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The therapy for Black Girls podcast is your space to explore mental health, personal development, and all of the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves. I'm your host, Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, and I can't wait for you to join the conversation. Every Wednesday, listen to the therapy for Black Girls podcast on the iHeartRadio app Apple podcasts, or wherever you get your podcast. Take good care.


Hey, I'm Wilma Valdorama, executive producer of the new podcast de Maya Bolita. First each week, the incredible Vico Ortiz and fabulous Abuelita Liliana Montenegro will play matchmaker for a group of hopeful romantics. Right, Vico?


You know it. Listen to date my awolita first Thursdays on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcast, or wherever you get your podcast. And remember, don't do anything I wouldn't do.


Just do it better.


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Narcissistic people are attracted to people who will give them supply, physical attractiveness, status, praise. So you just being a nice person and praising someone could actually be what makes you attractive to them. So people may think, well, does that mean I have to stop being me? I'd say no. They may be attracted to you. And you may be compelled for a minute, but the key is then to know how to get off the carousel before it starts going too fast.


Before we jump into this episode, I'd like to invite you to join this community to hear more interviews that will help you become happier, healthier, and more healed. All I want you to do is click on the subscribe button. I love your support. It's incredible to see all your comments and we're just getting started. I can't wait to go on this journey with you. Thank you so much for subscribing. It means the world to me.


The number one health and wellness podcast.


Jay Shetty Jay Shetty, the one, the only jay Shetty hey everyone.


Welcome back to on Purpose, the place that makes you happier, healthier, and more healed. Today's guest is one of your favorites, someone that you've been wanting to have back on and a dear friend of mine. So I always get really excited when she's in the chair opposite me, someone who's great at defining terms that we throw around in culture, defining those buzzwords, really understanding deeply how they impact our lives and how we can navigate the challenges that come with them. I'm talking about the one and only Dr. Ramani. A licensed clinical psychologist, professor of psychology at California State University of Los Angeles, and the founder and CEO of Lunar Education, Training and Consulting, Dr. Ramani discusses narcissism on her popular YouTube channel on social media. As at Dr. Ramani, if you don't follow her already, make sure you go and do that. Her popular online program on healing from narcissistic abuse. And as the host of the podcast navigating narcissism, her new book is called it's not you. Identifying and healing from narcissistic people, go and grab a copy of this book right now. If this is something that you've been dealing with, if you have a friend or a family member, this is the book to give them for that healing journey.


Please welcome back to on purpose, Dr. Ramani.


Thank you so much. That's an absolutely astounding introduction. So thank you. Thank you so much.


No, I'm so happy to have you back because last time we were together, you just crushed it and everyone was so happy and grateful for our conversation. You have a new book out right now as we're speaking. As I said to everyone, it's called it's not you. I was so excited to dive into this, and I can't wait to talk to you about it now. And as I said to everyone, please do get the book. We'll be diving into a couple of the topics here today, but to get the depth of the book, make sure you grab a copy of it. I want to start off Dr. Ramani by, again clarifying terms, because I think we're living at a time where there's so many terms on TikTok and YouTube and social media, and often they transpire into how we talk to our family members, friends. Yes. What is the difference between a narcissist and narcissistic personality disorder?


So let's start there because this is already muddying the water so much. Right. So narcissism is a personality style.




There's lots of different personality styles out there. Certainly narcissism is a more maladaptive personality style because it puts people at odds with other people. It's not good for their relationships. But it is a personality style in and of itself. It's not a disorder. There is something called narcissistic personality disorder, which is when a person is presenting with these various narcissistic patterns. We've talked about the low and variable empathy, the entitlement, the grandiosity, the arrogance, the envy, the admiration and validation seeking, that whole laundry list, the egocentricity, all the selfishness, all that stuff. Right? So all of that is happening. It's chronic, it's pervasive. It shows up in their life in various, whole bunch of different relationships. The difference is they actually go to a therapist office who's licensed and trained to issue a diagnosis. And that therapist determines, like, yep, I'm seeing these patterns. They're consistent. They're across situations, and they may assign them that diagnosis. The vast majority of people who have this personality style are never going to be in a practitioner's office who's going to make that determination. And it gets tricky, right? Because to call something a disorder raises a whole bunch of issues.


Personally, Jay, if I ran the world, I think we'd get rid of this diagnosis. I think we get nothing out of doesn't. I don't even think it helps the clients. A lot of clinicians don't issue it because it feels stigmatizing. There's a whole host of reasons I think it shouldn't be, but it is right. Now, here's what you've got to remember when we look at narcissism in the world, right? So there's people out there who are narcissistic. They might be mildly narcissistic and a little bit more emotionally immature and just sort of selfish and shallow all the way. Up to severe, where it can be malignant and it can be coercive and manipulative and all of that. And there's all the stuff in between. This book is really focused on the in between, right? So most people aren't dealing with someone coercive, and many are, and that's a much more severe issue. That is probably beyond the scope of the book. But most people who are dealing with the mild narcissism, they're frustrated and annoyed, but they're not devastated and hurt like we see in that sort of middle level of narcissism. Right? So the difference is literally that sort of mechanical point.


They weren't seen by someone, and I don't know that any of us. Listen, I'll be honest with you. If I met someone at a dinner party and they start telling me their life, I might even think in my head, I've got a hypothesis. Clinically, what's happening? In no universe we occupy would I ever say to that person, even if I talked to them for 2 hours, I think you have generalized anxiety disorder. I think you have bipolar two. I just wouldn't say it. Right. It's not the setting, it's not the situation. I might strongly suggest say, hey, you should talk to someone. Right? So where it gets interesting is the mistake a lot of people make is, number one, they assume that if a person has narcissistic personality disorder, that their narcissism is more severe. Not necessarily. There are people out there with NPD, narcissistic personality disorder whose narcissism actually is not as severe as people who are never diagnosed because they never went into that situation. So you see what I'm saying? So there's people out there who are malignant narcissistic people. They're never seen by anyone. We can speculate, we could spitball. We'd say, yeah, it's probably the case, but that person with NPD may simply seen a clinician.


