Self-Awareness 101 — You are not your thoughts

“I think, therefore I am!” Descartes’ quote was great in its time, but I think it overshadows a larger reality. Most of us spend our time fully in our brains. We remind ourselves of what we need to do, the on-going “To Do” lists. We rehash conversations, worry about our futures, count calories, rewrite the past and generally spend most of our days paying attention to the blah, blah, blah going on in our minds.

This overriding tendency is getting much, much worse with the advent of cell phones and the ubiquitous nature of technology. The word generating part of our brains can now also post to social media, send tweets, text, write emails and the list goes on and on and is likely getting longer as you read this.

Truth is, there is a part of our brains that does nothing all day except generate words. It is its entire function. If you are reading this or writing, or having a conversation, that is a good thing. We need it. We have learned to navigate our world by interacting and speaking to one another. Problem is, when we aren’t having a conversation in the real world, we are still paying attention to this voice.

To illustrate this point, I want to ask if you have ever driven home from work,  or to a place you go frequently and when you arrived you have no recollection of the drive? If you have never experienced this, let me just say, it has been used as a defence in court and it was so familiar to those overseeing the case, that it was accepted as a likely thing to have occurred.

So where were you at the time? Likely, completely engaged with the word generating part of your brain. You were lost in your thoughts about whatever the word generating part of your brain likes to focus on. See list above for some examples.

Exercise 1

Try something with me. READ THIS PART TO YOURSELF AND PAY ATTENTION TO HOW YOU EXPERIENCE READING.

That sounds abstract, so let me try to explain what I mean. Think of the bolded part above. Reread it if necessary. What actually happens in your brain when you read? For many, but certainly not all, they hear the words in their mind. Read it again and see if that is true for you.

So, if you “hear” the words, who is listening? This is important. You, the real you, is the one listening to the words. The words themselves were just what you were reading on the page. In this example, it is clear that the words are what were written on the page and “you” are the one listening.

Let’s take it one step further. If you are not reading and you are listening to your “To Do” list, for example, you are still the one listening. In other words, the word generating part of your mind is not who you are. Since its entire job is to keep babbling on all day, many of us confuse it for who we are. When it starts to tell us things, we believe we are hearing our own voice. We may be hearing something a fourth-grade teacher told us years ago. You see, it is easier for the word generating part of our mind to keep repeating itself than it is for it to come up with new material.

Exercise 2

There is another way to illustrate this. It has become quite common in cartoons and movies to see someone trying to make a decision. In the movie, a “good angel” will be standing on one shoulder talking into one ear of the character. A “bad devil” will be standing on the other shoulder giving the opposite advice.

You can try this yourself. Hold your hands out in front of you, palms up. Picture yourself in natural, flowing carefree clothing standing on one hand. Now, picture yourself in a tight, very formal, army uniform standing on the other hand.

Take the time to see these two aspects of yourself. Now think of an on-going argument you have with yourself. Let’s see, maybe you are trying to cut out carbs, but love muffins. Or perhaps, you have promised yourself daily exercise but it is cold and wet outside. You know your own struggles, pick something that you can relate to. Visualize these two aspects of yourself arguing their points of view.

Carbs make you fat! I like muffins. You must exercise! I’d rather be warm and comfortable. … You get the idea. Take a moment to do this bit right now. I’ll wait.

I’m sure none of this is new to you, except perhaps picturing yourself standing on your hands. What I want to illustrate is that you are neither of the people standing on your hands. You are the one observing the argument. You are the one listening to the debate. The debate is being created by the word generating part of your brain. You are the one observing.

Why is this important?

This is an introductory blog, so I’ll just focus on the Top Three highlights. Let’s just say, this is really, really important.

1. If you think the words in your mind are you, you may not question what they are saying.

This is a real problem if they are mean, destructive or undermine your self-confidence. Once you realize the words aren’t you, you can question what you say to yourself, or better yet, change what you say.

2. Being lost in your mind means you are not paying attention to your life.

If you “forget” the drive in, you also didn’t notice the cute dog that was playing ball; the beautiful trees beside the road; the sky, clouds, sunshine and you didn’t notice anything going on outside of your mind. This becomes important because you miss opportunities. You might not notice something that may have brought you joy.

3. If you believe you are the words in your mind, you are not honouring your true self.

Emotions get pushed out of the way, body sensations are completely ignored and your experience of the world becomes very limited.

