Making Sense of Nonsense – 5 Keys to Interacting with the Narcissist/Emotionally Immature

Tony shares his 5 rules for interacting and communicating with the narcissist or emotionally immature person in your life. One of the biggest challenges in dealing with the narcissist/emotionally immature is how much time, energy, and emotional calories are spent trying to make sense of the nonsense, the inconsistencies, and the constant moving of the goalposts of what you thought you knew or were being told, about the reality of the relationship. Tony’s 5 rules help provide a framework that will ultimately shift the relationship dynamics toward the positive or help you identify if the relationship is worth continuing.

If you are interested in being coached in Tony’s upcoming “Magnetic Marriage Podcast,” please email him for more information. You will receive free marriage coaching and remain anonymous when the episode airs. 

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

WUTN 54 Transcript

Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 54 of Waking Up To Narcissism. I am your host, Tony Obey. I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of the Virtual Couch Podcast, and I’ll make this really quick. Just go to tony over and fill out the form for the newsletter. And I am gonna send one out before the end of the year that we’ll talk about a lot of the projects that are coming up in 2023.

The one that I will mention on this podcast is a waking up to narcissism question and answer premium subscription based podcast that is coming soon to the Apple Podcast app. And that is going to be to address the i I get a lot of questions and I haven’t done a lot of the question and answer episode.

I’ll sprinkle a few questions in on different episodes, but I have enough questions to last many, many, many episodes, but I want more. So send me your questions through the contact form on tony over and these are gonna be any, any question that you’ve ever had about narcissism, emotional and maturity, how it affects relationships, , how you co-parent, anything at all that you can think about is fair.

And the reason why I am doing this premium podcast is , the proceeds are gonna go toward a non-profit that I’ve started that will help people that are navigating the challenges of an emotionally immature relationship. Whether that’s gonna be counseling, whether it’s gonna be to help fund programs, , some online programs, courses, whatever that looks like to help people with legal fees, moving fees, 

, that will come from the proceeds of this premium subscription based podcast. So look for that soon. You will find out there will be , what they call the zero episode before episode one , that I’ll share on this podcast.

So you’re gonna find out more about it, but if you can go sign up for the newsletter, you’ll find , out about that , and a lot more. But let’s get to today’s episode. So wherever you are, I hope that you are doing okay. And I know that the holidays can be difficult for people that are, let’s just say, in challenging relationships.

And I would guess that a lot of the people listening to this episode are managing a whole lot of people’s emotions and anxiety, as well as trying to manage their own. because they’re trying to, I would guess, keep the peace. They’re wanting to provide their kids with a positive experience. And whether you are celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanza or Solstice , or Festivus, and too often the emotionally immature person, aka the person with more of the narcissistic traits, tendencies, all the way up to full-blown narcissistic personality disorder, especially around the holiday has a variable Santa bag full of masks and personalities that they can put on at any given time, and that change can be just quick and cause an emotional whiplash for you and probably for your family, your kids around you, because on one hand, Hey, it’s Christmas. , let’s be grateful. Now, I’m probably gonna just step into the role of the narcissist here.

So, yeah, let’s be grateful. Now everybody validate me and no, not, not like that. I like hearing that I’m awesome. But I also like hearing that I’m humble and that I’ve taught you all well. And don’t forget, mom and I both bought you these presents, champ. Now honey, what did we get the kids again? I mean, really, how much did that cost?

And honestly, they didn’t all have to have the exact same number of gifts. I thought that I told you that you were being pretty dumb about that. So hang on. Yeah, kids let me now tell you stories about my Christmases growing up, how equally hard it was, so that you’ll have pity on me. But also let me tell you how amazing I am that I persevered and wait I also want to tell you how much better the things that I got as a kid were than everybody else’s around me. So then you can tell me that I was very much better than you are at your current age, and that you are in fact very lucky to have me as your father. Then at this point I can only imagine the narcissist, leaning back over to the wife and saying, honey, the kids aren’t adoring me, and pitting me at the same time. So can you get on the same page with me right now in order to manage my anxiety and my insecurities and sure let me just let you know you’re gonna do this wrong, because it’s not really the way you feel, but that’s beside the point, because I also need you to feel like you’ve done something wrong so that I can try and, I don’t know, be intimate with you later tonight after the kids go to bed.

And I know you’ll be going off of about 45 minutes of sleep because you’re taking care of everything around you. I mean, I need to nap after all. It’s my holiday break. But, what I need. I need you to sit patiently while I swear very loud at the toys that I’m trying to put together at the last minute, while not only refusing to read the directions that you’re trying to show me, but I’m also gonna question you on whether or not you think that I don’t know or that I’m not smart enough to do something without directions or let’s go with number two. Oh, so do you think you can put these things better?  You can put these things together better than me. Oh, okay. , and I also know I’ve got more. I know that you have never liked the Bill Murray’s classic movie Scrooged, but I’m going to insist once again that we watch it again each and every year, , and I’m gonna pause it if I think that you’re not paying attention and I’m gonna quiz you on it, but if I need to jump on my phone for truly no good reason, well, that’s fine.

