So Now You Know About Narcissism, Who Can You Tell? Should You Tell? w/ Bonus Triangulation

Explaining your relationship to the narcissist or emotionally immature person, people, or entity in your life to those around you can be incredibly validating when it’s met with empathy, curiosity, and understanding. But, when you open up to someone and they respond with judgment, neutrality, or “one-upmanship” (“you think your situation is bad, let me tell you about my co-workers, college roommates, former high school substitute gym teachers relationship…at least that isn’t what you’re going through!”) it can make you feel even worse! So how do you know who is safe to talk to, and what do you even say? Tony gives examples from his private women’s group of positive and negative experiences with sharing. Plus, Tony explains narcissistic triangulation by referencing the article “What is Triangulation in Psychology,” by Arlin Cuncic from Verywellmind.com https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-triangulation-in-psychology-5120617

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[00:00:00] So imagine that somebody has started to tap you and you have no idea why they’re doing it and they just keep tapping you and tapping you. Then you finally ask them, Why are you tapping me? And they tell you I wasn’t tapping you. And you kind of feel a little bit crazy and you’re confused. But they stop, so you just move on and you try to forget. But then they start tapping you again and again and you wonder, What did I do to make them do this? Why are they tapping me again? And so you ask them again and they say, I literally don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m not tapping you. But they also stop. So then you relax. You say, okay, this must be me. I’ve got to breathe through this. I just have to relax. Then the tapping starts again and it’s heavier and it’s harder. And then you can’t make sense of this. And they certainly aren’t taking ownership of it. So you start to think, either I’m crazy or maybe I deserve this. Maybe everybody goes to this. Maybe this is what every relationship is like. Somebody is tapping and tapping and tapping, but then it will stop again and you relax again. So then after years of this happening, any time this person even starts to come within your vicinity, you get tense and stressed out and then you start to get angry because now they’re disturbing you at any given time and they may look like they’re just going about their business.

[00:01:11] It’s no big deal and nobody else knows about their tapping. So you really do think you’re crazy and all of a sudden you think something must be wrong with me because this person seems fine and everybody else doesn’t know about the tapping. And as a matter of fact, when I talk to them about this person that’s doing the tapping to me, they say they’ve never tapped me. I really don’t. I mean, so there must either you’ve done something or are you maybe imagining it or even maybe somebody else says, well, yeah, every now and again, my my spouse will tap me. But is it really that big of a deal? But they don’t even understand the intensity, the veracity, the consistency in which you are being tapped. So you think you are crazy. And then eventually people are just telling you that you need help with this tapping problem. So then you just continue to try and figure it out. But it only makes it worse the more you spend time trying to figure out, is this something wrong with me or do I deserve this? So this is an analogy that was presented in the group when I asked about doing a topic today of how do you share what you’re going through to others in your life or do you even share? Here’s the exact request that I made in the group.

[00:02:16] I said, Hey, everybody, I had somebody share with me yesterday that the one thing they haven’t heard in the world of narcissistic podcasts was podcast with examples of trying to share or convey your situation with others times where it has worked well. What did you say? Or maybe what worked? And unfortunately, I was asking for the examples of times when you tried to convey what you’re going through to people that you thought might understand, but they didn’t. And I know that there were people in the group that are in various stages in the process. So I thought it would be good to ask the people in the group meeting that I know that I’ve done episodes where I said that you need to identify your non Switzerland friends or understanding that somebody truly isn’t going to understand unless they’ve experienced something similar sometimes helps people be more aware of who they can confide in. And then I put out there that I realized that and simply trying to pose this question that I found myself wanting to keep writing and explaining as if I was writing out this very podcast outline. So I just asked people if they had stories either way, and then I asked people if they were okay with me sharing. And so some of the details, some of the facts might be changed a little bit, but we’re definitely going to talk about can you tell people about your situation? If so, how is it helpful? And hopefully, as I hear so often, that if you are going through this, you’re trying to explain to people that I think you’ll probably hear yourself in a lot of these stories.

[00:03:29] So we’re going to talk about that. A little bit of triangulation and so much more coming up on today’s episode of Waking Up the Nurses. Hey re Welcome to episode 37 of Waking Up to Narcissism. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of the Virtual Couch Podcast. And a little bit of confusion that actually won’t apply right now, but it will at some point. I released an episode on the virtual couch this week with one of my favorite all time guest, Dr. Jennifer Finlayson. Fyfe And we talked about so many good things. We talked about the need for internal validation. We talked about caretaking in relationships. We talked about what your shadow self is. That is such a fascinating concept. And we also touched on emotional immaturity, narcissism. And if you haven’t heard her, this is her fourth time on the virtual couch. And she is one of my favorite guests. And as well as I think her first three episodes are three of my top most downloads ever. The reason I’m bringing that up is because when I recorded the intro to that podcast, I think I literally said, Here’s it’s episode, I think 327 on the virtual couch.

