What Is Parental Alienation Syndrome?

parental alienation syndrome

The controversial theory of parental alienation syndrome (PAS) was conceptualized in the 1980s by clinical psychologist Richard A. Gardener, who defined it as follows:

“The parental alienation syndrome is a childhood disorder that arises almost exclusively in the context of child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming or brainwashing parent’s indoctrination and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the target parent.”

The American Psychological Association rejects parental alienation syndrome as a legitimate diagnosis. It is not included in two important books that mental health professionals use to diagnose psychological issues. These books are the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) and the International Classification of Diseases, Eleventh Edition (ICD-11). Studies have shown that the theory behind this diagnosis is not true and it is not supported by science.

Why is Parental Alienation A Rejected Theory?

The American Bar Association published an article clearly stating, “there remains no test, no data, or any experiment to support claims made concerning PAS. Because of this lack of scientific credibility, many organizations—scientific, medical, and legal—continue to reject its use and acceptance.”

It included reports from the Presidential Task Force of the American Psychological Association on Violence in the Family, The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), The American Prosecutors’ Research Institute and the National District Attorney’s Association.

For several decades, parental alienation has repeated failed to stand the test of scientific scrutiny.

Child Withdrawal Is A Relationship Issue Not A Pathology

One of the reasons the theory of parental alienation syndrome is considered problematic is because it pathologizes children who have relational issues with a parent. Relationship breakdowns are not necessarily indicative of psychological disorders. In order words, withdrawing from a relationship with a parent may occur without any impairment of a child’s healthy psychological functioning. Moreover, mental health treatment is not always a prerequisite for resolving the issue of a child’s withdrawal from a parent.

As painful as the situation is, it can be helpful to develop an understand of the child’s perspective. Parent-child attachment specialist Dr. Michael Kinsey, explains, “If a child is forced to choose, they might choose the person that they feel they are most like or they’ll also choose the person who they feel is safer or who they feel is the more desirable one to follow. In the case of the kind of scenario you’re discussing, it’s really a matter of survival.” Being in the ‘in-group’ of the narcissist is so essential to survival.”

It can also help to read evidence-based research into the some of the reasons why some children withdraw from parents in high-conflict relationships.


Many people searching for answers to an excruciatingly painful question relate to the theory of parental alienation syndrome. It can resonate deeply with parents who are grieving the absence of a beloved child. However, attributing the child’s withdrawal to a discredited mental health construct will not solve the problem. Children do not have to be afflicted with cognitive, affective, or behavioral problems in order to distance themselves from a parent. There are many reasons why a perfectly healthy child might take such a painful decision that merit further exploration.


  • Gardner, Richard A. “Recent trends in divorce and custody litigation.” In Academy forum, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 3-7. 1985.
  • Thomas, R.M., Richardson, J.T. (2015, July 1) “Parental Alienation Syndrome: 30 Years On and Still Junk Science,” American Bar Association.
  • Vilalta, R., Winberg Nodal, M. “On The Myth of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and the DSM-5,” Psychologist Papers, 2017. Vol. 38(3), pp. 224-231.

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What Is A Crime of Passion?

What Is A Crime Of Passion? The Mental Health Defense In Criminal Law

CRIME OF PASSION is a legal concept that describes illegal acts driven by an extreme emotional response to provocation. Crimes of this nature are neither calculated nor are they premeditated.

The term crime of passion comes from the French crime passionnel. As a defense, it falls under the umbrella of temporary insanity. It is also known as the mental disorder defense as it is associated with impaired emotional regulation.

What Causes People To Commit Crimes of Passion?

People who commit crimes of passion are said to be driven by an instinct so strong that it eclipses their ability to reason. These type of crimes are thought of as an automatic reflection to an imminent threat.

The underlying motivation for most crimes of passion is self-defense. But they can also occur while protecting others.

A Legal Loophole For Batterers

Unfortunately, the crime of passion defense can create legal loopholes for perpetrators of domestic violence. It is particularly forgiving of criminals who are prone to micro-psychotic episodes, a feature of some personality disorders.

The legal system sometimes conflates egoistic micro-psychosis with the human survival instinct , when they are two separate things. The American Psychological Association defines micro-psychosis as, “psychotic episodes of very brief duration (minutes to hours) that occur during times of stress.”

Crimes of passion driven by excessive narcissism tend to be expressions of entitlement to exert control over another. The provocation for these crimes is usually non-compliance by the other person. But, they can also be brought on by warped ideas like, “If I can’t have you, no one can.”

There are marked differences between say, a parent committing an act of violence to protect their child and a person’s whose narcissism escalates to such an extreme that they kill their intimate partner to stop them leaving the relationship.

