Coping with Anxiety

by tempus_fugit

The one thing that continues to make life unbearable after you’ve escaped the nightmare of a NPD or BPD relationship is the tricks your own mind plays. We become conditioned by our environment to react in certain ways, and in an abusive relationship our mind is in siege mode. This is what your abuser intended, it makes you easier to control.

You find yourself doubting your own thoughts, double thinking your gut feelings and being so confused your can’t make decisions, you feel sick to the stomach when you know you have to interact with your abuser.

And thanks to Shared Parenting laws, many of us do. It’s taken me three years to become myself again, and the struggle continues. This is how I do it.

NLP: Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Guided meditation and relaxation music. Great for taking you out of yourself and forcing you to stop doing things for others for half an hour. For a while I couldn’t sleep without it. Works on a subconscious level so even if you find it silly and feel cynical about the process as I did, the affirmations still implant positive thoughts about yourself into your subconsconscious, helping stop ‘automatic thoughts’. My fave is Bob Griswold of Effective Learning Systems “Conquering Fears and Anxiety”.

Automatic thoughts: what you get when you see an email in your inbox from your ex, or when you know you’ve got to see them soon. Mine go something like: “Oh no, what does he say I’ve done wrong now? Maybe I did do something wrong, what was it? Maybe I didn’t _____(insert parenting or personal fear here)”, physiological response follows (increased heart rate, sweating, nausea).

Stopping automatic thoughts is key to reducing your anxiety. You can distract yourself until the cows come home, but examining automatic thoughts and combating them with logic and humour work best for me: “What do I care what he says about me? I know he lies to get what he wants and he’s no prize pig in the parenting department. Hell, I’ve been assessed by Child Protection as a good parent, thanks to his meddling. Yeah, I rock. I totally rock! He’s just trying to manipulate me.”

More often than not, once you reread what was said, or calm yourself before you do, you will find that it’s a lot easier to ignore any insults he might say or imply. You might also find that you are projecting your own fears about yourself onto his words.

Projection: Part of the reason we can’t get on with our exes is projection on both sides! Yes, me too! We all tend to judge others by our own experiences. How we would think helps us predict what they might be thinking.

Throw this idea out now! Projecting our fears or problems we have onto others lead us to believe: 1. that others are as capable of good/reasonableness as we are, 2. that others are as capable of evil as we are.

Ugh. Best bet is you can’t read another’s mind, especially a BD person or a ND person, so don’t try. It is a source of automatic thoughts.

Debriefing: Find a person to talk to after a traumatic emotional event. I have one close friend and a counselor for back up. A journal is also a good place for your more crazy thoughts. I wrote one for six months after we broke up and reading it years later, boy was I crazy-town! So angry and confused, still thinking that the relationship could be saved and that I had done something wrong. I destroyed it after one last read. It shows how much progress in coping with him that I have made.

Reading: I am a big fan of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and especially Rational-Emotive Behaviour Therapy. Both you can try without needing a counselor. REBT’s icon is Albert Ellis. I recommend reading “A Guide to Rational Living”. Timeless advice to help you examine your irrational thoughts that trigger anxiety. Another great read is Martin Seligman’s ongoing experiment in happiness “Authentic Happiness”

If you are of a more spiritual or philosophical bent, try Thich Nhat Hahn’s writing’s on anger: “Anger: Wisdom for cooling the flames” He also writes about happiness from a Buddhist perspective, but more practical and worldly than most Buddhists.

Remember that, no matter what he says or does to try to control you or destroy you, you are the one with integrity. In the end, you have to expect nothing but the worst from them. The anxiety comes from expecting them to be reasonable, fair and genuinely child focused (compared to twisting the concept to get what they want by making you feel guilty). That’s not gonna happen. It’s hard to accept, but it’s the bottom line for me. Take all threats and promises with several grains of salt!

You’ll survive, you’ve got integrity and honesty, something he’ll never understand or have. You can grow as a person by surviving adversity. He’ll keep repeating the same pattern of relationship disaster and abuse, but we have a chance to recognize and move beyond our problems.

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5 Responses to Coping with Anxiety

  1. PhoenixRising says:

    Thank you for this article, tempus_fugit!

    Many good points, but for now, I’d like to make a comment about your point about projection. It’s a really good one, and a good one for us to be mindful of.

    Projection can be both negative and positive. It’s not good to project your own negativity onto someone else, because you not only render yourself blind to your own faults, but to the reality of another person. You don’t ever see them.

    However, it’s also not good to project your positive qualities onto other people, especially those who do not possess them. Because you become blind to who they are, you don’t ever see them, and with a NPD, that’s dangerous.

    They count on you to think they do possess the same qualities as you so they can take advantage of you.

    It’s how NPD’s and manipulators in general work. They want you to be blinded by your own principles, to assume that others live by them or because you can’t choose a certain path of behavior, you can’t see them taking that path. You enable them with the help of your disbelief.

    I don’t believe this means we should become paranoid. But perhaps we need to not be so afraid to question and analyze the behavior of others and be more mindful of how they affect us…and tell ourselves the truth about that.

    You can’t ignore the truth of other people without ignoring your own.

  2. Survivor says:

    Very nicely worded. I think we have all been there and done that. Overriding those automatic thoughts is a big hurdle. Thank you for the information and insight.

  3. GarethsMom says:

    Wow! this is so helpful and informative! A wealth of excellent advice and resource! thank you so much for posting this. Just what you wrote about Neuro-Linguistic Programming and automatic thoughts is a huge encouragement for me!!! This is what I think I have been struggling with the most! Having to communicate with the Narcissist will trigger such fear and anxiety in me, I will start to visibly and uncontrolably shake when he lashes out, and what I hate the most about it is that he still has the control over me to cause sucha reaction. I want to be free.

    Momisme Reply:

    @GarethsMom, I SO get your reactions to the Narcissist. The fact that they are able to get such a fear driven reaction from us, still. For me, I believe its because when the divorce battle began, his unbelievable abuse and control caused PTS, and Im very easily taken aback at a simple harassing e-mail, or phone call, and it triggers an overwhelming amount of “oh no, here we go again.” or, “Is he going to take this made-up story to court again.” or “I already owe my attorney so much money, what will I do” and panic takes over. I liked the advice from the original poster about neuro-Linguistic programming and automatic thoughts. This is a great subject to look into.

  4. GarethsMom says:

    @ Momisme, Yes you really do get it!! lol You just described EXACTLY what I experience when having to communicate with the Narcissist. I was not able to afford to stay in counseling for very long, so I was never officially diagnosed PTS, but I know the abuse that occured was extremely traumatic and when reading the descriptions of PTS, I know Im dealing with some of that still….its been 10 years since we separated, and I SO want to recover!

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