Tag Archives: co-dependent

The Making of a Narcissist

narcissism-in-leadership

 

Letting people experience the consequences of their actions is the loving thing to do. Rescuing people interferes with the lesson plan in the classroom we call life.

Sarah wishes she would have had that valuable piece of information when her son, Colby, was a toddler. But today he’s 22, and she’s paying a hefty price for habitually sheltering him throughout the years.

Colby is notorious for mismanaging money, and Sarah is equally notorious for bailing him out. He always promises to pay her back but fails to deliver. Invariably, Sarah seethes with resentment over having her trust betrayed. And as for Colby, he doesn’t grow up.

Instead of learning from his mistakes, Colby repeats them. For example, he has wrecked more than one vehicle, resulting in costly repairs. But he doesn’t pay for the damages—Sarah does. So by escaping the full brunt of his reckless driving, he misses out on the lesson.

When she’s not rescuing him financially, she begrudgingly assumes other responsibilities that should fall squarely in Colby’s lap. These include doing his laundry, cleaning up after him, balancing his checkbook, setting and reminding him of his appointments.

“I’m disappointed in him,” she said. “It took me a long time to admit that to myself.”

Who he is today doesn’t match the dreams she’s carried around in her head and heart. “I have trouble saying this,” she continued, “but I just don’t respect him, and I don’t like the person he’s turned out to be.”

She described his most disturbing personality traits:  “He’s rude, self-absorbed and insensitive. He doesn’t care who he hurts. He has a nasty mouth and a nasty temper. He can’t hold a steady job. If he gets annoyed with someone at work, even his boss,  he blows up and either gets fired or quits. He uses people, including his best friends.”

There are exceptions, Sarah noted. “He’s nice when he wants something,” she said.

Tired of having “sucker” stamped on her forehead, Sarah sought my advice. I asked her why she continues to overindulge him. “I would feel guilty turning my back on him,” she said. “And no matter what he does, I should love him unconditionally.”

So if Sarah stopped bailing him out, she would equate such action with being hurtful and neglectful.

I told her that letting someone struggle isn’t the same as neglect, and unconditional love isn’t about unconditional tolerance. I can love someone deeply, but this doesn’t mean I ought to tolerate their appalling behavior. Overlooking or accepting such behavior isn’t love. It’s neglect.

In its purest form, love is focused on what’s best for the other person at his or her core level. What’s best for the eight-year-old boy who approaches his parents with a long list of toys he wants? What will further his personal development most? Getting everything on his list or learning the hard lessons of discreet spending, coping with disappointment and facing denied requests? Character-building involves learning how to earn and manage money. It entails grappling with life’s difficulties, including those we create for ourselves.

Another vital aspect of the maturation process is social development. Colby’s an unabashed taker and is puffed up with his own self-importance. In contrast, others are completely insignificant. Consequently, respect and cooperation are foreign concepts to him.

The advice I gave Sarah was simple.

“Stop making things cushy for Colby.”

“So, I hear you saying I have to let him fall?” she asked, giving me a look of disbelief.

“Actually, yes,” I replied. “That would be the first step toward helping him.”

I shared with her a bit of wisdom from a former high school football coach, Don Armstrong:

“It’s so empowering when we love people enough to let them fail.”

I emphasized that to love her son in the truest sense, she must always ask herself what’s best for his character. It boils down to this question: “Sarah, how is doing his laundry hurting him at his core?”

She smiled . . . getting it.

In essence, I told her to stop doing his laundry for him, and quit doing everything else he should be doing for himself. Doing those things doesn’t teach him the lesson of personal responsibility. It just reinforces his self-centeredness, his sense of entitlement and his inflated expectations of how the world ought to treat him.

A few years back I learned of a father who parented his children with this guiding philosophy: “You won’t respect me for what I let you do. You’ll respect me for how I teach you to live.”

He nailed it.

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

(c) Salee Reese 2016

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Filed under Contemplations, General Interest, Parenting

Stay Out of the Mud!

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Setting boundaries includes placing limits on what we’re willing to do for others.

Sometimes, we make the same mistake a bazillion times before finally waking up.  It’s exasperating! One of  my clients knows this experience all too well. His mistake was believing he had to rescue other people—mainly women. If they weren’t happy, he felt guilty and responsible. It left his spirit heavy almost all the time.

At some point, he realized that sacrificing himself senselessly was self-destructive so he chose to rescue himself, instead.  I knew he had reached that step when he wowed me with something he had learned while growing up on the farm:

“You can’t get a pig out of the mud if it doesn’t want out. More often than not, you end up in the mud yourself–you get muddy. Pigs like to soak in the mud. Why try to get that other person out of the mud when they want to be there?”

(c) Salee Reese 2016

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Filed under Contemplations, General Interest, Get Free, The Latest Wow!

Make YOU Happy

Jill and Trent have been in a relationship for a long time. They love each other very deeply and treasure their time spent together. The problem? Trent can’t leave his former girlfriend, Laura. He doesn’t love her, but he can’t bring himself to cause her pain.

Trent is one of those people who easily—too easily—feels guilty and responsible for the happiness of others. If someone close to him seems displeased or unhappy, he believes he caused it and should do something to fix it.

In our counseling session, I pointed out that he’s actually hurting Laura more by being unfaithful and deceptive. “And furthermore,” I explained, “we don’t do people any favors by catering to their illusions. It keeps them from growing and grappling with truth.”

The pain of lost relationships and fading hopes is built into the very fabric of daily living. We can’t escape it.

When he’s in Laura’s presence, he’s there physically, but that’s all. The rest of him is absent. In all likelihood, she senses that, which causes her a certain degree of suffering and unhappiness.

I just flatly told him:

“You can’t make her happy if you’re not happy being with her.”

Because he’s a divided man, his energy is diluted in each relationship. He pays a price as well. Sacrifice and self-denial is not a route to happiness. For his sake and the sake of everyone involved, he needs to follow the path of his truth.

“If you honor yourself—honoring what’s right for you—you’ll automatically be honoring everyone else,” I said.

“How can that be?” he asked. “I’ll be hurting Laura.”

I explained that honoring Laura means respecting her dignity and honoring her soul—the higher aspect of her. “You need to stop treating her like an emotional cripple—someone incapable of growing from pain and incapable of helping herself,” I said. “Stop making yourself her god.”

In the final analysis, Trent’s not responsible for Laura’s happiness, she is.

By the end of our session, I was encouraged by Trent’s response to my following question: “Why is suffering a good thing? What is good about it?”

He came off with this WOW:

“Suffering helps a person dig deep into their soul.  As a result they become wiser and stronger.”

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

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Filed under Client of the Week, Couples, Get Free, The Latest Wow!