121 Things Narcissists Say When They Are Gaslighting You

-Awan

**TRIGGER WARNING: These are statements made by actual narcissists that were shared by actual survivors of narcissistic abuse.

If you’ve ever been involved in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, the following statements may sound pretty familiar to you. I polled the members of my online support group (SPAN) and asked them to share things they heard their narcissists say again and again as they were being relentlessly manipulated and gaslighted during their relationships.

If you’re not sure you’re dealing with a narcissist, it might help you to take a look at this list and see whether anything sounds familiar.

  1. You’re being irrational.
  2. You should get tested for schizophrenia.
  3. You’re always making shit up in your head.
  4. You need help.
  5. I don’t do things I think are wrong.
  6. Why are you being so defensive?
  7. You are so childish/immature.
  8. You need to learn to communicate better.
  9. I’m not arguing; I’m just discussing.
  10. Hey, I’m not saying you need to be any different!! I’m not trying to change anybody!
  11. It’s always something with you.
  12. You’re crazy, you weirdo, freak.
  13. Whatever.
  14. If you wouldn’t piss me off I wouldn’t  have to say mean things to you.
  15.  No wonder so and so has a problem with you.
  16. If you tell them about me I will ( blah blah ) and hurt you. (Either blackmail, or made-up exaggerated lies to get back at you for exposing them.)
  17.  I used to think you were a good person. (Because you tell them off and get on their level.)
  18. Why are you being a bitch, get over it, I’m late, I was suppose to be here at noon but it’s 2:40 pm. Do you want to go eat or not?
  19. ]I don’t have time for your games.
  20. Go ahead, tell them about me. I will make your life a living hell, bitch.
  21. I’m much smarter than your dumb ass.
  22. Just try, you will lose.
  23. I’m going to kiss their butt; we will see who they want more to do with.
  24. You would think you would have figured out by now –  you can’t beat me. But hey – knock yourself out, and make a fool of yourself.
  25. If you’re on the phone with them, in front of an audience, you get: “Listen, you need to get help, I can’t play your games anymore. I really feel sorry for you, I’ve got to go. I’m not being pulled into another fight,”. (You’re on the other end saying “what are you talking about?”) About that time he clicks phone off. Then, he later calls you, ” Try me bitch – have you figured out you won’t win?”
  26.  What do you mean I have no real friends? I have an attorney friend, one who owns (blah blah), I have tons of friends! You’re the depressed loser who stays home all the time with no friends! Ohhhh sorry, you have a volunteer pet rescue friend! Wowww, I’m impressed.
  27. Ohhh, I forgot you’re holier than thou!
  28. Poor you!
  29. You like being  a victim.
  30. You wonder why I stay away from you.
  31. Others think I’m a pretty nice guy. Too bad you don’t.
  32.  I’m going to stay away from you as long as you put me down.
  33. No wonder I do drugs!
  34. If I want to feel like shit I will come around you.
  35. How’s it working for you?
  36. Listen to yourself! You are losing it.
  37. If they leave you and you say, “Good riddance! Now she can put up with you. He says, “Oh, she doesn’t mind breakfast in bed! We are going to Hawaii. You could have had the finer things, but you wanted to fight me all the time. When I’m a millionaire, we will see who is doing better then.
  38. My ‘friends’ (on Facebook that I never met in person) tell me all the time how smart I am all the time.
  39. I am not trying to control you.  You are thinking about your ex husband, and taking it out on me.
  40. You’ve always “got a problem.”
  41. I’m the best thing that ever happened to you.
  42. No one can ever love you like I do.
  43. It’s always your fault.
  44. Why do you have to get all pissy and hurt over stuff?”
  45. “You just look for something to gripe about all the time.”
  46. “What do you get out of being all moody all the time? I hope that’s fun for you.”.
  47. I’m the only one that really loves you.
  48. “YOU ARE NOT GOING TO CONTROL ME, YOU F…ING B****!”
  49. I don’t give a crap about your kids.
  50. “Everyone” agrees with me – you’re bad!
  51. I  never said that!
  52. You’re crazy!
  53. You’re lazy.
  54. You’re too sensitive!
  55. I know what you’re thinking.
  56. You never listen.
  57. I’ll pay you back. (Never does!)
