We're all on the journey.
January 25, 2023
Lovingly or Manipulating? Navigating Narcissistic Abuse with Shannon Petrovich

Narcissism. Maybe it's one of the most misunderstood psychological disorders of modern society. It is with an increased frequency, we hear such refrains - “He was a total narcissist”—but was he? What does that really mean? An...


Narcissism.

Maybe it's one of the most misunderstood psychological disorders of modern society.

It is with an increased frequency, we hear such refrains - “He was a total narcissist”—but was he?

What does that really mean? And are these assumptions often correct?

We’ve all experienced difficult relationships - from our significant others to our boss at work. In the relationship FOG of narcissistic, abusive, or other toxic behaviors - feelings of paralysis, anxiety, depression, confusion, disorientation - may at times surface.

Leaving one not knowing who you are anymore, or how you got to this dark place in your life. Often feeling as terrifying and mystifying as ocean fog. Dealing with a difficult boss or coworker can test your patience and be a drag on your productivity.

But working with a clinical narcissist, on the other hand, can be downright unhealthy. And Furthermore; sharing your day-to-day life with a narcissist - is particularly traumatizing and horrific. A survivor of narcissistic relationships, Shannon Petrovich, guides listeners on a journey of rediscovering their self-worth, learning to recognize and set boundaries, and ultimately separating from the toxic bonds of love-bombing.

 

"Love is a verb in our gooey-gooey culture. We tend to think if we felt something, then we are being loved. But in reality, a person with narcissism or narcissistic traits is not loving you. They're controlling you, manipulating you."

 

Shannon Petrovich is a relationship expert and author, specializing in helping survivors of narcissistic abuse. She is passionate about helping people untangle unhealthy attachments and find their bearings after experiencing trauma.

Shannon Petrovich learned the hard way that Narcissistic relationships are not based on love. She experienced the cycle of love bombing, devaluing, and gaslighting that left her emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. Her insight into the three P's - people pleasing, placating, and peacekeeping - trapped her in the trauma bond of a toxic relationship. Finally, she overcame the cycle by understanding her own character qualities and values, setting boundaries, and asserting her own needs. This allowed her to break the trauma bond and reclaim herself as a survivor.

In this episode, you will learn the following:

1. What is the difference between love and love bombing?

2. How can survivors break the trauma bond of a toxic relationship?

3. What are the three P's of people pleasing, placating, and peacekeeping, and how can they be used to identify a toxic relationship?

 

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Resources:

Current understanding of narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/bjpsych-advances/article/current-understanding-of-narcissism-and-narcissistic-personality-disorder/4AA8B04FB352F8E00AA7988B63EBE973

All About Narcissistic Personality Disorder

https://psychcentral.com/disorders/narcissistic-personality-disorder

How to know if you or someone you know is a narcissist, according to a clinical psychologist

https://www.businessinsider.com/signs-of-a-narcissist-2018-3

Why We Need to Stop Throwing the "Narcissist" Label Around

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/romance-redux/201504/why-we-need-stop-throwing-the-narcissist-label-around

What Happens When We Decide Everyone Else Is a Narcissist

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/jia-tolentino/what-happens-when-we-decide-everyone-else-is-a-narcissist

Are We Too Quick to Call Everyday Assholes Narcissists?

https://www.vice.com/en/article/exknyk/kristin-dombek-selfishness-of-others-narcissism

I'm a professor of human behavior, and I have some news for you about the 'narcissists' in your life

https://www.businessinsider.com/narcissism-vs-narcissist-2018-11

The Selfishness of Others,’ or I’m O.K. — You’re a Narcissist

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/01/books/review-the-selfishness-of-others-or-im-ok-youre-a-narcissist.html

Narcissistic Relationships

https://psychcentral.com/lib/narcissistic-relationships#1

In a Relationship with a Narcissist? What You Need to Know About Narcissistic Relationships

https://www.psychalive.org/narcissistic-relationships/

Verywell Loved: Unpacking What Is—and Isn't—Narcissism in a Relationship

https://www.verywellmind.com/verywell-loved-unpacking-narcissism-what-it-is-and-what-it-isn-t-5217165

Signs of Healthy Narcissism

https://psychcentral.com/disorders/what-is-healthy-narcissism#:~:text=Signs%20of%20healthy%20narcissism,-%E2%80%9CHealthy%20narcissism%E2%80%9D%20is&text=ability%20to%20draw%20healthy%20boundaries,positive%20feelings%20about%20yourself

What is Healthy Narcissism

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/contemporary-psychoanalysis-in-action/201609/what-is-healthy-narcissism

Heathy Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder

https://www.specializedtherapy.com/narcissism-and-narcissistic-personality-disorder/

Why Do People Mistake Narcissism for High Self-Esteem?

https://scottbarrykaufman.com/why-do-people-mistake-narcissism-for-high-self-esteem/

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Other episodes you'll enjoy:

By The Power Invested in Me: Vice, Virtue and The Ways We Attempt to Signal Superiority

https://www.thelightinside.us/by-the-power-invested-in-me-vice-virtue-and-the-ways-we-attempt-to-signaling-superiority/

 

Credits:

JOIN US ON INSTAGRAM: @thelightinsidepodcast

SUBSCRIBE: pod.link/thelightinside

Featured Guest: Shannon Petrovich

https://www.nofoggydays.com/

 

Credits: Music Score by Epidemic Sound

Executive Producer: Jeffrey Besecker

Mixing, Engineering, Production, and Mastering: Aloft Media Studio

Senior Program Director: Anna Getz

Loved this episode? Leave us a review and rating here: https://www.thelightinside.us/reviews/new/

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Transcript

Shannon Petrovich - transcript

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:00:00

In relationships involving a narcissistic partner, one often finds themselves wondering what happened as that shiny afterglow of faded love solemnly slips away. Many questions creeping in. One wondering, was there truly any love at all? That is a disorienting space that one can find themselves in experiencing that narcissistic partner. Let's jump in a little bit there.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:00:30

I think that's a great question. A lot of people ask me that. So have I been in this relationship for this many years or months or whatever? And was there ever any love there? And what I would share with you is that a person who has real narcissism has no empathy, which means that they don't really have a connection to your emotions, your reality, your thoughts, feelings, and that isn't love. So if they never had that, then no, you were not loved. If you didn't feel loved, then you were not loved, if that makes sense. Love is a verb in our gooey gooey culture. We tend to think if we felt something, then we are being loved. But in reality, a person with narcissism or narcissistic traits is not loving you. They're controlling you, manipulating you. And when they say, I love you, it's typically a manipulation or it's an expression of you did something I liked and I'm trying to train you to keep doing more of that.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:01:31

That's an excellent point, I feel, to lean in and start this discussion today that love, all love, ultimately being that genuine, authentic action. It shows we respect, we value, we cherish all of the more, as you said, that genuinely demonstrate our empathy, our carrying, our compassion and concern for another. So thank you for opening the door on that today as we lean in. That's a fantastic place for us to start. Shannon, this in and of itself seems like perhaps a monumental question. I'm going to paraphrase it and lean in with that. How do we find our bearings after we've experienced narcissistic abuse? Pushing past the sense of paralysis, clearing way for your vision and beginning to heal the trauma. I might be jumping ahead here.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:02:25