[00:04:33] And I think I said and episode 37 of waking up to narcissism because I just in that moment I was so excited because I’d already recorded the interview with Jennifer that I said, okay, I will release these simultaneously on waking up to narcissism and the virtual couch. And I realized that I am not doing that. So this is episode 37, and when you hear that when either I’m going to have to go in and do a robotic voice that says episode 38 or it may say 37 again, but regardless, the content that she puts out there is absolute goal. With the intro that I did on today’s podcast, I think we can dive right in and start reading these situations from the group that talk about Can you talk to others? And here’s my quick, hopefully quick intro to the whole concept of, of wanting to tell others, needing to tell others. So it goes back and I go back to this every chance I can, but it goes back to our need to be heard, our need to be understood, and especially people that have been in emotionally abusive relationships of any sort that most likely people are in those relationships because they that’s the type of relationship they saw modeled or they maybe didn’t see that exact relationship model, but they didn’t see a real healthy or secure attached relationship model with their parents.

[00:05:48] If we’re going to go start right there, I say this because it was interesting in the Jennifer Finlayson Fife interview, she had a part where she did talk about that. If people grow up with a secure attachment to their parents, meaning that they could they had their parents had their support, they knew that they could go and explore the world and come back and their parent would say, tell me more. How is that? What can I do to help? Instead of I wouldn’t do that. Why did you do that? I never did that. Here’s all the things that I did that were amazing. If you grow up with that type of relationship with your parent, which is again, that’s what a lot of us grew up. I mean, most everyone, if I’m being honest, grew up with that because it’s so much of we didn’t know what we didn’t know as parents. And so every generation, as much as some people want to say that we’re maybe we’re going too far in a particular direction, but every generation is becoming a bit more empathetic, a bit more differentiated, a bit more understanding. So if you grew up and didn’t see this perfectly secure attachment in your relationship or watched your parents do that or you didn’t have that relationship with them, then most likely you did not get the external validation to give you a really strong sense of self.

[00:06:52] Because if you did, and again I don’t want you to feel like I am saying, then you are an anomaly. No, you’re the norm. If you didn’t get that external validation as a kid that gave you that secure attachment, then we’re still looking for it. We’re still trying to say, Hey, what do you think? Are you there for me? Can I count on you? Do you have my back? Do you love me? So we have this desire, especially when we’re starting to wake up to the emotional immaturity or narcissistic traits and tendencies of our spouse or our parents or our siblings or our work or our religious institution or any of those things. As we wake up to that, those narcissistic traits, then we all of a sudden feel like we do need some external validation. It’s in our core, in our bones to want to reach out and say, What do you think? Am I on the right path? Am I doing the right thing? So we have a need to connect with others. Now, the problem is if you are trying to connect and be open and vulnerable and share your heart with somebody, that then is going to say, Yeah, I think you’re wrong. Or, Well, there’s two sides to every story, then that is going to feel incredibly invalidating. And if you’re one who grew up without a secure attachment, without that validation to begin with, that can be crushing.

[00:07:54] And that’s why it is so important to understand this concept of why do I want the validation of others? Well, it’s because you’re human and because you haven’t had that validation growing up. And so we do. We just desperately want to be heard and understood and we still want somebody to tell us it’s going to be okay. And even as we grow into emotional maturity, I think it’s fascinating that we’re saying, hey, you never got that external validation as a kid or maybe even into adolescence. You got into a relationship where it wasn’t emotionally secure there either. And so you receive gaslighting or you would put yourself out there and it didn’t always go well. So now all of a sudden you’re trying to make this big decision Do I stay? Do I go? What do I do? So of course you’re going to reach out to others and say, Man, this is what’s going on in my relationship or this is what he’s doing or this is what she’s doing. So I hope you can. The reason I lay that all out is that, of course, we’re going to want somebody else to say, that sounds hard or tell me more about that. Or Really, she said that or he did that. I just want you to know you’re normal, but that’s why it makes it all the more important to identify.

[00:08:53] Is it safe? Switzerland sounds like an amazing place and that neutrality can be a really good thing in certain situations. But if you are now putting your heart out there because you’re trying to make these big decisions and you never had anybody that was really there for you to help you make decisions throughout your life. Then you can see that all of a sudden a Switzerland friend is only going to bring you even more confusion, if not make you feel worse. So how do we identify who we can talk to and how do we identify if they are safe to talk to and how do we present the information? So I’m going to read a lot of comments today from the group, and I’ve got a couple of side notes here that I think are going to be pretty interesting. The first person said, In my situation, it’s more that my friends and family are telling me that my relationship is not normal. This person says they have built in support that even the soon to be narcissistic ex their family and coworkers all back this person up. She said he has no flying monkeys. But the reason I even read that one is, she says, but I’m still paralyzed. And I think that does. It’s a great intro to explain that it is absolutely still a paralyzing thing, even when you feel like you know what you’re doing and even when you feel like you have support.

