How Narcissists Use Emotion to Abuse

narcissist abuse

narcissist abuse

The conversation with your narcissistic spouse starts with good intentions over some issue needing to be addressed. Knowing the propensity of overreaction, you gently proceed. At first, your spouse takes everything in stride so you relax. You let your guard down. Then it happens.

An insignificant comment (not the main point) suddenly ignites a firestorm. Instantly, you are being accused of things far out of your scheme. You become emotional and react.

Your spouse, in turn, uses your emotional reaction to justify further control, power, dominance, and superiority. It is emotional blackmail. However, they take no responsibility for igniting the flame. You are to blame.

This is emotionally abuse behavior. But just how does a narcissist use your emotions to gain further control? Beside each emotion is an example of how that emotional reaction can trap you into a cycle of abuse.

Nitpicked: If it feels like you are being picked apart bit by bit, most likely you are. Narcissists say your feelings are wrong, your behavior is inappropriate, or you are too sensitive. Whatever is important to you is minimized in comparison to their own agenda.

Surprised: You are surprised by their behavior in treating one child as a favorite while discounting the others. You are shocked that they accuse you of things they are guilt of. And you are stunned when they sabotage a calm atmosphere with unnecessary conflict in order to get attention.

Embarrassed: Narcissists detest being embarrassed but they love to embarrass you. They do this by sharing your private information without consent, treating you like a child in front of others, or exposing some shameful event.

Anxiety: It is easy to become anxious when you are questioned about your every move, motive or aptitude. Yet, their poor behavior or your important conversations are conveniently forgotten leaving you to question yourself. To top it off, their insecurity demands that you prove your love or commitment over and over.

Overwhelmed: You feel overwhelmed from the excessive responsibility a narcissist dumps on you. A narcissist expects you to drop everything to “cheer them up” when they are depressed, angry or anxious. You are frequently blamed for their problems or unhappiness as they bombard you with unnecessary and irrelevant information.

Ridiculed: A narcissist belittles your accomplishments, aspirations, or personality in front of others. They minimize their words by saying, “It was only a joke.” Teasing or sarcasm is commonly used to degrade and mock you.

Guilt: As soon as you try to do something positive in your life, a narcissist stops you though the use of guilt. They claim that they should be the most important person in your life, you owe them your unwavering loyalty, or you are being selfish for taking care of yourself.

Insecurity: First the narcissist holds you to an unrealistic, unattainable or unsustainable standard. Then when you fail, you are treated as inferior. Your thoughts, beliefs or values become insignificant, incorrect or worthless. They may even become verbally abusive at this point.

Confused: A narcissist confuses you by treating you as an extension of themselves, not as a separate person. This becomes justification for their acquired “mind-reading” skills and general over-reaction to nearly everything you say and do. Your words become twisted into something you never meant. The narcissist uses these incidents as rational for withdrawing from you, chronically sabotaging and then re-establishing closeness.

Shame: When manipulated right, shame is a powerful motivator. A narcissist shames you by constantly reminding you of your shortcomings, often in a passive-aggressive way. Or they complain about how badly you treat them compared to “great” they treat you.

Alienated: A narcissist has a better chance of power and control if other people aren’t influencing you. So they belittle your friends and family and make your social engagements a nightmare (by contrast, they will be amazingly charming at their social engagements). They also restrict your normal communication by interfering in your relationships unnecessarily.

Scared: A narcissist uses intimidation to scare you into compliance. You become so frightened of what they have threatened to do that you choose the path of least resistance. This is often a reluctant agreement to a lesser issue to avoid the larger threat.

Anger: A narcissist generates an angry response by acting immature and selfish but accusing you of behaving that way. Then, they divert the discussion thereby preventing any real resolution, especially anything involving action on their part. Finally, you are set up with only you lose-they win options. Your anger is a response to feeling like you are fighting a no-win battle all the time.

Hostility: It’s difficult to think of your home as a hostile place but a narcissist sometimes creates that atmosphere. For instance, they constantly interrupt while you are talking so you feel unheard. Or they stalk you both at home and away from home. Or they restrict your sleep cycle so you are increasingly tired and frustrated.

Rejected: If you hate to feel rejection, a narcissist will prey on you. They begin by denying the relevance of your point of view. Then they refuse to acknowledge your worth even withholding love or intimacy to prove their point. Finally they threaten to abandon when you refuse to comply.

Fear: It can be a powerful motivator or a terrorizing experience. A narcissist will use intimidation, threats, frightening behavior, or destruction of your treasured possessions to incite fear. You become paralyzed, feel hopeless, and therefore rely (without questioning any further) on whatever they say.

Don’t let these emotionally abusive tactics get the best of you. Instead learn to recognize them in the moment so you can keep your emotions in check. The best way to stop emotionally abusive behavior is to not let it get to you in the first place.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Recognizing Exhausted Woman’s Syndrome

Exhausted Woma“Burn-out” is an understatement to what you are experiencing; in fact it happened so long ago that it is now stored in long-term memory.  What you are experiencing is beyond burn-out and feels more like a chronic condition for which physical symptoms of stress have become the norm.

