Wait, Was That Story About Me? The Consistency of Narcissism

Tony shares a letter from someone recognizing the patterns of narcissism in their own relationship after hearing examples of others. Plus Tony shares an excerpt from the book “The Girl Before,” by Rena Olson. In the story, one woman learns of how unusual it feels to discover what a “healthy” relationship looks like. 

Tony mentioned his “Magnetize Your Marriage” workshop happening on April 7th. If you would like to sign up for the workshop, please visit http://tonyoverbay.com/magnetic

With the continuing “sheltering” rules spreading across the country, PLEASE do not think you can’t continue or begin therapy now. Please make your mental health a priority, http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch offers affordable counseling, and they even have sliding scale options if your budget is tight. http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch can put you quickly in touch with licensed mental health professionals who can meet through text, email, or videoconference often as soon as 24-48 hours. And if you use the link http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch, you will receive 10% off your first month of services.

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

Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the “uh’s” and “um’s” that, in his words, “must be created by wizards and magic!” because it’s that good! To learn more about Descript, click here https://descript.com?lmref=v95myQ

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[00:00:07] Hey everybody, welcome to episode 28 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 we’re going to start with an email today. There is nothing I love more than the emails that I get from listeners, especially the ones that are very vulnerable. And in this one, the person says that they want to share their email because they hope that someone else can relate. I’m going to change a little bit of the information. Not too much is really needed to change, but this is just so beautifully written out. It simply titled Thank You. And the person says, Hi, Tony. I stumbled upon your Waking up to Narcissism podcast a few days ago and I’m so glad that I did. She’s very kind, she says. I only fear the day coming soon. When I run out of episodes to listen to, I will do my best to keep the episodes coming, she says. What I appreciate about your podcast is that you’re the only one I found for people who are still in it. Every bit of information otherwise says there is only one answer and that is run and run fast. And that’s a fair bit of advice for someone if they are in the very beginning of a relationship like this. But as you have explained and understand, it’s just not always that easy, she said. I also appreciate your podcast for bringing awareness to the covert narcissism and tendencies and addressing it as that, she said.

[00:01:17] I found myself getting very caught up in a cycle of Is he or isn’t he a narcissist? And I’ve learned it truly as a spectrum that isn’t always so black and white. You’re death by a thousand cuts episode. Your death by a thousand cuts analogy really spoke to me. My jaw quite literally dropped when I heard on one of the episodes where you gave examples of the little things that don’t sound so significant until you think of it in that sense, it really is so difficult to find people who understand what it’s like to be connected to a personality like this, she said. I’d like to share some of my own story in hopes that someone can relate. My husband and I have been together for 15 years, married for eight, and we have twins and another sibling. Let’s just put them somewhere in the age between four and 11. I have always known something’s different about him, but in the beginning I saw this as charming and exciting. He was all about me. We shared similar interests. My family loved him and that’s what had me sold. Flash forward to now. I’ve tried to leave numerous times. The most recent was the point where we were actually living in two separate apartments, she said. I was so close to leaving. Each time we separated, though, he became the man of my dreams again.

[00:02:25] We had that spark. Once we can get it back. It’s one of the lines that he said, and it would really stick with me. He said everything that I wanted him to hear and more. He even started going to therapy and a true narcissist would never do that right. It was even his idea. His therapist has great things to say about him and this is according to him. I was really seeing progress and willingness to put in effort for change. He was reading self-help books and seemingly became the best version of himself. So how could I give up on that? All of this on top of the fact that when we were separated, our kids behavior truly did appear to be affected. The tantrums, the nightmares, the sadness that I saw and the kids eyes started to really convince me that I would be willing to put up with any amount of psychological abuse to avoid seeing the hurt in my children’s eyes. She would think I could suck it up. I can deal with this so that he doesn’t have to and she doesn’t have to. Speaking of her kids, my parents, my family, my friends have been dragged through this roller coaster just shy to their breaking point. Other members of my family have blatantly made it clear that they don’t want a relationship with me while I’m associated with him. They don’t want to show support of any kind.

[00:03:24] And she said, I have a severe fear of abandonment after losing relationships with so many family members. My circle is very small now, and I’m lucky to have one friend who is a rock for me and understands the situation I’m in without judgment. And let me just we’ve got plenty of this email to go, but one of the things that does truly break my heart and I watch this over and over again is and I understand this pillar one that I talk about often of assuming good intentions. There’s a reason why people do the things they do. And I’m talking about the family and friends. When someone starts to open up about the emotional abuse, spiritual abuse, financial abuse to someone else, and I talk often that you want to try to not find these Switzerland friends who say, well, you know, he’s two sides to every story, which again, I can understand. But another version of what I think is really difficult for people or when they open up and then that person close to in their life says, okay, I can’t support you while you are still with him or while you’re still with her. So I’m going to back out of your life and just until you finally make up your mind or you can finally stand on your own two feet and get out of this relationship, in reality, you need the friends who are going to be there, even if even if you stay in that relationship, because you’re going to as you start down this process or path of waking up, you’re going to need safe people that you can talk to.

