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I hear it all the time.

‘I can’t get over the guilt.’ 

‘I can’t break free of the self-criticism.’

 ‘I feel trapped in my own shame.’

 People tell me they wish they could Iive free of those feelings.

 So they could get on with their lives without being pulled back into the difficulty of living with guilt which is always being triggered by…

  • Saying no to your friend / boss / partner / child
  • Not spending long enough with them
  • Not doing enough to help them…
  • Not giving enough of your time / money / attention…
  • Not seeing / speaking with them enough

 The guilt weighs on you.

 It creeps up on you reminding you, you shouldn’t be enjoying yourself.

 You should be helping out more.

 You should show more kindness.

 You should be achieving more.

 You shouldn’t have lost your temper that time…

 I’m sure your personal list could go on and on. 

 Mine certainly has.

 Any time you start hearing ‘I should’ in your inner dialogue, you know that the guilt train will soon be pulling into the station.

 And then there’s vicarious guilt on top of that.

 Someone does something unrelated to you and you feel guilt any way.

 Because your guilt trigger is so finely calibrated it picks up on any and every opportunity to feel it.

What would life look like without the guilt?

 Would you breathe more easily?

Feel like you can get on with the life you really want?

 That’s the thing about this guilt.

 It’s life sapping, 

 A psychological ball and chain, holding you back from being the ‘real’ you.

 Often people say to me, I don’t get it. I’ve nothing to feel guilty about these days.

So what’s this guilt all about?

 Last week, I shared about unwritten and unspoken family rules.

Well guilt is the invisible enforcer.

 It tells you, you’re transgressing the rules and you need to fall back in line.

That’s all good if you’re talking at the level of ethics and morality.

 Leaving the shop without paying for something…maybe guilt is the healthy response.

 Bumping into someone’s car or breaking something precious… guilt reminds us to make amends.

 But if you grew up in a family that laid a lot of store on compliance to these unwritten rules, that your guilt muscle will be very sensitive.

 Now the thing is, maybe keeping in line as a child kept you safe. 

 You got something from that. 

 Maybe at best it was some distorted kind of love. 

 At worst it kept you away from physical or emotional abuse.

 So here’s the key question for you.

 Do those rules still make sense and are they valid, now you’re an adult?

 Are those rules valid or just a big pile of craziness?

 When you start to make them visible to yourself, you begin the process of unhooking from them.

 Here’s how you can immunise yourself even further.

 Firstly start to really notice what guilt feels like. So you can develop an early warning system.

 Is it in the pit of your stomach?

 Or your thoughts going a bit wild?

 Or your breathing gets shallow?

 Or just a feeling of collapse or knotting?

 As you start to observe that feeling, check in with yourself.

 Is this real or not real? Old rules or current ones?

 Give yourself the space then to make a free choice about whether to act or not.

This isn’t about making that feeling go away.

 It’s about noticing it and choosing your own outcome.

Another perspective

Here’s another take on it. Kind of the same, but going a bit deeper.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll also know that I’ve been talking about the deeper nature of our experience.

 All of it is created through thought.

 And we live in the feeling of our thought.

 So guilt is just telling us about our thinking in the moment, which is drifting in to a place of discomfort and insecurity. 

 When we start to see that, we don’t have to take the guilt so seriously.

 It’s a passing cloud in our inner weather system. 

 There’s no need to change it. Just as there’s no need to fear it or act on it.

 That’s my take on guilt.

So what about you? I hope you can see now how this can help you.

Will you try a guilt detox?

I’d love to hear how you get on.

Want to know more? 4 ways I can help...

If you're struggling with low self-esteem, people pleasing, second guessing yourself, anxiety, depression, feeling an outsider...
or
You've realised you grew up in a narcissistic family or experienced emotional neglect and want to heal those wounds, here's how I can help:

  • Get to the heart of your low self-esteem and pleasing with my 8 week online course: The Total Inner Peace System. This is a fast and powerful way to rewire yourself, boosting your self-worth and confidence, and move away from anxiety. Find out more here.
  • One to one coaching and mentoring to help you regain your inner peace and self-confidence, set boundaries, live freer of anxiety, guilt and people pleasing. To find out more, drop me a line here.
  • Sign up to my updates where you'll get content I don't share anywhere else. And you'll get  my checklist 30 Signs You Were Raised By A Narcissist as a thank you.
  • Get support for regaining your self-confidence and inner-peace through FREE resources including many articles and videos here on my site and on Youtube channel.

To make an appointment for a free non-obligation chat please click the button below.

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The room goes quiet. Suddenly everyone is looking at me. I start to feel my face flush.

My insides begin to squirm. I want to be anywhere but here. The feeling of all those people looking at me, expecting something.

My mouth goes dry. I swallow. Will myself into saying something. Anything. As long as it is appropriate.

For many years, I would do anything to deflect attention from myself. Ask a question back. Give just the shortest of answers.

Never make eye contact when a question was asked of the room. Hold my arms tightly by my side.

When I started training as a therapist, I had to put that side of myself under great scrutiny.

On the very first morning, with a group of strangers, each of us had to sit in the chair in front of the room and declare our greatest fears about the training.

Well doing that, was one of them for me. I felt so knotted while I waited my turn. 

My breath was shallow. I was agonising and dreading the experience.

I continued to find groups immensely challenging. I did my best to put myself out there.

Now I have a new perspective on what was happening, but more of that in a minute.

First a quick detour

I know this experience is not uncommon amongst those who’ve grown up in a narcissistic family or with emotional neglect. 

I hear it time and time again from clients as well as seeing it in my own story.

When you grow up in an emotionally volatile environment, this happens:

You start to learn to read the signs of when things are going to be safe or not. 