The other piece, though, here, too, is that what it's doing is it's creating this very sort of strange space where people are saying, these are the patterns I'm seeing in a partner, parent, whomever. I think they might be narcissistic. And the Internet, as it does, is very quick to shame that person.


Who do you think you are?


How could you think this about someone? And this person has probably already been really hurt, really devastated by this relationship, is now being shamed for sharing. Like, I think this might be what's happening. It's also creating this really painful space. So suffice it to say, I think in the public conversation about narcissism, we should only call it narcissism. Getting into the weeds on NPD is really getting on this sort of subtle, clinical point, and it makes a lot of noise here. So we're not able to have the clear conversation that these personality styles are harming the people who are in these relationships. That makes sense.


Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. Why do you think it is that all of a sudden it seems, at least culturally, that more people are interacting with narcissists? Like, you'll be talking to a friend and they'll be like, oh, God, I'm so glad I just got out of a relationship with the narcissist, or, I'm struggling. I'm healing, as your book teaches you how to. Like, I'm healing from this relationship I had. I think they were narcissistic. Why is it all of a sudden we're feeling this kind of awareness in culture? Has it always been there? Has it increased what's happened?


It's always been there, Jay. I think as long as there were people, it has been there. And I always say to people, open up a history book. I'd say about 75% of the people they've written about in that history book were probably quite narcissistic. Narcissistic people make history. In fact, honestly, they often are responsible for some of the greatest innovations we've ever known. Doesn't make them nice people, and I'd say let them innovate. Just don't go on a date with them. That's really what we're talking about here. So there is an out of the boxness to them. There's a fantasy that they live in that they often feel compelled to create. So you better believe that they've always been there. I don't know that we would have had the leaps and bounds we've had in some ways without that. Right. So that said, it's always been there, but we never had a name for it. Remember, psychology is a field in its infancy. What's it been? Around 100 and 5175 years? So it's evolving. And so this concept of talking about someone's personality in this way, maybe since the late 18 hundreds, we've even been having that conversation.


People have been doing narcissistic stuff to partners, children, family members since time immemorial. We just didn't have a name for it. I think at some level, because until recently, I think almost all cultures were probably much more authoritarianly patriarchally. Organized. I think we're seeing sort of bigger conversations around that. So I think there was almost a strange sort of universal, radical acceptance that some people are just really jerky, and let's just follow what they're saying. We just didn't even think of it that way. But we see history books of kings who were ogres and invaders who were horrific, and these were not nice people. They were the narcissists of their time. Now to your other question. Why are we talking about it? Like, even ten years ago, a person wouldn't have said, my partner or my boyfriend.


You wouldn't have heard it. That's what I mean.


But they would have said, first of all, we didn't have the platforms, but if they did talk about they're such a jerk, why do they keep doing this to me? I can't figure this out. Everyone has always been having the conversations. We're using different languaging now, and if anything, we now have a construct, and we now understand this hangs together. The point of this book was really to say, there are people with these personalities. They're out there. The way they show up in relationships is pretty consistently the same. And instead of blaming yourself and wondering what you could do, it's not you.




It's really them. And they're having their process and their journey and probably not going to get the help they need to defend it, against it. But rolling up and turning your life into a human sacrifice to please or win over or prove something to an unwinnable over person. I have watched people waste lifetimes doing this, and it's even particularly compelling if it's their parent. But even if it's a long term, intimate relationship with someone, especially if they got into the relationship young. So this has always been a thing.


Yeah. No, that makes a lot of sense. And I appreciate how our vocabulary evolves with time. And as that expands and extends, it allows us to better label and understand things. And I know that this book is primarily about the relationship, a narcissistic relationship, and then the healing journey. But before we dive into that, I wanted to ask you a question. How do you stop attracting a narcissist? Is there a way to not attract a narcissist, Dre?


I wish I could say yes. And here's where I want to actually give my props to everyone's listening out there who has attracted a narcissist. You know why you attracted a narcissist? Because you're attractive. And what I mean by attractive is you may be physically beautiful, it may be your physique. It may be something. You know, it may be your social status. It may be that you could do something for them. What's attractive to them may not be attractive to the rest of us. You're attractive to them because you're attractive because you may have power of some kind in the world. When I say power, I don't mean like, you're a leader. I mean you're self possessed. Many people who get into these relationships, we have this mistaken assumption that the people who get into these relationships are shrinking violets who have low self esteem. Absolutely not. I got to tell you, some of the people I've seen get into these relationships, I'm like, whoo, I should have your self esteem. They're strong, and they know who they are, and they're saying, this thing dismantled me brick by brick. I was really well put together when I met this person.


Right? So this isn't about a person who doesn't have self esteem. It can be, but it's definitely not an absolute. Narcissistic people are attracted to people who will give them supply. What is supply for every narcissistic person might be a little different, but it's usually physical attractiveness, status, praise. So you just being a nice person and praising someone could actually be what makes you attractive to them. So people may think, well, does that mean I have to stop being me? I'd say, no. They may be attracted to you, and you may be compelled for a minute. But the key is then to know how to get off the carousel before it starts going too fast.


Good answer. Good answer. It makes a lot of sense. And again, it's not you.


That's not you.


It comes back to that which I like. Talk me through the consistent. You talk about narcissism being consistent. Walk me through the consistent pattern of a narcissistic relationship so that anyone who's listening can. Because I think, like you're saying, a lot of us sometimes feel scared to admit that we might even be with a narcissist because it's scary to accept that and admit that and have that realization because we think it's something to do with us. We think we've wasted time. There can be a sunk cost bias of, I thought I had a future with this person. So, walk me through the pattern of a narcissistic relationship.


Let's just talk briefly about their piece first, because it helps us understand the pattern. They have traits, things like I talked about, the entitlement, the lack of empathy, the grandiosity, the arrogance, the selfishness. I want you to think of a narcissistic person as a volcano. And that volcano has got this bubbling lava. And the lava for the narcissistic person is shame and insecurity. So they want to be able to plug the top of that volcano, right? And that plug is all this stuff, the entitlement, the grandiosity. I'm perfect, I'm great. So it keeps all that stuff under wraps. That's not a conscious process. Right? But every so often in life, something's going to push that lid off to the side, which might be feedback, a criticism. Somebody ends a relationship with them, whatever it is, their day doesn't go the way they want. They get stuck in traffic and they're late to something. They don't get the table they want in a restaurant, whatever it may be, that nudges that manhole cover over and the lava starts spilling out. And that lava is their rage and their anger because their shame has been shown. All of this is unconscious.


