Mental Health,  Podcast

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT: Family Narcissism Unmasked w/ Lisa A. Romano

NOTE: below is a generated transcript from Season 2, Episode 5 of the Lifelong Health and Fitness Conversations podcast. Episode title: "Family Narcissism Unmasked w/ Lisa A. Romano"
Life Coach Lisa A. Romano

Lifelong Health and Fitness Conversations podcast features mental health expert Lisa Romano

Sylvia Petro: Thank you for tuning into the mental health segment of the Lifelong Health and Fitness Conversations podcast. In this episode, I speak with Lisa A. Romano, a globally recognized life coach who specializes in assisting wounded adult children to overcome the childhood emotional trauma that keeps them stuck by repeating negative self-sabotaging patterns in their lives. Lisa is best known for her remarkable work in the area of adult children of alcoholic issues, codependency, and narcissistic abuse recovery. Lisa is also one of the most-listened-to meditation teachers on Insight Timer, and her YouTube channel has over 640,000 subscribers. Her podcast Breakdown to Breakthrough ranks in the Top 100 Podcasts on mental wellness. You can learn more about Lisa’s online courses and her seven bestselling books by visiting And for Lisa’s full bio and links to connect with her, please see the podcast description. Now, on to our conversation.

Lisa Romano is a life coach specializing in narcissistic familial relationships

Sylvia Petro: So, first, Lisa, I’d like to thank you for joining me on this episode.

Lisa A. Romano: Sure. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Sylvia Petro: And would you like me to call you Miss Romano or Lisa?

Lisa A. Romano: Oh, please, call me Lisa.

Sylvia Petro: Okay. Well, I look forward to speaking about an important topic today, which is narcissistic familial relationships but first, what led you to become a life coach?

Lisa A. Romano: My life path. When my life imploded and I didn’t know where to turn, life was just getting really crazy. I couldn’t go to my family. I began to realize they really couldn’t help me. They didn’t have the tools or the life skills to help me. And I went to a psychologist as a last resort, which was seen as, a no-no in my family because it meant you were weak. But I had three little kids to take care of, and I decided to go anyway, despite what they thought about it, and he diagnosed me with codependency.

And as I stuck with understanding codependency. And understood my play in it, how I was contributing to the toxic dynamics in my life, I eventually learned about narcissism and began to see the many layers of narcissism in my own family. And that’s when, as crazy as it was, things started to make sense, so I decided to teach people what I was learning about codependency, because I wasn’t getting what I wanted from meetings. They’re not for everybody. I wasn’t getting what I wanted. Even sometimes out of therapy. I was getting information, but I wasn’t getting the life skills. And so, as I taught myself how to heal from codependency, that’s when I decided that I would like to do this professionally and help other people learn what helped save my life.

You were born into a codependent family

Sylvia Petro: Where did you develop your codependency?

Lisa A. Romano: I was born into a codependent family. So, both my parents are adult children of alcoholics.

Sylvia Petro: Yeah.

Lisa A. Romano: My mom was highly codependent. My dad was highly narcissistic, although my mom had narcissistic traits as well, I would call her more of a codependent, and she was very heavily invested in my father’s emotions, and that was her priority, was keeping him calm, keeping him happy, and seeking his approval. It was really something to grow up watching how my mother absolutely just adored my dad, and not in a healthy way, because she was stuffing her emotions. She was sacrificing herself just to make him happy. And so, observing that as a little girl, and then also reeling from verbal abuse and emotional abuse and neglect, and learning that in order to have any sense of attachment to my mother whatsoever, I couldn’t have a self, I couldn’t have needs. I had to be completely focused on her. Which, as I gained objectivity, I began to realize that how my mother had mirrored her love for my father was, essentially, how I learned to love her, just to sacrifice myself. And that led to being a codependent teenager and being obsessed with boys, and then getting engaged at 21 and just following the pattern and thinking that if. I just love somebody, everything’s going to be great, and if they have a need, I’ll just jump in and fix it. And then after eleven or twelve years of that type of sacrificing and stuffing your emotions, I just imploded.

