Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dealing with anger...a skill we must learn

When I first contacted the brother of my ex’s late wife, almost nine years had passed since her death. I was concerned that I might be opening up old wounds, and was therefore very cautious when approaching him.

Despite the long time lapse, he was still very angry about the damage caused to his sister by my ex. In fact, I think that perhaps the anger had grown over time. It’s easy to understand why this happens. It’s due to a lack of closure. He was never able to get the answers he sought about his sisters’ tragic demise. He had sent Emails to my ex to demand an explanation, but was met with nothing but stony silence. This had left him in a state of frustrated limbo, with no outlet for his feelings of anger towards my ex.

The same thing happened to me when my relationship broke down. So many questions were left unanswered, and despite my best efforts, I was unable to get any satisfactory explanation as to what had happened. I felt overwhelmed with bitter recrimination.

At the time, I was ignorant to his Personality Disorder, and as a result of this, I ended up turning a lot of the anger and frustration in on myself. This placed me in a living hell, and it took me many months, and a great deal of will power, to get myself out of the pit.

During that time, I was advised to use my anger to give me strength. This was very good advice, and I follow it to this day.

Anger is a powerful source of energy, and I found I was able to use that energy to spur me on and get myself away from the toxic situation.
Anger can be positive in this respect. It's a primary instinct which creates fire in our bellies, and is fundamental in aiding our ‘fight or flight’ instinct.
With me, flight came first. Initially, I knew I needed to get myself and the kids away from this situation, at any cost. It was preservation, fuelled by anger, that got me through this time. Instinct took over, and I found myself on auto-pilot. The anger drove me through, and gave me the energy to get away from the 'danger'.

Once away, the anger didn’t abate. If anything, as I started to gain inner strength and recover some clarity of thought, I found the anger was deepening. This time, it was directed towards my ex. There is no tangible release for anger such as this, because being angry with your NPD/APD ex is akin to banging your own head against a brick wall. You’re just going to hurt yourself. It’s never going to get you anywhere, because he/she will never acknowledge they have done wrong, and, therefore, your anger can never be ‘validated’.

Closure will evade you for as long as you are in a highly fragile angered state. You need to find an outlet, or a channel, or the energy will eat away at you and you'll be the one to suffer.

For me, some release came through learning more about my ex’s history. I was fortunate that by making contact with his late wife’s brother, I was able to gain knowledge which ‘armed’ me for future dealings with him ( the ensuing anger gave me the strength to fight). It was also an enormous help to the brother, who was finally given an outlet for his own anger. By swapping information with me, he was able to come to terms with what had happened to his sister.

It wasn’t closure for either of us, but it was certainly a step closer. His anger was validated by hearing what I had to say, and mine was validated by hearing the truth about what had happened to his sister. This knowledge helped me to make sense of the situation I was in. Temporarily, you can bet we both got even angrier! But at least we were able to vent to eachother, and hence find a release for the pent up emotions we both harboured. It was a step forwards for both of us. One step further down the road to recovery from the impact the NPD/APD had on both our lives.

Further release came through learning about the psychology aspect of what had happened to me. It was certainly a ‘light bulb moment’ when I discovered the true nature of Personality Disorders (in this case NPD/APD), and the havoc they wreak upon the loved ones of sufferers. It suddenly started to make sense, and I was able to look back over the entire relationship and pinpoint all the ‘warning signs’ I’d ignored along the way. Suddenly I became aware that I wasn’t the first (and won’t be the last) to have gone through this nightmare. Knowing you are not alone is extremely empowering. Learning about the root cause of the problem, equally so. This gave more validation, and reduced the anger to a more manageable level.

It was also very important for me to understand (as I’ve said before) my own role in the relationship.

Understanding how YOU have contributed to a pattern of events is an essential part of the healing process.

Inevitably I got angry with myself. This is only natural. Many of the events could not have taken place were it not for my active participation. However, I had to learn not blame myself for what happened.

We all need to learn to accept that it wasn't our fault. We must accept we made errors of judgement about his/her character. Acknowledge that we made some misguided decisions whilst in the relationship. We must admit these blunders, and then move on from them.

Again, don’t place unrealistic expectations on yourself about the feelings of anger. They are going to keep coming in waves for a long time yet. And nothing you can do will be able to prevent it.

