I stumbled across this detailed article on twenty techniques used by Narcissists (and other malfunctioning types of people) in personal relationships — or is it an article about Donald Trump? The full title: “20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists, Sociopaths And Psychopaths Use To Silence You.”
The bottom line caveat: “If you think you’re going to have a thoughtful discussion with someone who is toxic, be prepared for epic mindfuckery rather than conversational mindfulness.” In short, conversations are often attacks that only look like conversations.
In the hands of a malignant narcissist or sociopath, your differing opinions, legitimate emotions and lived experiences get translated into character flaws and evidence of your irrationality.
Narcissism is the main focus of the article, however, and Narcissists tend to be . . . well … narcissistic:
Narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths and otherwise toxic people do this because they wish to divert attention back to themselves and how you’re going to please them. If there is anything outside of them that may threaten their control over your life, they seek to destroy it. They need to be the center of attention at all times. In the idealization phase, you were once the center of a narcissist’s world – now the narcissist becomes the center of yours.
Narcissists are also naturally pathologically envious and don’t want anything to come in between them and their influence over you. Your happiness represents everything they feel they cannot have in their emotionally shallow lives. After all, if you learn that you can get validation, respect and love from other sources besides the toxic person, what’s to keep you from leaving them?
Chapters include Gaslighting, Projection, “Moving the goalposts,” “Changing the Subject,” Threats (including covert threats), Aggressive Jabs Disguised as Jokes and Shaming.
Are there emotions other than the commonly discussed ones? This article by BBC presents many others. Most of them have names in other languages, and I did not recognize any of these names. I did, however, recognize many of the feelings described in the article. Hence, the title of the article, “The Untranslatable Emotions,” doesn’t quite work for me, because I do recognize many of these emotions. Here are a few examples presented, and there are many others I enjoyed reading about in the article:
Natsukashii (Japanese) – a nostalgic longing for the past, with happiness for the fond memory, yet sadness that it is no longer
Wabi-sabi (Japanese) – a “dark, desolate sublimity” centred on transience and imperfection in beauty
Saudade (Portuguese) – a melancholic longing or nostalgia for a person, place or thing that is far away either spatially or in time – a vague, dreaming wistfulness for phenomena that may not even exist
Sehnsucht (German) – “life-longings”, an intense desire for alternative states and realisations of life, even if they are unattainable
Eric Barker has summarized research on many self-improvement topics, and peppered his summaries with links to the actual research. I’ve taken much of his work to heart and felt like I have become a better person because of it.
His latest post is on self-esteem/confidence, an counter-intuitive topic. In the following excerpt, he points out the danger of artificially boosting self-esteem:
But you’ve read plenty of stuff on these here interwebz about raising self-esteem, right? And that must work. And that must be good. Right? Wrong.
California set up a task force and gave it $250,000 a year to raise children’s self-esteem. They expected this to boost grades and reduce bullying, crime, teen pregnancy and drug abuse. Guess what?
It was a total failure in almost every category.
Reports on the efficacy of California’s self-esteem initiative, for instance, suggest that it was a total failure. Hardly any of the program’s hoped-for outcomes were achieved. Research shows self-esteem doesn’t cause all those good things. It’s just a side effect of success. So artificially boosting it doesn’t work.
In one influential review of the self-esteem literature, it was concluded that high self-esteem actually did not improve academic achievement or job performance or leadership skills or prevent children from smoking, drinking, taking drugs, and engaging in early sex. If anything, high self-esteem appears to be the consequence rather than the cause of healthy behaviors.
Actually, let me amend that. It is good at raising something: narcissism. So trying to increase self-esteem doesn’t help people succeed but it can turn them into jerks.
Barker also offers suggestions of what we need instead of artificially boosted self-esteem:
Instead, focus on forgiving yourself when you’re not. [cites to the work of Kristin Neff is a professor at the University of Texas at Austin]:
Self-compassion is not about a judgment or evaluation of self-worth; it’s not about deciding whether or not we’re a good or bad person; it’s just about treating oneself kindly. Treating oneself like one would treat a good friend, with warmth and care and understanding. When self-esteem deserts us, which is when we fail and we make a mistake, self-compassion steps in. Self-compassion recognizes that it’s natural and normal to fail and to make mistakes, and that we’re worthy of kindness even though we’ve done something we regret or didn’t perform as well as we wanted to.
