Forgiveness and the Narcissist

Here is a short video from my YouTube Channel. If you like it you may like the others:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF7HO62Ol-laN6cj6vlkiOA

Joy 101 — How to Open the Door to Your Emotions

Image of a daffodil. A nice symbol of joy.

Joy, or her gentler sister, happiness, can seem elusive. We have been told by our society we will be happy when we achieve a goal or gain an item we have coveted. I’m here to tell you joy can be found without any of that. Not only can it be found, without those items and experiences, but pursuing them at all costs can interfere with joy.

The reason many of us find happiness so elusive is that we have decided to shut the door on emotions.  Let’s back up a little. Emotions can be labelled “good” or “bad”. That is a simple idea. Anger, envy, jealousy and hate are seen as negative. Even sadness and regret can fall into the “bad” category. We all seek the “good” feelings of joy (that’s what this blog is about!), happiness, love and contentment, for example.

Social rules of engagement further say we can express the good emotions, usually, in public, but not always. Try laughing out loud during a eulogy if you don’t believe me. The bad emotions, however, should be hidden and denied. If you are really angry, it is generally not acceptable to express it in the moment, especially if when angry you throw and break things.

So, what am I getting at? We have been taught to greater or lesser degrees when and how and if we can express the emotions we are feeling. Truth is, if you feel impatient, you feel impatient. It is neither good nor bad, it just is. The trouble starts if you decide to lash out at someone because you are feeling this way, but I digress.

When an emotion is created energy is built up. There are tons of hormones, bodily reactions and sensations associated with all kinds of emotions. If you choose to repress them, in the moment they occur, that energy does not dissipate. It stays somewhere in your body and waits to be released.

We are all familiar with someone who strikes out in anger at some small slight. In some instances this can simply be a build up of anger, that was not expressed at the time it formed. The energy from the anger is still trying to escape and a small thing sets it off. It is expressed in an inappropriate situation and seems out of proportion to the small slight that set it off.

Forcing ourselves to not experience emotions, when they occur not only can backfire, like described above, it takes a huge amount of energy to keep your emotions under control all of the time. Enter addictions. If we have anger, sadness, hate and other “bad” emotions we are trying to suppress, not express, and their energy is building up, one of the ways to deal with this is to avoid it. Shopping, gambling, legal and illegal drugs (governments decide on this distinction so I would argue the distinction is not real), over-working, over-exercising…there are too many to list. These things numb us and allow us to ignore the pent up emotions we have stored in our bodies.

Unfortunately, this does not work long term. Unexpressed emotions can erupt at unexpected times, can lead to illness, stress and depression and worst of all, we cannot just block the unpleasant or “bad” emotions. When we block emotions, we block all emotions.

In order to get to joy we must feel all emotions, the “good” and the “bad”. This includes all of the emotions we have failed to express in the past. If we want to get to a place where we can feel joy, happiness and contentment, we must feel and express what we have been told are unacceptable, or what we have found are unpleasant emotions.

Here is a step by step guide on how to release repressed emotions:
1. Find Time

The actual exercise can last from a few minutes to over an hour depending on you personally, how many emotions you have repressed, how long you have been storing pent-up emotions and how painful the experience is.

In addition to the time spent doing the work, you will need recovery time. This is not the type of exercise you should do right before going to work, or before a social outing. Leave time to take a walk, have a shower or bath, get outside, listen to good music or some other activity that will act as a balm over the wounds you are about to open. This is not the best time to turn to any addictions or bad habits you may have.

2. Find a place

You are looking for a place where you will have the maximum amount of privacy you can muster. This may be more difficult for some, especially if you live in a home that does not afford you privacy. You may need to find a wooded area that is not heavily populated, or park your car in a secluded area. You may need to ask a friend if you can do this exercise at their home. Do whatever you can to find a place where you can make noise, feel safe and not have to worry about your surroundings.

Depending on you personally, you may prefer one of the two following things:

1. Some individuals need to have a place where they cannot break or damage anything. If you know or suspect this may be you, plan for it. Have things you can break, pillows you can punch, paper or cardboard you can tear, that sort of thing.

2. Others need comfort. If this is you, grab a blanket or shawl, wrap it around you and sit somewhere you feel safe and secure.

