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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narcissists

Beware of the “quick friend” and missing “the good old days”…

This morning, I watched yet another video by Dr. Les Carter. In it, he shares the fable of “The Alligator and the Rabbit”. I’m sure you’ve heard of or read this story yourself in any number of incarnations, like the similar fable, “The Frog and the Scorpion”. The version Dr. Carter shares is the tale of a foolish rabbit who trusted an alligator to go against its nature. The alligator agreed to take the rabbit across a rushing river on his back. Once they got to the other side of the river, the alligator ate the rabbit. The alligator then tells a bystanding turtle that he can’t help his nature. Alligators eat rabbits; therefore, the rabbit never should have trusted him. You can watch the video below.

We’ve all been in situations like this one…

Although I’ve had a few run ins with narcissistic people myself, by and large, they don’t tend to like me very much. I think it’s because I am not particularly eager to be liked. I mean, there was a time when I was more eager to be liked than I am now. When I was a child, it even seemed essential, and given that children are dependent on others, it probably was. But I’ve never had a “people pleasing” personality. I’d rather please myself. Maybe that makes me selfish, but it also keeps me out of the traps set by so-called “quick friends”.

You know what a “quick friend” is, right? A quick friend is someone who “sweeps you off your feet”. This person comes on strong with positive regard, flattery, and attention. I mentioned “love bombing” recently. Well, a “quick friend” is quick to love bomb and sweep other people up into their spheres. Once you’ve been dazzled by their seductive bullshit, you soon see another side of this person who seems too good to be true. Then, you try to focus on getting out of the situation, but the “quick friend” continues to blind you with more confusing love bombing mixed with something that seems more like disrespect and hatred.

You might see this phenomenon in a lot of different situations. If you’re thinking of joining an organization, for instance, like a very restrictive church or, especially, a cult, you might encounter love bombing. When Bill and his ex wife joined the Mormon church, they were “love bombed” by active members. They had many invitations to dinner and people were extremely friendly and nice. All of it dissipated once they’d all been baptized. Those people now had to turn their attentions to the next investigators/prospective members.

I experienced attempted love bombing back in 1994, when I attended a session for a multi-level marketing scam. People already in the organization paid a lot of attention to me and tried to flatter me into signing up, even though applying for the job involved a $20 “application fee” and I would have to “rent” a desk in the office to the tune of $500 a month. I look at those terms now and realize how preposterous they were, but when it was actually happening, I felt pressured to be nice and give in to the flattery. Especially since some of the flatterers were attractive men who acted like they liked me. Fortunately, while I do have low self-esteem at times, I also have a healthy measure of common sense.

You might experience love bombing in the form of a boyfriend or girlfriend who comes on very strong, overwhelming you with what appears to be genuine love and affection. But then you realize that what seemed like love was actually nothing but empty flattery designed to appeal to your ego and sweep you into an abusive trap where your lifeblood and self-respect gets sucked away. It can be very difficult to get out of these kinds of situations, particularly because the abusers will usually try to “Hoover” their victims back into the relationship. You can read more about the “Hoover” concept, as it pertains to emotional abuse, here.

This morning, I received a message from someone I once thought of as a friend. I wouldn’t necessarily say we’re on bad terms now. We no longer live in the same community, so we’ve stopped engaging very much. But while I once thought of her as someone I liked, after awhile, I started noticing that what had seemed to be genuine friendship had turned into something that seemed less genuine to me. I started to think perhaps this person was a bit untrustworthy, so I withdrew. I didn’t get the sense that she missed me, either.

Anyway, about two years ago, I was in a Facebook group with this person. Things got very toxic because of a charismatic male member in our group who had managed to impress everyone with his creatively crafted verbal abuse. He was the type of person who would stoop to very low levels to humiliate other people. A lot of people thought he was hilarious. When I first encountered him, I also thought he was clever and funny. It was all fine and good for those who thought he was funny, and a lot of people did. But if you found yourself on the receiving end of his abuse– the butt of his jokes– it was not funny at all. He would not hesitate to go way below the belt in order to appear to “win”.

Once I saw his uglier side, I mostly tried not to engage this man. In fact, for a long time, I had him blocked. I unblocked him when one of the group leaders suggested that my impressions of him were false. She convinced me to give him another chance. It’s too bad I listened to her, because my instincts about him turned out to be dead on.

One day, this verbally abusive guy turned his attentions to me. Rather than stay and try to fight with him, I opted to leave the group. I got a lot of shit from people for doing so, and I’m sure I was the butt of a lot of jokes for awhile. I could hardly blame them for making fun of me, since I had engaged in that behavior myself. Sure, it hurt, but I probably deserved it on some level. I resolved to do better in the future.

