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.

Toxic people affect your ability to love other people…

It’s true. Or at least, they affect your ability to show your love to other people.

Because you’re so angry all the time, or if not all the time, then during the times you are wrestling with your anger at being used, lied to, abused, taken advantage of, disrespected, made to feel expendable, small, worthless. Which can be quite often if you have a narcissist in your life.

And those things piss you off, and understandably so.

But do you realize how much they make you unavailable to those who do love you, who you love? When a child reaching out to you as a sign of love is seen as another demand upon you, an intrusion of your space, because you are so sensitive at being trespassed against?

Because as supply for someone else’s narcissism, you are so used up, and the insatiable, thoughtless demands of the N has totally wiped you out so that when someone does ask something of you who has a right to, because they’re your little child or a someone you are truly close to, who truly cares for you, that you react as if they just assaulted you.

And sometimes I feel like I can’t help myself, that there’s so much anger lying underneath that when I get pushed again, then I am a bomb waiting to explode on innocence. And it’s not fair.

It’s not fair.

Mother, beware. Father, beware. The seeds you sow by courting a narcissist, by inviting one into your life will grow predatory vines that will reach far into your life, beyond that immediate relationship. It’s like a curse that follows you.

If you raise kids under such a narcissistic parent, do not be surprised when you see the shadow of his narcissism in your now adult kids, the way they relate to you, the way they relate to other younger children you may have.

You think it’s difficult to separate yourself from the narcissist you had once desired? Imagine how difficult it will be to escape the narcissism of your own children if they walk the path of the model you brought into their life.

You condemn yourself to being angry the rest of your life, cutting yourself off from the ones who truly do love you, not being able to love back, not in the way they or you deserve. Unless…

Unless you can find a way to remove that poison from your life. For the sake of the children. You got to set up boundaries. If possible you have to maintain it with distance, but if not physically, then emotionally. Because you’re going to create boundaries.

Do it consciously toward the toxicity. Not subconsciously toward the innocent.

I feel so sorry for her

I don’t like her. At all. She’s a bitch to my daughter, but I can’t stand watching what he’s doing to her.

So he tells me he’s broken up with her. It won’t work, he says. Distance, the direction they’re going in their lives. He’s not willing to make the changes in where he lives or works to accommodate her work, even though she’s the one with a real career with promise for advancement. It’s too much to ask him…

Oh, and it’s for her, too. He says. It’s not fair to her.

Right, like he cares. And I think, yeah, wait till you need her for something again.

Sure enough, a couple days later, he gets sick as a dog. Needs to leave work.

And where does he go? All the way back to his house? No, straight to her house, the one he just broke up with “out of fairness”, so she can take care of him for a couple of days. And I know how happy she is to do it. Maybe this will make him see how much she cares for him, how much she loves him.

And she’s not offended he’s come to her after he just dumped her. Because it proves he loves her – doesn’t it? She’s the one he thinks of when he’s sick, she’s the one he comes to when the chips are down. It means he really does realize what he has in her. Doesn’t it?

And maybe this incident will open his eyes, and he’ll realize that he really can’t live without her, and everything will be all right, and this time he will truly, really be hers forever, and they can go from here on, building a life together.

And he tells her exactly what she needs to hear, at least just enough, to keep her wiping his brow and feeding him a light broth so the contents of his stomach can stay down and he won’t get dehydrated, poor dear.

And maybe for that moment, he is grateful he has her to take care of him. But he’s gratitude does not extend beyond him, does not go beyond having his needs met. It does not reach out to her, does not translate into seeing and valuing her as a person. Maybe it’s not gratitude. Maybe it’s just happy to be taken care of. Whatever it is, it will linger only for a while until he’s better.

I know.

And sure enough, they’re back together again…for a week or less. And then something happens. And they’re broken up again.

I am so surprised.

I know this ride. I don’t know how it happened with her, but I know with me it would always be a fight. Something he’d start – nitpicking on things, looking for a fight, or jumping on something I said and blowing it out of proportion or picking on what he knew would be a sensitive area, waiting for any hint of anger or upsetness on my part, and then with no small amount of self righteous anger, claim that “he had had enough”.

And walk out my door.

Anything to leave now that my service was no longer required.

And usually I’d be sitting there reeling, wondering what the hell happened, and the hole in me would be so cavernous and I’d be devastated, waiting for him to come back, wanting to talk about it, work things out – not knowing that he would be back, when he needed to. Not realizing that there was nothing to work out, because it already had – just as he intended.

So they break up again – rather, he breaks up with her again.

Another week passes. During this week he has to transport his daughter to school several times without the benefits of staying at the girlfriend’s apartment, watching her t.v., playing her video games, surfing her internet, before picking his child back up again. It’s his first time.