3. Do the Work

a.  Think of things that have rattled you. Remember times you were wronged or shamed or felt hurt. Play music that makes you feel sad. Watch a movie you know dredges up emotions. Do what you need to do to have any emotion surface. Allow yourself to feel and express the emotion.

b.  Be prepared for rage, anger, crying, sobbing, yelling, laughing or any other way an emotion can be expressed. Let it happen. This is a highly personal and individual experience.  Do not get pulled into a thought process about why you feel this way, or that you shouldn’t feel this way. If your brain is demanding attention, focus on describing how the emotion appears in your body.

c.  Create a picture in your mind about the sensations. “My stomach is a red ball of liquid” for instance. Do not say, “I am angry”, describe the sensations using colours, textures and shapes. There can be no judgement. Do not berate yourself for being weak or for having the emotions. Try to stop the part of your brain trying to understand and explain what is happening. Allow yourself to fully express the emotions that come up.

d.  It is normal to start with one emotion and have it evolve into another. Do not judge yourself for starting with sadness, for instance, becoming angry, feeling hate and then laughing out loud. This is normal. The order I gave was just an example. The emotions will come up in an unpredictable way.

Note:  even the most painful of feelings will last a maximum of 90 seconds. There may be more than one wave of emotions, but each will only last 90 seconds. You can allow even the most uncomfortable sensation to last that long.

e.  When no more emotions surface, or you’ve reached your limit. Stop. Do the activity you planned for before you began, like go for a walk outside.

It is not possible to do this exercise wrong. As you do it more often you will become accustomed to how to release the emotions without trying to “think” your way out of it. You will know you are doing it correctly when you feel slightly “lighter” afterwards. If you feel like you have re-experienced the trauma that caused the emotion initially, you are in your thoughts too much. Practice describing the sensations visually while doing this exercise, that will help.

4. Repeat

This should be repeated as often as possible. The sessions will decrease in time and intensity. Piece by piece you are dismantling opening the door to emotions. This is when joy starts to flow into your life. It is not possible to feel joy exclusively, you must feel all emotions and this exercise will help you to do that.

Grey Rocking a Narcissist

You know you are going to encounter them during the holidays. Here is a little refresher video to help you circumvent the drama when you see them. This technique can be used to keep calm and out of the line of fire.

Outsmarting the Narcissist

Once again, you find yourself struggling to remember what actually did happen. You are having THAT conversation again during which you are told your memory is bad, you are making things up and you must be losing your mind.

Shot of Cover
Let me know when Wendy’s Next Book is available.
Anyone who has been in a relationship with a narcissist has been told this. It matters very little if the narcissist is a co-worker, parent, lover, acquaintance, family member or simply someone who lives next door. This tactic is very common because it works.

Very few people are completely certain of everything they remember. Did I say that when I was angry? Was there any way I was misunderstood? I’m certain she said that, maybe I didn’t hear her right or understand what she meant.

For narcissists this is one of the many games they play. They want you to feel off balance, to question yourself, to spend inordinate amounts of emotional energy trying to remember what was said, the order things happened in and how the events unfolded.

When you realize they have been “gas lighting” you, making you unsure of yourself, your memories and perceptions, the natural response is to want to do it back. Unfortunately, they have several advantages.

Narcissists lack empathy. This means they do not feel bad when they hurt someone. They do not “feel” the pain they cause other people. So when you are trying to remember if you did say what she says you said, she is enjoying your discomfort, not feeling badly because you are in a disagreement.

Another tact a narcissist will take is to overtly lie. He may tell you he “forgot” or “got stuck at work” when in fact he simply did not want to show up because he knew you were relying on him. This may have put you in an awkward position, like sitting at a restaurant with two other couples waiting for your date to arrive.

The narcissist has an advantage here because when he does arrive, he tells the whole table that you made the mistake. You had the date or location wrong. You were supposed to pick him up on the way to the restaurant and you come off looking foolish for having let everyone down.

Another tact to make you look foolish is to keep “poking” you until you snap and behave “irrationally”. If the narcissist can get you to explode in public, this provides nourishment in the narcissistic form. The narcissist thrives on drama and causing drama, especially public drama. Most people, find this distasteful, which is part of the appeal to the narcissist.