By the way, that’s why I think so many people who grew up in this way would self-classify as highly sensitive or as empaths.

It becomes a matter of survival. How well you read the climate at home. And know whether you can stick your head above the trench or need to withdraw and keep yourself safe.

Some moments, days even, it can feel fine. But you know in your bones that it can change at any second. 

Waiting until the storm passes

Then it’s time to hunker down and make yourself as small as possible until the storm passes.

You start to embed deep beliefs about how safe the world is.

As a rule, being the centre of attention is never that safe. It exposes you.

Keeping with my battle metaphor - I guess with the 100 year anniversary of the end of WW1 that’s in my psyche - why on earth would you stand in the middle of the battle field when you can be ‘safe’ in a trench?

You just wouldn’t would you, unless you’re forced to? And for ‘forced’, as an adult, you can think of social pressures, work pressures, relationship pressures, self-inflicted pressures that put you back in that place.

The map is not the territory

Now here’s the thing. You think it’s a war zone. Because that’s what your early life taught you.

It’s as if you carry that map of that scary territory throughout your life.

The war may well be over by the time you’re an adult, but you’re still navigating life as it’s raging around you.

But it’s just a map. It’s not the territory anymore. You’ve navigating by something that is completely out of date.

A world created by our thinking

I’m starting to see things differently now. That my world is created by my thinking, not the other way around.

That I live in the feeling of my thinking. In other words, all my feelings come from my thoughts.

When I have those moments of hating being the centre of attention, that is my thinking going off track.

The feelings in my body are telling me that my thinking is insecure.

We are all luminous souls, beings of equal value, made of the same stuff.

My insecure thinking can take me into endless stories of not deserving, or shame when I’m the centre of attention.

If I follow that thinking, I check out from the experience at the earliest opportunity.

The result? Loss of connection. Loss of meaning. Loss of experience.

Equally my thinking can tame me into a deep ease with my sense of shared humanity. Each of us a source of love and connection.

Both are creations of my thinking. But only one feels like the truth.

Nothing to change

That said, there is nothing you need to do. Nothing to change. 

As you start to see how you live in a reality created by your thinking, your mind starts to quieten.

You start to see the stories you tell yourself for what they are. Just stories.

When that happens, you begin to be able to change the story.

With your free will.

How amazing is that? 

When you start to see that you get to decide whether being the centre of attention is ok or not.

How would life change for you if that happened? I’d love to hear…

Want to know more? 3 ways I can help...

If you're struggling with low self-esteem, people pleasing, second guessing yourself, anxiety, depression, feeling an outsider...
or
You've realised you grew up in a narcissistic family or experienced emotional neglect and want to heal those wounds, here's how I can help:

  • One to one coaching and mentoring to help you regain your inner peace and self-confidence, set boundaries, live freer of anxiety, guilt and people pleasing. To find out more, drop me a line here.
  • Sign up to my updates where you'll get content I don't share anywhere else. And you'll get  my checklist 30 Signs You Were Raised By A Narcissist as a thank you.
  • Get support for regaining your self-confidence and inner-peace through FREE resources including many articles and videos here on my site and on Youtube channel.

To make an appointment for a free non-obligation chat please click the button below.

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You may already be thinking, why does your relationship with your parents feel so out?

Life might feel overwhelming, confusing and lonely as a consequence.

Sometimes, it’s hard to know what you feel or how to shake off the anxiety and second guessing.

If you’ve landed here, you might already have an inkling that one of your parents is a narcissist.

If that’s the case, I know how difficult life can feel and want to reassure you there’s a lot you can do to change how you feel.

The good news is, once you know what you’re dealing with, both in your inner world, and your relationships, things can get better.

In this in depth post you’ll find loads of really practical advice and insights into:

  • The different types of narcissistic parents
  • The narcissistic parent signs you might want to look out for, including a narcissistic parent checklist
  • The potential impact of narcissistic parents and narcissistic abuse on you
  • 28 signs that you were parented by a narcissist
  • A roadmap for narcissistic abuse recovery
  • How you can start to make changes by yourself right away
Life after narcissistic abuse

This is how life can feel after parental narcissistic abuse:

Things seem ok on the surface, but they really aren’t, on the inside.

It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what’s wrong.

Sometimes you just feel empty. Or alone.

You second guessing yourself.

Your self-confidence is at an all time low.

You don’t always trust what you think about things. And it might be even harder to say what you truly feel.

As if it’s hard to know what any given feeling is.

For a long time, maybe you’ve just accepted this is how it is. But now, perhaps you’re starting to question things.

You might also wonder:

  • Why do your friends always seem to take advantage or know how to get you to agree to things?
  • Why, everytime you visit your parent(s), do you feel low and even unwell?
  • Why you get irritable and snappish with those you’re close to?
  • Why you keep falling out with your sibling(s)?
  • Why do you feel so low about your life even though you seem to have done stuff and made something of your life?
  • Why do you feel envious of others who seem to have it ’sorted’

These feelings and questions are typical of those who have experienced parental narcissistic abuse.

Or a form of emotional neglect in childhood.

Obviously (Obviously!), I can’t diagnose a third party or truly know this, but having worked with very many children of a narcissistic parent, I recognise the patterns of neglect and abuse.

So this article is about two different things that might help you right now:

  • the traits of a narcissistic parent and how to spot them
  • the possible impact on you of being parented this way

Putting the two together, might help you start to piece together the different bits of your life’s jigsaw.

A word of caution

Here’s the thing:Narcissism is everywhere in the press with people diagnosing themselves and others willy nilly.

There is only one diagnosable disorder in relation to narcissism and that is Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This is a psychiactric diagnosis made according to strict criteria. It’s very hard to treat.

Those with this disorder act out in the most extreme ways which can be very harmful to others.

