Couple-relationship

Your Relationship Is Not a Lost Cause

Source link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/progress-notes/202010/your-relationship-is-not-lost-cause

3 cogent reasons couples therapy is often successful in transforming intimacy.

The heightened emotional bond of marriage in particular puts partners continually at risk for conflict. Murray, Bellavia, and Rose (2003) concluded, “The experience of slights and hurts at the hand of a partner is inevitable. After all, conflicts of interest routinely surface, and even ambiguous behaviors, if sufficiently scrutinized, might seem to reveal a partner’s irritation, disappointment, or disinterest in oneself” (p. 128).

When conflict does occur, partners are often stuck in ruts of retort and resentment. Aggression and withdrawal in the midst of conflict are patterns of conditioned defense, covering up primary emotions, with primal cravings for understanding and support buried beneath. Knee-jerk reactions nearly inevitably result in perceptions of judgment, misunderstanding, and rejection, which diminish respect and increase disconnection. On the other hand, messages of understanding breed respect and connection.

Ontario psychotherapist Malcolm MacFarlane analogized, “I use [an] image of two magnets with the same poles facing each other to describe the sense of contact, energy, and anxiety that we experience when we enter the sphere of conflict with another person. Many people disengage from this sphere of conflict either by avoiding and backing off or by attacking, escalating, and then disconnecting. … The ideal is to learn to stay in the sphere of conflict while being authentic and working through the conflict” (personal communication, June 25, 2016).

Our emotions and thinking are inextricably tied to one another and together generate perception. When we perceive misunderstanding, under-appreciation, judgment, or rejection, our defenses go up. As walls rise, we have increasing difficulty hearing one another, by which I really mean understanding one another. Empathy is a precursor to mutuality.

Couples who do not experience mutuality usually channel feelings of sadness, fear, or shame through self-protective or coercive behaviors. When such interactions evolve into patterns, couples often experience a loss of trust or heightening of fear, which buries the deeper emotions even further.

There is an alternative to overt rage. When either afraid of one’s own anger or when emotion can be buried no further, logic—facts or even beliefs—may provide concealment. Logic is yet another superficial, secondary, reactive, and protective layer of defense for the rawer, primary, underlying emotions within—of which sadness, fear, and shame are prime examples.

The good news?

1. Couples nearly always already possess the resources they need for a positive relationship.

These resources involve increasing safety, empathy, and responsiveness. There are no magic facts that heal relationships. Intimacy is embodied, not encoded. Insight is often necessary but never sufficient in and of itself to bring about change. To recondition marital soil so intimacy may grow, expressions of vulnerability and understanding must increase, and reflexive, knee-jerk reactions must decrease. When highly committed to the relationship and highly motivated to see positive changes in it, partners are often quite adept in pivoting toward constructive and healing changes.

Healing is a function of growth. Growth, and thereby healing, occurs as two people lay down their defenses and connect in safe and constructive ways around the unresolved emotion, being careful to honor the unique emotional process of the one they love without stepping on and triggering emotional landmines. Couples therapy can lay the groundwork for this.

2. Changes must be experienced to be sustained, and therapy provides space for this to occur.

You can choose to keep on explaining what you already believe or risk stepping into a new terrain by exploring together how, rather than why, each of you feels hurt and anger. I’m referring to a shift between defending, criticizing, or debating facts to connecting on a more vulnerable and emotional level.

When one partner aggressively asserts resentments or withdraws in an emotional paralysis, the other partner may react in due pattern, understanding may be thwarted, and a cold distance remains. During this sort of interaction, partners typically feel—and this is where the mutuality ends—misunderstood and unsupported.

Where there is hurt, there must be—and let’s be clear that in some cases this requires great preparation and even facilitation—a coming together and a facing together of the underlying pain. Such pain generally involves sadness, fear, shame, or all three. Respect and connection do not occur at the secondary reactive level of emotion, through explosions, attacks, and retreats, and neither do growth and healing.

It is never easy to communicate vulnerably and honestly through the tremble of raw emotion. Couples have an opportunity to begin to experience a restructuring of their patterns of interaction and their experience of intimacy. When one chooses to communicate nondefensively upon feeling misunderstood or unsupported, the resulting mutual experience tends to be feeling mutual respect and emotional togetherness.

