Self care: breaking bad

Our habits, that is.  Out with the bad, in with the beneficial.  

Breaking free from destructive or just plain not good-for-you habit forming ways and embracing better ones are something we all struggle with, at least from time to time.  Habits are; well they’re exactly that…same old, same old and hard to easily break away from.  But of course not all habits are bad.  But how often have we beaten ourselves up because once again we did it again…the hateful habit.  The one we keep trying to change.  We all have them.

Okay I’ll start first: ummm let’s see I’m only trying to break a few habits. Or rather keep on top of good habits.

I’m under the influence. I have friends who are vegan and gluten-free. So what I would normally order in a Japanese restaurant turned 180 degrees a few days ago. I ordered a sushi roll made out of soy bean paper (yes, I did) that contained asparagus, oshinko, red beets, yam, avocado, cucumber, spinach and shitake.  Super healthy and tasted great.  Didn’t think it would.

But when the server came around to ask will that be all? I broke down and asked for a tuna & wild salmon nigiri for dessert.  Not because I needed it, because it didn’t feel normal for me to leave a decent Japanese restaurant and not order a few pieces of raw fish.  I know that’s a weird and fairly tame example but still.  It’s a habit of sorts. The veggie sushi was satisfying enough to have left it alone.  That’s all I’m saying.

Other annoying behavior of non regularity to make better: changing my mindset of what is good and what is not, get me to the gym on time and more often, don’t forget to take my vitamins, start running again and stick with it.  Join a Spanish speaking group.  Read more. Dance more. The biggest one: reinforce the fact that other people’s stuff is not my stuff. I mean; don’t take on other people’s garbage.  That is not only annoying but disparaging to the spirit.  A good habit to break is to not let other people break your spirit.

Which brings me to this workshop put on by a friend which offers a personalized approach to managing your habits:

Come join us this September and learn how to establish new positive habits and tweak or re-write old, less-than-positive habits so you can get to work on what matters to you in your life. Register by August 31 to get early-bird pricing.

For more information, please visit us at https://www.thehabitworkshop.com/

Your welcome!

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Art/Film:  “Breakable You” &  “It’s Only the End of the World”

Two Films, two dysfunctional families involving two playwrights with two very different stories.  These were my first two choices to see at the Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF). They make my world seem a whole lot less complicated and normal.

Image courtesy of Harmoney Productions
Image courtesy of Harmoney Productions

I saw the world premiere of a movie entitled “BREAKABLE YOU” mostly because two actors I really admire are in it.  Holly Hunter (the piano, what women want) & Alfred Molina (Chocolat, Frida).

“We’re all fakes until we have a good idea, and then we’re geniuses” – quote from the film.

This arguably dark comedy revolves around Eleanor, a psychologist (Holly Hunter) following the divorce of her plagiarising playwright husband  Adam (Tony Shalhoub)  who tries desperately to regain a former successful Broadway following.  They have a bi-polar philosophy grad student daughter named Maud (Cristin Miloti) who chases a forlorn uncommunicative man named Samir (Omar Metwally) who is trying to overcome an unbearable loss of his own.

Almost immediately following the divorce Eleanor embarks on an affair with her first love who happens to be her ex-husband’s brother (Alfred Molina).  Sound complicated?  It is. The setting takes place on New York’s upper west side with the Manhattan literary crowd.

If this sounds familiar like something from Woody Allen; trust me, it’s not!

“IT’S ONLY THE END OF THE WORLD”  (Juste la fin du Monde) is gaining awards buzz and for good reason.

Photo: theplaylist.net
Photo: theplaylist.net

I chose this one because of the amazing all French cast: Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel, Léa Seydoux, Gaspard Ulliel & Nathalie Baye.  They were all unbelievably brilliant even if at times it was in-your-face hard to watch.

In brief the story is about a young writer returning home after 12 years to try to reconcile and tell his family some terrible news.  The news being that he is dying.  But the whole family is dying in a psychological sense.  This is one of the best (or worst) cases of family dynamic dysfunction I have yet to witness on the big screen.  Let’s just say….

My next selections from hereon in will be more uplifting.

The Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) is from January 2 – 16, 2017.    There is an abundance of fabulous films to choose from.  For more information go to: https://www.psfilmfest.org/

what MATTERS: Mind-Body-Spirit

I’ve been giving more thought lately to the fact that there might be something to this mind.body.spirit (MBS) fixation.

to be more at peace
to be more at peace

MBS: It’s nothing new in life but now it seems we’re getting it shoved in our faces more and more. What with almost more yoga studios opening up than coffee shops and the latest trend (which is really an ancient practice) of meditative workshops.  I think it means we need help or at least direction.  MBS pretty much covers everything.  It encompasses our ‘whole’ being.  Infact the three work together as a unit to create a ‘whole’.  If all three are in sync you have more power. I thought I would touch on the subject of how it has affected me personally.  I’m working on all three areas simultaneously to expand my mind and improve my thinking, my body and create a general feeling of lightness and well being.

