Tag Archives: Narcissistic Personality Disorder

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/

Research: Can You Change Your Personality?

The client’s reason for entering therapy did impact the level of personality change, though. Those who sought therapy for anxiety or personality disorders (such as borderline personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder) changed the most, while those with substance abuse and eating disorders changed the least. It’s not clear why that is, especially since personality disorders are considered as difficult to treat as substance abuse. But it does suggest that not everyone is able to change to the same degree and that more research is needed to uncover why.

Can You Change Your Personality? | The Huffington Post

Learning to become the mother I wish I’d had

I have a six year old son, Andrew. I first started noticing a shift in his behavior in Kindergarten. He started acting out at school, but it didn’t become a huge problem until he started first grade this year.

For the first few months of the school year, I was getting daily calls from the teacher telling me that Andrew was a problem. He lashed out at other kids. He was hyper-sensitive to any perceived slight – if someone stepped on his toe, for example, it wasn’t an accident in his eyes. They clearly meant to hurt him. And he had to react and get back at them. He had to defend himself.

It was at the point I was worried he would get kicked out of school.

At home, he would throw temper tantrums and a couple times, he physically lashed out at me.

His friendships were dwindling. His best friend moved away, and he had trouble making and maintaining friendships. When he was invited to something, he was crippled by anxiety and reverted to acting out, or acting like a clown—trying to make others laugh, because he didn’t know how to connect with them any other way.

I see so much of myself as a child in him. I too had rage. I too acted out. I too felt alone and unloved.

I look back and realize these were all cries for help. Instead, my parents blamed me for my poor behavior, told me what a terrible child I was, heaped positive attention on my more docile sister, and offered no other help.

One of my biggest fears is raising a child that has the same emotional problems I have. I know how hurt I was by my parents and I don’t want my son to feel hurt by me in that way.

I know what it’s like to live with the low self-esteem, to have no control over my emotions, to have fleeting volatile relationships. Never able to believe anyone gives a shit about me at all. It’s lonely. I’ve lived a life full of rage.

I looked at Andrew, and realized he was becoming me. Most of what I’ve read says narcissism is established in children before age five. Fuck.

Well, I can’t go back in time and change my earlier mistakes, but I can change what I’m doing now and going forward. Furthermore, if I can change pathological behaviors in myself at 36, he has a much better shot at age 6. Focus on the positive. 

My goal became to turn things around before his behaviors become so engrained in his personality that it takes root as a full-fledged personality disorder. Early intervention.

So far, it seems to be working. This week his report card came home and for behavior, he got a B. Huge improvement.

Also, he was invited over to a neighbor’s house to play and I think it went well. Evidence he’s starting to be more socially accepted and learning to get along better with others.

Maybe he won’t be stuck with these issues for the rest of his life after all. Fingers crossed.

Here’s some of what we’ve been trying:

Labeled Praise

I enrolled Andrew in behavioral therapy. I had mixed feelings about it, because I was afraid the emotional issues would be ignored for behaviors. But we had to get his behaviors under control ASAP or he was going to get kicked out of school. 

For our three sessions, we walked away with one real piece of advice: offer labeled praise when he does something good, ignore bad behavior.

The labeled praise should be given liberally while he’s doing the positive thing. For example, “I like how quietly you’re playing.”

Seems too simple, but it started to immediately turn his behavior around at home and at school. That was the crucial first step.

Being mindful when I’m with him

I would often be checked out when I was with my son. Time spent with him was necessary to get the job done (bathing him, getting his homework done, feeding him, etc.). I could be dissociating or thinking about my own issues or checking my phone. Most of the time, my mind was elsewhere and I was running an internal countdown clock to his bedtime when I could finally get some uninterrupted “me time.”

I wasn’t there with him, didn’t enjoy spending time with him, and he knew it. One day, he asked me if I love him. Like, really asked. My heart sank.  

Now I make a concerted effort to be in the moment when I’m with him. Sometimes I will leave my phone in another room. We have phone-free family time now too.

The more I practice being one-mindful with him the more naturally it comes.

Engaging him

I didn’t know how to talk to my own son. I didn’t know how to relate to him. When I first started engaging him more in conversation, it was incredibly awkward. He would say something or ask me a question and I had no idea how to respond.

