Mastering the 1st Command: Why Some Fail

The “first commandment” of sound character formation is to recognize that we are neither the center of the universe nor a universe unto ourselves and to therefore be mindful of the impact we necessarily have on all aspects of creation.  And, as I mentioned in last week’s post such mindfulness only develops out of empathy (see: Character’s First Command: Mindfulness through Empathy).

Some individuals have a particularly hard time mastering this pivotal first commandment of healthy character formation. And most often, the reason for that involves their impaired capacity for empathy.  So these critical questions inevitably arise: “Why are some people simply unable or unwilling to have proper regard for others?,” and “Why do some folks only think of themselves and can’t or won’t care enough about the impact they have on everyone and everything else?”

Research has been telling us for some time that the brains of empathy-deficient people work in some very abnormally strange and unique ways (for more on this topic see the article: Is Psychopathy Genetic?).  And while it’s tempting to think that this hard evidence that some folks are constitutionally “wired” in a way that makes them simply incapable of feeling for others, we know that the brain is an amazingly plastic organ that develops and modifies its inter-neuronal connections and even its structures based upon environmental shaping influences and demands (for example, people who are born without cerebellums often develop structures and neuronal pathways in other areas of their brain in order to have the capacity to coordinate their movements).  So the extent to which “nature” or “nurture” plays the greater role in someone’s impaired empathy development remains uncertain and can vary considerably.  Suffice it to say that over the years I’ve come across hundreds of individuals whom I thought were fairly “hardwired” for empathy problems (this appears more common in true psychopaths).  Many came from appropriately supportive, stable, principle-driven homes where critical social values were not only promoted and nurtured but also well-modeled by caregivers.  Still, they had big trouble learning to care (there’s also evidence that trying to teach empathy to naturally feeling-devoid adults  – i.e. teaching them to be more aware of the feelings, wants, and needs of others – only aids them in becoming more skillful predators). I’ve also come across some truly remarkable individuals who either received no healthy guidance or experienced extreme neglect or abuse and still managed to emerge as sensitive, caring, responsible human beings.  So there’s littlle doubt in my mind about nature’s role in things, whether someone has a diminished or a strong capacity for empathy. But by far, most of the folks I’ve treated for empathy problems either grew up in environments where empathy was simply not nurtured well enough or modeled well enough.  Many others experienced so much trauma or “punishment” of one kind or another for their sensitivity that they simply learned to mentally bury it.  And make no mistake, when it comes to this pivotal issue of mindfulness about one’s impact on the rest of the world, the key is empathy.  As I say over and over again to professionals attending my workshops, it’s not so much that the character-impaired among us aren’t aware of their impact.  Some are acutely aware.  Rather, it’s that they don’t care enough about the effect of their beliefs, attitudes, and especially, their behavior.

Perhaps the most insidious aspect of poor empathy development is the capacity some folks have to mentally wall-off or “compartmentalize” their feelings (I talk about this phenomenon in my books In Sheep’s Clothing, Character Disturbance, and How Did We End Up Here?). Folks, for example, who are generally decent, caring mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, etc. but who in their racist beliefs and attitudes can somehow look upon members of certain groups with a chilling callousness, indifference, or hatred.  Sexual predators who might even be willing to sacrifice their own life for their own child but who somehow can turn off all care, concern, and reason when it comes to satisfying their deviant pedophilic urges.  This compartmentalization capacity is at its extreme in the examples I’ve given, but I’ve actually seen it in many different shades and degrees and in far too many people for comfort.  Ours is an age in which all too many of us learn far too well and early on how to “desensitize” ourselves to the things that might otherwise rightfully unnerve us, and it can get to be a really ugly, destructive habit to engage in such emotional distancing.  And to what extent the tendency to favor this mental mechanism we call compartmentalization is inborn is unknown.  But it’s a phenomenon that’s concerned me more that perhaps any other in my work over the years with disturbed characters of all levels of severity.  And in my work with such folks I’ve always made extra efforts to both confront and invite correction of this most insidious threat to developing the kind of empathy that allows a person to be appropriately mindful of their impact on others and the world at large.

Next week I’ll be again previewing my upcoming second book with co-author Kathy Armistead tentatively titled The Ten Commandments of Character: How to Build a Significant Life as we discuss the “second commandment” of sound character formation.

Sunday evening’s Character Matters program will again be live, so I can take your phone calls.  Follow the link above to get more information on the program and how to call in (I also mention the call-in phone number multiple times at the beginning of the program and episodically throughout).



115 thoughts on “Mastering the 1st Command: Why Some Fail

  1. I am able to relate to this article on so many levels. When I was in elementary school I was the bully of the playground. I cannot say that I ever felt right about doing it but I really didn’t know any other way to act. My family never hugged each other or genuinely said I LOVE YOU. It really sounds funny but we never even told each other GOOD NIGHT. There was never any laughter in the house unless someone was being laughed at. I was always very sad. The only time I was able to feel the least little bit of happiness was when I was being obnoxious and hateful to someone else. (My parents always figured that if we were treated in a loving matter we would grow up to be weak!) I know exactly what growing up in a negative environment can do to a child. I found out very early on how easy it was to be the con artist on the playground.

    I was in a car accident and suffered brain damage when I was twelve years old. I was forced to look deep inside myself and it was scary. I had to change and I found out how evil people can become when they see someone struggling. Omg… it was a hard way to figure things out!!
    Sent from Outlook Mobile

      1. Thanks so much!! Live and learn and be sure to pass on the knowledge – that’s what I say!!

        Sent from Outlook Mobile

    1. Popping in, Please forgive me I don’t mean to be rude.

      They are SELFISH. Mine could be a sweetheart for weeks on end, good to others, the real truth HE Wanted Something! His mind was working the whole time.

      What it boils down to is the main ingredient in their diet the will spit it out, vomit it and recoil from it like it is poison and the is — HUMILITY —-

      Sometime ago someone did not believe there could be change in a CD individual, well I think there can be even if they have to be lowered into the pit like Winston in Orwell’s 1984. I think you readers will enjoy my thought process on this one.

      1. I know that the toxic individuals are especially nice when they want something. My malignant mommy narc is wonderful at this because she is the most evil and vindictive person I have ever met!! My son and I discuss this very often. We often laugh, “Grandma is being really nice so we need to watch out!”

        I know a toxic person can change. It takes a tremendous awakening. The narcs I have come in contact think they are right up there equal with God and this is probably the biggest obstacle they are facing. I am proud to say that I had a serious brain damage and was forced to do a lot of self evaluation but I learned what was important in life!!

        Sent from Outlook Mobile

      2. BTOV,

        I agree about humility being poison to them. I can upon occasion get my husband to a realistic and humble moment but I’ve found that very quickly the walls come up and he’s back to old tricks. I wonder if he could be fighting the feelings of humbleness and humility even more than me.

  2. The compartmentalism and walling off of emotions is something I’ve seen and actually done myself what comes to mind when my mother was tragically killed in an auto accident my emotions dulled for years. I buried them and was a dull emotionless mother and wife for a few years. From what I understand from this article the walking off and compartmentalizing results in hypocritical behaviors. I see this daily with peoenim surrounded by. So many people I know would do anything on their power to help a family member but when it comes to empathy towards the less fortunate they are completely lacking.
    This topic is a little confusing to me so I’m interested reading others points of view.

    1. Linda,

      I will go ahead and address this to you because I think you probably know a little bit more detail about my current living situation. My son and I are still hanging in here until the end of school. I find it interesting that you mentioned that families will do anything for each other except show empathy. My son has a really hard time here and my toxic father justifies how he treats us by saying that he is helping us tremendously by giving us a place to live. Toxic daddy overlooks the fact that we are living in a hoarder’s house (we each have about three feet of empty space in our bedrooms) and the house is extremely dirty. I have gotten an outbreak of MRSA three time, my son once, and my father almost died from it. There is no emotion ever shown in this house unless it is bitterness, hate, or jealousy. They even treat the animals the same way. My malignant mommy narc goes out of her way to announce that the animals are so spoiled because they get to eat!! The animals are hardly ever shown any affection. The four legged babies love the fact that I am here because I take the dogs outside to play and they get treats and I also hold the cats in my lap and rub them for hours.

    2. I think that the most interesting thing that I learned from this article is that even when a person is born without a cerebellum the brain will form other pathways for empathy. i think that this is important because I have read that this phenomenon of the person born with the cerebellum could become a faulty excuse in court for the psychopath. For example – WE CAN NOT HOLD HIM ACCOUNTABLE BECAUSE HE WAS BORN THIS WAY! I really like Dr. Simon’s work.

    3. Lucy, what I’ve understood from different conversations with people is an ironic double-truth.

      And that is this: No one can be expected to care about literally everyone else. It’s just not feasible.

      But on the other hand being completely atomistic is something I, too, question. I don’t know if it’s even feasible in theory. I find that so highly doubt-able.

      1. Timothy,
        I enjoy your thought process immensely and like the book recommendations. Sometimes, I think you overthink! Hugs

      2. Timothy,

        It’s about the lack of caring of mankind in general with some people that I don’t understand. Some people hone in on only their family members and have no sympathy nor empathy towards the struggles of others.

