1. Put non-alcoholic beverages in your fanciest glasses at home. I recently started doing this after getting home from work at night, and let me tell you…this little act brings me so much joy. It combines my need to be creative with my desire to stuff my face. Also, being sober is cool. Alcohol makes depression worse, and this is a fun way to sip a beverage and stay happy. You can do coke with cherry grenadine, seltzer water with lemon slices, an Airborne tablet with water and a rosemary sprig, whatever excites you the most and feels the fanciest. Win and WIN!
2. Watch a movie that is an old favorite. It can be just about as comforting as meeting up with an old friend. Warm fuzzies abound. Pop some popcorn, get into your comfy clothes and relax. Escape to a faraway imaginary world; bonus points if you watch something tropical, sunny, or beachy!
3. Build a pillow fort or tent in your living room. Decorate with twinkle lights and get in touch with your inner child (he/she/they will thank you)! It’s uplifting to feel a little silly and childlike every now and then.
4. Play hide and seek in your house. Seriously try this with your partner or a friend. So many laughs to be had. Document it using Snapchat or your phone’s video recorder so that you can come back to watch your partner/friend hunting for you for you in hilarity.
5. Sing along to an upbeat song…or a sad song, whatever is your jam. It doesn’t matter if you’re a good singer; singing heals the soul.
6. Phone an old friend or family member and ask them about their day. Ask more probing questions like, “what thoughts have been rattling around in your mind today” or “what’s your post-Covid travel agenda?”
7. Grab a journal or some paper and write about your thoughts and feelings. Put it all out there. You’d be surprised at how much journaling can give you mental clarity and a mood boost. Maybe burn what you’ve written and have a bonfire with it in your back yard (assuming it is safe to do so) if the mood so requires.
8. Ask for a hug from a loved one. If you are alone, give yourself a manicure or pedicure. Massage your own hands. Physical touch can boost mood as well, as it releases oxytocin, the chemical responsible for assisting in creating attachments.
9. Make and eat your favorite meal. Cooking can bring out your inner creative, and food lowers cortisol, the stress hormone, almost instantaneously. Just remember to do so in moderation.
10. Try your HAND (hah) at drawing or painting. Try drawing your dog, your television, your coffee table, or anything you see in front of you. Alternatively. You could go a more abstract route and draw a dream you had, some scribbles, or try to copy some modern art.
If all else fails, contact your local mental health professionals (Moore Vulnerability Counseling is a good place…or so I hear)! Sometimes we need an outside perspective. Perhaps more is going on than just seasonal depression, and that’s okay! We all have tough times, and we all need a mental health check up every now and again. Take care out there; seasonal depression affects between 50-70 percent of those of us who live in the Midwest. Being prepared with your preferred and healthy mood boosters can help you make friends with the darker half of the year.
A few weeks ago, I made a post about how to recognize a emotional abuse (here). Often times these are the tactics used by narcissists in order to keep their victims/lovers stuck and dependent on them. While many people choose to permanently “social distance” from a narcissist, in many cases, this is not possible due to co-parenting, work, or familial ties for example. In this post, I will give you some tools that you can use to disarm a narcissist, if you must. Here are the top 5 ways you can de-escalate interactions with a narcissist.
#1-Gray Rock/Safe Detachment: When you think about gray rocks, what comes to mind? For me, I think of smooth, round stones clustered together on a beach. Just like no one stone stands out among the others, uniformity is the goal of the gray rocking technique with a narcissist. Simply put, you are trying to make yourself appear as bland and un-special as possible in both mood, personality, and appearance. Neutrality is your new friend. Did your narcissist love the way you looked in jeans? Time to get comfy in sweat pants. Your sparkling, bubbly personality? Time to act flat and depressed, and the reality is that your depression “act” may not be an act at all. This tactic is good to use if you are trying to safely end a relationship with a narcissist without them trying to suck you back in. Narcissists love having exciting people around who sing their praises, and if you are no longer that person, they move on to greener pastures. Keep your social media private, block them, or don’t post any updates for a while. Take some much needed time to move on, and don’t let them see when you do.
#2-The Medium Chill: this technique is most effective when having to frequently be in contact with a narcissist due to employment, children, family, etc. The goal of medium chill is to be assertive in the most non-confrontational way. If the narcissist tries to draw you into their drama, simply come up with the most bland, uninteresting, or neutral responses possible, and say them in a flat or unemotional tone. Do not volunteer any personal information about yourself. Some examples of phrases might be: that’s too bad, that’s nice, I can’t do anything about that, you should talk to your doctor/lawyer/dentist about that, that’s up to you, I don’t know about that, let me get back to you, I don’t know what to tell you, that’s a shame, I’m sorry you feel that way, I can’t be there, that doesn’t work for me, that is none of your business, etc. For a full list of phrasing suggestions, visit outofthefog.com The important things to remember are to monitor your tone, keep a calm demeanor, and neutral responses. If you find yourself angry, exit stage left or hang up the phone. The goal is to give them nothing.