[00:09:57] That isn’t to say, Oh my gosh, you’re hosed. But I just want to normalize why it is so important to have the safe place that you can start to process this. And I will say over and over again that this is why the whole title of this podcast is Waking Up to narcissism. Because you’re waking up you’re waking up to so many different things. You’re on a deep dive, you’re trying to get your PhD in gaslighting as well as in psychology and as well as in personality disorders, as well as in attachment theory and emotional regulation. You got a lot on your plate. It is absolutely a process. And so it becomes important to find people that you can talk to. The next person said nobody would understand what I was saying and I would tell them of the stuff that he did. But it sounds minor and they act like it’s one papercut but it’s the other thousands that he’s given you. She said. What I started doing was taking screenshots of his text and sharing it with select friends when they started to get it. After months of seeing the abuse, a few of them still think he’s not that bad and they’re friendly to him, but most of them get it, she says. I’ve cut out all the Switzerland friends from my close friends. And she said, If you’re going to play both sides, I don’t need you in my life.

[00:10:56] I try to let people be neutral at first. But as the divorce went on and as the abuse got worse, I started to be really picky of who I let in because he loved triangulation. We’re going to take a side note and talk about triangulation here for a minute. But here is one of the most difficult, challenging and normal things about this entire process. And I think those comments summed it up so well, is if you did not know what you know now, if you had not been going through the relationship, the struggles or challenges that you had, and if you weren’t now hearing example after example after example, that sound exactly like your situation or very close, I feel like giving someone grace, the Switzerland friends bless their heart, all of those sort of things, because if they have not been through it, if they do not know what they do not know. When you read something like what I just read, I get that it can sound like, Oh boy, you’re being pretty judgmental. You’re taking screenshots, you’re showing other people, you’re airing his dirty laundry. Yes, I am. And that’s the difference, because at some point and I used to joke about this in my head and then out loud as the therapist, I started to feel like, man, who am I? The reality police. And then over time, when you see hundreds and hundreds move it into the thousands of examples of healthy, emotional, mature, we didn’t know what we didn’t know.

[00:12:08] Now we have the tools. Now things are better versus the consistent pattern of emotional abuse, emotional immaturity, gaslighting, not taking ownership or accountability, all of those things. Then I’m going to pull the reality police card out here and lay it right down on the table. If you heard that last example and you think, well, she shouldn’t be doing that, well, then you probably haven’t been through what this person has been through. She mentions triangulation. This is a key thing when it comes to narcissistic relationships. I’m going to read from very well mind what is triangulation in psychology? And this is by Arlen Koenig and medically reviewed by David Sussman, who is a clinical psychologist or PhD. So what is triangulation in psychology? Triangulation is a form of manipulation, and it describes a person’s use of threats of exclusion or manipulation. The goal is to divide and conquer. It involves the use of indirect communication, often behind somebody’s back and they say in the list of toxic behaviors, triangulation may be the most well known. So what is it? Why is it a common manipulation tactic? How do you recognize it? Signs of triangulation. Triangulation is an approach used by many different people who share one thing in common insecurities. So as a result, they are willing to manipulate others in whatever way harmful ways to get what they want or to feel a sense of security in a relationship.

[00:13:22] Now, the challenge or the sad part is that their security is in them having control can’t have love and control and adult relationship, so they are opting for control. It’s a highly effective strategy to earn an advantage over noted rivals by manipulating them into conflicts between one another. Triangulation is a. Used by selfish individuals to comfort and protect their egos. Typically, this is where we start looking at things. Other terms we see in narcissism like sequestering, where all of a sudden someone is sequestered, where they are not even encouraged or allowed to talk to the outside world or family members. And I think sequestering is one of those concepts where people that have not been through that feel like that can’t be a thing. But then if I’m talking about it right now, I would almost guarantee I’m going to get a few emails of people saying I absolutely have been sequestered. And how? Because every time that the person the wills go with, the pathologically kind wants to reach out to somebody else, spend some time with somebody else, then all of a sudden now the narcissist is very interested in going along or Oh my gosh, I had something else planned and I can’t believe you’re not going to go with me. So just pushing all the buttons to make sure that the pathologically kind person is not able to connect one on one to somebody else because the narcissist wants to maintain control and they can’t have control if you are talking to somebody else without their awareness or their knowledge.

[00:14:42] And so often this is the part where somebody will say they’re looking around, who are you texting? What are you saying? Would they say, Can I see your phone? Because it is coming from a deep insecurity. And one of the ways that I first started to notice this and this is when I felt like in my practice, when I started waking up to the narcissistic traits and tendencies within sitting in my office was you would get these examples every now and again where somebody would say something like, at 1.1, one of the couples I was meeting with the guy when he got me one on one, he said, you know, I was talking to my doctor about my wife and even my doctor was saying, yeah, she’s probably probably really depressed. She’s probably starting to get a little bit crazy. But then one of the signs was then he said to me, But please don’t tell her I shared that with her. I don’t want her to get her upset, but I really thought it would be nice for you to know. So now all of a sudden he’s trying to triangulate. He’s trying to get me on his side.