I was near death. I developed asthma, migraine headaches. And it was during a severe asthma attack, and I didn’t even know how sick I was. Which is comma for trauma. It’s common for trauma survivors because you’re so used to neglecting yourself. That allergist said to me that if I fell asleep, I’d die. He said, if you fall asleep right now, you’re not waking up. You better listen to your body, because your body is listening to you. And it was a profound moment because it was the first time someone said look within, look within. Because I had been taught to look outside of me.

Sylvia Petro: So, you did mention that your mother wasn’t as narcissistic as your father. but if you had to mold yourself to gain acceptance from her, that’s displaying some narcissistic traits. Correct?

Lisa A. Romano: Correct. However, I think I just want to clarify that codependency and narcissism, there can be overlap.

Sylvia Petro: Okay.

Lisa A. Romano: So you could love someone who is highly codependent and is self-sacrificing, and they expect you to behave a certain way because they’re doing so much for you.

Sylvia Petro: Yeah.

Lisa A. Romano: So there definitely was some overlap with my mom. And this was not something that she showed anybody else. This was, doors were closed. I was her target. Absolutely.

Listen to Breakdown to Breakthrough – Podcast by Lisa A. Romano

Narcissists feel entitled to exploit people emotionally, and they lack empathy

Sylvia Petro: Okay, so regarding, the topic of this episode, narcissistic familial relationships, in one of your videos, you said, people might worry that they can be labeled narcissist. And I think especially nowadays, we’re inundated with videos about narcissism. And also when someone is in a situation where they’re under attack by multiple people, like, if they’re triangulated by the narcissist, they might be accused of being a narcissist because they started fighting for their lives. So what can you define as hallmarks of a narcissist?

Lisa A. Romano: Well, narcissists are grandiose. They feel entitled to exploit people emotionally, and they lack empathy. And these are pervasive patterns. This isn’t your best friend has a bad day because her dog died or her boyfriend broke up with her, these are pervasive patterns of entitlement exploitation; a lack of empathy; the need to be right; the consistent lack of accountability; getting angry at you because you got angry at them for violating a boundary. And, again, these are consistent–crazy-making conversations; circular conversations to avoid accountability; triangulation; hedging their bets; making sure that in case you ever leave them, people think that you’re the crazy one; creating flying monkeys; and it’s all happening and you don’t even know what’s happening.

Sylvia Petro: Right.

Lisa A. Romano: You might be having, let’s say it’s–a sister who you think is highly narcissistic for whatever reason, and you’re having an argument with her, or you’re in a spat with her, and you’re just like, it’s in you, right? Like, you’re just like, “wow, I can’t believe this is going on between me and Mary, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” But you don’t know that Mary is going out of her way to talk to your boyfriend or talk to your mom, and she really is hedging her bets to get out ahead of the conversation. So, in case you open your mouth you already look like the one that is crazy, and, she comes off like the concerned sibling.

Sylvia Petro: Yeah. And this is very much true. I noticed–I don’t want to speak on my issue too much; it’s mainly for listeners, but in a personal issue, where it really could be years of setting someone up as a certain character type or categorizing someone a certain way, and it might not be just directed toward you. It could be multiple family members. when they help a certain family member, that one’s needy, and I also help this one, and I help that one. And if you let them accumulate enough events of them giving you things and you accepting those things, then when they go in for a big return on that investment in you, then they already created this image of you. That is so negative as this needy, dependent person that the damage is essentially done because you did nothing to really stop it, or you didn’t think it was really that harmful. Because while it’s a relative, they make certain slights, and we make allowances for relatives to slight us. so, yeah, it seems like this long-term investment in creating, an image.

Lisa A. Romano: Yeah. And I think it stems in their image of self because they’re “superior.” So I think it’s just their nature. That, well, if I’m superior to everyone, then there has to be a minion. There has to be someone that I enable, perhaps, or there has to be someone that I can play this role out with, where I am seen as the superior one, the more intelligent one, the more capable one, the more responsible one.

