Rachel Graham

What is covert narcissist abuse? Are children who are raised by covert parenting groomed and doomed for a life of abuse?

Narcissists and narcissism, words are thrown around without much thought, a blanket label for inappropriate behavior.  Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a cluster B personality disorder in the DSM-5 and is defined as having a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, the constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy and must meet 5 of these nine criteria.

  1. A grandiose sense of self-importance
  2. A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  3. A belief that he/she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with other special or high-status people or institutions
  4. A need for excessive admiration
  5. A sense of entitlement
  6. Interpersonally exploitive behavior
  7. A lack of empathy
  8. Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him/her
  9. A demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes

For a narcissist, there might be problems occurring in these two or more areas:

  • Identity
  • Self-acceptance
  • Empathy
  • Intimacy

Narcissistic behavior can be overt or covert.  An overt narcissist has behaviors that are easily recognized by others.  Covert Narcissistic behaviors are more subtle and often less obvious.  A covert narcissist may present as self-effacing or withdrawn and it’s thought to be caused by genetics, childhood traumatic abuse or events, emotional unavailability of caregivers, and personality and temperament. 

What are some signs used to identify a covert narcissist?

Passive self-importance— a covert narcissist craves admiration and might give back-handed compliments, or minimize their accomplishments or talents to encourage caring people to reassure and praise them.

Blame and shame— Covert narcissists employ a gentler approach to explain why things are your fault and why they are not to blame.  They may play the victim or engage in emotional abuse to put themselves in a position to receive reassurance and praise.

Confusion— Covert narcissists take pleasure in creating confusion, gaslighting, creating doubt, and causing their victims to second guess themselves.

Procrastination and disregard—Covert narcissists will do whatever is needed to keep the focus and attention on themselves and they tend to target caring and compassionate people who are easily manipulated.  The covert narcissist wants you to feel like your time and interests are not as important as their own, making you feel small and unimportant.

Giving with strings attached— a covert narcissist might look like they are compassionate and giving but their behavior is motivated by what they want in return.

The emotionally neglectful—The covert narcissist is incapable of developing and nurturing emotional bonds.  Although a covert narcissist looks emotionally accessible, their behavior tends to be performative, with an intent to exploit the person, leaving them feeling small and disregarded through blame and shame.

If you have a covert narcissist in your life, there are some things you can do to protect yourself against their emotional abuse:

  • Avoid taking anything the covert narcissist does or says personally.  Understand their behavior is meant to manipulate you into doing what they want you to do, with little to no regard for how it may impact you. They need a “narcissistic supply” from those around them to feel validated.
  • Set boundaries that communicate your values so the covert narcissist cannot exploit and manipulate you as a means to an end for their goals. This can often mean having zero contact.
  • Advocate for yourself- When dealing with a narcissist, it is easy to lose your voice.  Tune in to yourself, your goals, and your talents as a way to strengthen your relationship with yourself.
  • Create a healthy distance from enmeshment- The goal of creating space is not to hurt the covert narcissist but to protect yourself from harmful interactions.

How being raised by a covert narcissist may lead to a lifetime of abuse:

  • It is a societal belief that parents want what’s best for their children. The covert narcissist relies on this cultural assumption as a way of hiding abuse and neglect, gaslighting their children by stressing their ‘loving’ parent persona.
  • The covert narcissist works hard to cultivate a caring, principled, devoted, and self-sacrificing image, using their children as a scapegoat for all that is negative.
  • The covert narcissist is prone to hostile attacks camouflaged by a slip of the tongue, sarcasm, or false concern which for a child can feel like death by a thousand cuts.
  • The covert narcissist always plays the victim, so they don’t have to take responsibility, instead of receiving sympathy for the ways they are neglected, disappointed, or harmed by others.
  • Plausible deniability is used by the covert narcissist as a direct form of manipulation such as dismissal, gaslighting, minimizing, and triangulation.
  • Covert narcissists make themselves look good by comparison to others, appearing more reasonable, selfless, and easygoing often by playing up the long-suffering martyr routine.
  • Covert narcissistic parents exert ongoing control by offering the child the validation, attention, praise, and gifts they crave, creating a confusing I love you/I hate you dynamic.

