Anger

I finally arrived home from work, resolving to myself to stop fuming once I got home. Anger had taken me over that day. It seeped into the soul in the morning and continued to fester throughout the afternoon. I struggled with it, pleaded, and negotiated, but it remained like a stain on a white dress, or a canker on the side of the tree, encompassing me so much that I thought it would never actually go away. Hello, my old friend, Anger. You have arrived again.

Anger is such a powerful emotion. It is all consuming, unpredictable, and uncontrollable. I’m sure we have all heard people say “I couldn’t be in so and so situation because I would lose it and say something I would regret.” Anger causes pain, and not just a sting but a burn that may or not heal properly.

I grew with anger as a prominent presence in my childhood. Because I grew up with a narcissist I was denied my own feelings and my father would discard his pain onto anybody and everybody. Because he did not have a social circle, and my mother had passed away when I was young, I got the brunt of the pain. Anger was an easy surface emotion to feel, as well as an instantaneous and carnal reaction to the situation I was in. I carried it with me, as a shield- almost a protector. No one wanted to be around someone that was angry all the time, at least it was keeping me safe from others in that way. I did not know others were any better than my father.

That anger ate away at me. Very slowly, it began to eat away at my psyche. I used it as a protective blanket, and covered myself from the entire world.

“Holding onto anger is like a grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else, you are the only one that gets burned”, the Buddha is quoted as saying. Anger, when over-used or used incorrectly can be more harmful than good. An aggressive personality is defensive mechanism created by a scary external world, one where the individual learns that fighting back is one of the only means of survival. As with everything in life, there is a delicate balance to this emotion. With that being said, it is also a very powerful, telling, motivating, intense, and honest one.

I am not an angry person any more. That quality came and went with the situation that I was in, though I realize that it becomes more engrained in others. Now I use anger in order to alert me to experiences that I am having. Anger is not a bad emotion, but we have to be careful with how we use it, because of it’s incredible power. But, that is not to say the pain of anger is not a signal, an alert, a sign that is trying to tell or teach us something or we are trying to someone else something.

When you feel anger, that means that something got triggered in you. People feel anger in situations when they have been betrayed, lied to, assaulted, and so on. We feel anger when we feel we or loved ones have been wronged. For example, I got angry at someone recently because they answered a question very disrespectfully to me. I was upset at them but mostly I was upset at how I handled that situation by internalizing and taking on that negativity as opposed to setting a boundary to it. Because I wasn’t able to stand up for myself, my mind reacted with anger to tell me that I allowed myself to get hurt and now I have to suffer the consequences. So the question begs: what does the anger want to signal to you, should you act or react? What can you learn from yourself in getting angry? Anger can also set a quick and direct boundary in necessary situations.

Anger can present itself in many different situations. Feeling anger, in many circumstances, is justified. There is no shame in anger, but use it wisely. It has great power to reveal the reality and truths of experiences as well a lot about ourselves and who and how we are. Feel the heat of that coal, but don’t it burn you.

Written by: Anna (Creator of Echo’s Corner)

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Fear of Confrontation

Everyone knows the phrase “walking on eggshells” very well. Anyone who has spent time caught in a narcissist’s web knows and lives this phrase a little too well. It is an appropriate term to use when one has had to be cautious of every step taken, or every word spoken, in order to keep the peace, or most likely, keep themselves safe.

Are you afraid of confrontation? Do you neglect to ask a question in times that you really need to ask one? Are you afraid of losing relationships in your life if you decide to set boundaries? Do you say anything if someone does or says something that you don’t like? Do you allow others to take you for granted because of your inability to speak up for yourself? These are all signs of having a fear of confrontation.

I developed having a fear on confrontation because of my narcissistic father. Anytime I would ask for something or crave intimacy and love I be shamed for doing so because of the fact that it would detract from the endless amount of love and care that a narcissist thinks he or she needs, and no one has the right to ask for such things except for the narcissist. A narcissist has to win at all times, at all costs. In my case it was at the expense of my happiness, will power, health, self-confidence and self-integrity. I ended up as a shell of human being. I had no idea what I wanted, who I was, or what I really deserved. I craved approval by constantly asking people for advice and direction, waiting for affirmation on anything that I said or did, and making myself small and weak… all of these actions in an effort to not break any of the proverbial eggshells that I saw around me. I learned to be afraid of confrontation as well as think that it is an ineffective tool that leads me feeling more powerless and just led to an incredible amount of fighting and arguing. I also thought that most issues I was the cause of and that led to my isolation.

Living this way is not a very good way to live, as well as very draining. It is very draining for us as well as the others around us as well (unless the other is a narcissist, then we are very fitting to their psychosis). Possessing a fear of confrontation does allow you to live your best self and worth. It stunts you as well as allows you to become a doormat, or worse a punching bag. I used to be afraid of confrontation because I thought it would upset the other person, I would seem as though I was needy/mean/too much/ect, or it would ruin relationships. I thought making myself small would make me easy to get along with and likeable. It only made me unbearable. And that killed me inside. And it was fuel to perpetuate this vicious cycle I was in.