So all these patterns in the relationship, the way they show up in the narcissistic person is manipulation, invalidation of the other person, minimization of what another person is going through, gaslighting, rage and reactivity, future faking, which means promises are made and broken just to keep a person sort of on the hook. There will be blame shifting. They won't take responsibility, they'll always blame the other person. Which is why people in these relationships always tend to blame themselves. There's a lot of deceit, betrayal, lying, infidelity. There is neglect. Over time, they just give less and less and less to the relationship. And the person in the relationship is trying to make do on the tiniest, tiniest bits of being noticed. That's how they show up in the relationship. Everything in the relationship is about them getting supply and validation. They have absolutely no interest in the needs, wants, and honestly, the subjective reality of the other person in the relationship. Over time, the other person gets almost is considered an inconvenience. If you want something, you're an inconvenience. Much like this cup. Cup's convenient when I want to drink from it. But the cup all of a sudden said, hey, can you take me to cvs on the way home?


Like what? Cup? You're a cup. Don't tell me that. So they view us in that sort of objectified lens. All of these dynamics mean that over time, in order for the relationship to work, the other person has to entirely sacrifice themselves and buy into the reality system of the narcissistic. Person. But that doesn't all happen overnight. Oftentimes, at least in an adult narcissistic relationship, whether it's an intimate relationship or a friendship. That early phase is very idealized and seductive. It's called love bombing. But it's really this phase where they're winning. Not only winning you over with gestures and tactics, but with attunement and attention, or seeming attunement and attention. They pay intense attention to you, but what you realize afterwards is some of that intense attention was them learning things about you that were going to be turned around and used against you down the road. That's often a point of devastation for a person who says, I was vulnerable with this person. I told them things that I'd never told anyone before. And then six months in, I was being shamed and humiliated, and it was being used to sort of destabilize me. There is a point where that love bombing phase then starts heading into a place where there's ten good things, one bad thing, one bad thing.


Everyone has a bad day, nine bad thing, nine good things, one bad thing. Over time, though, that ratio pretty much comes to, like, maybe one to one. So now you're having as much difficult, challenging stuff, and then these little sprinklings of good things happening. That's the origin of the trauma bond that back and forth, good, bad, hot, cold. I'm here, I'm not here is where people will often find themselves falling into a cycle of justifying, blaming themselves. Because it was so great. It was great for two or three months. So how did it not become great? Maybe I'm doing something so the person will literally. It's almost like when you open a bag, you know, you're trying to find something in a bag, and you take everything out of the bag chaotically. And it's all in the airport, on the ground. And it was that one little, like, your headphones. That's what people in narcissistic relationships do. They open the bag that is themselves and pull everything out, trying to figure out what is wrong with me. Why did we go from, baby, where can I take you to dinner? I'll take you anywhere. To what?


Please stop interrupting me. And you're thinking, what just happened? And so, basically, once the narcissistic person almost feels kind of confident they've got your supply, whether it's a promise, maybe you live with them, maybe you've really committed into a long term relationship. You said I love yous or whatever, that they've got you where they want you. Then there's sort of almost narcissistic. Folks are also very novelty seeking. They kind of get bored easily. So you being around from time to time, they'll be into you, but then from other times, they won't. They do like the idea that someone's a constant source of supply, and over time, there can be a real process of discard. It can feel like they just don't care at all anymore. Basically, what they do is they no longer fulfill the roles and responsibilities of what it means to be in a close relationship, which is empathy, compassion, kindness, attunement, self awareness. These are the responsibilities we have in a human relationship, and they do not fulfill them. I even hate putting them as responsibilities. I think that they come automatically for a healthy person. And then if you do decide to leave, or even if they decide to leave, you start to enter potentially a cat and mouse game of hoovering, where they'll pull you back, see how you're doing.


Sometimes they'll even figure out, oh, they're happy now let me go see if I can spin that around a little bit.


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Your job right now is to get on Abuelita's really good site. Our awelita definitely knows best on date. My awolita first three single contestants will vie for a date with one lucky main dater. Except to get their heart, they have to win over Awelita. Liliana first. Die, Liliana. Yes, we are ready for love through speed dating rounds, hilarious games, and Liliana's intuition. One contestant will either be a step closer to getting that bandulse, if you know what I mean, or a step closer to getting that chancleta. Let's see if Cheesebas will fly or if these singles will be sent back to the dating apps. Listen to date my awolita first on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcast, or wherever you get your podcasts.


The therapy for Black Girls podcast is the destination for all things mental health, personal development, and all of the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves. Here we have the conversations that help black women dig a little deeper into the most impactful relationships in our lives. Those with our parents, our partners, our children, our friends, and most importantly, ourselves. We chat about things like what to do when a friendship ends, how to know when it's time to break up with your therapist, and how to end the cycle of perfectionism. I'm your host, Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia. And I can't wait for you to join the conversation. Every Wednesday, listen to the therapy for Black Girls podcast on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Take good care.


Yes, yes, the Street Stoic podcast is back. One of the quotes that came to mind here is from Drake. The lyrics that came up for me was from Beyonce. I pulled a quote from just one of my favorite artists in general, Kid Cudi. We are combining hip hop lyrics and quotes from some of the greatest to ever grace a microphone in it, he says, because it's just waves. Gotta just float, float and have faith. It's just waves. It's the line that we've all heard before from Lauryn Hill. And she says, don't be a hard rock when you really are a gem. Along with ancient wisdom from some of the greatest philosophers of all time. Seneca, right? And he says, your mind will take shape of what you frequently hold in thought, for the human spirit is colored by such impression. A stoic quote from Epictetus where he says, don't seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will. Then your life will flow well. And listen, I know we all could use a daily shot of inspiration. So this is the podcast for you.


Listen to season two of the Streets Dog podcast as part of the Tura podcast network on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcast, or wherever you get your podcasts.


