“Flawed individuals will victimize you”: A top FBI profiler’s lessons on extreme narcissists like Trump

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There are 130 warning signs of the narcissistic personality. Trump checks off at least 90

"Flawed individuals will victimize you": A top FBI profiler's lessons on extreme narcissists like TrumpDonald Trump (Credit: AP/Paul Sancya)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNetI recently spoke with former FBI agent Joe Navarro about Donald Trump. Navarro was one of the FBI’s top profilers, a founding member of their elite Behavioral Analysis Unit and author of several books on human behavior, including “Dangerous Personalities: An FBI Profiler Shows You How to Identify and Protect Yourself from Harmful People.”

To be clear, at no time did Navarro diagnose Trump as having a narcissistic or predator personality. He says we should leave formal diagnoses to professionals  —  but that each of us still needs to be able to identify and protect ourselves from harmful people in our lives. And so he created behavior checklists and published them in his book to let you do just that.

Navarro’s book warns that if a “person has a preponderance of the major features of a narcissistic personality,” then he “is an emotional, psychological, financial or physical danger to you or others.” As the book “The Narcissism Epidemic” explained, “A recent psychiatric study found that the biggest consequences of narcissism — especially when other psychiatric symptoms were held constant — was suffering by people close to them.”

It’s even more important for journalists to decide if Trump behaves like a narcissist — as James Fallows explains in his must-read post at the Atlantic. Fallows cites a reader’s note to him “on how journalism should prepare for Trump, especially in thinking about his nonstop string of lies.”

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“Nobody seems to realize that normal rules do not apply when you are interviewing a narcissist,” this behavior expert explains to Fallows. “You can’t go about this in the way you were trained, because he is an expert at manipulating the very rules you learned.” He criticizes The New York Times for believing what Trump said when they interviewed him (which is the same point I’ve made). Finally, he warns:

“… anyone who’s dealt with a narcissist knows you never, ever believe what they say — because they will say whatever the person they are talking to wants to hear. DT is a master at phrasing things vaguely enough that multiple listeners will be able to hear exactly what they want. It isn’t word salad; it’s overt deception, which is much more pernicious.”

I’ve been professionally interested in behavior assessment because to achieve and sustain serious climate action, empathy may be the most important quality in a president or political leader.

After all, climate change requires us to take very significant if not drastic measures today in order to avoid catastrophe for billions of others in the future who contributed little or nothing to the problem. Without empathic leaders, the necessary climate action becomes all but impossible.

That is a why the Pope ends his landmark 2015 climate encyclical calling on God to “Enlighten those who possess power and money that they may avoid the sin of indifference, that they may love the common good, advance the weak and care for this world in which we live. The poor and the earth are crying out.”

What I learned from Joe Navarro’s work

To leap to the conclusion, people on the far end of the narcissist spectrum lack empathy. And, Navarro told me, “these personality traits are fixed and rigid.” That person doesn’t change. They don’t pivot. Not what you would want in the leader of the world’s most powerful nation.

So, if you come to the conclusion that Trump (or anyone in your life) is on the extreme end of the narcissist spectrum  —  using the tools Navarro provides   — then that person is, as his book explains, “an emotional, psychological, financial, physical danger to you or others.”

Navarro urged me to get his book and go through the checklists and make my own decision. In my scoring, Trump is off the charts. Your scoring may be different.

Interestingly, it was one of the checklists Navarro posted online that motivated me to contact him in the first place. I had been engaged with the question of whether Trump was delusional or a con man (or neither) since late May, when he told Californians suffering their worst drought in a thousand years, “There is no drought.”

As any potential levity about Trump’s participation in the GOP nomination fight was stamped out by the serious and growing concern that he might actually become president  —  or merely trample our democracy in the process of losing  —  I kept reading up on the subject. I came across the work of Navarro, who spent a quarter century as an FBI agent and supervisor focusing on counterintelligence and behavioral assessment. Now Navarro writes, consults and speaks on human behavior.

In particular, because few people are professional psychological diagnosticians or FBI profilers — but we all run across people who might be a danger to us or others  —  Navarro wanted to empower laypeople to be able to decide for themselves if someone they knew had a dangerous personality.