The first thing to understand is that there is no shame for standing up for yourself. Confrontation can look a lot like fighting if someone has been in a hostile environment. If you are someone who has been hurt frequently in their life, it is understandable that you might feel as if you are very sensitive and feeling like you are standing up for yourself for everything, that is a normal reaction. Confrontation is necessary because it allows a balance of energy between two people. If someone is taking too much from you, and you do not gracefully address, essentially it is your responsibility that the problem persists because unless you speak up about it the other person will live in ignorance and keep repeating the same patterns unless you have a conversation about it. Choose your battles. And with whom you go into battle with.

Second of all, know that your opinion and needs matter. And believe that. Then, find the proper strategy. When confronting someone it is essential to use the words “I feel” instead of “You this and this, or so and so” and pointing out directly what they are doing wrong. Become assertive, and not aggressive. When people are first starting off standing up for themselves many actions that others see as passive still seem pretty assertive to the protagonist. They are not, but there clearly is a learning curve on being assertive. It might also feel like you are being an asshole or a bitch when you first start standing up for yourself. You are not. There are times when you have to fight fire with fire, that does not define you or does it represent that a relationship is going to fail. Some are (the bad ones), but mostly not any of them are. Confrontation does not use negative techniques such as any kind of abuse such as threatening or name calling but, instead utilizes respect and has the intention to work things out in a better fashion.

Once you realize that you matter and have a good intention with your words and trust your delivery during a confrontation, then there is no reason to not speak up for yourself. If someone does not receive it well it is important to understand that is something that is out of your control, and that this is opportunity for you to practice stating something without feeling guilt or shame after someone does not receive it in the way that you thought they would. This is an opportunity to practice boundaries. It is also important not to take things too personally. Don’t let fear be the motive behind making requests or statements. You can at least be happy with yourself that you spoke up for yourself, and that is the right step in the right direction.

Confrontation is when two or more people bring their values, beliefs, and opinions together to ideally find a solution or a compromise. Coming out of confrontation usually leads two parties stronger. Be your own advocate. Trust yourself. Standing up for yourself should be empowering. Think about it, would you rather be liked or liked respected?

Written by: Anna (Creator of Echos Corner)

Desperation

My whole life, I have been selling myself short. No matter when it comes to work or relationships I readily have put myself in positions where I am not living up to or being recognized for my full potential or worth. Recently, I have been putting together the fact that a lot of my behavior is considered to be “desperate”. This comes as no surprise, as I had previously worked on issues surrounding having co-dependent qualities, so desperation is just another reveal of those tendencies.

Desperation is a quality that is stated to have its own smell. It has been said that people can smell desperation off of someone. It is a really potent quality, one that is looking to attract, to draw in connection. But, a connection based off of desperation is not an authentic or healthy way to make a connection. Looking further into the definition of desperate there lies an  underlying cause of this quality: the loss of hope. What causes that loss of hope? Many factors, actually. Some of those factors are underlying fears, lack of positive results, lack of support and connection (isolation), repressed grief, experiencing traumatic events, and much more. How does a loss of hope actually lead to desperation? One examination might be one someone that has lost hope in reaching a goal, as a result it might seem to them as if their resources to achieve this goal are scarce. So, the mind and body responds by going into survival mode- it does anything and everything to try to obtain that goal. If you think about it, the people that are hungry cannot help but think about food all the time. It is a scarce resource. So deep down inside, because connection is what humans need to survive, we act subconsciously to try to obtain that goal, but because it is coming from a place of survival mode, we end up acting out of desperation.

What are some characteristics of someone that is acting out of desperation? The list begins….pleading for what you are seeking, trying to please everyone, fishing for compliments, seeking approval/confirmation/affirmation of your words/actions, constantly putting yourself down, accepting violent/toxic/abusive behavior and/or words, agreeing with anything someone says, always trying to impress, not standing up for your needs/opinions, constantly making grand gestures, looking for attention other than authentic connection, moving things along too fast too soon, walking on eggshells around everyone as to not rock the boat, expecting too much from people or too little, acting needy or clingy, mistaking small gestures as grand ones and vice versa, playing the martyr, playing the victim, oversharing, being susceptible to flattery, low self-esteem, being afraid that people will not like you, and others along the same vein.

I learned to be desperate because love was not an available resource with my narcissistic father. Being pleasing and making small was how I adapted to living as an attempt to keep the peace in the house. I was used to making someone else the center of the universe. My fears that developed from growing up in that kind of environment was one that I was not good enough, which led to loneliness, spiraled into fear of intimacy and rejection, and ended up acting out of desperation to achieve connection, in any way, in any which way possible. I acted out, just to try to gain form of attention. I never thought love was available to me and ended up in toxic relationships because of how I allowed to be treated or who I thought I deserved to be with. I was so desperate for love, that I would do anything for it. I never thought I was worthy of it or that I deserved it. And because of that, I attracted the narcissists, the players, and then the desperate ones themselves. Like attracts like, after all. The whole way of being desperate made me a dreamer and a cynic, all in one.

