The Journey of a Mother

Photo Image by Anurag Agnihotri  Graphics by Randi G Fine

mother quote1

The Journey of a Mother

Written by Jacque Powers

The young mother set her foot on the path of life. “Is this the long way?” she asked. And the guide said “Yes, and the way is hard. And you will be old before you reach the end of it. But the end will be better than the beginning.” But the young mother was happy, and she would not believe that anything could be better than these years.

So she played with her children, she fed them and bathed them, and taught them how to tie their shoes and ride a bike and reminded them to feed the dog, and do their homework and brush their teeth. The sun shone on them, and the young Mother cried, “Nothing will ever be lovelier than this.”

Then the nights came, and the storms, and the path was sometimes dark, and the children shook with fear and cold, and the mother drew them close and covered them with her arms, and the children said, “Mother, we are not afraid, for you are near, and no harm can come.”

And the morning came, and there was a hill ahead, and the children climbed and grew weary, and the mother was weary. But at all times she said to the children, “A little patience and we are there.” So the children climbed, and as they climbed they learned to weather the storms. And with this, she gave them strength to face the world.

Year after year, she showed them compassion, understanding, hope, but most of all unconditional love. And when they reached the top they said, “Mother, we would not have done it without you.”

The days went on, and the weeks and the months and the years, and the mother grew old and she became little and bent. But her children were tall and strong, and walked with courage. And the other, when she lay down at night, looked up at the stars and said, “This is a better day than the last, for my children have learned so much and are now passing these traits on to their children.”

And when the way became rough for her, they lifted her, and gave her their strength, just as she had given them hers. One day they came to a hill, and beyond the hill, they could see a shining road and golden gates flung wide.

And mother said: “I have reached the end of my journey. And now I know the end is better than the beginning, for my children can walk with dignity and pride, with their heads held high, and so can their children after them.

And the children said, “You will always walk with us, Mother, even when you have gone through the gates.” And they stood and watched her as she went on alone, and the gates closed after her. And they said: “We cannot see her, but she is with us still.

A Mother like ours is more than a memory. She is a living presence. Your Mother is always with you. She’s the whisper of the leaves as you walk down the street, she’s the smell of certain foods you remember, flowers you pick and perfume that she wore, she’s the cool hand on your brow when you’re not feeling well, she’s your breath in the air on a cold winter’s day. She is the sound of the rain that lulls you to sleep, the colors of a rainbow, she is Christmas morning.

Your Mother lives inside your laughter. And she’s crystallized in every tear drop. A mother shows every emotion; happiness, sadness, fear, jealousy, love, hate, anger, helplessness, excitement, joy, sorrow, and all the while, hoping and praying you will only know the good feelings in life.

She’s the place you came from, your first home, and she’s the map you follow with every step you take. She’s your first love, your first friend, even your first enemy, but nothing on earth can separate you. Not time, not space, not even death!

Read More About Mothers:

Happy Mother’s Day Poem

A Mother’s Love

Quotes For Wonderful Mothers on Mothers Day

Posted in Children, Family, Mother's Day, Parenting, Poetry | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Narcissistic Mother’s Day Card 2018

Narcissistic Mother’s Day Card 2018

 When you want to sound nice but cannot bear to lie about your feelings…

Also see
Narcissistic Mother’s Day Card 2017
Narcissistic Mother’s Day Card 2016

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Traditional Therapy Ineffective with Narcissistic Abuse Sufferers

Narcissistic Abuse Sufferers Need Very Specialized Counseling

Written by Randi G. Fine, Author of Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing and Recovery

As a professional counselor specializing in narcissistic abuse I have heard the same frustration expressed over and over by my clients. Nearly everyone who comes to me has first seen a psychologist, in some cases for several years. Many preface the comment by telling me that the therapist was very good, but go on to say that the root cause of their suffering was never addressed. Many are angry about the treatment they received.

Though I work with clients both nationally and internationally, they all seem to have the same complaints.

