Below is the transcript of both Q&A interview sessions between Dr. Karyl McBride and Tina Swithin; family Court advocate, divorce coach and author of four books on divorcing a narcissist.
The online Facebook event was held on Sunday, March 13, 2016.
Q&A Session: Tina Swithin interviews Dr. Karyl McBride:
Tina Swithin Intro: Good Morning Lemonade Warriors! I am so excited to be interviewing Dr. Karyl McBride this morning!
Dr. Karyl McBride is a licensed marriage and family therapist, author, speaker, therapist, consultant. Dr. McBride's books are titled: Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers and Will I Ever Be Free of You? How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family which is being released in paperback on Tuesday, March 15th.
I know how much Dr. McBride’s work has helped me personally and I know how excited many of you are for this interview. Grab a cup of coffee, follow along, chime in, ask questions and join our discussion! Let’s go!!!
Tina Swithin: Early in my divorce, I was trying to understand what I was going through and came across an article that you wrote titled, “Help! I’m Divorcing a Narcissist.” This article educated me and really changed the course of my battle. May I ask how this topic became such a focus point in your career? Did you have a personal experience with someone who suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder that led you onto this path?
Dr. Karyl McBride: My first book, Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers, came from my own experience and it was something I somehow figured out myself and then began research and working with many clients on the same issue. Nothing had been written about maternal narcissism and I knew there was a huge need for a recovery model. Therapists did not seem to understand and the mental health field was not filling this gap. Out of this work, many clients wanted to discuss their romantic relationships as they had fallen into the arms of narcissists as love partners and were struggling with what to do. Then in my practice, I also was seeing how the divorces were chaos and not protecting children or understanding that one person, a narcissist, can unilaterally create a high-conflict and on-going divorce and the kids and the real issues were being missed in the process. This led to my second book.
Tina Swithin: While many mental health professionals have a textbook understanding of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I have found that very few seem to understand how this disorder carries over into interpersonal relationships, specifically parenting and co-parenting. Have you ever considered offering ongoing education courses to help fellow mental health professionals have a deeper understanding of how this disorder amplifies during divorce? In your opinion, where is the disconnect between what is taught in higher education and the reality of dealing with a narcissist?
Dr. Karyl McBride: Yes, this is a real problem. I have three degrees in psychology, and the understanding of how narcissism creates emotional and psychological abuse in families was certainly not taught. There is a void in the mental health field about this topic and I still think it is widely misunderstood. The term narcissism is thrown about loosely to mean arrogant, boastful, image oriented people and in reality it is really about lack of empathy and the inability to tune into the emotional world of others. It is interesting how narcissists use the court process as a theatrical stage to seek revenge and prove that they can win at all costs. I am working on ongoing education for professionals in the divorce field as I can see again this need and I can’t stand to see how the children are hurt when narcissism is not understood.
Tina Swithin: I often receive emails from parents who are still in abusive marriages and they are scared to leave because of what they’ve read about high-conflict custody battles. Is there any advice that you could offer to someone who finds themselves in this situation?
Dr. Karyl McBride: We know that high conflict and abusive marriages cause significant trauma for children that will affect them forever, so taking the plunge to get oneself and the children out of these situations will help the children in the long run. It will give them the opportunity to spend less time with a narcissistic parent and also the opportunity to be able to witness a healthy love relationship once the person is out, works recovery, and finds a healthy relationship. I think another problem here is when one is in an abusive relationship with a narcissist, the self-esteem gets damaged and they internalize the “not good enough” message. This makes it more difficult to make a decision to leave. It is very important to gather the best support team possible to help and carefully choose the professionals in the divorce field who understand this issue.
Tina Swithin: There seems to be a comorbidity between NPD and addiction issues such as alcohol, drugs and pornography. I am curious to know your thoughts on this – specifically, why these issues seem to couple together.
Dr. Karyl McBride: Narcissists don’t deal with their own feelings, they don’t embrace their mistakes, and they are not accountable. They project onto others and nothing is their fault. Escaping into addictions is a way to deal with the pain by numbing it but not really dealing with it. I have found that many people who are in the midst of serious addiction will certainly be acting like a narcissist because everything is about getting their addiction fix. When or if they sober up however, some may not be narcissists at all and some of course, are.
Tina Swithin: Thankfully, my children are now safe from the emotional abuse of their narcissistic father however, many are not. There is a fine line between helping children to understand unhealthy behavior and bad mouthing the other parent which is never okay. What advice do you have for a healthy parent who may be trying to explain the narcissistic parent’s behavior to his or her children?
