Hold On to Your Hippocampus – The Impact of Narcissistic Abuse On The Brain

It’s true that the diagnosis of narcissism is being handed out a bit too liberally, but this toxic personality disorder definitely does exist, with some experts saying that it’s clearly becoming more prevalent with each generation. There is a growing body of research that now shows how long-term narcissistic abuse affects the hippocampus, and the amygdala of the brain, areas that regulate memory, and control emotion. And while someone may not be your classic, malicious or malignant narcissist (there are several sub-types of narcissism), even someone with narcissistic tendencies, or “dustings” can do emotional, and physical damage to those they interact with. Tony also gives his 5 tips to surviving narcissistic abuse. Tony refers to the article “Neuroscience: The shocking impact narcissistic abuse has on the brain,” by Lachlan Brown from https://hackspirit.com/3859-2/

Please subscribe to The Virtual Couch YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/TheVirtualCouchPodcast/ and sign up at http://tonyoverbay.com to learn more about Tony’s upcoming “Magnetic Marriage” program!

Tony’s FREE parenting course, “Tips For Parenting Positively Even In the Not So Positive Times” is available NOW. Just go to http://tonyoverbay.com/courses/ and sign up today. This course will help you understand why it can be so difficult to communicate with and understand your children. You’ll learn how to keep your buttons hidden, how to genuinely give praise that will truly build inner wealth in your child, teen, or even in your adult children, and you’ll learn how to move from being “the punisher” to being someone your children will want to go to when they need help.

This episode of The Virtual Couch is sponsored by http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch With the continuing “sheltering” rules that are spreading across the country PLEASE do not think that you can’t continue or begin therapy now. http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch 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 http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch you will receive 10% off your first month of services. Please make your own mental health a priority, http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch offers affordable counseling, and they even have sliding scale options if your budget is tight.

Tony’s new best selling book “He’s a Porn Addict…Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions” is now available on Kindle. https://amzn.to/38mauBo

Tony Overbay, is the co-author of “He’s a Porn Addict…Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions” now available on Amazon https://amzn.to/33fk0U4. The book debuted in the number 1 spot in the Sexual Health Recovery category and remains there as the time of this record. The book has received numerous positive reviews from professionals in the mental health and recovery fields.

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

Transcript of Episode:

[00:00:00] Hey, coming up on today’s episode of The Virtual Couch, we’re going to get a little bit heavy. We’re going to talk in the world of neuroscience and the shocking impact that narcissistic abuse can have on the brain, how it can actually impact your short term memory and also dig deep into your amygdala and cause your amygdala to flare up. That’s that fight flight or freeze response. And more importantly, we’re going to talk about what you can do if you’re in a situation where you may be experiencing narcissistic abuse. That and so much more coming up on today’s episode of The Virtual.

[00:00:39] Everybody, thank you for joining me on episode two hundred and twenty one of the virtual couch. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist, certified my Vilaboa coach, writer, speaker, husband, father of four, ultramarathon runner and creator of the Path Back, an online pornography recovery program that is helping people like you reclaim their lives from the harmful effects of pornography. Have you or anyone that you know is trying to put pornography behind you once and for all? And trust me, it can be done in a strength based hold the shame, become the person you always wanted to be way, then head over to pat back recovery dotcom. And there you can download a short ebook that describes five common mistakes that people make when trying to put pornography behind them once and for all. Again, that’s pathbackrecovery.com. And welcome to the podcast. I am again going on YouTube so you can find the virtual couch channel on YouTube and you can find me at all the places that people can find people at the virtual couch on Instagram or at Tony Overbay, licensed marriage and family therapist on Facebook. And I’m just glad you’re here. And I am going to get to the topic today. But speaking of pornography addiction, who was I was in the intro.

[00:01:44] I just was going to share a little bit of a moment that I had over the weekend. I thought it was pretty fascinating. I was asked to go on a national radio show was the Walter Stirling Show, and it’s carried nationwide, even in my local market of Sacramento and back. And I was prepared for this. I knew a little bit about Walter Sterling. So I came into my office and the topic was pornography and the pandemic. Was there a rise in use, pornography use? And I had a very spirited conversation with Walter. He was very respectful. And I really enjoy any time that I can talk about something because I’m just going to share what I know. I’m going to share my truths. And a lot of times I’ve been on those kind of program situations. And I think that people maybe think I’m going to get a little bit more defensive or that I might be a little bit kooky or nutty. And I don’t know, maybe that’s all relative anyway. Maybe I am. But it was a really fun experience. And here’s why I wanted to talk about it, because I experienced this situation and I did record it.

