The Importance of Self-Care in Narcissistic Relationships: Raising Your Emotional Baseline


Self-care is NOT selfish; it’s time to raise your Emotional Baseline! Tony talks about his number one rule of life and how imperative it is when you need to make big decisions or find yourself in a relationship with someone with narcissistic traits or tendencies, whether it’s a spouse, parent, employer, or church leader. Tony refers to the book “Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom”

And you can find out more about Tony’s new parenting course in the Relationship Mastery Pack Get thousands of dollars in relationship tools for one special Black Friday price featuring Tony’s brand new parenting course: 3 Keys to Positive Parenting – Bring the Positivity without Messing Up Your Kids Even if You’re Not Sure Where to Start! Go to to sign up for thousands of dollars worth of relationship tools for less than the cost of one therapy session.


[00:00:13] Everybody, welcome to episode

[00:00:14] 12 of Waking Up the Narcissism, I’m your host, Tony Overbay at the licensed marriage and family therapist and host of another podcast called The Virtual Couch and Welcome Aboard and Happy Black Friday here in America. I thought I would come in and just do

[00:00:28] A little bit of recording. This will probably be a shorter episode, but I still thought there

[00:00:32] Were some really interesting things that we could talk about, and I’m going to talk a little bit more

[00:00:36] About self-care today. That is one

[00:00:38] Of the very first things that I talk about in learning how to stay present with someone with narcissistic tendencies or a personality disorder is the concept of raising one’s emotional baseline. So I have gotten a fair amount of emails saying What is the emotional baseline? And is that where can I learn more and you can learn more right here. I do have some episodes on the virtual couch that talk about the emotional baseline, but I’m going to cover all that and a little bit more today. We’re going to also talk about some mindfulness and how that can keep somebody present and how that works in with the brain. And I think that’ll be helpful. So we’ll try to get in here and get out pretty quickly today so you can go about your holiday weekend. But I thought that this could be a little bit more of a I don’t know. We’ll call it an upbeat episode to

[00:01:20] Just help give you some tools, give you

[00:01:22] Some hope of ways that now that you’re waking up to this narcissism, whether it’s in your relationship or the relationships around you, or even if it’s within yourself, that you know what to do as far as raising your emotional baseline, because that really will put you in a better place to take on whatever you are dealing with in your life. And before I do that, today is again, it’s Black Friday. There are a tremendous amount of sales that I’m sure that you’re hearing about, and I did participate in something that just launched this morning and I mentioned a little bit last week. It’s called the Relationship Mastery Pack, and you can go to the show notes here and you can find a link or you can go on the virtual couch on Instagram at Virtual Couch or Tony Overbay, licensed marriage and family therapist on Facebook. And you’ll find a link there and it. I’m unveiling a new parenting course and it’s called three. I should know this right?

[00:02:13] It is a parenting course called three keys to positive parenting.

[00:02:16] There’s a little bit of a subheading and this is a little bit tongue in cheek, but it

[00:02:20] Is a three keys to positive parenting. How to bring

[00:02:23] Positivity without messing up your kids even if you’re not sure where to start because again, a little bit of tongue in cheek there. In essence, we all one of the questions I get often is Am I missing up or am I messing up my kids? And the reality is, I know messing up is a pretty dramatic word, but we all the way we parent does impact our our children. And so it’s important to, I believe, have a foundation to work from as far as a parenting plan goes. And I’m pretty passionate about one called the nurtured heart approach. And then I’ve added some nuances to that. So you can find that in this relationship mastery pack and the pretty phenomenal thing there is, there are now over 20 different experts that are we’re talking about everything, everything from perfectionism and your relationships and how to rebuild trust. And I’ve got parenting in there and there’s so many things in here and it is the cost of less than one session of therapy. It’s one hundred and forty seven dollars, so you can go find that it goes from today through Cyber Monday, but to jump on there today. So that’s the Relationship Mastery Pack. So let’s talk a little bit about the emotional baseline, and I’m going to go back in the archives. I’m going to tell a little bit of a story on where that concept of the emotional baseline comes from, and it is something that I am passionate about, and I started talking about it well over a decade ago. So you, if you hear about it out in the wild, it all originated about 10 to 12 years ago, and it’s a form of self care. It’s a way to really address and talk about self care. And I often put out the message that self-care is definitely not selfish, but we sometimes think that it is. We sometimes try to put others before ourselves. And I understand that, and especially a lot of the people that are tuning in to waking up the narcissism have been incredibly

[00:04:07] Altruistic or put their needs just bury their

[00:04:11] Needs in hopes of keeping the peace and the family, especially when there are somebody in that family with narcissistic traits or tendencies.

[00:04:18] So it’s a wonderful trait to have

[00:04:20] To think of others, and there is no part of me that is saying that that is what we’re going to try to get you to stop doing today.