#3-Broken Record: this technique is best when your narcissist is arguing with you about a decision you have made, or when you find yourself in a circular argument with them. When this happens, it is best to repeat the same phrase over and over again. This combines both the gray rocking and medium chill techniques. For example, Narc: can I drop off our kid early? I want to go to the bar with some of my buddies. You: That’s too bad. I won’t be home until 8pm. Narc: you’re so selfish! I thought this was a 50/50 split. You: I’m sorry, I won’t be home until 8pm. Narc: you aren’t even going to consider my needs? You: No, I won’t be home until 8pm. And so on and so forth. Again, the most important part is to keep your tone calm and neutral. Practice it a hundred times if you need to!
#4-Boundaries/Your Stuff, Their Stuff/The Clean Up Rule: much of dealing with a narcissist is mental in nature. Many selfless and loving people are drawn to narcissists because they want to see them healed; however, it is important to realize that YOU cannot be the one to do the healing. The narcissist must heal him/herself. The narcissist will keep you hooked by making you believe that only you can save them. They are exploiting your kindness through manipulation. A good rule of thumb: everyone is responsible for their own feelings. Everyone is responsible for cleaning up their own messes. You have your stuff to take care of, they have their stuff to take care of.
#5-Personal Safety: personal safety refers to not only your physical safety, but also your mental and emotional wellbeing. Your safety and the safety of your dependents is your highest concern. If your narcissist threatens to harm you physically, your child(ren), themselves, or anyone else, call the appropriate authorities immediately, and perhaps from a safe distance away. This is a manipulative tactic used by the narcissist in order to avoid abandonment. Do not be fooled, but take it seriously. Remember, it is not your job to save the narcissist if they are suicidal. Only they can do that with the help of professionals. If you are being insulted or verbally attacked, try politely ending the conversation. If your boundaries are not respected, calmly leave the room/area. Protecting your emotional health is vital to your wellbeing.
I hope that this article has given you some tips on how to handle dealing with a narcissist if you must. Find support for yourself and your dependents. Outofthefog.com is also a great resource for understanding and coping with relationships with personality disordered individuals. Check out the Amazon link below to the book Out of the Fog.
Emotional abuse is often difficult for us to identify. How many times have we heard the story of a jealous girlfriend (or boyfriend, because no gender discrimination here) demanding that her man be available 24/7, lest he be accused of cheating? How about this one: a child is told that they will remain in custody of his or her parents, even though they are being verbally berated daily, because there is “no physical evidence of abuse”? Or there is the more subtle classic of a child’s parent wishing the child were “less emotional” regardless of gender. This parent may tell their child to “just get over it” or use a plethora of tactics to invalidate the child’s emotions. Are these instances of emotional and psychological abuse? You bet! Unfortunately, due to our culture downplaying the importance of emotion, it makes sense that emotional abuse is harder to recognize to the untrained observer. More tragically, those who are abused even have a difficult time recognizing it as well, which sets them up to be abused over and over again in their adult relationships. Alternatively, you might find that you yourself have used these tactics in the past in order to get your needs met. This is not meant to be a judgmental post if you fall into this camp, but a self-check and hopefully a catalyst for self-reflection and change.
I am writing this post to help us all be better able to recognize emotional and psychological abuse. (Side note: One of my favorite Instagram artists @blessingmanifesting posted a cool infographic about recognizing emotional abuse. It inspired me to write this post, so look over at the sidebar to get a full list of emotional abuse tactics abusers use.) Some of the most common emotional abuse tactics that I see when working with victims of narcissistic abuse are:
- Gaslighting (rewriting events to convince you they happened a different way than what you remember). This is one of the most devastating tactics used, because it causes the recipient to doubt their own perception of reality. Victims quite literally feel crazy. They want to believe their abuser’s often more positive spin on what really happened because they want to continue to love and get their needs met by the abuser. Example: “No I didn’t hit you. You are remembering it wrong. I simply shoved you out of the way because I was starting to get mad.”
- Your boundaries don’t matter. Examples: You tell your boyfriend or spouse you are not comfortable being physically intimate, and they pressure you despite your attempts to say no as firmly as you can. You tell your friend that you can’t do one more favor for them, but they beg and plead despite you continuing to tell all the reasons you cannot help right now.
- Using your empathy against you. Example: “I really need your help, especially after what Sheila did to me. You know how I don’t handle breakups well.”
- Threatening to harm or kill themselves in an attempt to get you to comply. This is one of the most extreme examples, and if you have ever been on the receiving end of this, I am terribly sorry. Please know that another’s life is NEVER in your hands in this scenario. If someone kills themselves (often after a breakup) it is NEVER your fault! Their decision to live or die is theirs alone. They are responsible for how they handle their emotions, and it is not your job to make them feel better.
- Shaming you into not talking about it. Examples: “Everyone will think you are __________.” “If you talk about it, your friends will think you’re a real drag.”
- Nothing you say or do is good enough. This one causes its victims to become either rebellious in nature, overly compliant, or it causes individuals to adopt ridiculously high standards for themselves. Victims never feel satisfied with themselves or other people. Their inner self-voice is very critical of even minor mistakes.
