Questions for Reflection
In each episode, we offer you a few prompts to think about how that day's conversation applies to you. Our supporters over at Buy Me a Coffee now have exclusive access to the PDF versions of all our Questions for Reflection. Join us today!
Beth Demme (00:03):
Welcome to the Discovering Our Scars Podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:05):
Where we share personal experiences so we can learn from each other.
Beth Demme (00:08):
Our mission is to talk about things you might relate to, but that you don't hear being discussed in other places.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:13):
Our hope is that you're encouraged to have honest conversations with people in your own life. I'm Steph.
Beth Demme (00:17):
And I'm Beth. On today's show, we're going to have an honest conversation titled, Stop Wasting Your Emotions On These People, with Dr. Jill.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:25):
All right. I'm excited, Beth, because today we have Dr. Jill Ricke, and she is my psychologist. Jill, thank you so much for being here.
Dr. Jill (00:34):
You're welcome. I'm happy to be here.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:36):
You've been on our list since the very beginning; since we started the podcast. And I asked you early on and you're like, "Yeah. Of course." And it's taken me this much time to actually put this together, but I feel we have a great topic today. We started working together in '06. I forgot this, but you had to remind me. So my dad is psychologist and I guess I had asked him who would be good to go for counseling, and he recommended you. Is that how it happened?
Dr. Jill (01:02):
Yes, it is. He actually called me and asked me if I would treat his daughter.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:06):
Oh, wow. So, wow. It's all connected. I actually never knew that story. Yeah, so you've been my psychologist for that amount of time. I still am coming, but once a month. So, that's a lot of years. I'm curious though, is that typical for someone to be coming to therapy for that long with the same person? Or how long do you typically see a client?
Dr. Jill (01:28):
Well, it depends on really what they come to counseling for. I mean, there's some issues that are very brief, and then there's some issues that take a long time, especially if you're in a relationship, a toxic relationship, or some form of trauma that usually takes months, sometimes years. And then sometimes just working with somebody, other issues just as you're growing up. Because I started working with you when you were in high school. So we had high school, college, then post-college. So, different stressors occur in our lives. And so, because you were in town, it was easy for you to come back and see me when you needed me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:04):
Dr. Jill (02:05):
So it's not like I've seen you weekly for 16 years. There were gaps.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:10):
Yes. I lived in a whole another city for a while. Yeah.
Dr. Jill (02:13):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:14):
That is true. Because that would be unusual. 16 years straight with no stops to see someone weekly-
Dr. Jill (02:20):
Yes, that's very unusual.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:21):
That would be pretty unusual.
Dr. Jill (02:22):
But I do have patients that I've been seeing throughout their life. I used to work with kids and so, people that were kids and then they went away to college and then maybe they came back after college and I just see them on an as needed basis when they'd have an issue that would come up.
Beth Demme (02:37):
I don't know how you keep it straight. So for me, whenever I have had to start with a new counselor, I hate the starting part of it because there's so much stuff that I feel they don't know, but that I want them to know. Then I don't know how everyone keeps it straight. So if someone comes to you and then they take a five year break and then they call you because they need you, you must keep notes or something. I mean, how do you remember their back stories?
Dr. Jill (03:01):
Well, we do keep files, but we only have to keep them for eight years. But fortunately, I have a good memory and I can look at a file that I have and it comes back to me and there's a lot of people that I just remember for different reasons.
Beth Demme (03:16):
Yeah. I would think that would be a really essential skill.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:20):
So I think back 16 years ago, I think I started coming to you for, I believe I had just finally admitted that I was dealing with self injury to my mom and I think that's when she was like, "Okay, we're going to get you help right away." And then my dad called you and asked for you to treat me. So I'm curious though, that's what brought me to you. What typically brings somebody to seek out your services?
Dr. Jill (03:46):
Well, I work with a lot of victims of violent crime so I can get referrals from victim advocates, from law enforcement agencies. But I'd say the majority of my new clients or new patients are from referrals from somebody that they knew they had seen me. And so, it was a recommendation. I'd say that majority of my clients have post traumatic stress disorder.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:06):
And I got that too. Wow. We didn't even learn that till years later, but she knew I was going to need that service.
Beth Demme (04:14):
And it was really helpful to you when there was a name for it. You're like, "Oh, okay, I got this." Yeah, for sure. This is a side trail, but are there people who are victims of violent crime who don't need counseling?
Dr. Jill (04:31):
They don't think they need counseling. And so, what can happen is... I mean, because I also work with a lot of veterans too. PTSD, the military folks. So, a lot of people are embarrassed to come because of maybe what happened to them and so, it might take them years. Like a lot of sexual assault survivors, it might be years before they come to seek therapy. It really depends on their support group and if they are even aware of counseling, because even though people talk about it it's still considered kind of hush, hush. It's like, "Oh really? You see a psychologist? What's wrong with you." Even now, they're trying to make it not a stigma, it really still is a stigma and especially for the military males in the military have a very difficult time coming, but they tend to come when their PTSD is so bad. They're having nightmares and can't sleep and...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:25):
How often do you typically see those clients? The ones that you said were military clients?
