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Shrinking Colloid Cyst and healing Sub-clinical Hyperthyroidism

I would like to share my personal healing story.  EFT along with lifestyle changes helped me shrink a complex cyst in my thyroid, and heal other related symptoms of sub-clinical hyperthyroidism, without any medication.

Diagnosis (April, 2015)

In April 2015, I noticed a big lump in the left side of my throat. I also started feeling a throbbing pain in the lump. I did some tapping on my own and with a friend; this brought about a significant reduction in the pain.
During the next one week, I kept hoping that it would go away and it was due to some muscle pull or injury in the krav maga classes I was taking. It would have been much easier to deal with that!  But no such thing happened. I spoke to my dad over phone, who is a doctor, and saw a general physician. They suggested that I go for a scan and blood test.
The day I went for a scan I had read and tapped enough. So the scan results didn’t come as a big surprise. The scan showed a complex cystic lesion, measuring 3.0*2.1*1.7 cm. It also showed enlarged lymph nodes in my throat. The radiologist suggested immediate biopsy (FNAC) due to the size and the nature of the cyst.

The FNAC was painful but tapping on my fingertips helped me get through it. When I went home, naturally my mind started throwing all the worst case scenarios at me. I tapped on allowing , accepting and releasing these feelings. I also tapped on staying hopeful in the face of uncertainty, believing that everything would be alright, but at the same time I was prepared to deal with whatever came up.

One thing that kept bothering me was the thought that – “How could I get something like this when I have mostly taken care of my emotional and physical health?” I spoke to my dad and his words consoled me. He said, “You have a body hence there will be ailments. Don’t dwell too much on it. Focus on getting better”.  And I did.

I also got the blood test done and discovered that my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) was abnormally low, just a mere 0.1. The normal range is 0.35 -5.50. I also had high serum cholesterol (250) and LDL (177) which came as a big surprise since I don’t have weight issues. I became certain that it was due to stress.

The FNAC results came. The report showed that it was a colloid nodule with cystic degeneration, category 2 benign adenomatoid nodules.

 

Doctor’s Prediction

The next step was to see a thyroid surgeon to discuss this. Even though the doctor was very well-informed and he patiently explained everything, he painted a very grim picture. He said that I was at a sub-clinical stage of hyperthyroidism and all the thyroid hormones would soon become abnormal. My cyst could eventually act like a rogue entity (reminded me of a Hollywood movie!) controlling the hormonal secretions on its own. According to him, I would eventually develop hyperthyroidism if I didn’t go for surgery: He suggested that the entire left lobe of my thyroid had to be removed. Partial removal of the nodule/cyst wouldn’t help due to its size and complex nature. He also said that FNAC is not 100% accurate. No medication would shrink the nodule. All this information was  overwhelming, I left the clinic quite shaken.

 

Understanding the symptoms and their deeper causes

After coming home and while discussing it with my husband, two things became clear. One that I could now explain why I had  palpitations, tremors and fatigue for the past couple of months; second that this was a wake up call for me and I needed to make some changes in my lifestyle. Although, my ECG, blood sugar and blood pressure were normal, I had palpitations every time I went to bed. It was pretty debilitating and interfered with my sleep, and it wasn’t due to anxiety. I had some tremors in my hands and muscle fatigue and weakness. I realized that all these were symptoms of my body approaching a state of hyperthyroidism which in turn was a result of accumulated hidden stress.

My body was giving me messages, I just wasn’t paying attention. So in a way the nodule/cyst was a metaphorical way of alerting me to the changes I needed to make before my body went into the hyperthyroidism state. I still had a chance to reverse this condition.

I spoke to my dad and told him that I needed to carefully weigh all options before going for surgery. There were many questions to consider. I decided to give myself two months time to see if I could tap to reduce the nodule.

 

Healing Journey

 

I did intensive tapping for two months – from April to June. I tapped daily sometimes up to 2 hours by myself and also swapped some sessions with my EFT practitioner friends.

I used Regular/Classic EFT along with Choices Method and tapped on the following:

  • All the stressful events from the time my last blood work was done in 2013, when all hormones were in the normal range. During the past 2 years there had been a few crisis events in my family and I started clearing the unresolved aspects of these events.
  • Tapped daily on shrinking the cyst and normalizing my TSH.
  • Tapped on blocked creativity and finished the eBook on ‘EFT concepts Illustrated’ during that time.
  • Thyroid is the center of communication and creativity. I worked on the themes of truth, creativity, self-expression, being heard, listening etc.  I took up incidents where these themes showed up and tapped on them. Many incidents didn’t have charge until I saw them in this light.
  • I tapped on regaining the healthy function of hypothalamus, pituitary and thyroid glands involved in the secretion of the thyroid hormones.
  • I worked on inflammation and having the lymphatic nervous system function in a healthy way. I also tapped on healing any autoimmune conditions that might be there.
  • I revisited some traumatic memories from my childhood and released the trapped feelings. Prior to starting my private practice in 2003, I had done extensive tapping on this and it was very empowering. Despite that, I still had some unresolved aspects that came up.