The cult of Donald Trump?

I came across a 2012 article from Psychology Today Navarro wrote listing “the typical traits of the pathological cult leader … you should watch for and which shout caution, get away, run or avoid if possible.” Here are just the first nine of the 50 traits he lists:

  1. Has a grandiose idea of who he is and what he can achieve.
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power or brilliance.
  3. Demands blind unquestioned obedience.
  4. Requires excessive admiration from followers and outsiders.
  5. Has a sense of entitlement  —  expecting to be treated special at all times.
  6. Is exploitative of others by asking for their money or that of relatives, putting others at financial risk.
  7. Is arrogant and haughty in his behavior or attitude.
  8. Has an exaggerated sense of power (entitlement) that allows him to bend rules and break laws.
  9. Takes sexual advantage of members of his sect or cult.

Navarro writes, “If these traits sound familiar to leaders, groups, sects or organizations known to you then expect those who associate with them to live in despair and to suffer even if they don’t know it, yet.”

And yet they do sound familiar, don’t they?

Navarro had “studied at length the life, teachings and behaviors of” people like Jim Jones (Jonestown, Guyana), David Koresh (Branch Davidians), Charles Manson and other infamous cult leaders, and concluded: “what stands out about these individuals is that they were or are all pathologically narcissistic.”

Indeed, when I contacted Navarro, he explained that someone could meet most of these criteria and be pathologically narcissistic, but still not necessarily be a cult leader because cult leaders have other traits. For instance, they generally try to isolate people from their families.

In August, GQ interviewed cult expert Rick Alan Ross, director of the Cult Education Institute and a Republican, about Trump. Ross had been watching Trump’s rise with concern and was especially struck by his words at the GOP convention, “I alone can fix it.” Ross said, “That kind of pronouncement is typical of many cult leaders, who say that ‘my way is the only way, I am the only one.’”

Trump shares many key traits with cult leaders including extreme narcissism, Ross said. But “we’re not talking about a compound with a thousand people,” referring to the Reverend Jim Jones. Jones gave cyanide-laced Kool-Aid to more than 900 of his followers in Jonestown — some 300 of them children. “We’re talking about a nation with over 300 million people. So the consequences of Trumpism could affect us in a way Jim Jones never did.”

As I’ve written, if Trump simply follows through on his repeated campaign pledges to kill the Paris climate agreement and all domestic climate action, then he will ruin a livable climate for billions and billions of people for hundreds of years.

That doesn’t make Trump a cult leader, of course, but it does make him very dangerous.

Navarro told me that in the past year, many people have contacted him to comment on Trump’s personality after they came across the behavior checklists he published on narcissistic personality. Understandably, he declined to make a judgment about Trump. He would like to “personally observe” Trump before making any such pronouncement.

Does Donald Trump behave like a narcissist?

As you may have read, the question of whether a psychologist should publicly diagnose someone they haven’t personally observed has a long history. A bunch of psychiatrists responding to a survey offered harsh diagnoses of Barry Goldwater, which ultimately led the American Psychiatric Association to issue a rule that “it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”

Yet some psychiatrists became so concerned about a Trump presidency last November that they broke the rule and were quoted in a Vanity Fair piece, “Is Donald Trump Actually a Narcissist? Therapists Weigh In!”:

“Textbook narcissistic personality disorder,” echoed clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis. “He’s so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example of his characteristics,” said clinical psychologist George Simon, who conducts lectures and seminars on manipulative behavior. “Otherwise, I would have had to hire actors and write vignettes. He’s like a dream come true.”

Are such diagnoses untenable and/or meaningless? Not necessarily, says psychiatrist Dr. Sally Satel, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, in an article in Slate in October, “It’s OK to Speculate About Trump’s Mental Health.”