[00:04:26] But do you take care of yourself? Do you put

[00:04:29] Yourself in the best position that you can be in so that you can, so that you are able to help those around you in the most effective way? There’s a saying or a concept that goes something like this. Every time you put someone else first, you’re teaching them that you come second, and I’m not trying to put any judgment with that. It’s similar to if you aren’t one who apologizes or takes ownership or accountability of something, then you’re teaching others that they too don’t need to take ownership or accountability of something. So what are you really modeling? And I know that we all have times where we know that someone isn’t being honest or truthful and they don’t take ownership of that. And you know how you feel in those situations about those types of people. So it’s one of those similar things that it is really good to serve others. Absolutely. It can get you. Outside of your head,

[00:05:13] But it starts to move

[00:05:15] Into the path of are you doing that for external validation? Do you feel like that’s more of your identity or one of your core values? And are you

[00:05:22] Able to self care because this is the part where I really do say

[00:05:25] That the self care and raising your emotional baseline puts you in an even better spot to be able to serve others from a place of confidence or serve others from a place of a genuine value. Or this is what you really enjoy doing, appreciate doing versus this is what I’m doing because I have to keep the peace or this is what I’m doing in the hopes of reciprocation that that kind of that kind of vibe. So when I’m talking about the emotional baseline, let me tell you the story. So the story, it’s long, long ago and I was working with a doctor and I think I was really still in my internship, so I wasn’t fully licensed yet. I was working at a nonprofit,

[00:06:00] But I was working with a doctor who was

[00:06:02] In a pretty difficult marriage. And as a matter of fact, when I go back to this these days and times where I thought that I could just fix and help everyone in every marriage, I just thought I could just hand him a couple of skills, maybe a new tool, and then everything would work out and he would live happily ever after, so he would often go home and put these tools in action. He would write notes, he would apologize, he would try to plan big dates and those sorts of things. And and I thought that if he would do these things, his wife would get excited and they would live happily ever after, and rainbows and unicorns would come into their front yard or backyard and everybody would be happy. And this guy was all in. He was a really nice guy and he would try these things. And at the time, I didn’t really understand what we were working with, but it would actually get used against him.

[00:06:42] So here he was, he was being very

[00:06:44] Vulnerable and then his wife was actually using that kindness. A lot of what we talk about here against him, and it just broke my heart and I worked with him for quite a while again, a really good guy. And he loved talking about his career. He loved talking about medicine, but he couldn’t talk about that at home because his wife would say, Are we going to talk about this again or you? Yeah, you talk about this all the time or you think you’re better than me or all these kind of things. So the more that he and I developed this rapport, we would often just spend the last five minutes or so and we would talk about medicine or we would talk about he would really want to talk about it. And so he would say, bring me any of your questions. And at this time, I was really into my ultrarunning career, and I was discovering a lot about how the body works and hydration and nutrition and imbalances and electrolytes and all of those things, how the body metabolizes proteins and how many calories that you burn in an hour. And I just love that science. So I would ask him so many questions about the body and the way that everything works, and he just had so much knowledge and he had done some work in sports medicine.

[00:07:41] So it was just an enjoyable, enjoyable time when we would build this rapport at the end of a session. But one day I was driving into work and this is so long ago that this was well before I was listening to podcasts or that type of thing and listening to the radio, and I realized that I hadn’t really thought of much to talk with him about, and I think he must have been my first client that day and I did not want to let him down. I really felt that way. And I remember hearing a radio commercial and it was on about some sort of antidepressant. And if you remember the way that a lot of the radio commercials would work, there was some really sad music, a sad voice, and then the person would talk about or the narrator would talk about somebody taking this antidepressant and the person would sound better and they were happy. But then they had to spend 15 seconds or more talking about all of the side effects and those commercials. We see them on TV so often now. And they really do have to cram in as many side effects as they can. And so I, in preparation of a previous episode where I talked about this, I really did go in and I looked up the side effects for I can’t even remember what the it was one of the antidepressants, but it said may cause dry mouth nausea, headache, diarrhea, nervousness, restlessness, agitation, anxiety, increased sweating, weight loss, weight gain, insomnia, drowsiness, fatigue, tremor, impotence, abnormal dreams, heartbeat, impaired judgment.

[00:08:56] I mean, I have even more. And here’s the one that then really got to me. It kind of cut deep, as one might say, but they also talked about the risks of suicidal thoughts or behaviors. And so I remember driving in that morning and hearing that list of these side effects and thinking, how could an antidepressant also cause suicidal thoughts and ideation or suicidal thoughts and behavior? So I thought I would ask my doctor friend. So I just went into the the session and I allowed myself to try to stay present. I didn’t try to think of some other question, and I just said, Hey, tell me more about how an antidepressant could cause these suicidal thoughts or suicidal ideations. And he got into story mode, and I will never forget. So he said that he said I grew up in a really, really cold state. So just for the sake of this episode, let’s say that he grew up somewhere in Wyoming or Montana or somewhere up in Canada, although it was in the U.S. and he says so.

