137. The Truth Always Comes Out with Stephany Ann

Imagine you start with a sense of purpose, aligned with your goals, accustomed to your family supporting you in living your authentic life, and successfully practicing the art of the possible.

Then, all of a sudden, it gets taken away.

Stephany Ann was raised in a supportive family environment that embraced individuality and encouraged her to pursue her passions. When she was 18, her mother released her to do what she intended to do.

For five years, she lived the nomad life, backpacking worldwide. Then she returned to the United States for college but missed the application deadlines.

Rather than get discouraged she said to herself, “Why don’t we just sit down and talk with Admissions and tell them why I need to go there and why they need to give me a full ride?”

They accepted her and gave her a full ride – the art of the possible!

Stephany finished college, entered law school, and met the man who would become her first husband.

Everything seemed fine – but Fine is a 4-Letter Word.

Stephany found out she had married a narcissist who gave her an ultimatum to either give up her dreams and goals and do as he wished, or he would leave.

She acquiesced – and this is where her problems began.

In a moment, when you meet Stephany, you’ll discover her journey through her first marriage, her divorce and subsequent custody battle, and then her second marriage to another man who was remarkably similar to the first.

Along the way, she went blind – as in literally, lost her vision.

How did she go from such a promising start of being in command of her destiny to finding herself at the mercy of the whims and machinations of narcissistic men to the point she lost her identity and sense of self?

How did she get her vision back? (Yes, her eyes work now.)

What lessons were her husbands teaching her, in their own way?

You hear a lot about narcissism – the love-bombing, the idealization phase, the transition to constantly adapting yourself to anticipate the abrupt personality shifts of a man who claimed he never had an affair, while he was living with another woman.

Now, you’re going to experience the journey in a way you’ve never seen before.

Stephany Ann’s hype song is “Unstoppable” by Sia.

Resources:

Invitation from Lori:

If, like Stephany Ann, you so completely lose your identity that it feels like you’ve gone blind, the 5 Easy Ways to Start Living The Sabbatical Life guide can restore your vision of your life’s purpose.

Once you read it, you’ll

✅ Discover a counter-intuitive approach to making intentional changes in mindset and lifestyle.

✅ Learn how to own your feelings and your struggles so you can address them.

✅ Find out how to face fears, step out of your comfort zone, and rewire your beliefs.

It’s only 7 pages, so it won’t take you long to get through. It could show you the answers to questions you haven’t known to ask because, up until now, you couldn’t see them.

When you’re ready to say F*ck Being Fine, this guide is the place to start. It’s time to be open and honest with yourself so you can make things better.

Go to https://zenrabbit.com right now to download it for free.

Now let’s go chat with Stephany. She’s waving us over saying “olá!” That’s Portuguese for “hello”. Why is she speaking Portuguese?

Transcript

Lori: Hello, and welcome to FINE is a 4-Letter Word. My guest today, Stephany Anne. Welcome to the show.

Stephany: Hi. Thank you so much for having me, Lori.

Lori: We are in for a really good conversation today. I can feel it. I know from when we talked earlier, this is going to be good. Let’s start off with what were the values and beliefs that you were raised with that contributed you to becoming who you did as an early adult, and then who you are now?

Stephany: I was raised in a very healthy family. I have three other sisters. I was kind of the athlete, the bookworm, the nerd, always got good grades in school. My parents always embraced my individuality. And at a young age, I started traveling and I traveled all over the world. I remember when I was 18, my mom was like, “I really just had to release you and let you go because you were just going to do what you were going to do.” They did. I spent five years backpacking around the world. I went to college. I got a full ride to college. I went to law school. I did all these incredible things. So I think some of my family values of a family and being kind, but also being unique and embracing that individuality is something that my parents taught me.

Lori: Where in the sibling order did you fall?

Stephany: I’m number two. But I’m very much a first child personality.

Lori: Okay. I was just curious. Once you got done traveling the world, what did you do? Did you settle down? While you were doing that, did you have people asking you like, “So when are you going to settle down? When are you going to find a place?”

