We aren’t victims of circumstance. We’re creators.

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Are codependency, love addiction, and narcissism the same thing?

Narcissists, love addicts, and codependents share some central things in common:

  • they all need to be needed

  • they all struggle with feelings of not being good enough

  • they all have deep childhood wounds

Narcissists need to be adored and valued because they feel inferior. On the other end of the spectrum, codependents adore and value others in hopes that the object of their affection will give that same love and adoration back to them.

The general difference between people who are considered “codependent” versus who are considered “love addicts” is that even when a person has secured a loving relationship, it is not enough.

It is not enough that one person loves and adores a love addict, it is never enough.

“Love addicts” are on a quest to make everyone love them. They are trying to fill a deep emotional wound and, eventually, they discover it cannot be filled even with all of the love in the world because the one thing they lack is their own love and approval.

This is similar to the “charming” mask worn by narcissists. Narcissists are well aware that they “act” nice as a way of trying to make everyone like them. You see, narcissists are also seeking all the love and approval in the world. This is because they are growing in their own sea of negative emotions including insecurity and shame.

Some narcissists can actually recall when they purposely shut their feelings off because they felt too many negative emotions.


On the other end of this same spectrum, people with love addiction or codependency issues complain that they always hurt and cannot turn their feelings off. They feel EVERYTHING.

Codependent people are naturally pleasers and want to feel safe and protected. I suspect this is one of the central reasons these two opposite personality types find each other. Narcissists are naturally controllers. In other words, codependents and narcissists are opposite sides of the same coin.

When the codependent person is a passive woman and the narcissist is an aggressive male, we have the magic combination of potential domestic violence, though this same combination also applies to same sex couples.

It seems passive or codependent individuals are naturally attracted to the strong, aggressive narcissistic type. It’s natural for weaker or more passive people to want to feel protected.

And the smooth, debonair, sexy narcissists in their masks pretending to be cool and smooth attracts the codependent like a moth to the flame.

Narcissistic, aggressive types need to have power and control and the codependent, passive type need to feel like their partner is in control. This includes being in control of them. It brings the codependent a sense of secondary power to think that they are with someone who is powerful.

 power-and-control-wheel-updated-1011x1024

So, one way to consider this is that narcissists make up for their lack of self esteem by taking control and acting dominant and with their need for power and control comes a need for respect.

Codependents make up for their lack of self esteem by acting submissive. In this way, codependents and narcissists coming together are like two puzzle pieces fitting together.

 equality-wheel

If the narcissist and the codependent cannot grow and develop healthy boundaries together, the risk for physical violence and emotional abuse, etc will remain high.

Treatment and recovery are possible if both partners are willing to take off their masks and be vulnerable to each other. It takes honesty and vulnerability to achieve a truly fulfilling relationship for everyone involved.

Mental health in the workplace

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How we re-create our families in the workplace

Mental health is generally considered a very personal thing. However, aspects of our mental health sometimes collide with our very public work selves. Much more than just depression or anxiety, the mental health umbrella also covers the underlying causes of why we communicate the way we do with one another. Most of the time, our families of origin are the biggest influences in how we communicate.

How our mothers and fathers express anger is the foundation for how we express anger. Sure, as we grow and develop we also learn from teachers, friends, coaches, or even television and other media. But our foundations come from our caregivers. I interact with you the way my family of origin taught me to interact with others; you interact with me the way your family of origin taught you to interact. In this way, we are all carrying around family baggage.

This notion extends to bullying behaviors. If I come from a family that manifests its expressions of anger as bullying, then those behaviors will likely seem normal or natural to me.

Have you ever said something to someone at work and been perplexed because he or she flew off the handle? It can be hard for people who have experienced bullying not to take things personally. People with a history of being bullied may, through no fault of their own, be emotionally fragile. They may get their feelings hurt relatively easily, and in turn they may shut down and become passive or lash out in an aggressive manner. Being bullied is awful, and this possible byproduct is just one of the reasons.

When someone with an aggressive communication style gets his or her first job, coworkers may not initially like the person. This might seem puzzling to the new employee, since he or she isn’t doing or saying anything out of the ordinary. The person may struggle to stay employed or get promoted and not understand why.

Dysfunctional communication styles damage workplace morale and may create a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I am sensitive to criticism, I may interpret comments as harsher than they were intended to be. If I react emotionally, my coworkers may feel like they have to “walk on eggshells” around me and may even choose to avoid me. If I notice people avoiding me, it might trigger my sensitivities and cause further alienation.

In my experience working with people who have family-of-origin issues, not only do they often have difficulty fitting in and making friends in the workplace, they typically do not understand why, which only adds to their feelings of frustration, shame, and worthlessness.

According to researchers at King’s College in London, people who experienced bullying in their formative years often drift from job to job, never quite fitting in. Such individuals typically work for less pay, take fewer risks, and apply for fewer promotions. They do not understand that they, personally, are not the problem; their communication styles are the issue, and communication styles can be refined and improved with observation, practice, determination, and perhaps therapy.

Businesses may benefit from periodically consulting with a therapist or conflict coach who provides lunchtime or after-work workshops on topics such as assertive communication, stress management, and team building. Such workshops could lead to improved productivity, reduced workplace burnout, and higher employee retention.