- They idealize you, then discard you. This is a pattern very typical of narcissists during dating. They will come on very strong in the beginning, and will pursue their mates very intensely. To someone with low self-esteem, this can be like water to a dry well. One the victim is hooked, the narcissist will either a) become very critical of the flaws in their partner, insisting that they change constantly, b) find an arbitrary reason to break up with their partner, often very suddenly, or c) a combination of a) and b).
If you are currently the victim of emotional or psychological abuse, please seek help. There is no abuse too small to address in therapy. It also may be helpful to bolster yourself with additional reading materials. A book I recommend for dealing with abuse recovery is “Whole Again: Healing Your Heart and Rediscovering Your True Self After Toxic Relationships and Emotional Abuse” by Jackson MacKenzie. Click the link to purchase from Amazon: https://amzn.to/3i78l1d
There is truly a plethora of reading material on healing from emotional abuse. Here are some additional books and resources to help you on your journey. (Side note: a percentage of purchases from clicking these links will go to Moore Vulnerability Counseling and will help me stay afloat during these difficult times. Thank you.) Some will have pictures posted next to them, and some will not. Be sure to subscribe to my blog so that you don’t miss my next post about how to disarm an abuser!
Simply put, “schemas” can be referred to as “life traps”. Life traps are self-defeating patterns of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that keep us stuck. Do we all have life traps? Yes, and here is why: none of us get out of childhood unscathed. Try as they may have, none of our parents ever peaked at perfection. We have all experienced trauma in our lives, believe it or not. Whether that be “trauma” with a lowercase “t”, “Trauma” with a capital “T”, or all caps “TRAUMA”, we have all had our needs neglected at some point or another, or terrible things have happened to us in varying degrees. The bottom line is, life traps are unfortunately easy to develop.
Life traps are easy to develop because when we are young, we need these 6 core emotional needs to be met in just the goldilocks right amount in order to thrive and become well-adjusted adults: basic safety, connection to others, autonomy, self-esteem, self-expression, and realistic limits. To the degree that the child is denied or given in excess any of these core needs, that is the degree to which he or she will struggle with a particular life trap. There are a variety of factors that influence if we get too little or too much of these core emotional needs. These factors can include mental illness of a parent, lack of structure, environmental disasters such as hurricanes, financial stressors, lack of education on the parents’ part, political unrest, and so on and so forth.
Regardless of whatever it may be that the child is lacking, one hundred percent of these factors are out of the child’s control; however, children are perceptive creatures. It is highly unlikely that a child perceives a traumatic event correctly. This is because when we are young, we tend to view things in black and white or simplified terms. For example, if a child’s parents get divorced, without proper and very delicate communication from the family regarding this divorce (the core emotional need of connection to others), the child may incorrectly assume that he or she was the cause of the divorce. They may have thoughts such as “Daddy left because I was hard to deal with”. This child will then take on undue shame and guilt, and develop what is known as the Defectiveness life trap. That child may be fearful of entering romantic or platonic relationships for fear that they may “screw them up” or that there is something fundamentally wrong with them. As an adult, the child with the dependence life trap will avoid intimacy for fear that their flaws are terrible; they believe that nobody could ever love them once their flaws were found out.
Conversely, another child experiencing the same situation of their parents divorcing may have a different reaction. This other child may develop the life trap known as the Abandonment life trap. Sufferers of this life trap tend to be preoccupied with keeping loved ones close to them. They may cling out of fear of being abandoned. Tragically, their clinging often drives people away, and the life trap becomes somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The negative reactions of others are the consequence of their clinging behavior, and thus the person continues to believe that they will always be abandoned.
It is often not until this person enters therapy that this life trap is exposed. More importantly, therapy gives this person the chance to experience an emotionally corrective relationship with the therapist. That is, the therapist responds in ways that help heal the original attachment wounds of the person. For example, if a client frantically and excessively e-mails their therapist for extra sessions, the therapist does not judge the client for this. The therapist has unconditional positive regard and care for the client. The client with the abandonment life trap picks up on this and learns that their needs for connection are good, and that others want to meet their needs. The therapist can then train the client on how to appropriately ask for their (very valid !) needs to be met.
At this point, you are probably wondering, “So what ARE the various life traps?! Which ones do I have?!” The answers to these questions are probably best answered between client and therapist, as life traps and how they manifest in your life can be quite complex to explain in this short amount of space. The answers to these questions are also going to be highly personal depending on the individual, which is why it is important to discuss in the “safe space” of therapy. I will list the names of the life traps here, but for more information, the book “Reinventing Your Life” by Dr. Klosko and Dr. Young is an extremely helpful start. Click the link at the bottom to purchase this book on Amazon! And now, without further ado, the 18 Life Traps in brief:
- Emotional Deprivation
- Social Isolation
- Vulnerability to Harm or Illness
- Enmeshment/Undeveloped Self
- Insufficient Self-Control
- Approval/Recognition Seeking
- Emotional Inhibition
- Unrelenting Standards/Hypercriticalness
CLICK HERE ^^^ to purchase Reinventing Your Life! A portion of the proceeds will go to Moore Vulnerability Counseling. Thank you!