Narcissist’s Mixed Messages

Psych Central Article Here

The irony is that narcissists are consistently inconsistent.

If you are in love with someone who sends you constant mixed messages, it can be emotionally damaging to you personally, even causing you to lose your sense of self.  The constant sending of mixed messages causes you to lose trust with your own reality and intuition. You start walking on eggshells because you want to prevent the constant shifts from occurring, not completely realizing the power is 100 percent outside of yourself.

Other terms for this type of experience are “ambivalence,” “gas lighting,” and “mind f%$#ery.”

Mixed messages can come in the following forms:

  • False promises or statements; examples would be telling you they’ll take you somewhere or buy you something in the future, and then it never happens.
  • Doing something mean to you and then acting as if it didn’t just happen and if you try to bring it up, they’ll say something like, “Quit living in the past,” or, “Why are you always so negative?”
  • Taking you out on a fabulous date Friday night and then giving you the silent treatment on Saturday.
  • Promising you your heart’s desires and then withdrawing the promisesblaming you for the change, making statements such as, “You shouldn’t have done ‘such and such,’” or, “I didn’t realize you were so…” or, “You should have thought of that before you did ‘x, y, or z.’”
  • Lying. Emotional abusers seem to be chronic liars. If you try to hold them accountable, they simply deny saying whatever it was you know you heard them say.
  • Using the “Bait and Switch” approach. They act like one person and then become another. You keep wondering, “Where did he/she go?  I know he/she’s in there somewhere.”
  • They don’t “walk the talk.” You hear a lot of words coming out of the abuser’s mouth, but you don’t see any concrete results. It’s always easy to talk about anything; much harder to actually do something meaningful. Narcissists are master false promisers.
  • Having double standards. Here’s a perfect example. A narcissist will lecture you about how you’re dressed – even though you look terrific and are in great shape – while he/she’s 50 pounds overweight and does nothing to take care of his/her appearance.

 

The truth is, emotional abuse is very destructive.  It is particularly destructive because it “falls under the radar.” Others don’t see it, or get it, and oftentimes, neither does the victim. If you are subjected to emotional abuse in the form of mixed messages you most likely don’t even realize you are being abused.

If you are the victim of this experience, then you will experience the following symptoms:

  • Confusion. You will find yourself continually wondering – What happened? Where is he/she? What went wrong? What did I do? How can I fix this? And you look to the abuser for the answers. Yes, he/she will give you answers, but only ones that hurt and confuse you further.
  • Extrinsic Focus. You spend countless hours focusing on the other person – his/her thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In the process, you aren’t checking in on your own internal voice, feelings, and intuition. You begin measuring your life based on the other person’s actions. Since the other person has a fragmented personality you will never find the stability you need by focusing in that direction.
  • Loss of Self. Because the other person never validates your reality, you stop validating it yourself. You begin to doubt your own experience, and finally lose your sense of reality altogether.

What do you do about it?

If you are subject to this type of problem then you need to do something to rescue yourself. First and foremost is to stop listening to the other person and start listening to your own inner voice. It is important for you to learn how to change the communication patterns you have been conditioned to.

Over time, while in a relationship with an emotional abuser, you have fallen in to a way of relating that is not healthy. In order to survive you have been taught and have taught yourself to turn off your own voice, listening only to the voice of the other person. Make your voice the compass, not the other person’s.

As you start listening to yourself instead of the other person, you will most likely face resistance from him/her. Don’t let this trouble you. Realize this – you haven’t been able to please this person anyway so you might as well stop trying. This is step three – stop walking on eggshells. Simply walk. Just be yourself. Say what you want to say and do what you want to do. As the other person loses control over you, he/she will be angry. He/she will “up the ante” and start doing retaliatory behaviors.  After all, you have dared to rebel!

Once you listen to yourself instead of the other person and stop walking on eggshells, realize you have declared war. I know it seems ridiculous that these two simple acts are hostile – because they really aren’t – but the narcissist will feel and believe that these acts are hostile on your behalf. He/she will panic because of his/her loss of control over you. This is detrimental to his/her side of the relationship.

In order to survive this war declaration, you must be at a place where you are no longer dependent on the other person for anything – emotional, financial, or physical. The narcissist will retaliate by taking away anything that you value, especially him/herself. As he/she loses grips on you, he/she will frantically search for a new victim. You will probably experience the silent treatment and “ghosting,” followed by a discard. You will be discarded. Mark my words. The narcissist sees no other alternative.

