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.

10 Ways to Discourage Narcissists from Dating You

IMG_0501If you’ve ever ended up with a narcissist before, or if you are out there in the dating world, these are some of the things that you should be aware of when you begin to date someone new. These tips may keep you from realizing that you have been “captured” by a narcissist.

1. In initial conversations make sure you ask them as many questions as they ask you. Wait for an answer. If they say that they like something, ask a more specific question.

Why this is important

Narcissists actually probe you for information so that they can learn as much about you as possible. By asking them questions, you force them to tell you about themselves. This slows down the process of them collecting data and allows you an opportunity to determine if they are lying.

For example, you say, “I love dancing the Macarena” They reply, “I do too!” You can ask, “Where do you usually go dancing?” This next direct question forces them to be more specific. The first set of lies is very simple, but the more detailed the questions the more likely you will catch them in a lie. Also, it can put them off balance and make them less attracted to you.

It is important in any relationship that there be reciprocity, so asking someone about themselves as much as they ask you, is a good thing.

2. Never reveal personal or private information early. The rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t tell everyone at work, it is not something to share in the first couple of weeks of a relationship.

Why this is important

Sharing personal information has two effects. The first is that it gives you a sense of intimacy with this person. Exchanging private information is one of the ways that we get close to someone. Narcissists use this method to get close fast. Getting really close to someone before you know them is never a good thing. The second problem is that sensitive material can be used against you and if the person turns out to be a narcissist you will regret sharing things that you did not want everyone to know.

Realize we all crave intimacy.

There is a strong urge to reveal things to the same level as someone else.

It is good to base any relationship on trust and intimacy and these things take time. There will be time in the future to share these details if this is the right person.

3. Don’t fight for the relationship right at the beginning. If someone that you are just starting to date tells you that their friends or family would not approve of your relationship or if they let you know that they are leaving town or that they are worried about you breaking up with them right away it is a warning sign. They are looking for assurances, way before it is reasonable, for you to say that you would not leave. If for any reason, the relationship seems to have opposition or an expiry date, see it as a red flag. Statements like, “This is just a summer fling” are a warning sign.

Why this is important

Think of dating a narcissist as a job interview. They want someone that will be there for the long haul. They want to know that you will go the extra mile to make the relationship work. All of these things are desirable in a good, long-term relationship, but they show you are desperate in the short term. Narcissists are attracted to someone that is too desperate to easily leave any relationship, even a bad one.

If their friends or family wouldn’t approve, why would you want to be with someone when you would be an outcast or disliked? If the person you just started dating may have to leave town for a job or to go back to school, recognize that it is too early to make that kind of commitment and don’t. These situations can also be a ploy. If you move to another town with them early in the relationship they have you trapped because you are relying on them for everything and none of your friends or family are around.

If early on you get the impression that there might be opposition to your relationship or an expiry date you are being pressured to make a commitment prematurely.

4. Maintain your private time. If you are being flooded with attention it may initially feel like you are loved. This is not the case. A narcissist will flood you with attention as a way of controlling you. You get used to this level of attention and then you expect it, long after it is taken away. Try to not respond to the multiple texts, messages and calls. Don’t respond until it is convenient. Constantly interrupting your time with other people is one of the ways that narcissists distance you from your friends.

Why this is important

Narcissists need constant nourishment from others. They are trying to figure out if you are the one that is going to give it to them. By not giving it to them, you are less likely to be pursued.

A person that actually loves you, respects your right to privacy, time with your friends and your need to have time to yourself.

5. Keep seeing your friends, doing your hobbies and pursuing your interests. If your new dating partner insists on seeing you every minute, it as a sign of pathology not adoration. The beginning of a relationship is too early to be spending most of your time with someone.

It is one thing to say, “I’m going to the movies with friends.” But if someone you have just started dating digs for more detail: which friends, which theatre, which movie, are you going out afterwards? It is best to not give it. “Hiding” information from a narcissist will drive them crazy and they will not want to date you.

Why this is important

The ultimate goal of a narcissist is to have you all to themselves. This is part of the control that they have over their partners because the narcissist manages to eliminate everyone else from your life as much as possible. Having only one person in your life makes you very dependent on this person.

Realize you may want to be “good”

and not realize that you are wired to “obey”

when someone asks you to do something.

