Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Four Biggest Barriers to a Social Life

By: Nate Webster, IMH

Even up until 50 years ago, people lived in a very different world than today. In just 5 decades we’ve seen the invention of digital technology, the Internet and really fast transportation! However, some of our advances as a society have become our biggest barriers to a thriving social life. Below is a list what may be the four biggest barriers to your social life. Read them through and see which ones fit.

Doing everything online: Shopping, taking piano lessons, school and even counseling can be done online. There is a great temptation to live our entire lives online. It feels more convenient and gives us a sense of efficiency, but forfeits human interaction that allows for relationships and community. What’s one activity you do online that maybe you can start doing in person? Is loneliness really worth all the efficiency and convenience of online living?

Everything’s about productivity: It’s true that you may work in an office that needs productivity all the time, however that doesn’t mean the rest of your life needs that also. In fact, trying to always lead a productive social life can leave you feeling stressed and even resentful. It can make time with family and friends feel like work. However, learning to release yourself from the pressures of productivity is a great stress-reducer! What would it be like to hang out with friends and family without a “purpose” other than enjoying their company?

We’re always distracted: I bought a painting last year called “Thought Plagued by a Spirit of Distraction”, as it captures perfectly a person trying to think, but something keeps interrupting them. So many of us are honestly so distracted that it makes friendship impossible. How often do we check our cellphones while we are with another friend? Why do we keep using our laptops in class and meetings if we are only ever on Facebook? It’s important to remember that we are victims of the things that distract us from a social life, and with some self-control we can become more engaged in the relationships we want.

Our Transient Society: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that most individuals will have 10 jobs before age 40 and that the latest generation will have upwards of 15. Likewise, the Census Bureau indicates that individuals move residences roughly 11 times throughout their life. With so much movement of our jobs and housing it can make it incredibly difficult to have lasting friendships. If you want some closer friendships, I suggest committing to the things in your life that you usually are always quickly moving on from. Even a small dose of commitment can create so much more intimacy in the friendships you’d like to have.

If you’ve identified these barriers in your social life and would like some help in getting over them, getting a therapist is a great place to start. Visit our office website at LifeWorksGroup.Org or call us directly at 407-647-7005.

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

Thursday, February 09, 2017

The Aging Narcissist: Adding Dementia to the Mix

By: Christine Hammond LMHC

Despite what a narcissist will pontificate, even they are subject to the effects of getting older. Becoming elderly is a normal part of the developmental stage of life for most people, but not for the narcissistic. They view aging as an ultimate evil. Some will engage in ridiculous plastic surgery in an effort to look as young as they feel. Others will begin a new career while their peers are retiring. And still others will take on far younger partners.
But what the narcissist can’t do is dodge the effects of dementia. As a progressive indiscriminate disorder which sometimes transforms into Alzheimer's or other disorders, dementia affects every area of the brain in a random order. What seemed natural and habitual now becomes foreign and difficult. Memory becomes scattered and unreliable. Familiar people become strangers or even enemies that are out to get them.
For the narcissist, this is completely unacceptable. Most narcissists rely heavily on their cognitive abilities as a way of constantly demonstrating superiority over others in performance, influence, power, beauty, or money. Any sign that it is deteriorating or diminishing is out of the question, something that cannot and will not be tolerated. This is when the narcissist is most at risk for suicidal behavior.
Make no mistake; narcissists don’t threaten suicide just to get attention, they actually follow through on the action especially when they begin to view their superior identity as slightly inferior. They would rather die than be revealed as fallible, vulnerable, or depending on someone else to do the basics of life. When a person has spent their entire life belittling and mocking those believed to be beneath them, they cannot in the end be revealed like them.
There are seven stages to the progression of dementia as listed below. However, how a narcissist responds to each stage is very different from other patients. This is because the narcissism is like a web inside their brain, affecting more than one area.
1.       No Dementia: No Cognitive Decline. This first stage is what pre-dementia looks like where there is no memory loss and a person, including the narcissist, functions normally.
2.      No Dementia: Very Mild Cognitive Decline. As a person ages, forgetfulness becomes typical but it doesn’t impair normal functioning. For the narcissist, their forgetfulness is often blamed on others.
3.      No Dementia: Mild Cognitive Decline. Forgetfulness becomes more consistent and trouble concentrating for long periods of time increases as work performance declines. Narcissists begin to notice this stage but work very hard to hide it from others. It is typical for them to have increased aggravation over their perceived slowness which they frequently project onto others.
4.      Early Stage: Moderate Cognitive Decline.Despite the best efforts of the narcissist, their decreased cognitive abilities become apparent to others. They typically struggle to remember even recent events, accidentally send too much money to the electrical company, or get lost easily when in new locations. Complex work tasks become too difficult but the narcissist won’t admit to it. Instead they will blame others and distract with elaborate stories of past successes. To avoid embarrassment (the Achilles heel of the narcissist), they withdraw from family and friends. When needed, the narcissist can function at a select event for a short period of time but as soon as it is done, so are they. The disengagement is extreme and may even appear catatonic.
5.      Mid-Stage: Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline.The memory deficiencies become significant as even common tasks such as cooking, dressing, or grooming require some sort of assistance. Some narcissists can weather this stage well if they have a caretaker who is willing to pamper them and tolerate their aggravation. But others slip rapidly into a depressive state which adds to the frustration. They may not remember major life events or people any longer. However, what the narcissist values is definitely revealed at this stage. If work over family was important, they won’t remember family vacations but can still remember a major deal they negotiated.
6.      Mid-Stage: Severe Cognitive Decline. This is when suicidality becomes a possibility if they are able to carry out the task. No longer able to care for themselves and having embarrassing problems such as eating or bowel control, narcissists shut down. For brief periods of time, the narcissism will disappear and what the person would be like without it appears. This becomes a hope that most family members cling to but the progression of the dementia is so advanced now that it becomes discouraging. It is also common for the narcissist to have delusional thinking such as watching something on TV and believing they are actually doing it. Anger outbursts are common as are paranoid delusions. The narcissist is so convincing even at this stage that they are able to draw others into their delusional state.
7.      Late-Stage: Very Severe Cognitive Decline. At the last stage, there is little to no communication, psychomotor skills, or walking. Everything requires assistance and the narcissist is a shell of what they once were. No longer able to recognize themselves or others, all of the narcissistic symptoms have disappeared along with their personality.
Watching any person go through these stages is traumatic; however there is a glimmer of awareness that is unique to a narcissist who has dementia. The key lies in remembering the brief moments when the non-narcissistic side of them appeared. This is who they really were, instead of whom they became.
To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Why Marriages Fail After 25 Years