Wow. I mean, those patterns sound so painful, and they sound so strenuous and stressful and heartbreaking in so many ways. What are the excuses that people keep telling themselves? And what justifications stop us from healing?


I'm going to go even more foundationally on that. Why do we justify, right? When you think about one of the most primal human needs, it's attachment. We need other people. We are not meant to be solo acts. Human beings are tribal. We evolved in social groups. Our brains didn't change that much. We still need our people. We need love. We do. We need connection. And people say, what about the narcissist? I said, they need it more than anyone. They want all the supply, right? So we need to be together. But especially in a child, that need for attachment is everything. And if a child has an unattuned parent or even an abusive parent, the child doesn't have the option to say, I think I'm going to split up with them and see what. I'm going to go on parent hinge.


And see if I can find someone new.


Right. Doesn't work like that. The child has to hold this parent in esteem, which means the child then needs to devalue themselves. What am I doing wrong? How could I be more. And the child really learns how to be everything that parent wants and needs to the detriment of their own needs. Right? Exactly. So now let's just jump that to adulthood, right? So the child comes up with all kinds of fantasies, but in adulthood they may be things like, everyone has a bad day. Relationships are tough. I'm no picnic myself. They've been working really hard. We did have a good weekend. They did tell me I love you. I mean, I could go on for the next 2 hours about all the justifications I've heard, right? So the justifications are not only proliferate, they come easily. And Jay, they're reinforced by the world, right? Because the world will say, oh, relationships are tough. Maybe they're just having a bad day. Right. So now what you're saying is completely in line with sort of what the prevailing wisdom would be. And you do that enough every time. These really invalidating, destabilizing things that cut to the core of your identity happen.


The people who tend to get more stuck in these relationships, quite frankly, are the more empathic people, while narcissistic people are attracted to people who are whatever supply attractive they are to them. The people who get stuck are the people who are more vulnerable to trauma bonding and who have more empathy and as a result are more likely to make those excuses and justifications, right. They're going to be more open to the idea that there's always different ways to. There's another point of view. That's what empathic people do and that's how it happens. But in a trauma bonded relationship, and it's also about cognitive dissonance, right. That we don't like the tension of inconsistency within ourselves. So we're always trying to make it fit. And how do we relieve that tension and make it fit? We justify, then we can maintain the status quo. And human beings are also homeostatic creatures. We like the status. I want to keep living here. I want to keep having this routine. I don't want to find a new place to put my toothbrush. I don't want to wake up in a new place, even if you kind of might want to.


Over time, many survivors will say, I don't even care if I wake up in a random place as long as I'm not waking up here. But how much terribleness had to happen to the person in that period of time? And so a person is just getting sort of slowly distanced from their true nature. The longer a person is in a narcissistic relationship, the more they literally have to abandon themselves.


That's what I wanted to touch on, actually, where you got to is what is the impact of narcissistic abuse? Because I think often we also think like, oh, yeah, well, you should know that he was a waste of time, or, well, look what she did to you. You should be aware. It's almost like we assume that it should logically make sense to someone that they should be happy that they're now away from this person. But often with people who've been with narcissistic people, especially empathetic people, they're still saying, well, I hope they're okay. I hope that person is okay. Like, I know they're struggling. What is the impact of someone who's experienced narcissistic abuse on a deep, scientific, psychological level? What is actually going on for them?


So what we're seeing pretty consistently across, and now I can say now thousands of people we've looked at who have experienced these relationships is consistently, we see a problematic level of rumination, regret, anxiety, sadness, self blame, self doubt, a sense of hyper vigilance, a social anxiety that comes from it. And I want to put a pin in that hyper vigilant piece because I want to come back to that in a moment. An interesting sort of mild dissociation where a person has become dissociated from their needs, their wants, and their true nature, because that has been so consistently invalidated in this relationship. You see problems with sleep. You see the neurovegetative stuff we see in depression, like the changes in appetite. You see problems with concentration. What's interesting, though, about survivors of narcissistic abuse is that some of them may actually develop clinical depression, but most don't. And what I'll see is these are folks when they are surrounded by healthy supports, therapists, friends, they're animated, they're lovely. They don't seem like a person who's under that heavy weight of depression. Right. So it is really the, when the relationship is present, it's taking its toll.


And it is why so many survivors of narcissistic abuse are able to roll up and be terrific parents despite what's happening. You see what I'm saying? Because it's not a mental illness. It's a normative reaction to this. But even with that hypervigilance, there's a lot of talk about how nice survivors of narcissistic abuse are. We recently did an instagram live about this, and it was just me sort of yammering on about something I'd heard that day. I was really struck by the strength it had in our community because we talk about empathy, empathy, empathy and survivors. But one thing I'm really seeing in my, I'm getting so many clients now at this point, and other people telling their stories, is that the Empathy is almost functioning as a bit of a trauma response. Like, let me be as kind as possible. Let me be as good as possible. And so it gets very confusing for you. Like, am I empathic? Am I trying to survive? And is my empathy literally like, this trauma is a survival response to try to, like. It's almost like that fawn response. We talk about, that fawn trauma response, where I am going to be what this harmful person needs me to be so I can win them over and I will be okay.


Right. And then after that, though, there's shame. Why was I so nice to this person? They were terrible to me. What's wrong with me? And something I really try to focus on with survivors is to say this empathic, responsive, compassionate part of you is beautiful. We've got to heal you and not lose that. Does that make sense? So this isn't an amputation. This is very much about, we've got to keep this here. Pull the shame off of it, but allow you to become more discerning.




And that's the trick in doing this work with clients and for an individual who's healing themselves.


Yeah. Wow. I mean, that analogy you just gave of, it's not an amputation. That's really interesting, because I think we would think that when something's that toxic and abusive, you just want to cut it out, get rid of it, move it away. But that's not what you're saying.


No. In fact, this is one of the things I really take. Umbrage and I'm frustrated with TikTok and places where people are giving quickie advice is it's almost as though if you have empathy for the narcissistic person, you're foolish. And absolutely not. They are in their fashion. There's something not quite right there, and they're not even anywhere close to addressing it. My goal for folks is you want to have empathy for them. And if you don't want to, I get that, too, what you've been through. But if that empathy for them is something you want to maintain, yes, I still need you to disengage. Can you disengage from someone and still empathize with them? I believe, absolutely, yes.