[00:02:38] And I think it might be fun to share the track at some point. But he was saying that he disagreed, that he didn’t think that pornography addiction was real, that there was anything wrong with turning to pornography for a stress relief, that sort of thing. And here was the thing. The first thing that I tried to establish was if that’s where he’s coming from, then that’s great. My job is not to try to convince somebody who is not interested in moving away from pornography or lessening pornography in their life at this point. Now, I’ve got about fifteen years and when I was promoting my book, he’s a porn addict now. What an expert and a former addict. Answer your questions, which I played the role of the expert that is a best seller on Amazon. Yes, I am self promoting, but I’m very proud of that book with co-author Josh. I had added up at the time about twelve or thirteen hundred people that I’ve been able to help individually. Not just that’s not including the online pornography program, the path back.

[00:03:28] And those are people that came to me and said, I would like to view pornography less. So when people are coming to me, then absolutely I can work with that in a street based hold. The same person you always wanted to be way as I talk about in the intro. But when somebody comes to me and says, I don’t think it’s a problem and I don’t think I should quit, then all I can say is, OK, all right. And I even introduced on his radio show one of my favorite phrases, psychological reactance, which is that instant negative reaction of being told what to do. And so I let them know that, hey, Walter, I can’t tell you to stop if that’s not something that you want to stop. And so I don’t know if he was interested in me being more combative, but I had a nice exchange.

[00:04:08] I talked to him about how when it’s used as a coping mechanism, that people are choosing pixels over people and that when people are even if a couple is looking at pornography together, if that’s something that they want to do, then great. I believe that there is more of an opportunity for connection between the two of them without having to turn to a third party of sorts in that scenario. And then I barely was able to touch on the fact that pornography addiction or pornography and even pornography addiction is not something that is a diagnosable addiction. There is compulsive sexual behavior, impulse control disorder. So I one hundred percent understand that what I’m trying to do is help people move away from that, if that is something that they would like to move away from, because sometimes it sucks up, the time sucks, the life out of people, warps their sexuality, can make them feel like if they aren’t looking at an image of someone perfect who is always the image, always wants them, that that’s their version of reality when it comes to intimacy. And so if someone is coming to me saying, I would like to do that less, please, then we we look at their areas of their life. Are they feeling satisfied in their parenting? Are they feeling satisfied in their marriage or in their health or in their career or in their faith? And so as we shore up those areas using my favorite modality, acceptance and commitment therapy, kind of dial in their values, get them working towards something that they really believe in and parenting through the nurtured heart approach and feeling like they really have a parenting model and dialing into their couples relationship with emotionally focused therapy.

[00:05:34] When you get all those things working together, there is less of a side. And song of pornography, of food, of online gambling, of any of those coping mechanisms, so I just wanted to share that it was a really fun experience. It’s funny. I walk home and I walk home. I drive home. I walk in through the garage. And my wife was kind and she listened to it on the local radio station and filmed it and threw it up to a family chat that we have. But I love the fact that one of my daughters comes and she’s like, hey, what were you doing tonight? And I was like, I was on a national radio show just like, oh, OK, hand one over to my friend’s house. And I was like, every dad’s doing on a on a Sunday evening, jumping on a national radio show and talking about pornography, compulsive sexual behavior with someone who was trying to, I think initially maybe attack them and then coming out of that and feeling like it was OK. So anyway, that made for a fun weekend. I did enjoy that and I will put up more about that. I think I’ve asked Walter if I can use that clip for a future episode or that sort of thing. There is a bunch of intro in the YouTube video.

[00:06:33] I’m going to say that you can now start the the real topic of narcissistic abuse and its effects on the brain and whatever this minute Mark is. So thank you for hanging in there. And actually give me 30 more seconds. Head over to Tony Overbay. Dotcom, it has been redone and people are signing up to for my newsletter to find out more about some exciting things, including my magnetic marriage course, which is getting closer to completion. So I can’t wait to share that because I really am excited. I think that’s going to be able to help a lot of marriages. So today I’m going to turn to an article and I’m going to do a lot of riffing, as the kids say today, because I’m going to talk a lot about narcissistic abuse. And the reason why no one is that this is an area of my practice that I do a lot of work with. I think I’ve shared in previous episodes where I talk about narcissism or I talk about gaslighting, any of those things that I’ve actually had an opportunity to testify in some court cases on narcissistic abuse or narcissism in general personality disorders. And it wasn’t something that I necessarily anticipated. And I think initially when I started working with more men, that the percentage of men that suffer with narcissism or narcissistic personality disorder or traits of narcissism is much higher than that with women. So I started working a lot with men who had narcissistic personality disorder or traits of and then working with them in their marriages.

