The “Four F’s” of C-PTSD

This article was originally posted in April, 2016.

I also wrote a review of Pete Walker’s wonderful self help guide for survivors of complex PTSD, which you can read here:

Book Review: Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker 

Lucky Otters Haven

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I just began reading “Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving” by Pete Walker. I can already tell I won’t be able to put it down (I will write a book review when I’m finished, which shouldn’t take long). I’m also going to bring this book to my next therapy session because I want my therapist to see it.

Walker, who is a therapist and also a survivor of narcissistic abuse and sufferer of C-PTSD, is an engaging writer and definitely knows his subject matter. In one of the first chapters, he discusses the “Four F’s”–which are four different “styles” of coping that people with C-PTSD develop to cope with their abusive caregivers and avoid the abandonment depression. Whatever style one adopts may be based on several factors–natural temperament, the role in the family the child was given (scapegoat, golden child, “lost” or ignored child), birth order, and other factors.

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Available…

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Book review: “A Higher Loyalty” by James Comey

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The “handshake” shown here is described in the book.

I received my copy of the bestselling memoir A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by former FBI director James Comey on Thursday and  finished it this morning.   It’s a fast read, but it may change you.

Comey describes the chain of events that led to his firing from the FBI in May 2017.   But more than that, this is an autobiography.  He also describes his childhood, high school years, his early years working in law enforcement (including exciting cases involving high profile mobsters and the Gambino Crime Family).  There’s also the very personal story of the loss of his infant son, Collin, an event he believes infused him with more empathy for the heartbreaks and losses of others — and made him a better FBI agent.

The book moves fast partly because the pages are packed with dialogue, some of which is humorous.  Here’s an excerpt of one of the conversations Comey had with Trump, at a private dinner meeting Trump had arranged for the two of them at the White House. I think this excerpt shows both Trump’s own ignorance and disdain for intellectualism.

“On my plate, I had found a large cream colored card describing the entire four course menu in cursive script. Salad, shrimp scampi, chicken parmesan with pasta, and vanilla ice cream. The president began by admiring his own menu card, which he held up.

“They write these things out one at a time, by hand,” [Trump] marveled, referring to the White House staff.  “A calligrapher,” I replied, nodding.

He looked quizzical. “They write them by hand,” he repeated.

Comey is being vilified and projected onto by his enemies right now, accused of everything Trump himself does every day.   I believe Comey, and not just because he’s on “my side” politically.   I believe him because he’s believable.   He’s an observant writer who notices the nuances of body and facial language, and appears to be a shrewd judge of character.  He also appears to have a high level of empathy, judging from the way he writes about others and his own reactions to them.   I cannot imagine a Donald Trump being capable of writing or thinking the way Comey does, or even noticing a fraction of the things Comey does.  Comey’s observation skills and empathy, combined with a lifelong passion for the truth, is what made him a great FBI agent and allowed him to rise to the top of the organization.   Yet he always remained humble, even shy and self-doubting at times (yes, he really did try to hide inside the blue curtains at the White House!)   His success never went to his head, and his priorities always remained on seeking the truth, never on bolstering his own ego.

Comey is being attacked by some people for telling the truth, something that narcissists like Trump hate because it exposes them for who they are.   In fact, Comey seems to have been selected specifically by Trump as a target for emotional and mental abuse.   People like Trump can sniff out potential scapegoats (usually very empathetic or observant people who can smell out the truth) from a mile away, and Comey, for his part, was uneasy around Trump from Day One — but like most of us who have been in abusive relationships, he initially wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.    As a shrewd FBI agent though, he never actually did — he only promised Trump “honest loyalty,” not the sort of mobster-loyalty Trump wanted from him.

Comey spends some time early in the book talking about what character traits he believes a good leader needs to have: toughmindedness is great, but it needs to be balanced with qualities of empathy, honesty, and integrity — values that are lacking in Donald Trump, who cares only about loyalty to himself and projecting a fearsome image of strength.

For all its darkness, A Higher Loyalty ends on a positive note.  Comey compares the Trump presidency to a forest fire.   Forest fires are destructive and deadly, but they are also necessary and happen naturally on a cyclical basis.   Forest fires make it possible for new life to grow — seedlings and new plants that had been crowded out by the old trees before finally have room to emerge and flourish.    While Trump might be a destructive force of nature, he may be a necessary one:  in his wake, people are waking up and demanding real change.    The rot that had been present but hidden for decades is finally being exposed, young people are making themselves heard, and I have no doubt that in time, Trump (and Trumpism) will go down in flames and our democracy will emerge better than it was before, with new values or old values that had been forgotten.

Why “A Wrinkle in Time” is an important book in these dark days of Trumpism.

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2018 book cover.

Sarah Kendzior, an expert on authoritarian states who often appears on MSNBC to talk about the Trump presidency and its similarity with other autocratic regimes, shared her thoughts with Flood Magazine   in which she uses the plot of Madeleine L’Engle’s famous 1962 young adult novel, A Wrinkle in Time, as a metaphor for the dark political days we are living in.     As a lifelong fan of L’Engle’s Newbury award-winning science-fiction/fantasy novel (and being as against Donald Trump and his regime as I am), Kendzior’s words really resonated with me:

“It’s a good book for children to read now, growing up during the Trump administration,” Sarah Kendzior told me. “The rejection of conformity, the emphasis on compassion.” She’s called IT a “fascist monster,” comparing his brainwashing of Meg’s brother Charles Wallace to the “normalization” of Trump Times. “One of the scariest lines in the book is, ‘Just relax.’ Just give in, we’ll take care of you. Relaxing is much easier than trying to combat IT. That’s what happened to us as a nation—people had faith in institutions and checks and balances, but it comes down to individuals’ willingness to uphold those things,” Kendzior said. Lucky for her father, Meg takes responsibility, defeats IT, and rescues him by virtue of thinking hard and getting angry.