Yes, it is crazy. Yes, it makes no common sense to the average person who simply wants a loving relationship that is mutually satisfying. Afterall, you have no need to control other people in order to survive. But the best thing you can do for your recovery from this insanity is to rescue yourself. Take care of yourself. Walk away. This is the last step.

Walking away is hard, but what else can you do? Do you want to spend the rest of your life subjected to warfare just because you want to express your autonomy?  Is there any value in any relationship where you can’t be who you are?

Even if you don’t physically walk away from the relationship entirely; say you are married to this person or it is a parent and you are still tied to the person structurally, then you are still stuck with a discard situation. Don’t lie to yourself.  In this case, you will have to mentally detach from the relationship if you want to be yourself. You will have to live a life without having any needs met by the other person because he/she is incapable of meeting them. especially on your terms.

 

To receive my free newsletter on the psychology of abuse, please contact me at: http://www.drshariestines.com.

These 7 Traits Make You Vulnerable to Narcissistic Manipulation

Author Article Here

Some people find themselves in a relationship with a narcissist, claw their way out, and do their best to write-off or avoid other narcissists for the rest of their lives.

Others are simply magnets for narcissists.

They ditch one romantic relationship with a narcissist – only to find themselves in a new abusive situation just months later. Or perhaps they continue to put up with narcissistic abuse from coworkers or family members.

If the latter hits close to home, you aren’t alone.

You’ve probably asked yourself, “is there something wrong with me that makes me vulnerable to narcissistic abuse and exploitation?”

The answer is both “Yes” and “No”.

There is nothing wrong with you – far from it – but there’s a chance you have certain qualities that make you very attractive to narcissists, like moths to a flame or leeches to a host.

In fact, these are probably some of your best qualities. Abusers know this and that’s why they use narcissistic manipulation tactics to exploit you and use your good nature for their own gain.

Narcissists and Empathy

It’s a common misconception that narcissists lack empathy.

Empathy simply means having the ability to understand another person’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Empathy can absolutely exist without other characteristics like compassion – this is called cognitive empathy.

Torturers use cognitive empathy to get inside their victims’ heads and cause unspeakable pain.

Narcissists don’t lack empathy – they lack compassion, remorse, and humanity.

Using cognitive empathy, the abuser is able to seek out and target individuals with highly compassionate, loving, and caring empathetic traits. This is why the narcissist finds it so easy to exploit and manipulate your empathetic traits, found below.

7 Empathic Traits That Make You Vulnerable to Narcissistic Manipulation

Narcissists are attracted to people with specific qualities. These qualities give the abuser a foot in the door to carry out their narcissistic manipulation tactics and suck the life force from their victims.

Other people might not put up with narcissistic abuse past a very early point. But people with empathic traits are different: they have a desire to help, heal, and fix people.

They believe people deserve unconditional love – even narcissists.

With these traits, you might as well be wearing a red bullseye for narcissists! But, you don’t have to put up with it, and you CAN change how you react to narcissistic abuse. Identifying what draws narcissists to your personality is the first step.

1.     You’re Trusting and Have Integrity

Some people believe that trust must be earned upon meeting someone. After all, how can you trust someone you’ve just met?

For you, trust doesn’t have to be earned from the get-go: you naturally trust people to treat you with respect and do the right thing.

Why? Because you have integrity yourself and you’re a trustworthy person. You expect that people are worthy of your trust until they’ve broken it.

Narcissists know that you’re naturally trusting, and they use this to their advantage to carry out their narcissistic manipulation tactics against you. They know they can get away with lies on top of lies because they know you really want to trust them.

2.     You Value Equality and Treat Others with Respect

You believe that relationships are a 50/50 experience and you treat others the way you’d like to be treated.

When you first met the narcissist, they probably obliged your need for basic equality and dignity. But brick by brick, their charade started to crumble. Until one day, you find yourself apologizing because you had the nerve to let the narcissist know they hurt your feelings.

The narcissist used their cognitive empathy to get into your head and exploit your compassionate empathy.

3.     You Refuse to Give Up

To narcissists, people with compassionate empathy are like a drug. Every time they beat you down and carry out their narcissistic manipulation tactics to exploit you, they get their fragile ego fix – and no one abusing drugs wants their supply to run out.

The narcissist knows you’ll never give up (or so they think) because it’s in your nature to see things through until the end. That’s why they cling to you and won’t let go. That’s why they seemingly “love you” and abuse you at the same time.