If this sounds familiar, then you might be suffering from Exhausted Woman’s Syndrome (EWS).  The symptoms are as follows:

  • Over-annoyed – Little things set you off like people who can’t use their debt card fast enough at the check-out isle.
  • Over-apologetic – Saying, “I’m sorry” when you are not really sorry just to move past this item and on to the next one as quick as possible.
  • Over-attentive – Fixation on potential problems trying to keep them from exploding into bigger ones to the exclusion of taking care of you.
  • Over-burdened – Juggling too many balls in the air at one time resulting in a couple of them crashing to the ground.
  • Over-committed – Taking on responsibility for things which others should do but aren’t doing to your satisfaction.
  • Over-competitive – Driven to achieve in every area of life at one-time with no allowances for failure.
  • Over-conscientious – Striving for perfectionism while denying that you are.
  • Over-dependable – So reliable that nearly everyone around you takes it for granted that you will get the job done.
  • Over-gratifying – Trying so hard to please others that sometimes the entire point of the activity is lost (especially true for vacations and other fun family events).
  • Over-protective – Feeling the need to defend your decisions, actions, beliefs, and emotions to the extent that you withdraw or withhold intimacy.
  • Over-thinking – Obsessing over a conversation, decision, or event over and over without coming to any new insights.
  • Over-whelmed – Stressed to the point of exhaustion and feeling crushed by the weight of everyday.

If this sounds like you, you are not alone.  Many women suffer from EWS which is brought on by the competing demands of work, marriage, kids, extended family, friends, church, and community.  Unlike codependency which requires a dependency on a relationship, EWS strives to be independent of dominating relationships.  However this effort is met with great resistance from every relationship and as a result each relationship pushes for dominance.  This then results in exhaustion from trying to balance the conflicting requests.

There is hope for your exhaustion and it lies in repairing, restoring, and rebuilding your relationships to healthy perimeters.  Begin your journey by recognizing the need for help and then get it.

 

There is hope for your exhaustion.  Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

New Term: Brain Disorders

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Instead of calling disorders such as ADHD, PTSD, OCD, and schizophrenia mental or behavioral disorders, Dr. Thomas Insel the National Institute of Mental Health Director suggests calling them brain disorders.  This shift highlights changes in how the diagnosis can be made.

In the past, ADHD, PTSD, OCD and schizophrenia were made by observing behaviors that are consistent with each disorder.  Now, such diagnoses can be made by reviewing detailed brain scans which show increased or decreased levels of activity.

The importance of this shift means that such disorders can not be ignored or devalued in importance.  They are real disorders and not subjects of the imagination, lack of discipline, or a spiritual issue.  Instead, they are discernible and diagnosable.

Early detection of these disorders can help to reduce the consequences of an undiagnosed disorder.  Consequences which sadly increase anxiety, depression and even suicide rates.

As a brain disorder, the dynamatics of brain functioning change first and then behavior changes.  Unfortunately, waiting for behavior changes to diagnosis disorders can sometimes be too late.

How this is going to impact your child who might be displaying early signs of a brain disorder is too early to tell.  But the good news is that this area is being studied and more accurate diagnosises are in the future.

Here is the link to listen to Dr. Insel’s lecture.  It is well worth your 15 minutes.

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/updates/2013/mental-disorders-as-brain-disorders-thomas-insel-at-tedxcaltech.shtml

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

 

10 Signs Your Marriage Might Be Depressed

depressed marriageA depressed marriage?  What is that?  Just like you can become depressed over the loss of someone you love or the economy can become depressed over a real estate financial crisis, so your marriage can suffer from depression.  A depression in your marriage however does not mean that your marriage is over rather it is a low period in a series of highs and lows which occur in every marriage.  Here are some signs that you might be going through a depressed marriage:

  1. Difficulty making even minor decisions let alone major decisions without an argument.
  2. Intimacy such as hand holding, sitting close together, or kissing becomes more routine (if it exists at all) rather than heart-felt.
  3. Lack of desire to spend any time together; prefer to spend free time alone.
  4. One or both of you has already spoken of getting a divorce or separating.
  5. The excitement in your marriage is gone; you don’t look forward to seeing or hearing from each other.
  6. Conversation is limited to the bare essentials of scheduling, managing the house, and checking in.  No longer are there conversations about the things you are passionate about.
  7. You intentionally avoid your spouse and notice your spouse avoiding you.
  8. Fantasies of other partners, what you would do if your spouse passes away, or the peace that could come from separating begins to consume your thoughts.
  9. You or your spouse finds reasons not to spend the night in your bed, you don’t go to bed at the same time, or you put physical boundaries such as pillows between you.
  10. No sex or interest in sex.

Your Choice.  Once you realize that your marriage might be depressed, you have a choice in your response.  You can reflect and learn from the depression or you can shut down and run from your marriage.  Option one allows the possibility that your marriage can come out of this depression even stronger.  Think again about the real estate depression and how much was learned from the mistakes of over-valuing homes, over-lending from banks, and over-mortgaging a house.  Option two will most likely end up in divorce court.

Reflecting.  It is helpful if both of you are engaged and honest in this process of reflecting on the state of your marriage.  However, that is not always practical as usually one spouse has a clearer perspective than the other spouse.  Whatever the case, spend some time with each point and assign a number from 0 (not a problem at all) to 10 (deal breaker).  Ask yourself how much have you contributed to the problem and take responsibility for your actions before speaking with your spouse.  When you do speak with your spouse, be careful that your spouse’s issues do not outweigh your number of issues.  Remember to speak the truth in love to your spouse.

Learning.  Learning is a two-way street in a marriage.  You need to learn from your spouse and your spouse needs to learn from you.  This is not about getting your way or proving that you are better than your spouse.  If you want the marriage to survive through the depression then it is important to keep the long-term goal at the front of your mind.  There is no quicker way to destroy a marriage than to point out all of your spouse’s flaws, demand that they change, and then refuse to concede to any change yourself.  Learning means that you are receiving information, processing it, and doing something about it.  This is a gently process, not a forced one.

Your marriage can survive a depression.  Sometimes it helps to have another person such as a counselor or pastor come alongside you during the process to give an objective point of view.  Self-help books can be useful as well but both of you need to be willingly engaged in the process in order for the book to be effective.  Whatever the path you choose, know that your depression does not have to last for a lifetime, it can be just for a short season.

 

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.