“I can’t live with her and I can’t live without her.”

"Marilyn Silver Screen" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Marilyn Silver Screen” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

When someone drives you crazy, yet you can’t stand the idea of being apart, then you are probably too emotionally fused with that person. This is also known as being codependent. Emotional fusion creates two paradoxical feelings—a need for more emotional contact and a desire to get away. An emotionally-fused relationship becomes infused with contrary feelings of being trapped, controlled, and smothered, and being isolated, unsupported, and unloved.

The problem is that neither partner can maintain his or her sense of identity and groundedness in the presence of the other.
Both people take everything personally and become reactive by withdrawing coldly or picking a fight. They swing between attack and capitulation. Bitterness and frustration cause them to withdraw from each other, but when apart, they feel unbalanced and empty. Any connection at this point, even bitter fighting, makes them feel more alive than when alone.


To resolve the anguish of emotional fusion, individuals need to become more highly-differentiated, that is, emotionally separate, and therefore, less reactive.

Differentiation will

1. permit you to get intensely involved with another person—emotionally, intellectually, physically—without becoming infected with the other person’s anxiety, and

2. eliminate the need to withdraw from or control the other person to modulate your own emotional well-being.

Ironically, becoming more emotionally objective and separate allows you to become more intimate. Although you may think that falling apart with anxiety shows that you care, it is actually a self-centered and ineffective way to respond to your own anxiety. It causes people to focus more on you instead of the problem at hand.

Someone who is differentiated may care just as deeply or more so about another person or a difficult situation but is able to contain his or her emotions. This allows a person to bring rationality and wisdom to the a situation rather than simply cause more anxiety that spirals out of control.

Even if only one person becomes less reactive, the situation will improve.

While you want to be considerate of those close to you, you do not want to be excessively worried about their reactions. True intimacy means you can express yourself, your thoughts, and your emotions freely and deeply without emotional manipulation. When you retain some objectivity and stay calm in the face of another person’s anxiety, you can grow emotionally and intellectually, often enticing the other person to do the same.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Passion vs. Predictability: The Problem with Emotional Fusion.”

Read “Ten Keys to a Great Relationship: ‘The magic is gone.’”

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Guest Author Sam Vaknin:
“How can you tell a TRUE friend from a FAKE one?”

"Snubhubbub" by Mimi Stuart©  Live the Life you Desire

“Snubhubbub” by Mimi Stuart©
Live the Life you Desire

A TRUE friend supports you only when he believes that you are doing the right thing in your self-interest and welfare;

A FAKE friend supports you always, no matter what you do.

A TRUE friend respects you only when you have earned respect and act respectably;

A FAKE friend “respects” you regardless of your behavior – or misbehaviour.

A TRUE friend trusts you only as long as you prove yourself trustworthy, only while you do not put his trust to the test too often, and only on certain issues;

A FAKE friend “trusts” you with everything and always.

To summarize:

A TRUE friend puts to you a mirror in which you see REALITY and the TRUTH.

A FAKE friend puts to you a mirror in which you see your own reflection, yourself and nothing else besides.

A TRUE friend loves YOU in your friendship. He loves YOU even without your friendship.

A FAKE friend loves HIMSELF in your friendship – or loves the friendship itself, but never YOU.

With a TRUE friend you need never ask: “What is he getting out of this relationship?” for loving you is its own reward.

With a FAKE friend you must always ask “Why is he still in this relationship?” for loving you is never enough of a reward.

by Guest Author Sam Vaknin, the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, and international affairs. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com.

Read “I have friends who bring me down.”

Read Sam Vaknin’s “I Attract Abusers Like a Magnet.”

Read “Ten Keys to a Great Relationship: ‘The magic is gone.’”

Posted in Relationship Skills, Vaknin, Sam PhD, Visiting Authors | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

“I’m not going to visit my sister because my husband will get mad.”

"Bounteous" by Mimi Stuart©  Live the Life you Desire

“Bounteous” by Mimi Stuart©
Live the Life you Desire

Fear of being alone

Underlying most controlling behavior is a fear of being left alone, physically or emotionally. A person’s reactivity and possessiveness is often driven by anxiety and fear of abandonment.

The problem is that we can never be fully united in thought and feeling with another person. In fact, the more we try to possess another person or allow ourselves to be controlled, the more we squeeze the magic out of the relationship.

Once we genuinely accept our existential separation from others, we can enjoy the connection we have more fully, however fleeting it may be. Then we can be truly loving without becoming controlling and possessive.