[00:04:41] And so I often say, and I’ve thought about this before, is that as a father, let’s say, for example, that one of us is flip the switch here. Let’s say that my son is in a relationship with a woman with narcissistic traits, tendencies, just extreme emotional maturity. And to be fair, he’s not absolutely adore his girlfriend, but let’s say that he’s in that situation and I feel like he is absolutely being beginning a trauma bond and I feel like he can’t get out and I try to bring it up. And it would only be natural that he is having his own experience and that he would defend her with everything that he had. And so in that situation, I feel like most people in my situation as a parent, unfortunately, start to then really pull back and they start to withdraw. All they want to talk about is the fact that I feel like you’re being abused, the fact that I can’t put up with this anymore. And if you think about it from that standpoint, that I’m basically saying that I is the parent, I almost somewhat selfishly say, I can’t do this anymore. I can’t be there to support you. I can’t watch you go through this when if I really am struggling to watch this person go through this, that’s where empathy needs to come in.

[00:05:45] I can’t imagine how hard that would be to watch somebody that I care about in a relationship where they’re trying to make sense of it and they’re trying to make it work, even though it seems so obvious to others, the outside world, that it’s not working. So I want you to be that person that if you don’t if you can’t talk about the relationship with that person, then that’s okay. If you need to just talk to them about the weather, if you just need to be there and talk about surface things, I feel like that is absolutely fine because at some point that person. So in this situation, this made up scenario, that would be my son that at some point if he is in the position where he needs help and he needs a family member, he’s going to be hesitant to turn to me. If he thinks that I’m going to then just say, okay, see, I told you so the whole time. So I want people that are on the outside, the people that are supporting, the people that are in these unhealthy relationships. To really understand that, I get the fact that if you’re saying I’m going to set a boundary and I’m going to withdraw myself completely from their life until they wake up, that how difficult that is for that person who is in that relationship that again, maybe you it’s going to be hard for you to not talk about the relationship with that person because you’re hurting for them so bad, but they just need someone there that is going to be there even if they’re in a bad relationship.

[00:07:01] Because at some point when someone does wake up to the unhealthy relationship and maybe as I’m processing this out loud on right now in this podcast, I get to talk to those people that say, hey, now that I’m starting to want to make change in my life and now that the narcissist is trying to even rope me in even more, pushing all the other buttons, I desperately want to reach out to family, but my family’s already told me that they don’t want to hear about this anymore. And so I understand that. So I would really challenge you if you are a family member who is watching. Unfortunately, the someone that you love and care about go through a bad relationship. Just know that this is a long game. This isn’t a sprint. We’re talking marathon. We’re not even talking marathon. We’re like an ultramarathon. We’re talking 100 mile race or whatever this looks like. And that just being able to be there for somebody, even if you’re not talking about the elephant in the room, is pretty powerful. So let’s get back to this to she said.

[00:07:51] So to summarize, people see my spouse as a know it all better than everybody else, my way or the highway type of guy, and they simply don’t want to be around him, she said. I think I was in denial when I first started realizing this. I had convinced myself that I saw him acting this way to other people, but not to me. I had a hard time separating what my family’s opinion of him was versus my own. Now I keep my relationship with my family and my spouse completely separate. Very few people are left, she said. I might add. And this is speaking to that concept of sequestering. I spoke with someone else, I guess it was a couple of weeks ago, and they were just giving me the is this normal? Is it normal that in this scenario it was a guy who was saying, is it normal that his narcissistic wife that she has started to ask him or really demand that he doesn’t talk to friends, that he doesn’t talk to family because she really feels like that’s just unfair of him. And so he is really starting to realize that he has been sequestered. And when you are sequestered, then you’re only left to your own thoughts. And those typically aren’t going to work themselves out to the happily ever after scenario. But she said again that they’ve made it clear they want nothing to do with him, and it’s this unspoken rule not to even talk about them.