Take some time today and focus your attention on the world around you. There is no need to narrate what you are seeing or to make a judgement about the quality of it or whether it is good or bad. Just observe it. Expand your awareness to the temperature, smells, sounds and sensations of your body. Isn’t that a nice break from the chatter? Your thoughts are not who you are. You are way more than that.

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.

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Doctor

IMG_3471It’s just a fragment of a memory, out of context, out of time, but a dramatic one none-the-less. My mother is in her room, on her bed, writhing in agony. She is wailing in pain and sobbing. My father is pacing back and forth in the livingroom, lost, unsure of what to do.

I am in the kitchen immobile. I can’t move. I am frightened and worried. My mother is in distress. There is nothing that I can do. My sister is home. I know that, but I don’t know where she is.

My father says, “We should take you to the doctor’s”.

My mother replies, sobbing, “Dr. Dean can’t see me until….” I don’t remember how far away the appointment was, but it is strange at this point in my life to remember my mother saying that.

If she had in fact been in as much pain and discomfort as she appeared to be, why was she refusing to see a doctor? Why did she not go into the emergency room of the hospital? Heaven knows that we had been there on many occasions.

I blurted out, “Dr. Dean will be dead by then.” I’m not sure why I said this. Perhaps, it was in recognition of how ridiculous her statement was in the midst of all of this drama. Perhaps I didn’t want the only solution, the only end to this to be so far in the future. All I know for sure is that I felt helpless, lost, worried and panicked.

That’s it.

I don’t remember any more. I don’t remember the outcome, other than the fact that Dr. Dean did die before my mother got in to see him. He was rather old at the time.

Now, in hindsight, I realize that this was probably just one more manipulation. My mother used illness as a way of making herself the centre of everyone’s attention. She was sick throughout my entire life. In this particular instance, the likely reason that she did not want to go into the emergency room was that there was nothing wrong and they would be able to tell. Her family could not. We were focusing all of our energy on her and that is the way she liked it.

The Narcissist Survival Guide now available

Leaving-page-001

In this book, Martha Beck examines the truly pathologic relationship she had with her parents and how she managed to get out from under it.

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 Funeral

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 — New Job

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.

Why Were You With a Narcissist? — Part 3

20130723-135839.jpgThis post is continued from Part 1 and Part 2.

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?

Here are some of the clues to the answers:

1. How they act is more important than what they say.

It is easy for a narcissist to tell you what you want to hear, so let’s look at how those types of statements actually look and if they are doing what they say.

They say they support you.

Support is not a verbal thing. If they are your partner, support means that they do part of the work, talk to someone on your behalf, do things that make it easier for you to get whatever it is done. They do not just say they support you; they do something to show it. In addition to that, they will express kindness and encouragement. If someone is providing support, the work is easier with them around.

Ask yourself if your partner is helping you or if they are emphasizing that you should be ‘independent’ and not so needy. Does their “support” actually mean “allow”?

They say that they respect you.

Someone that respects you honours your privacy, priorities, opinions and accomplishments. They do not use jokes to undermine your self-confidence. They do not belittle you or insult your friends.

Is it possible for you to have a different opinion from your partner or do they have to have the last word? Can they see the grey areas that allow you to disagree without being shamed or treated like you are in the wrong? It is not respectful if you are forced to see the world the same way that they see the world.

Try setting boundaries around your private time, interests and friends and see how they react. Do they respect your right to choose how you spend your time and with whom? Do they respect your right to have your own opinions and be independent from them? Do they like you as you are, or are you expected to look and behave in certain ways?

They say that they are your best friend.

Best friends are people that bring out the best in you, make you feel good about yourself and enjoy doing some of the same things that you do. They listen to you when you speak. They share excitement about your accomplishments, celebrate when you are happy and console you when you are upset. After spending time with a friend, you should feel good. Friends will try new activities with you. Does your partner rejoice when you share good news?

Observe whether or not your partner is a sore loser and has an unhealthy need to win or be right at all costs. Invite your potential partner to try something that you enjoy and that they have never tried. What type of reaction do you get? Do they go through the motions or do they actually get involved in the new activity to see if they like it?

They say that they love you.

