“Why would someone who cheated me treat me as though I had wronged him?”

"Percussion" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Percussion” by Mimi Stuart ©

When a person who has cheated someone is ashamed, the wronged person becomes a perpetual and painful reminder of that shameful behavior. Consequently, perpetrators often become annoyed and angry with their victims.

To reconcile their bad behavior with their self-image, perpetrators will distort facts about the victim in order to rationalize and excuse their own actions. As Rudyard Kipling wrote, “Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears.” Thus, the fear of self-loathing that would result from honest self-assessment may drive a wrongdoer to fabrication.

If you are being blamed for something you didn’t do, defend yourself without sounding defensive. Avoid viewing yourself as a victim, but also consider how your own demeanor and actions may have contributed in allowing someone to cheat you.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “Dealing with conflict and volatility: ‘You’re being irrational!’”

Read “Lying: ‘I am a coward and I am dishonest.’”

Read “What is the best way to deal with a dishonest, condescending, Machiavellian narcissist at work, whom I need to partner with to obtain my objectives?”

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“I miss being close to my adult son.”

"Lady Liberty" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Lady Liberty” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

“My very close relationship with my son who is now 22 changed when he changed schools in 9th grade when he dramatically distanced himself from me. When he is with us during Christmas or summer breaks he is nice and family oriented but somehow always avoids spending quality time with me, never talks about private matters, and sometimes reveals that he blames me for things in his life that never occurred to me, like changing the school for him which put him through hard times or not taking his problems seriously enough. I feel his rejection of me and it hurts. We are slipping apart and I think I am not very able to deal with this. It sometimes makes my life feel worthless. Do you have any advice for me??”

Young adults separating from their parents

I’m so sorry for your pain. Younger children will generally idealize their parents, and when they become old enough to recognize their flaws, they can become disappointed, annoyed, and openly critical.

It is also very common for children to distance themselves from their parents when they are teenagers and young adults – this is natural and to be expected in a healthy child. They can become hyper-critical of their parents, blaming them for any struggles they face. They also can become hyper-sensitive to being judged or controlled by their parents.

It is a positive sign that your son is visiting you during Christmas and summer, and that he is polite. It is important to keep that connection even if it feels superficial to you. You may desire deeper connection and to talk about private matters with him, but you must resist pressing him in any way. When he is ready he will come to you.

If and when he does say anything about his life, try hard not to be reactive; do not judge or give advice unless he asks for it. Simply listen and try to be supportive. Do otherwise, and he will clam up and further distance himself from you.

Sudden change in child

It is possible that something bad happened to your son in 9th grade, either an event or simply unhappiness in being in a new school where he did not feel comfortable. As this was not your intention, it was not your fault. These transitions and minor traumas are part of life, and often prepare the teen for difficulties that are bound to occur in life. On the other hand if you do suspect that something horrible happened to him, you should ask him about it in a letter or in person. Otherwise let it pass.

Not a perfect parent?

No parent is perfect. As long as a parent provides love, consistency, and has reasonable expectations and consequences, the parent is doing a good job. No parent can satisfy a child’s every need, nor would it be the healthiest way to prepare a child for life. It is through one’s parents’ small failures and mistakes that a child learns to survive challenges.

A theory developed by Winnecott and called “good-enough mothering” (or good-enough parenting) shows that it’s better to be a pretty good parent with flaws than a “perfect parent” who anticipates every need of the child. It is the omissions and small mistakes of the parent that enable a child to gradually develop resiliency. Of course, abuse and great neglect do not fit into this category of “good-enough.”

Children criticize where it hurts – beware of your vulnerabilities

Ironically, children often criticize their parents for having the very qualities that the parents try hardest to avoid having. Better than anyone, children know their parents’ vulnerabilities. For example, if a child senses that a parent would hate to be seen as “rude”, then the child is likely to say to the parent that he or she is rude, even though the parent is indeed the otherwise. The child unconsciously knows the parent’s vulnerabilities and triggers and will exploit them in certain situations.

