Dealing with my ex-wife is a nightmare (I think she’s a narcissist). I never know if she’s going to be nice or emotionally and verbally attack me in front of our kids. I’ve tried being nice, but I never know what to expect. I want to handle this better and show my kids a better way to deal with her. Any ideas? — Carl
Dealing with someone like that is rather like walking through a mine field without a map. You’re never sure when everything is going to blow up!
That’s hard on our primitive brain, who’s whole purpose is to keep us safe. If it can’t predict how something will turn out, that part of us will often stay vigilant and tense.
A lot of people like your ex are operating out of their own fear responses. They are so wrapped up in their own dramas and traumas they often can’t see anyone else’s needs or boundaries. Some people may be getting triggered or set off by things that have nothing to do with present reality or logical outcomes.
Frightened people often manipulate and lash out. They are desperate for something, but since you don’t know what it is (and they may not either), there isn’t a way to give it to them. It may help to remember that people who blame are feeling disempowered and trapped. You don’t have to know why. Just knowing that she is probably frightened and angry and confused may activate healthy compassion and lead to insights that help you to keep your boundaries without being drawn into her drama. You don’t need to fix her. Just keep your balance even when she’s flailing around.
You may find this 15 minute video tutorial on the primitive brain helpful in understanding her, and possibly how you feel around her.
Can you accept yourself, no matter what she says or does? I know that’s a hard thing to do when someone is attacking you. But showing your children that you can stay grounded and calm no matter what is a gift. Children learn energetically so they may choose to pick up your strength and centeredness. You might try tapping on something like this (feel free to change the words to fit your particular experiences):
Karate Chop: Even though she’s acting insane again, and blaming me for everything, I choose to breathe and feel my heart beat.
Even though she is so unpredictable, I choose to accept myself and know my space, no matter what she does.
Even though she is acting very hurtful, I get to choose what I let in. She may be right, she may be wrong, but I am in my own space and I get to decide how I feel.
Top of the Head: She is abusive.
Eyebrow: I choose to know this isn’t about me.
Side of the Eye: This is about her fears.
Under the Eye: Her internal story.
Under the Nose: It’s hard to keep my balance…
Chin: But I choose to learn…
Collarbone: For myself…
Under the Arm: And for my children.
Top of the Head: It’s hard to be around her.
Eyebrow: She can be so hurtful.
Side of the Eye: But I can tap on my feelings…
Under the Eye: And teach my primitive brain to relax.
Under the Nose: I can’t please her.
Chin: I tried for years!
Collarbone: I can take care of myself.
Under the Arm: She can own her own her reactions…
Top of the Head: I choose to be surprisingly calm and grounded… no matter what.
Eyebrow: Perhaps she will calm down if I don’t react.
Side of the Eye: Maybe not.
Under the Eye: But in either case…
Under the Nose: I can love and accept myself.
Chin: And my children.
Collarbone: I may not get it perfect…
Under the Arm: But I am getting stronger.
Top of the Head: I like that about me!
Take a deep breath.
How does that feel? There are things you can do to not get caught up in her drama. Our grounding exercises can help. (They can help you stay present in your now, rather than getting swept away by her strong emotions.)
And Donna Eden’s Zip Up Method might be useful for just before you see her.
Spending time with someone like that is traumatic. If it feels right to you, get some help to clear out the old wounds that may be holding you back from delighting in your life. Our Group Coaching Program is a great way to clear the way.