No, it's fine. We can dive right in deep. I always dive in the deep end. A big part of what we need to look at first is how we've internalized and interjected that voice into our lives. And so when we hear a lot of negativity and a lot of devaluing messages, we introduce those into our own mind and we become our own worst critic and our own worst enemy, and we tell ourselves really negative, awful things. So I talk about the toxic relationship with yourself as a starting point with everybody, and it's super important to notice. How do you speak to yourself inside your own head when you're sad or frustrated or disappointed? Are you saying really devaluing things? And if so, you have to start to look at that and then separate that out from reality, and that becomes a whole journey in and of itself, which is who are you, what are your values and what are your character qualities? Because also in our culture, we don't understand a sense of self at all. And that's why I like the name of your podcast, the Light Inside. Because we need to look at the light inside us. Each of us has that light inside. But we get so focused on that darkness and we have been so trained and so trauma bonded to this negative person in our lives that we begin to devalue ourselves and then their work is done. We're doing it to ourselves. So we have to start there and look at what we're doing to ourselves and change that into the truth of what are those character qualities and values that define me.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:04:02

That's interesting in of itself. Backing up a little bit here to look at that idea of toxicness. Is that the right way to frame that, those toxic actions, toxic labels toxic. We call it a toxic relationship. He is a toxic person. It's a toxic culture. Yet that in and of itself becomes that kind of internalizing of that underlying action of it is a toxic behavioral pattern. And we kind of internalize that and sometimes flip that around. The emotion itself is a toxic behavior. It's a toxic interaction. The culture itself becomes a pattern of toxic behaviors. Sometimes a two way interaction of toxic behaviors. In the case of abuser, when we've got abuse, it becomes that over leveraging of those toxic behaviors. So I want to bridge that a little bit here in our conversation just for the sake of that. Because there again, I think so often we can become autonomic in our use of that and say he's toxic. The relationship is toxic, right? My culture, my work, my boss is toxic. That's a bit. My boss is toxic. Well, in and of himself, he's got core, underlying, hopefully meaningful and worthwhile value. We can kind of subjectively and unconsciously leverage that back. A lot of times I feel. So that's a little sidetracked here maybe, but I feel that's pertinent to this conversation because so often we start to perpetuate some of those cycles. So reeling that back a little bit, let's look at how to understand as we're floating along in this river of love, hopefully we're not just kind of accepting things in a manner that we're just unconsciously engaging in. But as we're floating along in this river of love and we start to see these patterns of behavior where we say, I have a suspicion things are a foul and we start to form that concept, I'm going to be very judicious about that. We start to form this concept that our partner or paramour our loved one might be narcissistic, might be engaging in narcissistic behaviors. How do we start to recognize some of these signs in the way that those behaviors surface?

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:06:40

That's a great question because it has to do with how we are acting in the relationship as well. So if we've been boundaryless, then they are being narcissistic in our lives, but we haven't ever established any boundaries. Then we have the responsibility of communication, assertive communication and boundaries, setting and clarifying things that you will and will not put up with in a relationship. And a lot of times people don't realize that a relationship can be salvaged when you become more assertive and when you learn to set boundaries and when you say I don't like it when you talk to me that way. I'm going to hang up the phone now and you can call me later if you can calm down or I'm going to leave now, but we can talk later when you're calmer. And sometimes a person actually makes changes because of that. Whereas in our culture, like you said, a lot of times people are just labeling people and cutting them off. And I've seen that happen too many times. So when I work with a person, I really encourage them to find their truth, to find the boundaries they need to set, to express those really assertively and then to take care of themselves in whatever way they need to, whether it's hanging up the phone or leaving the situation. Of course, if there's violence, that's game over, you need to walk away. But a lot of times we need to emotionally separate from the shenanigans that people are engaging in and call out those shenanigans. And when we do that, we find that a person can learn and grow and respect those boundaries. But a lot of times in the beginning of a relationship we're so into that people pleasing placating and peacekeeping that we undermine ourselves and we don't give ourselves any kind of sense of self within that relationship. When you have your whole self in that relationship and they're still disrespecting your boundaries, then you have the information you need that that's toxic and you can't do that.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:08:39

It's interesting to look at that level of relationship in and of itself, where in healthy, normalized, effectively functioning relationships we should be able to lovingly exchange constructive criticism and feedback, definitely in an encouraging manner, in a supportive manner, in a very kind, compassionate, empathetic manner.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:09:03

Right.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:09:03

Those are true signposts of love. That's kind of diverging a little bit here from our thing. But we like to also speak to support the healthy outcome.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:09:13

Absolutely.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:09:15

When we are experiencing some of those more toxic behaviors that trigger us into this sort of bonding, this sort of ability or inability to form effective boundaries, how might we begin to understand where that might be surfacing as a form of trauma bonding and how to untangle those unhealthy attachments?

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:09:41

Right. Yeah. This is so important because we do get trauma bonded when we get love bombed in the beginning of a relationship and then devalued, then love bombed and then devalued. It's the cycling and a lot of people don't understand this, but it's the cycling of love bombing with devaluing that makes the trauma bond set in like a hook. And when that sets in and it's deep into your soul, it's really hard to get that free. Then you add in intimacy which makes you feel vulnerable and that is a really bad recipe for a very toxic soup. So the trauma bond takes hold because of all those games that kind of cycle around it. Also you got to add in isolation, gas lighting, pepper in some devaluing of your friends and family and anybody you cared about or anybody you were close to so that they can separate you off from any kind of support system. And pretty soon you're trauma bonded to that person where you feel like you can't live without them and they're just making you sicker and sicker and you're becoming more and more emotionally and spiritually bankrupt.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:10:51

Looking at that aspect of love bombing, it gets an interesting angle to look at. Let's look a little bit first at that overarching definition or explanation of what exactly love bonding is, because I think there's some areas there where we really gray what we're learning culturally as supposedly healthy ways to show our love and how that steps even further off the deep end into some of these toxic patterns of narcissistic behavior.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:11:20

Yeah, and I think you can see I talk about keeping your creepometer on track and the creepometer is that gauge inside of us that says this isn't right. And when you take things more slowly into a relationship, you will see things more clearly. But when you allow yourself to jump in both feet all in right off the bat and don't have any boundaries and don't have any space for you, you're more likely to be experiencing that love bombing and not love because love is intense and it's wonderful and you feel that giddy feeling when you're first in love. So we don't want to confuse that.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:11:59

Is that love or infatuation there's a gray line there again, that I think culturally we often kind of say yes, this is love. What is that progression becomes a whole nother episode in conversation.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:12:13

