Tuesday, October 29, 2013

When to End a Friendship and Move On With Your Life

Women can have very intense and close friendships. So, when it's time to end one, or to put it way on the back burner, it's a devastating experience. You've shared a lot with your soul mate and it's hard to let her go. Female friendships are irreplaceable. Our husbands and boyfriends may love us, but it's difficult for them to understand us like another woman is capable of doing.

But, sometimes, people change so much that it alters the relationship in a profound way. We may reach a point where we wonder if it's worth continuing a friendship. Once we've traveled there, oftentimes, there's no turning back.

If someone has grievously betrayed us, this is a turning point. They've broken our trust. The only way to keep this person in your life is with a new set of rules. Going forward, it would be very hard to share personal details. The relationship will now exist on a more superficial level. You won't be able to maintain the same emotional commitment as before.

You'd also be well within your right to cut the cord altogether. In fact, this might be the wisest choice, as betrayal and friendship are mutually exclusive terms.

Oftentimes, though, circumstances aren't so clear cut. Your friend may simply not be as available as she once was. Or, you may notice you're doing most of the planning and making most of the phone calls. Looking back, you realize you've been driving along a one-way street for a long time.

Sometimes, years into a friendship, it becomes apparent that this relationship was a bad idea from the very start.

If a friendship no longer brings peace, harmony and happiness, it's time to evaluate whether it was fundamentally sound in the first place. You'll then need to invest less energy and to widen your social circle. There are billions of people in the world, and everyone needs good friends.

Moving on is never easy, but sometimes it's necessary. Especially if the "friend" in question tends to be overcritical or unreliable.

Friday, October 25, 2013

My Experience With a Church-Mouse Covert Narcissist

I was already well aware of narcissistic people in religious settings. In the United States, it's estimated that one 1 of every 25 people suffers from full blown narcissistic personality disorder. So you can expect to find a few of them in church.

Since I spend a fair amount of time in church, I had run into a classical narcissist. She was really easy to spot. For instance, she couldn't stop talking. Her mouth ran constantly. Much of what came out of it gossip and backbiting. (This type of behavior is a big red flag.) She was gregarious and extremely confident, as narcissists tend to be. She was also drowning in debt, because of her reckless spending.

In addition, she had mood swings. She would suddenly lash out at whomever was around, for no apparent reason.

I also met a man who was classic NPD. He behaved extremely arrogantly and he said obnoxious things. His words and actions were designed to sting. Plus, he had to run everything. If someone else started a project, he'd co-opt it and present it as his own.

For some reason, my family was having great difficulty at church. I realized these folks had obvious personality issues, and I assumed this was why.

So I was blind-sided when I discovered the true source of the trouble. It wasn't either of these individuals I just described, although the man had certainly gotten involved. Instead, as it turned out, the instigator was a church-mouse "closet narcissist."

During the drama, she pretended to be my friend. Little did I know that she was working hard behind the scenes. The truth was apparent only in hindsight. I left our place of worship. But my problems followed me. That's when it finally dawned upon me that I had a sower-of-discord in my midst.

Rooting out this phony friendship has brought peace.

That's why I believe covert narcissists are highly destructive. Oftentimes they are female. They're the last person you'd expect to be plotting to undermine you. They're often called "closet narcissists," but I think it's time to bring this behavior out of the closet and into the light of day.

In retrospect, I could have prevented these shenanigans if I had known what to look for.

One giveaway would have been poor anger regulation. A brief, but intense, emotional storm would bubble to the surface and then disappear. There were also a few verbal slings I disregarded.

One was right after we met. She had asked me to watch her three children while she was in the hospital delivering number four. I thought it was odd she entrusted her most prized possessions to someone she didn't know well. Wasn't anyone else willing to do this? (It turns out she wasn't speaking to her mother-in-law.)

The day she came to pick up her three oldest, she let me know that God would severely punish anyone who "didn't have all the children He intended them to have." I found this a curious thing to say to someone who has just two children, when she doesn't know my circumstances.

Another time, I was babysitting her children, whom were badly behaved. I tried to distract them with a Catholic video. She became angry because they didn't get a chance to play with my children.

This is one relationship I should have ended before it started.

Flickr photo by The Holy Hand Grenade

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Knowledge Will Free You From the Bully's Grip

Female bullies operate through relational aggression. They create havoc for their target in her social and professional settings. This is the chief means by which they inflict punishment. Although, growing up, we're told that "Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you," that's not entirely true.

The psychological wounds cut deep. In a social group, this may mean someone is marginalized. It's particularly painful if she has children, since they may no longer receive invitations to play dates or to birthday parties.

