condescending twatbags, mental health, music, narcissists, psychology

Say goodbye, not goodnight…

Beth Nielsen Chapman has a really moving song in her catalog called “Say Goodnight, Not Goodbye”. I happened to hear it the other day while I was listening to my “comforting” playlist on iTunes. I have a bunch of playlists I made when iTunes was more functional and I was bored and feeling compulsive. One of the lists is called “comforting”, and it’s a collection of really poignant and beautiful songs that are easy to focus on as I write. A lot of Beth Nielsen Chapman’s songs are on that list. I think she’s a wonderful songwriter. I like to listen to her songs, but I also like singing them. “Say Goodnight, Not Goodbye”, is one I would love to do someday. But I suspect that will have to wait until I get good enough at playing guitar to manage it.

I wish I’d stuck with piano lessons.

I see from the comments on this video that this song appeared on Dawson’s Creek. I remember watching the first season of that show, but I got out of the habit because it was airing at around the time I was in graduate school and I didn’t have time to watch a lot of TV. I also seem to remember that show was on the WB network, and the cable provider in Columbia, South Carolina stopped carrying the WB at some point while I was living there.

This poignant song is about loss, but ultimately, there’s a promise that the separation isn’t forever. Someday, there will be a reconciliation. Maybe after death. It’s comforting to believe that after the pain of separation, there will be a reunion of some sort, whether it’s on Earth or in Heaven or wherever else we go after our time down here is finished. I know Beth Nielsen Chapman has experienced a lot of pain and loss in her life, to include the loss of her first husband, Ernest Chapman, to cancer. She’s managed to parlay those losses into the most beautiful music. Even now, having just listened to that song, I feel a bit verklempt.

You might have noticed that I changed the order of the words to Beth Nielsen Chapman’s song as my post title today. That wasn’t an error. Sometimes, it’s really best to just walk away forever. Most people are worthy of a reunion, if both parties are willing. But some people really aren’t. And sometimes they reveal themselves in really petty ways that are laughable. You realize that someone who is well into middle age or older has, emotionally speaking, never grown up beyond the age of twelve or so.

The older I get, the more I realize that some people are just not worth the effort. And I don’t have to go away mad… but I do have to go away. It hurts a bit– kind of like getting a vaccination, which is painful and inconvenient for a short time, but spares the worse pain that could come if one contracts the actual disease. Everybody has their own ideas of what’s beyond the pale in another person’s behavior. For me, it’s when a person is blatantly disrespectful to me or flies off the handle. I’ll forgive that reaction in people I know well. I don’t forgive it nearly as easily in people I don’t know well.

A few months ago, I had a casual acquaintance on YouTube. We had an okay rapport on the surface. It was friendly and complimentary, as we’re both music buffs and have similar tastes. We even had some successful collaborations. One day, I made an offhand and somewhat off topic comment on a music video he’d posted. He took huge offense to my comment. He proceeded to tell me off in a really over-the-top, insulting, embarrassing way. Then, he said he only wanted me to comment on the music and nothing else.

It wasn’t as if I knew that he had this policy regarding comments on his videos. He hadn’t specifically told me that he’d only wanted certain types of comments, nor was there any kind of notice on his channel that he didn’t like comments that weren’t simple praise for him. I had made the comment completely innocently and was truly shocked and offended by his reaction to it, which was to lecture and shame me about the genius of Paul Simon, and then demand that I ONLY comment on the music. I think it’s lame to get mad and tell people what their reactions must be or dictate what they can or can’t say.

Basically, he was saying that he didn’t want to hear from me unless it was to tell him what a great musician he is. That told me that he wasn’t interested in being friends or getting to know me. He just wanted adoring fans to up his subscribers and hit count. I thought it was overly controlling and ridiculous, but it’s his page; so I just left him to it. And since I was also a bit stung, I deleted my comment and quit interacting with him. I don’t think he realized or cared that what he said was humiliating, or that I was actually pretty hurt. And usually, when people are hurt, they tend to slink away and lick their wounds for awhile.

Time went on, and I quit thinking about the incident and kind of forgot about him. Then last night, I was sitting alone at my dining table, looking through some old postings. I remembered that this person had commented on a lot of them. Do you know that this guy went through and completely scrubbed every single comment? He didn’t block me, which I found interesting… but he did remove all of his comments, which seems like an awful lot of effort, especially since I didn’t even notice until months later. I was amazed… and then I was amused. Because obviously, my decision not to interact with him anymore had really upset him. Then after thinking about it for a moment, I also wasn’t surprised. I had a gut feeling that he would notice my absence and respond in such a way.

I started thinking about what this meant. I’ve spent many years of my life trying to appease people who think they have the right to say and do whatever they want, but they don’t want to grant the other person the same right. It’s happened to me over and over again. I’ve wasted a lot of time and effort on trying to smooth things over when I overstep some imaginary boundary that I never even knew existed. I now realize that people who are that high-maintenance are probably not worth the effort, even if they do play a mean guitar. Life is much too short to walk on eggshells. There are other mean guitar players out there who won’t act like that. In fact, with every passing day, I get better at playing guitar myself. Someday, I hope to get to a point at which I won’t need to collaborate with anyone, if I don’t want to.

Please note– I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have boundaries. There’s nothing wrong with being assertive and telling someone when they’ve upset you or done something offensive. That’s how people get to know each other and determine what behaviors are acceptable. I’m writing about the practice of exploding at people over innocuous things, and then resenting them when they inevitably get offended by that over-the-top reaction. This would not have happened had he simply asked me what I thought of his music rather than belligerently shaming, belittling, lecturing, and demanding a specific response or deference to him. Especially when he never granted me the same courtesy. Let’s not have a double standard; one standard will do just fine.