3. We are capable of increasing our capacities for emotional management and self-direction. 

Many couples struggle to manage intense reactive emotions they feel in the midst of conflict. We are not necessarily determined by our impulses. If you and your partner find yourselves in a tailspin of disconnection, make a decision today to lean into a new paradigm marked by respect and understanding and driven by intentionality. This is challenging work, and you may benefit from the facilitation a therapist can provide. Over the course of therapy, partners are capable of consolidating new positions, attitudes, and cycles of attachment behavior and experiencing conflict in a more satisfying, growth-oriented way.

And with the surge of COVID-19 came the surge in use of telehealth for therapy, including for couples therapy. Couples now have even greater options for accessing good therapists, and less excuses.

References

Murray, S. L., Bellavia, G. M., & Rose, P. (2003). Once hurt, twice hurtful: How perceived regard regulates daily marital interactions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(1), 126-147.

empathy

10 Empathy Quotes

1. Empathy is a skill like any other human skill. If you get a chance to practice, you can get better at it.

Simon Baron Cohen

2. Empathy grows as we learn.

Alice Miller

3. Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another.

Alfred Adler

4. I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.

Maya Angelou

5. Whenever you feel like criticizing any one…just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

6. Empathy is the ability to step outside of your own bubble and into the bubbles of other people.

C. Joybell

7. Empathy requires knowing that you know nothing.

Leslie Jamison

8. No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Theodore Roosevelt

9. The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy, we can all sense a mysterious connection to each other.

Meryl Streep

10. There is no greater loan than a sympathetic ear.

Frank Tyger

Do Narcissists Actually Lack Empathy?

Source Link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/intense-emotions-and-strong-feelings/202001/do-narcissists-actually-lack-empathy

An unwillingness to empathize is different than being unable to do so.

We generally assume that narcissistic people lack empathy, as though they are missing a certain brain function. Granted, such thinking can make us feel better when a relationship dissolves. However, in some circumstances, an individual with a narcissistic personality disorder may display empathy, which can be confusing.

Consider the possibility that narcissists are consciously and unconsciously unwilling to empathize, rather than lacking the capacity to do so. The notion that a person can have a capacity for empathy, yet not be empathically responsive, may be useful for understanding the personality characteristics of people we label as narcissistic.

Empathy is the capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person. [1] Some regard empathy as a vicarious affective response based on the awareness of another person’s emotional state. [2] Many definitions of empathy include the concept of perspective-taking—emotionally or cognitively seeing things from the other person’s position. [3] Thus, empathy can involve both a cognitive process (the ability to understand another person’s view in terms of what the other is thinking or feeling) and an experiential process (resonating with another person’s emotional response).

A lack of empathy is often considered to be one of the distinctive features of narcissism. However, this is not entirely the case. The criteria for the formal psychiatric diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association includes “lacks empathy,” but this designation has a critical qualifier: namely, “is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.” [4] An unwillingness to empathize with another person is not the same as being unable to empathize with another person.

Some researchers have found that the cognitive functioning necessary for empathy, such as the ability to role-play or take another person’s perspective, occurs in a different location of the brain than the emotional aspects of empathy, such as sensitivity to what another person is feeling or experiencing. [5] Whether one is narcissistic or not, our brains simulate the feelings of those around us. This ability to mimic another’s feelings enables us to reconstruct within us what other people may be experiencing. [6]

Given the many and complicated interactions we have with others throughout our lives, the ability to automatically understand what is going on with someone else is a crucial skill for successful social functioning. Some studies have shown a relationship between narcissism and deficient emotional empathy, but that narcissists, nevertheless, can recognize and react to the suffering of others, even if they are motivated to disregard such distress in other people. [7]

The capacity to empathize does not preclude its use for bad behavior. Descriptions of empathy have included the notion that empathy can be used for destructive purposes. [8] [9] Thus, people who have a narcissistic personality may consciously or unconsciously be motivated to withhold an empathic response to control a partner or to justify their behavior. They may exploit their understanding of another’s emotional state to manipulate that person. Using their empathy manipulatively, people with narcissistic pathology know how to evoke insecurity in their partners and provoke attachment anxiety. [10]

The concept that a person can have the capacity for empathy, yet not be empathic in his or her response, is also important for understanding how people with a narcissistic personality disorder may protect themselves. Consider for a moment that these people do not really lack empathy, but instead, their vulnerability limits their freedom to express it. Thus, they have an unwillingness to empathize rather than a lack of empathy.

