April 19th, 2023
I don't know why it's happening exactly now but somehow death seems to be a prominent theme in my life. I absolutely hate it! Since themes in my life often correspond to the issues my clients are dealing with, I wonder how often the topic will be present in our discussions. Regardless of whether we're talking about physical or metaphorical death. Perhaps my thinking is impacted by the solar eclipse and what it portends as well.
There has been an unusual number of deaths and illnesses in my circle of friends lately and it's very disturbing. All so sudden and unexpected. I have considerable difficulties dealing with death. Not so much my own, but that's probably because I've been fairly healthy so far, except for one episode years ago. I was particularly hit by one death during the Covid times. It was so difficult to accept that the person was gone, that we'll never again have a glass of Rioja together or a deep conversation or simply fun toghether.
I don't know what it is but this notion of never ever seeing someone again frightens me. It leaves me frozen. So many things left unsaid, so many memories not made together, so much still left to discuss, and enjoy, even if it is just some quiet time together.
My love's illness too has marked me significantly. It's too soon. I'm not ready. And why is it that the theme of death is so omnipresent in my life now? It is ominous, frightening, unsettling. I know death is a natural part of life but it should not come so soon. I feel like I am being robbed. Something is being taken away from me. Often, there's nothing I can do about it. Stiff upper lip and taking it on the chin, in a very British kind of way. But I'm not British, I'm emotional.
Perhaps it's the fact I'm feeling powerless. Unable to do something, anything.
As a therapist, I have coping mechanisms. I understand the process. I know I will survive. Yet it's still unsettling, horrible, f...ing unbelievable, unacceptable.
Tell them you love them. Tell them everything. Before it's too late.
Just how ok are you with yourself really? Your high-school reunion could be a test of that.
When we grow older or become more mature, whichever way you prefer to call it, we tend to see ourselves differently than we did when we were younger. This is especially true if we engaged in personal develoment or became more successful or changed our appearance or lost weight or found a perfect partner, or did anything else to get rid of what used to be a source of shame and ridicule in our younger age.
Perhaps this is even more true for those of us who were bullied, excluded from the in-crowd, didn't perform well in school or were simply considered as somehow 'inadequate' by the people with whom we deseperately wanted to be accepted. Teenage years were a frustrating and humiliating experience for many because we were the outsiders who so wanted to fit in but were told very bluntly that there was something wrong with us.
As those painful high-school years went by and we had the oportunity to reinvent ourselves at college, we got the impression that we can finally breathe and be ourselves. Alas, sooner or later we again stumbled upon someone who made us feel less worthy, and again we faced a similar trauma of questioning our self-worth. Ouir self-confidence plummeted again. what else! That made us even more determined to invest in ourselves, to become the best version of ourselves, to achieve whatever was deemed worthy of praise and admiration in other people's eyes.
Many of us started changing our physical appearance or perfecting a skill or working harder at work, driven by the desire to be successful and to earn respect from our colleagues. Many of us actually managed to achieve our goal and on that wave of popularity we felt, for the first time ever, as if we truly fit in. While we strove to gain outside admiration, however, we often forgot that what we were doing was not so much to be true to ourselves but to please others. That's why no matter how successful we have become, the insecure child inside of us has still not left the building. At least not completely. Deep down we were still very much concerned that people would discover that we're nothing but the outsider, the loser, the laughing stock that we used to be. Because in times of distress or lack of success we still believed ourselves to be the kid that wasn't with the in-crowd decades ago.
Hence, the relevance of high-school reunions. When the new, improved, self-confident adult that we are returns to the small town, and sometimes small-minded people, to face the tormentors from the past, that adult returns to the reuion in the child ego state, as we call it. No matter how successful or popular we are today, when we interact with the old crowd that made us feel like shit, we inadvertently fall into that same role. Unless we have truly made progress in our personal growth and are sincerely content with who we have become.