  58. You better wipe that look off your face or I’ll do it for ya!
  59. You’re a piece of shit.
  60. You try to make them aware about something, like that they are going to get in trouble with either legally or personally. They say, “Don’t worry about it. Shut up, You’re such a goody goody weirdo; you worry about everything. I’ve done this before.”
  61. Stop telling people stuff about me.
  62. After cheating on me repeatedly he wants to know why I said “some not nice things to him.”
  63.  Also tells me “You will never find another man as good as me.”
  64.   When he goes out someone “told me they had the best time ever because I was there.”
  65. I’m from Acadian blood line, so naturally I’m smarter than average people like you.
  66. My job is more important! You just have projects, it’s just busy work
  67. I don’t answer your texts because you’re bothering me with your foolishness.
  68. It’s my way or the highway!
  69. Women are here to serve men!
  70. If you’re so great at budgeting, why are we past due on everything and broke? (After he blows entire paycheck at casino)
  71. “I know how _______.”
  72. “I know why ________ .”
  73. “I have the answer, you just have to listen to me.” (You can fill in the blank with ANY subject. He always knows the answer to everything…. Peoples’ motives, parenting, why your cake just exploded. Any subject at all… he has ALL the answers. You just have to listen.)
  74. “Back when I lived in Florida and I was rich beyond belief and knew all the movie stars (because I grew up with them), I never had to worry about being broke all the time.”
  75. Watch what I do next, bitch!
  76. I used to race Porsches for Indy 500 and owned two Burger Kings and a Pizarro’s.
  77. No wonder your daughter can’t keep a boyfriend! She’s so needy and trailer park trash.”
  78. After one of his (often veiled) put downs: “and that’s the truth!”
  79. “I know at least 3 people in this town who think you are bi-polar”
  80. He is incredibly grandiose and exaggerates his achievements, talks constantly to anyone about the people of high standing that he “knows,” needs to be seen as a genius, is challenged by other people’s achievements – behind their backs will call them “third rate.”
  81. When I was manager of over 50 people at a restaurant…” ( …Taco Bell – but you couldn’t say that – heaven forbid he was associated with fast food)!!!
  82. “You just want to rehash the past.”
  83. “You should have known that this was not a good time to (talk to me….call me on the phone….etc.).” (Followed by a “justifiable” narcissistic rage).
  84. “YOU  treat me like shit and you’re NOT on drugs.”
  85. “Nobody likes you, they all laugh behind your back.”
  86. After he breaks up with you over the phone: “You made me! You asked if you were all right.”
  87.  “It’s always something with you.”
  88. You leave me and you will be blued, screwed and tattooed!
  89. You will NEVER have the confidence to leave me!
  90. “You are delusional.”
  91. You have no friends.
  92. Nobody likes you.
  93. You’re too old; no one will ever want you.
  94. You’re too fat.
  95. No one will ever love you like I do.
  96. You’ll never find anyone as good as me.
  97. You’ll never find anyone else to put up with you like I do.
  98. You’ll never have a house as nice as this one.  You’ll end up living in a broken down car on the North side. \
  99. What are you going to do without me?  How will you ever feed yourself?
  100. I never said that…you’re crazy.
  101. You need a shrink.
  102. I never did that…you’re crazy.
  103. I can say or do anything I want to to you because I own you.
  104. “I was busy!”
  105. Somebody has to earn a living!
  106. “I work my ASS OFF, but nobody around here seems to care!”
  107. No one is able to love someone like you, except me.
  108. Why do you always have to criticize me?
  109. Don’t nag me.
  110. Why are you upset? I was ONLY kidding.
  111. I want …   I need….
  112. I … me me me.
  113. I was just kidding – gee, you can’t take a joke
  114. Rage? What rage?    Oh, so I’m not allowed to get angry?
  115. Only I can treat you like shit!
  116. “I never said anything to you because I just thought you knew how she felt about you. She was talking about you, complaining. I didn’t think you were friends.”
  117. Narc: You have the most beautiful blue eyes.
    You: Awww.  Thank you.
    Narc:  I can’t do this anymore.
    You: Are you breaking up with me again?
    Narc:  Yes.
  118. “If you ever cheat on me, I’ll kill them…AND you…”
  119. You started it.
  120. Get over it.
  121. Grow up!

