For those of us who know we don’t have it, self-esteem is that ever elusive mystery quality that would magically make our lives better. We know all the signs of not having it – feeling not good enough, not worthy of love, we have difficulty accepting compliments, we sometimes want to hide away and be invisible, we allow ourselves to be mistreated….but we never
What is wrong with my thinking?
How did I get this way?
How should I be reacting?
These are among the most common questions I get asked by my clients concerning their Codependency. The thing to remember is that a Codependent suffers from a form of arrested development. The six year old, abused or neglected child learned coping mechanisms to help
Codependency is a disease of the self. It’s our own misinterpretation of who we really are and of our significance in the world.
It’s a generational disease handed down from one to the next. It’s what happens when caregivers, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally, deliver unhealthy messages and beliefs to
I’m always on the lookout for something that inspires me and moves me into deep thought or action. A lot of things caught my attention this week, so forgive me if this post seems to be lacking a single theme or direction.
When you have one half of a couple, that takes responsibility for nothing and liberally distributes blame to the other and the other half, that feels responsible for everything and willingly accepts blame, you have a match made in dysfunctional paradise.
For a codependent in a relationship, there comes that inevitable moment where you realize that you have done too much, cared too much and sacrificed too much time, energy, money and emotion. All of it, just to be loved and appreciated, but instead what you’re left feeling is disrespected, foolish, taken advantage of and used.
Abusers don’t like boundaries. They hinder their progress in getting what they want. Consequently, they choose their targets very carefully. Children make excellent targets because they don’t have many options, they’re eager to please and require the love and attention of their caregivers. Children of abusers grow up not understanding their worth, or the concept of boundaries in relationships.
“Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that are important to you.” – Carl Jung
As a species we need to know that we matter. That we are seen, heard and understood. We want people around us that get us, that make us feel like there is a place where we are welcome and where we fit. We need connection. When these things are absent from our lives we tend to feel disconnected, hollow, uncomfortable, sad, insecure – lonely.
Back in the early days of my journey, every day was painful to get through. I was in a constant state of heartache. Depression had become my best friend and I’d never before known fear that could completely cripple you like that which I was experiencing.
It was the wee hours of the night, a lot of laughs and several bottles of Chardonnay later, I found myself at the home of my neighbor, surrounded by the ladies of my street. I like my neighbors, they’re fun and we always have a good time together. Especially these impromptu gatherings that just seem to happen, spur of the moment, where everyone ends up laughing so much that no one wants to leave.
When you’re used to having to work for love you tend to be someone who doesn’t give up too easily. You’ve been trained to believe that just being yourself isn’t good enough, so you get really good at going that extra mile to get people to like you.
“The essence of beauty doesn’t stem from the label on your clothes, the shape of your body, or the color of your skin. It comes from the way you carry yourself and the amount of respect with which you treat yourself. “
I had made of list of all the things I wanted in a man. It was great advice given to me by a close friend. “If you know what you’re looking for, you’re more apt to spot it when you see it,” she told me. I was online dating, a place where people were as interchangeable as clothing, when I met him.
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard that Angelina Jolie filed for divorce from Brad Pitt last week. While I am saddened that six children are in the midst of turmoil, I must admit that a small part of me is perversely pleased by this news.
Losing one’s self in a relationship means willfully shedding your own identity, desires and personal goals and instead becoming consumed with the relationship and the needs and desires of the other person in that relationship. This is a common practice for most Codependents.
“A belief is just a thought we keep thinking.” – Esther Hicks
Have you ever gotten into your car and started driving and you fall into, what seems to be a type of trance, then suddenly you arrive at your destination, but you have very little memory of how you actually got there?
My relationship with my long-term Narcissist was awful. I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders, while he was allowed to frolic around, without a care in the world. Our friends used to joke about how selfish he was. It was so obvious to everyone that everything was always all about him and when he acted like a selfish bastard they would literally
Wayne Dyer accurately quipped that, “Some people are always looking for a reason to be offended,” and most of us don’t have to look too far to see evidence of that.
We will all find ourselves, at one time or another, interacting with people whose behavior seems to be way over the top.
Sometimes when I hear someone tell their story I can’t help but cringe and think in my head, “Oh boy, this isn’t going to end well.” It happens a lot when people are looking to get something, from someone who treated them very badly, that something being, an apology, or some acknowledgement of wrong doing.
Why can’t I get over this?
Why do I get sucked in every time?
Why do I feel so powerless?
These are the million dollar questions when we’re dealing with abusive relationships. When well-meaning friends or loved ones ask us, “Why don’t you just leave?” Or, “Why can’t you just move on?” We’re kind of stumped ourselves, because we don’t really have an answer that would sound even remotely plausible. We might even reply, “Because I’m a glutton for punishment.” And you wouldn’t be that far off.
When we’re children our quest begins to look for clues and examples of how we fit into our environment and how we match up against others. Even though our ability to correctly interpret the data coming in is immature, we still make our assessment about ourselves based on what we believe we are perceiving. To very small children their parents can seem infallible and if these higher beings find fault with us – well then there must be something wrong with us.
“My biggest pet peeve?” She was asked. “It’s people who create their own problems and then complain about the outcome, while expecting everyone else to fix it.” – Unknown
When we talk about starving we’re usually referring to food. Imagine if you will, that you are stranded on a deserted island and this island is barren of anything edible. You are ravenous and you start to wonder what sand tastes like. Suddenly, you’re rescued and the only thing on your mind is food. A meal is placed in front of you, do you grab a knife and fork and daintily cut your food into tiny bite size pieces, or do you just start shoveling it in? You probably would want more and more until you’re ready to throw up and you’d probably even lick the plate too.