Many people who seem to lack empathy for the other humans in their lives can express enormous sympathy and compassion for their pets, and they may overtly express empathy regarding an ill or injured animal. In such situations, someone with a narcissistic personality may feel emotionally safe and capable of vulnerability. The subjective experience of trust can be a powerful tool for narcissists that reduces perceived threats and allows them to attend to the needs and feelings of others. [11]

There is evidence indicating that narcissistic individuals are hyper-sensitive to information that could cause them psychological distress, but at the same time, they may be oblivious to such information at the level of conscious awareness. [12] Interpersonally, where someone with narcissistic traits experiences helplessness or vulnerability, they are likely to withhold an empathic response automatically, appearing cold-hearted or as refusing to take responsibility for hurtful behavior. How do we understand why someone would appear to lack empathy or have an unwillingness to empathize? The answer involves a personality organization that over a lifetime has been scripted to avoid shame.

When emotions occur in persistent or repeated forms, we consider them as dispositional characteristics of the individual or personality traits—situations that typically activate a coherent pattern of interacting emotions or scripted behaviors. Unfortunately, the language of personality traits overshadows the emotional states that motivate the behavior. [13] For example, we generally consider narcissism as having to do with behaviors or traits, such as grandiosity, entitlement, and a lack of empathy, but this obscures how these behaviors and traits are patterned responses to specific emotional experiences. Shame is the central emotional experience of narcissism, and narcissistic disorders reflect behaviors that serve to disavow and regulate shame. [14] [15]

Since an empathic response often involves an unconscious assessment of one’s vulnerability to experiencing shame, the narcissist’s inhibition of an empathic response (“unwillingness”) may simply be self-protective. This also points to the affective limitations that accompany narcissistic personality disorder. Narcissists do not consciously feel a lack of empathy or an unwillingness to empathize. Instead, in many situations where one might expect them to empathize, their limitations activate a sense of helplessness (imagined vulnerability) followed by scripted responses to shame, such as shame-fear (fear of loss of face) or shame-rage (protection from some imagined trauma from the past). [16]

Thus, if you are involved with someone who is motivated by shame to be consciously or unconsciously unwilling to empathize with what you feel, your task is to protect yourself. Blaming heartache on a former partner’s “lack of empathy,” for example, is a mistake. You may be responding to your own shame by attacking someone who could not provide what you needed in the first place, due to their restricted emotional freedom. Instead, by accepting your disappointment and looking inside yourself, you can learn.

References

[1] Kohut, H. (1984). How Does Analysis Cure? Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

[2] Eisenberg, N., Miller, P. A., Schaller, M., Fabes, R. A., Fultz, J., Shell, R., et al. (1989). The role of sympathy and altruistic personality traits in helping: A reexamination. Journal of Personality 57:41-67.

[3] Hoffman, M. L. (2000). Empathy and Moral Development: Implications for Caring and Justice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

[4] American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

[5] Eslinger, P. J. (1998). Neurological and neuropsychological bases of empathy. European Neurology 39:193-199.

[6] Lundqvist, L., and Dimberg, U. (1995). Facial expressions are contagious. Journal of Psychophysiology 9:203-211.

[7] Baskin-Sommers A, Krusemark E, Ronningstam E. Empathy in narcissistic personality disorder: from clinical and empirical perspectives. J Pers Disord. 2014; 5: 323–333. doi.org/10.1037/ per0000061

[8] Decety, J., and Moriguchi, Y. (2007). The empathic brain and its dysfunction in psychiatric populations: Implications for intervention across different clinical conditions. Biopsychosocial Medicine 1:22-52.

[9] Kohut, H. (1984). How Does Analysis Cure? Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

[10] Lamia, M. and Krieger, M. (2009). The White Knight Syndrome. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

[11] Burgmer, P., Weiss, A., and Ohmann, K. (2019). I don’t feel ya: how narcissism shapes empathy. Self and Identity. DOI: 10.1080/15298868.2019.1645730

[12] Bilotta, E., Carcione, A., Fera, T., Moroni, F., Nicolo, G. Pedone, R., Pellecchia, G., Semerari, A., and Colle, L. (2018). Symptom severity and mindreading in narcissistic personality disorder. PLoS ONE, 13(8). doi: org/10.1371/journal.pone.0201216.

