How Enablers And Flying Monkeys Fuel Narcissistic Abuse

Narcissists do not work alone. They must have enablers and flying monkeys to help them carry out their elaborate abuse campaigns. This is extremely frustrating to those suffering the abuse. It seems no one is on the side of the abused.
Who are these recruits, what’s in it for them, and why are they so loyal to narcissists? Why don’t they believe the truth when they hear it, and why can’t they see through the lies and manipulations?
Randi Fine, narcissistic abuse expert, author of Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing and Recovery, and show host of A Fine Time for Healing discusses this topic.

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Invisible Trauma of Childhood Abuse

The Wound of Being ‘Too Sensitive.”

Is it Because of My Childhood?

Article Written by Imi, Copied from Eggshell Therapy and Coaching Website

In my work with emotionally intense, sensitive and gifted individuals, I am cautious of the confines of categories and diagnoses. Far too often, the most creative, forward and independent thinking people are being misunderstood, mislabelled and misdiagnosed. However, it is also true that because of their innately unique ways of perceiving the world, they are acutely aware of and have more intense internal responses towards existing problems in their early lives, which may exacerbate the impact of any developmental deficits and trauma.

A wide array of theories have been proposed to give explanations for heightened sensitivities and its associated traits, but none of these should be regarded as the one ‘truth’. With this caveat in mind, it may be useful for us to acknowledge some of the research and literature on the link between heightened sensitivities and traumatic childhood experiences.

The Invisible Trauma

In the past, psychologists have typically focused more on the impact of ‘shock trauma’ from extreme events such as accidents, wars and natural disasters. However, there is a second type of trauma that is very real and pervasive, yet not captured by the traditional diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Developmental trauma, or Complex PTSD, results from a series of repeated, often ‘invisible’ childhood experiences of maltreatment, abuse, neglect, and situations in which the child has little or no control or any perceived hope to escape. Growing up in an environment full of unpredictability, danger, parental inconsistencies or emotional abandonment, these individuals are left with ’hidden traumas’ that disrupts not only their psychological but also neurological and emotional development.

It is easy tor recognise when a child is explicitly, physically or sexually abused, but the impact of having inadequate or deficient parents can be elusive and escape our collective awareness. Sometimes the trauma could even be about what your caregivers did not do (omission) rather than what they did (commission).

Unfortunately, unlike shock trauma or physical abuse, the psychological injuries caused by emotional abandonment are often invisible and unacknowledged. This may leave these children feeling confused; assuming that their traumatic experience is not justified, and many turn to blaming and shaming themselves. Even as adults, they may suppress or deny these painful memories as they dismissively compare their trauma to those who were more ‘noticeably’ abused.

Growing research has found that a wide array of psychological difficulties finds their roots in these chronic childhood relational and attachment injuries. Children who experience this type of trauma show a disrupted ability to regulate their emotions, behaviours and attention, and these symptoms often extend into adulthood, leading to clinical presentations including Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, Borderline Personality Disorder and even chronic physical pains (APA, 2007).

The Unseen Child

Either due to physical or mental sickness, extreme work demand, parents who are preoccupied with their own needs may leave their children emotionally unattended, to the point where they feel invisible.

These children are deprived of ‘mirroring’- an essential process for a child’s growth and development of self identity.  All children has a primary need to be regarded as the person they really are, including all that they say, feel and do. Mirroring is when their parents validate their needs and feelings, and this process is necessary for a child to develop a sense of self worth, a sense that they deserve to exist and that their existence is valuable; the lack of it during the childhood would lead to a sense of hollowness in adulthood.

Our innate need for mirroring is vividly demonstrated in the Still Face Experiment, conducted in 1975 by Edward Tronick (here is a short but provocative video clip).In this experiment, the mother was asked to keep a blank face and not respond to her child’s attempts to engage with her.  When the baby received no emotional responses, he “rapidly sobered and grew wary”, he made repeated attempts to get the interactions with his mother, and when these attempts fail, he withdrew and turned away with a hopeless facial expression. These series of events happened so fast that they were almost invisible.

Since the original study, the Still Face Experiment has been thoroughly tested and replicated, and the impact of parental unresponsiveness is proven to be profound and far-reaching. Babies are not born with the ability to manage their own emotions and need to learn such skill by having another person as a mirror. Without it, these children are left with a sense of chaos, shame, dread, powerlessness and despair.

In some dysfunctional families, the caregivers may disdain their children for needing too much attention, and react contemptuously to their children’s call for connection and attachment. The dismissal of the child’s needs, alongside the dearth of loving interest and engagement, can be more traumatising than physical abuse.

Emotional neglect or abandonment is traumatising for any child, but it’s effects is especially crippling for sensitive children. From a young age, the emotionally intense child has a strong need for deep and authentic connection. Due to having a more sensitive nervous system and heightened perceptive abilities, they are highly aware of their surroundings and would not easily bypass the unconscious messages of contempt or dismissal coming from their caregivers.

While all children must learn to emotionally self- regulate, this skill is critically important for the naturally empathic child. These children may have a more active mirror neutron system, and from birth, they are more susceptible to emotional contagion— the tendency to absorb, ‘catch’, or be influenced by other people’s feelings (see Emotional Contagion). Without adequate mirroring, they do not have ability to ground themselves. This means they can get easily overwhelmed by unregulated emotion contagion, and be further traumatised in the relational and interpersonal world. Feeling bombarded and powerless in school and at home, these children may then learn to shut down, numb themselves, or even dissociate from reality.

Difficulties in regulating emotions- Uncontrollable mood swings, persistent sadness and depression, explosive or inhibited anger, being easily triggered by external events and not able to manage the emotions that surge up.

Chronic Shame – A persistent sense defectiveness— the feeling that one is disgusting, ugly, stupid, or basically flawed. This may involve thoughts such as ‘nothing I do is good enough’, ‘there is something fundamentally wrong with me’, ‘I am bad and toxic’. Such extreme self- hatred may lead to suicidal thoughts and self-harming behaviours.

Disconnection and Isolation- Because people who experience early trauma had not felt welcomed into the world, connection (with both themselves and others) becomes a core struggle. They may feel a sense of isolation, of being completely different from other human beings. They simultaneously have an intense need for and an extreme fear of contact.

Feeling ungrounded and powerless- Many People who suffer from developmental trauma constantly feel ungrounded and un-centered in their bodies. They may feel like frightened children living in adult bodies. Many get overwhelmed easily; when things happen, they easily feel close to breaking down.

Hopelessness and Despair – Chronically traumatised individuals feel hopeless about finding anyone who can understand them. Many lose a sense of meaning in life, struggle to sustain faith, and live with a lingering sense of despondency.

Nameless Dread/ Hyper-Vigilance- By being chronically traumatised, their nervous system remain in a continual state of high arousal, which reinforces the persistent feeling of threat. Many feel that they cannot relax, and have to always be looking out for danger. They may be irritable and jumpy, suffer from insomnia, and other anxiety-related disorders and obsessive- compulsive tendencies.

