How To Gray Rock Through a Narcissistic Smear Campaign…with Extra Butter

Originally Recorded 1/28/22

Tony defines and gives examples of two common terms used in the context of narcissism, “gray rocking” and “smear campaign,” and he explains how even with words to explain the situation that many people find themselves in, the process has only just begun. Thanks to the Narcissist Family Files for their glossary of narcissistic terms

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[00:00:07] Hey, everybody, welcome to waking up to narcissism, this is episode twenty one and I am your host, Tony Overbay. I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of the Virtual Couch podcast, where this week we talked about context and I feel like that is such an important concept. Understanding that we all have our own unique experiences that are, again, just unique to us. First time we’re going through a situation as ourselves, so we bring all of our own things to that situation context. So it helps us have a better context and we’re trying to understand what others are going through. And I really do believe this is applicable to this very podcast waking up the narcissism because we are probably or are you or probably not given credit for where you are coming from in those relationships with people with narcissistic traits or tendencies or in dealing with the emotionally immature that so often I think that they are projecting their experiences onto you in order to in hopes that you will somehow externally validate them, or that they will take a one up position on you. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’re going to talk about that a little bit later, but I wanted to start today by talking about some terms, terms that are applicable when talking about narcissism. And first, a quick story that is one of the things that got me thinking about this many, many years ago. I used to teach a class every morning to a group of youth before they ran off to school, and I would get on a roll kind of like what I like to do on this podcast or the virtual couch and just start to feel pretty passionate about a subject.

[00:01:33] And I would say, Oh man, let me get down off my soapbox. And I said, often a lot, actually. And so at one point, I just looked out to the class and these are all seniors in high school, and I just saw a sense of that. They were lost when I would say that, and I said, Hey, does anybody know what I mean when I say I’m going to get down off my soapbox? And I thought for sure there would be a few of them that would. And it was crickets. It was just absolute crickets. No one knew what that phrase meant. And that’s when I realized that not only was I getting old, but so were my references. So if you happen to not be familiar with that phrase, it did just look it up on the internet. So of course, my data is absolutely correct, and if someone is said to get on a soapbox or get off their soapbox, especially getting off the soapbox, it’s usually said in a bit of an exasperated tone, maybe implying that somebody is passionate but probably loudly sharing their opinion with those who may or may not want to hear them.

[00:02:23] And per the blog. Tina’s world, the idiom comes from the actual practice of speakers elevating themselves to be heard better by literally standing on a box as soap used to be shipped in these big, portable wooden crates that were ideal for this very purpose. So they became one of the more popular types of boxes used by public orators, mainly in. I think it began in the 1800s, and I do remember one of the first times I went on a business trip back in my computer software days to London, and they have a place called Speaker’s Corner and that’s in Hyde Park in London. And you would see these pictures black and white of people getting up on their soap boxes to put them my head above the crowd, and they would give their speeches. So that is the origin of get off my soapbox. So understanding terminology can be extremely helpful when you put things into context. And so I’ve noticed in my private women’s Facebook group that is more and more people are reaching out and coming on board and sharing stories that they or the people that are commenting use many phrases from the world of narcissism, and I sometimes see words or phrases that I’m not very familiar with, and it can be so helpful to understand the terminology, especially when you’re dealing with a particular subject in order to feel more heard or more seen or more understood.

[00:03:33] If you happen to have a particular hobby, I can imagine that in that hobby that you speak in a lot of lingo or jargon, but those terms are those phrases are there for a reason, and they can help make things so clear. And so I want us to make sure we’ve got all those terms and phrases out on the table here because again, we are going to try to help you feel heard and seen and understood a lot of the email feedback that I continue to get. And please, you can continue to send it. I really do appreciate it. I love it. And as you can see, we put it into action here on the podcast, and there’s some again exciting things coming up that I think the more content, the better. So feel free to share your stories, ask your questions, ideas, whatever that looks like, and it’s going to make its way into some sort of rotation and every story that is told, every question that is asked. I want you to know I get I don’t know. However, many fold back in people saying that hearing more stories and understanding more examples are the things that help them start to wake up to their narcissistic people in their lives. And I’m continuing to get emails from people that are saying, I think it’s me as my fact. I’ve got one that I think I’m going to talk about next week from from a man who just put some really good insight over the last couple of weeks together by listening to some episodes to help him understand maybe why some of his relationships weren’t as solid, but again, getting ahead of myself.

[00:04:51] So today we’re going to talk about two particular phrases or concepts words that are used in narcissism and narcissistic lingo. So by way of context, I was recently asked about the concept of gray rocking. And for those who aren’t familiar and this is off the Narcissist Family Files website, it’s a phone. Nominal website, they say that gray rocking so going Gray Rock is a boundary setting and conflict avoidance strategy that can be effective in dealing with narcissists that simply making yourself dull and non-reactive like a colorless, unmoving rock and in gray rock mode, you engage minimally with the narcissist in his or her circus of enablers or flying monkeys to other very common terms used in the world of narcissism. I absolutely love the flying monkeys. So when gray rocking, you do not show or share your thoughts or feelings, you do not react to antagonism or manipulation. And in short, you make yourself of little interest to the narcissist. So being completely transparent, I wasn’t familiar with the term gray rocking until just a year or so ago. And it’s not one that I would have worked that I wasn’t working into my practice or my regular vocabulary, even after I heard the term, and I liked the idea of the term.