Kendzior is right.  “Wrinkle” is very much about empathy, using one’s brain to solve problems, and the age old battle between good and evil.   Madeleine L’Engle, who died in 2007,  was a Christian who often explored religious and moral themes in her works, without ever becoming preachy or self-righteous.   Rather than reject or deny science (as many evangelical Christians today do), in “Wrinkle,” she embraces science — specifically quantum physics and the possibility of alien life — to tell a riveting and rather dark story about a 13 year old girl (Meg Murry) who is forced to use her righteous anger to fight against an evil force that has kidnapped her father and is about to take over the universe.     I agree with Kendzior that kids today should read this book.  (The movie, which I believe is being released in theaters today, couldn’t have come out at a more appropriate time in American history — although I have heard the reviews for the movie aren’t that great, so maybe it’s better to stick with reading the book.)

Meg isn’t alone in her quest.  She has help, in the form of three mysterious and sometimes humorous old women (L’Engle has described these women elsewhere as guardian angels rather than the “good witches” they appear to be).  Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which have supernatural powers and can appear or disappear at will.  Mrs. Whatsit is also able to shapeshift into a being who is a cross between an angel and a centaur.   There is also Meg’s telepathic 5 year old brother, Charles Wallace, whose ability to empathize must be off the charts and who also has a genius level IQ.  Finally, there is Meg’s new friend Calvin O’Keefe, seemingly average in most respects, but who, like Charles Wallace, seems to possess an impressive ability to empathize.

The story revolves around Meg’s father, a physicist who had been working on some top secret project involving quantum physics, and then suddenly disappeared and was never heard from again.   There’s some kind of connection between his disappearance and a concept he’d been working on called a “tesseract,” which refers to a 5th-dimensional  shortcut that can be taken through time and space by “folding” it.

Meg is a relatable but not always likeable girl.  She is brainy, awkward, unsure of herself, and apparently not very popular with most other kids because she’s not perky or upbeat all the time (I loved Meg when I read this book at age 11 or 12 because she was exactly like me!)   Meg’s reaction to things tends to be to get angry or sulk.   Her teachers have expressed concern over her rebellious and uncooperative behavior and her falling grades.  Since her father’s disappearance, her problems have only gotten worse.    Her little brother Charles Wallace is the family’s youngest child and has an uncanny ability to always know when Meg is upset, and even know the exact details of what she is thinking about.    Calvin O’Keefe, while he seems to be Meg’s opposite in many ways (he is popular, athletic, and only “average” IQ-wise) also is unusually understanding and empathetic of Meg’s emotional needs.

Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which, who have ensconced themselves in an abandoned house in the woods near Meg’s home, come to the children one stormy October night.  Soon the kids find out these old women are celestial messengers and know where her father is — and that only Meg can be the one to save him.   Soon the three kids are embarking on a journey across the universe, traveling by “tessering” through space and time.

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1960s book cover.

Meg is at the center of the fight to return her father from the forces of darkness that have captured him, and the evil and powerful entity (IT) that has engulfed and now controls a large part of the universe.     Along the way the reader is treated to alien worlds and creatures.  The world on which her father is held prisoner is a terrifying planet of total conformity and utter control, in which people are literally turned into programmed robots.   Anyone who deviates from the “program” in any way is coldly disposed of.   This is also the planet where IT resides.  Some of the worlds Meg visits (that have not yet been engulfed by IT’s dark forces) are populated by beings with high levels of empathy and altruistic love.  On these worlds, Meg finds the emotional and physical replenishment she needs to succeed on her quest. On one planet, she is nurtured back to health after almost losing her life by a huge and ugly but maternal creature Meg comes to call “Aunt Beast.”

Like Meg and her companions, we who resist Trumpism are on a journey to fight a force that, like IT, seeks to gain complete control and enforce lock-step conformity.    It’s a force devoid of empathy, atruistic love, gentleness, and compassion, because those are values of the Light, which are alien to the dark forces of Trumpism.    Trumpism holds a dark, violent, and toxic masculinity that insists that the Light is weak and feminine, or “socialist,” as somehow virtuous.   Darkness hates the Light because it’s petrified of its power to expose the truth, so it will gaslight you and try to make you believe that goodness is really evil and evil is good.      Light values are the same ones Jesus taught in the Gospels (and almost every humanitarian spiritual leader has encouraged, from Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr.)   Ironically, the darkness of Trumpism, while insisting it’s based on Christian values, has in fact twisted and perverted Christ’s true message of love and inclusion into its polar opposite.

Like Meg, we in the resistance are going to be forced to go outside our comfort zones (Meg got quite sick while “tessering” at one point, and always did find the shortcut  frightening).  We can’t be tempted to “give in” to darkness just because it seems easier or because we’re being told that fighting it will only cause us more trouble than lying down like sheep and and accepting it.   Like Meg, we may need to use those qualities we dislike in ourselves, especially anger, to fight off the darkness before it consumes everything it touches, including our souls.

A Wrinkle in Time has aged well since its 1962 publication.  While the language the kids use in the book seems dated and overly formal (what kid calls their mother “Mother” anymore?), the book was well ahead of its time in its attitudes toward women and their intellectual aptitudes (Meg’s mother is a successful microbiologist).   The battle between good and evil is as old as humanity itself, and is especially well told in this classic and entertaining book.   The Christian message of the story is clear, while never beating you over the head with religion or Christian symbolism.   I worry about kids today being brainwashed by the sociopathic, nationalistic, racist, pro-violence, anti-woman, anti-science, and anti-education messages of exclusion and intolerance they are hearing from Trump and his followers.  A Wrinkle in Time is a great anecdote to that and if kids aren’t into reading, I’m sure seeing the new Disney movie can’t hurt them any.