Wow. Yeah. And that's a hard balance for the people in your life that love you to see that, because it can be really challenging to see someone you love feel empathy to someone who's hurt them really badly.


Correct. And it's also even for yourself. And this is where it can bring up complicated emotions like pity and guilt. Right. And again, the work of healing is that pity is that these mechanisms inside of you that attend and attune and care about other human beings are still working, which we want those to always remain online, but that you ensuring that you pull yourself back from a harmful situation. The world needs you. We need your whole you, not the version that you had to create to remain in this toxic relationship. And that balancing act of retaining empathy when you've been so hurt by someone, that's some of the hardest work of healing. I see people do it every day and it's really quite beautiful. But a lot of them think, have I become a bad person? Because I'm so angry at this person. And in fact, a big point I bring up in the book, and I'm going to sort of jump ahead here, is I actually don't know that forgiveness always has a place in these relationships. And this is a complicated conversation. A lot of people say forgiveness is all good. And I'm like, slow, no, stop the presses.


It's absolutely not. And there's a whole body of scientific research that suggests that repeatedly forgiving a repeat perpetrator actually harms the forgiver. There's no win in that. In what way? It lowers their well being. It can result in negative mood symptoms. Of course, you keep doing this because I think forgiveness is a very personal decision, but it's also not a necessary one to heal. And I think that the message a lot of people get is, well, if you don't forgive them, you're never going to heal. The hell you're not. And I'm going to be very frank with you, Jay. There's some narcissistic people who harmed me immeasurably. I don't forgive them and I heal just fine.


It comes back to the, you can't just say the cliches to people and hope they'll move on and be okay with it. And it can be really hard for that individual to, again, either rise or lower themselves down to either of those. Like, I know someone who's been through something recently who's dealing with it with empathy. And I know for them, their friends and family are like, how can you be empathetic to this person? And so they're dealing with it that way, or you'd have the opposite in your case, where you're saying, I don't want to be empathetic towards them. I don't want to forgive them. And your family is saying, well, you should be, but I do.


Here's where it gets interesting. I empathize with them. I don't forgive them.


Right, okay, so you encourage me.


Empathy, those two states simultaneously. And I think that, again, one of the big exercises in the book, and I think it might be one of the most important ones, is something I've been doing with clients for a long time, which is the multiple truths exercise, because it's so easy to say, write all the terrible stuff. And I do tell people to record all the terrible stuff, but I said, I want you to write everything you feel for this person. And a person might write, this is my mother. I hate her. She had a tough backstory. She was terrible to us as children. She lives alone. I feel sorry for her. I wish she would change. I know she won't change. This is literally the stream of consciousness for a survivor. You look at that and right there, it's manifest why survivors are so confused. But I absolutely believe, and not everyone does. Some people say, I have no empathy for this person, but I think it's quite possible. And this is where everyone say, no, that's not possible. If you empathize with them, you'd forgive them. I say, I understand why they are the way they are.


I even kind of understand why they did what they did. What they did was unforgivable. And so I wish them no ill will. In fact, if good things happen to them, so be it. If bad things happen to them, so be it. So there's a mild indifference to it, but it wouldn't be a loss. I mean, I don't think, again, there's so many forms of empathy, and empathy is its own complicated conversation. But I don't think that the not forgiving is a lack of empathy, because forgiveness really reflects the harm it's done to us. And people say, no, it's a gift for you, too. Yeah, and I'm not giving them this gift. Because I know they would do it again. If I let this person back in, they would do it again.


I love that distinction between empathy and forgiveness. Really important to understand another word that a whole chapter is dedicated to, radical acceptance. Define that for us so that we can understand how that's used. Because again, even looking at the difference between empathy and forgiveness, it's so interesting to me just how subtle and specific healing looks like, as opposed to this almost abstract journey that's often painted of healing, being like, you move from this stage to here where it's right.


So radical acceptance is, I have to say, there's probably two essential ingredients to healing. You're going to go through radical acceptance, you're going to go through grief, and then it's sort of, people are going to go on different paths. But radical acceptance is the absolute acceptance that these patterns are not. This person's behavior is not going to change, at least not significantly enough to make this into a healthy relationship, that this behavior affected you. And as long as you're in the purview of this behavior, as long as they keep doing this to you, it will keep hurting you. Because some people have said to me, they say, I radically accept it. They're not going to change. How come when they say these things to me, it still bothers me? I'm like, because it's hurting you, it's still hurtful. Just because you understand why it's coming out of them. You didn't just become a piece of concrete. You still have a soul and a heart and a psyche that can be hurt. So some people, I think, thought radical acceptance was like a magic pill, that if I take this, the narcissistic person will never bother me again.


But the key element of it is this is not going to change. And all decisions from that point forward have to be made on that basis. By definition, narcissism is, like I said, a maladaptive personality style, but it's also a rigid personality style. The less healthy the personality, the less flexible that it is. So very healthy people have extraordinarily flexible personalities. So the core of mental health is flexibility. It's almost like physical health, right? A person who's physically healthy has a lot of flexibility in their muscles and joints. A mentally healthy person has a lot of flexibility in their psyche.


How do we define flexibility in our psyche?


I would say it's an adaptability. It is a self awareness and awareness of others. It's the ability to engage in novel problem solving and not get stuck on a singular solution. It's the capacity to be able to self regulate and to self soothe. Those are some of the things I'd file under that sort of. That flexibility. I'm not just saying it's like, sure, I'll go anywhere you want. I'm not saying I'm game for anything, but when there's disappointment, there's the capacity to cope with it. It's a lot of coping, a lot of resilience is in that flexibility piece, right? That is the core of health. I have worked with people who've survived severe trauma, but the ones who really are standing in a different way, it's that flexibility.




