How to handle a narcissist

 

narcissist

 

How to handle a narcissist

Narcissist’s are chronically insecure people. Their biggest fear is that they will be exposed and be seen as not good enough by others around them. As a consequence of this, they often choose partners whom they perceive to be above them or superior to them in some way. They often see their partners as an extension of themselves and possess very poor boundaries when it comes to relationships. So if you find yourself in a relationship with a narcissist, at least you can congratulate yourself on being above average in many aspects.

Due to the fact that narcissists have very low self-esteem, they attempt to surround themselves with good-looking and successful people. They see this as testament to their own worthiness. As far as a narcissist is concerned, there is only success or failure and nothing in between. Narcissists have very rigid rules about the world they live in.

When your rules for living are inflexible, these rules are more easily broken. Narcissists live in a perpetual state of fear, they intensely dislike any kind of criticism and often act in an entitled and spoiled way. They do this to overcompensate for their feelings of inferiority.

The best way to handle a narcissist is to know your own boundaries. Narcissists will frequently try to move the boundaries and will use manipulation, emotional blackmail and guilt to get what they want. The tough part is that narcissists are emotionally intelligent enough to know how to manipulate and ingratiate themselves with those they wish to control. They can be extremely charming and charismatic, one-minute making you feel like the most special person ever and the very next moment can make you feel as if you are the lowest of the low. They are especially adept at reeling you in emotionally and then once you are hooked, they begin their campaign of control.

Never waste time arguing with a narcissist. Nothing is ever their fault and they have such impenetrable walls up to protect themselves that they will never acknowledge your points of view. Instead of getting them to see your side, you have to stick to your boundaries and give up trying to negotiate with them. They will always want more, no matter what you give them. This is why you need to decide what you will give them (what you feel is reasonable) and desist from discussing your decisions. It is just wasted energy as they do not possess the empathy required to acknowledge how you feel. There is very little room for manoeuvring with a narcissist.

Repetition is a good form of defence. Stick to your guns and when a narcissist tries to persuade you otherwise, keep repeating your original statement/offer. You will never change narcissist, so if you are in love with one-learning to manage them rather than change them is the best plan of action.

Narcissists are extremely selfish, self absorbed and are motivated by self-interest alone. If they appear cooperative and kind, it is because they feel this behaviour will get them what they want. They are unlikely to behave in ways that are purely altruistic.

My advice would be to avoid a narcissist at all costs. I see them as emotional vampires-they are exhausting to be around. If however you feel you cannot be without your narcissistic partner, learn to value yourself and keep firm boundaries around you as to what you will and will not allow. Never allow criticism or unfair expectations to be placed upon you. The more you give a narcissist, the more they will want. Protect yourself and love yourself and make sure you surround yourself with people who truly love you without expecting anything back-your friends and your family.

Mandy X

8 ways to be content

 

happy

 

8 ways to be content

  1. Let it go

    Don’t bear grudges. That allows those whom you hold a grudge against to have power over you. Learn to let it go. Life is too short to hold on to negative energy that is unnecessary. Yes, there is injustice in the world but sometimes acceptance is the key to freedom. It doesn’t mean you have to like it but it means that you can hold on to a peaceful mind instead of letting the injustice of the world ‘pickle’ you and change you into a bitter, twisted person.

 

2. Be flexible and open minded

Those who hold rigid rules about the world will find that their ‘rules’ are broken very often thereby creating tension and unhappiness. Research has shown that those who are psychological flexible are the happiest people. Learn to be adaptable and get into the habit of looking for rational alternatives to explain life and why people do what they do. Perhaps what is happening to you is nothing personal…

 

3.Be yourself

Like and accept yourself for who you are. It feels amazing when you can be brave enough to let the real you shine through. We all fear rejection if we act ourselves but most people are willing to accept us far more than we think they will.

 

4. Laugh often

Never take life too seriously. A sense of humour can carry you through all sorts of life challenges. Life is tough . No one escapes life’s lessons but when you try to see the bigger picture and learn from it, it makes a massive difference. Being light hearted and learning to detach on some levels can mean maintaining your sanity for that bit longer.

 

5. Dismiss negative or self critical thinking

Negative self talk will make anyone feel miserable. Why do it? Be kind to yourself, be your own best friend. You owe it to yourself to believe in yourself.