[00:15:28] So now we both are looking at her thinking, Man, she’s kind of crazy. So take what she’s saying with a grain of salt. And then from there you see that pattern. All of a sudden you can’t unsee that. And what triangulation looks like in narcissism so often are people saying, even in sessions where they were saying, you know, I was I brought up to your sister that you that you really don’t you don’t want to spend a lot of time with the kids or that you don’t want to do a lot of the things that the whole family would like you to do. And she’s pretty concerned. And then one of the big keys is when didn’t they say, but don’t, please don’t, I wouldn’t get her involved. It’s not going to make things worse. That’s where when somebody starts to step into their confidence. And one of the tools that I highly encourage is that person that is being triangulated to say, oh, man, let me let me just shoot her a quick text. I’ll include you on it because I need some clarity. And oh, you will watch at that point the backpedaling of the. Well, I mean, you know, maybe I know maybe she didn’t say that or they’re going to do whatever they can to gaslight at that point of. Yeah, go ahead. So thank you. Look crazy or all of a sudden he’s doubling down on okay, you better not do that.

[00:16:31] And I see that in my couples therapy as well. When someone will say to me, Hey, I really need to let you know about this, but just don’t tell my spouse. But I need to make you aware of that when I get a couple in my office. Now, whether I feel like there is emotional immaturity, narcissism, anything, one of the things I love saying right out of the gate is, hey, if you guys have a question about something that we talked about in counseling, please just send me a group text if you need clarification. And it usually you usually get one maybe a week or two after where the pathologically kind, whether it’s the husband or the wife, will often say, hey, my spouse says that you were saying in the session, even when you were one on one or when we were all together, that I was the crazy one. I’m overselling this right now, but that that I was crazy or I was wrong or they said that, no, that’s not what Tony said. Tony said this other thing because they were trying to use it to their advantage. And so I love being able to say, hey, thank you so much. Yeah, I didn’t say that. And here’s exactly what I said, because it usually stops the triangulation right away. So if you feel like you are in a situation right now where you are experiencing this triangulation, one of the things I would highly encourage is prepare for the gaslighting, prepare for the confabulation, compare for the oh my gosh, I can’t believe you did that.

[00:17:43] What, you don’t trust me and all those excuses, but I’ve literally watched people in my office then pull out their phone when they’re being triangulated and they’re texting. And the one time in particular that I can remember this, the spouse who was the emotionally immature said, Hey, what are you doing right now? And the other spouse literally said, Oh, I just texted the person you said. And I said, Hey, my spouse just shared some things that I didn’t understand where you were coming from. So maybe we can have a conversation and just did it. It was amazing. It was fascinating. There’s a lot of examples. This is where we start to get into the scapegoat and the golden child and relationships. If you look at that purely from a place of triangulation, that the narcissist is at the top of this triangle in a sense, and they are going to now pit the scapegoat against the golden child. They’re going to praise the golden child and say, I’m glad you’re not the scapegoat child. So the triangulation is just a way to maintain control and then feed their own insecurity and put them in the center, because in that center position, then they can have as much control as they feel like they need.

[00:18:40] In order to boost their grandiose ego or their insecure ego in this very well mind article. And then I’m going to jump back to the examples that it gives and love how it just says. When they’re talking about examples, they say if a parent refuses to acknowledge their children’s personality and individualism and at the same time siblings are treated very differently and discouraged from communicating with one another except through the parent, it’s triangulation. Similarly, if a partner or friend uses another person to create a hostile environment, create drama. So what I was explaining earlier or pressure you into doing things you wouldn’t do otherwise? This is triangulation. Individuals also use triangulation to bring another person into a relationship or friendship without confronting the person they have an issue with directly. Here’s the key. They very well mind says some people with cluster B personality disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial, histrionic and borderline tend to view or judge themselves in relation to their level of competition with others. And it’s this competitive win lose attitude that can occasionally turn malicious. So ultimately it can lead a person with a personality disorder to seek ways to undermine or manipulate someone that they view as a potential threat. So triangulation and I’ll put that in the show notes, but I think it’s a really interesting article to read. So let me get back to some of the examples, the one that I opened up with X where the person said that it was the tapping example.

[00:19:58] And I so appreciate that because I mentioned this again, because the comments were just right on point where people were saying, that is so accurate. That’s an amazing analogy. They’d also heard an example of It’s like your Little Rock with water dripping on the same spot over and over and over. And we know that eventually even that water will wear a hole in the rock over time. Let me share a couple of others. The person said, My family and friends and my church congregation have been very supportive and they say that they feel that for the most part they know this person well enough to respect their decision. Many of them have believed the person writing this email and they’ve even defended them when necessary. The reason I bring this example up is they say, but there is one couple who insist on seeing only the good and now their narcissistic ex. They said, for many months I open up to them. I spent many tearful visits in their home telling them more than I had told almost anyone. And then one day during the divorce, the wife took me to lunch and surprised me by encouraging me to pause and reconsider. I was floored by your speech. I was shocked to realize that for all that I had shared, that she had understood so little.

