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Episode 40: Julie L. Hall, Author of The Narcissist In Your Life: Recognizing the Patterns and Learning to Break Free

Julie Hall walks us through the dehumanizing effects of being in relationship with a narcissist. We take a compassionate look at the experience of growing up in a narcissistic family and discuss common family roles such as the golden child, the lost child, and the scapegoat. Also discussed are the origins of narcissism as well as how narcissistic traits show up in our larger culture.

Show Notes

Julie’s book The Narcissist in Your Life: Recognizing the Patterns and Learning to Break Free

The Narcissist Family Files website


Our beautiful theme song is written & performed by Maddie Morris and produced by Pete Ord at Haystack Records.

Find the Truth & Consequences website, Facebook page, Instagram & Twitter accounts. Find the Second Wound website, Facebook page, Instagram & Twitter accounts. Learn about personal coaching with host Miranda Pacchiana, MSW on the Second Wound website coaching page.

You can donate to help cover my production costs through Paypal @Miranda-Pacchiana or Venmo @mirandapacchiana1

Episode Transcirpt - Click to expand

Miranda Pacchiana: My guest today is Julie Hall. Julie is an international consultant and author specializing in insecure attachment and complex relational trauma in narcissistic families and relationships. She’s the author of The Narcissist in Your Life, Recognizing the Patterns and Learning to Break Free from Hachette Books, and the founder of the award-winning blog, The Narcissist Family Files. She writes and speaks about trauma and recovery for outlets including BBC, Psychology Today, HuffPost, and many more. And she is working on an upcoming book about societal narcissism. Julie, hello and welcome. 

Julie Hall: Hi, Miranda. How are you? 

Miranda Pacchiana: I’m good. I’m joined today by my sometime co-host and dear friend, Katherine Robb. Katherine is an attorney, writer, survivor, and the Executive director of Child USAdvocacy, which fights for legislation to protect children and prevent child abuse and neglect. Hi, Katherine. Hi. It’s so good to get the old gang back together again. 

Kathryn Robb: Yes. 

Miranda Pacchiana: So Julie, you know, one of the wonderful gifts about hosting a podcast is we get to meet so many great and interesting people. And for me to read a book that really resonates with me that I learned so much from, despite even already being pretty seeped in this subject matter and that touched me personally. For example, I told you and I reached out to you, I dog eared so many pages, I underlined so many paragraphs, I wrote things like, oh my god, in all caps, in the margins, and names of people that I care about and even clients that I see their story so it’s just so fun that I get to hear you tell us all about it and share it with our listeners.

Julie Hall: That’s really awesome to hear. I love that. 

Miranda Pacchiana: Good. 

Julie Hall: It’s just, it’s a lovely thing to connect with people in this way. it’s, also a little sad. 

Miranda Pacchiana: True. 

Julie Hall: For of us, but yeah, it’s great. I’m glad it resonated. 

Miranda Pacchiana: It really did. Maybe we could just get started and you could tell us a little bit about your own background and how you got into this work educating people about narcissism. 

Julie Hall: Sure. I grew up in a narcissistic family. And I have been on my own long journey trying to figure out what the heck was going on in my family. So I, was sort of doing my own research and work on it just for myself. I was Looking to create a platform for a literary memoir I was writing, and when I looked at the memoir, one of the major themes was the narcissism that I had dealt with in my life you know, and the people around me so I decided to try writing about it, directly, and in a journalistic , approach. I have a background as an educational writer and journalist, and poet, and. So I bring all of those aspects of my writing identity to bear on my writing about narcissism, so it’s personal and I bring all those elements of myself and my writing background to it.

So I just started writing about it or HuffPost and various other places. Then I launched my own blog. The blog kind of took off and the writing about narcissism took on a life of its own and it became a thing and I just kept doing it and then it became a book. And I’ve been coaching, for a while too, because people just were reaching out, asking for help. Yeah, that’s how, that’s how it started for me. 

Miranda Pacchiana: Honestly, I can see the poet in you in some of your texts. I actually, plucked some really lovely quotes that you wrote that touched me. And I think the fact that you come at it from a journalistic perspective is partly why I enjoyed it so much because, obviously, it’s really valuable to have these books written by mental health professionals, but the writing felt different and clearer and I don’t know, I just found it really refreshing.

Kathryn Robb: It almost felt to me a little bit testimonial I thought to myself, you don’t need a Ph.D. in psychology to read this and understand it. Although it definitely had, some deep and complex concepts. But I, I felt like the average person who, in my opinion, is experiencing narcissism, in our public sphere right now. . I think we see it everywhere. It doesn’t have to be personal. It could just perhaps be political. So I felt, as if it had that, sort of tone and tenor that made it feel like a more digestible read, I guess is the way I would put it. Especially the last chapters. Yeah. 

Julie Hall: I’m glad to hear that because that’s where I’m going with the next book. So I’m looking at the bigger picture in all this beyond the family. I mean, actually the book is certainly going to be looking at the family, because that’s where all of this begins in my view, we often focus on adult so-called romantic relationships. And we do not connect the dots to the family of origin dynamics.

Miranda Pacchiana: So true, which is why I’ve been following your blog for years, actually, and I learned so much from it. So why don’t you just lay the foundation for us, Julie, about, what is Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Maybe talk a little bit about how that word can be overused, what narcissistic behaviors look like, how does it feel to be on the receiving end… you know, do your stuff. 

