Tag Archives: anxiety

First NPD-Focused DBT Group: Real World DBT

I’ve become a big fan of Facebook groups recently. It’s where all of my Cluster B support groups are.

I’ve been looking for a while for a good Facebook group for DBT. Unfortunately it wasn’t as easy as expected. The problem:

Trigger Warnings 

Trigger warnings have taken over. In one group I’m a part of, the arguments over who was and wasn’t using trigger warnings and when, got so out of control they had to shut down new posts. Seriously, people?

I find this to be baffling. The point of learning DBT is to better regulate our own emotions and change unhealthy behaviors. Expecting everyone to anticipate what will trigger us and act accordingly seems counter to the purpose of learning DBT.

In my opinion, it’s just more asking others to walk on eggshells. I’m trying to get rid of my personality disorder, not continue expecting others to work around it.

Learning DBT helps us do that – with mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness. So we should be using the skills we are learning when we feel triggered. After all there is no way we are going to avoid all our triggers out in the real world.

Narcissist Bashing

Let’s face it, the majority (if not all) of DBT groups cater to those with Borderline Personality Disorder. There are a lot of similarities between NPD and BPD and in my real life DBT class, I honestly don’t even think they realize I’m not one of them, our experiences are so similar.

But online people feel a lot freer to attack others, especially when they don’t realize there are people with NPD in the group. The idea that narcissists can’t become self aware is still pervasive.

In the end I find myself being triggered without empathy, by the same people who have a 200+ long list of trigger warnings they need for themselves.  Not cool.

Real World DBT

So, I started my own group, Real World DBT, for learning, practicing, sharing tips or resources, and seeking advice on DBT skills.

While anyone is welcome to join, the emphasis is on those with NPD, CPTSD, anxiety and dissociation. And there are no trigger warnings required. 

To my knowledge it’s the only group of its kind.

The structure of the group is laid back. You can be as active as you’d like. Every week we will highlight a new skill, and at the end of the week anyone who wants to share their diary cards, progress or challenges can.

Throughout the week we will support each other, offer resources, and give/ask for skills advice.

Group Info

Real World DBT is a group for those with trauma-based disorders to learn, practice, share tips and resources, and seek skills advice, on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), including mindfulness and grounding techniques for dissociation.

Who: Emphasis on those with/suspect NPD, C-PTSD, Dissociative Disorders, Anxiety Disorders and other personality disorders. However, all interested in learning DBT are welcome.

In this group there are no trigger warnings required. We can’t always avoid our triggers. It’s up to us to learn how to cope with our emotions in a healthy way. Learning DBT helps us do that – with mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness.

Want in? Join us!

Why Narcissism Is a Profoundly Misunderstood Psychological Disorder

This article discusses the link between NPD and psychopathy, which I always find interesting, because both NPD and ASPD are so prevalent in my family.

But what I really related to was the discussion of fear in NPDers. One of my core issues is constant, never-ending anxiety — essentially fear or worry about future events.

I can spend hours at a time ruminating about an anxiety-inducing issue, trying to plan for every possible outcome. I never want to be caught off guard for fear I will look stupid or face humiliation.

Looking at NPD as a form of fear avoidance makes a lot of sense and really rings home with me personally.

Rooted in ‘Profound Fear’

On their own, psychoanalytic explanations are inadequate and unconvincing. This is where neuroscience can help. Last year, Elsa Ronningstam and Arielle Baskin-Sommers showed that NPD can be linked to fear and decision making processes. Indeed, feelings of fear have been frequently cited as a significant part of NPD pathology, and possibly even a motivating factor in narcissistic personalities.

Ronningstam and Baskin-Sommers say that the fear of dark and negative self-experiences, or even intolerable aspects of one’s identity, “can drive protective self-aggrandizement as well as destructive suicidal behavior enforced by overwhelming feelings of despair.” What’s more, certain events can trigger fears associated with earlier “narcissistic trauma.”

It’s possible, therefore, that NPD is a form of fear avoidance, especially of failure. It’s a “self-regulatory strategy” driven by specific motivations, including achievements, competitiveness, improvement of performance, and perfectionism.

Neurologically speaking, scientists have pinpointed the amygdala — the part of the brain that regulates processes like the detection of emotionally arousing and pertinent stimuli. Other regions, like the nucleus accumbens, hippocampus, and some prefrontal regions, form a neural network involved in the perception of threat, fear learning, and fear expression. Together, these areas act to produce an integrated fear response .

In addition, and relatedly, the hormone cortisol has been implicated in narcissism — at least in males. Cortisol is released in response to stress, which can be triggered by a fear response.