[00:09:51] He said, I grew up there and he said, Did you know that it can actually get too cold to snow? And I had never heard that. And he said, Yeah, yeah, it’s he said it’s called Snowdonia. And at that time, I wasn’t really familiar with the term, and I’ve since become a little more familiar with it. And I’ve got a little little bit of just interesting data on anhedonia. Anhedonia is the inability to feel pleasure, and it is a common symptom of depression. And there are two main types of anhedonia, their social antidote, where you don’t want to spend time with anyone else, period, and there’s physical antidote you where you don’t enjoy physical sensations, a hug leaves you feeling more empty rather than nurtured your favorite foods taste bland. Sexual intimacy can lose its appeal, so that can be anhedonia. So he’s talking about this anhedonia of the weather, and just to skip a lot of more of this story, and I talked about this on one of the virtual couch episodes that the in reality cannot ever be too cold to snow. And I actually found some data that said, No, not really. It can. It could always snow. But then it went into talking about the cold temperature versus the moisture and water vapor to generate participation and the rising air.

[00:10:50] So there there’s

[00:10:51] Some. I just want you to know that every now and again, I’ll lay this story out there and somebody will say, actually, that’s false. And so I get that. But the point that we’re talking about is this these extremely, extremely cold conditions where the doctor said growing up that it appeared that it would be so cold that it couldn’t snow. So here’s what he said. He said that just think of severe clinical depression. And he said that’s the kind of depression where somebody is literally laying in bed and they just don’t want to get out of bed at all. And it’s not just that they don’t feel like getting out of bed, but they can’t even lift their head to get out of bed. And we’re talking about days or weeks. And I remember at that time working with a spouse, a woman whose husband was so depressed that she was living this. So I felt like, OK, I can think of this in terms of this particular client where she told me about a period where this guy had had for well over six months, where all he remembers is literally just looking at the clock and watching the second hand move every day. I mean, that was his day. People would come and try to visit him. His wife had just said that he didn’t want to see anybody, and at that point, he said, I don’t want to see anybody ever. And he just talked about he really hoped that someday he would snap out of it. But as I was hearing that story that I was working with this woman and I had this doctor talking about this anecdote, it all really started to come together because this is what exactly happened in this scenario with this woman that I was working with as well.

[00:12:09] So the doctor said that when somebody is in that state, he said, imagine if you could just go through every day and all of a sudden someone was literally just pulling your lip right out from your face and dropping in and anti-depressant and then putting some water in there. And of course, the antidepressants can take a little bit of time to get in the system. It can be two or three weeks or more. So we said you give it two or three weeks, and analysts say that this antidepressant is now in the person’s system. So it’s starting to do its job and sort of lift the mood a little bit in just a way that something feels different. And if somebody has ever experienced antidepressant, I remember one of the first clients that I ever worked with that was on an antidepressant because they were dealing with some really tough family situations. And he said that he had always anticipated that an antidepressant would bring him joy, but he realized what it really did was kept him from what he said. Going into the basement with his mind. And the basement, he said, was where the real dark negative thoughts were. He said the elevator would maybe stop at the first floor.

[00:13:04] So in this scenario, he said that so the person just goes

[00:13:07] From being completely flat in bed. No response, no cares of even lifting their head off the bed. And then as the antidepressants started to work, they started to feel like their situation was a situation. And so they would often then look up from their bed and then start to think about doing something. And he said that’s when the thoughts of suicide are there. He said that it was almost as if the person was so flat and in the state of antidote that the antidepressant lifted them up through this fog, so to speak. And he said that’s the key place where there might be these suicidal thoughts or ideations, and you have to get them up high enough that now they can start to do, they can start to go and do and take action and movement, even if it’s just a slight action in movement. And so I just really thought all of a sudden it hit me of this idea that he said as he was expressing this, I said, OK,

[00:13:56] So their

[00:13:56] Emotions, it’s almost like they have this baseline of emotion that had been so flat for so long that then as their baseline of emotions lifted, we

[00:14:03] Had to get up through this little area where anywhere in this area, as

[00:14:08] Their emotional baseline was lifting, that that area was where those those really

[00:14:12] Dark places were. But if you could get just slightly above

[00:14:14] That now, things still might not be great. But now we are getting to a place where now you can really help a client start to take action and start to move. And so that’s where the the idea of the emotional baseline was born. So when I’m working with a client and it could be anyone a client with depression or

[00:14:30] Anxiety or addiction that there’s all of these these behaviors

[00:14:33] That often happen because the client does feel stuck or they feel a lack of fulfillment or satisfaction or

[00:14:38] Not achieving these hopes or dreams or

[00:14:40] Any of those type of things. And so they don’t feel like doing anything. And in the world of acceptance and commitment therapy, my favorite therapeutic modality we call this experiential avoidance, where often if you will just put things off until later because you just don’t feel like doing anything. And really, the problem with experiential avoidance is there are so many things that we can distract ourselves with that we often put off those difficult decisions or those really difficult things later and later, and we just kick that can down the road over and over. We avoid these things through other experiences. We. He turned to our phone, or we may turn to bingeing on shows that we can watch or anything like that because we don’t want to deal with the really difficult things. So excuse me as we lift our emotional baseline higher than it puts us in a better position to be able to tackle those difficult things in our lives. So how do we raise our emotional baseline? There are some examples that I give often, and even again, another one that goes along at that time when I was working with this doctor. I was also working with another person whose wife had there was some infidelity. The wife had left and this person was working from home. And this was a long time ago where not as many people were working from home.