[00:05:53] And so I’ve noticed that when someone else brings it up, that I don’t use it, and I’ve been curious about that and not to go off on too big of a tangent. But man, I hope that you you can get to this place with yourself where instead of beating yourself up, I mean, that’s the situation where I absolutely could have said, Man, what is wrong with me? Why am I not using the terms? Why don’t I use gray rocking? It makes so much sense, but instead you step back and say, Hey, check that out. I don’t use that term yet. I like it, so I wonder what that’s all about. And so the more I hear it, the more I think about that. I think I have a little more clarity around why I don’t, because I can definitely appreciate wanting to help someone get to that place when it comes to setting boundaries with the narcissist that they can set the boundary and the narcissist will and I mean, absolutely will push that boundary and then the person can, because the boundary is going to be pushed in so many ways, whether it’s overt or steamrolling past it. Or they may do it by playing dumb or being the victim or agreeing agreeing with the person setting the boundary in front of their face in the moment so that that person setting the boundary feels good about the conversation, and then the narcissist completely goes behind the back of the person setting the boundary.

[00:06:54] In a matter of fact, I pulled an email. I’ve got several examples of this, but here’s a quick example from an email I received not too long ago, OK, the person said. I wanted to give you an example that I finally realized as why it is important not to engage with my narcissistic mother. I’ve asked her on several occasions not to not to talk or reach out to my extended family and share the challenges that we’re having about with fertility. Each time my mother will get sad emotional, play the victim and promise not to do it again until, like you’ve said, over and over again. She does it again, but each time she does it, she has a reason why. And those reasons have been so that my family can pray for us because she knows that I’m sad, or because God himself appeared to her in a dream and told her that on this particular occasion, it would be OK for her to break my boundary. Or she’s done so because someone else in the family was so distraught that my mother said that she knew in that moment that if she shared my struggles with this other family member that it would help that family member understand that, hey, we’re all going through things. And he said, it’s absolutely maddening.

[00:07:50] So you can see the complexity here. The moving goalposts, even sharing or being vulnerable can, can and most likely will be used against you when setting boundaries with someone with narcissistic traits and tendencies, a.k.a. emotional immaturity. So when it comes to gray rocking, I absolutely understand the concept and the need, and I love the idea. And on that note, let me share my own term that I talk about often. As a matter of fact, I received an incredible email just last night that has some really good examples of these what I call popcorn moments. So to that cinder, I see you. I thank you for that email. But what I think is pretty interesting is that I have people and someone had mentioned this recently that when they try to gray rock, all that does is make their narcissistic partner get even more frustrated and more angry. And I think that’s where I came up with this term popcorn moments. And this concept came from someone telling me at one point that they were just being gaslit lit up a storm and they happen to love movie theater popcorn. And they happen to have brought movie theater popcorn home from a movie, which if you have not done that before, it’s amazing. We’ve been on vacation and I will go to a movie theater and just buy a large, buttered popcorn and bring it back to the hotel for movie night.

[00:08:58] And it is absolutely the thing to do. Ok, but in this scenario, the person said that their movie theater popcorn was on their counter, and they said that they’re narcissistic. Mother had stopped by and it had been the person’s birthday a couple of days earlier, and he hadn’t heard from his mother on his birthday. So she said, Well, I would have told you a happy birthday, but you didn’t give me a call. To which he said, I thought, it’s the other way around that people call the birthday boy on his birthday. Not that he goes through all of his contacts and calls everybody and says, Hey, it’s my birthday. What? What do you guys think? And he said that his mother just laughed. She said, No, I know you’re busy, so I didn’t want to bother you. You know my number. And he said that thanks to the work that we’ve been doing in therapy. He said he noticed a very slight instant pang of wait a minute, should I have called her and then just said, Wait, no, no. I’m confident that on one’s birthday, it’s the people that reach out to the birthday person. And he said, I would have guessed that especially their mom would now let me introduce you to act one. So it’s a comedy. So she laughs harder. She says, Are you for real? Ok, you’re joking, right? You’re the one who’s busy. I’m just home all day.

[00:10:01] I can’t believe you think that I’m the one that I’m supposed to bother you on a busy day like your birthday. And keep in mind that this person, my client, was in their 40s, and he said that up to this point, she had called him every year on his birthday. So he said, I grab a handful of popcorn and I watched the show great rocking, perhaps, but with a little bit of extra butter. So then act to act two is anger. So she says, OK, this is ridiculous. I seriously can’t believe that I come to your house and now I’m getting treated like this. He takes another bite. Act three, Act three is a drama. She says, Well, if I’m going to be honest with you, I was having a really rough day, and I had reflected on that day the fact that I have done a lot of things wrong and my parenting you and I was just feeling down, and I had honestly hoped that you would reach out. To me, it was almost as if I knew that it would be a sign that I was OK. If you realized that I hadn’t called you on your birthday and you called me, so that was really hard on me. It really was. And, he says, took another bite. And here comes act for the crescendo, the anger, the laughter of the drama all coming together. He said that she burst out laughing with this whole, this whole thing as a joke, and it went immediately to anger.

[00:11:05] And I can’t even believe you would do this to me. And then right to the drama, because I guess, OK, I’m the world’s worst mother. Ok? They are you happy too? The narcissistic exit. All of a sudden she was lightheaded. She needed to leave, so he said one more bite. He had to sit around and see if there were any post-show credits, but there wasn’t, and the show was over. So great, rocking perhaps at its finest again with the sight of butter. So ideally, I think that’s what great rocking would look like of just sitting there setting your boundary conflict avoidance. But what I’m realizing or I’m aware of more and more is that that is a journey. This person, I’ve been working on that for quite a while. I want to say years. So if you hear that concept of gray rocking and you’re struggling with it, I want you to know you are perfectly normal and human. I want you to understand that that is absolutely normal because this is where we go back to the idea of in. When you’re in narcissistic relationships, there is a form of trauma. It’s called complex post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. And this is where your body is reacting to what will feel like trauma and has the markings of trauma to the brain, to the to your central nervous system.