Research shows batterers heart rates drop during their violent outbursts. In other words, someone driven to commit violence acts due to their excessive narcissism would not not experiencing stress in the way that someone acting from a survival instinct would. A narcissistic person may not be experiencing any stress at all as their assertion of dominance would give them a sense of relief.

Crimes Of Passion In The Context of Gender-Based Violence

The crime of passion defense is often used to uphold the double standard applied to gender-based crimes.

Historically, the legal system objectified women. It held that women were chattel. Therefore they were the legal property of men, such as their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, and husbands. 

Men were free to do as they pleased with their property. For this reason, the law and society at large looked the other way in cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, and femicide because of the belief that women were objects and men were free to do as they pleased with their property.

Moreover, the rhetoric associated with the crime of passion defense invariably places responsibility for men’s violence on women. The ideology is manifest in phrases like:

  • (S)he was asking for it.
  • It takes two to tango 
  • (S)he made me do it.

The concept of women as property lives on in traditions in practice today. For example, a father giving away his daughter to the groom at her wedding represents the exchange of property from one man to another.

The lack of awareness about the realities of intimate partner violence lead to terrible injustices, as in the case of Ruth Williams, who was killed by her husband in 2021. He was found not guilty of her murder as he used the crime of passion defense and blamed the stress of the coronavirus pandemic for his aggression. Had the jurors understood


The crime of passion defense exists to safeguard person’s right to protect themselves and the others. However, it can be exploited by predatory individuals to escape being held to account for heinous crimes committed solely to feed their egos.

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Understanding Narcissistic Abuse Trauma And Its Impact

Narcissistic Abuse Trauma

NARCISSISTIC ABUSE TRAUMA can cause immense damage to the mental and emotional well-being of victim-survivors. People who have experienced narcissistic abuse frequently suffer from profound feelings of anxiety, depression, isolation, and worthlessness.

What is Narcissistic Abuse?

Narcissistic abuse is a harmful form of emotional regulation in which one person seeks to subjugate another through deception, manipulation, aggression, and exploitation.

What is Narcissistic Abuse Trauma?

Narcissistic abuse trauma is the erasure of a person’s sense of self through repeated boundary violations and coercion.

Some symptoms of narcissistic abuse trauma are:

  • Grief
  • Low self-esteem
  • Loss of self-trust
  • Rumination
  • Distorted self-image
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Withdrawal
  • Flashbacks
  • Hypervigilance
  • Panic attacks
  • Dissociation
  • Nightmares

The Emotional Pain of Narcissistic Abuse

Narcissistic people resolve deep-seated feelings of insecurity and doubt by projecting the qualities they dislike in themselves on to other people. They see the world through a binary lens of absolutes, so people and things are either good or bad with no space for plurality.

For this reason, narcissistic people is compelled to see themselves as all good. Therefore anything they deem bad must be externalized and projected on to an external object. For example, if a narcissistic person is caught cheating, they blame the partner for “making’ them cheat by not meeting their standards.

Narcissists use scapegoating as a defense tactic. The victim-survivor is objectified and made to shoulder the burden of the narcissistic person’s externalized self-loathing and are summarily punished. The more shame the narcissistic person feels, the more vicious and prolonged the penalty will be. They frequently use a defense tactic called D.A.R.V.O. (Deny, Attack, Reverse, Victim and Offender) to shift blame for their errors onto the victim-survivor.

Being punished for something they did not do is confusing and terrifying for victim-survivors. The narcissistic person’s erratic and cruel outbursts often leave their partner in a state of unrelenting anxiety that is often described as “walking on eggshells.” It is a paradigm that echoes throughout most narcissistic abuse stories.

How does it impact victim-survivors?

The chronic stress associated with narcissistic abuse trauma can lead to a host of adverse health outcomes for survivors of narcissistic abuse. The imminent dangers of exposure to pathological narcissism are seldom discussed. For this reason it is important to continue educating others about narcissistic abuse so that people understand that the violence in these relationships can cause lasting damage to the victim-survivor’s physical, behavioral, and psycho-emotional health as well as their financial stability.

Tips For Recovery

If you are experiencing narcissistic abuse trauma, here are some steps you can take toward recovery.

  • Reach out to a domestic violence hotline in you area.
  • Work with a domestic violence advocate to formulate a safety plan.
  • Seek support from a licensed mental health professional specialized in pathological narcissism.
  • Work on ways to end the narcissistic relationship while ensuring your safety.
  • Consider trauma recovery support for goal setting and accountability.

Breaking the silence on abuse with a psychologically safe person and growing in awareness are important steps in trauma recovery. Trauma recovery coaching excellent compliment to rebuilding your life after narcissistic abuse.

Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse.
In the USA call 1-800-799-7233 or log on to thehotline.org.
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5 Books on Trauma That Will Help You Heal

5 Books On Trauma That Will Help You Heal | Alice Nicole

Although a relatively small portion of the population (approximately 5%) are clinically diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder, cases of manipulative and destructive behavior have become more publicly recognized in the past few years. Michelle D. Roberts explains that narcissistic abuse differs from other forms of abuse in such a way that it is characterized by a pattern of manipulative behavior and intentional deception aimed at exploiting the victim. Gaslighting is also typical in narcissistic abuse making the victim question their self-worth and whether or not they deserve abusive behavior. However, it’s important to realize that there’s always a way forward from this type of abuse.

In this list, we discuss 5 books that can help narcissistic abuse victims get back on their feet.

Shame Unmasked: Disarming the Hidden Driver Behind Our Destructive Decisions

Shame Unmasked discusses what it calls the “hidden driver” behind destructive decisions – deep-seated feelings of shame. A self-identified reforming narcissist, Rick Patterson discusses how shame drives and fuels narcissism, racism, and the like. He speaks of how shame, especially when unaddressed, takes full control of our lives. Dr. Patterson also discusses in a previous piece the traits that narcissists look for in a partner, including neediness and vulnerability.

Although originally written to guide narcissists in realizing and acting upon their disorder, this book will also be helpful for victims to understand that the problem does not lie with them. Reassigning accountability for the experience will help the victim move forward.

Writing Into the Wound: Understanding Trauma, Truth, and Language

Writing Into the Wound delves into the necessity of facing trauma head-on by picking up the bits and pieces to make oneself whole again after a bout of extreme suffering. In the book, Roxane Gay masterfully tells us, “To change the world, we need to face what has become of it.” She stresses the importance of understanding the extent of trauma to open up ways to move on and move forward to better versions of ourselves.

Gay’s exploration of trauma is not meant for victims to punish themselves and wallow in misery, but to come out stronger and better through discovering extremely important life lessons and collective healing.

Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents

Narcissistic abuse can also occur between parents and children.  Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents explores the different dimensions of parent-children relationships, which can range from abandonment to outright violent abuse. Lindsay Gibson illustrates how children of emotionally immature parents grow up to be unsure of themselves (and their happiness) and are unable to independently navigate the world in front of them.

Unearthing one’s history of abuse may help them fully understand and place into context why they decide to put up with the situation, even for a prolonged time. Going through that process may unlock key links in breaking vicious cycles of abuse.

It Didn’t Start With You

Mark Wolynn’s book on deeply-ingrained emotional problems speaks in the same vein as Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents in discussing intergenerational family trauma. However, It Didn’t Start With You leans more on how family trauma is passed on from one generation to another, creating a cycle of anxiety, depression and other problems in familial relationships. Complementary to the traditional drugs, psychosocial therapy and other interventions, Wollyn delves deeper into family history to understand how heavy baggage is inherited from our ancestors, what to take away from it, and what to let go of.

Safe People: How to Find Relationships that are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren’t

Safe People takes that extra step in guiding you through your healing process. It covers more than just avoiding “unsafe people” and gives you an idea of what to look for in “safe people”. These are the kind that you want to surround yourself with especially when you are recovering from an extended period of abuse and trauma.

Henry Cloud and John Townsend speak of the important role of positive relationships for victims to regain trust and confidence in themselves and the people around them.

People who have had to stay in abusive relationships, be it platonic or romantic, with narcissists often take some time to heal. This healing process warrants a multitude of approaches and methods. A helpful first step might be recognition that abuse was committed, and nobody deserves that kind of abuse.

7 Ways to Fight Mental Health Stigma

man looking left side

WHILE THE TOPIC of mental health is more widely discussed now than in the past, people experiencing loneliness, depression, anxiety, isolation, and hopelessness often feel judged by others. Unfortunately mental health challenges are as stigmatized now as ever and the consequence is that people who need support are reluctant to reach out for help. As the Chief Executive Officer of Orange County Rehab, part of my work is teaching people how to overcome misconceptions about mental health so that they can get the treatment they need and recover. If this resonates with your experience, here are 7 ways to fight mental health stigma.

1. Seek medical help

Most importantly, you should seek medical attention just as you would if you had a broken limb or were unwell, don’t allow the fear of being diagnosed with a mental health condition keep you or your loved ones from seeking treatment. Treatment is essential to alleviating symptoms that interfere with one’s professional and personal life, as well as delivering relief. Remember to be kind and compassionate to yourself and others while you or they seek therapy. Take courage and remember that you and your loved ones are worth it.

2. Don’t buy into the stigma

Your belief that you or the individual who is suffering from mental illness should be able to manage their condition on your own is a common misconception. As a result of these views, you may treat yourself or others with more harshness. It is important to seek care and support from those with mental illness to obtain a sense of self-worth, perspective and to overcome harmful judgement. As one realises, they aren’t the only one struggling in a certain area, they might begin to understand that they aren’t alone. Seeking assistance is a need.

