A Voice of Calm
As a victim of childhood trauma and narcissistic abuse herself, certified life coach and best-selling author Lisa A. Romano understands their long-lasting effects on the developing brain very well. She draws on her own experiences to best aid her clients by offering a lot of knowledge and emotional understanding. “My role is to be a voice of calm for them,” she says. She asserts that “stepping outside of the tornado and learning how to observe the way you think” are integral parts of the healing process. “A big part of my recovery, a big turning point for me, was when I realized that I could think about the way that I think,” she adds.
“The problem with narcissistic abuse is that, over time, you start to doubt your reality,” says Romano, who has focused on healing victims of narcissistic abuse, a form of domestic abuse that is similar to wider emotional abuse and coercive control. She likes to use metaphors to describe narcissists: silverback gorillas (“You probably wouldn’t want to irritate one”), emotional or energy vampires, or starving lions. Narcissists often act covertly, making it difficult for their victims to realize that their mental health is suffering. “It’s so hard to catch the covert narcissist, because their sob stories are very good. You’re being exploited, and you don’t even realize it,” she laments.
When in doubt, Romano urges her clients to listen to their bodies. “‘How do I feel around this person, energized or drained? Do I feel equal to this person, or like a stool to this person? Do I feel afraid of this person? Do I shut down and walk on eggshells?’ Your body tells the story,” she says. Your brain might trick you into thinking that everything happening around you is because of you, or about you – but your body never lies; it knows the truth.
The past year was tough for millions of Americans in lockdown, especially for those who were forced to spend prolonged amounts of time with narcissistic abusers in the same residence. “The reality is that COVID was a pressure cooker for all of us. A narcissist wants control and dominance – they’re even more irritated now; you’ve just caged them,” Romano explains, adding that all narcissists want leverage, but they go about getting that leverage in countless unpredictable ways. It depends on the conditions and on the abuser to decide the safest way to react to a narcissist, and this requires a lot of careful research and strategy. “There are so many shades to this, and I think that knowledge is the first step,” she shares.
However, Romano also cautions that resisting something that cannot be changed is like “starting a fire inside,” and emphasizes that the first step in dealing with an abuser or with arduous circumstances, such as the pandemic, is always to accept reality. “When I resist what I can’t control, I suffer,” she elaborates. “That’s suffering. Suffering ends when there’s acceptance. That doesn’t mean I like it, but I accept it. Now, sadness can happen for me, grieving can happen for me. But when I get stuck in resistance, when I say, ‘This should have never happened to me,’ I suffer more than I need to.”
When she was away from much of her family due to the pandemic, Romano focused on what she could control, rather than what she could not. In January, she made a list of goals for 2021 – and she has already checked off all the boxes on it. In addition to reorganizing her closet and working on her garden, she became very active on Instagram Live and began offering several new programs and classes for her clients. She advises people to always focus on what they can do, rather than what they cannot, and to always think of the people they can reach and the love sent their way. “We have to focus on the change we make in the world,” she affirms. “We can all make good ripples.”
Writer: Sam Edge
Photographer, Stylist & Videographer: Luciana Pampalone
Hair & Makeup: Denise Pereau
Editor: Eiko Watanabe
Special thanks to EPK Media (@myepk & @epkmedia - epkmedia.com)