[00:12:12] And the longer that you’re in those narcissistic or emotionally or physically or verbally or spiritually or financially abusive relationships over time that your body absolutely does keep the score, which that concept that phrase is based from a wonderful book about trauma by that sounds odd. A wonderful book about trauma. A very well put together. A book about trauma by Dr Bessel Vander Bessel van der Cock. So your body is trying to protect you so it will and may shut down. You may disassociate or go numb or tune out, or your heart rate may elevate and you find yourself wanting to flee. You may become emotionally overwhelmed and engulfed, so even trying to gray rock can be absolutely overwhelming. So too often, I think maybe somebody tries to gray rock, but their own body reacts and their emotions lead their logic because that is a absolute survival mechanism. So it may be absolutely necessary to leave the room in those situations and know that this is why it’s imperative to take up a daily mindfulness practice as soon as you can. Right now, after you listen to this podcast practice coming back to the present moment, practicing focusing on your breathing or what you can see or what you can smell or what you can feel because just a quick plug again for any daily mindfulness practice is that I feel like that really is one of the big keys to being able to move quicker down this path of awakening to narcissism because the mindfulness practice is not trying to clear your mind.

[00:13:30] I think that’s one of the biggest misnomers out there, but a daily mindfulness practice. I happen to use an app called Headspace. I have no affiliation with them, but there’s a wonderful British guy named Andy who works me through some breathing and through the nose out through the mouth. And then sometimes there’s absolute silence and your brain will go a million miles an hour. I have things to do. This is ridiculous. I need to get on and do other things. And then he’ll talk about, OK, come back to your breath and through the nose, maybe count one, count two on the out breath, just count or breathe or listen or just smell and whatever you’re doing. The real job of mindfulness is that when you notice that you are caught up in thought or rumination or fortune-telling or any of those things that then when I notice it, then I’m going to come back to the present moment. Because when you are getting caught up in your feelings, your heart rate elevates and you’re the more your heart rate elevates, your cortisol level increases and and it floods your brain and your logical part shuts down and your fight or flight part even becomes more enlarged, enraged, activated. And then it’s no wonder that we can’t think our way out of a situation where we feel overwhelmed.

[00:14:38] And the more that you practice coming back to the present moment, the more you’re going to be able to hang in there and grab that other bite of popcorn. So there’s our mindfulness plug for the day. So that leads me to my second vocabulary word, which is smear campaign. And again, this is off the narcissist family files. So with the smear campaign and arsonist engage in smear campaigns to discredit others with their family or social sphere. So the narcissist may smear another person because that person sees through their mask or the. They are trying to conceal preemptively their own abuse of that person, or they’re taking revenge because the person offended them or rejected them. So nurses may conduct a smear campaign for lesser reasons, such as jealousy or resentment, and nurses can be quite calculating in their process of discrediting and socially isolating their target. So they use innuendo and gossip, outright lies, sarcasm, inappropriate humor to friends, to family, to neighbors, to community members and narcissists won’t hesitate to smear an ex to their children, a scapegoat, a child to friends and relatives, or a colleague to other colleagues. And that smear campaign usually happens behind the victim’s back. So the reason, and often with the assistance of the narcissistic enablers again or what they also call their flying monkeys. And so the reason I put those two together is I feel like often when the narcissist goes to the smear campaign and now the victim of the narcissist tries to gray rock.

[00:15:56] But now their body is reacting, their body keeps the score. So I just want you to know that this is all such a process and it is a difficult process and it can be a lengthy process. I often get asked, how long will this take? And I know it’s so clich√©, but it will take as long as it takes because you’re you and you’re in this moment for the first time. So this is the data we’re working with. But you’re here, you’re starting to take action. And and so right now you’re some of you are at that place where you didn’t know, you didn’t know what you didn’t know and now you’re here and you have information, but you still react. And so the next step, we’re on this path to enlightenment. The next step is now, you know, when you try not to react, but you’re still reacting. And from there, we’re going to go to this place where you’re knowing and you find yourself starting to slowly but surely not react in situations to be able to maybe make it through an act or two and have a little bit of popcorn. And and then over time, then we reach that absolute gray rock mentality where I’m not even really reacting. I’m not even I’m not even worried because I know that this absolutely the reaction is provoked and it’s unproductive.

[00:16:59] I know that this is how this pattern works. I know this is how the movie goes. So it might as well grab some popcorn and sit back and watch the show. Ok, so today we’re going to dig a little bit deeper. I have I don’t know what I’ll call an amalgamation, a combination of emails that I put together to come up with one because I think there’s so much that we get or glean from this Frankenstein like creature of an email that I’ve created. So I’m going to change a lot of the details so that I can answer these questions and not divulge identities. So just think of these as a bunch of emails that came together that happened to ask some very amazing questions. So here’s here’s the first question that we’re going to talk about today. It’s about how somebody shows up. So they say, Hey, Tony, I’ve listened to a lot of episodes on both your virtual couch and the Narcissism podcast, and I recently started couples counseling with my husband. But I’m wondering if I happen to be married to a narcissist or one who may not even be aware of his narcissism or his emotional immaturity. So they talked about, here are some of the things they’ve noticed. So they said the first thing they talk about is this person refuses to engage in conversation with family or with with friends, close friends. But primarily they’re talking about they refuse to engage in conversations with family and then proceeds to routinely put the extended family down.

[00:18:08] And they say that the family has made a concerted effort to try and reach out to him, to try to help him to feel included in the family dynamic. But he is not engaged and he goes to no length to start conversations. And he says that he has very little in common with most of her family members, and she says that she acknowledges that she doesn’t even disagree with that. But if he doesn’t try to get to know them, then how will there ever be a bond? And we’re talking about a family and the family wants to reach out to him, and he is absolutely not open for that connection. And so she says if he doesn’t attempt to connect or he doesn’t receive these connections and obviously he won’t connect, then that could be a detriment to the family. And she’s absolutely correct. So where I go with this one is that this is where we start talking about the emotional immaturity or the narcissistic trait or tendency, and that’s where this comes into play. This is where with emotional immaturity comes selfishness or the narcissist or the person with the narcissistic traits or tendencies that if they don’t see a value in something to them period, then why should they put in any effort? And this is where we talk about when you look at narcissism at its core, is this unhealthy set of coping mechanisms that is based on childhood experiences where there was this insane need for external validation, a lack of empathy? So if the empathy piece isn’t there and they don’t see that they’re going to get anything out of their meaning that they’re not going to get any external validation from interacting with someone, then why then to them, it is not worth their effort.