If one acts out of desperation, the quality of the results of those relationships is not going to be very good. The footing is not strong and will perpetuate the same issues, not solve them. As Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” No relationship is set on a concrete foundation if part of the base of it is trying to prove oneself or one’s love to someone else. I try to ask myself that no matter who rejects me for what, do I still like who I am? Did I do my best and honor myself in the process? Those acts of desperation are old patterns that do not serve me anymore. What do I want more- someone to just like me or someone to like and respect me? I should be living my life in which I am bringing my authentic on confident self to the table, not living up others expectations and judgments. If a relationship feel forced or like you are giving too much to it, it probably is and you probably are. Let it go. I am not willing to give anyone that kind of power anymore, pleading for someone to love is a lot different than allowing real intimacy unravel through time through respect, kindness, and trust.

Written by: Anna (Creator of Echo’s Corner)

People Pleaser

My friends and I were hiking in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. It’s a hidden gem at the very southern tip of Lake Michigan, full of natural wonder and splendor, in a very industrial place. It holds a lot of magic and power and I was fortunate enough to have worked there. My friends and I, who were also my co-workers, were out a pleasure hike. A situation arose, one that I cannot remember exactly, but it might have had to do with choosing which trail to go hike on. We were throwing out options and I said something to the extent of “I’ll do whatever else people want to do.” Seems pretty innocent but, was also pretty telling of my personality…especially to one of my friends. She remarked something about me being a “people pleaser”. It was not delivered in harsh manner at all, but it really struck me in a very interesting way.

I held onto that statement, and chewed it over for a long time. And by long time, I am still chewing it over to this day. At the time of the incident I was in my early 20’s and starting to come into some sense of who I was. My narcissistic father has passed away a year and sadly to say, it was one freeing moment. The narcissist was now permanently removed from my life, no longer able to influence and corrupt my being and sense of self. With that being said, years of abuse in the form of gaslighting, blame, and projection left me completely unaware of myself and trying to pick up the pieces from the first two, and most formidable, decades of my life.

This statement from my friend caught my particularly off guard. Was I really a people pleaser? And if so, what did that mean? Was it really a bad quality to have? I, after all, was really chill and go with the flow. I tried not to make my presence bother anybody. That kind of thinking and statement itself was just the edge of the rabbit hole. Going deeper down the rabbit hole I would have thoughts like “no one listens to what I want to do anyway”, “I have to go along with what everyone else does because they know better”,  and the trend of thoughts continues all with underlying themes of my unworthiness.

I kept that thought with me, and struggled with it as a struggled to find my sense of self and worth. I began seeing a few therapists and began the journey of exploring that statement and my thoughts on it. What I came across was that I had tendencies of codependent, or someone that puts the needs of others before their own. It sounds honorable, but it is not because if you are not showing compassion and kindness to yourself first it is harder to show true compassion and kindness to others. Instead, my “compassion and kindness” would be giving up what I think and feel or what I want to do in order to please others in fear of the repercussions that would occur if I didn’t do that.

I wanted to please others because I thought that was the only way I would get people to like me and want to be around me. After all, this is what kept my relationship safe with my father. If I gave him everything he wanted all the time, all day every day, then maybe I would not be yelled at or emotionally and sometimes physically abused that day. So I adapted to that, because he was my father, and he had the power…and he knew that.

Those were old patterns. Old patterns I learned in order to keep myself safe. But they don’t work. They don’t work if you want healthy, stable, and equal relationships. I no longer wanted to resonate in that way and wanted to purge those qualities so I wouldn’t be attracting the same kind of people that need to put down others to feel better about themselves. I wanted to attract people that would love me for who I am, despite not agreeing with everything that they say, and would be strong enough in themselves to have balanced relationships.

I began learning more about who I was and what I wanted as well ways to be open and forthcoming with my needs and opinions without feeling guilty all the time. I started with asking myself questions about what I really liked and how I really felt about situations or people. I started listening to my gut. I started to find the courage to speak out about my opinions and needs no matter what the results would be. Whenever I spoke, I reminded myself that what I was saying was coming from my heart, it was not my intention to hurt anyone, and if someone else would say something that I wanted to say I would have received it fully so why should I fear that the other person won’t?

We owe it to the world to be our true and full selves. We owe it to others, the right others, who will value us and with whom we can share the richness inside and outside of ourselves together. There are different ways beyond pleasing to show goodness and share intimacy. Bringing awareness and small steps will bring us in the right direction. The more we can give to ourselves, the more we can eventually authentically properly give to others.

Written by: Anna (Creator of Echo’s Corner)

Depression

“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” – Peggy O’Mara

I have always had an issue with identity and coming to terms with who I am. I guess it has always been a cause of never feeling adequate, feeling different, not good enough, and not feeling like I belong anywhere or that anyone really likes me. Those feelings are incredible powerful. They take over your whole being, your perspective and sometimes break down any kind of positive change that you have made towards progress and healing. They become engrained in your head, body, as well being and the ability to function “normally” becomes a far cry, a wistful wish. The familiar lies are so pervasive, demanding, and incriminating that they become a part of you, convincing you to believe that that is all there is, and the cycle and fall down the rabbit hole continues.