But that’s not the whole story:Everyone, including you and me, will have narcissistic traits in our personality. Narcissism is on a spectrum. At one extreme end is the full disorder, at the other what is sometimes called ‘Echoism’ .

We all need some narcissism. Call it healthy self-esteem and suddently it doesn’t feel so bad.

The flip side of narcissism: echoism

Echoism is the opposite of NPD, where someone has so little sense of self and value that they are self-effacing to the point of creating suffering in their lives.

Craig Malkin in his excellent book Rethinking Narcissism offers a 10 point scale from Echo to Narcissist and this can be helpful as a way of understanding the different extremes.

Where would you put yourself?

Why we should stop the cycle of shaming

Although I’m exploring the traits of a narcissist here, I want to make something really clear:

I understand that a narcissistic parent can cause enormous, life altering pain to their children and family. The damage to self-esteem and self-confidence can feel irreperable (even if, in reality, it can be repaired).

However, I’m not in the business of villifying the narcissist. Neither am I an apologist for them. Their behaviour might be unacceptable, but the more you try to understand why they behave that way, the less likely you will dehumanise them and yourself in the process.

You see:For many people I work with, feelings for their parents are immensely complicated. Split between the love that most children feel and long for from a parent, and enormous shame, rage at how they’ve been parented.

Even those who choose to have no contact with their parent do so with immense conflict and rarely if ever, wishing their family ill.

I think it’s really important to say that, because so much of what I read continues the cycle of shaming and counter shaming that is endemic in the narcissistic family system.

And yet:Breaking out of that, firstly in shaming yourself less or not at all, is a massive step in the healing process.

Equally important is not resorting to shaming the parent (who in anycase will either respond explosively or with complete collapse, depending on how their narcissism manifests.)

Finding ways to shame yourself less or not at all, is a massive step in the healing process from #narcissisticabuse
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So, is my parent a narcissist?

Let’s have a look at the traits of the narcissistic parent. I’m thinking of someone who might score between 7 and 9 on the scale, rather than full blown NPD.

To do this, I’m going to use three different categories of narcissist:– the Extraverted Narcissist– the Introverted Narcissist– the Communal Narcissist

The extraverted narcissistic parent

Let’s get started with the most visible one:

Ask most people what their impression of a narcissist personality is and they’ll describe the grandiose narcissist.

Typically this person will:

  • Always have to be right / have the last word
  • Be hyper critical or demeaning of others
  • Be achievement or outcome focused
  • Be appearance focused
  • Be emotionally unreadable and unavailable
  • Be highly focused on their self image
  • Lack empathy
  • Lie to protect their self-image
  • Not take responsibility for what (s)he does and how it impacts you
How does as extraverted narcissist, parent?

As a parent, they may well:

  • Act one way in public, including magnetic charm but be controlling and manipulative at home
  • Only seem to give approval when you behave or achieve something that reflects well on them
  • Belittle or denigrate
  • Be absent and indulging in personal needs at the expense of others
  • Objectify you and fail to see you as an autonomous individual
  • Be jealous of you
  • Insist their experience tops yours

One of the signs of a narcissistic parent: acts one way in public, exudes magnetic charm but is controlling and manipulative at home #narcissisticabuse
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Introverted narcissist

What’s an introverted narcissist like? Not so easy to spot.

But the impact of their behaviour can still just as devastating. Typically this person will:

  • Be very self-absorbed – you’ll get a sense, through silences, stares, eye rolls that what is going on for them is far more important than what is going on for you
  • Be emotionally controlling through their silences, passive agression, cold shouldering
  • Lack real empathy for your experiences
  • Be very sensitive – the slightest hint of criticism or disagreement can lead to all of the above
  • Be ostentatiously modest – being over pre-occupied with down playing their qualities to try and elict approval and admiration
  • Not take responsibility for what (s)he does and how it impacts you
  • Be possibly quite depressive at times

One of the signs of the introverted narcissistic parent: emotionally controlling through their silences, passive agression, cold shouldering #narcissisticabuse
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How does an introverted narcissist, parent?

As a parent, they may well:

  • Be intrusive and unboundaried
  • Need to be parented by their child
  • Be hyper sensitive and collapse or cry when triggered
  • May have somatic illnesses that seem to incapacitate them
  • Use silences and passive agression to get their emotional needs met
  • Make you feel ashamed for making your own decisions or separating from them
  • Completely ‘infect’ the family with their mood
  • Act as the martyr in the family
  • Make you act in a different way than what you feel
The communal narcissist

What does a communal narcissist look like?

The communal narcissist is a relatively new category in the research and describes the person who’s emotional needs for high esteem are met by their seemingly wonderful acts in relation to others. For these people, their identity might be wrapped up in showing themselves to be:

  • the most giving to their community
  • the most loyal and effective friend
  • the most caring person in their circle
  • enriching the lives of others
  • the best parent possible

None of these traits in themselves is problematic, but for the communal narcissist, there isn’t value in the being or doing of those things. It’s the accolade and affirmation from others earned by doing those things which feeds them.

How does a communal narcissist, parent?

As a parent, the communal narcissist will:

  • be outwardly focused, being the best neighbour, churchgoer, charity fundraiser etc to the exclusion of the family’s wellbeing in some cases
  • be energised around presenting the family as an image of perfection (sharing improbably frequent joyous occasions on social media for example)
  • be often telling the story of how exhausted they are from all the good works they do
  • not be easily show deep emotion about their causes – it’s more about the admiration
  • won’t take responsibility for what (s)he does and how it impacts you
28 signs you were parented by a narcissistic

Now we’ve seen about the parents:it’s all about you.

This might be uncomfortable, right?