I also did OM chanting, moderate exercise and some breathing exercises. I was doing far too many client sessions daily, so I reduced them as well.

 

Results (June, 2015)

2 months later, I went for blood test and scan (June, 2015).

Cyst had shrunk. It was  1.9*1.3*1.2 cm

TSH was 1.85. (Normal)

All the other thyroid hormones remained normal as before.

The lymph nodes had also shrunk.

I had better sleep, reduced palpitations, and less fatigue.

Serum cholesterol was 201 and LDL was 135 – the best part is I didn’t tap on cholesterol at all. By tapping on all the stress causing factors my cholesterol became normal on its own. My doctor was surprised, said that it wasn’t possible for cholesterol level to go down in just 2 months!

I continued tapping for the next few months – nearly 3 times a week. I thanked my thyroid and tapped on further shrinking the nodule. I recently got the blood work and scan done (November, 2015)

 

Results (Nov, 2015)

The nodule has further shrunk and is now at 0.7 *0.5*0.4 cm. TSH is normal. Serum cholesterol is 191 and LDL is 129, all normal. My sleep quality has drastically improved as I rarely get palpitations. I have no hand tremors and less fatigue and body pain.

I will continue to tap and see how it goes. Since the cyst has shrunk from 3 cm to less than a centimeter, I am hoping to further shrink the cyst and probably dissolve it permanently. I want to reiterate that I didn’t take any medication. However, I made some lifestyle changes and started eating thyroid and gut friendly food.

We know that mind and body are intricately connected and influence each other, hence both emotional and physical health matter – we cannot leave the mind or body out of this healing equation.

 

Update (Aug, 2016)

On 19th August, 2016, I went for my thyroid scan again and guess what!

My cyst has further shrunk. It is now 6*4*3 mm. (0.6*0.4*0.3 cm) Also, all the thyroid hormones are normal.

 

A word of caution: Please consult your doctor and get all your tests and scans done if you have a thyroid problem.  If surgery or medication is needed; you can still tap on the post-operative care or the side effects of medication. In my opinion, you can start using EFT at any point in your healing journey and it will surely make a huge impact.

‘Willing Hands’ to Diffuse Anger

I came across this simple and practical technique to diffuse anger on NICABM.

This technique can be used in two situations

  1. To diffuse anger
  2. To stay calm when you are discussing something with your spouse. You can ask your spouse to use this technique as well.

All you need to do is to open your palms and keep them (also known as willing hands) on your knees or at the side of your body.

 

 

You can also watch a video on this.

Effect of Negative Language on children

Children that grow up in households where parents use degrading, humiliating and disrespectful language with them and make them feel “not enough”, usually develop low self esteem. Many children grow up in families hearing sentences like –

“You are a bad kid!”

You shouldn’t have been born!”

“You will never succeed in life!”

“You’re good for nothing!”

“You have been a curse to us!”

“You are dumb!”

“Your cousin is much more smarter than you!”

… and much worse!

In fact a client revealed how his alcoholic father went to the extent of saying –“You cannot trust me!”

Many parents rely on criticism and negative language believing that it will make their children responsible. Or they may think that they own their children and have the right to do whatever they want with them. Parents also use frequent comparisons with siblings, sarcasm and threats in their conversations.

Effect of Negative Language

Infants understand facial expressions even before they start communicating. They get affected by hearing shouting and yelling in the house. From the age of 2, they begin to respond to their parent’s communication. If a mother yells at her child, the child may yell back or withdraw into his own world. Slowly as children grow older, the negative statements used by their parents start having a stronger impact on their emotional development. They feel unloved, unwanted, undeserved and unprotected.

Abusive and hurtful words that parents use affect all the areas of children’s lives. It affects their emotional, cognitive and social development. They grow up with feelings of ‘not being perfect’. They feel inadequate and blame themselves for being the cause of parent’s frequent reprimands and negative communication. They feel that they are constantly being watched with a critical lens. There is a feeling of being judged all the time.