Are you the Designated Scapegoat?

-Sharie Stines, PhD

When two people get married I don’t think either one of them plans on becoming their partner’s scapegoat. Most people assume that there will be both good times and bad times, and they will persevere through any problems together.  This is reasonable; after all, no one is perfect and life can have challenges at times.

However, all bets are off if you marry an abuser, master manipulator, or narcissist. When this happens you discover that rather than being a spouse in the true sense of the word, you really serve more of a role of an emotional whipping boy.  But, the insidiousness of it all is that you may not even realize this until years in to the relationship.  This can be a very rude awakening.

Or, do these behaviors occur outside of your marriage with other family members or with your in-laws? Do they occur at your workplace? Do you find yourself subject to unfair treatment, harsh judgment, and “bullying” behaviors from your boss or coworkers?  The basic principles of scapegoating can apply in any arena where people socialize.

What is a scapegoat?

Most people have heard of the childhood role of scapegoat – where one child in the family tends to be the “identified patient,” “black sheep,” or “problem child.”  This can occur in two ways, either the child acts out this role to show the dysfunction in the family, or the parents and/or siblings project the scapegoat status onto the child.

In a  relationship with an abusive or manipulative person, the scapegoat is created by the scapegoat-er. A scapegoat fulfills a multitude of roles for his or her abusive partner:

  • takes on projected guilt or shame of abuser
  • serves as an emotional punching bag for displaced anger
  • helps narcissistic and insecure people feel superior and smug, thus enabling them to not look at their own weaknesses
  • raises the abuser up by being put down themselves
  • acts as a container for an abuser’s rage, contempt, and disdain

People who scapegoat others have certain particular traits; these include a sense of superiority and pride, a large ego which needs maintaining, feelings of entitlement and grandiosity, limited personal self-reflectionpoor character, self-righteousness,  and hypocrisy. Did I mention arrogance?  Realize this list is neither exhaustive nor all inclusive, but lists general characteristics only.

No matter what a scapegoat does, he or she cannot win and always makes the wrong move as far as the scapegoat-er is concerned.  In fact, the scapegoat-er seems to exhibit an “expectation of failure” towards the chosen scapegoat, looking for flaws at all times

What traits makes a person a good scapegoat?

  • a person with compassion and empathy
  • someone self-sacrificing
  • an individual who easily forgives
  • an independent person
  • one who is resourceful
  • a person who tends to have an external locus of control (looks out of oneself for validation)
  • has a low ability to identify manipulation and abuse

What do you do if you realize you are the scapegoat in a relationship?

As in most instances of recovery from anything, awareness is the first step.  Realize you are a scapegoat. Identify the traits that keep you in this role. Determine how being a scapegoat meets your needs in the relationship.  Here are some specific steps to take to remove the scapegoat mantle from your identity:

  • Consciously and volitionally remove the role of scapegoat from your selfhood; in other words, don’t let others blame you, treat you condescendingly, or otherwise mistreat you.
  • Do not operate from a victim mentality, but choose, instead to be a victor.  That means, take your life in your own hands.
  • Treat yourself with dignity. Act with integrity.
  • Do not take responsibility for other people’s actions, behaviors, moods, or feelings – don’t personalize.
  • Learn to love yourself internally.
  • Learn to look within yourself for validation, rather than to others.
  • Choose relationships with people who are empathic and compassionate.
  • Don’t listen to the negative “noise,” either inside your own head or out of the mouths of others.
  • Walk away from people who do not respect you.
  • Set good internal boundaries with people who have a personality disorder.
  • Avoid judgmental people.
  • Do not reveal personal information without proper discernment. Not everyone will respect your privacy or your problems. In fact, save personal information for trustworthy friends.
  • In general, be positive.

