The childhood origins of narcissism.

This is a very informative video explaining how narcissism develops during childhood.

The Still Face Experiment (with an observation about Caylee Anthony).

I was reminded of the Still Face video again today and think it’s so important because it shows how vital attachment is to develop a healthy sense of self. Watch how quickly this child in the experiment notices the mother’s lack of mirroring and how hard she tries to make an emotional connection.

***THESE VIDEOS MAY BE TRIGGERING***

Caylee Anthony and Casey Anthony

I was watching some Caylee Anthony videos that were filmed by her mother Casey before she murdered her daughter.   The lack of interaction with Caylee in these videos is very creepy and disturbing.  Casey apparently didn’t physically abuse her daughter (at least not anything that could be readily seen), but was starving her emotionally.  She would sit and film her daughter but not interact with her at all.  You can see Caylee reacting in ways very similar to the baby in the Still Face video experiment,except that Caylee almost never cried, which make you wonder if she had already partly given up.

In this video, you can see how frustrated and confused Caylee is.

 

Lucky Otters Haven

Here is a dramatic video that shows how powerful the lack of mirroring is on an infant. It’s amazing how quickly the baby in this video notices the mother’s lack of affect and responds negatively to it. This is at the root of attachment disorders in children and most personality disorders, especially Cluster B. Without appropriate mirroring a child can’t develop empathy because it has never been modeled for them.

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Another brick in the wall…nuked!

crumbling-wall

How do I even begin? What happened tonight in my therapy session was a little thing, objectively speaking, really a very little thing. But to me it was a huge, HUGE deal, maybe even a breakthrough of some sort.

I refuse to write a separate post about this, but when I got home from work, my mother called. She had gotten my phone number through my son and I took the call because it was coming from a New York phone and my mother lives in Illinois so I had no idea who it was. Normally I don’t take phone calls if I can’t tell who’s calling but for some reason I took it this time. When I heard her voice, it was like being transported back to being a five year old again. All my mindfulness skills and everything I know about narcissism and No Contact went flying out the window.  I won’t go into detail because nothing of any consequence was said. She told me she just wanted to hear my voice and proceeded to ask a bunch of personal questions. I felt like she was checking up on me for her own benefit, which is probably the case. I put on my fake-nice act and answered her questions as politely as I could, telling her nothing too personal, and finally made an excuse about having a sore throat (which is actually true because I’m still sick) and had to get off the phone.

I brought up the phone call in therapy. I asked my therapist (rhetorically) why I can’t just tell her to bug off. Rationally I know nothing would happen if I did that. I know she’s read my blog so surely she knows how I feel about her. Sure, she might get mad, but really why should I care? What could she do to me? Nothing! He suggested (correctly) that I was programmed from an early age to always respond to her in a certain manner, and that programming is hard to break, and that’s what’s making it so hard for me. I started laughing about the idea of myself being a computer that could be programmed. I looked at him and told him to debug me. He laughed at that, but really it wasn’t funny. I felt a little hysterical.

I’m always a little more emotionally labile when I’m ill, and so this illness he gave me last week acted as a kind of emotional lubricant–or maybe I was just ready and what I’m about to describe was going to happen anyway.

I said I was tired of talking about my mother and I wanted to talk about my transference feelings instead. It’s what I’d been planning to talk about but my mother, even in my therapy sessions, always has a way of drawing all the attention to herself and I wasn’t going to let that happen tonight.   Recently we have been meeting twice a week instead of once a week, but I won’t be able to afford to do that for too much longer, or at least for the next few weeks. I explained hard it is for me to only be able to meet him once a week because of my strong feelings of attachment. He wanted me to elaborate on this and describe how it felt. I had to think about that for awhile. The closest I could come was that it’s a little bit like limerence but without the sexual and obsessive aspects and has a more infantile quality. (There’s also a kind of mindfulness to it that’s impossible to explain but that keeps it from getting out of control.) It’s the way I imagine a baby feels about their primary caregiver. That I’m this little baby and he’s the only person who ever mirrored me or accepted me unconditionally for me. Because of that I feel extra vulnerable with him, too close to my raw core and fearing rejection while at the same time being able to let my guard down in a way I normally can’t. When I was asked to elaborate on the vulnerable feelings I had to think about it for a long time.

Finally I began to explain (in what I felt was a very childlike manner) and to my surprise I started to cry. I’ve come close to crying a couple of times recently, but this time my eyes actually filled up and a couple of tears spilled over (which I wiped away quickly). Sure, I didn’t sob and there weren’t many tears and it all ended quickly, but it happened. For just a minute, I shed real tears in front of another human being! Even more astounding to me than that, I felt no shame doing so. In fact, I was very proud of myself and even while I cried, I knew exactly what was happening and felt really, really good about it. So my tears turned to laughter and he laughed along with me. It was a real, bona fide emotional connection. How can that be? I don’t have those! I don’t connect with people! This was surreal.