[00:07:56] And oftentimes that led to marriage therapy. And then at some point often is the case. The narcissist is not a huge fan of counseling because they for the most part think they’re doing everything pretty darn well. And you end up working with the spouse and helping them work through dealing in a relationship where there is narcissistic personality disorder, narcissistic traits. So the title of the article that I’m referring to today is one from a it’s called Hack Spirit, but it’s called neuroscience, the shocking impact that narcissistic abuse has on the brain. And it’s by a writer named Lochlyn Brown. And this is from a couple of years ago. And I’ve been sitting on this one for a while. And and there’s a couple of different reasons why maybe I’ll get to them in a little while. But I want to give a little bit of a background and says narcissistic abuse is one of the worst types of psychological abuse that one person can do to another. But unfortunately, many people are stuck in these types of relationships. And I have done a couple of episodes on a concept called trauma bonding. And we’re going to circle back around to that in this episode as well, because that trauma bond is what keeps people stuck in relationships with narcissistic individuals. And I mean, there’s so many things I want to say in this episode. So I hope that I can bring this all together.

[00:09:04] But one of those is if you are listening to this and someone has forward to this to you and said, hey, I think you’re a narcissist, will you just do me a favor and just sit back, relax and just listen and just take this in and try to not be so responsive, try to not be so reactive, because here’s what happens often. I’ve done a couple of episodes on gaslighting, for example. Gaslighting is that that concept where when someone is saying, hey, I think that you have not been very nice lately, let’s say the wife says that to the husband and then the husband says, seriously, you think that I haven’t been nice? Have you looked in the mirror? I can’t believe you’re saying this. Matter of fact, the fact that you’re saying this to me makes me realize how mean you are. And that’s so by the end, the wife is thinking, oh, my gosh, am I am I mean, am I the one I can’t I shouldn’t have even brought that up. I guess I really am mean. And it can just be this crazy making behavior. And please go look at some of the episodes I’ve done on gaslighting, if that’s the case. But so what has happened often is I will work with the wife who will hear that episode, one of these episodes on Gaslighted and one of the episodes like I’m going to do today, and they’ll send it to their spouse that they worry may suffer from some narcissistic tendencies, or I like the call destines of narcissism.

[00:10:20] And then the person will hear that and then they’ll say, you know what, she does gaslight me. And honestly, it was one of the most interesting, kind of profound experiences I had where when I did an episode on Gaslighting and there was one of the women that I was working with, two of the women I was working with happened to on that same day in the episode to their. And within two hours, I got text back and both of the spouses said the same thing, that the wives sent the episodes about gaslighting to the narcissistic husbands, and they both responded with thank you for sending that to me. Now I know what you’re doing to me. You are gaslighting me. And I used to try to come up with something clever of a way to ensure assure the wife that that is not the case. And here is one of the things that I came up with that I feel is one of the best descriptions. If you take the wife out of that narcissistic relationship and put her in a new relationship, she will then be viewed as simply kind.

[00:11:14] If you take that narcissistic person and put them in a different relationship, they are going to continue to have their own sets of rules when it comes to finances. They’re going to continue to gaslight. They’re going to continue to not apologize. They’re going to continue to not own up to their behaviors. So oftentimes I almost I will I do. I say, hey, that’s one of those signs that you are being reactionary. I can remember one of the first women that ever came into my office and she said, no, I do. I do. I get so angry with my husband. I do yell at him and I often say, OK, were you a yeller to begin with? And she says, No, I wasn’t. So you are yelling in reaction. You are yelling to not feeling heard. You’re yelling to not being validated. You’re yelling to being made to feel crazy. If you take you into and put you in a relationship with someone who says, hey, tell me more about that. Oh my gosh, I can understand that. I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing. Would you just yell at them randomly? No, you wouldn’t. But take your spouse and put them in a different relationship.

