I'm having one of those days. One of THOSE days. You, know the kind of day where you just want to give up and live a life of binge watching Judge Judy, eating Ho-Hos and smoking crack. Ok, not the smoking crack part, but still... a kind of day where you can't drop enough F-bombs (on the inside) and wonder why you even try?
Yeah, therapists have them too. Or, at least this one does.
It might have something to do with the fact that I've been sick for five weeks, (and because no one else cleans up after themselves!!!) my house is a mess, it's hotter than balls outside, AND I double paid for non-refundable day camp AND daycare.
UGH! Or, I mean F--!!!
Then the reasonable part of my brain kicks in and says Judge Judy gets annoying by the first commercial, Ho-Hos don't offer enough protein to curb hunger, and I don't look good in baggy orange overalls (I'm guessing). Besides, my more mature, adult self says, "You've survived worse."
Since this is a therapy blog (or, it became one along the way- if not for you, then for me), I will pull back the curtain to the inner workings of mind to reveal how I (usually) pull out of such a mood... sooner or later...
The Very Mature, Insightful, Self-Controlled Therapist's Self-Talk Dialog for Positive Mental Health: A Transcript
- "You know what? It is an F- day. F- days happen. It's okay to have a bad day, week, month or year. The fact is, life is messy. Things go awry. People get into bad moods. It's not the end of the world. Maybe it will make a good blog post." (A sense of humor helps to ease stress. I amuse myself. So, win!)
- "Seriously? Drrrraaaaammmmmmaaaaa! It's not actually that bad. There are people who are in worse-off situations who would be willing to trade places with you in a heartbeat." (Although I could argue with myself over this one because your broken leg doesn't make my broken toe stop hurting... but you get the whole 'put things in perspective' thing right?)
- "You got this, SuperWoman! You strong! (Independent Woman plays in the background)
- (Music fades) "Only seven more hours until bedtime! Yay!"
- "FML" (Sometimes my positive self-talk train jumps the tracks.)
- "Things will get better." (It still counts if I grumble that, right?)
- "Shut up and go to the doctor. Again." (This is actually a form of self care in disguise.)
- "Self care? Did someone say pedicure?!"
- "Just sit your whiny butt down and write it out. You will feel better after you do." (Positive coping skills kick in. And, in fact, there is some benefit to writing.)
Other Skills for Self-Regulation Brought to You By an Emotionally Astute, Always Serene Mental Health Practitioner
- Move your body. (I would go to the gym if I wasn't sick.)
- Write an angry letter- filled with F-bombs, of course- to your struggle (or a person if that's the case) then tear it up into tiny little pieces.
- Toss a stress ball from hand to hand, making sure to cross your body. The contralateral movement will signal a shift in the brain away from emotional stuff to coordination and balance stuff.
- Do Suduko. The analytical part of your brain will kick in, diverting energy away from Emotion Central. For added effect, try to do Suduko while tossing a ball or juggling.
- Paint, color, or engage in other forms of creative play.
- Pet your pet. Fido and Fluffy are proven stress relievers.
- Laugh. Put on your favorite YouTube comedian or movie.
- Plan. Write out your Bucket List or baby-step goals for the future.
- Soak in the sauna or tub. The warm water is relaxing and who can be mad while naked?
- Pump Up the Jamz. Turn up your favorite music and dance around or scream or yodel. Hey, you do you. I won't judge.
- Cry, meditate, call a trusted friend, play a game, go for a nature walk, take some supplies to the homeless ... do anything other than simply stewing in frustration. Because stewing in frustration is icky. And it's hot outside. And stew is for winter.
I wish you happiness to enjoy the good days and coping skills to mange the bad ones. Be blessed in all circumstances, my friends -M
We all have a childhood. Good, bad, or a indifferent, we all have one. For some, it was a time of building 'magical' forts, playing games at a friend's house for endless hours, and going on fun family vacations.
For others, it was a time of helping too much, trying to become invisible, or wondering if we could ever escape the daily emotional pain of rejection, ridicule and shame.
For yet others, it was relatively "normal" - except for that one thing. That one traumatic thing that was never really dealt with. That one death, assault, accident or natural disaster that changed life forever.
The Developing Mind
Which ever way, childhood is more than just pleasant memories to cherish or painful ones to avoid. It's a time of psychological and relational development. We learned, from the time we were born (some say even sooner- awww cute little developing embryo!), until the time we decided to learn something different, how to interact with our own self and with the world around us in the form of something we call "personality."
Personality is the sum of our experiences, worldview, attitude and expectations about, well, everything. It's the thing that causes us to say "yes" to the party invitation or stay at home with a book. It's the thing that causes us to laugh at that type of humor or to crinkle our nose. It's our overall disposition and outlook... you might say it's our "mind," the way we think and feel about the past, present and future. You might even say that our personality IS our experience. Which would mean that relationships are actually two or more personalities finding ways to connect or repel each other, but that's another subject.
As you might guess, our mind, or psyche, thinks and acts, for the most part, in predictable ways- predictable to us and to others. For example, you may hear that such-and-so has happened, and you think, "Oh! Aunt Edna is going to loooove this!" in either your personality's endearingly genuine or sarcastic manner.
You can do this because you have seen evidence of Aunt Edna's mind- her psyhce. She has shown you through actions, facial expressions, body language, comments, and a host of other cues, what her personality is all about- and you can make predictions about she will like or dislike based on this knowledge.
The Psyche... Only Damaged
Now, let's look at the unfortunate tweaks that can happen when the growing mind- the young developing personality- is forced to engage in adult activities or is forced to deal with stress beyond its coping capability.