I couldn’t be myself with him and he couldn’t be himself with me. It’s like I was babysitting someone else’s child. At six, he already wasn’t sharing major details of his life with me. He already felt he had to handle everything on his own.

I had to build trust with him, by talking to him a lot and really listening to what he has to say – and then showing him that I was willing and eager to help with his problems – and prove that I’m his advocate.

Empathizing with him and teaching him empathy for others

I have to teach him empathy, while I’m still learning it myself. Essentially, we are learning together.

I make a regular effort to put myself in his shoes. I ask myself often, how might this make Andrew feel? I try to remember how it felt to be a child.

I talk it through with him. I explain how I think he feels and ask if I have it right. I tell him I understand why he would feel that way. I relate to him by talking about how I may feel in a similar situation or how I felt in similar situations in the past.

I encourage him to think about how others may feel in a given situation, or how he would feel if it was him.

When he feels slighted by someone and wants to defend himself, we talk through what actually happened (the facts). We talk about how the other person may feel. Discuss other possibilities for their actions, rather than assuming they are out to intentionally hurt him.

I praise and encourage him when he shows empathy for others, for animals, for his baby brother. 

Last week, he took it upon himself to get the cat water and I praised him for thinking about her needs and being kind to her.

Kindness

Being kind to him. Being understanding when he makes a mistake. Being forgiving. Encouraging him to be kind to himself and not to engage in negative self-talk. Encouraging and praising him for being kind to others.

Focusing on the positive

I remember to praise him for the good things he does. When we talk about the negative, I try to frame it in a way that emphasizes healthier reactions. I make sure to let him know bad behavior doesn’t mean he’s a bad person, it means we have some stuff to work on.  

I’m teaching my six year old DBT

My husband and I are both working on learning DBT ourselves, and we don’t hide it from our son — we invite him to participate.

So far, we’ve showed him opposite action, distraction, mindfulness, radical acceptance, fact checking and a few other skills.

The other day he was upset about not getting home until late, because he wouldn’t get to watch Pokémon XYZ, which had just come out on Netflix. It was a great opportunity to learn radical acceptance

I validated his feelings, acknowledging how upset he was and explained that I could totally understand why he felt the way he did.

Then we talked about how this particular situation was something we couldn’t change, and that continuing to be upset about it would only make him more upset. Instead, I helped him distract himself from the negative emotions by playing a game with him in the car.

Encourage him to explore his feelings

Anger is a secondary emotion that other harder to face emotions hide behind. When he’s angry, I encourage him to take some time to think about exactly why he felt so angry. I try to talk through it with him to help him explore the root feelings. 

Showing fairness between him and his brother

Growing up I was the scapegoat, my sister was the golden child. When my sister was born, I was essentially ignored and told I was the bad one, she was the good one. We were pitted against each other and because of that, I was almost in my 30s before we had a relationship. I don’t want that for my kids.

I honestly see how this could have happened. 

Last year, I gave birth to my second son, Ethan. With all my attention going to the baby, I would get easily frustrated with Andrew, who was feeling ignored and seeking attention by acting out. 

He also is loud and wakes up the baby. He is much bigger and doesn’t realize the baby is more fragile, so he can be too rough sometimes, etc. etc. etc. Normal kid stuff, but it was already beginning to turn into me focusing on all the annoying things Andrew did, while heaping all my kindness and attention on innocent little Ethan. That had to stop.

I now praise him for any kindness he shows to the baby and tell him often what a great big brother he is. I ask for his help with small tasks and praise him for being so thoughtful and showing empathy toward Ethan.

I make every effort to point out when the baby shows affection to his big brother by smiling, wanting to play with him, etc. I tell him how much his baby brother loves him and looks up to him.

I try not to compare them. We do sometimes talk about differences in their personalities, but non-judgmentally. I try to point out each of them have their own unique personalities, and highlight the good in each of them.

I also make time for just Andrew. Last weekend we went to the movies, shopping, out to dinner, just the two of us and I was able to stay in the moment for most of it.

Highlighting my own flaws and discussing them with him

I let Andrew know now that we (me and his father) are not perfect either and that we need help managing our emotions too.

