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Have you ever dealt with someone who says they want advice to solve a problem, but when you give them that advice, they either come up with a slew of excuses or they just get angry? Do any of these statements sound familiar?
“I’ve already tried that.”
“He/she won’t listen. I can’t talk to them.”
“Counseling doesn’t work.”
“He/she will get mad at me if I say that.”
These are just a few examples. People who vent all their problems to you but aren’t willing to take any positive steps to correct those problems are “dumping” their problems onto you. I learned all about psychological “dumping” after going through it for close to twenty years. I was literally to the point of banging my head against the wall in my attempts to deal with this behavior. Little did I know at the time that I was powerless to change it.
For pretty much the entire length of my marriage, some of my ex-husband’s family members would vent to us about issues within the family and asked for advice on how to deal with those issues. Each time I offered advice, I was met with resistance – either a non-stop flow of excuses or an outburst of anger or resentment. Even though it was a constant struggle, I offered my advice each time I was asked, hoping the reception to my comments would change. But it never did. I became more and more frustrated until finally, I did the right thing – I made the decision to stop listening and to stop giving advice. When I made this decision, my father had just been diagnosed with cancer, and I was dealing with my own health issues. I didn’t have the time or energy to ride on this non-stop merry-go-round that went nowhere. I didn’t realize until later (after years of counseling) that this was probably the healthiest thing I ever did regarding their “dumping” behavior. However, after this decision, the relationships spiraled downward until divorce was inevitable. Actually, the divorce was the result of an affair, but it also became clear through counseling that the above dysfunctional behavior also played a major role. I learned all about narcissism (I had been in a very narcissistic environment) and realized that the lack of attention as a result of my decision was more than likely taken as an insult even though it was healthy for me.
I am so thankful that I was able to get out of this relationship as I realized that I was in a very unhealthy and narcissistic environment. I learned that those who vent but get upset or come up with non-stop excuses when confronted with sound advice are not emotionally healthy. They are in denial. They are only interested in surrounding themselves with others who will unconditionally approve of everything that they do even if the behavior is not in their best interest. They don’t want to fix the problem – they only want to hear that everything they are doing is good and right. They want constant sympathy, and they don’t want to take any hard or challenging steps to correct any problems that may be the result of their own behavior. Because of this, their problems will never go away. Only when they face the fact that they may have to take a good hard look at their own behavior and make changes will the problems improve.
I have since encountered some others with this same type of behavior. Instead of banging my head against the wall like I did in my marriage, I just walked away. I didn’t want the headache. For me, I want to nurture healthy relationships, and although I do care about these individuals, I can’t solve their problems. They have to make the decision to take the necessary steps to improve their own lives. Although this was my way of dealing with it, walking away is only one option in dealing with people who “dump” on others.
Another option, according to Psychology Today, is to respond to the person from an emotional stance. A response such as “I’m really sorry you are going through that” without accompanying advice on how to fix it is advised. Offering advice on how to fix it will just lead to headaches and frustration on your end, and it will feed into their dysfunction. For more information, see the article listed at the bottom of this blog.
Remember, if someone isn’t willing to look at themselves and are insistent in staying in a state of denial, there is absolutely nothing you can do to change it. Change has to come from them, and until that day comes, nothing is going to change no matter what you do. Change will only happen when THEY decide to take a good look at themselves and take positive steps to make a difference.
Lack of empathy is one of the hallmark signs of many personality disorders, one of which is narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Dealing with this kind of behavior without understanding the “why” behind it was frustrating, depressing, infuriating, and confusing. That is why I feel the need to address this issue in-depth in this blog.
I can’t even begin to count the number of occasions that I witnessed lack of empathy in dealing with the narcissistic family in my past. As you probably know from my previous blogs, I had adenomyosis (a painful and debilitating uterine disorder) for seventeen years. During that time, I went through most of my attacks on my own without any help from the narcissistic individuals at that time. I had nights where I thought my abdomen was going to explode (literally!), and there were narcissists in the other room who never checked up on me even though they knew I was sick. I could have been dead in the other room, and they never would have known. I went through many years of this disorder on my own with very little support, and this is one of the main reasons I am so vocal about this disorder. Not only have I been through all of the physical pain, but I have also been down the road of emotional and mental neglect involved in this disorder. There was only one time that a narcissist showed any emotion over my condition, and this is when I actually received the diagnosis of adenomyosis. However, this display of emotion occurred in front of other family members. I now know that this display was for show only. Narcissists like to “appear” like they care, but they really don’t.