I love the quote that is posted at the top as it describes so much in terms of one of the cause of the effects of depression, notably in terms of growing up with an abusive parent. There were very few times in my childhood when I felt really loved by my narcissistic father. And by very few, I mean I am probably able to count those numbers of times on one hand. The dialogue that I created as a result of growing up with a narcissistic father is one of that I am unworthy, unlovable, and do not belong. I realize that in any challenge that I am put through, that dialogue rears its ugly head for me. And coupled with my ability to take immediate blame for anything and everything, this engrained speech confirms all of my worst beliefs which is I am the cause and problem of it all.

It is much harder to go through life living with depression. Everyone out there has issues and problems but being depressed takes up so much time and energy and really stunts vital and important growth, efforts, and progress in life. If I really sit down and examine things from an outside perspective and count my blessings day to day, most of those negatives assumptions are not true. But, the depressed side of me is so overpowering that I end up blaming myself for issues that I cannot control, and sometimes make them worse as a result of that. It ends up with a lot of self-sabotage of situations

What can you do if you feel the same? Dissociate those feelings of this is really me, my authentic self. I like to call attention to that depressed version of me that I am becoming. If it is a teachable moment, one where I can learn about what some of my triggers are, I explore that. Otherwise, I always make some time for myself and self-care. All the little things matter: eat well, get enough sleep, spend time with those people that elevate you, and take time for any kind of healing that you like to do. The last is especially important for me when I get into a depressive state- I try to take all the time and resources that I can in order to quiet that negating voice. I find things to do that I know to make me happy, as silly as they may be (I am currently writing this piece while eating a Saturday brunch at one of favorite restaurants in the town that I used live in, and I will follow it up with a 8 mile hike); I spend that time by myself in order to recoup my mindset and my resources.

It took me awhile, and is still a learning process, when I apply it to various parts of my life: to disassociate those feelings, images, sensations, thoughts that I have when I am going through a depressive cycle. I know that it is no one’s fault and the blame will get me nowhere, but I also know that I have my triggers. One of my triggers is being any situation or interaction that makes me feel not good enough (a quintessential characteristic of one of the effects a narcissist can have one you). This trigger can reveal itself more prominently in some parts of my life than others, especially in areas of my life where I have struggled more than others, or areas that require more intimacy and authenticity than others.

At the end of the day, I know I am more than my depression. She is a part of me, and might always be. Although, I know her time comes and goes. And I know the symptoms of when she arrives: low self-esteem, irritability, and fatigue. This may be different for everyone since depression has ability to reveal itself in various different ways and forms. Please be gentle with yourself in figuring out what those different forms may be, it is different for everyone yet the darkness comes and goes the same. It may be the curse we all live with, but the curse is one that is not unmanageable and it is usually not our fault. Years of judgment and projection can do that to someone, especially in the case of being raised by narcissist.

The important thing to remember is to know who the real you is, to distinguish that from what is someone else’s voice that was trying to get rid of pain and suffering onto you.  You are more than the repetitive and incorrect dialogue in your head. Those times may come and hang a cloud over your head, and sometimes it is more than you can control. Life is more than being in control but it is all about awareness and recognition. Capture those moments that make you feel good and connected, that is the real you and your higher calling. And, as pervasive as that outer noise can be, no one can take the real and beautiful you away from you.

Written by: Anna (Creator of Echo’s Corner)

You Are Not Who You Are Received to Be

A friend of mine was feeling sick. As someone who does not like being remotely or even on the verge of being sick, I wanted to offer my support and show that I care. My intention was to make her feel better. When she was telling me what was going on, and I offered some help and support, it was immediately rejected. She became very defensive and dismissive, resulting in being very insular. As a former properly trained codependent, I immediately thought I had done something wrong. I didn’t want to hurt her even more when she was already hurting.

So I continued with the actions that a properly trained codependent would do: I agreed to everything she was saying and tried to “kiss ass” in order to make her feel better. After all, when my narcissistic father was angry, the remedy to keeping the peace (and myself safe) was to kiss his ass. I did that as well with her, until at the end of the day, I experienced what I always experienced after repeating those patterns all my life: I was finally pissed off.

I wasn’t helping her because she didn’t want the help. It is hard being sick, for one, and people react very differently to stress, hard emotions, and pain. It was not anything I was doing, I had to remind myself, it was just how she was handling her situation, and whether it was helpful to her or not, there is nothing I could do about that.

If there are two things that I learned throughout my healing is 1.) You DO NOT have to give people what they want 2.) You ARE NOT who you are received to be.

Allow me to explain. Everyone has different needs, as well as different wants. I was raised by my narcissistic father to give him everything that he needs and wants, or all hell would break loose. So, that is the pattern of interaction that I carried around with other people.

Recently, I realized that I have the power to not be so swayed by how people are receiving me nor does it have any influence on my identity, personality, or character. If I have good intentions in what I saying and doing, then I am, in fact, doing something right. After all, we are all only doing the best that we know how.

If we have had past relationships with narcissists, being doormats is how we learned to adapt and be. Narcissists need someone to always be reacting to them, and most of the time, are the provocateurs of the other persons reactions as a means of control. In that world, we lose sight of reality, and ourselves and became only a vehicle for a narcissist’s judgments and projections. We cope by taking it in and blaming ourselves, because a relationship with a narcissist is a one way street. This is not right or healthy.