Numbness and Emptiness – Because the repeated abuse or neglect was so painful, many have employed dissociation as a way of coping. This may involve disconnection from the bodily self, emotions, and other people. By keeping threat from overwhelming consciousness, they can continue to function in the outside world, but is left with a chronic feeling of internal deadness.

Environmental Sensitivities

In their seminal work ‘Healing Developmental Trauma’, Heller and LaPierre (2012)  discuss the idea of ‘energetic boundaries’ and how these boundaries can be compromised when a person is developmentally traumatised.

Our energetic boundaries constitute the three-dimensional space that is above us, below us, and around us. It buffers us and regulates our interaction with other people and the environment. We are all to some degree aware of the impact of a compromised physical body— try imagining someone standing too close to you in public transport. However, unlike physical boundaries, energetic boundaries are invisible. Thus, the experience of a boundary rupture can be puzzling and distressing. For instance, you may not be able to recognise clearly when and how your energetic boundaries are being violated.

People with intact energetic boundaries are able to have an internalised sense of safety, and a capacity to set appropriate limits with other and the world around.  However, where there is a chronic early threat, you may struggle to fully develop these energetic boundaries.

You may become extremely sensitive to your surroundings. Sometimes, you can appear psychic and be able to energetically attuned to others and the environment. On the flip side, you can feel swamped or invaded by other people’s energies and emotions. Damaged boundaries can also lead to the feeling of “spilling out” into the environment, not knowing the difference between self and other, inner from outer experiences.

Environmental sensitivity is another telling sign of having compromised energetic boundaries. Because intact energetic boundaries are needed to function to filter environmental stimuli, without it, you may feel extremely raw, as if you are ‘walking around with no skin’. You will feel constantly flooded by environmental stimuli, including ‘human contact, sounds, light, touch, toxins, allergens, smells, and even electromagnetic activity’(Heller and LaPierre, 2012, p. 157) .

The inability to filter external stimuli makes the world seem continuously threatening, leading to a constant state of tension and hyper vigilance.  As a result, you may feel the need to isolate yourself. As you don’t have an adequate internal sense of safety and energetic boundaries to count on, you may have defaulted to using minimising contact with other human beings in order to feel safe.

Developmental Trauma Checklist

Here are some of the questions drawn from a Checklist developed by Heller and LaPierre (2012) on symptoms that may indicate difficulty with the connection (with self and others) due to early developmental trauma.

  • Do you suffer from environmental sensitivities or multiple allergies?
  • Do you have migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, or fibromyalgia?
  • Did you experience prenatal trauma such as intrauterine surgeries, prematurity with incubation, or traumatic events during gestation?
  • Were there complications at your birth?
  • Have you had problems maintaining relationships?
  • Do you have difficulty knowing what you are feeling?
  • Are you particularly sensitive to cold?
  • Do you often have the feeling that life is overwhelming and you don’t have the energy to deal with it?
  • Are you troubled by the persistent feeling that you don’t belong?
  • Are you always looking for the why of things?
  • Are you uncomfortable in groups or social situations?
  • Does the world seem like a dangerous place to you?

Specific Healing Goals

The therapy for developmental trauma is different to the therapy for simple PTSD, general depression or anxiety.

Because of the complicated issues around a personal sense of safety and stability, being exposed to traumatic materials before you are ready can lead to re-traumatization, and reinforce the cycle of hopelessness.  Themes such as safety, mourning, and reconnection are some of the key themes specific to this process.  The following are some of the healing goals that are essential to the recovery from developmental trauma:

  • Locating or developing an internal sense of safety
  • Building connection with self, the body, and emotions- through mindfulness and other mind-body techniques
  • Expanding the ‘window of tolerance’ for various emotions, so you are not constantly in either state of hyper-arousal (acute stress, rage, tension, and panic) or under-arousal (dissociating, disconnecting, feeling empty and depressed)
  • Finding ways to cope when feeling overwhelmed, without resorting to avoidance or compensatory behaviours (overeating, over spending, and other impulsive habits)
  • Learning to experience connection with others as enriching rather than tiring or threatening
  • Becoming aware of and finding ways to preserve your energetic boundaries
  • Neurologically regulating the nervous system in order to cope with day-to-day stressors and triggers
  • Lessening the impact of your internalised shame, and the voice of the inner critic.
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World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day June 1st

Narcissistic Abuse Affects Over 158 Million People in the U.S.

Written by Bree Bonchay, LCSW for PsychCentral

World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day is June 1, and everyone, unless you’re living under a rock, has heard the word narcissist. In fact, the word is tossed around so liberally these days, its meaning becoming so diluted, that posting an occasional selfie can make people suspect you of being a narcissist.

Ironically, despite the popularity of the word, most people have never heard of the phrase “narcissistic abuse.”

Narcissistic abuse is a form of emotional and psychological abuse. It is primarily inflicted by individuals who have either narcissistic personality disorder (NPD, which is characterized by a lack of empathy), or antisocial personality disorder (ASPD, also known as sociopaths or psychopaths), and is associated with the absence of a conscience.  

You may be wondering if most people haven’t even heard of narcissistic abuse, then why is it so important to raise awareness about it? Unfortunately, since it’s such an under recognized, understudied public health issue, statistics are hard to come by regarding this form of abuse.

So, how do I justify the need to raise awareness about a major public health issue when there are no statistics regarding its prevalence? Sandra L. Brown, founder of the Institute for Relational Harm Reduction and Public Pathology Education, describes in her article, 60 Million Persons in the U.S. Negatively Affected by Someone Else’s Pathology, how she arrived at this staggering figure:

“There are 304 million persons in the U.S. One in 25 people will have the disorders associated with ‘no conscience’ which include anti-social personality disorder, sociopath, and psychopath. Three hundred and four million divided by 25 = 12.16 million people with no conscience.

Each anti-social/psychopath will have approximately five partners who will be negatively affected by their pathology = 60.8 million people!”

Brown goes on to describe that 60 million is actually a conservative estimate because the calculation doesn’t include the children who are victims of narcissistic abuse. Nor does it factor in the percentage of people with narcissistic personality disorder, many whom also inflict narcissistic abuse on others. So, in keeping with Brown’s formula, I did some calculations of my own.

Here’s what we do know: Approximately one in every 10 people is walking around without a conscience, or at best, lacks empathy. According to theDiagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the prevalence in the general population for antisocial personality disorder is estimated at 3.3% percent and the prevalence of narcissistic personality disorder is as high as 6% percent.

There are approximately 326 million people in the U.S. (The U.S. population has increased) and 6% percent of them have narcissistic personality disorder, which equals 19,560,000 people. If each of those people narcissistically abuse just five people during their lives, that amounts to an additional 97.8 million people!

If you apply the same formula to the world population using the current population estimate of 7.5 billion, are you ready for this?

3.3% of 7.5 billion = 247,500,000 people with antisocial personality disorder

6% of 7.5 billion= 450,000,000 people with narcissistic personality disorder

247,500,000 + 450,000,000 = 697,500,000 people who lack empathy, or are without a conscience. If each of those people narcissistically abuse just five people during their lives, the tally of potential damage affects over 3.4 billion people!

