Have you ever noticed that so many people have become experts at identifying their exes as Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
It's common to hear these terms thrown around. It either makes you sympathetic for the person and what they've gone through (especially if they're attractive) or concerned that they're throwing off their responsibility for their issues by blaming their ex.
Additionally, when everybody seems to be Borderline, Narcissistic, drug and alcohol addicted, unfaithful, liars, or manipulative, how do you know that you're not dating somebody who is also that way?
It doesn't seem safe, as if the people you're dating can change on a dime.
This is Alisa Goodwin Snell with the Lasting Love Podcast, where we feature Real Life, Real People, and Real Love.
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(Full podcast transcript below)
Have you ever noticed that as a single person, it seems that so many people have become experts at identifying their exes as Borderline Personality Disorder, or a Narcissistic Personality Disorder? It's really common to be hearing these terms thrown around quite frequently. And it can either make you feel really sympathetic for the person and what they've gone through, especially if they're particularly cute and charming, or attractive and flirtatious.
It's really easy to just feel really sympathetic for the person. But it's also somewhat concerning because is this just a way for someone to throw off their own individual responsibility for their issues by blaming it on the dysfunctional ex that they have? And are they really looking at themselves and their issues enough?
Additionally, when everybody seems to be Borderline Personality Disorder, or Narcissistic, or drug and alcohol addicted, or been unfaithful, or lying, or manipulative? When it seems that so many exes have been that way? How do you know that you're not dating somebody who is also that way? It doesn't seem safe, as if the people you're dating can change on a dime.
This is Alisa Goodwin Snell with the Lasting Love Podcast, where we feature Real Life, Real People, and Real Love.
Karen was a 38-year-old divorced mother with three kids when she began working with me. And one of the first things she shared with me was that her ex-husband was a narcissist and had been very verbally abusive and controlling. And she had also been in several other bad relationships, and particularly with her father growing up, and had had some traumatic experiences. So obviously, I want to make sure that we're going to help her to have a safe experience moving forward and that she's going to be able to navigate and avoid these dangers in the future. I want her to have lasting love. I want it to be in a safe, loving, secure relationship. And she had three kids I wanted to make sure they weren't going to actually end up in a worse situation than the marriage that she left. That is also a concern.
Obviously, those who go through divorces sometimes don't continue to make any better choices later, and then their children suffer along the way. One of the concerns, however, is, is it possible that she's the one who was guilty of this lack of empathy and self-control and personal responsibility as well?
So when we're talking about personality disorders, those who have chronic infidelities and drug and alcohol addictions and those who are personality disordered have several things in common that are really great red flags for us to pick up on. And that is a lack of empathy, a lack of self-control, and a lack of personal responsibility.
It's always everyone else's fault. And they can't see it from someone else's perspective. And they have hidden secretive behaviors that often sabotage the relationships that they're in. So I'm not absolutely convinced that Karen isn't similar. If her ex-husband was a narcissist, controlling, or abusive, that doesn't necessarily mean that she doesn't also have those issues.
So I know some of you are saying to yourself, yes, "I know people who are like that, and it's always everyone else's fault, and they don't see their own issues." And then there are others of you who are listening who are like, "Oh, no, what does this mean about me? Have I really been looking closely enough at my issues? And maybe she's right, and maybe it wasn't my ex? Maybe it's me."
For those of you who are questioning is the problem really me or is the problem really someone else, I have a self-test for you that we're going to be doing closer to the end of this podcast. So stay tuned.
And if you want to learn more about me and my history, go to LastingLoveAcademy.com. I also have podcast updates that you can sign up for that also give you access to prizes and other fun things, and you can get immediate updates on when my next podcast will be available.
So first, before we dive into that self-test of whether or not you are projecting your issues on other people instead of taking enough personal responsibility, empathy, and self-control. First, let's give you a little history on Karen.