What would you do if your 11 year old daughter didn’t come home for a couple of weeks? What if she said nothing to you, you had no idea where she was, or if she was ever coming back?
A big part of how I help others tackle their codependency is by identifying the behaviors that lead to self-sabotage and the fallacies of our early programming. Most of my clients have heard me use the infamous phrase, “That’s your disease talking.” It usually follows a client’s illustration of behaviors where they weren’t loving and respecting themselves, where they were accepting of poor treatment, where they tried to make everything their fault and when they were full of confusion and doubt.
Doubt is like the rude uninvited guest that keeps showing up to your party. It’s the rain on your parade. It has the power to completely overhaul your plans, what actions you take and to keep you stuck replaying the same tapes over and over again.
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt so emotionally vulnerable that anything that triggered one of your tender spots was going to result in some kind of crazy outburst?
It’s a distinctly different reaction than the common every day passive reaction of most codependents. The inappropriate freak out is a state that I’ve come to think of as somewhere in between a severe codependent reaction
To put yourself first, to actually consider your needs above all else is inconceivable to a lot of people. Take a look at any mom and you’ll see someone who is a martyr, self-sacrificing and the giver of unconditional love.
Watching my friends, who are now mothers, as well as my sister in law, I see very tired women, whose priorities quickly
We know that codependents develop the tendency to put others ahead of themselves. When they are faced with the prospect of having to focus on themselves it becomes a very daunting task, first and foremost because they have little practice doing it. It’s something they avoid and it’s a big part of why they stay in abusive relationships.
For a big part of my life, I hung out on the sidelines, waiting and hoping for that one moment where I would be good enough to actually participate in my own life. I was so full of shame that I couldn’t bear the thought of people looking at me and judging me, even when it came to the most mundane of tasks. It was drummed into me from the moment I could speak that I was imperfect – that there was something wrong with me – that I wasn’t good enough. Other people
I got home really late on Friday. When I pulled into my driveway, at about 1:00am, I noticed a familiar vehicle in front of my neighbor’s house. It belonged to her ex-Narcissist. The same ex-Narcissist that lied, cheated and used her, the same
“Be impeccable with your word,” it’s one of Miguel Ruiz’s principles to creating a happy and balanced life, which he illustrates in his best-selling book, the Four Agreements. I had a number of incidents happen over the last little while that really got me thinking about the importance of keeping your word and why some people don’t.
We’re all guilty of it, we make plans and bow out last minute, giving the lamest of excuses. We’ve said yes when we really wanted to say no. My worst offence, I remember vividly,
A lot of people want to change. They want their lives to get better. They want to leave their bad situation, but they can’t. They come up with myriad of reasons why and what it is that’s stopping them. These reasons seem inconsequential to others, but for the individual they are there, they are real and they can be debilitating.
I used to hold an image of a woman in my mind. She was me, but not me. She was actually, everything that I was not. She was tall and I am not, she was model thin and I was not, stunningly beautiful and I was not, she was talented and everybody loved her and I was unlovable. She was rich and famous and on top of the world
So there I was sitting in my therapist’s office. It was more than a handful of years ago, therapy was something that I would never have considered on my own, but it was a benefit of my post-accident, car insurance plan.
When people talk about those that help, or put others needs ahead of their own, they use words like nurturer, kind hearted, altruistic, selfless, or giver. They might say that he or she has the ‘caring gene’ and that giving just comes naturally to some people. While there might be some truth to this, I would argue that the real reason behind why some people over-give isn’t so divine and is in fact, quite disturbing.
I love sports. I love them because they are the epitome of human endurance. They exemplify mental toughness and the struggle to overcome our inner battles. Athletes are warriors. They’re battlers and I really dig people that develop their inner fighter. They have something to prove. They have the eye of the tiger, that, I’ll show you, chip on their shoulder. To me those people are more capable of greatness than any other.
It’s that time of year when I like to look back, on the year that was, and reflect on some of the major lessons we’ve discussed here on this site. So without further ado here are nine major statements we made this year:
“I never would have left.” That’s what I said to my long-term Narcissist, during one of my futile attempts to get him to stay. “I never would have done this.” The scary part is – that was the truth. It didn’t matter how much pain he caused me. It didn’t matter that nothing was about me, or that I had no idea who I was anymore. None of that mattered.
I went to the grocery store last week and as I was loading my food onto the conveyor belt, at the cashier, I felt a very familiar feeling. I made some pretty good food choices that day. I had lots of fruits and vegetables, some protein and I permitted myself to buy something sweet. Just a small one-time snack that would be done in one sitting.
Inside every codependent is a child, who has been mistreated, ignored, hurt, humiliated, frightened, shamed, or abused by parents, who were themselves mistreated, ignored, shamed and abused by their parents. When we were children we did what we knew how to do, in order to survive and to get our needs met. It is this same child that created how we cope, how we react and how we feel about ourselves. It is this child that has been running our lives as adults.
I remember thinking that there was a secret that everyone else knew except me. I thought once I figured out this secret, then my life would be okay. I would be okay, but despite my best efforts, the answers I was seeking always seemed to elude me.
Earlier this week I received a copy of the magazine that an article of mine appeared in. As I was flipping though it I noticed an article written by Eckhart Tolle, the best-selling author of The Power of Now. One of the main themes of Tolle’s work is that when you are in the present moment, ‘in the now,’ you cannot be harmed by the past and you aren’t anxious about the future. You are fully absorbed with what is happening around you at that very moment.
For many, practicing self-care is a life style change. It means giving up self-destructive habits. It’s a shift in perspective about how you view yourself and it’s adopting a pattern of positive behavior that reflects those perceptions.