[00:19:35] And I think this is where that concept or that lack of empathy really comes into play. They are not looking at this as a family dynamic or a family system or an investment in their future, or getting to learn or being curious about others because there’s no benefit to them. So then in their mind, why should they extend that effort? And then what becomes even more interesting is that if someone even tries to make an effort to get to know them or to ask them questions and they don’t see value now, now comes the narcissistic supply. So now they get to even feel that they take a one up position. Or looking down. Why would I talk to you when I don’t care about you or I don’t have anything in common with you? And so this is why I go to the emotional immaturity and why that becomes so important, because what would that look like to an emotionally mature person or how would you work emotional maturity in that situation? That’s where if someone is going to approach me, then I think it’s only fair.

[00:20:26] Part of the social contract, I guess that I would have some curiosity there and I would be able to have a conversation even if we aren’t going to be best friends, even if we’re not going to go into business together and especially if we have this common family bond. And so I feel like this is one of those that can be viewed as truly using the concept of expansion that in the world of emotional maturity, then I can go to a family function and I can have connection with others, even if I don’t want to. Even if I don’t have anything in common with the people in my family, if I have this value of connection or I have empathy or I want to engage because I care about my wife or my family, then I don’t. I’m not even arguing the fact that I want to, or if I think that there will be long term potential out of this relationship. But I’m just going to go and I’m going to be present and I’m going to engage. And that’s what I love about this concept of expansion. I can make room for all those thoughts and feelings of not wanting to or what am I going to get out of this? Because those are just stories my brain’s trying to hook me to.

[00:21:22] Because if my brain can connect me to one of those stories, then I don’t have to do anything. I can just take the path of least resistance and not go, not do so. I can be aware of those thoughts and feelings, and then I can just say, OK, I’ll note those. I notice that I’m feeling like I don’t have anything in common or I’m noticing that I don’t necessarily find a connection there. That’s fascinating. Not even arguing that, but let me just bring all those thoughts and feelings along while I interact while I engage. And it’s a phenomenal practice. And the more the better you get at this concept of expansion is that you start to really realize that you are not a slave to your thoughts or emotions. And that is emotional maturity. That is what will grow your empathy muscle. Ok, their next question. They said that. Oh, OK. She said he often makes me choose for him, and if it isn’t up to his liking, then he will blame me for making the wrong choice. He won’t take responsibility for it. And so to that, I simply say, you nailed this one that this can show you the complexity of narcissism or emotional immaturity. So often this comes out of a fear of that person, the emotionally immature of making the wrong decision. And I feel like this one has an absolute connection to something in childhood, to childhood insecurities, to that if they didn’t grow up with a secure attachment in their home, or if the parenting, if they were being parented, that wasn’t coming from a place that they were allowed to make mistakes if they made mistakes and then they pick the, let’s say, they pick the wrong thing and they got in trouble for it.

[00:22:43] And this is where you look at that emotional maturity, where in essence, narcissistic traits or tendencies can get passed down. And it’s because if the the parent never had empathy modeled or they never had a secure attachment model, then how are they going to teach their kids? They’re going to teach their kids what they know? And so often when a parent even seeks external validation from the kid? When we talk about seeking external validation, it sounds like I’m talking about something light or positive, but often a parent will feel like the way for them to feel more in control, more in charge, more like the parent is to show the kid that they are wrong, which is absolutely the wrong way to handle that, that we need to be able to look even at our kids. We’re going to make mistakes. We’re human beings. Or if your kid does something, then we can ask them about, tell me more about that. Tell me why you did that. Tell me where you’re coming from with that. So if they were told that they were stupid or they were grew up saying, Man, I can’t believe that you did that or you picked that, then they’re going to move into adulthood, absolutely paralyzed at times to make decisions.

[00:23:44] And even when I said a minute ago that if they make the wrong decision, we need to reframe things that isn’t even a wrong decision. It’s a decision. A decision is made. And then we can look at that with curiosity, because here’s the fascinating thing you’re going to have so many opportunities to make a whole lot of other decisions in your life. So the not making the decision is the decision. And so it’s even better just to let them make the decision because if I make a decision and somebody says, well, I wouldn’t have made that decision, then OK, no problem. We don’t even have to argue that because this is where we want to start looking at really what that concept of external validation means. This is another one of those good examples of what that looks like. So let’s say that he feels uneasy or insecure because whether it’s deep in a subconscious childhood wounds that he’s bringing forth into the situation and he doesn’t want to make a decision because it may be the wrong decision, and again, he may not even be aware of this or why. But I feel like so often it’s coming from this place of yes, if I make a wrong decision that I’m going to get in trouble, and if I make a wrong decision, then someone’s going to get mad at me.

[00:24:41] And if they get mad at me, then they may abandon me. And as we’ve talked about on so many previous episodes, abandonment equals death. That’s the program when we come from with the factory. So if this person is uneasy or uncomfortable and they do not like the way they feel, then this is where that external validation comes into play. They want you to make them feel better, so they want you to make the decision so that they will feel better. But just take a look at all the variables there. So. They aren’t even sure of how they feel or how they want to feel, but it’s up to you to make them feel better. So I’ve been saying this more and more recently, but I feel like if we had to put some sort of mathematical formula on it, I don’t know. Maybe you’ve got about a 10 to 15 percent chance. You’ll actually say the thing that will make them feel better. And if you do not say the right thing, which again, the chances are pretty slim that you will now they even get to say, Man, you don’t even care about me. I mean, I really didn’t. I can’t believe you made that decision. I would have made that decision. You must not love me or I can’t believe that you would think that that would be the right decision.