Beth Demme (05:32):
How often or for how long?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:34):
Yeah. Do they come in for once and then they never come back, or is there any typical time?
Dr. Jill (05:39):
No, they'll come weekly. For, it can be a year, it can be two years. I usually start out weekly, then go every other week, and then monthly, and then as needed.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:51):
Does the trauma that people share ever affect you?
Dr. Jill (05:54):
I think I've pretty much learned how to manage it over the years, which is why I do it through exercise. I work out or run or ride my mountain bike and do things like that to let it out. And that's also when I do a lot of my thinking and processing of maybe treatment planning, and so a lot of that is when I'm exercising.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:13):
So something that we talk about on this podcast a lot is, I think everybody could benefit from therapy. That's just my personal opinion and obviously, I'm in therapy and I feel like if I asked you this question, it seems pretty obvious that you would say, yes, everyone would benefit from therapy. But for real, do you think everyone would benefit from therapy?
Dr. Jill (06:32):
Well, the only people that benefit from therapy are people that actually acknowledge that they have an issue and they want to get better. When somebody tells them to come, I rarely work with teenagers anymore because it's their parents make them come, it's a waste of my time, it's a waste of their time. Oftentimes, there are certain types of individuals that they don't think anything's wrong with them or they'll just go to therapy just to have somebody listen to them or they'll go and plead their case against something that might not really be the truth and they've got the therapist on their side and that's kind of not really the way that I want to be used as a psychologist.
Dr. Jill (07:09):
I want to be there to help somebody who wants to get help and actually makes change. So, if I'm working with the person, so I've used to work a lot with the eating disorders, when I work with a person who I don't feel is working and making any progress, I confront them on that and say, I need for you to really want to make some changes because this isn't working. So I try to make them accountable for themselves.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:35):
So I have been seeing you for 16 years, we've had many conversations because there's just been some stuff going on in my life. But there's been times where there's been people that have come in my life and you've kind of explained to me that these are people that aren't going to change and that I have to learn how to deal with these people in my life. And that's kind of what we want to talk about is, who are these people? How can I identify them? So that's what I want to kind of ask you. What are these types of personalities that we want to define?
Dr. Jill (08:09):
That's a very good question. Typically, the people that do not change, they rarely come into treatment because they don't think anything is wrong with them, so they tend to blame other people for their problems. It's somebody else's fault. They might have narcissistic traits or psychopathic traits. And what I mean by these, these are traits where they blame others for their problems, they never take responsibility for things, they have no remorse, they have a callous lack of empathy, they're manipulative and charming and they are abusive to others and they typically are pathological liars. So these are just some of the psychological characteristics of these folks. But because they're like that, they don't think anything is wrong with them. And so, they don't pretty much change.
Dr. Jill (08:56):
But when I was talking about these traits that I said, they're typical of a narcissist or psychopath. And a lot of people tend to use the word sociopath, and that is used probably more often erroneously because there's no valid measure of sociopathy where there actually is for psychopathy, it's called the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised where you can actually get a number, you check off traits, behaviors. If they exist, then they would be characterized as this person has psychopathic traits. Whereas, sociopathy is mainly looking at behaviors. Anti-social behaviors, behaviors like criminal behaviors, things that are against the law. Where I look at a really quick and easy definition of a psychopath would be an aggressive narcissist that engages in chronic antisocial behavior. So you're getting a combination of the personality traits, the callous lack of empathy, the manipulation, the charm, the lies, the deceit, along with the behaviors that are against society, that are against the law, that are just wrong.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:07):
Has everybody encountered someone like this? Do you think we've all encountered these people and we don't really know how to identify them, or we know that we don't feel good around them and they make us feel we're a problem but we don't really...? How do we know who these people are?
Dr. Jill (10:24):
Well, they're not easy to spot unless you've been involved in a relationship or have a family member or a friend or a coworker that has these traits, then you will be able to spot them or if you're researching it. But I need to tell you, we can all be fooled by a psychopath and a narcissist because they are so good at what they're doing because they've spent their whole lives perfecting it.
Beth Demme (10:47):
Yeah, I was going to say, I feel narcissism has been sort of more of a buzzword in the last several years and it's because we have been exposed to narcissists who gain big followings, that they have these...
Dr. Jill (11:04):
Beth Demme (11:05):
Yeah. Although we're saying it's antisocial, that doesn't mean that they're not liked.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:12):
Yeah, it's almost the opposite of antisocial. They're very social. They're very charismatic.
Beth Demme (11:19):
Dr. Jill (11:19):
So when I use the word anti-social, I don't mean it as socialization. I mean it as things that are against the law, things that are crime, so they're anti-social. They're not acceptable ways to act in society.