She argues we used to diagnose people by spending a lot of time talking to them. Now the “gold standard” is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), which bases diagnoses on observations. For instance, these are the nine diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in DSM-V (“Five are needed to be eligible for the diagnosis”):

  • A grandiose logic of self-importance
  • A fixation with fantasies of infinite success, control, brilliance, beauty or idyllic love
  • A credence that he or she is extraordinary and exceptional and can only be understood by, or should connect with, other extraordinary or important people or institutions
  • A desire for unwarranted admiration
  • A sense of entitlement
  • Interpersonally oppressive behavior
  • No form of empathy
  • Resentment of others or a conviction that others are resentful of him or her
  • A display of egotistical and conceited behaviors or attitudes

One of Satel’s main points is that even an official NPD diagnosis by a professional should not necessarily be disqualifying for a presidential candidate.

Interestingly, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote in August that Trump’s behavior “is beyond narcissism.” In mid-October, he listed “a dazzling array” of “reasons for disqualification: habitual mendacity, pathological narcissism, profound ignorance and an astonishing dearth of basic human empathy.” And so despite how much he despises Hillary Clinton, he could not bring himself to vote for Trump.

Coincidentally, Krauthammer, a trained psychiatrist, “contributed to the creation of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, currently referred to as the DSM-5.”

Ultimately, Fallows himself writes, you don’t need a “medical diagnosis” to realize “there are commonsense meanings for terms to describe behavior,” and “in commonsense terms, anyone can see that Trump’s behavior is narcissistic, regardless of underlying cause.”

The “Warning Signs of the Narcissistic Personality” checklist

The bottom line is that the degree of narcissistic tendencies  —  and the related lack of empathy  —  matters when assessing potential leaders.

Two key reasons Navarro developed his extensive checklists for dangerous personalities are 1) DSM-V has too few criteria to discriminate between degrees of narcissism and 2) he wants to empower individuals to be able to identify these dangerous personalities, because we will never get official diagnoses for the overwhelming majority of people in our lives.

Navarro actually has behavior checklists for four key personality types in his book: the Narcissist, the Paranoid, the Unstable Personality and the Predator. You can see a short version of the “most central” criteria for each type in this 2014 Psychology Today interview.

Navarro, however, directed me to his book for the full checklists. Given my interest in Trump, he pointed me toward the checklists for both the predator and the narcissist. I focused on the latter.

There are 130 “warning signs of the narcissistic personality.” The behavior checklist “will help you determine if someone has the features of the narcissistic personality and where that person falls on a continuum or spectrum (from arrogant and obnoxious to indifferent and callous to abusive and dangerous).”

If you find someone has between 15 and 25 of these features, they’ll “occasionally take an emotional toll on others and may be difficult to live or work with.” Someone who scores between 26 and 65 “has all the features of and behaves as a narcissistic personality. This person needs help and will cause turmoil in the life of anyone close to him or her.” Lastly, Navarro warns:

“If the score is above 65, this person has a preponderance of the major features of a narcissistic personality and is an emotional, psychological, financial or physical danger to you or others.”

Personally, no matter how many times I go through this checklist and give him the benefit of the doubt, I get a score for Trump of over 90. I suspect a great many people would score over him well over 100.

Of course, I’m not asserting that my assessment of his behavior means anything whatsoever. It doesn’t. Nor am I suggesting anything about his followers.

What I am trying to do is to persuade you to download Navarro’s book and do the assessment yourself. That way you can assess for yourself whether or not his behavior is so pathologically narcissistic, so devoid of empathy , that the only viable response to his election is to actively oppose him and his divisive and destructive agenda. As a side benefit, you’ll end up with an important book you can use to identify and protect yourself from the various harmful people you will come across in your life.

If you’re a journalist, you’ll be able to assess whether you need to alter your strategy for interviewing and reporting on him. Again, the key lesson for dealing with a narcissist is “never, ever believe what they say.”

It has been crystal clear for a while that the election of Trump would be catastrophic for humanity, that it would jeopardize the health and well-being of billions and billions of people in the coming decades and centuries. Now that he has been elected, it appears he may move even faster than we thought to destroy the Paris climate agreement, the world’s last, best hope to preserve a livable climate.

If you have any remaining belief that somehow Trump is not a threat to our very way of life  —  if you have the tiniest belief that his pattern of behaviors suggests he could grow into the presidency, as some others have in our history — you should do the checklist. As Navarro told me, “the purpose is to warn people that these traits are fixed and rigid” and that those who possess them in the extreme are a danger to everyone they have power or influence over.