Stephany: Yes, absolutely. “When are you going to get married, blah, blah, blah?” I was just always very driven, always very career-focused. These are my goals. I’ve always wanted to do what I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. So I was very focused on my goals.

Lori: The reason I was asking that question is because I’m living nomad life right now, and people are asking me that, like, “When are you going to find somewhere you want to stay and actually live?” or “When are you going to stop doing this kind of lifestyle?” I’m like, “I don’t know. When I get tired of it and I stop. That’s when I stop.” I don’t have an answer right now.

Stephany: My kids, I asked them a couple months ago, I’m like, “We can go and do whatever we want. What do you guys want to do? Where do you want to go?” And they both said, “Mom, let’s go to Portugal.” So we’ve been studying Portuguese. I’m on my 115-day streak now. I used to live in Europe, and so I’m familiar with Europe. I’ve never been to Portugal so it’s all new and exciting. But it’s like, “Why not? Why not?”

Lori: Absolutely. I love that. Portugal’s on my short list of places I want to go because I haven’t been there either. I did a semester abroad and I traveled around Europe. But I didn’t get to Portugal. Actually, I was staying with a friend for a couple of days last month. Her daughter and her daughter’s fiancé were in town. They live in Portugal.

Stephany: Oh, no way. You know, right after COVID, Portugal opened its doors, an invitation for the world to come and settle there. So there’s so many perks for us expats to go over there.

Lori: Very cool. Okay. So you did come back and chose to “settle down” or what happened?

Stephany: So I came back. I was actually living in South Africa. I studied down there for a while, and then backpacked around some of the countries of Africa and came home. I missed all the deadlines for this one university I wanted to go to, but I was like, “Why don’t we just sit down and get a talk with Admissions and tell them why I need to go there and why did they need to give me a full ride?” And I did. And they gave it to me.

Lori: What?

Stephany: Yeah, right.

Lori: This is a good lesson in asking for what you want and expecting to get it.

Stephany: Absolutely, because admissions were closed. They were done. But I was like, “I fit the motto. My lifestyle is the motto of the university. This is why you want me and why you need to give me money to go here, because I’ve been traveling for five years.”

Back before I met my husband, my life was very aligned. I was doing exactly what I wanted to do. I was going 100% in the direction I wanted to go and following my passion. And then I meet my first husband. He was kind of the first real relationship I had, and in the beginning, it was wonderful. It was great. He was kind, he was loving. It’s that first phase of the idealization phase when you’re with a narcissist. It was great. I didn’t know at the time he was, who he was. I didn’t learn that until I went to law school.

Lori: I think everybody, whether you’re with a narcissist or not—we’ll get into that more in a moment—that that idealization phase in the beginning, you have this story in your head of who this person is and because it’s who you want them to be.

Stephany: In the beginning, they become the person you want them to be. They mirror your values, they mirror your hobbies, they mirror everything about you. So when they start saying like, “Oh, you’re my soul mate, you're this and that, you’re my best friend, blah, blah, blah,” it’s like, well, yeah, that resonate.

Lori: Of course. Who doesn’t want to hear that?

Stephany: I’ve just fallen in love with me is what it is.

Lori: Okay. Then what happened when you went to law school?

Stephany: So when I went to law school, all my focus and attention was no longer on him. Before you have kids, before you’re doing everything, you can focus all your attention on this person, because one of the basic fundamental needs with a narcissist is that they need that constant admiration, adoration, that constant fawning all over them. They want all of your energy, time, focus, everything.

But now, all of that went to law school. Law school is freaking hard. It is your life. You don’t have a life outside of law school. So when I started law school, it became my life. You’re taking five classes. That’s three-hour lectures every day, reading 500 to 600 pages in books and briefing cases and showing up. You have to be prepared when you get there to stand up and like the Socratic Method. So all my attention was now not on him. He was not my number one priority. And he knew that this going to law school was part of my goal and what I was going to do. So he told me within the first couple of weeks of starting, he’s like, “I’m tired of hearing you talking about the law. I’m not your study buddy. I don’t want to hear anything about it. Just leave me out of it. I don’t want to go hang out with all your law school friends.” He was very matter-of-fact.