The bottom line to scapegoat recovery is to ultimately build the relationship you have with yourself. You will have to work hard to trust your own opinions, emotions, and intuitions. As long as you are in the world with others, you will face the possibility of being someone’s target for negativity. Learn to step away and love yourself regardless of what anyone else believes about you.

15 Kinds of Verbal Abuse

The abuser feels more powerful when he puts down his victim.
Berit Brogarrd D.M.Sci, Ph.D
In general, if we look at verbal abuse as a means of maintaining control and Power Over, then in this context all of the categories of verbal abuse listed and explained below make some kind of sense because they are all ways of establishing Power Over. Does this mean that the abuser actually feels more powerful when he, for instance, subtly puts down his partner’s interests? As incomprehensible as this is, it is so. Does this mean that the partner feels put down? Not always. She may feel a twinge of sadness that they cannot share this interest. She may even feel a twinge of sadness that her mate cannot enjoy this pleasure in, say, a particular artist or composer. Does this mean that her mate cannot enjoy this pleasure? Not always. He may simply find greater pleasure in feeling Power Over. She may never really know. We will also see that verbal abuse prevents real relationships. This seems obvious. However, the partner of an abuser may live under the illusion that she has a real relationship. She may do so for a number of reasons, an important one being that, as a couple, she and the abuser may function adequately in their respective roles. Verbal abusers generally experience many of their feelings as anger. For instance, if the verbal abuser feels unsure and anxious he may simply feel angry—possibly angry that he is feeling unsure and anxious. Yet part of being human is the ability to feel. The ability to feel, like the ability to think, is universal to the nature of humanity. Unfortunately, the abuser is generally unwilling to accept his feelings and unwilling to reveal them to his partner. He builds a wall between himself and his partner. He maintains a distance.

Patricia Evans identifies a number of categories of verbal abuse. Some of these kinds of abuse are obvious, others are more subtle.

1. Withholding

Withholding is primarily manifested as a withholding of information and a failure to share thoughts and feelings. A person who withholds information refuses to engage with his partner in a healthy relationship. He does not share his feelings or thoughts. When he does share anything at all, it is purely factual or functional information of the sort his partner could have looked up on the Internet, read on his Facebook wall or figured out for herself by looking around. Examples of withholding communication that fails to engage the partner include “The car is almost out of gas,” “The keys are on the table,” and “The show is on now.”

2. Countering

Countering is a tendency to be very argumentative but not merely in political, philosophical or scientific contexts but in ordinary contexts as well. The victim of the abuse may share her positive feelings about a movie she just saw, and the abuser may then attempt to convince her that her feelings are wrong. This is an example of countering. Countering is a way of dismissing the victim’s feelings, thoughts and experiences on a regular basis.

3. Discounting

Discounting is an attempt to deny that the victim of the abuse has any right to her thoughts or feelings. It may come out as criticism but criticism of a particular kind. The abuser may tell the victim on a regular basis that she is too sensitive, too childish, has no sense of humor or tends to make a big deal out of nothing. The abuser thereby denies the victim’s inner reality, indirectly telling her that how she feels and what she experiences is wrong.

4. Verbal abuse disguised as jokes

Verbal abuse is often disguised as jokes. The abuser may say something very upsetting to the victim of the abuse and then after seeing her reaction add “It was just a joke.” Abuse is not okay in any form. Jokes that hurt are abusive.

5. Blocking and diverting

Blocking and diverting is a form of withholding but one where the abuser decides which topics are good conversation topics. An abuser practicing this form of abuse may tell the victim that she is talking out of turn or is complaining too much.

6. Accusing and blaming

Accusing and blaming are forms of abuse in which the abuser will accuse the victim of the abuse for things that are outside of her control. He might accuse her of preventing him from getting a promotion because she is overweight or ruining his reputation because she dropped out of college.

7. Judging and criticizing

Judging and criticizing is similar to accusing and blaming but also involves a negative evaluation of the partner. As Evans points out, “Most ‘you’ statements are judgmental, critical, and abusive.” Some abusive judging and criticizing “you” statements are: “You are never satisfied”, “You always find something to be upset about”, “The reason no one likes you is that you are so negative”.