It’s also a book that adults can enjoy too, and since reading the article I linked to above, I just started reading it again.

The Stack.

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My Stack.

A few weeks ago, I got a catalogue from The Vermont Country Store.  I’ve ordered a few things from their catalogues (I adore their super-comfy and attractive Mumu-style tops, and keep ordering more — I have 4 of them now) so they keep sending them to me.   Catalogues make great bathroom reading, and TVCS’s is one of the most fun to look at because it has just about everything you could ever want to have in it.    The candy page is always the page that automatically flips open because I’m constantly looking at it and drooling (although I have only ordered candy from them twice).  There’s candy there you just can’t find in regular stores — marzipan snow balls, maple-sugar leaves, chocolate covered sponge candy, and commercial candy that I remember from my childhood but is no longer available in any store.

On the inside front cover of their catalogue, there’s always a  quaint, old-timey, slightly corny write up about life in Vermont.  It’s always an idyllic little slice of Vermont life,  written by one of the owners.  Sometimes I read them and sometimes I don’t, but I happened to read the one that was in the latest catalogue.    The write up was called “A Nice, Quiet Winter Afternoon–and ‘The Stack’ Is Waiting.”  It was about something I can relate to — that tall stack of books that sits next to your favorite chair, usually on the floor (of course, in Vermont country, The Chair is always a cushy easy chair, perched next to a large picture window overlooking gently rolling fields of snow and farmland, and a large mug of hot cocoa is waiting there next to the stack — or on top of it!)

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I have a Stack.  It’s not on the floor, and it’s not next to a comfy easy chair, and there is no bay window behind it overlooking gently rolling fields of snow and farmland.  My stack is located on a dirty old orange steamer trunk next to my bed.  The window just to its right overlooks the parking lot of the apartment complex next door, and being that this is North Carolina, there is usually no snow on the ground.

But it’s still a stack of books just begging to be read, or referred to, or making me feel guilty because I haven’t read them yet — and maybe never will.   I look forward to the day I actually have the time to read (or give away) all these books (and de-clutter my bedroom in the process).    Since I’m home today, I may spend time reading (in fact, I definitely will), but before I do that, in this post I’m going to take inventory of these books and describe them, since even I can’t even recall what all of them are.

One Second After by William R. Fortschen.   A political/technology thriller written by one of my customers, who gave this book to me (I forgot to get it autographed though).    It was a New York Times bestseller a few years ago.  I know this man to be a political conservative (Lordy, I hope he isn’t a Trump supporter!),  but I started reading it a few days ago, and it’s damn hard to put down.   Since Fortschen also lives in my city, I am familiar with most of the places he describes in the book, which makes it seem even more real.  The man is a phenomenal writer, so I think I’ll be finishing this book first (although “Fire and Fury” is giving it competition).

Twin Flame by William Fortschen with Nora D’Ecclesis.  Fortschen’s first romance novel. He gave this to me along with the above book.   It’s a very short book and I read it in two days.  I haven’t removed it from the Stack yet.   It was both a fascinating and uncomfortable read for me, since this “novel” is obviously a factual account about him and his new wife (who he is now separated from), who I also know slightly.   The only things that have been changed from real life are their first names, but everything else is autobiographical.   Reading it, I got the slightly uncomfortable feeling of eavesdropping into the very personal life of someone I don’t know that well (but know well enough to know this is not a novel!).   The guy is a hopeless romantic, emotional, and very spiritual person and also an amazing writer.  And yes, I wish I could find someone like him in spite of the fact he is pushing 70 years old (though not him, obviously!)   And no, there is no sex in the book (thank goodness!)  It’s a very clean read.    Unlike Fortschen, however, I don’t believe we have “soul mates.”  I’m far too cynical for that.   The fact he does believe that each person has a “twin flame” at the age of almost 70 years old gives me hope for humanity.

Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty by Daniel Schulman.   This is a library book that is due back in a week.  I read about half of it, but I decided to stop reading because after awhile the book started to bore me (and make me feel sick).   I’ve already read so much about the Koch Brothers, their vast empire, and their diabolical plans to make America into their own image that I’m burned out on this sort of stuff and don’t want to read about them anymore.    I was curious about their early lives, and that’s the real reason I checked out this book.   I wanted to find out if they were ever human beings, and yes, apparently they were.  They were cute as children.   Charles Koch actually seemed like a sweet kid but it was clear he was his family’s golden child, even though he wasn’t the first born.    The eldest, Frederick, was the family scapegoat because he never fit in with the rest of the family, may be gay, and was partially disinherited.  He’s a patron of the arts, New York gadfly, and eccentric, and that embarrasses the rest of the Koch family.   Apparently, Freddy’s  not all that conservative (and may even be liberal).    David (one of the twins which included Bill) always looked up to Charles and became his partner in crime.  David was the cutup of the family, always in trouble as a kid but was Mr. Popularity at school.   Bill had a terrible temper, was unpopular with other kids, always threw tantrums as a kid, and wasn’t favored by the family.  He was never really part of the family business, except in a peripheral way.   I found out everything I needed to know.  Now make them go away, please.   I’ve had enough of the Kochs.

Exoplanets by Michael Summers and James Trefil.  This is also a library book due back in a week.   I haven’t read it, but I skimmed through it, and I looked at the beautiful color photos and paintings of earth like planets that may exist in the Milky Way Galaxy.   I may renew it, or not.   I probably won’t have time to read it even if I renew it though, so I probably won’t.

Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult.   I picked up this hardback novel by one of my favorite writers at Dollar General for three bucks.   I want to read it, and eventually will, but it will probably be awhile since between blogging, work, and my Internet activities, I don’t find a lot of time for novel reading anymore, and that’s a shame.

The Silent Corner by Dean Koontz.  I actually bought this paperback for the full list price at Food Lion.   Like the above book, I want to read it (because Dean Koontz has always been a favorite writer of mine), but wonder when I’ll get around to doing so.

Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency by Joshua Green.   This was a bestseller a few months ago, and I did read a few chapters of it, but there are so many other books about this presidency that have come out since then that are more timely (since current events are moving at near-light speed) that I probably won’t ever finish this book.   It seems kind of dated now, but I keep it in my stack just in case I change my mind or have nothing else to read (not likely).

The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President, editor Bandy Lee, M.D.    A must read for all conscientious Americans.   Although I finished this some time ago, it’s one of those books I will keep referring to again and again.  So it stays in the Stack.

Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.   This was a one dollar Goodwill find, otherwise I would not have it in my Stack or even in my house.  I will probably never read it, but on that day at Goodwill, I was momentarily curious about the far right Christian evangelical mindset about the End Times, and since I’d heard so much about these books, curiosity got the best of me.  I’ll probably take it back to Goodwill at some point.    I don’t like Tim LaHaye or his politics so I don’t want to read any of his books.

Cold Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels by J. Warner Wallace.   This attractive looking trade paperback was sent to me anonymously, possibly by a reader of this blog who happens to have my address (thank you, whoever you are!) but so far the three people who I know have my address have denied sending it to me.  The book came in the mail at a time I was having doubts about my faith, so perhaps this is a message from God — very mysterious!    It looks interesting and fun to read, and evidently God wants me to read it, so in my stack it sits.  But I really have no idea when I’ll get around to it.   I will try!

My Fucking Coloring Book (with a box of Crayola crayons and package of colored markers which have probably dried up).  This adult coloring book was a gag gift from my daughter last Christmas (2016), but I’ve only found the time to color in one and a half of the intricate panels.   I wrote about receiving this book here.

Three books that are not in my Stack but should be:

The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy by William Strauss and Neil Howe.   My copy of this 1997 future history is dogeared and battered from constant reference.  I won’t describe the book in this post because it would take too long.  Never mind that Steve Bannon is a huge fan of the theory.  It’s not the insane conspiracy theory everyone thinks it is.  I wrote about it here and here.

The Bible.  I really need to get a modern English (preferably a Catholic version, which includes the extra chapters), since the two translations I have (Old Scofield Study version and KJV) I find so difficult to read.

Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff.   I did not want to wait for this book, or fight people in line at Barnes and Noble to get the last copy.  I don’t like reading books on a computer, but I just had to have it right away, so I went ahead and ordered a Kindle version off Amazon.  I’m reading it now, and believe me, it is a page turner.  It reads like a soap opera, but it isn’t trashy, because with this dumpster fire reality show of a presidency, that’s actually the way this White House operates.

13 reasons why you should pick up a book and read it.

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I used to read about three books a week, sometimes as many as four.   As a child and teen, I was a voracious reader, so into my books that the adults around me used to worry about me.  “Why don’t you watch more TV like other kids?” they’d say.   Yes, they actually wanted me to watch more TV because my obsession with books seemed so obsessive. TV was okay, but it never held a candle to my books.

My addiction to books lasted well into my thirties.  But then along came the Internet, and before long, I no longer read three books a week, or even three books a month.  Hell, these days I barely read three books a year.

I’m trying to get back into reading books again, and am rediscovering an old love of mine.  Here are 13 good reasons why you should do the same.

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My bookshelf at home.
  1.  Books are cheap.    You can go to Goodwill or the Salvation Army and pick up used books for a buck or two each.  Yard sales usually have books that are practically free or less than a dollar, and you never know what you might find.  And of course, there are libraries, which carry current titles and all you pay is the cost of a library card.   Some communities also have used bookstores, and in some of them you can trade titles you’ve read for ones you haven’t read and pay practically nothing.
  2. Nothing smells quite like a book.   I’ve always loved the smell of books, and walking into a library is like walking into olfactory heaven.    You can’t get that smell from your Kindle reader.
  3. Books can take you into other worlds.  A good fiction book is like walking into another person’s life and living it for little while.  If you find a book that grabs your attention and you can relate to the protagonist, in a way you actually become that character for awhile.   Chances are, their life is a lot more interesting than yours.  You can go places you will probably never go in real life and have adventures you will probably never actually experience.
  4. You can educate yourself.  Anything you want to know or are interested in, there is a book about it.  There’s no excuse to not educate yourself, with all the books out there you can read.
  5.  Books are attractive.  They look great on shelves or lying on tables,  and are a great way to decorate a room and make yourself look smart at the same time.
  6. Books allow you to be left alone.   If you’re in a public place, such as a bus, a waiting room, or in a park, if people see you reading a book, they will probably leave you alone and let you read.
  7. Books can start new friendships.   Sometimes, if you’re reading a book in a public place, someone may ask what you’re reading.   That can be a great conversation starter, and you never know — you may make a new friend that way.
  8. You can read a book anywhere.  You don’t need to recharge it or have a special table for it or a place to plug it into the wall.   You can lie in bed and read, lie on the floor and read, lie on the beach and read, or even lean back in the tub and read.  You can’t generally go online comfortably (or safely) in these places.
  9. You don’t have to worry about the power going out, viruses, or crashes.   As long as you have a lamp to read by, you can read a book anytime you want.
  10. You will always have something to talk about.
  11. People who read books are perceived as smart.   Even if all you’re reading is the latest beach romance.  The strangers around you don’t have to know that.
  12. Books can relax you.   Whenever I settle down and start reading, it calms my nerves and I stop worrying about whatever’s bothering me.  You can’t worry about your own troubles when you’re engrossed in a character’s life or a subject that fascinates you.   Try not to read horror novels late at night though, if you want to sleep.  If you want to sleep, read a dull book.
  13. You can never really get bored.  If you enjoy reading, you can entertain, educate, or enlighten yourself anytime or any place.