[00:25:34] And so if you don’t make the decision, then they get to say, I can’t even believe I’m asking you for help and you won’t even help me. You won’t even make this decision. So this is where that crazy making comes in and what we want to be able to do is take ownership, take control of our actions. If we make a decision and I love all the little examples of this, I know this is often even in my own marriage, my own relationship, that it is so much more empowering to say my bad than we ever could imagine, because so often people don’t do this or people come up with excuses or. But if you look at the let’s take this example you take the wrong lane on the freeway when there’s a lot of traffic and the other one happens to go faster. And here’s where you can practice it to say, Man, I picked the wrong period. And if the other person in the car says, Yeah, I wouldn’t have picked that lane, OK, no problem. Again, this is that concept of differentiation. So where one person ends and the other begins, we are two autonomous people in a relationship, in a friendship and a relationship, in a mother daughter relationship and a husband wife relationship. So the goal is to understand that we are two unique autonomous people with our own experiences.

[00:26:33] So when we come to that situation, even that traffic example, I made the decision. I took the the other lane. Let’s look at that with curiosity. Why did I do that? I don’t know. I tend to be the person that goes to the one that appears to be shorter. And then the other person can say, Man, you know what? I tend to go not to the one that’s shorter because I feel like in the long run, everybody goes the one that shorter. So then the one that was longer becomes shorter. And so if we’re looking at that like, oh, interesting, you know, now we’re having a conversation out of curiosity. It’s not criticism, it’s not trying to make one person feel better or one person feel worse. So I don’t even have to. You don’t have to break down with the other person saying you don’t have to devalue them and you truly shouldn’t even have to defend yourself again. Looking at this from an emotional, mature conversation of how two adults can communicate and do so effectively, and it’s not about one’s better than the other or trying to put someone down. Again, this concept of I made this decision and that happens. My wife and I love going to movies. We went through a little period where I picked up dud after dud of a movie, and every time I’m walking out of there and I would say, Man, that one wasn’t.

[00:27:34] I feel like in the past when I was more in my own emotional immaturity or had more of those narcissistic traits or tendencies, I would have tried to defend my fragile ego. I would have said, Well, the the critics, they all said this sounded amazing or I talked to all these other people and they said it was great, too. So almost in essence, saying, you, my wife, must be the one that’s wrong instead, you know, or even, yeah, of saying, Well, I thought it was pretty good. If I if I really thought it was good, then great. I thought it was good. She didn’t think it was good. Interesting. Let’s talk about our differences. But if I didn’t like it and but then I felt attacked. So I’m like, I thought it was the best movie I’ve ever seen in my whole life. Man, can you feel the emotional immaturity there? So it is so much more powerful to take ownership of something. And there’s so much more of a connection you can have with somebody when you actually take ownership of your actions, because then we are having adult conversations and now we can have fun with our differences and look at why one person likes one thing and another person likes the other. Because it’s not about I am better than you or you are making me feel bad, so I will make you feel bad. That is emotional, immature immaturity.

[00:28:36] Ok, let’s get on to the next question. She goes on to say that he blames me for dumb things. Usually he says that he’s just joking, but I’ve started to call him out because it isn’t healthy to blame me for silly things when typically it isn’t anyone’s fault. So here’s where I jump in and I love humor. If you haven’t been able to tell already, that is one of my favorite things. And I did a episode a long time ago on the virtual couch talking about primary and secondary emotions. And so often humor is used as a secondary emotion. So your primary emotion? Let me give the example of when I had very little kids and they went through the phase where they would be waiting around a corner and they would jump out and scare you. And so you would scream. And then a lot of times people would use a secondary emotion of anger and say, Hey, you guys need to knock that off. You shouldn’t be scaring me. But if you think about it, what is that? That’s a secondary emotion is what comes in reaction to that primary emotion. So in that scenario, honestly, my primary emotion was probably embarrassment because a tiny kid had jumped out and frightened me to the point where I screamed like a young child. So when you can really understand that concept of what your reaction is or what that primary and secondary emotion is, the first one then is if if I scream when someone scares me, then the first thing I can do is just scream because I’m scared.

[00:29:51] Let me take ownership of that now. If I want a secondary emotion to come in because I feel kind of silly that I did that. How about humor? How about, oh my gosh, that that was hilarious. Look at me. I screamed. I soiled myself. And you guys are amazing. So that is a secondary emotion, and that’s why I find myself going to humor often. And there have been sessions where I am working on this so much as a therapist, I’m here in the moment and things can be awkward or there can be this dramatic pause. And I find I notice myself wanting to break the silence with humor. Because why? My primary emotion might be feeling uncomfortable. It might be feeling like I am inadequate. Like, I am not exactly sure what to say in this moment. So then nothing like a joke. So I give that background because there’s a couple of things going on. I feel like the blaming for dumb things. And I know I’m saying the concepts of emotional maturity and emotional immaturity so often now, but blaming someone for silly things, blaming things, blaming someone for anything. If you really look at that, what is the point? What’s the point of blame? Is it so that you can then feel better about yourself because, well, I didn’t do it and you did.