There were other things I had noticed when we were still on “speaking terms”. Like, he’d often offer me unsolicited advice on how to run my channel. He’d tell me that I shouldn’t post more than one video a day, assuming that my goal is to get popular (it’s not). I often post videos that I make for my blog, so they go up when I need them for a post. Sometimes, I go weeks without posting anything. Sometimes, I’ll post more than one video a day. I also post them when I’m inspired. Would I like it if a lot of people liked my videos? I guess… although I have learned that being popular isn’t always a great thing. The more popular you are, the more shit you tend to get from trolls, creeps, stalkers, and negative people. In any case, I never asked for tips on how to run my channel. I suspect his goals are different than mine are, and that should be okay.

I also noticed that I would post every one of our collaborations on my page and promote his channel, but he only posted one of our collaborations on his page and didn’t promote mine. It got a lot of positive feedback, so I’m left thinking that maybe he didn’t want to share the limelight. It was a little Ike Turner-esque. And it’s not that he didn’t like our collaborations and was being polite by praising me but not sharing them. If that were the case, why would he keep doing them with me? He’d always leave me compliments on our collaborations on my page, but then he didn’t share the collaborations on his. So now I’m thinking he’s probably insecure and a bit jealous of any attention someone else gets, no matter how small. I’m sure it’s not just me, either. He probably does it to other people, too.

I notice a number of red flags…

In any case, as I’m writing this, I’m reminded of the many videos I’ve watched by Les Carter, a therapist who specializes in dealing with narcissists. I don’t know if my former YouTube acquaintance is a narcissist because I don’t know him personally. However, I do think some of his behavior is a bit narcissistic and transactional. He wanted me to be loyal and deferential to him, but wasn’t going to reciprocate. I’ve had my fill of dealing with those types of people. It never ends well. I suppose I could try to “make up” with him by leaving praise on his videos. Maybe he would respond in kind on the few I’ve recently done. But I think it would only be a matter of time before I upset him again and the same thing will happen. I don’t have time for it, and frankly I deserve better.

Anyway, I made another video yesterday. I think it’s okay. I’ll keep working on learning how to play my guitar.

I did this in one take. I kind of wish it had taken more time.

So… I’m saying goodbye, not goodnight. May we both have better and more satisfying interactions with others. There are plenty of wonderful, mature people in the world who aren’t simply about having transactional relationships. I’m going to focus on finding and interacting with those people.

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narcissists

She just wanted me around for the “likes”…

This morning, I’m listening to a great video by narcissistic behavior guru Dr. Ramani. She is one of several experts on narcissism that I follow on YouTube. She’s wise, insightful, and helpful, although I probably watch videos by fellow expert Dr. Les Carter more often.

Today, the video I stumbled across is on the topic of regret. I’m writing about it now, because I happened to be talking about this very same topic with Bill before I found Dr. Ramani’s video. Bill and I have both had our fill of interactions with narcissists. And we have both experienced regret in the wake of them.

She’s a very kind woman with good insight and better advice.

In this video, Dr. Ramani says “Narcissistic relationships waste time.” And they do. In my case, one of the most damaging relationships of my lifetime lasted about 33 years. I have countless memories of my time with this person. I grew up with her. The friendship probably died before we graduated high school. If it didn’t die in high school, it was definitely in its death throes when we were in college. But I still hung on to it for years, even though I knew that it was a ghost of the “friendship” we’d once had.

I repeatedly resisted the healthy side of me telling me to break off my ties with her for good. Why? Because we’d known each other for so long. I’d invested a lot in the relationship. I didn’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I hoped that one day, we could be friends again, more like we were when we were kids.

Then one day, it became painfully clear that she wasn’t my friend and hadn’t been for many years. It became obvious that she saw me as a source of supply and a possession… just one more soul on her Facebook friends list count. She wasn’t interested in being friends with me. She just wanted me for the “likes”. How did I discover this? Well, as it so often happens in my life, it was completely by surprise.

In the fall of 2013, I was sitting in my house in Texas when I got an email from a woman who used to sit next to me in the church I grew up attending. Like my former friend, she had known me since I was eight years old. Her husband was in the choir. My dad was in the choir. Her husband and my dad were both graduates of Virginia Military Institute, so they were like “brothers”. My mom was a church organist at another church, and my three sisters were pretty much grown and out of the house. So there I was, eight years old, with no one to sit with in the forced church services every week. And there she was, a middle aged woman whose children were either grown or in boarding school (she and her husband are wealthy). I spent years sitting through church services with her while her husband and my dad sang in the choir. She was my “special friend”, who even took me for summer outings every year.

Anyway in 2013, this lady, then about 80 years old, had known that my ex friend and I had been “besties” as kids. My ex friend was also the maid of honor at my wedding, which church buddy had also attended. So she probably figured I’d known that ex friend had a baby, and had been attending my former church. She’d had her baby baptized there, and apparently forgot that I was raised in that church and still knew people there.

Church friend wrote to me about the blessed event, probably expecting me to already know about it; but it really was news to me. The revelation that my former friend had kept the news of her pregnancy from me put me in a delicate position, since it didn’t seem appropriate to explain to this elderly lady that apparently my “bestie” and I not only weren’t “best friends” anymore, we weren’t even mere acquaintances. And it was she who had made it abundantly clear that we were no longer “friends” with this bombshell news about my ex friend’s baby’s baptism at the church I had attended as a child.