It’s different. I need to do that, but I need you to keep watching it because I may in fact quiz you about, it while I’ve been on my phone, and if you can’t tell me exactly what happened during the movie and laugh at the right parts, then I mean, I think I’m also going to choose between, you don’t care about me. I dunno. Let me see. Actually, let me mentally spin this wheel of narcissism that I have in my head. Let me see where it’s gonna land. Okay, it landed on the, do you think you’re better? But I know that technically we already used that with the whole putting the presents together thing. So let me spin again. Actually no, I can do this. I’m good at what I do. I’m very good at being narcissistic and emotionally immature. I can change this narrative ever so slightly. So let me see. Where were we again? Okay, Scrooged. All right, so hang on, hang on. Lemme get back into character. Okay, I got it. Wait… what do you wanna watch something stupid again, like a hallmark? I mean, you know that I don’t like those. And if you want me to be here helping you put together these presents that you didn’t even ask me about buying, then we will watch what I want. Okay. Hang on. I almost forgot. honestly. So yeah.

Do you think you’re better than me? And actually, I’ll tell you what, I’m gonna do a quick 180 again, because again, remember I want to be intimate and, here is where if you can actually put all the feelings of confusion aside right now if you can just desire me now. Initiate intimacy. Honestly, if you can make me feel like this is what you wanted for Christmas, if you know what I mean. 

Okay. But, I think you get the point. And this script is unfortunate. Yes, it’s off the cuff, but it is based off of several real life stories that I’ve heard literally over the past few days while people are processing their fear of Christmas present while relaying Christmas past.

So I see you and I’m talking male or female. I do. I see you, the person who is the one trying to figure out if your spouse is the narcissist or emotionally immature, or both, and how bad, you know, where are they on this scale. And again, wait, if you are saying the, “wait a minute, am I the narcissist?”

Again, if you are even thinking or asking yourself, then you are in the clear. Now if you are listening to this because you’ve been told to listen to this, but you’re listening to this and you got kind of an angry face on, and now you have the thought that those words like literally. You did think them.

You just thought ’em. That doesn’t constitute the same rule out as being the one searching for answers to help the relationship. Now, I know that you may feel overwhelmed. I’m talking again to the person that is trying to figure out what they can do differently to make this relationship better. I’m imagining you probably can feel pretty overwhelmed, especially at this time of year, but know that if you are listening to this, that you’ve started a change in your story, even simply beginning to have awareness.

That is the beginning of something because you go from, I wasn’t aware of what I wasn’t aware of. I didn’t know what I didn’t want to, quite frankly.  Now we move into, well I’m aware, so I kind of know, but I still don’t do a lot of things to change, and that is so normal. And unfortunately that’s one of the most common places that people beat themselves up even more and they wish they didn’t know.

Now what they know, and they start to feel stuck and they start to feel hopeless. And unfortunately, again, that’s part of the waking up process. Now, eventually you’re gonna move on to another stage where now you know when you’re starting to do more than you don’t, you’re starting to take action on some of the tools that we’re probably gonna talk about a little bit later today.

And they still haven’t just become the rote or by memory or they aren’t the new deeply rued neuro pathways of the brain. So most likely you’re still gonna default when you lay your foot off the mental gas that you’re still gonna default to . Feeling like this is a lot. But eventually you go from, I didn’t know what I didn’t know to, now I know when I’m starting to be more aware, I’m starting to do some of the things, the tools to, then I start to do them more than I don’t do them.

And then eventually you adjust and you be, and this is who you are. And you are a very powerful person that now has a lot of knowledge, and now you’ve become the very best version of yourself. And that version is going to be a great thing to model to not only your kids, but to yourself. So that is the process.

Now, all of that, Is a lead up to a text I received from a very good friend. This is somebody who cares deeply about another friend in their life. And this friend of mine has been listening to waking up to Narcissism in hopes of being able to support their friend who is in a very difficult relationship.

So my friend clearly knows that her friend is the one who is the pathologically kind person who may be in a trauma bond, and it’s hard to know what to do. So my friend texted me this , over the weekend, , she said, I am listening to episodes of your Narcissism podcast to try and still get a better understanding of it as I support my friend who is still in that emotionally abusive relationship.

In a few episodes, you’ve mentioned that you have these pillars for communicating with a narcissist. Do you have an episode where you lay these out and My answer is with most of the questions I receive is, unfortunately, I’m not really. Because what I love about my job and what I love about podcasting is that I am absolutely speaking from the heart.

I share what I share cuz it’s what I live and what I teach. So I know that I’ve shared those five things on several occasions, but I don’t know if I’ve specifically had an episode that goes into detail for each one. So today I wanna go over my five rules of interacting with a Narcist. And for the sake of the remainder of this episode, I am going to say Narcissist.

For the entire spectrum from full on narcissistic personality disorder, all the way to pretty just darned emotionally immature because the rules and themselves will take you far. And what we’re gonna learn as we go through this, that it isn’t so much of what you can do for the other person or to change the other person, but it really is about what you can do to show up different and then to see if this truly is just a phase in your relationship.

We just didn’t know what we didn’t know. And especially I didn’t know what I didn’t know, but now I know and I’m gonna start to do. I’m gonna start to be, and that is going to change the dynamic of the relationship. Now, will it solve your problems and will it make the other person have that aha moment?

Unfortunately not, and we’re gonna get there. , and I know that this is difficult, especially as people start to wake up to the difficulties in their relationship. As a matter of fact, I was looking over some messages and one that I got through Facebook that I forget that there’s a little place in there that if it isn’t somebody that’s your friend, you have to go seek out the message.