[00:08:58] And now that these relationships are compartmentalized, I see that he’s been acting this way to me all along as well. Before I was able to blame it on my family saying, Well, my mom likes the gossip, this person doesn’t like him because of what she said, not because of their own experience. And I would rationalize it in my head, but now I just see it for what it is, she said. My spouse is very passionate about learning and reading things and I used to find that really endearing, like, Wow, I wish I could be that passionate about anything. What a great quote. Addiction to have that knowledge is power, right? Well, this passion is slowly become a weapon in our house. If a minor disagreement comes up, it’s usually backed by him saying, well, you haven’t read as many books as I have about this or his favorite phrase. I know you don’t understand a lot about this, but I’ve done my research and you better believe this bleeds into topics that I personally have years of hands on experience with. She has been in the medical field for 15 years or more and she said, But now I promise you that he knows more about the medical field than I ever could have because I don’t read all the books, she said. I take our kids to the doctor alone because I fear the confrontation that he will have based on him knowing more about health than a doctor.

[00:10:03] She said, I had to sneak one of my son’s antibiotic. For an ear infection at one point because he had shared with me that he did some reading and believes that antibiotics kill your gut bacteria and they stay in your system for years. And then she said he quoted some something that he read online. Dr. Google I might add that most ear infections heal themselves without ever needing medication. So of course, we’re not going to take our kids to the doctor for medication. She said Everything has become sort of this f the patriarchy attitude. He sees his alternative ways of thinking as a strength because he isn’t a victim to the society. She said, I find myself just brushing most things off because I know I can’t argue with them. I don’t read or push myself to learn even more so because how can I argue with what he’s saying? She said, I’m to the point where I don’t even want to read or learn more because I’m so sick of hearing about everything that he’s learned about every topic that you can think of. And she said, I know that sounds backward, like I should probably read more so that I can back myself up. But as extremes of turn me off to it completely. It might. I bring in my old friend psychological reactance here.

[00:11:03] Remember, the psychological reactance is that instant negative reaction of being told what to do. And and this is one of those things, again, that is pretty common if you’re working specifically in the field of emotional insecurity or narcissistic traits or tendencies that I can. And again, I won’t do a narcissistic math and tell you that I’ve had hundreds of people come into my office with this, but I’ve had a lot, several where the spouse I can think of one example where it was a husband who his wife was the narcissist. And in that scenario she just said, I just want him to re I want to be able to have conversations. I want him to read the books that I like to read. And so he had done so. And I remember we had a session where then he started to open up and in that session she said, This is all I want. This is amazing. I can’t wait to have more conversations. Well, they come back in about a week later and I ask, how have the conversations been going? And and he just looked at me and he said, I’m sure you could guess because he was pretty confident that I saw her for her narcissistic traits and tendencies that were there. But then he just said everything that I’ve said, I read it wrong and that that so he said this is she basically just he said, I feel like she basically just wanted more of a supply for her to then make herself feel better and to be able to tell me that, oh, you didn’t really understand that part that you read or here’s what you were missing from something else that I read.

[00:12:22] So it just becomes just mind blowing. And what a what an emotional waste of calories. Then for somebody to continually say, okay, you know what I am, I’m going to read the book that my spouse is reading so we can have a conversation, but it’s not a conversation. I’m going to read the book so I can now be told that I’m dumb, that I don’t understand. And she said that what is hard is the things he learns about and the hobbies that he’s decided. They’re healthy, they feel valid. She said he’s not gambling. He’s drinking or partying or playing Xbox 24 seven or eating fast food every day. She said, We actually went vegetarian and then she said we moved into becoming vegan until he decides that he wants something with dairy like ice cream, she said We stopped drinking mainly because how expensive the drinks were. And she said, But then we’ll have drinks when he decides, You know what? I think we should celebrate. We should have a drink, she said. We vacation to the mountains because the beach is for lazy people and exploring cities is just a waste of money, she said. I could give 1000 examples.

[00:13:18] Most of his friends are contractual, and if somebody doesn’t serve a purpose, they’re discarded without blinking an eye. And he has trouble maintaining deep connections or long term friendships with people. But there’s always an explanation for it. And she said, I can only think of one person that he’s close to and he’s known this person for a very long time and they happen to live far away. And let me just jump in and talk about an article that I referenced a few quite a few episodes ago from Eleanor Greenberg, who is a clinical psychologist about narcissism. And this is from Psychology Today, the truth about narcissistic personality disorder. And this one’s pretty incredible as well. If we go back to that narcissistic personality disorders, the name for a series of coping strategies that began as an adaptation to a childhood family situation that left the person with unstable self esteem, the inability to regulate their self esteem without external validation and low empathy. And in that concept that people with narcissistic personality disorder or these extreme emotional immaturity traits, they lack whole object relations and object constancy. Now, remember, as a refresher here, whole object relations, this is the ability to see oneself and others in a stable and integrated way that acknowledges that we have good and bad qualities in all of us and then object constancy. This is the ability to maintain a positive emotional connection to somebody that you like, even if you are angry or hurt, frustrated or disappointed by his or her behavior.