 

6. Don’t compare

Comparing your life to that of others in a negative light is the quickest shortcut to misery. Stop it! Be proud of where you are in your life – we are all different with varied things to learn. We all have an original path to take and what others are doing should have no bearing on what we do in our own lives.

 

7. Connect with others

Happiness definitely comes from being around others and feeling connected. In fact this is probably the most important way to feel happy and content. Make an effort. Never underestimate the power of connection with others.

 

 

8. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Learn to pick your battles. Life is complicated and not every injustice deserves your attention. Have goals and keep perspective. Stat grounded and don’t be distracted by menial things.

There are many routes to feeling content and happy, the above points are only a few ways to help you find contentment. We are all different and find solace in varied ways. Only many levels though we are all similar, we want to be loved and accepted. Love and accept yourself – others may not always see how amazing and wonderful you are. Nurture self belief – it really does help you to manifest the right kind of reality (law of attraction).

Mandy X

4 Tips for dealing with social anxiety

 

social anxiety

 

4 Tips for dealing with social anxiety

Social anxiety is a common issue that affects millions of people. It can be quite debilitating and limit opportunities. People with social anxiety experience excessive nervousness when in the company of others and worry that they might humiliate themselves in some way or do/say something embarrassing. This ‘self focus’ only makes the problem worse.

Those with social anxiety are hypersensitive to criticism from others and worry about how they are coming across. They assume that others are likely to be evaluating them negatively. As a result, people with social anxiety tend to avoid social situations which allows the fears to grow and the social anxiety is reinforced.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a useful effective therapy for social anxiety as it challenges thoughts about social fears and what others might be thinking and also allows opportunities to test out theories by try out ‘behavioural experiments’. These help to test out predictions and minimise fears.

People with social anxiety tend to use ‘safety behaviours’. These are behaviours that help to reduce the anxiety in the short term but in the long term, they actually help to maintain the anxiety. Using safety behaviours prevents a person from learning healthier longer lasting coping skills. Safety behaviours comprise actions such as: staying in the background, avoiding eye contact, making regular trips to the bathroom or having some other type of ritual to cope in the immediate situation.

Safety behaviours can result in ‘self fulfilling’ prophecies. For example, if we stay quiet in a social situation, we may come across as distant and thereby be ignored by others as we  are coming across as unapproachable. This will then reinforce our thoughts that no one likes us and that we are terrible in social situations.

Challenging social anxiety:

  1. Less self focus

Practise focusing externally rather than being overly concerned with yourself. When we feel socially anxious we focus on whether we are blushing or imagine that our nervousness is easy to notice which makes us feel even more anxious. Make an effort to focus your attention on others rather than on yourself.

2. Use approach behaviour

Instead of withdrawing and avoiding, it is essential to start taking small steps towards being around others. The more time we spend with others socially, the more our anxiety will diminish.

3. Challenge negative anxious thoughts

We often tend to ‘mind read’, assuming we know what others are thinking. This is irrational though because unless we ask, we don’t really know what others are thinking. When dealing with clients with social anxiety, they have told me they think others are noticing their imperfections or perceived flaws. Often, they are projecting their own insecurities onto others. For example – if they think they have bad teeth, they will assume others are noticing their teeth and thinking how awful they are. The reality could be completely different. Actually, we are all quite egocentric, in that we are all quite focused on ourselves and so when we assume others are focused on us, they probably aren’t at all.

Always ask if there is evidence to believe a certain thought. Often there won’t be.

4. Reduce safety behaviours

Make a list of safety behaviours such as: I stand in the kitchen at parties; I never talk unless someone speaks to me first, I make regular trips to the bathroom, I avoid social gatherings altogether…

The  rate each behaviour out of 10 in terms of how anxious it might make you feel

The start with the items lower on the list – the 1’s, 2’s and 3’s out of ten – use this behavioural hierarchy to start confronting safety behaviours.

Try talking to someone first, rate your anxiety before and after (out of 10) and then make a not of what you predicted might happen (they would laugh and walk away) and what actually happened (the person spoke to me briefly)..in this way we begin to challenge and remove out fears and pre existing thoughts about social situations.

We all experience anxiety, some of us are just better at covering it up. Getting out there and confronting our social anxiety is the best way forward. Social anxiety can be over come.

Mandy X

Am I normal?

