Posts Tagged: narcissist

Understanding Anger in Men

Does he have an anger problem?

Anger can be a confusing emotion to understand. Does he really mean the things he says and does when he’s angry? How do you know when his anger is justifiable or becoming a problem?

Anger is a normal response to frustration, stress, disappointment or hurt. Anger is necessary to our human experience- it alerts us to injustice and motivates us to take action. Anger is useful in protecting others and self when in danger. But unchecked anger can be the root cause of chaos, mayhem, road rage, domestic violence, child abuse, and mass genocides. Anger is such a powerful emotion, it is worth the time to understand it’s role in the lives of the men we love.

  • Anger is Secondary. It’s important to understand anger as a secondary emotion, instead of primary. Anger may feel and look like primary feeling, but it’s not. Anger is always secondary, and is caused by hurt first. We become angry when we sense a betrayal or put-down or dismissal. Different things can trigger anger for different people, however the stimulus felt is always a perceived hurt.
  • Anger is a response to overwhelming feelings of pain and threat. All people experience overwhelming feelings from time to time, but it is how we behave with our anger that really counts. The kind of anger that intimidates, threatens, violates, insults and manipulates is never justified or ok. Figuring out how to recognize and manage anger in a healthy way is always the goal.
  • Often women who love angry men make excuses for their partner’s anger. They say, “Well, he’s under a lot of stress at work,” or “That’s the way he was raised,” or “It’s just part of his personality.” Women sometimes feel so afraid of their partner’s angry outbursts, they do anything to avoid upsetting him. This leads to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

In my 15 years counseling couples and individuals, I have found that there are two types of men with anger issues: one type that experiences shame and regret over his angry outbursts, and one that doesn’t. Both types of men can be abusive with their anger, but only one will care enough to do something about it.

The Repentant Type

The man who regrets his angry outbursts will not only apologize for the things he has said or done, but will also take consistent action to change. Repentance is a humble acknowledgement and deep sorrow of the hurt that was caused and a total change of heart. Evidence of this change is consistently seen by behavior changes. This often occurs through some sort of intervention, like confessing to other supportive people, seeking counseling or psychiatric treatment (not as scary as it sounds, btw), etc. The turn-around is measurable and sustainable. This type usually has something else going on underneath like unresolved grief, PTSD, or many other things that I’ll address in the next blog called, What’s Really Underneath His Anger.

The Non-Repentant Type

The man who uses his anger as a weapon of control, however is unlikely to feel truly sorry about his anger or the pain it causes. He may be unwilling to empathize with the hurt others feel, or even acknowledge he is responsible for it. The Non-Repentant Type may say that he is sorry, but he uses this apology to buy time or manipulate others to get what he wants. His behavior doesn’t show consistent markers for humility, responsibility, mood modification or desire for change.

76564386 - man fists on a wooden table

So what can be done? If you are a woman who loves a man with an anger problem, you may be asking if you can do anything to change things. Yes, you can. The first step is getting the help you need to be safe and you can click here for info. The second is getting the help you need to set appropriate boundaries, and you can click here for info.

If the man you love has anger issues, you may feel scared- like you’re walking around on egg shells hoping you don’t say or do something to upset him. This is no way to live. The truth is, that he will feel much better once he addresses his anger issues, and you will feel much better too. Anger doesn’t have to rule your household. You can have peace again.

What if he is unwilling to get help? This may be where you are at right now. You know that if you were to ask him to get help for his anger problems, he will become upset, defensive, blaming or worse… threatening. If this is you, I can understand why you have delayed in setting boundaries with him. However, things will never get better unless you get the help that you need and stop living in fear.

Nest week, I’ll be covering the problems that masquerade as anger, giving you a better understanding of what is really going on down inside the people you love.

When the Narcissist Fools the Counselor

A few years ago, I was a member of a counseling association for Christian therapists and pastors. This association supported its members with continuing education, scholarly research and ethical guidelines for good practice. I went to a few of the national events and conferences and usually left smarter and more motivated.

One year, however, I got a flyer for an upcoming conference with the name of a plenary speaker from my area. He was wildly popular, and had written many books. Though this talented speaker had a large following, I knew a different side of him. A side of him only seen behind closed doors. I had worked with people who knew him to  be manipulative, abrasive and famously controlling. My clients and colleagues described him as someone who created a climate of fear through verbal abuse, arrogant bullying, and narcissistic control. I would think, “Note to self, avoid this bozo at all costs!”

So, when I saw his name and face on the pamphlet as a plenary speaker for my beloved Christian counseling organization, I was shocked. How could a counseling organization promote him? How could they invite a wolf into the sheep fold? Why couldn’t they see past his polished persona and see the wake of relational wreckage he left trailing behind him? I trusted this organization, and was baffled by their decision to invite him to speak at their conference. I thought to myself, “out of all the people in the Christian community, it should be the counselors who can see through narcissism. It should be the counselors who recognize abusers when we see them. Why are they drinking his kool-aid?”

confused me

I was prompted to write them a letter expressing my concern, but talked myself out of it. I thought to myself, “why would they listen to me? I’m a no-name,” and “if that’s the direction they are going, then good riddance to bad rubbish!” I’m sorry I talked myself out of it. Neither was a healthy or loving way to respond. Instead of communicating my concern, I just didn’t renew my membership that year. Kind of passive- aggressive, I know.

amy's coffee

I should have written that letter, if only for the bragging rights of later being able to say, “I told you so!” Because, about a year later that popular speaker was sent packing and was relieved from his position. He was also found to have participated in plagiarism and unethical use of donated funds. The victims of his financial and spiritual abuse came out publicly about their experiences, and the guy lost all credibility.

Why is this important to you? Well, if you’re living with a Narcissist, and you feel like you’re going crazy, and even the marriage counselor doesn’t see why you’re so upset- I get it. If your narcissist looks great from the outside- good dad, good Christian, good provider, good guy- then you may think no one will believe the pain you experience behind closed doors. Unfortunately well-meaning Christians, pastors, counselors, even whole organizations, can get hood-winkled, Bamboozled, and Cully-gulled by all the charming flim-flam.

oh brother doggy

Narcissistic people can be very convincing when they want something. They can shine the light on their good side so brightly, that it blinds everyone from seeing their bad side. When this happens, the spouse of the narcissist ends up feeling worse than before. The spouse may say, “I finally got him/her to go to counseling, and now he/she got the counselor to side against me. No one sees how she/he really is at home!”

What to do if Your Counselor or Pastor is Fooled:

Don’t chicken out like I did. Be brave and say what you need to say. It’s important for you to do the following:

  1. Address this trickery during your counseling session. The counselor cannot know what they do not know, so it is up to you address your frustrations. 
  2. Don’t wait for the pastor or counselor to rescue you, side with you, or confront your partner. Only you can do your work.
  3. Bring specific actions that you consider to be hostile, controlling, abusive, mean spirited, badgering or manipulative to the session, and talk about them with the counselor. Point out the kind of behavior that is unacceptable to you.
  4. Be honest about what is happening at home, and how you want help confronting these unacceptable behaviors.  

No, your narcissist will not like this, and may deny, cast blame or even retaliate. However, it is important for you to shed light on your relationship and get the support from professionals that seek to live in that light. If the counselor is still hesitant to recognize the destructiveness present in the marriage, then it may be time to find a new counselor. I would recommend a counselor who has experience treating issues related to domestic violence, co-dependence, and narcissism.


Narcissists Who Act Like Christians Part II

Last week, I introduced the topic of Living with a Christian Narcissist. You might wonder, “is it even possible to be a Christian Narcissist?” If a core component of the Christian faith is humility, then how could a Narcissist truly be a Christian? That’s a good question that I have wondered about too. Rather than explain theological issues, my goal has always been to address the heartache that is caused by the sickness called Narcissism in the Christian home.


Two Caveats: 1) I’m glad that I’m not the boss of anyone’s salvation, so I don’t have to weigh in on whether someone is a Christian or not.  2) I’m using male examples of narcissists for simplicity’s sake, but narcissism that hides behind Christianity affects both males and females.

With that said, the point of today’s post is to help readers identify how it feels to live with a person who has the outward appearance of Christianity but lives differently behind closed doors. The family who holds this kind of incongruence often experiences a great deal of stress and anxiety. They might not be able to really put their finger on it, but intuitively, they know something is not right.

If you were to ask the people closest to the Christian Narcissist, you would hear them say things like,

  • “Everyone thinks he’s such a good man, but living with him is really hard,”
  • “People wouldn’t believe me if I told them the things he says to me.”
  • “I feel like I’m being bullied, but no one ever sees that side of him.”
  • “I’m constantly tip towing around his mood, worrying if something is going to upset him.”
  • “I feel like he controls everything I do and say, and one wrong step will send him over the edge.”
  • “He knows the bible better than I do, so I don’t really want to question or challenge him.”
  • “For being a Christian, I don’t know why he thinks it’s ok to act the way he does. Maybe he is under a lot of stress, or he just doesn’t see how his actions hurt me.”


The Problem

For the Wife: The wife sees what no one else sees. She holds her partners’ cognitive and behavioral dissonance inside herself. The conflict between what she believes him to be (a good Christian man) and what she experiences at home (a controlling and psychological manipulator.) She feels trapped in the middle of saving her marriage for her children’s sake and losing herself- a no win situation.

For the Children: The children intuitively know that dad’s actions and words at home are incongruent with his life in front of other people. They push against his control, they cower under his rage, and they grind against the command to “obey your parents.” They wonder about that other verse that says, “Fathers, don’t exasperate your children,” and if their dad knows what that means. Some shy away from conflict with him, and others argue fiercely.

For the Church Pastor: The Pastor of the Christian Narcissist sees what the narcissist wants him to see. The Christian Narcissist serves on the board, gives time and money, and even teaches a class at church. So when the wife brings her husband to the Pastor for marriage help, the narcissist has a ready made strategy to make himself look special, and his wife look like the real problem. The pastor may error on the side “giving grace” to the husband, and giving homework to the wife. Unless the Pastor is experienced with Narcissistic behavior, he may not see through the Narcissist’s charm, embellishments, excuses and manipulation. The wife goes home feeling more hopeless than ever.

For the Inexperienced Counselor: Not every counselor can see through the guise of the skilled and beguiling Narcissist. As a young and hopeful therapist, a couple of narcissistic personalities played me like a fiddle. Seeking training, discovering my own blind spots, and consulting with experts empowered me with invaluable wisdom that has informed my practice. If you are currently seeing a marriage counseling who doesn’t understand the complex dynamic in narcissistic relationships, consider talking it over with him/her or finding someone new.

For the Friend: The friend of the Christian Narcissist has been chosen because, by nature, he’s passive or loyal or both. The friend turns a blind eye to the Christian Narcissist’s character flaws and makes excuses for them because of all the other good things he does. If the Friend asked hard questions or held him accountable for harmful behavior, the Christian Narcissist would have the opportunity to see and possibly even correct his wrong. But, the friend most likely sees his role as “to just stay out of it, be neutral, show him grace,” and the Narcissistic Christian is easily let off the hook.

For the Christian Narcissist: The Narcissistic Man who calls himself a Christian has yet to let Christ fully intersect and transform his life. He has built many mechanisms of control, manipulation and deflection to keep himself from experiencing his deep sense of shame and fear of abandonment. If he were to humbly repent in full surrender to Christ’s transformational love, true change could occur, his shame could be healed and he would no longer need to hide behind his anger, intimidation, and control.

This kind of transformation is unlikely to happen quickly by way of a conversion or baptism experience. However, transformational change can happen through years of therapeutic intervention, Christian accountability and support, and psychotropic medicine to treat anxious rage and compulsions. All too often, the Christian Narcissist instead, mistakenly sees his ego as too sacred a cow to lay down, and pulls away just before God starts to work in his heart.


For the woman living with the Christian Narcissist: you’re not crazy, lazy or dumb. You may feel like you’ve lost your way or lost your voice. You’re not a bad Christian wife. Open up to one or two trusted people about how you’re feeling at home. Ask them to start praying for you to have strength and wisdom for your next steps.

Cracking the Secret Code of Narcissists, Sociopaths and Psychological Manipulators: Part II

Whether you deal with them in business or relationships, narcissists, sociopaths and psychological manipulators can make life difficult if not down right scary. In the beginning, you may have hoped that your relationship could be successful, maybe even remarkable. But slowly as you got to know him, the shiny veneer wore off and you saw the darker side. The rules are simply mind over matter: as in “he doesn’t mind, and you don’t matter.”


There are tell tale signs and predictable behaviors that can alert you to the psychologically manipulative personality. In fact, if you missed the Part I in the series, you can click here for a refresher of the top 10 tactics used to manipulate you.

But there are signs inside of yourself that can alert you to psychologically manipulative people too. Here are some practical ways to understand the unwritten rules to the narcissistic game.

Crack their Secret Code by Listening to Your Own Feelings

You may not know exactly what he is doing or why he is doing it, but you can know how you feel about it. It is impossible to know what is going on inside someone esles’ head or heart. It’s especially difficult to recognize motive if pscyhological manipulation is used to hide that motive.  Often times we can’t quite put our finger on it, but we know something is wrong. This article will help you identify your own feelings so you can better trust your red flags. Your feelings can tell you a lot about another person. Here are the emotions you may feel when encountering a narcissist, sociopath or psychological manipulator:



  1. Exhilaration: First, you may feel excited about the opportunity you have as he sets his sites on you. You feel special, wanted, and you believe his promises. Like a drug, you may feel like you just can’t get enough of his high. At first.
  2. Confusion: Second, you feel confused because there’s things about him that don’t add up. His actions don’t match with his words. His body language doesn’t match with what he says. You want to believe what he has promised, but the way he talks, or the way he treats people makes you concerned about his true intentions. You reason with yourself and decide there is nothing to worry about- that his good traits outweigh his bad traits.
  3. Self doubt: Third, you feel guilty for doubting him, judging him or questioning him. You wonder if you are the one with the problem, not him.  You notice that you’re self esteem is down, and you don’t feel good about yourself as you once did. You start to second guess yourself, not knowing who or what to trust.
  4. Whirl Wind of Emotions: Next, you start to feel crazy. You try to please him, but he seems so unpredictable. You try to do what he wants, but something always upsets him. You never know what you’re going to get with him. Elation turns to fear, and you try hard to use reason to figure out how to make this thing work.
  5. Disappointment: You start to realize that the promises are not going to come true, that you are being taken advantage of, and things aren’t going to get better. You start to feel a sense of dread. Feeling helpless to change him, you fear being trapped in this relationship indefinitely.
  6. Regret: Finally, you feel such a sense of regret over trusting him, you start to blame yourself. You wonder if his mistreatment was really your fault. You say things to yourself like, “I should have known better,” and “What did I do to deserve this kind of treatment?” You may not see a way out, and the guilt feelings seem to overwhelm you.


Sometimes the sociopathic static is so loud, recognizing how you really feel is difficult.  Spending some time evaluating how you feel and why will give you important information. When dealing with a narcissist, sociopath or psychological manipulator, your emotions may seem out of control. Finding someone to help you sort through them is a good first step. When you have the freedom to share openly and honestly about your true feelings, your load won’t seem so heavy. A professional counselor can help you put a plan together to fit your unique relationship circumstances.

If you believe you are dealing with a narcissist, sociopath or psychological manipulator, take steps to give yourself some needed distance and perspective. Disengaging from this personality type will seem uncomfortable and even scary, but necessary for your health and wholeness.


Why Sex Appeal is Not a Sure Indicator for Love

“I never felt the way I felt with him.”

“The passion was so intense between us.”

“I knew from the beginning that he was wrong for me, but something about him just pulled me in deeper.”

“When it was good, it was like fireworks.”

These are classic words from someone struggling to love or leave a User, Narcissist or Scally Wag. Most often, you will intuitively know if a partner is going to be good for you or not. You can tell by the person’s patterns of behaviors, past relationships, job history or lack thereof, if the person is going to be a decent catch.  But sometimes people still fall for “bad eggs” even when they know the person is not healthy for them.


For example, if he has children, how often does he see them? If she has gobs of credit card debt, is it from Nordstrom? If he boasts about being a Christian, does he go to and give to his church regularly? If you just met, is she pressuring you for a commitment? If he says he respects you, do you feel pressured to go faster than you want to go? Is she critical and judgmental, talking about others behind their backs? Is he a real jerk to other people, but overly nice to you? Does she expect you to buy her things that are out of your budget? These are examples of character flaws that should alert you to keep watch.

Most people will be alerted to these warning signs, and will take precautions to find a better catch. But others will ignore them, make excuses for them, and pretend they are not a big deal just to keep the relationship. Why?


Why do some people ignore the red flags warning them against toxic relationships with Users, Narcissists and Scally Wags?

One reason, among many, is sex appeal. You may be unexplainably attracted to a User. The intense eye contact, the light touch of his hand, or her flirtatious smile sends your body over the top. Your body responds to his/her overtures with explosive excitement. The sexual attraction you feel may be unparalleled to anything else you’ve ever experienced. This keeps you hooked. It’s hard to deny or resist the attraction because it seems to have a pull all its own.

The issue of sex appeal points to a larger and deeper issue of Soul Holes. Each of us carry around wounded parts of ourselves called Soul Holes. These are original wounds from long ago when our personality, values and character were being formed. If we didn’t get what we needed in childhood, we grow into adulthood with holes that beg to be filled. Those desires can get sexualized in development and become sexual stimulus, attraction and drive.

Often this sexual intensity is a sign that your Soul Hole is talking. The vulnerable part of yourself is unreasonably and unconsciously drawn to the type of person that never could or would fill your Soul Hole as a child. Sometimes people may even recognize a User first not by anything the User does or doesn’t do, but by the sexual feelings that arise in themselves. Pretty cool alert system, right?


If you had a father who was either absent or emotionally unavailable because of work, addiction, abandonment or mental illness, your inner little girl longs to be seen, valued, and cherished. Since you didn’t receive those important gifts from a father to a daughter, you carry these Soul Holes into adult hood. The trouble starts when you unconsciously look for the same distant, addicted or depressed personality to fill those original holes. Users, Narcissists and Scally Wags smell your vulnerability like a wolf waiting to attack.

If you had a mother who verbally shamed you, put you down, or compared you to other children, you learned early on that you were not good enough. Without intervention, you’ll unconsciously try to get a rejecting type person to finally accept you. You’ll overlook glaring character flaws, pathological behaviors and toxic love in order to have that “crazy in love” feeling from the same type of person who originally rejected you. You’ll think, “Maybe this time, I’ll finally feel good enough.” But Users are incapable of doing anything else but using you.

The following are some ways to help you deal with the sometimes uncontainable feelings you may have for the User, Narcissist or Scally Wag in your life.


  • Be Aware: Pay attention to how you feel, and how your body responds to certain types of people. Your sexual feelings and attraction are just impulses in the body and brain. Sexual feelings do not care about your values or morals. They are just feelings that every human has. You have the power to do with them what is best for you in the long run.
  • Be Strong: Your sexual desires can inform you but do not have to rule you. Your body gives you signals that you can learn to read. Once you master reading your body’s signs, you gain in strength and are able to use those signals for your benefit.
  • Be Smart: Once you recognize you’ve got a thing for Users, you are 10 times further along than you were before. You are armed with information. You are now able to say to yourself, “Hey, I’m totally turned on by that guy. In the past I’ve been turned on to Users, Narcissists, and Bad Boys. My body is telling me that it feels good to flirt with them. But I’m so smart now, I can tell my body that being used doesn’t feel good in the long run. Peace Out!”
  • Be Cool: Hey, having sexual feelings isn’t the beginning or the end of the world. Don’t judge yourself about them. Don’t shame yourself for having them, even if they are misdirected. Your body is like every other body- it has involuntary responses that are normal and human. Sexual feelings are a good thing that tell you you’re body is working.
  • Be Alert: Wise people know themselves well enough to recognize when they are acting out of their Soul Holes. Attraction born out of insecurity, competition, celebrity worship, or imbalance of power never turns out well. Wisdom tells us that though we are free to do all things, not all things are good for us. Wise people stay alert to the desires, impulses and temptations that could pull us down farther than we ever intended to go.

Though simple, this advice is not always easy to carry out. Find some trustworthy people to support you along the way. Forgive yourself for not being perfect, and let God be strong where you are weak.

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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