Beth Demme (11:31):
Dr. Jill (11:31):
That's really what I mean by that.
Dr. Jill (11:32):
Beth Demme (11:32):
Against our social covenant.
Dr. Jill (11:33):
Yes, against our social morals and, yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:35):
What are some hallmark signs of a narcissist?
Dr. Jill (11:40):
Well, some of them, like I said, are callous, lack of empathy, very manipulative, charming, they deny responsibility, they blame other people for their problems, they have a heightened sense of idealize of themselves they think they're more important than they are, they typically have difficult time with relationships. It's a power differential, they always have to be in control and a powerful person. But what's interesting about narcissist and psychopaths is you can be an aggressive narcissist, or you can be a passive, aggressive narcissist meaning they might not be physically violent. Or a passive aggressive psychopath where these individuals typically play the victim role. It's always somebody else's fault, so they get people to feel sorry for them.
Dr. Jill (12:34):
If you're in a relationship with them, they will isolate you from other people so you don't have anybody else but them. So their needs are what totally matters so you end up giving up your needs to take care of their needs because that's just what after a while you've been in a relationship once that bond has been established, then it's like, we call it the psychopathic bond or the narcissistic bond where it doesn't happen immediately. It takes a while for the narcissist or the psychopath will read their victim pretty much and kind of mirror what they do and what they say so then the other person automatically thinks, "Wow, I found my soul mate," or I've found this person that really gets me when actually what they were doing was just manipulating.
Beth Demme (13:22):
What makes a person like that? What makes someone become a narcissist or a psychopath?
Dr. Jill (13:29):
Well, I mean, there's lots of research on that. And in my experience, I'm going to just look at what I've seen in my practice is, I see a genetic component.
Beth Demme (13:40):
Dr. Jill (13:40):
It seems like it's in each generation or it might skip a generation, but I will work with patients that are getting a divorce from their narcissistic spouse and then their children as they age, all of a sudden the child starts developing the same behaviors as the parent that's the narcissist.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:58):
So if somebody has a narcissistic parent, do they need to be worried that they're going to become a narcissist?
Dr. Jill (14:06):
No, and that is usually the biggest fear. And I typically say, if you're in my office, you're not a narcissist.
Beth Demme (14:12):
Yeah, that's right.
Dr. Jill (14:14):
So if you're in my you're office getting help because you actually feel empathy and you feel remorse where a narcissist doesn't. They say and they do things and then later they're like, "Well, what's the big deal. They were just words, I didn't really mean it."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:27):
So you said that these kind of people don't come to your office because they don't think there are a problem. So how do you diagnose a narcissist or a or sociopath? How do we diagnose them if they never come in for treatment because they don't have a problem? Air quotes.
Dr. Jill (14:43):
Well, you can diagnose and like I said, you've got the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, you've got the Narcissistic Personality Disorder Criteria and then...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:51):
But how do you ask them the questions? Or you're just observing them?
Dr. Jill (14:54):
It's going to be from information that you get. Like say police records, divorce, decree, just different things. But oftentimes, they will come in. They will come in and join couples counseling and sometimes it's pretty obvious.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:12):
Yeah, you can tell.
Dr. Jill (15:13):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:15):
So, do you think people are born narcissist or it develops?
Dr. Jill (15:20):
Well, like I said, I think it's genetic. So I think that they have a predisposition. And so, when I work with my patients that divorced a narcissistic spouse and I tell them once, if they seeing their child developing some behaviors that are inappropriate, and I just try to help them get a handle on it and try to teach them empathy because empathy is when you feel bad. You feel bad if somebody is sad or remorse is, you feel bad for something that you said, or these people that have a callous lack of empathy and they have no remorse. They're like, "Oh, well just get over it. What's the big deal?"
Beth Demme (15:58):
You're too sensitive.
Dr. Jill (16:00):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:00):
Yes. So when I think of someone being a psychopath, to me, that sounds like a serial killer, right? But maybe it's not just that.
Dr. Jill (16:11):
No, that is a misconception and that I think right there is why people use the word sociopath instead of psychopath. Because I think if you were to ask anybody or a lot of people they would give a definition of, "Oh, a psychopath is serial killer." Well, that's not necessarily true. There are some serial killers that are psychopaths, but all serial killers are not psychopaths. Just like all psychopaths are not serial killers, if that makes sense.
Beth Demme (16:37):
That does make sense. There's something also, something about that word psycho. I don't know. Somehow I'm relating that I think, which is probably completely cultural and nothing to do with your work and your field. But...
Dr. Jill (16:52):
Well, the word psychopath sounds worse than sociopath.
Beth Demme (16:57):
Yeah, it does. Sociopath almost sounds like benign. "Oh they're a sociopath."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:00):
Well, and psychopath looks very similar to psychologist. It starts with the same letters, which is kind of interesting to me. The reason I can't get them straight is because of my dyslexia. That's what I know that sociopath is wrong, but I don't even know I'm saying it wrong.