I think it’s just part of their nature. And you’re right, it can happen all outside your conscious awareness of it and on the surface appear to be very innocent. But you’ll see it when there’s an expected payback. That’s when you’ll see it like, whoa, where’d that come from? And you will regret ever taking anything from this person.

Sylvia Petro: Yeah, that’s exactly what happens.

How common is familial or parental narcissism?

Sylvia Petro: So how common would you say familial or parental narcissism is?

Lisa A. Romano: I think it’s fairly common. I don’t know how common it is in terms of being able to diagnose someone with NPD. To be able to diagnose someone, that person has to walk into a therapist office and say, “my life is unmanageable, and please help me figure out why.” So the numbers in terms of statistics are pretty low. But just think about it. Narcissists don’t go into therapy. You go into therapy because you’re married to a narcissist or your mother’s a narcissist, your dad’s a narcissist, or you work with the narcissist. But in terms of statistics, I can’t give you those statistics. I don’t even know if those statistics exist. But what I would say is that most I believe that undiagnosed narcissistic traits. Are probably at the core of many upsetting relationship dynamics.

Lisa A. Romano: But narcissist, again, they’re not self aware, and so they’re not looking at how they might be behaving in a relationship. So trying to gain those statistics is nearly impossible. But I think it’s far more common. Than a lot of people realize. Yeah.

Sylvia Petro: And, as far as narcissistic parents or family authority figures, how can they affect the family unit? And when I say that, I mean it seems to spread far and wide. Can you give some information based on your practice or personal experience on that, on the role of an authority figure in a family and how that can really sway things?

Lisa A. Romano: I always tell everybody it’s like one narcissist in a bunch. They say, like, one apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch. But that’s not true when it comes to narcissism.

With narcissism, we want to keep in mind that we’re talking about somebody who needs to dominate and that can show up in different ways. [They] can dominate you by insisting that . . . [their] pain is more important than anybody else’s pain

Lisa A. Romano: And it also, again, we’re talking about when we’re talking about narcissism, it depends on how it’s being played out. You can have someone who is a covert narcissist who has a drug issue, who wants everybody to feel sorry for him. And if this is the leader of the family, then there’s always an excuse for the alcohol. There’s always an excuse for not coming home. There’s always an excuse for why he can’t keep a job. And so, mom then has to work a job, two jobs, three jobs, and the kids are left to their own devices to try to figure out how to survive. And that affects the children. Well, if Dad’s feeling sorry for himself. And his life is so horrible, and we can’t hold him accountable, then we can’t go to him, we can’t feel protected. And then if we can’t go to mom because she’s so overwhelmed and she’s keeping down three jobs and when she does come home, there’s no food in the refrigerator and somehow she’s got to go buy food.

So the children are being neglected. And then we have children who model the behavior of the parents. And so, in that scenario, that’s far and wide, that affects everybody and that affects the future, grandchildren and so on. And so, there’s a lack of accountability for holding this person responsible. So we’re not learning about boundaries. Children are marinating in this type of chaos and unpredictability. So they go into survival and they take on this various roles in the family system just to survive. And if you have an overt . . . domestic violence. This can go, into many different directions. Someone who is male or female, someone who is narcissistic and, is also domestically abusive, well, that’s tragic. People can get hurt; they can get killed. And so when we’re thinking about.

With narcissism, we want to keep in mind that we’re talking about somebody who needs to dominate and that can show up in different ways. I can dominate you by making you feel guilty. I can dominate you by insisting that there’s no way that I can take care of myself or my pain is more important than anybody else’s pain. And you might feel sorry for me. And if I don’t take care of myself, what point if you’re not going to leave me, then you’re going to fall into taking care of me. Or I could be the type of narcissist that puffs my chest out and dominates through rage.