8. Trivializing

Trivializing is a form of verbal abuse that makes most things the victim of the abuse does or wants to do seem insignificant. The abuser might undermine her work, her way of dressing or her choice of food.

9. Undermining

Undermining is similar to trivializing but further consists in undermining everything the victim says or suggests, making her question herself and her own opinions and interests.

10. Threatening

Threatening is a common form of verbal abuse and can be very explicit, as in “If you don’t start doing what I say, I will leave you” or more subtle, as in “If you don’t follow my advice, others will find out that you are a very unreliable person.”

11. Name calling

Name calling, too, can be explicit or subtle. Explicit name calling can consist in calling the victim of the abuse a “cunt” a “whore” or a “bitch”. But it can also be more subtle, calling the other person things that are implicitly hurtful, for instance, “You are such a victim” or “You think you are so precious, don’t you?”

12. Forgetting

The category of forgetting covers a range of issues ranging from forgetting to keep a promise to forgetting a date or an appointment. Even if the abuser really forgot, it is still abuse, because he ought to have made an effort to remember.

13. Ordering

Any form of ordering or demanding is a form of verbal abuse. It falls under the general issue of control. I have written another post about controlling people. The link is here.

14. Denial

Denial is abusive when it consists in denying bad behavior and failing to realize the consequences of one’s behavior. An abuser will find a way to justify and rationalize his behavior. This is a way of denying that he has done anything wrong.

15. Abusive anger

Abusive anger consists in any form of yelling and screaming, particularly out of context. Even yelling “shut up!” is abusive. There are other ways to deal with people who need to “shut up”. No one deserves to be yelled at.

How to Recognize the Signs of Posttraumatic Stress (PTSD)

Posttraumatic stressPerson sits on sofa in dark room, covering eyes with one hand, or PTSD as it is more commonly referred to, is a serious condition that affects many people worldwide. As June is PTSD Awareness Month, learning more about this condition can be helpful in order to gain a better understanding of the struggles that many individuals deal with on a daily basis.

Although PTSD affects numerous people, military service members tend to be more often affected by this condition than others due to the nature of their jobs. They are frequently exposed to traumatic events on a routine basis, especially during tours of duty in combat zones. The peace we take for granted in our country can be shattered in an instant through the life-and-death situations they encounter every day. Even if they are not physically wounded in battle, their psychological wounds can be deep and long-lasting. Trying to pick up the pieces after their return to “normal” life can be difficult, both for themselves as well as their friends and loved ones, who often have trouble understanding what they have gone through and the ways in which they have changed.

A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs between 1999 to 2010 revealed that about 22 veterans lost their lives to suicide every day—a higher number than those who die on the battlefield (Kemp, J., and Bossart, R., 2012). With statistics this alarming, learning to look for warning signs of PTSD can be an important first step toward addressing it.

Although being exposed to a war zone is a common cause of PTSD, many other situations can cause ongoing trauma. Other experiences that commonly lead to symptoms of posttraumatic stress include both natural and man-made disasters, abuse or assault, and serious accidents. Individuals who have learned about a traumatic situation involving a loved one can also experience PTSD, as can people who are exposed to many other types of experiences.

Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD in a person include (American Psychiatric Association, 2013):

  1. Recurrent intrusive thoughts and memories of the traumatic event and/or difficulties remembering some aspects of the event.
  2. Insomnia and difficulties sleeping, which often includes having frequent nightmares about the event.
  3. Flashbacks and hallucinations that lead the individual to believe the event is recurring.
  4. Feelings of panic or extreme distress whenever something reminds them of the event.
  5. Increased irritability or anger.
  6. Hypervigilance and preoccupation with the possibility of the event happening again.
  7. Avoidance of anything or anyone that reminds the individual of the traumatic event.
  8. A sense of isolation from other people, including family and loved ones.
  9. An inability to enjoy activities that used to be significant to them.
  10. Feelings of numbness and detachment from their emotions.

