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25 Signs your Narcissistic or Borderline Wife or Girlfriend is Traumatizing You

April 2, 2009 81 comments

danger crazy womanDo you experience insomnia, nightmares, fatigue, nausea, aches and pains, and an underlying sense of dread? Do you feel like you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop? Is it difficult for you to trust others because you’re worried they’ll hurt you? Do you frequently feel ashamed, guilty, and worthless? Are you involved with an emotionally abusive, narcissistic or borderline woman?

Ain’t love grand! Being involved with an emotionally abusive, narcissistic or borderline woman can do quite a number on you. If you’ve been bullied, manipulated, abused, confused, and demeaned by the woman you love, you may have developed a stress reaction from her repeated violations of trust called betrayal trauma (Freyd, 2008). Betrayal trauma can significantly and adversely affect your physical and psychological well being (Freyd, Klest, & Allard, 2005).

Many men who are abused by their wives or girlfriends don’t recognize their behaviors as abusive. These men minimize and misidentify what’s happening by telling themselves that she’s just “emotional” or, worse yet, blame themselves for her cruel and hurtful behaviors. These men blind themselves to the reality of the situation in order to preserve the relationship.

Alternatively, some men realize her behavior is wrong and abusive, but remain silent. There are two primary reasons for keeping mum:

  1. Confronting an abusive woman about her behavior only makes her nastier and you’re then subjected to a narcissistic rage episode and/or histrionic drama queen performance.
  2. She’ll just blame you for everything or deny what she did anyway, so why bother saying anything?

Whether you’re suffering in self-induced oblivion or are painfully aware, but keeping quiet, there are consequences to staying in an abusive relationship. Trauma affects you physically and psychologically. It also has a detrimental effect on all of your other relationships or lack thereof.

Common physical and emotional reactions to trauma:

  1. Headaches, backaches, muscle fatigue, and stomach aches.
  2. Nausea, irritable bowels, diarrhea, or constipation.
  3. Increased susceptibility to colds and other illnesses because chronic stress is weakening your immune system.
  4. Insomnia and other sleep disturbances such as ruminative thought or bad dreams.
  5. A pervasive sense of anxiety, dread, fear, worry, and/or panic attacks.
  6. Depression, the blues, grief, or feeling hopeless about the future.
  7. Feelings of helplessness, weakness, and being trapped.
  8. Feeling disoriented, confused, and/or overwhelmed.
  9. Isolating yourself from others, not communicating with friends and family.
  10. Feeling emotionally detached, shut down or numb.
  11. Feeling overwhelmed or flooded by feelings that are disproportionate to the situation.
  12. Difficulty concentrating, focusing or remembering things.
  13. Feelings of guilt, shame, worthlessness and/or blaming yourself for things that aren’t your fault.
  14. Difficulty trusting others, feeling paranoid (like others are out to get you), feelings of betrayal.
  15. Drinking too much, taking drugs, overeating or engaging in other compulsive behaviors to numb and/or soothe yourself.
  16. Outbursts of anger, rage, irritability or frustration that are disproportionate to the situation.
  17. Mood swings or moodiness.
  18. Overly sensitive to criticism.
  19. Denying, rationalizing or minimizing the traumatic behaviors.
  20. Feeling on edge, jumpy or hypervigilant to possible attacks, always being on the defense.
  21. Keeping secrets, censoring or stuffing your feelings, lying to others about what happens in your relationship.
  22. Developing false beliefs such as, “All women are crazy” or “Never trust anyone” or “Never let your guard down” or “Never tell anyone how you’re really feeling or what you really think because they’ll use it against you.” These are negative and self-limiting beliefs that keep you from living life fully.
  23. Difficulty making decisions, fear of making the “wrong choice.”
  24. Not taking care of yourself—eating poorly, not exercising, not getting enough rest, engaging in dangerous activities that could be passive suicide attempts like crossing the street without looking or biking in dangerous areas.
  25. Feelings of indifference, fatalism, cynicism, or pessismism.

These are NORMAL reactions to ABNORMAL and abusive behaviors. However, your girlfriend or wife has probably used the stress reactions you’re experiencing, because of her, as another device to hurt you. “Why are you so sensitive? Stop being so defensive! You’re a hypochondriac. Stop being such a baby. You’re so angry. You’re being labile.” Sound familiar? She uses the trauma symptoms you’re experiencing, which she induced, to further traumatize you. Nice.