_________________

Here are three examples of things that narcissists will do that most people will not do:

1. Lie
2. Hurt You on Purpose
3. Make a public scene

Even if you are willing to lie, do hurtful things and try to get them to act out in public, it will backfire on you.

1. If you lie to a narcissist, they are certain you are wrong.

Unlike a person with a conscience, narcissists do not doubt themselves. They just turn it around on you. Now they have “proof” that you are losing your mind. Then, forever, this example will be their way of reminding you how you have been wrong before.

2. If you hurt them on purpose, they will play the pity card.

You hurt them. You are a nasty person and they can’t believe how mean you are. Since, I’m assuming, you do have empathy, you will feel bad. You may even feel fully responsible for hurting them and they win this one as well.

3. Finally, a public scene is their dream come true.

If you try to cause a scene, where they look foolish you will end up looking more foolish than they will. They do not feel emotions like others do so it is much easier for them to regroup and turn it around leaving you as the only one who is acting out in public.

If a crazy person and a normal person are fighting,
it is NOT possible to tell who is who.

_________________

If you are a neighbour, acquaintance or a co-worker, you cannot win. The cycle will devolve into a nightmare of them trying to get back at you and you doing what you can to get back at them.

So, don’t try. Never rely on the narcissist or believe what they say. Never confide in them or speak to them more than necessary. This will allow you to keep it light and superficial and minimizes the amount of harm that they can do.

If you happen to be in a personal relationship with a narcissist (parent, sibling, lover) and want to outsmart them, develop an exit plan. Do not tell them. Make sure you have considered everything. Where will you go? Do you have your own money? Do you have extra clothing and personal effects? Then, get into an argument with them and have them either kick you out, or have them break off the relationship. (I have to add, think safety here. I don’t want anyone starting an argument if there is a possibility of physical harm as well.)

Then leave. You have won.

It is only by making them believe that they left you and they came out on top that they will let you go easily. In their minds, you will try to get them back. So, they are much more likely to leave you alone. They will wait for you to come crawling back, which you have no intention of doing. They have lost you and you no longer provide any emotional nourishment.

Congratulations!

My book, "The Narcissist Survival Guide" is now available.
My book, “The Narcissist Survival Guide” is now available.

Narcissism–Scenes From the Front Line — The Funeral

IMG_3238Apparently it happened during the “Commish”. I had never watched the “Commish”, but the name of the program will be forever etched on my mind, because my sister repeated the story time after time, as though by the retelling she may either have been able to change the outcome or at least make sense of what had happened.

She had been living with this fella for a time, the details are fuzzy now, but I would guess about a year and a half. He seemed a quiet kind of man that had been beat up by life and had resolved to just hide at home as much as possible. He was nice to my sister and she needed the company, so I was happy that he was living with her.

When she called me to tell me that he had died, suddenly, on their sofa, there was no emotion in her voice. She had managed to transport herself to that safe place where emotions can’t enter and she was shielded from the pain of watching her lover die before the medics arrived.

Now we were on the way to the funeral. I lived about an hour from my sister’s place and the main road between us was a divided highway. In this part of the country, the speed limit of 100 km (60 miles) per hour was more of a suggestion and the average speed was around 120 km/hour (70 miles/hr). Bob usually drove faster than this and would stay in the left lane (which is supposed to be for the faster traffic) during any of our highway travels.

Earlier that day, I had explained to him that I wanted to arrive a little early. That way, I could console my sister, have some time alone with her and make sure she was alright before the service. My hope was that I could then slip away immediately after the funeral instead of staying around when she would be busy speaking to everybody.

Bob knew this. He delayed our departure significantly. He always had excuses and reasons. I’m sure that he felt that the four hour delay in completing any task that he had to do would be unacceptable. Everyone knew how important he was…

Once we were on the highway, it got worse. He pulled into the right hand lane and did 100 km/hour, or less, the entire drive. I could feel my anger crawling up the back of my throat. I tried to encourage him to go faster and he made excuses. I was worried about my sister and how our lateness would impact her. I was frustrated and felt powerless.