If, (like me) you have been left with children to nurture and a mountain of debt to overcome (or other similar seemingly hopeless circumstances), you can’t expect the anger to dissipate any time soon. I still get very angry in certain situations. When I observe the hurt which has been caused to the children (triggers for this usually come out of the blue, from the mouths of the children themselves), or see glimpses of 'what might have been' when I look at other ‘normal’ families, it hurts me to the core. This hurt is then quickly replaced by searing anger.

This is a cycle I’ve come to accept. I know there’s no point trying to fight it, so I am resigned to the inevitability of these feelings. However, instead of letting the fire consume me when it comes, I instead try to channel the energy it generates.

I use this energy boost to fuel my determination to be a better and more dedicated Mum to my kids. I try to turn the anger into a solid resolve to fix the mass of problems the ex created in his wake, and to succeed where he so miserably failed.

Like other emotions, you cannot just switch anger off. What you can do though, is try to release it safely without doing any harm to yourself or your loved ones. You CAN turn it from a negative into a positive. Let it become a driving force in your determination to overcome the situation you have been left with. Learn to channel this powerful emotion to YOUR benefit, and yours alone.

Failing this, you need an outlet. Talk, talk, and talk some more! Talk to anybody who will listen. Vent, and get it out.

If there’s nobody to talk to, do something energetic. Go for a run, hit the gym, or simply punch your pillow. Don’t keep it in. It has to come out.

Try not to dwell on your feelings of anger towards your ex. As I said before, the PD is no outlet. Your anger AT him/her will never be validated BY him/her, therefore, it's energy wasted.

It happened. You can’t change it. You can’t change him/her. He/she couldn't even help it, so there's just no point being angry at them.

Scream out loud if you must, but keep the anger in the moment. Don’t let it spill over into the rest of your life.

Wounds like this don’t heal easily. It’s unrealistic to expect ourselves to be ‘fixed’ within any given time frame. All you can do is face each wave of anger as it comes, and either channel it in a positive way (fight or flight), or simply let it go.

Whatever you do though, don’t bottle it up. You can never heal if you do. Bottling it up is like picking at the wound from within. It will irritate it, and infect it, and you’ll end up carrying even deeper scars than before.

As hard as it may seem, you must let it go. You’re not ‘letting him/her get away with it’ by releasing the anger and no longer harbouring resentment. On the contrary, you’re rising above it, and into a place where they can never hurt you again.

Anger is a primary instinct over which we have little influence. We should not try to ignore or suppress our anger, but instead learn to respond to it in a way which will ultimately facilitate our recovery.

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” ~Buddha

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mr Duplicity....beware of passive aggression

Extract from Web of Lies - My Life with a Narcissist

"“We’ve been married three years today,” I said
“Yes, I know.”
“It’s been a hell of a three years, hasn’t it?”
“It sure has.” He wasn’t smiling. He looked almost bored.
“Ask me if I’m happy.”
“What?” He rolled his eyes to the ceiling in a ‘oh here we go again’ expression of
“Ask me if I’m happy Bill. Do you think I’m happy? Do I look happy to you?”
“I’m trying my hardest to make you happy, but it seems at the moment nothing is
good enough”
“Nothing’s good enough? How can you say that after I’ve put up with so much in
such a short space of time?”
“I know it’s been hard, but none of it is my fault. You wanted to come to France, I
didn’t force you!”
“I wanted to come to France because thanks to you we were no longer able to stay in
Switzerland full time. I wanted our family to be together, not thousands of miles apart. I had no choice but to come to France.
“But, Bill, it’s your apathy that I cannot stand. I’ve never seen you pursue anything with such rigour and determination as you pursued me in the early days. Since we’ve been married, all that drive and determination has dissolved away! You don’t look after yourself. You’ve gained weight. You don’t want to take part in family activities. You lock yourself in your office. You say you are chasing ‘big deals’ but what deals? When has any single one of them ever succeeded? You ignore your youngest daughter! You have two daughters you know.”
“I do not ignore Alice!”
“Yes you do! You don’t even know you’re doing it! It’s not just me who has noticed
it, my parents have noticed it too, they spoke to me about it when they were here,and again at Christmas.”
“That’s rubbish!” He said. “Listen, all you ever do is criticise me recently. You say
I’m apathetic, but to be honest it’s difficult to remain motivated when all you do is hound me. I need your support; I need you to believe in me! You say you want our relationship to work, yet how can it when we sleep in different rooms? We’re not having a normal relationship. If we were having a normal relationship, I would be happy and motivated.
As it is, you clearly don’t like to be around me, so I keep out of the way. But know this,Sarah: I love you and I adore my girls. You are my world and I will do everything I can to give you the life you want. You just have to really want it, and you have to get back to believing in me.”