The next time you go to your high-school reunion, or meet someone from your past life when you were a different person, observe how you behave and feel in the situation. If you regress to your old patterns of behaviour, cognition and emotion, then there is more self-development work to do. If you don't, then congratulations! You have reached the stage in your life where you're happy and content with who you are and you no longer care what other people think.
WINTER SOLSTICE AND NEW BEGINNINGS
The year is slowly coming to an end. It was one of the most difficult years to be honest, at least for me. I was just reflecting upon the last decade and 2011, 2014, 2016, 2018 were all extremely unpleasant years. I wouldn't want to relive them. Yet they also taught me so much!
We all tend to make new year's resolutions every year even though we often don't stick to many of them. Therefore, I shall not dwell on new year's resolutions. Let me only say that should you decide to make a list of yours, keep it short and don't try to implement them all of at once. Take it one step at a time! You've got a whole year to bring them to life.
What I want to focus on is new beginnings. True, it is so much nicer to start something new when we reach a milestone. New year's, birthdays, important life events are moments when we reflect on what we have achieved, where we are and where we would like to be. December 21 is Winter solstice, a day when the energies support us in making changes, or so they say. Whether you believe it or not, doesn't really matter. The energy is in the air. What matters is that you set an intention to make a change in your life.
Why am I focusing on new beginnings? Because too many people have a very fatalistic view of life. So many believe that it's too late for them to do XYZ. They feel the moment has passed, or that they are too old, or whatever else you might think of, to make a new start. It's almost never too late to start anew. It's only too late to turn a new page in a relationship if the other person has died. And even that can be the start of something new, painful at first, but leading to something beautiful.
So, if you feel you want to make a change, start something new, let go of the past and embrace something or someone new, go for it. You don't have to wait for the stars to collide. When the moment is right, you will know it. Trust your intuition. Embrace the change, even if it scares you. Believe it will all be ok.
I know the new year will bring me a huge loss that I'm not yet sure of how I shall overcome, if ever. But I also trust fate has many positive changes in store for me as well. If not, I will make sure the new year marks a new beginning for me too. Winter solstice is one of those days when the energies support us in our manifestations, so meditate, light a candle, make a wish, and see it come true!
Say no to violence!
Let me say it clearly from the very outset: I strongly condemn all violence and I will never ever seek any excuses for whoever is violent. Violence, be it verbal, emotional or physical, is where I draw the line that is not to be crossed. Ever!
Why is that important? Well, because I've been approached by several women lately who wanted to do therapy. Not in order to change a life pattern that was troubling them, but because they wanted to change their behaviour so that their partners would be less violent towards them. And, of course, so that they would better cope with violence. Hm, excuse me? You want me to help you become more tolerant of and more resilient with respect to violence? Basically, you want me to collude with the violent person. No, no and no! Never!
It is always painful to see someone hurting and we get a lot of that in therapy. When there is violence involved, the situation is even more difficult. It doesn't mean that therapy is not indicated or suitable for someone who is experiencing violence. Quite the contrary. Therapy can help you understand why you have tolerated violence for so long and give you strength to get out of the toxic situation.
It is impossible to do therapy while you're in a toxic environment as people around you don't support you in your work to become a better version of yourself. It's the opposite really. They don't want you to change so that they can perpetuate their toxic behaviour towards you.
Therefore, if you're in a situation where people are being violent to you, I can support you in getting out of that situation. If, however, you want me to help you change your behaviour so that it will hurt less when other people abuse you, well, then this is not therapy but collusion with the abuser. In which case I suggest you find a different therapist who would be willing to see you every week while you report on the abuse. I don't think there are many who would want to do that.
Therapy can help you get stronger, more self-confident and determined to make a change. It can empower you. But first you need to chart a path out of the toxic situation and stop looking for excuses for the violent person.
Losing a loved one, especially your partner, is painful and life altering. The only thing worse than losing your partner is losing your child. Though we can grieve for the loss of many other people or things in life, nothing affects us so profoundly as the loss of a loved one. How to cope with this deeply transformative life event? Is it even possible to survive such a life shattering moment? Is there life after death? Sadly, there are no universal answers to these questions.
