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Episode summary:

 In this episode, Susan talks with Dr. Ramani Durvasula, author of the new book, It's Not You: Identifying and Healing from Narcissistic People, as well as the books Should I Stay Or Should I Go? Surviving A Relationship With A Narcissist, and Don't You Know Who I Am? How To Stay Sane In An Era Of Narcissism, Entitlement and Incivility. Susan and Dr. Durvasula discuss difficulties, grief and legal challenges associated with co-parenting with someone who has narcissistic tendencies. 


Dr. Ramani Durvasula is on a mission to demystify and dismantle the toxic influence of narcissism on all of our lives. She is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Santa Monica and Sherman Oaks, CA and Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles. The focus of Dr. Durvasula’s clinical, academic and consultative work is the etiology and impact of narcissism and high-conflict, entitled, antagonistic personality styles on human relationships, mental health, and societal expectations. Her work has been featured at SxSW, TEDx, and on a wide range of media platforms including Red Table Talk, the Today Show, Oxygen, Investigation Discovery, Bravo, and she is a featured expert on the digital media mental health platform MedCircle.   

Things you'll learn from this episode:

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Why a narcissist may be a toxic partner, yet still be a good parent
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How your children can be your "true north"

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How the stable parent can still raise well-adjusted, high functioning, healthy children

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1:

Hello and welcome to the podcast. I'm Susan Stiffelman, your host and the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles and Parenting with Presence, an Eckhart Tolle Edition. I'm a marriage, family and child therapist, a teacher, a long time parent educator, and a mom. And I am very, very glad that you're here. This podcast is really about helping you raise confident, caring, compassionate children with more joy and with fewer power struggles. It's so much fun for me and really an honor to share some of the things I've learned over the 40 plus years. I've been doing this work before we get started. Please make sure that you're getting all of our updates by visiting Susanstiffelman.com. You can sign up for my newsletter. You'll get lots of news and inspiration, and also all the updates because we have some great programs for parents, including a recent phenomenally cool class, Reducing Behavioral Challenges with Tools From Neuroscience, with Dr. Mona Delahooke, and that's still available and an upcoming class with the wonderful authors of The Self Driven Child, William Stixrud and Ned Johnson. So be sure to stay in touch. My guest is Dr. Ramani Durvasula, and we are going to be talking about co-parenting with a narcissist. Dr. Ramani’s YouTube channel has millions of followers, and she has hundreds of videos on this topic. And today we did a deep dive into the particulars, around raising a child with a narcissistic co-parent. Have a listen, and then I'll come back.

Speaker 2:
Dr. Ramani, we're going to have quite a conversation. I'm so happy that you're here. My gosh, you're just making a huge, huge difference in the world. And I'm thrilled that we can share you with our wonderful podcast audience. Let me just give a little bit of your bio. Dr. Ramani Durvasula is on a mission to demystify and dismantle the toxic influence of narcissism on all of our lives. She's a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at California State University LA, the author of, Should I Stay or Should I Go? and You Are Why You Eat, and lots of other publications and books and so forth. The focus of Dr. Durvasula’s clinical academic and consultative work is the ideology and impact of narcissism and high conflict entitled antagonistic personality styles on human relationships, mental health and societal expectations for work has been featured on Red Table, The Today Show, Oxygen, Bravo, and she's a featured expert on the digital media mental health platform, Medcircle, Dr. Durvasula was research on personality disorders has been funded by the National Institute of Health, and she's a consulting editor of the scientific journal Behavioral Medicine, and is just making a huge, huge impact on the world and on the lives of real people on her website, http://doctor-ramani.com/. And most importantly on your YouTube channel, which is just filled with every type of video on every aspect of relating to interacting with living, parenting with all of the things that we do in our daily lives with someone who has narcissistic qualities.

Speaker 1:
I thank you as I always feel like that's a grandiose introduction, and then last thing I want to be, but thank you. And it's an honor to talk to somebody who works in this field as well.