[00:14:35] And so without whole object relations or object constancy, people with narcissistic personality disorder or I will again go back to extreme emotional immaturity, can only see themselves in other people in one of two ways. Either they are special and unique and omnipotent, perfect and entitled. They call that high status, or they are defective, worthless garbage. She says. Low status. This means that the person struggling with narcissistic issues cannot hold on to his or her good opinion and good feelings about somebody once he or she notices that the other person has. The floor. The other person goes from being special and put on a pedestal to being devalued as nothing special. And I can think of a situation right now where someone that I’m working with processing the their narcissistic mom, where everyone everyone that comes into the home, the caregivers, the the doctor they go to goes from being this person. This is the most amazing person I’ve ever met because they are special. They put them in this high status. But then as soon as this person does anything to, quote, cross the narcissist or in essence, just tell them they’re wrong, then they go to the point where that person is horrible. They don’t know what they’re talking about and they become all. It’s that all or nothing or black or white thinking. Eleanor says that narcissists seesaw back and forth between these two when they feel good about you, or more accurately, you make them feel good about themselves.

[00:15:51] Then they see you as special. And then you do something they don’t like, such as say no to one of their requests, and suddenly you are now all bad and worthless, and later you might do something that makes them feel good again. They’re back to seeing you as special. And I’ve mentioned this on several occasions. I call that the do you want to ride bikes theory? Because if you’re looking at the extreme emotional immaturity of a kid, you can get in a fight and you can literally punch each other in about 10 minutes later, go to the park and ride bikes. And when we’re talking about this friend, so we talk about that whole object relations or object constancy. And then with friends, I feel like there’s also this concept that she brings up called hierarchical thinking, that they place every person, every place and every object that catches their attention on a hierarchy from lowest to highest according to some status marker that they value. So when you’re talking about people, they tend to be differential and super nice to those people they consider above them and they consider those they consider below them. They look down on or mistreat or ignore or graciously condescend to treat well depending on their mood. And she talks about how they get into almost these dominance fights with people who are on approximately their own level and have trouble with the idea that anybody might be their equal.

[00:16:51] So they continually have to take this one up position. Or if they take the one down position, it’s because they feel like they are fortunate enough to be in the presence of someone that is extremely special. And so if you think about that from the spouse’s angle, if you are in a relationship then with a narcissist or somebody with extreme emotional immaturity, then I feel like you’re probably going through that on a daily basis. Are you? Where do you fit in that hierarchy? If you’re making them feel good, then you are also special and unique. If you disagree or if you’re not making them feel good about themselves, then now you’re in this one down position and that that object constancy piece kicks in and now they can’t hold that. Well, you know, we there’s things we agree on and there’s things we disagree on. If you disagree with them, you are all bad and they need to burn that village down and until it’s time to watch a movie or eat dinner, because then do you want to ride bikes? She said he’s cordial with his siblings, but not what I would consider close, and I suspect that’s because they have seen these traits in him as well, she said. I think the hardest part in all of this is knowing that my husband’s personality is a result of deep trauma and hurt something or a series of things happen to him to cause these intense feelings of inadequacy to the point where he acts as if he needs to prove himself to both complete strangers and the people who love and care about him.

[00:18:02] And it’s a difficult concept to face because sometimes she said, I see him as a child in front of me and I want to give him a hug and tell him It’s okay. You don’t have to impress me. I’m not going anywhere. She said the nurse’s biggest fear is this feeling of inadequacy or abandonment, right? So me daydreaming and plotting my escape feels that much more gut wrenching every time my mind goes to that place of wanting to leave, she said. It feels like a betrayal to this person. I care so much about the father of my children, so she said, I’m still processing. I’m trying to rewrite the story of my life and from what I envision for myself and to the reality that I’ve come to know, I’m trying to meet myself where I’m at today, and your podcast gives me hope that I’ll get through it. But until then, thanks for the safe space that you’ve created. And again, that email I think speaks on so many different levels to how difficult it can be for the people that are in these relationships versus the people that aren’t.

[00:18:48] Because how on earth can you describe this or the depth that part of the in there she talks about is knowing even as you start to wake up to the narcissism or the traits come from extreme childhood wounding or abandonment, where somebody lacks a true sense of self because we all base our sense of self for until we don’t, we base it off of external validation, how others help me to make me feel. But then when I get older, as we become more emotionally mature, it’s our time. It’s our time to really figure out who we are. And that’s part of the maturation process. And when we are together with someone else, it makes it even better when we can explore who we are together, not when we look at it from Why would you? When your spouse says, Well, why would you think that? Or No, you don’t really believe that? Or Do you know what that means to me and just how emotionally unhealthy that really is? Okay. So before I want to move on to the next item that I would like to talk about today, I do want to share another reminder that on April 7th, I’m going to be putting on a magnetize your marriage workshop. It’s virtual and you can go to Tony over ebay.com slash magnetic. And I know and I talked about this in the last episode that I know this is maybe a bit of an interesting message right now to share on a Waking Up the Narcissism podcast, because I will never say that I want someone to stay in an abusive.