Dr. Jill (17:20):
But I know what you mean.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:21):
You know what I mean? Yeah. And I know that I'm wrong, but I can't hear myself saying it. Are all sociopaths narcissists? Wait, did I just say it wrong again?
Beth Demme (17:30):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:31):
Oh my gosh.
Dr. Jill (17:32):
So, yes. Are all psychopaths narcissists? Yes.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:34):
Are all psychopaths narcissists?
Dr. Jill (17:36):
So back to that definition, you've got a psychopath is an aggressive narcissist that engages in chronic antisocial behavior.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:44):
Okay. So, yes.
Dr. Jill (17:44):
So if we look at a continuum, you've got narcissistic traits, full blown narcissism, psychopathic traits, full blown psychopathy.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:52):
Okay. So, they're serial killers who are not psychopaths, what are they?
Dr. Jill (18:00):
Some that I've researched, a guy named Danny Rolling, he was the person that killed all the Gainesville murders about gosh, in the eighties I think. He was a borderline personality disorder. He was diagnosed with that and so was Aileen Wuornos who was the female serial killer around Daytona that would hitchhike and killed men. She was also diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:24):
So what is that? What is borderline personality disorder? I mean, is it being a psychopath or being a narcissist, is that not a personality disorder?
Dr. Jill (18:31):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:32):
They are. Okay.
Dr. Jill (18:33):
I mean, you can have more than one personality disorder. But a borderline personality disorder is a person that the reality is distorted. They typically have attachment issues. They've had oftentimes some trauma, sexual trauma in their life and they're just very manipulative, very seductive, just they cause chaos, wherever they go.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:00):
So borderline personality disorder is different than bipolar.
Dr. Jill (19:03):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:03):
Those are two separate things.
Dr. Jill (19:04):
Oftentimes, a borderline personality disorder has a history of suicidal attempts, non-suicidal self injury.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:13):
Because that's what you told me. I wasn't a...
Dr. Jill (19:17):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:19):
Yeah, I wasn't borderline. Right.
Dr. Jill (19:20):
Because oftentimes, as soon as a mental health professional hears the word cutting, which is now considered non-suicidal self-injury, the first thing they go to is, it's a borderline personality disorder.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:33):
Yeah. And you told me that I don't have that because you had worked with me long enough to know.
Dr. Jill (19:37):
Beth Demme (19:39):
Why is that the connection though? So why would cutting indicate a borderline personality disorder? Is it because of that history of trauma that is happening?
Beth Demme (19:49):
Dr. Jill (19:49):
The history on behaviors, that wanting attention.
Beth Demme (19:52):
Okay. Yeah, which is not at all what Steph was doing.
Dr. Jill (19:54):
Beth Demme (19:54):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:55):
Well, and that's why I don't like to use the word cutting because cutting can be like that... I usually use that word for people that are trying to use it for attention. Mine was never for attention, it was...
Beth Demme (20:07):
You were hiding it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:08):
Yeah, I wasn't for other people to know.
Beth Demme (20:10):
Yeah. So what about gaslighting? I feel like that's another term that I've been hearing more about. What is gaslighting and is that related in some way to narcissism?
Dr. Jill (20:20):
Oh definitely. Gaslighting is a form of abuse that the narcissists and psychopath, that's their favorite thing. A definition of that is, gaslighting a form of emotional abuse that's seen in abusive relationships and it's the active manipulating a person by forcing them to question their thoughts, memories and the events occurring around them. So, another way to look at it, it's like a colloquialism for a specific type of manipulation where the manipulator is successful in having the target question their own reality, memory, or perception of the world and that is from Wikipedia by the way.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:57):
Dr. Jill (20:58):
But what happens typically an example of it is, they say what they need to say at the moment to get what they want, and then when you question them about it later, they deny ever saying it, they turn around they say, I never said that and then they call you crazy. Even despite evidence that shows that, "Oh, oops. Yes, you did say this." They don't ever say, "Oh, I'm sorry." Instead they say, "See how crazy you are." So, and after a while you hear that, you begin to believe it. So oftentimes, I will get patients come to me because they think they're going crazy.
Dr. Jill (21:30):
And another form of manipulation with the gaslighting is, because they say stuff all the time to get what they want and then because there's no truth to it, they don't remember it and so they do appear very believable. Then they'll say, "Well, you know you have a bad memory." So they say, "Well, you know you have a bad memory." You hear that over and over and you start thinking, "Well, I guess I have a bad memory." And so then they start believing it. And so, that's the form of manipulation and it's so devastating.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:58):
Can other people gaslight or is it only narcissists in...?
Dr. Jill (22:02):
Beth Demme (22:02):
Dr. Jill (22:03):
Well, that's just one of their favorite ways of abusing people.
