don draper walter white

Dealing with a Narcissist

Someone with a narcissistic personality disorder has a larger-than-life belief of self-importance, an extreme need for admiration, and a complete lack of empathy and compassion toward others. Narcissists feel a sense of superiority to the point of arrogance and therefore often abuse their power and control over other people. Do you know a narcissist? Take some time and think of someone you know personally or in the public eye who is a narcissist. Americans, I’ll give you a moment to scour your brain for an example.  If you are having a hard time thinking of someone, you can think of fictional characters like Don Draper from Mad Men and Walter White from Breaking Bad who are both great examples of narcissists. These fictional characters, like most narcissists, believe that they are better than everyone else and are invulnerable. They are compulsive liars and willing to abuse those around them to get their way.

I had a run in with a narcissist recently. Initially we spent very little time together. I noticed she needed to be the center of attention but didn’t care because I don’t need to be in the spotlight. Then our relationship shifted, and we had to spend more time together. Now the lies about her status and importance, the demand for constant attention, and the disregard for my and others’ feelings became unbearable. When I was no longer willing to feed her ego and pretend the world was the way she imagined it to be, she was threatened. She needed people to play along with her fantasy. When I didn’t, I became a threat and she went on the attack. I asked my friend and psychiatrist Dr. J what I could do to make interactions with this person bearable. Her response was that “there was no way to make narcissists human.” She recommended using praise and admiration to get things done and calm the waters. Other than that, I just had to get myself away from the narcissist. Not the response I had hoped to receive.

don draper walter whiteI had two struggles. First due to circumstances, I could not remove myself from this relationship and found it very difficult to feed the disillusions and abuse. Second, my passionate belief is that we all have control of our minds and emotions. I found it hard to stomach that some people are unwilling or unable to change. What helped me move through this challenge was to see how broken this person was. Her delusion of grandeur was a cloak to protect her from vulnerability and lack of self-love. She has no real friends because she does not know how to have a real relationship. She is either using people or being used by people. On some level, she may know her beliefs are not true and feel like a fraud ever in fear of being found out. Once I could remove myself from the hurt I was feeling, I felt deep compassion for this person who knowingly or unknowingly was not living in the real world or capable of having real relationships.

My prescription for the narcissists in your life are first, remove yourself from this person if you can. If you have to interact with a narcissist, find compassion not hate, through acknowledging how empty their life really is. If you need to work with them, use flattery and adoration to help motivate them to action.  If you are like me, it may be a challenge to lie and feed their ego, but I have learned, unfortunately, there is no other way. And finally, release any hope that they will change. Narcissism is a disease without a cure, for now.

What has been your experience with narcissists? How have you responded to their behavior? How do you make the experience bearable?

love sweet love

What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love

With all that is happening in the world of politics, in how we relate to each other regarding gender or country of origin, and in the challenges of our personal life, it can be hard to be positive. We want to fight. We want those we think are responsible to pay. We want to hide because we are scared. We are on high alert waiting for the next disaster. We are filled with rage and fear. We feel vulnerable and attacked. What we really need right now is more love.

The idealist in me knows that if we all focused on love, understanding and compassion we can make the world better right now, today. The realist in me knows not everyone is on board with this plan. Some people are too self-focused to think of others. Other people believe they know what is right and try to shame or attack others into following their lead. Some people are too consumed with personal challenges to think past this moment. Since we can’t control everyone else, we need to focus on changing our own experience by focusing on love.

Due to the crazy hormones of peri-menopause or days when I read too much of the rantings on Facebook, sometimes I go out into the world with a chip on my shoulder. Instead of having a pleasant ride, I am judging the driving of others. Instead of being grateful for the abundance of food, I am irritated by the others shopping. I don’t know about you, but when I see the world as hateful and against me, it doesn’t feel good. And I especially don’t like that I am also pushing my negative feelings out on others and spreading this disease of negativity.

Whether I am awake in the middle of the night worrying about something, triggered by divisive “discussions,” or catching myself spewing negativity, I stop. I remember what I want is peace and love. Then I focus on my breathing. On the inhale I imagine I am receiving and accepting love. On the exhale I imagine my love going out to others. In a few minutes I am calm and at peace again. The judgment is gone, and I can go back to objectively moving through my day.

This Valentine’s Day look at the love in your life. Who could use a little more love? Remember to look at your own self-love first. Where are you blocking love from coming in? How are your words and actions creating more separation, misunderstanding, and hate? Who is using attacks to protect themselves from pain?