If you’re suffering from the symptoms of betrayal trauma please take the necessary steps to get out of your emotionally abusive relationship and recover from it. Healing from trauma takes time and can bring up a lot of painful emotions that you had to suppress while in your emotionally abusive relationship. This is also a normal part of the process. Try to feel the feelings as they come up without guilt or self-recrimination.

Other tips to recover from trauma sustained in an abusive relationship include:

Seek support. Share your feelings with someone you trust. If you’re uncomfortable talking with friends or family at first because you’re ashamed or feel foolish, find a therapist or join a support group.

Don’t isolate. One of the effects of being in abusive relationship is distancing yourself from others who care about you. Part of recovery involves reestablishing these connections.

Take care of yourself. Eat well, exercise, rest, and find ways to relax.

Develop a daily routine. This will keep you grounded and help to create a sense of predictability and normalcy after the unpredictability and instability of your life with your emotionally abusive wife or girlfriend.

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Shrink4Men Counseling, Consulting and Coaching

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides individual services to help individuals work through their relationship issues via telephone or Skype, particularly men who are trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. Dr. Palmatier also works with women in similar situations. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Services page for professional inquiries.

 

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Related content:

Traumatic Love: Is Your Narcissistic or Borderline Wife or Girlfriend Making You Sick?

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Danger crazy woman by FaG on flickr.

References:

Freyd, J.J. (2008) What is a betrayal trauma? What is Betrayal trauma theory?  http://dynamic.uoregon.edu/~jjf/trauma.html

Freyd, J.J., Klest, B., & Allard, C.B. (2005) Betrayal trauma: Relationship to physical health, psychological distress, and a written disclosure intervention.  Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 6(3), 83-104.

What to Do If You’re the Target of Bullying at Work

March 18, 2009 8 comments

women bulliesBy the time you realize you’re the target of workplace bullying and mobbing, it’s usually the beginning of the end. The ultimate goal of the bully/mobbing ringleader is to eliminate you from the organization. Unfortunately, most organizations neither acknowledge nor address workplace bullying in a way that protects the target.

In fact, Human Resources and management usually further victimize you by siding with the bully. Unless you can document acts of sexual harassment, racial or religious discrimination, pressure to engage in unlawful activities or discrimination for a physical disability, bullying/mobbing isn’t illegal in most states unless you can tie it to these specific acts of harassment. Therefore, it’s important that you come up with a plan to protect and remove yourself from this unhealthy and stressful work situation.

The following are measures you can take if you’ve become the target of mobbing at work:

1. Assess your professional options. What can you do to protect yourself in the short-term while working on a long-term solution? Do you know people who can connect you with other job opportunities? Do you need to learn new skills to transfer to another department or to seek employment elsewhere?

If management won’t address the problem, you’re going to have to leave or continue to suffer the abuse. Bullies don’t stop until they force you out. Their attacks escalate in severity and in frequency. The more they get away with their behaviors, the more vicious they become.

2. Play it cool. Don’t react with anger at work. Even though your anger is completely justified, don’t blow your top. Find an outside person with whom to vent your frustrations.

A common tactic of bullies is to provoke you into anger in front of co-workers and management. They then pretend like you’re the one who is out of control and hostile, “See. What did I tell you—s/he is uncooperative and people are afraid of him/her.” Of course, they don’t mention the dirty tricks and psychological torture they used to push you into it. They want to destroy your professional reputation. Don’t give them the ammunition to do it.

3. Don’t give your employer “cause.” The bully/mobbing ringleader is looking for reasons to have you terminated, so you have to be beyond reproach. When you’re bullied, you feel demoralized, unappreciated, attacked, and frustrated. Consequently, you lose interest in your job. Your heart just isn’t in it anymore and you let things slide. This is referred to as “presenteeism” or “discretionary effort.” The mindset is, “I’m being mistreated. The company isn’t doing anything about it, so why kill myself working any harder than I have to?”

Try not to do this. Your goal should be to leave your current organization on your own terms. Don’t give them grounds for termination. Demonstrate that in the face of a hostile work environment, you did your best. Once you’ve secured a comparable or better job, let the HR person know exactly what happened during your exit interview. If the company gets enough victims of the bully on record, they might eventually do something about it. The bottom line of any organization is money and recruiting and training new personnel is costly.