[00:20:05] Again, any type of abuse. But I also work with the population of people that desperately want to know if the relationship is viable and if they are thinking or reading about narcissism or narcissistic traits or tendencies that typically it just says, as I just shared in that email, that it may say, Run, stop what you’re doing right now. And I know it’s not that easy. So this workshop, I am really going to to talk be very intentional about what a what the tools are in a healthy relationship. And I will say this any time I’m asked that no one has the tools. We don’t have the tools from the start. They aren’t factory settings. And I’m talking about the tools of communication or how to stay present or how to not take things personally or how to not fear abandonment and rejection. And we’re talking again from childhood, from adolescence. So you have to find the tools and no one goes and looks for the tools until you need them. And then simply finding the tool doesn’t mean it’s easy. I can talk about the four pillars all day long and people say, I would love to communicate through the four pillars. I would love to have a goal to be heard and to feel heard and understood.

[00:21:07] And I can hand you these tools. And then there’s still difficulty in the application. And this magnetic or this workshop, we are going to talk about the tools, the four pillars of a connected conversation, what it really means to be differentiated and to autonomous, interdependent people coming together in a relationship with curiosity and to have shared experiences. So go to Tony over Macomb Magnetic. And as I mentioned last week, I am there’s a $19 charge which I will refund if you find no value in the Magnetic Marriage Workshop. So Tony over Macomb Magnetic. Now the next section that I want to talk about, we’re just going to go on a little bit of my train of thought. And I was reading a book actually, to be honest. I was listening to a book and I typically have one nonfiction book and one fiction book going at any given time on Audible. And the current self-help book I’m listening to is Radical Acceptance by Tara Brock. And Radical Acceptance is it’s an amazing it’s an amazing book. And you can probably tell right in the title Radical Acceptance, because I know so many people are trying to get to this place of acceptance of the situation that is going on in their life right now. And I really believe acceptance doesn’t mean apathy. That acceptance is from where you can move forward. If I accept the fact that there that I have that I have certain challenges or struggles or that I’m not exactly where I want to be in my life, then that doesn’t make me a bad person.

[00:22:32] Once I accept the fact that I am where I’m at, the things that have happened in my life have happened now. What do I want to do about that? What are the things that I’m pretending not to know? What are the areas of my life that I’m not as organized or I’m not as efficient, and then I’m the only person that can really take ownership of that. So I have to embrace this form, this radical acceptance, in order to start to move forward and in essence, become the best person I can be. But the book that I’ve just been listening to and I had a hard time with it at first I stuck with it. It didn’t necessarily have the greatest beginning, but it’s a book called The Girl Before and the Girl Before was written by the Girl Before was written by Rena Olsen and narrated by Britney Pressley. And and as I’m reading the summary, it really doesn’t say anything about the book. So there’s a part of me that just doesn’t want to give anything away. It’s a psychological suspense. The debut by this author When a woman’s life is shattered, she’s faced with a devastating question What if everything she thought was normal and good and true wasn’t? And I’ll just leave it there because I was listening to this one part and it just hit me that I really felt like in this book and they’re not talking about narcissism per say, but there’s a character and the character has lived a particular version of her life that she thought was normal.

[00:23:47] And it was a life where there was physical abuse in her relationship. And they really do lay out. It’s unfortunate, it’s sad, but how beautiful. The author lays out how normal it can feel for the person that’s in the abusive relationship. So I listen to the audio book and I noted a particular point that I thought this would be fascinating to share on the podcast. So then I bought the book on Kindle just so I could read you this, this next section. So the there’s a therapist, a Dr. Mulligan, and the person that we’re talking about, her name is Clara. So I’m going to read a little bit here. Doctor Mulligan says to Clara, she says, I understand you had a difficult group yesterday, says, I’m in Doctor Mulligan’s office. This is Clara. She says, My eyes are gritty from lack of sleep. I’m lying on the couch, curled up, staring at the diplomas on the wall, Clara says. I guess Doctor Mulligan says, Do you want to tell me about it? Clara says, Not really. I know better than to hope that she will leave it alone.

