there are times and I’m in a position now, and I’m very blessed with a very full practice and a wait list and all those wonderful things where when the emails are coming in that say, Hey, we really struggle in my relationship. He’s a really abusive or she’s a really abusive, narcissistic person, and she never takes ownership or accountability of anything and continually throws fits and all these things. Can you take us on it? Does it breaks my heart because I can understand how difficult that is. And it’s unfortunate because the person that’s living in that narcissistic, abusive relationship, the same tools that that narcissists use to maintain control. The therapist does, if they work in this population, does understand that may be what we’re going to. Well, may that is what we’re going to see in sessions. So I feel like the therapist has to be pretty confident and there are therapists out there, which is again another reason why I am putting out a call to other therapists who know this population because I do feel like those of us who work in this field or or that work with this population also know that they are so predictable that it is absolutely something to be grateful for when you can help the person that has been in that narcissistic. Emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially, you name it, abusive relationship, and the fact that they’re reaching out for help is a huge

[00:41:28] Step, and so they need that

[00:41:29] Help. And so if you are one of these people who

[00:41:32] Cannot find someone who

[00:41:33] Can help you, if you have to just go in yourself and just start to learn tools to help yourself and to raise your emotional baseline and to learn what self-care is and to learn who you are. It is going to change the dynamic in the relationship. And if that is your situation, your spouse doesn’t want to go to counseling or you can’t find a counselor now that you have a better idea of maybe what we’re looking at and you can’t find a therapist who is willing to take the the case, at the very least, don’t look at that as well.

[00:42:02] What else am I going to do?

[00:42:04] Listen to podcasts, join groups, read books and educate yourself to raise your baseline. Not saying that you’re going to have to do this on your own, but that is all taking taking charge of your own life and becoming more empowered. And that is going to change the dynamic of the relationship. And there is going to be big periods of invalidation and that is going to be hard. But I think you’ll start to recognize that there the patterns are consistent. And so there’s take some comfort in the fact that the patterns are consistent and that when you can be around other people that have gone through it or are going through it, that does build up your emotional baseline. And that can go a long way in helping you get get to a place where you can get back to trust in your gut. Find out who you are. Don’t lose yourself. Be the best version you can be for yourself, so you can be that person for your kids, and we’re going to continue to talk about how important that’s going to be in future episodes. Hey, thanks again. Thanks for the feedback. If you’re interested in joining that group that I referenced a lot today, just shoot me an email. If you are a therapist, that is that

[00:43:03] I don’t want to say necessarily enjoys this population.

[00:43:06] But if you know how to work with this population, shoot me an email as well. And let’s start talking and and please

[00:43:13] Send

[00:43:13] Me those examples of the narcissistic out in your life, as well as any of the other questions or ideas for future episodes. And I appreciate the support and I will definitely we’ll see you next week

[00:43:23] On waking up the nurses.

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