[00:20:59] She and her husband have continued to offer help, but also to counsel me and counsel not only me, but my parents about my situation. They’ve maintained a good relationship with their now narcissistic ex and the kids and have them over for dinner every few months. And now she has polite interactions with them and the wife still looks out for her, but she has told them that she needs space because the way they’ve responded and it appears that the couple that they are hurt, especially the husband. So that’s one of those examples that I do hear often. And this is where I know that that couple is doing their best. They mean well, but it just shows the emotional toll that it can take on the person that is trying to open up and be heard and be understood. And the fascinating thing here is so I do a lot of work with various religious congregations. I work with pastors, preachers, ministers, bishops, you name it. And I remember one of the earliest examples that I had that truly broke my heart was a woman coming to me talking about the mental abuse. Oh, my goodness. The mental abuse, the emotional abuse. This husband was also physically abusing, sexually abusing. And it took months to get this woman in a space to recognize this abuse and to then feel like she had the courage to do what she felt was best for her mental health and for her kids.

[00:22:12] And then she got a new bishop, a new religious leader who then sat down and did not know anything about narcissism and then said, Hey, I’ve been thinking about it and I think that you really need to reconsider and I think you need to let this person back into your life. And this is where I go back to that seek first, understand, please, before being understood. If you are someone who is listening to this, even if somebody forwarded this to you and said, I want to talk to you about something that I’m going through, but I’m worried that you will not understand. If you’re somebody that is listening right now, seek first to understand, know that your experience is not everyone’s experience. Step outside of your ego and that is not being said passive aggressively. It’s being said with love and humility, but try to see someone else’s position. This particular bishop did more damage in that moment than they had any awareness or any clue of, and I did. At that point, I would say that I was stepping into my healthy ego as a therapist, and I just watched the wind go out of the sails of this woman. And I did talk with that bishop and I shared with them that in my opinion, this has set us back quite a while, and indeed it did, because then we spent months with this woman saying, okay, am I now being disobedient to God? Is this just my lot in life? Am I meant to suffer in the name of my kids? And she eventually was able to get out of that relationship.

[00:23:33] And it’s been the best thing that she could have done because of this, especially this abuse. But you can see that when you put yourself in a. Position and hand that power to somebody who does not understand your situation. That I feel like that’s one of those situations where initially it can almost be a net negative effect. I’ll read a few more of these. Another person said, My husband is a covert narcissist. The very few friends that do understand have been in abusive relationships at one point in their life. She said that she does have a particular business. Most of the clients understand what is going on with her and her husband, but they don’t know her husband. They only see her. And she said this has been a life saver, that she feels like she gets more compassion there from clients than from close friends. And so, again, I think one of the themes here today is if somebody saying, well, you shouldn’t go seek the validation from these clients, whatever business or industry she’s in, then that’s where I say, Do you know what she’s going through? Do you understand her experience? And if not? Bless your heart. That isn’t for you to then tell this other person what they’re supposed to do or how they’re supposed to do it.

[00:24:32] The other thing that this woman said that I appreciated was that a lot of the people that have been in similar relationships are the ones that will start to understand. But then she made a real small point here that I appreciate what she said, but even then not all of them do because everyone still is having their own situation. This one’s pretty interesting to another person, said when I told my mom, who happens to have a good relationship with their soon to be narcissistic ex that she thinks that he is narcissistic or has narcissistic traits. She responded and said, well, don’t we all don’t we all have some narcissistic traits? And this person felt like at that point it was a slap in the face and it felt very invalidating. She said, I found that it was most helpful to share specific examples of behavior coming out versus saying he’s a narcissist because people have in their minds what that is, and it doesn’t match their impression of either the person or a lot of people. This is my opinion. They still just have this belief that the grandiose, malignant, malicious narcissist who boasts about everything, and that is absolutely one tiny version of narcissism. And that’s where we start going into the world of emotional immaturity. She said that when she can share specific examples of his behavior, then they can start to agree and see a pattern that things are not okay.

[00:25:44] Another person jumped in and said, I second this using specific examples of what their narcissist says even more than just saying, he tells me I’m wrong. Instead she says, I say something like he said, You’re wrong, you’re just wrong. And even then people have been more supportive and believe her, and now they’re more surprised and say, Did he really say that? And she said, I think they believe me before, but if you don’t have experience in it, it’s hard to understand. People just don’t know what they don’t know. This next one, it’s pretty lengthy, but this one is so powerful. This person said, Both my parents are narcissist, dad is overt, mom is covert. Dad was definitely more of a challenge than mom. For a long time I didn’t know what was wrong with my relationship with my parents, so I told people that I loved my parents, but I didn’t like them much because we didn’t have a lot in common. She said that worked pretty well, however, for the last couple of years since learning of why my parent child upbringing was so toxic, she said, I have gone no contact with my parents, explaining that it’s impossible. But then people will say, How on earth can you not interact with your parents? She said. People ask her all the time, she said.

