Blog

Toxic Relationships

There's a common phrase that goes “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”, but the sad truth is…..betrayal rarely - if at all - comes from an enemy.

It's the people who say they love you who are more capable of hurting and betraying you than any enemy you may have, in my experience. 

My first toxic relationship was with my mother! The very woman who gave birth to me spent almost my entire life tormenting me with verbal, physical and emotional abuse. The loving words i was raised with and heard so often it still sticks clearly in my head to this day. “You fat, ugly, good for nothing Smithy little bastard”. Can’t you just feel the love ooze from such a comment! I could never understand what I did so wrong to make her seemingly hate me so much simply for loving my dad when she no longer wanted him. In my school years, I  remember the day I got my report card home from school. I handed it to her in the kitchen, not too worried about it because yes i was a chatterbox at school and a bit of a daydreamer but i knew the report wouldn't be a bad one as such. She didn't even open it! She took it off me, ripped it in half and put it straight into the bin saying, “there's no point even reading that, no doubt it will be shit anyway”. Yet another kick in the gut to enforce her words that i wasn't good enough...at anything!

I played hockey for 4 years during high school and every Saturday we had a game on, most other players would have their parents there watching and supporting them but not once did i ever have anyone standing on the sideline cheering me on. Not even when we got through to tournaments. No encouragement, no support, nothing! When my periods came, now we are talking about the early 90's so sanitary towels were not the most comfortable of things to wear back then so I started using my mum's Tampax instead. When she realised, all hell broke loose! I was called a slut, a dirty little whore and a few other choice words to the point my step dad jumped in and told her she was being way too harsh and out of order. Not that she bothered about that. Now I really am just giving a rough outline on what I had to deal with where my mother was concerned and to add insult to injury….my sister seemed to enjoy watching me be kicked down which leads me to my second toxic relationship...my sister!

She was only 18 months older than me but we had anything but a healthy relationship and certainly not the usual sister relationship...ever. I always figured that it was my very existence that bothered her as being the 2nd born, I must have just knocked her nose out of joint simply by being born. As kids, she was always finding ways to upset me, get me into trouble and tell lies about me all the while laughing at how pathetic i was because i cried a lot...is it any wonder?? I also began thinking that she did it to score points with my mum because it seemed they both enjoyed belittling me. I had asthma as a child and she once put a cushion over my face and kept it there til I was gasping for breath and then just laughed at me when she knew I was OK.

When I started smoking, more influenced by the fact both my parents, grandparents and other relatives we were around also smoked and less to do with any peers. My sister had found out about it and couldn't wait to go tell my mum. I got home from hockey training one afternoon and as i got to the top of the stairs, mum grabbed me by the hair...as she did often...and dragged me up the hallway, kicking and beating into me all the while my sister was stood at her bedroom door grinning and smirking at me like she had won a victory. The torment was ongoing and it became clear the older I got that I had actually built a resilience against them and rather than break down to the pathetic little piece of crap they wanted me to be, I slowly started detaching myself from them. I started spending more time with my friends and less time at home. I remember my mum once said she didn't know where I got my confidence from which I always found entertaining as she had tried her hardest to beat it out of me.

It was not long after my 17th birthday she kicked me out after being brought home by the police late at night...drunk! I'm more inclined to believe that was the night she knew she wouldn't get away with abusing me as easily any more as it was probably the first time I stood up to her. I wasn't aggressive or abusive towards her, but I did tell her if she was going to keep treating me like a 2 year old I'd keep acting like one. I walked out the house at that point and she packed my stuff and that was it.  My drunk bravery must have scared her and from that point on….i was no longer useful to her or welcome in her house. I was no longer an easy target now that I had stood up to her. She told my siblings i had been off my face on drugs and if she caught them talking to me that they would be out the door too.  I stood behind her in the queue in a shop one day, she looked me up and down like I was something she just stepped in then turned her back like she didn't even know who i was.

So, taking all this into account. Guess who then went on to have toxic relationships as an adult until i changed my thinking and realised my worth. It took me until i turned 40 to really believe in myself but i got there. When toxicity is all you have been familiar with, it's inevitable that you will find yourself in unhealthy relationships or false friendships because it has been drummed into your subconscious that it's all you are worthy of and therefore you believe that you have to do what is expected from others just to keep them happy. If your own mother says you are a worthless piece of shit and deserve to be treated as such it must be right. Right??

WRONG!! What I grew to understand was that I was never deserving of that treatment, not from anyone. The reality is….parents are only the previous generation of kids who grew up to have their own kids, many of whom are still holding onto unresolved issues from their own childhood making it very common that they would then inflict similar pain onto their own children. They don't automatically gain a right as a parent to belittle or manipulate a child because they have unresolved issues of their own and they are in fact the ones who have shame to bear, not us. It is in realising this, we can start healing from our past and make sure history doesn't repeat itself with our own kids. Parents are protectors after all.

It is only once we realise our worth, set our boundaries and start the journey of healing that we no longer tolerate the things we once used to. No longer do we feel the need to find validation from the outside world to feel good. Realising that we have given ourselves too freely to people who could see our “neediness” and took full advantage of us in our vulnerable times. Then we begin to understand that where we have come from does not define where we are going. 

The biggest challenge in this part of healing is the solitude we face. Breaking away from the familiar faces and situations we become so used to, it is almost like moving to a whole new country and starting again on foreign soil. After spending many years looking for comfort and short term pleasures in the wrong people/partners/friends, being on our own is a very daunting thought. However, it is such a beautiful transition we face in that time. Learning to love and understand ourselves, knowing who we actually are, realising we are already everything we wish we could be, it's just hidden under layers of negative self talk and years of low self esteem. Break through that and you uncover a whole new person who has been patiently waiting for their time to shine. It is in each and every one of us to find in our own time and in a way that works best for yourself….but you will...because you want to and where there's a will, there is always a way! 

Heal in such a way that the toxic relationships and people you once attracted, no longer take interest in you because your boundaries become clear and non negotiable. Some people may try to come back into your life but that's just so they can pull you back down again as they want you to be available for their needs rather than them acknowledging your own.  Of course, they then call you crazy when you say no thanks but that's a reflection of who they are. Growth can be intimidating to those who aren't ready to face or recognise their own shortcomings. To watch someone overcome their trauma and go on to live a happy life should be something the people around them applaud. Rest assured, if they mock, challenge or undermine your efforts, they are already seeing your potential and it scares them. Never set yourself on fire just to keep others warm. 

We don't come through this thinking we are better than anyone, We just realise our worth and that we are capable of more than what we could achieve while being in certain companies or environments. I simply outgrew my old life and am fully focused on what lies ahead rather than what i left behind.

 

 

 


Pleasure in Pain

You may or may not be familiar with Sigmund Freud' pleasure/pain principle which suggests that while seeking pleasure, people will also seek to avoid pain and for the most part that is true.  People generally go day to day working on their own self improvement, seeking pleasure from their efforts while trying not to hurt others in their process. However, things become somewhat messed up in this principle when dealing with cases of narcissism as these abusers actually get pleasure out of causing other people pain. What we would do well to understand is that the problem is never the person(s) on the receiving end of the abuse, in fact, quite the opposite. The abuser themselves are the ones who are filled with such a pain that blinds them to the fact they too have flaws and toxic traits, to the point where they feel they need to be belittling others just to feel good about themselves.

Through my own experience with my mother, i had to cause others pain to please her. For a child, this is a very emotionally and mentally damaging place to be. Every child wants to feel their mothers love and will do whatever is necessary to get that but for a mother to purposely put her child in a position of conflict for her own self serving reasons, in my opinion, she is not fit to be a parent.

After the breakdown of her and my dads marriage (i say breakdown...she had an affair and soon moved in with the guy and took us kids with her), we were soon being resettled into a whole new family setting. I as only 3-4 at the time and it wasn't the fact everything was suddenly changing that i remember troubling me, it was being told he wasn't my dad any more, that her new boyfriend was my dad and we were to call him that from then on. I remember that like it was yesterday, being sat on the stairs waiting for my dad to come get us for the day and she starts spitting out that crap. Of course i couldn't bring myself to call my dad by his first name as she had told us to, but when we were at home with her i had to call her boyfriend dad too. And this is where it all started.

Suddenly, unbeknown to me at the time of course, i became nothing more than a pawn in her twisted games to score points and hurt my dad. For a woman who claimed to be so happy in her new found love, why was she so bitter about my dad moving on? He also moved on after losing his custody battle for us and i remember all too well how she would call his girlfriend(s) all the nasty names you could think of. She would tell us to try and steal his mail when we were at their house. She would tell us that he didn't care about us and that his girlfriend was more important to him than we were and was generally just relentless in her attacks towards him. It is an absolute gut wrench to love both your parents but to have one constantly, maliciously, relentlessly attack the other, is just cruel to inflict on a child.