Well, I think if we look again at what our character qualities are and our values are, if the other person's character qualities and values line up with yours, that is more likely love. But what we do is we listen to people's words instead of watching their actions. And so if you watch somebody and how they treat other people and how they talk about other people and how they connect with you, are they really listening? Are they really engaging with you? Or are they sort of mirroring and showering you with sort of empty stuff? And then you can see also if you take a step back and you take any space for yourself or if you have a disagreement with them, watch what happens. Do they get really upset? Do they get really frustrated? Do they start to escalate into either love bombing you harder or separating? And so either of those extremes are really good indications that they're not interested in you as a whole person. They're interested in the you that they can control and manipulate. So these are really crucial steps to notice in the very first parts of a relationship. And then you can see whether it's love or love bombing if you take some space in the relationship and just say well, let's take a pause here. Do they freak out and get either angry or totally separate? Those are the indications that it's not healthy.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:13:42

That's where those healthy boundaries come in where we start to see what we're now recognizing more culturally as those red flags or those icky creepy feelings that start to surface and start to arise within us. It's interesting to look again how we're kind of culturally programmed through a song, through movies, you know, the romantic comedy of what romance is. You know, what is love? What is our genuine affection? And we're fed a lot of programming that in and of itself is entirely narcissistic programmed by and large to engaging these behaviors and normalize them and see them as the usual, right? It's no wonder we can start to very easily on either end of that spectrum whether you're slipping into narcissistic abuse or whether you're slipping into patterns in those trauma box. Because by and large we don't initially learn the constructs of emotional intelligence, emotional competency and how to effectively engage and interact with our emotions, right?

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:15:00

Or to have productive conflict. We don't know how to have productive conflict and take care of ourselves within a conflict. It becomes just a shouting match and abuse fest and then a makeup and it's just so unhealthy. So a lot of people do get caught in those cycles and over time again they get devalued. And then they're devaluing themselves so much that they become just the placator because their whole focus is on that narcissist moods, emotions, their perceptions, their thoughts, their feelings. A lot of times when people come out of a relationship like this survivors typically feel very empty and very alone. And that's part of the trauma bond too. And that's why they so often go back into that relationship is because they're just emptied out. And so it's extremely important. The last part of my book I talk about rebuilding recovery rebuilding your sense of self, rebuilding your sense of connectedness and rebuilding every aspect of your life from your thoughts, feelings, your dreams, your aspirations.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:16:11

Everything that's starting to kind of look at that reversed engineering aspect of rebuilding from any kind of conflict or turmoil within your life. We've jumped well ahead here in our conversation and that's great because sometimes most times life is not that linear. Where it's X-Y-Z. Things happen. There's like uncertainty. There's ratios. Do we always experience things in such a linear path. Perhaps, perhaps not.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:16:44

And I think part of why I wanted to jump in there is because people do end up sort of going, oh my gosh, I don't like this relationship. And they get out, but then they jump right back in because they're so empty and so bankrupt. And so I want to normalize that feeling that there is this real emptiness. And part of what's really important too is that we recognize the two aspects of our brain and we have this cognitive rational center or higher cortex and we also have this amygdala that's just flight, freeze and that's it. And that part of us is trauma bonded to the person and that's the weird part. So we can't go with our gut, go with your feelings, go with your emotions. No, you have to stop doing that. You have to look at just the.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:17:35

Facts that in of itself at times discounts the fact or the scientific evidence that says there's a certain part of our central nervous system that doesn't engage logic, it simply acts on the pattern.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:17:50

Right?

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:17:50

You have polyvagal response is simply an unconscious pattern. Then it's just signaling to the brain, here's data. Now it's your job, you are the department of logic. I've done my job of signaling the need. Now your job is to sort that out and form a value and meaning, right? We're holistic beings going through a somatic experience, yet at times might we get caught up in dissecting it's one pattern or the other. We become very linear in our response and say, well, your heart's doing this. It's all up to your heart, it's all up to your brain. We start to scapegoat in a lot of the aspects in that regard. We say, well, the heart let me down, the brain let me down. Well, where are we becoming disintegrated in our holistic being? Because ultimately all of those processes have that aspect of meaning that in and of itself becomes a downfall of our humanness because we start to label it and become very subjective about how we manage and cope with things.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:18:55

Right? What I was referring to mostly is that when that amygdala is firing off, whether that's a fight, flight or freeze mode, that it takes our higher functioning offline. So if you think it was created for our own good, it gives us that rush of adrenaline to run away from a lion that's charging us. But it's not a lion. It's our own self that are kind of feeding that amygdala with, I have to have this person, I have to be in relationship with them. And when you look at it from a logical place and when you take the facts and reason them through, then you can use your wise mind and say, okay, I realized that I'm still emotionally attached to this person. But it's not healthy. And I'm going to get out, and I'm going to walk myself through this even though my little Amygdala is going to freak out on me. It's going to want me to run screaming back into that relationship but I'm not going to let it because I know this is unhealthy and I'm going to walk through it. So that's what I was talking about. And that's part of how we break the trauma bond is to use that rational center and just the facts to walk through the decision that we made.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:20:03

We're finding that balance between that gut instinct or intuition. You have two separate processes that I think sometimes even we blur the line in. We say gut instinct but we're blaming it on, you know, or not blaming it. We're equating it, equating it to intuition. Well, which action is happening and are they both happening? Some of that intuition is brain. Some of that intuition is gut. Some of that intuition is the racing in the heart. Some of that intuition is that internal autonomic response of the vagus nerve triggering your autonomic system and your central nervous system. Those tingles on your arm. We forget by and large that we are this holistic system of operation a lot of times becomes very anxiety ridden a lot of times in and of itself because now, oh shit, I'm going to interject the oh shit today. Because that's the response we have is I feel like I have enough to deal with now. I'm trying to figure out which part of me is talking. Bringing that back into balance allows some of that uncertainty I feel to step back in. We have to come to that moment of clarity to say, yeah, there are certain things where we're uncertain and until we figure it out we just embrace it.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:21:21

Right? Yeah. And that final integration is really a good feeling. To know that I've got my wise mind on board. I'm taking all the facts into play. I'm not just reacting to that little Amygdala and I'm not just reacting to my old trauma bond but I'm actually walking through this as a survivor now. And that's where a victim becomes a survivor is when they decide to stop and take stock, really look at the reality of the relationship and then walk it through.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:21:54

So let's take that back. Again. We're kind of ebbing and flowing with this conversation.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:22:01

We are all over the place taking.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:22:03

That back and if we have to, we'll reorganize it there. Again, I'm stepping into a new territory with this one where I'm a little bit all over the place. I'm trying to cover a lot of ground so if I go off path it will ultimately have faith in me, come back around, have faith in our team.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:22:24

Absolutely.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:22:26

So let's wheel back a little bit. If I find myself straying, I'm trying to find myself the pattern to say let's reel it back because we often can do that in life. We often can rush ahead. We can often catch onto a wind of something that brings us into a different awareness. So bringing my awareness back, let's look at those pattern behaviors that are the toxic behaviors. Let's lean into how do we understand or what are those patterns that start the surface, the gas lighting and all of that.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:22:59

Okay, so we talked a little bit about love bombing and that can involve mirroring and all kinds of behaviors in that realm. But basically they're kind of bowling you over to sort of tear down your own defenses and your own creepo meter and kind to bowling you over there's.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:23:21

Dangling that carrot out there, if you may, that increasing value follow along, right?