I think what I ended up doing was telling church friend that I hadn’t known about the baby, since ex friend and I were no longer friends. I didn’t elaborate as to why. I later heard that the church lady asked my mom what happened and my mom couldn’t tell her. When she sent more news to me about ex friend, I reiterated to her that the friendship was over, and I think she finally got the message. It was very awkward, though.

After I got that first email about my ex friend’s shady business, I went looking on her Facebook profile. We were still “friends”, but I had noticed some time earlier that I couldn’t tag her in a photo a mutual friend had shared. I didn’t think much of it at the time, because frankly, we hadn’t been chatting much anyway and I had unfollowed her so her posts didn’t show up in my feed. But after I got the news about the baby, I realized that all of her Facebook posts were public and none were about her baby. It was then that I realized she’d put me on her restricted list, which allowed her to see my page, but restricted what I could see on hers to her infrequent public posts.

She did this, even though we’d known each other since we were eight years old and I have actually met members of her family who are long dead– people like her father, her grandparents, and her great grandmother– most of whom have been gone for decades. I doubt anyone else she knows has ever met these people personally unless they are family members. I would have had a lot more respect for her if she’d just unfriended me, or even blocked me. But no… I was “restricted”, so she could keep tabs on what I was doing and still count me as a “friend”.

Naturally, I was hurt, because there was a time when I genuinely thought we were “best friends”. In fact, she was the one who had first declared us “best friends”, way back in the early 1980s. Honestly, even though we were not as close as we once were years ago, if I had known she was expecting a baby, I would have wished her well. But I have feeling that she didn’t want me to know about her baby because she was afraid I’d somehow steal her thunder. I got married before she did and remember that she’d made a lot of mean-spirited, passive aggressive digs toward Bill and me. I think it upset her that I beat her to the altar. I think she was afraid that if I knew she was pregnant, I’d go out and get pregnant too, or something. She is a competitive person who tends to get jealous and insecure about some things.

I went and talked to Bill and it, and he said, “Well… you know, at our wedding rehearsal, she did and said some inappropriate things.”

Then he proceeded to tell me about how she’d basically hit on him while standing in for me at the rehearsal. She looked at him seductively as she reassured him and told him to relax and pretend she was me. After the rehearsal of the vows was finished, she batted her eyes at him and whispered, “Don’t forget your vows, Bill.”

Bill, being a good guy and knowing that she was my long term “best friend”, figured he’d misinterpreted her behavior. He never mentioned it to me. If he had, I think I would have asked her to leave. Because that behavior on the day before my wedding was extremely disrespectful. I know that if I had done that at her wedding, she would have been furious and there would have been ballistic outrage.

After hearing about her shitty behavior at our rehearsal ten years after our wedding and then discovering that she had me “restricted” on Facebook, so she could see my posts, but I couldn’t see hers, I realized that she was most definitely NOT a friend. I was just something to be used… for narcissistic supply, moral support, adoration, or whatever. It was all on her terms. So, although I really wanted to tell her off, I decided the best thing to do was block her on social media and say nothing. And that’s what I did.

About a year later, I got an unexpected message from her ex boyfriend from our high school years, a guy I hadn’t talked to in well over twenty years. He had a book that I had lent my ex friend, back when we were teenagers (also when they dated, although I think they both carry a torch for each other). He wanted to know how to return it to me. It had been well over twenty years and I had already replaced the book, so I told him to keep it.

I’m sure she put him up to messaging me. There’s no reason he would have otherwise. We weren’t close when we used to know each other. I think she wondered if I’d dish to him. I kept it polite and non-committal because I expected he’d return and report to her. This is what’s known as “Hoovering”. Just like the vacuum cleaner, it’s an attempt to suck someone back into a relationship. Narcissistic people never really let anyone go completely. One way to tell that someone you had dealings with is narcissistic is that they “Hoover”. I suspect that her ex boyfriend was unwittingly serving as a “flying monkey”… doing dirty work on her behalf.

A lot of narcissists will try to Hoover.

Several more years passed. Then, in February of this year, I got an unexpected private message from my former friend’s brother. Again– while we were Facebook friends at one time, I hadn’t spoken to him in years and he wasn’t active on Facebook, so I unfriended him. Out of the blue, I got this message, supposedly from him, with an update on ex friend’s life, including news about the daughter she never told me about. I was tempted to respond to that effect– that I hadn’t even known she’d been pregnant, so I figure we aren’t friends anymore. But I’ve learned that the best thing to do is not respond. No contact is essential.

Moreover, I had a feeling that it might have actually been her sending the message. Maybe she got access to his account and sent me the message because I didn’t have him blocked (I did have her blocked at that time). Either way, I was certain that even if it was a message from her brother– not a bad guy, by the way– she put him up to it. And it had NOTHING to do with her wanting to be friends with me. I was just a possession to her. She was just looking for supply. It didn’t need to come from me. It could have come from anyone. She hasn’t changed. Narcissists never do.

I wrote the below passage in a blog post I wrote back in 2013. I sure called it, didn’t I?

Something tells me she will eventually pop up on Facebook again or send me an email to tell me about her baby or whatever other news she feels compelled to share.  Or she’ll want to take advantage of my super long memory or knowledge and she’ll contact me for that reason.  I’ve watched her do it to other people over and over again.” 