Ironically enough, to the outside world, she was always so well presented. Make up and hair always perfect and a friendly smile and pleasant demeanour for those who she spoke to but what a very different story behind closed doors and when no one else was around. This is why i trust very few people and am probably more suspicious of the seemingly "perfect" people than i am of the ones who are open and honest with themselves about who they are...flaws and all. I am not intimidated at all by what others have, what position they hold in society or how popular they are in their social crowds. Those are all just more factors to enable them to be sly coercive manipulators because they have more to hide behind and have portrayed themselves to be such lovely people, others become blind to the hidden agendas. We hear all too often the phrase, "i would never have thought they could do something like that", or words to that affect, when true colours are exposed.

I hadn't long started high school when the pressure of home life became too much and i finally snapped with a girl in my year who had started a rumour about my stepdad. I beat her up in the gym hall and when my mum found out, i didn't get into trouble...she actually praised me for it and that started a ball rolling i soon lost control of. She seemed to want to encourage me to be that person and for the love of my mother...its what i felt i had to do just to make her like me. I soon had an ego and attitude that made people very wary of me but i was becoming useful for "friends"..(i'll use that term loosely). I was becoming the defender so to speak.Id be the one who would fight battles for others, hurting others just to please the rest and as much as it seemed like i was part of the crowd, i really wasn't. I never felt like i fitted in anywhere so just went along with what was expected of me just to please others and stay part of the group.

I always knew inside as i got older that i didn't want to be that person, that wasn't who i was and i certainly didn't get any pleasure out of causing others pain. In fact, the only person i was really hurting was myself. I was falling deeper into a character that just wasn't me but without any real parental guidance or support...anger just became my defence. It was all i knew in protecting myself.

My life spiralled into a vicious circle of drugs, parties and criminal charges until the day came i was back in court...again, but facing a prison sentence for a serious assault. I was told by the judge that if i was to appear in his court room again he would have no choice but to impose a custodial sentence and it was then i knew i had to leave my home town. If i stayed there i was going to end up dead or in jail.

Years passed and my potential was being realised by various people who i worked along side. I trained up to pub management level with the company i started working for in the city. I had so much appraisal for who i was and what i was capable of on a professional level and it as music to my ears! I was being appreciated and recognised for who i really was under all the bravado but that trait of aggression and anger still firmly had a hold and it was my automatic default mode when things took a nose dive to go on the attack.

Things finally came crashing down after a failed marriage to a violent alcoholic, (a guy so quiet and placid out in social gatherings but a whole different ball game behind closed doors). I had tried to get back in touch with my dad after not speaking for almost 2 years but he never returned any my calls or messages so to me at the time, i just felt more alone than i ever had and so turned to the only thing i knew would give me a quick fix...drugs! I completely screwed up my job, hurt the people who had helped me and fell straight back into the cycle of destruction i knew all too well.

By this point, i was at the doctors begging them to just cut my mother out of me. I knew i had her traits, i hated myself for having her temperament and mannerisms and i felt a knife in my heart anytime someone said i was like her. I hated her, i hated what she had made me into and i hated myself for not being able to control it..and then i had my son! What an absolute game changer that was.

My son saved my life. It took a full on emotional breakdown and my mother to die for me to finally find my peace and start healing from my past properly but my son made me realise just how unlike my mother i actually was. I realised from there i had been conditioned and programmed to satisfy her twisted mind. As he got older, id look at him and wonder how any mother could hurt their kids the way mine did. I just couldn't comprehend how anyone could take pleasure out of causing their child so much pain with mental, emotional and physical abuse, and for what? Because i loved my dad! Parents who use their kids to score points against the other parent are in my opinion..absolute scum of the earth no matter how well presented in society they may be.

I'm far from being a perfect parent, we all are! But what i have made sure of is that my son has a great relationship with his dad no matter what happened between us. We co-parent so well and i respect his decisions and judgement when it comes to discipline as we are teaching him that despite us being separated, he needs to respect the different rules in the separate houses....and it works perfectly as he knows he cant play us off against each other and neither one of us would want to encourage that. I certainly would never want him to feel the pain i endured in my mothers games of twisting us against my dad. I am a strict parent, quite old school to be honest and believe that manners, morals and respect are fundamental in raising children. Its easier to build a strong child than repair a broken adult..i'm living proof of that! Any time i end up loosing my shit with him, once the situation has calmed down i will sit down and talk to him about why i was upset with him. I have no problem in admitting if i have been unnecessarily snappy and i will apologise to him when i need to. The earlier we can teach our kids its OK to be upset or feeling crap, but its never OK to hurt other people as a result of that, the earlier they can understand their own feelings and have a better understanding of how to deal with things better as they grow up. I want him to be able to take responsibility and be accountable for his actions. He has watched me do the same. Life will be so much easier and he can deal with situations far quicker if he learns early to put his hands up to his mistakes. As i told him, he's human, its OK to make mistakes as long as he is learning from them and not trying to always blame other people. We talk a lot in our house. If there's an issue, we sit down and talk it through until we reach a solution or understanding of where each other is coming from.

Its been almost 2 and a half years since my mum died and the change i have felt within myself in that time has been something else entirely. We don't realise the impact someone has on us until they are no longer holding the strings over us. Especially our own mother!  It feels like all the parts of me that i hated slowly dissolved, my peace became my priority and i just don't have a fight left in me anymore. Don't get me wrong, i'm still well aware i have triggers and am very much a strong minded woman but even that is becoming easier to manage and i work daily on myself to be better than i was. I don't even try to fit in anywhere anymore as I understand that most people only see things from their own perspective, i'm too honest and truthful about who i am and that intimidates anyone who puts on a false face. Not everyone wants to see you do well, there are those who get pleasure out of seeing others in pain and finally... you can't argue with fucking stupid!....these ones have a problem for every solution no matter how reasonable you try to be. But on the plus side, when you stop trying to please everyone and concentrate on yourself, all the right things and people gravitate towards you. This is where i am in life now, happy, stable, content and head over heels in love.

Sending love and healing to all who need it..........

 

 

 

 


Survivors Guide to Life

 

As we go through life, some of us are fortunate enough to not have too many difficulties to face and others experience way more in half a lifetime than some could even comprehend. 

In my own experience and after being signposted to many different counsellors, support workers etc, i soon realised the difference between speaking to a professional who was college or university educated and those who were talking from real life experience and the main difference between these two is the genuine empathy and understanding you feel from those who actually know what you are going through. Having that connection from the start with any support service is vital in the process of healing and I personally found that I could relax and be more open with someone who has lived experience in the harsh real world. 

It is for that reason that i would now like to share my own experiences and the lessons i learned…...the hard way of course, to encourage and teach others that any situation can be turned around. It all comes down to your own mindset and learning to be accountable and responsible for your own actions and change your thought patterns and behaviours that have been holding you back from greater things possible. 

As a lived experience practitioner, i now want to help other survivors of trauma recognise, accept and heal emotionally from their own abusive relationships as this is our aim within A Positive Start. Now i don't claim to know how it all works but i do know a thousand ways that dont! I understand why we make the decisions and choices we do. I understand why we ignore the red flags that wave frantically in front of us, I understand why we try too hard to please others, I understand how our gut instinct is our greatest navigator and most of all, i understand the importance of letting love into our lives despite the pain we have endured. 

They say love hurts but in my experience, that's just not true. Love doesn't hurt, it's the lies, betrayals, torment, abuse and uncertainty that hurts and when you have experienced this kind of ‘love’ from being a small child, this is what leads us into unhealthy and toxic relationships in adult life. If raised by the hand of a narcissist for example, like i was, it's commonly inevitable that you will also attract narcissistic people and partners into your life until you learn to change the learned behaviours you yourself have developed while growing up in survival mode. It's so important to acknowledge and change these often destructive behaviours as early as possible because while you are fighting angrily against the world, someone is sitting in the shadows wishing you could see in yourself what they see behind all the bravado and while all that anger, resentment and bitterness is consuming you, it is also pushing you away from the very people who could help you heal. That's exactly what I did and as a result, spent my entire adult life up to a point,  pining for the very people I pushed away through my own ignorance and selfishness.

Love itself is beautiful. That's what gives us the feeling of belonging and being appreciated - that makes us stronger and pushes us to be better people and fulfill our true potential. However, the most important love we must embrace, is to love ourselves first. Not the arrogant, vain, self absorbed kind of love for yourself but the realisation of our own self worth. Knowing our capabilities and having the confidence within yourself to the point where negative projection from others just doesn’t make you react the way it once did. Where there was once anger towards insult there is now understanding that what they are projecting onto you is a reflection of the pain and insecurities they must be carrying inside themselves.  Now this isn't something that can change overnight, it's a long and emotional process and it takes a level of honesty with yourself that many just cant or wont face because being honest with yourself requires you to take responsibility and hold yourself accountable to the fact that you too have made mistakes and have at some point, likely been the toxic person in someone else's life. 