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:23:28

And then typically there's a lot of isolation. So they're going to separate you off from the people that you care about and that you go to for connection and reality testing. Then in addition, they do some gas lighting which is, no, I didn't do that or I didn't say that or what are you talking about? That's crazy. Then they'll devalue you and basically make you feel like you are so lucky to have them love you because you're unlovable, but they love you. So it's this really twisted place where you start to feel like nobody else in the world is ever going to love you. And so you've got to stick with this toxic relationship. And at its very core a narcissist, I like to describe them as a hot air balloon so they don't have any internally solid sense of self. So when that emptiness has to have continuous hot air balloon into it to keep that facade alive and when that hot air is not coming in, when they're not getting enough adoration or attention or praise or whatever, then it's not blowing up. Then it implodes and then it explodes. And so that's where the narcissistic collapse comes from that they don't have that internal sense of self like you and I can walk through the world and feel good about ourselves. And if somebody is negative or life goes in a rough direction, we know how to take care of that. Whereas a narcissist has to have that constant hot air or they implode. So they don't have a sense of empathy. They have a complete selfish sense of need and it's an insatiable need for that adoration attention and praise and puffing them up. So you can see that in somebody, a person who feels good about themselves doesn't have to boast about it. They don't have to have a lot of attention, they don't have to be the center. So you can see those toxic behaviors right off the bat when you notice somebody and how they interact with others. In addition, they have no empathy. So you can see that when they laugh at other people's pain or when they make fun of somebody who you should be empathic towards and they have a lack of compassion. So those are some of the primary things that you're going to see with someone with narcissistic traits.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:25:55

In a lot of regards, I'm not sure how familiar you are with Tall Poppy Syndrome. It's basically that experience where when that self confidence is lacking, we seek to cut others down.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:26:07

Right.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:26:08

There's a lot of mirrored aspects of those behaviors, a lot of the shared same toxicity in the way those behaviors are engaged. In that way we can kind of relate to how we each start to, without moving to the more malignant experiences of narcissism, be narcissistic. How do we subconsciously and subversively cut others down in a narcissistic manner?

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:26:35

I think that's really important to recognize that people who have this sort of narcissistic set of traits do tend to feel really at a very poor sense, inadequate, and have a poor sense of self that is rooted in others praising them, others noticing them, and others feeding them constantly. So if you are an empathic person, you're kind of perfectly set up to be that seed supply because you think that it's part of your job in the world to care about and puff up and help others and helping others is lovely and compassionate and all that. But when you're puffing up a narcissist, like I said, there's no end to the need and you are going to be cut down. You're going to be the popular that's cut down. I get it.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:27:28

When I stumbled on that, that was such a great revelation.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:27:31

It is.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:27:32

I got that experience to connect with that theory. There's a lot of ways we do that and sometimes that is a healthy function. If we're the gardener helping the poppy grow, if we're engaging in that constructive, mutual, loving feedback, that gray line happens when we move into that kind of more egoic state of narcissism and say, now I'm doing it for a self serving regard, now I'm doing it to puff up. Now I'm doing it to kind of bring you down to this level of lack of self worth I'm feeling.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:28:06

Yeah. Yeah. And when somebody does that, intentionally hurting other people in order to make themselves feel better, that is a raging red flag and that should be something super concerning. And a lot of times it's very subtle when you're first getting to know somebody, but you can notice it in their interactions with others and you have to listen to that and not to their words because they will say, I'm the most compassionate person in the room. I'm the most loving person you'll ever meet, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You have to watch their actions and not listen to their words.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:28:43

What pattern of love might we have learned then steps in? Because I feel, as we can so often observe through our experiences, we all have our pattern of upbringing, yet there are times where we have our more dysfunctional patterns. Even in what we would deem the most normal and healthy of environments, the most normal and healthy of upbringings, mirroring back to what we even learn about love. There's that slippery slope of gray where we're told you should encourage the person, you should gush upon them, tell them how much you cherish and love them. That can be kind of confusing, I feel, at times, where you say, but he is just trying to reinforce how much he loves and cares about me. That kind of logic calling into play.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:29:32

Yeah, and it is very confusing. And we are pretty well doomed to reenact our family relationships until we sort them out and figure them out and change them because that's our patterning from day one. So we watch the interactions between our parents and between our parents and their siblings and we have our interactions between our siblings. And so all of that is a soup of stuff that we have to sort through and decide what we want to keep and what our values line up with and what our values don't line up with. So recognizing that, yes, we want to be loving and supportive of our partner, but if that's a one way street and a non stop, endless bankrupting supply chain go in the wrong direction all the time and they do nothing but devalue you, then you have to stop and say, wait a minute. This is a really toxic relationship for.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:30:29

Me, looking at how we start to step in to that personal alignment that becomes self sabotaging behaviors where we're feeding back to that ego nature of the narcissist. How do we start to then recognize what some of those behaviors are for ourselves so we can start to take back that empowerment and move toward future growth and change?

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:30:54

Great question. I'd call them the three P's the people pleasing, placating and peacekeeping. And typically we were that in our early lives, in our families. And so we gained some sense of a sense of self and sense of value in doing those kinds of things and then we bring those into our relationships. Now, those are great qualities if they're shared with empathic, compassionate, loving people and they're terrible qualities. They set us up for bankruptcy if we share those with narcissists because it's a perfect alignment where they're self centered, where other centers, where they're needing you to placate them and you're placating them. So it lines up into a tragic mess of you giving, giving and getting yourself completely depleted before you realize what you're doing. And it is very self sabotaging, as you said, because we are undermining our own sense of self, our own boundaries, our own needs for our feelings, our wants, our thoughts to be respected in the relationship. Our dreams don't exist, our feelings don't exist, our thoughts don't exist. We start to not exist in that relationship. And we are continually placating, peacekeeping and people pleasing so that person doesn't even maybe know how unhappy we are until we stop doing all. Those three things. Just shut it down and then start setting boundaries, start being more assertive, start being brutally honest. Because one of the maybe embarrassing aspects of this is that we're not being honest. We'll say, oh yeah, everything's great and it's not at all. All of that people pleasing is actually dishonest. Oftentimes people are directly lying about where they went because they don't want the person to be upset. Well, if you're going to change this relationship, you have to be absolutely, brutally honest and then see what happens. If they escalate, then you know that the relationship is not worth saving. But if they say, well, you didn't tell me that, I can respect that, then the relationship may be salvageable. When we get into those self sabotaging patterns, we don't even know where that ends and the other person begins because it's so enmeshed.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:33:12

No, we're taught that it even ends and begins. Yet we are all interconnected. We're all made of the same energy, the same stuff. And I'm slowly starting to unravel this idea of selflessness that even in and of itself at times of self, because we're constantly unconsciously mirroring everything to a self. We form that very idea of separation. There has to be a healthy boundary. Yet we are still recognizing our sameness, that state of equanimity where we are lovingly respectful of our interconnectedness.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:33:49

Right? And that really requires that we do rebuild that sense of self from the inside out that we repair and rebuild. And that can be really that's a huge journey in and of itself. You have to do a lot of journaling in and of itself because we're.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:34:06

Coming back to the self.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:34:07

Yeah.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:34:11

That'S where I've kind of bumped into it slightly like everything we used to describe it is about the self. There's a certain level of narcissism in it. Would you not agree in some regards?