 

normal

Am I normal?

First of all, how do you define normal? It may be different to my version and who’s to say which version is correct? What is normal for one person may not seem normal to another and there’s nothing wrong with it. I quite like the idea that there are many versions of normal.

That aside, I have noticed over the last eight years as a counsellor that there are certain things most of us have in common.

  1. We worry too much

Most people that I have encountered worry unnecessarily about “what ifs” and let themselves worry over things that will probably never happen. Even if they did happen, most people underestimate their ability to cope and they overestimate the magnitude of the problem. This is very common. All this worrying does is take any happiness out of the present moment. I recommend to these clients to stop living in the imagined future. Yes, have goals but don’t spend unnecessary mental energy on hypothetical worries.

2. We are filled with self doubt at times

I have never met a client who has said they have enough self confidence. If I did, I might assume they were narcissistic. It’s normal to feel self doubt at times. We all do our best to act confident but the reality is that most of us struggle with insecurity and fear.

3. We feel misunderstood and separate from others

We can all feel like misfits at times – out of the loop so to speak. What’s worse is that we then assume that we are the only ones that ever feel as if we are on the outside looking in. Yet, this is a very common experience that most people go through.

4. There is always more to achieve

The targets for achievement are constantly moving. I have asked clients who seem to have ‘made it’ financially if they ever feel they can rest and they tell me that the more money you accumulate, the more they worry about losing it. It seems we never get to a place where we feel at peace and happy with our lot in the pursuit of material worldly goods and status. A sad state of affairs!

5. We live fearfully

Instead of being brave and just doing things in life, we spend far too much time focusing on what could go wrong and what others might think of us. Far too many of us worry about what others will think even though it isn’t their life to lead. When we resist the urge to fit in and please others, we end up far more content by being true to ourselves.

6. We compare ourselves to others

This is one of the biggest wastes of our energy – comparing our lives to other people’s. It very rarely serves a positive purpose and inevitably leads us to feeling inferior and deprived. When you learn to accept that we have our lives to lead and that we can make our own rules instead of trying to live as everyone else does, we can feel freer to the life we were meant to. A life with purpose.

7. We all have ‘ups and downs’

Life is like a rollercoaster – there are no exceptions. We all have good days and bad days and that’s just a part of life, so learn to accept the good and the bad. It just isn’t possible to be happy all of the time. When you accept this and stop resisting it, life will get better.

8. Intrusive thoughts

Mad thoughts pop into my head all the time, like laughing suddenly in a lift full of people or doing something inappropriate during a very formal ceremony of some kind. I never act on it but the thoughts arrive regularly – this is completely normal. So the next time you notice an intrusive weird thought, just ignore it – they will keep coming!

We are quite similar in many ways and we’re all subject to many of the same stressors – queues, taxes, rejection, uncertainty etc…when we accept out reactions as acceptable and use the words “should” and “must” less, we can learn to be more self sufficient and filled with greater amounts of self belief.

Mandy X

5 Things confident people do in relationships

 

confidence in relationships

5 Things confident people do in relationships

 

  1. They assume all is fine in the relationship unless told otherwise

Instead of focusing on what might be wrong and allowing insecurities to get the better of them, confident people assume that everything is going well in their relationship unless told otherwise. They expect that their partner will love them and care for them because they value themselves and see their strengths and value to others.  Confident people don’t attach their worth to how others treat them. They know their own worth and as such have healthy boundaries in relationships.

2. They ask for what they want

Confident people have no trouble asking for what they want in a relationship. They will never assume the other person is a mind reader. They will be clear and ask that their needs are met. They are good communicators and aren’t afraid to talk about touchy subjects. Communication is the key to a happy relationship as it allows issues to be dealt with without an emotional ‘backlog’ of resentment building up.

3. They take responsibility for their part in the relationship

Confident people in relationships understand that they are mutually responsible for the success of the relationship and don’t put all of the responsibility on to their partners. They put their far share of love, affection and energy into making the relationship work and don’t shy away when the going gets tough. They easily see the bigger picture when they relationship hits a rocky patch.

4. They see rejection as incompatibility rather than as something wrong with them

When they are rejected they don’t spend time agonising over what they did wrong or whether they aren’t good enough. They are philosophical and understand that there are times when two people need to go their separate ways due to incompatibility.