In a healthy relationship your partner will want you to be happy and having friends, hobbies and interests is a large part of that.

6. Maintain your private space. Agreeing to have someone move in right away, or suddenly noticing that one “sleep over” has resulted in the person never leaving is a major red flag. You should make other plans and tell them that you want to go out with your friends and that they can’t stay at your place.

Why this is important

This is just one element of how a narcissist moves in and takes control of your life. Suddenly, you will realize that they are living at your place full time. The longer they are there before you stand your ground the more difficult it becomes to maintain your space. Having someone move in right away does not allow time for you to balance this new relationship with the other priorities in your life.

Realize you are fighting biology here.

We instinctively want others around. It feels good to have company.

Quality relationships are not based on spending as much time together as quickly as possible. They are based on mutual respect for each other’s lives and priorities.

7. Resist the urge to “take care of someone” you just met. If someone tells you early in a relationship that they have come upon bad times at work, in health, a tragedy, ask yourself why you want to take care of them and why there is no one else in their lives to fulfill this role.

Why this is important

This is one of the tactics that narcissists use to get close to you. Examples are, “I’ve just lost my job and have no money”. “I was living with my last lover and I ended it, so I have no place to live”. “I just moved into town and have been living on a friend’s sofa but I’ve outstayed my welcome”. If they say that they just got out of a bad relationship with an awful person, insist that you don’t want to be their rebound person and move away quickly.

Realize that you are fighting instincts here.

We all want to pick up the fallen bird and nurse it back to health.

Healthy relationships are between two self-sufficient individuals. If this person cannot support themselves now, they are unlikely to take care of their half of the responsibility in a relationship.

8. We all like to dream and plan, but the beginning of a relationship is a bad time to be planning to be together forever. Try the phrase, “I think we are getting ahead of ourselves”. This allows you to be honest and can be used like this: “Yes, I would love to move to New York City with you and pursue my comedy career, but I think we are getting ahead of ourselves.”

Why this is important

One of the tactics narcissists use to keep you from leaving is to point out that you “agreed” to this relationship and wanted this relationship from the beginning. Now you are a “quitter” or “selfish” or “mean” if you are just abandoning this dream. Often, the dream was premature.

It is good to have dreams and long term plans together but these should be based on a solid relationship, not an elusive goal that is agreed upon before all of the facts are in.

9. Pay attention to how your date treats others. Ask yourself if you want to be treated that way.

Why this is important

Narcissists often think that they are justified belittling those around them. They think that they are superior and therefore they can treat others badly. In any relationship, how your partner treats others can be how they will treat you — eventually.

A nice person has respect for others and respect for you and treats people accordingly.

10. Focus on reciprocity. If they compliment you, compliment them back. If they ask about you, ask about them. If they do something for you, do it for them.

Why this is important.

Ideally, we all want good relationships. Keeping things in balance is a good starting point for a relationship based on mutual support. By treating them exactly how they treat you, you will become aware of whether or not it “feels normal”. For instance, if they buy you several gifts and it feels abnormal to buy someone you just met that many gifts, you realize that this is a red flag. This method helps you see past the joy you felt in receiving the gifts and puts them in context. If you feel like you are being disingenuous complimenting them repeatedly, realize that their level of compliments may be abnormal and this is certainly a red flag.

It is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of a new relationship and suddenly realize that your whole world has changed. With a narcissist it is important to be very aware at the beginning and not let this happen.

This is kinda a good news, bad news type of post.

The good news is that this information will help you side step a relationship with a narcissist, someone that can wreak havoc on your life for decades.

The bad news is that your next new relationship might not work out.

Keep in mind you don’t always want relationships to “work out”; some of them can be bad for you.

Narcissism Navigated

The Narcissist Survival Guide is now available

Top 10 Signs You are Dating a Narcissist

Protecting Yourself from the Narcissist

Leaving the Narcissist

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

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

Why Were You With a Narcissist?–Part 1

IMG_2079So, after a terribly tumultuous time you have discovered that your partner is a narcissist. Yes, it is good to know that you are not going crazy. It is comforting to realize that you were not the source of all of the problems; you were simply the victim of a pathology masked as a lover. But, as the first wave of relief hits you, you begin to wonder, why did I pick a narcissist? This is a good question to ask, because it speaks to a deeper, often painful truth. A truth that you must understand before you pick another one.