And you think about it, if a tree is flexible, it'll bend with the wind. If it's not, it's going to snap. If the wind is too hard, that would really be the best sort of an analogy. So narcissism is this sort of maladaptive, rigid style. There's very little self reflective capacity for the narcissistic person, very little self awareness for the narcissistic person, and very little awareness of the people around them. There is little motivation to change. Most grandiose narcissists subjectively think of themselves as great people. If you ask them, they'll say, I'm a great guy. I'll help anyone. I'll do anything for anyone. I'm just a cool person. They believe it, having just cheated on their girlfriend two nights before, that they're able to maintain what almost feels like a delusional self schema. Those things are not amenable to change. And again, the nice thing about being an old lady is I've been doing this so long that I've seen cases 1520 years. And when I tell you that there's been some interesting things they've learned about themselves, in some cases, they had co occurring conditions. Addiction is a great example. The addiction is managed like they've been sober for many years.


But that core personality is definitely not fit for an intimate relationship, at least not one where someone's not going to get hurt. So that radical acceptance of the all of it, that moment is the penny drop moment, because now people see the path forward very differently. This is no longer once the kids grow up, it's going to get easier. This is no longer when he gets the promotion, things are going to get better. This is no longer when the grandkids come, my parents is going to calm down. This is it. And I've sat with many clients and said, I'm going to put something to you, and I'm going to say, if I were to tell you, this is it, this is never going to change, how would that affect the decisions you make? Most clients will say, can I tell you next week? Because that's a lot to take in. But the challenge with radical acceptance, Jay, is that I wish I could say it's. And the light comes in. The know a couple things is that radical acceptance doesn't mean you're signing off on this. It doesn't mean you're giving into it, doesn't mean you're agreeing with it.


It's not that. It is. You're seeing it absolutely and painfully clearly. And you know what happens after you painfully and radically see something? The grief comes over you like a tsunami. Because this is your mom, the mom you always thought, one day we're going to have the moment, or your dad, where you're like, one day they're going to get me, or the partner, where you're like, we are going to grow old together, and it's going to be okay. You're giving up a narrative. You're giving up a hope. You're giving up a life story. You're giving up things you held onto since you were a child. That's devastation. And I tell folks now, we're going to hold on tight because grief is the most human of experiences.


Other than.


Being born and dying. I don't know of any other universal human experience other than grief. All human beings lose, right? We lose something or someone, and we all have a very similar experience internally. We grieve, and that's why we have rituals, right? But ultimately, we go through a period of grief. And I think in this modern age, we think we're better than grief. We think we can soldier through, oh, I can make my grief go like this. Nobody gets to make their grief go quicker, right? Grief is grief. And that grief actually leads people, Jay, to say, okay, this feels terrible. Maybe I should go back into the relationship. Maybe I made a mistake. Maybe I'm not seeing this clearly. Maybe I'm the problem. Maybe I'm the narcissist. And so the holding on during the grief, understanding what's happening within you, that the loss isn't just, I'm not talking to my partner anymore, or I'm distanced from my mother, or I'm getting a divorce. But the grief is how much of yourself you lost in this relationship. When people have to dive into that, sometimes they'll say, I'm kind of glad they're gone. But what just happened to me?


Yeah, it's the grief of the life you once had, what you thought you're going to have. You could have the grief of the loss of the person that you lost while you dissolved into this relationship. And I've seen that from the people I know, not people, I would say these are people that I know in my life, but I've seen just that dissolving of one's identity, like, completely clueless, even if they've disengaged to. I don't know who I am anymore. And I don't know what to do anymore. And I don't know whether I was confident or whether I was bubly or whether I was extrovert or introvert. Like, I just don't know. And what's the first step when you're feeling. I don't know. Where's the starting point? Something about Mary Poppins.


Something about Mary Poppins. Exactly.


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I tell folks we're taking you back to basics, and it's little things like, I'll say three times a day, set a little timer if you want. I want you to, just when that little notification comes up, want you to stop and say, how do I feel right now? Am I cold? Am I hot? Am I hungry? Am I thirsty? Like, physiological functions, figure out where you want your thermostat and move it and see, like, oh, I'm feeling 68. This is nice. People don't even know that. I'll say, what do you want on your pizza? You'd be amazed how many people are flummoxed by that question. I'll say, well, he always wanted, what do you want on your pizza? And they'll say, and they'll catch themselves. This isn't meant to be silly. This is how even these sort of low hanging questions become a place where a person is now being able to recreate a subjective focus. They were told for years, you can't be hungry. You just ate. You can't be cold. I am warm. You're not tired. You got plenty of sleep. That's what they were told. So when that's done to you, not just once, but hundreds, if not thousands of times, just that initial process, and it's part of what I write about in the book, is just, you keep reorienting to yourself, and you ask yourself a few times a day, like, what's the temperature?


I'm actually feeling a little bit cold. And that's okay. Even if everyone else has a bathing suit on, it's okay.


Wow. It's just bringing that person back into their body.


Into their body.


Because that's our most physical, tangible way of knowing how we feel. And because we've gone so far away from understanding how we feel, that's going to be the easiest way. Same with, what do you want on your pizza? It sounds silly, but it's not, because.


It'S, like, at all.


Let's get these basic decisions right. Let's get these really amateur decisions right, rather than thinking, who am I? What is the goal of my life?


But you work up to that. And when you ask people, who am I? Like, I don't know, I'll say, what do you stand for? Tell me something that's important to you. And they will really say, like, no, I've never thought in these levels. I mean, your focus for so many people is meaning and purpose, right? To me, that's when we're getting into the latter stages of really, this individuation and this autonomy of what is meaningful to you? What is purposeful? I remember a client once saying to me, we're talking about meaning and purpose. And she said, are you kidding me? What's meaningful and purposeful? She said, I just want to get to a day where I don't think about them. And I said, great, then that's where it is right now.




And over time, we're going to build on that. But that can feel very out of reach for people. In fact, in my healing program this month, it's going to be meaning and purpose month. And even I, as I construct that curriculum, I'm realizing a lot of the usual conversation about meaning and purpose. I'm almost having to have the conversation .2 of what it means when you are going through this and someone who's a survivor of narcissistic abuse, but then it's also the willingness to turn to trusted others. I'm going to give you a silly example of something that happened today. I had a very problematic call today, right. With someone, and I had to put the call on speaker because someone was helping me with something in the house and she was doing her work quietly. But it wasn't a confidential call. It was a business thing. And the call went terribly. The person was very disrespectful, very dismissive, and I've been through narcissistic abuse in many ways and shapes and forms in my life. So my first tendency was, am I being too sensitive? Am I being too demanding? Am I being ridiculous? That's what I was thinking.