Julie Hall: Sure. So it’s amazing how much it’s being discussed. And I think in general, public discourse around this is improving. I’ve definitely seen a higher level of awareness about what this really is and people seem to be identifying it more clearly. But that said, we still need to really identify our terms because so many people are talking about it.

And so when I talk about narcissism, I am really talking about personality structure and so a child growing up forming a narcissistic personality and this is something that begins forming very early in life. It’s not something that happens to you when you’re an adult. It’s a child who’s experiencing attachment problems with their parents, essentially, and there may be other traumatizing circumstances involved too.

There can be different kinds of trauma happening, but that child is experiencing developmental deficits around that trauma, and they’re doing compensating behavior patterns. They’re having trouble establishing stable self-esteem. They’re not establishing an empathetic connection.

They’re having trouble establishing a stable sense of self and self in relationship with others. So the relational self too. Along with that. They’re not developing empathy, not emotional empathy, not that deep connection when we feel with other people 

Miranda Pacchiana: They’re not getting their needs met. 

Julie Hall: Right. They’re not experiencing it. Along with that, they’re doing splitting, people talk about splitting more and more these days, but it really is a psychological, deep orientation to self and to others. So we split between good feelings and bad feelings and we do not integrate a full, complex emotional understanding of self and others.

So we split between seeing others as all good or all bad. And that’s what’s happening internally with a narcissistic person is they’re vacillating between the grandiose, I’m all good, I’m superior self and the idealized self and then this shamed sense of defectiveness, which is what’s happening in that child who’s not getting that empathetic connection.

So they’re having that attachment…they’re not establishing a stable sense of attachment with others, with their parents, so they’re splitting away from that to cope. So they often will see their parents as all good to protect the attachment relationship.

Along with the splitting, is this binary thinking. Okay, the black-and-white thinking, which is a big piece of the narcissistic way of viewing life. It is really helpful to understand these underlying beliefs and psychological emotional deficits. 

So the child developing a narcissistic personality, they are extremely binary and that persists throughout life unless they somehow get help. And by the way, narcissists can change like the rest of us can. They just have to work at it and commit to it. And they usually don’t do that because they’re stuck in that terrible place of believing that they’re superior and they don’t need to change. And that any negative feedback they’re getting in their relationships with other people or life in general, they immediately externalize and blame others or they blame their circumstances, unfair events, whatever. They’re not able to self-reflect and take responsibility and do that introspective work that allows us to grow. 

Miranda Pacchiana: Because that kicks in that deep-seated shame. 

Julie Hall: Right. So it’s a terrible shame cycle and the shame triggers the grandiosity and the sense of superiority as soon as those terrible shame feelings happen, then they kick in with the splitting into the, Oh, it’s not me. It’s everyone else. I’m great. 

Kathryn Robb: So why would you change if there’s nothing wrong with you? 

Julie Hall: Exactly. So we’ve got this person who’s developing these patterns of splitting, of grandiose compensations, of not doing self-reflection, of not developing empathy, of being very disconnected emotionally from others and they are also internalizing this deep sense of I can’t be vulnerable. Vulnerability leads to harm and hurt. And also it doesn’t fit with my sense of self, which is that I’m essentially perfect. I don’t have vulnerability. So there are a lot of delusions that go along with the narcissistic defensive personality structure. And the delusional aspect of narcissism in my view gets lost a lot.

In the psychological writings about narcissism, we say that people who are psychotic are delusional. We say that people who are schizophrenic are delusional, which is true. And we don’t emphasize the delusional aspect of narcissism, which is not as extreme as the psychotic end of things, but it is quite extreme. These are people who have very deluded sense of self. And the problem with the narcissistic sense of superiority and entitlement over others, what that leads to relationally with others is that they then ultimately always go into contempt.

So I’m better than you. I’m entitled to more than you. And I’m always right. And so if there’s any problem, if there’s any conflict, which there always will be in human relationships, 

Miranda Pacchiana: Yeah. 

Julie Hall: It triggers the contempt for the other person. 

Miranda Pacchiana: And it’s so difficult to be on the other end of that. It’s really not something that you can navigate in a healthy way. I was just thinking as you’re talking, I pulled a passage that I think illustrates what you’re saying where you write about the golden rule for the narcissistic personality disorder.

Yeah. And you say, for the person with NPD, the golden rule is turned on its head into something like this. Do unto others as I would never allow them to do unto me because I am better and more deserving, and by the way, I need you to tell me and show me that I am superior and entitled 24/7, because I am deeply afraid I’m really not, and if you don’t give me what I demand right now, I’ll punish the hell out of you into perpetuity. 

Julie Hall: I’m really glad you quoted that. That was me kind of like letting my personality out a little bit more in the book. 

Miranda Pacchiana: Love it. 

Kathryn Robb: That was awesome. 

Miranda Pacchiana: It’s pretty clear. 

Kathryn Robb: Yeah 

Julie Hall: Yeah. 

Miranda Pacchiana: So what does it look like in a person? Like how would someone identify whether a person they’re in a relationship with has narcissistic personality disorder or even if they’re not necessarily diagnosable with the criteria, that they’re somewhere on this spectrum? 