      3. I disagree. I don’t think I’m overthinking it.

        But being all about some limited circle ain’t doing it, either.

  3. Suzie,

    You are the first person I have encountered that has ever really admitted to being a bully in school. From the other perspective…I was the proverbial scapegoat at school and the scapegoat at home. Did I ask to be such. No. I believe it was my difference in clothing, my parents inability to work in a union shop (most all the kids at the time had a parent at home and one at the car plant making bookoo bucks, and most of all my parents were from Brittian and came over through Ellis Island with nothing.

    Interestingly, when I went to eighth grade at the girl’s Catholic school across the parking lot (literally) I became the most popular girl in my class to the point that I was asked to run for school president. Go Figure!

    That experience really rammed home just what a new environment can do to change the course of your fate in life. Just that walk across the parking lot…where everyone was new and no groups to exclude had yet been formed, new groups did form and I was included in groups that were where the popular girls hung out. I believe it was that experience of the startling difference that kept me from becoming a very mentally sick child and further on to becoming a heartless human being.

    It took years, however, to heal (and I am still a work in progress) from those first years in school and the damage to my self image as the one that took on all the caregiving in my family. And my family needed a great deal of caregiving of which should never fall on a child’s shoulders.

    To this day I will not purchase a condo that I was eyeing in a complex with the name “The Belmont,” of which is the name of the male that took it upon himself to bully me to death practically!

    I make no excuses for Mr. Belmont, he came from much more than I, on the other hand, I understand that there is a level of circumstance that I know nothing of that could help in seeing his behavior in a different light. I still won’t live in those condos! I applaud your sense of direction as to what is acceptable behavior and I am grateful that you did not turn out to be a vengeful, bitter person, of which, I suspect Mr. Belmont turned out to be. He wasn’t very smart so changing his behavior at a later date may have been impossible. I do not know.

    I substitute taught for two years and it was a complete eye opener to the beginning of no empathy. I could point out on the playground which will become the “mean girls” and which will travel on to be “Mean Women” and this happened as early as Kindergarten!

    Very Very sad.

    I grew into a people pleaser…which just put me in the position to be used. At my age of 60, now, I don’t do it so much and I can pull out some real lessons on cunning and avarice learned in life if need be but it takes a real Wollop! for me to get up on my hind legs and start fighting. I am no push over, however, I wish I had learned better lessons on the playground of life that would have saved me some very harsh beatings.

    I chose my career as a litigation paralegal for the sole reason that I wanted to learn to fight. I am much too small to fight physically and cause any damage but I can now fight with the best of them with the pen. As they say…the pen is mightier than the sword!

    I am of the opinion that empathy begins at home and that all the rules of life really are learned in the sand box. As that book about such pointed out.

    It took courage to admit to being a bully.

    Thank you,

    Theresa Maria

    1. Theresa,

      I know it took a lot of courage to admit that I was a bully. I appreciate any and all compliments. Thank you!! I can remember I grew up my malignant mommy narc always told me that I was bragging and when I was younger this had quite a horrible effect on my self-esteem. I just admit to being a bully for many reasons. First, I would like people to realize that I have been there and I know that bullies are usually very unhappy people. Second, I would like to reinforce your statement that character building does begin at home. Third, I think it helps add a profound emphasis on my story because I started out life being toxic and I know what it is like. I had my own little group of mean girls that tormented everyone on the playground. The three other girls that were also in the group are a bunch of mean ladies now. These girls were the biggest brats to me after I had my brain damage. They always made fun of me because I talked very slow or I walked using a walker. Of course they were the popular girls so once they started then everyone else started. I know how hard it is for anyone to take a look inside of themselves and realize that they are toxic and they need to change. One of the mean girls from the group is now a pastor’s wife. In one of my other groups concerning narcissism we address spiritual abuse and I am sure she uses some of the tactics discusses. I am not sure what the other two are doing now but the last thing I heard about one of them is that she stole one credit card from my friend and ran it up. The last mean girl was my friend on Facebook for a while but I had to block her after about 6 months because I could not stand her flaky attitude and her narcissistic tendencies. I have zero tolerance for this type of behavior. My son also deals with bullies everyday. I think sitting back and watching my child go through the same things that I did is extremely hard. I try to give him as many pointers as I can. I told him a few months back that when you learn to love yourself the bullies have no more effect on you. He is starting to stand up for himself and the bullies are losing the hold on him. I am proud to see this and I tell him you grown up he is handling things.

    2. Hi, TeresaK,

      I’m wondering if you could help me better understand the term ‘people pleaser.’

      I’ve been described as this and always feel offended and then wonder whether I should be. The term ‘people pleaser’ never sounds good to me and always feels like an insult so I’m always puzzled when people describe themselves that way.

      I genuinely like helping people to be happy whether it’s a good conversation, cooking a meal, helping someone out, ect. I feel good helping others feel good. I feel good knowing I’ve helped create a positive, safe and nurturing environment. I feel good knowing I may have built or created something positive that may have far reaching impacts that will touch people I don’t even know. (Obviously, I have a strong belief in Karma.) I do expect good boundaries and reciprocation. Is this ‘people pleasing?’

      Sometimes I wonder if the term ‘people pleaser’ was coined by aggressive people who want to justify treating people badly. For example, “Oh, she didn’t mind polishing my shoes, she’s just a people pleaser.” And sometimes I wonder if I just don’t understand what the phrase is referencing.

      Thanks for any clarification you can provide.

  4. Theresa M and Suzie

    You two have done much soul searching and reflecting on why you are what you are. I’m glad you came through on the light side. You both are so interesting.

  5. I think it’s wonderful that both of you have looked into the mirror, and taken an honest look at yourself. That takes a moment of courage… to actually ‘look’ at oneself with honesty at who you are & what you have done (impact on others and the universe) That, in itself is huge… a lot of people would run and hide from this… the fact that you looked and were honest with yourself, speaks volumes! Good for you! I know for myself that can be a monumental task…it requires courage and bravery and honesty. Cheers to all of US that are…at the very least, trying to be a better person than we were yesterday.

    1. Thanks!! I have seen a quote that says that the only person that I am trying to be better than is the person I was yesterday. I think that we build each other up is so important because we have all experienced gaslighting at its best. I can remember when I was younger I would just lay on my bed and cry because I always heard about how fat I was and how I could never do anything right. I even remember how I was made fun of after my car accident by my toxic family as well as others. I was always sure that I would never go out of my way to hurt someone else. A big shout out to all of the Earth Angels.

  6. Suzie,

    Is it crazy to say that your accident catapulted you into a better person? And that when you had the accident the “mean girls” now saw you as prey…Heaven knows, one that was at the top and was a cruel person now at the bottom can bring out the monster in those that were her troop. Look on any despot of history. Once no longer able to, for what ever reason, to be top dog is felled by the lessors. Sounds like a lesson from the primate kingdom.

    I find that I am dealing with some of the people at my new job in sales, food sales, coming around to see what they can or cannot make me do. I find it laughable on one hand and extremely hurt to my ego on the other.

    I am old enough to know when I am being played, however, they can be so swift, so ready to stick that razor and slice, ah yes, the female way of getting her own way in Corporate America.

    I have a humble job. I make and serve food for a big box store that has membership. I am not in the inner sanctotum but from a very long and winding road of subsidiaries that no one really knows why we work in the same place but are called something different. The difference is shown in that fact that we do not have name tags that say the name of the store. We are apart of a global marketing system that has been with the big box since the year dot.

    Today, I was at a station that had food and good food at that….one which there is a line forever. Some steal, some stay in line, some crowd…and I can accept that as part of the job.

    But something happened today that was unacceptable. Someone from the big box name came to my station, of whom I am sure is a getting to middle age African American, who demanded that I give her her sample because I talk too much and by inference made it know that if I did not talk so much (this is my job to sell the product) she would not have to wait and she wanted her sample NOW since she was about to get off break. This was in front of members of the big box. Can we say “Mean Girls All Grown Up!”

    I bring this up not just to rant (which I know I am ranting) but because this person, thinks that she is allowed to embarrass me and the big box members by pushing past them in the worst possible way…a name tag, a loud voice, a entitlement of demeanor, and last but not least….she works at the place.

    I know I am beating a dead horse but I think I just had an epiphany. Trust me on this one…I know who she is and this will not end today. This is the type of behavior that my ex most likely exhibited at work. He being Latino and speaking to those that were American born (or not) in the same manner.

    Amazing. I did not know I was going here. I did not know that just writing this would draw some clarity to why he kept losing jobs.

    Thanks Suzie,



    1. Theresa,

      Yes, my car accident and brain damage did make me a better person. I know that there is very little hope that a narcissist will ever look deeply into their own soul and admit that there is a need for change. I had my life handed to me and I had to build everything I had again. I had to learn to do just about everything again. I can remember that I had an angel standing by my bed. I guess that was my divine support that I never got from my toxic family. My very toxic family reminded me of animals as well as the kids at school. Actually many toxic people have that animalistic philosophy going on. I know that my ex-psycho did. He was determined that he was going to get rid of my son (who he considered weak.)