But… I would be lying if I said I didn’t regret the loss of the “friendship”, or at least the illusion of the friendship. The truth is, we had many good times together. We spent many days and nights together playing. We went on trips together– shared books, movies, music, and many Saturday mornings playing with our Barbies together. And, at least until we got to high school, we genuinely liked each other, and it felt like a real friendship, even if people close to me didn’t like her and repeatedly warned me about her self-centered behavior.

But then it started to become clear that she just wanted me around to make herself feel better. There was no reciprocity in our relationship. I was doing most of the work to keep the relationship going, and many times, after talking to her or messaging with her, I was left feeling really angry and upset. She has a way of making cutting remarks that are intended to make the other person feel small. She never misses the opportunity. I also noticed that she wasn’t interested in my successes or triumphs. She only liked to see my failures, vulnerabilities, and heartbreaks. And not because she wanted to offer support.

In fact, I noticed that a lot of her friends were people I wouldn’t necessarily put as her “equals”. Most of them were people who had significant problems of some sort– obvious ones. I suspect it made her feel better to have people around who were worse off than she perceived herself. I came to that conclusion because I noticed that she became distant whenever I had successes. She didn’t want to hear about my triumphs, like a real friend would. She only wanted to hear about the bad stuff or, if she was in the mood, to have someone to gossip with and/or badmouth others to. I noticed she generally had shitty things to say about people we grew up with… she accused one woman who was in a happy marriage of being a “Stepford Wife”. She accused another woman who looked youthful for our age as having had cosmetic surgery. She was gleeful as she told me about another “friend” who had gained a lot of weight and seemed to be gaining more. It was just toxic and mean, especially since she claimed to be friends with some of them. I realized that she was probably saying the same nasty shit to people about me, too.

This could be her theme song. This was the cast we saw when we saw Avenue Q in England in 2016. They cleaned up the language in this version.

Personally, I like it when my friends succeed. I especially like it when Bill succeeds. I don’t feel jealous or slighted when he does well at work, nor am I jealous of my friends who are doing well. I like to be around people who are successful. I try to learn from them.

Yes, I have regrets. I’m sorry I wasted so many years with someone who didn’t value me or my friendship. I’m sorry that I wasted time with someone who kept me from making friends with people who were real friends. I’m sorry that I willingly subjected myself to years of her toxic crap. I’m sorry that she was my maid of honor and that she’s in my wedding pictures. I’m sorry that I put Bill in the position of having to wonder how to handle her inappropriate behavior at our wedding rehearsal. I regret that so many childhood memories involve my times with her, instead of times with other people who might be real friends with me today. I regret that her treatment made me a worse friend to other people. I really regret ever comparing myself to her and thinking that I wasn’t as “good” as she was, simply because of the things she said and did to try to make me feel that way. And I’m sorry that my experiences with her make it hard for me to trust people and make new friends.

But I don’t regret learning the truth about her before it was too late. I have the rest of my life to make real friends, and I’d rather be alone than be “friends” with fake people, anyway. Life is short, and it’s often not a lot of fun. However, it’s always better when it’s not spent wasting time with people who just want to bring you down and watch the world burn. I may regret decisions from the past, but I still have a great future to look forward to… if I survive this pandemic, anyway.

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narcissists

Whatever…

Sometime in the early 1990s, it became popular to answer people with a single word– “Whatever”. I remember being in college and people were suddenly saying, “whatever” in a sarcastic tone of voice when someone said or did something stupid or rude. This morning, I’m reminded of that as I just finished watching Dr. Les Carter’s latest video about the one word all narcissists hate. Can you guess what it is?

Dr. Carter is right. Narcissists hate to be dismissed by the word “whatever.” Frankly, it’s not a word I use very often, except to people who really deserve it. I used it the other day, when someone was giving me grief over sharing a Rolling Stone article about Donald Trump. She basically said that Rolling Stone isn’t a valid source of information about the world. I responded that it’s a legitimate magazine with real journalists. When the teasing continued, I wrote “Whatever.” Fortunately, this friend isn’t a narcissist. However, there have been times when I really upset someone because I said “whatever” to them.

I was listening to Dr. Carter talk about how narcissists behave– they want you to dance to their tune and jump when they say “jump”– and if you don’t, there’s an implied threat that there will be hell to pay. But if you respond to them like a grey rock, in a bland, detached, unaffected way, it drives them crazy. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, since narcissistic people are infuriating.

Back in October 2013, I wrote on my old blog about the word “whatever” and its significance. Because it was a pretty good post, and includes an anecdote from my past about the use of “whatever”, I’m going to share it again now.

One of my Facebook friends asked what the word “whatever” means in her friends’ hometowns.  My friend is presently in Oregon, visiting her husband who is there on business.  Her husband said “whatever” to someone out there and they were very offended.  My friend and her husband are from the Philadelphia area and in Philly, saying “whatever” is not that rude.  I mean, yeah it’s kind of snarky and dismissive, but it’s not the kind of thing that would bring that much offense to most normal people. 

The responses to my friend’s query were interesting.  Most of her friends said it was a little disrespectful, but not “fuck off and die” territory.  A couple of folks commented that it would depend on the tone and the context.  One mother said she would wash her kid’s mouth out with soap if she ever heard her say it.  Apparently, out on the left coast, “whatever” is highly offensive and actually is akin to saying “fuck off and die”.  Someone can correct me if my friend’s impression is wrong.