Julie Hall: Okay, this gets really, complicated because when you start really seeing these things, it gets a lot easier. But in the beginning, it can be really tough to decipher this because for one thing, narcissism shows up differently, especially with that more covert type of pattern of behavior. It is really cloaked. I mean, it is really hidden deliberately. Because for one thing the relentless selfishness and often, you know, contempt for others, that’s not going to play well in life. So the person who feels those things that, that has to be hidden, right?

So the narcissistic person, they develop all kinds of ways of getting their needs met. They’re still social beings. They’re still human. They still need to have relationships and they still want things from other people and they’re still hoping for love. Also, they just don’t, they don’t have any capacity to return it. So 

Kathryn Robb: That’s problematic, 

Julie Hall: Yeah, yeah, right. Exactly.

Miranda Pacchiana: It’s such an important point, too, that really relates to the family dynamics in a narcissistic family, because I think So many people struggle to understand what’s going on. We kind of apply our own way of, Approaching the world on to other people and we don’t understand that they don’t have that same intention or empathy and So it can take so long once we begin to understand more about this disorder, what we lived through, and what’s really happening underneath the surface and like unravel it.

Julie Hall: That’s a good point because narcissistic people are really stuck. They’re stuck in these early childhood defenses, which are normal developmentally for kids. So denial of things that we’re not ready to cope with. And then also projections. So confusion between self and other, projecting things that feel negative onto other people instead of acknowledging them in ourselves. Those are totally normal developmental parts of being a kid and an adolescent. 

We grow out of them. In adulthood, if we’re on a healthy path, the narcissist is really stuck in those defenses. So the denial and the projection, they perpetually project their own behavior and cynicism onto others. So what are we getting with that though, is that we all project to some extent, our own reality, our own orientation in our relationships. So those of us with empathy, those of us who have the capacity to take responsibility, who are more morally developed, we project ourselves, our sense of self and, you know, feelings about others on to other people around us also. So it’s very difficult to understand or conceive of the narcissist’s orientation when we don’t have that ourselves. 

Miranda Pacchiana: So true.

Julie Hall: And they do seek out people who are more receptive to their behaviors. They test people. So they, you know, they test you and if they get away with things, they keep testing, they keep pushing to see what they can get away with. So we, we, teach people how to treat us to some extent. And we can get into that more those of us who, what we call enabler or more codependent patterns, right? 

Miranda Pacchiana: Mm hmm. 

Julie Hall: We have that orientation from childhood too, just as the narcissist has patterns from childhood 

Miranda Pacchiana: Yeah, you cover that a lot in the book and it’s, it’s really helpful. Okay, so have we hit the main criteria for NPD? 

Julie Hall: The grandiose compensations, the black-and-white thinking, the lack of empathy, the reliance-heavy reliance on splitting and projection and denial, the underlying shame that they’re always trying to avoid 

Miranda Pacchiana: Mm hmm. 

Julie Hall: That lack of empathy They’re also very superficial. They, don’t have a deep understanding of self. They don’t have good emotional awareness or self awareness and again, they, they develop compensations to hide that or to compensate in different ways for that. They can be charming or persuasive or, you know, commanding or entertaining. Those are ways they compensate for those deficiencies.

Kathryn Robb: But their true emotional intelligence is very limited. 

Julie Hall: Very limited. Very, very low. 

Miranda Pacchiana: Although they might be really good at imitating what it looks like to be empathic and caring and socially conscious and things like that, right? 

Julie Hall: And that, gets super confusing. 

Miranda Pacchiana: It really does. 

Julie Hall: Because they need to manipulate to get what they want. That’s how they operate. So they can become clever about reading other people. They’re not doing that feeling with others thing, that empathy thing. And they zero in on other people’s vulnerabilities because, again, it’s about control in their relationships. 

Miranda Pacchiana: I’d love to jump into talking about the narcissistic family and the roles in the family, so much of the work that I do on my Second Wound platform is all about the pain that comes after surviving abuse and particularly sexual abuse when the people around you, usually the family, do not support your disclosure and the work that you want to do And your efforts to face reality. And it can be as crushing or more than the actual abuse. So a lot of our listeners, you know, come to this podcast through that platform. And I think this would really resonate for a lot of people.

Kathryn Robb: And I just want to add to that, you know, in my work with survivors and lawmakers and passing laws, so much of this, as I was reading through the book had just slivers of connections to grooming. Because I see so much narcissism in the defendants or folks that are running the institutions that have fouled children. And I see so much of that, you know, we’re perfect, we have no problems, we fixed the problem if there was a problem, it’s your fault, their fault, not my fault, kind of thing. I see it both in the judicial system. And I also see it in the legislative side as well.

And it’s really fascinating how so many of those elements of narcissism are at play at least in the world that I’m in, of changing laws to make kids safer. We just see it again and again and again. And it was fascinating reading your book. thinking about my expertise and seeing, wow, that’s just a little bit of cover-up. That’s a little bit of grooming, you know, there are some parts of it that I saw in the world that I’m in.

Julie Hall: Right. Yeah, absolutely. And that world is just another layer of trauma over trauma for the survivors. I see this all the time with my clients and readers, they, seek help, or they get thrown into the so-called justice system, and they just get re-traumatized and betrayed by, by the system.

And by narcissistic people in the system who are there to help, supposedly, but who are very narcissistic themselves and who seek out that position of power over other humans, right? And then split away from their own vulnerability and reject. I mean, everything you just said you’re describing the pattern, right? The projection, the denial, and the sense of superiority, and the distancing from vulnerability, and the lack of empathetic attunement with other humans, the need to separate from other people’s suffering because you don’t want to think that maybe I could be in this situation. 

Kathryn Robb: You can just read a couple of answers to complaints. And even though obviously defendants have to, you know, they have to, protect themselves and their attorneys are writing strong denials, right? But the deny, The minimize, the delay, all of that that we see, whether it’s in the legislative end or whether it’s in the judicial, legal, filing, civil claims, or even criminal, Claims. There’s so much of, I did no wrong, that sort of thing. I am perfect. You’re the one who screwed up, right? You’re, you’re the problem, not me, you know? 

Miranda Pacchiana: For speaking up. 

Kathryn Robb: Speaking up. Yeah. 

Miranda Pacchiana: That’s that, upside-down model that I talk about a lot in my work, that the person naming the crime is treated like the criminal, right? And I noticed that you use that very term, Julie, in your book about the narcissistic family, that The parents are looking to the children to take care of their, needs instead of vice versa. 

Julie Hall: Right. Yeah, I mean narcissistic people, they are really like toddlers. Emotionally speaking, right? They are.

Miranda Pacchiana: It’s a great model to look at, to understand them. 

Julie Hall: It is really helpful when you start looking at the behavior.  I know, a piece that we missed in talking about the basics of narcissism and the personality, there’s the emotional dysregulation. So that’s constantly triggered,

right? Because they’ve got this underlying repressed shame that they’re not in touch with. And that comes up all the time because they don’t have that stable sense of self and self-esteem, and they don’t learn how to regulate their emotions well. And they externalize not just the negatives, but they also seek those good feelings about self, they’re constantly drawing that from others, right? Because they don’t have that sort of structure to hold them up. And so they’re needing other people’s admiration, approval, attention, all that stuff. They’re constantly drawing energy from other people in that way. So they’re externalizing their emotional regulation process.

Most of us who have a relatively stable sense of self and a sense of personal responsibility and self-reflective practice, we manage our emotions. And we all are doing this every day, all day long, right? And usually it’s unconscious, ? It’s the right brain, unconscious brain that is constantly trying to keep us in homeostasis.

 And the narcissistic person, this is one of the crazy-making things about them is that they don’t do this well for themselves and so they constantly have to seek other people to feel okay. They’re not just, I’m going to go off by myself. No, they can’t be alone very well, right? So they’re constantly needing attention 

and, and trying to elicit that positive response from other people, which is, of course, even more crazy-making because they’re so abusive relationally, it’s awful. And then on top of it, you can’t tell them how they really make you feel. You can’t hold them accountable.

And on top of it, you’re supposed to constantly praise, admire, agree with all, the rest. 

Miranda Pacchiana: It’s a superficial balm that they’re putting on their wounds 

and I think that translates to why so many of these families are very

concerned with appearances that they really push the family members to make them look good on the outside and punish them for anything that they do that threatens that. So no wonder speaking up about sexual abuse in your family. Ain’t gonna go over well.

Julie Hall: Right. It’s all about appearances and it’s a very superficial orientation to life in general. And again, part of that is because they’re constantly avoiding any kind of self-reflective work and any feelings of 

vulnerability, which we all walk around with all the time, because that’s the nature of being. A human animal on the earth, right? And that is what also allows us to be intimate and form trust and genuine intimacy is that vulnerability. So it’s that catch-22. I mean, you can’t have it all. Like when you need to, constantly protect self and deny vulnerability, you’re never going to be able to be intimate with other people. 

So they’re walking around feeling empty, feeling unfulfilled. Needing other people desperately to regulate their emotions, and then getting into this contempt cycle with others. It’s horrible. It is, an awful way to live. 

Miranda Pacchiana: True. 

Julie Hall: And it’s relentlessly abusive toward others. I mean, it is the essence of trauma, especially for a child. And yeah, when you throw in the other piece about wanting to constantly project an image, you know, a perfect image to outsiders. It’s all the more traumatizing. 

Kathryn Robb: And anything, remotely taboo like child sexual abuse is not going to be tolerated, at least in the family structure or in other institutions as well.

Julie Hall: Right. And I think we were heading toward talking about the family more and that experience for the people who are targeted with abuse, everybody in the family is scared, their nervous systems are on fire, there’s that lack of empathy happening, there’s emotional reactivity, there’s denial of needs. The kids are constantly trying to figure out how to avoid, the parents reactivity and anger and trying to present well, and so a child who is being particularly targeted with abuse, with scapegoating, with sexual abuse. I mean, that’s never going to be acknowledged or received by the rest of the family members. I mean, this is this is how this works is the whole family sort of you Pivots around the narcissist, the primary, the least regulated, least empathetic person in the family, the the family tyrant. The main dominant narcissist. And so everybody is sort of orbiting around that person trying to keep them from being more abusive, essentially. And so everyone learns to shut up and everyone learns to deny. 

And what often happens is there’s one person in the family, it can be a child or it can be, the spouse, perhaps, who’s primarily targeted with the negative shaming treatment, then the dysregulation, the anger, the frustration, all the unprocessed emotions happening in the family system get targeted, get focused on that one person.

And it’s horrific. It makes no sense, it’s never acknowledged of course, and that’s a sort of piece about like dysfunctional families in general is there’s always going to be denial of the dysfunction. That’s the nature of it. So there’s always secrecy. There’s always commensurate denial and the more dysfunctional it is, the more abusive it is, the more denial that will be in the other kids, perhaps who are not getting targeted as much to survive, right? They buy into the narratives. They buy into the scapegoating and their sense of survival is at play here, right? 

And so denying the problems and blaming the scapegoat is its, own kind of imperative for everyone to keep things in a sort of relative stability, focusing all that negative energy at that one person and blaming them and holding them accountable for everything that goes wrong. All the negative feelings, all the disappointments. Does that make sense? 

Miranda Pacchiana: Absolutely. I played that role of the scapegoat in my family, and I’m proud of it now. It was pretty torturous. And I had a bipolar dad who would have what we called psychotic episodes, and he would often target them at me. I was the youngest of six kids. But he would often target them at me, and it’s interesting because I was the one that would call out the truth in an attempt to get close to him and say, I know you’re apologizing, but I would really like to talk to you about how it felt to me when you treated me that way, which, as you can imagine, did not go over well and brought more abuse heaped upon me.

And when you were talking about projection too, my father used to tell me, the youngest in the family, that the whole family was scared of me and I was a monster stomping around scaring everyone and even as a child I was like, that sounds more like you. But the line that I got that I’m sure you’ve heard a lot from my family was, It takes two to tango, and I call bullshit on that because I was a child and he was my dad.

Julie Hall: Of course. Yes. I mean, massive flashing bullshit. 

Kathryn Robb: Yeah. 

Julie Hall: Right? That’s an absurd thing to say 

Kathryn Robb: And it’s also part of the denial on his part. 

Miranda Pacchiana: And the blame on me, right? 

Kathryn Robb: And the blame, right. 

Julie Hall: And that’s the essential piece of the scapegoating is that it is, projection, right? The scapegoat receives the projected shame from that dominant narcissist and everyone else. But that’s built-in. That’s why narcissistic people always need scapegoats. They always need scapegoats. That’s how it works. They externalize those negative feelings they’re walking around with and they are projecting them constantly outward. 

I too was the scapegoat in my family. And as I work with people, you know, Study this myself more I think often the kid who is the most healthy and most empathetic, the most morally developed, okay, emotionally aware kid, maybe the strongest kid, right? The kid who’s most integrated emotionally often is targeted precisely because they see what’s going on and they may call it out. They may question it. Maybe they’re not saying, Hey, you guys suck. They’re just wanting to figure out what’s, what’s going on here. How can I help?

Miranda Pacchiana: How can I get what I need?

Julie Hall: Right. How can I get what I need? How can I help you get what you need? I can see that everybody’s unhappy here. This isn’t working. Or you’re bullying my siblings. You know, what’s up? This is not okay. 

Kathryn Robb: It also points out that you’re kind of calling them on their shit in a way. And if narcissists cannot handle being wrong in any way at all, or bad, they’re always the perfect people that never make any mistakes. So in just the very fact of standing up as the scapegoat, speaking to whatever degree, has to be in some ways saying, something’s wrong and I’m talking to you. And that cannot go over well for kids.

Julie Hall: Right, it’s incredibly threatening. And it will be met with rage, usually. It seldom plays out in really obvious ways all the time, right? Human beings are complicated, and we have lots of layers of awareness. And so, these things can be subtle at times.

They can be implied; the blaming, the scapegoating. It’s not always hit you over the head obvious. I mean, it might be, but it’s not always. So it’s maybe, you know, the narrative is, well, of course we love all of our kids. Of course we all love each other, right? We would never scapegoat a child. What are you talking about?

And also I think people get tripped up by like the fact that, typically, even in a narcissistic family, there can be fun times. There can be positive things, you know, there can be ways in which our narcissistic parents can show up for us.

Most narcissistic parents have some sense of duty. They are, after all, human beings and social beings and they often do the basic things that parents are supposed to do, I mean, to varying degrees, right? And so, I hear from people sometimes, well, but my parents, always fed me and clothed me and took me to school and did those things. And yeah, that usually is the case. That’s usually the case.

Miranda Pacchiana: Yeah. And there can be genuine loving moments too, I think. I think it’s important for us to understand that someone that we put this diagnosis on, we also need to be careful about black-and-white thinking because there is variation in it. 

So what are some of the other family roles?

Kathryn Robb: I was definitely the lost child. 

Miranda Pacchiana: Hmm. 

Kathryn Robb: Yep. Big family. And the person who is clearly narcissistic was my oldest brother. Both of my parents, I don’t know if I’d put them in that category. Definitely not my mom, maybe my dad to some extent. But I was the kid who, I’m just gonna go in my room and study and get good grades and go to basketball, practice and not complain and stay away from the fray as much as I could. 

That doesn’t mean I didn’t learn some really unhealthy patterns, however, because I, I most certainly did and I started to recognize them as an adult, how they would play out in my relationships and, you know, took me many, many years to step back and see the cycle in my role and what I have learned. 

And that’s one of the things, Julie, that I love about your book is that you don’t just talk about the narcissist, but you talk about the other people who are affected by it, both within the family and I think it was one of the later chapters when think it was about romance partnership and breaking up with the narcissist, I think it was that chapter. And it brought another level of not just understanding the narcissist, but understanding how it has affected you, how it affected you as a child, and how it affected you as an adult and in those relationships that you had in early adulthood onward. Very helpful. 

Julie Hall: You described your lost child experience really well. That is the coping pattern of that child. And anybody who’s growing up in a family system like this, where people are in survival mode, essentially, and there’s such low emotional literacy, there’s all these unacknowledged problems and dynamics happening and abuse dynamics, we’re all going to come out of that with problems, with patterns that are not healthy. 

I think patterns is an important word for this because these are, conditioned behaviors over time and thinking patterns and reaction patterns, right? These are relational patterns that then get recreated in adulthood , for all of us. And until we work on, repairing it, work on understanding it, work on understanding how we coped, what our particular beliefs are, and our wounds, our particular self-beliefs, because everybody gets wounded in this kind of system, and particularly the kids, I mean, this is, this is, their normal. This has been, dynamics that are normalized for them. And so we recreate this. We often seek it out, even because it’s familiar. It feels like family, as damaging as it can be. So it really does, it demands self-reflection and all kinds of work. 

Miranda Pacchiana: To help build that sense of self that you didn’t get from your parents too and that shame that you probably carry. You know, I can relate a little bit to the descriptions of the narcissist’s pain and inability to feel strong in their own selves. That was how I emerged from my family feeling to some extent. And I had to do some really, tough work to get to the bottom of that and begin to repair it. 

Julie Hall: Right. Because we all internalize shame when we’re in this situation. We all internalize shame and it takes a lot of work. And, and the boundary violations that are normalized, that’s a huge piece in this. The narcissist doesn’t see other people’s boundaries. They don’t care. They don’t have respect for other people’s boundaries. And they don’t even really, in my view, particularly the most extreme narcissists,  they don’t even have a sense of boundary because they’re so 

Kathryn Robb: Entitled, and entitled. 

Julie Hall: They’re so entitled that they don’t even perceive other people’s realities. I mean, they don’t even think about your own, that another human being is living their own life with their own reality, right? That’s just not in their purview.

Miranda Pacchiana: Yeah. So, you’re just knocking on a door that there’s nothing behind it. you’re never going to get that. Talk to us about the golden child.

Julie Hall: Oh boy, the golden child is, generally the one who’s going to most likely become narcissistic too. Obviously, these are generalizations and it’s not always the case. And what I see sometimes is the best thing that can happen to a kid who’s been a golden child in their family is to be scapegoated later. Or to have their spouse scapegoated or their kids scapegoated. They can wake up from their own entitlement and their own myopic view of things and they can recognize the abuse for what it is when that happens. And that may trigger self-work and more self-awareness. 

Getting back to the splitting that the narcissist does and that idealizing versus devaluing that terrible splitting between, you know, idealizing people and seeing them as all good versus seeing people as all bad and rejecting and devaluing them. The scapegoat gets dumped on with the devaluation and the projected shame and negativity. And the golden child is the kid who gets elevated and idealized. They’re receiving the idealized projections of that narcissistic parent or parents. 

Nobody’s getting love. There are always conditions on getting your needs met. I mean, number one about what a child needs, what a baby needs is unconditional love, a baby and a child, there shouldn’t be any conditions. So later on when we get a little bit older, we can have conditions placed on love to some extent, right?

But, but for a child, it’s the definition of trauma to have to show up in a certain way to get your needs met. And, I want to emphasize while I think about this, the importance developmentally of co-regulation with a parent. So I’m kind of going off-topic.

Miranda Pacchiana: That’s fine.

Julie Hall: The attachment piece is everything in this right. Kids have to attach to their parents and they’re doing co-regulation. So we’re all born with these nervous systems that are really unformed and brains that are unformed. So what we’re doing in our first years of life is developing our nervous system and our brains are developing tremendously.

And we’re doing this in co-regulation, co-relationship, primarily with mom 

and also our other attachment figures, dad or whomever else, right? And so if those people are dysregulated or rejecting or placing conditions on love, it is so dysregulating for that, unformed human. 

That was a digression from the Golden Child conversation, but. So the olden Child, they’re getting praise, they’re getting privileges they’re getting idealized attention and projection, but they’re not getting seen. They’re not being seen any more than anyone else in the family system is. They’re just projection screens, and so in some sense, that child is the most damaged child because they get this terrible exaggerated sense of self and this idealized belief about themselves and this sense of entitlement and superiority get reinforced continually in that child, which ultimately is extremely isolating for that child.

They internalize all those terrible beliefs that the narcissist has. And they’re experiencing shame because they’re not being seen for who they are and they’re getting all this idealized attention, which is unearned entitlement. And in my view, unearned entitlement is deadly, right?

Julie Hall: It’s deadly for a human being. It creates a monster, essentially. And it’s what we. 

Miranda Pacchiana: It’s narcissism training school.

Julie Hall: It’s narcissism training school. And that’s exactly what often happens with that golden child. They don’t develop empathy. They’re disconnected. They believe that they’re above everyone else and they’re really lonely and alienated because of it, just like the narcissist and they end up often becoming that person. 

The alienation in this for me is one of the main themes, right. We’re such social creatures, and that goes back to what I was saying about the co-regulation. We’re always co-regulating. Always. Not just in infancy,but whenever we’re with other people, we’re co-regulating. We’re doing it right now with each other, right? And, people in, a family, people in a home, people in the same room with each other, are always riffing off of each other’s emotions.

Miranda Pacchiana: So true. 

 Kathryn Robb: I have a question just because I’m, and Miranda knows this very well about me. I’m very interested and fascinated in social construction of gender, bio social construction of gender and, I have read that narcissistic personality disorder is more common in men. And It seems pretty clear that there is a lot of research and you detail this in your book about disruptions to attachment, which you were just talking about. So I was wondering if you have thoughts about the play of gender, whether it be biology or biosocial or social construction of gender and just wondering if you have thoughts on that.

Julie Hall: I’m really glad you brought that up, Catherine. lots of thoughts and it’s a main theme in my next book. But so this is complicated stuff, but the research shows that narcissism is more common in men. But my view of this is that because of the tremendous sexism that exists in so many societies now, okay, including our own big time.

Kathryn Robb: Oh yeah. 

Julie Hall: Relentless sexism, so we’re talking about entitlement, a sense of superiority, a belief that someone else is inferior to you and therefore you have entitlement over them.

Kathryn Robb: Yeah. Greater self-value. Yep. 

Julie Hall: Right. So there is a normalized narcissism in men that is off the charts, and we’re seeing it on the world stage. We’re seeing it now with the rise of fascism in so many

Kathryn Robb: Mm-Hmm. 

Julie Hall: parts of the world and in our own country. And this normalized behavior of dominance and aggression and anger and entitlement and superiority over others and alienation, 

Kathryn Robb: And denial, denial, of truth. 

Julie Hall: All those other mechanisms, the denial and projection then of those behaviors onto others. We’re seeing this constantly now on the world stage in our institutions. And I see narcissism operating virally. You can think of it as a cancer. You can think of it as a virus. It gets, replicated generationally in families, and then it gets replicated in our institutions. So in our schools, our churches in corporations, God knows in our governance. In our justice system, and it gets reinforced by capitalism, and by the constant bombardment of, you know, using Shame to sell products, right?

We’re not good enough the way we are. We need plastic surgery. We need lots of products to smell better and to make our hair look better and you know, we need to go to the gym and make our bodies into something much better than they are naturally and… 

Miranda Pacchiana: And women’s bodies are naturally way grosser than men’s, right? 

Julie Hall: Yeah, right. I mean that’s part of the sexism. 

Kathryn Robb: And misogyny. There’s both at play. Yeah. 

Julie Hall: Right. And this is something that I’m thinking about so much right now and reading about and how this all relates to gender issues and to sexuality. And I don’t know whether we’re evolving out of gender. I mean, it’s really, it’s fascinating. We are evolving whether we like it or not. And… 

Miranda Pacchiana: That’s good to hear. It doesn’t always feel that way.

Julie Hall: Yeah, right. But it’s a natural response to the. Incredibly constraining and reductive ideas about what it is to be a woman or a man, I think we’re all wounded around gender in different ways and our need to sell products to each other and use shame to do it reinforces that so I mean, those are huge pieces of this. But getting back to your question, yeah, narcissism in men has been normalized to such an insane degree that I think many men grew up with the belief that they have to sort of have that attitude to survive. And it’s reinforced constantly, and men are alienated. So many men and boys. I mean, if you look at the incel stuff happening online, and 

Kathryn Robb: Yeah, it’s crazy. Yeah. 

Julie Hall: It’s awful. And girls then get targeted with this hatred, thisprojected hatred and externalized shame. Girls then get the brunt of it. 

Kathryn Robb: We see in our work that, you know, I focus primarily on children and changing laws around children. And we see that. Depending on the data that you look at, it’s 96 to 97, as high as 98 percent of all sexual predators are men. And then we also see that 1 in 4 in some studies, 1 in 5 in other studies of girls will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday. Yet the number for boys is, you know, it’s all bad, of course, but that’s higher. That’s one in ten, one in five. So I’m, I’m always curious about the role of gender in this and 

Julie Hall: Yeah, I think it’s absolutely enormous.  

Kathryn Robb: Mm hmm. 

Julie Hall: I think it’s a huge piece of this whole picture, the societal picture here, and how we’re so wounded and we’re just repeating these awful patterns in our family systems of sexism and projected hatred and alienation and it just keeps getting reinforced in these terrible negative feedback loops.

And so women have to step up. You guys are stepping up. I’m stepping up. Women have to step up because the men are so alienated and so caught up in this awful sense of superior entitlement and wounding, okay, women have to step up and help each other. 

Men are not going to do it. They’re not going to do it. And yeah, they are the ones doing the dominating and the harm primarily. I mean, wounded women can do tremendous harm too. And I see narcissism in plenty of women, including in my own family with my own mother. Either woundings in women that then play out in the attachment relationship, so this affects every aspect of life.

Again, I do see it operating virally or as a cancer where it just, it keeps spreading, and the more it spreads, the more it gets normalized. And when we get into these feedback loops with, online silos and things like that, it just gets magnified to a crazy degree.

Kathryn Robb: I think about raising my children and I have three sons and two daughters and, so much of the culture is imprinted on me, and then imprinting on my parenting, my mothering, right? I can’t imagine, my sons or any little boy, young man, being in a place of, of angst about expressing emotion, fear, vulnerability, all of those things. And I think that’s the other part of the problem, I’ve had conversations with people that say, oh, you know, the days of boys can’t cry are over. Bullshit. No, it’s not. No, 

Julie Hall: Oh my gosh, 

Kathryn Robb: Yeah, it’s like, no, it’s not. Yeah, Yeah. 