Read the rest of the artice here: http://health.yourdailyideas.com/why-narcissism-is-a-profoundly-misunderstood-psychological-disorder/

TV Narcs: Highlighting the Humor of Narcissism

I found myself watching old episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm the other night and it dawned on me: Larry David is sooooo NPD. I always related to the show and to the situations Larry finds himself in. Somehow Larry finds a way to piss off everyone around him and is generally clueless. [Raises hand]

During its original run not only did I not realize he was a narcissist, I hadn’t yet realized I was either. Now watching it again all these years later, it’s so clear. No wonder I related to his guy: He’s low empathy, self-centered, clueless in social situations, he ruins all interpersonal relationships, is easily offended and embarrassed, and often flies into fits of rage.

To some, Larry comes off as “neurotic.” But a recent study found that neuroticism and narcissism are essentially the same thing. Needy Narcissists May Just Be Extreme Neurotics:

In every sample, neuroticism was the biggest predictor of vulnerable narcissism, to the point that Miller tells Science of Us that vulnerable narcissists and people high in neuroticism were “basically identical” in their results. “They were not similar — they were almost exactly the same,” he said in an email. So the study may have uncovered a prime example of the “jangle fallacy,” where the same phenomenon gets two different names and is falsely treated as two different things. Though different literatures have grown around neuroticism and vulnerable narcissism, they may very well be one and the same.

Of course I took to Google to see if anyone else had noticed what a narc Larry is, and came up with an interesting article that compared Larry David to another show about narcissists I quite enjoy, Girls:

Larry David played a version of himself in “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” much like Lena Dunham, who plays an exaggerated and incredibly negative version of herself (and people she knows) in “Girls.” These two have much more in common than sharing a comedy series written and created by themselves on the same network. Larry (from here on out we’ll use “Larry” to refer to the character, and “David” to refer to the actor) is essentially the male version of Hannah: both ridiculously selfish, self-loathing, and navigating every aspect of life for his or her own benefit, while disregarding others along the way. It’s also pretty (pretty, pretty, pretty) much known that everyone thinks Larry is a complete asshole.

I love how Larry highlights the humor of life with NPD. I can get so caught in a loop of negativity about my disorder and all the very serious (and not funny) things about it. But sometimes it’s nice to be able to laugh at it, and laugh at myself.

Larry David is my spirit animal.

HBO announced that they are bringing Curb back for a 9th season this year. Can’t wait.

Larry being low empathy

 

Larry hangs up on his wife, who was having a near-death experience, because the cable guy came. “You know, it’s very hard to get those people here!”

Larry’s fits of rage:

I have friends who I can’t stand for like 25 years, I’m still friends with them. Because I stay ’til the end. I go down with the ship.”

A Narcissist Does Group Therapy

For the last few months, I’ve been doing DBT kind of on my own. I bought the green book, The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook, which I’ve been working from. Also, my therapist and I dedicate the last 10 minutes of every session to DBT, mostly practicing “wise mind.”

But I wanted to accelerate my learning, so I asked my therapist to suggest a DBT group for me. She came back with a group led by a woman who focuses on DBT through “art therapy.” Last night was the first meeting and I was so excited that I even arrived on time.

It’s a small, all-women group of four, plus Marsha, the therapist. As we sat there waiting for the group to start, we began introducing ourselves and saying what we do for a living. I quickly got up to speed on who everyone is and why they were there.

First up was Suzanne, who lives with extreme anxiety. Her whole body seemed to shiver with nervousness every time she talked. Even her voice quivered. When she held up a piece of paper, it shook uncontrollably.

Next was Sam. Sam initially seemed to be OK, speaking amongst just us participants, but when the group started and Marsha asked her to introduce herself, she completely shut down. Her eyes looked down in avoidance and she gave clipped one-word answers. She looked like a child being scolded after getting caught with her hand in the cookie jar. The sudden shift was jarring and awkward.

Introducing Teresa

computer hackerThen, there’s Teresa. My guess is Teresa is Borderline. I may have even considered her for a covert narc, but I already got the scoop from Marsha that I’m the only NPD in the group. (I’d expect nothing less.)

I immediately sized Teresa up as the most likely person in the group for me to be friends with. First of all, when I mentioned what I do, she was familiar with my work, she had seen it before and even cited some back to me. Brownie points for Teresa!

She seemed about my age, attractive, well spoken, and smart. Socially we seemed to hit it off pretty quickly during small talk. So Teresa already had my attention. Finally, it was Teresa’s turn to share what she does for a living. Turns out Teresa is… a forensic hacker! [Record screeches to a stop]

Holy shit, a hacker? Teresa’s stock with me just skyrocketed. How badass! I feel myself immediately warming to Teresa. I resize-up her outfit, her hair, the way she talks, and I’m thinking… yeah, me and Teresa could totally be friends!

Let the (art) healing begin

Marsha starts us off with some mindfulness, then she asks us to begin painting. While we are painting, she tells us to be mindful of the thoughts in our heads.

I smile, but internally I’m rolling my eyes. Quite honestly I feel a little silly doing this – a bunch of grown women with emotional problems sitting around a table doing art like we’re five – but I’m trying to go with the flow. Do something new and out of the box for me. I follow Marsha’s advice and acknowledge my feelings without judgement, gently bringing my attention back to the experience of painting.