Responding to a controlling person

If you are in a relationship with a controlling partner who is trying to coerce you into not doing something you want to do, such as visiting your sister, you can choose to respond in the following ways:

Accommodate—You don’t go visit your sister, but you will feel disappointed, angry, disempowered, and resentful for not going.

Rebel—You vehemently declare that you’re going anyway, but your partner will try to punish you with his anger.

Differentiate—You are considerate while maintaining your self-respect. You tell him you’ll miss him and you’re sorry he’ll be lonely, but it’s really important for you to spend some time with your sister. Or, you could that say you’d really like to see your sister, but that he is welcome to join you if he can get away. If your partner continues to be angry about your decision, you can show compassion to a point, but you should not allow yourself to be manipulated by his fear or anger. Stand firm albeit with compassion, but without becoming defensive.

Intimacy requires freedom

It sounds paradoxical that intimacy and passion can deepen as we accept our separateness and stop controlling others or allowing ourselves to be controlled. Yet a relationship based on respect requires letting go of fear and control. By breaking away from control and possessiveness, we can allow a little unpredictability and excitement back into the relationship.

Passion is based on the feeling of being alive, alert and excited in the midst of the unknown. By respecting another person’s autonomy and embracing the associated anxiety, we can enhance excitement, desire, and passion in our relationship with that person.

As we face and accept our own existential separateness, our tolerance for being alone increases. In addition, our disappointment in others diminishes, because we relinquish unrealistic expectations that our partners will save us from ourselves.

Read “‘My parent was controlling.’ How we develop Defense Mechanisms (Part I)”

Watch “How to Deal with Controlling People.”

Read “I’ve texted you five times in the last hour! Where have you been?”

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“I just can’t control myself. There’s nothing I can do about it.”

"Roar" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Roar” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Benefits of self-control

Self-control has everything to do with being able to resist immediate gratification in order to enhance overall fulfillment. This takes into account the future as well as the present, and considers other people as well as oneself.

People who have good self-control are more successful and happy in life than those who don’t. Research shows they live longer, have more fulfilling relationships, make more money, are healthier, less aggressive, and less likely to become criminals. This is not surprising, as most broken hearts, broken promises, and harmful acts stem from a lack of restraint or self-discipline.

Among students, the correlation between self-control and good grades is twice as strong as that between IQ and good grades. So the ability to follow through in spite of difficulties and temptations is far more important than intelligence. It enables a person to think about long-term consequences.

When self-control gets depleted

People with low levels of self-control can lose their temper or give in to temptation at the slightest irritation or amount of pressure. People with high levels of self-control are able to withstand greater challenges before reacting to stress.

No matter how much self-control you have, it’s important not to deplete your existing store of self-control. Many factors can diminish it, such as stress, low blood sugar, exhaustion, and lack of sleep. Alcohol and drugs will also reduce your willpower and ability to control your behavior. Combining drinking with staying up late depletes your strength faster and increases the likelihood of losing your self-control.

When you are with a crying infant, a rebellious teenager, or an angry client, you are exerting self-control to avoid lashing out. As your store of self-control gets used up on a particular day, you will tend to be more reactive as it becomes harder to hold back harmful or inappropriate feelings, desires, and opinions. In a similar fashion a child who has been well behaved at school all day may come home and fall apart. The same may happen to an adult who has held it together at a stressful day’s work and then becomes over-reactive at the slightest provocation at home. These are examples of people who have used up their daily store of self-control, and feel safer letting go in the security of their home.

If you are trying to lose weight and go to a friend’s house who has chocolate cake and cookies on the table, you are exerting your self-control simply by sitting there. At a certain point you may not be able to stand it any longer and suddenly reach for a large piece of dessert. Or you may continue to resist the dessert but lose your self-control in another arena and perhaps lash out at someone verbally. If you’ve been resisting the bowl of M&Ms at your house all day, it will become more difficult for you to exert your self-control in other matters later in the day.

In short, it is helpful to avoid situations that will demand too much of you. So get enough sleep, eat breakfast, hide the M&Ms, schedule difficult meetings for the morning, take a pleasant break from the kids.

Improving self-control

Like most traits, a person’s self-control is influenced by a combination of factors: genetics, personality, upbringing, and life experiences.

The good news is that however much self-control you currently have, you can increase it. It is like a muscle that develops through consistent exercise. The results of strengthening self-control can actually be seen in brain scans. If you practice self-discipline for a short amount of time, increasing the duration each day, it will become easier and easier.

However, just like a physical muscle, if you exert an excessive amount of self-control at one time given your current level, you risk temporarily losing all self-control. Think, for example, how children with severely strict parents, will suddenly let loose and go wild when the parents aren’t looking. Imagine someone on a extreme diet who can’t take it anymore and falls into binging.