Consider the following statements:

  1. You had been lonely for a long time.
  2. You are a gentle and open-minded person that is not quick to judge or jump to conclusions.
  3. You are unable to distinguish the difference between someone who truly loves you and someone that pretends to love you.
  4. You are highly independent and have learned to take care of yourself and those around you.
  5. You knew that you could help this person achieve their full potential.
  6. You thought that this person would make your life easier (more money, more support, more companionship).

Do any of these statements resonate with you? At first glance, the list above does not seem that remarkable. A lot of people are lonely. Being open-minded and self-sufficient are both good things. Knowing that you can help someone attain a better life, or hoping that someone can help you, both seem like reasonable things.

The alarming one is that you may be unable to distinguish between someone who truly loves you and someone who pretends to love you. When you combine that with one of the other things on the list, you can be exactly what the narcissist desires. There are three categories of narcissistic needs: the necessities of life, nourishment and a receptacle for their anger.

If you are willing to help this person achieve their full potential, or you are highly independent and can take care of yourself and those around you, the necessities of life may be what you can provide for the narcissist.

An individual that is looking for someone to take care of them, or is tired of being lonely is a sure bet for a narcissist. It is much more difficult for a person like this to leave an abusive relationship. Lonely or dependent individuals can swing between being a source of nourishment and a receptacle for the narcissist.

A gentle, open-minded person is easy to deceive. They are the type of individual that will give the narcissist “the benefit of the doubt” when the narcissist starts to show their true colours and this can lengthen the relationship considerably.

So these are some of the reasons that you may have been a target for the narcissist, but they do not speak to the larger problem, your ability to pick a partner might not be well developed. For many of us, we did not learn the basics of partner selection because we were brought up under less than ideal conditions. This is not to say that our families were not doing the best that they could, it just means that they were not equipped to help us to make good choices in the partner department. More on that in Part 2.

The Narcissist Survival Guide is now available

Top 10 Signs You are Dating a Narcissist


At the beginning of a new relationship it is difficult to know what is normal and what is pathologic. Here are some red flags that should make you question whether or not you are with a

1. They are VERY interested in you.

When you first meet your initial conversations have less of a ‘get to know you’ feel and are more like an interrogation. They may join in the conversation, but they tend to want to know as much about you as possible. This is the initial situation, soon they become very full of themselves and only want to talk about how great they are.

     Why this pulls you in:

They show so much interest in you when you first meet them. This can be irresistible to someone that has been ignored, unheard or otherwise lonely. This burst of attention can make you feel like this person cares about you. If you desperately want some attention, you are at risk.

2. They reveal something very personal early.

Most people share private details with someone as they get to know them. This is different, because these are shared long before the relationship warrants this type of exchange.

     Why this pulls you in:

Revealing something personal is associated with attaining a certain level of intimacy. This is often reciprocated. In normal social interactions, people want the same level of vulnerability. We all want close, personal, relationships. Sharing personal things before you have known someone very long (regardless of how close you feel!!) is risky because they can and will use this personal information against you.

3. They elicit sympathy.

They give you a reason to feel sorry for them: broken home, lost job, just got out of a bad relationship, hard times.

     Why this pulls you in:

This plays on our natural instincts to help one another. If someone shows vulnerability we feel like we want to help. One of the most common examples is that their last lover was very mean to them and treated them badly. They now are hurt, vulnerable and scared to get involved with another person. We can all relate to having an Ex that hurt us. This helps build the relationship by creating a common experience, a common understanding. If you did have a bad relationship before, they find this alluring. They want drama in their lives and if you get pulled into Ex bashing, they have found a true partner.

4. All of their spare time must be with you.

Narcissists cannot be alone. Do not mistake this for them really, really wanting to spend time with you. They are trying to avoid being alone.

     Why this pulls you in:

If you have been lonely, or alone too much, this can make you feel special and loved.

5. Quickly, they start making long-term plans.

They can see your future for decades. They get really close really fast, well before it would normally happen.

     Why this pulls you in:

They want you to see this imaginary future and start planning long term. Later, this will be used against you if you try to break away from the relationship because this imaginary life is something that you have agreed to and probably want. This is the opposite of someone that “won’t commit” and can be misunderstood as desirable.

