Monday, October 31, 2016

Can a Narcissist’s Deception be Harmful to Millions of People?

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC

Narcissists have the ability to charmingly convince people anything they want to convey. Their manner of speech, intertwined with shallow flattery and a flashy smile, is woven with truths, half-truths, and fiction. While this might gain media attention for the pure entertainment value and seem innocent, it does have the potential to cause harm on a large scale.
This is concept is clearly demonstrated in the movie Denial which was released in September 2016. This true-life docudrama portrays the struggles of an American Professor, Deborah E. Lipstadt, as she defends herself in a British court case. Her book on Holocaust deniers portrays people such as historian David Irving who made false historical accusations that Hitler did not order the persecution and execution of millions of Jewish people during World War II. David Irving filed a law suit against Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books for defamation of character.

The movie portrayed David Irving as a narcissist (this is not an official diagnosis of the real person; rather it is an analysis of the character in the movie). For those who are unclear as to just how a narcissist manipulates and deceives, this movie describes it perfectly. The list of symptoms depicted includes:
·         Need to be the center of attention: One of the opening scenes of the movie is David Irving interrupting Deborah Lipstadt while she is giving a lecture at a university about her new book. This grandstanding was then recorded by David Irving to be used on his website as a demonstration of her unwillingness to debate the facts of the Holocaust.
·         Desire to be recognized as superior: The attorneys for Deborah Lipstadt suspected that David Irving had this desire and used it against him. In a pre-trial discussion before the Judge about whether or not to use a jury, the attorneys suggested that twelve common people would not be able to understand the intricacies of the case as clearly as the Judge. David Irving agreed not to have a jury trial.
·         Lack of empathy: In this case, the movie demonstrated all of the other characters as capable of empathy except for David Irving. This was especially true when several members of Deborah Lipstadt’s legal team visited the remains of the concentration camp in Auschwitz.
·         Need for excessive admiration: Throughout the movie, David Irving dominated the media with his propaganda. At the advice of counsel, much to the dismay of Deborah Lipstadt, she remained silent until after the case was decided. The stark contrast only highlighted his showboating.
·         Automatic compliance with expectations: (Movie spoiler alert!) In the end, David Irving loses his case but that would not be apparent from his media interviews immediately following the ruling. Instead he claims a victory and expects everyone around him to agree with his stance and perspective.
·         Arrogance: Even the physical appearance of David Irving in the movie portrays an arrogant attitude through his puffed up chest, raised chin, and downward gaze at others. When he speaks, it is clear he will only talk to those he believes are worthy of his attention, not anyone else.
·         Takes advantage of others: This is the most disgusting aspect of the movie as it is evident that David Irving is blatantly taking advantage of the Jewish people’s suffering to gain self-promoting notoriety as a denier. This shameful display underscores the worst aspect of narcissism in the worst possible manner.

So to answer the question posed in the title, yes, a narcissist’s deception can be harmful to millions of people. It was for the family, friends, and survivors of the Holocaust. The portrait of David Irving in the movie Denial is such an example of lying and maliciously deceptive behavior characterized by the narcissist.

To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Caregivers Need Care Too

By: Nancy Tikunoff, IMH

We’ve all seen them - at the doctor’s office, at the grocery store, crossing the street... They may have been pushing a wheelchair, feeding an Alzheimer’s patient who had forgotten to eat or holding the hand of a differently abled person while crossing the street.These everyday examples that cross our paths are people giving care to others in a physical, tangible way and are classified “caregivers”. They may be the last ones to eat and five minutes of quiet alone to prop up their feet may feel live a slice of heaven. They have accepted and committed to a daunting task – taking care of the physical, oftentimes emotional and additional needs of someone they love or care about. It can be a thankless job and requires sacrifices of things they would rather be doing or money they would like to have to spend elsewhere or time spent on hobbies or other interests.