5. They maintain their identity

Confident people stay true to their basic character and don’t stop doing things they love for the sake of a relationship. They understand that it is healthy to have your own interests and to have time apart as it creates more interest in the relationship. Insecure people try too hard to please whereas confident people know they need to be themselves. It’s exhausting and unsustainable to pretend to be someone you’re not.

Enjoy the relationship and accept it for what it is. Communicate regularly and never try to change your partner’s fundamental characteristics. A good relationship can be a wonderful source of love and support and we can all do with an ally or two in this world!

Mandy X

Overcoming unrealistic expectations

expecttions

Overcoming unrealistic expectations

Do you ever find that reality and your expectations aren’t quite the same? There is a saying that most of our unhappiness comes from the gap between how life is and how we expected it to be. Unrealistic expectations cause a lot of misery for a lot of people. Living in a world where it’s even easier to compare to others, thanks to Facebook and the like has lead to further feelings of feeling deprived. A feeling or sense of missing out, that others have more fun or possess more than we do. We get stuck in this cycle of “compare and despair” – it’s SO unhealthy!

We all have our ‘at risk’ (trigger) situations. It depends on our particular vulnerabilities or insecurities. For some of us it could be a friend announcing their engagement when we don’t even have a relationship. For others, the trigger might be different – we all have expectations and when they are not met (a relationship, a perfect body, plenty of money etc) our insecurities are triggered and we step onto the ‘expectation treadmill’.

Part of the problem is that we are ‘programmed’ to expect certain things – get a degree, get a job, be married by a certain age, have kids, be successful blah blah We live according to a preset timeline. The thing to do is SET YOUR OWN timeline. Resist pressure to have to be like others – there is no rule book stating how to marry, when to marry, have kids etc..even though many of us have an invisible rule book that we adhere to – mostly to our detriment.

Expectations can also be negative where we overuse “what if” thinking and worry about every possible eventuality that will probably never happen. Challenge unrealistic expectations head on. Remember expectations are just thoughts – not facts! They can therefore be questioned and should not blindly accepted especially if they are causing us distress.

How to challenge your expectations:

Dissect them, evaluate how accurate or likely they are, examine what evidence you base your expectations on and look at any positive things you may be ignoring. Be like a lawyer or a detective, trying to get the facts of how realistic your expectations are, and putting things in perspective.

When we expect negative things of ourselves and our abilities, we will act accordingly and either avoid the situation totally, try the situation but escape when things are too overwhelming or be overly cautious. We do this to protect ourselves but ultimately it is unhelpful and makes things worse because we never test our predictions to see how accurate they are.

Conduct an experiment:  the point of experimenting and testing out our expectations is to stop avoiding, escaping and using safety behaviours (behaviours that help us to reduce distress in the short term eg: seeking reassurance, saying we’re busy etc) and instead start to approach situations and see if what we expect actually happens. It’s the best way to break down powerful thoughts. Sounds scary but it is the best way forward.

By making more realistic predictions in your day-to-day life you will think and act differently. Be brave, test our your thoughts and learn to ignore thoughts that leave you feeling distressed. That is when you need to take in the environment around you and see what is real and what you have very possibly made up…

Mandy X

Common reasons why relationships fail

 

unhappy relationship

Common reasons why relationships fail

Whilst there are a multitude of reasons why relationships fail, there are a few common reasons that tend to surface in couple counselling:

  1. Communication difficulties

It’s usually a tricky combination – two people coming together who often have different backgrounds and have been brought up differently in many ways. Despite individual differences, couples need to find common ground in order to be able to move forward and communicate well. Sometimes individuals hold distorted beliefs about the opposite sex or about how relationships should unfold. Counselling helps couples relearn alternative, more balanced ways of thinking based on information gathered and practice these new ways of thinking daily.

The main problems around communication involve a lack of basic interpersonal skills – either with one or both people in the relationship. These can range from poor awareness of feelings to difficulty empathising with others.

Another issue that can hinder communication is where there are very intense emotions involved. It is much harder to communicate when one or both parties are extremely angry, frustrated or resentful etc. Sometimes, ‘colour zones’ can be used to indicate when communication can occur. The blue zone describes a calm zone (each individual has a post – it , or similar, with the different colours), a yellow zone describes a range of anger in which there is still control over words, thoughts and actions and the red zone is where neither party should attempt to communicate as there is too much emotion. When there is too much emotion we often say things we regret.

