I HAVE ADHD PODCAST - Episode #259

April 16, 2024

You're Not the Problem, Part 2: The Impact of Narcissism and Emotional Abuse with Helen Villiers and Katie McKenna

They are baaaaaaack! Everyone’s favorite psychotherapists, Helen Villiers, and Katie McKenna, are back to finish the conversation on emotionally abusive behaviors they see in parent-child relationships.

They quite literally wrote the book on this topic. These two brilliant ladies co-authored You’re Not the Problem: The Impact of Narcissism and Emotional Abuse and How to Heal.

In this podcast episode, we’re diving even deeper into the impact of narcissistic parents and the role past trauma can have on your ADHD. This episode is for you if you:

  1. Are curious about what narcissistic behavior looks like.
  2. Find yourself repeating cycles you experienced in childhood.
  3. Have yet to recognize where your ADHD stems from.
  4. Want strategies for healing.

You can listen to part one of this episode here. And be sure to check out their podcast called In Sight: Exposing Narcissism.

If you’re ready to learn more about trauma’s impact on your past and current behaviors, I  invite you to join my group coaching program FOCUSED. You’ll get regular coaching calls and a supportive community with all the tools needed to thrive with ADHD.

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Kristen Carder 0:05
Welcome to the I have ADHD podcast, where it’s all about education, encouragement and coaching for adults with ADHD. I’m your host, Kristen Carter and I have ADHD. Let’s chat about the frustrations, humor and challenges of adulting relationships working and achieving with this neurodevelopmental disorder. I’ll help you understand your unique brain. Unlock your potential and move from point A to point B. To one, what’s up, this is Kristen Carter and you are listening to the I have ADHD podcast. I am medicated, I am caffeinated. I am regulated A F and I am ready to roll. I am here with Helen and Katie, they are back for part two of our conversation surrounding their amazing book, your not the problem, the impact of narcissism and emotional abuse and how to heal Helen and Katie. Welcome.

Helen Villiers 1:03
Hi, thanks for thanks for having me. So exciting.

Kristen Carder 1:06
It’s so exciting that we were just talking off air about how much we could talk about and we really want to keep it constrained. But I want to start here, which is why is it that we are seeing a quote unquote, trend of narcissistic parents there is a lot on social media right now. You know, millennials and Gen Xers kind of coming out to say like, I think that maybe my parents might be narcissistic, or even just saying it outright that they are and I’m curious, why are we seeing that trend? Well,

Helen Villiers 1:46
the biggest thing is, it’s not a trend. First of all, it’s a recognition of toxic behaviors. And that’s what’s happening is because this conversation is loud, because there are all these different platforms, now people are talking about things that hurt them. And identifying toxic behaviors, we’ve always known about NPD, we’re not always obviously, there’s a whole history, I’m not going to give you a big lecture. But there’s been a long history of NPD and the behavior associated and emotional abuse. All that’s happening now is people are identifying it, because actually, the prevalence, especially for what’s called the boomer generation is really high. And that’s because of the parenting styles when they were small. So this is, you know, this is a very prevalent condition. Statistics say it’s very low, or they say it’s nought point five to 1.6%. But actually, that statistic is thought to be flawed anyway, there’s thought to be a lot lot more people that they just put avoid identification that we only see extreme cases, because that’s the other thing is that people say, Oh, NPD is a really severe mental health condition and disorder. And it’s Well, yes, it is. It can be but of course, it’s it’s on a scale, it’s on a spectrum. And so whilst somebody might not be Ted Bundy NPD, they can still be NPD and extremely harmful to those people around them. And I think what’s so important to remember is, they also don’t have to be diagnoseable, that it’s enough that they’ve got the behavior and the traits, that that can be harmful. So yeah, I mean, there’s a, there’s a small conversation around people armchair diagnosing, and that that can be risky and dangerous. But realistically, we’re just having the conversation where identifying toxic harmful behavior. And those behaviors are narcissistic, because they are self serving and self centralizing. So not a trend. It’s an identification, in my opinion.

Kristen Carder 3:41
I love that. I so appreciate that. And Katie, one of the things that I have heard, I think it was Harriet shearsmith Say it doesn’t take a zoologist to identify a giraffe.

Helen Villiers 3:54
That’s amazing, isn’t it? Yeah,

Kristen Carder 3:57
I love it. And what I tell my clients is sometimes we just identify that the grass is green, and the sky is blue. And we’re not diagnosing. We’re just identifying that the grass is green, and the sky is blue. And sometimes we just see the traits and they are just they’re on display.

Katie McKenna 4:15
Yeah, yeah, we talk about we preface in the beginning of the book, you know, like in the 70s that people learned about sexual abuse. And I can speak for Ireland. I don’t know if you guys are familiar in America, that when the scandals blew up about the churches, because the amount of shame that everybody held that this was just me and I can speak about, whereas actually, when they learned that this is a thing, this was wrong. And this shouldn’t have been done to me. It gave them the courage to speak up about their own life, their own situation had they themselves were abused. And if we look at this with emotional abuse, which head on over says that emotional abuse is the cornerstone of all abuse because any of these things can’t happen without emotional abuse being present, that when people are watching tick tock Instagram read Doing books learning from your podcast or podcast, and it’s going, oh my god, this is a thing this was wrong, I can shift the shame that it wasn’t my fault because a lot of children grown up in these environments, the fear of saying, you know, my mother didn’t love me, my father didn’t love me what type of child must I be? If my parents don’t love me, and actually recognizing that you are not the problem, that this is actually your your parents responsibility? It is it is their doing, and we’re putting that responsibility back to them and shifting the shame from the victim. Every

Kristen Carder 5:32
time you say the words, you are not the problem, I get like a chill, it goes all the way through me. Because I think it is just the most powerful statement that you too can say over and over and that we as you know, for myself as an advocate for those with ADHD to say, like, Hey, you’re not the problem here. I think it’s one of the most powerful things that we can do as advocates for others. Absolutely