The cost of two round trips per day is prohibitive. He’s both incensed and impressed with his “sacrifice” (wants a parade).

He complains about this for a week. And he tests the waters. He calls me a few times, and keeps me on the phone for extended periods of time making conversation – politics, people, whatever.

But I cut him off the last time he calls in the midst of some brilliant, articulate point he is making, and offend him. I hear the anger in his voice as I hang up.

The narcissist equation.
Cost to self + no admiring audience = pragmatic decision to go back to source of narcissistic supply.

Surprise! They’re back together again.

Until something better comes along. And then, although she doesn’t know it, it will be the luckiest day of her life.

But just in case the new thing doesn’t work, he’ll keep her number. She may find herself on the end of a phone conversation being the lucky recipient of his brilliant and articulate conversations, when he’s found he’s had enough of the other one.

But until then, he will toss her out and reel her in and toss her out and reel her in indefinitely. And she’ll keep trying and trying…until she’s had enough, if there is enough of her left to actually leave.

There’s no love loss, but I really do feel sorry for her. Sorry in only the way someone who has escaped can.

Coercive Ploys in Divorce

by Reflector

This week I’ve been reading an article entitled, “The Role of Coercion” by Barbara J. Lonsdorf. Lonsdorf writes that the same coercive dynamics that played themselves out in a dysfunctional marriage often repeat themselves in the procedures of separation, divorce and post-divorce. She says, “Just as coercive ploys can take physical, emotional or monetary forms in marriage, so ploys can take physical, emotional or monetary forms in negotiations depending on the supply and demand of resources of divorcing parties.”

Lonsdorf poses the following key questions: “What was the prior use of coercion in the marital relationship? What is the current social/emotional involvement with his divorcing spouse? Honestly answering these help more vulnerable spouses to understand the depth of their susceptibility to being coerced.

The more I have been investigating, the more aware I have become that I cannot rely upon my lawyer to come up with the divorce plan and the strategies that go with it. Only I can defend my interests. I’ve been apprehensive about my STBXS’ reaction when she will be served the divorce papers. Left up to her she will continue to postpone her job hunt as a way of getting me to continue carrying the majority of the monetary support.

According to Lonsdorf, it’s in the vulnerable spouse’s interest to enter the negotiation tables with a more active and cooperative stance rather than passive or reactive. If the tone set by one party is cooperative it may help break the vicious coercive pattern. This part of the article is correct yet it throws me into confusion, because one side can be cooperative while the other side continues to play dirty. How do you enter the negotiation tables with a cooperative spirit without yielding to unreasonable demands?

I know that for me coercion was part of my marital history and that negotiations happened to be quite antagonistic. I want to now make a shift — learning how to defend my economic position and establish firmer boundaries. Lonsdorf says that being aware of the coercive dynamics in some cases is enough to assist someone in overcoming coersive ploys.

The problem is that cooperation can be equivalent to giving in in to coercive demands, so the demands only increase and escalate. I need to not only deal with the exploitation, but also balance between too much cooperation on the one end and too much rigidity on the other.

Throw Him a Parade…

No, really. He truly thinks he deserves one. If he does something remotely responsible, fulfills some small part of his parental duty, does the very least he can do, but takes some effort doing it, then he really believes he should receive recognition and praise – from me!

This man pays no child support, contributes nothing financially or time wise to his child’s education, doesn’t even contribute to the care of his child’s animals, not even when they are with him (I send the food), but he transports his kid to school one week and actually brings it my attention, telling me how much it cost him in gas and time, fully expecting me to thank him and tell him how wonderful he is and just marvel at his sacrifice!

No lie. He even tried to put the words into my mouth.

You think…you just think that after all this time, I would not be amazed. But I am.

What’s sad is that it’s not even nerve. It’s the way he is. It’s how he perceives life, looks at the world – all from his egocentric viewpoint, where every little thing he does has monumental significance, because he’s so grand and it’s all about him.

And if other people have to sacrifice or invest more or absorb his deficits or cover what he doesn’t, well, that’s just as it should be. Because the only sacrifice worth acknowledging are his, no matter how minute, and no one else matters.

If you could have seen how much he needed me to say what a good job he had done transporting her for her education, as if that was above and beyond anything any normal parent would have done…

It wasn’t about acknowledging someone else’s contribution. Everyone likes that. He was clearly put out, and he wanted me to know that and to be grateful for him doing it anyway.

Throw him a parade…and toss me a barf bag.

Sorry, for appearing bitter. Actually I’m not. Just tired. Because he bleeds me dry financially and psychologically (though not as much anymore with the latter, for I’ve learned to protect myself). But the finances is huge. And then he wants me to throw him a parade for stepping up in this one area.

Not amused, but I want to laugh.

And how can you share a joke better than with someone who understands – you, who have ventured onto this blog with your own tales of incredulity big and small?