Hopelessness in a relationship can also make it very difficult to make any type of progress. When the couple feels there is little that can be done to improve their situation or where they feel their partner will never change.

2. Unrealistic Expectations

With almost every relationship, each person brings with them an expectation of how they want the relationship to be, and how their partner will fulfill their needs. Often, these expectations lead to unrealistic demands. It can take a while for these unrealistic expectations and demands to reveal themselves but they can produce resentment and frustration when they do emerge. Unrealistic expectations are often held in direct conflict with the other’s viewpoint. For example, the man may expect that his wife doesn’t work whereas she wishes to work and not just stay at home.

3. Blame

Both parties blame each other for the trouble in their relationship and neither person wants to take any responsibility for the state of the relationship. This can lead to a deadlock where neither person wants to shift at all. Collaboration is key when it comes to solving relationship issues and without this, it can be very difficult to make any progress. Both people need to accept their part in the break down of the relationship and work towards amending their behaviour.

One way to help a relationship that is struggling is to introduce “caring days” where you both act toward each other “as if” you still loved each other as you did in the beginning of your relationship. Each person writes out a list of positive, specific behaviours that they would like the other person to do. The lists are exchanged and each person must try to do some of the behaviours on the list for the other person. This can help to restore some goodwill in the relationship and make it easier for the couple to communicate and collaborate.

Relationships need work, they don’t flourish without active positive input from both parties. What can you do today to show your partner you care about them? If you care. go and do it….

Mandy X

What is healthy self esteem?

 

self esteem photo

What is healthy self esteem?

We all tend to place a value on ourselves. Some of us quite like who we are and some of us tend to engage in far more self loathing. I am used to seeing clients feel very uncomfortable receiving a compliment. Why is it that we find it so hard to like and accept ourselves? After all, we have to make the most of who we are as this is what we have to work with for the rest of our lives. We can’t go to the shop and ask for a newer model. So what does it take to have healthy self esteem?

For one thing, self acceptance and liking yourself is a very different concept from thinking you are superior to others. Many people struggle with low self esteem and the main reasons for this are:

  1. Negative messages during childhood eg. you aren’t doing this right, can’t you ever get anything right?, you are fat, lazy etc
  2. Comparing ourselves to others
  3. Buying into the perfection the media show us on a daily basis
  4. Negative beliefs about ourselves (often from childhood)

Healthy self esteem is about thinking about ourselves in a balanced way. It’s okay to acknowledge our weaknesses as no one is perfect but instead of negative self talk (eg I am ugly; I am worthless; I am not good enough), we can say to ourselves: “I may not be perfect but no one is; we all make mistakes.

What we need to accept is that we aren’t perfect but that we can always strive to improve and understand ourselves better. We can recognise our strengths too. Having healthy self esteem doesn’t mean you will never think another negative thought about yourself, it means that you can come up with a rational alternative for a negative thought. If you have done some work on your self esteem, then the situations that are risky for you will be less frequent than before. This means it will take a lot more to ‘set off’ your low self esteem and insecurities.

How to improve your self esteem:

  1. Engage in positive self talk

Speak to yourself as you would a best friend. Never criticise yourself or call yourself names.

2. Challenge old beliefs about yourself that may no longer be valid

Sometimes our parents and significant authority figures in our lives when we are growing up make the mistake of criticising us. We can internalise these negative messages and begin to believe them. These beliefs can be updated and challenged by looking at the source. We are a lot more open to believing others when we are young but as we grow older we can decide whether these negative messages still hold true for us. Normally you will find that they no longer apply and it can also start a process of seeing that our parents have their own issues too and that their negative messages say more about them and their outlook than our actual worth as a person.

3. Focus on your strengths and minimise weaknesses

Acknowledge weaknesses but focus on what you do well.

4. Nurture self belief

Others don’t always know best. Most of us are trying to get through life as best we can – we are all trying to make sense of things. You have as much chance to be seen as an equal when it comes to value. Self belief can take you far in life – make sure you believe in yourself. You can’t afford not to.

Healthy self esteem takes work as we are regularly confronted with situations that bring out our insecurities but we can watch our thoughts and protect how we view ourselves by dismissing the negative thoughts. They are just that – thoughts NOT facts.

Mandy X