  • They were encouraged to work things out with their abuser
  • The true problem was glossed over
  • They were encouraged to take responsibility for things they had no responsibility for
  • They were shamed and blamed for not seeing their part in problems they did not cause
  • When they didn’t make progress in the time the therapist thought they should they were told it was time to let go of the past and move on
  • They felt as if their therapist thought they were imagining or exaggerating their experiences
  • The therapist focused on finding and practicing strategies to decrease the patient’s symptoms without addressing the problem that caused them. Unable to accomplish the goal, the patient felt worse about themselves, not better.
  • Their suffering never stopped, and in many cases was intensified
  • They had no effective way to deal with their abuser

While the symptoms of narcissistic abuse are recognizable to clinically trained mental health professionals, the comprehensive syndrome caused by it, is often not.

All of the following can be symptoms of Narcissistic Victim Syndrome:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Insomnia
  • Low self-esteem
  • Self-loathing
  • Hopelessness
  • Self-harming
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Avoidance behaviors
  • Phobias
  • Worry
  • Somatizations
  • Weight or eating issues
  • Signs of physical abuse

Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms such as hyper-vigilance, hyper-arousal, irritability, flashbacks, poor concentration, insomnia, nightmares, emotional numbing, memory loss, and heightened startle responses may also be experienced. C-PTSD (Complex PTSD), not yet recognized in the DSM-V and therefore clinically undiagnosable by licensed mental health professionals, often develops from prolonged exposure to trauma.

Narcissistic abuse sufferers often describe themselves as:

  • Empty
  • Lonely
  • Torn
  • Confused
  • Suicidal
  • Unable to cope
  • Guilt ridden
  • Angry
  • Lost
  • Unmotivated or uninterested
  • Detached

Involuntary coping mechanisms that contribute to narcissistic victim syndrome are:

  • Dissociation
  • Infantile regression
  • Stockholm syndrome, also known as trauma bonding
  • Cognitive dissonance
  • Magical thinking

Narcissistic abuse victims cannot be released from the frustrating emotional cycle they are trapped in without first receiving validation that what they experienced truly happened. First time clients always ask me if what they are saying makes sense. Due to the brainwashing and extreme tactics of psychological warfare used against them, they do not know if what they experienced was real or imagined. Narcissists train their victims to distrust their own perception.

As a survivor myself, one who has experienced the same chaos and confusion as those I counsel, I completely understand what they are saying. It makes perfect sense to me. No one can truly understand what it feels like to be victimized this way unless they have experienced it for themselves. This is not something that can be learned in school.

Equally important to their healing is the confirmation that the abuse had nothing to do with them. Narcissistic abuse victims are riddled with guilt. After being conditioned to shoulder the blame for everything they are their own worst enemies.

Narcissistic abuse is no less a victimization situation than any other crime. They were targeted. They didn’t cause it, they couldn’t see what was happening to them, they have no responsibility for it, and they could not have possibly known how to stop it.

Once they receive validation that they are not the crazy ones and understand that they bear no responsibility for what happened to them, they immediately experience a sudden relief. Repressed memories start bubbling up to the surface. Clarity gets restored. Within the next few days the grieving process kicks into gear.

I always prepare my clients for what they will experience in the week between their first session and their second so that when the grieving process begins they will recognize it as such.

In less than a year, often after only six months, my clients are feeling much better and thriving in their lives.

My book Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing is the most comprehensive, most well researched, and most up-to-date book on this subject. One of my primary goals for writing it is to teach mental health professionals how to recognize and treat this syndrome so they can help the hundreds of thousands of people currently suffering from it.

If you are a mental health professional you owe it to your patients to gain this crucial knowledge.

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Free Advice Friday May 11th


My May 11th Free Advice Friday Show, A Fine Time for Healing on Blog Talk Radio will air one hour earlier than usual, so 10am ET instead of 11am ET. This is a live call in show where I take your calls and answer your questions about Narcissistic Personality Disorder abuse. If you would like to call in and talk to me, the number is 424-220-1801. You can also listen to the show live or a recording of it after it airs by going to or by clicking on the image above.

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Erasing Dad Parental Alienation Documentary

(Be sure to click on “cc” for English subtitles)

Article and Video Source *

Erasing Dad is a feature documentary film that follows six fathers who are fighting to raise their children after a divorce and features interviews with professionals who admit, on camera, that they do everything possible to keep children and fathers separated.