Thus, your son’s criticism of you for not taking his problems seriously enough may simply be his way of getting your attention because he unconsciously knows it will hurt you. Or he may simply be projecting his own inability to deal with his problems onto you.

On the other hand, if his criticism is apt, it’s not too late to take his problems more seriously.

Suggestions

When your son visits,

1. Be polite,

2. Show you’re happy to see him, but don’t idolize him or make him the center of all your attention,

3. Let him approach you,

3. Don’t ask too many questions if he’s sensitive to intrusive questioning,

4. Try not to make any judgments,

5. Try not to give advice,

6. Try not to be reactive when he discusses anything about his life,

7. Don’t lay any guilt trips “you’re seeing your friends again instead of having dinner with us!”

8. When he criticizes you, don’t get defensive; simply say, “I’m sorry you’re hurt, but unfortunately I’m not perfect. But you know I’m on your side and want what’s best for you.”

9. When he leaves, tell him how much his visit has meant to you ,

10. Try to do something interesting or fun together. You could say, “it would mean a lot to me if you go (skiing/on a hike/to a museum) with me while you visit, perhaps on Thursday.” “I’d love to go …. with you during your visit, perhaps ….”

I predict that as he matures and becomes more self-confident, he will become more appreciative of and comfortable around you and desire a deeper connection with you. However, you have to accept the natural loss of the close connection you once had when he was young. It is a fact of life that our children will grow up and will have their own lives independent of us – and that is a good thing.

Thus, I suggest that you let go of the hope to be as connected as you once were. I suggest enjoying his visits as much as possible, and letting him live his life while you focus on finding some things that you truly enjoy and are passionate about. Pursue your interests, enhance your relationships with your wife or partner if you have one, enhance your relationships with friends and the community. This will make you happier, and make you more appealing to your son, and a better role-model for him.

Write a letter to him

If it feels appropriate, you could write a letter, though not too long and detailed. Make sure you’re not judgmental, pleading, needy, demanding—anything that would cause him to feel guilty. For example,

“Dear ___________,

I want you to know how much joy you’ve brought into my life and how much our relationship means to me. It’s probably healthy and normal for a you to live your own life and in so doing to distance yourself from us a bit. However, I feel quite saddened by the distance between us since you went into the 9th grade. It may be simply a healthy distance for a young adult, but it seems as if there is something else causing the distance, some hurt or disappointment on your part. Of course I am not a perfect parent, but I have always been on your side and tried my best.

I dearly hope that you can forgive any hurt I have inadvertently caused you, and that over time we can become closer, as you mean the world to me.”

Good luck. Let me know how it goes.

Best,

Alison

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

Read “I worry a lot over my adult children and I often call them to give advice.”

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Ten guidelines for how to proceed with a relationship after a separation: “What steps are required as we work towards repair?”

"Flow of Energy" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Flow of Energy” by Mimi Stuart ©

Your primary goal should be to go about your life with a sense dignity and self-respect. This means doing the following:

1. Do not be rude or disrespectful.

2. Do not tolerate any rudeness or disrespect. In other words, when approached rudely, remain composed and either withdraw or say something like, “Let’s treat each other with respect.”

3. Do not seek too much connection, that is, avoid being needy.

4. Do not give too much advice.

5. Do not complain, but rather ask for what you need in a dignified way.

6. Avoid a victim mentality.

7. Avoid gossiping negatively about your potential ex.

8. Pursue your interests and see friends and family (I don’t mean party wildly, but live an interesting life). Include mutual friends.

9. Find things to be grateful for daily and hourly.

10. Apologize for any mistakes or hurt you may have caused.

Building a basis of mutual respect gives you the best chance of being able to restore the relationship on some level without resentment or hostility. He is most likely to miss you and be attracted to you again if you are strong, kind, independent and amazing.

