Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone whose relationships are forever changed by the shootings in Santa Barbara.

Blame abounds. Who or what is responsible? Video games, lax gun laws, a seriously flawed mental health system, garbage movies and video games, the parents, a kid suffering from Affluenza and narcissism?

Apparently, the shooter was a lost, lonely kid who we believe was mentally ill, but do we know his diagnosis? Schizophrenia? Antisocial Personality Disorder? Who knows? But his self-admitted ‘pining for his mother’ speaks volumes about the ugly seed growing in him. This guy experienced a lot of loss in his formative years.

Loss 1 – Parents moved him from Europe to the U.S. at age 5 = Loss of culture, home and possibly extended family

Loss 2 – Parents divorced at age of 6 = Loss of family, safety, and stability

Loss 3 – Dad quickly brought new woman into his life = Loss of hope of family reunification, loss of time with Dad

Loss 4 – Mom moved back to Europe = Loss of primary relationship…and hope.

Most kids, depending on their temperament, could handle this.

Instead of pointing all fingers at the shooter, we could take a look at a narcissistic society that lacks emphasis on commitment to marriage and family. I’m not blaming the parents for doing what most have done. Sometimes dissolution is unavoidable but in many or maybe even most cases we could make it work. Maybe we ought not to rely on the common thinking that we shouldn’t stay together for the kids. Maybe we should.

Here are a few suggestions for help in dealing with building a strong marriage, or helping kids cope when divorce is the only answer.

An evidence-based online program for kids whose parents are going through divorce. Children of Divorce – Coping with Divorce. Kids who take this course during their parent’s divorce, or maybe even after, have a far better chance at sustaining good mental health both now and into their adult lives. Highly Recommended

A helpful book on building a strong marriage: Take Back Your Marriage: Sticking Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart

Great gift for anyone having a baby:

Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love


Those words are like nails on a chalkboard to anyone who has been through a divorce with someone who suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). While divorce can bring out the worst in a healthy person, a divorce involving someone with NPD is like inviting the devil himself onto the battlefield. The narcissist appears to be charming, charismatic and endearing to those whom he encounters yet outside of the courtroom, he is calculated, manipulative and many times, downright dangerous. The untrained observer may perceive the situation to be about two immature parents who are not capable of putting their children first.

Sadly, many of the untrained observers are the very people who are tasked with deciding the fate of the children caught in the middle of these highly contentious custody battles. A narcissist is like the modern day version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I once tried to explain to the Judge in my own divorce case that I didn’t know the man sitting 5-feet to my left. The man sitting next to me in the courtroom was not the same man who I was attempting to co-parent with. This man claimed to love his children and want to spend time with them however; his actions did not match his words.

SplittingAccording to the DSM IV-TR, between 2 percent and 16 percent of the population in clinical settings are diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. There are individuals such as Billy Eddy, Author of the book, “Splitting” and President of the High Conflict Institute who is working diligently to educate the Family Court System on these individuals however, the education needs to be moved to a priority status. After a contentious custody battle with a narcissist which spanned over four years, I have witnessed many of the cracks in the Family Court System first-hand.

  • Words vs. Actions: When words and actions are not in alignment, further investigations should take place. Narcissists are master manipulators yet their actions are never in alignment with their words.
  • Perjury: Changes need to be made when it comes to individuals who are caught lying. Perjury is taken very seriously in every courtroom except the Family Court System.
  • Education on Personality Disorders: Education on NPD needs to begin in law school and continuing education on personality disorders should be mandatory for each person who has a hand in the Family Court System such as Custody Evaluators, Guardian Ad Litems, Commissioners, Judges, Social Workers and Attorneys.
  • The Best Interest of the Child: Cases are often pushed through the courtroom like cattle. Ample time needs to be devoted to hearing high-conflict cases. When it takes longer to adopt a puppy from the dog pound than it does to decide the fate of a child, something is very wrong.
  • Court Orders: Even with court orders in hand, it can be difficult to enforce court orders. When dealing with individuals with NPD, court orders need to be very concise and void of wiggle room. If there is any room for manipulation in court orders, a narcissist will find it.
  • Parental Rights vs. Best Interest of the Child: While the Family Court System is supposed to act in the best interest of the child, this is not happening. Parental rights seem to carry more weight than what is truly in the best interest of the child. The ability to procreate should not automatically guarantee rights that override a child’s well-being.

I recently spoke to Chelsea Storey, Family Law Attorney in Orange County, California, about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and it’s affect on the Family Court System.