6. They lie.

They exaggerate or give only partial information about things. Like, their last job may have been lost because they didn’t show up for work. They say that their boss was a jerk.

     Why this pulls you in:

They are pulling on your heartstrings often by telling lies that inflate them, make them look like the victim or make them seem interesting.

7. They blame others for all of their problems.

They do not take responsibility for the loss of their last relationship, job, friends, or anything else.

     Why this pulls you in:

It can give you a misrepresentation of who they are and not let you see how much trouble they cause. It also elicits sympathy because they have had such a hard time.

8. They have a need to know where you are and whom you are with at all times.

They blame this on their last relationship and make you feel like it is up to you to make them feel safe and loved, because they were hurt so bad before.

     Why this pulls you in:

It can make you feel special and loved to have someone contacting you to say hello. These calls (texts, emails or whatever) are often masked as, “I miss you and wanted to say hello.” These are actually check-up calls so that they can keep track of you.

9. They display anger disproportionate to the situation.

Anyone that has road rage, gets snippy with a clerk, waiter or someone that they barely have contact with is showing inappropriate anger. These can be subtle at the time, but are MAJOR. Normal people do not have this amount of pent up rage.

     Why this pull you in:

If you tend to lack assertiveness, it can be nice to be with someone that stands up for you.

10. History of reckless behaviour.

They tell stories about great and daring things that they have done.

     Why this pulls you in:

These stories are often interesting and make the person seem daring and exciting. It feels like being with them will make your life more expansive and enjoyable.

Kindle cover

 My Book, The Narcissist Survival Guide is now available. 

10 Ways to Discourage Narcissists from Dating You

Protecting Yourself from the Narcissist

Leaving the Narcissist

Revealed! 6 lies Narcissists Tell 

The Narcissistic Pattern

IMG_5025Being attractive meant that Jesse got a lot of attention. She was regularly asked out and was often disappointed to find that her suitors were disappointing. (and when I write “she”, I mean “he” as well. The sexes in this scenario are arbitrary. This can be written exactly the same with any genders). Her looks drew them in but then, once she was in the relationship, things felt flat, unrewarding and she questioned whether or not there were any men that actually wanted more than to be seen with her.

Jamie was different. He asked all about her, pursued her relentlessly and made her feel secure and loved. Having a history of short, unrewarding relationships, Jesse was careful, but Jamie understood. He had been hurt before. He confided in Jesse that he did not know why he picked such troubled women but they had all turned out to be “not quite right”. He said that his last girlfriend was almost certifiable.

He was willing to take it slow. He told Jesse how he dreamed of breaking out of his rut, starting a family, perhaps moving to a new town. These notions appealed to Jesse and his interest in her was unquestionable. Calls, gifts, dinners and surprises were all part of this perfect package. Jamie got along well with her friends and always had something exciting to talk about, people he had met, things he was going to do.

Jesse fell hard for Jamie. The whirlwind romance continued for weeks and Jamie got a new job in another town and asked her to go with him. Jesse had already said that moving to a new town was appealing to her and when she hesitated, Jamie pointed this out. He had only looked in other towns because she said she would like it. She knew it was too soon, but she had never been more sure of anything and quickly said yes. He was her soul mate. This man wanted all of the same things, doted on her and was very romantic. Problem was, it was all a lie.

The stress of the move, living with someone new and living in a new town all caused strife. Jesse knew they were arguing a lot, but isn’t that normal under so much stress? Jamie’s new job gave him more reason to be tense. His direct supervisor turned out to be a jerk and he was having trouble getting along in his new working environment. Jesse took a low paying job, the only job that she could get quickly, and thank-goodness, because Jamie quit right away. How could he be expected to work in such an unreasonable situation?

Jesse now found herself living in a new town, no friends or family around, working to keep the two of them afloat and Jamie was no longer kind. He criticized her for being selfish, not realizing how difficult it was for him to have to rely on her income. He wanted her to feel sorry for him and take care of him and if she encouraged him to get work, there was always an excuse why that couldn’t happen. He would blow up at her and accuse her of being a bitch, trying to control him, acting like his mother.

