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Narcissistic Personality Disorder with Real-World Examples

Narcissistic Personality Disorder with Real-World Examples

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a relatively uncommon disorder, but it can be challenging to treat. Individuals with NPD may also have other disorders like substance use, mania, and depression.  Pretty much every week, the idea of narcissism will come up in a session.  It’s a popular topic in the psychology world and one could argue that it’s the the spouses, children, parents, and friends of those who display narcissistic behaviors who often seek out therapy.

Cluster B: Personality Disorders

The current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5-TR) indicates personality disorders as a “Cluster B” diagnoses.  There are four Cluster B personality disorders including NPD, as well as Antisocial, Borderline, and Histrionic Personality Disorders.

Personality disorders can be difficult to treat because they involve deeply ingrained patterns of behavior and thought that have likely developed over a long period of time. In many cases, these patterns are rooted in past traumas that have shaped an individual’s sense of self and their relationship to others. This can make it challenging to address the underlying issues that contribute to the disorder.

What Does NPD Look Like?

People with NPD may exhibit a variety of characteristics, including a need for constant attention and admiration, a lack of empathy for others, and exaggerated feelings of self-importance. Individuals with this disorder often have difficulty recognizing their own behavior as problematic. They may have a sense of entitlement that leads them to resist authority or rules, making it difficult for them to comply with treatment recommendations.

The nature of NPD can make it challenging for individuals to seek treatment or even acknowledge that they have a problem. Because symptoms of NPD can change over the course of an individual’s life, treatment may need to adjust over time to remain effective.

To receive a diagnosis of NPD, an individual must meet at least five of the nine criteria outlined in the DSM-5. The rest of this post will go through the nine criteria and include examples of behavior from the celebrity, sport, and political arenas.  In case you were wondering, the people used in the examples are not my clients. Therefore, I have not officially diagnosed these individuals with anything.  The following examples represent behaviors that were in the news that suggest symptoms of NPD.

1. Grandiose Sense of Self-Importance

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and it’s okay to recognize and celebrate your strengths while working on areas of growth.  However, sometimes individuals with NPD may have an exaggerated sense of their own importance or value compared to others. 

Someone with a grandiose sense of self-importance may interrupt others frequently in conversation, believing that their own thoughts and opinions are more important than anyone else’s.  They may also become defensive or angry when you challenge their ideas, unable to tolerate anyone questioning their expertise or authority on a topic.

I’ve watched a couple of the documentaries about Lance Armstrong. He put on a great show to the public (I drank the kool-aid at the time) all while showing multiple criteria for NPD.

Narcissism Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong:

One real-life example of a highly regarded person whose career was affected by NPD symptoms is Lance Armstrong, a former professional cyclist. His behavior on and off the bike was affected. He often exhibited grandiose behavior, such as insisting that he could beat cancer because he was Lance Armstrong. He also had a need for admiration and had a tendency to belittle others.

Armstrong’s NPD led him to engage in unethical behavior that ultimately led to the downfall of his career. He was accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and he vehemently denied the allegations despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Armstrong’s grandiose sense of self-importance and need for admiration made it difficult for him to admit that he had done something wrong.

In the end, Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, and his reputation was severely damaged. His NPD behavior made it difficult for him to maintain relationships with his teammates and cycling officials, and it ultimately led to his downfall.

2. Preoccupation with Fantasies of Unlimited Success in One or More Areas

Narcissism Kanye West

While it’s okay to have goals and aspirations, it’s not uncommon for individuals with narcissistic personality disorder to have REALLY big goals and aspirations. Sometimes, this mindset can lead to excessive focus on the idea of achieving unlimited success in one or more areas.

They may spend a lot of time researching successful business people and comparing themselves to them, feeling inadequate if they don’t measure up. They may also be unwilling to take on lower-level roles or work their way up in a company, feeling like they deserve immediate success and recognition.

I’m not really of the generation where Kanye West was relevant, but my kids made me listen to Taylor Swift (Okay, I wasn’t complaining).  When he yanked the award away from her at that award show, it was obvious he was not playing by the same rules as the rest of us.

Kanye West:

Kanye West is a well-known rapper, producer, and fashion designer who has achieved immense success in the entertainment industry. However, his preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success in various areas has caused several difficulties in his personal and professional life.
West has displayed some of the criteria for NPD. He shows an inflated sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy for others, and a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, and brilliance. These traits have led him to make grandiose statements about his abilities, including his claim that he is the “greatest living artist and greatest artist of all time.”
One of the main difficulties that West has faced due to his NPD is his tendency to engage in impulsive and erratic behavior. In 2009, he infamously interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech, claiming that Beyoncé should have won the award instead.