3. Educate yourself and others

You can only be as powerful as the information you have. Learn as much as you can about your mental health condition, including its signs and symptoms, as well as its causes and remedies. The first step in obtaining the correct therapy for mental well-being is to be educated. Be willing to help people understand that mental health issues are medical conditions that can be treated in the same way that physical ailments are. To dispel some of the myths and misconceptions about mental health diagnoses, provide them with accurate facts.

People are more inclined to change their attitudes about mental health conditions when they have a better understanding of what they are. Remember not to expect folks to immediately grasp what you’re saying. Stigma is a long-term process. As you go through this process, be kind to yourself and others. It is also possible that family therapy might be beneficial, since it provides a neutral setting in which to address hurdles and roadblocks.

4. Choose your words carefully

A mental health diagnosis remains a part of our identity as long as we meet the criteria. Words have the potential to do harm and it is important to be mindful about the language we use to described mental health matters. Practice compassion and keep in mind that each of us has a unique personality that consists of many distinct features.

5. Join a support group

Don’t isolate yourself. No one can assist if you are secretive about your mental health condition. You may find a wide range of activities and services from local and national support organizations. People with mental health issues, family members, friends, and the places they live in may all benefit from these organizations’ efforts to remove stigma and empower those who suffer. A good place to start is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or the Department of Veterans Affairs (if applicable). See what programs are available in your area or online.

6. Empowerment over shame is the way to go

If you’re going through a rough patch, don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Honor and own
your experience. While maintaining healthy boundaries, encourage individuals in need of assistance, hold space for their stories, and provide words of encouragement. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to dealing with those around you.

Final thoughts

Remember that there is more to who you are than a mental health diagnosis. As you share your story and interact with others, remember the full spectrum of who you are and recognize your abilities, talents, and goals. If a loved one is suffering from mental health issues, be sure to do the same for them. How you engage with others may have a significant impact on people’s perceptions of you and your mental health condition. Treat yourself and others around you with compassion. Acceptance is a process that requires time, effort, and patience.

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What is narcissism?

What Is Narcissism?

NARCISSISM IS A TERM used to describe a trait that exists within the personality system. In recent years, narcissism has erroneously been conflated with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), when they are two distinct constructs. In this article, we will aim to correct some of the common misconceptions about narcissism and provide accurate information about a fascinating yet misunderstood characteristic.

What is the definition of narcissism?

Simply put, narcissism is self-idealization. Like all personality traits, it exists on a spectrum. However, the degree to which people are narcissistic varies. Problems may arise when narcissism is excessive and likewise when it is deficient. Its most extreme manifestation is narcissistic personality disorder.

Myth 1: All narcissism is bad

In and of itself, narcissism is neither good nor bad. It is simply a necessary component of the human personality structure. In fact, a normal or healthy degree of narcissism has a range of health benefits. Narcissism becomes problematic only when there are aberrations.

Myth 2: Humanity is divided into narcissists and empaths

The notion that some people have narcissism while others do not is patently false. All people have some measure of the trait. Some expressions of narcissism are healthy while others are not.

Myth 3: Narcissism prevents people from having feelings

People with a normal amount of narcissism can experience a full range of emotions. However, a normal degree of narcissism can also function as a soothing balm for the ego that makes desire possible and disappointment tolerable.

Another way to think of it is to consider the etymology of the words narcissism and narcotic. Both originate from the Greek narkao which means “I numb myself”. In other words, narcissism affects the ego much like a narcotic.

Myth 4: Narcissism serves no purpose

Holding a slightly flattering view ourselves serves to dull the impact of otherwise painful existential realities. In this way, normal narcissism can help prevent feelings depression and anxiety.

Myth 5: There is no effective treatment for excessive narcissism

Normal and sub-clinical narcissism can change over time. In other words, normal and excessive narcissism is not rigid and treatment resistant like narcissistic personality disorder. For this reason, it is important to seek professional advice from a licensed mental health profession before assuming that all expressions of narcissism are indicative of narcissistic personality disorder.

Myth 6: Narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder are the same thing

Narcissism is a personality trait. Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental health condition that can arise from post-traumatic stress.

12 Signs of Normal or Healthy Narcissism?

Clinical psychologist Michael Kinsey, PhD, an expert in personality dynamics, breaks down some of the most prominent characteristics of healthy narcissism are the ability to:

  1. Give and receive admiration.
  2. Practice self-awareness.
  3. Recognize the significance of our contributions.
  4. Practice gratitude and appreciation.
  5. Express compassion for others while prioritizing self.
  6. Practice self-respect.
  7. Set and maintain boundaries.
  8. Feel secure about being seen.
  9. Accept others’ disapproval.
  10. Set and pursue.
  11. Be observant of the external world.
  12. Demonstrate self-efficacy, perseverance, and stability.