[00:24:38] So then Doctor Mulligan says it might help. Clara says, How would it help? How could it possibly help me? You have no idea what I’m going through. Doctor Mulligan says I might if you would tell me. And she said, Even if I tell you, you don’t know. You can’t know because my life is nothing like yours. And the character Clara says, I’m not really angry with Doctor Mulligan. I’m angry with myself for being so unsure, for doubting, for disrespecting everything I’ve been taught in my life by questioning it. Doctor Mulligan. Curses or lips sometimes just saying out loud, what’s on your mind can help you process it. I may not know your life, but I am an excellent sounding board. And Claire says it really gets annoying when Dr. Mulligan makes sense. She raises an eyebrow and I release a sigh. Claire says, I don’t feel like I’m normal. Dr. Mulligan laughs, But it’s not unkind. What is normal, Clara? She says. I shrug. And that’s the question that kept me up all night. She said, I’m starting to think. I’m starting to wonder what if how I’ve lived my entire life was not how I was meant to live? And Dr. Mulligan says, What do you mean? Claire sits up and she’s wringing her hands as she tries to piece together her thoughts into coherent statements. She said, For so long, I’ve been focused on the idea that love makes everything better.

[00:25:46] But yesterday in Group, they told me that being hit for making mistakes is wrong. But that’s all I’ve ever known. So how can my normal not be normal if it is? What if it’s what it’s always been? Isn’t that normal? And how can that be wrong? And she said, I have no idea if I’m making sense. But Dr. Mulligan nods and I think you can see where we’re going here. What if you’re normal? What if you were never modeled? What a healthy relationship look like? And this is what I’ve been talking about so much lately. This aha moment that has dawned upon me that even as I talk about these four pillars and as I talk about how a relationship needs to be interdependent and autonomous, and you’re the only version of you. And why on earth would someone tell you how you’re supposed to think, feel, behave, act? Because what gives them that right? Because they only know what their experience is. And here you are showing up and have to worry that you can’t express yourself. Or what if your experience is wrong? Or what if the things you want to do are bad? Or that’s how you’re viewing it. And if that’s the way you’ve always grown up, then are you even hearing when people around you are saying, Oh, I wouldn’t put up with that? Or Of course I’m going to go where I want to go or do what I want to do.

[00:26:51] I’m an adult, I’m a human being, but that doesn’t even necessarily register. And that’s kind of what this character is going through in this book. So Dr. Mulligan nods. She says, There are a lot of things in your past that many people would not consider normal. Clara. She says. I spoke with Heather a bit and she said that she told you how to identify whether things are healthy or unhealthy, whether they’re considered normal or not. Clara says, Yeah, I remember her saying something about that, and I even think that line alone, I can pull so much depth from that is that as I’m sharing with someone, Hey, here’s what no one deserves to be hit. No one deserves to be emotionally abused, physically abused, the withholding of finances using sex as a weapon. And I feel like basically are people that are hearing me, they’re they’re taking on this vibe that Claire says here. Yeah, I remember you said something about that where I’m sitting here saying, no, that that is not okay. That is not an adult relationship. You can have love or control, not both. So then Dr. Mulligan says, So tell me when Glen hit you, did that make you feel better or worse? And Clara says, I make a face. What kind of question is that? Well, it didn’t feel good, but it was for my own good. And then Dr. Mulligan says, Well, explain that to me.

[00:27:59] And Claire said, It happened mostly when I was being nosey or questioning Glen. That was her husband. Can you give me an example? Dr. Mulligan’s face remains neutral, though this is the most I’ve talked in any of our sessions about my relationship with Glen, Clare says. Like when I asked him how long he would be gone on a business trip, I was upset that he would be gone over our anniversary and reminded me that the job comes first. So I got a little hysterical and he had to hit me to help calm me down. Dr. Mulligan’s lips tighten. So when you expressed emotion, he didn’t like he would hit you. And she said, Yeah, I guess. And then Dr. Mulligan said, Did it work? And she said, Well, I definitely thought more about what I said to him. He had a look that he could give me where I knew I was in trouble, and if I could stop myself, I could make him happy and save myself some bruises. And Dr. Mulligan said, So your husband taught you through hitting and intimidation that you were not allowed to express yourself to him. And then Claire said, when she says it that way, it sounds terrible. I don’t respond. Glen would not like the direction my thoughts are going, but for the first time I start to question him. Why did Glenn not want me to think for myself? He always said I was smart and I had good ideas, but if I shared them out of turn, I was punished.

[00:29:01] If I looked at him wrong, I could be punished. Sometimes he would just be angry, she whispered, and it would make him feel better to have sex. But it was always rough. Then he would buy me presents. And then this character, Claire, talks about someone. And I think the prisoner that she had talked to, one of the helpers, one of the people assigned to the case. Connor. She said. Connor said yesterday he doesn’t like to buy his girlfriend presents after they fight, but he never gave her bruises either. Doctor Mulligan said, How did you feel when Connor told you that? And Claire says, Confused. And Dr. Mulligan says, Why? And Claire said, I always felt spoiled when Glen would give me presents, especially when I deserve to be hit, or when I had absorbed his sadness. Dr. Mulligan said, absorbed his sadness. And then Claire says, Glen puts on a good face. But I saw the real Glen. The Glen who was angry and sad and tortured by the thought of never living up to his father’s expectations. When we would have sex, when he was in one of those moods, I felt like I could take that from him. And it always showed up in bruises. But it was okay because he always seemed lighter after she drew her knees to her chest, holding them tight, holding herself together.