These children grow up to be harsh on themselves. It can even make them demanding of others and set very high expectations for themselves as well as for others. They become sensitive about negative comments and there is a tremendous amount of guilt. Kids having verbally abusive parents can even get into substance abuse or commit suicide.

In my interaction with clients with low self esteem, I have found that “hurtful words used by parents” has a profound effect on their self esteem. And when I ask them about how much they think it was their fault in the way their parents spoke to them, they are unable to intellectually find a fault within themselves but emotionally nevertheless, they are unable to shed the guilt and the “burden” of the parental statements. Even as adults, they accept all that was told by their parents. And their whole life is defined by what they ‘heard’ rather than what they ‘are’.

Virginia Satir, a renowned psychotherapist known for her approach in family therapy, says, “Feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible – the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family”.

Frequent criticism can also make a child eager to always please others. The desire to be seen, heard, understood is a natural desire (Branden, 1983) but only when it takes precedence over vales and honesty and takes control over your life, does it become a problem.

Repeated comparisons with siblings and other children, veiled threats (I will leave you and go away forever, if you do not eat properly), gender related remarks (Don’t cry like a girl) etc. also have a lasting impact on them.

Stanley Coopersmith, in 1967, identified the link between self-esteem and frailty, noting the “indications that in children domination, rejection, and severe punishment result in lowered self-esteem. Under such conditions they have fewer experiences of love and success and tend to become generally more submissive and withdrawn (though occasionally veering to the opposite extreme of aggression and domination)”.

Conclusion:

Nathaniel Branden (1983) says,

“I often tell parents, “Be careful what you say to your children. They may agree with you.” Before calling a child, stupid” or “clumsy” or “bad” or “a disappointment,” it is important for a parent to consider the question, “Is this how I wish my child to experience him- or herself?”

Some parents usually in a fit of anger, stress or frustration say hurtful words. And some parents keep repeating these words under some kind of misconception that they are doing good for the children.

Positive language will help your child in feeling loved and wanted and in realizing his self worth. Here are a few suggestions for responsible parenting:

  1. Deal with your own ‘past baggage’ or anger with EFT/Psychotherapy.
  2. Use language that you would like your children to use with you.
  3. Except when it comes to safety issues, where sometimes a strong ‘No’ is required, try using positive language with your child. Instead of saying “what not to do” suggest “what to do” instead. Rewarding positive behavior would also help.
  4. Show respect to your children.
  5. Be responsive and warm with your children.
  6. Do not compare unnecessarily with other children. Each child is unique and treasure their uniqueness.
  7. Avoid using ‘ derogatory’ gender related remarks with kids.
  8. Do not use hurtful conditions in your language. E.g. – I will leave you and go away.
  9. Do not use sarcasm in your language with children.
  10. If you are upset with your own personal problems, then tell your child that you need some time and speak to the child in a calm manner despite being upset.
  11. Do not use emotional blackmail in your language with them. It can be very bewildering for small kids.
  12. Positive discipline is better than corporal punishment.

References:-
Coopersmith, Stanley. 1967. The Antecedents of Self-Esteem. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman.

Berk, L. E. (1996) Child development. (3rd ed.) U.S.A: Prentice Hall Inc

Branden, N. (1983) Honoring the self: Self esteem and Personal Transformation. New York: J.P Tarcher Inc.

 

EFT for Exam Anxiety

When it comes to any kind of exam, taking care of the anxiety, stress and the pressure can really help.
This is a tap along video, in a borrowing benefits style with prompts, to help you tap on your thoughts and feelings about any one segment of the test paper. I give the example of GMAT exam in this video, with emphasis on how to tap on the time pressure; the pressure to finish the questions within a stipulated time period.

Disclaimer: Please take full responsibility for your use of the information contained in this video.

 

How to deal with uncertainty?

Uncertainty makes us anxious and worried.

When we are faced with an uncertain future then we invest even more strongly in making our vision of a perfect future come true.  “We tell ourselves everything will be okay, just as long as I can reach this projection of the future”( Burkeman)

We fear uncertainty so much that we go to extraordinary lengths to get rid of it. Instead we can to do the following to deal with uncertainty:

  • Increase your tolerance for things that are uncertain. “ I can’t control everything and that is okay”
  • Surrendering to it – there are some things than are bigger than you. “ This is bigger than me and it is okay”
  • Trusting the universe/God/whatever you believe in, to keep you safe in uncertain times.
  • ‘See what happens’ is a better reframe for living life than waiting for the perfect opportunity. See where life takes you. Deal with whatever comes up. Is the worst loss, if you failed, tolerable? If it is then that’s all you will need to know. Take the next step and the next.