There were times when I desperately needed to go to the hospital due to abdominal pain from adenomyosis, and a narcissist actually argued with me about having to go there because they just didn’t want to go. It was too much trouble for them. This happened at another time when I had severe back pain due to a herniated disc and broken vertebrae. Even though this person was seen at the hospital with me, it usually was preceded by a lot of complaining before we arrived.
I witnessed one of the narcissists telling a family member to “get up and go get me some face cream” when that person had been up all night vomiting.
One of the narcissists wanted to go on vacation so badly that she made her sick husband drive over twenty hours, and when they arrived, we noticed that he had red streaks running up his leg. He had cellulitis, and we had to take him straight to the doctor for immediate treatment. They knew he was sick before he left on the trip, but the narcissist insisted that they go anyway.
One narcissist was sick with a head cold, and we were scheduled to go to visit them. We wanted to wait until she was better, but she insisted that we come, saying that “she needed to see us”. While I was there, I came down with a serious head infection. In fact, when we arrived home, my doctor told me that my ears were on the verge of rupturing due to the infection. The narcissist insisted that she didn’t get me sick, saying “It must have come from the plane”.
One day, we received a call about my dad who was in the hospital. The doctors told my mom that she needed to call in the family because he had taken a turn for the worse. The narcissist who drove me to the hospital complained the entire time, asking me if I knew for sure the end was near. This narcissist did not want to go. I cried almost all the way there, but he showed no emotion. He just complained.
Do you see what was going on here? These are all perfect examples of a lack of empathy on the part of the narcissists. They don’t care at all about any discomfort that others are in – they only care about their own needs and wants. During these years, I started to question myself. Did I just complain too much? Shouldn’t I just be a stronger person and deal with these health issues better? Did that infection actually come from the plane? I actually began to feel like I had to “prove” that I had these health problems. One narcissist insisted that I would feel better if I just went to the gym. This shows the ignorance in the knowledge of adenomyosis. Exercise in itself will not heal adenomyosis. Neither will it heal a herniated disc and broken vertebrae. In fact, it may actually worsen the back condition!
I can’t prove that the head infection came from the narcissist, but chances are pretty high. Other than that, the answers to these questions are an emphatic “NO!” The problem is with them, not me. Adenomyosis is a serious uterine disorder that significantly disrupts a woman’s life! If my ears were on the verge of rupturing with that head infection, I had one serious infection! There was no apology – just another incidence of trying to put the blame on someone on the plane. If they can’t understand that – don’t have the ability to empathize – that is their problem – their own personality disorder that THEY need to deal with. I have learned that there is nothing wrong with me. The problem is narcissism and their lack of understanding that they need help.
I now am surrounded by people who actually empathize/sympathize with my health conditions. I have to say that it catches me by surprise when someone is actually sympathetic or empathetic. I’m not used to it. But I can tell you this – I couldn’t be happier that these narcissists are gone and that I actually now have people around me who really care about my well-being. It is refreshing…so refreshing…to have empathetic/sympathetic people in my life who truly want to help me get through the rough times.
If you feel like the people in your life are not empathetic in rough times, I strongly urge you to re-evaluate those relationships and get out of them if possible. Lack of empathy is one of the hallmark signs of many personality disorders, and if they can’t empathize/sympathize, that is a HUGE warning sign that you are not in a healthy relationship. I would advise to get counseling as soon as possible, but don’t expect a change in the narcissist. They rarely admit to having a problem. You may just have to end the relationship.
Hope this information helps. Have a great day, everyone!
This is going to be a hard topic to write about because I struggled with it for so many years during the time in my life that I dealt with narcissists, and I don’t want to sound selfish. I was raised by my parents to always appreciate everything that was given to me, and I tried to do just that. However, at times, I found it very difficult to be truly thankful when receiving gifts from narcissists. Let me explain.
During holidays, I was asked by many people to let them know what I wanted as a gift. This happened most often at Christmas. My mom was wonderful when it came to this – she never, ever questioned my list. I tried to ask for things that I needed but weren’t that expensive – towels, wash cloths, dish rags, a pot, sheets for the bed, etc. She always bought the things on the list, and I was so thankful for that.
However, the narcissists that I dealt with were truly the worst gift-givers. I truly appreciate any gift that is given to me, but dealing with gift-giving with this group was a nightmare. One of them would ask for a list, and I would give one to her just like I did with my mom. She would look at the list and get a funny look on her face. Then she would say “I don’t want to get this kind of stuff. I want to get you something fun!” To try to keep the peace, I would tell her to just get me whatever she wanted, and that made her happy. There were times that she even gave the list back to me. The presents that I received from this person almost never went along with my tastes; regardless, I always thanked them and told them that I appreciated the gifts. Most of the time, the gifts would end up in a cabinet or a closet and would stay there for years. I ended up donating quite a few of these gifts to a thrift store.