Speaker 2:
As you know, Wendy Behary and I have a group co-parenting with the narcissist, which is just the most beautiful touching, painful gathering of parents. And but there aren't a lot of people who specialize in fact, Wendy was not available a couple of years ago. And I reached out to just a few people in the field and, and you were unavailable for scheduling issues, but there were a few who said, you know, I don't know what to tell parents. They just said they can diagnose it. They can discuss it, they can theorize about it, but the pragmatic, how do you live with someone or co-parent after a separation when you still have children in common.

Speaker 1:
It's so challenging Susan, because at some level to do this work, realistically, you really feel like an executioner. The news is largely bad, you know, and I have to say that I feel ethically. My role is to really sort of maintain rather realistic expectations for what a person is going to go through. Not only sort of how stormy this, this journey is going to be, but that this will impact their children. And I think to me, the hardest part of the parenting work is the damned if you do damned, if you don't have at all, if they stay in the relationship, then the children witnessed this, you know, really this, this contemptuous times even abusive marriage between two parents, which can leave them with very sort of distorted constructs of not only what human relationships in marriage or close relationships are about, but also the anxiety that comes from living in a house.

Speaker 2:
That's so fraught with tension. But so many parents struggle with this idea of, I don't want to lose my children 20, 30, 40, or 50% of the time. At least if I'm under the same roof as them, I can be a source of solace and comfort for them. And the flip side is that people say, well, I want them to witness this. So they leave because it really does become untenable. And then all the tensions that come with that. And I have to say that the destination, that the vast majority of children who have to survive these kinds of narcissistic sorts of co-parenting or marital situations, their parents are in is anxiety, severe, lifelong anxiety. And I tell the parents, I've got to prepare you for this. And I think what really is tragic, that is in that smaller segment of cases, if I were to spit ball number somewhere at a 10 to 20% where their children and adults would go on to have those narcissistic patterns and traits themselves, which is its own form of devastation. So all smattering of the other issues, like I think that children who grow up in these situations also have issues around self-regulation, which can manifest and things like substance use issues, eating issues, or eating disorder, gambling, social media, obsessiveness, like an obsessiveness that's used as a self-regulation having grown up in such a dysregulated environment.

Speaker 2:
So not to bum anybody out, because I know that that's a lot to take in at the beginning of this conversation, I'm going to also play the part of Pollyanna and not undo anything you've said, because you're a realist and you're setting realistic expectations. And thankfully, there are things that we can do, things we can do to mitigate the likelihood of those things happening. And that's what Wendy and I see every month when we work with parents, that we see positive movement, we see improvement in not only their wellbeing, the co-parent the healthier parent, but also in their children. And a big part of that rests on how we both accept, come to terms with when you and I were talking recently, we talked about the grief and is a huge piece to accept. This is the situation they're discussing, sending your partner articles about the damage being done to the children is not helpful.

Speaker 2:
So I love that. You're so you're so clear, you know, let's start with, give up on all that and what can we do as a parent to reduce the likelihood of your kids experiencing some anxiety or, or taking into their adult life, some of the remnants or the residue of what they experienced as a child. And there are things that parents can do. So I want to talk about that. But first I want to sort of help people know, was this what I'm dealing with? So can you just talk about some of the classic indications or predictable behaviors that point to the possibility that one's co-parent is a narcissist and what that even is? I mean, it seems like lack of empathy, entitlement, grandiosity, arrogance, somebody who's quite controlling, a superficial validation and admiration seeking deeply sensitive to any form of criticism or feedback. We see things like impulsivity and you know, all of this is cloaking. This sense of inadequacy insecurity that these are the defensive projections that a person has. The narcissistic person has to protect that core inadequacy. And when that inadequacy gets triggered or activated, then that narcissistic person usually then has their shame come up. And right behind that shame is often a lot of rage, but we can't forget the vulnerable presentation of narcissism, which is characterized by a sense of victimhood of selling this resentfulness often more of an introversion, whereas a classical grandiose narcissist is quite extroverted. The, the vulnerable narcissist tends to be quite introverted. We tend to see more social anxiety there.

