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Today I would like to discuss the topic of self-awareness. I love this topic as becoming self-aware has made a huge difference in my life. I realized during counseling that I had no sense of self-awareness during those years when I dealt with narcissistic individuals. As previously stated in my blog on the “false-self”, I actually wore a “mask” at this point in my life. It was during that time that I was not true to my own self.
Self-awareness refers to the ability to clearly perceive your own thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. It gives you the ability to understand your own needs, feelings, habits, talents, and even shortcomings. I think of it as a way to learn to love yourself for who you truly are, accepting both your strengths and your weaknesses. By becoming more self-aware, you can change how you interpret the actions of other people, and this can change your emotions toward them.
During my pre-counseling years, I allowed narcissistic individuals to “mold” me into a person that they wanted me to be. I was given family furniture and was told to never give it away, and I was given decorations for my home that I hated. I was told how to landscape my yard. I was told over and over again to go to the gym. I played sports that I hated because that’s what they wanted to do. Vacations were spent in places where they wanted to go. The food that I cooked had to be what they liked, and they were extremely picky eaters. I was even told how to vote! I gave in to all their wishes as I was a people-pleaser. I thought I was doing the right thing at the time. I knew I was unhappy, but I didn’t know why.
During counseling, I realized that I had been wearing a “mask”. One of my biggest loves in life is dancing, but I rarely did that during those years because that’s not what they liked to do. I love to cook and try out new dishes, but I was very limited on my ability to do that because of their demands. I was a choreographer for years when I was younger and have a very creative side; however, I couldn’t express that side of me during the years I dealt with narcissism (house decorating, landscaping). In fact, I will never forget saying to my counselor, “I’ve lost my creative side.” Her response to me made such a huge difference: “You haven’t lost it. It was just stifled.” I learned that the “mask” that I had been presenting to everyone was that of my false self. I wasn’t self-aware.
Since becoming self-aware, I am so much more at peace with myself. I have learned to love myself for who I truly am – both strengths and weaknesses. I am unable to dance like I used to because of a back injury, but I love to watch dance shows. I decorate my home now according to my tastes, not someone else’s, and I get complimented on it all the time. In fact, I have been told that I should have been an interior decorator! As far as cooking, I have joined Blue Apron which is a company that delivers food with directions on how to cook the meals. Since joining, I have eaten all kinds of food that I’ve never even heard of, and I am loving it! I now make my own decisions, and I am true to my own beliefs and values.
My advice is to learn to love yourself for who you truly are. Don’t allow someone else to dictate how you will live your life or what you will believe. It’s not worth it. If someone truly loves you, he/she will accept and love you for you, not for what they can mold you into for their happiness. Be proud of who you are!
Have a great day, everyone!
Today I would like to discuss the concept of boundaries. I have to admit that during the years that I dealt with narcissistic individuals, I failed terribly at setting and enforcing boundaries, so I would like to share my experiences to help anyone else out there who might be dealing with this same issue.
As I have learned in counseling and through reading great books on the subject, boundaries are vitally important in maintaining one’s mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Basically, it is learning to say “no” when we need to say “no”. Think of it like your house – you know where your property lines begin and end. You are responsible for what is inside those boundaries. You are not responsible for your neighbor’s property, right? Well, it is just as important, if not more so, to set boundaries in our mental, emotional, and spiritual lives. By setting boundaries, we keep things that will benefit us near while keeping things that will hurt us out. A great book on this topic is “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I highly advise reading it to learn more about this concept.
Now, when I first heard this, I thought about all the things that I felt responsible for at the time. If I said “no” to anything at that time, I felt selfish. This was hard to comprehend since I was raised to always help others and to not think of myself. However, as I learned about boundaries, I realized that setting boundaries is not equivalent to “being selfish”. The Bible says to “guard your heart”. I realized that this means it is alright to set boundaries for our own protection. Also, I learned in counseling that if we don’t take care of ourselves, we aren’t going to be able to care for others. Self care is of utmost importance if we want to give our best, not only in our work, but also in our relationships.
The following example based on a true event. Names have been changed – I will use the same names in one of my previous narcissism blogs.
John and Kay were planning a trip to see John’s family, and Kay was quite stressed because of some recent upsetting events that occurred in the family. Kay’s friend, Sheena, gave her some advice.
Sheena: “If things start to get bad, just take a break.”
Kay: “What do you mean?”
Sheena: “Just leave the room. Go take a walk, or go to another room and watch T.V. You don’t have to stay there – no one can make you stay there.”
Kay: “Yeah, that’s a good idea. I’ll try that. I hope it works.”
