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While manning our advocacy group’s booth in November, one of our team members handed me this book and asked if I’d write a review. At the time I had a stack of books I was trying to get through. I finally finished this one and now believe there are millions of people who can benefit from it– not just victims of narcissists, but those who often enable narcissists by falling for their act.

The Covert Passive Aggressive Narcissist: Recognizing the Traits and Finding Healing After Hidden Emotional and Psychological Abuse was written by Debbie Mirza. Mirza clearly knows what it’s like to be taken advantage of by these self-serving, mask-wearing abusers. The deeper into the book you read, the more empathy she expresses towards those whose lives have been altered by this type of abuse.

We are all familiar with the traditional definition of narcissism, which includes largely obvious attributes such as arrogance, entitlement, and an exaggerated sense of self-importance. Narcissists are more special than you– and they let you know it. They should be the most admired, the most desired, regarded as the most brilliant. Their time is more important, their needs and wants should take precedence, they should be the first ones in line, in the lifeboat, getting the promotion.

Narcissism stems from a distorted sense of self and a lack of empathy for others. Seeking to fill the void inside them, and achieve this status they believe they should have, they use other people as fuel for their egomaniacal furnace. They can be particularly attracted to high empathy, caring, considerate humans who have many of the traits they lack. Sandra L. Brown has written extensively about this dynamic including in her books Women Who Love Psychopaths and How to Spot a Dangerous Man.

The Mayo Clinic reminds us that:

Symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder and how severe they are can vary. People with the disorder can:

  • Have an unreasonably high sense of self-importance and require constant, excessive admiration.
  • Feel that they deserve privileges and special treatment.
  • Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements.
  • Make achievements and talents seem bigger than they are.
  • Be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate.
  • Believe they are superior to others and can only spend time with or be understood by equally special people.
  • Be critical of and look down on people they feel are not important.
  • Expect special favors and expect other people to do what they want without questioning them.
  • Take advantage of others to get what they want.
  • Have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others.
  • Be envious of others and believe others envy them.
  • Behave in an arrogant way, brag a lot and come across as conceited.
  • Insist on having the best of everything — for instance, the best car or office.

At the same time, people with narcissistic personality disorder have trouble handling anything they view as criticism. They can:

  • Become impatient or angry when they don’t receive special recognition or treatment.
  • Have major problems interacting with others and easily feel slighted.
  • React with rage or contempt and try to belittle other people to make themselves appear superior.
  • Have difficulty managing their emotions and behavior.
  • Experience major problems dealing with stress and adapting to change.
  • Withdraw from or avoid situations in which they might fail.
  • Feel depressed and moody because they fall short of perfection.
  • Have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, humiliation and fear of being exposed as a failure.

Mirza acknowledges these symptoms and then says, “but wait, there’s more.” Having worked with many people traumatized by narcissists, she recognized that there is a much less obvious type of narcissism. A covert passive aggressive narcissist is much more selective about who they show their true colors around. To the rest of the world, they may appear to be a warm, helpful, fun to hang out with, ideal partner, relative, or coworkers, the kind of person who is lauded for their generous, go-getter attitudes. To their selected targets, they are someone else entirely– abusive, insulting, demeaning, demanding, dishonest, immature, entitled, sadistic.

What makes this one of the best books on narcissism that I’ve read, besides being well-organized and understandable, is that Mirza tells us exactly how this victimization unfolds. If you have been through the hell of narcissism, you might have a “eureka!” moment as you recognize that this mirrors domestic violence regardless of the type of relationship involved. The parallels are real.

Mirza notes that whether this process begins in a romantic relationship, family relationship, friendship, or in the workplace, the covert passive aggressive narcissist starts by buttering you up. Initially they mirror you, so you can’t believe how alike you are. You let your defenses down as you find them so relatable, so outgoing, so easy to get along with. In reality, they are gathering information and probing for weaknesses. You also feel for them, because they tell you personal details that will elicit sympathy. You feel like you want to do extra to help them because of all they’ve been through.

But then the criticisms and jabs begin. This may be almost imperceptible at first. You may start to believe that you’re not helping them enough, or being a supportive enough player in their life. They begin to “teach you lessons” and show you how you’re allegedly inadequate. You will be given “the look” and be at the mercy of their moods. They may “reward” you with some buttering up still only to knock you back off of your feet as they create an increasing amount of drama.