4.     You Love Unconditionally

This is perhaps one of the most bittersweet traits that makes you a magnet for narcissists. They know that when you love someone, you love them unconditionally.

This can apply to all types of relationships including romantic partners, friends, and family members. You believe that everyone is deserving of unconditional love.

The narcissist understands this about you and fully exploits it. In between fights and abusive slurs, you may find the narcissist will briefly apologize, shower you with praise, and promise to change. This is all a façade to make you believe that they too love you unconditionally – and they use it to keep you hooked until the next outburst.

5.     You’re Honest and Compassionate

To the narcissist, honesty and compassion aren’t traits one should brag about. These traits are weaknesses that should be hidden.

Why? Because someone could exploit these vulnerable traits – and that’s exactly what narcissists do.

In the beginning, the narcissist will pretend to appreciate your honesty and compassion. However, slowly but surely, they will use these traits against you.

Did you tell the narcissist your worst fears? Things that make you sad or mad? Trauma from your past?

The narcissist will freely dig all of that up every time they need to carry out narcissistic manipulation tactics and exploit your genuine (and very valid) emotions. Narcissists don’t hate your honesty – they love to exploit it every chance they get.

6.     Your Desire to Heal Others and Fix People

You believe that if everyone had a loving environment in which to thrive, and the right opportunities, they could turn themselves around.

The narcissist knows that you have a burning desire to truly heal them, so they cling to you for dear life. They know that you’ll never turn down their fights and you’ll always react emotionally to their abuse. This is how the narcissist manipulates you for their own gain.

It’s hard, if not impossible, to fix anyone who doesn’t want to be fixed – let alone a narcissist.

No matter how many times they tell you they want and intend to change their ways, this is just a lie to give you hope that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

7.     You Have Trouble Setting Boundaries

As someone who loves unconditionally, is automatically trusting, and has a strong desire to fix people, it only makes sense that you have trouble setting boundaries.

This is perhaps one of the first traits narcissists identify when they search for a new victim because it’s one of the easiest to spot. People who are good at setting boundaries are very vocal about their boundaries upon meeting someone and narcissists can easily sniff this out.

Narcissists are drawn to empathic people who have trouble setting boundaries because they know you’ll put up with their narcissistic manipulation and abuse as long as they can dish it out.

And by the time you decide to draw any kind of boundary – it’s far too late. The narcissist will simply laugh in your face, gaslight you, and tear it down.

Narcissistic Manipulation Tactics – 5 Red Flags to Watch Out For

If you think you’re being manipulated by a narcissist, look out for these key narcissistic manipulation tactics; they’re dead giveaways:

  • Gaslighting -The narcissist rewrites your experience and says you’re remembering their behavior wrong.
  • Perpetual Victim – The narcissist is always the victim, even when you bring up an instance when they’ve harmed you.
  • Degrading Your Worth -The narcissist will never support anything you do unless it benefits them. They’ll remind you that you’re worthless and will fail at everything
  • Controlling -The narcissist will get upset if you go anywhere or do anything, even going to the grocery store, without running it by them first.
  • Deflecting – The narcissist can never do anything wrong. They will always deflect blame back to you or someone in their immediate vicinity.

What Should You Do If You’re Being Manipulated by a Narcissist?

If the points above ring true, you’re likely in a relationship with a narcissist. This abuser could come in the form of a romantic partner, mother, father, friend, or coworker.

If you’re being manipulated by a narcissist, the only way to end the abuse is to go No Contact. If you don’t cut the narcissist out for good, they will continue with their narcissistic manipulation tactics to bleed your empathy dry until you’re nothing but a shell of the person you once were.

Narcissism is a personality disorder and it’s important to understand that you cannot fix or change anyone. You can only control and change your own actions – and ultimately your own life.

How Gaslighting Affects Your Mental Health

Author Article

Once in a while, it’s normal to have a fleeting moment where you question your own sanity, like when you’re severely sleep deprived or stressed out. But if a relationship leaves you constantly second-guessing your own instincts and feelings, you may be a victim of a sophisticated form of emotional abuse: gaslighting. Like other types of abuse, gaslighting can happen in all sorts of relationships, including personal, romantic, and professional.