Then, he decided to stop (which he never does) to get coffees and drinks. The girls were ecstatic because they never got to stop like this unless the trip was hours and hours long. So, I could not complain about this unexpected and certainly unprecedented stop on the highway.

We arrived late. The entire service had been delayed awaiting our arrival and my sister had decided to start when some of the guests had started to become impatient and let her know that they were going to have to leave.

Of course for me it meant that I arrived furious. I was so upset that it was difficult to calm myself down. This was one in a long string of events meant to make me look bad. Showing up at a funeral late and furious… He knew that it would be difficult to compose myself completely and yes, he had won again.

The Narcissist Survival Guide now available

Presented by Master Coaches Jessica Steward and Jen Trulson

Join Jessica and Jen in this intensive study of Steering by Starlight to experience Martha’s timeless wisdom on how to find your right life, no matter what. As Martha says, “The knowledge of your destiny isn’t in your mind. It’s in a deeper part of you: the awareness of the true self, the soul…”

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Drive

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Fax

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Interview

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Call

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Cavity

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Pants

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Trailer

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — Biking

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Doctor

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — New Job

10 Things You Need to Know About Narcissists

IMG_1271Regardless of your relationship with a narcissist, several patterns seem to ring true.
1. They don’t care about you.

This is the most hurtful of their traits but it is the most consistent. It can be confusing because they often “pretend” to care about you and this is one of the reasons that people stay in these painful relationships for so long.

See it from their perspective. You have a purpose in their lives. They need you for what you provide for them be it the necessities of life, adoration or nourishment or you are their receptacle; a place for them to dump their negative emotions. In any case, this is your role, so if you leave they will have an unmet need. They have learned what it takes to keep you in their lives and because of that you may mistake some of their gestures or gifts or thoughtful acts as a sign that they care about you. This is not the case; they just know how to keep you around.

2. They must always win.

Realizing this helps to make disagreements and decisions make sense. They are often sore losers to the point that they’ll accuse you of cheating if you win at a game; or they will just be unpleasant. As far as making plans, if you want something that they don’t want, it is expected that they will not only disagree with you, they will let you know how subpar your suggestion is and why it is not valuable.

This can become confusing because they will often use tactics to get you to agree with them. On the surface, this can seem as though you “agreed” to do what they wanted, but further examination will reveal that they only do what you want if they also want to do it, or it will make them look good.

Common ways of convincing you to do what they want are by arguing that their idea is better, promising that you will get your way next time or simply convincing you their idea is far superior. If you insist, they will make your life hell and sooner or later you’ll agree with their ideas so that you don’t have to go through the drama that follows when you want your way.

3. They do as little work as possible, unless it benefits them directly.

For instance, they may work really hard at their careers because they benefit directly and success in a career is a way to get nourishment from people. i.e. people are impressed The flip side is that they do as little “invisible” work as possible.

Narcissistic parents often appear to be the most engaged because they are out with their children, taking them to the workplace and being involved in their activities. All of these choices make them look like good parents. In the home it is another story. There are no witnesses and spending time with their children is not valuable, so they choose to not be bothered.

Also, tactics will be used to make sure that you do most of the work. Name calling, accusations of being lazy, feigning illness or an inability to do the work are common ways that they get out of doing their fair share of the chores.

4. They lie. This is worth repeating.

I realize that everyone knows that narcissist lie, but what might not be immediately obvious is that they lie for no reason. This may be a way of feeling superior. This may just be to undercut your self-confidence or they may just not realize that telling the truth has value. The thing to take away is that they lie, even when the reason for the lie is not obvious.

This might not be directly obvious, but what you might experience is a perception that you are forgetful; that you may be losing your mind or that you are confused. This is a common response, because most of us do not immediately assume that the other person is lying for no reason.

5. They like drama.

I suspect that this is a result of being unable to feel love and joy the way that other people do. They crave emotion and hate and anger seem to be their preferred vehicle. This is not true for all narcissists. There is a type of narcissist that seems to prefer sadness and pity. Either way, they either start fights out of nowhere to fill this need, or fall into a state of despair. This puts the focus on them and they get deep into the emotion.