      I never even had a second thought about your little rant. I think that when we find a blog like this we are blessed with the ability to vent. I know that so many people are unable to understand narcissistic abuse or the toxic person. I would not let the obnoxious woman get away with that nonsense. I used to work in food service. I worked in a little sandwich shop inside of a truck stop. It was kind of a stupid job but I got a paycheck. I needed that more than anything at the time. I dealt with horny truck drivers and worked with lots of MEAN GIRLS. I worked second shift and I had to clean up the mess from the first shift, depending on who opened up. As long as an older woman worked before me the things were cleaned up. I always appreciated the fact that I could start my job before finishing up for someone else. Every once in awhile a young girl would open up and I always knew everything would be a disaster when I got there. She was always so concerned about flirting and never worked. I would get so mad at her because when I got there I would automatically start on the dishes to help her out. She mocked me by saying, “Isn’t it so funny how you are doing the dishes and I am sitting here doing nothing.” I took pictures of the mess and turned her into the boss. Things were taken care of for about two weeks only. I ended up turning her in for sexual harassment. I got sick of seeing her dry hump the male workers. She was definitely a narcissistic MEAN GIRL. I am not a person who can hide my feelings and I am sure she knew I didn’t like her at all.

      Sent from Outlook Mobile

      1. haha. Mean Girl dry humping the boys.
        I think it’s always good to speak up, if your job is secure, that is. Otherwise, we got to be careful.
        SEverral months ago I had an experience in a department store. The young sales clerk was having confusions with the term “gift card” and the patron was raising all kinds of heck with her. Badgering her, yelling at her, while her coworkers would just glance over and not say a word.
        I kept telling myself, “don’t do it. Don’t do it. Stay out of it. Don’t do it.” Bam! You know I had to speak up. I interfered, complimented the clerk, had a discussion with the patron. I am not one to stand by and watch a bully. I’m constantly being bullied by the crazy STBX CD, and can’t do a thing about it. It’s a very difficult position to be in.
        Clerks have it rough having to deal with nasty people daily. I’d noticed in the past few years the STBX was getting into arguments with sales clerks, even people in line. He had NO BOUNDARIES. His narcissism escalated. He is intolerable, to say the least.

        1. Narcissism does get worse with age. My mommy narc has added a few new tactics to her agenda since I grew up here. She is now a hoarder, lives in filth, and takes her little philosophy, NO ONE IS GOING TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO to the extreme. My daddy narc was always in love with himself but was never outright evil. He was teasing and belittling my son one day and I said, “You really need to be nice.” He just simply replied, “No one pays me to be nice!” I just told him that no one should have to pay a grandpa to be nice to his grandson. I think that my dad has dealt with my mother for so long that he has become callous and mean. I also think that it is important to remember that people choose who they become. I can now see the toxic environment that I grew up in very clear.

          I can’t handle when people are insensitive to cashiers and waitresses. I commented on a little sign on Facebook the other day that said if a person can not tip 18% then they should not go out to dinner. I could not believe how many negative replies I got. One girl told me to get the hell out of here with my attitude. She then told me that if a waitresses doesn’t like what is going on then they need to make another career choice. I looked into her profile and she was in her twenties and really needed to have some life experience before she could add any kind of comment about a career choice. Personally, I tip when I get good service anywhere. I think it is good to let people know that they are appreciated. I got some roses once when I was in a hotel room once and left a few for the housekeeper along with a few bucks when I checked out. I never want to be the reason that someone has a bad day. Both of my ex-husband were narcs and loved to belittle and degrade hired help. I was always so embarrassed!!

    1. She was bad!! I just got sick of watching it and the assistant manager told her that I turned her in for sexual harassment. I’m sure Miss Sexual Harasser thought I was jealous. LMAO

  7. I know this is a stretch….the place that I live was bought by a mega corp less than two months after I moved in. Lord, I would never had moved here if I had known. I have had so many construction workers through my apartment in the last six months I should be grateful…not had that many men in my apartment forever. LOL.

    Today, the next troop is painting my balcony, walk way and the stairs…the dog got very sick and had her stress induced explosive bloody poop for two days and I had to call in sick to get her to the vet before they even got to the painting part.

    I did something that I would not have thought of before. Today the painters are here, I had to remove everything I could from the balcony so they could come and paint.

    I took the dog, which was now starting bark and bark and led her out to the person that was doing the painting. He, of course, since they are all Mexican acted like they did not know what I was saying (I did marry and Brazilian and taught Mexican kiddos for two years). So I just walked the dog up to the guy painting and asked if the dog could smell the paint and smell him.

    Well, something happened, the painter patted the dog and the dog smelled the paint from him and from the place he was painting and now we are in bed as the painting continues to paint my apartment outside. Bumping and smells and bumps again as the painter crawls up the ladder…

    So what is my point.


    My dog trusts me enough to have a man on the balcony spraying paint as my dog and I write this.

    Now, of course, again, the painter all of a sudden knows the English lang not great but good enough. He speaks English if he wants too. Trust.

    Well, I really don’t know what I was doing with this…but there you go.


    Theresa Maria

  8. Very good point Suzie! yes and the kids are happy!

    Theresa Maria

    As we go off to bed and so did the painters…again tomorrow…the ladder will be at the balcony…to bad it is not more than it is…LOL again!

  9. An excellent article about why people fail at empathy.

    Something I’ve noticed with aggressive people is how much effort they put into desensitizing themselves towards not having empathy and supporting their poor thinking patterns.

    One of the methods I’ve become aware of is the use of catchy, repetitive phrases.

    I grew up with a lot of older WWII neighbors, so I heard old phrases like ‘A stitch in time makes nine’ and ‘Two birds of a feather flock together.’ I also heard more current and more modern phrases like ‘Honesty is the best policy’ and ‘If everyone is jumping off a bridge doesn’t mean you have to do it too,’

    I knew that these phrases were meant to teach me good character development and to make good choices. Working cooperatively is productive, choose friends with good character, truthfulness, and independent thinking. These were the types of phrases I heard in my childhood and I’ve been working to relearn and remember them. I was surprised to realize at some point I lost track of them.

    In my adulthood, I hear phrases like ‘Keep the lie til you die,’ ‘Do as I say not as I do,’ ‘If you won’t do it, someone else will,’ ‘C equals credit,’ ‘It’s good enough.’ I also hear repetitive little rants or diatribes that vary so little it’s like listening to a skipping record.

    I’ve realized that in the same manner catchy, rhythmic phrases taught good character traits, they are also used to support poor character traits. It’s been an interesting opportunity for to observe and a red flag towards a persons character when I’m getting to know them and trying to assess who they are and how close I want to be with them.

    I’ve even created a few of my own character building phrases to help me deal with poor character traits in myself and others such as ‘Sarcasm is the vehicle of hostility,’ ‘Just because you say it, Doesn’t make it true,’ and ‘Feelings aren’t always truthful.’

    Has anyone else observed this tactic?

    1. Charlie,

      I’ve got a few of those I use. the “just because you say it doesn’t make it true,” I’ve said this to the X. Except with the added because you Repeatedly say it . . .
      What I’m now using is “Beat him at his own game”.
      My mother said “Treat others as you would have them treat you.” And I’ve done that, till recently. I’ve been so naïve. The only treatment I give a CD now is treatment with caution and stay away as much as possible.
      While rummaging through the X’s papers I found a password to something: “Silence is Golden”. Sent a chill through my body. He’s got a lot to hide.
      Now that I’m reading this I’m realizing how on the defense I am. The “good” quotes that I used to follow are pretty much buried and now I’m in survival mode.
      I say now “The word ‘love’ is meaningless to me. It’s the actions that I gauge love.”
      Being burned by a CD sure does change my outlook. Wish I’d seen may marriage for what it really was much sooner. I could have had some better years. Oh well . . . . .

      1. Linda,

        I have also thought the same thing. I WAS really naive. I always think about it in the way in which I was always the mother that was telling my kids to be nice and treat others the way that you want to be treated. My kids were always very sweet and they got used and abused by all the toxic little kids on the playground. I had my last son in my late thirties and I thought that I would take on a different form of parenting. I always told my little guy that it was very important to show respect to others if they respect you. He was always so sweet when he was growing up and never had many of the same problems that his older siblings did. I often think that my daughter who ended up being narcissistic supply may have had better luck with the narcs if she had been given a stronger foundation and told that she could be a bitch once in a while. My youngest son often thanks me for giving him good advice and understanding when it comes to dealing with granny and grandpa narc. He even says to me that he doesn’t know how well he would make it if I didn’t explain what was going on. Live and learn!!

    2. Carolyn,

      I have observed this and the narcissist does use words so well. I think that is one of the biggest reasons that marketing is often a career of choice for them. I have seen the toxic individuals repeat the same simple phrase over and over again. I had a roommate a few years back from Belize who had a very mesmerizing accent and then she would repeat things several times. I think it could have very easily put an innocent mind in a suggestive state.

  10. Lucy,

    I’m so sorry you’ve had such a diffucult time with the CD in your life. I certainly can appreciate the pain and struggles that come from it.