Sheena: “What do you mean?”
Kay: “Not sure they’re gonna like it if I leave.”
So, John and Kay went on the trip. Sure enough, one evening during a family get-together, things just became too stressful for Kay, and she remembered Sheena’s advice. She decided to leave the room and rest in another room by herself. That lasted just a few minutes when Rhonda walked in and berated Kay for leaving the room.
Kay: “I just needed a little time to myself, that’s all.”
Rhonda: “I don’t care what you need. You get back out there and mingle with everyone.”
Rhonda: “I don’t want to hear it. Get back in there!”
Kay went back into the room, but she was fuming mad. She was super upset that Rhonda had demanded that she act a certain way. But she was also conflicted. Rhonda made her feel like she was so awful for leaving the room. Was she to blame? Did she just cause a scene just by leaving a room for a few minutes?
Okay, this is a perfect example of Kay setting a boundary but not enforcing it. She set a boundary by exiting the room. By leaving, she is basically saying that she no longer wants to be a part of the conversation and wants out of the situation. There is nothing wrong with that. We are all in control of what situations or conversations we will or will not partake. Rhonda is disrespecting Kay by violating her boundary while attempting to control Kay. That is not OK. Kay made the mistake when she allows Rhonda to manipulate her into returning to the room to be a part of the conversation. Kay does not enforce her boundary.
Should Kay take the blame? No. Did Kay cause a scene by leaving the room? No. This is Kay’s choice and right, and it should have been respected. However, Kay is dealing with a narcissistic individual. Narcissists notoriously disrespect boundaries, and Kay allows her to do just that. Instead of just complying with Rhonda’s wishes, Kay should enforce her boundaries, even if that means repeating herself many times. There is really no way that Rhonda could force Kay to return to the conversation in the other room unless she physically picks her up and carries her! Rhonda may not be happy with Kay enforcing her boundary and she may even become more angry. However, Kay would be more at peace with herself. Also, in the future, Rhonda may not be as inclined to violate Kay’s boundaries.
I have found that the reason I allowed people to violate my boundaries was because I hated confrontation, and I was a “people-pleaser”. I took on way too much responsibility for things that shouldn’t have been my problem, and I always looked for approval. I have found that enforcing boundaries means that there will be times when people will not be happy with me, and that’s OK. I now know what I will accept and what I won’t, and I’m at peace with that even if others don’t like it. By setting boundaries and enforcing them, I have discovered who I actually am…a process called self-awareness. I will discuss this in my next blog.
Have a great day!
Many of you who know me personally know that I try to take my negative life experiences and turn them into something positive. My work with adenomyosis sufferers is one big project that is close to my heart. I had this uterine disorder for seventeen years, went through pure hell, and finally received my diagnosis at hysterectomy. Although my struggle with adenomyosis was brutal, I decided to share my story and work to promote more research for those women who continue to suffer from it. I am in the final editing process of my second adenomyosis book, and I founded the group, “Adenomyosis Fighters”.
After thinking about this for months, I have decided to share some of my other life experiences…and yes, they are negative. However, I am determined to once again turn a negative into a positive. I have dealt with many narcissists in my lifetime, and after about five years of counseling, I (and some other close acquaintances) have come to the conclusion that several of these people I dealt with probably suffer from narcissistic personality disorder (also known as NPD).
I will be writing many future blogs on NPD. I will give actual examples (with names withheld) of statements that were made or situations that I observed. I have read many articles on NPD, and although they describe the traits of someone with NPD, I believe it would be even more helpful for the reader to have actual examples of statements and/or situations so they can more completely comprehend this personality disorder. My hope is to help others who are currently dealing with someone with NPD.
During my counseling, I not only learned about NPD, but I also learned about the characteristics of someone who becomes a victim of a narcissist. Victims of narcissists tend to have a submissive personality and try to please everyone around them. I am definitely a “people-pleaser”. In my past, I have tried to make people happy even if it is to the detriment of my own mental health. During the years that I dealt with narcissists, I started taking an antidepressant, thinking that the depression that I was feeling was just my inability to deal with stress. In fact, one of the narcissists actually put that idea into my mind, and I believed it. I became more depressed with time, and I actually had some panic attacks. During these years, I began to lose my sense of self, and to be honest, I was miserable. Counseling helped me to become much more self-aware, and I have learned the things I did wrong during those years. I will get more into this in later blogs.
To begin the discussion, I believe that it is of utmost importance to know that all of us are narcissistic to a certain degree. The term “narcissism” seems to have a very negative connotation these days. Narcissism in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing – the degree of narcissism is the determining factor if it is “healthy narcissism” or “pathological narcissism”. Pathological narcissism is the unhealthy form of narcissism that is linked to the personality disorder called NPD.