Uncertainty is where things happen. It is where the opportunities for success, for happiness, for really living – are waiting (Burkeman, 2013)

 

Here’s a book recommendation for you

The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking

By Oliver Burkeman

http://www.amazon.in/Antidote-Happiness-People-Positive-Thinking/dp/0865478015

 

Tap on ABC of anxiety to feel calm

Those who’ve experienced anxiety know that it entails worry, tension, catastrophic thoughts, physical sensations in the body etc. So in a way, there are specific components that make up anxiety. In Cognitive behaviour therapy sessions, I give a form to my clients, called the ABC form [A – activating event, B – beliefs and thoughts, C – consequences – emotions and behaviour] There is also a section in the form for rating the sensations in the body. Now, if you add ‘movement’ and ‘5 sense perception’ to this, it makes it more complete. I’m calling these the components of anxiety.

5 sense perception, thoughts, emotions, sensations in body, activating event and movement – all these are significant components of anxiety that we need to address when we experience anxiety.

If you work on these components of anxiety, you will experience profound relief. Let me explain how this can be done with the help of a case example.

My client, B, got very anxious whenever she stepped out of the house. She experienced immense anxiety in the stomach with catastrophic thoughts and images of falling down the stairs, falling on the road, etc. While she was very calm and relaxed at home, going out made her anxious. We worked on some core events from her childhood that had paved the way for this anxiety. We also worked on the beliefs and secondary gain related to anxiety. We tapped on her catastrophic thoughts, wanting to escape from situations, made behavioural experiments (combining cognitive behaviour therapy and EFT) to release her anxiety. Over a span of 2 months, her anxiety reduced drastically. What brought about a significant change in her anxiety was when she started addressing anxiety as soon as she experienced it, on a daily basis, with the suggested guidelines.

I asked her to approach anxiety in the following way whenever she felt anxious:

Activating event/trigger –  Stepping  out of the house.

Even though I get very anxious when as I plan to step out of the house, I accept how I feel.

Sensations in the body – Tightness in chest and heaviness in stomach.

She tapped on her fingertips, or simply pressed her fingertip points when she had sensations in her body. (We tapped on these scenarios in the sessions also)

Even though I have this tightness in my chest and heaviness in my stomach when I lock the door and leave the house, I choose to release this anxiety from my chest and stomach. I choose to calm my stomach.

Whenever she travelled by bus and was caught in a traffic jam, she would panic. So she started tapping on this:

Even though I have this sensation in my stomach and I feel this panic due to the traffic jam, I choose to release this anxiety from my stomach. I choose to calm and relax my stomach.

Thoughts: “What if I fall when I step on a bus!”

Even though I am having this thought right now, I am releasing it. I trust my body to keep me safe.

When she started focusing on her worries and doubts, they increased. So I asked her to tap before the doubts increased in their intensity.

Even though when my doubts cross a certain threshold, I am not able to control my thoughts, I feel helpless, I feel as if I cannot control the situation, I start feeling afraid, I choose to release that fear automatically in that moment.

Emotions: She was angry that she was getting anxious.

Even though I’m angry with myself, I choose to release this anger and replace it with compassion. I choose to be compassionate with myself.  I choose to be gentle with myself.

5 sense perception:  She got an image of falling off the bus.

Even though I see this image, I choose to change it and see myself safe and secure on the bus.

We didn’t tap on movement, but it helps to include that as explained below.

 

EXERCISE

Here is a simple exercise for you.

  • Measure the intensity of Anxiety.
  • Write down the specific components of anxiety, as given below.
  • Tap on these components
  • Measure intensity again.

COMPONENTS OF ANXIETY (Ideal for Daily tapping)

Activating Event– What triggered the anxiety?  Was it a thought? Did something happen? Did someone say something? Are you going out?

Thoughts – What are the thoughts running in your head? Example- “What if I fall?”, “I cannot control my anxiety”.

Emotions: What are you feeling? Example-  Fear of something terrible happening, anger for feeling anxious etc

Sensations in the body –  What do you feel in your body when you’re anxious? What change in your body tells you that you have anxiety?  Example – rapid breathing, sweating, tightness in chest, constriction in throat.

(5 sense perception and movement – Pat Ogden and Janina Fisher talk about this in sensoritmotor psychotherapy)

5 sense perception – Image/smell/taste/touch/sound. Do you see images when you get anxious?  Do you get a funny smell? Do you have a peculiar taste in your mouth? Do you feel warm or cold? Do you hear something?

Movement – This is about noticing the changes in the movement of your body, like the posture of your body and gestures etc.  Do you look down when you are anxious? Do you slump? Do your shoulders sag?