It Takes Just One Question to Identify Narcissism

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This is a reblog from psychcentral

Ohio State researchers believe they have developed and validated a new method to identify which people are narcissistic.

And, the beauty is that the tool is only a single question.

In a series of 11 experiments involving more than 2,200 people of all ages, the researchers found they could reliably identify narcissistic people by asking them this exact question (including the note):

To what extent do you agree with this statement: “I am a narcissist.” (Note: The word “narcissist” means egotistical, self-focused, and vain.)

Participants rated themselves on a scale of one (not very true of me) to seven (very true of me).

If you are curious about the test or want to know how narcissistic are you? The test is found at http://tinyurl.com/ovsf54v.

Results showed that people’s answer to this question lined up very closely with several other validated measures of narcissism, including the widely used Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI).

The difference is that this new survey — which the researchers call the Single Item Narcissism Scale (SINS) — has one question, while the NPI has 40 questions to answer.

“People who are willing to admit they are more narcissistic than others probably actually are more narcissistic,” said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.

“People who are narcissists are almost proud of the fact. You can ask them directly because they don’t see narcissism as a negative quality — they believe they are superior to other people and are fine with saying that publicly.”

Bushman conducted the study with Sara Konrath of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy (formerly of the University of Michigan) and Brian Meier of Gettysburg College.

The study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

“Understanding narcissism has many implications for society that extend beyond the impact on the individual narcissist’s life,” Konrath said.

“For example, narcissistic people have low empathy, and empathy is one key motivator of philanthropic behavior such as donating money or time to organizations.”

“Overall, narcissism is problematic for both individuals and society. Those who think they are already great don’t try to improve themselves,” Bushman said.

“And narcissism is bad for society because people who are only thinking of themselves and their own interests are less helpful to others.”

Bushman emphasized that the one question tool (SINS) shouldn’t be seen a replacement for the longer narcissism questionnaires (NPI, etc) as other instruments can provide more information to researchers, such as which form of narcissism someone has.

“But our single-item scale can be useful for long surveys in which researchers are concerned about people getting fatigued or distracted while answering questions and possibly even dropping out before they are done,” Bushman said.

He noted that if it takes a person 20 seconds to answer the single question in the SINS measure, it would take him or her 13.3 minutes to answer the 40-question NPI.

“That is a big difference if you’re doing a study in which participants have to complete several different survey instruments and answer a long list of other questions,” he said.

The 11 different experiments took a number of different approaches to determine the validity of SINS. Some used undergraduate college students, while others involved online panels of American adults.

One experiment found that SINS was positively related to each of the seven subscales of the NPI which measure various components of narcissism (vanity, exhibitionism, exploitativeness, authority, superiority, self-sufficiency, and entitlement).

Another study found that that participants tended to have similar scores on SINS when tested 11 days apart.

One experiment replicated past work that showed people scoring high in narcissism were more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors and had difficulty maintaining long-term committed romantic relationships.

“People who scored higher on narcissism on the SINS had both positive and negative outcomes,” Bushman said. They reported more positive feelings, more extraversion, and marginally less depression.

But they also reported less agreeableness, and more anger, shame, guilt, and fear. In addition, people scoring high on SINS showed negative interpersonal outcomes, such as having poor relationships with others and less prosocial behavior when their ego was threatened.

“The advantage of SINS compared to other measures,” Bushman said, “is that it allows researchers to identify narcissists very easily.”

“We don’t think SINS is a replacement for other narcissism inventories in all situations, but it has a time and place,” he said.

Source: Ohio State University


APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). It Takes Just One Question to Identify Narcissism. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 1, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/08/06/it-takes-just-one-question-to-identify-narcissism/73260.html

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Empaths and narcissists

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As a HSP myself, my high sensitivity wasn’t always easy and it still isn’t. As a child and even into my 50s, it seemed like a horrible curse. But since I went No Contact with my narc ex, I’m realizing that high sensitivity is one of the greatest blessings God can bestow on a person.

Narcissists and HSPs seem to form a trauma bond with each other. We are either bullied by them or pursued by them as friends, lovers, bosses and spouses (who ultimately do much worse than just bully us). HSPs can be destroyed by their narcissistic abusers–OR they can learn to use their high sensitivity which is more powerful than ANY of the narcissists’ tricks. Narcs are afraid of what we HSPs have and envy us for it. We are stronger than they are, and we can overpower them and break free from their attempts to keep us under their thrall.

In retrospect, I realized (with somewhat of a shock) my narcissists proved to be among my greatest teachers. Without them, I would not have been able to develop my gifts for “seeing through the bullshit” we HSPs possess. To my delight, I’m finding my sensitivity saved my life and my soul, and is now slowly changing my life and bringing me closer to God.

I’m of the somewhat unpopular opinion (but am certainly far from alone!) that most narcissists began life as HSPs and even possible empaths. They continue to be highly sensitive to criticism and are easily hurt. But tragically, they retained any empathy only as “cold empathy”–the detached, cognitive “empathy” used by malignant narcissists to manipulate and destroy their prey. They have shut out their ability to feel behind an elaborate self-imposed prison of their own making, much like The Wizard of Oz pretended to be a tyrant–but hiding behind the curtain was a weak and insecure “humbug.”

Narcissists see in HSPs what they deep down know they might have become had they not adopted their narcissistic structure as a way to cope–and perhaps that was the only way they knew how to cope with a world that was so unkind to them. We were lucky that we didn’t have to resort to such a soul-murdering (both to themselves and others) defense mechanism that all but cancels out any ability they would have had to feel deeply and to love deeply.

If the narcissist’s mask ever was to come down, the earth itself could probably not contain the upwelling of pain and terror the narcissist would experience as their True Self breaks free of its prison of narcissism. This is the concept that intensive therapies such as Reparenting use when they attempt to cure NPD. Shattering the mask (False Self), no matter how much it hurts, is imperative for such therapies to work.

I hope you take something away from these articles that can help you (or the HSP in your life), especially in regards to their interactions and trauma bonds with narcissists.

Lauren Bennett “Lucky Otter”

Malignant Narcissists: HSPs Gone Bad?

“The Survival of the Fittest” (poetry by Audrey Michelle, Spoken word artist)

My Son’s Father Turned from a Loving Dad into a Monster

Empathic Joy

“The Sensitive Gene: Why Some People Are Born to Feel Emotions Harder” (article from Alexia LaFata of Elite Daily)

Who’s Too Sensitive?

The Feels

Can Narcissists Feel Empathy for Fictional Characters?

Can Narcissists Feel Empathy for a Pet?

More on Empathy: This Baby Knows Best

The Real Reason Highly Sensitive People Get Bullied

The Post That Scared Me So Much I Almost Deleted It

Nobody Knew Who I Was

Are You an Empath/HSP Who Was Almost Destroyed by a Narcissist? (video)

Test Driving Narcissism: How I Almost Became A Narcissist

Relearning How to Cry

I’m Not Ready to Be Clear About This Yet… 

Am I That Annoying or Am I Just Paranoid?

People With Autism Do Not Lack Empathy!

It’s All About Image: The Skewed Values of Narcissistic Families

Do Narcissists Have a Spiritual Purpose We Can’t Understand?

Yikes! Does This Mean I’m a Narcissist?

A Match Made In Hell: Narcissists and HSPs

Survivor Hypervigilance and the Danger of False Labeling

The Man You Love to Hate…or Hate to Love (Sam Vaknin may be a raging, narcissistic bully, but he also may have been an empath as a young child)

Malignant Narcissism and the Supernatural: A Connection? (while not about HSPs per se, the relationship between them and MN’s is explored in this article)

Tears of Beauty (photographic celebration)

“The Hug Seen Round the World: The Antidote to Evil” (reblogged from Dog Dharma’s blog)

“How Highly Sensitive People Interact with the World Differently” (article from Huffington Post)

“The Power of Vulnerability” (video–Dr. Brene Brown)

Healing Narcissism: Stephen’s Story (includes a detailed discussion and fictional account of a therapy called Reparenting, the most empathic form of therapy and possibly the most effective treatment used to heal (not just treat) garden variety (non-malignant) NPD.

Embracing Vulnerability (This post is currently set to private. I’m not courageous enough yet to make it public).

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The narcissus in all of us

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The Narcissus in All of Us

Reflections on the self, personality, and what makes you, “you.”

The occupation with the highest suicide rate

Doctors committing suicide at high rates

For many years now, physicians have had the highest suicide rate compared to people in any other line of work. Is this surprising? Does this happen because doctors are continually exposed to other people’s problems? Because of something about a physician’s lifestyle? Looking at these suicides more closely provides some answers.

To begin with, their methods of suicide follow a different pattern than those of the average person: physicians are far more likely to commit suicide by overdosing on medication (as opposed to, say, using a gun). So part of the reason for doctors’ high suicide rate is their easy access to powerful, very lethal drugs. Furthermore, doctors know better than anyone which types of medication to take and what dosages to take them in to get the job done. Hence, physicians are more successful in their suicide attempts than other people.

A more unexpected finding concerning physician suicides is that there’s no difference in the rates between male and female doctors. This is surprising because in the general population, men commit suicide at much higher rates than women. For example, in the United States, men commit suicide atnearly 4 times the rate of women, but women constitute about half of all physician suicides.

Several explanations have been proposed for the high rate among female doctors. First, while being a physician can be stressful for anyone, it may conflict with the life goals of women more than men. Given that women, on average, tend to place more value on spending time with family, friends, and engaging in other social activities, the amount of hours physicians work takes away from all these things. For example, the long hours make it more difficult to maintain stable relationships, to have children, and to be a parent. Women may be more negatively affected by the social isolation than men.

Another stressor for women is that, like in many male-dominated fields, female physicians are probably exposed to greater levels of sexual harassment than male physicians. This may not be a problem for doctors who have their own practice, but could be for those who work at large hospitals.

Unfortunately, male and female doctors who are suicidal encounter several obstacles to getting effective treatment for these problems. One issue is the stigma associated with these symptoms. Suicide and depression are already stigmatized within the general population, but this stigma is even stronger if you’re a doctor, a person who is expected to be physically and mentally healthy. Thus, doctors are probably reluctant to seek treatment for suicidal tendencies, because doing so would be bad for their reputation and bad for business, should word get around. (Ask yourself, would you continue to get treated by a doctor who you knew to be suicidal?)

For doctors who do seek help, the quality of treatment they get is often not as good as it should be. Therapists who treat physicians may assume that their patients know how to take care of themselves, being that they’re doctors, so the therapy tends to be more hands-off and less helpful. Suicidal physicians, in response to these difficulties in getting help, may thus turn to self-medicating with alcohol or prescription drugs, increasing their risks of drug addiction and a further downward spiral.

In sum, there are several reasons for the higher suicide rates of physicians: greater stress, social isolation, access to powerful drugs, barriers to getting treatment — and especially for women — greater role conflict and sexual harassment.

Having said all this, here’s one more fact: physicians live longer and are generally healthier than people in most other professions. Even if you include physicians who commit suicide or suffer from depression, life expectancy and well-being are still very high amongst doctors. But how can this be if they also have such high suicide rates?

Keep in mind that only about 1-2% of the population dies by suicide, and perhaps (this is just an estimate) 2-4% of doctors. But doctors who don’tfall into this minority tend to have very healthy habits: they exercise more, eat better, smoke less, earn more money, and receive better medical care than the average person. Thus, although there is definitely an elevated suicide risk for physicians, the vast majority of physicians are not suicidal and actually do things that lead to healthier and longer lives.

Their higher suicide levels make sense when you consider that, as in other professions that demand long hours and involve a great deal of responsibility, there are more potential rewards but a greater risk ofburnout.

(This post was co-authored by Josh Foster.)

The sound of shackles

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Some people put chains on others. They play judges or police like they did when they were kids. They love the sound of shackles on the prisoners feet. It symbolizes their power and inflate their ego’s. These are the humans we see in the public when they throw a tantrum. It’s the men and women who grew up with a dark omnipotence. Some were protected too much. How do children react if they get no boundaries?

