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People who suffer from Narcissism, whether it be Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Narcissistic behavior, often have trouble understanding and relating to people who practice healthy self compassion. People who have healthy boundaries and know how to place limits with themselves and their engagements with other people propose a unique challenge to a Narcissist. The first and most glaring problem for a Narcissist are people who don’t place them on pedestal to be admired. This lack of admiration often comes across to the Narcissist as a form of disrespect. Self compassion has it’s own language that differs from the Narcissist and it doesn’t include constant admiration of others.

Self compassion identifies needs as an independent person and stays focused on fulfilling those needs. A Narcissist stays focused on getting their ego admired by others and when they don’t feel this is happening they begin to manipulate others to get the attention they so greatly crave. This is where narcissism, in it’s own language, begins to strive for what is called narcissistic feed.

When the Narcissist doesn’t get this “feeding” of attention there are several things that can happen. Usually the biggest problem is anger. When manipulation doesn’t work then control by anger is often the quick default reaction. This anger can be presented in many ways with the most prevalent form being passive-aggressive. This form of behavior is manifested in many ways such as talking to other family members and friends behind their back trying to make them look like a bad person (also known as triangulation). Money, which is a big deal to most Narcissists, is often used to as a control weapon. Belittling your interests, comments, opinions, jobs etc. In other words, everything you have to say or do is “one-upped” by a narcissistic comment. Remember, nobody is as great or knows more than a narcissist. This is their grandiose thinking at work and nobody is greater than them, according to them of course.

I overheard a conversation once with this expression involved “a Narcissist cannot share a stage.” In other words, if it’s not all about me then there is no room for others. Narcissists are extremely worried and concerned about how they are viewed in the eyes of others. This is why anxiety and drug/alcohol use is such a prevalent problem for many of them. It’s the worry that gets to them, not their behavior. A Narcissist will ruin a relationship unless they are certain that all the attention is focused on them. There are no relationships with a Narcissist, only spectators. If you believe you are caught up in a relationship with a Narcissist, stop admiring them and see what happens. Practice some self compassion and put limitations on your engagement with the Narcissist and chances are things will begin to turn ugly.

Healthy people are interested in what you are interested in and want you happy and healthy. But when that level of interest stops with a Narcissist chances are you will be of no use to them and anger related problems begin to manifest. The Narcissist will begin to think you are the bad person, the one with the problem and may perceive you stopping your admiration as disrespect and resort to name calling and control measures to get you back in line with their thinking.

So what can be done about it? 

It is impossible to help someone who doesn’t acknowledge the need for help, especially with men of which most narcissists are. Men often live believing counseling is for wimps. Often healing with a Narcissist is the result of having to overcome a major addiction problem or they find themselves very alone in the world after destroying their relationships with family and friends. Look at their path, do they have a history of wreckage everywhere they go? It is then that they may (and may is rare) begin to self evaluate and start the process of trying to understand their problems.

Self examination for anyone with a personality disorder is a very scary proposition. To look inside of themselves and to truly see who they are as a person has been described as peering through a hole that leads into an empty formless abyss. The identity is missing. The ability to have healthy happy relationships is missing because of attachment issues. Emotional maturity is missing. These things must be formed, usually early in life. This is why they work so hard to manipulate others and work on things outside of themselves. Sitting quietly and doing some self examination usually involves mirrored observation and loathing in self love, not deep hearted evaluations of how they hurt someone. If a Narcissist is sitting quietly it is usually because they are secretly scheming their next move. Their thinking is usually in the form that it’s others and not me that has a problem; and I must shape them in line with my way of thinking.

In the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, they mention that the most effective way to deal with difficult people is to set boundaries for yourself. Don’t focus on the negative behavior of the other, this is often just a drama trap. The way to stop dealing with a Narcissist is to set some limits on how much you engage with that person. This is an active choice anyone can make for themselves. A quote by Dr. Henry Cloud “you get what you tolerate.” This doesn’t mean to challenge the Narcissist, (trust me you won’t win, you can’t tell them anything) but to challenge yourself to self-compassion and care. This form of healthy self respect is hard for the Narcissist to understand and will begin to struggle to make sense of it, and like I said before, they may try to twist and manipulate, especially if they are not used to it. Stick to your limits, don’t get emotional with them, and especially don’t take anything personally. Chances are in the long run they will give up and go get their “attention feeding” elsewhere.