Just because you have been, does not at all mean you always will be. If you can acknowledge you have had toxic traits you are already half way to healing.  For the most part its circumstantial and very much depends on where you are on an emotional level that defines how your relationships play out. People can and do change when they start looking deep within themselves to really understand who they are and why they do what they do. Once we have figured this out, the process of healing starts and a whole new person can rise when all the hurt, anger and bitterness has been faced and dealt with properly. I highly recommend talking therapies! You just need to get that weight out of your body. I say out your body because that's exactly where it's carried. In a quote from Marilyn Van Derbur, an author and motivational speaker inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 1996, she says “all emotions, even those that are suppressed, have physical effects. Unexpressed emotions tend to stay in the body like small ticking time bombs - they are illnesses in incubation”. 

I've often said as I have gone through my own healing process, and still am as it is something we are ever working on….before you diagnose yourself with mental health problems, make sure you're not just surrounded by the wrong people. 

 

I would like to share my own experiences as examples in my coming blogs and looking at and how my reactions, emotions and responses affected my life, what I learned in the process and offer guidance and advice on how NOT to be a victim but a survivor despite what you have been through. 

 


13.I like to ponder

I spend a lot of time pondering! I'd have to say its one of my favourite pastimes.

Pondering only becomes an issue, when I attempt to engage others in it. Whether that's because they disagree with my view point, they believe they know better (which is not to suggest they don't),  or as seems to be the case more often than not, because they genuinely don't care one iota, and don't want to have to think about it -  it's all fair enough.  I regularly sense the horror creeping into the ether, and witness my loved ones ducking for cover whenever I utter those dreaded words "Can I ask a question"?

To be fair to my loved ones,  I do tend to ask the 'can I ask you a question, question, quite a lot.  I believe I've always been the same. I'm told growing up, I was a terrible nuisance, always asking silly questions and driving people nuts. It's kid like to question, as adults we should encourage it, its how our children learn and grow. My continued curiosity seldom wins me favour, but it has certainly caused me a few issues in my time. It's considered a problem to some, especially those who consider questioning to be a personal challenge, either to them or to their authority, which is not necessarily always the intention. When I was younger and less confident, I used to promise myself that I'd stop asking questions, especially when my questioning was met with anger, annoyance, disapproval or a look of disappointment, and there was a period in my life when I did exactly that, I stopped questioning.  There are no benefits to not questioning in my experience.

In recent years I've been able to accept this is part of who I am and acknowledge, I'm not going to be to everyone's liking and that is okay. I'm curious, I believe the world needs curious people to keep asking questions whether others like it or not. My blog provides an opportunity to ponder questions that most people either don't care about, don't want to have to think about or don't want to engage with.  If you can relate to this -  maybe you should consider getting yourself a blog!

Today, like most days, I've been pondering;

If amongst all the excitement of inventing the first engines and cars back in the late 1880s & 90s, did Henry Ford or Karl Benz give any consideration to the human cost or damage that might occur in the event of car's crashing at speed, people being run over or the impact on the environment due to increasing pollution? I wonder if there was someone sat in a board meeting - considered to be 'The negative one , or the annoying one always questioning; asking these kind of questions!

I don't know the answer, I merely ponder! although someone far more clued up on the history of these men may know the answer?  My guess is, possibly not.

Given the first car is reported to have reached a top speed of just 10 MPH (16 km/h) and cars on the road were but a few, I imagine the considerations at the time will have been far less.  No one can be expected to see into the future or know the unknown.  Still, given human natures drive and ambition to push boundaries, realise the impossible, progress and evolve, exactly as Ford and Benz had themselves achieved,  I wonder if either of them ever woke up with a start at 2am,  sweating and panicking about the potential dangers that may come with evolution. I wonder if the inventors and creators of today ever do the same?

It took less than 30 years for the car to reach 100 mph - no coincidence then that the first Motor Car Act was introduced in the UK in 1903. There were those who opposed the Act, calling for No restrictions on speed limits with parliamentary debates described as 'bitter' at the time. Can you imagine if we had no speed limit restrictions on todays roads!.  It only took a further 100 years (give or take a few), for cars to reach top speeds in excess of 315 mph, the Road Traffic Act evolving in an attempt to keep up with the advancing technology.

Such Acts in Law don't actually stop all people from speeding, having or causing accidents of-course. I imagine Roger Wallace who strongly opposed speed limits back in the day, continued putting his pedal to the metal, revving the guts out of his electric car as he sped along country lanes at some 14 mph, hoping never to bump into an Officer of the Law.  We legislate for damage limitation, attempting to protect and preserve life, ensuring safety, but the fact remains we can never control everyone's behaviour and nor will we ever be able to. We can create rules, regulations, policies, laws, spending time and money trying to enforce them, but there will always be people who disagree, and it doesn't always mean those people are in the wrong.  There will always be people who disagree and break rules, and people who don't necessarily disagree,  but who break the rules anyway, maybe because they think the rules don't apply to them. Even some people who make the rules, break the rules, possibly because in their minds, they are above the law - as true today as it has always been! Why? because it's human nature to question and challenge. Not all rules or laws protect all people. Some rules put some people at a serious disadvantage and/or are an infringement of their human rights - it depends on the individual, it depends on the rules being enforced, and it depends on who is imposing the rules and why.

When we come to understand that not everyone thinks the same way as we do, not everyone experiences life in the same way we experience it - then the world starts to make much more sense.

I digress.

There are many advantages of being able to drive, and of owning a car, but at what point do the disadvantages outweigh the advantages? Again, this will be different for everyone!

If you can drive and have access to a car, your chances of Employment increase - that's a real positive.  You can travel for work and could gain employment driving; deliveries, buses, field sales, lots of possibilities.

Independence - if you have a vehicle, you can take yourself off whenever you want to, for long or short journeys, running to your own schedule, travelling far and wide. (Pre-Covid & Brexit I should probably add).

Emergencies - Having access to a vehicle in the case of an emergency is a huge advantage, when someone's sick, injured or pregnant and needs to get to a hospital or see a medic. Just a few of the benefits of driving and owning a vehicle.

The disadvantages are equally plentiful. Vehicles can be expensive, to buy and maintain, unaffordable for some.

Vehicles are said to be one of the major causes of global warming, emitting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and causing worldwide temperatures to rise and creating major concerns for the future of our planet.

There are an estimated 1.4 billion vehicles currently driving around our planet, which is expected to increase to 2.8 billion by 2036 according to recent reports. With an increase in vehicles, it stands to reason there's also increased risk. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), road traffic injuries caused an estimated 1.35 million deaths worldwide in 2016. If these figures are correct, that means somewhere in the world in 2016 alone, one person was killed in a road traffic accident every 25 seconds. Shit, no one mentioned that - should we all stop driving our cars then?

I very much doubt Ford or Benz could have even imagined a human being would be capable of intentionally driving a car into a crowd of people with the purpose of causing harm - but it happens.

Am I suggesting we stop creating, inventing, progressing, evolving just incase bad things happen? Absolutely not! Quite the opposite of that. We should not stop living because of the fear of dying! We cannot stop evolving, even if we wanted to, we will never stop bad things from happening, we can only hope to limit them, and we can only limit them, if we are prepared to consider they exist in the first place, and to do that, we must be willing to take a balanced view.

When we convince ourselves that we only need to consider one side of any situation, and imagine that side is the positive side, the correct view and that's all that matters, thus concluding anyone who looks beyond the positive must be negative, labelling them as a negative person,  'full of doom and gloom'  a party pooper or conspiracy theorist, because they take a different view to us, we are doing ourselves a huge injustice by deliberately avoiding information that could potentially alert us to problems that at some point, we will need to consider. I'm not suggesting we focus on the 'negatives', or believe everything we are told, I am suggesting we acknowledge the existence of the alternative because we live in a duality, and duality requires balance.

By duality I mean,  Black/White, Hot/Cold, Rich/Poor, Good/Bad, Positive/Negative Right/Wrong. Up/Down, In/Out, Near/Far- you get the idea, everything has its opposite. You only know what it feels to be happy, if you know how it feels to be sad. You know what is right, because you know what is wrong. If there is duality, there has to be double-use capability (something used for good can also be used for bad), and so theres a need for balance - recognising both sides.  Yin and Yang.

We all want to focus and experience positives in our lives, of course we do,  but If we are only prepared to see one side of something, then we run the risk of inadvertently overlooking the opposite side and that will inevitably cause problems. If we only consider the positive, we run the risk of being vulnerable to the negative, because we are completely ignorant to it's existence.

I cannot being to tell you how often people have said to me;  "'Manipulative Behaviours, why would you want to educate people on something so negative when it probably won't even happen to them!" 

I am not suggesting negative behaviours will happen so therefore you should take my course, I am saying negative behaviours exist because positive behaviours exist, because all things have an opposite and a double-use capability. We can only know how to prevent the negatives, if we are aware of them and we can only be aware of them, if we are prepared to listen to alternative viewpoints. We should never dismiss other peoples viewpoints, or worse still, aim to prevent others from listening to alternative viewpoints.