And at one point, the lady who was helping me out, she kind of looked at me, rolled her eye. I rolled my eyes and she looked back at me and she said, yeah. And I got off the phone, and the person who was helping with something else, she had nothing to do with this call. And I closed my eyes, and the person in the room with me said, yeesh, that was absolutely ridiculous. And I looked at her, I said, say more. And she said, I can't believe how dismissive that person. She didn't even do the basic. And, Jay, I felt whole because my inner experience, which I still doubt after all these years and I've come a long way, but my inner experience, this person outside of me, who I know cares about me, said it wasn't okay how she talked to you. And each time that happens, we have a micro adjustment of that was on point. I read that situation correctly. And then I was emboldened to make a stronger decision and decide not to go into, to do what this person was asking. Me to do was like a speaking thing. And I'm like, no, I don't want to do that.


But that other person's presence, having that safe space, and this is so a big part of the healing then becomes building up safe, validating antigas lights, as I call them, in your life. People who see you and say, that wasn't okay, or, are you okay, or, that was disrespectful, they did not speak nicely to you, whatever it is. Most survivors are so used to being spoken too badly, they're like, well, this is business as usual, but to have that. This is why people go into therapy. And so then I was able to take the much bolder leap of, no, I'm actually going to end up going to the other meeting. But thanks. I don't know that I would have had that kind of courage. This is what healing is. You build up those people, even if it's one or two people giving yourself permission to put, I call it the 90 ten inversion. Most of us put 90% of ourselves into our most toxic relationships and 10% into the giving, reciprocal, loving ones that run easily. I said, flip the math. I want 90% into those good relationships and phone it into the toxic ones.


Yeah, that's so true. And it's interesting because I think that kind of answers the next question I was going to ask. But this idea of, I think when someone's going through that healing journey, they're almost oscillating between, like what? I know myself again. Oh, I don't know who I am anymore. I feel like I know what I want on pizza. Oh my gosh, I have no idea. So I feel like they go through this. I think that partly answers that you need these people in your life who are constantly reminding you, and as you said, anti gaslighting you. What else can someone do when they're kind of oscillating between that? I think I'm making progress. I'm not sure anymore. I think I'm making progress. I'm lost again. What do you find in that period?


Embrace the oscillation. Right? Because it's calibration, right. It's like a child wobbly on their feet when they're learning to walk. You're learning this again. And so that wobbliness is, it's their internalized voice and your individuated self kind of having a little bit of an argument and sort of view. That part of you that's trying to individuate, like, say, you got this, and that's an old voice. And that old, we can just sort of say, you're actually not welcome here anymore. You could just step out. Thank you. But it's the individuated voice and the narcissistic internalized, or the gaslighted and internalized voice, and they're still fighting it out. And we feel as though, am I, aren't I? Just like today, anyone watching that call, I mean, would have said, this was not okay. And the person was almost like, the emperor's not wearing any clothes, right. That this person was saying, this emperor is naked. Go away, romani. Go away. And so I think that initially we need those voices a lot more, and there'll still be times when we will because I think there are certain trigger situations that kind of remain pretty consistent for survivors for a long, long time.


We do hold it internally, and we were told too, Jay, many survivors are told they're uppity if they want to achieve a goal. Do you really think you're going to pull that off? I think you're reaching a little too high. So they were minimized and trivialized for wanting to do something that they still hear that inner voice of, don't be ridiculous. You're never going to be able to do that. And they make that voice their own instead of trying to learn, like that kind of. That was an unwanted visitor. So let's see if you can sort of treat it that way. And we can even think about, if you look at trauma theory, we talk about the protector persecutor kind of a model that the persecuting voice, in a strange way, is doing this really messed up way of keeping you safe because it's telling you, like, in essence, that voice is telling you you're going to fail, so you don't try. And when you were in the narcissistic relationship and you failed, they would humiliate and shame you. Right. Or tell you it was going to happen. But if you can say that, okay, I see what you're trying to do.


Persecuting voice. I'll be fine if this doesn't go well, because it'll be on my terms. And if you really have done radical acceptance, even when the narcissistic person rolls their eyes and says, oh, big surprise, you have to keep coming back to this is a them thing. This is not a me thing, not saying it doesn't hurt. This is a carousel that really takes a toll on people, but it can be done. But that oscillation starts to become a little less oscillate the more people have these validating voices, people build up what we call efficacy, the idea that they're able to do something right. So the first time we're able to do something successfully from make up a cake or change the oil in our car, use a drill and put something in the wall, what it does to the psyche is remarkable. So I tell survivors, keep trying new things because the more efficacy you build, that also helps foster individuation. So I'm like, grab the drill. If you put a few holes in the wall, but the picture goes up, you're going to feel really good about the picture going up. Try to make the difficult souffle.


You may burn a few, but when it's made great. I did try to do this with bread. I still have not successfully raised a loaf of bread, so it's my last neurotic wound. But I think that when we find some people learn and people do all kinds of interesting things, I see, like some folks I've worked with learned languages, and they learned how to play a musical instrument, and they'll say, this feels so good because back in the day, I would have been made fun of for this. Those who are able to get out will say, it's so interesting to do this, and that confidence starts jumping into other areas of their life.


Yeah, I mean, it's really a rehabilitation.


It is exactly right.


Self identity, self worth, self confidence, self acceptance. You're almost teaching yourself to do things again in order to feel whole.


Right? Absolutely. But you know what? It's interesting. You say use, rebuild. For a lot of people, it's a build, because if this happened to them in childhood, their individuated identity never got to form at all.




So this is a build.


Yeah, it's a build. It's from scratch. Dr. Rami, this is so informative. I'm thinking of so many people right now who I know are going to benefit from our conversation today, because it's almost like, I feel like the more and more I'm speaking to people, the more and more I hear about people dealing with this in their lives. But I want to ask you one last question, and it's this idea of can going back to that empathy point, that forgiveness point for the person who's healing from the narcissistic person for them. Can the narcissistic person ever heal?