With church bullies, it may mean her entire family must pull up roots and replant themselves elsewhere. The pastor might not be aware of what is happening or he might assume the bully is not capable of such sinister behavior. Bullies are charmingly deceptive.

In the case of workplace bullying, the usual outcome is job loss, either forced or voluntary. Most people, out of self interest, will side with the bully.

Observers may believe this is just "a personality clash." If the target is emotional, she'll be blamed for "causing trouble." Disordered personalities are clever. They know what buttons to push to make you react.

Learning all you can about narcissistic personality disorder helps take much of the sting away. You'll see that your aggressor, most likely, suffers from a serious character flaw. It's her shortcoming, not yours.

Bullies often aim their arrows at people they envy. They see some quality they want, and, because of their disorder, believe they're entitled to get it. Their concept of self is weak. That's why they constantly seek praise and admiration, at the expense of someone else. In their minds, pulling you down elevates their own standing.

Learning about these dynamics gives you the tools to act. Most of the time, walking away is the best solution. It's not defeat. It's choosing a better work or worship environment, or a nicer group of friends.

Flickr photo by tellatic

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What is a Covert Narcissist and How They Operate

It's impossible spend any length of time talking about female bullying without exploring the role of personality disorders. In recent years, narcissism has become a household word. There's a growing awareness of the psychological traits that go into arriving at a clinical definition of unhealthy narcissism.

These include grandiosity, a feeling that regular rules don't apply to them and an extreme, perverted sense of entitlement, to name a few. For example, a narcissistic friend would consider it a privilege to be in her company. She'll expect a lot of favors, some of which may greatly inconvenience you. However, she feels she's doing you a favor for allowing you to spend time with her.

Narcissists are very engaging individuals who are fun to be around. They have magnetic personalities and plenty of admirers. They're also willing to do just about anything to advance their cause, even if it means injuring others. They're very low on empathy.

A classic narcissist believes she deserves the very best. So you can often expect her to wear very expensive clothes, even if she can't afford them.

The above description, though, doesn't fit all people with this disorder. There's another category known as "closet narcissists" or "covert narcissists." These are the church mouse types. Underneath the humble exterior are highly competitive beings that will scratch your eyes out, if given the opportunity.

In my personal experience dealing with narcissists, I believe these are the more dangerous ones. They are so good at projecting a mask of piety and good will, that it's hard to fathom that they're capable of destruction. Unlike the overt narcissist, they may dress very plainly, or even wear frumpy clothes.

If you're dealing with a closet narcissist, it can take a long time to catch on to the fact that she may be responsible for stirring up trouble. There is one clue, however, that you may only notice in hindsight. Underneath the placid facade is a lot of anger. When she's stressed, it may bubble to the surface for a brief time. Watch for subtle signs of unregulated anger. This is the best advice I can give you on how to spot a closet narcissist.

Flickr photo by Schnaars

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Destructive Effects of Gossip

Relational aggression among females typically involves gossip. A woman's tongue can aptly be called a weapon of mass destruction when she uses it to harm another. Usually it's just not one person. Gossipers are like serial killers, as they slay the reputation of others.

The way to stop this problem is for everyone to stop listening when someone is shredding another to pieces. You can either walk away or you can interject a kind word in their defense.

There are few things you can count on in life, but one thing is entirely predictable. A gossip who pretends to be your friend will also talk about you to others.

Also, the tongue of the tale teller will eventually become the means of her destruction. Eventually, others will realize that she lies, or, at least, greatly stretches the truth. And she'll never be trusted again.

Flickr photo by deviantART2

Monday, October 21, 2013

Meanness in Female-Dominated Professions

Social scientists who study workplace bullying are well aware that it's a huge problem in female-dominated professions, such as nursing and teaching.

It's become such an issue that a body of scholarly work has been dedicated to the fact that mean nurses exist, and they can undermine patient care.

If you or a loved one was hospitalized, would you want someone with a disordered personality creating an uproar on your ward? I think we'd all agree this could be dangerous.

One study in a major American medical center showed 50 percent of new hires felt they were bullied on their shift. Other findings suggest that 25 percent of RNs believe they must care for patients in a hostile environment.

Teachers don't fare any better. An amazing 80 percent of teachers say they are bullied. Oftentimes, the abusers come from within their own ranks, but parents can inflict some punishment as well.

Flickr photo by Lucid Nightmare

Thursday, October 17, 2013

How Can You Tell if You're Being Bullied by Another Woman

Oftentimes, it's difficult to tell when a female bully selects you as her target.

That's because people with disordered personalities, who like to abuse others, are masters of disguise. They pose as your friend. They appear genuinely supportive. But, by the time you figure out something's wrong, this deceiver has poisoned your other relationships. In the midst of the drama, created by her, she may even manipulates the situation so that you're crying on her shoulder.

