I’m a voracious reader and wanted to start posting a few book reviews on this blog as part of gathering and presenting resources that I think are useful for our community.

The book Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study by George Vaillant is a notable book on many levels. Continue reading

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As published on Huffington Post

When it comes to relationships, trust is a big thing. The way people seem to think about trust is as if it’s something we place in another person. We say “I trust him” or “I don’t trust her.” This approach implies that trust is about the other person; it’s something we give to them if they earn it from us, if they prove themselves to us. It’s something that can be broken if the other person behaves in a way we don’t approve of or expect. I think there’s an even better way of thinking about trust.

What if you thought of trust as something you have in yourself?

For example, trust in your ability to take care of yourself in the context of a relationship. Rather than thinking Can I trust that person? you would think Can I trust myself to take care of myself with that person? If the answer is yes, it leads you to build and grow the relationship. If the answer is no, it leads you to problem solve and then if the answer is still no, then it might be time for you to cease putting energy into that relationship.

This way of thinking of trust calls for you to take care of yourself in relationships. It makes it natural to consider what works for you and what doesn’t. It makes it easier to handle behaviors that might make you uncomfortable because you see that you get to choose how to take care of yourself. It shifts the nature of what would otherwise be experienced as breaches of trust; you no longer have to feel “betrayed” even if you don’t like what’s happening. The way it feels to be in relationships suddenly shifts. Just with a shift in your thinking, you have more power and freedom in relationships. You’re free to allow people to be who they are.

You’ll come to understand that placing your trust in the other person is placing your power in their hands. Sometimes people do as we expect and that trust is comfortable. If your practice is to place trust IN the other person, then you will most likely seek to maneuver (or manipulate) that person to treat you the way you want to be treated. It’s a precarious position in which to put yourself — it puts your well-being in someone else’s hands. It’s especially precarious because it leads us to expect others to always do right by us (even when we’ve neglected to articulate how to do so). When the other person behaves in a way we don’t expect and don’t like, we react as if that person has done something wrong. Our reaction to breaks in trust vary in depending on the situation; some of us may directly ask for what we need instead, some may try to influence the other person to bring them back into line with our expectation, by using anger or blame or shame or passive aggressive techniques like gossip. Sometimes our efforts work and sometimes they don’t.

Even a person who does have your well-being close to their heart is unlikely to always say or do exactly what you want in all instances. When a bad enough breach happens, you experience it as a betrayal and begin to withhold trust. Self-protection is natural. The other person is likely to experience this negativity. A spiral of disconnection begins that can be hard to repair.

Instead of “trusting” someone, think about trusting that person to be who they are. Then trust in your ability to be OK with that person as they are. Your job is to observe and know that person and to develop some understanding of whether you are able to take care of yourself and feel comfortable in the relationship. Just by turning the idea of trust around so that it’s not something you place in someone else, but something you keep for yourself, you naturally handle relationships more responsibly. When there is trouble in a relationship, the old way of thinking would’ve been about how to make the other person change to make you happy; “What does s/he need to do to regain my trust?” Using this new way of thinking about trust leads you to look to yourself first and consider “What can I do for myself that will help me feel better in this relationship?” Do you see how thinking of it in this new way might lead you to new options and better actions? It reminds you to be responsible on your own behalf in relationships, rather than ‘trusting’ others to be responsible to you on your behalf.

Trust yourself.

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As published on Huffington Post

Since narcissists seem abundant in our daily lives, it can make a real difference in your quality of life if you understand narcissism. Unfortunately, that is not always easy to do for a regular person going through normal day-to-day life — in popular culture it gets simplified to the point of uselessness, in psychology it can seem complicated to the point of futility. Not only can the language sometimes be misleading, sometimes it just leads in the wrong direction.

One of the concepts that really makes a mess of things is the idea that narcissists love themselves to the exclusion of all others. The term that summarizes that is “self-love.” The problem is that narcissism is NOT self-love.

When one follows the line of thinking that a narcissist loves herself to the point of being uninterested in loving others, one tends to conclude that the narcissist is choosing to think this way and you can get her to choose otherwise — you can be the shining star who lights up the narcissist’s heart. This leads the person on the receiving side of a relationship down all sorts of frustrating paths. It makes you think that if only you can prove yourself, then you will also be prized.

