Confessions of a Recovering Narcissist

Step into this scene:

You walk into a crowded party, and you see a sea of faces–most of them beaming smiles. But instead of a surge of curiosity, you feel an overwhelming sense of pressure. Then you imagine, “Are they thinking about me? Am I pretty enough? Are they looking at someone more beautiful than me? How can I appear more desirable? Please look at me. You don’t want to look at me? Well you’re ugly.”

Now you know what it’s like to think like a narcissist. It’s really sad, and that person used to be me.

Balanced human would be thinking along the lines of, “She’s beautiful–he looks fun–I want to get to know this person. Hope my hair doesn’t mess up.” But then again, most people don’t have an enormous hole where their self worth should be. Narcissists do.

The Making of a Narcissist

Narcissists (N) are usually talented and attractive people who skipped over one small detail in their formation: that life is about serving others. The satisfaction of knowing that our actions create value for others is what fills us up with self worth. Those who give freely have the most to give. Narcissists, on the other hand, feel the need to constantly take.

They thought their self worth would be a product of what others gave to them. As a reformed N, I grew up thinking that what I had to offer wasn’t good enough. So when I was called handsome or intelligent, I clung to those thoughts as life preservers. And I did everything to preserve that image.

I pursued sexual relationships to feel validated. Instead of finding my worth and joy in the things I gave to others, I was entirely dependent on the praise of my natural endowments. I was powerless–jumping from one relationship to the next, sucking up as much pleasure as I could, and bailing when things got rocky. And I exited each relationship with less of me than I had to begin–and less sanity.

The cycle drove me nuts. After my third live-in relationship, I seriously considered whether life was worth living. That’s when I knew I needed a serious change.

The Unmaking of a Narcissist

I’d heard from famous speakers like Zig Ziglar that happiness lies in the giving. “You’ll get what you want if you just help enough other people get what they want,” he said. I was lucky enough to’ve been exposed to Zig’s messages when I was at rock bottom, living with my parents, jobless, and broken. Otherwise, I don’t know if I would’ve made it.

As it was, I took Zig’s messages to heart. A complete 180 was my only option, so I started helping others through the written word. But in order to stick with the whole “living for others” bit, I had to unlearn the selfish habits that had made me behave like a narcissist.

It started with giving up porn. 

Porn had always been my biggest crutch. Whenever I was bored, anxious, nervous, or unsure, I turned to porn. The dopamine release was like crack, which distracted me from any uncomfortable feelings I had. But there was one hitch.

In all of that self-pleasure, I never actually learned a thing about myself–and I sure as hell didn’t think about making life better for others. It had to go.

Casual relationships were the next thing to go.

My friends and family had described me as a hopeless romantic because I never was happy out of love. As long as I was in a relationship, I didn’t have to shoulder the responsibility of fulfilling myself–I didn’t have to think about how I was making life better for others. If I was giving my girlfriend wild sex, and if the relationship was entertaining, I could lose myself till it ended, which it always did. And when it did, I focused on getting back into another one so that I didn’t have to be lonely–so that I could lose myself. Giving wasn’t part of the equation, so I had to let the casual relationships go.

Being dependent was the last thing I had to give up. 

Your life heads in the direction of your thoughts. When my habitual thoughts were about others serving me–like my Mom and Dad cooking, cleaning, and providing shelter for me–it was impossible to break out of my selfish patterns. But as I cured myself of narcissism, as I helped others through my writing, and as I grew my profession, I started thinking more about providing for myself. And then one day, I made the leap.

I had to think about myself to survive. I worked hard and I improved as a writer so that I could eat, but the motivation wasn’t just me. I wanted to eat so that I could write, and I wanted to write so that I could help others improve their lives. The better I got at providing for myself, the more valuable my messages became. And after one full year of living solo, I’d left narcissism in mirror.

Here are 3 key habits that helped me change:

Journaling was instrumental in my transformation. I didn’t notice my thought patterns until I wrote them down day after day. When I started journaling, I could finally see those selfish thoughts and behaviors, plain as day. Then I’d plan to replace the old thoughts and habits with better ones.