No wonder November has been designated as a month to recognize these awesome people and THEIR needs. If you are a caregiver reading this, you may be asking “What, I have needs?” Or maybe you know about your needs but don’t see any way to get them met without taking away from the person you care for. Don’t despair – there is help out there. Here are some tips to ensure that caregivers don't burn out as they care for others:

·         Self care: As a caregiver, your own needs can be put on hold for only so long before you start to deteriorate yourself. When that happens, your ability to provide care for your loved one is impaired. This is the #1 motivation to take care of yourself: so that you are able to provide the best care for the one(s) you care for. We can easily recognize the need for this self-care in an extreme example of a young mother of two that didn’t eat because “she just didn’t have time with everything I have to do”. Before long, she would collapse and faint onto the floor, be unavailable to meet anyone’s needs and now be in need of a caregiver herself. How often do we say we don’t have time to take to do some little thing that would renew us? Instead of performing another chore while the loved one naps, why not make yourself a cup of coffee, sit outside on the porch and watch nature or call a friend? Do the dishes really have to be done right now or is it more important to take a few minutes to take care of yourself? A refreshed person is more energetic, patient and able to regulate the emotions that can come with the caregiving task such as anger, depression and anxiety.

·         It's OK to ask for help:  You’ve taken on a big job for just one person so it’s reasonable to ask for help. A local community agency, your family members, your neighbor, a fellow church member ; someone is willing and able. Don’t get discouraged if the first one or two say no – you just haven’t figured out who is available yet. Spread the requests for help around among who is available so that nobody feels overwhelmed. Ask for help with those tasks that don’t require you to do them. You may be the one that needs to pick a prescription at the pharmacy but someone else could mow the lawn. Going it alone is one of the main reasons why caregivers get discouraged, feel overwhelmed and become isolated. Don’t try to go it alone – you don’t have to!

·         Take advantage of support systems: There are different ways to get the assistance that you need as a caregiver – whether it’s emotional support, financial support or information/education that you need. Caregiver mutual aid groups can offer a great deal of encouragement in the form of emotional sustenance, by providing a social outlet and offering a forum for you to learn what you need to know in taking care of your loved one. These groups can be found in face-to-face encounters and online. Other means of support can be found through local hospitals, churches and other agencies that offer support groups, lectures about various illnesses and can give you needed contacts and referrals. There is a plethora of websites that can be located online for the purposes of learning (now what was that drug for?) and to connect with local services to enable you to continue to care for your loved one (maybe you need a wheelchair ramp built). Many local Area Agency on Aging centers can guide you towards a solution.

                  Here are some resource links that may be helpful:


Thank you for being a caregiving champion. Even if no-one else ever acknowledges the value of what you’re doing, we know who you are and YOU MATTER. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Huge Frustration of Personality Tests

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC
Ok, I admit it. I have a love/hate relationship with personality tests. And sadly, the tests that are most loved are the silly ones like: which Star Wars, Disney Princess, or Harry Potter character are you? As a cross between Darth Vader, Tiana (Princess and the Frog), and Dumbledore, I’m not sure if I should be wearing all black, dressy white fur, or a colorful robe. What these characters have in common is unclear, but it is amusing to take the test and imagine.
Then there are the more involved assessments utilized by coaches, career counselors, and employers to discover strengths and weaknesses at the most basic level. Some of these are available on-line for free or minimal cost. These tests can help avoid poor career choices, offer insight as to strengths, suggest suitable mates, discover ideal environments and identify leadership potential. Some examples include:
·         MAPP (Motivational Appraisal of Personal Potential) assessment identifies a person’s ideal career path, aptitude, temperament, and ability to relate to others.
·         Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is widely used by employers to determine if a candidate is a good fit for a particular position categorizing a person within 16 different personality types.
·         StrengthsFinder classifies key personality strengths in order to encourage a person to work from their strengths instead of boosting up their weaknesses.
·         Enneagram labels nine major types of personality, the worldview, basic desire and basic fear.
·         DISC (Dominant, Influential, Steadfast, and Conscience) places a person in one or more of the four main types of personality pinpointing ideal mates, motivations, and vocations.
The obvious downside of these exams is that they are self-administered which makes the test is only as good as the honesty level of the person taking it. If a person lacks self-awareness, these exams can be frustrating adding to confusion instead of clarity. Even worse is when a person relies on information from a friend or spouse to complete the test because the nature of their personality is likely to color the responses.
Significantly lacking in all of the above mentioned personality tests are personality disorders. A personality disorder by definition means a person lacks objectivity, has no clear perception of themselves and others, lack of affectivity of mood (either too intense or too flat for the circumstances), poor interpersonal functioning (inability to relate to others well), and significant impulse control in all areas of their life. Of all the things an employer or potential spouse might want to know about another person, this would seem to be high on the list.
Yet there is no good on-line, easy assessment for personality disorders. Rather there is a lengthy (500+ questions) and expensive version called the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) which is only administered and assessed by a trained psychologist. Once a personality disorder is discovered, all of the above tests can become invalidated because the person taking the exam lacks a clear understanding of how they relate within their world.
This is part I hate about personality tests. They offer a limited and sometimes inaccurate perspective, especially when a person has a personality disorder. The very thing a test should be utilized for – Is there a personality disorder or not – is the very issue that is not addressed.