“The central focus of judges in the family court system should be on children’s rights and protecting the children. Custody determinations should not be based on father’s rights or mother’s rights but based solely on the best interest of the child. When there are accusations of abuse and neglect, it is imperative that these items are taken seriously and investigated by highly skilled and trained individuals. The actions of a parent should be given more consideration than the grandiose statements of the parties. In high conflict custody cases, with the popular presumption that equal parenting time or 50/50 custody is fair to both parents, the children’s safety, stability and best interest are too often ignored and overlooked while decisions are hastily made due to blanket assumptions about scorned parents and limited court time. While an equal parenting time arrangement may work between two healthy parents, it absolutely does not work when one or both parents are determined to lie, manipulate, alienate and abuse the children in the name of winning at all costs. When one party is focused on self and not on the children, children suffer immensely and litigation is exponentially prolonged creating instability and a dangerous environment for children.”

Currently, there are movements taking place such as Safe Kids International which is striving to make changes and to bring transparency to the Family Court System. A recent collaboration with Fox News prompted an investigative series called, “Lost in the System” which did a fantastic job of placing a spotlight on what many deem to be a Family Court crisis. While it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to protect a child. I think the first step is to create a village within the Family Court System that is educated on personality disorders which are becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s society.

About Unhooked Books
Unhooked Books is the one place for people to find the best and most current information and resources available on personality disorders, high-conflict personalities, divorce, parenting, co-parenting, living healthy, eating healthy, and managing your life. Founder & CEO, Megan Hunter, established one place for people in any type of relationship to find tools to enhance relationships, prevent relationship disaster and handle relationship transition. Her firm belief is that with just a little education, most people can resolve most relationship issues.

Via http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tina-swithin/narcissistic-personality-disorder-divorce_b_4073110.html

Screen shot 2013-02-18 at 7.38.12 AMAn Umbrella for Alex is a book for children about coping with the abrupt and sometimes scary mood swings of a parent. The author, Rachel Rashkin-Shoot graciously agreed to share her thoughts about the book in the interview below.

First, a bit about the book. It is the wonderful story of little Alex and his family. His parents are at times in a stormy or cloudy mood, yet they love Alex deeply. Despite the challenges he faces, Alex values himself, continues to develop in healthy ways, and learns great skills that help him achieve his full potential, including using his imaginary umbrella during stormy times.

The book was published as a second edition by the Personality Disorder Awareness Network (PDAN) in October 2012 and 100% of net sales of this title through UnhookedBooks.com go directly to PDAN. It’s a terrific resource for anyone who works with children as a therapist, counselor, and especially for parents. This book is suitable for both boys and girls, and specifically for children whose mother or father has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Bipolar Disorder or other mental illness and suffers from mood swings.

Enjoy the interview!

Megan:  Can you tell us a bit about your background and how it led you to write An Umbrella for Alex?

Rachel:  Prior to receiving my doctorate in Clinical Psychology, I studied Infant and Child Development at The Erikson Institute in Chicago, Illinois. During my training, I had the privilege of interning for an organization that aimed to foster healthy connections between very young children and their (very young) parents. Witnessing firsthand how the parent-child attachment relationship can be severely disrupted in children whose parents struggle with various psychological challenges, was not only heart-wrenching, but a huge eye opener. I began to wonder how I might contribute to the psychological community at-large to help those children feel less alone as they continued their development, and that’s how the idea for a book emerged.

: Why is important for kids to understand moods, and what is the most important thing for kids to understand about their parent’s unpredictable moods, anger, yelling, etc.?

Rachel: Children, particularly very young children, live in the moment; they don’t have a sophisticated understanding of their own mood states, or even what a mood is, until later on in childhood. Having said that, young children absolutely do have a sense of feeling states, and it’s important to help them label their feelings early on, and to validate those feelings. Young children living with a parent whose mood states shift unexpectedly, must be reminded frequently that they are absolutely not responsible for their parents’ moods; they did not cause the mood, and are not expected to fix the mood.

Megan: What is the most important thing a parent or other caring adult can do to help a child whose parent has unpredictable moods?

Rachel: Young children, especially, will almost immediately wonder what they did “wrong” to make a parent upset. Therefore, one of the most important things parents, and other caregivers can do to support a child is to remind the child that he/she is not bad, did not do anything wrong, and is not at all to blame for the parent’s negative mood. This is absolutely critical for children to hear as many times as necessary since most children tend to assume their behavior is what somehow caused the parent’s mood.