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:34:23

Actually, no, because that's where the word narcissism, I think, takes a left turn. If we think of narcissism in its clinical terms where it's lack of empathy, lack of compassion and like I said, that emptiness inside, then it doesn't mean self esteem at all. In fact, it's the opposite. So a healthy sense of self is grounded in what my character qualities are and my values are. And I know when I know those things, I don't have to project out into the world, I don't have to be the center of attention. I don't need anybody else to say, yes, that's you, or no, that's not you, or whatever. I am a solid sense of self and I go out into the world and share and connect with others who are also a solid sense of self. Whereas a narcissist is that empty shell. And so when we have a confidence, it's something that is from the light inside and it exudes outward and we carry that into the world. Whereas that narcissist is that emptiness that needs constant filling. So it's very, very different is that.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:35:33

Light I'm finding myself thank you for bringing that today because I just found myself in this corner. I'm saying the corner is there because I want to look at this aspect. Does that light truly originate inside of us? Or is that more the filtering through of all of the energy of the universe? Does that notion there again, we start to own that and kind of a selfish manner and say, but it's my light. We're sharing it with everybody else, right? We're all coming from the same source in some regards. No matter where we deconstruct that from a spiritual perspective, the religious aspect, a conceptual aspect, we're all trying to kind of find that same source in most regards.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:36:15

Yeah, I think that is a universal need and want. And this is where the spiritual aspect does come in. That if we were a spark of God and that spark is similar to every spark, and I think most religions kind of acknowledge that on some level, the light inside you recognizes the light in me and all that. So, yes, that spark can be spirit or God or all of that. And so I think each person needs to explore their spiritual journey so they really understand what that is. And it is universal. And that's why it's not something that you boast about. It's just something that you recognize is who you are. As opposed to what we get taught in our culture, which is my hair and my nails and my skinniness and who's hanging on my arm are who I am or my job is who I am or my bank account is who I am. So there's so much garbage in the world about who we are. And if we can whittle it down to our actual character qualities that light inside and our values, then we can feel good about who we are and what we have to offer the world. Whereas all the rest of it is just emptiness and depression.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:37:40

I feel so often we run perhaps from that notion of emptiness, as if we constantly have to fill some kind of value. I'm just going to throw that out there kind of wildly today. I don't know where it went, but this is how my mind or the filter or the thoughts I don't even think it's my mind half the time. I think it's tapping into whatever conscious awareness is. Sometimes things come to me that can be egoic, that might be somewhat narcissistic in its own view of it. I can't always explain I don't think any of us can often explain where some of these random thoughts come from. There has to be some acknowledgment that says there's a certain emptiness in that that just simply occupies us. Yet we run from that ability to be empty.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:38:30

Right? And that's a really important piece, too, in recovery, that we have to get comfortable just being quiet, being still forest bathing, nature bathing. We have too much input these days and becoming a human being instead of a human doing. We tend to just be so busy and so hectic and just sitting in our stillness and recognizing the world as it is and especially getting it back in nature. I think it's extremely important for our recovery.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:39:04

It's such a great aspect to bring because we just released an episode on Earthy and Grounding.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:39:11

Oh, nice. I love that.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:39:14

When we get out of our way, sometimes we just see where that serendipitous opportunity steps in, right where you and I and everyone we experience are when we're effectively aligned. I'll say effectively aligned in a more holistic manner, a more embodied manner. Maybe we start to see where that natural light and interconnectedness just kind of flows through everything. The relevance is completely in this frame of reference in the moment because we just interacted with that. It's not to say I'm owning this now. It's just simply acknowledging how information flows through everything. It's amazing because I often wonder how I lock upon that. Not that I'm saying I made this happen as a result of me being here. I'm just a conduit. Maybe it flowed through it, found its way. It's a real life left turns lately. I'm following the left turns lately because I feel those are ultimately just opening the door and allowing things to filter through. So reeling this back again because I'm in tangent mode today. I find this happening when I'm getting ready to step into what I would deem some of my own greater growth. The ideas, the things, they start to become a little bit more expansive in and of how they're being engaged, how they're being experienced, how they're arriving. I'm not sure how this makes sense yet. And I love it. I love it because when you're aware to it, you say something's about to happen and it's going to be good. It's going to have a value and a significance of meaning. Rather than say, oh shit, I'm anxious about this. Oh shit, I'm going to run from it. Oh shit, I'm emptying out all the other stuff so I can make room for this yummy scrumptious. Goody stuff. I'm going to pop it up today. I'm going to inflate it. Because there is an upside to narcissism, to narcissistic behaviors in that regard. From what I'm gathering through those interactions with listening to Keith Campbell that says in that spectrum, a certain element of narcissistic engagement is beneficial to the point where it starts to then step on someone else and become adverse. That fine grained line that says, now I'm smothering your light inside. Okay, so I know that was really helped. Let's see, where have I stepped off today? I'm going to ask you if you would please show me some grace today. Help me reel this back in because I'm way off path. I have faith and trust in you. I hope I have it totally eroded your faith and trust in me today?

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:42:08

Not at all. This has been really fun and enlightening. I think that it often does feel like things are choreographed from above. And I think it's really important to again find that piece and that inner peace as we recover. And I think we sometimes stray into two different words. So narcissism in sort of the cultural sense. Sometimes people are just talking about high self esteem. And I don't see it that way because I'm a therapist. And so I see it as that list of nine qualities that are not healthy, not good, not positive on any level. So when somebody talks about how there's a certain amount of narcissism that's needed, that just doesn't compute for me. It kind of makes my brain short circuit a little bit. But just because I think that what they're trying to talk about is a high sense of self esteem, which I think is absolutely true, that we need to know who we are and what we're about and how we want to be in the world. And that's high self esteem. But it's not narcissism.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:43:16

In my book, again, it's great that we can all approach this from different aspects, different angles, because sometimes when we allow that plank to form in our own eye, we don't get a variety of aspects. I am very guilty of it a lot of times because I tend to be so sure in a lot of my assumptions. I tend to be when you start to realize that about yourself, then you can also say, wait a minute, where is my blind spot? Where am I sticking the needle in my own eye so I can't see something else?