    My latest catch phrase has to do with love and the romanticazation of what is clearly, grammatically a verb. When the aggressive people or CDs in my life tell me they love me or that they ‘feel’ love for me in the context of something awful said or done, my response is, “Love is a verb not just a feeling and the action that occurred does not meet the definition of love. ” It’s been effective against the tactic of feigning innocence through how much they love me therefore could never say or do anything hurtful thusly denying my current feelings of hurt.

    For a while I beat myself up about how naive and gullible I’ve been but I’ve stopped doing that now and when I feel a bit naive and gullible, I remind myself this is their shame not mine. This is their bad character, not mine. I remember when I was kid a steady stream of messages from various sources about choosing your friends wisely. I did not understand as a young adult so many people resist these societal ideas and how it translated to adulthood. I assumed everyone was absorbing the same messages with the most ‘successful’ people doing it well. Experience brings wisdom and I no longer morn for a lost innocence as I work to move into a place of kindness, generosity, and empathy with the savvy of an almost middle aged person who has experienced going around the block a few times.

    Like you, Love became an almost an almost meaningless word to me as well. I believe dogs are Man’s (or Women’s) Best Friends. I think their true purpose is to remind us of our humanity and experience human emotions in the purest of ways. I know with my dogs, I’ve experienced the purest anger, hurt, disappointment , sadness, and love in my life. No conflict, no lies, no debates over which perspective is right, wrong, or indifferent. They’re dogs, they’re not capable. I know without a doubt what human love is through my dogs and it is certainly not about them and I doing everything perfect or meeting unrealistic expectations. I think it’s about accepting the imperfections. Surely, if we can find love with imperfect dogs, we can find love through imperfect humans.

    1. Charliie,
      I apologize for popping in. Do you mind if I ask if you are married to him and for how long. I am trying to follow your posts and glad we have all the hoopla figured out.

      1. BTOV,

        I am married to him and for 23 years. Every year gets more difficult than last. They all seem to get worse as they get older which makes sense since problems unresolved always compound.

          1. Charlie,
            Thanks for answering my questions. I am glad you are here and know you will add a lot to the conversations. Knowledge is power and the more informed we are the better prepared we are to deal with the CD.

            Everyone has so much to give in sharing their particular experience. It helps so many to prepare and to continue to deal with these individuals. I sure know it has helped me.

            My thanks to you for your patient understanding, you are welcomed as a Kindred Spirit on your journey and we will help as much as possible.


          2. Charlie,
            I was reading one of your post on another topic and you mentioned that persons were being critical. Next time and I think you did call it out. Here we respect one another’s right to disagree and we try to do it respectfully. You never have to accept another opinion or thoughts.

            If someone is truly problematic or out of line Dr. Simon will intercede. So please feel free to speak your mind. Many times that is when we learn something very important and many times it is the determining factor that promotes change.

  11. Susie Q,

    I think you may have a very good point about the suggestive state. I just wonder who they’re trying to mesmerize, us or them.

    I imagine your respect advice did help your son a lot in dealing with difficult people. I’ve been developing a similar tact.

    Like Lucy, I follow the Golden Rule of Treat Others as you wish to be treated and like you I also follow Respect Others. It’s been a struggle but I’ve decided to hold onto both those rules as they are important to me and I believe in them. I just don’t assume everyone else is following the same rules and those that don’t are not people to build or continue trying to build relationships. (Actions vs Intentions) I started to get in a really cynical place in my life and realized that it is exactly how my husband describes his attitudes and behaviors.

    I have, however, completely abandoned the rule of Turn the other cheek which I think is ultimately what your son learned to do. I don’t retaliate but I don’t ignore it either and I certainly don’t continue trying to build or repair a relationship without the other party being as willing to work just as much. I’ve noticed that if I require them to also put in the same or similar effort, most just go away. The few who don’t, I’m still working on figuring out what will make them go away as well

    1. Carolyn,

      I think you have brought out several good points here. I just tell my son that when someone sets personal boundaries and another individual ignores it then you can bet they are a toxic person. I wish I knew what to tell you about getting rid of the toxic ones. I guess if I knew the answer I wouldn’t have two ex husbands!! LOL

    2. Charlie,
      When some of his conversations become somewhat odd??? for lack of a better word because I don’t know him, journal and write down these things. It seems in a way you are describing subtle projection. Slowly, ever so slowly setting the pace for integrating his thinking. He just doesn’t know that you know.

      I am glad you are aware, this gives you the opportunity to think things through and have a strategy in place. One thing I would suggest is to stash if you can. It you decide otherwise, oh well, it can be added back. I cant tell you how much you will regret if you don’t plan.

      I will tell you this I knew it was going to be bad, maybe real bad, I underestimated, it was a quagmire of landmines and Looney tunes, five years later it is still a no fly zone with live landmines. Preparedness is a must.

      I think of all who have come here and told a horrendous story, looking for answers and help and then nothing, my heart goes out to them and they are always in my prayers. Some of regulars agreed we would let the others know when we plan to stop posting. We really do care.

      1. BTOV,

        When ‘some’ of his conversations become somewhat odd? It would be easier to journal what he doesn’t say that’s odd. Some days that journal would be blank. Lol

        And, unfortunately or fortunately, I also gave up subtle a while back with him. He already knows that I know and I know that I know. I have been completely unsuccessful in Intergrating his thoughts into a healthier manner as he has told me a number of times (in those rare, truthful moments) he likes the way he is and it’s gotten him this far, so he’s not going to change what’s worked for him. He sure told me.

        Instead, I’ve been freaking him out a bit lately by stopping him before he says something and asking him if he was going to say ……………………. Then he looks surprised, hangs his head and pouts a bit, and says, yes, that was what he was going to say. I just respond that it’s a good thing he didn’t say that because I would have just gotten mad. I’ve found It’s a good conversation ender and allows me to be a little amused with my disgust. It’s good to take the wind out of his sails from time to time.

        I am wondering about your reference of subtle projection. His or mine? I’m assuming his. What are you seeing that I may be missing?

  12. It’s hard to watch your own kids, young or adult, deal with a toxic family member. They want so desperately to be loved. My adult daughter is having a hard time dealing with CD daddy. I’ve told her things she needs to know and she screams at me she does not want to hear it. But she has experienced what he is capable of doing when things don’t go his way. It’s awful. And she has displayed some of those awful traits. It’s disheartening.
    It’s really hard dealing with the CDs and at the same time trying to stay positive and enjoy life and people. It’s like I have to switch on and off. Get angry. Get over it. Get on with it. Repeat.
    As of lately I’ve been wearing my boxing gloves. At my wits end dealing with the BS. Am fighting back, proactively, instead of on the defense continually. This is not the way I planned my life at this age.

    1. I don’t think any victim of the toxic individuals can say that they are living the life they planned. I can look back now and see how my malignant mommy narc has sabotaged everything I have ever tried to do. I went to a junior college right out of high school and I had to deal with her BS all along the way. I had an uncle who was a teacher at the college and he was assigned to watch over me. He was also the baseball coach and the baseball players always liked to spread rumors too. My uncle was calling with negative reports about me all the time. Going to that college was a HUGE MISTAKE. They would not let me go anywhere else. They always wanted to keep their wicked little thumbs on me. I got an AGS degree however. Later on in life I went through medical assisting school and when it was time for me to do to the internship with the doctor things went very wrong. I can remember how the doctor came to work one day and started yelling at me and gave me a really bad review. Later I realized that malignant mommy narc had gotten a hold of the doctor and lied to him just like she did with everyone else. She has always messed with my life anyway she can. She has always had a huge smear campaign out against me. If she can’t destroy me then she destroys my kids. I think somehow she is associated with the death of my daughter. It was a great way to get to me. I was forced to go through my grieving process very quickly because she delighted in seeing me squirm but my little son is still very upset. I am sure she would love it because it is also her way to get to me. I am not where I want but I want to get out and get going.

    2. Lucy,
      Use the gloves like you are in a ballet dance, with grace, poise and dignity and at the same time remember the dancers tell a story without a word.

      Leave the smash em crash em to his ignorant lawyer sitting in his corner of the rink. You don’t ever want to leave the impression you are like him.

      On the other hand you have to think very clearly what the objective is. I have to keep this in mind too. The punk in the ring with the boxing gloves can through everyone one on the defensive and then the true point at issue is lost in the confusion the CD causes purposely I must add.

      Everything the CD does is for a reason, sometimes we must react and many times put that in our memory banks. The CD are something from the living dead a real horror show to be sure.

      1. BTOV
        Good advice, as always. I like the parable (?? May be wrong term) of the ballet.
        Susie Q
        Stay strong. You’re amazing.
        I still do follow thenGolden Rule Rule but only with ones worthy of it.
        My good friend told me “Don’t throw your pearls to swine. They will stomp them “. It resonates with me.

        1. Lucy,
          I have a good friend that told me that too!

          I had never heard that particular piece of wisdom. My reaction made us both laugh! I was like, Whaaaa? I don’t have any pearls, I don’t particularly like pearls and why would I throw them to giant pigs. She had to explain it to me. Sometimes I’m so literal!

          Hope my connection or lack there of makes you laugh too.

        2. Coming to swine, I remember one…

          Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it. – George Bernard Shaw

          1. There are always exception…

            A pig who threaten to wrestle to get his ways everyday, must be fought and shown his rightful place one fine day. – ‘D’ Andy D :-D
            PS: Advance preparation will help, instead of emotional decision to pick the day.