In Argentina, fathers are punished for wanting to be active parents to their children after a divorce. Latino men are stereotyped as “machistas”, but many dads in Argentina want to actively participate in their children´s lives after divorce. The justice system favors women and assumes that men are always violent aggressors, and allows fake accusations to prosper. In cases where there are no false accusations, the courts do nothing when visitation orders are not followed. As a result, many fathers are unjustly prevented from seeing their children.

Erasing Dad is more than a documentary, it is a movement. We have more than 30,000 followers on our Facebook page in Spanish and have conducted more than 50 television, radio and print interviews. We are changing the debate about parental alienation not only in Argentina (which approved joint custody recently) but around the world. Families have been reunited after their children or the judges involved in their cases viewed the film. Even attempts to censor the film (it was removed from Youtube numerous times, theaters were pressured not to show it) have not prevented us from raising awareness and turning frustrated families into activists. For that reason, we have decided to keep filming and make Erasing Family, which will be a truly international documentary with stories from the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and Latin America. The focus will be on the children who suffer and entire families that are erased, from moms to dads, grandparents and siblings. Please stay tuned for more updates about how you can get involved. You can find Erasing Family on Facebook.

*Complete article and background on the Argentinian censorship of the Erasing Dad documentary can   be found at

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Invisible Trauma of Childhood Abuse

The Wound of Being ‘Too Sensitive.’

Is it Because of My Childhood?

Article Written by Imi, Copied from Eggshell Therapy and Coaching Website

In my work with emotionally intense, sensitive and gifted individuals, I am cautious of the confines of categories and diagnoses. Far too often, the most creative, forward and independent thinking people are being misunderstood, mislabelled and misdiagnosed. However, it is also true that because of their innately unique ways of perceiving the world, they are acutely aware of and have more intense internal responses towards existing problems in their early lives, which may exacerbate the impact of any developmental deficits and trauma.

A wide array of theories have been proposed to give explanations for heightened sensitivities and its associated traits, but none of these should be regarded as the one ‘truth’. With this caveat in mind, it may be useful for us to acknowledge some of the research and literature on the link between heightened sensitivities and traumatic childhood experiences.


In the past, psychologists have typically focused more on the impact of ‘shock trauma’ from extreme events such as accidents, wars and natural disasters. However, there is a second type of trauma that is very real and pervasive, yet not captured by the traditional diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Developmental trauma, or Complex PTSD, results from a series of repeated, often ‘invisible’ childhood experiences of maltreatment, abuse, neglect, and situations in which the child has little or no control or any perceived hope to escape. Growing up in an environment full of unpredictability, danger, parental inconsistencies or emotional abandonment, these individuals are left with ’hidden traumas’ that disrupts not only their psychological but also neurological and emotional development.

It is easy tor recognise when a child is explicitly, physically or sexually abused, but the impact of having inadequate or deficient parents can be elusive and escape our collective awareness. Sometimes the trauma could even be about what your caregivers did not do (omission) rather than what they did (commission).

Unfortunately, unlike shock trauma or physical abuse, the psychological injuries caused by emotional abandonment are often invisible and unacknowledged. This may leave these children feeling confused; assuming that their traumatic experience is not justified, and many turn to blaming and shaming themselves. Even as adults, they may suppress or deny these painful memories as they dismissively compare their trauma to those who were more ‘noticeably’ abused.

Growing research has found that a wide array of psychological difficulties finds their roots in these chronic childhood relational and attachment injuries. Children who experience this type of trauma show a disrupted ability to regulate their emotions, behaviours and attention, and these symptoms often extend into adulthood, leading to clinical presentations including Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, Borderline Personality Disorder and even chronic physical pains (APA, 2007).


 Either due to physical or mental sickness, extreme work demand, parents who are preoccupied with their own needs may leave their children emotionally unattended, to the point where they feel invisible.

These children are deprived of ‘mirroring’- an essential process for a child’s growth and development of self identity.  All children has a primary need to be regarded as the person they really are, including all thats they say, feel and do. Mirroring is when their parents validate their needs and feelings, and this process is necessary for a child to develop a sense of self worth, a sense that they deserve to exist and that their existence is valuable; the lack of it during the childhood would lead to a sense of hollowness in adulthood.