I just was like, “Wow, that’s super hurtful. I’ve been working so hard for this and now you don’t want to be a part of this life of mine that I worked so hard to get.” Then he started focusing his attention on seeking out validation and affirmations and all of that from other women. I did not know this until my third year of law school. He never came to me and said, “I’m feeling neglected. I’m feeling like, ‘Hey, we should do this or that.’” He never did. So I never knew that there was a problem until three years later, I found out about all of these emotional affairs and all this stuff that was going on, and it was devastating.

Lori: Yes, I can imagine.

Stephany: That’s part of when the mask comes off, they become a different person. And for me, my first husband, he was a covert narcissist. So, basically, they’re pillars in the community. They’re wonderful. They’re charming to everyone. They’re involved at everything you can think of. They’re the ones that are lining up to drive old women who go grocery shopping, and then painting their homes for them. And then they come home and they are horrible people. Miserable, horrible, people.

Lori: Did you tell anybody about this? Or did you just think, “It’s my problem. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I got to fix me.”

Stephany: When it first came out with all the affairs and stuff, I did. I told his family and I told my family and I told my best friends. I was like, “I don’t know what to do.” And when I say told his family, I don’t think I told his parents. I don’t think I called my parents, but siblings. Because we both come from really good family. My parents have been married for 45 years; his parents have been married for 55 years.

I don’t know why he love bombed me back. Because I wanted to separate, and then he wanted to—it was a very confusing time. Here we are, we’re living in Michigan, we don’t have any family over there, and it was just so confusing. And for me, I didn’t know what his behavior… His behavior was so off and so different. I had assessments with the State Department—that was my route going to the State Department—and he basically told me, “Give everything up and have kids tomorrow or I’m out.”

Lori: Wow. Okay. So what did you do?

Stephany: Well, I gave everything up and had kids.

Lori: Because you believed that what he was telling you was the truth. Did he apologize for the affairs and say, “I’m sorry, I’m never going to do it again, I want you”?

Stephany: Did kind of, but not really, because it never stopped. So then it proceeded for 10 more years of his behavior. At the time, I just started focusing on being a good mom, doing legal stuff on the side, and praying like, “What is going on?” There was just so much gaslighting and so much just subtle manipulation that you don’t always know what’s going on. But then you just start walking on eggshells, you just start feeling miserable and like, “This isn’t working.” But now we were so entangled. Now we had two children. And I loved his family but you can’t stay married to someone because you love their parents.

Lori: Right. So this brings up the point that I am super curious about, which is, how did he become like this? Because a lot of the stories I hear about narcissists, you hear they had a terrible upbringing, their parents had their own issues, and it becomes kind of a self-protection. People become that way because they’re protecting themselves because their childhood was so traumatic. And you’re saying that his parents had a great marriage. Were any of his other siblings have narcissistic tendencies? Just because his parents were together, also I should say, you said they were together for a long time, that doesn’t mean they had a great relationship.

Stephany: They do have a great relationship. Actually, his dad was psychiatrist and all this stuff. Another way that people do become narcissist and have that disordered personality as a child, my first husband was diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Oppositional defiant as a child can turn into narcissism, antisocial personality disorder, any of these Cluster B personalities. It’s a precursor.

So he was a bad boy. I was a good girl. Good girls are drawn to the bad boys. I went to church. I was a straight A student, all of this stuff. He got kicked out of every school he ever went to. He got shipped away to boarding school because no school would take him. It’s like, “Okay, he’s kind of a bad guy. Oh, I like this. I’m a good Christian church girl, you know.” So that is one of the ways as well.

So yes, his parents are wonderful. They’ve modeled healthy relationships. In fact, when he divorced me, he disowned his parents because his parents kept the relationship with me.