Speaker 1:
We tend to see more of a woe is me kind of a sad sack. Hang dog. Life was never fair to me. Nothing ever goes my way and partners. And those relationships often find themselves constantly babysitting the narcissistic person's vulnerability, constantly having to provide reassurance to the point of sheer exhaustion and often almost kind of enabling, like, what can I do? Who can I call? Let's do this, I'll get my parents to loan us money. Like it's constantly trying to prop them up. Nothing is ever enough. And if you look at the work of people like Pinkus and Ron and Stan, the real sort of theoretical heavy hitters in the world of narcissism, running Sam in particular, she would argue that vulnerable and grandiose narcissism are just two faces of the same coin. And when things are going badly for the narcissistic person, we tend to see more of the victimhood selling this and resentfulness.

Speaker 2:
And then when things are going well for them, we see sort of that pretentious, arrogant, preening kind of narcissistic presentation and mixed into this are the patterns like dismissiveness, invalidation, minimization, lots of manipulation, gaslighting it, all of these patterns just tend to be part of the narcissistic relationship. So it's, it's constantly unsettling. It's constantly invalidating. It's constantly unsupportive, but T tossed in here. And that's where it gets confusing or what I call the bits of sunshine those days where you're like, I really like this person we're having the best time we have good sex. This person is so smart. I, I w they're my favorite scrambled buddy. We both love this obscure hobby. There's something compelling about this person. It's that. And it's that compellingness that often can lead to the justification that makes these relationships last often decades past what would be considered healthy life. I'm really happy that you moved in that direction, because I, I often say that they give good crumbs. You never know when you're going to get a little dose of something, but it's a good dose. And we sort of stand there, hovering on the side, you know, hoping that maybe today, or maybe at this meal, we're going to get tossed a little scrap. And, and, and there is a process inside of us that has to shift right first. And the good news is there are things we can do now. We cannot ever change that person. And, and as I said before, looking at the grieving, it's actually liberating when you accept, oh, this is what it is, and this isn't going to change, but there's a lot a parent can do independent of what the narcissistic co-parent does. Can we talk about that? Some of the ways to empower a parent to not be as vulnerable, as sucked in as desperate for, you know, that promise of, or that idea of hope that, that this time is going to be different.

Speaker 1:
Part of it is education, right? So I always say there's sort of five things that keep people stuck in narcissistic relationships, the hope it's going to get better, and it's going to change the fear of the unknown. What if I get divorced? If I don't have my kids half the time, what is the money going to be all? How am I going to fit into society that guilt, especially when you're dealing with a vulnerable narcissistic presentation, I hate to say it, but these folks almost looked pathetic and you feel guilty leaving this person who just can't get it together. And you're like, I'm not convinced this person could tie their shoes unless I was helping them. So there's almost a sort of strange sort of caregiving guilt that comes in familiarity. A lot of people get into narcissistic marriages because they grew up in homes like this.

Speaker 2:
And there's an almost magnetic draw like that repetition compulsion that Freud and others wrote about that, this idea that this is familiar. So people feel like I just keep getting pulled back in, you know, it's like the mafia, right. I keep trying to get out, keep pulling me back in. And then finally, and this is what I'm talking about. So talk about is lack of information. You know, the vast majority of therapists aren't even well versed in narcissism. The Mo no, almost I can count on one hand, the number of graduate programs I'm aware of that require a course of personality disorders, let alone one focused solely on these high conflict, antagonistic personality disorders, which are actually the bane of most, most clinicians existence, which is, to me, it's such an interesting, kind of an oversight. So most clients don't get it. And then they're stumbling around in the dark and might put search terms into Google and be thrown to my videos.

Speaker 1:
You're a podcast or something. They're like, oh, this is a thing. This isn't just me in this situation. And I think just understanding patterns like trauma bonding, like radical acceptance, that this isn't really going to change. So I can have realistic expectations if I do this and do that. And I can really understand that there's limits to this that actually does some set. Some people free from some of the tyranny because they're saying, okay, I'm no longer trying to do the impossible. I can focus on the possible. And it's really about teaching people. What the possible is. One thing that's very interesting about narcissistic relationships and co-parenting is not all narcissistic. People are bad parents. Yes. Some of them are on point. Actually. They really actually, they get supply from their kids and try not be a great thing to do, but they're really into their kids.