Sometimes our hearts haven’t quite caught up to our heads and when you throw a little physiology into the mix, getting over a Narcissist can seem like you’re trapped in a maze, unable to find your way out.
As we mentioned last week, the first thing we have to do to extricate ourselves from our dysfunctional relationship, is to become aware that this relationship is toxic and damaging to our sense of self-worth. That’s the easy part, because for the most part, we know when we’re being disrespected and generally treated poorly. The next few steps have to deal with driving an emotional wedge between our addiction to our Narcissist and ourselves, which will allow us to gain distance and some perspective.
It defies reason, logic and common sense, to want to hang on to someone, who treated you so appallingly. It’s almost addict-like behavior, complete with withdrawal symptoms, cravings and an inability to focus on anything else.
Imagine that you were in a relationship with someone you didn’t love. Imagine that you found this person to be flawed, worthless and just not good enough for you. Now imagine that you couldn’t leave the relationship. You were stuck in it. What kind of relationship would that be? How would it affect your thoughts, your behavior and your everyday life?
We’ve all heard the phrase, you’re making mountains out of molehills, which of course means, you’re making something out to be bigger than it really is. When you’re a codependent, or have low self-esteem, you have a tendency to do the opposite and dismiss big, important issues as unimportant or insignificant.
“Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem. We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.” -Iyanla Vanzant
“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.” – Eckhart Tolle
The body is a miraculous thing. When it’s sick it develops symptoms that tell us that something is wrong. When our spirit is sick our bodies also provide us with symptoms, which manifest as feelings of anxiety, deep emotional sorrow, panic attacks, depression, heart ache, hopelessness, helplessness, frustration, and despair.
“Well, he wasn’t happy,” our mutual friend said with a shrug, like it made perfect sense. In my head I kept thinking, ‘I’ve put up with his cruelty, his selfishness and all of his issues for seven years and HE’S not happy? ’
I loved my best friend. I still do. I hope that she is happy and thriving in her life. I’m not just saying that to sound evolved, or advanced in some way. I really mean it. I remember fondly the days where we would have long and deep conversations over dinner. I lived for those days. We would talk about
There is a beauty bias in our culture. People, who possess beauty, get more advantages and more opportunities than the esthetically challenged. Being the beautiful one in a relationship also has clear benefits, but what is it about a
I felt stuck and uncomfortable for much of my life and as much as I tried, I couldn’t figure out a way to get unstuck. In many ways the tragic events that happened on the day my mother was killed seem to have been prophetic. It was a culmination of all of my angst that had built up inside of me. The events
Motivation, drive, desire, passion, whatever you want to call it, people have been trying to figure out how to get it and how to harness it for centuries. What makes LeBron so much better than everyone else? What made Payton Manning stay and practice harder and longer to perfect his arm? What made Sidney Crosby shoot pucks into his mother’s clothes dryer all night, while all of his friends were watching TV and playing video games? What makes people work harder to achieve their dreams, while others continue to dwell in mediocrity?
“When we protect ourselves so we won’t feel pain, that protection becomes like armor that imprisons the softness of the heart.” – Pema Chodron
For most of my life I’ve kept people at an emotional distance. Not so much friends, but romantic partners. Subconsciously, I believed that if I didn’t let myself get too close to someone then it wouldn’t hurt me when they left. If I didn’t let them get too close to me then they would never really know me, so when they did reject me, it wasn’t really
We all want to be liked, it’s part of the human condition, but that need can become excessive and unhealthy when it becomes our primary focus. Codependents often have a very strong impulse to please others, especially those that reject them. It’s a unique dynamic where the more someone pulls away from them, the stronger the lure is for the codependent.
Friendship is a relationship of mutual affection between two or more people. Friendship is a stronger form of interpersonal bond than an association….characteristics include affection, sympathy, empathy, honesty, altruism, mutual understanding and compassion, enjoyment of each other’s company, trust, and the ability to be oneself, express one’s feelings, and make mistakes without fear of judgment from the friend. – Wikipedia
How many people have had this happen to them: You get involved with someone you like, you’re intimate,
“When your eye is always searching for the negative you can’t help but miss much of life’s beauty.” – S. Grey
My mother was the daughter of a Narcissistic father, which meant that she was insulted, humiliated, shamed, blamed and belittled on a daily basis. A habitual need to judge and criticize others became her normal, hearing it and seeing it turned into doing it. This is how she was taught to view the world. She believed that
What is normal? What does healthy look like? We talk a lot about being healthy on this site, but If you’ve never seen it, or had anyone demonstrate it to you, how do you know what it looks like?
I’ve spent years trying to figure out what healthy is, because I knew I wasn’t. I always felt that there was some hidden mystery I had to figure out, a secret that other people knew that I didn’t. While I was in the midst of
We’ve all had cringe-worthy moments that we can shelve in the ‘not my finest hour’ section of our memory banks. These are the moments where we acted in a manner that was beneath us, where we didn’t stand up for ourselves, where we let ourselves be used.
Tanya and her siblings were taken from their home when she was just three. Her mother had tried to kill them by starting a fire in the family home and leaving them alone inside. Tanya was later adopted by kind, but deeply devout Jehovah’s Witness parents. Her adoptive parents moved from the UK to North America and she moved across the pond, leaving her siblings behind. She rebelled against such strict religious doctrines as she got older and was rebuked by the church community and her parents for her teenage angst.