As a trait, narcissism is very different from its subtypes in a number of ways. It is flexible and can change over time. Most importantly normal or healthy narcissism helps us develop a positive self concept and it can help form wholesome relationships with others.

Books by Michael Kinsey Ph.D.

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How To Answer Your Child’s Questions About A Narcissistic Parent

mother and daughter on grass

Knowing how to answer your child’s questions about a narcissistic parent is essential to their healthy development and wellbeing.

The reason for this is that narcissistic abuse commonly falls under the umbrella of domestic abuse in families. Raising children in an environment where domestic abuse is normalized can seriously impact their physical and emotional functioning.

Research shows that exposure to domestic abuse affects kids to the same degree as if they had experienced the aggression first hand. In many instances, children may suffer psycho-emotional abuseexploitation, and manipulation by a narcissistic parent. 

By witnessing abuse, they may be quietly conditioned and even encouraged to use the same power and control tactics in interpersonal relationships as their abusive parent.

How exposure to narcissistic abuse can impact children

Witnessing or experiencing abuse in infancy and early childhood can produce elevated levels of emotional stress, which in turn can damage a child’s cognitive and sensory development. This can lead to a reduced ability to concentrate and result in poor academic performance from the child.

Children exposed to abuse in the home may experience difficulties distinguishing right from wrong, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and suicidal ideation.  

Research also shows that children from families where abuse is normalized risk perpetuating the cycle of abuse by falling into and repeating the familiar roles of victim or abuser.

Helping your child navigate the narcissist’s gaslit reality

It is imperative for parents who are raising children with narcissists to be able to answer their child’s questions in a way that validates the child’s experience and edifies their level of self-trust.

For answers, we reached out to Clinical Psychologist Michael Kinsey, Ph.D., a specialist in the dynamics of personality, intergenerational trauma, and parent-child attachment. He is also the author of  ‘Transcendent Parenting: A Workbook For Parents Sharing Children With Narcissists,’ and the children’s’ picture book ‘Dreams of Zugunruhe.’ 

N.B. This interview aims to inform, enlighten, and provide

accurate general information on the topic of narcissism. It does not provide medical, psychological, or other professional services. If you determine that you need professional assistance, please seek the relevant specialist advice before taking or refraining from any action based on information in this interview. Thank you.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: What is the best way to answer my child’s questions when they are at an age when politician style answers won’t cut it anymore? This kind of speaks to what we were talking about before, about the gaslit reality children of narcissists find themselves in.

Dr. Michael Kinsey: Yes and kids are such good BS detectors even from a young age. One of the amazing things about our brains and how we are wired is simply that we can decode – maybe not consciously – but we can decode guarded answers from free, authentic ones. We can tease these things apart with great precision. I suppose any parent really knows, whether you are involved with a narcissist or not, that kids don’t buy politician style answers.

The best advice I can give is something that I mentioned earlier which is that you really have to understand in a compellingly authentic way why the narcissistic person acts the way they do. That might be hard to hear and it might sound like you’re doing the work of condoning their behavior. It’s important that I say that’s not the case. You can understand something without condoning it.

The more you are able to understand it the more clearly it brings in to relief why it doesn’t work or why it’s dysfunctional or why it shouldn’t be the way it is.

You know for a lot of narcissistic people that explanation could be something like, “Your father or your mother had this experience growing up. What’s closer to the truth is they are feeling vulnerable, sad, disappointed, hurt, other way. It would be much better for all of us if it happened differently but this is the way it is. And there’s a lot of people you’ll run into in life who act this way because it’s very, very hard to feel sad, hurt, humiliated, etcetera.”

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: It’s interesting because many of the people who get targeted for this kind of abuse are highly empathic and the way you describe this particular course of action allows people to use their empathy to push through is I think that it’s an interesting, solid way to go forward.

Dr. Michael Kinsey: Keep in mind that this is a totally different strategy than you would use with the narcissistic person. Once a relationship has gotten to a point where it’s beyond repair, you can speak respectfully and assertively without needing to empathize or condone their behavior whatsoever.

But when you’re talking about children, you need to understand that you cannot pit yourself against a child’s love for their mother or father. You will not be well received and you’re putting yourself and your relationship with your child at great risk but trying to, in some ways, stand in between them and one of their parents. Because children always love their parents even if it’s unhealthy in many ways.

So when you’re dealing with your kids you really have to be respectful of that love that they have for them. Acknowledge the shortcomings, but also make it okay for that child to maintain some sense of loving connection to them and not make it a sort of zero sum game where it’s either him or me or it’s either her or me.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Right, by giving the children these sort of impossible choices.