Anyway, I was suddenly reminded of an incident that occurred back in 1998 or 99… can’t remember exactly when.  I was working as a waitress at a nice restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia.  It was dinner time and someone in my section had ordered a cheeseburger, an item on the dinner cafe menu, while everyone else was having food off the regular dinner menu.  The crappy computer at the restaurant had a course numbering system that usually worked fine.  However, for some reason, burgers were not automatically designated second or main courses.  You had to enter it manually.

In my haste to take the order, I forgot to designate the burger as a main course; so I had to go back and talk to the chef.  I went to the kitchen and explained that I had forgotten to course sequence the cheeseburger and that I wanted to note that it was intended to be a main course.  The chef was very rude about it and made some nasty or sarcastic comment to me.  I no longer remember what he said, but it was offensive.  And I said in response, “whatever”.  Actually, given my emotional state in those days, he’s lucky all I said was “whatever”.  At that time, I was trying to find the right antidepressant and was even edgier than usual.

Well… the chef got pissed, and complained to the manager that I had been “rude” and disrespectful to him.  So she cornered me and bitched me out, which got me really upset.  I was pretty non-functional for about an hour.  I’m kind of surprised I never got fired from that job, actually…  though I was generally a hard and dependable worker.  Once I got my meds straightened out, I was a lot more even tempered.  For some reason, a couple of the managers actually seemed to like me and kept me around.  Also, they were chronically understaffed.  Anyone with a high enough tolerance for abuse and decent work ethic could work there as long as they wanted to.

Later, I told my shrinks about what happened. The psychiatrist, who was a bit of an ass and used to patronize me by calling me “kid” and constantly harassed me about my weight, asked me if I had apologized to the chef. And my response was that the chef should have apologized to me. I had made a simple error and immediately went back to fix it. I was polite when I approached him. He got shitty with me first. It wasn’t even like the error was a big deal. All the chef had to do was make a note of it on the order chit, but instead, he decided to start shit with me when neither of us had time for the drama.

My psychologist, whom I suspect was not really all that impressed with the drug pushing psychiatrist, applauded me for being so assertive and said the chef was acting like a prima donna!  A couple of years later, his daughter worked at the same restaurant.  I’m sure he heard even more horror stories from her.

Restaurant work is hectic and frustrating and, if you work in a nice place, it’s likely you’ll have to deal with egomaniacal chefs who act like assholes…  and that chef who was rude to me was a major asshole who thankfully rarely worked on the line because he had been promoted to “executive chef”.  I vividly remember the few times he did work on the line and he would throw tantrums that, if you were sitting in a dining area close enough to the kitchen, you could easily hear.  He was very unprofessional and would often get weeded because he was out of practice and easily overwhelmed.  And when he messed up, he took it out on the staff, who were forced to address him as “sir”.  No, I’m not still bitter…  😉

I actually hated that job, but I’m very grateful for the experience.  I learned so much there and it did propel me to a better life.  I made several good friends working at that restaurant, too.  Some of them are still friends today.  Indeed, 17 months of misery in fine dining literally changed my life for the better and, I think, made me a much higher quality person.  At the very least, I learned to have respect for people who work in the service industry.  I will never purposely stiff someone who works as a server, unless their behavior is so egregiously rude and unprofessional that they make it obvious they don’t care if I tip them. 

That restaurant experience also gave me a lot of stories… and taught me a bit about fine food and wine. It helped me find a very easy and decently paying job when I moved to South Carolina and needed something that wouldn’t interfere too much with grad school.  I ended up working at a country club where I didn’t have to rely on tips, had flexible hours, and they would let me take home leftovers.  I also learned to try new things and enjoy really good food instead of processed boxed crap or casual dining chains.  I may not be skinny, but at least I get fat on the good stuff.

In 2020, I still have a lot of friends from that restaurant job. Some of them are chefs. Not all chefs are assholes, but restaurant work is a stressful job which can lead to some bad habits like smoking and drinking way too much. The chef who was rude to me had worked his way up to executive status, so he was no longer used to expediting. I always hated it when he had to work, because he would often throw tantrums that involved yelling, screaming, and occasionally throwing things. He’d had to work that night because one of the regular chefs got sick and needed to take the night off. The executive chef was pissed off that he had to work as a lowly expeditor, and he took his angst out on me.

Incidentally, the chef who called in sick is still a friend of mine. He was one of my favorite chefs to work with back in those days, because although he did occasionally throw the odd tantrum, he didn’t smoke or drink and very rarely fucked things up. He was also very funny. At the time, he had a mohawk, and he enjoyed my raunchy sense of humor. I still like him today, although it looks like he’s now a manager, rather than a chef.

I recently read that the restaurant where this happened, which had opened in 1980 and had once employed my sister back in its earliest days, closed for good just a couple of weeks ago. The restaurant that existed during my employment there actually ceased to exist in 2009. The original owners sold it to another local chef. The “new” owner was never able to get the restaurant to the level it was back in its heyday. So now he’s going to start over, and turn that restaurant into an Italian eatery. Williamsburg, Virginia actually has a number of Italian restaurants… but this new place will have a lower price point and be more family friendly. It will also have a retail side. We’ll see how it turns out and, if indeed, it survives the COVID-19 nightmare.

As I posted on my travel blog– which is now more of a German social isolation lifestyle blog– I’m picking up new skills every day.

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book reviews

A review of The Anger Trap by Les Carter

Some weeks ago, I discovered psychotherapist Les Carter, who makes insightful videos about narcissism and narcissists for YouTube. I found his videos so helpful and well done that I decided to read a few of his books. Not long ago, I read and reviewed his book, Enough About You, Let’s Talk About Me. Today, I finished his 2004 book, The Anger Trap.