“For some reason, we are truly convinced that if we criticize ourselves, the criticism will lead to change. If we are harsh, we believe we will end up being kind. If we shame ourselves, we believe we end up loving ourselves. It has never been true, not for a moment that shame leads to love. Only love leads to love.” Geneen Roth
Self-destruction seems to be a ubiquitous part of the human experience. It happens at the very core of us, when we don’t love and value ourselves. It’s what happens when we live with unresolved feelings of pain and
“I’m good enough. I’m smart enough and doggone it people like me.” – Stuart Smalley
When someone mentions affirmations, the first thing I think about is Al Franken’s emotionally fragile character Stuart Smalley, on Saturday Night Live. Although Franken’s character is hilarious, the stigma it helped perpetuate towards those who use affirmations, has not been very positive. Not because affirmations don’t work, but because people associate it with being – well….emotionally fragile. These days, with authors
“I can’t do it. I just can’t walk away.”
“I’m not strong enough. I’m so weak.”
“As soon as he contacts me I know I’ll cave.”
These are some pretty common statements I hear from people trying to wean themselves off of a Narcissist. I get it. Battling all these volatile emotions is really hard. Been there-done-that, got-a-blog-about-it.
The issue is that your life has become all about someone else and you’re so wrapped up in them that you’ve twisted
We all have an innate need to love and be loved, to belong to something, a family, a circle of friends, or even admired by colleagues. When we feel connected to others, it brings us a sense of security, joy and belongingness.
Twentieth century psychologist, Abraham Maslow, listed the need for love and belongingness in his famous hierarchy of needs. This theory is a scale of what drives human motivation. On the bottom of the pyramid, thus being the most important, are physiological needs, such as oxygen, food, water ect. Following that on the pyramid is the need for
The obesity/self-esteem dynamic is a topic that doesn’t get enough attention. Sure, there have been countless studies on how obesity affects self-esteem, but duh – that’s kind of like a study of the obvious, like telling us that water turns into ice when it freezes. We have started the dialogue on other important issues like bullying, but not specifically on how being overweight affects us from an emotional and a psychological perspective.
You can’t hide from being overweight. It’s always there and it’s all encompassing. It’s there when you put on your
Fixer: Someone who engages in relationships with dysfunctional partners, with an uncontrollable need to help, give, rescue, and recreate that person into the image that they desire.
If you see yourself in the above definition, raise your hand if you have ever tried to fix someone and it actually worked? I’m not talking about two relatively healthy people, who make each other better. I’m talking about two unhealthy, broken people, with one giving and one taking, one responsible for everything and one responsible for nothing, and with one trying to change the other into something they are not.
I get a lot of emails from people that are suffering. They are going through so much emotional anguish and they don’t know what to do. Sometimes they’re fine, but they’ll get a text message from their ex-Narcissist and it will send them into an emotional spiral. They need a healthy solution to alleviate the pain they’re experiencing and they need it now. I came across something a couple of years ago and was reminded of it this week, as I came across some writing by Gabrielle Bernstein.
The new year brings with it new challenges, new chapters and new beginnings. But before we look ahead I think it’s important to look back, to make sure that we’ve taken care of all of our childhood baggage. This is important, because if you refuse to do this work, these unresolved issues will continue to manifest in your life, and you will have a never ending battle, trying to manage symptoms, rather than eliminating the problem at its source.
Many people eat, drink, or do drugs to counteract the painful feelings from childhood neglect, or abuse, these are clearly inappropriate coping mechanisms – bandages, that only mask the problem. When you’ve been brought up to feel not good enough, you really do feel a void. You feel incomplete and you believe that if you could only figure
Most of us want to have the ‘typical’ family holiday. We want the tree, the presents, a delicious Christmas dinner and to be happy and surrounded by loved ones. We want the occasion to look like it does in the commercials and movies on TV, but quite often it doesn’t.
For many of us, the holidays mean being around people that we don’t necessarily like, or those who make us feel uncomfortable. That could include – your overbearing Narcissistic father, your hyper critical mother, your spiteful, passive-aggressive sister, or that Narcissist you thought you had gotten rid of ages ago.
Many of us have been on the road to healing for some time now, healing from childhood traumas and from our adult relationships. Most of us have gone no contact with our last abusive partner and we’ve distanced ourselves from the toxic people in our lives. Everything is going great, but along comes the holidays and this is when we are at our most vulnerable and when our resolve is severely tested.
There are a lot of misconceptions about hypnosis. Many people believe that they are supposed to be completely unconscious and have no memory of what’s going on and if they don’t get there, it’s not working and they come to the conclusion that they can’t be hypnotized. The truth is that hypnosis is really the place between awake and asleep. It’s a trance like state where individuals are highly suggestable and highly relaxed. If you’ve ever been driving your car and you are just hyper focused on the road and nothing else and it seems as though your conscious mind has shut down and your subconscious mind is steering the wheel and you don’t remember just how you got to your destination, then you’ve experienced a trance like state.
Many people fear that a hypnotist will make you do foolish things. I’ve been asked on many occasions, “You aren’t going to make me cluck like a chicken are you?” I always say, ‘You aren’t going to do anything you don’t want to do, or wouldn’t normally do.’ You never hear a legal defense for murder as, not criminally responsible, because the defendant was under hypnosis. If you wouldn’t kill someone when you’re awake, you won’t do it under hypnosis.
Several weeks ago a picture of a Muslim woman, wearing a niqab, was floating around social media with the caption, ‘How does this make you feel?’ More recently, Kim Kardashian’s nude photo shoot with Paper Magazine has been making the rounds and the comments about each were two sides of the same coin.