Jesse wondered what she had done wrong. Where was the romantic Jamie that was so concerned about how she felt? Where were the flowers? Why didn’t he dote on her like he did before? Why couldn’t he even do laundry? She was the one that worked all day. She tried harder. She wouldn’t complain or make demands. She knew the entire situation had been hard on Jamie. He would come out of it if she was just patient enough.

Each time Jesse worked up the nerve to leave, Jamie would become the thoughtful Jamie again. He would apologize, make promises and remember to do something sweet. Jesse knew the nice guy was still in there and she couldn’t make sense of the ups and downs. Things were either great or terrible. There did not seem to be a middle ground that lasted very long.

Her friends were all in a different town and when she said that she was going home for the weekend to visit, Jamie became incensed. Obviously she didn’t care about him or how he was feeling. He accused her of being selfish and thoughtless. The more she stood up for herself, the more demeaning Jamie got. He was now questioning whether or not he had chosen another wacko. Jamie accused Jesse of being insane. Jesse did her best to avoid fights, do what she could to placate Jamie and his abuse got worse.

Jamie started to go out late most nights. Since Jesse had to work early in the morning, she asked him to try to be quiet when he came home, so as not to wake her. Jamie started to bang the door a few times when he came in and blare the television set. He would prove to her that she couldn’t control him.

If some of the elements in this story ring true, you may have chosen abusive partners before. Here is what you need to pay attention to:

Jamie’s Red Flags

1. His last relationship, or a pattern of relationships, with people that are considered “crazy” or “insane’.

A history of very bad relationships is not a coincidence.

2. Intense romantic overtures early in the relationship. Rule of thumb is that if it would make you feel uncomfortable to match the gifts, surprises and compliments one for one, they are probably excessive.

Over “giving” and pursuing early in a relationship is not normal.

3. Early plans to make major changes in the way things are like moving away, starting a new career, spending a year travelling (with no clear means to pay for it).

Making major life changes early in a relationship is dangerous.

Things to Understand

1. Fights are Normal — Abuse is Not

All relationships have conflict, but the type of fight and the intensity can be pathologic. Someone that actually loves you does not put you down, physically hurt you or call you names. When Jamie started accusing Jesse of being insane, it was not an “argument” it was an attempt to control her. It was abusive.

2. Your needs are important

A partner should respect your needs. If you want to visit friends, this is not an attack on your partner. If you want a hobby, time to yourself, to pursue other interests, a person that loves you will support you.

3. Sharing the Work can be Expected

It is reasonable to get help both financially and physically from your partner to do the work of living. Asking for help and expecting to receive it are legitimate parts of a mutually respectful relationship.

History Repeats Itself

Too often, a pattern of finding a pathological partner stems from your experience of other relationships. If all you have ever witnessed is:

love is conditional on good behaviour,

people are mean to get their way and/or

really intense good times are followed by really bad times

then it can be hard to know that this is not normal. This is hurtful and abusive and only you can choose to not be in the relationship.



Protecting Yourself from the Narcissist

Flowers, dinner and romance….nothing quite sets the tone like being pursued. Engagement, passion, abandonment. What? Is anything as lonely, isolating or unravelling, as being dropped like a hot potato? Did he actually get up and call the office right away? Is this really happening? He didn’t even pull on pants.

One of the hallmarks of the narcissistic personality is their ability to charm and romance a person into getting what they want. Another is how quickly that person is dropped once the narcissist gets what they were pursuing all along. This is part of what makes it so confusing. You can think back to all of the nice things that this person has done. You have memories of thoughtful acts, nice gifts, small kind gestures, and yet, you are now alone again and cannot seem to find the person that was so solicitous.

Unlike healthier relationships that are all give and take, that leave you feeling supported and loved, a narcissist does many of the same behaviours and then simply leaves. This may be emotional abandonment or physical abandonment but you are not supported and loved.

You know that you are in a relationship with a narcissist if you are often confused about what the status of your relationship is. If you have no idea what is going on and have the suspicion that you may be losing your mind, or at least having difficulty with your memory. If you are starting to feel off-balance you may feel that way because the narcissist wants you to. Part of the manipulative nature of a narcissist comes from their ability to make you doubt yourself. Most people, are not 100% sure that they are right all of the time and the narcissist knows this and uses it against you.