        3. Not throwing your pearls to Swine is a quote from the Bible. In relation to the Bible there are some other verses that define the CD to a T. I will get to them tomorrow. I am not trying to convert anyone, but so true. The swine stomp on the best parts of us.

          They sneak up and are so subtle in how they have sucked us in and have used us. The scary and I mean scary part of it all is, their ultimate goal is to make us their ultimate Slave. I mean this literally, we would have to have almost no mind left in order to survive. Think about It, think real hard, remember where you and they were at when you first met to where you are at now. ?????? Do you know?????

          1. I know that I was always trying to get away from my current situation when I hooked up with my narcs. I really had no control of the family I was born into but I am stepping up and breaking the dysfunctional cycle. I do think that you made an important point here when you pointed out that we need to think about all circumstances surrounding our connection with the narcs.

    3. Lucy,

      That does sound really disheartening and I’m sorry you’re dealing with all that. It really doesn’t seem fair that one good hearted, well intentioned misjudgment should have such lasting effects.

      I don’t have any kids myself, my marriage just never felt right for that step even though I couldn’t figure out what was quite wrong with it either. As he had no interest in having kids, no kids. Sometimes I have some regret but often I’m just happy they don’t have to deal with this as well.

      I also really resonate with your get angry, get over it, get angry, ad
      nauseum. I was looking over the posts to catch up and thought, I’m having a really good day. They are certainly not all like that!

      I also liked BTOV’s reference to a ballet dancer. It is like a ballet, powerful and strong but with a grace that makes it appear delicate. Difficult, difficult balance.

  13. On the matter of leaving a CD marriage, I had the following experience, and mind you, I was married to a man with a closet full of skeletons and did not know it.
    I caught him cheating and decided to divorce him, but could not quit leave the marital home yet because he had lost his license to practice and was jobless. So the monetary situation was a deciding factor to not physically leave the marital home yet. So I announced to him I wanted a divorce. For five months I lived in the same household and during that time he did get a job and we talked with each other how we could possibly settle the divorce out of court. (vomit) I was his puppet, still naïve about many things about his character and how manipulative he was. The lies he would tell me concerning the law and divorce – he played me. He just filled me with lies and scare tactics and misinformation. I was still behaving civilly and truly trying to work something else while he was clearly screwing me.
    So the message here is forget about settling any divorce issues between the two of you without an attorney. What a waste of energy that was. I had not known yet the extent of his misdeeds and manipulation. He took my good qualities and stomped on them and used them.
    There was a reference by Dr. Simon about how a CD manipulator uses the good traits of a person to their advantage, and how we should not be ashamed of those traits. They are not qualities that we would want to lose. I’ll have to find that.
    Just a little cautionary advice . . . .

  14. After a little searching I found the quote of Dr. Simon I was referencing above:

    “Sometimes it’s the most decent things about us – things that it would behoove us never to change – that make us vulnerable to the most character-impaired.”

    1. Very true!! The toxic people are always looking for a good soul to take advantage of. I hear it all the time and they think that anyone who shows emotion or has a good heart is weak and is begging to be taken advantage of. The narc feels that it is their responsibility to rid society of the WEAK INDIVIDUALS.

  15. Charlie, Hi!

    Sorry I did not get to your question until now about being a people pleaser. At least for me, doing for people when they need to be doing for themselves was a lot of my people pleasing behavior and the inability to say no regardless of how inconvenient or down right unrealistic in their expectations for my performance…always to their benefit never mine. So, at least for me that would be my “persona” definition of how I went out of my way to please.

    I had a strange experience yesterday that comes under getting up on my hind legs and just take it with a grain of salt.

    I have a new friend that is a lady of 78 that is down with bronchitis so I decided to go to her apartment here in the complex for which I live to see if she needed anything and I ended up walking her dog for her.

    Her dog is sick and old and blind and did not take to kindly being walked by me. I had my dog with me too so that did not make it any easier.

    Well, the two dogs got all tangled up and I was in the throes of getting them untangled when my next door neighbor walked right by me, saw my plight and kept walking…I called after him to help me three times…he finally turned and told me point blank NO and kept walking.

    This is so out of character for me so it just shocks me that I said the following….”Tim, you are such a shitbag!” He kept walking and I got the dogs untangled and back to the dog’s owner.

    Where did that come from????? Is it that I am no longer a people pleaser, or that his callousness and the situation of a deaf, blind and old dog did not warm the cockles of his heart enough to help. I do not know. But I do own my reaction and I will say I just point blank lost my temper and called him a dirty name.

    As one of my friends of eight years said, she was glad that he didn’t take out a gun and shoot me…with all you hear about people just doing such for the most minor of perceived infractions.

    So, I have learned my next door neighbor is not a neighbor and I am sure he does not think I am either now that I called him a shit bag.

    As Mark Twain said….the more I am around people the more I love my dog…or something like that.

    I really shocked myself.

    Well, I will stop trying to be neighborly to my neighbor…sometimes he is nice and then other times he is like this…never know if he is going to be hot or cold. I expect he will be cold from now on.

    Theresa Maria

    1. Theresa,
      I would give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps, he was in the middle of a bad situation and couldn’t handle no more. Maybe, he was already late for work, maybe, he has already been bitten by dogs, there are many reasons he may have declined. Perhaps, and nowadays one is afraid to get involved because of our suing society.

      I think too, its OK you got it out, he was a Shitbag. Just try to get along but trust your gut about who he is. Its no fun having to turn your head every time you see him. Another thought is to apologize, just to keep the peace, but never forget at this point his character is questionable.

      It is hard to be a lone woman, I find it best to be on good terms with neighbors, and with the ????? ones just smile and say hello and be on my way.

      Just some thoughts, I don’t think being considerate and kind to one another is being a people pleaser. I remember when I was young 50 plus years ago living in a society when one extended their helping hand to one another. It was common place to offer assistance without wanting something.

      Theresa, it is a commendable gesture to care for our neighbor.

      Just some thoughts. I am contemplating getting a service dog. The little spitz I have is so loving. Many times I wonder what their minds are thinking.

      Blessings Theresa Marie

    2. Theresa,

      I never had much luck with living in apartments. It seems like everyone is always in your business and up your butt. I hate that!! My son and I lived in an apartment for about nine months. The stairs leading to the apartments above me was right in front of my sliding door. Unless I wanted to keep my shades on the sliding door pulled all day I was always watching as someone checked me out. When my son made friends with one of the girls from school, she would come and bang on the door and when no one answered she would bang on the window. Finally, I just got sick of it and opened the door and said, “Why are you coming over? He doesn’t even like you because you are so mean and cuss at him!” When we went to the swimming pool an obnoxious boy would come over and play rough and splash excessively every time. I can see your issues with the “shitbag” neighbor. In an apartment, especially neighbors, need to be friendly. You were probably very stressed from the situation at the time. I had quite a similar experience the other day. It was quite out of character for me also. It was about 6 AM and I had just gotten up to get my son to school. My dad and I were sitting in the chairs with blankets on. It was quite chilly and we were both commenting on it. Malignant mommy narc want to leave the wooden door open with only the security door closed. The wind coming in was cold and we were even covered up with blankets. My dad got up TWO different times to close the door and mommy narc opened the door each time. I finally got pissed because she is SO selfish and walked over and slammed the door extra hard. She walked in the front room and asked who closed the door. She asked if the dog had done it. I told her that dad had gotten up two times to close the door and I finally closed it because WE ARE COLD. I got the demonic spoiled toddler look. She didn’t say anything though. LOL….. I guess it is live and learn and it looks like we have learned!! No more people pleasing for us. High five to you!

  16. Well, my good friend of eight years did mention she thought it was kinda funny….on the other hand…it upset her enough that she had a dream about me dying by the shitbag’s hand and that all my hard earned retirement money went to my sister and brother, who are as she put it…”they don’t even like you! Let alone love you! And the dream said all your money would go to them!…which is not entirely true since 2/3s is in beneficiary accounts, however my cash accounts, yes, they could fight the estate and get a handful, plus put my animals down.

    So the end result is that I need a will in place if I am going to keep calling people shit bags!

    Oh, and my friend is on the beneficiary list but she has money of her own and all kinds of loving relations so life is pretty OK for her and she is not pushing me for money AT ALL. So the dream was a heads up to me and a dream full of true care from her.

    Blessings, and thanks BTOV…I know you come from a religious leaning and it makes my heart glad to have one of a religious leaning still call the jerk a shit bag…JEEZ! I still can’t believe that came out of my mouth at that particular time. I am no saint but JEEZ! again.

    And Suzie! Rock On girl!

    Theresa Maria

    1. lmao….. You are funny!! I agree that you probably should not make it a habit of calling people shitbags. It was really funny, however. It is amazing what comes out of our mouths when we are frustrated. Depending on how close he is to your apartment and how often you see him you might want to apologize. Only you know him and if he has EVER been nice. I told my roommate once that she needed to go F@@@ herself. Oh goodness, you should have seen her face!! Priceless!! She still tried to tell me that I owed her money and I just reminded her that she was driving on the tires that I had bought her. She told me that she never asked me to buy her tires. She was driving around on bald tires and friends take care of friends. (I thought she was a friend)

    2. Theresa Marie,
      In that particular instance if you think about it Shitbag is not a curse word. In your situation and it would had taken a man but a minute to help. Hmmm, you were walking the dogs and I am sure you had your doggie bag with you, in relative terms “poop bag.” Whatever, however, you say it, it is all the same and not undignified.