Narcissists enjoy triangulation to gain control over others

Sylvia Petro: Yeah. Would you say that, the narcissists who like to dominate and puff their chest enjoy situations of triangulation and aiding the other narcissist in attacking another person that they see as lesser to themselves?

Lisa A. Romano: Oh, absolutely. The more the better. It’s all about domination. It’s all about control. And if a narcissist can’t get you to, do what they want you to do, if they can’t get you to praise them, then they’ll settle for you being afraid of them. And so, there are certain types of narcissists that actually enjoy seeing fear in your eyes and seeing terror in your eyes and enjoy other people taking on the task of dominating and controlling you as well, while they sit back and they observe. Sure. Yeah.

Sylvia Petro: In triangulation, that is, so evident. before I started researching this, I was looking up a scenario I was going through and I knew it inherently what was going on. I called it campaigning at the time. But then I found out that the official term used, by life coaches and psychologists is triangulation. So if you could define what triangulation is, so listeners can better understand.

Lisa A. Romano: Yeah, I like to, define it in layman’s terms, terms that we can. All understand because so oftentimes it’s like, what’s that mean? We really don’t understand it until someone explains it in a way that’s really simple. So triangulation is if you’re dealing with a narcissist, you’re dealing with somebody who is essentially hedging their bets. They’re worried that you might perhaps call them out, maybe leave them. they don’t want to be seen as the crazy one in the situation. They want to be seen as the good one, the martyr, the person who’s Saving you, the person that’s good. And so, what they do is they set out I’ll, use your word “campaign” to talk to other people in a situation–could be coworkers, could be family members, whoever–could be your boyfriend, could be your sister. So, they set out to speak negatively about you in order to gain control over the way the relationship looks. They want to control how you see them so that you never see what’s really going on. So it’s for their benefit, and it’s at your cost.

Sylvia Petro: Yeah. It’s like optics in a political campaign. That’s how it felt to me. Like a smear campaign.

Lisa A. Romano: Yeah. Can I just add this? Sometimes the smear campaign is masqueraded, right? So it’s not always an obvious smear campaign. when I was going through this, my ex, in front of my face would tell me how crazy I was. But behind my back, he would say things to my parents like Lisa could have been a rocket scientist. But the next day he would say, you should call her because she sounds a little fragile. And just, threatened to take her own life, which never see. It’s a nuanced thing. It’s like, they’ll pick you up to your friends or your family 1 minute, and the next minute slide in, oh, I’m really worried about them. And question your, mental health. And so the person who is receiving this information doesn’t even realize that they’re being utilized this way, they’re being used this way. It’s so subtle. And then as the victim, when you start complaining, you look like the crazy one.

Sylvia Petro: Yeah, it’s a very fine, line you have to walk in that situation.

You mentioned you grew up in a family in which you developed codependency

Sylvia Petro: I did want to get to one part, that you mentioned there. So you mentioned you grew up in a family in which you developed codependency. And I know in one of your videos, you said you experienced some trauma and you acted out in some ways. so in a situation of triangulation, when someone’s trying to frame you as the crazy one, it’s like, God forbid if you ever had any history when you were growing up with any mental illness, because then they bring that out and they say, see, you’ve been mental your whole life. Have you experienced that yourself or with clients?

Lisa A. Romano: Sure, we experience it when we’re dealing with people who have grown up in toxic homes. There’s no respect for one another’s emotional well being. In fact, it seems like it is the agenda to hurt the other person. And without respect for someone’s dignity, those things do happen. Especially if you grew up with a mother that bullied you or a father who bullied you, or you saw your parents bully one another. There’s no respect. So, yes, if something happens to you in your childhood, it becomes used as a weapon. It’s weaponized against you–with siblings. So that does happen, and in families. Absolutely.

In my case, I was naïve. Ah, I didn’t know what I know now. I thought that just because I would never use anything sacred that you shared with me, that certainly the person that I loved wouldn’t do that either. But that’s just not the case that’s seeing the world in, unfortunately, it’d. Be nice if that were true, but unfortunately, that’s just not the case.