If the narcissist you’re dealing with is someone in the workplace, it probably makes you feel ineffective because you can’t get the narcissist’s respect. It makes you try all different sorts of tactics to try to maintain the elusive attention of a narcissist so that you can feel that sense of acknowledgement you seek. It catches you in a game of trying and failing and trying again and failing — a game you don’t even realize you are in, but which many of us keep playing until we are flat-out worn down. At the bottom-line, thinking that narcissism is about self-love, tends to make the rest of us feel like we are not worthy or lovable.

The reality is that narcissism is not self-love; it is a lack of a sense of self.

A true narcissist does not seek to have you admire her because she admires herself; it is that she seeks your admiration as a way to affirm that she exists.

The reality is that a narcissist does not experience herself as superior, despite behaving as if she does. She seems superior, and as if her ideas are the only acceptable ideas, because she is not aware that you are a separate being who is not her. She has merged with you and assumes that you are part of her, and that her needs are the only needs that exist.

Our confusion about narcissism as self-love stems from the early psychological theorists and their drawing on the Greek myth of Narcissus, who fell in love with his image and could not tear his gaze away.

Rather than think of narcissism as “self-love” think of it as “lack of self, seeking others.” It’s not “Desperately Seeking Susan,” it’s “Desperately Seeking Self.” Freedom from the frustration of trying to get a narcissist to consider you, respect you, or love you can be yours. Accept a narcissist for what she is, and options will open up for you.

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Last week, I provided 5 tips for working with an everyday narcissist, and this week, I finish up with another set of 5 straightforward suggestions. Most of us want drama-free workplaces, but find it challenging when a narcissist is involved. With some skillful attention, though, you can rise to the occasion.

Here are five additional ways to operate more effectively with a narcissist:

Continue reading

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5 Tips For Working With an Everyday Narcissist

Do you wonder if someone in your personal or work life might be a narcissist? Here are five tips to start your on your way. Next week I’ll follow up with five more!

1. Learn how to recognize true narcissistic behavior.
When you confront a problem, it’s helpful to understand the true nature of the problem. In the workplace, people often resent dealing with difficult personalities; they choose to complain and struggle rather than learn to master the dynamics. Narcissism may or may not be the root cause of problems at work – learning the basics disorders can help you figure things out and move on more quickly.
Continue reading

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As published on Huffington Post

It’s easy to get hooked by a narcissist. There’s something about charming aloofness that just snags the attention. We may just chalk it up to the human foible of the sort that makes young women fall for the bad boy. But have you ever really wondered what it’s about?

Did you know there are emotional reasons you get unwittingly hooked by a narcissist?

Continue reading…

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Back to Normal: Why Ordinary Childhood Behavior Is Mistaken for ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder

As part of my resources for the readers of this site, I want to post short book reviews of books that I find helpful and think readers will as well.

One of the challenges when you’re confronted with the reality of a narcissist in your life is to find the right resources. People have many questions as they come to terms with accepting this awareness. I hope to recommend easy to understand, well-written and insightful books that you can count on. Continue reading

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As published on Huffington Post

It’s interesting to see how often we relate narcissism to celebrities and how the media very quickly labels those folks narcissists. We have a thing about celebrities and prominent people these days. We tend to assume that someone driven to do something that puts them in the public eye must be a narcissist. Oftentimes the public and media go with the story line that all actors and performers are narcissists, and of course, everyone “knows” that all politicians, especially whoever is in the White House, is definitely a narcissist. But is that really the case?

Continue reading…

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As published on Huffington Post

Have you ever heard things like, “We’re all a bit narcissistic, aren’t we?” or “A little narcissism is healthy,” or “Isn’t everyone, at essence, a narcissist?” The realm of narcissism is so confusing that even normal people worry that they are narcissists. They aren’t sure what is normal and healthy.

Continue reading…

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If you’re having trouble in a work or personal relationship, you’re probably wondering why and then what can be done to ease those. Knowing the source of the trouble will help you decide how to handle things. If your research leads you to consider narcissism, you may wonder how one really knows if another person is a narcissist – how is it diagnosed? Continue reading

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