[13] Plutchik, R. (2000). Emotions in the practice of psychotherapy: Clinical implications of affect theories. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

[14] Lewis, H. B. (1987). Shame and the narcissistic personality. In D. L. Nathanson (Ed.), The many faces of shame (pp. 93-132). New York, NY: Guilford.

[15] Nathanson, D. L. (1992). Shame and pride: Affect, sex, and the birth of the self. New York, NY: Norton.

[16] David, G. F. (2020, January 4). Personal email communication.

10 Self-Awareness Quotes

1. If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.

Daniel Goleman

2. Every human has four endowments; self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom. The power to choose, to respond, to change.

Stephen Covey

3. What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.

Abraham Maslow

4. The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.

Carl R. Rogers

5. Without self-awareness we are as babies in the cradles.

Virginia Woolf

6. Self-awareness is the ability to take an honest look at your life without any attachment to it being right or wrong, good or bad.

Debbie Ford

7. Self-awareness is not just relaxation and not just meditation. It must combine relaxation with activity and dynamism. Technology can aid that.

Deepak Chopra

8. Self-awareness is one of the rarest of human commodities. I don’t mean self consciousness where you’re limiting and evaluating yourself. I mean being aware of your own patterns.

Tony Robbins

9. Self-awareness gives you the capacity to learn from your mistakes as well as your successes. It enables you to keep growing.

Lawrence Bossidy

10. When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.

Ralph Ellison

Your Secret Weapon for Changing Someone’s Mind

How to influence people by listening with your senses, not just your brain.

When teaching leaders communication skills, I often ask, “Do you know how people feel when you enter the room?” After a few responses, I ask, “Do you know how they feel when you leave?” No matter how well you thought through the words you shared, the way you listened to them will make or break your ability to change how they feel and think.

Most listening is designed to gain information that will fulfill your needs. How often do you listen to people for these purposes:

  1. To collect data: You listen to know what to say or do next. You listen to formulate your argument, to compare your perspective to theirs, or to fill in what you think you are missing.
  2. To give an answer or solve a problem: You listen to know what advice to give when they quit talking.
  3. To obey protocol: You listen because you should, not because you want to.

Listening from the neck up

When you listen for information to formulate your response, you grab only some of their words. They expect you to hear more, and to understand how they feel even though it is hard to accurately decipher facial expressions.1

Listening while thinking annoys most people. Even if you care about them, they won’t feel connected to you in the conversation.

Listen to receive, not analyze

When you choose to be present and connect with someone, you listen beyond your analytical brain. You suspend analysis. You take in and accept their words, expressions, and emotions as elements of their experience. You acknowledge the story they offer as valid from their current point of view. You don’t insert your opinions or judgments. People feel heard and will listen to you in return.

You receive what people offer with the purpose:

  1. To connect: You listen to establish a feeling of connection.
  2. To let the person know you value them: You listen so people feel you care what they think even when your perspective differs from theirs.
  3. To explore, learn, and grow together: You listen with curiosity to learn from the amazing human in front of you. You enjoy when the conversation takes you somewhere new.

Receiving is an active, not passive act even though you suspend your thoughts. You activate your nervous system, receiving sensory input with your heart and gut. With sensory awareness, you can receive and discern what is going on with others beyond the words they speak. They also feel safe enough to openly talk to you.2 You can find a visualization on how to open all three processing centers of your nervous system — your head, heart, and gut — on this site.

Listening with your senses

Sensory awareness includes an inward awareness of your reactions in a conversation. Your reactions might be in response to what they tell you. You also might be reacting to what you energetically receive from them.3 You can sense people’s desires, disappointments, frustrations, hopes, and doubts even when they have trouble articulating these experiences themselves.

Being sensitive doesn’t mean being wishy-washy. It means you are aware of what is going on around you on a sensory level and can sense when people are conflicted or distressed. Most people claim their pets have this ability to sense their emotional needs. Humans can receive these emotional vibrations as well. We just don’t pay attention to them.

You were likely taught to ignore your sensory awareness as a part of your conditioning as a child. Were you ever told, “You shouldn’t take things so personally,” or, “You should toughen up?” These admonishments led you to rely on your cognitive brain for listening.