So we want to develop self-control by practicing it consistently but without overdoing it. Professor C. Nathan DeWaalself says the key to building up self-control is to undertake stress-inducing activities in gradually-increasing increments. For instance, resist your impulse to eat or drink something unhealthy for five extra minutes the first day, then ten the next day, and so on. Study a new subject or language daily to increase your ability to concentrate despite distractions or anxiety. Start exercising a few minutes a day and gradually increase the minutes you stay with it. You will also enhance self-control by using your non-dominant hand just five minutes a day because of the concentration and slight mental discomfort it takes.

Continuing to do stress-inducing activities despite frustration actually improves your self-control in all areas of your life. The key is to learn to handle discomfort and anxiety without getting angry, giving up, or reaching for something unhealthy to consume. The payoff is improved relationships, work satisfaction, state of mind, health, and happiness.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Listen to Professor’s C. Nathan DeWall’s “Scientific Secrets for Self-Control.” 2013.

Read “Self-control: ‘I really want to get this new ipod today Mom.’”

Read “Communicating Effectively under Stress: ‘This is horrible!’”

Read “Defensiveness: ‘What do you mean by that? You’re always attacking me!’”

Posted in Personality Traits | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“I have so much to do!! It’s overwhelming!”

"Collecting Moonbeams" by Mimi Stuart ©  Live the Live you Desire

“Collecting Moonbeams” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Live you Desire

So what I really meant was…

“What is the most important thing I need to do? I’ll start there.”

Life is too short to allow yourself to get overwhelmed with all the things you should do. Prioritize and do the best you can. If you go through your days in a state of panic, you won’t be very effective and you won’t appreciate being alive and having the capabilities you have been blessed with.

When you can strike a balance of living in the moment and moving forward with purpose, then you can enjoy the pursuit of your dreams and goals rather than being overwhelmed by them.

There may even be an upside to pressure. Leonard Bernstein points out, “To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.”

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “My life feels out of control.”

Read “Saying No:  ‘Everybody wants me to contribute money or volunteer my time and I’m overwhelmed.’”

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Guest Author Sam Vaknin, PhD: Schizoid Personality Disorder
“He is either the spirit of the party – or a hermit.”

"Faces" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Faces” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

“Sometimes he is gregarious and sometimes he is a recluse. He is either the spirit of the party – or a hermit. Can one person be one and the same?”

Guest Author Sam Vaknin writes:

Schizoid Personality Disorder is characterized, among other things, by avoidance of social contact. Narcissists go through such phases as well.

Schizoids shrug off their disorder: they simply don’t like being around people and they resent the pathologizing of their lifestyle “choice” to remain aloof and alone. They consider the diagnosis of Schizoid Personality Disorder to be spurious, a mere reflection of current social coercive mores, and a culture-bound artefact.

Narcissist, as usual, tend to rationalize and aggrandize their schizoid conduct. They propound the idea that being alone is the only logical choice in today’s hostile, anomic, and atomized world. The concept of “individual” exists only in the human species. Animals flock together or operate in colonies and herds. Each member of these aggregates is an extension of the organic whole. In contradistinction, people band and socialize only for purposes of a goal-oriented cooperation or the seeking of emotional rewards (solace, succor, love, support, etc.)

Yet, in contemporary civilization, the accomplishment of most goals is outsourced to impersonal collectives such as the state or large corporations. Everything from food production and distribution to education is now relegated to faceless, anonymous entities, which require little or no social interaction. Additionally, new technologies empower the individual and render him or her self-sufficient, profoundly independent of others.

As they have grown in complexity and expectations (fed by the mass media) relationships have mutated to being emotionally unrewarding and narcissistically injurious to the point of becoming a perpetual fount of pain and unease. More formalized social interactions present a substantial financial and emotional risk. Close to half of all marriages, for instance, end in a divorce, inflicting enormous pecuniary damage and emotional deprivation on the parties involved. The prevailing ethos of gender wars as reflected in the evolving legal milieu further serves to deter any residual predilection and propensity to team up and bond.

This is a vicious circle that is difficult to break: traumatized by past encounters and liaisons, people tend to avoid future ones. Deeply wounded, they are rendered less tolerant, more hypervigilant, more defensive, and more aggressive – traits which bode ill for their capacity to initiate, sustain, and maintain relationships. The breakdown and dysfunction of societal structures and institutions, communities, and social units is masked by technologies which provide verisimilitudes and confabulations. We all gravitate towards a delusional and fantastic universe of our own making as we find the real one too hurtful to endure.