[00:26:45] People are truly gobsmacked. What a great word, by the way, when you tell them that you don’t have communication with them because their experience is so different. I see that I have people literally come into sessions and say that one of their friends maybe had a parent pass away and they’re so broken hearted in. This person will sit in front of me and say, Am I a bad person? Because I don’t think I would take it that that hard. First of all, again, not a bad person. You are a person and you’re experiencing the feelings and emotions you are because of your unique situations and experiences. So it is extremely hard to explain to somebody if you have gone no contact with parents or if you feel like every time you’re coming around your parents that it is that tapping that we started this with. So you get this visceral reaction. Your body tenses up and thinks, okay, when’s it going to happen? When am I going to be told that what I’m doing is wrong? When am I going to be told that that I’m okay? I did it. I did the wrong thing again. Even if I was not even given any benefit of the doubt, there was no curiosity there. The assumption was just that you’re doing things wrong and you don’t care about us. Absolutely. Your body is going to keep the score and you’re as soon as you walk onto their porch or walk into their house, you’re going to think, hey, here we go.

[00:27:52] I hope I can get out of this thing alive. So she said, I think the ideas about what the parent child relationship should be, she said, that’s hard to understand again, unless you’ve lived it. She said mothers and fathers days are hard because you see what you didn’t or don’t have, she said. And people are extra shocked when you say that you don’t have a relationship with them, especially on those days, she said. I’ve found people who know me and care about me a lot and they can see and understand. It’s the people who don’t know me well that can’t see it, she said. Her mom came to her work a few years ago and everybody at her work just said, Man, your mom is delightful. She said one of her better friends who had never met her mom before and who was one of her safest people, saw it immediately and could pick out those behaviors. She quotes me and the Post saying that Toni says to identify your non Switzerland friends and. And she adds, I would also say family, and I think she’s absolutely right. She said, I find that I choose to spend less time with my Switzerland friends and or family because that is what raises my emotional baseline. She said, I also realize from listening to the waking up, the narcissism and other podcasts that I have to decide what and how to share and to whom when it comes to the situation, she said.

[00:28:58] I simply tell those outside of my circle what I have always said before. I love them, which she says. Now she does start to question. But she said that we don’t have much in common. And she said, Should I be able to be honest? Yeah, that would be great. But I found that there are a lot of people who don’t understand that parent child dynamic unless they have seen it or experienced it. Said that she’s also dated a handful of narcissists because she now realizes that that was familiar and she didn’t know anything was weird or different or wrong. Her friends were much more adept at understanding those examples. She said, I feel like my life has been a true death by a thousand cuts because she was so unaware until pushing 50, trying to leave out some of the specific details, she said. Once I understood what the situation was, I am still processing and grieving what I should have had and all those crappy relationships. So she said, I guess for me, I’ve always been misunderstood by others in my relationship to my parents, and I realize why that doesn’t really matter anymore, she said. I know what they did, which was really what they didn’t do and how that is adversely and deeply impacted every facet of my life.

[00:29:58] I simply don’t have the desire or energy to explain it anymore, and wasting energy on this doesn’t help me either. She said that so. Well, start looking at that concept of burning emotional calories. I started talking about that when I had Anna from Boise meet on my Virtual Couch podcast and we were talking about organizing and decluttering and that podcast. I’ll have to link that one because I had more epiphanies during that podcast than anything she was presenting so well. What Physical Clutter does to our emotional health. And I started thinking about that. Absolutely. Emotional clutter does the same thing. It’s exhausting and we waste far too much time and effort on. I’m having a little add moment here, but I have to follow this train because in that podcast here was the key takeaway she talked about. So I have a not the neatest garage we can walk in it. We have a gym in there, that sort of thing. I can’t necessarily park all the cars in there, though, I’ll be honest. And so every time I look at that, it does bother me and I think I need to do something about that. And it’s hard to not go to and what is wrong with me? I’m not your amazing husband who can keep this spotless garage. And I have a neighbor who has a spotless garage.

[00:31:03] And so often I can even find myself going down this absolutely insane, negative path where I see that my garage, when I open the garage door, that I see the clutter, I see the mess, I start to think, What’s wrong with me? Then I think, Oh my gosh, the other guy, his garage is amazing and wonderful. And then here comes my anxious attachment where I think about when my wife walks through the garage every time she thinking, Man, Tony would get his act together like that guy. And then I start, It’s so wild. And that’s what brings out my own emotional immaturity. So talk about emotional clutter. She was talking about if you get that garage clean, then when you get home and you open up the garage door, you just walk inside. Look at all the steps that were skipped in this analogy, that garage is clean. Now, if you look at that in your life, if I am continually having to figure out what do I say, what do I say to my parents? How do I talk to these friends? How do I show up? What am I supposed to say? It’s that same thing where I have way too much emotional clutter and I am burning way too many emotional calories. And so imagine then if you have needed to set boundaries and cut certain people out of your life, now all of a sudden you’re not worried about How do I show up? What do I say? How do I get them to understand? You’re just moving on to the next person, the next healthy person, the next thing that you enjoy doing.