Narcissists will give gifts that they want to give according to their own tastes. They don’t consider the recipient’s tastes because narcissists are the center of their own world. According to Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD. in an article in Psychology today:
“To put it in psychological terms, the poorest gift-givers are likely to be the highest in the personality quality of narcissism, particularly the component of narcissism having to do with empathy.”
She goes on to say that in its extreme form, narcissists will go “off-list” which is exactly what happened in my case. Narcissists are out to please themselves – they don’t care if they please the recipient. Again, don’t get me wrong. I appreciate all gifts…but it can get difficult when gifts are given to feed a narcissist’s ego rather than just given out of love for the other person.
I look back now and feel like these narcissists were trying to change me into what they wanted me to be. Even the gifts that were given to me were things that they liked, not things that I liked. This ties into one of my previous blogs on the “false-self”. I unknowingly was being molded into someone that they wanted – they were not willing to accept me just as I am. It has been a true blessing to be separated from this family as it has allowed me to progress to self-awareness. I have learned to love my true self, and I have found peace at last!
Lack of empathy is another distinctive feature of someone with narcissistic personality disorder, and that will be discussed in-depth in my next blog.
Happy Memorial Day, everyone!
Whitbourne, Susan K. (2015). The narcissist’s guide to gift-giving. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201512/the-narcissist-s-guide-gift-giving
I’m quite sure you have heard of how our mental health influences our physical health. This can clearly happen in individuals who have dealt with narcissistic abuse. I know because it happened to me.
I first learned about the mind/body connection when I was in college. I had stomach trouble in the second half of my sophomore year in college, and I thought it was just stress. However, it turned out to be acute appendicitis, and it wasn’t diagnosed until I became violently ill during my summer vacation (thank goodness I was at home with my family at the time).
I woke up one morning around 4 a.m. to excruciating abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. This went on for hours. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t sleep, and the thought of food was revolting. Later that day, my mom suggested that we go to the hospital since I wasn’t getting any better, but I refused. I assumed I had food poisoning and thought I just had to wait it out. However, I didn’t improve. Later that night, my mom insisted that we go to the hospital. At this point, I don’t remember much. I think I was blacking out for chunks of time because I can only recall certain things. In fact, I was told that I walked into the ER with my mom, but I don’t remember doing it.
The ER doctor thought at first that I had food poisoning and put me on IV fluids since I was dehydrated. However, just before discharging me, he went on his gut instinct and decided to examine me again. Thank goodness he did because it was during this second exam that he decided to order blood work which showed an extremely high white blood cell count. His exam and the blood work confirmed that I had appendicitis. My uncle, who was a surgeon, was called in, and they took me to surgery shortly thereafter. He told my mom that a routine appendectomy usually takes about forty-five minutes.
Four hours later (yes, four!), my uncle came out of surgery and talked to my mom and aunt. I had a ruptured appendix that was also gangrenous (dead tissue). He was certain that I would have peritonitis (a dangerous abdominal infection), and he was also certain that I would be sick for months and would not be able to return to college in the fall. He told my mom that I wouldn’t have made it through the night if she hadn’t brought me into the hospital. The day after surgery, the pathologist even came up to my room to see “the girl who actually walked in this hospital with THAT appendix!”
Well, I proved my uncle wrong! At the time that this happened, I was having the time of my life in college and at work. I absolutely loved college and my work, and I was determined to return to school in the fall. In fact, when I woke up from surgery, my first question was “When can I go back to work?”
I returned to work three weeks after surgery, and I returned to college that fall. My uncle told my mom that the reason I recovered so quickly was because of my attitude. I learned through this experience that your mental and emotional health have a huge impact on your physical health and your ability to heal.
This lesson recently became apparent to me once again. As I’ve written in previous blogs, I was a victim of narcissistic abuse for many years. During those years, I was always sick with some kind of head infection or stomach virus. I tried my best to take care of myself, and I am known to be a “clean freak”, but I still seemed to pick up every bug out there. This always baffled me.
This confusion all became clear when I cut contact with this narcissistic group. It has been over four years since I dealt with this family, and unbelievably, I haven’t had a major head infection or stomach virus since the relationship with this family ended! Sure, I’ve had the occasional headache or sniffle, but I’ve not had a major infection that has kept me in bed for days for over four years! I finally came to the realization that the reason I was constantly sick while dealing with this family was because I was not self-aware, not happy, full of self-doubt, and under tremendous stress. My body didn’t like it.
If you are living in an emotionally or mentally abusive situation and find yourself constantly ill, remember that there is a mind/body connection when it comes to physical health. Your body might be trying to tell you something. Listen to it!
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!