[00:15:50] And so it was really easy for him to wake up and just feel like not doing anything. His emotional baseline was so low. But if he did not start doing things that had to do with some computer programing, he could lose his job, and that would be absolutely a bad thing to happen. So we started talking about what are the things that he enjoys doing and one of the things that he enjoys was reading. But he was also a spiritual person, and he did not feel as connected with with God as he had hoped. And when he thought about reading, he thought, I need to be reading these really important religious tomes in textbooks. But when he thought about reading those, it didn’t cause him to feel very good because he felt less than and he felt like God was mad at him and that he wasn’t doing all the things that he needed to do. So when I’m talking about the emotional baseline theory and asking him, What do you like to do? He likes to read. So I asked him, what did he like to read? And he liked reading legal thrillers, John Grisham novels. And so I asked him, when’s the last time you did that? And he said it had been a really long time because he felt bad on reading John Grisham novels.

[00:16:52] So we prescribed him at that point to just read for 30 minutes a day, whatever the latest novel was that he wanted to read. And it sounds overly simplistic, but just in him taking action and doing something that really mattered to him that he would read that 30 minutes. And this is where I love saying the concept of the acceptance that he wants to read this John Grisham novel. The acceptance that he wants to read for pleasure doesn’t mean apathy. It doesn’t mean that from that day forward now he will. Only legal crime thrillers know it means with that acceptance that he is allowing himself to take care of himself, some of the self care that then he was able to go from reading the legal thriller to then bumping his baseline up high enough that now he could almost then work from a this horizontal plane, lift the baseline up and then move over into a work scenario. And he was able to start getting some work done, and at that point he felt better about himself. And then we added in their midday take the dog for a walk and then come back in and then make himself lunch, and then baseline is higher and then go right back into work. And the cool part about

[00:17:51] That is that the more that you are, you are

[00:17:55] Raising your emotional baseline. You are also starting to train your brain that this is what we do, that when we feel bad about ourselves or a situation that we notice that we’re feeling bad about a situation and then we prescribe some self-care in there, which bumps our emotional baseline up. So we feel better. And then we don’t just say, OK, well, I guess there goes the day, I’m just going to take care of myself the entire day. But instead, we often then feel like that emotional baseline raising activity puts us in a better position to now do the things that we need to do or that we really want to do. But we’ve previously felt like we were unable to do. And this is a completely unscientific part that comes next where when people will ask me if they think that if I think that they need medication, I can’t speak to that. I’m not a psychiatrist, I’m a marriage and family therapist. But I often throw this emotional baseline theory in there and say that I sometimes I feel like someone may. Their baseline may be so low that they may even be going to a therapist, but they can’t put the tools they’re learning into place because they feel so down. So oftentimes somebody can take anything inside medication or an antidepressant, and it can raise their baseline up enough to now put in the work in therapy. And this is why I often say that if somebody is simply just taking a medication and not going to therapy or working on specific skills or tools, it’s fine, but they’re missing out on a whole other part of something that could help them. Because if you feel like I can’t get anything done or I don’t know what to do with my mental health, and then you go and get on an antidepressant or on an anti-anxiety medication that may help relieve the symptoms, but it doesn’t address what do I do next so that I can start to really thrive instead of just survive? And this wasn’t the plan, but this is I’ll do the quickest plug in the world.

[00:19:32] So if you really are looking for help and you are struggling with where to go to find a therapist, then you can also go online virtual couch and you get 10 percent off your first month’s services and you can find a therapist that you like. You can switch therapists, you can go through their intake process, which is a pretty thorough one that will help match you with somebody that you really feel like you can vibe with or jive with. And if you don’t like that person, it’s really easy to just switch therapists through your online portal. And I can tell you if you’ve never been to therapy, that can really be a big thing, because if you don’t have a connection with your therapist, it really doesn’t matter as much. What the modality they’re using will be that you really need to have some rapport built with your therapist. You need to. Be able to get into this relationship of trust so that you can open up to them and they can share what they know with you, so give that a shot virtual couch. But back to this emotional baseline theory, medications, that type of thing. So this is where then I would love for you to take a look in your own life and just

[00:20:27] Just see where are what are things that you enjoy doing? And then even watch as your brain probably tells