Helen Villiers 5:57
couldn’t agree more completely agree. And that’s why we called the bucket because it’s you grow up in these environments, just believing that it’s you, and also hoping it’s you because then you can fix it. But of course, it’s not you, you’re not the problem, you might have some tricky coping mechanisms now because of the environment you grew up in. And they might be damaging to your current relationships. But it wasn’t you in the first place. And you were never the problem. And now it’s an opportunity to address those coping mechanisms. You know, we talked about it a lot in the book, what those mechanisms are, and we talked about how to heal them. And just really important to know that it wasn’t your fault, you didn’t do this to you, this is not your personality. These are a series of trauma responses that you created to survive an environment you should never have been put in. And that’s why it’s such an important phrase, because you’re not the problem they were and the way you were treated was what the problem was

Kristen Carder 6:53
so good. And I just want to make one more point because you have an entire chapter on what made the narcissist a narcissist. And it’s a really, it’s a, it’s a really good chapter in your book, because it holds a lot of compassion for the narcissist who was clearly abused, but then also it still holds them in accountability. So I really love the way that you wrote this chapter. And one of the things that I want to point out about the boomer generation is that they were parented by people, their parents and grandparents had to suffer through the Great Depression, and World War Two. And so there was so much trauma, since trauma, so much trauma with their parents and grandparents. And then that was then put on, you know, our parents, grandparents generation, and my goodness, and to think of the abuse that they suffered, we can hold with such compassion. And we can see why it seems like much of a generation really struggles with these at least narcissistic traits, because of all the abuse that they suffered. But then there is this also, with the same breath, the accountability that we can say, but it doesn’t excuse the behavior, and there can still be accountability there.

Helen Villiers 8:08
Absolutely. And I think also, when you throw into that mix, patriarchy, the parenting styles, the kind of lessons that parents were taught to teach their children growing up, the silencing of children, it’s inevitable that there is going to be destroy, you know, there was a tick tock I saw the other day that described it brilliantly, which was narcissists are born of either having too much love, or not enough love at all. And it’s absolutely true. But it doesn’t mean it’s okay for them to go on and abuse and wound other people just doesn’t.

Kristen Carder 8:45
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Katie McKenna 11:59
In the book, we talked about that actually, we named the chapter head the fuck you, we break it into two camps, you know, we see either the hyper dependent or the hyper independent. And then obviously, there’s an overlap actually, it’s on page 59. We have a Venn diagram with the two and then the the center where they overlap and the middle. And I suppose I’ll just briefly talk about the hyper independence, what people would typically see. And that’s where you just want to do everything for yourself, because it’s easier you so you will say no to help, you won’t ask anyone for help. And really one of the biggest things we see with hyper independence is a struggle to trust others. So you’ll typically hear that hyper independence say, No, I’m fine. I’m glad No, nothing’s wrong with me. Or they’ll share weeks after an event or sometimes months, because they will feel safer to do so rather than sharing in the moment when something happens because there’ll be so vulnerable. So they will decide everything by themselves, we could describe the hyper independent as an island, right? I can do everything by myself. So that don’t delegate tasks or workload. They’re very guarded in relationships, very private about their personal life. They typically dislike needy people. So when somebody is then really codependent, they will reject that because that will feel very smothering to them, that can struggle with long term relationships. And then anybody that they do let in, if you imagine the hyper independent that there’s like this castle, and then there’s a moat around the castle. And then there’s a dam and then there’s a bridge. So when they eventually let somebody in when somebody hangs around long enough and shows them that they are trustworthy enough and the swim over the moat, climb over the wall, you know, get through the dam, go through the drawbridge, then we will actually see the hyper independent, be hyper dependent and not be able to say no to this person. And I suppose I’ll throw this back over to Helen then and talk a little bit about then hyper dependence.

Helen Villiers 13:47
Yeah, absolutely. Hope independence was a phrase that we coined to describe codependency and people pleasing, because quite often people will talk about those two things as though they’re separate different things, but they’re not they’re absolutely the same thing. Codependency and people pleasing, because it’s all about keeping people close, keeping people happy. And avoiding rejection. So people who are hyper dependent, would be people that feel, find it very, very difficult and actually terrifying. The idea to say no to somebody to reject somebody else, they would feel really threatened by that. They would also be somebody who would feel very responsible for how everyone else feels. So they can’t be happiness, everybody else’s happy that they need to make sure everyone is okay. But even if somebody is upset, but it’s not their fault, they’ll feel like it’s their job to fix it. It’s their responsibility to fix it. They’re also the people who we would identify as givers. So they’ll do everything for anybody, but get really quite hurt and upset when people don’t kind of give the same level of, I don’t know emotional, physical, whatever energy or labor back to them, but they also weren’t asked for it. So they’ll find it really difficult to ask for their needs to be met or ask for favors. There’ll be He really quite anxious as a person find things quite overwhelming. And the hyper dependent would be somebody who might over apologize, they might be an oversharer. If they ask for help, they feel like they’re the biggest burden in the world. And, you know, the thing to know about hyper dependence, and hyper independence is that overlap that Katie was talking about, because obviously, both coping mechanisms, and you probably recognize yourself in both camps, just for, you know, clarity, so you don’t have to be either or so no black and white with it, it’s you could see yourself as both of those things. And often when somebody is hyper dependent and start healing, they become hyper independent, you know, this pendulum really swings the other way, quite often. But what that overlap is, is that they’re all both trying to to achieve all these behaviors are trying to achieve the same thing. And that’s to avoid rejection. And the overlap is that these are people who are perfectionist in and perfectionism is a bit of a nuanced word, because it’s not that everything has to line up perfectly. It’s also the fear of starting anything in case I fail at it. I’m not going to do it. In case I’m not perfect at it. So therefore, I just let everything be awful kind of thing. There’s a huge fear of rejection, fear of intimacy, fear of abandonment. Katie, do you want to go take it a bit further? Yeah,

Katie McKenna 16:24
absolutely. Fear of vulnerability, fear of asking for help. hyper vigilance is huge. We talked about that in the last episode with you. Listen, you know, a lot of people saying that I’m an empath, whereas actually, there’s no such thing as an empath that comes from trauma where they’re hyper vigilant and notice everything around them, particularly other people’s behaviors, you know, their body language, their tone of voice, the tilt of a head, and both camps will struggle with a lack of identity. So struggle to know who they really are, whether they’re keeping people really close, that’s the hyper dependent, or keeping people further away, the hyper independent, but both of them will struggle to know who they truly are. Because of course, that was thwarted, and they weren’t able to get in touch with that. So this book is all about allowing people to recognize what happened them, but also offering them exercises in how to get in touch with who we are, get in touch with our values, get in touch and build on that identity, that sense of self. Yeah, the