While the objectification of women is nothing new, Kardashian is setting a dangerous new standard, not just for women, but for media. Ironically, Paper Magazine is an arts publication. It’s a magazine about and for artists, musicians, poets and the nightlife. It’s not a nudy mag, like Playboy or Penthouse, which have age requirements and are relegated to the back of the rack. It’s a mainstream magazine, which has set a precedent for other mainstream magazines to follow suit, or be left behind.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a prude. I think nudity can be art. I believe the photographer Jean-Paul Goude wanted to create an artful piece of work, but the subject – a seemingly, self-centered, arrogant, talentless, constantly-in-your-face-for nothing, spotlight seeking, self-important, starlet, evokes a lot of negative criticism and this latest work, is seen as nothing more than a feeble attemp
When your eyes first open in the morning, it’s usually because your alarm clock is making that awful aaaaaa-aaaaa-aaaaa noise. At that moment, you have to decide – do I get up, or do I hit the snooze button? Have you ever wished that life gave us the same kind of signal – some sign that would alert us that we were off course and that we needed to wake up?
The good news is, that life does provide us with a wakeup call, except the alarm isn’t a sound, it’s a feeling. It’s our emotions. When we waltz through life continuing to play out the same dysfunctional scripts from our childhood and we keep making poor choice after poor choice – then we are going to, at some point, find ourselves in the grips of emotional turmoil.
Many people go through life continuing to ignore the obvious signs that something is seriously wrong. Whether you’re going to get up and do something about it, or continue to snooze is entirely within your control.
When I look back at young me, teenage me, 20 something me, I can’t help thinking, ‘man that little girl didn’t have a clue what she was doing.’ I was a bit of a paradox, because I had an innately, happy disposition, but I was always negative, always critical, never satisfied and always focused on what I didn’t have.
I was lucky enough to have my life completely torn apart by my Narcissist, and yes, I did say lucky. I was lucky, because I had been given a wake-up call. Rather than live out the rest of my days unhappy and slowly dying inside, the universe saw to it, that I take a look at my life and all of the poor choices I was making. I get a lot of emails expressing the deep, emotional pain people
The best blogs I have written have been ones where I’ve written straight from the heart. What I mean by that, are articles that have been a true reflection of my experiences and lessons that I have learned. To me, the only way that you can really write about something and have it be truly authentic, is to have lived it.
I get a lot of emails from people, who have been reading about codependency, and they are freaking out, because they see themselves and their behavior in the descriptions. They ask me what do I do? How do I fix this? I have, in bits and snippets, written about battling codependency, but I’ve never compiled a comprehensive list all in one place. Due to it’s length, I was going to do it in two separate blogs, but I thought it important to keep it all together.
What I have compiled below are the steps that I have taken to beat codependency. It’s important to understand that this healing is a journey and a process – with many, many twists and turns along the way. Some parts are difficult, some are easy and some flow right into the other. Without further ado, here are the steps of my journey:
Awareness: The first step is recognizing that you have been the victim of emotional abuse in childhood. Last week I wrote about the effects of emotional child abuse in adults. This isn’t about being beaten, or locked in closets. This is about growing up in an unhealthy, shame based environment, with an emotional manipulator, where there was little c
When I was 14 years old I met my first love. He was 18 and he was big, strong, smart and beautiful. When I turned 15 he asked me to be his girlfriend. I was smitten and for a couple of months it was pure bliss. Within that year, he slept with my best friend, my cousin, and many others. I stuck around for months, hoping he’d come back and he would throw me a few crumbs from time to time and then off he’d go again. I gave him my heart and my innocence and in return he gave me heartache and sorrow. My very first relationship left me feeling broken, unwanted, unlovable, flawed and not good enough. It was a feeling I was very used to, a feeling that I had carried around with me my whole life.
Looking at my life backwards, it makes perfect sense that my first relationship was really a reproduction of the dysfunctional dynamic that had developed between my mother and I. All of the pain and hurt was a manifestation of what I had been taught, as a child, to feel about myself.
When I was studying Psychology we read and watched many experiments with monkeys. In some experiments these poor little monkeys were taken from birth and kept all alone with no contact with other animals or people for 6 months. The experiment placed the isolated monkey
“It does give you an extra bit of a thrill. It’s forbidden, so it feels a bit more naughty and erotic, which makes it so much harder to resist.” – Chantelle The Other Woman (TOW)
In our minds, the other woman is a mysterious femme fatal, who uses her whiles to manipulate and connive. The other woman is a thief and when she seduces your man, she has stolen so much more than your partner. She’s taken your self-esteem, your future and your sense of security, peace and justice and in return, she’s given you gut wrenching heartache, humiliation, jealousy, rage and crippling fear.
We love to hate the other woman. It’s easy to hate her. What is surprising is how we are able to brush aside our mate’s indiscretion and make her the focus of our malcontent. We do that because a part of us expects it from men, the other part wants to believe that he is a victim too, that he wouldn’t purposely betray us. She must have done something, promised him something or seduced him somehow. She has cast a spell or some kind of a web, that he just couldn’t free himself from. She used her sexuality to coerce him into doing things he wouldn’t normally do. She should know better and she’s broken the sister code, so it’s all her fault. She knows the vulnerability of his biology, and for all these reasons we save most of our outrage for her.
“I liked the feeling of being chosen over someone else. I really wasn’t thinking about his wife, or her feelings. I was just thinking about how I felt and when he wanted me, I felt really good.” – Jessie -The Other Woman (TOW)
Have you ever come across a definition or a list of symptoms, and by the time you got to the end of it, your eyes were completely bugged out and your jaw was resting comfortably on the floor? And as the shock of recognition sank in, all you kept saying was, “Oh-My-God, Oh-My-God – this is me. I could be the poster child for this.”