Lori: Wow. And his siblings didn’t have these kinds of disorders, or did they?

Stephany: I feel like his sister has some mental health disorders. His brother is very stable but has removed himself from the drama.

Lori: Okay. That makes sense. Sure. Any sane person might make that same move to protect themselves.

Stephany: Yes, so he was very good with boundaries. Parents were good with boundaries, which is why he disowned them. He actually committed suicide a couple of months ago. It can happen when you have lived on double, triple life for so long and things start to catch up and maybe you start to become aware, and it is a lot to unpack and to deal with.

Lori: Right, because if you have to face what you have wrought, if you will—I don’t know who uses that word, but it’s perfect for this situation—if you start becoming aware of now, “Oh, maybe I was…” maybe feeling some guilt or some shame around it. From what I’ve heard, again, I have not studied it as extensively as you have. But most narcissists don’t do that. They don’t have that much introspection.

Stephany: Well, yes. This is why, after the discard, they’re able to just move on. And this is again where it’s a personality disorder that is layer upon layer of protective self. So they disassociate, put a new layer on, become someone else, and move on. But that is the only way that you can do that. You have to become a different person and pretend like that didn’t happen. That’s what my first husband did. He pretended like I’ve never existed and I was never a part of his life. He just erased me.

Lori: So do you think that what contributed to his taking his own life was that he started to take those masks off and to see what he was doing and feel what he was doing?

Stephany: I think so.

Lori: I know it’s all speculation because we’re not in his head.

Stephany: Exactly. He didn’t leave a note. I never talked to him for six years prior to all of that. But what’s interesting is about five months before he took his life, I separated from my second husband, and he called me. Mind you, we never talked to since the day he walked out. Oh, just to speak about our children. That is all. He called me and he was crying. He was like, “Stephany, I’m so sorry for everything I did to you. I was an alcoholic. I regret it. I regret leaving you now. I loved you.” All this stuff. Mind you, he’s married. He’s remarried.

Lori: Wow.

Stephany: This is shit they do. Then it messes with you.

Lori: Yes, a total mind fuck.

Stephany: Was that fear? Was that honest? I was living in Florida and he was living in Oregon at the time, and the boys would spend summers with him and so I was bringing the kids back for summer with him. I was like, “Okay. This is what I wanted to hear six years ago.” I just wanted an apology because he lived in his own delusion. I never cheated. I never had an affair. What are you talking about? Okay. As you’re living with another woman and we’re still married. They lived in their own delusions. So I was hopeful all over again that, okay, well maybe we can have a relationship for the children, maybe we can actually co-parent.

Then I show up here and it’s like 1000% different what he said. He threw all these emotions with all this litigation, trying to get me to lose because I had full custody. He’s trying to change custody, turning to do all this stuff, saying all these lies about me to the judge. Here he is again. He’s a doctor. Yeah, I’m still a lawyer. But it’s just different.

So he had the kids for the summer and he started to alienate them from me. He took their cell phones away. I’m like, “What the heck are you doing taking their phones away? They only call me.” He’s like, “Well, we’ve decided in our house, we’re not going to have cell phones. The kids are too young.” Just shit like that. He could only let them call me at 9:30 at night. They’re falling asleep. My nine-year-old just started crying the whole time on the phone like, “Mom, when are you going to come get us? Mom when can we go home with you?” And my 11-year-old, they pull him. I’m like, “The truth will come out. The truth always comes out. And focus on that.” So my 11-year-old, every time I talked to him, he was like, “Mom, when is the truth coming out? You said the truth is coming out. When do we get to come home with you? Why are we still here?” I’m like, “Just focus on the truth and it will come out.”

Lori: That must have been so difficult for you to hear, to hear them saying these things to you, asking you these questions that you don’t have a specific answer. I mean, you have a specific answer but there’s not a specific time.