[00:12:11] And most likely the person that they would be in that relationship with is going to eventually start yelling because they feel crazy, because that person, that narcissistic person is not owning up to their part of the relationship. And one of the key things here is remembering that narcissism is a personality disorder. There are certain things that are we call them personality disorders. And one of the key components of a personality disorder is that person is stuck in their ego. They cannot step outside of their ego and see things from another’s point of view. So they don’t believe that they’re doing anything contrary to what is right, which is why things like gaslighting just flow. And again, is narcissism nature? Is it nurture? There is belief that it is a little bit of both, that it typically comes from childhood trauma or abandonment, where then a a kid, every kid is designed to go from. Self centered kids are self centered. That’s what we do when we’re kids. We don’t know how to fend for ourselves. So it’s just everything is about me. Give me that. That is mine. What about me? And then when there is not secure attachments with caregivers or when there is abuse or there is abandonment, or if the kid’s parents are narcissists, so that’s model behavior, then they never make that jump from self-centered to self-confident.

[00:13:25] So they move forward as a self-centered individual into adulthood. So that is why it can feel like you’re arguing at times with a 10 to 12 year old boy when you’re arguing with someone that suffers with narcissistic personality disorder or traits of narcissism. And again, narcissism is not just this always this grandiose, malicious look at me in the mirror. There are various subtypes of narcissism and I’ve seen an episode or two on that as well. So there’s a little bit of a just an overview or a background. And one of the things that I find interesting is that when I started working with more people that struggle with their in relationships with narcissists and you’ll see this as we read through this article today, that a lot of people, when they find out that they are being GasNet or they realize, oh, my gosh, he has never owned up to anything or he completely lacks empathy and we can switch around he or she. But I’m going to say he for the most part today, at that point, if you Google that, you are going to see that the everything on the Internet says run immediately, be done and go. And I completely understand that as somebody has worked with hundreds now of couples where there is a narcissist involved, it’s it’s really difficult.

[00:14:33] And so I made a decision long ago that I wanted to and this is what a therapist is supposed to do, meet the client where they’re at. That client is going to read that article on the Internet that says run. And it’s not like they’re going to immediately say, oh, my gosh, I don’t even think about that. I’m going to pack my bags. I’m going to get out of here. No, they’re typically going to go through a process of first of all, it’s it’s not that bad or he’s he’s a good guy or he’s nice. So I think I can make this work. I think I’ll tell him that that he’s a narcissist. Maybe that’ll work. Which I always say one of the first rules of narcissist club is you don’t tell the narcissist, hey, think you’re a narcissist because they’re not. That’s part of the problem. They’re not going to say, oh, my gosh, tell me more about that. I didn’t even realize that. So I’m going to get into more of that. And in fact, let me just give an overview right now quickly. I have five things that I do talk about when I’m working with someone that is in a relationship with someone who may be suffering from narcissistic personality disorder or traits of narcissism. The first thing I asked my client to do is raise their emotional baseline. And by that I mean self care.

[00:15:36] They need to put themselves in a position where they can make good decisions and when they are continually being beaten down emotionally, if they’re physically drained, if they’re not getting sleep that they need, if they don’t feel like they have any emotional support, they bear they’re being let. A lot of times with narcissists, they sequester, which means that they make it not very exciting or difficult to reach out to family or friends, any of those things that lowers their emotional baseline. They don’t feel good about themselves and that does not put someone in a position to make the best decisions for their life, for their family moving forward. Number one, I say raise your emotional baseline. Number two, I say get a Ph.D. in gaslighting now, not literally a PhD, but learn all you can about gaslighting, because that is one of the key components to recognize when you are being gaslighted, because that is when you can realize I’m not crazy. I really do understand and I have so many examples that I’ve worked with, and I think I gave one not too long ago. That was literally one where was a guy that had spent a decade enjoying Peanut Eminem’s in front of his wife and then at one point she gets some peanut Eminem’s. And I don’t know what the narcissistic trigger was that day, but he says, why did you give me this? And she says, Because you love them.

