Unmasking Workplace Narcissism: Shedding Light on a Toxic Reality

Is narcissistic abuse at work the next MeToo movement? If HR departments don’t start paying attention, it will be.

(Previously published on Medium.com)

Lockdown changed our lives in ways we never anticipated. It forced us to confront our thoughts and feelings, exposing the toxic dynamics we may have endured in our workplaces. As employees refused to return to abusive bosses and inadequate pay post-lockdown, it became evident that a power shift was occurring. Yet, despite the growing awareness of narcissistic abuse at work, companies have failed to protect their employees. One might even wonder if there’s an incentive for companies to turn a blind eye to the issue.

Before the MeToo movement gained momentum, there was an economic incentive for companies to turn a blind eye to workplace sexual misconduct. The fear of damaging their reputation, losing high-profile clients, or facing costly legal battles often outweighed the urgency to protect victims. This may be why some companies are slow to react to workplace narcissistic abuse, as they prioritize short-term interests over the long-term well-being of their employees.

However, the landscape is shifting. The MeToo movement brought significant cultural and legal changes, making it clear that companies can no longer ignore workplace abuse without consequences. As awareness grows and survivors of narcissistic abuse find their voices, the pressure on companies to address these issues intensifies.

To understand narcissistic abuse, we must first recognize its tactics and how abusers operate. These individuals often select a scapegoat — a target who becomes the focal point of their abuse. They manipulate and exploit their power to control, demean, and belittle their chosen victim. However, their tactics don’t stop there. Abusers strategically pull others into the web of abuse, creating an environment where everyone reinforces their toxic behavior.

Signs and symptoms of narcissistic abuse can be subtle yet deeply damaging. Victims may experience a constant sense of anxiety, depression, and a pervasive feeling of being trapped. They may question their own worth, intelligence, and abilities due to the abuser’s relentless gaslighting and manipulation. Over time, the cumulative effects of narcissistic abuse can lead to long-term PTSD, leaving victims emotionally and psychologically scarred without even understanding the source of their pain.

Let’s consider a case study to illustrate the impact of narcissistic abuse at work. Meet Sarah, a talented marketing professional who joined a thriving advertising agency. At first, she was excited about her role, hoping to contribute her skills to the company’s success. However, she soon found herself targeted by her boss, David, a narcissistic individual who thrived on power and control.

David singled out Sarah as his scapegoat, constantly criticizing her work, belittling her in meetings, and sabotaging her projects. He strategically manipulated others in the workplace, turning them against Sarah and creating a hostile work environment. The abuse escalated, and Sarah began experiencing debilitating anxiety and depression. Her performance suffered, and she started questioning her abilities and self-worth.

Fortunately, Sarah eventually recognized the signs of narcissistic abuse and sought help. She reached out to a therapist who specialized in trauma recovery and underwent eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. Through this process, Sarah began to heal from the emotional wounds inflicted by her abusive boss.

With the support of her therapist, Sarah developed strategies to regain her power and assert boundaries. She documented instances of abuse, sought advice from trusted colleagues, and gathered evidence to protect herself. Eventually, Sarah found the strength to confront David and report his abusive behavior to the human resources department.

While the road to recovery was challenging, Sarah’s determination and the support she received helped her escape the cycle of narcissistic abuse. Over time, her anxiety and depression subsided, and she regained confidence in her abilities. Sarah’s story serves as a powerful reminder that victims of narcissistic abuse can find healing and reclaim their lives.

The prevalence of narcissistic abuse at work raises concerns about the lack of action taken by companies to protect their employees. It is crucial for organizations to prioritize the emotional well-being and safety of their staff. Implementing clear policies against workplace abuse, providing training to managers on recognizing and addressing abusive behavior, and creating support systems for victims are vital steps companies must take.

Additionally, raising awareness about narcissistic abuse is essential. By understanding the signs and symptoms, victims can identify the abuse they’re experiencing and seek help. It’s important to remember that no one deserves to endure such mistreatment, and there are resources available for support.

Companies not only have a moral responsibility to address workplace abuse, but they also have a potential legal and economic incentive to do so. Just as those who once turned a blind eye to workplace sexual harassment faced serious legal issues in the wake of the MeToo movement, companies that fail to address narcissistic abuse could face similar consequences.

To avoid legal and reputational risks, companies must take proactive measures to create safe and healthy work environments. They should establish clear policies against workplace abuse, provide comprehensive training to managers and employees, and implement robust reporting and investigation procedures. Furthermore, fostering a culture of respect, empathy, and accountability can help prevent and address narcissistic abuse effectively.

It is imperative for organizations to learn from the lessons of the MeToo movement and take decisive action to address and prevent narcissistic abuse, ensuring that the workplace becomes a space free from manipulation, exploitation, and emotional harm.”

© Amy Punt, Punt On Point Media, Inc. 2023

My Friends May All Be My Mother

When I first saw this photo I thought it was a picture of a mother and her small daughter on a merry-go-round. Once I looked more closely I realized the two might be sisters, or friends. And it made me understand that we often see our mothers, or our sisters, in our potential friends. Like a holograph that shifts in the light, the image of our friend fluctuates to mother then back to friend, depending on the angle. Since I have no sisters, I can only speak to the seeing of my mother in every friend I’ve ever had. And I’ve been on the same emotional merry-go-round with some version of my mother my entire life.

Since first posting about my process of coming to terms with, and healing from, the wounds caused by a mother with Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, I’ve received an outpouring of support, more than I could’ve imagined, more than I ever thought possible. And I’ll be forever grateful for my readers who are tracking my journey along with me, and the ones who may discover it in the future.

I need you now more than you need me.

I’ve lost many friendships over the years and that trend doesn’t seem to be slowing. Last week I posted a piece on learning to listen and wait and felt a great amount of peace once I’d hit “publish.”

Two days later I lobbed a hand grenade at a friend over text because I felt deeply disrespected and dismissed. While my feelings may have been valid, my reaction was not. So, we’ve had a few exchanges since then, and I’ve apologized, but it appears she doesn’t want anything more to do with me.

Though I can’t stop myself from feeling deep shame about it, I wonder if our friendship wasn’t always headed here. I have, in the past, felt that she wasn’t everything she seemed to be. I’ve wondered if she didn’t use people. I’ve witnessed her use someone else who allowed her great heaping portions of time, energy and money. She has a way of presenting a need only you can meet, then appearing utterly unable to do it herself, so you end up doing a lot more than you intended because you think you’re the only one who can.

I know that specificity is the soul of narrative, so forgive me. My point is this, she dismissed me because I had displeased her in favor of someone who pleased her. It felt very much like the dynamic my mother set up between my brothers and I. And because I’m a walking raw nerve right now, I couldn’t stop, take a breath and pause before I reached out. My rage and fatigue overwhelmed my better judgement and I blasted my friend, not caring how it made her feel. I blasted her not caring how it made me feel — not as good as I was hoping. And it’s a full week later and the smoke of it still lingers.

To complicate my perception of all this, I was getting my period and I’m worried about money. I’d fronted her some money she promised to pay back and when I asked for it, the tone in her voice changed from warmth to one of sharp disapproval. It made me feel ashamed and ungenerous. Out of my shame I rose and unleashed a self-righteous torrent that felt decades in the making.

Which of course it wasn’t. I’ve only known my friend for just over five years. But it’s left me wondering if I’ve always chosen people and bosses who reminded me of my mother. Which may not even be the right question. When haven’t I chosen those people that reminded me of my mother?

But does that mean this situation is the same as that situation? Can any one of us afford to cut people off when they don’t do the things we think they should be doing if they truly cared about us? It’s a question I’m asking myself a lot as she’s not the first casualty of my new awakening. If I were on the receiving end of my rage, I’d never speak to me again. And I knew that was a possibility even as I lost my mind. At the time it didn’t seem too high a price to pay.

But isn’t it?

My therapist would tell you it is. But she’s not here and I have to say, between you and I, I feel lighter.

I‘m cleaning out the vestiges of all the mother drama I’ve been trying to work out behind my back. Because that’s what it’s like when you don’t deal with your shit directly. You’re always dealing with it covertly, seeking love in all the wrong places and from all the wrong people.

Often the things that niggle in the back of our minds, hiding in the crevices of the maybes and the passing thoughts, often it’s those things that are the truths we’ve yet to let ourselves in on.

Time to get off this merry-go-round and find a new ride. Will you join me?

© Amy Punt, Punt On Point Media, Inc. 2022

Unmasking Fascism: Analyzing the Psychological Roots

a shadow of a hand. The light surrounding it is a golden hue.
Photo by gryffyn on unsplash

The 21st century has witnessed a disconcerting resurgence of fascist movements across the globe. Renowned Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Dr. Carl Jung wrote extensively about the psychological underpinnings of fascism, offering profound insights into this disturbing phenomenon. In this exploration, we turn to Jung’s writings, which shed light on the intricate interplay between the collective shadow and the archetypal forces that drive the ascent of fascism. By understanding these psychological dynamics, we can better equip ourselves to confront and dismantle the destructive ideologies that threaten the very fabric of our societies.

Archetypes: Windows into the Unconscious

At the heart of Jungian psychology lies the concept of archetypes, universal patterns and symbols residing within the collective unconscious. These archetypes shape our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, operating beneath the surface of our conscious awareness. They serve as primal blueprints, influencing our perceptions, beliefs, and interactions with the world and others.

The Personal Shadow: Exploring the Depths Within

A central tenet of Jung’s work is the concept of the personal shadow, which encompasses the repressed, denied, or unacknowledged aspects of ourselves. The personal shadow represents the dark, suppressed elements of our psyche that we find uncomfortable or unacceptable. It includes our fears, desires, and impulses that contradict our conscious self-image.

Connecting Archetypes and the Personal Shadow

Jung’s exploration of archetypes and the personal shadow reveals the profound connection between the two. Archetypes provide a framework through which the personal shadow manifests, giving shape and expression to its hidden contents. Within the context of fascist movements, specific archetypes come to the forefront, shaping their ideology and appeal. For instance, we can observe the archetype of the authoritarian father figure embodied in leaders like Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and more contemporary figures such as Jair Bolsonaro or Viktor Orbán. These figures tapped into the collective longing for strong leadership and a sense of security, appealing to the desires of their followers who sought stability and order.

The Authoritarian Father Figure – Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler, the infamous leader of Nazi Germany, exemplified the archetype of the authoritarian father figure. He projected an image of strength, discipline, and unwavering authority. Hitler appealed to the collective longing for a strong leader who could restore Germany’s perceived lost glory and guide the nation through turbulent times. However, the shadow aspect of this archetype became evident in Hitler’s oppressive regime, characterized by the suppression of dissent, the persecution of marginalized groups, and the erosion of individual freedoms. The authoritarian father figure archetype, when unbalanced and unchecked, can lead to catastrophic consequences.

The Scapegoat

Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany, played a crucial role in shaping public opinion and manipulating the collective shadow to target marginalized groups, particularly Jews, as the scapegoats for Germany’s economic and societal problems. By sowing mistrust of traditional news sources and directing blame towards vulnerable communities, Goebbels fostered a false sense of unity among the German population, perpetuating a narrative of superiority and victimhood. The scapegoat archetype, when harnessed by fascist movements, fuels discrimination, prejudice, and dehumanization, serving as a catalyst for the oppression and persecution of innocent individuals.

The Collective Shadow: Unleashing the Hidden Forces

Just as individuals possess personal shadows, societies and cultures harbor their own collective shadows. The collective shadow encompasses the unacknowledged, repressed aspects of the collective psyche. It represents the reservoir of societal fears, prejudices, and unresolved traumas that have been suppressed or denied. The collective shadow shapes societal norms, beliefs, and behaviors, exerting a profound influence on the collective consciousness.

The Connection: Archetypes and the Collective Shadow in Fascist Movements

Examining the connection between archetypes and the collective shadow unveils how certain archetypal patterns and symbols are often associated with fascist movements. The prominence of the authoritarian father figure archetype speaks to a yearning for strong, dominant leadership that promises stability and security, even at the cost of individual liberties. The scapegoat archetype, in turn, enables the collective shadow to project its fears and insecurities onto marginalized groups, fostering a false sense of unity while diverting attention from the true sources of societal problems.

Understanding the influence of the collective shadow on fascist movements is crucial in comprehending their appeal and impact. The unexpressed and repressed aspects of the collective shadow find an outlet through authoritarian ideologies, allowing individuals to channel their own unresolved fears and frustrations onto a common enemy. By manipulating and exploiting the collective shadow’s archetypal patterns, fascist movements drive the rise of destructive ideologies.

Conclusion: Unveiling the Depths, Uprooting Fascism

In our unwavering commitment to unmask fascism, a comprehensive exploration of archetypes and the collective shadow offers invaluable insights. By recognizing the archetypal patterns underlying fascist movements and understanding the collective shadow’s unacknowledged aspects, we can embark on a transformative journey of healing and growth. Through integrating our personal shadows and engaging in collective shadow work, we can actively contribute to building inclusive, compassionate, and resilient societies that stand firm against the destructive forces of fascism.

© Amy Punt, Punt On Point Media, Inc. 2023

Understanding the Collective Shadow: A Jungian Perspective

Illuminating the Shadows: Unveiling the Collective Shadow’s Role in Combating the Rise of Fascism. And how our personal trauma can seed the ground for its rise.

(First published Medium.com)

Dr. Carl Jung, the renowned Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist, made significant contributions to the field of psychology through his exploration of the human psyche. One area of particular relevance today is Jung’s analysis of the collective shadow and its role in the rise of fascism. As we confront a growing wave of authoritarianism both in the United States and worldwide, revisiting Jung’s insights becomes essential for understanding the nature of fascism, its ascent, and devising effective strategies to combat its spread. With the assistance of ChatGPT, this article aims to delve into the concept of the collective shadow from a Jungian perspective, unraveling its deeper meaning, its representation of repressed aspects of the collective unconscious, and its potential influence on society.

Germany, in the post-WWII years, has diligently prioritized preventing another populist wave through a range of initiatives, including the establishment of a robust education system and the implementation of strong social programs. However, the cornerstone of its success lies in the steadfast maintenance of a strong and resilient economy. Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that Germany is no utopia; neo-Nazis still clang about on its streets, particularly put out over the steady stream of refugees entering their country. Nevertheless, their influence is limited, and they are unable to sway rational voters into believing they provide a superior way of life or that the scapegoating of other races is justified.

In the United States, however, there are a lack of sufficient economic safeguards to protect us from the resurgance of oppressive ideologies. The state of our education system is far from satisfactory, and the dismantling of economic regulations implemented post-Depression has resulted in an ever-widening economic divide that has further exacerbated poverty and strained the limited social programs available. In essence, we find ourselves precariously close to complete societal deterioration. We are just one bad election away from an irreversible fascist uprising.

Much must be done to rectify the decades of misguided policymaking and craven greed that have plagued us. It’s tempting to allow feelings of powerlessness to drive us further into complacency. Instead we need to recognize that we share responsibility with the government for this state of affairs. As individual voters, we failed to remain vigilant and allowed politicians to manipulate us with false narratives. Even worse, we allowed them to make us feel like our vote didn’t count when it mattered most.

In a representative democracy individuals matter. Jung agrees. Though Jung did not explicitly discuss the importance of voting, his teachings on integrating the shadow hold profound wisdom. Failure to acknowledge the negative aspects within ourselves provides furtile ground for the seeds of fascism to take root. When we dismiss or suppress the aspects we despise it only makes us easier to fool.

When we turn away from our traumas and ignore the impact of generations of racism and white supremacy on our own psyches, we seed the ground for conspiracy theories and oppressive ideologies to flourish.

Jungian psychology illuminates the significance of the collective shadow — an amalgamation of hidden and often shunned aspects within a society or culture. Just as individuals grapple with personal shadows, comprising the rejected parts of themselves, our collective shadow represents the disowned elements of our collective psyche. Its influence manifests in societal conflicts, prejudices, and destructive behaviors, hindering social progress and harmony. To ignore or suppress the collective shadow is to intensify its impact, risking dire consequences for our shared humanity.

The collective shadow exerts a profound influence on society, operating beneath the surface of everyday life. It manifests through societal conflicts, prejudices, and destructive behaviors. These shadow dynamics perpetuate cycles of violence, aggression, and division, impeding social progress and harmony. When the collective shadow remains unacknowledged or repressed, its impact intensifies, often leading to dire consequences.

The Collective Shadow : The dark undercurrent that drives authoritarian ideologies.

Fascist movements exploit and manipulate the collective shadow to gain power. Repressed fears, insecurities, and prejudices of a society are projected onto certain groups or individuals. Hitler successfully blamed the Jewish people, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Homosexuals for the economic catastrophes that plagued Germany following WWI. This worked because people felt like it was true. Scapegoating is far more comfortable and easier to understand than the truth, which requires people to reflect upon their own actions and take responsibility. To be sure, Germany’s economic woes were not caused by German citizens, but their prejudices, racism, and cowardice were. Their collective dark side provided enough kindling for one charismatic leader to ignite a war that slaughtered millions and decimated Europe.

Yet, in the face of similar challenges, there is hope for collective healing and transformation. Jung believed that by acknowledging and integrating the shadow — individually and collectively — we can embark on a journey of profound self-awareness and empathy. Engaging in the work of the collective shadow enables us to navigate the hidden aspects that contribute to societal challenges, nurturing a more balanced and harmonious society.

It’s why I write so openly about my trauma. By expressing what once felt forbidden, I unmask the negative aspects of my personality. I reclaim the abandoned parts of my childhood, femininity, and potential that I lost decades ago. This has allowed me to experience greater empathy for others. Moreover, I find myself unable to continue hating my mother. While it was an essential part of the healing process, I now recognize that hate is something she employs to hurt everyone around her. It has no place in my life. My greatest revenge is to forgive her.

In the pages of Jung’s writings, we uncover a roadmap for understanding the hidden recesses of the collective unconscious. By recognizing and addressing the collective shadow; we empower ourselves to confront the specter of oppressive ideologies and strive towards a society that embraces empathy, justice, and unity. And I don’t know about you, but for me, there is no greater calling.

© Amy Punt, Punt On Point Media, Inc. 2023

Galaxies in Her Eyes

The first opera conceived for a planetarium. Premiered at Highpoint University in 2022. Story by Amy Punt and Kristine McIntyre. Book by Amy Punt. Music by Mark Lanz Weiser. Directed by Kristine McIntyre.

This is the first opera conceived for planetariums, focusing on STEM and chronicling the accomplishments of famous women scientists and their groundbreaking discoveries. This will be the first time that the Culp Planetarium on HPU’s campus has hosted a performing arts production featuring professional singers and musicians.

The opera tells the story of a young girl who dreams of going to the stars. She weaves together the stories of astronomical pioneers Annie Jump Cannon, Katherine Johnson and Ada Lovelace, whose work helps make that journey possible. Across time and space, she discovers a sisterhood of science which is defined by collaboration, perseverance, a fascination with the unknown and the importance of doing your math homework.(Post first published on the HPU website.)

Speak Memory | A Visual Poem

There are many times when words fail to express the totality of the human experience. The truest, deepest emotions often occur in spaces where language cannot go. My abuser wanted me to die. I live and I’m telling. This is just the beginning.

On Finding Inspiration In Dark times

Hello Artist, welcome to the second week of finding your mojo, your inspiration, your passion for your thing again. Last week’s insight was about changing what media you’re consuming to replace it with the kind of thing you want to do more of. How’d it go? Mine was rocky. Mid-week turned into a horror show. I didn’t fair well after that.

Let’s pick up the pieces.

When I talk about inspiration, I’m not talking an inspiring sunset or movie or book. Those are great and helpful, but if you haven’t created the space within for inspiration to take root then those things fall on arid ground and never last for more than a moment. I’m talking about creating a fountain of inspiration within that you can tap into regularly. Wanting to be inspired, in my experience, means something within you needs to shift.

That usually means changing behaviors, creating routines, utilizing discipline to do so. I hate all that stuff. Wild horses couldn’t get me to do “discipline.” I die inside at the thought of it. That said, it’s really more about routines, or habits. We all have them and if we haven’t thought much about our habits, then more than likely we have many that aren’t good for creating inspiration.

With the right habits, Inspiration comes from within and can be a fount of magic you can always access.

On Tuesday I stayed up late watching the Georgia run-off and woke up in a great mood ready to create. Then the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol occurred and by 11:30 pm on Thursday I was weeping on the floor overwhelmed with despair at the fruitlessness of it all. Friday I had to watch 12 hours of Buffy The Vampire Slayer to stop the suicidal ideation.

All my life I’ve been subject to the winds of mania — deep depressive episodes followed by manic bursts of destructive behavior. More recently that manic behavior has manifested in shopping sprees. And I’m tired of it. I’ve done this for the better part of two decades. Saturday it occurred to me that I could do something else. I could go for a walk.

It cleared out the muck and lightened my load. I no longer felt the need to die or shop to feel better. Changing something simple like walking instead of shopping, broke the pattern, at least for the day and one day is all I can hope to change right now. With any luck, one day can lead to others.

And after the walk something extraordinary happened. I found the courage to approach an old project with new hope. I sat down to write the next scene of a book I’ve been trying to write for six years now. I just never believed in myself enough to keep going.

So, that’s the assignment for the week; change one bad habit and replace it with something good, something relatively easy, but also something that will lead to other good habits: iron, make the bed, dust. You never know, any one of those things could lead you to a seismic internal shift.

If this is helpful to you, follow, subscribe on YouTube and let me know in the comments what keeps you inspired. We need each other right now.

Getting and Staying Inspired in 2021

Last week, New York Times bestselling author, and one half of YouTube’s beloved Vlog Brothers, Hank Green, uploaded a video called, “How To Change What You Want.” In it he talks about how the media we consume shapes what we want and what we value. As a writer and artist I consume a lot of media, but have never thought about what it might be doing to my output. 2020 brought so much confusion, I found myself completely stymied for most of it and ended up watching a lot of political YouTube. It shaped the direction of my content for my channel. While I’ve enjoyed making videos about social and political issues, I must find a way back to my first love, creative writing. Hank’s video helped me see a way forward. If you’re an artist, even if you’re not, I hope you’ll subscribe for this new series, “Hello Artist,” on getting and staying inspired in 2021. Each week I upload a new video to help myself and anyone else who needs it, create more creatively.

Why Are Cats?

In this new series with Cat Behaviorist Mirian Hasani, we’ll be unraveling many cat mysteries and addressing the most common mistakes we as cat guardians make, often without even realizing it. Mirian has been rescuing both cats and their people for six years. She is certified as a Cat Behaviorist and is currently pursuing additional certification in cat psychology.

In episode one Mirian and I discuss cat introductions and she reveals her secret weapon in speeding up the time it takes for cats to get used to and accept one another.

Why Are Cats? Sneak Peak at a new podcast with Cat Behaviorist, Mirian Hasani

Ever wonder why cats do what they do? Every day? Yes, then you’re my people and you may enjoy this podcast with cat behaviorist and cat psychologist Mirian Hasani. Here’s a sneak peek where she tells us about Basil the blind cat who was rescued out of a very dark and dangerous shelter. Basil had been abandoned, blind, dumped on the street. The owner of a no-kill rescue took her to save her from certain euthanasia. A whole year passed and she couldn’t get near Basil for fear of being attacked. Finally, she found Mirian and reached out to her for help. What follows is the story of how this lonely little kitty finally opened up to love.