Stephany: Yes. My hands are tied because if according to our parenting plan, he gets them for the summer. Okay, so I could file to have a custody evaluation and all this stuff, but then I just kept feeling the Spirit, the Divine saying, “Just wait. Wait.” I kept saying over and over in my head, “Vindication.” And I had to release them and him to the Universe and just trust that the truth would come out and I would have my vindication.

Lori: How did you do that? Because that, again, is really difficult. But it’s the only thing that we can do is trust and have faith, but what got you to the point to be able to do that?

Stephany: I don’t want to be an angry, bitter person. And I don’t want to just sit here and ruminate and fuss and fume and just freak out, because I could do that. I could lay in bed all day and do nothing. And just “Oh, my life suck. It’s shit. It’s a mess.” I can do that, too. It’s a choice. So I made a choice that, “No, I am fighting this. I will have vindication.” But Spirit kept saying, “Stephany, wait. Let me take care of vindication.” I wanted revenge. Of course I did. I have revenge thoughts. I had all this stuff. “What the heck are you doing? You completely betrayed me again.” That’s how I felt in my head.

Lori: Were you angry at yourself for believing even for a minute that he might have changed?

Stephany: You know, I never really got angry with me. It was more just the situation. It was the judge. It was the attorneys. It’s all these other… It’s his new wife. It’s all this stuff. Like, “What the…arrgh!” And I’ve had so many wonderful things in life, like I was sharing in the beginning, when you’re in alignment, everything works out. So I know and trust that things do work out. So I felt like there would be vindication. I needed to win. Hold off on the custody evaluation is what I kept receiving.

And I just give it to the Universe. Because when we try to make plans for things to happen and we’re like, “Okay, that has to happen like this, that had to happen like this. This is my revenge. I’m going to do all this. I’m going to get them.” Well, maybe the Universe has a different way. I want to have clean hands. There’s this term in law like, clean hands. It’s not me. I didn’t make any of this happen. So for those couple of months, my mantra, my attitude statement was, “This is hard but not impossible. I can do hard things. And I will get through this.” And yes, every day I reminded the Universe of my vindication, “I remember you. Where’s my vindication?”

When my kids would ask, “Mom, when is the truth going to come out?” and it did. It only took just a couple of months when he attempted suicide, and then he attempted again. Well, he didn’t attempt, he was successful. After I sat down with the boys, even after his first attempt, that was about between the attempt and him taking his life, I sat down with the boys, and when I told him that their dad died, a couple hours later, my nine-year-old comes to me and he’s like, “Mom, we can go travel the world now.” I always have been honest with them about their dad’s behavior. I stopped making excuses for him a long time ago and said, “This is his behavior. This is what he’s done.” I told them in a way that they can understand.

Lori: It’s appropriate.

Stephany: Yes. I never hid anything from them.

Lori: Because they know anyway. They do. At the spiritual level, if you’re telling them one thing but they’re seeing or feeling something else, then they have that disconnect and they’re like, “Well, can I trust myself or not?”

Stephany: Yes. This is why my 11-year-old was saying, “When is the truth going to come out?” because he knew that the truth needed to come out. All we can do is wait and just keep giving it to God. The truth will come out.

Lori: When we talked before in our pre-show conversation, you told me a story about your eyes. It was a really interesting story, but I don’t remember where in the chronology it falls.

Stephany: I had just left my second husband, and I was at my sister’s house, and just kind of crying out to God, “Why me? My life just felt like a mess.” Like, “God, why is all this stuff happening to me? My two ex-husbands are monsters trying to destroy my life and trying to destroy me and all of this.” It was in that moment that I couldn’t see past the pain and suffering that had engulfed my life for so long. I hold on to this victim story for a long time. It was in that moment too where I lost my eyesight. I didn’t lose it in that moment. I had lost it before. I used to live in Florida, and I was out voting with some friends. My sunglasses broke. I almost had yellow eyes. I don’t even know if you can tell it from here.

Lori: No, I couldn’t tell.