Ben Michaelis, PhD, a New York City-based clinical psychologist, has worked with victims of gaslighting. For one of his patients—we’ll call her Marie—the gaslighting began when her husband shouted another woman’s name during sex. When she tried to discuss the incident with him, he flatly denied what he’d said and told Marie she was hearing things. Marie figured she must have had too much to drink. But then the lying continued: Marie’s husband would change his alibi constantly, and when Marie questioned him, he’d say she was acting delusional. It wasn’t until almost a year later when Marie realized her husband had been hiding an affair the whole time.

“[Gaslighting] is like someone saying the sky is green over and over again, and at first you’ll be like ‘no, no,’” says Gail Saltz, MD a psychiatrist and host of the podcast The Power of Different. “Then over time the person starts to manipulate you into saying ‘I guess I can’t really see what color the sky is.’ It’s just this sense of unreality.”

RELATED: Take a Deep Breath: Inhaling the Right Way May Improve Your Memory

Acknowledging you’re a victim of gaslighting like Marie did can be tricky at first, says Michaelis, who is the author of Your Next Big Thing: 10 Small Steps to Get Moving and Get Happy. “Initially, if someone is insisting on a reality that is different from your own, you’ll think, Why was I off that day? Was I tired?” As the gaslighting continues, victims begin to question themselves and their judgment more and more. Michaelis says this can go on for months or even years before they realize they’re being gaslighted. “People who experience gaslighting may show obsessive-compulsive symptoms because they want to constantly check themselves and recheck themselves,” says Dr. Michaelis. The confidence-depleting nature of gaslighting could contribute to increased anxiety in many or all aspects of a victim’s life, not only in the relationship. Many gaslighting victims berate themselves or feel the need to apologize all the time, explains Dr. Saltz.

Gaslighting can manifest in a workplace environment as well. “Your boss may use gaslighting to hide a mistake or cover up information they didn’t mean to share,” says Michaelis. “It can also be a passive-aggressive gesture used among peers who are competing.”

If you realize you’re being gaslighted, the first thing you need to recognize is that a gaslighter may not be conscious of the effects of their actions, especially if they have issues with being wrong or out of control. In this case, confronting the gaslighter could work. Michaelis suggests conducting all conversations you have with the gaslighter in a recorded format, like through email or text. Then, when gaslighting occurs, tell the person what they originally said. “If they continue do deny what they said, you can supply the recorded evidence so they have a concrete understanding of what happened,” says Michaelis. This method works best when confronting a friend or partner.

RELATED: How To Stop Feeling Guilty About Everything

In professional relationships, Michaelis suggests reaching out to a third party, like human resources, which can make the confrontation more objective. You can take this route in your personal relationships as well by enlisting a friend or family member to help. “If you find it happening to you, be thoughtful of the person’s motivations,” Michaelis says. “They don’t usually do it out of pure ill-will. It usually correlates with trying to cover something up, so first try to repair the relationship if it’s worth it.”

If confrontation fails and ending the relationship is an option, Dr. Saltz recommends doing so. Michaelis agrees: “All relationships are changeable. Maybe not immediately, but they are changeable or severable if need be,” he says.

If you have to stick it out with a gaslighter, though, try to boost your confidence with the support of good friends. “If you’re having a hard time changing the situation, they can bolster your reality otherwise,” says Michaelis. In a work environment, you should also be wary of what information you share with a gaslighter. Michaelis suggests withholding personal life details with a gaslighting co-worker or boss to protect yourself from emotional abuse in the office.

RELATED: Easy Things You Can Do Tonight For a Healthier Tomorrow

No matter which method you choose, it’s important to take control of reality again, says Dr. Saltz. This involves setting limits that stop gaslighting attempts in their tracks. For example, if your boss calls you overly sensitive when you ask, “Why won’t you let me work on big company projects?” demand true feedback rather than accepting blame on your character. “It’s holding the line for what you’re wanting to achieve,” Dr. Saltz says, “and not buying into accusations intended to knock down self-confidence.”

Contact us at editors@time.com.

Why Does Your Narcissistic Partner Always Blame You?

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If you are wondering why your narcissistic mate blames you for everything that goes wrong no matter who is at fault, the answer is simple: People who have narcissistic personality disorder cannot tolerate the idea that they might be to blame, so they accuse someone else instead.

Why do people with narcissistic personality disorder care so much about who is to blame?

Here are some concepts that can help explain why blame plays such a big role in relationships with Narcissists. (Note: I am using the terms “narcissist” and “narcissistic” as shorthand for Narcissistic Personality Disorder).

