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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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We all need to be good at whatever it is that we are. Think with compassion. When people are trained from the formative years, to fear hell fire and all that would lead to the said fire, you just can’t expect them to let go of that so easily. And if anything at all, only compassion and love is going to set people free from that type of a fear. You can’t argue them out of it; you can only love them out of it. – C. Joybell C.

When you think of the word love, what comes to mind? What gives it meaning? In the mental health world I have noticed that this word does not come up very often and especially in the context of offering a healing intervention. I think the reason for this is people seem to experience love when they feel happy when their problem gets resolved. I have never read a treatment plan that involved “love thyself.”

I have discovered that there are two common roots to most people’s issues; fear and worry. This is a common thread especially for anxiety and is responsible for producing the feeling of fight or flight. If a bear chases us in the woods, this is appropriate. But when we fear the world and worry about situational outcomes it can become exhausting and manifest into long term stress. The body is not built for long term stress and anxiety. The fight or flight response is meant to be short term. It signals us to get out of our predicament and do it quickly by running and if we can’t run then we have to stand our ground.

So what does love have to do with fighting or fleeing imaginary bears? Well, for clarification, the imaginary bears are a metaphor for things in our lives that cause problems and discomfort. There are two ways to deal with this and it has to do with how love is observed, either as a noun or a verb. Love can be an object of desire and/or an action of desire. For example: I am in love with you…and/or… I love you.

If we practice self love then as a person I can say that I love myself. A word of caution: this form of love is very different from malignant narcissistic self love. Narcissists play a game of manipulation to turn attention to themselves, both positive and negative, and get very jealous when your attention is not on them. This is about self esteem. Narcissists can appear to have high self esteem but this often their grandiosity at work, “look at how wonderful I am.” Self esteem is a foreign concept to them and if you have a fair amount of it yourself the narc will often get jealous and try to manipulate your attention from yourself back to them.

This is about seeing yourself as someone of value, honor, dignity and respect. This is healthy self love, and because of this healthy self love your actions produce positive outcomes. It involves practicing self compassion and doing the things necessary that indicate recognition of the intrinsic value you hold of yourself. A narcissist does not understand this, rarely recognizes it in other people (lack of empathy is a symptom) and begins to scheme up another way to get the attention back on them (drama).

I was listening to a story once about a young man talking to a guru ( I think it was Stephen Covey but cannot confirm) who was struggling to make a decision to leave his wife. He was talking about how he did not understand how to tell his wife how much he truly loved her and no matter how hard he tried he felt that she was not reciprocating. He felt defeated and invalidated and so he tried more and more to express his love. As a result, he felt she was not part of the relationship and after a few years of heartbreak he was contemplating on getting out, he was feeling tired and defeated.

The man was asked by the guru to explain his love for her. He said he was in love with her. The guru responded “then LOVE her.” Huh? It’s an action, it’s a verb. We can say it all we want, but then what?

It’s like this, we cannot ask of love from others, it must be shown, thus reciprocated. It is an action. To love ourselves requires action and this is how we get out of our problems. We can’t sit and worry. To overcome our fears and worries is paramount to being our true selves and when we give ourselves permission to be that person it frees the heart of the burdens that keep it caged up. When we love life, it loves us back and our own personal light shines forth.

So how does a person overcome worry and fear? It requires us to have the courage and allow ourselves to be vulnerable to others and the world around us. Do not be afraid to go out and jump into life’s playground. With it comes a whole host of things that most people worry about. Suffering, pain, defeat, the what if’s, etc. and on it goes. But without entering life’s playground, we miss out on the good stuff too, the good stuff is found in the same places as the bad stuff. It basically depends on where the focus is, on the negative stuff or the positive stuff, or is there a healthy balance between the two? This is why love can be joyous and love can be difficult when we love enough to allow ourselves to just be ourselves.

A few quotes for the road:

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ― Lao Tzu

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 

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Depression or feeling down and blue can often be countered with some everyday techniques that can lift the mood. The way we think about our lives and what we experience often has a tremendous impact on how we view the world around us. When this processing of information is put into a negative frame of mind then the world itself begins to look negative leading to negative emotions such as anxiety and depression.