Stephany: They’re so light and so sensitive to the sun. The next morning, after voting all day, I woke up and I was blind. I could not see and it was painful even to open my eyes. So, I finally made it to the eye doctor and they said, “Stephany, your eyes look like someone took sandpaper and just strained your eyes.” I couldn’t see for six weeks. Even just I have contacts now, but I only have been able to put contacts just last month is how bad my eyes were.

So in that breakdown moment, I couldn’t see. I felt like the Divine was saying to me, “Stephany, you are not seeing your life who’s the right one.” I physically could not see metaphorically, metaphysically, whatever. I could not see my life. Because when we’re stuck in this victim story, you can’t see the lessons. And when you can’t see the lessons, you don’t know what needs to be healed, what needs to be replaced, and you’ll continue to repeat these patterns. .

Lori: It’s so interesting how we receive lessons, how the Universe hands lessons to us. So many times, physically, it makes you blind to give you the lesson or give you the message that you’re not seeing your story through the right lens.

Stephany: Yes. I was like, “Why can’t I see? This is so stupid.” There actually is a disorder, there’s temporary blindness. But then I was trying to pull up in my head, “Okay. Who in history lost their eyesight? And what was the freakin’ Universe trying to tell them?”

Lori: What did you find?

Stephany: Not much, because I couldn’t see.

Lori: “I couldn’t do a lot of research. I couldn’t see anything.”

Stephany: I was stuck at my sister’s house for six weeks.

Lori: Now she came on. I just said, “Hey, Siri.” Like, you could be asking and she just came on.

Stephany: I was thinking of in the Bible—I don’t know if you’ve read the Bible—but there’s Paul in the Bible, his vision was taken away as well. So I was like, “Okay, well, what were those lessons I needed to learn?” I really felt this was, even before that, being on the bathroom floor I was like, “There has to be something freakin’ spiritual going on here because who loses their eyesight? Why am I blind? And I’ve been attacked by these men. They’re destroying my life.”

When I made that shift from seeing them as monsters trying to destroy my life, and instead, I said, “Okay, well, they’re not monsters trying to destroy my life. What if they’re teachers sent here to teach me very powerful lessons, what would that look like? And what would those lessons be?” When I was able to make that shift, I could finally see the lesson. I could finally see what needed to be healed and released, and I could finally break these patterns of calling in these toxic abusive men into my life.

Lori: How did you come to find out what those lessons were and to break yourself of that pattern?

Stephany: Actually, I had to pretend. Sometimes before we subconsciously believe stuff, we have to just pretend. So I got a journal and I sat down. I was starting to get my eyesight back, and I’m like, “Okay, first husband, Josh, if you’re not a monster trying to destroy my life and you are, in fact, a teacher that was sent here, what did I learn from 14 years of being married to you?” I filled the whole journal with this but I’ll share a couple of things. One of the things was boundaries. He spent 14 years having emotional affairs and it ended with a physical affair, and there maybe have been physical affairs in there. I don’t know. So I can say boundaries. Because I thought I had boundaries but I was being his boundaries police. I was boundaries for him. I was taking a little fence and putting it around him and calling out all the women. Don’t you know he’s married? Stay away from my husband. Why am I confronting other women when my husband is just over there having a jolly old time probably laughing? But how many of us do that? And how many of us put cheating over here and abuse over here? No, it’s psychological and emotional abuse. He was physical, but he was psychologically and emotionally abusive. And so I can say, “Thank you, Josh, for showing me that I have to have my own boundaries and I cannot be the boundaries for anyone.”

So then I take that and look at my second husband, my second marriage. I thought I had boundaries in that marriage. But I’ll tell you what I had. I had a toddler fence or doggy fence. You know, there’s portable fences that you can shift and make designs and move? That was my boundary that I brought into my second marriage. I have a boundary. I got a boundary. That’s my freakin’ boundary. He would push up against my little toddler fence and then pick it up, move it over. Okay, it’s over here now. Fine. I give you that five feet. It’s not a boundary. So it’s like, “God dammit, Stephany...” A toddler fence is not a boundary.