4. Create a paper trail. Document everything: dates, times, witnesses, detailed descriptions of their behaviors and events. Send emails describing what’s going on to yourself or a trusted colleague. If you meet with HR, take notes and submit a signed copy for your personnel file.

If your manager or boss is one of the people bullying you and they pressure you to sign a false or unfair performance evaluation or disciplinary action, draft a counter statement explaining your position. Stick to the facts and try to keep anger and emotionality out of it. State that you were made to feel belittled or persecuted. Document that it’s a hostile work environment, which is highly stressful and makes it difficult for you to do your job. Most importantly, keep the original copies and store them in a safe place—i.e., not at work.

5. Get a second opinion. Reality test with a trusted colleague, therapist, coach, or lawyer. One of the most damaging aspects of workplace bullying is gaslighting. You begin to doubt your own perceptions because most of these behaviors are diffuse forms of innuendo, done behind your back or, even worse, if you’re publicly humiliated, the participants deny or minimize how you were treated.

6. Use available resources. Do research on the web. Study your organization’s HR handbook, particularly work grievance and harassment policies. Although, keep in mind, workplace grievances usually aren’t an effective way to deal with a bully. Either the bully has friends in HR or management or is your boss. HR usually sides with management. Plus, most bullies are practiced liars who deny, minimize and distort the facts with ease. Additionally, your company has already failed you in allowing the bullying to occur and not stopping it.

If you have access to a labor attorney or are able to obtain a free consultation, consult with him or her about your rights. Look for other work options. Seek support from friends, family or a therapist.

7. Take care of yourself. Bullying is a form of emotional abuse and violence in the workplace. It takes a very negative toll on your physical and psychological health. Work becomes an active war zone, which causes you to maintain a defensive stance and become hypervigilant. It’s incredibly stressful, exhausting, and traumatic. This toxicity will eventually spill over into your personal life.

Minimize the effects of the abuse by reframing or changing how you see things (Sutton, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One that Isn’t, 2007, pp. 131-147). If you change your mindset about what’s happening, you can reduce the amount of damage you experience. For example:

  • Avoid engaging in self-blame.
  • Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
  • Develop indifference and emotional detachment.
  • Learn when and how not to give a damn.
  • Lower your expectations about your co-workers and management.
  • Remind yourself that you’ll recover and move on from this ordeal.
  • Look for small wins. Gaining control over little things will positively impact your well-being.
  • Limit your exposure with the bully.
  • Build areas in your life that provide support, safety, and sanity.

8. Use your free time to develop your career outside of your organization. If you’re not being given assignments anymore or your responsibilities have decreased because of bullying/mobbing, use that time to network in other departments, attend professional trainings, work on your résumé, and network outside your organization.

Quantify how these activities are related to your current job in some way, so that you can’t be accused of working on personal activities on company time. For example, hand out business cards when you attend an outside networking event and mention your company and what you do in conversation. Do not, however, bad mouth your company to anyone outside the organization. This will reflect poorly on you. Additionally, you don’t want to be accused of disparaging the organization as grounds for termination.

Workplace bullying and mobbing are insidious forms of psychological and emotional abuse. You can survive with your professional reputation intact if you don’t fall into the trap of reacting or shutting down at work (i.e., not fulfilling your responsibilities). Educate yourself, protect yourself, and develop a plan to get out and move forward with your life.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Private Consultation and Coaching

I provide confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. My practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit Services and Products for professional inquiries.

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Reference:

Sutton, R.I. (2007).  The no Asshole rule: Building a civilized workplace and surviving one that isn’t.  NY, NY, Warner Business Books.

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Talking behind my back on Forbes.

How to Avoid Bullying and Mobbing at Work

March 18, 2009 14 comments

bullseye painted on my foreheadBullying and mobbing are forms of workplace emotional abuse and psychological violence. These behaviors are more than a case of harmless personality differences; bullying and mobbing are purposeful and malicious.

Bullying, whether perpetrated by an individual or a group, entails victimization of a target with the goal of demeaning, discrediting, alienating, excluding, humiliating, undermining, and isolating him or her. It often manifests itself in petty harassment and bureaucratic hassles.

Bullying doesn’t stop unless someone with authority steps in or the bully is able to manipulate the target into quitting or being fired. The bully’s  ultimate goal is to force the target out of the organization.