If we choose to completely overlook one side, to block it out entirely, because we consider it to be something negative - that won't stop it from existing - it will still exist, it just means we are ignoring it, burying our heads. It means we are likely to miss the signs that could alert us to a problem, should the problem ever present itself. Prevention being better than cure.  We can't know what the signs are if we are not prepared to consider them, simply because we've labelled them as being negative and therefore not worthy of consideration.   If we scoff, dismiss and pigeon-hole the people who try to inform us, labelling them as 'negative people', stupid, bad. wrong - then all we have left with is hope. We have to hope we never find ourselves faced with that particular negative situation, and if we are, then we have to hope again, that we get away with it lightly.

Or we could educate ourselves with as much information as possible on any subject that impacts peoples lives.  Be prepared to listen and discuss alternative views, even if we don't agree with them. All information available, allowing us to reach a balanced view.

Consider this;

Imagine, You have been summoned to court as part of the jury in a serious case.

Having been sworn in under oath you are advised by the Judge to listen and consider, all of the evidence presented, before reaching a final decision; Innocent or Guilty!

Lives and Justice hang in the balance.

The prosecution steps up, presenting a compelling case as to why they believe the individual is guilty and why you should find in the prosecutions favor.

The defense are told by the Judge, that they will not be permitted to present their case and you are asked to make a decision based on the information that has been presented to you so far.

You can immediately see the problem here right?  How can anyone possibly make an informed decision,  if the only evidence available suggests the accused is guilty - You can't possibly come to a fair conclusion. The opposite is also true, If only the defense presented. There always has to be Balance.  If there's no balance, then there's no justice, at best, there can only be guess work. Yet so often we are choosing what we will and will not listen to. Increasingly, others who do not even know us, but assume to know what is best for us, are deciding the information that we should and should not have access to - and we should always be ready to question that, because that is an infringement of our human rights, and that cannot go by unchallenged.

We have to step back, give ourselves chance to clear our minds and think for ourselves and we have to show respect for the things we do not know.

"The important thing is to never stop questioning - Curiosity has its own reason for existing" Albert Einstein


12. Are White Lies, Just Lies made to Fit?

 

True story! About 25 years ago, a close friend was really excited to tell me all about the new love interest in their life. The friend had not been very lucky in love up to this point, and so it was wonderful to see her so radiant and happy.

Keen to learn more, I asked how they'd met and she was eager to tell the tale.

She explained how she had recently moved into the flat next door to this guy and for a few weeks they had simply exchanged pleasantries. Secretly, She liked the look of him, she found him quite attractive, but she wasn't sure whether he was in a relationship or not, so smiles and hello's was all it was.

Then one evening, unexpectedly he knocked on her door and asked the curious question "Can I borrow your leg?" 

She admits to being thrown by the strange request, but he smiled and went on to explain. He wasn't sure if the lights on his car were working properly, or if indeed at all and so he was asking my friend if she would sit in his car and press the pedals while he walked around and checked all the lights to check if they were working . She didn't drive, which he said wouldn't matter, and so, "Yes, Of-course!" She was keen to help. She sat in the car pressing pedals and flipping switches on and off as directed,  while the new love interest walked around the car.
Every so often he would open the door, checking various fuses, and chatting to my friend.
He asked if she was married, what did she do for a living, the usual, and my friend was happy to tell.  After about half an hour of this he thanked her for her help, and asked if he could maybe take her out for a meal at the weekend by way of a thank you, to which my friend, who thought this guy was hot, eagerly accepted.

On the evening of their date, he drove them to a fancy restaurant, where they enjoyed a delicious meal, a few drinks and completely hit it off.  According to my friend he was perfect, an absolute gent and a real romantic, everything she had been hoping for.

During the evening while they were chatting, the guy confessed that he had removed the fuses in the car to give him an excuse to knock on her door and ask for her help, it was his way of creating an opportunity to speak to her. My friend saw nothing wrong in his confession, describing it as ' just a little white lie', and describing it as 'a romantic thing to do'.

When I asked what was wrong with just asking her out directly, rather than creating this pretend situation, my friend dismissed it out of hand - I am sure many people might do the same. "It means nothing" or "he's shy"! & "He was being romantic"!

Not shy enough to worry about knocking on her door and wasting her time doing something that didn't need doing, but too shy to ask a question what he eventually asked her anyway! Not romantic enough to be entirely honest in his approach!

My friend was surprised and hurt when she eventually realized, unfortunately not before they were married, that her husband told lies. Lots of lies. He was deceitful and underhand telling lies for no apparent reason, causing doubt and mistrust in their relationship, which made my friend nervous, anxious and incredibly miserable. The marriage ended in divorce.

What she had considered to be 'a little white lie' and 'a romantic thing to do', in reality - A lie and a deceitful thing to do.

She'd missed it. She was so keen not to see anything negative because negative didn't fit with her plans. Even when it was highlighted, she dismissed the negative as being nothing important,  and then repackaged as being something positive 'a romantic thing to do'.

When we are prepared to make excuses for behaviours, re-writing and applying meanings that better fit the narrative, we probably shouldn't be surprise later down the line when those same behaviours cause us pain.


My Fear of being Heard

Talking out loud

Like many people I know, I have struggled with speaking in public for as long as I can remember. My reluctance to engage not only restricted to public speaking, but public appearances in general, photographs, interviews, anything that requires the promotion of self has been mentally filed under 'best avoided'. If avoidance wasn’t an option, reluctance showed up instead.

Its fair to say the majority of people I meet, don't enjoy speaking in public either. I come from a long line of speech-avoiders, taking comfort in knowing that I am not alone in my plight, I'm 'normal' - or at least 'the same as', which is closer to the mark. I’d love to enjoy it rather than experiencing dread and fear. I've even heard celebrities whose job it is to perform, say that they feel nervous and anxious before a performance, making it acceptable in my mind that not enjoying a thing doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't do it. Worth noting, there is a difference between feeling nervous or anxious, to experiencing fear and dread.

I have long since admired the confident, capable speaker who appear to thoroughly enjoy their skill, it’s no coincidence that they also excel at it. I have encountered a number of excellent enjoyers in my time. Their confidence flows, filling the room with positive energy, mesmerizing the audience who are left hanging on their every word, uplifted, enthused and inspired -and I've often wished I could perform 'just like them'.

With the onset of Covid and the rise of the video call, many of us are likely to have experienced the polar opposite of inspiring talks.  Death by power-point, a less than enjoyable presentation. I am guilty of inflicting a few of these in my time, but then everyone has to start somewhere.  Some of us will have encountered the odd uncomfortable wedding speech or worse still, the seemingly endless, mind-numbing tutorial delivered by someone who clearly wishes they were somewhere else instead. I often fell asleep in history lessons at school, thanks to the hypnotic low level drone of the teacher whose delivery had the same effect on the class as a tsetse fly armed with a tranquilizer gun. No one wants their performance to be recalled brutally years later in a former students blog post. No one wants to be a reluctant or poor public speaker, but in reality, many of us are.

Avoidance

I spent a number of years taking the most frequently travelled route; avoidance, circumnavigating any situation if there was mere a hint of having to stand up and address an audience. Even as a manager, being part of a team of managers meant I found no issue dodging the dreaded limelight that appealed to a number of my more gregarious colleagues, I was comfortable on the periphery.

Eventually, I was forced to confront my fear of public speaking following a change of career.  Thrust on the spot at a conference, I had to accept that avoidance was no longer an option, as my new role required I step up. My first day as a Project Manager - the only manager there,  the super confident CEO,  who no doubt figured my recruiter would have qualified that the title 'Manager, meant it was safe to assume I was reasonably adept at talking out loud. Mid conference, she unexpectedly announced my recent appointment to an audience of around 500 members, swiftly followed by the heart-stopping sentence " Would you like to come on up to the stage to introduce yourself, and tell everyone about the work you'll be doing". What? The voice in my head was screaming in panic "F*&% OFF -  NO, I absolutely would NOT like to come to the stage" (is the clean version of what popped into my head); the familiar sense of dread along with the flush of embarrassment completely consumed me.
"Quickly", she summoned gesturing with her hand for me to join her on the stage. In the meantime, the entire audience turned their heads in one synchronized movement and were now all staring directly at me. Stunned?  like a rabbit caught in headlights. I immediately resented my summoner, blaming her for making me feel so bad. A quick mental scan of my options, I realized my first choice, of dropping down dead on the spot wasn't forthcoming, leaving me nowhere to go but the stage. I considered a Gillian McKeith style floor-flop, but my brain and body were no longer communicating, which meant there was only one thing left to do.

I reluctantly, dragged my body onto the stage with all the enthusiasm of a Victorian convict heading to a public hanging. My heart pumping, palms sweaty and my mind completely blank - shell shocked and feeling awkward. I smirked at the sea of expectant faces with an expression that no doubt told them how delighted I was to be there. My mouth as dry as a stick, I attempted to say something coherent, I can't honestly say whether I achieved it or not, as I  only remember the things I wished I hadn't said. I squirmed my way through it, loathing every single second, impressing no one in the process. For days afterwards, I analyzed my performance, re-playing it in my head. My inner critic, scathing as always 'What did you look like, why did you say that, What on earth were you thinking'. I realized something had to change and that something had to be me. There was no way I could regularly handle the sense of shame and disappointment that consumed me following that performance, I could either quit or move forward. It was touch and go for a while, but moving forward was eventually the decision I made.