[00:16:46] And he said, I’ve never enjoyed this. I can’t believe you got me Peanut Eminem’s. And she’s going back to basically literally conversations on how the peanut Eminem is the finest of all the Eminem’s and how anyone that doesn’t enjoy these must be crazy and how sometimes if you leave them out on the dash, they melt just a little bit and they’re perfect and they’re wonderful. And she has all this data and he’s saying, I never said that. And I and really, you don’t even know me if you think that I enjoy Peanut Eminem’s I mean, gaslighting, getting your Ph.D. in gaslighting and understanding in that moment. I don’t know why he’s doing this, but I know he likes Peanut Eminem’s. That’s the bottom line. So getting the gas, getting another one is learning how to disengage from unproductive conversations, which kind of follows that once I understand gaslighting, I’m not going to continue to participate because the narcissist is not going to own their own crap. They’re not going to own their own part of the conversation. The fourth one is setting boundaries. A boundary might be, hey, when you started swearing at me, I’m going to walk out the door and being able to commit to that because that’s when the gas line. Oh, fine, walk away. You never want to deal with things. But that’s a boundary. But the fifth one, which is the most difficult one and this goes back to an article that actually a client had sent me years ago from a blog I think it’s called Ask Men.

[00:17:56] It’s why this this researcher, PhD candidate. I have to put that a link to that somewhere in the show notes. But it talked about narcissistic emotional trauma and abuse. But that fifth thing that I like to share is you have to realize that there is nothing that you will say or do that will cause the aha moment for the narcissist to go, oh my gosh, I finally get it. And that one is hard. I’ve been doing this a long time and when I share that with people, that one can feel a little bit hopeless. I understand. But I can also think of people I work with on a daily basis who once they know that they’ll identify these situations where they were saying. And then I found myself thinking, if I say it this way, if I’m really nice, if I withdraw, if I get angry and there’s some way that I will be able to express myself, that then he will finally go, oh, my gosh, I get it. So those are those five things that I typically say to keep an eye out for. But again, I know that it’s not just as easy as understanding. Oh, my gosh, I think he might be a narcissist. I have been gaslight my entire life.

[00:18:56] And once you hear this more about the narcissistic long term narcissistic effects on the brain, that is not so easy. Just to say, pack up the bags, kids, we’re heading out. So I get that. So back to this. Whether it’s a child in an emotionally abusive parent or an adult with a narcissistic partner, the effect is the same. Narcissistic abuse can leave much more than emotional damage. So according to recent studies and this is from around twenty seventeen is when the first of these studies came out. Neuroscientists have discovered that long term narcissistic abuse can lead to actual physical brain damage. And so there’s a pretty fascinating some pictures of functional MRI is that if you go look up an article on this, that it will show the effects of long term narcissistic abuse. So we know now that constant emotional trauma over a long period of time can cause PTSD like symptoms. I did an episode on see PTSD complex post-traumatic stress disorder, which is what long term emotional abuse can lead to. But we also know that in the world of betrayal, trauma, when someone finds out about a significant event or betrayal that also can have these similar effects of PTSD, or there can be triggers that can cause someone to go into fight or flight mode where their amygdala, which is what supplies the cortisol, the stress hormone, the adrenaline that will then overcome the prefrontal cortex or the part of the brain that makes logical sense.

[00:20:19] The amygdala fires goes into fight or flight mode, the prefrontal cortex, the decision making part of the brain says we’re not needed here. We’re about to go into battle with the saber tiger. We’re going to shut down. So then the person becomes just pretty used to when they get triggered. And it can be the gaslighting. It can be just not being heard. It can be emotional withdrawal. But then their brain is triggered and they go into this fight or flight response and that prefrontal cortex shuts down. So this neural pathway is created where long term narcissistic abuse can cause that amygdala to fire, just to fire and go from zero to 60 and have someone just feel like just panic or anxiety or that fight or flight or freeze. Lochlyn goes on to say, this is why anyone in a destructive relationship with a partner who cares little for the emotional well-being of their family should leave immediately, especially when children are involved. See, there’s that component there that when someone reads that, it I think it doesn’t often feel for the person who is in that narcissistic relationship or trauma bond. They may read that. And it’s OK. Maybe some of these things are true, but how easy is it to just leave immediately? And I understand that it’s difficult to seek help, go and meet with somebody who understands personality disorders, he says.

[00:21:32] However, some people don’t take this warning too seriously because of its emotional basis, which is very well said. What many people fail to realize is that emotional and psychological distress is only one side of the coin that victims of long term narcissistic abuse experience. There is also this physical aspect of brain. It’s in essence brain damage. So when suffering consistent emotional abuse victims experiencing and here’s where it really starts to make sense, a shrinking of the hippocampus and a swelling of the amygdala. And both of those can lead to long term effects. It’s important to know what is the hippocampus. The hippocampus is crucial in learning and developing memory, especially the hippocampus is a big part of short term memory. And the amygdala is where, again, fight or flight response. That’s where negative emotions reside, which cause the fight or flight response. So the amygdala is the home of shame and fear and envy and guilt and all of those emotions that cause one to go into fight flight or freeze mode. So think about that. It affects the shrinking of the hippocampus, which is memory and the enlarging of the amygdala, which is where these negative emotions reside. I like that he goes into the hippocampus is Greek for the word seahorse. It’s part of the brain that’s hidden inside of each temporal lobe.