So Karen's story is a difficult one. She was abused as a child. So her dad most likely looks like he had some very strong narcissistic traits. And she also experienced sexual abuse from a family member. So her history and background really set her up, unfortunately, for very toxic relationships. And although her mom and dad stayed together, it was a very tumultuous relationship. So as I'm doing the history, I want to make sure I'm going to be clear with her about her own issues so that she can resolve those issues. And in those ways, taking more personal responsibility puts more power back in her hands and protects her from those who are abusive. But it also helps her to be in a healthier place. And people who are in a healthier place tend to attract people who are in healthier places.
So in her story and background, in her college years, she met her husband, and they got married. She was still quite young. I think she was like 20 or 21 when she got married. And some of it could have been a way of escaping her situation. There were some red flags in the things that he did that seemed to be controlling, maybe dishonest and secretive behaviors. But you know, from her perspective, she was doing all the right things. She was very religious, and he was religious. So it just seemed like she was going to have a good outcome, and it was going to be a good relationship.
Now, as the relationship progressed, it did become more verbally abusive from her reports, and that he was very demeaning and controlling. Those are some pretty standard signs of somebody who might be more narcissistic. And there were some infidelities in the relationship and secret of behaviors.
She stayed, though. She stayed for years, and they were having problems with getting pregnant and were not successful at getting pregnant until she was in her 30s. She stayed.
I spent 17 years as a Marriage and Family Therapist and counselor. So I have the skill set to be able to identify these issues. So I do think he fit very much with a narcissistic pattern. But she needs to look at what were the red flags within her and her issues with assertiveness and recognizing her feelings and needs and expressing those feelings or needs, and setting boundaries. And what did she need to do to be able to address and confront abuse and manipulation and identify these things early on in a relationship? If she didn't do that, she was putting herself and her kids at risk because it was far more likely that she was going to repeat the same experience as she'd always had with people who are more narcissistic.
And what is narcissistic. All people who have personality disorders have several things in common, a lack of empathy, a lack of self-control, and a lack of personal responsibility. This is my theory that I created as an easier, more client-friendly, user-friendly tool to help people to identify the most toxic situations: an inability to empathize or see the other person's perspective, or to care about the other person's feelings and needs and to be motivated by their well being; an inability to take responsibility, admit that they're wrong, take action to create change, they blame everybody else, they don't have a good internalized value system, they're more driven by an external value system that determines whether or not they're going to get caught, they're going to be punished, they're going to get a reward, or there's going to be some social consequence if they do something, so they're driven by that external value system, instead of that internalized value system of I could never live with myself, if I didn't help get that $100 bill that I saw someone drop if I didn't help them to get that money, because I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I just picked it up. That's that internalized value system. So those who are personality disordered are very influenced by their environment and a threat of punishment or reward, rather than having that internalized sense of self-control and values. And then, they often have varying degrees of self-control problems and difficulty with emotional regulation and self-control. So that is a basic summary of those who are personality disordered, Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and Antisocial Personality Disorder. There's a bunch of them.
So if you're looking for empathy, self-control, and personal responsibility in others, and you're looking for a lack of those things in the way that they describe their behaviors, and their attitudes, and the stories that they tell, if you're looking for lack of those things, you can avoid a lot of potential problems. Because if you bail when you see that it's always someone else's fault, not theirs, if you bail, you don't know if they would have had an affair or an addiction or a personality disorder, but there's so much more likely to do those things when they feel like it's always everyone else's fault, not their own. And they're not motivated by someone's well-being.
So anyway, so let's jump to that self-test. I'm going to be providing a transcript of this audio with the audio. So please go through the transcripts so that you can find these questions towards the end of the transcript. And you can ask yourself these questions in detail. You can review your answers, and you can self-improve in these ways.
Consider your last conflict with a friend, family member or loved one, colleague, boss, etc.? Then answer the questions below. So consider, you know, something that was upsetting. It could have been someone at work or like the last big issue you had with someone. This is about you and your behavior, not them and their behavior so much. Although, it is useful to look at these questions that I'm asking because if they did some of these things, it could be a real indicator that they have empathy problems. But the purpose of this is for you to make sure you're showing enough empathy.
Did you spend much of the time defending yourself instead of listening and trying to understand the other person's perspective, feelings, or complaints?