So I’ll return to the fun assessments that liken a person to a color, person, flower, or space ship. At least here, you truly get what you pay for.

To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Ten Rules for Effective Co-Parenting

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC

As if things weren’t bad enough before the divorce and during the divorce, now the hard part of co-parenting begins. Co-parents are the legal parents/guardians of a child. There are many combinations of co-parenting. A biological parent with a grandparent guardian, two biological parents, or adoptive parents are just a few examples. Whatever the situation, having a few guidelines for moving forward can save time, energy, and money spent on future meditation.
1.       It’s all about the kid’s best interest. One of the things parent fail to recognize is the importance of the other parent in the kid’s life. Even if the the other parent is incompetent, it is better that a child know who that parent is. Otherwise, the child is likely to imagine the other parent as some magical fairy-like godparent who will rescue them from their current parent. There are special circumstances in which this rule does not apply such as abusive behavior where the child’s safety is at risk.
2.      The rules should be the same. This is a difficult one as more than likely one of the issues leading to divorce was differences in parenting. So the recommendation is not about specific discipline but rather general expectations. For instance a couple of house rules could be: be respectful, be kind, or be patient. These expectations should apply to all members of a household including parents and step-parents.
3.      Plan ahead. Most parenting plans include specific guidelines for the transition of kids, days of the week schedule, holiday, and vacations. But kids forget these things easily and usually don’t look at an online calendar before asking their parents. To reduce frustration, have an annual calendar with the days clearly marked as to where the child is staying. This should be in both parent’s homes.
4.      Communicate via internet. Even simple matters escalate unnecessarily when divorced parents communicate. There are several on-line co-parenting websites such as which allows all communication to be recorded including changes in medical, time sharing, or school matters. This is a useful tool for everyone especially if issues need to be mediated in the future. Parents should resist the urge to verify things verbally, always confirm with an email or text message.
5.      Keep kids out of the middle. There are several ways that parents unintentionally encourage kids to be in the middle of a divorce. Kids already feel this way organically which sometimes results in them taking on adult-like responsibility which is not good from a developmental perspective. Parents should be careful not to use their kids to communicate with the other parent even for simple matters. Most especially, they shouldn’t tell the kids they can’t talk about the other household. Kids are a product of both parents and as such, they can’t divide themselves in two.
6.      Avoid false hope. Parents should not confuse kids by letting them believe that their parents will reunite. Kids already secretly want this because they feel divided, not divorced. Giving kids false hope backfires as the only lesson a child learns is to not trust the parent who is making the claims. If the parents do reunite, the kids shouldn’t be told until things are completely resolved and the reunion is coming to fruition.
7.      Be honest. Depending on the age of the child and the nature of the divorce, eventually all kids want to know why their parents separated. Parents shouldn’t lie or avoid the conversation. Rather, answer only the question that the child asked in its simplest form. “We divorced because we were not able to agree on key issues,” is an example. Regardless of the fault or innocence of either parent, blame should not be assigned. As a child ages, more information can be given but only if they ask. This is also the perfect time to reinforce the notion that the divorce had nothing to do with the child. “You are not responsible for the divorce,” needs to be stated as many times as possible without irritating the child.
8.     Be cautious of who is introduced to the child. Eventually, one or both parents more forward with life and begin to date again. However, this process is for adults only and not children. Kids can attach onto an adult very easily especially when that adult is presented as safe and inviting. If the relationship deteriorates, a child will have a hard time disconnecting with the new person. In some cases, this can feel like a mini divorce. When the adult relationship becomes serious, introduce them as a friend first to ensure compatibility. Parents who continue to date someone whom the child dislikes will face defiant behavior in the future.
9.      Step-parents are assistant parents. The word step-parent carries a negative connotation thanks to Disney movies such as Cinderella and Snow White. The name is also not role specific and leads to confusion over the boundaries of parenting. Rather, when the term assistant parent is used that immediately identifies exactly what the new parent’s role is in the family unit. They are to assist the legal parent in whatever fashion is requested. In other words, the assistant parent does not make parenting decisions, the legal parent does. This simple guideline eliminates many of the frustrations of a blended family.
10.  Act like an adult. There will be many times that both parents, assistant parents, new sibilants, and extended family will have to be present at the same time. This includes sporting events, graduations, and weddings. Notice that this does not include birthdays which are often best celebrated separately. When a parent has to be in the presence of the other parent, it is best to see this as a business meeting of sorts. It is not unusual to have business meeting with people who are untrustworthy, incompetent, or unreasonable. Pointing these things out however, is unproductive. Parents should make a decision ahead of time to act professionally in front of the other parent.
Kids learn more from what a parent does rather than what is stated. All of the above guidelines are beneficial for other relationships in the future. Parents who treat co-parenting as a valuable life lesson will reap the benefits of a healthy adult relationship later.