That was me many years ago, after reading Melanie Beattie’s book, Co-Dependent No More. Before I understood the term co-dependent I blamed my Narcissist for everything. And why shouldn’t I? He deserved the blame and my animosity for everything that he had done. But as I looked into this co-dependency business, I realized more and more, that I played an equal roll in this sad excuse of a relationship. I was equally responsible, equally at fault, and I was totally and solely to blame, for the sorry state I was in. Sure, he was a Narcissist and sure, his list of issues and relationship crimes could circle the globe, but I had a thing too and it had a name. My label was worse than his, because…well…it was mine. I was co-dependent. I could relate to every bit of it. It was a pretty tough pill to swallow, because now on top of the hurt and everything else I was dealing with, I had to deal with this too.
“Are you sitting down?”
“Yes,” I said. “What’s up?”
“I logged into Pete’s Ipad and I found all these email addresses that I didn’t know he had.”
“Ohhhhh. I don’t like where this is going.” I replied.
“The emails are linked to all these dating websites. He was not only talking to other women online, but he was meeting up with them. There are emails making plans to hook up and then emails afterwards, saying how hot it was. And they go back to before we got married. He’s been cheating the whole time.”
This was the phone call I got this week from a dear friend of mine, pretty much verbatim. I felt sick after I hung up. Sick at the feelings that I knew my friend was going through and sick at the fact that her partner Pete, had fooled us all.
I love the metamorphic dance of the butterfly. From slow, awkward, unattractive, caterpillar to elegant, graceful, beautiful, butterfly. This dance is symbolic, illustrating our deep desire to shed the things that hold us back, spread our wings and take flight. It’s our collective hope, that we can start from where we are, and transform into our true potential. It can also represent a type of awakening, after a long slumber, or even a rebirth.
Many people walk through life asleep, never questioning what is, never aspiring to be more, or to grow. These people go through the motions and just accept what is. They are the walking dead. I know they exist, because I was one of them.
My deep slumber was the time that I had abandoned myself, when my life became all about someone else. I had forgotten about the little joys in life, the things that gave me pleasure and I had completely forgotten about all of the things my soul craved for its own growth and happiness. Those were dark times, when I lived in a fog, almost like something else had taken over my body. It felt foreign and unnatural, but little by little it was who I became.
The post-date analysis was one of my favorite pastimes. It was a special time, when my girlfriends and I would get together, usually over a meal, or coffee and we’d laugh about what colossal dating faux pas Savannah made this time. Throughout my various stages of emotional health, I have blundered my way through oodles of men, chalking up one epic dating failure after another, enough to supply RomCom writers with copious amounts of material for decades.
Through it all I have laughed, I have cried, but most importantly I learned. I’ve learned how to discern what certain behaviors and patterns mean, what to watch out for, when to proceed and when to climb out the bathroom window. I know many of you are absolutely terrified at the prospect of dating and you’ve asked for a few tips, so I’ve compiled a few of my many hard learned lessons, to hopefully prepare you better and alleviate some of your anxiety. My first suggestion though, is to grab a pen and paper and write down exactly what you’re looking for in a partner. When you’ve got it out there – it means you’ve given it some thought, it’s in your conscious mind and you are more apt to notice it when it comes waltzing past you. So, without further ado:
“With it, you can take on the world, without it, you live stuck at the starting block of your potential.” – Katty Kay & Claire Shipman, authors of The Confidence Code
There are certain traits and behaviors that are essential to living a healthy and fulfilled life. For me, one of those must haves, is confidence.
Confidence is kind of a big deal. It’s like that little black dress that goes with everything. You can be intelligent, hardworking and you can be competent and all of these things are great, but when you lack confidence, all of these wonderful skills don’t amount to much.
Confidence is the meat in your sandwich, the berry in your jam. When you lack confidence, you have less opportunities, life seems scary, watered down, less fulfilling and without substance.
Confidence is a silent knowing. It’s a resolute belief in your value and your abilities. According to Katty Kay and Claire Shipman; confidence is about taking risks, taking action, making decisions, leaving your comfort zone, embracing failure, being resilient, mastering skills and hard work.
My cousin is the type of woman that always has a man, or it’s probably better to say, she’s the type of woman that always ‘needs ‘ to have a man and unfortunately for her, each man, seems to be worse, than the man before.
When we were younger, she used to ‘woohoo’ out the car window at men on the street and sometimes she would even yell out where we were going to perfect strangers. I would always duck out of sight, in sheer embarrassment, to me it reeked of desperation and crudeness, but she could pick up a guy on a dime. She was that um…. ‘talented.’ But the problem was that the guys she would hook up with were always a different brand of broken down. They would move way too fast and would even be living together before I saw her next.
“If you struggle with being present in the now, you will struggle with life.” – Eckhart Tolle
We all know one or two people that are genuinely happy and love their lives. It’s not that they have everything all figured out, but they always seem to be fully present in whatever they are doing and always thoroughly enjoying themselves.
It’s common for most of us to find ourselves out at certain events and be thinking about other things. We think about what else we should be doing, where else we should be. We think about the past. We get anxious about things that haven’t happened yet, but so often we are never where we should be, which is where we are at that moment.
Everyone’s life is a work in progress and we all struggle at different stages of our journey. Being present is one of my biggest hurdles. My mind is always in 10 different places all at once. Even when I was a little girl, my report cards would
After my long-term Narcissist and I broke up, I spent about a year and a half on self-improvement. I was looking and feeling pretty good and I decided that it was time to get back up on the ole dating horse. I learned a lot in that year about myself and particularly about my dating habits. It seemed that I kept attracting the same type of guy over and over again and I couldn’t help but wonder, what was going on and if this was a coincidence.
That year my dating history looked like this:
Guy #1 – The date was a total disaster. I talked about my ex the whole time. Relationship duration: 1 date.