When someone loves you, they love you all of the time, not just when they feel like it or when they want something. Even if they are mad at you, they do not put you down, insult you, attack you or undermine your self-confidence. If they do lose their temper they are immediately remorseful and will offer an apology. If a balanced person is angry with you they may not speak for a couple of hours, but giving you the silent treatment for extended periods, or often, is an attempt to control you. A person that loves you will not be trying to control you.

In a normal relationship, the affection ebbs and flows without attachment to what can be gained from the exchange. Sex and time spent together is followed by warmth and contentment, not abandonment and being ignored. You deserve love, attention and affection that you can depend on. If you are ignored or treated like an inconvenience, at any time, this person does not love you. How do they respond when you are sad, happy, concerned, late? Are they capable of showing love when you need it? Are they capable of showing empathy and understanding?

2. Observe their other relationships.

How do they treat people that they don’t know?

At a minimum, a nice person is courteous and may also be helpful when dealing with people that they encounter during the day. Does your partner show concern for other people? Or do they make jokes at other peoples’ expense? Is their humour mean or based on how stupid, incapable or unattractive people are? Is it racist or sexist?

An honest person acts with integrity. Sometimes a narcissist will boast about being able to “pull one over” on someone. They will be just as dishonest with you.

What types of friends do they have?

It is important to meet your partner’s friends. Normal people have friends that share the same interests, get together to do things they enjoy and support each other in good times, working times and bad times. Does your partner act differently around their friends? Behaving in a different way around friends is a red flag because it means that they are dishonest. Especially around friends, an individual should be comfortable relaxing and being themselves. A person capable of loving someone will be capable of forming strong bonds with good friends.

What types of dynamics are at play in their family?

Visit. See how they treat each other. Are they supportive and kind or are there a lot of mean jokes and put-downs? Is the mood festive, or subdued? Are the family members sharing stories and anecdotes? How are these stories received? Is there a feeling of openness and sharing or are one or two people asking a lot of questions?

Despite how family gatherings are stylized on television, many, many families actually enjoy each other’s company. Is your partner kind to their family members or do they “hate” some of them? Are they “annoyed” by their families? A person capable of loving someone will show love and respect for their family.

How did their last relationship end?

An individual may have been hurt, disillusioned or abandoned by their last relationship, but it is important to ask detailed questions about what happened. A person capable of loving another will be able to explain in concrete terms what was wrong, how the relationship ended and why it didn’t work. Claiming that their Ex was just “crazy” or “insane” is likely a major red flag.

3. Are they capable of discussing emotions and feelings?

Balanced individuals express a range of emotions. They can be happy, sad, excited, angry and content. Is the full range of emotions expressed? Are you allowed to express the full range of emotions or are you told to “suck it up”? How does your partner respond when you need comforting, emotional support and attention? These should all be available when you need them. I do not mean that your partner should be available 100% of the time, but when you feel sad, for instance, they should recognize that you need comfort.

It is not unreasonable for you to want someone to spend time with you if you are in distress. There are limits to this; if you are distressed all of the time, but you should be able to rely on emotional support.

Is your partner open about their feelings? Have they managed to work through old painful memories or do they still find them overwhelming? Can they express the full range of emotions or do they mainly express the familiar narcissistic ones, which are: “poor me”; “I hate something” and “Wow! I’m great”.

So, the final thing that you must face head-on is, “Are YOU capable of loving someone?” Do you feel empathy when someone else is being emotional or does it make you uncomfortable? Any relationship that you are in should be an equal partnership and if you are not capable of forming these bonds, you may not be capable of having a relationship with someone that can.

My Newest Book, The Narcissist Survival Guide is now available

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.

Narcissism Navigated — Top 21 Narcissism Posts

Whether you are dating a narcissist, want to leave one, think you might have one in your life, want to know how to spot one or protect yourself from one, I have probably written a blog or a book about it. Here is a summary of the most informative posts that I have on this site.