Start with truly loving yourself. Accept your flaws and irregularities. Give yourself unconditional love. You don’t need anyone or anything else to be happy and content. If you focus on your own self-love, you can feel fulfilled and healthier. And when you do, you can focus on giving love to those around you. Don’t feel you need to receive love directly in return. Don’t expect any result from your gift. Just give. Love is an amazing thing. When we give love to ourselves or others it multiplies. Give a little out and you will feel a lot returning to you from unexpected sources. Explore how you can change your experience and the experience of those around you, by focusing on love.

worried girl

Managing When Issues Are Real

The other day I came across an article which, if you get passed the title, has some wonderful advice.  It talks about the 5×5 rule – “If it’s not going to matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes upset about it.” What a great tool to help reign in the negativity of our minds. This phrase along with my “If this is the last 5 minutes of your life, is this what you want to be experiencing?” can be great guides to keep you from being caught in the world of worry.

worried girlThink about the devastating things that have hurt you in the past. The breakup with your first love. The C- on your college paper. That perfect home that didn’t become yours. What significance do they have in your life now? Notice how a tragedy in the moment becomes meaningless in your future. The article talks about how this rule can help you find perspective, change your reaction, release the unimportant, and just make you a bit happier. Add in the power to decide and choose what you experience, and you are on a path to a better life.

One of the interesting points the article makes is that this rule also helps you recognize actual problems. Obviously, if the problem will not be seen as a problem in 5 years, let it go. But what if it would be? This thought is where I went as well. What if you get a felony? What if your divorce will affect your children? What if losing your investments will affect your retirement? What then? Hopefully, using this tool daily will help you avoid situations and choices which could affect you in the long run. But what if you can’t?

Release the Emotion

We have all made mistakes in life. It happens. Guilt over our choices or fear of re-occurrence, just keeps us stuck. We can not move forward when we are beating ourselves up or playing the role of victim. Accept what has happened and move forward. We can’t change our past, but we can change our present.

Focus on the Facts

You can’t affect the stories your mind has created. You can affect reality. Don’t let your fears and what-ifs distract you from the reality of the situation. In reality is your power.

Take Action

Don’t be a victim. Don’t give up. Accept your new reality and be strong enough to take action to make it better.

What is going on in your life which is going to be a challenge for the next few years? First, stop passing judgement on what it means about you or others. Stop focusing on the tragedy that it occurred at all. Next, uncover the reality of the situation and determine what variables you can affect. Then, take action. Get off the couch, put down the ice cream, and have the courage to work through the problem. You will be happy you did.

When issues take control of your brain, stop and use the 5×5(x5) Rule. Release the problems which are not long term and take action towards resolving those that are.

making choices

Stop! Choose Again

This past year or so, I have been in a challenging situation with another person. In retrospect, I think we were both hurt and did not confront each other so our tension just increased and increased. I knew I would see this person over Thanksgiving and dreaded it. I expected to be attacked or shunned. I expected the worst. It turned out things were tense but not horrible. However, my attitude, thoughts, and worries made the experience leading up to and including our minimal time together, unpleasant. Not only was I on edge expecting the worse, but my defensiveness was, I assume, experienced as attacks on the other person.

As Christmas approached, I once again fell into the loop of fearing seeing this person. Thankfully this time I stopped myself. One of the greatest tools I have found is the ability to stop my thoughts, remember what I want to experience, and make new choices to experience what I desire. In the days leading up to this second meeting, every time my mind started creating horrific what-if situations, I stopped it. I told myself that I wanted peace. I imagined things going as I hoped they would – no tension and the two of us acting cordial. I focused on what I wanted to have happen, not on what I feared would happen.

making choicesChanging my focus did a few things. First, it calmed me down. I was no longer upset and stressed about something which had not yet happened. Second, because my energy and attitude softened, those around me could also soften and release their guard. Third, things went well. As well as they could. When I let go of the story, it stopped being created. I know that I need to talk to this individual about what happened and will do that when I get the chance and if they are open to discussion, but at this point, I reclaimed my peace by choosing peace.

Focusing on past hurts and the fear of confrontation created anxiety, bad choices, and additional issues. When I chose to stop the cycle and instead took the time to meditate on what I really wanted and imagined it to be true, the hurt and pain dissolved. I also became stronger and felt less like a victim. I have a choice of what I want, and it is not negativity and stress. I accepted that there is absolutely no reason I can not receive and accept what I want. I have the power to create what I want.

Where is the pain in your life right now? How much of it is in your mind replaying incidents or creating horrific what-if situations? Stop your monkey brain from having control. Stop replaying the negative movies in your mind. Instead decide what you do want. What do you want to experience? Then choose it. Accept that you can have it. Imagine what it would look, sound, and be like to have it. Then on a moment by moment basis ensure your thoughts, words, and actions are in alignment with what you want to experience. Eventually your unconscious fear-based mind will stop being in charge and you will experience what you desire.