Any of the above may be warning signs that should be taken seriously. As mentioned earlier, individuals who have experienced traumatic events are at greater risk than the general population of dying by suicide. They may also have a greater likelihood of self-medicating through the use of alcohol or drugs, if they do not receive treatment.

Although trauma can have devastating effects on many, receiving appropriate treatment can help to alleviate many of the symptoms experienced and assist individuals with returning to happy and productive lives. Recognizing there is a problem and assisting the individual with obtaining help are the first steps in the healing process.

-Wendy Salazar, MFT

Talking Out Military Sexual Trauma

Sexual abuse led one vet to a VA career counseling other MSA victims.

            Jennifer Sluga,  six-year veteran of the Wisconsin National Guard, originally participated in the VA’s new oral history program to help her caregivers understand her military sexual trauma, but her ordeal made her a strong advocate for others who had been assaulted.

“In the beginning, telling about my story helped me heal,” she told me recently. “But now I want everyone else who has ever experienced sexual trauma to know that they are not alone. By talking about it, we can get back the power that was taken from us.”

Now a psychotherapist at the Vet Center in Madison, Sluga estimates that 90 percent of her patient caseload also suffers from MST.

Sluga spent 17 months with the National Guard in Kosovo, but she told Thor Ringler, the “poet-in-residence” who runs the VA’s pilot “My Life, My Story” program in Madison, that her PTSD probably started well before her deployment from her military sexual trauma during her military training. (For more about the oral history program, see my previous blog, “An Oral History Program to Tell Veterans’ Stories.”)

“When he started that program, I told him it was the most amazing program ever,” she said. “Talking this trauma out of my system and using it to help others is just an amazing and powerful experience. It’s important for medical personnel to know that when I’m in those situations, I’m gonna be a little uptight, that I wonder whether I can trust that person, and that I’d prefer work with female doctor.”

Her ordeal started in boot camp when she and her “battle buddy” both reported to sick call. Her buddy was sent to the hospital, and that left her alone with the doctor.

“He had lot of rank on his chest and expected me do anything he said,” Sluga said. “He wanted me get undressed, then he began touching me and it became pretty obvious that this was nothing in the realm of anything medical.”

Sluga finally managed to push him away and ran to her barracks, only partially dressed.

“I ran to our barracks because I wanted to shower and cry, but another woman saw the marks on my body, asked about them, and then called the drill sergeant,” she said. “He ran over to sick call, and I thought he was going to kill the medic. It was really cool to be validated like that.”

But it didn’t stop there.

Several members of Sluga’s unit reported also sexual abuse during their deployment, and she began advocating for them.

Finally, the medic was charged with sexually assaulting his patients, and Sluga, her battle buddy and her drill sergeant were all required to testify at his court martial. “He finally admitted to sexually assaulting more than 70 soldiers and excused it by saying he had been raped as a child,” she said.

No wonder Sluga was severely traumatized. But she didn’t realize it until after she had left the National Guard and returned to college.

“I didn’t recognize that I wasn’t doing well until I went from an A student and I was failing all my classes, not attending classes, sleeping 20 hours a day,” she said. “I just wanted to go hide.”

Her breaking point came after she and her classmates got an exam back, and one of the girls was complaining about a bad grade.

“She said, ‘It really raped me,’” Sluga remembered.  “And I just wanted to jump over the chairs and scream at her: ‘Did it really rape you? Did it make you feel completely out of control?  Did it actually hurt you?’”

That led to counseling and therapy. It led to Ringler and the “My Life, My Story” program, which has now spread to six other VA facilities across the country. And it led Sluga to a career helping others as a psychotherapist.

More men than women are sexually assaulted in the military, she said.

“One of four women reports she has been sexually assaulted,” said Sluga. “The rate for men is one in ten, but since there are so many more men than women, the number of male victims is greater. Females are assaulted by men and other females, and males are assaulted by males and females as well.”

Rape and sexual assault are not about sexual gratification, she added. It’s all about power and control.

“In the military, you have no control over much of anything, so if you can find an area you can control, you take it,” Sluga explained. “A lot of people bully up and take advantage of other people—it’s almost like a sport.”