Dr. Michael Kinsey: Absolutely.

Read the first part of our series Co-Parenting with a Narcissist and check back for the next installment soon!


This interview is also available on our podcast on these fine platforms:

Co-parenting with a Narcissist, Episode 2


Osofsky, Joy D., ‘The Impact of Violence on Children’, The Future of Children – Domestic Violence and Children, Vol. 9, no. 3, 1999; Koenen, K.C., et al., ‘Domestic Violence is Associated with Environmental Suppression of IQ in Young Children’, Development and Psychopathology, Vol. 15, 2003, pp. 297-311; Perry, B.D. ‘The neurodevelopmental impact of violence in childhood’, Chapter 18 in: Textbook of Child and Adolescent Forensic Psychiatry, (Eds., D. Schetky and E.P. Benedek) American Psychiatric Press, Inc., Washington, D.C. pp. 221-238, 2001; James, M., ‘Domestic Violence as a Form of Child Abuse: Identification and Prevention’, Issues in Child Abuse Prevention, 1994.

Baldry, A.C., ‘Bullying in Schools and Exposure to DV’, Child Abuse and Neglect, vol. 27, no. 7, 2003, pp. 713-732; Fantuzzo John W. and Wanda K. Mohr, ‘Prevalence and Effects of Child Exposure to Domestic Violence’, The Future of Children – Domestic Violence and Children, vol. 9, no. 3, 1999.

Fantuzzo John W. and Wanda K. Mohr, ‘Prevalence and Effects of Child Exposure to Domestic Violence’, The Future of Children – Domestic Violence and Children, vol. 9, no. 3, 1999; Kernic, M.A. et al., ‘Behavioral Problems among Children whose Mothers are Abused by an Intimate Partner’, Child Abuse and Neglect, Vol. 27, no. 11, 2003, pp. 1231-1246.

James, M., ‘Domestic Violence as a Form of Child Abuse: Identification and Prevention’, Issues in Child Abuse Prevention, 1994.

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Recovery in the Time of Covid-19

Blueberries Eat Healthy Nutrition

Recovery in the time of Covid-19 can be challenging. Let’s face it, this has been a year like no other. 2020 has challenged every person I know in ways that were simply unimaginable before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Uncertainty, restrictions, and fear have impacted our mental and physical wellbeing.

In the time of Covid-19, simple tasks like going to the shops, throwing away the trash, or taking a long walk can cause anxiety and strike a chord of fear in us as we try to guard our health while avoiding a virus some experts say is airborne.

I live in a country that is an outlier in that it’s coronavirus strategy is to remain open and not lockdown. The government has left precautionary measures largely to the devices of people at the local level. Initially, there was a lot of criticism as the death toll soared until, at one point, it was the highest in Europe. However, over time some have come to view this relaxed strategy as a success.

Unique health challenges for survivors of narcissistic abuse

All over the world, survivors of narcissistic abuse are facing unique challenges in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Some of us are still in relationships with the perpetrator and the health crisis may have made escape more difficult or even impossible at this time. Others have gotten out of the relationship with the narcissist and must navigate recovery in the midst of a pandemic that has transformed our ability to socialize, earn a living, and care for ourselves.

In the aftermath of narcissistic abuse, survivors often battle health consequences ranging from inflammation in the body to chronic illnesses like post-traumatic stress and autoimmune disorders.

Prioritizing health and fitness

Many survivors of narcissistic abuse have a tendency to put the needs of others ahead of our own. For some of us, this is the residue of childhood conditioning in which we learned that the practice of extreme selflessness was a virtue. For others, it is part of the ever-changing rule book we were coerced in to obeying in a relationship with an abusive partner. Either way, the reality is that self-sacrificing behavior can cause serious harm to our wellbeing.

Part of building healthy boundaries is recognizing that we matter, our needs are important, and getting our needs met first should be our main priority. Part of our recovery is embracing the fact that if we do not take care of ourselves first, we will fail in our efforts to take care of others.

This is especially true when it comes to looking after our health.

Re-grouping after disrupted self-care routines

Even though many years have passed since I lived in a narcissist matrix, I am still managing a chronic illness. I developed asthma in adulthood, which may be due in some part to long term exposure to narcissistic abuse.

As a child, I was a fiery ball of energy and fit as a fiddle. Today, I must be selective about what I eat and which cardiovascular exercises I engage in because of my condition. Few things can slow you down like an asthma attack.

Covid-19 has meant long stretches of self-isolation for me. Initially, I devoted myself to baking and trying out new recipes which was incredibly fun!

But over time I found myself struggling to adjust to the new habits I was forming. I started having asthma attacks daily, my energy levels were dropping and I was becoming a lot less productive.

With this realization, my goals have shifted and now my focus is on achieving optimum health.