[00:22:46] And it’s shaped distinctly like two seahorses, the hippocampus. They look like the little highways. I’ve heard them describe this. It looks like a kind of like a green bean shell or that sort of thing. But I could see I could see seahorse a little bit of a boring seahorse, maybe not the seahorse that was the most popular on campus, but a seahorse nonetheless. And so one of the most important functions of the hippocampus is for short term memory, which is the first step to learning. So information is first stored in short term memory before it can be converted into permanent memory. So without short term memory, it can be very difficult to learn. So damage to the hippocampus is a lot more disturbing than scientists initially thought. In a study from Stanford University and the University of New Orleans, they found that there was a strict correlation between high levels of cortisol. Again, that’s the hormone caused by stress and a decreased volume in the hippocampus. So when the brain is so active and fight flight or freeze mode, when that amygdala is enlarged or enraged, then the hippocampus, the part of the brain for memory, is taking a back seat. So the more stress that people become, the smaller the hippocampus became, which is just another reason why learning how to be mindful meditative can be such a powerful thing. So now understanding the amygdala, let’s talk about that.

[00:24:03] So the amygdala, often people recall or refer to it as the reptilian brain, the Neanderthal brain, and that’s because it controls our primal emotions, functions including fear and hate and lust, as well as your heart rate and breathing. So those are very important things, right, in the amygdala. So when triggered, the amygdala is where the fight or flight response is made. And so narcissists keep their victims in a state where their amygdala is constantly on alert. So when they walk into the room and they constantly are, I don’t know, I was in a good mood or in a bad mood. Is he going to talk about, hey, today, let’s go on an expensive vacation or is it going to be tomorrow where he says know we’re going to able to make it this month, checking accounts kind of low, that sort of thing. And then but then the next day, he wants to go out and and make giant purchases. And when it just keeps you in this walking on eggshells mode, then that is when you can be in this constant state of alert or just fear worry. So then over time now what this data shows is that victims fall into this permanent state of anxiety or fear, and then the amygdala reacts to the very slightest signs of abuse. The narcissists can even just utter something that is pretty basic or but not banal. And then the person in it with this trigger response is going to all of a sudden.

[00:25:19] Have their fight or flight response kick in and they feel like, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to say, so long after the victim is escaped, the relationship, according to Lochlyn in this in this article, they will continue to live with PTSD like symptoms, including increased phobias or panic attacks due to this enlarged amygdala that has become used to living in a state of fear. This is what causes part of that trauma bond. And so that is to protect themselves from their reality. They often use defense mechanisms that make it easier to cope, such as projection. So victims often convince themselves that they’re narcissistic abuser has positive traits and intentions, such as compassion or understanding, when in reality that might not be the case and that is part of the trauma bond. Let me flip over to I’ve got a tab up here from talking about Healing a Broken Heart a few episodes ago and the amazing TED talk by Guy Winch. In that episode, I worked in some trauma bonding information as well here where some of those things and in his book Betrayal Bonds, Patrick Carnes, who was just a well-known researcher, talked about things to consider. If you are in a tree or in a trauma bond, if you have some of these things that there’s a constant pattern of nonperformance, yet you continue to believe promises to the contrary, that you continue to believe that your narcissistic abuser is going to do the things that they say that they’re going to do.

[00:26:39] And instead of when pushed, then they blame you for something not happening or others seem disturbed by something that’s happened to you or was said to you. But you’re not where others are saying, man, how do you let him treat you that way? Or I wouldn’t do that. If you constantly run into that kind of data or you feel stuck because the other person keeps doing destructive things, we believe there’s really nothing you can do about it. You try to change the person to becoming less destructive, but trying to get them to stop an addiction or try to convince them to become a non abuser. But you may try to continually talk them into being nice to the kids. That seems so basic. Or you keep having these repetitive, damaging fights with the person that nobody wins because he’s never going to own his part of the fight or part of the situation. Or you seem unable to detach from somebody even though you can’t trust them or at times you really don’t even like them, or when you try to leave this person and you find yourself missing them to the point of longing that’s so awful that you believe it’s going to destroy you.