Now look at Sluga’s ordeal in light of our previous discussions on moral injury. She was betrayed by virtually everyone in her chain of command: the medical officer who sexually assaulted her, the officers who let such conduct go unchecked.  Those fellow soldiers who are supposed to save your life if necessary and have your back should be the last individuals anyone should need to protect themselves against.

VA psychologist Jonathan Shay argues that moral injury is present when there has been a betrayal of what is right by a person in a position of legitimate authority in a high-stakes situation. “Moral injury impairs the capacity for trust and elevates despair, suicidality and interpersonal violence,” he wrote in an article, “Moral Injury,” published last year in the journal of Psychoanalytic Psychology.

Sluga would agree that military sexual trauma can lead to PTSD.

When you lose your sense of self, especially from someone who’s supposed to be helping you, and they take your power and use it against you, to me that’s combat,” she said. And we all know that combat trauma leads to PTSD.

-Eric Newhouse

Minimizing Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of “guidance,” “teaching”, or “advice,” the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting that physical ones. What are your thoughts about how serious you consider the signs of emotional abuse within your relationship?

-Regina Tate, LPC

Looking at Relationships After Abuse

It is not necessary that we go looking for the person that we would want to have in our life forever. I don’t think that we need to look at another person and question in our minds whether this is “the one.” It may be better to look at life and meeting new people as something that is fun to do. And if we do that with an open heart, we will “know” whether another person would be someone that we would love to have as a friend. What evolves from there is either a fun thing that we would like to continue or it is a revealing experience of that which we have lived before and don’t ever want to experience again. It is easier after abuse to tell which is which. You have a lot of living and experiences that will serve you very well in knowing who may or may not be right for you. Cautious, yet open to fun.

-Regina Tate, LPC

What is the “Right Age” for Kids to Use Social Media?

5 rules for teaching young people use technology with dignity and respect

What is the “right” age for youngsters to begin texting and using social media? As the Mom of two young daughters and an educator on bullying prevention, I field this question frequently. Truly, there is great debate on the subject among professionals, along with a whole lot of hand-wringing by parents. As adults, we are all-too-aware of dangers online–both from anonymous predators and familiar “frenemies” who use the internet as a weapon. Indeed, social media sites are ripe for cyberbullying. Kids (and adults!) feel liberated to post cruel messages and taunts online without the discomfort of having to say to a peer’s face.

As with most aspects of child-rearing, there isn’t a simple one-age-fits-all guideline for starting to use social media or texting. From “safety” and “convenience” to the ever-urgent “all the other kids have them” rationales, ultimately, each family will make their own decision about what is “right” for their kids. In this day and age, almost every child will be exposed to technology sooner rather than later.

So, while I do not offer black and white answers to parents as far as “right ages,” what I do offer are suggestions for teaching kids how to use technology in ways that reflect family values and respect the dignity of their peers.

1. Choose Your Words Carefully

If you wouldn’t say something to a person’s face, don’t send it via text or the internet. Technology makes it too easy to say things that are impulsive or unkind. Also, the person reading your message can’t see your expressions or hear your tone of voice. Sarcasm and humor often get lost in translation on the ‘net, so avoid their use. Type carefully as well; avoid using ALL CAPS since they make it look like you are angry or YELLING.

2. The Internet is Not a Weapon

Don’t gossip about other people while you are online. Your words can be misinterpreted, manipulated, and forwarded without your permission. Plus, it’s not fair to talk about people when they can’t defend themselves. Likewise, social media sites should never be used to strategically exclude peers who are “on the outs” of a peer group or to “de-friend” a person after a fight.

3. Who is this Message For?

What happens in cyberspace stays in cyberspace—forever! Though you may think you are sending your private message or photo to a single recipient, keep in mind that it can be cut, pasted, and forwarded to an infinite number of people. Never post a photo or message that you wouldn’t want “everyone” to be able to view.

4. Kindness Matters

Be kind and do not ever use email to say ugly, nasty, or mean things about anyone or to anyone. ANYONE. Ever! Stop and ask yourself, “What would Mom think if she read this?” Post accordingly!

