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Understanding Today's Narcissist

Understanding Today's Narcissist is a podcast dedicated to separating fact from fiction when it comes to dealing with a narcissist in your life. Your host is Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC, a licensed psychotherapist, speaker and author. For more information, visit www.growwithchristine.com Looking for help with dealing with the narcissist in your life? Visit http://growwithchristine.com/narcissism/ to sign up for online support!
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Now displaying: May, 2019
May 9, 2019

Ida realized her mother was a narcissist in her early 20’s. But what she didn’t expect was the developmental impact on her childhood. Normally, a child is given the freedom to explore and express their individuality so they can develop into a confident and well-balanced adult. This nurturing environment prioritizes the needs of the child over the parent without overindulgence. But this did not happen for Ida.

Instead, Ida is hypersensitive to what other people might think about her. Her mother emphasized appearance and demanded perfection. When Ida would gain a few pounds, her mother would berate her and tell her that no one will ever love a fat person. She would say that Ida was an embarrassment and her mom would refuse to buy her new clothes or take her out until she lost the weight.

Naturally, Ida developed severe anxiety, depression, and eating disorder. As she entered her late teens, she added drinking and some drugs to the mix. Unable to please her mother, Ida chose to please her friends who were also engaged in an unhealthy lifestyle.

Ida was unaware of her dysfunctional narcissistic parent as a child. It wasn’t until rehab that she fully accepted her mother’s false perception of reality. Even though her mother insisted on the rehab, she became angry during parent’s weekend. Ida’s now healthy perspective became threatening to her mother because it exposed the poor narcissistic parenting.

As a result, her mother completely withdrew complaining that the rehab ruined her. But for Ida, this is just the start. Without her mother’s voice in her ear, the years of narcissistic parenting revealed far more devastating consequences. Using the symptoms of a narcissist as the starting point, here are the results of dysfunctional parenting and the road to recovery:

  1. Grandiosity breeds criticalness. Ida’s mom magnifies her accomplishments to the point that Ida believed she was super-human. Ida desperately tried to live up to the image of her mother. However, when she came close, her mother rose the bar again to keep it just out of reach. Ida then became overly critical of her actions, believing she needed to be perfect.
    1. Recovery: Ida accepted her imperfections and embraced them as a normal part of herself. Instead of trying to please others, she decided to please herself.
  2. Idealism breeds despair. Ida’s mom created her own fantasy world where she was all-powerful, brilliant, and beautiful. Ida was expected to be physical extensions of her mom. When Ida achieved a reward, it is as if her mother got it instead. Since no success was solely at the hands of Ida, she lost hope that her accomplishments matter. This generated feelings of despair and despondency.
    1. Recovery: Ida made a list of her accomplishments and unique talents. Whenever she would feel down, she reviewed the list to gain perspective.
  3. Superiority breeds inferiority. For Ida’s mother, being average was as bad as below average. Since narcissists believe they are superior and can only associate with other superior people, their children by extension must also be exceptional. This pressure was overwhelming to Ida who realized she was not extraordinary in everything she did. As a result, this unrealistic expectation set by her mother generated feelings of inferior. “I can never be good enough,” was a common thought.
    1. Recovery: Ida started saying, “I am enough” to counteract the negative thinking and empower her.
  4. Attention-seeking breeds anxiety. Her mom needed a daily feeding of attention, affection, affirmation or admiration. When Ida was small, she learned that the quickest way to get her needs met is to fill these needs of her mom first. This is behavioral conditioning at its finest. However, Ida’s anxiety manifested as she constantly tried to anticipate and meet the needs of her mom to prevent an emotion explosion or backlash.
    1. Recovery: The more Ida was away from her mother, the more her anxiety diminished and she was able to enjoy relief the pressure of anxiety.
  5. Entitlement breeds shame. By nature of being a parent, Ida’s mom expected her to go along with whatever she wanted. The wants or desires of Ida was constantly overshadowed or belittled by her mom. This generated feelings of shame in Ida as she began to invalidate her own likes and dislikes in favor of her mom. Consequently, Ida became a shell believing her uniqueness and individuality was shameful.
    1. Recovery: Ida made a list of what she liked. Taking clues from the musical lyric, “These are a few of my favorite things,” Ida made her own list of favorite items.
  6. Selfishness breeds mistrust. In the pursuit of self-preservation, Ida’s mother justified taking advantage of others, including Ida. Ida’s childish behaviors were met with swift and severe punishment despite her mother’s consistent modeling of the same behavior. The narcissist abuses their parental role by diverting attention from their selfishness and instead highlights the deficiencies of their child. This propagated mistrust in Ida as she ascertained her mother to be an unsafe and untrustworthy person.
    1. Recovery: Instead of trusting her mother, Ida focused on other healthy relationships in her life establishing a trust bond. A life-long friend was the perfect replacement.
  7. Indifference breeds over responsibility. Even when Ida was excitedly talking about a new adventure, her mother would tune Ida out or divert the conversation to make it about her. Worse yet, when Ida was in pain, either emotional or physical, there was no empathy or understanding. Sadly, Ida didn’t see this as her mother’s problem, rather she assumed the responsibility that somehow, she was in the wrong. The result was an internal nagging of needing to take responsibility for the flaws or faults of others.
    1. Recovery: Ida stopped taking responsibility for other people’s actions and allowed them to make mistakes. She realized that she is only responsible for herself.
  8. Materialism breeds dissatisfaction. Narcissists use material possessions as a way of elevating themselves over others and controlling behavior. Ida’s mom used gifting as a way of demanding performance from Ida. If Ida did what was expected, she got elaborate and expensive gifts. But if Ida did not live up to expectations, she did not get a gift at all, including for birthdays or holidays. The use of material objects in this manner steels the joy of the item as Ida was in constant fear that the gift will be revoked for lack of performance.
    1. Recovery: Ida decided that she didn’t want to be so materialistic, so she became minimalistic instead. This allowed her not to feel the pressure of having stuff.
  9. Arrogance breeds inauthenticity. While Ida’s mom put on a show of snootiness to everyone outside of the home, those inside, especially Ida, saw the deep-rooted insecurity that lied beneath the façade. However, if Ida dared to expose the insecurity, she was swiftly gaslighted and made to look crazy. This taught Ida never to reveal her own uncertainties resulting in a lack of genuineness.
    1. Recovery: Ida embraces her faults and instead of hiding them, exposed them in a humous manner. This gave her a feeling of control.