I’m still learning and sometimes I mess up. Sometimes I blow up,  mentally check out or am just plain negative. I’m a work in progress.

But I’m trying to do better and take responsibility when I mess up. I apologize when appropriate or necessary.  I do my best to explain that it’s not his fault. I talk about what I could have done better — then really try to do better next time. Ask him how he feels. Try to show him I’m trying and that things are consistently improving. 

I also try to use these situations as teachable moments. I relate to Andrew and the trouble he’s had with his behavior, explaining that I have the same problems and I’m also working on it, just like he is.

I ask for his empathy, by reminding him how he feels when he loses control of his emotions and ask if he can understand how I may have been feeling in a similar way.

We talk about better ways to handle those situations. I make every effort to handle it that way going forward. I encourage him to point out to me if he feels I’m acting a certain way and I take a pause if he tells me I am.

I do my best to talk through my own efforts at emotional regulation so that he can see and learn what’s healthy and what works (and what doesn’t). It’s important to me he knows how hard I’m working on it. My emotions are mine to control and not his fault. Sometimes I will tell him, mommy is feeling angry – you didn’t do anything wrong and I’m not mad at you– but I need a few minutes alone to cool off. He gets it and will sometimes tell me the same. If he does, I back off and come back in a half hour to see if he might like to talk about it now.

I also ask him every so often: what can I do to be a better mom to you? 

Bonding with my son

Last week, Andrew got in trouble at school. This is much less frequent these days, but still happens sometimes. I wanted to talk to him about it.

He had noticed the field in back of our house was filled with small flowers and had been wanting to show it to me for a few days — he kept bringing it up, but it was never a good time. He asked if we could talk about school in the field. It was one of the first nice spring days. We sat in the shade of a tree, just me and him in the field of flowers.

He told me what happened. He was honest, I was kind. It was a good talk.

After we’d talked it through, he told me: I want to focus on positive thoughts now.  That made me smile. 

We played hide and seek and I stayed in the moment with him.

It’s totally narcissistic to think you’re an empath

Several NPDers I know believed they were empaths prior to self awarenes. I did too.

Here’s some more research to ponder:

According to a recent study published in Personality and Mental Health, narcissists consistently overestimated their emotional intelligence.

Read: Narcissists overestimate their emotional intelligence, attractiveness and social skills. 

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.

Narcissism and Masochism: The Origins of Eternal Victimhood

In my last post, How to make yourself fall out of love, I mentioned my tendency to devalue those who treat me well and idealize those who treat me poorly. It’s something I’ve done over and over again throughout my life with little awareness.

But after writing that line, it stuck with me all week. I wondered why that was.

If I feel hurt, I will express rage. I may attempt to counter-control, counter-manipulate or straight up fight. But inside, there’s this nagging feeling that says I must deserve this. I am lower than. My opinions count less. My feelings count less.

Having no empathy means having none for myself either.

I think the person doing this to me is better. I obsess over why they would hurt me. Why I’m unworthy of their love or respect.  I want to understand them, and understand why I didn’t measure up. I assume their feelings are valid, but question my own and search constantly for outside validation that tells me I am not defective. Only no amount of outside validation is ever enough.

Am I stupid? Am I ugly? Fat? Wrong? Do I have terrible taste in music? Not interesting enough? What is it? Why was I unworthy? What could I have done differently to make them love me?

Why do I do this to myself? What am I, some sort of masochist?

Well, apparently, yes. And apparently, all narcissists are. In my search, I found this abstract of a larger piece, Narcissism and masochism. The narcissistic-masochistic character:

“Developmentally and clinically, narcissistic and masochistic pathology are so intertwined that their theoretic and clinical unraveling requires specific attention to their linkage and the predictable forms of response to interpretation.

It is therefore useful to think of the narcissistic-masochistic character as a clinical entity. In this condition, pathologic narcissistic tendencies are unconscious vehicles for attaining masochistic disappointment and masochistic injuries are an affirmation of distorted narcissistic fantasies.”

The eternal victimhood of narcissists suddenly makes so much sense.

I have been getting narcissistic supply from ruminating and obsessing over past hurts. I replay the pain over and over again, dissecting every aspect of it. Going over every detail with a fine tooth comb, looking for anything I may have missed that could explain how I failed. Rinse and repeat.