Change your posture and tap on it.

Even though I slump when I get anxious, I choose to sit straight.

Continue to tap this way at least once every day and see how you feel. Remember, this works best when you tap as soon as you feel anxious.

 

Crossing the Shame Swampland

I really like Brene Brown’s work. In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown says

“In Jungian circles, shame is often referred to as the swampland of the soul. I’m not suggesting that we wade out into the swamp and set up camp. I’ve done that and I can tell you that the swampland of the soul is an important place to visit, but you would not want to live there. What I’m proposing is that we learn how to wade through it. We need to see that standing on the shore and catastrophisizing about what could happen if we talked honestly about our fears is actually more painful than grabbing the hand of a trusted companion and crossing the swamp. And, most important, we need to learn why constantly trying to maintain our footing on the shifting shore as we gaze across to the other side of the swamp—where our worthiness waits for us—is much harder work than trudging across.”

 

 

Here’s how we can work on shame with EFT.

Understanding Shame

First and foremost understanding shame is a good place to start.

What is shame?
“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”( Brown, 2013)
“Shame is a form of anger that arises when your boundaries have been broken from the inside – by something you’ve done wrong, or have been convinced is wrong.” (McLaren, 2010)

So putting it simply, the difference between guilt and shame is:

Guilt is when we feel we ‘did’ something wrong. It’s about an action. Shame is when we feel ‘we’ are wrong as a person.

Make EFT your companion and talk honestly about your fears while tapping.

With EFT you can cross the shame swampland

a) Accept what you feel truly feel

Even though I feel ashamed, I accept myself and this feeling of shame.

b)Tap on all the Catastrophic thoughts – What will happen if you allow the feeling of shame to come up? Tap on all the worst case scenarios in your head about allowing this feeling.  Example – You might feel that if you allowed yourself to feel the shame, you would feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with it.

Even though I might be overwhelmed if I allow this feeling to come up, I deeply and completely accept myself and how I feel.

c) Make a Shame List – Make a list stating all the incidents in the past that make you feel ‘shame’ and tap on them.

d) Perfectionism

“Brene Brown talks about practising ‘critical awareness by reality-checking the messages and expectations that tell us that being imperfect means being inadequate.’

Since perfectionism is tied to shame, check all the triggers related to this. For example – Do you feel inadequate when you haven’t done things ‘perfectly’? Tap on all the unrealistic expectations that you have and release the feeling of inadequacy and shame.

e) Developing Shame Resilience

“Shame resilience is the ability to recognize shame, to move through it constructively while maintaining worthiness and authenticity, and to ultimately develop more courage, compassion, and connection as a result of our experience. “ ( Brown, 2013)

Some tapping statements that can help you develop shame resilience.

Even though I feel ashamed, I would like to develop courage to move through it and let it flow easily through me.

Even though I feel shame, I choose to have compassion for myself in this process of letting it move through me.

Even though I feel shame and it makes me want to distance myself from myself and others, I want to develop authentic connection with myself and others as I let it flow through me.

References:

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren

Enmeshed Parenting – The Codependent Parent

Codependency is a ‘relationship addiction’, often seen in parent-child relationships. We can often confuse narcissistic parents with codependent parents. But there are differences. Of course a narcissistic parent raises a codependent child who often attracts narcissistic partners, but that’s a topic for another day.

The difference lies in the degree of control they exert over the children. They also differ in terms of empathy. Codependents have empathy while the narcissistic parents don’t. Often there are overlapping features/traits between codependent parents and narcissistic parents and you will see that in this article.

Who is a Codependent Parent? 

I often speak to clients who have codependent parents. A codependent parent-child relationship is an enmeshed relationship where the boundaries are blurred. Children of codependent parents have a tough time coming out of these enmeshed relationships.
Before I go further, it is important to distinguish between codependent and interdependent relationships.

“Having dependency needs isn’t by itself unhealthy. We all have them. In an interdependent relationship, however, each party is able to comfortably rely on the other for help, understanding, and support. It’s a “value added” kind of thing. The relationship contributes to both individuals’ resilience, resourcefulness, and inner strength. All the same, each party remains self-sufficient and self-determining.” 1
On the other hand a codependent relationship depletes the individual’s resilience, resourcefulness and strength.

In this article I am going to highlight some of the significant characteristics of codependent parents and the impact this has on the children. I will be using brief examples from multiple real life client cases.