[00:30:02] Dr. Mulligan’s eyes look sad and my fears are confirmed. I’m not normal. She said. My beautiful relationship with Glen is not right. And then she goes on to to tap out of that session at that time. So I hope you can see why I wanted to read from this book. And it’s not about narcissism per say, but I really felt like it so beautifully laid out what is normal. And when people are asking me, but is this normal? Is that normal? But there are times where he’s good, he’ll buy me presents, or I know that I can get out of an uncomfortable situation if we have sex. And, and that is the norm. So when someone’s trying to say, no, that’s not okay, you don’t deserve to be going through that. I’ve got a situation right now where it is the woman who’s the narcissist and is withholding the children and finances and things to a very kind person, a very kind husband. And that is just it’s not normal and it’s not okay. It’s not fair. And that can just be so frustrating. And I know that can I know that can be I want to take the rest of the episode and just go a little bit off the cuff and answer some questions. One of the questions that I get asked often is How long does this process take? How long does waking up to narcissism take? And I am going to sound so clichéd, but it truly does take as long as it’s going to take.

[00:31:20] And I want to talk about that. And I’m going to I’m going to start with a different concept, and I’m going to come back around and see if we can make sense. I also run a men’s group. It’s called The Path Back, and it’s for people that are trying to turn away from pornography as a coping mechanism. And in that world, I often talk about their reasons why people turn to coping mechanisms, whether it’s pornography, phones, gambling, food, anything that you turn to as a coping mechanism. I believe I’ve got these five voids that I’ve identified. It’s when somebody doesn’t feel connected in their marriage, they don’t feel connected in their parenting and their faith, in their career or in their health. And that’s a big part of even why I do the type of therapy I do now is I started working in that world of people that struggle with impulse control or compulsive sexual behavior, turning to pornography as a coping mechanism. And so then I found that if I could help the person work on those areas, that then the desire to turn to an unhealthy coping mechanism would lessen people so often are so focused on the I’m just somebody constantly thinking about pornography. They’re constantly thinking about why they shouldn’t want to look at it, why they should want to do more things instead of really saying, okay, I’m going to just I’m going to make room for the fact that I that they want to look at pornography and now they’re going to work on their marriage, on their career, on their health, on their faith, on their parenting.

[00:32:36] And the more that they find a real sense of purpose or sense of self in those areas, then they will find less of a need to turn to the unhealthy coping mechanism. So on this Path Back group, a few nights ago I was asked this same question How long does it take for someone to over the addiction or overcome wanting to turn to this unhealthy coping mechanism? And and what I laid out was that I really feel like we’re asking the wrong question. When somebody wants to know how long is it going to take to wake up to narcissism or to move through this process? That in reality, that’s a great question. And we’re going to we’re going to note that we’re going to put a little pin in it, because what in reality, the best thing one can do is really just start to become start to be start to be a better version of yourself, start to raise your emotional baseline, start to look at self care, and there is going to be a there start to absorb a lot of data because as you start to become let’s just take that one better in your relationship.

[00:33:28] Let’s say you hit this marriage workshop I’m doing or you go to couples counseling. Now, when you’re working with an emotionally immature or a narcissistic traded person, then we’ve already identified on a few different episodes that what are they going to do? They’re probably going to push back a little bit more as you become differentiated or untangled or. Meshed as you start to say, this is how I feel, that’s going to cause some pushback. That’s an area to start to work on. If you start to say, You know what? I don’t like the way that we parent the kids, and I really feel like we need to be more we need to have more of a structure. This is where I wouldn’t found the nurtured hard parenting approach. But if you are starting to express that you don’t like the inconsistency of parenting, even in particular with your narcissistic spouse, and you start to state your opinion that that’s going to probably cause some pushback or if you’ve struggled with your faith. I do a lot with helping people navigate their faith journeys, and there’s episodes over on the virtual couch where I’ve done a lot with that, using this Fowler’s James Fallows Stages of Faith. It’s phenomenal. But if you’re starting to work on will that then and you may get pushback from your spouse, or if you’re starting to work on your health, if you’re starting to really do things that you know will help you become a better person, then that those are the things to work on.