Our Inner Guiding Voice

As humans, we come equipped with the capacity to develop an internal guiding voice that praises and punishes our behaviors. This inner voice is programmed during our childhood based on a combination of three things:

1. How our parents treated us.

2. Our inborn temperament.

3. Our interpretation of what our parents thought worthy of praise or criticism.

Ideally, this inner voice is realistic and rewards us with praise when we do the right thing and punishes us with shame or guilt when we do something wrong. And ideally the rewards and punishments are proportionate to the behavior. Our inner guiding voice is supposed to substitute for our parents’ guidance and thus allow us to live independently.

Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), the “Father of Psychoanalysis,” called this voice our Super-Ego. Some people think of it as their conscience. Other people see it as the spark of the Divine in each of us that teaches us right from wrong.

The Narcissist’s Inner Voice

Unfortunately, people with narcissistic personality disorder have internalized an overly harsh, perfectionistic, and devaluing internal voice. This voice rarely doles out praise. Nothing is ever quite good enough to win its approval for very long—and no mistake is too trivial to punish severely.

Self-Blame Leads to Shame

Because narcissists’ inner guiding voice is so critical and harsh, narcissists try to avoid all responsibility for anything that goes wrong. In order to avoid self-hatred, they project the blame onto someone else. If they do not successfully shift the blame, then they may find themselves drowning in a pit of self-loathing and shame. This usually leads them to spiral down into a shame-based self-hating depression. In addition, they unconsciously fearthat their mistakes will be used by you or other people to publicly humiliate them.

Once narcissists sink into a self-hating depression, they lose touch with anything good about themselves. They see themselves as all-bad—as worthless, defective, losers.

Naturally, with deep shame always lurking around the edges of their psyche and an inner critical voice that unfairly and severely punishes them, narcissists learn early in life to never take the blame for their mistakes. Instead, when anything is amiss, they quickly blame someone else. If you are their lover or mate, you are the one that is likely to be blamed—no matter how farfetched this seems.

How should you handle the situation?

The unfortunate reality is that this situation cannot be solved by logic or by arguing about who is right or wrong. This type of blaming has nothing to do with external reality or fairness. It is about self-esteem maintenance.  Your mate is unfairly blaming you for something in order to avoid self-blame.  When narcissists think of accepting blame, they unconsciously fear that the psychological equivalent of burning hot coals will be heaped on their head by you and their unforgiving and unempathic inner critic. They project their inner critic’s opinions onto you and then see you as overly critical.

There are a couple of things that can work in the moment to lessen the tension. Both methods ignore who is to blame and focus on making your narcissistic mate more comfortable.

Method 1—Express Empathy

Method 1 is adapted from one of James F. Masterson’s interventions that he trained therapists to use to help people with NPD feel understood.  In this method, blame is not spoken of at all. Neither is right or wrong. You simply make an empathic statement that attempts to capture the flavor of the emotion the narcissistic person is feeling.

Example: Sam comes home and cannot find the remote for the television. He starts screaming at his wife Jennie: I can’t believe that you did it again! Why do you keep losing the remote? You never pay enough attention to what you are doing!

Jennie knows that Sam was the last one to use the remote. She also knows that it is fruitless to argue with him about it. If she protests, it will just lead to a long pointless fight. So, she empathically tries to “mirror” back to Sam what she thinks he is feeling:

Jennie: That must have been so painful to you when you came home and couldn’t find the remote for the TV. I can understand how disappointed you were. You were looking forward to watching the football game.

Masterson tended to use those same words, “painful” and “disappointed” over and over again. Someone once asked Masterson, “Don’t your clients notice and comment on you saying, ‘It must be so painful and disappointing’ over and over again?” Masterson replied: “Not if they’re Narcissists.”

Narcissists find empathy and feeling understood, coupled with the absence of judgement, very soothing. Most grew up without ever experiencing empathy from their caregivers. That is why their inner voice is so unempathic.

Method 2—Let Me Help You

In this method, you also ignore your mate’s unfair criticisms of you. Instead, you simply offer to help. This method emphasizes that the two of you are a team and not opponents.

Example: Sam starts blaming Jennie for losing the remote. Jenny quickly says: “Let me help you find it.” She ignores his insults and simply gets up and matter-of-factly begins to search with him for the lost remote.

Over time, if Jennie is consistently willing to help Sam and not shame him or try to hold him accountable, Sam is likely to slowly begin to internalize a new model of how to handle mistakes without blaming anyone.