Many objective circumstances can help to mitigate the pain caused by the death of a partner. I'm not sure that knowing your partner will die helps much, but it can definitely better prepare you for the loss. You get the chance and the time to say goodbye, and to make peace with what is inevitably going to happen. Though that by itself doesn't make the loss any less painful. Unexpected death can be much more shocking and paralyzing than an expected one precisely because it also robs you of the opportunity to tie up loose ends and say: 'I'm sorry' and 'I love you'. Little things matter in the process of grieving.
Imagine how you would feel if you had just had an argument with your husband, for example, and he stormed out the house angry with you, and you with him, and then an hour later you got the call that he was killed in a car accident. How much remorse, guilt and shame you would have to deal with, in addition to the loss.
Old age is another mitigating circumstance, though I doubt anyone can calmly accept the death of a loved one just like that. Yes, there are less regrets if you had a long and happy life together, but I'm sure you would still like to spend just one more minute with your partner, have just one more conversation, one more laugh, one more hug.
Nothing can really prepare us for the death of a dear one. We all experience a whole panoply of emotions when it happens. We all face the void in our lives caused by the loss. We all have difficulties imagining how our lives are going to be from that moment on. We all sometimes wish we died together with our partners.
Yet life does go on. It might not go on for us immediately, but eventually it does go on. What can help us in the process of mourning are a solid social network of reliable friends and family, professional psychological help, physical activity and meditation, artistic expression of all kinds, sometimes lying in shavasana and staring at the ceiling. We must allow ourselves enough time to grieve. It's perfectly ok if we behave in strange ways for a certain period of time. It's perfectly ok to cry for days on end if we feel like it. It's perfectly ok to do some crazy stuff if it helps.
However, we must be mindful that we don't fall in the trap of eternal grief. We have the right to move on in life, to meet someone new, to start a new relationship or a family. That doesn't negate our previous relationship, not does it diminish the importance or the value of our experience with the late partner. We're not betraying them in any way when we move on. Because in the end, we owe it to ourselves to make the best of the lives we have.
It takes a village!
How many true and reliable friends do you have? You know, people you can count on no matter what. You've probably heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it takes a village, or at least a couple of loyal friends, to make it through life's trials.
I might be very lucky that I have several people I can count on, through thick and thin, through ups and many downs, through crazy times. Human beings are social beings in their essence. That's why it is important to have your own person, or even a crowd. Life partners are just fine, but what you really need is a good social network. Who better to understand what you're going through than a lifelong friend? Someone who gets you. Someone who won't judge you as you try to figure your way out of a messy situation. Who better to support you than the tribe of your peeps? Perhaps it doesn't take a whole village, but it certainly takes at least one or two loyal friends to make your life easier.
No matter what age you are, true friends are important. Different viewpoints, different experiences, different solutions to the same problem. They say that partners, or lovers, come and go, but friends are the ones who stay with you all the way.
In therapy, people who have a good social network make it through trials and tribulations much easier than those who lack a circle of trusted and reliable friends.
It is true that we are born alone and that we die alone. However, don't underestimate the importance of friendship in the time in between. Life is hard and complicated as it is. Try to make it as easy and happy as possible. Open up! Share your fears and feelings - of shame, failure, inadequacy, inferiority, guilt. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and fully accepted as you are, with all your flaws and quirkiness.
You have but one life. Make it count! And if you feel like there's nobody you can trust, give therapy a try. We can be fairly good at getting how you tick and supporting you all the way.
Here's the thing - if you think you need help, or just someone neutral to talk to, then going to see a therapist is a good thing. There is absolutely nothing shameful about that. In fact, once you overcome your shame and the "what will other people think" concerns, you're already taking the first step towards personal growth and empowerment.