Speaker 2:
They can have sort of a Disneyland parent kind of flare, but they're actually into their kids. And I say to people, if you're going to have to copay, and I think people are hurt, they don't have a partner in this person. Right. They feel betrayed. And especially there's situations like infidelity and all of that, there's even a bitterness of how does this person get to portray being the great parent to the world? And they betrayed me. I'm like, we're having two different conversations here. That idea of you having a healthy marriage that train left the station a long time ago, however what's remaining on the table is the opportunity for this person to do right by these kids. And if this person is rolling up and trying to be present with these kids and show off and be super parent run with the ball and let them be the super parent, use that as your day to go take a break and take a nap.

Speaker 1:
And you do you, and let them brag about being super prepared. If your kids are safe and they're having a good time. And actually that parent isn't doing a bad job, be glad with them. And I think that kind of ego kind of stuckness can sometimes throw people off is that support there, their parenting, if you're in that, and that's actually not an unfortunate situation, I understand there's a lot of grief from the marriage networking, but there can be that part of them being able to be a successful parent, maybe in just small doses. And yes, it may only be the Disneyland parent. And if that's the case that you have to be the kind of the, more of the unpleasant, do your homework, eat your vegetables, parent. So be it, but take those Disneyland moments that they take them off to the beach or whatever, and use those moments to replenish yourself.

Speaker 2:
It really means shifting the paradigm that it's not going to be the kind of maybe fantasy vision you had a family life. The other thing I teach people is the power of the word, aunt Prama, bonding and cognitive dissonance all come from a place of the, but they're yelling, but they had a bad day and they're not showing empathy, but they had a rough parent. But, but, but, but, but I said, if you want to push through the trauma bond, push through the dissonance, push the justification. I want you to throw your butts out and bring in the ants. I am married to this person and they're really mean to me. I am married to this person and they have no empathy for me. You might wonder why, because now you have to sit with that and sitting with that dissonance, instead of trying to make it go away can actually make you more and being able to take more clear steps forward, whether that means marital dissolution, whether that means trying to figure out the workarounds, whatever it may be.

Speaker 1:
I think those are huge steps. And then finally, I do say to parents, like, you know, something to keep in mind is there's things any parent can do under these conditions, which is routine consistency, empathy, compassion. And I say the best way to teach the child reciprocity, play board games with them. And sometimes you went, you know, like I, some, I was wanting, I remember I, this wasn't my story, but I remember being with kids and and playing a game and it was like chutes and ladders. And I won and the child, my child became upset. And this friend's like, why don't you just let them win? I said, because I want her to be with disappointment and learn to regulate that disappointment of the chutes and ladders game, those moments. There's so many moments that teach empathy, literally from almost the age of two, all the way to early adulthood, whether it's board games, whether it's watching a TV show or a movie or reading a story book and talking about them afterwards.

Speaker 2:
So I do think that the helplessness can be allayed by the myriad things a parent can do to give their child a solid grounding, because frankly, Susan, I have seen so, so many cases of people who had one narcissistic parent, and one really solid parent, they turn out to be really solid. Adults was really the only monkey on their back being anxiety and a feeling of not being good enough, but it hasn't, it didn't, if anything, it created a neurosis around imposter syndrome and all of that, but they're really highly functioning adults who actually go on to really successful adult, adult relationships and aspirations. So I don't view this as a, as sort of a, a sentence, but I do think that parents have to remind themselves, even if they're co-parenting with a narcissist, you have to grieve the idea that you've got a partner in this, that you're, you're doing this on your own, then there's a lot.

Speaker 1:
Oh boy, that's great. Because I'm all about both the education and the training, which is why I'm in business, I'm in and why you're in business. I mean, this is what our we're trying to magnify our message as loudly and widely as we can, because it is a turning point. I think societally for people to start to take a step back and go, this doesn't feel right. Maybe it isn't right. Maybe I'm actually barking up the wrong tree as they used to say. So, so training and education, but also that there are things that we can do as a stable, healthy parent. Often the parent that the child's like, God, you're so controlling. You're so mean, dad, mom lets me do whatever I want you, you know, why can't I have more screen time. You're so uptight. And we sort of have to kind of live with that.