Well that’s one of the impacts of being parented by a narcissist or experiencing childhood emotional neglect.

So far, we’ve looked at how the 3 types of narcissist might be characterised and how their personality may have impact their presence as a parent.

But what about the effect on you, of being parented this way?

Here’s are 28 other ways that being parented by a narcissist might impact you:

  1. You feel like you know others’ feelings better than your own
  2. You feel alone and on the outside
  3. You second guess yourself a lot of the time
  4. Your instinct is take care of others (but not yourself)
  5. You may experience social anxiety or find groups difficult
  6. You feel you have to be the one to fix things when they go wrong in relationships
  7. You find it hard to trust or you need approval so much that you trust too quickly
  8. You may find yourself in work or friendship situations where you a bullied or marginalised
  9. You have an ambivalent relationship with your body
  10. You numb out including sometimes having out of body experiences
  11. You have bouts of anxiety and or depression
  12. You feel powerless to change at times
  13. You tend towards perfectionism
  14. You often end up people pleasing rather than being in conflict
  15. You feel guilty but you don’t know why
  16. You feel if someone really got to know you they’d see what a bad or flawed person you are
  17. You need to have a lot of control in your life
  18. You respond very strongly when you feel controlled
  19. You have periods of great quiet and then explosions of anger
  20. You have unexplained illnesses and physical ailments
  21. You blush a lot
  22. You feel irritable but can’t explain why
  23. You find social situations challenging
  24. You feel there’s something wrong with you but you can’t say why
  25. You tend to assume you are in the wrong
  26. You feel like you are faulty or unloveable
  27. Your inner critical voice is very very loud
  28. You have emotional flashbacks when triggered in certain situations – it takes you back to feeling like a child

You might experience just a few of these, many or even most.

How does that translate into how you experience your life? Let’s look at an example.

Ellen’s story* – Case study

*Ellen is a fictitious client, a composite of what I see in many of my clients

Ellen’s just turned 36 and to most people, her life seems really good. She has a long term relationship and a child from an previous partner.

She’s done pretty well in her career. Advanced quickly to a management role. She’s well thought of. Takes her job seriously, is very reliable and diligent in her work.

She’s got a good crop of friends, a few she really relies on.

But Ellen doesn’t enjoy life much. She has this restless feeling that there could be so much more. She feels really alone, inspite of the people around her in her life.

Whenever colleagues or bosses praise her, she shrugs it off. Feels it’s somehow good luck, that there are so many people better than her, that she’s a bit of an impostor.

At home, her relationship ebbs and flows. Her mum really doesn’t like her current boyfriend and makes that clear, overtly and subtly whenever she can.

This makes Ellen doubt herself too. As do her mum’s many other passing comments, about her appearance, her choice of clothing, her taste in furniture, her status at work. Her mum always has an opinion, and Ellen feels she’s always falling short.

Occasionally they have a massive bust up, but Ellen’s learned to keep quiet and swallow her frustration. She always has to apologise and sometimes her dad intervenes asking her to smooth things over.

She feels empty and let down when that happens.

Increasingly, she’s dreading family occasions. In the lead up she often develops a bug or chronic headache. She becomes irritable with her daughter and partner and snaps at work.

She religiously calls her mum on a Sunday evening but the conversations are one sided and Ellen has given up saying much about her life.

Her mum monopolises the space and talks either about the terrible things her neighbours are up to or monologues about how tired and in what pain she is, from all the work she does maintaining the house and garden.

Ellen wants to have some sort of relationship with her parents. She loves them but also finds the contact increasingly unbearable.

She feels deep shame and guilt about that, as if it’s disloyal and ungrateful for the money and time her parents invested in her and her education.

She’s going round in circles, and on the horizon, depression is threatening.

She doesn’t know what to do. And is convinced there must be something wrong with her. She just doesn’t know what.

Ellen is typical of someone who’s caught in the narcissistic trap with her parents.

How to get over parental narcissistic abuse and childhood emotional neglect

So here’s the good news:

When someone comes into therapy with this experience, the process of healing can begin.

Just getting through the door is a major step, as reaching out for help can feel deeply shameful for someone who’s always used to sorting it all out by themselves.

The 4 Stages of Healing from Parental Narcissistic Abuse: From Self-doubt to Self-belief TM

Although everyone’s healing process is unique, I’ve developed a four stage process to transform the inner pain into inner peace.

Here it is:

Stage 1: Give in to the Grief, Release the Rage

Acknowledging and accepting that life isn’t what you want it to be is a major deal. As is seeing that your childhood didn’t give you want you needed.

This is the starting point. To see the story of your life so far, for what it is. With both highs and lows.

Stage 2: Awaken your Awareness

Developing a relationship with yourself, perhaps for the first time in your life, comes next. This means, really learning to notice your thoughts, feelings and body and all the information they give you about what you want and need.

With that, you can explore all the different parts of you, including, most importantly at this stage, the hurt child within you and the inner critic.

Later, you’ll get to meet and know other parts of yourself which have..

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Guilt’s been on my mind a lot this week.

How it creeps into you. Takes you by surprise.

Causes constriction and doubt. Stops you in your tracks.

If you grew up with emotional neglect or in a narcissistic family, you probably have a hair trigger guilt response.

The slightest thing - a look, a phrase, a silence - can send you into guilt.

And with that the need to fix ‘it’ whatever it is, whether you’re responsible or not.

Because that’s the pattern you will have learnt as a child.

Guilt tripping is a method of control, sometimes unconscious, sometimes very conscious.

If you live with that hair trigger, life can feel unsafe. You become hyper-vigilant.

I remember as a kid sitting in class and the teacher shouting for the person who’d done whatever it was to confess.

I’d blush furiously. Feel my body collapsing into guilt, whether I was the culprit or not.