[00:32:15] You’re living more by your values. You’re not coming from this place of an emotional deficit. I just think that that is so powerful. So she said she’d share with me that I can use this, and she said she would even be happier to elaborate if we need. She said, I would love to have more information on this dynamic herself. She says she has a great therapist. She does a lot of reading, but then she does benefit from hearing others experiences. And I feel like her experience is going to help so many people. I’m going to do this on the fly because I posted to the group that I was about literally ready to record the episode. I said I was going to read this to the best part of her mom’s visit. She said that she was I did skip some of the where this person works, but she said that her mom had to come to her work because she had locked her phone in at her house. She said, I walked out a sticky note with my garage code on it so she could get the extra key. And then she proceeded to read it out loud back to me. And the place she works is not a place.

[00:33:08] It’s a place where there are some people that she said have potential felonies. But the narcissistic mom saw nothing wrong with that. Just reading your garage code out, out loud so everybody can hear it. So that is crazy. I’m going to do one more. And then I really almost I do I feel like this probably I need to start getting into the world of part one and part two. So maybe we’ll throw a part one on this one because I have so many more experiences. But this one, this one is really powerful as well and it’s about family, she said. Actually, I had an experience with this yesterday, she said. It’s taken me a minute to share with anyone in my life except for her husband that she’s cut off. Her entire narcissistic system, extended family completely out of her life, as in change your address, phone number, all of your social media accounts. She said this was the third time in about a month that I’ve shared with someone close to me. She shared that. That’s what she’s had to do. She said, Fortunately, all three experiences have gone really smooth and compassionately. She said As we talk, they discovered that the other two have a narcissistic parent. So she said, I was easily understood in all these situations. She said it was one of my best friends. Yesterday we were discussing a writing project I’m working on that will have to address my childhood.

[00:34:08] So her current relationship with her family came up. This person that was listening to her said her eyes went wide and she said, Oh man, I’m having a hard time understanding how your entire family would behave so badly that you would have to cut them all off. And she said that I can’t express that well in writing, but as she said it, and with the tone, body language and facial expression, I knew that she meant we’ve been through a lot together and I know your heart and I trust you. And I know you wouldn’t have cut them off unless you had to. So it wasn’t that she was questioning if this person had made the right decision. She knew that she had made the right decision. And the person writing this said, I really appreciated being met like that, especially where it’s still new to acknowledge that I don’t have a relationship with parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins. And she said this person had never heard of narcissism. So she said, I was able to explain it to her a little bit. I taught her about the flying monkeys and I explained that’s why it had to be so many family members that it’s not just a conflict between me and my mom or me and my grandpa. She said, the head narcissist, she said. I told her I wanted to bring my family along into the healing so bad.

[00:35:10] But she said it’s been like a barrel of crabs though I can’t get firm a firm hold and all the healing and ground I’ve gained and swim upstream with my whole family pulling me down at the same time. She said even if they don’t know that they’re doing it. She said, I was the family rescuer and I won’t play that role for them or anybody else anymore. They want me back so that they can I can fix the family. She said, I’ve been such a people pleaser. I never say no or I never stood up for myself before. But she said my boundaries were constantly being challenged rather than respected. And it finally came down to parenting my parents or parenting my children and myself. And she said, I chose myself and my children. A man, what a beautiful way to explain that. And she said that her friend got it. And then I do appreciate this. She said, I wonder if it went so smoothly because and she listed a few things. She said, number one, although this person had never heard of narcissism before, that this person had done quite a bit of her own work, both individually in private therapy, as well as working on our family dynamics, she said. Number two, we’ve been friends for years and again, she’s watched me in action and we’ve talked about a lot of really hard topics over the years.

[00:36:09] I think both of these, by the way, are so spot on that somebody you have to go through things in order to look for help and even then you have to now get help, do the work that is involved in getting help. You have to find good help and then that gives you more empathy or awareness of situations. I’ve had people in my office, a wonderful person earlier this week that they’ve been through some really hard things, been through some issues with infidelity, betrayal, and they just said that had they not gone through that, they would not have the view they now have, that everyone is probably going through things which I absolutely believe we’re all going through stuff. So it’s how do we present it? How do we show on the outside? And she just said it just gave her a lot more compassion that even when you see a couple that seems like everything is perfect, you almost default now to saying, oh, are they trying to present that out to the world, looking for that external validation? Do they get their dopamine bump from it saying You guys look amazing or you see somebody that is at some event or something by themselves? I know that we go back where we started with this where it’s fine to say, you know, or maybe their husband just a sick or get caught up at work.