“How did you do that?” I asked, sort of gobsmacked.
“I did nothing,” he said. “You did that yourself.” He was smiling.
“Then I guess you’re just the facilitator!”
“Well, I do have a degree!” he said jokingly.
We laughed again. Then the tears almost started again.
“You’re getting emotional,” he observed. “What’s going on?”
“I DON’T KNOW!” I wailed like a three year old. And I didn’t. I didn’t know why I was so emotional, but I felt happy that I was. “I just feel fragile, that’s all.” My lower lip was trembling like a toddler’s.
“I want you to know I think you’re very strong.” His eyes were shining.

So, another brick in that f*cking wall crumbled tonight.
I put my shoes back on (lately I’ve been taking them off and putting my feet on the couch–it seems to help somehow).
As I was leaving, he said our session moved him. I wanted to hug him so much right then but of course I didn’t.

When your therapist rejects you.

Abandonmentsign

I just read a post from a blogger who describes how her therapist suddenly terminated her without warning.  She writes,

I spend pockets of time here and there throughout the days just wracking my brain trying to figure out what went so wrong. I replay our conversations in my head and try to decipher what this meant or why she said that. I try to figure out what the fuck I did wrong.

It’s devastating and crazymaking.  Unfortunately, being suddenly rejected by a mental health professional seems to be pretty common.   People who have never been in therapy sometimes have trouble understanding how devastating this can be.  We become extremely attached to our therapists through a process known as transference, especially when the therapy is of the psychodynamic type (as opposed to behavioral/cognitive methods like CBT).  The therapist acts as a surrogate parent and for a therapist to terminate a patient without warning is akin to a parent rejecting their child. It’s extremely traumatic and the victim often develops PTSD from the rejection, especially if they already have attachment or trauma-related issues due to rejection or neglect by caregivers when they were children.   The problem is that many people with mental disorders themselves become therapists, often to work out their own emotional issues by proxy.  They may not be aware they are doing this, but it happens all the time.  That’s why therapists are encouraged and even required to be in therapy themselves, in order to address any counter-transference issues that may come up with their patients.

If my therapist ever rejected me like that…ugh, I don’t even want to think about that. I think I would just want to crawl into a hole somewhere and die.  I know he would never suddenly terminate me without good reason and without explaining why, but because I worry about everything, sometimes I worry about that too.

I’ll give you an example of how ridiculous this worry gets.   In my last session, toward the end, I asked my therapist if he had any children.    I don’t think I had any reason to ask other than simple curiosity.   But after I asked I felt liked I’d somehow overstepped his boundaries (he did answer me).   I don’t even know why, really.  He asked me what made me ask him that.  Maybe he thinks this is significant.   I imagined I saw an angry or concerned look on his face after I asked.   But I always imagine negative looks on people’s faces even when their expression is actually neutral.   I feel like I should apologize.    I don’t even know if he was upset by my question but I still feel like it might have been a boundary invasion.    I know he wouldn’t terminate me for this, but I still worry that he might like me less because I *might* have invaded his boundaries.

It’s so dumb that sometimes I feel like I have to be perfect even for my therapist.

Further reading:

50 Warning Signs of Questionable Therapy  (red flags you should know about):

There are over 700 comments under the above post. I was shocked at some of the stories I read about horrible therapists who make their clients even worse.

Infatuation and Transference:  Please be aware that I wrote this post over a year ago and my views about transference, which were mostly negative at that time, have changed.

 

The wait is too long.

waiting

It’s 6:51 PM. I would normally be starting my therapy session right now, but my therapist is out of town this week. 7 more days seems like 7 more years. Sigh. Once you become attached to your therapist, even once a week doesn’t seem like enough. It’s very difficult to wait this long, even though I went for YEARS without seeing a therapist until I started seeing this one.

Once you start, everything changes. I’m actually feeling a little angry at him for putting me through this, even though I know he’s done nothing wrong and my anger is irrational. I still am going to tell him next week how angry waiting so long makes me, because the anger might be reflecting something else that’s coming to the surface.

Loosening boundaries.

cracked_wall

My therapist moved closer to me today, from about 6 feet away to more like 3 feet.
I feel like I won the lottery.

All week I’ve been obsessing over this and reading everything I can about touch/closeness in therapy it–the ethics involved, client/therapist boundaries, therapeutic uses of touch, etc. I posted on a forum about my longing to crawl over to him on the floor and put my head in his lap (not in a sexual way; but as a little girl would put her head on her daddy’s or mommy’s lap). I didn’t dare tell him this was what I needed.