Reference:

Takizawa, R., Maughan, B., and Arseneault, L. (2014). Adult Health Outcomes of Childhood Bullying Victimization: Evidence from a Five-Decade Longitudinal British Birth Cohort. American Journal of Psychiatry, 171(7), 777-784. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.13101401

Emotional Abuse is small-t trauma

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Not all traumas are the same. There are the big obvious traumas such as, experiencing an earthquake, surviving a car accident, or being robbed at gunpoint. However, there are emotional events in our lives that are also traumatic. Emotional abuse is often referred to as “small-t trauma”.

Contrary to how they sound, small-t traumas are not small to the person who experiences them.

Emotional abuse includes:

  • Consistently being left out of group activities

  • Being called hurtful names

  • Always being picked last on the playground

  • Being gossiped about at work

These traumas change the way we see the world, and never for the better. Our world becomes more frightening, people seem unpredictable, and we do not feel safe.

The effects of emotional abuse build up over our lifetimes with:

  • Increased substance use,

  • Poor sleep quality,

  • Difficulty making or keeping friendships,

  • Working for less pay,

  • Higher rates of unemployment,

  • Taking less educational or employment risks

How can therapy help?

When working with those who have emotional abuse in their past it is important to begin with strengthening the coping skills the individual already has:

  • Breathing skills

  • Visual skills

  • Music and sound

While often over-looked, it is important to practice mindful breathing skills. There are a variety of breathing techniques that can be useful depending upon what experience will be the most useful. For example, “belly breathing” fully expands just the belly area while “complete breathing” also includes the rib cage area. There are also two variations with how to exhale: either a slow release which increases tranquility, or a quick release which helps with experiencing how good surrendering can feel.

Guided imagery is useful for providing a safe and calming place to go to when needed for stress management. Research shows that our brains cannot tell the difference between us actually being someplace safe and calm versus us imagining that we are someplace safe and calm. The same brain chemicals are released in both scenarios.

Music has the ability to make us feel happy, powerful, calm, sad, or any other emotion! Start by creating different playlists for different moods. We could have a playlist for traffic, one for visiting family, and one for trying to get to sleep. Aside from music, there are also white noise apps, nature sounds, and binaural beats which many people find helpful.

Coping skills are important to have in place before trauma processing begins so that clients can calm themselves if they become overwhelmed. Processing just means making sense of a situation from our past.

Types of therapies useful for traumatic experiences include:

  • Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy

  • Acceptance and commitment therapy

  • Exposure therapy

  • Hypnosis

  • EMDR

  • Narrative therapy

If a child had a traumatic event such as being picked last every time on the playground and received hurtful negative information at the same time such as being called stupid or useless by the other kids then that is the filter through which the child sees their world.

A goal of therapy is then to change a hurtful belief of “I’m not smart enough” or “I am not worth anything” to a more adaptive belief of “I am smart enough” or “I am worth something”.

As people start to move toward a more balanced view of themselves, big changes in their lives are bound to happen. As they stop beating themselves up, they are less likely to allow others to beat them up as well.

Giving up the strain of small-t traumas can be so unimaginably wonderful that we sometimes wonder how or why we ever carried them with us for so long. These changes require adjustments to the way we live our lives.

This is where we learn to become assertive and stand up for ourselves. We get to learn and practice healthy boundaries including who we spend time with and how much time we spend with them. We also get to decide what types of people we would like to have in our lives and how to go about making and keeping positive friendships.

If you find yourself experiencing unwanted effects from emotional abuse, remember that there is hope and recovery is possible.

Empathy and love addiction

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What the heck is an empath?

Simply put an empath is someone who is very sensitive to the people around them. They pick up the mood, energy, and body language of others. Because of this extra sensitivity, they often get their feelings hurt by things other people may not even notice.

Love Addiction and the Highly Sensitive Person

Because many empaths and other highly-sensitive people have an almost Spidey-Sense to any perceived slights against them, many of them turn to sex at an early age to “fit in”. This is a desperate attempt to avoid possible abandonment or rejection by their peers.

As a result, empaths and other highly-sensitive people who do not feel supported fall easily into peer pressure as an attempt at validation. They may fall into unwanted or unfulfilling sexual activities, drinking, smoking, or drug use as a desperate attempt at finding a connection with others.

These behaviors make empaths easy targets for people who only want to use them. When empaths realize that others do not truly like them, but only tolerate them for what can be gained, the empaths are further hurt at the abandonment and rejection that follows fueling a vicious and hurtful cycle.

Empathy and substance abuse

Continued abandonment and rejection is too hurtful to bear which leads to further substance use and substance abuse as a way of numbing the emotional pain that comes from being so sensitive and empathic.

Non-supported Empaths just feel so overwhelmed and they do not what to do there is all this chaos swirling around them so they try sex, they try alcohol, they try SLAA, they try a new city, they try a new job, they try religion, they try therapy, they try CODA, they try drugs, and none of it seems to work.

What’s the lesson?

Our own validation can only come from ourselves. Our own acceptance must come from us. We cannot heal by finding the right city or the right job or the right mate. We are our mate. We are our own first love.

We must first accept and validate  ourselves before love and acceptance from others can feel real.  Healing can only come from ourselves.

As empaths, we must hear this message over and over before we get it. It took us years to turn against ourselves. We are not going to heal all of that in 2-3 therapy sessions. We need reminders of our own innate goodness.

We are good (enough)

Some helpful reminders, affirmations and mantras:

~You did the best with what you had at the time

~You are enough

~You are valuable

~Do not let the inability of others to see your worth trick you into thinking you have none.

~You are the one you’ve been waiting for

~I love who I am because I have fought to become her / him

~I am worthy of respect

~I am my priority