Guy #2 – The guy was totally buff, 6’3, muscles everywhere, nice clothes, nice car, good job. He swept me off of my feet and I was hooked. He started to blow hot and cold. I didn’t hear from him one weekend, then the next he was fixing his c
Not long ago, an acquaintance of mine ended a ten year relationship. The union was toxic and unhealthy and she had been exhibiting co-dependent behaviors for some time. She took on all of the responsibility, while he contributed almost nothing emotionally and financially. So after much thought, she decided to end it.
The break up was a long time coming, but what shocked me was that within a week, both of them were involved with other people. Infidelity was not the cause of the break up, but they were both behaving like being single was a disease and they needed a cure fast.
The late eighteenth century was ripe with Revolutions. There was an American Revolution and a French Revolution and even today, citizens of many Middle Eastern countries have banded together to topple oppressive governments. A revolt usually happens when people are forced to live in unjust, unfair and oppressive conditions, where their voices aren’t heard, their civil rights – non-existent and poverty and famine are often the norm. A revolt starts by one person standing up and saying, “I’m not going to live like this anymore.” They take a stand and leap into action.
In our own lives, in the21st century, many of us have grown up in and continue to live in unfair, unjust and oppressive conditions, where our needs and wants don’t matter, our voices go unheard and we are starving for approval, love, purpose and the knowledge that we are good enough and that we matter.
I hate myself. I am flawed. I am unworthy. No one will ever love me and I will never be good enough. These were the beliefs that I carried around with me for most of my life. This cloak of self-loathing was fastened so tightly around my neck, that I could never get it off. It was always with me as far back as I can remember, so wearing it felt quite normal. It was a gift, or more like a curse, that was passed down from generation to generation in my family.
When I was a newborn I was good enough. When I was a toddler I was good enough, but somewhere around the time that I had learned to speak and form sentences, I kept getting the message that I was not good enough. It was with me in adolescence. It became more than apparent as I started dating and when I reached adulthood, every time I pulled up to life’s feast, I would take a few crumbs from the table and pretend that I was full. Everyone around me had plates piled high with delicious delicacies, but never me. Other people were worthy of such things, I was not. So I accepted the crumbs I got in my relationships and I pretended that that was enough. I accepted the crumbs from my employer and I pretended that that was enough. All I ever got or expected were crumbs and I was starving for something more.
Exploitation usually begins with a promise. This promise can be explicitly expressed, or it can be simply implied. Patrick Carnes, author of Betrayal Bonds tells us that, “Those who (exploit) read their victims well. They appeal to the emptiness and the wounds of others. “
The promise is a lure and its purpose is to provide the victim with all that is missing from their lives. If the victim feels unlovable, the abuser will use love bomb tactics, giving almost more attention and admiration than they feel comfortable with. Those victims that come from families where neglect was present and where emotions and affection was not frequently available are particularly susceptible to the attention and emotions that are evoked with such an onslaught.
In Stockholm Sweden, in 1973 a man entered a bank and took 4 bank employees hostage. He forced the employees into the vault at gun point and gave his demands to police. After a siege of about 6 days, police fired tear gas into the bank, which allowed them to free the hostages and arrest the bank robber. It is alleged that one of the hostages continued a relationship with the bank robber and after he served his ten year sentence they became engaged.
Janet met Jeff in 2005. After a world wind courtship, they quickly moved in together. Almost immediately afterword, Janet noticed a change in Jeff. The man, who had once been so free with his compliments and kindness, was now obsessively cruel and critical. According to Janet, Jeff started a reign of terror, flying into rages when things didn’t go his way. He continued to demean, humiliate and verbally assault her at almost every turn. His verbal assault soon escalated into physical abuse. He isolated her from family and friends and blamed her for all the misery in his life. When the physical abuse first started she left him, but after repeated reassurances from him that it wouldn’t happen again and grandiose displays of remorse, she relented and moved back in with him. The pattern of abuse, followed by periods of remorse continued and Janet now has 2 children and remains in the relationship.
Empowerment is a difficult concept to define. For me, empowerment means strength, courage, will, determination, confidence, autonomy and freedom, but mostly, empowerment is about control.
So many women enter into relationships and freely give away their power. For a Narcissist, power over another is what they covet most. Through well-honed techniques, a Narcissist has an uncanny ability, to slowly and methodically, siphon an individual’s personal power.
When one is powerless they become dependent, weak, fearful, self-loathing, lacking in confidence and self-respect. Powerless people are more likely to be victimized, feel trapped and catatonic.
A lot of people stay in unhealthy relationships because they have developed a belief that they can’t get another mate. They believe that being with someone is better than being alone, even if that someone mistreats them and adds nothing of value to their lives.
Back in the days of our great grandparents, couples generally tended to stay together. The morals, customs and religious beliefs of their era kept marriages intact. Many women feared having children out of wedlock, causing a scandal, or of being an old maid. Most were uneducated and unemployed, remaining at home to take care of the family. They did not have their own financial resources and quite literally didn’t have any other option. From a cultural and religious perspective when you made your choice of mate, you were stuck with it, whether or not it was a good one.
A lot of people drift in and out of relationships without any preexisting expectations. Our expectations are our standards and when our standards are low, or we set the bar knee high, then any Tom, Dick or Narcissist can waltz on over and create all kinds of emotional havoc in our lives.
In the biographies of many of the most successful people in the world, most of them talk about their humble beginnings. Some were homeless, or living in their cars and were living way below what they were capable of. It wasn’t until they flipped a switch, or they just said enough, that their lives began to change. What they say that changed for them, was that they began to expect more from themselves and more from others.