MIND

The mind is an amazing tool.  There really is no limit to how much you can learn if you set your mind to it.  You have to challenge yourself otherwise it’s too easy to get lazy.  I’m opening a new chapter in my life. I used to read all kinds of books so now I’m trying to get back to reading more often. I prefer non-fiction or fiction based on fact.  Books like Kite-Runner and Poisonwood Bible I couldn’t put down. I like books that teach you something.  I’m interested in language and am trying to make more of an effort to brush up on my Spanish. My blog was created out of having an inquisitive nature and an interest in many topics and a forum for things I care about. I’m wondering if I’ll ever run out of new things to talk about since I’ve written well over 1,000 posts to date. I never gave the numbers much thought until the WordPress people alerted me to that fact and said congrats.

I have an active imagination which sometimes works against me.  It lay dormant for quite some time but it’s being re-activated.

Once in grade school we had to write a composition incorporating satire so mine was entitled “Jet Black and the Seven Warts” (a rendition of the Snow White fairytale in case you didn’t get it).  It was about a beautiful black girl who had some issues to deal with.  The warts were really euphemisms for her troubles and her not being able to get past what she saw as warts and not feeling worthy.  The teacher took me aside but I got an A+.   

I try to use imagination in cooking too by taking different recipes and making them my own and even inventing new ones.  I like variety.  If I try something in a restaurant that I like I’ll try to re-create it at home as best I can without having the recipe.

When I was little and found out that the meat I was eating came from slaughtering an animal I told my mother I wanted to be a vegetarian.  Luckily I liked vegetables but she didn’t like that idea so she played a harmless little mind game with me telling me that there was another kind of meat that was really made out of vegetables, not animal…not too far off from what you can get today with tofu & tempeh, etc.  Anyway, I believed her and would always ask “what kind of meat are we eating, the kind from the animal or the one they made to taste like that?”  Of course we were really eating the animal but by the time I found out the truth 15 years old it was too late.  To this day I don’t eat veal, rabbit or lamb (unless we go to Stepho’s Greek restaurant and someone else orders the roast lamb & I have to sample it because it’s so good).  I have a thing against eating baby animals – it’s better if they have a life before I dig in.  I do have a conscience but it is somewhat hypocritical.

My mom had a terrible birth with me.  Infact she nearly died and didn’t see me for about a week later.  But then she went on to have two more.  Apparently you can train your mind to forget the pain.

I listened to Shirley Maclaine talk about her own journey at the Unique Lives event and explain how you have to listen to your gut and follow your intuition.  Sometimes your mind tries to play tricks with you so you have to sort out what is real and what is not.  Sometimes that’s a challenge but I think deep down we do know the answer. I believe with a strong mind and will you can create the life you want.

A healthy mind can only be found in a healthy body – Nelson Mandela

BODY

Since I took my first running workshop about 5 years ago I’ve been running ever since.  My very first run was the Vancouver Sun Run 10K and when it was over I went home to a big surprise party that my family and friends threw as if I had just completed running the Boston Marathon.  How could I top that (I mean the party)?  From there the next goal was to train for the Nike Women’s half marathon in San Francisco but the real reason was to get the Tiffany necklace  handed out at the finish line by a handsome fireman wearing a suit. I did this run twice and last year the Vancouver SeaWheeze.  Nike wasn’t only about the necklace only a bit, more the fireman it was a fun run through the streets of San Francisco and went to prove to myself that I could actually complete it.

Now when I’m out running by myself my mind runs right along with me and I think about a lot of things during my much shorter runs.

In the day of the Jane Fonda Workout (I once went to her studio and took a JF class in Beverly Hills – wore a cute outfit with matching headband ) I never felt that yoga was the answer to getting in shape because it wasn’t fast enough.

I used to not be into it so much, preferring workout classes using weights instead but now I’ve gone back.  I’m not a super yogi type girl but I enjoy the variety of styles and postures and am starting to see results especially when we focus on the core.  The core is very important and this time I want to get right down to the abs.  I’ve never really had abs (certainly never a six-pack) but I always knew they were only too shy to come out.  Now I’m starting to see some signs.  I’ve never felt sexier. It makes me want to work harder on getting leaner, more defined and fit.  Not skinny (I don’t like skinny) just in the best shape possible for myself.  It’s a personal goal.  Especially since my last trip when I came back and couldn’t fit into a pair of jeans I wanted to wear.  I just found my tightest pair and was able to not only get into them but do up the zipper (because getting into them doesn’t mean having to do them up). It’s because I don’t hold back on holidays.  For the most part I eat really healthy but I have to have a piece of chocolate or something sweet every day.  I’m crazy about all kinds of cookies. If it’s true that you are what you eat then I’m the United Nations.  I enjoy food too much and don’t exercise any enough self control.  It’s one (there are a few more) of my weaknesses.  It’s just that this last trip it caught up to me.  But now I just have to use my mind to control my body to lift my spirit. 

SPIRIT

A healthy spirit can only be found in a healthy mind – me

Okay this is a tough one, how do you describe spirit.  It’s just a feeling right? As in you either have a good spirit or you don’t.  No, it’s more complicated than that.

For whatever reason I do believe in karma so I try to be mindful because there’s always that little voice that says “it will come back to you if you’re not careful.”