Planning out each day was another important step. If I didn’t plan on being a better me after my journaling sessions, I wouldn’t have gotten very far. So I made concrete actions steps that would make me a more confident, generous, selfless, and useful person, day after day. For instance: through journaling, I’d notice that I felt hopelessly dependent on other’s opinions of me when I spent too much time on Facebook. Next day, I’d plan to not use Facebook at all, opting for a self improvement activity like reading or writing.

Affirmations were the third critical step in unlearning my narcissistic tendencies. People who describe themselves as narcissists have an unedited mind that keeps spewing selfish and disempowering thoughts. Ick. When you hear a lie once, it’s just a lie. But when it’s repeated over and over and over and over, you’ll believe just about anything–no matter how insane it is. A prime example is the German people who believed that Jews were “unterhumans.” Closer to home, it’s a narcissistic person who believes he isn’t worth dirt.

When I began affirmations, I thought I was repeating lies. “I am beautiful, I am worthy, I am generous, I am capable, I am independent…” Bullshit, I thought. But as I stuck with the habit, I started believing in them. Then I started acting like I believed them. And then I was them. I realized I’d actually been those good things all along…it’s just that my mind was so programmed with junk that I couldn’t see the truth before.

Conclusion

In reality, there is no such thing as a narcissist. We’re all just people. And since we were created by God, we are all good–even those who behave narcissistically, like I did. If you find yourself in a relationship with someone who behaves narcissistically, even if that person is you, it’s best to go solo, and to focus on thinking and behaving like the intelligent and inspiring person you were born to be. Affirmations, journaling, and daily planners helped me make the change. So did giving up porn, casual relationships, and being dependent.

Need help? Sign up for my narcissist reform coaching classes.

 

 

 

 

Is Your Relationship Too Serious?

 

“Serious” is a seriously boring word we use to describe deeper commitment in relationships. But why should serious be the defining characteristic of mature love? In my research of what goes into lasting relationships, I’ve discovered play to be a hugely important and overlooked aspect of resilient love.

 

The experts weigh in

Life without play is a grinding, mechanical existence organized around doing the things necessary for survival. Play is the stick that stirs the drink. It is the basis of all art, games, books, sports, movies, fashion, fun, and wonder—in short, (play is) the basis of what we think of as civilization. Play is the vital essence of life.” – Dr. Stuart Brown, author of ‘Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul’.

We need playful bonds for secure attachments to explore the world with, and to express our true selves. Babies coo and scrunch their faces in response to their parents, and that play is how they connect intimately while learning about the world around them. As we develop, our styles of play become more individualized and complex to suit our relationship and learning needs.

Ideally we would be encouraged to blossom through our unique play (and maybe even make a career of it), but the modern world has become too adult-ish for that. Play is now deemed as childish, stupid, or unnecessary to being a grown up. Is it any wonder we get burnt out in our careers and relationships?

 

The importance of play in love

The honeymoon phase of our relationships is saturated with play. Whether it’s goosing your partner in the grocery store isle, teasing each other in bed, or camping out in the wilderness, play is a clear priority for new love.

The playfulness of romance is nature’s way of saying, “This is how love is supposed to be; this is your blueprint. Now go and build great things.” But oftentimes we use the built in playfulness of new love to escape the responsibility of making fun part of our lifestyles. In a play deficient world, it’s too common for people to remain unaware of this. And when we are unaware, we look to relationships instead of play to bring back personal joy. We become conditional lovers.

The rut of modern romance

I think relationships dissolve not because people change, but because they refuse to be changed by love, which is inherently adventurous. We are inspired to explore, to discover and to create when we fall in love, but it’s up to us to build on that foundation by prioritizing play and committing to remarkable lives. This is hard to do in a cookie cutter, factory sealed, cut and paste kind of world.