This will gradually build up some sense of trust in Jenny’s good will and intentions. Sam may still devalue and blame Jennie (he still has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder), but he will eventually understand that Jennie is not purposely trying to annoy or frustrate him.

This realization, that he can feel hurt and frustrated by Jenny without her intending to harm him can be a big milestone and turning point in their relationship. The fights will still happen, but there will be less venom in his attacks on Jennie.

What Happened When You Spilled the Milk?

If you want to understand more about the origins of someone’s blaming behavior, there is a simple question you can ask:

When you were little and spilled your glass of milk at the table, what happened?

The people I know who are relatively relaxed and realistic about their mistakes, report something like the following:

My mother got up and said: “Don’t worry. Get the paper towels from the kitchen and I will help you clean it up.

My clients with Narcissistic Personality Disorder report a very different response:

How could you be so clumsy! You make all this extra work for me because you are so careless and irresponsible. That’s it! Dinner is over for you. Go to your room. And don’t expect to watch any television tonight either. You need to learn to be more careful.

A childhood full of harsh criticism for mistakes teaches children to find a way to shift the blame in any way possible and make the error someone else’s fault.

To younger sister Sally: If you hadn’t jogged my elbow, the milk wouldn’t have spilled. It is your fault, not mine. You are the one who deserves to be punished, not me!

Punchline:

The reason your narcissistic mate automatically blames you for things that are not your fault can be expressed as a simple equation:  Blame + Shame = Self-Hatred. Your mate shifts the blame onto you to avoid being condemned as worthless garbage by his or her own overly harsh and devaluing inner voice. There are things you can do to minimize fights, but unfortunately, they all focus on making your mate more comfortable. This will benefit you in the long run, but their success depends on you literally ignoring your mate’s taunts and your own hurt feelings. Instead you have to act as a combination of a good parent and a psychotherapist.  If you do not want to spend the rest of your life helping to manage your mate’s self-esteem at your own expense, you should probably seriously consider leaving this relationship.

Adapted from a Quora post.

What Are the Signs of Damaged Emotions?

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Healthy emotions are vital for well-being and harmonious relationships. Emotional damage can occur as a result of mental illness, trauma or a combination of both factors, and may impair a person’s ability to form relationships and handle everyday stressors. Learning to recognize the signs of damaged emotions allows you to identify problems sooner and alter the behaviors that perpetuate them.

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Trust Issues
While blind trust can be dangerous in some situations, an inability to trust loved ones can be a sign of emotional damage. According to AT Health, children who are abandoned by their parents often experience trust issues in adulthood, making it difficult to form close interpersonal relationships.

Lack of trust can result from painful past experiences, including acts of betrayal. Examples of situations that could trigger trust issues include abandonment as a child, romantic infidelity or a variety of forms of dishonesty.

Low Self-Esteem
Self-esteem refers to the way in which people view themselves and their worth. Low self-esteem can result from internal sources like mental health conditions or external causes like bullying. The “New York Times” lists low self-esteem as a common symptom of depression.

Signs of low self-esteem include shyness, anxiety about one’s appearance or competence, feelings of worthlessness and unnecessary guilt or shame. It’s possible to use positive affirmations to help raise self-esteem by reaffirming positive attributes.

Anger and Aggression
While unpleasant, anger is a natural emotional response that can be useful when channeled effectively. When managed improperly, anger is capable of tearing apart relationships and leading to frequent altercations between individuals.

Inappropriate anger can masquerade as jealousy, manipulation, suspicion or passive-aggressiveness. If allowed to continue unchecked, anger may even deteriorate into verbal or physical abuse. Long-term suppression of unpleasant emotions like anger can lead to inappropriate behaviors, reinforcing the need to handle anger as it arises.

Self-Destructive Behavior
Emotional damage often manifests as self-destructive or self-defeating behavior. Eating disorders, substance abuse and self-mutilation are examples of self-destructive behavior.

According to the American Humane Association, destructive behaviors like alcohol and drug abuse, suicide attempts and withdrawal can all result from emotional abuse.

Treatment Options
Many options exist for healing emotional damage. Counseling or group therapy can help patients work through unpleasant emotions and get to the heart of their issues. Trained mental health professionals offer solutions by teaching patients stress management techniques and coping skills to help deal with daily problems. When emotional damage affects married couples or families, couples counseling and family therapy may be helpful.

In cases of mental illness, medications like antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs may be prescribed in conjunction with talk therapy.