It takes me a minute to get started. I need to rock this painting – really establish myself as the leader of the pack here. Everything I do should really be a masterpiece. But I don’t have any idea of what I want to draw. I let my eyes glance over…Sam and Suzanne are no competition. Seriously, are you guys even trying?

I look over at Teresa’s. Her painting is…good! Probably still not going to be as good as mine, but she’s hanging tough. Respect, Teresa. Your cool points with me keep accumulating.

Guess I’ll take the lead…

group therapyEvery time Marsha asks a question and looks around the room, no one wants to answer. So, it appears to be up to me, the narcissist, to get the ball rolling. Of course.

Once or twice is cool, but I really hope this isn’t my “role” now. The emerging pattern is that I go first, Teresa chimes in after – usually with something totally relatable to me – followed by Suzanne. Sam must be coaxed by Marsha to contribute.

Marsha asks us to talk about what emotions we felt while painting. What thoughts did we acknowledge? True to form, the table is quiet. Ok… guess I’ll go first. Again.

“I really wanted my painting to be the best. I had trouble just being in the moment because I was too focused on the final product, not the act of creating the art.” Marsha is happy with my contribution. Teresa laughs in a friendly, we totally relate, kind of way. Sam looks at me awkwardly and tells me she likes my hair. Ummm, thanks!

The elephant in the room

elephant in the room

We begin reviewing the list of things we will touch upon in the class. One reads, “Addressing the elephant in the room.” Oh shit…there’s going to be some elephant in the room situations? This could get interesting! I have one: why can’t Sam talk when called upon, but when we are supposed to mindfully be doing art, she can’t be quiet?

Does anyone have trouble with that, Marsha asks. The others nod an enthusiastic yes. I chime in, “Oh, I have no problem addressing the elephant in the room. My problem is how I address it.” More kudos from Marsha for my stellar contributions. So far, I’m winning at group therapy.

The thought crosses my mind: what’s the elephant in the room when it comes to me? But I really don’t like that thought, so I quickly dismiss it and mindfully get back to my work. Funny how I ruminate over everything else though, isn’t it?

Take-aways from my first group session

I’ll tell you one thing I immediately took from the group – however socially awkward I felt before, I really need to stop being so down on myself about it. Seeing Suzanne and Sam in action let me know I really am not that socially awkward. At all. In fact, I’m basically a rock star.

Although this thought initially feels very narc-y it’s actually a DBT principle – comparing yourself to others who are less fortunate. So, I remind myself not to feel bad about it. It certainly helped me put some things into perspective.

In fact, in other good news: Outgoing Yara is back! I haven’t seen her in damn near a year, and boy did I miss her. Outgoing Yara is one of my “selves.” Instead of looking at them now as “false selves,” I have decided to look at them as different facets of my core personality. None of them necessarily “false,” all of them part of the real Yara.

But while some personalities – like Cluster B Girl – I really hope to get rid of or drastically diminish, Outgoing Yara is one of my faves. She’s pretty, smart, well-put together, confident, friendly, competent. The whole package. I definitely want to keep her around.

I did have to remind myself to have empathy with Suzanne and Sam, while listening to them talk and watching them interact. It was a conscious effort, but one I’m glad I put in. I give props to all the women there, for stepping outside their comfort zone and trying to improve.

Although I am concerned about the art, I will say I started to get into it. It may be good for me to learn to create for fun, instead of competing constantly with others. The exercises really drew to my attention how competitive I am at all times, even when not appropriate or helpful.

Also, the fact that I feel silly doing the art makes me think I should keep going, because I need to focus less on how silly I think I “look” or how others may perceive what I’m doing.

Finally, the point of doing the art is to remain mindful during, which I really need lots of practice in, as the mindfulness is key to addressing my almost constant dissociating. So, maybe it’s not so dumb after all.

Soulmates in another lifetime

best friends.jpg

Finally, Teresa’s OK in my book. We related on basically everything, like twin flames. Marsha told us at the start we can’t be friends though—at least not until the group ends. She said it can interfere with group dynamics, which makes total sense.

I can tell you though, just two years ago had I been in this situation, me and Teresa would have been immediate best friends. Inseparable within weeks. This is it folks: the beginning stages of idealization.

In the past, I’d be unwittingly love-bombing her as my new BFF. Highlighting everything I like about her, while ignoring anything that didn’t fit with the image I created for her in my head.

It’s probably a good thing that Marsha laid down the law. Disappointing though, because it’s not very often at all that I find someone I can relate to so well – and Teresa was hitting on all cylinders.

But for now I’ll just mindfully acknowledge that feeling and bring my attention back to focus on the therapy. I’ll get to know Teresa better, and if, by the end of the group we are still cool, maybe then we can become friends.