So how does a person stop from being exposed to too much negativity? An effective was is to stop supplying the negative stimulus. When a person takes an active approach to stop negative input into the mind then the mind is no longer feeding itself with negativity. Sounds simple right? Here are some everyday changes that a person can do to reduce negative input leading to depressive symptoms.

1. Stop watching the news. Often nothing can be accomplished sitting in your living room listening to a clanging reporter dramatizing death, destruction and political discord. Much of our culture is based on news reporting and wanting the next fix on current events. Sometimes watching news can even turn into an addiction. Turn it off for a few days and stop feeding the mind with information that is rarely, if ever, good. Having trouble not watching the news? Next time you watch the news, sit down with pen and paper and make a list of the things that were reported. Look at the list and see what the topics were about. Chances are there are no shiny happy stories.

2. Stop worrying and take action. Sitting around and worrying about things beyond our control gets us nowhere. Worry is about trying to make something that is uncertain a certainty. This falls under the 90/10 rule where 90% of the things we worry about are beyond our control, therefore worry about the 10% that are within our control and do something about it. Practice self acceptance, if there is something that you want to change then change it.

3. Practice gratitude. Coming from a place of thanks instead of thinking about what you don’t have creates positive feelings. Take a look around and think of 3 things you have to be thankful for. Do this everyday picking 3 new things each day. Practice being thankful for doing your best instead of focusing on perfection or trying to achieve unrealistic goals. Sometimes practicing positive affirmations are difficult in the beginning when caught in a web of negative thinking, but with practice it gets better and easier with time.

 

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Anxiety-2Fear is a common problem for many people and it can be difficult for most to overcome. Fear is deeply rooted and linked with negative emotions such as anger, anxiety and depression. This is not the healthy type of fear where it makes sense to be afraid of something that threatens the loss of life, but the type of fear that creates an internal disturbance toward a perceived threat. This is usually found in the form of worry. Worry can be debilitating and is the result of fear of the unknown. Here is the breakdown of how this works causing 3 common negative emotions leading to an uneasiness in our lives.

 

Anxiety

Anxiety in a nutshell is a fight or flight response to a perceived threat. Internally the body is reacting to something that signals danger and hasn’t yet fully comprehended the extent of the threat, it’s unknown. Many times unresolved anxiety is difficult because the reality of the threat is not real, it’s manufactured, and it’s offspring is worry.

Worry is about the unknown and it is full of “mights and maybes.” The body responds to protect itself, an autonomic reaction, and the result is anxiety. Internally the body cannot recognize whether or not the threat is real, it just has to prepare itself just in case. So, if the mind is producing the perceived threat then the mind is the one that can fix the perceived threat by changing it. Most people who suffer this type of anxiety are experiencing generalized anxiety which is associated with expecting the worst in most situations. Counter challenge expecting the worst by being more realistic about daily outcomes.

Anger

Anger’s internal language says “I am in imminent danger and I must fight.” Remember the fight or flight response in anxiety? Anxious people typically want to avoid, angry people often want to confront. Anger is about taking an uncertain situation and making it certain. If a person is angry with you then chances are they want to control you to get certainty of the outcome of the situation. Anger is a natural emotion and comes in handy when life is being threatened. However, unchecked and for it’s survival value anger can become destructive.

Healthy anger is possible and takes a justice approach. To get angry with someone at the right place and right time is paramount for it to be effective. For example, you feel someone disrespects you at work in front of coworkers then call them on it, either right away or later one on one. While it is difficult to not become explosive, the manner in which something is being expressed is important, it’s a response instead of a reaction. This is often difficult as most people are afraid to make waves at work or in family relationships. This isn’t about making friends with people who bully others, this is about personal dignity and protecting it, and anger is designed to protect.