Before long, the victim becomes the one holding up the relationship. As they struggle to keep the peace and reignite the positive aspects of the relationship that seemed to be there in the beginning, they are increasingly demeaned and devalued. Worse yet, the covert passive aggressive narcissist appeals to others’ sympathy, enlisting their help in targeting the victim. These accomplished liars are adept at convincing those around the victim that the victim is doing something wrong. The narcissist projects their own demons onto the victim and others believe them. Soon there may be a whole gang within a victim’s social circle, family, or workplace defending the narcissist and gaslighting the victim.

At some point, the narcissist will reject their target, tossing them aside like a piece of garbage. The victim might struggle to maintain the relationship, but that horrible realization that they’ve been used will start to sink in. The truth is, there is no genuine relationship, they don’t really care about you, and you’re just a means to an end. You were just the stairs they climbed to attain a higher status or achieve a goal. Learning the truth can ruin a victim’s life, making them feel unworthy, unloved, even suicidal. But it should be a reflection upon how depraved the narcissist is, how far they’re willing to go to feel powerful, loved, capable, successful.

After describing this process, Mirza delves into the traits that covert passive aggressive narcissists have. She then details their control and manipulation tactics. You will see how both fit into the previous process– and why this is so insidious compared to our average definition of a narcissist. While their tactics may be painfully obvious to their targets, they are highly skilled at convincing others they’re the real victims. Because they are so “wonderful” to others, maintaining the appearance that they are gracious contributors to the greater good, their targets’ experiences are minimized. “Surely the dynamic PTA mom or the gregarious advertising executive couldn’t be guilty of that.” The trauma the victim is suffering may be used to justify the narcissist’s claims that they are unstable/emotional/mental.

Now that I’ve touched on the horrors that this type of narcissist commits, I’ll leave it up to the author to detail the rest. Mirza spends the next part of her book discussing why narcissists might do it and how all of this plays out in parenting, dating, and marriage. A good portion of this book is dedicated to healing as well. While easy to read, these parts of the book should be digested slowly. The way Mirza approaches these topics can completely expose the web of lies targets have been entangled in– and how to shed these sticky strands completely.

An extremely valuable part of the book is where Mirza teaches survivors of covert passive aggressive narcissistic abuse to trust their guts in order to recognize it for what it is. She teaches the reader in simple terms what’s healthy and what’s not. These are concepts that should be taught to human beings from childhood. Yet many adults are unequipped for real love, or healthy work relationships or friendships, making this book all the more valuable. Mirza believes that survivors can heal and offers additional resources at the end of the book.

A wide range of people would benefit from this book. While much of its content is geared towards narcissists’ targets, this book is a great way to learn how NOT to be used by them. It helps readers discern when they’re being played and why they might be susceptible to it. All in all, this is a great read, another weapon in an advocate’s arsenal against the dangerous abusers among us.


©2022 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com

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Why didn’t she leave?

Why wasn’t there an arrest?

We didn’t see anything wrong; they seemed like the perfect couple.

These are the statements people often make when they learn about an abusive relationship, especially when one ends in homicide. Assumptions about domestic violence are rife in modern society. We tend to armchair quarterback others’ relationships instead of taking the time to understand the dynamics of and patterns within domestic violence.

Jane Monckton Smith, a Professor of Public Protection in the UK, has written In Control: Dangerous Relationships and How They End in Murder. You may have seen Professor Monckton Smith being interviewed on crime shows or have read her other books. This book, however, should be required reading for humanity.

Monckton Smith takes readers through eight easy-to-understand stages of how domestic violence progresses to homicide. She offers examples from her own career that are relatable and straightforward. Many can see their own tendencies, or that of someone they know, in the people she has studied and interviewed.

By the end of this book, you might be stunned by how simple, how logical, how obvious these eight stages are. Using the eight stages as a template, you can set that template on nearly any deadly domestic situation and see how closely it fits. All of us, with rare exception, are very familiar with deadly relationships thanks to the media, so this can be used as a tool to understand what has actually happened.

I firmly agree with Monckton Smith that people don’t “just lose it,” one of the premises of this book. That is a myth. The “crime of passion” theory, that someone was murdered in the heat of the moment, is a convenient go-to explanation, sometimes used so that we don’t have to deal with the gruesome reality of the buildup and outcome. As she explains, long before the murder there is a devaluing of the victim and decisions are made by the killer that culminate in the taking of a human life.

Monckton Smith is also wise to point out the erroneous judgments society makes against the victims. She has great empathy for why victims are trapped in dangerous relationships and why they can’t usually “just leave.” We always seem to ask this after someone is hurt or dead, “why didn’t she just leave?” At one point in the book she asks, “why didn’t he leave?” He (or she) had the freedom to leave at any time: they had the means, the freedom, the income, the ability to exit safely, not the victim.