3. Belief That One is Special and Can Only Be Understood By Others Who Are Also Special.

Even though everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, sometimes people with NPD may describe themselves as unique or gifted and want to be surrounded by only those with a similar status.
I think this also applies outside of the world of celebrities.  The politics of small towns, local organizations, and even the parents at kids’ sports can bring out the worst in the grab to sidle up to the popular crowd.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Mariah Carey’s music.  She is of my era. I remember first hearing her range when I was still in high school and thought, “Dang, she’s my age.” It was only later when I heard about the diva behaviors.  Whatever, I still randomly sing, “It’s a sweet, sweet fantasy baby ...” without near the range.
Narcissism Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey:

Mariah Carey is a well-known singer, songwriter, and actress who has achieved great success throughout her career. However, her belief that she is special and can only be understood by others who are also special has caused significant difficulties in her life.
Carey’s behavior has been characterized as demanding and diva-like. She has been known to make outrageous demands, such as requiring a room filled with white roses or puppies, and insisting on being carried everywhere she goes. She has also been involved in numerous public feuds with other celebrities and has been accused of being difficult to work with.
While many celebrities may exhibit diva-like behavior, Carey’s actions have been particularly extreme. Her behavior has been linked to her NPD, which has caused her to believe that she is entitled to special treatment and that others should cater to her every whim.
Unfortunately, Carey’s NPD has also had a negative impact on her personal life. She has been married and divorced multiple times, and has had reportedly difficult relationships with her family members. Her belief that she is special and can only be understood by others who are also special has made it difficult for her to form meaningful relationships with others.

4. Requires excessive admiration.

Narcissism Teal Swan
People with narcissistic personality disorder require a lot of admiration and can be sensitive to criticism or self-doubt. They may become upset or defensive if they feel there is not enough praise or recognition.
Everyone needs validation and encouragement. But it’s also important to be able to accept constructive feedback a without becoming overly defensive or upset.
I first saw links to Teal Swan videos on YouTube.  I’m assuming all my self-help listens made her jump on my YouTube algorithm.  At first, I thought it was pretty good stuff … then it got weird.  The damning documentary, The Deep End, may not have been altogether fair. However, I had made a hard-pass on her videos long before the documentary came out.


Teal Swan

Teal Swan, a self-help author, motivational speaker, and spiritual teacher, has been accused of exhibiting traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). One of the ways in which she demonstrates this is by requiring excessive admiration from her followers.

For instance, Teal Swan requires her followers to make videos testimonials about her, which they must then publicly share on social media. This not only shows that she craves admiration but also that she wants others to see it. She wants to perceive her as larger than life and as someone who has a significant impact on her followers. This behavior is typical of individuals with NPD, who often seek admiration and validation from others.

Overall, Teal Swan’s excessive need for admiration is a clear indication of her NPD. She is a prime example of how individuals with NPD can use their charm and charisma to manipulate and control others to satisfy their own needs.

5. Possesses a Sense of Entitlement.

People with narcissistic personality disorder may feel that they deserve special treatment and may be confusing or upsetting when others don’t do things for them.

They may feel entitled to more than they’re given and may struggle to understand why others don’t see things the same way.

It seemed like the O.J. Simpson trial dominated the news cycle for years.  I knew O.J. as the incredible football player (The Juice)  and his “Naked Gun” character Nordberg.  It was hard to believe this apparently likable guy had so much darkness going on in the background.

Narcissism OJ Simpson

O.J. Simpson

O.J. Simpsons a former American football player and actor who was famously acquitted of the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in 1995. However, Simpson’s sense of entitlement, which may be from NPD, has caused him difficulties in other areas of his life.

For example, in 2007, Simpson was arrested and charged with armed robbery and kidnapping after he and several accomplices attempted to steal sports memorabilia that Simpson claimed to have owned. Simpson was ultimately convicted and sentenced to 33 years in prison, with a minimum of 9 years before parole eligibility.

During his trial, Simpson’s sense of entitlement was on full display. He refused to take responsibility for his actions and instead blamed others for his situation. His behavior ultimately led to his conviction and imprisonment.

6. Is Interpersonally Exploitative

Narcissism Putin

People with narcissistic personality disorder may form relationships based on how they can benefit from them, rather than on mutual respect and kindness. They may be attracted to people who boost their self-esteem, and may not consider the other person’s needs or feelings.

This can lead to a pattern of taking advantage of others for their own gain, which can be hurtful and damaging to the relationship.

When I consider Putin, I can’t help but remember the video of him publicly reprimanding members of his staff.  His coldness and the look of fear on his staff spoke volumes.

Vladimir Putin

Reports have suggested that Vladimir Putin exhibits interpersonal exploitative behavior, which is a common trait among those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). One of the examples of such behavior is the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Russian businessman who was once the richest man in Russia and a political rival of Putin. In 2003, Khodorkovsky was arrested and charged with fraud and tax evasion, which many have argued were politically motivated charges.

During Khodorkovsky’s trial, Putin made several public comments suggesting that Khodorkovsky was guilty. Putin’s comments were widely seen as an attempt to influence the outcome of the trial and to discredit Khodorkovsky. This is just one example of how Putin’s interpersonal exploitative behavior, a trait commonly associated with NPD, has caused difficulties for those around him.

Another example of Putin’s exploitative behavior is his treatment of political opponents. Critics of Putin have been imprisoned, exiled, or even killed. One prominent example is the case of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy who was poisoned with polonium in 2006. Litvinenko had accused Putin of ordering the assassination of another critic of the Russian government, and many believe that Litvinenko’s own assassination was ordered by Putin in retaliation for his criticism.

7. Lacks Empathy for Others

People with certain personality traits may have difficulty empathizing with others. While they may understand empathy at an intellectual level, it can be challenging for them to identify with the feelings or experiences of others.

This can lead to difficulty building and maintaining meaningful relationships with others, as well as a lack of understanding or consideration for the needs and feelings of those around them.

The name Kim Jong-Un brings fear to much of the world.  It’s not his physical size or even the size of his country, but rather it’s his blatant disregard for life.

Narcissism Kim Jong-Un

Kim Jong-Un

The North Korean regime, under Kim Jong-un’s leadership, has been accused of committing numerous human rights abuses.

One real-life example of Kim Jong-un’s lack of empathy for others is his treatment of political prisoners. According to Amnesty International, the North Korean government has imprisoned an estimated 200,000 people in political prison camps, where they face inhumane conditions, including torture, forced labor, and starvation. In some cases, entire families are imprisoned, including children and elderly relatives. Kim Jong-un has shown no concern for the suffering of these prisoners, who are often held without trial and subjected to brutal treatment.

Another example is the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, in 2017. Kim Jong-nam was killed by two women who smeared his face with a deadly nerve agent while he was in a crowded airport terminal in Malaysia. The assassination was linked to Kim Jong-un’s desire to eliminate potential rivals to his leadership. Despite the fact that this assassination endangered countless innocent bystanders, Kim Jong-un showed no remorse for the harm caused.

Overall, Kim Jong-un’s lack of empathy for others is a significant problem that has led to widespread suffering in North Korea and beyond. His willingness to use violence to maintain power and disregard for the well-being of others are hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder, and have had devastating consequences for countless individuals.

8. Is Often Envious of Others and Believes Others are Envious of Them.

Narcissism Paris Hilton

People with certain personality traits may exhibit symptoms of envy towards others and may believe that others are envious of them.

This can lead to a pattern of devaluing the successes of others and overvaluing their own accomplishments.

Paris Hilton has definitely changed the narrative around her “party-girl” and “tone-deaf” personas when she started speaking out against the “troubled-teen” industry back in 2020.  It is a great example to show how narcissistic characteristics can often be a cover for a deeper wound.

Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton has been very open about her struggles with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). In a 2011 interview with Piers Morgan, Hilton revealed that her NPD had caused her significant difficulties, including difficulty forming genuine relationships, trust issues, and feelings of loneliness and isolation.

One of the most challenging aspects of her NPD was her belief that others were envious of her. She had developed a deep-seated belief that she was superior to others and that they were jealous of her and her lifestyle. This belief caused her to become envious of others, leading to a vicious cycle of envy and loneliness. She would become envious of people who had something she did not, such as a happy relationship or successful career. This jealousy would then lead her to feel even more isolated and alone, fueling her NPD.

In addition, Paris Hilton admitted that her NPD had caused her to become overly defensive and to lash out at others who she perceived as being critical of her or not giving her the attention she felt she deserved. She would often respond aggressively to perceived slights, leading to damaged relationships with friends and family.

Paris Hilton’s struggles with NPD highlight the difficulties that people with this disorder face. Despite her wealth and privilege, her NPD made it challenging for her to form healthy relationships and lead a fulfilling life.

9. Shows Arrogance and Haughty Behaviors or Attitudes. 

People with certain personality traits may come across as snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing. They may believe that they are better than others and may act in ways that make others feel inferior or unworthy.

It’s important to remember that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and that it’s okay to celebrate your accomplishments while treating others with kindness and respect.

Charlie Sheen almost felt like a cartoon character with some of his quotes and behaviors.  It was in such a contrast to his work from the past.  I loved Wall Street and Major League and it was hard to believe he is the same guy.

Narcissism Charlie Sheen


Charlie Sheen is a well-known actor who has publicly struggled with addiction, legal troubles, and erratic behavior. He has also exhibited symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which may have contributed to some of his difficulties.

Sheen’s behavior has been characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. He has made grandiose statements about his own abilities and accomplishments, and has been known to belittle and ridicule others who disagree with him.

In 2011, Sheen was fired from the television show “Two and a Half Men” after a series of public outbursts directed at the show’s creator, Chuck Lorre. Sheen made derogatory and insulting comments about Lorre’s appearance and personal life, and refused to take responsibility for his own behavior. This behavior may have been driven in part by his NPD behaviors, which can make it difficult for individuals to accept criticism or admit fault.

Overall, Sheen’s struggles with addiction and behavior have been well-documented, and his NPD may have been a contributing factor to some of his difficulties.

5 Gaslighting Examples in Relationships

5 Gaslighting Examples in Relationships

Gaslighting examples, displaying that sneaky form of emotional abuse. It is like a twisted game of “Is it real or is it in my head?” The abuser tries to make their partner doubt their own memory, reality, and sanity, leaving them feeling confused, anxious, and paranoid. It all starts with little things that make you question your own judgment, but then it escalates into a full-blown mind warp. (Also see The Impact of Narcissism on Relationships.)

The following are some examples of gaslighting you may experience in a relationship:

1. Gaslighting Example: Denial of Truth

Your partner denies things that have happened or things you have said, making you question your own memory and perception of reality. Your partner may deny they said something hurtful to you, even though you clearly remember the conversation.


Sarah started to notice Alex would deny things that had happened or things she had said, making her question her own memory and perception of reality. At first, she brushed it off, thinking maybe she was just forgetful. But as time went on, Alex’s behavior became more frequent and intense. He would deny things Sarah was sure had happened, making her feel like she was losing her mind.

Sarah confronted Alex about his behavior, but he told her she was overreacting and nothing was wrong. Sarah started to feel like she was going crazy and began to doubt herself. She became anxious and paranoid, wondering if she could trust her own memory or if she was losing her mind.

It wasn’t until Sarah talked to a friend who had experienced gaslighting when she realized what was happening to her. She began to recognize the signs and sought help from a mental health professional. With the help of therapy, Sarah was able to rebuild her self-esteem and confidence and set boundaries with Alex. Eventually, she realized she deserved to be treated with respect and kindness and ended the relationship.

2. Gaslighting Example: Blaming

Your partner blames you for things that are not your fault, making you feel guilty and responsible for things you didn’t do. Your partner may blame you for her own mistakes or shortcomings, leaving you questioning if everything that does not go perfect in his life is somehow your fault.


The relationship was going great for the first few months for Tom and Rachel. Tom started noticing small indications something was not right. Rachel began blaming him for simple actions or decisions he made that she labeled as “mistakes” or for things that were out of his control. Over time, Rachel’s blaming only became more frequent and intense.

Tom tried to talk to Rachel, but she responded with anger and defensiveness. She told him he was overreacting and he needed to figure out his own insecurities. As time went on, Tom began to feel more and more responsible for Rachel’s behavior. He started to question his own judgment and wondered if he was the cause of all their problems.

One day Rachel said to Tom, “What have you done lately to help my happiness?” and it clicked with Tom that Rachel’s happiness is not in his control. The experience of being blamed for everything had a profound effect on Tom, but with the help of therapy and support from loved ones, he was able to learn to trust his own decisions again.

3. Gaslighting Example: Withholding

Withholding information, affection, or attention can be used as as a way to punish and promote insecurity. Your partner may stop talking to you for days without any explanation, leaving you wondering what you did wrong.


From the outside Emily and Mark seemed like the perfect match for the first few years of their relationship. However, Emily was feeling more and more left out as Mark seemed to be withholding information, affection, and attention leaving her feeling punished and insecure.

It started small, with Mark giving Emily the silent treatment for a few hours or not responding to her messages. But as time went on, Mark’s withholding became more frequent and intense. He would stop talking to Emily for days without any explanation, leaving her wondering what she did wrong.

Emily tried to talk to Mark about his behavior, but he told her she was overreacting and she needed to learn to recognize when he needed space.

As time went on, Emily began to feel more and more insecure in the relationship. She started to question her own behavior and wondered if she was causing Mark to withdraw. Her final straw was during an event they attended. He was kind and friendly to anyone but her – not just his friends, but also strangers or people she knew he did not like. She finally saw Mark’s withholding behavior for what it was.

Emily started on her quest to rebuild her confidence. With the help of her therapist and supportive friends and family she was able to understand her own worth.

4. Gaslighting Example: Projection

Your partner accuses you of doing things they are actually doing, making you question yourself without reason. For example, your partner may accuse you of cheating on them, even though they are the ones who have been unfaithful.


Max was charming and attentive at first, but as time went on, Lily began to notice Max’s behavior was becoming increasingly unpredictable and erratic. He would accuse her of things she had not done, and he would become angry and defensive whenever she tried to talk to him about it.

One day, Max accused Lily of cheating on him. Lily was shocked and hurt by the accusation. She had never cheated on Max, and she couldn’t understand why he would think she had. Max became more and more convinced of her infidelity, even though Lily tried to reassure him that she was faithful.

Lily started to question her own behavior. She wondered if there was something she had done to make Max think she was cheating. She tried to reason with him and explain she had not been unfaithful, but Max refused to listen. He became increasingly paranoid and controlling, even going so far as to check her phone and social media accounts for evidence of her supposed infidelity.

Lily eventually learned Max’s accusations were actually projections of his own infidelity onto her. Max had been cheating on Lily, and he was using gaslighting to make her doubt her own behavior and cover up his own wrongdoing. Through this experience, she learned she was not crazy or irrational. She deserved to be in a relationship where she was valued and respected.

5. Gaslighting Example: Minimizing

Your partner downplays your feelings or experiences, making you feel like they are not important or valid. Your partner may tell you that you are overreacting or being too sensitive when you express your feelings.


Ava loved Jack deeply and thought he felt the same way about her. But, as time went on, she started to notice Jack would often downplay her feelings or experiences. Whenever Ava tried to express her emotions, Jack would tell her she was overreacting or being too sensitive. He would make her feel like her feelings were not important or valid and she was making a big deal out of nothing.

At first, Ava tried to brush off Jack’s behavior, thinking maybe he just didn’t understand her. But as time went on, Jack’s minimizing became more frequent and intense. He would be dismissive of both her feelings and experiences. Ava felt like she was walking on eggshells around Jack. She started to doubt her own emotions and wondered if she was being irrational.

Through therapy and support from her family, Ava learned her feelings were valid and important. She deserved to be in a relationship where she was valued and respected.

Trusting Your Perspective

Recognizing gaslighting can be a difficult and confusing experience. Trusting your instincts is the first step in protecting yourself from this harmful behavior. If you feel like you are being gaslit, know you are not alone and help is available. Seeking support from a mental health professional can help you develop coping strategies to deal with the effects of gaslighting and rebuild your self-esteem and confidence.

It’s important to set boundaries with your partner and communicate your needs clearly. Remember you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. If your partner is unwilling to change their behavior or seek help, it may be necessary to end the relationship. This can be a difficult decision to make, but prioritizing your mental health and well-being is crucial.

Reclaiming your truth and breaking free from the mind games may feel overwhelming, but working with a therapist or counselor can provide a supportive and empathetic space for healing. With time and support, you can overcome gaslighting and regain your confidence.

Reclaim your truth and break free from the mind games – work with Dr. Guess to overcome gaslighting and regain your confidence.

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Self-Reparenting: A Key to Adulting

Self-Reparenting: A Key to Adulting


I’ve had more than a couple clients roll their eyes at me at the very mention of the “inner-child”. I’ve even had a few head roll back, eyes closed, and deep sighs of annoyance even saying that “inner-child work” is a thing. So, let’s call this self-reparenting.

Self-reparenting is the work of being there for yourself. Being present while you work through childhood situations when you didn’t get what you needed. As a kid, you are completely dependent on the adults in your life for your needs. if you are now an adult, the vital needs were apparently met.

More than just the basics.

What most of this work is about is not so much the “food, clothing, shelter” needs, but rather the emotional needs that are often neglected. They may not be met because there was a tragic loss in your family and everyone was grieving around you. They may not be met because your mother had to work two jobs and your dad was no where to be seen. They may not be met because you had a couple narcissists at the realm of your home. Or, maybe, it was simply a day to day feeling that something was missing.

Sitting with yourself, returning as an adult to difficult moments, and then seeing through your inner-child’s (there’s that word) eyes can be life-changing. This process will look different for each of us. There is no “one size fits all” approach.

Even if you are a functioning adult, there may be parts of you that haven’t had the opportunity to fully develop. For example, if you grew up in an overly restrictive environment, your independence may need some nurturing. On the other hand, if you grew up in an overly permissive environment, you may feel like you lack a safety net to take chances.

What is Self-Reparenting?

Self-reparenting is work. The work is to provide yourself with the emotional support and guidance you may have missed out on during childhood. The work is to acknowledge and validate these historical, and often buried, feelings and needs. The work is to sit with yourself without distraction as you grieve and heal from your past wounds.

Without a prompt, at least half of my clients say something like this at their first session, “I had a great childhood. We don’t need to go there.” They generally get my side-eye and I tap out a little something in my notes.

But, I want to make clear the process of self-reparenting is not about an attack on your parents. Self-reparenting is simply a way to nurture parts of ourselves that are begging for much needed attention. No matter how hard your parents tried and succeeded in providing for you, there will always be areas that could use a little (or a lot) more nurturing and healing.

Self-reparenting is there to help you identify and express your emotions, set healthy boundaries, and improve your overall well-being.

Self-Reparenting Through the Generations

Many of us grew up in homes where emotions were not always acknowledged or validated. I’m a Gen-X’er and believe within my generation and older, the societal norm was to bury those emotions as deep as possible. We did not chit-chat openly about our feelings or about what we talked about in therapy.

I was shocked at how things had changed when I first started my internship hours at a college around 2010. Not only did students not ask for a back door to sneak out after a session, but they would hang out in the waiting room and chat with other students. They consistently gave referrals to each other to my office. They also had open conversations with their coaches about therapy – coaches were my biggest referral source. Things had definitely changed.

How Self-Reparenting is Vital

I have seen so much good work done in this area that has benefited clients personally and with their relationships. Often the idea of caring for yourself can seem like a foreign concept meant for other people. It is hard and sometimes not a ton of fun, but it can be meaningful for you.

Below are some of the benefits you can experience from taking the deep dive into this work.

You can learn to name and express your emotions with self-reparenting

Much of the work of self-reparenting is in identifying and expressing your emotions. For this Gen-X’er I do not like this idea at all … and yet, I am grateful for it every day.

One of the lessons that must take hold is that emotions are not good or bad, they just are. Taking away the judgment of emotions can allow you to start hearing the messages they are trying to convey. Perhaps feeling angry isn’t bad, but rather it is a signal that there is a threat to one of your boundaries. Listening to the message rather than judging the anger can allow you to set and communicate boundaries that are in line with your values.

It is not easy to stop reacting and to start listening to emotions. Those very reactions are what have kept you alive so far. The initial feeling and desire to react may always be there to some extent. But, your job now is to recognize the emotion before you shut it down. Ask yourself, “What is this emotion telling me?” You might get some answers that tell you a lot about your needs and boundaries that have been hiding for most of your life.

You can learn to create boundaries with self-reparenting

“Boundaries” is a tough word to use. What is your gut reaction if someone were to say they needed to set boundaries with you? Would you get defensive? Would you believe they don’t like you? Would you feel anger or shame?

The word boundary, in a therapeutic sense, is much more healthy and loving than it feels when it’s used in conversation. A boundary is not a 20 foot high brick wall with guards and a moat. But, it is a set line that if crossed may make you feel violated in some way. Letting someone you love know your boundaries, will only enhance the relationship.

Time is often a difficult boundary to discuss in relationships. For example, if you love your work and have periods of time when focus and concentration are necessary, you may not want interruption.

A “Whatcha doin?” text or a TikTok link pinging through your phone when the other person expects an instant response can be infuriating – even if you love them.

Here’s the rub: You do want to talk to them about your day and you do enjoy a cute “Remember the 90’s” TikTok, just not at 2:00 when you are in the zone.

Instead of getting more and more annoyed at the interruption and feeling resentful to your partner, let them know your situation. You can then schedule time together for meaningful connection.

Setting boundaries is an act of self-care, and it is necessary to prioritize your own needs. It is necessary to be firm, but it is also necessary to be respectful and empathetic. I am guessing your partner/family/friend also has boundaries that may help your relationship if they are clearly set. Important relationships in your life are worth having these hard conversations.

You can change how you view yourself with self-reparenting

When you grow up in an environment where your emotions and needs are not validated, it can be easy to internalize a negative self-image. All those messages you receive as a child about what you are good at doing or bad at doing combine to create your self-worth and identity.

Childhood messages may point at you specifically . But often, they point at your gender, race, height, weight, or thousands of other variables that could define your identity.

You may come to believe that your are not good enough before you even try. Self-reparenting is one way we can challenge these negative beliefs. We can adopt a more positive and compassionate view of not only ourselves, but also of others.

You can begin by acknowledging and validating your inner child’s emotions and needs. You may start to see where these beliefs began and to then start healing these past wounds.

You now have years of experience to question the messages you received during childhood. It’s your job now to view your self-worth and identity through the lens of experience. You may now be able to recognize your strengths and accomplishments, learn to be kind and forgiving with yourself, and see your behavior in a new light.

You can become a better parent with self-reparenting

By acknowledging and validating your own emotions and needs, you can become more attuned to the emotional needs of your children. You may find you are better able to communicate, set healthy boundaries, and provide the emotional support and guidance they long for.

Learning to validate your child’s emotions and needs can work magic in building their confidence in and out of the home.

When your child expresses their emotions:

  • Listen without instant judgment or criticism.
  • Acknowledge their feelings and let them know it’s okay to feel the way they do

This validation can help they feel heard and let them know that they are valued and do not have to work to earn your love and attention.

Parenting is a journey, and it’s okay to make mistakes or encounter setbacks along the way. With practice and self-reflection, you can build a stronger relationship with yourself and your child.

Learn to Self-Reparent

1. Acknowledge and connect with your younger self.

I get a lot of push back when I talk in therapy about connecting with your younger self. I believe the, “Are you serious?” question has come up at least a dozen times. And, yes I am serious.

Connecting with your younger self involves revisiting memories or experiences from your childhood, and viewing them through a new lens of empathy and understanding.

For this work, I sometimes ask my clients to find a picture of themselves from an age when many of their childhood memories begin. A picture that represents a time that was special to them or simply shows them as “the cutest thing ever.” I want them to see how young they were when they were doing the work to understand their world.

It may also help to go to the places or do the activities from your childhood. Nothing like a random drive past your old home or high school to bring up some of those dormant memories. You could also fill the room with the music or television of your childhood as you color, dance, or play with your child’s legos. Recreate the environment and see where your memories take you.

As you reflect on these images and memories, try to approach yourself with a sense of curiosity and empathy. Self-reparenting is not about blaming yourself or others for past experiences, but rather about nurturing and healing parts of yourself that may need attention.

2. Determine the unmet needs of your inner child.

Look at that picture you found and imagine yourself as a child. Think about what you needed at that time. Were their emotions or needs that went unacknowledged or unmet? What messages did you receive from others about your worth and value?

Exploring your unmet needs can be a challenging and emotional process. But, this exploration is an essential step towards healing past wounds and building a stronger, more fulfilling relationship with yourself.

Questions to ask:

  • Were you ever made to feel ashamed or guilty for expressing your emotions?
  • Did you ever feel like your needs weren’t important?
  • Did you ever believe that your thoughts and emotions were somehow wrong?

Be gentle with yourself. The goals of self-reparenting is to nurture and heal parts of yourself. By identifying your unmet needs, you provide yourself with the emotional support and guidance you may have missed during childhood.

Determining your unmet needs is a process, not a destination. As you go through this journey, you may uncover new emotions and needs that surface. When you create a safe environment, your inner-child may really start to share.

3. Allow yourself to feel any emotions that arise.

I don’t know about you, but allowing myself to feel emotions comes about as naturally as learning advanced calculus is to my pet fish. It can be challenging to confront difficult emotions if you grew up in an environment where emotions were not always acknowledged or validated.

However, there is hope. Allowing yourself to feel your emotions is the gateway to understanding the messages they are trying to convey.

If you find yourself struggling with difficult emotions, try to approach yourself with the same kindness and compassion you would offer your child or your friend. This is the time to use curiosity and empathy rather than the knee-jerk judgment and criticism we normally use to meet strong feelings and emotion.

It’s okay if you feel uncomfortable and vulnerable … mostly because there is no way around it – it is the way.

4. Release any shame or guilt you may feel.

Most of us carry around feelings of shame or guilt from past experiences we had little control over. These feelings can hold us back from fully embracing our true selves. These feelings are a natural part of the human experience, and you are not alone in experiencing them.

To release shame and guilt, start by acknowledging these feelings and exploring their origin. This may involve revisiting past experiences or memories, and allowing yourself to feel the emotions that arise.

Self-reparenting is about nurturing and healing neglected parts of yourself. This process may include learning to forgive yourself for past missteps.

Releasing shame and guilt requires self-forgiveness. One way you can move toward releasing shame or guilt is by writing yourself a letter of self-forgiveness. For example, you might say, “I forgive myself for past mistakes, and I choose to focus on the present and the future.”

5. Practice self-care.

Self-care involves taking the time to prioritize your own needs and engage in activities that promote your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

Start by identifying solo activities that bring you joy and relaxation. It could be doing yoga, reading a book, going on a hike, or sitting in the sun. Approach these activities with a sense of openness and curiosity. Allow yourself to experience them without judgment or criticism. Prioritize your own needs during these activities and resist the urge to put yourself last.

Self-care involves treating yourself with the same kindness and empathy you would offer someone you love who is going through a difficult time. Approach yourself with a sense of patience and self-compassion. You can build a more fulfilling relationship with yourself and enjoy a greater sense of life satisfaction.

Who Can Benefit From Self-Reparenting

Self-Reparenting can benefit anyone who feels they missed out on certain aspects of emotional development during childhood. This could be due to a variety of factors such as growing up in a household where emotions were not acknowledged or validated, experiencing trauma or abuse, or simply not having access to the emotional support and guidance you needed at any particular time.

Self-reparenting may help:

  • If you who struggle with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues you can benefit from self-reparenting. By learning to provide yourself with the emotional support and guidance you may have missed out on during childhood, you can heal past wounds and develop a stronger, more resilient sense of self.
  • If you struggle with setting boundaries or communicating your needs effectively, you may find self-reparenting to be helpful. By learning to identify and expression your emotions, set boundaries, and validate your own needs, you can build healthier relationships with yourself and others.
  • If you are interested in exploring your past and building a stronger, more fulfilling relationship with yourself, you can benefit from self-reparenting.

With practice and intention, you can begin to heal past wounds and build a more resilient sense of self that will serve you well.

I encourage anyone who feels they may have missed out on aspects of emotional development during childhood to explore the process of self-reparenting. If you are interested in exploring self-reparenting and how it can benefit you, please consider reaching out. Therapy is a form of self-care and can help you heal past wounds and build a stronger, more resilient sense of self.

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Understanding Generational Trauma

Understanding Generational Trauma

Have you ever felt like some of your struggles aren’t yours? If you’re not sure why you’re feeling anxious or depressed, it could be generational trauma.

Generational Trauma (or legacy trauma) is when traumatic experiences pass from one generation to the next. Trauma occurs when individuals experience trauma, witness violence, or live under constant threat. If any of this sounds familiar to you, know you’re not alone. There is hope for healing and growth, and we can explore it together.

Some circumstances that may set the stage for trauma to pass to the next generation include:

  • Growing up in a household where a parent or caregiver experienced trauma
  • Historical events such as slavery, genocide, and forced displacement
  • Cultural trauma from societal upheaval, war, and other conflicts
  • Oppression and systemic inequalities

Generational Trauma -vs- Individual Trauma

Generational trauma and individual trauma share some similarities, but also some differences. Individual trauma is typically the result of an event, but generational trauma passes down through other’s. This can look like persistent feelings of fear, anxiety, and shame that seem to have no clear source.