Dr. Carter operates a private practice in Dallas, Texas, a place where I’d imagine he runs into a lot of big personalities, big cowboy hats, and big egos. He seems to have centered a lot of his work around the victims of narcissists. Anger typically goes hand in hand with narcissism. Narcissists are people who feel compelled to be right at all costs. That need to be in charge is often caused by some kind of psychic wound that occurred in the tenderest years of life. Narcissists are typically immature, irrational, and controlling, and having to deal with them can be maddening. Conversely, victims of narcissists also end up angry, because constantly having to deal with overbearing, unreasonable, manipulative people is infuriating.

I wouldn’t necessarily claim The Anger Trap is about narcissism per se. Instead, it offers an explanation of how inappropriate anger can cause serious life issues that have damaging ripple effects. A person who is not in control of unresolved anger can make mistakes that can cost them relationships, their jobs, and even their lives, since being angry can go hand in hand with suffering from a host of physical problems, developing bad habits, or having an accident. Besides offering an explanation of how damaging unresolved anger can be, Dr. Carter also gives readers pointers on how to handle that anger so that it’s no longer destructive.

I grew up in a dysfunctional household with an alcoholic father who often took his rage out on me, and a neglectful mother who told me she never wanted me and didn’t protect me from my dad’s abuse. By the time I was in my mid 20s, I had full blown major depression and anxiety that required medication and therapy. I feel a lot better today than I used to, although I still have issues dealing with abusive, angry people and have actually become an angry person myself… although I try not to be abusive if I can help it. My husband has definitely heard me rage, not at him, but about people and things that piss me off. It’s probably like a broken record for him… and I’m sure he’d rather I be funny, cheerful, and cute instead of pissed off about things I can’t control.

I’ve gotten to a point at which I’m “saturated”. I can no longer tolerate being abused by other people. Being unwilling to put up with abuse is not necessarily a bad thing, except I don’t handle these situations as assertively as I should. I get so fixated on my rage at being crapped on once again, that I don’t take the opportunity to change the power dynamic by staying in control and dealing with the offender in a direct but respectful manner. There was a time when I was younger that I would respond to verbal rage with verbal rage. I don’t do that anymore. Instead, I become passive aggressive. You will definitely know if I’m angry, but I might not say anything. Instead, it will be written all over my face. I’ve been told I look super mean when I’m enraged, even if I say nothing. While that response does get some people to back off quickly, in the long run, it doesn’t fix the issue that led to the angry confrontation. In fact, it compounds the problem.

Or, I’ll vent in my blog and have intrusive people reading my comments, spreading them to others, or getting into my business by lecturing me on how I “come across” to others. Some readers are real assholes and enjoy causing me more pain by deliberately stirring up shit. So now, when I need to express my anger, I write privately or password protect my posts to ward off the snitches. I’m sure some long time readers might even miss some of my more entertaining rants. It probably makes my blog less interesting to some people. It’s a shame, too, because I have met some good people through blogging and sometimes people “get” it and either offer good insight or realize that they aren’t alone. But I’m no longer willing to tolerate feedback from people who just want to cause trouble, so those rants are no longer for everyone… at least for the time being.

I know that shouting at people, being passive aggressive, and venting aren’t necessarily effective ways to deal with being pissed off. Dr. Carter describes other expressions of anger that aren’t effective. For example, some people get angry and just start yelling, heaping criticism and shame on whomever is their target du jour and assassinating their characters. I’ve seen that a lot here in Germany. It seems to be the going national method for dealing with anything that goes wrong. Personally, I find it a very poor form of communication, because when they lose control, and just dump all of their frustrations at once, the other party stops listening and starts gathering their defenses.

Responding verbally with rage is ultimately ineffective, since when people start yelling, no one is listening anymore. They’re too busy defending themselves. The situation ends with bad will all around and oftentimes, little hope that the relationship can be salvaged. No one wants to be belittled, condescended to, and blamed for everything under the sun. Often, the angry person becomes very fixated on being destructive, rather than fixing the issue that led to their anger and maintaining civility and goodwill. Eventually, that kind of behavior leads to the angry person being left with a lot of enemies and a damaged reputation. Giving in to that surge of rage might feel good at the time, but it can definitely lead to some pretty negative aftereffects.

The Anger Trap offers gentle, supportive, reasonable methods of dealing with rage and handling conflicts in a responsible and assertive way. Dr. Carter presents cases he’s encountered during his years of practice of people who have gotten into trouble because of being excessively angry. He offers insight into how the problems developed and effective strategies on how to deal with that anger so that it doesn’t become destructive and cause serious damage.

I liked what I read in this book. I think Dr. Carter’s advice is excellent. However, it’s up to the reader to take the words to heart and practice new ways of responding to those angry feelings. It takes concerted mindfulness and desire to come up with new and effective ways to respond to anger. So, while I think The Anger Trap is helpful reading, it’s really just the first step in changing a bad habit into something healthier. To benefit from Dr. Carter’s advice, the reader will have to digest the information, believe in it, and practice. It takes time to learn new skills, and dealing with anger constructively is a habit that must be consciously picked up and reinforced. Hopefully, in the long run, it will lead to a healthier, happier, and probably a longer life.