7 Steps to avoid becoming a target for mobbing and other workplace bullying:

1) Heighten your awareness. Be aware of changes in management and possible differences between your values and organizational values. A power shift or change in management structure can create an environment conducive to bullying and mobbing and/or trigger bullies who already exist within the system.

New managers typically want their own people in place who are loyal to them and share their beliefs and values. If they don’t have legitimate grounds to fire you, they may try to eliminate you through bullying tactics by making the workplace as unpleasant as possible for you.

Alternately, new managers often inherit bullies from the old manager. They’re difficult to initially spot as most bullies put on a charming face in front of authority figures. If the bully enjoyed a position of power before the new manager arrived, they’ll try to undermine and derail the new boss to exert their dominance, maintain their power base, and perhaps try to get rid of the new boss. If this occurs, give the bully a warning and terminate them when they violate the agreement post haste. It shouldn’t take very long; bullies are repeat offenders. They cannot not bully.

2) Can’t we all just get along? More often than not, the answer is a resounding, “No.” If the change in management is big enough, it may warrant transferring to another department or finding a position at another company. Sometimes, you can’t “just get along,” which means you have to move on. It’s unfair, but that’s how it goes. Some differences are too great to resolve. Create a strategic career plan to begin this process.

3) On the down low. If you decide to stay at your current job due to financial restrictions or because an alternate job isn’t readily available, find ways to protect yourself and keep a low profile. It’s more difficult to become a target if you stay off the radar.

Don’t openly disagree with or challenge the bully. Don’t offer suggestions that differ from their agenda. Don’t offer constructive criticism. Become a “yes” man or woman or stay silent when you disagree. Get assignments done on time, smile, and don’t go above and beyond.

If you do outstanding or highly creative work, bullies will find that threatening. It seems counter-intuitive, but if you do something that makes you look good, bullies believe they look bad in comparison and turn on you. If you can find a better or comparable job opportunity, please do so as quickly as possible. This strategy should be a temporary solution, not a long-term one. Over time, it can become just as stressful and demoralizing as being bullied.

4) Play it cool. If you’re prone to anxiety, try to mask it as best as possible. For example, minimize anxiety behavioral signals like fidgeting, leg bouncing, nail biting, constantly apologizing, and nervous laughter. Predatory bullies pick up on fear, so “never let them see you sweat.” Exude quiet confidence, even if you have to fake it at first.

5) Look ’em in the eye. This is related to keeping your emotions in check. While it doesn’t pay to directly confront or challenge a bully, don’t make the mistake of backing down or running away when they verbally attack you. Look them in the eye, remain calm, and politely state your case, being sure to stick to the facts. This is easier said than done. Bullies are masters of baiting people into losing their cool.

6) Develop and practice conflict management skills to minimize the tension. A hallmark of bullying and/or mobbing is continuous conflict. Finding ways to manage conflict and anger before it becomes a problem will be to your benefit. Practice deflection with humor. Learn how to detach yourself from the emotionality of tense situations. Try to remain unflappable. If bullies see you flinch, they’ll move in for the kill.

7) Know your rights. Study your organization’s HR employee handbook and harassment policies. Research your state’s employee’s rights. If you belong to a union, find out what resources are available to you. Good news! Several states are “considering laws that would make workplace bullying an ‘unlawful employment practice’ and give victims the right to sue an employer that fails to prevent it.” About time if you ask me.

If you work for an organization where bullying is tolerated or condoned, it’s only a matter of time before it’s your turn. With every target a bully successfully eliminates, you’re on an ever increasing short list of potential new targets. And, quite frankly, if you participated in making someone else’s life hell at work out of self-preservation, you probably deserve a little karmic payback.

Bullying isn’t just a problem for the targeted individual. If bullying and mobbing are permitted in an organization, it’s everyone’s problem because it means no one is safe. Bullying in the workplace is a form of systemic abuse. It takes more than one person to say, “Enough,” and end a bully’s reign of terror. Start by educating yourself and co-workers. If you see a colleague is being bullied or mobbed, reach out to him or her privately and offer your support.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Private Consultation and Coaching

I provide confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. My practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit Services and Products for professional inquiries.

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Why Parental Alienation is the Act of an Emotionally Abusive Bully

February 25, 2009 65 comments

Justice is Blind-Family Court FolliesAre you and your ex going through a difficult divorce or break up? Do you worry that she or he is turning your child(ren) against you? Are you shocked and confused by how your once warm and affectionate relationship with your kid(s) has become distant and hostile?