[00:30:55] So now I must take a one up position. Is it that if I can make you feel bad, then I have this leverage on you so that then I can recall these things that you’ve done that are dumb to show that you need to now do something for me. So I really have a difficult time with the concept of blame in general. I don’t really find a big purpose for it, but I’m also assuming that people can take ownership of things if they if I forgot to pick up someone’s prescription, if I forgot to call someone back and I feel like this is the part where when people just get to this level of emotional maturity and just say, Oh, I forgot. Now we’re not worrying about blame. We’re just we’re just trying to exist. We’re just going through life. We are doing, we are being and so we just need to take a look at that. Hey, I forgot. And now if I can look at that with a safe partner and say, Man, why do I often forget? And is it because I tried writing things down and then I don’t follow through and I don’t look at the list that I wrote things down on? This is a very true story. Then let’s take a look at that with some curiosity. That’s fascinating. I wonder where that comes from. And so when you can do that and not coming from a place of blame or guilt or from a victim mentality, that’s when you can truly grow and you can start to spend and exert more of your effort on finding your true self or sense of purpose and not trying to defend yourself or wondering what’s wrong with you because somebody is putting this blame on you for ridiculous things, for anything.

[00:32:16] When someone then says, I’m just kidding. That’s one of those that I feel is really frustrating as well, especially when I see couples do that in my office. Because you can. I feel like you can often see a funny remark where then a couple has a good laugh and then you can see where they use humor as this way to try to make or express a point, but they aren’t really sure how. So they may say something sarcastically, or they make something say something that they think is funny, but a little bit passive aggressive. And it’s almost as if they’re gauging their partner’s reaction to see how it goes. And if it doesn’t go well, then they can say, no, I didn’t really mean it that way. I was just kidding. So this is one where I want somebody to be able to just stay differentiated, stay confident, stay calm. And so if you are being blamed for something and you know, you know that either you didn’t do it, you know that it doesn’t really.

[00:33:04] It’s not a big deal or, OK, fine, I did it. I’ll take ownership of that. But knowing that the concept of that, I have to feel a certain thing because someone else is telling me that I need to feel a certain way that I need to feel bad because they are blaming me for something. That’s where I want us to get to this differentiated place where I can just say how adorable you think that blaming me for something is going to make me do what again? Give me the tell me where I’m supposed to go with this. Am I supposed to feel bad now? Am I supposed to go grab you a bottle of water? Am I supposed to lay prostrate on the ground? Not really sure, but none of that is what is going to get a couple toward a healthy connection. Ok, the next one says that he seems quick to anger, said Sometimes I’m scared to tell him my ideas in the fear that he will just get annoyed or make me feel dumb about saying something. And I just and I don’t even know if I’m going to use the right phrase. I was going to say, you know, the old phrase that there are no dumb questions, but that is absolutely correct. If someone else tells you that your idea or question or even what you’re saying is dumb, then that is coming from an absolute place of their own insecurity.

[00:34:02] Or it comes from this place of immaturity. It comes from a place of someone that has this desperate need to feel right or superior, because if they don’t feel right or they don’t feel superior, then there’s this subconscious feeling or belief that then if they aren’t special, then they won’t matter. And I hope that over the episodes, the more episodes that we’re doing here that you start to really recognize that this is where these core abandonment and attachment issues are. What drives this narcissistic behavior. Because we again, from our factory setting, we don’t even know we exist. We don’t even know we are a thing as a little baby, as an entity until we are interacting with someone till we are. There is an interaction and now it’s game on. I need to express myself to get my needs met, and that’s absolutely necessary when you are a young child. And then as you work through adolescence and you work into teenager hood and you get married, we’re still bringing all that residual baggage into a relationship where we feel like I have to get my needs met and I may have to withdraw. I may have to use anger, I may have to. I may be manipulative, but whatever I have to. Do I have to get my needs met or I’ll die, and then meanwhile, if I don’t get my needs met, then that person must not think I’m good, that person must think I’m broken or bad, or what’s wrong with me.

[00:35:12] And so then we continue to figure out what are other ways to get my needs met? Do I need to? In the case of the narcissist, I must always be right, because if I’m not, I going to get my needs met and I might be abandoned and I may die, or in the case of the people that are being gaslit. But that’s that that narcissist that needs to still continue to feel like they are right or superior because they are so afraid at their core of that being emotionally vulnerable or being wrong or just what that looks like because that wasn’t nurtured in childhood at all. And so it equates to they feel less than they feel like that’s not powerful. And so that’s why it’s so hard. Gaslighting is a childhood defense mechanism that it’s so hard for them to just say my bad because it just equates all the way back to abandonment and death. But I realize as I’m saying this and I was on my soapbox there put it away right now, but I realize that I’m saying that too. There’s that part of me that I even find myself hoping that the emotionally mature or a person with narcissistic traits or tendencies, which I take so much ownership that that has been me is hearing this and just and it’s resonating. And they’re saying, Yeah, that is me, I’m afraid.

[00:36:16] So I hope that that’s the case. Or I hope that if you are a victim of this narcissistic abuse, that it’s making more sense for you so that you can learn to stand your ground, find your sense of self and purpose. Self care is absolutely OK and all those all those things I love talking about. So if somebody is doing the just kidding thing again, the answer becomes just not having to engage it. It comes to, OK, how adorable I’ve got my thoughts and my feelings and my opinions, and I don’t have to defend myself because that will often lead to being gaslit. And if I even try to make sense of that to the person that is doing that, especially if that’s their mo, that’s where they’re coming from, then I’m just handing them the buttons to push later that they will push when they feel very upset or insecure. Ok, I think the last one that this person talks about and then I have a few others that I have from another, she said. And as of late, he may seem a little extra distant. He only wants to watch certain things that he suggests. And this is one that this is one of these, I think is really interesting. So I wonder if she wondered if this was a bit of a throwaway part of the question, but I was so drawn to this.