Dr. Karyl McBride: I think it is very important to validate the child’s feelings and experience when bad things happen with the narcissistic parent. We can’t try to gloss things over or the child will grow up not trusting their own perceptions of reality. This will cause a crippling self-doubt in them. Therefore, this is a difficult question. But, I think we do it with lots of empathy, hearing them, validating their experience, saying if we think a behavior is wrong without saying the person is bad. Tricky!
Tina Swithin: I find that even with a firm diagnosis of NPD, many custody evaluators and judges still recommend a 50/50 custody split. What are three pieces of advice that you would you offer to a person who is forced to co-parent with a narcissist in a situation such as this?
Dr. Karyl McBride: I know. Even without a narcissist involved, I am one who believes that 50/50 custody splits are really hard on kids and most of them don’t like it. I hear this over and over from kids in my practice even when they have 2 great parents. As adults, we would not have much stability in our lives if we were living in 2 places and going back and forth every other week. Why does anyone think kids do well with this? But, to answer your question. (1) Be sure to learn how to set very good boundaries and how to make them stick. (2) I love the programs like the Family Wizard for communication and keeping track of kid’s schedules and activities so that harassing emails and texts are all recorded in the same place. (3) Make sure the children are in therapy with a good therapist who gets this. The therapist can help the child learn to be assertive and empowered and can bring in the other parent as needed so the healthy parent is not the only one seeing or dealing with the crazy making behavior.
Tina Swithin: In your professional opinion and experience, is there a genetic predisposition to NPD? In other words, should the healthy parent in a high-conflict shared parenting situation worry about their children becoming Narcissists? Any advice for parents who may have this concern or who may see concerning traits in their children?
Dr. Karyl McBride: I do not think there is convincing evidence that NPD is genetic. But children can learn these traits from a narcissistic parent for sure. I think the most important thing a parent can do is teach children empathy. Empathy is the antithesis to narcissism. The healthy parent will have a double duty job and should use empathic parenting. I talk a lot about this in my book and how to help heal the wounded children. So important!
Tina Swithin: The Narcissistic parent often chooses a Golden Child in the family. In your experience, what factors play into a child being chosen to assume this role? Any tips for the healthy parent on how to handle this situation if it presents itself?
Dr. Karyl McBride: The golden child is usually the child who does exactly what the narcissistic parent wants them to do, revolves around them, takes care of them emotionally, or sometimes it is the child who reflects well on the narcissistic parent by certain achievements. The golden child also does not rock the boat, or question the crazy making. If you speak the truth in one of these families, you ain’t gonna be chosen! If you see this happening to one of your kids, make sure you are keeping things even with all the kids, respecting and nurturing who they are, so you are off-setting it. Again that double duty! Make sure it is about who your kids are and not what they do.
Tina Swithin: You have written a book titled, “Will I Ever Be Good Enough,” which delves into the subject matter of Narcissistic mothers. If someone was raised by a Narcissistic parent, are they more likely to end up with a Narcissistic spouse? Very curious to hear your opinion on this subject matter.
Dr. Karyl McBride: I think those raised by narcissistic parents are more vulnerable to choosing narcissistic partners in love relationships. Part of this is that we are unconsciously attracted to the familiar, and part of it is the way a narcissist starts the dating scene with incredible charm and seduction. If you grew up not getting the love you deserved, you can see how one would want to believe the con job. But, I always say, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. But, there are other reasons people fall into the arms of narcissists too. Some of them are low self-esteem, body image issues, dating too soon after the last relationship ends, and not having developed a solid sense of self.
Tina Swithin: I would love to have you share some closing thoughts on Family Court reform. Where you see the main issues in the court system and how we go about making changes.
Dr. Karyl McBride: First, we need more training for divorce professionals. I am working on that now. I also talk about a pilot project in my book called the AIMS project. It is too much to explain here, but in a nutshell it is getting the court to buy into a therapeutic team to work with high-conflict families going through divorce, when a narcissist is unilaterally causing a train wreck. The term AIMS comes from what we hear all the time from the narcissist. When confronted, they say, “AM I MISSING SOMETHING?” Yes, they are. What they are missing is empathy and what is in the best interest of their children. I also would love to see a series of non-profits set up in states where they are raising money to assist some people with court costs, as we have all seen the incredible costs that leave people bankrupt and in poverty when all is said and done. As one judge told me, “I tell parents that their attorney’s children will go to college, but your children won’t.” Some people just can’t afford to fight for their kids and I would like to see organizations out there willing to raise money to help them. As you can see, Tina, there is much work to be done. And none of us can do it alone. I am thrilled you are out there helping too!
Q&A Session: Dr. Karyl McBride interviews Tina Swithin:
Dr. Karyl McBride Intro: Good Morning! We are excited to be interviewing Tina Swithin at 10:00 AM Mountain Time today! She is a Family Court advocate, divorce coach and author of four books on divorcing a narcissist. Her books are titled: Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle, Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield, Divorcing a Narcissist: Rebuilding after the Storm and her latest release, The Narc Decoder: Understanding the Language of the Narcissist. Her latest book was just released on Friday and is now available on Amazon.
Please join us if you have an interest in narcissism. It doesn’t matter if you are divorcing one or not, or in a love relationship with one. You can chime in and ask questions and join the discussion. We invite all our followers to join us.
After this event, Tina will be interviewing me on her Facebook page on the same topic. The paperback release of Will I Ever Be Free of You? How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family is scheduled for Tuesday, March 15th. Tina will be interviewing me at 12 noon today Mountain Time on her Facebook page which is: https://www.facebook.com/TinaSwithinCoach
Let’s go! Good Morning Tina and welcome to our community!
Dr. Karyl McBride: You have a fabulous blog site called One Mom’s Battle, in a nutshell if possible, how did that come about?
Tina Swithin: One Mom’s Battle came to fruition because my own custody battle was in full swing and I found myself repeating details of court dates and encounters with my ex-husband multiple times to friends and family members. I never intended for it to be read by anyone outside of my circle but low and behold, Christie Brinkley was following my story due to her own custody battle and in 2012, she began promoting my blog. My little blog went from about 30 views per month to over 35k overnight! Today, One Mom’s Battle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with chapters all over the world! It’s been quite an adventure!
Dr. Karyl McBride: On your blog site, where people are talking about divorcing narcissists, what do you see as the top three problems they encounter?
- I would say the number one issue is the Family Court System and the lack of education in the courtroom and behind the judicial bench. The healthy parent is lumped into the “high-conflict” category with the narcissist.
- The unpredictability of the Narcissist is very difficult to cope with. The healthy parent is on heightened alert 24-hours a day and that can really wear on a person over time. This is where firm boundaries are critical.
- Understanding how to help your children is one of the most heartbreaking situations that parents are faced with. I know from personal experience that as parents, our hands are tied by what we can and can’t say to our children. The gas lighting and manipulations can be extreme and it is a helpless feeling to watch your children suffer.
Dr. Karyl McBride: Do you find many of your followers have been raised by narcissistic parents themselves?
Tina Swithin: Yes, I do. While talking to clients, I find that many came from very broken, dysfunctional families where they were essentially “groomed” to be the Narcissist’s ideal partner. On the flipside, I do have many clients who came from healthy, intact families and the pressure to keep the marriage together keeps them entrenched and usually, they have suffered in silence for many years because they didn’t want the stigma or shame of divorce. Most find themselves isolated because they have worked hard to present a picture-perfect image however, that image is far from their reality.
Dr. Karyl McBride: If you had to choose, with your experience and research so far, who have people had the worst problems with in the field of divorce professionals? Judges? Attorneys? Custody Evaluators? Therapists? Mediators? And if you can identify this, do they say why?
Tina Swithin: Great question and a very difficult one to answer. You will find a different answer depending on who you speak to. I don't know that you can blame one particular group. The main issues revolve around lack of education on high-conflict divorces, domestic violence and Cluster B personality disorders with all of the “players” in the system. Another issue is the ability for many of these professionals to make a huge profit off this industry. Few are in it for the right reasons and most get very calloused by the issues in the system. In my experience, many mediators and custody evaluators tend to lump everyone into the high-conflict category and distribute equal blame which is very unfair. The majority of GAL’s do not really listen to the children nor do they stand up for the best interest of the child. Ultimately, the Judge has the final say and they really hold the power. Sadly, they often take a 10-minute snapshot of a case and make a decision that can affect the life of an innocent child. I have always said that it takes longer to adopt a puppy from the shelter than it does to decide the fate of a child.
Dr. Karyl McBride: We often hear that in these so called “high-conflict” divorces, if one of the pair is a narcissist, they both get painted with the same brush of “crazy” in the courts rather than understanding that many times the other parent has to stay in the battle to protect the emotional welfare of the children. How does your experience compare?
Tina Swithin: You just summed up my six-year battle in two sentences! The first four years of my battle were exhausting because not only was I working around the clock to protect my children and document the issues that were occurring, I was going blue in the face trying to show that I was not the issue. I found that because I was the one initiating most hearings, I was viewed as equally problematic. My mentality was, “Okay – if you aren’t going to protect my daughters this month, I will probably be back next month!” I needed to go to sleep each night knowing that I had done everything in my power to protect my little ones. By the final two years of my battle, the tides were turning and he was viewed as the problem. He had also lost credibility in the courtroom due to lies in oral testimony and in court documents.
Dr. Karyl McBride: In what ways have you seen children harmed in these long drawn out court battles?
Tina Swithin: It’s the most heartbreaking part of all of this for me. I know how much my own daughters suffered when they were failed over and over again by a system that was designed to act in their best interest. As a parent, to have your child clinging to you and begging not to have to go with the unhealthy parent is an indescribable pain that few can understand. On a daily basis, I hear of young children experiencing nightmares, regression and emotional distress. Older children are suffering with anxiety disorders and having problems in school and equally sad, many teenagers are manipulated to turn against the healthy parent. For a narcissist, it’s all about control and winning. The ultimate “win” is for them to turn the child against the healthy parent which happens quite often. It can turn around when the narcissist drops the mask and reveals his or her true colors but it can cause a lifetime of heartache.
Dr. Karyl McBride: We are both suggesting court reform for these difficult cases. We would love to hear your ideas and what direction your work is taking?
Tina Swithin: Some of the things I’d personally like to see is continuing education on Narcissistic Personality Disorder for those on the bench and in the courtroom. At One Mom’s Battle, we’ve just kicked off a campaign in which we are mailing educational packages to attorneys, GAL’s, Custody Evaluators, therapists and judges. Down the line, I would like to begin offering continuing education webinars and courses for Judges, attorneys and mental health professionals. Education is sorely lacking. Beyond education, there are changes needed within the system. One main issue is the lack of consequence for violations of court orders. Another is that perjury is not taken seriously. Narcissists often feel above the law and lying is like a second language. If the Family Court System stringently upheld court orders and punished those who commit perjury, these cases would not drag out for as long as they do.
Dr. Karyl McBride: I see costs of high conflict cases involving narcissists ranging from 50 grand to a million dollars. What have you seen in your research?
Tina Swithin: I’ve actually seen cases in Southern California go over 2 million dollars. Many feel that a cap should be set on how much a law firm can charge – while I know this is easier said than done and logistically, it would be very difficult to enforce something like this but it has to make you wonder….it would sure encourage attorneys to settle cases much faster! I see many attorneys who make conflict worse and fan the flames.
Dr. Karyl McBride: In your experience so far, what is the most important advice you would give someone approaching this kind of divorce process?
Tina Swithin: The best advice I was given early on was to document everything. Everything. Create a system that works for you. For me, it’s a paper binder system with color-coded categories but for you it may be electronic documentation. While patterns of behavior may not be clear for a year or more, make documentation a priority because you never know when it will prove helpful. In my case, my initial custody evaluation in 2010 proved to be a waste of time and energy but in 2013, a second evaluation was ordered which ended up being my saving grace. Several years’ worth of documentation and efforts were recognized when the evaluator saw the issues that everyone else had failed to see. My late nights preparing documents and binders upon binders of evidence helped me to paint the full picture for the custody evaluator.
Dr. Karyl McBride: In your opinion and that of your forum, how well does mediation work with narcissists?
Tina Swithin: Here in California, parents are forced to go to mediation prior to being seen in court. I know many states have similar policies. In the past, I always felt this was a waste of time because mediation with a narcissist is crazy-making. Two healthy people can generally reach a compromise but unless you are walking in with the intention of giving the narcissist everything they are asking for, nothing productive comes from mediation. Most narcissists see mediation as a stage where they can receive a giant dose of their “narcissistic feed.” While I believe it’s important to go in with realistic expectations, I think that the benefit to mediation is the window of opportunity to see the narcissist in action and to see how skilled they are at impression management. It’s an opportunity to desensitize yourself to the court process and to see how the narcissist behaves in front of a neutral, third party.
Here is the link to Tina Swithin's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TinaSwithinCoach/