How can you tell if you're being bullied? If you belong to a social circle, or work in an office, one clue is how others respond to you. Previously friendly colleagues may become aloof, or cast strange glances in your direction. You'll notice that you're now left out of group activities, even though you were once front and center. (Bullies often prey on friendly, popular people.) You'll start to feel increasingly out of the loop.

If this happens at work, you may find it nearly impossible to do your job. That's because you may be denied access to critical information. Or you might not be invited to important meetings anymore.

This is the time to learn all you can about workplace bullying and narcissistic personality disorder. You may need to think about finding a new job. If this happens in a social setting, you might need to reevaluate some of your friendships.

Although this is a very painful period if your life, this, too, shall pass.

Flickr photo by Torley

Female Narcissists and Working for the Boss from Hell

Workplace bullying is widespread. In the United States, more than one-third of employees, at some point in their careers, say they were bullied by a colleague.

This translates into millions of people, and an untold amount of lost productivity. There's also an enormous personal cost, as the targeted individuals, under extreme stress, may develop physical and mental health problems.

Unfortunately, once a target is selected, the odds are greater than 75 percent that she'll soon be out of work. Sometimes she resigns because she just can't take it anymore. Oftentimes, however, her competence, professionalism and integrity are called into question, so she is fired.

Nearly 40 percent of workplace bullies are women. And they usually (71 percent of the time) attack other women, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute.

Many of these corporate tyrants suffer from Malignant Narcissism, or another personality disorder that puts their prey in a no-win situation.

Narcissists are charming, manipulative, deceptive and highly believable. Before striking, she has already ruined your good name, and managed to turn others on the team against you. So, if you start to complain, you're quickly fingered as the "troublemaker" or branded as a malcontent.

Workers in America are at a disadvantage. They do not enjoy the same type of strong anti-bullying laws found in the European Union. So when this emotional abuse starts, they are left defenseless.

Perhaps the only consolation for targets is that they are not alone. There are many resources to help you decide whether to tough it out, or to leave before serious health problems surface.

Flickr photo by Tatiana12

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Misery Caused by Female Narcissists

Any discussion of bad behavior among women must include description of a personality disorder known as malignant narcissism. People with this condition do not follow the expected rules of decency. They appear to be like everyone else, but they're not. One chief characteristic is an appalling lack of empathy.

Healthy individuals would feel remorse if they lied, stole, cheated or disrupted relationships, made someone lose their job or did anything else to harm another. A person with NPD, sadly, doesn't share this capacity.

Oftentimes, you can spot a highly narcissistic individual by the way she relates to others. She is smooth, charming and fun. She is haughty and arrogant with a highly inflated self worth. This comes with an extreme sense of entitlement. She may expect many "favors" from her friends, in exchange for the time you get to spend with her.

Relationships with a narcissistic individual are always one way. If you work with a NP-disordered woman, don't be surprised if she tries to undermine you on the job, or even steal your ideas in order to pass them off as her own. Don't make the mistake of trusting her with sensitive information either.

"Covert" narcissists are more difficult to discern. But they're just as dangerous, if not more so, because they appear so humble and giving. You may entrust them with your most precious secrets, which can then be used against you.

Not every woman who mistreats another suffers from narcissistic personality disorder. But this condition is fairly common, affecting an estimated one of out every 25 people. Malignant narcissists and people who bully others have many of the same traits as sociopaths.

Flickr photo by katerha

Monday, October 14, 2013

Dr. Cheryl Dellasega Describes Relational Aggression

Cheryl Dellasega, PhD., is on the cutting edge of research into relational aggression, which is another name for female bullying.

In her book, Mean Girls Grow Up, Dr. Dellasega writes that the drama we lived through as teenagers doesn't end as we age.

Some women never outgrow their childhood competitive streak, and continue to abuse others well into adulthood. She describes the roles they play. The “Queen Bee” is the chief bully. But the “Middle Bees” are weak-willed enablers and accomplices. The “Afraid-to-Bees” are their targets.

Dr. Dellasega says that relational aggression (RA) is a form of emotional abuse used primarily by women, as we have stronger social relationships than men. And RA, she notes, typically involves social isolation and exclusion.

In her book, Dr. Dellasega gives many examples of female bullying. This can be fairly subtle. For instance, one mother may invite all the children in one social circle to a birthday party, except the child of a woman she dislikes.

Relational aggression among women, unfortunately, occurs everywhere women gather, she explains.

Flickr photo by The Daring Librarian

Putting the Puzzle Pieces Together

I wouldn't feel qualified to write about mean women if I hadn't met a few myself. My most memorable encounters were, surprisingly, at church.