[00:20:32] You the Abbotts. Yeah, but I don’t really have time or yeah, that feels selfish. And I will tell you that putting

[00:20:39] Putting the self care first will

[00:20:41] Raise your baseline up so that you can be a better than fill in the blank, whether it’s a husband, father, employee, servant of God or mother wife, any of those things. So this is why I feel like it’s so important to have your emotional baseline up high and practice self-care, and it also models that to your kids, which I think is a good thing too, or those around you that it’s OK to take some time for yourself, especially when you start to find what really drives you, what your passions are. Because the more you seek this, the things that really give you a sense of purpose and use even those as emotional baseline raising activities, then the better you will be in a position to help others, which then that does lead to the second part of what I wanted to talk about today. So there’s more on emotional baseline in some episodes on the Virtual Couch podcast, but I hope that gives you a little bit of an overview when I say self-care, raise your emotional baseline that self-care is absolutely not selfish, and self-care will help put you in a better spot to make the difficult decisions. You might even be entertaining right now about your relationship, about what you need to do next. If you do feel like you are stuck or trapped in a relationship with someone with narcissistic traits, tendencies or full blown narcissistic personality disorder. Ok, so let me see if I can cover one more thing and then we’ll get you out of here and get you to your weekend. But this

[00:21:53] Is from a book called The Buddha’s

[00:21:54] Brain, and it is a concept called the first and second Dart. And the episode I did last week on the virtual couch, I had my intern, Nate Christianson, who is an amazing clinician, and he is. He’s been on the Virtual Couch podcast a few times, and we talked about believing is seeing. And we talked about some other ways that our brain almost misinterprets or we misinterpret the data that our brain is giving us. It really is. It’s a fascinating episode, and I really enjoy Nate’s insights. But at the end of it, he asked me to talk a little bit about mindfulness and meditation because this is something that I am. I’m grown very passionate about and the concept simply being that when you have a practice of mindfulness or a practice of meditation, and right now I’m going to use those terms interchangeably. I was asked that at a speaking event last week, but it is something that that if I really feel very passionately that if there was such thing as a pill that you could take, that would give you just even a glimpse of what it could feel like if you did a daily mindfulness or meditative practice every day for six months, then I promise you if you could know what that feeling felt like, right? You would do that. You would do the practice every day. And one of the biggest fallacies of mindfulness when people talk about it is this concept of removing one removing thought from one’s mind. And people often say, I’ve tried it, but I can’t. I just can’t clear my head. And that’s where I want to say, Yeah, that’s not the goal. And the goal of mindfulness and meditation is this meditative practice where I love this app called Headspace. I have no financial interest in that, but I love this

[00:23:20] App called Headspace, where this

[00:23:22] Wonderful, calm, smooth person named Andy talks me through with this beautiful British accent to then focus on my breathing and through the nose out through the mouth. And what you’re doing in that scenario is

[00:23:35] You are lowering your heart rate and you’re

[00:23:36] Lowering the stress hormone cortisol, which is going to hijack your brain. We’ll talk about that in a minute. You are

[00:23:41] Lowering your heart rate so

[00:23:42] That you can be present. And then he will stop saying, turn to the breath, you know, breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. And when he stops saying that your mind will often just go or mine does a million miles an hour of thinking, this is really silly. I have other things to do. I don’t even know if this will really help. And then you’ll come back on and we’ll talk about now focus on a sound or do a body scan. Feel your back against your chair, your feet on the ground, and then he will go quiet again and you’ll start thinking again. And so after time, it really is a meditative practice which is changing the relationship you have with your thought so that when you go from, I notice I am thinking thinking anything to then coming back to breathing and through the nose out through the mouth or body scan or listening to the sounds or smelling smells around me. That what I’m not doing in those moments is thinking. So it’s not that I’m trying to stop thought or empty my mind of thought, but I developed this practice where when I’m noticing, I am thinking that, then I notice. And especially if it’s if I’m noticing I am ruminating, if I’m noticing that I am worrying, if I’m noticing that I am angry that then I recognize that as an emotion and then I come back to my breathing. And then what it does is it lowers my heart rate and it lowers that cortisol or that stress release and allows me to then be more in the moment in the present moment so that I’m not worrying as much or ruminating as much and a a continual practice of that meditation that over the span of a few weeks or months,

[00:25:04] We’re training the brain that when you are starting to

[00:25:07] Get caught up in thought, which is starting to make you worry and you.

[00:25:11] Your heart rate starts to elevate, then your brain is already anticipating

[00:25:15] That what you’re going to do next is turn to your breathing and bring yourself back to present.

[00:25:19] So it is often already doing that

[00:25:21] Preemptively, and it’s this amazing concept where it’s truly I learned this in the book. The Body keeps the score where we have this visceral reaction, and the visceral reaction is that our our emotions

[00:25:33] Lead our logic,

[00:25:34] And it’s a beautiful way that the human body is designed.