Kristen Carder 17:18
exercises, the journal prompts, the reflection questions. They’re so useful, really, truly, I mean, I just,

Katie McKenna 17:26
it’s so amazing to hear you here. Genuinely, really, genuinely, it’s

Kristen Carder 17:31
across a line where it’s just like, okay, Kristen, we get it. I just can’t recommend it highly enough. Because it’s not just informative. It’s also like a participatory experience, right? Where you’re, you’re invited to reflect you’re invited to journal you’re invited to. There’s really specific questions. And I just think that’s so important, because, and we were kind of vacillating on, should we talk about this or not, but I’m just gonna go ahead and say it when you describe both the hyper independent and the hyper dependent. I feel like you’re just describing any of my clients with ADHD. Yeah. Yeah. And that gives me pause to wonder. It just makes me curious. Right? How much of ADHD is trauma related based on the families that we grew up in? I don’t know. You know, it’s like, Ah,

Helen Villiers 18:28
I mean, I can give you a little bit of a golden idea with that, if you like going, because ADHD, obviously, is one of my specialisms, too. So the thing that we need to know about it, or recognize about ADHD is, this is a neurotypical designed world that we live in this world is largely formulated for neurotypical people to live in and exist in. Because for a very long time, we have believed that that is the main brain operating system. Spoiler alert, I don’t actually think it is I think it’s a lot more divergent than people realize. But anyway, that’s a whole different podcast. The point being, when you grow up with ADHD, you are going to get trauma, there’s no two ways about it, you’re going to be rejected over and over again. And that’s what we’re, essentially when you boil all of this narcissistic parenting down to it’s rejection. It’s all rejection, okay? It’s rejection of the self, the identity, the autonomy, is rejection of behavior. It’s, you know, huge amount of shame when you’re not fitting in when you’re not doing the right thing. And if you are growing up undiagnosed with ADHD, with people who don’t understand and people who are not willing to accept that there might be a difference in you as a child, you’re going to get trauma. So they don’t necessarily have to be narcissistic, because the thing that will give it away is whether or not they accept accountability and apologizes for the big giveaway, right? So you are going to have a lot of trauma. But what I typically see with my clients is that as we start unpicking In all the trauma wounds, and we start integrating the self, and we start accepting the self, the ADHD behavior, kind of amplifies not not in a really negative way, but it kind of maybe it’d be the beginning, it becomes a bit like, whoa, what’s going on, I don’t recognize myself. And it can be quite alarming to people because they’re like, what’s going on? I was all these things before I had so much control over my behavior, my traits, my ADHD traits. And now suddenly, they feel out of control and actually very threatening, because I got into so much trouble for them as a child. And then things settle. And people start, like leaning in and accepting that actually, this is how I work, I do all my washing on one day, I’m not somebody who does it once a day, every week, like, that’s okay. There’s the self acceptance, the identity grows and everything else. So we see actually, that these coping mechanisms as a kind of way to address trauma will massively lessen. And the traits might amplify and then settle as somebody integrates their identity. But ultimately, what I always say to every client, and to all my followers is if you have ADHD, you have trauma, there’s no two ways about it. Because we don’t grow up in systems where we have neurodivergent schools that that adapt to the way those children learn. We don’t you know, the parenting styles for so long, we’re all quite, you know, children should be this that seen and not heard quite often. And then you’ve got an ADHD child who’s like hyperactive, maybe black and white thinking and questioning and logical and getting punished for asking what seemed to be rude questions. And so they deal with all this trauma. So people who don’t have narcissistic parents will also recognize themselves as this. But that’s because of they will have had a similar experience of the erosion of their identity, that as they heal that trauma, they will be able to integrate their identity and their personality, and self acceptance. And again, if they go to their parents, and they say, Hey, you did this thing when I was a kid, and it really hurt me. And the parent says, Do you know what I got it wrong? And I shouldn’t have done that. And I’m really sorry. Is there anything I can do that can make up for that, then? They’re not narcissistic, because the narcissistic parent wouldn’t. Whereas the the misguided parent, yeah, might, you know, I

Kristen Carder 22:22
am so grateful to you for all of that, and for the tenderness that you bring into the conversation around, maybe approaching your parents because I think, you know, as a parent myself, I know that I have impacted my children in many positive ways, but also some very negative ways. And to have my kids come to me and say, Man, this hurt me, or you got it wrong. I know what it’s like to hear them say that and to feel the initial twinge of like, I did not. I’m the defensiveness, that defensiveness just roar up. And a huge part of that is rejection sensitivity, which I totally understand. But then being able to actually look my little kiddo in the face and say, You know what? I’m sorry. You’re right. Yeah, I did hurt you. And I take responsibility for that, what can I do to make it better? There is such tenderness and beauty in that. And so if any of you have parents that accept that from you, like, my goodness, what a treasure.

Katie McKenna 23:29
Well, that’s the repair isn’t. In any relationship, there’s going to be ruptures. But it’s actually in relationships. And in any relationship, there should be two people working towards repair. But in the parent child relationship, it should always be the parent that is working towards repair of the relationship. And that’s taken accountability, saying, sorry, I’m sorry. And I can just I just want to say that I completely relate. And for me that recently has a child diagnosed with ADHD, I can see how wrong I was in trying to parent one way and having expectations that just that were too high or completely, you know, misguided, and thinking that, you know, they could have been able to manage the thing and that frustration, why can’t you manage this thing? And me recognizing that and saying, I got a completely wrong, I am so sorry, I shouldn’t have done that. And I am going to do better going forward. And I will, I’m going to try and make it up to you. You know, and that validation because you’re

Helen Villiers 24:23
going to hold up some compassion keys. Yes. Christy, you didn’t have high expectations. You’ve had neurotypical expectations. And until we knew otherwise, how are we meant to know to do differently? Like,