I, Tonya

You Have a Choice

One of the films I saw at the Cabo San Lucas International Film Festival was I, Tonya. After the Golden Globes where Allison Janney rightfully deserved an award for her portrayal of Tonya’s mother, a lot of people were upset that a movie “promoted” someone who did something bad. Interesting how this did not happen for the Wolf of Wall Street, Good Fellas, Gangs of New York, Blow, and a host of other movies with real life portrayals of male bad guys. But I digress.

I, TonyaWhat I noticed watching the movie was the effect of what we learn and experience as children, and adults, has on how we look at life and how we make choices in our lives. Just the other day I spoke to someone in job transition. Many years ago, one of his co-workers sabotaged his career. For the years following, he had a string of short-term jobs where he walked through the door looking for the person who was going to do that to him again. He was looking for the fight. He was defensive and scared. Can you imagine how his bosses and co-workers would react to him? The result was he replayed the event again and again in job after job.

After seeing the I, Tonya, I was telling a friend how it was a brilliant telling of not only the Tonya Harding / Nancy Kerrigan memorable event, but also the back story of why Tonya is who she is. Regularly beaten and unloved by her mother, abandoned by her father, and abused by her husband, the undereducated Tonya was not positioned to be the best person. It does not excuse her actions, but it can explain how her experiences led her down the wrong path. She expected others to hate and attack her, so sometimes she even created situations to provoke them.

My friend replied that his father beat him too. He said it lead him to become tough and fight when he was young too. But then he realized he was no better than his father and made a change. Now he is a very kind, hardworking, intelligent multi-lingual man (Portuguese, Spanish, French, English) who has a lovely wife and terrific plans for the future. He started on a similar path as Tonya, but made different, healthier choices.

Sometimes the trials of our lives do not play out in how we interact with others, but how we treat ourselves. The other day I saw an interview with Roxane Gay the author of Hunger. At 12 years old, she was gang raped. Her response was to gain weight to defend herself and make herself unattractive and therefore not a target. This led to a major weight problem. Which then led to the telling of her story which in turn provides the tools for many others to heal. She turned her protective personal choice into a tool to help others in similar situations.

We are all given challenges in our lives, some more intense than others. Our goal is not to stay in the role of victim continually recreating our pain, but to learn from it and change the course of our lives. I have been given some challenges in my life, nothing as intense as the others in this post, yet experiences which initially had me mirroring those that hurt me. Part of my personal growth was in noticing how I was continuing the cycle and consciously choosing to stop it.

What challenges have you been given in your life? What incidents changed the way you approach life, others, and yourself? Have you moved past the incident or are you doing things to create it again and again?

top stress events

Stress Levels

A few months ago, I wrote a post about handling life’s top stressors which included a link to determine one’s personal stress level. To date, this unscientific survey has uncovered that almost 20% of respondents are experiencing high levels of stressful events. The remaining respondents are fairly split between medium and low amounts of stressors. Changes in living situation, health, and working or financial conditions are some of the most widely experienced stressors, as are vacations and major holidays.

For you lucky ones who have a low amount of stress due to life events, congratulations!  You are free to stop reading and go back to enjoying your life.

top stress events
Top Stress Events

For those experiencing medium to high stress based on life event stressors, it is time to look at your stress coping tools to ensure you have them, are using them, and that they are helping you through this time. We may not be able to control the stressful events that come into our lives, but we can control how we handle these stressors. The key is to recognize your stress triggers, how you personally respond to stress, and then use your tools to minimize the effects of stress.

When we are in the midst of stressful situations, we may feel like we do not have bandwidth to learn how to react any differently. But that is not true.  Three simple tools to take back your life from stress no matter what you are experiencing are outlined in this free online course. Even in the most challenging situations, these tools can help you center, clear your mind, and stop being a victim to the stressful event. You have the power to reduce the effects of stress and it does not take much time or effort to get started.

Many of the respondents to the survey noted that changes in work conditions, work hours, and work responsibilities are current stressors in their lives. We often spend more time at work than home, so learning how to reduce and manage stress in the workplace is very important. Improving our stress levels at work improves our health and well-being while also improving productivity for our businesses. Plus, when colleagues all understand how to identify and manage stress they can become coaches for each other to help prevent and minimize the effects of stress in the workplace creating a more peaceful collaborative atmosphere. Because of the immense need and the amazing benefits, I now help bring some stress relief to small businesses, Fortune 500 companies, and association members through customized virtual workshops, online self-study courses, and check-in group meetings.

If you have not taken the stress inventory survey yet, check it out to grow the awareness of how current life events are affecting the amount of stress you are experiencing. Become aware of how you react to stress. Without awareness you can not make any changes. At one time or another, we are all affected by stressful situations. They are unavoidable. What is avoidable is adding unnecessary stress to our experience because we are not prepared to handle the event. Whether personally or through your business, is it time to take learn how to better manage your stress?