Are you still trying to figure out why your parent hurt you? Feel a deep need to identify the causes behind that last abusive relationship?
Here's the deal: your nervous system doesn't care why any of it happened. It doesn't care if that person who hurt you was a narcissist. It doesn't care if they have BPD or autism. All it knows is that it was traumatized. All your body knows is that it's in pain and it doesn't want to be in pain anymore.
Too many survivors get caught in the trap of trying to pathologize their trauma. Many think that if they get the right "label" on someone (or something) it will magically explain away the hurt.
But it doesn't...and it can't.
In this episode, we'll discuss getting out of the pathology trap and getting focused on what really matters. Improving our own lives and psychological well-being.
Love the podcast? Leave a 5* review on Apple Podcasts. Ready to commit to the next level of transformation? Join my email list to get my best advice. Want to get coached by me? Apply now: www.therealebjohnson.com.
Welcome to the Practical Growth podcast with me, ebi Johnson, author, nlpmp and cognitive reappraisal coach. This is the podcast created for people like you, people looking for more, more health, more peace, more happiness. Each week, I explore new topic in pop psychology and help you build a better life and better relationships. Join me for special guests, exciting ideas and practical advice that you can use to improve your life from the inside out. Let's get into it. Hello, hello, hello, my lovelies, it is me back, back, back again, ebi Johnson, your favorite podcast host, your favorite blogger, your favorite TikToker and, most importantly, your favorite NLPMP coach and cognitive reappraisal specialist. What a mouthful. Anyway, welcome back to another episode of the Practical Growth podcast. As usual, I'm not going to disappoint. This is going to be super juicy and you are going to like it, although I do expect that, once again, you know, as is my MO, this is going to hold a little bit of a mirror up to some of you, but I don't want you to despair or get upset, because listen what we're talking about today. I've done it too. I am guilty, guilty, guilty, as guilty as any of you, and that is why we are going to break this down today Over pathologizing, over pathologizing. You probably guessed from the title of this podcast that that's what we are going to be talking about today. Trauma survivors, narcissistic abuse survivors we all have such a bad habit of needing a label, of getting so wrapped up in figuring out the people who abused us and why they did it and what is the scientific and psychological reason. We want the answer. We think it's going to solve stuff, but it doesn't. It doesn't solve anything and we get caught in a trap in which we are not taking action in the name of healing. We're not actually focusing on the things that matter. So that's what we're going to get into today Over pathologizing. Your nervous system. It doesn't care. It doesn't care if your abuser was a narcissist or just a selfish person. All it wants to do is heal, and that's what we are going to help you do today. Now, before we get into things, I do just want to make a quick little housekeeping type of announcement. I know a lot of you have found me through my blog on mediumcom. That's where so many of my clients come from. That's where so many of you have found this podcast and it has been great. I've been on medium since 2019 talking about you know my narcissistic parent experiences. Different coaching techniques, how to heal your nervous system, how to deal with the brain damage that accompanies childhood trauma all those good things. Unfortunately, I think that that's kind of come to an end. So if you would like to keep up with my blog, if you would like to keep reading articles from me, stories from me, if you'd like to keep getting this kind of advice on how to target your nervous system, improve your relationships, heal from childhood trauma, then please follow me on Substack. You can find me there practicalgrowthsubstackcom. Dead simple. I do have both a free and a paid subscription. So if you join with a free subscription, you still get to see articles and all that kind of stuff. They just unlock a little bit later than for my premium subscribers, and for my premium subscribers you get all kinds of goodies. I just sent out a free ebook this week to my subscribers. I've done some exclusive podcast episodes in the past and all kinds of good stuff. So head over to Substack if you are one of my blog readers and you want to keep reading my blog, because that is where most of my content is going to be now and there's a huge library of content there. So head over to practicalgrowthsubstackcom to follow my blog and to keep up with everything. All right, enough about that disappointment of a platform. Let's go ahead and get into the meat. Let's get into the important stuff. Your nervous system doesn't give a shit who abused you, what their label is, psychological reasons behind what they did. It doesn't care, right, it doesn't care. Yet so many of us, so many of us, get caught in this, this terrible. It's almost like a race. It's like a never ending race that you can't win, right? Why do they do this? Are they a narcissist? Are they not a narcissist? Every client that I have at some point expresses this to me. Right, they want to know. They sit EB. Is she a narcissist? Is he a narcissist? Was I in a narcissistic family? What is the label of this person? This person just said this to me. Does this mean they're this? That is over pathologizing. Okay, that is what I'm talking about when I say