Megan: As mentioned in the book’s foreword, a significant portion of the U.S. population suffers with personality disorders, which is associated with unpredictable mood swings. Naturally, children are impacted. Can children ‘pick up’ or inherit moodiness from their parent(s)? If so, can this book help prevent or mitigate that?

Rachel: Children can, indeed, inherit a parent’s proclivity towards moodiness but the type of instability manifested in personality disorders is typically (though not always) the result of early relational trauma in the parent’s life. There are multiple contributing factors that determine whether or not a child will develop a personality disorder, but many protective factors, as well. For example, even if a child’s disposition is one that leans towards the type of mood instability found in personality disorders, if he or she is generally in an emotionally validating environment, feels loved and cared for and his or her development is on-track, the chances of developing a personality disorder down the road are significantly reduced.

Megan:  You’re getting ready to release another children’s book, ”In My Corner of the Moon”. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Rachel: “In My Corner on the Moon” is a book that tackles the sensitive issue of children’s traumatic experiences. This story introduces the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder but never actually uses the term. Similarly, the story is careful not to suggest that all children who experienced trauma will develop disruptive symptoms. Rather, it simply touches upon (and normalizes) the various manifestations of PTSD, including irritability, emotional dysregulation, hypersensitivity, withdrawing/clingy behaviors, nightmares, somaticizing, flashbacks, risky behaviors, and “going away”  internally (dissociation) in order to escape the very real and painful memories associated with the trauma.  Narrated by 12-year-old, Abigail, the book is straightforward but gentle and has a strong psychoeducational component. Abigail defines trauma in simple terms that kids can understand, without delving into the details of her own trauma, or sugar-coating the healing process. The story’s primary aim is to normalize the response that many children have when they experience overwhelming events in their lives. Therefore, in order to accommodate the widest audience, the story deemphasizes specific traumas and instead focuses on responses to trauma and the healing process that follows. To maintain sensitivity, more emotionally-charged terms are excluded from the text. Interactive questions at the end of each page are included to facilitate therapeutic discussion among children and the important adults in their lives, namely: parents, teachers, mentors, mental health/medical professionals, and spiritual guides.

Megan: Rachel, thank you for sharing your creation with us. It is a pleasure to offer this book to children around the world so they can better understand their world, experience healing and develop resiliency. You’ve provided us with a valuable treasure for the future of our children.

 Rachel: You’re welcome and thank you for the opportunity to share.

meganMegan Hunter is founder and CEO of Unhooked Books and Life Unhooked, a speaking, training and consulting company that provides a fresh perspective and approach to help companies and individuals identify and overcome the damaging behaviors of HCD’s – whether they are employees, customers, vendors, board members, or anyone in your life. Most importantly we help you ‘unhook’ from these peoples’ behaviors so that you can make the right, next decisions – cleanly and clearly. She is also the co-founder of the High Conflict Institute launched in 2007 with Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq., an internationally renowned expert in High Conflict Personalities. She has been the recipient of several awards including the President’s Award by the Arizona Family Support Council (2005), the Friend of Psychology Award by the Arizona Psychology Association (2006) and the Outstanding Contribution Award by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (2010). She is a volunteer in several organizations including a member of Tanzania Project and Vice President of Personality Disorder Awareness Network (PDAN). She holds a BA degree in business from Chadron State College and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. To contact Megan about speaking engagements or to gather more information, email megan@lifeunhooked.com

I was privileged to interview Impossible to Please co-author, Neal Lavender, PhD. Enjoy learning more about the author’s thoughts about why the book was written, what lies behind controlling perfectionists, and how to deal with them at work, home or anywhere. Our thanks to Dr. Lavender for his time and thoughts.

– Megan Hunter, Unhooked Books

Author Interview

I was privileged to interview Impossible to Please co-author, Neal Lavender, PhD. Enjoy learning more about the author’s thoughts about why the book was written, what lies behind controlling perfectionists, and how to deal with them at work, home or anywhere. Our thanks to Dr. Lavender for his time and thoughts.
– Megan Hunter, Unhooked Books

Megan: At Unhooked Books, we offer books that help people understand themselves, others and how to more successfully relate to difficult people. Your book, written with Dr. Cavaiola, fits in this category very well as you describe the inner working of people who are overly critical and very difficult to live with. Dr. Lavender, would you give us a short synopsis of the book, please?