[00:34:40] So we can ask how long is it going to take? But in reality, what does that really mean? I’m not trying to say that in a negative way, but how long is it going to take? I don’t know. But if I because if I say a time frame, let’s say it’s going to take two years, then that can either feel completely overwhelming. That’s such a long time away. Or if somebody gets the two year mark and it isn’t done, whatever it means to be done, then they get to say, What’s wrong with me? Why couldn’t I finish in the two years that I heard was prescribed to work through this whole process? So instead it’s yeah, I’m not sure it’s going to take as long as it’s going to take, but I can definitely tell you how to get through the process faster. And that’s why I said earlier, what does get through the process mean it? Because as you start to become the better version of yourself and it does cause that differentiation in the marriage that that might be that time now where there is going to be a shift in the dynamic. And then we learn was this just emotional immaturity on the behalf of you or your spouse? And so now we’re ready to find the tools to finally both show up in a more mature, healthy way.

[00:35:38] Or is this where now, because you have started to find yourself, differentiate, become the best version of you. Now, do you notice or do you feel like it isn’t possible to have any type of a connection? Because that that that emotional immaturity is so big in my spouse and the gaslighting has become even worse. And all of the patterns that I’m hearing about in the podcast, you know, it feels like Tony’s follow me on my day on a day to day basis. So if that’s happening, then you are in a better place. And so then now we can take a look at the time frame so and see, oh, how long has it taken to get here? So the question isn’t give me milestones and time frames so that I can get through this faster. It’s that’s the wrong question to ask. It’s time for you to start becoming and being and doing so that it raises your baseline up to put you in a spot so you can absolutely get your PhD in gaslighting, get out of those unproductive conversations, set the healthy boundaries, recognize that there’s nothing that you can do or say that will cause the aha moment, that a ha moment has to come from them. But it’s time to, to not put that on yourself, to make them understand or do whatever you can to get them to change.

[00:36:48] It’s time for you to change. And if we’re going to find a healthy, emotionally mature relationship, then that’s going to be somebody who is going to absolutely support you and adore and just thrive because of you are finding yourself. And we’ve always wanted you to find I want nothing more than my wife to be the best version of herself she can be because she’s a fantastic, amazing mother. And this will only make her a better mom to truly find herself. And I want to be a part of that journey. But from a man, let’s have these shared experiences. What is this like for you? Because I’ll tell you what it’s like for me. On that note, we’re going through so much right now with the daughters. We find out more about the recovery process. It’s going to be long where a matter of fact kind of saying this little bit impulsively. But we’re putting together a GoFundMe campaign that I’ll probably make people aware of in the next few weeks, week or two, because there’s just been a lot of challenges that we didn’t anticipate. But it’s been a situation where we have grown stronger even through this trauma, even through this really difficult time. And we’ve absolutely had different opinions and thoughts on a variety of things that we’ve been dealing with. But that’s emotional maturity, that’s a healthy relationship, and that’s when we truly are there to edify each other, even if we have different viewpoints or different experiences.

[00:38:02] I think that’s where we’re going to leave things today and that email today. I hope that that maybe if that resonated with you, that that’s going to be your story as well as you start to make changes, as you start to feel a little bit more heard and understood. And I read from the book The Girl Before because I just I feel like today the theme of today is just to know that there there is a bit of a normal and that might be difficult to access, especially if you haven’t seen that. And as you start to wake up to narcissism again, whether it’s your own or with the people in your life or that are in your work situation and your family dynamic that I want you to start to look at, what is more normal? What does a healthy relationship look like? And because I believe. As part of your own emotional maturation process. It’s going to be to look at other situations with curiosity and not to look and think, Man, my situation is so bad or I must have done something wrong. You were just doing. You were just being. And so here comes acceptance. And you’re here right now. And now it’s time to continue to move down this path of awakening. And the more that you’re going to do that, I probably get some pushback. But that means you’re doing if you have questions, comments, anything else you want to share, if you have a story you’d love to have shared on the podcast as well, I think you can see how powerful that is or if you’re interested in being a part of the women’s group, private women’s group for people and for women and relationships with the narcissist.

[00:39:27] And I’ve gotten getting a little more men that are saying, that’s me. I think I do have those traits, those tendencies, that emotional immaturity. Feel free to reach out where we’re getting enough together that we might be able to put them in group together soon. And if you’re a therapist, I just had a couple more people this week tell me that their therapist pointed them to the podcast. If you’re a therapist, you listen. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And I have received a few emails from therapists that are saying that they’re interested in and just being on some sort of a database or maybe even just collaborating that they can collaborate with myself. It doesn’t mean that I have to put you on some national database unless you want to be. But if you work with this population, if you have ideas, if you want to come on the show and talk about your area of expertize as well, I would love to have you. So thank you so much for taking the time and have an amazing weekend. We’ll see you next time.

[00:40:13] We keep the nurses.

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