I search for any slight—real or perceived—to latch on to and continue the dynamic, if only in my head.

I initially had trouble understanding the Borderline urge to self-harm. But I self-harm emotionally, by obsessing over past hurts and humiliations, and by devaluing myself.

No one remains to hurt me, so now I do it myself. With memories and a never ending series of questions I will never get answers to.

It won’t hurt anymore if I’d just stop caring. But I can’t stop myself from caring. In this way I’ve become my own abuser. The pain would have been long over by now, only I won’t let it be.

Sexually my fantasies often revolve around degradation and situations where I am controlled, humiliated, used, and where consent straddles the line. This is not an all-the-time thing for me. But every so often I play out these fantasies in my head and am satisfied by the  mistreatment.

Self-compassion is one of the first things my therapist began suggesting to me when I started therapy. It’s something I try to remind myself of, but it’s the hardest thing for me to do. Harder than any of the DBT skills I’ve learned so far. Harder than learning to feel empathy for others.

Aiden reminds me often. He says, “Are you being kind to yourself today?” That always makes me smile and reminds me to give myself some credit. I guess hearing that someone else thinks I am worthy of compassion is still more powerful than me telling myself.

I hope that’s not always the case.

I have noticed that the more emotionally connected I feel to Aiden, the less I fantasize sexually about being hurt.

I am learning to allow myself to be pleasured. Actual intimacy. It takes a level of vulnerability that before now, I’ve never allowed myself to experience. It’s like an entire erotic world has been opened up to me, that I guess I never believed I had a right to.

Maybe feeling more connected to myself emotionally can help me stop the emotional turmoil I put myself through.

How to Make Yourself Fall Out of Love

Ever been in love with someone you knew was bad for you, but couldn’t help yourself?

Cluster B’s have a tendency to idealize and devalue others. When I have idealized someone they can virtually do no wrong.

Even, and sometimes especially, if they are treating me poorly, it can be hard for me to let go. I see only the good in them, and have a tendency to internalize their bad or hurtful behavior as some fault of my own. I am defective. Unlovable. That’s why they are treating me so poorly.

At times like these my old friend, Devalue, would be really handy to have around. But I can’t control the devaluation process. Devaluing for me, is like falling out of love — it just happens.

Worse, I have a tendency to devalue those who treat me well, and exalt those who mistreat me. I think, if they love me, there must be something wrong with them.

Or, they are trying to manipulate me.

A couple of weeks ago, someone in one of my Cluster B groups mentioned the DBT Peer Connections series on YouTube. I finally got around to checking it out and found it helpful.

The series consists of 23 episodes, ranging in length from 3 minutes to 2 hours. So, it’s a time investment. But from what I’ve seen so far, it’s worth it.

In this video (below), she talks about using the DBT skill, “Opposite Action” for emotional regulation, and goes through a series of emotions including jealousy, anger, shame, guilt and even love. DBT Opposite Action Love.png

This was the first time I had seen love covered as an unhealthy emotion that requires regulation. But for a lot of us, it is.

When love doesn’t fit the facts, when the person doesn’t deserve our love or admiration, there are things we can do to change our feelings — we don’t have to be slaves to unhealthy emotions.

She gets to love at 18:00, but the entire video is worth a watch. I identified with needing help on all of the emotions, especially anger.

DBT Peer Connections Ep 4c – Emotion Regulation Opposite Action

Loving & Understanding A Narcissist

My friend, who blogs about living with Borderline Personality Disorder, gives her perspective on loving someone with NPD. She writes about her fiance with a lot of unconditional love and compassion — something most of us NPDers never had growing up.

Since waking up, I’ve learned more about BPD, and have been surprised at the many similarities in our internal thinking. This has become more evident as I’ve started learning DBT, which was originally developed for Borderlines.

It’s also striking how many Borderlines and Narcissists find ourselves in relationships. I’d say there’s a special relationship between the two disorders.

Borderline Mama writes:

His behaviour is not okay, I’m well aware of that. But it is fueled by his need for attention, love and validation. I put up with his behaviour by choice, because I know he is as emotionally damaged as me. I have BPD, and he puts up with my negative borderline characteristics. So why should I give up on him?