I really enjoy Dr. Carter’s writing and speaking style. He’s got a kindly demeanor that isn’t threatening. He uses humor, good sense, and reason as he presents his points. He is also religious and mentions God at times. The religious aspect of this book may not be helpful to some readers. Personally, I didn’t mind it. I’m not very religious, but I’m not quite an atheist. It doesn’t bother me when Dr. Carter writes that I’m a child of God. If you think religion is a bunch of bullshit, maybe that would be a negative for you.

I watch Dr. Carter’s videos often and find his books helpful. While Carter’s books about narcissism are good for understanding narcissists and their dysfunctional behaviors, the anger book is particularly useful for me. I do have anger issues, and I do need to work on them. My anger issues came about for perfectly justifiable reasons that were not entirely my fault, but hanging onto those issues and poor communication habits don’t work in real life. Other people– except for maybe Bill– don’t understand why I have these problems and won’t necessarily excuse me for them. So, fixing them is in my best interest, as well as for my loved ones. Poor Bill has to deal with my sorry ass all the time… good thing he loves me anyway. I think it’s because he likes my jokes. Also, despite being pissed off a lot of the time, I’m still much less crazy than his ex wife is. I guess I can build on that.

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book reviews, narcissists

A review of Enough About You, Let’s Talk About Me: How to Recognize and Manage the Narcissists in Your Life by Les Carter

A couple of months ago, I discovered Dr. Les Carter on YouTube. Dr. Carter is a psychotherapist who has a private practice in Dallas, Texas, and he makes very insightful videos about how to deal with narcissistic people. I got hooked on his YouTube channel. I like his folksy, down home, friendly demeanor; his southern accent, which reminds me of “home”; and the fact that he really knows of what he speaks. Every time Les Carter closes his videos, he reminds viewers that he has other resources available, including several books. Because I like to reward people for good work, I decided to purchase three of his titles. I just finished reading the first one this morning.

A link to Dr. Carter’s latest video, which premieres later today.

Enough About You, Let’s Talk About Me: How to Recognize and Manage the Narcissists in Your Life was published in May 2009. It’s an excellent guide to learning how to recognize narcissistic behavior in others. In fact, given how prevalent narcissism is in today’s world, I would even say this book could be considered essential reading for anyone who has to deal with difficult people. Narcissists are at the top of the list of the difficult. And, like his videos, Carter writes in a folksy, down home style that is comforting, readable, and kind.

Are you dealing with a narcissist? Ask yourself these questions.

  • Do you live or work with someone who is so self-absorbed that your needs are completely ignored or dismissed?
  • Does this person make you feel as if you can never do anything right?
  • Is this person constantly criticizing you, belittling you, or humiliating you, particularly in front of other people?
  • Does this person exploit you, or attempt to manipulate you into doing things you don’t want to do?
  • Does this person have a “my way or the highway attitude”, leaving you with no voice or choice in decisions affecting you?
  • Would you rather capitulate to this person’s outrageous demands than suffer their wrath?
  • Does this person have a very childish view of the world and approach to problem solving?
  • Does this person throw “tantrums”, yell at you, shame you, or behave in some other dramatic way intended to get you to quickly agree to their demands?

If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, chances are good that you’re dealing with a narcissist or someone with narcissistic tendencies. Unfortunately, it seems like these “damaged” people are everywhere, so there is a real need for people to learn how to handle them without losing their minds. That’s where Les Carter’s life’s work comes into play.

Narcissistic people usually have at least a few of the following characteristics:

  • Grandiose sense of self-importance.
  • Delusions of grandeur.
  • Seeks constant praise and attention.
  • Extreme sense of entitlement.
  • Exploits others without remorse.
  • Demeans, threatens, or bullies other people without a second thought.
  • Expects to be regarded as “special”, even if he or she hasn’t actually achieved anything special.
  • Exaggerates talents and achievements.
  • Has no regard for the dignity or reputation of other people.
  • Judgmental, haughty attitude.
  • Demands unquestioning compliance with requests or orders.
  • Envious of others.
  • Only wants “the best” of anything.

Here is what typically happens when the narcissist doesn’t get his or her way:

  • Becomes impatient or angry when they don’t get “special” treatment.
  • Significant interpersonal problems with others.
  • Thin skinned– feels slighted easily.
  • Reacts with rage or extreme contempt when someone doesn’t do their bidding.
  • Belittles and shows contempt to those whom they deem inferior.
  • Unable to regulate emotions or behaviors.
  • Can’t adapt to change.
  • Has trouble dealing with stress.
  • Becomes depressed when others don’t see them as perfect.
  • Secretly feels shame, humiliation, insecurity, or vulnerability.

Both Bill and I have had to deal with our fair share of narcissists, although Bill has had it worse than I have. My husband’s ex wife is a narcissist. I have suspected it for years. Now that my husband’s long estranged daughter is comparing notes with him, I am positive that Ex is a narcissist. In almost seventeen years of marriage, I have heard many stories about Ex’s outrageous demands and bullying behaviors. I have witnessed Ex’s toxic methods of manipulating otherwise decent people into doing her dirty work. I have seen her ability to trap innocent people into her vision of how life should be. Those who don’t conform will suffer the consequences.

For years, I was very angry with my husband’s ex wife. However, since my husband’s younger daughter has finally seen the light, I find my husband’s ex wife much less infuriating and threatening. Instead, she’s incredibly pathetic to me. I feel sorry for those who still feel they have to do her bidding, although I also empathize with them. Narcissists have a way of making their victims feel like they live in a kind of Twilight Zone. They keep everything chaotic, which makes it hard for their victims to extricate themselves from the narcissist’s traps. But when a victim is finally able to leave the narcissist’s clutches, they will typically feel a lot better. In fact, that tremendous sense of relief that comes after leaving the narcissist is one way to know that you weren’t the real problem in the relationship.