This statement– why didn’t he leave– nails what domestic violence is all about: power and control. Abusers don’t want to give up power and control. This is why the risk of homicide goes up so dramatically when a victim tries to leave an abusive relationship; the abuser still wants control. Some abusers are so desperate to retain control that they are willing to kill their partner, spouse, and even their own children so that they “win.”

The author features interviews with actual murderers in this book to show that power and control takes different forms. Others may see the “nice guy,” the “quiet recluse,” the “violent drunk,” or the “jilted lover.” These killers may present as something entirely opposite of who they are. Thanks to her experiences in policing in particular, she looks deeper, finding that yes, regardless of how different these killers are, they still progressed through the stages that lead to homicide.

Beneath different personalities, beneath different MOs, beneath different situations and circumstances, Monckton Smith identifies an often insidious progression that leads from alleged love to cold, calculated death. Its presence in so many different cases is eerie and unsettling. Yet if we would simply educate people about it, it would be so much more obvious to all when it occurs. We would be able to stop the fatal progression and save lives.

We should be educating children about domestic violence. Teens should absolutely know the warning signs of a controlling relationship. They should also know how and where to get help. Imagine if we made In Control required reading in high schools, if we actually sent young people into adulthood with a functional knowledge of what constitutes a healthy relationship and what does not. Many of us had no clue. But with a book like this, there are no more excuses.

As a side note, there are references in this book to the UK’s legal system and police forces that Americans may be unfamiliar with. You should be able to figure them out quickly, and Monckton Smith does explain some of them.

Overall, please consider sharing In Control with your local schools, shelters, advocates, police forces, libraries, and especially churches. Churches sometimes have a particular naivete about this progression to death, blaming and shaming victims instead. It’s time that we all know this, we all use this, and we stop letting these eight stages run their course until they culminate in murder.

No more excuses. There aren’t any more excuses with a book like this available.


©2022 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com

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This is the American massacre you were never taught about in school. This is the genocide that no one was ever held accountable for. Search a “This Day in History” site and you will not find any mention of the original Sunday Bloody Sunday.

On Sunday, February 26th, 1860, the Wiyot tribe of northern California was resting after several days of participating in its week-long World Renewal Ceremony. The ceremony was held on what’s commonly known as Indian Island, or Duluwat to the Wiyot, a small, marshy island near Eureka.

Duluwat was home to two villages, Tuluwat (Toulouwat) and Etpidolh (Etpidalh Watpuroulh). Tuluwat was the site of the annual ceremony. On that Sunday in 1860, knowing that the men were away, six white men crawled ashore with axes, knives, and clubs– quiet weapons that would not alert anyone else to the mass murder they had planned. These were the weapons of cowards who had their eye on that real estate, who blamed the Wiyot and other tribes of stealing their cattle.

These men viciously murdered children, women, and elders in a surprise attack that conveniently coincided with other area massacres that day. Very few survived this slaughter on Duluwat and the incident was nearly swept under the rug. A 2010 article in the North Coast Journal of Politics, People, and Art puts faces on the survivors and dissects the motives. This is the best piece I’ve read on the topic. It tells of the baby found in his murdered mother’s arms, the women who bravely saved three children to stumble upon seven others, the perseverance and forgiveness of the survivors. Depending on the account, 80 to 200 defenseless people were savagely killed.

That day was a turning point for the native peoples of northern California. While there had already been plans and pressure to move the Wiyot off Duluwat, February 26th, 1860 was the day the Wiyot lost the island that their tribe had frequented for a thousand years or more. It seems to have been turned into a dairy farm– no surprise given the real estate designs of some local settlers. Some time later it became a shipyard. It also became a heavily contaminated dumping ground that the Wiyots have spent at least two decades cleaning up.

The EPA has a fascinating document about the efforts to remove all manner of industrial waste and garbage from the site. It includes bits of the tribe’s and Tuluwat’s history. The Wiyots have been slowly buying back the land, an island that literally holds the blood and bones of their ancestors. It has been a labor of love.

Did I say their ancestors? From elementary through high school I was teased about my fair skin. One middle school classmate’s words about “needing to get some sun” are forever scrawled in my yearbook. Kids were cruel about many things but bashing on someone’s genetically-determined skin tone hit a nerve, especially because they were making assumptions about my forebears. Growing up I knew that we grandkids were a small part Native American.