Did you minimize the other person's feelings, tell them they were wrong or express how their situation is not as bad as someone else's, or your experiences?
Did you become intimidating, angry, blaming, or critical to get them to shut up, back down, or give you what you want?
This is all under the empathy category. So empathy is about recognizing another person's feelings, rights, and needs, being able to see it from their perspective, and respecting basic boundaries, which relate to their rights and needs.
Did you damage any of their property, break anything in their presence, hit the wall, throw something, take their phone, physically threaten them, keep them from leaving, prevent them from sleeping, read their mail, go through their phone, et cetera?
So this was one of the problems that Karen experienced, which was one reason why I was more concerned that her husband was narcissistic, is that he did do these really significant boundary violations. These are violating another person's feelings, rights, and needs, and perspective. He did those things. Now I also asked her about these things. Again, I'm going to go through the list again. Damaging any of their property, breaking anything in their presence hitting the wall, which is an intimidation technique, throwing something taking their phone, physically restraining them, keeping them from leaving, preventing them from sleeping, reading their mail, going through their phone, taking car keys, and not letting them have access to a car or money. All of those things are very significant empathy problems. And he did do some of those. I also wanted to understand if she did some of those.
And she did admit that there were times when she did some of those things as well. So that was a positive sign that she would acknowledge those times when she did it. She also seemed to be somebody who tended to overshare and feel a compulsive need to be completely honest, which is a good sign. Because if that's the case, then she was probably not under-reporting her behavior problems. She was probably over-emphasizing her own behavior problems. But there were far more incidences of him doing this than what she was doing.
Did you call them names? Or say something threatening?
Did you threaten to abandon the relationship or leave them somewhere on the side of the road?
Did you see their complaints or needs as irrational, stupid, or irrelevant?
Did you see them personally as irrational, stupid, witchy, needy, imbalanced, crazy, etc.?
Those are things that show that you're not taking their perspective. You can't see it from their perspective. And rather than seeing their perspective, you were diminishing their feelings and needs and trying to manipulate them out of their perspective because you don't want to have to deal with their feelings and needs.
Now, some of you are listening to this list, and you're saying, "Dang it, I've done some of that. I have room for improvement." That is the ability to take personal responsibility. It is the ability to look at yourself and be more honest with yourself and others about your own strengths and weaknesses. And to take a look at yourself, that's awesome. That's what this is all about. So if you are feeling inadequate, or you're questioning, I've done some of these things, that's just a good sign.
Also, when you have come from dysfunctional or abusive situations, you are going to have had some of these behaviors. And so if you saw them in your family, you were growing up with them, you're going to be more likely to depend and rely on these kinds of manipulations and boundary violations and empathy problems because you came from an environment where that was considered somewhat normal. But this is the chance to be life and love changing from here forward because you're aware, and you're taking more responsibility for your own empathy skills, and respecting other people's rights and needs and feelings, and understanding them more.
So we have a few more questions about empathy after the fact.
So after you do some of these behaviors or after a conflict, do you have difficulty remembering what the other person's complaints were? This is a really strong positive trait. If after you calm down, you're like, "Wait a second. I mean, I can kind of see where the other person's coming from now." So if after the fact you are not having difficulty remembering what their complaints were, then I would say you're showing responsibility and trying to listen to them and calm down and make sure that you're hearing and understanding where others are coming from. A few more questions.
Do you still see their complaints as being invalid, stupid, or unreasonable? So with time, did your opinions just never change? You still can't see it from their perspective and see any validity to their complaints with the other person say than you did not listen to their perspective or understand their feelings? What would the other person say, "Yeah, he really tried, or she really tried to see where I was coming from, or I felt understood or valued, validated or valued." This could be work, friends, family, neighbors, what would they say? Especially in your big last conflict?
Do you struggle to see what experiences or problems from their past or present could be contributing to their situation or their reaction? Can you see why maybe they did some of the things that they did based off of what you know about them? And does that give you a better understanding? Or do you struggle to see any of it as relevant? You can't see that they were triggered by something? You know, was there no understanding of that or greater compassion?