A big part of the solution is learning how to let go. Everyone possesses their own free will and is responsible for themselves, which means everyone is responsible for their own words, thoughts, actions, and reactions. There were many times when I would mistake a miscommunication or disagreement for the end of the world: the dismantling of relationship, judgment on my part that I did something wrong, an illusion that someone is trying to hurt me. Knowing better now I see that these are little occurrences that happen almost daily. That we all have our own thoughts, ideas, and reactions and we are the only ones responsible for them. We are all allowed to have them, every individual is different in that way.

At the end of the day, I believe that people that people have good intentions. We are all guilty of taking a bite of the forbidden apple thus resulting in being composed of flaws. There is no doubt that people possess the ability to blame, be defensive, lash out in anger, create defense mechanisms such as always having to be right, and so on. There is also no doubt that some do it more than others- narcissists as one prime example. Though, the trick is realize what is our shit, and what is others people shit. I am always in the mindset that if I had good intentions in what I was doing, then I wasn’t doing anything “wrong”. Maybe the other person was in a bad place, or not ready to hear what it is being said to them, or they are reacting to a situation with their own “shit”.

In order to begin to heal, this is where mindfulness is great tool to incorporate. Mindfulness has been a growing topic of interest and practice for many people. It is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing on ones awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” Bring this awareness to your feelings and thoughts, without trying to figure them. You will see through time, different patterns that develop. One pattern for me was always kissing ass to someone if I perceived that I hurt them. Now, with that clarity I am able to offer the best that I can, then let go, and create a healthy space in between the person for the situation to unravel itself. Mindfulness allows you to stop grasping onto your reactions and thoughts and just observe them instead.

We are all different people, with good qualities and bad. In order to live in harmony, we have to respect that fact, in ourselves and in others. By not giving in to everything that others want, as well as judging ourselves for doing something “wrong” we can begin to establish boundaries and hold space. We can solidify our intentions and our identity. And with that, build on the wisdom for showing and receiving compassion for everyone.

Written by:

Anna (Creator of Echo’s Corner)

Fear of Intimacy

The one chronic disease that I have had my entire life has been loneliness. We might have experienced the feeling. Symptoms of the disease are thinking that you are not worthy of connection, having anxiety around having to interact with people, thinking that people don’t like you for no apparent reason, having a hard time reaching out to people, and so much more. It is a pretty debilitating disease, not only mentally and emotionally for sure, but can have physical effects as well.

Loneliness is truly my old friend. My mother passed away from cancer when I was 13, and my dad passed when I was 21. During both traumas, I was alone. I felt as if I didn’t have anyone. It was even worse when my mother died. My mother was my best friend, and I was left with my father, the severe narcissist, who didn’t know how to deal with his pain, didn’t allow me to deal with mine, and instead would say things like “People told me that I should not continue to raise you and give you away.”  I felt worthless, unlovable, figured something was wrong with me and embraced loneliness as my protector.

Loneliness kept me safe. I figured I deserved it and people were inherently bad anyway. I compounded my loneliness by striving to be really independent, by using my introverted nature as an excuse. I pushed good people away, I thought I was better than everyone else, got used to the deafening silence, and acted in selfish ways. I remember going out for a hike (another solitary activity) after a day of being alone and being annoyed that there were other people on the hike. The world wasn’t rejecting me, I learned to adapt by rejecting the world.

Before I go further I would just like to say that if there is any post of mine I wish my younger self could have read, it would be this one. Recently discovering that I have a fear of intimacy has been groundbreaking for me. It put together all the missing pieces and answered all the questions I had on why I had felt I struggled for real connection and intimate relationships.

To begin, let’s go over what fear of intimacy is and what causes it.  Fear of intimacy is defined as the belief that one is not deserving or worthy of love and support. It has been said that engulfment and/or abandonment are underlying fears of fear of intimacy. Engulfment meaning that we are afraid we will be “taken over” by someone- we will not be able to express our feelings, thoughts, or actions around someone. Sound like codependency, anyone? Abandonment is a little more understood, it means it is the fear of others leaving you, usually stemming from you thinking someone will find something out about you and then that will cause them to leave you.

Is anything sounding familiar? So on to causes. Some causes may obviously be abandonment and engulfment. Others are neglect, loss of trust, living in emotionally and sometimes physically deprived conditions, abuse, and so on. Basically, it is caused by never having a healthy intimate relationship with someone, probably for a prolonged time. We don’t know what love, support, and acceptance looks like. So we fall for old patterns. And don’t know how to break free of the chains of abuse. The disease of loneliness has an onset, and then it becomes part of our identity and thus a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Here is an example. Let’s say it was hard to make friends when you were little and you didn’t have a lot support throughout the process. The human mind immediately thinks that something is wrong with us and thus starts creating defense mechanisms in those situations in order to keep us free and safe from experiencing that kind of pain again. That first experience might have been bad luck; things are always out of our control. But, because we didn’t know that, no one showed us healthy coping mechanisms for pain and rejection, no one told us we are lovable as our imperfect selves or showed any support and understanding throughout the process we were not able to move past the shame, and instead we created a deficiency in ourselves.