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:43:50

Yeah.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:43:51

So I'm grateful to see that. You also can say let's differentiate, too, because sometimes those gray lines do overstep in a way that becomes limiting in and of themselves.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:44:03

Right? Yeah. Like where we started, which is there is a lot of confusion. And then people labeling people narcissistic when maybe they've just had a disagreement. I know of people in some of my clients who have their adult children completely cut them off for some minor conflict. And they said that a therapist told them to go no contact with them because they were narcissists. And I'm like, wow, that's really harsh. When I would wish the therapist would teach them to be assertive, teach them to set healthy boundaries, teach them to express themselves and what they're unhappy about in the relationship so they can sort things out and not use a buzzword and then cut them off.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:44:50

Yeah. I think from that regard and I'm just going to step up to the line today, I think from that clinical aspect. How would you view that? As maybe surfacing, as just in and of itself, its own emotionally avoidant behavior.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:45:05

Right. And it can reinforce somebody just being avoidant, and it can reinforce somebody not owning their boundaries, and sadly, they're not learning how to do relationships at all, because how we do relationships with our family tends to be how we do relationships in our lives. And so if we don't work out those issues with our parents or our adult kids or whoever is closest to us, we're not going to be very good at any relationships in our lives. We're not going to be able to speak our truth, stand our ground, hold our boundaries with anybody, because we've just never learned to do it. So we shy away. We just cut people off instead of talking to them. And so often, we're just sinking our own ship. And that's really sad.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:45:54

I want to thank you today for that, because that's such a critical point in this discussion of that yin and yang, that kind of yes. And this of where our red flags and healthy boundaries serve our value and best interest, and where we just start to avoid and say, I'm going to cut this off. I think at times we slip down that slope also where we say, as a result of this past judgment pattern, I'm just automatically going to discount things. I'm going to automatically approach every relationship from that angle that also can become its own downfall.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:46:31

And typically, part of what's happening is that we're getting too emotionally drawn along so that any kind of conflict, we're just jumping right into the circus. And so I teach people a lot how to emotionally separate from the circus and watch the circus go by. And when you can emotionally separate from somebody's behaviors, then you can see them more clearly, and you can stay whole and solid within yourself, and then you can make really healthy decisions again from your higher cortex and from your wise mind instead of from that reactive amygdala. But when we're constantly in fight, flight, or freeze mode because we're constantly jumping into that circus anytime there's any kind of drama, then we just can't see anything clearly. So emotionally separating really helps a person to notice what they really feel, what they really think, what they really want and need in that relationship, and then to express it and then see what happens. Because people say all the time, boundaries don't work. Well, they totally work. They either work because the person learns and respects your boundaries, and you learn and respect your own boundaries first, and then they respect them, or they escalate, and they get worse, and you go, okay, got the information. I'm out. So the boundary worked because it helped you suss out what was salvageable and what wasn't.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:47:57

I got to run with this one. Today circuses can be fun. Our emotional interactions can be enjoyable, yet we very often automatically get fearful of the clowns. Sometimes we're stepping into the elephant due. We're walking through the arena of life, and we automatically start to only see that and automatically step into it. We sometimes throw ourselves into it.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:48:29

All right.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:48:31

I wouldn't say aspect of drama, that aspect of richness, of our emotions.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:48:37

Sure.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:48:38

Even when we're in some of the throes of our more displeasurable interactions, our more uncomfortable interactions, do we see the innate, inherent value of either side of the coin? Can we also enjoy and embrace that aspect of I did have an adverse feeling about this. I was anxious about it, but it did signal that red flag, so I can learn.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:49:07

Right.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:49:07

Or it did signal where I became emotionally closed off and unavailable to others as a result, maybe of this narcissistic behavior, of this narcissistic, toxic pattern of relationship. On the other side of that, sometimes we limit ourselves once we separate it, find that emptiness and rebuild.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:49:29

Right. And so it's really important to be able to one of my professors in grad school used to always talk about the conscious use of self. And so we're not unconscious and we're not reactive. We're responsive. When we can emotionally step back from that circus, not be in the monkey cage going crazy and all of that.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:49:52

We can separate what monkeys do at the zoo. A lot of times it's not pleasant. They're leaving things around at each other. They're all worked up, they're interacting. And a lot of times it seems very chaotic.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:50:05

And it's fun to watch if you.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:50:07

Step back, it's fun to watch up to the point where we don't move into that masochism of finding joy in the parish and peril of others. Because in and of itself, might that be a mirrored aspect of narcissism? I'll say a mirrored aspect.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:50:26

Well, I think it's really just critical to be able to use that self consciously. So when you can consciously step back and go, okay, this is getting really chaotic. Oh, watch that person's lying again. And that person is gaslighting that person. And this is like if you watch in family dynamics or in this relationship that you're sucked into, if you can emotionally separate and watch and notice, then you can learn what's really going on and you can feed that rational mind and not be in that reactive, trauma, bonded mind. So when you can do that, then you have the ability to say, okay, that's not for me, or here's where I'm getting triggered and getting involved in that. And I can step back from that and really understand it better and not get just sucked in and drawn along and off we go again on another roller coaster ride.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:51:26

Therein maybe lies that aspect of assumption or discernment both sides of the coin. Being able to flip that coin becomes emotional competency and emotional intelligence.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:51:42

Yeah.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:51:42

Is that truly the drive of emotion that's often serving as the base of that?

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:51:49

Well, I love that word discernment because that's exactly right. That is the question. That is the word that we want to really enhance in our lives, that we want to have good discernment. And we want to be in that ability to respond rather than react. And that's the whole key right there. Then we can make conscious choices and we're not just being dragged along. We can say to ourselves, I'm going to set boundaries and I'm going to clearly say that. And then we catch ourselves peacekeeping again or placating again and then go, wait a minute, time out. I told myself I was going to be honest and direct and this is what I'm going to do right now. So it's that ability to be emotionally separate even if we're still in the relationship, emotionally separate enough. Not separate separate, but emotionally separate enough that I can take care of me and I can know who I am and what I'm about, what my thoughts, feelings, needs and wants are.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:52:46

I'm grateful. I kind of stumbled on to that understanding of discernment growing up. I feel generationally we were taught judgment, use your best judgment. Well, does judgment not come kind of preloaded eradicated by some level of assumption? That's kind of a stepping out there. But when we start to differentiate how we might be relating and saying yes, I can now also say there's a certain level of me guessing and making an assumption rather than just being present and saying, let me truly experience this interaction.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:53:29

Right. Yeah. And being able to discern rather than judge is totally different because again, it's what do I see? What do I want, need, feel, think? And what am I about? What are my values and how do they line up with this person and how they're treating me right now? And discerning, that is really crucial. Whereas judging that is like you said, it's kind of pre loaded.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:53:56

I pre loaded that myself and I just realized how I stepped into it. There are times, though, I feel, when that judgment is essential. If your partner and I'll say your partner, so we don't load it with a gender bias of its own. When your partner is about to be abusive, if they're about to strike you, if they're about to emotionally affront you, sometimes that judgment is the saving grace that says autonomically, I need to be aware of my own survival in this moment.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:54:24

Right.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:54:25

You don't throw yourself in front of that bus that's going to be that emotional or that physical at the worst contact, that physical use. So we're trying to find that dance of equanimity there within ourselves of where do we align these values?