They said you could have fried an egg on my cheeks, they were so red.

That reflex followed me right through my life, in friendships, work, relationships.

Always the impulse to fix it, come to the rescue,

Now I’m starting to see things differently.

If you’d asked me last year, I’d have said guilt is the feeling of your inner child.

The part of you who felt coerced or unseen. Who was manipulated into a response that didn’t belong to them.

I think there’s truth in that. Maybe now I’d call it conditioning.

I’m also seeing something different. 

When undeserved guilt comes up, it’s often an echo from the past.

A memory of something that is gone, and can’t come back.

So why does it play out so powerfully?

I’ve literally felt paralysed with guilt at times in my adult life…

Now I’m starting to see guilt for what it is. A momentary insecure thought. A bit of feedback about my thinking.

I don’t have to buy into its story. Or give it any more credence than some of the more absurd thoughts that come into my mind.

And believe you me there are plenty of those to choose from.

I’m not saying that I never feel guilt. Sometimes it’s a good barometer for when things go off track.

But if you can differentiate between deserved and undeserved guilt, a freer place opens up.

Where you can notice the thought and just let it pass, knowing a new one will be along very soon.

Does this resonate with you? 

What’s your relationship with guilt? Do you have more than your fair share?

If it's something you're struggling, get in touch for a free consultation and let's see if we can shed some light on it together.

And notice, maybe, whether even the thought of getting in touch and talking about this stuff triggers guilt too. Just to reassure you, it often does...

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It happens again and again.

You express a need. It's met with denial, outrage or dismissal. 

You're left bewildered. On the verge of collapse or maybe rage.

You're told you come across as controlling or domineering.

It's hard to calibrate how you ask for things, when you aren't used to doing it.

Or have low expectations of getting those needs met. 

Because that's what happens when you experience emotional neglect or narcissistic abuse.

It's a muscle that never gets the opportunity to develop.

I've recorded this short video about how you might get needs met.

And I also share a fundamental idea about an innocent misunderstanding we have about needs and others.

Please add a comment and thumbs up after the video - I love reading your comments and it helps to get the video seen by more people.

The Secret to Getting Your Needs Met After Narcissistic Abuse - YouTube

To make an appointment for a free non-obligation chat please click the button below.

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There was a time in my life when I would never ask for help.

Even now, it’s not my first instinct.

I’m used to sorting out my problems by myself.

Call me a self-help specialist, if you will.

Ironic for a therapist, I’d say.

You might say it's independence.

Or some might describe it as stubbornness.

At the heart, though, I think it’s something completely different.

When your reality, as a child, is that help doesn’t come; when you’re awash with your emotions, and a parent is unable to attune to that, but just stay in their own needs, a quiet desperation starts to build.

I’m in this alone. I can’t trust that I will be saved or helped.

Fast forward to your teens and adult years, and that feeling gets cemented.

If at your core, you believe no help will come or be offered, why on earth would you ask?

It doesn’t enter into your thinking.

If you grew up in a narcissistic family or with emotional neglect, that feeling can also be compounded by another experience.

You take the risk, as any child would, of asking for help.

The response that comes back to you is on a spectrum.

From blankness, via stop complaining, to something more extreme. Humiliation, mocking or dismissal. 

A few times of that happening and you stop trying.

Anything to avoid that rejection. The reality that comes with that self-quieting is that you end up rejecting yourself.

Switch back to adulthood and that fear of making yourself vulnerable again is pervasive.

Anything but the humiliation or despair of no help being offered.

Or your need being made fun of.

New ways of seeing old patterns

These days, I’m starting to see a shift in my understanding.

For most of my life, my take on things has been from the 'outside in'.

What I mean by that, is that these external circumstances - disappointments, hurts, neglect, abuse - have defined my experience.

How could I not feel those things, if those experiences hadn’t happened?

Now I’m not denying the reality of those experiences.

Some, if not all, were true.

But what made them true for me, my perception of them as either bad or difficult or a problem, is entirely made from my own thinking. 

Put it another way. The same thing can happen to me twice, and my experience of it is completely different.

How? Well let’s put it to the test.

A thought experiment

I’m sitting in a cafe and someone bumps into me. And then another. And a third time.

I fume internally for the impoliteness or lack of mindfulness.

I get transported into a spiral of thinking about how I’m not seen or treated badly. I feel invisible. Disrespected.

Another day, I’m sitting in a cafe and I get bumped. It doesn’t bother me.

I imagine it was unintentional and unseen. Or thoughtless.​

None of it matters, because I choose not to follow any of that thinking. I get on with my drink un-impacted by the bumps.

What’s the difference between the two experiences? 

My thinking about it.

Our thoughts create our experience. Our awareness brings it to life.

Our thoughts create our experience. Our awareness brings it to life .We can’t choose our thoughts, but we can choose which thoughts to follow or not.

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We can’t choose our thoughts, but we can choose which thoughts to follow or not.

When our thinking is insecure, the world looks like a bad place.

When our thinking is quiet, the world looks very different.

This new understanding is revolutionary to me.

I see more and more that our experience of the world is created from the inside out.

There is no experience without thought.

So back to my opening question and experience. ‘I have to do it all by myself.’

This is, I see, in part conditioning. Those early experiences led me to habitual thinking that no-one else could or would help.

That might even have been true, then.

But now? That’s only true because I think it so.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a sudden convert to CBT.

This is a deeper truth, about the transient nature of thought.

We may be caught in series of difficult thoughts. Maybe we can choose not to give those thoughts too much power or weight.

When thought quietens, there is space for wisdom, common sense and clarity.

When thought quietens, there is space for wisdom, common sense and clarity.

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When are thoughts are revved up to a high speed, often insecure feelings come with them. Anxiety, worry , rumination.