Whether or not you are able to restore the relationship fully, you will feel better about yourself if you can follow these guidelines. Moreover, the self-composure and dignity achieved by following these guidelines provide the most effective basis for interacting with another person whether you are married, living apart, or divorced.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “How to predict a divorce or the breakup of a relationship.”

Read “Is ‘playing hard to get” just a game?”

Read “My girlfriend said she needed time and space to re-evaluate our relationship.”

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“What is the best way to deal with a dishonest, condescending, Machiavellian narcissist at work, whom I need to partner with to obtain my objectives?”

"Impact—Out of the Sandtrap" Lee Elder by Mimi Stuart ©

“Impact—Out of the Sandtrap” Lee Elder by Mimi Stuart ©

Preserve the narcissist’s self-image.

A true narcissist suffering from narcissistic personality disorder is predominantly concerned with his or her image and lacks empathy for others. So to have effective working relations, it becomes important not to shatter his or her image by implying that he or she is wrong or flawed. When narcissists are put on the defensive, they can become malicious without caring about the harm they cause others. So it is best to treat them with respect, even if it has to be feigned.

Appeal to the narcissist’s self-interest.

Avoid criticism, as a narcissist’s reaction to criticism can be extreme. Instead, start with flattery, and then phrase an objection delicately appealing to the narcissist’s public reputation, such as, “What if we considered doing it this way…? They would be impressed.” A narcissist wants more than anything to appear superior and to gain prestige. So motivate the narcissist by showing how your proposal will satisfy his or her interests. You may have to share credit. Chances are your superiors and those you work with will know whose idea it really was.

Protect yourself.

You need to be wary and protect yourself around a true narcissist. Be on your guard against sudden warmth and charm from the narcissist. It is likely to be a manipulative ploy to gain information and power. Don’t discuss any of your own weaknesses or vulnerabilities, and do not disclose any kind of secrets. Don’t gossip or say anything negative about other people. Anything you say can be used against you. Keep a very good paper trail.

This is not how you would want to relate with another person in a friendship or equal partnership, but it is the best way to be effective in a relationship that you are forced to have with a narcissist.

In essence, be respectful and diplomatic, but remain vigilant and protect yourself.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “Judgment: ‘My co-worker is an idiot.’”

Read Sam Vaknin’s “How can you tell a TRUE friend from a FAKE one?”

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

GUEST AUTHOR Sam Vaknin:
How Does the Narcissist React to Illness and Disability?

"Under Water" detail by Mimi Stuart ©

“Under Water” detail by Mimi Stuart ©

Guest Author Sam Vaknin writes:

When narcissists fall victim to chronic or acute diseases, or survive a traffic accident, they react in either of four typical ways, depending on the type of narcissist:

1. The schizotypal reaction the belief that the narcissist’s predicament is a part of a larger, cosmic plan, or of a blueprint that governs the narcissist’s life and inexorably leads him to greatness and to the fulfillment of a mission.

2. Narcissistic rage intended to allay feelings of helplessness, loss of control, and impotence and to re-establish the narcissist’s omnipotent, grandiose self.

This is frequently followed by a schizoid phase (withdrawal) and then by a manic spurt of activity, seeking narcissistic supply (attention).

3. The paranoid reaction: the narcissist deludes himself that the accident was no accident, someone is out to get him, etc. The narcissist casts himself in the role of a victim, usually in the framework of some grand design or conspiracy, or as the outcome of “fate” (again, a schizotypal element).

4. The masochistic reaction: in the wake of the illness or accident, the narcissist’s constant anxiety is alleviated and he is relieved, having been “punished” properly for his inherent “evilness” and decadence.

Narcissists hate weak (sick) people and hate it even more when their source of narcissistic supply ceases to function properly. Most of them just move on: they abandon the sick spouse and find another, healthier one. Some of them play the role of martyrs, victims, selfless saints and thus garner narcissistic supply as they “treat” their bedridden spouse.