By: Christine Hammond LMHC

It’s shocking. After 25 years of marriage, a couple decides to get a divorce. From the outside looking in, things could not be any stranger. The pressures of establishing a career have subsided, the kids have grown-up (and hopefully moved out), and a desired lifestyle has been obtained. After all, surely this couple has been though just about everything and survived it. Or have they?
It is precisely when a lack of distractions from career, kids, schools, and community subsides that underlying long-term issues rise to the surface. The defense mechanism of denial no longer works. Instead what is revealed is prolonged hurt, deep seeded resentment, a lack of forgiveness, virtually no real communication, and zero intimacy.
A marriage falling apart after such a long duration isn’t about a lack of commitment. Rather, the dedication to staying together is what allowed the marriage to last as long as it did. Yet society vilifies the desolation. Instead of understanding and compassion for the long suffering, insensitive remarks are made about the character of those who decide to divorce.    
Here are some reasons marriages fall apart after 25 years:
·         Undiagnosed mental illness. In an effort to avoid a label, many people refuse to seek treatment for a variety of mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, OCD, PTSD, or even the more serious illnesses of schizophrenia and dementia. Some of these appear later in life and are not present early in the marriage. These disorders can vary in concentration and levels, there can be multiple co-occurring issues, and they can dramatically and negatively affect the perception of life and relationships. There is only so much a married person can take from a spouse with an undiagnosed mental illness who refuses to seek help.
·         Personality disorders. Most couples will agree that their personalities are different and even clash. But a spouse with a personality disorder brings a level of intensity, extremism, and trauma that is far more significant than a personality difference. Within the definition of a personality disorder is the inability to accurately perceive reality, history of impulsive or controlling behavior, and a trail of interpersonal relational problems. Even with counseling, the effects of a personality disorder on a spouse can generate levels of anxiety and depression that are dysfunctional and can contribute greatly to their deteriorating health.
·         Abusive behaviors. There are seven ways a person can be abused: mentally, emotionally, physically, sexually, financially, verbally, and spiritually. Just because a person doesn’t have bruises, doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering from abusive behaviors. In many cases, the abuse is done in secret with very few people aware of the dysfunction. While ideally this won’t be tolerated for a long period of time, the reality is that many people need a combination of awareness, knowledge, time, energy, support, and courage to finally walk away.
·         Hidden addiction. Equally frustrating is a hidden addiction. There are many types of addictive substances such as alcohol, drugs (prescription and illegal), gambling, sex, shopping, smoking, stealing, food, video games, work, exercise, hoarding, and cutting. At some point, a spouse stops enabling the addiction, communicates hope for recovery, sets new standards, and erects boundaries. But if the partner does not respond positively, the spouse finds they can no longer watch someone they love destroy both lives.
·         Unresolved major issues. There is a wide variety of possibilities in this category including unprocessed trauma from an accident, repeated infidelity from a workaholic, continued grieving over the loss of a child, escalated health issues due to mistreatment, and misguided coping mechanism such as hoarding. At some point a spouse has said everything and it becomes too painful to watch the self-destruction knowing that it could be avoided with help.
·         Lack of growth. Personal growth is not meant to stop with the completion of schooling; rather it should be an ongoing journey that doesn’t seize until death. However, some people arrogantly believe that they have “arrived” and therefore do not need to continue this process either personally or professionally. For the spouse who continues to develop and change, watching the stagnation of their partner is painful. This frequently manifests in different goals, interests, retirement plans, and unfortunately an escalation in controlling behaviors designed to hold back the growing spouse.

When one spouse is willing to work on these issues and the other is not, there are little options. Some chose to live parallel lives with no further connection, others live in separate states and residences, and still others pick divorce. A person cannot be forced into realization or change, they must want it, make a decision to move in a healthy manner, and then follow through.
To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.