You wouldn't believe how many people, in this day and age, still struggle with shame when they first sit on the couch and start telling their personal story. Many believe that seeing a therapist, or asking for help in general, is a sign of a personal defeat. Some kind of weakness of character. Too many confess they feel like losers because they weren't able to resolve their problems by themselves.
Luckily, this feeling soon passes when clients discover that going to a therapist is like going for coffee with a friend. Well, almost. The key difference being, we don't normally drink coffee in sessions, and the therapist is way more objective than your bestie. We see things from a different angle. Also, we have a better understanding in the way people think and react, and why they do it - so we can provide some interpretations and answers to your incessant "why, why, why?". Best friends are usually well-intentioned and try to help the best they can. Unfortunately, they often support us in the "poor me" way of thinking. I frequently say to my clients that seeing a therapist is the same as getting a coach at the gym or a tax adviser to help with taxes. Get help and support from the people who can give it to you. There is absolutely nothing shameful in that! Quite the contrary. People who ask for support are brave and know that they are the ones living their life, hence what other people think or say of it, matters little. People in therapy are those who are seeking a better life for themselves and we can only applaud them for it.
While I'm very much in favour of personal responsibility of each individual for their life, I'm also very much in favour of asking for assistance when we need it. Would it sound better to you if you were doing coaching sessions? Training for a marathon with a coach?
Well, therapists are coaches of some sort. We help you navigate the troubled waters your life has drifted in and we teach you how to do away with the negative patterns that are preventing you from living genuinely and fully. Not to mention that a problem shared is a problem halved. Some problems are really not as difficult as you believe them to be. You just need someone objective and emotionally uninvolved to help you see the issue from a different perspective.
Therapy works, that is a fact. What kind of therapy and which therapists are best? Well, all therapies work, not equally well, but they all work. As for therapists, choose one you feel comfortable sharing your intimate thoughts with. Someone whom you trust and feel like they know what they're doing. In the end, it's you who's doing all the hard work. All the success is yours to have. All you need is a skilled therapist who will know how to guide you to your goal.
Be the change!
Whether you're highly intuitive and attuned to the energies of the world or not, you have surely noticed that change is very much in the air. Many people don't like change and even fear it. It's some kind a collective human trait - we like things to be predictable, stable and constant. We normally regard change as a disruption of our well-established order. Yet, change is inevitable. It is, in fact, the only constant.
Therefore, "be the change you want to see" is not just an empty, meaningless quote, a catchphrase. It is essential for us to obey that rule if we want to avoid feeling overwhelmed by the change that we never wanted in the first place. Observe the environment you're living in and try to figure out where and how it will be changing in the next couple of months or years. Then engage in proper planning so that you can be the change you want to see. You have a lot more control over what is happening in your life than you think! You've just so far never actively engaged in driving the change. Shape the world according to your wishes, to the extent possible. Predict change, implement it, stay on top of it, make it work for you. One of the worst situations is, in my opinion, when we're unprepared for the changes that hit us. Life is already unpredictable enough, so why not focus on things we can predict, steer and control. If we're well prepared, it's much easier to handle even those changes that seriously disrupt our lives. We can then take them as a learning experience instead of as a survival of the fittest test.
Ignorance is bliss, sometimes. But more often than not, it is the main force pushing us into the victim mode. Read, learn, observe, listen, imagine, think, brainstorm, get empowered and equipped with information and knowledge, and then prepare for the future. The best way to do it, is to start creating the life you want to live now, in the present moment, all the while taking into account what might happen next.
Če ste povezane s toksičnim narcisom, ste verjetno že ugotovile, da v odnosu nekaj ni čisto tako, kot naj bi bilo v kolikor toliko normalnih odnosih. Morda še ne veste, da ste v odnosu z narcisom, veste pa, da se v bližini te osebe velikokrat ne počutite najbolje. Ravno nasprotno, vedno bolj pogosto imate občutek, da je z vami nekaj narobe. Kaj je sreča, pa tako ali tako že dolgo časa ne veste več.