Our innate need for mirroring is vividly demonstrated in the Still Face Experiment, conducted in 1975 by Edward Tronick (here is a short but provocative video clip).In this experiment, the mother was asked to keep a blank face and not respond to her child’s attempts to engage with her.  When the baby received no emotional responses, he “rapidly sobered and grew wary”, he made repeated attempts to get the interactions with his mother, and when these attempts fail, he withdrew and turned away with a hopeless facial expression. These series of events happened so fast that they were almost invisible.

Since the original study, the Still Face Experiment has been thoroughly tested and replicated, and the impact of parental unresponsiveness is proven to be profound and far-reaching. Babies are not born with the ability to manage their own emotions and need to learn such skill by having another person as a mirror. Without it, these children are left with a sense of chaos, shame, dread, powerlessness and despair.

In some dysfunctional families, the caregivers may disdain their children for needing too much attention, and react contemptuously to their children’s call for connection and attachment. The dismissal of the child’s needs, alongside the dearth of loving interest and engagement, can be more traumatising than physical abuse.

Emotional neglect or abandonment is traumatising for any child, but it’s effects is especially crippling for sensitive children. From a young age, the emotionally intense child has a strong need for deep and authentic connection. Due to having a more sensitive nervous system and heightened perceptive abilities, they are highly aware of their surroundings and would not easily bypass the unconscious messages of contempt or dismissal coming from their caregivers.

While all children must learn to emotionally self- regulate, this skill is critically important for the naturally empathic child. These children may have a more active mirror neutron system, and from birth, they are more susceptible to emotional contagion— the tendency to absorb, ‘catch’, or be influenced by other people’s feelings (see Emotional Contagion). Without adequate mirroring, they do not have ability to ground themselves. This means they can get easily overwhelmed by unregulated emotion contagion, and be further traumatised in the relational and interpersonal world. Feeling bombarded and powerless in school and at home, these children may then learn to shut down, numb themselves, or even dissociate from reality.

Difficulties in regulating emotions– Uncontrollable mood swings, persistent sadness and depression, explosive or inhibited anger, being easily triggered by external events and not able to manage the emotions that surge up.

Chronic Shame – A persistent sense defectiveness— the feeling that one is disgusting, ugly, stupid, or basically flawed. This may involve thoughts such as ‘nothing I do is good enough’, ‘there is something fundamentally wrong with me’, ‘I am bad and toxic’. Such extreme self- hatred may lead to suicidal thoughts and self-harming behaviours.

Disconnection and Isolation– Because people who experience early trauma had not felt welcomed into the world, connection (with both themselves and others) becomes a core struggle. They may feel a sense of isolation, of being completely different from other human beings. They simultaneously have an intense need for and an extreme fear of contact.

Feeling ungrounded and powerless- Many People who suffer from developmental trauma constantly feel ungrounded and un-centered in their bodies. They may feel like frightened children living in adult bodies. Many get overwhelmed easily; when things happen, they easily feel close to breaking down.

Hopelessness and Despair – Chronically traumatised individuals feel hopeless about finding anyone who can understand them. Many lose a sense of meaning in life, struggle to sustain faith, and live with a lingering sense of despondency.

Nameless Dread/ Hyper-Vigilance– By being chronically traumatised, their nervous system remain in a continual state of high arousal, which reinforces the persistent feeling of threat. Many feel that they cannot relax, and have to always be looking out for danger. They may be irritable and jumpy, suffer from insomnia, and other anxiety-related disorders and obsessive- compulsive tendencies.

Numbness and Emptiness – Because the repeated abuse or neglect was so painful, many have employed dissociation as a way of coping. This may involve disconnection from the bodily self, emotions, and other people. By keeping threat from overwhelming consciousness, they can continue to function in the outside world, but is left with a chronic feeling of internal deadness.

Environmental Sensitivities

In their seminal work ‘Healing Developmental Trauma’, Heller and LaPierre (2012)  discuss the idea of ‘energetic boundaries’ and how these boundaries can be compromised when a person is developmentally traumatised.

Our energetic boundaries constitute the three-dimensional space that is above us, below us, and around us. It buffers us and regulates our interaction with other people and the environment. We are all to some degree aware of the impact of a compromised physical body— try imagining someone standing too close to you in public transport. However, unlike physical boundaries, energetic boundaries are invisible. Thus, the experience of a boundary rupture can be puzzling and distressing. For instance, you may not be able to recognise clearly when and how your energetic boundaries are being violated.