The permanently disabled narcissists adopt one or more of three strategies:

1. Exaggerated helplessness which justifies emotional blackmail and the kind of insidious dependence that cripples his caregivers;

2. Control freakery in a frenzied attempt to reassert his grandiose sense of omnipotence now gravely challenged by his invalidity;

3. Sadism which renders his victim as helpless as he is and as frustrated as he feels and, thus, “levels the playing field” and normalizes his disability (“everyone is helpless and frustrated so there is nothing really wrong with me, I am, after all, still perfect.”)

Possessing a distorted physical self-image is called a Body Dysmorphic Disorder. All narcissists have it to some degree. Somatic narcissists are especially prone to misjudge their bodies – either positively or negatively. They believe themselves to be physically irresistible, exuding sex and energy, statuesquely shaped, and, in general, stunning hunks. This grandiose self-image rarely corresponds with reality, though.

Aware of this, the somatic narcissist dedicates inordinate amounts of time and effort to body building, exercising, mastering sexual advances and foreplay and the intricacies of the coital act itself. To enhance his belief system, the somatic narcissist co-opts others by forcing them to compliment his build, shape, constitution, health, sexual prowess, physical regime and attractiveness. The somatic narcissist is a compulsive consumer of “body complements or extensions” – objects that he thinks increase his attraction, irresistibility, appeal, and the value of his propositions. Fancy cars, flashy clothing, sumptuous residences, first class flights, luxury hotels, platinum credit cards, lavish parties, name-dropping, celebrity “friends”, hi-tech gadgetry – all serve to enhance the narcissist’s self-image and to bolster his grandiose fantasies.

Thus, this positive Dysmorphic Disorder serves to elicit Narcissistic Supply and buttress a distorted, unreal, self-image. But it is also a control mechanism. It allows the narcissist’s False Self to manipulate both the narcissist and his human environment. It is as though by morphing his body – the narcissist moulds and designs his world, his nearest and dearest, his self in flux, his projected image and the reactions to it. By lying about his body, his health, his sex appeal, his longevity, his possessions (his bodily extensions), his sexual prowess, his attractiveness, his irresistibility, his friends and lovers, adventures and affairs – the narcissist transforms the REAL world. To him, the REAL world – is how people PERCEIVE him to be. By changing their perceptions, by indoctrinating and “brainwashing” them – the narcissist secures a Pathological Narcissistic Space in which his Self False can thrive, fully nourished.

This phenomenon is not limited to the somatic narcissist. The cerebral narcissist also deforms the true image of his body in his mind. He may exaggerate the dimensions of his head, the height of his forehead, or the length of his (sensitive) fingers. He may attribute to himself ailments and syndromes typical of high powered intellectuals – consumption (tuberculosis), tendonitis, headaches. The cerebral narcissist almost always lies about his IQ, his mental capacities, his skills. He tends to completely ignore and belittle the rest of his body. To him, it is a burdensome and unnecessary appendage. He may complain of the need to “maintain” the flesh and of the derided dependence of his magnificent brain on his abject and decaying body. “I would have willingly placed my brain in a laboratory jar, to be artificially nourished there, and given up my body” – they may say. They rarely exercise and regard with disdain the activities, proclivities, and predilections of the somatic narcissist. Physical pursuits – sex included – are perceived by them to be bestial, demeaning, common, wasteful, and meaningless. This is also a result of Body Dysmorphic Disorder. The cerebral narcissist underestimates the needs of his own body, misreads its signals, and ignores its processes. The body, to him, becomes abstract, a background noise, or nuisance.

Cerebral narcissists sometimes go through somatic phases and somatic narcissists – if capable – adopt cerebral behaviour patterns. Their attitudes change accordingly. The temporarily somatic narcissist suddenly begins to exercise, groom himself, seduce, and have creative and imaginative sex. The somatic made cerebral tries to read more, becomes contemplative and a-social, and consumes culture. But these are passing phases and the narcissist always reverts to true – or should I say, false – form.

===================================

by Guest Author Sam Vaknin, who is 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, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

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.