God is my guide and mentor.

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I don’t like to get all religious on this blog, but once again, God led me to a small thing that’s exactly what my soul needs.  Just about a month ago,  I found a wonderful book of devotions in the Laundromat. Those have been so helpful and comforting to me.

Today, I decided to look at the books that were marked-down at the grocery store, in hopes of finding an entertaining novel to read.  Maybe something fun like a “beach” novel, something I could enjoy and then give away when finished.    I usually avoid “Christian” novels because they’re not usually very well written (and are sometimes too obviously religious, which I find offputting).  Be that as it may, almost immediately a book called “Crossroads” by Christian author William Paul Young (author of “The Shack“) caught my eye.  I picked it up and read the blurb on the back, and I scanned a few pages.  Well, well, well.  Crossroads seems to be a book about an egotistical businessman who apparently developed a narcissistic, cold personality as a result of some sort of horrible trauma when he was younger.   He doesn’t believe in God and is cynical, materialistic, and unhappy.   One day he suffers a brain hemorrhage and almost dies.   I won’t spoil anything else (and besides, I haven’t read it yet so I don’t know what happens) but it’s got to involve this protagonist’s spiritual transformation.

Wow.  I write about narcissism; it’s a terrible problem in the world today and lately there’s a big part of me that wants to help not only victims of narcissistic abuse, but the narcissists themselves (in some kind of professional  or spiritual setting and context, of course–I am no contact with all my former narcissists and plan to remain so).

Coincidence?  No, I don’t think it is.  Finding this book (marked down to just $4, which was exactly what I had on me in cash!) couldn’t have been more perfect for someone like me at the particular stage I am at in my healing.   I found it when I was picking up a few food items after mass this morning, during which I had become particularly emotional during the Eucharist and felt filled with the Holy Spirit.

How can I doubt God when things like this keep happening?  I know he’s leading me in a direction unique to me and that everything that happened to me was training for whatever it is he’s leading me to do.  At this point, I trust his judgment much more than mine. When I try to make my own choices without God’s guidance, I usually make terrible ones.

One way to peg a narcissist you probably never heard of.

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It may sound ridiculous but I think this is a good way to judge a person’s character without their suspecting anything.

Chatter about movies, books, and other forms of entertainment is a standard ice breaker (and is part of the dreaded “small talk” we introverts hate so much), usually used to make polite conversation with someone you don’t know that well (of course, these things can be discussed more in depth too with closer friends and loved ones).    Movies, books, TV, and public figures are safe conversation starters.   You can talk to people about these things without seeming to cross anyone’s boundaries or getting too personal.

But such seemingly innocuous conversations can also help you peg whether or not a person is a narcissist or sociopath–without them suspecting a thing.  When you meet a new person, ask them the way you would ask anyone about movies they’ve seen and books they’ve read, and then ask them whose side they were on, or which characters they most identified with.   Of course, you must be familiar with the movie or the book, including its main characters.   Television personalities and other public figures will also do.

Narcissists can feel empathy for other narcissistic characters–characters that are like themselves.   I’ve noticed they will often feel empathy for the villain, rather than the hero/heroine.   A narcissist woman, for example, will feel simpatico with a villain like Beth Jarrett from Ordinary People, and think her behavior toward her son wasn’t that bad–she may even think he deserved it and find Jarrett’s justifications for abusing him valid.    My mother found nothing wrong with her behavior and was puzzled as to why I found it so triggering and upsetting.  (Of course I didn’t tell her why).

My mother also couldn’t understand why the the “Queen of Mean” hotelier Leona Helmsley was given such a hard time in the press over her arrogant statement, “We don’t pay taxes, only the little people pay taxes.”   She also identified with Sherman McCoy, the narcissistic, selfish, and greedy investment banker in the novel Bonfire of the Vanities, who wound up losing everything due to a chain of events stemming from a hit and run accident which McCoy was involved in.  I remember her lamenting almost tearfully about how “his beautiful life was ruined” by the events that played out in the novel.    She also couldn’t stand good, sweet Melanie, from Gone With the Wind.   I suppose Melanie could come across as a tad simpering and holier-than-thou, but my mother hated her.   The heroine of that same movie, Scarlett O’Hara, is more than a little narcissistic (or possibly Histrionic?)–charming, flirtatious, manipulative, entitled, and possessing very little empathy.  She didn’t even seem that upset when her own daughter, Bonnie, died after falling off a horse.    I never understood why Scarlett has been such a huge role model for generations of women.   She really didn’t have too many redeeming qualities when you think about it.

A  man (or woman) with NPD or psychopathy might identify or sympathize with any of Ayn Rand’s psychopathic heroes–Howard Roark from The Fountainhead or John Galt from Atlas Shrugged come to mind.   Of course, these are popular books, especially among conservatives–but holding these two highly narcissistic men up as worthy of worship might be a red flag.   Be wary of such a person.