Brown also raises the point that if some other medical or mental condition, such as diabetes or heart disease negatively affected that many people, there would be public education campaigns, walk-a-thons, and celebrity endorsed, public service announcements to raise awareness about them. Comparatively, narcissistic abuse negatively affects more people than depression (approximately 80.8 million people) and yet the public awareness about narcissistic abuse is as invisible as the wounds of those abused.  

This begs the question, why hasn’t narcissistic abuse received the public attention, education, and funding that it so desperately deserves?

The answer may lie in fact to what I eluded to earlier. Narcissistic abuse is invisible to the naked eye. Unlike physical abuse, narcissistic abuse doesn’t leave visible marks such as bruises or broken bones. This is one of the reasons why so many people don’t even realize that what they’re experiencing is a legitimate form of abuse, and that it has a name — narcissistic abuse — until the damage has been done.

Another possible explanation why narcissistic abuse is such an under recognized public health issue is because describing what you can’t see or prove presents a huge challenge. Thus, the theme of the awareness campaign is #IfMyWoundsWereVisible.

Narcissistic abuse is covert, and often disguised as love and care, but it’s anything but. It’s not a single act of cruelty like an insulting comment, or verbal abuse laced with a string of profanities. It’s the insidious, gradual, and intentional erosion of a person’s sense of self-worth. It’s a combination of emotional and psychological abuse aimed at undermining a person’s identity for the sole purpose of obtaining control for personal gain. It can involve patterns of dominance, manipulation, intimidation, emotional coercion, withholding, dishonesty, extreme selfishness, guilt mongering, rejection, stonewalling, gaslighting, financial abuse, extreme jealousy, and possessiveness.

A partner who never calls you a derogatory name and tells you he loves you every single day can be a narcissistic abuser. A parent who never misses a softball game, someone who appears to be the pillar of her community, can be narcissistically abusive.

But all the homemade dinners, all the love and concern for you, all the perfect attendance to your extracurricular activities won’t mitigate the damaging emotional and mental toll of the silent treatments when you assert your opinion or disagree. There are disapproving looks or criticisms over the most trivial things. There is the subtle, but constant way you’re made to feel you’re not good enough, and wholly incapable of pleasing your abuser for any length of time. The moments of kindness or the surprise bouquet of flowers don’t erase the dizzying, circular conversations that exhaust you into submission. When narcissistically abused, you can never express a differing opinion or suggest your partner isn’t perfect or right.

The sweet gestures don’t cancel out the hundreds of ways your compassion and love are exploited and used to manipulate you. These gestures actually make the unpredictable changing climate that shifts from kindness and tenderness to coldness and subtle cruelty more confusing and stressful.

Lundy Bancroft, author of Why Does He Do That?, provides an unsettling description of how abuse can be inflicted. His example shows it can cause great psychological harm, without the use of anger, yelling, or name calling: ‘…He (or she) can assault his partner psychologically without even raising his voice. He tends to stay calm in arguments, using his own evenness as a weapon to push her over the edge. He often has a superior or contemptuous grin on his face, smug and self-assured. He uses a repertoire of aggressive conversational tactics at low volume, including sarcasm, derisionsuch as openly laughing at hermimicking her voice, and cruel cutting remarks. Like Mr. Right, he tends to take things she has said and twist them beyond recognition to make her appear absurd, perhaps, especially in front of other people. He gets to his partner through a slow but steady stream of low level assaults…”

The emotional damage caused by narcissistic abuse is cumulative, which is one of the reasons why the abuse is so hard to pinpoint. We often don’t recognize or become alarmed at what appears small and innocuous in a particular moment. Most of us subscribe to the mantra: “No one is perfect.” We don’t suspect we’re being used, deceived, or conned. We assume the best intentions from the people who claim to love us. The lack of public awareness and education blinds us from seeing the pieces of our self-esteem and identity slowly being chipped away.  

Many people who’ve experienced domestic violence will tell you that the emotional and psychological abuse that is characteristic of narcissistic abuse is more painful and lingering than the pain of physical abuse. As a practicing psychotherapist, I know all too well that it’s much harder and takes a lot longer to heal a broken spirit than it is to heal a black eye.

It’s challenging enough to try to describe what narcissistic abuse is, but even more challenging to try to spark the concern of people who haven’t experienced it. Some may feel they are too smart or too strong for it to ever happen to them, or impact their life in any way.

A commonly held misconception is that only weak-minded, fragile, co-dependent types are vulnerable to being abused. Sadly, this stereotype only intensifies the danger of the current lack of public awareness, and provides a false sense of protection.

The damage caused by narcissistic abuse is not limited to the individual victim. It bleeds into society, and impacts us all. Numerous studies caution us about the correlation between psychological and emotional stress, and its relationship to increased risk of illness and disease. The chronic stress of narcissistic abuse gradually wears our bodies down over time. The prolonged activation of the body’s stress response systems can take its toll, and wreak havoc on our physiology, and overall well-being.  Some of the common illnesses associated with the chronic stress of narcissistic abuse include but are not limited to: heart attack, adrenal fatigue, weight gain or loss, hair loss, insomnia, anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) autoimmune disorders, digestive problems, asthma, migraines, epilepsy, cancer, arthritis, slower wound healing, Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), and increased dependency on alcohol, or other substances.

Consequently, many victims wind up missing work due to illness, or are laid off from their jobs because of excessive absences or poor work performance. As a result, they are forced to rely on taxpayer funded government and state programs, such as disability, low-income housing, welfare, food stamps, and so on. Children who are victims of narcissistic abuse often perform poorly academically, act out, and develop behavioral and/or substance abuse issues. Instead of receiving proper care and treatment for abuse, these children are identified as ‘behavioral problems,’ and placed in federally funded discipline and safety programs. The financial costs narcissistic abuse places on society would unarguably be more wisely and effectively spent if we were to use those funds for public awareness and education.

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Mothers Day Joyful For Some Dreadful For Others

13 Ways to “Celebrate” If Mother’s Day Is Hard for You

Article Written by Annie Wright, LMFT

For some, Mother’s Day will feel like a wonderful day, perhaps filled with brunch, flowers and time and energy spent with the woman you love—your Mom. Or maybe you’ll revel in having your own little ones bring you their homemade crayon cards and attempts at pancakes and breakfast in bed.

If this day brings you joy and gratitude, that’s lovely and I’m so glad that’s the experience for you! But for many of us, Mother’s Day will not feel this way. Mother’s Day, instead, may feel really quite hard and complex.

Perhaps you dearly long to be a mother and you’re currently struggling with infertility. Perhaps you wanted to be a mother to physical children in this lifetime and it couldn’t or didn’t happen. Perhaps you recently or long ago lost your physical child and are grieving your loss deeply. Perhaps you never wanted to be a mother and/or are now struggling with being one. Perhaps your mother is dead or very ill. Perhaps you never knew your mother and wish you had. Or, and this is very common, perhaps you are estranged from your mother or have a toxic and painful relationship with her that makes celebrating this day complex in a way that no Hallmark card could ever capture.