When my husband left his ex wife in 1999, he felt better about himself within hours of getting out of her presence. He used to relish being sent away on work assignments because it was a break from his ex wife’s constant carping and the roller coaster of never knowing which version of his ex wife he was going to find at home. Recently, his daughter confessed that she physically, emotionally, and mentally felt much better when she was away from her mother. Yes, it was physically uncomfortable for both Bill and his daughter when they left, mainly because they both pretty much left with the clothes on their backs. But they were finally free of the toxic crap spewed from the Ex and they eventually flourished.

Lately, I am recovering from dealing with another suspected narcissist who had far too much input into how Bill and I were living our lives. As I think back on the past few years and the absolutely batshit living situation we were in, I am pretty positive that we were dealing with a narcissistic person, or at the very least, someone with a high conflict personality. Bill has had to work with a lot of narcissists, too. The world is rife with people who have this personality type– immature people who are hooked on power trips and must have their way. They are not able to compromise, nor will they capitulate in a situation, unless they are forced by someone more powerful.

How do people fall into the narcissist’s trap?

Narcissists can be superficially charming and friendly, and they often seem dynamic and fascinating to the unaware. They also seem to have a super-sensitive ability to find empathetic people who will feel sorry for them, give them a break, and tolerate their abusive behavior. My husband is a very empathetic person. He bases a lot of his self-esteem on being liked and dislikes confrontations. He’s very kind, and tries hard to see only the good in people.

I, on the other hand, am not nearly as trusting as my husband is. I don’t attract narcissists as often as he does, but because he’s my husband, I am frequently exposed to them. And sometimes, people end up having to deal with them because the narcissist is a boss, a landlord, a co-worker, or a family member. These are people who aren’t necessarily in your life because you specifically invited them, as you would a significant other– although when it comes down to it, everyone in your life is there, more or less, because you “invited them” somehow. However, getting narcissistic people out of your life may come with a steep price, particularly if they are family members, which is why so many people suffer in silence.

What makes Les Carter’s book so helpful?

Les Carter has an empathetic way of addressing his readers, most of whom are people who have lost sight of their own intrinsic worth. When you’re dealing with a narcissist, you may find yourself in a place where you’re constantly questioning your own sense of reality. The narcissist will continually tell you you’re wrong, or you’ve misinterpreted, or you can’t do anything right. Dr. Carter reminds readers that they still have the ability to make choices for their own lives. There is no need to allow the narcissist to do the thinking or deciding for them. The narcissist is deeply flawed and acting like a kind of vampire. It’s the victim’s job to stop the process of being sucked dry by the narcissist’s relentless drive for supply. Narcissists want to be admired, respected, and adored. That “supply” is what fills up the empty hole where their souls should be, but they can never get enough. It’s like they have a bottomless pit that is never satiated by positive regard. They are never secure, so they have to make their victims insecure.

Les Carter would have been an amazing resource for Bill when he was just leaving his ex wife. I would definitely recommend his books and his videos to people who are still caught in the trap. He teaches readers how to recognize the narcissist’s bullshit for what it is. He reminds readers that they have worth and they aren’t crazy. He offers suggestions on how to replace anger and bitterness with forgiveness and resolve to move beyond the pain. He helps readers develop their own innate sense of security so that they are no longer so attractive to narcissistic people. Carter reminds readers that they can’t control how a narcissist behaves or change who they are. Instead, readers must change how they react to a narcissist and learn not to internalize their harmful messages of shame and guilt.

As Bill and I handle the latest narcissistic intrusion in our lives, we take comfort in knowing that we are not the crazy ones. Fortunately, in this case, it’s pretty obvious that the other party is nuts. We have it in black and white, and when the right people see the evidence, I am pretty certain we will prevail.

I can’t lie. I am still very angry about spending years of my life dealing with this person’s abusive behavior, especially since we were PAYING for the “privilege”. The better part of me realizes that the situation was not all bad. There were some good times, and someday I will look back on the whole experience with more positive feelings than negative ones. I am pretty sure the narcissist we most recently dealt with is convinced that we are awful, filthy, irresponsible people. It’s hard not to take that kind of opinion to heart, even though we know it’s not based in reality. But the rational side of me realizes that the vast majority people in the world would not see us as awful people at all… especially Bill.

There’s a lot to love about both of us, and we don’t deserve the abuse or constant shaming heaped on us by this person. We don’t have to allow those faulty perceptions to color the rest of our lives or opinions about ourselves, just because that person can’t see or appreciate us for the good people we are. Someday, we will no longer see the person as a threat who inspires anger. Instead, we will view them as the truly pathetic person they are.

I look forward to reading more of Les Carter’s work. I would recommend Enough About You, Let’s Talk About Me: How to Recognize and Manage the Narcissists in Your Life. I think it’s an excellent read for anyone who has to deal with narcissistic people, particularly if they are in a situation in which it would be very difficult to completely kick them out of their lives. The best way to deal with a narcissist is to go no contact, but that can be very difficult to do if the narcissist is a parent or a child or some other person who will always be a fixture around other loved ones. Dr. Carter will help you maintain your sanity and sense of reality around these toxic people. The only caveat I can think of is that it helps to believe in God, or another higher power. Dr. Carter does write about “God given” worth. But that’s a minor quibble that didn’t affect me, personally.

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