It’s trying to do the best you can.  I realize that’s it’s very difficult to be all things to all people I’ve at times spread myself too thin and it doesn’t really work to anyone’s advantage, especially mine. I’m trying to let go of some things that are beyond my control and not let my emotions get the better of me – mind over matter.  So far I haven’t successfully succeeded but I will. My intuition is very good and I’m trying to pay attention to tap more into my *psychic ability which I think is about clueing in to the energy around us.  When you’re able to tap in, that’s when things begin to open up and all kinds of magical stuff starts to happen. It’s eerie but fascinating what you can draw to you if you open up your heart. This is truly “the secret.” I was talking to a friend the other day about a person we both know who we find to be emotionally draining and so we discussed having boundaries and having to say “no” and be okay with it.  We have to be giving but we have to protect ourselves at the same time.  Negative energy is not healthy so if you experience that trapped feeling you have to let go.  Looking after yourself is not a case of being egotistical or selfish it just makes you stronger.  I think we have to look after ourselves before we can look after another.

Basically in a nutshell improving our MBS is work in itself but rewarding and it will help to make us better human beings.

Balance your mind, body and soul.  If any of these three things are out of balance our lives will be in a state of constant turmoil and unease – walking my talk.

Photo: d. king
Photo: d. king

 Any thoughts?

Psychic messages: Just as I was typing in the word “SeaWheeze” above I heard my phone message me.  It was from the “SeaWheeze” people letting me know that friends and family can sign up to volunteer at the run adding – “If they’re anything like you, we love them already.”

On Sunday a friend was over for dinner.  As soon as I said “let’s open up some bubbly” her phone had a new message.  She showed me what it was – a friend sent her one of those moving images….of bubbles!

contemplating “My Stroke of Insight”

“We are energy beings connected to the energy all around us and we can find Nirvana.”– Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, intellectual, neuroanatomist, stroke survivor.

“We are a life force power of the universe with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds and we have the power to choose moment by moment who we want to be in the world”

brain4This is an extremely interesting story by Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist who had a massive stroke in 1996, and watched as her brain functions – motion, speech, self-awareness all shut down one by one.  She made a full recovery on her own by summing up her power of knowledge and understanding of the human brain – a true stroke of genius.

She lost the left hemisphere of her brain.

On the Brain front: does anyone know their LEFT from their RIGHT?

The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body.  I’m left handed therefore I’m always right!

RIGHT human hemisphere is about using the present moment – right here & right now.   Left handed people (use their right side of the brain) think in pictures.  brain3They use the creative and feeling part of the brain. The side that prefers to be on vacation (well that makes perfect sense).  They’re spontaneous, intuitive. unpredictable, like to dream about things that will probably never happen, but that never hurts to dream I mean.

Our LEFT hemisphere  – makes us think linearly and methodically.  It’s all about the past and the future.  It picks out details, details and more details and categorizes things.brain3 - CopyIt thinks in language. The on-going brain chatter, the little voice that says “remember to pick up groceries on your way home”.  It says “I AM”  – It is separate from the energy flow around us.  A calculating intelligence.

I found out about this book at my Friday morning yoga class when the instructor read an excerpt.  I immediately went home to listen to the Ted Talk (link below).  Our instructor usually takes a moment to read a thought provoking quote.  I love this one by B.K.S. Iyengar:  Yoga is like music: the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.  I have a lot of practice ahead of me.

Taylor’s TED TALK is so inspiring (it’s just under 20 minutes long and well worth watching):  http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight?language=en

– I hope it moves you as much as it did me –

stroke book1About the book:

A New York Times Bestseller — Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor was chosen as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World for 2008. Jill Bolte Taylor was a 37-year-old Harvard-trained and published brain scientist when a blood vessel exploded in her brain. Through the eyes of a curious neuroanatomist, she watched her mind completely deteriorate whereby she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life. Because of her understanding of how the brain works, her respect for the cells composing her human form, and an amazing mother, Jill completely recovered her mind, brain and body. In My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, Jill shares with us her recommendations for recovery and the insight she gained into the unique functions of the right and left halves of her brain. In the absence of her left brain’s neural circuitry, her consciousness shifted into present moment thinking whereby she experienced herself “at one with the universe.”

Source: Amazon.com

Contemplating making an entrance

This is fun. Look at the arches and pick the one that is immediately most appealing to you. The one that you choose reveals a lot about your personality. arches

If you chose number 1, your path is freeing. You are the type of person who needs a ton of space. You need the freedom to do things your own way, you prefer a path that you carve yourself, especially one with infinite possibilities and routes. You don’t want to feel constrained and are highly independent, rebellious even, but you don’t like confrontation. You’re more likely to passively resist someone or something. You hate being rushed, and prefer to take the time to savour life. You’re too busy enjoying life to draw attention to yourself.

If you chose number 2, your path is private. You are the kind of person who prefers to travel alone. You like to observe, think, and sort out whatever is in your head. You prefer a path that’s fit for one. You can see others once you arrive at your destination, but you need your downtime first. You are very original and insightful. You look at the world in a unique way, and others can benefit from your point of view. You are a bit of a loner, but you connect well with people when you take the time. You are very understanding.

If you chose number 3, your path is colourful. You are a very engaging and engaged person. You love to be part of the world… you like to experience it all. Your ideal path is filled with colour, excitement and beauty. For you, it’s more about the journey than the destination. You are curious and excited to learn more. You love to start conversations, and you ask lots of questions. You are intellectual and witty. You think of more zingers than you’d ever use, and you keep people laughing.