I enrolled in a few classes, read some self-help books, studied inspirational speakers. I was determined to improve myself to at least feel a little bit better about having to talk out loud.

Containing the Fear

I've persevered over the years, I have a couple of framed certificates on my office wall suggesting my perseverance paid off. I’ve chaired hundreds of meetings, delivered loads of presentations and workshops both big and small, I've accepted invitations to the odd podcast and the occasional interview - passing myself off as a fairly confident and capable speaker. A vast improvement - outwardly at least. In as much as I learned how to 'blag' my way through. It’s true what they say, you can fake it til you make it - however the feeling inside never changed. I still dreaded it with a passion, and avoided where I could.  I still beat myself up in the aftermath, over analyzing my performance, scolding myself with internal head-talk, "You shouldn't have said that, and You should have said this", never ever happy or comfortable with who I was. I convinced myself it was normal, aligning myself with others who said they felt the same. Logging as "it’s just one of those things we have to do, we hate it,  but we still have to do it."  Which joyful soul came up with that golden nugget of wisdom?

Its something we tend to do as humans, rather than addressing how we feel, or endeavoring to understand why we feel it, we swallow down the emotion, ignore it and just get on with it instead. Stiff upper lip and all that - no wonder we so often struggle. Hoping we'll get used to the feelings of dread and fear that are churning up our insides, by pretending that they're not! That doesn't even sound like a very good plan, but we run with it regardless. Hoping that the dread and fear that we are experiencing on the inside will some how miraculously transform itself into something else to deliver a joyful, inspiring outcome, it doesn't make any sense. We know it, we can reason that ‘what goes in, is what comes out! we just struggle to apply it is all. We conclude that lots of people feel just as bad as we do so that’s okay, then if I'm not alone, it means I'm normal, regardless of how bad I feel. In this day and age of live feeds and social media marketing, the pressure to perform, and perform well has increased dramatically. We convince ourselves, never mind if it makes me feel lousy, everyone experiences the same thing and so that makes it perfectly acceptable. The problem with that is - We are supposed to FEEL good!

Facing the Fear

As I began focusing my attention on my purpose, stating my desires and intentions for the future, invitations for promotion through connections who share my passions, started to increase. Exactly what I was working towards and hoping for. Yet, instead of feeling the joyful excitement and enthusiasm at the opportunity to promote the very thing I wanted the most, I was feeling the worst kind of dread and fear, more than I'd ever felt before. I instinctively knew something wasn't right, It needed my attention, since I understand the importance of always being true to myself.

If I wanted to realize my ambition, I had to address the fear, rather than continuing with what I was doing, which was masking the feelings with a persona I had created to carry me through. Experience has taught me that acting positive on the outside, whilst feeling negative on the inside can never really work.

Its about integrity, truth , honestly and being authentic., everything has to match up. Expressing on the outside what is being experienced on the inside is integrity - and for me, at this stage in my life, nothing less will do.

Understanding the Fear

My first encounter of public speaking was at the age of 9 at primary school. I went to a small, RC primary school and was taught by Sister Winifred who clearly didn't like children very much, she especially didn't like quiet, timid kids like me, I was petrified of her and her red stabby pen. Mass was held every day at lunch time, Sister gave me the task of standing at the alter and reading a prayer out in Church. I was so stressed leading up to it, my insides twisting and turning like a corkscrew rollercoaster,  I fainted before I could finish the first sentence. The school Christmas concert aged 10. I had been learning to play the recorder, and was due to perform in front of all the parents, including my own Mum and Dad. As my classmates prepared to go up on stage, I instead was hugging a toilet, missing the entire performance. At the age of 12, at secondary school,  a carbon copy of my first attempt. Given the task of reading in the school assembly, again, I passed out before I'd finished and had to be carried off the stage. After that, I fainted every single time I went into the assembly hall. It became such a problem that on assembly days, my form tutor Mr. Bond,  would send me directly to the sick bay rather than the assembly hall - essentially cutting himself out as the middle man, fed-up of trying to catch me before I collapsed and hit the ground.

As a teenager I joined the local colliery brass band, playing second cornet. My first remembrance Sunday parade, and much to the disappointment of my parents, proudly watching the parade, I was missing in action.  At the age of 23 my Grandad died, heartbreak and grief ensued. It is usual for me to express my emotions through rhyme, so I’d written a poem, a heartfelt, personal tribute that I intended to read out at his funeral. Even though I was determined to read it, when the time arrived I couldn't. I chickened out at the last minute, passing it to my cousin to read on my behalf. I felt every inch a coward but learned the art of easy avoidance.

Like many people of my generation, who were brought up to believe children should be seen and not heard, a crazy notion passed down through the generations by some grumpy old sod no doubt, I wasn't practiced in voicing my views, so didn't believe I had anything worth saying. Unlike today, kids were not encouraged to vocalize opinions, rather we were actively encouraged not to. Kids who did have a voice were viewed as rowdy reprobates in need of a bloody good hiding. No one wanted a good hiding, bloody or other, especially if it could be avoided.
As a young woman, barely out of my teens, I endured 5 years of domestic violence at the hands of a narcissistic sociopath, being voiceless kept me alive. I lived my life like a ghost, desperate not to have any impact on the world. I knew every piece of gum on the pavement in our village, I was so used to looking down. Neither of these experiences were the root cause of my fear of publicity, but they certainly reinforced the limiting beliefs I held about myself.

The emotions of dread, panic, shame and embarrassment, were first experienced by me at the age of 7, at the hands of a middle-aged primary school teacher. I was the New Girl in a New school, having recently arrived in a foreign country. She called me out to the front of the class and demanded I remove my cardigan to show my new classmates what a 'dirty girl' the 'new girly was. She’d noticed the stains on my dress, and she wasn’t going let me get away with it. The children stared as I stood there, gormless. I felt like such a fool. I was wearing my favourite, sleeveless light blue dress with a brown and beige checked collar that zipped all the way up the front. Over the top of the dress, I wore a thick woolly brown cardigan, which tied around my middle with a matching belt, 70’s couture, considered overdress on the equator.

Annoyed by my stubbornness and failure to remove my cardy, she yanked it from my shoulders, revealing my sponged, food stained dress. The children jeered and pointed, while the teacher shook her head in disgust, clearly very pleased with her discovery at catching the dirty girl out.  She invited Everyone to ‘ look at the dirty girl'.

Rather than just reading the words in this post, Imagine, just for a second if this was you, or your 7 year old child, consider how you’d feel. Put yourself in that position, it feels uncomfortable right?

For me, the humiliation and shame was excruciating. I wanted the ground to swallow me up.  I knew my face was crimson red, because I could feel the burning in my cheeks.  I wanted to cry, to run, to hide, I didn't dare, I just stood there for what seemed like forever, with absolutely nothing to say.

"Why are you wearing that dirty dress?

"Doesn't your Mother clean your clothes"

I felt a sharp stab in my heart, silent tears rolled down my burning cheeks,  I felt protective of my family, and I knew for sure my Mum would be devastated if she knew what was being said.
How dare this awful woman judge us, she didn't know my family, she didn't have a clue. Still, I felt responsible for causing these judgments that were being levelled at us. I'd let my family down by being such a messy eater, having spilled my supper down my dress. The entire class now knew the truth about me and were openly criticizing me and my family.
Where would I go from here?

The truth was, I didn't have any clean clothes, but I wasn’t willing to say that, because I was already ashamed and embarrassed about it.
I didn’t want to hear those words being said aloud, because that would make the situation real.

Unbeknownst to the teacher, the Airplane that was carrying all of our possessions had crashed and everything we owned was lost. All I had were the clothes I was stood up in, clothes I'd been wearing for days. The news of the crash had made my Mum ill, she was in bed for several days suffering with a migraine, she wasn't coping at all well. As the eldest, I was doing what I could, which wasn't very much.  Rather than disturbing my Mum while she was unwell, I'd attempted to clean my own dress by rubbing it with a damp sponge. I was 7, it made sense.

I was there when my Mum was told about the plane crash, I'd seen the look on her face, I'd felt sad seeing her crying on my Dads shoulder. I knew how worried she was, I wasn’t an idiot, it was obvious. Stuck in a foreign country with three young children, no clothes, no personal possessions, everything they had worked for lost. Even at the tender age of 7, it was perfectly understandable  to me why my Mum was ill, it may have been understandable to the teacher if she had taken the time to ask.

Assumption & Criticism

Whatever her issue - which as an adult I understand were hers to own, not mine, the teacher assumed the worst of me and my family. It didn't occur to her to ask why my dress was dirty, because she had assumed to know the reason why and concluded her assumptions were right. In her mind, her assumptions became the facts of the matter, giving herself permission to deal with me however she saw fit.