As soon as I heard the phrase ‘passive aggression’ it struck an instant cord with me. I knew I’d been on the receiving end of it, even if I didn’t realise it at the time.

Of course, it’s easy for me to recognise and acknowledge this with the benefit of hindsight, but for those of you who are still dealing with the person who is being passively aggressive; it can be difficult to spot the signs.

Start here: If you’ve ever had a conversation like the one described above, if these conversations happen regularly, and you are left feeling guilty and apologetic in the aftermath, then you are involved with a passive aggressive partner.

You can tell yourself as many times as you like, that you’re ‘not being abused’ but you ARE! Abuse doesn’t have to be physical to be real. This form of abuse may be subtle, but it’s no less damaging. You feel angry and frustrated. You feel you are the one who is always ‘losing your cool’, when he appears to remain calm and even a little perplexed by your behaviour.

You are being manipulated!

Passive Aggressive abuse is defined as follows:

Passive Aggressive behaviour is a form of covert abuse. When someone hits you or yells at you, you know that you've been abused. It is obvious and easily identified. Covert abuse is subtle and veiled or disguised by actions that appear to be normal, at times loving and caring. The passive aggressive person is a master at covert abuse."

A passive aggressive male always needs an object upon which to focus his antagonism. This is more often that not going to be his partner or spouse, but it can also be his child, co-worker or sub-ordinates. He will appear to be outwardly loving, caring, and generous, whilst simultaneously exercising an uncanny ability to undermine your confidence, deliver veiled insults (disguised as jokes), and leave you believing YOU are the one who can’t contain your anger.

It’s an impossible situation to find yourself in, and nothing you can do is going to change his behaviour. The best thing you can do, as I’ve said many times before, is to try to arm yourself with as much knowledge about this type of behaviour as possible. Acknowledging it, learning about it, and (most importantly) accepting it, will ultimately set you free.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll need persuading that what you are experiencing is real (and tangible) abuse. Please be assured though. Just because you have experienced abuse of this kind, it does not make you a weak person. It can happen to anybody, and indeed it happens to people from all walks of life, and at all social and educational levels.

You are not the one with the problem! Keep reminding yourself of this, because when you are deeply entwined with a person like this, they will try every trick in the book to make you believe you are at fault for all that is happening.

If, however, you are able to understand it and accept it, then you are a truly strong person. As soon as you have recognised the abuse, you have turned a corner, and are no longer a victim.

Keep reading, keep sharing, keep learning……

"The man with this type of pattern shows little consideration of the time, feelings, standards or needs of others. He obstructs and blocks progress to others getting what they want and then ignores or minimalizes their dissatisfactions and anger. He is silent when confronted as he has never learned to compromise. He may be a workaholic, a womanizer, hooked on TV, caught in addictions or self-involved hobbies."
"The man with passive aggressive actions is a master in getting his partner to doubt herself and feel guilty for questioning or confronting him. He encourages her to fall for his apologies, accept his excuses and focus on his charm rather than deal with the issue directly. He blames her for creating the problem and keeps her focused on her anger rather than his own ineptitude. When backed into a corner, he may explode and switch to aggressive aggressive behavior then switch back to passivity. He keeps his partner held hostage by the hope that he will change. He may appease her and clean up his act after a blow up for several weeks, then it's back to business as usual."
"The passive aggressive man is the classic underachiever with a fear of competition in the work place. He cannot take constructive feedback from others. His fear of criticism, not following through and his inability to see his part in any conflict keeps him from advancing on the job."
From the fantastic Blog Mailman Delivers....a story of betrayal

"It makes you the bad guy. Passive-aggressive hostility is so subtle, the skilled practitioner is often in a good position to deny it’s even there – blaming you for the inevitable confrontation that results. You blow up; he remains calm. Suddenly you seem like the aggressor. Maybe even to yourself. The incredible final straw, is when you apologize to him. Because your inner voice is telling you that he’s not being open with you, you experience conflict and stress."
Passive Aggression

"Recognize that a passive aggressive person is not a victim. Interacting with a passive aggressive person is like a dance. He plays the victim, and it is your role to bend over backward to “protect” him from being victimized. This dynamic puts the passive aggressive person in control. He is anything but a “victim.”"
Passive Aggressive Behaviour