Generational trauma can be more complex and difficult to identify than individual trauma. It often involves a web of experiences and emotions that can be difficult to unravel. Additionally, generational trauma can affect entire communities, not just individuals. This can create a sense of collective pain and suffering that can be difficult to address.

Historical Events That Can Lead to Generational Trauma

Historical trauma is the legacy of traumatic events experienced by a group of people. Examples of historical events that have led to generational trauma are many.

A couple examples include:

The atrocities committed during the Holocaust

The terror created from the events of 9/11

As recent as both of these examples are, we can still witness the far-reaching effects today.

There are countless smaller-scale traumas that can accumulate and contribute to generational trauma. These may include experiences of discrimination, poverty, violence, and marginalization. Trauma experiences within the home can include sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. These traumas can pass down and shape the experiences of individuals for years to come.

How Trauma is Passed From One Generation to the Next

Behaviors and Coping Mechanisms

Coping mechanisms and behaviors can pass to the next generation from parents and caregivers to children. Coping mechanisms that have kept the parent alive as a child may still be in use as adults. (Read about the effects of narcissistic relationships on coping.)


  • If a parent had survived by staying out of the way as a child, he may be distant to his own children.
  • If a parent survived by people pleasing as a child, she may be resentful for the needs of her own children

Children may learn to respond to stress in the home in a similar manner as their parents. The parents’ survival and the children’s survival act to continue the cycle of trauma.


Epigenetics is a growing area of scientific research. It is shedding light on how trauma can passes down from generation to generation. While genetics refers to the DNA we inherit, epigenetics refers to changes in the expression of genes.

Gene expression is the process where genetic information changes to create proteins. This process happens when DNA turns into RNA, which is then turned into proteins. This process determines how genes work, how they link to disease, and how they influence behaviors.

Environmental factors can change how genes are expressed. All this happens while the underlying DNA is unaltered. Creating positive environments can go a long way in reversing generational trauma.

Effects of Generational Trauma

Trauma may lead to low self-esteem, difficulty trusting, as well as disconnection from others. You may feel unable to relate to others who have not had similar experiences.

The stress and anxiety associated with trauma can have a negative impact on physical health. Trauma has shown to be a factor in chronic health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Trauma may also lead to behaviors such as substance abuse or self-harm as a coping mechanism. Even those coping mechanisms are in place for survival, they often impact our physical health and wellbeing.

Healing from Generational Trauma

When we experience trauma, our bodies and minds become stuck in a state of fear and anxiety. Healing from generational trauma difficult and complex journey. But the journey can be incredibly rewarding.

Healing from generational trauma requires an understanding of the process.

The process:

  1. Recognize the ways in trauma has affected you
  2. Develope healthy coping mechanisms and building resilience.

Approach the healing process with empathy and compassion. recognize It may take time and effort to move towards a place of healing.

Seek out support and guidance as you work towards healing. Working with a therapist or joining a support group may help with the work. Groups may expecially help because you will be with others who have had similar experiences. By connecting with others, a sense of community and support can develop and be helpful on your healing journey.

Tips for Self-Care and Building Resilience

When it comes to healing from generational trauma, self-care and building resilience are key components of the journey. Here are some tips to help you take care of yourself and build resilience as you work towards healing:

  • Practice self-compassion. Be kind to yourself and recognize that healing is a journey that may take time and effort. It’s okay to take breaks and give yourself permission to rest and recharge when you need it.
  • Engage in activities that bring you joy. Whether it’s spending time with loved ones, reading a good book, or practicing a hobby, taking time to engage in activities that bring you joy can help you build resilience and feel more positive about life.
  • Connect with others. Building connections with others who understand your experiences can be incredibly helpful on your healing journey. Consider joining a support group or reaching out to trusted friends or family members who can provide a listening ear and a source of support.
  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness practices such as meditation or deep breathing can help you connect with your body and emotions, and develop a greater sense of self-awareness. This can be especially helpful in managing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Take care of your physical health. Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and engaging in regular exercise can all help support your physical and emotional well-being. Additionally, avoiding drugs and alcohol can help you stay focused on your healing journey and avoid potential triggers.

Self-care and building resilience are ongoing processes that require effort and attention. By prioritizing self-care and focusing on building resilience, you can move towards a more positive and fulfilling life, even in the face of generational trauma. (Check out this post about healing through Self-Reparenting.)

You Got This

Healing from generational trauma is not a linear process, and there may be ups and downs along the way. However, by practicing self-care, building resilience, and staying focused on your healing journey, you can begin to break free from the patterns of trauma and move towards a more positive and fulfilling life.

You deserve love, healing, and compassion. You are not defined by your trauma and there is hope.

If this article resonates with you and you would like to talk to someone about generational trauma, please feel free to contact Dr. Guess. She is here to support you on your healing journey.

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