[00:37:13] But now we have to be aware that if that person came up and said, no, I’m here because my husband has never supported me and going and doing my own thing. And so this is me standing up for myself. That’s where I feel like the difference comes in. That’s where I feel like either now I want to look at that and say, Man, that sounds hard. Tell me about that. Because the last thing that that person wants to hear is, well, I’m sure you played a role in that, too. She gave a couple more, said, I’m not in the middle of it anymore, so it’s easy for me to talk about it. I’m also much more settled with what has happened and I’ve had time to stabilize out in it, she said. So I wasn’t apologetic or iffy about my situation. I’m confident I did everything I could, and I’m confident this is the only way for me to move forward. That’s why I want to give a big old amen at the end. And that’s where I feel like the waking up to narcissism, the waking up to emotional immaturity, the process, the path. How long does it take? As long as it takes. What does that process look like? It looks like wherever you’re at on the process. Could you do it a little faster? I don’t know. I really don’t because you’re doing it. So read all the things, listen to all the things and just know that you are on a path.

[00:38:13] And that one right there, I’m not in the middle of it anymore. It’s easier for me to talk about it. I’m more settled with what has happened at that time to stabilize. So now I’m no longer going into things apologetic if somebody now and that’s the thing I think is so fascinating when you’re in it when you’re in the middle of it and somebody is saying like earlier this bishop who told this client of mine, I think he’s probably I think he’s probably tough it out. I think you should let him back. Boy, if my client I know her so well now that if that happened again, she would. Say. I think she would say very kind, but I think she would say, are you out of your mind? Because now she can stand in her calm, confident energy, her healthy ego, based on all the work that she’s done to get to this point. Right now, you’re in the trenches. You’re doing all that work. So you can get to that point where when you get through it, you will know. I know you will know. That’s the part that is good and bad to watch that whole process through with people. I’ve got somebody right now that’s been going through it three years or more, and now it’s as if every week that we talk they’re saying, Yeah, it’s not bothering me as much.

[00:39:10] Or now the person, my ex says this and now I notice that he is doing the same pattern of behavior with this other person and it doesn’t trigger me anymore. And it’s because they’ve done the work, they’ve gotten through it. It took as long as it took. It took rule out. It took reaching out to others. It took reading, it took podcasting, it took therapy, all the above. But now this person saying, I’m good, I’m going to be good. Number four, she also said that this person had never met her family. So she said that it was easier to not take my word over a prominent figure in the community who looks so good on the outside. And I appreciate your point there, because a lot of the people that are telling me that, especially if they have the narcissistic ex or soon to be ex or spouse who can present so well that then it is hard for them to hear. And man, I’ve had a couple of people email recently that are in relationships with prominent people and I see you. I haven’t gotten back to everybody on that, but I know, I know that can even be more difficult and it doesn’t just have to be a prominent figure, but it can be somebody who presents well. But that can be really, really difficult because it can make you feel just crazy.

[00:40:11] There are so many more examples, but we’ve been going for a while and quite frankly, I have a session in about 5 minutes, so I’m going to wrap this up. I’m grateful, as always, for your comments, for your support. Please feel free to share the episode. Go to my website, Tony Oprah.com. There’s a contact form. Ask questions, tell your stories, the podcast suggestions. I am desperately looking for therapists to say I work with this population. I probably got three or four more emails just within the last week of people saying, My therapist recommended I listen to your podcast. I love that, but therapist give me a ring, not really. Shoot me an email and I want to put together a database or email me and say, I know what I’m talking about, but I am not looking for clients in this space because I’ve got some I really want to do some collaboration. I’ve got a new podcast coming up down the road that is going to be about it’s going to be therapist getting together and talking almost as if it was group supervision or that consultation. And I want some therapists. I’ve got plenty that I’ve interviewed on the virtual couch, but I want people to talk specifically about this population. So I love to hear from you. And then I know I focus so much on this private women’s group that I have that continues to grow and thrive.

[00:41:17] But I’m getting more men that are saying either they are saying, hey, maybe, maybe I am emotionally mature. This is resonating. What do I do? And I’m also getting men that are saying, hey, look, old man, I’m in a narcissistic relationship. My wife is is the narcissist or the emotionally immature? What do I do? And I’m getting those names as well because I want to get a group together there to just right now, I worry that the group wouldn’t be big enough to really thrive. And this women’s group is amazing. So if you’re a woman that’s going through it and narcissistic relationship, fill in the blank with spouse, with parent, with institution, with sibling, you name it. Boy, what a place of strength. So reach out to me and let me know about that too. I have an amazing assistant now. The emails are being rich. She’s reading those, I’m reading those. So I want you to know that that’s that your data is kept secure. I don’t just blast those out, but I did want you to know that I’m getting a tremendous amount of email. So she’s helping me with that, too. And but we’ll get you in the group, will. I want your questions. We’re putting together a database. We’re putting together resources. So we want to help however we can. All right. Hey, thanks, everybody. I’ll see you next week on waking up nurses.

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