Depression

Depression’s internal language is lost hope. Depression is typically anger that turned inward and creating weight in the center of a person’s soul. This is where a person’s life can become self destructive by neglecting health, addiction issues, missing work or often being late. Other signs of depression are frequent crying, feeling blue all the time, excess or lack of sleep, appetite changes and a general sense of wanting to isolate and not engage with others. We all feel blue from time to time but this is more about a chronic state of feeling depressed for about 2 weeks or longer.

Depression can also be one of the most difficult moods to treat since it may take a while for the person suffering to come out of it as it typically doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes anti-depressants from a doctor may be necessary for a period of time combined with talk therapy with a qualified counselor. Self help strategies for depression are very effective in treating it. For example, waking up at the same time every day and make the bed. Get in a routine, eat breakfast and get some exercise early in the day. This gets the body moving and puts energy forward building momentum. Journal thoughts and feelings that are causing problems. Numerous studies have shown that written expression of emotions is highly effective at relieving them. Get outdoors, some fresh air and sunshine does wonders for the serotonin in the brain that helps lift mood. Depression is highly affected by negative thinking. One of the best challenges to negative thinking is to ask “what evidence do I have that makes my thoughts true?”

My hope and desire is this article helped someone in some way. If needed, share it with a friend or a community.

God’s Peace and Love,
Brian

Luke 12: 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

 

 

 

 

 

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Man stressWhy do men struggle with going to a counselor? Often they feel it is a threat to their masculinity, counseling is for wimps, or it will make them less of a man. Okay, if a man is so tough then why run from counseling? Face your fears, turn into the fight, enter the battle. Anxiety produces fight or flight, so what is going to be tough guy? Fight or flight? That’s right, I’m calling you out! What are you afraid of and hiding from? Join me, we’ll enter that fight together!

Running away from problems never works. It doesn’t work because it is a simple formula, wherever you go so there is your problem with you. It’s like those little hitch-hikers you get on your pants after walking through tall grass. I recall walking in the woods one day and I looked down and I was covered in these little thorny stickers. Not only was I unaware I was picking them up along the way, but when I tried to remove them they stuck me in the fingers. After trying to pick a few off my friend says to me, “such is life.” Reflecting on that situation it became apparent that is life. We pick up sticky annoying things along the way and don’t even realize they are there until we stop, look down and do some self examination. We find things we don’t like and try to remove them only to find out it’s painful, sticky and don’t like it. The easy way out is avoidance. To go somewhere else, ignore the problem, suffer silently, make excuses but inevitably sooner or later the problem has to be dealt with.

So often men struggle in this way. They just try to grit it out, suck it up or if the problem is ignored long enough it will just go away. Part of this is society expectations. Men are often raised to treat problems like water to a duck, just let it roll off. If only it were just that easy. Common long term effects from this thinking are depression, anger, ulcers, high blood pressure, worry, fatigue and what some “male therapists” call “Dead Men Walking.” Men become discouraged and hopeless and give up on life. The weight of all that emotional baggage begins to wear them down. They become compliant to the demands of their jobs, wives and society. They walk around feeling low, beaten and get an attitude of “whats the use, nothing changes.” It is amazing what can happen to a man when he takes the time to talk to another man in a confidential professional setting and work it out. The idea is to be men for an hour, talk like men, act like men, enter the wound and fight it out.

 

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Earlier today I was confronted by a thought. What can be accomplished with pessimistic thinking? Hmm…the short answer is nothing. When a person changes their thinking they can change the outcome regardless of what it is. So I focused on worry. Like the Eagles song “Long Run” the lyrics say “I used to worry a lot, I used to hurry a lot, I used to stay up till the break of day.” Sounds like a very restless mind.

So what do you worry about? What keeps you awake at night? What thoughts are gripping you so tight that it is robbing precious energy? Worry is often rooted in fear, the unknown, and a future that can seem out of control. Jesus asked a very simple question regarding this very thing: “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”(Mt.6:27). He was trying to point out that worrying was useless, and for good reason.