Sylvia Petro: Well, you know what helped me through it on the lines of what you’re saying is, believe it or not, learning about Machiavelli, which I know this might sound bad (Dark Triad), did help me through this period. I just happened to be, reading a book about different philosophies, throughout history. And, he said, Deal with the world as it is, not as it ought to. You know, even though Machiavelli is seen very negatively, if people are treating you in such a brutal way and it’s essentially like a political campaign, and he worked in politics, so it might not be normal teaching for everyday. Relationships. But if someone really is trying to pull damaging tactics on you, you can look at it that way. Because, unfortunately, as you said, you might say something in confidence to someone and they might not treasure it as you do, knowing that you’re not supposed to share certain information or so forth.

When we’re talking about somebody with high narcissistic traits, they’re, literally waiting for you to divulge something that they can use against you

Lisa A. Romano: Well, I think that decent people don’t want to share that information, but people who are narcissistic will take that information and sock it away to use it against you when they feel like they’re losing control over you. We should be able to share information, sacred information. And I believe that decent people, empathic people who are healthier than others know not to share that information. And if they do share it, it’s not to hurt you. When we’re talking about somebody with high narcissistic traits, they’re, literally waiting for you to divulge something that they can use against you. It’s a different dynamic, and it is shocking, and it is gut wrenching. And I remember being completely stymied when this was happening. The things that I told my ex in confidence were now being used against me as a weapon to justify his actions or me saying that I never really got along with my mom and how painful that was to be a daughter and to feel even though my mother was always with me, I felt like I didn’t have a mom. It would have made sense if she was dead. It would have made sense if she lived in another country. It didn’t make sense because we lived in the same house. But I never felt like I had a mom and to have that used against me well, you don’t get along with your mother, so why would I expect you to get along with me?

So here is my inner child wound. So now you’ve hit this wound inside of me with a missile. And now I’m all screwed up mentally and emotionally, psychologically and energetically because now I’m thinking to myself, well, is that true? And now I can’t even stick to the point of what we’re trying to communicate about, today in our marriage. I can’t even think about that anymore because I’m reeling from you hurt me. And is what you said even true? So, forget the argument that we were having.

Sylvia Petro: Yeah. And one of the tactics that a narcissist would use and I’m not an expert on this, but in my observation, is because they believe they’re superior. They think they could insert a thought in your head and manipulate you because they think your mind is that malleable. Would you say that’s a common trait in a narcissist?

Lisa A. Romano: I believe that it is a common trait, but I don’t know how conscious that thought is in a lot of them. I think if you’re a psychopath, then, yeah, you’re doing that on purpose and you know it, like a Ted Bundy, right. He knew what he was doing. But I think the average, garden variety narcissist is just so up in their head that they think that they’re right, that this is the way they relate to the world. And so I don’t know if there’s unless they’re a psychopath, I don’t know that there’s that much thought. Like, “I‘m going to put that in their head and they’re going to believe me.” I think it’s more, “this is what I think. And I know I’m lying, but I don’t want her to know I’m lying. And I don’t want to have to say I’m sorry so I’m just going to stick to the story.”

A flying monkey is someone who’s being manipulated by the narcissist’s story

Sylvia Petro: So we did mention, flying monkeys. So can you define what a flying monkey is?

Lisa A. Romano: So the way I look at a flying monkey is someone who’s being manipulated by the narcissist story about you, and they believe it. So here they are. They’re engaging with the narcissist about the story about you. And unfortunately, they might become somebody in your inner circle that’s listening in on your conversations and reporting back to the narcissist. So they become part of the smear campaign. And lots of times they don’t even realize that they’ve become part of the smear campaign. But when they do, they can be just as mean and just as nasty as the narcissist because they’ve bought the narcissist story about you.

Sylvia Petro: Yeah. And oftentimes, these flying monkeys are people you once confided in. So unfortunately, they might already have material about the narcissist that you’ve already, discussed with them?