Dr. Jill (22:05):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:05):
Okay. But other people could like... I could gaslight somebody?
Dr. Jill (22:08):
You wouldn't be able to because you're not able to manipulate them. Well, you wouldn't be able to do it without laughing.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:15):
Dr. Jill (22:15):
Like a parent that's a narcissist, the gas lighting that they will do to their child will be, say that child is an adult, and the adult will say to their mom or dad, "Remember when we did this? Remember this time we were stuck in the car for 10 hours and you didn't give us a lunch or something." That's when they'll say, "That didn't happen. You're making that up." So it's like, they use gaslighting to shame the person into believing that whatever their memories are they're wrong. That that never happened. The narcissist will never admit, "Yes, I was a bad parent." They will never admit that because they don't think they were. Y.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:50):
Beth Demme (22:51):
No, memory is just such a funny thing altogether.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:54):
Beth Demme (22:54):
When I think about just in my own nuclear family, my family of origin, the memories vary widely when you talk about certain events and it's like, I have no idea what really happened because I'm the youngest by a lot of years, and everybody else is my memories are very different and I'm like, "I don't know."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:12):
Yeah, it won't hold up on a court of law.
Beth Demme (23:13):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:14):
Although they'll take it like it does.
Beth Demme (23:16):
Dr. Jill (23:16):
Well, but a memory is also going to be based on what you were paying attention to at the time. So if you were only paying attention to the birthday cake that you had on your birthday and meanwhile mom and dad or everybody else was fighting, you didn't pay attention to that so you don't have a memory of that. So the things that get stored in your memory are what you were paying attention to.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:35):
Do you think pictures and video help or hurt our memory?
Dr. Jill (23:39):
Well, what happens with a picture and a video is, once you see it, you think it's a memory so you can't discern the difference between, do I remember this because it was real or do I remember it because it was shown to me. And there is research on that. Actually, I did my master's thesis on that. Looking at different learning and memory of incidental and intentional learning for eyewitness reports. For instance, if somebody gives an account of an accident and they saw it, but then they read a newspaper article about it and the article said the car was green, they'll remember the car was green, but if they didn't read the article and they were asked what color was the car, they might say, I don't know. Because they weren't really paying attention to it, so it's difficult to separate.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:28):
So in this day and age of social media, none of our memories can be trusted because there's so much video and pictures of everything. It's like, I don't know.
Beth Demme (24:38):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:39):
That's... Wow. So, I know I've worked with some people that I'm never going to change. I've had some people in my life like this and I know I have spent... I remember working with some people like this and I would spend just hours trying to figure out, what did I do wrong? How do I work with them? Why is this still a problem? Why is this the person I have all these issues with, but I don't have these issues with anybody else? When I identify these people in my life, how do I stop wasting my emotions on these people and how do I deal with these people if they have to be in my life?
Dr. Jill (25:15):
That's a really good question. And I think most of us believe that our emotions are wasted on people because we believe that everybody's good and everybody has good intentions, and if say they say something mean or something we perceive to be mean, we give them a pass. "Oh, they're having a bad day." And so, the difficult thing is trusting your judgment and to not give them a pass and to remember, "Hmm. They said that. That wasn't very nice," and just kind of file it away and just try to pay attention to how they behave and what they do in the future because everybody knows how they're supposed to act.
Dr. Jill (25:54):
I mean, everybody knows how to act. So you can fake nice all day long because you know what you have to say, you know what you're supposed to do, but you can't fake cruel. And cruel or mean that is who they really are. And I kind of refer to that as the narcissist and psychopath has a mask of sanity. And when they're faking nice, their mask of sanity is on and they're pretending and then when they don't get their way, or something happens and their mask comes off and their mean is a snake, and you're thinking, "Where did this come from?" And then they catch themselves off and they're like, "Oh, I'm sorry." And then you give them a pass.
Dr. Jill (26:28):
And what can happen is, especially if it's the beginning of the psychopathic or narcissistic bond, you want to trust them so you give them a pass, you give them a pass, and then as time goes on, that person that you liked in the beginning, that was really nice, that was faking nice, you keep waiting for that person to come back and they don't come back because that person never existed. So, the real person is who you are with now that has the cruel side and so you just kind of learn because you already have bonded with them, you don't leave the relationship. You kind of day in it because you keep hoping that they'll change and then there'll be glimpses of they'll be nice but then as time goes on the cruelty.
Beth Demme (27:11):
I can see that. I can make excuses. "Oh, well they had a bad day" or, "Oh, they're not feeling good" or, "Oh, they're, you know?"
Dr. Jill (27:15):
Beth Demme (27:16):
And you think, "Oh yeah, the nice version of this person will come back into my life." Because you want to assign positive intent, we want to believe that people are good. So, yeah.