If you are their “receptacle” it will be your role to be either the target of their anger or the person that comforts them when they are, oh, so, sad. Drama is often used to sidetrack an argument or to avoid doing something for you. You may have disagreed, asked for a favour or needed some comfort.

Other times, the drama comes out of nowhere. Some insignificant oversight becomes blown out of proportion until the original slight is long forgotten.

6. They do not comfort others.

Sadness and anger are OK for the narcissist, but if you want to get support from them you are “needy” “You should leave your troubles at work” or “quit your job”. “Suck it up” “You are never happy”. “There is no way to please you”. All of these phrases can be used to make you feel like you should not require comfort.

In addition to that, if you do need some support, they are unavailable. This may take the form of their day being worse, a huge work deadline that must be attended to, other plans that came before you started to make demands or simply attacking you for not handling your situation better.

If you get attacked or put down when you wanted a shoulder to cry on or for them to lend an ear to a problem, you may be with a narcissist.

7. They do not like to be alone.

This can take the form of demanding that you stay in when you’ve made plans to go out. It may also be that they have several on-line relationships that nourish them and provide unconditional acceptance. You will find that if you have a life that takes you away from them, they are quick to find someone to fill the time that you are away.

This can also be expressed by them calling you repeatedly while you are at work, texting you constantly or simply showing up when you least expect them. They do not want to be alone and if you are in their lives, they want you around as much as possible.

8. They do not take responsibility for things.

This is a combination of convincing you that you must do all of the work, lying to make it seem like they did not know that it was their responsibility or blaming you for any problems. For instance, they may have done something to hurt you in the past, but it is only a problem because “you” can’t get over it.

If they forget something, for instance, it was up to you to remind them. If it is their turn to do the chores it is because you are lazy.

9. They do not acknowledge the accomplishments of others.

It is important to them to “win” at everything. If someone else is successful, in some part of their life, this is swept under the carpet. No one else’s accomplishments have any meaning to them because it detracts from how wonderful they are.

If you’ve ever shared good news from work, tried to get some excitement over an accomplishment or looked for a little acknowledgement about something that you have done and been shut down, you may be dealing with a narcissist.

10. They can be extremely charming and solicitous.

Most narcissists have learned that they can fool people by being nice to them. If someone is kind and compliments you, you are less likely to see them for who they are. This is how they get their foot in the door in relationships. It is also a way for them to create drama because they can make you look unreasonable to people who only see their charming side.

If someone seems to good to be true, they probably are. You may be dealing with a narcissist.

 

Narcissist_frontcover
Look here for the full story on Narcissists. How to identify them, deal with them and leave them.

Why Were You With a Narcissist — Part 2

IMG_3383In Part 1 we looked at the types of people that a narcissist is attracted to, now we need to consider why you chose a narcissist. It may mean that you have never received unconditional love. You may simply not know what this feels like. There can be many reasons for this. Your parents or guardians may have been narcissists themselves and were incapable of showing love. Your parents may not have been available to you because they were ill, too busy working or they had problems with addiction. True parental love differs significantly from conditional affection or kindness that is used to reward you for desired behaviour.

This means that you may have no basis for comparison. If you have never received unconditional love it is difficult to know how it feels or what to expect. In addition to that, the emphasis while I was growing up was always on “true love” as the gold standard for romantic relationships. This effervescent, transcendent thing was beyond definition except for the statement: “You’ll know it when it happens”.

More alarming than that was when I discovered that the true difference between lust and love, based on the above definition, was outcome. This is not a very good way to judge a relationship at the beginning. I am embarrassed to say that I may have tried to prove that I was in “love” not “lust” simply by staying in some of my relationships.

This “true love” view of the ultimate relationship is dangerous because it means that you are raised to believe that “love will conquer all” and that simply is not true, especially when the love is one-sided. Being raised with this notion of what love is plays right into the narcissist’s hand.

The narcissist pretends to be deeply and truly in love with you. They need to see you all of the time. They may shower you with gifts. They want to spend every minute with you. They call, text, leave notes and basically reassure you constantly. They may also have this idealized “soul mate” vision that they convince you is attainable.

As I pointed out, while describing the signs that you are dating a narcissist, those behaviours are not actually love at all. This obsessive behaviour is smothering. Perhaps, not initially, but soon you realize that you cannot go out without disapproval. The narcissist needs to know where you are all of the time and there is no room for your wishes or desires.