So, what to do? The first place to start is to try to tease out the difference between the normal ups and downs of any given relationship and the emotional swings of a relationship with a narcissist. They are superficially the same, but the intensity is different. In some cases, the narcissist needs conflict to “feel” anything at all and will cause fights just to experience the emotions that they dreg up. Another difference is how they behave in periods of crisis when you actually need them. For instance, if you come home from work with bad news, how do they react? They despise having to “give” in a relationship and needing to support you is off-putting. Often they will be too busy with something important that they must do, will find an excuse to leave or simply attack you for not handling it better and for being so needy. These are all large red flags. The gold standard of narcissistic behaviour is the compromise. They don’t. If there is a situation when you want something and they want something else and there is no way that you can both have what you want they always win. Finally, nothing is ever their fault. If they forget, you should’ve reminded them. If there are problems at work it is because of the jerks that they have to work with. If something is done wrong the information was insufficient. It is never their fault. Consider these signs. Do any or all of them sound like your relationship? If they do, you can begin to see the relationship for what it is.

Protecting yourself is a step-by-step process. Begin by determining whether or not you are happy right now with your life as it is. This seems like a broad way to look at things, but narcissists affect your entire life. This is way bigger than your relationship. If you are often confused, lonely, angry or questioning your sanity how many friends do you think you’ll have? What is the quality of those relationships? How well will you be performing at work? Will you be able to find the energy to engage in your hobbies, passions or interests? Are you content with your life? If yes, you are done. If no, go to the next step.

Start taking notes; as often and as many as possible. Be honest, NEVER exaggerate. This becomes important when you are reviewing them later. If you make a promise to yourself to record what actually happened and how you actually felt, it is your truth. This is how you remember things. It may not be the “truth” but it is how you experienced it. Part of the power that the narcissist has is that they know that you cannot be completely sure of yourself and they occupy that space like ice freezing in a crack, expanding until a large hole is left where your confidence used to be. Now you have a tool to protect yourself when they start to rewrite history or say things that make you question yourself.

Also, it is common to underestimate how awful something in the past felt. By promising yourself that you will never exaggerate, you can revisit how you actually felt. It will surprise you to see how differently you remember the bad times. The mind has a way of forgetting the bad parts of our lives, to some extent. It will be harder to tell yourself that it is not as bad as you imagine because you wrote down how you actually felt at the time.

Record the good times and the bad. Try to make notes about what preceded the bits that you like or did not like. The purpose of this is to see if there is a pattern. In a healthier relationship, nice time together is followed by a sort of after glow. You had a great day together and now you are content, perhaps at work or doing what you do in a day. In a narcissistic relationship, time spent together is used as a way to meet their needs, whatever they were, and now you are not needed. There is no “after glow” you are now ignored. They may not have even spoken to you before you left the house. You have no idea what you have done to make them so distant. Fights may spring out of no where. Romance is always in pursuit of things. Keep as many notes as possible, because if you try to discuss these concerns with your partner they will deny the patterns, rewrite the sequence of how things happened and make it about you, not them. It is never their fault.

Observe their behaviour with this question in mind: What do they want right now? This is a powerful question because it helps you see them for the manipulators that they are. If wine and a good dinner have ended in romance in the past, decide to not engage this time. What happens? If they are trying to start a fight, notice how they are purposely pushing your buttons. Why can that suggestion give them so much power to make you feel defensive? Isn’t that an old issue that was never resolved? Why are they bringing that up now? What do they want right now? What do they want right now? What do they want right now? Repeat it when you are in good and bad situations.

Make peace with the fact that there are good aspects to the relationship. Yes, you would not be with this person if all you saw was the bad. Know that there are people in the world that you can share good times with that do not also destroy your life and your self-confidence. When a narcissist is charming, they are very charming. It is normal to be attracted to someone that treats you so well. It is normal to want to be loved. It is normal to find many things that you like about this person. That is OK.

Understand that part of the pathology of narcissism is that they do not love the way that others do. They do not have the emotional attachment to you that you do for them. They may: want you around, like what you can do for them, enjoy having sex with you; but they do not have the same bonds as you do. This gives them all of the power. You need them more than they need you.