Identifying a Narcissist

1.   10 Things You Need to Know About Narcissists 

2.   The Confusion of Spotting a Narcissist

3.   Are you living with a Narcissist?

 Dating and the Narcissist

4.   Top 10 Signs You are Dating a Narcissist

5.   My Soulmate is a Narcissist

6.   The Narcissistic Pattern

7.   10 Ways to Discourage Narcissists from Dating You

8.   My Friend is Dating a Narcissist What Should I do?

9.   Narcissist Attack

10. The Chemistry of Connection

Family Matters

11. Leaving the Narcissist

12. No Contact now Possible when Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

13. Narcissists and the Legal System

You and Narcissism

14. Protecting Yourself from the Narcissist

15. Why Were You With a Narcissist? (3 parts)

16. 6 Traits You Can Attribute to Being with a Narcissist (3 parts)

17. Co-dependency and Narcissism

18. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Narcissism

19. Post Narcissism — Searching for Normal

20. Outsmarting the Narcissist

Interesting Tid Bits

21. A Narcissism Test??

Anecdotes from my life are done in a series entitled: Scenes from the Front Line (They all have links to the other posts in the series):   Narcissism–Scenes From the Front Line — The Fax

My Book

Narcissist_frontcover

If you would like to be notified when my next book is released let me know, click here.

 

Shot of Cover

I hope that this summary is helps you to navigate my site.

 

 

 

Post Narcissism — Searching for Normal

IMG_2077One of the questions that I often get on my blog is, “How do you fully recover from a narcissist?” As I am currently in the process, I’ll let you know what I have tried and what has brought relief, but I am not claiming that I am all of the way out of the darkness.

What I can say is that there is more joy now in my life than there ever was while I was living with a narcissist. The act of removing myself from the environment and then separating myself as completely as possible from the drama made room for all kinds of joy and satisfaction to flood in. On an average day I am content, happy and I feel like the world is full of opportunity and promise. That is a good thing.

I have been helped along the way by meditating and journaling. I hesitate to write that because that is where most people stop as though doing those two things results in immediate healing of all symptoms and a reversion to the innocence you once had. This was not my experience.

What these two practices did, in summary, was made me aware of my thoughts and feelings. As these two elements surface, it gave me an opportunity to look at them, see if they were serving me and decide whether or not I wanted to hold onto them. A few examples will help illustrate what I am trying to say.

One thought I had was, “I should’ve acted differently.” (substitute in anything here: faster, more forcefully, more honestly, more decisively, more intuitively, more in defense of myself). Really? This thought does not hold up to examination for two reasons. First, I was doing my best with the information that I had at the time. Second, thoughts like this keep you caught in a pattern of wishing things were different. The past will never be different. Find a way to accept that you acted the way you did and just embrace it. Forgive yourself if you need to. The point is, when you are stuck thinking that things should have been different, you are stuck. Try: “It happened. I am no longer there.”

This sounds like word games, but it stops the inevitable next thoughts that begin to rewrite how things should be now if you had acted differently then. “I wasted so much time.” “If I had acted differently they would have loved me back.” “I should’ve seen my situation earlier and more clearly” blah, blah, blah…. you didn’t. I didn’t. Lets move on.

Another thing I became aware of was all of the emotions that I was still harboring: resentment, hate, love, anger, jealousy, regret, and so on, and so on. These emotions need to be honoured, not analyzed. You feel whatever you feel. Regardless of how bad these things are, they are only emotions. Let yourself experience them as much as you can and they lose their power over you. Allowing myself to feel all of the emotions that surface has allowed me to release decades of old pain. I have remembered how scared I was as a five year old getting my tonsils out in the hospital; how devastated I was when my dog died when I was a teenager and other equally traumatic things that occurred.

The process goes like this. You are present in the moment and you notice the slightest flicker of an emotion. Focus all of your attention on that flicker. If you are like me, you have learned to immediately push these slight emotional whispers aside and pretend they are not there. Try to break this habit. Notice the flicker. Sit with the thought that brought it on for a moment and let the emotion expand. When you fully experience the connection to the memory that holds the pain, you are likely to have an emotional response: laughter, tears, rage… Once you have allowed the emotion to be expressed it is no longer as painful.

I can now remember the anguish of my dog dying without the extremely painful hurt it caused. I had been holding down this pain for over thirty years. Think of how much energy and focus that took!

If you are like me, you may be harboring emotions that should have been expressed a long time ago and not all of them are related to the narcissist that you had in your life. Releasing these feelings is like opening a gateway that lets emotions flow out and creativity, joy and connection flow into your world.

This is an ongoing exercise that is allowing me to go deeper and deeper into who I am at my core. The true me. The complete me. Which brings me to another truth. In order to survive where I was living, I learned to hide parts of myself. The parts that were taunted, belittled, ridiculed or unwelcome. This is a survival technique that anyone that has lived with a narcissist learns. The first time you put your heart and soul into choosing and arranging fresh flowers in a vase and you are told that they are in the way, a waste of money and a waste of time, is the last time you allow yourself to indulge. Pick your own example. I know there is one.