Whatever the reason, if you’re one of the many of us who doesn’t enjoy this day, who almost dread its cyclical return in the arc of the calendar each year—if you’re someone who actually feels sadness, challenge and pain around this day, I want you to know you’re not alone. Not at all. Being triggered by Mother’s Day is an incredibly common experience.

To be a mother oneself and to be born of one (as we all are) is deeply, unbelievably complex and I don’t think we do a good enough job in this culture acknowledging the multidimensional and often painful aspects of this.

Anecdotally, I was talking to some girlfriends who are also therapists and we were all saying that we’ve noticed a pattern across the last few years in our therapy practices: there’s always an uptick of client calls in the week or two before Mother’s Day (and also before Father’s Day and before Thanksgiving and Christmas, too).

So let’s face it: holidays centered around families can be triggering and challenging for many of us. That’s why on this Mother’s Day, I want to speak to you if you’re one of the many who are triggered by this day. I want to reach across the internet and give you a virtual permission slip of sorts to not feel pressured to enjoy or celebrate this day despite what the echoing cacophony of messaging all around you may say, and instead offer up a list of ways to alternatively “celebrate” Mother’s Day and a list of some great resources to do some re-mothering healing work, to grieve and just generally take care of yourself.

A list of ways to alternately “celebrate” Mother’s Day if this day doesn’t feel easy for you:

“To be a strong woman, to be a fierce woman, to be a true woman, to be a leader, to be truly powerful, you have to get to place where you can tolerate people not liking you. And know that when you actually do that, you have to fall back on your own moral imperative in your own moral trunk and say, ‘I don’t care, this is what I believe. This is who I am.” – Eve Ensler

Whatever the reason you dislike Mother’s Day, for many of us, there may be an accompanying sense of guilt or pressure around these feelings.

All around us, between radio and TV commercials, shops and their marketing campaigns, or even attempting to make plans with friends who are unavailable on the day that Mother’s Day falls, there is a nearly pervasive unspoken sentiment: Recognize this day! Enjoy this day! Not to mention the fact that we live in a global culture that largely puts an overwhelming amount of emphasis on honoring and prioritizing family despite the fact that this may or may not be healthy or supportive for you as an individual.

And all of this cumulative pressuring sentiment may feel hard, no matter how rooted and grounded your reasons are for not liking this day. That’s why I personally and professionally feel very strongly about speaking up about the complexities of this day and providing a virtual permission slip of sorts for you to honor your own experience about this day, not what you feel you “should” experience.

And so my list of alternate ways to “celebrate” Mother’s Day is an attempt to help you reflect on what your authentic experience is, and to provide you with some inspiration on how to hold this day in a way that feels good and right to you based on your experience.

1. Be honest with yourself. 

Really take the opportunity to check in with yourself and reflect if, in your heart of hearts, this day feels good or hard for you. Reflect on why this may be, what you honestly feel called to do or not do on this day, and what feelings and thoughts come up for you when you imagine doing what you want to do versus what you believe you “should” do. From a place of personal honesty, you can begin crafting a plan to take care of yourself on this day.

2. Give yourself permission not to celebrate this day. At all. Period. 

Remember, despite the fact that I’m writing a list of ways to “celebrate” mother’s day, a big way you may want to “celebrate” is by not doing anything at all. By not celebrating the day in even one way. And this may include not calling your mother. And that’s more than OK! Please allow yourself the permission to consider not celebrating this day at all if that’s what feels good and right and true for you.

3. Plan in advance how you will spend the day. 

If there’s a part of you that does want to celebrate, honor and acknowledge this day in some way, I encourage you to plan in advance how you will spend the day. Perhaps brainstorm with your therapist, your best friend, your partner, your kids or a member of your support group what a good “game plan” for this day may look like for you. Sometimes the things we need and want most to do will require some advanced planning —like travel, reservations or coordinating with others—so if it’s too late this year, allow yourself time next year to consider planning in advance how you would like to spend the day.

4. Think about what would bring you comfort and solace on this day and seek that out. 

If Mother’s Day is something you want to honor in some way and the day still feels painful for you, I encourage you to think about what kind of celebration could bring you comfort and solace in your pain. Think about the needs and wants you may have emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually when reflecting on what could bring you solace and comfort. And then give that to yourself.

5. Spend the day mothering yourself. 

One other creative way to think about “celebrating” Mother’s Day is to think about ways in which you could spend the day mothering yourself, giving yourself some kind of attention and care your mom may have given to you when she was alive or might have given you if she was more functional or even if you had known her at all. Perhaps this may mean booking a supportive therapy session on this day, or spending the day at the spa getting a massage or mani/pedi or taking yourself on a shopping trip. Whatever is going to help you feel “mothered”—cared and looked out for—incorporate this into your Mother’s Day celebrations and spend the day mothering yourself.

6. Disconnect if you want or need to. 

Take a break from social media (and all those potentially triggering “best mom ever!” posts) if you need or want to on Mother’s Day. Set your phone to airplane mode. Maybe get out of the city and into the nearby forest and mountains, away from the brunch spots that could be filled with families. Let your friends know you’ll be offline for the day and really just disconnect in any way you need to in order to support yourself mentally and emotionally.

7. If you do spend the day with your mother and it’s a complex relationship, hold the boundaries you need and want to take care of yourself. 

Perhaps this means limiting the amount of time you spend on the phone with her, or maybe even just sending a text versus any voice-to-voice contact at all. Or maybe it will help you to have brunch out in public, but not at your house. Whatever logistical and emotional boundaries you need to set for yourself in order to have contact with your mother on this day, please set them.

8. Let those closest to you know what the day brings up for you and what you need and want. 

For many of us who are recovering from abusive, neglectful or dysfunctional childhoods, a personal growth task we face is to share and reach out for support with safe, functional people versus keeping our pain and suffering to ourselves. And even if you don’t come from a background like this, it still may feel helpful and supportive to reach out and connect with a safe and trusted someone—a trustworthy sibling, a dear girlfriend, a mentor or therapist—and let them know Mother’s Day feels hard for you.

9. Spend the day with women and mentors who give you mothering energy and who feel like mothers to you.

I firmly believe if you didn’t have the mothering you wanted as a child, it’s not too late to be inspired by or receive actual mothering from mother models and mentors. These figures and mentors may be found in real-life (whether through a caring therapist, an aunt, a professional mentor, a neighbor who takes you under her wing, your best girlfriend) or even be fictional or witnessed from afar in the media. The goal is to seek out examples of what good mothering looks and feels like to you and to let this mothering energy in and allow it to help meet some of your needs and wants and for it to inspire your own, ever-evolving self-mothering journey. So on Mother’s Day, perhaps consider spending time with those you receive mothering energy from.

10. Spend the day with those *you* mother. 

There are so many ways to mother others beyond bearing and raising a child! If you couldn’t have physical children in this lifetime, chances are you likely still “mothered” many along your journey. Mother’s Day can be a wonderful chance to spend time with those you “mother” like godchildren, nieces/nephews, your Little Brother or Little Sister, etc. If it feels like a good option for you on an otherwise complex day, consider spending time with those you have mothered.

