*Disclaimer: My position on certification is that it is not inherently bad, toxic, or harmful. The purpose and role of certification is to continue your education and growth as you serve your families and communities as a doula. Certification is NOT the gatekeeper of your worthiness and professionalism as a doula.*
Douladom is waking up to the toxicity in the Doula Training Industrial Complex (TIC). Maybe you are realizing some of your training was problematic, incomplete, or even oppressive. I believe douladom as a whole is caught in a cycle of abuse with training organizations that mirrors the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle. If you’ve started to notice your own dependence on your training organization coupled with confusing and harmful gaslighting, you might be feeling stuck and not sure where to go from here.
Recognizing the abuse in the relationship truly is the first step and is a really difficult one to make. So if this is where you’ve landed, pause and honor the courage and strength it required to get where you are at this moment. You are doing hard and painful work, but it leads to freedom and power for yourself and those you serve.
The next step is figuring out where you’re at in the cycle and gathering some tools and resources to break free. After you identify where you are in the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle with the Doula TIC, you will be able to better understand why you are struggling, what to expect next, and gain clarity on how to break free of the cycle.
Quick refresher on the Narcissistic Abuse CycleRelationships with narcissists follow a basic pattern broken into three different phases: idealize, devalue, and discard. [You can see an example of the entire cycle playing out in douladom broken down HERE]
IDEALIZE: The narcissist uses multiple tools to make you feel loved, valued, and ultimately dependent on them. This includes accelerated intimacy through “love bombing” while simultaneously planting seeds of self-doubt in you that will be exploited as the relationship progresses. While they shower you with compliments and make you feel special and loved, they are also working to make you feel like you need them.
DEVALUE: This phase is all about disorientation and eroding your ability to trust yourself. It can be extremely difficult to recognize the abuse for what it is in this phase because the narcissist has expertly made you feel not only special and important but dependent and enmeshed with them as well. This is where we begin to see gaslighting, criticism, and control tactics being used.
DISCARD: At this phase, the abusive behavior begins to escalate, especially when the narcissist experiences pushback on their behavior. Gaslighting, criticism, and control tactics intensify. The narcissist will blame the victim for their abuse, and eventually will discard their victim (either temporarily or permanently).
A key component of this system is that it is a cycle. It is ongoing and not necessarily linear. You may move in and out of these phases quickly or over long periods of time. But you can expect to be pulled back into the cycle repeatedly. The narcissist will criticize you and then shower you with affection. They will do something harmful and then apologize with grandiose -- but ultimately empty -- gestures.
Leaving a narcissistic relationship is extremely difficult because of this cyclical nature of abuse. It is effective and seductive. Once you have invested in the narrative the narcissist provides for you, it can feel impossible to see any other path.
I am here to help you see a different path and a way out. But first, let’s figure out where you might be in the cycle right now.
Where are you in the Cycle?
Idealize: the honeymoon phase
What is happening: If you’re in this phase you’re being courted by the Doula TIC. They use tactics like love bombing, breadcrumbing, and creating dependence to suck you initially or bring you back after things have escalated
What it looks/sounds like in douladom:
What you may feel:
Devalue: the building tension phase
What is happening: This phase in the cycle is really disorienting and can keep you stuck for a long time. The organizations have successfully led you to believe you are deeply dependent on them, but you might be noticing some disconnects from their original love bombing messages and what they are saying now. If you push back on this feeling, you are likely to be met with gaslighting, isolation, and criticism.
What this looks/sounds like in douladom:
Discard: the escalation phase
What is happening: At this point in the cycle you have pushed back on the abuser and are being punished and discarded or forced into submission if you continue the relationship. This is accomplished through coercion, betrayal, and blaming.
What this looks/sounds like in douladom:
What you may feel:
Tips for right now
Resources to dig deeper
Below are a list of books, websites, and other resources to help you understand and process narcissistic abuse in general:
Next steps as a doula
If you’re ready to start unpacking your complex relationship with the Doula TIC (and the MIC) I have created multiple ways to help meet you where you are and become the advocate doula you are called to be:You will walk away from this workshop with the confidence in your doula role, a new thinking in doula work and skills in understanding how to approach the birth team in preparing for advocacy.
scenes right now where you can come together with other doulas to heal, learn, and
expand your skills as an advocate doula
I believe douladom is at the precipice of change. Doulas like you are recognizing the disconnect in how they want to show up and how they feel they are “allowed” to show up for their clients and their communities. You have to know your own power so that your clients can emerge from birth as whole, empowered, and non-traumatized. You must do the hard work for yourself before you can truly answer your calling and purpose as a doula for your birthing clients and families.