I’m often asked if venturing into the land of emotions is risky, especially at work. I hear, “I can’t allow people’s emotions to sway me.”

When you don’t allow people to get under your skin, you aren’t experiencing them fully. You are disconnected internally and externally. You put up a wall between yourself and the people you are with.

You might feel their stress, anxiety, and anger. Don’t let these emotions sit in your body.4 Empathy occurs when you receive what another is feeling using sensory awareness, but you need to let these sensations pass through you.5 If you feel their emotion, relax your body and let the emotion subside as you return to being fully present with the person you are with.

There is also emotional energy vibrating between you.6 You can grasp when they want you to back off and give them space. You sense when they are impatient to move on or if they want to take more time. You can tell when they just want to be heard or acknowledged, instead of getting your advice. Share what you notice, and then listen to their response.

You may feel vulnerable when you open yourself to receive what people express. This vulnerability is a strength. Alan Alda said, “Real listening is a willingness to let the other person change you.”7 They feel connected when you interact. They enjoy being with you. They are more open to changing their minds when you receive first and then share your ideas.

5 steps for building sensory awareness in conversations

  1. Silence your brain: When you quiet your chattering brain, you clear your sensory channels.
  2. Let go of knowing: Instead of thinking you know how the person will react, try curiosity. Unfortunately, the better you know someone, the more likely you quit being curious. Can you release knowing what people will say? You might be surprised.
  3. Release the need to be right: Ask questions to understand their perspective. Once they feel heard, you can say you have a different perspective. They will be more willing to hear your point of view.
  4. Listen with your heart and gut as well as your head: Before your conversation, open your heart with feelings of compassion or gratitude. Then, open your gut by feeling your courage.
  5. Test your instinct: When you feel an emotional sensation, share what you think they might be feeling, such as anger, frustration, sadness, or yearning. Accept their response. If you are wrong, your guess could still help them better understand themselves and feel you cared enough to understand.

Can you open yourself to fully receive what people offer? They will be more willing to hear your ideas and possibly change their minds if you do.

References

1  Alice Park. Emotions May Not Be So Universal After All, Time.com, March 6, 2014.

2  Shari M. Gellar and Stephen W. Porges. “Therapeutic Presence: Neurophysiological Mechanisms Mediating Feeling Safe in Therapeutic Relationships,” Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 2014, Vol. 24, No. 3, 178–192.

3   Daniel J. Siegel, The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are. New York: The Guilford Press; 2nd edition, 2012.

4  Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, “Too much emotional intelligence is a bad thing.” Scientific American Mind, March 1, 2017.

5  Marcia Reynolds, “Can You Have Too Much Empathy? When empathy breaks trust.” PscychologyToday.com, April 15, 2017.

6  Rollin McCraty, “The Energetic Heart: Bioelectromagnetic Interactions Within and Between People.” Chapter published in: Clinical Applications of Bioelectromagnetic Medicine, edited by P. J. Rosch and M. S. Markov. New York: Marcel Dekker, 2004: 541-562.

7  Alan Alda, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I’ve Learned. New York: Random House, 2005, p. 160.

Source Link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/wander-woman/201910/your-secret-weapon-changing-someones-mind

Passive-agression

How to Protect Yourself from Passive Aggression

Mary told her husband (respectfully) that his comment felt hurtful. She suggested that he could have spoken to her differently and offered a response that would have felt supportive and kind. Her husband erupted with anger. Who was she to be the judge and jury of him? He wasn’t interested in being controlled by her with her scripts and the words she needed to hear. Mary, who is normally mild-mannered and compromising, exploded with rage. She accused her husband of being defensive and fragile, so fragile as to not even be able to hear or care about her feeling hurt. She was yelling, demanding to know how, when given the opportunity to be supportive, complimentary, and essentially her fan, he could and would make the choice to be unsupportive, uncomplimentary, and cutting. She was sick and tired of his unkindness.

Her husband didn’t miss a beat and accused her of being too sensitive, twisting his words to mean something they didn’t. Mary, becoming even more furious, shouted that it wasn’t about him and him and more him, but rather about the fact that his words had hurt her. And it went on . . . her husband, deaf to her pain, accused her of judging him, to which she again responded that this was not about him, not about who was right or wrong, but rather about his being able to simply hear the fact that she was hurt.