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The sound of us opening our eyes

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English: A sleeping male baby with his arm ext...
English: A sleeping male baby with his arm extended (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all know the importance of balance, but we struggle to achieving it. One of the most important issues related to harmony and balance, is parenting. The same rule applies to parenting as many things in life: Neither too much or too little.

I found a really interesting article on the subject, that I had to share since we have to open our eyes to the peril of “curling-parenting”; Where you remove every obstacle so that children don`t learn and become competent and empathic. In other words: Children who never met resistance, don`t develop emotion regulation skills necessary for surviving today.

Some have said we are creating a society of narcissist, which reminds me of a quote from a Norwegian therapist:

“We`re a society of people who want to be seen, and none left to see.”


As a new mom and a recent MSW graduate, I can’t help but analyze, question, and sometimes fear the ways in which my parenting choices will affect my son.

During the few months I was home with my baby, I joined a moms group. Now that the babies are three or four months old, the conversations sound like “my baby will not sleep in the crib,” “my baby wakes up every three hours,” “my baby needs to be held all day.”

From a recommendation, I readBringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting when I was pregnant. The 2012 book is written by Pamela Druckerman, an American mom raising her baby in Paris.

At first glance, I thought the book was a witty tongue-in-cheek story about neurotic Americans and cool Parisians. On second glance (and a second reading after I birthed the child), I realized this book unlocked the secrets of raising a happy, resilient adult.

Ms. Druckerman charmingly explains the many ways in which French children differ from American children. On the surface, it appears that American children are less patient, less polite and throw more tantrums. American parents may think it’s cute and innocent; their kids will grow out of it. And it is true, the child may eventually stop the behavior, but the coping skills (or lack of) have been firmly set in stone.

Why You Should Let Your Baby Be FrustratedI do not believe Druckerman was writing a book on human development, but to a social worker, it seems her observations directly relate to why so many American adults seek therapy. Therapists’ offices are filled with adults who suffer from anxiety,depression, anger management issues, eating disorders or marital problems. Any psychoanalyst would tell you that many of these issues are deeply rooted in childhood.

American parents seem overly worried that if their child hears “no” they will become angry and experience frustration and disappointment. On the contrary, the French believe that “no” saves children from the tyranny of their own desires. Caroline

Thompson, a family psychologist in Paris whom Druckerman interviewed, stated what seems to be the overall view in France: “making kids face up to limitations and deal with frustration turns them into happier, more resilient people.” Isn’t that what every parent wants for their child?

“French parents don’t worry that they’re going to damage their kids by frustrating them. To the contrary, they think their kids will be damaged if they can’t cope with frustration. They also treat coping with frustration as a core life skill. Their kids simply have to learn it. The parents would be remiss if they didn’t teach it.”

Druckerman interviewed pediatrician and founder of Tribeca Pediatrics, Michel Cohen, a French doctor practicing in New York City. “My first intervention is to say, when your baby is born, just don’t jump on your kid at night,” Cohen says.

“Give your baby a chance to self-soothe, don’t automatically respond, even from birth.” “Le pause,” as Druckerman coins it, is one of the main ways to gently induce frustration. The French believe “le pause” can start as early as two to three weeks old.

Although “le pause” may sound like tough love for a infant, most American parents end up surrendering to the “cry it out” method at three to four months because their baby never learned to self-soothe. “Le pause” worked for me, although I did not consciously subscribe to this method. I think it was a combination of sleep deprivation and C-section recovery that created “le pause,” but it worked! “Le pause” creates babies who are content to snuggle alone in their cribs, babies who at a very young age learn to soothe themselves.

And hopefully “le pause” creates adults who can cope with frustration, a skill that is extremely useful and necessary for success in work and relationships and dealing with the overall stressors of everyday life.

Norwegian links:

Psykopatiserie del 8 – Samfunnsmagasinet

SUPERMARIE – – Vi ser ikke ut lenger, vi ser kun oss selv – Side2

Livsstrategi: Se og bli sett

English links:

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Daily Christian thoughts music, poems based around God



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