If you chose number 4, your path is exciting! You are always moving forward in life, often into the unknown. You just go for it and deal with the consequences later. Your ideal path is unpredictable and maybe a little scary. You are drawn to the unknown. You can be a rule breaker, and you’re even somewhat careless. You have been known to act without thinking, but it usually all works out for you. You are very spontaneous and a major thrill seeker. You are going to make the most of the time you’ve been given on this planet!

If you chose number 5, your path is welcoming. You are a peace-seeking low maintenance person. You are very content, and you don’t like to be bothered. Your ideal path is clear cut and enjoyable. You want to enjoy your trip and to know what you’re getting into. You will often take the easy choice whenever possible. Life is hard enough, and you never want to make it harder on yourself, you are stable and supportive of those around you. You are known for your consistency and down to earth perspective.

If you chose number 6, your path is quiet. You value solitude in all aspects of your life. You can spend large periods of time alone without feeling lonely. Your ideal path is one that is very still and quiet. You want to absorb everything around you without feeling overwhelmed. You seek meaning in every aspect of life. You live your life very deliberately- both in action and in thought. You don’t like crowds, but you do like people. You value authentic relationships, and you prefer the depth of one on one interaction.

My result was extremely accurate (the thrill of infinite possibilities mixed with excitement).  Okay it was a combination of two doorways – couldn’t  make up my mind.

What about yours?

Source: http://chicinitie.com/

health MATTERS: when it’s all about THEM! The Narcissist.

What’s it like to live with one?

Narcissists simply do not make good partners

Narcissism is the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes. The term originated from Greek mythology, where the young Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. (wikipedia)narcissist

Last month, the goop.com website posted a piece about the legacy of narcissistic parents from Dr. Robin Berman , a practicing psychiatrist, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, and author of Permission to Parent. To say that the piece resonated would not quite do it justice: It hit a nerve. And prompted many follow-up emails and questions, which primarily revolved around concern from readers that they might currently be involved with a narcissist, to debilitating effect. Below, Dr. Berman addresses the ramifications of romantic involvement with a narcissist, relationships that often kick off with so much fanfare they feel like a Disney cliché, before the fantasy fades and a darker reality emerges.

This is a little longer of a blog post than usual but I think you’ll find it quite interesting.  We all seem to know someone with these traits.  How to handle it?

I’ve heard the story countless times. A client comes in confused, hurt, and disheartened, wondering what happened to her fairytale romance that started off with such a bang. Invariably some combination of these words come next: “Prince Charming,” “soulmate,” “man of my dreams,” “swept me off my feet,” “attentive,” “charismatic”…”so all in.”

I am a psychiatrist, not a psychic, but I can predict what comes next: The relationship spirals downward and this so-perfect-he-can’t-possibly-be-real man morphs into something else entirely. Often, something much more disturbing. He needs endless attention, yet nothing she does makes him happy. Everything she says is wrong, as he’s easily injured or angered. She starts to feel very alone in the relationship, confused, and unmoored. What’s worse, she might feel like she’s somehow to blame—that she should work even harder to please.

Often, the dynamics play out more insidiously. You talk about an issue, and your partner relates it immediately to something that happened to him; your story fades as his takes over. Or you and your partner disagree and somehow you end up second-guessing yourself, as if dissent threatens his very well-being. Any needs you communicate that aren’t in line with his may be thrown back at you as a character flaw. For instance, you tell your boyfriend you won’t be able to get together on your usual date night because of work, and his comeback is: “You’re just not available for a serious commitment right now, and I want a real relationship.” Suddenly you have a global problem and he is a victim. What a head-trip.

“NARCISSISTS TAKE EVERYTHING SO PERSONALLY BECAUSE UNDERNEATH THEIR GRANDIOSE BRAVADO LURKS PROFOUND SELF-LOATHING—THEY NEED TO BE SHORED UP BY CONSTANT EXTERNAL PRAISE.”rottenecard_forgiving-narcissist

If this all sounds familiar, perhaps you, too, are living with or dating a narcissist. The big, charming personality is typical of narcissists. Initially quite likable, they capture everyone’s attention. When they shine their light on you, it is easy to fall hard.

But that fall becomes painful when other narcissistic traits make themselves known. Narcissists are hypersensitive to any perceived critique. Feedback other than flattery feels like a slight and can trigger extreme anger. They feel deeply injured by criticism and have an excessive need for praise and admiration. Any time you express your honest feelings, you might stumble into your partner’s emotional quicksand. This is not what real love feels like.

Falling in love may put you off balance, but standing in love firmly grounds you. An absolute essential ingredient of a good relationship is emotional safetyyou need to feel safe to be the real you! But it is very difficult to be yourself when you have such an emotionally volatile partner. Narcissists are often arrogant, self-important, and devoid of empathy. They are so in their own world they can’t even see you. It’s hard to stand in someone else’s shoes when you can’t see past your own. Narcissists see you not as you, but more as an extension of themselves.

To be seen and adored for who you really are, though, is the highest form of romance. I once heard that the word intimacy can be broken down into the words “IN TO ME YOU SEE.” It is so difficult for the narcissists in your life to truly see you and get you because they are focused on themselves. Their needs steamroll over yours. Talking about how you feel becomes exhausting and frustrating because they can’t truly appreciate your perspective and because you have to sugarcoat everything to not set them off.