Eric Barker offer immense amounts of research in easily digested forms. His latest topic is on how to make love last – Lots of links to research and related topics.
You’re A Terrible Mind Reader: Stop assuming you know why they did something wrong. You don’t. Want the answer? Ask.
Rose-Colored Glasses Are Good: If you’re going to try to read minds, assume the best. Otherwise, why the heck are you with this person?
No Unspoken Rules: They can’t read minds either. Stop thinking “it’s obvious.” If it was obvious, you would not have this problem.
Symbolic Meanings Confuse People: To you “being late” means “you don’t love me.” To them “being late” means “being late.” Clarify your interpretation or they’ll think you’re insane.
Eric Barker distills LOTS of good advice, providing ample links for more details. I have taken much of what he has provided in his blog, Barking Up the Wrong Tree, and practiced it. This is not hyperbole – I have found his information/advice to be among the most useful I have encountered anywhere.
His latest post is titled, “4 Rituals To Keep You Happy All The Time,” and I’m a believer (though I’m not actually happy ALL the time!). Here’s how he sums things up:
- Write down three good things that happened to you that day before you go to bed.
- Imagine something meaningful to you never happened. Then appreciate how lucky you are to have it.
- Think about something bad that happened to you — and how it made you feel lucky to have gotten past it and how you have grown.
- Do a gratitude visit. Write a letter of gratitude to someone who has done something for you and read it out loud to them in person.
Eric Barker has offered another excellent batch of self-improvement advice, this time on the importance of grit. Here is the conclusion to his link-rich article:
Purpose and meaning. It’s easier to be persistent when what we’re doing is tied to something personally meaningful.
Make it a game. It’s the best way to stay in a competitive mindset without stressing yourself out.
Be confident — but realistic.
See the challenges honestly but believe in your own ability to take them on.
Prepare, prepare, prepare. Grit comes a lot easier when you’ve done the work to make sure you’re ready.
Focus on improvement. Every SEAL mission ends with a debrief focusing on what went wrong so they can improve.
Give help and get help.
Support from others helps keep you going, and giving others support does the same.
Celebrate small wins. You can’t wait to catch the big fish. Take joy where you can find it when good times are scarce.
Find a way to laugh. Rangers, SEALs, and scientists agree: a chuckle can help you cope with stress and keep you going.
I don’t know whether I’m a typical procrastinator. I avoid unpleasant and difficult tasks by doing difficult tasks that I enjoy. I’m not a time-waster, but the effect is the same: I repeatedly struggle to get finished with projects that I deem to be the most important.
I paused my “modified” procrastinating for a moment and decided to post on this summary by Eric Barker, who consistently does a good job of posting on self-improvement topics.
The take home is this, but do check out the article, which is filled with useful links:
- You don’t need more willpower. You need to build a solid habit that helps you get to work.
- Getting started is the tricky part. Turn that habit into a “personal starting ritual.” It can even have some fun to it as long as it signals that in a few minutes, it’s time to get cranking.
- The most powerful habits change how you see yourself. Think about what makes you feel like someone who gets things done and make that a part of your starting ritual.
- Eat chocolate with friends. Maybe not literally, but it’s a good reminder that you need both rewards and a support network to build rock solid new habits.
Here’s one other excellent article by Eric Barker, along the same lines:
How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips. I do like the idea of scheduling EVERYTHING, and not simply making to-do lists. Point two of the list below is also golden.
- To-Do Lists Are Evil. Schedule Everything.
- Assume You’re Going Home at 5:30, Then Plan Your Day Backwards
- Make A Plan For The Entire Week
- Do Very Few Things, But Be Awesome At Them
- Less Shallow Work, Focus On The Deep Stuff