Later that day, Mary called to tell me that her husband had approached her about an hour after the session and acknowledged that maybe his words could have come off as a bit insensitive. While she was still brimming with anger and hurt, Mary had offered a simple thank you for your apology. It was the first time he had owned up to any of his own behavior in 20 years of marriage. And so, while his “apology” felt light on empathy, she made the choice to acknowledge his attempt at kindness and leave it at that, and not risk doing or saying anything that could discourage him from this new, positive behavior.

But the following week, Mary reported that her husband had become withdrawn, sullen, and unfriendly. He was playing the part of the one hurt and angry, while she had stepped into the role of the one trying to win back his affection and regain a sense of peace in the couple.

This was the standard trajectory of their disagreements. Mary would be hurt by something her husband said or did; she would then bring it to his attention. Upon hearing what he perceived (only) as criticism, he would immediately attack her emotionally (which I had witnessed), and then withdraw into his role as the victim in the relationship. As a victim, he would become silent, non-responsive, and backhandedly unkind towards her over the next several days. He would, in essence, fall into full-blown episodes of passive aggression.

Mary and I had both felt hopeful the previous week when her husband was able to take a baby step forward in acknowledging his own behavior and considering how it might have affected her. And yet, it seemed that his old pattern of reverting to passive aggression after hearing he had done something she didn’t like was still firmly intact.

Mary confessed that she was completely lost as to how to deal with her husband’s behavior. She still wanted to stay in the marriage (and still loved her husband), but his passive aggression, which appeared each time she shared that he had upset her, felt unbearable and maddening. She was utterly unable to find her ground or feel at ease when he was in this mode. She couldn’t get okay until the couple was again okay.

Mary felt that she had always been stuck in the same place with regard to her husband’s passive aggression. Unable to speak her truth, she felt that her only recourse was to wait for him to get over it, after which time she could get back to her own center.  But of course, when he did get over it, she then was left to deal with her own anger and hurt.  Regardless, her well-being was dependent on his behavior, which she hated.

But while she felt stuck, I reminded Mary that something profound had in fact transformed within her. When we first started working together, Mary would actually feel guilty when her husband punished her in this way. She would identify with his projections of blame and try to make up for the hurt she imagined she had caused him. She would play the perpetrator (having told him he hurt her after all) to his imagined victim; she stepped into his projections and took on the role of the bad one. I was happy to remind Mary that she no longer felt guilty in any way despite his playing the part of the one abused. This was an enormous change in her and a huge relief.

While Mary could acknowledge that she was no longer suffering from this most insidious consequence of passive aggression (imagining oneself as deserving of the punishment), she was however still frustrated that she felt so anxious and de-stabilized, that she couldn’t get comfortable inside herself when her husband was acting out in this way. No matter what she did for herself, how much meditation and awareness she practiced, or how she tried to separate herself from it, she still felt afraid and off-kilter living with his punishing behavior. She was angry and disappointed with herself that she couldn’t get a grip on her experience. She couldn’t will herself into well-being, but she strongly believed that she should be able to control her inner experience regardless of what was going on in her environment.

Simultaneously, Mary was bottling up a lot of rage about the fact that she couldn’t speak her truth to her husband. In the past, when she had tried to call him out on his behavior, he had attacked her more directly and denied all responsibility and intention for his behavior. Her trying to talk about it had always made things worse, and so she felt resigned to acting as if nothing was happening. Pretending he wasn’t affecting her was the way she had learned to protect herself. The truth was, he was getting to her; she felt manipulated, controlled, and humiliated by his behavior. Enraged, in fact.

However, this pretending to not notice, to save face if you will, was breaking down as a defense strategy; it felt impossible to maintain this level of falseness, and also, more and more like an abandonment of herself. It was making her angrier and more anxious to know that he was (as she experienced it) cornering her into being inauthentic. Mary felt stuck in this either-or scenario. Either she confronted someone angry, reactive, and not self-aware and faced the consequences of that scary choice, which also included acknowledging that he was hurting her (and therefore winning in her mind), or, she pretended nothing was happening, pretended to be Teflon to his aggression, and in the meanwhile went on living in an anxious, disconnected, and angry state of being. Neither felt doable for much longer.

When I asked Mary what she wanted to scream from the rooftops, she said this (without hesitation): I did nothing wrong. I’m the one who was hurt! And now, I’m the one being punished. What the hell! But instead, she went on smiling, asking if he wanted milk with his coffee, and being the person she wished he could be with her.