[00:25:38] So you are you are feeling or before you are able

[00:25:42] To really internally process what’s going on. So it’s great when you look on the ground and think you see what looks like coiled up snake, but then you turn out that it’s a shoelace because when you immediately look down, your visceral reaction is to jump back and recoil so that if that snake was jumping out at you, you might have a chance of getting out of the way. But then when your logical part of your brain kicks in and you realize it’s just a string, now you are able to calm down and come back to present. So your body through the process of meditation is learning to then when that visceral reaction hits and we’re talking about, so if someone in your life is being, if they are elevating their volume or if they are are being emotionally manipulative or these sort of things that instead of then falling into that trap and then feeling like what’s wrong with me and reacting that with a continued practice of mindfulness that we’re able to start to, I’m noticing that he is gaslighting. I’m noticing that she is trying to make this my fault. And instead of that visceral reaction or that that fight or flight response, we’re able to say that’s interesting, and I’m able to notice that I am able to stay present, and that’s how I’m able to stay in there and then watch the gaslighting and not respond and not react and set a healthy boundary. So the mindfulness practice is

[00:26:52] Really, really important in this book called The Buddha’s Brain. The author talks about

[00:26:57] The concept of the first and the second dart. So let me talk about that and then we’ll get you out of here, OK? And I don’t believe that I mentioned this

[00:27:04] Earlier, but the book is by Rick Hansen and Richard Medius, and it’s called The Buddhist Brain The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom. And in the book, they talk about this concept of the first and

[00:27:15] The second dart. And I think this is really interesting. So I’m going to read a little bit

[00:27:18] From the book. They say some physical discomfort is unavoidable, and it’s a crucial signal

[00:27:23] To take action to protect life and limb, like the pain that makes you pull your hand back from a

[00:27:27] Hot stove. Some mental discomfort

[00:27:29] Is also inevitable.

[00:27:30] For example, as we evolved growing emotional investments in children and other members of the band motivated our ancestors to keep those carriers of their genes alive.

[00:27:39] And of course, we’re not talking about a musical band, but this is

[00:27:42] That part where we all have this desire to be part of a group or a people or a tribe.

[00:27:47] And so often a lot of the things

[00:27:49] That we are doing, whether it’s self sabotage or whether it’s comparisons are just this subconscious part of us that are trying to keep us a part of the group or a part of the band because we have it’s so hardwired into our DNA that if we are abandoned, whether it’s by our spouse or our family or the group, that we fear that

[00:28:08] We will die, that we feel like if we are left alone to our own devices, that equates to abandonment and abandonment equals death.

[00:28:15] So in the Buddhist brain, they say that

[00:28:18] Then understanding, understandably, then we feel

[00:28:20] Distressed when dear ones are threatened and sorrow when they’re harmed. And we also have evolved to care greatly about our place in the band and in the hearts of others. So it’s normal to feel hurt feelings if you’re rejected or if you’re scorned, which I know can be such a big part of people that are either experiencing the narcissistic discard or they become the scapegoat

[00:28:39] In the situation, like we talked about last week.

[00:28:41] He says to borrow an expression from the Buddha, inescapable physical or mental discomfort is the first dart of existence. And as long as you live and you love some of those darts are going to come your way. And that’s the principle of the first dart. So there’s the first dart and second dart. The first dart is just life is going to be difficult and it’s going to be messy. And there’s a book called The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck, where it starts by

[00:29:04] Saying life is difficult. And in essence, once we accept the fact that life is difficult, we’re no longer going around trying to

[00:29:11] Prove to others that how difficult their life is. But we’re more from this acceptance

[00:29:15] That life is difficult and now we want to take action now. People listening to this podcast that have been through emotional trauma. I am absolutely not saying that. That means that you just need to toughen up

[00:29:25] Or rub a little dirt in it because we’ve

[00:29:27] Already talked about complex post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD and the fact that trauma lives in the body,

[00:29:33] The body keeps the score. So I want you

[00:29:35] To know that this is not me saying so. Just don’t think that way, because that is absolutely not what I’m saying. And we’ll get

[00:29:42] To this point where, you know, the first dart, those are the darts that

[00:29:45] Are they are going to happen in life now.

[00:29:47] You don’t deserve the intensity of the darts that you have that have been thrown at you.