But if somebody asked me do you have any tools for healing a narcissist? So they aren’t a narcissist. and I know that people that have been in this or on this journey for a while probably think that question is a, bless their heart, they don’t know what they don’t know question.

But I get these questions often. I wanna say, all the time, that’s a pretty all or nothing statement. But to this question itself, do I have tools that will help heal a narcissist? Unfortunately, I don’t, and even if I did, they have to. To change, they have to want to find those tools. And then it’s gonna be a journey, and it’s gonna be a journey of self confrontation and self discovery.

But I, I’m one of those that said, I’m not saying that that can never be done, but the unfortunate part is that person has to want to change. And it can’t just be a, okay, fine, I’ll change. Tell me what to do and I will do it. There, are you happy? Because that is not change that is still putting. the onus of change back onto the person that is finally standing their ground or speaking up for themselves, because now their narcissist is saying, okay, fine.

You know, again, tell me, gimme the, gimme the steps. Tell me what to do and I will do them. And can you just sense that that isn’t something that is coming from within that narcissist? That’s something that that person is saying. That “I will check these boxes so that we can just get past this moment and get back to the point, and actually I’m probably now gonna even be more angry with you that you made me go through this because it’s ridiculous.”

So that’s a big reason that I even put these five rules of interacting with a narcist together. To go back a little bit in the way back machine, and this is a big reason why I started this podcast, is because that question that I just. The one about, Hey, do you have tools for changing the narcissist? Is in reality 

 More in alignment with what the person who is starting to wake up to this in their own relationship is going to say, they will read the things about narcissism. And they will feel like somebody has been watching them for the past however many years of their relationship, or , as I have, I don’t know, dozens and dozens of emails now where people, I know are, are kind of metaphorically saying, I feel like you were in my car.

I feel like you were spying in on our conversation because of the things that are said in the podcast. But in reality when people then, yeah, they hear about narcissism and they feel like, yeah, that resonates. These stories really hit home. I feel like that’s me. Or I feel like that’s our relationship. It’s still not something that somebody’s gonna go from there and say, narcissist, I’m out.

But what they’re gonna read is gonna say, Don’t finish this paragraph. Don’t finish this article. Stop this podcast and leave. Trust me, it’s the right thing to do. But that’s the part where I’ve been very intentional in saying, I know that that’s not what happens as a therapist that’s been working in this population for many, many years.

We just don’t feel like that’s our situation. It may sound a lot like our situation, but then our brain immediately goes to the “Yeah, Buts.” 

“Well, yeah, but there are times where he or she is nice. Or Well, yeah but I know that I play a role in this too, so…” Now we start down the process. So these five rules I came up with as a way initially, honestly, and I want to be as open and authentic and vulnerable in all those good therapist words as possible.

But honestly, creating these five rules of interacting with the narcist came over time. And my thoughts were that you can get yourself in such a good situation. More than likely the emotionally immature person in the relationship or the narcist is gonna say, oh my gosh, look at my partner getting strong.

I don’t wanna lose this person, but that was well before I had, had worked with the population for years and years, and so now I’m gonna be honest.  I want people to get in this place where they’re, they’re in such a good place and based off of these things we’re gonna talk about today, that then, yeah, either their partner will say, “oh my gosh, what am I doing? I’m gonna lose this person, and that’s the person that I wanna spend my life with.”

 That’s why we got. You know, we didn’t know what we didn’t know, and then I’m gonna be able to self confront and look inward , and I’m gonna make change for myself. But unfortunately, what will happen often is the person that is doing the work is now disrupting the family dynamic or the whole family system.

And so now the emotionally immature, narcissistic person is going to feel, they’re gonna feel anxious, they’re gonna feel insecure, they’re gonna feel these deep pangs of abandonment, but they aren’t gonna understand that’s what’s happening. So they are going to need to regain control and put the relationship back into homeostasis where it was, and that’s gonna require that person, the emotionally immature person, to get the fires of gaslighting amped up again. And so one of the most difficult things is as you wake up to the emotional immaturity or narcissism in your own relationship, and you start to use the tools and you start to express your opinion, which is 100% okay in a healthy relationship. The narcissist is gonna push bigger buttons.

Oh, now you think you’re doing all the work. Now you think you’re smart. What about me? I can’t believe you’re doing this to me. You said you’d never leave me. All the way up to the emotionally immature or narcissist will say, okay, well maybe I don’t even deserve to live on this earth anymore and you’ll be better off without me.

And that is hard because the buttons will be pushed to get you back into that one down. Where now your job is to manage everybody’s anxiety at the detriment of your own. And that’s what can cause people that are in these emotionally abusive relationships to start to feel like they disassociate, to start to feel like they are constantly living in a state of fight or flight where their cortisol levels are off the charts.

where they do, they have trouble sleeping. Their short term memory is a challenge. There are so many things, I mean, in the women’s group, the of women that are in narcissistic relationships, again, it’s fill in the blank with, whether it’s a spouse, a parent, uh institution, a religious entity, a family member, an adult sibling, an adult child.

But often when they get out of that unhealthy, abusive relationship. And we have a whole thread, we had a whole call on there where people recognize that they can sometimes get off of blood pressure medications, anxiety, medications, they can start to deal with their stomach issues. So those are things where your body is keeping the score of the trauma of an unhealthy relationship.