11. Spend the day helping those who may also be having a hard time.

I’ll say it again: Mother’s Day can be a painful, evocative holiday for many of us. And, for some, the way they choose to “celebrate” this day is to spend the day helping others who may also be having a hard time. Perhaps this looks like visiting a neighbor, a friend who also dislikes the holiday or an assisted living home to spend time with someone who can’t be with their own children or who has none. Maybe this looks like volunteering that day or showing up to or facilitating a 12-Step Meeting.

12. Incorporate a ritual into the day that is meaningful to you. 

Depending on your circumstances, craft a ritual that feels meaningful to you on Mother’s Day. Visit your child’s or mother’s grave, or write them a letter. Bury that letter in the yard and plant their favorite flowers over it, burn it in your sink, mail it to no address. Write a letter from your mother to you that you wish she would have been capable of writing if she was more mentally functional or still alive. Look at photo albums of your lost loved one, cook a meal of their favorite foods, say a prayer to God/Goddess/The Universe about your wishes to be a parent. Whatever feels like a meaningful ritual for you, weave it into the day.

13. Cultivate a mindset of grounded empowerment.

Finally, I would encourage you to work on your mindset and view of this day. Instead of feeling guilt or pressure, try to work on giving yourself the internal permission to have your experience—no matter what it looks like!—and for this to be OK. You have a right to feel whatever you want about this day. You have a right to do with your life whatever you want. And that includes how and if you celebrate this day. You can also use this day as an opportunity to open up to re-mothering healing work you need to do, explore any forgiveness or grief work that may have to be done. This day has the potential to be an opportunity for growth for you, not just a cyclical trigger in the calendar.

A list of resources if you need to do some re-mothering healing work, grieve or just generally take care of yourself.

Again, the reasons for why Mother’s Day may feel triggering for any of us will vary wildly and widely. And the resources we need to help us with our unique triggers and pain points can be equally diverse. So I’ve included a short list of multimedia below (it’s by no means exhaustive!) in the hopes that even one of them might be just the right kind of soul medicine you need on Mother’s Day. Peruse them, and I truly hope they feel helpful to you.

Wrapping this up.

If nothing else, I hope what you take from today’s article is this: You have permission to feel however you feel about this day. You have permission to not like and not want to celebrate Mother’s Day.

This is a complex and triggering holiday for many, many people. If this is the case for you, I hope you will take care of yourself on Mother’s Day in whatever way you need or want to.

And please remember that everything I shared today can also be applied to Father’s Day one short month from now. And now I’d love to hear from you in the comments below: Is Mother’s Day complex for you, too? If so, what is one way in which you “celebrate” or take care of yourself on this day? Leave a message and your suggestions in the comments below so our community of readers can benefit from your wisdom.

And until next time, take very good care of yourself.

Warmly, Annie

Annie Wright, LMFT is the founder and clinical director of Evergreen Counseling – a therapy center located in Berkeley, California-as well a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in complex relational trauma.

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Ten Things to Know Before Confronting Your Narcissistic Abuser

What You Must Know Before Confronting Your Narcissistic Abuser

Written by Randi Fine

Narcissistic Abuse Expert, Author of Close Encounters of the Worst Kind

Most survivors of narcissistic abuse cannot let their resentments go without first confronting their abusers. If that is something you feel compelled to do, it is important that you wait until you are emotionally ready and stable enough to withstand the challenge. If you are not, confronting your abuser can be very traumatic for you, and you will not get the relief you hoped for.

If and when you decide you are ready for a confrontation, be sure to have at least one person available to give you the support you need before, during, and afterwards. The best support will come from a therapist or counselor who fully understands how difficult confronting your narcissistic abuser can be.

You have every right to speak your truth. When you do, be mindful to stay focused on your agenda and in control of the encounter. This is your moment—it may even be the first encounter you have ever had with your abuser that you were in control. Do not allow him or her to bully you. Do not buy into denial, excuses, or pity parties. 

Direct confrontation is done in person, electronically, or over the telephone. To be most effective there are some important things to consider:

Keep emotion out of the confrontation. If you are not sure you can confront your abuser without becoming emotional, wait until you can.

The confrontation should be dignified, controlled, and direct. Be straightforward and say whatever you need to say. Focus on facts and feelings, not accusations.

When confronting your abuser, judgment, finger pointing, and guilt will get you nowhere. If you cannot restrain yourself from doing these things you are well advised not to attempt a confrontation. It will be pointless and futile, and it will only escalate the problem for you.

Though the temptation may be there, do not retaliate or try to punish your abuser. That will only make things worse and it will be counterproductive to your healing.

It is unlikely that your abuser will ever acknowledge or take responsibility for what he or she has done. Abusers rarely admit to having abused. If this is the outcome you are expecting you will only set yourself up for disappointment. Do not expect to receive any particular response.

If your abuser truly does accept responsibility and sincerely wants to make things right with you, accountability, not remorse, should be the end goal. You can forgive him or her without any of this, but don’t fall back into the manipulation trap. It will take at least a year of consistent accountability before you should even begin to entertain the person’s “sincerity.”

If you are fearful of a face to face confrontation but still feel compelled to say your peace, it is just as effective to put what you have to say in writing. With that approach you avoid having to face the rapid emotional backlash. You can calmly process your thoughts and address their responses. 

When direct confrontation is too uncomfortable, your safety is at risk, or it is logistically impossible to confront your abuser face to face, other ways to accomplish the same goal are:

Write a letter and then wait five days or more before deciding whether or not to send or email it. You may feel better after writing your thoughts down and may decide that your healing and forgiveness do not depend on your abuser reading it.

Do a ceremonial burning of letters or meaningful objects.

Use empty chair therapeutic techniques. This involves sitting across from an empty chair and speaking to it as if the person you wish to address is sitting in it. (Gestalt therapy, formulated by Fritz Perls 1893-1970)

If your abuser has passed on, visit his or her grave and speak to the person there.

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Changing Inner Dialogue Crucial for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

How to Change the Way You Talk to Yourself

Randi Fine, Author

From the book Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing and Recovery © 2017

Each of us has a subconscious inner voice, called an “inner dialogue,” that strongly influences our life.  Since it has always been such a consistent part of our waking lives, most of us do not even realize it is there.

Our inner dialogue controls everything we do. It shapes our perception, makes decisions for us, cautions us, forms our values and opinions, tells us who we are and what we like, monitors our behavior, evaluates situations, and makes judgments.

When our inner dialogue is positive, it empowers us. When our inner dialogue is negative it discourages us. Negative dialogue forms limiting beliefs.

Limiting beliefs can come from powerful outside influences such as parents, religions, families, educators, culture, media, and society. They can also develop on their own after repeated exposure to stimuli, or as a result of trauma or abuse.

Limiting beliefs sabotage our lives. They tell us untruths and lies, make us feel bad about ourselves, impede our success, and cause us to repeat unhealthy patterns. They even govern our moods and reactions.