      Really, in all honesty he fits in the poop bag………

      Just be cautious, you are a single woman. You are at a disadvantage, but in terms this man knows you will speak up. Will be interested to hear how he acts towards you in the future.

      I would give thought to having a trust written up, you can leave $$$ to wherever, whomever, and it will be a protected asset.


      1. Theresa Marie,
        I do not consider myself religious, religion is mans interpretation with all their gobbledegook and ceremonies. I consider myself a Christian, there is a big difference. But thank you, I am so glad you are posting, missed you for awhile. Everyone that stays adds so much and you have shared immensly.

      2. I like your comment about being religious. I consider myself as spiritual. In my mind, any person can be religious but that doesn’t mean they are spiritual. Spiritual means having a special connection with the Divine and religious can be as simple as sitting in a pew every Sunday. I lived in a state where people were often referred to as religious and that put them at a level above the rest. I really found that offensive after a while. I loved the state, however, and some of my best friends live there. I just had to learn to get tough skin.

      3. I also agree that everyone that participates is beneficial. Everyone gives important little insight. Sometimes it is just important to be able to talk to someone who understands. Everyday life can be very trying and I appreciate all the cute stories.

        1. Susie Q
          The tragic experiences shared on this site are priceless in that the ones sharing feel safe enough and caring enough to post for the benefit of others. I have never found another site like this one.

          The amazing giving from so many posters and the archives such a invaluable resource of knowledge. I hope one day Dr. Simon will use his archives as the foundation for a book. There is living hope and a roadmap to those looking for answers.

          1. I belong to a group on Facebook called Southlake Christian Counseling and she recently wrote a book based on a lot of the info that members of the forum have written. She sent out certain form that she needed filled out on every toxic person that we have come across. I think I filled out about 10. I could have written more but on some of my toxic individuals I didn’t feel that I had enough valuable information. I made sure and tell Shannon, the lead psychologist, that she did a wonderful job in her field.

            I know that since I have healed I have become a lot more vocal. I feel that when a person can let it all out then things can work out for the best. I know that my kids suffered tremendously at the hands of the psychopath step father. My middle son is having a really hard time dealing with things. When he was living with me I would take him to counseling and finally the counselor told me that my son would not open up. My son is living with his father right now and he is suffering a lot that he does not even realize. I have tried to talk to his toxic father about things and it is never taken seriously. I think that they both need to grow up but my son is 21 and his father is almost 50 so there is not much I can do.

  17. BTOV,

    Thank you for the insight.

    I must put out one thing. Calling a person a poop bag just does not have the Ump! of calling a person a shit bag. Something is just lost in translation. :)

    But I get your point!

    Love Love,

    Theresa Maria

    1. Theresa Marie,
      I agree, I get your point too. Farmers call it cow shit all day. Now that I think about it, your comment wasn’t that bad. Remember, cow ship or splats serve a useful purpose, the manure produced from it is a rich fertilizer. So your term was rather light, maybe, could be construed as a compliment?

      Thanks for sharing you experience.

  18. TheresaK

    LMAO! It’s good to know I’m not the only one frustrated enough to call people out. Not saying it’s right, but the bottle it up days seem far gone, don’t they? You go TheresaK!

    1. Theresa K and Lucy,
      I went to court, I got my DVI all the while I never looked at the CD. When leaving the courthouse building in sight of several law enforcement the CD watched me to my car and gave me the death stare. I acted like he wasn’t even there and went about my business.

      Sometimes it is best to be quiet, but I agree many times with these we must have the wisdom and discernment when to speak and when to zip.

      I give you claps and cheers for your tenacity, mine is a will of the mind in not buckling in a different arena. Ah, the mind games of predators in toddle time. I am glad to hear your stories, I will keep them in mind, for if and when the day may come. Thanks and Hugs!!!

      1. BYOV
        Your X is a scary one. Those looks he gives you have a psychological reason behind them of which I’m sure you know. That’s why you don’t give him the satisfaction of giving him a reaction. My gut reaction would be a face-off – but that’s the lack of self control and the fighter in me. (And lots of pent up frustration). When my STBX challenges me I stand taller and bigger – even when I feel like shrinking. Interesting how we all react or no react differently.

        1. Lucy,
          A never fail is to stand tall with dignity and grace, no reaction, no fear, like the brat punk bully in the school yard. Not an easy decision at all, but in this case in this point in time, I think a slight look of notice and a nonchalant stance as if for a moment you glimpsed a tree but at the same time being in full observance.

          Each circumstance and each individual is different. I will never be the one who initiated a conflict. It is not good but it is a power play, a scare tactic and a warning.

          I gain immense strength, wisdom and endurance from all of you. This is when its great when the men chime in.

        2. Linda,

          I have also noticed that I don’t take so much anymore.. My ex-psycho used to back me in a corner and get off on the terror in my eyes. I guess I just took more than my limit and I get borderline ignorant sometimes. I am the nicest, easygoing lady until people continually step on my boundaries. I find myself giving my dad a little attitude a lot. You should see the complete surprise in his eyes!! Lmao

          Sent from Outlook Mobile

          1. I think they are cowards. A man abusing a woman is a low life coward. And they use “anger” as a manipulative tactic when they are not really angry at all but they want you to back off and shut up. Once I learned this it was a game changer. Retraction – it doesn’t have to be a man on woman – any person bullying and abusing – man or woman. I’ve learned to make myself “larger” when confronted and intimidated. I envision myself becoming taller and bigger. It does something to my inner strength. When you feel like shrinking, stand up straight and envision yourself large. It does wonders.

          2. I can feel my stare becoming very intense. Often I catch myself stepping closer to the perpetrator. I try my best to stay on top of that maneuver though because that is a bully tactic. My ex-psycho had anger issues out the Ying yang and I think he blacks out when he is mad!!

            Sent from Outlook Mobile

          3. Susie Q

            So what are we becoming? When we are bullied and abused and preyed upon, and we learn how to fight back are we doing ourselves a disservice? I became enraged at the CD to close to the point of being close to striking out. I am able now to do No Contact Since I don’t live with the STBX and I don’t very often read and reply to his demeaning emails. But when one is living in the same environment how should one behave? Does ignoring the abuse make it worse? I don’t know – I think they will jerk us around no matter what we do. It’s toxic. I’m glad I got out of that house …. Feel bad for my daughter and anyone else living with that constant negative energy

          4. My son and I have constant negative energy. I just stay in my room somedays. Most of the time though I can laugh off the stupidity. Malignant mommy narc hates to hear me laugh. LOL…. I think that is as good as telling her off! I have gone the rounds with my dad and he ended up throwing up his hands and yelling F###. I don’t like to act like that but when you are dealing with an animal sometimes you have to be a little crazy. He looks at me know as if I have EARNED my right to be a smart ass!!

            I feel sorry for your grandson because I know it is so hard to be young and innocent when someone is waiting to take advantage of every situation!!

            Sent from Outlook Mobile

  19. Theresa K,

    Thanks so much for answering my question. I think it provides some additional clarity for me, although, I’m now wondering one more thing. Lol

    While I truly enjoy helping people and I believe we all need a helping hand from time to time (I would have changed direction to help you in your plight,) I actually feel resentful when the helping interaction doesn’t feel positive to me. If I have two or more of those resentful interactions with the same person, I don’t want to help that person anymore. Did you feel the same? Resentful of unreasonable expectations and thoughtless inconvenience? I also feel resentful when ‘no’ doesn’t feel like an option or choice for me. (I also hate to tell people ‘no’ and would much rather negotiate a compromise that meets both parties needs or moves the person onto someone else.)

    I also realized that when I just complied with people’s needs (meeting the definition of a people pleaser) I was usually operating under a direct or implied demand and complied in order to avoid the retaliation, the fight, and/or the tantrum that came with ‘no’ to certain people. I also have realized that saying ‘no’ makes me anxious with non aggressive people because I always expect that it could result in retaliation, a fight, and / or the tantrum, hence the negotiation method.

    I think this is sounds like more a survival strategy than the true desire to please and receive approval for the sake of approval and the sake of seeing someone pleased. I also think somewhere along the way pro social values such as courtesy and compassion (which you displayed by helping a sick friend and neighbor and the ‘shitbag’ didn’t display) has maybe been reduced to a negative personality trait (people pleasing.)

    This topic us very puzzling to me and I would be very greatful for your thoughts on this topic as I only know how and why I do and feel and think about things but not how you or others do and feel and think. In other words, as we are all unique individuals, the process of how we arrive at a particular action may be very different for each of us even if the result is the same.