Last one, do you still believe that you did nothing wrong and that the issue and their reactions had nothing to do with you? If you can't see that you influence the situation, on some level, you're probably not digging deep enough. So this was under empathy. Let's move on to self-control.
So under self-control:
Did you express your feelings, thoughts, and needs with anger, personal attacks, swearing, or belittling statements?
Did the conversation escalate quickly to raise voices intimidating behaviors, threats, slammed doors, damaged property?
Did you do or say things you'd previously regretted or promised you would not do again? And you did them anyway?
Did you act contrary to your beliefs or values in the heat of the moment?
Did you do things you normally don't believe in doing?
Did you sacrifice what you wanted long-term for what you were feeling in the moment? For example, you might have done something that compromised your work, damaged an important relationship, or put you in legal Jeopardy? If you're doing things impulsively and in the heat of the moment that compromised your life, that's probably a sign you have self-control issues.
Are these behaviors a pattern for you in other areas of your life, such as excessive spending, road rage, drug and alcohol use, sexual impulsivity, anger management, etc.?
Do you see yourself as only reacting to your situation? Thus, your behaviors are not your fault?
Do you believe that it's everyone else's fault? Right? So that would be a sign of self-control issues and personal responsibility issues, and to some degree empathy issues, because you're only seeing it from your perspective, and it's everyone else's fault. And so your behaviors are not your responsibility is what you're basically saying, I'm not responsible. I did it because you made me.
Okay. So in these cases, let me just speak really quickly on Karen. She did have some of these behaviors, but not significant enough ones, for me to be concerned that she was as much of a problem in the relationship, at least in these ways. She definitely contributed in the relationship, but she had the ability to empathize, use self-control and personal responsibility.
Next list, this is under personal responsibility.
Do you spend much of the time defending yourself, your actions, or your position? If anything, Karen tended to give too much time to defending him, and feeling like it was her fault. And even though he was the one who was doing some of these behaviors, she was blaming herself far more. So this one didn't relate to her. So but what about you?
Do you spend much of the time defending yourself, your actions, or your position?
Did you do most of the talking?
Did you see yourself as being unjustly attacked or injured? So that's an issue with being able to see your behavior clearly and taking enough personal responsibility for your actions being yours and instead of feeling that other people are responsible for your behaviors instead of you?
Did you avoid conflict by just saying what you had to say to get out of the situation? And then, of course, do what you want anyway.
And did you make promises you didn't keep?
Did you say yes, when you really needed to say no?
Did you discount minimize or deny your feelings or needs?
Why is that an issue? When you're saying yes, when you should be saying no, and you're not speaking up for your own feelings and needs, that is a personal responsibility problem. And this was part of Karen's issue. She was staying in unhealthy situations, and she needed to take more personal responsibility for her feelings and needs and saying no, and standing up for herself, and holding other people accountable when they mistreated her and taking her power back. This was part of her problem. She did need to take more responsibility in that way to the other person have to push and prod you to express your thoughts or take action.
Oftentimes, people who have personal responsibility issues play the victim, and they're more passive instead of active, and that's a personal responsibility problem.
Did you share with others the details of your conflict and your feelings instead of talking with the person with whom you had the conflict?
Did you hold a grudge or act angry, silent, and withdrawn after the conflict?
Did you send messages through a third person to the one with whom you were upset?
So this is like people at work saying to someone else at work, oh, tell them this, or, you know, go over and talk to this person and find out why they did blank instead of just going over and talking about it directly.
Did you expect others to read your mind? Did you stop trying to communicate after the first sign of resistance or misunderstanding?
This is also about assertiveness training, Karen needed to be more assertive about her feelings and needs because we teach other people how to treat us, not because we change everybody, but the people who tend to be abusive and manipulative don't put up with you being assertive. The others actually encourage and like you being assertive. So when you're assertive, you get to decide which people you want to be around. And by her not being assertive, she wasn't discovering those healthy people from the manipulative or controlling people because she never gave them a chance to reveal themselves.