Read Guest Author Sam Vaknin’s “Munchausen and Munchausen by Proxy Syndromes: Forms of Pathological Narcissism?”

Read Narcissism Part 1 (of 5): “My husband is so selfish! Is he a narcissist?” Symptoms of Narcissism.

Posted in Personality Traits, Vaknin, Sam PhD, Visiting Authors | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When is it time for an adult child to move out.

"Limitless" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Limitless” by Mimi Stuart ©

“My son is 20 and we are having a great deal of trouble with his selfish behavior. He stays at home and commutes to school, and this summer he is basically just doing what he wants and getting angry and impatient if we ask for help around the house. He swears often as is critical of me even though he knows I don’t like it. He blames other people when confronted about his own attitude. He definitely has a good side and can be very funny and entertaining. Lately though, I feel depressed, as though I had failed as a parent.”


This is a very common situation, although a painful one. Unless your son has always been rude and selfish he will probably turn out fine in the end. I believe your son resents you because he is an adult yet he is dependent on you. He doesn’t feel good about himself because he is functioning as a child. Yet he’s too comfortable and afraid to change the situation. Fear is what is driving his resentment and his lashing out at you.

Behavior and the Brain

The prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until we’re about 25 years. Typically it develops more slowly in males. It develops through experiencing the repeated consequences to our actions, both positive and negative. A person develops the ability to resist immediate gratification or impulsive behavior such as being rude and critical when there are repeated negative consequences to such behavior.

If a young man experiences no consequences when he swears, is rude, and does not contribute in a supportive way, then he will be unlikely to develop the ability to resist those impulses later in life with people close to him. Now is the time when you can influence him so that his prefrontal cortex does not remain underdeveloped.

Consequences

You need to keep two things in mind. One, your home is your sanctuary and two, he is an adult.

You should not tolerate an entitled, rude, critical person living in YOUR home. Enabling bad behavior doesn’t do anyone any good. It merely strengthens neural pathways of negative behavior. There need to be consequences and firm boundaries to his conduct in YOUR home.

There is no need to be angry or mean when discussing a problem. It’s much more effective to be kind but resolute when expressing your own boundaries, specifically that it is time for your son to move out of your home. I suggest being very honest with him, but start with something positive and retain a firm but compassionate tone of voice.

For example, “You’re often funny and enjoyable to be with. We love you. However, perhaps because you’re 20 and an adult who needs his independence, you seem to resent us. We understand that young adults who are not adequately separated from their parents may become critical of and annoyed with their parents. However, your criticism, swearing, and hostile attitude toward us in our home are unacceptable to us. We know you’re better than that and don’t want to enable you further.”

“While you are in our home we expect appreciation, support and consideration and we expect you to live by our rules. Since you haven’t been doing that, we think that for our own sakes as well as yours, it is time that you should live elsewhere. This is not a punishment, but what’s best for everyone.”

“We all have to be creative in figuring out how this can be done. Perhaps you can get a loan for your tuition and use the money we’re spending on tuition on your room and board. You can get another part-time job, or get a full-time job and take fewer classes. Whatever you decide is up to you, and we would be glad to help in any way we reasonably can.”

Facing challenges

This is the time when young people should be meeting the daily challenges in life. Facing such challenges is how he will build self-confidence, and as a result have more positive interactions with others including you, as long as you don’t mollycoddle him.

College

You may worry that it will be harder for your son to complete college if he has to get another job. Yet the gift of gaining self-respect, respect for others, and the skills to deal with life challenges will balance out the fact that it may take longer for him to complete college. Moreover, it is probable that he will appreciate the gift of a college education more than he currently does when he sees what it takes to get by on his own. In the meantime, I would also ask him to do more chores, let him cook his own meals, and do less for him.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “Setting Boundaries”

Read Angry Adult Child:“The years of terror from my mother has made me make sure that my son knows I love him. I fear, more than anything, his total rejection. HOWEVER, he often seems angry at me.”

Read “I worry a lot over my adult children and I often call them to give advice.”

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