Ampak začnimo na začetku. Kako veste, da ste v odnosu z narcisom? Med najbolj značilne lastnosti vseh narcisov sodijo naslednje:
1. narcisi imajo vedno in povsod prav, so praktično nezmotljivi;
2. so najlepši, najboljši, najbolj uspešni, opišete jih lahko samo s presežniki;
3. čustveno so precej nedostopni, pa še takrat, ko imate občutek, da se odprejo, niste prepričani, če ne manipulirajo z vami in vam lažejo;
4. laganje, ali pa vsaj prikrivanje resnice, je dokaj pogosto v odnosu, tako da nikoli ne veste, pri čem točno ste; tudi če jih ujamete na laži, bodo rekli, da ste zmešani in da nimate prav;
5. zelo težko prenašajo kritiko in vsako kritično pripombo izkoristijo za to, da poudarjajo, kaj vse je z vami narobe;
6. v pogovoru vam pogosto dajejo občutek, da jih ne razumete, ker niste intelektualno na njihovi ravni;
7. v odnosu se ne trudijo, ker je tako ali tako vse vaša krivda, torej se morate vi spremeniti;
8. vedno mora obveljati njihova volja;
9. ne prenesejo konkurence in so zaradi tega zelo ljubosumni na vsako vašo interakcijo z nasprotnim spolom, tudi če je povsem nedolžna;
10. večkrat imate občutek, da so popolnoma brez empatije.
Zgoraj opisano niso klinični kriteriji za narcistično osebnostno motnjo, so pa pokazatelj vedenja narcisov v intimnih odnosih. Kako torej, da ostajate v takem odnosu in se celo še trudite, da bi ga ohranile? Zato, ker imajo narcisi tudi marsikatero pozitivno lastnost. So šarmantni, zapeljivi, pozorni, ko jim to ustreza, duhoviti, inteligentni, razgledani. Radi imajo lepe stvari in dobro življenje na veliki nogi. Na začetku odnosa vas nosijo po rokah in vas kujejo v zvezde. Občutek imate, da ste našle dušo dvojčico. Vsi lepi občutki, ki jih ob tem doživljate, so razlog, zakaj v odnosu ostajate tudi, ko le-ta postane toksičen. Ti lepi trenutki so iluzija, ki se je oklepate, ko se v črni luknji prepričujete, da se bodo lepi časi vrnili. Verjamete v to, ker že imate pozitivno izkušnjo, ki je tako močna, da zasenči vse ostalo, čeprav je slabega več kot dobrega. Če pogledate za nazaj, boste videle, da se je narcis začel umikati, odnos pa spreminjati na slabše, ko ste si zaželele več čustvene intimnosti. Takrat so se začeli prepiri, nesoglasja, ignoriranje in povsem odkriti napadi narcisa na vas in vašo osebnost. Na vsem lepem ste postale vse slabo, čeprav se v njegovem opisu niti najmanj ne prepoznate.
Torej, razloga, zakaj ostajate, sta dva: upanje, da bo spet lepo, in pa strah, da ima narcis prav, ko vas omalovažuje. Kaj pa, če ste res tako nemogoče, nesposobne, grde in hudobne, zlobne, nemogoče in nevredne ljubezni, da vas nikoli več nihče ne bo imel rad? V svoji izjemni prepričljivosti so narcisi tudi izjemno toksični. Prepričajo vas, da ste ničvredne, s tem pa vam odvzamejo dostojanstvo in osebno moč. Prenehate verjeti vase in prenehate zaupati v svojo presojo. Pravzaprav zmrznete na mestu in ne veste, kaj vam je storiti.