[00:29:51] So again, I hope that you’re seeing this from raise one’s emotional baseline and from a sense

[00:29:56] Of self care, from a sense of mindfulness, because we’re going to get those first darts in life. And right now, those darts that have been thrown at you from life in by way of those who that are supposed to care for you, that are supposed to be there for you, that are supposed to be the. That you turn to and say, do I matter, am I there, are you there for me? Can I count on you that those are the parts where when those that person is the one throwing the darts, I know they hurt even more. But right now, we’re going to talk a little bit about where can you

[00:30:25] Use these mindfulness skills or these techniques

[00:30:27] With those other first starts to raise your emotional

[00:30:29] Baseline so that it will

[00:30:30] Put you in a better position

[00:30:32] To be able to

[00:30:33] Handle the the other first starts that you’re going to get in your life? So then the authors say the first starts, those again are inevitable. But the darts that we throw ourselves, they say first starts are unpleasant, to be sure. But then we add our reactions to them, and these reactions are the second darts, the ones that we throw ourselves. So most of our suffering, they say, come from these second darts. So he says, suppose you’re walking through a dark room at night and you stub your toe on a chair. Right after that first start of pain comes the second dart of anger who moved the chair. Or maybe a loved one is cold to you when you’re hoping for some caring. So in addition to the natural drop in the pit of your stomach, which he calls a first start, you might feel unwanted that second dart as a result of having been ignored as a child, so bringing those abandonment wounds into our adult relationships. Second, darts, he says, often trigger more second darts through associative neural networks. So this is where I think the brain is pretty fascinating. He said that your anger that somebody moved the chair or sadness that you feel

[00:31:26] Hurt yet again by someone you love

[00:31:27] And relationships. The second darts are the ones that tend to create these vicious cycles, so your second darts trigger reactions from the other person, which set off more second

[00:31:36] Darts from you

[00:31:37] And so on. And they say that remarkably, most of our second dart reactions occur when there is, in fact, no first start anywhere to be found. So when there’s no pain inherent in the conditions were reacting to, we add the suffering to them. And I believe this is where that trauma kicks in or where that body keeps the score. The author says that, for example,

[00:31:54] Sometimes he’ll come

[00:31:54] Home from work. The house will be a little bit messy. The kids have stuff over all over the place. And he said that’s the condition, so it just is acceptance, he said. Is there a first dart in the coats and shoes on the sofa or the cluttering covering the counter? He said No, there isn’t. Nobody dropped a brick on him. Nobody hurt the children. So he said, do does he have to get upset? And he says not really. He could ignore those things or help pick them up calmly or talk with his spouse about them. And he said sometimes he manages to handle it in that way. But he said if he doesn’t, then the second dart start landing tipped with the three poisons.

[00:32:26] And again, I love the the analogies here, the

[00:32:29] Three poisons, he said. Greed makes me rigid about how I want things to be. Hatred gets me all bothered and angry, and my delusion tricks me into taking the situation personally. And he said, saddest of all, some second dart reactions are to conditions that are actually positive. He said If somebody pays you a compliment, for example, that’s a positive situation. But then you might start thinking with some nervousness and even a little bit of shame.

[00:32:50] I’m not really that good of a person, and maybe they’ll find out I’m a fraud

[00:32:53] And right there, he said. There’s a needless second dart suffering, and

[00:32:56] I know that I’ve done a couple of episodes on the virtual couch about the concept of imposter

[00:33:00] Syndrome, and that is a perfect example of second dart reactions, where somebody can even feel like they are feeling good about themselves. But then the second dart comes in and there’s a worry or fear that they’ll

[00:33:12] Be found out, or that people will find out or think that less of that

[00:33:15] Person. So then when he talks about suffering, he says suffering is not abstract or conceptual. It’s embodied, he said. You feel that suffering in your body and it really does proceed through these bodily mechanisms. And so he goes on, and

[00:33:27] I would highly recommend the book because he talks about the sympathetic nervous system and the endocrine

[00:33:32] System and the hormonal system. And there are some really, really interesting things there. If you want to get really nerdy around the brain, he talks about cortisol. We talk about that often and hear that cortisol is what suppresses the immune system to reduce inflammation from wounds. But it also revs up the stress reactions and two circular ways. First, it causes the brainstem to stimulate the amygdala, which is the fight or flight response further. And, he said, which increases amygdala activation, which produces more cortisol than the cortisol suppresses this. It’s the hippocampal. This is kind of fun to say, right? Hippocampal activity, which normally inhibits the amygdala. So this takes the brakes off the amygdala, leading to even more cortisol. So the more stress, the more elevated your mood gets. Then it then puts the brake on this hippocampus activity, which normally inhibits the amygdala. So this will take the brakes off the amygdala. And now we’re in full fight or flight, and we’re not making logical sense of things. So that’s where he talks about the different parts of the brain. But where I’m getting to is this is what we talked about. Nate, Nate

[00:34:29] Christianson on my podcast, The

[00:34:31] Virtual Couch, that the path of practice and the path of Practice

[00:34:34] Of mindfulness, which is what we

[00:34:36] Want to wrap up with today from the world of self care, he said. As the saying goes, Pain’s inevitable but suffering is optional. He said if you can simply stay present with whatever is arising and awareness, whether it’s a first start or a second dart one without reacting further, then you can start to break the chain of suffering. And that’s where I know it’s hard and this is something that needs to be practiced on sometimes the lower charged and, excuse me, lower charged individuals or lower charged topics. Even because he says, over time, through training and shaping your mind and brain, you can even change what arises. Increasing what’s positive,

[00:35:09] Decreasing what’s negative.