Groomed from infancy to accept the unacceptable and cruel behavior, children often blame themselves for the failure in their parental relationships. When we finally understand that we don’t have to ‘win’ a parent’s love, we realize that we have lived our entire lives without that love, surviving solely through our own resiliency.  It is not that we are unlovable, instead, our parent’s profound impairment may come from their own unresolved trauma. Narcissism is hard to treat clinically because by definition the narcissist does not see a reason to change. Narcissists are incapable of having deeply authentic, intimate, vulnerable, and healthy relationships. If you are expecting these things from the narcissists it is similar to asking them to speak Greek to you when they have never been exposed to or understood the Greek language. You will be consistently disappointed expecting them to have a skill they do not.

Healing from the covert narcissistic abuse takes learning to trust ourselves after years of gaslighting.  For recovery, we must distance or in some cases eliminate the relationship to gain our own trust and disavow the pervasive self-doubt and blame we were brainwashed with as children.  For more information on mental health topics visit Evolve and Transform, where Rachel Graham shares her own experiences and invites others to do so as well.

Do you know the origin of your autoimmune disease? How has your body kept the score for your trauma?

Dr. Bessel van der Kolk writes in his 2014 book “The Body Keeps the Score”, he explains how trauma is relived in the body long after the traumatic event is experienced. His research shows how these bodily symptoms show up in the way a person sits or breaths, the way they hold themselves, their sleep patterns, and their overall digestion. 

In his work “The body keeps the score,” van der Kolk focuses on traumatic stress as the root of neuroscience. Traumatic stress changes the functional, chemical, and emotional function of the brain, specifically the limbic area and brain stem. The hyperactive status of the amygdala triggers the release of stress hormones and hinders the hippocampus function, causing traumatic memories to remain vivid. When the prefrontal lob function is deactivated due to stress, there is a decline in the ability to balance the stress hormone, which causes panic, agitation, and hypervigilant responses. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk explains, “If a child grows up having to deal with the rage of their parents, they will learn to stifle their own anger and desire to retaliate against those that have hurt them. While for survival, they get good at monitoring the moods of others, they also become very still and quiet so as not to open themselves up to the anger or retaliation of their parents. How might trauma show up in the bodies of these children? Traumatized people tend to have bodies that are hyper-alert, responding to breath and touch by flinching and bristling at contact, they might also shut down and become numb.

What happens to the physiology of the brain when trauma is experienced?

Have you heard the term fight or flight? As humans, we are equipped with automatic responses that help us survive. When a person feels stressed or experiences a traumatic event, the body discharges chemicals called cortisol and adrenaline to help the body have what it needs to either fight or flee. This is the body’s automatic reaction to stress and trauma, and it is beyond our control.

Changes the body may go through when stress and trauma are present:

  1. Feeling dead inside or lacking interest in things you once loved.
  2. Feeling the need to fight against the perpetrators of the traumatic event.
  3. Fleeing from the situation that causes stress or the traumatic event.

Dr. van der kolk goes on to say that bodily and brain changes from emotional and physical trauma can be present long after the event(s) and can influence one’s psyche and body, including thoughts, and feelings. 

Common symptoms of trauma might include:

  • Flashbacks of the traumatic event where the body doesn’t recognize the time-space continuum and behaves as though the event is happening now
  • Unexplained feelings of anxiety or feelings of dread.
  • Splitting where your brain and body separate as a psychological mechanism to tolerate difficult and overwhelming situations. This makes it easier to manage the emotions that they are feeling, which on the surface seem to be contradictory.
  • Disassociation is the way your brain manages overwhelming pressure
  • Hyperarousal shows up with feeling restless, nervous, and the inability to relax
  • Insomnia is often a symptom of trauma where a person may feel that the unconscious state of sleep is unsafe 

The immune system is sensitive to stress with the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol has the most influence over your immune system and its general purpose is to balance the immune function. When stress is severe or prolonged, the cortisol control over the immune system can be permanently impaired, which leads to increased inflammation. Inflammation is linked to a range of diseases and disorders, including autoimmune disease, heart disease, and diabetes.

When stress is pervasive, prolonged, and extreme, the body reacts by resisting the production or effects of cortisol which causes inflammation. Increased inflammation, changes in gut microflora, and a genetic predisposition can lead to autoimmune diseases. 

Below are a few autoimmune diseases that have been directly related to stress and trauma:

  • Type 1 diabetes affects the pancreas and insulin which can damage blood vessels and organs like the heart, kidney, eyes, and nerves.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is when the immune system attacks the joints.
  • Psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis when skin cells develop too quickly, creating inflamed and itchy red patches
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)- Chron’s disease and Ulcerative colitis
  • Addison’s disease affects the adrenal glands with symptoms of weakness, fatigue, weight loss, and low blood sugar.
  • Graves or Hashimoto’s disease both attacks the thyroid and can cause symptoms of bulging eyes and weight gain, sensitivity to cold, fatigue, and hair loss, respectively.
  • Lichen Planopilaris (LPP) a rising autoimmune disorder that affects the hair follicles causing permanent hair loss.

Understanding the correlation between trauma and its effect on the body paves the way for new treatments for emotional unwellness. Rachel Graham shares her trauma story and its relationship with an autoimmune disease to normalize the mental health discussion. Contact her today.

Have you ever wondered why people lie? Does it have anything to do with a lack of integrity?

Lying can be hereditary, Pseudopodia fantastica is an extreme form of lying that has a strong genetic component. Pathological lying can also be a symptom of mental illness. Regardless of the reason, people can become so used to lying, there doesn’t need to be a reason. When lies are so blatant, it makes one wonder why the unnecessary deception. Trying to make sense of the senseless, it takes looking at the lies through the liars’ eyes.

Obviously, the lie means something to the liar, even when it seems so senseless. People may lie because the lie is crucially important to them, even though it may seem inconsequential to others. Be curious to understand the importance of what they are saying with questions like, why is this so important to you?

Some may feel that telling the truth is in a sense, giving up control. By creating their own reality through lies, they feel more in control of situations where the truth might not fit with their own narrative.

People who lie often feel as though they need to lie to feel respected, liked, and valued and they are worried that the truth might lead to rejection or shame.

Lies are not a one-and-done thing. One lie most often leads to more to support and cover up the initial lie. It is almost impossible to admit to a lie, doing so would create the fall of the house of cards and result in future distrust.

There is always the possibility that the lie doesn’t feel like a lie to the teller. Sometimes, there is such ‘buy in’ to the story we tell ourselves that it becomes our truth and not a lie.

Alternate facts are a real part of today’s environment making it increasingly difficult to decipher the truth from the desire of what we want the truth to be.

By default, humans are honest and tell the truth most of the time. To function effectively in the world, we need to be able to rely on the honesty of others.

Now that we understand why people lie, we can ask the question of whether lying has anything to do with a person’s integrity. Though the word integrity is talked about liberally, do we really understand the meaning? Integrity means doing the right thing even when no one is looking. How does integrity show up in our daily lives? Examples of integrity are:

  • Returning money that does not belong to us, either money that you found laying on the ground or returning the incorrect change given to you after a purchase.
  • Admitting and taking responsibility when your behavior has not been on par with your best self.
  • Giving credit to a team member at work, in life, or on the field instead of focusing on your own contributions.
  • Focusing on finding solutions to challenges instead of pointing fingers or finding fault and blame in someone.
  • Respecting and honoring others time
  • Living from the place of good intentions when things are unclear instead of judging others by filling in the blanks with our narrative
  • Being of service to others

Integrity is a behavior-based virtue, meaning we are not born with or without it. Living in integrity takes a decision to do the right thing and is practiced in everyday life. Rachel Graham talks about finding your life purpose through exploration of what matters and includes living in integrity.

Follow and learn more about Rachel’s personal journey; how lies have shown up for her in her life and how she has chosen to live with integrity.

Unity is a balance or order, harmony, and justice within us and humanity as a whole

“Unity is the highest value.  From it, everything comes and to it everything returns.”- David Wared, healer and philosopher

All living beings are born into unity – animals, plants, and earth originate in unity.  There are innumerable facets for multiplicity and diversity while remaining united.  When we are united, we are all one.

In today’s environment, humans seem to have forgotten the essence of unity, thinking it absurd.  We as a society these days, feel the lack of deep and loving connections. In contrast, we feel more separated, where differences are stressed, and we fight to be better and more important than our fellow man.  This competition reinforces our experience of human separation and lack of unity.

You might have asked yourself, is this what my life is all about?  Often this inner searching is the beginning of your own personal journey.  This soul-searching journey may be spurred by your longing to feel connected.  It is within this search that you might recognize your desire for interconnectedness and belonging.  You may feel a desire to rebirth the feeling to be a part of the whole, that there is something bigger than yourself.

The journey brings your unconscious to consciousness within you and you feel complete and whole. No longer a fragmented piece of the whole.  This is the foundation of non-duality. Deep joy, bliss, gratitude and humility, clarity, creativity, and strength will unfold within you as you recognize we are interconnected and part of a greater whole.

Feeling united and connected starts from within, start now by following these steps to feel more connected to your inner self.

  • Notice your mind body connection. We often feel our feelings before we undersand them. Think about time you were anxious and it took you a minute to figure out why. The way to get there is to be still, be present, be honest with yourself and be willing to make changes.
  • Take the time to put your feelings into words.  By vocalizing your feelings, you are aware enough to describe them and in doing so, you are honoring your feelings instead of ignoring them.
  • Take the time to get to know yourself by spending quality time with yourself.  These days, we tend to put ourselves on the back burner without really connecting to our inner needs and feelings. We live with constant distractions.
  • Be mindful of practicing unapologetic compassion for yourself.  Connecting to yourself is a daily practice that includes focusing on your feelings, letting go of all judgment, and being kind.

As you focus on connecting with yourself on a daily basis, you may feel yourself becoming more united to the ‘greater whole’.  Follow Rachel Graham as she shares her journey of self-discovery, connectedness, and unity.

Personal Empowerment — What It Is? And How Can You Manifest It For Yourself?

Personal empowerment is all about taking control of what you want for your life.  Empowerment closely relates to self-esteem and self-confidence and is manifested when your intention is transformed into an action. Ultimately it means believing in yourself and permitting yourself to succeed.

“We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.” —Steve Maraboli

To achieve self-empowerment, you must first know yourself. Developing self-awareness so you can take charge of your emotions and actions. Your locus of control, where you believe that you have control of your own destiny and know how external forces affect your outcomes. Understanding what you have control over and how outside influences affect you, helps to enable your sense of responsibility for your own positive mindset.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.” —Henry Ford

Identifying aspects of your life where you are unhappy or out of control offers areas for which you can create empowerment goals.  The first step is to focus on the areas that mean the most to you, create smart goals with action plans of attainable milestones as a pathway to achieve them.  Your personal empowerment increases when positive benchmarks towards those goals are met.

Achieve personal empowerment by focusing on what you can control in your life; your hope, attitude, drive, willingness to learn and grow, and your commitment to growth and empowered mindset.

  • Hope— you alone have the power to find what is possible for yourself.  The more you are open to all possibilities, the more creative you become, and your world opens up for you to create and succeed.
  • Attitude— things will happen that are out of your control, that’s life. The trick is aligning your authentic self with how you handle what life throws your way.  Remaining true to your values and what you stand for in response to adversity increases your personal empowerment.
  • Drive—stay focused on your own goals without comparing or becoming distracted by what others are doing. Your actions follow your thoughts so trust yourself to know that you have what it takes to achieve your goals.
  • Learn and grow— remain curious about life and actively look for ways to learn and grow.  With a pro-active, dynamic, and engaged attitude, you will experience more success than those that don’t.  Science shows that continual learning strengthens your brain, which like muscles, your brain has the same ‘use it or lose it’ principles.
  • Mindset— having a growth mindset can be the one biggest thing that sets you up for success.  It means that you believe you have ability to influent the outcome with your actions.  A growth mindset increases resiliency, your belief in yourself, and your knowledge that you are a force for positive change.

Rachel Graham founded Evolve and Transform to encourage you to discover your personal meaning and purpose, achieving an ultimate level of personal empowerment. Contact Rachel today to learn how she helps others find a healthy, balanced lifestyle where success and optimal performance follow in everything you do.

How Secrets Make us Sick and Deprive us of a Purposeful Life

Columbia Business School Research Supports the Fact That Keeping Secrets is Harmful to Your Health and Wellbeing 

Researchers Slepian, Mason, and Jinseok Chun, in the article entitled “Keeping Secrets Is Harmful to Your Health,” report that secrets can hurt and destroy relationships and can negatively impact your overall health. 

What happens in the dark comes out in the light”- Rachel Graham

In Rachel Graham’s Tedx talk, Secrets: Unlocking Your Lockbox to Live a More Joyful Life, she asks you to imagine a box with a lock on it where inside are the secrets that you keep. Rachel shares how those secrets hold you back from living a joyful and purposeful life. There are at least nine types of secrets that most people keep. Examples of these secrets are:

  1. Emotional infidelity
  2. Extra relational thoughts
  3. Sexual behavior
  4. Lies that create an alternate reality
  5. Romantic desires
  6. Violation of trust
  7. Ambition or goals
  8. Family details
  9. Financial 

While sometimes keeping a secret is helpful to avoid pain or social exclusion, there are downsides to keeping secrets. Research reveals that the mere thought of a secret kept may be harmful when one mentally revisits past transgressions creating a decreased sense of well-being. The harm presents itself each time the secret is remembered, masking a part of ourselves in inauthenticity.

Secret keepers dwell on their secrets and ruminating on them is what makes them unhealthy. The energy expended thinking about and dwelling on the secret takes a toll on a person’s focus which results in a detrimental effect on their life.

A woman suffered from a hard life when her mom died shortly after her birth and was then abandoned by her father as a toddler. This woman kept her traumas secret her entire life. 

Living a sad life, her secrets accelerated her aging and when she died at age 50, she looked and behaved as if she were 90 years old.

Why do people keep secrets? Secrets are kept for these reasons:

  1. Fear of judgment
  2. Fear of rejection
  3. Feelings of shame
  4. The negative impact of secrets on others

In 12-Step Programs, it is said, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” People are encouraged to be honest about the things they’ve done, this way the shame of keeping secrets does not continue to drive them to self-medicate away their pain with drugs and alcohol. 

The fear that the secret could place a relationship at risk, or lose it entirely, motivates the silence. Studies show that keeping thoughts, feelings, and actions secret causes relationships to deteriorate. Secret keepers are preoccupied with their secrets diverting the focus from the relationship to the secrets trapped inside them.

Secrets can be kept for decades and over time, across generations. Secrets can be from childhood trauma or real-time experiences. Secrets lead to lies and dishonesty. The real problem in keeping a secret is the energy expended thinking about it. A secret that comes to mind repeatedly can be exhausting. Constantly thinking about your secrets can create feelings of isolation.

If keeping secrets makes you feel isolated and alone, how does confiding your secrets to another differ? Research shows when a person confides a secret to another, it reduces the amount of energy, thinking about them in irrelevant moments. When you unpack your lockbox of secrets, you start to live a congruent life where your actions, thoughts, and words go together. When you look inside your box of secrets you realize that your fears are unfounded, you are free from resistance and lack of personal acceptance, and you attract other people who have done their work of unpacking their box of secrets.

The act of confiding a secret can feel cathartic and relieving. The conversation that follows the secret reveal, often includes emotional support, guidance, and advice. With support, people generally find healthier ways of thinking, ruminate less, and have a sense of overall well-being. A single conversation can lead to a healthier outlook and general peace of mind.

One good conversation can shift the direction of change forever.”- Linda Lambert

Start today and contact Rachel  to learn firsthand how you can unlock your lockbox of secrets and live a more purposeful life.

Rachel H. Graham of Evolve and Transform Announces the Release of her TEDxTaraBlvd Talk

 ALLEN, TX, March 04, 2021 /24-7PressRelease/ — Rachel H. Graham recently spoke at the TEDxTaraBlvd, event in Jonesboro, GA, held on February 22, 2021. The TEDx Talk, Secrets: Unpacking Your Lock Box to Live A More Joyful Life has recently been released for the public to enjoy.

“I am excited to share my second official TEDx talk with TEDxTaraBlvd. This incredible opportunity has given me the ability to use my voice to empower and create meaning and purpose in so many lives,” said Rachel H. Graham, CEO and Founder of Evolve and Transform, and CEO and Co-founder of Healing Springs Ranch.

Graham’s talk focuses on the half-truths we tell others and ourselves; the secrets we keep hidden in our “lockbox” and the power that comes from unpacking what’s inside. This TEDx talk was filmed in Beavers Bend State Park by the incredibly talented Jason Ward Photography.

“When I heard Rachel’s idea, I knew her perspective of the new essential was highly relatable and transformational. What she and her team did to add context and layering of the idea through filming was sheer genius and an unforgettable delight,” said Dena Wiggins, curator, and organizer of TEDxTaraBlvd.

The independently organized event, licensed by TED, featured local voices and TED Talks videos under the theme: The New Essential from Multiple Perspectives.

Like many communities, the TEDxTaraBlvd community experienced unprecedented change, ambiguity, and uncertainty individually, in community, and as a part of our evolving humanity. Small communities made and continue to make pivots from the point of the new essential. Humanity witnessed overnight shifts about what is essential in the light of now. What is the new essential– the lasting big ideas that we take with us as we rebuild? The Tara Blvd community is no stranger to change, rebuilding, reinvention, and rebirth.

About TEDx, x = independently organized event
Tedx was born out of a desire to spread ideas within communities. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.)

About TED
TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas from inspired thinkers, often in the form of short talks. Many of these talks are given at TED conferences, intimate TED Salons and thousands of independently organized TEDx events around the world. Videos of these talks are made available, free, on TED.com and other platforms. Audio versions of TED Talks are published to TED Talks Daily, available on all podcast platforms.

TED’s open and free initiatives for spreading ideas include TED.com, where new TED Talk videos are posted daily; TEDx, which licenses thousands of individuals and groups to host local, self-organized TED-style events around the world; the TED Fellows program, which selects innovators from around the globe to amplify the impact of their remarkable projects and activities; The Audacious Project, which surfaces and funds critical ideas that have the potential to impact millions of lives; TED Translators, which crowdsources the subtitling of TED Talks so that big ideas can spread across languages and borders; and the educational initiative TED-Ed. TED also offers TED@Work, a program that reimagines TED Talks for workplace learning. TED also has a growing library of original podcasts, including The TED Interview with Chris Anderson, WorkLife with Adam Grant, Pindrop and TEDxSHORTS.

Follow TED on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and on LinkedIn.

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