My ex, a sociopath who has been diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder (but is really a malignant narcissist) always liked villainous characters, especially if they broke the law.  He often rooted for the bad guy (or sometimes, girl) and the more ruthless or cruel they were, the more they seemed to enthrall him.   He likes Charles Manson.   He watched South Park because he thought the sociopathic Eric Cartman was so cool.  He also rooted for the alien in Aliens.   In addition to that, he likes satanic and demonic imagery, which always disturbed me, even when I was agnostic.     We all have a touch of schadenfreude and many normal people (including yours truly) have a fascination with serial killers and other outlaws–according to Jung, that’s because we all have a shadow self that’s drawn to dark things.  But there’s a difference between fascination or morbid curiosity and actually liking these things or identifying with or sympathizing with villains, malignant narcissists, and antisocial people.

So if you’re on a date with a new person, have them take you to a movie (or take them to a movie) and see who they seem to identify with or sympathize with the most (or who they seem to dislike the most).   It could tell you a lot about that person’s character.

Book Review: Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving (by Pete Walker)

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I finally finished reading a most wonderful book sent to me by my friend and fellow blogger, Linda Lee. It’s called Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, written by Pete Walker, himself a sufferer of C-PTSD and narcissistic abuse survivor. He is also a therapist who works with others with C-PTSD.

Walker’s book is incredibly readable and tells you everything you need or want to know about C-PTSD, a subcategory of PTSD that isn’t (but should be) included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the bible of the mental health profession. Complex PTSD is similar to PTSD but there are several important differences. The recognized diagnostic category of PTSD describes a disorder that is caused by one traumatic event, such as a rape or combat in a war. PTSD itself wasn’t recognized until psychologists noticed that many Vietnam war veterans were suffering from a group of similar symptoms including, but not limited to, loss of memory, dissociative episodes, panic attacks, general but severe anxiety or depression, inability to cope with day to day challenges, impaired ability to regulate emotions including anger, impaired ability to relate to others in a healthy way, nightmares, flashbacks, and physical pain with no medical causes. C-PTSD has a similar set of symptoms, but is “complex” because of its cause–instead of being precipitated by a single traumatic event, it’s caused by an ongoing series of traumatic incidents and also usually (though not always) begins during childhood. Very often it’s a result of being “cared for” by narcissistic or sociopathic parents, who are actively abusive or neglect their child. Unlike most self-help books, Walker covers the nature of narcissistic abuse and its soul-murdering effect on a child, and how this can lead to C-PTSD and its various manifestations.

Walker breaks down C-PTSD into four “types,” each one corresponding to a different type of defense mechanism, which he calls “The Four F’s”–Fight (the narcissistic defense); Flight (the obsessive compulsive or “workaholic” defense); Freeze (the dissociative defense); and Fawn (the Codependent defense). Most people will have a combination of these, but usually one will be dominant over the others. I find it intriguing that Walker describes the narcissistic and borderline personalities as manifestations of C-PTSD (BPD is a Fight-Codependent hybrid), because I also think that’s exactly what they are.

Walker doesn’t think that any form of C-PTSD is untreatable or necessarily permanent, although some forms are more difficult to eradicate than others. People with severe C-PTSD may spend most of their time in a “flashback” without even knowing that it’s a flashback. For example, if you are continually depressed and anxious without being able to pinpoint why, you may be in a flashback to a time when you were made to feel shame as a young child. Any sort of invalidation or reminder of the shame, no matter how small, could have set off the flashback.

Also discussed is the importance of nurturing your Inner Child, and Walker shows you how you can begin to do this on your own. He also explains why people with C-PTSD have such a harsh Inner Critic (which is the internalized “voice” of the abusive parent that relentlessly continues to shame the Inner Child) and how how re-training your Inner Critic to be less, well, critical and more supportive of the Inner Child can do wonders for your self esteem and help you begin to heal. One of the most important things that must happen in order to heal from C-PTSD is to be able to grieve the lost or wounded inner child and also to be able to feel and express righteous anger toward the abuser (while being No Contact with the actual guilty party, of course).

While Walker encourages therapy (and states that in severe cases says it may be the only way to heal from C-PTSD), he recognizes that it may not always be appropriate or possible for everyone. For example, some C-PTSD sufferers (usually the Freeze/dissociative type) are so hypervigilant and uncomfortable relating to others that they can’t begin to trust a therapist enough to make any progress that way. Such people may do better on their own, at least to begin with. He points out early on that even if you skip around in the book (because not everything in it may apply to everyone) that you can still be helped. He gives the reader helpful things they can do on their own, such as positive affirmations, self-mothering, self-fathering and the “Time Machine Rescue Operation,” mindfulness skills, thought-stopping the Critic, thought substitution, recognizing signs of being in a flashback, how to grieve, and finding “good enough” relational help, among many other tools.

At the core of C-PTSD is the “abandonment depression,” a feeling of terrible emptiness that the Four F’s have been used to avoid confronting. Walker explains how to cope with the abandonment depression without denying that it exists or using the Four F’s as defense mechanisms against it.

Finally, Walker includes a list of books–which he calls “Bibliotherapy”–that he and his patients and visitors to his website have found useful. He wraps things up with six easily referenced “toolboxes” the C-PTSD sufferer can use as adjuncts to their recovery.

Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving is intelligently and empathetically written, and easy to read without being condescending or dumbed down. Its chapters are organized in an understandable and logical way, and subheaders are used throughout to make it possible to read the book in easy to digest chunks. This book has helped me immensely so far, and takes the complexity out of this “complex” disorder.

You can visit Pete Walker’s website here:
http://pete-walker.com/

A list of useful blogs and books about NPD, narcissistic abuse, and BPD.