[00:37:18] She said he won’t play any games with me that he could lose or that would possibly create a connection between us. And man, I am going to go big on my own emotional vulnerability here, and my insecurities is when I play my wife and I love playing games while playing games on her phone together. We love playing board games together, and I realize I say it like such a shock. I really enjoy winning and to the point where you realize almost what an emotionally immature response that is, that I must win winning over connection. And that can be so detrimental in the relationship because I talk often to couples that the games, the the literal games that people are playing get brought up in couples counseling more than I would have ever anticipated because I do feel like that’s where someone just cannot turn off the desire to win because it makes them feel special. And I will hear often of and I’ll just go with the gender, the generic or general stereotype of. Usually, when I’m talking with a husband who just he wants to change the rules, he wants to say that he was distracted. He wants to say that the kids are bother him and he just or he doesn’t want to play at all. Or if he wants to play, he wants to play a game that he knows that he can win when in reality, what kind of a connection is that.

[00:38:29] So back to my own insecurity, my wife and I will play these game pitching games on the iPhone, and they will be the word related, whether it’s the creating new words or it’s similar to the game boggle or those type of things. And she beats me every single time. And and I think and I now realize that she’s now realize she’s very good at them. And but I assumed I was good at them. I’m the one that had a 10 year newspaper column. I’ve written books, I’ve written articles. I love writing. So why does that mean that I need to be the special flower that can win all the word games? So now I absolutely embrace and love the fact that she will win those games. And right now we have a fascination with the game Rummy Cube on our iPhone. And I think right now we played a lot of games and I look the other day, the stats are I win 40 percent of the time, but now I’m looking at that like, OK noted. But I love I love playing that game with her. I love the the mental gymnastics that it causes. I love everything about it and I love playing it with her because that’s my person. And it is just I love the fact that she can beat me now. It’s such a nice mental knot that she can’t. She’s been beating me. I love the fact that I’m OK with being defeated.

[00:39:35] Maybe that’s the better way to put it. Ok, a little bit more here. So he claims to have been unhappy. This is another one and unattractive to me for the majority of our marriage. And they’ll say this couple had been married for, let’s say, a dozen years. And now that things are starting to not go well and I think it’s the researcher, the marriage researcher and author John Gottman from the Gottman Institute that talks about when people will go, when they are almost ready to exit or. Relationship, or they just really feel insecure that then they will reinterpret things from the past, and I see that often in my office where someone will talk about I never was happy. And when the person, the spouse that is happy or wants to try to make the relationship work, we’ll say, Well, what about what about our wedding? He seemed happy. Then what about our vacations? What about? And now the person, it’s almost as if they’re going to go into that world of confirmation bias, and they’re going to find all the things that they actually didn’t like about that. And now and I feel like that’s a little bit of that way that the brain maybe is trying to make sense of things if the person. So let’s say in the scenario that the guy is the emotionally immature or the person with the narcissistic traits and tendencies.

[00:40:42] And now he’s saying, I never really found you attractive and I never really loved you. And I’ve never really been happy that I feel like some of that is coming from this place where because if he can convince himself conscious or subconscious that this thing’s never been viable, then he’s trying to convince himself that it will be easier to exit. But deeper than that is, then he’s not going to have to do the the path of least resistance is just to try to find all of this information or build a case that this has never been a viable marriage anyway. Because what is the hard thing to do? The hard thing to do is to work on the marriage. The hard thing to do is to open up and be emotionally vulnerable and learn how to be present and how to differentiate and how to use that. I always talk about my four pillars, but learn how to to. The goal is to be heard and not to to resolve or defend. And so that’s where you start to see people that will do things or say things like, I never really loved you. I was never attracted to you. I was never happy. And it’s just a way. It’s their own defense mechanism. I believe that’s kicking in there so that they’re they don’t have to do the the hard work that could be ahead. Ok. And then one of the other questions that I got had to do with a quote that I like to use where I say you can have love or control in an adult relationship and not both.

[00:41:55] And I can tell you, I probably put about two or three emails together, and the general vibe of the question that was asked on all three was at what level is should my spouse, should my partner hear me or respect my opinion or want to know more? And it almost breaks my heart to feel like that. We even have to tackle this subject if you are passionate about something, if you’re curious about something, if you want to explore an idea or a concept or something that has to do with your life, then it is absolutely. It is absolutely necessary. It is a part of a healthy relationship. It is a part of an emotionally mature relationship for you to be able to express that to your partner and for them to be able to put aside their. I don’t want to do that. I don’t think that’s right. But to say, tell me more. Tell me what. Take me on your train of thought. Let me read the things that that you’re reading. Let me listen to the things that you’re listening to and and some of the examples that I had had to do with people that were in newlywed relationships or they had not been married long. And we’re talking about choices that affect career.

[00:42:59] Somebody that wanted to get a job and then their husband. And these people had only been married a short time, but their husband said, Well, I don’t want you to do that. And so the wife didn’t even said and she she shared a very long narrative. So I’m summarizing this. But she shared that she she said, but this is what I’ve always wanted to do, and this is what I’ve dreamt of doing, and I haven’t had the support from my family. And so now we are married and this is I want to talk about this with you. I want to process this career, this job option, and it doesn’t affect you. So why can’t we at least talk about it? Here are some things to read about it. Here’s some things to listen to. And he’s coming at that. Just absolutely saying, No, I refuse. I don’t like that. I don’t want you to do that, and I’m not going to read what you want me to read, and I’m not going to listen to what you want me to listen to because it’s obviously biased. And when I read that, I wish I had hair to pull out seriously, because how on earth can someone think that they have the answers and knowledge of someone else who has their very own experience, who has done their own research, who has their own information? And this is where I go right back to the concept of healthy ego versus pathological defensive narcissism.