5. Take it Slow

In this world of instant messaging and constant contact, you may be tempted to say whatever comes to your mind in a given moment. Don’t do it! Slow down and think before you post whatever thought, comeback, or reaction is on your mind–especially if you are feeling an intense emotion like anger or sadness. Wait until you have had a chance to think things through and cool your head before you post a message that can’t be taken back.

Signe Whitson is an author and international educator on bullying prevention, crisis intervention, and child and adolescent emotional and behavioral health.  For more information or workshop inquiries, please visit www.signewhitson.com and check out Signe’s latest book, 8 Keys to End Bullying: Strategies for Parents & Schools.

Why Men Don’t Tell

Many men cope with being abused by taking on a macho “I can handle it” attitude. Even if you have been hurt much worse than on an athletic playing field, that is not the same thing as being physically attacked by your intimate partner, which hurts emotionally as well as physically. Allowing this pattern to continue can result in depression, substance abuse, loss of confidence, even suicide. Remember, you have rights to have respect and to be treated in a loving, caring manner. Love does not equal hurt. Tell me if you think there is more abuse tendencies to your partner’s anger outburst. Do you think you try to minimize this?

-Regina Tate, LPC

Margaret Cho Wants You to Embrace Your Darkness

Using creativity to cope and connect

Margaret Cho has been finding ways to entertain us for decades. From her stand-up routines, such as The Notorious C.H.O.; to her books, such as I’m The One That I Want; to her roles in films such as Face/Off, Cho continues to come up with new ways to explore and share her artistry.

A major reason why Cho continues to be so prolific is the same reason why she is so beloved by her fans — she is willing to tackle and speak out on difficult issues. Cho has been an advocate for LGBT rights, has opened up about her having experienced sexual abuse, and about her sexuality, as well as her consequent struggles with an eating disorder, addiction, depression and suicide. In doing so, Cho has given voice to people who feel alone and invisible in their struggles with social and emotional issues.

And with her new album, American Myth, Cho is continuing her message: Don’t run away from your darkness — embrace it.

Cho explains how this is a central approach to her life and art. She told me, “People should be conscious that pain and suffering are essential to living. We need it as much as we need happiness and joy and pleasure. There would be no contrast in your existence if the bad and dark parts didn’t exist.”

For Cho, this stance is personal. One of the painful issues with which she has struggled over the years is depression. People who struggle with depression — even only sub-clinical depressive symptoms — may experience significant loss of physical, social and role functioning. And the loss of functioning associated with depression appears to be comparable to or worse than that of other chronic medical issues.

“I think I’ve always had it. It’s something that sounds familiar when people talk about their experience of depression,” Cho explained. “But I’ve never been diagnosed or medicated or anything. It’s not weeks; it’s more just like it’s parts of days.”

Cho describes her depression as feeling like existential dread, also referred to as existential angst. “There’s always been this existential dread that I’ve had, not knowing what the future is going to bring,” Cho explained. “And not knowing how you may have done something in the past that’s upsetting, or regret something that you’ve done.”

Like many others who experience depression, Cho also experiences rumination, which is to compulsively and repeatedly think about something. Rumination can be useful if one is attempting to deliberate over possible solutions to a problem. But it can also take the form of obsessing and amplifying a problem without arriving at a solution.

“It becomes something amplified in your mind to obsess over. The tiny slights that build up – like someone doesn’t email or text you back,” she explained. “Something that you obsess on, and then you realize that the other person has no idea that you’re going through this crazy thing. And it’s just strange how certain facts or details about your life become amplified.”

Managing one’s negative experience can be difficult enough, but Cho felt that while she was growing up there were many social signals that she and her feelings didn’t matter. This first came with observing the underrepresentation of Asian-Americans in popular culture. Research suggests that even subtle forms of racism can result in negative psychological consequences.

In Cho’s case, she described the feeling of invisibility — like she was not there and she didn’t matter — that can arise from these forms of racism.  “I think you feel betrayed and shocked when you realize that you’re not what’s being represented or you don’t feel included. It’s just this strong feeling of invisibility. And it can be very hard to explain to other people.”

-Michael Friedman, PhD, Brick By Brick