These are all listed under my “Resources and Support” tab in the header, but I wanted to call attention to them. I have added some new ones. My apologies if you don’t see your blog listed here. Unfortunately, I can’t list them all but if you want me to add yours, please comment and I’ll be happy to add it.

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Here are some websites, books and blogs focusing primarily on Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), narcissistic abuse, and Borderline personality disorder (BPD), though some touch on other personality disorders as well. This is only a small sampling of what’s available. The Internet is loaded with websites about NPD and narcissistic abuse; a quick Google search will bring up many that I have neglected to list here. BPD is not so widely covered, but is becoming more so.

Blogs, Websites and Forums

Dealing with Manipulative People — Dr. George K. Simon’s excellent blog about Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic, Borderline, Antisocial, and Histrionic Personality Disorders) with a focus on NPD. Dr. Simon is also the author of several books, which are listed below.

Out of the Fog — excellent support forum for people dealing with those with personality disorders and other mental health problems (or who have a disorder themselves). Every personality disorder recognized by the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is covered. I never posted here myself, but I’ve lurked there a lot and found the site very interesting and helpful.

Narcissists Suck — Anna Valerious is a survivor of psychopathic parents, and her blog is excellent. It can also be irreverent and hilarious. Her take no prisoners style may take some getting used to, but she has a lot of heart and a LOT to say about narcissists. Valerious is a Christian, and she sometimes quotes from the Bible, but for the most part, you don’t have to be a Christian or any sort of believer to appreciate her blog. She hasn’t posted in it for awhile, but the articles are still relevant, entertaining, and useful.

An Upturned Soul — longer articles than average, but well written, intelligent, and always fascinating to read. There was no way I could leave this one off this list, since I have reblogged several of her articles already.

PsychopathyAwareness Blog — good blog about psychopathy right here at WordPress. The blogger really knows their stuff.

What Makes Narcissists Tick?— This blog was created by Kathy Krajco, an author about narcissistic abuse who was well respected in the community of narcissistic abuse victims, until her untimely death several years ago. Due to that, the blog hasn’t been updated in a long time, and many of the links don’t work, but it still contains both practical and fascinating information about narcissists and why they are the way they are and why they do what they do.

NarcissisticMother.com is a website focusing on self help for the adult children of narcissistic parents (ACONs), particularly mothers, since in our culture, mothers still have the strongest influence on their children.

SociopathWorld is an intriguing website from the point of view of sociopaths (not exactly the same as psychopaths but very similar). It’s interesting to “get inside their heads” to help understand why they act the way they do. It’s creepy and fascinating how dissociated from emotions, themselves and others they often feel and some explain it surprisingly well.
Similar to SociopathWorld is Psychopathic Writings, a blog written by a psychopath whose articles are interesting and well informed. If you like sites like these, please also check out Kiasherosjourney.

Country of Liars: a website by and for the victims of sociopaths and psychopaths. The blog’s owner, like so many other similar blog owners was the scapegoat of a family of such people. Well written blog.

Lady With A Truck’s Blog: Like so many survivors of narcissistic abuse, LWAT struggles with poverty. Our abusers ruin us on every level, even our ability to earn a living. This is a wonderful blog by a lady with an attitude and a heart. Her writing draws you in like a novel, she’s inspirational, and she’s often quite funny too.

Constant Supply: The Narcissist’s Wife. A blog by a woman married to a malignant narcissist.

Faces of Narcissism: a fairly new blog written by Joanna Moore, a narcissistic abuse survivor. She was married to an abusive, sociopathic man who she is No Contact with today. A good mix of practical, no nonsense advice and personal stories.

Grace for My Heart: Although this blog written by a Christian pastor isn’t specifically about narcissism, it’s a popular topic on his blog (he writes about narcissism every Friday in his “Narcissist Friday” posts) because of all mental disorders, NPD (along with Antisocial Personality Disorder) is the most likely to have a spiritual component. Interesting and uplifting blog for Christians and those interested in God’s grace and spirituality. One of my favorite blogs.

Worldly Annoyances — ACON blog with a biblical Christian perspective. Sue can also be extremely funny at times.  I don’t always agree with her literal Biblical views, but I agree with much of what she has to say just the same.   Her posts are short and sometimes make me smile.

Galesmind:  Blogger who writes about narcissism and a lot of other topics too.  Often funny and entertaining.  Gale also writes a lot about Internet abuse (bullies, trolls and other sociopaths roaming the web).

Narcwriters: a listing of personal blogs about narcissism and blogs by psychologists with a focus on NPD. A good resource that lists many blogs that I have overlooked here.

The Narcissistic Continuum: This blog is great. It differs a bit in format from most other narcissism blogs because of the way its articles are ordered according to severity across the narcissistic spectrum, from “healthy narcissism” (narcissism is good in very small doses–just like heavy metals in the blood are necessary but become poison if excessive) all the way to psychopathy/sociopathy. CZBZ’s blog is also very easy on the eyes, in my opinion.

TNC’s owner also has a forum, Web of Narcissism (WoN), which is inactive but there’s still a lot of great information there.

Lenora Thompson — Psychcentral/narcissism: Lenora Thompson is a survivor of narcissistic abuse who writes a blog about narcissism on Psychcentral.  Check her out!

No! It is Not Your Fault!   A blog about narcissism and narcissistic abuse from an unlikely writer who himself has an NPD diagnosis but is unusual because of his self-awareness and desire to heal from his disorder (he is in treatment).   Ruud’s blog is definitely worth a follow.  Reading his story brought me to tears and I don’t cry easily.  He also gives good, practical advice to narcissistic abuse survivors.

Psychforums: Online support for anyone with a mental disorder and those trying to understand and help loved ones who have them. Active section on NPD and other personality disorders, and includes posts from people suffering from NPD as well as their victims.  I posted here for awhile, and the narcs and “nons” (as they are called) seem to co-exist here quite nicely.