[00:44:06] I talked about this a few episodes ago, but I’m going to read this again, and this is from the article by Eleanor Greenberg. And she talked about normal versus pathological narcissism. And on this episode, I said, OK, I’m going to go with normal, healthy ego because I understand there’s still so much baggage around the word narcissism when in this context, I’m about to read because she says it. Unfortunately, the English language, the word narcissism has come to mean two entirely different things, depending on whether it’s being used formally as a diagnosis, as a narcissistic personality disorder or informally as a, she said, for positive self-regard. So she said, I’m often asked isn’t a little bit of narcissism healthy and normal? And she said I would like to clarify that before she goes before she goes on in this article, because I will be asked that often and I think she just nails this. So she calls it normal, healthy narcissism, and I talk a little bit about, I’m calling it normal, healthy ego. So she said this is a realistic sense of positive self-regard that is based on the person’s actual accomplishments. It’s relatively stable because the person is assimilated into their self-image. The successes, the. Came as a result of their actual hard work to overcome Real-Life obstacles, and because it’s based on real achievements, normal healthy narcissism, where I will say healthy ego is relatively impervious to the minor slights and setbacks that we all experience as we go through life.

[00:45:16] Normal narcissism, or healthy ego causes us to care about ourselves, do things that are in our self-interest and are associated with genuine self-respect. One can think of it as something that’s inside of us. So if you are the wife in the scenario and you have your experiences, your normal, healthy ego that are based on the accomplishments that have brought you to this point, and it doesn’t have to be accomplishments as in you’ve earned ribbons or prizes or trophies, but accomplishments of thought, accomplishments of research, accomplishment, accomplishments of wanting to have an experience, wanting to to work the way that you want to work are. I have another example that someone had emailed me that was talking about someone wanting to to have a particular type of birth experience, and that’s something that she wanted. The husband, who is not having the baby, is saying, I don’t want you to do that and I’m not willing to look at the research. I’m not willing to read the book, so I’m not willing to look at the data because I don’t want to. How emotionally immature is that? And these are the points where it does. It breaks my heart because I feel like, Oh, who get off the soapbox again? Let me before I go further on that. Let me then read what pathological defensive narcissism the definition of that, because I think this is then where I think people are coming from.

[00:46:24] And I think this will absolutely relate to someone that truly doesn’t know what they don’t know and they don’t know what they’re talking about. And they’re trying to almost pretend that they know, even though they aren’t even willing to take the time to understand the other person’s point of view. So Eleanor says pathological defense of narcissism, this is a defense against feelings of inferiority. The person dons a mask of arrogant superiority in an attempt to convince the world that he or she is special. Inside, the person feels very insecure about his or her actual self-worth, and this facade of superiority is so thin that it’s like a helium balloon. One small pinprick will deflate it. This makes the person hyper sensitive to minor slights that someone with healthy narcissism wouldn’t even notice or a healthy ego. Instead, somebody with this type of defensive narcissism is easily wounded, frequently takes any form of disagreement as serious criticism, and is likely to lash out and devalue anyone that they think is disagreeing with them. They’re constantly on guard, trying to protect their status. Pathological narcissism is thought to be of a protective armor that’s on the outside, so I read that very deliberately and slowly because I wanted people that are hearing this to understand that in this scenario, whether it’s the woman that wants to get the job, or whether it’s the woman that wants to have a particular type of birth, that the person that is denying them that experience.

[00:47:40] First of all, that drives me crazy to have to even say that someone else is denying you of your experience that you because of your call, it’s call it your normal, healthy ego because it’s based on real achievements or it’s things that you have always wanted, things that you’ve read, things you’ve experienced, your hopes, your dreams, that that’s what you want to do. It’s something that is coming from a place of genuine self respect. It’s something that is inside of you of why you want to do that. And now you’re you’re talking about that, as if you have to ask for permission with someone that has feelings of inferiority. They don a mask of Aryan superiority. They do often put out this vibe that they feel like they know something about everything, and that’s an actual place of insecurity. It’s OK to not know anything about the job that your wife wants, and it’s OK to not know anything about the birth process, because how could you? And so this facade of superiority is so thin. Again, that person is so hypersensitive to slights, minor slights. So when someone disagrees with the pathological defensive narcissist, the emotionally immature person and they disagree or they say, I would like to do this now, it’s as if it is as if they now must protect their fragile ego.

[00:48:46] That anything, any form of disagreement are not just saying yes to whatever they say they view as criticism, and now they will lash out and devalue anybody that they think is disagreeing with them. I think you get the point. That’s the part where I wanted to wrap things up, and I think what is really difficult and it is so difficult is if you are already in a relationship and it’s still new and I don’t even know what qualifies as new. I’ve been married thirty one years. I don’t know if new is the first six years, seven years, what do they call it, the seven year itch? But if you are still trying to make excuses for your spouse that they’re just having a bad day or they’re just off or they’re just tired, or if you if I could just keep the kids away or if I could just do more, or if I could just make their life easier that then they will respond better. Then, man, first of all, you’re listening to this. So I appreciate that. But that is not a way to live one’s life in this hope of that. Someday this person will change when that person isn’t even willing to self confront or take a look at the issues or take a look at your point of view. And so if that’s the case, maybe it is time to reach out and talk to somebody, join a support group, listen to podcast, read books.

[00:49:54] And because the more that you try to in essence, plea for or beg for you to be heard, it’s almost as if the opposite thing a. Hers than the more that they recognize the power or control that they have. And so I want you to have this amazing relationship where you can feel heard and understood and where you can process information with with another individual and that hopefully is going to be your spouse. All right. Hey, have an amazing week. I didn’t once again neglected to give my pitch for So if you are interested in the world of online counseling, go check it out. virtual couch for 10 percent off your first month’s treatment and I love the emails. I love the examples. I love the questions. And if you’re interested in joining the private women’s Facebook group, then feel free to contact me as well. And man, I see you. I do, and I know you’re doing hard work. I know you’re doing hard things, so just keep it up. It isn’t going to happen as fast as you’d like, and I wish it would. But the fact that you’re doing the work is going to going to get you where you want to go a lot sooner. All right. Have an amazing week and we will see you next time on waking up the nurses.

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