This would me me if I were living with one
Ha, this is exactly what I would do.

“IF HE EASILY CONDEMNS THOSE HE PREVIOUSLY CHERISHED, CHANCES ARE THAT DARK LIGHT WILL SHINE ON YOU AT SOME POINT, TOO.”

A patient once told me this story: “When I was newly married, we saw the movie Inception. When we walked out of the theater and I said I didn’t like it, my husband flew into a rage. ‘What?! We love thought provoking movies! How could you not get that story?!’ I remember thinking ‘Who is we?’ His reaction was so full of wrath, I was scared to speak up. From that point on, more and more pieces of my true self went silent.”

This exemplifies how quickly the benign can become malignant and destroy emotional safety. Even disagreeing about what you think of a movie can trigger your partner’s disapproval or anger. Living with or dating narcissists feels like you have to tiptoe around minefields and are constantly on guard to not set them off. Narcissists take everything so personally because underneath their grandiose bravado lurks profound self-loathing—they need to be shored up by constant external praise. Their fuel is admiration, and they need you to reflect their magnificence because they truly don’t feel it themselves. Being that perfect, flattering mirror is depleting, and after awhile, your needs become enmeshed with theirs. You lose sight of where they end and you start. You become so busy shoring up the narcissist that you have nothing left for yourself. You tend to disappear.

Meanwhile, as you are doing all that work to build up your partner, he or she may be busy tearing others down. The classic example comes from Snow White and the narcissistic Evil Queen. Maleficent needs constant reassurance from her Magic Mirror that she, indeed, is the fairest of them all. But once Snow White comes into the picture, Maleficent feels threatened by the competition and sets out to destroy her.

“YOU MAY HOLD ONTO THE FANTASY THAT IF YOU SHORE THEM UP ENOUGH, THEY WILL EVENTUALLY GET AROUND TO TAKING CARE OF YOU, TOO. UNFORTUNATELY, MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, THIS WON’T BE THE CASE.”

In real life, narcissists need to cut down others to build themselves up. Even when you are in the glow of a new relationship, and the charm offensive is blindingly bright, watch for clues that all may not be well. If he needs to criticize others to show how grand he is by comparison, he will likely do the same to you. Besides noticing how he treats the people around him, look at his history. Is it filled with long-term friendships or littered with relationships—romantic or business—in which he has inevitably been wronged? If he easily condemns those he previously cherished, chances are that dark light will shine on you at some point, too. The narcissist who keeps himself elevated by putting down others eventually might become competitive even with you.

Narcissists hoard attention, interrupt conversations so that they can steer it back to themselves, and are more concerned with their feelings than anyone else’s. Their theme song is, “Enough about me, let’s get back to me.” If you are living with a full-fledged narcissist, you know first-hand how this can interfere with their ability to relate to you and to your kids.

“My marriage was great before we had kids. I knew that my husband needed a lot of attention, but I never realized how much, until I stopped giving it to him in the usual doses, because I was so busy caring for our baby. I could no longer be so focused on him. Our relationship got ugly fast.”

Before having children you had more energy to attend to the narcissist. Some narcissists feel threatened and jealous of the attention that you devote to your kids; other narcissists use their children to feed their ego; and others are so preoccupied with themselves that they completely neglect their kids. Of course, all of these are detrimental for a child.

“THE JOURNEY TO DISCOVERING YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF REQUIRES YOU TO GET PAINFULLY HONEST TO WORK THOUGH YOUR DISTRESSING FEELINGS.”

Disagreeing with a narcissist or working through issues is extremely difficult. In addition to their inability to see your point of view, they cannot own their stuff. Their extreme defensiveness shuts down their ability to learn, and that impinges on your ability to grow as a couple.

You may hold on to the fantasy that if you shore them up enough, they will eventually get around to taking care of you, too. Unfortunately, more often than not, this won’t be the case. But if part of life’s journey is knowing yourself, the narcissist in your life can be a great teacher. The journey to discovering your authentic self requires you to get painfully honest to work though your distressing feelings. Here are some questions that can lead you to clarity and help you figure out whether you just need more tools to cope, or you really need to extricate yourself.

TOUGH QUESTIONS

  1. Why did you pick him or her? Does she remind you of the way you were loved by one or both parents? Have you just unknowingly repeated the scene of the original crime—your own childhood? Or are you trying, with your partner, to have a happier ending than you did with your parents?
  2. Are you depressed? Swallowing anger and hiding your real self can lead to depression.
  3. Are you exhausted from tap dancing around someone’s fragility? Do your constant attempts to please him require a hyper-vigilance that is draining? Are you working to hide your partner’s volatility and fragile ego from your kids and your friends?
  4. Are you seeing things as they are, or are you making constant excuses? Try to get an honest picture of what’s going on. Don’t skew the data.
  5. Do you feel like your needs are constantly overshadowed in spite of all of your efforts to communicate them? Have things gotten so bad that you’ve stopped trying to communicate them because it feels pointless? Or is there safe space for your feelings?
  6. Are you being gaslighted? Narcissists have a tendency to deny things they said, or claim they said something else. They rewrite history. They are unaware of the impact they are having on you or others. This is crazy-making. Beware of this distortion and don’t buy into it.
  7. Does your partner have a history of healthy, intimate relationships? Or is there a long-standing pattern of unstable relationships, whether romantic, friendly, or professional? History doesn’t lie, so pay attention to it.
  8. How do you feel when you are with your partner: Separate and whole, or enmeshed and sucked in to their drama? Does being around your partner make you feel peaceful or on edge?
  9. Since living with or dating a narcissist, do you feel like you are a better version of yourself? Take a moment to compare how you feel about yourself before you met your partner, and now.