She needed to be more assertive so she could discover the true nature of the people she was interacting with. We don't discover who someone is when everything is easy. We discover who they are when things are hard. So if we make it easy for other people, we never hold them accountable or speak up for ourselves. If that's the case, then we put ourselves at risk.
Did you walk out on the conversation, not return calls, refuse to communicate, use the silent treatment, or put the conversation off for days or weeks? That's a very passive-aggressive behavior.
Did you abandon the relationship without any warning or at the first sign of difficulty? Again, another passive-aggressive behavior, punishing the person withdrawing, not willing to engage.
Did you express to your friends what the other person did wrong while simultaneously struggling to see or admit what you did wrong or how you might have made the situation worse?
Did you get defensive or angry or withdrawn after others expressed how you might have handled the situation ineffectively? So when others try to say, "Well, what about you like what did you do next? And what do you think you might have done that made them feel that way? Or, in what way did you mishandle the situation?" If every time someone suggests you had some possible behavior that contributed to the situation, you shut down and you get angry, that's you avoiding personal responsibility.
It's not that you're to blame for other people's behaviors, but can you not see how it is an interaction, and there are ways you could change your part if you look at it? Do you struggle to do that?
Did you express that you know something is wrong with you and that you need to change, but since then, you haven't sought help, taken action, or followed through with a plan for change that lasted for more than a few days or weeks? This is an issue with personal responsibility. If we say, We're sorry, but we don't do anything with it. If we say we're going to do something, but we don't follow up. If we make promises or act like we're going to make some changes, but it never goes any further than a few days, and just words, but no actions, then you're not really taking personal responsibility.
And finally, as you read these questions, are you analyzing how the other person was deficient in these ways, rather than seeing a few of these behaviors in yourself?
So I've had clients who come to me and say, "Yeah, I read that, and I don't have any of those behaviors." And it's really concerning to me. If you have empathy, self-control, and personal responsibility, you're going to listen to this list, and you're going to go, "Oh, I've got some room for improvement." That is a good sign. Because every one of us does some of these behaviors sometimes is the inability to see it, the unwillingness to recognize it, and to take responsibility are to see it from someone else's perspective, or to see that I have a need for change and to take action for it. That inability is what truly defines somebody as having a potential personality disorder. It's that they cannot and will not take responsibility and see it from someone else's perspective.
So if you're doing that, and you're seeing room for improvement, hallelujah, you are doing well. You probably do not have a significant issue enough in these areas that I would be concerned, but you do have some room for improvement.
And let me relate this back to Karen again. She needed to take more personal responsibility and express her feelings and needs and be more clear, warm, and direct in her communication and in her conflict resolution. But the good news was if she did that, she would drive away the people who were more personality disordered because they would become more manipulative, angry, resentful, blaming. And if she resisted taking that toxic pill that they're trying to shove down her throat that it's her fault. If she resisted that and saw that as actually a sign of a lack of empathy, self-control, and personal responsibility in the other person. If she was able to accurately see that and still have empathy but accurately identify, "Oh, this is them showing a lack of empathy. This is them manipulating. If she held firm to that, she would be breaking her patterns and attracting the right kind of people because she would recognize and appreciate them differently.
Part of Karen's problem was that she was attracted to the bad boy. She had a hard time being attracted to the nice guys. She just didn't feel that chemistry and draw to them. And as she started to become better at recognizing these emotionally mature and healthy behaviors in others, it would actually literally change what made other people more desirable and attractive.
If you would like to have a personalized experience in a similar way to what you saw with Karen, a very hands-on, specific to you and your situation, guided experience with audios, videos, and articles, and hands-on strategy sessions to help break your pattern and ensure that you are set up for the best probability of lasting love. If that's something you would like, go to the LastingLoveAcademy.com. We have lots of plans that are available for every budget. I look forward to you joining me there at the LastingLoveAcademy.com.
Thank you. And if you enjoyed this podcast, please share it with others. It's one of the best ways you can show your appreciation and gratitude for the time I take in sharing these concepts so I can reach more people.
This is Alisa Goodwin Snell with the Lasting Love Podcast, where we feature Real Life, Real People, and Real Love. And I look forward to you joining me next week.
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