Parental alienation is no joke. It’s a form of child abuse. The custodial parent is usually the mother and it’s typically the custodial parent who engages in parental alienation. However, there are men who also engage in parental alienation.

Original research found women to be the perpetrators of this abusive behavior in 90% of reported cases. Recent research indicates both genders equally engage in parental alienation. It’s difficult to know the exact figures because of under-reporting, false accusations and the positive bias toward mothers that’s rampant in most family courts.

Profile of Parental Alienation

Individuals who engage in parental alienation are like the mean kids in high school who demand that their friends be angry with whomever they’re angry with and hate whomever they hate. In children, this phenomenon is called relational aggression. Now she or he is a parent. They’re mad because your relationship ended—even if they’re the one who initiated the break-up.

Your ex requires, implicitly or explicitly, that your child(ren) feel and act the same way she or he does. The parent who engages in alienation tactics enlists your children to take on his or her battle against you. This is not the act of a responsible, mature adult, much less a responsible, loving parent. This is a bullying behavior called mobbing.

Bullying, Mobbing and Parental Alienation

Mobbing is usually written about in the context of workplace bullying, but that’s a limited use of the concept. It can occur in any kind of system, including a family system. Mobbing is the impassioned psychological harassment of one individual by a group. The attack is usually instigated and led by one or two people who are typically in a position of authority or a peer leader. The International Herald Tribune describes it as “group victimization of a single target” with the goal of demeaning, discrediting, alienating, excluding, humiliating and isolating the targeted individual.

Mobbing ringleaders are bullies who try to dominate and control others in most situations and relationships. Namie and Namie (2000) describe them as, “inadequate, defective and poorly developed people.” They’re generally angry, unpredictable, critical, jealous and manipulative (Davenport, Schwartz and Elliot, 1999; Namie and Namie, 2000). The emotionally abusive bully who engages in mobbing (or parental alienation) revels in the excitement produced by their animosity. It produces a pleasurable buzz or rush in them. Westhues (2002) refers to this as “the euphoria of collective attack.” Sound familiar?

Parental Alienation and Personality Disorders

People that have no compunction about using their kids to hurt their exes seem to fit the profile of the emotionally abusive Cluster B personality disorders (Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder). Many of these individuals play the professional victim as they emotionally bully anyone who confronts, challenges or criticizes them. They don’t recognize appropriate boundaries, won’t accept personal responsibility for their actions—in fact, they blame you for the horrible things they do and always have an excuse to justify their indefensible behaviors.

If your ex is actively or passively alienating your child(ren)’s normal affection toward you, he or she was probably emotionally abusive while you were together. Parental alienation is her or his way of continuing to abuse and hurt you via remote access. Generally, most bullies don’t see themselves as such. If you confront your ex about this behavior, they’ll deny it and blame you for your deteriorating relationship with your child(ren), even as you make every effort to be a present and involved parent.

The only way to stop a bully is with the threat of a greater authority. Appealing to their “better nature” is futile. Emotionally abusive bullies don’t have a better nature. Attorneys and the courts will probably need to be involved as well as an UNBIASED children’s therapist and a lot of documentation. If you believe you’re the target of parental alienation, I encourage you to educate yourself about it and to know, protect and fight for your rights.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Private Consultation and Coaching

I provide confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. My practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit Services and Products for professional inquiries.

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Justice is blind by Professional Recreationalist on flickr.

The Emotionally Abusive Personality: Is She a Borderline or a Narcissist?

February 14, 2009 225 comments

Two Face WomanIf you’re involved with an emotionally abusive woman, at first you probably wondered, “What’s wrong with her?” If you’ve been with her for a significant length of time, you probably now wonder, “What’s wrong with me? Why does she treat me so bad?”

Emotional abuse grinds you down over time and leaves you feeling depressed, anxious, helpless, and worthless. You don’t deserve to be treated badly. You’re not the one with the problem. People who are emotionally abusive typically fall into specific personality types and in extreme cases, personality disorders.

The Cluster B disorders, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD), Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), and Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) are often abusers in their relationships. These disorders lie on a continuum. Depending on the day, hour, minute, or second, your wife or girlfriend may exhibit different characteristics of these disorders. They’re all similar flavors of crazy.