With this new understanding, I see that I am the architect of my own experience. How powerful is that?

So what’s your take on this?

Can you see what I’m saying?

If you're a self-help junky...

Sometimes you just need help with this stuff.

A mentor, coach or therapist who can support you step by step. Be alongside you when there are setbacks and difficulties. Because there will be. 

This isn't necessarily easy or pain free. But it is the route to greater freedom. Which is priceless.

Why not get in touch to find out how we might work together?

 I help people just like you overcome the effects of childhood emotional neglect and narcissistic abuse, so they can reclaim their self-esteem and self confidence.

To make an appointment for a free non-obligation chat please click the button below.

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You might fantasize about having the ideal sibling relationship. But the reality?

Your relationship with a brother or sister isn't what you want it to be.

You were hoping for an ally, someone who gets what being in your family feels like. Instead you've got someone who picks a fight, sides with mum or dad. Or just gives you the cold shoulder.

Or their version of reality is completely different from yours. They don't see things as you do. When you try to talk about it they shut you down. Or deny your experience. Or gloss over it.

This video  isn't about fixing all that. It takes two to do that, right? But if you have a toxic relationship with a sister or brother, it will help you. We'll take a look at what feels difficult in your relationship with your sister or brother and give you 5 clear and simple strategies for dealing with it for greater inner peace.

If you like the video, please give it a thumbs up and subscribe to my Youtube channel,

How to deal with a difficult brother or sister in a narcissistic family - YouTube

To make an appointment for a free non-obligation chat please click the button below.

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This is perhaps the hardest thing for the people pleaser. To get your emotional needs met. You’re so used to supporting others, putting them first, finding the way to their bliss ahead of yours.

A lot of the time you go along with it. Either turning a blind eye to how you feel or perhaps not even noticing it.

Then something snaps:

The monster is unleashed. You lash out momentarily. Or withdraw. Punishment is meted out to the bewildered beneficiaries of your help.

Shame follows.

How could you lose it in that way? How could you let them see this side of you. In such a rage. Out of control. Control is a big deal for you. Self control. Managing carefully what others see of you. 

Because if you weren’t this person who helped, looked after, supported, who would you be? What would they really see or know about you?

My guess is:

there are two experiences at work here (well at least two).

There is a part of you whose identity is so bound up in the pleasing cycle, it’s difficult to imagine being anything else.

Equally, (or not so equally) there is another part of you, which is starved of light. Of attention. The part that has needs too.

If you experienced emotional abuse or were raised by a narcissist, knowing your needs may be very difficult for you.

What are your core needs?

You might even be thinking right now:

I can’t even say what my needs are. That’s really common for someone who has experienced emotional neglect.

It’s as if you’ve tuned that part out of you, or at least your awareness of it.

So if you are struggling with naming your needs, you  might find it helpful to think of them in these broad categories:

  • Feeling safe
  • Feeling wanted
  • Feeling loved
  • check
    Feeling creative
  • check
    Feeling physical touch
  • check
    Feeling respected
  • check
    Feeling autonomous

You might find you are in touch with some of those needs more than others. For a high achiever, for example, you might be very in touch with your autonomy, creativity and respect needs.

And less so with your needs to feel wanted or safe.

What is likely though, is that the need for safety and feeling wanted is driving your behaviour. Because those needs might not have been met when you were a child.

When that happens, you build up enormous defences to stop that hurt again. Focus on achievement, compliance, serving others, for example. Rather than suffer the pain of not feeling safe or wanted.

What to avoid

How not to get those needs met...

There is no right way to get your needs met. But before I share some ideas that might help, I should say this.

There is a ‘wrong’ or shall we say, less helpful way of getting your needs met, which often comes with emotional neglect or childhood narcissistic abuse.

1 The way of flight

Getting your needs met in the way of flight is characterised by - it’s a horrible phrase, but let’s call a spade a spade - passive aggression.

When you repeatedly can’t get your needs met, you start to adapt. You numb out or deny those needs. But no-one can go indefinitely without their core needs being met. You find a way.

For many who’ve experienced narcissistic abuse, you find the main way you can get your needs met is to do so passive aggressively.

Going quiet or sulking. Self-sacrificing or martyrdom. Slamming doors or tutting. Going monosyllabic. Just add whatever you do, if it’s missing from this list.

But just a minute here. I want to differentiate these behaviours from emotional flashbacks, though the two can overlap and be one and same.

In an emotional flashback, you are taken back to your behaviour of childhood and flooded with the feelings of that time.

But in the way of flight, you may adopt strategies that served you as a child in the hope that they work for you as an adult. And sometimes they do. Do you see the difference?

I’m saying all this, not to shame or pathologize, though I understand well that these feelings can arise.

Really what I want to do is just to name these as coping strategies which in the long run, are exhausting and frustrating both you and the person on the receiving end.

However you cope with life, I’ve no doubt you are doing your absolute best. I’m guessing though, that there is a part of you that wants things to be different. You’re still reading, after all.

2 The way of fight

If you are in touch with your anger, you may explode or rage when your needs aren’t met. Even if you are more on the passive side, the chances are that when your needs are not met in the long run, your anger surfaces.

It’s deep defence mechanism, saying to you, that your needs are asking for some attention.

In the face of narcissistic abuse, this response is less frequent in my experience because it leads to catastrophic and unsustainable conflict with the narcissistic parent.

If you’re one of those who did fight, you probably left home at the earliest possible opportunity.

The trouble with out and out aggression is that it’s also a form of coercion to get needs met.

In short, you’re scaring someone into giving you something. It might work from time to time. In the long run though, it’s exhausting and unsustainable.