Her humiliation of me in front of the class, had a huge impact on my ability to make friends, to gain the respect of my peers, to belong in a foreign country, to feel comfortable in my own skin, let alone experience  confidence or happiness when  in front of a crowd.

We interpret the world through our senses, (sight, sound, smell, taste and touch) we apply meaning as we process the information.

Our minds often draw on past experience, filling in the blanks as we go. i.e 'The last time this happened I felt, X, Y & Z = file under 'best avoided'. 

Her life may have been structured and organized, with everything working out exactly as it should. For me, that wasn't the case then and hasn’t been on many occasions since. Mine and my families lives, like many peoples lives, were temporarily thrown into chaos - we were doing the best we could with what we had. That’s how life tends to be. I didn’t fit into the teachers idea of how things should be, humiliating was how she thought of dealing with it. Maybe that’s all she knew!

I was so ashamed and fearful of those feelings of vulnerability, that I tried never to think about that experience again. I’d decided to never to put myself in any situation where those feelings might surface. The trouble with avoidance is, the more you try to avoid, the more likely you are to encounter it, which is essentially what kept happening.

Suppressing emotions inside and pretending all’s well on the outside isn't the answer, because there comes a point when the mask of pretense no longer works.  It takes time to process and work it out, but work it out we must.

Life Lessons

We live in a society where we constantly judge and are being judged by others. We compare ourselves to others, compare others to others, and by others we are being compared. We criticize and are criticized, we humiliate and mock, whilst leaving ourselves out of the judging. Very few people know the way out, because few people truly know themselves.

It's impossible to move forward in life unless you are willing to let yourself be vulnerable and face the fear. Being vulnerable is a scary, difficult and often painful place to be. (filed under best avoided) It seems much easier to give up, take cover or mask the pain, rather than run the risk of losing face, being shot down, mocked, rejected, judged or publicly humiliated, which is where our fears are often based, allowing no room for - what if it works out better than expected. What if actually works out!

The only thing to fear is fear itself

We live in a culture where fake it til' you make is considered sound advise and where persona replaces authenticity, preventing us from knowing each other and more importantly, from knowing ourselves.

As humans we make so many assumptions about people rather than communicating authentically. We assume people who have encountered 'similar' experiences to us, understand how we feel and imagine they are more likely to sympathize with us, which simply isn’t true. We take offence when they don't get it, even though we were wrong in assuming they would

We assume people with particular job titles will understand our perspective because we assume its their job to know.

We assume people who know us, who love us or who we believe should care about us, understand how we are feeling and should respond accordingly. We feel hurt and rejected when we realize they don't.

In my experience, assumptions are seldom correct and usually unhelpful.

Communication is all we truly have. If we asked rather than assumed, we’d all be better off.
If we learn to value ourselves and our opinions, rather than accepting other peoples opinions of us, we’d all feel much happier and healthier inside.
when we accept that other peoples opinions of us is really none of our business and understand that they are only assuming to know then treating their assumptions as facts, we’d feel better about ourselves.
Its not our job to try to change other peoples minds about us, It’s our job to mind about ourselves.

Change a mans mind against his will, and he remains of the same mind still! 

We shall overcome

When something is really important to us, when we are passionate about it. faking joy isn't enough. The difference between a speaker who inspires and a speaker who doesn't is Joy. The inspirer loves it. Genuinely enjoying what they are doing, they are passionate about it, and its that passion and joy that comes across - Joy, Love and Passion. The positive energy that flows into the room, is the joy and the passion they feel within them. Go watch an Andre Rieu concert on YouTube - experience the joy he feels.

It's entirely possible to overcome a fear and go on to enjoy it. You really can fake it til' you make it, in as much as - you can act as though you are already in possession of (confidence/happiness/abundance/ insert as required)- as long as you are feeling the relevant emotion on the inside. The Inside emotion has to match the outside experience.

How we feel matters! We are supposed to feel good. Yet we spend a huge part of our lives feeling incredibly bad about stuff and then trying our best not to think about it, or talk about it. Why? Fear!

Fear of what people think? How it might look to others? What people might say about us?  Fear of judgement, fear of rejection, fear of being misunderstood. It takes strength to confront your fears, and is undoubtedly one of the most liberating experiences you will ever have.

Sharing

I hope you found something useful in this post. If you did, My hope is that it brings you some comfort. If you wish, feel free to share with others who may find some comfort in it too. Talking about how we feel, especially the things that make us feel vulnerable is perfectly okay. Find yourself a safe, compassionate, non- judgmental environment, such as Counselling, for example, where you can explore and process your thoughts and feelings. Understanding our emotions is important for mental wellbeing. Understanding how our assumptions and behaviours impact others is important for the mental wellbeing of all concerned.

Do not hesitate to get in touch if I can be of service.

If you didn't find anything useful, thank you for dropping by, and taking the time to read my post.

I wish you joy, love, peace and passion & I hope you mostly feel good about yourself.


The focus

10. The person who has hurt me the most....

"Make sure you don't start seeing yourself through the eyes of those who do not value you! Know your worth, even if they don't"! (Thema Davis)

The most important lesson that I have learned on this journey we call life, was in realizing the identity of the person who has caused me the most pain.

Year after year, the very person who should have protected, supported and loved me the most,  has instead doubted, criticized, beat and abandoned me more often than I care to mention.

The realization of just how much damage this individual has caused me, knocked me for six!

I'd spent many hours apportioning blame, before the truth of the matter finally revealed itself to me, and to that person I must now say this:

"I am so very sorry, please forgive me, I love you and I will never let you down ever again"!

That person was me!

It only took for another to question my appearance; "You're not thinking of going out in that are you"? " What have you done to your hair/teeth/face/ etc" and I doubted myself. I checked myself. I scalded myself!

It only took for another to question my beliefs; "You don't believe that do you?" or "You are so easily led", and I doubted myself, I wished I'd kept quiet. I learned to be voiceless!

It only took for another to question my opinions, "Seriously? is that what you think"? "Who cares what you think" or "Your opinion counts for nothing", and I doubted myself, I criticized myself, I betrayed myself!

It only took for another to question my truths; "You read too much into stuff!" or "It wasn't meant like that, you're over-sensitive"! and I doubted myself, I questioned myself, I over-rid myself!

It only took for another to question my ability: "How hard can it be?" "You're supposed to be clever" or "Have you always been an idiot"? and I doubted myselfI beat myself for trying, I learned to give up!

It only took for another to question my integrity: "Why have you done that?",  "I bet this was you" and I doubted myself, I devalued myself! I hated myself!

It only took for another to question my judgement; "that'll teach you" or "you should know better" and I doubted myself, I blamed myself, I abandoned myself.

It only took for another to question any single part of my being, and with all the enthusiasm of a playground bully, I'd find reason to agree,  abandon my corner and support the other team. Often harsh, cruel, and unforgiving, I'd automatically wade in. Harder on myself than any bully could hope to be. Relentlessly beating myself up for hours, sometimes days on end.

Without even realizing it, I was my own worst enemy, my harshest critic and by far my sternest judge.  Unwittingly, I repeatedly knocked my own confidence, doubted my worth and recklessly stomped all over my self esteem. Each time I abandoned myself, I reinforced the negative, self-limiting beliefs, I held about me, while reaffirming the negative, limiting opinions of my critics.

Ironically, there is no way on earth that I could ever stand by and allow another to be criticized, judged, humiliated, doubted, belittled, dismissed, ignored, interrogated, ridiculed, bullied, blamed or beaten in this way. I've walked out of jobs for far less! Yet, here was I, believing the worst of me to be true, seeing myself through the eyes of the joyless!. Never affording myself the same level of concern, compassion or support that I am so keen to provide for others.

"It is never a good idea to take measure of ourselves through the eyes of the joyless" (Noah Jupe)

Its essential to reflect, to keep a check on ones own behaviour and to recognise the impact that our actions have on others. It is important we recognise the weight in the words we use, including the words we use when talking to ourselves.

It's important to treat others the way we wish to be treated, and equally as important to treat ourselves well, with compassion, with love and respect.

Believing in yourself, caring about yourself, standing up for yourself, fighting for what you believe in, knowing and standing by your truth.

Speaking up, Standing up, recognising your views and opinions are is as important and as valid as anyone else's -Self-worth is undoubtedly one of the most valuable lessons we can learn about ourselves.

My wish for you is to learn this lesson well,  learn it early and pass it on! Learn to feel good about yourself, you are supposed to feel good! Seek joy & spread joy.