Modern life is so taxing and onerous and so depletes the individual’s scarce resources that little is left to accommodate the needs of social intercourse. People’s energy, funds, and wherewithal are stretched to the breaking point by the often conflicting demands of mere survival in post-industrial societies. Furthermore, the sublimation of instinctual urges to pair (libido), associate, mingle, and fraternize is both encouraged and rewarded. Substitutes exist for all social functions, including sex (porn) and childrearing (single parenthood) rendering social institutions obsolete and superfluous social give-and-take awkward and inefficient.

The individual “me” has emerged as the organizing principle in human affairs, supplanting the collective. The idolatry of the individual inexorably and ineluctably results in the malignant forms of narcissism that are so prevalent – indeed, all-pervasive – wherever we direct our gaze.

by Sam Vaknin, PhD, the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, and international affairs. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Posted in Personality Traits, Vaknin, Sam PhD, Visiting Authors | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Here’s a cookie. Now stop fussing.”

"'Kayab'" The Mayan Collection by Mimi Stuart ©  Live the Life you Desire

“‘Kayab’” The Mayan Collection by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Some parents will try anything to stop a child’s fussiness or crying. These parents are often responding to their own anxiety more than the child’s urgent situation and real need.

Infants, of course, should be looked after immediately when they cry because there probably is an urgent need. But over time, it’s best to allow the child to start handling his or her own anxiety without rushing in with a quick fix.

One of the most important skills in dealing with life challenges is learning to handle one’s own discomfort in the face of anxiety. If children are given sweets or drinks whenever they are fussy, they are encouraged to use their emotions to manipulate others to get something. They are also prevented from learning to soothe themselves when they feel anxious.

They are being trained to use food or drink to soothe their anxiety. People who as children have always been distracted by food or drink when they’re upset have been neurologically hard wired to seek food, drink or attention the moment they feel anxious.

People learn to deal with apprehension and unfamiliar circumstances in early childhood. Anxiety is simply a physical state of increased attentiveness in the face of an unknown situation. Anything new or unknown in life provokes some anxiety. So if children don’t learn to deal with anxiety without having to consume something, they may end up consuming a lot more than is healthy for them.

When your child is fussy, and not in danger, pain, or real need, you should remain relaxed and calm. Actually, it’s usually helpful to remain calm. Having the demeanor of a good pilot or nurse, the parent’s attitude should be one that conveys to the child “Don’t worry, everything will be okay. You’ll figure it out. Be patient and you’ll be fine.”

This is not to say that parents shouldn’t respond to their children’s real needs. But they should not rush to the rescue with cream-puffs and root beer as a way to deal with the child’s discomfort. The more children experience new situations without reaching for a pacifier or cookie, the more confident they will feel in the face of challenges in the future. This means that it’s important for parents to learn to deal with their anxiety as well.

Research shows that those who are able to defer gratification are much more successful in life. Check out The Marshmallow Experiment.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read  “Too Much Attachment:  ‘Honey, you’re so smart and talented!’”

Read  “Good-enough Parenting:  ‘I feel so bad when I let my children down.’”

Read “Overfunctioning and underfunctioning:  ‘If I don’t take care of things, nothing will ever get done.’”

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“Come on, three more bites of dinner.”

"Intimidator" Theo Fleury by Mimi Stuart©  Live the Life you Desire

“Intimidator” Theo Fleury by Mimi Stuart©
Live the Life you Desire

Except in rare cases, children instinctively know when and how much they need to eat. Telling a child to finish dinner is unnecessary, annoying, and controlling. It often leads to unhealthy emotional reactions to the natural process of eating only when hungry.

Other than reasonable rules, such as no unhealthy snacks before dinner, not serving yourself more than you can finish, or not having junk food and candy in the house, it’s best not to vigilantly control how much your child eats.

When children receive a lot of attention over how much or what they eat, their behavior relating to food becomes a way to get a response from those around them. It may become a way to gain a sense of control, to get attention, to rebel, or to get approval. These are not healthy reasons to determine how much or what to eat.

Children go through phases of eating little and eating a lot. When they do not receive too much external direction, they learn to pay attention and respond appropriately to their own physical needs. This is one of the area’s in a child’s life where more freedom is healthy, as long as there’s not too much junk food available.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Watch “Authoritarian vs Permissive Parenting.”

Read “My parent was controlling.” How we develop Defense Mechanisms (Part I)

Read “Parenting too Strictly: ‘Because I said so!’”

Posted in Parenting | Tagged , , | 2 Comments