I have been paying attention to things that I enjoy. Little things like small flowers, good music, colour, art and writing. These are things that I have always enjoyed, but the toxic atmosphere of living with a narcissist blocks your connection to these things. I became so focused on just making it through my days, behaving in ways that wouldn’t rock the boat or provide fodder for an attack and trying to figure out what was going on, I lost all connection to myself and my desires. I lost a sense of who I was.

I have been gradually reclaiming these things but it takes paying attention to today. If your mind is preoccupied with regret, unexpressed emotions, thought patterns that keep you trapped in a past that was confusing and painful, you will not get to the present. It is only in the present that you start to enjoy yourself, to notice the joy in your life and reconnect with the parts of yourself that got shoved aside when you were in survival mode.

The Narcissist Survival Guide is now available

My Mother was a Narcissist

photoI was sitting in front of my computer at work. My personal email was open. I forget what I was about to do, when it happened. I had recently read a book, “When will I Be Enough” and in it I found a description of my mother–to a ‘T’, right down to some of her sayings…This made me rethink my understand of my world, who I am, which stories from my childhood were true or why they were not. My mother was a narcissist.

Picture yourself in complete blackness. Quiet, damp, like a dudgeon built using stone for the walls. Now, hear the creak, from an old horror movie as a large wooden door opens a crack. A split forms in the stone wall and a blare of bright sunlight hits your unprepared eyes. This is how I felt, at work, when the memories that I kept hidden from myself flooded back into my awareness.

I quickly typed into an open email, until it became overwhelming. Every severe, intense emotional sensation was overlapped all at once. It seemed to be hitting me in my chest, at the base of my neck. It felt as though the sheer power of the energy would cause my chest to explode and my face to rip open from the inside. I locked my computer, got up and went to hide in the washroom.

The next morning, a time when I generally write, I sat down at home with the intention of examining one of the memories that I had been flooded with. Nothing came. They were gone again, hidden behind that stone wall in my memory. Inaccessible. This is how we protect ourselves from the pain. This is how we keep from reliving the emotional trauma day after day.

Unfortunately, I recognize that this wall must come down, stone by stone. I need to examine and process these memories so that so much of my resolve is not used up keeping the wall intact. Unprocessed emotion stays with you. It jumps out when least expected or when something in your life triggers a part of what you have stored. It has been blamed for addictions, depression and disease.

I opened the draft of the email that I made my notes in and I was able to look at it and examine a single memory. This is the best way for me to deal with this new revelation. Unfortunately, my fortress is no longer intact and I find that I’m bursting into tears while driving, watching television and while I am alone. I caught myself, yelling at myself during a particularly long drive. Thankfully, I was alone at the time. Not pleasant, but I think it is probably necessary. More stories to come. I’ll post them here.

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book, now available

I wrote my first book, (above) before I knew that my mother was a narcissist.

The Narcissist Survival Guide now available

Narcissism–Scenes From the Front Line — The Call

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Cavity

Releasing Emotions

Some Like it Hot

IMG_0056Is it Hot Enough For You?

Do you remember shovelling snow, hating the slippery roads, wearing layers upon layers and still being cold? This heat wave is the weather that we were all looking forward to as we stepped into deep water secretly hidden under a thin layer of ice, soaking us through to our socks. True happiness comes from knowing one’s self and getting in touch with how we truly feel and what we truly want.

Focusing on external circumstances like the weather (what can we control less?), especially if we aren’t enjoying them, can be a bad habit that is often used to avoid paying attention to what we are feeling. Do 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. Click here to read more…..

In order to truly get in touch with what you want it is necessary to stop thinking about what should be making you happy. It is easy to get pulled into the idea that the next promotion, the next purchase, the upcoming holiday is what will make us happy. These are all future events and are not happening now. It is important to become aware of the less tangible, more satisfying aspects of your life. Especially in North America, we are all about the logical, scientific mind. We are quite confident that if you can measure it, test it and quantify it, “It” is real and worth our attention. We are driven by…click here to read more….

I want to welcome you to your life. Some things can be changed, some cannot. The trick is to experience your life to the fullest and to allow yourself to indulge in your passions. So stop thinking so hard and doing so much and enjoy the weather before the snow returns.