A few days ago I had one of those eerie ‘synchronicity’ experiences. I was contacted by a clinically diagnosed Psychopath and later that same day I turned on my TV and the movie American Psychopath was on. The next day, I went to the book store, to buy a book on recovery from emotional trauma, for research on an upcoming blog.
I found the book I was looking for, stepped over a few feet and propped my elbow up on a shelf, to leaf through it. As I did, I knocked a book onto the floor. I picked it up and looked at the title – The Wisdom of Psychopaths, by Kevin Dutton. I scoffed at the word wisdom and put it back on the shelf. I walked to another part of the bookstore, with my recovery book in hand and everywhere I seemed to look, I saw the word Psychopath. I looked at a few other books, but I couldn’t ignore this voice in my head that was now screaming – you need to read this book – what else do I have to do, hit you with it? So I bought it.
Spirituality is the foundation for change. An awareness of who you really are is the building blocks of creating a better life, because when you understand who you truly are, you will be powerful, not powerless, indestructible not combustible. You will never again see yourself as a victim, but as someone who willingly accepts life’s lessons. You will have balance, harmony and a deep sense of inner peace.
Spiritual people have more confidence. They are more steadfast in their decisions and they have come to trust their instincts and know they are guided by unforeseen forces. They have a multi-faceted perspective on everyday problems and obstacles and an understanding that everything is unfolding exactly as it should.
Detachment is the process of letting go. It’s when we start to see things from a different perspective. When the fears and emotions that have paralyzed us, no longer have the same power and when we start to see things the way they really are and not the way we wish them to be.
If you’ve been involved with a Narcissist, you have likely been doubting what your senses have been telling you. You have invested so much and to walk away without a return on your investment seems unfathomable.
Our egos have an especially hard time processing the fact, that after everything we’ve said and done, all the hoops we’ve jumped through, all the sacrifices and all of the bad behavior that we have tolerated and still, we can’t get this person to love us and give us the relationship that we want.
It’s a lot simpler to accept the idea that there is something wrong with us, than to accept the idea that there are actually people out there that are incapable of love and intimacy.
A few years back, I went through a major life crisis. My mother was fatally injured in a car accident and within a few short weeks of that, I had lost everything. I had no parents, no partner, no home, no car, no job and no friends. All of the things that make a person feel safe and secure were gone and I was in no man’s land. It felt as though the rug had been pulled out from under me and I sank into a deep depression.
During my struggle I travelled alone to South America and I stayed there for a long time. I learned to speak Spanish, I climbed the Andes and I tried to do anything and everything to make the pain bearable. Upon my return I immediately left for an Orthodox Monastery in Michigan and spent a few days with the most holy men I have ever met. Depression was new to me. I’ve always been a happy-go-lucky kind of person, but this experience, as horrific as it was, started me on a path of deep soul searching. I needed answers to how my life got so far off track and why I was so miserably unhappy.
Being caught in the haze of a Narcissistic relationship is being in a state of denial. It’s relative obliviousness to the subtle manipulations of a seasoned predator.
It’s a slow and subtle form of brain washing, where you know that you are unhappy and that feeling in your gut is telling you something isn’t right, but it’s also your lack of willingness to acknowledge it, or do anything about it. This haze makes us catatonic, unable to move and it brings us feelings of powerlessness and worthlessness.
I felt compelled to write on this subject, as I’ve received several emails from women this past week, describing how the light of truth is just starting to dawn on their relationship, how they’ve been caught in this funk for years, decades even, but they’ve been unable to describe it or put a name to it, or even dare to escape from it.
A man with a hard luck story and a broken wing is irresistible to a lot of women. Perhaps, it’s because we are hard wired to be nurturers and caretakers, or perhaps, the broken wing we see in others is a mirror of our own pain and need for comforting.
Not too many people come out of childhood emotionally unscathed. We all have some issue or another that shapes our current perception and behaviours. Sometimes the dysfunction is overt and obvious and sometimes it takes a while to see it in another. But we can prepare ourselves by understanding what drives and motivates another’s behaviours so that we don’t fall victim to it.
Boundaries are more than just lines on a map. In relationships, they are mandatory codes of conduct that need to be respected. It’s where we draw the line on what is acceptable behavior and what is not.
It’s a fact that you teach people how to treat you and whether it’s with family, friends, co-workers, or lovers, everyone must have boundaries. They are necessary because, well let’s face it, not everyone is playing with the same moral deck. There are a lot of very unhealthy people out there, who make a habit of projecting their issue
For much of my life I believed that relationships hurt. I thought that love equaled pain, because when I was in love, it always ended up hurting. Somewhere, subconsciously, I believed that that’s how you knew you were in love – it hurt.
Not surprisingly, most if not all of my relationships, ended with me feeling that way, regardless of who did the leaving. Heartache was always my default setting and it went with me everywhere I went.
I had a reader tell me that a man she had dated had come back into her life. Years ago, this man moved into her home, never paid a dime in rent and never worked a day that they were together. He wasn’t kind to her two children so they left and moved in with her ex-husband. He wanted a new vehicle, but he had bad credit, so he got her to sign a 5 year lease on an SUV for him and within months, he cheated on her and left her for another woman. And now he’s back acting like nothing ever happened and she’s wondering why he’s back and what to do next.
I get a lot of emails asking the same question, “It’s all well and good to say we determine our own worth and we are responsible for our own self-esteem, but _____happened to me. How does somebody just snap out of it and start to feel good about themselves after so much bad has happened?”
People are always looking for a quick, magical solution, that will instantly make them better. As I grow and I acquire more and more experiences, I’ve come to learn that like most other things in life – learning to love yourself is a process. For me, I had reached a point where I didn’t like how I was feeling every day. I wanted to feel happy all the time. I wanted peace all