I think every mother has experienced this at some point: Your young child is acting out in some way, you're trying to handle it, and you can feel other people's overt, undisguised disapproval of both you and your child. (And I call it "mother shaming" rather than "parent shaming" because typically, men don't tend to receive the same treatment--or maybe they just aren't as sensitive when they do.) I recently experienced this where I least expected it. It was from a staff member at my daughter's preschool. Instead of saying, " Your child had a hard time today," she flagged me down at pick-up, leveled me with an extremely unpleasant look, and proceeded to tell me, in detail, about my daughter's transgressions. I felt what I was supposed to: ashamed of my child, chastened, stammering how both my daughter (and I) would do better. No dessert for her! I hustled her to the car, not even wanting to speak to her. I felt like a terrible mother. I felt like she'd made me LOOK like a terrible mother. My poor daughter. She didn't deserve that. She was just a tiny human having a hard time. Her preschool should have been thinking about why she'd been struggling, and what they could do to support her. Instead, I got mother-shamed, and she bore the brunt. What's a mom to do?
There are a lot of ways to be an enabler; they don't all involve a substance abuser. But they do all involve making yourself far too responsible for the well-being of another person. As regular readers to this blog know, I believe that identifying a problem is crucial to its solution. It can even be a solution in itself. So here are some questions that can help you recognize your enabling tendencies.
Sometimes you're so deep in it that you can't even see it (it's the fish-can't-see-the-water syndrome), so this post is hopefully a bit of a wake-up call. Or maybe you'll learn that your relationship problems are just like everyone else's. But here goes. You know your relationship is toxic when...
If you've read my blog, you know that I never count anyone out. I don't think that just because someone has been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (or not officially diagnosed but they meet all the crtieria), that means they're incapable of change. But a friend of mine was involved with a narcissist, and has tried again numerous times to get back together only to be let down, and he's trying once again. It's got me fired up, frankly. So if you're debating whether to try again with someone you know to be a narcissist (i.e. always primarily concerned with their happiness over yours, willing to sacrifice your needs for theirs, low on awareness of your feelings and on empathy), please read on.
You might feel like you're tried everything to reach your teen. Or maybe you've gotten so frustrated you've given up, figured you'd wait until the hormones settle. These are key years, and you want to do what you can to influence their course. I say "influence" because the truth is, you can't control. But you can help. Here are some ideas of where to start.
Back in August, I wrote the blog post When Did Narcissism Become Presidential? At that time, I thought Trump's candidacy was something of a joke (a troubling one, but a joke nonetheless.) It's hard to laugh at this point when he's poised to become the Republican nominee. This is not a political blog post. It is not about Trump's qualities as a potential leader. It's about what he's displayed as a human being. More importantly, it's about what he hasn't displayed: kindness, compassion, humility, empathy, concern for the welfare of others...I could go on. What does it say about our national mental health that he's amassed the support he has, and where do we go from here? I've some thoughts.
I thought about writing a blog entry about the best ways to help a partner who's bipolar, but then I thought: So many of you out there reading already know how to do that. But what's often forgotten is how to take care of yourself in the face of another's mental illness, and how to ensure that you're looked after, too.
I'm no fan of New Year's resolutions. Either they make people feel pressured to create a fresh start, or excited for that fresh start, only to be discouraged fairly soon after. They're about turning a critical eye on yourself, rather than an appreciative one. The truth is, change can be overrated. Maybe what you really need to do this year is a better job at accepting yourself and the life you already have. Here's how to start.
As a therapist, I'm here to tell you: Sometimes it's them, and not you. And sometimes they're great therapists, but not for you. So I'm also here to tell you: When it's not a match, give yourself permission to end the relationship (just like you'd do with any other relationship that's not working.) But how do you know if it's just not working, or if you're not working hard enough to improve your own life?