So, These five rules of interacting with a narcissist are really to put yourself in a good position, but know that it will cause a disruption in the relationship. And that’s part of the process, and it’s gonna be difficult. But man, you can do some really hard things and it will change the relationship and it will make you a better person and a better fill in the blank.

Husband, mother, father, wife, you name it. So, let’s get to number one. The first rule of interacting with a narc. Raise your emotional baseline Self-care. Self-care is not selfish. You have to take care of yourself. You need to be in as good of a position as possible to deal with the inevitable challenges that come when interacting with a narcissist.

And too often when somebody who is in a relationship with a narcissist, they have neglected their self-care, but it is absolutely necessary, and I have episodes on raising your emotional baseline. And this is a concept that, I think the smarter word is to say that I developed. That I came up with, but I wanted to say that I made up when I was early in my practice.

And the very quick version of this is I was working with someone that I didn’t even realize at the time, was a guy in a relationship with an incredibly emotionally abusive, emotionally mature, narcissistic woman, and the guy was in the medical profession. And yet, he was expected to, of course, bring money in, but he also was expected to do everything else to manage her anxiety. to keep everything calm with the kids. Also, to not talk about work, not complain about work. And to just be quiet. And he was starting to go through some  mental breakdowns, challenges. And at the end of almost every session he said, man, I would ask him questions sometimes about medical things, almost to just build rapport.

And then he said, you know, I really enjoy talking about this cause I don’t get to talk about it at work or just go, go, go. And at home, my wife doesn’t want to hear a thing about it because she’ll pull the, you know you think that you’re doing things hard all day. What do you think about me? How about the kids?

Do you know what this makes me feel like, oh, you think you’re better than me? And she would push all the buttons. So then I would ask him a lot of questions about, at the time, I was really deep into my ultrarunning career, and running, an ultra-marathon or longer, almost every month. And in doing so, I had just had a lot of questions about physiology, the human body chemistry, the way that hydration works, nutrition, all of these. and so I would ask him these questions. Well, one day I’m driving in, I’m listening on the radio. This is how long ago.

An antidepressant commercial came on and at the end they listed, you know, 500 different warnings and they said it in rapid speed and, but one of the warnings of this antidepressant was may cause suicide, suicidal ideation. So I asked my client, I said, Hey, can you explain that to me how an antidepressant is going to cause suicidal ideation?

And he gave a pretty lengthy answer, which if you go look up one of the Raise Your Emotional Baseline episodes I’ve done on the virtual couch. Maybe I’ll link to that in the show notes. But he told an amazing story of growing up in a very cold climate and this concept of anhedonia, and it was so cold that it wouldn’t even snow.

So he related that to when someone was just so, so depressed that they were just flat on their back in bed and didn’t care about a thing that he said. It was almost as if you could put an antidepressant. open their lip, put it in their mouth, and force down some water, and after about two or three weeks when the medication really starts to kick in, it’s almost as if they will raise their head up and say, oh my gosh, this stinks, and I feel very suicidal, I don’t know if I want to be here. I think about killing myself. 

That then in that moment, he said, that’s the danger zone. And so you have to hurry up and get that person, you know, up to a place or a level where then they can start to access tools. Tools of healing. And I remember having this aha moment myself of feeling like, man, that’s like this baseline, this emotional baseline.

And so all of the things are coming at you on a day-to-day basis. Decisions you have to make, , things that your kids need, things that your spouse is asking you of if you work, if you have a calling in a church capacity, any of those things. And when your baseline is, You can’t even access or reach up to those tools that you need to be the best version of yourself in any of those areas.

So self-care is not selfish, and I’ve had people literally just spend 10 minutes, 15 minutes a day of reading a novel that they enjoy. And it may seem like this, this is ridiculous. I have bigger fish to fry, but just doing a little bit of that self care, whether it’s even just going on a walk, even if it’s just letting yourself sit back and dream or listen to some good music, or listen to a comedian or watch some sort or some show that you enjoy.

But anything that you can start to do for yourself. And be aware that it will feel selfish because if you are in that position, then most likely you feel that much of your role is around managing everyone else’s experience of life and not yours. So when you start to self-care, when you start to do some things for yourself and you do it intentionally and you’re given permission and I give you permission, then you do start to feel a little bit.

So it bumps your baseline up a little bit, and sometimes then from that place, now you can move on to whatever the next self-care thing is. Maybe just by being able to do some breathing or going on a walk or reading a book that you like. Now, you might be able to just. Gently walk over to the computer and maybe journal a little bit that might feel a little bit better.

And then while you’re on the computer, why don’t you send out an email to somebody that you care about or look up something that you’ve always been curious about. And each step, as you raise your emotional baseline, you start to feel a little bit better. And at some point, Then you’ll be able to access the tools of recovery or the tools of healing and then things will start to just happen a little bit more, a little bit better.

But when we are so low, we can’t even access those tools. So self-care is absolutely necessary cuz it can feel overwhelming to think of, what do I do when I feel this crappy? And if somebody is saying, well, just read a book you like, it’s gonna feel like, are you kidding me? Didn’t you hear all the things I have to do?

And the reality is, yeah. So let’s start you on that path. I have a very untested unscientific theory around even things like medication, if you apply it to my emotional baseline theory, and that is when people say, I don’t want to take an antidepressant. I don’t want to take an anti-anxiety medication.