Worry causes a lot of problems such as anxiety and depression. It wears holes in stomachs, creates tension headaches, high blood pressure, insomnia and so on. I guess Sigmund Freud wasn’t too far off the mark when he said the body betrays the mind. I have heard the expression that worry and anxiety is fear of the loss of control over the future. Perhaps this was a message Jesus was trying to convey, “don’t worry, I got this.” Let it go.

Here is a final question if you find yourself struggling with worry, and it’s related to the pessimistic thinking. “What purpose does my worry serve?” Suggestion: journal out the answer, or journal about the cause of the worry. Sometimes journaling is all that is needed to relieve the mind of it’s burden.

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decisional balance

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.” ― Steve Maraboli

Deciding to take that first step to call a mental health professional to discuss personal problems can be an intimidating experience. It is normal to feel anxious or afraid when a person begins the process of opening up to discuss their issues especially if the pain has been stuffed or packed away for years. So, if going to therapy is about healing then what makes it so difficult? What causes people to avoid it? Why is it so hard to sort out problems and getting to the bottom of depression, relieving anxiety, or finally grieving the loss of something or someone held dearly? Or, perhaps what is going to take to finally kick that addiction habit that has become a routine part of life?

Often the answer to these questions are multifaceted for many reasons. A famous quote attributed to many famous people goes something like this, “people will only seek changing their situation in life when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than going through the pain of changing it.” Like this quote suggests, when does enough become enough? Emotions are strong and powerful motivators and often people seek counseling when they can no longer tolerate the pain. Emotions are there for a good reason, they say something about what a person is experiencing. Too often people become familiar with their pain, they don’t want to deal with it and results in a dysfunctional comfort zone or a type of distorted truth .

There is only so much emotional stuffing and distorting thinking the mind can hold. It has limitations. Like our dear old psychology friend Sigmund Freud once said “our bodies betray our minds.” In other words, the psychological suffering manifests itself somewhere else in the body. The worry wears holes in the stomach, leads to loss of sleep, stress creates body aches, anxiety can increase heart rate, blood pressure and sweating and in severe cases it can manifest into a panic attack.

A metaphoric way of looking at this is like that drawer at home that has been stuffed so full of junk it comes off the tracks because it won’t open. The drawer is opened and another miscellaneous object is tossed in there never to be seen or thought about again. Out of sight out of mind, right? But it is still there. Over time the junk drawer gets to be too much, it’s overwhelming, it needs to get cleaned out, organized and put back together. Following this is a sense of accomplishment , feeling better about the situation and it becomes more easily managed and maintained.

Where to Begin?

Recognizing that there is unwanted or unmerited pain in life is the first step. While this is good awareness, how does it lead to healing? Therapy now becomes a question of motivation and it might begin to get a little personal. A common reason for the uneasiness has to do with not wanting to roll out of the dysfunctional comfort zone and start breaking it all down. In assessing motivation this is referred to as being either ambivalent or contemplative. It is not action yet. The language of being ambivalent or contemplative says, “I don’t have/or want a problem, I’m okay right where I am” and all the while the person knows deep down inside the problem is there and unsure whether to take action.

A useful tool to help muster up the courage to go to counseling is something called a decisional balance. This process looks at, and weighs the balance of the benefits versus costs of counseling, and the benefits and costs of not going to counseling. For example:

Counseling Benefits:

  • Increased control over life
  • Better marriage/relationships
  • Better work performance
  • Improved health

Counseling Costs:

  • Experiencing emotional pain
  • Increased anxiety
  • Financial commitment

Not Counseling Benefits:

  • Don’t have to deal with problems
  • Easier to keep stuffing emotions
  • Don’t have to think about it

Not Counseling Costs:

  • Job loss
  • Relationship/Marriage loss
  • Increased health risk

These are only examples of how to measure and weight out the decision of whether or not counseling is needed. What side is the balance tipping toward, going or not going? In the long run, seeking out therapy is often a question of motivation. If still contemplating therapy ask and evaluate the answers to these very simple questions; what would be achieved as a result of going, what is the worst that could happen, what is the best that could happen?

Hebrews 12:11 New International Version (NIV) No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

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