over pathologizing. It is focusing too much on trying to figure out who your abuser was and the scientific reasons and labels behind what they did, what they did. Okay, it can also work the other way. It's not just focusing on pathologizing the abusers. Trauma survivors also have a bad habit of over pathologizing ourselves. Right, we just get inside there and just dig and dig and dig and dig into every little recess and we want to compare it to every little thing we can find in the DSM-5. But it's not really helpful because essentially, what this does is causes most of us A into intellectualizing things. Okay, we're over intellectualizing, and when we're doing that, we're avoiding experience and we're avoiding our feelings. But, most importantly, when you get caught in this loop of trying to over pathologize yourself and even others, you're not addressing the real problem, right, which is the symptoms, the symptoms of that abuse, the symptoms of the behaviors those people are exhibiting. Some people and some of you are going to see yourselves in this next one. So buckle up. Some people actually spend more time trying to figure out the labels of themselves and everyone else around them than they do actually working to address the problematic symptoms that they complain about. Okay, just sit with that. But here's the reality. Okay, trauma is damaged to the nervous system. Your nervous system has been damaged. It's wiring has been messed up. Your brain has been messed up. That nervous system that has been traumatized does not give a. Plug your ears here if you're sensitive. It doesn't give a fuck what the label is. It just doesn't. None of that helps you. Figuring out the exact, precise psychological label of someone does nothing to rewire your neural pathways okay. It does nothing to help the connections between your neurons and your synapses. It does not help stimulate your vagus nerve okay. The knowledge of a label doesn't do any of that. It doesn't do any of that. All your nervous system knows is it feels like it's in danger and it wants you to get away from that perceived danger and into a safe space immediately. That's all that traumatized nervous system cares. That's its only job and that's the only thing it is trying to do. When you fall into this trap of spending all of your time trying to figure out what the label is, you expose yourself, as a trauma survivor, to three distinct dangers. Okay, and here they are. If you need to get out your pen and pencil, do it. Three distinct dangers you create for yourself when you get into this over pathology and energizing state. Number one you spend all of your time intellectualizing. You're thinking, you're thinking, you're thinking. And what are you doing if you're putting all of the power into your cognitive brain? You're not feeling, okay. You're not in your emotions, you're not experiencing your life, the reality that is taking place around you. You are not paying real attention to how actions are affecting you, because all you're doing is trying to memorize the DSM-5 and spot that literal pattern which, in the big scheme of things, doesn't matter, because whether they were a narcissist or not, the effect is the same. Your nervous system is thrown out of whack and you're drowning in negative hormones. The second big danger okay, of this over pathologizing, this trap that we survivors get in, is you're destroying accountability and you are gaslighting yourself. Okay, hear me out Speaking to a client the other day and this client just, we were probably like in our fifth or sixth session and this client said I just I don't know, I really really, really don't know. Can you please, like let's just, I need, I need to figure this out. Are they a narcissist? Here's these three points. What do you think? But here's what the client and I realized as we dug into it. They were not looking for that answer because they wanted to make sense of what had happened to them. Do you know what they were trying to do? They were looking for excuses, they wanted a reason and we'll just say that, we'll say it was their parent. We'll say it was their parent. They wanted a reason to absolve this abusive parent of the abuse. They wanted to have some kind of concrete scientific reason to say, oh, they hurt me because of the narcissism. They didn't actually want to hurt me. It was this thing inside of them that wasn't actually them. You might be over pathologizing for the same reasons. You might be looking for a way to excuse the person or the people who have harmed you, because that's less painful than accepting the reality that someone you trusted consciously chose to do things that damaged you for the rest of your life. It's a much easier pill to swallow that your parent didn't mean to right, then looking that in the face and saying, well, they did. They wanted to hurt a child because they were miserable and immature. But guess where the real healing is? The healing is in looking at that nasty, hard truth that your parent just didn't love you the way they were supposed to. Once you swallow that pill, that's when you get over those big, scary emotions that you feel like you're going to drown in. The longer you look away from the truth, the worse it gets. So many people use that pathologizing to run away from the truth. Worse, this is also what my client was doing. They use it to gaslight themselves. When you do that, when you look for a way to excuse someone who has abused you, when you look for some way to not make them take radical accountability in your life just in your story you assign radical accountability for what they did. If you come up with this pathology right, then you can say to yourself oh look, you're a bad kid because you're being hateful to your mother, who had bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder, or maybe she was autistic. So look at you, you're actually in the wrong for calling out her bad behavior. Because of this pathology, you get it. It's another way to gaslight yourself. It's another way to not let abusers be accountable for abuse, and that is hugely, hugely dangerous. Now number three. This is the third big danger, the third and final danger of this over pathologizing. When you get stuck trying to figure out what's the label, what's the label? What's the label? You're preventing your own growth. You're preventing your own growth and improvement. Some of you will be using that behavior to stall right to keep you from actually getting up and taking action to do the things that are going to fix your body and fix your mind and you'd rather put your nose in the DSM-5 and keep digging, digging, digging, digging, digging, digging, because it's easy for you to call that work when really it's the easy way out. Okay, so you might be self-sabotaging, self-calling. You might also be using that to self-sabotage. Okay, maybe you're slapping the wrong labels on people. Maybe you're slapping the wrong labels on yourself, which then prevents you from taking the accountability that you need to take, or taking the action that you need to take, or doing the taking the direction, the path of the correct, effective healing for you. Okay, so you might be self-sabotaging and believe it or not. Some of you a very rare few, but some of you or people that you know, will do this over pathologizing so that they can play the victim. So that they can play the victim and empaths. I'm sorry you're going to get so upset about this, but we see this with people who label themselves as an empath and then make that the crux of their personality. They always become a victim. They are always a victim. It has nothing to do with their empathy and everything to do with their victimhood. Okay, they label themselves as an impact to let people know I had these horrible things happen to me and now I am super, super soft and you must do what I say because I am so traumatized. So be very careful that you're not trying to slap labels on yourself so that you can take less action, so you can get more pity, more people doing for you or allowing you to take a back seat in your own life. Okay, that's the third big danger of this over pathologizing. What can be done? What can be done then? If you've fallen into this trap, as so many of us have, as I once upon a time did too what can you do? How are you gonna start taking care of your nervous system? Alright, we'll break it down. I will do this as quick and as painless as I can. So, again, if you need that pen and paper, sit down and get it out. Let's go, because these are the practical steps that you're gonna take right now to stop this trap of over pathologizing yourself and the people who have hurt you. Okay, number one instead of looking for a label, you need to just focus on patterns of cause and effect. Just look at the cause and effect Instead of you know, staring at this toxic mother that you have, this father who makes you feel bad, this partner who makes you feel like you want to crawl out of your skin every time they're in the same room, instead of going narcissist. Is this person this thing? Are they this thing? Are they this thing? Focus on the behaviors. Am I seeing manipulation? Am I seeing coercion? Am I seeing delusion? Am I seeing vindictiveness? Look for the symptoms, gaslighting all of those kinds of behaviors and then connect it to yourself. How are those behaviors making you feel? If it's not good, then that's an environment to remove yourself from, that is a person to put distance between. So focus on behaviors and how those behaviors make your body and your emotions feel and work. When you're around people, okay, just get out and get away from the label. It doesn't matter, doesn't matter. The effect is what matters. Number two you need to start setting boundaries, and that includes boundaries with yourself. It's not just boundaries with other people, it's boundaries and limits with yourself. You can start with small habits, small habits. I always recommend little practices, like guided meditation, that help you just be in your emotions, in your feelings, in the moment. You need to get into the habit of just feeling what you're feeling, both physically and emotionally. Okay, if you notice that you are around people who make you reasonably, reasonably, feel unsafe. Right, maybe they say passive, aggressive things to you, or they don't lift you up or they never ask how you are. They're just not empathetic or compassionate to you. If you find yourself in an environment with people who you reasonably feel anxious or unsafe about, it's time to get away from them. Notice those patterns, notice those triggers. If it's not something that's coming from a completely ridiculous place in you, then it's something that needs to be addressed. Okay, and that means creating distance, compartmentalizing those people, so they don't have the reach to harm you emotionally. Okay, and again, labeling them, pathologizing, it doesn't do anything. It does nothing. It doesn't change their behavior. It doesn't change the way you get treated. It doesn't change the way you feel about them. Okay, and all it might do is point to certain symptoms that you hadn't noticed before. But that's what you have to confront the symptoms, the symptoms, not the label. And number three, last but not least, as I was just telling my client, today you just got to concentrate on the physiological healing. We have all spent so much time reading books, talking to therapists, talking to each other, that we think that that's what healing is we think, oh, we'll just talk about it. If I just keep talking about it and if I just change the way I think about it, that will take away the trauma and that will make me a normal person and I will have a wonderful life. Wrong, magical thinking again. Magical thinking again. You have to address your nervous system. Okay, remember that nervous system I mentioned up at the top, the one that doesn't give a fuck about the labels? Yeah, that one. That nervous system has to be healed. If you wanna stop feeling like you're drowning in anxiety every time you have to say no to somebody or have a confrontation, if you wanna stop waking up in the middle of the night, if you want to stop having intrusive thoughts and all these crazy memories haunting you, then you gotta concentrate on healing your nervous system. For those who've been traumatized, it usually triggers your autonomic nervous system. Okay, and that is the part of your nervous system that tells your body to release all those nasty hormones, like cortisol, which make you feel depressed and anxious and hopeless, and yada, yada, yada. You have to heal that. You have to get your nervous system back into working order. So that means working with your vagus nerve. That means triggering your somatic nervous system so that you can get those nice, calming, healthy hormones in your body, the peaceful ones. You've got to rewire yourself and, yeah, part of that will be going to see a therapist. For some of you it might mean taking medication so that you can balance those different hormones that are out of whack because your nervous system has been hammered into the on position. You can use natural supplements. There are natural supplements. I use ashwagandha and merengue every day, every single day, because they have done wonders for my nervous system. There's all kinds of things that you can do to start healing your brain, healing your vagus nerve, all of those things, neuroplastic exercises. But until you do that, until you start addressing the physiological symptoms of what you're experiencing, I'm sorry, but all that anxiety, all that trauma, all those hangups, all the magical thinking, all that crap still gonna take place. Your cognitive mind can't change until your nervous system, which is literally attached to it, is at peace, is in a restful state, and that's what it is. That's it. That's how you're going to get yourself out of the system and I don't want anyone to think please don't think that this episode is about shaming anyone. Look at me. I have 100% been where you're at right now. I have gotten caught up in that way of magical thinking that if I just tune it, just write to this label on my mom, maybe it won't hurt anymore. But note having all of the anxiety. But note having all of the accurate labels on some of them, which were on the medicine bottles for the psychiatric medications she refused to take. I have had all the precise labels on my mother for years. Do you think that makes it any less painful when I go back and think about that afternoon when I had to spend hours taking off my own training wheels and teaching myself how to ride a bike because no one bothered to teach me? Do you think that makes that any less painful? Knowing that my mother was a narcissist, that she was bipolar, that she had childhood trauma, doesn't make a difference to my nervous system. My inner child doesn't give a shit about any of that. I still have to go and take that inner child by the hand and go do the work to heal the damage that that woman did. Whatever she was, the mess is still there. It doesn't matter. She still destroyed the house and left me to clean it up. So this is your sign If you have found yourself in that position, trying to force feed yourself some magical answer, some magical finish line through labeling. I'm sorry, my love, but it will not happen. You're distracting yourself and you're avoiding the real issue healing your nervous system and that's it. That is it in a nutshell the dangers of over pathologizing and how you're gonna stop doing it. If you would like to learn more about healing your nervous system, how it's worked, how it's worked against you, then you are free to apply for my eight weeks coaching program. This is a one-on-one coaching program and we specifically target your nervous system, while incorporating NLP and cognitive reappraisal practices to help you rewire not just that vagus nerve and that autonomic nervous system and that somatic nervous system and the limbic system. We actually help you to reappraise, rewire your cognitive brain as well. So it's a full approach to helping you tackle your childhood trauma, to help you rebuild self, rebuild confidence in the wake of narcissistic abuse. So if you'd like to learn more about that, please head over to therealevejohnsoncom. Click on Working With Me For everyone else, remember, head over to Substack If you want to keep up with my blog. That's at practicalgrowthsubstackcom. And, yeah, you can find me on TikTok for everything else. Thank you so much for listening. If you loved the episode, don't forget to head over to Apple Podcasts and leave five star review. It just helps people find the podcast and it helps me kind of get my voice and my work out there, so as platforms like Medium don't want people to hear it anymore. So thank you so so much for listening. I'll be back next week with another great episode. Until then, keep your heads up, keep your eyes on the stars and keep moving forward. Bye-bye.