[00:27:31] And Patrick Carnes talked about unusual, unusually trauma bonds occur in relationships involving inconsistent reinforcement, such as those with addictions or alcoholics or domestic violence situations. Dysfunctional marriages can also cause trauma bonds because there’s always a time when things seem to be, quote, normal. Other types of relationships involving trauma bonds can be in religious organizations, kidnappings, hostage situations, all of those things. But the environment necessary to create a trauma bond involves intensity, complexity, inconsistency and a promise so victims to stay in these trauma bonded relationships because they’re holding on to that elusive promise or hope. And that is there’s always manipulation involved. Victims are prey to manipulation because they are willing to tolerate anything for the payoff, which is that elusive promise than the ever present hope for fulfillment of some deeply personal need within the victim. So oftentimes in a traumatic relationship, they’re looking right at it, but they can’t see it. And then only spending time away from the unhealthy attachment can the person often see the the destruction that it’s caused. So that was a little bit more about trauma bonding. And so that came from the this concept of projection where victims will convince themselves they’re narcissistic abuser has these positive traits. Another one of the defense mechanisms that the people that are in relationships with narcissistic abusers will do is compartmentalize victims, focus on the positive parts of the relationship, separating from them from the abusive parts and thus ignoring them.

[00:29:01] And I will talk about this for the rest of my career, but remembering literally the first time first person where they owned up to one thing in a couples therapy situation.

[00:29:12] And then the wife and I hung on to that one thing for quite some time. It was like he told the truth this one time. And and then all of these other times that was not the case. And I remember just having this aha. Moment of thinking, wait a minute, the relationship is supposed to be we’re telling the truth all the time. And then once in a while there might be this. Well, I wasn’t completely honest because I worried that might hurt you. Are those sort of things someone that’s actually owning that part of it? Compartmentalization. So that’s what that one was, are denial victim and victims end up believing that their situation is not as bad as they feel and that it’s easier to live with rather than to confront it. And this is a great big dose of what’s called experiential avoidance kicking that can down the road. I’ll deal with this and I’ll deal with it later. I deal with it when summer arrives. Deal with it when the kids are back in school. Deal with it when the kids are out of the house. I’ll deal with it later. And then a damaged hippocampus, which now we’re learning that is crippling most everything that we know. So back to this article. The researcher, the writer, Lochlyn, says the hippocampus is perhaps the most crucial part of the brain when it comes to knowledge and function. Everything that we do or understand read and learn.

[00:30:19] Rests solely on the hippocampus functioning properly, and so this is because the hippocampus is involved in the formation of new memories and it’s also associated with learning and emotions. But the hippocampus, when it is damaged, it’s damaged. When the body releases the cortisol hormone, the stress hormone during these times of stress and then cortisol effectively attacks neurons in the hippocampus, causing it to literally shrink. So the amygdala is then stimulated by the cortisol, which turns our thoughts and neural activity from increasing our mental acuity to worries and stress. And so when these distressing emotions are pushed to the extreme, then our brain activity is pushed beyond its zones of effectiveness. And so what I appreciate is that there’s along with this as you can rebuild your hippocampus and calm your amygdala. So there is always a way back to a functioning normal brain through certain methods like MDR. I’ve done an episode or two on that or mindfulness or a combination yoga, talk therapy, MDR, mindfulness, all of these things have shown promise in growing the hippocampus in just a few sessions. The data that he shares here is that it can regrow up to six percent of the hippocampus in just a few sessions. MDR can also calm the amygdala at the same time, allowing your brain to react more rationally to situations. I’ve had some clients that have gone and done MDR for everything from narcissistic abuse to PTSD, first responders, car crash victims, where it has allowed them to have a little bit more indifference when engaging in these powerful memories that have really taken a toll in the past.

[00:31:51] But again, he wraps up this article by saying the first step is ultimately the most important one, getting out of the destructive and abusive relationship before progress can be made. And I agree. I do understand that. And I and if that is possible, if someone believes that they are being very much emotionally abused in a narcissistic, abusive relationship, then that is a that is the best thing you can do is to get out of that relationship so you can start to feel like yourself. You can start to feel whole. But again, I want to let you know that I understand how difficult that is, because I have worked with hundreds of people that have tried to get out of relationships with narcissists. And it is it can be a lengthy process. It can. And so the first thing you can do is seek help. And I know that is a process in and of itself because oftentimes the the narcissistic abuser does not want you to go get help. And so if you need to hear, it is going to sound like a total plug. But better help. Dotcom’s virtual couch. They even have text therapy, email therapy. If you don’t feel like you can meet with somebody through Zoom or in person or anything like that is a great place to start and gather data, get information.