There, I encountered a group of women who liked to push people around. In retrospect, much of this dynamic was driven by one Queen Bee who sowed discord and created drama.

This was a difficult period in my life because I was forced to pull my children out of their spiritual home. We needed refuge, as I was her primary target. It was a bad environment for my children, as they were excluded from choir and from other activities.

With my head still spinning, I embarked upon a quest to understand what had happened. Soon, I started reading about a disorder known as "malignant narcissism," in which someone goes out of their way to take down a perceived adversary. This usually entails rumor mongering and an assortment of other under-handed techniques.

Often this is done because the predator feels threatened. Or she may be envious. Or she may just decide to torment a particular individual, just for the heck of it.

Unfortunately, it appears as if this pathological behavior is all too common. It's estimated that one out of every 25 people have malignant narcissism, or another serious personality disorder. This leave them devoid of empathy and oblivious to the agony of those they hurt.

I'll be writing more about this character flaw in upcoming posts, in an effort to shed light on why some women can be so mean. I plan to include information from some of the experts, who study the peculiar workings of female narcissists and sociopaths.

It's my fervent hope that discussing this topic, and bringing it out into the open, will empower the targets and help to alleviate their pain and frustration.

Bullying by adult females is a subject that hasn't been discussed much, until recently.

Flickr photo by MagnusA

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Different Forms of Relational Aggression

Relational aggression is something that is practiced by both males and females. However, women are the gender that use this form of bullying most often.

Gossip and reputation blackening are one of the main means used to bring someone to their knees, socially. Sometimes the tales have a small grain of truth, which makes them more believable.

Social isolation is another way women may inflict psychological punishment. Picture a group of young mothers meeting at a park. If one of them wishes to shun another, she may later telephone and invite everyone but the targeted individual for a "Mom's Night Out" at a local restaurant. The next time the group is at the park, she'll casually mention the event within earshot of the woman she's trying to exclude.

Although this type of behavior certainly isn't illegal, it isn't very nice, and it has the intention of inflicting pain.

Socially aggressive women may also suddenly "discard" someone by withdrawing their attention and affections.

There is new evidence this type of aggression is a holdover from childhood. Young bullies often grow into older bullies.

What is Relational Aggression?

There are a number of relatively new terms coined by social scientists that describe how adult females often mistreat one another. One is "relational aggression."

This is when someone tries to destroy the social standing of someone else. Women often use this tactic to undermine an adversary. They may feel threatened by another woman. Or they may just desire to raise their own profile, at the expense of their victim.

These attacks are usually carried out under the radar. The malicious rumor-mongering is done without the target's knowledge. By the time she catches on the to fact she's been blacklisted, the damage done is often irreparable.

When this happens in the workplace, the results are predictably disastrous.

Flickr photo by Iqbal Osman!

An Old Tale of Friend Poaching

Women have been "stealing" one another's friends from time immemorial. But a new term known as "friend poaching" describes this modern malady, which seems increasingly prevalent in the present culture of entitlement, which can be summed up in the following statement: "I want what I want and I'll use any means to get it."

This happened repeatedly to my grandmother. One of her gregarious, outgoing relatives would always co-opt her relationships. Only a couple of women in her life remained steadfast, and didn't fall for this ploy. It was a source of constant aggravation to my grandmother, as it happened at least four times.

The details of each "poaching" were similar. The relative would meet the targeted party and then proceed to "take over" the friendship. She made sure to tell my grandmother about all the time she was spending with her former pal.

It really hurt my grandmother when one couple she and my grandfather played cards with were "poached." But it turns out the guilty relative did her a favor. This people were fair-weather friends. When the relative in question was suddenly widowed, they did a disappearing act.

True friends can never be "poached."

Flickr photo by Beau B

Three is a Very Bad Number

Anyone who's ever watched little girls at play knows that three is a very bad number. Two girls will happily interact, for hours on end. But, once you introduce a third, that's when the trouble starts.

Usually what happens is that two of the girls will form a bond, leaving the third one out. Oftentimes, no malice is intended. The newly formed pair may simply be oblivious to the fact they're excluding someone. But it isn't long before the one who's been sidelined will begin to complain, usually through tears, that "They won't play with me."

Unfortunately, little girls don't always outgrow this tendency to leave someone on the margins. It's not uncommon for grown women to also indulge in this sort of behavior, by forming alliances that may be based on the mutual dislike of another, someone they've chosen as an outcast.

Adult female friendships can be very intense, and full of twists, turns and drama. Social scientists are just beginning to explore the not-so-pretty truth about why women can be so mean to each other.

One psychologist also explains the term "best friends forever" is largely a myth, although it's very painful when a "breakup occurs. People change, grow and drift apart.

Flickr photo by roto kirby