But today he moved closer to me. I was a little freaked out! HOW DID HE KNOW???? I could easily have panicked but I was intrigued by the contrasts of my battling emotions at that moment. I felt so understood and validated, so I thanked him because it’s exactly what I had been longing to do, but didn’t dare. He’s reaching out to me and trying to connect with me. I think the fact he’s so empathetic makes him able to figure out on an emotional level what I ‘m really feeling and what I need even before I’m aware of it.  I’m beginning to trust him and God knows, I’m idealizing him, but this is part of transference and that’s what is happening. And it’s a beautiful, spiritual thing.    This primitive connection is providing the basis for real attachment with others later on, if all goes well.

I found myself averting my eyes after he moved closer though. I felt like he was trying to get me to look at him but I just couldn’t. I always look off to my left side when I feel that pull between wanting to connect and wanting to get the hell away. One thing about being self-aware and having insight is you notice EVERYTHING you do, body language, what you do with your eyes, that sort of thing. I realized I was doing that to replace the wall he had just torn down, and I told him so. At the same time I long to be held close and comforted and taken care of, half of me wants to run.

Storyteller.

storytellers

My therapist told me I’m a good storyteller.
This was one of the most validating things anyone ever told me. He likes my stories. I keep him entertained. I make him laugh and keep him on the edge of his seat.
Yay me!

Maybe I really could write that novel and keep millions entertained and become rich and famous after all. Why not? Its never too late. Hell, Grandma Moses didn’t become a famous painter until her 90s. There’s nothing wrong with being a late bloomer.

I always thought of myself as a pretty boring person and an even worse storyteller, because I didn’t think I had any stories worth telling. But I’m finding out that’s not the case.
We all have a story to tell. We’re all actors on this stage called life.

But feeling complimented isn’t really the reason I’m over the moon about what he said. It doesn’t matter if I have the capacity to entertain anyone. I don’t really care if I can make people laugh or keep them quaking in suspense or move them to tears. That’s not my reason for being here.

It means a lot because I feel like he cares. I keep him entertained because he cares about me or at least does a pretty good job pretending he does (but I don’t think it’s pretending). He’s very good at what he does, but more importantly, after four sessions, I feel like we have established trust and a good working relationship. He’s one of the few people who ever showed me any real empathy. I feel like I could tell him almost anything.
Except one thing.

I realized this week I’ve developed strong transference feelings. That’s supposed to happen in psychodynamic therapy. It’s like limerence but without the sexual aspect. I just want to be cared for and protected by him, as if he’s the nurturing and caring surrogate parent I should have had. These feelings can be intense. They replicate ancient attachments from early childhood. You’re supposed to work through them. Right now I just feel incredibly excited to be seeing him again tomorrow.

I know this euphoria won’t last. It might even become painful. I’m prepared for that. I’m idealizing someone I don’t even know. All he is is a mirror, in which I can see whatever I want–or see aspects of myself I can’t own yet. I went through this when I was 22 and wound up walking out on my therapist because I couldn’t handle the intensity of my feelings anymore. But I’m older and more mature now, and know a lot more about how this stuff works than I did back then. Therapy isn’t easy. It’s work, hard work, and I’m prepared to roll up my sleeves and get busy instead of slacking off and expecting to just suddenly not have any problems anymore.

He doesn’t know yet. I don’t know if I’m ready to tell him. He may figure it out even if I don’t say anything. Maybe I can tell it like a story.

The Still Face Experiment.

Here is a dramatic video that shows how powerful the lack of mirroring is on an infant. It’s amazing how quickly the baby in this video notices the mother’s lack of affect and responds negatively to it. This is at the root of attachment disorders in children and most personality disorders, especially Cluster B. Without appropriate mirroring a child can’t develop empathy because it has never been modeled for them.

You are just an object to a narcissist.

objectification

I saw this post in the NPD forum at Psychforums. The discussion was about narcissists who seem to care more about animals than people. “StupidPig,” a poster with NPD wrote an interesting post, which I think is a great explanation of what “love” means to a narcissist. In a nutshell: it’s not love. It’s not even really attachment. Everything is an object to them. A narcissist can be as “attached” to an object or an animal as a person, sometimes more so. It all depends whatever is giving the narcissist more pleasure/supply at a given time and whatever requires less maintenance or emotional input from them. The “love object” can change from one day to the next. People and animals are just objects to a narcissist.

I did not edit StupidPig’s post or correct his spelling errors.

http://www.psychforums.com/narcissistic-personality/topic47260-10.html

I am a narcissist with NPD, and I used to like to “own” animals as a kid. However, I never liked to “care” for them.

Someone with NPD cares only for his image, or what the books call the “Glorified Self Image”. Anything else other than his Glorified Self Image is considered an object to him (be it his mother, his children, his spouce, his boss, his car, his own body, or his pet snake or whatever) , and the value of such object will be defined only on basis of how much narcissistic supply it would give him. I.e. how much it enhances his Glorified Self Image.
So, if owning a dog (or a car or a pretty girlfriend) would make me look better, then I would enjoy it, but I would never do any effort to maintain the car, walk the dog, or be nice to the girlfriend, because, as someone with NPD, I have an exagerrated sense of entitlement. this means that I strongly belive that I “deserve” to have the objects that make me look good, and I do not need to do any effort to “keep” those objects.