[00:32:57] Oh, there was I was going to read there’s a book called The Human Magnet Syndrome, and this is about the human magnet, why it can be so difficult to get out of relationships with narcissists. And there are two things that I thought were so fascinating. I’m going to wrap this up. The author, I think it’s Ross Rosenberg. And but talking about this this magged human magnet, this trauma bond, he uses the phrase co-dependency when he’s talking about the victim of narcissistic abuse. And I know that can sometimes offend people. They want to say, I’m not co-dependent, so just bear with me here. But he says co-dependency is both a relationship and an individual condition that can be only resolved by the co-dependent. It’s fascinating, right? Many codependents are attracted to and maintain long term breakup resistant relationships with pathological narcissists. Most codependents are selfless and deferential to the needs and desires of others over themselves. They are pathologically caring. Now, I’ve never heard pathological use with caring, but as I have read this with several clients that are in relationships with narcissistic men or vice versa, they that speaks to them. They are pathologically kind and caring people. So if that was in a healthy relationship, that would be a strength and a gift. But he goes on to say they are pathologically caring, responsible and sacrificing people whose altruism and good deeds are rarely reciprocated.

[00:34:20] Well, some codependents are resigned to their seemingly permanent relationship role. Others actively, albeit unsuccessfully, attempt to change it. And these people become preoccupied with opportunities to avoid change or control their narcissistic partners, despite the inequities in their relationships and the constant suffering they do not in their partnerships. And co-dependency is not just limited to romantic couplings as it manifests itself in varying degrees and most other significant relationships. Three more paragraphs out of this book and then we’ll it will be done. Pathological narcissism, he says. Although pathological narcissism is not a new term, I use it in this book to represent a person with one of four disorders.

[00:34:56] Pathological narcissists are people who fit the diagnostic criteria for either narcissistic, borderline or antisocial, which is sociopathy, personality disorders and or active addicts. Despite the many differences between these four disorders, they all share core narcissistic personality thinking and emotional and interpersonal characteristics.

[00:35:14] Here’s the key to varying degrees of pathological narcissism. Are selfish, self consumed, demanding, entitled and controlling, they are exploiting people who rarely or selectively reciprocate any form of generosity. Pathological narcissists are only empathetic or sensitive to others. When doing so results in a tangible reward for themselves and or when it makes them feel valued or important or appreciated. And this is what I really appreciate about the author in this book, he says, Because narcissists are deeply impacted by their personal shame and loneliness, but consciously unaware of it, they do not. In their relationships, positive treatment results are rare for narcissists. Rare, although active addicts are included as one of the four pathological narcissism disorders, their narcissism may only be addiction specific. In other words, when sober and in recovery, their true personality type will surface.

[00:36:03] This can be any possibility reflected on the continuum of pathological selflessness to pathologically selfish personality types. So I highly recommend that book, The Human Magnet Syndrome. But so that’s that’s all I have for you today. If you feel that you are in a emotionally abusive relationship that may be doing a number on your amygdala and growing your are doing a number in your hippocampus and growing your amygdala. The first step is I’m just thankful that you’re listening to the podcast. Share this one with someone that you feel like might need this type of help and reach out and get some help. Talk through this with somebody, because I know that it is very difficult to just immediately hear something like this and say, oh, my gosh, pack my bags, I’m done. I get it. I do. I’ve worked with so many people that this is a process and that is normal. So I want to meet you right there where you’re at. Thanks for joining me today. If you have questions specific about narcissistic abuse or emotional abuse, if you have examples of gaslighting, whenever I do an episode like this, I almost feel like making this call out, send them to me, contact tonyoverbay.com. And in a lot of times I’ll read those in a future episode. And those help people understand that they’re not crazy or they’re not alone. And and I’m also very serious about putting together a group for women who have maybe been in relationships with narcissistic men or abusive relationships. And I want to put together a nice, safe group for that so you can contact me about that, too. All right. Hey, thanks for joining me today. And I wish you the best.

[00:37:24] I hope you will get lucky, get lucky and help if help is what you need. And actually, I’ll see you next time on the virtual couch.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top