So how can you tell if your emotionally abusive girlfriend or wife has Borderline or Narcissistic traits? The following are general rules of thumb I use when trying to tease out the difference.

How do they approach relationships?

The Narcissistic Woman: “Love me–or else.” If you don’t unconditionally accept the NPD and all of her horrible behaviors, you are, as one of my readers describes it, “unforgiving and mean.” At first, many of them charm you and then they often try to bully you into loving them. If you reject her or she thinks that you’re criticizing her, you’re treated to a narcissistic rage episode or cold sullen withdrawal and the death stare.

Every now and again a narcissist will be nice to you, even affectionate. This is because she is

  1. about to manipulate you into doing something for her;
  2. making a public display in order to be seen by others as magnanimous or loving;
  3. celebrating because she’s duped or tricked you about something; and/or
  4. lulling you into a false sense of security because she’s about to clobber you again

In other words, if she’s being nice to you, be afraid. Be very afraid.

The Borderline Woman: “Please love me. I didn’t mean it. Don’t leave me.” Initially, the BPD will mutate into the woman she thinks you want her to be. This ideal fantasy woman has nothing to do with who she is in reality. She’ll do everything in her power to please you in order to make you love her and then the mask starts to crumble.

Can you feel sympathy for her?

The Narcissistic Woman: The NPD woman is a very unsympathetic creature. It’s damned near impossible to feel sorry for her. If she manipulates you into feeling sympathy for her, it’s to get you to let down your guard so she can steamroll you again. They invented the term crocodile tears for NPDs. She cries when she’s terrified of losing control over her half dead mouse–that would be you–or of having her true self exposed.

The Borderline Woman: Even when she’s off the charts crazy, there’s still something sort of pitiful about her. It’s easier to feel sympathy for a BPD, but pity and guilt shouldn’t be the glue that holds a relationship together. It doesn’t negate the consequences of her emotionally abusive behavior, whether the hurt she inflicts is intentional or unintentional.

Is she capable of accepting personal responsibility?

The Narcissistic Woman: She rarely, if ever, admits she was wrong unless it’s to zing you with a thinly veiled insult. For example, “I thought you were a kind and generous man. I see now that I was wrong.” She rarely if ever takes responsibility for her hurtful actions. If you call her on her bad behaviors, she claims it was your fault for pushing her into it (in other words, you deserved it) and you’re a bad man to make a good woman like her act that way. You should be ashamed of yourself!

Alternatively, she’ll use dime store psychology, dogmatic religion or false consensus building to justify her inexcusable behaviors. For example, “A true christian practices forgiveness” or “You have unresolved issues with your mother” or “My therapist said I should do what my gut tells me to do” or “I told my family and friends about this and they think I’m right and you’re wrong.” These are nothing more than tactics for deflecting responsibility.

The Borderline Woman: The BPD will admit what she did was wrong, BUT she’ll follow it up by blaming you for triggering her. That’s not real personal responsibility. It’s what a 5-year old says when they get caught doing something wrong. “Yes, what I did was wrong, but it wasn’t my fault” or “I was really hurt and angry, but I didn’t mean to say all of the horrible things I did, so you have to forgive me.” The NPD usually won’t acknowledge any wrong-doing unless you really have her on the ropes or you’re about to end the relationship–that’s the difference. Most NPDs believes she was right to hurt you; some BPDs might feel bad about hurting you, but she was hurting, so she had to hurt you and ‘couldn’t help [herself].’

Is she capable of empathy?

The Narcissistic Woman: The NPD is virtually incapable of feeling empathy for others. She is 100% ENTITLED, which means other people’s feelings don’t really matter.  There is one exception. If someone else is giving you a hard time, the NPD will say, “Well I never had a problem with ‘Joe.’ He’s always been nice to me. He must be really stressed. You’re probably bringing this on yourself.” The NPD woman shows empathy for others at your expense.

The Borderline Woman: BPDs can be guided to feel empathy by reminding them of specific instances when they felt bad, but it’s usually pretty fleeting. Bottom line: A BPD’s emotional distress takes precedence over everything and everyone else, no matter how empathic she may seem to be from time to time. Furthermore, empathy from a BPD often comes with strings attached.

Is she capable of giving?