After the initial sweep of chemicals in romance, we tend to fall back into the rote routines of “normal life”. But life itself is a miracle, so the business as usual approach to committed love is a death sentence for relationships. If we want seriously happy relationships, we have to bring the spark back to our personal lives through play.

You’ll often hear people describe themselves as boring outside of a relationship. When we get attached to the fun we have with our lover, we start to get serious. We think, “I can’t let this go. I don’t want to go back to boring old me.” And when we look to relationships to bring out the fun in ourselves, it detracts from the unconditional essence of lasting love.

Play, it seems, is a long-forgotten lifeline to our most important relationships.

 

Solutions

So we are left with a couple options. The singles among us can either wait for the next love to bring back a sense of playfulness (only to burn out later), or they can make play a priority right now.

Dr. Brown advises people to retrace their play history

  • What were the activities that you totally lose yourself in as a kid?
  • What kind of play made you feel most like you?
  • What is the one thing that you childhood would’ve been incomplete without?
  • When did you let your favorite play go, and why?
  • What could you do to get it back?

A partner can accentuate your joy, but they can’t force you to commit to a joyful and playful lifestyle. So rediscover your special kind of play that makes life electric. If you get that common kink worked out before you enter a relationship, you’ll be able to love your partner more unconditionally for a lifetime.

For those who are already have a partner, you get to decide each morning what words will describe your relationship: Serious, or playful? Boring, or adventurous? The fun of new romance may long be spent, but you can rekindle a playfully incandescent love with a plan.

1-Retrace both your and your partners play history to discover your missing elements of joy

2-Find our your play personality. And

3- Have both partners commit to their unique forms of play on a weekly basis. Then allow your playful energy to spill over into and recharge your relationship.

 

 Pre-conclusion and pro tips

It doesn’t matter if you and your spouse’s style of play are compatible or not. If you can pursue your unique play together, all the better, but if you don’t ensure your own meaningful play time, you’ll find it hard to express your true self joyfully in a relationship. So reclaim your play, reclaim your joy, and reclaim your relationship.

Pro-tip #1: playing grab ass with your partner is a tried-and-true method of bringing lightheartedness back to a relationship. As a bonus, it leads to playful sex.

Pro-tip #2: Monopoly destroys marriages. Don’t even think about it. If you’re locked inside, opt for uno or stratego.

Pro-tip #3: Get moving with your partner. Whether it’s walking, running, or tossing a frisbee, your body remembers what your brain forgets: life is fun.

 

Real Conclusion

If play seems too simple a fix for a serious relationship, consider how well your car would run without fuel or oil. Play is that important. But don’t worry if your relationship has gotten too serious; it doesn’t mean the relationship is deficient. You and your partner might just be running low on personal joy. And since joy is a function of playfulness, you can reclaim it through committing to your own special style of play. Then you can bring playfulness back into your relationship and build on the initial ecstasy of a honeymoon romance.

Life is good

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Relationship Consulting Services

I’m Daniel Dowling, a relationship consultant based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. If you’ve read my articles, you know what I’m about: Mature love, resilient love, strong families, and continual growth in relationships. Sound like something you need in your life? It’s harder than you think.

Please, don’t contact me if you aren’t willing to dramatically alter your idea of dating and relationships. Bad relationships repeat because of bad plans and misconceptions, not bad luck.

Relationships are designed to challenge us to grow for a lifetime; they are tools for world peace and healthy families. If you want to be comfortable in a relationship, my services aren’t for you.

But if you want to sacrifice to achieve a constantly renewing level of growth and commitment, call me. I’ll help you explore a richer relationship with yourself and the ones you love. Because I offer a full refund for my services, I only work with fully committed and capable clients.

 

My Services

Think about your most inspiring and life-changing moments; did they happen in an office? Not likely. They probably happened while you were engaged in the world, having fun, and doing what you loved.

So with me, there are no stupid offices or paperwork. We’ll be going out to lunch or dinner and talking about the important things in a relaxed, fun setting. Whatever your favorite way to relax and enjoy yourself, whether it’s rock climbing, a spa-trip, hiking, shopping, or sightseeing, that is how we will spend our time together. I want access to the real you, so my relationship consult will be in an environment you love while doing the things you enjoy.