Speaker 2:
And hopefully we have outside resources, friends, therapists, support groups to kind of process through that because it's certainly not our child's job to sort of behave a particular way. So we feel better. And that is a dangerous path. I know. And it's tempting because there's so much of an overlay of injustice about the situation and unfairness, and it can trigger our own childhood stuff. Like maybe as a child, we had a similar dynamic going on. However, there is hope. And I agree with you. I've seen many, many kids emerge from childhoods where there was a narcissistic parent who became very empathic, very caring and solid. And yes, they, I agree. I think anxiety's probably the primary overlay. So let's, before we wrap up, which I can't believe we already are nearing the end of this. I want to talk a little bit about some of the ways we can foster an easier dynamic. And maybe that means let's talk about what a parent should not do, or is not in their best interest when they're communicating with a narcissistic co-parent or of course, you know, if you have suggestions on what you can do to ensure a greater successful, you know, the texting, the, all the different ways that communication can fall apart very quickly, if we poke the bear. So how do we avoid poking the bear.

Speaker 1:
Don't poke the bear. And I think that what happens is, is that let's assume that these are, these are divorced parents, right? Her parenting. Cause I think, I mean, I think it's two different conversations. So let's start with the you're you're no longer married to this person and you're doing it in separate households. It's like the old Dragnet show, right? Just the facts you stick to justice is no, you're no longer working through this marriage. You do not bring up the cheating incident. You do not bring up the lying incident. You do not bring no. This is about the children. You and I, I use the term in a lot of my trainings and seminars and all that, this idea of true north, when you're dealing with a narcissist, you've got to have a true north. And by the true north, I mean the only time you're willing to go to the mattresses, the only time you're willing to take the fight.

Speaker 2:
So some people was I'll say to them, do not either no reason to talk about XYZ, ABC, PDQ you name it. However, your kids may be your true north. You may be willing to take the battle, take the bait, really communicate clearly knowing it's going to be an ugly ending, but at least you'll know I've got it down to say such and such. They need to go to this doctor. They need to, you might fight for them to get therapy. You might fight for them to go to a different school. And the other parent is fighting. I've seen numerous people have to go really go to the deepest, darkest fights to get their children into therapy. And I'm like, this fight is worthy. We're going to keep helping you push through it. But the majority of time it landed the way they wound it. Sometimes it didn't, but I said, other fights not worth it.

Speaker 1:
This fight your child needs mental health services worth it. Okay. So that's what I mean by true north, but it's really sticking to the facts and not getting lost in the thickets of what happened or you're a new girlfriend, this, and you're a new girlfriend that like, there's a lot of that kind of egoistic sniping. Let it go. Facts, facts, facts, like that. Pretend you're in a deposition. Do it in writing, you know, to the degree you're in a case that you are having to go back and rewrite settlement agreements and rewrite custody and parenting plans and all that. You do need that in writing. And again, there are the parenting apps that are done in a way that you know, that they're much more tracked. They're available by mediators and custody, evaluators, and all of that like look into there's a whole bunch of different ones out there.

Speaker 2:
I'm not going to advocate for one or the other, but you know, to get too many times, that's actually a stipulation of things like mediation and all that. Anyhow. So you may need to use something like that. But it is really keeping it to the facts. I don't know if you're familiar with Tina work, Tina, the lumps battle. Tina's a friend of mine and Tina talks about yellow rocking. And I always thought that that was such an interesting usage. And you know, it gets away from the gray rocking, which really feels super disengaged, right? And it's almost so flat that it's destabilizing for a child potentially to see two gray rock parents. But the yellow rocking allows you to infuse a little bit more empathic emotions. Oh, I see. You've got a new car. It looks nice. Instead of like, I see you've got a new car, Hey, you know what?

Speaker 1:
I got a new car. I like the color or, you know, whatever neutral topic you can find to talk about that can at least create for the child. A sense of this is a really fraught hostile kind of a space. So that's in the case of marital dissolution now in the parents were still together who were, who were, you know, who are saying like, listen for now. I can, I don't feel comfortable leaving this marriage, but I have to co-parent with this. The rules are kind of similar, true north. And just the facts. This is about your kids. Like this is really no longer probably going to be a particularly rewarding or particularly deep intimate relationship. There's a term actually, a client threw at me. And then I developed it out. This idea of firewalling. And if you have a firewall on your computer and we're on a computer network, it's a way of, of monitoring the information that comes in.