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:54:43

Well, absolutely. And those ultimate boundaries of physical safety are absolutely pinnacle. And you have to recognize inside of yourself that ultimate boundary and that you are willing to pull that boundary trigger of I will call the police if there is any physical violence and I will end this relationship for good. Because I think if someone is willing to go to that extent to hurt you, to put you back in line, to manipulate and control you and they have no compunctions about physically going at you to make that happen. There are no conversations left in that regard.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:55:24

We're always hopefully erroring toward our best benefit and say, if I have the slightest inkling that I am in harm's way here, let's value and worth ourselves enough that we pick up the phone. And that's not the shame.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:55:40

Right.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:55:41

We leverage that in a way that empowers, that says, I believe in you, to step in and say error on the side of benefits rather than adversity.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:55:51

Well, therein lies the thing that we've been talking about, is to have our discernment on board so many people, when we go into an abusive situation or when we're in an abusive situation, that placating and peacekeeping comes naturally because we're so scared of the outcome. And if we're preventing that violence by placating and peacekeeping, then we're basically in a freeze mode. And we have to take ourselves up into our higher cortex and say, wait a minute. Rationally, I can't be in this relationship any longer. I have to stop this. And so that's where that discernment comes in. And that responding instead of reacting. Because once you're in that violent situation, calling the police is actually really hard because you're frozen. And our autonomic nervous system is not a joke. When we're in frozen mode, I don't know if you've ever been there, but it's pretty darn awful and it's pretty darn automatic and you can't get out of it. It's really hard. So that's why we have to go through the steps of rebuilding our sense of self, our sense of connectedness, our sense of being able to be emotionally separate so that we can take care of ourselves within any situation.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:57:08

I think more times than not, I find myself in denial about when I might be in that frozen mood because I do try to build up that sense of, yes, I don't have that fear. There's a kind of underworking there that I don't want to acknowledge it when it happens.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:57:26

Yeah.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:57:29

In that regard, looking back at the flight or freeze, in that case, is flight for the moment our best result? Just get the hell out of there and sort it out later.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:57:41

Right. For sure.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:57:43

In that worst case scenario, I'll say worst case scenario for lack of better awareness of it today.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:57:50

Right.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:57:51

Are you erring on harm's way or are you erring on safety?

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:57:55

Right. Yeah. And we have to recognize that when in harm's way, our bodies do take over and we might fight, we might flight, we might freeze, and we have to forgive ourselves for whatever we did in that moment because we did the best we could in that moment. And yes, we would like to do the fight or we would like to have done the flight, but sometimes we freeze. And that's what it is. And so we have to recognize that forgiving ourselves, for all of it. Is really important too because a lot of times people then get into this I was so stupid mode and that's so toxic, the shame and the blame and that is just terrible. There are so many very intelligent people who have been in long term toxic relationships and had a really hard time getting out. So we need to normalize it and recognize it and not shame and blame anybody for whatever they chose or automatically did in those moments. And freeing ourselves from that internal resentment is super important. We've got to let that go and move forward and let ourselves know that we did the best we could at the time.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 00:59:12

Sometimes that blame mode surfaces as I should have known better or I should have done differently, right? That can be not just slippery slope of slippery slope. I'm going to that today for my default. It can become very toxic in our behavior in and of itself. Where we get into that cycle, we get into that cycle, we start to adapt it and kind of hide in it. We've not even talked about how that fog starts to develop.

 

Shannon Petrovich 00:59:48

Right? Yeah, the fog, the fear, obligation and guilt is developed over the time that we've talked about with the love bombing and devaluing and gaslighting and all of it. And you really do feel like you're in a fog and I'm a sailor. That analogy came really naturally to me because being in the fog is really terrifying. You really don't know which way is up, down, sideways, you can't see anything and it's absolutely terrifying. And you have to rely on your radar and that's really scary because it's just some green lines on a screen. It doesn't seem like you can rely on that. But those are the facts. And so to take that analogy forward, we have to rely on those facts and that factual brain to walk through getting ourselves out of that situation. But the emotions will come later. We have to take care of the emotions later. But in that reactive mode we can't make those good choices. We have to rely on those facts.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 01:00:54

Let's go back and look at connecting that idea of how gas lighting starts to lead to that sense of confusion and chaos that becomes that mental and emotional fog.

 

Shannon Petrovich 01:01:09

Yes, the gas lighting is a big part of it, but like I said, it's kind of combined with isolation and separation from others and devaluing of others in your life. And so the gas lighting literally makes you feel crazy and makes you feel like your reality doesn't matter, isn't important and isn't true. So that you have no sense of grounding, no sense of what's up, down, sideways. And so that fog is so impermeable you can't see clearly anything in your life. And so when you're lost in that, it can be really deceptive and you can get yourself really confused. And so a lot of people get frustrated with somebody in their lives who is in a toxic relationship and can't see their way out. But I would ask you to be compassionate because it is so disorienting. And when that person is trauma bonded to that abuser, it's extremely hard to see clearly. But what you can do is help them with that radar reality, with that. These are the facts. And so you can walk through if you're coaching somebody, you can walk through. What are the facts? Share with me all the facts of this relationship. What kinds of things have concerned you in the past? What kinds of things bother you? And list them out, journal them out so that the person can have that as their green lines on the screen that they can use to get out from under that fog because it's so all encompassing and it socks you in where you just can't see out.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 01:02:50

What pivotal role and I feel from your perspective in mind, both that the pivotal role of maybe differentiating that sense of concern for this partner. We have that emotional attachment bond and we're concerned with figuring out the partner. We're concerned with fixing them, helping them, guiding them, even though we're in that fog of uncertainty. Yeah.

 

Shannon Petrovich 01:03:13

And it's really important not to focus out on them. So a lot of people really well, I mean, they've trained you to focus on their needs, their wants, their thoughts, their feelings, their every mood and every desire that you have to continually placate them or they implode explode like we've talked about. So it's really important that the person start to learn to notice their own self, their own feelings, thoughts, needs, wants, dreams, aspirations. And that when you keep focusing back on them, you'll find them continually trying to focus out on the other person and wanting to figure out the narcissist and wanting to diagnose them or help them or fix them. And you have to keep focusing them back in on themselves because the only solution is to rebuild a sense of self, rebuild a sense of being able to set boundaries and emotionally separate from the chaos and then deciding whether this is a salvageable relationship or not.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 01:04:14

I think that kind of helped us salvage in some regards the direction I took this off course today. So thank you for bringing us back, Shannon. Like I said, I am prone, and I can acknowledge it myself, to float off into these big picture tangents.

 

Shannon Petrovich 01:04:34

I think it's great. I've had a blast. This has been really fun.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 01:04:38

Don't even do that in that regard. Have we missed anything? Especially looking at that idea of rebirth and rebuilding? I think we may have kind of shortcut that a little bit.