Health and Fitness | Covid 19 | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

Small consistent wins can be transformative

My strategy is to start the day by taking care of myself first. This means nourishing my body with high quality foods that fills me with energy.

Everyone is different and what works best for me in terms of generating energy is a vegan diet.

I start the day with a cup of black coffee. Black coffee is great as it tends to kick start my metabolism.

If the weather is warm, I’ll make a smoothie but if it’s cool, I’ll use the same ingredients to cook high protein oatmeal:

  • 1 dl oats
  • 1 banana
  • A handful of blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon flax seeds
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds or hemp powder

I choose this meal because it’s a bit like a wet log that is easy for my body to burn but will still power me through the morning until my first snack: crisp bread with lots of sliced tomato or cucumber.

My next priority is making sure my surroundings are clean and organized which is a bit of a warm up for the thirty minutes of cardio I do to get the ball rolling before I start work.

Simple, small changes done with consistency can lead to transformative results over time. I’m sharing this example of self-care because these are things many people can do, whether you are still in a relationship with a narcissist or if you have managed to escape.

Tell me, how have you been managing your recovery during the corona virus pandemic? Please share what works best for you in the comment section below.

Your’s in recovery,

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Grief in the Digital Age

The Last Goodbye: Grief in the Digital Age

THE BUZZ OF MY SMARTPHONE broke my concentration. I picked it up and checked my messages. A grief-stricken family member had texted me to let me know my cousin Francis had died.

Frantic phone calls ensued as I struggled to come to terms with my shock and sorrow. A hidden heart condition had claimed his life. He died five days before Christmas. His funeral would take place in Massachusetts in the New Year.

I was heartbroken to find that I could not attend. Fortunately, technology made it possible for me to mourn with my family from a distance. Francis’ sister and I texted on WhatsApp, and she kindly sent me updates so that I could feel like I was part of the gathering. 

After the service, she sent me a photograph of herself standing next to the open casket. I saw my late cousin’s body, resplendent in a tailored ivory suit, carefully arranged in peaceful repose.

At first, the image overwhelmed me, and I shut my eyes to shield my mind from the painful reality that he was gone. My first impulse was to delete the photo.  

When I opened my eyes and looked again, I saw his sister standing bravely by his side among the countless floral wreaths that surrounded around him. I realized how happy Francis would have been to see how cherished he was and the tenderness that went into celebrating his life. From that perspective, the image began to give me a sense of comfort.

A Memento Mori

The photo reminded me of my finite existence and put many things into perspective. Instead of deleting it, I kept it as a memento mori.

Memento mori is a Latin phrase that means “remember death,” or “remember you must die.” It refers to works of art that recognize the ephemeral nature of the material world and encourage focus and meditation on the afterlife. 

These artworks became widespread when the Great Plague swept through Europe during the Renaissance. The concept reverberated in literature, paintings, and song.

As technology evolved, so did the memento mori. The invention of the camera made it possible to immortalize and preserve images of deceased loved ones. This became a popular art form in the Victorian era.

I was a child the first time I saw a memento mori. My grandfather and my mother were organizing our family archives and discovered a postmortem image of one of our ancestors. My grandfather was disgusted and threw it away.

That memory became especially poignant this year. As I write this, Francis has been gone for four months, and I still have the postmortem photograph stored on my smartphone. I don’t sit and stare at it but it’s somehow comforting to know it’s there, especially as the world navigates the uncharted waters of COVID19.

Its existence is not something I discuss with anyone. Occasionally, I find myself wondering about the emotional significance of keeping a memento mori. I can’t decide if it is a healthy, unorthodox or macabre custom. For answers, I turned to clinical psychologist Dr. Michael C. Kinsey, author of ‘Dreams of Zugunruhe’ and founder of Mindsplain.com.

Why are memento mori images a source of comfort for the bereaved?

Human beings are both sensory and social creatures. The way we learn that we exist is by being seen by others. When we’re upset, we’re comforted by being held. Knowing that someone is “there” for us is a core element of being able to explore the world. Over time, the process of knowing ourselves and finding comfort becomes more and more autonomous and abstract. We represent ourselves and experiences of others instead of directly perceiving them. John Bowlby, the founder of attachment theory, called these representations “internal working models.” 

Internal working models are built around experiences, and experiences are built around the senses. Pictures give us something to look at and hold when someone is gone – no matter whether the separation is temporary or permanent.  

I think that looking at – and perhaps holding – pictures help us to make representations of the absent loved ones feel more immediate. They comfort us by giving us a rich sensory experience to scaffold our memories and procedural representations of that person.

I have an especially strong childhood memory of my grandfather’s disdain of postmortem photography. There is still a part of me that feels leery about the appropriateness of the memento mori image. Maybe because it was taken on a smartphone and transmitted to me via social media. Is this a normal response?