#LoveYourself #BelieveInYourself #STANDUPForYourself

"A person cannot be comfortable without their own approval" (Mark Twaine)

If you would like support to improve your confidence and increase your self-esteem? Its no coincidence that you have found me! Please Get In Touch


Man wearing black pullover and white and black mask

1. Falling for a Narcissist. Part 1.

Falling for a Narcissist: A Victim Perspective (Pt. 1)

Introduction

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder? (NPD)

NPD is a mental health condition that usually develops in adolescence or early adulthood and is characterized by;

  • Persistent Grandiosity
  • A superior sense of self/Inflated sense of self-importance/ arrogant
  • Abuse of Power & Control/ Impersonally exploitative behaviour
  • A need for Excessive admiration and praise
  • A fragile self-esteem
  • Lack of empathy/ An inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs of others
  • Sense of Entitlement/Pretentious and boastful
  • A belief that they are special & unique
  • Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, Ideal love
  • Arrogant & Demanding
  • Reacts negatively/Aggressively to criticism
  • Encounter difficulties in relationships
  • Accept no responsibility for their actions

What are the causes of NPD?

While the causes of NPD are not well known, and the area requires further study, many cases are believed to be due to:

  • Childhood abuse/neglect
  • Unpredictable or unreliable caregiving by parents
  • Unrealistic expectations from parents
  • Excessive parental control
  • Excessive praise for good behaviours in childhood
  • Excessive criticism for bad behaviours in childhood
  • Cultural influences
  • Heritability

How is NPD diagnosed?

In order to qualify as symptomatic of NPD, the individuals manifested personality traits must substantially differ from the cultural norms of society. Identifying the distinctive traits of narcissism is a core element in the diagnostic process. A mental health professional must first rule out all other potential causes for symptoms (other personality disorders, accident/brain injuries, etc.

NPD is rarely the primary reason for someone seeking treatment, due to the nature of the illness, narcissists do not accept that the problems with their behaviour or the difficulties that they encounter in life, is of their own doing. Diagnosis is usually prompted by other difficulties, for example; finding themselves on the wrong side of the law due to being abusive in a relationship, losing their temper or because of substance misuse, etc.

Treatment of NPD

Counselling and psychotherapy, CBT, and transference-focused therapy are often used to treat NPD. There are mixed findings on how successful these treatments are, further study is required. It is reported, however, that psychotherapy for treating NPD has a high drop out rate. Psychiatric medications are not considered effective in treating NPD but may be given to treat co-existing symptoms, such as anxiety or depression.

What signs should I be looking for if I think I am in a relationship with a narcissist?

The biggest sign has to be; Why you are asking this question?

What is motivating you to look for answers?

What emotions are you experiencing and, if you pay attention to these emotions, what are they telling you?

Do you mostly feel good, do you mostly feel bad or are you experiencing confusion.

Healthy relationships don’t tend to move people to ask these questions in the first place, so it is worth asking yourself – “what is happening that has made me question this relationship?” “Am I truly happy with how I feel”? Be honest, given the choice, is this the relationship you would choose? Because whether you know it or now, you do have a choice!

Phase 1. Idealization

If you are in a romantic relationship, initially, it is unlikely there will be any signs – on the contrary, you will have been led to believe you have found the perfect match.

You will feel loved, respected, idolized even.  Your charming, attentive partner appears to be equally besotted with you as you are with them. Everything appears to be wonderful, you feel great – sexy, loved up, like the most important person in their lives!  For all intents and purposes, you appear to have met your would mate – and your new romantic partner will endeavor to reinforce these beliefs, telling you how special you are and how long they have waited to meet someone like you.

Phase 2. Devaluation

Something feels wrong! You may be asking yourself, “What did I do wrong”! As your loving, attentive partner suddenly appears distant and uninterested. You may begin to wonder if there is someone else on the scene – a former partner perhaps. Even if you dare to ask, the narcissistic partner is unlikely to put your mind at ease. Instead, they revel in your misery. And so begins the push-pull of phase 2.

Phase 3. Discard

Easily bored, the narcissist moves on to their next supply as quickly as they arrived – often leaving the victim baffled and confused.

(Falling for a narcissist continues in part 2)

If you have experienced Narcissist abuse and you are interested in supporting others and raising awareness of behaviours that lead to Manipulation, Exploitation, Abuse and Coercive Control, check out my CPD certified online training course;

STAND, a toolkit for the prevention of Grooming Behaviours.


Man wearing black pullover and white and black mask

5.Falling for a Narcissist. Part 5.

Falling for a Narcissist: A Victim Perspective (Pt.5)


What does a healthy relationship actually look like?

 

Some of us may be guilty of entertaining an unrealistic romantic notion when it comes to relationships. The idea of being whisked away from the 9 to 5 grind by a perfectly formed, sun-kissed body, clad in a dashing white Pilots’ uniform or a skimpy red bikini - depending on your preference, may appeal!

We've watched the films and lusted after the ideal image of a relationship, but most of us know that is exactly what it is; nothing more than an image; one brilliantly executed frame taken out of context and not a true reflection of real life as we know it.

Fakery has become common placed in our society in recent years, with surgically enhanced bodies and the forged lifestyles of social media influencers, which May put reaching the bar of belonging out of some people’s reach.

The problem is we tend to compare our own relationships to the relationships of others; envious of their apparent happiness and contentment, especially at times when our own relationship may be causing pain or concern. You may have come across the saying 'The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence; put simply; we may 'imagine' other people's lives or relationships are better than ours; or that they do not encounter the same difficulties as we do.

In reality, every relationship experiences problems, it's just that most people are either 'presenting' their 'best selves' - (another case of thinking with our eyes and believing what we see! as explained in part 1 of the process) or they are both committed to taking the time and effort to discover what it takes to make their relationship work.

 

In reality 'The grass is never greener on the other side, the grass withers and rots on both sides of the fence unless it is properly maintained and cared for.

 

Real-life relationships aren't always easy. More often than not they a precarious balance of two egos; two lots of opinions and emotions balanced against the ever-increasing pressures of life. Healthy relationships are not perfect, they are a two-way street in which both parties are responsible for monitoring and maintaining. Romantic relationships, like any other; can become tedious and difficult at times. The 'honeymoon' period that often presents itself as I have described it in phase 1, usually lasts for a few months before reality kicks in and both parties settle into their individual roles which may start to feel mundane over time. For this reason, it’s really important that both parties are committed from the outset.

 

Healthy relationships are made up of 6 fundamental elements;

Mutual Respect, Trust, Equality, Honesty, Compassion, and Compromise.

These elements are the foundations of any healthy relationship and are a good guide to measure relationships by. Depending on situations and circumstances, these components will fluctuate, with the odd one or two missing altogether at times; people rarely agree with each other 100% of the time no matter how much they love each other, let's face it, life would be incredibly boring if we did. Compromise often goes out the window for a short time at least, when both parties have very different ideas about a particular subject; but for the most part - all 6 ingredients should remain present in the relationship throughout, applicable to all parties concerned and to all types of relationships.

 

Easier said than done? perhaps. Widely known but seldom applied? maybe;

but like all things in life, you only get out of anything that you are willing to put into it - and as we know, relationships are a two-way street; both parties have to be willing to work together. One person cannot do anything to change the behaviour of another. That is like one person drinking alcohol, expecting the other person to get drunk.

In a narcissistic relationship, while all components appear to be present in Phase 1, in reality, none of them are present - but this only reveals itself to the victim in phase 2, when the narcissist's behaviour suddenly changes, by which time the victim has an emotional attachment to the narcissist.

 

There is a misconception that relationships require 50/50 input. Which is to say each person is 50% responsible for their part in the relationship's success. In reality, each individual is 100% responsible for their part in ensuring their relationships succeed; 50% is an only half measure.

In order to achieve 100%, each individual must first be willing to know themselves and be fully aware of the impact that they and their actions have on others. Both parties need to be able to communicate effectively, so an understanding between the parties can always be reached. If one partner is not prepared to talk about any issues experienced in the relationship; the 6 fundamental components quickly start disappearing as far as the other partner is concerned. Life is about relationships, we all have to be willing to put the effort in if we want them to succeed, and if we don't want to put the effort in, we need to be honest about that with ourselves and everyone else concerned; Honesty is one of the key elements. In narcissistic relationships, the victim is usually giving 100% while from phase 2 onward, the narcissist is taking 100% and contributing the bare minimum.

 

There is only one thing worse than a loveless relationship; when there is love on one side only!

 

When we have experienced a traumatic event, we may become guilty of 'assuming or expecting' others to understand how we are feeling and why are responding the way we are. We may assume the other person in the relationship knows why we flinch, panic, jump or lash out - when in reality, they may have absolutely no idea. As a result, the ingredients that make up the basis of a relationship are called into question by the other party. Even if both parties have experienced trauma, similar situations do not amount to the same experience, as individuals we each experience and respond to things differently. Which is why the person-centered approach underpins all my work.

 

In my workshops, when it is appropriate, I refer to the Personal Opinion Processor (POP), a simple way to explain how we each interpret the world around us. As we absorb information through our senses from our environment; it passes through the POP attaching meaning to thought. Every individual's POP is unique to them, determined by thousands of variables; including Age, Gender, Education, Status, Mood, Medication, Experience, Beliefs, Prejudices, etc. thousands of different elements, that shape our view of the world; or to put it simply:

 

"We see things as we are rather than as they are" (Anais Nin).