People with intact energetic boundaries are able to have an internalised sense of safety, and a capacity to set appropriate limits with other and the world around.  However, where there is a chronic early threat, you may struggle to fully develop these energetic boundaries.

You may become extremely sensitive to your surroundings. Sometimes, you can appear psychic and be able to energetically attuned to others and the environment. On the flip side, you can feel swamped or invaded by other people’s energies and emotions. Damaged boundaries can also lead to the feeling of “spilling out” into the environment, not knowing the difference between self and other, inner from outer experiences.

Environmental sensitivity is another telling sign of having compromised energetic boundaries. Because intact energetic boundaries are needed to function to filter environmental stimuli, without it, you may feel extremely raw, as if you are ‘walking around with no skin’. You will feel constantly flooded by environmental stimuli, including ‘human contact, sounds, light, touch, toxins, allergens, smells, and even electromagnetic activity’(Heller and LaPierre, 2012, p. 157) .

The inability to filter external stimuli makes the world seem continuously threatening, leading to a constant state of tension and hyper vigilance.  As a result, you may feel the need to isolate yourself. As you don’t have an adequate internal sense of safety and energetic boundaries to count on, you may have defaulted to using minimising contact with other human beings in order to feel safe.

Developmental Trauma Checklist

Here are some of the questions drawn from a Checklist developed by Heller and LaPierre (2012) on symptoms that may indicate difficulty with the connection (with self and others) due to early developmental trauma.

  • Do you suffer from environmental sensitivities or multiple allergies?
  • Do you have migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, or fibromyalgia?
  • Did you experience prenatal trauma such as intrauterine surgeries, prematurity with incubation, or traumatic events during gestation?
  • Were there complications at your birth?
  • Have you had problems maintaining relationships?
  • Do you have difficulty knowing what you are feeling?
  • Are you particularly sensitive to cold?
  • Do you often have the feeling that life is overwhelming and you don’t have the energy to deal with it?
  • Are you troubled by the persistent feeling that you don’t belong?
  • Are you always looking for the why of things?
  • Are you uncomfortable in groups or social situations?
  • Does the world seem like a dangerous place to you?

Specific Healing Goals

The therapy for developmental trauma is different to the therapy for simple PTSD, general depression or anxiety.

Because of the complicated issues around a personal sense of safety and stability, being exposed to traumatic materials before you are ready can lead to re-traumatization, and reinforce the cycle of hopelessness.  Themes such as safety, mourning, and reconnection are some of the key themes specific to this process.  The following are some of the healing goals that are essential to the recovery from developmental trauma:

  • Locating or developing an internal sense of safety
  • Building connection with self, the body, and emotions- through mindfulness and other mind-body techniques
  • Expanding the ‘window of tolerance’ for various emotions, so you are not constantly in either state of hyper-arousal (acute stress, rage, tension, and panic) or under-arousal (dissociating, disconnecting, feeling empty and depressed)
  • Finding ways to cope when feeling overwhelmed, without resorting to avoidance or compensatory behaviours (overeating, over spending, and other impulsive habits)
  • Learning to experience connection with others as enriching rather than tiring or threatening
  • Becoming aware of and finding ways to preserve your energetic boundaries
  • Neurologically regulating the nervous system in order to cope with day-to-day stressors and triggers
  • Lessening the impact of your internalised shame, and the voice of the inner critic.
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Narcissistic Abuse Reaches Epidemic Proportions

Narcissistic Abuse Reaches Epidemic Proportions

Article Written by Randi G. Fine

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines the word “victim” in the following ways:

  1. one that is acted on and usually adversely affected by a force or agent
  2. a person who is tricked or duped
  3. one that is subjected to oppression, hardship, or mistreatment

By these definitions it is clear to me, one who has personally experienced narcissistic abuse and one with a plethora of experience working with the narcissistically abused, that narcissistic abuse is a victimization situation. Those who suffer it bear no responsibility whatsoever for what has happened to them. The only responsibility they have is to try to rise above the abuse, heal from it, and live the rest of their life with some semblance of normalcy.