I eventually got over this big drama and moved on, even though it pained me to know that people I thought could be real friends, really weren’t real friends. Still, I wasn’t surprised at this outcome. I got to thinking that eventually, the people who thought Mr. Verbal Abuse was so funny would someday realize what he really is when he turned on them, too. I don’t think he picked on me because I was “special”. I think he eventually treats everyone– particularly women and men who defend women– in this way. Perhaps they’ve finally had their turn.

So this morning, my friend said that some people in the old group would love to have me come back. They felt nostalgic for the old days, and realized that, even though they’d allegedly thought of me as a “snowflake” when I opted out of the group, I wasn’t all that bad. My old friend wrote that the group was a lot smaller than it once was, but still quite active. And they supposedly miss me.

I have to admit that for a fleeting moment, I was flattered that I had been missed. My initial instinct was to let bygones be bygones. But then I remembered that I had actually left that group on two occasions, mainly due to ugliness that went too far and got way too personal. I realized that it’s been nice not being involved in the drama that erupted within that group. And, while there are people in it who are funny and genuinely likable, I don’t need any more toxic crap in my life now. I’ve got my hands full dealing with other, major, residual toxic crap that resulted from our four years of living in the Stuttgart area.

So I told my friend “thanks, but no thanks”, and offered my regards to those who “miss” me. I mostly feel good about that decision, even though I, too, miss the good times we had. We especially had fun barbecues, but since most of us have left Stuttgart, even the barbecues are in the past now.

In some ways, this situation seems a little like what Bill went through when he and his ex wife split. She very dramatically demanded a divorce. When he agreed to it, she saved face by going to the notary public she had arranged. But then she later had second thoughts. She tried to “Hoover” him back into the relationship.

Bill said that after their split, Ex would call him and sigh on the phone, whining about the “good old days”. She then tried to entice him back into her “parlor”, reminding him of the children she was holding hostage. Bill was tempted, because he really missed his kids and his paycheck… but then he realized that she’d drawn a line and he’d crossed it. One day, she’d draw another line and he would cross it again. They’d be right back where they started, but probably worse off. He also realized that being away from her made him feel much better, the same way anyone feels better after getting away from something toxic.

After awhile, once the FOG (fear, obligation, and guilt) fades, you start to realize you’re much better off without the seductive narcissist or any groups that employ abusive, narcissistic techniques to keep people entrenched. Moreover, once people show you who they are and what they are capable of, it’s best to pay attention and learn from it. Leopards don’t change their spots. Alligators don’t suddenly turn into peace loving vegans. Scorpions don’t give up their stingers for friendship with frogs. And those who don’t learn from mistakes made in the past are doomed to repeat them.

And by the way… the longer I live and the older I get, the less offended by those who think I’m a “bitch”. The truth is, I kinda am a bitch. But I’d rather be bitchy than abused.

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Ex, psychology, YouTube

Got narcissists in your life? Listen up!

Okay… now that it’s Friday, it’s time to get serious. Today’s topic is about narcissists.

If you’ve been following my blogs for awhile, you may know that narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder are pet topics of mine. Having looked around on social media, particularly Facebook and YouTube, I see that it’s an issue that affects a lot of people. Yesterday, I stumbled across some videos posted by Dr. Les Carter, a psychotherapist who practices in the Dallas area and has written several books about narcissists and narcissism. I want to write about Dr. Carter’s videos today, because I watched several of them yesterday and they really resonated. I shared a couple of them on Facebook, and they were re-shared by several of my friends. Obviously, I am not the only one who was positively affected by Dr. Carter’s wisdom.

For years, the main narcissist in my life was my husband’s ex wife. She’s what you’d call extremely “difficult”. She makes unreasonable demands, belittles people, tramples all over other people’s rights, extorts money from people, and does her best to drive wedges between others, particularly family members. When she was married to Bill, she worked hard to isolate him from anyone who might influence him. She tried to blackmail him into not speaking about her abuse and continue to tolerate it. It was “her way or the highway”, particularly when it came to their two daughters and her eldest son from her first marriage. Because Bill is an empathetic person, and he recognized his ex wife as “damaged” due to her abusive upbringing, he put up with many years of abuse from her. Even when I met him, almost a whole year after their split was final, he was taking the blame for all of what went wrong in their marriage and subsequent split. He was afraid of her, and constantly tried to appease her. In the end, all that did was lower her respect for him even more.