 

Trauma, unless addressed and understood by the person themselves, may result in an entirely negative POP, potentially shaping their lives and future relationships with a negative slant. It is important therefore that victims are given the support they need to work through their emotions following a destructive relationship.

And Finally, a word about Victim Blaming

It is important to stress, that victims of narcissistic abuse, like all victims, are neither responsible nor accountable for what has happened to them at the hands of another, despite often blaming themselves and often victim-blamed by others tasked with supporting them. Victims cannot be considered at fault when they were in-fact completely unaware of what was happening to them, that's what a victim is, someone who has suffered consequences of another's actions, beyond their control. The person inflicting the damage; in this case, the narcissist, is responsible, because they have knowingly and purposefully found and targeted a person, deliberately misled them, lied, manipulated, and coerced them with the intention of achieving an outcome that is only advantageous to the abuser.

The idea that the victim should have known better or should have acted differently to avoid being abused is ludicrous! and is nothing more than a cop-out designed to shirk responsibility. Blaming the victim makes them feel weak, vulnerable, and stupid; causing them even further distress.

 

An excuse often offered by a narcissist for their callous and cruel behavior is how they themselves have fallen victim at the hands of another; and this may well be the case. However, every person is responsible for their actions and how their actions impact others; having once been a victim is no excuse for creating another one. We each have a responsibility to ourselves, to ensure we understand and manage the adversity we experience, to ensure the cycle doesn't continue.

 

'It is easier to build strong children than repair broken (adults)' (Fredrick Douglass); Prevention arises through understanding.

 

If you have chanced upon this post because you are experiencing narcissistic abuse and need support - rest assured you have found a safe space. Get In Touch if you would like to talk in confidence

It is important to remember, this is #NotYourFault

Copyright ©2014. Falling for a Narcissist: A Victim Perspective. Deborah J Crozier

If you have experienced Narcissist abuse and you are interested in supporting others and raising awareness of behaviours that lead to Manipulation, Exploitation, Abuse and Coercive Control, check out my CPD certified online training course;

STAND, a toolkit for the prevention of Grooming Behaviours.


Man wearing black pullover and white and black mask

4.Falling for a Narcissist. Part 4.

Falling for a Narcissist: A Victim Perspective (Pt 4)

Recap

Having found their ideal partner in phase 1- the (Idealization) phase, only to be dropped from a great height in phase 2 - the (Devaluation) phase, the victim is usually devastated and exhausted by the time the narcissist is ready to move into phase 3 - (Discarding) phase.

The Discarding Phase - Discard and Destroy

While the empathetic victim has bonded with the narcissistic partner, no such bonding has taken place for the narcissist, which may explain why they find moving on quickly, comes so easily to them. While the victim may be wondering why the narcissist became involved in the first place, and whether they ever felt affection towards them at all, the answer is simply No. This entire debacle was nothing more than a game to the narcissist, who feels no love or empathy whatsoever. The closest the narcissist will ever come to love is in phase one - the Idealization phase, which happens over and over again with every victim the narcissist encounters. It isn't the victim themselves that the narcissist is captivated by, it is the process - they are euphoric in phase one - draining the positive emotions and esteem from their victims, feeding off the victim's positive energy supply, while the narcissist themselves are devoid of feeling.

 

While some narcissists are known to leave the relationship as quickly as they entered into it, without so much as a second thought; others, as was the case in my experience, don't make it that easy. It isn't enough for them to just walk away from the wreckage once they have taken whatever they wanted. They will often go to great lengths to cause the victim further damage. Narcissists do not take any responsibility for their own actions; someone else is always to blame for the problems they encounter, including the problems they create for themselves. In phase-3, it is the victim who the narcissist has decided is at fault. The narcissist is often full of anger and hatred. Phase 3 can be particularly devastating for the victim if the relationship has had a family, as the narcissist will use anything they can, including children as leverage, to cause as much pain and drama for the victim as possible.

 

The narcissist is an expert manipulator who will use the victim's own disclosures against them. Disclosures which may have been offered by the victim during the 6 Stage process in phase 1, (Building Rapport & Qualification) has been strategically banked ready to use at a later point; and that point is now; phase 3 - where nothing is sacred. While the narcissist may have shared some of their own, sometimes untrue, sometimes embellished secrets during the idealization stage; they are banking on the victim's integrity - and fully intend using it against them. Where the victim has boundaries and limitations about sharing information disclosed to them by the narcissist; and are naturally cautious about what things they are prepared to use in a fight, the spiteful narcissist has no such boundaries and will stop at absolutely nothing to discredit the victim.

 

The narcissist will use anything and everything as leverage - effectively holding the victim to ransom; using twisting truths and blackening the victim's name. The victim is likely to feel exasperated by this. They may have shared some intimate secrets to their apparent soul mate in phase 1, only to have those secrets used against them by the devil in phase 3. The paradox being; the victim doesn't feel able to fully deny the accusations being leveled against them by the narcissist, knowing there is an element of truth in what is being said about them, so they flap around trying to explain the explainable - looking increasing guilty; while the cool, calm crafty chameleon, scratches another point into his/her chalkboard.

 

Where most people couldn't be bothered to drag up negative information about a former partner, preferring instead to put the experience behind them and simply move on; the narcissist gets a thrill out of finding whatever they can to discredit and humiliate their victims. There is no time limit to how long this will continue; either until the narcissist has completely destroyed the victim's reputation or until another victim takes the narcissist's attention away from them, by engaging the narcissist in the process in phase 1. Wherever possible, the victim should sever all ties with the narcissist as soon as they can. The narcissist is desperate to control the situation and will continue to email, text, call, and stalk the victim for as long as they can get away with it. My advice to a victim would always be; protect yourself; do not engage and do not respond. Seek support and advice.

 

In one encounter, 6 months after the relationship had ended, having severed all ties; the hounding had all but ceased. I was contacted by another victim who had fallen foul of the same abuser and who having happened across my details amongst some paperwork, contacted me, desperately seeking answers. At the time she was experiencing the back end of phase 2, our mutual abuser was already in the process of taking another victim through phase 1.

We were able to identify more victims, all remarkably similar in appearance, all given the exact same 'pet name' in phase 1, and all devastated and struggling to understand having shared a similar experience. There is no doubt in my mind that there were more victims that we didn’t learn about, and there will undoubtedly continue to be more victims at the hands of this abuser. 

In order to break the cycle, we must first understand the process used to lure victims as explained in part 1.

'It is no coincidence that narcissists and victims find each other' - narcissists are actively seeking people to target! It is always for the narcissist's personal gain. If you can recognize the process; learn how to respond to it, you can learn how to avoid it.

Victims often believe they were targeted because of something about them. One victim assumed they were targeted because they had shared photos of themselves in a bikini. If the narcissist is looking to relieve someone of their money, then they will look to target someone with money, regardless of what they look like - it's not so much about the victim, the victim could be anyone that fits the narcissist's desired profile - it's very much about the narcissist and what they want from the victim. For example; if a narcissist has an interest in children - they will look to target a parent with a child, as explained in my S.T.A.N.D a toolkit for prevention training, which is now available online Here.

Narcissists target people who can provide whatever it is they need, and they know upfront exactly who they can and cannot target.

This week is 'Mental Health awareness week; thankfully we are getting much better about talking about mental health and mental wellness. We are more open about mental health now than at any time previously, which is fantastic. Now we need to improve on that by spending an equal amount of time raising awareness about the impact of trauma; how it is experienced in the body and how it affects the mind. We need to discuss more openly, how victims deal with the effects of trauma, what trauma looks like in the aftermath of abuse, and how it impacts a victim's life moving forward.

 Mindfulness is frequently prescribed for people experiencing mental health issues, and while mindfulness is useful and certainly proved helpful for me, it was only part of the solution. Learning to listen to the emotional responses in the body, feeling the emotion in the core, recognizing what that feeling meant for me as an individual, learning to trust, not override my instincts, aided recovery.

Hurt people - hurt people!

How we feel about anything is everything!

Our emotions act as an indicator; an internal navigation system, that warns us about impending danger and keeps us safe. On the whole, society still takes a negative view of emotions, discouraging people from expressing how they feel. People are still seen as 'weak' and told to "pull themselves together, "not to wear their hearts on their sleeves', "stop overreacting" "Don't bring your problems into work, leave them at home" 'Don't get emotionally involved' - 'don't let your heart rule your head', the list of how we discourage people from listening to their emotions is endless.

However, If people were encouraged and supported to better understand and deal with the negative emotions that pain them, fewer people would feel the need to mask their pain with food, medication, alcohol, drugs, or self-harm.

If you have experienced Narcissist abuse and you are interested in supporting others and raising awareness of behaviours that lead to Manipulation, Exploitation, Abuse and Coercive Control, check out my CPD certified online training course;

STAND, a toolkit for the prevention of Grooming Behaviours.