Category Archives: Toxic People

Dealing with Crazy People!

People Can’t Drive You Crazy if You Don’t Give Them the Keys by Mike Bechtle

Click here to purchase People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys

This is a good book filled with lots of useful tips and information for those of us who have to deal with “crazy” people. It is from a Christian point of view and has some religious quotes and influence, although I didn’t think it was too preachy. There were long sections with no religious commentary at all. Most of it is good common sense; however, if you were raised in an abusive home, you might not have learned to have the kind of boundaries and self-respect you need to deal with dysfunctional people. That has been a big problem for me, so the title of this book caught my attention at the book store!

I think the information in this book is essential and very, very helpful. I underlined so many good ideas and realities that I wish I’d known sooner. Such as “The key to controlling our emotions is to manage our thoughts” (page 84.) Bechtle points out that we cannot change crazy people, but we could make ourselves miserable trying to do it. Instead, he points out that we have to change our reactions to crazy people so they no longer have the power to control our emotions. I have a problem with a sociopathic ex-spouse with whom I have not spoken in two years. He still manages to attempt to harass me in any way he possibly can…that doesn’t breach the protective order I have against him. For two years, I have lived with daily harassment or reminders of it as he has tried to destroy all of my friendships and has spread lies about me. I finally said “enough is enough” and decided to completely shut off all information about his wacky behavior. He’s still out there being crazy, but I am not paying attention to it anymore. I am so much happier and my friends tell me they see the difference now that I have peace in my life again. It has allowed me to be far more productive. The author doesn’t specifically address dealing with personality-disordered people, but many of the ideas still apply.

The author recommends tips such as backing away from your emotional response to a crazy person, and instead looking at the situation realistically. Crazy people often manipulate or lie to us in such a convincing manner that we believe them and lose track of reality. It allows them to control us and our emotions. Instead, we need to replace our incorrect thoughts with truth and enforce strong boundaries. This book includes these important ideas and more.

One thing I will say is, even though this book has many level-headed, sensible and helpful ideas, it was not an easy read for me. The text is simple and easy to understand, but it’s not written in an engaging way that made me want to read it straight through. It’s not a fun book to read, but it is one of the best books I’ve read on the topic of dealing with crazy people and protecting yourself. I really think he makes excellent and useful points. Another thing I’ll point out is, this author doesn’t focus much on cutting contact with crazy people. He mostly describes ways to live with that person without letting them control your life, so this book will be helpful for those who can’t get the crazy person out of their lives.

The chapter titles are:

Part 1–Stuck in a Crazy World
1. I’m Okay, You’re Crazy
2. The Problem with Believing We’re Right
3. How Relationships Work

Part 2–Changing Someone Else
4. Stop Yelling at the Toaster Oven
5. The impact of Influence
6. Can I Fire My Family?

Part 3–Changing Yourself
7. Why Can’t Everyone Be Like Me
8. The Energy of Emotions
9. Seven Keys to Unlocking Healthy Relationships
10. Key #1–See Yourself Realistically
11. Key #2–Take Yourself Lightly
12. Key #3–Don’t Sweat the Wrong Stuff
13. Key #4–Don’t Rush Growth
14. Key #5–Live Through the Lens of Kindness
15. Key #6–Base Your Choices on Integrity, Not Convenience
16. Key #7–Go the Distance in Relationships

Part 4–Changing Your Environment
17. Prioritize Your Relationships
18. No Guarantees
19. When to Leave

Part 5–Putting It into Practice
20. Giving Up on Getting Straight A’s
21. You Can’t Steer a Parked Car
22. Your Relationship Survival Kit
23. It’s Worth the Effort

Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice From the Battlefield book review

Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield by Tina Swithin
Click here to purchase Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield

This book is the follow-up to a book I reviewed earlier called Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle. In the first book, the author briefly told her story of getting involved with and being married to a narcissist, then detailed her attempts to protect her daughters from his abusive and reckless behavior. In this book, she includes a short review of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and gives an overview of her story, then addresses a variety of topics that are related to custody and visitation battles with a narcissist. In each section, she asks a question or offers a situation, then describes how the narcissist will probably act. She tells her story of what happened in her case, then lists answers that came from other moms in similar positions. The replies often describe how their respective narcissists behaved or they answer questions. This format actually confused me at first, because if there was an explanation in the preface, I didn’t see it. I did not initially understand why there was a list of answers after each question or where they came from! So if you read this book, be aware that not all of the answers are from the author. That part really threw me off.

Once I got past that and figured out what was going on with the format, I was relieved and discouraged to read many stories of narcissists who behave the same way my narcissistic ex-spouse behaved. I was relieved to read reminders that I am not alone in what I experienced and that eventually, the truth usually wins, but I was also discouraged because I read what terrible things narcissists are capable of. I already know from experience, but just when I think a narcissist can’t get worse…they do. So, read this book knowing that it might scare you, but also recognize the reality that it is possible to survive a battle with a narcissist!

Here are the chapter/section titles:
Dating a Narcissist
Married to a Narcissist
Divorcing a Narcissist:

Leaving with Children
Finding an Attorney
Going Pro Se
Tactical Moves
Courtroom Anxiety
Mere Exposure Effect
Muddy Water
Discovery Process
Witness Declarations
Custody Evaluations
Child Welfare Services
Psychological Evaluations
Minor’s Counsel
Appealing Decisions
Child Support

Narc Decoder

Sheltering the Children
Breaking the Cycle

Life Beyond NPD:

Finding (Real) Love
The Narcissist’s New Love
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Personal Growth and Healing
Going Public

Family Court Reform
OMB Stories of Hope

Lasting Lessons:

Narcissists do not care about their children. They care about controlling their ex-spouses and avoiding child-support.
Narcissists will charm the officials who are supposed to protect your children the same way they charmed you. Be armed with the facts and know that you may be in for a hurricane of the narcissist’s lies.

What is verbal abuse?

The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond by Patricia Evans
Click here to purchase The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Expanded Third Edition: How to recognize it and how to respond

This book was a great help for me while coming out of an abusive relationship. I was miserable with my first husband who criticized and name-called, but when I tried to tell people how bad it was, I was told that it was not abuse. Yes. It is. Verbal abuse is abuse and it’s just as much abuse as physical abuse. It has proven, long-term consequences and can cause PTSD and Stockholm Syndrome. It’s not just about the yelling and mean words, it’s about how they work together to destroy a person until they begin to believe the abusive comments. It’s about how people get trapped. Therapists and professionals know this, but the general public often does not. I believe that we as a society do not take as good of care of our emotional and mental health as we should, but it is just as important as our physical health. A lot of times, we try to play strong and throw our emotional needs out the window for fear or embarrassment or maybe just ignorance, but verbal abuse takes its toll. And worse…children learn to do what they see at home, so the dysfunctional cycle of degradation continues.

When I was in the verbally abusive marriage, I lived in a state of fear–wondering what he was going to attack next. He would get mad over little things and berate me for not doing dishes correctly or not filling the cats’ food bowl properly. For example, I was an extreme cat lover and loved my cats like my children, (I didn’t have children then.) I pampered them and loved them, but I would let their food bowls run very low before I refilled them. The cats did not go without; I just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t pouring fresh food on top of old/stale food. It seemed reasonable to me. It didn’t seem like a reason for my husband to yell at me. These types of things happened daily. I lived on edge wondering if I was crazy or if he was since he kept throwing fits and giving me the silent treatment over things like that that didn’t seem like fighting over. After nearly two years of these things daily, I was a shell of my previous self and was frantic to keep him happy. That’s what verbal abuse does to a person. After I got out of that mind-numbing game, I was so grateful to find this book. I also joined the author’s online forums which were so helpful for me. (At that time, she personally called everyone who applied to join the private forums, so they should be very safe!) I really want people to understand that verbal and emotional abuse DO matter. They are insidious and eat away at you. And they leave you vulnerable to further abuse if you don’t fully heal. I had come from an abusive childhood, so when my husband started getting angry all the time, it seemed a bit normal to me, even though I was miserable and confused by his behavior. I had learned to accept such crazy-making as normal, but it is NOT normal or healthy. This book is excellent validation if you feel like something is wrong with the way your partner speaks to you.

The chapter titles are:
1. Evaluating Your Own Experience
2. Two Kinds of Power: A Broad Perspective
3. Personal Power: A Look at Reality II
4. The Abuser and the Abusive Relationship: A Look at Reality I
5. The Consequences of Verbal Abuse
6. The Partner’s Feelings
7. Obstacles and Indicators
8. Characteristics and Categories of Verbal Abse
9. The Anger Addict
10. Conditioning and the Partner
11. The Recognition of Verbal Abuse and Asking For a Change
12. Responding with Impact to Verbal Abuse
13. Recovery
14. Looking Back
15. The Underlying Dynamics: Some Reasons Why

Lasting Lessons:

Verbal abuse IS abuse.
Verbal abuse includes blocks to communication like the “cold shoulder” or refusing to let someone respond.
Verbal abuse is sometimes disguised as a joke.

Dealing with a difficult mother daughter relationship

When You and Your Mother Can’t Be Friends: Resolving the Most Complicated Relationship of Your Life by Victoria Secunda

Click here to purchase When You and Your Mother Can’t Be Friends: Resolving the Most Complicated Relationship of Your Life

I have always had a difficult mother whose cruel behavior and hateful comments confused and frustrated me. From the time I was a child, I wanted her to act like a mother, but she was not capable. I have since learned that you cannot make people do the things they should do or that you want them to do, and have given up. However, when I was in the midst of dealing with her hate letters and hateful messages from her sisters and other such behaviors that no normal person should have to deal with, I read this book. It was an eye-opening book for me! The author said many things I’d been feeling and recognized many horrible behaviors I was seeing from my mother. And…she let me know that it was okay for me to acknowledge the bad and and that it was okay for me to want it to stop.

As the author recognizes, ending your relationship with your mother or questioning even her cruelest behaviors is taboo in society. No one wants to accept that a mother cannot love her child, and adults who part ways from abusive mothers are often questioned, shunned or scolded. However, after reading this book, I realized for the first time that I did not have to continue putting up with my mother’s behavior that was making me miserable! No more guilt for choosing to cut contact and protect myself. The validation was wonderful! But, as the author acknowledges, a step like this isn’t taken lightly. Everyone wants a mother. I tried for a very long time before realizing my mother enjoyed hurting me more than she enjoyed being a mother and she had made herself my worst enemy and bully pitting herself against me in a competition that I didn’t wish to join.

Now that’s just MY situation. This book was a turning point for me because it was the first book I read that validated all my frustrations. But the author doesn’t necessarily recommend ending a bad relationship. She just points out that it is a valid decision that should be respected. The author categorizes the types of difficult mothers and the ways daughters might react. She devotes a section to healing difficult relationships. She gives many ideas before she addresses the reality that some relationships cannot be fixed. So don’t expect that his is an anti-mother book; it is just a realistic book. She addresses the reality that one’s relationship with their mother effects future romantic relationships, (for example, as the daughter of a narcissist mother, I have been a real doormat and have married two different abusive men before I had my light-bulb moment and realized I was following a pattern,) and she describes healthy vs. toxic relationships, manipulation, and more. I think this book is an excellent resource for women who have rocky relationships with their mothers–not just every day the occasional, normal arguments but real toxicity that repeats time and time again. The author gives validation, information and advice. I think if your relationship with your mother is bad enough that you are looking for a book like this, you will find a lot of relief in learning that you are not alone.

The chapter titles are:
Part One–Ghosts in the Nursery
1. Natural Allies, Natural Enemies
2. Good Mommy/Bad Mommy
3. The Bad Mommy Taboo

Part Two–Behind the Curtain
4. The Evolution of the Unpleasable Mother
5. The Doormat
6. The Critic
7. The Smotherer
8. The Avenger
9. The Deserter

Part Three–Rebellions
10. Balancing Acts
11. The Angel
12. The Superachiever
13. The Ciper
14. The Troublemaker
15. The Defector

Part Four–A Separate Peace
16. Breaking the Cycle
17. Redefining the Mother-Daughter Relationship
18. Friendship
19. Truce
20. Divorce

Part Five–Closing the Circle

Lasting Lessons:
It is okay to “divorce” a mother that consistently hurts you and is not willing to work on the problem
We develop unhealthy coping mechanisms when our mothers are not emotionally available or are abusive
Abuse is not just physical

Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle by Tina Swithin

Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle by Tina Swithin

Click here to purchase Divorcing a Narcissist – One Mom’s Battle

I wouldn’t say this is a true “self-help” book because the first part is mostly the story of the events leading up to a custody/visitation battle; however it is definitely a book to read if you are divorcing a narcissist or have fear for your children’s safety due to an abusive or neglectful narcissistic parent. This is a very popular book that accompanies a thriving blog and is considered a “must-read” by many people, (mostly women,) in support groups. I can’t promise you it is a completely positive book; however, I believe it ends on a hopeful note. As someone divorced from a narcissist, I found that my ex-husband was far more abusive to me than the author described her ex-husband was with her. So when I read the horrible incidents she had to deal with and the lies and games she experienced with her ex, I thought “oh great! If her less abusive spouse can get this crazy, what will my really abusive spouse do?!” Of course, for all I know, maybe toned it down for the sake of protecting her family or maybe just to get to the bigger picture. Personally, my experience was so bad, I was out in under two months. There was not one single good day after the wedding. It was all fear and confusion at the change in his personality. On the other hand, her ex-husband acted out far more obviously than mine. Although hers was just as talented at avoiding responsibilities while claiming to care, hers also committed obviously neglectful acts, whereas mine road rages and verbally attacks with some rough physical behavior. So, I found myself comparing the situations and wondering how my narcissistic ex will behave in the future.  If nothing else, this book gave me some clues, as well as some strong ideas for protecting my child and making the problem clear if needed.

The chapter titles are:
Tina’s Story
Seth’s Parents: Leonard and Cleo
The Narc De-Coder
Tina’s Tips
Acceptance and ForgivenessThe Family Court System Love Gratitude


Swithin describes being stalked, robbed and slandered as well as hearing first-hand accounts of abuse and neglect that her daughters related to her. She knew all these horrible things indicated that she was dealing with a dangerous person, yet the courts didn’t always comprehend the depth of the situation. That is what life is like with a narcissist. If you haven’t had to deal with one, then let me tell you it is absolutely NOTHING like a regular argument or divorce. Instead, it’s like having a hurricane rage through your life and tear it apart with no remorse. The author needed to communicate just how toxic this person was and how her daughters were not safe with unsupervised visitation. This took/takes a series of court dates–some with positive endings and some with negative outcomes. The story gives you faith that some things will go right and eventually the truth will come out, but it also keeps you alert to just how bad a battle with a narcissist can be. I would definitely recommend this book to someone dealing with this same situation, but it might also be of interest to anyone who wants to understand how personality disorders affect families or how they look in “real life.”

Lasting Lessons: Remember that there will be good days and bad days Stay organized, calm and focused Keep faith that the truth will prevail Don’t be afraid to use your resources–including people who know you and your character

Dealing with jerks and getting ahead in life

Life Code: The New Rules For Winning in the Real World by Dr. Phil McGraw

Click here to purchase Life Code: The New Rules for Winning in the Real World

I admit I am a rather naive person. I believe what people tell me and I trust them. This has led to my being used as a door mat more than once.  Every time it happens, I’m shocked and a bit depressed to learn that there are so many predatory people out there. In my gullible little mind, I expect that people all want to do the right thing. It’s quite the life lesson to learn that not everyone is a good person or wants to be! I also admit, I’m a bit leery of Dr. Phil. I mean, he’s on TV…is he really a serious psychologist? Well, I’ve read a few of his books now and I realize he has smart things to say that are beneficial to my life. Maybe some of these things are common sense to some people, but some of us are slow learners 🙂 That said, the “real world” does work in a certain way–whether it matches your ideal or not. Can we change it? Do we learn to work with it? There are bad people out there and we can’t change that–so we need to learn how to deal with them. There is also the reality that if you want to get ahead, you can’t just wait for people to notice you. (I’ve tried that…it doesn’t work!) I read this book all in one afternoon and had several light bulb moments. I also underlined so many things that I needed to remember. I think this is an especially good book for those of us who wonder why we make such good doormats, but also for anyone who wants to learn how to cope better and be more assertive.

Here are the chapter titles:
Part 1
1. Life is a Game: Be a Player or Be Played
2. Who Are These People?
3. The “Bad Guys”/”BAITER” Secret Playbook
A Personal Note from Dr. Phil to the BAITERS Among Us

Part 2
4. Stop Being a Target
5. Your New “Life Code” Playbook
6. Taking the Mystery Out of Negotiation–and Negotiating the Non-negotiable
7. Parenting in the Real World
8. Conclusion

This book is divided into two parts. The first is basically about recognizing and dealing with people who will hurt you and the second is using the rules of the game to help yourself. Dr. Phil labels the “bad guys” as BAITERs. It’s an acronym, but it’s pretty clear that he’s describing people such as narcissists or those with anti-social personality disorder. These types of people will run right over your life and crush you without a thought. (BTDT–that’s why I bought the book!) He points out that certain types of people are highly likely to be exploited because they are too trusting and not cautious enough. If you are one of these people, GET THIS BOOK! If you are like me, you will find yourself nodding in agreement and finding your experiences validated. Some of the things he wrote about were exactly what had happened to me. It’s classic. Dr. Phil even gives his own example of being seriously manipulated and conned by a person with no conscience. It happens to us all, but some people are more likely to have it happen again. Read this book and find out how NOT to have it happen again! He reminds us that users are likely to come across as charming, fun and kind, but there are certain characteristics that will help you figure out who is too good to be true.

The second half of the book is about getting ahead and being successful. He doesn’t necessarily tell you to put on act or be a different person, but he does emphasize that you have to sell yourself in an honest way that plays up your best features. You have to look out for yourself and be confident–don’t give your secrets away! One thing to remember is he says “…I’m not telling you how the world should work, I am telling you how the world does work.” I think this is an important thing to remember. It is true that certain types of people succeed in life and they aren’t necessarily the smartest, prettiest or hardest working. They are the people who know how to use the unspoken rules of society. Dr. Phil gives a list of things to remember and includes tips on negotiating and setting boundaries. If you feel like you get walked on and/or aren’t getting your due recognition at work, give this book a read. There is some good life advice here.

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