Disclaimer: This article is meant for educational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for professional psychotherapy treatment. 

Advocacy: Psychotherapy is conducted by an appropriately trained professional with an advanced degree in a counseling field (Master or Doctorate) with recognized and approved state licensing credentials. Always check a counselor’s license. 

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By: Brian M Murray, MS

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In the news headlines over the weekend is a story about NFL player Jovan Belcher who killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, and then killed himself in a murder-suicide. The news was devastating to the families of Jevon and Kasandra as well as team members of the Kansas City Chiefs. According to an NBC news report, the families of both Jevon and Kasandra knew that that the couple had issues and there was conflict in the relationship, especially after the arrival of their newborn 3 months ago who now unfortunately has been orphaned.

This is very sad and high profile people get media attention when things like this happen, however the unfortunate truth is domestic violence does not have boundaries. Intimate partner violence is not affected by socioeconomic status, it can and does happen in every race, culture and economic setting. Whenever this type of news comes out it serves as a reminder that sometimes what people see from the outside of a relationship is not always what is happing on the inside. Intimate partner violence is not limited to just men or women, it happens to both as well as the children.

By definition domestic violence is a pattern of coercive or forceful behavior whose aim is to maintain control and manipulate the other person. There are several forms of abuse including emotional, psychological, verbal, physical, and sexual that can and often lead to physical and sexual assault, harassment, threats, blaming, name-calling, screaming, isolating the abused person from family and social contacts, withholding money and or sex and the list goes on.  The Bureau of Justice Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence in the U.S. reports there were over 900,000 intimate partner violence reports in 2010 alone. This is only what is reported. There are estimates that this figure is less than half of what is really occurring. Some figures estimate total violent incidents as high as 2.1 million during the same time period.

Being involved in a relationship or marriage that is potentially dangerous or even deadly there are steps to take to get away from it. One of the biggest hurdles is getting past the controlling nature of the abuser. The abuser often leads the abused person to believe that if they try anything they will pay the penalty for non-compliance. Nobody deserves to be threatened or physically assaulted in any way.

What the abused person can do is to create a safety plan. A safety plan is a carefully thought out secret preparation that allows for the escape from the abuser. This is about stealth and building a network of resources with trusted people to the point that when the abused person is ready to go they just go. No warning, no notification or any of the sorts, just get out and execute the plan.

Planning is essential to the success of a safety plan. To get an idea, here are a few suggestions that a person may use to get prepared.

  • Finances: Open a checking or savings account in your name alone.
  • Personal: Leave cash, medications, extra clothes or packed bag in a safe place or with someone you know. Often a highly trusted friend or co-worker can be a good resource. Communicate to them at some point they could get a call to meet up unexpectedly.
  • Open a personal Post Office box in your name only to get mail.
  • Identify a safe place to go and have someone in place that can drive you to an undisclosed location.
  • If caught in the middle of a violent or abusive episode, stay in rooms with access to an exit such as a door or open window. Some victims have been known to leave selected windows unlocked.
  • For children, devise a code word that signals them to go with you immediately without questions or comments like a fire drill. Don’t forget to pack them a bag too.
  • If possible, make copies and bring originals of important documents such as children’s birth certificates, legal papers, sentimental items and pictures, insurance papers, passports etc.

Remember, the idea of a safety plan is about starting completely over without having to return for anything. Once gone, stay gone! Once gone the abuser is going to feel a loss of control and may try to track the victim. This is an effort to regain control. Stay on the lookout. Use of stealth when making the plan is very important. If the abuser senses or feels that the victim wants to leave the abuse often gets worse as they fear the impending loss of control.

The following information is an excellent resource with more detailed information if needed.

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

http://www.domesticviolence.org/personalized-safety-plan/

 

About the author- Brian M Murray is devoted to helping people overcome difficult obstacles in life. He is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern located in Orlando and Winter Park Florida working as a counselor in a private practice setting.

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