Speaker 2:
And that goes out your computer system. People aren't stealing your passwords or giving you a virus. And all of that. That's how I suggest people communicate with narcissists is through firewalls. You do not want to share anything that is going to, that's going to start a new argument. That's going to leave you vulnerable. I always say with narcissists, don't share the good news. Don't share the bad. And it's just, she has a superficial news and only show the other news to the degree you need to because otherwise you're just going to froth up a fight. And on the receiving side of it, don't take the bait. You know, they, they're always trying to poke you don't take the bait. That's, that's a great rocking premise. And then again, a lot of things in writing, putting things like here, it is in writing. And I know that sounds so legalistic.

Speaker 1:
But if this marriage is actually starting to head for the rocks, those emails, those text messages end up becoming a really important part of the record. Will it go anywhere for you? Who the heck knows, but at least you've got it, but put things in writing. But I always say with a narcissistic parent, going back to this idea of a true north, if something matters to your child and that narcissistic parent is notoriously inconsistent or doesn't follow through what you don't want, is your child losing out on an opportunity by you assuming that that narcissistic parent is going to perform, get the application in on time, whatever you, this is where I'm saying that when you're preparing, when you're co-parenting with a narcissistic, co-parent, you're basically a single parent with an elephant on your back. You know, you're, you're really, you're having to do all the hard work of single parenting with a person in your house. Who's antagonizing you. But when something's high stakes, true north, you've got to step up and do that for your child. And does that mean you're doing the disproportionate labor? Yeah, it does. And it's not fair. So I want to jump into a couple of things that you and I have talked about previously around the language, especially with the court, because as you pointed out, so many parents think the court is going to see through this guy, right?

Speaker 2:
Yeah. One of the biggest errors I see people make, especially early in the game is they'll say, oh, I'm good. I'm going to get divorced. And the court is going to see what a jerk this person is. And I'm, you know, and they're going to award me full custody. And I'm like, oh, heck they're not. I mean, we know that the baseline assumption, state of California, where I'm located is 50 50, and any deviation from that is a conversation. And so I'll often say to people, number one, do not think the court's not going to see through this person. You can't even say the word narcissism cannot say it in family court. You cannot say it to a mediator. You cannot say to a custody evaluator, you cannot use this word. And people walk in with their videos and their books and say, look, and they'll say [inaudible] because you do that in a courtroom, you immediately will be branded the difficult parent.

Speaker 1:
And the entire process will unfold from that assumption. A lot of the work becomes learning to talk about the patterns inherent in narcissism, without saying the word narcissism. It's like the kid's game taboo. Like how do you say ice cream without saying cold and sweet and all these other words, like, how do you say narcissism without saying narcissism? And it's, it's really about bringing behavioral examples. The more you can link it to a behavior, something that's observable and ideally documentable, then that is what will actually have teeth in court. And that you, you have to have this realistic expectation that the systems don't get this. If the system's got this, we'd be in a very different place. Narcissism is not against the law. It's not, and this is why it raises issues. Not only in family court, but also in workplaces. And so a person can be a jerk and still get custody.

Speaker 2:
A person can be unempathic and still get their custody. A person can be entitled and still get their custody. The court is not making a decision on necessarily. What's healthy for your children. They're making decisions on the basis of how California family law is written. And I don't think it's going to happen in my lifetime that California family law is ever going to be written to account for narcissism. It's just not going to happen. And I think understanding that I often tell people, Susan, in fact, don't walk in there, like you're the mother lion on a hallmark movie. I y'all on to take my kids. The harder you fight, the harder they're going to fight you. And in one of the more apocryphal examples I have, I said to a lady bless her heart. She went with it. I said, you have to make it sound like when he asks for custody, half custody, you're like, this is great.