Lisa A. Romano: Correct. And they go back. Right. So they go back to the Narcissist. I had one client. She was actually a physician who was married to a surgeon who was highly narcissistic. And he was making flying monkeys out of the girls that worked for her in her office. And he was suggesting that she was fragile, she was very depressed and really laid it on thick about her mental health, which now these girls in the office think that they have to watch their boss for signs of, decline. And this is the way he was able to manipulate them into giving him her financial records. She’s spending a lot of money. We don’t know where her credit cards are, and we don’t know what she’s doing with her finances anymore. And so, here these flying monkeys are believing this narcissist story, and they are actually giving him information on the victim. And they are being completely used against her. And she didn’t even know it. So every time she had anything to say or she was frustrated, she was already being triangulated. The girls in the office assumed that was because she was on some mental decline and they were being used as flying monkeys. They were being triangulated, and they didn’t even realize it.

How do you cope with triangulation and with a narcissist in your life

Sylvia Petro: Okay, so what would you say are ways to cope with triangulation, with a narcissist in your life? Narcissistic, family members.

Lisa A. Romano: Again, it really does depend on the situation and how enmeshed everybody is. You might need some support from particular family members, so it might not be feasible for you to go completely no contact. But generally speaking, let’s say that you didn’t need these family members. If that’s the best case scenario, you don’t need them and you don’t live with them, that would be beautiful. But that’s not the case all the time.–But in that situation where you really don’t need them and you don’t live with them, in my opinion, fighting them. Is not going to work, because that just reinforces what the narcissist has conditioned them to believe. And so I use the term it sounds silly, but, I try to create terms that help people remember what they can do in a pinch, and it’s “shutty shutty.” In other words, like, you don’t give them any information because information will be ammunition.

Sylvia Petro: Yeah.

Lisa A. Romano: So if you can try to control yourself around them and go punch a pillow when no one’s looking, or go for a long jog, but any reaction that you have around someone who is triangulating you is going to be used against you. You want to appear as calm as possible. You can gray rock them, which is just very mundane answers. No real information. But once you see this situation, you really have to take an inventory of the people in your life that you can no longer trust. And once you’ve identified them–and I’ve done it all wrong.

That’s how I figured this out, was when I saw something was happening early on in my recovery, before I really understood the dynamics, I was angry. Like, “how could you go against me? What is wrong with you?” And what it ended up doing was it pushed the people that I was confronting back into a corner. I was very angry, and in their head, they just turned it on me. “Wow, you really are becoming unhinged. Wow, this really shouldn’t bother you.” And I thought, okay, no matter what I say, it’s being used against me. And so, what I did was I just slowly backed out and stopped going over there for holidays. It was just an absolute no until I got the main narcissist out of my life. And it took years before I was able to allow those people who were all part of that experience to come back into my life. And they walked on thin ice, let me tell you, they were on thin ice because I was ready to cut them at their knees. Get out of my life all over again. I wasn’t afraid anymore. Once I got the main narcissist out of my life and I got my sea legs back, I didn’t need these people.

Sylvia Petro: Yeah.

Lisa A. Romano: And so if you want to be a part of my life, we’re going to play nice in the sandbox, and if you’re going to be passive aggressive, you’re out of here. And so it took years for family members to be able to come back into my life, and I still hold a very strong boundary.

Sylvia Petro: Did the people who participated in the Triangulation recognize what they had done?

Lisa A. Romano: I would say, it was probably over seven years, eight years, nine years, my mother, before she passed, said to me, “I didn’t see it then.” And what my ex did was, like I said earlier, what he did was–while we were separated–he stopped paying the mortgage. And so, we were in fear of the house going into default. And he took all the credit cards away, so I had no source of income. My kids and I were living off whatever the hell was in the cabinets. That’s how angry he was that he was losing control. And we had an argument, and he left the house and he called my mother and he said, Listen, I think you should call her because she’s threatening to hurt herself, which never happened. This went on for quite some time. And one day my mom saw my best friend and said, “oh, how’s my daughter doing? Because so and so said that she was going to hurt herself.”