Pot iz takega odnosa obstaja, ni pa najbolj enostavna. Najprej morate prepoznati, da ste v toksičnem odnosu. Potem morate ugotoviti, na katere šibke točke vam narcis pritiska, in delati na tem, da razrešite stare vzorce in travmatične izkušnje. Delo na sebi je veliko lažje, če odnos zapustite, oziroma vsaj naredite pavzo in se od narcisa začasno ločite. Težko je delati na sebi in se spreminjati, če vas okolica pri tem ne podpira. Ni nemogoče, je pa bistveno težje. Ponovno morate pridobiti zaupanje in vero vase. Najlažje tako, da enostano poslušate sebe in na tej podlagi ukrepate. Tudi, če boste storile napako, ne bo konec sveta. Jo boste pač popravile. Ampak bistvo vsega je, da se opolnomočite in živite, kot vam narekuje srce. Največja napaka, ki jo lahko naredite, je, da narcisu predate nadzor in moč nad svojim življenjem.
There is a reason why so many toxic and co-dependent relationships include a narcissistic man and a borderline woman. While at first glance these two individuals have very little in common, they share some fundamental characteristics that can be uncovered if we look very deep below the surface.
Both, narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder are part of the Cluster B in the DSM classification. That by itself indicates that there must be something they have share, even if those qualities are present in fragments. What could they be? Well, they both share an underlying feeling of depression, a strong fear of abandonment and chronic feelings of emptiness.
You would never say that narcissists know anything about depression is or that they experience emptiness, yet deep down they do feel depressed and empty as they strongly believe that they are not lovable nor good enough. That is why they need so much admiration and praise from other people. It gives them a sense of existence, of being worthy. Borderlines, too, feel depressed and empty but prefer to fill that void by establishing relationships. They don't seek undivided love and admiration from others, it is what they want to provide. Borderlines can't live without being in a relationship, narcissists can't live without the narcissistic fuel provided by other people. In theory, this would make them a perfect match. Unfortunately, narcissists can't cope with the borderlines' desire for intimacy.
This is how it happens: at first, all is great. Borderlines provide narcissists with love, admiration, devotion, which fills the narcissists' void. Since borderlines feel the depression and emptiness of narcissists and know how horrible that feels, they try to make it better. By making it better for them, they make it better for themselves as well. Narcissists on the other hand provide a seemingly stable person on which borderlines think they can rely, as initially, narcissists present a charming, reliable and strong front. There is nothing a narcissist can't do! However, things start to get complicated when borderlines want more intimacy, as the logical next step in their relationship. This is where the fear of abandonment comes into play. They both experience it, borderlines more overtly, narcissists deep down. The more intimacy the borderlines wants, and there can never be enough of it, the more the narcissists start to withdraw, as it gets too much for them. They fear the borderlines might uncover their true nature, the one they are so desperately trying to hide behind the narcissistic mask - the vulnerable, unworthy, unlovable self they believe to be. And should they ever uncover it, they would leave them, which narcissists are trying to avoid. Borderlines, sadly, understand the withdrawal of narcissists are abandonment and will do whatever it takes to prevent it. The power struggle who will leave whom begins, first as a testing phase. Borderlines become obnoxious in their behavior as they test how much narcissists love them. How far can they go before the narcissist leaves? Narcissists withdraw and disappear, only to return, to check whether the borderline is still willing to take them back, because when the relationship was good, their emotional needs were fulfilled completely, even those they had no idea they had. They also feel a rush of positive energy of seeing the borderline crawl for their attention, begging them not to leave. It gives them an immense sense of importance and power. It also frightens them on some level because if this crazy borderline groveling person loves them, there must be something wrong with the narcissist as well, right?
See, there is negative mirroring going on in this kind of a relationship. Both partners share the depression, fear of abandonment, desire for being loved and fearing it at the same time, an unstable sense of self that must be provided by the other. Until both resolve the past wounds and script patterns, they will always push all the wrong buttons in each other, which will inevitably lead to hurt, pain and suffering. Therefore, couples' therapy is the best solution for them as they need to understand which painful experiences brought them together in the first place.
“If we want to change the world, we need to talk about the elephant in the room. That is why I love real people who say what they mean and mean what they say. No fluff, no lies and no pretence.”