I have never understood the pressure to change one’s skin tone as if God screwed up by making us too dark or too light. I find it odd that so many here in rainy Seattle flock to tanning beds as if we’re supposed to look like we’re in Florida. I love my skin, but we have this Hollywood or Bollywood-fueled concept that all women should move towards some sort of bronzed or golden epidermal ideal somewhere in the middle of the skin spectrum. Ladies, you are beautiful exactly as God made you. We are meant to shine as all colors of the rainbow.

Our grandpa was a tall, dark, and handsome engineer whose mother was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Scandinavian. His beautiful mother had a nickname for his father referencing the tribe she thought he resembled. But Great-Grandpa was an orphan, his origins shrouded in mystery. We knew bits and pieces, some names, general geographic locations– a scattered and unreliable road map to the past.

I’ve spent a lifetime searching for his people, hitting brick wall after brick wall. We knew he was from northern California. We learned how his father died. A few years ago a wonderful researcher at the Washington State Archives stepped into help and we learned the startling truth of what happened to him and his brother after they lost their parents. We know nothing about their sister. For him to have become the man he was after what he suffered is a testament to his fighting spirit and kind heart.

Thanks to the Archives we found a connection to the Wiyot tribe. There is a genetic link to a common ancestor and documentation signed by that ancestor although some tribal members dispute the connection. Nevertheless, I will continue my research to fill in the gaps in our family’s story. As I try to connect the dots, I wonder if my great-grandfather and his siblings weren’t taken in by either side of the family because they were too light or too dark. I am certain there are still secrets and surprises to be found and healing that needs to happen.

The first time I read the story of the genocide at Duluwat, I was profoundly shaken. I wasn’t reading a high school textbook about people I’d never met in the Midwest. This wasn’t one of the mass murders I’d written about for my M.A. This happened to my family. Being an American, I come from many peoples and some of those peoples have enslaved and killed each other throughout the centuries. But this was more recent, more local, on American soil, and all of the suspects got away with it.

I’m not an advocate of reparations and I believe in moving forward. But somehow an ancient island, a very specific and sacred place, being taken by mass murder at a sacred time was an unconscionable cliffhanger. It was like when a TV show ends without telling you what happened to any of the major characters– except hellishly worse. It invoked a particular feeling that I mentioned in my 2013 blog post When You Know It’s Murder:

Accepting some of these circumstances as “solved” though—it hasn’t happened yet. Perhaps we who question the “truth” are who God intends to bring justice through. There are times when I’m thinking through some of these cases and that old familiar translucent twilight sidles up next to me. In that particular kind of silence I’m reminded that something still isn’t right, and the truth might have yet to be found. It’s like a door hasn’t closed yet, or a window latch has come undone in a forgotten room and a breeze is rustling old, worn curtains that should have been taken down 30 years ago.

There is no individual alive who can truly apologize for what happened on Duluwat. The descendants of the suspects are not responsible and have no obligation to be involved. The City of Eureka did issue a formal apology in recent years, and it was fitting for a government agency to finally recognize the tragedy.

Today the apology went a step further. At 10 A.M. this morning, the City of Eureka and the Wiyot tribe held a ceremony at which the city council voted to return Duluwat to the Wiyots. It took almost 160 years for the tribe to get this land back. Despite this rare and momentous gesture that rewarded many years of the tribe’s hard work, media coverage is sparse. The British press picked up the story right away, though, with The Guardian declaring “California city returns island taken from native tribe in 1860 massacre.”

It’s a really good example of resilience because Wiyot people never gave up the dream… It’s a really good story about healing and about coming together of community.

Michelle Vassel, Tribal Administrator

From a distance, from an unacknowledged seat in the bleachers, I rejoiced with the Wiyot today. I can do this as an American. I can do this as a fellow human being. I can do this as an advocate for and fierce believer in a God of justice. But I also did this for my grandfather. I did this for my great-grandfather who was too young to remember his people when he was torn from them. I cheered for a family I may never know. I rejoiced with a people I’ve spent most of a lifetime looking for– the people who I thought of every time another classmate took a jab at my complexion.

Well done, Wiyot people. Well done.

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This simple marker commemorates the massacre.

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©2019 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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The most powerful commercial this holiday season:

Country Living compiled this list of the 20 best Christmas commercials of all time. It includes last year’s Sainsbury’s ad, which is based on a true story from World War I:

Their ad from this year celebrates the same goodwill and connections that make so many of these other ads favorites:

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