Ex’s insistence on pushing her warped perspectives on Bill even caused him to think other people would only see him in the way she seemed to see him. He thought I would “hate” him because of what happened in his first marriage. It took him a long time to work up the courage to tell me his story, and an even longer time to realize that he was the victim of a very oily narcissist who never cared about anything more than using him. I’m sure that realizing he was used was just as hurtful as the actual abuse was. It wasn’t even “personal”, because she clearly saw him as a mere tool for getting what she wanted. Any willing, warm, male body could have fit that role (since she also wanted children), and as we can see by the number of marriages she’s had (3), several warm bodies have done just that.

Narcissists have a way of scaring their victims into thinking that everyone will agree with the narcissist and not see the situation for what it is. That fear isn’t totally unfounded. Narcissists tend to be very slippery and convincing. They are usually superficially charming people, skilled at presenting themselves in the best light, and shifting blame to other people. For those who don’t spend a lot of time with them, it becomes harder to see that narcissists never take any responsibility for their part in a problem. They don’t apologize with sincerity or make any attempt at seeing the big picture. Any issue that comes up is always entirely someone else’s fault; they are victims who refuse to take responsibility for anything that goes wrong. If you know them casually, what they say can seem right. But spend some quality time with a narcissist, and you’ll soon find yourself made the scapegoat… and someone else, typically, will be the “golden” person the narcissist admires. That golden person will be their champion, adding to the false narrative that the narcissist is a victim and the victim is the oppressor.

Narcissists are adept at “crazy making”. They do whatever they can to muddy the issues to the point at which you feel guilty, confused, and defeated whenever you try to stand up for your rights. It’s easy to just give up, or give in, when it comes to dealing with these people. They lack the ability to compromise, and have no desire to expand their perspectives or behave in an empathetic manner. Everything is entirely about them, and them alone.

My years with Bill have led me to study this subject intently. I’ve watched a lot of videos, read a lot of books, discussed it with a lot of people, and thought heavily on the issue. There’s a lot of good information out there, but I was especially impressed by Les Carter’s comments in his engaging videos about narcissists and narcissistic abuse. Below is the first video I discovered by Les Carter.

This video, which was uploaded in May, really made me sit up and take notice.

I shared the above video mainly for my friend, who is dealing with the aftermath of her marriage to a narcissistic man. However, I noticed several other friends watched the video and shared it. I noticed the reactions from my friends’ friends were as profound as mine was. Dr. Carter really gets it, and he has a way of engaging his viewers and making them realize that they’re caught up in a cycle of craziness that isn’t their doing. That’s a pretty huge thing, and that’s what makes his videos so helpful. I like that he seems very calm, friendly, and understanding. It’s like a balm to someone who has had to deal with a narcissist, who typically reacts in extreme ways that lead to stress.

I used to liken dealing with Bill’s ex wife as like being trapped in a can of soda that’s been shaken violently. There’s so much reactivity and bubbling going on that it’s hard to know which way is up. And then if some action is taken, particularly if it displeases the narcissists, there’s a messy explosion, just like there would be if you shook up a can of Coca Cola and popped the top.

A more recent video… this one is about how narcissists are “enslaved” by their dysfunction and want to share it with you and yours…

Dr. Carter makes it plain that narcissists are pathetic. They are bound by their stubbornness, their need to be right, maintaining the perfect image, and always having the last word. They can’t compromise. They aren’t free to accept other people for who they are. They can’t be vulnerable, admit when they’re wrong, ask for help, or show kindness without expecting something in return. They are enslaved by the compulsion to be rigid in their lives and to control other people. Because they expend all of that energy on maintaining control, they don’t have the time or the energy to simply relax and enjoy life.

I have been as angered and frustrated by control freaks as anyone. I freely admit to being pissed off at them. But Dr. Carter correctly points out that if I should feel anything toward narcissists, it’s pity. They can’t simply relax, be brave, and be authentic. They have a rigid vision of how things must be and they can’t deviate from it. It’s a horrible way to live, for them, and for anyone who is hopelessly stuck in their trap and isn’t on to their behaviors.

What I like about Dr. Carter’s videos is that he reminds everyone that they are in control of their own lives. Just like Dorothy was always in control in The Wizard of Oz, and always had the ability to “go home”, so do adult victims of narcissists. You are free to make another choice. You don’t have to do the narcissist’s bidding. It may lead to a dramatic scene if you make a choice other than what the narcissist wants, but ultimately you can say “no”. It just takes some courage and foresight. Despite what they think, narcissists are not really “the boss” of you. What it comes down to is learning how to react appropriately and, eventually, plan for an exit from the relationship.

Anyway… those are my thoughts for today. If you are struggling with a narcissist, I highly recommend checking out Dr. Carter’s YouTube channel or his official Web site. I am currently up to my ass in books to read, but I will probably add a couple of his to the list. He’s really that good.

One more for good measure!
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