That’s interesting. My hunch is that funerals are a communal and social way of coping with grief, where tradition and sacred values are at the forefront of the experience. Snapping a photo with a phone may feel analogous to facing the back wall in a crowded elevator. That is a violation of norms at a time when there is a strong social imperative to submit to them.

In the Alejandro Amenábar film ‘The Others,’ memento mori images were used to excite horror and awe in the audience. Yet, there are Facebook groups dedicated to antique postmortem photographs, where they are regarded as things of beauty. What is behind the allure of such images to people who aren’t related to their subjects?  

Human beings are remarkable in our ability to create complex, abstract ideas and concepts. However, the more abstract, the less personal, immediate, and emotionally salient. Seeing a dead body is a profoundly impactful image. I think a corpse is incredibly evocative because of the way it’s both “real” in a material sense, yet devoid of any of the social emissions we expect. There are no facial expressions, noises, rhythmic breathing, fidgeting. It’s an uncomfortable feeling to encounter a “person” that is lacking the capacity to relate to others and the ambient environment in the way we expect of an entity so defined by its capacity to connect and attune.

In short, the conspicuous absence of the person within the body is emotionally striking, thus giving it stronger influence over our attention. When an emotion is strong enough to capture our attention, we are forced to deal with our feelings. We experience the heaviness of the moment, we imagine the life the deceased person lived, we search for meaning in life and death.

In your opinion, do you consider memento mori images a healthy custom?

It’s not a question of health vs. not healthy. Grief and loss are something we process collectively and personally. As you point out, at times communities have used pictures as a way to process loss. There could be any number of personal reasons why you might want to take a photo that is not based on shared meaning. 

I might speculate though that taking a picture of a dead person is much more of a “just in case” type of measure. It’s a last chance to see someone in the flesh, and taking a picture could be a precaution against feeling some type of regret. From a logical perspective, there is no reason to consider a final moment with a body to be more important than any of the moments we had with a person when they were alive. But psychologically speaking, last moments are among the most salient in memory and therefore carry added pressure to make optimal use of them.

Do you think the Victorian practice of memento mori images as an art form can serve as an aid for mourners, especially in the age of COVID19?

I’m sure creative people could make wonderful use of death portraiture to deal with personal experiences of loss and to say something both meaningful and relatable about impermanence and the human condition. As far as the psychology literature goes, there was an interesting study done by a colleague of mine about “coming to terms with” death. Her study examined the effects of death on the people who work around dead bodies in Varanasi, India–a place where many Indian people come to die or bring deceased loved ones. The hope was that the people who encountered death every day would achieve a deeper peace with and acceptance of death. The findings were essentially that people who work around death every day respond to it in basically the same way that everyone else does. An interesting and important null result. The study was the dissertation of Sylvia Fernandez at The New School for Social Research.

This interview has been edited and condensed. It is syndicated at Medium.com.

Follow Dr. Kinsey on Twitter and at Mindsplain.com. His books ‘Dreams of Zugunruhe’ and ‘Transcendent Parenting: A Workbook For Parents Sharing Children With Narcissists,’ are available on Amazon.com.

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Honoring Men’s Mental Health

Men's Mental Health | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

Our theme for the month of November is Men’s Mental Health and Suicide Awareness. Narcissistic Abuse Rehab will be using our platform to raise awareness on these critical issues.

Men often neglect their mental health

Social pressure on men and boys to conform to traditional gender roles can place a heavy burden on men’s mental health. Physical strength, stoicism, dominance and controlling behaviors are rewarded. However, they can also have serious consequences for the wellbeing of men and boys. 

Time and time again men and boys are often punished for showing emotion which can cause some to emotionally shut down. Because of this, it can be difficult for men and boys to recognize when they are in emotional distress. Ultimately, many men and boys don’t seek support until their problems have become a crisis. Many men and boys neglect their mental health.

Recognizing male survivors of domestic abuse

In cases of domestic abuse, men and boys are often unable to conceive of themselves as victims due to stereotypes of abusers being male and victims being female. The reality is that current research shows that 1 in 7 survivors of domestic abuse is male

Men and boys are less likely to seek support when they are experiencing domestic abuse, including narcissistic abuse by a family member, peer or employer.

4 of 5 suicides are men and boys

A staggering 4 out of 5 suicides are men and boys who take their lives, mainly due to relationship problems. According to the Office for National Statistics suicide is the biggest killer of men and boys under 45 years old in the U.K. For men over 45, suicide is second only to drug overdoses as the top killer.

Men and boys are facing a mental health crisis. This is why it’s critical to spread awareness about men’s mental health issues and options.

Our goal this month is to highlight some of the issues that are causing mental distress in men and boys and where they can turn for support in order to restore their sense of wellbeing.

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