To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.

'Image is Everything' or Is It?

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC

Back in the 1990’s, tennis pro Andre Agassi said “Image is everything,” for a TV camera commercial. While Agassi was merely reciting a line, the phrase stuck a cord with audiences and soon it was integrated into American culture. Coaches, marketing experts, media relations, and politicians all adhere religiously to this standard. And there is no clearer demonstration of this impact then the proliferation of social media.

The Problem. But just because something is accepted in a culture, does not mean it is right or even useful. The problem is that a projected image allows a person to disassociate their true self from the exterior. The result is a generation who hides their inner thoughts and feelings from others, subsequently concealing their true being. This eventually becomes habitual as a person assumes new roles in society further alienating their true identity even from themselves.
Think of the image that most people project on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Pinterest, Twitter, or any one of the dating sites. This false self is frequently a projection of how a person wishes to appear to the outside world. It embodies the “Image is everything,” attitude while the true self remains hidden. When a person hides something away long enough, they tend to forget it until one day it implodes.

The Current Result. Eventually the house of card’s image falls apart because it lacked the substance of a true self. There are several other names used for a true self: ego, soul, inner child, identity, true being, psyche, or real self. Whatever the name utilized, it can be defined as who a person is. This includes their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, fears, insecurities, personality, and values which when combined define a unique being. When these things are separated from the true image, the false image becomes a fa├žade.
Sometimes this implosion results in a mid-life crisis in middle age or it can manifest in immobility in younger years. After all, what is the point in getting a job and living up to indifferent and unrealistic standards just to be able to post about it on social media? This is especially true when a person can post and present an image without the effort of any real work.

The Ideal Outcome. Ideally, the goal is for a person is for their true self to be the same persona as their public image. When the two are consistent, there is harmony within a person. There is no need for pretending, hiding, or falsifying an image because it is the same. The synchronized self or rather a transparent self can reduce anxiety, apprehension, depression, frustration, feelings of guilt, exhaustion, and even confusion. 

So in actuality, ‘image’ is not everything. Rather, ‘image’ is an illusion. It is a mask of what a person wants to be which may or may not have anything to do with who a person really is. Masks are disposable, removable, and able to be discarded. A person cannot do this with their true self no matter how hard they try. Instead, cohesion is everything. It is only through a untied self that a person can be honest with themselves which translates into sincere relationships at home and work.

To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.