PROTECT YOURSELF

  1. ASSESS

Is this relationship worth saving? Be honest, how extreme is your partner’s narcissism—is it just a few traits, or is it more encompassing? Full-blown narcissism (see chart below) is hard to live with. A few traits can be manageable. If you choose to work on the relationship, know that at any time, the healthiest choice may be to leave.

In assessing the extent of the problem, be cautious when you see hints of a more evolved partner. Recognize whether these moments are fleeting or a bigger piece of the picture. Don’t make too much of the glimpses of improvement. Manage your expectations. The narcissist in your partner likely will not disappear. Unless there is consistent growth, decide if a sporadic connection is enough to sustain you.

  1. SET PARAMETERS FOR STAYING

If you decide to stay in the relationship, both of you must recognize the problem and the role each of you plays in perpetuating it. Also, and this is crucial, he must commit to getting professional help in working to change his behavior. In a therapist’s office, as time makes him feel safe, he can get underneath the mask of grandiosity and access his true feelings. Then, ultimately, he can learn to replace the harsh self-critique with self-compassion, which is where real healing takes place.

If your partner is a full-blown narcissist and doesn’t want to get help or work on it, this should be a deal breaker. If you’re married to a narcissist, realize that you can’t fix him. No matter how much you try, his actual healing is going to have to come from within. No amount of external shoring up will ever be enough. Don’t make fixing a narcissist your life’s work. You have a different journey, one that is more inspired than repairing your partner.

* If you’re dating someone you suspect is a narcissist, tread carefully. What makes a great date may not make a great mate.

* If the narcissist in your life is getting help, remember it may be two steps forward and one step back. Give yourself a deadline so that years don’t elapse, leaving you in a perpetually dysfunctional relationship.

* Although it is likely your narcissistic partner loves you in his own way and does give you something—for instance, he makes life exciting, he’s vivacious and flattering—in the end, his own limitations may prevent him from consistently giving you the love you need. It may be 10% his affirming you in exchange for 90% you affirming him.

  1. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

If progress is being made, you need to take care of you. Shore yourself up with a strong support network. Make sure that you have close friends that you feel safe enough with to share your truth—great girlfriends, a good therapist, a spiritual leader. Don’t screen the story; share it unfiltered. Speaking the truth is quite liberating.

* Learn to notice and take care of your needs, maybe for the first time.

* Set boundaries clearly, calmly, and firmly. Know where you begin and where he ends. Start small. It’s OK to not like the same movies. You don’t need to change your opinions to placate him. You may take flack for standing up for yourself. Don your invisible armor so that if he overreacts, you’re clear that it’s about him, not you.

* Work through your own anger to have empathy for the narcissist in your life. He never got what he needed, and his self-hatred is much greater than his self-love, even though it appears to be the opposite. Have massive amounts of empathy for yourself and compassion for your partner. And know that understanding him doesn’t have to mean staying in the relationship.

* Listen to your intuition, that deep place of knowing. You deserve to be happy, free, and at peace. You deserve safe and unconditional love!

WHAT’S YOUR REAL LOVE STORY?

When it comes to romance, listen to your head and your heart. In healthy partnerships, both vital organs are aligned. Good relationships free your true spirit. They allow you to exhale with ease into feeling safe and cherished. To quote one of my dearest friends, a good partnership is an “elevator.” It brings out your best self. It does not force you to bury parts of yourself. You want a partnership in which you can not only fall in love, but then stand and ultimately grow in love.

Now that is what I call happily ever after.

Robin Berman, MD, is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and author of “Permission to Parent: How to Raise Your Child with Love and Limits.”

CRITERIA FOR DIAGNOSING NARCISSITIC PERSONALITY DISORDER

Narcissism exists on a spectrum from a person who has a few traits to someone who meets the full criteria for a personality disorder. Full-fledged narcissism is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
  4. Requires excessive admiration.
  5. Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations).
  6. Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends).
  7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

From the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, 2013

 Feedback?

contemplating the MASKS WE WEAR

Two weeks ago I posted about artist Judith Henry who incorporates masks as part of her mixed-media artwork compositions that explore the various roles we play. downloadShe hides behind a mask and becomes part of her canvas (above), just as we sometimes hide a part of our personality in certain settings and depending on the situation.

It got me thinking about the ‘masks’ we all wear, to what extent we tend to layer ourselves at times and the reasons why.  I don’t know the psychology behind it, but I think it’s fairly simple to explain.

In theory, ‘masks’ are a persona that we put on top of the ‘real thing.’ It is a version of our ‘true selves.  It’s not necessarily that we aren’t being authentic, but we can edit our personalities and decorate the versions we prefer to share to the world.masks-we-wear-image

Why do we feel the need to do this?