Many people today associate narcissism with someone who is loud, extremely arrogant, and who always wants to be the center of attention. Some with NPD definitely fit into this category, but some can actually be quiet and calm. One of the narcissists that I know falls into this second category. Either loud or quiet, all narcissists are quite charming and appear quite attractive. However, as you get to know them, you may notice behaviors that are quite disturbing such as control or manipulation. This initial charming appearance is what is referred to as the “false self”, and those with NPD will do anything to keep up this “false self” appearance.
The following is the DSM IV criteria that psychologists use to diagnose someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (eg., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high status people (or institutions)
Requires excessive admiration
Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
The sad part is that those with NPD rarely get treatment because they don’t see themselves as having a problem. One narcissist that I knew began counseling after a major event in his life, but only went twice. When I asked him why he stopped going, his response was “Counseling is a waste of time. It doesn’t work”. I suspect that counseling didn’t work because he would be forced to face issues that he didn’t want to face. I also suspect that the counselor told him things he didn’t want to hear.
In my next blog, I will discuss the topic of the “false self” in greater detail.
*DSM-IV criteria for NPD obtained from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, American Psychiatric Association
Well, I have spent the evening coloring in my adult coloring book. I love to do this! It is so relaxing, but it also gives me some time to think.
Today, I met with my counselor. I love these days. I learn so much from her, and she teaches me something new every day. Today I talked with her about helping someone who might benefit from the mistakes that I have made in life. I want to use my knowledge that I have learned through counseling to help them.
I had already learned this lesson, but one thing she reminded me of was that nothing will change unless the people involved decide to change and decide that they truly want the help. I learned this lesson years ago, but I needed that reminder today. This is the focus of today’s blog.
First of all, it is so true that you can give the best advice you can give, especially if you have been through something similar yourself, but if that person doesn’t take action to change his/her behavior, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. It is incredibly difficult to watch someone destroy their life because they refuse to listen to good advice. You have to realize that you do not have control over his/her life. They have to take responsibility for their own actions. This is extremely difficult to watch, as I have had to do it myself. The best advice I can give to you is to place the responsibility where it lies – with the person involved. If he/she won’t change their behavior, there is absolutely nothing you can do. You must let go and let them fall and learn. It’s hard to do, but that’s all you can do.
Second, I truly believe that it is in everyone’s best interest, including my own, to re-evaluate our own lives from time to time. I have noticed that when I give advice or share my knowledge, many times I am met with fierce defensiveness. I am learning quite a bit in counseling, and I realize that the problem may be in my delivery. I am working on that. But one thing I have noticed is that a lot of people just don’t want to hear it. Has anyone else out there noticed that people are quick to talk, but it’s hard to get them to listen?
I really believe that if people really listened to what others are saying to them, misunderstandings wouldn’t happen as quickly. I believe listening has become a scarce ability. We all tend to think about our reply while the other person is talking – I know I do this all the time. What if we took the time to listen….not think about what we are going to say…but really listen to the other person and think about what they are saying to us….what would happen? I listened today to my counselor talk about congruent communication, and I realized how incredibly rare it is to have this type of communication. In general, I believe people are quick to rush to the defense.
I urge everyone to work on better communication. Listen….really listen…to what others say to us. I strongly believe that when others call us out on something, most of the time they are doing it out of love. I know that when I did it, I truly wanted the best for the other person. Try not to get defensive and truly listen to the other person with an open mind. I think we would all be amazed at what we will learn when we TRULY listen.
Just a thought.
Since it is around the time of graduation for both high school and college kids, I thought now would be a good time to talk about self-awareness. Being true to yourself and using your own God-given gifts are so important, not only for your own happiness, but for the benefit of all those around you.
It took me fifty years to effectively learn this lesson. Let me explain. I was raised in a family where I was taught to think about others and to help out others who are in need. This is a wonderful thing to do….absolutely! I was so blessed to be surrounded by such caring and thoughtful people, and my Christian upbringing reinforced this value. The world certainly needs more people who put other people’s needs ahead of their own. This is the concept of true and Godly love.
There is, however, a difference between helping others in need and letting other people control you. This is where I became confused, and at the time, I didn’t realize it. It was only after going through a deep valley in my life which included a divorce and three years of counseling that I finally learned this lesson.