So I just started walking through 20 years of that, the worthiness. You are worthy of so much more. Why did you put up with so much shit from your first husband? Well, I was afraid to get a divorce. What would everyone think? Our parents are still married. My mom’s the Minister of a church, like all this stuff. What are people going to think of me? I’ve been a success my whole life and now I’m a failure.

Lori: I’m not agreeing that you are a failure. I’m agreeing with your—

Stephany: Yes, they’re just thoughts. It’s like, “No. Those people aren’t in my life. I mean, they’re in my life but they’re not living my life.” I can get a divorce. If a relationship is not working, I don’t have to sit here and try to make something work for 10 years. I am worthy of so much more. And I say worthy because so many people say deserving. “You deserve so much better.” Well, deserving means you did something to get something, right? That’s the definition of deserve. You deserve that because you did this. Worthiness is innate. You are worthy because it is who you are.

So looking at my second husband, I can say, “Thank you, Jace.” Their names are Josh and Jace. They look the same. They’re both Aquarius. Yeah, no more. We’ve broken these patterns. No J’s and no Aquarius. So the second husband as well. It’s like, “You are worthy of so much more. Why are you trying to stay and try to change this life? Because they don’t change.” In fact, we are the ones who end up changing. We think we are changing them. But we are the ones who become conditioned and we are the ones who change.

Lori: Change is part of growth and life. And I think what you’re saying is you’re changing in response to who they are to morph into something that fits in their life versus growing as who you are.

Stephany: Yes, we change. We lose our authentic self to become someone we are not because we have to be all these people to be with a disordered personality. They’re a bunch of different people themselves. And so we are constantly changing to match whatever personality is showing up for that day. Who do we need to be today to make it through the day without an argument or a fight or?

Lori: Again, that’s walking on eggshells.

Stephany: Yes. That’s part of that. Their big move is the gaslighting. I’ll just explain gaslighting because I know it’s a word that is just probably overused and not everyone knows what it means, that gaslighting is when you manipulate another person into doubting their perception of experiences or understanding of events. It’s coercive control. It helps the abuser avoid any responsibility or blame for their behavior because they can shift it and say it didn’t happen like that. That’s not how it happened. “You can’t take a joke. You’re so fucking sensitive.” “Oh, you’re on your period again. That’s why you’re acting like a fucking bitch today.”

Lori: Wow.

Stephany: That is gaslighting. Then you internalize it and say, “Well, maybe I am too sensitive. Maybe I am a bitch. Maybe I’m a horrible person. Maybe I am all these things. I need to change myself now. I need to go to therapy. I’m the narcissist. I have a Cluster B personality now. I’m bipolar.” These are things that they will say and then they will say, “No one will believe you. You try to leave. No one will love you the way I do because you’re crazy. But I can handle crazy so I can handle you.”

Lori: It’s a form of brainwashing.

Stephany: It is exactly brainwashing. And this is why when you leave a relationship with a narcissist, whether you are discarded or you find worthiness in yourself and you leave, there are certain ways that you have to reprogram. I call it recondition because it’s very similar to—I don’t know if you ever took first year psychology class. Remember Pavlov and the dogs?

Lori: Yes.

Stephany: Pavlov over time conditioned these dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell. And it comes to the point where any bell, the dogs would just subconsciously start salivating. The same when you are in a relationship with a narcissist. They condition you to live from a place of reaction. Because when you react from an emotional place, it’s subconscious or subconsciously reacting and that is power and control for them because this is all about power and control. And so when you come out, you now have to recondition yourself. The world is safe now. You need to make sure it’s safe. You have to rewire your brain. You have to rewire your thoughts. You have to get everything that’s been programmed in your subconscious mind. You have to recondition all of that. This is why they say it is like being brainwashed and leaving an occult.

Lori: Why I can see how coming out of the first marriage, you would come into the second one, having not done that work, you come into the second one and have the same thing happen again because you didn’t rewire your brain yet.

Stephany: Yes, exactly. It’s exactly how it is. People are like, “Well, why do you keep repeating the patterns?” Well, it’s because of that. And because narcissists are charming, they’re charismatic, they’re beautiful. They can work an entire room but they only want to focus their attention on you. Who doesn’t want to be made special and felt seen and heard?

Lori: Right, absolutely. Wow, I am so grateful for your willingness to share your story and share what you’ve learned through your lessons and your blindness, spirituality. I’m just fascinated—fascinated, I guess, is the best word to use—by when you went through that experience of not being able to see of turning to, “Hey, there’s got to be some spiritual thing behind this.” A lot of people wouldn’t have turned that direction. And that’s why I’m especially fascinated, because I agree with you that that was the cause. Because once you found the answer, your eyesight came back.

Stephany: Absolutely. This is what I believe. We are here to live our most authentic life and to follow our passion, whatever that is. I don’t care what it is, whatever that is. I experienced that growing up, I experienced it in my early 20s as I manifested my way around the world into a top university that I didn’t pay for, for all these things. Then you lose yourself, you lose your most authentic self because you’re trying to become someone you’re not so you can have this relationship that you really don’t want. You don’t know how to get out of it. We forgot to talk about the trauma bond because you’re stuck but you don’t know why you’re addicted to this person. You don’t know how to get out, it’s going to be good, I’m going to be bad, all these things. The big thing is that you lose your authentic self. So how do you get that person back? How do you re-find your passions and how do you do all of that? So I think with the spiritual stuff, that was my first life.

Lori: Right. Which makes it even more fascinating. We’re kind of getting to the end, but about how you had that and then you kind of let go of it for this relationship, but now you’ve found your way back to it.

Stephany: Yes. It’s so much better on the other side. But again, it’s not like we are seeking out these experiences. You know what’s interesting? I was thinking about this the other day. When I was in my early teens, I would pray a lot for wisdom. And I just found out—I had a reading with a friend who’s a psychic and he does feng shui. I don’t know how much you know about that. But I found out that I’m a chi energy, and it’s the teacher, and it’s all about wisdom and understanding. So when I was younger, I prayed for wisdom. I don’t know, it’s weird. Who does that when you’re in your teens? I remember reading in the Bible about King Solomon, and he was the wisest, and I had all this understanding and knowledge and stuff. I would crave that. Well, forget wisdom and understanding and knowledge. You have to go through things, you have to live life.

Lori: It comes back to that whole idea of be careful what you pray for because you don’t know how that lesson is going to come to you.

Stephany: Exactly. In my head, I’m like, “Well, I want the big palace. Solomon’s the wisest and he has all these big things. So I’m praying like, “Okay, tomorrow I’m going to get that.” No, the Universe is going to give you exactly what you want but not always the way you think. And to get with them, you have to live. You have to go through things. So they call it like trauma wisdom. Freaking wisdom.

Lori: Right. Well, for the most part, all wisdom is learned experience, some kind of tribulation.

Stephany: Yeah.

Lori: Stephany, what is your song that you listen to when you need a boost of energy and something to hype you up?

Stephany: I really liked that song by Sia, Unstoppable, because that is how I feel now. I’ve started to dream again. I’ve returned to my authentic self. I have goals. I have a vision for my life and I feel unstoppable. And when I get on the treadmill, I put that on, I listen to it. It’s like, “I am unstoppable.”

Lori: I love it. That’s such an awesome song. If someone wants to continue this conversation with you, where’s the best place for them to find you?

Stephany: Right now I’m on LinkedIn and on Facebook. I’m trying to get some other things set up. Because my ex-husband passed away a couple of months ago, I don’t work one on one with people. I’m not a coach. I’ve decided to take this year off. I’m just holding space for my kids right now. I’m writing a series of books. So follow me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn, and there’s going to be some really exciting stuff coming out.

Lori: Cool. I will put links to those places in the show notes so people can go find you there. Thank you so much for joining me today on FINE is a 4-Letter Word.

Stephany: Thank you. It’s an honor to be here.

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