Discussing Dissociation: Thoughts from a Trauma Therapist — Although this site focuses on those suffering from DID (dissociative identity disorder), there is much information and help here for anyone suffering from other mental disorders caused by abuse and trauma, such as C-PTSD. The symptoms of C-PTSD can closely mimic those of Borderline Personality Disorder and include dissociative features.

BPD Transformation — Blog written by a former sufferer of BPD who was cured. Ed’s posts are sometimes a bit scholarly but incredibly educational for those who like a bit of meat in their blog posts and dislike things being dumbed down the way they so often are on the web. This blogger probably knows more about the Cluster B disorders and their treatment methods than most mental health experts. But it’s not all graduate-level reading. Some of his articles are quite hilarious too.

Make BPD Stigma Free! — a blog devoted to getting BPD recognized as a form of complex PTSD and taking away the harmful “crazy” and “evil” stigmas a BPD diagnosis carries.

Healing From BPD is a good website for people suffering from BPD with information about DBT and other treatments.

Borderline Bella is a university student from England who has struggled with both having BPD and the stigma it often carries.   She is a new blogger here on WordPress and her writing is always honest and heartfelt.  Her blog is definitely worth a follow!

Ramen Noodle Nation: Humans Need Not Apply: This blog is not specifically for ACONs and survivors of narcissistic abuse, but because so many of us struggle with poverty (either after being taken for everything we own or just because we were trained to be “failures” by our parents and never given the tools to do well in life), I think this website can be helpful and validating to those of us struggling with poverty or even just living on a very tight budget. Definitely on the fiscally liberal side of the political fence, this blog calls out the malignant narcissism inherent in our culture of greed and low empathy for the poor.

There are also many other personal blogs of survivors of psychopathic abuse on WordPress. There’s way too many to list  here!   If you have a blog that focuses on narcissism or BPD that you don’t see listed here, let me know and I will add it to the list. Also, if you know of any other websites you would like to see listed, let me know and I will add them.

Books
Malignant Self-Love — You can purchase or download the free eBook by Sam Vaknin. Vaknin is a narcissist who wrote this extremely detailed book about NPD. You can read part of it free online (PDF format). It is also available for purchase. There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding Vaknin’s credentials but it can’t be denied he definitely knows a lot about this subject and gives advice on how to deal with people like himself. Vaknin is unusual–a narcissist who has enough insight to know his own motives and warn people accordingly. However, given that insight is a characteristic narcissists generally don’t have, is Vaknin really a narcissist at all?  Well…yes, he is.

Vaknin is also the subject of the documentary, I, Psychopath. He may or may not actually be a psychopath, but he does act pretty narcissistic in the film most of the time and bullies the filmmaker. Definitely worth watching even if you don’t bother with his book.

People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, by M. Scott Peck, MD: First published in 1983, this is probably the first book that accurately described the malignant narcissist. I wrote a review of this book in this post. While not perfect, this book holds a special place in my heart because it was the book that allowed me to first identify my mother as an “evil” narcissist. Ironically, my narc-enabler father sent it to me (even though he always defended my mother’s behavior).

Dr. George K. Simon (mentioned above) is the author of several self help books about “character disorders,” especially NPD. I have read his In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People, and Character Disturbance: The Phenomenon of our Age (longer and goes into much more detail about psychopathy and malignant forms of narcissism than In Sheep’s Clothing but both books are excellent.

Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of Psychopaths Among Us, by William Hare, MD. Extremely readable and informative book about psychopathic behavior, from everyday psychopaths who try to make our lives miserable through the worst serial killers and other criminals who show no remorse for their deeds. Hare describes the different types of psychopaths, and the possible origins of their psychopathy, whether it’s genetic or acquired later through their environment and learning. Many quotes from psychopaths are included, and some of these are chilling. Hare sums up by discussing what may be done to help the psychopath (not much!) and for those who must deal with them, advice for handling them better. I definitely recommend this book.

Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder by Marsha M. Linehan. This is a workbook of practical exercises to help people suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder better cope with their unstable emotions and learn how to regulate them better. It was a great help to me while I was hospitalized in 1996 for Major Depression and was at that time also diagnosed with BPD. I still have my copy and recently dusted it off and started using it again.

Martha Stout’s “The Sociopath Next Door,”  is more about antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) than narcissism, but as ASPD is also marked by an inability to feel empathy or have a conscience (and may be on the same spectrum as NPD), so it fits here.

I also recommend Dr. James F. Masterson’s “The Emerging Self,” a scholarly manual on treating narcissistic disorders of the self, complete with case histories from therapy sessions.  He has successfully treated people with both the Borderline and Narcissistic personality disorders. If you like something a little less scholarly, his excellent book Search for the Real Self: Unmasking the Personality Disorders of Our Age, about BPD and NPD, also contains case histories from his practice and tools for understanding these disorders and what causes them.

Look what I just got in the mail!

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My friend just sent me a copy of this book. I didn’t go to work today but I woke up still feeling moody and out of sorts and I sure could use a few laughs. To get in the right mood, I’m drinking a blueberry-pomegranate-banana smoothie and nibbling on some dark-chocolate covered espresso beans (both pictured above). Arranged on the 1970s-looking shag rug, along with its props, I think my new book feels right at home.

Maybe I should be listening to some White Stripes or Simon and Garfunkel to get the entire multi-sensory Hipster experience.

I sure wish I was a real Trustafarian, but at least I can pretend I’m one for today.

Here’s a closeup of the cover. I’m not sure if you can read the captions or not.

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