Speaker 1:
I'm going to be using this time to catch up with old friends. And there's some stuff I've been wanting to pursue and develop out my career. And this woman was like, she like, I can't, that's not what I believe. I said, I don't care what you believe you are not going to fight. You're going to say, when he says, I'm going to get these kids half the time. You're going to say, that's absolutely. You're their parent. And I actually am really looking forward to having this time to myself the minute she did that, he's like, what? You know, I'm a busy guy and she's like, listen, half custody. That's something you're entitled to. And he's like, I don't have time for this. She got 80, 20

Speaker 2:
What are alternatives to narcissism? I know one of the words that you've used is antagonistic, but let's give people a couple of ideas. Yeah.

Speaker 1:
So antagonistic high conflict impulsive you might want to say a sudden bursts of anger inconsistency, devaluation, but like, and then when you say inconsistency, it might be things like, you know, there were six instances where the pick up time was 3:00 PM and the parent came to the school at 4:00 PM only after paying a late fee to the, you know what I'm saying? Like, can't you be they're inconsistent. And here are examples, like have, have your examples and put them under words. Like, you know, dysregulated would be things like in a, in, at a child's soccer game, there was very contentious behavior towards the coach, which resulted in dah, dah, dah, that, so you're gonna use a big word, like dysregulated, or even inconsistent back it up with the backup, with the examples, but avoid that word narcissistic. Because at this point when a family court judge hears it, their eyes glaze over because it's, it cannot really affect their decision-making. And if there are more egregious things that happen, Susan, whether it's for example, substance abuse in front of children, obviously things like physical abuse that would bring up a whole different sort of issues. But even things like you know, inappropriate conduct, inappropriate language, things like those, you know, again, this, this really does come down to documenting, documenting document. You gotta get it all.

Speaker 2:
Okay. Well, okay, everyone, we we're here to serve. I mean, I think that this is the purpose of this podcast and all the work that we're both doing in our respective fields and businesses and platforms. And the serve means is because you all deserve support. You deserve information, you deserve help. And, and I think it also starts with acknowledging for each one of you listening, that you are doing the hard work. And we honor that, that this is a difficult path. There is no way around it. That is just how it is. And I love, you know, this, this idea that I know when I had my son and I'm, you know, five foot, four and a half, I'm not a huge woman. My son is now six foot five, I in labor for 27 hours and he was nine and a half pounds.

Speaker 2:
And I knew that I couldn't do it. And then I did anyway. Like, and I think that when we can remember the things we've done, that seemed impossible, it can really fortify us. And so every one of you remember the things you have accomplished because it's so easy to start to kind of keep track of all the things that have fallen apart, or the ways that this life that you're, you know, as you raise your kids, doesn't match what you envisioned. But look for the ways that it does look for the little gems, the little kernels of hope or that positivity, that kind of prop you up and make you realize, yes, I, I can do this really difficult thing. Do you have any final thoughts? Anything you want to add?

Speaker 1:
But it is a, there's so much grief. I want to go back to that word grief because this idea that the grief around the unfairness, the grief around the injustice grief around some people who, for example, may have had their own divorce parents, Val come hell or high water. I don't want to get divorced. And yet you may find yourself having to navigate those waters. The grief of knowing your children had to witness an unhappy marriage rather than the vision you may have had for them, which was one filled with love and joy. The grief that you didn't have a happy marriage, like there's so much grief. Then I remind people. Grief is like these waves, especially when it comes to narcissistic abuse and nobody's dead. It's these waves that come up on the sand and that it will hit you at the most random times.

Speaker 2:
You'll see a family happily having dinner in a restaurant near you. And the grief will hit you like as though somebody punch in the chest and it's okay. And even if you need to step away to the restroom and cried out in a stall for a minute, it's okay. So many, so many have been there with you so many more will. You're not crazy. You're not losing your mind. This is a grief, like no other, nobody quite gets it unless they go through it. And I really want to reassure people that you're, if you're grieving and you're finding yourself crying at the most random things, that means you're doing it just right. And it, and trust your psyche. Like it's, it's sort of like, offgassing, it's letting some of that toxic stuff go and just, and just be there, be present. This is co-parenting with a narcissist is a masterclass in mindfulness because you have to learn to be there and mindfully with your kids, despite all of this distress happening in your life and be very present and work around the problem. And really then have to let go of all of your old narrative. You're writing a very different kind of story. Yeah. Yeah. But you can do it. You can do it. You can do it. Yeah. Thank you so much. Can you please remind people of what you're doing and how they can find you?