    I had to really laugh at your calling the neighbor a shitbag. That was a great story! Like BTOV, I started to come up with excuses as to why his behavior was so appalling but I caught myself. I make a conscious effort to not assign a story to people’s poor behavior. I was taught to do that by the troubled people in my life as a manipulation tactic to accept the unacceptable (I believe Dr Simon has labled it under Inviting or Invitation.). I had finally asked my spouse if the reasonable answer he gave as to why he did what he did was true and the answer was, “No, but it could of been so you shouldn’t be upset.”( That was Ridiculous!). I do try to find a balance in order to be conscious that people have many unknown, unexplained reasons for their behavior that may not be a result of poor character, I just no longer assume that poor character isn’t one of those reasons.

    I don’t know about you, but I’ve been ‘groomed’ to be perfect, not make mistakes, and never lose my temper no matter what. I think what you said was honest, imperfect, confident, and brave. I think you should be proud of how far you’ve come. Feeling bad or a bit guilty is good too so it won’t become a habit (becoming like the aggressive people is still my greatest fear.) I still struggle with saying what I think or feel in fear of retaliation (which was certainly your friend’s concern.). I don’t think we can live in fear or it just allows the aggressive, character disturbed to carry on without any repercussions which just reinforces their poor character and poor actions. (As my husband has told me, it works for him) and it puts us in a one down position as it shakes our self confidence and self value while setting a standard of tolerance for poor behavior.

    Thanks again for helping me find some clarity on this topic.

    1. Charlie,
      You have said a lot here and I think much is open for discussion. I was not trying to find an excuse for the man. I know of several instances where a person acted somewhat uncaring and thoughtless. Only, to find out this mans mother was dying, going to work and did not want to talk about it for whatever reason. People thought he was overly rude. In fact he he had so much on his mind and for many people they are just not able to talk about personal problems.

    1. Joey thanks. That’s an interesting clip. He says, “Without empathy democracy would not be possible “. If Donald Trump wins the election we are in trouble.

      1. Lucy,
        You are assuming that other politicians are full of empathy. :-)

        Everything is fine, as long as Trumps keeps himself to globe trotting, chest thumping, and taking credit for anything good that happen to happen, and blame bad things on tornado.
        And, the career politicians will get a well deserved 4 year vacation!

        1. Correction: 4 year rest.
          Everyone needs a break from 2 party system once in a while. It is good for long-term health of 2 party democracy.

        2. Good point! I have to say as well that Trump not being a career politician is a big plus.

          Sent from Outlook Mobile

  20. Charlie,

    Thank you for responding about people pleasing with a great deal of heart felt knowledge, questions and need to understand. I do not know if I can fully give you all that you ask since it is such a personal thing. The things you ask answers for are profound and not answered lightly.

    Give me some time. I go back to work tomorrow for three days of high stress and many many people. I will not be able to think out loud so to speak during this time and for at least a day or two after. The background noise of this kind of job sticks with you for more time than I ever could have imagined when taking the job.

    So making a story even longer…I know my mind will be working on this on a deep level even during this time when my attention is elsewhere. Just remember that I am giving my feelings and opinions and thoughts time to make themselves known.

    You, again, have asked very profound questions and I would not be a “wise” person if I did not give them the time they need to respond.

    So give me some time, a few days, and I will do my best.

    With all the love in the world,

    Theresa Maria

  21. TheresaK,

    Thanks so much for being patient and responding to my questions and long rambling replies to you regarding people pleasing. I truly appreciate your thoughts, time and effort while I was working through something that was important and difficult for me.

    I realized two somethings when you talked about needing some time to think and your uncertainly about being able to give me what I asked ‘since it was such a personal thing.’

    The first something is that I may have caused you to feel uncomfortable by putting you on the spot because it is such a personal thing. If I caused you to feel uncomfortable, I’m sorry, it was not my intention.

    The second thing is, thank you, you are correct, it is a personal thing and that helped me resolve MY motivation behind what may appear to be ‘people pleasing’ to others and why I’ve reacted so strongly and negatively to the term.

    I realized that for me it comes down to trying to earn or prove my value with the important and very difficult people in my life. I also realized that I cannot ‘earn’ or prove my value. I think my struggle may be related to the narcissitic tendency to value / devalue which combines in an unhealthy way with my natural inclination to help. When I’m being devalued, I work hard to become valued again, to prove I have worth as a person to the person devaluing me. (I, of course, do not recognize this is what is actually occurring when I respond to complaints, demands, accusations, ect.) This becomes a vicious, crazy making cycle that degrades me.

    The people in my life seem to swing rapidly from one extreme to the other. It has been a long, difficult, and painful struggle to center myself and stabilize my reactions in order to think and action from the middle, between the extremes, where I’m comfortable and feel more confident and certain.

    Thanks so much for helping me get one step closer to the confident, independent person I once was.

  22. Hi,
    I need some help and I like the approach taken here.
    I wondered what the difference was between having needs and the way to go about having those needs met, and being an entitled brat, because I see the two as the same.
    I am a burnt out mom and I consistently silence and fail to assert myself as I find it makes it look like it’s “about me”. It’s destructive because, at wit’s end, I end up behaving inappropriately and looking “entitled” (and feeling ashamed afterwards about how I had a tantrum), when really I am suffering inside and not taking care of myself. I can’t seem to find a healthy medium where I give and take appropriately, and end up a sort of martyr. Everyone is fed up. My spouse is tired of hearing about my “problems”.
    Surely there is a better way for a mother to model good behaviour to her children? I am your classic resentful doormat and if I could just hear that it’s ok to express a need and either meet it or help to have it me, I would feel validated.

    1. Hello Rotsalz

      I think I have had the same dilemma.

      It is perfectly ok to express oneself, including one’s needs in a straight forward, non-blaming way. After that, it’s our expectations of what we want from the other person that twist this situation into feelings of anger and resentment when our needs are dismissed or ignored. We have to drop the expectations.

      I used to get infuriated when a reasonable request for help from myself was not met by the other person. But that is a reaction due to my expectation that the other person owes me their attention or assistance. They don’t. They are free to behave as they choose. I have no control over that.

      This leads me to a new dilemma. I now have a relationship with a person who refuses to reciprocate, to put time, thought, energy, focus into me (the other half of the relationship). This violates my values about healthy intimate relationships, whether with children or spouses. In some cases, the other person’s behaviour violates my boundaries, and imposes on me, and she/he has to be told what the boundary is, and requested to stop transgressing it. For example, my need for privacy or peace and quiet is a boundary that others might violate, and they have to be told in a nice way to bugger off.

      I believe in being supportive of each other in a relationship: reciprocity, consideration and thoughtfulness, respecting boundaries, giving of one’s time and energy to the other and above all, enjoying giving of one’s self to the other person.

      If the other person consistently and repeatedly cannot or will not meet my reasonable requests and needs, the dilemma I am left with then, is to decide how much more I want to invest of my time and energy in an unequal relationship with a person who is behaving in a self-centred and selfish way. They are perfectly happy because I meet their needs. They show little desire to reciprocate. I get tired of being the one doing all the giving.

      But I also have to take responsibility for doing too much giving, as only I have control over that, the other person is not holding a hammer over my head forcing me to be a doormat as you describe.

      When I am not so accommodating and helpful, the other person then has a dilemma. They are not getting their needs met, which opens up a discussion about needs and expectations and relationship values. If we are not on the same page, then it is time to move on, or stop giving so much.

      My friends and family treat me well, so I know what good actions and attitudes are. So, when an intimate partner does not measure up to the standards that I think are very reasonable to expect, I move on, because I recognize that I am dealing with a disturbed character who will take and take, rarely give back, and who does not enjoy the act of giving to the person they claim to love.

      I would suggest you focus more on your own needs, and meeting them by yourself, or with the help of people in your life who come through for you. Stop wasting your time, energy and emotion on those who are incapable of giving you what you need. Work harder at pleasantly refusing to accommodate those people who only want to suck energy and time out of you: pleasantly tell them you are too tired, not interested, have other things you would rather do, not today, etc. And don’t feel guilty for putting your needs ahead of those energy suckers and selfish people, including your own children. If you are referring to your children, you may able to negotiate a deal such as: as soon as you help me finish what I would like to get done, I will find the time to help you with what you want done.

    2. Rotsalz,

      Welcome and I’m sorry to hear you’re having a difficult time. I can tell you about my process of moving from fear and guilt at saying no and moving into a place where I can feel comfortable meeting my needs as well as others.

      I was recommended a book that I found really helpful called ‘Boundaries’ by Cloud and Townsend. It is a Christian based book and can be found in any Christian bookstore or Barnes and Nobles. I’m not a religious person so I expected to not care for it but I found there are many Christian values that have become a bit slanted in becoming social rules. It was very helpful to clear up some of the misunderstandings and the book was very good about defining what is and isn’t ok boundaries.

      I was also recommended to learn my assertive rights (you can find many versions of assertive or human rights online.) I found that it helps to have a list of what I have rights to and what I don’t have rights to when accessing whether what I’m feeling is reasonable.

      I study animal behavior and work with aggressive, fearful, anxious dogs which helped me realize the value of having choices. Many aggressive dogs are frustrated and resentful and responded quickly to having choices. I recognized that crossed the human / animal barrier. Much of my resentment comes from feeling like I lack choices. I remind myself that I do have choices and list what they are. I also ask someone needing something from me if I have a choice or what are my options. I’ve noticed it reminds me that I have choices and also puts the onus back on the person asking, they have to really think about what they’re asking from me.