Our personality disorders are quite similar in some ways. Both narcissists and borderlines have a distorted sense of self, issues with rage, a deep fear of abandonment, and black and white thinking. Through these similarities, I am able to understand my SO’s behaviour to some degree.

Read the whole article: Loving & Understanding A Narcissist

Realizing You’re the Abuser

Shit has been really getting dire around here. Supply has been low and I’m hitting a wall. For months now I’ve been dealing with strong emotions and painful childhood memories, and trying hard to fight off emotional numbness and dissociations.

At the same time, I’ve been trying to restrict my access to unhealthy or attention-seeking forms of “supply” as I try to force myself to learn to rely on myself to regulate my own self-worth. Not. Easy.

Prolonged numbness + dissociation = rage

I’ve tried just about everything I can think of to pull myself out of this emotional wasteland I’m in. But nothing has had a strong enough impact to pull me out of it completely, or to permanently make it stop. Everything seems like a short term, temporary fix, before it’s back to the boredom and numbness.

I know it can’t last forever, but at this point I’m getting desperate. And angry.

What does that mean? I’m so desperate to feel again I’ll do anything. Positive supply isn’t coming quick enough and in abundance – so I’ve resorted to fucking shit up.  In other words: let’s stir the pot and see what bubbles to the surface.

What’s been pissing me off recently that I can bring up now and start a fight about? Who’s on my shit list that can I text something snide to, just to see how they respond? Let’s go online and troll someone obnoxious. At this point, all bets are off. Anger feels better than boredom. It’s that dire.

For the record, I am not proud of this. I’m actually quite ashamed.

I absolutely hate that I am doing this and really want to stop. These feelings are a reminder to me that self-awareness alone is not enough. Not by a long shot. But it is helpful. I thought about it last night and realized I’m essentially throwing a temper tantrum to get attention. The same thing I did as a child when nothing else worked. (Insight)

Discovering my multiple personalities

multiple-personalities-dissociationI’ve heard NPD compared to a dissociative  disorder. Sometimes I can’t seem to control which personality comes out, or turn it off. This is a prime example.

This week “Cluster B Girl” is out and she’s a royal narc. She don’t give a fuck. When Cluster B Girl is up, I see myself raging and doing other self-destructive behaviors that I know I’ll later regret.

Internally I am thinking, stop it! Why are you doing this—this behavior is not going to get you want you want, in fact just the opposite! Shut up before you make things worse. Face palm. But the words are flying out of my mouth like someone else is speaking them.

I have a front row seat, but I’m not really participating. Except the rage—I feel that full force.

Realizing I’m the abuser

The other night my husband, Aidan, did something stupid to piss me off. Add that to the pile of other stuff I’m dealing with and I exploded. I had a glass of red wine in my hand and I couldn’t help myself—I just chucked it at him.

I regretted it the second I flicked my wrist. Red wine all over the walls and the ceiling. Lesson learned: red wine stains wall paint on impact and it doesn’t come out. Now I’m going to have to repaint. As if I needed this.

I’m taking responsibility and I’m going to paint it myself, without asking for any help. In the past, I would have found a way to make this Aiden’s fault and somehow force him to do it.

That thought did cross my mind, but this time it disturbed me. It felt cruel. And degrading. This may have been the first time I ever realized how my behavior actually is “abusive” or how controlling and mean I can be.

Furthermore, why did I care about the wall more than Aiden’s feelings? Probably because the wall would affect me (having to look at it, fix it, embarrassment if people came over, etc.), whereas his feelings I could just ignore. Another eye opening and disturbing thought.

Weed really helps me when I’m raging like this. If I smoke, I can calm myself down enough to consider his perspective. We had a long conversation about everything and I made it a point to listen and empathize with him. And apologize.

Forgetting I’m unlovable

broken-heart-unloveableI got pretty down on myself and started thinking about everything that’s wrong with me, all the ways I fail as a wife and a mother, all the problems I have from my shitty childhood that I can’t get over, and started feeling like all hope is lost. Maybe my mom was right. I’m just an inherently flawed, unlovable, bad person. Why would anyone love me? Look how I act and treat people. I’m stuck in this never ending pit of nothingness. Now I’ve ruined all hope, by raging and hurting anyone who has tried to help me.