And that brings us to narcissism. If someone had the bad luck of growing up with a narcissist or being in any kind of relationship with a narcissist for a long time we know the feeling of projection and judgment being thrown at us. Everything is our fault because the narcissist is perfect. We are trained to feel deficient so the narcissist has complete control and fulfills their own ego by abusing others.

Fear of intimacy can manifest itself in different ways. For me in romantic relationships it manifested in various different ways. I would do anything in order to keep myself safe from rejection. Some ways it would rear its ugly head was through desperation to be liked followed by aggressiveness, the need to appear to be perfect or find such so called perfect partners, finding excuses on why someone wouldn’t like me or the relationship wouldn’t work out with people that were interested in me and that I liked back, fantasizing about real or fake partners and our experiences together instead of finding those experiences in real time, and finding partners that were unavailable in order to keep myself safe. Other ways it manifests are through defensiveness, judgment, being controlling, trying to predict the future, fearing people and the world, and judging everything instead of accepting it. These are all characteristics of drawing disconnection instead of connection.

I felt most safe when events were planned, when I could be in control of the situation. I felt safer with people that I knew and that knew me, and always had a hard time with small talk. But as much as I wanted to be in control, control is an illusion. I was always afraid of going out and interacting with people. Part of me was always incredibly desperate for human connection, longing for little bits and pieces of love that I saw everywhere: a couple sharing a cookie at a coffeehouse, families taking a walk downtown, a group of friends meeting up for a hike, a toddler who has stopped crying because his or her mother tenderly picked them up, and so on. It reminded me constantly of what I didn’t have and the fact that I was usually a witness to these displays of love when I was alone. I didn’t want to live in this world mostly because this world runs on love. And I didn’t know love.

What I learned, and what I wished I knew earlier is that love is everywhere, especially in those small and seemingly fleeting tender moments. I wish I knew how to love myself enough to form healthy relationships with good people that would treat me well and that would not take advantage of my kindness. I wish I knew that I was worthy and that I deserved better. I wish I knew that I am good person who is broken but that is okay because every good person is broken in one way or another. I wish I knew that intimacy was a two way street of giving and receiving. I wish I knew that the only difference between me being single and others being in relationships is the fact that other people felt comfortable with showing up and letting others show up broken and just be together. They knew they were capable of and deserving of true intimacy.

The only way to get through whatever you are going through is to go right through it. I could not have had these realizations without constantly putting myself out there and being committed to finding connection. Go outside, interact with others, expect rejection, expect feeling down about yourself because of failures, you will cry, but you will also get through it. There is much uncertainty and troubleshooting to come. Despite all the hardships, continue to bring awareness to your feelings, experiences, and interactions. The first step is to bring that awareness without forcing yourself to figure it out right away. Patterns will appear and answers will come to light. Be gentle with yourself. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people and ask for help, advice, or support. There will be breakthroughs and beautiful moments. The truth is everyone is going to hurt you, we each come with our own problems. But, certain people are worth hurting for, choose the ones that are worth fighting for.

It pains me to write these stories, to go back, and to look forward as well. At these tough times of realizations it is easy to be hard on oneself. Despite on observations on how I could have lived better, I do really have some amazing people in my life and am proud of myself. I have lived through the effects of narcissism. Because I believe in connection, love, peace, and joy I am committed to the fight using compassion, forgiveness, acceptedness, openness, vulnerability as my tools. Please allow yourself the same.

Written by: Anna (Creator of Echos Corner)

What is the Hardest Thing to Understand About a Narcissist?

I am fairly blessed in this particular time period in my life in terms of not having to interact with narcissists in the most immediate parts of my circle. Life events ended up this way naturally, for the most part- you cannot choose who you work with, who comes into your life unexpectedly, who your sister or friend marries, and so on. There was also a lot of cleaning house that went down on my part, and I suppose, will continue to happen for some time. It was really healing to cut the toxic relationships and dead weight out of my life.

I think back to the narcissists that I grew up with, was friends with, roomed or worked with or had romantic relationships with. I think back more frequently when I am reminded of them. This happens when I have one interaction with someone that is less than pleasant, yet at the same time, all too familiar. I recoil inside of myself, a reaction to the shock, the sting followed by the need to cleanse and re-balance my thinking.  I take a minute to remind myself what I potentially am dealing with here.

What I believe is happening is I am having normal responses to some of the tactics that narcissists apply which, are the result of being a fairly stable and functioning human being. The problem is you are not entitled to those same emotions when interacting with a narcissist than with someone who is not a narcissist.

Having interactions with others leaves a space between who you are personally and who they are personally. It is about the issue, whether or not you agree or disagree.  Things may get heated depending on the topic or depth to which both of those individuals know each other, yet there hopefully still lies a respect for each other. This is very rarely the case with a narcissist. Narcissists are of a different caliber and on a different wavelength than everyone else.

And the worst part of it is- they are who they are and as far as we know they will never be any different.