1) Child’s welfare vs. Motivated by one’s own interest

In a normal parent-child relationship, the nurturing that the parent gives to the child comes naturally and is influenced by the parent’s desire for the child’s welfare. It is normal for a parent to have aspirations and expectations from the child but in a codependent relationship, it’s more about the parent, what they want, than the child’s genuine needs. Even though the codependent parent thinks whatever they are doing is for the children’s welfare, they fail to see how much of those decisions are based on keeping the child in their control and overly dependent on them.

2) Healthy discussion vs. I’m always right

A Codependent parent is always right. There is no space for a healthy debate or discussion with their children. The children aren’t allowed to express their opinions if those opinions aren’t similar to those of their codependent parents. Any difference of opinion will be seen as an act of rebellion and squashed at the earliest, through subtle manipulation. In the end the codependent parent makes sure that the child’s opinion changes to fit their own opinion.

3) Child’s needs given importance vs. treated as insignificant

The codependent parent has difficulty in understanding the child’s needs. Children of codependent parents repeatedly get the message that their needs and wants are secondary  to their parent’s needs, and hence they stop valuing their own needs. And if they try to assert they are given silent treatment (not being spoken to) or physically punished (spanking).

4) Doing self-work vs. Victim mentality

Codependent parents blame everyone for their problems and take no responsibility for their actions. They refuse to work on themselves and resolve past traumas, instead dumping all their unresolved emotions on their children. They always act like a victim in front of their children. Many a times they share their victim stories with their children to garner  sympathy. They often expect their children to right the wrongs in their past and even blame them if they aren’t able to fulfill these unrealistic expectations.

Sometimes the parent even ends up playing the role of a frail and weak person who needs protection and parenting by the child. One client remembered her mother’s behaviour with bewilderment and resentment, and said, “I don’t understand how she could do this? How could she burden me with her stories? Only her needs were important, what about mine? I couldn’t be a child in that relationship, I had to be a parent to my mother.”

5) Genuine understanding of the child’s feelings vs. making it all about themselves

In a healthy child–parent relationship, parents allow their children to express all their emotions, even their disappointment, anger, hurt etc with the parent and they seek to understand the child’s emotions and genuinely apologize when they have hurt their children. A codependent parent makes everything about themselves. Children of codependent parents often say that their emotions were hurled back at them when they expressed them; the parent turned their emotions around and made it about themselves. For example if a teenager says, “ I am angry with you”, the parent repeats it by saying, “I am angry with you too” . A client said that whenever she called out on her mother’s behaviour, the mother became defensive and angry and said that the daughter didn’t care for her, how rude she was and was this the way to talk to her mother etc. She would start crying when her adult daughter brought this up; till date the daughter feels unheard and misunderstood.

6) Being responsible for one’s own happiness vs. Making the child responsible for the parent’s happiness

Children of codependent parents grow up feeling immensely responsible for their parents’ happiness. They were somehow made to feel that they had to keep pleasing their parent to keep them happy.

7) Healthy self-regulation vs. Rapid mood swings

The codependent parent cannot manage their own emotions; they have difficulty in self-regulation. They vacillate between extreme show of affection and sudden angry outbursts. They cannot handle or cope with any kind of stress and usually have rapid mood swings.

8) Authentic relationship with the child vs. Emotional manipulation

A codependent parent is emotionally manipulative. They will manipulate subtly to get their point across by using guilt as a weapon. They are skilled in taking their child on a guilt trip (“If you do this…., I will not love you anymore”) or threatening them with abandonment. (“If you don’t do this, I will leave you”) This trait is present in narcissistic parents in a higher degree.

9) Healthy protectiveness vs. Unhealthy control

A codependent parent wants control; they play different roles to get an obsessive love and devotion from the child. When children are young, their growing demands for individuality are squashed by either playing the victim card, by being aggressive, giving a silent treatment, or making them feel guilty. A codependent parent has many tricks up their sleeves to keep the child in control. (This is more common in parents with narcissistic traits)

10) Accepting one’s flaws vs. I’m perfect

Although everyone would like to think that they are the best parents, normally parents have a healthy understanding of their own behaviour and are open to changing their behaviour when needed. However, a codependent parent is miraculously blind to their own faults. They don’t take responsibility for their actions; can never believe that the child is hurt because of them. It’s always someone else’s fault.

11) Active listening vs. Never listening

A codependent parent never listens. Adult children of codependent parents (post 30s) realize that they were treated unfairly, they were unheard, visible to the parent only when the parent needed them for their own reasons. Grown up children of codependent parents often say that they were held responsible for bizarre matters that didn’t even make any sense as the parent never listened to their side of the story. For example, a client’s father wanted him to take on the financial burden of his business when he was a teenager. And when he couldn’t handle it, he was blamed for not helping.