Speaker 1:
Come, you know, come on, come on over to the YouTube channel, join us, subscribe to the channel. We put out new content every day. And so if you, and we always welcome suggestions, in fact, many of our, so I think some of our best videos actually came from viewer suggestions that led to me researching and doing a deeper dive into a topic. And so, I mean, really please know that this is, this is me having the pleasure of researching issues and then bringing them almost in a crowdsourced way. So please do join us. And if you hit the, you know, again, hit that little bell, you'll get notified every day when that new video comes out, please also check out my website. It's really a compendium of everything related to narcissistic relationships.

Speaker 2:
Other people's content podcasts I've appeared on things like, you know, we'll have a link to this. So our podcast today, you know, appearances seminars, we do seminars about once a month and these are ticketed seminars where people can do a deeper dive into a topic and really explore it more. And then and on there, you'll find information about my books and all of that stuff, too. You can even go to other sites like med circle, where I do regular interviews with them. If you're interested in that. So you can find me lots of places and talking about this and lots of different ways. So I do hope people, you know, if they're looking for information, I consider the YouTube channel to be really, almost like a real library.

Speaker 2:
Yes, yes. The image I have of you is like, you're like a Crusader. Yeah.

Speaker 1:
I mean, I suppose, yeah. Nonviolence, you know, I didn't think it was going to get here. And I think for me, the devastation was this many that there were so many people out there where there was no answer. And I have to be Frank with you. And I can say this to you as a fellow mental health practitioner, I'm angry at the field. I may be at the field for being unwilling to address this. It's a very uncomfortable thing to address, but just because something makes us uncomfortable, doesn't mean that us, you know, all the years we spent in school and getting training, I do feel, I do feel that there's a necessity because the number of people I've seen sort of set free from the voices in their head telling them that they're no good, and this is their fault. And that they're to blame that. I just, it was simple information that actually for a lot of people help set them free. And so for me, another big part of my so-called crusade really is to train therapists to really come up with training models, to teach them like, this is what this is, this is how you work with clients who are going through this. And you know, and everyone's got a different story yet. There's some real universal themes there. So I shall keep crusading until I get too tired.

Speaker 2:
Someday, someday. And, and you know, and this is the thing, one of the first books that I read as I was starting to do, the deep dive is the Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists, Wendy Behary's book Disarming the Narcissist. But when I read the wizard of Oz it was such an elimination cause I've been a therapist for a long time. And it talked about how these people show up in an office and therapists have a very difficult time spotting a narcissist they're charming, they're successful. They have friends there. They appear to have kind of life together. So yes, I'm so glad that you're putting some attention into training the therapist as well, mental health professional. Okay. Everyone. My website, as you probably know, is  Susanstiffelman.com. And as I mentioned, Wendy Behary and I have a monthly support group called co-parenting with a narcissist and we get right down in the trenches. It's a beautiful gathering. So if you need that kind of ongoing support, it's not very expensive. And we welcome new people to join us. Thank you. And I look forward to continuing to watch your crusade and to helping however I can to bring this training and education to so many who need it. I appreciate you. Thank you so much.

Speaker 1:
Okay. I know that that was not necessarily an easy conversation to listen to if you are parenting with someone with narcissistic tendencies, but hopefully you also feel more knowledgeable, more informed and more empowered to do the best you can by your children. And for yourself. If you're enjoying this podcast series, please leave a rating. It's so helpful. I write a review. If you have 30 seconds or a minute, it's easy to do very quick, but it makes a big difference. Also hit the subscribe button if you want to be notified because we are releasing a whole bunch of great new episodes and you'll find out if you're a subscriber, remember to stay in touch so you can get your regular doses of parenting inspiration at Susanstiffelman.com. We've got great things coming up and always offer lots of support. And if you happen to be someone who could use help on an ongoing basis, co-parenting with a narcissist check out the group that I run with Wendy Behary. All right. That is it for today. Everyone remember no matter how busy life gets, look for those moments of sweetness and joy, stay safe, stay well. 


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