A pet is no different from a spouce or a car or a friend or a watch or a parent to a Narc. It is just an object that gains value when it makes him look better or feel superior and loses value immidiatly if it doesn’t give him such supply. Based on this, if your car does a 18/20 job in making you look better and feel superior, while your dog does a 10/20 at that job, and your spouce or son does a 5/20, then you would love your care more than your dog and your dog more than your family. But, if on the next day your son wins the world championship in swiming and tells the world on TV that you, his father, is the reason behind this victory, you would shift into loving your son more than your dog and your car, and if three days latter your son makes a fight with you because he wants the car, and the car gets dented in an accident, you will love your dog more than your car and your son, and so on.

In all cases, the narc will never do much to maintain those “objects” and will never really hold any of them dear to his heart because they are all just objects to him.

Only in the light of this should one talk a comparitive view at the different objects in a narc ‘s life and their different merrits and drawbacks. using myself as an example, the advantages and dissadvantages go as follows:

– Pet-objects: They are submissive ( do not need much effort to do as told) and not judgemental (and so do not pose a threat to the Narc’s ego), but they do have several drawbacks, the most important of which is that they need feeding, cleaning, medical care, etc. Narcs hate objects that require lots of maintenance.
Another drawback concerning pet-objects is that they sometimes require “feelings” from you. Not as much as human-objects do of course, but it is still a nagging requirement.

– Human-objects: They can offer much more supply than a pet-object ( e.g. a woman-object who adores you gives more types and quantities of narcissistic supply than a dog) but the drawbacks are that human-objetcs require much more maintenance than other objects and are apt to judge you (and hence are a threat to the ego, or the glorified self image) and they need scary amounts of feelings in order to function properly and, worst of all, they might have “opinions” about your actions and would try to aplly measures that restrict your freedom. They are great objects but they come with a great price..in most cases, this makes them not worth the Narc’s effort(in his twisted opinion of course).

-Inanimate objects (like watches, cars, computers, etc) : They do what they are expected to do, they are never judgemental, and they do not require any emotional input to function properly and they hardly limit your freedom in anyway.

Give me robots at work, at home and in bed and I’ll be a very happy narcissist! ( oh, but please make them cheap, efficient, self maintaining and guranteed for life.)

But, once again, you are never really attached to any of those “things”. You can, as a narc, always kick your dog away for a better looking and more submissive dog, and never regret it. You will never feel any remorse for having sex a billion times outside your marriage, and you will never remember how your old battered car which served you for 10 years looked like after the first week of driving your new BMW around.
A narc may have a preference for one of those posessions over the other for one day (cat over son, girlfriend over dog), but don’t let that fool you, because it is only ephemeral and can very easily change on the next day.

Tears of beauty.

Most people associate crying and tears with sadness or grief. Yes, it’s true that you see tears when people are upset, grieving or sad, but it’s not really due to the sadness itself. Crying has nothing to do with the negativity or positivity of an emotion; instead they indicate the strength of an emotion. Crying occurs whenever a person is overwhelmed by any powerful emotion, be it sadness or elation. In western society, tears are seen as shameful and “weak.” Why is that?

Most pregnant women report they become more emotional during pregnancy and shed tears at the drop of a hat. This hyper-emotionality continues during lactation, when a new mother is bonding with her infant. I believe the marination of a pregnant or lactating woman’s brain in a bath of female hormones accounts for this, and is nature’s way of ensuring a strong mother-child bond. It happened to me when I was pregnant and after giving birth, and I’m not much of a cryer under normal circumstances.

I’ve mentioned my friend Shannon before, who is one of the most mentally healthy people I’ve ever met. She is also one of the most loving and joyful. But she cries all the time, because she has a huge heart and feels everything from empathy to joy so deeply. Shannon is as strong a person as I’ve ever seen, not a weak bone in her body. (She also laughs a lot).

I think tears are regarded as weak because we instinctively know they lead to and indicate strong heart connections between human beings, and emotional connectedness with others and our need for communion with other people is becoming increasingly thought of as a weakness, even for women.

Here are some photos and gifs I found on Google that show how beautiful genuine emotional tears (not the narcissistic, manipulative kind!) can be.

tears_1

baby_tears1

tears_2

crying_girl

crying_anime

manly_tears
Manly tears.


More manly tears.

crybaby_depp
Johnny Depp in “Crybaby”

crybaby_depp2
From the movie “Crybaby” starring Johnny Depp.

black_boycrying

muslim-girl-crying

tears_laughter

And of course, there is this famous video: