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Another factor that could be throwing your hormones out of whack is excess body fat. Then begin to lengthen your inhalations gradually, too. This may work better than a cup of coffee to get you going again. Sit comfortably, eyes closed. Three-part breathing is breathing all air out, then filling the belly, rib cage, and collarbone area before breathing out again. Find a comfortable seated position. While breathing in through your nose, count, one, one, one? until the lungs are full of fresh air. breathing out, count, two, two, two, two? until the lungs are empty of fresh air. Then while breathing in again count, three, three, three, three, three? When we mention narcissists, we are talking about malignant narcissists. Psychoanalyst Erich Fromm developed the concept in his article, The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil, distinguished malignant narcissism from benign narcissism, pointing out that malignant narcissists judge their self-worth based on special intrinsic qualities they believe they possess. As a result, they have no reason to look for external validation. This allows their narcissism to grow like cancer, hence Fromm called it malignant. In such a situation, the malignant narcissist sees no reason to make an effort with other people, even those close to them. After all, their greatness speaks for itself and how dare you not recognize it? That belief, which is not predicated upon anything more concrete than their own opinion, leads the malignant narcissist into greater isolation and more overt narcissistic displays to protect themselves from being exposed to the world, and to themselves, like the empty shell they truly are. This places malignant narcissism on a spectrum with sociopathy and psychopathy in that they all tend to be deceitful, manipulative abusers with a marked lack of empathy. Malignant Narcissism and Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome

Malignant Narcissism, arising as it does from an intrinsic sense of personal worth and not from anything external and so often connected with the traits identified by Kernberg, tends to lead the malignant narcissist into abusive relationships with those around them. That's because body fat actually produces hormones; key among these are cytokines, which contribute to inflammation. Inflammation is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. It also contributes to obesity. Another way excess body fat can disrupt your hormonal balance is by storing estrogen. Fortunately, you can reduce excess body fat with a healthy eating plan, as well as exercise, sleep, and stress relief--all key components of weight loss. Now that you've seen how stress and diet affect your hormonal balance, we can move on to the next article to consider specifically how to balance your all-important sex hormones. My patient Mandy was suffering from perimenopausal symptoms: menstrual cramps, hot flashes, weight gain, and nonstop irritability. I worked with her to change her diet--removing sugar, dairy, and gluten (you'll find out why in articles 4 and 5) and making sure she ate more protein--and bumped up her exercise a bit more. I also suggested she use over-the-counter progesterone cream to improve her hormonal balance. until the lungs are full again and while breathing out count, four, four, four, four? until the lungs are empty of fresh air. This exercise has two phases: just breathing and just sitting. Once you are good at following your breath, you can practice becoming your breath. Merge yourself completely with the inhalations and exhalations. It does not matter how you breathe, deep or short breaths. The point is the breathing itself, not how you do the breathing. You as a separate observer disappear and only your breath remains. Your breath is breathing you.

Just sitting involves expanding to include all sense experiences--seeing, smelling, hearing, thinking, touch. This tends to lead to Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome (NAS) in those closest to the narcissist. A form of post-traumatic stress disorder, NAS is comprised of a group of symptoms and behaviors that serve to keep the victim enmeshed in the narcissistic abuse and with the abuser. That is what we'll be exploring here: What is narcissistic abuse syndrome, it's causes, signs, and effects, and how both the narcissist and the victims of narcissistic abuse can break out of it. Before diving into the diagnostic criteria that separate the malignant narcissist from the rest of the pack, let's take a look at someone who could fit that description. Having started his career as a salesman, David is now the proud publisher of a fairly successful niche banking magazine that was started by his late father. David is in his fifties with a family. He employs an editor and a graphic artist, accomplished people who he keeps a very close eye on. So far, it's a pretty normal scenario. David's pride in his position as a magazine publisher is very intense. He took over the business knowing that he deserved it and that he was going to grow it well beyond what his father accomplished. The results were immediate--and amazing. Mandy's cramps disappeared, she no longer had any hot flashes, she lost weight, her sex life improved, and she generally felt calmer. She also began thinking seriously about a career change she had long considered but had never found the courage to make. I think I'm finally ready, she told me on our last visit. It's time. I loved seeing how resolving the hormonal imbalance had freed Mandy to become braver and clearer about the path that was right for her. Aging can bring wisdom, especially when we can clear away the distracting symptoms of perimenopause and menopause! In the previous article we saw how balancing stress hormones, thyroid hormone, and insulin are crucial to creating overall hormonal balance. Now let's zero in on sex hormones and learn how to balance them.

Two of the major hormones that shape your sexual feelings and your sexual identity are estrogen and progesterone. Instead of being aware or mindful of these, you disappear and only the experience remains. Just sitting creates a calm and balanced state from which fresh ideas are more likely to arise. Say, Breathing in, I calm my anger. Then, Breathing out, I take care of my anger. By doing this, you make your mind happy and at peace. You may need time to calm your anger, so stay with this as long as it takes to reach a point of equanimity. As your concentration deepens, you can proceed to train the mind toward full concentration. The joy you experience when you are practicing generosity and morality gives rise to the happiness of concentration. The Buddha called this purity of mind. When the mind is steady and one-pointed, there is a quality of inner peace and stillness that is much deeper and more fulfilling than the happiness of sense pleasures. David is so invested in that goal and in his belief that he is somehow anointed, he doesn't care what he has to do to make that happen. At industry events, he makes sure that he's the center of attention, collecting the accolades and compliments of the bankers who advertise with him, and always looking the part of the highly successful publisher. David and his wife are the only ones who ever go to these events, though he often tells his employees that they should go to get to know the people they're covering. He is also in the habit of second-guessing the professionals that work under him and often berates them for the smallest things, frequently redoing projects that he does not feel meet his standards. It happens so often that he has trouble keeping people, they often find themselves asking why he bothered hiring them. If you ask these employees how it feels to work for David, they would answer with words like suffocating, demeaning, frustrating, or even toxic. Mostly, they just feel like tools. At home, this self-centered behavior continues. The worth of his wife and kids comes from what they can do for him, or his magazine, and how they reflect upon him.

Their concerns are strictly secondary, and he tends to address them only when it would somehow benefit him. Two others, believe it or not, are testosterone--usually thought of as a male hormone--and DHEA, which is responsible for vitality, energy, and a sense of well-being. When these four hormones are in balance, everything works well: your menstrual cycle, your transition into perimenopause, your sex life, and your feelings of sensuality and pleasure. When these four hormones are out of balance, you're far more likely to struggle in all those areas. It's nearly impossible to make progress with these four hormones if your stress hormones and insulin levels are not in balance, so if you're facing challenges with PMS, painful periods, perimenopause, sexuality, or sensuality, you'll want to address them, too. It's not quite accurate to call these female hormones because men have them, too, while women have their share of testosterone, the so-called male hormone. We women need testosterone for our sex drive and motivation as well as for energy and to build muscle mass. It's therefore a central part of our female identity, and we'll be looking at it more closely below. However, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and the transition into perimenopause and beyond are governed largely by estrogen and progesterone, the section leaders of this part of the hormonal symphony. A healthy menstrual cycle lasts approximately 28 days but it can vary quite a bit. On the first of the 28 days, estrogen levels begin to increase and rise gradually for two weeks, peaking midcycle. You enjoy sense pleasures, like eating candy, but at a certain point you tire of them. By contrast, the happiness that comes with concentration of mind is refreshing. It energizes you. You never tire of it. Sit quietly. Know you are breathing in. Know you are breathing out. Be aware of a judgment thought within you. Maybe you are asking yourself why someone is dressed the way they are.