Dr. Jill (27:26):
Beth Demme (27:26):
Dr. Jill (27:27):
Well, because we think because we don't lie and we don't say bad things about other people, why would they? So that is the hardest thing when I'm working with a person who's getting out of a relationship with a psychopath or a narcissist is, how could I have been fooled? How could this have happened into me? And that's what I say. We can all be fooled by them. And it's like the depth of cruelty of things that they say, is very difficult for people to believe especially if they've been married to that person for 10, 15, 20 years.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:58):
And are these people in places of power
Dr. Jill (28:02):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:04):
These are people in our government that we vote into office?
Dr. Jill (28:08):
Beth Demme (28:09):
I mean, we might not have voted for them, you and me, but...
Dr. Jill (28:14):
But other people do because they're fascinated by the charm, by the just being able to...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:21):
Tell you what you want to hear?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:24):
Dr. Jill (28:24):
They're smooth. They say what you want to hear, and then oftentimes say if it's somebody in Congress or something, they can't do what they said they would do because for whatever reason. Maybe there's no money or something that they promised to do, a campaign promise might fall through.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:42):
So, something you've told me when dealing with narcissist specifically is, how do I protect me? And something that really has helped is by you saying, they're never going to change, this is who they are and you have to learn how to deal with them in your life if they're going to continue to stay in your life. And that has been really helpful for me to realize that, "Okay, I know that's hard to come from the place of someone can't change," but that's was really helpful for me to realize, "Okay, they're not going to change."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:14):
So when I'm going to be around this person, I prepare myself. I kind of plan what situation I'll in with them and how I'll be able to handle that. And there are certain things where I know I'm not going to respond to that conversation because I know it's never going to go anywhere because I know where it's going to end, I know what this person's whole end game is. So, I know that's been really helpful for me although it's hard to realize that someone isn't going to change
Dr. Jill (29:42):
You're right. That is hard. But once you figure out... I tell people to research narcissistic personality disorder, psychopathic personality, especially if you think a member in your family might have it, or displays traits of that and so, then once you get all your research in line, then you figure out, "Okay, how much do I want them in my life?" And especially when it comes to family members, it's like, we don't choose our family. We are born into our family, and we tend to love our family members because they're family. But nobody... I try to give my patients permission that you can love your family but you don't have to like them. And if you don't like them, that's okay. Because like I said, you choose your partner, you choose your friends. And that way, you can determine how much time you actually want to spend with them.
Dr. Jill (30:33):
And oftentimes, when young folks get married and they might have a narcissist for a parent, I encourage them, when you go visit your parents at Christmas, because typically they have to visit the parents, a narcissist never comes. And so, I say, just go rent a hotel room. Do not stay in their house. And they're like, "But they'll be mad at me." And I'm like, "So what? They're going to be mad at you anyway." So it's a way of, you have to learn to establish boundaries. Because if it's a parent, they've had so much power over you your whole life, it's very difficult to stand up to them.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:08):
So if you start to identify these traits of someone in your life, do you think that's a good reason to start going to therapy or would someone start researching online? What would be the first step if you start to realize, "Wait, I think my mom might be a narcissist?"
Dr. Jill (31:25):
Yeah, I say definitely research it. There's a book that I recommend a lot. It's called, Will I Ever Be Good Enough?, by Dr. McBride. It's written by a psychologist whose mother was a narcissist and she pretty much kind of directed it toward women with a narcissistic mother, but I've used it with men or women who have narcissistic dads, men who have narcissist fathers. So it's not just for women with a narcissistic mom. But what is interesting, is I will have people who have a narcissistic parent once they've started having children, they come to my office and they're petrified that they are going to become like their parent. And like I said before earlier in the show is that, if you're in my office, you're not a narcissist. But they are paranoid and petrified that they are going to be a bad parent.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:18):
Have you ever had a narcissist come to you willingly for treatment?
Dr. Jill (32:24):
No. Well, one time, a girl brought her boyfriend that was a narcissist and he walks in the office and he says to me, "You will not take notes. I will pay by cash. You will not make a record of this. This is blah, blah, blah." And I said, "Okay, see the door? This never happened, you need to leave."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:44):
Oh my goodness!
Dr. Jill (32:47):
Right. So, no. I mean, and if somebody does come in that's a narcissist, they're usually coming because somebody wants them to come.
Dr. Jill (32:54):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:54):
Yeah. So, it's never...
Dr. Jill (32:54):
And so it's fake and I can pretty much figure it out.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:58):
If you ask a narcissist if they're a narcissist, what will they say?
Dr. Jill (33:01):
They'll laugh at you. They'll laugh at you and say, "you're the narcissist." So, I tell people when they figure out somebody in their family might be a narcissist, I say, you can figure that out. You don't need to talk about it to them, because they will not admit it. They'll call you crazy and call you stupid. And so, you just need to keep that to yourself and just learn how to manage it on your own. And even if you think you have a parent that's a narcissist, and if you try to share this with your siblings, they're not going to want to believe it, they will call you crazy. And so, you just need to just realize that, okay, you figured it out. So, the best thing is you will no longer get hurt. Because with the narcissistic parent or person in your life, you keep trying and trying and trying and it's never good enough.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:44):
So I'm curious for you, Beth. As we're talking about, narcissists are never going to change, and I've talked to you about that before and you are a pastor and your core belief, one of the beliefs I feel like is, people can change.