Fortunately, these childhood patterns can be reversed through an understanding of narcissism, awareness of false truths, and more accurate perception of reality. Counseling is extremely beneficial in exposing and eradicating the lies of narcissistic parenting.

For more information, visit growwithchristine.com

May 8, 2019

Looking back, Jack could see that his relationship with Amanda was over several months ago, perhaps even years. But he was in denial and didn’t want to confront the painful issues that were left unresolved. What was once overlooked, minimized, explained away, or discounted is now an obvious sign of his deteriorating relationship.

At first, she seemed so charming, helpful, generous, innocent, and gentle but then things turned, and an entirely different picture became apparent. Charming converted into controlling, helpful developed into obstructive, generous transformed into manipulative, innocent turned into culpable, and gentle grew into turbulent. He was exhausted and worn out but stayed.

Then hopeful turned to hopeless and he was no longer able to continue in the relationship. The signs that the relationship was toxic are now clearer once Jack left. But how can he prevent this from happening in the future? Here are the 11 signs he missed.

  1. Transfers risk. Amanda asked Jack to assume her risk over a potentially sticky matter. Her job required random drug tests and since she used the prior weekend, she asked Jack to lie about her taking a prescription drug. She was afraid she was going to lose her job and asked him to cover for her. Of course, he could lose his government job for lying about this. But that didn’t matter to Amanda. She demanded that he help using everything from crying, to manipulate, to anger, and finally bribery.
  2. Constant victimization. Amanda told stories of past relationships where she was painted as the victim and her ex’s as the villain. Her constant influx of terrible people was used as a justification for not thriving. At first, Jack believed everything Amanda said. But after a while, Amanda’s ability to cut people out of their lives and continue her victimization wore on him.
  3. Inappropriate anger. Anger is a base emotion and a catch-all for other more intense feelings such as loneliness, fear, guilt, or controlling tendencies. It can come out in inappropriate ways such as aggression (bullying), suppression (silent treatment) or passive-aggressive (biting sarcasm). Amanda’s outbursts were intense, inappropriate, and designed to force Jack into submission. Jack, who hated conflict, would regularly fold just to keep the peace.
  4. Abusive tactics. Several abusive methods surfaced such as twisting the truth, gaslighting, verbal assaults, physical aggression, or guilt-tripping. These are all unhealthy indicators. Amanda would escalate given the right time, motivation, and environment. Any indicator of abuse is a bad sign. Jack was unaware of the abuse signals. His instincts told him something was off, but his logical brain dismissed the feeling and looked no further.
  5. Gossip talks. Amanda shared secrets with Jack about other people despite a clear breach of confidentiality. Unfortunately, how Amanda spoke about others was an indicator of how she would speak about Jack. Jack never dreamed that Amanda would spill his long-kept secret about some childhood abuse, but she did. When he confronted her, she justified her actions saying that he was being too sensitive.
  6. One-way communication. Jack did most of the work maintaining the relationship. Amanda did not reach out as often as Jack did. Whereas, conversations seem to be weighted in Amanda’s direction. Amanda wanted help with her issues but then wasn’t present for Jack. This lopsidedness bothered Jack, but he did little to confront it.
  7. No responsibility. When there was a problem, Amanda refused to apologize and instead blamed things on Jack. Even when she was wrong, Amanda found ways to highlight Jack’s faults to avoid her own responsibility. She also had a lack of empathy for causing harm to Jack but expected empathy from him.
  8. Controlling tendencies. Amanda told Jack what to do and how to do it. Even when Jack followed her lead, she would still find the slightest fault with what he did. Then, Amanda would become angry when things weren’t done the way she insisted. There was little to no understanding of Jack’s differences in temperament, personality or circumstances.
  9. Absolute agreement. There was no allowance for differing opinions for Amanda. Jack had to agree with her 100% of the time even on sensitive topics such as religion or politics. Any deviation was a personal betrayal and could cause Amanda to escalate. Over time, Jack gave up his opinions in favor of hers just to avoid the tension.
  10. Dichotomous expressions. There were only two choices Amanda would give to Jack and both selections tended to be exaggerated extremes. Her choices were presented in black or white versions. There was a right way (usually Amanda’s) and a wrong way. Even when Jack would propose another alternative, Amanda would knock it down.
  11. Addictive behaviors. In the beginning, Amanda appeared to have it all together. But as the relationship continued, her abuse of substances became more apparent. When Jack would address her with his concerns, she would explode. Eventually, he learned not to speak about it.

If all 11 examples are present in a relationship, it is time to leave. Jack did this and he did not regret his decision. This is potentially an unsafe environment where the longer Jack remained, the worse things would become. However, if there are only a couple of items, be mindful watching for any other additions so an early exit might be possible before things worsen.

For more information, visit growwithchristine.com

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