It has been said that a person becomes most like the five people that he or she is currently spending the most time around. So what does that mean when one or more of them are narcissists? You react instead of grow. When time is spent around people that you love and love you back there is an opportunity for comfort, growth, stability, and much more. When time is spent around a narcissist it is all too easy to internalize what they want you to give or take from them. If you have the ability to become afflicted more easily by a narcissist you only go down the rabbit hole either by taking in their abuse or trying to change them. There is not a lot of positive growth or change.

It is more difficult to be yourself around a narcissist. They do not function like the rest of us do at all. Narcissists are incredibly good manipulators which they use as a cover up for who they really are. In general, people around you are going to influence you; no one person has the strength to fully be who they think they are all the time. The trick is to be aware of when you are losing the core and inner you to blame, insults, projection, and so on. Are you spending more time fighting and being afraid than not?

Its not to say that we cannot be around a narcissist ever, it just has been helpful to really step outside of yourself and know that narcissists do not function like the rest of us and it is best to learn how to deal with them in that way. If they are putting someone down, it is not because they are having a bad day and a bad side of them is coming out- it is because they have developed a defense mechanism to bring other people down to make themselves feel better about themselves.

Narcissists are not going to change. They will stay in their bubble and pierce through others to keep themselves the only way they know how to be. Owe it to yourself to name the kind of personality that you are dealing with and be wise when dealing with them. Who you can become around them is not the real and inner you. Once I learned to separate, it was not only easier to deal with them but also skillfully show compassion, which is a part of the true and inner, me.

Written by: Anna (creator of Echos Corner)

Narcissist for President

Many people laughed at his jokes, his outlandish Twitter posts, at the manner in which he almost seemed unstoppable and continued to unabashedly say just about whatever he wanted. There was that sense of entertainment watching him, his charisma, and his unpredictability. It was all very exciting…and all too familiar. I never thought he was being funny, I didn’t laugh.

No matter where anyone lies on the political spectrum, this election has been beyond those party and political lines when one is familiar with the defining signs of a narcissist. Donald Trump is someone who embodies the lot of the characteristics of someone with NPD. He says whatever he can to gain the spotlight, uses manipulative tactics such a lying to get his way, attacks anybody who is a real or perceived threat to his grandiose image, gaslights events and situations, and uses projections to dispel his own words and actions onto others. Narcissists live in their own reality and distort others in order to constantly be in control of a person or situation.

A narcissist’s world can appear to be complete and utter chaos. This is what it appears to be to anyone who is not privy to a narcissist’s personality and character. There is actually a sort of controlled environment in which they operate. There are two definite consistencies among all narcissists: they are motivated completely by themselves and lack an emotional world. Donald Trump has personified both of these elements of NPD. It got to the point that many psychiatrists and psychologists spoke out and publicly diagnosed him with NPD as an effort to spread the word about this mental disorder and bring some light to Donald Trump’s personality.

In this case, knowing what we know about narcissists, it is not easy to not think of worst case scenarios.

Politically speaking, many world leaders who exhibit, or have shown to be the NPD personality types have also ruled their governments through totalitarian regimes. Many world leaders who run their governments in this type of manner have called Donald Trump to congratulate him on his victory. The thirst for power can override any means of checks and balances in government, as well as take away the rights and voices of the people. Donald Trump has joked about these kinds of matters, claiming he would eradicate publications and shows that have “distorted” his image.  Will the combination of his volatility and for now, support of his party and voters, be able to bring those claims to fruition?

Politics aside, what does this mean about our society? One of my friends said that people voted for Donald Trump because they are exactly like Trump. I have stated before that I believe that narcissism is growing in our society and this may very well be an indicator of that. It is possible that since everyone has some sort of narcissism inside of them that those characteristics of that personality disorder are appealing to people with those same characteristics inside of them, even if they might not be full-fledged narcissists.

Another reason could be ignorance. How many times have we or others around us fallen for the charismatic outspoken “confident” figure in the room only to later realize they are a total fraud. Many people may also be looking for their knight in shining armor and a narcissist will play on people’s emotions in order to validate their grandiose image of themselves and gain popularity.

Despite the cause of this is I also question which of his behaviors will now be normalized in our society. I worry about people using others for their own gain, crossing boundaries, as well as a breakdown of respect and general kindness. Will it be a justification of the “I am better than you” mentality as well as any feelings of entitlement? Again, it does not matter which political side one is on, we generally disagree on many issues, but in which way these issues will now be handled is the question.

So what can we personally do? Besides continuing to take care of ourselves and the ones we love, stay in the moment. Keep on fighting the effects of narcissistic in your own world. Practice, show and teach empathy without losing your boundaries, of course. Be the change you want to see. I always say it is better to at least know what you are working with and who you are up against. We cannot change the fact that Donald Trump is narcissist and that many people support him but to knowledge is power, and we can start with that.

As far as society goes, I am hoping that the goodness of people will prevail. In typical narcissistic fashion, they have a tendency to idealize, devalue, and then discard. As soon as his supporters find issue with him and not totally support his image, opinions, or decisions he will turn on them. People may surely begin to realize that not all that glitters is gold. In that scenario, I am hoping that we can all reach out to each other from opposite sides and if things do get bad realize that we will be the ones to lift each other up, there is no magic man to come to the rescue. I hope that we rise up against authoritarian rule and no matter what side of the political spectrum we lie, know that free speech and free will is more important than money and power.