The first thing I wanted Mary to know was that there was nothing wrong with feeling anxious and angry. Living with someone who’s acting out in this way is bloody awful. Her expectation that she should be able to feel well in an environment that was so un-well was absurd. She was not made of Teflon, and as humans, we are relational and porous beings; we are affected and impacted by our environment. So right out of the gate, I insisted Mary stop blaming herself for feeling anxious and off-center. If she didn’t, I’d think something was wrong!

With regard to her desire to stop pretending she wasn’t being affected, I asked her a simple question: What was it was like to be with her husband when he was treating her this way? She erupted with tears upon hearing the question. After some time, she was able to share that it felt painful, unfair, unkind, hurtful, and just terrible in every way. I asked her if she could stay with these feelings and maybe see if there was also any sense of I don’t want to be treated this way, or maybe just I don’t want this. I asked her if she could step outside the whole narrative and history attached this situation and just feel the direct, bodily-felt experience of I don’t want to be treated this way. And indeed, Mary could feel this, without any help from her mind. It was right there in her heart and gut. It was true now.

I then asked her if she could remember this I don’t want this, I don’t want to be treated like this feeling in the moments when she felt herself putting on the Teflon suit. This refuge of self and self-compassion could then be home for Mary, a destination she could go instead of having to step outside herself and into the pretender. Her self-caring truth was safe ground for her in the present moment when the unkindness was happening, and this is what she had been missing.

What we need in these situations, when we’re really struggling, is self-compassion. We don’t need more judgment or more strategies for figuring out the situation. Yes, we need to address the other person and their behavior, and yes, we need to decide if and how we can live with this situation if it’s not going to change. But in the moments of triage when we’re really suffering, what we need most is our own loving kindness. In offering Mary permission to let herself have the experience she was having and also, pointing her towards her own self-loving experience of I don’t want this, Mary was able to return home to herself and to her ground. While the situation on the outside might have been the same, her inner world had profoundly transformed. She had somewhere to go inside herself now, a refuge in which she could live in the truth in the midst of whatever was happening in her outer environment.

Furthermore, I knew that Mary’s body-knowing of I don’t want to be treated this way would prove to be a far more powerful guide and motivator than anything our minds could come up with. I trust and know (from experience) that when we let things be as they are, feel what we’re actually feeling, without judgment, and simultaneously allow ourselves to feel the heart’s authentic I don’t want this, the process itself reveals our next right step; we are led to know what we need to know. How and why this happens remains for me the great mystery and magic that is this thing we call truth.

Tips for Dealing with Passive Aggression

  1. Don’t fall into guilt.The passive-aggressive character will play the part of the victim. Be mindful not to step into the role of the perpetrator, the bad one. Remind yourself, you are not that.
  2. Give yourself permission to have the experience you’re having, to be affected by their behavior. When we’re around aggression (regardless of whether it’s direct or buried), we feel it. Don’t judge yourself for having a response; it comes with being human!
  3. Tap into self-compassion.Feel your heart’s genuine I don’t want to be treated this way. Drop into this feeling on your own, and when their behavior is unkind. It’s your refuge; let it guide you in how to respond.

Source link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/inviting-monkey-tea/201903/how-protect-yourself-passive-aggression

Banner carrying bipolar disorder as text

5 Bipolar-Disorder Quotes

1. “I am often asked what is the most important factor in treating bipolar disorder. My answer is competence. Empathy is important, but competence is essential.”

Kay Redfield Jamison

2. “I have just now come from a party where I was its life and soul; witticisms streamed from my lips, everyone laughed and admired me, but I went away—yes, the dash should be as long as the radius of the earth’s orbit – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – and wanted to shoot myself.”

Søren Kierkegaard

3. “. . . many drugs now treat bipolar disorder. Medication is critical and should be combined with psychotherapy. Compliance is a major problem. Patients believe that once they’re better, they no longer need the medication. It doesn’t work that way.”

Kay Redfield Jamison

4. “Evidence is strongly suggesting bipolar disorder—previously known as Manic Depression—may be dramatically increasing in modern society.”

Gordon Parker

5. “There are a lot of studies that suggest a higher rate of creativity in bipolars than the general population.”

Kay Redfield Jamison