The Biggest Relationship Mistakes Can Happen Very Early

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When couples come to therapy to work on their relationship and present their problems, the therapist usually asks when these issues began. More often than not, couples can trace the seeds of the problem(s) to their earliest dating days. They might not have had big fights about the issue at that time, but it was likely a tension point that one or both of them had already noted.

The question is, why is this so? After all, if there was something problematic going on earlier in the relationship, why wasn’t it addressed or worked out at that time?

There are a number of reasons couples fail to address important issues that arise in the early stages of their relationship.

First, when we’re first falling in love, we are less likely to be bothered by certain issues than we are once the spell of infatuation wears off.

Second, once we become emotionally invested in our partner and motivated to see the relationship succeed, we may be hesitant to raise issues that might cause conflict and/or highlight differences between us.

Lastly, we often let too many bothersome things go in the initial stages of a relationship because we are unaware of a fundamental truth about relationships. Relationship dynamics are like concrete—they can be shaped when the concrete is still fresh but they quickly become rigid and hard to mold. In other words, the expectations we set early on in a relationship, the give and take, the roles we step into, the habits we accept, the rhythm of our day to day quickly set. Once they do, they become far more difficult to change.

When problematic issues arise in the earliest stages of the relationship and are not addressed, there may be an unspoken assumption that whatever has happened is acceptable to both members of the couple.

Bill and Grace, a couple I recently worked with, are a great example of this principle. Bill was 12 minutes late for their first date. He did not text Grace to give her the heads up or apologize when he arrived. Since he arrived slightly out of breath and looked as though he had rushed, Grace did not comment on the lateness. By not doing so, what she communicated to Bill was that she would accept his lateness and that he would not even have to apologize for it. Bill was then only seven minutes late to their second date, which Grace overlooked as he was “clearly improving” (Grace’s words). But that dynamic helped to create an expectation that Bill does not have to be on time.

I have worked with many couples in which lateness is an issue and in almost all cases, it reared its head very early in the relationship. When it did, the partner left waiting did not make it an issue. When I ask why they did not speak up, the answer is usually some form of, “I didn’t want to ruin the date,” or “I didn’t want to start a fight,” or “It was only a few minutes.”

While those are valid concerns, what we neglect to anticipate is that by not bringing it up we are setting ourselves up for more of the behavior we find objectionable going forward, whatever it is.

How to Set Correct Limits Early in the Relationship

In order to prevent behaviors we don’t like from becoming a common feature in our relationships, we need to notice them and address them as early as possible in a manner that brings attention to the issue without causing a conflict that might derail the budding relationship. Here are some guidelines:

1. When the behavior we don’t like is mild, we need to find casual ways to comment on it such that it doesn’t ruin the date or alienate the other person. A casual reference subtly communicates that the behavior was not one we find acceptable (e.g., asking, “Was there a lot of traffic?” when our date was late and didn’t apologize for it).

2. If the behavior is more egregious, the intensity of our messaging needs to match the level of concern that the specific behavior evokes in us. For example, if during our first argument our partner resorts to name-calling or put-downs and we don’t make it absolutely clear we will not tolerate being spoken to in that manner, name-calling and put-downs are likely to persist and even increase. Therefore, we have to be more declarative in communicating our concern about such behaviors and insist our partner find other ways to express their frustrations without dismissive, rude, or insulting comments.

3. If a behavior is a deal breaker, we not only need to communicate to the other person that we will not tolerate it again, we have to mean it. If the behavior is repeated and we do not then follow through with our warning, we are clearly communicating that the behavior is troublesome but not a deal breaker. Our messaging has to leave no room for doubt that it will be grounds for an instant breakup. Sad as it might be to exit the relationship at that point, not doing so (assuming the limit and the severity of the issue has been clearly communicated) will invite more of the behavior going forward.

In short, the early stages of dating are those in which an unspoken contract is formed about the rules and conduct of the relationship going forward. The realities we establish in the early days, weeks, and months of a romance are likely to determine the nature of the relationship going forward. Therefore, we have to be able to look beyond our excitement and enthusiasm, assess the behaviors and dynamics we are setting up, and address potential problems in their infancy. Changing behaviors and dynamics once a relationship is established is far more difficult and the degree of change we can enact at that point is usually much smaller.

The biggest mistake we can make in the early part of a relationship is to overlook problems and hope to address them later on.