Let's say an infant learned (in what is often called "pre-verbal" communication or trauma) that he will not have his needs met or that she is not wanted. The infant's filter (the understanding of self, others and "the world") has already been tainted a certain color. Now, future thoughts and interactions will be experienced through this tainted lens. And this is not to mention the fact that the environment that sent the original negative messages in the first place will probably continue to send similar messages in what becomes a defeating spiral.
Hence, the infant- the yet-to-be toddler, preschooler, grade-schooler, adolescent, teen and eventually adult, will have been exposed to hundreds or thousands or reinforcing messages that fortify the faulty thought processes, inter-personal relational style, and thoughts about the future.
It takes no great stretch of the imagination to see that this growing person learned to think and act in a way that appears self-sabotaging. Those of us who are most likely free from personality disorders will see this person's unreasonable demands, suspicions, threats and other behaviors as "crazy" or "controlling."
It's Only a Conspiracy Theory if It's Not True
You've heard the saying, "It's only a conspiracy theory if it's not true" in reference to the Illuminate, death camps, and the like. The response has some validity. If the evil secret society does in fact exist, and they are actually planning a massive population reduction and world take over, the "conspiracies" no longer exist. All that remains is truth.... the unpleasant facts about life as we know it- or as we thought we knew it.
It's the same for the person with the personality disorder. For whatever reason, they were denied the mitigating factors that may have balanced out some of the negative input, and all that remained were messages of failure, displeasure and/or rejection. All that remained was a 'truth' about themselves, other people and life in general... a very unpleasant 'truth.'
For them, their reality IS that they are bad and they need to hide and deny it. Their needs do not get met. They are not wanted. People always lie, cheat or leave. (Or in conspiracy language, the theories are true... "Yes, Virginia, there really is a Big Brother.")
Their response to the (albeit perceived) constant attack on their mere existence, is therefore valid. Think of it like this: If it was a true fact of the universe that you are inherently bad and you must hide it in order to survive, you might pretend to be someone you are really not. If everyone was lying to you, you might accuse them of lying or check up on them or distance yourself from them If they were all cheating, you might accuse them of cheating... and so forth.
What Does This All Mean?
So, what do we do with all of this information? We can't simply change someone's life-long developmental experience by simply telling them that they were lied to. We can't change learned "facts" that are hidden underneath logic and language, and are protected by defensive reactions by simply pointing out the psychology of development.
But we can bring an element of understanding and patience to what seems to be an unmanageable situation. We can chose to not take someone else's reactions to their own reality personally. We can step out of the "you must see things my way" dance - theirs or ours, if we are honest.
And, we might be able to bring a new environment and send a healthier message to a person who is still able to learn from experience.
Working and living with hurting souls can be hard work. Be brave and strong, my friends, and above all else, guard your heart, - M
Shout out to Dan Siegel, author of The Developing Mind and to Paul Tough, author of Helping Children Succeed.
Photo credit: pixabay
Opinions are that of the author, and not standard within the psychology field (yet!).
If you have ever had a conversation with a person who has narcissistic traits, you may have noticed something beyond the "it's all about me" soliloquy.
They talk in circles.
A N-type won't allow for direct communication because a) it's threatening and b) they lose their (false) sense of control. Both of those things can create vague but powerful feelings of impending annihilation.
A non-N-type is able to hear another person's opinion, even if it differs from their own. They are able to "walk a mile in your shoes" and explore your perspective. The N-type is unable or perhaps strongly unwilling to do this because they are too busy protecting a fragile ego.
Besides, acknowledging another's point of view might mean they are -gasp!- wrong about something. And being wrong about something in the N-type's mind equals being bad as a person. And avoiding any potential badness at all costs is the very basis of narcissism.
And now we see the underlying reason for talking in circles... the very illness (or complex coping strategy) is itself a circle. Or a spiral. Or a vortex.
When you find yourself getting sucked into this communication style..
1) Pause and reflect. Be an observer of the circular reasoning. Realize that the N-type is using an ineffective communication style (probably because of their own emotional trigger). You don't have to jump on their merry-go-round.
2) Do not take it personally. Their confusing communication style is not a reflection of you or your value. They are merely demonstrating a lack of emotional maturity and/or an inability to effectively serve-and-return (albeit probably not entirely their fault). You don't have to own some one else's issue.
3) Use summary statements. Instead of putting yourself on the spin cycle, reflect their reasoning back to them with an attitude of "I'm sincerely trying to understand the message you are sending."
4) Be willing to postpone the conversation. Your calm and reflective manner may bring their inconsistency or flaw to light (you might even notice they are getting confused or flustered). This may escalate their emotional state. It is common for aggressive speech, threats, and/or insults to follow. Be okay with walking away from that. Tell the N-type that you do not allow people to speak to you in that manner, but you are willing to resume the conversation when everyone is calm.
5) And finally, be aware that this scenario may be repeated in a variety of settings. Over and over. Your gentle yet firm and always consistent response may (I say may) provide an opportunity for the N-type to learn and practice a new communication skill.
Stay true to yourself my friends, - M
If you found this information helpful, there's more! Subscribe to my therapy vlog at Can We Talk? or find me @TweetmentPlan. And, of course, come visit me here again soon! :)
Photo credit: pixabay
Watch Baby Steps for Setting Boundaries with a Narcissist.
The Motley Ms.
Hi! My name is Melinda (or Mel, if you like). I'm a saved-by-grace-er, lifelong learner, INFJ, health & fitness trynabe, Mom, mental health vlogger (hey! go subscribe!!) and Child & Family Therapist - not necessarily in that order (well, except the first one). If you want to see my business-y side, check out my super-professional business website.
The Motley Ms
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