Human nature compels us to validate, show compassion to and lend support to people and animals that are suffering. This is not often the case when it comes to the narcissistically abused. Instead of receiving compassion or support from their families, friends, communities, co-workers, clergy, or legal system, more times than not they are shamed and blamed by them. This experience only creates more hardship and suffering for those who are already broken from the many forms of cruelty they have endured.

This is a tragedy. First they are victimized by their abuser. Then they are victimized by ignorant bystanders who not only blame them for putting up with the abuse, but also assign them some level of responsibility for the part they played in the relationship.

Narcissists, adept at soliciting sympathy from those oblivious to the manipulation portray the victim as the perpetrator and themselves as the victim. Once this happens victims cannot possibly redeem themselves in the eyes of those who stand falsely in judgment of them; those who admonish them for being such heartless, cruel individuals. The harder they try to defend themselves the deeper hole they dig for themselves and the guiltier they appear.

Deeply in pain from all they have endured they seek help and solace from licensed professionals such psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers, believing that these “professionals” know how to help them—at the very least validate their experiences. In most cases this assumption proves false and disheartening.

Clinically trained therapists who are not out of the box thinkers typically do not recognize narcissistic victim syndrome when they see it. They do not learn about it in school, and there is no diagnosis for it in the DSM-V, the book they rely on to diagnose mental illness. They are trained to recognize the individual components of narcissistic abuse syndrome such as depression, anger, anxiety, PTSD, fear, phobias, weight issues and eating disorders, and relationship conflicts. It can take years of therapy to work through each of these symptoms individually; therapy that will never address the core issue and is therefore a waste of time and money.

In therapy, narcissistic abuse victims are often asked to recognize their part in the problems they are having when in fact they have no part in it. This treatment only makes the abuse sufferer feel more confused and more guilt ridden.

In addition, licensed mental health professionals cannot legally diagnose a narcissist as a narcissist until they have conducted a full evaluation of the person. For that reason they will hesitate to label an abuser that way, even when there is every indication that the person is one. The abused rarely receive the validation they desperately seek.

Confused and disoriented narcissistic abuse victims often present to mental health professionals with an extreme spectrum of uncontrollable emotions. Many who seek psychiatric help for anxiety and depression are falsely diagnosed as having bipolar disorder and put on medications for it. These medications do not address the core issue. They will often exacerbate their existing symptoms and create new ones.

The narcissistically abused who must use the legal system to resolve conflicts such as divorce or child custody are often treated like criminals. In more cases than not they are accused of horrendous falsities by lawyers, judges, and case workers that have been manipulated and bullied by the true criminal—the narcissist.

The children are the ones who suffer the most. They are legally stolen from the safety of their loving, nurturing parent and thrown into the arms of a parent who physically, emotionally, psychologically, or sexually abuses them; a parent whose entire agenda is not to love the children but to seek revenge on the good parent.

These children will not fare well in adulthood. So emotionally tortured with no hope in sight, some do not make it that far.

This problem has reached epidemic proportions. It runs rampant in every country of our world. I work day and night not only to help the narcissistically abused understand what they have endured and recover from it, but to spread the word about this terrible injustice.

I wrote the book, Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: the Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing and Recovery, released in October 2017 to reach the global population so I can educate them about this epidemic. My hope is not only to help the abused recognize what they have endured, validate them and give them hope, and show them the way to recovery, but to educate mental health and legal professionals about this monumental tragedy that too many have turned a blind eye towards.

I am hopeful that things can change but I cannot possibly do this alone. This will take a collaborative effort. Together we can fight and eradicate this insidious behemoth—one that is responsible for the destruction of innumerable lives.

Please email me at with any comments, questions, and suggestions.

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Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Begins With Self-Love

Narcissistic Abuse Expert Randi Fine discusses the Importance of developing self-love in NPD Abuse Recovery.

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Narcissistic Intermittent Good Bad Reinforcement

The Narcissist’s One Trick That Can Keep Us Hooked Forever

Casinos know it. Animal trainers count on it. Narcissists have perfected it

It’s the powerful emotional tool known as intermittent reinforcement, and when used correctly, it guarantees to get—and keep—virtually anyone hooked on anything.

Intermittent reinforcement is when one person in a relationship metes out or reinforces rules, rewards or boundaries occasionally or inconsistently. Instead of discouraging the other person, intermittent reinforcement actually does the opposite. It fuels their attempts to extract the reward once again, keeping them hopelessly locked onto the relationship.