So, there you have it. You have identified that you are in a pathologic relationship. You realize that you do not like how it is affecting your life. You have noted the patterns and the manipulations. You have learned how to maintain your sanity. You understand that this is who they are and despite promises they will not change. You know that they do not love you as you love them. Now, you have to decide. Should I stay or should I go?

The Narcissist Survival Guide is now available

Martha Beck coaching in ways that are meant to help you get out of places in your life where you are stuck.

Leaving the Narcissist

Why Were You With a Narcissist?

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


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Shot of Cover

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




Inventing Mother

IMG_0164I have done a little reading about how to mend a broken heart; when it was broken by the absence of parents, and there does not seem to be much available. One book gave strict guidelines that you were not supposed to make your other relationships fill this hole in your heart. You have to accept that you did not get the love and are not entitled to get it now.

But there has been little comfort and support. Now, I understand that I may not have the correct search terms. You can tell by the way many people write about their relationships that they didn’t know that their problem was with a narcissist at all. So, it would’ve been hard for them to find ways to read about that particular problem before they knew the search term. But I find myself without any fruitful results from my own searches, so I’ve started to explore my own possibilities.

Not knowing the search term has been a problem for me in the past. I was searching for a company that would install an automated sprinkling system in my yard. I searched: sprinklers, lawn, watering, landscaping, gardening, grass and got no results, bar one.

The company I found was out of town and he serviced my area, but it was a drive for him. After he installed the system, he mentioned that I should find a local company to deal with the winter maintenance. I did not know how to find one. I called a guy in a related industry and he said, I don’t do that work, but there are a lot of guys that do. Check irrigation in the phone book. Irrigation Every person that worked in that industry had made the same assumption. They thought people looking for their services would use that word and that word only. It’s only common sense…

Once it’s occurred to you.

Not being able to find what I need on-line, I’ve decided to try inserting a mother into my bad memories. Let me explain this double speak. I know that I did not have a mother caring for me. When I remember a bad childhood experience, I am going to insert another mother into the void. So, even though I did not have a mother there, I’m going to add a woman into all of the memories. I will change the outcome in each memory and see how I feel.

I have already pictured this woman. She is large, fat and has dark brown, almost black hair that she wears short and smoothed from curls. So, for instance, I have a rather intense memory of watching television, knowing that I was not allowed to wake my mother. I was hungry so I stole some butterscotch chocolate chips and ate them (they were disgusting) until my stomach hurt.

Now, instead, I am watching television, knowing that I am not allowed to wake my mother and this fat brunette walks in from the front hall. She bends down and picks me up into her arms and walks me into the kitchen. After setting me down on a kitchen chair, she asks what she can prepare for me.

IMG_0377I am super hungry, so I ask for the big breakfast with bacon and eggs and buttered toast with jam. We spend an eternity sitting together in the kitchen while she makes me breakfast and while I eat and she is talking to me the entire time.

How’s that? I’m thinking that the worst this type of pretending could do is make me delusional. I have this imaginary friend as a child, who I didn’t make up until I was an adult.

As I wrote that last piece, a calm warmth spread over me. Instead of reliving the pain of loneliness and the discomfort of an upset stomach, I had breakfast with a woman that loved me. I will always know the truth, but I prefer to remember it my way.

Let’s try another. For a very, very, long time I was plagued with pinworms. Those crawly centimetre long pests that come out at night to lay their eggs. My mother told me a story, when I complained about the discomfort.  She said that she had heard of a man whose worms crawled out through his skin. Nice.

Add in some fiberglass curtains that were washed with the underwear and you live through a day of hell. I was disgusted by the thought of worms coming out through my skin and the fiberglass from the curtains was keeping my skin prickly and itchy all day. Every time that I comforted myself that there were not worms trying to pierce my skin from the inside, the fiberglass would get too itchy to ignore.

Now, instead, when I complained about the discomfort, the big fat brunette helps me dress. We make an emergency trip to the drug store where she lets me pick out a magazine and some gum. We go home together. She is not stupid enough to wash fiberglass curtains with clothing, so that whole day is removed. I see a visual of her pulling me away from looking at that memory. “I won’t let you feel that way again”, she comforts.

So, my plan is to insert a new and improved version of each bad memory as it surfaces and to choose to remember it that way instead.

Read the entire book, now available
Writing this book helped me make sense of what had happened to me as a child and the choices I made as an adult.