So, lets look at what is important for the long term. The overall goal is being with this person enhances your life. They bring enough good that you are better off with them than you are without them. Sounds wonderful, but there are a lot of pitfalls in this, let me explain.

We all have needs. Needs to care for others, to be around others, to receive affection and companionship. If you have been lonely, like to have someone to take care of, or want to be taken care of, it may seem that the narcissist is “improving” your life simply by being around. The difference in a bad relationship is that spending time with them is often not that pleasant.

Everyone has good and bad moods and cannot be expected to always be pleasant. The distinction with a narcissist is that they have extremes and they are unpredictable. This creates two problems. The first is that there is an uncertainty when you are with them about what type of mood they are in and what type of mood they’ll be in soon. This puts a lot of pressure on you to ‘behave’ in a way that you know will lessen the possibility of them becoming unpleasant.

The second thing is that the swings are extreme. Some of the people that I have coached on this adore the passion that a narcissist brings to the table, but this enjoyment is usually short lived. What is happening is not the normal ups and downs of day-to-day life. It is the mood swings of someone that is not stable. A narcissist will use extreme anger or self-pity to control a situation. “Poor me” no one loves me. Or the opposite, “Fine, I won’t speak to you for days and days on end”. Both of these responses are exaggerated.

In normal relationships, a partner may lose their temper, be snippy or mean and then immediately become remorseful because they realize that they have hurt you. The narcissist will not recognize that they have hurt you because they have an inability to empathize. You find yourself demanding an apology and whether or not you get it is not the point. You have discovered that this person did not “care” that they hurt you.

We need to examine two things at the beginning of any relationship:

Are they capable of love?

What is reasonable to expect when someone says they love you?

More on that in Part 3…

The Narcissist Survival Guide is now available

Narcissists and the Legal System

http://globerunner.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/gavel-e1376594306977.png
http://globerunner.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/gavel-e1376594306977.png

I swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, yeah right! Anyone that is unfortunate enough to have dealt with a narcissist knows that this is not going to happen.

Unfortunately, this is the tenant upon which our legal system is based. There does not seem to be an understanding that not everyone is honest and this can be a disaster if you happen to need to be in court with a narcissist.

If you are dealing with a legal issue with a narcissist, first of all, my condolences. But the truth is that you are in a precarious situation. The natural adversarial nature of law is like Disney World to most narcissists. They thrive on conflict and they are willing to lie to win on any issue.

In my experience, even producing documents, produced by a narcissist, that contradict each other was not enough “evidence” that at least one of the documents must be in error. There seems to be a lot of leeway given for “errors”, “misinterpretations” and “misrepresentation” as though to err is human but to lie is simply not a consideration.

So what to do…

1. If at all possible, avoid taking legal action against a narcissist. You may be drawn in by them, but never initiate it yourself. This is a goldmine of conflict that feeds the average narcissist and they cannot get enough.

2. If children are involved, you should strongly consider getting them their own lawyer. This, on the face of it, will appear as though it will cost more money, but that is not the case. Once children become pawns in a legal battle with a narcissist, everyone loses. The thought and consideration that most parents would show for the impact on their own children is not felt by a narcissist. The children need separate representation so that issues surrounding them do not become a battle between you and the narcissist.

3. Keep as much “evidence” as you possibly can: take photos, record times and conversations. If you have witnesses, make sure you know how to contact them and how they are likely to respond if called.

4. Be careful how a simple thing that you might do, like leave a note, can be misconstrued and used against you. A note like, “please move your car” can be played out to be unreasonable given the right made up back-story. Keep in mind that you do not know how things can be twisted and used against you.

5. Note that you will be baited as often as possible to try to get you to “act out” when there are witnesses or to encourage you to do something like write a note or send an email that can be used against you.

6. Always fight for something that you do not want. This will allow the narcissist to “win” and for you to find resolution. You didn’t want it anyway, giving it to them as a concession just makes it end sooner — hopefully.

7. Finally, and this is the MOST important point. Never try to win in public. When two people are arguing, it is not possible to tell which one is unreasonable because they are both acting unreasonably. A fight in court for instance will undermine your credibility by making you look crazy.