12) Healthy expectations vs. Unrealistic expectations: Codependent parents have unrealistic expectations from their children. They expect their adult children to drop everything for them. They are expected to ‘always’ be there for them. While it is healthy to expect support and kindness from your children, thinking that they only exist for you is a sign of selfishness. (this is more common in parents with narcissistic personality disorder)

Some Effects on children ( Will write more in another blog post)
1) They get the feeling that their needs and wants aren’t important.
2) They are plagued by guilt and anxiety.
3) As an adult, they feel that they had to take on adult responsibilities at a young age; behave like a mini-adults.
4) Feeling overly responsible for their parent’s moods and needs.
5) They feel like they are walking on egg shells.
6) They constantly try to appease the codependent parent.
7) As grownups , they tend to be clingy in relationships, although they might also take up the role of a savior for others.

Conclusion: The worst part is that a codependent parent reading this article will think that they are not codependent. They aren’t aware of the way they behave as they think that enmeshment is a healthy parent-child relationship! However, if they are willing to recognize these signs, they can get into psychotherapy and bring about positive changes. They don’t lack empathy unlike the parents with narcissistic personality disorder, which will be the next blog post. Stay tuned!

References:

1 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/201412/codependent-or-simply-dependent-what-s-the-big-difference

Image redrawn from the original image found on this page: https://kingofromania.com/2013/06/05/codependency/

“I’m always right” – The Narcissist Parent

People with Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) have an inflated and grandiose sense of self. They think themselves to be superior to others and are extremely selfish. How they are seen in public matters a lot to them. On the outside they are an ideal spouse, lover, parent and friend. The world sees them as charismatic, successful, enigmatic; they have a larger than life persona. For example, a narcissist mother will throw lavish parties for her daughter and will be seen doting on her in the pictures, while showing a completely different side of her personality in private. She will be far from nurturing in her private life. However, every successful charismatic, extroverted person isn’t a narcissist. Many people have a high self-regard and a healthy self-esteem that might be seen as narcissistic in societies that value humility.

Narcissists don’t have healthy self-esteem, they have inflated egos. They lack empathy and an understanding of their own feelings. They are not in touch with themselves. As Keryl McBride1 puts it, “they cannot put themselves in your shoes and feel or understand how something might affect you. They can only see how it affects them. They are hypersensitive to criticism and judgement, but constantly criticize and judge others”

They tend to do things that only serve them. They will manipulate, control, abuse and dominate people closest to them, without holding any accountability. A narcissistic parent does the same. They see the child as an extension of themselves, brought on this earth for the sole purpose of becoming their miniature selves and to obey them.

These are some of the unique characteristics of the narcissistic parents:

  • Control: They manipulate and brainwash their kids; they are master manipulators. They surpass the codependent parents in this category by miles. Children of narcissist parents get the message that their needs and wants are not important. They have to behave exactly how the parent wants them to. They are manipulated into doing what the parent wants. For example, an 8-year-old boy wanted to take piano lessons but the mother told him that it wasn’t good for him. This wasn’t because there was any shortage of time or money but because she wanted to spite her ex-husband who was all for it. She blatantly manipulated the child’s interest to show how much she was in control of the situation. The boy gradually stopped protesting and started thinking that he didn’t have any interest in it as well. A narcissistic parent will keep repeating and demanding something until you yield.
  • I’m always right: A narcissist parent is always right. There is no space for a healthy debate or discussion with their children. The children aren’t allowed to express their opinions unless those opinions are similar to those of their narcissistic parents. Any difference of opinion is squashed at the earliest through punishment or manipulation. In the end, the narcissist makes sure that the child’s opinion is changed to fit their own opinion and the child is even influenced to feel that their personal opinion has no value.
  • Seeing the child as a surrogate spouse or friend: In a normal and healthy parent-child relationship, the child is guided by the parent. While the parent can become a friend to the child, the primary role is that of a parent, until the child is old enough to see the parent in the role of a friend as well. In narcissistic parenting, sometimes the child becomes the parent, the care-giver, the savior. The parent ends up behaving with the child as a friend or spouse – both of which are equally unhealthy for the child and the parent. My client’s divorced mother shared inappropriate personal details, about her ongoing relationship, with her 7-year-old daughter. She also shared each and every tiny detail with her – her fights with her friends, her boy-friend’s quarrels with her etc. She ended up burdening her daughter with inappropriate information that the child wasn’t equipped to digest. This kind of parenting severely limits the child’s capacity to develop his/her unique self. The parent changes who the child is by constantly engulfing and/or rejecting the child; the parent doesn’t draw any healthy boundary.
  • Disconfirmation: They continuously disconfirm the parts of the child’s personality that they don’t like seeing – like growing autonomy or having personal likes and dislikes. The child ends up repressing their feelings and disowns the parts of their self that are disliked by the parent. For example, if you cry when you are hurt, your narcissistic parent will tell you to stop crying and be strong. “It’s nothing, what are you crying for?” I have worked with grownup children of narcissistic parents who felt crazy for expressing their most basic human needs of being listened to and understood. Their parents turned a deaf ear whenever they expressed that they were hurt or upset.
  • No empathy: They have no empathy for the child’s state of mind. Since the child is continuously subjected to the parent’s mood swings and silent treatments, the child is anxious and fearful to go against the narcissist parent’s wishes However, the parent is oblivious to all this.
  • Diminishing the child’s personality: The children of narcissistic parents realize at a young age that they have to diminish their personality to mould themselves into what their narcissistic parents want. They have to give up on their individuality to survive. For the sake of self-preservation they will do anything they are told. If they don’t fit into the behaviour prescribed for them, they are ignored for hours and days and they end up apologizing to their parents in order to make amends and appease them. The punishments range from silent treatment to physical abuse and neglect.
  • Inconsistent behaviour: The narcissists vacillate between apathy and showing love and affection. Often children of NPD parents are left guessing as to what their parents feel. The narcissists often use double meaning words, give vague references, keep the child guessing and seldom answer their children directly, in order to control them. You might keep pleading to your narcissist parent for hours to speak to you and he/she will keep ignoring you, till you do what you’ve been asked to do.
  • The child knows he/she isn’t loved: Deep down the children understand that they aren’t truly loved. They will be good enough for the narcissistic parents only till they do what they are told to do. For example, a narcissistic father will want his son to become as successful as him so that he can show him off to his colleagues. A narcissistic mother will make sure her daughter fits the conventional standards of beauty, and is always nitpicking on the daughter’s appearance, she is too thin, too chubby, has thin eye brows, long face etc. As a kid you will get the message that, “You will be only loved if you comply with my wishes. You are only good enough if you look and behave like I do.”
  • Abuse in the name of discipline: Children often get punished for not obeying their narcissist parents. And they are manipulated into thinking that being slapped, spanked, abused and/or the silent treatments they are meted out to them are okay – that it is good discipline.
  • Favouring one child over the other: The one they choose gets all their praise and attention. The other child becomes a scapegoat and gets blamed all the time. One of my clients was recounting how her elder sister got all the praises and my client was blamed and criticised all the time, although she took care of her mother in her old age and her sister didn’t. All her elder sister’s transgressions were forgiven and even a minor mistake by my client was withheld against her and used to manipulate her.
  • They make the children feel flawed: Their inconsistent behaviour and mood swings, make the children feel responsible. The children want their parents to be happy and appease them constantly, and when they fail they take the blame on themselves. They feel they have failed in making their parents happy, which is clearly not a child’s job.
  • They are jealous: They want the child to ‘only’ love them and depend on them. They get very jealous when children show love for anyone else, even their own spouses. If the child is happy with another person, the narcissist parents think they are losing control. They express disapproval for this and try to make the child feel guilty for being happy. For example, one of my clients recalled how as a child when her mother gave her one of her silent treatments, she would frantically ask her, “Why aren’t you talking mom? Are you okay? Are you sad? Are you angry?” and get no response from her.
  • Gaslighting: The narcissistic parents lie to you by word or deed and deny your perceptions of reality. “It can make the victim feel as if she’s going crazy. If your perceptions of reality are constantly denied, and above all, denied by your mother of all people, the person you look up to and who you think knows everything, it is very, very head-wrecking and crazy-making.”2
  • Not taking responsibility for their mistakes: Whenever my client brought up incidents from her childhood when she felt unheard by her mother, the mother kept brushing it aside, instead blaming the client for bringing it up and making a big deal out of it.

Conclusion: If a parent has narcissistic traits as opposed to a full-blown NPD,  they can benefit by going for psychotherapy. However, people with Narcissistic personality disorder rarely see  psychotherapists and if they do, they have difficulty in taking responsibility for their actions. They do have a lot of internal shame that they cover up with manipulation. If they can truly acknowledge and accept their mistakes, talk about their personal traumas, learn to empathize and are willing to change their manipulative tactics, they can surely heal.

References:

1 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-legacy-distorted-love/201308/narcissists-are-not-accountable

2 http://www.daughtersofnacissisticmothers.com/gaslighting/