Katie McKenna 24:39
I hear that and then we’ll know we’re getting way off and then because I know that I’m questioning and talking about going to my own state because I’m Yeah, so I can see what I see in him and what I thought was normal. neurotypical is not like, see it in my other kids. So I remember how I’m making the joke that there was neurodiversity. One and through the house like you’re saying, like, family. So no, I suppose it’s, but it’s recognizing that. So in the book, we talk about how the narcissistic parent would never take, and just puts it back on the child and blames them even further. So I think we talked about in the, in the last episode, you know, the four characters that we have running through the book, you know, that people can really recognize themselves and show real life examples about how these narratives then show up for the child. Whereas when a parent takes that accountability and says, I got it wrong, what they’re saying to the child does is that you’re not the problem. You didn’t do anything wrong here. You didn’t deserve what I did. I didn’t know any better. Again, the narcissistic parents would know. So

Kristen Carder 25:44
good. Okay, let’s get back on track here. That’s so good. What I want to ask you about is the cycle of abuse. And the reason why I want to ask you, first of all, I think we all need to know, because we encounter emotionally abusive people out in the wild all the time. But talk to me specifically about the narcissist cycle of abuse, and what to look out for, because what I’ve learned is, it is repeated, and it is so predictable. And one of my very close friends right now is walking through a scenario with a narcissistic partner. And I just keep pointing out the cycle. And and I keep showing her like, Okay, you are like you are here in the in the map in the cycle of abuse. And what it’s doing is allowing her to kind of predict what’s coming next. And it’s been so empowering. And by the way she is working to extricate herself from the situation. But being able to just notice it has given first of all me so much power, and then to be able to share with other people is amazing. So would you walk us through that? What does that look like? And for anyone wondering, it’s called the narcissist cycle of abuse, and it’s on page 156 of your book. Wow.

Helen Villiers 27:05
So the narcissistic cycle of abuse is a cycle of abuse that is specific to the narcissist because it centers them in the behavior. So it’s all about draw, drawing the behavior towards them. What you just said about the empowerment of knowing it whenever I get that diagram out and show it to my clients, because there is a diagram in the book that whenever I show it to my clients, there’s a moat sort of like, Oh, my goodness, realization, and then it kind of anger, like is it this bloody predictable, but shaming because it’s like, I can’t believe I fell for this. And then it’s the relief of this as a thing are their names for this behavior. It’s a cycle. It’s predictable. And now I’ve got anchors, and I can sit in this and I know exactly what’s happening. So I can absolutely combat it. But the cycle is very predictable. It starts with love bombing. Now, for a parent this will be less than it is as a romantic relationship. So love bombing will happen from a parent, but it will be less than it’s needed to be from a stranger, for example, or a romantic partner simply because you are conditioned to love them so they don’t need to put as much effort in. But love bombing is idealization on this epic scale. It’s got absolutely no foundation, there is a school of thought that says that love bombing can be real. But the the idea that it’s real is usually where it’s built on foundation, it’s a sense that there’s a knowledge of the person and the indicator for it being real is that it is sustained. So love bombing in romantic relationships tend to last about three months. And it’s yeah, there’s like massive idealization and everything else. And then once they know they’ve got you hooked, and they use mirroring, and all that kind of behavior to kind of pull somebody in. Once they have somebody hooked, essentially. Then we go into what’s called bread crumbing, which is just where there’s withdrawal and intimate mitten contacts, where it’s a three year breadcrumb of affection. Just to remind you what it feels like to be loved one but not give you the full of experience, but you’ll start complying so that I can get you onside and you’ll start being silent. You won’t complain you won’t criticize because you’ll be so desperate for the love bombing, to start again that you’ll just never criticize me. So bread crumbing starts usually in response to some kind of grievance, it’s usually that you’ve disappointed them you’ve not lived up to their expectation etc. You’ve criticized them or something you’ve challenged them. So the love bombing and the bread crumbing create trauma bond. And then once the trauma bond is created, then the gaslighting really starts and gaslighting is this umbrella term for loads of different behaviors. But the biggest ones are deflection, projection, dismissal, denial, minimizing stonewalling those kinds of silencing behaviors that make you question your perception of reality. So it’s not just I disagree with you, it’s I disagree with you and you’re crazy to even think like that. So there you know, we go into it, obviously at length in the book. And then after gaslighting, we move into The discard phase and the discard phases where there is absolutely no contact at all. And what it’s designed to do is create panic in a person. So it’s Oh my God, I need to do everything I can to get them back. I’m so scared on record, what have I done wrong? Why are you ignoring me? So you are basically fawning over them trying to get them to love you back again to get back into that love bombing. But it’s a discard that we’ve got most hope of breaking that trauma bond because we’re not being exposed to all those behaviors. So discard happens. And then hoovering and hoovering is the RMS, you how Won’t we get together or I’ve sent you a gift, or I put money in your account. And now you have to say thank you, to me, it also can look like anger. I can’t believe you would behave in this way. How dare you do this thing, blah, blah, you know, and it looks different. So I think people often think hoovering is nice and lovely. It’s not always it can be beating into a fight. And then we go back into love bombing, and the whole thing starts again. And that was a very quick rundown. I know, it’s quite a lot of detail. But it’s also a very quick sort of summation of what the cycle looks like. Katie, I don’t know if you wanted to throw anything in there as well.

Katie McKenna 31:11
I think I could go in and give so many examples. But I suppose just to say that it’s it’s in the book and each one of those that you talk about, you know, like the stonewalling the devaluing the deflection, we give examples and stories to take people through this so that they’re able to recognize it. And again, the purpose of being able to do that is to empower themselves to actually again see that they are not the problem, and to see where they’re really feel like they’re banging their head against a brick wall. You know, we hear that I just, you know, we start off a conversation one way, and then we end up talking about something completely different than my head’s in a tailspin. And I don’t know what’s happening. But suddenly, I’m to blame for something that happened three months ago, when I’m telling them to take the bins out or empty the dishwasher. It’s like, how did it get to this, but we’re actually giving examples. So people will be able to recognize the behavior to be able to name the behavior, and then to be able to give people choice and autonomy in their life.

Kristen Carder 32:02
Yeah, I think that is the the biggest thing that is so hard to get when you’re in a narcissistic relationship is autonomy.

Helen Villiers 32:12
Yes, absolutely. Because it’s being fought against all the time. 100%.

Katie McKenna 32:16
Yeah, completely denied.

Kristen Carder 32:18
I want to go back to something you said Helen, which is that love bombing, and a parent child relationship is not over the top. And I’m wondering, could it be as simple as hey, I made you some. I made you some dinner? Yeah.

Helen Villiers 32:34
Hey, yes. So don’t get me wrong, it can be over the top too. So don’t don’t think that it’s you know, it’s not that it’s not love bombing, if it’s this like massive, big gesture that is absolutely a truth. But yeah, it can be this tiny little, anything

Kristen Carder 32:49
that makes us think, well, they’re not. They’re not so bad.

Helen Villiers 32:54
Yeah, one of the one of the most awful ways that people can get love bombed, or they think it’s love bombing, but it’s actually kind of not it’s more about ownership and self glorification is when they hear hear from a third party, how parent was talking about them in such a positive light saying how brilliant they are and how well they’re doing and go, I’m just so proud of them and yada, yada. And it’s, it’s really difficult for people to hear that third hand because it’s like, well, maybe I’ve got it wrong, they obviously do love me, they obviously care about me, they are proud of me, maybe I am good enough. And actually, the reality in that situation is usually it’s just bragging rights. And it’s it’s about making the parent look good, rather than actually caring about the child in any way, shape, or form. That’s why we’re doing it because it’s so unfair. It’s so toxic. It’s so awful what these parents do to their children. It’s so devastating, it destroys people. And it perpetuates the behavior because that person then ends up in an abusive relationship, probably with another narcissist, because this is what love looks like, I know that this is not because my mum, my dad told me so. So I believe him. And if they’re not being mean, and vile and cruel and evil to me, they can’t possibly love me. So you know, and if someone genuinely likes me, there must be something wrong with them. So I must avoid them at all costs. I mean, listen to the toxicity of that. So yeah, they are our souls. And we’ll never stop talking about it. I don’t think at we know,

Katie McKenna 34:23
and when you said that at the end there that there hope you know, that’s what I was hearing that when somebody hears that information. Third hand. And it’s there’s the hope and that actually, if I got it wrong, because there’s able to reconcile and have that relationship. The first half of the book is really about recognizing these behaviors, having labels to put it on the validation in seeing yourself in the story, being able to identify yourself and your parents. And then the second half of the book is actually about healing. And in that healing, we call one of the chapters killing the hope, because that’s a really painful thing to do. And when we say then that hope no matter how small or bank, we’re avoiding the grief because somebody doesn’t want to grieve that. And again, people say, Well, how do I do that. And again, we have exercises on steps to go through for people to be able to recognize this. And again, that they have choice and autonomy. So it’s not that when somebody reads it, that they have to dive, you know, headfirst into the grief, hence that they’re able to recognize, oh, this is why I’m doing this, I’m going to do this behavior, because I want to avoid that feeling. That in itself is awareness. And that is massive, that’s huge in terms of healing,

Kristen Carder 35:33
I just want to read a quote from your book, in that chapter killing the hope you say in our client work. And also socially, we see people returning to abusive relationships over and over again, knowing they are toxic and harmful, yet seemingly unable to leave for good. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the trauma bond is so strong, it mimics heroin addiction in terms of the chemicals released in the brain. The second is hope, hope that the relationship can be what was promised and that this time, the person in question really will change. You

Helen Villiers 36:11
just gonna make me cry. I mean, really? Yeah. I know, we wrote them. But like, that is true. Those two things are absolutely true. And I think that’s why we have to cut people slack when they go back to those relationships, because Oh, absolutely, that is so intensely strong, nevermind the chemicals, I mean, the chemicals are horrendous, and actually, you know, really, really difficult to, to challenge. And it takes a huge amount of identity actually to be able to resist the full the pool of those chemicals. But then that hope that Hope keeps us in so many toxic relationships, whether it’s work, whether it’s parents, partners, whatever, really friendships, all of these relationships. A lot of the time, the reason we stay in them is just because we want them to be what we thought they were. And it’s just devastating. And we really do need to be compassionate to those that return. And we’re not to the point where we get hurt, shut up to the point where we are wounded by their own choices, but remembering that there are driving factors and forces that are almost intolerable, in terms of being able to stay away, and just being really careful for that, you know, with people in that situation, you know, have boundaries, but just hold no judgment, I suppose, as well. Yeah,

Kristen Carder 37:35
I agree. Yeah. I completely agree with you. And I have heard people that I work with clients that I work with, when I when I do point out whether it’s with parental relationships, or, you know, partners or friends, bosses, whatever. They’ll say things like, I feel bad for thinking this about them. I find that so interesting that I as the victim would feel bad. So maybe that’s toxic guilt, maybe that’s fear, I feel bad about even thinking that my boss would be unhealthy, or I feel bad, even thinking that my best friend doesn’t actually care about me the way that she says she does. And I think that what you both are doing is kind of like shattering, shattering the glass around like taking the scales off of our eyes, so that we can actually have actual examples of like, abusive, emotionally abusive behavior, narcissistic behavior. And that in itself, just the clarity there is so helpful in in what you call killing the hope. Because it’s like, oh, this is actually abusive. Oh, I see where I am in the cycle. Oh, I see that this is not changing that I have forgiven, which let’s talk about that. Next. I have forgiven them over and over and over. And, and nothing changes. And, and what I want to say is you don’t have to feel bad for seeing and saying the truth.

Katie McKenna 39:11
Yeah, absolutely. But if just quickly, before we move on, if you look again, that the narratives that these children are told, so from, you know, You’re too sensitive, you’re you’re being dramatic, you’re cold hearted, you’re selfish, ultimately, that you’re a bad child. And so that there’s something wrong with me. And now if I grow up and that I’m saying that my mother or father, you know, the person that put the roof over my head and food on the table and clothes on my back actually didn’t do enough for me. And nevermind even to take it that step further and recognize it for what it is is abusive. What will people think of me? What how am I going to be judged? Because when you look at it, if they would have spoke about this in their inner circle to their own family, it would have been excused it would have been denied it would have been minimized. It would have been, oh, you know what she’s like her, you know what he’s like, and he didn’t really mean that and just don’t provoke them. are told to annoy him, you know, just stay out of his way until he calms down. And this language again, blaming the child that it was the child that provoked and antagonize the parent. Rather than that it was the parent that was aggressive and rageful. And angry or that given the silent treatment, which is rare, you know that when you give the child a silent treatment, or Stonewall a child. And so now here in adulthood, if the child has these messages that I’m dramatic, or that even that I can make things up, if I live in a fairyland, and now I’m actually seeing these things, the fear is, is that actually if I tell somebody else, they’re going to confirm this narrative, that I am mean, I am cold hearted, I am selfish, and to learn that it’s abuse. I, you know, on the podcast, we talk about this, I remember us sharing that, you know, if somebody blocks a doorway, and doesn’t let you leave a room, that’s abusive, and we got emails from people going, Oh, my God, I never thought that was abusive, you know, and it’s like, that’s abusive, when somebody is mocking you shaming you, men mimicking you, ridiculing you, putting you down, it’s like, that’s abusive, and it was, then people are like, Oh, my God, I, I can’t believe that. And there’s this, these like steps of awareness and steps of learning, and then integrating, and all for the purpose to shift the shame and have compassion for the younger self, which actually brings us on to what you wanted to talk about next, which is forgive, I

Helen Villiers 41:17
would just love to add to what Katie just said, is that what you were talking about is I feel bad for holding them accountable for their behavior. 100%. And, you know, just to kind of expand a little bit on what Katie said was the in childhood, they would have been punished for doing that. You know, it’s not it’s the the shaming, and the mimicking the mocking, the division, that dismissal, the denial, but it’s the punishment. And so if I, if I say somebody is nasty, to me, if I say that they’ve got mal intent that they doing this on purpose, that’s evidence that I’m the bad one, right? So it gets really skewed in their brain. And the other thing is that we have a kind of mind blindness around this where we can’t imagine someone doing this with intent, because we would never Yeah, so the reason that you can’t imagine someone deliberately hurting you, is because you would never do that, which is obviously a sign of what a brilliant human being you are. But we know people do things with intent, because we know people murder people, and they robbed people, and they do terrible, terrible things to other people with full intent. So you know, it’s this kind of acceptance that that is a truth that people can be driven by bad thoughts, bad behavior, and have mal intent towards us. And just because they say they don’t, doesn’t mean that they don’t, and we’re not bad if we hold somebody accountable.

Kristen Carder 42:45
I mean, for a child to accept that about their parent, the work that has to be done. So, so majority, if you’re listening to this, and you’re, and you’re maybe in denial, and and I don’t use that in a demeaning way at all, but if you’re just like, you know, see these traits in your parents, but still want to believe like, they, they wanted the best for me, and they love me so much. Like I, I just, I get it, and I hold you with compassion. And I think Katie, you talk about the, like, we’re turning the lights on. But if you want to turn them back off, you can like your you are in charge listener, you do not have to leave, like just flip that light switch on, come back to this when you’re ready, it doesn’t have to be now.

Katie McKenna 43:34
And that’s one thing that we find when the light is turned on, you can’t unsee it. When Absolutely I remember that the analogy then go on if you want to close the door and walk away from this, but those lights will be switched on and you will see it and actually when somebody learns this, for the first time is entering into this what emotional abuse and they’re if they recognize their partner, and then they’ll recognize it back from their parents, and, you know, they can recognize a lot of people around them, then this toxicity, and they will question them going, Oh, my God, is there something wrong with me, I’m seeing it everywhere. And it’s like, no, you have no knowledge and you are you are seeing this you are seeing it for what it is. Whereas before this would be skewered and come back to you again, thinking that you are to blame, and you are the problem and all those narratives that you are told from childhood and

Helen Villiers 44:18
denial is a really comfortable place to sit, you know, and there’s no shame in it, because it does protect us. It protects us against pain, and it protects us against loss. You know, and I will share that for me. It was about two years in therapy. Before I accepted that the person that was doing the nasty stuff to me was the nasty person and it wasn’t me that was the problem and it said like it was a bloody great process. So just really when Kristen saying, you know no judgment around being into no really no judgment because it’s really hard to even know that you’re in denial actually. Because you don’t you don’t often know and then all of a sudden there was I remember it like so clearly this moment of me just be like, What the fuck? Yeah. And then it was like the scales fell from my eyes. But I kind of liken it a bit to getting in a really cold pool, that you have to do it like one step at a time you either jump in, and you like, submerge yourself in it, and you kind of come up with a golden record, and you’re kind of shell shocked by the whole thing. Or you do it very slowly, step by step and get used to it and climatized and you and you get to it, but then once you’re in it actually kind of feels quite good and refreshing. And maybe you can see things a bit differently. And, you know, there’s, you’re never kind of forget that coldness that rigidity. And it’s yeah, it’s that kind of idea.

Katie McKenna 45:36
I love that analogy. Because one thing about denial, though, you’re right, you don’t know when you’re in. But when you are in denial, you’re more vulnerable to suven. So just education is is very important. And

Helen Villiers 45:49
it’s not just important for people who are victims of it, it’s the people around us. Yeah. So everyone should know about it, you know, like this is an absolute passion project that we want everyone to understand this from, from your next door neighbor to the judge, the highest judge in the land, so that they can identify and understand the actual impact of it and what it can do to the victim. Because like we’ve already said, emotional abuse is the cornerstone of all abuse, and no other abuse can exist. Without it, there has to be emotional abuse, for any other abuse to exist. And so we really, as a society have to understand this. So, so Well, yeah, sorry, I could get on my soapbox massively.

Kristen Carder 46:34
I’m so grateful to live now. And 2024. I know there’s so many problems in the world. But like, are we the luckiest humans that we get to live in a time where there’s so much understanding and knowledge and compassion and resources around these topics? Because 2040 100 years ago, this was just the norm. This was just how people treated each other in so many cases, and it was so downplayed, and hidden and swept under the carpet and, and denied. And now we get to live with the lights on Julie and like how lucky are women

Katie McKenna 47:11
locked up in institutions for being crazy? And yes, you know, hysterical. So absolutely. And I’m, and I’m just reflecting on us three women here have been so passionate what we’re talking about and saying, isn’t it great to be alive here now, but also recognizing when somebody is in that abusive relationship, still living it eating and breathing it, they absolutely won’t feel like that. And, again, combat, I can see both your faces compassion for all of us. But again, what we’re saying is that this information is there. Whereas 20 years ago, this wasn’t even available to learn from it to then have that choice to have that autonomy, to have whatever supports, and is there even from Facebook communities, you know, we have a Facebook community there for people to join. So absolutely. But I just I want to recognize for somebody that’s in the, in the depths of this in the trenches, this is really, really difficult, and you don’t have to be grateful for any. So you will just be surviving, and your aim will be to get done, it’s

Helen Villiers 48:13
important to acknowledge that, that any resentment you have as an adult now, not knowing this 20 years ago is also valid, because if I had known this, I would have been 25. If I would have known this at 20. My God, the things I could have avoided in terms of you know, I don’t know whether I’d have listened, but at the same time. There is such a such a grief in that because of the loss of those years and the toxic relationships I’ve had over those years and the kind of abuse and trauma that I’ve experienced as an adult as much as I did as a child. So it’s valid to say, yeah, it’s great. We know it now. But God, where were you? And I get that comment a lot. Where were you 20 years ago? On my socials and it’s like, yeah, where was I? 20 years ago? Could you use me too? So there we go. You know, I was I was experiencing it. But yeah, it’s valid. One

Kristen Carder 49:03
of my favorite titles is a word that I’m not going to say but I would like you to tell me about this title right here.

Helen Villiers 49:13
Okay, so because it’s so much better in her accent, the

Katie McKenna 49:17
Irish accent Yeah. Folk forgiveness. Yeah, we actually named that because there’s this rhetoric from, you know, patriarchy, from religion from society, that you have to forgive in order to heal that when somebody is angry for what was done when somebody betrayed them. Somebody that somebody loved somebody that you know, was supposed to love them, care for them, protect them, betrayed them, and hurt them over and over and over again. And we really wanted definitely to talk about this in the book and to have a chapter but yet we called it forgiveness so that people would be able to remember that you don’t have to forgive in order to heal. And what we talk about this chapter is we about going into the inner child going back to the the younger self, because for a lot of people that grow up in these environments, they do blame the younger self for what they did or didn’t do a little bit what we talked about there, why didn’t I know this before? Why didn’t I see this before when that light is switched on, and they’re back blaming themselves straightaway. So it’s been able to have compassion, and to forgive what you didn’t know. And to forgive yourself because you never deserved that abuse. And it was really in a really strong way. We wanted to say that, yeah, you don’t have to forgive in order to heal. I

Kristen Carder 50:33
just want to read a quote here, from page 241, you say, We firmly believe that forgiveness is not fundamental to the adult child’s healing. Some things are beyond forgiveness. The narcissistic parent is not entitled to be absolved of responsibility for the things that they have done to their children and the way they have negatively impacted their lives. If there was any forgiveness to be had, it’s toward the small, confused, scared child who had no understanding of what was being done to them, or how to make their parents love them. Oh,

Katie McKenna 51:06
my God. Yeah. That that is just the truth. It’s, it’s absolutely. And we just want to preface on what we say in the book, as well as this is all about for somebody else, building their choice and autonomy. So for anybody that wants to forgive, and this is important to them, absolutely go for it. There is no judgment in that we are not saying this is the only way. But when people are talking so much saying that the only way to heal is to forgive nowhere, fundamentally saying that that’s not true. And that you don’t have to give that forgiveness. And so yet, we really just wanted in a way if people needed permission for that, they absolutely have that yet,

Helen Villiers 51:41
because it’s also really bloody, judgmental and superior and somewhat narcissistic, to demand that everybody’s healing is the same. Right? So for people to stand, I mean, I’ve seen so many bloody videos on social media, saying, If you can’t forgive, you’re not letting go. And whenever I post about those people get in my comments, and they’re like, You don’t understand what forgiveness is. And it’s like, I think I might, you know, that’s all right, that’s fine, we can talk about it. But what I am talking about, is saying we don’t have to absolve somebody of accountability in order to be healed, because there are some things that are beyond and if we’re going to say that we have to forgive somebody for abusing us emotionally, do we also includes sexually physically, what else do we include to include financially? At what point do we stop? Because I’m pretty sure if someone hurt my child, I would not come to a place to forgiveness with that, I would never be able to say, I forgive you for doing that thing to my child, and therefore by proxy to me. So what I think it is, is the idea that people standing there saying, if you’re not forgiving, you’re not healing, or you’re not healed. That is so judgmental. It’s so superior. And it’s so not fair. Anybody out is someone boundary, like, who would you are you to get how anyone else decides how to heal or what is right for them. If you want to forgive, then we’ll work this is what I always say to my clients, because they’ll say, Do I have to forgive to heal quite scared quite often? And I’m like, No, absolutely not. Now, obviously, they didn’t know because I talked about it on social media, that that’s my opinion. But initially, people would be so scared to come and say, you know, how do you how do you feel about forgiveness and abuse and parents? And then I’d say it’s a personal choice, what do you feel? What do you want to do? And if that’s what you want to work to, that’s what we’ll do. And if you don’t, then we won’t, and it’s okay. What we don’t want is for bitterness and rage and anger to be sitting in that space. And where we where that should be is placed very much at their doorstep, that anger. But what we’re talking about is compassion for younger self forgiveness for self. Because again, a lot of people will often who’ve grown up in these environments, collude with the abuse towards their younger self and blame their younger selves, and feel quite unforgiving of their younger self and forget that that child was just a child, and just didn’t know what was going on. And so that’s if there is like we said in the book, any forgiveness to be had, it’s towards that small child.

Katie McKenna 54:14
And can I just add that in these narcissistic relationships in these abusive relationships, it is never the abuser that is actually asking for forgiveness. Because for that to happen, you know, for proper forgiveness, they’ll have to take that accountability, responsibility have changed behavior and looking for that. So typically, what’s sad is, you know, can you not get over it? Or are you still harping on about this thing? You just can’t let go of anything. And it’s other people, the flying monkeys coming in and saying, Oh, would you not forgive them? Can you not be the bigger person? Can you not move past it? And it’s like, well, has anybody actually acknowledged the thing that has happened me? Is anybody saying that this was wrong that this was unfair, that this was uncalled for that I didn’t deserve that. Is anybody saying that they should never have done the thing. Are they saying that? And so this whole conversation is typically never even had a rang conversation of forgiveness. And what people are typically saying, although they’re not saying it directly as accept the abuse, just go back and, and what they’re what they’re doing is sending somebody back into the lion’s den to just be attacked all over again. And again, we’re back to this is where the education is so important. So

Kristen Carder 55:17
as a person of faith, I want to interject with some thoughts here because I think it’s so, so, so important that we do have this conversation around forgiveness and really think through what does forgiveness mean? And here’s where I always go back to so if you are a person of faith, or you have kind of like fate, the roots that you you’re trying to shake, but maybe you can’t shake. Even Jesus does not forgive without repentance.

Katie McKenna 55:48
Yes. Oh, right. Oh, absolutely. I mean, growing up in Ireland, like such a, you know, a Catholic place and being born into this, this is a huge unlearning, right, and especially if you grew up in and narcissistic and abusive environments, you’re fed this thing over and over again, in such ways without repentance. So when you think that when somebody goes in and, you know confesses to the priest or to the rabbi, you whoever that is, they’re acknowledging what they did. They’re asking again, for that forgiveness. They’re, they’re taking that stance, whereas the narcissistic parents will typically do one of two things. It’s either Well, if that’s your, if you have a problem, that’s your problem. Or they will play the victim and say, Oh, my God, how could you say that thing about me? You know, after all, I’ve done it for you. And I’ve tried my best and make you responsible for their feelings. So there’s no acknowledgement, no repentance, and I’m thank you so much for sharing that and saying, then you coming from faith, because a lot of times when we say that people will say, Oh, then you’re not religious, and you don’t know what you’re talking about. And actually, this is such a fundamental piece when you’re saying, Actually, Jesus wouldn’t forgive somebody unless there was repentance. That’s beautiful

Kristen Carder 56:56
or important. Yeah. And so for those of us who grew up in religiously abusive environments, forgiveness is used as a weapon. Yes. And it’s used as like, just forgive and forget and absolve the abuser of whatever they’ve done, rather than the abuser repenting, which means a turning away. That’s what repentance means is, I’m just preaching the whole sermon here. We’re turning away, right. So we’re turning away from our sin, or the abuse, or I’m turning away, I’m going in the other direction. So it’s it is literally walking away from the thing that you’ve like acknowledging it and walking away from the bad thing that you’ve done. It’s not saying, just let me do it again to you. Just forgive me just sweep it under the rug. Just bill it’s no, there’s a turning away from it.

Helen Villiers 57:45
You know, what Jesus is asking for? changed behavior. Yeah. Hello. Right. And that’s what we talk about apology is not an apology, without change behavior. Exactly. Apology without change behavior is just manipulation and appeasement. So completely different things, aren’t they? So if Jesus wants to change behavior, I think it’s all right for everybody.

Kristen Carder 58:10
So good, I’m so glad we brought this up. And and, you know, when I talk to clients, and I, I acknowledge, like, Hey, I’m a person of faith, you might not be but so many of my clients say, Well, okay, I’m not a person of faith. But I grew up in this environment. So it still kind of haunts me. And I don’t mean that in a bad way, but like, or maybe sometimes I do mean that in a bad way. It kind of like something a strong, strong, yeah. And so we feel like we’re bad people for quote, unquote, not forgiving, but what that really is, is just holding people accountable for their behavior, and you’re not a bad person for holding someone accountable. Absolutely.

Helen Villiers 58:45
And as Katie says, anyone that says to get over it, forgive them, let it go, is actually saying tolerate abuse, suck it up, silence yourself. Yeah. Don’t hold them accountable. Don’t demand change behavior. And that’s not okay. You don’t deserve to be in relationships like that. You deserve so much more than

Kristen Carder 59:06
ladies, how should we wrap this up? You have offered us so much information. And I know I was saying to you off air. Your book is a compilation of so many different resources. Someone healing from narcissistic abuse is probably going to go watch YouTube videos, and they’re going to go listen to podcasts, and they’re going to try to find books, there aren’t many books. But yours is such a tidy compilation of all of the resources. It’s just in one beautiful place. So thank you so much. What words in closing, would you like to share with our listeners? Just

Helen Villiers 59:40
want to say you’re not the problem, and this book will prove it to think and then tell you how to heal from it.

Kristen Carder 59:47
Yeah, you know,

Katie McKenna 59:48
what a question Greyson, you’ve, you’ve stumped me and it’s not often that I am speechless. And I suppose one of the things when you are reading out the quotes and one of the things that we read As throughout the book is that compassion for self? And so if there’s one word that I want to leave people with it is it is that compassion for self, which then echoes what Helen said that you are not the problem. Yeah, and hope we’re talking about positive hope. Because at the end of the, it’s that there is hope for healthy relationships, you know, healthy communication, healthy sense of self. And so, compassion and then healthy

Helen Villiers 1:00:28
hope, healthy everything. healthy boundaries, healthy boundary. communication, understanding healthy narcissists. Yeah, we talked about that a lot in it, you know that. There is a whole chapter on that, that this book is just about trying to explain what happened to you why it wasn’t okay. What it made you become what how it impacted you, and then what you can do about it. So what we’re saying to people is, it wasn’t your fault. It is your responsibility. Here’s how you fix it. And like, that’s the whole point of the book. And that’s the whole point of therapy. That’s the whole point of our work, isn’t it not Katie, that we people might

Katie McKenna 1:01:11
be surprised is that there’s a laugh or two thrown in along the way, like very much as we speak. We tried to, you know, stay put in our bit of humor. So yeah, all of that. Can I just say and I think I can speak for Helen here to say thank you so much for giving us this time for inviting us on for really shining a light on this what I hope will be life changing from people that support Absolutely, thank you very much.

Helen Villiers 1:01:35
Yeah, it’s just such a joy to talk to you. When really

Kristen Carder 1:01:40
my heart is so full, it is easy to give you guys space because you fill it with brilliance. And so that is not hard to do at all. And I just appreciate the trail that you are blazing and I am so on board with your work. And we were saying like your your freedom fighters, you are fighting for the freedom of so many people who think they’re the problem but actually aren’t. And so thanks for turning the lights on. That’s just amazing. What a beautiful way to wrap up. If you’re being treated for your ADHD, but you still don’t feel like you’re reaching your potential you’ve got to join focused. It’s my monthly coaching membership where I teach you how to tame your wild thoughts and create the life that you’ve always wanted. No matter what season of life you’re in or where you are in the world. Focus is for you. All materials and call recordings are stored in the site for you to access at your convenience. Go to Ihaveadhd.com/focused for all the info.

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