 

Shannon Petrovich 01:04:52

So that is such a big piece. And it's a lifelong rebuilding because the trauma of being in a toxic relationship, it lasts. And unfortunately, we kind of reverberate back to it at times. So it's really important to recognize and spend. Time rebuilding. So rebuilding a sense of self is the beginning. And you look at, again, the character qualities and the values that you have and rebuilding those and then rebuilding your connectedness, because this person has likely isolated you and you've engaged in that isolation. So connecting with the people that you used to be close to or creating new connections. I'm a big proponent of encouraging people to volunteer, find something that you're passionate about and volunteer because you'll find other empathic, compassionate people volunteering. And so you can rebuild because sometimes people have not only been disconnected from others, but their tribe kind of aligns with the narcissist and says they're crazy. And you lose not only that relationship, but all of your friends. And if that's the case, and they did align with that person, you have to just let go and move forward. And that's difficult. So rebuilding your connections is next. And then rebuilding all aspects of your life. What are your thoughts and feelings? You need to journal and talk to people who are compassionate, empathic and helpful in that process. What are your dreams and aspirations that you let go of during that time? And what do you want your life to look like in the future? Because you're the director, the casting director, the primary actor, and everything else in your own script, so you get to create that from the ground up.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 01:06:44

I think that ties so wonderfully back into where the whole notion and idea of Gaslighting came from, from that 1944 film gas Lighting. Main character ultimately trying to convince his wife that she's going insane by dimming the gas lights in her home ever so slowly, while convincing her the darkening house was all in her imagination, slowly choking out that light she had inside.

 

Shannon Petrovich 01:07:16

Exactly. Yeah. So these are behaviors that have been going on a very long time. I think we've only in the past number of years, started to label them narcissism. And I think that can be helpful as long as it doesn't sidetrack into what's not helpful or, you know, labeling and discarding or like I said, sometimes an abuser will label their partner narcissist, which is such a massive gaslighting, to try to flip the tables and say that they were being abused and they are the victim. I did a recent video on the martyr narcissist, the person that attacks from a victim place. And that can be really crazy making.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 01:08:02

I think that's a whole nother episode conversation. We really didn't touch upon that in our conversation. We kind of reverse engineered a little bit in kind of establishing these different levels of the segmented nature of narcissism, that spectrum nature of narcissism from the malignant to all of the others.

 

Shannon Petrovich 01:08:26

Right? Yeah. And this is true of all diagnostic labels, which are just labels, but everything in the personality disorder spectrum, it ranges from mild to moderate to severe. In the severe range, we would see the violence and the abuse and the complete lack of respect for any rights and perspective from the victim. And in the milder, there might be a person who might even be able to make changes and make some insights, have some insights and make changes and maintain a relationship. In the moderate, you would have sort of in the middle of all that. But yes, there is a spectrum and people sometimes don't want to hear that because they want to, again, label and discard. But in the milder and more moderate part of the spectrum, there really can be changes made when you make boundaries.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 01:09:26

I am so grateful you brought that idea of diagnostic labeling into the forefront today. I think that's maybe an area we have yet to kind of engage and look into in this program. So often we've viewed that act of labeling as kind of a subjectively adverse action, rather than bringing that into the light of diagnostic labeling, moving us into alignment with that more beneficial discernment.

 

Shannon Petrovich 01:09:55

Right. And the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which is our sort of list of diagnoses that people can have. It's just like the Medical Diagnostic Manual, where this is a broken foot. And I know that because I see it on the X ray. And so it's just a description. It doesn't mean this is bad person, this is a good person. It's just a description. And so those narcissistic traits, those nine traits that they have to have at least five of, to a severe degree, overtime, et cetera, et cetera, that is the diagnostic criteria for that. But we can talk about narcissistic traits in our culture and see that that may be more helpful to look at it that way. But again, just not getting overly caught up in the diagnostics and not getting sort of overly brought up in that. But it's just a description of behaviors.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 01:10:59

Kind of bringing us back into alignment with that kind of yes and mindset of recognizing the sign symptoms and signposts of those behaviors, hopefully keeping us within a healthy boundary of not moving into toxic behaviors of ourselves or putting us in harm's way of the toxic behaviors of others.

 

Shannon Petrovich 01:11:23

Exactly. Yeah. Because we can err on both sides. We can get into being toxically labeling everybody and everything, which I think is terrible. And then we can also err on the other side, which is not recognizing toxic behaviors. And I think that there's a lot of that and that's why people get drawn into these relationships over time and have a hard time getting out.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 01:11:49

I think therein lines us with engaging some of those healthy notions of beneficial error and growth oriented failure, realizing where we might overstep our bounds a little bit so we can effectively correct course and move forward.

 

Shannon Petrovich 01:12:06

Absolutely. And oftentimes we find that when we get better at setting boundaries and having better discernment in our personal relationships, we're better at doing that at work. We can call things out at work in a stable, kind, caring, productive way. We don't have to kind of blow up and fall apart and all that kind of thing. So it's a healthy process to go through all the way around and encourage that growth.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 01:12:37

I want to thank you for encouraging our growth together today.

 

Shannon Petrovich 01:12:42

Well, thank you, Jeffrey.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 01:12:43

Such a lovely conversation, and I truly, truly am grateful that we got a chance to engage today.

 

Shannon Petrovich 01:12:50

Well, I am very grateful that you brought me on. It's been a wonderful, deep, weird, wacky conversation, and I've had a blessed has.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 01:12:58

Truly been that today. I am prone to that, and I go through cycles of it. And like I say, when I'm stepping into that, I'm typically bringing that circus into play and hopefully finding the joy at the end of it for enduring my circus today.

 

Shannon Petrovich 01:13:17

It's been a blast. I appreciate you taking me on.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 01:13:25

I truly, truly have learned so much from this conversation. Not just about narcissism, but also allowing me to kind of filter that through myself and realize how some of these behaviors come into play in my own lives. Thank you for that.

 

Shannon Petrovich 01:13:39

You're welcome. I think that that's so crucial. As coaches and practitioners, we all have to do our own work first. We can't lead people where we haven't been. We can't do that. And it is ongoing until the day we cough it up. So I think it's extremely important that we all humbly look inside and see what we need to clean out and keep working on it.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 01:14:06

Sometimes that junk drawer needs a good shaking. Hopefully, the chase falls out and we find that mana or bread of life.

 

Shannon Petrovich 01:14:17

Absolutely. That's wonderful.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 01:14:21

I truly, truly have loved this conversation and enjoyed our time together. Shannon me too.

 

Shannon Petrovich 01:14:26

Thanks, Jeffrey. Take care.

 

Jeffrey Besecker 01:14:27

Talk soon.

 

Shannon Petrovich 01:14:28

Okay. Bye.

Shannon Petrovich Profile Photo

Shannon Petrovich

LCSW, LISAC, BCD

Shannon earned her Bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College, and her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Connecticut. She completed her clinical licenses in Social Work and Substance Abuse Counseling in 1990, and became a Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work in 2016.

She has worked in inpatient, outpatient, and residential settings, and is currently in private practice.

Her other experiences include developing and being the Clinical Director for a long-term residential rehabilitation program for youth, being the Clinical Coordinator for a day school for emotionally and behaviorally disordered youth, and developing and being the Clinical Director of a therapeutic boarding school for teens with substance abuse and other mental health issues.

In addition she brings a lifelong love of horses and many years of training and experience in equine assisted psychotherapy.

“My parents were both very committed to their work and specifically to improving the lives of others. They have always inspired me to have a positive impact on some small part of the world. During graduate school, and the thirty five years since then, I’ve sought to learn and develop the insights, skills and strategies to best help others heal and transform their lives.”