Beth Demme (34:00):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:00):
And so, how do you feel when we're talking about, a narcissist is not going to change?
Beth Demme (34:06):
Well, I absolutely believe everything that
Dr. Jill is saying because she's researched this and it is the work of her life, so I believe her. I think on the pastoral level, well let me just say too, I would never try to counsel somebody. I know my wheelhouse, I know that's not... There are a lot of pastors who do that but I don't think it's a good idea. But I would say that as a pastor, as a matter of spirituality or a matter of religion, that there is always the possibility for redemption. So I have to hold on-
Beth Demme (34:41):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:41):
Even for a narcissist?
Beth Demme (34:41):
So I have to hold on to hope that somehow some way by some miracle, just like stage four cancer is incurable but sometimes it happens right? Somehow a narcissist could come to terms with who they really are and try to make amends. But I have no idea if that ever really happens. I hold onto the hope that it could. And also, I don't have any narcissists in my life, so it's easy for me to say that, right? I mean, I don't have anybody that I'm like... Right. Oh, yeah. If you don't think you have any narcissist in your life, does that mean you're the narcissist?
Dr. Jill (35:11):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:12):
No. If you think you're... Yeah, if you question it, then you're not.
Dr. Jill (35:15):
So Beth, I think I might be able to help you. I've worked with several people that were in the process of a divorce that the narcissists were very religious. They used religion to hide behind it. And so, they would go to try to do marriage counseling with their pastors and on two occasions they went many, many, many times and the pastor finally said to the person I was working with, "They're not going to change." As a pastor, I'm not supposed to tell you this pretty much, but they're not going to change and you can stay with them and we'll be having this conversation in 10 years.
Beth Demme (35:50):
Right. Yeah, absolutely. And people do use religion to manipulate and-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:55):
Oh, yeah. Pastors use it.
Beth Demme (35:57):
Are master manipulators.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:59):
Pastors that aren't...
Beth Demme (36:00):
What are you saying?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:01):
No, no. Not like you. But there's so many people that are pastors and air quote, "pastors" that have no training. They just started some Yahoo church. That's what I mean.
Beth Demme (36:10):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:11):
The fake stuff, not you.
Dr. Jill (36:13):
And one of the podcasts that I've done in the past, it's on the Aftermath website, is called Psychopathy in The Ministry.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:19):
Dr. Jill (36:20):
Because they gravitate to it because it's really easy to fake being religious and most people who are religious want to believe that the person in the pulpit is the next best thing to God, so they're going to believe them.
Beth Demme (36:31):
Yes. And it is a position that comes with a lot of inherent trust and power and authority. And so, people who are... So, I mean, like in my tradition, in the Methodist Church, the first thing that you have to do is, you have to do a psychological exam. It's the first thing. You say, I think I want to be a pastor and they're like, you're going to need to see a psychologist.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:50):
So, Dr. Jill, is there a connection between selfishness and a lack of self awareness? Because I feel like with what you've been explaining to us about narcissists, they are very selfish and they lack self-awareness.
Dr. Jill (37:11):
That's true. But there isn't necessarily a connection with selfishness and lack of self-awareness because we can all be selfish. That does not mean we're a narcissist or a psychopath.
Beth Demme (37:21):
That's a relief.
Dr. Jill (37:22):
But with the narcissist or psychopath, the world revolves around them. So that's what they've been their whole lives. They don't do things they don't want to do and people are in their lives to take care of their needs. And so, they don't see anything selfish about it because that's how they've been their whole lives. And oftentimes, a parent has enabled that in a ruly teenager. It's just easier to go along. It's just, make it easier and just give him what he wants.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:53):
So if somebody is looking for a psychologist or somebody to do therapy with in some way, do you have any tips for how somebody would find one and how they know what kind of treatment they're looking for?
Dr. Jill (38:10):
Yes, I would try to make sure that the person that they talk to, like if they talk on the phone, ask their experience with working with domestic violence victims, intimate partner victim, intimate partner violence, that's the new term for domestic violence, IPV. But because many narcissists are batterers and so, there's intimate partner violence in a psychopath relationship or narcissist relationship. So, if they have that experience, that means they're comfortable with it, they're going to believe what the person tells them. Because the hardest thing is, some mental health professionals are really not trained to understand the depth of depravity of a narcissist and a psychopath. And so, they don't don't really believe that a person could be capable of that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:59):
And what are your thoughts on...? There's a website called, Better Health or something I think, and it's for online therapy or therapy through an app. What are your thoughts on things like that?