[00:35:10] In the meantime, you can rest and be nourished by a growing sense of peace and clarity in your true nature. And he said these three processes of being with whatever arises,

[00:35:19] Working with the tendencies of the mind to transform them and taking refuge in the ground of just

[00:35:24] Being just being present are the essential practices of this path of awakening. And this is where I would throw in there, that these are the things that have in a daily mindfulness practice or just being more present and aware can help. And and this is the part that I just thought so was so validating, he said. As you deal with these different issues on your path of awakening, you’re repeatedly encounter these the following stages of growth. So he says this stage one, he said, you’re caught in a second dark reaction.

[00:35:51] So now we realize what that means, right? So you’re caught in a second dark reaction and you don’t even realize that yet. The example he gives is pretty pedestrian, and I know

[00:35:58] That you’re dealing with much more in your relationships, but I think the concept is so good. He said if your partner forgets to bring milk home and you complain angrily without seeing that your reaction is over the top, then he says stage two, you realize that you’ve been hijacked by greed or hatred in the broadest sense, but you can’t help yourself internally. You’re squirming, but you can’t stop grumbling bitterly about the milk. So stage three, he says, this is where some aspect of the reaction arises, but you don’t act it out. You feel irritated, but you remind yourself that there’s a lot of other positive things going on in your life. So getting cranky will just make things worse. And then stage four is where I

[00:36:32] Really the whole reason I wanted to go

[00:36:34] Through this was to give you a little bit of a peek into the Promised Land that when you can get yourself out of this crazy making or where you’re living in your amygdala, the fight or flight response, and you’re practicing techniques that will help lower your cortisol when you’re raising your emotional

[00:36:48] Baseline and finding things that really matter to you

[00:36:50] And relying more on self-care to put you in a position to be a better whatever it is, fill in the blank. He says in this stage four on these stages of growth, on this way to awakening, he says the reaction doesn’t even come up.

[00:37:03] And sometimes you forget you even had the issue. You understand there’s no milk and you calmly figure out what to do now. And the reason I thought that was so powerful on my virtual couch podcast, I mentioned to Nate that who was doing the episode with me. I mentioned to him that there are certain times where I feel like I can no longer muster

[00:37:20] Up the anger that used to be a big part of me driving, for example. Now, when you don’t even have the response where he says that stage four of awakening, the reaction doesn’t even come up.

[00:37:30] So somebody cuts in front of me, and it might be. I’m noticing the cars cut in front of me. Like, That’s interesting.

[00:37:34] And so your brain is already working hard to then help you focus on your breathing or being present when the heart rate starts to elevate so that it keeps you in this more. This just being present. And so you don’t have that second dart reaction, even when there’s a first start issue that comes up. And he says that what those are known succinctly as is the first realm is unconscious incompetence, where you’re caught in that second dart reaction your unconscious and then he calls it incompetence, where you are just complaining angrily and seeing your reactions over the top. He said. Then you move on to

[00:38:05] Conscious

[00:38:06] Incompetence, so you’re consciously aware, but you’re still, in his words, acting with this incompetence of I’m aware that now I’m reacting and overreacting, and I wish

[00:38:14] I wasn’t doing it, but I can’t help myself. And then you’re moving into this conscious, unconscious competence. So now you’re not even thinking of the fact that you’re showing up and being present

[00:38:23] And not letting your brain or body get hijacked by your amygdala. And so I know that that is a lot to take in and it is a lot to work on. But I just wanted to express that so that you will know that there is a path, there is a hope and that as you turn to the just intentionally starting to raise your emotional

[00:38:41] Baseline, even if it’s

[00:38:42] Just a little bit a little bit each day or whenever you can just turn to some of those self-care principles, get out and go on a walk, reach out, talk to

[00:38:49] Friends. Right now, it might be gathering a lot of information and data,

[00:38:52] Whatever it is that helps you bump up your baseline

[00:38:55] A little bit. That is significant

[00:38:57] Because it’s going to put you over time in a better place to be able to show up for whatever you need to show up for, whether it’s with your kids or at your work, or in a position where you really need to make these difficult decisions. This is the importance of raising your emotional baseline. The self-care is not

[00:39:11] Selfish is, if anything, it’s going to put you in a better position to

[00:39:15] Succeed and thrive. And if you are in a relationship with someone that is thwarting your self-care

[00:39:20] Or trying to put you down for wanting to take time for yourself or wanting to try and figure out ways to put yourself in a better position,

[00:39:28] Then that’s something that really needs to be looked at. As always, thank you so much

[00:39:32] For taking the time to join me today, and I hope that you have

[00:39:35] An amazing week and feel free to continue to send your questions

[00:39:38] Through the contact form at Tony Overbay and have an amazing, amazing week, and I’ll see you next week on waking up the narcissism.

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