Copyright 2019 Guy Winch

Originally posted on Lucky Otters Haven: I haven’t written an original narcissism article in awhile, and I was thinking about gaslighting today, so I thought I’d write a post about it. Gaslighting is a defense mechanism commonly used by narcissists in order to diminish their victims and make them doubt and question their own reality.…

via Five types of gaslighting narcissists. — Lucky Otters Haven

Something is wrong. The fact that something is wrong has many manifestations in the narcissistic dynamic. You may experience a sudden eruption of temper, the instigation of a silent treatment as you follow us around the house trying to draw from us what on earth is the matter. It might be that you plead with…

via Why Won’t He Say What’s Wrong? — Knowing the Narcissist

PROJECTION – they accuse us of EVERYTHING they really are AND what THEY are doing to us! We are their dumping ground for everything from their lies, their disdain of life, their betrayal, and just for the sport of managing us down so they feel powerful and in control of their own emptiness! There is […]

via Narcissistic Projection. — After Narcissistic Abuse

How to Identify a Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Author Article

Over the past year, I’ve read plenty of speculation about the possibility that President Trump has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Comparing the diagnostic criteria to the public face, tweets, and televised interviews with President Trump could easily lead one to this conclusion. While it is certainly possible that he is quite different in private and may not warrant the diagnosis.

Here are the diagnostic criteria for diagnosing Narcissistic Personality Disorder: The essential features of a personality disorder are impairments in personality (self and interpersonal) functioning and the presence of pathological personality traits.

To diagnose a narcissistic personality disorder, the following criteria must be met:

Impairments in self-functioning (A or B)

A.    Identity: Excessive reference to others for self-definition and self-esteem regulation; exaggerated self-appraisal may be inflated or deflated, or vacillate between extremes; emotional regulation mirrors fluctuations in self-esteem.

B.    Self-direction: Goal-setting is based on gaining approval from others; personal standards are unreasonably high in order to see oneself as exceptional, or too low based on a sense of entitlement; often unaware of own motivations.

Impairments in interpersonal functioning (A or B):

A.    Empathy: Impaired ability to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others; excessively attuned to reactions of others, but only if perceived as relevant to self; over or underestimate of own effect on others.

B.    Intimacy: Relationships are largely superficial and exist to serve self-esteem regulation; mutuality constrained by little genuine interest in others’ experiences and the predominance of a need for personal gain or pathological personality traits in the following domain:

·      Antagonism, characterized by: Grandiosity: Feelings of entitlement, either overt or covert; self-centeredness; firmly holding to the belief that one is better than others; condescending toward others.

·      Attention seeking: Excessive attempts to attract and be the focus of the attention of others; admiration seeking.

·      The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are relatively stable across time and consistent across situations.

·      The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are not better understood as normative for the individual’s developmental stage or socio-cultural environment.

·      The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are not solely due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., severe head trauma).

It does rather sound like the public impression of him.

One of my ongoing frustrations with the diagnosis of personality disorders is that they tend to be described as permanent and unchangeable. As someone who has worked with thousands of patients over the years, I think about personality disorders differently. It is useful to think of each personality disorder or personality style as existing on a continuum from relatively functional and healthy to dysfunctional and problematic. Often high levels of stress and difficult environmental circumstances can push someone from a functional personality style to a personality disorder. For example, someone with a narcissistic personality disorder could adapt and modify to being a very self-confident, risk taker. Here are the 10 personality disorders with labels when the personality style is more moderated and functional:

The American Psychiatric Association
Source: The American Psychiatric Association

Whether someone displays a personality disorder or a functional personality style depends on a number of factors. Flexibility and adaptability along with coping capacity are large determinants. The important idea is that while someone is unlikely to make wholesale changes in their personality, they can move from a personality disorder to a more functional personality style. Someone with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder is likely not suddenly going to become the picture of empathy and compassion, however, they can improve their functioning and become more aware of their need to seek more input from others and work at accommodating other’s needs. A person with an Avoidant Personality Disorder can recognize the positive aspect of being sensitive to the needs and feelings of others and pair this with some improved resilience to make this style work for them in relationships. Someone with an Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder can modify when, where, and how their style is expressed while using the conscientious aspects to maximize their own performance.

My conclusion is that a personality disorder is not a life sentence to one form of misery or another. All personality disorders have parallel personality styles that can be more functional. People with a personality disorder can learn to adapt and grow to make their personal style work better for them and improve happiness and functioning.

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