Years of degradation, manipulation and brainwashing by your narcissistic abuser has infused your mind with many limiting beliefs. You will be surprised at how many of the following you can claim as your own:

  • I do not deserve: happiness, success, love, recognition, success, money, relationships, friendships with quality people
  • I do not: trust myself, know what I want, feel worthy, have self-control, like or love myself, matter
  • I am not: good enough, smart enough, worthy enough, thoughtful enough, motivated enough, competent enough, rich enough, outgoing enough, thin enough, pretty enough, skilled enough, important enough
  • I cannot: do it as well as others can, reach goals, make money, survive on my own, start a business, get a degree, change who I am, change how I think
  • I should not: think of myself first, love or like myself, feel good about myself, feel angry, ask for what I want, expect others to come through for me, trust anyone, let my guard down
  • I should be: more successful than I am, farther along in life than I am, more educated, more social, a better person
  • Nobody: listens to me, cares about me, wants me, believes in me, likes me, accepts me
  • No one will like or love me if: I am not perfect, I am not successful, I am not a pleaser, they get to know me, I speak honestly, I am not beautiful, I don’t earn their approval
  • Everyone else: judges me, is better than me, rejects me, hates me, thinks I am stupid
  • I always: make mistakes, procrastinate, say stupid things, anger people, quit things, frustrate people, feel guilty, look foolish
  • I am: a quitter, a weirdo, lazy, an unlovable person, an unlikable person, a failure, responsible for others’ happiness
  • It is my job to: smooth things over, make others happy, make others feel better, apologize, keep the peace
  • There’s no point in: getting my hopes up, trying at all, trying again, being honest, having goals, asking for what I want, showing people who I really am
  • Happiness is: a myth, unattainable, for others
  • I must suffer to: show how much I care, get attention, make up for bad things I’ve done, prove my point
  • I must be fearful of: other people, life, relationships, men, women

Reread the above list and highlight all the limiting beliefs that apply to you. Explore each one by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Why do I have the limiting belief?
  2. Is the belief true or false?
  3. Is the belief relevant to my life now?
  4. Am I willing to let the belief go?

Before you can change your subconscious inner dialogue you must bring it to your conscious mind and then challenge it. That involves monitoring your thoughts, emotions, actions and reactions to see what triggers you and what non-productive patterns you are stuck in.

Limiting beliefs change when they are replaced by positive dialogue. You can reprogram your mind through the use of positive affirmations such as:

  • I deserve to love and be loved
  • I love and accept myself totally and completely
  • I choose happiness and peace in my life
  • I am whole, healthy and complete
  • I am worthy of success
  • I deserve to live a life of abundance
  • I am the only one in charge of my life
  • I am a beautiful person inside and out
  • I am a survivor
  • I am worthy of all the good things in life
  • I can face any challenge

These are just suggestions. You can create your own affirmations or find other ones that resonate with you.

Repeat your affirmations often. Say them to yourself in the mirror. Post them in places where you spend a lot of time. Especially use them whenever you catch yourself having limiting beliefs. The more often and regularly you repeat your affirmations, the faster your inner dialogue will change and the better you will feel about yourself.

This is copyrighted material. May only be shared with permission and proper attribution.


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Healing the Core Wounds of Narcissistic Abuse

Many victims of narcissist abuse learn that there have been core wounds that made them vulnerable to narcissistic abuse later in life. Listen to what Randi Fine has to say.

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Ten Tips Prevent Narcissistic Re-victimization

Ten Ways to Prevent Narcissistic Re-victimization

Written by Randi Fine, Narcissistic Abuse Expert and Counselor, Author of the Groundbreaking Book Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing and Recovery

One of the greatest fears of those in recovery from narcissistic abuse is re-victimization. People feel powerless against the covert mind control used by narcissists to trap unknowing victims. Knowledge is power. Awareness is protection. Adhere to the following guidelines and you are guaranteed all the power and protection you will ever need to thwart the efforts of the insidious narcissistic prowler. Armed with these ten weapons you need not fear anyone anymore.

Practice setting boundaries with those who wish you had none.

Become fiercely protective of yourself and your peace of mind to the degree that you refuse to let ANYONE violate you.

Trust your intuition, that initial feeling you get when you interact with a toxic person. Don’t dismiss your gut-feeling and over-think how you feel. Your intuition will never fail you. Your mind can easily fool you.

Allow into your life only those who prove, without a doubt, that they are trustworthy. Don’t give ANYONE the benefit of the doubt or look for someone’s potential. It is not your job to fix others. Expect people to clean-up their own lives, as you have had to clean up yours.

Be cautious of highly charismatic individuals. They are often manipulators in disguise.

Beware of fiery instant chemistry. Don’t make ANY decisions under the influence of euphoria. Your thinking will be impaired and your resistance disarmed.  

Alert to those who claim to have lives or preferences that uncannily mirror yours. It is likely an act to convince you they are trustworthy.

Take your time getting to know people. Do not be rushed into friendships or relationships. Do not bring strangers into your home or expose your children to them, and definitely do not go to their homes until they have been THOROUGHLY vetted. Always meet in public places.

Abstain from sharing personal information with people you do not know well. Manipulators interview potential victims through seemingly innocent conversation and attentive listening. They will use this information at a later date to hurt you in ways specific to your sensitivities and vulnerabilities.

Ask reliable sources for their opinions when you do not trust your judgment, and then heed their advice.

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Twenty Personal Choices Determine How Happy You Are

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Twenty Choices You Can Make to Increase Happiness

Written by Randi Fine, Narcissistic Abuse Counselor and Author of Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing and Recovery

In our pursuit of happiness we must first realize and accept that being happy is a deliberate choice; a choice we make every moment of every day. There are many strategies to help make attaining that goal possible. Following is a list of twenty:

Have a Positive Outlook

The first and most obvious way to increase happiness in our lives is to have a positive outlook. For the most part, being happy is less about circumstances and more about attitude. What we think about most we become. If positive thinking does not come naturally, and it doesn’t for most of us, this will take some effort. The good news is that optimism becomes easier the longer we apply it in our lives. Rather than complaining or ruminating over things that go wrong, we should put our energy into doing whatever we can to make things better; adopt the “this too shall pass” and the “everything happens for a reason” attitude. It may sound idealized, but trying to find the silver lining in everything that happens really does work.

Believe in Yourself

Another way to increase happiness is through self-belief. Get to know yourself; and when you do, always stay true to yourself. It is wise to take what others say into consideration, but don’t be an approval seeker. What other people think of you does not matter. There is no right or wrong way to be as long as no one else gets hurt. Focus less on impressing others and more on trying to be authentically you.

Accept and Celebrate Your Reality

It has been said that “The difference between the images you have had for your life and the reality of your life is the amount of unhappiness in your life.” Accept and celebrate the reality you are living. If you don’t like that reality and it is possible to change it, change it. Just don’t hold yourself to an unattainable image. If you do that you will never be happy.

Take Charge of Your Life

Be the one in charge of your life. Don’t allow others to dictate the standards for you to live by. When we are in charge of our lives we gain great satisfaction and happiness from the things we do.