The Narcissistic Woman: That would be no, no and no. NPDs are primarily takers. It’s definitely a one-way street when you’re involved with a narcissistic woman. She may make a show of being kind and generous in front of others, but that’s only because she wants to protect her highly controlled public image. Alternatively, if she does something “generous” it’s because she believes “those are the rules” of etiquette, society or her religion. NPDs are big rules and regs types. She will then expect to be lavishly acknowledged and praised for her act of generosity (or something as minor as cleaning up after herself in the kitchen) and never lets you forget it.

The Borderline Woman: BPDs are givers, but it comes with a price. It’s part of what I mentioned earlier about doing anything to please you to get you to love them.

Most of the behaviors I’m describing are entirely unconscious. These behaviors are learned at an early age and some of them may be hardwired. Whether she’s more NPD or BPD, both traits are extremely painful and damaging to the people who love them.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Private Consultation and Coaching

I provide confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. My practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit Services and Products for professional inquiries.

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Two Face Woman by matthew manuel puentes on flickr.

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6 More Office Politics Personality Types: Bullies in the Workplace

February 4, 2009 13 comments

evil-teganDo you have co-workers who constantly tell you how to do your job? Do they criticize your work while bragging about their performance, which is actually mediocre at best? Do they take credit for your ideas and usurp your authority? If so, you’re probably dealing with a workplace bully.

Romanticize humanity as much as you like, but we share certain characteristics with our furry quadruped counterparts. I have a friend who watches The Dog Whisperer for tips on managing his kids’ behavior instead of reading childcare books and you know what? It works.

We’re pack animals, just like dogs. Office bullies are basically dogs with behavioral problems that have been allowed to run amok. Understanding what’s at play can help you feel better and survive, if not thrive, in the doggy daycare of office politics.

The Basic Office Bully Personality Types

1) The Alpha Dog. One growl and other dogs respectfully back away. If they don’t, they get a set of jaws clamped onto to their necks and assume the submissive position.

Figure out who the alpha dog is in your office. It may not be “the boss.” It could be the assistant or the VP. Determine their ego needs–flattery, reliability, staying late–and give it to them. Although I hate to say it, if you can learn how to fake sincerity with these people, it’ll make your life easier.

2) The Lateral Land Grabber. Ever wonder why organizations have departments? Because different employees have different skills and dog peeingserve different functions? Yes, but there’s more to it.

Dogs are territorial creatures. They pee along the perimeters of their yard, neighborhood fire hydrants, and telephone poles. When other dogs encroach upon their territory, they get pissed.

We’re territorial, too. Do you have co-workers who tell you how to do your job? Do they offer unsolicited advice, even when they’re ignorant on the subject? It’s a lateral land grab. They’re marking your territory.

According to Franke James, inventor of the Office Politics Game, this is normal dog behavior. However, when taken to extremes, it’s an indication of territorial dominance, anxiety, and insecurity. There’s a difference between this highly aggressive bullying behavior and collaborative interdepartmental feedback, although the bully will tell you he’s “just trying to help.”

3) Mr. or Ms. Smoke and Mirrors. This person’s game is distraction through detraction. They trash you and tell you how you should be doing your job in order to draw attention away from their ineptitude and incompetence. This is a common tactic of the workplace bully. You know this is occurring when the facts don’t back up their allegations. Furthermore, when you challenge them with the facts, they make up the craziest BS to refute them.

I once worked with a guy who was a master of this technique. Unfortunately, it was the only thing he’d mastered. He made noisy, unfounded public disparaging pronouncements about my department, meanwhile, every business deal he made cost the company money instead of making it  money. Distraction through detraction.

4) The Control Freak. If you spend all your time worrying about and trying to control others, when do you get your work done? Do you really have that much time on your hands? The answer is, yes, they do have that much time on their hands because they’re not doing their work; they’re too busy telling you how to do your work. By spending every waking moment trying to control people and situations, they give the appearance of being busy without accomplishing anything of their own.

This type believes his or her way is the only way. They try to leave their thumbprint on everything so that they can take credit for everything. It’s another form of bullying that involves domination and micro-management. Eventually, this behavior undermines your confidence and causes physical and psychological symptoms from the stress of being under constant attacks and monitoring.

5) Doggie Wants your Bone. They’re after your job. This happens all the time, hence the expression, “Dog eat dog world.” Enough said.

chien-lunatique6) Mad Dog. They don’t want your job; they want you gone. This person is an uber-territorial, foaming at the mouth, pit bull. Watch your back. They prey on the vulnerable and anyone who isn’t a malleable sycophant. They also go after people who see through the facade that masks their mediocrity and vicious attack behaviors.