Since no two people have the same strengths and weaknesses, why should you go through a cookie cutter program? Because you aren’t like any other person, I’m offering a completely unique experience to help you develop a customized holistic plan and take control of your life and relationships.

(My home base of Albuquerque/Santa Fe is a worldwide travel destination for outdoors activities of all kinds, art, food, and culture. We have world class hot springs, hiking, climbing, and spa resorts. I prefer to do consultations in this little slice of paradise, but am open to flying to you for an additional fee.)

My Method: Fun, Discovery, and Growth

I’ve found that we humans are most capable of growing while discovering, and most primed for discovery while having fun. Necessarily, my consultations cannot be confined to an office. Do you like roller coasters more than anything? We’ll meet at Six Flags. Are you happiest paddle boarding and relaxing at the ocean? Then get out your favorite towel and flip flops.

I have life-changing relationship advice that is best served while having fun and discovering more about your surroundings and inner world.

Some of our talking points will be:

  • your past relationships, your expectations for future relationships, and the person you want to be for your partner
  • your needs in a relationship and as an individual
  • what you actually want from a relationship
  • how to satisfy your need to grow as a person alone and in a relationship
  • common habits that automatically limit your relationship potential
  • new habits that will build up your future relationships
  • we’ll go over your “perfect partner” to see the traits you need to build to allow room for that person
  • how to start a life-changing journal practice
  • we’ll talk about your relationship history from a no-bullshit perspective.
  • we’ll look at the mistakes that could threaten your next relationship and plan for something much, much better.

At the end of our time together, you will come away with:

  • A holistic goal that factors in your desired quality of life, the difference you want to make in other’s lives, the resources and habits you need to thrive, and action steps to achieve your relationship goals
  • Insights into a completely different way of approaching relationships and dating
  • Insights into fundamental and overlooked human needs
  • A deep understanding of what love is in a relationship and how to build it
  • A firm understanding of the differences between love and lust, and how lust destroys relationships
  • A new standard of dating that will prevent toxic partners from entering your life
  • A new perspective on the importance of building virtue before and during a relationship
  • Practices that will help you grow with you current spouse or find your future spouse
  • A daily journal with advice on making the most of a journaling practice
  • A complementary copy of my book, “Freeing Your Other Half”
  • And an inspiring, fun, relaxed, memorable, and enjoyable experience that will change your life and relationships. Guaranteed*

All of this is delivered in the context of a relaxed getaway centered on Fun, Discovery, and Growth. Does it sound right for you?

 

My consulting services are provided on a daily basis:

$600/half day (5 hours)

$1000/whole day (8 hours)

$2000/weekend (two whole days)

Contact me by phone at (405) 254-7911 or at daniel@dowlingwriter.com

(I’ll need to plan with you two weeks in advance to organize accommodations, activities and meals.*Couples rates vary)

*Because I am fully confident in my services, I offer a full refund to dissatisfied clients

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Experience and Influences

I pursued my career because I became tired of failing miserably in relationships. After I completely overhauled my conceptions, thoughts, and habits, I was asked to share my discoveries with others. I discovered a life worth living, and a deep satisfaction in helping others through my profession.

I’ve written for LifeHack.org, The Good Men Project, CheatSheet.com, Mind Body Green, Urban Dating, Waking Times, and Activist Post. I’ve been featured as a guest on the Flourish With Failure Podcast, Jeff Berwick’s Anarchast, and The Breakup Coach Podcast. I’ve also authored two books on relationships- ‘Freeing Your Other Half’, and “Creating Business Relationships that Pay What You’re Worth”.

I’ve studied under Allan Savory, founder of Holistic Management International and Savory International, in the field of holistic decision making and goal planning. William Ury, founder of the Harvard Program on Negotiation, has helped me to successfully coach couples on the art of conflict negotiation. I’ve also learned about the subtle and profound differences of men and women through Dr. John Gray.