"Rather than have a confrontation, the passive aggressive person acts sneakily.They lie and deceive. They give their word but do not keep it. They mumble rather than speak clearly."
Passive Aggressive

"Yet, the result is the same. Things are sabotaged by the passive-aggressive and it somehow is never their fault. A really good passive aggressive is very slippery with excuses, justifications, or alternative reasons for why things go awry. Passive-Aggression may not be expressed directly in behavior-but in words or humor. Sarcasm which communicates hostility is often a tool of the passive-aggressive person, as are jokes made at your expense"
How to deal with difficult people

Friday, September 3, 2010

Healing through learning….knowledge is power

I have been pretty overwhelmed by the response I’ve had these last couple of weeks to my post about the stages you go through in a relationship with a 'Cluster B' personality disorder. I wrote that post from my own (very personal) experience, and have been so amazed and encouraged to learn that so many others can relate to it, and indeed identify the various stages within their own toxic relationships.

It’s always good to know you’re not alone. I spent far too long believing I was the only person going through this, and not even realising I was dealing with a disordered individual. Certainly, when I first sought professional help and was told I’d most likely been married to a PD, I found it difficult to get my head around. I had been conditioned to believe I was the one with the problem, and it took a while before I was able to really believe that wasn't the case.

Sure, I knew towards the end that the person I was with was pathological, but it took me many months (and detachment from the relationship) to finally comprehend just what it was I’d been up against.

My therapist was amazing. She was the one who finally convinced me that it wasn’t me who had the problem. She helped me back onto my feet again, and helped me to re-discover the confident and vibrant person I had been prior to the toxic relationship. I will always be grateful to her for her unparalleled support and encouragement. She pointed me in the right direction, and waved me off down the road to recovery.

Since then, it has been a journey of discovery and information gathering. The more I’ve learned, the more I’ve healed. When I began writing the book I had a fair bit of information about NPD, but was not aware of the co-morbid disorders, nor how seriously affected my ex partner had actually been.

But we can’t learn (and therefore heal) without help and support from our family,friends and peers. The internet is an amazing place in this respect. If we reach out, and use the right words, we can access information and support from all over the globe.

I would like to extend a very special thanks to top UK Forensic Pathologist Dr David Holmes.
I first wrote to David in early 2010 to ask him to read my book and give his professional opinion. I was amazed by the comments he wrote, and am truly grateful to have received professional endorsement of my book. You can find out more about David’s academic work in the field of abnormal psychology by reading his latest book, which includes a Chapter outlining Personality Disorders and the three 'Cluster' groups.

I would also like to recommend other resources which I have found to be invaluable along my ‘learning and healing’ journey. I hope they will also be of use to readers of my book and blog. Please feel free to contact me to add more to this resource list:

Lisa E Scott.
Lisa wrote a book called ‘It’s all about HIM’ which was released in 2009. Her book and website were amongst the first I came across when researching NPD and its related disorders. She helps her readers identify the traits of NPD and provides encouragement to those trying to escape the relationship. She also has a great site with a very supportive community for victims of toxic relationships, particularly NPD.

Forum:Out of the Fog
I was drawn to this wonderful forum after posting my Cluster B blog. It has a wonderful community and an abundance of information for those who have been involved with PD’s. If you are in such a relationship, be it with a family member, parent, child, spouse, or work colleague, you can get support on this forum.

Daily Strength
A huge on line community with support groups on just about every subject.

Joe Navarro
I recently found Joe on Twitter, and he has been kind enough to take the time to read my recent posts and recommend them to his followers. I’m only just beginning to discover Joe’s work, but I certainly wish I’d read this much sooner. Fascinating stuff.

Another unmissable book, is 'The Sociopath Next Door', in which Martha Stout debunks the traditional ‘Ted Bundy’ perception of a sociopath, and explains in shocking clarity the traits of the ‘every day’ APD.

Similarly,Without Conscience by Robert D Hare explains, in layman’s terms, the characteristics of a psychopath. If you suspect you are involved with one, this is another must read.

Next, there are the blogs of ordinary people, who have survived the extraordinary, and have gone on to share with the world. I'll add to these as I go along. If you know of a good support blog, please let me know.

Surviving Narcissism

The Story of my Life


and finally.....

Web of Lies on FB

The new Sarah Tate Message Board