Deep down, they’re just the sickly, mewling runt of the litter. This is another bully behavior. Although their attacks and machinations feel personal, you’re just their target du jour. They seek and destroy others, particularly those who are smarter, more talented, more creative and more successful, in order to feel powerful and better about themselves. After, they force you out, they’ll move onto their next target within 2 hours to two weeks. This type always has an “enemy” in the cross hairs.

When an office has infighting, territory disputes, and withholds supplies and information, it’s a clear sign that it’s a workplace in which bullying is rampant and/or is tolerated by management. If you recognize any of the above personalities at your office, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with how bullies operate and how you can protect yourself. In fact, I’ll be writing more on this topic in the coming weeks, so be sure to check back.

Also see: How to Recognize 7 Personality Types in Office Politics.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Private Consultation and Coaching

I provide confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. My practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit Services and Products for professional inquiries.

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Photo credits:

Evil Tegan by Brendan Crawford, a friend.

Dog peeing unknown source.

Chien lunatique by liz du canada on flickr.

How to Recognize 7 Personality Types in Office Politics

February 2, 2009 5 comments

schwarting_callinginDo you feel like you’re going crazy at work? Up is down? Left is right? Day is night? Chances are you’re in a sick system. Welcome to the wonderful world of office politics–there’s never been a better time to telecommute.

It’s a jungle out there and the big cats are forever sharpening their claws. Even if you make a conscious effort to stay out of the fray, it’s almost impossible not to be sucked into the vortex of people scrambling for power, favor, or recognition. Office politics are typically the most vicious when there’s very little to fight over in terms of money and glory.

There are some basic office politics personality types that can be found in most work settings. It’s helpful to be forewarned, if not forearmed.

1) The Ego Monster. They’re right. They’re always right. They’re the smartest person in the room. Their ideas are the best and the only ones that count. These are the folks that pay the most lip service to “teamwork” (i.e., do what I say or suffer the consequences).

2) The Bully. They use verbal and intellectual (if they’re capable of it) intimidation. They openly belittle others’ ideas, work, dress, speech, etc., (with the exception of their immediate supervisor(s) and/or boss). They only feel good about themselves when putting others down. Be careful if you choose to confront the bully. They become quite malicious and vindictive when someone tries to unmask them.

backstabbed3) The Climber. They have to be on top. It doesn’t really matter if the top is a glory-less position. If there’s a rung above them, they’re going to climb it. They usually ascend by using the daggers they plunge in people’s backsides as rappelling instruments.

4) Mr./Ms. Good Intentions. They’re a variation of the Climber, but disguise their agenda with “the best of intentions.” They smile as they sharpen their oyster knives–right before plunging them into your back while patting you on the shoulder.

5) The Pilot Fish. They’re the shameless suck-ups. They suckle at the power teat, hoping to avoid attacks from the Bully and Climber, while currying favor with the Ego Monster.

6) Harry/Harriet Half-Ass. Incompetent? You bet. Sloppy? Yup. Colleagues forever push the elephant broom behind them. They’re the masters of Dump & Run. They submit incomplete tasks and/or non-usable projects. “I know you wanted time codes for Project Video, but I co-created a company tee-shirt instead.” Huh? They’re continuously reassigned to different departments to “help out,” when, ironically and inevitably, they create more work instead of lightening the load.

7) The Innocent Bystander. You can never stay entirely out of the fray, not really. Even working from home doesn’t make you immune. The best you can hope for is a reasonably grounded leader who creates an environment of trickle down sanity (rather than trickle down INSANITY).

There are many reasons office politics exist, including:

  • Re-creating family of origin roles.
  • Feeling undermined at home and compensating at work.
  • Adult bullies in the grown-up playground.
  • Power hunger.

Whatever the reason, it makes for a thoroughly unpleasant workplace.

The crazy thing is, 20 years from now, none of the things we rage and plot over matters. Ultimately, the workplace one-upmanship in which we engage to bolster ourselves against life’s petty indignities is silly. Can’t we all just get on with it?

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Private Consultation and Coaching

I provide confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. My practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit Services and Products for professional inquiries.

Donations

If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

Photo credits:

Calling in sick on artslant.

Backstabbed on bored.