      I try to be mindful of how I’m feeling and measure the needing persons response. Their response and that resentful feeling I may have can help me determine if what they are asking for is a request or a demand. And I will say that what they asked for didn’t feel like a request to me. It will at least open up a discussion. No one feels good about meeting demands even when those demands are for the most noble of purposes (i.e. Motherhood.)

      I have a hard time saying ‘no’ most of which is no fault of my own (saying no can often produce tantrums by some of my difficult people.) But I found that saying, ‘I’m not ok with that” or “That doesn’t feel ok to me” is a much more comfortable way to express a no in many situations. And as Lucy reminded me in a different post, No is a complete sentence. (Thanks for the reminder, Lucy.)

      I try to have a conversation based around expectations. I found there were plenty of times that I was doing more than what was expected of me so I make sure I understand the right and left limits of what’s being requested, the timeframe, what’s involved, ect

      Setting priorities was also important step. I found out that a few people I helped were a little resentful of how I helped them by doing more than they asked or misunderstanding their priorities. What’s important to me may not be important to another so I may have inadvertently stepped over their boundaries in my enthusiasm to help.

      I also found that listing my priorities could result in people taking back their request when they found how much was on my plate or they didn’t like limits being imposed. (I have to do X, Y, and Z before I can help you. I can only spend an hour before A, B, and C needs to be completed.

      I’m wondering if you’ve considered a calendar showing your schedule and keeping a list of ‘requests’ from your family. It may help everyone (most importantly you) see the areas where you’re feeling overburdened. I would highly, highly recommend you block some time for yourself each week. Read a book, watch a movie, have lunch with a friend, get a massage or a facial, start a hobby, create through arts or crafts. The daily and mundane task list sucks energy from us and if one doesn’t replenish our energy we can’t help anyone including ourselves. Please remember what they instruct on the airplanes. Put on your mask, then the child’s. (One can’t help the child if they’re unconscious.). Lol

      I hope something from my list of experiences helps spark some ideas for you to start establishing some mutually respectful boundaries and gain some needed peace in your life and your family’s. Boundary crossing from either side creates a lot of conflict and anxiety and just makes life difficult for all involved (even our pets.) :)

      1. I’d like to take credit for the “NO” is a compete sentence, and I remember reading it, but it wasn’t me.

      2. Charlie,
        In all that you have just said I think you answered your own questions on why or why not to leave. I believe the individuals that left get it!

        1. Good to know what I described sounds familiar. It’s always odd that there’s so much repetitive behavior. Maybe they have a book too.

        2. BTOV

          For several years I stayed in an unfulfilling marriage. I was downright neglected and ignored by him. It wasn’t until I found out the jerk did intolerable deeds that I decided to divorce. The truth be known, I was too lazy to do the work that a divorce would entail. I did not like him for at least the past five years of marriage. He turned uglier and uglier inside. I did not know what was happening to him, but it was happening before my eyes. But I was lazy. I just did not want to do the emotional (and now I find out very expensive) work that goes along with divorce.

          1. Lucy,
            Don’t be so hard on yourself, when one doesn’t know what we are dealing with and considering all the confusion, fog, gas lighting, etc…. it is difficult to realize what goes on over a long period of time. Then there are other considerations, when you do love them and the attachment of children, family, friends, community and possessions are so intertwined it is very difficult to detach.

            Had you not found the resources that explain what you are dealing with think of where you would be. Exactly, the puppet on the string, frantic because it is all so surreal, crazy making, trying to make sense out of something that is senseless. You have cut the umbilical cord and you are now free.

            We can’t look back because that is the stuff that keeps us hung up. It’s about today, living now and making these the best years of our lives. Stay strong and don’t look back unless they are necessary parts of the puzzle that will help you go forward to make positive and necessary decisions and judgement calls.

            Flaws in our character? I will take ownership of mine and keep working on myself, hopefully, till the day I die. Wow, do I see all the flags in my life I never knew were there and for many of them we are just plain naive. We thought the CD thought like us, they used mirroring our needs and desires just enough to trick us “pulling the wool over our eyes.”

            Remember, how old you were too, so many years back. As our lives become so involved and layer upon layer of deceit and lies are built, including, all the other added stressors in our lives, it is understandable when we ask ourselves “how did we end up here.”

            Hang in there, on the road we are on, we will always find stumbling blocks, having the guts and determination I know you have inside, no matter what happens you will come out on top. There are no winners in these cases, but what you will come out with is mature emotional, mental and spiritual character you never knew existed.

            Forgiving yourself will release you even further and will help you build the strength you will need to move ahead in the months ahead.
            The CD wants to wear you down but he never counted on the “character” so deep inside you. In this “case” which with most attorneys are games, he has vastly underestimated his opponent.

            You are in my prayers and prayer is powerful, I pray for your safety and for strength and the resolve to get through this. God bless you!

  23. Rotsalz,

    Us baby boomers were raised differently and I think it worked out much better. The parents did not run circles around their kids, the kids were expected to and adapted to the parents’ way of running a family and household. The parents are the adults who make the decisions, not the children. Every individual has needs and there is nothing wrong with having them met. Who says you have to spend every spare minute tending to a child? You don’t! You will be more respected if you take care of yourself and don’t cave in to every whim of a child.
    Child can become brats if their every “demand” is met without some type of work towards it, patience to get it, etc. You should really read Dr. Simon’s article on gratitude.
    You are important. Don’t ever think you’re not. Your kids don’t run the show, you do.
    Don’t just whine about your life. You can make changes. Step by step.
    Believe me, children will take take take take and become unappreciative brats that no one wants to be around, including yourself.
    Remember, YOU are the parent. They are just kids.

    1. Rotsalz,
      Welcome! Do you mind if I ask how many children and how old they are. It will give me a better idea how to respond. From the little you say someone knows how to pull your strings and push buttons.

    2. I just re-read my post. Sorry about the “whine” reference. “Complain” would have been the appropriate word. My bad!

  24. To answer BTOV, My children are 9 (boy) and 12 (girl).

    I never expected so much support on this blog. I feel so much better. I always feel so bad about myself for being angry and resentful, and my husband says I ruin it for everyone when I am in a bad mood and I should just go away until I feel better, but I end up feeling so alone in my pain.

    I am aware of the topic of this post, and the reason I chose to write is because sometimes I wonder if I am the one who is disordered for being a grumpy overworked wife, and whether I consistently fail to appreciate what I have. Anyhow, I know I need to take better care of myself, and in the process the “net” of relationships at home will improve.

    Sorry for rambling. Thank you for listening.

    1. Rotsalz,
      Don’t ever think you are rambling, we all need to find a safe person or place to discuss what is on our minds. Write all you want, ask all you want, vent all you want, most of us have been there. Dr. Simon created this blog just for that reason. I hope you keep posting and we can help you make sense out of your situation.

  25. Rotsalz

    You have reasons why you feel angry and resentful and you should never discount your feelings. If you can find the specific reasons of why you feel this way you can work towards changing the situations and the bad feelings that go along with it.
    Feeling this way does not mean you don’t appreciate what you have. You can appreciate all you have and still feel crappy. Honestly, there are so many dynamics in a family setting that can result in one feeling unappreciated, overworked, unloved, grumpy, tired, restless, fed-up, all of that. It’s difficult raising a family, especially when other members don’t do their share of the load. Of course one would feel resentful. And “going away till you feel better” doesn’t work. It’s time a time-out situation.
    You’re not rambling. You have clearly made your points. Please – be gentle with yourself.
    Most of us are here because of personal issues that are hard to manage and we help each other as best we can. I hope to hear from you and tell me how you’re doing.

  26. Rotsalz,

    There are many problems that can arise in relationships that cause us to question whether it’s us or them or the combination of the two. Some of those problems are the conflict experienced in normal healthy relationships and some of those problems are more indicating unhealthy relationships operating through disfunction and fighting (overt, passive, and covert.) Dealing with difficult or problem people can cause us to feel ‘disordered’ and often confused. We often think it’s them in the heat of the moment and we think it’s us when the dust settles.

    It’s difficult to tell from your original post who or what is the actual source of your frustration. The boundaries and taking care of myself also helped me realize how truly difficult my husband is. Limits, boundaries and taking care of my own needs caused his fighting to be more overt and clear. By changing my behavior, it changed his. Unfortunately, it was not for the better as one would normally expect. He could no longer convince me I was the cause of our disagreements and everything would be better if I just let him take charge.

    It is good that you are looking inward to understand what negatives you are bringing into the relationship but also your husband should be doing the same. I was surprised at your comment regarding his wanting you to go away until you feel better. Either he’s very frustrated or not showing much compassion (which is a red flag for me) or is he wanting you to take time for yourself? (I did not get the impression from your post that he was suggesting to go away for your benefit.)

    Does he help out with the kids and the home? Does he take time out to talk with you about your frustrations? Does he help you problem solve in order to lessen the conflict you’re experiencing? What is he doing to help you avoid your self described ‘tantrums?’ A good partner should be working with you to resolve conflict and supporting changes you want to make for the betterment of the whole family.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *