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Kathy Marshack News

1st Private Video Conference for Adult Children of Asperger’s Parent

Monday, June 11, 2018

Adult children of Asperger parent(s) have been ignored too long. As a result, they struggle with severe depression and self-esteem problems. Isn’t it ironic? The world is becoming more aware of Autism Spectrum Disorder (a good thing) yet there’s a group of people affected by Asperger’s Syndrome who are still being overlooked and ignored by the world and by their families – the adult children raised by an Asperger parent.

Many adults who have been raised with an Aspie parent are now reporting severe depression and self-esteem problems, because they lived with an Aspie parent who struggled to nurture them and get to know them. With a lack of warmth, tender affection, and communication, a child can feel emotionally rejected by their parent even though they may have all of their physical needs taken care of.

This is not to say that an Aspie parent doesn’t love their child. That is far from the truth. But the communication and relationship deficits confuse the child and can lead to the child feeling unloved. Remember it is the child’s experience that defines the parenting, not whether the AS parent loves their child.

In my own case, I had no idea my mother was an Aspie until many years after her death. I discovered my daughter’s autism first and it was confirmed by a psychiatrist and psychologist. I always thought it odd that my adopted daughter was so much like my mother – until the light bulb went off. A rush of relief and tears swept through me with the realization that I was raised by an Aspie.

So much of my life finally made sense. Mom was this terribly confusing mix of good intentions and abusive parenting. Mom insisted that I eat whole, organic food. Preservatives and sugar were not allowed in our house. Sounds good right? What about using a toothbrush made from boar bristles? No toothpaste either; I had to use baking soda. Still not so bad? What about the fierce tongue lashings I would get when she had her meltdowns and called me ever foul name in the book?

There’s more and I bet you have your own stories too. Our quirky, abusive, brilliant Aspie parents made a lasting impact, didn’t they? Now it’s time to ferret out what it means to be raised by a parent who has Zero Degrees of Empathy – a parent who cannot enter your world and help you discover who you are.

It’s time to take back your life and recreate your own timeline of adult development. Yes, it’s complicated, but together we can do it. Please join me for this private Video Conference for Adult Children of Aspies on Tuesday, June 19, 2018. Know that you are not alone. If you have questions about this teleconference, you can post them on my Facebook event page.

NOTE: I know there are others who want to be on this call, because you’re worried about your children being raised by your Aspie co-parent. However, please be respectful of those who are already grown and want to break free to “Be Me!” There will be ample opportunities for us to speak at another time. Thank you.

Learn more about Aspergers: Asperger Syndrome and My Books on AS

Dr. Kathy Marshack on the Radio Show “Autism with Dr. Andy McCabe”

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Dr. Kathy Marshack outlines some practical tips that she’s gleaned throughout her personal and professional experience with those on the Autism Spectrum.Dr. Andy McCabe and his guests explore the world of alternative therapies for children on the Autism Spectrum. Recently, he interviewed me, and we had a delightful conversation about some tips I’ve gleaned throughout my personal and professional experience with Aspies. (You can listen to the 57 minute interview by clicking on this link.)

We started by talking about how, even as a psychologist, it took me over a decade to get a diagnosis for my daughter. During that time I doubted myself, wondering what I was doing wrong. And while there were a number of things I could have done better, I came to realize that best thing I could do was to keep coming from that loving place and persisting in trying to connect.

It was so frustrating at times though, because not one professional got what I was talking about…the emphasis was always on helping the autistic deal with life, not helping me understand how to live with an Aspie. That’s why I began writing for non-Spectrum family members who are struggling to cope with their Spectrum loved ones. I knew I couldn’t be the only one out there experiencing this.

Some powerful nuggets I shared on the show are:

  • “Please trust that the other person means well, even if their behavior is odd.
  • Separate intent from behavior…they think that because they mean well it’s enough.
  • You have to realize it’s a communication error, it’s not personal.
  • Blaming and shaming is mean, so let’s not do that to ourselves and our loved ones.”

One brilliant idea emerged as Dr. Andy and I talked…look for the patterns. What do I mean?

There’s a saying: “Once you meet one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person,” because each one on the Spectrum is so different. But there are patterns that they universally recognize and use. And once you understand those patterns, you can help them communicate and connect more effectively.

For example, at seven years of age, my autistic daughter tried to explain her day at school by saying, “You’re a psychologist, right? You study patterns in people. Today we studied patterns in math.” Amazing observation from a seven year old, right? Aspies are great observers of people, yet they have so much trouble interacting with them.

Patterns are in everything around us. The more we can expand on the skill of recognizing the patterns that Aspies see, the more we can help them navigate through this world, even though they don’t operate from the theory of mind.

The part they miss is that they don’t think about communicating these patterns to us; they don’t think it’s exceptional or out of the ordinary. They think everyone sees it like they do.

We also discussed many other points from my books: Going Over the Edge, Out of Mind, and WHEN EMPATHY FAILS. I encourage you to listen to the full interview by clicking the link below.

Listen to Dr. Kathy Marshack on "Autism with Dr. Andy"

How to Speak to your Aspie so They Listen and Understand

Monday, June 04, 2018

Have you noticed any patterns that get in the way of your Aspie listening to you? Here are some some things to avoid and to include in your conversation.When you want to have a relationship with someone who has Asperger’s Syndrome, you have to learn a new language...Aspergian. This involves understanding their unique patterns of thought and speech. With this understanding, you can neutralize everyone's distress.

Something clicked for me when I recognized the mindset of Aspies. I started developing an awareness of what they meant, why they do what they do, and how to communicate with them in their language. The mind blindness, the context blindness, the lack of empathy - understanding all of this helped me to think like an Aspie. Once I got it, I could speak to them so that they would listen, actually hear me.

This is no easy feat of course. Step one is to get our emotions and traditional beliefs out of the way. Step two is recognizing that Aspies want the same things we do, though they go about it differently. Step three is to speak their language - because they can't learn ours.

If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD group, I invite you to attend the next video conference entitled, How to speak to your Aspie so that they will listen. It will held on Tuesday, June 12th or Wednesday, June 27th. Each aspie is different, but you will find that there are communication patterns they all follow. Come prepared to write down your own Rules of Engagement, as you identify problem areas in your communication. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Things to avoid when speaking with your Aspie

  • Sarcasm
  • Double entendre
  • Ambiguity or vagueness
  • Hints
  • Passive-aggressive speech
  • Slang or colloquialisms
  • Metaphors
  • Beating around the bush

Things to include when speaking with your Aspie

  • Say what you actually mean.
  • Be open with your intentions.
  • Voice your feelings but remind them this isn’t a criticism of them.
  • Speak clearly and concisely, without rambling.
  • Ask direct questions.
  • Ask them to do one thing at a time.
  • Withdraw from circular arguments.
  • Accept that sometimes communication will hit a brick wall.
  • Remain patient and calm.

Have you noticed any patterns that get in the way of your Aspie listening to you? Join me on Facebook and let’s start brainstorming some solutions.

Empowering Leaders Excel at This One Quality…So Can You!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Throughout life, you’ll have opportunity to lead and empower others to achieve wonderful things…IF you fully tap into the power of one very specific quality – empathy. Do you think a childhood game is a good business model for today? Many companies seem to think so...As a child, you might have played Follow the Leader. The leader is out in front of the group and each member tries to copy the actions of the leader as closely as possible. Today many businesses are run by leaders who lead from the front, dictating the moves of each individual under their authority.

On the other hand, some exceptional organizations have learned that emphasizing the quality of empathy and leading from the sidelines is a highly effective style of leadership. Yes, there are still times when leaders must make command decisions to keep the business on course. But these leaders know they get the best performance from their team when they empower them to use their unique talents to achieve outstanding results.

How important is empathy to empowering leadership?

Without empathy, it’s impossible to empower others, because empathy is the quality that allows you to see others clearly. Here are seven reasons why displaying empathy is so important for people in leadership positions…

  1. It gets the focus off of self and onto others.
  2. It helps you prioritize the well-being of your team, so you look for ways to daily practice kindness and consideration.
  3. It makes you realize success hinges on your team, so you create a favorable work environment for them.
  4. It helps you work harder at explaining your vision and showing your team how they fit into it.
  5. It moves you to supply others with whatever they require to work at their best capacity.
  6. Problems are addressed with concern, not censure. Rather than leaping to punitive actions, the simple question, “Is everything okay?” helps a leader identify the source of a problem, so it can be fixed.
  7. It promotes team building.

I like how Simon Sinek explains empathic and empowering leadership in a recent Success article, “True leadership isn’t the bastion of a few who sit at the top. It’s the responsibility of anyone who belongs to a group, and that means all of us. We all need to step up, take the risk and put our interests second—not always—but when it counts.”

Learning to empathically lead others is a skill you can use in business, in your community and even within your family life. If you’d like to master this skill, I’d love to work with you in person at my office in Portland, OR. Please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online education if that works best for your busy schedule.

15 Indicators that Your Parent May Have Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Too often children think the abuse and neglect heaped on them by their narcissistic parents is normal. This list of 15 Indicators that Your Parent Has Narcissistic Personality Disorder sheds light on abnormal “parenting” behavior. When was the last time you experienced someone’s self-centered and self-absorbed behavior? I imagine it was fairly recently, wasn’t it? Of course, it’s normal for a certain amount of selfish behavior, such as when adolescents are becoming independent from their parents. But when narcissistic behaviors are pathological, it’s a severe empathy dysfunction called, Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), 6.2% of the U.S. population has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (7.7% are men and 4.8% are women.) They report that “NPD was significantly more prevalent among black men and women and Hispanic women, younger adults, and separated/divorced/widowed and never married adults.”

But the numbers don’t matter when you’re a child experiencing the brunt of narcissistic behavior. Too often, children begin believing that they deserve it or have caused it in some way. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Because a child’s sense of self can become so distorted by this empathy dysfunction, the first step to recovery is recognizing the inappropriate behavior that triggered self-doubting and self-condemning emotions. Here are fifteen common behaviors displayed by narcissistic parents that a child should not view as normal.

If your parent…

  1. criticizes your choices, minimizes your feelings and ridicules your desires.
  2. gives gifts with strings attached.
  3. punishes you for disagreeing with them.
  4. puts their needs first even when it deprives or hurts you.
  5. uses guilt or pressure to make you put their needs first.
  6. shows “love” erratically – when they want something or it’s convenient.
  7. behaves unpredictably and create drama, often playing the martyr.
  8. is never satisfied, no matter what you do to please.
  9. wants your trust, but they often disappoint you, without compunction.
  10. makes you feel small by blaming, shaming and intimidating.
  11. exploits your vulnerabilities.
  12. needs to be the center of attention, dominating conversations.
  13. acts like a great parent in public but ignores you at home.
  14. ruins happy times with selfish behavior.
  15. lies, holds grudges and rarely apologizes or admits mistakes.

Do you find similarities to what you experienced in your childhood? This list is not meant as a diagnostic tool, but rather as a signal that it may be time to investigate your situation with the help of a mental health professional. You’ll find help in making the connections between their “parenting” and your own undesirable behaviors today. Your past does not have to define your future.

On my Empathy Dysfunction Scale, narcissists are rated as EmD-1. While narcissists may not intend to harm you, they do so anyway, because they feel entitled to do as they please, which makes their children feel trapped, unloved, and hopeless.

I believe that empathy underlies everything we are as human beings. From childhood through adolescence and into young adulthood, empathy is taking shape neurologically, cultivated by a loving family and healthy social interactions. It’s further refined in adulthood by meditation, prayer and commitment to living a passionate life.

To love and heal from life’s tribulations requires being highly aware of empathy’s importance. Are you ready to dial up your level of Empathy to the highest level, EmD-5? You can, with conscious effort. My new book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS” outlines the warrior skills you’ll need. It’s available on Amazon in paper or Kindle edition. Click here to download the first chapter for free.

The Prison of Loneliness – It’s Time to Stage a Jailbreak!

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Prison of Loneliness – It’s Time to Stage a JailbreakDo you know someone who is wrongfully imprisoned? From personal experience, I can tell you it’s a frighteningly traumatic experience to be held in a literal jail without cause; to have no one who listens or supports you; to feel totally abandoned. (You can read about the three times I was falsely arrested in my new book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS.”) But the prisoner to whom I’m referring could be your next door neighbor who is a work-at-home entrepreneur, your widowed and elderly aunt, your sister married to an Aspie, your coworker living with an abusive partner, the clerk at the grocery store from another country…many people today are wrongfully in a prison of loneliness.

Your first reaction might be, “well, they just need to get out more and try harder.” But it’s not as easy as getting over a little bit of “cabin fever.” The bars of their prison may come from a lifetime of rejection, ostracism or abuse. Not only are there deep psychological wounds, but their plight also leads to physical pain and illnesses that further add to their social isolation. They become too weak to fight anymore. They give up.

Dr. Cacioppo, one of the founding fathers of social neuroscience, likened loneliness to hunger. A New York Times, in remembrance of him at his recent death, highlighted some of the profound things he’s taught us:

  • “About one in four Americans are lonely, without any confidants, and that social isolation results in negative emotional and physical consequences.”
  • “Chronic loneliness increases the odds of an early death by 20 percent, which is about the same effect as obesity, though obesity does not make you as miserable as loneliness.”
  • “Being with others doesn’t mean you’re going to feel connected, and being alone doesn’t mean you’re going to feel lonely.
  • “If the only acceptance you can get of yourself is a fake representation on the web, that’s not going to make you feel connected.”
  • “Being lonely is not the same as being alone.”

Loneliness causes people to turn their attention inward. They start second guessing themselves. Their minds race to the darkest possible conclusions.

What can we do? It doesn’t take a lot to make a difference. Here are a few simple suggestions:

  • Really notice everyone you encounter.
  • Smile and say “hello” to each one.
  • Even if something about their situation makes you uncomfortable, acknowledge them as a fellow human deserving of dignity.
  • Listen with your whole being, when they speak.
  • Make a phone call, send a text or card to remind someone you value them.
  • Rather than having a critical attitude, look for the best in others and give praise when possible.

Being empathic, you “see” the plight and it moves you to do what you can. Are you the sort of person who fears getting involved, because it feels too draining? This indicates you still have room to improve your empathy skills; for the highest form of empathy, radiant empathy, lets you feel for others without confusing their pain or thoughts with your own.

I’m delighted to announce that developing Radiant Empathy will be the focus of my upcoming membership site. If this excites you as much as it does me, please sign up for my newsletter to receive notification of when it’s available.

The Chemistry of Friendship – What Explains It?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Why do we “click” with certain people? Often our friendships are based on commonalities, but science reveals our genes and brain chemistry play a part, too. Why are you friends with one person, but not with another? What makes us “click” with only certain individuals? It’s true that often our choice of friendship is based on things we have in common, such as age, race, religion, socioeconomic status, education, or politics. And science reveals that our genetic makeup influences our choice of friends to a certain degree. Now a recent New York Times article reports on research that shows it also a matter of chemistry…brain chemistry, that is.

After studying the social network among a class of 279 graduate students, researchers found that friends resemble each other in the actual structure of their brains.

As the group watched video clips, the researchers took MRI scans, which revealed that the brain’s neural activity was similar among the people who were friends. The scans showed their brains actually responded to video clips in the same way. Researchers could predict the strength of a social bond based on observing these brain scans. That’s amazing! I’d love to see this test applied to people with Empathy Dysfunction. I wonder what it would show.

Living without friendship is as damaging as other health risks, such as obesity, high blood pressure, or smoking. One research project shows that social isolation elevates fibrinogen, a protein associated with inflammation and chronic disease.

Why not call or text a friend right now and meet them sometime this week? Not only will you have fun. It’s also good medicine for your physical, emotional and mental health! Never be “too busy” for your friends. A close friend is a priceless treasure.

There's a wise saying, "to have a friend, you have to be a friend." People who cultivate radiant empathy have strong, lasting friendships. I’ll show you how to cultivate greater empathy in my book, “When Empathy Fails – How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you.” Not only will your social life improve, but you’ll also have the skills to protect yourself from any toxic relationships you encounter.

2 Words Guaranteed to Make Anyone Feel Better – Do You Use Them Often?

Monday, May 14, 2018

Two words in the English language can brighten anyone’s day. Because they’re so powerful, we shouldn’t take them for granted. You can use them to make yourself and others feel better. However, we’re hearing them used less often, which is a shame, since they can make so many facets of life better.I know two words in the English language that can brighten anyone’s day. Would you like to know what they are? For a few moments longer, I’m going to keep you in suspense, in order to stress their importance.

A recent New York Times article reminded me that we shouldn’t take for granted these simple words, because they are very powerful. You can use them to make yourself and others feel better. However, perhaps like me, you’re hearing them less often. For example, when someone holds a door for me (getting rare in itself), and I say “Thank you,” I can see that's not what they expected to hear. Yes, those are the two words…“Thank You!”

In the article, Tim Herrera refers to a recent challenge he gave his readers – do something that they’ve been putting off. Not surprisingly, some people responded that their one thing was an everyday life task. What did surprise him was how many people were moved to express long-overdue gratitude to people in their lives and how it profoundly moved them.

This article led me to reflect on what I’ve written previously about the power of gratitude. For your convenience, here is a roundup of some of my best:

What Our Words are Really Saying

Benefits to Forgiving and Forgetting

Neuroscience Proves Gratitude Is Good for You!

Reasons Why You Should Cultivate a Grateful Attitude

Four Easy Ways to Give Your Mood and Your Health a Boost

How to Change the Conversation at Work to be More Positive

Are You Managing Your Anxiety or Is Your Anxiety Managing You?

5 Ways to Ensure That a Mid-Life Change Doesn’t Turn Into a Crisis

6 Things Resilient Business Owners Never Do – Even on Very Bad Days

Tap into the Science and Power of Gratitude to Become Happier and More Resilient

Want to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions? Forget Willpower! Focus on Love Instead

As you scan this list, isn’t it interesting to see the different facets of life gratitude affects? If this article moves you to say an overdue thank you, please come over to my Facebook page and tell us how it impacts you and the recipient. I’m still pondering why the practice of saying “thank you” is fading. Do you think it’s because parents aren’t teaching their children the importance of it? Or do you think there’s another reason? Could it be another sign of Empathy Dysfunction? I’m anxious to hear your thoughts.

Adoptive Mothers ARE Real Mothers

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Mother’s Day can be a bittersweet time for adoptive mothers. I know it is for me for a variety of reasons. It doesn’t help when people say thoughtless, insensitive things that imply that adoptive mothers aren’t “real” moms and that adopted children aren’t loved or wanted by their biological mothers.For adoptive mothers everywhere – wishing you a wonderful, love-filled Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day can be a bittersweet time for adoptive mothers. I know it is for me. You can’t know what it's like to be the mother of an adopted child, unless you’re also an adoptive mother. Although my two adoptive daughters physically resemble my husband and myself, we never considered hiding it from them. They grew up knowing their adoption stories.

Being an adoptive mother isn’t easy, and sometimes you have to develop a thick skin. Although it’s been years, I still remember some of the insensitive things that people said to me…

  • “Is she yours?”
  • “Where did you get her?”
  • “Didn’t her real parents want her?”
  • “How could someone give away such a pretty child?”
  • “Where is her real mom?” 
  • “Just be glad you didn’t have to go through pregnancy and childbirth.”
  • “I’d be so afraid she’ll leave and go back to her real family. Aren’t you worried about that?”

Well-meaning questions can lead to interesting and educational conversations, which I happily entertain. But often people are just thoughtlessly curious, not realizing the hurt they leave in their wake.

Along with these external pressures, our lives were complicated because my girls came into my life as traumatized babies, separated from their birth mothers. I sang to them. I swaddled them. I slept with them resting on my breast. I told them how beautiful and amazing they were. I sometimes think I love my adopted children more since they were so much more work.

But I couldn't heal the wound of separation from their biological connection. As a result my daughters are in a kind of love limbo. Their head tells them that I love them. Their heart tells them they are forsaken.

I have not seen my daughters in years, as they stick to their resolve that I’m the source of their distress. I hope they’ll eventually realize that we still have time to reunite and live in harmony.

I’ve written about those tumultuous years in my new book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS: How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you,” in the hopes of helping others who confront similar experiences. Originally it was entitled: “No One Calls Me Mom Anymore,” because much of it centers on the lessons I’ve learned from being a mother. But that soon became the title for first chapter, which you can download for free here.)

Today I focus on the blessing I have and the God-given ability to rise to the level of abundant Radiant Empathy. Dozens of people call me “Mom,” including young friends and clients. I am blessed and proud to be Mom and Grandma to those who need me and genuinely love me. So I’m going to enjoy my Mother’s Day and I hope you do too.

Read more on my website: Adoptive Families.

How Do You Survive the Loneliness in Your NT/AS Family?

Monday, May 07, 2018

The loneliness we feel when in a relationship with someone with Asperger’s Syndrome is indescribable. Even Aspie children can contribute to this feeling. We know we love them. They say they love us. Yet there’s this deep, profound loneliness, the source of which we must discover in order to combat itThere is something ineffable about the loneliness we feel when in a relationship with an Aspie. Even our Aspie children can contribute to this feeling. Even though we know that we love them; even though they say they love us; there is this deep, profound loneliness nevertheless.

To be perfectly honest with you, I still feel lonely on a daily basis. I know it's not reasonable, since I have such abundance in my life. Nevertheless, spending decades of my life with those unable to acknowledge me, understand me, or connect with me, has left me longing for the sense that I am loved and belong. My head tells me I am wrong about my loneliness, but my heart tells me differently.

When you search the Internet, you’ll see numerous articles and resources for people with Asperger’s who feel lonely. Those with Asperger's have trouble fulfilling the basic human need of bonding and connecting, so it’s not surprising that they feel lonely. Because of this, I help my Asperger clients develop rules for engagement, so their families can thrive, despite these challenges.

But there’s still not much out there for family members who live with an Aspie. We depend on family to provide warmth, belonging, acceptance, respect and value. That’s lacking in NT/AS families. On the outside, everything looks normal, so friends don’t understand, which adds to the loneliness you feel.

Do you find that you suffer in silence, because there isn’t a safe place to talk about your loneliness? I understand. That’s why I’ve created a safe and supportive space for members of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD group. Are you ready to reach out? I invite you to join my next Video Conference: Surviving the Loneliness on Wednesday, May 9th or Tuesday, May 22. It will help you identify the source of this loneliness and how to combat it. One powerful way to combat the loneliness is to participate in our conference call and share our experiences.

If you prefer one-on-one counseling, and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works better for you.

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