I hear you and I’m gonna meet you where you’re at, but I might bring some awareness that if you can’t, if your baseline is so low, then is that you know, your low emotional baseline. That it needs to make that decision that will actually help raise your baseline. So sometimes I find that people will say, I, I just don’t wanna take a, let’s just say an antidepressant.

And I say, man, I hear you, but we don’t need to. I hope that we don’t look at it as an all or nothing. Well, I guess I’m taking this the rest of my life. Because if right now where you’re at is I don’t want to, I hear you and you can invite not wanting to, to come along with you while you go to the doctor and get the prescription.

And I have found that oftentimes taking things like an anti-anxiety medication or a antidepressant in the moment when you are feeling like I, I feel helpless and hopeless and there’s nothing I can do, will then slowly start to raise your emotional base. So that you can grab a hold of the tools and once you grab a hold of the tools that you need now, it will raise even higher.

This is where I like to say. So then at that point, if you really’ feel like I no longer wanna take medication, well yeah, we can prepare for that because now your baseline’s high enough that you can, maybe you are reaching out to others, maybe you are doing things that you really wanna do.

Maybe you are able to stand in there and have difficult conversations. And sit with some of the tension, even if you’re afraid that it will go to contention. And maybe now you are feeling like you are finding yourself and things that you like to do. So if you then feel like you need to get off the antidepressant or the anti-anxiety medication, then yeah, your baseline may drop a bit, but you have the tools.

So it may only drop just enough that you might still get all the feels coming back, but now hopefully that muscle memory or those, deeply rutted neuro pathways are starting to form of what it feels like to take care of yourself so that you can be in a better position to help others. Now, on a side note, one of the things I think is really fascinating.

I avoided, as an adult, ADHD diagnosis for 46 years of my life, or 47 years, and now I’m on year six of being medicated.  I used to care a lot about what people would think about that. And now, I just don’t, because what it feels like to be me since that diagnosis and that admission and the medication feels a whole lot better than what it felt like before that, even to the point where now that has allowed me to create and to be, and to do and to be more present and to do the things that really help me feel like a better human being and like I can contribute more to my family, to society and my work.

And so at this point then I did tell myself that, let’s get my baseline up. And then I can get off the medications. But where I’m at now, man, I am grateful. Medication is a miracle in my world. Now. I still take a lot of natural supplements,  and I meditate,  I exercise, and I, I have heard of this thing called sleep and eating better, and I’m gonna try to do those better.

But for me that self-care has not been selfish. That self-care has been exactly what the doctor ordered and medication for me has really helped me raise my baseline so that I could do a lot of the things that I wasn’t doing and I didn’t want to hit, I don’t know, midlife and I mean, yeah, I’ll get the hair plugs, the gold chains and the sports car, but I really wanted to feel like I was doing the things that I always wanted to do.

So let’s move on to number two, and that is get your PhD in gaslighting

So moving on to number two, get your PhD in gaslighting. So simply put gaslighting is a type of manipulation where the manipulator, in this case, the narcissist or the more emotionally immature, is trying to get someone or a group of people to question their own memory, their perception, their reality. 

And over time, gaslighting has extremely negative effects. And I did an episode not long ago where one study shows that people in emotionally abusive or manipulative narcissistic relationships, that over time, actual brain scans of the emotionally abused show an enlarged amygdala, which again, is that fight, flight, freeze or fawn portion of the brain. And a shrunken hippocampus. And that’s the area of the brain that is associated with short term memory. So this is my unscientific response to that study. but it would make sense that the more that someone’s short-term memory is questioned time and time again, that their own brain literally is starting to change. 

Thanks to good old neuro-plasticity, which can be our best friend when we’re really trying to change. But when we’re in survival mode then more of that blood flow goes to the area of the fight or flight response. And it’s got to pull it from somewhere. And your short-term memory is continually being questioned. So apparently we don’t need that as much when we’re interacting with the narcissist in our life. So then as your hippocampus or your short-term memory shrinks and your amygdala enlarged over time, then that’s just part of the way your brain works. But the good news is when you get out of those emotionally abusive relationships, that neuroplasticity of the brain becomes our best friend and your brain can start to get back to a better place of homeostasis back to where it was. and maybe you can even move into a better place from there. But gaslighting then is a,  it’s obviously a very serious problem in relationships, any kind of relationships, whether it’s marital, work relationship, Parent child friendships. 

And, I did an episode. episode 52. Congratulations to gaslighting. Apparently you’re the word of the year. And I quoted an article called What Is Gaslighting? from medical news today Dot com. By Jennifer. She says gaslighting just by simple definition is a form of psychological abuse in which a person or a group causes somebody to question their own sanity, their own memories, their perception of reality, and people who experienced gaslighting may feel confused and anxious and they can start to feel like they can’t trust themselves. 

And quite frankly, in that episode, we go pretty deep into. That’s how you start to lose your sense of self. And that is a big piece of the trauma bond, which makes it so difficult to get out of that relationship. The longer that you are in the relationship. 

Number three. My third rule, when we’re talking about rules of interacting with a narcissist or an emotionally immature person is: disengaged from unproductive conversations.

So now that you’re starting to raise your emotional baseline, you’re working on your self-care, you’re starting to know that isn’t selfish and you’re showing up a little bit more confident, a little better because you’re starting to really find out who you are, even though that’s a slow but productive process. Now you do understand gaslighting more and you’re starting to recognize maybe I’m not crazy. I did say this thing that they’re saying now that I didn’t, so… I’m starting to feel a little bit better about that. Now it becomes imperative to get out of unproductive conversations. 