But, Aiden made some great points that immediately helped me turn around my thinking. He pointed out several positive long-lasting changes I’ve made, even through this period of dysphoria. The arc of my emotional growth is long, but it bends toward change.

Hearing him say he’s proud of me, despite my setbacks, gave me an enormous sense of pride and encouraged me to want to keep going. I want to try harder to live up to it, and keep making him proud. He didn’t give up on me, even though I may have deserved it.

We were able to connect and today I feel much calmer and a lot less angry. I really needed that with him.

I know it seems counter-intuitive, but when I’m raging, one thing he can do to actually help calm me down is to show me empathy. He also has been doing a great job of encouraging me to have self-compassion too, which is also incredibly helpful.

Introspection = new insights

woman personality puzzle.jpgOK, so here are some things I’ve learned:

  1. Holidays and days of celebration are fucking brutal for me—apparently even silly little holidays like Valentine’s Day. I haven’t figured out exactly how yet, but I need to prepare better.
  2. I do seek negative supply, when I’m desperate. It’s definitely not my first choice, but apparently, if I’m that hard up for attention, I’ll take it over nothing.
  3. Holy shit, I am controlling. Like…. Really controlling. Things will go my way, or I will reign down terror on you, until you not only capitulate, but fucking thank me for making you do it — then apologize for ever having not listened to me in the first place. Only, after I’ve demanded all this, I look at you as weak and lose respect for you. Wow. Of all my new insights into my personality so far, this is the ugliest I’ve had to face. This says, yes Yara, you are abusive. Now that I realize this, there is no getting around it. I have to keep working toward change. This is not OK.
  4. I have to keep consciously practicing the DBT more and making it a point to stop myself when I’m acting out, no matter how hard it is. I’ve been doing things here and there, incorporating stuff where I can. But I need to start making this a part of my every day and staying on track.

Self realization is necessary for growth

I’m not always like this. My control issues seem to flare up badly when I feel I’ve lost control of my life on a larger scale. In this case I’ve lost control of my mood. If I can keep my moods more stable, I am sure I can reduce this. I just need to keep working at it. I haven’t been this way in a while, where it was more commonplace before. Aiden pointed that out too. That’s positive.

As much as all of this sucks, it has to happen. Prior to waking up, I didn’t see any of this. I believed I was the victim. I had no insight into my own behaviors and motivations—or other people’s perceptions.

Now, experiencing the full range of all of my moods and cycles, it’s like all things are being revealed. I may need to go through a few to figure things out, but Aiden helped me feel hopeful. Change is slow, but it is happening.

Learning to empathize

couple listening with empathy.jpg

When we talked, Aiden also shared with me how things have impacted him recently. Essentially he’s finding it difficult to keep up with the amount of supply I need recently. He said I’ve been more irritable and needy than usual and he’s finding it hard to maintain his calm (which then causes me to react in kind).

I really don’t know what to do about this. I was able to empathize with him—I understand how hard it is to give me what I’m asking for. And he has needs too. But I just don’t know how else to handle it all without seeking outside supply. At least right now until I’m back to “normal.”

Treatment for NPD = doubt, frustration

This is why NPDs need our own treatment. Preferably something that combines DBT and another method like schema at once. I’m doing DBT (originally designed for Borderlines), which is great for identifying patterns and helping change behaviors. But until I get rid of these deeper-seated issues with something like schema therapy, I may always be cycling back and forth between these extreme highs and lows. I need to learn how to regulate my own self-esteem, so I don’t need supply. But I also need to learn to care about other people and change my behavior.

So I am waiting until I’ve learned all my DBT, then finding a new therapist and starting something else from scratch. Not only that, but no one knows for sure that any of this will even work.

Sometimes I feel like we are making it up as we go along. Throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. There are no concrete answers for NPD yet.

It’s frustrating and it’s a long process to stick with for people who already have trouble sticking with things long term. I’m used to learning something almost immediately, rocking the shit out of it, getting bored and moving on. But this takes serious long term commitment, which I’ve never done before.

You have to want this change more than anything you’ve ever wanted. It is not easy. No wonder why so many of us just give up.

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