What they shield are those parts of us that for whatever reasons, we don’t like or accept; or that others need us to hide to make them feel more comfortable. Or we don’t feel comfortable telling the complete truth for fear of breaking down so we are in actuality protecting ourselves from being hurt, our pride from rejection or to keep us from looking like a complete fool. Okay, maybe it’s not so simple after all.

I’m sure that if everyone let down their complete guard to anyone who asked “how are you today” people might be surprised and not be able to fully accept or handle exactly how you’re really doing. It’s keeping a barrier of politeness and having boundaries. In other words, “not wearing your life on your sleeve” at the first introduction.

Then there are societal rules that make it easier for us to fit in so we can adapt to situations like when we’re looking for work or meeting new people for the first time. We don’t want to appear too needy or too shy but sometimes we are exactly that.  That’s just the rules of the game folks.

Interesting subject though don’t you think? 

I'm just great, thank you very much!
I’m just great, thank you very much…Sure!

Two poems on the matter:

“She had blue skin,
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through,
Then passed right by-
And never knew.” –  Shel Silverstein, Every Thing On It
 

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,–
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask! – Paul Laurence Dunbar

Health & Happiness MATTER – How Happy Are You?

The writing is on the walls…literally.  Scribbled all over the MOV’s latest exhibit.  

I am usually rather bored with DEFINITIONS
I am usually rather bored with DEFINITIONS
why? will that add to my happiness?
Why? wouldn’t that work against happiness?

Health, wealth and happiness (usually signed on cards) are the three best wishes in the world but only one of those wishes are we able to be more in control of.  

I think mine stopped at 9
I’m leaving room for improvement

If you could rate your overall happiness on a scale between 1 and 10 (10 being the highest score), what would it be? If you were given a post-it note to write down what makes you happy, what would you write?  If you had to choose your happiest activity (besides having sex) what would you do?

You might be surprised to find out that attending a religious service ranked higher than having sex, according to a happiness graph meter at the Museum of Vancouver’s (MOV) latest exhibit appropriately entitled “THE HAPPY SHOW.”

Not being the religious type, I was surprised but not totally shocked since happiness means different things to different people.  Although when it comes to relationships with other people like family and friends, it seems we are all the same in rating it highest for personal happiness.

the screen changes while you pedal the stationery bike.
the screen changes while you pedal the stationery bike.

I was happy to be inside the MOV on an unpredictable Vancouver day that had periods of rain, hail and everything else in between.  Snippets of happiness include gumballs and ginger candy which were at the exhibit and made everything better.  This show is interesting, introspective, interactive and informative However, the exhibit will not make you happier or take away any anxieties.  A couple of hours spent there flew by so quickly.

If you're happy and you know it write a note
If you’re happy and you know it write a note

The exhibit reflects a 10-year exploration of happiness by award-winning designer, Stefan Sagmeister.  Sagmeister’s clients include HBO, the Rolling Stones (he designed album covers for them among other groups) and the Guggenheim Museum.  He has also delivered several popular and disarming TED talks, a few of which you can watch and listen to (with headphones) at this exhibit.  You will also get a sneak peek at the soon-to-be-released documentary, The Happy Film  (depicting experiments with meditation, cognitive therapy and mood-altering pharmaceuticals) which I will definitely go do see.happy2

A few interactive tidbits:

My friend and I were looking at a graph that indicated the happiness levels of those who were single, to those who were married or in a relationship. It claimed that men, if given the complete freedom to do exactly as they please, would do exactly as they please (surprise, surprise). A woman standing right behind me sighed and said “so true; my husband left me for my best friend.” She was on the low end of the happiness meter.happy8

Then while reading a wall that said the ancient Indian Sanskrit language contains sixteen words for happiness, while German includes none…..a man visiting from Germany standing right behind me said that that’s not true.  The German language apparently has three words and he wrote them down for me.  glücklich (happy), freude (which actually means pleasure) and frohlich (merry).  So I learned three German words today which mean almost the same thing – which made me somewhat happier to know.happy9

 I highly recommend this show which runs April 23 to Sept. 7happy3

In closing, it might seem crazy what I’m about to say but the link below is bound to give you a HAPPY lift:images (1)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Sxv-sUYtM

We had to pick a random card.  My chosen card told me to try to make a stranger in the museum smile.  Does laughing count?

Photos: d. king

Contemplating the ART of a PERFECT BREAKUP

  Where were all the *red flags?  breakup5

Spoiler Alert: there is no such thing as the “perfect breakup.” There is however a better, nicer and more diplomatic way to deal with someone you plan to break up with. It’s all in the handling of the situation.  First and foremost, Compassion is key.breakup1 First you’ve got to let the person down easy (you never know if they’ll throw a tantrum, get violent, or worse, start crying uncontrollably). You never know these things so it’s best for the “breakor” to let the “breakee” know how terrific they are, even though you’ve just met someone more terrific and moved on at the blink of an eye.  It’s also a good idea to let the “breakee” know that you’ve been going through your own difficulties…because you don’t want to make yourself look good at this point.  Make the person you want to leave feel that they’re better off without you which could end things faster… even though that’s messed up.