Take for example a parent who says “no” to their child 90% of the time. It’s the 10% of the time the parent backtracks, which incites the child to whine, throw tantrums, or harangue to get another yes. Animals will do tricks every time, even after the trainer withholds the reward, like B.F. Skinner’s rat that hits the bar repeatedly for the chance pellet, over and over, whether it gets one or not. Gamblers, too, know that the intermittent reinforcement of the random, small pay out, will keep them at the slot machines until they empty their purses or pockets.

Those of you obsessed with checking your Tinder account, Tumblr blog, or Twitter, for the ambivalent thrill that comes with those hit-or-miss shots of validation, know what I’m talking about.

The narcissist knows what I’m talking about too. He is adroit at delivering a ping of validation when he senses you’re about to pull away, just to keep you tied to a relationship that serves his needs, usually at your expense.

It’ll be bad bad bad bad, but then all of a sudden good, and you are fooled into thinking good is here to stay. So you stay too. And like Skinner’s rat that starved to death in pursuit of the ever-diminishing, random reward, chances are you too will tolerate increasingly abusive conditions in the hope of catching hold again of a (brief) encounter with good.

But with a narcissist, the good is fleeting by design. That’s intermittent reinforcement.

If you’ve ever been stuck in the sticky grip of a narcissist, you know the drill. When the two of you first meet, the narcissist floods you with expressions of love. You are beautiful, witty, enchanting, the woman he’s always wanted but didn’t think existed. His search is over. Your shoulders relax, you let down your walls, throw open the gates. Your heart sings. You let yourself believe you’ve finally found the one.

Then, without warning, the narcissist switches tracks. Out of nowhere, you can’t do anything right. The qualities in you that she first exalted, are now your worst faults. She’s bored with you, disinterested. She starts to mention other guys, her old boyfriend. You think, what happened? You review everything she said, examining past events for clues that she really cared. Let’s see, she went to my hockey games, came with me to visit my mom in the hospital. Stuck love notes in my gym bag. Didn’t all that mean she loved me? What happened? Is it me?

No. It’s not you. You’re just caught in the narcissist cycle. The D&D, devalue and discard phase. The narcissist practice of projecting their internalized self-hate and disdain onto you, by doing and saying things to make you feel invalidated, rejected, and insecure.

Most of us with even a shot glass of self-esteem get hip to this, and decide to say sayonara. That’s when the narcissist will employ the emotional hook: Intermittent reinforcement. To keep you from exiting, the narcissist will do an about face, and signal you’re back in. He’s on time, attentive, he brings your favorite take out, remembers it’s your dog’s birthday. He takes you in his arms, the clouds part, and the light of his love shines down on you once more. You exhale with relief.

It won’t last. Doesn’t matter. Most of us will cleave to those haphazard disbursements as evidence that a loving, reciprocal relationship is still possible. After the investment we’ve made in the narcissist, we’re already set up to seize on reasons to ignore the bad stuff. So we hang in, continue to chase the good. The narcissist delivers her well-timed, little ping. We’re hooked.

The problem is, over time, the episodes of intermittent reinforcement get fewer and fewer, and the incidents of D&D increase. But the pain of D&D will never loosen the hook, as long as the narcissist continues to fall back on intermittent reinforcement. The only way to get free, is to adopt a strict no contact policy. The sooner the narcissist becomes a memory, the better off you’ll be.

*Learn more about Intermittent Reinforcement in Randi Fine’s groundbreaking new book, Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing and Recovery

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Petition to Stop Parental Alienation

Dear Friends,

The annual convention of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) is being held in Washington, D.C. the first week of June 2018, offering an opportunity for the voice of targeted-chosen parents to be heard by the primary legal-psychological professional organization involved in child custody and high-conflict divorce.

To  quote Dr. Craig Childress Psy.D, a leader in the fight to stop parental alienation, “The world is changing.  We are bringing your voice to the APA.  The solution is coming.  We will not stop until all of your children, including your now-adult children are back in your arms.”

I just signed the petition, “The American Psychological Association: Ending “Parental Alienation” Pathology for All Children Everywhere.” I think this is extremely important. Will you please sign it too?

Here’s the link:

Thanks for your support,


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