Dr. Lavender: Our book deals with people who are hyper-critical and how they relate to other people. We call them “controlling perfectionists”. They may be someone you are married to, a coworker, a family member, neighbor or friend. Their perfectionistic behaviors can be mild to extreme and over-the-top to quite severe. This book helps us understand controlling perfectionists and how to better relate to them if you have to be around them in daily life.

These are people who are addicted to criticism, even self-criticism. Actually, they are not so different from a drug addict. They criticize to regulate their own self-esteem, so they’re always looking for something or someone to criticize.

Megan: Who is your target audience?

Dr. Lavender: Impossible to Please was written with the people surrounding the controlling perfectionist (CP) in mind. Often, these relationships fail because the CP is so difficult to deal with but it doesn’t have to be that way. Our book helps people understand what is going on behind the scenes and how to manage the relationship differently.

 Megan: What is going on behind the scenes?
Dr. Lavender: We believe that CP’s are afflicted with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), not to be confused with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCPD is listed as a Cluster C disorder in the DSM-IV and this is a group of anxiety disorder. A CP may have been raised by another CP or raised in an invalidating environment in which more attention is given for negative behaviors than for positive behaviors. Also, an unstructured environment creates and leads to the CP craving structure and unable to operate effectively without it.

CP’s often become leaders and excel in the workplace, but the controlling, critical behavior eventually tends to take over. They are honored in our society because they are high-achievers, take great care of their appearance, and appear to have it all together. Unfortunately, we feed their disorder by giving them positive feedback. Eventually the CP can implode although many main the behavior for a long time or forever.

Megan: Where do you most often see difficult relationships with CPs?
Dr. Lavender: CPs create difficulties in romantic and work relationships but can and do have difficult relationships with anyone they are around.

Megan: How best can someone who works or lives with a CP deal with them differently?

Dr. Lavender: First, they must realize that they have to stop trying to please the CP and that they can’t make the CP happy. Second, they have to recognize their own reactions and responses to CPS and realize they have to come of the habitual patterns established between them and the CP. Empathy can be used to disarm a CP, especially when trying to give feedback. Typically any feedback comes across as criticism, so we give the reader tips to give feedback without triggering the CP’s defensiveness, at least to the extent possible.

Megan: Is it possible to stay in relationships with CPs?
Dr. Lavender: Yes, it is, but it takes commitment, sacrifice and dedication. It is difficult to maintain your own health while in relationships with CPs. Some people remain in unhealthy relationships for a long time but others make decisions to end or modify the relationship. At work this can be more complicated if others see the CP as a high-achiever and meaningful to the company’s end goals.

Megan: Is there help for the CP?
Dr. Lavender: It is difficult to get CPs into any type of treatment but there are a few forms of help available, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and any kind of awareness of mindfulness. They have to begin go think about and understand the thoughts they’re having. Also, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is starting to be used for OCPD.

 Megan: Can OCPD co-exist with other disorders?
Dr. Lavender: Yes, particularly other anxiety disorders, dependence, passive-aggressive, agoraphobia and lots of fear-based issues. They have strong reactions against intimacy, they find it difficult if not impossible to say ‘I love you’, can have body image issues, and experience difficulties with sexual intimacy.

Because of their desire to achieve and excel, some become bulimic or anorexic to be seen as beautiful and physically fit. Their strong need to control everything can extend beyond relationships to their own bodies.

 Megan: Can a CP be considered a bully?
Dr. Lavender: Yes, their massive anxiety can lead to bullying behavior, and we see overlap with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in which the person needs to feel superior. Both disorders can create bullying behavior because of their need to put others down to feel better about themselves.

 Megan: Any last thoughts?
Dr. Lavender: Thanks for asking. Yes, it’s important to understand that change is difficult for CPs and change cannot be expected to happen quickly, nor will the CP have insight into their own behaviors. The non-CP must address the part of the CP that is real, which might eventually get the CP to give up what’s not real. This can take a long time.

 Megan: Thank you for writing this tremendously helpful and insightful book on controlling perfectionists and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. We wish you and Dr. Cavaiola great success with your book and your continue work!
Dr. Lavender: Thank you.

neillavender_biggerNeil J. Lavender, PhD, is professor of psychology at Ocean County College in New Jersey where he also maintains a private practice. He is coauthor of Toxic Coworkers and Impossible to Please. Neil, who is also an avid blogger, resides in Beachwood, NJ.