Take Responsibility For Your Life

Take responsibility for your life. This is different than taking charge of it. Those who take responsibility for their lives do not play the blame game. They don’t make the problems in their lives the fault of others. They don’t make excuses or blame others for their failures. They just accept what is and are sure to do things different or better the next time. Taking responsibility for ourselves and our lives gives us a feeling of empowerment. When we are empowered we are happy.

Set and Pursue Goals

Another way to achieve happiness is to figure out what we are looking for, what we truly want for ourselves. It is about setting goals and pursuing them. Research shows that the achievement of goals is not what matters; it is the pursuit of them and the focus toward them that increases one’s sense of well-being.

Focus on Your Strengths and Talents

Identify your personal strengths and use them to their fullest. Each of us has a unique set of personal resources. We each possess talents and skills. We should use these gifts as tools for obtaining personal achievements. We often see people with disabilities doing this. Someone may be wheelchair bound and still be a champion athlete. Someone else may be blind, yet be a phenomenal musician. Focusing on success by utilizing our strengths and talents is another great way to achieve happiness.

Give of Yourself

Finding opportunities to give of ourselves is a very important way to bring authentic happiness to our lives. When we engage or volunteer in causes or organizations that we are passionate about or believe in; religious organizations, community or civic minded causes, charitable causes, or social clubs, we gain great fulfillment. Endeavors that allow us to unselfishly give of ourselves to others bring tremendous meaning, and therefore happiness, into our lives.

Live in the Present

The only moment that we have any control over is the present one. Regretting the past and worrying about tomorrow only distracts us from the happiness that exists right now. The past already happened; it is only a memory that we can’t change. What we can do is extract the lessons from the things that have happened; we can learn from hindsight. And, just as living in the past keeps us from living a happy life, so does worrying about the future. Events we fear will happen may never happen. If or when they do they probably won’t happen the way we imagined they would. Happiness doesn’t exist in the past or the future; it exists in the now. Living in the present moment is the only way to be happy.

Don’t Allow Fears to be Obstacles

We all have fears—fears of what might or might not happen, fears of failure, fears of being judged by others. These fears hold us back from fulfilling our dreams, starting a new business, changing careers, embarking on a new relationship or ending one. Our fears keep us stuck in places we don’t want to be and with people we should move on from. We can’t let our fears become obstacles. We can’t cling to the safe and the familiar just because we are afraid to venture out. It is easy to put things off, to wait for the perfect moment, but when we do that time is wasted; days, months, and years pass us by. We don’t have to take huge leaps; only tiny steps in the right direction. As we let go of our fears we can embrace the happiness we deserve.

Understand That Pleasure is Momentary

Pleasurable moments are just that—moments. They are temporary—they will come and go. And they will never be as exciting or intriguing the second, third, or fourth time around. We need to allow ourselves to enjoy the pleasures of life without feeling the need to cling to, capture, or cage the things that bring us pleasure. No one can be happy when they are waiting for the next thing to make them happy. We will never be fulfilled with what is if we are always waiting for what will be.

Practice Gratitude

As the popular quote says, “The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.” Be someone who practices gratitude. Be someone who expresses appreciation for the simplest of things. Make time each day to reflect on what you have to be thankful for. Look at life from the perspective of what you have rather than what you don’t have. Contentment comes when we count our blessings, not when we focus on what we don’t have.

Reflect on Positive Outcomes

Compelling research shows that reflecting back to the enjoyable aspects of our day can significantly boost our feeling of well-being. Our natural tendency may be to focus on all the things that went wrong or frustrated us, but when we do that we leave little room for reflection of the positive things that happened. It’s fine to reflect on ways to correct what went wrong or think about how we can do things better next time, but if we want to be happy we should give equal time to the reflection of the positive outcomes of our day.

Manage Time

It has been psychologically shown that time affluence, “the feeling that one has sufficient time to pursue activities that are personally meaningful, to reflect, and to engage in leisure,” is a factor in achieving happiness. We are never happy when we are rushing or under the gun. So it is important that we allow enough time to do whatever we need or want to do; that we under-schedule instead of over-schedule, under commit rather than over commit.  

Don’t Try to Control Everything

We are much happier when we don’t have the weight of the world on our shoulders. To accomplish that, we need to give up trying to control everyone and everything in our lives. We have to let go of the beliefs that we are the only ones who know what is right and that we are the only ones who know how to do things. Engage competent people in your life and then hand off some of your responsibilities.

Set Yourself Up For Success

When the challenges in our lives are attainable success is a realistic, predictable outcome. And along with success comes contentment. What this means is that when seeking challenges for ourselves we shouldn’t set the bar unreasonably high. We cannot be happy if we are constantly stressed and overwhelmed. We should always set ourselves up for success, not failure.

 Find Joy in Simplicity

Joy can be extracted from the most basic things in life; simple pleasures and breathtaking moments. As the expression goes, “the best things in life are free.” Happiness comes from quality not quantity, simplicity not complexity, and moderation not excess. When our lives and our surroundings are cluttered with too much stuff it stresses us out. The less we have the freer and happier we will feel.

Create Closure Whenever Possible

The way we end an experience greatly influences our perception of that experience. If we want to create positive, happy perceptions of all our experiences we should do our best to end everything on a positive note rather than a sour one. We should create closure whenever possible rather than leaving loose ends untied. It’s difficult to be happy when we have nagging thoughts about what we have left undone. When we clear away that unnecessary debris we free our minds, and happiness is the byproduct.

Manage Conflict

When I tell you that conflict brings negativity and unhappiness into our lives, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. But being aware of the part we play will help to reduce the amount of conflict we willingly subject ourselves to. When others try to goad us into arguments we need to take a deep breath and think before we speak. Conflict takes two people—we don’t have to be one of them. People often quarrel over trivial, unimportant matters. Learning to listen well, communicate well, and let things roll off our backs will keep us from being sucked into that nonsense. And when conflict does arise, we should always practice forgiveness.

Lighten Up

And last but not least, probably the easiest ways to keep happiness in our lives are to lighten up, not take ourselves so seriously, and to laugh often. Life is painful enough. We don’t have to be so serious. We don’t have to make things harder for ourselves. We can be deliberate when choosing how we view and react to everyday occurrences. Realize that every moment is exclusive, every moment should be cherished. Once it is gone it is gone. Asking ourselves if something problematic will matter in a year from now will help us put things into perspective. So laugh at yourself and laugh at life. There is no better stress reducer or formula for happiness.

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10 Reasons Some People Just Can’t Let Go of an Ex

The Sorrow of Unrequited Love

Posted Aug 15, 2017 on Psychology Today by Randi Gunther

Most people will eventually heal after a relationship ends, especially if both partners mutually agreed to separate. With helpful guidance, they learn from their mistakes, find comfort from friends, and ultimately commit to a new relationship. Sadly, it is a very different story if one partner walks out when the other is still deeply attached. The anguish of being the rejected partner can be devastating. Some people experience unending, grief, ruthless pessimism, and a deepening fear that love might never happen for them again. I have spent many hours with deeply saddened, abandoned partners who cannot get past their losses. I have listened to their stories and to their confusion over why they cannot seem to make love last.