And my friend unleashed on my mom, and she said, “how dare you? Do you believed him? And by the way, did you ever call your daughter and ask her if that was the case?” And that’s when my mom started to realize that she had been pulled in. By him. But still, we didn’t have any conversations [until] so many years later where she said, “Lisa, I just didn’t see it.” It was many years later.

Family members sometimes believe the narcissist when they initiate triangulation

Sylvia Petro: Okay, so in dealing with triangulation, and family members believing the narcissist or the person who initiates the triangulation tactic, why do you believe it is that they believe that person? Is it a case of the squeaky wheel gets the grease because they’ve been maybe squeaking for a while? Or can it be other factors, such as just a person’s status in the family?

Lisa A. Romano: I think it’s many factors. I think it really does. I mean, the basic rules of play with triangulation: there’s an agenda; people are used as pawns to go against a victim. Those are the basic rules of play. But there can be many reasons why a flying monkey would believe someone who is engaging in triangulation. The narcissist could be very convincing. The narcissist could be very deceiving, very manipulative; their story can be seemed very genuine; they can come off caring; or they could be speaking to somebody who also enjoys putting someone else down and who also has high narcissistic traits, and together, they enjoy, the smear campaign against the target. So, I think there are many reasons why someone might believe someone who was highly narcissistic and who is trying to create flying monkeys out of people.

But in my case, in my personal case, and most often cases with my clients, the narcissist is very deceptive and comes off like they care when we’re talking about a smear campaign, it’s obvious to everybody that the narcissist does not care about their target. A little different.

Sylvia Petro: Yeah. And all those things you said. I think the interesting thing about researching this is how predictable it seems that human behavior is. It’s kind of sad and laughable. It’s that it’s not very unique or varied in researching this topic.

Lisa A. Romano: Well, that’s because we’re all living below the veil of consciousness and through ego defense mechanisms, and we’re under the illusion that we’re unique. It’s all an illusion.

Sylvia Petro: Wow. I’m glad I learned it eventually. And I hope listeners are taking this to heart, because one thing I’ve noticed is, it’s a cycle, and it can be common with families. And, I remember a coworker, for example, speaking about a scenario with her parents–that was about three years ago, and then it came around to me. And I just didn’t really think about her scenario at the time. So, we all need to be aware before we walk into certain things.

Lisa A. Romano: Well, I think what we do is–I think if you’re on the personal development path and you’re living, a conscious life, and you really try to live with integrity and you understand that it could be no other way, there is the ego. There are just so many ego defense mechanisms. And any one of us can fall into an ego defense mechanism unconsciously, be triggered, and not behave very well. And if we can hold ourselves accountable and walk with integrity, that’s half the battle right there, because then I’m not going to be reactive or be less reactive, and I’ll be able to actually acknowledge when unhealthy behaviors are happening in front of me. So, I think that’s important.

Lisa A. Romano says healthy narcissism can include acceptance of others

Sylvia Petro: And you mentioned humility in one of your videos, so that ties into that.

Lisa A. Romano: Sure. Yeah, because like I said, the one thing that has been of profound help for me is understanding the consciousness piece. That all human beings are far more subconscious than conscious. They just don’t know it. It’s laughable how we all think we’re far more conscious than we actually are and as you start to investigate self-awareness and self-accountability, and you learn to observe, you become the observer of the observed.

Sylvia Petro: Right.

Lisa A. Romano: So, it’s like, I’m observing how my mind is operating. So here I am in the observer seat and observing what’s happening in my mind and observing my emotions, observing my thoughts. It’s very humbling because there is so much inner work that we have to do to manage our own narcissism, because without any level of narcissism, then you have no sense of self. And so healthy narcissism is me saying. I know who I am, I know what my needs are, I know who I am separate from you. But it doesn’t mean that level of healthy narcissism isn’t, I don’t use that against you.

Sylvia Petro: Right.