Because when you recognize that the gaslighting is occurring, the narcissist is not going to take ownership or accountability of their actions. So at that point, it is time to drop the rope of the tug of war of the conversation. Stop trying to convince that person that they’re wrong, or you’re not crazy because that conversation is not going to be resolved in any type of a satisfactory way. 

And when I talk about dropping that rope with a tug of war, there’s a metaphor in acceptance and commitment therapy that talks about this feeling where you’re in this tug of war. And it gives the example, say with anxiety. And you just feel like you have to pull with all your strength because you’re over this giant chasm and anxieties over on the other side, and it’s huge and it’s hulking and it looks like it’s just going to eventually pull you into that chasm and you’re going to die. 

So you tug and you tug, but then sometimes not sometimes, actually the way to defeat an anxiety monster or a depression monster, or in this case, an emotionally manipulative or abusive person, is to simply drop the rope of that tug of war. Drop the rope in that game of tug of war. And then all of a sudden you realize, oh, I’m actually okay. 

And I can now get myself out of that unproductive conversation. What that leads to this one becomes a really big one. So this one is to learn to set healthy boundaries, and I cannot stress this enough that when you are setting boundaries and we learned this, I think the hard way we will set a boundary and a boundary to an emotionally immature or narcissist. We need to view that as in essence, a challenge. 

Because a boundary, if you think of it as a rope laid on the ground, and you are standing up against that rope. And saying, this is my boundary. So in essence, what we’re saying is please do not try and cross this rope boundary. And the first thing that people typically do is they run right up to your face. So, okay. Technically that rope is still between your feet, but then what happens to the pathologically kind person who sets the boundary is all of a sudden they don’t like that discomfort. So they back off of that rope. 

And in essence, they allow the emotionally manipulative person to step over that rope or step over that boundary. And then they have now in essence won. So they have now proven that a “boundary” that’s cute and adorable because I’m going to run right through your boundary. And then that is where you start to feel even more crazy and it gives them more power. So when we use, let’s use this gaslighting example again, when you recognize gas lighting, then not only do you disengage, but you let the person know or you’ve resolved in your own mind that you’re going to leave that unproductive conversation. 

You’re going to leave that situation. And then you’re going to do your best to be consistent with your behavior. But if you have set a boundary that you’re not going to keep, so let’s say like talking about finances with an emotionally abusive Co-parent. Then when they bring it up, either do not respond or let them know that you will be copying and pasting the same response of I’ve already expressed to you that I will not be having a conversation about finances outside of our attorney’s office. So that will feel like a boundary, but then typically the emotionally immature person will give it a day or two, or even just within the next few minutes. 

And now they’ll attack it from a different angle and they will start to push more and more buttons. That’s where I want to spend a little bit of time now, is that unfortunately, if you are setting your boundaries correctly, the emotionally immature person will tend to push more buttons and try to get you to engage. Because if you don’t engage, then the dynamic of the relationship is going to change. That is the whole goal of these five rules of interacting with the narcissist or the emotionally mature is that you are going to change the dynamic. 

And I know that again, we’ve talked about this earlier in today’s episode, but it will still feel like I can’t just leave. There’s so much more at play here, whether it’s with kids, finances, community, Whatever that is, or I don’t want to give up on this or I can do hard things or I’m working harder, or maybe you have a spiritual, a belief that man we’re in this through the eternity, and this is my lot in life or my cross to bear.

It’s going to feel like you need to do everything you can to make sure that you’ve tried everything you can. So I want you to know, I hear you. And I get that and I understand that. And it’s going to feel scary because here this number four is really difficult because again, as you do not engage, as you start to find your sense of self, your sense of purpose, your voice, which is absolutely within your right as a human being, as an individual, as your God-given right. This is how you start to make manifest the glory that God has within you, or where you start to really find your sense of purpose and start to feel more engaged in life. However, you want to look at it. This is your opportunity to grow as you start to become more emotionally mature. 

And if that threatens the person that you’re in a relationship with, that’s their problem. Because in healthy relationships, the two of you are going to grow together and it’s going to be, it can be an amazing opportunity to share experiences and that can lead to accountability, self confrontation, vulnerability, you name it. 

So, when you set the boundary. After trying to get out of these unhealthy conversations. Then that person is going to push more buttons. And the person in that moment being more emotionally mature will then be left, looking for the right button to push, to get you to engage. Now, unfortunately, this is going to go from, maybe the person will start out by saying, oh, well you think you’re smart? or we’ll look at you, you’re the one going to therapy, or I guess a you’re the PhD now that you listen to all these podcasts and you’re watching these YouTube videos while I’m really doing work or whatever that will look like. They’ll start to push buttons and then they will eventually escalate to things like. Well, wait until I tell the kids. I mean, because I don’t want any of this to happen. I’m going to tell everybody I’m going to tell our religious leader. I’m going to tell your parents. I’m telling my friends I’ll post on social media.

I can think of so many examples of people saying, well, you know, I was talking to a couple of my friends today and they all agree that you are the one that is being too sensitive or you’re the one that’s being crazy, or it will eventually escalate to, you know, this is why you are a crummy mom or a horrible father, because they’re trying to get you hit that button that will then cause you to react. 