Dr. Jill (39:10):
I'd say that's unethical.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:12):
Okay. So do you think it's important to find someone that you can talk face to face with?
Dr. Jill (39:17):
Yes, because there's so much other stuff going on besides just words, especially if it's just through an app where you're just typing. Even facial expressions, I've had to do some Zoom court experiences and it's just terrible testifying, it's just not the same.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:35):
Yeah. And what is cognitive behavioral therapy?
Dr. Jill (39:39):
That is the form of therapy that I use where it's like you're trying to help people's thoughts, which is their cognitions, and their behaviors. So to change their thought processes, which help them change their behaviors.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:52):
And is that the most typical type of service people are looking for when they go to see a psychologist?
Dr. Jill (39:59):
Well, it depends, but I would say that's the most effective, it works faster, you're helping people learn new behaviors to recognize their inappropriate or cognitions that are not helpful, their thought process. So it's interrupting and catching their thought processes and changing them.
Beth Demme (40:18):
I can't think of a person who wouldn't benefit from that. I mean...
Dr. Jill (40:22):
But they have to want to change and they have to be able to identify that, "Wow, I need help in this area."
Beth Demme (40:28):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:29):
If someone came to you and they said, this is what I need work on, would you be able to say it will take five sessions?
Dr. Jill (40:36):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:36):
Would you ever be able to... Yeah, you would never know because people are complex. I mean, there's always going to be more stuff. I mean, 16 years later, there's more stuff.
Beth Demme (40:44):
Right. Layers and layers of stuff.
Dr. Jill (40:46):
I have this one patient I've been seeing off and on for many years and she's like, when she first came, it was for bulimia and then later it was just other things and she talks to her friend that comes to see me too. It's like, "Yeah, we're graduate students in therapy."
Beth Demme (41:01):
I really appreciate you being here. I mean, it's just a whole fascinating conversation to me. I feel like I haven't said much, but I've been really listening and absorbing it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:10):
Although, I will say cognitive behavioral therapy sounds like such a complex word. It sounds complex, but it's very simple. I think maybe people are intimidated to start going to therapy maybe, or they think... I think I thought I was going to lay on a couch, that did not happen. But you do have a couch. But I do want to say, basically...
Beth Demme (41:35):
On TV, there's always a couch.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:36):
Beth Demme (41:37):
People are always laying down.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:38):
I'm sitting on a couch though. But what I wanted to say is, it's just a conversation. That's what we do when I'm with you is, I talk and you listen and you share and you give me things to think about and to help me realize I'm not the problem in some situations and sometimes I am the problem in some situations. But that's really what it is. It's not something that's overly complex. It's talking. And that's like, the treatment for PTSD is talking.
Dr. Jill (42:05):
Right. And it's not a cure. Sometimes it's just coming in and talking about it and sharing with somebody that helps you process it in your own brain.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:12):
Beth Demme (42:13):
But also what she's pointing to you is that sometimes just having the conversation with her because you are trusting her, your own mind is coming up with the solution that you need.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:27):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:34):
Well, Dr. Jill, thank you so much for being here. This has been awesome. I'm so glad we waited three years. I feel it's been three years. This is the perfect-
Beth Demme (42:42):
Worth the wait?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:43):
....Perfect conversation. So where can people find you?
Dr. Jill (42:46):
They could find me, I am a board member of a foundation, The Aftermath Foundation. So, if they Google, Aftermath Foundation, go on the website and that's where some of the podcasts that I've done are on. They're under Aftermath Radio. You have to scroll down to it, but there's also resources on the website, resources of different books to read, articles that would be very useful if you wanted to start researching about a narcissist or psychopath.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:13):
Perfect. We will put links to all of that on our website and in the description. So thank you so much for being here.
Dr. Jill (43:18):
Well, thank you for having me.
Beth Demme (43:19):
Yeah, thank you, thank you, thank you.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:21):
Yes. I feel like we're going to have you on 10 more times for 10 more topics.
Beth Demme (43:24):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:25):
We'll see if she says yes.
Dr. Jill (43:27):
Beth Demme (43:28):
She said, okay.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:33):
At end of each episode, we end with questions for reflection. These are questions based on today's show that Beth will read and leave a little pause between for you to answer, or you can find a PDF on or, Buy Me a Coffee page.
Beth Demme (43:43):
Number one, after hearing this conversation, do you think there are people in your life who you're wasting your emotions on? Number two, do you go to therapy? What motivates you to go or hold you back from seeking support? Number three, have you ever experienced gaslighting? Number four, what tips did you learn in this episode about identifying these people in your life?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:10):
This has been, the Discovering Our Scars Podcast. Thank you for joining us.
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Mental Health Advocate. Author. Podcast Host. DIYer. Greyhound Mom.
I'm a mom who laughs a lot, mainly at myself. #UMC Pastor, recent Seminary grad, public speaker, blogger, and sometimes lawyer. Learning to #LiveLoved.