Julie Hall: I sent my daughter to college and she was raped her first quarter of freshman year by a sexual predator. And I bring this up because so many other girls experience this when they go to college. 

Kathryn Robb: Mm hmm. 

Julie Hall: There are predators out there, boys who are also in college,

Miranda Pacchiana: Oh yeah.

Julie Hall: …who are preying on girls entering this world. And this is something that we don’t talk about. We don’t talk about. Universities know it’s happening. They’re not telling people about it. It’s happening all the time. Now that my family has has experienced this, you know, now I’m talking about it with so many people and finding out what a terribly rampant phenomenon this is. 

Miranda Pacchiana: Including the cover-up by the institution, and that’s a huge part of it, which allows it to go on, and they know that they’ll get away with it. 

Julie Hall: And girls are bullied into not talking about it and carrying that shame. And that’s what happens when we are harmed, when we’re mugged, when we’re raped, when we’re falsely accused or blamed or yelled at repeatedly, we internalize shame. I mean, that’s kind of like a human mechanism that happens. And that then needs to be processed, and that needs to be put back out, like, exorcised. 

Miranda Pacchiana: And sometimes it can be channeled into being a self-reflective person, which is such a beautiful quality, and we need to be careful not to let that overflow into taking on responsibility for things that aren’t our fault. 

Julie Hall: And as you know, getting back to the women stepping up, I think we’re in a real crisis point and I think men are in a really alienated place. Obviously, I’m making major generalities and not all men are and not all women are, any one thing, right? But in general, the state of men is, is really alienated and empty. And in need of help, and God knows the state of girls and women is in need of help. And women are going to be the ones to have to do it. I think that’s the reality. Men aren’t going to change this. Men are running the show. 

Kathryn Robb: Hmm. 

Julie Hall: Lots of narcissistic men are running it and they’re all about power, which is the sort of you know, extreme end of narcissisms, that sociopathic drive for power and dominance over all other things, and not recognizing that we’re all in this together and that terrible alienation from other human beings.

Kathryn Robb: You know, I just finished Liz Cheney’s book, and although I don’t always agree with her politics, her book is amazing. And I was so struck by the way grown, very well-educated, also extremely entitled and powerful men spoke to her as a leader. It was beyond sexist and misogynistic, and they were 100 percent blind to it, completely blind to it. 

Julie Hall: Right. And that’s the narcissistic, that is it. It’s entitlement, superiority, lack of empathy and total refusal to self-reflect, total splitting and splitting all the negative shit onto women. 

Miranda Pacchiana: Oh, well said. Well, that sums it up, doesn’t it? Okay. Well, it went so fast. But before you wrap up, Julia, tell us about the book you’re working on right now. 

Julie Hall: Well, it’s what we have kind of been talking about here. It’s about narcissistic alienation societally and how it gets institutionalized and how it really characterizes our, our relationships with family members, with other human beings in our communities and our relationship with the earth. So this narcissistic sense of superiority and entitlement and lack of responsibility for our own behavior that manifests in our relationship with the planet and with other species. So we can do what we want with Earth’s resources. They’re ours to take and use up.

Kathryn Robb: It’s just another form of rape. 

Miranda Pacchiana: Ooh. 

Julie Hall: It is, it is. It’s an exploited model. And that’s another way of understanding narcissism is it’s dominance and exploitation are the relational dynamics. With the narcissist and you can see that model in how we relate to the planet, how we behave within the ecosystem. So, I’m trying to connect the dots with the bigger picture here. And connecting it to helping people understand attachment, which is so basic in all of this, such a fundamental piece that we need to understand because these are the internal working models that get established in those first few years of life, and then get recreated in our relationships throughout life and how we see ourselves and how we see ourselves in relationship. 

Miranda Pacchiana: Exactly. I wanted to close out with another one of your quotes that I found hopeful and uplifting because this is some hard material, but I do think it is so helpful for us to understand all of this better. So you say, Okay. I know firsthand how deeply wounding, complex, and persistent narcissistic trauma is. I’ve felt trapped and sometimes broken, and I’ve walked down more than my fair share of blind alleys. In the process, I have also learned a lot about resiliency, empathy, and the power of hope and healing. The smallest ray of light pierces darkness and leads the way.

Julie, thank you so much for leading the way for us, through all of this important material that is a part of everyone’s lives. 

Kathryn Robb: Thank you for being a light.

Julie Hall: Well, thank you. Thanks for the work that you two are doing. It sounds like you’re doing amazing and important things. That’s great. And we all need to step up. We all need to step up. 

Kathryn Robb: Agreed. 

Julie Hall: We’re in a crisis point in many, many ways as a species and whatever we can do, each of us, whatever gifts we have, we have to use them.We have to bring them to this, to these problems that we’re facing. 

Miranda Pacchiana: Completely agree. 

Julie Hall: So thank you both for having me on. It’s been a pleasure. 

Miranda Pacchiana: Thank you. And we hope you’ll come back and talk about your next book. 

Julie Hall: That’d be great. I’d love to. 

Miranda Pacchiana: All right. Great

Kathryn Robb: Thank you 

Miranda Pacchiana: Thank you so much, Julie. 


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