3 The way of fawn

In the way of fawn, your people pleaser gets really dialled up so that you try and influence those around you to give you what you need by recognising your never-ending sacrifice.

There’s more to it than this, but for now, let’s just say that it’s like getting your needs met by osmosis. Or telepathy.

It’s unlikely to work, right…?

I’m not suggesting that it’s just a simple question of stopping any of these behaviours. You’re doing them for a reason.

But I am suggesting that there may be another way. With practice. Self-compassion. Patience.

When you repeatedly can’t get your needs met, you start to adapt. You numb out or deny those needs. But no-one can go indefinitely without their core needs being met. You find a way, however unhealthy. #narcissisticabuse

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How to get your needs met

So how to get your needs met? 

The first part of this post has all been about what needs are and what might not work so well.

The reason I’ve focused on that is that the foundation of any work to get your needs met better, is to know what they are. That's step 1:

1. Get clear on what your needs really are

Often when  you aren’t used to getting needs met, it’s hard to name them. So it’s time to do a little investigation.

Can you name your needs? Take a few moments, to see if you are in touch with them or if they are hidden to you.

Sometimes needs get disguised or hidden. A need for closeness or intimacy, can be expressed as a need for help or co-participation in something, whether it be household chores or day out or a date.

So you need to dig deep here, and really peel back the layers of needs to see what the underlying needs are. 

Use the list of core needs from earlier in the post as a starting point.

2 Practise asking for your needs

This takes courage and persistence. Especially if you are in a relationship or family situation where your needs are regularly not met.

Hold on to yourself in this, expressing yourself from the I place e.g. ‘I need…’ rather than drifting in to ‘You need / you never / you always…’

That’s almost guaranteed to shut the door on the conversation.

You might find a way to state clearly and simply, ‘I need to feel appreciated for what I do…’ ‘I need to feel safe when expressing myself or sharing how I feel…’ “I need to feel you are there for me…’

3 Strengthen your boundaries

One of consequences of asking for your needs to be met more clearly, is that you can be met with resistance.

Your boundaries will need shoring up.

Sometimes you need to be able to say no, that isn’t ok. Or no, I really need….

Those who are used to getting an enormous amount from you may not adjust well or readily to you asking for more, whether it’s a parent, sibling, colleague, partner or friend.

If you try this with a narcissistic parent, you really need to expect a reaction. They may deny, ignore or explode at your request. They may collapse into a victim place.

Just remember, it’s not your responsibility to fix this. You’re just taking care of yourself right now. And that’s ok. It’s not selfish. It’s self-care.

 Remember, it’s not your responsibility to fix a #narcissist. You’re just taking care of yourself right now. And that’s ok. It’s not selfish. It’s called self-care.

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Above all, be kind to yourself with all this. You’re taking courageous steps to be a different way.

Like all changes, this will take practice and persistence. It may not work first or second time or even third. Or it may be plain sailing.

Taking the step is brave. Give yourself that credit. Review how things are going. What are you learning about yourself. What needs to change and be tweaked.

Sometimes the help of therapist or coach can really make a difference, to spark off ideas and share progress. Or enlist a trusted friend who can listen without judgment and giving advice.

If you're struggling with getting your needs met...

Sometimes you just need help with this stuff. A mentor, coach or therapist who can support you step by step. Be alongside you when there are setbacks and difficulties. Because there will be. 

This isn't necessarily easy or pain free. But it is the route to greater freedom. Which is priceless.

Why not get in touch to find out how we might work together?

 I help people just like you overcome the effects of childhood emotional neglect and narcissistic abuse, so they can reclaim their self-esteem and self confidence.

To make an appointment for a free non-obligation chat please click the button below.

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Why is it so hard to stick with a decision?

How is it that, even when you feel solid, you come back over your choices? Doubt yourself. Question your smartness. Or integrity. Or value in making a choice.

In this short video I look at the issue of second guessing yourself and why it's such a big deal if you were raised by a narcissist or experienced emotional neglect.

If this video resonates with you and you want more insights on narcissistic abuse, subscribe to my Youtube Channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTrMDgnpThAULCcP47szUAg

Narcissistic Abuse: How to Stop Second Guessing in 5 Easy Steps [practical guide] - YouTube

Like the video? What resonated with you? Don't forget to like the video and leave a comment on YouTube.

And if my video resonates with you, why not get in touch to see how we might work together. This journey is so much easier when you have someone alongside... 

To make an appointment for a free non-obligation chat please click the button below.

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Your stomach does a flip. Your faces gets hot. Your body tightens. Your breath gets more shallow. You start to sweat a bit.

The feeling of guilt washes over you.

But why? When you stop to think a moment, what did you do?

You’re sat at lunch with your family. You mum looks over at you. Says nothing. But there’s a look.

Your body shrinks again.

Dad leans back. There’s something in his body language that tells you he disapproves.

You fold in on yourself. Thoughts start spiralling. What did I do? What did I say? What did I forget or who did I disrespect?

What did I do wrong, rings around in your head as you agonize over your last few hours and days.

At some point it floats away. You numb out, busy yourself. Dig in, because that’s what you do. You cope. Stay strong, but that feeling of unease makes itself known.

Perhaps it’s anxiety about something unrelated. Or feeling low. Or ill. Or tetchy with others, for no particular reason.

Another day, you’re at work. Something has gone wrong. Customers or colleagues are complaining. It’s nothing to do with you. Not even your area. But you feel tormented with guilt.

It’s like being a kid again. Someone breaks a window at school. The whole class is being interrogated. You weren’t involved, but you’re flooded with guilt.

Another scenario.

You want to go out to see a film with a friend. Your partner says nothing. Is supportive even. But you feel tormented by uncertainty. That they disapprove. Or wonder if you are up to something. Or that you don’t value them as much.