Listen, I do believe in human potentiality. I'm probably never going to bet on the psychopathic or narcissistic horse in the race, but might they at least come in the top five? Maybe. And what I mean by that is part of this is understanding the origins of narcissism. Right. Some narcissistic folks, their personality development was very much shaped by adversity, trauma, neglect, loss, chaos, attachment, moons. Right. That subgroup, if they are willing, humbly, to engage into the work of growth, they do excellent trauma informed work with a therapist and then get beyond the trauma informed work and are able to reflect on how they're able to create that schema of how they affect others. Right. To pull, it's almost like you're pulling open gates and say, there's people out there, see this thing you're doing, they're being affected, and it's really opening the schema out of how they're desperately trying to protect themselves to how other people are getting hurt. And it's interesting, I worked with a narcissistic client once for many, many years, and I sort of cut back my practice, and I've had one or two of them reach back, can I work with you?


I'm like, I've really kind of shut up shop. But you know what they said, though? One in particular said, I'm screaming at my girlfriend, and I know it's not okay. Now he's still screaming at her. Not so good. But he does know. He's like, I know it's not okay, and she may leave me, and I probably deserve it. And he's like, you taught me that.




He's still screaming. Got to own that part. But humility is such a big part of this, right? I honestly think the antidote to narcissism is humility. And humility means we're not perfect. We have flaws, and it's not all a fantasy. And honestly, the hardest thing for a narcissistic person to accept is that they're ordinary. You're ordinary, I'm ordinary. Everyone in this room is ordinary, and we're simultaneously special. But we're just people, right? And so for them not to be the most special person means removing the camp off the volcano, which is terrifying for them, in a way. They're almost terrified by their own rage. You need one very skilled therapist to guide someone through that journey, and they have to keep showing up. And for about almost 60% to 70% of narcissistic folks drop out of therapy prematurely. And it usually happens when the rubber meets the road and the work starts getting really vulnerable. That's when I've lost clients. And so we have to go very gently into that forest with them. But unfortunately, if we go too gently and we never get there, then we're sort of doing a lot of navel gazing.


So it's just finding that kind of balance. And they can do a lot of spiritual bypassing that kind of stuff. Like, you can't aphorism your way through this. They're going to have to do this painful work, face up to that vulnerability. I've seen some narcissistic people make a little bit of progress, but the way I put it is this. There's hope for them to make some progress, but the harm they've usually done to another person, usually it's not really that fixable. And so many people will say, and a fear of a lot of people in narcissistic relationships is, what if they change for the next person? They're not going to change for the next person, right? What if it all changes overnight? This is not an overnight. This is years and years and years of committed work to this. Like I said, I've seen micro changes and not enough to have probably consistently affected other people's relationships. And they still. Personality is like a rubber band. We can pull it out. So all of a sudden, Romany the introvert could become Romany the extrovert for one night only. And then when we get home, the rubber band will go back to its size.


The narcissistic person, on a good day with a good therapist, might get stretched out a little bit, seem a little bit more attuned, aware, do some empathic adjacent things, but as soon as the first time stress comes into the picture, rubber band goes back to its original size.


Yeah, that's what I was going to ask you as the last question that came from that was, what would you say to someone who says, I'll wait for them to change?


Then you're waiting for a bus that's never going to come. You're waiting for a submarine to show up at a bus stop, basically in the process. It's not even, just as that may not come, you will lose yourself in the process. And to me, that sort of soul death, that sort of loss of self, it's just not okay. And listen, you and I both know this. Culturally, we both come from a culture where remaining in a marriage, no matter what the conditions are, is very much a sort of a symptom of the culture. And this is where I've probably seen it most pointedly, of people who really, some folks would find a way, whether through their spirituality or other relationships with their children or others in their community, to sort of create a meaningful space outside of that problematic relationship. But others, it was like watching a fruit die on the vine. And it's to me, one of the most horrific things to witness is the potential of a human being being lost to this kind of invalidation. And I shudder to think how much potential, creative potential, knowledge, wisdom that people have held back because it is invalidated.


This book is a love story to every survivor and saying to them, please bring, we need you. We need all of your gifts in this world because you have so many. Listen, the fact that you endured this relationship is already a gift, but all the stuff you kept behind the gate, open those gates so we can see all this beautiful stuff that you could bring into the world.


Dr. Romani, thank you so much. The book is called it's not you. Identifying and healing from narcissistic people. It's available right now. Go and grab your copy. Today. We have just touched on the tip of the iceberg of the insights and the knowledge that's within this book. Please go grab your copy. And if you don't already follow Dr. Ramany on Instagram and YouTube, make sure you go and subscribe and follow. And I want to see what resonates with you from this conversation. So tag both of us. I'd love to see if you've been affected by any of this. If you know a friend or family member who's benefiting from the book, I'd love to see your takeaways. And Dr. Ramani, thank you so much again for this very thoughtful, very insightful conversation. And I love your step by step approach and also the ability to define and clarify things so well for us. So I always feel better prepared to talk to people, even who may mention it to me, friends, family members, whatever may happen, and kind of guide them in the right direction towards a therapist or the support that they need. So thank you so much.


Thank you, Jay. Thank you.


Thank you. If you love this episode, you'll enjoy my interview with Dr. Julie Smith on unblocking negative emotions and how to embrace difficult feelings.


You've just got to be motivated every.


Day, and if you're not, then what are you doing? And actually, humans don't work that way. Motivation, you have to treat it like any other emotion. Some days it will be there, some days it won't.


The Street Stoic podcast is back. We are combining hip hop lyrics and quotes from some of the greatest to ever grace a microphone. It's a line from Lauryn Hill and she says, don't be a hard rock when you really are a gem. Along with ancient wisdom from some of the greatest philosophers of all time. Seneca, right? And he says, your mind will take shape of what you frequently hold in thought, for the human spirit is colored by such impression. Listen to season two of the street Stoic podcast on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.


Listen to comeback stories. I'm Darren Waller. You might know me as a tight end for the New York Giants, or some of you might know me from my story of struggling with and beating addiction to become a Pro bowl tight end. With me, I have my friend and co host, Donnie Starkins, who is a yoga instructor and a personal development coach, catch us every week on comeback stories on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcast podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Close.