And unfortunately, so unfortunately, this can eventually lead to some buttons, like the emotionally mature person saying things like, I don’t even think I can live anymore without you, or, you obviously don’t care about me and you’re right. I failed you our entire marriage because talking to the person that all they wanted, the reason why they’re staying in a relationship that may be emotionally abusive or unhealthy. 

As, because they feel like, I can fix this. I can do this. I can be the buffer. I can stay in here long enough. Or maybe you start feeling like I don’t even deserve to have happiness. So then when this person starts pulling the, I don’t even know if I want to live card and it can even escalate all the way up to someone saying they feel suicidal. They say, you know what? I might as well kill myself. And that’s why I think that is so. 

So unfair of the emotionally manipulative person. And that’s what can just, if you look at it, like, man, that is hard and that is scary, but that person, as I’m starting to recognize that it’s okay to be me. And it’s okay to have my own thoughts and feelings and experiences. Now I see that, oh, that is another button that they’re pushing. It is a button and I don’t respond and they push more buttons. So in this context, I hope you can really start to see that at that point, this a more emotionally immature person is looking for anything that they can, that will get you to engage and jump back in to your role of an emotional sponge or a verbal punching bag so that they can get their fix, because this goes back to how deeply different, the true narcissist is, or the person far, far down on the emotional immaturity scale. Because in that very moment, their level of discomfort or their anxiety or their anger, you name it, is so real, but it’s so confabulated, it changes in that very moment. That to them in that split second, they may in fact, really feel. 

Or mean that they’re going to tell your kids that they’re going to share everything across social media, that they may not want to live. But here, this is, this is huge, but once you fall back in line, once they hit the right button, once you break your boundary and you go back into that conversation and you question your sanity, once they hit that right button. 

Now your anxiety goes through the roof. And then typically that’s where you are going to do whatever you can do to calm your anxiety and to manage their emotions because you fear that they will take it out on the kids or they will take it out on you or things will get worse. And that’s when they’ve hit that right button in that moment. And unfortunately, now that button has been exposed, and that button is at play. Now they may pull that I don’t want to live button, or you’re a horrible parent button, because they know that that one is going to get a reaction. Because then you may, at that point, find yourself falling back into that familiar pattern of self sacrifice or shame or fear. And then you, Mr. or Mrs. pathologically kind person, you will now sit with that feeling for hours and days. The emotionally immature, their relief is instant. Now they can breathe. Now they can become calm. Now they can exit a conversation. And, now they can just give it a few minutes and then come back and ask what’s for dinner. This is where I also call this one. Hey, you want to go ride bikes? 

And you are crushed, you’re devastated. They just called you the most horrific things known to man. And I react, and how on earth are they so calm? And there are so many examples. So many examples I have. Where the person, the pathologically kind person, will, all of a sudden hear that. Okay. Five minutes later, they’re on the phone and everything’s great. They’re talking to somebody, it’s no big deal or they will, that person will leave. The narcissist will leave. Then, you know, the emotionally, the pathologically kind person, might now connect with one of their adult children. So a very real example, and then that adult child will say, oh, dad was fine. No, he was absolutely fine. But you, after he just destroyed you emotionally feel like, oh my gosh, that he must be really in pain as well. 

But so that’s why when you hold the boundary, when you don’t engage now, you get your popcorn moment. You sit back and don’t react and you watch the show. You watched them pull out their mental manipulation machine and start looking for buttons. And you see them searching in their mind, just so in that moment, confabulated searching for these cheat codes for that mental manipulation machine. They press two buttons together and then they tap another button twice. Maybe they can quickly cry while laughing, while taking on a victim mindset while praising you with a little side. If I don’t want to live anymore, and if you simply reach back into that popcorn container, maybe even hover your phone light over it for a second to see if there are any pieces that still are glistening with movie theater butter, and you take a bite. That’s onto the next act, more buttons until you finally see their narcissistic exit. And this feature such hits as a man. You’re so ridiculous. I’m out of here. I’m leaving. You’re never gonna understand any way. It’s like arguing with the toddler. 

I’m leaving. Or some of my favorites. Oh, my gosh. Well, my head is starting to get dizzy. I think I’m gonna faint. I think I’m having a heart attack or, man, they’re going to hit that chronic pain button, you know? Oh my gosh. It just started acting up again, whatever that is. I’m leaving. 

The theme here is they are leaving. But I promise you, if you just give them a couple of minutes, they’ll be back and they can go ride bikes. I’ve even heard an example recently where their narcissistic parent had pulled the medical exit. But then the person started talking about the movie avatar and all of a sudden their narcissistic parent turned back around. Avatar! Let me give you all my opinions on it because I’ve been watching a lot of things about it, and here’s a lot of things that you don’t know about it. Even though the person talking had just gone and seen the movie. So back to that, emotionally mature person after this narcissistic exit. Really a few minutes later. Yeah. We can go ride bikes. Unless that is, if they have disappeared in the past and not contacted you, and then you eventually are the one who apologizes. Then just realize that they will now be pushing that button. 

Which leads us to the fifth and final rule of interacting with the narcissist or emotionally mature person. Stop trying to find that right thing to say. Realize that there is nothing that you can do to cause them to have that aha moment or that epiphany that will get them to change. Now I will say that is because they have to come to that moment. And in an emotionally mature relationship. Absolutely. It’s okay to bring things up and get examples and have these productive conversations. So I don’t want you to think that, man, that’s crazy that I’m trying to explain something to them, to get them to understand it’s not crazy, but in an emotionally mature relationship that isn’t something that every time. 