If people are repeatedly abandoned in sequential relationships, others often judge them harshly. These consistently rejected lovers too often find themselves on the other end of well-meaning friends who push them to “just get over it,” or imply that they are somehow responsible for their relationships not working out. That is rarely true. Most who suffer prolonged grief have usually tried everything they could to make their relationships work. When they are once again left behind, they are in understandable confusion and sorrow, wondering if the pain will ever go away.

In the years I’ve worked with such individuals, I’ve been able to help them see how the way in which they approach relationships may have something to do with why they end. Armed with that knowledge, they are better able to understand what they might have done differently.

Following are 10 of the most common personality characteristics and behaviors that many of these patients have shared with me, shared with the hope that they will be able to help those who still live in prolonged suffering after being rejected by someone they still love.

1. Innate insecurity. It is natural for people to feel insecure when threatened by the loss of something that matters deeply to them. If their comfort is disrupted by an unpredictable threat, most people have mastered defense mechanisms that help them overcome their legitimate feelings of sadness and fear. Over time, they are able to move on.

Sadly, there are people who suffer deeper levels of anxiety and may also have had multiple losses from the past. As relationship partners, they may have more difficulty rebalancing when abandoned by a once-trusted partner. They feel significantly more helpless and hopeless, as though they will never be able to trust love again. Sometimes, almost unable to function, their pain overcomes any hope that they will ever get better.

2. Topping out. If people feel that they have finally found the “perfect relationship,” and their partners then walk away, they may despair that they will never find a love this wonderful again. Relationship partners who have experienced these kinds of one-way abandonments may have always dreamed of having a special, reliable, and loving partner. Yet, upon finding someone who seems to fit the bill, they may become too fearful to inquire as to whether or not their partners have had the same desires or expectations.

When they believe they have found that perfect partner, they put everything they have into the relationship, hoping against hope that it will never end. Any warning signs from the other partner are often ignored until it is too late.article continues after advertisement

3. Childhood abandonment trauma. Children are too often helpless pinballs in a life game that tosses them from relationship to relationship, usually unable to affect the outcome. These early experiences make them more likely to either distrust relationship partners or try too hard to over-trust them. Their insecure attachments to their caretakers in early life too often cause them to become overly-fearful adults, unable to let love in for fear that inevitable loss will occur.

People with these kinds of fears of attachment may believe that they are fully in the game of love, but instead are self-protective and unable to risk genuinely committing to a relationship. They see security as elusive and out of their control, but earnestly continue to fully commit without careful discernment.

That underlying fear too often frustrates the people who try to love them. They often end up discouraged and have to leave the relationship, recreating childhood abandonment trauma in the person they leave behind.

4. Fear of being alone. If a person is fearful that love will never happen, he or she will often tolerate neglect, abuse, or disingenuous behavior just to stay in any relationship. If their relationship partners continue to participate in these uneven investments, one of two things will happen: the other partner will begin to feel too guilty to stick around, or will stay in the relationship while simultaneously searching elsewhere for a better deal.

5. Relying only on a partner for self-worth. It is dangerous for any intimate partner to allow the other to be entrusted as the sole definer of that person’s basic value. Like putting all one’s eggs in the same basket, there is bound to be total devastation if that belief does not result in a positive response.article continues after advertisement

If that partner chooses to end the relationship, the rejected partner has only that one person’s negative self-image to rely upon. They can only find fault in who they’ve been, what they’ve done wrong, and that they may always be unlovable to anyone else.

6. Fear of failure. There are people who are literally terrified of failing at anything, and relationships are just one piece of the puzzle. They give their all to whatever they pursue, and can’t face that their efforts might not bear out in something as important as a love relationship.

In their fear of failing, they too often either overreact when something seems to be going wrong or miss crucial cues because of their hyper-vigilant focus.

When their partners leave the relationship, they often take all of the blame, feeling that they should have done more or better. Often that self-denigration makes each succeeding partnership more susceptible to failing for the same reasons.

7. Romantic fantasizers. Relationships that thrive are not “romantic” in the storybook sense. Though they begin, as all new relationships do, with mutually seemingly unconditional acceptance and forgiveness, they must eventually work out the differences and challenges that all long-term commitments create.

Those who are dedicated to holding on to romantic fantasy, however, represent a different breed. These partners want to be all things to their lovers, as if in a cloud of intensive and ongoing rapture. When the normal disruptions of life intervene, romantic fantasizers see them as only temporary obstacles and don’t take them seriously.article continues after advertisement

When a romantic fantasizer wants to hold onto bliss at any price, the other partner often feels unseen and unknown, and eventually will seek a more realistic encounter.

8. Undying love. There are people who believe that loving someone until the end of time is a virtue and pride themselves on never giving up loving a partner, even if the relationship is over. They truly hold onto the belief that a love once so beautiful can never die, and commit to waiting forever for the other person to come back. For them, the unswerving commitment to stay loyal to a partner who has abandoned the relationship stops them from embracing any new love. The lost love is continuously eulogized so that any other partnership pales by comparison.

9. Unmatched hole fillers. Occasionally a partner finds another who is perfect in some crucial areas. The rest of the relationship may not be as rewarding, but the experience of total satisfaction in that one place is overwhelmingly fulfilling. Once they have that experience, they feel they can never again go without it, and so they significantly narrow their future options. When rejected, they become hyper-focused on getting their partners to return, offering any sacrifice to make that happen.

10. The truly agonized stalkers. Sadly, there are people who cannot give up their romantic partners, no matter how clearly they know that the relationship is over. Even when the other partner avoids, ghosts, or even humiliates them, they still won’t, or can’t, give up.

There are many reasons why people hurt themselves this way. They might feel they have no other place to go. Or they feel they will never find someone so right for them again. Perhaps they choose partners who can never love them the same way in return, and yet can’t accept that finality. Maybe they watched a parent continue to sacrifice without reciprocity, believing that it was a noble way to behave.

If the pain is great enough, they might stalk, punish, or intrude, unable to stop pursuing that broken relationship. No amount of self-degradation or humiliation seems to ease their pain or keep them from trying to reverse their fate.

Unrequited love is painful and demoralizing. It is only human to try to alter the aftermath of lost hope.

Many relationship seekers who experience repeated rejection become weary cynics, risking less and less in every succeeding partnership. They stop believing that relationships can ever work, because they can’t afford to be hurt again.

Once understanding why these situations happen, many can learn to choose better partners, face the realities of what relationships offer and cost, and increase their capacity for resiliency if loss is inevitable. Only then can they understand that the more one loves, the more painful the loss. There is no other possibility.  

Every individual must decide how much to risk when seeking true intimacy. To achieve the most beautiful outcome, he or she must give up the prior goals of holding on to love at any price, and create in its place an authentic and real relationship, regardless of what the outcome might be.

My free advice e-newsletter, Heroic Love, shows you how to avoid the common pitfalls that keep people from finding and keeping romantic love. Based on over 100,000 face-to-face hours counseling singles and couples over my 40-year career, you’ll learn how to zero in on the right partner, avoid the dreaded “honeymoon is over” phenomenon, and make sure your relationship never gets boring:

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