Now; a more sensitive way would be to sit the person down and tell them the news face to face, but failing that, there’s always e-mail or texts. Worst case scenario, a simple post-it-note will do the trick (but get the 4×4 size). Remember, the goal is to try to end it ASAP. And don’t forget to make a closing remark in the order of “we should get together sometime.” Yeah; sooner or later the truth comes out.

REALITY BITS.  Trying to keep it real…

In spite of disconcerting situations such as a friend who suddenly and unexpectedly turns their back on you with no explanation,

Or worse, someone you thought could turn out to be a life partner decides to dump you for someone else….although you didn’t realize it because they were so good at making it look like they were doing it for your best interests. Then you finally woke up to the realization that they weren’t being considerate of your situation at all, only trying to end it as quickly as possible (with no opportunity to discuss possibilities) in order to begin again with someone they apparently just met.  It hurts to know you were not only  dispensable but not so special to them after all. And you held this person in such high regard. If they tell you it’s important that you know that they met someone else then yes, it is important that they tell you, especially if you think you’re still in the relationship. Maybe they were faithful while they were with you, keeping in mind they were intimate with you as recently as a week before they were with someone else.  To you intimacy is meaningful. You might have been intending to make a lifetime decision and they saved you from doing so just in the nick of time.  You thought you were a perfect match? But there’s a damn good chance they would have broken up with you later on anyway.breakup4

So look out for those who project onto you what they themselves will ultimately do.

A wise woman I know once said of someone who openly flirted with her husband “if she can catch him, she can keep him.”  Which translates into something like: why worry about someone taking away something that is so easily transferable?

And that girlfriend; is keeping it real!breakup6

WAIT…I have to share the all-time “Best in Breakup” story.  A friend of mine was on a date with her boyfriend at a restaurant.  Said boyfriend went to the bar to order a drink and met someone while at the bar that he was very interested in getting to know.  When he returned to the table he told my friend he remembered meeting this woman years ago at a party and was interested then, so now he didn’t want to ruin his chance….even though he was already on a date.  Without a word of a lie he told my friend this strange woman was the “woman of his dreams”. Let’s give him credit for at least sitting down in person to tell her. But as it turns out this dream woman was happily married. Craazzy right? He spoke too soon without knowing anything about her while ruining his present relationship.  Some guys!!!

Do you have a breakup story to top this?  I didn’t think so.

 *indicates a warning signal that something is wrong.  You may have overlooked something or chosen to ignore it.  example: nice to you one minute, very cool the next. You chalk it up to a bad day……you know what I’m talking about.

 

 

 

Health MATTERS: the Psychology of Eating

When you eat is as important as What you eat!  Did you know that by learning to master rhythm, you can master your metabolism?all-you-can-eat-buffet

How?

Our life pulsates to a rhythmic beat.  From lungs breathing to our heart pumping it’s all a rhythm, and when these rhythms are interfered with disease and death may follow. This according to Tricia Williams, a lifestyle nutrition and eating psychology coach who is also the owner of Healthy Inspirations in Atascadero & Paso Robles.

Too often we are more concerned with WHAT we eat rather than WHEN we eat.  Do you often skip breakfast thinking you’re not really hungry?  Then grab coffee to keep you awake?  Or plow through lunch while working only to be ravenous at 3 or 4pm?  Then the snacking begins only to continue through the night?  Understanding eating rhythms (bio-circadian nutrition) can help to curb your cravings and more importantly put you in the optimal state of metabolism and calorie burning.

Think of your body as a wood burning fireplace.  During the early morning hours and during the evening when we sleep, your body temperature drops just like logs that are now burned to embers.  As we sleep our body is in a fasting state.  Upon waking in the morning, your body temperature starts to rise.  Starting your day with a nutritious breakfast breaks your fast and is similar to stoking the fireplace with another log.  Body temperature continues a slow, steady rise and subsequently peaks around noon.

According to Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, “the body is designed to optimally digest and calorie burn when the sun is at its apex in the sky.  This is a little known but fascinating scientific fact.  By not putting fuel in the furnace at this time, or simply by not eating enough, you miss your peak metabolic window of opportunity, which is approximately 12:00 to 1:30pm in the afternoon.”

It would make sense, therefore, that lunch would be our most significant meal of the day for optimal metabolism, digestion and calorie burning capacity.  After our metabolic peak our body temperature will dip between 2:00 – 5:00pm, when most of us may feel tired.  This is normal & natural and is due to the body’s natural process of digestion. (A lot of cultures have adopted the practice of siestas or naps as a way of acknowledging this natural rhythm).  We like to encourage conscious relaxing for 20 minutes while consuming a nutrition bar, protein or fat.

At about 4:00 – 6:00pm body temperature starts to rise again, energy increases, it’s time for another log on the fire.  This is where you would ideally have your dinner meal.  Ideal…because a four-hour time period is sufficient for most people to metabolize a meal, thereby allowing you a restful sleep.  By consuming a big meal right before bed, much of the metabolic energy is spent on digestion, instead of need maintenance, detoxification & repair.

 Does this make sense to you?

Do you get influenced by Advertising?
Does Advertising influence you?

Source: Paso Robles Press.  Photos taken from “Images”