From the time I was very young, I was a very creative person. I danced for over twenty-five years (ballet, tap, jazz, modern, ballroom). In college, I was also a choreographer and was involved in many dance recitals. These were some of the happiest memories in my life. For a short period after college, I actually began to ice skate, and I loved it. However, after I got married, everything changed. I quit dancing and taught aerobics since it brought in money. I didn’t enjoy it as much, but at least it gave me a little extra money. When I would see people dance, I fondly remembered the old days, but my husband wasn’t much of a dancer, so I rarely joined in with the group. During the times that I did dance, it was usually by myself.
I also love food. Any kind of food. Liver was just about the only thing I wouldn’t eat. However, my husband and his family were very picky eaters. At one point, I went on to pursue a Master’s Degree in Holistic Nutrition and was so excited to learn how to cook more healthy and delicious meals. This dream of more healthy cooking slowly died, however, as I found myself unable to accommodate the dietary requirements of my family – no fresh tomatoes, no mushrooms, no large pieces of onion or green pepper, etc. For years, we would eat a four cheese pizza on Friday nights with nothing else on it because that is what he wanted to eat.
I love to decorate. For a while, I ran my own scrapbooking business. I just loved to create, and early in my marriage, I was a very creative person. As the marriage progressed, my creative side slowly seemed to disappear. Many times I would bring up ideas to redecorate a room or add some new landscaping, but by the end of the marriage, all I heard from him was a constant “no”.
I was completely focused on keeping him happy, even giving up what I loved. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was slowly losing my own identity. All I knew is that I lacked energy and didn’t take pleasure in life like I used to do in my college years and early on in the marriage. My husband eventually decided he wanted a divorce which was a shock to me since I felt like I had done everything I could do to make him happy.
After we separated, I began counseling which was one of the best things I have ever done. About six months after the separation, I was in Trader Joe’s looking at a fresh pizza loaded with all kinds of vegetables. My mouth watered as I stared at it, and then it hit me. I could buy that! I no longer had this restriction on the food I could buy. A big smile came across my face as I proudly picked it up and placed it in my cart. I had suddenly come to the realization that I could cook how I wanted to cook, and I was ecstatic! I have now joined the company, Blue Apron, which sends fresh ingredients along with the menus weekly to my home. I am now eating all kinds of amazing dishes that I was not able to eat during my marriage. I have even discovered foods that I didn’t even know existed!
During one of my counseling sessions, we discussed my creative side. I had started to decorate my new house, and I found myself becoming a happier person. I told my counselor that during my marriage, I felt like I had lost my creativity. She told me, “You didn’t lose it…it was just stifled.” That statement has stuck with me, and today, my creativity has fully returned. I have ideas flowing out of me so much that I have to keep a journal next to my bed so I can write ideas down when they come to me in the middle of the night (and believe me, that happens a lot!). I have started decorating my home on my own terms and feel so much satisfaction when the job is done. I am in the middle of creating a brand new website for adenomyosis sufferers, a cause that I believe in strongly. The ideas are coming so fast that I feel like a faucet has been turned on, and I can’t turn it off! It is a wonderful feeling! I’m much happier, more energetic, and more at peace with myself. My counselor has told me that this is the meaning of self-awareness, a healthy psychological state.
The lesson? Be true to yourself. Definitely help out others in need, even to the point of putting their needs ahead of your own, but don’t let others control you. There is a difference! Never apologize for who you are. Use your talents. God gave you these talents, and He wants you to use them for His glory. Never, ever, let someone else dictate to you how you are going to live your life. Believe me, it is NOT worth it! If you want to become a doctor or lawyer, do it! If you are really into cars and want to become a mechanic, do it! If you are musical, pursue that dream! If you love to talk and want to become a salesman, by all means, go for it! Don’t force yourself to do something that you hate because someone pushes you in that direction. Use the talents God has given you. Accept who you are. You will be much happier, and the world will be a much better place for it.
Congrats to all the graduates of 2015!!
Are you interested in learning more about Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Are you looking for ways to effectively deal with a narcissistic individual in your life while enjoying a fictional story? My new book, Blinded by Deception: Life With a Narcissist might be just what you are looking for. This books delves into the life of Nikki Redding and her struggle to survive for twenty eight years in a narcissistic environment. It describes the life events that cause so much confusion and frustration for Nikki early in her life. Once she hits rock bottom, she begins to learn about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD, and begins her long healing process. Through the support of her friends, both individual and group counseling, and her faith in God, she is able to pull herself out of the depths of distress and into a life full of love, hope, and joy. You will be cheering Nikki on as she travels this long road to her eventual healing! The book is available on Amazon and is available in print and on Kindle. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope that it will bring healing to others who read it!
Click on the link below to go directly to the book on Amazon: