Today we are touching on the sensitive subject of narcissistic abuse. I am talking to David DeMars, who is a coach and a video producer based in Las Vegas. He is a survivor of Complex Trauma and abusive relationships, and he now specializes in toxic relationship recovery and he helps people heal from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by emotional abuse.
We will address the following questions:
What do Narcissistic abuse, Narcissistic parenting co-dependency look like?
Can we ‘divorce our parents’?
How do we heal from the guilt and shame we carry after we have survived narcissistic abuse?
How do we know if we are dating someone with narcissistic tendencies?
Can they change? Shall we hold out for a narcissistic partner changing and healing?
Do we have to forgive our abuser?
David and I don’t always agree, but I really appreciate his clear perspective and assertiveness. He takes a firm position that is rooted both in his personal experience and from working with thousands of people who have been through abusive relationships.
This is a fast-paced, informative conversation about a complex, difficult, and sadly increasingly relevant subject.
I hope you gain something from it .
David is a Certified Community Coach, video producer and writer based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He specialises in toxic relationship recovery and helping people heal from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by emotional abuse. He has a robust Youtube following where he answers his audience’s questions about these topics.
David’s Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYgyEwnHfKOnRNSfuf8n89A
A SHORT TRAILER:
Imi: Hi, David. Welcome.
David: Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for inviting me to this.
Imi: I know it’s so good to see you again. My first question is, do you identify personally as someone who is also sensitive or emotionally intense and if so, how so?
David: Yeah, for sure. For definitely better portion of my life. Maybe not so much now, but definitely into my 40s for sure. Emotionally charged, right? Emotionally sensitive and high in emotion, and I think that comes from years of not being able to express emotions, I think like most people.
Imi: Can you give me an example of how that comes about in say your childhood or in your adult life?
David: Yeah, sure. I mean, not being able to express… We all know what it’s like when anger builds up because we don’t tell somebody we’re mad at. Right? A partner that we’re mad at and we don’t say anything and maybe it takes weeks, months, maybe even years before we explode. I think that was common in my life. Not to express, not to say anything until I couldn’t take it anymore. I think helplessness and hopelessness were big emotions in my life growing up for sure.
Imi: Have you changed throughout the years?
David: I sure have. Yeah. This last decade has been the biggest change in my life. The last several years of my life, I’ve definitely changed and been able to regulate my emotions more by expressing myself and processing my emotions, not letting them stay open forever. Anger is just a great example to use. A lot of people don’t express their anger and if we lose the source of that anger, we can stay angry forever. I think that me overcoming these, we’re going back to things that didn’t make me angry and healing from those things.
Imi: That’s really interesting that if we disconnect from the… You said if we disconnect from the source of anger, we can stay angry forever.
David: That’s right. That’s right. I think all of our memories, most of them in our life are emotionally charged experiences and the good ones we can recall again, feels good again and that’s great, but the bad ones we try to ignore, right? We don’t fully process or express them and they stay open too just like good ones.
Imi: David, you are a coach and you work a lot with people who suffer from complex trauma. To be honest, the definition of it has changed throughout the time and everyone seems to have a different definition and I want to hear yours, but you also work a lot with people who have been subject to a narcissistic abuse. These are the topics that I want to talk to you about. Quite honestly, so far, I haven’t interviewed many or even dabbled into this whole narcissistic abuse topic, mostly because I feel personally that there are quite a lot of misinformation out there on online forums and articles. I can really understand it does exist. It’s a thing, and there are people who are hurting, and yet when you go online on forums and et cetera, I do think there are lots of emotionally charged misinformation and one-sided information.
Imi: The definition of it has become so loose that I don’t even know how to approach it, but I really like your work because I’ve looked into it. You are really about a direct connection with people you work with. I know you’ve lots of YouTube videos and I’ll be just very blunt. Your credential doesn’t come from a certificate from a university, but it’s really the impact that you’re making in people’s lives. I can see lots of wonderful testimonials and I know that you are directly talking to people and helping them. So that’s what I really like about your work and what makes you really unique? Yeah, I went off tangent here, but what I was trying to say is I would really like to hear your perspective on these topics. What’s your definition of complex trauma and narcissistic abuse?
WHAT IS COMPLEX TRAUMA/ NARCISSISTIC ABUSE ?
David: Yeah. I mean, it’s been around forever, but it’s a new concept that we would give it a title, a name. I think just the reoccurring trauma where we have most PTSD victims come from a single event and that could be a whole tour in war or something like this and I think the CPTSD, the complex means this reoccurring trauma and the best example I can give is familiar neglect, and abuse and trauma in childhood. We don’t heal from this and learn from this and we keep having these same relationships in adulthood with the same reoccurring kinds of trauma. Yeah. That’s what I see the most is people suffering from that and that’s the reason.
Imi: That’s a differentiation between complex trauma and just PTSD.
David: Yeah. There’s several different forms.
Imi: What about narcissistic abuse? What is that?
David: Well, it’s really easy to explain it in childhood, more than in an emotional or older adult relationship, but it’s where… We also know codependent relationships, but it’s the person never reciprocating, it’s never equal. A narcissistic relationship would be with somebody who would be a narcissist, but not necessarily narcissistic.
Imi: You’re talking about the grownup romantic relationship or childhood parents-child relationship?
David: Both. Well, and everyone that I’ve come across so far who’s dated a narcissist in adulthood has narcissistic parenting in childhood. Not necessarily their parents have to be narcissist, narcissistic.
Imi: I like that distinction. I like that distinction because quite honestly, I think this is word has been thrown around so much. It’s almost like in our culture when we’re not happy with something, we call our partner or ex partner a narcissist. I do think we need to be more careful with that. Sometimes they may do things that are narcissistic and there may be a pattern, but that’s quite different to sociopathic tendencies.
David: Definitely. We’re beginning to be raised in a society where I think selfish is a bad, bad, bad thing.
Imi: No, its not.
David: No, it’s not. No. I think let’s put it on a spectrum of selfless and selfish and somewhere in the middle, right? Is good and healthy.
Imi: Absolutely. Would you say on the far end of being completely selfless, how does that relate to codependency do you think?
David: Well, most codependent relationships would be two different co-defendants. I call it the giver and the taker. Some of us knows it the enabler, right? It can be exploitative, one sided, right? You have a selfish person who receives and never gives anything. They don’t meet your emotional needs. They take, take, take. We common associate this with the wife who gets the husband his beer and when he gets drunk, he abuses the wife, and she keeps giving him…
Imi: Obviously, it can be the other side. It can be reversed.
David: True. Yeah, of course. Of course. But that’s the gist of it. Somebody who gives all of their self to somebody and receives nothing in return and that person self has never seen, heard, expressed, or given what they need.
Imi: Do they normally know or are aware that they are in such a situation?
David: Usually not because this is the familiar part. This is their childhood narcissistic parenting. Yeah. This is where they learn what life is and what-
Imi: Tell me, what does narcissistic parenting look like?
David: Sure. Not dive too far into unless you want to, but I think that-
Imi: Dive in. We have time.
David: I think that children need to have unconditional love in their childhood and get it out of their system because there really is no such thing in adulthood. We can’t have relationships with this unconditional love. You can’t hate me.
Imi: And yet so many people because they didn’t get it in childhood, they’d go and look for it in adulthood and that’s when things gets messy.
David: Very common for children to not get what they need at home and stray away and find it somewhere else. If they don’t get it in childhood, they’ll keep looking forever and they can’t. The unconditional love, we love our child no matter what they do, no matter how… There is no stupid or ugly, but I’m talking make lots of mistakes, a bad kid, a weird kid, but make believe friends and stuff like this. We allow this to happen. Unconditionally, we always let them know we love them and this creates a dependency. The child depends on the parent for this. Then at some point when they’re ready at their choice, they can go away from their family and look for independency. But the narcissistic parenting would be that the parents are dependent on the child for something. This is really why it can be extremely difficult for a child to identify this, even as they grow up in adulthood, and this is why they repeat these relationships where the person they’re dating, demanding and needy and codependent and the other person, the child that grew up never still gets what they need in this relationship.
Imi: What would make the parents narcissistic?
David: Well, again, this is narcissistic. We’re not talking about the actual personality disorders.
Imi: I like that there’s a differentiation.
David: Yeah. I think what happens, the narcissistic parent teaches the child that the parent is more important, that the child is not equal. This can come across in all parts of ourselves. Maybe narcissistic parent will teach the child that the parent’s emotions are more important. So maybe the child comes home from school, has a bad day or a good day and wants to share it with the mom or dad and maybe mom or dad is angry and violent and yelling and hitting. The child does not tell the parents they had a bad or good day, because they learned that the parent’s emotions are more important. You see that? This could be from needs. The parent will express what they need and not give the child what they need, teaching the child, again, they’re not equal. From what we want or our opinions or value system, we suggest a good value system to children. We don’t instill it and force it. If that makes sense.
DAVID’S PERSONAL JOURNEY
Imi: Yes, it does. I am interested in your personal journey actually. What brought you to do this work? If you don’t mind sharing?
David: Yeah. I was adopted into a family with mental illness. From schizophrenia to narcissism and that I was raised that way and didn’t heal and had adult relationships with other personality disorder people that abused me. The reason I’m doing this now is because the first time I had a really abusive relationship, when that relationship was over, there was no help available. This is quite a while ago. This is in my 20, early 20s. Being that there was no help available, I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t find help. The therapist didn’t know what it was. The term CPTSD didn’t exist. Even now today, CPTSD is still deemed incurable by many therapists, but I couldn’t find-
Imi: It’s not in the DSM.
David: That’s right. That’s right. I couldn’t find help, and I did it again. I got into another 10-year relationship that was extremely abusive this time. When I got out of that one, that’s when I realized what it was and I could start fixing myself and healing myself and recovering all the way back to my childhood. I really broke through it. I broke through CPTSD and I didn’t have any of these symptoms again. So I really discovered a new me, whole new me that I was supposed to when I was a child, finally.
Imi: What has been the biggest healing agents, healing force in your life?
“DIVORCING YOUR PARENTS”?
David: Well, I mean the biggest step was getting away from my family. I call it divorcing my parents. I think we can’t heal unless we’re away from the source of the trauma and I’m not suggesting anybody needs to do that as well. In my case, I needed to and I think that’s where really my whole life journey could start, but having a title really helped me, CPTSD. Knowing that that was my problem, and now I have something to fix giving me direction and things that I could do was just a huge difference.
Imi: It is a controversial step and I think it’s harder for some people and harder for some culture and some religions. In your line of work, do you find yourself convincing people that they… It sounds wrong to say you convincing people to divorce their family, but when you see that and you think that may be good for them, do you often struggle to talk to your clients who you think would do with benefits from divorcing their parents?
David: Yeah. I don’t even use that term with my clients and I don’t push them in any direction. It’s one thing at a time. When my client has relationships that are unmanageable and it’s too stressful, most of my clients do suffer from stress disorder. We have to get rid of this source somehow and I try to show them or tell them, “Let’s have a contrast.” Many dysfunctional relationships you don’t have space to breathe, time to think. If I can just get them out of there for just a moment, however long they can do that, they start to see the other side and start to identify these toxic behaviors and what caused them their stress disorders.
Imi: I think many people feel incredibly guilty having to step away from the family. So how can people deal with that haunting heavy guilt that they feel?
David: Yeah. Healing from anything, the basic roots is understanding it. Right? When I go back to the child who is dependent on the parent and the parent who is dependent on the child, and that’s where that guilt comes. I can’t leave and seek my own independence guilt-free. My parents tell me, “You owe me.” Right? I mean, how many of us watching this has heard that, “I brought you into this world. You owe me for your life. You owe me for this, keeping you in school.
Imi: I know. Yeah. And I’ve put all this time and money and years into your life, sacrificing my own career, my own happiness. You owe me big time …
David: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I forgot where we were.
Imi: It’s all right. Actually, this is something that I’m really interested in. What do we do with that haunting heavy guilt that we carry all our lives, when we have been brainwashed by our parents that what we do owe them and it’s a debt that can never be repaid? And then it becomes a control mechanism, if the parents want to do that.
David: Yeah. Guilt can always be healed. It’s not that difficult. It’s not as hard as shame. Guilt is a, “I did a bad thing.” Guilt can be healed by having healthy friendships. Guilt can be healed by apologizing, doing your punishment for your crime. Time heals guilt alone. So if we can stop this and the best is start managing the relationships you still want to continue with your family, so that there you feel a little bit more in control now. That helps guilt. Talking, by talking to them. I suggest parents or children writing their parents letters to get things out that they never been able to get out before. But talking to somebody is such the best way to get rid of guilt, to heal from guilt. Talking to somebody and talking to a professional, bouncing these things off with friends and loved ones can really help with guilt and time. Not hard.
Imi: And then they shame.
David: Shame can be a tough one. Shame is, “I’m a bad person,” right? That’s our self-worth and that’s a little bit harder to heal. And that takes a lot more time typically, but really understanding and learning what happened, because anything that feels bad, anything that was traumatizing, anything that hurts, anything that could be even confusing as a child can cause shame. So really understanding what happened, the person that hurts you, what’s wrong with them? Why did they hurt you? These kinds of things can really heal shame. We do things to raise our self-worth.
DATING A NARCISSIST
Imi: Okay. So coming back to the grown up relationships that we have, how do we know if we are dating a narcissist?
David: Well, there’s some obvious ones that a lot of us know about, right? The grandiose, the inflated ego, judgemental.
Imi: Yeah. There’s such a fine line between what’s normal and what would consider as not okay though.
David: Sure. Yeah. Just signs of a narcissist would be those types of things. But we’re looking for unstable, dramatic relationships, right? Relationships are meant to add comfort to our lives where a relationship with a narcissist won’t do that. It may start that way, but it won’t end that way. It’s drama, it’s trauma, right? We have a typical narcissist that is demanding and needy, or maybe they’re one that’s secretive and not around when we come. The biggest key is exploitative. They’re exploitative. They use you for something and they will charm you and do what they have to do to get it maybe. You might can misconstrue that with being a good person or sweet.
Imi: What are some of the questions someone can ask themselves if they suspect that that may be the case?
David: Well, I think the criteria for all relationships, I broke it down is they need to value the same morals you value. I don’t think any strong interpersonal relationship can ever grow or be functional or loving unless that you value the same morals, both of you. That takes a lot of time, a lot of time. When you feel that rush, when someone’s rushing you into relationships and commitment and want to sign contracts, move in, see you every day, text all day, then you get those feelings that it’s being rushed and that’s a very, very, big sign, very, very big red flag.
Imi: Interesting. The signs will be different in different stages of relationships. For example, nowadays, many of us are on these dating apps and sometimes we talk online forever before we even get to meet anyone. What are some early signs that might indicate an imbalanced relationship is brewing and we should step away?
David: Sure. Well, the criteria for a healthy, loving, growing relationship is also that your emotional needs are being met. And the biggest one is security. If you feel insecure in a relationship, it’s not good. It’s not working,
Imi: But surely some insecurity is normal, especially in the beginning.
David: Sure. If you talk to your partner and you communicate with them and you feel you’re being vulnerable and honest and that security it’s not feeling better and you don’t feel secure, there’s a serious, serious problem in that relationship.
Imi: Apart from a childhood familiarity, are there any other reasons why we may be drawn to people who are acting in a narcissistic way?
David: Sure. I think unstable relationships, unstable emotions, it causes a up and down in our hormones and that can happen in childhood from all kinds of different reasons, from neglect, abuse, trauma, and we seek out unhealthier people that are maybe up and down, the relationships are up and down. That’s another part of being familiar. But the root reasons we get into these relationships is our own self-worth. We tend to not build it in childhood and we don’t have it enough to feel worthy of something better. We see these red flags in these relationships from narcissists and we don’t heed to them. We don’t listen to them. We don’t feel them, and we ignore them. I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes where I see it go wrong and it can be right in the beginning of the relationship.
Imi: So let’s say we are in one, we realize, “Oh, shit. We are dating a narcissist or someone who is acting in a narcissistic way.” How do we go out of it?
David: Run, run. I mean, every relationship is different, so I would need more of a scenario.
Imi: It could be dangerous.
David: Sure, sure. The best thing you can always do is get support. Always get help. Things that we need help with, get help. Ask for help. As a professional, I think that’s always the best route to go. If this is a marriage or we have belongings and living together, I need a lawyer. But having someone help you along the way, it can be really life or death. It can be if we’re going to get that extreme. Yeah.
“SMAER CAMPAIGN” AND OTHER TACTICS
Imi: When I work with people who are trying to wiggle out of a relationship like that, often really cruel, crazy things happen. For instance, the partner may be out and about spreading words that are untrue or really portraying a very one-sided skewed picture of the situation and it really, really hurts because there’s such a huge injustice that’s really hard to get over. It’s just what you call a smear campaign or is that something else?
David: Yes. The narcissistic smear campaign often.
Imi: Tell us what it is.
David: Well, it’s character assassination. Somebody who you typically had a relationship with or some contact with and after it ends, or even before it ends, they’re trashing you, they’re attacking your character to convince other people you’re this horrible, bad person. They use half-truths or just complete lies. There’s reasons they do it that are a little different. One might be simply, they don’t want anyone to know that they were the bad person, right? “No, it wasn’t me.” They attack first. Right? They expect you to tell everyone how bad they are, because they really feel like they’re bad people. Even if they remember how bad they were to you, not they feel like bad people. So anyone that gets to know me, I’m scared that you’ll diverge how bad of a person I am. So they do it first. That could be one reason.
David: Another one is they can no longer control you. Maybe you don’t talk to them anymore. Maybe you ended the relationship, maybe you’re dating somebody else or moved away. They will use this tactic to control the people around you, to still have some control of you. By controlling people around you, and it’s very common they’ll contact your family, they’ll contact your boss and convince them of things to do things to you. There might be different reasons they’re doing that.
Another reason is acceptance. Somewhat the best way they believe to be accepted into a group or a community that they’re not yet is maybe attack someone of high status in that community and show the rest of the community how bad that person is. Then now they, because of it are accepted by the group. I think those are the three major reasons for that behavior. It’s abuse. It’s abuse. Smear campaigns are abuse. They’re nasty.
Imi: Yeah. One can feel really powerless when the majority of people are having a wrong idea of who they are.
David: Yeah. Here we have social media on the horizon. It hasn’t been around for much 20 years, not even in. So a lot of these problems are new and there’s not a lot of help out there and a lot of people are taking their own lives, sadly, because of not enough help. Yeah. They’re very, very intrusive in all parts of their lives.
Imi: Absolutely. What about triangulation? What is that?
David: I believe if somebody you know, you have an interpersonal relationship with, and they’re unhealthy, let’s say, definitely if they’re disordered and narcissist, if you never know what they’re doing, I think they’re trying to meet their own emotional needs in a very wrong, unhealthy way.
The triangulation, it’s one way to offer security for them. Emotional security is, “I’ve got your back. I’ll be there for you no matter what. I’ll never talk bad about you. I’ll never share anything we share with anybody else.” This kind of emotional security that’s absolutely mandatory in relationships, but the narcissist doesn’t know how to do this. We can have security in the relationship by communicating and being vulnerable and asking and saying, “I feel insecure and please reassure me.” Right? The narcissists won’t do that. They’re not going to be healthy and they’re not going to communicate well. They’re not going to be vulnerable and ask for these kinds of things.
David: So they manipulate by triangulation and that’s simply adding a third party to the relationship. Now, if I want security in my relationship and I’m a narcissist, instead of asking for it, I’ll make them jealous. Right? I’ll say, “Someone from my office…” That maybe I told my significant other that this woman in my office flirted with me weeks ago. Now I’m going to tell her that I’m going out to lunch with her tomorrow. I’m going to see my significant other get very jealous and feel very insecure and that now is offering me security she won’t leave me. Does that make sense?
David: Or maybe you even want me more. Fight for me.
Imi: Wow. Really feeds that hunger for attention and power.
David: Yeah. Because they’re not meeting their emotional needs, security themselves. They’re not. We have to do it ourselves and that’s how we do it. We ask for it, we take a chance and be vulnerable. Instead, they are exploiting other people for their emotional needs and it never works. It’s never enough. So it’s never ending hunger for their emotional needs to be met. Total dependency.
Imi: Apart from things like gaslighting, triangulations, smear campaign, are there any other more common tactics or strategies that you see?
David: Well, those are the major ones really. I mean, that can cover so much. I say they’re very competitive. I don’t just mean sports and status so much, but they will compete with their significant other. A partnership is we want both of us to be better people and strive for success and be happy. But it’s not with the narcissist. They’ll compete with you. They’re envious to people. They want people envious of them. Lots of pride, lots of pride and that’s that self appointed status. They have to maintain that self-appointed status. They didn’t earn it. They’re saying, “This is who I am,” and they’re always worried about people taking it. So they’re always competing. They’re so shallow. Right? That could be, “I have more money than you. I have a better job than you. More people like me. I’ve got more belongings.” So it’s a very competitive relationship instead of a cooperation.
Imi: I have questions. Are they bad people fundamentally? Don’t we all have a degree of narcissism in us? I mean, what’s the difference between… Where’s the line? There is such thing as healthy narcissism.
David: I hear that a lot, healthy narcissism, but I like to say healthy selfishness. But I mean, where do we draw the line? I don’t want to really go down and start saying there’s good people and bad people and start this splitting things. I would like to not say there’s bad people, bad behaviors. I would like to not judge people for their past and hold them accountable for what they’re doing today. Understanding what is wrong with them it’s to understand how sick they are, how unaware they are of what they’re doing and that’s definitely not a pass.
CAN THEY HEAL?
Imi: I think one difficulty people may have if they’ve been in a long-term relationship, is this whole, should they go? Or should they hold the hope that the person can heal?
David: A narcissist can heal?
Imi: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
David: A narcissist doesn’t believe they have a problem. When you, as a partner wants them to heal, that’s typically… I start hearing change, right? I want to help them. I want them to heal. I want to fix them, and I just hear change and change and change them. They say, “I don’t need to change,” because this is their personality which was developed very, very early on. So that hope is that they’ll be that idealized version or the person they were when I met them. Now I’m starting to really get to know them, and I don’t like. I want him to have been this person here. So that’s what I hear when I hear fixing .
Imi: Personally, I believe even people with narcissistic personality disorder, they can heal. But then I think your point is that it’s not up to us. It’s not up to the partner. The timeline is uncertain. But what if the person say, “Oh, I want to change. I want to. I’ll go to therapy. I will go to therapy for you?”
David: Like I said, I’m not going to close that door on anybody. We could all become better people. I don’t know if they can heal a personality disorder. I’ve heard it happening. It’s not something that I do, but let’s talk about abuse, right? Let’s draw the line there. If someone is abusing a person and especially a narcissist, if they exploit you, that means they do not value human connection. They don’t care who you are. They see you as an object, 100%. So asking, “Is this relationship going to work?” I don’t think so. I think once there’s abuse like that, it’s over. No matter if you continue, no matter how hard you try, no matter how much better the narcissist gets or heals, I don’t think that narcissist is going to see that person as a human being ever again.
David: Yeah. So I think that relationship is over. The narcissist wants to heal more. I wish them luck and I hope that you don’t abuse people anymore and I hope you can start seeing human beings as humans for the first time.
Imi: Even if we walk away now, there has been huge injustice. Sometimes I think people really struggle to release that anger and resentment, even though now this has become a poison for them. So how do we face such injustice? It has been done, how do we get over it?
David: Well, the first part really is to really, really understand and be told that it’s not their fault. None of this is their fault. I don’t care if they let them in. I don’t care if they kept taking them back. I don’t care what they did. It’s not their fault if someone abused them. Period. They need to start realizing it’s the other person’s fault. Talking is just number one. I mean, there’s just so much benefits from talk therapy. I push it all the time, and everything else is supplemental, everything. I don’t care if everything works, but it won’t work alone, not without talk therapy. That’s number one. It’s people that caused this and it’s people that will help heal this really. If that answered your question.
Imi: Yeah, absolutely. That’s what I talk about often, the relational healing.
David: So vitally important. We are just total social creatures and these are about relationships, the most important thing in our lives. So we need to continue. We can’t isolate. We need to be involved with people. All of this is about having happy, healthy relationships. So let’s start learning how to do that. When you talk about the injustice, even though it’s not their fault at all, if you can show them where next time, not the past, can’t change it, but where next time they don’t let this happen again, it gives them some control. Right? It also helps them see, “Oh, it didn’t have to go on maybe for so long.” Giving them some control that it doesn’t happen have to happen again.
David: But we heal from this with compassion, with empathy. One of the biggest questions I get is, “Do we forgive the narcissist? Right? We have to forgive to heal.” And I say, “Yes, we have to forgive to heal, but we don’t have to forgive our abuser. We have to forgive ourselves and really looking at ourselves.” If we can understand or abuser, at least just understand that by using compassion and empathy, that usually helps have compassion for ourselves too.
Imi: That’s really good. I would never force or even suggest anyone to forgive their abuser. It’s up to them. They want to release it. In our culture, there’s so much talk about, “We need to forget. We must forgive.” Well, no, if you’ve been abused, you don’t need to forgive. It’s a choice.
David: That’s right.
Imi: But I do think it becomes heavy for that person. I like what you’re saying, it is first and foremost, forgive. Well, actually there’s nothing to forgive. They haven’t done anything wrong.
David: Yeah. But that’s all that guilt and shame that follows these relationships. Right? Forgive ourselves for that. None of it is our fault, but we still feel guilty and ashamed.
Imi: I think when they are subject to abuse like that, I think they’ve just done all they can to survive, whatever it is.
Imi: Thank you so much, David. Thank you for sharing so openly about your own experience. Are there any questions that would be good for me to ask that I hadn’t covered?
David: Well, I want to thank you too. Thank you very much. I can’t think of any questions. You covered a lot. I think we did. I don’t know how long we’ve gone for, but you had some good questions. I like them. Is there any other questions you want to ask?
Imi: Two more. What’s your definition of resilience?
David: I think we often hear bend don’t break. Right? But really we break and it’s okay if we break. I think that the important word is recover, recover.
Imi: I like that.
David: Yeah. Recover and acceptance. Accepting who we are, accepting our own mistakes and our bad feelings and our good feelings, really, I think that is resilience.
Imi: It’s okay even if we break.
David: Yeah. Yeah. Of course. I think anybody that has suffered in these relationships understands nervous breakdowns. Yeah.
Imi: Rock bottom.
David: Yeah, rise through the bottom.
Imi: Can you share a book with us, a book that has changed your life?
David: The last one I’ve read was Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller.
Imi: Alice Miller. Yeah.
David: Yeah. I enjoyed it.
Imi: That book is potent. Listeners, take a few deep breaths before you jump in. It’s not an easy read. I read it when I was really young. I don’t know. I’m sure it has changed my life too, but probably too young. I remember highlighting every single line.
David: Yeah. It’s a little controversial, isn’t it? It’s probably in controversy.
Imi: Yeah, it is. And yet it’s because someone was brave enough to write what’s controversial and yet it’s the truth that so many people has been changed by it and healed from it.
David: Yeah. Yeah. Great book. Yeah. That one alone, I mean, it talks about the narcissist. It talks about the growing up not being heard or seen and it just covers a lot. It’s fantastic. Narcissistic parenting. Wonderful.
Imi: Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for doing this.
David: Thank you. Thank you very much for asking me.
Imi: I think people you work with are incredibly fortunate to have someone so down to earth and so willing to answer their questions. You do give a lot of yourself in this work and please continue to do what you do.
David: Thank you very much. I will. Thank you.
Imi Lo is a consultant and published author with extensive and international experience in mental health and psychotherapy. Her books Emotional Sensitivity and Intensity and The Gift of Intensity are available worldwide and in multiple languages. Imi has two Master’s degrees; one in Mental Health and one in Buddhist Studies. She works holistically, combining psychological insights with Eastern and Western philosophies such as Buddhism and Stoicism.