Yeah. Every time, look at me, go all or nothing for the majority of times that that is used, that then it is met with a Yabut and then it is actually then turned around and used against you. So it sounds harsh, but those who were in relationships or have been in relationships with narcissistic people, I think eventually know all too well that as they begin to step away from the relationship, or, even when the narcissist has appeared to, I’m going to air quote this, “get it,” That it’s only temporary or simply put it’s to get out of a conversation that they don’t feel that they have control over or more importantly, there’s an angle that will come later. That will then show that this is why that change was happening for that narcissist. 

Not too long ago, I was processing with somebody that they were just so thrown off because their spouse would blast them about their neediness. And we’ll be a little more specific, but we’ll change names and everything here. So let’s just say it was the wife who is more narcissistic or emotionally manipulative or emotionally immature and the husband needed help completing something online. So he asks his wife for help. She continually tells him that this is his responsibility. She’s already done her own version of this activity, and this is a him problem. Not a them problem. But then one day he’s feeling overly stressed. She’s being very kind on the phone. She’s asking. What else can she do to help him? Because she knows he’s been so stressed lately. And he thinks she has been really kind. So maybe I am crazy. And she says, can I help you with that project? And he’s questioning why the sudden change. But she’s in essence, gaslighting up a storm. And of course she’s so nice and kind. So what’s he talking about? And then there it is. She’s on speakerphone. 

It turns out her sister’s in the background. There’s the angle. So he’s noticed a pattern that that’s when she’s nice. When there is someone else in the room or around. So then he gets off the call a couple of hours later, then it’s just him and his wife. And he decides tepidly to take her up on her offer to help. And of course in that moment when they are alone, she resumed her. Look, I can’t do everything for you. And now he understands there’s the angle. 

And one example I shared on the trailer for waking up to narcism now many moons ago. I had someone that was a professional photographer. And they had asked their husband about getting an upgraded lens for years to help with their profession. And he continually either ignored her or he would say they don’t have the money, even though she was incredibly aware that they had the finances, they could definitely afford it. So one day he approached her and he had miraculously found the money in the budget to get the new lens. She was very happy. Thinking, okay maybe he finally heard me. But she also felt like what’s the angle? And it didn’t take more than a week or two when he decided to purchase a $65,000 truck. So there it is. 

So this episode is going on a bit long, but I wanted to get in these five rules in one episode. So you can either review it yourself. Or you can possibly send this to someone else. And so on that note, I have to tell you that Melissa and Brittany, from the agency, part of my amazing social media team were talking with me a couple of weeks ago, and we were talking about how awkward it can be or how awkward it can feel when you want to share a video or a podcast or book or an article with somebody. And really, it’s because you care about them, but you don’t want to offend them. And you care enough about them that you truly want to at least attempt to share something from a place of love. So we came up with this idea of me recording a very short YouTube video, and I did. It’s on a private YouTube link on my YouTube channel. It’s just a couple of minutes long, but I tried to be lighthearted, funny, sincere and explain that, whatever the podcast or video or article that this person is about to share with you. That you are about to receive this from a friend or a spouse or anyone. And that is absolutely coming from a place of love with the hope of a connection. So if you’re interested in access to that video, shoot me an email through my website, or just email So that is if that is the last episode of 2022. I won’t keep you longer, but keep your emails and questions and stories and comments coming, because I do get a chance to read them. I’ll get to them. Eventually. My amazing assistant Naomi goes through each and every one and we’ll take the time and respond and catalog and we’re putting together databases full of answers. We’ve got so much coming up here.Again, I’ve talked about a paid premium subscription to waking up to narcism question and answer, and the proceeds of that will go to fund this non-profit. That should be kicked off in the early, early, early 2023. but what you’re sharing is not only helping, hopefully you as being able to express yourself and write these things down. But it’s literally helping, now millions of listeners from darn near every country on the planet. So you are making a difference. And if you have a minute, I would be honored. If you would rate or review this podcast, wherever you listen. 

Or go follow me on YouTube or Instagram or Facebook. The reviews are incredible and, I will say, and this is where I feel like, oh, I’m so authentic and I’m differentiated. And I don’t need external validation, but then, you know, another one got by the goalie. Another one of these reviews a couple of weeks ago. Somebody went big on criticism from an interview I did on this one, waking up the narcissism, but man, bless their heart. What, you don’t know that you don’t know? They didn’t realize it in that negative review, it was really obvious that they hadn’t actually listened to the entire review nor were they listening to it with, it feels like anything less than a desire to find some mud to throw, which makes me really feel empathetic for this person. And my heart goes out to them and I hope that they will find happiness even more because it just shows even more how hurt people are that they really do feel they maybe they don’t have enough control in their relationships or in their life that they need to find something that someone’s trying to do or put out to help others for free, and they’re going to pick it apart and try to make that person feel like, you know, this is ridiculous what you’re doing. So my heart goes out to that person. 

Okay!. Happy new year. I see you. I appreciate you. And I know you’re on the path and it’s going to take as long as it’s going to take, but what you’re doing is exactly what you need to be doing. 

So here is to a much improved, amazing 2023. I will see you next time on waking up to narcissism. 

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