Best of luck. Stay small, don’t fight back–you can’t win against someone that will lie and cheat to win–and hopefully it will all be over soon.

 

My book, "The Narcissist Survival Guide" is now available.
My book, “The Narcissist Survival Guide” is now available.

Narcissism Navigated

Are you Avoiding your Feelings?

IMG_0007Do you find yourself shopping when you don’t need anything and spending more money than you have? Do you eat when you are not hungry and past the point of being full? Do you need a drink in order to face your day, or perhaps several? People do many things to distract themselves from their feelings. If you do anything habitually, that you know you probably shouldn’t be doing as much as you do, you may be trying to avoid your emotions.

Emotions can be uncomfortable things. Most people enjoy the good feelings of love, happiness and enjoyment–but not all. The emotions that most often cause us to reach for the icecream or the credit card are usually the negative ones like anger, fear and hate. These are uncomfortable feelings. When we are young, emotions can be overwhelming and painful and we all learn ways to avoid feeling them. As adults, these patterns can take on a life of their own and can result in behaviours that are bad for us.

Unfortunately, emotions do not go away until they are experienced. When we routinely push emotions down, two things can happen. They can build up and then erupt, when they get the opportunity, or they can result in physical discomfort or illness.

If you find that you start crying for little or no reason, you erupt in anger at the slightest provocation, you become frightened or burst out laughing for no apparent reason, you may just be experiencing suppressed emotions that are bubbling up to the surface.

Depression; lack of interest in things that you used to enjoy; feeling like you are just going through the motions–can all be symptoms of repressed feelings. If we close the door on one emotion, it is very difficult to let other emotions in.

Denollet (2009) showed that unexpressed anger increased the risk of heart attack. Miyamoto (2011) demonstrated that the Japanese freedom to express negative emotions is better for your overall health than the North American societal pressure to only express positive emotions. In general, it has been demonstrated that expressing emotions, instead of repressing them, is better for your overall well being (Barber, 2011). There is no question that the happier you are the healthier you are.

Those of us that avoid rather than feel our emotions may be so programmed to reach for a drink or some other diversion that we no longer recognize that we are running away from a feeling. If you have a habit that you often turn to, especially one that you feel is excessive or not good for your overall well being, you need to become aware of it. When the urge strikes, stop for a moment.

Before you indulge in your diversion, be still. Take a moment to sit quietly and focus on your breathing. Take note of where there is sensation in your body. Describe the sensation. Try to picture it. Start at your toes and pay attention to each part of your body up to your head. Is there any vibration, heat, tension, pain, discomfort, numbness or any other sensation? Can you feel your entire body or are there parts that you can no longer feel? Sit with this for a while and pay attention.

This exercise gets you out of your mind and the thoughts that you may try to tell yourself about why you should just go shopping. It does not focus on trying to identify the emotion that you are feeling, just the way that you experience the emotion as a physical sensation in your body.

The next step is to think backward from the moment that you went to your favourite vice until you become aware of what happened that caused you to reach for your diversion. The habit of not feeling emotions right away can become so refined that it may have even been something that happened a day or two ago, or longer. Continue to retrace your memory until you start to recognize the physical sensation in your body again. When remembering “feels” the same way you felt when you started the exercise you have identified the cause of the feeling.

Remember the event. Think about what you thought at the time and try to get in touch with what you were feeling. Do not censor yourself. Some emotions are considered unacceptable in our society and you might be a master of telling yourself what you should be feeling and how you should be responding. Denial of your own emotions is not good for you. You can feel anger without acting on it. You can feel hate, pain and fear without having it change how you behave. Forcing yourself not to feel these emotions causes them to be stored.

By recognizing what you were feeling at the time and allowing yourself to feel it, you can let the emotions move through you. Once an emotion is expressed, it is released from the body. The discomfort that you feel trying to avoid an emotion can last much much longer than the emotion itself if you allow yourself to just feel it directly.

At this point you may find that you choose to indulge in your habit anyhow. The advantage of this exercise is that you become more and more aware of why you are distracting yourself. Also, if you allow yourself to feel your emotions, you may find that your need to avoid them decreases over time.