This is the world of those who’ve experienced narcissistic abuse or emotional neglect.

The most subtle, and unsubtle changes to the environment trigger guilt. Sometimes it’s mild discomfort. Sometimes is crippling and overwhelming.


Why do you get overwhelmed by guilt?

Why the guilt...

These waves of guilt can be exhausting. Confusing. They easily tip into shame, which is a whole other story of pain and discomfort.

But guilt that seems not to belong to anything you’ve said or done can be bewildering.

Or it becomes so pervasive that you tune it out as part of ‘normal service.’

If you grew up with emotional neglect or narcissistic abuse, guilt gets woven into the fabric of your existence.

When a parent is at best inconsistent in their attention or at worst abusive to the point of denying you your sense of self. Insisting that their view of the world is the only valid one. Or making their love and attention conditional on you following their way.

Then you develop a very active guilt trigger. You become hypervigilant for doing wrong.

The wrong look. The wrong phrase. The wrong clothes. The wrong attitude. The wrong touch.

You could probably write a catalogue of the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ in your family if you stop for a minute. In fact, why not try it and see what comes up.

And if nothing comes up, that’s actually quite normal too. These experiences become ingrained in the place of automatic response. Out of your conscious awareness. But if you do remember, here are some examples that might resonate:

  • Not showing gratitude
  • Not taking care of them and their needs
  • Getting cross back
  • Having secrets or private thoughts
  • Showing feelings
  • Wanting attention
  • Anything critical, whether intended or not (a minefield in itself
  • Showing them up in a public place

The consequences of transgression, were emotionally seismic.

Rages. Being cold shouldered. Further guilt tripped. Conditions imposed. Ostracisation. Victimisation. Shaming. Exclusion.

In short, being made to feel rubbish.

So in adult life, your radar for potential pitfall situations is hyper alert.

And the guilt is like an early warning sign, that you are being triggered.

You might also think of it as an emotional flashback. Being taken back to a time when you felt, out of sight, marginalised, dismissed, unloved for being who you are.

Knowing this can really help. It’s a sign that you are being thrown back into a different state, which triggers guilt. A guilt which might be masking other feelings, which you’ve learned to tune out from:

  • Sadness
  • Rejection
  • Anger
  • Disappointment
  • Hope
  • Joy

Guilt is an echo from the past. A trigger of an emotional flashback. From a time when life wasn't safe.  #narcissisticabuse

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It probably starts with a feeling in your body. It rapidly translates into a ‘Yes of course’, even though another part of you is screaming inside ‘I don’t want to.’

It’s very hard to bypass this type of response, because it starts in the body, rather than the mind.

However, it is possible to start changing things, with some really simple tools.

How to neutralise guilt

Here's what you can do.

In terms of our evolution and society, guilt has a useful purpose. It sets some taboos for what is and isn’t acceptable in the group. So the aim isn’t to live guilt-free.

That’s the realm of the narcissist and sociopath.

What you want is to be able to distinguish between healthy guilt and toxic guilt.

So here are some simple steps to help you with that.

1 Get to really know what guilt feels like in your body

This is all about learning to detect the early warning signs. How does guilt appear in your body? Is it a sinking feeling in your stomach. A tightening? A crushing or a squeezing? Is it a feeling of collapse? Does you get hotter or colder?

Whatever the pattern for you, it’s important you are really familiar with the feeling, taking the role of observing it.

2 Ask yourself, ‘Is this true?’

When guilt is triggered, check in with yourself. Can you make a causal link between your behaviour and the guilt?

If the answer is no, tell yourself gently ‘This is an emotional flashback, an echo from the past. I’m ok now. I’m an adult in an adult’s body, experiencing feelings from my past.'

There are other things you can do. I highly recommend Pete Walker’s list of actions you can take for managing emotional flashbacks:

http://pete-walker.com/pdf/flashbackManagement.pdf

3 If you can make a causal link between your behaviour and your guilt, ask yourself this:

Is my guilt related to an action, that as an adult, I feel bad about? That in all good conscience, I could have done something better with?

So, for example, if you were snappy with a partner or friend and it wasn’t really justified, is this something you could repair?

4 If you feel guilty, but the cause is related to something which feels familiar...
 

a pattern such as taking responsibility, even when something isn’t your fault, then this may be an emotional flashback.

To get a sense of this, check in again with your body. What sensations are around? What feelings? Is there a heaviness. Has your mood dropped or your anxiety come up. These can be indicators of the flashback.

If this is indeed an emotional flashback, consider how you might soothe yourself. You could try this:

  • Breathe deeply, slowing down the outbreath
  • Tell yourself ‘I am an adult; these feelings belong to a time when I didn’t feel safe. I am safe now.’
  • Consider your child self and how she might be feeling (clue: she’s probably feeling guilty, scared, overwhelmed)
Can you get past guilt?

The bottom line here is that you may not get rid of the feeling of guilt, at least not immediately. But you can change your relationship to it.

Noticing the feeling. Checking in whether it’s justified. Soothing yourself when it isn’t. It's a slow war of attrition. Re-wiring the brain to know that, at the core, you a just fine as you are. Valuable. Loveable. Worth a damn.

If you're struggling with guilt

Sometimes you just need help with this stuff. A mentor, coach or therapist who can support you step by step. Be alongside you when there are setbacks and difficulties. Because there will be. 

This isn't necessarily easy or pain free. But it is the route to greater freedom. Which is priceless.

Why not get in touch to find out how we might work together?

 I help people just like you overcome the effects of childhood emotional neglect and narcissistic abuse, so they can reclaim their self-esteem and self confidence. Want to talk? Reach out by clicking the button below.

To make an appointment for a free non-obligation chat please click the button below.

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