Narcissists are not all stupid; they are deeply flawed, but not stupid. I’m sure Donald Trump has the capacity to do some good things and bring changes. We can only hope for the best, for the longstanding ideals and practices of the American constitution and law of the land have a chance to prevail again. But don’t forget the reality of the times, and be prepared for the worst. Cautiously optimistic, one could say.

This blog has been a journey for me of understanding with each post being cathartic and hopeful as well as bringing closure.  This post feels really different. A deep fear has been realized. I was inspired to write because I did, and do, feel triggered. There is hope though, but it will entail going through the fire, again. We can come out of this stronger. Maybe this is what we need to move past narcissism in our lives and society.

Please, I encourage you; leave your thoughts and comments below. How can we make sense of the fact that a narcissist will be our next president?

Abuse

I usually begin an article for my blog introducing a topic with a story. Stories are essentially forms of data that one can piece together in order to gain some sort of understanding for a larger topic, or an understanding of themselves. Each time I sit down to write I feel compelled to explore a topic based off a story I remembered, or a budding story of sorts that I am going through.

I thought of all the stories I hold that have to do with abuse. There are plenty in which I can choose from, and one right now that is occurring in the form of bullying. Although, this time, I thought twice about introducing this topic with a story.  Many of the readers on this site are all too familiar with all the different forms of abuse, especially of the different kinds at the hands of narcissist. We all know that feeling of shame coming over us after experiencing abuse: your heart rate speeds up, your face flushes red, your moods drops, you almost feel as if you become dead behind the eyes, wishing as though you did not exist, or what’s worse are not worthy of your existence.

Growing up with mental, emotional, and physical abuse at the hands of my father, I had very little positive development in my life. Because of the fact my father had complete power over me, I felt totally and completely hopeless. I did not have anybody to turn to or to help me. I learned to take the abuse, to get used to it. My father often made me feel that I deserved it. This was his way to justify his anger and hate he conveyed towards me.

It comes as no surprise that I was bullied as a child, and still experience forms of adult bullying. One of my co-workers years ago decided he was going to pick on me to no avail. He was an unsavory character, full of hate towards others, always on the look out to blame, and constantly injecting negative energy into the environments he was in. I finally decided to stand up for myself, we argued a bit and in the heat of the moment I asked him “Why are you doing this?” “Because you are an easy target”, he responded. That moment was incredibly eye opening for me, it was not me or who I was; it was just the simple fact that I never learned how to not take the abuse.

It’s really saddening in this world that people choose to abuse one another. And, that they themselves cannot see that their hate and anger towards you is just a reflection of their hate and anger towards themselves. And usually if matters are brought up their ego (or personality disorders) are so wrapped up in their projections and judgments that it continues to be more comfortable for them to continue their bad behaviors towards others instead of growing self-love for themselves. So, the blame continues.

Being at the hand of abuse leads one down the depressing familiar path of I am not good enough, and the deadly thinking that I am alone in this world.

I have thought a lot about how to not become the easy target. A lot of techniques and responses I have come across always feel aggressive or like fighting. This is usually not true and probably because that is something that my father wanted me to think every time I stood up for myself. My first step in understanding who I was and how I deserved to be treated was by learning about boundaries (there is an article I wrote about this that you can access by clicking the link). Through learning what my physical, mental, and emotional boundaries are and how to set them I established much healthier relationships with people and learned how to not just protect myself but not lose myself as well. It is a very powerful thing to know what is your own issue and what is someone else’s, and how not take that on.

But sometimes, that seems not to be enough. People will continue to press your buttons and expect you to still be nice to them in return and if you are not it is just another reason for them to prove their own delusional projection onto you. So with that, I developed ways of reading people to see if they are narcissists or bullies as well as others who are not worth my time. I know the techniques that abusers use and do my best to acknowledge that it is their problem and find ways to gracefully stand up to them or distance myself from them before the air gets too thick to breathe, before the tension between us can only be broken through a blowout, with the damage possibly lingering forever.

I still to this day work on this issue. I tell myself that because I am standing up for my boundaries and not giving in to people that does not mean that I am fighting or am that I am cruel person. It means that I have enough self-love and awareness for myself to put myself first and to create healthy and nurturing relationships. I know that I am worth it, even though others still may see me a way to dispose of their pain.  I continue to practice this knowing that it means that everyone is not meant to be friends, or on good terms sometimes. I’ve learned not to be afraid of bring up issues, speaking up for myself, and even confrontation. If it does come down to confrontation the least a confrontation has the possibility to put a plug on continued blame as the other person knows that you are aware of the situation and has less means to go on. This may less of the case with narcissists, though. Regardless, stricter boundaries and usually have to be set. Conflict is real and workable; abuse is not and should not be tolerated.

I always ask myself in the face of abuse: would I rather make myself small to please someone, or be respected?

It probably seems so simple to those who have been fortunate to grow up in a loving environment. But for the rest of us, I hope we can all learn to respect ourselves, and be respected by others in return.