So, somebody who has healthy narcissism can include you. They’re not going to try to control you. And they accept that maybe we don’t think the same way, and I don’t want to dominate you just because we think differently. Even if you want to leave me or you don’t want to be my friend anymore, you have that right. Whereas unhealthy narcissism, when someone doesn’t behave the way I think they should, I’m insulted. There’s this narcissistic injury. That wound gets triggered, and now I have to react to defend this wounded ego. Go ahead.

Sylvia Petro: Is it when it turns sociopathic that it becomes unhealthy? (Triangulation, spoken about above, is inherently sociopathic.)

Lisa A. Romano: Well, it doesn’t even have to go that far. It’s unhealthy when, first of all, we’re all going to make mistakes. We’re all going to have highly narcissistic moments where we’re upset; someone breaks up to us–“You’re the worst person in the world. I did everything for you. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. How dare you hurt me this way?” Which is all valid, and that’s fine. It’s okay to be hurt in those moments. We’re going to have those moments. But when we calm down, hopefully we get to a point where we realize that people are free to come and go into our lives and that nobody has to agree with us about everything, and that it’s not even healthy.

That the fact that other people don’t agree with us challenges us well, maybe I can learn something here. Or maybe that person can learn something here. So, it can become toxic at any point in time. It doesn’t necessarily have to be sociopathic. That’s an extreme end or a psychopathic. But the average person can be highly toxic without being a sociopath.

Sylvia Petro: Okay, so I want to thank you again for joining me. And, you have so much to teach. It’d be excellent if you’re able to elaborate a bit more, if you have time in the future. Where can listeners find more information about you?

Lisa A. Romano: Well, I’m on YouTube, so you can just search my name Lisa A. Romano, the breakthrough life coach, and you can go to my website at I also have my own podcast called Breakdown to Breakthrough. I’m one of the most listened to meditation teachers on Insight Timer. I’m on Facebook. I’m on Instagram. I’m on TikTok. You can find me just about anywhere.

Sylvia Petro: Well, thank you so much again for your time. And thank you for enlightening my listeners today.

Lisa A. Romano: Well, thank you for the invitation. I appreciate it. Keep doing what you’re doing. Thank you.

Many of us make allowances for family members that we would never make for others

Sylvia Petro: I’ll end this episode with these final words. Many of us make allowances for family members that we would never make for others. We tolerate far more with family dig after dig, exaggerated or twisted, story after twisted, inaccurate story or blatant lie. We keep dragging them around year after year. And by doing that, you keep getting dragged down into petty squabbles and set back. Family can be far more dangerous to you and your life path than that boyfriend or partner that you dumped at the first red flag. By giving family decades of your time, you give them too much influence over your mind. And in an unhealthy family system, that time investment leaves you susceptible to poor judgment. At this point in my life, I believe people shouldn’t make allowances for anyone, regardless of who they are.

Social and cultural programming makes us believe and do things regarding family–but what do we actually feel? And what have you observed about your family? The behaviors discussed in this episode are common and well-studied. If you have not experienced it either as a target or as a recruited flying monkey, you will know someone who has. And because we make exceptions for family, this toxic relationship pattern might just come around to you someday. It’s a cycle, and it won’t stop until you recognize it and get off the hamster wheel. Take the advice of Miss Romano and many others in her field. Free yourself to pursue a full and happy life.

That’s it for this episode. Thank you for listening and stay strong and well.

More about Lisa A. Romano

12 Week Coaching Program

Podcast: Break Down to Break Through

YouTube: @lisaaromano1

Facebook: Lisa A. Romano Breakthrough Life Coach

Instagram: @lisaaromano

Twitter: @lisaaromano1

Pinterest: @lisaaromano

As an athlete for over 21 years and a broke single mom for most of that time, I created, now, to aid anyone who believes the road to fitness requires a lot of cash or time. In reality, the way to fitness is paved with knowledge and firm principles; teaching readers how to master both is the goal of this site. LLAFIT - Lifelong Applied Fitness

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